Baha’is and others imprisoned in Iran for religious belief

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan governmental body, in a report released in May, described a deteriorating situation regarding religious freedom in Iran — particularly for Baha’is, Evangelical Christians and Sufi Muslims.

At least 34 members of the Baha’i community in Iran, including seven leaders, are in prison because of their faith. Dozens are awaiting trial, while others have been arbitrarily sentenced to prison terms ranging from three months to several years.

The seven Baha’i leaders, five men and two women, were arrested May 14, 2008 and have been held in Evin prison, just north of Tehran, ever since. They have been denied access to their lawyer, Ms. Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian human rights lawyer who was awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize and has been under severe pressure from the Iranian government. In December, the police shut down her human rights center and judicial authorities raided her private office, seizing her computers and her client files.

A new charge — “spreading corruption on earth” — may be added to the previous accusations against the seven, which included “espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities, and propaganda against the Islamic republic.” Some of the charges are punishable by death. No charges have ever been formalized, however, and no court date has ever been announced, despite the Iranian government having said in February that the imprisoned leaders would have a court hearing within a few days.

Iranian chief prosecutor, Ayatollah Qorban-Ali Dori-Najafabadi, accused the group of gathering intelligence and said there was “irrefutable evidence that adherents of the Baha’i sect are in close contact with the enemies of the Iranian nation and have strong links to the Zionist regime.”

It probably doesn’t help that the world center of the Baha’i faith is in the city of Haifa. A century ago, when the Baha’is came to Haifa, it was part of the Ottoman Empire. Since 1948 though, Haifa has been located inside the state of Israel that Iran refuses to recognize.

The are more than 200 Baha’i cases active with the authorities. This includes individuals in prison, those released pending trial, those who have appealed their verdicts, those awaiting notification to begin serving prison sentences, and a few who are serving periods of internal exile. Thousands more have been questioned, threatened or deprived of pensions, livelihood or education.

The Baha’is are the largest religious minority in Iran, with about 300,000 members there and five million worldwide. They believe that humanity is one race, that men and women are equal and that all religions and prophets are derived from the same source, God. They have suffered successive waves of persecution in Iran since their faith was founded there in the mid-1800s by a Persian nobleman they consider to be a messenger of God. That belief violates the Islamic teaching that God sent many prophets before Muhammad, but none afterward. Hence, Iran’s Shiite religious establishment considers the religion a heretical offshoot of Islam, and therefore not entitled to the protection granted to religious minorities in Article 13 of Iran’s constitution, which recognizes “only Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians as religious minorities in Iran, granting them representation in parliament and a degree of supervised and limited autonomy.”

Christians, however, also are persecuted in Iran. The U.S. Commission cited the cases of two women were arrested in March for practicing Christianity after authorities raided and confiscated materials from their home. Authorities reportedly have accused them of engaging in anti-government activities, and they are also being held in Evin where they face further interrogation.

Sufi Muslims have also been targeted by the Iranian government because of their faith. The Commission reports that in the past year more than a dozen Sufi Muslims were arrested; some are still in prison, while the whereabouts of others are unknown.

Most disconcerting, the Iranian Parliament is considering approving revisions to the penal code that would make conversion from Shi’a Islam to any other religion (apostasy) a crime punishable by death. In the past, the death penalty has been applied for apostasy at the discretion of judges interpreting strict Islamic Shari’a law. But if the proposed revisions are codified, this would endanger the lives of many religious minorities, who are considered apostates even if their parents were of the same religious minority.

Felice Gaer, Chair of the Commission on International Religious Freedom, expressed disappointment that the Iranian government “will use any pretext, however baseless, to harass and detain those whose religious beliefs differ from those enforced by the state.”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Iran has ratified, guarantees “the right of thought, conscience and religion,” as well as the right to change religion and “to manifest ... religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

– edited from Voice of America News, Baha’i World News Service, The New York Times and Reuters
PeaceMeal, May/June 2009

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Iran rising as United States declines

Four years after the United States invaded Iraq, many in the region view the Americans in retreat; Arab countries, their own feelings of weakness accentuated, are awash in sharpening sectarian currents that many blame the United States for exacerbating; and Iran is ascendant. Iran has found itself strengthened almost by default, first with the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan to Iran’s east, which ousted the Taliban rulers against whom it almost went to war in the 1990s, and then to its west, with the American ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, against whom it fought an eight-year war in the 1980s.

Iran has deepened its relationship with Palestinian Islamic groups, assuming a financial role once filled by Gulf Arab states, in moves it sees as defensive and the United States views as aggressive. In Lebanon and Iraq, Iran is fighting proxy battles against the United States with funds, arms and ideology. And in the vacuum created by the U.S. overthrow of Iranian foes in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is exerting a power and prestige that recalls the days of the 1979 Islamic revolution, when Iranian clerics led the toppling of the oppressive U.S.-backed government of the Shah.

