Iran’s secret pipeline into the U.S.

Iran’s secret pipeline into the U.S.

August 18, 2010 – 5:02am

AP: a5bae176-185b-4b86-a2c3-55708af8f7cd

FILE — In a Feb. 11, 2008 file photo Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaks during a rally to celebrate the 29th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution at Azadi Square, Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian/file)

J.J. Green, wtop.com
WASHINGTON – Iran Air 744 is a bimonthly flight that originates in Tehran and flies directly to Caracas with periodic stops in Beirut and Damascus. The maiden flight was Feb. 2, 2007.

The mere existence of the flight was a significant concern for U.S. intelligence officials, but now a broader concern is who and what are aboard the flights.

“If you [a member of the public] tried to book yourself a seat on this flight and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a week before, a month before, six months before — you’ll never find a place to sit there,” says Offer Baruch, a former Israeli Shin Bet agent.

Baruch, now vice president of operations for International Shield, a security firm in Texas, says the plane is reserved for Iranian agents, including “Hezbollah, the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and other intelligence personnel.”

Current and former U.S. intelligence official fear the flight is a shadowy way to move people and weapons to locations in Latin America that can be used as staging points for retaliatory attacks against the U.S. or its interests in the event Iranian nuclear sites are struck by U.S. or Israeli military forces.

“My understanding is that this flight not only goes from Caracas to Damascus to Tehran perhaps twice a month, but it also occasionally makes stops in Lebanon as well, and the passengers on that flight are not processed through normal Venezuelan immigrations or customs. They are processed separately when they come into the country,” says Peter Brookes, senior fellow for National Security Affairs at the Heritage Foundation.

The 16-hour flight typically leaves Tehran and stops at Damascus International Airport (DAM), which is Syria’s busiest. In 2009, almost 4.5 million passengers used the airport.

After a 90-minute layover, the flight continues the remaining 14 hours to Venezuela’s Caracas Maiquetía International Airport (CCS). Upon arrival, the plane is met by special Venezuelan forces and sequestered from other arrivals.

“It says that something secretive or clandestine is going on that they don’t want the international community to know about,” says Brookes, a former deputy assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific Affairs and CIA employee.

“The fact that there is a flight is of course of interest, but the fact that not anybody can gain access to this flight or buy a ticket for that flight is of particular curiosity and should be of concern to the United States.”

In addition to speculation about who is aboard, there are significant concerns that the Boeing 747SP airplane might be transporting uranium to Tehran on the return flight. The U.S. government has enacted strong sanctions against Iran because of its nuclear program and there are worries the flight might provide an opportunity to skirt the embargo against materials that might be used for the program.

“Clearly, Iran has been a sponsor of Hezbollah, and clearly Hezbollah profits from this relationship,” former CIA Director Michael J. Hayden says.

“It would be too much to say that Hezbollah is a puppet of the Iranian state, but one way of looking at this relationship is that the Iranian state might rely on Hezbollah as a strategic weapon — its weapon for global reach.”

Hayden, now a principle in the Chertoff Group, says the CIA has been aware of the activities for several years.

“Fundamentally, the thing that first and very solidly caught our attention at the Agency was the inauguration of direct air flight between the two capitals. Here was a conduit that people could travel from Iran into the Western Hemisphere, into Latin America in a way that would be very difficult for American intelligence services to detect and to understand.

“Right there at that very simple level, just the direct flight is something that we would be and should be concerned about.”

Brookes says the passengers “may not even need visas because they are special passengers. That obviously is of concern because there is no transparency about who the people are coming in and going out of the country. Of course there is concern that these folks may be Iranian special agents.”

Beyond concerns about Iranian intelligence flooding the west, Brookes and others worry that Iranian special advisers are schooling the Venezuelan military and may be involved in plans to move Iranian agents inside the U.S.

“It’s certainly a possibility. Would the agents that come into Venezuela be able to find their way to the United States? That’s certainly possible. You see the drug smugglers today using submersibles to move drugs to the U.S. and other parts of the Caribbean which is a real challenge. So why wouldn’t they be able to do the same with persons?”

A U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity says there are concerns about the relationships between Iran and Venezuela, but you have to keep it in perspective.

“The problems both countries face internally, and their own regional priorities closer to home, limit the amount of trouble they can cause together. But it’s something you have to watch, whether it’s the potential for government-to-government mischief or the possibility of something involving Iran’s friends like Hezbollah.

“You can ask what a self-proclaimed Bolivarian socialist has in common with a bunch of theocratic thugs in Iran. The answer is ‘not much,’ beyond a taste for repression and a shared desire to make life difficult for the United States and its allies.”

On Friday, the next flight is expected to take off. While U.S. intelligence may be able to track the flight, there appears to be little more they can legally do to determine what or who is on board.

“American intelligence services have a lot of things on their plate. The fact that I can tell you that we’re really interested in that direct flight tells you that it was on our scope — something that we are sensitive to,” Hayden says. “Are we doing enough about it? I would have to say ‘no,’ because it’s a very challenging menu that American intelligence has to deal with.”

