Sunday, November 28, 2004

USATODAY.com - Top general warns Iran not to underestimate U.S. military

USATODAY.com - Top general warns Iran not to underestimate U.S. military: "Top general warns Iran not to underestimate U.S. military
By Tom Squitieri, USA TODAY
DOHA, Qatar — A top U.S. commander is warning Iran and others against thinking they can exploit the U.S. military because its ground troops are fighting two major missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Army Gen. John Abizaid said any nation perceiving a weakness in the U.S. military should think twice.
By Dennis Cook, AP

"Why the Iranians would want to move against us in an overt manner that would cause us to use our air or naval power against them would be beyond me," Army Gen. John Abizaid, the head of U.S. Central Command, said in an interview on the way to his headquarters here from Afghanistan.

Some members of Congress, including Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, have expressed concern that there is a shortage of U.S. troops and such a scenario might tempt nations such as Iran and North Korea to increase terrorist activity or develop weapons of mass destruction.

Abizaid, the top commander for Afghanistan and Iraq, said any nation perceiving a weakness in the U.S. military should think twice.

"We can generate more military power per square inch than anybody else on Earth, and everybody knows it," Abizaid said. "If you ever even contemplate our nuclear capability, it should give everybody the clear understanding that there is no power that can match the United States militarily."

The United States has 138,000 troops in Iraq, 20,000 in Kuwait, 18,500 in Afghanistan and 1,300 in Africa to combat terrorism, in addition to deployments in Japan, Korea, Germany and Bosnia.

Abizaid said there is no need for a major expansion of the military at this time, even to provide security for Iraqi elections Jan. 30. And the need for such a large U.S. overseas deployment will diminish over time as Iraqi and Afghan forces take over, Abizaid said.

"There are plenty of troops to fight the war on terrorism," he said, referring to U.S. and foreign forces. Getting other nations to commit troops "is not a military problem in my mind as much as a political problem. Nations have to come to the conclusion that it is a fight worth fighting."

Last week, the Danish parliament extended its force in Iraq six months past a planned December end date. Denmark is the first major contributor to the force in Iraq to extend its troops' presence.

Abizaid said he is concerned about whether the political unrest in Ukraine, where tens of thousands are protesting the presidential election, would cause it to pull its troops from Iraq. Ukraine has 1,400 troops in Iraq. Ukraine is the fourth-largest contributor.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has resisted calls from some in Congress to increase the size of the U.S. military. Instead the Pentagon is making increased use of the reserve and National Guard and deploying elite training brigades.

The Pentagon says it can continue at its current level for two years before it reaches unacceptable levels of tired troops, low re-enlistment rates or insufficient replacements.

But Abizaid said large operations are not the only way to win battles. He pointed to the recent battle in Fallujah, where 10,000 troops backed by precision airstrikes launched from U.S. ships provided overwhelming force. The U.S. military needs to be restructured to fight long wars against terrorists and insurgents over the next 20 years, Abizaid said.

"We have to adapt," he said. "We need more linguists, more cultural experts. Human capital is in short supply.""

Iran war generation at vanguard of "new Iraq"

Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage: "Iran war generation at vanguard of "new Iraq"
Sun 28 November, 2004 04:15

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Former guerrilla leader Ahmad al-Khafaji watches from his sixth floor office at the Interior Ministry in Baghdad as young U.S. soldiers patrol the compound under a scorching sun.

"Where do you think these American kids would rather be? In the United States or on the filthy streets of Iraq? They are here to help us until we recover, regardless what you hear on the Arab media. And the majority of Iraqis realise we need them," said the 55-year old major general.

Khafaji belonged to the Iraqi officer corps who fought in the 1980-1988 war with Iran. He defected and then returned to Iraq after last year's invasion to lead counter-insurgency efforts.

The former exiles, shaped by a war with Iran that killed up to a million people, are respected and will be influential in shaping the country as Iraqis seek leadership. They are at the vanguard of advocating human rights and the rule of law, and have a surprisingly consistent view about the "new Iraq".

Most are opposed to a Saddam Hussein-style centralised state dominated by intelligence operatives, and believe that a continued U.S. presence could help Iraq's recovery, as it did Germany and Japan after World War Two.

Khafaji says the war with Iran made him increasingly disgusted with Saddam's leadership. He cannot forget the horror of the fighting, including mowing down Iranian boy soldiers.

