Consequences Of Attacking Iran And Why Tehran Is Not Worried

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Postby Armenian on Tue Apr 17, 2007 5:38 pm

Armenia, Iran, Russia To Open Talks On Oil Refinery


Government officials from Armenia, Iran and Russia will meet soon to discuss an ambitious idea to build a big oil refinery on the Armenian-Iranian border that would cater for the Iranian market.

President Robert Kocharian reportedly discussed the multimillion-dollar project with senior Russian officials during a visit to Moscow in January. A subsidiary of Russia’s state-run Gazprom gas monopoly said afterwards that it is considering investing an estimated $1.7 billion needed for the construction of the would-be refinery near the Armenian border town of Meghri. Reports in the Russian press have said the facility would have an annual capacity to refine up to 7 million tons of Iranian oil that would be pumped into Armenia through a special pipeline to be built in northwestern Iran. Petrol produced by it would then be shipped back to Iran by rail. Construction of the 200-kilometer pipeline and the railway would require hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding. Armenia and Iran have no rail links at present.

The Russian Regnum news agency quoted Armenia’s Deputy Energy Minister Areg Galstian as saying that officials from the three governments will try to “ascertain the scale of each party’s participation in the project.” Galstian did not give further details of the talks. Despite its vast oil reserves, Iran lacks refining capacities and has to import gasoline to meet domestic demand. Nonetheless, some Russian experts have questioned the economic wisdom of the project, arguing that oil refineries are usually located near sea ports or major oil pipelines. They see political motives behind the idea of building such a facility in landlocked Armenia.

Source: ... 2D9973.ASP
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Postby Armenian on Tue Apr 17, 2007 6:04 pm

*Նշում - Ըսդ հանրային տարաձայնութիւններին, հետեւյալ համացանցային կայքը «Debkafile: » պատկանում է Իսրայելի պետական ռազմահետախուզային ծառայություններին:

Tehran arms Lebanese Hizballah militia with air defense missile wing as part of war build-up

Iranian Built Shahab/Sagheb Air Defense Missile System (copy of Chinese built Feimeng-80 Air SAM):

April 15, on the eve of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, Hizballah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards commanders staged a grand ceremony at the Imam Ali base in northern Tehran to celebrate the launch of Hizballah’s anti-air missile wing. They cheered the 500 Lebanese graduates of a course in the use of three anti-air missiles supplied by Iran:

Iranian Built Sayyad-1 Surface to Air Missile (a copy of the Soviet era SA-2 "Guideline" SAM): ... anian_Army

The Sayyad 1 (Hunter), the Misagh 1 (Convention [with Allah]) and the Shahab Sagheb (Meteor), which is based on the Chinese Feimeng-80 system. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that these new weapons will seriously restrict the Israeli Air Force’s tactical freedom over Lebanon. In the event of hostilities, Israeli warplanes will have to evade a dense array of Hizballah-operated anti-air missiles which will also defend the terrorist group’s surface rocket batteries.

Iranian Built Misagh-1 Man-Portable Surface to Air Missile:

Those sources disclose that the Iranian-Chinese missile has already been smuggled into Lebanon and is in Hizballah’s hands. It is designed to shoot down planes and helicopters flying at ultra-low altitudes under radar screens for surprise assaults on ground targets such as military bases, missile positions and artillery. Ordinary radar and air defense missiles are mostly ineffective against these low-flying tactics. The new missile makes up for this shortcoming. On March 7, the 500 Hizballah trainees flew out of Damascus airport for Tehran aboard two civilian airliners; on April 16, they returned home – again through the Syrian airport - after training in the Imam Ali base under Iranian experts commanded by Iranian Col. Mohammed Mnafi.

DEBKAfile hears from military circles wry remarks to the effect that, while Israel’s heads of state and chief of staff solemnly declared: “Never again!” in speeches marking Holocaust Remembrance day, they are seriously short on action for curbing Hizballah-Hamas preparations for their next war on the Jewish state. Surface missiles are routinely smuggled into Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, unopposed. But the arming of Iran’s Lebanese proxy with deadly anti-air missiles poses a new and extraordinarily threat to the Israeli Air Force and, moreover, prevents air attacks on the Hizballah batteries shooting rockets into Israel. Questions are being asked about how Israel’s policy-makers and top brass could have allowed 500 Hizballah trainees to fly out of Damascus airport unhindered and return as air defense specialists, highly trained for shooting missiles at the Israeli Air Force and preventing Israeli warplanes from halting surface rockets should they fly against Israeli civilian locations once more.

Shin Bet seeks legislation banning Israeli travel to Iran which has stepped up drive to recruit Israeli visitors as spies

On Tuesday, April 17, the Shin Bet intelligence service reported Iranian intelligence had intensified its efforts to recruit Israelis as spies, targeting former Iranians applying for visas to visit their families. One young man had been snared and paid “expenses” for enlisting a friend in security and collecting information. The Shin Bet detained him on landing home, before he did any harm.

Two hours later, in Cairo, a nuclear engineer Mohammed Gaber, was accused by Prosecutor-General Abdul-Maquid Mahmoud of spying on Egypt’s nuclear program on behalf of the Mossad, which was said to have paid him $17,000. An Irishman and Japanese were sought in connection with the affair. Israel dismissed the charge as another of Cairo’s unfounded spy myths, whose dissemination was not conducive to good relations. Neither case is isolated. Two days earlier, the Israeli-Arab parliamentarian Azmi Beshara admitted from a safe distance to the Qatar-based al Jazeera TV channel that he was under suspicion of spying for Hizballah during its war with Israel and would not be returning home any time soon. Add on the US defense secretary Robert Gates’ visits to Jordan, Israel and Egypt this week reportedly to coordinate and oversee preparations connected to a potential military operation against Iran and, in the view of DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources, these espionage rumbles denote a far greater upheaval boililng up below ground.

Most can be traced one way or another to the mysterious disappearance of the Iranian general Ali Reza Asgari from Istanbul in February. Tehran’s job description of the missing general – a former deputy defense minister, who also worked with the Lebanese Hizballah in the 1980 - is correct as far as it goes. But the failure to bring it up to date is an attempt to obfuscate the fact that, at the time of his disappearance, he headed Iran’s Middle East spy networks. The cases disclosed Tuesday may be just the tip of the iceberg, with more spy dramas on the way. But even at this early stage of a potential intelligence earthquake, certain conclusions are indicated. Firstly, Israeli will soon have no choice but to declare Iran an enemy state and ban Israeli travel to the Islamic Republic for the first time in the 28 years since Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution. Surprisingly, Israelis are still legally permitted to visit Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran.

The Shin Bet did not need to publicize Iran’s intense hunt for Israeli spies in order to stop those visits; there are other ways. The espionage case would not have been brought out in the open without the knowledge of the relevant ministers – certainly not a graphic account of how the Iranian consulate in Istanbul, whence Gen. Asgari vanished, doubles as the distribution center for visas to Iran and a recruiting center for spies. Israelis applying for visas are obliged to deposit their Israeli passports there and issued with travel documents which gain them entry to Tehran. This process is drawn out to enable Iranian intelligence agents to make their first pitch to the targeted Israeli. It is followed up after he enters Iran. The Shin Bet’s sudden outburst of transparency indicates that the scene is being set for a major diplomatic, military or intelligence step in the summer. This time, the Israeli government will not repeat at least one of the mistakes committed in July 2006, when it refused to declare that Israel was at war and the Hizballah an enemy, even after its forces crossed in to northern Israel, kidnapped two soldiers and let loose with a Katyusha barrage.

