Malfunction Likely Put U.S. Drone in Iranian Hands

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Andrea Shalal-Esa and David Alexander

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The unmanned U.S. drone Iran said on Sunday it had captured was programmed to automatically return to base even if its data link was lost, one key reason that U.S. officials say the drone likely malfunctioned and was not downed by Iranian electronic warfare.

U.S. officials have been tight-lipped about Iranian claims that its military downed an RQ-170 unmanned spy plane, a radar-evading, wedge-shaped aircraft dubbed “the Beast of Kandahar” after its initial sighting in southern Afghanistan.

The U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan said the Iranians might be referring to an unarmed reconnaissance aircraft that disappeared on a flight in western Afghanistan late last week. But they declined to say what type of drone was involved.

A U.S. government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the plane was on a CIA mission. The CIA and Pentagon both declined to comment on the issue.

The incident came at a time of rising tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran’s nuclear program. The United States and other Western nations tightened sanctions on Iran last week and Britain withdrew its diplomatic staff from Tehran after hard-line youths stormed two diplomatic compounds.

The United States has not ruled out military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities if diplomacy fails to resolve a dispute over the program, which Washington believes is aimed at developing atomic weapons.

The RQ-170 Sentinel, built by Lockheed Martin, was first acknowledged by the U.S. Air Force in December 2009. It has a full-motion video sensor that was used this year by U.S. intelligence to monitor al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan ahead of the raid that killed him.

Former and current military officials familiar with the Sentinel said they were skeptical about Iranian media reports that Iran’s military brought down one of the drones in eastern Iran, especially since Tehran has not released any pictures of the plane.

POSSIBLE ‘CATASTROPHIC’ MALFUNCTION

The aircraft is flown remotely by pilots based in the United States, but is also programmed to autonomously fly back to the base it departed from if its data link with U.S.-based pilots is lost, according to defense analyst Loren Thompson, who is a consultant for Lockheed and other companies.

Other unmanned aircraft have a similar capability, including General Atomics’ Predator drone, industry sources said.

The fact that the plane did not return to its base suggests a “catastrophic” technical malfunction, agreed one industry executive familiar with the operation and programming of unmanned aerial vehicles.

U.S. officials say they always worry about the possibility of sensitive military technologies falling into the hands of other countries or terrorist groups, one reason U.S. planes quickly destroyed a stealthy helicopter that was damaged during the bin Laden raid in Pakistan.

Many classified weapons systems have self-destruction capabilities that can be activated if they fall into enemy hands but it was not immediately clear if that was the case this time.

In this case, the design of the plane and the fact that it had special coatings that made it nearly invisible to radar were already well documented. If it survived a crash, all on-board computer equipment was heavily encrypted.

Lockheed confirmed that it makes the RQ-170 drone, which came out of its secretive Skunk Works facility in southern California, but referred all questions about the current incident to the Air Force.
Thompson and several current and former defense officials said they doubted Iranian claims to have shot the aircraft down because of its stealthy features and ability to operate at relatively high altitudes.

Iran was also unlikely to have jammed its flight controls because that system is highly encrypted and uses a direct uplink to a U.S. satellite, they said.

“The U.S. Air Force has experienced declining attrition rates with most of its unmanned aircraft. However this is a relatively new aircraft and there aren’t many in the fleet, which means that malfunctions and mistakes are more likely to occur,” Thompson said.

One former defense official familiar with the RQ-170 and other unmanned aircraft said he “absolutely” agreed that the aircraft was not lost due to any action by Iran.

Exact details about the drone remain classified but industry insiders say the plane flies at around 50,000 feet and may have a wing span of up to 90 feet. Its shape harkens back to the batwing design of the radar-evading B-2 bomber.

(Editing by Jackie Frank)

13-50

When Is a Bet not a Bet? A Day at Iran’s Races

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mitra Amiri

2011-11-02T141330Z_641412934_GM1E7B21PW301_RTRMADP_3_IRAN-HORSERACING

Jockeys whip their horses during the final stretch of the race during the summer races at the Norouzabad Equestrian center on the outskirts of Tehran September 16, 2011. Under Islamic sharia law, gambling is generally seen as illegal. But thanks to certain religious rulings, many race-goers are permitted to put money on the horses legally as long as they are “predicting” through official channels. Picture taken September 16, 2011.        

REUTERS/Caren Firouz

NOWRUZABAD, Iran, Nov 2 (Reuters) – As Rio Collection galloped across the finishing line, Sardar hooted with joy and high-fived his friends.

He had just won 200,000 rials (almost $20). Not by “betting” on the horse, he insisted — betting is illegal under Iran’s Islamic law — but by “predicting” Rio Collection would win.

“I knew he would win. I predicted correctly,” said the 18-year-old.

Under Islamic Sharia law, gambling is generally seen as illegal and Sardar’s wager, made with a friend, was actually not permitted. But thanks to certain religious rulings, many race-goers are permitted to put money on the horses legally as long as they are “predicting” through official channels.

The Koran describes gambling as “evil, unclean and Satanic” and people found guilty of illegal gambling in the Islamic Republic can be sentenced to flogging and jail.

However, three forms of gambling are permitted under Islam, said a cleric consulted on the matter by Reuters.

“All forms of gambling are haram (forbidden by Islam) except for horse racing, camel racing and archery,” said Mohsen Mahmoudi, a cleric at a north Tehran mosque, adding that those manly, warrior sports were all encouraged by the Prophet Muhammad (s).

But technically, he added, only the archery contestants and riders of the horses or camels in the races are permitted to bet.

To make it possible for spectators to take part, the Equestrian Federation of Iran sought permission from senior clerics known as “sources of emulation”, to whom Shi’ite Muslims turn for guidance on moral issues.

“In negotiations with some sources of emulation , we finally managed to receive permission to bet on horses under certain conditions,” said Ebrahim Mohammdzadeh, an official at Tehran’s horse-racing committee.

The way it works is that jockeys authorise the horse-racing committee to place bets for other people on their behalf.

MASS APPEAL

In pre-revolutionary Iran, horse riding was considered an elite sport. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi — the last shah who was overthrown in the 1979 uprising led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini — was a keen horseman and aimed to expand racing.

After the revolution the idea fell out of favour and today there are only four racetracks in the country. Camel racing — popular in some Arab countries across the Gulf — is not a significant sport in Iran and archery has no great popular following.

The 2,000-capacity Nowruzabad track off a major highway to the west of Tehran is the only track easily accessible to the population of the capital. It hold races over a 10-week season each year.

Despite its limited availability, people from many walks of life crowd the “predictions” office next to the track in Nowruzabad where legal betting takes place inside a building where an electronic screen advertises: “Make a prediction, win a prize”.

Inside, a dozen women, wearing obligatory headscarves, sit behind windows, taking predictions and paying out winnings. As well as a computer screen with race details, each has a basket into which they toss the takings.

Prediction tickets can be bought for as little as 10,000 rials (around $1) with no official upper limit, although large bets are rare. Odds are not given before the race and returns are calculated afterwards.

People can also place bets on horses through the federation’s website, but that misses out on the spectacle.

As the horses pass the finishing line, the spectators — including dozens of women — jump up from their seats near the track and rush to the predictions office to see how much they have won and place money on the next one.

“I just paid 50,000 rials. I hope I can win something,” said Erfan, 15.

“I always buy prediction tickets from this office but my dad bets directly with others,” he said. “He once won 30 million rials.”

Betting among individuals is not legal but still goes on.

Wearing loose black trousers and speaking with a strong local accent, Sardar, a carpenter, said he chose not to buy prediction tickets as winnings were limited.

“People are reluctant to place big bets with the prediction office,” he said . “Big bets take place unofficially and the winnings are exchanged from hand-to-hand.”

The really big bets happen at bigger tracks, particularly at the 10-000 capacity Gonbad-e Kavoos hippodrome in northern Iran.

“Last year someone won $75,000 there in a bet,” a race official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Cleric Mahmoudi warned of the dangers of gambling.

“The bettor makes gains easily, without working and this causes others to lose money with consequent dissatisfaction and grief,” he said, pointing out one reason Islam regards gambling as “haram”.

Most of the people buying prediction tickets legally from the racetrack office did not seem concerned, however.

“I just lost 30,000 rials but I had a lot of fun,” said fine arts student Tamanna, 30, showing her ticket printed with a line that says cash spent buying the ticket goes to support the horse races, rather than in the hope of winning.

Of the total money coming into the official betting office, some 70 percent is given out as winnings with the remaining 30 percent going to cover the costs of racing.

“I had a great time,” Tamanna said. “In a way we are donating this money to help develop the races.”

13-48

War & Water in South Asia

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Los Angeles—April 10th—Ashok C. Shukla, an independent scholar, who has written and edited several books on South Asian security issues that are largely available in India, but, unfortunately, too often have to be imported from there into North America.  He has been commissioned by an editor to compose a chapter on energy security in the environs for as yet unnamed publisher.

Most of the presentation was on the problematic future transport of oil and gas across Pakistan into India.  Yet, the crucial issue of water came up early.  With today’s political situation, fresh water is problematical there, too — competitive to say the least. The Ganges-Brahmaputra basin provides the fresh water or part of it for all but two of the area’s nations.  This probably supplies a billion people with their drinkable supply of water.  The competition between India and Pakistan is a volatile one, and most likely will not terminate itself to the satisfaction of all parties anytime soon.  At the very worse it could become a trigger for thermo-nuclear war between the two military giants within Southern Asia that could destroy hundreds of millions of people along with its ancient civilization!

(Also, not as pressing, towards the east, there have been unsubstantiated accusations that India has been skimming off part of Bangladesh’s aquifer.)

As has been intimated, Dr. Shukla’s chapter will examine the energy insecurity of the remarkably expanding economy of India.  (Since this is the Muslim Observer, although Bharat (India’s) population is only 12% Islamic [about the same percentage as Afro-Americans in the United States], it has the second highest Islamic national numbers in the world.  In Pakistan, 98% of the country is Muslim; Afghanistan, who potentially could play a role in the transportation of oil and gas to the Subcontinent, is circa 99%.  Bangladesh is an Islamic State Constitutionally along with substantial non-Muslim minorities, though; and most of the new raw energy-rich former Soviet Republics are (Socialist) secularized Islamic States currently rediscovering their Islamic roots.  (Your essayist wishes to point to the veracity of the Islamic political issues of the discussion which were not considered by Mr. Shukla.)

