December 15, 2017

Iran Watch – February 8, 2008

[spoiler title=”U.S. spy chief retreats on Iran estimate”] The New York Sun
Staff Reporter of the Sun
WASHINGTON – The director of national intelligence is backing away from his agency’s assessment late last year that Iran had halted its nuclear program, saying he wishes he had written the unclassified version of the document in a different manner.

At a hearing yesterday of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the intelligence director, Michael McConnell, said, “If I had ’til now to think about it, I probably would change a few things.” He later added, “I would change the way we describe the Iranian nuclear program. I would have included that there are the component parts, that the portion of it, maybe the least significant, had halted.”

Mr. McConnell was referring to the specific Iranian program to design potential nuclear warheads, which the December estimate said had halted in 2003. But in his opening testimony, Mr. McConnell noted that two other components of the nuclear program were moving ahead – the enrichment of uranium, which he said was the most difficult part of making a bomb, and the development of long-range missiles capable of hitting North Africa and Europe.

The National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program released on December 3 distinguished Iran’s enrichment of uranium at Natanz and Arak from its formal nuclear weapons program, which it said had halted in 2003 after the American invasion of Iraq.

Yesterday, Mr. McConnell struck a different tone. “Declared uranium enrichment efforts, which will enable the production of fissile material, continue. This is the most difficult challenge in nuclear production. Iran’s efforts to perfect ballistic missiles that can reach North Africa and Europe also continue.”

He went on, “We remain concerned about Iran’s intentions and assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.”

The release of the December 2007 estimate at best delayed American diplomatic efforts to pass a third U.N. Security Council resolution sanctioning Iran’s uranium enrichment, an activity the mullahs have continued for two years despite warnings from all five permanent members of the security council. The estimate also drew rare rebukes from American allies, including Israel, France, and the United Kingdom who said their intelligence agencies did not concur with the American assessment that Iran had frozen its plan to produce an A-bomb.

The release of the declassified estimate also contradicted Mr. McConnell’s own stated policy of keeping intelligence estimates secret. On Tuesday he said that on November 27, when his analysts presented him with the new Iran estimate, he decided he had to make the conclusions public because both he and his predecessor had been on record warning of Iran’s nuclear weapons program and the new intelligence in part contradicted that.

The timing of Mr. McConnell’s pivot is also significant. On January 22 in Berlin, all five permanent veto- wielding members of the U.N. Security Council plus the Germans agreed on a draft third resolution against Iran. Mr. McConnell predicted that it would pass the council this month. At the same time, other members of the Security Council, such as South Africa have recently warned against a third resolution. The Russians last month completed a deal to provide Iran with nuclear fuel for a separate reactor in Bushehr.

Tuesday’s testimony from Mr. McConnell was part of an annual report from his directorate on threats to America. In his testimony, the national intelligence director warned specifically of potential al Qaeda attacks within America.

He said that America was not immune from the threat of “homegrown” “al Qaeda inspired” cells, similar to those that have sprouted up in Europe. Noting the rise in radical Sunni Islamist Web sites, he said that these cells in America so far have been cruder than the European variety.

“To date, cells detected in the United States have lacked the level of sophistication, experience, and access to resources of terrorist cells overseas,” Mr. McConnell said. “Their efforts, when disrupted, largely have been in the nascent phase, and authorities often were able to take advantage of poor operational tradecraft. However, the growing use of the internet to identify and connect with networks throughout the world offers opportunities to build relationships and gain expertise that previously were available only in overseas training camps.”

Of interest to Democratic senators at yesterday’s hearing was the CIA’s stance on coercive interrogation and in particular the practice of simulating drowning in terrorist suspects, a practice known as water boarding. For the first time in public, the CIA named the three people it had subjected to the practice, considered a form of torture by the Geneva conventions.

The three individuals include the main plotter of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; the mastermind of the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri; and another alleged high level al Qaeda operative named Abu Zubaydeh. This last person’s significance has been questioned by some journalists and former officials, and he is said by some to have provided bogus information when he was interrogated. [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”Khamenei on the Nuclear Dossier”]
“The fate of Iran’s nuclear dossier will be determined not at the negotiating table, but in the streets of Baghdad and Beirut” [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”Iran: Two sisters face execution by stoning”] Posted: 07 February 2008

Amnesty International today warned that two sisters, Zohreh and Azar Kabiri-niat are facing execution by stoning, for “adultery’, in Iran. Amnesty International members in the UK and around the world are calling on the authorities to commute the sentences of death by stoning immediately.

The women were arrested on 4 February 2007 after Zohreh Kabiri-niat’s husband filed a complaint against her and her sisters, Azar and Azzam, and also Azar’s husband, Mohammadreza Bodaghi, and another man. He claimed that they had had ‘illicit relations’ and submitted as evidence video footage from a camera he had secretly installed in his house, which reportedly showed the two women with another man.

