Sunday November 12, 2006
Iran offers to arm enemies of Israel with rocket arsenal
By Kay Biouki and Harry De Quetteville
Last Updated: 12:19am GMT 12/11/2006
Iran has offered to arm neighbouring countries in the Middle East with sophisticated missiles for use in battle with the "Zionist regime" of Israel.
The offer was made last week by Yahya Rahim Safavi, the commander-in-chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, as Iran and the US staged rival shows of military might in Gulf waters.
Clerics watch as a nuclear-capable Shahab-3 missile, with a range of 1,200 miles, soars into the Iranian sky in military exercises near Qom
During the "Great Prophet" manoeuvres, Iran's military showcased a range of rockets and missiles, including the Shahab-3, which has a range of 1,200 miles and can carry a nuclear warhead.
It also tested anti-ship missiles with a range of more than 100 miles and shoulder-borne anti-helicopter weapons. The missiles mean shipping across the Gulf is now within Iran's sights, as well as the Strait of Hormuz, through which passes a fifth of the world's oil supply.
The tests were described by Iran's Adml Sardar Fadavi as a "warning to the US", which last week held its own exercises just 20 miles from the Iranian coast.
Speaking on Iranian TV, Maj Gen Safavi said that Iran would be willing to share its arsenal. "We are able to give our missile systems to friendly and neighbouring countries," he declared.
His comments appeared to be directed primarily at Lebanon, where the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia fought a summer war with Israel, raining down missiles on the northern areas of the country. Now Iran has offered to open its armoury to the official Lebanese army, providing air defence systems that could target Israeli warplanes.
"Teheran considers this as its duty to help friendly countries which are exposed to invasion by the Zionist regime," said Iran's ambassador to Lebanon, Mohammad Reza Sheibani.
Growing military tension between America and Iran has been accompanied by a rhetorical confrontation. Vice-Adml Patrick Walsh, commander of US naval forces in the Gulf, said that Iran's manoeuvres were a "message of intimidation and fear".
Adml Fadavi, who is the deputy navy chief of the Revolutionary Guard, demanded that "our enemies keep their hostility off the Gulf".
In Teheran, growing pressure over Iran's nuclear programme – which it insists is for energy but which America suspects is to build atomic weapons – has left some resigned to a new conflict.
"War is a real possibility," said Ali Homayoon, 55, a clerk. "We would suffer a great deal. Iranians want to see the end of all conflicts and live a normal life."
But Republican losses in last week's midterm US Congressional elections could have a dramatic impact on American military plans for Iran and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Robert Gates, the former CIA director who has taken over as defence secretary from Donald Rumsfeld, has a reputation as a pragmatist.
In a 100-page report for the Council on Foreign Relations, entitled Iran: Time for a New Approach, written in 2004, he argued that isolating Teheran was "manifestly harmful to Washington's interests".
"Political and economic relations with Iran cannot be normalised unless the Iranian government demonstrates a commitment to abandoning its nuclear weapons programmes and its support for terrorist groups," he said. "However, these demands should not be preconditions for dialogue."
Maj Gen Safavi was confident Iran would be ready to repel a US military strike.
Sunday Times, November 12, 2006
Israel expects war as Hezbollah rebuilds missile arsenal
By Uzi Mahnaimi in Tel Aviv
FOUR months after Israel launched its onslaught against Hezbollah, the Lebanese guerrillas are back in south Lebanon stronger than ever and armed with more rockets than they had before the conflict, according to Israeli intelligence. During the month-long war, which began on July 12, Hezbollah fired 200 to 250 rockets a day into Israel, killing 43 civilians and terrorising much of the north of the country.
“Since the ceasefire, additional rockets, weapons and military equipment have reached Hezbollah,” said an Israeli intelligence officer. “We assume they now have about 20,000 rockets of all ranges — a bit more than they had before July 12.”
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has confirmed the Israeli estimate. In a recent interview with al-Manar, the Hezbollah television station, he claimed his organisation had restocked its arsenal and now held at least 30,000 rockets, sufficient for five months of war.
Israeli military intelligence has warned the government that renewed fighting with Hezbollah, which it regards as a terrorist organisation, should be expected as early as next spring.
In response, Israeli forces have taken emergency action. They have postponed a plan to reduce the length of national service — currently 36 months for men and about 24 months for women — and are stepping up production of better armoured tanks.
They are also grouping all special forces into a single new division and are developing laser technology, jointly with the United States, to shoot down Hezbollah’s rockets.
On the border with Lebanon it is easy to understand Israeli concerns. A sniper from the Israeli 50th infantry brigade said last week that Hezbollah was active, although its members wore civilian clothes rather than uniforms.
The sniper, a 24-year-old lawyer from New York on national service, watched through his gun sight as a young man carrying an AK-47 assault rifle climbed from a Jeep. “He was walking quickly and all of a sudden he disappeared into a hidden shelter,” he said. “Then the guy went back to the Jeep and back to the tunnel, checking how quickly he could get there. Then he climbed into the Jeep and drove away.
He added: “We feel that Hezbollah are constantly there, though we rarely see any weapons.”
The Israeli military estimates that at least 5,000 rockets are hidden in secret shelters along the border, which it failed to find before the ceasefire came into effect on August 14.
Iranian-made long-range Zelzal rockets, which could reach Tel Aviv, have been stored in hidden locations. “We’re now in a race to locate the new rockets,” said a Mossad source.
Tracking down the Iranian rockets was one of Israel’s few military successes in the summer. According to sources, the Israeli air force destroyed them on the first night of battle. “We believe Hezbollah have learnt their lesson and it will be much harder to locate them next time,” said the source.
