Leaders of Iran

Monday, December 20, 2004

History of Iran: Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei

History of Iran: Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei: "Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei

eyed Ali Khamenei was born in Mashhad, Khorasan province of Iran, in 1939. He began religious studies before completing the elementary education. He attended the classes of masters of "Sath" (seminary lectures based on reading textbooks) and "Kharej" (seminary lectures not based on reading textbooks) in Mashhad, such as Haj Sheikh Hashem Qazvini, and Ayatollah Milani, and then went to Najaf in 1957.

After a short stay he left Najaf to Mashhad, and later he settled in Qom in 1958. Khamenei attended the classes of Ayatollah Boroojerdi and Ayatollah Khomeini. Later He was involved in the Islamic activities of 1963 which led to his arrest in the city of Birjand (Southern Khorasan Province). After a short period he was released and continued his life by teaching in religious schools of Mashhad and holding Nahaj-ul-Balagheh lesson session in different Mosques.

In December 1974, Hojatoleslam Khamenei was arrested at his home by SAVAK (secret police of Shah) and dispatched to the joint committee prison of the police department in Tehran. He was released in autumn 1975, went back to Mashhad, but he was not allowed to hold his public classes.

In 1977, together with some clerics from Qom and Tehran, he established the Jame'ye Rouhaniyat Mobarez (Combatant Clerics Association) which became the basis of the Islamic Republic Party.

In January 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini appointed Hojatoleslam Khamenei as a member of the Revolutionary Council. And in March of the same year, in collaboration with his four brothers, established the Islamic Republic Party. He likewise served in the Central Council of the Party, and as deputy of the Ministry of Defense and representative of the Council in the Ministry, Commander of Islamic Revolution's Guards Corps.

Ayatollah Khomeini appointed him in 1980 to be the leader of the Friday congregational prayers in Tehran. He was also elected as a deputy of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis) in the same year.

In the summer of 1981, after delivering an important speech in the Majlis which led to the dismissal of the then President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, an attempt was made on his life by the Mojahedin Khalq Organization (an armed opposition movement) while making a speech in a mosque in Tehran, and his chest and hand were badly injured.

Following the President Mohammad Rajaee's assassination in 1981, Hojatoleslam Khamenei was elected president of the Islamic Republic with 95% of the votes cast in his favour.

He was president for another four years. During this time, he was chairman of the Supreme Defense Council and the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council. In 1989 he received the title of "Ayatollah" from the Theological School of Qom; and on June of same year, by the death of Ayatollah Khomeini's, he was elected Vali-e Faqih (Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic) by the majority of votes of the Assembly of Experts.

After Ayatollah Araki's death, Ayatollah Khamenei was nominated as one of the sources of imitation by the Qom's Theological School."

"The Origins of Iran's Reformist Elite" (April 2003)

"The Origins of Iran's Reformist Elite" (April 2003): "The Origins of Iran's Reformist Elite
by Mahan Abedin

Mahan Abedin is an analyst of Iranian politics, educated at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
The confrontation between the reform movement and the conservative establishment that has dominated Iranian politics over the past six years is regarded by many political analysts as having reached a watershed. The refusal of hard-line clerics who control the commanding heights of government to allow further reforms, coupled with President Mohammed Khatami's reluctance to confront the clerical establishment, has led some to predict the rise of a "third force" in Iranian politics - the disaffected public, particularly the youth - and the eventual demise of the regime.[1]

One problem with this type of analysis is that it ignores the essentially elitist nature of the reform movement and exaggerates grassroots pressures for reforms. This so-called "third force" is too amorphous and fractured to buttress even the broadest reform coalition.

The reform movement in Iran is less an outgrowth of popular disenchantment than a reconfiguration of factional politics in the Islamic Republic. While most informed observers are well aware that the most prominent leaders of reform in Iran are products of the Islamic system, it is generally overlooked that most hail from its most sensitive and secret branches - the security and intelligence community. This reformist elite has forged its overall strategy outside the realm of public scrutiny and is not directly influenced by the disenchanted masses.

The Origins of the Reform Movement
The emergence of the reform movement in Iran has its origins in the Islamic Republic's mismanagement of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq and the demise in 1989 of its founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The ascension of Hashemi Rafsanjani to the Presidency and the subsequent efforts by his faction and the Islamic right, led by the newly appointed supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to sideline the Islamic left caused ripples of dissent in the inner sanctums of the Islamic Republic. These schisms reached a climax in the April 1992 elections for the fourth Majlis (national assembly), when the Council of Guardians (which vets all candidates for elected office and can veto legislation) prevented the majority of Islamic left candidates - including such prominent figures as Behzad Nabavi and Ali Akbar Mohtashami-Pour - from running on the dubious pretext of lacking "revolutionary" credentials.[2]

The genesis of the reformist elite can be located in the efforts of a former high-ranking counter-intelligence officer, Said Hajjarian, to establish a political and intellectual discourse distinct from the mainstream culture of the Islamic Republic. At first glance, Hajjarian appears as an unlikely reformer. Born to a poor family and raised in the desolate slums of south Tehran, Hajjarian was recruited early in his life into Islamic activism and participated in the Islamic revolution of 1979. He was quickly co-opted into the fledgling post-revolutionary regime's nascent Intelligence services. By the time the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security (VEVAK) was formed in early 1984, Hajjarian had already proved himself a highly capable counter-intelligence officer.

Hajjarian left VEVAK in 1989 and promptly established his presence in a reputable think tank. The Center for Strategic Studies (CSS), officially linked to both the research department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a sub-committee of the Supreme National Security Council, served as an incubator for Hajjarian's reformist strategy and attracted other former officials of the security-intelligence apparatus who would play major roles in the reform movement, including Akbar Ganji, a former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) intelligence officer;[3] Hamid-Reza Jalaipour, a former high-ranking IRGC officer;[4] Mohsen Armin , a former IRGC commander based in Lebanon;[5] Mohsen Sazegaran, a former senior commander of IRGC ground forces; and Ali Mohammed Mahdavi, a former IRGC intelligence officer.[6]

CSS also included revolutionary figures with indirect ties to the security-intelligence elite. Abbas Abdi was one of the leaders of the 1979 seizure of the American embassy in Tehran. During the mid-1980s, he served as a deputy to the revolutionary prosecutor in Tehran, Mohammed Moussavi-Khoeiniha (who would himself come to be regarded as a "reformist"). Another prominent member of the student group that seized the American embassy, Ebrahim Asghar-Zadeh, was also affiliated with the center. Asghar-Zadeh held a number of sensitive positions in the 1980s, including a stint in the political-ideological department of the IRGC, and was elected to parliament.

The embryonic reform movement at CSS was dominated by several key institutions firmly rooted in the traditions of the Islamic left, including the Majma'e Rohaneeyoone Mobarez (Forum of Militant Clergy),[7] Sazemane Mojahedine Enghelabe Eslami (Organization of the Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution--OMIR),[8] and the Daftare Tahkeeme Vahdat (Office for Fostering Unity--OSU), a student representative body).

The strategy forged by the embryonic reformist elite was both multi-faceted and incremental. At its most basic level a distinction was made between engagement in intellectual debates and strategizing in the political arena. The embryonic reformist elite had set upon the course of reforming the political and religious culture of the Islamic Republic through a revaluation of the set of revolutionary and religious values, which they themselves had helped to consolidate in the first decade of the Islamic revolution. This was to be buttressed by a simultaneous concerted political assault on the institutions of the Islamic Republic.

The Islamic left believed that the 1979 revolution had failed to deliver on its core promises. Instead of yielding a more prosperous and egalitarian future, it had produced economic decline and inequality. As one brave parliamentarian put it in a heated debate in 1990, the revolution had merely replaced a monarchical feudal system with a clerical feudal system. Ironically, it brought about not a more pious society, but mass secularization. It was this last failing, striking as it does at the very heart of the revolution, that was to become a major focus for the reformists.

The suppressive intellectual and cultural climate during the first half of the 1990s was not conducive to allowing the reformers to assert their presence publicly. Instead they continued to work behind the scenes, with CSS remaining the main coordination center for reform strategists and the only major think tank in the hands of the isolated Islamic left. Another important medium of reformist discourse was a publication established in 1989 called Kian. Although fiercely loyal to the core ideals of the Islamic revolution, it was the first tentatively reformist journal to emerge in the Islamic Republic.

Like CSS, Kian had become an intellectual coordination center for ex-radicals and senior ex-IRGC and VEVAK personnel. Its most influential voice was Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, a radical ideologue who had spent the 1980s serving on the editorial boards of revolutionary publications. Mohammed Soltanifar (the future managing editor of Iran News Daily), who had been the head of the IRGC's paramilitary Basij force in Greater Tehran province, was also a major contributor to Kian. A member of its editorial board, Ali Rabi'i, had been one of the original founders of the IRGC and later transferred to VEVAK and served as a senior officer in its foreign intelligence department until 1994.[9] The editorial and journalistic connections that were forged in Kian proved to be crucial in the proliferation of the reformist press after the 1997 elections

Although the center was a powerful tool to influence social and cultural policies in the Islamic Republic, it was not a sufficient medium through which to form broad coalitions. In the mid-1990s, many in the security-intelligence elite left the center and established themselves as journalists and editors in the main Tehran dailies.

By the time Hashemi Rafsanjani's presidency came to a close in 1997, the security-intelligence elite had established the essential foundations for an effective political movement. Hajjarian and his close associates in the CSS had a comprehensive political strategy to undermine the ascendance of the conservative Islamic right. Erstwhile Islamic radicals and ex-IRGC personnel had acquired the skills and connections to make a massive impact on the press scene of the Islamic Republic.

The Reformist Assault

The surprise election of Mohammed Khatami as president in May 1997 was a turning point in the history of the Islamic Republic, and ushered in the much-awaited political context and climate for the efflorescence of the reformist discourse. After being effectively forced out of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance in 1992, Khatami retreated into the obscurity of the National Library. There is no evidence that he co-operated with the CSS during this period. However, in addition to being firmly rooted in the Islamic left camp, Khatami is known to have had close long-standing relationships with many of the personalities that dominated the CSS at that time. This included Hajjarian. Indeed rumors have persisted on the fringes of the reform movement that Hajjarian had "recruited" Khatami for stewardship over the reform movement. There is no solid evidence to buttress this claim. However it is clear that Khatami possessed the profile and disposition that endeared him to the security-intelligence elite. The new president shared the same political background and ideological loyalty as the ex-security chiefs and his impeccable religious and revolutionary credentials made him acceptable to the clerical establishment. His discreet and patient disposition was ideal for what would no doubt be a long struggle.

After Khatami's election, the security-intelligence elite began a relentless press campaign to undermine the dominant hard-line ideology and buttress political efforts to reform the institutions of the regime. The emergence of the daily Jame'e in February 1998, edited by Shamsolvaezin, heralded the beginning of the reformist press assault. Over the next three years, dozens of reformist dailies, weeklies and monthlies mushroomed in Iran. This period was marked by repeated attempts by the hard-line judiciary to suppress these mouthpieces of reform. Indeed a pattern emerged whereby the staff of major reformist papers closed by the regime would promptly reestablish these outlets under new names, prompting hard-line political commentators to bemoan "serial newspapers." [10]

Out of the hundreds of journalists and political commentators that emerged in the first few years of the Khatami presidency, only a handful made a truly great impact. Most belonged to the security-intelligence elite. Akbar Ganji's prolific literary and journalistic enterprise consolidated a new form of political language and discourse in the Islamic Republic. He coined the term "degar-baash" (subscribers to different life styles) to emancipate and legitimate cultural diversity, while his neologism "tavaab-saazi" (manufacturing repentants) was designed to discredit illegal practices by the judicial-security apparatus.

