Syndicated News from Iran
Sun, 19 May 2013 14:05:27 GMT
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Sun, 19 May 2013 07:41:11 GMT
Iran executes two men for allegedy spying for the US and IsraelDeutsche WelleIran's state radio reported Sunday that authorities had executed two men by hanging, one found guilty of spying for Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad, and the other for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Mohammad Heydari was convicted of ...
Sun, 19 May 2013 15:21:00 GMT
Sun, 19 May 2013 17:34:30 GMT
Sun, 19 May 2013 18:32:51 GMT
'Syria confab pointless without Iran'Press TVOn Sunday, Iran Majlis Director General for International Affairs Hossein Sheikholeslam said, ?Some countries that support the terrorists in Syria are still in the wrong because any conferences held to solve the crisis in Syria will only bear fruit ...
Sun, 19 May 2013 16:23:39 GMT
Iran 'behind US cyber blitz'BDliveMembers of congressional intelligence committees said the attacks were sponsored by Iran and showed its growing capability in cyberspace. US banks, internet service providers and security companies "have had trouble keeping up with the recent DDoS ...and more »
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Results 1 - 10 of Headlines for Iran
Monday, July 21st, 2003
: RCN Administrator
SITUATION REPORTS - July 21, 2003 --
1150 GMT – FRANCE: France has launched an investigation into the July 20
bomb attack on a tax office in Nice that injured 16 people. No one has
claimed responsibility for the attack, in which two bombs exploded. However,
Corsican separatists, who called off a cease-fire during the week of July
14, are suspects in a similar attack on the same office six months ago.
1145 GMT – SOLOMON ISLANDS: The first contingent of Australian soldiers
slated to go to the Solomon Islands left aboard the naval frigate HMAS
Manoora on July 21. Defense Minister Sen. Robert Hill said that no timetable
has been set for the soldiers' return from the island. The rest of the
2,000-member force is expected on the island on July 24. Australian Prime
Minister John Howard decided to send the troops in hopes of containing the
island and keeping it from degenerating into a "lawless haven for
terrorists, drug runners and money launderers."
1129 GMT – IRAN: Iran armed its elite Revolutionary Guard with the Shahab-3
missile during a military inauguration ceremony July 20 as Iran's supreme
leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei looked on, state-run Iranian television
reported. The Shahad-3 has a range of 810 miles and can strike targets in
Iraq, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, U.S.
intelligence agencies have said that although the missile is suspected of
having this ability, Iran has not yet developed a completely reliable
1127 GMT – VENEZUELA: Venezuelan army commander Gen. Jorge Luis Garcia
Carneiro told Caracas television station Globovision on July 20 that it's
not likely a presidential recall referendum can be held in 2003 because "the
new National Electoral Council (CNE) still has to be named, the required
signatures have to be collected, the Permanent Electoral Registry (of
voters) has to be purged, election material has to be printed and the
personnel that will participate in the electoral process has to be trained."
1122 GMT – RUSSIA: Six Russian servicemen and three rebels were killed and
eight were wounded overnight on July 20 in a firefight near the village of
Dyshne-Vedeno, Interfax reported, citing sources inside the headquarters of
the Combined Federal Force in the Northern Caucasus. The incident occurred
when Russian forces intercepted the rebels, who reportedly were planning to
take over the village.
1118 GMT – CHINA: British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in China on July
21 to meet with Chinese officials, including President Hu Jintao and former
President Jiang Zemin. Blair, accompanied by British businessmen, opened a
new British Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, as well as discussed North
Korea's nuclear ambitions, postwar Iraq and trade relations between Britain
and China. This is the third leg in Blair's Asia tour, with the first two
being in Japan and South Korea.
1115 GMT – IRAQ: One U.S soldier from the 1st Armored Division and an Iraqi
interpreter were killed July 21 after being ambushed with grenades and
small-arms fire just north of Baghdad, Cpl. Todd Pruden said. Pruden did not
elaborate on the incident. To date, 152 U.S. soldiers have died in combat
since the war in Iraq started March 20.
1110 GMT – LIBERIA: A 41-member contingent of U.S. Marines from the Fleet
Anti-Terrorism Team in Rota, Spain, is expected to arrive July 21 in
Monrovia, Liberia, European Command spokesman Maj. Bill Bigelow said. The
team is expected to reinforce security around the U.S Embassy. Currently,
there are 20 U.S. troops in the country -- sent to assess the situation and
the possible need for a U.S.-led peacekeeping force. The United States and
African leaders still are pressing Liberian President Charles Taylor to step
down and go into exile in hopes of ending the civil war.
1103 GMT – MEXICO: Mexican counterterrorism investigators found information
on how to manufacture chemical weapons and other militant-oriented
information in a safe house used by Spaniards and Mexicans suspected of
having ties with the Basque militant group ETA, Reuters reports. Six Spanish
citizens and three Mexicans were arrested across Mexico on July 18, and a
seventh Spaniard was arrested in northern Spain. Police forces
simultaneously raided suspected safe houses in the Pacific coast resort of
Puerto Escondido, Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula, Monterrey in northern
Mexico, Puebla and Mexico City. All of the cities have easy and frequent
international air connections to multiple destinations in Europe and the
Geopolitical Diary: Monday, July 21, 2003
Four U.S. soldiers were killed in action over the weekend -- including two
members of the 101st Airborne Division who were killed in an ambush west of
Mosul that left another soldier injured. Sunday's ambush occurred near Tall
Afar. The interesting thing about these attacks is that both took place
outside the "Sunni Triangle" north and west of Baghdad, where attacks have
been focused. The guerrillas appear to be expanding their operations
deliberately, trying to unnerve U.S. troops and force their commanders to
expand the combat arena -- and thereby stretch their resources even more.
What is unclear is whether these were special operations at long distances
by the Iraqis, or whether they indicated a sustained move into these
regions -- and the answers to these questions will be critical.
U.S. officials have decided to raise an Iraqi army, designated as an Iraqi
"civil defense corps." Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, said the
force "will be made up of Iraqis who will be under American military command
to help us basically with the armed part of the work we're doing." If they
do nothing but help interpret both language and culture to the American
troops, they will be beneficial. If they are not expected to engage in
combat operations on their own, they can be spun up fairly rapidly."
The corps poses two challenges. The first is finding anyone willing to serve
in it. There will be two classes of people volunteering: One class consists
of criminals and down-and-outers who see a chance to come out on top in the
new Iraqi order, with not much to lose if it fails; then there will be the
people that Bremer wants: people rooted in the community with families --
people who in addition to serving in the force can also influence their
communities. This is not an impossible idea by any means, but it does depend
on one thing: being able to protect their families. The men will be safer on
patrol with U.S. forces, but their families will not. If the United States
can't protect them, the whole project fails. And protecting the families of
troops always has been one of the nightmares of guerrilla warfare.
The second problem will be security. This force will be a treasure trove of
intelligence for the Baathists. If we were Baath commanders, our men would
be standing in line to join up. Getting close up and personal with U.S.
troops would provide tactical and operational intelligence. In Vietnam, the
Viet Cong made it a point to place people in the Army of Vietnam (ARVN)
slots where liaison with the Americans was heavy. It is unclear how you do a
background check in Iraq, and we'd love to see the polygraphs. Keeping the
force clean is going to be a nightmare -- that is, if Bremer plans to put up
recruitment posters all over the country to create a force that "looks like
Iraq," in former U.S. President Bill Clinton's old phrase. If, on the other
hand, the bulk of the forces are to be raised from the Shiite regions --
where deals are being made -- and from the Kurdish regions, the security
concerns might be less. Of course, the Kurds will engage in smuggling and
the Shiites will report to Tehran, but they will be motivated to stop the
Baath guerrillas, which is the item on the agenda.
