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US confrontation with Iran

Project: US Confrontation with Iran
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Uzi Arad.Uzi Arad. [Source: Jerusalem Post]Israeli officials tell Bush officials shortly after the president’s “axis of evil” speech (see January 29, 2002) that of the three countries on the list—Iran, Iraq, and North Korea—Iraq is a distant third as far as posing any threat to its neighbors. But Bush officials have a plan. According to former Mossad director of intelligence Uzi Arad, who served as Benjamin Netanyahu’s foreign policy advisor, those officials respond, “Let’s do first things first. Once we do Iraq, we’ll have a military presence in Iraq, which would enable us to handle the Iranians from closer quarters, would give us more leverage.” (Netanyahu, in the years following his term as Israel’s prime minister, will become an outspoken advocate for military strikes against Iran—see November 17, 2006). [Vanity Fair, 3/2007]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Benjamin Netanyahu, Bush administration (43), Israel Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks (Mossad), Uzi Arad

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: Planning, Israel

Flynt Leverett.Flynt Leverett. [Source: Publicity photo]In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Iran is supportive of US efforts to defeat the Taliban, since the Taliban and Iran have opposed each other. In 2006, Flynt Leverett, the senior director for Middle East affairs on the National Security Council in 2002 and 2003, will recall this cooperation between Iran and the US in a heavily censored New York Times editorial. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a notorious Afghan warlord with close ties to bin Laden (see 1984), had been living in Iran since the Taliban came to power in the 1990s. Leverett claims that in December 2001 Iran agrees to prevent Hekmatyar from returning to Afghanistan to help lead resistance to US-allied forces there, as long as the Bush administration does not criticize Iran for harboring terrorists. “But, in his January 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush did just that in labeling Iran part of the ‘axis of evil’ (see January 29, 2002). Unsurprisingly, Mr. Hekmatyar managed to leave Iran in short order after the speech.” [New York Times, 12/22/2006] Hekmatyar apparently returns to Afghanistan around February 2002. He will go on to become one of the main leaders of the armed resistance to the US-supported Afghan government. Iranian cooperation with the US over Afghanistan will continue in a more limited manner, with Iran deporting hundreds of suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives who had fled Afghanistan, while apparently keeping others. But the US will end this cooperation in 2003. [BBC, 2/14/2002; USA Today, 5/21/2003; New York Times, 12/22/2006]

Entity Tags: Iran, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Bush administration (43), Flynt Leverett

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Geopolitics

Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer meets with US Vice President Dick Cheney and tells him that Israel is concerned that Iran, which Israel believes will have nuclear weapons by 2005, represents a greater threat to Israel than Iraq. “The danger, as I see it, is from a Hezbollah-Iran-Palestinian triangle, with Iran leading this triangle and putting together a coalition of terror,” he tells Cheney. [Ha'aretz, 2/9/2002]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Israel

Ariel Sharon.Ariel Sharon. [Source: US Department of Defense]Prime Minister Ariel Sharon meets with President George W. Bush. According to the Ha’aretz Daily, the goal of the meeting is to “convince the United States that Iran constitutes a strategic threat to Israel.” [Ha'aretz, 2/9/2002]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Ariel Sharon

Category Tags: Israel

Reuel Marc Gerecht, a resident fellow at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, calls on the Bush administration to adopt an aggressive policy awards Iran. He says the US must make it clear that it “favors real popular government in Iran.” There are “only two meaningful options,” he writes, “confront clerical Iran and its proxies militarily or ring it with an oil embargo.” Gerecht clearly opposes any sort of dialog with Iran’s government. “If Washington wants to dissuade and punish the clerical regime, it will have to use force, the only currency the clerics truly respect…. Starting at the periphery of the Iranian world—Lebanon and possibly Afghanistan—probably makes the most tactical and strategic sense. Lebanon, in particular, offers the United States the option of hitting three targets—Hezbollah, the clerics, and the Assad regime—at once. However, if al-Qaeda’s liaison with Iran is active, then Washington should probably take the gloves off and hit the clerical regime with enormous force.” As a start, the US should tell Iran to halt its flights to Damascus, which “supply Hezbollah in Lebanon” with arms. Some of the arms are then routed to “Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank,” he says. They should also be warned that “any aircraft suspected of carrying military materiel will be forcibly diverted to Israel, shot down, or destroyed on the tarmac.” [Weekly Standard, 2/18/2002]

