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News update 2-18-05 Summary

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2005 12:27 pm    Post subject: News update 2-18-05 Summary Reply with quote

U.S. Cites Iran Threat in Key Strait

February 17, 2005
The Wall Street Journal
David S. Cloud

WASHINGTON -- Iran has acquired the military capability to temporarily halt ship traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf choke point through which an estimated 40% of the world's oil supply passes, according to U.S. intelligence officials. Interruption of the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf would have an immediate effect on the world economy.

Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said that Iran augmented its small naval forces last year by purchasing North Korean torpedo and missile boats as well as small submarines. As a result, "we judge Iran can briefly close the Strait of Hormuz, relying on a layered strategy using predominately naval, air and some ground forces," Adm. Jacoby said yesterday in prepared remarks before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Iran's new conventional capabilities are an added concern to Bush administration officials, who have been focused on what they contend is Tehran's covert pursuit of nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear program is for civilian power generation, not military purposes.

Tehran's naval purchases from North Korea buttress the Bush administration argument that the two regimes Mr. Bush once described as members of an "axis of evil" constitute the most significant U.S. national-security threats.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet is based in the Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, in part to ensure the Strait of Hormuz -- a two-mile wide channel with Iran on one shore and Oman and the United Arab Emirates on the other -- remains open. Any move by Tehran to bring pressure on the West by closing the waterway, even temporarily, would invite rapid U.S. retaliation and also cost Tehran, which relies heavily on revenue from exporting its own oil through the strait.

But tensions between Washington and Tehran are high, and Iran is seeking any leverage it can use against the U.S. Yesterday, Iran's intelligence chief accused the U.S. of flying unmanned drones over Iranian territory to gather intelligence on the country's nuclear sites, echoing reports by U.S. news agencies in recent days that such flights are happening.

Widespread jitters about a possible U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear complex were highlighted yesterday by an explosion in the southern Iranian city of Deylam, roughly 100 miles from a nuclear facility. Iranian officials gave various explanations, including that the blast, which caused oil prices to spike, was related to dam construction and friendly Iranian military fire. Interior Ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani dismissed rumors of a hostile attack. U.S. and Israeli officials said they weren't responsible for the explosion.

Also yesterday, Iran's state-run television station quoted the country's vice president, Mohammad Reza Aref, saying that the country would form a "united front" with Syria to deal with the "numerous challenges" both face. There was no specific mention of the U.S., but both countries are under U.S. sanctions and persistent pressure from the Bush administration. The U.S. wants Iran to end its nuclear program, and, among other complaints, wants Syria to cease its support for terror groups.

Adm. Jacoby said the U.S. believes that Iran , unless constrained by a nuclear nonproliferation agreement, "will have the ability to produce nuclear weapons early in the next decade." Israel's Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told reporters in London yesterday that Israeli experts believe Iran actually could be much closer to having the capability to produce nuclear arms. "We believe in six months from today they will end all the tests and experiments they are doing to have that knowledge," he said.

Yesterday's Senate panel hearing assessing world-wide threats to the U.S. dealt only briefly with Iran . But Adm. Jacoby, Central Intelligence Agency Director Porter Goss and State Department intelligence chief Thomas Fingar were unanimous in describing Iran as the major threat to U.S. interests in the Middle East.

Iran maintains a sizable conventional military, but it relies largely on outdated Russian, Chinese and even U.S. equipment, stemming from the days when Iran was a U.S. ally. Adm. Jacoby described the addition of the torpedo and missile boats as a "marginal" increase in the country's capabilities. He didn't say how long Iran could potentially disrupt the flow of oil.

Along its side of the strait, Iran has long deployed missiles, which it used against tankers during its 1980-88 war with Iraq. Its offshore oil platforms also can be adapted for military use, said Chuck Nash, a retired U.S. Navy captain, at a news conference earlier this month. Mr. Goss said Iran is making improvements to its Shahab-3 long-range ballistic missile, which has a range of more than 800 miles, long enough to strike Israel.

But Tehran is more likely to resort to unconventional tactics against the U.S.'s military superiority. At yesterday's hearing, Mr. Fingar said that Iran is warning potential enemies that, if attacked, it would unleash terror groups it finances and trains. "They seem to be saying, in effect, 'You may be able to defeat us militarily, but you cannot protect all your people everywhere, all the time,' " Mr. Fingar said.

Over the next year, Adm. Jacoby said he believes Iran will continue its support for terrorism and aid for insurgents in Iraq. Tehran's objective is to see a weak, Shia-dominated Iraq that poses no threat to Iran . "Iran's long-term goal is to see the U.S. leave Iraq and the region," he said.

Write to David S. Cloud at david.cloud@wsj.com

IAEA Digs Into Past Of Iranian Program

February 16, 2005
The Washington Post
Dafna Linzer

VIENNA -- Despite a lack of fresh leads, U.N. inspectors continue to probe how Iran's nuclear program obtained equipment, material and know-how from abroad, questions that raise suspicions in Washington and Europe, diplomats with detailed knowledge of the investigation said Wednesday.