If this is the case, then what is happening is that the United States will
recruit non-Sunni forces to share the burden of occupying the Sunni regions.
As we have argued in the past, this is the only way to do it. It does not
create a pro-American faction inside the Sunni regions, but it does increase
the force available to engage and defeat the Baathists. Both the Kurds and
Shiites have the interest to carry out the mission, but both will have to be
induced to do so with political arrangements. In the case of the Shiites,
those arrangements will be costly.
Since the idea of a general recruitment from the population strikes us as
self-defeating, we suspect that this proposal is the cover for the creation
of a combined U.S.-Shiite force for occupying Sunni areas. Whether we are
right in this will be visible when the recruitment starts. Pay no attention
to the first media reports on this, which will be staged carefully to show
the diversity and motivation of the force. After the cameras leave, we will
take a careful look at the force and see how many of their families live in
the "Sunni Triangle."Results Page:
Monday, June 2nd, 2003
: RCN Administrator
Here is the link to Iran TV, in English. Iran TV provides an insight into
this part of the world.
When you link up to the site click on Channel 4 for Iran news in English.
About IRNA Sitemap Links IRNA College Tourism ADS
The Latest Speech By The Supreme Leader 30.Apr 2003 Archive
The Latest Speech By President Khatami 21.Mar 2003 Archive
Friday Prayer Congregation 09.May 2003
Recorded News LOCAL TIME
Channel 2. 22:30
Channel 4. in English 23:00
Channel 1. 14:00
Channel 2. 20:00
Channel 2. 24:00
Friday morning with you (Entertainment Radio Program)
Ghand - O - Namak (Entertainment Radio Program)
Wednesday, April 30th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
Summary: Russia and Iran finalized a deal on April 23 that calls for all
spent fuel rods from the not-yet-activated Bushehr reactor to be
sent back to Russia for reprocessing. Had Iran reprocessed them
locally, as Tehran initially wanted, it could have extracted
weapons-grade plutonium -- but the combination of the Iraq war
and Russian pressure forced Iran to give up that goal. At the
very least, Tehran appears to be toeing Washington's line on WMD.
The next issue on the table will be Tehran's plan to mine uranium
The construction of Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor, built with
Russian assistance, is nearing its final stages. Tehran has
agreed to return spent fuel rods from the reactor back to Russia
for reprocessing rather than doing so in Iran, where it might
have been able to extract plutonium for possible use in a program
to build weapons of mass destruction.
Russian aid is key to the Iranian nuclear program, since Russia
is one of the few countries that will assist Iran, which was
labeled part of the "axis of evil" by U.S. President George W.
Bush. However, both countries have been under extreme pressure
for Iran to return the used fuel rods, and Moscow -- aggressively
lobbied by the Bush administration -- threatened to squash the
deal should Iran refuse.
It was revealed in February that Iran has a much more advanced
nuclear program than previously believed -- a great concern to
the United States, which has made a habit of preventing countries
it deems hostile from developing WMD. International Atomic Energy
Agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei visited several Iranian
nuclear sites, including uranium enrichment facilities that he
declared were on the brink of violating the Nuclear Non-
Meanwhile, Iranian President Mohammed Khatami said in March that
mining for uranium had begun at Saqand, 200 kilometers from the
city of Yazd, and underground uranium reserves were being tapped
near Ardakan. Officials stressed that the mined uranium would be
used for a civilian nuclear energy program, not for a weapons
program. However, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher
said, "We continue to have very grave concerns that Iran is using
its supposedly peaceful nuclear program as a pretext for
advancing a nuclear weapons program."
Though the United States has not yet been able to influence
Russia to cease associations with Iran, other countries have
joined the campaign to force Iran into returning the fuel rods.
Israel, for one, has applied strong pressure on both the United
States and Russia, including visits by Israeli Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon to Moscow and discussions with Russian President
Vladimir Putin solely for that purpose.
The United States may have won an important battle in forcing
promises for the return of the spent fuel rods, but one issue
remains. Washington will try to prevent Iran, a country it
considers extremely dangerous due to suspected ties with
international terrorist groups, from continuing to mine uranium
locally. If this next step should be achieved, Iran would still
have a nuclear program, but it would lack the ability to directly
obtain either enriched uranium or plutonium -- making it
impossible for Iran to fabricate a nuclear weapon.
Saturday, April 12th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
Tough Nuts to Crack -- The following article was written three hours before the assassination of the Iraqi Shiite cleric, Abd Al-Majid Khoei, whose father, the Grand Ayatollah Khoei, was persecuted by Saddam Hussein as the spiritual leader of "Iraq's 12 million Shiites."
Abd Al-Majid returned to Iraq from exile under coalition protection to take up a key role in the future federal government in Baghdad. He died on Thursday, April 10, when a melee that broke out in the Imam Ali Mosque of the holy town of Najaf was exploited by Baath agents in the crowd to commit the murder. A second Shiite cleric died with him.
Chirac Challenges Bush through Iraq's Shiites
Directly after the assassination, the Shiite community of Iraq was pulled in another unexpected direction “this time the outcome of a challenge France had decided to mount against the United States through a Shiite group."
Thursday night, April 10, a small Paris-based Shiite opposition faction published a call to Iraqi Shiites to rise up against the American occupation of Iraq with all their strength, including force of arms. DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Paris sources have found that this group, which is headed by Dr. Abd Rikabi, is sponsored directly by the French intelligence DGSE service. It has a sparse following in most of Iraq's Shiite centers. This group would never have taken so extreme an initiative without DGSE sanction, which would have required approval from the President, Jacques Chirac. The inference here is that Chirac, using the Shiites as proxies, has embarked on a course of military confrontation against the American presence in Iraq. This course was predicted by the Russian president Vladimir Putin in a warning to President George W. Bush - as revealed on March 14 by DEBKA-Net-Weekly Issue No. 101.
Here Come the Warlords
Reporting on the battle for Basra, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military experts judge it to have been much more than a fight for control of the southern city. It was all about securing the coalition's fragile eastern front, where Iran's influence is prevalent in a predominantly Shiite area likely to be fertile ground for the coming guerrilla war against the Americans in Iraq. Already, Iranian agents are pouring into the Faw Peninsula, Umm Qassar, Basra and al-Amara, bringing in weapons, money and fighters.
Local tribal leaders watched from the sidelines as US armor rumbled towards Baghdad, leaving them free to take the opportunity of setting themselves up as warlords after American military might had gone by. Already, they are staking claims to patches of territory and establishing militias with Iranian largesse and encouragement. Lawlessness reminiscent of the Pakistani-Afghan border is swiftly taking over and could soon threaten Iraq's southern oil fields.
The old British colonial power that once ruled Iraq is back but failed to take hold of the Faw Peninsula where Iraqi deserters are congregating and rearming for the next round of hostilities.
Neither have the British 7th armored division (Desert Rats) and 16th assault brigade, deployed along a line east of the Shatt al-Arab, been able to prevent Iran from asserting control over the strategic waterway and threatening to turn it into the lawless militias' main logistical supply and communication channel. Like coalition forces elsewhere in Iraq, the British were only partially successful because they simply did not have enough forces on the ground to do any more.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources report that, along with the looting, militias are sprouting in all Iraq's main cities. The first turf wars are erupting over the control of urban districts.