Israel has not yet found a way to tackle the threat from the short and medium-range rockets. It is developing the Nautilus laser-guided cannon in an attempt to intercept them. “It still remains to be seen if the laser gun will work,” said another source. “But it will take up to three years and might be too late for the next war.”
Israel is alarmed at the burgeoning self-confidence of Nasrallah and what it perceives as his intention to undermine Lebanon’s fragile government and take over the country’s politics.
Talks in Beirut to defuse the crisis collapsed yesterday. Nasrallah has set a deadline of tomorrow for his demands to be met or he will stage mass demonstrations.
White House calls Iran, Hezbollah a 'global nexus of terrorism'
The White House branded Iran and Hezbollah on Saturday as a "global nexus of terrorism" and applauded an Argentine court for seeking the arrest of former Iranian officials in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center.
White House spokesman Tony Snow issued a statement saying the Islamic republic was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians as the world's "leading state sponsor of terrorism." It gave no specifics.
The statement also said Tehran's financial and military support for Hezbollah had allowed the Lebanese Shiite militant organization to "perpetuate violence throughout the world."
"Hezbollah and Iran remain a dangerous, global nexus of terrorism," Snow said in the statement.
Earlier this month, the White House accused Iran, Syria and Hezbollah of plotting to topple the Lebanese government, which the Bush administration has held up as an example of emerging democracy in the Middle East.
Saturday's statement came hours after five pro-Syrian Shi'ite Muslim ministers from Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal movement, resigned from Lebanon's cabinet following the collapse of all-party talks to consider a greater government say for Shiite parties.
The United States is not keen to see Hezbollah exert more influence over the Lebanese government.
The White House statement also applauded an Argentine judge who ordered arrest warrants last Thursday for former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and eight others in the July 18, 1994, bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center.
Argentine prosecutors have formally accused the Iranian government of masterminding the attack that killed 85 people and wounded more than 200. Rafsanjani was president at the time.
Tehran has denied any involvement in the blast that leveled the seven-story Argentine Israeli Mutual Association building, a symbol of the country's Jewish community - Latin America's largest.
Several former Rafsanjani aides were being sought as well as a former Hezbollah foreign security chief.
"We call on all governments to support the Argentine government," the White House said. "These terrorists and their state sponsors must be made to realize they cannot hide from justice."
Argentine prosecutors have said the attack could have been tied to Argentina's decision to stop providing Iran with nuclear technology and materials.
Western nations accuse Iran of trying secretly to build an atomic arsenal, but Iran says it has the right to enrich uranium and wants only to generate electricity.
The UN Security Council is trying to reach agreement on sanctions against Iran after Tehran failed to halt uranium enrichment as demanded in a July council resolution. - Reuters
Rice: Syria a dangerous state, behaving in a dangerous way
JERUSALEM - The United States believes Syria is a dangerous state whose territory is being used for the accelerated arming of Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview with an Israeli daily Sunday.
"This is a dangerous state that is behaving in a dangerous manner," Rice told the country's second largest daily, Maariv.
"The United States is concerned and is following closely the use of Syrian territory as a way-station for the accelerated arming of Hezbollah," the Hebrew-language newspaper quoted her as saying.
Israel has long maintained that Hezbollah, with which it fought a 34-day war this summer, receives its weapons from Iran via Syria -- a charge both these countries deny.
But Rice repeated the allegation in the interview published on the day Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was due in Washington for talks with US President George W. Bush, herself and other top officials.
"Syria is a way-station for Iranian arms that cross the Middle East. It is not a state that contributes to stability in the Middle East," Rice said.
"This is obvious to everyone, and we are watching this situation closely. We are working with additional international agencies in order to tell Syria that it must change this behavior pattern."
"We clarified that Syria must change its behavior as soon as possible," she added. (AFP)
Iran TV broadcasts 'US ship spy plane footage'
Nov 11 4:07 PM US/Eastern
Iran's Arabic language television station broadcast footage it claimed showed a US aircraft carrier cruising in Gulf waters it said was taken by an unmanned Iranian drone.
The brief minute-long film, which was shown on Al-Alam television's evening news bulletin, showed wobbly aerial footage of an aircraft carrier stacked with war planes as it sailed.
The television's anchor said the film, the property of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard, showed a vessel from "the US fleet in the Persian Gulf".
"A source in the Revolutionary Guard said the drone carried out its mission without US fighter pilots reaching it," the television said.
It said there were 10 such films taken by the drone which showed "more precise information and details about military equipment, foreign forces, and their activities in the Persian Gulf."
The station did not name the vessel nor did it say when the footage was shot.
The broadcast comes near the end of Iran's latest 10-day war games, "Great Prophet II", which military chiefs have said were aimed at showing off Iran's defensive prowess and testing new military hardware.
The war games coincided with US-led naval manoeuvres in the Gulf off Iran aimed at halting arms-trafficking, the first time such an exercise has been held in the area.
Copyright AFP 2005, AFP stories and photos shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium
Terror groups call for attacks against US interests
Hamas, Fatah urge Muslims to 'teach American enemy merciless lessons'
Aaron Klein, WND
Terror groups in the Gaza Strip, including gunmen associated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, warned Wednesday they may attack US interests in the Middle East.
Hamas' so-called "military wing" released a statement, the first of its kind according to Palestinian observers, calling on Arabs and Muslims to attack American targets in the Middle East in response to an Israeli artillery strike that killed at least 19 Palestinians.
