RFE/RL Iran Report – 03/08/2006

RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
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RFE/RL Iran Report
Vol. 9, No. 8, 8 March 2006

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

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* FORMER NUCLEAR NEGOTIATOR REMAINS COMMITTED ON NATIONAL AMBITIONS
* NUCLEAR GODFATHER, LEGISLATORS CALLS FOR TALKS WITH U.S.
* U.S.-IRAN POLICY ENTERS DELICATE PHASE AS IAEA MEETING LOOMS
* RUSSIA-IRAN NUCLEAR TALKS FAIL TO YIELD RESULTS
* NUCLEAR TALKS IN VIENNA UNPRODUCTIVE
* MOSCOW EAGER TO SEE BUSHEHR NUCLEAR-PLANT COMPLETION
* CONSENSUS THAT RUSSIA AND THE WEST ARE NOT IRAN’S FRIENDS
* TEHRAN ASSESSES IAEA REPORT POSITIVELY
* MORE BOMBINGS IN SOUTHWESTERN IRAN
* SOUTHWEST IRAN BOMBERS DEATH EXECUTED
* TRAVEL BAN FOR IRANIAN KURDISH ACTIVISTS
* LEGISLATORS DISPUTE NEED FOR CRISIS BUDGET
* FEMALE SOCCER FANS FRUSTRATED
* SUSPECTED JIHADIST SAYS HE RECEIVED SUPPORT IN IRAN FOR HIS BID TO
ENTER AFGHANISTAN
* IRAN CHOOSES DATE FOR INTIFADA CONFERENCE
* ISRAEL TO BLOCK IRANIAN FUNDING FOR PALESTINIANS
* GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DENIES PRICE FOR IRANIAN GAS WAS EXORBITANT
*************************************** *********************