Entity Tags: Reuel Marc Gerecht

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Neoconservative Hawks

Saad bin Laden.Saad bin Laden. [Source: NBC]In the spring on 2002, as the Taliban is collapsing in Afghanistan, many al-Qaeda operatives flee into neighboring Iran. About 20 to 25 operatives composing much of al-Qaeda’s management council are said to wind up in the custody of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Prior to this point, the Iranian government has been turning over most al-Qaeda captives to other countries, but after President Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech criticizing Iran (see January 29, 2002), Iran decides to keep this group. [Washington Post, 7/9/2004] Iran does not officially admit to holding them, and their status is unclear, but they all seem to be living in a village near the Caspian Sea. One senior US intelligence official says, “They are under virtual house arrest,” and not able to do much. Those said to be in Iranian custody include:
bullet Saif al-Adel, one of al-Qaeda’s top military commanders.
bullet Suliman abu Ghaith, al-Qaeda spokesman.
bullet Saad and Hamza bin Laden, two of Osama bin Laden’s young sons.
bullet Abu Dahak, who served as al-Qaeda’s liaison to the rebels in Chechnya.
bullet Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, a financial expert.
bullet Two unnamed top aides to Ayman al-Zawahiri. [MSNBC, 6/24/205]
bullet Thirwat Salah Shehata, a member of Islamic Jihad’s ruling council, who is probably one of the al-Zawahiri aides mentioned above. [MSNBC, 5/2005]
bullet Mustafa Hamza, head of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, an Egyptian militant group, and an al-Qaeda leader as well (see June 26, 1995). In late 2004, he will be extradited from Iran to stand trial in Egypt. [Reuters, 1/9/2005]
At first, these operatives appear to be capable of communicating with operatives outside of Iran. Saad bin Laden is said to play a major role planning the attack of a synagogue in Tunisia in April 2002 (see April 11, 2002). But the Saudi government will suspect that some of the operatives in Iran are involved in a 2003 attack in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (see May 12, 2003), and they will successfully press Iran to tighten the house arrest of the operatives in Iran. Iran will propose an exchange of these prisoners around the time of the Riyadh bombing, but the US will reject the offer (see Mid-May 2003). Since that time, these leaders apparently remain in a state of limbo. CIA Director Porter Goss will say in 2005, “I think [the] understanding that there is a group of leadership of al-Qaeda under some type of detention—I don’t know exactly what type, necessarily—in Iran is probably accurate.” [MSNBC, 6/24/205] Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, will later ask, “The question is, what does house arrest mean in the Iranian context?” He suggests that Iran could release the group or loosen their restrictions depending on how relations evolve between the US and Iran. “They’re a guarantee against bad behavior.” [Washington Post, 9/9/2007] In 2006, it will be reported that Saad bin Laden has been freed. [Reuters, 8/2/2006] Also in 2006, al-Yazid will emerge as a leader of al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan and may never have been in Iran. [Washington Post, 9/9/2007] In 2007, the still teenaged Hamza bin Laden will reportedly appear in Afghanistan. [Associated Press, 9/11/2007] In 2008, it will be reported that the US still knows little about the al-Qaeda figures detained in Iran, but US officials say they believe Iran has largely kept them under control since 2003, limiting their ability to travel and communicate. One US official will say, “It’s been a status quo that leaves these people, some of whom are quite important, essentially on ice.” [ABC News, 5/29/2008]

Entity Tags: Thirwat Salah Shehata, Saad bin Laden, Saif al-Adel, Mustafa Hamza, Porter J. Goss, Hamza bin Laden, Michael Scheuer, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, Suliman abu Ghaith, Abu Dahak

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Diplomacy

The conservative National Review publishes an op-ed article by Sam Dealy titled “A Very, Very Bad Bunch,” commenting on the Iranian opposition group known as People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK) and “its surprising American friends.” Dealy’s piece is an attack on Congresspersons who support the MEK despite the exile group’s past history of anti-Americanism (see 1970s and November 4, 1979-January 20, 1981). “How has a terrorist group managed to win the support of mainstream US politicians?” he asks. “Simple: Its political representatives in the US have worked hard to repackage the group as a legitimate dissident organization fighting for democracy in Iran—by whitewashing its record and duping our leaders.” Dealy emphasizes that the group’s initial ideological underpinning had been influenced by the likes of Marx, Ho Chi Minh, and Che Guevara, whose ideas the MEK attempted to apply to Shiite society. [National Review, 3/25/2002]