Ganji also proved himself as a brilliant investigative journalist. He tirelessly followed up the "serial murders" case of late 1998. His conclusions were damning. While praising VEVAK for accepting responsibility for the murders, which were said to have been perpetrated by "rogue" elements, Ganji set about identifying, and inevitably broadening, the "rogue" circles.[11] In particular, he identified a number of senior clergymen who had acted as spiritual mentors for these "rogue" VEVAK personnel and had issued fatwas against dissident activists and writers.

In addition, Ganji exposed Rafsanjani in a flurry of articles prior to the February 2000 parliamentary elections, in which the ex-president was participating with the undeclared aim of securing the speakership. Ganji's exposés on the financial corruption of Rafsanjani's family and his role in prolonging the eight-year war, as well as his indirect role in the serial murders case, sabotaged his election plans and directly contributed to his humiliating defeat.[12] Furthermore it had become increasingly apparent to the Conservative bastions of the regime that Ganji's exposes on the serial murders case and other matters could not have been made without the assistance of his former friends in IRGC Intelligence. To some in the conservative-controlled judiciary and security services, Ganji epitomized the dangers of "well-connected" reformist elites subverting the Islamic Republic from within. His imprisonment was intended to disrupt the flow of sensitive information from sympathetic elements in the intelligence community to their former comrades.[13]

Hajjarian spent the early years of the Khatami presidency promoting political and journalistic concerns. Alongside Abbas Abdi, Mohsen Mir-Damadi and Mohammed Reza Khatami (President Khatami's brother), Hajjarian established the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF), which subsequently became the main bastion of pro-reform activists. Hajjarian intended the IIPF to mature into a conventional political party. Other prominent reformists shared this hope. The former spymaster's journalistic activities, exemplified by his editorials at the Tehran daily Asr-e-Ma, were designed to engineer the right context and climate for the political fortunes of the IIPF and the wider reform movement.

Hajjarian devoted himself to tackling some of the most important intractable philosophical and political problems of the revolution. His attempts to diminish the powers of the institution of Velayat-e-Faghih, the supreme symbol of clerical hegemony in the Islamic Republic, were designed to champion the "democratic" basis of the revolution at the expense of its metaphysical concoctions. However Hajjarian, like the other chief reformists, was careful not to irremediably sabotage the theoretical foundations of the Islamic State. Indeed he proves himself reluctant to reject theocracy. Instead Hajjarian presents a taxonomy of theocracies: theo-autocracy, theo-aristocracy and theo-democracy. The implications are clear; Iranians can attain representative government within the paradigm of the Islamic State and hence have no need to seek secular solutions. This is not to say Hajjarian does not identify and elucidate the Achilles Heel of the theocratic component of the regime. Through his encyclopedic grasp of both Islamic and Western philosophy, and their historical context, Hajjarian elaborates on certain subtle theoretical and religious facts. The unlikely editorialist tacitly conveys that Shiite Islam, through its inherent penchant for interpretative diversity coupled with its amorphous ecclesiastical structure, is ill equipped to sustain a theocracy in the post-modern age. The theocratic ideology in Iran, therefore, lacks religious, historical, institutional and ideological legitimacy.

Hajjarian's reluctance to deduce the obvious conclusions from his innovative approach to analyzing the theoretical incongruities of the Islamic regime was symptomatic of the security-intelligence elite's inability to irretrievably break with the core ideological premises of the Islamic revolution. Indeed as the conservative forces of the regime escalated their assaults on the vestiges of the reform movement, the elite displayed a unique and bizarre tolerance for the injustices inflicted upon them. As one after another of the prominent reform personalities were attacked or jailed on trumped-up charges, the elite exercised remarkable self-restraint in order not to "destabilize" the Islamic Republic. Hajjarians's own reaction to an attempt on his life which left him partially paralyzed is particularly instructive. He refrained from public displays of bitterness and declared that he had "forgiven" the would-be assassins.[14] Other reform personalities, such as Interior minister Abdollah Nouri and former chief prosecutor Moussavi Khoiniha displayed common traits as they were handed down stiff sentences. They all put up a spirited defense of their ideas and all displayed an unflinching loyalty to the Islamic revolution.

The muzzling of the reform movement, which entered a new intensive phase in August 2000 with the intervention of Ayatollah Khamenei to end a parliamentary debate over press reforms, has seemingly undermined the prospects for fundamental change in the Islamic Republic. However it would be a mistake to underestimate the elite's achievements over the past six years. Through its innovative press assault and relentless attempts to undermine the non-elected institutions and metaphysical concoctions of the regime, the elite sustained the Khatami presidency. Indeed it has been President Khatami's inability to seize opportunities provided by the elite that has contributed to the present sorry state of the reform movement. Khatami proved to be overly patient and displayed excessive compromising proclivities. Nevertheless the elite has shown that there is ample scope within the Islamic Republic for dissent and it provided the more literary and informed sections of the population with the theoretical and practical tools to rationally criticize the regime. In a country with a long history of patrimonial autocracy, marked by a seemingly irremediable gulf between the people and their political elites and distorted development of civic institutions, this can be construed as a major achievement.

However, the reformist elite has also strengthened the Islamic Republic by undermining "illoyal" - and especially armed - opposition. It was Hajjarian who coined the famous Khatamist slogan: "our aim is to turn enemies of the system into critics and critics into supporters." It would be a mistake to interpret small-scale demonstrations demanding more radical reforms as indications of "illoyal" opposition or "third force." Most "radical" demonstrations are organized by student groups that are affiliated with two main organizations, the OFU and the Islamic Society of Students and Graduates (ISSG), both of which are linked to the security-intelligence elite.[15] In the absence of alternative platforms of reform, the Iranian public is unlikely to irremediably break with this elite. This does not mean that the prospect for rapid, violent change in Iran has been forever forestalled, but the likelihood of its occurrence in the future is low.

Many conservative strategists recognize the service rendered to the Islamic Republic by the reformist elite in channeling the public's disenchantment away from radical solutions to an evolutionary activism that operates within the confines of the Islamic Republic's constitution. As a result, fears that the rightwing backlash currently underway will morph into an assault on the reformist movement as a whole are exaggerated.

The reform movement is currently enduring a difficult phase. It has to operate in an environment marked by ever bolder assaults by the conservatives and increasing public disaffection with the political process. Indeed, the conservative assault is encouraged in part by the increasing disillusionment of the public with the reformers and their failure to deliver on some of their key promises. The recent national municipal elections, in which the reformers suffered a resounding defeat, is a good indication of the alienation felt by the pro-reform public (the vast majority of whom did not vote in the elections). Innovative moves are needed to re-engage the public with the political system. The IIPF, for example, is preparing to nominate a non-clerical candidate for the 2005 presidential elections. Rather than seeking to satisfy the Council of Guardians, it is hoping to put forth a candidate that will cut through public apathy and invigorate the reform movement.


[1] See Jahangir Amouzegar, "Iran's Crumbling Revolution," Foreign Affairs Vol. 82, No. 1, Januray/February 2003.
[2] Behzad Nabavi, who had started his political career in the Communist Tudeh Party and later converted to political Islam, had been a chief ideologue and troubleshooter of the Islamic Republic from the beginning. He had also played a crucial role in the negotiations to free the American embassy hostages in 1980-1981. Mohtashami-Pour had been an Interior Minister for four years and was widely regarded as playing a crucial role in the formation of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement in his capacity as Iran's ambassador to Syria in the early 1980s.
[3] Ganji has consistently denied any affiliation with the intelligence organs of the IRGC. In an article published in the reformist daily Aftab-e-Emrooz on February 16, 2000, Ganji claimed that he worked in the Political-Ideological Directorate" of the IRGC, but this department is intimately linked with IRGC intelligence. Ganji's assertions also appeared in the reformist dailies Fath and Sobhe Emrooz on the following day.
[4] Hamid-Reza Jalaipour joined the IRGC immediately after its official formation in May 1979. Later that year, he was dispatched to Kurdistan to assist in the quelling of a Kurdish separatist insurgency. He was made governor of Naqadeh for 18 months. Afterwards, he was made the governor of Mahabad for 4 years and then served as a political deputy to the provincial governor for 4 years. During this entire period he was organizationally affiliated to the IRGC. Iranian Kurdistan, because of its special political and security climate, was the only province in the country where IRGC personnel were involved in administrative and political affairs.
[5] Mohsen Armin was attached to the IRGC's General Command in the Lebanon from 1983-1989. After the 1997 election of Mohammed Khatami, he became editor in chief of Asr-e-Ma weekly.
[6] Mahdavi went on to form the reformist daily Gozaresh-e-Ruz after the 1997 election. The paper was closed down in April 2000 as part of the wider crackdown against the reformist press.
[7] The Forum of Militant Clergy represents clerics affiliated with the left-wing factions of the Islamic Republic. Ali Akbar Mohtashami-Pour (a former Interior Minister and widely recognized as one of the founders of Lebanese Hezbollah) is a leading member of the organization. The FMC has a right wing counterpart in the form of the Jame'eye Rohaneeyate Mobarez (Society of Militant Clergy). The SMC represents the more traditional Bazaar-oriented clerical establishment. Many prominent clerics of the Islamic Republic are either members of the SMC or affiliated to it.
[8] The OMIR was formed in March 1979 by a collection of small Islamic groups. The original founders of OMIR went on to forge the IRGC in May 1979 and many OMIR members subsequently joined the IRGC. It has, ever since, maintained intimate links with the Revolutionary Guards. These links are primarily personal rather than organisational. Behzad Nabavi assumed leadership over the OMIR in 1980. Amongst the left wing forces of the Islamic Republic, the OMIR has been the most vociferous exponent of championing the "Republican" aspect of the regime at the expense of its "Islamic" component. Hashem Aghajari, who was recently handed a death sentence, is a senior leader of OMIR.
[9] Rabi'i's intelligence career has been subject to widespread speculation and misreporting. There have been claims that he headed the IRGC's Intelligence Directorate in the years 1981-1987. Rabi'i became the editor of the Kar-o-Karegar daily after the 1997 elections. Soon afterwards, Khatami appointed him executive secretary for the Supreme National Security Council. Currently he is Khatami's senior advisor on intelligence and security issues.
[10] The fate of the daily Jame'e is particularly instructive. After its closure in June 1998, it quickly reappeared as Tus. After that license was revoked, the paper reemerged as Neshat. After its closure, Neshat appropriated the dormant license of Akhbar and resumed publication as Akhbar-e-Eghtesad. Other Neshat personnel were employed by Asr-e-Azadegan, which after its closure was succeeded by the weekly Goonagoon. Until its forced closure, this weekly employed staff from Tus, Neshat and Asr-e-Azadegan. Later on, former Jame'e staff and editorialists set up the Aftab-e-Emrooz, which was itself closed down in April 2000.
[11] The VEVAK had conceded that the head of its Internal Security Directorate, the US-educated Saeed Emami, had masterminded the murders. Ganji opines that the orders for the killings must have originated from more senior positions. He directly implicates former Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian in the murders. He also identifies clergymen such as Ruhollah Hosseinian, Mohseni Ege'ey and Mesbah-e-Yazdi, who had had links with the Intelligence networks that had planned and executed the killings. Most controversially of all, Ganji asserts that extra-judicial killings in the Islamic Republic started with the Presidency of Hashemi Rafsanjani. Ganji claims that dozens of dissident activists and writers were murdered by rogue VEVAK elements during the period from 1990-1998.
[12] A famous article by Ganji, entitled "Aleejenab Sorkhpoosh" (Eminence Rouge), which appeared in Sobhe Emrooz on 19 January 2000 was particularly devastating. In this article, Ganji critically assesses Rafsanjani's role in a series of issues including the eight war with Iraq, the serial murders case and the wider abuses committed by the intelligence services.
[13] Ganji was tried on charges of attempting to subvert the Islamic Republic by attending a controversial conference in Berlin in April 2000. He was sentenced to ten years in jail to be followed by five years in internal exile.
[14] The assailants were a group of young men with loose connections to the Basij (the paramilitary wing of the IRGC). There is no evidence that the assassination was part of a wider conspiracy. Indeed, it seems that it was a clumsy plan concocted by a group of over-zealous youngsters. Any serious discussion of a "conspiracy" in this matter must grapple with an obvious fact: if certain forces in the security services had been out to kill Hajjarian, they would have surely succeeded.
[15] The full name of the OSU is Daftare Tahkeeme Vahdate Hozeh va Daneshgah (The office for fostering unity between the University and the Seminary). It was created in 1979 as a mechanism to engender dialogue between the universities and the religious seminaries. The organisation became highly active in the 1980s after the reopening of the universities after a 2-year closure and was a powerful tool in the hands of the organizers of the "cultural revolution." By the late 1980s, it had matured into a student representative body and was asserting its independence from the cultural and higher education institutions of the Islamic Republic. Its most prominent leaders have been Heshmatollah Tabarzdi and Ali Afshari. Tabarzadi split from the OFU in 1990 and set up the ISGC. In its early years, the ISSG gravitated towards the Islamic right. However it returned to the fold of the OFU in the mid 1990s."

