July 25, 2017

Iran Watch – August 17, 2007

[spoiler title=”U.S. Iran Talks: A wakeup call”] By: David Johnson
Source: Global Politician
Talks between the U.S. and Iran on Iraqi security came at a crucial time for all parties involved. Right now, Baghdad is a bull’s-eye in a decisive competition for influence in the Near East . In our increasingly globalizing world, the stakes are higher than ever. While the United States is using talks to clarify necessary steps toward sustainable peace in Iraq , Iran is using talks as a means to acquire official legitimacy to sustain violence.

To that end, Iran is training, arming and funding sectarian militias. Iranian backed militias not only isolate Iraqi communities from their neighbors, they regularly conduct deadly incursions into neighboring communities. The long term result will be the Balkanization of Iraq, creating hotspots of violence lasting decades as well as breeding grounds for the next generation of anti-American terrorists. The pattern of Iranian interference can be seen with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine . The pattern of Iranian interference is the creation of states within states.

Like cancer, Iranian-backed Iraqi officials and fighters grow until they become an existential threat to the host nation in which they reside. If the Hezbollah pattern progresses in Iraq , expectations of sustained conflict should follow. The fragile multiparty state we see in Iraq today will be overthrown. Only Iran ‘s proxy parties will remain in power. If any speech or assembly challenges the authority of Iran ‘s proxy state, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly will suffer to the point of non existence. Political dissent will be met with life threatening reprisals in Iraq , as it was under Saddam Hussein or as it is in Iran today.

Under these circumstances, military and diplomatic officials cannot afford casual misunderstandings. Given the gravity of the threat to the region’s civilian population, clarity of mission must be priority one for the United States.

From the perspective of the Iraqi people and the United States , Iran must not interfere with progress toward sustainable peace in Iraq . By all indications, Iran ‘s vision for Iraq is to establish a client state there, keeping the most political and resource lucrative areas to itself. While Iran ‘s vision cannot be fully accomplished during an American military surge, Iran ‘s leadership appear to be making progress towards their ultimate goals.

After meeting with the Iranians, The American Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, said, “The fact is, as we made very clear at today’s talks, that over the roughly two months since our last meetings, we have actually seen militia-related activity that can be attributed to Iranian support go up, and not down.”[1] The fact that these fresh talks have failed to improve Iran ‘s behavior in Iraq indicate Iran responds negatively to normal dialogue. It isn’t that dialogue is not important, it is; in the case of Iran dialogue has failed to produce positive results.

An explosive crisis between Iran and its neighbors around the Persian Gulf looms larger by the day. In this mess, American Diplomats have centrally positioned themselves, with the United States Army and the majority of Iraqis who want a consensual government that represents them. There are ill-advised suggestions that U.S. Diplomats could resolve disagreements with Iran before they spin dangerously out of control. Given Ambassador Crocker’s evidence, familiar diplomatic tools of de-escalation are likely to backfire. The Iranian government is very good at gaining concessions for recklessly creating problems around the world. Iran is heavily involved in South America , Lebanon , Sudan , The Gaza Strip, Pakistan , Afghanistan , recently disputes the sovereignty of Bahrain as well as islands belonging to the UAE.

The regime ruling Iran represents a unique and existential threat to its own people and to the world. While the United States should capitalize on every opportunity to clarify their mission to Tehran , dialogue with Iranian officials may accelerate negative trends. Given the history of negative results described by Ambassador Crocker, the United States should consider the possibility that direct talks with Iran ‘s democratic opposition could elicit a more positive response from the Iranian government. In other words, if the U.S. consistently fails to earn respect at the negotiating table, then the U.S. should seek a table surrounded by Iran ‘s legitimate opposition.

