RFE/RL Iran Report – 08/17/2004

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RFE/RL Iran Report
Vol. 7, No. 27, 17 August 2004

A Review of Developments in Iran Prepared by the Regional Specialists
of RFE/RL’s Newsline Team


PROTESTS MARK JOURNALISTS DAY. Iranian reporters staged a 24-hour
sit-in and hunger strike on 7 August to mark Journalists Day, the
Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported.
The same day, President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami
stressed the importance of freedom of expression in a speech marking
the day, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. According
to Khatami’s statement, which was read out by Islamic Culture and
Guidance Minister Ahmad Masjid-Jamei, “Press freedom will be
available if the press community enjoys political immunity and the
journalists are provided with job security.” Khatami said the low
level of legal support for the press has retarded cultural
President Khatami discussed freedom of expression on 9 August
in a lengthy speech on the state news agency’s 70th anniversary.
Khatami said that journalists must have security, state television
reported, and he stressed the importance of freedom of expression. At
the same time, Khatami said, there are boundaries and democracies
have rules and regulations, too. “The interests of society should be
the yardstick in all economic, cultural, and news-distribution
spheres,” he said.
Khatami added that the information explosion of recent years
has had many benefits, but it is dangerous, too. Its danger is no
less than that of censorship. He warned that people are overloaded
with information and “the powers-that-be” try to take advantage of
this situation. Khatami said Iran is threatened by “propaganda and
cultural plots.” He hinted vaguely that powerful states take
advantage of their military, economic, political, and cultural might
to further their own interests.
Reformist journalist Emadedin Baqi apparently crossed the
boundaries mentioned by Khatami. Baqi and attorney Saleh Nikbakht
appeared in court on 6 August because of a complaint filed by the
Intelligence and Security Ministry, “Iran Daily” reported on 8
August. The complaint relates to Baqi’s banned book “Tragedy of
Democracy in Iran.” Baqi told the judge that the information in the
book was published previously in newspaper articles, and he was tried
for those articles two times.
The “Nasim-i Saba” daily apparently went too far also.
Managing director Hojatoleslam Rasul Montajabnia said on 9 August
that the Press Court has banned publication of his newspaper,
“Jomhuri-yi Islami” reported on 10 August. Montajabnia said news of
the ban came via an unsigned and undated letter citing the orders of
a “Judge Husseinian.” The ban is on the basis of a complaint from the
daily’s former managing director, Majid Qasemi-Feyzabadi. (Bill

Bahai community’s representative to the United Nations, told
Radio Farda on 11 August that Bahai high-school students who pass the
university entrance exam are not being allowed to enter institutions
of higher learning in Iran. In previous years, she explained,
applicants had to declare their religious affiliation when
registering for the exam. The question on religion was omitted on the
applications this year, however, while the exam results identified
the individuals as Muslims. Students who corrected the mistake were
denied admission. Bani Dugal, a Bahai representative, said, “The
Iranian government is, in effect, attempting to force Bahai youth to
recant their faith if they want to go to university,” according to a
press release from the Bahai International Community
(). By taking the exam at
all, according to reports from Iran described in the press release,
“officials are saying that their action amounts to a de facto
declaration of faith in Islam.” (Bill Samii)

POLITICAL ORGANIZATION BANNED. Abbas Sheibani, a member of Iran’s
Parties House, said on 10 August that the Freedom Movement is not
allowed to join the organization, “Iran Daily” reported on 11 August.
He noted that it cannot become a member because it does not have a
permit from the Article 10 Commission. Article 10 of the law on
parties specifies that a commission — the Article 10 Commission —
of one Interior Ministry official, two parliamentarians, and two
judiciary representatives will issue party permits and dissolve
parties acting illegally. Sheibani added that because the Freedom
Movement is a banned group, statements by its leaders are against the
constitution and the Islamic system. (Bill Samii)

IRANIAN STATE ENTERPRISES AUDITED. Radio Farda economic commentator
Fereidun Khavand reported on 5 August that the national accounting
office has audited the 2003-04 books of 1,705 state enterprises. It
found that 1,006 were profitable, 583 were losing money, and 116
showed neither profit nor loss, Khavand said. Moreover, according to
press reports cited by Radio Farda, more of those enterprises would
have shown losses had the accounting office not used the statements
they provided. Details on the profits and losses were not provided,
but state enterprises consume 65 percent of the government’s
budget, according to Radio Farda. (Bill Samii)