In a statement, the State Department says, “Nations have the right to enter into cooperative relationships with other nations.”

Neither the Iranian nor the Venezuelan governments responded to request for reaction before this article was published.

You can follow WTOP’s J.J. Green on Twitter.

Brittany Zickfoose contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2010 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

J.J. Green, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Iran Air 744 is a bimonthly flight that originates in Tehran and flies directly to Caracas with periodic stops in Beirut and Damascus. The maiden flight was Feb. 2, 2007.

The mere existence of the flight was a significant concern for U.S. intelligence officials, but now a broader concern is who and what are aboard the flights.

“If you [a member of the public] tried to book yourself a seat on this flight and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a week before, a month before, six months before — you’ll never find a place to sit there,” says Offer Baruch, a former Israeli Shin Bet agent.

Baruch, now vice president of operations for International Shield, a security firm in Texas, says the plane is reserved for Iranian agents, including “Hezbollah, the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and other intelligence personnel.”

Current and former U.S. intelligence official fear the flight is a shadowy way to move people and weapons to locations in Latin America that can be used as staging points for retaliatory attacks against the U.S. or its interests in the event Iranian nuclear sites are struck by U.S. or Israeli military forces.

“My understanding is that this flight not only goes from Caracas to Damascus to Tehran perhaps twice a month, but it also occasionally makes stops in Lebanon as well, and the passengers on that flight are not processed through normal Venezuelan immigrations or customs. They are processed separately when they come into the country,” says Peter Brookes, senior fellow for National Security Affairs at the Heritage Foundation.

The 16-hour flight typically leaves Tehran and stops at Damascus International Airport (DAM), which is Syria’s busiest. In 2009, almost 4.5 million passengers used the airport.

After a 90-minute layover, the flight continues the remaining 14 hours to Venezuela’s Caracas Maiquetía International Airport (CCS). Upon arrival, the plane is met by special Venezuelan forces and sequestered from other arrivals.

“It says that something secretive or clandestine is going on that they don’t want the international community to know about,” says Brookes, a former deputy assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific Affairs and CIA employee.

“The fact that there is a flight is of course of interest, but the fact that not anybody can gain access to this flight or buy a ticket for that flight is of particular curiosity and should be of concern to the United States.”

In addition to speculation about who is aboard, there are significant concerns that the Boeing 747SP airplane might be transporting uranium to Tehran on the return flight. The U.S. government has enacted strong sanctions against Iran because of its nuclear program and there are worries the flight might provide an opportunity to skirt the embargo against materials that might be used for the program.

“Clearly, Iran has been a sponsor of Hezbollah, and clearly Hezbollah profits from this relationship,” former CIA Director Michael J. Hayden says.

“It would be too much to say that Hezbollah is a puppet of the Iranian state, but one way of looking at this relationship is that the Iranian state might rely on Hezbollah as a strategic weapon — its weapon for global reach.”

Hayden, now a principle in the Chertoff Group, says the CIA has been aware of the activities for several years.

“Fundamentally, the thing that first and very solidly caught our attention at the Agency was the inauguration of direct air flight between the two capitals. Here was a conduit that people could travel from Iran into the Western Hemisphere, into Latin America in a way that would be very difficult for American intelligence services to detect and to understand.

“Right there at that very simple level, just the direct flight is something that we would be and should be concerned about.”

Brookes says the passengers “may not even need visas because they are special passengers. That obviously is of concern because there is no transparency about who the people are coming in and going out of the country. Of course there is concern that these folks may be Iranian special agents.”

Beyond concerns about Iranian intelligence flooding the west, Brookes and others worry that Iranian special advisers are schooling the Venezuelan military and may be involved in plans to move Iranian agents inside the U.S.

“It’s certainly a possibility. Would the agents that come into Venezuela be able to find their way to the United States? That’s certainly possible. You see the drug smugglers today using submersibles to move drugs to the U.S. and other parts of the Caribbean which is a real challenge. So why wouldn’t they be able to do the same with persons?”

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Morning Bell: The Ahmadinejad Victory Tour AHMADINEJAD TO ATTEND CONFERENCE AT UN NEXT WEEK…

Morning Bell: The Ahmadinejad Victory Tour

Posted By Conn Carroll On April 29, 2010 @ 9:26 am In American Leadership, Protect America | No Comments

[1]

Yesterday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley confirmed [2] Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had submitted an application for a visa to attend the United Nations nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference in New York next month. Since Crowley also confirmed that Ahmadinejad is likely to be awarded the visa, the Iranian President can now look forward to witnessing first hand the failure of President Barack Obama’s Iran policy.