Despite the usual controversy surrounding calls for U.S. support of dissidents to overthrow rouge regimes, Iran’s preeminent democratic opposition group, the Mujahedine e Kahlq (MEK) breaks historical precedent. The MEK has an international support structure among the Iranian Diaspora estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands[2], primarily Iranian-European and Iranian-Americans. Under the tyranny of the Iranian government estimates of support for the MEK inside Iran are more difficult to estimate. Still there are many indicators of widespread support for this group. Jean Lure, the Africa-Asia Monthly’s correspondent reported from Tehran in the recent issue of the magazine that “The truth is that the mullahs are fearful that peoples’ demands will spread throughout the country and get out of control as they did at the end of the Shah’s era thus bring down the regime. The launch of writing slogans on the walls in big cities in favor of Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) brings back bitter memories in mullahs’ minds.”

The report adds that “As the Americans and Europeans haggle over the success of talks with Iran and are dreaming about a respectable result in the nuclear dossier and Iraq , the Iranian rulers are very concerned and alarmed. Not because of unfeasible foreign military attack but because of peoples’ support for Mojahedin-e-Khalq. Today, MEK is highly capable of attracting the young people born and raised after the revolution.”[3]

MEK members inhabit Ashraf City in Iraq , located north of Baghdad near the Iran-Iraq border. While under US shield as “protected persons” under the Forth Geneva Conventions, the MEK has been on the U.S. State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Oddly, the MEK has been sidelined in the Global War on Terror. To that end, time is running out to change Iran ‘s behavior through talks. Unless something new is put on the table, the security situation in Iraq is likely to degrade. Treated as neither friend nor foe, the MEK cooperatively waits at the insistence of the West, for the U.S. to recognize why Iran , and for that matter Iraq and the region, desperately need the MEK to add momentum to Iran ‘s democracy movement.

U.S.-Iran talks may end up as that wake-up call.

REFERENCES

[1] On-the-Record Briefing: U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker on His Meeting With Iranian Officials; 24 July 2007 – http://www.state.gov/p/nea/rls/rm/2007/88999.htm

[2] Ealing Iranians Demand Change; 12 July 2007 – http://www.ealingtimes.co.uk/news/localnews/display.v ar.1539231.0.ealing_iranians_demand_change.php [excerpt] A BUSINESSMAN joined thousands of fellow Iranians last week to campaign against his country’s government. Mojtaba Rabiee and his family closed down their Acton coffee shop to travel to Paris for the conference attended by 50,000 people. [excerpt] [3] Iran – Indications of a Volcano; 22 July 2007 – Translated Excerpt at: http://www.afrique-asie.fr/article.php? article=176

David Johnson currently serves as the Director of Operations of the U.S. Alliance for Democratic Iran. He has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Front Page Magazine, Intellectual Conservative and American Daily. Our organization is based in Washington DC and can be found online at www.USADIran.org. [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”Godfather of Terrorism”] [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”Iran Guards brush off U.S. threat: report”] THURSDAY, 16 AUGUST 2007
TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran’s Revolutionary Guards will grow in strength despite U.S. efforts to isolate the force, a Guards official said in remarks published on Thursday after Washington’s threat to brand it a “terrorist” group.

U.S. officials said on Wednesday the United States might soon name the Guards a foreign terrorist group, a move that would enable Washington to target the force’s finances.

Washington is leading efforts to isolate Iran for refusing to rein in its nuclear program and comply with U.N. demands. The United States says Iran is seeking atomic bombs, a charge Tehran denies, saying it wants only to make electricity.

“Not only would the Revolutionary Guards not be isolated but rather it would actively continue its trend of growth with strength,” the head of the political office of the Guards, named only as Javani, was quoted by the daily Jam-e Jam as saying.

“Americans have been fighting the Islamic system for 27 years and create plots against it. But the Revolutionary Guards have made defending the Islamic system its duty and will increase its capabilities in this regard day by day,” he added.

Iran experts and diplomats said the squeeze on financing for the Guards also was aimed at pacifying hard-liners within and outside the Bush administration who want military action against Tehran and are frustrated that diplomatic pressure has not worked either on curbing the nuclear program or over Iraq.

Analysts say sanctions on the Guards would be difficult to enforce and the main goal seemed to be to put pressure on Iran by using the designation to press financial institutions to cut ties with Iranian businesses.