NEW PROVINCE GETS A GOVERNOR. Ebrahim Rezai-Babadi, formerly the
Tehran governor-general’s assistant for political-security
affairs, was sworn in on 12 August as the governor-general of
Southern Khorasan Province, IRNA reported. The creation of Southern
Khorasan Province, as well as Razavi Khorasan and Northern Khorasan
provinces, came about through the division of northwestern Khorasan
Province in 2004 (see “RFE/RL Iran Report,” 3 May and 14 June 2004).
(Bill Samii)

Jannati, the secretary of the Guardians Council, the conservative-led
body that supervises elections and confirms voting results, said in
Tehran on 4 August that proper supervision of the 2005 presidential
elections is “very important” and authorities must ensure “there are
no violations,” “Aftab-i Yazd” reported on 5 August. “People must be
sure that the vote they drop in is the one that comes out,” Jannati
told a gathering of election inspectors. The Guardians Council’s
supervision of February’s legislative elections was “more
successful than past rounds,” he said. The council publicly clashed
with the reformist-led government and Interior Ministry, which
organized the voting, after the Guardians Council banned thousands of
candidates, and many sitting legislators, from running in the
election. It will be easier to supervise the next election, Jannati
said, because “the hopefuls are better known,” “Aftab-i Yazd”
reported. (Vahid Sepehri)

student association has been banned for permitting the reading of a
message from the banned Freedom Movement’s leader, Ebrahim Yazdi,
and for arranging a speech by Office for Strengthening Unity
central-council member Mehdi Aminzadeh, “Iran Daily” reported on 10
August. (The report did not say when the offense occurred.) The ban
lasts four months and began on 18 July. Three members of the student
association reportedly face charges of provoking student unrest and
participating in the July 1999 demonstrations in Tehran. (Bill Samii)

presiding board received a draft plan addressing Iranian nuclear
activities from 238 out of 290 members of the legislature on 11
August, IRNA reported. The draft plan obliges Iran to pursue all
possible means to gain access to nuclear technology. The draft plan
also obliges the government to comply with its Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty commitments.
The previous day, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi answered
legislators’ questions about the status of Iran’s nuclear
affairs, IRNA and state television reported on 10 August.
Tabriz representative Akbar Alami asked why Iran submitted to
pressure from the EU and the West instead of raising the issue at
international forums. Isfahan’s Ali Ahmadi asked why the
Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was
implemented prior to legislative ratification.
Kharrazi responded that the nuclear account was handled
legally and added that Iran successfully overcame U.S. pressure and
propaganda. He said implementation of the Additional Protocol was
meant to fend off anti-Iranian propaganda and to alleviate a tense
atmosphere, and he explained that Tehran never officially confirmed
that it would implement the protocol before its ratification. “We
have rather said that Iran will cooperate with the IAEA within the
framework of the Additional Protocol,” he said.
Tehran’s Mohammad-Reza Bahonar said that Kharrazi’s
answers did not satisfy the legislators.
Kharrazi told reporters afterwards that Iran will resume
uranium enrichment when it sees fit, Fars News Agency reported, and
it suspended this activity as a confidence-building measure.
Parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee head
Alaedin Borujerdi later told reporters that unlike the previous
parliament, this one will support Iran’s right to nuclear
technology, IRNA reported on 10 August.
The legislators are not alone in their desire for a nuclear
capacity. Ali Akbar Velayati, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei’s adviser on scientific affairs, said in the 10 August
issue of “Kayhan” newspaper that Iran has a right to use nuclear
technology, not least because of its many scientific applications.
President Khatami said on 11 August that Iran has the right
to develop and use nuclear technology, state television reported. He
said: “Yes to the peaceful use of nuclear technology! This is our
national interest. This is our national honor. Our future development
depends on it.” “We are not going to ask for anyone’s
permission,” he added. “This is allowed by the international
covenants to which we are a signatory.” Khatami went on to say that
Iran voluntarily suspended enrichment of uranium but this does not
mean it will abandon the enrichment process. His comments come as the
legislature and the leadership stress Iran’s perceived right to a
nuclear capacity, and as the international community watches
developments with concern. (Bill Samii)