At first the White House believed that President Barack Obama’s sheer power of personality and persuasion would be enough to convince the Iranian regime to give up their nuclear program. So the President gave a conciliatory speech in Cairo [3], sent a direct message to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei [4], and opened up direct talks with the Iranian regime [5]. The results have been crystal clear: the Iranian regime has only accelerated its nuclear program [6], accelerated its ballistic missile program, and further crushed internal dissent, all while the Obama administration remained silent [7] as the Green Revolution was brutally crushed [8].

Now the Obama administration is seeking “crippling” sanctions on Iran through the U.N. Security Council. This is another Obama fantasy that plays right into Iran’s “cheat, retreat, and delay” [9] nuclear strategy. Whatever goodwill the Obama administration hoped to get from Russia by caving into their New START demands has not paid off [10]. With help from Turkey [11], China and now Egypt [12], Iran’s rope-a-dope [13] U.N. diplomacy will render any U.N. sanctions regime completely toothless [14].

All these Ahmadinejad victories over President Obama would not be so alarming if the Obama administration were not actively undermining our nation’s ability to deter and defend against Iranian nuclear attack. First there was President Obama’s decision to cancel missile defense installations in Eastern Europe [15]. The Obama administration claimed that their alternative system, called the Phased Adaptive Approach, could defend U.S. allies by 2020. But a recent Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report [16] warns Iran may be able to reach the United States with an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by 2015. This means President Obama has created a new “window of vulnerability” [17] for our enemies to exploit.

And then there is President Obama’s New START agreement which limits U.S. conventional, nuclear and missile defense options. Former director of the Missile Defense Agency, Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, noted in The Washington Times [18] this week: “Strangely, New START may actually rest on what Russia permits the United States to do to defend Americans and our allies from such a missile attack. This equation is both bizarre and unsafe.”

“Bizarre and unsafe” is a generous assessment of the Obama administration’s efforts to protect America from Iran’s nuclear ambitions so far. The Obama administration must change course. The United States should impose and enforce the strongest possible sanctions [14], even if doing so requires action outside of the U.N. framework, and step up public diplomacy efforts to discredit the regime’s legitimacy and offer support to opposition groups, such as the Green Movement [19]. Most importantly the Obama administration must make the commitment to create and sustain a layered missile defense system [20], designed to counter every range of Iranian missiles in all stages of flight, including those that threaten the territory of the United States and its allies. This would include scrapping New START, returning missile defense installations to Eastern Europe and fully funding missile defense. For more, see 33 Minutes [21].

Quick Hits:

  • According to USA Today [22], starting in 2014 the Internal Revenue Service will become the chief enforcement agency for Obamacare.
  • USA Today also reports that starting this summer Obamacare will trap about 200,000 Americans [23] in high cost insurance plans.
  • A new Pew Poll [24] shows that 62% of Americans believe President Obama’s $862 billion economic stimulus has not helped the job situation.
  • Business leaders and economists say [25] they have seen few results from President Obama [26]’s five-year plan [27] to double U.S. exports.
  • Venezuela’s economy is set to contract by as much as 5% under Hugo Chavez’s 21st-century socialism [28] this year, while free-trad- embracing Chile is set to grow by 4%.

Truman Was Right; Netanyahu Would Be Right===Barack Obama is the most anti-Israel president in U.S. history

Truman Was Right; Netanyahu Would Be Right

By Ken Blackwell

President Obama’s new Nuclear Posture Review has succeeded mightily in muddying the clear waters. He says that we will not use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear power. Except Iran. Except North Korea. If we are attacked with biological or chemical weapons, we will not retaliate with nuclear weapons. Is this a green light for another attack on the homeland? And what are the former captive nations of Europe supposed to think? Does any NATO member — like Poland, like Estonia — sleep more soundly with this ringing declaration of confusion, this uncertain trumpet?