“The United States is the first to be blamed for the rise of Iranian influence in the Middle East,” said Khaled al-Dakhil, a Saudi writer and academic. “There is one thing important about the ascendance of Iran here. It does not reflect a real change in Iranian capabilities, economic or political. It’s more a reflection of the failures on the part of the U.S. and its Arab allies in the region.”

Across the region, Iran has begun to exert influence on fronts as diverse as its allies: the formerly exiled Shiite parties in Iraq and their militias; Hezbollah, a Lebanese group formed with Iranian patronage after Israel’s 1982 invasion; and the cash-strapped Sunni Muslim movement of Hamas in the Palestinian territories. Israeli officials say Iran has been increasingly successful in influencing the chaotic political situation in the Palestinian territories, particularly by funding the Hamas-led government.

But no less influential are the ties that Iran has deepened with the three main Shiite groups in Iraq and the burgeoning economic relationship between the two countries. Some of the Shiite leaders spent years in exile in Iran and are now nominally allied with the United States. The extent of Iran’s engagement in the Arab world, and the rising sectarianism that has accompanied the Iranian ascendance, troubles Arabs who already worry about growing tension between the United States and Iran.

The Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict that the U.S. invasion and occupation have ignited is far-reaching. Many in the Arab world watch its gathering force with a sense of helplessness. “It’s very bleak and it’s very dangerous” said Dakhil, the Saudi writer. “We have a sectarian civil war in Iraq now and this is drawing sectarian lines through the region. This is the most important, the most dangerous ramification of the American war in Iraq.”

In Iraq, U.S. officials say Iran is providing Shiite militias with sophisticated projectiles capable of penetrating U.S. armored vehicles and backing those forces in a gathering civil war against Sunni Arabs. One commander of the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia that U.S. military officials now identify as the greatest security threat in Iraq, said that however much he might dislike Iran, he was eagerly anticipating the delivery of 50 rocket-propelled grenades.

As the U.S.-Iran conflict deepens, many in the Arab world find themselves on the sidelines. They are increasingly anxious over worsening tension between Sunni and Shiite Muslims across the Middle East, even as some accuse the United States of stoking that tension as a way to counter predominantly Shiite Iran. Fear of Iranian dominance is coupled, sometimes in the same conversation, with suspicion of U.S. intentions in confronting Iran.

“It was necessary to create an enemy to justify the failure of the American occupation in Iraq,” Talal Salman, the editor-in-chief of as-Safir, a Lebanese newspaper, wrote in a January column. “So to protect ourselves against the coming of the wolf, we bring the foreign fleets that fill our lands, skies and seas.”

Iran’s nuclear activities to enrich uranium are another major point of friction. The Bush Administration has accused Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian energy program and was reportedly “hostile” to a classified CIA assessment that found no conclusive evidence of any secret Iranian weapons program.

Now under attack both abroad and at home over the Iraq debacle, President Bush has taken the offensive step of sending a second U.S. aircraft carrier task force to the Persian Gulf. Vice President Cheney said that move was intended to signal to the region that the United States is “working with friends and allies as well as the international organizations to deal with the Iranian threat.”

While Mr. Bush has stated he intends to pursue a diplomatic resolution of the conflict, opinion is divided on whether or not he will attempt to deflect attention from Iraq with a headlong rush into Iran. Democratic leaders in Congress have warned him not to launch an attack against Iran without first seeking congressional authorization.

Iranian officials — emboldened but uneasy over nuclear-armed neighbors in Israel and Pakistan and a U.S. military presence in the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan — have warned that they would respond to an American attack on Iran’s facilities.

“If Iran is bombed, Iran’s reaction is a sure thing,” said Abbas Bolurfrushan, the president of the Iranian Business Council in Dubai, where an estimated 400,000 Iranians live and work. “They cannot sit idle. And what kind of reaction they will take is a big question,” he added. The result? “A disaster,” he said. “Disaster.”

Najaf Ali Mirzai, a former Iranian diplomat in Beirut, offered a similar scenario in more threatening terms. Wearing the robes of a cleric, he sketched out potential Iranian responses: cutting the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, through which 20 percent of the world’s oil passes; retaliation in Iraq, Afghanistan or Lebanon; attacks on U.S. targets in the Gulf. “There is a policy the Iranians have,” he said, “and they’ve repeated it often: the Gulf is either safe for everyone or no one.”

A major problem with “bombs away” over Iran’s nuclear installations is that President Ahmadinejad may be seeking just that. It would coalesce worldwide Muslim opinion behind the latest “victim of Zionist American imperialism.” It would also produce the kind of regional mayhem that Ahmadinejad sees as a precondition for the return to earth of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi. He is the 5-year-old boy who vanished 1,100 years ago and is supposed to lead the world back to prosperity under the banner of Islam.

