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Thread: The Iran Plan

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    Default The Iran Plan

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    What's also crazy is that North Korea is widely believed to be even more of a threat.

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    Iran's transexual revolution

    An unlikely religious ruling has made Tehran the sex-change capital of the world

    Caroline Mangez went to meet the brave souls who have swapped gender in this rigidly conservative city, where women wear the chador and homosexuality is punishable by death

    The Independent
    November 13, 2005

    I know because I've experienced both worlds: as a man in Iran I have more freedom and choice than as a woman," muses 30 year-old estate agent Milad Kajouhinejad, 30, loosening his tie and unbuttoning his shirt to reveal a hirsute chest. It gives him pleasure, this manly gesture, just as it gives him pleasure to carry an attaché case and sport the full beard of a practising Muslim. Until three years ago, he could do none of these things. "I never used to go to the mosque, either," he adds. "I did not want to have to wear a chador. Now I can pray in boxer shorts if I feel like it, and I never miss prayers," he says.

    Milad gives thanks to Allah five times a day and, while doing so, always offers a special prayer to the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, "without whom," he says, "every transexual would have had to leave Iran. He was the first to issue a fatwa authorising a man or woman to change their sex."

    More than 15 years after Khomeini's death, the cleric's unlikely religious judgement means that Iran now has one of the world's largest populations of transexuals, and the fatwa itself has become the stuff of legend. "A theology student told me that he delivered his verdict after he was contacted by a couple who no longer experienced any physical pleasure. He advised them to change sex and, once the woman had become a man and the man a woman, then to remarry," says Mahnaz Javaheri, 42, the mother of Athena, a 20-year-old who, as she puts it, "needed to be freed of her man's body". A devout Muslim, Mahnaz says that if the three imams she consulted hadn't given their permission, she would never have let her son Hadi become Athena, "even if it meant him committing suicide. These three great ayatollahs all said that he should have the operation as soon as possible."

    The real story behind Khomeini's fatwa is scarcely less dramatic than the apocryphal version. He issued it in 1983, after a man named Fereydoon, who had made several unsuccessful attempts to gain an audience with the Iranian leader, eventually forced his way into Khomeini's private rooms. Fereydoon persuaded the cleric that he was a woman trapped in as man's body by revealing the breasts he had grown thanks to a course of hormone treatment.

    Before this extraordinary moment, Khomeini's administration had routinely harassed and arrested transexuals, lumping them together with Iran's gay community. According to Iranian law, homosexuality is punished by lashings, prison and even, in the case of persistent offenders, the death penalty.

    "Before Khomeini delivered his verdict, there was a lot of corruption.

    Hundreds of gays and lesbians used to meet in Laleh Park, right in the heart of Tehran. By authorising transexuals to change sex, the imam separated the wheat from the chaff," Milad says pragmatically, delighted to be the man he always felt he was back in the days when he was a she called Mahboubeh, "the beloved". The only traces of this other life are two minuscule pinkish piercings in his ears, where his mother Fatima used to try and get him to wear earrings, and the black-and-white photograph in their family album which shows Mahboubeh, aged three, crying because her hair has been put in bunches.

    "All the restrictions that women in Iran are subject to applied to me," says Milad. "I wasn't allowed to go out, let alone consult a doctor about my problems, and of course I had to wear the veil in public. I used to hide boy's clothes in my satchel to play with the kids in the street after school."

    He sees the past as a procession of bad memories - with one or two compensations. "I was a big hit with the girls in my class. They came from strict families, so it was a chance for them to have a boyfriend without seeming to be up to anything."

    "Yes, they knew we couldn't take what was most precious to them, their virginity," concurs Amin, 28, formerly Milad's best friend at school, who has also undergone a sex-change operation. "So they were very relaxed. No one ever made fun of us. In Iran, a man who behaves like a woman is despised, looked down on. But a girl who behaves and dresses like a man is respected for her strong character."

    Mahboubeh was nine when her father, a long-distance lorry driver, caught her in a clinch with one of her girlfriends. He didn't say anything but was convinced that his daughter was turning into a homosexual. In 1986, to "awaken" Mahboubeh's femininity, her parents forcibly married her to a 30-year-old cousin. She was only 12 but, on the eve of her wedding, a state doctor confirmed that she was an "adult woman" by establishing that she had breasts and was menstruating. After being raped, she ran away.