Israel is now putting the horse before the cart and declaring Iran an enemy country before the event. It is therefore vital to deter Israeli nationals from visiting Iran in advance of potential Middle East hostilities. If Iran is involved, even through its allies or the Hizballah, Israelis in the Islamic Republic would be in danger of being taken captive or hostage. Israel’s latest posture and precautions are likely to have the dual effect of raising Middle East tensions and placing Iran’s ancient Jewish community, reduced now to 25,000, in jeopardy. “Israeli spy rings” may soon be “uncovered” by Iranian security agents. Second, the Middle East has embarked on a nuclear arms race. It is no secret that at last month’s Arab summit in Riyadh, the Saudi ruler strongly urged his fellows to unite their national nuclear programs under a single roof. Though played down, this was the summit’s most important decision – not the so-called Saudi peace plan, although it made the most waves. It was a step intended to produce an Arab nuclear option versus the Iranian weapons program.

Every aspect of the unified Arab nuclear program is therefore extraordinarily sensitive and hemmed in with exceptional security measures. Each has become a prime intelligence target - and not only for Israel. Hence the song and dance the Egyptian prosecutor general made Tuesday of an alleged Israeli spy network said to operate out of Hong Kong, with an Irish and a Japanese agent charged with planting Israeli espionage software in Egyptian nuclear program’s computers, together with an Egyptian engineer. Egyptian intelligence was making sure to warn off any Egyptian tempted to work for Israeli intelligence, just as the Shin Bet was cautioning Israelis to beware of falling into Iranian intelligence traps. The events of a single day brought Iran and its nuclear threat into sharp relief as the most pressing issues for Israel. Relations with the Palestinians and Syria, on which so many words are poured day by day, pale in comparison.

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Postby Armenian on Sat Apr 21, 2007 1:12 am

The following is further evidence regarding the "covert" involvement of American agencies within Pakistan based Islamic "terror" organizations, including that of the Al-Qaeda:

ABC News Exclusive: The Secret War Against Iran


A Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News.

The group, called Jundullah, is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran. It has taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials. U.S. officials say the U.S. relationship with Jundullah is arranged so that the U.S. provides no funding to the group, which would require an official presidential order or "finding" as well as congressional oversight.

Tribal sources tell ABC News that money for Jundullah is funneled to its youthful leader, Abd el Malik Regi, through Iranian exiles who have connections with European and Gulf states. Jundullah has produced its own videos showing Iranian soldiers and border guards it says it has captured and brought back to Pakistan. The leader, Regi, claims to have personally executed some of the Iranians.

"He used to fight with the Taliban. He's part drug smuggler, part Taliban, part Sunni activist," said Alexis Debat, a senior fellow on counterterrorism at the Nixon Center and an ABC News consultant who recently met with Pakistani officials and tribal members.

"Regi is essentially commanding a force of several hundred guerrilla fighters that stage attacks across the border into Iran on Iranian military officers, Iranian intelligence officers, kidnapping them, executing them on camera," Debat said.

Most recently, Jundullah took credit for an attack in February that killed at least 11 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard riding on a bus in the Iranian city of Zahedan. Last month, Iranian state television broadcast what it said were confessions by those responsible for the bus attack. They reportedly admitted to being members of Jundullah and said they had been trained for the mission at a secret location in Pakistan.

The Iranian TV broadcast is interspersed with the logo of the CIA, which the broadcast blamed for the plot. A CIA spokesperson said "the account of alleged CIA action is false" and reiterated that the U.S. provides no funding of the Jundullah group. Pakistani government sources say the secret campaign against Iran by Jundullah was on the agenda when Vice President Dick Cheney met with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in February.

A senior U.S. government official said groups such as Jundullah have been helpful in tracking al Qaeda figures and that it was appropriate for the U.S. to deal with such groups in that context. Some former CIA officers say the arrangement is reminiscent of how the U.S. government used proxy armies, funded by other countries including Saudi Arabia, to destabilize the government of Nicaragua in the 1980s.

News source: ... in_th.html
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Postby Armenian on Sat Apr 21, 2007 1:28 am

Iran, Armenia sign media cooperation pact


Iran and Armenia have signed an agreement to expand media cooperation. The agreement was signed by Ezzatollah Zarghami, head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) and Alexan Harutyunyan, the president of the Council of Public TV and Radio Company of Armenia. IRIB and Armenia's Public Television will each open an office in Yerevan and Tehran, respectively.

Armenia will help pave the way for IRIB's stronger presence among broadcasters covering Europe, Harutyunyan said. Zarghami, for his part, said the media should make every effort in introducing both countries' capabilities and capacities, particularly in economic fields. He further emphasized that introducing the culture and civilization of Iran and Armenia “must be on top of our agenda”.

Zarghami was on a three-day visit to Armenia which started on Wednesday. He met several high-ranking Armenian officials including President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Serge Sarkisyan.

News source: ... =351020102

In related news:


Armenia and Iran consider their relations as strategic, said President of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) Ezzatollah Zarghami during the conference in Yerevan.

He said that the approaches and prospects of both countries' presidents are identical and estimated as strategic. "Armenian-Iranian relations have good prospects, and the efforts of the high-ranking officials are directed to the deepening and development of bilateral relations," Zarghami said.
He pointed out that in the economic sphere serious cooperation programs are implemented, and some of these projects are on the implementation stage. He said that within his visit to Armenia he discussed with the country's officials the level of cooperation and prospects of interaction in the media sphere. Zarghami said that Iran has about 100 TV and Radio stations, many of which are satellite broadcast. He pointed out that in this way they can develop and deepen relations with neighboring countries, especially with Armenia.

"New cooperation program will allow to prepare documentaries about each country's possibilities, particularly, in the sphere of economy, as well as to create programs and films about historical-cultural traditions and heritage of Armenia and Iran. It is the best way to demonstrate one's originality and unite the societies of both countries," Zarghami said. He visited Armenia on April 16 by the invitation of Alexan Haroutiunian, Board Chairman of Armenia's Public TV Channel, with the aim of discussing the issues connected with the deepening of Armenian-Iranian cooperation in TV sphere.

News source:

Armenian minister: Iran entitled to produce nuclear energy

Armenian Minister of Energy Armen Movssisyan in a meeting with the head of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), Ezatollah Zarghami in Yerevan on Wednesday, said that access to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is the inalienable right of Iran. According to a report released by IRIB Public Relations Department, Zarghami is currently visiting Yerevan. At the meeting, the Armenian minister said that expansion of multifaceted relations with Iran is of high importance to his country.

For his part, Zarghami pointed to Iran's numerous capacities to bolster its cooperation with Armenia, adding that introduction of the products of private sector through documentary television programs will greatly contribute to development of mutual ties. Turning to cultural and historical commonalties of the two countries as a proper ground for broadening of cooperation, he said that media play a decisive role in strengthening friendly relations among nations.

In another meeting with Armenian Culture Minister Hasmik Poghosian, the IRIB chief said that based on their history, the two nations are interested in bolstering bilateral ties. Zarghami pointed to Iran's potential in cultural and art fields and declared Iran's readiness for cooperation with Armenia in the domain of culture, adding that the Armenian citizens of Iran have an effective role in this regard. Poghosian said that the Armenian nation highly respects Iranian culture, urging the need for further attempts for production of cultural products.