President Bush is also on the ropes about his legacy. Already bloodied in Iraq, he will come under increasing pressure to show that he has not left the United States weakened in the Middle East. He does not want to be remembered for leaving Iran more powerful than he found it when he came to office.

– edited from The Washington Post ,United Press International and The New York Times
PeaceMeal, Nov/December 2006

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

White House pans CIA report on Iran nuke program

The White House dismissed a classified CIA draft assessment that found no conclusive evidence of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program running parallel to the civilian operations that Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the New Yorker has reported. An article by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh said the CIA’s analysis was based on technical intelligence collected by overhead satellites, measurements of the radioactivity of water samples, and high tech — and highly classified — radioactivity-detection devices that clandestine American and Israeli agents placed near suspected nuclear-weapons facilities inside Iran in the past year or so. No significant amounts of radioactivity were found.“A current senior intelligence official confirmed the existence of the CIA analysis,” Hersh wrote, “and [said] that the White House had been hostile to it.” The Bush Administration has accused Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian energy program. White House hawks led by Vice President Dick Cheney are intent on military action against Iran regardless of the facts and with or without the approval of Congress, both houses of which switch to Democratic control in January, according to Hersh who cited an unidentified source. The White House promptly issued a statement saying the article, in the Nov. 27 issue of the magazine, was “riddled with inaccuracies.”

However, political analysts in Washington agree that President Bush could choose military action over diplomacy and bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities next year. John Pike, director of, a military issues think tank, stated, “I think he is going to do it.” He added, “It would be a limited military action to destroy their WMD capabilities.”

Joseph Cirincione, Senior Vice President for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, agrees. “It is not realistic but it does not mean we won’t do it,” he said. “If you look at what the Administration is doing, it seems that it is going to inevitably lead us to a military conflict,” he said. “Senior members of the Administration remain seized with the idea that the regime in Iran must be removed”

Many in the White House and the Pentagon insist that weakening Iran is the only way to salvage Iraq. A Pentagon consultant said, “They believe that by tipping over Iran they would recover their losses in Iraq — like doubling your bet.” The view that there is a nexus between Iran and Iraq has been endorsed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and by President Bush.

The consultant added that, for some advocates of military action, “the goal in Iran is not regime change but a strike that will send a signal that America still can accomplish its goals. Even if it does not destroy Iran’s nuclear network, there are many who think that thirty-six hours of bombing is the only way to remind the Iranians of the very high cost of going forward with the bomb — and of supporting Moktada al-Sadr and his pro-Iran element in Iraq.”

However, neocons on the staff of Vice President Cheney take a more aggressive approach. They argue that there can be no settlement of the Iraq war without regime change in Iran.

In a November 19 op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times, Joshua Muarvchik, resident scholar at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, called for getting tough with Iran. “We must bomb Iran,” he said. “The path of diplomacy and sanctions has led nowhere ... Our options therefore are narrowed to two: we can prepare to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, or we can use force to prevent it.”

Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State in George W. Bush’s first term, told me that he believed the Democratic election victory, followed by Donald Rumsfeld’s dismissal as Secretary of Defense, meant that the Administration “has backed off,” in terms of the pace of its planning for a military campaign against Iran. Pres. Bush’s nominee to succeed Rumsfeld, Robert Gates, a former director of the CIA, and other decision-makers would now have more time to push for a diplomatic solution in Iran and deal with other, arguably more immediate issues. “Iraq is as bad as it looks, and Afghanistan is worse than it looks,” Armitage said. “A year ago, the Taliban were fighting us in units of eight to twelve, and now they’re sometimes in company-size, and even larger.”

Bombing Iran and expecting the Iranian public to rise up and overthrow the government, as some in the White House believe, Armitage added, “is a fool’s errand.”

  – edited from Reuters, Agence France-Presse and The New Yorker
PeaceMeal, Nov/December 2006

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Is another Bush wargasm coming?

The Bush Administration is reportedly planning for a military strike to cripple Iran’s nuclear program, which they allege is aimed at weapons development. The plans call for a rolling five-day bombing campaign against 400 key targets, including 24 nuclear related sites, 14 military airfields and radar installations, and Revolutionary Guard headquarters. Reports suggest that the plans are going forward despite warnings of dire consequences from high-ranking officials at the Pentagon and respected members of the foreign policy establishment.

