Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Iran: Coup Attempt Jan 13 2007

US forces storm Iranian consulate:
US forces have stormed an Iranian consulate in the northern Iraqi town of Irbil and seized six members of staff. The troops raided the building at about 0300 (0001GMT), taking away computers and papers, according to Kurdish media and senior local officials. The US military would only confirm the detention of six people around Irbil.

Coup attempt in Iran
The US raid on Iranian Consulate in Iraq might have been a coup attemtp within Iran.

The reasons for the coup attempt in Iran in last few days has the following background :

US policy on Iraq
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, joined by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, yesterday described to two committees of the US House of Representative, which now lies under Democrat Party control, some of the various regional scenarios which might well unfold if Washington is unsuccessful in its Iraqi mission.

Speaking to members of the House of Representative Foreign Affairs Committee, Rice touched on the problems which could occur between Turkey and the Kurds if Iraqi Kurds decide to split off from the rest of Iraq. Rice also said that it was within the context of the various dynamics at play within Iraq between the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds that the US had decided to make it policy to support the unity of Iraqi soil, post-invasion.

Factionalism in Iran
There are two ruling factions in Iran. One supports an independent Kurdistan in Iraq and the other supports a centralized state under Prime Minister Mr. Maleki and Moghtada Sadr which is the US policy.

One of the people who were arrested were Mr. Abbasi: See below for info on Mr. Abbasi.

The regime in Tehran under the leadership of MR. Ahmadinejad relies on Mr. Maleki and Moghtada Sadr to carry out its policies. Those people want a centralized Iraq.

The other faction which is represented by Mr. Abbasi had established a consular offfice in Arbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. That shows they wanted to recognize Kurdish autonomy in North. This contradicted Mr. Ahmadinejad policy in Iraq.

Coup Attempt:

  • Mr. Ahmadinejad faction has expressed joy over the arrest of MR. Abbasi through their satelite TV Rangarang broadcast from Washington.
  • Also Turkey has declared in last few days that they might invade Northern Iraq on the question of Kirkuk oil.
  • According to Rangarang TV, the information on Mr. Abbasi location was an inside job provided by sources within Iranian government.
  • Mr. Ahmadinejad had immediately left (or fled) to Venezuela the same day. It seems that MR. Ahmadinejad was involved in turning in MR. Abbasi to American authorities.
  • Immediately after the raid there was a rocket attack on US embassy in Greece after the arrest of Mr. Abbasi, very likely connected with these events. The mass media in Tehran published this news 4 hours before the CNN even reported it.
  • The same day Mr. Ahmadinejad left for Venezuela, there were three big explosions in Khoramshahr in Khuzestan next to Abadan on the border of Iran , Iraq and Kuwait. The tehran regime is most likely behind explosions blaming Arabs.
  • Russia published a statement and condemned US for the raid on the Iranian Consulate in Arbil, Iraq.
  • According to information the Kurds in Iraq had blocked the path to Airport for Americans and requested that Mr. Abbasi to be released. The kurds were part of MR. Barazani forces.
  • Also the rumor that Ayatollah Khamnei is dead had been started by Mr. Ahmadinejad just before these events as part of psychological warfare to weaken the rival faction.
  • US strategy in Iraq has been the creation of Sunni and Shia identity and re-defining Arab-Israeli dividing line in the Middle East into a Shia-Sunni dividing line. This way US would emerge as an arbiter of events in the Middle East. Mr. Ahmadinejad would serve this purpose. See the article by Lutwak below.
Iraq at a dead end:
The US policy in Iraq has reached a dead end. Either the Americans have to recognize the three automonous regions in south, center and North. That is Shias in south, Kurds in North and sunnis in center or have a centralized regime.

First case would attract a Turkish invasion of the north. And Iranian influence in the south.

The second case would be the restoration of Saddam regime.

The Americans support the restoration of Saddam regime without Saddam. Mughtada Sadr is going to be the new Saddam.

To do that they need to eliminate the opposition not only in Iraq but also in Iran. Mr. Ahmadinejad is Iran's Mughtada Sadr for Iran. So for US there is no other way than to either start a coup in Iran or invade on the behalf of their clients in Iran.

Coup in Iran:
For above reasons US would support a coup by Mr. Ahmadinejad against the other faction

It seems this incident has far reaching consequences within Iran and it can trigger a coup, or a counter coup or even a civil war. A coup scenario migh have even started already by Mr. Ahmadinejad.

Counter Coup Jan 14 2007

Jan 14 2007:

The following shows that there has been actually a coup and a counter coup. A very similar scenerio as in 1990 with Gorbachev and Yeltsin. It confirms that
US first attempt at a coup has failed. We do not know the details of military operations of the coup or the counter coup but we can see indications that there has been major changes in the power structure of the regime in Tehran. We will know more about the the shift of the power within the military and its implications for the regime in Tehran in near future. It is interesting that Iran's secretary of defense was in Sudan and President Ahmadinejad was in Venezuela during the coup and counter coup period. Two leading members of Iran's national security agency were in Arbil, Iraq and were arrested by the American forces.