The militias are set up on religious and tribal lines, a contributing factor to the American nightmare of wholesale slaughter in the cities. Isolated "pockets of resistance" could turn in an instant to a volatile brew of Shiite and Sunni Muslim militias at each other's throats, a constant thorn in the side of US forces as they battle Saddam's "jihad" guerrilla bands.
Over the past week, the United States has gone to great lengths to win over the largely secular Shiite population of the big cities. Six out of 10 Iraqis are Shiite, according to US estimates. Iran puts the figure at 75 percent of Iraq's population of 22 million.
The Americans are racing Iran and Saddam for Shiite hearts and minds. The United States made intense efforts this week to persuade Grand Ayatollah Sistani, the senior Shiite authority in Iraq, to publish a fatwa, or religious edict, calling on Shiite believers to cooperate with coalition forces. US sources insisted that Sistani agreed in a secret meeting in Najaf with Colonel Chris Hughes of the US 101st Airborne Division and Shiite agents of the CIA to call on his people not to resist American troops.
Two days later, Sistani's office in London disavowed this call.
Adding to US dismay, the next day Iraqi television broadcast what it said was the voice of a senior Shiite clergyman reading a fatwa issued by five religious leaders calling on the Shiites to fight US and British forces to the death.
But the United States has another card up its sleeve “Abd Al-Majid Khoei, its main Shiite ally and leader of some 3,000 Shiite fighters funded by Washington and based in Kuwait. Khoei was in Basra at the beginning of the war some three weeks ago and informed US General Tommy Franks, the supreme coalition commander, the city had fallen. That was premature and the Americans hustled him out of Basra. He is now in Najaf where he has been trying unsuccessfully to be received by Sistani or the ayatollah's associates and request a favorable fatwa.
Undeterred by Sistani's snub, Khoei made the rounds of Shiite adherents living in Najaf and Karbala, lobbying them for greater cooperation with the US military. He has met with only partial success, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources in the area, but in Najaf managed to reopen Shiite shrines shut down by Saddam Hussein, including the Imam Ali central mosque. The Republican Guards had taken possession of the shrine and was preparing to use it as a firing position, when the local populace forced them to drop their plan.
American officers in Najaf and Karbala have found the local populace deeply concerned with the situation of their fellow believers in Baghdad. They offered assurances that the Shiites in the capital should have no fear of being harmed any more than their coreligionists in Najaf and Karbala.
Besides Khoei, the Americans are attempting to influence the population through two other prominent Shiite clerics Sayyad Bahar el-Olum and Ayatollah Hussein Sadr. They are also courting the Ayatollah Sheikh Mohammed Bshaq Bayat.
A secular Shiite, Ahmed Chalabi, the London-based leader of the opposition Iraqi National Congress, was also asked by Washington to help out. The United States flew him along with some 300 to 400 fighters and 250 people whom he believes will be part of a new Iraqi government from the northern city of Dohuk to Talil, the main US base of air operations in Iraq. From there, he moved to Nasiriyah in the south to spread word of the prominent role the United States is promising the Shiites in post-war central government, if they show their support for the American action in Iraq.
A Destabilizing Wind from Lebanon
The Lebanese Hizballah's terrorist-ideologue, Sheikh Hassan Fadlallah, member of the Lebanese group's Politburo and the Ayatollah Sistani's foremost rival as religious authority in the Shiite world, has already thrown himself into the creation of Saddam's "jihad" guerrilla underground. Sistani by refraining from throwing his support behind the United States implicitly adds his weight to Saddam's schemes.
Tehran is continuing to push its candidate, Mohamad Baqr Al Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution of Iraq, for a senior government position in post-war Baghdad against the candidacy of Majid Khoei. The Iranians threaten to stir up Iraqi Shiites against the Americans if they do not get their way. Before launching the war, the Americans welcomed Al Hakim but have discovered since that his influence in the Shiite community of Iraq is marginal, and are brushing off Iran's threats.
Thursday, March 6th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
By Dipo Ola
Iran is a country that is replete with contradictions and potential that make it probably the most fascinating socio-political center of coming years. It is a country that embodies the popular saying that the only constant in life is change itself.
The contradictions begin with its name itself-Iran means ‘The land of the Aryans’, yet at the same time it is a country that considers itself extremely different from the west, and indeed, has one of the most unique cultures and histories in the world. The well-known name of Persia that most people identify with Iran, is actually a name derived from Pars (known today as Fars), a Province in Southern Iran, which caught onto that name because it was constantly used by Greek Writers, and was latched on to by the European traders of the time.
Contrary to a lot of peoples’ beliefs, Iran is NOT an Arab country, and is not a member of the Arab league. It is a Persian country with a culture that is totally unique, and distinct from any other in the Middle East or Muslim World.
Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, Iran has been identified with a very strident form of religious intensity, but for more than three thousand years, it was a melting pot of different civilizations, cultures and trade, between Europe and Asia. In fact it was the center of the world’s first empire, under Cyrus the great, and in the 6th Century BC, the Persian Empire was the most important empire in the world.
Today Iran is striking in its contradictions. It is one of the most conservative Muslim governments in the world, but yet, it is one of the few (along with Turkey, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Indonesia) Muslim nations that elects political leaders (who are of course second to the Religious leadership) through democratic elections, and a country where women are now allowed to vote.
It is a country where segments of the Religious leadership have had a lot of nasty things to say about Jews (including at one point blaming them for the September 11 terrorist attacks) but a country where Jews although subject to scrutiny, discrimination and sometimes state persecution, are generally treated a lot better than they are treated in most Muslim nations. They are recognized and protected under the Iranian constitution, as a minority, and are generally not targeted with the venom reserved for the State of Israel.
It is a country that morally and financially supports the Hezbollah terrorist organization, and acts of terrorism against Israel, but a country that on its own part offered condolences to the U.S. for the September 11 terrorist attacks. It has encouraged Arab economic pressure on the U.S. (through oil), until the U.S. stops protecting and supporting Israel, but at the same time it has complained that the U.S. trade sanctions against Iran (in place since the 1979 Iranian student takeover of the American embassy) are hurting the Iranian economy, and will lead to more air disasters, if the U.S. does not provide Iran with more U.S. spare parts and technological assistance for Iranian aircraft. It is a country that has promised not to harbor Al-Qaeda, but which has been somewhat implicated by evidence that seems to indicate it has done just that.
The evidence however, is not conclusive.
Most significantly, Iran is the only Muslim nation in the world, where the leadership holds a somewhat ambivalent attitude towards the U.S., while the majority of the population harbours warm feelings towards the U.S. What do I mean? Well in some Muslim countries (like Syria, Lebanon, Libya) there is a unified negative feeling held by both the government and the citizens towards the U.S. In MOST Muslim countries there is an officially pragmatically, positive attitude on the part of the government towards the U.S.(in countries like Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and even Kuwait), although the general population is antagonistic towards the U.S. ONLY in Iran, is the population is desirous of stronger and more pronounced contact and relations with the U.S., and a recent poll taken disclosed that 70-75% of average Iranians desired such contact. The same poll showed that 46% of Iranians believed that U.S. policies on Iraq were to some extent correct. This is not comm on knowledge, but the significance is staggering, as far as the supposed united anti-war/anti American front held by the Muslim world. The government has struggled to suppress such information and to suppress this public interest, but they have been unsuccessful, and appear to be trying to come to terms with this. 70% of Iran’s population of 65 million is under 30, and they are very difficult to suppress culturally, and at the ballot box.