Ali Shamkhani, Minister of Defense

HOME: "Ali Shamkhani, Minister of Defense

Born in 1955, B.Sc. in Agricultural Engineering, M.Sc. in Administration
Former Posts: Minister of Defense, Commander of IRGC Ground Force and Marine Force
A Few Challenges: Proving that Iran, while being situated in a relatively unstable region, follows a peaceful strategy in developing its defense systems and foreign relations"

Iran to tap natural resources, Khatami and Ghannadi-Maragheh

President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami said in a 9 February meeting with university teachers and officials from the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology that the Iranian government plans to exploit uranium mines near Yazd and set up plants in Isfahan and Kashan to extract uranium for electricity generation, IRNA reported. The Saghand uranium-ore deposit in Yazd has an estimated reserve of 3,000-5,000 tons, and in October 1989 Iran announced that it had built a milling plant near the mine. Dariush Forughi, who heads Iran's Center for Research on Energy and Environment, said Iran has 12,000 tons of uranium reserves, "Hamshahri" daily reported on 23 June. M. Ghannadi-Maragheh, deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, asserted in a paper for the World Nuclear Association Annual Symposium 2002 that Iranian uranium exploration began in the 1970s and has continued over the last two decades (http://www.world-nuclear.org/sym/2002/ghannadi.htm). BS "

Mohammad Ghannadi-Maragheh on Ardekan [Ardakan] Fuel Mill

Ardekan [Ardakan] Nuclear Fuel Site - Iran Special Weapons Facilities: "A new site under construction is the Ardekan Nuclear Fuel Unit. This site, reportedly scheduled to be completed in mid-2005, is located at the 33rd kilometer (20.5 miles) of the Ardekan-Choupanau Road. This project is supervised by an engineer named Farhad Vadoudfaam, under the supervision of the directorate of the nuclear fuel of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). The Executive Director of this project is an engineer named Baghesfani. The central office of this site is located in the city of Ardekan at Shahda Square, Picheh Tazel, next to Ausari High School, number 48. One of the affiliate companies of the AEOI is doing the consulting for this site.

Mohammad Ghannadi-Maragheh, Vice President for Nuclear Fuel Production of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), discussed the project at the World Nuclear Association Annual Symposium held in London 3-5 September 2003. He said that an uranium mill with an annual capacity of 120,000 metric tonnes of ore and an annual output of 50 metric tonnes of uranium is being built 35 km north of Ardakan city."

Mohammad Ghannadi-Maragheh on fuel cladding

The head of Isfahan's Research and Fuel Production Center, Mansur Habashizadeh, said on 25 October that Iranian scientists can produce cladding for uranium rods, state television reported. He added that zirconium will be used as the casing for nuclear fuel in reactors, and then threw in that Iranian scientists can make 99.99 percent pure "manganese." Either Habashizadeh did not explain the connection between all these developments clearly, or state television did not provide his explanation. Zirconium, which will be made at the Zirconium Production Plant (ZPP), is necessary in nuclear installations as fuel cladding, the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization's vice president for nuclear fuel production, Mohammad Ghannadi-Maragheh, reported in his paper for the World Nuclear Association's Annual Symposium 2003 (http://www.world-nuclear.org/sym/2003/ghannadi.htm). He added that high-purity magnesium is required for making zirconium sponge, so a magnesium production unit has been built next to the sponge unit. BS"

Iranian Defense Minister Shamkhani on Iran's Defense Doctrine

Special Dispatch Series - No. 502: "Iranian Defense Minister on Iran's Defense Doctrine

In an interview with the conservative Iranian daily Siasat-e Rouz in February 2003, Iranian Defense Minister 'Ali Shamkhani spoke of Iran's defense doctrine. According to 'Ali Shamkhani, Iran was forced to develop weapons against "a broad spectrum of threats," including "foreign aggression, war, border incidents, espionage, sabotage, regional crises derived from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, organized crime, and state terrorism." Shamkhani also emphasized Iran's ability to develop its own conventional weapons, including helicopters, submarines, warships, and Shihab missiles.[1] The following the main points of the interview:[2]

Iran's Defense Strategy
Siasat-e Rouz: "What are Iran's 'strategic defensive' foundations [during] this sensitive period?"

Shamkhani: "There are turning points in the defense policy of countries in the Middle East. This stems from changed circumstances and changed defense structures. The regional and the international environment are also worthy of attention. Thus, in order to assure national security in a changing international environment, it is necessary to incorporate changes in Iran's defense structure."

"The years following the victory of the [1979] Islamic Revolution saw extensive changes in the environment of Iran and on its fronts. This can be understood as a result of the uniqueness of Iran's security environment… During this process, we encountered threats, some of which have internal structural roots, and some of which originate from regional and international influence."

"In order to cope effectively with these types of threats, Iran's defense structure and defense future are based on a foundation of 'strategic deterrent defense.' This [strategy] does not in any way contradict the patterns of reliance on diplomatic relations, but must be understood as 'complementary programs' in a process of creating bilateral and multilateral links [among its various elements]."

"Deterrent defense means that in no way will Iran take an offensive measure. We are in struggle to sustain the enemy's first strike. The first strike will not lead to surrender, but it should be seen as a warning. Under these conditions, if there is the [capability] to sustain a first strike, there is a basis for [Iranian] secondary resistance against the threats. Thus, Iran's objectives are of a defensive nature."

"However, defense from 'surprise threats' means adopting a means of deterrence. Defensive deterrence causes the enemy to relinquish the threats. Because under such circumstances every country must [take into consideration] the risk it runs if it takes offensive measures against Iran."

Siaset-e Rouz: "Can you clarify Iran's defense capabilities in the face of a possible attack?"

Shamkhani: "There can be no deterrent defense without military means. After the war [with Iraq], for years we struggled to increase our own defense capabilities, to lower to a minimum the enemy's motivation to attack Iran. Thus, an efficient plan to reduce the elements likely to tempt countries in the region and superpowers [to attack Iran] was devised."

"One of the ways of Iran's defense and national security must be reflected in manufacturing new armaments so as to achieve deterrence. This process began after the war that Iraq forced upon Iran and continued in the 1990s. In the second half of the 1990s, and in the new decade, an effective and long-awaited result was achieved. Thus, the main goal of Iranian defense must [now] be manifested in the consolidation of an effective national [strategy]…"

"Due to the need for 'self-reliance,' a basis for the production of armaments made by the Iranian defense [industry] was created. [This is because] classical weapons alone cannot fully meet the state's defense needs. Some of the research and development by Iran's defense industry is important, because through it, defense needs can be guaranteed."

Siaset-e Rouz: "What is your analysis of Iran's future defense doctrine?"

Shamkhani:"The trend of regional and international insecurity is rising. The countries in the region suffer from chronic insecurity. Conditions of insecurity lead to the appearance of new conflicts among the powers. This is the basis for the appearance of new instability and activity by extremist forces."

"Under such conditions, we must build Iran's national security doctrine so that it can deal with the new insecurity and with a broad spectrum of threats to Iran's national security, among them foreign aggression, war, border incidents, espionage, sabotage, regional crises derived from the proliferation of WMD, state terrorism, and discrimination in manufacturing and storing WMD. All the above shows that the UN is powerless. Therefore, Iran has set 'confronting and neutralizing the threats' [at the heart] of its defense and security doctrine. Military power is important for us, and serves as the basis for our security..."

"For this reason, Iran's national security doctrine is based on three elements: The first includes the 'security environment.' The second and third are 'hard [security] means' and 'soft security means.' Since the security environment of Iran is based on surprise and hostility, the 'hard means' of the security doctrine must be the enhancing of defense and security capabilities. The soft means of the national defense doctrine include strategic principles, political legitimacy, and influence over the elements of [the populace's] faith. Therefore, an emphasis is placed on the principle of self-reliance, constant training, and mobility [of forces], enabling all the elements to materialize. This will make the confrontation with new threats easier."

Additional Elements in Iran's Defense Policy

Iran attaches great importance to the Persian Gulf region and views it as vital to its security. The increased American presence in the Gulf is perceived as a direct threat to it. Also, securing the safe flow of Iranian oil through the Persian Gulf is essential to Iran's economy, and is perceived as a national interest.

At a conference on the Gulf region recently held in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said that "security in the Persian Gulf has always been the 'No. 1 priority' for Iran." Kharrazi called for the adoption of collective measures by Persian Gulf countries to ensure the security of the region, in light of the expansion of the American presence in the Gulf even prior to the war in Iraq.[3]

Defense Minister 'Ali Shamkhani also stressed the importance of the Gulf for the security of Iran in an interview with the London Arabic-language daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, in which he said that Iranian defense policy was diligently focused on developing defense cooperation with all the Gulf states. He said that Iran was capable of "finding a new pattern in the areas of [regional] defense and security."[4]

Recently, Iranian Foreign Minister Kharrazi revealed another strategic element in Iran's security policy which the Foreign Ministry is attempting to promote; an attempt to create a regional defense system in the Caucasus, to include all Caucasian countries (Azerbijan, Armenia, and Georgia) as well as Iran, Russia, and Turkey. To this end, he offered Iran's services in resolving the Nagorno-Karabach dispute between Armenia and Azerbijan, and claimed that, "stability in Armenia is in line with [Iran's] national interests." Kharrazi defined security and defense in the Caucasus as "an integral part of Iran's regional interests."[5]


[1]It should be noted that mid and long-range Iranian-made missiles such as the Shihab 3 and Shihab 4 are not considered conventional weapons by the West, but strategic WMD.