None of these lines of inquiry addresses whether Iran is currently working on nuclear weapons. Rather, diplomats say, the International Atomic Energy Agency hopes to obtain greater insight into the international black market that supplied Iran and get a more definitive account of the country's past programs.

Under arrangements still being worked out, Pakistan has agreed to lend the IAEA equipment from its nuclear weapons program that could help clear up one of the largest mysteries surrounding the two-year investigation of Iran -- why certain equipment in Iran has been found to contain traces of enriched uranium.

Western governments have suggested that the uranium's presence could indicate that Iran was manufacturing a key ingredient for nuclear weapons. But Iranian officials are hoping that test results will show that equipment it bought from Pakistan years ago arrived contaminated with the uranium from that country's nuclear program.

Iran denies that it intends to make bomb-grade uranium and says its enrichment programs are designed for producing nuclear energy.

CIA Director Porter J. Goss, reporting to Congress on Wednesday on global threats, said the Iranian energy program could be diverted for weapons development. "We are more concerned about the dual-use nature of the technology," Goss said.

Intelligence agencies are conducting a review of their assessments of Iran's nuclear program. A similar assessment before the Iraq war became a centerpiece of the Bush administration's claims that Iraq was advancing in its nuclear weapons program. But that intelligence, which the IAEA challenged before the U.S. invasion in March 2003, turned out to be wrong.

[In a sign of continuing concern over Iran's nuclear program, oil prices spiked Wednesday after an explosion was reported in southern Iran near the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the Associated Press reported. State-run media offered conflicting explanations, including blasting for dam construction, a fuel tank dropping from an Iranian plane and friendly fire.]

In a two-year investigation, the U.N. agency uncovered an 18-year-old nuclear program that the Iranians began in secret and in violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The discovery helped unravel a nuclear black-market operated by Pakistan's former chief nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, who sold Iran spare parts from his weapons program.

The agency is looking into other dual-use equipment that Iran purchased for a facility in Lavasan. It is also studying experiments that Iran conducted with nuclear designs obtained from Pakistan years ago. Inspectors are awaiting results from soil samples taken at an Iranian military facility last month, but diplomats in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, expressed doubt that the results would yield any breakthroughs.

The diplomats would discuss details of the sensitive investigation only on condition of anonymity.

The IAEA's director, Mohamed ElBaradei, said in an interview Tuesday that six months have passed since the IAEA obtained any new information on Iran and that the agency hasn't found evidence to substantiate claims that Tehran is working on a weapons program, as the Bush administration has alleged.

The IAEA board is to meet in Vienna in two weeks to discuss the latest developments on the Iran case.

For the first time in two years, ElBaradei will not present a written report to his board on Iran's programs and is instead preparing a brief statement on grounds of lack of new information.

One diplomat said ElBaradei's briefing will focus on Iran's suspension of nuclear-related work and its cooperation with inspectors, which ElBaradei has described as good, as well as the status of the agency's investigation. One of his deputies, Pierre Goldschmidt, will follow his presentation with a separate briefing on technical issues.

Goldschmidt will likely discuss two recent issues that inspectors have had with Iran, including a tunnel that the Iranians are building at a nuclear site in Isfahan to store nuclear materials in case of an attack. The construction was first noticed by inspectors on satellite photos, and the Iranians then provided diagrams of the site.

Inspectors do not consider the site to be relevant to the weapons investigations due to its defensive nature.

Iran has also conducted maintenance work on some centrifuge components that the agency deems "nonsensitive" items and has conducted quality-control tests on other equipment. Neither of those activities violates a recent deal that Iran reached with three European countries to suspend certain nuclear-related operations while talks on a long-term halt continue. But the IAEA asked that the activities stop, and Iran complied, diplomats said.

The briefings will also report that Iran has completed converting 37 tons of raw uranium into a solid state that makes it easier to be enriched. The conversion was allowed under the Iran-Europe deal and has been carried out under IAEA supervision.

The agency is monitoring the rest of Iran's known nuclear-related sites and equipment, in most cases with 24-hour surveillance cameras.

Lawmakers Urge Strong US Position On Iran

February 16, 2005
VOA News
Dan Robinson

Iran's leadership has been sharply criticized in congressional hearings on Capitol Hill, as lawmakers assess what steps the United States, Europe and others can take to avert a nuclear-armed Iran. The criticism, and testimony by experts, came amid Iranian warnings regarding what it calls U.S. aerial intelligence-gathering efforts, as well as European calls for stepped up diplomatic efforts.

Two committees spent the better part of Wednesday hearing from experts on the pros and cons of diplomatic efforts, and possible military options.

Many lawmakers are urging more pressure on Iran over its nuclear program and human rights issues.