"The US provides political and logistical cover for the crimes committed by the Zionist occupation and it must be blamed for the Beit Hanoun massacres," the Hamas military wing said in a statement.
The statement urged Arabs and Muslims to "teach the American enemy merciless lessons they will not forget."
The Israel Defense Forces earlier yesterday used artillery shells to target a site in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip from which Qassam rockets were fired yesterday at Ashkelom, a nearby, populated Jewish city. The Israeli shells hit a residential area about a third of a mile from the targeted zone. IDF sources said the army was investigating if the wrong coordinates were fed to the artillery unit and whether the error was human or technical.
Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni expressed regret for the deaths, saying Israel did not set out to harm innocent civilians.
But Palestinian groups vowed revenge.
Members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the declared "military wing" of Abbas' Fatah party, told WND they joined Hamas in its calls to target US interests. The Islamic Jihad terror group also said they were calling for attacks against American interests.
Sources close to Hamas told WND the striking of American targets was discussed by the terror group in recent days "at the highest levels."
They said yesterday's statement calling for revenge against the US was not endorsed by all members of Hamas' military wing, but they warned if the US doesn't back the Hamas-led Palestinian government and cease what they called the "financial strangulation" of the Hamas government then attacks against US interests may be carried out.
Palestinian security officials, speaking to WND on condition of anonymity, told WND the calls for attacks against US interests were mostly out of frustration stemming from Hamas' belief America was urging Abbas to dismantle the Hamas-led government.
Hamas won a majority of Palestinian parliamentary seats in elections earlier this year.
According to multiple press reports Abbas has been considering dismantling the PA. As Palestinian president, Abbas has the authority to abolish the PA and establish an emergency government that he would head for three months, at which point new elections would be held. Under certain circumstances, Abbas can maintain and lead the emergency government indefinitely, usurping Hamas' power.
The U.S. has reportedly offered about USD 28 million in financial aid to Abbas' Fatah party to bolster it against Hamas. In September Fatah and Hamas engaged in heavy gunbattles in the Gaza Strip and West Bank after negotiations to establish a national unity government between them appeared to have fallen through.
Last month Time Magazine reported members of Hamas were debating whether to carry out attacks against the US in the Middle East following America's support for Abbas' rival Fatah party.
The Time report quoted several anonymous Hamas sources explaining clandestine meetings were held in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to discuss the possibility of targeting the U.S. due to its perceived "one-sided" support of Israel and reported calls for Abbas to dissolve the Hamas-led Palestinian government.
The report said the Israeli intelligence estimate is that Hamas will restrain from targeting the US, but if its government is toppled such restraint could dissipate.
Speaking openly to WorldNetDaily last month, Abu Abdullah, a leader of Hamas' so-called military wing in Gaza, confirmed the Time report.
"The Americans are supporting Israel unfairly and are playing a leading role in the conspiracy against the (Hamas-led) Palestinian government. All Palestinians feel a hatred toward the American government and wouldn't mind attacks (against it), but for now we are limiting our fight to Palestine," said Abu Abdullah, who is considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas' Izz al-Din al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades, Hamas' declared "resistance" department.
Abu Abdullah warned WND that if the Hamas government is "toppled" with the help of the US then "all options are open."
Experts: Hamas capable of attacks inside US
While the report warned of attacks against American interests in the region, some terrorism experts and senior security officials previously told WND Hamas has cells inside the US that are technically capable of attacking within the country.
"We have information Hamas agents have been on US soil the past few years and that the group may currently have up to 100 agents operating inside America," an FBI counterterrorism agent in New York told WND last October.
The comments reaffirm earlier testimony to the US Senate in which FBI Director Robert Mueller stated, "Although it would be a major strategic shift for Hamas, its United States network is theoretically capable of facilitating acts of terrorism in the United States."
Mueller last February described a Hamas network the FBI believes may be operating in the U.S. mostly for fundraising purposes. While many suspected Hamas-linked charities such as the national Holy Land Foundation have been shut down, the FBI suspects others are still functioning in America.
Holy Land was one of the largest Islamic charitable organizations in the US, and closed amid accusations the group was a front for Hamas.
Intelligence sources said the FBI believes Hamas' current US network includes trained jihadists capable of carrying out advanced attacks. Some of the Hamas agents are suspected of involvement with al-Qaeda, the sources said.
Yehudit Barsky, director of the Middle East and International Terrorism Center at the American Jewish Committee said, "Hamas does have people in America who are Muslim Brotherhood-oriented who support Hamas and who could carry out attacks. ... This presence in the US exists."
Terrorism expert Steve Emerson, whose research was credited with helping to close Holy Land, told WND, "Hamas has an extensive infrastructure in the US mostly revolving around the activities of fundraising, recruiting and training members, directing operations against Israel, organizing political support and operating through human-rights front groups. While Hamas has not acted outside Israel, it has the capability of carrying out attacks in America if it decided to enlarge the scope of its operations."
The have been previous indications Hamas indeed has agents operating inside the US.
In August 2004, Ismail Selim Elbarasse, a long-time Hamas money man, was arrested reportedly after authorities witnessed his wife videotaping Maryland's Chesapeake Bay Bridge from their SUV as Elbarasse drove. The images captured by Mr. Elbarasse's wife included close-ups of cables and other features "integral to the structural integrity of the bridge," according to court papers.
In an FBI affidavit requesting a search warrant for Elbarasse's house obtained by WND, special FBI agent Shawn Devroude states, "In previous years, al-Qaeda commanders and officials stationed in Western countries, including the United States, have recruited Hamas operatives and volunteers to carry out reconnaissance or serve as couriers.