  • 1.The former President Mr. Rafsanjani declared today a collective leadership committee has been formed in Iran. This indicates a change in the power center within the state.
  • 2. Mr. Larijani the President of National Security agency of Iran went to Saudi Arabia. Mr. Larijani did not have any authority ot discuss anything until yesterday.
  • 3. The head of Iraq's Security Agency visited Tehran. This is the first time for such visit, even bombs have been going off everyday in Iraq for several years.
  • 4. Hillary Clinton went to Iraq and Afghanistan. She requested increased troops for Afghanistan but no increase for Iraq. In other words the centers of power in Iran is shifting to Eastern Iran from the current western Azeri dominated regime in Tehran. Iran is divided into Eastern Iran and Western Iran based on ethnic division of Azeri Turks vs. Persians.
  • 5. Arab Stock markets in Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait crashed Today. This indicates a major shift of power from Arab states in the region to Iran.
  • 6. The mass media in Iran have started talking about the declining popularity and the power of Mr. Ahmadinjeda due to rising prices. There has been calls for his resignation in the parliament.
  • 7. There have been reports of large number of plane crashes invovling high ranking military and IRGC forces (Paramilitary forces).
  • 8. Mr. Ahmadinejad anti-Russian policies have posed great danger to Russians in Central Asia. See the article on Iran and Turkemnistan.
  • 9. Mr. Ahmadinejad pro-Pakistani policies have alienated both India and Afghanistan. Mr. Ahmadinejad supports Taliban and the warlord Mr. Hekmatyar.
  • 10. Mr. Ahmadinejad presenting himself both as a Pan-Turk and Persian nationalist has tended to undermine his credibility with the Persian population and moved him into the Pan-Turk camp. This is despite his trips to different regions in Iran and trying to mobilize people in support of his policies.
  • 11. Mr. Ahmadinejad has allied itself closely with Tehran police chief and the Republic of Azerbaijan. It indicates that Tehran with the majority Azeri Turk population and the Republic of Azerbaijan are Mr. Ahmadinejad real base of power. Mr. Ahmadinejad cut off the natural gas delivery both to Turkey and Armenia and parts of Iran and redirected Gas delivery to the Republic of Azerbaijan which has led to protests by Turkey.
  • 12 Mr. Ahmadinejad policy on Iraq has been the close alliance with Syria and Mughtada Sadr in Baghdad which has alienated both the Kurds in North and Shias in south of Iraq.
  • 12a. The failure of coup in Iran has led to the demise of the Mahdi army of Mughtada Sadr in Iraq. See the article below.
  • The Speaker of Parliament has apeared wearing a tie for the first time. His picture wearing a tie was published in the domestic mass media. No government official has used a tie in the last 27 years since 1979.
  • In a major shake up in the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai has removed Jawed Ludin, his British educated chief of staff, and replaced him with his predecessor in the job, the Daily Telegraph has learnt. Mr Ludin was forced to resign this morning, senior officials in the Afghan cabinet said. This might indicate the removal of pro-ahmadinejad figure in Afghanistan.
  • The above analysis shows the reasons for the weakening of the Ahmadinejad government and the reason for looking for a coup as a way out option. The coup failed and led to a counter coup by the rival faction.
Alternative to the Clergy Regime in Iran:

The Shah's regime preceding the current regime was based on a coalition of modern western elements composed of western educated intelligensia and the traditional elements based on clergy inherited from the its past. The Shia clergy was the creation of Saffavids in 15 century.The current regime eliminated the modern western elements and monopolized the power. So what can replace the current regime?

The only option that can replace the current regime is also a coalition of western intelligensia and the traditional elements. The only major difference with the previous Shah's regime is the elimination of one major component of the previous Shah's regime. That is the elimination of Azeri Turk element which made the Shah's regime very unstable. The Azeri Turk element within the state in Iran has introduced an incompatible and foreign culture into the state and has re-defined all conflicts into ethnic conflict between the native-persian element on one side and Azeri Turk element on the other side. That is why no democracy is possible as long as these Azeri Turks are present within the state power. Democracy itself within the current form of the state in Iran will not only solve any conflicts but on the contrary increase the level of the conflict on all levels of the state.

The creation of an Azeri Turk state and separation of Azeri Turks from Iran is the first step to achieve a stable democracy in Iran.

Who is Mr. Abbasi?

Who is Mr. Abbasi:

Iran Press News: Based on unconfirmed received reports from reliable sources in Iraq, Hassan Abbassi was among those who was arrested in the Thursday, January 11th early-morning raid in what was reported to be the consulate general of the Islamic republic of Iran in the Iraqi town of Erbil. Hassan Abbasi known by his friends as "The Dr. Kissinger of Islam," is the guru of the Islamic Republic's revolutionary guard corps which puts volunteers and recruits through rigorous training in four camps funded and run by the Revolutionary Guard. The boot camp includes physical training, ideological indoctrination, building explosives, code-cracking classes, and finally foreign languages classes, specifically Arabic and English as well as many other 'useful' languages. Abbassi has been among the highest ranking members of the Islamic regime’s terror operations for many years, acting as the Fuehrer Mullah, Khamenei’s foreign policy and defense advisor. Abbassi has had an active voice under not only Khamenei but also Rafsanjani and Khatami as well. The Martyrdom Brigades of the Global Islamic Awakening is controlled by Abbasi. A while back he was heard telling a crowd of Basijis about Iran's secret plans, which include "a strategy drawn up for the destruction and eradication of the entire Anglo-Saxon civilization."