The first phase of a war against Iran has already begun. U.S. Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner (ret.), who taught strategy and military operations at the National War College, said Sept. 18 on CNN: “The order has been given (to strike Iran). In fact, we’ve probably been executing operations for at least 18 months. ... I’ve talked to Iranians (and they tell me), ‘We’ve captured some people who worked with them (American Special-Ops). We’ve confirmed they’re there.’” Gardiner added that “U.S. naval forces have been alerted for deployment. That’s a major step. ... And the (battle) plan has been sent to the White House.”

 The Administration has moved up the deployment of a major “strike group” of ships, including the nuclear aircraft carrier Eisenhower, as well as a cruiser, destroyer, frigate, submarine escort and supply ship, to head for the Persian Gulf. Official sources in the Navy Department at the Pentagon confirm that the Eisenhower Strike Group, bristling with Tomahawk cruise missiles, has received orders to depart the United States and is scheduled to arrive off the coast of Iran on or around Oct. 21. Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), a leading critic of the Iraq war, informed about the deployment orders for the Strike Group, said, “For some time there has been speculation that there could be an attack on Iran prior to November 7 [election day].”

First word of the early dispatch of the “Ike Strike” group to the Persian Gulf region came from several angry officers on the ships involved, who contacted antiwar critics like Col. Gardiner and complained that they were being sent to attack Iran without any order from the Congress.

The goal of attacking Iran was set long ago and features prominently in neoconservative policy-documents, such as The Project for the New American Century. According to neocon doctrine, Iran cannot be allowed to develop nuclear technology for fear that it may provide them with the means to defend their oil. That would be catastrophic for western elites who plan to oversee the distribution of the world’s dwindling resources.

White House hawks and their corporate colleagues realize that the only way to curtail the growth of America’s greatest competitor, China, is by seizing its primary source of energy — Iran. The hand that controls the oil spigot rules the world. Thus, Iran has become a strategic imperative for Administration plans of global domination.

The planning of the aerial bombings of Iran started in mid-2004, pursuant to the formulation of CONPLAN 8022, the U.S. Strategic Command’s contingency plan for dealing with “imminent” threats from countries such as Iran and North Korea. The main plan involves the preemptive use of air strikes with tactical nuclear weapons on deep-underground installations, radar disruption, and cyberwarfare with computer viruses. In May 2004, Pres. Bush’s classified National Security Presidential Directive 35 titled “Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization” was issued. NSPD 35 presumably pertains to the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in the Middle East war theater in compliance with CONPLAN 8022.

As in Iraq, the bombing campaign will likely follow a trumped-up pretext for initiating hostilities. On Sept. 20, National Public Radio reported that key players from the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans have been reassigned to a newly created Iran policy desk. This is seen by many intelligence analysts as an indication that the same channel of disinformation that hyped the war in Iraq is up and running.

Iran may be cited for its alleged nuclear weapons program or Pres. Bush may simply claim the right to unilaterally enforce U.N. treaty violations, but these are just a formality. President Bush has repeatedly insisted that the 2001 Congressional Authorization for the Use of Force that preceded the invasion of Afghanistan was also an authorization for an unending “war on terror.”

Col. Gardiner drew the conclusion that the White House will not go to the Congress or to the United Nations Security Council for advance approval to strike Iran, but will launch an air and missile assault with no warning. Gardiner ruled out a ground invasion and occupation, noting that even the White House has learned the lesson of the failure of the Iraq occupation. Gardiner’s own view is that the attack, if launched, will fail to achieve any of the objectives, will ultimately strengthen the existing regime, gravely further isolate the United States from the rest of the world, and trigger a severe global recession. Nevertheless, he said that Pres. Bush is personally convinced that there is no alternative to war and is in a messianic frame of mind, equating himself with WWII’s Winston Churchill.

In an interview with, Gardiner estimated the probability of air strikes against Iran in the next 3-4 months at around 90%. Of course, Gardiner agrees, ship movements and other signs of military preparedness could be simply a bluff designed to show toughness in the bargaining with Iran over its nuclear program. But bluffing has never before been a Bush mode of operation. Pres. Bush also claimed to be seeking a diplomatic solution with Iraq the whole time he was preparing to invade the country.

Col. Gardiner was asked about the Pentagon and State Department not showing up for a recent House hearing, in which they were called to testify as to whether U.S. troops are in Iran. He said they didn’t show up because they are probably in violation of the law by having U.S. troops in Iran without a finding.

A number of experts have concluded that, despite the Bush Administration’s desire to attack Iran, the aggression would be too rash and the consequences too dire even for them. Military experts point out that generals are calling for more troops for Iraq and Afghanistan, making it dangerous for Pres. Bush to add a well-armed Iran to the war theater. Diplomatic experts point out that the U.S. is isolated in its desire for war with Iran and has no ally except Israel, the nemesis of many Muslims. An attack on Iran could be the last straw for Muslims chafing under the rule of governments in Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan and Saudi Arabia that are seen as U.S. puppets. And economic experts point out that the impact on the price of oil would cause severe economic consequences.