Entity Tags: People’s Mujahedin of Iran, Sam Dealy

Category Tags: US MEK policy

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice says that it is useless for the US to engage in diplomatic negotiations with Iran. “The problem with Iran,” she says, “is that its policies unfortunately belie the notion that engagement with it has helped.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 247]

Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice

Category Tags: Diplomacy, Geopolitics

In Paris, an unnamed Pentagon official (either Harold Rhode or Larry Franklin) meets with Manucher Ghorbanifar (Ghorbanifar says he did not attend this meeting [Washington Monthly, 9/2004] ), an Iranian arms trader who had been a central figure in the Iran-Contra affair. [Washington Post, 8/9/2003; New York Times, 12/7/2003] Though an unnamed senior Defense official claims the meeting resulted from “an unplanned, unscheduled encounter,” [Washington Post, 8/9/2003] Ghorbanifar later tells the Washington Monthly that “he arranged that meeting after a flurry of faxes between himself and [Defense Department] official Harold Rhode.” According to Ghorbanifar, an Egyptian and an Iraqi are present at the meeting and brief the Pentagon official about the general situation in Iraq and the Middle East, and what would happen in Iraq if the US were to invade. [Washington Monthly, 9/2004] But other reports will suggest that Ledeen and Ghorbanifar may have discussed US collaboration with the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, a US-designated terrorist group, as a means to destabilize the Iranian regime. [Boston Globe, 8/31/2004] The meeting, which took place without White House approval, was preceded by a similar meeting involving Pentagon officials and Ghorbanifar that took place seven months earlier (see December 9, 2001). [Washington Post, 8/9/2003] When Secretary of State Colin Powell learns of the meeting, he complains directly to Condoleezza Rice and the office of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. [Newsday, 8/9/2003; Washington Post, 8/9/2003]

Entity Tags: Michael Ledeen, Larry Franklin, Manucher Ghorbanifar, Harold Rhode, Colin Powell

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iran-Contra Affair, Neoconservative Influence

Category Tags: Key Events, Opposition Groups

In Paris, Defense Department officials (including either Harold Rhode or Larry Franklin) meet with Iranian officials and Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian arms trader who had been a central figure in the Iran-Contra affair. The meeting reportedly resulted from “an unplanned, unscheduled encounter” that took place without White House approval. An earlier meeting involving several of the same figures had taken place seven months earlier (See December 9, 2001). [Washington Post, 8/9/2003; New York Times, 12/7/2003] When Secretary of State Colin Powell learns of the meeting, he complains directly to Condoleezza Rice and the office of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. [Newsday, 8/9/2003; Washington Post, 8/9/2003]

Entity Tags: Michael Ledeen, Harold Rhode, Colin Powell, Larry Franklin, Manucher Ghorbanifar

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations, Geopolitics

President Bush issues a statement strongly supporting “prodemocracy” forces in Iran, whose stated goal is to overthrow the current Iranian regime. In response, Iranian president Mohammad Khatami, considered a moderate by most Westerners, calls Bush a “warmongerer.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 247]

Entity Tags: Hojjat ol-Eslam Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Calls for Overthrow, Diplomacy, Geopolitics

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Affairs Mohammad Hossein Adeli says during a press conference that Iran has begun feasibility studies on exporting Iranian gas to India (see 1993) and is considering the possibility of transporting gas to Europe via a pipeline. He says that the Iranian government is also looking into the possibility of exporting gas to members of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC) and is also considering selling gas to Armenia, the south Caucasus, and the Republic of Azerbaijan. [Tehran Times, 7/9/2002]

Entity Tags: Mohammad Hossein Adeli

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Oil and Gas, Iran-India pipeline

Alireza Jafarzadeh, a spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), supplies the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with information about two hidden sites in Iran—an underground uranium enrichment at Natanz and a heavy-water production plant at Arak. Iran will later declare both sites to the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). [Reuters, 3/24/2005]