Here is Mr. Abbasi video:

US-Iran Coup Planning in Iraq?

US-Iran Coup Planning in Iraq?
Jan 1, 2007
Scott Sullivan - Persian Journal

The US has taken the astounding step in Iraq of releasing into Iran's custody two high ranking military Iranian officers captured by US forces two days ago and suspected of planning terrorist attacks against US forces, according to the San Jose Mercury News. One of the captured officers is the third ranking leader of Iran's Special Operation Forces (see "Iraq frees Iranian operatives arrested in raids, angers US." 29 December 07). According to published reports, the Iranian agents were captured with planning documents for terrorist attacks on US and Iraqi forces.

To quote the San Jose Mercury News:

"One of the commanders, identified by officials simply as Chizari, was the third-highest-ranking official of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Al-Quds Brigade, the unit most active in aiding, arming and training groups outside Iran, including Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, U.S. officials said. The other commander was described as equally significant to Iran's support of foreign militaries but not as high ranking."

The US decision to release these high raking Iranian officials is striking for several reasons.

First, these Iranian officials, especially Chizari , would be knowledgeable not only about specific Iranian attacks being planned but of Iranian terrorism plans across the board in Iraq, including political activities. The US released Chizari before undertaking an interrogation to gain access to his information. By doing so, the US has put US military and civilian personnel at risk. Iran can now move ahead with previously planned attacks with the awareness that US forces US will not be alerted.

Second, for this reason, the US military did not approve of the decision to release these high ranking Iranian officials, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Who did approve this decision, in effect overriding the standing policy on interrogations established by GEN Casey? The authority to override GEN Casey could not come from Ambassador Khalilzad, who has no authority over US military personnel in Iraq. Was this decision to override GEN Casey made by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, who speaks for President Bush?

Third, how extensive is the cooperation between US civilian officials, including Ambassador Khalilzad, with Iranian officials involved in planning terrorism, as well as with Iraqi supporters of the Badr Brigade including Abdul Aziz al-Hakim? The US military has no such contacts with the Badr Brigade and Hakim or it would most likely not have staged the raid on Hakim's compound in the first place, where several Iranian and Badr Brigade officials were detained. Moreover, the US military would not have objected to the release of Chizai and officials and insisted upon access to their information.

In short, has a split emerged in US policy on terrorism in Iraq with the US military opposed to Iran, the Badr Brigade, and Hakim, while US civilian officials, backed up by the White House and State, are in favor of US contacts with the Badr Brigade and Hakim?

Moreover, is State's support for the Badr Brigade tied to State's support for Hakim's ambitions to replace Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister. In the past several weeks Hakim has been involved in extensive negotiations with Iran and with other Iraqi political parties to ease Maliki, who is backed by Muqtada al-Sadr, from power. Only the last minute opposition from Ayatollah Sistani has preserved the Maliki government from falling in the face this Iranian-State Department campaign.

To be even more specific, is the Badr Brigade, supported by Hakim and Iran, planning to stage a coup in Baghdad against the Maliki government? Are the detained Iranian officials aware of this coup planning? Is this why the Iranian officials are not being questioned and have been released into Iran�s custody? Are the 20,000 new US troops for Baghad, part of the Bush Administation's "surge" strategy, to be used to protect the new Hakim pro-Iran government?

The Sunday Times April 09, 2006

Bush’s salon revolutionaries plot an Iran coup
Michael Pinto-Duschinsky

Washington think tanks are pushing for the toppling of another regime

For me the alarm bells began to ring in the unlikely surroundings of the ancient Trout Inn near Oxford. A senior Republican party foreign affairs insider, as hawkish as they come and a staunch backer of the Iraq war, made a bitter complaint about the incompetence of George W Bush’s international policy. If my Republican friend is so critical, I thought, the US president must be in real trouble.

The seriousness of his difficulties is shown by the way in which the American administration is courting an unlikely stage army of salon revolutionaries who are promising to provide a painless way to get rid of the nasty regimes of the “axis of evil” in Iran and North Korea.

Peter Ackerman, the very rich chairman of Freedom House, and his International Center on Nonviolent Conflict are engaged in a huge propaganda campaign designed to show how the worst of regimes can be toppled by the methods used — or claimed to have been used — to overthrow Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia and in the “colour” revolutions that led to pro-western regimes in Ukraine (the orange revolution) and Georgia (the rose revolution).

Political street protests led by organisers trained secretly in the West and supplied with nifty communications gadgets are capable — so the argument goes — of ousting dictators.

But are conditions in Iran the same as those that followed the elections in Ukraine in 2004? Do street protests and similar techniques always work? The disastrous experiences of Tiananmen Square, of Prague in 1968 and Hungary in 1956 are conveniently overlooked. Nor does the State Department have many good ideas about how to spend the $75m recently allocated to promote democracy in Iran. The bulk of the money will be spent on radio broadcasts to be beamed into the country.