Henry Hyde, Republican chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said the United States and Europe must make clear to Tehran what the stakes are. "Given Iran's record of active, recent, gross misbehavior, Iran merits greater scrutiny and a tougher deal. What is critical is that we and our European friends must arrive at a very clear understanding of the consequences for Iran if and when these negotiations end in failure or if Iran once again fails to live up to its promises," he said.

Mr. Hyde says consequences must be real and not rely on mere referral to the United Nations Security Council.

Even more pointed comments came from Congressman Tom Lantos. Saying elements of Iran's leadership share what he calls the martyr complex fueling terrorism in the Middle East, he adds a nuclear-armed Iran would be a regional threat the United States and others must oppose. "The ayatollahs of terror must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. We must keep the pressure on Iran, as we did on Libya, to step off this most dangerous path," he said.

Experts generally agreed the United States needs to develop what one witness called a more creative and dynamic policy toward Tehran.

Mark Palmer, a former State Department official, supports a stronger effort by Washington, similar to the role the U.S. played in Ukraine, to undermine the control clerical rulers have over Iranians. "We need to get behind the democrats and dissidents in Iran. We really see that as the solution. We have had an orange revolution (in Ukraine), perhaps a green revolution now in Iran, we need to find all the ways we can to support and encourage the Iranian people to stand up for their rights," he said.

Mr. Palmer adds that U.S. efforts should include appointment of a senior White House official to focus on Iran, and should include the threat of smart, targeted sanctions.

Gary Sick, who served in the National Security Council in the administrations of Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan, believes there is still time to head off development of an Iranian nuclear weapon.

But he warns any possible U.S. military attack, while it might set back Iran's nuclear development, would almost surely threaten those in Iran pushing for reform. "There is a very good chance that a U.S. military attack on Iran would be the one thing that would shut down the internal opposition, and give the hardline government the chance it wants to relinquish any pretext of democracy or concern for human rights," he said.

Henry Sokolkski, director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, calls for a 10 to 15 year strategy to deal with a potential nuclear-armed Iran.

He believes Tehran does not yet have nuclear weapons, and expresses concern about what he calls an over-emphasis by policymakers not only on what Iran might do if or when it does have them, but also on extreme options to avert that. "In focusing on these extreme scenarios, U.S. policy planners have been drawn to acute options, such as bombing, invasion, and various forms of appeasement, that ultimately are only likely to make realization of the worst of what Iran might conceivably do with its nuclear capabilities, more probable," he said.

The expert testimony, and a separate hearing focusing on Iranian support for terrorism and human rights violations, came as Democratic and Republican lawmakers step up calls for action regarding Iran.

Some lawmakers favor legislation to support Iranian dissident groups, and proposals to put the United States on record explicitly backing regime change, modeled on similar action regarding Iraq before the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

Lawmakers also want the Bush administration to make clear to Tehran it must end its support for terrorist groups and what one lawmaker calls its continued disruption of Middle East peace efforts.

In their remarks Wednesday, expert witnesses also called for expansion of U.S. radio broadcasts to Iran by Voice of America and greater U.S. support for U.S.-based Persian language satellite broadcasters.

Meanwhile, as Wednesday's hearings were getting under way, Iran and Syria announced they will form a united front to confront threats from other countries.

Iran Continues Support of Terrorism, US Congress Told

February 16, 2005
VOA News
Dan Robinson

Experts and other witnesses appearing before a congressional committee say Iran continues to support terrorist groups and is encouraging instability in Iraq. A hearing also included emotional testimony by individuals affected by Iranian-backed terrorism.

From Israel and the Palestinian territories to Iraq and elsewhere, witnesses at Wednesday's hearing said Iran's ongoing sponsorship of terrorism is indisputable, and poses a direct and continuing threat to U.S. interests.

Matthew Levitt, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says this support is wide ranging, but has focused on undermining efforts to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians:

"Iran and its proxies are intent in undermining the best chance for progress toward peace since peace talks crumbled in 2000,” said Mr. Levitt. “Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, al-Aksa Martyrs and others all at Iran's behest, are currently attempting to torpedo the nascent peace process."

Most notable, in Mr. Levitt's view, is Iran's support for the radical terrorist group Hezbollah, and its targeting of Israel as well as Americans. He adds there is substantial evidence Iran is also behind terrorism in Iraq.

"Iranian and Hezbollah elements are very active today in Iraq,” he stated. “While Iranian ministers have asserted that Tehran has not encouraged the Iraqi insurgency or permitted suicide bombers to cross the border, their actions indicate otherwise."

Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says Iran's support for Hezbollah reflects Tehran's determination to oppose U.S. interests:

"Hezbollah has helped Iranian interests through continued terrorist attacks against the United States and our allies in the region," she said.

Among witnesses at the hearing was an American who was one of 65 people taken hostage by militants at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 after the fundamentalist takeover by Ayatollah Khomeini.

