Monday, October 11, 2004

Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri Turns Attention To Iraq Chaos | Iran's Top Dissident Cleric Turns Attention To Iraq Chaos: "Iran's Top Dissident Cleric Turns Attention To Iraq Chaos
October 10, 2004
By BRIAN MURPHY, Associated Press

QOM, Iran -- These are pilgrims of a different kind.

Several times a week, Shiite Muslim clerics and community leaders from neighboring Iraq climb stairs to a little office in this Iranian city of shrines and Islamic seminaries. There, an aged and hunched figure sits on a swivel chair fitted with an electric blanket.

He's Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a former heir apparent to lead Iran who fell from favor and spent five years under house arrest as the regime's most feared dissident.

Now - taking on another role - the 82-year-old Montazeri is using his lofty theological credentials and hard-earned political savvy to try and stop the unraveling of Iraq. His message to the Iraqi visitors: Fight the U.S.-led occupation, but do something to halt the hostage-takings and executions.

"Blind assassinations and terrorism are against Islam," he told The Associated Press shortly before receiving a Shiite delegation from a Baghdad mosque. "It only leads to condemnations of Islam. ... This is not the right path."

The meetings between grass-roots Iraqi leaders and Montazeri - one of only a handful of grand ayatollahs, the highest-ranking Shiite clerics - are part of the complex interplay between Iran and its mostly Shiite neighbor.

The religious bonds are obvious.

The 1979 Islamic Revolution made Iran the center of gravity for the world's Shiite Muslims, who differ with majority Sunnis over the spiritual leadership of Islam after the Prophet Muhammad. Iraq, however, has the holiest Shiite sites and the embattled city of Najaf rivals Qom as a seat of scholarship. Qom was once the home of the late Iranian spiritual and revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Najaf is where he spent more than a decade in exile.

These days, it is unclear how much Iranian influence and aid crosses the border.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has accused Iran of "meddling" in post-Hussein Iraq, but Washington officials have been unable to pinpoint any overt funding or political string-pulling from Iran.

Iranian authorities deny providing back-channel help to Iraqi Shiites, who suffered under Saddam Hussein's Sunni-led regime. Yet Iranian groups with near-autonomous power, led by the Revolutionary Guards, have displayed greater interest in trying to control the regional fallout from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"Iran would certainly want to be able to maneuver events in Iraq to its advantage," said Ehsan Ahrari, an international affairs commentator based in Norfolk, Va. "How much they can actually do it is the real question."

Even the well-documented Iranian ties to Iraq's rebel Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, have become hazy.

Al-Sadr's religious mentor, Grand Ayatollah Kazem al-Hosseini al-Haeri, claims to have distanced himself from the young firebrand, whose militia opened attacks against U.S.-led forces earlier this year. Al-Haeri was the closest adviser of al-Sadr's father, senior cleric Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, who was killed by suspected agents of Hussein in 1999.

A shaky truce was reached in August with al-Sadr's militia, but some al-Sadr followers say they are ready to resume the fight if called upon.

This is where Montazeri may emerge as a pivotal voice.

He is available for any Iraqi delegation coming to Qom, about 80 miles southwest of Tehran. His open-door policy appears aimed at influencing the important middle tier of Iraq's Shiite community: mosque-based clerics, successful merchants, pilgrimage leaders. He urges popular opposition against extremism and violence - while keeping up constant pressure for a U.S. military withdrawal.

"A real Iraqi democracy is possible," Montazeri said in his office, decorated with plastic roses and a wobbly ceiling fan. "But the people must desire it. They cannot let small forces take control of events."

Montazeri's position of influence represents a second chance for him.

After accusing the theocracy of hoarding power in Iran in the 1980s, his fall was swift. He went from being Khomeini's hand-picked successor to one of the theocracy's most denounced figures.

Montazeri didn't back down, and was placed under house arrest in Qom in 1997. He was released last year and retains a significant following. "It's important not to remain silent," he said, reflecting on the price he's paid for speaking out.

But Montazeri could be in for another conflict with the establishment. He suggested he would not hesitate to blow the whistle on possible Iranian attempts to aid radical Iraqi elements or stir another Islamic revolution. Iraqi elections are scheduled for January, though violence threatens to limit the voting or even postpone it.

"It's up to the Iraqi government and people to decide the type of system," he said. "Iran can help if asked, but it must not intervene."

The cleric is equally set against the presence of U.S.-led forces in Iraq - "it's not against Islam to fight occupation," he said - and he has shown a militant streak in the past.