In the normal course of events it would not be worth considering the delusional arguments of Ackerman and his supporter Michael Ledeen, a journalist based at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), who was a central figure in the notorious Iran contra affair during President Reagan’s administration. But President Bush and Paula Dobriansky, the undersecretary of state, have both addressed meetings organised by Ackerman’s Freedom House in the past two weeks. There are many other signs that the policy of promoting revolution and regime change in Tehran is gaining ground in Washington.

The US president is very much in a “last-chance saloon” mood as he made clear recently to the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. If he is to solve the problem of Iran’s nuclear ambitions he must achieve his objective before he leaves office in January 2009. So he is turning to a policy of subversion combined with plans for military action. There is convincing evidence that US diplomats are pressuring Turkish authorities to agree to the use of its main air base for attacks by American B-52 bombers on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Since my time as an adviser to the policy planning staff of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and as a founder governor of the invaluable Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), I have enjoyed close contact with Washington’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED). This body and other US organisations that promote democracy are worried that the secretive and subversive activities advocated by Ackerman, and being pressed for with some success on Capitol Hill, at the Pentagon and in the White House, will taint their past 20 years of international activity.

The projects of the NED — like those of the WFD — are funded by government but are transparent. They are not subversive. And they have played a positive role in encouraging democracy in dozens of nations. Respected members of the Iranian exile community in America are also worried that the attempted subversion of the regime in Tehran will backfire, consolidating support for Iranian hardliners and preventing regime change for the next 30 years.

Nevertheless, the seriousness of the underlying problem of nuclear proliferation cannot be denied. Nor will it be possible to negotiate successfully with regimes such as President Ahmadinejad’s unless there is a credible threat of the use of force. However long remains before Iran acquires a military nuclear capacity — itself a matter of uncertainty and misinformation — America and the West will need to decide whether they are prepared to tolerate an Iranian nuclear bomb and if they are willing to countenance the spread of such bombs to increasing numbers of unsavoury regimes.

Criticism of the Bush administration’s policy is not based on the fact that it is considering a military option against Iran. Any government needs to do this if it is to negotiate with Ahmadinejad

The problems are, first, that there seems to be no strategic thinking about the prospect of nuclear proliferation. Is it to be tackled by containment (as used against the Soviet Union and China in the cold war)? Or is it necessary to prevent proliferation, even if this requires military action as a last resort?

Second, the US administration lacks consistency. It has come to terms with the North Korean bomb. It is actively supporting India. It necessarily remains on good terms with Pakistan. Foreign policy obviously requires realism and pragmatism. It also requires some consistency of doctrine.

Third, Bush’s Washington still pays far too much heed to some of the wilder propagandists based in think tanks. Increasingly, bodies such as the AEI (for which I once wrote a scholarly volume on British political history) are less keen on sponsoring thinking and research. They are giving desk space and star roles to a breed of fast-talking practitioners of the television soundbite.

Finally, the Bush administration needs to ensure that the transparent, positive activities in the field of democracy promotion conducted in many countries by the NED and by a network of publicly funded bodies are not made casualties of the battle against nuclear proliferation.

Michael Pinto-Duschinsky is a director of the International Foundation for Election Systems in Washington
Andrew Sullivan is away

Date: 11/22/2004 04:40:50 By JEET HEER and LAURA ROZEN Houston Chronicle
$20 million for a coup in Iran? :Overthrow Tehran? Hey, Not So Fast

With President Bush elected to a second term, and the neoconservative architects of the Iraq war firmly in the driver's seat of U.S. foreign policy, Iranian-Americans are contemplating a stark choice similar to that faced by Iraqi-Americans a few years ago — whether they want to work with Washington to liberate their home country.

Although almost all Iranian-Americans want to see democracy flourish in their native land, there are intense and divisive debates on how to achieve this goal and what a future Iranian government should look like. These debates are certain to grow only more intense in the coming months, as Iran's accelerating nuclear program vaults it to the top of the U.S. foreign policy agenda.

The activities of Michael Ledeen, one of the most prominent of the Washington neoconservatives advocating that the United States back a plan to overthrow the mullahs, illustrate some of the complexities of modern-day regime change.

Trained as a historian, and now the "Freedom Scholar" at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor of the National Review, Ledeen first came to public prominence during the Reagan administration. While serving as a consultant to national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane, he became entangled in the arms-for-hostages trade that became part of the Iran-Contra scandal. It was Ledeen who brought the U.S. government into contact with the Parisian-based Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar, who claimed he would be able to win the release of U.S. hostages held in Lebanon by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in exchange for U.S. weapons.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Ledeen has resumed contact with Ghorbanifar, as he has set about gathering information to lobby the Bush administration, private constituencies and public opinion to back a plan to destabilize the Iranian regime and support dissident forces. In a December 2001 meeting in Rome, first reported in Newsday, Ledeen introduced Ghorbanifar to two Pentagon officials interested in discussing the regime change idea.