    "After the police took me back to my father, he agreed to let me get a divorce when I told him that otherwise I would commit suicide," he says.

    Some years later, at university, Mahboubeh discovered a book on transexuals in the library - and with it the existence of Milad within her. Since Iran's clergy prides itself on its ability to pronounce on every aspect of the faithful's lives, it was to them that she turned. "First I saw a state doctor and then, for a year and a half, I was passed between experts and psychiatrists. I was given hundreds of tests, a brain scan. In the end, a clerical judge gave permission for my operation."

    "On grounds of sexual identity disorder," the accompanying medical certificate reads.

    At this point, the young woman, who was by then 26, was rejected by her parents. "We needed someone to prepare us," her father says now, "to explain that afterwards we wouldn't be able to see any difference between him and other men."

    "We didn't like it at first," explains Fatima, the mother who Milad still helps in her kitchen - unlike the other three sons in her now-reconciled family. "My family threw me out," recalls Milad. "I had to find money... I drove a taxi from six in the morning to midnight. The rest of the time I slept in my car."

    The procedure took years and cost thousands of pounds, between two and three times as much as the £2,000 an Iranian surgeon charges for turning a man into a woman. "I applied to the committee of imam Khomeini's charity for financial assistance which they give to people, well, to people like me. They give us interest-free loans up to £700."

    Milad had read on the internet that four operations would be enough. Skin grafts, nerve grafts, muscle grafts - he has had 23 operations in three years and will have the last one before the end of the year. "My surgeon, Dr Khatir, has done such a good job that soon a woman won't notice a thing," he says.

    "He is a pioneer. He was doing this before the revolution. I am the only person in Iran, and perhaps in the world, to have gone as far, medically speaking. The last operation was the hardest..." Two bouts of four hours at a time on the operating table; his friends crying in the corridor, him thinking he was dying, saying his final prayers, a scarf clamped between his teeth to stop him screaming, and which he only took out to tell Dr Khatir, "Go on, I'd rather die than stay a woman."

    Milad still saves all his money to spend on removing his unwanted femininity. "My birth certificate, my identity card and my driving licence were changed when I stopped being a woman, in 2001. For the deep voice, the build, the beard, there are the hormones... I'll be taking them all my life." Milad, who claims to have as much success with women now as before, wears a wedding ring "so they don't hassle me. When I've finished all the operations and I have enough money, I'll think about marriage."

    Amin, who is still Milad's best friend, is already engaged. He is a respected member of the Guardians of the Revolution, a very strict military organisation; no one there knows about his operation. "No one in my wife-to-be's family knows my former identity either," he says. "All trace of it has been erased. I would be too afraid that they would object to our marriage. Everyone in my family was fine about it until my father died. But since my two sisters learnt that, under sharia law, as the only male heir of the family I was entitled to twice their share of the inheritance, they have refused to see me."

    In male-dominated Iran, girls who have the misfortune to be born in a boy's body are a laughing stock. Setareh, now a 24-year-old woman, has first-hand experience of this from the two years' military service she had to do when still called Saeed. "Life in barracks was agony. While I felt more and more like a woman, I was being ordered to speak in a deeper voice, to be more masculine. To stop people making fun of me, I ended up wanting to look like a Hizbollah fighter, growing my beard long and trying twice as hard in training. It was in the army that I fell in love with Ali, the day he fought with three soldiers who were trying to rape me at knifepoint. I was 19, he was nearly 21. It was Ali who encouraged me to set about changing sex so that I could marry him."

    They have persuaded Ali's parents that Setareh is the sister of the Saeed they used to know. "Every time my parents-in-law ask me about Saaed, I blush and say he has gone on a long trip," says Setareh, who never takes off her chador. "Ali insists I wear one, just as he likes me to devote myself to housework." Giving pleasure without being able to feel it - "I was warned" - Setareh is perfectly reconciled to her lot.

    With one eye glued to a religious chat show, Magnaz, the mother of 20-year-old transexual Athena Javaheri recalls: "At first we thought this odd idea of dressing as a woman came from his grandmother who loved dressing him up as a girl and getting him to dance."

    Now, she says her main concern is whether her former son will be able to give her any grandchildren.

    Athena has torn all the pictures of her as a little boy out of the family album. In the photographs from the 1960s, her father Hussein, who is 52 now, looks like Jim Morrison. Twenty five years of revolution, however, have made him a conventional man who doesn't let Athena go out without a chador.

