Monday, June 09, 2003
End of a chapter
Now that Blogger service is less problematic, I am closing my scribbling chapter at this site and continue my rambles here!!! Writing at Blogger has been a great experience that certainly got further ahead of my expectations, thanks to you and your support.
Hooman, the scribbler
Saturday, June 07, 2003
Coming out of the 'In The News' Mood
Today I waited for 3 hours till Blogger.com let me in to post the very previous news. Half an hour after I finally did it, Payvand News carried the same news. D'oh!
You, dear readers, also show less enthusiasm to comment here on neutral and dull news.
More importantly I am coming out of that mood which made me put more news, and even more than that I don't want to post something just for the sake of posting something. Hence I will tilt to my more original style, i.e writing scribbles that make absolutely no sense ;)
But between you and me, news attracts more readers ;) Plus you can read a news and post it --once you get the feeling if that would be a good read -- at the same time under 5 minutes. It is much easier than wondering what is on your mind for half an hour at the end of the day, let alone to write it. And then what? Even if you make a very good point, no news-hungry one pays attention to it in the middle of all cirses in the world.
Apparently Iran has backed the coalitions' claims of hidden Iraqi WMD, according to this. An Iranian government official with ties to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said Tehran had received intelligence indicating that the government of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was indeed hiding weapons of mass destruction (WMD)from UN inspectors. "Yes, we agree with the Americans. Our intelligence indicated that Iraq did possess weapons of mass destruction and was hiding them from the UN." The source, who requested confidentiality, went on to say that the big question is: "What did the Iraqis do with these weapons?"
While Teheran does not know where these weapons may be today, there is a strong suspicion that some may have filtered onto local black markets.
"We know other items once under military control (such as broadcast transmission equipment) have found their way onto the black market," says the official. "We have people coming to Teheran from Baghdad with catalogs of items (stolen from the Iraqi government) offering them for sale." So far, the source claims no WMD offerings have shown up in Iran ... yet.
Friday, June 06, 2003
Behind the smiles
We all saw pictures of the smiling world leaders "patching up their differences" at G8 summit this past week. I look at those very skeptically, and think the strategic differences are still there. I am not still in a mood to write something better than a scribble. Plus I am really busy. So I leave it here. But here is an example that is related to Iran as well.
Before that read my analogy of China and Iran if you have a chance. That helps you understand how I think US will deal with certain factions of the Iranian government. But ... there is a but. The pressure will NOT be off. The US will continue to use its stick and carrot policy, latter to the displeasure of many at the Pentagon.
Part of the reason that Washington will use this policy is that it has no choice when a giant bear, Russia, throws its weight behind Iran.
"The position of the United States in relation to Iran generally... differs from ours," Georgy Mamedov, a deputy foreign minister, said in a newspaper interview. "The Americans are in favor of isolating Iran. But we are in favor of cooperation with it, of course within the framework of international agreements," Mamedov told the daily Vremya Novostei.
His blunt comments contrasted with attempts by Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Bush to play down their differences on the Iran nuclear question and confirmed that the issue remained a major irritant in relations, according to Reuters. It also said that Russia has brushed aside new U.S. charges that Iran could be secretly developing a nuclear weapon and vowed on Friday to press ahead with plans to help Tehran build its first nuclear reactor.
update: I almost forgot. One of the reasons that I am against such pressures is that they will only shift the Iran's political system in directions that are not in parallel to the Iranians' benefit. And yet worse, Iranians' role in making their future will be less and less visible.
Thursday, June 05, 2003
In The News
After days of receiving conflicting news on Russia's position on Iran's nuclear activities, the Russian foreign ministry has clarified its position -- I guess, or did it?
* Russia, contradicting British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said on Thursday it would supply Iran with fuel for a nuclear reactor whether or not Tehran signed an additional inspection agreement with the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
But foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said supplies for the unfinished reactor depended on securing a separate bilateral deal with Iran to send spent fuel back to Russia for reprocessing. "Not signing this protocol will not be an obstacle for cooperation with Iran. Why? Because the IAEA has no objections against Iran on this," Yakovenko told Reuters. He continued, "We consider that there are no obstacles currently, from the international and legal point of view (to cooperating with Iran). Why? Because the IAEA has posed no objections."