In June 2003, one of those Pentagon officials, Harold Rhode, went to meet Ghorbanifar in Paris for further discussions — a meeting the Pentagon originally said was the result of a chance encounter.

On April 21, 2003, in the final days of the major combat operations in Iraq, Ledeen traveled to Los Angeles, where he spoke to a group of about 200 Iranian exiles. The event was organized by the owner of a Los Angeles-based Persian radio station, said to be sympathetic to the monarchists (the people surrounding the late shah's son, Reza Pahlavi, who lives in a Washington suburb).

"The Iranian diaspora is one of the richest diasporas in history," Ledeen told the audience, according to a tape recording of the event. "So as you contemplate the future of Iran, think first about how to organize the Iranian community and diaspora to raise money for Iranians in Iran to stage democratic revolution that we all know can succeed."

The private money, Ledeen explained, would jump-start a campaign of civil disobedience by providing financial support for the families of Iranian opposition and dissident leaders, enabling them to step up their campaign of resistance against the Iranian regime. Once the U.S. government saw the mass demonstrations, Ledeen said, it could then be persuaded to seriously back a regime change initiative.

"I think you can buy yourself a free Iran now for $20 million," Ledeen added. He also advised the audience on tactics to increase their lobbying influence in Washington.

Some Iranian-Americans in the audience were dismayed by Ledeen's talk of the ease with which the oppressive Iranian regime that had driven most of them from their homeland could be overthrown. "It was insulting to every person sitting in that room," said one Iranian-American journalist in attendance, who asked that his name not be used. "If it's such an easy thing to overthrow a government, then why have the Iranian millionaires not done it themselves?"

Among Iranian-Americans, there's both a fascination and a wariness about neoconservatives such as Ledeen — as well as considerable uncertainty about what, if any, role the diaspora itself should play in any democratic revolution in Iran.

"I believe the future of Iran is in the hands of the Iranian people," the Iranian-American journalist said. "The young people who have been sacrificing their lives, and their families."

The Ledeen initiative shows the contradiction of the neoconservative worldview: While seeking to liberate and empower the peoples of the Middle East it also makes them pawns in a historical drama in which they have little voice. The execution of this sort of radical foreign policy vision has often run roughshod over the details, as the aftermath in Iraq has shown.

No one is advocating a U.S. invasion of Iran at the moment, although clandestine support to Iranian opposition groups is on the table. For Iranian-Americans, the present question is whether their home country should become a sequel to Iraq or if there is a way to democratize Iran without Washington's heavy hand.
Heer, who is based in Toronto, frequently writes for the Boston Globe and the National Post. Laura Rozen reports on foreign affairs and national security issues from Washington, D.C.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Ahmadinejad in Trouble

Signs Political Elite Moving To Restrain Iranian President

By Breffni O'Rourke January 25 2007 at 4:42 PM
January 24, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Hints are emerging in Tehran that Iranians of various political persuasions are trying to put the brakes on firebrand President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

Iran was recently placed under limited United Nations sanctions because of its refusal to stop uranium enrichment, and the president has responded with a barrage of criticism of the UN and the West.

Some analysts think Iranian politicians might rein in Ahmadinejad, and distance him from the country's controversial nuclear program, in case the UN imposes broader sanctions that could devastate Iran's economy.

It is too early to say whether populist President Ahmadinejad is losing the confidence of Iran's political classes. But there are several concrete developments that could indicate a desire to restrain excesses and perceived policy errors since he came into office in 2005.

Shrugging Off UN

One clue is contained in the daily newspaper "Jomhuri-yi Islami," which has rejected Ahmadinejad's jeering comment that the UN sanctions resolution is merely "a scrap of paper." In remarks to parliament on January 21, the president continued his defiant tone.

"The [UN] resolution was born dead, and even if they issue 10 more of such resolutions, it will not affect Iran's economy and policies," Ahmadinejad said. "They want to say, through a psychological war, that the resolution has been very effective."

He returned to the same theme on January 23, telling state television that sanctions "belong to the past."

"Jomhuri-yi Islami" took the contrary line, saying that the sanctions will certainly hurt Iran, and that it is a mistake to take them lightly.

"Jomhuri-yi Islami" is generally held to reflect the views of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most senior political and religious authority under Iran's constitution.

Supreme Rebuke?

Ali Ansari, an Iran analyst with the London-based think tank Chatham House, says Khamenei is the key figure in the question of what to do about Ahmadinejad.

"The issue is what the supreme leader will do," Ansari says. "I think [that] in the first instance, they will just try to contain and control him. If they can't contain and control [Ahmadinejad], and he keeps shooting his mouth off, I'm not sure what will happen; but clearly there will be a lot of pressure on the supreme leader to take some more decisive action."

Has Khamenei (right) lost faith in Ahmadinejad? (AFP file photo)Another sign of discontent with Ahmadinejad comes from within the parliament. Legislators are collecting signatures on a demand that the president be called before parliament to answer questions about the country's nuclear program, which some in the West suspect is aimed at producing atomic weapons.