News source: ... 172254.htm
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Postby Armenian on Sat Apr 21, 2007 3:04 am

Next time we Armenians feel the "urge" to attack our "corrupt" politicians in Yerevan, I suggest we stop and first look at what the "civilized" world is engaged in - for a better perspective:

BLACKWATER - The Praetorian Guard of Neoconservatism

Part One:
Part Two:

Iraq For Sale - The War Profiteers (Halliburton)

Part One: ... ed&search=
Part Two: ... ed&search=
Part Three: ... ed&search=
Part Four: ... ed&search=
Part Five: ... ed&search=
Part Six: ... ed&search=


Nearly 800 contractors killed in Iraq

In a largely invisible cost of the war in Iraq, nearly 800 civilians working under contract to the Pentagon have been killed and more than 3,300 hurt doing jobs normally handled by the U.S. military, according to figures gathered by The Associated Press. Exactly how many of these employees doing the Pentagon's work are Americans is uncertain. But the casualty figures make it clear that the Defense Department's count of more than 3,100 U.S. military dead does not tell the whole story.

"It's another unseen expense of the war," said Thomas Houle, a retired Air Force reservist whose brother-in-law died while driving a truck in Iraq. "It's almost disrespectful that it doesn't get the kind of publicity or respect that a soldier would."

Employees of defense contractors such as Halliburton, Blackwater and Wackenhut cook meals, do laundry, repair infrastruture, translate documents, analyze intelligence, guard prisoners, protect military convoys, deliver water in the heavily fortified Green Zone and stand sentry at buildings — often highly dangerous duties almost identical to those performed by many U.S. troops. The U.S. has outsourced so many war and reconstruction duties that there are almost as many contractors (120,000) as U.S. troops (135,000) in the war zone.

The insurgents in Iraq make little if any distinction between the contractors and U.S. troops. In January, four contractors for Blackwater were killed when their helicopter was downed by gunfire in Baghdad. In 2004, two Americans and a British engineer were kidnapped and decapitated. That same year, a mob of insurgents ambushed a supply convoy escorted by contractors, burning and mutilating the guards' bodies and stringing up two of them from a bridge.

But when contractors are killed or wounded, the casualties are off the books, in a sense. While the Defense Department issues a press release whenever a soldier or Marine dies, the AP had to file a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain figures on pre-2006 civilian deaths and injuries from the Labor Department, which tracks workers' compensation claims. By the end of 2006, the Labor Department had quietly recorded 769 deaths and 3,367 injuries serious enough to require four or more days off the job.

"It used to be, womb to tomb, the military took care of everything. We had cooks. We had people who ran recreation facilities. But those are not core competencies you need to run a war," said Brig. Gen. Neil Dial, deputy director of intelligence for U.S. Central Command. With the all-volunteer force, the military began more stringent recruiting of troops and made greater use of nonmilitary professionals. "It puts professionals in harm's way," he conceded. Although contractors were widely used in Vietnam for support and reconstruction tasks, they have never before represented such a large portion of the U.S. presence in a war zone or accounted for so many security and military-like jobs, experts say.

Some of the workers are former U.S. military personnel. Some are foreigners. The companies and the U.S. government say they do not keep track of how many are Americans. The contractors are paid handsomely for the risks they take, with some making $100,000 or more per year, mostly tax-free — at least six times more than a new Army private, a rank likely to be driving a truck or doing some other unskilled work. The difference in pay can create ill will between the contractors and U.S. troops.

"When they are side by side doing the same job, there is some resentment," said Rick Saccone, who worked as an intelligence contractor in Baghdad for a year. If the contractor deaths were added to the Pentagon's count of U.S. military casualties, the number of war dead would climb about 25 percent, from about 3,000 as of the end of 2006 to nearly 3,800.

If the contractors injured badly enough to be off the job for at least four days were added to the nearly 14,000 U.S. troops requiring medical air transport because of injuries, the injury total would rise by about the same percentage. Early in the war, most of the casualties on the coalition side were military. But with the fall of Saddam Hussein, contractors flowed in behind the troops, and the number of deaths among the contract workers has been increasing each year. Contractor deaths are less costly politically, said Deborah Avant, a political science professor at George Washington University.

"Every time there's a new thing that the U.S. government wants the military to do and there's not enough military to do it, contractors are hired," she said. "When we see the 3,000 service member deaths, there's probably an additional 1,000 deaths we don't see."


News Source: 0d8LpH2ocA
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Postby Armenian on Mon Apr 30, 2007 2:35 am

Officers: Ex-CIA chief Tenet a 'failed' leader


In a letter written Saturday to former CIA Director George Tenet, six former CIA officers described their former boss as "the Alberto Gonzales of the intelligence community," and called his book "an admission of failed leadership."

The writers said Tenet has "a moral obligation" to return the Medal of Freedom he received from President Bush. They also called on him to give more than half the royalties he gets from book, "At the Center of the Storm," to U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq and families of the dead. (Watch Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice talk about Tenet's book)

The letter, signed by Phil Giraldi, Ray McGovern, Larry Johnson, Jim Marcinkowski, Vince Cannistraro and David MacMichael, said Tenet should have resigned in protest rather than take part in the administration's buildup to the war. Johnson is a former CIA intelligence official and registered Republican who voted for Bush in 2000. McGovern is a former CIA analyst. Cannistraro is former head of the CIA's counterterrorism division and was head of intelligence for the National Security Council in the late 1980s. The writers said they agree that Bush administration officials took the nation to war "for flimsy reasons," and that it has proved "ill-advised and wrong-headed."

But, they added, "your lament that you are a victim in a process you helped direct is self-serving, misleading and, as head of the intelligence community, an admission of failed leadership.

"You were not a victim. You were a willing participant in a poorly considered policy to start an unnecessary war and you share culpability with Dick Cheney and George Bush for the debacle in Iraq."
Tenet's 'lack of courage'

The writers accused Tenet of having helped send "very mixed signals" to Americans and their legislators prior to the war.

"CIA field operatives produced solid intelligence in September 2002 that stated clearly there was no stockpile of any kind of WMD in Iraq.

"This intelligence was ignored and later misused."

The letter said CIA officers learned later that month Iraq had no contact with Osama bin Laden and that then-President Saddam Hussein considered the al Qaeda leader to be an enemy. Still, Tenet "went before Congress in February 2003 and testified that Iraq did indeed have links to al Qaeda.

"You showed a lack of leadership and courage in January of 2003 as the Bush administration pushed and cajoled analysts and managers to let them make the bogus claim that Iraq was on the verge of getting its hands on uranium.

"You signed off on Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations. And, at his insistence, you sat behind him and visibly squandered CIA's most precious asset - credibility."

The letter described Tenet as "one of the bullies."

"You helped set the bar very low for reporting that supported favored White House positions, while raising the bar astronomically high when it came to raw intelligence that did not support the case for war being hawked by the president and vice president.

"It now turns out that you were the Alberto Gonzales of the intelligence community -- a grotesque mixture of incompetence and sycophancy shielded by a genial personality."

The letter said Tenet's failure to resist pressures from Cheney and then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld helped build public support for a war that has cost more than 3,000 American lives and many times that among Iraqis.

"You betrayed the CIA officers who collected the intelligence that made it clear that Saddam did not pose an imminent threat. You betrayed the analysts who tried to withstand the pressure applied by Cheney and Rumsfeld.

"Most importantly and tragically, you failed to meet your obligations to the people of the United States."

Tenet's memoir, to be published Monday, covers his tenure as director from July 1997 to July 2004. In an interview to air Sunday on CBS News' "60 Minutes," Tenet expressed outrage that senior officials including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have used his "slam dunk" reference in discussing Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq over its weapons of mass destruction, which turned out not to exist. (Read full story)

"They never let it go. I mean, I became campaign talk. I was a talking point. 'Look at the idiot who told us and we decided to go to war.' Well, let's not be so disingenuous ... Let's everybody just get up and tell the truth. Tell the American people what really happened."

