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Iran hostages locked in struggle for compensation, tell their story of “colossal injustice”

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

05/15/2013

Yahoo News

By Jonathan Karl, Richard Coolidge, and Jordyn Phelps

Politics Confidential

Hollywood portrays the Iran hostage crisis as a thriller story with a triumphant ending in the film “Argo.” But the real story of the 52 hostages who were held in captivity for 444 days, 39 of whom are still alive today, didn’t end with their homecoming to the U.S.

Thirty-two years after their release, two former hostages tell Politics Confidential about their harrowing tales of captivity and their subsequent legal battle to receive compensation for the ordeal they endured.

One of the hostages, Rick Kupke, describes their 17-year-long legal struggle, saying “it’s almost as if our noses have been rubbed in the dirt.”

“It’s a colossal injustice, what happened to us,” says Kupke, who is now retired from the State Department and was repeatedly tortured at the hands of the Iranian captors. “People ask me, do you have nightmares, did you come out of this normal…my nightmare is the Algiers Accord.”

The Algiers Accord is the agreement that led to the hostages’ release, but it also barred them from seeking damages in court against the Iranian government. And repeated attempts to have the U.S. government overturn the agreement have all failed.

“All the attempts to hold the Iranians accountable, to change the message that you got away with it, had been frustrated…by some very skilled obstinate lawyers within the US government,” says John Limbert, who was the highest-ranking political officer in the embassy at the time of the takeover and retired recently from the State Department.

Kupke says all the memories of his time in captivity came rushing back last year when the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked, and U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed.

Kupke hid on the roof of the embassy building when the embassy was stormed and called the State Department. “I’m on the phone and the person gives me the news, ‘we don’t have anyone in the area that can come see you,’ and then there was a pause and a pause by me…And the next words were ‘you are on your own,’” says Kupke, who subsequently came down to the roof, becoming the last to surrender.

“To me that made me realize, maybe they went through some of the same things I did,” Kupke says of those who were killed in the Benghazi consulate attack.

For more of Kupke’s and Limbert’s stories from captivity, and to hear what events they say “Argo” got right, check out this episode of Politics Confidential.

ABC’s Betsy Klein, Eric Wray, Chris Carlson, and John Knott contributed to this episode.

Iran increases underground nuclear capacity sharply-diplomats

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:46pm IST

* Fordow site is buried deep underground for protection

* Israel sees Iran’s nuclear ambitions as existential threat

* Iran denies nuclear weapons aims, says programme peaceful

VIENNA, Aug 30 (Reuters) – A U.N. watchdog report is expected to show that Iran has expanded its potential capacity to refine uranium in an underground site by at least 30 percent since May, diplomats say, adding to Western worries over Tehran’s nuclear aims.

The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is due this week to issue its latest quarterly report on Iran’s disputed nuclear programme, which the West and Israel suspect is aimed at developing bombs. Tehran denies this.

Language used by some Israeli politicians has fanned speculation that Israel might hit Iran’s nuclear sites before the November U.S. presidential vote. Washington has said there is still time for diplomatic pressure to work, but it could be drawn into any war between the two Middle East foes.

The Vienna-based diplomats, giving details on what they believe the IAEA report will show, said Iran had completed installation of two more cascades – interlinked networks of 174 centrifuges each – since the previous IAEA report in May.

They said Iran may also have added centrifuges in another part of the fortified Fordow facility, buried deep inside a mountain to better protect it against any enemy strikes, but they gave no details.

Fordow, where Iran is refining uranium to a level that takes it significantly closer to weapons-grade material, is built to house roughly 3,000 centrifuges – machines that spin at supersonic speed to increase the fissile concentration.

The May report said Iran had installed a total of 1,064 centrifuges, of which 696 were operating, in some six cascades. The diplomats said Iran has since added at least another 328, a jump of about 30 percent from the May figure, and perhaps more.

Iran says it needs this higher-grade uranium for a medical research reactor in Tehran. It is enriching uranium to lower levels at its main such plant in Natanz, where diplomats say it is also installing more centrifuges.

While the newly added centrifuges at Fordow are not yet operating, the expansion reaffirmed Iranian defiance of international demands to suspend enrichment, which can have both civilian and military uses depending on refinement level.

“There is reason to be concerned by increased tempo of enrichment, the larger stockpile of enriched uranium and, most importantly, the additional centrifuges installed in the deeply-buried facility at Fordow,” said Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute of Strategic Studies think-tank.

It may reinforce the belief in Israel that diplomatic and economic pressure is failing to make the Islamic Republic curb its uranium enrichment programme.

Iran denies allegations it seeks a nuclear weapons capability and says all its atom work is for peaceful purposes. It has threatened wide-ranging reprisals if attacked.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Thursday told heads of state from developing countries at a meting in Tehran that the country has no interest in nuclear weapons but will keep pursuing peaceful nuclear energy.

Abducted Iranians to be released in Libya

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

RadioZamaneh

Fri, 08/03/2012

The seven Iranian aid workers who were taken hostage in Libya are to be freed today, Friday, the Libyan Red Crescent Association announced.

Reuters reports that Abdelhamid el-Madani, the head of the Libyan Red Crescent, said: “We are waiting for their release, which can happen any moment now.”