Also, the president has come under sharp criticism for his handling of the economy. Some 150 legislators have signed a letter condemning his policies, which are seen as having caused rapid inflation. Ansari says that comes as no surprise.

"Right from the beginning, people were warning that this man had no concept of an economic policy or plan; he had a lot of rhetoric, a lot of wishful thinking, [and] he made a lot of promises," Ansari says.

Economic Squeeze

One member of the reformist National Trust Party, Hadi Baluki, said recently that Ahmadinejad had promised to "bring oil money onto people's plates" but that instead the people have no bread.

Food prices have risen sharply, and critics blame Ahmadinejad's actions in pumping cash directly into the economy, in part through handouts.

The UN sanctions imposed so far on Iran are limited to preventing other countries supplying Tehran with the means to expand its nuclear program.

Iran seems set on ignoring the UN demands. But some Iranians fear that Ahmadinejad's fiery defiance could be laying the groundwork for an expansion of sanctions into the economic arena.

Analyst Laurent Zecchin, writing in the French daily "Le Monde," says Iran would be particularly vulnerable to a ban on oil imports. That may seem odd in a country with some of the biggest oil and gas reserves in the world. But the fact is that Iran refines just 60 percent of its own needs; the other 40 percent of refined oil products must be imported.

Zecchin notes that with domestic demand for oil products rising by 10 percent per year, Iran would be hard hit by any form of UN energy sanctions.

He writes that "Le Monde" has information that the Foreign Affairs and Defense committees of the Iranian parliament late in 2006 compiled a 100-page report that concluded that national economic stability would be at risk from UN economic sanctions.

Copyright (c) 2007 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

Sadr is Iraq’s New Prime Minister

Sadr is Iraq’s New Prime Minister
January 08, 2007 01:00 PM EST

Iran-Watch.com prepared its first op-ed (with this identical title) predicting Muqtada al- Sadr would be Iraq’s next Prime Minister, on 28 November 06. Since then, Sadr’s chances have improved. In fact, President Bush’s surge strategy has only one assured outcome – Bush will discredit the Kurds, the Sunnis, Maliki and Hakim as pro-Iran Quislings and propel Sadr into the leadership of Iraq’s government.

In a recent assessment of political realties in Iraq, Stan Goff sets out the case for Sadr’s supremacy.

First, three million Shia reside in Sadr City, only three kilometers from the Green Zone. Does the US believe this force can be stopped in Baghdad using an acceptable level of US military power? Does the US intend to apprehend Sadr and ship him to Guatanamo? This is the only way to prevent Sadr from becoming Prime Minister.

Second, the US’s preferred partner in Iraq, which is pro-Iran, thanks to Ambassador Khalilzad, and is Iran’s subsidiary political party SCIRI (the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq), is far inferior to Sadr. SCIRI has no military base in Iraq. SCIRI has an office in Kurdistan, and a military presence only along the southern Iraq-Iran border. In other words, a US-SCIRI military coalition is still inferior to the Mahdi Army.

Third, thanks to Sadr’s political skills, the balance of forces inside Iraq has turned decisively in Sadr’s favor in the past year (see Stan Goff, Atlantic Free Press, 6 January 2007). In this context, a military push by President Bush will backfire by discrediting US allies like SCIRI and strengthening Sadr’s already commanding position.

Fourth, I would add that the balance of forces in the region, thanks to Assad and Putin, has also turned decisively in Sadr’s favor. See the upcoming op-ed “Syria and the US swap sides on Iran,” Iran-Watch.com).

In short, Muqtada al-Sadr will be propelled into power as Iraq’s next Prime Minister by President Bush’s plan “The New Way Forward.” Iran will be the big loser as Hakim and the SCIRI are driven to the sidelines. This is precisely the opposite result desired by President Bush, but it is the one he will get.

Unionists (Sadr) to Prevail in Iraq

by Scott Sullivan

January 04, 2007 01:00 PM EST

Winston Churchill’s enduring legacy in the Middle East has been the creation of the centralized and multi-ethnic state of Iraq, with its capital at Baghdad. The US overthrow of Saddam Hussein, however, calls Churchill’s legacy into question.

The basic issue underlying the future of Iraq is whether Iraq will be a single union ruled primarily from Baghdad or a more or less voluntary confederation of independent states. In this sense, Iraq is now deciding on the same issue that divided the United States in the mid-19th century. As in the United States, Iraq’s Unionists are likely to prevail, for several reasons.

First, the balance of forces in Iraq’s internal politics follows Iraqi public opinion and is in favor of the Union. Aside from the Kurds, only the Shi’ite SCIRI Party (Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq), directed by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, favors the Iraqi Confederacy. The SCIRI position, however, does not even gain majority Shi’ite support, much less support from Iraq’s Sunnis.

Moreover, SCIRI’s reputation is suspect because it is funded directly from Iran, which wants to annex Basra and Southern Iraq. As a consequence, Iraqi support for SCIRI’s pro-partition stance is likely to drop as awareness grows of the Iran-SCIRI connection.