News source: ... index.html
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Postby Armenian on Sun May 13, 2007 1:09 am

Indo-Iran ties: US State Department raises concerns


Washington, May 04: The US has said it has not seen the letter written by a group of American lawmakers to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on New Delhi`s ties with Tehran and its implications to the civilian nuclear deal but noted that the Bush administration has already raised the matter with the Indian government.

"... We have not seen this letter and I`m not sure whether the Indians have had a chance to look at it and react to it.

"In terms of what we say and while what we have discussed with our Indian counterparts, I know that we have raised congressional concern about their cooperation with Iran and we continue to encourage the Indians to use what influence they have with the Iranians to press them to comply with UN Security council resolutions and to behave responsibly in a wide variety of areas," Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey told reporters in reply to a query. He said when Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon was in town meeting senior officials like the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns and others he has had some "fairly strong" views on the subject.

"But certainly this is an issue that we continue to discuss with them in our official contacts as well," he added. The strong-worded letter from capitol hill came from senior law makers like Tom Lantos, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen the ranking republican, Howard Berman, Gary Ackerman who is the chair of the house middle east and South Asia subcommittee, and others.

"Regarding Iran, we are deeply concerned by India`s increasing co-operation with that country, including the exchange of visits between high-level officials, enhanced military ties, and negotiations of agreements to establish closer economic relations," they said in the letter going on to list the kind of interactions New Delhi has had with Tehran.

"In March, the commander of the Iranian navy, rear admiral Sajjad Koucheki-Badelani, visited India at the Invitation of Admiral Sureesh Mehta, the chief of the staff of the Indian Navy, to discuss the strengthening of military relations.

"A joint defense working group" reportedly will meet later this year in Tehran to pursue broader co-operation in defense, including training Iranian military personnel," the senior law makers pointed out in their letter.

"Such co-operation raises concerns about the possible diversion of sensitive technology to Iran, for which Indian entities have been sanctioned in recent years, including US-origin technology provided to India in the context of civilian nuclear and space co-operation," they said.

"We are also concerned that broadened economic relations between India and Iran are being pursued. Among the most prominent developments is the agreement reached earlier this year for the construction of a major natural gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan and India that will provide the government of Iran with billions of dollars of revenue" the lawmakers said.

"As strong proponents of closer ties between the United States and India, we are deeply concerned that the developments outlined in this letter have a significant potential to negatively affect relationship between the US and India in general and consideration by congress of the 123 agreement in particular," they said.

"Mr. Prime Minister, we urge you to provide assurances that India will cease illicit procurement activities in the US, sever military cooperation with Iran and terminate India`s participation in the development of Iran`s energy sector. By taking these important steps, you can ensure that the positive evolution of our bilateral relationship continues," the law makers said.

In his comments, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon expressed puzzlement as to the origin of the stories on the so-called India-Iran military engagement and argued that what New Delhi did with Teheran was no different from what other countries did. "Nothing that India does with Iran is in any way contravention of the United Nations Security Council resolutions. Much of what we do is normal between states and done with Iran by several other states," he said at a press interaction at the embassy of India on Tuesday.

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Postby Armenian on Sat May 19, 2007 10:02 pm

'Welcome to Tehran' - how Iran took control of Basra


Britain has failed to stop southern Iraq falling into grip of militias.

On a recent overcast afternoon in Basra, two new police SUVs drove onto a dusty, rubbish-strewn football pitch where a group of children were playing. The game stopped and the kids looked on. Three men in white dishdashas got out of one of the cars. One, holding a Kalashnikov, stood guard as the other two removed some metal tubes and cables from the back of a vehicle. As the two men fiddled with the wires, the man with the gun waved it at a teenager who wanted to film with his mobile phone.

Then, amid cries of "Moqtada, Moqtada" and "Allahu Akbar", there were two thunderous explosions and a pair of Katyusha rockets streaked up into the sky. Their target would be the British base in Saddam Hussein's former palace compound. Their landing place could be anywhere in Basra, and was most likely to be a civilian home. The men got back in their cars and drove away, and the children resumed their match.

"Since the British started deploying the anti-rocket magnetic fields our rockets are falling on civilians," Abu Mujtaba, the commander of the group of Mahdi army men told me later. The "magnetic fields" are the latest rumour doing the rounds of Basra's militias; another is that the British are shelling civilians to damage the reputation of the Mahdi army.

The scene I had just watched was an everyday incident in an area long regarded as relatively safe and stable compared with the civil war-racked regions to the north. But as the British army's decision not to deploy Prince Harry highlighted this week, Basra and the nominally British controlled areas around it are far from secure.

During a recent nine-day visit, politicians, security officials and businessmen explained how the streets of the city were effectively under the control of rival militias competing to control territory, the fragile post-Saddam apparatus of state and revenue sources such as oil and weapons smuggling. As in Baghdad, gunmen speed through the streets on the back of pickups and the city is divided between militias as mutually suspicious as rival mafia families.

"If the Prophet Muhammad would come to Basra today he would be killed because he doesn't have a militia," a law professor told me. "There is no state of law, the only law is the militia law."

The politician

His description of life in the city was echoed by Abu Ammar, once a prominent Basra politician. A secular technocrat, he had high hopes when the British first arrived more than four years ago. The city had been hit hard by Saddam's wars against Iran and Kuwait and he was optimistic that the occupation would bring democracy and prosperity.

But the rise of the militias has put paid to that, he said. Now he was too scared to talk in a hotel lobby and insisted we meet in my room.

"When these religious parties say Basra is calm, that's because they control the city, and they are looting it," he said. "It's calm not because it's under the control of the police, but because all the militias have interests and they want to maintain the status quo. The moment their interests are under threat the whole city can burn."

Like many I spoke to, he said the appearance of a functioning state was largely an illusion: "The security forces are made of militiamen. In any confrontation between political parties, the police force will splinter according to party line and fight each other."

The militia commander

The people who really control Basra are men such as Sayed Youssif. He is a mid-level militia commander, but his name and that of his militia - God's Revenge - strikes fear anywhere in Basra.

Beginning with a small group of gunmen occupying a small public building, the former religious student built up a reputation as a fearless thug, killing former Ba'athists, alcohol sellers and eventually freelancing as a hitman for anyone willing to pay the price.

I went to see him in his Basra compound. Gunmen dressed in the uniforms of ministry of interior commandos stood guard outside and a sniper watched from the roof.

In the room outside his office, tribal leaders, officials and more gunmen sat, bare footed, waiting for Sayed Youssif to call them. Some wanted him to help their relatives join the army or police. Some had problems with other militias and were seeking his protection. But most were there to pay homage to a powerful man whose help they may one day need. As the official apparatus of state slides into chaos, men such as him have become the main dispensers of justice and patronage. No one in Basra can be appointed to the army, police or any official job without a letter of support from a militia or a political party.

Sitting in front of a mural of an eagle emerging from Basra and enveloping the whole of Iraq, he retained the manners of a religious student; stretching his arms on his lap, he lowered his head to listen intently as visitors address him. But on the desk in front of him, two phones that rang constantly and a pistol with two cartridges hinted at the power he now wields.

Sayed Youssif had just made a ruling in the case of a Sunni man whose brother was accused of shooting at Shias more than 15 years ago. Relatives of the alleged victims were demanding that he pay them compensation or be killed. The man pleaded that his brother had left the country two years before and he was too poor to pay 7m dinars (£2,500) in compensation.

The Sunni man shook, pleading for mercy. "Time has changed," said Sayed Youssif in a low but powerful voice. "Now you Sunni come here and beg like the mice. Do you remember the days when no one of us could even talk to you? You were the tyrants then, but we are not tyrants like you - I will give you a week to go to your tribe and either convince then to hand your brother or you will be judged in his place."