The seven Iranian aid workers arrived in Benghazi on Monday as official guests of the Libyan Red Crescent to assist with relief work in the city. They were kidnapped by an unidentified armed group on Tuesday.

Libyan authorities have not been able to disarm the many groups that armed themselves in the uprising against the Moammar Gaddafi regime last year.

A government spokesman condemned the kidnapping and called on local authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The president of the Libyan Olympic Committee was abducted earlier this month by gunmen in Tripoli, only to be released a week later.

Exclusive interview with Reza Pahlavi

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012
Tue, 06/19/2012 – 22:08

RadioZamaneh

Reza Pahlavi

On May 30, 2012 Reza Pahlavi, son of Iran’s last Monarch Mohammadreza Pahlavi, held a press conference in The Hague in connection with the report he had earlier submitted to the UN Security Council accusing Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader, Seyyed Ali Khamenei of crimes against humanity to suppress dissent in Iran.

Reza Pahlavi had travelled to The Hague in order to meet with Luis Moreno Ocampo the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and ensure the suit is taken up by the ICC.

Radio Zamaneh correspondent Lida Hossaini Nejad was given an exclusive interview with the Iranian former crown prince discussing the current situation and the future of Iran as well as the outcome of his trip to The Hague.

 

Interviewer: Lida Hossaini Nejad

Camera and edit: Shahzoda Nazarova

Israel’s Secret Staging Ground

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

foreignpolicy.com

U.S. officials believe that the Israelis have gained access to airbases in Azerbaijan. Does this bring them one step closer to a war with Iran?

BY MARK PERRY | MARCH 28, 2012

In 2009, the deputy chief of mission of the U.S. embassy in Baku, Donald Lu, sent a cable to the State Department’s headquarters in Foggy Bottom titled “Azerbaijan’s discreet symbiosis with Israel.” The memo, later released by WikiLeaks, quotes Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev as describing his country’s relationship with the Jewish state as an iceberg: “nine-tenths of it is below the surface.”

Why does it matter? Because Azerbaijan is strategically located on Iran’s northern border and, according to several high-level sources I’ve spoken with inside the U.S. government, Obama administration officials now believe that the “submerged” aspect of the Israeli-Azerbaijani alliance — the security cooperation between the two countries — is heightening the risks of an Israeli strike on Iran.

In particular, four senior diplomats and military intelligence officers say that the United States has concluded that Israel has recently been granted access to airbases on Iran’s northern border. To do what, exactly, is not clear. “The Israelis have bought an airfield,” a senior administration official told me in early February, “and the airfield is called Azerbaijan.”

Senior U.S. intelligence officials are increasingly concerned that Israel’s military expansion into Azerbaijan complicates U.S. efforts to dampen Israeli-Iranian tensions, according to the sources. Military planners, I was told, must now plan not only for a war scenario that includes the Persian Gulf — but one that could include the Caucasus. The burgeoning Israel-Azerbaijan relationship has also become a flashpoint in both countries’ relationship with Turkey, a regional heavyweight that fears the economic and political fallout of a war with Iran. Turkey’s most senior government officials have raised their concerns with their U.S. counterparts, as well as with the Azeris, the sources said.

The Israeli embassy in Washington, the Israel Defense Forces, and the Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency, were all contacted for comment on this story but did not respond.

The Azeri embassy to the United States also did not respond to requests for information regarding Azerbaijan’s security agreements with Israel. During a recent visit to Tehran, however, Azerbaijan’s defense minister publicly ruled out the use of Azerbaijan for a strike on Iran. “The Republic of Azerbaijan, like always in the past, will never permit any country to take advantage of its land, or air, against the Islamic Republic of Iran, which we consider our brother and friend country,” he said.

But even if his government makes good on that promise, it could still provide Israel with essential support. A U.S. military intelligence officer noted that Azeri defense minister did not explicitly bar Israeli bombers from landing in the country after a strike. Nor did he rule out the basing of Israeli search-and-rescue units in the country. Proffering such landing rights — and mounting search and rescue operations closer to Iran — would make an Israeli attack on Iran easier.

“We’re watching what Iran does closely,” one of the U.S. sources, an intelligence officer engaged in assessing the ramifications of a prospective Israeli attack confirmed. “But we’re now watching what Israel is doing in Azerbaijan. And we’re not happy about it.”

Israel’s deepening relationship with the Baku government was cemented in February by a $1.6 billion arms agreement that provides Azerbaijan with sophisticated drones and missile-defense systems. At the same time, Baku’s ties with Tehran have frayed: Iran presented a note to Azerbaijan’s ambassador last month claiming that Baku has supported Israeli-trained assassination squads targeting Iranian scientists, an accusation the Azeri government called ”a slander.” In February, a member of Yeni Azerbadzhan — the ruling party – called on the government to change the country’s name to “North Azerbaijan,” implicitly suggesting that the 16 million Azeris who live in northern Iran (“South Azerbaijan”) are in need of liberation.

And this month, Baku announced that 22 people had been arrested for spying on behalf of Iran, charging they had been tasked by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to “commit terrorist acts against the U.S., Israeli, and other Western states’ embassies.” The allegations prompted multiple angry denials from the Iranian government.