The Revolutionary Guards are an ideologically driven force, who see themselves as a guardians of the Islamic Republic. They have a separate command structure from the regular military.

As well as being a fighting force, the Guards have a range of business interests, including in energy projects awarded to its engineering subsidiary Khatam al-Anbia.

The United States has imposed sanctions on two Iranian banks, a move which international financiers say have further deterred them from dollar dealings, and even other currency transactions, with the Islamic Republic.

Some analysts say the Guards have grown in influence since the election in 2005 of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a former commander. They say ex-officers have been appointed to political posts and more may run in the March parliamentary election.

View Source Here [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”Iran: Mother of condemned Kurdish journalist speaks”] Tehran, 13 August (AKI) – The mother of a Kurdish journalist on death row in Iran has begged her son to halt a hunger strike he and his colleague, also sentenced to death, have been staging for over a month.

Haj Khanoum the mother of Adnan Hassanpour, spoke to Adnkronos International (AKI) after visiting him in prison in Sanandaj, capital of Iran’s Kurdistan region.

“During our meeting which lasted just over 30 minutes, my son was very pale and he was shaking. He has lost much weight since he and (his cousin and fellow Kurdish journalist) Abdolwahed Hiwa Boutimar started refusing food 32 days ago”, Khanoum told AKI.

Butimar was arrested in late December 2006 while his cousin Hassanpour was detained by police a month later.

According to Amnesty International, they were reportedly held by the Ministry of Intelligence before being transferred to Marivan prison and sentenced to death on charges of espionage on July 17.

The death sentences against the two journalists prompted protest around the world and has triggered a diplomatic row between Italy and Iran.

Two weeks ago the Foreign Ministry in Rome summoned an Iranian diplomat to protest against a series of recent executions in Iran as well as the death sentences against the Kurdish journalists.

Iran replied by saying Italy must not interfere in the Islamic Republic’s internal affairs.

“Adnan and Hiwa were casually informed they had been sentenced to death 15 days after the end of their trial which neither they nor their lawyers were allowed to attend”, Khanoum said.

She said her plea to Adnan to end his hunger strike had been in vain.

“He told me that as long as the authorities refuse to hear his and Hiwa’s complaints, they will refuse to eat”.

Hassanpour,who writes for the Kurdish weekly Asu, and Boutimar, a publicist and environmental activist, want their sentences to be suspended and a new trial to be held, this time in the presence of their lawyers.

They also asked to be transferred from the high-security prison of Sanandaj to another prison in Mariwan where they would be closer to their families.

An international campaign is underway to save the journalists’ lives led by Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders.

In Italy, where the government is leading attempts in the United Nations Security Council for a worldwide moratorium on capital punishment, numerous parliamentarians and activists have also spoken out on behalf to the two journalists.

Amnesty International has appealed to human rights supporters around the world to urge the Iranian government to suspend the death sentences and hold a new trial for the men.

“Proceedings before Revolutionary Courts in Iran do not meet international standards for fair trial,” Amnesty said in a statement.

“The penal code contains a number of vaguely-worded provisions relating to association and ‘national security’ which prohibit a range of activities , including those connected with journalism or public discourse.”

Iran has executed over 150 people so far this year, compared to the 177 put to death over the whole of 2006.

View Source Here [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”Ayatollahs’ Playbook for Survival”] On Monday, the same day Iran’s thug par-excellence president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sacked two of his key ministers; two Belgian tourists were reported kidnapped near quack-stricken city of Bam in southeast Iran; an ultra-hardliner panel was appointed – with the blessing of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei of course – to monitor the next parliamentarian elections; and Iran’s notorious judiciary announced that it had finished its investigations of two Iranian-Americans charged with plotting to destabilize the regime.

That’s not all. As security forces arrested five members of Tehran’s bus drivers’ union after they visited the home of their imprisoned leader, Mansour Ossalou., two Iranian Kurdish journalists were sentenced to death by the courts. Meanwhile a new wave of executions, many of them in public, is spreading across Iran. Authorities in the province of Kerman announced this week that they will hang a dozen individuals soon.