[2]Siasat-e Rouz, February 18, 2003.

[3]IRNA, February 18, 2003.

[4]Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), March 14, 2003.

[5]IRNA, May 1, 2003."

Iran's Defense Minister, Ali Shamkhani

More than Don Quixote: "More than Don Quixote
by Nooredin Abedian
05 February 2004

Iran's Defense Minister, Ali Shamkhani, is a bit more than a mere big-mouthed version of Cervantes' lovely hero.

Iran's Defense Minister, Ali Shamkhani, is seen by certain experts as the Islamic Republic's true Don Quixote. Brandishing his armada of short and medium ranged missiles, he never misses a chance for saber rattling against Israel, the United States, and the "world arrogant powers," poised, in his thoughts, to attack Iran from all sides to tear it to parts. The 49 year old Revolutionary Guards' commander-turned-Rear-Admiral is, however, a bit more than a mere big-mouthed version of Cervantes' lovely hero.

He was the ruthless Revolutionary Guards' commander of his native province, Khouzestan. Quickly, he became the second in command of the Guards' Corps, commanding the infamous counter intelligence and security apparatus of the feared army. At one time, he served as the minister of Revolutionary Guards, and then as the commander in chief of the mullahs' navy, before ending as the Minister of Defense. During his years in office, he has turned the Defense and Armed Forces Logistics into a veritable producer of deadly weapons.

Only three days ago, his visit to an electronics center in the southern city of Shiraz was broadcast on National Television, boasting a dozen new weapons-related guidance and avionics systems ranging from sophisticated night vision apparatus to state of the art radars. A few days back, he presented the "Raad" missile, a short ranged guided missile capable of being launched from fixed or floating launch pads with a 70 percent hit-probability for the first and 100 percent probability for the second missile, at a range of well over 350 kms. But he does not always stick to short ranged stuff. The 1300 to 1500 km Shahab3 missile, an Iranian version of the North Korean No-dong1, already distributed to combat units of the Revolutionary Guards and capable of carrying an 800 kg conventional or NBC warhead, and the long range Shahab4, a version of the North Korean SS4, whose existence is denied by the regime but is confirmed to be under secret development, are just two examples to cite. This latest version is designed to a range of more than 2000 kms and is capable of carrying a warhead weighing 1.5 tons. In the beginning of January, he even boasted that the Islamic Republic would put its own satellite into orbit with an Iranian-made launch system within 18 months.

Shamkhani is as able and cruel a politician as he is a weapons' guru. In an interview on January 14 with the Saudi newspaper Al-Riyadh, he warned Israel not to think about carrying out its "menace" towards the Iranian nuclear centers, the same way it acted on the Iraqi Ozirak in 1981. He even threatened to use "new forms of military operations" against Israel if it dared move against those centers.

"If Israel attacks Iran, we will respond in a way no Israeli politician has ever dreamed about," he warned in another interview by the Qatari al-Jazeera television. When he was asked if he was referring to nuclear weapons, Shamkhani gave a negative reply, but added that "time would tell" the nature of Iran's response.

He very cleverly chose a Saudi paper, and a Qatari Television, to menace Israel. If Israel is too far an enemy to reckon with, there are always closer ones at hand. In fact, his flawless Arabic would have been much more clearly heard and understood in the Gulf capitals than in Tel Aviv. Those Gulf States, in the fundamentalist vision of the mullahs, are "ripe" fruits to fall one after the other, to the mercy of their version of Islam, were it not for the US presence in the Gulf.

As far as regional ambitions are concerned, Shamkhani seems more a man of deeds than one of words. In fact, many countries have their stockpiles of surface to surface missiles, but few have had as much field experience as has Iran, and against live targets too. During their 1980-1988 war against Saddam, the mullahs let the Kuwaitis have a taste of their then-primitive Chinese-built Silkworm missiles. They have not stopped their field practice in missile technology ever since. Exploiting the Iraqi isolation since 1991, they have launched every now and then a few missiles into their western neighbor's territory, citing the presence of opposition elements near their borders. In April 2001, they launched not less than 70 short and medium range missiles in a matter of hours against more than 7 targets along the 1200 km long Iran-Iraq border, aiming to eliminate the bases of the opposition Mujaheedin Khalq in Iraq. Although they were keen enough to tell the UN that they had acted in "self defense," they were however reluctant to hide the true message of those 70 Scud missiles: a few days later, Ali Larijani, Shamkhani's look-a-like who is in charge of the mullahs' Radio and Television, told a crowd gathered for Friday prayers in Tehran: "Those missiles were a warning to these small countries around the Gulf not to play around with the Lion's tail."

Nooredin Abedian is an Iranian engineer based in Germany, and a former lecturer at Tehran University. He writes from time to time on Iranian issues and politics."

Shamkhani: Iran is prepared for war with the US

Commentary: Iran's war threat is very real - (United Press International): "Commentary: Iran's war threat is very real

By Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst

Washington, DC, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Forget an October Surprise, a much worse one could come in September: Full-scale war between the United States and Iran may be far closer than the American public might imagine.

For Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani Wednesday warned frankly and openly that if his military commanders believed the United States was serious about attacking his country to destroy its nuclear power facility at Bushehr, or to topple its Islamic theocratic form of government, they would not sit back passively and wait for the U.S. armed forces to strike the first blow, as President Saddam Hussein in neighboring Iraq did in March 2003. They would strike first.

"We will not sit to wait for what others will do to us," Shamkhani told an interviewer on the Qatar-based al-Jazeera satellite television news network, which is widely watched throughout the Middle East.

"Some military commanders in Iran are convinced that preventive operations which the Americans talk about are not their monopoly."

The Iranian defense minister was speaking in response to an increasing barrage of tough, even ominous statements from senior U.S. officials that Iranian leaders and many Middle East diplomats believe parallel the drumbeat of rhetoric that prepared the American public for the war in Iraq a year and a half ago.

On Aug. 8, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the world was "worried and suspicious" about Iran's nuclear program and she made clear the Bush administration was determined not to let the Iranians develop nuclear weapons from their new Russian-built reactor. So seriously did Rice intend the message to be taken that she repeated it twice in the same day in separate interviews to different network news shows.

Just this Tuesday, one of the hottest hawks in the Bush administration, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton told a sympathetic audience at the right-wing Hudson Institute in Washington that the Iranian nuclear program had to be taken up by the U.N. Security Council. "To fail to do so would risk sending a signal to would-be proliferators that there are no serious consequences for pursuing a secret nuclear weapons programs," he said. "We cannot let Iran, a leading sponsor of international terrorism, acquire nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them to Europe, most of central Asia and the Middle East, or beyond," Bolton said. "Without serious, concerted, immediate intervention by the international community, Iran will be well on the road to doing so."

Bolton's tough talk came after reports that the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna appears unlikely to announce next month that Iran's nuclear program contains military elements. Nor, according to these published reports, is the IAEA expected to recommend referring the Iranian nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council as Bolton and his administration colleagues clearly want.

The comments from Bolton and Rice come within weeks of leading neo-conservative pundits and activists in Washington proclaiming that Iran's nuclear program had to be destroyed, even if waging war was the only way to do it.

Influential neo-conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote July 23 column in The Washington Post: "The long awaited revolution (in Iran) is not happening. Which (makes) the question of pre-emptive attack all the more urgent. If nothing is done, a fanatical terrorist regime openly dedicated to the destruction of 'the Great Satan' will have both nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them. All that stands between us and that is either revolution or pre-emptive attack."

Krauthammer's column was widely discussed in the Tehran press, further fueling the fears there that the United States may act in cahoots with Israel to launch a pre-emptive strike on the Iranian reactor. Iranians also remember that President George W. Bush included Iran with Iraq as fellow members of the "axis of evil" in his 2002 State of the Union speech. Just over a year after that, he unleashed the U.S. armed forces to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Iranians therefore fear that the goal of Bush and his Pentagon hawks is now exactly what Krauthammer advocated in his July 23 column: to use the new, "strong fortress" of pro-American Iraq as the launch point to destabilize and topple the Islamic Republic of Iran. Both the desired counter-revolution in Iran and a U.S.-delivered or U.S.-backed pre-emptive strike "are far more likely to succeed with 146,000 American troops and highly sophisticated aircraft standing by just a few miles away in Iraq," Krauthammer wrote.

In reality, however, Iraq is anything but a "strong fortress." The embattled U.S. troops there are hunkered down, on the defensive, an undermanned, over-stretched, over-worked exhausted force isolated in a nation that has almost universally rejected them and about which they were deceived and given no adequate preparation whatsoever.

Indeed, if a full-scale war broke out with Iran, the United States might even have to send in hundreds of thousands of more troops to relieve and rescue its current over-extended force in Iraq, or go nuclear, or implement both extreme options in order to prevent current U.S. forces there from being cut off and even possibly over-run.

Shamkhani Wednesday made clear that this possibility had already occurred to his own military planners in Tehran. "The U.S. military presence will not become an element of strength at our expense," he said. "The opposite is true because their forces would turn into a hostage."

Shamkhani also made very clear that his country would regard any pre-emptive strike against the Bushehr reactor as a casus belli: sufficient cause to unleash full-scale, unrestricted war against the United States. "We will consider any strike against our nuclear installations as an attack on Iran as a whole and we will retaliate with all our strength," he said.

Some political leaderships specialize in using tough talk that they never seriously mean to back up with equally ruthless actions. But the Iranians are not like that. They lost around a half-million dead to repel Saddam in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war from 1980 to 1988. So when Shamkhani threatens the prospect of a major war against the United States: Believe him."

IranMania News: Human trafficking on the rise in Iran

IranMania News: "Human trafficking on the rise in Iran

Monday, December 20, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com

LONDON, Dec 20 (IranMania) – According to the Iranian Interior Minister’s Advisor human trafficking is turning into a bigger concern in Iran than drug trafficking and the phenomenon has taken on new dimensions in recent years, Iran’s Aftab Daily reported.

Addressing domestic and foreign reporters, Ahmad Husseini said: “From among those people who have been smuggled into the country, 1,400 were arrested in Mashhad, northeastern Iran and 1,350 others in Ahvaz, southern Iran.”

According to the Iranian official, many Afghan and Iraqi refugees have returned to Iran even after their repatriation, as they found the situation in their homeland undesirable.

Referring to the increase in the number of street children in Iran, Husseini said: “Statistics show that out of the 1,200 street children questioned in the past month, 600 have come from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India."

NIAC Panel: Reuel Gerecht, Thomas Carothers, Daniel Brumberg, Hadi Semati

National Iranian American Council - NIAC - Washington DC: "CARNEGIE PANEL: IRAN MOVING BACKWARD?

By Sheherazade Jafari
National Iranian American Council

February 27, 2004 Washington, DC—The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace held a panel discussion on the implications of Iran’s recent Parliamentary elections and its disqualification of over 2,000 candidates. “We couldn’t decide whether to name this session, the struggle for power in Iran: ‘which way forward’ or ‘which way backward’” began moderator Thomas Carothers, director of the Democracy and Rule of Law Project at the Carnegie Endowment.