AGGRESSION.’ Iranian Defense Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani said
on 9 August that there is little the United States can do to Iran
beyond the imposition of sanctions and the leveling of accusations,
Al-Jazeera television reported. Shamkhani was reacting to U.S.
national security adviser Condoleezza Rice’s comments of 8
August, when she said Iran’s nuclear ambitions concern the
international community and Washington does not intend to let Iran
produce an atomic weapon, AP reported. Rice also accused Iran of
trying to hide a weapons program. “We cannot allow the Iranians to
develop a nuclear weapon,” Rice said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”
Shamkhani said the U.S. statements are inaccurate and relate to the
election campaign. “I say clearly that we shall respond to any U.S.
or non-U.S. aggression against our nuclear installations or any other
site in Iran,” he added. He said the U.S. presence in Iraq could be
used to Iran’s advantage.
Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) commander General
Yahya Rahim-Safavi told commanders of IRGC ground forces’
divisions and battalions on 11 August that Iran will retaliate if
Israel attacks, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported. He
said, “If Israel is mad enough to attack Iran’s national
interests, we will come down on them like a hammer and crush their
bones.” Rahim-Safavi accused the United States and Israel of
spreading “sedition, evil, and Muslim-killing” across the region. He
described his view of the U.S. aim in attacking Iraq: “Gaining
mastery over the energy resources of the Persian Gulf, Caucasus, and
Central Asia, assisting the Zionist regime’s security, changing
the region’s political systems and creating a Greater Middle East
are among America’s aims in the region.”
Iran test-fired the Shihab-3 missile on 11 August, Mehr News
Agency reported. According to the Ministry of Defense and Armed
Forces Logistics, this was a test of the latest modifications to the
missile, although it did not disclose the nature of those
modifications. Defense Minister Shamkhani had said on 7 August that
there would be upgrades to the missile’s range, ISNA reported.
The Shihab-3 reportedly has a range of 1,300 kilometers. Shamkhani
said this step is in response to Israeli efforts to increase the
range of their missiles.
Shamkhani also denied that Iran is developing a longer-range
Shihab-4 missile, saying, “Israel is scared of Iran’s defense
capability and, therefore, alleges that Iran’s defense capability
is a threat to Europe; however, I announce explicitly that we
threaten no European country and that the Islamic Republic of Iran
poses no threat to Europe.”
Asked about the missile test during an 11 August press
conference, U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said, “The
United States has serious concerns about Iran’s missile programs
and views Iran’s efforts to further develop its missile
capabilities as a threat to the region and to United States
interests,” according to the department’s Bureau of International
Information Programs website (). Ereli added,
“We will continue to take steps to address Iran’s missile
efforts, and to work closely with other like-minded countries in
doing so.”
IRGC political-bureau chief Yadollah Javani said on 14 August
that the United States is unable to take military action against
Iran, and he also threatened Israel, Fars News Agency reported.
Referring to U.S. concern about the Iranian nuclear program, he said:
“Such threats are issued as part of psychological operations and they
are not real or serious threats. Regional and international
circumstances do not permit military action against Iran.” He added
in a reference to Iraq, “Given the circumstances, it is highly
unlikely that America will have the wherewithal to open another
Javani also dismissed the danger of Israeli action against
Iran. He said: “At present, all the areas under the sovereignty of
the Zionist regime, including the nuclear installations and the
atomic arsenal of that regime, are within range of Iran’s
advanced missiles. Therefore, neither the Zionist regime nor America
will carry out its threats because such actions are not
cost-effective.” (Bill Samii)

conference in Tehran, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud
Kasuri said the two countries enjoy friendly political and economic
relations, Islamabad’s PTV World reported. In a later telephone
interview with PTV World, Kasuri said he and Iranian counterpart
Kamal Kharrazi talked about Kharrazi’s recent trip to India.
Kasuri told Kharrazi that Pakistan has taken all the steps necessary
to guarantee the security of the Iran-Pakistan-India natural-gas
pipeline. Kasuri added that the two sides said there should be more
private-sector involvement in bilateral trade.
Iranian President Khatami told Kasuri on 9 August that their
respective countries should contribute to peace and security in
Afghanistan by investing there and in Central Asia, IRNA reported.
When he arrived in Tehran on 8 August, Kasuri said Islamabad wants to
see progress on the Iran-Pakistan-India natural-gas pipeline, PTV
World reported.
Kasuri left Tehran for Islamabad on 10 August, IRNA reported,
telling reporters at the airport that the trip was successful. He
said Islamabad would like to see an increase in bilateral trade.
Foreign Minister Kharrazi, who saw Kasuri off, referred to their
discussions about trade issues, elimination of tariff barriers, and
the transportation of Iranian natural gas to Pakistan.
Prior to his departure, Kasuri met with Expediency Council
Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and briefed him on
New Delhi-Islamabad relations, PTV reported.
Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency has
determined that particles of enriched uranium that it found on
Iranian equipment originated in Pakistan, “The Jerusalem Post”
reported on 10 August, citing “Jane’s Defence Weekly.” (Bill