Just another ordinary day in Iran.

Still, that’s not all. When it comes to fomenting mayhem and bloodshed, Iran rulers are masters of multi-tasking and equal-opportunity champions. Their busy schedule to put down domestic dissent and erecting gallows across Iran has not kept them fully pre-occupied. They have plenty of time to make sure Iraqis are not deprived of their daily dosage of bombings and blood-letting.

View Full Report Here [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”U.S. envoy says Iraq report will sound warning”] By Ross Colvin
BAGHDAD | Fri Aug 17, 2007 6:29am EDT
(Reuters) – Washington’s envoy to Iraq warned Americans on Thursday that pulling U.S. troops out of the country could open the door to a “major Iranian advance” that would threaten U.S. interests in the region.

Ambassador Ryan Crocker also accused Tehran of seeking to weaken the Shi’ite-led Iraqi government so that it could “by one means or another control it”. Iran has denied U.S. charges that it is arming and training Shi’ite militias in Iraq.

Crocker and the top U.S. general in Iraq, General David Petraeus are due to present a pivotal report to Congress in September on progress on the military and political fronts and make recommendations on the way forward.

Opinion polls suggest most Americans have turned against the four-year war and Democrats in Congress want President George W. Bush to start pulling out U.S. troops as soon as possible. Bush, however, has resisted such calls.

“If the leadership wants to go a different way, I have an obligation to talk a little bit about what the consequences of pulling in a different direction would be,” Crocker told Reuters in an interview in his office in Baghdad’s Green Zone.

“One area of clear concern is Iran. The Iranians aren’t going anywhere. I have significant concerns that a coalition withdrawal would lead to a major Iranian advance. And we need to consider what the consequences of that would be.”

The two long-time foes are locked in a stand-off over Iran’s nuclear program. Iran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons.

Crocker has met his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad three times to discuss U.S. concerns that Iran is fuelling violence in Iraq, despite Tehran’s public support for Iraq’s government.

“Based on what I see on the ground, I think they are seeking a state that they can, by one means or another, control, weakened to the point that Tehran can set its agenda,” he said.

Tehran was seeking “greater influence, greater pressure on the government”, said the veteran diplomat, a fluent Arabic speaker who has spent most of his career in the Middle East.

MOVIE REEL

Bush sent 30,000 extra troops to Iraq earlier this year to try to halt sectarian violence between majority Shi’ite Muslims and minority Sunni Arabs and buy time for Iraq’s divided political leaders to agree a real power-sharing deal.

While Petraeus will look at the success of the U.S. military build-up, Crocker has the arguably more difficult task of reporting on the almost negligible political progress that has been made towards reconciling Iraq’s warring groups.

With the Bush administration often accused of not giving much thought about what do in Iraq after it invaded in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein, Crocker said he was anxious to spell out the consequences of pulling out U.S. troops.

“If we decide that we tried, we’re tired, we want to bring the troops home, then what? The movie does not stop the day that coalition forces leave Iraq. It keeps on running. We need to consider what reels two, three, four and five might look like.”

Crocker said he was in daily contact with Petraeus but had not yet begun to draft his report, which is due to be presented on September 15 and is seen by many as a watershed moment in the war that could trigger a change in U.S. policy.

“I have come to find here in Iraq that a month is a long span of time,” he said.

He said the U.S. military buildup, which has succeeded in reducing sectarian violence, and new alliances formed with Sunni Arab sheikhs that have pacified volatile Anbar province had brought Maliki’s government to a cross-roads.

“This is the best chance they have had since the beginning of 2006. It is an opportunity to really start turning things around in this country. But they are going to have to move in a decisive, considered and comprehensive way.”

Iraq’s leaders have been meeting this week to try to find common ground and break the political logjam that has paralyzed decision-making, lost Maliki nearly a score of ministers, and stalled agreement on key laws that Washington sees as crucial to national reconciliation.

View Source Here[/spoiler]