The three panelists who addressed the subject were Daniel Brumberg, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, Reuel Gerecht, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, and Hadi Semati, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment and a member of Iran’s Islamic Participation Front.

Brumberg began by examining the latest elections from a historical perspective. In 2000 the reformists won the majority of Parliament, yet their increased presence did not transform into a political victory. A number of factors complicated their efforts, including the state’s still substantial capacity for repression and the profound ideological divide between reformist and conservative parties. Moreover, explained Brumberg, reformists were ill-prepared for the obstacles before them: “There was a [naïve] sense among reformists that they were riding an inevitable train of history…they just had to make sure they were on it.”

These factors, including the failure of reformists to establish organic links with society and President Khatami’s inability--or unwillingness--to challenge the regime, led to the latest elections: a third and highly successful effort by conservatives to ban reformists from power. Brumberg pointed to two possible scenarios for the future evolution of Iran’s political system. First, now that reformists are excluded and alienated from the state, their only option is to forge linkages with civil society. Because it requires a significant amount of time to build the mass movement of opposition that, in a moment of crisis, can force the regime’s collapse, this remains a long-term possibility.

The second scenario is the “China model,” the notion that Iran’s pragmatic conservatives will relax social constraints and promote economic development and foreign investment, creating a stability that will “buy off” the population. Since it is the hardliners who are ultimately in charge, however, Brumberg believes that the pragmatic conservatives will most likely “run in place” while the hardliners hit or miss certain opportunities in the domestic and international arenas.

Semati addressed why President Khatami did not step in to stop the disqualifications of these latest elections. He noted that Khatami has always expressed his loyalty for constitutional boundaries and is not likely to take a path that confronts the major institutions, including the Supreme Leader. Khatami feared the potential instability and bloodshed, and remained unsure of whether the public was able to mobilize to the extent that reformists needed.

Now that conservatives are dominating the parliament, Semati projects that the reformist movement will slow down significantly, if not stop altogether. Political space will become constrained while new cleavages and contradictions within the conservative camp will emerge. Attention might be turning away from the “China model,” Semati notes, and toward the “Malaysia model,” in which legal authoritarianism exists alongside culture and liberties.

As for foreign policy after the elections, Semati discussed four factors. The first is the conservatives’ confidence, which has been reinforced by the latest elections and the perception that the United States is feeling unstable within Iraq and Afghanistan. The second factor depends on how the reformists will engage with the state and the people, and the third is how the international community will engage with Iran. The fourth is economic development.

While conservatives and reformists have different ideas on how to make Iran a stronger and better society, Gerecht does not believe there will be a fundamental shift in Iran’s internal and external matters. In his opinion, assassinations will actually lesson as conservatives are more confident of their standing within society and less interested to engage in such tactics. Internationally, however, Gerecht believes the conservatives will take a rougher stance, especially in regard to its nuclear program.

What Iran has not prepared for, explained Gerecht, is the “Sistani factor.” Iranian conservatives within Iran are highly sensitive to the turnout of the Iraqi clerical society’s debates; Iranian clerics currently have a strong presence within Iraq and its discussions on religious leadership. As Iraqi direct elections draw near and the debates become more serious, the Iraqi clerics’ influence on Iran will grow increasingly strong, even if their effects are not immediately clear.

Ultimately, all the panelists agreed that—as Gerecht explained, “the reformist movement hasn’t even gotten to the good times yet.” He continued, “What we have witnessed in Iran may be the Iron or Bronze Age, and soon we will see the Silver and the Gold.”"

The US Relationship with Iran with Hadi Semati

Iran Series: "From Puppet to Pariah: The US Relationship with Iran
A series from The World's Jeb Sharp.

October 28, 2004

Iran faces a November 15th deadline, suspend uranium enrichment indefinitely, or face the threat of international sanctions.

The United States supports that tough line. The Bush Administration accuses Iran of not only trying to develop nuclear weapons but supporting terrorism and sabotaging the Middle East peace process.

US relations with Iran have never completely recovered from the seizure of American hostages at the US embassy in Tehran 25 years ago. The World's Jeb Sharp concludes her four-part series on the history of a trying relationship.

Part 4: Hostile Relations

The hostage crisis ended in January 1981. But the bad blood between America and Iran continued. First there was the Iran-Iraq war.

(Archival Audio Iran-Iraq War)

Iraq started the war in 1980, hoping to capitalize on Iran's internal chaos. But by 1982, Iran had regained its footing. The Iranian military retaliated, striking deep into Iraq. Washington went on the alert, according to Ken Pollack, the author of The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict between Iran and America.

Pollack: The Reagan Administration became very concerned that the Iranians would be able to defeat the Iraqis, overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime and then continue to march either on Israel or down into the southern Persian Gulf states, into our allies Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the rich Gulf oil sheikdoms upon whom the entire world depended for energy.

The Reagan Administration decided to help Iraq push the Iranians back. It provided Baghdad with intelligence, and it provided agricultural credits so Iraq could free up money for weapons. Nasser Hadian, a professor of political science at Tehran University, says the US decision to back Iraq is still a bitter memory for Iranians.

Hadian: We lost a lot of people in that war, a lot of people became handicapped, you would see them everyday. This is not something distant from you. In my classes in Iran, in the streets I would see many of these war veterans, who do not have eyes, who do not have hands, who do not have legs, who are totally paralyzed and that would be really hard to witness them, to see them, and not to wonder why the US supported such a brutal dictator like Saddam in the war.

The US continued to back Iraq even as Saddam Hussein unleashed chemical weapons on the Iranians. Nasser Hadian still shudders when he thinks about it.

Hadian: We all thought that using of the chemical weapons would be a red line which never would be crossed. We thought the international community never would let that happen. But to our surprise and our sorrow, deep sorrow, we found out that's not the case.

At the time the State Department condemned the use of chemical weapons but the United States took no punitive action. US policy makers from that era still defend their decision to help Iraq. Nicholas Veliotes was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs in the early 1980s. He says Washington backed Iraq out of fear the Iranian revolution would spread.

Veliotes: At that time the greatest threat came from this surging Islamic fundamentalist expansionism. There were also grave concerns in the Gulf that the Iranians were seeking to disrupt if not overthrow many of the governments.

Those fears were not unfounded. Right after the revolution Iran began supporting radical Shia groups in Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, Iran helped create organizations like Hizbollah there. When US forces were drawn into Lebanon too, they quickly became targets for such Iranian-backed groups.

(Archival Audio US Embassy Bombing Beirut)

The first big attack was at the US embassy in Beirut on April 18, 1983. 63 people were killed, including 17 Americans. The next target was a US Marine barracks. 241 Americans were killed. In September 1984 another US embassy building was bombed. Iranian-backed groups also took Americans hostage, including the head of the American University of Beirut, and the CIA's Lebanon station chief.

President Reagan, who had seen a hostage crisis hobble his predecessor, now had one of his own. He resorted to desperate measures to resolve it. The year was 1985. The Iran-Iraq war was still on. The United States had an arms embargo against Iran called Operation Staunch. But Reagan told a small circle of advisors to implement a different policy, of secretly swapping arms sales for hostages. Publicly Reagan kept up his tough guy rhetoric:

Reagan: The United States gives terrorists no rewards and no guarantees. We make no concessions, we make no deals.

But behind closed doors, the covert action went ahead. US officials flew to Tehran with shipments of anti-tank missiles. They then diverted profits from the sales to the right wing Contra rebels in Nicaragua. When the Iran-Contra affair leaked it was a huge scandal. Malcolm Byrne of the National Security Archive at George Washington University says the arms for hostages deal didn't even achieve its aims.

Byrne: It did bring three hostages home, but during the same time period three more hostages were taken. So if you are going strictly by the numbers, then it was a wash. It also had some very damaging effects on US policy and US standing in the region.

The Iran-Iraq war finally ended in 1988. It had been horribly destructive, and ultimately pointless. And while US policy in the 1980s may have helped contain Iran, it had only emboldened Iraq. In 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, triggering the Gulf War. In 1993, incoming Clinton Administration officials like Martin Indyk took the lesson to heart.

Indyk: What we learned from that experience was that the whole notion of using one of the regional powers in the gulf to balance the other was basically a bankrupt policy.

So President Clinton launched a new policy called dual containment. Iraq would be contained by the sanctions, arms inspections and no fly zones that followed the Gulf War. Iran would be watched closely for any false move. At the same time, Clinton Administration officials pursued a comprehensive settlement to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

Indyk: The whole point was there seemed to be a symbiotic relationship between dual containment and pursuing peace. The more we succeeded in making peace the more Iran and Iraq would find themselves isolated and the more we succeeded in containing and isolating them the easier it would be to make peace. And in fact that's what happened for the first four years.

As time went on though, the Iranians helped sabotage the peace process by supporting terrorist groups that opposed it, according to Indyk. Groups like Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Iran considers those groups freedom fighters, not terrorists. Mostafa Zahrani of the government-affiliated Institute for Political and International Studies in Tehran says the United States uses a double standard when it accuses Iran of supporting terrorism. Zahrani says Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon is guilty of terrorism against the Palestinians.

Zahrani: If terrorism is bad, why you accept Sharon terrorism and then you condemn all those people you know let's say Hezbollah, Jihad, Hamas, people in the region never believe that those people are terrorism. They say okay their land has been taken. They don't have house, they don't have humanity, they don't have security, they don't have food, they don't have anything!

But that's not how the United States sees Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas. In the mid-1990s, fed up with Iran's support for such groups, and its opposition to the Mideast peace process, the Clinton Administration cranked up economic sanctions on Tehran. But then, in 1997, there were signs of change in Iran. In May, the reformist cleric Mohammed Khatami (pictured) was elected President. The dynamic immediately showed signs of shifting. President Clinton called Khatami's election "hopeful." President Khatami gave an interview on CNN. He said he regretted the pain caused by the hostage crisis two decades earlier. Khatami called for a dialogue with the United States.

Khatami (Translator): When I speak of dialogue I intend dialogue between civilizations and cultures. Such discourse should be centered around thinkers and intellectuals. I believe that all doors should now be opened for such dialogue and understanding and possibilities for contact even between American and Iranian citizens should become available.

Secretary of State Madeline Albright responded in kind.

Albright: As the wall of mistrust comes down we can develop with the Islamic Republic, when it is ready, a roadmap leading to normal relations.

Reformers in Iran continued to make gains in elections. In January 2000, Albright made another gesture.

Albright: Today I am announcing a step that will enable Americans to purchase and import carpets and food products such as dried fruits, nuts and caviar from Iran.

Albright's speech that day was groundbreaking. She acknowledged the US role in the 1953 coup that overthrew Iran's then-prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh. She noted that the US had backed the Shah even as he brutally repressed his own people. And she said US support for Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war had been shortsighted. But Albright also made a strategic error, according to Iranian political scientist Hadi Semati, when she referred to Iran's clerical leaders as "unelected."

Semati: The speech was perfect really, in the sense it had a lot of groundbreaking statements in terms of American policy and acceptance of Iran as it was but just the symbolic impact of that phrase was so much and so hard in Tehran especially with the conservatives that it blew out every possibility.