Meanwhile, Iran's ambassador to Russia said on Thursday that the bilateral deal on repatriating spent fuel had already been drafted and Tehran was ready to sign. source Reuters
Out of the context comments
Well, If you have read my last post, I have to tell you that there WAS an option 'c'. Paul Wolfowitz's words were completely twisted according to this. Regrading what he said in that particular context:
"Look, the primarily difference -- to put it a little too simply -- between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil. In the case of North Korea, the country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse and that I believe is a major point of leverage whereas the military picture with North Korea is very different from that with Iraq. The problems in both cases have some similarities but the solutions have got to be tailored to the circumstances which are very different."
I am not getting the same impression as I did after reading Guaridan's report. Why would a revered paper like Guardian make such a huge mistake, whether intentionally or unintentionally?
update: Guardian published its Corrections and Clarifications.
Wednesday, June 04, 2003
Highly unconventional comments
You gotta admire the honesty of this man, Paul Wolfowitz, US deputy defence secretary. He tells things in your face that no one else dares to say. And what are you gonna do about it? Huh? He first said that hyping up Iraq's possession of WMD was just for "bureaucratic" purposes, and now guess what? He confirms the worst fears of those opposed to the war: oil.
Asked why a nuclear power such as North Korea was being treated differently from Iraq, where hardly any weapons of mass destruction had been found, the deputy defence minister said: "Let's look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil."
I am dumbfounded and speechless, and yet I was against the war and was kinda seeing oil as a reason -- but not in a way many others would see it. Read the source, courtesy of Guardian, for yourself.
If your head is still in one piece in its right place after that, keep reading this post. After going for a long jogging and putting my body into pieces, but finally managing to put my pieces of brain back together, I came up with these possibilities:
a. This dude is extermely arrogant and self-confident of his position and has let his tongue run free. He is also confident that his coments won't be heard in the middle of talks on the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis and then US presidential election.
b. He does that intentionally.
In this regard, I also think, this news will:
a. either not stir a row, and won't be widely noticed.
b. or stir a row, and the consequences will heavily affect the US and British governments.
c. there is no c. There is nothing in between 'a' and 'b' either.
The heat could cool down
As of today, all of the US concerns about Iran seem to be resolvable either by Iran or third parties. The most urgent one on hand is Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Russia is continuing to build the nuclear facility in southern Iran, and at the same time, it has suspended exports of nuclear fuel, that is essential to get the plant up and running, until Tehran meets the demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
So even if you look at Iran's plans skeptically, you should be re-assured after all these, specially once you know that any nuclear fuel supplied to Iran would be returned to Russia after reprocessing.
After considering Russia's international stature and its pledge at the G8 summit, it is hard to imagine they would let a blunder occur in this respect.
Another re-assuring news came out when Iran invited all countries with the right technology to bid to participate in this project. The United States predictably declined the offer though.
But who first started all this fuss that might never totally die down?
1- Intelligence sources, the same ones that seemed either very confident about Iraq's WMD, or their conclusions were hyped up by politicians for "bureaucratic" reasons. Well, they are already on their defensive regarding their previous predictions on Iraq.
2- An Iranian dissident group that is in the center of a debate in the US whether to be regarded as terrorist or ally. Sometimes the line between a friend or foe is very thin, you know.
Well, they are never seriously trusted.
Having expressed all my optimistic views, I cannot guarantee every one else also sees things the way I see or even act accordingly, if you know what I mean.
update: OK, OK, I may have jumped into conclusion here. I just learned that Russia's foreign ministry would issue a statement on Thursday -- tomorrow-- clarifying Russia's position on cooperation with Iran's nuclear-energy efforts.
I hope I won't have to put my foot in my mouth. I will keep you posted, not on my foot and mouth since you will figure it out ;)
Tuesday, June 03, 2003
Making a point to governments? or terrorists?
It's kinda funny. If you live in the United States, Britain, or any other country that its army is equipped with Tomahawk Cruise missile, you can start thinking that your defense department or ministry is constantly ripped off by the manufacturer company, and your taxes are paying hefty tag prices of these missiles that you think are very sophisticated. Sophisticated, eh?
Well get this then. A New Zealander Internet developer is building a cruise missile in his garage with parts bought on the internet for less than $5,000. For example he claims to have purchased a GPS development system for the project for $120 through online auctioneers e-Bay. On his website, he suggests that the aim of the project is to make governments aware how easy it would be for terrorists to build a low-cost missile. He is not to provide the instructions. source BBC
And about sophistication, "You don't have to be a rocket scientist to build one", he was quoted as saying by the New Zealand Herald.