At the moment, he explained, he was preoccupied with a power struggle against the Fadhila party, another Shia militia that has controlled the governorship and the oil terminals for most of the past two years.

Sayed Youssif and a group of other militias all with strong ties to Iran were trying to displace Fadhila. "I have told all city council members: you have to make a choice, you either vote against the governor or you will die," he told one of his aides. The next day, two bombs exploded outside the homes of city councillors from the Fadhila party.

The general

One afternoon I went to meet a senior Iraqi general in the interior ministry. A dozen gunmen in military uniforms lay dozing as a junior officer led me through a maze of corridors padded with sandbags.

The general was on the phone to another officer when I entered. He was jokingly threatening the caller: "Shut up or I will send democracy to your town."

When he finished his conversation, the general - who didn't want his name published because he feared retribution from militias -stretched out his hand to me and said: "Welcome to Tehran."

I asked him about British claims that the security situation was improving. His reply was withering: "The British came here as military tourists. They committed huge mistakes when they formed the security forces. They appointed militiamen as police officers and chose not confront the militias. We have reached this point where the militias are a legitimate force in the street."

He and other security officials in Basra, including a British adviser to the local police force, described a web of different security forces with allegiances to different factions or militias.

"Most of the police force is divided between Fadhila which controls the TSU [the tactical support unit, its best-trained unit] and Moqtada which controls the regular police," the general said.

"Fadhila also control the oil terminals, so they control the oil protection force and part of the navy. Moqtada controls the ports and customs, so they control the customs, police and its intelligence. Commandos are under the control of Badr Brigade."

The relationship between militias and the security units they had infiltrated was fluid and difficult to pin down, he said. "Even the police officer who is not part of a militia will join a militia to protect himself, and once he is affiliated with a militia then as a commander you can't change him ... because then you are confronting a political party," he added.

More than 60% of his own officers, and "almost all" policemen, were militiamen. "We need a major surgical operation, to clean the city," he said.

The British army's Operation Sinbad was designed to do just that. The army has claimed it was a success but the general saw it somewhat differently. "The Sinbad operation failed miserably, because it didn't cleanse the police force," he said. "Ahead of us we have years of fighting and murder, a militia will be toppled by another militia and those will split so day after day we are witnessing the formations of new groups. And the British withdrawal is leading to a power struggle between the different factions."

The intelligence officer

In the living room of his modest Basra home, a senior military intelligence official, call him Samer, told me the militias could take control of the city in half an hour if they chose. Next to the sofa we sat on lay a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, a machine gun and couple of grenades. Samer had survived two assassination attempts.

As a young man with a pistol tucked into the back of his trousers brought us cans of Fanta, Samer described the economic forces behind the growth of the militias. "The militias and the tribes are cartels, they control the main ports the main oil terminal, and they have their own ports and everyone smuggles oil. When the balance of power is disrupted, they clash in the streets," he said.

He told me how a few weeks earlier an official in the directorate of electricity loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr had been was replaced by another one loyal to the Fadhila party, triggering clashes in the streets between different police units.

When there was a clash between two militias, the police force split and one police unit began fighting other units. Police cars became militia cars. (One Mahdi army commander was aghast that I found this strange: "Of course I should travel in a police car, do you want the commander to travel by taxi?")

Complicating matters further, Samer said most militiamen had multiple IDs associated with different groups. "They switch depending on who pays more."

Like the general, he said much of the blame for the current situation lay with the British: "The British officers are very careful about their image, they are too scared to go into confrontation. They allowed the cancer to [take over the body]. Even if the militias burn the city tomorrow, [the British] won't go into confrontation. They know they are outnumbered and they have huge losses if they do so."

The next day I went back to see the general. He was sitting with two other officers discussing his day."Our uncles, the British, flew me today to Ammara to attend the security handover ceremony," he said. "Give it one month and it will collapse," one of the officers replied.

"One month?" the general laughed . "Give it a few days."

The Iranians

You can't move far in Basra without bumping into some evidence of the Iranian influence on the city. Even inside the British consulate compound visitors are advised not to use mobile phones because, as the security official put it ,"the Iranians next door are listening to everything".

In the Basra market Iranian produce is everywhere, from dairy products to motorcycles and electronic goods. Farsi phrase books are sold in bookshops and posters of Ayatollah Khomeini are on the walls.

But Iranian influence is also found in more sinister places. Abu Mujtaba described the level of cooperation between Iran and his units. His account echoed what several militia men in other parts of Iraq have told me.

Sitting in his house in one of Basra's poorest neighbourhoods, he told me: "We need weapons and Iran is our only outlet. If the Saudis would give us weapons we would stop bringing weapons from Iran."

He went on: "They [the Iranians] don't give us weapons, they sell us weapons: an Iranian bomb costs us $100, nothing comes for free. We know Iran is not interested in the good of Iraq, and we know they are here to fight the Americans and the British on our land, but we need them and they are using us."

Despite this scepticism about Tehran's motives, he said some Mahdi army units were now effectively under Iranian control. "Some of the units are following different commanders, and Iran managed to infiltrate [them], and these units work directly for Iran."

Most of the Shia militias and parties that control politics in Basra today were formed and funded by Tehran, he said.

His assessment was shared by both the general and the intelligence official. "Iran has not only infiltrated the government and security forces through the militias and parties they nurtured in Iran, they managed to infiltrate Moqtada's lot, by providing them with weapons," the general told me. "And some disgruntled and militias were over taken by Iran and provided with money and weapons."

In his office, littered with weapons bearing Iranian markings, Samer showed me footage his men had shot of a weapons smuggling operation after they captured six brand new Katyushas.

"In Basra, Iran has more influence than the government in Baghdad," he said. "It is providing the militias with everything from socks to rockets."

But, like many he was philosophical about Iranian interference. "Unlike the US and the UK, Iran invested better. They knew where to pump their money, into militias and political parties. If a war happens they can take over Basra without even sending their soldiers. They are fighting a war of attrition with the US and UK, bleeding them slowly. We arrest Iranian spies and intelligence networks but they are not spying on the Kalashnikovs of the Iraqi army - they are here to gather intelligence on the coalition forces."

But others cite evidence of Iranian influence being used to pursue less strategic aims. A businessman in Basra, who regularly imports soft drinks from Iran, told me he once had a dispute with his suppler in Iran over price. When he refused to pay, gunmen from a pro-Iranian militia stormed his shop and kidnapped him. He was only released after paying all of what he owed to the Iranian dealer.

Nasaif Jassem, a city councillor for the Fadhila party that controls the governorship and the oil industry in Basra, was critical of Iranian interference. Fadhila, widely seen as backed by the British, split from the main Shia alliance in Baghdad after accusing it of having a sectarian agenda.

"This British occupation will go but the other occupation, that of Iran, will stay for a long time," he said. "They want to have an agent in Iraq that they can move every time they want, just like Hizbullah in Lebanon. Iran is sending a message to the west: don't you dare come close to us because we can burn Basra and its people."

Fear of the Iranians runs through the city. I saw it in the offices of the general as we sat in his office one late one night. His two mobile phones had just rung, each with someone asking for a wrong number. The general's face turned pale and he said: "They have located me - the militia control all the transmission towers for the mobile network and now they have located my position."

Were 'they' the Iranians or a militia, I asked. "They are all the same." He called on his guards to send more men outside and ran to the window to check that the sandbags behind the glass were well stacked. "Do you think I or the British commander can walk freely in Basra?" he asked. "No is the answer, but the Iranian chargé d'affaires runs around freely."