Semati says Iran's ruling clerics believe they represent popular sentiment. He says Albright was publicly questioning the very essence of their identity and their power. The hardliners in Tehran rejected Albright's overture. The Clinton initiative fizzled out.

The current Bush Administration inherited all the problems of the US-Iranian relationship, and little of the hope. In June 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft unveiled an indictment implicating the Iranian government in the 1996 terrorist bombing at the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia.

Then came September 11th. Suddenly, US and Iranian interests converged. The results were remarkable according to Ken Pollack.

Pollack: Very quickly after September 11, the Bush Administration was able to develop a backchannel relationship with the Iranians that was extremely good. The United States was determined to destroy al Qaeda and take down the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. And the Iranians were among the oldest and most vicious foes of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and had been arguing for a global effort against the Taliban for years.

As a result Iran gave the United States a lot of quiet help in its war in Afghanistan. But then, in January 2002, President Bush lumped Iran with Iraq and North Korea in his State of the Union address.

President Bush: States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an Axis of Evil, arming to threaten the peace of the World.

Pollack: A whole variety of sources have made clear that Iran to some extent was roadkill when it came to that speech.

Again, Ken Pollack.

Pollack: The speech was not written about Iran the Iranians were just kind of there and got run over by this truck of rhetoric that the Administration had come up with. And Iran's inclusion in the Axis of Evil speech immediately soured the cooperation between Iran and the US.

It's not clear how long that cooperation would have lasted anyway. By the end of 2002, revelations about Iran's nuclear program had underscored Washington's worst fears about its longtime foe. International inspections confirmed Iran had enriched some uranium. The Bush Administration's top arms control official John Bolton accused the Iranians of developing nuclear weapons.

Bolton: There is no question about it. The Iranians have a country that largely floats on a sea of oil and natural gas, and their argument that they need a nuclear power program for their own internal energy needs is ludicrous...In addition to that we have very substantial evidence that the Iranians are engaged across the entire nuclear fuel cycle concealing what they have done in a way that is only consistent with a clandestine nuclear weapons program.

Iran denies it is building nuclear weapons. It says it wants to enrich uranium to make nuclear fuel to generate electricity. Despite that rhetoric, Hadi Semati says, there is support in Iran for a nuclear deterrent.

Semati: If you put Iranian sense of threat in perspective, the only way that they can possibly come to a parity level with the US is nuclear, at least nuclear option, if not nuclear weapons.

Iran has reason to feel threatened. Powerful voices in Washington want regime change there. There's talk of preemptive military strikes against its nuclear facilities. Iran is sandwiched between US interests in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has seen Iraq, which had no nuclear weapon, invaded, and North Korea, believed to have several, left untouched. Iran's leaders may well calculate they're safer with nuclear weapons than without.

There's still hope for a diplomatic fix. But the nuclear clock is ticking. And the history of US-Iranian relations doesn't offer much solace. Hadi Semati says he thinks Washington and Tehran have reached a crossroads. That they must finally come to terms with each other, or collide.

For The World, I'm Jeb Sharp "

Democracy in Retrograde - The Iraq War has Slowed Calls for Reform in Iran by Hadi Semati

Democracy in Retrograde - The Iraq War has Slowed Calls for Reform in Iran: "Published on Friday, September 24, 2004 by the Los Angeles Times
Democracy in Retrograde - The Iraq War has Slowed Calls for Reform in Iran
by Hadi Semati

The Bush administration hoped that regime change in Iraq would stimulate democratic change throughout the Middle East but, in fact, the opposite is taking place.

Reform movements, despite the promises of the Bush administration, are in retreat across the region, at least for now. Given the enormous antipathy currently felt toward the United States, even to be associated with the U.S. agenda of democratic transformation in the Middle East means the end of legitimacy for many of these groups.

Consider the plight of the reformers in Iran. Seven years after the landslide election of moderate reformer Mohammad Khatami as president, the conservative establishment of the Islamic government (which still controls the vast power of the state) has neutralized him and has successfully aborted the most dynamic and intellectually rich reform movement in the entire Middle East.

There's no way around the fact that this was made possible, in part, by the incredible violence and instability that accompanied the American "democracy-building" project in Iraq. The invasion and its aftermath shocked the Iranian public, which is deeply worried by the idea of radical change and, at the same time, exhausted by unfulfilled promises of rapid reform.

It is no wonder that Iranians in recent months have slowed their calls for reform, that they have indicated that they want change from within and that they have quietly and hesitantly submitted to the rule of a more monolithic conservative polity. For a lot of people, both among the ordinary public and the elite, the level of instability in Iraq is an unacceptable cost to pay for political reform.

The invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which border Iran, offered the perfect opportunity for the conservative Iranian clerics to further depoliticize and demobilize the Iranian population. That's how they were able to "win" the parliamentary elections earlier this year. By appropriating an array of reformist slogans, they ran a campaign on ending factional politics and revamping the economy. Now they are in almost total control, and they are confident that they will take the presidency in the summer of 2005.

What should the United States do? For the last 2 1/2 decades, the U.S. has adopted a containment policy against Iran — one that has not worked to date and will not work in the future. It does not have any effect on Iran's internal policies, nor does it promote democracy. The policy rests on the very dubious assumption that coercive diplomacy and endless railing against "the axis of evil" can force change.

But, in fact, most changes in Iranian domestic policies have resulted from regime evolution or demographic pressure from within. Castigating Iran constantly as the source of all perils in the region has stopped Washington from developing an effective policy and has given some elements in Tehran strength in exploiting Iranian nationalism.

An expanding middle class and a well-educated society more integrated into the global economy — the signs of which are already visible — are the ultimate guarantor of peaceful social and political transformation. But these will not be encouraged by isolation or bullying.

The truth is that political reform and civil society do not come about by invading countries and toppling regimes. Economic cooperation and cultural and other exchanges between the U.S. and Iran would be more efficient instruments for promoting democracy and establishing lasting security.

The United States should come to terms with the reality that the Islamic Republic is here to stay for the foreseeable future, whether one likes the regime or not. It is a major regional actor, and without it, long-term stability cannot be established in the Middle East.

If the U.S. wants help fighting terrorism and nuclear proliferation, its policies would be more efficient and more fruitful if it engaged Iran, rather than ostracizing it.

Fifty-one years ago the United States actively supported a coup in Iran that toppled the then-nationalist government and changed the course of Iranian history, destroying Iran's nascent experiment with democracy. The result was the autocratic police state of the shah, which in turn led directly to the Iranian revolution.

Once again the drums of regime change are being heard from influential policy circles in the U.S. The lessons of 50 years ago should be loud and clear: Washington should let Iranians take care of their own dreams and aspirations. Democracy is not something that can be built overnight from outside.

Hadi Semati, a professor of political science at Tehran University, is currently a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles"

The Journal Editorial Report . Transcript . MOHAMED HADI SEMATI November 19, 2004 | PBS

The Journal Editorial Report . Transcript . November 19, 2004 | PBS: "BRIEFING AND OPINION

PAUL GIGOT: An Iranian opposition group charged this week that Iran had purchased blueprints for a nuclear bomb, and bought weapons-grade uranium on the black market. These charges could not be confirmed. But the dissident group has been right in the past. Secretary of State Colin Powell said he'd seen corroborating evidence, and the charges should be taken seriously. The opposition group also said Iran had been enriching uranium at the site shown in this satellite photo, but moved the equipment this year, before demolishing these buildings and carting off the rubble, leaving only a park, just as international inspectors were getting ready to visit.

These charges followed the announcement earlier this week that Iran would stop producing enriched uranium, which can be used for both civilian and military purposes, while it negotiates with France, Germany and Britain for foreign trade and investment. This is the latest attempt to persuade Iran not to develop a nuclear bomb. Correspondent John McWethy has a report.

JOHN MCWETHY: Iran has 10 percent of the world's proven oil reserves. Yet it is building a series of nuclear power plants and uranium enrichment facilities. That makes some people suspicious, although Iran's leaders say they just want another source of energy when their oil runs out and they need to learn now about the technology.

But the same technology used to enrich uranium to low levels for nuclear power plants can also be used ­ with modifications ­ to produce highly enriched uranium for atomic weapons.

President Bush began raising concerns more than a year ago.

PRESIDENT BUSH: The international community, must come together to make it very clear to Iran that we will not tolerate the construction of a nuclear weapon. Iran could be dangerous if they have a nuclear weapon.

JOHN MCWETHY: So what are the facts? There is no hard evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. But there is powerful circumstantial evidence.

ROBERT EINHORN: The evidence is so incriminating over the last few years that I think a fair observer would have to conclude that this elaborate program they've had for so long is not designed simply to produce fuel for nuclear power reactors, that there are other motives here.

JOHN MCWETHY: A year ago, Iran gave the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, what was supposed to be a complete summary of its nuclear development program. But it soon became clear Iran had not been telling the whole truth. Iranian officials were forced to admit that more than a decade ago they had obtained from Pakistan the blueprints for sophisticated centrifuges that could rapidly enrich uranium to make bombs. Inspectors also found traces of weapons grade uranium at a facility the Iranians said had never produced such material.

GEORGE PERKOVICH: There is now a well documented record of basically 19 years of lies and deception on the part of the government of Iran. And anybody who can read can see that.

JOHN MCWETHY: Still, Iran's foreign minister has repeatedly claimed that the nuclear effort was not and is not aimed at making a bomb.

KHARRAZI: We are against production of nuclear weapons, legally and religiously, even.

JOHN MCWETHY: But Iran would have many reasons to risk taking this step.

MOHAMED HADI SEMATI: You have to have power to be reckoned with and having nuclear technology in this rough neighborhood is one way to be reckoned with.

JOHN MCWETHY: Mohamed Hadi Semati, a professor of political science at Tehran University, says even a hint that Iran might be developing nuclear weapons can be very useful.

MOHAMED HADI SEMATI: It is more the power of the technology and the recognition that it brings about that is more important than the weapons themselves, really.

JOHN MCWETHY: Iranians claim they have good reasons today to feel threatened. The U.S. has invaded two of its neighbors -- Iraq and Afghanistan -- and is openly hostile, claiming Iran is the world's leading supporter of terrorism and that it is lying about its nuclear intentions.

But with Washington so focused on Iraq, it has done little about Iran.

JOHN MCWETHY: The Bush administration has been unable to agree on a policy for dealing with Iran. Some want a vote in the U.N. Security Council to impose economic sanctions. Others want an even tougher policy goal of "regime change," with the threat of air strikes to take out those nuclear facilities as a possibility.

JOHN MCWETHY: But there are huge problems with any military option: lack of precise intelligence on where any secret nuclear facilities might be and the potential of serious political backlash.

EINHORN: I think U.S. military action against Iran would be seen as much less legitimate than even U.S. military action against Iraq and the international political reaction would be very, very strong.

JOHN MCWETHY: Even an attempt to get the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran could have embarrassed the U.S., with likely vetoes by China and Russia and possible votes against the U.S. by France and Britain. For now, it is the Europeans -- France, Germany and Britain -- who have taken the lead.

PERKOVICH: Their view is, negotiating with Iran is the least bad option that's available. The U.S. can't tell them that there's a military option that is plausible so the Europeans say, well in that case, we'd better figure out how to negotiate with these guys.