This might express the fascinating ambivalence of the Iranian Position on War against Iraq. Officially, Iran is opposed to any war against Iraq or any other Muslim country, but unofficially, there have been consistent indications that Iran would permit the U.S. to use its airspace during such a war, and also that Iran would provide sanctuary to injured U.S. troops who are either shot down during the conflict, or who require any sort of medical or humanitarian assistance.
There also has been a lack of any sort of forceful anti-American rhetoric or anti-War rhetoric from Iran, a country that was once the center of anti-American sentiments, and who at a point referred to the U.S. as ‘the great Satan’.
There are those who point to Iranian ambivalence on Iraq, as directly attributable to the 200,000 Iranians who lost their lives during the Iran-Iraq war, and the poisonous feelings between the two countries that contributed to the war, and were exacerbated by the war. Although this could be what is at play here, it is likely that Iran would be more openly hostile to Iraq if the gulf war memory were uppermost. Iran is not a country that has a history of being tentative or reticent about its views or convictions. The only time Iran has been muted in its views is when it has struggled inwardly about what position best represents its interests. Such a situation for example, arose during the
gulf war, when they opposed the war so fiercely that Saddam Hussein felt comfortable enough to send some of his planes to Iran for safe-keeping. Iran then refused to return those planes, and up till today, has not yet returned them. Again, here, their actions were sometimes analyzed as inveigling or devious, but the more correct interpretation is that they were simply torn between their old suspicion of American motives, AND their more deep hatred of Iraq, and suspicion of Iraq motives in the region. In this case, the former won out over the latter, and it would appear that in the present day, the former is winning out over the latter again, of course being helped along by hundreds of
thousands of vocal pro-American Iranian citizens. After September 11, the Iranian government, although it opposed and later characterized American military action(s) in Afghanistan as arrogant, muted its comments largely because it had been strongly opposed to the Taliban Regime, and quietly realized that the U.S. action in Afghanistan, was ultimately to Iranian Benefit. It is this mix of pragmatism, independence of thought and unpredictability that makes the Iranian political mix so fascinating.
Back during the gulf war, Iran’s problem with the U.S. was largely based on suspicion of American motives to dominate and control the world/Muslim world, AND the fact that the U.S. along with other Western Nations that feared Khomeini’s agenda had collectively provided Iraq with millions of dollars worth of Military assistance during that war. Today, Iran’s problem with the U.S. relates partly to their perception that George Bush’s administration is arrogant, aggressive, and possibly anti-Islamic. More significantly, and beyond the current Iraq Imbroglio, the major problem the conservative Iranian government faces, is the fact that the growing interest among its citizenry for a major rapprochement with the U.S., although difficult to deal with now, could turn into a tidal wave if encouraged. Rapprochements usually involve political, cultural and social exchanges, in other words, a tidal wave of American clothes, music, culture, which will usher in permissive American ways and views, further eroding the values imposed on and instilled in Iranian society during the 1980’s. Such changes will undoubtedly lead to the eventual phasing out of the current Iranian system that vests primary power in the hands of the clerical elites, and ultimate power in the hands of the Supreme religious leader. So in a sense, the religious clerics who hold real power are fighting for their survival, and it would be a mistake to underestimate their determination to resist the Americans. Just as much of a mistake as it would be for anybody to lump Iran up with any other country, as far as politics, motives or interests, go. Simply put, there is no other country like Iran.
Monday, December 2nd, 2002
: RCN Administrator
Eliminate Iran and Iraq. Not the countries. Certain not the people who live in them. Eliminate the countries’ names. "Iraq" is an Arabic noun - al-iraq - meaning the shore and grazing area of a river. The country of Iraq was an invention of the British after World War I, who along with the French were carving up pieces of the defeated Ottoman Empire into colonies called League of Nations Mandates.
Stitched together from three distinct Ottoman vilayets, or provinces - Kurdish Mosul, Sunni Arab Baghdad, and Shiite Arab Basra (but excluding the pre-existing British colony of Kuwait run by the al-Sabah family) - the area had the name "Iraq" foisted upon it by the Brits, who installed their puppet Faisal Hashem as king after the Saudis kicked him and his family out of Arabia. Thus was born the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq.
Invented in 1921, the Iraqi Kingdom lasted 37 years. In 1958, the "royal" family was slaughtered, and a military dictatorship established, which Saddam Hussein took over in 1979, yet the name Iraq remained (officially Al-Jumhurria al-Iraqia, the Republic of Iraq).
The same year of Iraq’s invention, 1921, saw a military coup next door in Persia. A brigade officer of the Persian Cossacks, Reza Khan Pahlavi, and his troops overthrew the Qajar dynasty, which had ruled since 1794. By 1926, Reza was calling himself the Shah. For over 100 years, the British and Russians had played imperial games with Persia. An attempt to escape from Anglo-Russian dominance led Reza Shah into dalliance with the Germans. To curry favor with the new Nazi government, Reza in 1935 without warning or explanation decreed that Persia would henceforth be named "Iran," or Land of the Aryans.
Hitler was quite pleased that a country would rename itself as the original homeland of his Aryan Master Race, so an alliance was formed, resulting in a joint British-Russian invasion of Tehran that kicked out Reza and installed his son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as the new Shah. The son kept the Nazi-racist name "Iran," however, as did the fellow who overthrew him in 1979, Ayatollah Khomenini.
It is obvious that next year, 2003, will see the overthrow of the current governments of Iraq and Iran - the first by either palace coup or the U.S. military, the second by popular revolt. Iraq will desperately need a national glue to hold it together, to overcome its enormous centrifugal forces. A critically necessary ingredient in that glue will be renaming the country, to reach back and recapture the extraordinary history and achievements of its predecessor with the ancient name of Mesopotamia.
In one stroke, the country of Mesopotamia - The Land Between Two Rivers, as the Greeks called it - would erase the horrible legacy of the last 82 years as Iraq, remind the world that it is the original Cradle of Civilization where history’s first city-states were born circa 4000 BC, unite all its peoples - Kurds, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Turcomen, Sunnis and Shiites - under its ancient historical legacy, and announce to the world the Civilization’s Cradle is ready and eager to participate in the civilization of the 21st century.
Names have power. There is a magical resonance to Mesopotamia. Such a name, coupled with a stable government providing public safety and a rule of law, would result in a flood of tourists excited to explore 6000 years of history, to visit the sites of Babylon, Nineveh, Abraham’s Ur, scores of other Biblical locations, and fabled Baghdad. If there is any place on earth that needs a fresh start, it’s Iraq. The best way would be to shuck the disgraced name itself, and begin anew with the original, Mesopotamia.
It is equally incumbent upon Iran to rename itself Persia. "Iranians" have no history, no heritage, other than the Pahlavi dictatorship and the ghastly Ayatollah oppression following it. As they are now poised to rid themselves of Mullah Tyranny, they too require a new national identity, one that can give them a deep pride in their 2500 year-old culture beginning with Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire.
The "Iranian" people have no connection to a glorious past, and thus no foundation for a flourishing future. Persia, like Mesopotamia, is a name that has magic. Its people need to recapture that magic. They need to recover their history not only before Khomenini and Reza Shah, but before Islam. By studying that history (which is not allowed today), they will remember that an Arab nomadic horde invaded Persia in AD 637, conquered their ancestors, and forced them by sword and fire to renounce their own religion (Zoroastrianism) and adopt Islam.