It is worth noting that, unlike Israel, Iran has no nuclear weapons and has committed no violations of the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which Israel has not even signed. On the contrary, the NPT clearly articulates Iran’s treaty rights to pursue development of a peaceful nuclear program. Iran had submitted its nuclear facilities to a “go anywhere, see anything” inspection regime by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which consistently stated that it found Iran “in compliance” with its requirements. But Iran shut the inspection door after Pres. Bush coerced the U.N. Security Council to unilaterally repeal Iran’s NPT treaty rights.

With preparations under way for the U.N. Security Council to discuss sanctions against Iran, a top Iranian nuclear official proposed Oct. 3 that France create a consortium to enrich uranium in Iran, saying that could satisfy international demands for outside oversight of their nuclear program. French officials distanced themselves from the idea, which an analyst called an attempt to stall or divert attention from mounting tensions over Iran’s nuclear activities. However, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who is leading negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, said the proposal was worth a closer look.

Thanks to an effective propaganda campaign in the media, public opinion is turned against Iran and the public is unaware that the Bush Administration itself just hypocritically ignored its own NPT treaty obligations by providing sensitive nuclear technology to India.

Akbar Ganji, a former Revolutionary Guard turned reformist journalist and Iran’s most vocal dissident (he was jailed six years by his government) says even high-ranking conservatives oppose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s radical policies and consider them dangerous for the country. The nuclear program itself has become the butt of jokes among the ordinary people, but the government doesn’t allow anyone to criticize it. The reformists within the system are against it, Ganji says, and have sent a letter of opposition to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khomeini.

Moreover, western nuclear analysts maintain that Iran lacks the skills, materials and equipment to make good on its immediate nuclear ambitions. Their estimates of when Iran might be able to make a single nuclear weapon, assuming that is its ultimate goal, range from 5 to 10 years for U.S. government experts, up to 20 years for some other analysts.

Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the IAEA, said in May that Iran does not pose any immediate nuclear threat and that the world must act cautiously to avoid repeating the mistakes made with Iraq and North Korea. ElBaradei, winner of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, said the world shouldn’t “jump the gun” with erroneous information as he said the U.S.-led coalition did in Iraq in 2003, nor should it push the country into retaliation as international sanctions did in North Korea. “We have learned some lessons from North Korea,” he said. “When you push a country into a corner, you are giving the driver’s seat to the hardliners there.”

In a letter made public on Sept. 14, the IAEA complained that a report of the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee contains “erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated information” that falsely alleges Iran enriched uranium to weapons grade last April and that the IAEA director had removed a senior safeguards inspector to keep the alleged breach of the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty secret. Committee aides said the report was meant to provoke discussion about Iran and wasn’t a call for exaggerated intelligence. The dispute is a virtual rerun of the months before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, when Dr. ElBaradei and his agency questioned Administration claims that Saddam Hussein was aggressively seeking nuclear weapons. Some top U.S. officials sought to discredit ElBaradei, although the IAEA’s assessment proved correct.

In April, Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker quoted a source close to the Pentagon saying that Mr. Bush believes “saving Iran is going to be his legacy.” A former defense official told Mr. Hersh that the military strike plan was based on an Administration belief that “a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.” The official’s reaction: “What are they smoking?”

Ironically, back in 2003, Iran signaled that the conflict could be resolved peacefully if the Bush Administration would agree to a non-aggression pact guaranteeing that the U.S. will not attack Iran without provocation — information that is scrupulously omitted from media reports. Iran not only offered to accept peace with Israel and cut off material assistance to Palestinian armed groups, but also made a secret two-page proposal for a broad U.S.-Iran agreement covering all the issues facing the two countries. What the Iranians wanted in return was an end to U.S. hostility and recognition of Iran’s legitimate security interests in the region. Pres. Bush refused to allow any response to the Iranian offer to negotiate an agreement that would have accepted the existence of Israel. This August, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice confirmed that the Administration’s position has not changed. She said, “Security guarantees for Iran were off the table.”

How can there be peace if one country will not agree not to attack another?

Iran has no choice but to take Pres. Bush’s saber rattling seriously and also prepare for war. The Administration’s stated goal of “regime change” poses a credible threat to the existence of the current Iranian government and they must plan accordingly. They can expect that the U.S. would prevail readily in a massive air campaign, which would destroy much of Iran’s civil infrastructure leaving it in a state similar to that of Lebanon. But following an aerial bombardment, the real war would begin — as was true in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon.