Many who defected after the Iran-Iraq war say they grew to detest the ideologies of both Saddam and Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

After defecting Khafaji led operations against Saddam's forces in Iraq's marshlands and in the Kurdish north.

"My generation of exiles has sacrificed everything to build a pluralistic society. Even if the elections bring a devil worshipper as president, my duty is to serve him," said Khafaji, a member of the leadership council of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

The party was founded in Iran in 1982 by Mohammad Baqer al- Hakim, killed by a car bomb last August.

U.S. and British officials privately praise efforts of Supreme Council and Dawa Party activists from Khafaji's generation in bringing peace to cities like Basra.

Their approach is practical, perhaps because they have seen the consequences of ideologies like Baathism and Khomeinism. Khafaji, who is now a senior interior ministry official, says the dominance of a single ideology in government will not be repeated.

NATIONALISTS

Most of the Iran war generation oppose Baathism and extreme Islam, but are staunch Arab nationalist.

They remember with pride that Iraq sent troops to Palestine in 1948, and tanks and fighter jets to help shield Syria and Egypt from defeat in the 1973 Middle East war.

They pour scorn on "brother" Arab states for failing to help stop infiltrators and spreading propaganda which they say encourages attacks on Iraq's infrastructure and civilians by portraying them as heroic.

Another dissenter who returned to Iraq to assume a senior position in the government is Saad al-Obeidi, who once directed the country's psychological warfare programme.

He was imprisoned for several months after the 1991 Gulf War for criticising the performance of the army.

Obeidi expected the war to topple Saddam to be straightforward, but cautioned that the religious hatred and mistrust that the ousted president helped sow among Iraqis would be hard to overcome.

"People are less honest and trust has further eroded after the war. The state could not play a role to mend the situation because it has been absorbed by security."

UNEXPECTED PROBLEM

In exile, Obeidi worked with Tawfiq al-Yassiri to found an officers' movement committed to separating the army from politics in the post-Saddam era.

Yassiri was wounded when Iraqi helicopters attacked his forces during a 1991 uprising against Saddam in southern Iraq.

The grandson of one of the leaders of the 1920 uprising against British rule, Yassiri says real strength means respect for human rights.

"The war taught us wisdom. Saddam, driven by sectarian hatred, wanted to destroy as much of Iran as he could. He also destroyed Iraq," he said.

OLD FOES

The exiled officers who turned against Saddam have found themselves rubbing shoulders with those in their generation who remained loyal.

The United States and the interim government have hired Baathist loyalists in the new intelligence and security forces.

One former exile was astonished that a Saddam operative who once tried to kill him had returned to a senior post in the new intelligence directorate. The defectors feel that hiring ex-Baathists is a practical necessity but say the government has gone too far.

"We are disappointed that bad elements were hired," said Yassiri. "They must be tried and expelled.""

Gas export price discussed with Turkey

IranMania News: "Gas export price discussed with Turkey

Sunday, November 28, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com
LONDON, Nov 28 (IranMania) - Iranian Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari discussed with Turkish State Minister for Foreign Trade Tuzmen Kursad issues related to economic cooperation between the two countries, including disagreements over the pricing of gas Iran exports to Turkey via a pipeline and the possibility of gas exports to Europe via that country.

The two officials who met on the sidelines of the 20th Session of the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation (COMCEC) of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and OIC Economic Conference, on Saturday also exchanged views on ways to increase cooperation between the private sectors of the two countries as well as investments.

They also agreed that there is a pressing need to encourage Islamic countries to boost economic cooperation. Shariatmadari left for Kuwait after his short meeting with Kursad early Saturday.

He had delivered a speech on the impact of globalization on Islamic countries' economy at the inaugural ceremony of the conference where he also proposed the establishment of a common Islamic market.

"As the representative of Muslim Asian countries, I also explored ways to reach an experimental consensus among Islamic countries," he told ISNA, adding that he had met senior Turkish officials as well as commerce ministers of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Turkey on the sidelines of the conference.

In his meeting with President Sezer, the Turkish chief executive called for the expansion of bilateral economic cooperation, renewing his calls for President Mohammad Khatami to visit Turkey as soon as possible.

COMCEC consists of the representatives of OIC member countries, at ministerial level and is chaired by the President of the Republic of Turkey."