JOHN MCWETHY: In exchange for halting its uranium enrichment efforts, Iran will get the nuclear fuel it needs from elsewhere and a lucrative trade package. For now, the U.S. is left watching from the sideline. Though Iran and the Europeans have struck a potentially historic deal --

MAN: It's a win/win situation for both of us.

JOHN MCWETHY: -- administration officials remain skeptical that the Iranians will, in the end, give up what they have spent billions over decades to develop in secret. This is John McWethy in Washington.

PAUL GIGOT: Joining me to discuss all this are Dan Henninger, Deputy Editor of the Editorial Page, Bret Stevens, a member of the Editorial board whose most recent foreign assignments were in the Middle East, and again, Rob Pollock, who has reported extensively on Iran and about the nuclear weapons issue.

Bret, before we get to the European diplomacy, let's think about the threat itself. How close do we really think Iran is to developing a nuclear weapon, and is this something that the United States can afford to accept?

BRET STEPHENS: Well, the conservative estimate is that Iran is about three years away. But we have a history with these estimates in that we tend to err on the side of comfort and think, well, it's that much farther away. So Iran, for all we know, can actually be on the cusp of developing a nuclear weapon, if not tomorrow sometimes within the next year. Certainly within the space of diplomacy that this deal between the Iranians and the co-called E3 -- France, Germany and Britain -- have just defined. So what Iran has just managed to bargain for in the next three years time to develop -- and we don't know if we have that, if we can afford that year before Iran goes nuclear.

PAUL GIGOT: How much stock do you put in this new evidence this week, both Colin Powell's observations and the evidence from the satellite photos and this opposition group.

BRET STEPHENS: Well the opposition group that released this information has a very good track record. They were the ones who, in 2002, revealed the existence of weapons, uranium enrichment sites, in [UNINTEL] and Iraq. And the information seems quite solid, and from what you can see from the satellite evidence it's very telling, and it's very damning. So I think the evidence is pretty strong that they're moving strongly in that direction.

We just had a report today that the Iranians are moving to process hexachloride, which is one of the gases that you need to enrich uranium through centrifuges. So it's --

ROB POLLOCK: And they're rushing to do it before they make the deal with the Europeans. It's pretty incriminating.

PAUL GIGOT: All right, Rob, interesting. But a lot of countries have nuclear weapons in the world, some of them not even our friends -- China, a rival. Why should we be so concerned about Iran getting a nuclear weapon?

ROB POLLOCK: Well in fact, not everybody is concerned. And unfortunately you hear a lot of quiet talk among diplomats around the world that, well, we're just going to have to get used to the Iranians having the bomb. Well I don't want to get used to it. And why don't I want to get used to it? Well, every year Iran tops the State Department's list of terrorist sponsors. The 9/11 Commission cited all kinds of interesting links between Iran and Al Qaeda, including the probability that Al Qaeda learned how to build truck bombs from Hezbollah, which is an Iranian-sponsored terrorist organization. Do we want Iran to have the bomb? I don't think so.

BRET STEPHENS: Well I think there's more to it simply than the terrorist angle. I think there's also a strategic and regional angle. Do we want Iran to be the dominant regional player in the Middle East? We have a national security strategy that explicitly counsels against the emergence of any kind of major regional player like that. And of all nations, for Iran to perform that role in the Middle East would be disastrous for the United States on a number of fronts. What happens to our policy in Iraq? What can the Iranians do in terms of mischief in the Shiite regions in Iraq? How much more mischief will Iran do with Hezbollah in terms of their conflict with Israel, and what they are bringing to bear on the northern frontier of Israel's border? Do we really want Saudi Arabia to feel threatened by Iran, and say, well, we've got to get our own bomb? I mean, the Saudis certainly are in a position to purchase a nuclear weapon. The Egyptians might be in the market for a nuclear weapon as well. So once Iran goes nuclear, a whole series of dominoes go, which are extremely destabilizing for the region as a whole.

PAUL GIGOT: And certainly a range of action in the Middle East would be circumscribed. We'd have to think twice, for example, wouldn't we, Dan, of deploying half a million troops, or even 125,000 troops, in range of those missiles?

DAN HENNINGER: Absolutely. And in light of what has been said here -- and you know, by and large none of this is in serious dispute. In light of all this, what is the point of this other-worldly bargaining that the E3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- are undertaking with Iran? They're acting as though they are bargaining a pre-trade agreement with Morocco or Costa Rica. We're talking about a country that is clearly intent on achieving nuclear capability. No one disagrees about that. The real question on the table is, what are we going to do to stop them from acquiring it?

PAUL GIGOT: Well, on that European proposal -- or course they did this a year ago and Iranian broke that deal, they found out later. Now they're trying again. Is this offer any more believable than the last one, Rob?

ROB POLLOCK: This is in a way less believable, because it looks so much like the agreed framework that we inked with North Korea a decade ago, which the North Koreans violated and of course went nuclear under.

And if I could add just one point here, I think the White House has been a bit asleep at the switch on this issue. Bush entirely failed to mention in his address to the U.N. this year the Iranian nuclear issue, and I'm sure that the mullahs took that as a signal of where the White House priorities were.

PAUL GIGOT: Well, it seems certainly that the administration, if nothing else, has been split on this. I mean, they haven't really -- they've been on both sides of the issue, if you will.

DAN HENNINGER: Well, just this past seven days -- last Sunday Colin Powell was on CNBC and he said this government is not interested in regime change in Iran. Four days later, he unloads this bombshell that the Iranians are trying to fix warheads on their missiles. But the previous statement erases any ambiguity there might be in our policy towards Iraq, so that we have some leverage with them.

BRET STEPHENS: I think we're at the moment of truth in this European-Iranian deal, is that do we want to quietly acquiesce to the reality of an Iran with a bomb, or don't we? And if we say unequivocally that we don't, then we have to start exploring a much wider range of options than what the Europeans presented us with. I mean, at a minimum, a much more muscular diplomacy. And we should start considering military options. It doesn't hurt to have them on the table.

PAUL GIGOT: Now there's been a lot of discussion about the potential military option, Rob. And some people claim that there really isn't one, and that we can't do, the United States can't do what the Israelis did at Osirak against Iraq in 1981, because that was one reactor. They knew where it was, it was closer to Israel, we don't know where this is, this is dispersed in Iran. And we could attack a couple of sites but not enough. What do you think of that critique of the potential of military action?

ROB POLLOCK: Well, of course we can't do another Osirak. But the idea that there's no military option here is just hogwash. I mean, there's a lot we can hit. We know where a lot of the sites are. We have satellite photos of some of them. We know where the reactors are. We can hit a lot. Are we going to get everything? No. Can we significantly degrade their capabilities? Yes. We could also target scientists. There's all kinds of things we could do about this program.

PAUL GIGOT: But Dan, the president, if he sanctioned that, would be doing it alone including without Tony Blair, his ally on Iraq who is now with the E3.

DAN HENNINGER: Well, as Bret suggests, it's the moment of truth for the Europeans. Again, the question is, are we going to allow them to acquire this capability, or aren't we? And as far as the bombing goes, we know that they probably have dispersed it to five or six different areas? Each of those areas, those plants, is unlikely to all be capable of manufacturing nuclear bombs. Most likely the Iranians have pieces of the puzzle. If we knock out two or three of them, we're going to set back their ability to pull it all together into one bomb.

PAUL GIGOT: I want to go around the table here and ask each of you what you think the president's going to decide on this one. Bret, do you think he's going to go along with the Europeans or not?

BRET STEPHENS: This president was re-elected by promising to the American people that the world's most dangerous regimes are not going to get a hold of the world's most dangerous weapons. We've already missed the window of opportunity with North Korea. I don't think this president is going to allow that to happen with Iran, especially given where Iran is and what it means for his plans for a Middle East for Iraq.


DAN HENNINGER: I would say what the president should do is support the Iranians who oppose this regime. Let's make clear here that Iran is not a homogeneous country. There are large opposition groups, and they should be supported.

ROB POLLOCK: The president is tired out by Iraq. The Iranians know that. And I wish I could be more optimistic about this, but so far the White House has been asleep at the switch.

PAUL GIGOT: Okay, interesting. I think I tend to side with Rob on this one in foreseeing future non-action by the administration. Okay, thank you very much.

That's it for this edition of The Journal Editorial Report. We hope you'll join us again next time, when our regular group will be back to discuss the coarsening of America -- movies, television, music, and the way we talk to each other. In the meantime, thank you from all of us. "

Netiran>>An interview with Hadi Semati

Netiran>Articles>Politics>International Organizations>An interview with Hadi Semati: "An interview with Hadi Semati

Yas-e-no, Daily Newspaper, Vol. 1, No. 89, Jun. 23rd, 2003, Page 7-9
By : Iman Ebrahimbai-Salami
Word Count : 3147

In an interview, university professor Dr Hadi Semati discusses opportunities for and threats against Iran under new regional circumstances and Iran-US negotiations in the face of bipartisanship in the country.
Dr Hadi Semati