FORMER NUCLEAR NEGOTIATOR REMAINS COMMITTED ON NATIONAL AMBITIONS. In
an unusually revealing speech to state officials, Hassan Rohani —
formerly Iran’s top nuclear negotiator and secretary of the
Supreme National Security Council for 16 years — has spoken about
every aspect of the country’s nuclear negotiations. His
revelations — including concerns of referral to the UN Security
Council and skepticism about Russia’s intentions — were recently
published in “Rahbord,” the journal of the Strategic Research Center
affiliated with the country’s Expediency Council. This speech
does not mark a change in Iran’s stance or in Rohani’s, but
it is highly significant ahead of the 6 March meeting of the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors.
Defending Iran’s ‘Rights’
Rohani, who now serves on the Supreme National Security
Council as a representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,
complained during a 2 March speech in Yazd that Iran does not have
nuclear weapons but is subject to international pressure, the Islamic
Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. Pakistan, North Korea, India,
and Israel, he continued, do have nuclear weapons but are left alone.
Rohani went on to say that Iran’s stance on the nuclear issue is
decided by the state’s top officials, and it does not vary on the
basis of changes in the executive branch. Rohani made the same point
in an earlier speech, “Sharq” reported on 20 February, saying,
“Iran’s general policies do not change with new governments.”
Nonetheless, Rohani has been critical of President Mahmud
Ahmadinejad’s foreign-policy team and its diplomatic efforts —
as have other Iranian political figures. There may be more to this
than concern about Iran’s international standing. Rohani’s
negative assessment could be attributed to political rivalries with
younger hardliners associated with Ahmadinejad — Rohani is more of a
centrist and is close to Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah
Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and another member of the council,
former president Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami.
The Problem With Secrecy
Rohani described every aspect of the nuclear negotiations in
a speech to the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council that was
subsequently reproduced in the 30 September 2005 issue of “Rahbord.”
A date for the speech is not provided, but it clearly preceded the
August inauguration of Ahmadinejad because it refers to Rohani as the
“secretary” of the Supreme National Security Council and it refers to
Khatami as the president.
Iran began work on mastering the nuclear fuel cycle in
1987-1988, Rohani said, but efforts to purchase technology from the
Soviet Union and China were unsuccessful. Iran, therefore, turned to
the black market for its needs. What Iran did not realize, Rohani
continued, was that some of the second-hand equipment it purchased
was highly contaminated — meaning it had traces of uranium that was
70-80 percent enriched. Rohani explained that enrichment in excess of
25 percent has a potential weapons-related application. The IAEA
suspects Iran purchased some enriched uranium from the former Soviet
Union, he added, because tests found that this was the source of the
contamination.
Information was sometimes withheld from the IAEA, Rohani
said, but this differs from lying. “No, we have not lied. In all
cases, we have told them the truth. But in some cases, we may not
have disclosed information in a timely manner.”
In the summer of 2003, the Islamic Republic recognized the
need to “present a complete picture” of its early nuclear activities
in order to avoid being reported to the Security Council. Failure to
do so could be interpreted as a lack of cooperation. Furthermore,
Rohani said, the nuclear watchdog had secured information about the
Iranian program from many sources, such as Russia and China. In one
case a student’s dissertation contained information about
previously undisclosed nuclear tests, while in another case a
scholar’s paper was published in an international journal.
Libyan information about the nuclear black market, in
general, and P2 centrifuges, specifically, also shed light on Iranian
activities. This specific information undermined European confidence
in Iran’s trustworthiness.
Dealing With Europe
In 1999-2000, Rohani said, Tehran decided to upgrade the
nuclear program and granted the country’s Atomic Energy
Organization “a freer hand with new credits and a more liberal
spending procedure, new facilities, and special regulations,” which
allowed it to bypass “bureaucratic and regulatory labyrinths.” In
July an August 2002, he continued, questions arose over the nature of
the nuclear program and whether the country was in violation of the
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). At that point it was decided
that nuclear issues must be addressed at a higher level in the
Iranian government — the Supreme National Security Council got
involved for the first time.
After the September 2003 meeting of the IAEA, Rohani
continued, there was real concern that Iran would be referred to the
Security Council. When the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and
Great Britain came to Tehran the next month, they promised to resist
American pressure for a Security Council referral if Tehran was
completely forthcoming on its nuclear program. It was at that time
that Iran agreed to comply with the Additional Protocol of the NPT
and suspend some of its nuclear activities, but Rohani added that the
“system” — in other words, top officials of the regime — had
already decided to do this.
“Of course, all the agreements that we made with the
Europeans were agreements that the system had embraced beforehand,”
Rohani told his audience. “That is to say, even if we did not reach
an agreement with the Europeans, we still would have unilaterally
declared that we would sign the Additional Protocol…. Decisions had
been made beforehand that we would unilaterally take those steps even
in the absence of an agreement with the three [European] countries.
Nevertheless, we made a deal. The deal was for us to take those steps
in exchange for some commitments by the Europeans.”
Another suspension agreement was concluded in Brussels in
February 2004. Over time, Rohani said, according to “Rahbord,” the
Europeans concluded that Iran only agreed to suspend activities where
it no longer had technical problems. He acknowledged that the Isfahan
Uranium Conversion facility was completed in the interim, and yellow
cake can be converted into uranium hexafluoride and uranium
tetrafluoride there. He added, “As far as technology is concerned, we
are in better shape than we were last year.” Iran is able to
manufacture more parts and assemble equipment, and some 350
centrifuges were built between September 2003 and the date of his
speech.
Diplomatic Difficulties
The expansion of the European Union and the addition of
mostly pro-American countries to its membership presents Iran with a
more difficult situation, Rohani said in his 2005 speech. “When it
comes to the fuel cycle, the Europeans are as determined to see us
not have it as the United States,” he added. As for all the European
incentives and offers to Iran, he said, they are of “no immediate
benefit to us” and they “take a long time to conclude.”
Russia is no better, he continued, because it says Iran’s
desire to have the fuel cycle does not build confidence. Russia’s
view is, he said, that “the insistence on having the fuel cycle in
and of itself undermines trust.” The Russians have concerns about
Iran that are not shared by China, Rohani said, and this makes the
Chinese a bit easier to work with.
Iran’s nuclear negotiations are the most serious in its
history, Rohani said. “So far, we have been successful,” he said. “We
also have reached a good technical level.” Addressing the involvement
of China, Russia, South Africa, and the Non-Aligned Movement in the
diplomatic process, he added, “Our political situation today is also
better than it was a year ago.”
It is almost nine months since Rohani made that speech. He is
unlikely to repeat that positive assessment today — less than one
month after the IAEA Governing Board voted to report Iran to the
Security Council. (Bill Samii)

NUCLEAR GODFATHER, LEGISLATORS CALLS FOR TALKS WITH U.S. Akbar
Etemad, founder of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization and the
agency’s first chief, announced recently that the Russian
uranium-enrichment proposal will not resolve the Iranian nuclear
standoff, Mehr News Agency reported on 24 February. He recommended
direct talks with the United States as a solution.
Kazem Jalali, rapporteur of the legislature’s National
Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said in the 2 March “Aftab-i
Yazd” that Iran might as well eliminate the intermediaries and
negotiate directly with the U.S. He explained that both the Europeans
and the Russian appear to be acting in line with U.S. desires, and
furthermore, they are taking advantage of the lack of alternatives to
improve their negotiating position. He said such talks would be
feasible if the U.S. accepts the principle of Iran using nuclear
technology peacefully, but added that the U.S. seems to take a
completely politicized stance on all issues.
Urumiyeh legislator Javad Jahangirzadeh told “Aftab-i Yazd”
that Iran has already made clear the circumstance under which it will
talk to the U.S., but it is unrealistic to expect the U.S. to change
its behavior. Jahangirzadeh said he does not foresee a rift between
Washington and the Europeans, and the involvement of Moscow and
Peking has not helped.
Isfahan representative Hassan Kamran was less enthusiastic
about talks with the U.S., telling “Aftab-i Yazd” that those who
suggest this should submit their resignations. (Bill Samii)