Former hostage William Daugherty says the record of Iran's regime since then underscores a very real threat to Americans.

"Convinced that it need have no fear of retribution or penalty, terrorism has been and remains a central component in the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic," he said.

Mr. Daugherty says Congress should press the Bush administration to, in his words, back up U.S. rhetoric with concrete action.

There was also this emotional testimony from Lynn Smith Darbyshire, whose brother Vince was killed in the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, an attack carried out by the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah.

"The government of Iran has been perpetrating acts of terrorism and supporting terrorist organizations long enough. We need to stop them,” she said. “We need to everything in our power to deter future acts of terrorism, so that other little girls will not have to watch their brothers die."

The joint hearing of two House subcommittees dealing with the Middle East and terrorism followed separate testimony earlier by other experts on options the United States, European Union, and others have in dealing with Iran's nuclear development efforts.

Iran, al-Qaida Labeled Biggest Threats to U.S.

February 16, 2005
The Associated Press
Omaha World-Herald

WASHINGTON -- Groups associated with al-Qaida are at the top of the list of threats to the United States, government officials said Wednesday, and Iran has emerged as a top threat to American interests in the Middle East.

CIA Director Porter Goss gave an unusually blunt statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee, saying that despite gains made against al-Qaida, the terror group is intent on finding ways to circumvent U.S. security enhancements to attack the homeland.

"It may be only a matter of time before al-Qaida or other groups attempt to use chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons. We must focus on that," Goss said.

FBI Director Robert Mueller said he worries about a sleeper operative that may have been in place for years to launch an attack inside the United States.

"I remain very concerned about what we are not seeing," he said in his prepared remarks.

Mueller, Goss and other intelligence leaders provided these and other assessments at the annual briefing on threats.

At the hearing, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, painted Iran as a leading threat to U.S. interests in the Middle East. In his prepared testimony, Jacoby said he believes that Iran will continue its support for terrorism and aid for insurgents in Iraq.

He said Iran's long-term goal is to expel the United States from the region. And he noted that political reform movements in Iran have lost momentum.

Goss said that Islamic extremists are exploiting the conflict in Iraq. Fighters there, he said, represent a "potential pool of contacts" to build transnational terror groups. He said that the most-wanted terrorist in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, hopes to establish Iraq as a safe haven to bring about a final victory over the West.

Goss also said that the intelligence community has yet to get to the "end of the trail" of the nuclear black market run by disgraced Pakistani scientist, A.Q. Khan.

Goss wouldn't rule out the possibility that organizations, rather than states, could obtain nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. He also called "potential Khans" a worry.

In the past year, the intelligence community has been faced with negative reports, including the work of the Sept. 11 commission and the Senate Intelligence Committee's inquiry on the flawed Iraq intelligence.

Next month, President Bush's commission to investigate the intelligence community's capabilities on weapons of mass destruction is expected to submit its findings.

Given the after-the-fact investigations into the Iraq intelligence, Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said his panel will become more proactive in how it reviews the intelligence community's strengths and weaknesses. The committee already is focusing on nuclear terrorism and Iran, he said.

In related developments:

• Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also sent out a warning, telling the House Armed Services Committee that he believes terrorists are regrouping for another strike. But he also said the United States is preparing to deal with any threat.

"The extremists continue to plot to attack again. They are at this moment recalibrating and reorganizing. And so are we," he said.

• Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plugged the administration's request for $5.8 billion to fight terrorism and also made a pitch on Capitol Hill for an additional $750 million this year for other countries that assisted in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Senate Intelligence Committee hearing came as the White House continues its eight-week-long search for a new national intelligence director, a position created in last year's intelligence reorganization bill.

Democrats were critical Wednesday of the pace of the search, saying the administration has not shown the same urgency that Congress showed in creating the position.

"There should be another chair before us, with an accompanying name card that reads director of national intelligence," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the panel's ranking Democrat.

Roberts said it was "crucially important" to get the right person.

The hearing marked the first public appearance for Goss, the former House Intelligence Committee chairman, since his confirmation hearing in September.

Critics say he is politicizing the agency by surrounding himself with Republican advisers from his years in Congress.

Yet his allies say he is promoting agency veterans to senior management positions and making changes essential to ensure that the intelligence community does not repeat the kind of blunders that led up to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and the faulty prewar estimates of Iraq's weapons.

War Clouds Forming in Iran

February 16, 2005
Jerome Corsi

Washington arrives at work this morning as a report breaks that an unknown airplane fired a missile in the outskirts of Dailam in the Bushehr province, near the nuclear reactor just completed for the Iranians by the Russians.

As cell phones pass the word across the U.S., Israel denies any involvement in an attack.

What's happening? A "shot across the bow" fired by the U.S. or Israel despite denials? A false report generated by the mullahs to win sympathy for their posturing as victims of another U.S.-led pre-emptive war?