The names of Abu Ammar and Samer have been changed for their safety. Ghaith Abdul- Ahad's second dispatch from Basra on oil smuggling will appear in Monday's newspaper

Competing forces

Several groups vie for power in Basra, Iraq's second largest city

· Mahdi army A loose alliance of Shia militiamen, about half of which are connected to Moqtada al-Sadr's office in the Shia holy city of Najaf. His men control the ports and customs as well as the customs police

· Fadhila party An anti-Iranian Shia militia organisation that controls the oil business in Basra, parts of the security forces and the ports and customs

· Badr brigade The armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Before the 2003 invasion it was based in Iran for 20 years

· Tribes There are at least 20 major tribes in the Basra area. Iraqis often feel the strongest allegiance to their tribe, above nationality. At least one influential tribe in the city runs its own smuggling business. They also support politicians in the city...

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Postby Armenian on Mon May 21, 2007 3:42 am

Another theater for US-Iran fallout: the South Caucasus


Armenia, an ally of both countries, shows how tensions between the two could upset the region's diplomatic balancing act.

In late March, as the United Nations Security Council debated whether to increase sanctions against Iran over that country's refusal to halt its nuclear program, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Armenian counterpart met near the border of the two countries to inaugurate a new pipeline bringing Iranian natural gas to fuel Armenian cities. Lighting a symbolic flame, Armenian President Robert Kocharian called the ceremony "evidence of our friendship." But it's a relationship some of Armenia's other friends – particularly the US – wish weren't quite so cozy.

As tensions between Iran and the West approach a boiling point, Armenia is finding it increasingly difficult to negotiate the often conflicting alliances in its complicated neighborhood. Its precarious position illustrates the potentially destabilizing consequences of a Western standoff with Iran on not only the Middle East, but the South Caucasus as well. More than 15 years after the breakup of the Soviet Union, the fragile region remains politically volatile. A number of unresolved conflicts – over the breakaway regions of Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia – still poison relations between neighbors. Those local tensions have been amplified by new global focus on the region that has placed the countries at a nexus of competing interests. Russia, the US, the European Union, Turkey, and Iran all claim important economic or political stakes in the region.

Armenia faces a choice: Iran or the US?

Keeping good relations with Iran is vital for Armenia, a small, landlocked country. Its main borders – with Turkey and Azerbaijan – are closed, and the country is still in a state of cold war with neighboring Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, an unrecognized ethnically Armenian state that is still legally part of Muslim Azerbaijan. But the US is Armenia's main donor and the only one which currently funds humanitarian assistance in Karabakh. Over the next five years, Armenia is also slated to receive $235 million in aid through President Bush's flagship international development program, the new Millennium Challenge Account. Armenia's outgoing foreign minister, Vartan Oskanian, says Armenia's allies understand its difficult position. But he also acknowledges that, as tensions rise, there is increasing pressure to choose a side.

"In the case of Iran and the United States, I think we're reaching that point," says Mr. Oskanian, who is Syrian-born and earned a masters degree at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. Analysts say military conflict with Iran would be devastating for the region and many here fear that its effects could spill over into Iran's neighbors in the South Caucasus, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

"God forbid, if there is military action against Iran, Armenia may get involved. And Azerbaijan as well," says Stiopa Safarian, director of research at the Armenian Center for National and International Studies, a think tank connected to the opposition Heritage Party. In the worst-case scenario, Mr. Safarian says, it could reignite conflict between the two countries, which still stare each other down across disputed and heavily militarized cease-fire line near Iran. Armenia spends $250 to $300 million a year on its military, largely because of the unsolved Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijan spends more than three times that.

But politicians also worry that even if the current conflict stops short of military intervention, heightened tension between Iran and the West could shatter the delicate diplomatic balancing act in the region. Armenia and Azerbaijan both have close ties to the United States and Iran, although Christian Armenia's ties have been steadier with Iran. Despite Iran's sometimes tense relations with Azerbaijan, many analysts say the country plays a key balancing role in the region. Iran steadies relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan and counterbalances the influence of Russia, a key regional power.

So far, a balance

So far, Armenia has been able to steer a middle course between the US and Iran. It has stayed largely silent on Iran's nuclear policy, but kept its economic ties with the country transparent and – along with Azerbaijan – quietly enforced international nonproliferation agreements. But the US is concerned about the growing economic ties between Armenia and its neighbor, particularly the new pipeline, which Armenians see as strategically vital. Armenia has no energy resources of its own and suffered severe energy shortages in the early 1990s as a result of the civil war in neighboring Georgia.

"Armenia was dependent on pipelines that passed through several countries," says Serzh Sarkisian, who recently became Armenia's prime minister. "We remember what the situation was in Armenia when that pipe was out of order. Imagine sitting in Yerevan in January and you have no heat, no water, and it was minus 30 degrees Celsius."

Given Iran's economic importance to Armenia, though, few here believe that Armenia can do anything other than continue to claim neutrality for as long as possible. But beneath Armenia's steady relationship with Iran, there is also wariness in the country about its neighbor's behavior.

"It's very simple. I don't think that anyone in Armenia would be happy if next to their borders they would have weapons of mass destruction," says Mr. Sarkisian.

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Postby Armanen on Mon May 21, 2007 7:31 pm

May 20 2007

US military officials in azerbaijan
Sun, 20 May 2007 21:59:50

A military delegation from the United States has traveled to
azerbaijan to boost military cooperation with the former soviet

The delegation was led by Chief of Staff of the Oklahoma Air National
Guard Brigadier General Robert D Ireton.

Azerbaijan's Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiyev welcomed
the military delegation on Saturday and met with the American

Abiyev said Baku keeps bilateral relations with the US within
'Partnership for Peace' (PFP) of NATO." "But Section 907 created
serious obstacles for intensive military cooperation," he said.
The US Congress passed the Freedom Support Act in 1992 to facilitate
economic and humanitarian aid to the former republics of the Soviet
Union, claiming it would help stabilize democratic forms of
government and foster economic growth. All 15 republics are eligible
for assistance with the exception of Azerbaijan. The countries that
receive aid under this legislation include Armenia, Belarus, Estonia,
Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia,
Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
Since 1992 the Armenian government has received more than $1 billion
in aid under this legislation. Azerbaijan's government has received

The clause restricting aid to Azerbaijan reads as follows:

Restriction on Assistance to Azerbaijan (Title 9: Section 907)
"United States assistance under this or any other Act ... may not be
provided to the Government of Azerbaijan until the President
determines, and so reports to the Congress that the Government of
Azerbaijan is taking demonstrable steps to cease all blockades and
other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh."

Robert Ireton said cooperation with Azerbaijan is of great importance
for Azerbaijan. He said bilateral relations would be further
developed but did not refer to the embargo.