    "I couldn't accept it," he says, "my only son! I beat him until he tried to commit suicide. Then the doctors had to explain to me that he wasn't homosexual before I would agree to the operation."

    According to some transexuals, their legal status in Iranian society has prompted hundreds of gay Iranians to apply for permission for sex-changes, which, if granted, would allow them to continue their relationship without fear of arrest. "The best psychiatrists don't make any distinction between a transexual and a homosexual," claims Amin.
    "So, if you're a woman, you just have to go the chemist and inject yourself with testosterone to obtain a permit to be operated on. Many women then have a bit of breast reduction to be able to indulge their deviancy. When they get arrested, the permit is a big help."

    But legal recognition is not the same as social acceptance. Transexuals in Iran continue to suffer not just ostracism, but physical attacks. For every happily assimilated Milad and Athena, there are newly made men and women on the streets of Tehran who can never reveal the truth that lies behind their chador or business suit.

  4. #4
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    More Gay Executions in Iran

    Nov. 22, 2005

    Two more men have reportedly been publicly executed in Iran this week, accused under religious “Sharia” law of homosexual acts. This is the second set of gay executions this year in the Islamic nation, and international human rights groups are outraged.

    According to the Sharia-based penal code used in a number of Islamic nations, all penetrative sex acts between men are punished with the death penalty, with non-penetrative sex acts between men punishable with lashes, until the fourth offence which is punished with death. Sex acts between women are punished with lashings until the fourth offence as well, when they are also sentenced to death.

    Human Rights Watch LGBT spokesperson claims “the Iranian government’s persecution of gay men flouts international human rights standards,” calling Iran to recognise people’s right to privacy and freedom from discrimination under international human rights laws.

    Earlier this year the international media was alerted of the public execution of two young men in Iran, also for engaging in gay sex acts. This launched a series of global protests, and many countries officially condemned the Iranian government’s alleged actions.

  5. #5
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    Iran's president questions Holocaust

    Thu Dec 8, 2005
    By Paul Hughes

    TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday expressed doubt that the Holocaust occurred and suggested Israel be moved to Europe.

    His comments, reported by Iran's official IRNA news agency from a news conference he gave in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, follow his call in October for Israel to be "wiped off the map", which sparked widespread international condemnation.

    "Some European countries insist on saying that Hitler killed millions of innocent Jews in furnaces and they insist on it to the extent that if anyone proves something contrary to that they condemn that person and throw them in jail," IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

    "Although we don't accept this claim, if we suppose it is true, our question for the Europeans is: is the killing of innocent Jewish people by Hitler the reason for their support to the occupiers of Jerusalem?" he said.

    "If the Europeans are honest they should give some of their provinces in Europe -- like in Germany, Austria or other countries -- to the Zionists and the Zionists can establish their state in Europe. You offer part of Europe and we will support it."

    Historians say six million Jews were killed in the Nazi Holocaust.
    Ahmadinejad's remarks drew swift rebukes from Israel and Washington.

    Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said in Tel Aviv that Ahmadinejad was voicing "the consensus that exists in many circles in the Arab world that the Jewish people ... do not have the right to establish a Jewish, democratic state in their ancestral homeland".

    "Just to remind Mr. Ahmadinejad, we've been here long before his ancestors were here," Gissin said. "Therefore, we have a birthright to be here in the land of our forefathers and to live here. Thank God we have the capability to deter and to prevent such a statement from becoming a reality."

    White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: "It just further underscores our concerns about the regime in Iran and it's all the more reason why it's so important that the regime not have the ability to develop nuclear weapons."


    Religious hardliners in Iran do not publicly deny the Holocaust occurred but say its scale has been exaggerated to justify the creation of Israel and continued Western support for it.

    Close allies when Iran was ruled by the U.S.-backed Shah, Iran and Israel have become implacable foes since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.

    Israel accuses Iran of giving arms and funding to militant Palestinian groups such as Islamic Jihad and of building nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charges.

    Tehran calls Israel a "terrorist state" and has developed missiles which can reach it. It says it would use them if Israel, itself believed to be nuclear-armed, tried to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities.

    Earlier in his remarks, the Iranian president, a former Revolutionary Guardsman who won a surprise election victory in June, said:

    "The question is, where do those who rule in Palestine as occupiers come from? Where were they born? Where did their fathers live? They have no roots in Palestine but they have taken the fate of Palestine in their hands.