Entity Tags: International Atomic Energy Agency, Alireza Jafarzadeh

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

German authorities seize a boat in the port of Hamburg containing a shipment of rubber parts—allegedly bound for Iran—that could be used to make tracks for tanks and US-made M-113 armored personnel carriers. The seized boat, the Zim Anvers, is owned by the Zim-American Israeli Shipping Company. An Israeli company, PAD, headed by Avihai Weinstein, 34, had been issued a German export license for the shipment. The license specifies Thailand as its final destination, but according to German customs, the shipment is really destined for Iran. According to the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, it was to be transferred in Hamburg to an Iranian cargo ship headed to the southern Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. Weinstein claims he had no knowledge of the shipment’s actual destination. Raphael Eitan, an adviser on terrorism for several Israeli governments between 1978 and 1985, tells public radio the next day that it would have been impossible for Weinstein “not to know what the final destination of the shipment was. In this type of affair, there is no innocent contract. He knew the shipment was headed to Iran,” he says. Tehran denies any involvement with the boat. [Agence France-Presse, 3/29/2002]

Entity Tags: Zim-American Israeli Shipping Co.

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Israel, Western Business Interests

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida circulates a letter in Congress that expresses support for the Mujahedeen-e Khalq [MEK]. At the same time, however, Republican Congressmen, Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) and Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), outspoken critics of Iran’s government, circulate a dissident letter chastising Ros-Lehtinen for including partial and inaccurate information in her letter. “We are strong opponents of the current government of Iran but do not believe that it is necessary to use terrorism or make common cause… [with] Saddam Hussein to change Iran’s government,” they write. “Particularly in view of the fact that the MEK is based in Iraq, has taken part in operations against the Kurds and Shia, has been responsible for killing Americans in Iran, and has supported the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran, we wanted you to have the full background on this organization as most recently reported by the Department of State, so that you may best decide whether to lend your name to this letter.” Ros-Lehtinen adds, “Some colleagues have signed similar letters in the past and then been embarrassed when confronted with accurate information about the MEK.” [Hill, 4/8/2003]

Entity Tags: Tom Lantos, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, People’s Mujahedin of Iran, Henry Hyde

Category Tags: US MEK policy

Mohamed ElBaradei, the president of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), meets with President Bush in the Oval Office to discuss the news of Iran’s restarted nuclear program (see August 2002 and December 12, 2002). ElBaradei tells Bush that the Iranians want to meet with an American delegation to discuss the program, obviously with the intent of negotiating a cessation in return for American concessions. ElBaradei offers to help set up the talks, and even keep them low-profile. But Bush is uninterested. His goal, as he later tells British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is to “free Iran.” Author J. Peter Scoblic will later write that any negotiations that might succeed in shutting down Iran’s nuclear program would also serve to strengthen and legitimize Iran’s government; it is, therefore, worth the risk of a nuclear Iran to continue working towards “regime change” in that nation. This also helps explain why, several months later, Bush officials refused to consider Iran’s offer of the so-called “grand bargain” (see May 4, 2003). [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 247]

Entity Tags: Tony Blair, George W. Bush, International Atomic Energy Agency, J. Peter Scoblic, Mohamed ElBaradei

Category Tags: Diplomacy, Geopolitics, Nuclear Program

In an interview with the London Times, Ariel Sharon says that Iran must be toppled after the US invades Iraq. Sharon calls Iraq “a very, very dangerous country led by an insane regime” and describes Iran as the “center of world terror” and a direct threat to Israel (see also February 9, 2002). [London Times, 11/2/2002]

Entity Tags: Ariel Sharon

Category Tags: Israel, Neoconservative Hawks

Neoconservative Michael Ledeen recommends that the US invade Iraq—but only after invading Iran and overthrowing that nation’s government. Ledeen claims that the sporadic demonstrations by Iranian dissidents prove that the entire nation is just waiting for someone like the US to come in and get rid of the theocratic Iranian “mullahcracy” and replace it with a Western-style democracy. Ledeen writes: “This is yet another test of the courage and coherence of American leaders. President Bush has been outstanding in endorsing the calls for freedom in Iran, as has Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. It would be nice if Secretary of State Powell added his own eloquence to the chorus, especially because many Iranians fear that the State Department is still trying to cut a deal with the mullahs. I have long argued that it would be better to liberate Iran before Iraq, and events may soon give us that opportunity. Let’s hope our national security team recognizes how wonderful an opportunity it is, and therefore gives the Iranian freedom fighters the assistance they so richly deserve. Faster, please. Opportunity is knocking at our door.” [National Review, 11/12/2002]