When he was in Japan last fall, Mr. Obama pointedly avoided saying that the U.S. use of nuclear weapons to end the carnage of World War II was justified. The American left — Barack Obama’s base — has been indicting Harry Truman for decades for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
Truman faced the horrible prospect of losing 600,000 American lives in an invasion of the Japanese home islands. He also had to consider the real danger of millions Japanese civilian deaths in the combat and from mass suicides. The leftist Truman-haters also never consider the 10,000 allied POWs dying weekly in Japanese captivity.
When Mr. Obama bowed low before Emperor Akihito, it was a tacit apology for all of that. Japan in 1945 was a non-nuclear power. The new Nuclear Posture Review is Obama’s elliptical way of saying that Harry Truman was wrong.
Now we come to the mortal peril of Israel. Barack Obama is the most anti-Israel president in U.S. history. He has been willing to excoriate Benjamin Netanyahu’s shaky coalition government over Jews building apartments in East Jerusalem while cooing to despots in Riyadh and Cairo. Nobel Peace Prize Winner Elie Wiesel, a liberal supporter of Barack Obama, is in anguish. “Jerusalem is Jewish history,” he said in a full-page ad, an open letter to the president. “Jerusalem,” this Holocaust survivor said, “is the heart of our heart.”
Martin Peretz of the New Republic, another liberal Obama-backer, noted that Obama’s stiff-arming of Israel has served only to stiffen Palestinian intransigence. The PLO “quickly surmised that Obama was in their corner and would not push them much. Their surmise turned out to be correct.” Former New York Mayor Ed Koch is distraught. He endorsed Barack Obama for president, but now cries: “I weep as I witness outrageous verbal attacks on Israel … that are being orchestrated by President Obama.”
Add to this dangerous mix Mr. Obama’s cool and detached analysis of sanctions against an Iranian regime hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. “Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.” Actually, most of the time, they don’t work. And they are especially doomed to fail when those who are supposed to be “crippled” and “bitten” by the “tough and smart” sanctions know that there is no muscle behind the bluster. Even the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — Mr. Obama’s top military man — knows that his administration has no clue what to do about Iran.
Mahmoud Admadinejad, the mouthpiece for the Iranian mullahs, repeatedly says he envisions a world without Israel, a world without the U.S. And he responds to Obama’s neutering Nuclear Policy Review with withering scorn. He celebrates Iran’s unimpeded advance toward nuclear weaponry with open taunting of the toothless U.S. policy.
I believe Truman was justified in that hardest of all presidential decisions. Tens of millions of Americans and Japanese are alive today because Truman had the determination and grit to make that awful decision.
As justified as we were then, Israel would be even more justified in using tactical nuclear weapons now to eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat to the world. Japan in 1945 presented no existential threat to the U.S. Iran is just such a threat — to Israel, to NATO, and to us.
When the Israelis struck Saddam Hussein’s nuclear Osirak plant in 1981, the world howled. Even our U.S. State Department — under Alexander Haig — condemned the raid. The anti-Israel majority at the U.N. threatened sanctions against the Jewish state. President Reagan effectively sidetracked sanctions then.
But if Israel had not acted swiftly and effectively against Saddam Hussein then, the United States would not have been able to eject him from Kuwait a decade later with so little loss of American life. Saddam would have become the dominant power in the Mideast. That he did not rain nuclear missiles on Israel in 1991 is wholly attributable to the Israelis’ brave and skillful raid of 1981.
Mr. Obama’s feckless policies are giving the Israelis no choice. He wasted fifteen months in fruitless overtures to the Iranian terror leaders. He advanced toward them with an open hand; they spit in his open hand. Bullying democratic Israel and coddling terror states is no policy.
April is the month when millions of Jews and their righteous Gentile friends around the world reflect on what it means to be a stateless, powerless, hunted people. Jews remember the Holocaust and say “Never Again.” Whether the United States under Barack Obama is with them or not, Israel has a right to act to make sure: Never Again.

Ken Blackwell is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council. He serves on the board of directors of the Club for Growth, National Taxpayers Union, and National Rifle Association.

Tolerating Ahmadinejad’s Jew-Hate

Tolerating Ahmadinejad’s Jew-Hate

Posted By Anav Silverman On April 14, 2010 @ 12:05 am In FrontPage | 33 Comments

Four years ago, the International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust’ [1]was held in Tehran on December 11, 2006. Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian Foreign Minister, stated at the time that the aim of the conference was to “neither to deny nor prove the Holocaust but to provide an appropriate scientific atmosphere for scholars to offer their opinions in freedom about a historical issue.”

Those who contributed to the scientific atmosphere at the conference, included David Duke, a Ku Klux Klan leader and former US state representative, Robert Faurisson, a convicted Holocaust denier from France and a number of other academic professors and educators all engaged in Holocaust Denial research and rhetoric. One such professor, Dr. Fredrick Toben, an Australian citizen, runs an Internet site vilifying Jews while promoting that Nazis did not commit the mass murder of the Jewish people. Several right-extremist politicians from Germany’s neo-Nazi NPD party were invited as well, although the German government barred them from attending.

However, the central purpose of the conference went beyond providing a friendly environment for international Holocaust deniers to share their twisted sentiments. The Iranian Foreign Minister elaborated that “If the official version of the Holocaust is thrown into doubt, then the identity and nature of Israel will be thrown into doubt. And if, during this review, it is proved that the Holocaust was a historical reality, then what is the reason for the Palestinians having to pay the cost of the Nazis’ crimes?”

That argument has been reiterated time and time again by Ahmadinejad, notably in exclusive interviews he has granted with US television networks; NBC [2] and CBS [3]. In two major interviews with the American TV networks, Ahmadinejad smoothly skirted over the reporters’ questions about his Holocaust Denial, always deflecting his responses back to Palestinian issues and the State of Israel instead.

The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center [4]calls Ahmadinejad’s use of Holocaust Denial “a tool” of Iranian policy. “The Holocaust Denial campaign, as a main component of the Iranian regime’s anti-Israeli policy, is not only an expression of the hatred for Jews which is rooted in Iranian politics and society, but also a clever, well planned strategy under Ahmadinejad.” According to the IICC, Ahmedinejad uses the denial tactics to delegitimze the Zionist movement and the State of Israel as ideological and moral preparation for Israel destruction, as well as to increase Iranian influence among Palestinians while advancing Iranian aspirations for regional hegemony.