    "Isn't the right to national self-determination one of the principles of the United Nations charter? Why do they deprive Palestinians of this right?"

    Jews trace their roots in Israel back to Biblical times.

    Ahmadinejad concluded his remarks by reiterating Iran's proposal that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be resolved via a referendum of all the inhabitants of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank as well as Palestinian refugees in neighboring countries.

    "Whatever they decide will be accepted by all humanity. This is a clear democratic solution which is based on international principles," he said.

    (Additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem)

    © Reuters 2005.

  6. #6

    Default Iran is getting closer to the edge of sanity

    Threaten to violate the world's peace and security. I won't be surprise to see Israel or the US act against the Iranians' nuke targets.

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    Russia and China have cozied up and provided Iran with enough defense systems to ensure that any attack is answered in kind. All parties will think twice.

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    Another shithole stuck in the Middle Ages.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp
    Another shithole stuck in the Middle Ages.
    And a favorite cross of the neocons to nail the Democrats to. The GOP's knowledge of Iranian history doesn't extend far beyond 1979 and the Teheran hostage situation; if they looked 26 years in the past they'd know that under Eisenhower, a Republican, the U.S. and British organized a coup which ousted the fairly-elected Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, because he was planning to nationalize the Iranian oil industry. The coup returned the hated Shah Pahlavi to the throne nine years after his abdication. The Islamic Republic's hostility towards us now is a direct result of our support of the Shah, which began under the Republicans.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TLOZ Link5
    knowledge of Iranian history ... under Eisenhower, a Republican, the U.S. and British organized a coup which ousted the fairly-elected Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, because he was planning to nationalize the Iranian oil industry.
    Shades of SYRIANA (very disturbing) :


    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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  11. #11
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    Oil Change

    A campaign to reduce our dependence on oil
    Inspired by the film Syriana

    Oil addiction.
    It saps America's economic strength, pollutes our environment, and jeopardizes national security.
    Breaking that addiction begins with the choices we make as individuals.

    Instead of oil dependence, let’s choose Oil Change!

    Learn more...

  12. #12


    Iran's president bans Western music

    BY NASSER KARIMI - Associated Press

    December 19, 2005

    TEHRAN, Iran - Hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has banned Western music from Iran's radio and TV stations, reviving one of the harshest cultural decrees from the early days of 1979 Islamic Revolution.

    Songs such as George Michael's "Careless Whisper," Eric Clapton's "Rush" and the Eagles' "Hotel California" have regularly accompanied Iranian broadcasts, as do tunes by saxophonist Kenny G.

    But the official IRAN Persian daily reported Monday that Ahmadinejad, as head of Iran's Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council, ordered the enactment of an October ruling by the council to ban Western music.

    "Blocking indecent and Western music from the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting is required," according to a statement on the council's official Web site.

    Ahmadinejad's order means the IRIB must execute the decree and prepare a report on its implementation within six months, according to the newspaper.

    "This is terrible," said Iranian guitarist Babak Riahipour, whose music was played occasionally on state radio and TV. "The decision shows a lack of knowledge and experience."

    Music was outlawed as un-Islamic by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini soon after the revolution. But as the fervor of the revolution started to fade, light classical music was allowed on radio and television. Some public concerts reappeared in the late 1980s.

    Western music, films and clothing are widely available in Iran, and hip-hop can be heard on Tehran's streets, blaring from car speakers or from music shops. Bootleg videos and DVDs of films banned by the state are widely available in the black market.

    Following eight years of reformist-led rule in Iran, Ahmadinejad won office in August on a platform of reverting to ultraconservative principles promoted by the revolution.

    Since then, Ahmadinejad has jettisoned Iran's moderation in foreign policy and pursued a purge in the government, replacing pragmatic veterans with former military commanders and inexperienced religious hard-liners.

    He also has issued stinging criticisms of Israel, called for the Jewish state to be "wiped off the map" and described the Nazi Holocaust as a "myth."

    International concerns are high over Iran's nuclear program, with the United States accusing Tehran of pursuing an atomic weapons program. Iran denies the claims.

    During his presidential campaign, Ahmadinejad also promised to confront what he called the Western cultural invasion and promote Islamic values.

    The latest media ban also includes censorship of content of films.

    "Supervision of content from films, TV series and their voice-overs is emphasized in order to support spiritual cinema and to eliminate trite and violence," the council said in a statement on its Web site explaining its October ruling.