"With the increased law enforcement pressure since 9/11, there has been a renewed emphasis by al-Qaida to find confirmed jihadist supporters in the U.S. by trying to enlist proven members of other groups such as Hamas to make up for the vacuum on the field level."
Also in August, 2004, two suspected high-level Hamas operatives, Mohammed Salah and Abdelhaleem Ashqar, were detained in America and charged with providing material support to Hamas, racketeering and money laundering.
Ashqar, under house arrest in Virginia, denied to WND he was involved with Hamas fundraising and claimed doesn't know of any Hamas networks operating in America.
In November 2003, Jamal Aqal, a Canadian immigrant born in Gaza, was arrested in Israel under suspicion of receiving weapons and explosives training from Hamas for use in future terror attacks in Canada and New York City. Aqal pleaded guilty in 2004 to planning to kill American and Canadian Jewish leaders and Israeli officials traveling in the US.
Shiites Against Hezbollah
The other struggle in Lebanon.
by David Schenker, The Weekly Standard
11/13/2006, Volume 012, Issue 09
HEZBOLLAH ROCKETS stopped raining on Israel nearly two months ago, but the Shiite organization's onslaught continues. Today, instead of directly attacking Israel, the Party of God is targeting Lebanese intellectuals and politicians who have the temerity to question Hezbollah's hegemony over local Shiite politics.
There's no debating that Hezbollah is a popular organization in Lebanon and particularly among Shiites. Not only does the organization provide health, welfare, and education services to its constituents, its military prowess is a source of honor and pride for the community.
But not all Shiites support Hezbollah. Some have been voicing their opposition to the "resistance" agenda, and not surprisingly, Hezbollah is attempting to strong-arm these dissidents into line. The intimidation has not yet degenerated into violence, but, given Hezbollah's track record (the terrorist organization is, with Syria, a leading suspect in several political assassinations in Lebanon since 2005), it is certainly wont to.
Hezbollah's quest for hegemony--and its efforts to enforce party-line discipline over all the Shiites in Lebanon--predates the summer war with Israel. Eleven months ago, in December 2005, Hezbollah and Amal ministers bolted from the government cabinet to protest consideration of an international tribunal to prosecute the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Closely allied with Syria, the lead murder suspect, Hezbollah opposed the notion of an impartial tribunal.
The ministers' departure brought government business to a standstill, but set in motion even more Hezbollah mischief. Worried that the government might appoint non-Hezbollahis to the apportioned Shiite cabinet seats, cleric Afif Nabulsi issued a fatwa "forbidding any Shia to enter into the cabinet." This ominous "warning" set off a tempest among the Lebanese intelligentsia. Adonis, aka Ali Ahmed Said, Lebanon's most prominent man of letters (who happens to be a Sunni), described the fatwa as an "act of aggression." The most aggrieved party, however, were clearly the Shiites themselves. So incensed was one Shiite lawyer, Mohammed Mattar, that he brought a class action lawsuit against Sheikh Nabulsi.
Mattar's lawsuit, filed in January 2006, was joined by five prominent Shiites--some of whom had the legitimacy of being direct descendants of the prophet Muhammad--and three Christians. Over fifty intellectuals, including Sunnis, joined a follow-up case. For the plaintiffs, the action was a clear case of church-state separation: Hezbollah, via Sheikh Nabulsi's threatening fatwa, had deprived Shiite Lebanese of their constitutional right to participate in public life. Mattar et al were not looking for damages or jail time, but rather, for a well-reasoned and widely promulgated court ruling preventing further Hezbollah encroachment on Shiite political expression.
It is open to question whether the judge--a young Sunni hailing from the Hezbollah stronghold of Bekaa--can be counted on for an impartial ruling. Reaction to the case, which has been well covered in the media, has been fierce. Hezbollah has launched a countersuit. Meanwhile, pro-Hezbollah weblogs in Lebanon have savaged Mattar, alternately describing him as a CIA agent, a Mossad agent, and an employee of the U.S. embassy in Beirut.
More recently, in the aftermath of fighting between Hezbollah and Israel, perhaps the highest profile Shiite refusenik in Hezbollah's sights is Mona Fayyad, a professor of philosophy at The Lebanese University. On August 8, Fayyad penned an acerbic op-ed in Lebanon's paper of record, An-Nahar, assailing Hezbollah's political and intellectual dominance over her confession. In her widely translated article, "To Be a Shiite Now," Fayyad questioned the imposition of Hezbollah's ideology--and the consequences of Hezbollah's authority--over Shiites and Lebanon.
For Fayyad, to be a Shiite means that "you do not question the meaning of resistance." Instead, you defer to the leader of the resistance, General Hassan Nasrallah, in "his role as a loyal hero to the cause of the Arab nation." As a Shiite, "you can only thank Hezbollah for its heroism and sacrifice--it is not your role to contribute to 'weakening' it. . . . That means never to question whether pride takes precedence over the lives of others." You are simply obligated, she quips, to "incapacitate your mind and leave it to [Iranian Supreme Leader] Sayyid Khamenei to guide you." Finally, "if you are a Shiite and you dare write such writings and think such thinking, then you must be a foreign agent and a traitor. . . . You must be with the Zionist and Israeli projects."
Following her controversial op-ed, Fayyad gave a lengthy and courageous interview in September to the Kuwaiti political daily As Siyasah, where she criticized Hezbollah's alliance and allegiance to Syria and Iran. She was also critical of Hezbollah's continued possession of weap ons, saying "Hezbollah's arms provide it with a type of hegemony . . . inspiring fear for security among all the Lebanese." Fayyad was also one of the signatories to the lawsuit against Sheikh Nabulsi.