Even if the U.S. does not deploy ground troops, Iran could respond to counter the persistent threat created by the neocon plan for regional domination by predicating a decades-long struggle aimed at undermining the ability of the United States to wage war. That would imply a probable focus on targets to destroy the U.S. economy: asymmetrical attacks on the currency, terrorist attacks on tankers, pipelines, oil platforms and energy sites around the world, destabilizing regional allies of America — particularly Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, arming guerilla groups in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a campaign to disrupt the flow of oil to western markets.

U.S. intelligence and terrorism experts have said they believe Iran would respond to military strikes on its nuclear sites by deploying its intelligence operatives and Hezbollah teams to carry out terrorist attacks worldwide. There is also a growing consensus that Iran’s agents would target civilians in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. Terrorism experts consider Iranian-backed or controlled groups to be better organized, trained and equipped than the al Qaeda network that carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.

One thing Americans should know is that Iranians do not want to have a puppet regime in their country, Akbar Ganji says. Military invasion will not help the democratic movement in Iran, but will do exactly the opposite. “This regime in Iran has to change,” he says, “but it’s the Iranians themselves who have to change it.”

“We have a strong pro-democracy movement in Iran,” Ganji says. “The world should listen to it and take it seriously. Our goal is to create a bond between Iran and the outside world. Any interference by western politicians in our affairs will make us vulnerable to accusations of espionage and acting as the fifth column of the West.”

“This is very serious,” says Ray McGovern, a 27-year veteran threat-assessment analyst who got early word of the Navy officers’ complaints about their sudden deployment orders. McGovern resigned from the CIA in 2002 in protest over what he said were Bush Administration pressures to exaggerate the threat posed by Iraq. Speaking to a group of anti-war activists Sept. 17 on the National Mall in Washington, McGovern warned, “We have about seven weeks to try and stop this next war from happening.”

– compiled from Information Clearing House, Century Foundation, Global Research (Canada),
The Herald (Glasgow), McClatchy Newspapers, The Nation, Nat’l Public Radio,
Newsweek online, The New York Times, Reuters, and The Washington Post
Peacemeal, Sept/October 2006

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Iran’s history key to dealing with Tehran

by Charles A. Kupchan and Ray Takeyh

WASHINGTON – After years of indecision and internal squabbling, the Bush administration has finally settled on an Iran policy: Washington will rely on coercive diplomacy — sanctions backed by the threat of military strikes — to rid Iran of its nuclear program, while simultaneously seeking to foment regime change in Tehran. This approach is ill-advised and based on a fundamental misreading of Iran’s perception of the Easing sanctions, releasing Iranian assets frozen since the revolution, and ultimately establishing diplomatic relations should also be on the table. The prospect of such rewards will do much more to empower Iranian moderates than a tightened economic embargo or attacks on nuclear facilities. current standoff. For the Bush administration, the confrontation is all about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and fears that Iran is seeking to build the bomb. But for the Iranian government and the vast majority of its citizens, the nuclear issue has become larger than life, a nationalist cause that is all about defending the country’s sovereignty and dignity.

Relying on threats to browbeat Tehran into submission is poised only to backfire. Historical sensitivity and judicious diplomacy are needed to steer the theocratic regime in the right direction.

For Iranians, history is a living enterprise. Throughout the 20th century, Iran was a stomping ground for the great powers. It was a pawn first in the struggle between Britain and Russia, then between America and the Soviet Union.

Behind every shah was a foreign hand that could empower or humble the Peacock Throne. An ancient and proud civilization was reduced to a vassal state, irked by the capitulation treaties repeatedly imposed on it by Occidental powers.

Americans fixate on the 1979 revolution and the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. But for Iranians, the events of 1953 loom much larger, when America and Britain teamed up to depose a nationalist regime [the democratically elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh], replacing it with a pliant but tyrannical monarchy [the Shah].

This past has produced a nation deeply averse to international dictates. That is one of the main reasons the Islamic Revolution has had so much staying power. Iran’s mullahs freed the country of great power domination for the first time in a century. Themes of sacrifice and resistance remain the currency of Iranian politics; to resist American pressure is to validate national dignity.

With this historical narrative shaping Iran’s approach to the nuclear debate, the Bush administration’s assumption that calibrated pressure will yield Iranian acquiescence is doomed to failure. On the contrary, the more intense the pressure, the more intransigent Iran’s response is likely to be. As Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said last week, “We know well that a country’s backing down one iota on its undeniable rights is the same as losing everything.”

President George W. Bush may please his conservative base by branding Iran an “axis of evil,” but the provocative rhetoric only plays into the hands of Iran’s hardliners. Washington is far more likely to see its efforts pay off if it tones down its language and adopts a diplomatic stance more mindful of Iran’s historical baggage.

The substance of American diplomacy must change as well. When Tehran is told to suspend its nuclear program or face “dire consequences” at the same time that Washington agrees to help India expand its nuclear program, Iranians only dig in their heels.