It’s clear why the Israelis prize their ties to Azerbaijan — and why the Iranians are infuriated by them. The Azeri military has four abandoned, Soviet-era airfields that would potentially be available to the Israelis, as well as four airbases for their own aircraft, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Military Balance 2011.

The U.S. intelligence and diplomatic officials told me they believe that Israel has gained access to these airbases through a series of quiet political and military understandings. “I doubt that there’s actually anything in writing,” added a senior retired American diplomat who spent his career in the region. “But I don’t think there’s any doubt — if Israeli jets want to land in Azerbaijan after an attack, they’d probably be allowed to do so. Israel is deeply embedded in Azerbaijan, and has been for the last two decades.”

The prospect of Israel using Azerbaijan’s airfields for an Iranian attack first became public in December 2006, when retired Israeli Brig. Gen. Oded Tira angrily denounced the George W. Bush administration’s lack of action on the Iranian nuclear program. “For our part,” he wrote in a widely cited commentary, “we should also coordinate with Azerbaijan the use of airbases in its territory and also enlist the support of the Azeri minority in Iran.” The “coordination” that Tira spoke of is now a reality, the U.S. sources told me.

Access to such airfields is important for Israel, because it would mean that Israeli F-15I and F-16I fighter-bombers would not have to refuel midflight during a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, but could simply continue north and land in Azerbaijan. Defense analyst David Isenberg describes the ability to use Azeri airfields as “a significant asset” to any Israel strike, calculating that the 2,200-mile trip from Israel to Iran and back again would stretch Israel’s warplanes to their limits. “Even if they added extra fuel tanks, they’d be running on fumes,” Isenberg told me, “so being allowed access to Azeri airfields would be crucial.”

Former CENTCOM commander Gen. Joe Hoar simplified Israel’s calculations: “They save themselves 800 miles of fuel,” he told me in a recent telephone interview. “That doesn’t guarantee that Israel will attack Iran, but it certainly makes it more doable.”

Using airbases in Azerbaijan would ensure that Israel would not have to rely on its modest fleet of air refuelers or on its refueling expertise, which a senior U.S. military intelligence officer described as “pretty minimal.” Military planners have monitored Israeli refueling exercises, he added, and are not impressed. “They’re just not very good at it.”

Retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner, who conducted a study for a think tank affiliated with the Swedish Ministry of Defense of likely Israeli attack scenarios in March 2010, said that Israel is capable of using its fleet of F-15I and F-16I warplanes in a strike on Iran without refueling after the initial top-off over Israel. “It’s not weight that’s a problem,” he said, “but the numbers of weapons that are mounted on each aircraft.” Put simply, the more distance a fighter-bomber is required to travel, the more fuel it will need and the fewer weapons it can carry. Shortening the distance adds firepower, and enhances the chances for a successful strike.

“The problem is the F-15s,” Gardiner said, “who would go in as fighters to protect the F-16 bombers and stay over the target.” In the likely event that Iran scrambled its fighters to intercept the Israeli jets, he continued, the F-15s would be used to engage them. “Those F-15s would burn up fuel over the target, and would need to land.”

Could they land in Azerbaijan? “Well, it would have to be low profile, because of political sensitivities, so that means it would have to be outside of Baku and it would have to be highly developed.” Azerbaijan has such a place: the Sitalcay airstrip, which is located just over 40 miles northwest of Baku and 340 miles from the Iranian border. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Sitalcay’s two tarmacs and the adjacent facilities were used by a squadron of Soviet Sukhoi SU-25 jets — perfect for Israeli fighters and bombers.  “Well then,” Gardiner said, after the site was described to him, “that would be the place.”

Even if Israeli jets did not land in Azerbaijan, access to Azeri airfields holds a number of advantages for the Israel Defense Forces. The airfields not only have facilities to service fighter-bombers, but a senior U.S. military intelligence officer said that Israel would likely base helicopter rescue units there in the days just prior to a strike for possible search and rescue missions.

This officer pointed to a July 2010 joint Israeli-Romanian exercise that tested Israeli air capabilities in mountainous areas — like those the Israeli Air Force would face during a bombing mission against Iranian nuclear facilities that the Iranians have buried deep into mountainsides. U.S. military officers watched the exercises closely, not least because they objected to the large number of Israeli fighters operating from airbases of a NATO-member country, but also because 100 Israeli fighters overflew Greece as a part of a simulation of an attack on Iran. The Israelis eventually curtailed their Romanian military activities when the United States expressed discomfort with practicing the bombing of Iran from a NATO country, according to this senior military intelligence officer.

This same senior U.S. military intelligence officer speculated that the search and rescue component of those operations will be transferred to Azerbaijan — “if they haven’t been already.” He added that Israel could also use Azerbaijan as a base for Israeli drones, either as part of a follow-on attack against Iran, or to mount aerial assessment missions in an attack’s aftermath.