While they do not represent majority sentiment in Lebanon's Shiite community, Mohammed Mattar and Mona Fayyad do represent an important and apparently growing segment of the population--Shiites who have no use for Hezbollah, Amal, or Iranian or Syrian suzerainty over Lebanon.
Lokman Slim, a Shiite who runs a Beirut-based, European-funded NGO focused on diversifying political representation of the Shiite community, is another outspoken critic of Hezbollah. Slim, who speaks critically about the "monopoly on representation," claims Hezbollah has "undermined" the level playing field among Shiites by preventing moderates from emerging. Slim's point, of course, is that such moderates could play a role in Lebanese politics if the intimidation stopped.
This raises an interesting point: Hezbollah was indeed elected to the Lebanese parliament, but the organization is not constrained by the precepts of democratic government. Rather, it demonstrates nothing but contempt for democracy, operating instead within a theocratic-autocratic context. Nasrallah himself feels no compunction to abide by even the bylaws of his own party. He is now serving his fifth three-year term, exceeding Hezbollah's two-term limit on secretary generals. And if Hezbollah's leader won't even respect his own party's rules, how is the party going to be persuaded to observe all the niceties of multiparty democratic government?
Achieving pluralism within Leb anese Shiite politics is a long way off. In addition to being the leader of the "resistance," Hezbollah represents the culmination of years of Shiite effort to have a significant role in Lebanon's political system. Convincing the long-suffering Shiites in Lebanon that they can remain influential without Hezbollah is going to be a tough sell.
Lebanon's Shiite community is not monolithic: There are alternative voices, articulating moderate agendas. And if Hezbollah is ever going to be stripped of its dominant power over the Shiites in Lebanon, these voices will have to be promoted and encouraged. But in the current environment of intimidation, the hope that moderates like Mona Fayyad, Mohammed Mattar, and Lokman Slim will emerge to seriously challenge Hezbollah dictates sadly remains a distant dream.
David Schenker is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. From 2002 to 2006, he was the Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestinian affairs adviser in the office of the secretary of defense.
© Copyright 2006, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.
SYRIA: FORMER INTELLIGENCE CHIEF'S BROTHER FOUND DEAD
Damascus, 9 Nov. (AKI) - Ali Kanaan, the brother of Syria's former powerful interior minister Ghazi Kanaan, has been found dead near his farm in the coastal city of Jalba. Ghazi Kanaan died last year in an apparent suicide in his office. The news was announced by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which underlined that Ali's dismembered corpse had been found on the railway lines in the Bustan Bacha area and his car left abandoned nearby.
Based on comments from Kanaan's relative, the Observatory revealed that Ali had been suffering from depression and recently did nothing else but sleep in his house in the country.
Ghazi Kanaan, who was also Syria's intelligence chief, shot himself in the neck in October 2005 just five months after the US treasury had announced the freezing of his bank accounts, in a bid to financially isolate elements believed to be seeking to destabilise neighbouring countries, in particular Lebanon.
His death came in the wake of the February 2005 carbomb murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, for which a UN probe implicated leading Syrian government officials. Kanaan had been questioned by UN investigators shortly before his death.
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad had hinted during a press interview that his minister of the interior was involved in a plot against the regime, in cahoots with forces outside Syria.
The former vice president Abd al-Halim Khaddam, who founded the Syrian Salvation Front, had cast doubts on Kanaan's suicide, accusing the secret services of having killed him because "he knew the truth about the murder of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri," and other unresolved questions.
Vladimir Putin Invited to Iran
// Iran Security Council Secretary will bring the invitation to Russian president
Iran's Ambassador to Moscow Gholamreza Ansari, left, and Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Secretary Ali Larijani, right, before the 3rd round of Russia-Iran talks devoted to Moscow's proposal for joint uranium enrichment on Russian territory. The talks took place in Golden Ring hotel in Moscow.
Moscow visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was postponed in the very last moment yesterday. Instead, a far more influential politician is arriving to Moscow tomorrow – Ali Larijani, head of Iran’s Security Council. Discussion of the “Iranian resolution”, bearing international sanctions against Tehran, began in New York. So, Iran wants to secure Russia’s support in the UN Security Council. Larijani carries to Moscow an invitation for Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Tehran before the end of 2006.
Russian Foreign Minister
Sergey Lavrov yesterday spoke of the upcoming negotiations with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki. However, it became known in the evening that Mottaki is not coming to Moscow. Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
said the visit is not cancelled but is postponed.
One of the reasons for it might be the lack of agreement on the schedule of Moscow talks. Tehran insisted on giving Mottaki a private meeting with President Putin
. Tehran hoped the reception at the highest level would reinforce Iran’s positions in connection to the discussion of the “Iranian resolution” which began in New York. However, Putin avoided the meeting by asking Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to carry out the talks. Russian president must have decided to avoid the too-obvious gesture of support for Tehran.
Thus, Iranian President Ahmadinejad personally ordered to cancel Mottaki’s visit to Moscow. Instead, Ali Larijani, head of Iran’s Security Council, is arriving to Moscow on Friday. He is to meet with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. To make the visit even more important, Larijani will bring Ahmadinejad’s message for Vladimir Putin
Iranian leader is now obsessed with the idea that Russian president should definitely visit Tehran, and before the end of 2006. Tehran believes that only the private meeting between Ahmadinejad and Putin will bring good results in bilateral relations and will allow to carry out successful united (that is, anti-US) policy in the world.