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Postby Armenian on Wed May 23, 2007 3:09 am

Իրանի հետ լավ հարաբերությունների պահպանումը կենսականորեն կարեւոր է Հայաստանի համար


«Հայաստանը, լինելով Իրանի եւ ԱՄՆ-ի դաշնակիցը, ցույց է տալիս, թե ինչպես կարող է լարվածությունն այդ երկու երկրների միջեւ խախտել դիվանագիտական հավասարակշռությունը տարածաշրջանում: Որքան աճում է լարվածությունը Իրանի եւ Արեւմուտքի միջեւ, այնքան Հայաստանի համար դժվար է դառնում պայմանավորվել հաճախակի հակամարտող միությունների մասին իր բարդ շրջապատում: Նրա խախւոտ վիճակը ցույց է տալիս Արեւմուտքի եւ Իրանի միջեւ դիմակայության պոտենցիալ ապակայունացնող հետեւանքները ոչ միայն Մերձավոր Արեւելքում, այլ նաեւ Հարավային Կովկասում»,-ասվում է «Իրանի եւ ԱՄՆ-ի միջեւ» հոդվածում, որ հրապարակվել է «The Christian Science Monitor» թերթում: Ըստ հոդվածի հեղինակների, տեղի լարվածությունն ուժեղացնում է նոր գլոբալ ուշադրությունը տարածաշրջանի հանդեպ, որի հետեւանքով երկրները հայտնվել են մրցակից շահերի կենտրոնում: Ռուսաստանը, ԱՄՆ-ն, Եվրամիությոնը, Թուրքիան եւ Իրանը կարեւոր տնտեսական կան քաղաքական շահեր ունեն տարածաշրջանում:

Իրանի հետ լավ հարաբերությունների պահպանումը կենսականորեն կարեւոր է Հայաստանի՝ փոքր, մեկուսացված երկրի համար: Նրա հիմնական սահմանները Թուրքիայի եւ Ադրբեջանի հետ փակ են եւ երկիրն մինչ այժմ գտնվում է սառը պատերազմի վիճակում Ադրբեջանի հետ Լեռնային Ղարաբաղի՝ չճանաչված էթնիկ հայկական պետության համար, որն իրավաբանորեն շարունակում է մնալ մահմեդական Ադրբեջանի մի մասը:

Սակայն ԱՄՆ-ն Հայաստանի հիմնական դոնորն է, որը նաեւ միակն է, որ հումանիտար օգնություն է ցուցաբերում Ղարաբաղին: Մոտակա հինգ տարիներին Հայաստանը կստանա եւս 235 մլն դոլար նախագահ Բուշի միջազգային զարգացման «Հազարամյակի մարտահրավերներ» գլխավոր ծրագրի միջոցով: Վերլուծաբաններն ասում են, որ ռազմական բախումը Իրանի հետ աղետ կհանդիսանա տարածաշրջանի համար եւ շատերը Երեւանում վախենում են, որ դրա հետեւանքները կանդրադառնան Հարավային Կովկասում Իրանի հարեւանների՝ Հայաստանի եւ Ադրբեջանի վրա: Իրենց հերթին քաղաքական գործիչները մտավախություն ունեն, որ նույնիսկ եթե այս դիմակայությունը չհասնի ռազմական միջամտության, լարվածության աճը Իրանի եւ Արեւմուտքի միջեւ կարող է խախտել տարածաշրջանի նուրբ դիվանագիտական հավասարակշռությունը»,-գրում է թերթը:

Keeping good relations with Iran has vital importance for Armenia

“Armenia – the ally of Iran and the United States, demonstrates how the tension between Tehran and Washington may disturb the diplomatic balance in the region. While the tension between Iran and the West approaches its boiling point, it is becoming harder for Armenia to agree with frequently conflicting alliances within her rather complicated circle. Armenia’s fragile situation illustrates the potentially destabilizing consequences between the West and Iran not only in the Middle East, but also in the South Caucasus,” says the article entitled ”Between Iran and the U.S.” published in The Christian Science Monitor.

The author of the article thinks that a new global attention to the region increases the local tension, which put the states in the center of competing interests. Russia, the United States, European Union, Turkey and Iran make important political and economic stakes on the region. “Keeping good relations with Iran has vital importance for Armenia, a tiny and isolated nation. Her main borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan are closed, and up to this moment the country is in the situation of cold war with Azerbaijan because of Nagorno Karabakh, a non-recognized state of ethnic Armenians, which legally remains a part of Muslim Azerbaijan.

But the United States is Armenia’s main donor and the only financier of the humanitarian aid to Karabakh. During the coming 5 years Armenia will receive $235 million financial assistance via President George Bush’s international development project known as Millennium Challenge Account. Analysts say a military conflict with Iran will be catastrophic for the region, and a lot of people in Yerevan fear that its consequences will have their reflection on Iran’s South Caucasian neighbors – Armenia and Azerbaijan. In their parts politicians fear that if this conflicts does not reach military interference, increase of tension between Iran and the West may disturb the thin diplomatic balance in the region,” the newspaper reports.

Մեր ժողովուրդն արանց հայրենասիրութեան այն է, ինչ որ մի մարմին' առանց հոգու:

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Postby Armenian on Wed May 23, 2007 4:25 am

Azeris caught in US-Iran tussle


A planned protest Tuesday highlights long-brewing frustrations of Iran's largest minority, which some say Washington is trying to exploit to undermine Tehran.

Baku, Azerbaijan

When ethnic Azeris take to the streets of northern Iran Tuesday, they'll be closely watched for signs of a growing nationalist movement – one that may be getting caught up in a larger tussle between Washington and Tehran. Nominally, Azeri Iranians will be marking the first anniversary of large protests sparked by an insulting cartoon of a cockroach speaking Azeri. But at a deeper level, they're driven by long-brewing frustration that their cultural rights have not been respected in Persian Iran, where they have a history of being on the front lines of upheaval. Tehran is wary because, according to some, the US has tried to tap into those ethnic tensions as a possible pressure point for promoting regime change within Iran. Though interest from US Department of Defense officials and others has receded over the past year, at least publicly, ethnic Azeris say they feel even more vulnerable as a result. "These US officials have actually damaged our cause," says Ahmad Obali, a US-based Azeri Iranian activist and head of GunazTV, which broadcasts to ethnic Azeris in Iran. "Not only have we not received anything, but Iran is blaming us for being sponsored by them."

Hersh: US recruiting Azeris in Iran

Seymour Hersh brought widespread attention to claims of covert operations in Iran when he reported in an April 2006 New Yorker article that US troops in Iran were recruiting local ethnic populations, including the Azeris, to encourage local tensions that could undermine the regime. The US has denied such reports, though it acknowledges several initiatives related to Iran: It's established an Office of Iranian Affairs; committed $75 million to promoting democracy in Iran; installed an "Iran watcher" in Baku, Azerbaijan's capital, as well as other cities near Iran; and helped Azerbaijan build a radar station on the Iranian border for the stated purpose of monitoring the Caspian Sea.

But Mr. Hersh and others, such as Massoud Khodabandeh, an Iranian analyst at the Paris-based Center of Research and Terrorism, suggest the State Department may not be apprised of everything the CIA might be doing in the region. Mr. Obali says Hersh's article was based on valid information at the time of publication, but that the situation has since changed. Ethnic Azeris have meanwhile taken pains to distance themselves from these reports, which, along with the declared $75 million for democracy promotion within Iran, have been used by the Iranian government as a basis for crackdowns and arrests.

Azeri legacy of challenging Tehran

By far the largest of Iran's minority groups, ethnic Azeris have long played a complicated role in Iran's domestic policies. A greater Azerbaijan was split into northern and southern parts in 1828. The northern half became independent Azerbaijan in 1991, while the southern half remains part of Iran. In Iran, ethnic Azeris have a history of being well integrated into the highest power structures – Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, for one, is Azeri – as well as a legacy of frequently pushing the Iranian government hard on its policies.

Revolutionary activity in Iran in the early 1900s was centered in Tabriz, a majority ethnic Azeri city. After a failed attempt at autonomy in 1944, an ethnic Azeri group threw its weight behind the Islamic Revolution in the 1970s in the hopes of regaining their cultural rights, but those, too, were dashed. The current nationalist movement, which has gathered strength since Azerbaijan's emergence, has been hamstrung by an internal lack of unity and threats from the Iranian government. "We want to function systematically, not secretly," says Sadiq Isabeyli, head of public relations for the Baku branch of an Azeri Iranian activist group based in Iran. "But the government says we're enemies of the state and promote the interests of foreign countries and the United States."