Entity Tags: Michael Ledeen

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation, Neoconservative Influence

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Planning, Neoconservative Hawks

Michael Ledeen joins with Morris Amitay, vice-president of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs; ex-CIA head James Woolsey; former Reagan administration official Frank Gaffney; former senator Paul Simon; and oil consultant Rob Sobhani to set up a group called the Coalition for Democracy in Iran (CDI). [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 6/1/2003] CDI says it “fully agrees with President Bush’s inclusion of Iran in the ‘axis of evil’ and supports congressional initiatives to bring about needed change in Iran.” [Coalition for Democracy, 1/16/2004] The group has strong ties to Reza Pahlavi, the son of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the US-backed leader of Iran who was removed from power by the 1979 Iranian Revolution. [International Herald Tribune, 6/6/2003]

Entity Tags: Coalition for Democracy in Iran, Paul Emile Simon, Morris J. Amitay, Frank Gaffney, James Woolsey, Michael Ledeen, Rob Sobhani, Reza Pahlavi

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence

Category Tags: Calls for Overthrow, Neoconservative Hawks

The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) releases a report saying that satellite photos indicate that Iran is constructing two nuclear facilities (see August 2002). The report says the first facility, near Arak, is a heavy-water production facility, which raises concerns that Iran might be constructing a nuclear reactor moderated by heavy water. Lending further suspicion to the purpose behind the heavy-water facility is the fact that the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear reactor does not use heavy water. Additionally, ISIS reports, Iran’s existing research reactors do not consume enough heavy water to warrant the need for a heavy-water plant. The report also says that Iran appears to be building a uranium enrichment plant, possibly using gas centrifuge technology, at a site called Natanz, 25 miles southeast of the city of Kashan. [Institute for Science and International Security, 12/12/2002; Nuclear Threat Initiative, 12/13/2002] The following day, Iran’s UN Ambassador Javad Zarif tells CNN that his country is not developing nuclear weapons. “No. Absolutely not,” Zarif says in response to a question on whether Iran is developing a nuclear weapons program. “Iran is a member of the [Nuclear] Nonproliferation Treaty. We have safeguard agreements with the IAEA. Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction do not have a place in our defense doctrine. We have stated that clearly. And we have shown it.” [CNN, 12/13/2002]

Entity Tags: Mohammad Javad Zarif, Institute for Science and International Security, People’s Mujahedin of Iran

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

2003: Trade Between China and Iran Soars

Trade between China and Iran increases by 50 percent. China is a major exporter of manufactured goods to Iran, including computer systems, household appliances, and automobiles. The growth of Chinese-Iranian trade has undermined the effectiveness of US sanctions against companies doing business with Iran, which the Bush administration claims is pursuing the development of nuclear weapons and has ties to terrorist organizations. “Sanctions are not effective nowadays because we have many options in secondary markets, like China,” Hossein Shariatmadari, a leading conservative Iranian theorist and editor of the Kayhan newspapers, will tell the Washington Post in 2005. [Washington Post, 11/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Hossein Shariatmadari

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Western Business Interests

Russia is negotiating a long-term oil swap contract with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). As part of the swap deal, Russia would send crude oil to Iran’s northern refineries for domestic consumption via a Chinese-built pipeline in exchange for an equal amount of Iranian oil being sent to Russia’s buyers at Iran’s Gulf oil terminals. The arrangement would make Russian oil available to non-European buyers at a competitive price by decreasing the cost of delivery. [Asia Times, 2/11/2003] United Press International will note in 2005 that the swap agreements are “a direct challenge to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) Pipeline Project.” [United Press International, 6/29/2005]