    The council has also issued a ban on foreign movies that promote "arrogant powers," an apparent reference to the United States.

    Hotel California?

  13. #13


    December 20, 2005

    Iranian's Oratory Reflects Devotion to '79 Revolution


    TEHRAN, Dec. 19 - The morning after the ultra-conservative mayor of Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was elected president in June, he made a pilgrimage to the tomb of the father of the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, an act that appears to have foreshadowed exactly how the president-elect planned to lead his country.

    "The path of the imam is the absolute path of the Islamic republic," Mr. Ahmadinejad said then. "He was the founder of the revolution. He is the reference of the revolution."

    And so, it should not have been a surprise when he quoted Ayatollah Khomeini and called for Israel "to be wiped off the map," then labeled the Holocaust a legend that was the fault of Europeans, and said Israel should therefore be moved to Europe.

    Since taking office, Mr. Ahmadinejad has had numerous problems, failing to deliver on his message of economic populism and to solidify the support of the conservatives who elected him, and of the clerics who supported him.

    But he has worked aggressively to roll the clock back to the early days of the revolution. He has moved to erase the changes, especially in foreign policy, which evolved over eight years of rule by President Mohammad Khatami, seeking national unity through international isolation.

    It is in this context, political analysts said, that the new president's comments about Israel should be viewed. The remarks coincided with the firing of 40 ambassadors and diplomats, most of whom supported some degree of improved ties with the West; with the removal of reform-minded provincial governors, and with the replacement of pragmatists on Iran's nuclear negotiating team with members who hewed to the president's thinking.

    But it was the comments on Israel that set off the greatest outcry abroad, in part because they came as American and European suspicions deepened that Iran was trying to build nuclear weapons. While the Iranians have insisted that their nuclear program is geared toward energy, not weapons, there have been some signals that Iran feels it would be easier to move ahead if it were an international pariah, like North Korea. And what better way to achieve pariah status in the West than to call for the obliteration of Israel?

    Ali Larijani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, implicitly supported the North Korean model at a news conference in September when he said the international community should learn a lesson from its approach in that conflict. "What was the result of such tough policies?" he asked. "After two years they ended up accepting its program, so you should accept ours right now."

    The anti-Israeli oratory also has roots in the president's domestic standing.

    Again, it is useful to examine Ayatollah Khomeini's approach. When he took over after the shah fell in 1979, the nation did not unify right away behind clerical rule. It was only after Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein, attacked in 1980 that real unity occurred.

    Some Iranian analysts say that by increasing the world's hostility, Mr. Ahmadinejad is hoping to reproduce that sense of internal unity.

    Iranian analysts say he is also trying to satisfy, and perhaps distract, supporters who have begun to feel disappointed that he has not provided financial relief. Throughout his campaign, Mr. Ahmadinejad promised to try to redistribute the nation's vast oil wealth.

    "His comments are more for domestic consumption," said Saeed Laylaz, an Iranian political analyst. "He wants to control the domestic situation through isolating Iran. Then he can suppress the voices inside the country and control the situation."

    The harsh oratory has emerged as a bit of a surprise because Iranians have grown accustomed to more diplomatic language.

    "The issue of Palestine and Israel has been one of the pillars of the revolution," said Mohammad Atrianfar, director of the daily newspaper Shargh and a close supporter of a former president, Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who lost the election to Mr. Ahmadinejad. "If anyone criticizes what he has said, it will sound like questioning one of the major issues of the early days of the revolution. However, Iran has been able to adopt a political language after 25 years which is acceptable to the international community's diplomatic language, without quitting those values."

    Mr. Ahmadinejad was elected primarily because he was viewed as anti-establishment, a layman and a successful administrator who helped improve the workings of sprawling Tehran, home to some 20 million people. But it was also his call for justice - primarily economic justice - that resonated with a population angered by a perception that it had been denied the benefit of the oil wealth.

    But even among his supporters, there was concern that the new president had no foreign policy background or experience navigating the larger political shoals of Iran. Since taking office, he has failed to win the support - or admiration - of those who opposed him.

    With Iran facing a raft of problems - widespread unemployment, collapse of rural life as more people head to the cities, and a general sense of drift among the young - Mr. Ahmadinejad's comments on Israel have drawn little domestic attention.