So I guess, with this confidence-boosting news for terrorists who would have normally branded this idea as far-fetched, soon we will hear them give their beliefs a second thought and start making missiles in their backyard. Don't think so?
My take on Pahlavi's interview
This last weekend I watched Reza Pahlavi's, heir to Iran's thorn or throne, -- I leave it up to you to decide-- interview with CBC's Brian Stewart. I don't know how important he is these days as everything, regarding decision making on Iran, seems to have been put on hold by the White House. There were a few notes, though, that I wanted to put down here anyway:
1- He didn't sound even a bit changed. He used the same old stuff that he had been using over and over again during the past 15 years. I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing as far as his ambitions are concerned.
2- He dodged Stewart's questions on his idea about Monarchy, as a new system, in Iran with smart-ass answers. That's worrisome in the sense that this must give you enough heads-up about his intentions. Whether those intentions are fulfilled, that's another story.
I don't have anything against constitutional monarchy in Canada, Britain, Denmark, or Sweden since, to my knowledge, there is no blood shed to establish a different regime in those countries, and they work perfectly fine. So why bother breaking a system that is already working? Now imagine a country with constitutional monarchy that has gone through a whole regime-change and its unavoidable consequences in 1979, and then after some 20 odd years, it goes back to square one. At least you can go for a better system now that he is up to break the system. He has lived in the oldest major democracy for most of his life for god sake.
3- Why is he so worried about Iran's de-nuclearization -- is there such a word?-- after his return to the country and gives it a high priority?
4- He didn't pronounce nuclear nu kelaire. ;)
5- Does he really know that he is either irrelevant anyway or he will be so in the matter of the first referendum even if his wildest dream comes true? So why would he really go through this hardship to gain nothing? He'd be better off to get a real job.
Speaking of interviews with royals, have you seen his father's interview with CBC during his last years as the Shah of Iran? The interviewer was a young anchorwoman named Adrienne Clarkson. She later got somehow related to the royals, of a different though. She now serves as the Queen's representative in Canada. Anyway, in that interview, Ms. Clarkson asks the Shah about human rights and political prisoners in Iran. To me his answer is embarrassingly priceless. "First of all, it is none of your business ...", and then he goes on explaining that there was no such a thing. I think even Saddam wouldn't have answered that question with such level of arrogance.
Monday, June 02, 2003
In The News- nuclear focus
* An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Hamid-Reza Asefi, said Iran would not sign any new protocols until international sanctions were dropped and it was given the technology to develop atomic energy for peaceful purposes. Asefi said Iran was allowed such technology under the non-proliferation treaty it had already signed.
He said American contractors should help build Iran's nuclear power stations if they really were concerned about Iranian intentions - an offer immediately rejected by US officials.
* A senior British official said President Vladimir Putin of Russia had announced to other leaders at the G8 summit in France that his country would halt "all nuclear exports" until Iran signed up to tougher nuclear inspections.
It follows a decision by the G8 leaders to issue a joint statement describing weapons of mass destruction as the "pre-eminent threat" to international security. source BBC
* Latest - June 3, Russia said Tuesday it will not stop its nuclear cooperation with Iran, which Washington suspects of building atomic bombs, but called for Tehran's nuclear activities to come under international control. "Iran is our neighbour, we cooperate with it and we will continue to cooperate," Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a Group of Eight (G8) summit here. source Reuters
The IAEA board of governors is to meet at its Vienna headquarters on June 16-17 when its chief Mohamed ElBaradei will report on Iran's nuclear activities. IAEA inspectors have been visiting nuclear sites that Washington suspects may be part of a covert nuclear weapons program. Analysts believe ElBaradei will conclude that his limited access to Iranian sites leaves him unable to categorically state that Iran has no nuclear weapons program.
Sunday, June 01, 2003
Political complexities of a complex Iran
We keep hearing about the Iranian government being made up of the conservatives and the reformists. But is it really as simple as that? I am not going through the nuts and bolts of this complex political system. However, I will try to shed some lights on the big picture.