Both India and Pakistan are important to the interests of Washington because of the economic rise of New Delhi and the strategic military significance of Rawalpindi.  Also, within, South Asia, there are overbearing ecological issues impacting the entire globe.  India desperately, requires propulsion sources for their spectacularly expanding industries which resides in raw form in Central Asia and Iran, but Islamabad (and to a lesser extent Afghanistan) holds the key transit routes for the necessary pipelines.  The bad feeling between Indo-Pakistan means that in any crisis the Pakistanis have the capability to turn off the valves bringing India’s burgeoning economy to a halt.  Further, the United States is against India buying Iranian gas which would, also, transverse Pakistan.  (This goes back to our bad relations with the Persians which probably will turn out to be temporary anyway.) The United States is pressing for the pipelines to go through Turkestan.  Nevertheless, added to American opposition, New Delhi does not accept Pakistan’s terms to permit a pipeline from Tehran.) 

Whatever, SAARC (the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation) will not involve itself in political matters between India and Pakistan by the very nature of its charter (it is only an economic organization), and, thus, will not intervene in bi-lateral matters.  (For this reason, it lacks relevance as a prospective influential territorial negotiator on dangerous political issues over the vastness of the geographical extent of the Indic sphere. 

Ashok C. Shukla ended his proposed chapter with the statement that South Asia totally lacks energy security.

(Your reporter pointed to the fact that Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, may be sitting on a sea of gas.  Although a Muslim country it is friendly to India [as is Iran and the Central Asian Republics].  One of the reasons that the gas fields have not been developed is that the technology to liquefy the gaseous energy has not been perfected yet in large enough quantities to ship it to the West and China on ships.  It would make sense, though, to send it to India through pipes, and that would solve the energy security issue for New Delhi, and, further, it would help with the ecological problem since the Republic of India depends on coal for its industrial expansion, and natural gas is much, much cleaner burning).

Dr. Shukla rejected this due to Bangladesh’s nationalistic sensibilities (which your writer finds it hard to believe, for the East Bengals badly require foreign exchange, and their gas could make them as rich as some of the Middle East oil giants! ) 

12-20

Is This the Culmination of Two Years of Destabilization?

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Are the Iranian Protests Another US Orchestrated “Color Revolution?”

By Paul Craig Roberts

A number of commentators have expressed their idealistic belief in the purity of Mousavi, Montazeri, and the westernized youth of Tehran. The CIA destabilization plan, announced two years ago (see below) has somehow not contaminated unfolding events.

The claim is made that Ahmadinejad stole the election, because the outcome was declared too soon after the polls closed for all the votes to have been counted. However, Mousavi declared his victory several hours before the polls closed. This is classic CIA destabilization designed to discredit a contrary outcome. It forces an early declaration of the vote. The longer the time interval between the preemptive declaration of victory and the release of the vote tally, the longer Mousavi has to create the impression that the authorities are using the time to fix the vote. It is amazing that people don’t see through this trick.

As for the grand ayatollah Montazeri’s charge that the election was stolen, he was the initial choice to succeed Khomeini, but lost out to the current Supreme Leader. He sees in the protests an opportunity to settle the score with Khamenei. Montazeri has the incentive to challenge the election whether or not he is being manipulated by the CIA, which has a successful history of manipulating disgruntled politicians.

There is a power struggle among the ayatollahs. Many are aligned against Ahmadinejad because he accuses them of corruption, thus playing to the Iranian countryside where Iranians believe the ayatollahs’ lifestyles indicate an excess of power and money. In my opinion, Ahmadinejad’s attack on the ayatollahs is opportunistic. However, it does make it odd for his American detractors to say he is a conservative reactionary lined up with the ayatollahs.

Commentators are “explaining” the Iran elections based on their own illusions, delusions, emotions, and vested interests. Whether or not the poll results predicting Ahmadinejad’s win are sound, there is, so far, no evidence beyond surmise that the election was stolen. However, there are credible reports that the CIA has been working for two years to destabilize the Iranian government.

On May 23, 2007, Brian Ross and Richard Esposito reported on ABC News: “The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert “black” operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell ABC News.”

On May 27, 2007, the London Telegraph independently reported: “Mr. Bush has signed an official document endorsing CIA plans for a propaganda and disinformation campaign intended to destabilize, and eventually topple, the theocratic rule of the mullahs.”

A few days previously, the Telegraph reported on May 16, 2007, that Bush administration neocon warmonger John Bolton told the Telegraph that a US military attack on Iran would “be a ‘last option’ after economic sanctions and attempts to foment a popular revolution had failed.”

On June 29, 2008, Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker: “Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership.”

The protests in Tehran no doubt have many sincere participants. The protests also have the hallmarks of the CIA orchestrated protests in Georgia and Ukraine. It requires total blindness not to see this.

Daniel McAdams has made some telling points. For example, neoconservative Kenneth Timmerman wrote the day before the election that “there’s talk of a ‘green revolution’ in Tehran.” How would Timmerman know that unless it was an orchestrated plan? Why would there be a ‘green revolution’ prepared prior to the vote, especially if Mousavi and his supporters were as confident of victory as they claim? This looks like definite evidence that the US is involved in the election protests.

Timmerman goes on to write that “the National Endowment for Democracy has spent millions of dollars promoting ‘color’ revolutions . . . Some of that money appears to have made it into the hands of pro-Mousavi groups, who have ties to non-governmental organizations outside Iran that the National Endowment for Democracy funds.” Timmerman’s own neocon Foundation for Democracy is “a private, non-profit organization established in 1995 with grants from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), to promote democracy and internationally-recognized standards of human rights in Iran.”

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com.

12-15

Iranian Student With $750 Turns Billionaire — Made by Islamic Art

April 1, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By William Green, Bloomberg

stoneHead_plate March 30 (Bloomberg) — Nasser David Khalili stands in an exhibition hall in St. Petersburg’s Winter Palace, gazing at an 18th-century painted enamel of flowers that’s one of 25,000 works of art he owns. “I’d have paid anything for it,” he says, appraising this miniature by Frenchman Philippe Parpette. “There’s no way I’d have let anybody else buy it.”

Khalili, 64, an Iranian-born billionaire who lives in London, has come to Russia to unveil his fifth art collection: On this overcast December afternoon, 320 of his 1,200 enamel treasures will go on display at the State Hermitage Museum, home to the collection of Catherine the Great, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its May issue.

Having flown in on a chartered plane, Khalili is relishing a private preview, peering through tinted eyeglasses at such possessions as a gilded clock with matching candelabras that once adorned the home of U.S. railroad tycoon William Vanderbilt. Khalili, who says he has a photographic memory, recalls paying $16,500 for these three pieces 34 years ago. He estimates that they’d now cost $600,000.

In all, Khalili says the enamels he has lent the museum are insured for more than 100 million pounds ($150 million). Even so, they are a trifle compared with the obsession that’s consumed him for four decades: his 20,000 pieces of Islamic art. “His collection is certainly the best in private hands,” says Edward Gibbs, Sotheby’s London-based head of Middle Eastern art. “He is the man who has everything. He’s come to define the market.”

Khalili is revealing his latest collection just as the $43 billion global art market is showing signs of reviving — with an Alberto Giacometti sculpture selling for a record 65 million pounds in February to a buyer later identified by dealers as London-based billionaire Lily Safra. In the Islamic art world, prices for the best pieces have been buoyed by a new generation of Middle Eastern buyers, including museums in Qatar and Abu Dhabi.

“There’s fierce competition for anything unique, rare, beautiful or important,” Gibbs says, noting that an Islamic textile Sotheby’s estimated would fetch $250,000 to $350,000 in a March 2009 auction went to Qatar’s Museum of Islamic Art for $3.4 million.

The limited supply in this niche within the art market has made Khalili’s collection all the more precious, says Claire Penhallurick, an Islamic art consultant for Bonhams auction house. She says it’s impossible to guess what his entire collection is worth.

“How could you value something that’s unique and irreplaceable?” Penhallurick says. “If you had all the money in the world, you couldn’t assemble his collection now.”

When an exhibition of 471 of Khalili’s Islamic pieces opened at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris in October, they alone were insured for almost 600 million pounds.

The story behind how Khalili built his fortune has long been shrouded in secrets. As a property developer, he shunned publicity and didn’t slap his name on buildings or the company that is his main investment vehicle. He has also operated under the radar when buying art.

“During the collecting, I don’t say anything,” Khalili says. “When it’s done, then I speak.”

His elusiveness has fueled much speculation, often revolving around how he financed his collecting. Khalili, who left Iran in 1967 with $750, says he’s since spent $650 million on art. London’s Sunday Times, which estimated his fortune at 5.8 billion pounds in 2007, gave up guessing his worth the following year and removed him from its annual rich list.

Khalili, whose works are held in a family trust, says he used subterfuge to amass his Islamic collection, pretending for several years to be an art dealer so he could acquire pieces at wholesale prices. While his stealth has often obscured the scale of his buying, the magazine ARTnews says Khalili is one of Britain’s top collectors, along with Safra and private museum owner Charles Saatchi.

The Iranian says he’s aware of whispers within the art trade that he grew rich buying Islamic works for Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. Sitting in his office in London’s Mayfair neighborhood, where the treasures on display include an 8th- century bronze camel and a 7,000-year-old stone sculpture, Khalili beats his chest with his hand when asked about the rumors.

“I didn’t buy anything for anybody. Nobody, right?” he says. “I bought for myself. This is all bulls—, all right?”

The questions surrounding Khalili stem in part from his emergence in the 1980s as a trailblazer in Islamic collecting.

“There was this sudden transformation,” says William Robinson, director of Islamic art at Christie’s International. “In the late 1980s he was the No. 1 buyer.” Robinson and others thought he was buying as the exclusive agent for a powerful client. “It was assumed that the Sultan of Brunei was behind it,” Robinson says. “I really don’t know.”

Brunei’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Britain’s press also fueled speculation about the source of Khalili’s riches. “He spends on a scale no art collector has done before,” London’s Independent wrote in 1994. “Yet no one knows where his money comes from. … (Khalili) vehemently denies the suggestion that he has been secretly investing the sultan’s money rather than his own.”

Khalili says he met the Sultan of Brunei around 1984, after the U.K.’s Foreign Office asked him to advise the monarch on creating an Islamic gallery at the Brunei Museum.

“He had about 10,000 pieces,” Khalili says. “I chose about 1,000 pieces and said, ‘Throw the rest away. They’re junk.’”

As a favor, he says, he selected several items for the Sultan to buy at auction and the Khalili family trust sold him a dozen pieces from its Islamic collection, including Qurans, metalwork and textiles, for about 4 million pounds.

Khalili dismisses rumors that he sold art to the Sultan at inflated prices, pointing out that he later convinced him to donate 10 million pounds to the University of London for an Islamic gallery.

“If you rip somebody off, would they turn around and give you 10 million pounds to build a gallery?” he asks.

It’s now obvious he was buying for himself, Khalili says, since his Islamic collection is cataloged in 19 books written by an army of scholars he has hired to document its provenance and authenticity.

Khalili, who has also built collections of Japanese Meiji art, Spanish metalwork and Swedish textiles since 1975, says the value of his artworks is irrelevant, because he will never sell them.