Zoroastrianism is reviving in Iran now, with Nowruz (the Zoroastrian New Year coinciding with Spring Equinox) being celebrated by hundreds of thousands. The ovethrow of the hated mullahs by student/popular revolt next year will see an explosion of interest by the Perisan people in their ancestral legacy and religion. Renaming their country back to the original - Persia - would solidify and formalize this revival, and their rejection of their immediate oppressed past with its tainted Nazi-racist title.
The democratization and de-radicalization of Iraq and Iran will be the tipping point in the War on Moslem Terrorism. Giving these lands their ancient and revered names back - Mesopotamia and Persia - will ensure that the point stays tipped.
Sunday, November 10th, 2002
: RCN Administrator
Pakistan and Iran are planning joint military exercises in 2003, Stratfor sources have claimed, confirming recent rumors of bilateral defense cooperation. Islamabad and Tehran have had mixed relations in the past, and previous military cooperation was limited to minor maritime exercises, some training and small-arms and ammunition sales.
Since the United States launched its war against terrorism, however, diplomatic traffic between Pakistan and Iran has increased, starting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s November 2002 stopover in Tehran on his way to New York. Despite the two nations’ differences -- they supported different sides in Afghanistan, for example -- they share a common concern: how to deal with the growing intrusiveness of the United States.
Both Pakistan and Iran have experienced the military and political power of the United States, and neither can oppose or resist too much. The natural consequence of Washington’s growing show of force in the region, however, is that regional powers like Iran and Pakistan are drawing closer together, seeking to keep their footing in the ever-shifting environment. Thus, Tehran not only is talking to Islamabad but also has been working with New Delhi. And India, meanwhile, is looking to strengthen ties with other Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia and Oman.
The important aspect of these relations is their tentative nature. Each power is hedging its bets, opening new diplomatic options without closing any others. This is not a zero-sum game; rather, a country like Iran can work with India and Pakistan at the same time, shifting its weight back and forth between the two to better balance the power of the United States.
Opening these channels now is unlikely to have an immediate effect on the balance of power in the region; instead, it looks to the future. The natural tendency for the regional powers to form non-exclusionary relationships when faced with the overwhelming power of an outside force -- in this case the United States -- allows the countries to remain agile in their regional and international relations. And in the future, it could create opportunities to limit U.S. influence and power.
Thursday, September 5th, 2002
: RCN Administrator
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami announced last week that he would submit a bill to parliament seeking to expand his presidential powers. He also will introduce a bill to curb the powers of the Guardian Council, a body responsible for vetting all legislation and approving all lawmakers in parliament, whose members are appointed by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
By going on the offensive, Khatami hopes to re-ignite the power struggle between Iran’s conservative and reformist political camps. His legislative maneuvering is intended to trap the conservative hard-liner camp in a corner, forcing it either to concede on issues such as the right to a trial by jury for arrested reformists or to come out with guns blazing.
By putting the hard-liners on the defensive, Khatami may be trying to drive a wedge into the already fracturing clerical regime -- which has used its control over the judiciary and other major institutions to hamper reform -- at a point when it has limited political popularity and Iran is under greater pressure from the United States. However, Khatami’s move could incite another round of widespread social and political unrest.
In late August, Khatami gave a lengthy press conference to frame his plan for both domestic and foreign journalists. He cited high unemployment, the lack of democracy and the failure of the judiciary to be open and accountable as reasons why he needed an expansion of power.
Khatami’s bill calls for the implementation of the presidential powers accorded the executive in the Iranian Constitution. These powers would allow the president to act as head of state, to protect citizens’ rights and to uphold the rule of law and the constitution.
The bills will put both the Guardian Council and the clerics on the spot. The GC must approve the bills before they become law and is therefore unlikely to favor legislation that limits its power. The BBC reported that Khatami might have Khamenei’s tacit support, although it did not say why. But since the bills would limit his power as well by reducing the influence of the GC and the judiciary that he controls, his support is doubtful.
If the GC refuses to approve the legislation, which, according to Khatami, is merely a return to the constitutionally mandated powers of the executive, then it could be accused of ignoring or abrogating the constitution. So far the conservative camp has refused the bait, in effect trying to dodge the legislation issue by arguing that previous presidents have operated under the same laws.
Even so, the conservatives will be perceived as being opposed to Khatami’s economic and political reform agenda. The president already has linked the approval of his bills to the creation of new jobs.
In his speech during the Aug. 28 news conference, Khatami said, "If the people want employment …the only basis for achieving this aspiration lies in endeavors to bolster the foundation of religious democracy and the popular essence of legal institutions."
Officially, unemployment in Iran is about 14 percent, with unofficial estimates placing it significantly higher. With his legislation proposal, Khatami is trying to lay the blame for the economy directly at the feet of the hard-liners.
The maneuver is part of a two-pronged approach. First, the president hopes to capitalize on fissures emerging within the clerical camp. In July, a leading senior Islamic cleric, Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri, resigned his position as Friday prayers leader in Isfahan, a post he had held since being appointed by the late supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini 30 years ago. In his resignation letter, Taheri strongly criticized the clerical regime and called it a "mafia" that kept a lid on reform efforts, Deutsche Press Agentur reported.
Secondly, Khatami is implicitly threatening political and social unrest in order to pressure the conservatives. The president warned that public disaffection was rising and then argued that his own government’s failures to reform the economy stemmed from the deadlock between the reformist parliament and the Guardian Council. "Unfortunately I have had no success," he said. "My warnings have been ignored, and the president’s duties, which are clearly stated in the constitution, have been suspended," he said during the news conference.
The president’s public gesture and his direct appeal to the unemployed will resonate deeply with the largely youthful Iranian population. Reviving the political debate on the street, however, could be a dangerous move for the country’s stability and for the president. In essence having told the Iranian public that he is unable to reform without a shift in the balance of power, Khatami has inadvertently demonstrated his own futility as a leader.
Wednesday, July 24th, 2002
: RCN Administrator
Iran is facing an uncertain future, trying to reform itself gradually while still remaining a strong, independent, united nation. However, internal pressures as well as those from outside have made this difficult to achieve.
The participation of thousands of Iranians July 9 in street protests, despite a government ban, underscored the mounting dissatisfaction in the country with the ruling regime. This mood was most directly represented by influential Iranian cleric Jalaleddin Taheri, who resigned his post that same week and denounced supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s conservative clergy -- which has used its control over the judiciary and other major institutions to hamper reform -- as corrupt and incompetent.
More than a week later, Iran’s largest reform party -- the Islamic Iran Participation Front -- threatened to quit the government and parliament if hardline elements continue to block social and political changes. The vice speaker of the party, also the brother of President Mohammad Khatami, said democratic reforms were the only way to run the country.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration continues to apply pressure on the "axis of evil" member, accusing it of sponsoring terrorism and engaging in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Iran cannot be ignored or underestimated when it comes to Washington’s goals in Eurasia or in attempts by China or other powers to counter U.S. supremacy. It also must be taken into account regarding U.S. interests in Afghanistan and a likely war against Iraq.
In short, the future of Iran is of great geopolitical importance for both world powers and neighboring regions. And while Iran’s integrity and unity will survive in the short term, two events may shake the country in the longer run: social upheaval within Iran’s fast-growing population and a military confrontation with the United States.