The reality is that each group is also made up of a political spectrum. The conservatives, for instance, are made up of at least two major groups of fundamentalists and neoconservatives, -- I picked up this term today-- a new term to dub the group associated to the former president, Rafsanjani. The former is known to be more adamant on its ideology whereas the latter has a proven record of flexibility and negotiating behind the scenes. Like their American counterpart that aggressively follow certain policies, Iran?s neoconservatives aggressively follow policies that promote the bottom line -- financial bottom line.
The fact of the matter is that none of the political factions in Iran, alone, has the dominant power to sideline the rest. The two major conservative factions, for example again, had to ally to counter the reformists. But the conservatives who had to deal with the rising tide of the reformists -- the tide seems to have subsided -- proved to be more organized and less divided as opposed to the reformists who have to keep dealing with their internal differences at the same time. But hey, that is the case everywhere in the world. I mean, the conservatives are inherently organized whereas movements close to grass roots tend to be quite the opposite.
If you have followed the news recently, you know the US has suggested that ?the ball is in Iran?s court?. With making its points clear, the US administration is buying time to deal with higher priority issues, e.g. the never-ending Middle East crisis, and perhaps gauge still relevant countries? opinion on Iran, e.g. Russia and the Europeans.
No one knows at this stage how the US pressure is going to tilt the complicated political body in Iran and which Iranian faction will benefit from it, even temporarily. Something that is more likely, though, is that there will be forcefully less diversity of opinion within Iran's political system. There is a good chance that the reformist movement, as we know it, is neutralized, and its more unyielding members are labeled as traitors, in the short term.
One external issue that might take the pressure off Tehran is the internal difference of opinions within the US administration, in the sense that Tehran manages to address Washington's immediate concerns with striking a few deals and consequently get away with further yielding.
Afterthought: The interesting part is that things might go in certain directions where you won't be able to say if unfolding events are spontaneous or externally initiated.
China's yesterday, Iran's today? - sporadic scribbles
Despite cultural, geographical, geopolitical, and economical differences, Iran and China share staggering similarities. I even sometimes think the Iranian government, partly intentionally and partly unintentionally, copies their Chinese counterpart.
The similarities are sometimes on the detail level.
Both countries? business is monopolized by big and exclusive companies, run by the ruling authorities, their families, and oddly enough military commanders. Then lower level rulers also have a hand in the spin-off companies that are fed off by the parent ones.
In both countries, the yuppie kids of wealthy lot, associated to the top guys who have been enjoying unlimited privileges, have started to pour out of the country and started to set their eyes on new horizons. Yes, living, studying, and investment in Western countries.
But how about the major issues:
- Both countries started a revolution, and continued with suppressing their own people while supporting other global causes.
- Both countries have faced foreign pressure in the form of the secession and regime-change threats. If you ask my Chinese friend, he will bring countless reasons that Tibet is just an excuse to put more pressure on Beijing. He will also give a lot of inputs on the Tiananme Square event and how a "small" group of Chinese students, morally supported by the West, defied the deadline to clear off the square were smashed by the ?Chinese Liberation Army?. Off-the-topic comment: I am amazed how the word liberation could be used in a variety of contexts.
But anyway, he argues the demonstration in the sqaure was pre-planned and totally blown out of the proportion in the Western media only to put even more pressure on China.
Could the same thing happen on July 9th in Tehran? We will see.
What happened in China under foreign pressure in the course of time, though, was that the authorities who were skilful in negotiating and dealing business with the West got an upper hand as opposed to the rest of their comrades. The result: China remained communist in name and capitalist in practice. There is a chance that Iran also remains Islamic in name and American in practice.
Having said all that, unlike China, Iran does not have the luxury of having a big army equipped with the deterrent weapons such as A-bomb. So the ruling bunch in Iran should be really flexible to make up for that deficiency to save their butt.
In The News - Change, Iran
The US National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, in an interview with Financial Times, said the United States would like to see a different kind of regime in Iran, one that would move away from "an aggressive agenda based on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction". She stopped short of a desire for regime change in Tehran, though, the paper said on Saturday.
However, Rice signalled that Washington was determined to tackle what it saw as an Iranian threat, describing it in similar terms to those used about Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Dr Rice also said the White House wanted to see an elected government in Tehran that met Iranians' demands for "a regime which protects the rights of women, which is forward looking and modern". source Sydney Morning Herald
My spin: However, she did not elaborate why the US insists on women's right in a country where those rights are already more protected than most of the America's allies in the region.