Azerbaijan clearly profits from its deepening relationship with Israel. The Jewish state is the second largest customer for Azeri oil – shipped through the Baku-Tibilisi-Ceyhan pipeline — and its military trade allows Azerbaijan to upgrade its military after the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) slapped it with an arms embargo after its six-year undeclared war with Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Finally, modernizing the Azeri military sends a clear signal to Iran that interference in Azerbaijan could be costly.

“Azerbaijan has worries of its own,” said Alexander Murinson, an Israeli-American scholar who wrote in an influential monograph on Israeli-Azeri ties for Tel Aviv’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. “The Baku government has expelled Iranians preaching in their mosques, broken up pro-Iranian terrorist groups, and countered Iranian propaganda efforts among its population.”

The deepening Azeri-Israeli relationship has also escalated Israel’s dispute with Turkey, which began when Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish ship destined for Gaza in May 2010, killing nine Turkish citizens. When Turkey demanded an apology, Israel not only refused, it abruptly canceled a $150 million contract to develop and manufacture drones with the Turkish military — then entered negotiations with Azerbaijan to jointly manufacture 60 Israeli drones of varying types. The $1.6 billion arms agreement between Israel and Azerbaijan also left Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan “sputtering in rage,” according to a retired U.S. diplomat.

The centerpiece of the recent arms deal is Azerbaijan’s acquisition of Israeli drones, which has only heightened Turkish anxieties further. In November 2011, the Turkish government retrieved the wreckage of an Israeli “Heron” drone in the Mediterranean, south of the city of Adana — well inside its maritime borders. Erdogan’s government believed the drone’s flight had originated in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq and demanded that Israel provide an explanation, but got none. “They lied; they told us the drone didn’t belong to them,” a former Turkish official told me last month. “But it had their markings.”

Israel began cultivating strong relations with Baku in 1994, when Israeli telecommunications firm Bezeq bought a large share of the nationally controlled telephone operating system. By 1995, Azerbaijan’s marketplace was awash with Israeli goods: “Strauss ice cream, cell phones produced by Motorola’s Israeli division, Maccabee beer, and other Israeli imports are ubiquitous,” an Israeli reporter wrote in the Jerusalem Post.

In March 1996, then-Health Minister Ephraim Sneh became the first senior Israeli official to visit Baku — but not the last. Benjamin Netanyahu made the trip in 1997, a high-level Knesset delegation in 1998, Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in 2007, Israeli President Shimon Peres in 2009, and Lieberman again, as foreign minister, this last February. Accompanying Peres on his visit to Baku was Avi Leumithe CEO of Israel’s Aeronautics Defense Systems and a former Mossad official who paved the way for the drone agreement.

U.S. intelligence officials began to take Israel’s courtship of Azerbaijan seriously in 2001, one of the senior U.S. military intelligence officers said. In 2001, Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems contracted with Georgia’s Tbilisi Aerospace Manufacturing to upgrade the Soviet SU-25 Scorpion, a close air-support fighter, and one of its first customers was Azerbaijan. More recently, Israel’s Elta Systems has cooperated with Azerbaijan in building the TecSar reconnaissance satellite system and, in 2009, the two countries began negotiations over Azeri production of the Namer infantry fighting vehicle.

Israeli firms “built and guard the fence around Baku’s international airport, monitor and help protect Azerbaijan’s energy infrastructure, and even provide security for Azerbaijan’s president on foreign visits,” according to a study published by Ilya Bourtman in the Middle East Journal. Bourtman noted that Azerbaijan shares intelligence data on Iran with Israel, while Murinson raised the possibility that Israelis have set up electronic listening stations along Azerbaijan’s Iranian border.

Israeli officials downplay their military cooperation with Baku, pointing out that Azerbaijan is one of the few Muslim nations that makes Israelis feel welcome. “I think that in the Caucasian region, Azerbaijan is an icon of progress and modernity,” Sneh told an Azeri magazine in July 2010.

Many would beg to differ with that description. Sneh’s claim “is laughable,” the retired American diplomat said. “Azerbaijan is a thuggish family-run kleptocracy and one of the most corrupt regimes in the world.” The U.S. embassy in Baku has also been scathing: A 2009 State Department cable described Aliyev, the son of the country’s longtime ruler and former KGB general Heydar Aliyev, as a “mafia-like” figure, comparable to “Godfather” characters Sonny and Michael Corleone. On domestic issues in particular, the cable warned that Aliyev’s policies had become “increasingly authoritarian and hostile to diversity of political views.”

But the U.S. military is less concerned with Israel’s business interests in Baku, which are well-known, than it is with how and if Israel will employ its influence in Azerbaijan, should its leaders decide to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. The cable goes on to confirm that Israel is focused on Azerbaijan as a military ally — “Israel’s main goal is to preserve Azerbaijan as an ally against Iran, a platform for reconnaissance of that country and as a market for military hardware.”

It is precisely what is not known about the relationship that keeps U.S. military planners up at night. One former CIA analyst doubted that Israel will launch an attack from Azerbaijan, describing it as “just too chancy, politically.” However, he didn’t rule out Israel’s use of Azeri airfields to mount what he calls “follow-on or recovery operations.” He then added: “Of course, if they do that, it widens the conflict, and complicates it. It’s extremely dangerous.”