Iran’s Geopolitical Agenda
The country’s conservative Islamic elite is united in its vision of Iran as a major future power in the Middle East, able to defend its integrity against any foreign attack and to secure its national interests. The regime believes its top external security threats come from the United States and Israel, while its prime internal threats are a possible social explosion and endemic drug trafficking.
The elite feels that to serve the country’s national interests, Iran first must achieve the ability to produce whatever weapons it needs for defense. Second, the government must maintain economic growth and distribution to feed the expanding population and keep it from lashing out at the regime.
Third, Iran should command enough influence in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caucasus to make sure neighboring countries cooperate with the government and do not side with its enemies. Fourth, Iran should form partnerships with as many important foreign powers as possible to make sure its position in the world is stable.
Fifth, Tehran must make certain its energy wealth makes it stronger and helps ensure its importance in determining global energy policies. Sixth, Iran should become the most influential Islamic nation in the world, which requires further support for the Palestinians and the Lebanon-based Islamic Hezbollah militia group.
However, the elite is divided deeply over how to become a regional power and secure these goals. President Mohammad Khatami believes the ideal way is to transform the nation slowly into a state where Islamic and democratic values can co-exist.
In his mind this will make the country socially stable and unleash a desire among the people to make Iran stronger. The Western media have compared Khatami to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who supervised perestroika and the end of the Soviet Union. Iranian government sources say Khatami hates this comparison because he believes Gorbachev’s economic, political and social reforms ruined his country, and Khatami wants his reforms to strengthen Iran.
Ayatollah Khamenei is not in favor of making the country more democratic and is reluctant to implement any reforms. But there are growing signs that even he has realized after the last few turbulent years that something should change in Iran if the country is to succeed.
STRATFOR sources within Iran’s diplomatic and other government circles say that Khamenei, fearing both the collapse of current cleric rule and the end of Iran as it is known today, seems to have reached a consensus with Khatami that the country will be transformed very gradually, with the Islamic nature of the nation preserved.
The latest evidence of this tacit agreement is a message Khamenei broadcast nationwide ahead of the country’s weekly prayer ceremony June 12. Khamenei said he agreed with criticism of the regime laid out by the rebelling cleric Taheri, "because I also have been saying for several years that we have to mobilize all possible means to fight poverty and corruption," Agence France-Presse reported. Khamenei also warned Iranian officials to pay attention to what they say, as "any unjust criticism encourages enemies and counter-revolutionaries who benefit from the support of the United States and Israel."
A Society Polarized
The problem for both of the country’s top leaders is that many of their supporters have become radicalized and do not intend to listen to them. Some Khatami supporters, especially in student organizations, are growing impatient with the snail’s pace of reform. Their protests will become only more aggressive with time.
Student-led protests now and in the short-term do not pose a threat to the regime -- the several-thousand-strong protests July 9 are still minor in a country of 65 million people. But they have the serious potential to become an engine for much larger and broader protests all around the country.
These actions could be similar to or bigger than demonstrations July 16, when about 15,000 workers gathered in front of Tehran’s social security department to protest poor working conditions and low pay. Iranian police dispersed the crowd by firing into the air and using tear gas.
The social conditions in Iran are ripe for upheaval. Although Iran posted GDP growth of 5.6 percent last year, according to EU figures, this was not enough to take most of its exploding population out of poverty. Government policies to restrain astronomic birth rates are failing in a country where abortions are banned by religion. High oil prices this year are the only reason for the GDP growth, but there is little development in the energy sector and Iran’s expenses continue to grow. If energy prices drop for a sustained period of time, the country could be in big trouble.
Jobless and low-paid youth are quickly becoming the majority in impoverished towns and the countryside. The official unemployment rate in Iran is 13.5 percent, but in reality it is probably closer to between 15 percent and 25 percent. This translates into millions of hungry young people who are primed for revolution unless the situation improves dramatically and quickly. Such an explosive situation also may be used by the current regime’s enemies.
So far student-led opposition protests in big cities, and economic protests in small towns and rural areas, have been disunited. But sources inside the country say the opposition is ready and trying to reach out to impoverished people.
Despite this threat, Khamenei’s ultra-conservative supporters reject his reluctant compromise with Khatami over gradually reforming the country. Though this group is a minority even in the conservative cleric camp, it is well organized and enjoys some sympathy from Iran’s security apparatus. Its vehicle for countering the reform movement is the government’s Islamic fundamentalist Bassij religious militia, as well as various non-governmental religious militias. But more crackdowns by these groups could cause or provoke serious bloodshed that might lead to a popular uprising.
So far Tehran has been able to keep a lid on the potentially regime-threatening level of violence, thanks largely to the fact that both Khatami and Khamenei can still rein in the majority of their supporters. But even though the radicals in both camps are in the minority, their numbers appear to be increasing.
There also are other organizations and groups in Iran struggling against the Islamic regime. Their actions, except for those of the guerrilla Mujahideen-e-halk group, are rarely reported in Western media. But intelligence from human sources in Iran indicates that their anti-government activities and the number of their supporters are also on the rise.
Add to this the growing number of disgruntled citizens in each strata of society. The impoverished masses want food and jobs. Businessmen want more privatization and no economic restrictions. Intellectuals and youth want more freedom in everything, including the opportunity to travel abroad.
Professionals want decent salaries. Growing numbers of clerics want to reform the role of Muslim religious institutions. And some in the elite dream of reaping even higher profits and benefits in a more open-market society. This is what happened with Russia’s elite oligarchs, who came to the conclusion before the fall of the Soviet Union that they could even better enrich themselves when they became big businessmen.
On the whole, the internal political situation in Iran is much more complex than the simple media-portrayed division between reformists and conservatives. For instance, the media impression that all so-called "reformists" strive to build a liberal market society is utterly wrong. Though some do, a vast majority only care about protesting against the government -- no matter what "cause" they may represent.
In addition, there are many reformists who strive to build what they call an Islamic democracy, which would call for a more open market but still would have social protections and Islamic regulations. Other reformists, including the militarily strong Mujahideen-e-halk, struggle to establish people’s rule in Iran, combining socialist and Islamic ideas of equality and justice in which every Iranian would benefit from the country’s energy riches. There also are some expatriates and home-based Iranians who dream of restoring a monarchy, though they are in the clear minority.
In addition to the "reformists," there is a corresponding rise in the struggle by ethnic groups for more rights or independence. For instance, there are millions of Azeris and Kurds in Iran dreaming of better times, with some forming not only opposition political organizations but also guerrilla movements engaged in sabotage against the central government.
There are separatist movements among Arabs in the southwest, the Balouges in the southeast, and even in Iranian sub-ethnic groups in Eastern Iran. The ancient Iranian religion of Zoroastrism -- the main religion in Iran before the advent of Islam -- is gaining favor among Kurds and some Iranians who are fed up with the state of the country under Islamic rule.
Thus, Iranian society not only is deeply divided along many lines but also is polarized. Revolutions usually happen when lower classes do not want to live the way they do, and the upper classes can no longer rule the way they do. Iran is coming close to crossing that line. This already happened once when the Shah was overthrown in the 1970s. In the longer run, a revolution against clerical rule in Iran is possible.
Why Iran Is Preparing for War With the U.S.
However explosive the internal situation in Iran may be, its problems internationally are no less grave. Having always been at odds with Washington since the overthrow of the Shah and the capture of the U.S. Embassy in 1978, Tehran believes that this long-simmering conflict finally will boil over under the Bush administration.