Finally, SCIRI and Iran would face armed resistance from other Iraqi Shi’ites, led by Muqtada al-Sadr, if they attempt to separate a Shi’ite state from the rest of Iraq. President Ahmadinejad, at the end of the day, would be forced to send Iranian troops into Iraq to take Basra from Muqtada al-Sadr. Ahmadinejad will think long and hard before he confronts Muqtada al-Sadr on this issue.

Second, a negotiated outcome is unlikely to succeed in dividing Iraq and its assets between Iraq’s three main ethnic groups, the Shi’ites, the Sunnis, and the Kurds. Iraqi negotiators would face intractable problems such as deciding on the future of Kirkuk between ownership claims by the Kurds and the Sunnis. In fact, the Iraqi Kurdish issue is a show stopper in general for all negotiations on a future partition of Iraq, both with regard to Iraqi domestic issues as well as Iraq’s relations with Turkey, Syria, and Iran. All three states face their own Kurdish separatist threat that would be substantially strengthened by self-determination for the Iraqi Kurds.

Third, just as negotiations for a three-way partition of Iraq would fail to resolve the issues, so would military conflict. Iraqi stability would come only with a decisive military win by one side over the others, as with the triumph of the Unionists over the Confederacy in the US Civil War. In Iraq, no one side is likely to prevail, given the military parity of the three sides. As a result, Iraq’s civil war would never end but would be perpetuated indefinitely, much as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is today.

An Iraq scenario of perpetual warfare is also likely because of the involvement of Iraq’s neighbors in the conflict. Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Saudi Arabia would be reluctant to see their faction lose in the struggle for Iraq and its oil, and would fuel Iraq’s conflict indefinitely with various forms of assistance.

Fourth, Iraq’s partition via conflict would create a massive flow of refugees. The US will be unwilling to take on the task of managing Iraq’s refugee flows, to say the least, and for this reason alone will inevitably pull back from endorsement of any Iraq partition plan.

It would appear that either negotiations or military conflict will fail to solve the many problems associated with a three way partition of Iraq. What, then, is the likely alternative for Iraq?

The preferred alternative for the vast majority of Iraqis and all of Iraq’s neighbors, with the single exception of Iran, is acceptance of the status quo in Iraq, i.e., the perpetuation of the Iraqi Union and centralized rule from Baghdad. Iran could object to the Iraqi Union, and maintain support for the SCIRI and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim with his Iraq partition plan, but Iran would not carry Iraqi public opinion or any of Iraq’s neighbors as an ally.

Finally, the Kurds could also object to perpetuating the Iraqi Union, but are unlikely to carry support even from Iran. If Iran chooses to support the Kurds, Iran would face immediate diplomatic isolation in the region. In short, it would appear as though Winston Churchill’s legacy in the Middle East, a unified, multi-ethnic Iraqi state, will continue to be secure.

Mahdi Army expressing siege mentality

By STEVEN R. HURST, Associated Press Writer 45 minutes ago

Two Shiite militia commanders said Thursday that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has stopped protecting radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Madhi Army under pressure from Washington, while the fighters described themselves as under seige in their Sadr City stronghold.

Their account of an organization now fighting for its very existence could represent a tactical and propaganda feint, but there was mounting evidence the militia is increasingly off balance and has ordered its gunmen to melt back into the population. To avoid capture, commanders report no longer using cell phones and fighters are removing their black uniforms and hiding their weapons during the day.

During much of his nearly eight months in office, al-Maliki, who relies on al-Sadr's political backing, has blocked or ordered an end to many U.S.-led operations against the Mahdi Army.

As recently as Oct. 31, al-Maliki, trying to capitalize on American voter discontent with the war and White House reluctance to open a public fight with the Iraqi leader just before the election, won U.S. agreement to lift military blockades on Sadr City and another Shiite enclave where an American soldier was abducted.

But al-Maliki reportedly had a change of heart in late November while going into a meeting in Jordan with President Bush. It has since been disclosed that the Iraqi leader's vision for a new security plan for Baghdad, to which Bush has committed 17,500 additional U.S. troops, was outlined in that meeting.

Al-Maliki is said by aides to have told Bush that he wanted the Iraqi army and police to be in the lead, but he would no longer interfere to prevent U.S. attempts to roll up the Mahdi Army.

In a meeting before his session with Bush, Jordan's King Abdullah II was said by al-Maliki confidants to have conveyed the increasing anger of fellow Sunni leaders in the Middle East over the continuing slaughter of Sunni Muslims at the hands of Shiite death squads.

The midlevel Mahdi Army commanders, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the group operates in secret, said at least five top commanders of similar standing were captured or killed in recent months, including one snatched in a night raid from his Sadr City hide-out on Tuesday. They refused to name him.

Two other key officials at the top of the organization were killed in raids last month:

• Sahib al-Amiri, a senior al-Sadr military aide, was slain by American forces in the Shiite holy city of Najaf on Dec. 27. The U.S. military reported his death, calling him a criminal involved roadside bombings. Al-Sadr lives in Najaf.

• The other top commander, identified by a third Mahdi Army commander as Abu al-Sudour, was shot to death in a joint U.S.-Iraqi raid last month as well. He was hunted down in Sadr City.