U.S.-IRAN POLICY ENTERS DELICATE PHASE AS IAEA MEETING LOOMS. The
Board of Governors of the UN’s International Atomic Energy
Agency, or IAEA, will meet in Vienna on 6 March and could decide
whether to report Iran to the Security Council for possible sanctions
for resuming its suspected nuclear weapons program. Britain, France
and Germany — known as the EU-3 — have been negotiating with Iran
for more than a year in hopes of persuading it to end the program.
The United States, meanwhile, is playing a secondary role in the
talks, but at the same time, U.S. President George W. Bush says he
has not ruled out the possible use of military force to confront
Iran’s suspected nuclear ambitions.
To Joseph Cirincione, there is — or at least should be — a
single, path in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program: go through
the United Nations.
It appears that the EU-3 and the United States have begun
following that path, according to Cirincione, the director of the
Nonproliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace, a Washington policy research center.
Cirincione tells RFE/RL that there are three steps in how the
UN may act. The first is to wait at least a month after the
IAEA’s 4 February decision before the Security Council takes any
action at all. Cirincione says he doesn’t expect such action
before mid-March.
At this point, Cirincione says, the Security Council probably
will simply repeat the IAEA’s statement that Iran should end all
uranium enrichment. He says if Iran ignores that, the pressure on
Tehran will increase.
Finally, Cirincione says, the Council might impose what he
called “targeted sanctions aimed at the Iranian leadership.” He says
they would include banning some travel and restricting access to some
international bank accounts.
But Cirincione says imposing even such mild sanctions would
have to be considered very carefully because of the close political
and economic ties that Iran has with Russia and China — two Security
Council members with veto power over any council resolution: “That
step is going to be the most controversial. That’s why everybody
[the United States and the EU-3] wants to proceed slowly to make sure
that the Security Council stays united on this, and that Russia and
China are comfortable with each step being taken.”
One possibility that Cirincione rejects is military action,
despite the U.S. insistence that such an option remains viable:
“There is no good military option here. While it’s possible to
just blow up something in Iran, this would have almost no support by
[from] any other country in the world with the possible exception of
Israel, and would provoke a huge backlash in the Muslim world, rally
the Iranian public around what is otherwise an unpopular government,
and jeopardize the already fragile U.S. position in Iraq. The U.S.
really has no choice but to go with the kind of patient diplomacy
that they’ve sketched out over the past few months and that has a
chance of working.”
But another weapons expert disagrees. He is David Albright,
who served as a weapons inspector in Iraq during the 1990s and now is
the president of the Institute for Science and International
Security, another Washington think tank.
Albright tells RFE/RL that he believes the United States is
seriously considering military action, even though he agrees with
Cirincione that any attack on Iran would be politically and
diplomatically disastrous for the Bush administration.
Meanwhile, Albright says, the EU-3 don’t want that kind
of help from the United States, but instead something more positive.
He says the Europeans believe a military strike would only be a
replay of the Iraq war: “There’s a general expectation that’s
growing [among the EU-3 governments] that the U.S. needs to put on
the table what it is Iran needs to do so that the military option is
not on the table. And some in the administration say, ‘No, no,
the military option’s on the table until this regime disappears,
and we have democracy.’ Which is essentially what they did in
Iraq. [The Americans argued that] whatever happened didn’t matter
because Saddam was still in power.”
Albright contrasts the negotiations with Iran with the
six-party talks on North Korea’s suspected nuclear weapons
program, which have yielded some progress. Besides the two Koreas,
these talks include China, Japan, Russia, and the United States.
Albright points out that in the Korea negotiations, the Bush
administration had a clear policy strategy. With Iran, however, he
says, it appears Washington has no real strategy yet, and that could
lead to the exact opposite of what the United States and the EU-3
want: “If you’re going into a crisis, I mean, there are key
questions, [such as] under what conditions would Iran be offered a
security guarantee? Bush offered it to North Korea, under certain
conditions. What are they for Iran, except ‘regime change’?
But that’s not a policy. Iran looks at that and says, ‘Boy,
we’d better get nuclear weapons.'”
There has been some question about how the IAEA may present
its case against Iran to the UN. On 4 February the agency chose to
“report” Iran to the Security Council. Some have suggested it may
strengthen the complaint by “referring” Iran to the Council.
Both Cirincione and Albright say there is no practical
difference between the two terms. But Albright notes that the Russian
government — which recently has been negotiating a possible
uranium-enrichment deal with Tehran — seems to see a distinction.
Albright says the Russians may see a “referral” as having
more legal weight than mere “reporting.” He says “referral” might be
perceived as giving the Security Council more authority to take
harsher measures against Iran, including authorizing military action.
But he says such UN authorization is highly unlikely under the
current circumstances.
Both Albright and Cirincione agree that whatever the fine
distinctions, if the IAEA were to take action, it would be to
“report” Iran to the Security Council, thus forestalling complaints
from Russia. (Andrew Tully)