One of the senior U.S. military officers familiar with U.S. war plans is not as circumspect. “We are studying every option, every variable, and every factor in a possible Israeli strike,” he told me. Does that include Israel’s use of Azerbaijan as a platform from which to launch a strike — or to recover Israeli aircraft following one? There was only a moment’s hesitation. “I think I’ve answered the question,” he said.

 

Iran’s leader rejects nuclear compromise

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

The Daily Caller

Published: 4:04 PM 03/20/2012

By Reza Kahlili

On Tuesday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei put to bed any speculation on the possibility of a negotiated solution to Iran’s nuclear program. The Islamic regime’s supreme leader, in his Iranian New Year address to the nation, informed the world that Iran will not surrender to international pressure to halt nuclear enrichment.

Khamenei praised the country’s great accomplishments in the previous year and stated that the Arab Spring benefited the country’s objective.

“Those countries in the region that the Islamic republic has supported have achieved great goals: Dictators were overthrown, and constitutions based on Islam were passed in several countries,” he said. “The No. 1 enemy of the Islamic Ummah (community) and the Islamic Republic of Iran, namely the Zionist regime, has now been surrounded.”

Khamenei talked about an economic jihad to confront international sanctions imposed to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. If self-sufficiency in production of goods is achieved, he said, the enemy will lose interest in confronting Iran.

Israel believes the Iranian nuclear program will soon be strike-proof and that an imminent pre-emptive attack is necessary to derail Iran’s ambitions, which include destroying the Jewish nation. Precautionary actions have been taken in Israel, suggesting a move toward war. Reports indicate that Israel has transferred nuclear fuel out of its Dimona reactor, fearing retaliation by Iran. It also has moved army units close to the Lebanese and Syrian borders in case war expands on those fronts, and has set in place its anti-missile system in its most populated areas.

President Barack Obama, for his part, issued an executive order on Friday addressing national defense resource policies and programs. Though Obama’s order was hardly different from what President Bill Clinton had set in place, the executive departments and agencies responsible for national defense were once again ordered to identify requirements for emergencies, which include military and civilian demands.

The executive order demands preparedness in the event of a threat to America’s security and asks all agencies to ensure the availability of adequate services, such as energy, food and water distribution, health services and transportation.

Last month, National Intelligence Director James R. Clapper Jr., in his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, stated that “some Iranian officials — probably including Khamenei — have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime.”

Khamenei, in his recent Friday prayer sermon, announced that the U.S. will be attacked if it takes any military action against Iran. He has not been the only one to make such statements. The commanders of the Revolutionary Guards have also stated that U.S. military bases in the region will be targeted for retaliation, and that targets within America will also be considered.

Basij commander Gen. Mohammad Naghdi and Guards commander Hussein Babaei have gone on record indicating that Iranian and Hezbollah cells are active in America and ready to strike.

Hassan Abassi, the former commander of the Guards and current strategist of the regime, in his address to the Guards a couple of years ago, stated that over 800 sensitive sites in the U.S. have been identified for attacks by martyrdom-seeking cells.

Last month, the FBI held a classified nationwide video teleconference with the bureau’s top counterterrorism officials from each of the 56 field offices. They assessed the likelihood of an attack by the Iranian agents and its surrogate terrorist group, Hezbollah. The urgency for this action was based on recent activity by the Iranian assets in surveillance of potential U.S. targets overseas and the potential for terrorist acts within the U.S. The call also touched on coordination with local police in remaining vigilant against suspicious activities and in protecting sensitive sites.

U.S. intelligence is aware of Iranian intelligence operatives’ collaboration with Mexican drug cartels and their presence in the Americas. Tom Betro, the former director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, recently told CBS News that, “Yes, I could see them striking on U.S. soil. They do have a network of surrogate groups. They have provided material support, assuming that support is already in place. I think they know, psychologically, the impact that an attack on U.S. soil would have on our country and on our leadership.”

Meanwhile, three U.S. aircraft carriers, along with an armada of other strike groups and British warships, are all closing in on Iran. The USS Enterprise left its base at Norfolk, Va., last week and is expected to arrive in the Persian Gulf within days, joining the two other U.S. carriers — the Abraham Lincoln and Carl Vinson.

It boils down to the upcoming meeting in April of the “5+1” negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program. The Iranians have already announced there won’t be any backing down and that only a full acceptance by the West of its nuclear program will resolve the standoff. The West, desperate to find a diplomatic way out of this dilemma, knows that Israel will not accept a continuation of the Iranian program, and therefore the potential for war grows.

Though no one knows for certain the outcome of this confrontation, one thing is certain: President Obama and the intelligence community are extremely worried about possible attacks on U.S. soil, perhaps on a scale much greater than 9/11.

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and the author of the award winning book, ”A Time to Betray.” He teaches at the U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy.

 

PDMI Letter to the Honorable Congresswoman Barbara Lee

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

pdmi.org

Thursday, 15 March, 2012

The Honorable Congresswoman Barbara Lee,

The Pro-Democracy Movement of Iran (PDMI) expresses grave concern regarding your newly introduced legislation (H.R. 4173) aimed at initiating bilateral U.S. Iran talks.