Entity Tags: National Iranian Oil Company

Category Tags: Financial, Oil and Gas, Western Business Interests

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami visits India to urge the construction of a multi-billion pipeline that would bring Iranian natural gas to the region. Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee says after meeting with President Khatami that “Iran has gas and we want it.” But Vajpayee adds, “There are some impediments in the middle.” [BBC, 1/27/2003] The so-called “peace pipeline” would bypass unstable Afghanistan entirely. The pipeline would originate near the Iranian South Pars fields by the Persian Gulf; travel through Khuzdar and Multan, Pakistan; and terminate in Delhi. In Pakistan, one section would branch off and divert gas to Karachi on the Arabian Sea coast. [Chudhary, 1/2001]

Entity Tags: Atal Behari Vajpayee, Hojjat ol-Eslam Seyyed Mohammad Khatami

Category Tags: Iran-India pipeline

Iranian political leader Mohammad Khatami reveals that Iran has begun building two nuclear processing plants devoted to enriching uranium. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, later says that one of the Iranian plants is already near completion and a second plant is well underway. Although Iran claims that the nuclear plants are strictly for peaceful energy creation, the Bush administration believes that the Iranians have used the cover of practices not strictly forbidden by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (see July 1, 1968) to hide a nuclear weapons program. One Bush official says that if the Iranians run the Bushehr reactor (see December 12, 2002) for five or six years, withdraw from the Nonproliferation Treaty, just as North Korea has done (see January 10, 2003 and After), and reprocess all of their radioactive material, they would have enough weapons-grade uranium and/or plutonium to build as many as a hundred nuclear weapons. Bush officials hope that a combination of pressure from Russia and the US occupation of neighboring Iraq—one senior Bush official says, “I think the presence of 200,000 American troops on their border for X period of time may tend to concentrate their attention”—may keep Iran’s nuclear program under restraint. [New York Times, 5/4/2003]

Entity Tags: Mohamed ElBaradei, Bush administration (43), International Atomic Energy Agency, Hojjat ol-Eslam Seyyed Mohammad Khatami

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Nuclear Program

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon tells a visiting delegation of American congressmen, joined by US Undersecretary of State John Bolton, that Iran, Libya and Syria should be stripped of weapons of mass destruction after Iraq. “These are irresponsible states, which must be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction, and a successful American move in Iraq as a model will make that easier to achieve,” Sharon says. He says Israel considers Iran a security threat, and that the US should have plans for dealing with Iran. Sharon also says that Israel is not involved in the war with Iraq “but the American action is of vital importance.” [Ha'aretz, 2/18/2003]

Entity Tags: John R. Bolton, Ariel Sharon

Category Tags: Israel, Neoconservative Hawks

March 4, 2003: BTC Pipeline Discussed

The Brookings Institution hosts the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) Pipeline Project Roundtable. The proposed pipeline would transport Caspian Sea oil 1000 miles from Azerbaijan, through Georgia, and to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. Delegates from each of the three countries and executives and consultants from British Petroleum attend the discussion. The US is a strong supporter of the pipeline project because it believes the pipeline will deny Iran leverage in the transportation of oil and gas from Central Asia and the Caspian Basin. [Alexander's Gas & Oil Connections, 11/27/2002; Institution, 3/4/2003]