“All five collections are priceless: 2 billion pounds, 3 billion pounds, 4 billion pounds, it doesn’t make any difference,” he says. “These collections cannot be replaced.”

His Islamic treasures include a 14th-century Iranian world history by Rashid al-Din Fadlallah, which he says cost him 12 million pounds in 1990. “It’s one of the greatest illustrated manuscripts in the world,” says Tim Stanley, senior curator for the Middle East at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.

Khalili, who holds both U.S. and U.K. passports, offered to lend his Islamic collection to the British nation in 1992 if the government provided a museum to house it. Khalili says he stipulated that the loan would become a gift after 15 years if the collection was exhibited to his satisfaction; if not, he could take it back.

Outsider in London

“The offer to the British government was a really terrible one,” says Anna Somers Cocks, editor-in-chief of the London- based monthly Art Newspaper, because of this risk. After months with no response, Khalili abandoned the plan. Still lacking a permanent home, most of his artworks are stored in warehouses in London and Geneva.

Michael Franses, a U.K.-based retired dealer in rare carpets who’s known Khalili since the 1970s, says this rebuff reflected Khalili’s outsider status in his adopted country.

“The British establishment was very closed,” Franses says. “I don’t think people trusted him because he was Iranian and strange and different.”

That setback is a distant memory as Khalili strides through the Hermitage, musing on how far he’s come since leaving Iran. His artworks have been showcased by 40 museums, including the Victoria & Albert and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Khalili also prides himself on the honors he has won for his philanthropy. An observant Jew who says he avoids discussions of politics, Khalili co-founded the Maimonides Foundation in 1995 to foster dialogue between Jews and Muslims through sports, cultural events and education. He also endowed a research center for Middle Eastern culture at the University of Oxford.

In recognition of Khalili’s interfaith work, Pope Benedict XVI anointed him last year as a Knight Commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Sylvester.
“I’m self-made. I’ve done it all on my own,” says Khalili, whose 14-page resume is headlined: “Scholar, Benefactor and Collector.”

Khalili sees no contradiction in being Jewish and owning an Islamic collection.

“I fell in love with it because it was the most beautiful and diverse art,” he says.

In 2005, at the launch party for Khalili’s book The Timeline History of Islamic Art and Architecture, Iran’s then- ambassador to London, Seyed Mohammad Hossein Adeli, hailed him as “an ambassador for the culture of Islam.”

First Treasure

Khalili’s journey to the top of the art world began in Iran on Dec. 18, 1945. The fourth of five children, he grew up in Tehran. His mother counseled divorced women. His father — like his father before him — visited homes to acquire artworks he could sell for a few dollars profit.

As a child, Khalili tagged along when his father traded art, once joining him at the home of a former education minister with a collection of pen boxes. The 12-year-old yeshiva student was enraptured by a lacquer pen box painted with 800 men and horses, each one different. Khalili recalls that when he rhapsodized about the box, the owner’s eyes filled with tears.

“He turned round to my dad and said, ‘I’m not selling this to you. I’m giving this to your son,’” Khalili says. He still has the pen box in his Islamic collection. “So the first piece I didn’t buy; I was given,” he says.

Art Mentor

After high school, Khalili did national service, training as an army medic. At 22, he left Iran for New York, where he worked at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant while studying at Queens College, part of New York’s public education system. One evening, as Khalili sipped cream to soothe an ulcer, the restaurant manager scolded him for taking it without permission. Khalili threw his waiter’s jacket at his boss and decided he’d trade art to pay his school fees.

At an auction of Russian enamels months later, Khalili noticed the main bidder was Alan Hartman, whose family ran a Manhattan antiques store. Khalili borrowed several enamels from Hartman on consignment. He says he sold them that evening for a $26,000 profit to Iranian collectors he knew on Long Island, where many wealthy Iranians were settling. (Khalili’s four siblings have since moved there.)

Hartman, now 80, says he wanted to help because Khalili was a Jewish immigrant struggling to build a new life. “We felt sorry for him,” he says.

“Alan and I did a hell of a lot after that,” Khalili says. “In two years, I was a millionaire.”

Friends say it was typical of Khalili that he’d launched himself by charming a stranger into lending him art.

“He has a way of winning people over,” says Sotheby’s Gibbs.

Tactile Billionaire

In person, Khalili exudes warmth: Meeting someone for the first time, he’s liable to introduce himself with a hug. He stands close to people, resting his hand on their arm, shoulder or back.

Before graduating from Queens in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in computer sciences, Khalili was already amassing his own collection.

“I used to buy a group of objects — let’s say, 10 objects for $100,000 — keep 3 or 4 of the best aside and sell the rest for $250,000,” he says. “I used my knowledge to create money to finance my dream.”

In 1978, Khalili married Marion Easton, an Englishwoman he’d met while buying jewelry from her in a London antique store, and they settled in the U.K. capital. They have three sons: Daniel, 28, a jewelry designer, and twins Benjamin and Raphael, 25, who invest family money in startups such as PlayPit Games Ltd., an online entertainment company.

Decoy Shop

In addition to dealing art, Khalili says he began in the late 1970s to buy commercial properties in the U.K., France, Portugal and Spain.

“As he made money with property, he put it into art,” says Franses, the retired carpet dealer. “He was only ever interested in the art.”

Khalili approached him whenever he had cash to spare, buying such rarities as two 16th-century rugs that Franses says would now cost 2 million pounds each.

Khalili deployed misdirection to his advantage when he opened an Islamic art store in London in 1978. For three years, Khalili says he used the shop as a ruse to obtain dealers’ prices.

“I never sold anything there; I used that place as a decoy and bought unbelievable stuff,” he says.

“His timing was impeccable,” says Penhallurick. Islamic art was such a backwater that dedicated Islamic auctions didn’t begin until the 1970s. Khalili — whose main rivals at the time included the Kuwaiti royal family and the David Collection, owned by a Danish foundation — says many pieces he acquired then would now cost 10 to 50 times more.

Beautiful and Overlooked

“Anything that is beautiful and was overlooked, I bought,” says Khalili, who received a Ph.D. in Islamic lacquer at the University of London in 1988.

By the mid-1980s, Khalili says, his purchases were partly funded by venture capital investments that he declines to name. He says he made 30 times his money off shares he had bought in the late 1970s in a company developing technology to treat tumors. In 1987, he says he pocketed $15 million from the sale of a private company that made indigestion pills.

Khalili says he stopped trading art around 1980 and bankrolled his collecting primarily with profits from property. In a typical deal, he says, he paid 32.5 million pounds in 1992 for Cameron Toll, an Edinburgh shopping mall, selling it two years later for 55 million pounds as the market revived. Public records show Khalili has owned various private property companies.

Property Development

His main vehicle, Favermead Ltd., was incorporated in the U.K. in 1992 and sold 97 million pounds of property in 1995 alone, according to the company’s financial statements.

“Business is the least of my pride,” Khalili says. “Compared to collecting, it’s a piece of cake.”

Still, he currently owns a 60,000-square-foot (5,574- square-meter) business park in Exeter, England; a 32,000-square- foot building in Mayfair; and a site in central London where he plans to build a 320,000-square-foot, 13-story office tower when the real estate market recovers.

“If he starts building in the next 12 months, it’ll be very good timing as there’s very little available in the market,” says Gerald Ronson, CEO of London-based developer Heron International, which also bid for the central London site.

Mayfair Mansion

One personal property venture proved more problematic.

In 1993, Khalili began combining two buildings in Kensington that once housed the Russian and Egyptian embassies into a 55,000-square-foot home. Khalili says he spent 90 million pounds on the house, including 45 million pounds on the refurbishment. He employed 400 craftsmen for 4 years, installing 3,200 square meters of marble, a Turkish bath and underground parking for 20 cars. Marion Khalili says she refused to move in, deeming the house too palatial.

In 2001, Khalili unloaded the property for 50 million pounds to Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone, who sold it to steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal for 57 million pounds in 2004, according to public records. Khalili now lives instead in a seven-story Edwardian mansion in Mayfair.

These days, Khalili says, his buying of Islamic art has slowed. With competition intensifying, he’s turned his attention elsewhere. One afternoon in late February, he reveals that he’s already begun his sixth collection. This time, Khalili says, he’s acquired an existing trove of nearly 200 pieces, to which he’ll add more treasures.

And the collection’s theme?

“I’m not telling you,” Khalili says with a smile. With that, he draws a veil on the next chapter in the improbable story of the Iranian yeshiva student who became the world’s leading private collector of Islamic art.

–Editors: David Ellis, Jonathan Neumann

Israel-Iran War Game Scenario Predicts Disaster:

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Translated by Didi Remez

Israel’s leading columnist, Nahum Barnea, published a column this week about an academic war game exercise conducted at Bar Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center Strategic Studies.  In a paper published last September, Prof. Moshe Vered considered under what conditions the two nations might enter a war, how long it might last and how it might end.  The results were alarming even to the Israeli intelligence community.  Here is how Barnea summarizes the research (thanks to Didi Remez for translating the article):

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Workers move a fuels rod at the Fuel Manufacturing plant at the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility 440 Km (273 miles) south of Tehran April 9, 2009.  

REUTERS/Caren Firouz 

“The war could be long,” Vered warns, “its length could be measured in years.”  The cost that the war will exact from Israel raises a question mark as to the decision to go to war.

The relatively light scenario speaks about an Israeli bombing, after which Iran will fire several volleys of surface-to-surface missiles at Israel.  Due to the limited number of missiles and their high cost, the war will end within a short time.  The missiles may run out, the study states, but the war will only be getting started.
“The means that may be most effective for the Iranians is war by proxies—Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas,” Vered writes.  “(There will be) ongoing and massive rocket fire (and in the Syrian case, also various types of Scud missiles), which will cover most of the area of the country, disrupt the course of everyday life and cause casualties and property damage.  The effect of such fire will greatly increase if the enemy fires chemical, biological or radiological ordnance… massive Iranian support, by money and weapons, will help the organizations continue the fire over a period of indeterminate length… due to the long-range of the rockets held by Hizbullah, Israel will have to occupy most of the territory of Lebanon, and hold the territory for a long time.  But then the IDF will enter a guerrilla war, a war the end of which is hard to predict, unless we evacuate the territory, and then the rocket fire will return…”

This is not all.  “Another possibility,” Vered writes, “is the activation of Iranian expeditionary forces that will be located in Syria as part of a defense pact between the two countries, or sending large amounts of infantry forces to participate in the war alongside Hizbullah or Syria.  Iran’s ability to do so will increase after the United States evacuates its troops from Iraq.  If the current tension between Turkey and Israel rises, Turkey may also permit, or turn a blind eye to, arms shipments and Iranian volunteers that will pass to Syria through its territory and airspace.  Israel will find it very difficult, politically and militarily, to intercept the passage of forces through Iraq or Turkey.  The participation of Iranian forces will make it very difficult for the IDF to occupy areas from which rockets are being fired.