While we appreciate your attention to issues related to Iran and the U.S. Foreign Policy towards Iran, it might the Congresswoman to know that for over three decades, various governments have used dialogue and diplomacy with the regime in Iran to no avail, starting with the administration of President Jimmy Carter, who did everything possible to assure their new regime of American friendship and failed miserably. Since that time, the more world governments have tried to engage the regime’s leaders, the more belligerent, emboldened and abusive they have become. This has not been limited to the killings of American soldiers, their communication with the outside world but extended to the repression of their own people, as we are all aware.

The Islamic regime’s apologists such as Trita Parsi of NIAC deceptively portray the Islamic government in Iran as a pragmatic and rational entity. They suggest that dialogue and diplomacy are the best way to deal with Iran. They have blamed the regime’s blatant human rights violations, which has recently exceeded China’s as the worst in the world, on U.S. pressure and ridiculously claimed that recognition of the IRI would improve the human rights violations in Iran.

The ruling theocracy is draconian and dangerous. It is a very real and imminent threat not just to our national security but also to world stability. Dialogue and diplomacy with a regime that has rapes its own citizens and has united with the Syrian dictator and massacred more than 8,500 brave pro democracy Syrians is an insult to those who have lost their lives.

Currently, the Middle East is in crisis. Pro-democracy forces are springing up daily to demand basic human rights and better living conditions. It is about time that countries such as the United States publicly align themselves with the democracy seeking people who have suffered brutally at the hands of dictators and tyrants. It is time to give honor, dignity, moral imperatives and ethical values precedence over lucrative financial contracts that often occur, wrongly, at the expense of ordinary citizens’ lives.

By supporting pro-democracy Iranian opposition groups, the world community not only can avert a regional and potentially global catastrophe, it will help establish democratic systems of government in the region. If Syrians and Iranians are successful in shaking off the yoke of theocracy and dictatorships, their success could herald the failure of political and militant Islam. Helping Iran become a democracy is not only is a moral imperative, but should be considered an essential foreign policy priority that will bring a more sustainable and lasting peace to the Middle East.

The Iranian-American community, Iranians and friends of Iran strongly support Senator Kirk’s amendment to the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, to impose crippling sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran which is the primary bankroller of the IRI’s global terror network, its nuclear program and other illicit activities. The amendment provides the President with a waiver authority for humanitarian exception for the Iranian-American community allowing us to send food, medicine and medical supplies to the Iranian people.

We respectfully urge the honorable Congresswoman to allow Senator Kirks Amendment which was signed by an unprecedented 100-0 senate vote to take effect in June, unhindered.

Respectfully,
Dr. Arash Irandoost, Founder
Pro-Democracy Movement of Iran
www.pdmi.org

https://leeforms.house.gov/legislation-comment-form1

Israeli attack on Iran would only delay nuclear plans, think-tank chief says

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Wednesday, 07 March 2012

Alarabiya

By AFP
LONDON

An Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would only set back Tehran’s program by a couple of years, the head of a respected London-based think-tank said Wednesday.

International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) head John Chipman said an Israeli attack against Iran was unlikely this year, following U.S. assurances this week to Israel that it would not rule out military action.

Only the United States could conduct a serious campaign against Iran’s nuclear facilities, he said.

Furthermore, a pre-emptive Israeli strike could backfire because it is likely to push the Tehran regime to accelerate its nuclear ambitions, warned the IISS director-general at the release of its annual “Military Balance” report.

Western powers suspect Iran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb, a charge denied by Tehran which says its atomic program is for purely civilian purposes.

“My judgment is that an Israeli attack on Iran of an overt kind is unlikely this year,” Chipman told a news conference on the annual assessment of the global military power balance.

“Both Israel and the United States are conscious that Israel can conduct a raid; only the United States can conduct a campaign.

“I think that it’s the latter that would be necessary in order to delay, in any meaningful way, the acquisition of a confirmed Iranian nuclear military capability.

“The judgment of most military experts is that any attack — whether a raid or a campaign — would only delay such acquisition and could, of course, incentivize the regime, once it reorganizes itself, to move ever quicker towards that goal.”

Chipman said that in talks this week in Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received an assurance from U.S. President Barack Obama.

The promise was “in effect, that if Israel took U.S. advice and did not attack prematurely, that when the threat matured, the United States would, if all other options failed, use the military option.”

“So my judgment is that it is unlikely that there would be an attack this year.”

He added: “Washington has appealed for patience, on the grounds that Iran is not on the verge of producing nuclear weapons, that Israeli air strikes would set back Iran’s program by only a couple of years, and that sanctions are now having a real impact on Iran.”

Iran could carry out its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz by mining the key shipping channel and using anti-ship missiles, torpedoes or rockets, Chipman said.

“While these capabilities could disrupt shipping temporarily, the U.S. and its allies maintain significant maritime assets in the region and would soon be able to reopen the strait,” he said.

Iran could also try to impose more bureaucracy on shipping, increasing transit times by imposing more demands on vessels using the waters it controls.

Chipman said tensions remained high in the Middle East, with regional states concerned about Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Gulf countries were continuing to buy a great deal of military equipment in response, he said.