In the first minutes after the report, the only clear conclusion is that the world is on edge anticipating war in Iran. An attack by Israel is the exact scenario warned by no one less than Vice President Cheney, clearly signaling to the mullahs that this time the U.S. and Israel are serious.

Yesterday, Silvan Shalom, Israel's foreign minister told a London audience that the mullahs were six months away from having an atomic bomb – not six years, six months.

The question is not if the Iranians will have a nuclear bomb in 2009, 10 or 11," Shalom said. "We believe that in six months from today they will end all tests and experiments," that the "nightmare scenario" would be on the West by the end of this summer.

Most likely, Secretary of State Condi Rice let the Europeans know in words of one syllable that the U.S. was in no mood to accept another bogus agreement which in reality was a formula for the mullahs to cheat and lie.

If the EU-3 agreement was going to be taken seriously, the Iranians would have to do more than give their word that they wouldn't develop a bomb. The mullahs would have to begin destroying their uranium enrichment capabilities. Let's see the centrifuge plant buried at Natanz destroyed, otherwise it's no-go on taking the mullahs word for it.

This the mullahs will never agree to do. The mullahs believe enriching uranium is within their rights as a nation. Truly, the mullahs believe having atomic weapons also falls within that right – no matter what they say to cover their positions. The mullahs in the final analysis are terrorists and terrorists lie by nature.

The other signs of war are clear in Lebanon. Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is assassinated by a massive car bomb in Beruit and the U.S. pulls our ambassador out of Syria. The methodology of the attack had Hexbollah written all over it. Hariri had made it clear that if he could return to power in Lebanon, he was going to demand that Syria withdraw its 40-50,000 troops out of Lebanon.

For decades, Lebanon has been a puppet state of Syria – all the while the Syrians have been in bed with the mullahs. Iran-Syria-Lebanon is the control formula that has allowed the mullahs to sponsor and fund Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terrorist organization behind the suicide bombings in Israel. There is nothing Hezbollah and Hamas would like to do more than to throw a monkey wrench into the peace talks recently concluded between the Mahmoud Abbas, the new president of the Palestinian Authority, and the Israelis.

The mullahs have sworn death to Israel, and they mean it. Tehran has no intention of releasing the Syrian hold on Lebanon or relinquishing their murderous direction of Hezbollah. A newly announced Syrian-Iranian alliance is the not-so-subtle response to the American toughening of the EU-3 negotiating position.

What is the message from the mullahs? Attack us and you will fight both Syria and Iran. Will this deter President Bush or Prime Minister Sharon? Most likely not. The stakes are too high. One atom bomb exploded over Tel Aviv destroys Israel as a viable nation. Israel has sworn "never again," and the Israelis mean it.

Today's report of a possible missile strike near Bushehr is unlikely to be the start of war against Iran, but that day is rapidly approaching.

Iran Has Begun Mining Uranium Ore For New Facility

February 14, 2005
World Tribune.com
Special to World Tribune.com

Iran has neared completion of a uranium production facility that could be used for the assembly of nuclear weapons. Iranian officials said they were in the last stage of completing a uranium ore concentrate production plant. They said the facility, located near the southern port city of Bandar Abbas, would begin operations by 2006.

The Bandar Abbas Yellowcake Production Plant was disclosed by the Iranian opposition in October 2004. The National Council of Resistance of Iran has uncovered several secret nuclear sites, later acknowledged by Teheran, Middle East Newsline reported.

Iran has already begun the mining of uranium, the first stage in the production of nuclear material, officials said.

The IAEA referred to the Bandar Abbas site in its report to the board of governors in November 2004. The report said the site was next to the Gehine uranium mine.

After the uranium is mined, it would be processed into uranium ore concentrate. At that point, the concentrate is turned into uranium hexaflouride, used in gaseous form as feedstock for the enrichment of uranium.

In November 2004, Iran reached an agreement with the European Union for the suspension of uranium enrichment. Officials said the Iranian decision would be reviewed in April.

The Bandar Abbas facility would process ore extracted from uranium mines into uranium ore concentrate, officials said. The processing of the ore, also known as yellowcake, precedes the production of enriched uranium through gas centrifuges.

Iranian Atomic Energy director Gholamreza Aghazadeh said the facility, termed the Bandar Abbas Yellowcake Production Plant, would begin operations during the next Iranian calendar year. The year begins March 21.

[In Teheran, Iranian officials have formally protested through Swiss diplomatic channels the United States's invasion of its airspace, the Washington Post reported on Sunday. The daily reported that three U.S. officials confirmed that the Bush administration has been flying surveillance drones over Iran for close to a year in an effort to gather evidence of nuclear weapons programs and detect weaknesses in air defenses.[

Officials said Iran has sought to complete the nuclear fuel cycle in an effort to avoid dependence on foreign suppliers.

After the uranium is mined, it would be processed into uranium ore concentrate. At that point, the concentrate is turned into uranium hexaflouride, used in gaseous form as feedstock for the enrichment of uranium.