RUSSIA-IRAN NUCLEAR TALKS FAIL TO YIELD RESULTS. Russian Atomic
Energy Agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko arrived in Iran on 24 February
to discuss Moscow’s proposal that Iranian uranium for use in Iran
be enriched on Russian soil, and when he left two days later no
progress appeared to have been made. In the interim, however, Iranian
officials feigned interest in the Russian proposal, with Deputy
Foreign Minister Mahdi Mostafavi saying on 24 February that the
proposal is close to being completed, Mehr News Agency reported.
After meeting with Iranian Atomic Energy Agency Organization
chief Gholamreza Aqazadeh-Khoi on 25 January, Kiriyenko said, “No
progress has been made on our offer to transfer Iran’s uranium
enrichment to Russia but negotiations are continuing,” the Iranian
Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported.
Kiriyenko told a 26 February news conference in Bushehr that
the two sides agreed to continue their nuclear talks in Moscow in the
coming days, Interfax reported. According to a 26 February report on
the website of the British daily “The Independent,” however, Iran has
effectively scuppered the deal by putting a precondition that
probably calls for enrichment on Iranian soil.
Sergei Kiriyenko said on 27 February after returning to
Moscow from Iran that the central issues regarding the Iranian
nuclear program have yet to be clarified, the “Financial Times”
reported. He noted that “a lot of work still needs to be done, and we
have agreed that the talks will continue in Moscow in the very near
future,” international media reported. He added that “the talks are
not simple, they are complicated, but I would like to repeat that I
am confident that a diplomatic solution is possible.” The
London-based daily quoted unnamed European diplomats as saying that
any agreement that Kiriyenko might have reached with his hosts is
likely to be technical or minor in nature. The paper added that the
question of Iran’s demand to enrich uranium on its own territory
remains unresolved.
Regardless of the outcome of negotiations in Moscow, Foreign
Minister Manuchehr Mottaki said in Tokyo on 28 February, Iran will
not stop its current uranium-enrichment activities, Kyodo World
Service reported. Moreover, he said, Iran intends to commence
full-scale enrichment activities eventually. In the short term, he
continued, Iran could settle on a compromise that might result in the
enrichment of Iranian uranium on Russian territory. The country’s
“final target,” he said, is uranium enrichment in Iran. Mottaki said
the Russian deal must be specific about where and how long it will
take. The suggestion that Iran suspend enrichment activities for 10
years is “too long,” he said. Mottaki insisted in a speech to
Iranians living in Japan that Iranians see enrichment as a right,
IRNA reported, and that the country’s officials will not
compromise on this issue.
The secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali
Larijani, his deputy Ali Husseinitash, and Atomic Energy Organization
head Aqazadeh-Khoi arrived in Moscow on 1 March.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak said later
that day that the five hours of nuclear discussions with the visiting
Iranian officials were “constructive and earnest,” but some issues
await resolution, Interfax reported. Larijani said the discussions
will continue and emphasized that Iran will not forgo enriching
uranium on its own territory, even if it does agree to the proposal
that it use uranium enriched in Russia. “I want to say that the
enrichment process is the sovereign right of any state,” he said.
“States with a peaceful nuclear program must not be deprived of this
right.”
Larijani said in Moscow on March 2 that the United States
wants to block a possible Russian-Iranian deal on uranium enrichment,
international news agencies reported. He argued that U.S. insistence
on referring Iran to the UN Security Council for possible punitive
sanctions is hindering an agreement.
The latest round of talks between Iran and Russia on a
proposal to enrich Iran’s uranium on Russian soil ended earlier
that day without any visible breakthrough. There was no date given
for the next round. (Bill Samii, Patrick Moore)

NUCLEAR TALKS IN VIENNA UNPRODUCTIVE. Ali Larijani, secretary of
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, and foreign ministers
and top diplomats from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom met in
Vienna on 3 March to discuss the escalating crisis over the
country’s nuclear program, news agencies reported. The meeting
comes at the Iranians’ request, AFP reported on 2 March, with
Larijani saying that he wants to meet with the Europeans ahead of the
6 March International Atomic Energy Agency meeting.
The meeting failed to achieve anything after two hours of
talks, Reuters reported. The European officials and EU foreign policy
chief Javier Solana said the Iranians did not offer any new ideas,
adding that the European side repeated its position that Iran stop
uranium enrichment and related activities. The Europeans were not
completely dismissive, however. The British Foreign Office’s John
Sawers told Reuters, “We heard a new tone. It was more constructive.
But there wasn’t the essential move of substance we were looking
for.”
Larijani and an Iranian team were in Moscow on 1 and 2 March
to discuss a Russian proposal that might have resolved the impasse
over uranium enrichment. The Gazeta.ru website reported on 2 March
that the Moscow talks “ended in failure.” Iranian state radio
reported on 2 March that the Moscow talks failed because Moscow’s
“insistence” on reiterating the Western stance. “During the talks,
the Russians were strongly under the influence of the American
policy,” state radio reported. This alleged attachment to U.S.
policy, the radio report concluded, undermines Russian policy in the
Middle East and no country will take Russia seriously in the future.
(Bill Samii)