Iran share a border, but this has not been enough to foster close
relations between the two. Iranian President Khatami visited
Azerbaijan in the first week of August, the first official trip to
the neighboring country by an Iranian leader in more than 10 years.
The three-day trip began on 5 August and featured talks
between Khatami and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Speaking
after the meeting, Khatami called for closer bilateral ties. He said
history and geography have brought the fates of the two countries
together. “The border between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the
Republic of Azerbaijan is a border of peace, friendship, and
brotherhood,” Khatami said.
Khatami said an Azerbaijani consular office will open in the
northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz, the center of an Iranian
province where millions of ethnic Azeris live. The sides also signed
an agreement to improve road and rail links and to fund the building
of a power line between Imisli in southern Azerbaijan and Astara at
the Iranian border.
Azerbaijani leader Aliyev expressed satisfaction about the
agreements, saying he believes relations between Azerbaijan and Iran
are developing successfully. “The implementation of the agreements
signed will create thousands of jobs in Azerbaijan,” he said. “And
agreements on energy and gas swaps will allow us to provide [the
Autonomous Republic of] Nakhichevan, which is integral part of
Azerbaijan, with electricity and gas.”
On the political front, Aliyev praised Iran for what he
called its “support” for Azerbaijan in the conflict over the
Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. “We have always felt Iran’s support in
the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh,”
he said. “And we are still feeling that today.”
Khatami said Iran is ready to contribute to a peaceful
solution of the conflict. He added that Iran considers
Nagorno-Karabakh part of Azerbaijan and that the use of force in
settling international problems is “unacceptable.”
However, talks did not produce any breakthrough on the issue
of the maritime borders of the Caspian Sea, which touches both
countries. The legal status of the Caspian, which contains large
reserves of oil and gas, has been in dispute since the Soviet Union
collapsed in 1991.
Davood Hermidas Bavand, who teaches international law in
Tehran, said the visit was important nevertheless. “The significance
of the visit is [the] development of good neighborly relationships
with Azerbaijan, bearing in mind that we have certain difficulties
with that state in connection with the Caspian Sea,” he said. “The
very objective of this visit is to [come to terms with] existing
problems. When the two parties accept this kind of communication,
it’s an indication that there is a certain intention for
improvement of the existing problems.”
Experts in Baku suggested the two sides would also discuss
the growing U.S. military presence in Azerbaijan, which has
contributed to the U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq. But neither
side was ready to comment.
Khatami addressed Azerbaijan’s parliament and met with
the parliamentary speaker. He is expected to visit Ganca,
Azerbaijan’s second-largest city, before returning to Iran.
(Antoine Blua, with RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service)

…AND SIGNS AGREEMENTS. During his trip to Baku, Khatami said Iran
wants “a stable, strong, and progressive” Azerbaijan, separated from
Iran by a frontier “of peace and friendship,” IRNA reported on 5
August. Officials from both countries signed 10 cooperation
agreements, IRNA also reported, including agreements on border trade,
terrorism, drug trafficking, and police training. Iran’s
Development and Export Bank will provide $75 million for electricity
projects in Azerbaijan and the two countries will also increase road
and rail links.
In Tehran, Hassan Noi-Muqaddam, a lawmaker for Ardabil, told
Fars News Agency on 5 August that Azerbaijani officials owe Iran an
apology for recent remarks made by Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar
Mammadyarov, who said Azeri speakers in Iran are “guests.” Azeris
form Iran’s second-largest ethnic group, and Iran is sensitive to
any talk of links between Iranian Azeris and Azerbaijan. “These
comments are influenced by the policies of the CIA and global
Zionism, which aim to divert healthy relations between Islamic states
to meet their own interests,” Muqaddam said. (Vahid Sepehrii)