Iran’s current anxiety is quite explicable. This week, five permanent UN Security Council
members – Russia, the U.S., China, Great Britain, and France, plus Germany – began discussing the draft resolution on Iran. The first variant offered by the European three seemed too strict to Moscow. Thus, Russian delegation introduced a number of softening amendments, which received China’s support.
Moscow’s actions greatly irritated Washington. Head of US delegation to the UN
John Bolton accused Russia of diverging from the previously reached agreements on Iran. Permanent Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin denied these accusations. He said that Russia’s draft completely corresponds to the agreements.
Nevertheless, Tehran wants to be sure that Moscow will stand for its interests till the end. Iran hopes Moscow will not allow to include the mentioning of Chapter VII of UN charter into the resolution’s text. The chapter allows resorting to military force in the case of necessity. Iran also fears that US Republican administration, upset about loosing the midterm elections to the Congress, will resort to military strike against Iran even on its own.
Russia, Iran: Postponed Trip A Snub
November 09, 2006 17 08 GMT
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki's postponed visit to Russia is being viewed as a diplomatic snub, MosNews reported Nov. 9. The delay came after Russia said it might postpone development of Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant if Iran does not compromise on nuclear issues. However, top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said he plans to visit Russia within the next few days, and that Russia's position on proposed U.N. sanctions is "logical and principled."
1757 GMT - The Syrian Foreign Ministry sent a letter Nov. 8 to the offices of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the president of the U.N. Security Council that said the road to Middle East peace is in Israel's implementation of U.N. resolutions and the return of all occupied Arab lands. The letter also accused U.N. envoy Terje Roed-Larsen's report of ignoring Israeli aggression against Lebanon and exacerbating regional and Syrian-Lebanese tensions. Roed-Larsen had said Syria was still arming Hezbollah.
1656 GMT - Israeli 91st division commander Lt. Col. Gay Hazoot said Nov. 6 Israel is preparing an offensive against Lebanon if U.N. Resolution 1701, which ended the 34-day conflict between the two nations, fails. Hazoot also said the border with Syria could heat up.
Iran: missile launch calls for U.S. to stop drills in Persian Gulf
Nov 3, 2006
An Iranian deputy navy chief said on Friday that the Iranian army launched three new missiles earlier during their ongoing military maneuver was a strong message for the United States to cease its military drills in the Gulf region, the state radio reported.
"I think the enemies of the Islamic Republic should stop their hostility in the Persian Gulf, and they should not make any move that could intensify the tensions in the region," Admiral Sardar Fadavi, the deputy navy chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, told the radio.
The chief made the remarks when he was answering a question from the radio on whether Iran's new drill was a strong response to the previous U.S.-led military maneuvers in the same regional, therefore he referred to the United States clearly.
On Oct. 29, the U.S.-led naval forces staged a two-day maneuver in the Gulf waters, claiming that it aimed at blocking smuggling of nuclear weaponry material and arms proliferation.
Some hours earlier before Fadavi's comments, Iran's Revolutionary Guards successfully fired three new models of missiles in the ongoing military exercises in the Gulf region.
The local television footage showed the missiles were fired from mobile launching carriers on the shore and from warships, and hit the targets successfully.
On Thursday, Iran also tested its ballistic Shahab-3 missiles for the first time in the military maneuvers. The medium-range missiles could reach a range of more than 2,000 km, and can cover Israel and the U.S. military bases in the Mideast.
Israel urges action after Iran missile test
Tel Aviv - Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz urged the world to act Friday after Iran claimed to have fired longer-range ballistic missiles for the first time, the defence ministry said.
"Iran provoked the whole world on Thursday and it is impossible to ignore it," Peretz was quoted as having said following talks with visiting German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung, a statement said.
"I have no doubt that the German defence minister understands we cannot stay indifferent while Iran wants to develop nuclear weapons and has an official ideology that advocates the destruction of Israel," Peretz added.
"The international community and of course Germany, who plays a key role in this matter, should convey these message and take steps to impose it."
Iran's Revolutionary Guards said Friday they had fired three new types of land-to-sea and sea-to-sea missiles on the second day of military exercises in Gulf waters, state television reported.
Launching the "Great Prophet" war games on Thursday, Israel's arch enemy Iran said it fired its longer-range Shahab-3 ballistic missile for the first time amid a mounting standoff with the West over its nuclear program.
Jung was in Israel following talks in Lebanon, at a time when Germany commands the marine component of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil), in its first military foray into the Middle East since World War II.
While in Beirut, Jung said he expected no more shooting incidents between the Israeli army and German forces backing up a UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon.
"I assure you that no more incidents of this kind are going to happen," he said following talks with Prime Minister Fuad Siniora on Friday.
Berlin said last week that Israeli warplanes fired shots over a helicopter and an unarmed German vessel off the Lebanese coast. - Sapa-AFP
Published on the Web by IOL on 2006-11-03 17:28:52
© Independent Online 2005. All rights reserved. IOL publishes this article in good faith but is not liable for any loss or damage caused by reliance on the information it contains.
Iran missile systems shared with friends
By Parisa Hafezi
Tehran - Iran is ready to share its missile systems with friends and neighbours, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards said, after he showed off missiles including some he said had cluster warheads.
Guards commander-in-chief Yahya Rahim Safavi also told Iran's Arabic-language Al-Alam TV late on Sunday the Guards had thousands of troops trained for suicide missions in case Iran was threatened although he said any US attack was unlikely.
The United States has said it wants to resolve a dispute over Iran's nuclear programme by diplomatic means but has not ruled out the use of force. Washington believes Tehran is seeking to make atomic bombs, despite Iranian denials.