MOSCOW EAGER TO SEE BUSHEHR NUCLEAR-PLANT COMPLETION. Russian Atomic
Energy Agency chief Kiriyenko said on 25 February that his country is
keen to see the Bushehr nuclear power plant completed as soon as
possible, ITAR-TASS reported, and he sees no political factors
blocking this objective. Kiriyenko and his Iranian counterpart
Aqazadeh visited the Bushehr facility on 26 February, ITAR-TASS
reported. An anonymous source told the Russian news agency that
although Russia is eager to finish the project this year, as planned,
there are technical difficulties. He cited wiring as an example,
saying 2,000 kilometers of it needs to be laid, but only 200
kilometers can be laid each month and they only started in January.
The Russian added that safety will not be ignored in order to hurry
completion. Aqazadeh said at a press conference in Bushehr that
documents for the construction of two new 1,000-megawatt power plants
will be ready in one month, Islamic Republic of Iran News Network
reported. These will be built in Bushehr, too, he said. (Bill Samii)

CONSENSUS THAT RUSSIA AND THE WEST ARE NOT IRAN’S FRIENDS. In
responding to Western allegations that Iran may be seeking nuclear
weapons, Iranian politicians have revealed their mostly negative
perspectives of the West. Qualities they most frequently associate
with liberal democracies are falsehood, double standards, and a
colonial instinct or desire to dominate. Their disenchantment has
come to include Russia, often seen as a more benign international
partner, but which has recently moved closer to Western positions on
Iran’s nuclear dossier. This distrust suggests that continued
negotiations on the nuclear issue could be a pointless process, at
worst or, at best, suggests that a negotiated solution will require a
very delicate diplomatic touch.
Western Condescension
Officials often tell Western states not to talk down to Iran
or make threats. President Mahmud Ahmadinejad — speaking in Bushehr,
Iran on 1 February – said the Western “discourse belongs to the
Middle Ages,” the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported,
referring to an age of hierarchies.
Iran insists its nuclear dossier is a matter of international
“law,” technicalities, and “rights.” It sees persistent Western
suspicions as motivated by hostility and opposition to the progress
of developing states. That hostility is clear to officials who claim
intermittently that fear of defeat is the only reason the West has
not attacked Iran. Army chief Ataollah Salehi said in Bushehr on 17
February that if the enemy “thought it might defeat us,” it would
have initiated an attack in the Persian Gulf, “Aftab-i Yazd”
reported.
Western states “do not want Iran to be independent,”
Prosecutor-General Qorban-Ali Dori-Najafabadi said on 3 February, and
they are “taking vindictive decisions against us,” ISNA reported.
Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, a leading conservative cleric, told a Tehran
congregation on 17 February that Western threats and even violence
could not deter Iran’s bid to have nuclear energy.
He accused the West of backing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in
his war against Iran in the 1980s, saying the war “ended to our
advantage and you were disgraced, and everyone in the world found out
how criminal you are.” What “world is this,” he asked, when “they
tell us you cannot do research?”
Legislator Jalal Yahyazadeh said on 12 February that “the
states pressuring us today are trying to form a nuclear OPEC” — a
cartel controlling fuel supplies — ILNA reported. They want “the
right to access energy only for themselves, so that when fossil fuels
are finished they can attain their colonial aims.” Nonaligned members
of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of
governors that voted on 4 February to report Iran’s dossier to
the UN Security Council “should know,” he said, that Western states
“will one day turn on them.”
Singling Out Straw
Great Britain is a prominent villain in the historical
imagination of Iranians and a symbol of foreign treachery. Legislator
Heshmatollah Falahat-Pisheh said on 12 February that the history of
recent Iran-EU talks shows that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
has taken the “most divergent positions…and actually every time he
has adopted a moderate stance, we have seen harsh and aggressive
conduct,” ILNA reported. Straw’s conduct, he said, should “not
cause any optimism in our foreign policy.” Iran gave up talking to
the EU when it realized it was just killing time, he said.
Deceit and falsehood recur as perceived Western traits.
Legislator Alaedin Borujerdi said on television on 3 February that
the West has stirred up such a “scandal” over Iran’s program as
to lead “our friends” to suspect Iran really does intend to make
nuclear bombs.
Conservative politician Hamid Reza Taraqi said on 17 February
that clearly the best foreign policy for Iran is to rely on itself,
not on Eastern or Western states, as “it has been proven that neither
can be relied on or trusted…. One should pay greater attention to
states that have proven their true independence [against] global
arrogance and imperialist policies,” Mehr reported.
Little Confidence In Russia
More recently, there has been a growing skepticism toward
Russia, a state more frequently immune to insults by Iran’s
nomenklatura. Russia has had generally good relations with
postrevolutionary Iran. This may be for a persistent left-wing or
radical streak in Iran’s polity, born as it was of a mass
revolution, and which is perceptible in the cordial relations it
enjoys with such other states as China, North Korea, Cuba, and, most
recently, Venezuela. But the skeptical remarks indicate a growing
acceptance that essential interests — not values or loyalties —
move interstate relations. This is increasingly clear to Iranians
after negative votes at the IAEA, which Russia has joined or not
opposed.
Lawmaker Mohammad Reza Mirtajedini said on 14 February that
Russia “only follows its interests,” as shown by its vote to report
Iran to the Security Council, Mehr reported. Its proposal for joint
Iran-Russian uranium enrichment in Russia, as a safeguard measure,
“is not sincere,” legislator Javad Sadunzadeh told Mehr on 17
February. Heshmatollah Falahat-Pisheh said on 18 February that the
Russians “know better than anyone” that Iran’s program is “clean”
but are trying “by mediation to gain concessions and consolidate
their own position,” Mehr reported. “Russia does not have the
necessary goodwill and authority, and one should not rely
strategically on [its] proposal,” he said. Legislator Javad
Jahangirzadeh observed the same day that Iranians’ historical
memory of Russia is “full” of bitterness, Mehr reported. Its
enrichment proposal, he said, is “more disgraceful than the
Turkmenchai and Gulistan” treaties that forced Persia to cede Russia
its Caucasus territories in the early 19th century.
The proposal violates Iran’s sovereignty, legislator
Javad Jahangirzadeh said on 19 February. “The age of humiliating
collaboration with old colonial powers is over…Asia is implementing
America’s views with its own hand,” he told ILNA. Reformist
deputy Nureddin Pirmoazen told ISNA the same day that the Russians
have a “dual role” and “a thousand faces to serve their own
interests.” History “has shown the Russians cannot be trusted,” he
said.
Reformists Advocate Wit
Reformist politicians on the sidelines of power agree that
Iran has nuclear rights, but say these are better served with wit and
diligence, not provocation. Former President Mohammad Khatami said on
15 February that Western states are “undoubtedly” unfair, “because
there are three nuclear powers in the region and Israel has nuclear
bombs, but they are pressuring Iran. This
discrimination…is…generally the result of American pressure.”
But he urged Iran to use “good sense” here. Former legislator
Mohammad Kianush-Rad told ISNA on 15 February that “radical”
positions, presumably by Iranian statesmen, are fuelling “tensions
and spreading distrust” toward Iran. Liberal former minister
Ezzatollah Sahabi urged “patience” and “confidence-building” in
negotiations on 15 February, ISNA reported, while former
parliamentary speaker Mehdi Karrubi told ISNA on 12 February that “we
must…defend our rights…by remaining respectful to others.”
There is an uneasy mixture of realism and idealism in the
discourse of Iranian officialdom. In contrast to alleged Western
double-talk, Iran invokes the truth, the law, science, progress, and
justice when speaking of its nuclear program. And yet it is obliged
to sit and talk to states it believes have no morals or principles.
It may be that to resolve such discrepancies, the Islamic Republic
has practically enshrined the idea of “expediency:” a short-term
compromise — an apparent bending of principles — to serve higher,
immutable ideals. A sense of expediency is the realism of a state its
partisans believe is working God’s purpose on earth. This outlook
is illustrated in reported remarks by a former conservative deputy
foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Larijani, who said a few years back
that Iranian negotiators would, if state interests demand it, go to
the depths of hell to negotiate with the devil.
So as the state speaks of absolutes and of “red lines” over
enrichment, its negotiators may — now and in coming months — expect
to reach an acceptable compromise not unlike the half-way price
Iranians agree to pay after haggling in a market. (Vahid Sepehri)