Just how much the US has been supporting ethnic Azeris within Iran is unclear. A bulk of the funding is going to radio and television programming. Yet only one Azeri Iranian radio program – Window Into Iranian Azerbaijan – is broadcast into Iran, for only 10 minutes once a week. And support for the program, which comes from Voice of America – the US government's official radio and television service – started years earlier, says its host, Khadija Ismayilova. The US has also courted ethnic Azeri activists, such as the prominent Mahmudali Chehrengali, granted asylum in the US several years ago, who claims that initial interest from various high-ranking officials has tapered off.

"The usual suspects in the administration who are hawkish have tried to pick up this issue [of tapping ethnic minorities in Iran], but cooler heads have prevailed," says Svante Cornell, research director of Johns Hopkins Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and an expert on Azerbaijan.

Why US backed off

Part of the moderates' cautionary message appears to be based on the US experience in Afghanistan and Iraq, which is rife with sectarian fighting. "I think the US government is very cautious that it could influence the domestic policy in the country, because it has had such failures recently in that regard," says Patrick Clawson, deputy research director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a leading expert on Iran. Analysts say there are several key reasons why the US has stepped back from working too closely with ethnic minorities: fear of alienating Persian Iranians who are well represented in the US, the Azeri movement's ultimate goal of full independence, and the desire to prevent antagonizing Iran.

"While not excluding any Iranian citizens, we're not targeting ethnic minorities," says a US official familiar with US policy in Iran. "To single them out is to support Iranian accusations that we want revolution." Mr. Cornell agrees. "If you were going to do something serious and subversive in Iran, you would use the Azerbaijani minority," says Cornell. "But the US doesn't want to split up Iran; it wants to change it internally." While the US may have backed off from supporting Iran's ethnic minorities, its desire for end results may be unchanged. "Right now the trend I see is that the US is hoping the minorities will do something as a unit," says Mr. Obali, the GunazTV head. "But having an interest and hoping for something doesn't necessarily mean they are going to spend money."

Մեր ժողովուրդն արանց հայրենասիրութեան այն է, ինչ որ մի մարմին' առանց հոգու:

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Postby Armenian on Sat Jun 02, 2007 4:18 am

Iran gas project’s progress irks US

Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh shakes
hands with his Indian counterpart Mani Shankar Aiyar.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan, India and Iran this week came a step closer to realising a $7bn natural-gas pipeline, a project that is likely to irk US policymakers trying to contain Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Billed as a “peace pipeline” by the three countries, which are currently negotiating terms in Tehran, the project is designed to slake Pakistan’s and India’s soaring thirst for energy and strengthen regional co-operation. Pakistan, for one, says it can’t afford to let the project fail. But Washington says it can’t afford to let the pipeline succeed, as the revenues would further Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons programme. Analysts say this stance could backfire if it undermines Pakistan’s key strategic function: fighting terrorism.

Key to that fight is sustained economic growth underpinned by ample supplies of natural gas, a resource that Iran has in abundance. “The only option we have is Iran,” says Pakistani premier’s adviser on energy Mukhtar Ahmed. In April, the US embassy’s charge d’ affaires in Pakistan, Peter Bodde, told reporters that “we will continue our opposition (to the pipeline). At the same time, Pakistan should put more focus on finding means for alternate energy resources, such as from coal or wind or solar energy.”

Members of Congress have also bared their teeth. In March, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, suggested that foreign governments investing in Iran’s energy sector should be targeted with sanctions. Islamabad insists that it will go ahead. “Our public opinion, our governments, our people want us to pursue our national interests, and we will pursue that,” Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told reporters when asked about the US resistance. — Internews

Մեր ժողովուրդն արանց հայրենասիրութեան այն է, ինչ որ մի մարմին' առանց հոգու:

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Postby Armenian on Sat Jun 02, 2007 4:46 am

Iran says dead rebels had U.S.-made arms -media

Rebels killed in clashes with Iranian forces this week had recently infiltrated border areas of the Islamic Republic carrying U.S.-made arms, an Iranian commander was quoted as saying on Thursday. Ten rebels and seven Iranian border guards were killed in clashes in a northwestern area close to Turkey, according to Iranian media reports on Wednesday and Thursday.

"The weapons ... included M16 weapons which are being provided through channels linked to forces present in the region," General Rastegar-Panah, identified only with his last name, told state radio. The report referred to "American-made weaponry and arms".

Tehran often accuses its old foe the United States, which invaded Iraq in 2003, of trying to undermine Iran's security by backing insurgents operating in sensitive border regions. The Intelligence Ministry said last Saturday it had uncovered spy networks, mostly near its western borders, working for U.S. and British intelligence services.

Iranian daily Hamshahri said the seven border guards were killed in fighting with "armed terrorists" on Monday. State media on Wednesday reported the deaths of the 10 "anti-revolutionary" rebels in the same region. The fighting took place near the town of Salmas in West Azerbaijan, a northwestern province inhabited by ethnic Azeris as well as some Kurds, during a three-day operation aimed at clearing the border areas, the media said. Rastegar-Panah said the rebels were backed by "forces affiliated to the world of arrogance", rhetoric which Iranian officials have used in the past to denounce Western powers, even though he did not mention the United States by name.

"Hopefully we will be able to destroy the bases they have set up near our borders in order to give a crushing response to such plots hatched by foreigners on the other side of our borders," he said. Iranian Kurdish rebels linked to Turkish Kurd guerrilla group Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) usually operate in other parts of northwestern Iran. The United States accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear arms and of fomenting instability in Iraq. Iran denies the charges and blames the presence of U.S. forces for the violence in its western neighbour. The two countries, which have not had diplomatic ties since shortly after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, on Monday held their most high-profile talks in almost three decades when their officials met in Baghdad to discuss the situation in Iraq.

Մեր ժողովուրդն արանց հայրենասիրութեան այն է, ինչ որ մի մարմին' առանց հոգու:

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Postby Armenian on Sun Jun 03, 2007 4:09 am

Iran-Armenia pipeline in progress


Armenia's national gas company has pledged to build the second and final segment of a natural gas pipeline from Iran by the end of 2008. Iranian Shana news agency quoted the Armenian daily Armenia Liberty making the announcement.

The Iranian and Armenian presidents inaugurated the first 40-kilometer Armenian section of the pipeline stretching from the Iranian border to Armenia's southeastern town of Kajaran in March. Armenian officials have said their country would be able to import large volumes of Iranian gas only after the construction of the pipeline's second, much longer segment that would extend it from Kajaran to the southern Ararat Valley. The Arminfo news agency quoted chairman of the ArmRosGazprom (ARG) operator Karen Karapetian, as saying that his company, which is controlled by Russia's Gazprom, has already begun work on the 197-kilometer segment and plans to finish it late 2008. He said ARG would invest USD 149m in this stretch.

Armenia currently imports approximately 1.2 billion cubic meters of Russian gas each year, which generates about 40 percent of national electricity needs and serves as the main source of winter heating for Armenian households. Construction of the first 40 kilometer-long section of the pipeline by Iranian experts began in November 2004. The pipeline will transfer some 36 billion cubic meters of Iranian gas to Armenia over the next 20 years. The pipeline will transfer some 2.5 billion cubic meters of Iranian gas to Armenia per annum once it is completed by early 2008. A total of USD 33m has been spent on the project thus far.

Source: ... =351020103
Մեր ժողովուրդն արանց հայրենասիրութեան այն է, ինչ որ մի մարմին' առանց հոգու:

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