Iran Allegedly Builds Secret Facility for Nuke Program | Europe | Deutsche Welle |

Iran Allegedly Builds Secret Facility for Nuke Program | Europe | Deutsche Welle |: "Iran Allegedly Builds Secret Facility for Nuke Program

Ayatollah Khamenei is said to have ordered a secret nuclear facility
Iran has been constructing a secret tunnel since October to continue uranium enrichment, despite a deal two weeks ago to freeze the program, German news weekly Der Spiegel reported in an issue to be published Monday.

Der Spiegel, citing a secret service file, said that Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had personally ordered the facility built last month near the uranium enrichment site in Isfahan that is under UN observation. The tunnel, which the magazine said is out of the view of spy satellites, is intended to house a production site for large amounts of uranium UF6 gas which can be enriched in gas centrifuges -- a key step in the building of a nuclear bomb. The clandestine project is being led by a task force that answers directly to Khamenei, the report said.

But in Tehran, foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the report was "baseless" and that it was ridiculous to suggest Iran would even try to hide such a facility. "The ministry of roads and transportation builds lots of tunnels in Iran. But this news is baseless. In the world today, with all the radars and spy satellites which see everything, how can we hide a tunnel?" he said.

Iran insists it has declared all of its nuclear facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog, which has been probing the country for two years. And despite talks having broken off ahead of an IAEA meeting Monday, Tehran remains confident that it is close to a deal with the EU over a freeze of uranium enrichment activities.

"There is no deadlock. We are on the way forward and the corrections the Europeans have made in the text of the resolution (for the UN meeting) are positive," said the Iranian spokesman in Vienna, Hossein Moussavian, according to AFP news agency.

The Iran-EU talks broke off Saturday, opening the door to moves towards UN sanctions. A diplomat close to the talks said Britain, France and Germany had given Iran until late Sunday to agree to a full freeze, including 20 disputed centrifuges, or they would table a tough resolution at the IAEA meeting.

"Not the end of the world"
Moussavian's comments were in contrast to more confrontational statements being made in Tehran; Iran on Sunday stuck by its demand that the 20 centrifuges be exempted from its suspension pledge and shrugged off the danger of being referred to the UN Security Council as "not the end of the world."

The United States wants the IAEA to bring Iran before the Security Council, which could impose punishing economic sanctions, for what Washington says is a secret nuclear weapons program. But EU negotiators Britain, France and Germany have for over a year been stressing a policy of "constructive engagement" to get Iran to cooperate with the IAEA and have proposed an accommodating resolution to the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors, in a meeting that began Thursday and was on Friday adjourned until Monday.

Diplomats said Iran was sending mixed signals as hardliners in Tehran are resisting cutting a nuclear deal. The hardliners "don't trust the process of negotiation. They say that Europe is asking too much and not giving Iran anything," a diplomat close to the talks said.

The EU has promised increased trade, which would include helping Iran get into the World Trade Organization (WTO), and a host of other incentives, but these are to come in a long-term agreement to be worked out after the suspension is in effect.

But another problem, which could torpedo the talks, is that Iran is insisting on its right to continue nuclear research. Iran had agreed with the European trio before the IAEA meeting on the enrichment freeze. But it now says it wants to continue "research and development" with the 20 centrifuges, the machines used to enrich uranium to make nuclear fuel but also what can be the raw material for atomic weapons.

"The question of research and development has nothing to do with a suspension," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.

The crisis is now at a crucial point since the European trio, who insist on an unconditional suspension of all enrichment activities, are losing patience with Iran, and threatening to join the hardline US side, diplomats said.

"We have no progress. It is up to the Iranians now to ponder what they will do," a European diplomat close to the talks told AFP Saturday after Iran-EU negotiations broke off and a Sunday deadline for Iran to signal compliance was set. "They have a very serious decision to make," the diplomat said."

Iran says it has never allowed terrorists to cross territory

Iran says it has never allowed terrorists to cross territory: "Iran says it has never allowed terrorists to cross territory
AFP: 11/28/2004
TEHRAN, Nov 28 (AFP) - Iran said Sunday that is has never allowed any terrorists to cross into Iraq from its territory and offered its help to restore security in its neighbour, including the training of police and border guards.

"Iran has never permitted the transit of terrorists to Iraq or any other country from its own territory," deputy interior minister Ali-Asghar Ahmadi told reporters two days before Iran is due to host a regional meeting on Iraq.