TEHRAN ASSESSES IAEA REPORT POSITIVELY. An anonymous member of
Iran’s nuclear negotiating team said on 27 February that Tehran
expects a positive report from International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei, IRNA reported.
The IAEA report says that Tehran has been less than
cooperative and that the agency is not ready to conclude that
undeclared nuclear activities are not taking place in Iran. “It is
regrettable and a matter of concern that the…uncertainties related
to the scope and nature of Iran’s nuclear program have not been
clarified after three years of intensive agency verifications.” The
report also says that Iran plans to build 3,000 centrifuges and is
setting up “process tanks and an autoclave” to feed gas into the
centrifuges, a process that would enable Iran to go beyond
small-scale uranium enrichment. The report said Iran plans to start
installing the centrifuges in the last three months of 2006. The
report calls for Iran to resume its suspension of enrichment and
reprocessing activities, to halt plans to build a heavy-water
reactor, and to immediately ratify the Additional Protocol of the
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which is intended to strengthen
safeguards against the development of nuclear weapons.
Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki said on 28 February in
Tokyo that the IAEA report emphasizes the peaceful nature of
Iran’s nuclear program, AFP reported. About half the report,
Mottaki continued, calls for Iranian assurances that the peaceful
nature of the program will not change.
Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani, the supreme leader’s
representative at the Supreme National Security Council, said at a
March 1 meeting of clerics in Yazd that Iran is facing pressure over
the nuclear issue because the international community wants to hinder
the country’s development and independence, ISNA reported. “The
pressures forced on us are all because the enemies fear the region
and Islam,” he said. “Our sin is that we confess that God has created
us intelligent and that we want to stand on our own feet.” Rohani
said Iran has cooperated with inspectors from the IAEA, answering all
their questions and making all facilities accessible.
Contrary to Rohani’s assertion, the February 27 IAEA
report on Iran suggests Iran’s cooperation has been
underwhelming. It concludes by saying that even after “three years of
intensive agency verification,” uncertainties about the nature and
scope of the nuclear program remain. Elsewhere in the report there
are references to the quest for further clarification on topics, as
well as instances where Iran “declined to provide” information,
declined to make people available, and “declined to discuss” some
subjects. (Bill Samii)