UN nuclear chief: ‘Serious concerns’ over Iran

Monday, March 5th, 2012

Published March 05, 2012

Associated Press

VIENNA –  The head of the U.N. nuclear agency expressed growing concern on Monday about investigating an Iranian site suspected of links to nuclear weapons development, saying there are indications of new activity there.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano did not specify whether he believed the activity was linked to suspected new weapons experiments or attempts to clean up previous alleged work. But he said the suspicions of “activities … ongoing at the Parchin site” in Iran means “going there sooner is better than later” for IAEA inspectors seeking to probe suspicions that Iran has been — or is — working secretly to develop nuclear arms.

Inspecting Parchin was a key request made by senior IAEA teams that visited Tehran in January and February. Iran rebuffed those overtures, as well as attempts by the IAEA to question officials and secure other information linked to the allegations of secret weapons work.

Herman Nackaerts, a senior Amano deputy, told IAEA board members of such suspicions last week, referring to satellite images as his source, but the fact that Monday’s comments came from the head of the agency added extra weight to the concerns.

Iran denies any intention of possessing nuclear weapons and says all of its atomic activities are peaceful, but the agency says it has intelligence-based suspicions that may not be the case based on thousands of pages of documentation.

Parchin is a key element. The agency says it may have been used to experiment with precision detonations normally used to set off a nuclear charge.

“We have our credible information that indicates that Iran engaged in activities relevant to the development of nuclear explosive devices,” Amano told reporters outside of a 35-nation IAEA board meeting in Vienna, describing his sources as “old information and new information.”

The conference opened as fears grow that Israel’s air force may soon strike Iran in an attempt to destroy its nuclear facilities.

President Barack Obama met with Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington on Monday and told the Israeli prime minister that the United States ”will always have Israel’s back,” but that diplomacy is the best way to resolve the crisis over potential Iranian nuclear weapons.

The U.S. and its Western allies went into Monday’s IAEA meeting hoping to persuade Russia and China to back a resolution critical of Iran’s refusal to heed IAEA and U.N. Security Council demands that it banish such concerns by opting for full nuclear transparency.

Moscow and Beijing traditionally act as brakes on Western attempts to tighten the sanctions vise on Iran, and a diplomat — who asked for anonymity because his information was privileged — told The Associated Press that the focus is on finding language they could agree with, without watering down the message to the point that it becomes meaningless.

However, another diplomat later said such attempts had been abandoned because the language rift was too great to bridge.

Any resolution passed by the IAEA board automatically goes to the U.N. Security Council and could be used as a platform for additional sanctions on the Islamic Republic, which already is the focus of four sets of U.N. sanctions meant primarily to pressure it to give up enrichment.

The U.S., the European Union and others have additionally slapped Tehran recently with financial and economic penalties meant to hurt its banking system and oil export industry.

Inside Monday’s closed meeting, Amano summarized his worries: Tehran’s rebuff of two recent attempts to probe the weapons program suspicions and a sharp, recent increase in uranium enrichment, which Iran says it needs for nuclear energy, but which can also produce fissile weapons material.

Recent moves to boost higher-enriched enrichment at Fordo, an underground facility that may be able to withstand aerial attack, are of particular concern.

Referring to his most recent report on Iran circulated late last month, Amano noted that Tehran had tripled higher monthly enrichment to 20 percent at Fordo over the past four months, as well as significantly expanding lower-level enrichment at another facility.

Both lower enriched uranium below 5 percent and 20 percent enriched material can be processed further to 90 percent — the level used to arm nuclear warheads. But 20-percent enrichment is of particular concern because it can be turned into weapons-grade material much more quickly and easily that lower-enriched uranium.

“The agency continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program,” he said, in comments made available to reporters. “As Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation … the agency is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”

Outside the meeting, Ruediger Luedeking, Germany’s chief IAEA delegate, told The Associated Press that onus was on Iran to “actively disprove the substantial doubt … about the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program.”

The IAEA meeting comes less than two weeks after IAEA experts returned from Tehran from their second failed attempt within a month to persuade Iran to end nearly four years of stonewalling on what the agency says is growing intelligence-based information that Iran has worked — and may still be working — on components of a nuclear weapons program.

Iran dismisses the suspicions as based on fabricated information provided by the United States and Israel.

U.S. claims Iran increasing secret aid to Syrian regime: report

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Sunday, 04 March 2012

By AL ARABIYA WITH AGENCIES 

Iran is stepping up its military and intelligence support for Syrian government troops in their crackdown against opposition strongholds, The Washington Post reported late Saturday.

Citing three unnamed U.S. officials with access to intelligence reports from the region, the newspaper said Tehran had increased supplies of arms and other aid for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad as he is trying to crush resistance in the key city of Homs.

“The aid from Iran is increasing, and is increasingly focused on lethal assistance,” the paper quotes one of the officials as saying.

Reports supported by U.S. intelligence findings indicate that an Iranian operative was recently wounded while working with Syrian security forces inside the country, the paper said.

“They’ve supplied equipment, weapons and technical assistance — even monitoring tools — to help suppress unrest,” The Post quoted the official as saying of Iranians. “Iranian security officials also traveled to Damascus to help deliver this assistance.”