“Along with these steps, Iran may launch a massive terror campaign against Israeli targets within Israel and abroad (diplomatic missions, El Al planes and more) and against Jewish targets.”

Iran will not attack immediately, Vered’s scenario states.  First it will launch intensive diplomatic activity, which could lead to an American embargo on spare parts to Israel.  Along with this, the Iranians will secretly move troops to Syria.  Israel will not attack the troops, for fear of international pressure.  The IDF will have to mobilize a large reserve force to defend the Golan Heights.  After the Iranians complete the buildup of their force, Hizbullah and Hamas will launch massive rocket fire against all population centers.  The IDF will try to occupy Lebanon and will engage in a guerrilla war with multiple casualties.  Hamas will renew the suicide bombings and Iran will target Israel’s sea and air routes by terrorism.  The Iranians will fire missiles at population centers in Israel, and will rebuild the nuclear facilities that were bombed, in such a way that will make it very difficult to bomb them again.

Vered bases his assessment mainly on the regime’s ideology and on the lessons of the Iran-Iraq War, which lasted from 1980 to 1988.  He writes: “Half a million dead, a million wounded, two million refugees and displaced persons, economic damage estimated by the Iranian government at about $1-trillion—more than twice the value of all Iranian oil production in 70 years of pumping oil—none of this was sufficient to persuade Iran to stop the war.  Only the fear of the regime’s fall led the leadership to accept the cease-fire.

“The ramifications are clear and harsh—like the war against Iraq, the war against Israel will also be perceived by the Iranians as a war intended to right a wrong and bring justice to the world by destroying the State of Israel.  Only a threat to the regime will be able to make the Iranian leadership stop.  It is difficult to see how Israel could create such a threat.”

The United States would be able to shorten the war if it were to join it alongside Israel.  Vered does not observe American willingness to do so.  He predicts the possibility of pressure in the opposite direction, by the US on Israel….

The military card

…The game is now approaching the critical stage, the “money time.”  Netanyahu and Barak are waving the military card.  “All the options are on the table,” they say, accompanying the sentence with a meaningful look.  There are Israelis, in uniform and civilian clothes, who take them seriously…

The following is perhaps the most important portion of this column since Barnea posits a startling theory to explain Bibi’s posturing and bellicosity concerning Iran.  If he is right then I would feel a whole lot more confident that war is not in the offing.  But if he is wrong…

I find it difficult to believe that Netanyahu will undertake such a weighty and dangerous decision.  It is more reasonable to assume that he and Barak are playing “hold me back.”  On the day they will be called upon to explain why Iran attained nuclear weapons, they will say, each on his own, what do you want from me, I prepared a daring, deadly, amazing operation, but they—the US administration, the top IDF brass, the forum of three, the forum of seven, the forum of ten—tripped me up.  They are to blame.

Netanyahu and Barak know: there is no military operation more successful, more perfect, than an operation that did not take place.

Netanyahu has upgraded Ahmadinejad to the dimensions of a Hitler.  Against Hitler, one fights to the last bunker.  This is what Churchill did, and Netanyahu wants so badly to be like Churchill.  His credibility—a sensitive issue—is on the table.  If he retreats, the voters will turn their back on him.  Where will he go?  In his distress, he may run forward.

Below, Barnea continues with his entirely reasonable, pragmatic and even cynical theories that the Israeli public neither believes, nor wants Bibi to go to war.  While he may be right, I’m afraid that many polls of Israeli opinion show a population resigned to confrontation and possible war. So who do you believe?

The fascinating side of this story is that very few Israelis would appear to believe their prime minister.  If they believed him, they would not run in a frenzy to buy apartments in the towers sprouting like mushrooms around the Kirya.  In the event that Iran should be bombed, the residents of the towers would be the first to get it.  If they believed [Netanyahu], the real estate prices in Tel Aviv would drop to a quarter of their current value, and long lines of people applying for passports would extend outside the foreign embassies.  What do the Israelis know about Netanyahu that Ahmadinejad does not know, what is it that they know.
Of course, this eminently reasonable interpretation omits the fact that many other pragmatic Israeli leaders, equally cynical in their way, have been sucked into disastrous wars for far less reason.  Most recently Ehud Olmert in Lebanon and Gaza.  Menachem Begin in Lebanon.  Do we really believe that even if he doesn’t mean to go to war that something could not suck him into it against his better judgment?  History is full of examples of precisely such things, World War I being perhaps the foremost example.

Returning to Vered’s war game, there will be Iran haters in Israel who read this who pooh-pooh this scenario claiming it overstates the negatives and overlooks Israel’s prowess and past success in similar ventures like Osirak and the alleged Syrian nuclear reactor.  But I say if even 1/10 of the complications Vered outlines happen, that disaster may be in the offing for Israel.  Israelis tend to have a “can do” attitude towards wars with their Arab neighbors.  As such, they often overestimate themselves and underestimate their adversary.  Iran, once provoked, will make a much more formidable adversary than most Israelis imagine.  Israelis should remember, but won’t, that the IDF is no longer the vaunted invincible force it was after the 1967 War.  It cannot work miracles.  Think Lebanon, 2006.  Think Gaza, 2008.  To delude yourself that bombing Iranian nuclear plants will be a surgical operation with short-term consequences alone is beyond foolish.  That is why Vered’s exercise, no matter how accurate it turns out to be, is salient.

12-12

Iranian President Visits Afghanistan

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Two Reports from Xinhua

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TEHRAN, March 9 (Xinhua) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit Afghanistan on Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday.

“It has been decided that the president will visit Afghanistan on Wednesday,” Mehmanparast told reporters in his weekly press conference.

The visit will mark Ahmadinejad’s first official visit to the country since the re-election of Hamid Karzai as Afghan president.

An unidentified Afghan official said Monday that Ahmadinejad has postponed visit to Afghanistan which is originally scheduled on Monday.

Afghan President to visit Pakistan for seeking help to hold talks with Taliban

ISLAMABAD, March 9 (Xinhua) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai will pay a two-day visit to Pakistan on Wednesday and is expected to officially ask Pakistan for its assistance in the talks with Taliban, political analysts here said.

They said that the president will also seek the extradition of the top Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar from Pakistan to Afghanistan for a court trial.

Sources from Pakistani Foreign Office said that President Karzai will meet his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and some other civil society members.

Anti-terrorism battle, U.S. army surge, repatriation of Afghan refugees and progress in the war-ravaged country will also be discussed during the meeting with Pakistani high-ups, they said.

Analysts believed that Pakistan will raise the issue of border infiltration of militants from Afghanistan and of its missing persons while Afghanistan will seek details for the recovery of the abducted Afghan diplomat Abdul Khaliq Faraakhi.

Afghan Interior Minister Hanif Atmar has asked for Baradar extradition when he held a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik in Islamabad last month. But circumstances changed when a Pakistani court ordered not to hand over Mullah Bardar to any country.

Saleem Safi, a leading journalist and expert on Afghan affairs, told Xinhua that President Karzai’s visit is very important because the situation has changed and American authorities have given a green signal for negotiations with Taliban, adding that Pakistan could play a crucial role in the negotiations with Taliban.

It is the first visit of Karzai to Pakistan after he won his second term as President in November 2009, Safi said.

“Approach in Pakistan’s policy towards President Karzai has changed too much but there is slight shift in policy towards Afghanistan,” said the expert.

Maryana Babar, an analyst on foreign affairs agreed that the visit is very important in the backdrop of the new U.S. policy for Afghanistan, in which Pakistan has asked for a role in the negotiations process.

Babar said that Pakistani Army Chief General Pervez Ashfaq Kayani, in his recent trip to Kabul, told the Afghan government and U.S. authorities that Pakistan could provide training to Afghan troops.

She said that the Afghan president would bring a plan of action and will ask Pakistan’s assistance in the process of reconciliation and reintegration with Taliban as Karzai has openly asked Pakistan and the Saudi Arabia for assistance in bringing Afghan Taliban to talk table on the sidelines of London conference in January.

12-11

Iran, Syria Leaders Brush Aside US Call to Weaken Ties

March 4, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Two countries scrap visa requirements

By Roueida Mabardi, Agence France Presse (AFP)

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DAMASCUS: The presidents of Syria and Iran signed a visa-scrapping accord on Thursday, signaling even closer ties and brushing aside United States efforts to drive a wedge between the two allies.

“I am surprised by their call to keep a distance between the countries … when they raise the issue of stability and peace in the Middle East, and all the other beautiful principles,” Syrian President Bashar Assad told a news conference in Damascus with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“We need to further reinforce relations if the true objective is stability. We do not want others to give us lessons on our region, our history,” the Syrian president said.

Ahmadinejad, who flew in to Damascus earlier in the day and later met exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, stressed that ties between the two Muslim states, both outspoken critics of US ally Israel, were as “solid” as ever. “Nothing can damage these relations,” he said.

On the same day in occupied Jerusalem, the United States and Israel resumed an annual “strategic dialogue” for the first time since US President Barack Obama assumed office in 2009, with Iran prominent on the agenda.

US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg met Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.

Assad said his country was always on the alert against Israel.

“We are always preparing ourselves for an Israeli aggression whether it is small or big scale,” he said.

Afterward, Ahmadinejad met Meshaal, Ahmed Jibril – leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – and other Palestinian leaders critical of the peace process for talks focused on “the Israeli threats made against Syria, Iran, the Palestinians and Lebanon,” a participant in the meeting said.

Ahmadinejad told the Palestinian leaders that “Iran places itself solidly beside the Palestinian people, until their land is liberated,” the participant said, and that resistance was the “likeliest path to liberation.”

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington has been pressing Damascus to move away from Iran

Questioned on Clinton, Assad adopted an ironic tone.

“We met today to sign a ‘separation accord’ between Syria and Iran, but because of a bad translation we ended up signing an accord on scrapping visas,” he quipped.

Assad said the agreement would serve “to further reinforce relations in all fields and at all levels” between the two countries, which have been close allies for the past three decades.

In the face of US-led efforts to slap new sanctions on the Islamic Republic over its controversial nuclear program, he also defended Iran’s right to pursue uranium enrichment.

“To forbid an independent state the right to enrichment amounts to a new colonialist process in the region,” he said.

The visit came after Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Syria was determined to help Iran and the West engage in a “constructive” dialogue over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Western governments suspect that the program in Iran is cover for a drive to produce a bomb.

Tehran vehemently denies the allegation.

On the eve of Ahmadinejad’s visit, Clinton was blunter than ever about the bid to drive a wedge between Syria and Iran.

Testifying in the Senate, she said William Burns, the third-ranking US diplomat, “had very intense, substantive talks in Damascus” last week on what was the highest-level US mission to the Syrian capital in five years.

Syria is being asked “generally to begin to move away from the relationship with Iran, which is so deeply troubling to the region as well as to the United States,” Clinton said.