Bilik Dunyasi news agency reported on 9 August that the Export
Development Bank of Iran has allocated a $75 million credit for a
power line and substations between the towns of Imisli, Ali Bayramli,
and Astara. The project is intended to improve the quality of
electricity transmission from Iran to Azerbaijan, and it will require
reconstruction of three major substations. These are the 330-kilovolt
substation in Imisli, the 330-kilovolt substation in Ali Bayramli,
and the 220-kilovolt substation in Masalli. The report adds that a
new 200-kilovolt substation will have to be built in Salyan. The
project, which is expected to take 20-24 months, reportedly will
roughly double the amount of electricity Iran supplies to the
Nakhichevan exclave. (Bill Samii)

Velayati, a former Iranian foreign minister and current adviser on
foreign affairs to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, met with
Lebanese Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut on 26
July, “Kayhan” reported on 27 July. Velayati later told IRNA in
Beirut that Iraq’s occupation by the U.S.-led coalition was
designed to loot the country’s oil and is a “plot against Middle
Eastern countries,” “Kayhan” added. He said that Iraq’s
“complicated” problems could only be resolved if Iraqi officials
consult Iraq’s neighbors, and he urged Iran, Syria, and Lebanon
to confront Washington’s “plans” for regime changes in the Middle
East, “Kayhan” reported. (Vahid Sepehri)

Minister Ishaq Jahangiri said during his visit to Oslo that Statoil,
the Norwegian oil company, is active in the South Pars oil field,
“Aftenposten” reported on 11 August. He continued, “We have also
asked the company to play a part in other regions and envisage
Statoil being an active cooperation partner in the future.”
Jahangiri said that a recent scandal in which Statoil
officials were dismissed and fined for the payment of money to win
influence in Iran would not undermine Statoil’s involvement there
(see “RFE/RL Iran Report,” 22 and 29 September, 6, 13, and 27
October, 10 November 2003, and 5 July 2004). Jahangiri did warn the
Norwegians against corruption and influence buying, however. “There
is always a danger that some people could abuse their positions in
connection with major projects. The companies which become involved
in Iran must not make such abuses possible,” he said.
In Tehran, meanwhile, Petroleum Minister Bijan
Namdar-Zanganeh told the legislature that there is no evidence
connecting Statoil with any Iranian official in the aforementioned
scandal, and he promised that his ministry would continue to monitor
developments, IRNA reported on 11 August. (Bill Samii)