"We are able to give our missile systems to friendly and neighbouring countries," Safavi told Al-Alam. A text of his comments in Farsi were obtained by Reuters on Monday.
|'We do not anticipate any military attack from America'|
"Under the current circumstances, Americans are involved in Afghanistan and the quagmire of Iraq so we do not anticipate any military attack from America," he said.
"But Iran has its own defence and deterrent power and it is very unlikely that America will cause us any problems. They know that Iran has missiles with the range of 2000 km which will put their interests in danger," he added.
On Thursday, at the start of 10 days of military exercises, the Revolutionary Guards said they fired Shahab missiles with cluster warheads. Experts say the Shahab 3 has a maximum range of
2 000 km, able to hit Israel and US bases in the Gulf.
Military experts said the exercises, which included firing more missiles on Friday, were to show off Iranian technology. Washington dismissed the manoeuvres as "sabre-rattling".
"We have weapons which are unknown to others. We have military weapons which we have not shown off, but we will do in the next manoeuvres," Safavi said, without giving details.
Iran frequently reports tests of new weapons systems, but experts say it rarely gives enough detail to make clear if any significant advances have been made.
"The Revolutionary Guards does not only depend on its technological might because it has thousands of martyrdom seekers and they are ready for martyrdom-seeking operations on a large scale," Safavi said.
"They are professionals, they receive training and have the spirit."
An organisation has previously said Iranians have signed up for suicide raids in case Iran was attacked, but officials have in the past said the group was independent of the government and not part of the Guards, the ideological wing of Iran's military.
No Iranians are thought to have directly executed suicide bombings in recent years. But the United States accuses Iran of being a state sponsor of terrorism, a charge Tehran denies.
Experts say Iran's technology may not match that possessed by US and other Western forces operating in the region but they say Iran could still cause havoc in the strategic Gulf waterway, particularly with guerrilla-style tactics.
While Iran boasts home-grown weapons systems, experts say most are modifications of weapons from other countries, including North Korea.
Published on the Web by IOL on 2006-11-06 11:04:51
Russia Defends Supply Of Missiles To Iran
(RTTNews) - Russia on Wednesday defended its agreement to supply air defense missiles to Iran. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said in an interview with Russia Today television on Wednesday that the air defense missiles Russia had agreed to supply to Iran last December are purely defensive weapons with a limited range. He stressed that the missiles were purely defensive and added that they cannot be used in offensive operations. He said that the missiles that are to be supplied by Russia have a very limited range and could be used to defend only "a small part of the Iranian territory." Earlier, Russia had rejected the Western demand to cancel its $700 million contract to sell 29 Tor-M1 air defense missile systems to Iran as per an agreement signed last December.
Nov 2, 2006
Lebanon’s May Chidiac: Still a Target?
Lebanese journalist May Chidiac discusses the assassination attempt that left her maimed and why she is determined to stay in her native country.
By Karen Fragala Smith
Updated: 12:30 p.m. ET Nov 9, 2006
Hussein Malla / AP
Chidiac, on her return to Lebanon from France
Nov. 9, 2006 - The Lebanese have a proverb: “Love truth even if it harms you.” Sometimes it doesn’t just harm them-it gets them killed. Rafik Hariri came into harm’s way in late 2004 when he quit his post as Lebanon’s prime minister. The dangerous truth was that he and many other Lebanese could no longer tolerate Syria’s political and military domination of their country. Four months after his dramatic resignation, a massive streetside bomb killed Hariri as his motorcade was driving through Beirut.
In the days after the assassination, outraged Lebanese poured into the streets. With international support, they finally forced Syria to withdraw its troops. Before the turmoil ended, 14 journalists and politicians had become assassination targets after suggesting that Syrian agents were behind Hariri’s death. One casualty was television journalist May Chidiac, who nearly lost her life when her Range Rover exploded on Sept. 25, 2005. After 10 months of surgeries and demanding physical therapy, Chidiac returned to Lebanese television—minus a hand and a leg. In May, she won the UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize, and last month she received the Courage in Journalism award from the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF). Despite her mutilation, Chidiac remains defiantly outspoken about all the regional forces at play in her country. In her acceptance speech at the IWMF awards http://www.iwmf.org/press/9531, she criticized what she called“private armies”—a reference to Hizbullah, which she did not name—for taking what she called “miscalculated measures” on behalf of all Lebanese; Syria and Iran for supplying weapons to the group and Israel’s “aggression against Lebanon” in July. “I gave my country a hand to fight with, and a leg to kick all the enemies with, and they are not few,” she told the high-profile New York audience. Before flying home to her television and teaching engagements, Chidiac discussed her ordeal—and Lebanon’s future—with NEWSWEEK’s Karen Fragala Smith. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: What has the recovery process been like for you?
Chidiac: I went through 26 surgeries in less than 9 months. I didn't know if I was going to make it. When you lose one arm and a leg on the same side, you don't have balance anymore and you have to get used to a new way of doing things. I have to rely on others' help to put the prosthesis on, and there are many things that I cannot do by myself anymore. It's another kind of life that I am confronting right now. It's not that easy, but I don't have a choice. I have to get used to it. At a certain point, I had the choice between staying in the corner and waiting for death to come, or I had to prove that I was back and say to the killers that they were not able to silence me and that I am here again, the same outspoken woman that I used to be and I will defend the same principles that I believe in.
What is the status of your case?
There is an international inquiry concerning the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the 14 [attacks] that took place afterwards—[including] my own—[which] are being investigated together. They are considering an international tribunal. I believe there are regimes that are responsible for what happened in Lebanon and they have their local agents in Lebanon. Let's hope they'll be able to put these people in front of a court.