12-10

A New Battle Begins in Pakistan

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Syed Saleem Shahzad

ISLAMABAD – Despite serious reservations, Pakistan’s military at the weekend began an all-out offensive against the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda in the tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.

The deployment of about 30,000 troops in South Waziristan, backed by the air force, shifts the main theater of the South Asian battlefield from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

That Pakistan has become a focal point was underscored on Sunday when six Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps commanders were killed, as well as 37 other people, in an attack in Iran’s restive Sistan-Balochistan province.

Iranian state television said the Foreign Ministry summoned a senior Pakistani diplomat in Tehran, saying there was evidence

“the perpetrators of this attack came to Iran from Pakistan”. The Pakistani government was asked not to delay “in the apprehension of the main elements in this terrorist attack”.

The attack has been blamed on the group Jundallah, which is believed to operate from Pakistan’s Balochistan province and which recently established a link with al-Qaeda. (See Al-Qaeda seeks a new alliance Asia Times Online, May 21, 2009.)

On Monday, clashes between the Pakistan military and the militants continued for the third day in South Waziristan. Islamabad says that 60 militants have been killed, with 11 soldiers dead.

The army had serious reservations about sending ground troops into South Waziristan, firstly for fear of a strong militant backlash in other parts of the country and secondly because there is no guarantee of success. However, under pressure from the United States, and with the carrot of US$1.5 billion a year for the next fives years in additional non-military aid, Pakistan’s political government has bitten the bullet. The timing might have been influenced by a string of militant attacks in the country over the past few days.

The offensive is concentrated in the areas of the Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan, which is also the headquarters of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

In preparation for the assault, the army made ceasefire deals with several influential Taliban warlords who run large networks against coalition troops in Afghanistan. They include Mullah Nazir, the chief of the Taliban in Wana, South Waziristan, who operates the largest Taliban network in the Afghan province of Paktika. Mullah Nazir is neutral in this Pakistani conflict and agreed to allow passage to the army to enter Mehsud territory.

In North Waziristan, two top Taliban commanders, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Moulvi Sadiq Noor, also agreed to remain neutral. They are members of the Shura of the Mujahideen and a main component of the Taliban’s insurgency in the Afghan province of Khost.

This leaves a few thousand Mehsud tribal fighters along with their Uzbek and Punjabi militant allies to fight against the military. Thousands of civilians have fled the area.

However, Hakimullah Mehsud of the TTP, according to Asia Times Online contacts, has apparently adopted a strategy that will not expend too many resources on protecting the Mehsud area. Instead, he aims to spread chaos by attacking security personnel in the cities. Hakimullah was the architect of successful attacks on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s supply lines in the Khyber Agency, which began in 2007.

The same contacts say that when thousands of people left South Waziristan last week under the military’s directives, a majority of the militants melted away to the Shawal region, situated at the crossroads of South Waziristan, Afghanistan and North Waziristan, besides going to Pakistani cities.

A very limited force is entrenched in the Mehsud tribal area, and by all accounts it is putting up fierce resistance.

In the cities, the TTP will be assisted by Punjabis, who will aim to replicate the audacious and well-planned attack on the Pakistani military headquarters in Rawalpindi on October 10.

This attack and subsequent siege in which a number of hostages were held exposed loopholes in the security mechanisms of the armed forces as well as the deep penetration of militants in the security forces.

A transcript of the militants’ calls, intercepted by the security forces and read by Asia Times Online, shows that the militants had noticed a damaged wall at General Headquarters Rawalpindi. They therefore engaged security personnel at the main gate, while at the same time sending about 10 men through the breach in the wall. These militants were given support by insiders.

The attackers made directly for the barracks of Military Intelligence and took several senior officials hostage, including the director general of Military Intelligence. They then presented a list of demands. According to some reports which have not been authenticated by independent sources, six prisoners were released on the militants’ demands before the hostages were released after a commando operation on October 11.

Washington has been keen to extend the war into Pakistan since early 2008. To reflect this, this year it coined “AfPak”, and even appointed a special representative, Richard Holbrooke, to handle this portfolio. The focus in Pakistan was to be the militant bases in the tribal areas which feed directly into the insurgency across the border.

The aim was to create breathing space for coalition troops in Afghanistan and eventually pave the way for an honorable exit strategy after initiating talks with sections of the Taliban.

This year, the US also stepped up its presence in Pakistan by acquiring new bases and the Americans developed a joint intelligence mechanism with Pakistan to hit al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistan with Predator drones. These missile attacks have proved particularly successful in taking out key targets, including Baitullah Mehsud, the TTP leader.

The US also coordinated ground military operations such as Lion Heart, which saw coalition troops on the Afghan side working with Pakistani troops on the other side to squeeze militants. (Asia Times Online documented this last year – see US forces the terror issue with Pakistan September 16, 2008.)

There are parallels in what the US is doing with Pakistan to what happened during the Vietnam War, when that war was extended into Laos and Cambodia.

Beyond the South Waziristan operation

Washington is watching developments in Waziristan with keen interest. Both General Stanley A McChrystal, the top US general in Afghanistan, and US Central Command chief, General David Petraeus, are currently in Pakistan.

They will be pleased that Pakistan has committed its biggest-ever force for such an operation – 30,000 troops with another 30,000 in reserve. Yet the chances of a decisive military victory remain remote.

Given the nature of the opposition and the tough territory, there is a high probability of extensive casualties in the army, with resultant desertions and dissent. There is also no guarantee that if the conflict drags on, the warlords with whom ceasefires have been agreed will not go back on their deals.

At the same time, there are signals that the Taliban in the Swat area in North-West Frontier Province are regrouping after being pushed back by the army this year. It is likely that by the time the snow chokes major supply routes, the Taliban will have seized all lost ground in the Swat Valley. By marching into South Waziristan, the military has taken something of a gamble as it is highly unlikely to eliminate the militant threat. Indeed, the past seven or so years have shown that after any operation against militants, the militants have always gained from the situation. By the same token, the militants don’t have the capacity to permanently control ground beyond their areas in South Waziristan and North Waziristan.

In this situation, in which the militants and the military can’t defeat one another, and if the fighting continues, a political crisis could be provoked. This would weaken the state of Pakistan and its institutions. Alternatively, the authorities could accept the fact that Pakistan is a tribal society which always operates through bargains and deals, and move quickly to contain this conflict.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online’s Pakistan Bureau Chief.

12-9

The Iranian Greens and the West: A Dangerous Liaison

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sasan Fayazmanesh

In the 1979 Revolution in Iran the liberal forces made a fatal mistake: they adopted the old dictum of the enemy of my enemy is my friend and allied themselves with just about every force that opposed the tyrannical rule of the shah. The result was helping to replace one form of despotism for another: monarchy for theocracy. A similar mistake seems to be made today. Many liberal elements are once again allying themselves with anyone who opposes the current regime in Iran, including the same Western countries that nourished the despotic rule of the shah in the first place.

For decades these countries, particularly the US and Israel, helped the shah to deprive Iranians of their most basic rights and freedoms. With the assistance of these countries, the demented despot silenced all opposition to his rule, built and expanded his notorious secret police, made his opponents disappear, and filled Irans dungeons, particularly the infamous Evin prison that is still in use, with political prisoners. He had them tortured, mutilated, and executed. The US, Israel and their allies, had no problem with these violations of basic human rights in Iran as long as the son of a bitch was their son of a bitch and made them a partner in the plunder of the wealth of the nation.

Afterward, these same countries gave us the dual containment policy that helped Saddam Hussein start one of the longest wars in the 20th century, the Iran-Iraq War. They closed their eyes to Saddams crimes and even assisted him in his criminal acts. With their help, the butcher of Baghdad killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of people by deploying chemical agents in the war, bombing civilians and laying cities to waste. The West had no problem with Saddam Hussein as long as he was their son of a bitch. But once the Iraq-Iran War ended and Saddam tried to become a free agent, the US, Israel and their allies gave us the first invasion of Iraq and the subsequent inhumane sanctions against the country, which resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Then they brought about the second invasion of Iraq, the shock and awe, indiscriminate bombing of the civilians, sadistic and horrendous treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the savagery in Fallujah, more death, destruction, and mayhem. Then Israel, that only democracy in the Middle East, and its Western allies, gave us the brutal war against the helpless Lebanese and the massacre in Gaza.

Has all this been forgotten? Have the liberal Iranian forces lost their memory? Are they suffering from historical amnesia? Indeed, the behavior of some of the supporters of the Iranian Greens leaves one with no choice but to conclude that they are either experiencing a memory loss or are amazingly ignorant. For example, according to The Washington Post, on November 2, 2009, Ataollah Mohajerani, who has been a spokesman in Europe for presidential candidate-turned-dissident Mehdi Karroubi, came to Washington to address the annual conference of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. True, according to the report, Mr. Mohajeranis talk, which included such things as a rehashing of U.S. involvement in the 1953 coup in Tehran, did not exactly please his audience. But why would a supporter of the Iranian Greens appear before the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) crowd in the first place? Doesnt he know what WINEP represents? Has he no idea that this institute is a think tank affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)? Is he not aware that AIPAC is the Israeli fifth column in the US, which, in spite of formulating US foreign policy in the Middle East, is caught every few years in the act of espionage? Is he ignorant of the fact that AIPAC-WINEP has been underwriting every sanction act against Iran since the early 1990s? Is he unaware that AIPAC-WINEP gave us Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and associates, the Bush era architects of the genocidal war in Iraq? Does he not know that AIPAC-WINEP has brought us Dennis Ross and associates, the architects of the Obama era policy of tough diplomacy, a policy that was intended to bring nothing but more sanctions against Iran and, possibly, a war? Is he not aware that AIPAC-WINEPs interest in Iran stops at the doorstep of Eretz Israel and has nothing to do with democracy or human rights in Iran? How forgetful or ignorant can a supporter of the cleric Karroubi be?

Many supporters of Mir Hussein Mossavi have also shown either memory lapses or complete ignorance. . . .

12-9

Is Iran Running a Bluff?

February 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Did Robert Gibbs let the cat out of the bag?

Last week, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the world that Iran, unable to get fuel rods from the West for its U.S.-built reactor, which makes medical isotopes, had begun to enrich its own uranium to 20 percent.

From his perch in the West Wing, Gibbs scoffed: He [Ahmadinejad] says many things, and many of them turn out to be untrue. We do not believe they have the capability to enrich to the degree to which they now say they are enriching.

But wait a minute. If Iran does not have the capability to enrich to 20 percent for fuel rods, how can Iran enrich to 90 percent for a bomb?

What was Gibbs implying?

Is he confirming reports that Irans centrifuges are breaking down or have been sabotaged? Is he saying that impurities, such as molybdenum, in the feed stock of Irans centrifuges at Natanz are damaging the centrifuges and contaminating the uranium?