MORE BOMBINGS IN SOUTHWESTERN IRAN. A series of bombs struck the
southwestern province of Khuzestan on 27 February, Iranian news
agencies reported. IRNA reported two bombings, in Abadan and Dezful.
In both cases, the bombs were placed in the restrooms of government
offices. Fars News Agency reported a third, in Molashieh, near the
city of Ahvaz. There are conflicting reports on casualties. Abadan
parliamentarian Abdullah Kabi said that the incident in Abadan
injured one person, ISNA reported. IRNA reported that four people
were wounded in the attacks. However, IRNA also quoted Interior
Minister Hojatoleslam Mustafa Purmohammadi as saying on 27 February
that the blasts did not cause any casualties.
Purmohammadi said the bombers were connected with the persons
behind deadly bombings in Ahvaz in January, and he cited claims by
the Ministry of Intelligence and Security that foreign governments
were linked to those bombings. Abadan legislator Kabi said the United
States and Britain are involved, ISNA reported. There have been a
number of violent incidents in the province since spring 2005.
According to the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, local prisons are
“overflowing” due to a crackdown on local opposition activists and
tribal leaders.
Minister of Intelligence and Security Hojatoleslam
Gholam-Hussein Mohseni-Ejei announced on 1 March that more than 10
people have been arrested in the last week in connection with bomb
explosions in Ahvaz, IRNA and state television reported. Mohseni-Ejei
added that Iran’s foreign enemies hired the bombers, and seized
documents indicate that they received logistical support from abroad.
(Bill Samii)

SOUTHWEST IRAN BOMBERS DEATH EXECUTED. Two men, Ali Afravi and Mehdi
Navaseri, were executed in the southwestern city of Ahvaz on the
morning of March 2 for their involvement in fatal October bombings
there, Fars News Agency reported. Khuzestan Province Deputy
Governor-General Mohsen Farokhinejad said on March 1 that the
executions are to be carried out in public in the same place —
Salman Farsi Avenue — where their bombs went off, provincial
television reported. Farokhinejad added that the other five people
involved with the bombings will be imprisoned.
Khuzestan television also reported on March 1 that “a
documentary film showing parts of [the bombers’] confessions”
will be broadcast that evening. That 30-minute program showed nine
men confessing, saying they were in touch with Iranians in Canada and
Britain who instructed them to create insecurity. One of the bombers,
Awdah Afravi, said he was told that a man like Abu Mus’ab
al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, was being sought, but he
did not know who that is.
Ahvaz governor-general Amir Hayat Moqaddam ANNOUNCED said on
28 February that two people involved in recent bombings in the city
will be executed in the next few days, Fars News Agency reported.
Judiciary official Hojatoleslam Raisi announced the same day that the
Supreme Court has confirmed the bombers will be hanged, ISNA
reported. Mehran Rafii, a provincial public affairs official, said on
20 February that state television will show all seven bombers by the
end of the week, Mehr News Agency reported, but that has yet to
happen. The Ahvaz public prosecutor, Iraj Amirkhani, said
investigations into bombings carried out in the city in June and
October 2005 are continuing, ISNA reported on 28 February. (Bill
Samii)

TRAVEL BAN FOR IRANIAN KURDISH ACTIVISTS. A Revolutionary Court in
the northwestern Iranian city of Sanandaj has imposed travel bans on
three Kurdish activists, Radio Farda reported on 28 February. The
three are the journalist Jalal Qavami and two civil rights activists,
Said Saedi and Roya Tolui. The authorities had previously held Qavami
for 65 days for his alleged involvement in unrest in July 2005 that
followed the shooting by security forces of a young Kurd named
Shavaneh Qaderi (“RFE/RL Iran Report,” 23 August 2005). Qavami’s
attorney, Nemat Ahmadi, told Radio Farda that he objects to the
travel ban. (Bill Samii)

LEGISLATORS DISPUTE NEED FOR CRISIS BUDGET. Soon after President
Mahmud Ahmadinejad submitted his budget in mid-January for the coming
year (21 March 2006-20 March 2007), some Iranian legislators called
for the creation of a “shadow budget” that could be used if
international concern over the nuclear issue and referral to the UN
Security Council led to the imposition of economic sanctions. The
Plan and Budget Organization has started to draw up a “shadow
budget,” “Etemad” reported on 25 February, but not all legislators
cited in the newspaper believe it is necessary. They said the
modifications already made to the draft budget are sufficient, and
they added that the budget’s excessive reliance on oil revenues
is a bigger concern. Reformist legislator Iraj Nadimi said talk about
a shadow budget reflects the executive branch’s serious
preparation for an economic crisis. Another parliamentarian, Adel
Azar, warned that creating a shadow budget would have a psychological
impact and could create the impression of a crisis.
The legislators began debating the budget on 1 March, and
they approved its general outlines on 2 March, IRNA reported. 161
legislators voted in favor, 31 voted against, and seven abstained.
The amount of spending in this budget surpasses the amount in the
previous year’s, “Sharq” reported on 2 March, because the
priority is to get money to the public and to create jobs. The
administration’s priority, the article continued, is that the
masses and its allies must be contented and satisfied. The article
went on to warn that the budget will fail to satisfy people and will
actually contribute to inflation and worsen the current situation.
(Bill Samii)