    "Inside the country we see two different reactions," said Mahmoud Shamsolvaezin, a journalist and political analyst. "Society and those who voted for him do not care much about his political beliefs and are waiting for his economic promises to be delivered. On the other hand, we see a clear indifference among the political elite. It seems that they do not care about what he says unless he is jeopardizing our national security."

    There has been little discussion in Iran of the new president's actions, in part because he appears to retain the support of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But many people - including supporters of the president - have tried to soften the edges of what he has said.

    "I don't think there is anything new in what Ahmadinejad said," said Mosayeb Naimi, editor of Al Vefagh/Al Wefaq, an Arabic daily published by the official Islamic Republic News Agency. "He expressed his view on historical events. The Holocaust is a historical event; either it took place or it didn't. If it didn't take place, then it is a fabrication. If it did, it wasn't the Arabs who did it; it was the Europeans. Why then should the Palestinians pay the price of what the Europeans did against the Jews?"

    Western Music Is Banned

    TEHRAN, Dec. 19 (AP) - President Ahmadinejad has banned Western music from Iran's radio and television stations, reviving a cultural decree from the early days of the 1979 revolution.

    Songs like George Michael's "Careless Whisper," Eric Clapton's "Rush" and the Eagles' "Hotel California" have regularly accompanied Iranian broadcasts, as do tunes by the saxophonist Kenny G.

    But the official daily Iran reported Monday that Mr. Ahmadinejad, as the leader of the Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council, ordered the enforcement of a ruling by the council in October to ban Western music.

    Music was outlawed as un-Islamic by Ayatollah Khomeini soon after the revolution. But as the fervor of the revolution started to fade, light classical music was allowed on radio and television. Some public concerts reappeared in the late 1980's.

    Nazila Fathi reportedfrom Tehran for this article, and Michael Slackman from Cairo. Mona el-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo.

    * Copyright 2005The New York Times Company

  14. #14


    January 11, 2006

    Iranians Reopen Nuclear Centers


    WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 - Iran broke open internationally monitored seals on at least three of its nuclear facilities on Tuesday, clearing the way for uranium enrichment activities that Europeans and Americans say are a crucial step toward making a nuclear weapon.

    The Iranians said the step was only for research on enriching uranium, and outside experts said Iran was still years away from producing enough fuel for a bomb.

    But the United States and its European allies condemned the action and stepped up a campaign to persuade the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions, perhaps by the end of the month.

    It was unclear whether Russia and China would support a move toward sanctions, even though both called on Iran as recently as this weekend not to resume enrichment. A European diplomat acknowledged that there was still an "obvious reluctance" by the two countries to "gang up on the Iranians."

    A senior administration official noted, however, that a Foreign Ministry statement in Moscow declared Tuesday that Russia was "deeply disappointed by Iran's declared decision" and recalled that a Russian envoy had "insistently advised them not to take this step" in a visit to Tehran last weekend.

    "For the Russians, this is an angry statement," said the administration official, who did not want to be identified while discussing tactics or strategy, as opposed to settled policy. The official added that American officials would confer with the other Europeans and the Russians in the next few days before deciding what action to take against Iran.

    "We view this as a serious escalation on the part of Iran on the nuclear issue," said Sean McCormack, a State Department spokesman. "What you see here is the international community coming out and sending a very clear message to Iran that their behavior is unacceptable."

    German, French and British officials joined in assailing the Iranian action. Over the last year, the three nations persuaded the Bush administration to go along with their effort to negotiate with Iran to keep a freeze on activities that Iran says are peaceful but that many Western experts believe are part of a covert weapons program.

    The negotiations involved European offers of economic incentives, including the sale of aircraft parts and talks leading to trade preferences. But Iran's action appears to have derailed any such discussions for now.

    "The Iranians have behaved so remarkably badly, it's hard to believe that the international community will do anything other than put them in front of the ultimate court of international public opinion," a European diplomat said, referring to the Security Council. "That is where the Iranians are heading." The official did not want to be identified by name or country to preserve a united front with his European colleagues.

    President Jacques Chirac of France criticized Iran's action as a grave error, and the new German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said Iran was sending "very, very disastrous signals."

    In Tehran, Iranian officials were quoted as saying the actions they were taking involved research activities permitted by the Nonproliferation Treaty, which allows signers to have peaceful nuclear programs as long as they agree to monitoring and do not do anything that could make weapons.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency has not charged that Iran is making a bomb, but Iran has concealed its activities from inspectors in a way that has aroused suspicions.