The Iranian leadership is not too concerned that a U.S. attack will come soon, since Washington has bigger targets right now, including Iraq. But Tehran feels an attack in the future is inevitable and is preparing to defend the country against a much superior foe.
According to government sources, the common belief among Iran’s national security establishment is that the country almost inevitably will become the Bush administration’s top target once Iraq has fallen under the U.S. thumb. Bush’s harsh rhetoric against Tehran helps to reinforce this impression, as do several other factors.
First, the sharp conflict between Washington and Iran’s geopolitical goals and interests makes reaching any compromise very difficult. Washington wants to secure its national interests in the Middle East and will not tolerate Iran’s attempts to assert its own regional influence. And Iran knows that it has no chance of establishing its influence with the United States calling the shots in its backyard.
Even if Bush is not explicit on this now, Washington wants a regime change in Tehran, or, at very least, wants Iran to adopt a more pro-U.S. policy. However long it takes, it is probably only a matter of time before a clash, especially since the Bush administration is adopting a new strategy of pre-emptive strikes against countries deemed to represent enough of a threat.
Second, both the United States and Iran have close political allies they cannot abandon even for the sake of preventing a confrontation. The U.S. government will not abandon Israel, while even if Khatami takes full control of Iran, he will never end support for Hezbollah and Palestinian militants, since this allows Iran to project power far from its borders and to attack and distract Israel.
Like almost all of Iran’s elite, Khatami sees Israel as the country’s sworn enemy, one that constantly is trying to provoke Washington to attack it. Since Tehran is convinced that the influence of the pro-Israeli lobby over U.S. government policy is total, it believes that one day Israel will succeed in persuading the United States to go to war with Iran. Additionally, if Tehran were to stop supporting Islamic militants against Israel, it would face more domestic backlash.
Third, the Bush administration believes that control over Persian Gulf and Central Asian energy riches is vital to the national interest. This includes control or influence, in some form or another, over Iraqi and Iranian energy resources. Iran is trying to counter this by working on achieving a more prominent role in the global energy market through OPEC.
Fourth, after Sept. 11 Iran has watched helplessly as the U.S. military has encircled it. Except for strategically unimportant borders with neutral Turkmenistan and Armenia, American troops and personnel are present in all of Iran’s neighbors: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and even Iraq -- U.S. Special Forces reportedly are stationed in Kurdish areas and U.S. fighters continue to monitor Iraqi air space.
Fifth, Iranian intelligence reports that the United States and Israel are significantly boosting their satellite, technical and human surveillance activities. STRATFOR has written already about a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle that crashed in Iranian territory in late May. As we wrote, the UAV may have gone off course, or it could have been attempting to survey future targets in preparation for a strike on Iraq. Israel May 28 also launched a new Ofek-5 spy satellite to be used for conducting surveillance on Iran, Iraq and Syria. This will give Israel a better view of the development of Iran’s Shahab-3 surface-to-surface ballistic missile, which is capable of striking anywhere in Israel.
Sixth, Iran sees the ranks of its allies melting under severe U.S. pressure. The hardest blow has been the apparent decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to slowly end Russia’s involvement in the construction of the Bushehr nuclear plant in Iran, which the Bush administration fears will be used to help Tehran’s nuclear weapons capabilities. Moreover, the Iranian government is worried that Russia may end all military-technical cooperation between the two sides that is worth billions of dollars in new arms for Iran.
Iran’s Strategy To Avoid Potential Confrontation With the U.S.
In order to counter the U.S. geopolitical offensive and deter a potential attack in the longer run, Iran has embarked on a three-pronged foreign policy and security strategy. The first leg of this policy has been an extensive defense-building program, including enhancing both conventional and non-conventional capabilities for the armed forces.
There is no proof that Iran is building a nuclear bomb, but intelligence services in various countries report that Tehran may well have chemical weapons. However, Washington is concerned mostly with Iran’s longer-range missile program. Though Iranian missiles have no chance at reaching U.S. territory, they can hit American forces in the Middle East and Israel.
Iran says the number and quality of its missiles are extremely low compared to American and Israeli stockpiles, and that its arsenal is meant to serve as a deterrent. Washington, however, deems this arsenal aggressive.
Tehran knows it will never match the U.S. military potential and would be hard-pressed to match Israel’s arsenal either. Furthermore, this capability gap may widen further if Moscow reneges on its promises to sell about $6 billion worth of modern weaponry to Tehran. Nevertheless, Iran will continue to build its military in hopes of gaining the potential to inflict enough losses to U.S. forces to dissuade Washington from attacking.
As part of the second leg of its policy to deter a U.S. attack, the government is actively seeking partnerships with major foreign powers for economic and military benefits and to organize a large enough consensus against U.S. aggression. This policy is called "the dialogue of civilizations," whose author and most active proponent has been Khatami.
Under this policy Iran has succeeded in establishing close relations with almost all important world players -- except the United States -- including China, India, Russia and European countries. Tehran also is establishing or re-establishing ties with all its important neighbors -- Pakistan, Syria and even former foes such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq and most recently Turkey. Finally, Iran has seen external national security threats other than from the United States and Israel diminish or disappear.
This has come with the fall of the anti-Iranian Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Turkey rethinking its own anti-Iranian policy and Iraq’s recent overtures for Iranian cooperation. Even Washington’s attempts to isolate Tehran with an embargo and diplomatic pressure on third countries have failed. If creating an anti-Iraq coalition is proving to be difficult for the United States, it would be impossible in regard to Iran.
However, Tehran knows the Bush administration would not be afraid to act unilaterally against Iran. Hence the third leg of Iran’s current policy toward the United States: the attempt to engage Washington in dialogue. Neither side entertains the illusion that they can ever reach an eternal peace. But that does not mean that confrontation cannot be postponed or a compromise on the most pressing issues between them cannot be reached, at least temporarily.
Both sides are busy with more immediate problems -- the United States is fighting al Qaeda and preparing to hit Iraq, and Iran is building itself as a regional power while avoiding social explosion -- and so neither would mind reaching some level of detente.
Attempts To Reach Compromise Between Iran and the United States
Tehran has assigned the task of negotiating with the United States to its third-most influential man, Hashemi Rafsanjani, former Iranian president and chairman of a powerful political council called the Expedience Council. Contrary to media reports, STRATFOR’s sources say that when Rafsanjani recently dispatched a delegation to meet with U.S. representatives in Cyprus, he was not acting on his own.
Both Khamenei and Khatami agreed that Rafsanjani would make some secret attempts to initiate a dialogue with the United States to ease tensions. It was agreed that if the attempt became known, which it subsequently did when Iranian lawmakers made it public, the government would deny it.
New evidence suggests that Rafsanjani is continuing his attempts to engage Washington with the covert support of the other two top leaders. The sources from Iran say that he may be approaching the United States with an offer to stay on the sidelines of a United States-Iraq conflict in return for Washington ceasing its efforts to change the regime in Tehran.
The most important and practical sign of this offer has been Tehran’s decision to allow a delegation of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq to meet with other Iraqi opposition and State Department officials in Washington last month. The Iran-supported Supreme Council is the only Shia resistance group in Sunni minority-ruled Iraq, and is for the most part the only competent opposition force in Iraq except for Kurdish groups in the north.
Iran knows that Washington will attack Baghdad no matter what it does, so the pragmatic Rafsanjani is attempting to make the best of a bad situation. By putting the Supreme Council into the mix, he is trying to improve the chance that Shias will dominate a new government in Baghdad, which would give Shia-ruled Iran more of a say in how a new Iraq does business.