FEMALE SOCCER FANS FRUSTRATED. Iran beat Costa Rica 3-2 in a 1 March
soccer match, but a group of ticket-holding female fans did not get
to see the game, Radio Farda reported. One of the young ladies told
Radio Farda that a Tehran Province official told the women that they
would be transported to the match on special buses. Indeed, the
official swore to God and the Prophet that they would be taken there.
But when the bus got underway, she continued, it took them to another
part of the city. The game was over by the time the women made their
way to the stadium. One of the women told Radio Farda that they now
realize that they are second class citizens in Iran. Adnkronos
International reported () reported that security forces
prevented the women who had gotten there earlier from entering the
grounds. (Bill Samii)

SUSPECTED JIHADIST SAYS HE RECEIVED SUPPORT IN IRAN FOR HIS BID TO
ENTER AFGHANISTAN. A Moroccan national identified only by the
initials “B.A.” has reportedly told Moroccan investigators that he
received funds from Iranian officials for his attempt to cross into
Afghanistan, the Casablanca daily “Al-Sabah” reported on 27 February.
B.A., who is suspected of having links with a Moroccan organization
called Al-Tawhid wa’l Jihad, was deported from Syria to Morocco
where he is awaiting trial on criminal and terrorism charges. B.A.
has said that after the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the
United States he traveled to Iran in order to cross into Afghanistan,
where he had hoped to join Al-Qaeda terrorists. However, in
compliance with an order by Osama bin Laden that foreign fighters
should return to their home countries, he tried to go back to Morocco
through Syria, where he was arrested and deported to Morocco. B.A.
claims that during his stay in Iran he received $1,000 from Iranian
officials managing a guest house in Mashhad for volunteers intending
to cross into Afghanistan. (Amin Tarzi)

IRAN CHOOSES DATE FOR INTIFADA CONFERENCE. Hojatoleslam Ali-Akbar
Mohtashami-Pur, secretary-general of the International Conference to
Support the Palestinian Uprising (Intifada) series, confirmed on 27
February that the next conference will be held on 14-16 April, Mehr
News Agency reported. Tehran hosted the conference in 2001 and 2002.
He also said, according to IRNA, that Iran will provide financial
support for the Palestinian Authority. The United States and Israel
have asserted, since Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary
elections in late January, that they will not fund a Hamas-led
government until the organization renounces the use of violence and
recognizes Israel’s right to exist. (Bill Samii)

ISRAEL TO BLOCK IRANIAN FUNDING FOR PALESTINIANS. An unnamed Israeli
“senior diplomatic official” said Israel will block the Iranian
provision of money to a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, “The
Jerusalem Post” reported on March 1. The day before, Hamas political
bureau chief Khalid Mish’al was quoted by the London-based Arabic
daily “Dar al-Hiyat” as saying that Iran has agreed to provide the
Palestinian Authority with $250 million. Another Hamas official, Musa
Abu Marzuk, denied this, saying Iran promised “to support the
Palestinian people in general, without specifying the kind or amount
of support,” “The Jerusalem Post” reported on February 28. Hamas
spokesman Sami Abu-Zuhri confirmed on February 28 that Iran will
provide financial assistance, Jiji Web news Service reported,
although he would not confirm Mish’al’s claim. Mish’al
reportedly secured a pledge of financial assistance to the
Palestinian Authority during his February 22 visit to Tehran (“RFE/RL
Newsline,” February 23, 2006). The United States and Israel have made
clear, since the Hamas election victory in late January, that they
will not fund a Hamas-led government until the organization renounces
the use of violence and recognizes Israel’s right to exist. (Bill
Samii)

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DENIES PRICE FOR IRANIAN GAS WAS EXORBITANT.
Mikheil Saakashvili has denied in an interview with Ekho Moskvy that
Georgia paid $250 per 1,000 cubic meters for the gas it imported from
Iran in late January while gas supplies from Russia were temporarily
disrupted after the main Russia-Georgia gas pipeline was blown up,
Caucasus Press reported on 28 February. Georgian Energy Minister Nika
Gilauri and Economic Development Minister Irakli Chogovadze both
declined on 1 February to specify the exact price paid for the
Iranian gas; they and other government ministers ignored a subsequent
request from parliament to clarify the issue, “Akhali taoba” reported
on 17 February. Saakashvili said in his Russian radio interview that
the price was lower than the $110 Tbilisi previously paid for Russian
gas. (Liz Fuller)

***************************************** ****************
Copyright (c) 2006. 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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