He unsuccessfully urged Khomeini to sanction guerrilla war against Iran's U.S.-backed monarchy before the revolution. Khomeini also overruled Montazeri's demand for military retaliation after a U.S. warship shot down an Iranian airliner in 1989, killing 290 people. The Pentagon said the plane was mistaken for an Iranian fighter.

Today, most clerics in Qom support Montazeri's calls for restraint by the militants, said Rasool Jafarian, a Shiite historian. But if the Iraq crisis continues, Qom radicals might issue a religious edict - or fatwa - favoring the anti-U.S. resistance. "Of course, it wouldn't support kidnapping and terrorism," Jafarian said.

It's difficult to measure how much real clout Montazeri projects outside Iran, or on the non-Shiite forces in the insurgency. But his words are heard across the border.

"Montazeri speaks of an Iraq of peace and for Iraqis," said Hojoleslam Hussein Jafari, a cleric from the Baghdad's mostly Shiite Sadr City district. "People should listen before it's too late.""

New Zealand Herald - Iraq frees 130 Iran prisoners, hundreds remain - TV

New Zealand Herald - Latest News: "Iraq frees 130 Iran prisoners, hundreds remain - TV

12.10.2004 11.34 am

TEHRAN - Iraq on Monday released 130 Iranians arrested for crossing the border illegally, but another 270 remain behind bars, Iran's top diplomat in Baghdad told state television.

Washington and some officials in Iraq's interim government have accused Iran of meddling in Iraq's affairs and allowing weapons and fighters to cross their long border. Iran denies this accusation.

Iranian Charge d'Affaires Hassan Qomi described the detainees as pilgrims who had tried to visit holy Shi'ite Muslim sites in Iraq without the proper documentation.

He said the 130 Iranians freed on Monday had all been held in the town of Kut. Another 71 were expected to be released in coming days. Before Monday's releases more than 400 Iranians were being held in various jails in Iraq, he added.

"In the next month we hope to solve the issue of Iranian pilgrims travelling to Iraq," Qomi said."

Khatami, Karrubi will not succeed in encouraging Musavi to run for president

Description of Selected News: "Khatami, Karrubi will not succeed in encouraging Musavi to run for president: source

Tehran Times Political Desk
TEHRAN (MNA) –- An informed source said on Monday that President Mohammad Khatami and former Majlis speaker Mahdi Karrubi will not succeed to encourage former premier Mir-Hossein Musavi to run for president in the next election.

According to leaked reports President Khatami, Karrubi, and Musavi Khoeiniha, a leading member of the Assembly of Combatant Clerics, are going to meet Musavi in recent days on the next presidential election.

“Such meetings have no effect on Musavi’s decision to enter the campaign,” the source who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Mehr News Agency.

Musavi served as prime minister from 1981 to 1989 when the post was eliminated.

Hashemi Rafsanjani, former president and the current chairman of the Expediency Council, is among the likely candidates for the presidential election which will be held in late spring next year.

Meanwhile, a leading member of the Servants of Construction Party in which Rafsanjani is a member, said that the party will make no statements until Rafsanjani clearly announces his decision to run for the post or not.

“If Rafsanjani decides to run in the election then we will announce our plans,” the party member said on condition of anonymity.

He said his party expects that other groups threw their backings behind Rafsanjani if he decided to run for president.

Rafsanjani acted as president from 1989 to 1997 when President Khatami took the helm.

The social poor and middle class favor Musavi for president. They say the price of goods and services started rocketing up after Musvi’s term of office came to end.

The people say that during Rafsanjani’s presidency the gap between rich and poor became more evident."

Iran's Non-Oil Exports To Hit 10 Billion Dollars

Iran's Non-Oil Exports To Hit 10 Billion Dollars: "Iran's Non-Oil Exports To Hit 10 Billion Dollars
Iran's non-oil exports, including goods and services, will reach some 10 billion dollars by the end of the current Iranian calendar year of 1383 (March 20, 2005) while the value of imported commodities will hit 30 billion dollars, IRNA reporetd from Tehran.
The Persian language daily 'Hamshahri' on Saturday quoted Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari as saying that export of goods and services reached from some 2.8 billion dollars in the Iranian year of 1376 to 8.7 billion dollars in 1382.

Capital goods' share in the Iranian economy has been increased from some 32 percent in 1376 to some 43 percent in 1382.