So far the United States -- pre-occupied with building a viable Iraqi opposition military and political force -- has welcomed the prospect of the Supreme Council joining the ranks of the opposition. But aware of that group’s pro-Iranian nature, Washington is likely to make sure during the war that the Shia do not get Baghdad as a prize.
Iranians also fear that the United States would use Shia fighters as cannon fodder to get to Baghdad and install a pro-United States and anti-Iran government, possibly including Sunni generals under the former regime of Saddam Hussein. Sources in Iran say that Khamenei supported Rafsanjani’s offer to trade with the United States on Iraq because having a Shia government in Baghdad has been his geopolitical-religious wish for many years.
But Khatami is opposing the idea, mainly because he fears that, no matter what it does, Iran will become the next target for the United States if Iraq falls. That is why he has encouraged the restoration of ties with Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
The United States seems to be looking at Rafsanjani’s initiative as a kind of trial balloon. And Iran is using this secret "proposal" to probe the U.S. reaction -- especially on whether Washington will agree to soften its policy toward Iran -- while its top leaders and Foreign Ministry continue to state publicly that a U.S. attack on Iraq is impermissible.
Intriguingly enough, it is Vice President Dick Cheney, not the dovish Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is leading the U.S. effort for dialogue with Iran. His ties with American energy giants interested in returning to Iran’s lucrative energy market are the main factor for this drive.
Cheney has long proposed lifting sanctions against Iran, but he has not been able to get through severe objections posed by other administration heavyweights, such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz. Nevertheless, Cheney was able to convince the president that some secret dialogue with Iran would be useful, if only to get some minor concessions out of the regime first.
Thus, Cheney and Rafsanjani have organized a series of secret meetings between U.S. and Iranian officials for the last few months. But, judging by the continued rift between the two nations, little has come out of them in terms of results.
However, both Cheney and Rafsanjani are likely to continue their efforts. From the United States’ standpoint, it would not hurt to simultaneously try three options in regard to Tehran: probing though back channels about whether Iran would be scared enough to give meaningful concessions, encouraging the Iranian opposition to overthrow the regime and -- if those two fail -- applying more pressure on the government.
There has been no decision by the Bush administration so far to attack Iran -- nations sometimes have a cold war for decades and never have a hot war. But if Washington decides at some point that all other options have failed and Iran still stands in the way of its designs for the region, then a battle could ensue.
As for Rafsanjani’s offer over Iraq, it is unlikely to succeed in changing the U.S. view of Tehran. All of the regime’s previous geopolitical gestures -- not interfering in the U.S. war on terrorism, giving permission for U.S. planes to make emergency landings during the operation in Afghanistan, deporting anti-United States Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, forcing Hezbollah to decrease its anti-Israel attacks in some instances this year -- do not appear to be enough.
What Washington wants most, Tehran is unlikely to give: It will not terminate its support for Arab militants, halt its defense build up or surrender the Islamic regime in order to conduct a more pro-United States foreign policy.
Tehran certainly cannot end its support for Hezbollah, which is the government’s tool for influencing Middle East politics and gaining leverage against Israel. Iran supports Hezbollah not so much because it is composed of Iran’s Shia brethren but mainly because it is one of the few real military and political forces within the global Shia Islamic community. Even if the conservative clerics are gone and a reformist Khatami has a free hand to rule Iran, he would not abandon Hezbollah.
This is only one of the conflicts between the United States and Iran that might eventually lead to a military confrontation. So far Tehran has succeeded in postponing this confrontation, at least until Iraq is defeated. Tehran also has broken out of its isolation -- it does not appear that Washington has the international support for an attack yet. If it wanted to unilaterally force a regime change in Iran in the future, it would have to do much more extensive and longer preparation than it did even in the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Future Likely To Bring More Trouble
So Tehran has some time to continue its attempts to defuse U.S. pressure in the hope that a new administration in Washington will soften its stance. But anything could happen before the elections in 2004, with Washington’s new pre-emption policy doctrine and its expanding global reach making an attack on Tehran possible by that year.
A full-scale war may be deemed too costly, while strikes against suspected WMD and missile program sites might be a more viable option. An even less military-intensive way for the United States to get at Iran would be to increase the oil flow coming out of a defeated Iraq, driving down global prices and bankrupting the regime.
This is why Tehran wants to focus on building its defenses, but cannot due to political, social and economic pressures at home. Washington thus can apply even more of its own pressure from the outside on the ruling regime as well as encourage more decisive action by the Iranian opposition. If the current regime is toppled from within, then Washington might get a more pro-United States government without military intervention, though this would be difficult.
The disunity between numerous opposition forces and protest groups will help Tehran keep its Islamic regime alive in near future. A secret (or not-so-secret) alliance between Khatami and Khamenei will be the main factor keeping the nation together. Their control over both the military and security forces will help as well.
But, in the longer run, only economic success and an improvement in living conditions will help the current regime survive -- and this could prove too difficult to achieve. It would be naïve to think that liberal market reforms would work fine in Iran. But the current moderate "Islamic market" encouraged by Khatami is not working either, leaving millions in poverty and ready to join protest movements.
It remains to be seen what (if anything) Khatami can do about this. If he fails, social explosion will become inevitable, and then the question would be: Who benefits from such a situation? A no less important question also would be: Would Iran maintain its status as an important independent regional player, or would it become a puppet of foreign powers?
A return to the time of loyal U.S. ally the Shah is highly unlikely, given the sharp difference in geopolitical interests between Iran and the United States, as well as the unpopularity of Washington even in the eyes of many reformist leaders in the country. So a nationalistic course directed at securing Iran’s national interests -- no matter how the big powers dislike it -- should be expected from any Iranian government in the future.
Wednesday, July 17th, 2002
: RCN Administrator
TEHRAN, Iran — A popular cleric who quit to protest the influence of hard-liners in the government softened his stance Thursday, after Iran’s supreme leader warned him of the consequences of dissent.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is "accompanying us, as before" in solving Iran’s problems, Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri wrote in a letter published in the daily Nowruz.
Though still advocating change, the comments were more moderate than a letter Taheri had written when he stepped down as a prayer leader in the central city of Isfahan July 9.
"There is no solution to these problems other than that of continuing the path of reforms," Taheri’s latest letter read. "To solve the problems which I raised in my letter and which were confirmed by the leader, the obstacles on the path of reforms must be speedily removed."
When he quit, Taheri had said hard-liners within the ruling establishment were "paralyzing" civil and elected institutions in the name of religion to maintain their hold on power.
He had also said that "those who are riding the vicious camel of power at the expense of sacrificing sanctities and people’s religious beliefs seek to justify violence in the name of religion."
The new letter was apparently aimed at appeasing Khamenei, who issued a veiled threat to him on Friday by recalling the fate of Iran’s most senior dissident cleric, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri.
Montazeri has been under house arrest since 1997 after he questioned the legitimacy of clerical rule, including that of Khamenei.
In his Thursday letter, Taheri wrote: "Our national interests will not allow us to miss opportunities. Delay on this path will lead the country to a crisis. No one should have any excuses now that the leader is accompanying us, as before."
Reformist President Mohammad Khatami’s program of political freedoms and reforms has effectively been thwarted by hard-liners in the judiciary, who have closed more than 50 liberal newspapers and detained or imprisoned dozens of journalists and political activists.
Under criticism for failing to stand up to the hard-liners, Khatami has said he prefers a slower pace of reform to avoid unrest.