Indeed, Ahmadinjad’s repeated rhetoric in promoting the Islamic Republic’s anti-Israel agenda have been ultimately successful. Although the ‘International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust’ elicited much international condemnation in 2006, the Iranian President’s repeated hateful rhetoric cause very few to flinch in the international community today.

Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel stated back in October 2008 that Ahmedinejad’s annual appearances at the UN General Assembly demonstrates that the world has learned nothing from the Holocaust.

“Ten years ago, and less, the ruler of a country that announced its aspiration for Israel to be wiped off the map would not have dared appear and speak on the UN’s podium,” Wiesel stated in an Ha’aretz interview [5]. A few months later, at the Durban II conference, a member of Ahmadinejad’s entourage accosted Wiesel screaming at the Holocaust survivor, ‘Zio-Nazi.’ [6]

Furthermore, US President Obama’s friendly attempts to forge dialogue with Iran, while simultaneously giving Israel a cold shoulder, have scored no points with Ahmadinejad. A warm message from President Obama marking the Iranian new year was met with scorn from the Iranian leader. As reported by Reuters [7] April 3, Ahmadinejad said the note contained “three or four beautiful words” but nothing new of substance.

“What changed? Your sanctions were lifted? The adverse propaganda was stopped? The pressure was alleviated? Did you change your attitude in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine,” asked Ahmadinejad in a televised address. Iran supports Islamic insurgents targeting American troops in Iraq [8]and Afghanistan [9] both financially and militarily.

While Obama has decided to pursue new UN sanctions in response to Ahmadinejad’s continued rejections, Iran according to Ahmadinejad, could easily cope with such petroleum sanctions.

“You should know that the more hostile you are, the stronger an incentive our people will have, it will double,” he said.

Although President Obama would like to believe that he is dealing with a rational leader with whom dialogue will eventually reach, Ahmadinejad has never been one for Western rationality. After his UN speech in 2005, the Iranian president told Iran’s leading cleric Ayatollah Javadi Amoli that he sensed a light surrounding him while he was delivering his address to world leaders at the General Assembly. “For 27-28 minutes all the leaders did not blink. They were astonished as if a hand held them there and made them sit. It had opened their eyes and ears for the message of the Islamic Republic,” Ahmedinejad reportedly stated in a video made about his experience that was widely distributed across Iran, as reported by Golnaz Esfandiari in Radio Free Europe [10].

During his UN speech in 2005, Ahmadinejad called for the reappearance of the 12th Imam, who according to Muslim tradition is the final spiritual and political successor to Muhammad and savior of humankind who will return to lead an era of Islamic justice. The Iranian president has been quoted as saying that the “main mission of the revolution is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam.”

If anything should be learned from Holocaust Memorial Day this year, it is that appeasement policies do not work with leaders like Hitler and Ahmadinjad. Seventy-two years ago, when France, Italy and  Britain’s Neville Chamberlain, agreed to the Munich Agreement with Germany, the European powers wrongly believed that the annexation of Czechoslovakia would stop the Hitler war-machine. Following this appeasement agreement, over 60 million people were killed in the Second World War, a horrific tragedy that took root when no one bothered to heed Hitler’s anti-Semitic rhetoric and tirades.

Anav Silverman is the International Correspondent for Sderot Media Center: www.SderotMedia.org.il [11].

Iran ridicules Obama’s “cowboy” nuclear strategy

Iran ridicules Obama’s “cowboy” nuclear strategy

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press Writer 2 hrs 15 mins ago

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s hard-line president on Wednesday ridiculed President Barack Obama’s new nuclear strategy, which turns the U.S. focus away from the Cold War threats and instead aims to stop the spread of atomic weapons to rogue states or terrorists.

Obama on Tuesday announced the new strategy, including a vow not to use nuclear weapons against countries that do not have them. Iran, however, was pointedly excepted from that pledge, along with North Korea, because Washington accuses them of not cooperating with the international community on nonproliferation standards.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the focus would now be on terror groups such as al-Qaida as well as North Korea’s nuclear buildup and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Pressuring Iran in its standoff with the West is a particular focus of the new strategy. The exception from the non-use pledge represents a warning to Tehran. But also, the new guidelines aim to show Washington is serious about reducing its own arsenal and about gathering world support for stricter safeguards against nuclear proliferation — a move aimed at further isolating Iran diplomatically.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad derided Obama on Wednesday, depicting him as an ineffective leader influenced by Israel to target Iran more aggressively.

“American materialist politicians, whenever they are beaten by logic, immediately resort to their weapons like cowboys,” Ahmadinejad said in a speech before a crowd of several thousand in northwestern Iran.

“Mr. Obama, you are a newcomer (to politics). Wait until your sweat dries and get some experience. Be careful not to read just any paper put in front of you or repeat any statement recommended,” Ahmadinejad said in the speech, aired live on state TV.