In November 2004, Iran reached an agreement with the European Union for the suspension of uranium enrichment. Officials said the Iranian decision would be reviewed in April.

"The low but variable grade uranium ore found in near-surface deposits will be open-pit mined and processed at the associated mill," the IAEA report said.

On Sunday, Iran rejected a European demand to stop building a heavy-water nuclear reactor and Teheran said it will not replace it with a light-water reactor. Both plants can be used to enrich uranium but the extraction of weapons-grade material from a light-water reactor is more difficult.

Syria and Iran Say to Build 'Common Front'

February 16, 2005
ABC News

TEHRAN -- Iran and Syria, both locked in rows with the United States, said on Wednesday they will form a common front to face challenges and threats. "We are ready to help Syria on all grounds to confront threats," Iranian Vice-President Mohammad Reza Aref said in Tehran after meeting Syrian Prime Minister Naji al-Otari.

Otari told reporters: "This meeting, which takes place at this sensitive time, is important, especially because Syria and Iran face several challenges and it is necessary to build a common front."

The United States on Tuesday recalled its ambassador to Syria for urgent consultations to show its deep displeasure with Damascus after Monday's killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

U.S. officials said they were considering imposing new sanctions on Syria because of its refusal to withdraw its 14,000 troops from Lebanon and the U.S. belief that Syria lets Palestinian militants and Iraqi insurgents operate on its soil.

While acknowledging they do not know who was to blame for Hariri's car-bomb assassination, U.S. officials argued Syria's military presence and its political power-broking role were generally responsible for Lebanon's instability.

Syria rejects accusations it supports terrorism.

Washington has branded Iran part of an "axis of evil" along with pre-war Iraq and North Korea and accuses Tehran of seeking nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is solely for electricity generation.

President Bush has dubbed Iran "the world's primary state sponsor of terror" and has warned the United States could use military action to prevent it acquiring a nuclear bomb.

These Are Revolutionary Times

February 15, 2005
National Review Online
Michael Ledeen

Has there ever been a more dramatic moment than this one? The Middle East is boiling, as the failed tyrants scramble to come to terms with the political tsunami unleashed on Afghanistan and Iraq. The power of democratic revolution can be seen in every country in the region. Even the Saudi royal family has had to stage a farcical "election." But this first halting step has fooled no one. Only males could vote, no political parties were permitted, and only the Wahhabi establishment was permitted to organize. The results will not satisfy any serious person. As Iraq constitutes a new, representative government, and wave after wave of elections sweep through the region, even the Saudis will have to submit to the freely expressed desires of their people.

The tidal wave has even reached into the planet's darkest corners, most recently shaking the foundations of the North Korean hermit kingdom. A new leader is announced at the same time the monsters in Pyongyang whisper "We've got nukes" and demand legitimacy from George W. Bush. Given the opacity of the country, and the irrationality of its leaders, nobody seems to know whether the Dear Leader is still alive, or, if he is, why the transition has been proclaimed. But the North Koreans, as tyrants everywhere on the planet, are acting like a regime no longer confident in its own legitimacy. Notice that the world's longest-running dictator, old man Castro, is conjuring up the illusion of American assassination teams planning the murder of his buddy in Venezuela, even as Fidel promises death to anyone who has the nerve to propose popular validation of his own failed tyranny. Such is the drama of our time.

Free elections do not solve all problems. The fascist tyrants of the last century were enormously popular, and won huge electoral victories; Stalin was truly loved by millions of oppressed Soviets; and fanatics might win an election today in some unhappy lands. But this is a revolutionary moment, we are unexpectedly blessed with a revolutionary president, and very few peoples will freely support a new dictatorship, even one that claims Divine Right.

But the wheel turns, as ever. Such moments are transient, and if they are not seized, they will pass, leaving the bitter aftertaste of failure in dry mouths and throttled throats. The world looks to us for more action, not just brave words, and we must understand both the quality of this moment and the revolutionary strategy we need to adopt to ensure that the revolution succeeds. Above all, we must applaud those who got it right, starting with the president, and discard the advice of those who got it wrong, including some of our "professional experts."

The two great elections of recent months were held in Iraq and Ukraine. In both cases, the conventional wisdom was wrong. The conventional wisdom embraced the elitist notion that neither the Ukrainians nor the Iraqis were "ready" for democracy, because they lacked one or another component of the so-called requirements for a free society. Their alleged limitations ranged from historical tradition and internal conflicts to a lack of education and culture and insufficient internal "stability." How I hate the word stability! Is it not the antithesis of everything we stand for? We are the embodiment of revolutionary change, at home and abroad. Most of the time, those who deplore a lack of stability are in reality apologizing for dictators, and selling out great masses of people who wish to be free. And even as those un-American apologists invoke stability, we, as the incarnation of democratic capitalism, are unleashing creative destruction in all directions, sending once-great corporations to history's garbage heap, voting once-glorious leaders into early retirement, and inspiring people everywhere to seek their own happiness by asserting their right to be free.