Washington should broaden the context of negotiations by tendering clear inducements. Easing sanctions, releasing Iranian assets frozen since the revolution, and ultimately establishing diplomatic relations should also be on the table. The prospect of such rewards will do much more to empower Iranian moderates than a tightened economic embargo or attacks on nuclear facilities.

Tapping into Iran's national pride rather than confronting it head-on holds out the best hope for containing its nuclear ambitions and undercutting a belligerent regime that depends on isolation and defiance for its political survival.

Charles A. Kupchan, a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University, and Ray Takeyh are senior fellows at the Council on Foreign Relations. Their article is edited from the International Herald Tribune (Paris), 30 March 2006.

– PeaceMeal, May/June 2006

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

U.S. attack on Iran may prompt terror

With the Bush administration increasing tensions between the United States and Iran by its hardline approach, U.S. intelligence and terrorism experts say they believe Iran would respond to U.S. military strikes on its nuclear sites by deploying its intelligence operatives and Hezbollah teams to carry out terrorist attacks worldwide. Iran would mount attacks against U.S. targets inside Iraq, where Iranian intelligence agents are already plentiful, predict these experts. There is also a growing consensus that Iran's agents would target civilians in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

U.S. officials would not discuss what evidence they have indicating Iran would undertake terrorist action, but the matter "is consuming a lot of time" throughout the U.S. intelligence apparatus, one senior official said. "It's a huge issue," another said. Terrorism experts consider Iranian-backed or controlled groups to be better organized, trained and equipped than the al-Qaeda network that carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Before Sept. 11, the armed wing of Hezbollah, often working on behalf of Iran, was responsible for more American deaths than in any other terrorist attacks. In 1983 Hezbollah truck-bombed the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241, and in 1996 truck-bombed Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 U.S. service members.

The possibility of a military confrontation has been raised obliquely in recent months by President Bush and Iran's government. Bush says he is pursuing a diplomatic solution to the crisis, but he has added that "all options are on the table" for stopping Iran's potential acquisition of nuclear weapons. And speaking in Vienna in March, Javad Vaeedi, a senior Iranian nuclear negotiator, warned the United States that "it may have the power to cause harm and pain, but it is also susceptible to harm and pain. So if the United States wants to pursue that path, let the ball roll."

Former CIA terrorism analyst Paul R. Pillar said that any U.S. or Israeli airstrike on Iranian territory "would be regarded as an act of war" by Tehran, and that Iran would strike back with its terrorist groups. "There's no doubt in my mind about that."

Because Iran's nuclear facilities are scattered around the country, some military specialists doubt a strike could effectively end the program and would require hundreds of strikes beforehand to disable Iran's vast air defenses. They say airstrikes would most likely inflame the Muslim world, alienate reformers within Iran, and could cause Hezbollah and al-Qaeda to join forces.

The United States, Britain and France want the Security Council to threaten Iran with economic sanctions if it does not end its uranium enrichment activities. Russia and China, however, have declined to endorse such action and insist on continued negotiations. Iran says it seeks only nuclear power, which is allowed under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and not nuclear weapons.

In a rare departure from protocol, a senior official of the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency said of the Bush administration's pressure: "It comes from people who are seeking a crisis, not a solution" to the confrontation over Iran.

– edited from The Washington Post, 2 April 2006
PeaceMeal, March/April 2006

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Target: Iran

Even though mired in a costly and deadly war in Iraq, the Bush administration is working on plans to launch missile and commando attacks against suspected nuclear and chemical weapons facilities in Iran, perhaps as early as this coming summer. Secret reconnaissance teams have been in Iran since last summer hunting for potential targets, according to an article by award-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, published in the January 24 & 31 edition of The New Yorker magazine.

According to a high-level former intelligence official inter-viewed by Hersh, Iraq is only the first element in a much larger campaign. "The Bush administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign. ... It’s not if we’re going to do anything against Iran. They’re doing it."

The former intelligence official told Hersh that an American commando task force in South Asia is working closely with a group of Pakistani scientists who had dealt with their Iranian counterparts. This task force, aided by information from Pakistan, has been penetrating into eastern Iran in a hunt for underground nuclear-weapons installations. In exchange for this cooperation, the official told Hersh, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has received assurances that his government will not have to turn over Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, to face questioning about his role in selling nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

President Bush has already signed a series of findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia. Re-defining these as military rather than intelligence operations will enable Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to run the operations off the books — free from legal restrictions imposed on the CIA. Under current law, all CIA covert activities overseas must be authorized by a presidential finding and reported to the Senate and House intelligence committees. "The Pentagon doesn’t feel obligated to report any of this to Congress," the former high-level intelligence official said. "They don't even call it ‘covert ops’ — it’s too close to the CIA phrase. In their view, it’s ‘black reconnaissance.’ They’re not even going to tell the cincs" — the regional American military commanders-in-chief.