Ahmadinejad said Obama “is under the pressure of capitalists and the Zionists” and vowed Iran would not be pushed around. “(American officials) bigger than you, more bullying than you, couldn’t do a damn thing, let alone you,” he said, addressing Obama.

The United States and its allies accuse Tehran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a charge denied by Iran, which says its nuclear program is intended only to generate electricity.

Washington is heading a push for the United Nations to impose new sanction on Iran over its refusal to suspect uranium enrichment, a process that can produce either fuel for a reactor or the material for a warhead. Iran says it has a right to enrichment under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The United States has been trying to win Iranian acceptance of a U.N.-backed proposal to swap enriched uranium in hopes of getting enough of the material out of Iran’s hands that it would be unable to produce a warhead. Under the U.N. plan, put forward last year, Iran was to send 2,420 pounds (1,100 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium abroad, where it would be further enriched to 20 percent and converted into fuel rods. They would then be returned to Iran to use in a research reactor.

Iran has balked on some terms of the deal, which has seemed all but dead.

But Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki contended on Wednesday that Iran had reached an understanding with the West on a compromise over the deal.

Mottaki said Iran proposed that it put a quantity of its low-enriched uranium under U.N. supervision inside Iran during the months it would take for the West to generate the equivalent amount of 20 percent-enriched uranium. Then the material would be swapped simultaneously.

“We want to make sure that nuclear fuel will be delivered. If there is a political will, Iran’s flexibility will facilitate a deal,” he told a press conference.

He also said Iran would determine how much would be swapped. “During talks, they agreed that Iran will determine the amount it needs,” he said.

There was no immediate comment from U.S. or European officials or from the U.N. nuclear watchdog over Mottaki’s comments.

Uranium enriched to a low level, around 3.5 percent, can be used to fuel a reactor. If enriched to around 95 percent, however, it can be used in building a nuclear bomb.

Iran began enriching uranium to around 20 percent in February over objections from the U.S. and its allies. Iran says it needs it for the research reactor, which produces radio isotopes used in cancer treatment. It says more than 850,000 people need the isotopes and radiography materials produced by the Tehran reactor for their illnesses.

Iran anniversary ‘punch’ will stun West: Khamenei

Iran anniversary ‘punch’ will stun West: Khamenei
Feb 8 03:19 PM US/Eastern
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday that Iran is set to deliver a “punch” that will stun world powers during this week’s 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution.”The Iranian nation, with its unity and God’s grace, will punch the arrogance (Western powers) on the 22nd of Bahman (February 11) in a way that will leave them stunned,” Khamenei, who is also Iran’s commander-in-chief, told a gathering of air force personnel.

The country’s top cleric was marking the occasion when Iran’s air force gave its support to revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a key event which led to the toppling of the US-backed shah on February 11, 1979.

His comments came as Iran said it would begin to produce higher enriched uranium from Tuesday, in defiance of Western powers trying to ensure the country’s nuclear drive is peaceful.

This year’s anniversary is expected to become a flashpoint between security forces and supporters of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who charge that the June re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was rigged.

Opposition supporters are expected to stage anti-government protests on Thursday when the traditional regime-sponsored marches to mark the revolution take place across the country.

Mousavi renewed his call for demonstrations on the February 11 anniversary.

Just over a week ago, he and Karroubi had implicitly called for a gathering of their supporters.

“The 22nd of Bahman is upon us, truly it should be called the day of gathering,” Mousavi said on his Kaleme.org website Monday.

“I feel we have to participate while maintaining the collective spirit as well as our identity and leave an impression,” Mousavi said.

“Anger and bitterness should not take our control away.

“The clerics should know that since imprisonment, beatings, and other confrontational methods are done in the name of Islam and the Islamic regime, it is hurting Islam and we all should try to stop,” he added.

Anti-government protests were first triggered after the June 12 presidential election won by Ahmadinejad.

Over the past eight months, several thousand people were arrested. Some were released and others were given hefty prison terms, among them politicians, journalists and human rights activists.

Two protesters were tried, convicted and hanged in the aftermath of the election.

Khamenei told the air force personnel the “most important aim of the sedition after the election was to create a rift within the Iranian nation, but it was unable to do so and our nation’s unity remained a thorn in its eyes.”

TOP US intelligence officials believe al-Qa’ida or associated groups are “certain” to attempt a further terrorist attack on the US in the next three to six months.

Al-Qa’ida ‘poised to strike US again’

  • Brad Norington, Washington correspondent
  • From: The Australian
  • February 04, 2010 12:00AM

TOP US intelligence officials believe al-Qa’ida or associated groups are “certain” to attempt a further terrorist attack on the US in the next three to six months.

The director of US national intelligence, Dennis Blair, gave the dire warning in a Senate hearing yesterday as part of his annual threat assessment.

Questioned by senators, Mr Blair’s view was shared by other officials present, including CIA director Leon Panetta and FBI director Robert Mueller.