    Iran voluntarily suspended some of those activities more than a year ago in an agreement with the three European nations in Paris. Last year, however, it proceeded with the conversion of raw uranium, or yellow cake, into a gas known as uranium hexafluoride, also called UF6.

    On Tuesday, the seals placed by the International Atomic Energy Agency were removed at Natanz, Iran, where centrifuges for enrichment of uranium to a higher grade are stored. Iranian officials also removed seals at two related storage and testing locations known as Pars Trash, near Isfahan, and Farayand Technique. The international agency said the seals had covered centrifuge components, manufacturing equipment and two cylinders containing uranium hexafluoride.

    Western diplomats said Iran appeared ready to enrich uranium with 164 or more centrifuges, the minimum amount they said was needed for combined use in a "cascade" that could produce highly enriched fuel. The centrifuges spin the gas into a concentrated form that can be used for fuel or weapons.

    But other nuclear experts say enriching uranium in centrifuges is an extremely complex undertaking requiring thousands of centrifuges to make enough material for a nuclear bomb. A small "cascade" could help teach the Iranians how to get to that larger goal, some experts say.

    While proclaiming its right to enrich uranium as part of its nuclear energy program, Iran has maintained that all its actions are intended for research and not for producing nuclear fuel, even for its energy-related reactors.

    "We make a difference between research on nuclear fuel technology and production of nuclear fuel," Muhammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's atomic energy organization, was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.

    Last year, the West warned Iran not to convert raw uranium into uranium hexafluoride gas. But when Iran proceeded to do so, the West took no punitive action, instead drawing a new "red line" saying it would invite retaliation if it took the gas and enriched it in centrifuges.

    "There's no question that Iran has miscalculated here," the administration official said. "They may have thought that since there have been long and protracted negotiation for two years, there would not be any credible reaction. But this is a big step across a big, bright red line."

    American officials also said Iran had insulted Mohamed ElBaradei, the chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency, by removing the seals itself and not waiting for the agency to do it.

    Dr. ElBaradei, who has cautiously said there was no evidence of an Iranian weapons program, has also continually called for Iran to disclose all its activities. On Tuesday, he expressed "serious concern" about Iran's action, which he said added to the problem of its "less than full and prompt transparency" in nuclear areas, an agency statement said.

    Dr. ElBaradei called on Iran to return to its suspension of activities and to resume its dialogue "with all concerned parties," the agency said.

    Two years ago, when the European nations sought to avert a confrontation between Iran and the West by offering incentives for Iran to abandon its nuclear program, many Bush administration officials were openly disdainful of the European effort.

    Earlier this year, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice changed course and with President Bush in Europe enthusiastically endorsed the diplomatic efforts. This fall, Mr. Bush also endorsed a separate Russian offer to join with Iran in a Russian-Iranian uranium enrichment facility on Russian soil as an alternative to an Iranian program.

    A top Russian envoy, Sergei Kisliak, went to Tehran last weekend to try to promote that offer. But Iran's actions have now served as an apparent rebuff to Russia.

    A recurrent concern of the Bush administration relates to North Korea, which was referred to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions because of its nuclear weapons program. The Security Council has not acted, however. American diplomats say they believe that this time, with Russian and Chinese help, there can be a different result.

    Steven R. Weisman reported from Washington for this article, and Nazila Fathi from Tehran.

    * Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

  15. #15


    January 13, 2006

    Europe Joins U.S. in Urging Action by U.N. on Iran


    BERLIN, Jan. 12 - The leading nations of Europe joined with the United States on Thursday to declare an end, for now, to negotiations with Iran over dismantling its suspected nuclear weapons program and to demand that Iran be referred to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions.

    The Europeans' announcement was made at a news conference in Berlin two days after the Iranian authorities removed internationally monitored seals on nuclear facilities involved in the enrichment of uranium that Western nations say could be used in a bomb.

    "Our talks with Iran have reached a dead end," the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said at the news conference after meeting here with his French and British counterparts and the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana. "From our point of view, the time has come for the U.N. Security Council to become involved." Shortly afterward, in an apparently orchestrated response, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared in Washington that the United States fully supported the European action. Iran's actions, she said, "have shattered the basis for negotiation."

    But despite the new resolve by the Americans and Europeans, and very probably by Russia and China, on getting Iran to reverse course in the nuclear area, many experts and diplomats say the process of actually coercing that step could take a long time and may never work.