The danger inherent in this scheme is that a covert operation conducted by military personnel, rather than civilians, can be considered an act of war on the part of the United States against another nation. Former CIA General Counsel Jeffrey Smith said, "We were always careful not to use the Armed Forces in a covert action without a Presidential Finding. The Bush Administration has taken a much more aggressive stance." Smith also emphasized that "Congress has always worried that the Pentagon is going to get us involved in some military misadventure that nobody knows about."

The Bush Administration has disassociated itself from recent European diplomatic efforts to negotiate an agreement with Iran to suspend nuclear enrichment activities and intensify weapons inspections, convinced that the deal is unenforceable and will collapse in months. Only the credible threat — and if necessary the use — of air and Special Operations attacks against Iran’s suspected nuclear facilities will stop the ruling clerics in Tehran from acquiring warheads, hardliners argue. Moderates, who are far fewer in the second Bush administration than the first, argue that the potential for Iranian retaliation inside Iraq and elsewhere is so great that there is in effect no military option.

The hardline on Iran is being driven by Pentagon neo-conservatives, who emerged from the post-election Bush reshuffle unscathed — despite their involvement in distorting intelligence on Iraq’s weapons in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.

The former intelligence official told Hersh: "Everyone is saying, ‘You can’t be serious about targeting Iran. Look at Iraq.’ But they say, ‘We've got some lessons learned — not militarily, but how we did it politically. We’re not going to rely on agency [CIA] piss-ants.’ No loose ends, and that’s why the CIA is out of there."

Planners at U.S. Central Command are reportedly updating the military’s contingency plan, known as Plan 10-20, for an air and ground invasion of Iran. Previously, an American invasion force would have had to enter Iran by sea, either through the Persian Gulf or the Gulf of Oman; now, troops could move in on the ground from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The article by Seymour Hersh was played down by the White House and the Pentagon, with comments that stopped short of outright denial. However, former Bush speech writer David Frum implicitly supported the accuracy of Hersh’s article by charging, in the National Review, that it betrayed vital national security secrets.

The Guardian reported that the Pentagon was recently contemplating the infiltration of members of the Iranian rebel group, Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) over the Iraq-Iran border, to collect intelligence. The group, based at Camp Ashraf, near Baghdad, was under the protection of Saddam Hussein and is now under U.S. guard. The MEK has been declared a terrorist group by the State Department, but a Farsi-speaking former CIA officer said he had been asked by Pentagon neo-cons to travel to Iraq to oversee "MEK cross-border operations." He refused, and does not know if those operations have begun.

"They are bringing a lot of the old war-horses from the Reagan and Iran-contra days into a sort of kitchen cabinet outside the government to write up policy papers on Iran," the former officer said. "They think in Iran you can just go in and hit the facilities and destabilize the government. They believe they can get rid of a few crazy mullahs and bring in the young guys who like Gap jeans, all the world’s problems are solved. I think it’s delusional," the former CIA officer said.

Hersh warned in a CNN interview January 16 that there are even more compelling arguments that such an American attack would actually spark a nationalist, anti-American backlash — as in Iraq — and strengthen the hands of the right-wing clerics. But such voices are not allowed at the table inside the Bush Administration.

The European negotiations flow from Iran’s voluntary decision in November to temporarily freeze its programs to make enriched uranium, which can be used for producing energy or for making bombs. Instead of embracing the initiative, Mr. Bush began his second term with a sweeping pledge to defend the United States and protect its friends "by force of arms if necessary" and a refusal to rule out military action against Iran.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, said the inspections Iran agreed to take time and cautioned against rash action. Mr. ElBaradei observed that North Korea presents a more imminent threat of proliferation than Iran because it already has nuclear material that could go directly into a weapons program.

Opinions differ widely over how long it would take Iran to produce a deliverable nuclear warhead, and some analysts believe that Iranian scientists have encountered serious technical difficulties. "The Israelis believe that by 2007, the Iranians could enrich enough uranium for a bomb. Some of us believe it could be the end of this decade," said David Albright, a nuclear weapons expert at the Institute for Science and International Security. A recent war-game, carried out by retired military officers, intelligence officials and diplomats for the Atlantic Monthly, came to the conclusion that there were no feasible military options, and if negotiations and the threat of sanctions fail, the U.S. might have to accept Iran as a nuclear power.

However, Sam Gardiner, a retired air force colonel who led the war-game, acknowledged that the Bush administration might not come to the same conclusion. He said, "Everything you hear about the planning for Iraq suggests logic may not be the basis for the [Iran] decision."

– compiled from The New Yorker, CNN, The Guardian (U.K.), and National Review

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)