What explains Gibbs confidence? Perhaps this.

According to a report last week by David Albright and Christina Walrond of the Institute for Science and International Security, Irans problems in its centrifuge program are greater than expected. Iran is unlikely to deploy enough gas centrifuges to make enriched uranium for commercial nuclear power reactors [Iran’s stated nuclear goal] for a long time, if ever, particularly if [UN] sanctions remain in force.

Thus, ISIS is saying Iran cannot make usable fuel for the nuclear power plant it is building, and Gibbs is saying Iran lacks the capability to make fuel rods for its research reactor.

Which suggests Iran’s vaunted nuclear program is a busted flush.

ISIS insists, however, that Iran may still be able to build a bomb. Yet, to do that, Iran would have to divert nearly all of its low-enriched uranium at Natanz, now under UN watch, to a new cascade of centrifuges, enrich that to 90 percent, then explode a nuclear device.

Should Iran do that, however, it would have burned up all its bomb-grade uranium and lack enough low-enriched uranium for a second test. And Tehran would be facing a stunned and shaken Israel with hundreds of nukes and an America with thousands, without a single nuke of its own.

Is Iran running a bluff? And if Gibbs and Albright are right, how long can Iran keep up this pretense of rapid nuclear progress?

Which brings us to the declaration by Ahmadinejad on the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, which produced this headline in the New York Times: Iran Boasts of Capacity to Make Bomb Fuel.

Accurate as far as it went, this headline was so incomplete as to mislead. For here is what Ahmadinejad said in full:

When we say that we dont build nuclear bombs, it means that we wont do so because we dont believe in having it. The Iranian nation is brave enough that if one day we wanted to build nuclear bombs, we would announce it publicly without being afraid of you.

Right now in Natanz we have the capability to enrich to more than 20 percent and to more than 80 percent, but because we dont need to, we wont do so.

On Friday, Ahmadinejad sounded like Ronald Reagan: We believe that not only the Middle East but the whole world should be free of nuclear weapons, because we see such weapons as inhumane.

Now, if as Albright suggests, Tehran cannot produce fuel for nuclear power plants, and if, as Gibbs suggests, Iran is not capable of enriching to 20 percent for fuel for its research reactor, is Ahmadinejad, in renouncing the bomb, making a virtue of necessity?

After all, if you cant build them, denounce them as inhumane.

Last December, however, the Times of London reported it had a secret document, which intelligence agencies dated to early 2007, proving that Iran was working on the final component of a neutron initiator, the trigger for an atom bomb.

If true, this would leave egg all over the faces of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies whose December 2007 consensus was that Iran stopped seeking a bomb in 2003.
The Times credited an Asian intelligence service for having ably assisted with its story.

U.S. intelligence, however, has not confirmed the authenticity of the document, and Iran calls it a transparent forgery. When former CIA man Phil Giraldi sounded out ex-colleagues still in the trade, they, too, called the Times document a forgery.

Shades of Saddam seeking yellowcake from Niger.

Are the folks who lied us into war on Iraq, to strip it of weapons it did not have, now trying to lie us into war on Iran, to strip it of weapons it does not have?

Maybe the Senate should find out before voting sanctions that will put us on the road to such a war, which would fill up all the empty beds at Walter Reed.

12-8

Will Obama Play the War Card?

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Patrick J. Buchanan, Antiwar.com

Republicans already counting the seats they will pick up this fall should keep in mind Obama has a big card yet to play.

Should the president declare he has gone the last mile for a negotiated end to Iran’s nuclear program and impose the “crippling” sanctions he promised in 2008, America would be on an escalator to confrontation that could lead straight to war.

And should war come, that would be the end of GOP dreams of adding three-dozen seats in the House and half a dozen in the Senate.

Harry Reid is surely aware a U.S. clash with Iran, with him at the presidents side, could assure his re-election. Last week, Reid whistled through the Senate, by voice vote, a bill to put us on that escalator.

Senate bill 2799 would punish any company exporting gasoline to Iran. Though swimming in oil, Iran has a limited refining capacity and must import 40 percent of the gas to operate its cars and trucks and heat its homes.

And cutting off a country’s oil or gas is a proven path to war.

In 1941, the United States froze Japans assets, denying her the funds to pay for the U.S. oil on which she relied, forcing Tokyo either to retreat from her empire or seize the only oil in reach, in the Dutch East Indies.

The only force able to interfere with a Japanese drive into the East Indies? The U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Egypts Gamel Abdel Nasser in 1967 threatened to close the Straits of Tiran between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba to ships going to the Israeli port of Elath. That would have cut off 95 percent of Israel’s oil.

Israel response: a pre-emptive war that destroyed Egypt’s air force and put Israeli troops at Sharm el-Sheikh on the Straits of Tiran.

Were Reid and colleagues seeking to strengthen Obama’s negotiating hand?

The opposite is true. The Senate is trying to force Obama’s hand, box him in, restrict his freedom of action, by making him impose sanctions that would cut off the negotiating track and put us on a track to war a war to deny Iran weapons that the U.S. Intelligence community said in December 2007 Iran gave up trying to acquire in 2003.

Sound familiar?

Republican leader Mitch McConnell has made clear the Senate is seizing control of the Iran portfolio. “If the Obama administration will not take action against this regime, then Congress must.”

U.S. interests would seem to dictate supporting those elements in Iran who wish to be rid of the regime and re-engage the West. But if that is our goal, the Senate bill, and a House version that passed 412 to 12, seem almost diabolically perverse.

For a cutoff in gas would hammer Irans middle class. The Revolutionary Guard and Basij militia on their motorbikes would get all they need. Thus the leaders of the Green Movement who have stood up to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah oppose sanctions that inflict suffering on their own people.

Cutting off gas to Iran would cause many deaths. And the families of the sick, the old, the weak, the women and the children who die are unlikely to feel gratitude toward those who killed them.

And despite the hysteria about Iran’s imminent testing of a bomb, the U.S. intelligence community still has not changed its finding that Tehran is not seeking a bomb.

The low-enriched uranium at Natanz, enough for one test, has neither been moved nor enriched to weapons grade. Ahmadinejad this week offered to take the Wests deal and trade it for fuel for its reactor. Irans known nuclear facilities are under U.N. watch. The number of centrifuges operating at Natanz has fallen below 4,000. There is speculation they are breaking down or have been sabotaged.

And if Iran is hell-bent on a bomb, why has Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair not revised the 2007 finding and given us the hard evidence?

U.S. anti-missile ships are moving into the Gulf. Anti-missile batteries are being deployed on the Arab shore. Yet, Gen. David Petraeus warned yesterday that a strike on Iran could stir nationalist sentiment behind the regime.

Nevertheless, the war drums have again begun to beat.

Daniel Pipes in a National Review Online piece featured by the Jerusalem Post “How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran” urges Obama to make a “dramatic gesture to change the public perception of him as a lightweight, bumbling ideologue” by ordering the U.S. military to attack Irans nuclear facilities.

Citing six polls, Pipes says Americans support an attack today and will “presumably rally around the flag” when the bombs fall.

Will Obama cynically yield to temptation, play the war card and make “conservatives swoon,” in Pipes phrase, to save himself and his party? We shall see.

12-7

Russia, China, Iran Redraw Energy Map

January 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By M K Bhadrakumar

16932.jpg

The inauguration of the Dauletabad-Sarakhs-Khangiran pipeline on Wednesday connecting Iran’s northern Caspian region with Turkmenistan’s vast gas field may go unnoticed amid the Western media cacophony that it is “apocalypse now” for the Islamic regime in Tehran.

The event sends strong messages for regional security. Within the space of three weeks, Turkmenistan has committed its entire gas exports to China, Russia and Iran. It has no urgent need of the pipelines that the United States and the European Union have been advancing. Are we hearing the faint notes of a Russia-China-Iran symphony?

The 182-kilometer Turkmen-Iranian pipeline starts modestly with the pumping of 8 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Turkmen gas. But its annual capacity is 20bcm, and that would meet the energy requirements of Iran’s Caspian region and enable Tehran to free its own gas production in the southern fields for export. The mutual interest is perfect: Ashgabat gets an assured market next door; northern Iran can consume without fear of winter shortages; Tehran can generate more surplus for exports; Turkmenistan can seek transportation routes to the world market via Iran; and Iran can aspire to take advantage of its excellent geographical location as a hub for the Turkmen exports.

12-3

Iran Blames US Agents for Scientist’s Murder

January 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Fredrik Dahl

2010-01-13T123250Z_01_BTRE60C0YUZ00_RTROPTP_3_INTERNATIONAL-US-IRAN-BOMB-USA

An undated image released by Iran’s Fars News Agency of Tehran University professor Massoud Ali-Mohammadi who was killed by a bomb in front of his home in north Tehran January 12, 2010.

REUTERS/FARS NEWS

TEHRAN (Reuters) – A remote-controlled bomb killed a Tehran University scientist on Tuesday, official media reported, in an attack Iran blamed on the United States and Israel.

Iranian officials and state media described professor Massoud Ali-Mohammadi as a nuclear scientist, and Iran’s cabinet said agents of the United States were behind his murder.

A State Department official in Washington said charges of U.S. involvement were absurd.

Western sources said Ali-Mohammadi, a physics professor, worked closely with Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi and Fereydoun Abbassi-Davani, both subject to U.N. sanctions because of their work on suspected nuclear weapons development.

The U.N. nuclear agency is investigating Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran says is for generating electricity and not for building nuclear bombs as the West suspects.

Ali Shirzadian, a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said Ali-Mohammadi, 50, had not played a role in the activities of the organization, which is at the center of the disputed nuclear program.

Shahram Amiri, a university researcher working for the atomic body, disappeared during a pilgrimage to Mecca in June, three months before Iran disclosed the existence of its second uranium enrichment site near the city of Qom. In December, Tehran accused Saudi Arabia of handing Amiri over to the United States.

“America’s spying and intelligence agents from one side abduct some Iranian citizens … and on the other side their treacherous agents kill an Iranian citizen inside the country,” an Iranian cabinet statement said, reported by the semi-official Fars news agency.

A list of Ali-Mohammadi’s publications on Tehran University’s website suggested his specialism was theoretical particle physics, not nuclear energy, a Western physics professor said.

The bombing — a rare attack in the Iranian capital — occurred at a time of heightened tension in the Islamic Republic seven months after a disputed presidential election plunged the oil producer into turmoil.

It also coincided with a sensitive juncture in Iran’s row with the West over its nuclear ambitions, with global powers expected to meet in New York on Saturday to discuss possible new sanctions on Tehran over its refusal to halt its atomic work.

Earlier, Iran’s Foreign Ministry blamed Israel and the United States.

“Signs of the triangle of wickedness by the Zionist regime (Israel), America and their hired agents, are visible in the terrorist act,” it said.