    Iran is believed to be years away from making bombs but only a year or two from having the expertise to do so. For its part, the Iranian government has insisted that its nuclear program is only for peaceful commercial purposes.

    Many Western experts say that its government appears determined to press ahead even if sanctions are imposed and the country becomes isolated diplomatically. There is no sign that leading nations are ready to cut off oil purchases, because such a step would send oil prices rocketing, possibly damaging the world economy.

    American and European diplomats said, however, that several days of intense diplomacy had convinced them that Russia and China would join in a growing consensus that the International Atomic Energy Agency board, comprising 35 countries, should refer the matter of Iran to the Security Council, if only to register a nearly worldwide condemnation of the Tehran government.

    A senior State Department official in Washington said that Russia had indicated that it would not oppose a referral at the board but that the West was trying to get Russia to go further and vote yes. On Thursday, Ms. Rice spoke about this matter to the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, as she had done earlier in the week. Mr. Lavrov said in Moscow that Russia was putting a heavy premium on Iran's compliance with international regulations on nuclear development.

    "Iran has removed the seals from a uranium enrichment plant and therefore urgent consultations are needed," Mr. Lavrov said, according to the Interfax news agency.

    The senior State Department official said, "I'm not saying that Russia is in the yes column, but they're moving in that direction." If Russia abstains on a referral or even votes yes, American and European diplomats say, China will probably go along and there will be a greater chance for approval of an anti-Iran measure by India, Brazil and other so-called nonaligned members of the atomic energy agency board.

    The move toward referral to the Security Council did not necessarily mean that the Council itself would impose penalties without giving negotiations still another chance to resolve the matter, several diplomats said. An initial action simply condemning Iran and calling on it to change its behavior, with the threat of punishment in the background, appeared the most probable step once the matter gets to the Council.

    "We've always said that going to the Security Council is not an end in itself and did not signal an end to negotiations," said Robert Joseph, under secretary of state for arms control and international security. "Going to the Council provides a menu of options that can be used to try to get Iran to reverse course."

    The campaign to raise pressure on Iran involved telephone calls from Ms. Rice and her top aides and plans for an extraordinary meeting on Monday in London of senior envoys from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia.

    American officials said this meeting would be focused on a strategy for a resolution aimed at referring the matter to the Security Council, to be adopted at an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency board as early as later this month. American and European officials said they were prepared to be flexible on both the timing of the resolution and its wording, to get a maximum number of countries on board.

    There remained concern among some Western diplomats that while Russia and China seemed willing to abstain in a resolution of referral to the Security Council, they could demand delays or watered-down wording changes that would undercut the effort.

    The possibility of more negotiations with Iran, perhaps soon, was raised again, however, by the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, who said Thursday evening that he had spoken earlier in the day to Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, to head off a looming confrontation.

    Iran was still interested in "serious and constructive negotiations," Mr. Annan said, adding that the only viable solution to the dispute with Iran was "a negotiated one."

    But American and European diplomats saw little prospect of any talks with Iran soon, at least not unless Iran took major steps to back away from a confrontation, like returning to its suspension of the conversion of raw uranium into a gas, and the enrichment of that gas into a concentrated form that could eventually be used for nuclear fuel or a bomb.

    For two years, the United States has repeatedly declared that after many instances of Iran failing to disclose its nuclear activities to international inspectors, its conduct should be subject to condemnation or sanctions at the Security Council. But until this week, the United States' major European allies have declined to endorse that step.

    Only after allowing the Europeans to negotiate with Iran and to offer possible incentives for suspending its activities, and encouraging Russia to make a separate offer to operate a joint uranium enrichment program on Russian soil, has the United States brought these partners around to more overt pressure.

    In Tehran, officials expressed anger at the Europeans even before they announced their plans to turn to the Security Council. "Colonial taboos" will not keep Iran from developing its nuclear abilities, the former president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, told the state-run radio. Mr. Rafsanjani, who now heads the powerful Expediency Council, also said that the standoff with the West "has reached its climax," according to an Associated Press report from Tehran.

    Iran has repeatedly maintained that it has the right to develop nuclear fuel on its own soil, but the West argues that it has forfeited that right by its habit of concealing its activities.

    Richard Bernstein reported from Berlin for this article, and Steven R. Weismanfrom Washington.

    * Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

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