Consuming goods' share was decreased from some 14.5 percent in 1376 to 12 percent in 1382. The decrease occurred despite removing all non-tariff obstacles and allowing import of all commodities into the country as well as an average 11 percent increase in export of goods from 1376 to 1382."

Pressure will strengthen Iran on nuclear issue

IranMania News: ""Pressure will strengthen Iran on nuclear issue"

Saturday, October 02, 2004 - ©2004
LONDON, Oct 2 (IranMania) - Sending Iran's nuclear file to the UN Security Council and possible sanctions against Tehran will only make the Islamic Republic stronger, hardline conservative Ayatollah Ahmad Janati said at Friday prayers, Agence France Press (AFP) reported.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran does not fear its nuclear dossier being sent to the Security Council, (which) the United States wants to make into a bogeyman," Janati said in a sermon broadcast by state radio.

"If you send the Iran nuclear file to the Security Council and if you impose sanctions, be aware that such sanctions will make our scientists more resistant," he said.

"The more the United States exercises pressure on us, the better that serves us, to its detriment."

The board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has called on Tehran to halt immediately all activities related to uranium enrichment, a part of the nuclear fuel cycle that can be directed to both energy and weapons purposes.

Nuclear fuel cycle work, including enrichment, is permitted under the Non-Proliferation Treaty if it is for peaceful purposes, but the IAEA wants such activities stopped pending the completion of its more than 18-month-old investigation.

In a resolution last month, it fixed November 25 as the cut-off date for a complete examination of Iran's nuclear programme.

Washington accuses Tehran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a peaceful nuclear energy programme, a charge Iran strongly denies.

The IAEA has not said what steps it may take if it does not obtain satisfaction over the Iranian programme and has its doubts lifted. But among the steps it could take would be a referral to the Security Council, where the United States would be expected to push for sanctions to be imposed on Tehran.

Janati, head of Iran's powerful Guardians Council, recalled that "sanctions imposed on Iran after the victory of the Islamic Revolution" in 1979 had pushed the country's leaders to develop Iran's scientific abilities which had in particular resulted in the "Shahab 3 missile (capable of hitting Israell) which so scares" the West."

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati: Iran Will Never Give Up Nuclear Program

TruthNews: "

Ayatollah: Iran Will Never Give Up Nuclear Program

Gary Fitleberg, October 5, 2004

A senior Iranian ayatollah said the United States would take its opposition to his country's nuclear program "to the grave," Reuters reported.

Iran has announced that it plans to enrich 37 tons of uranium, enough to build several nuclear bombs, even though the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has demanded that it suspend enrichment.

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati stated, "Iran will never yield to international pressure to abandon its home-grown nuclear technology. Americans should know that it is just impossible. You will take this wish to the grave."

Gary Fitleberg is a Political Analyst specializing in International Relations with emphasis on Middle East affairs."

Israeli Sabotage an option against Iran’s atomic plans By Dan Williams

Hi Pakistan: "Sabotage an option against Iran’s atomic plans: experts - By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM: Somewhere between sanctions and air strikes lurks a third option for those who seek to stop Iran’s atomic programme in its tracks: sabotage. Politically deniable - unlike failed diplomacy - and much subtler than region-rattling military offensives, covert action of the kind used elsewhere by Israel and the United States could already be under way against the Islamic republic, experts say.

"Iran has been trying to go nuclear since the 1970s and has not yet managed," said Gad Shimron, a veteran of Israel’s Mossad spy service who now writes on defence issues. "Who’s to say there has not been sabotage already, now proving its worth?" Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper in August quoted Bush administration officials as saying sabotage tactics were being considered for Tehran.

The Jewish state has said "all options" are kosher for preventing its arch-foe getting the bomb. The United States and Israel accuse Iran of concealing a plan to build a bomb, but Tehran says its nuclear programme is dedicated solely to meeting electricity demand. Independent experts question, however, whether any disruption of Iran’s supply lines through sabotage or menacing of its nuclear scientists would have a lasting effect on a network that has resisted scrutiny from the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"Historically, sabotage has served to delay programmes but has not been successful in terminating them," said Gary Samore, a former White House adviser on non-proliferation now with the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. He cited a Norwegian heavy water plant struck by saboteurs between 1942 and 1944 to stop the Nazis getting the bomb - a quest finally laid to rest by Germany’s defeat in World War Two. "Delay is good if, in the meantime, something conclusive happens - either a change of regime or a successful war." Some Middle East security experts say even delays have key strategic value in a region notorious for its instability.