“Such terrorist acts and the apparent elimination of the country’s nuclear scientists will definitely not obstruct scientific and technological processes,” it said.
White House spokesman Bill Burton said the accusations were absurd. A senior Israeli official said Ali-Mohammadi was not known to have been a significant figure in any military nuclear program.

BOOBY-TRAPPED MOTORBIKE

English-language Press TV said Ali-Mohammadi was killed in a northern part of the capital by a booby-trapped motorcycle as he was leaving his home. It showed footage of blood stains, broken glass and other debris at the scene, with what appeared to be the dead man in a body bag taken away on a stretcher.

Fars said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had ordered the intelligence and security services to use all their capabilities to find those behind the killing.

State broadcaster IRIB described al-Mohammadi as a “committed and revolutionary” professor, suggesting he backed Ahmadinejad’s government. Fars quoted one of his students as saying he had worked with the elite Revolutionary Guards until 2003.

But an opposition website, Jaras, said he was an opposition supporter whose name was among hundreds of academics who issued a statement in favor of moderate candidate Mirhossein Mousavi during the campaign for last June’s election.

Even if he had worked on Iran’s nuclear program, analysts doubted his death could set back Tehran’s aspirations.

“I have no reason to think that this is part of an Israeli or American strategy to deprive Iran of the brains of the enrichment process,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, chief proliferation analyst at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies. “There are by now too many scientists and engineers with the requisite expertise”.
STRATFOR, a global intelligence firm, said Ali-Mohammadi was unlikely to have been a key figure in nuclear activities since his publishing record pointed to purely academic research.

“The relatively high visibility and volume of work in academia suggests that Ali-Mohammadi’s role, if any, in the nuclear program was not very significant,” STRATFOR said in an analysis. “Critical scientists involved in nuclear weapons programs usually are sequestered carefully and provided more security than Ali-Mohammadi was given.”

Fars quoted a foreign-based group, the Iran Monarchy Association, as claiming responsibility for Tuesday’s bombing. It did not say how it obtained the statement.
Iran has been convulsed by its most serious domestic unrest since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 as protests by opposition supporters against the election result have turned violent. Authorities deny opposition allegations that voting was rigged.

(Additional reporting by Mark Heinrich in Vienna; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Mark Trevelyan)

12-3

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

January 9, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Berkeley–Your author takes his title from John LeClare; a popular British spy novel by that new title above for the subject today is a former Central Intelligence (CIA) operative, Robert Baer, who had come in from the “Cold” for the purpose of promoting his book The Devil We Know.  Baer was an operative in the Middle East with an expertise with Iran shortly before the Iranian Embassy crisis had begun.  His career with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) spanned twenty-five years before he began to have second thoughts.  He had come to the University of California, one of his alumna maters, campus to talk about his book, and to comment on the Obama’s Administration’s intensely controversial policy relationship with Tehran.

Early in his career he was part of the team to determine who was responsible for the Embassy take over.  During this period, Lebanon was to become part of Persia’s sphere of influence.  “Iran is not so much an opponent to the States than with Israel.”  After the 2006 War with Hezbollah, both the United States and Israel’s influence was driven out of Beirut’s territory.  Iran, thus, has become hegemonic in the eastern reaches of the Middle East.  Essentially, Iran had beaten Israel through proxy (Hezbollah).   Effectively, Tel Aviv did not know what “hit it!”   They were unable to comprehend their own intelligence — which they had been fundamentally at War which they lost.  

Baer considers the Anti-Zionist Shia much more discipled than the Sunni.  Robert Baer has a great deal of respect geopolitically for the Iranians.  “We need Iran…for a peaceful Middle East!”  To come to blows with their million man army, would be suicidal.  According to Bob Baer, their armed forces consume up to 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Further, culturally, they are a more culturally sophisticated than us, for Islam is more flexible than the Occident. 

As Iran backs Hamas, “Al-Qaida is an ideanot an org” as R. Baer, also, stated on the BBC today (January 5th).”  For peace we require Iran!  We have to treat them as a power, hegemonic within their region.  “We can’t use the Bush [Utopian] Doctrine.”  For one thing, “Tehran is in competition with Saudi Arabia.”  Further, “Khomeini isn’t a true Ayatollah.”  His support is in the army.  Washington respects the Iranians as a dynamic power for a peace between us.

“The greatest threat [to Persia] is demographic.”  That is, the imbalance between the growth of the younger generations and the middle and senior age groups.  We should be looking as a partner with them within the Gulf instead of being competitors.  “Iran can become troublesome.”  Therefore, we should “…talk to our opponents…or fail.”

12-2

Iran: Time To Leave The NPT?

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nader Bagherzadeh & Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich

Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) acknowledges the “inalienable right” of non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS) to research, develop, and use nuclear energy for non-weapons purposes. The NPT also supports the “fullest possible exchange” of such nuclear-related information and technology between nuclear weapons states (P5) and non-nuclear weapons states. Iran, a NNWS has been denied its “inalienable rights” while support and the exchange of nuclear-related information has been withheld. This begs the question why Iran should continue to honor the NPT?

Indications are that Tehran did not believe that in the international arena, its biggest foe would be injustice. When former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton was busy engineering completely illegal sanctions against Iran, it was with the goal of testing Tehran’s patience in the hope of having it exit the NPT so that he could muster up support for yet another war against an Islamic country in the Middle East. But Iran remained steadfast and in sharp contrast to the United States, it continued to respect international laws in the firm belief that justice would prevail. It did not.

Since 2003, the IAEA has consistently failed its obligations towards Iran as defined by the 1974 Safeguards Agreement. It has failed to facilitate refueling of a small reactor in Tehran, used mostly for short-lived medical isotopes. It has cancelled several key technical assistance programs with Iran, some of them related to nuclear safety issues, under pressure from the US. At America’s behest, the IAEA has become a conventional weapon inspector agency, seeking information about national secrets of Iran related to missiles and conventional bomb making capabilities; which is completely outside of its jurisdiction, as spelled out in the 1974 agreement. In violation of Article 9 of the 1974 Agreement, the IAEA has shared Iran’s sensitive nuclear technology with member nations, as well as outside nuclear experts with dubious connections to Iran’s enemies. And most importantly, the Agency with tremendous pressure from US, has elevated a technical non-compliance matter to the level Chapter 7 UNSC sanctions, which should have been used when there is a clear indication of a nuclear weapons program.

The Agency’s clear violation of Iran’s rights under the NPT leads one to wonder if the IAEA is ever going to clear Iran’s file and revert it back to the normal status while the US is exerting pressure. It is unrealistic for Iran’s leadership to assume that by fully engaging the IAEA, sometime in the near future, this agency, working against the wishes of Obama’s administration, will clear Iran’s path to have nascent enrichment capability. After all, the so called “laptop” filled with mostly fabricated information against Iran’s nuclear programs did not show up until it was clear that the IAEA was going to declare 6 outstanding concerns on Iran’s past nuclear activities were no longer valid.

Although Obama has extended his hand towards Iran, the policy of “zero-enrichment” has not changed an iota from Bush’s policy. When Obama chose Gary Samore and Dennis Ross to handle Iran’s nuclear case, it was obvious that Obama did not have any major changes in mind, and the goal was to use a softer approach to gather more support for putting pressure, or as Ross calls it “bigger sticks.” Moreover, a recent trip by Ross to Beijing to convince Chinese leadership to sign up for more sanctions against Iran on behalf of Obama, shows that not only Ross was not marginalized after he was transferred from the State Department to the White House, but he is practically in the driver’s seat for Obama’s Iran policy.

In addition to the West’s shaping of IAEA’s illegitimate position on Iran’s nuclear file, relentless fabricated attacks by the western media has finally resulted in portraying Iran as an outlaw when it comes to the nuclear activities. The propaganda machine led by the likes of Fred Hiatt of Washington Post and Nicolas Goldberg of Los Angeles Times, have helped create such an environment that a recent Pew poll showed that more than 50% of Americans support a US military strike against Iran while the U.S. is in a quagmire in the graveyard of the empires – Afghanistan, and continues to be engaged in its sixth year war in Iraq.

The latest IAEA’s report which continued its demands from Iran to go beyond its obligations under the NPT safeguards and Subsidiary Arrangement Code 3.1 is another misrepresentation of the truth by the Agency. Iran’s Majlis (parliament) never approved this code which requires reporting any nuclear project at the point of inception. It is ironic that a major NPT member (i.e. US) is allowed to threaten Iran’s nuclear facilities with military strikes, but when Iran rightfully wants to prevent that from happening by using passive defensive majors, she is censured by the Board.

Iran’s continued cooperation with the IAEA may be a call for equality. Their security in pursuing their goal stems from the justness of their cause, itself a compelling reason to delay a war with the US. However, this cooperation is not serving the development of peaceful nuclear energy in Iran. The Agency has been a tool in the hands of major powers and it does not seem that the status will change anytime soon. The way Obama is pushing the chess pieces against Iran by seeking an oil embargo and crippling sanctions, he may be boxed into a war, even if he is ostensibly against it. Perhaps it is time for Iran to reconsider her membership and leave the NPT.

Dr. Nader Bagherzadeh is a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at UC Irvine, California.

Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich has a Master’s in Public Diplomacy from USC Annenberg. She is an independent researcher and writer.

11-51

Official: Iran to “Blow up Heart” of Israel if Attacked

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran would “blow up the heart” of Israel if it was attacked by the Jewish state or the United States, a Revolutionary Guards official was quoted Friday as saying.

“Even if one American or Zionist missile hits our country, before the dust settles, Iranian missiles will blow up the heart of Israel,” Mojtaba Zolnour said, according to IRNA news agency.

Zolnour is a deputy representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the elite Guards force. Iranian officials have previously said Tehran would retaliate in event of an Israeli or U.S. attack.

Earlier this year, a senior commander said Iranian missiles could reach Israeli nuclear sites. Israel is believed to be the only nuclear-armed Middle East state.

Israel has not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to end a dispute over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, echoing U.S. policy, although Washington is engaged in a drive to resolve the issue through direct talks with Tehran.

The West suspects the Islamic state is covertly seeking to develop nuclear weapons, which Iran denies.

“The Zionist regime and the United States cannot risk attacking Iran,” Zolnour said in the holy Shi’ite city of Qom on Thursday, citing Iranian military and technological advances, IRNA reported. Iran refers to Israel as the “Zionist regime.”

At talks in Geneva on October 1, Iran agreed with six world powers — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — to give U.N. experts access to a newly-disclosed uranium enrichment plant south of Tehran.

Iran and Western powers described talks as constructive and a step forward. However, underlying tension was highlighted before the meeting when Iran test-fired missiles with ranges that could put Israel and regional U.S. bases within reach.

The Geneva talks are expected to win Iran a reprieve from tougher U.N. sanctions, although Western powers are likely to be wary of any attempt by Tehran to buy time to develop its nuclear program.