The third commander, who also spoke anonymously to protect his identity, said U.S.-led raiding parties were now also engaged in massive sweeps, having rounded up what he said was every male old enough to carry a gun in south Baghdad's Um al-Maalef neighborhood Tuesday night.

One of the Mahdi Army commanders who spoke with the AP said the early warning was not ignored.

"Our top leadership has told us to lay low and not confront the Americans. But if Sadr City is attacked, if civilians are hurt, we will ignore those orders and take matters in our own hands. We won't need orders from Sheik Muqtada (al-Sadr)," the midlevel commander said.

Others in the organization said street fighters have been told not to wear their black uniforms and to hide their weapons, to make their checkpoints less visible. Reports from the growing number of neighborhoods controlled by the militias indicate fighters are obeying.

"We're no longer using cell phones except in emergencies. Some of our top commanders have not been home (in Sadr City) for a year because they fear capture," one of the commanders said.

The militiamen said al-Sadr himself had apparently gotten wind of the coming assault and ordered a reshuffling of the Mahdi Army command structure, transferring many leaders to new districts and firing others who were of suspect loyalty.

Iran: Middle East and Central Asia


January 16 2007 at 7:29 PM

ANKARA [MENL] -- The Turkish intelligence community envisions the demise of Iraq and several other Middle East states by 2015.

Turkish sources said the intelligence community has issued an assessment that predicted the collapse of several Middle East countries torn by ethnic and religious tension. The community has urged the government to prepare for such a scenario.

"In this period that we are currently in, we will see the process by which many nations will lose the marathon of history," National Intelligence Organization Undersecretary Emre Taner said.

Taner was reflecting a threat analysis drafted by the organization, known by its Turkish acronym, MIT. In an address on Jan. 5, Taner warned that several Middle East states could soon collapse, which would imperil Turkey as well.



Russia versus Iran/US in Turkmenistan

In a matter of weeks, as Iran’s influence spreads, Russian President/dictator Vladimir Putin is taking up the US role as power broker in the Middle East. As a result, Russia and Iran are facing confrontation in the Middle East. Now, in a major new crisis with the demise of President Niyazov in Turkmenistan, Russia and Iran are facing confrontation in Central Asia. What is called the “Great Game” between Russia and Iran for control of Central Asia’s vast energy resources is underway with this political transition in Turkmenistan.

Good. Antagonism between Russia and Iran is an essential precondition for international stability. The US cannot or will not contain Iran. In fact, the US increasingly seems comfortable in the role of Iran’s junior partner. The US is running interference for Iran in the Middle East, Iraq, and Central Asia, while Iran consolidates for the long term gains.

To put it another way, US appeasement of Iran in the Middle East and Central Asia forces Russia to confront Iran. In this regard, the crises in Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, and Iraq have claimed Putin’s attention in recent weeks after Iran scored gains, unopposed by the US. President Putin stepped in by inviting Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora and Syrian president Assad to Moscow last week for immediate consultations.

Russia was advancing in the Middle East after years of being absent as a major player. President Putin did so because he was unhappy with Iran’s adventurism, as evidenced by Iran’s support for confrontational policies by Hamas and Hezbollah.

Moreover, Syria, who has long been Russia’s closest ally in the region, was telling Putin that Iran was fast becoming a threat to Iraq and the Arab states in general. Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad warned Putin against Iran’s presence in Iraq and called for Arab solidarity against Iran.

While the US remained passive, Russia was emerging as the counterweight to Iran in the Middle East. Russia was already the counterweight to Iran in Central Asia. Under Russian prodding, Iran was excluded earlier this year from full membership (and therefore security guarantees) in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Central Asia’s NATO.

The financial stakes for Russia and Iran are very high in Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan is a major supplier of natural gas to Gazprom, who in turn supplies Ukraine. In this context, the loss of Russsian access to Turkmenistan’s natural gas would be seen a major national security threat for Putin.

As far as Iran is concerned, a breakthrough in relation with Turkmenistan would significantly weaken Russia’s entire policy of containing Iran in Central Asia. The US in recent years has been acting in tandem with Iran’s policy of opening up Turkmenistan. The US has established a major military base in Turkmenistan, much to Russia’s discomfort.

Will Russia stand alone with a policy designed to contain Iran in Iraq and Central Asia? The good news is that Turkey is a natural partner for Russia in a Contain Iran policy. Like Russia, Turkey sees great danger from Iran’s presence in Iraq. Iran, with US support, is behind Kurdish aspirations for an independent state. Turkey, along with Russia, views the an independent Kurdistan and breakup of Iraq into two or more states as bringing disaster to the Middle East.

Turkey, in short, like Russia, is on a collision course with Iran. To contain Iran, Turkey and Russia are already coordinating policy on Iraq. President Putin and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan also need to coordinate policy on the Middle East and Central Asia. Turkey should offer Russia full support as the political transition in Turkmenistan unfolds. Iran and the US will be making mischief there, but a Russian-Turkish coalition would secure Turkmenistan and Central Asia, in a major setback for Iran. Moreover, Russia and Turkey should not despair of gaining eventual US support for a Contain Iran policy, even in Turkmenistan.