A second senior U.S. official said Iran has recently dispatched members of its main intelligence service, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, to Damascus to assist in advising and training Syrian counterparts in charge of the crackdown, according to the report.

The head of the Quds Force, Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani, also has paid at least one visit to Damascus in recent weeks, the paper noted, citing U.S. officials.

Aid blocked

Meanwhile Syrian forces renewed their bombardment of parts of the shattered city of Homs and for a second day blocked Red Cross aid meant for civilians stranded without food and fuel in the former rebel stronghold, activists and aid workers said.

Army tanks also deployed in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor on Saturday to confront a growing rebel force there – setting up another possible flashpoint, opposition campaigners said.

The outside world has proved powerless to halt the killing in Syria, where repression of initially peaceful protests against Assad’s rule has spawned an armed insurrection by army deserters and others.

Anti-government activists accused government troops of launching the renewed attack on Homs to punish people in the city, seen as a symbol of the year-long revolt, and arresting hundreds across the country.

“In an act of pure revenge, Assad’s army has been firing mortar rounds and … machine guns since this morning at Jobar,” said the Syrian Network for Human Rights, referring to a district next to Baba Amro, where rebels had faced nearly a month of siege and shelling before fleeing on Thursday.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier said he had received “grisly reports” troops were executing and torturing people in Homs after insurgents abandoned their positions.

Syria’s government says it is fighting foreign-backed “terrorists” whom it blames for killing hundreds of soldiers and police across the country.

The United Nations says Syrian security forces have killed more than 7,500 civilians since the revolt against Assad’s rule began in March last year.

Concern was mounting for civilians in freezing conditions in Baba Amro, where the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Assad’s forces were holding up its trucks.

A Damascus-based ICRC spokesman said Syrian authorities had given the convoy permission to enter but government forces on the ground had stopped the trucks because of what they said were unsafe conditions, including “mines and booby traps”.

Former Syrian ally Turkey said Assad was committing “war crimes” and condemned Syria for blocking aid to Baba Amro.

“The Syrian regime is committing a crime against humanity every day,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

In unusually tough remarks to the U.N. General Assembly on Friday, Ban blamed Damascus for the suffering of civilians.

“The brutal fighting has trapped civilians in their homes, without food, heat or electricity or medical care, without any chance of evacuating the wounded or burying the dead. People have been reduced to melting snow for drinking water,” he said.

Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari, said Ban’s comments included “extremely virulent rhetoric which confines itself to slandering a government based on reports, opinions or hearsay.”

The body of French photographer Remi Ochlik, who was killed in Syria with American journalist Marie Colvin, was due to arrive in Paris overnight.

Russia upgrades radar station in Syria to aid Iran

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

By Abraham Rabinovich – Special to The Washington Times

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

JERUSALEM — Russia has upgraded a surveillance station it maintains in Syrian territory in order to provide Iran early warning of an Israeli attack, according to the Israeli security-related blog Debkafile.

The surveillance station, located south of Damascus, had been able to monitor air traffic inIsrael as far south as Tel Aviv, as well as northernJordan and western Iraq.

Since the upgrade, its range reportedly extends to all parts of Israel and Jordan and as far south as the northern part of Saudi Arabia.

According to the report, Russia has introduced cutting-edge technology to the station and expanded its manpower.

Russia has taken a firm stand against any military attack on Iran or any attempt to force Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said this week that Russia is concerned about the threat of an attack against Iran.

Read the full story: Washington Times

Intelligence Minister says Iran facing full-fledged war

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

RadioZamaneh

Thu, 02/16/2012
Heydar Moslehi

Iran’s Intelligence Minister says a full-blown and multifaceted war is being waged against the Islamic Republic, and the “enemy” is now taking a new approach.

ISNA reports that Heydar Moslehi spoke to the Islamic Culture and Communications Organization, saying: “From the point of view of the Islamic Republic a full-fledged war from every aspect is being waged against the Islamic Republic, and the widespread plans of the enemy on every front against the Islamic Republic have resulted in threats and vulnerabilities that have created opportunities for them to act on.”

He referred to the “complicated nature of the soft war” against the Islamic Republic, saying: “The soft war silently wages war on the domestic front. It is persistent and has several aims. “

He added that the soft war keeps finding sympathizers while also “creating conflicts and discouragement.”

Moslehi maintained that the threats against the Islamic Republic have changed, adding: “We must identify these threats and be familiar with the nature of the threats against the regime.”

He described the spread of social networks on the internet as a “new threat.” He maintained that internet services are designed to extract information from users.

Iran has announced that it is developing a domestic internet that would not provide access to sites deemed to be inappropriate or indecent.

Moslehi also referred to the coming parliamentary elections, saying that “certain political currents as well as seditious and anti-Revolutionary elements are trying to take advantage of the elections.”

He claimed their objective is to “make the elections security laden”, “limit participation of the people in the elections”, “take over the Parliament” and “make the Islamic Republic model seem inefficient.”

Several groups, including the reformists, have called for a boycott of the elections because the government has refused to release political prisoners, in particular the opposition leaders MirHosein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard and Mehdi Karroubi, who are being held under house arrest.

The reformists maintain that the elections cannot be transparent in the current political situation.

 

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