Iran has invited the interior ministers of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey and Egypt to the meeting here Tuesday.

"No leader of Al-Qaeda is in Iran," added the minister, responding to frequent allegations from the United States that Iran has supported or harboured members of the militant network.

The official also condemned the actions of an Iranian group that has been present at officially-organised events to enlist volunteers for suicide operations in Iraq, Israel and elsewhere.

"This is not legal," he said. "If the activity of these individuals stays theoretical, that is up to them, but if they move into action, we will prevent them. We cannot accept such things in Iran."

"The Islamic republic of Iran has never been and is not a place of activity for terrorist groups," he insisted, adding that Iraqi officials "have never shown proof of the crossing of terrorists from Iran".

"Iran is ready to help train Iraqi police and border guards and cooperate with Iraq to control the border," he added.

For his part, foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the themes of the conference here would be "security, stabilisation and fighting terrorism."

"The Iraqi government has the basic responsibility to sort out its domestic situation. It is not enough to accuse others of infiltrating its borders. The main problem lies inside Iraq. It is the Iraqi government's responsibility to fight terrorism, although the neighbours should help," he added."

Street in Tehran named after Simon Bolivar

Description of Selected News: "Street in Tehran named after Simon Bolivar

Tehran Times Political Desk
TEHRAN (MNA) –- A street in Tehran will be named after South American liberation hero Simon Bolivar following the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s trip to Iran.

A statue of Simon Bolivar will be unveiled during the president’s two-day stay in the country at a street named after the hero located at the far end of the Ashrafi Isfahani highway in Tehran.

Simon Bolivar, known as "The Liberator" ("El Libertador") was born in July 24, 1783, at Caracas, Venezuela. He was one of South America's greatest generals and his victories over the Spaniards won independence for Bolivia, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela.

During his stay in Tehran, Chavez will meet and hold talks with President Mohammad Khatami, Expediency Council chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Majlis speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and other high-ranking officials on bilateral ties and regional and international developments.

The president has visited Spain, Libya and Russia before arriving in Tehran and will head for Doha, capital of Qatar upon leaving Iran."

Election most basic step for security in Iraq: Rafsanjani

Description of Selected News: "Election most basic step for security in Iraq: Rafsanjani

TEHRAN (IRNA) -- Chairman of Expediency Council Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said here on Saturday holding a transparent and comprehensive election in Iraq is the most important and the most basic step for stability and security in Iraq now.

In a meeting with Iraq's First Vice-President Ebrahim Jafari, Rafsanjani said it is through elections that Iraqi people could determine their own fate and achieve their legitimate rights.

He added the only right path in Iraq is accepting the people's will.

Chairman of EC said Iran wants to see Iraq as a sovereign country with territorial integrity and people who decide on their own fate and establish peace and stability.

The Iraqi official elaborated on his country's latest developments and said the main wish of the people is a healthy and comprehensive election which observes and respects the majority vote of the people. He added "in the current sensitive phase we need Iran's help and consultation more than ever."

Jafari described the prospects of Tehran-Baghdad relations as positive and expanding and noted that peace and stability in the region requires friendly, positive and constructive relations between the two important countries of Iran and Iraq."

Iran to privatize %65 of state firms - Persian Journal Latest Iran news & Iranian Article News paper

Iran to privatize %65 of state firms - Persian Journal Latest Iran news & Iranian Article News paper: "Iran to privatize %65 of state firms
Nov 28, 2004, 14:27

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The Mullah-run Expediency Council (EC) in a directive here Saturday approved the ceding of over 65 percent of shares of state-owned firms to the private and cooperative sectors, the EC public relations department reported.

The decision comes on the hills of a prior ruling by the arbitrative body to delineate comprehensive policies pertaining to the article 44 of the constitution which covers expansion of non-state sectors via privatizing state-owned and affiliated organs.

"The EC said the transfer of 65 percent of shares of public companies will only include large industries, and mines."

The defense and security-related industries, National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and affiliated firms are excluded from the directive.

The article 44 identifies the domain of the state sector as all large industries and mines, foreign trade, banking, insurance, energy generation, dams and large irrigation networks, radio and television, post, telegraph and telephone, airlines, shipping, railroads and others which have a public ownership and/or are state-affiliated."