Senior cleric Ahmad Khatami, leading Friday prayers in Tehran, said the meeting represented a “victory” for Iran.

“The Geneva conference was a very successful one and amounted to a victory for the Islamic Republic,” he told worshippers.

“Up until the conference they were constantly talking about sanctions and suspension, but when the conference was held there was no talk of either sanctions or suspension,” he said.

11-44

Mothers of Captured Young Hikers Encouraged

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

New America Media, Mary Ambrose

 

Shane_Bauer_25
Reporter Shane Bauer

The wait for the release of three young Americans arrested on July 31 for allegedly crossing the border illegally into Iran continues, but their families hope they have made some progress towards bringing them home.

On Friday, Nora Shroud, Laura Fattal and Cindy Hickey, the mothers of Sarah Shroud, Josh Fattal, and Shane Bauer, met in New York City to deliver a petition to the Iranian trade mission. The 2,500 signatures and appeals were collected at the families’ site, Free The Hikers, and at vigils held across the country. They all want the same thing: release the hikers from jail and allow them to leave Iran.

The trade mission accepted the petition, which the women viewed as a good sign, as were encouraging noises from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but they want action.

About a month ago, a Swiss diplomat was granted the first consular access visit to the hikers. Switzerland represents U.S. diplomatic interests in Tehran, since the U.S. doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Iran. The diplomat phoned the parents and reported that their children were in good shape. The diplomat gave them chocolate and assured each of them that their companions were well. It’s assumed they are not being held together.

It’s been three weeks since Ahmadinejad said that the hikers entered the country illegally, which he noted was “considered a crime everywhere,” and despite insisting he has no control over the judiciary or the case, he told the Associated Press that he could ask that “the judiciary expedite the process and give it its full attention … and basically look at the case with maximum leniency.” The families want him to deliver on that promise.

Laura Fattal said they see this as a humanitarian issue and on CNN said she thinks that as a father, Ahmadinejad can “easily imagine how difficult it is for the families of the hikers.”

11-44

Community News (V11-I40)

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Adnan Zulfiqar hired as UPenn Interfaith fellow

adnan zulfiqar

The University of Pennsylvania has hired a Muslim scholar as its interfaith fellow.Adnan Zulfiqar – a 2008 graduate of Penn Law and a “brilliant scholar,” according to University Chaplain Chaz Howard – will serve as an Interfaith Fellow and Campus Minister to the Muslim community.

“The concept was that our office wanted to provide a fellowship where the campus religious groups who do not have full-time dedicated staff could have that,” Howard told the Daily Pennsylvanian.

So far, Zulfiqar has received a warm welcome.

“Adnan is fantastic not only because he’s very knowledgeable about everything that has to do with Islam, but also because he has tried everything you would want to do after finishing your undergraduate degree,” said Muslim Student Association communications chairwoman and College junior Roxana Moussavian.

Originally from Alexandria, Va., Zulfiqar is currently completing a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Anthropology from Emory University and a Masters from Georgetown University.

His research focuses primarily on Islamic law and history, politics and governance in the Middle East and South Asia, and law in the developing world.  He previously helped draft the Penal Code of the Maldives, serving as a Team Leader helping to synthesis multiplelegal systems into one comprehensive code.  Zulfiqar also served as a legislative staffer and personal aide to U.S. Senator Max Cleland(D-GA) advising him on immigration, education and foreign policy matters.  In addition, he has been an associate at the Legal Resources Center in Pretoria, South Africa, a visiting scholar at the Center for Excellence in Public Law and Human Rights in Tehran, Iran and a presidential fellow at the Salzburg Global Seminar. 

Zulfiqar  serves as an Adjunct Professor at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Arcadia University.  He received his B.A. in Religion and Anthropology from Emory University, M.L.S. in International Affairs (thesispending) from Georgetown University and Juris Doctor (J.D.) from theUniversity of Pennsylvania Law School.  Zulfiqar has spent over 11 years residing inthe Middle East, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and is proficient in 5 languages including Arabic, Urdu and Farsi.

Class, June 2009

MD Muslims celebrate ‘Eid at Six Flags

ICNA organized a national Muslim day at amusement parks, participated in by several thousand Muslims at six different parks, with halal food, prayer tents, and naats broadcast over the PA speakers. Following is the account of one such event:

UPPER MARLBRO, MD–For the first time, Maryland Muslims were able to reserve the Six Flags in Upper Marlbro for exclusive use. To make the experience even more interesting the day coincided with Eid ul Fitr.

The day, designated Muslim Family Day 2009, featured a bazaar with local vendors and a prayer pavilion and halal food.

“The purpose is to gather Muslims in one place for some good, clean, Islamic fun,” said volunteer organizer Salman Sheikh. “It will bring communities together and you usually you don’t get that chance, so it’s great for the kids.”

New York: Halal food vendor fight

NEW YORK–Halal food business is a lucrative one and the competition can be cut throat. The demand being not only limited to Muslim consumers but also to people of other faith. While the opportunities are vast so is the potential for the competition to get ugly.

The New York Post reported last week that a dispute over sharing territory between two halal hot dog vendors in New York resulted in a slashing of a arm. The story as reported by NBC goes like this”

Walid Osman sold hot dogs out of his cart outside Kings County Hospital until sometime in August; then he thought it would be wise to add chicken to his offerings, reports The New York Post.

Mohamed Hanafi and Abdelrao Akl Hamdy, who had always sold poultry out of the cart on the same corner – Clarkson and E. 37th Street – were miffed that Osman, 32, was luring away their customers with the scent of succulent chicken.

So they did what any New Yorker would do – they relocated their cart right next to Osman’s and slashed their prices in half, reports the Post.

The simmering food fight boiled over on Wednesday, when Hamdy and one of his workers, Farajat Yehiak, allegedly took a butcher knife to Osman’s arm, reports the Post.

The two foodies were charged with assault, menacing and criminal possession of a weapon, and were released without bail after arraignment in Brooklyn court, according to the paper.

Osman, an Egyptian immigrant with two daughters, was treated at the scene for non life-threatening injuries, reports the Post. But that may not be the last he hears from Hanafi.

“He said, ‘If you don’t move your cart to another area, I will kill you,’” Osman told the Post. “He wants to kill my business. I have kids and a family.”

The alleged menacing won’t keep Osman from doing what he has to do to provide for his family, however; he plans to be back at his cart today, reports the Post.

Hanafi argues that Osman is to blame for the feud. The vendor says Osman used to work for him and signed a non-compete agreement of sorts – promising not to manage a chicken cart – and alleged Osman slashed himself and he had nothing to do with it, reports the Post.

The above incident is unfortunate. There is enough room for all to grow in the Halal market. Instead of feuding over territories the halal vendors of New York should venture out for new areas. They should also honor their contracts and respect the rights of others.

Buffalo Muslim women to hold seminar on domestic violence

BUFFALO, NY–Muslim women leaders of Buffalo area are holding a seminar to provide a deeper understanding of the roles and rights of Muslim women.

The event to be held on Sunday September 27, will feature presentations by some of the most accomplished Muslim women in the United States.

The first annual seminar, “Wives of the Prophet Muhammad (s),” will be held on Sunday, September 27, from 1:00 PM until 4:00 PM at the Millennium Hotel in Cheektowaga. It’s free, but reservations are requested. To register or for more information contact Tahmina Rehman by email at tahminarehman@yahoo.com

NHK Labs, Inc. Recertified ISO 9001

NHK Laboratories, Inc. announced that it has been recertified ISO 9001:2008 by NSF International Strategic Registrations. The ISO 9001:2008 standard is an internationally recognized quality management system. The certification process required a multi-day independent audit of the company’s facilities, personnel, and procedures.

M. Amirul Karim, Chief Executive Officer of NHK Laboratories, Inc. said, “Our continued compliance with the ISO 9000 guidelines is a testament to our commitment to an internationally recognized quality management system.”  Mr. Karim added, “Our private label clients can be rest assured that we have super-adequate procedures and protocols in place designed to manufacture quality into the product, instead of solely relying on post-production testing.”

NHK Laboratories, Inc. is an NPA/NSF/FDA CGMP, ISO 9001:2008, CCOF & QAI Organic, and ISNA Halal certified custom formulator, contract manufacturer, and contract packager of private label dietary supplements, functional foods, and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.  Established in 1987, the company operates two state-of-the-art facilities in Santa Fe Springs, California on more than 90,000 square-fee and also has an office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

11-40

Amany Jamal On Demoracy in the Arab East

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Berkeley–A little over ten months ago, Amany Jamal came to talk to a small group on his work in progress, The Crisis of Political Legitimacy in the Arab World.
It has too often been assumed that the Arab nations do not wish democracy.  This is not true, but the majority of the regions monarchies and republics’ pre-eminent dominant authorities are distrustful of democratic reforms.  The social restructuring towards democratization has not arisen to the same extend as in the second World as yet, and there is a great deal difference to the degree and the liberality that the Arab world desires their democratic forms, and as your author has emphasized before the democracy that develops in any country has to take into account of its traditions, history and the constituencies of the larger geographical zone et al.  The error that the Bush and the Neo-Conservatives made in dealing with the Middle East was to shove down the Jeffersonian tradition in the Near and Middle East and other Islamic zones with the democratic values that had evolved in North America!

A Capitalist economy is not conducive to all types of democracy!   The State should make its own decisions on its own allocations, and not the individual citizens or corporate entities.  Exiting theories to social inequality are emphatically universal.   There are pronounced amoralities within almost every Arab State – except Kuwait.  In most of the topography under study, restrictive legislation is applied toward propping up authoritative regimes. 

“If (a) society is equipped for [democratic] change, it will do so [i.e., change],” further, “…States [do] not necessarily [promote their] society’s preferences.”  Her hypothesis is that “…the elites are worried over jeopardizing their client status with the United States.”  These privileged rules are more likely to oppose democracy.

The more an Arab country lacks development, the more dependent it is upon Washington.  The Arab nations have less bi-lateral ties than they do with the U.S.A.!  Thus, North America has a strong military presence there.   The Arabs, though, are only subordinate partners within the American Empire. 

Today, small Kuwait holds 10 percent of the known world oil reserves, but has one of the highest per capita percentages of militants within the Middle East. The residents in all of the nations are well aware of it potential political weaknesses within the structures of their individual states.  If the Islamists would come to power, they would not necessarily sever ties with the D.C., but there are places where “Anti-American forces are of a concern – such as Jordan” where the Islamists could weaken the Monarchy.  Jordan is considered the most stable realm in the Middle East because of American buttressing.

There still remains a fear among the Iranians that, if the U.S. deserts Baghdad too fast, Tehran will have to cope with a security risk there again.

Amany Jamal finished her remarks of last fall, “…Anti-Americanism has stifled democratization” throughout the neighborhood; therefore, “…The route [towards] democratization lies in addressing the…increase of Anti-Americanism…” within the locale.

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