Iranian consular official Fereidun Jahani disappeared on the highway
from Baghdad to Karbala on 8 August, IRNA and international news
agencies reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi
initially refused to confirm whether or not Jahani had been
kidnapped. He did say, however, that “an armed group in Iraq has
released information about him and there is speculation about his
kidnapping, but we do not have sufficient information in this respect
According to iht.com on 9 August, a video shown on
Al-Arabiyah television suggests Jahani was kidnapped by a group
called the Islamic Army in Iraq. They reportedly accuse Jahani of
provoking sectarian conflict in Iraq and warn Iran against
interference in Iraqi affairs.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kharrazi said during a 9 August news
conference in Tehran that Jahani is “in good health,” state
television reported. Kharrazi said Tehran has no other information on
Jahani’s status, adding, “We must find out which group has
kidnapped him and how we can arrange his release.”
Al-Jazeera television and Al-Alam television reported on 15
August that the Islamic Army of Iraq released a statement on 13
August announcing that unless Iran released 500 Iraqis held since the
Iran-Iraq War, it would take action against Jahani. Al-Alam added,
“Jahani was abducted by elements of the Mujahedin Khalq terrorist
organization,” and “the group planned the abduction in the corridors
of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman
Hamid Reza Assefi denied that there are any Iraqi prisoners of war in
Iran, IRNA reported. He said the identity of the kidnappers and the
nature of their demands are “suspicious.”
“Kayhan” newspaper Managing Director Hussein Shariatmadari,
who is appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, said on 9
August that only the United States has a motive for the Jahani
kidnapping, Mehr News Agency reported. That motive, he claimed, is
that Iran is blocking unspecified U.S. regional ambitions and it
opposes the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Shariatmadari claimed that the
kidnappers’ call on Iran not to interfere in Iraqi affairs is
identical to calls from U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and
Secretary of State Colin Powell, adding that this confirms the
kidnappers’ U.S. connection.
An anonymous “informed security official in Iraq” claimed on
9 August that U.S. intelligence agents had direct knowledge of the
kidnapping, Fars News Agency reported. This individual reportedly
went on to say that the United States has created “fake assassination
groups and [is] abducting non-native forces in Iraq,” and that
Washington is using Ba’athist groups to carry out abductions and
assassinations. The anonymous official also referred to the
involvement of “Israeli agents.”
Tehran-based journalist and filmmaker Mohammad-Hussein
Jafararian has traveled to Iraq several times in recent months, and
he told Radio Farda correspondent Siavash Ardalan on 9 August that
the kidnapping is part of a plot by some Iraqis to revive Iran-Iraq
hostility as way of limiting Iranian influence in their country.
“There are elements in Iraq who are against Iran’s successful and
influential presence in Iraq, and would like to revive hostilities
between the two countries,” he said.
Jafararian linked the kidnapping to a 2003 bombing in Karbala
that killed scores of participants. “The Polish Army investigated
that bombing and it is still not known who was responsible for
attacking the mourners and shedding the blood of so many,” he said.
The kidnapping, he added, is an anti-Iranian act, as was the Karbala
bombing. “Last year’s Karbala bombers and the kidnappers of the
diplomat appear to be following the same goal, which is to prevent
Iranians from going to Iraq’s Shi’ite holy cities of Karbala
and Al-Najaf, because they believe that the Iranians’ pilgrimage
is a guise for Iran’s interference in Iraq’s domestic
affairs,” he explained.
Jafararian went on to tell Radio Farda’s Ardalan that the
diplomat’s kidnapping and the bombing of the Karbala mourners
could have been the work of some Iraqi Shi’a groups who oppose
pro-Iran Shi’a groups. He added that in a recent trip to Al-Najaf
he did not feel safe, and the main threat was from the militiamen
following radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
“It appears that Tehran is determined to continue its
diplomatic efforts in Iraq, despite the heavy price it is paying for
it. This diplomacy may be dangerous and hazardous to some in Iraq,
but this does not mean that Iran should back out,” Jafararian
concluded. (Bill Samii)

Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, the Iranian charge d’affaires in Baghdad,
confirmed on 11 August that two days earlier Iraqi police arrested
the head of the local Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) office,
Mustafa Darban, and several Iraqi reporters, ISNA reported. Reporters
Without Borders identified the correspondents on 12 August as
Mohammad Khafaji, Mohsen Madani, and Abu Ali.
Mohammad-Reza Ramezani, chairman of the Iranian Chamber of
Cooperatives, said on 11 August that U.S. troops arrested four
Iranian businessmen on 18 July and handed them over to Iraqi police
on 27 July, IRNA reported. The four were identified as Mohammad-Mehdi
Teimouri, Masoud Zareh, Yusef Muhseni, and Qasem Salehi. Ramezani
said the four were taken to an undisclosed location.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyyed Mohammad Sadr said on
15 August that Tehran is “almost” convinced that Iraqi police have
detained the IRNA personnel, but Tehran still cannot confirm this,
IRNA reported. He added that his ministry is constant touch with
Iraqi officials in an effort to secure the release of the IRNA
personnel. Amir Mohebbian, an editor of Iran’s “Resalat”
newspaper, said on 14 August that the IRNA personnel were arrested in
a calculated move to sever communication links between Iraq and the
outside world. (Bill Samii)

reported on 10 August that Tehran has invited Iraqi Prime Minister
Iyad Allawi to visit Iran. The invitation comes at a tense time in
the two neighbors’ relations, as Iraqi Defense Minister Hazim
Sha’lan al-Khuza’i continues to accuse Iran of interfering in
his country’s affairs (see “RFE/RL Iran Report,” 9 August 2004).
In his most recent outburst, al-Khuza’i said on 9 August,
“Weapons manufactured in Iran were found in Al-Najaf in the hands of
those criminals, who received these weapons from the Iranian border,”
Al-Arabiyah television reported. He accused Iran of being Iraq’s
“first enemy.” Al-Khuza’i went on to say that Allawi will provide
details on this situation during his visit to Iran, and he said
information in Iraqi possession indicates official Iranian
Iranian officials are unhappy with the Iraqi’s
accusations, with Interior Minister Hojatoleslam Abdolvahed
Musavi-Lari saying on 10 August that such anti-Iranian comments are
meant to appease the United States, IRNA reported. (Bill Samii)