Q: Let me go straight into an important question. The United States has toughened its position against Iran. Do you think Iran can make any goodwill gesture?
A: Prior to the 0recent developments, the Americans claimed that they were ready to hold bilateral talks with official representatives from the Islamic Republic to unveil their preoccupations. But the recent upheavals have made it difficult for normalization of ties.
Today, US hawks are seeking to find an answer to this question: "What is the best option for dealing with Iran?" that is why I don't think many Americans would advocate talks with Iran. Anyhow, I am of the view that if they find out a serious willingness for resumption of ties from the Iranian side, they would come ahead even under present circumstances in the region. The conditions are not good for negotiations and they wield leverages for pressure on Iran.
Q: What do you think about possible compromise between the Iranian conservatives and the United States? How likely is such compromise and what concessions might be exchanged if such compromise is in the offing?
A: The issue of ties with the United States is very important and any relevant decision should be taken at the national level. It should be based on a "consensus". The evidence does not show any connection between the talks held (with the US) on Iraq and bipartisanship in Iran.
To me, such an imagination that a specific faction would reach compromise with the US would get nowhere. As far as I know the US government and its political developments, the United States is unlikely to be eager for talks in the presence of political split in our country.
The Americans have always maintained that their presidents have "suffered blows" from Iranian domestic politics. The United States is now holding the highest level of political and military power and is unlikely to reach any "behind-the-scene" compromise with any specific factions in Iran. Otherwise, George W. Bush would meet the same fate as his predecessors. Jimmy Carter lost the presidency when Iran and the United States were wrestling over the US diplomats taken hostage in Tehran. Ronald Reagan paid a heavy price over "Iran-Contra" issue. Bill Clinton tried in vain to compromise with Iranians but the Iranian government showed negative reaction. In all the cases, the United States has suffered blows from political challenges inside Iran. Hence, taking into account the experiences, non-transparencies, misunderstandings and misinterpretations, a compromise seems unlikely.
The thorny issue of the Geneva talks is related to Iraq merely and the Americans do not believe in compromising with a specific faction in Iran. They want to reach agreement over Iraq and it may help resolve Iran-US ties in the long-term. Anyhow, I think that the Geneva talks are not anything new and they are focused on Iraq and Afghanistan.
Q: You must mean that Iran has lost any opportunity for reopening ties with the United States?
A: In the diplomatic battlefield, the opportunity for talks is never lost but we have lost the opportunities for winning more concessions. Anyhow, taking into account the regional developments and our interests in the region, we should opt for the appropriate way. We should find the best route -- talks or confrontation -- to serve our interests and establish lasting security in the region.
We may conclude that talks would not benefit us but we should not seek tension. So, it would be more important for us to define such itinerary and mechanism. We should find out what would benefit our interests and what tools and means are available to us to reach this goal. Taking into account the specific conditions for Americans and the public antagonism in the Islamic world against the United States, the Americans seem to be opting for talks and interaction rather than dispute. On the other hand, the Islamic Republic can win diplomatic gains if it pursues a reasonable and well thought out policy. The United States is an indisputable superpower but it has its own internal problems. Unfortunately, our internal behavior is undermining the position of the Americans who seek compromise and interaction with us. On the contrary, the belligerent minority is becoming more powerful. These results from our lack of knowledge about the United Sates and chaotic strategies we adopt to establish security.
Q: Some Republicans in the US Congress and Senate are seriously seeking to halt any interaction with Iran, even Geneva talks. How serious is this issue?
A: It is completely serious, specifically on the part of the Pentagon that advocates a violent tendency in the United States. The US Department of Defense says Iran should be dealt with more seriously. Some time ago, the Pentagon announced suspension of talks as a means to show its sensitivity toward Iran. Of course, the US Secretary of State Colin Powell said later on that his country had not halted talks with Iran and it was using other channels. So, I think that it was an ultimatum. The Americans use threat of force to win concessions from their adversaries like Iran. The Pentagon is following up such extremist policy. Everything is getting worse and no sign of abatement is in sight.
Q: So, how can we control the tense situation?
A: We should firstly improve the affairs at home and create unity and solidarity among ourselves. Any national solidarity in Iran would contribute to enforcement of our policies.
Secondly, we should seek detente, announced by President Mohammad Khatami, with the United States, too. We should make the United States understand that we do not seek tension and we only want to serve our national interests. We should enforce such policy in the entire region and such interaction would compel the United States to accept the factual realities. We should not allow the forces who seek overthrow of the Islamic establishment to be reinforced in the United States. We should halt any action that may help such forces gain power. We are in critical conditions and we may not adopt strategic decisions hurriedly but we should at least not let the situation get worse.
On the other hand, we should be prudent about our behaviors and positions. We should be united and spell out discreet remarks. Any indiscreet position may prove gaping hope between us. As long as our behaviors and positions are split, we would never see any fissure between the United States factions and the European Union.
Q: How have the grounds changed for compromise with the United States under Bush presidency compared with Clinton's tenure?
A: The two periods differ basically. Under the Clinton reign, no September 11 attack took place. The terrorist attack was very important and it changed the doctrines the Americans used for their foreign relations. The September 11 event drastically changed the US foreign and defense policies. It was the first time the Americans were threatened at home and it amounted to a great shock for them. The incident won new enemies for the Americans.
Secondly, Clinton had personal impetus for normalization of ties with Iran as Arab-Israeli peace process did accomplish nothing. He was very eager to mend ties with the Islamic Republic.
Thirdly, Washington was not dominated by democratic liberal tendency and the US State Department held a decisive say in the decision-making processes. George Bush espouses threat and use of force but Clinton advocated reconciliation and interaction.
Under Clinton, the so-called hawks were marginal forces but now they hold the power. At that time (under Clinton), major political developments inside Iran, notably the May 23, 1997 presidential elections, had dropped a bombshell in the US circles. Relying on 20 million votes for Mr. Khatami, we were moving for reconciliation with a totally democratic prestige. We had a good opportunity for talks but we lost it. Now, we are in different conditions and the Bush administration is regrettably moving within the framework of ideological relations. Militancy has dominated diplomacy and the hawks hold the power and only a minority advocates diplomacy.
Q: You referred to the overarching influence of US hawks on the US foreign policy. To what extend do you think Islamic extremism in the Middle East has reinforced Christian extremism in the United States?
A: Extremism breeds extremism and the United States is seeking to eliminate Islamic radicalism in the Middle East. The Home Security Strategy Bush presented several months ago proved such determination.

Ideological changes in Washington are resulted from generation changes in the Republican Party. In other words, the new generation of the Republicans in the United States rely on the church and are very close to extremist Jewish and Zionist circles. Therefore, extremist ideological contacts between extremist Jews in Israel and extremist Christians in Washington have cleared the way for a new enemy -- Islamic radicalism.
You can see well that their propagandistic machines are always seeking to portray Islam as anti-Western. The Muslims who rely on violence help such propaganda. The Western media has increased its propaganda in recent weeks. I reiterate here that Islamic radicalism represents the biggest threat for Americans while the Jewish and Christian extremists try to capitalize on such threats.
Anyhow, we should come to our senses and eliminate the extremist portrayals of Islam. This is a fact we should deal with. It is up to the Muslims to purify themselves and it needs a dialogue from inside the Islamic world to present the peace-seeking portrayal of Islam. The Islamic Republic of Iran can spearhead such a move. It is not the issue of ties with the United States and it should be looked at within inter-civilizational framework.
Q: How can alleged presence of al-Qaeda members in Iran affect our national security?
A: Presence of al-Qaeda in Iran could represent the most important threat and it would be the best excuse for the US to use force. After the September 11, 2001 incident, terrorism and al-Qaeda are not only political issues but they are important for the reputation of the United States. Defeating al-Qaeda and Wahabi radicalism are very important for Bush and they constitute the most important threat for Washington.
The situation has got worse after Riyadh blasts. It is interesting that such incidents take place whenever a door is opened for Iran to play a major role in the region. If the organized entry of al-Qaead to our country is corroborated, the arteries of our national security would be filled with deadly poison and Iran would lose any possibility to promote its regional status. So I believe that Bush is seeking to use forces against us under the pretext of al-Qaeda. Iran is unlikely to have welcomed al-Qaeda and any organized entry of its members to the country would give a pretext for military action against Iran.
I am sure that the Americans intend to repeat their route to Iraq. Such a route starts from disarmament and ends in American democracy. They intend to remove barriers for democracy. Of course, everyone knows well that the Americans do not have a good background of supporting democracy. Its ultimate is a scenario similar to Iraq. Disarmament and inspections are part of such a scenario.
Q: Do you think the United Nations Security Council would issue any resolution against "development of nuclear weapons"?
A: In the status quo, the Americans have two plans about Iran. They are undertaking serious lobbies in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to accuse Iran of violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In that case, Iran would probably face serious sanctions and confrontation. Secondly, they want to persuade the UN Security Council to adopt a specific policy toward Iran and it is likely soon.
The IAEA Board of Governors may apply pressure on us and should mobilize ourselves to ward off any such pressure. Anyhow, the Americans are making use of their propagandistic, political and information tools to take the issue to the international community. They may not gain success in the short term but it can be dangerous for us and we should be careful to strip them of any pretext.
Q: The G8 members recently expressed concern over Iran's nuclear activities. Do you think we are headed toward the same destination as Iraq? I mean if the United States is seeking pretexts for military action against Iran.
A: 1st I maintain that the American hawks follow the same scenario. If you follow up the statements and speeches run by US hawks you would find out that they are applying pressure on us and repeating such accusations of supporting terrorism and development of weapons of mass destruction. Of course, Iran is different from Iraq and even the US hawks admit such differences. We should not look into such issues fearfully, but we should be concerned that the European Union and other segments of the international community may be attuned with the US over weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and the Middle East Peace Process against Iran. It would be perilous for us.
Q: What should we do to stave of such threat?
A: We cannot define our strategy by making short steps. We should look into this issue from a more pervasive point of view. We cannot resolve our problems with the Americans when we adopt double-standard policies. Even if it is not necessary for us to resume ties with the United States we should at least elucidate our goal by ameliorating our ties and base our policies on serving mutual interests. All governments insist on their legitimate interests. Everyone knows for sure that the time is not ripe for Iran to mull over restoring ties with the United States. But are we sure of the future? It is unsettling for me.
We should note that the United States is a superpower and we only represent a regional power. We dispute over everything and we are not in agreement on any single issue. We should take bigger strides and adjust our behavior with the conventional methodology and discourse in the world. Even if we have ties we would have problems and therefore we should have a wider look at the issues. Many countries do not hold ties but they have mutual understanding. We should know that our "hidden and clandestine" policies have dealt blows to our national interests.
Q: What would you do regarding the United States if you were the foreign minister of Iran with a carte blanche?
A: Firstly, I would think about ourselves! Under the present circumstances, even the United States is not completely free and all the governments have their own restrictions. Such restrictions may be ethnic, normal or legal. The best we can do in our foreign policy would be offering a clear definition of our facilities and objectives.We should seek to adjust our facilities and demands. The problem with our foreign policy is non-conformity of our facilities and goals.
The first thing I would do (if I were the foreign minister) would be working out mechanisms to balance our objectives and facilities. I think that we have not yet defined our objectives clearly.
Q: What do you think about the foreign policy adopted by the Khatami administration toward the United States?
A: The package of the Khatami administration has tried its best and Mr Khatami has properly managed resumption of ties with the United States. But Khatami's approach is not enough and the whole state should institutionalize its role. The world has given a positive response to Khatami's policy of dtente and they are confident of him. We should find out the reason behind the mounting pressure on us while we have such assets. Khatami's dtente policy has opened many doors but we have failed to gain much in some way. So we should seek the reasons in our domestic policy because the foreign policy is prolongation of domestic policy.
Q: The United States has appointed a military governor in Iraq. How should Iran react?
A: We should wait until an interim authority takes shape in Iraq. I believe that we are paying the price for our "non-conventional" impressions. The Americans imagine that we are challenging their efforts for a stable Iraq and we think that the United States has imperiled our interests in our western borders. Neither is correct.
We do not want and we cannot install our desired government in Iraq. Today, Iranian and American interests are intertwined in certain fields and we should not allow misinterpretations to accuse us of interfering in Iraqi affairs. Even if we conclude that the United States is playing with our interests in Iraq we should behave knowledgeably, transparently and flatly. The Americans will understand our simple and clear language, and our firm determination.
We announced that we advocated an independent government in Iraq and establishment of democracy in Iraq would further serve our interests and the Shiites would enjoy a better status in future Iraq. At the moment, we should clarify our position without any fear.
Another point is that we share over one thousand kilometers of frontiers with Iraq. Why should we not defend our legitimate interests? Iraq can be a good test if we want to establish a security regime in the region with Iran as the leader. To this effect, we should talk with the Americans very clearly. Success in Iraq is very important for the US president and the Americans have to pay heavy prices to promote their status there. Bush would spare no efforts to gain success in Iraq and he would not shy from getting engaged in any dispute. It should serve as an alarm bell for us.
Q: Do you think the United States would resort to military action against Iran to maintain its position in Iraq?

A: Of course I rule out the possibility of a widespread military action. Even in the absence of Iraq and Afghanistan, they were unlikely to reach such a point. Anyhow, the United States may adopt one of the three approaches toward us: 1. Limited military action against our nuclear facilities; 2. Applying heavy political pressures to destabilize Iran; 3. supporting the foreign-based opposition groups, setting up satellite networks and pitting the public opinion against us. I think that they prefer regime change in Iran rather than military action. Anyhow, it is important for us to strip them of making any unreasonable decision. The situation is very sensitive and the American hawks should not be allowed to decide for their country. Such a dispute is now in full swing in Washington."