The Ukrainians are now in control, but the Iraqis still have to contend with the discredited meddlers and schemers who never believed in their democracy, and still seek to place failed puppets in positions of power in Baghdad. Anyone who reads the dozens of blogs from Iraq — which express a wide range of political opinion — must surely see that the Allawi interregnum has failed. The results of the election speak clearly: The Allawi list was outvoted five to one by its major opponents, even though Allawi commanded a treasure chest vastly greater than that of the others. Ambassador Negroponte, Secretary of State Rice, and DCI Goss should tell their "experts" to admit error, and cease their efforts to install a president and prime minister who reflect the consensus of Foggy Bottom rather than the will of the Iraqi people. If they persist in attempting to dictate the makeup of the new Iraqi government, and continue to meddle in the drafting of the new Iraqi constitution, they will turn the majority of Iraqis against us. Despite countless errors of judgment and commission, we have, for the moment at least, won a glorious victory. We should be smart enough, and modest enough, to accept it.

This glorious victory is due in large part to the truly heroic performance of our armed forces, most recently in that great turning point, the battle of Fallujah. Our victory in Fallujah has had enormous consequences, first of all because the information we gathered there has made it possible to capture or kill considerable numbers of terrorists and their leaders. It also sent a chill through the spinal column of the terror network, because it exposed the lie at the heart of their global recruitment campaign. As captured terrorists have told the region on Iraqi television and radio, they signed up for jihad because they had been told that the anti-American crusade in Iraq was a great success, and they wanted to participate in the slaughter of the Jews, crusaders, and infidels. But when they got to Iraq — and discovered that the terrorist leaders immediately confiscated their travel documents so that they could not escape their terrible destiny — they saw that the opposite was true. The slaughter — of which Fallujah was the inescapable proof — was that of the jihadists at the hands of the joint coalition and Iraqi forces.

Thirdly, the brilliant maneuvers of the Army and Marine forces in Fallujah produced strategic surprise. The terrorists expected an attack from the south, and when we suddenly smashed into the heart of the city from the north, they panicked and ran, leaving behind a treasure trove of information, subsequently augmented by newly cooperative would-be martyrs. Above all, the intelligence from Fallujah — and I have this from military people recently returned from the city — documented in enormous detail the massive involvement of the governments of Syria and Iran in the terror war in Iraq. And the high proportion of Saudi "recruits" among the jihadists leaves little doubt that the folks in Riyadh are, at a minimum, not doing much to stop the flow of fanatical Wahhabis from the south.

Thus, the great force of the democratic revolution is now in collision with the firmly rooted tyrannical objects in Tehran, Damascus, and Riyadh. In one of history's fine little ironies, the "Arab street," long considered our mortal enemy, now threatens Muslim tyrants, and yearns for support from us. That is our immediate task.

It would be an error of enormous proportions if, on the verge of a revolutionary transformation of the Middle East, we backed away from this historic mission. It would be doubly tragic if we did it because of one of two possible failures of vision: insisting on focusing on Iraq alone, and viewing military power as the prime element in our revolutionary strategy. Revolution often comes from the barrel of a gun, but not always. Having demonstrated our military might, we must now employ our political artillery against the surviving terror masters. The great political battlefield in the Middle East is, as it has been all along, Iran, the mother of modern terrorism, the creator of Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, and the prime mover of Hamas. When the murderous mullahs fall in Tehran, the terror network will splinter into its component parts, and the jihadist doctrine will be exposed as the embodiment of failed lies and misguided messianism.

The instrument of their destruction is democratic revolution, not war, and the first salvo in the political battle of Iran is national referendum. Let the Iranian people express their desires in the simplest way possible: "Do you want an Islamic republic?" Send Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel to supervise the vote. Let the contending parties compete openly and freely, let newspapers publish, let radios and televisions broadcast, fully supported by the free nations. If the mullahs accept this gauntlet, I have every confidence that Iran will be on the path to freedom within months. If, fearing a massive rejection from their own people, the tyrants of Tehran reject a free referendum and reassert their repression, then the free nations will know it is time to deploy the full panoply of pressure to enable the Iranians to gain their freedom.

The time is now. Faster, please.

— Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. He is resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.

Iran Will Know How to Build Nuclear Bomb in 6 Months

February 16, 2005
Yahoo! News

LONDON -- Iran is six months away from having the knowledge to build a nuclear bomb, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom says.

"The question is not if the Iranians will have a nuclear bomb in 2009, 10 or 11, the main question is when are they going to have the knowledge to do it. We believe that in six months from today they will end all the tests and experiments they are doing to have that knowledge," Shalom said on a visit to London on Wednesday.

Iran, which has said its nuclear programme is for energy needs only, has warned it would both retaliate and accelerate its drive to master nuclear technology if the United States or Israel attacked its atomic facilities.