AN IRANIAN CALL TO ARMS IN IRAQ. Tehran is speaking out against the
continuing violence in the Iraqi city of Al-Najaf, but large numbers
of Iranians are participating in the fighting there. Both Iranian
officials and the hard-line Iranian press are encouraging their
compatriots to play a more active role in Iraq.
“Jomhuri-yi Islami,” one of Iran’s more hard-line
newspapers, is calling for Iranians to act in defense of the holy
sites in Al-Najaf. An editorial in its 8 August issue said that
occupying Iraq and establishing a “servile government” there is not
enough for the United States. “They want to own Iraq for good and
forever,” the editorial said. It accused the United States of waging
“vicious and extensive psychological warfare against Muqtada
al-Sadr,” and it described the interim government as “a cast of
hand-picked actors.” The editorial said people are waiting for their
leaders to embark on “real action.” “Everything now indicates that
the time for such a decision and call is fast approaching,” it
The next day, another “Jomhuri-yi Islami” editorial referred
to a “premeditated conspiracy to eliminate the forces of resistance”
in Iraq. It said that only the action of Shi’a religious leaders
and the masses could save the holy shrines. Cooperation between the
sources of emulation and officials in Iran to “end the crisis the
Americans have fomented” is important. Iraq has been turned over to
“foreign agents and alien lackeys,” and this is dangerous for Iran
and Islam. It concluded, “Has the time come for us to get up and go
after the crown of Islam, the very existence of the Shi’a, and
the national interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran?”
The newspaper’s urgings have not appeared in a vacuum,
and in light of official statements, they may elicit action. Earlier
this year, Tehran was encouraging volunteers for martyrdom operations
(suicide bombings) in Iraq (see “RFE/RL Iran Report,” 14 June 2004).
It is not yet clear if the volunteers have headed for Iraq.
Iranians, however, are making their presence felt there. Police in
Al-Najaf arrested an Iranian, an Egyptian, and a Jordanian who had
weapons of Iranian origin in their possession, Baghdad’s
Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 14 August. An Iraqi Interior
Ministry source said the weapons included RPGs, “Kalashnikovs” (it
did not specify if they were AK-47s, AK-74s, or AKMs), and machine
guns. Earlier media reports described more extensive Iranian
involvement in Iraq unrest (see “RFE/RL Iraq Report,” 12 August
2004). Iraqi police arrested 28 Iranians and three Afghans in Karbala
on 8 August, and they deported about 1,000 Iranians from the city on
7 August. The governor of Al-Najaf, Adnan al-Zurufi, said on 8
August: “There is Iranian support for al-Sadr’s group, and this
is no secret. We have information and evidence that they are
supplying the [Imam] Al-Mahdi Army with weapons and have found such
weapons in their possession,” Al-Sharqiyah reported.
Ali Akbar Velayati, a foreign-policy adviser to Supreme
Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, said on 8 August that U.S. military
activities in the holy city of Al-Najaf will encourage resistance,
IRNA reported. “The Americans, by affronting holy sites across Iraq,
have now sown the seeds of combat and resistance, whose sibling will
be irrigated with the blood of martyrs and grow up stronger,”
Khamenei said. He also accused the United States of attacking Iraq in
order to control its oil resources.
The previous day, Khamenei said the United States is stuck in
Iraq, state radio reported. “If they go forward, they will be hit. If
they back up, they will still be hit. If they continue, they will be
hit; and if they withdraw, they will still be hit. They are mired
down there and a wolf which is caught in a trap might frighten some
people by screaming,” Khamenei told a group of theologians. Other
officials who have criticized events in Al-Najaf include Ayatollah
Nuri-Hamedani, parliamentary speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, and
President Khatami.
Khamenei said in an 11 August speech to officials from the
Islamic Culture and Communications Organization, “The crime committed
by America in Iraq today, in Al-Najaf in particular, which is one of
the most holy sites of the Shi’a or perhaps one of the holiest
centers of all Muslims, is a black dot and a blot which arrogant
America can never erase from its face, never,” state television
reported. (Bill Samii)

Copyright (c) 2004. RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved.

The “RFE/RL Iran Report” is a weekly prepared by A. William Samii on
the basis of materials from RFE/RL broadcast services, RFE/RL
Newsline, and other news services. It is distributed every Monday.

Direct comments to A. William Samii at [email protected].
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