Although indicating no specific information about a pending attack, the intelligence chiefs singled out the evolving tactics of al-Qa’ida as the most serious threat to the US.

“My greatest concern, and what keeps me awake at night, is that al-Qa’ida and its terrorist allies and affiliates could very well attack the United States,” Mr Panetta told the Senate intelligence committee.

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The testimony of intelligence chiefs follows heightened anxiety about the prospect of further attacks on US soil after the failed attempt to destroy a domestic airliner on Christmas Day shortly before its arrival in Detroit.

According to Mr Blair and his colleagues, the biggest threat is unlikely to be a large-scale, highly co-ordinated attack similar to the hijacking of aircraft on September 11, 2001.

Instead they believe al-Qa’ida is adapting its methods to make them more difficult to detect.

Mr Panetta said US intelligence agencies believed al-Qa’ida was relying more on recruits with little history of involvement in terrorist organisations and giving them little training and using simpler devices.

Another increasing concern was “homegrown” extremists

acting alone, following the attack on fellow soldiers at the Texas military base in November by accused army major Nidal Malik Hasan.

“It’s the lone-wolf strategy that I think we have to pay attention to as the main threat to this country,” Mr Panetta said.

The elevated terrorist warning came as officials confirmed that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man accused of trying to blow up the jet in Detroit, had started co-operating again with investigators. After his arrest, Abdulmutallab provided information for almost an hour to interrogators about how he had been trained by an al-Qa’ida branch based in Yemen. But he stopped talking and asked for a lawyer when he was advised of his “Miranda rights” under US law, which allow the right to remain silent and to call a lawyer.

Yesterday’s Senate hearing degenerated into a bipartisan wrangle at one point as Democrat and Republican senators argued over whether accused terrorists should be read their Miranda rights and face justice in military rather than civilian courts. It emerged yesterday that Abdulmutallab agreed to start talking again to investigators last month after authorities flew two members of his family from Nigeria to the US to speak to him.

Officials are most interested in any contact he had with Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born radical Muslim cleric now in Yemen.

Mr Blair, who has previously said Abdulmutallab should have been questioned first by a special interrogation group that is not yet fully operational, changed his tune in the Senate hearing yesterday. Indicating he supported the FBI’s decision to read the suspect his rights soon after capture, he said: “The balance struck in the case was a very understandable balance. We got very good intelligence.”

He also said criminal courts or military commissions should be decided case by case.

US raises stakes on Iran by sending in ships and missiles

US raises stakes on Iran by sending in ships and missiles

Pentagon says Patriot shield will deter strike on American allies in the Gulf

Patriot missileA Patriot missile is launched during an Israeli-US military excercise in the Negev desert in southern Israel in February 2001. Photograph: Reuters

Tension between the US and Iran heightened dramatically today with the disclosure that Barack Obama is deploying a missile shield to protect American allies in the Gulf from attack by Tehran.

The US is dispatching Patriot defensive missiles to four countries – Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait – and keeping two ships in the Gulf capable of shooting down Iranian missiles. Washington is also helping Saudi Arabia develop a force to protect its oil installations.

American officials said the move is aimed at deterring an attack by Iran and reassuring Gulf states fearful that Tehran might react to sanctions by striking at US allies in the region. Washington is also seeking to discourage Israel from a strike against Iran by demonstrating that the US is prepared to contain any threat.

Chris McGreal: ‘The US is prepared to move decisively against any threat from Iran’ Link to this audioThe deployment comes after Obama’s attempts to emphasise diplomacy over confrontation in dealing with Iran – a contrast to the Bush administration’s approach – have failed to persuade Tehran to open its nuclear installations to international controls. The White House is now trying to engineer agreement for sanctions focused on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, believed to be in charge of the atomic programme.

Washington has not formally announced the deployment of the Patriots and other anti-missile systems, but by leaking it to American newspapers the administration is evidently seeking to alert Tehran to a hardening of its position.

The administration is deploying two Patriot batteries, capable of shooting down incoming missiles, in each of the four Gulf countries. Kuwait already has an older version of the missile, deployed after Iraq’s invasion. Saudi Arabia has long had the missiles, as has Israel.

An unnamed senior administration official told the New York Times: “Our first goal is to deter the Iranians. A second is to reassure the Arab states, so they don’t feel they have to go nuclear themselves. But there is certainly an element of calming the Israelis as well.”

The chief of the US central command, General David Petraeus, said in a speech 10 days ago that countries in the region are concerned about Tehran’s military ambitions and the prospect of it becoming a dominant power in the Gulf: “Iran is clearly seen as a very serious threat by those on the other side of the Gulf front.”

Petraeus said the US is keeping cruisers equipped with advanced anti-missile systems in the Gulf at all times to act as a buffer between Iran and the Gulf states.

Washington is also concerned at the threat of action by Israel, which is predicting that Iran will be able to build a nuclear missile within a year, a much faster timetable than assessed by the US, and is warning that it will not let Tehran come close to completion if diplomacy fails.