I've been hearing that Hizbullah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, is seeking veto power over the proposed international tribunal.
Exactly. They are threatening a confrontation in the streets. I cannot imagine why they are trying to do this to Lebanon. They have to start thinking the Lebanese way and put aside Iranian and Syrian interests. The Cedar Revolution people have the majority in Parliament as the result of the  elections. Now [Hizbullah] wants to change things. They have to wait for the new Parliament elections. Why go to the streets to change things?
What is the role of Hizbullah? The U.S. government classifies it as a terrorist organization with ties to Syria and Iran. But Hizbullah provides food and shelter for the people, and it is also a political party.
They are giving aid to many Lebanese, especially the Shiites, because when you have a poor community, the best way to reach them and make them a part of your movement is to give them all the help you can give. They are a part of the Lebanese community; we cannot deny that. But if they want to be considered a real part of the Lebanese, they have to get rid of their weapons.
White House spokesman Tony Snow has voiced fears that Syria is plotting to topple the Lebanese government-a claim Damascus denies. Do you think Lebanon has the military and political strength to protect its autonomy?
I think they have to. We don't have a choice. Now we have [more than] 5,000 UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon] and 15,000 Lebanese soldiers in the south. The Lebanese government has to be strong enough to defeat all the threats. They have to take drastic measures in order to handle the situation. It's not acceptable to let the enemy come back to our land.
The name of your show, "Bikol Joraa" translates to "With Audacity." Since the attack, have you felt any inclination to be less outspoken about your political views?
No. I put a light on every subject that is a concern to the Lebanese people. My work is not to take a side with any party but to put a light on critical issues that other journalists don't dare to talk about. I invite my guests to discuss such issues also. This is how I do things, and I believe that if you are a real journalist you have to do your job the best way that you can.
At one point, you were running for Lebanon’s Parliament, right?
I was still being treated in France, and I was not really ready to go on the battlefield. I just wanted to make the point that I am interested in politics and maybe in the future I will enter the parliamentary elections. This will take place maybe in two years. I think I still have time to really decide what I'll be doing. For the time being, I am back to my work as a journalist.
After months of rehabilitation in France, you returned to Lebanon just before Israel attacked Hizbullah for abducting two Israeli soldiers. What was that homecoming like?
I returned to Lebanon on the 11th of July at 5 pm and the next morning everything changed. I wanted to be back in Lebanon. I wanted to see all of my friends. I wanted to be happy again. I wanted to have the beautiful life that we used to have in Lebanon and suddenly I started hearing explosions. I was really angry with all those who put Lebanon in such circumstances but I considered myself lucky to be back. If I was in France, I would have gone crazy. From the beginning, I knew I wanted to go back. I am convinced that I have a lot to do to help Lebanon and I am not a coward. I will not stay away and watch from outside. I have a role to play and I will play it to the end.
Since you've been back in Lebanon, do you feel afraid in any way? Are you taking special precautions?
They are talking about a new [hit] list, and they say that I am also on it. I have people taking care of me right now—I need a driver because I cannot drive anymore. I need somebody to help me to get into the car, so I have two people with me all the time. They are like bodyguards. But I believe that whevever something will happen to you, it will happen no matter what. I’m a Christian and I believe that Jesus is protecting me and when my hour will come, it will come.
LEBANON – IRAN
Shiites increasingly critical of Hezbollah, its so-called ‘victory’ and its ties to Iran
The mufti of Tyre accuses Hezbollah and its militia of having thoughtlessly taken the country into war. Most Lebanese want to see Hezbollah disarmed.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – Hezbollah is increasingly coming in for criticism for taking the country into war and causing untold suffering for the residents of southern Lebanon and the southern neighbourhoods of Beirut. The Shiite mufti of Tyre has gone so far as to disagree with the radical militia’s claim of “victory” over Israel “given the losses we endured.”
In villages in the south destroyed by Israeli air strikes, many survivors are timidly talking about how their homes were used to hide weapons and rockets. In some places, up to 90 per cent of the residents, even those with Shia majorities, are expressing their opposition to Hezbollah.
Sayyed Ali el-Amin, the mufti of Tyre and Jabal Amel, is voicing this growing restlessness. Speaking to various TV stations and newspapers (like An Nahar), he rebuked Hezbollah for dragging the country into a war with the population unprepared. He pointed out that “the fact that Shiites fled goes to show that they were not in favour of the war.”
The mufti, who is one of the leading religious figures in the Shia community, has also rejected Hezbollah’s claims of “victory”. In an interview with LBC, he said: “We cannot speak of victory. [. . .] Our losses are far greater than those of the enemy.”
The Shia leader also slammed Hezbollah for its position and ties with Iran, insisting that “all non-Hezbollah political groups and institutions within the Shia community do not believe in Iran’s wilayat al-fakih (rule by political-religious authorities) system” and its political orientation.
Although, according to the Mufti, Hezbollah is not likely to be totally free from Tehran’s influence, he did say that he hopes that at least its ties of subordination might lessen.
“Let us hope,” he stressed, “that Iran will come to realise that in their own countries, Shiites have their national traits and that relations with Iran must be state-to-state and not through a party or an individual.”
And most Lebanese seem to agree. Results from a survey published in today’s L’Orient Le-Jour, Beirut’s French daily, show that 88 per cent of Lebanese (89 per cent among Shiites) do not want to see Lebanon involved in regional conflicts, and 51 per cent want to see Hezbollah lay down its weapons. 28 Aug 2006