Israel, believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power, has hinted it could hit Iran militarily to stop it getting the bomb.

"They are trying very hard to develop the nuclear bomb. This kind of extreme regime with a nuclear bomb is a nightmare, not only for us," Shalom told reporters.

The chief of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency said in January that Iran was on the brink of enriching uranium, a process key to building a nuclear bomb.

"Iran is involved in many terrorist attacks in our region," Shalom said. "We should do everything to isolate the hardliners and empower the moderates."

France, Britain and Germany have tried in talks with Iran to persuade the oil-rich country to drop its nuclear fuel-making programme in return for economic incentives.

All Carrots, No Sticks

February 15, 2005
New York Sun
Emanuele Ottolenghi

As President Bush goes to Europe, expect Europeans to welcome him cordially and show good will, but don't expect them to agree. With elections in Iraq successfully completed and a new mood of optimism between Israel and the Palestinians, Europeans are making the right noises. Secretary of State Rice's European tour was a success. But don't be fooled. Not all is well in trans-Atlantic relations, and this hopeful moment is not destined to last. Even as tensions peaked, few on either side of the Atlantic doubted that trans-Atlantic relations were built on shared interests no less than shared values. America understands that it is better to have Europe on its side than on the side. Europe understands that, after Mr. Bush's triumph in November, it must cooperate with him. But good will is no substitute for policy, and interests are not as shared as they might have been in the past. The current lull is due to a momentary convergence of positive events.

Europe's euphoria on the Palestinian-Israeli front underscores a failure to appreciate that regional trouble lies east, not west of the Jordan River. And although conditions for Israeli-Palestinian detente are less bleak than at any point in the last four years, optimism relies only on a handshake and a fragile ceasefire. One successful terror attack would suffice to stall progress. America's caution underscores awareness of how fragile this moment is. Europe's enthusiasm indicates a lack of appreciation for the challenges ahead. The gap on final status issues remains considerable. It will be difficult enough to maintain the ceasefire and ensure a successful and peaceful Israeli disengagement from Gaza without major repercussions at the leadership level. Rushing to final status is overkill. Yet, that is Europe's hope, because it fails to appreciate what brought this moment and how fragile circumstances are for progress.

Unlike America, Europe still fails to recognize that Palestinian intransigence torpedoed all recent peace efforts and that Prime Minister Sharon 's use of force, not European mediation, defeated the so-called second intifada. Having backed Yasser Arafat for too long, all that Europe grudgingly acknowledges is that Arafat's death was helpful. When negotiations stall on refugees, Jerusalem, borders, and settlements, Europe's failure to read the map correctly will cause it to blame Israel and America yet again.

But the peace process is just a sideshow compared to potential disagreements over China and Iran. A crisis over China is already in the making. Iran will follow, degenerating into a contest as acrimonious as the one over Iraq.

This trans-Atlantic moment will turn sour because divergences over interests underscore a broader point: these are not the causes of the trans-Atlantic crisis, but its symptoms. The underlying cause is a profoundly different normative worldview that dictates different policy approaches to shared challenges on both sides of the Atlantic, one that will drive the two sides further away.

Take China. With all its posturing as a new global superpower committed to human rights, Europe will not heed American demands that it keep its arms embargo on China. Europe's only interest in China is commercial. A two-way trade worth $173 billion in 2003 and growing is a convincing argument against the embargo for the Europeans, human rights notwithstanding. Europe believes that engagement, dialogue, and commercial ties will ultimately redeem human rights. But if Europe is wrong and China starts a war against Taiwan, an American fleet, not an imposing European one, will protect China's only democracy against an expansionist, communist regime.

On Iran, all agree that a nuclear Iran is a threat to regional stability. But Europe resents America's refusal to "engage" Teheran and offer political dialogue, diplomatic detente, and trade. While America believes that diplomatic carrots occasionally need a big stick to persuade, Europe believes only in carrots - and has few sticks. Europe has no intention to back its diplomacy with credible threats. Britain's foreign secretary, Jack Straw, said violence would be "unimaginable." And loss of lucrative contracts will act as a powerful deterrent against economic sanctions.

For now, Washington is happy to let France, Germany, and Britain – nicknamed the EU-3 - try to persuade Tehran to forgo its nuclear program. But patience will run out. Iran is only buying time. As happened over Iraq, Europe's unwillingness to see reality for what it is - a rogue state posing a long-term threat to regional stability and exploiting Western divisions to its own advantage - is becoming an impediment.

When talks fail, Europe will blame America for not having joined the EU-3, not having engaged the Iranians, not having adopted a more conciliatory tone. With little left to do aside from tough measures, a new showdown will occur between Europe, with its resolve never to use force, and America, with its impatience with Europe's penchant for appeasement.

Therefore, enjoy this cordial moment. It will not last forever.

Emanuele Ottolenghi is a visiting scholar at AEI.
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