The director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, met the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and other senior officials in Jerusalem last week to discuss Iran.

Pro-Israel lobby groups in the US have joined Republican party leaders in trying to build public pressure on the administration to take a tougher line with Iran. One group, the Israel Project, has been running a TV campaign warning that Iran might supply nuclear weapons to terrorists.

“Imagine Washington DC under missile attack from nearby Baltimore,” it says. “A nuclear Iran is a threat to peace, emboldens extremists, and could give nuclear materials to terrorists with the ability to strike anywhere.”

Washington is also concerned that if Iran is able to build nuclear weapons, other states in the region will feel the need to follow. Israel is the only country in the Middle East to already have atomic bombs, although it does not officially acknowledge it.

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said in London last week that the US will press for additional sanctions against Iran if it fails to curb its nuclear programme.

Europe’s foreign affairs minister, Catherine Ashton, today said the UN security council should now take up the issue. “We are worried about what’s happening in Iran. I’m disappointed at the failure of Iran to accept the dialogue and we now need to look again at what needs to happen there,” she told Sky News.

“The next step for us is to take our discussions into the security council. When I was meeting with Hillary Clinton last week we talked about Iran and we were very clear this is a problem we will have to deal with.”

However, China and Russia are still pressing for a diplomatic solution.

Tony Blair, Middle East envoy on behalf of the US, Russia, the UN and the EU, continually referred to what he described as the Iranian threat during his evidence at the Chilcot inquiry last Friday. Textual analysis now shows that he mentioned Iran 58 times.

Besides the new missile deployment, Washington is also helping Saudi Arabia to create a 30,000-strong force to protect oil installations and other infrastructure, as well as expanded joint exercises between the US and military forces in the region.

The move is a continuation of the military build-up begun under former president George W Bush. In the past two years, Abu Dhabi has bought $17bn (£11bn) worth of weapons from the US, including the Patriot anti-missile batteries and an advanced anti-missile system. UAE recently bought 80 US-made fighter jets. It is also buying fighters from France.

Petraeus said in a speech in Bahrain last year the UAE air force “could take out the entire Iranian air force, I believe”.

Missile defence

Patriot missiles are designed to intercept enemy missiles before they reach their target. Since production began in 1980, 9,000 missiles have been delivered to countries including Germany, Greece, Taiwan and Japan.

During the first Gulf war Patriot success was 70% in Saudi Arabia and 40% in Israel. Since then the US has spent more than $10bn (£6.3bn) improving, among other aspects, the system’s radar and computer compatibility for joint forces action. Once in position, the system requires a crew of only three people to operate. Each missile weighs 700kg and has a range of about 100 miles.

The US navy is in the process of upgrading all its Ticonderoga class cruisers and a number of destroyers to carry the Aegis ballistic missile defence system. It uses a surface-to-air missile that is capable of intercepting ballistic missiles above the atmosphere. It has also been tested on failing satellites as they fall to earth. Each missile is over 6m long and costs more than $9m. James Sturcke

AHMADINEJAD: ‘Iran will deliver telling blow to global powers on Feb. 11’…

Iran opposition leaders call for protests

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Top Iranian opposition leaders call for February 11 protest, opposition Web site reports
  • They called for people to take to the streets to demand their rights back as citizens of Iran
  • Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Moussavi also met to discuss last week’s executions
  • The two executions followed mass trials of opposition supporters in August

(CNN) — Two top Iranian opposition leaders have called on supporters to protest on February 11, the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, an opposition Web site reported.

According to The Green Way Web site, a meeting took place Saturday between opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Moussavi at Karroubi’s home.

They discussed the two executions that happened last week and the cases of 16 protesters who went on trial Saturday, the site reported.

“The widespread arrests of political activists and university students, the silencing of the media, and the forced confessions of prisoners are against the principles of Islam and the constitution of Iran,” the leaders said in a statement.

They also called for people to take to the streets on February 11 to demand their rights back as citizens of Iran, The Green Way reported.

Meanwhile, state-run Press TV quoted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday as saying that the nation will deliver a harsh blow to “global arrogance” on February 11.

Press TV offered no details on or explanation of the statement.

Opposition protests were launched after the disputed June 12 presidential election that gave hardline Ahmadinejad a second term. The government denies accusations of fraud.

About 4,000 people have been arrested in the post-election crackdown. As of January 24, the government had confirmed the deaths of at least 37 people in the protests or in detention, seven of those deaths happening on the religious holiday of Ashura.

On Thursday, authorities hanged Mohammed Reza Ali Zamani, 37, and Arash Rahmanipour, 20, who had been convicted of being enemies of God and plotting to topple the Islamic regime.

The two were convicted in mass trials of opposition supporters in August, but Rahmanipour’s lawyer said the young man was arrested two months before the election.

 
 
Links referenced within this articleIran
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/Iran
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/Mahmoud_Ahmadinejad