The precedent usually cited for a military strike on Iranian atomic sites is Israel’s 1981 bombing of the Iraqi reactor at Osiraq. That move drove Saddam Hussein’s nuclear programme underground until it was uncovered by the IAEA in 1991. Well before Osiraq, a quieter campaign was in full swing. Nuclear components destined for Baghdad were blown up in a French port. An Egyptian nuclear physicist hired by Iraq was killed in his Paris hotel. Bombs exploded near an Italian firm supplying Saddam Hussein with laboratories for atomic testing. Saddam blamed the United States and Israel for the sabotage spree. Neither country commented, but then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin told an American interviewer he hoped France and Italy had "learned their lesson" for helping Iraq.

Tehran fears it could be next in line after US-led forces toppled Saddam last year. "The Iranians are very clear about what happened to the Iraqi nuclear programme and would have learned their lessons," said Alex Vatanka, an analyst with Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessments. "In terms of supply lines and technology, they are extremely unlikely to use limited sources." Among Iran’s nuclear suppliers have been North Korea, Pakistan and China, all hard for Western diplomats to monitor.

Under its 1993 Counterproliferation Initiative, Washington claimed the right to act covertly against illicit weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programmes. But a later US-led treaty, the Proliferation Security Initiative, includes Russia, which also openly provides Iran with nuclear know-how.

Vatanka said several Iranians who acquired scientific training in the West had answered a call by Tehran to return and work on their homeland’s atomic programme. A German man is also under investigation for what national media charged was an attempt to supply Iran with components for nuclear weapons. "If the Israelis believe sabotage is the only way of stopping Iran getting the bomb, I think they will go with it, even if this ends up harming relations with Europe," Vatanka said. "The Europeans have invested enormous diplomacy in Iran, but that means little to those planning Israel’s self-defence."

A new report by the Dubai think-tank Gulf Research Centre says Tehran could retaliate for any sabotage on its atomic plans by ordering proxies to attack US targets in the Gulf or stepping up support for Palestinian militants fighting Israel. There are also risks if the secrecy around sabotage lapses. In 1963, Swiss police nabbed an Israeli suspected of threatening the daughter of a German scientist linked with Egypt’s missile programme.

The ensuing trial clouded Israel’s relations with West Germany and Switzerland and prompted the Mossad chief’s resignation, although many historians believe it also served as a venue for publicising Egypt’s military plans."

Daily Times - Less than 40% Afghan refugees in Iran took part in polls

Daily Times - Site Edition: "Less than 40% Afghan refugees in Iran took part in polls

TEHRAN: Less than 40 percent of eligible Afghan voters living as refugees in Iran took part in Afghanistan’s historic presidential elections, organisers said on Sunday.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), charged with providing access to the ballot for Afghans in Iran and Pakistan, said an estimated 260,000 out of 660,000 eligible refugees took part in Saturday’s polling.

The figures were based on reporting from 110 out of the 125 polling centres set up by IOM, together with projections from the remainder. No gender breakdown was immediately available.

The IOM has had just 55 days to organise the out-of-country voting operation in Iran, with a senior UN official here acknowledging is was an “extraordinarily tight operation” given the short timeframe. Organisers spent 21 million dollars organising the polls among refugees in Iran and Pakistan, and claimed to have provided access to the ballot to over 80 percent of the Afghan refugee population here. But turnout was hit by several factors."

Russia poised to close deal on Iran nuke plant

Russia poised to close deal on Iran nuke plant: "Russia poised to close deal on Iran nuke plant

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Oct. 11, 2004 12:00 AM

TEHRAN, Iran - Russia and Iran are on the verge of closing an $800 million deal to start up Iran's first nuclear power plant, the countries' foreign ministers announced Sunday.

Such a deal would be a major blow to U.S.-led efforts to derail Iran's nuclear program, which many suspect is intended at least in part to make nuclear weapons. Iranian leaders deny any atomic ambitions, although Iranian scientists are developing technology that could be used to make highly enriched uranium for weapons.

At a joint news conference in the Iranian capital, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he and his Iranian counterpart, Kamal Kharrazi, ironed out their differences over providing fuel for Iran's first reactor near the southern port city of Bushehr. The two also discussed international concerns over Iran's nuclear program and ballistic missile technology. advertisement

"We talked about some kind of commitment that this (missile technology) will not lead to other things," Lavrov said in Russian. He did not elaborate.

The Bush administration has repeatedly pressured Russia to abandon the deal with Iran, which has ties to Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist groups and is believed to be harboring some members of al-Qaida."