The five were tried in March 2007 and sentenced to flogging for “having illicit relations”; Zohreh also received five years’ imprisonment for forming ‘a centre of corruption’. But after the floggings were carried out, fresh charges of “committing adultery while being married” were brought against Zohreh and Azar Kabiri-niat. On 6 August 2007. Both were found guilty and were sentenced to death by stoning.

The charge of “adultery” was substantiated solely by the judge’s ‘knowledge’, based on the video evidence and statements the sisters had made during their interrogation. Zohreh Kabiri-niat later said, “I do not accept my ‘confessions’ under interrogations, and I deny whatever it is that they claim I said.”

Zohreh and Azar Kabiri-niat lodged an appeal but the Supreme Court judges rejected their lawyer’s defence that the women denied the offence, that the video evidence did not actually show the women having sex, and that they had not confessed four times before the judge as is required by Islamic law. The court confirmed the initial verdict of stoning to death, and ruled that it be sent to the appropriate authorities for implementation.

A new lawyer representing the women told journalist Marjan Lagha’i that, “the case has fundamental problems, since a person can not be tried twice for the same crime. Yet these two sisters have been tried twice in the same case, and two sentences have been issued for them… the circumstances that are required to prove adultery – confession by the accused on four different occasions that can be corroborated by the testimony of four eyewitnesses to the alleged crime – are entirely absent, and there is absolutely no legal document in this case that a judge can use to issue a stoning sentence… Given that I view this sentence to be against the principles of Sharia, as well as the criminal laws [of Iran], I have filed an official objection, and I have asked that the Head of Judiciary review the case once again.”

Amnesty International welcomes moves in Iran towards reforming the law on stoning, but urges that any new legislation permits neither stoning nor any other form of execution for “adultery while being married”.

A moratorium on execution by stoning was ordered by the Head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Shahroudi, in December 2002. Despite this, sentences of death by stoning in Iran are still being passed and, on occasion, carried out.

Anti-stoning campaigners have reported that the first stonings since the moratorium was imposed took place in May 2006, when a woman, Mahboubeh, and a man, Abbas, were stoned to death in a cemetery in the city of Mashhad for murdering Mahboubeh’s husband, and for “adultery”. Part of the cemetery was cordoned off from the public, and more than 100 members of the Revolutionary Guard, and members of the Basij Forces were among those who stoned the couple to death. In July 2007, a man, Ja’far Kiani, was stoned to death in Aghcheh-kand; the authorities later said this was a ‘mistake’. Mokarremeh Ebrahimi, with whom he had two children and who was sentenced with him, is still under sentence of death by stoning.

In mid-2006, a group of Iranian human rights defenders began a campaign to abolish stoning. Since the Stop Stoning Forever campaign began, five people have been saved from stoning. Others have been granted stays of execution, and some of the cases are being reviewed or re-tried. Eleven women (including Zohreh and Azar Kabiri-niat) and two men are known to be under sentence of death by stoning. Activists in the campaign have faced persecution.

A new version of the Iranian Penal Code is currently under consideration by the Majles, which, if passed, would appear to allow for stoning sentences to be changed to execution by other means or flogging.

View Source Here [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”Iran regime bans SMS messages in the run-up to parliamentary elections”]
Tuesday, 05 February 2008

NCRI – In a move to control all information exchange on the day of the upcoming March 14, Majlis (parliamentary) elections, Vafa Ghafaryan the CEO of the Telecommunication Company of Iran said that all SMS contacts will be controlled by his staff.

“In the run-up to the 8th round of Majlis elections, we will limit all mass SMS messages between citizens to prevent election frauds,” said Vafa Ghafaryan.

“Individuals with proper IDs are allowed to have SMS with no problems. However, if we suspect any wrong doing, then the proper authorities will be informed to intervene,” he added.

The mullahs’ regime in fear of mass political SMS messages has come up with the idea of banning it altogether. The service is highly popular among university students and widely used at the time of anti- government protests to quickly get the message across.

[spoiler title=”Experts: Iran Develops Fast Centrifuges”] By GEORGE JAHN

VIENNA, Austria (AP) – Iran has developed its own version of an advanced centrifuge that churns out fissile material much faster than other machines and has started testing them, diplomats and experts said Thursday. Few of the IR-2 centrifuges were operating and testing appeared to be in an early phase.

The machines were rotating without processing any of the uranium gas that can either be used to generate electricity or provide the fissile core of nuclear warheads, depending on the level of enrichment, according to diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity because their information was confidential. [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”Russia: Iranian Rocket Raises ‘Suspicions’ About Nuclear Program”] A senior Russian diplomat says Iran’s test launch of a rocket earlier this week has raised “suspicions” about the country’s nuclear program.

Russian news agencies quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov Wednesday as saying long-range rockets are one of the components of a nuclear weapons program. [/spoiler]