Entity Tags: British Petroleum, Brookings Institution

Category Tags: Oil and Gas, Western Business Interests

Representative Curt Weldon.Representative Curt Weldon. [Source: H. Rumph Jr / Associated Press]Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) becomes embroiled in a plot by Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar to contrive a secret uranium exchange between Iran and Iraq. According to Ghorbanifar’s story (see January 11, 2006), just before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, a team of Iranian intelligence agents infiltrated Iraq and stole enriched uranium for use in Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The story is later proven to be false, and based on a desire for money and to embroil Iran and Iraq in a spurious WMD plot. After first being contacted by a mysterious Iranian source through a friend and a colleage on March 7, Weldon repeatedly flies to Paris to meet with the source he later calls “Ali,” who is later shown to be Fereidoun Mahdavi, a former minister in the Shah’s Iran who now works as a secretary for Ghorbanifar. Mahdavi has already tried, and failed, to interest several Western intelligence agencies in the stolen uranium tale. He finds Weldon to be far more credulous than the intelligence agencies. According to an intelligence source interviewed in 2006, “Ali provided information that indicated Iranian intelligence had sent a team to Baghdad to extract highly enriched uranium from a stockpile hidden by Saddam Hussein.” Ali tells Weldon that an Iranian intelligence team infiltrated Iraq and stole the uranium for Iran’s nuclear weapons program. According to the story, “the team successfully extracted the stockpile but on the way back to Iran contracted radiation poisoning.” Weldon immediately informs CIA Director George Tenet. Weldon will later write in his book Countdown to Terror: “Tenet appeared interested, even enthusiastic about evaluating Ali and establishing a working relationship with him. He agreed to send his top spy, Stephen Kappes, the deputy director of operations, along with me to Paris for another debriefing of Ali.… On the day of our scheduled second meeting with Ali in Paris, Kappes bowed out, claiming that ‘other commitments’ compelled him to cancel. Later, the CIA claimed to have met with Ali independently. But I discovered this to be untrue.… Incredibly, I learned that the CIA had apparently asked French intelligence to silence Ali.” Weldon is wrong; the CIA’s Paris station chief, Bill Murray, investigates the claims and finds Ghorbanifar (whom either he or the agency mistakenly believes to be “Ali”) to be what the agency calls a “fabricator.” Murray goes so far as to take either Ghorbanifar or Mahdavi to Iraq to have them retrace the route of the Iranian intelligence mission. “Ali” is unable to do so, and Murray learns that the entire story was concocted in hopes of a large payoff: “Soon it became apparent that Ali and his sources were fabricators and were trying to extract large sums of money,” one intelligence source will say. (Murray will later deny going to Iraq with either Ghorbanifar or Mahdavi, but will call “the source” “not credible.… The sensational charges that the source made could not be substantiated.” Weldon, not to be denied, takes his story to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who pressures the CIA to investigate further. One former CIA officer later says, “CIA reluctantly, after pressure from Rumsfeld, followed up by detaching one of their weapons experts from the team that was hunting WMD in Iraq.” Again, this effort proves that Ghorbanifar’s story is completely false. In 2006, reporter Larisa Alexandrovna will call Weldon an “innocent bystander taken in by an internationally known con man and the lure of spook-like activities than an inside player with an agenda or material participant in these events. The Ali composite seems to have used Weldon as a conduit by which to provide the CIA with information.” One intelligence official will observe, “If you were going to launder intel to make up a war, you could easily send some fool on an errand.” [Raw Story, 1/11/2006] Weldon will meet again with Mahdavi, and will write about a lurid Iranian terror plot, the “12th Imam” scheme, based on his tales (see June 8, 2005 and Mid-July 2005). He will claim that the CIA has “routinely” ignored “credible” information about these and other plots.

Entity Tags: Stephen Kappes, Central Intelligence Agency, Bill Murray, Curt Weldon, Larisa Alexandrovna, Donald Rumsfeld, George J. Tenet, Fereidoun Mahdavi, Manucher Ghorbanifar

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations, Geopolitics, Neoconservative Hawks

Trade between Iraq and Iran grows at an estimated annual rate of 30 percent after the US and British invasion. “The economies of Iraq and Iran, the largest Shiite-majority countries in the world, are becoming closely integrated, with Iranian goods flooding Iraqi markets and Iraqi cities looking to Iran for basic services,” the New York Times will report in early 2007. After the invasion, Iraq begins importing electricity and a wide variety of consumer items like Peugeot sedans, carpets, construction materials, fish, and spices. Iraqis are also going to Iran to obtain medical services. Trade between the two nations grows the fastest in the Shiite-dominated south. By 2007, Basra is importing $45 million worth of goods from Iran each year with some 100 to 150 commercial trucks crossing into Iraq from Iran each day. The trend causes concern in the White House, which accuses Iran of having a nuclear weapons program and claims that the Iranians are fueling the insurgency. According to Asaad Abu Galal, the governor of Najaf, “the Americans don’t want to bring Iranians to Najaf. The Americans want to control the sky.” Iranians are also vying for a market in the financial sector, with at least one bank applying for a license to open a branch in Baghdad. [New York Times, 3/17/2007]

Entity Tags: Asaad Abu Galal, Iran

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Financial, Western Business Interests

The US orders the bombing of Mujahedeen-e Khalq’s (MEK) camps in Iraq. But the orders are called off after the MEK voluntarily disarms and negotiates a cease-fire agreement with US authorities. The MEK will be held in US custody at Camp Ashraf, located roughly 60 miles north of Baghdad, and its members will be screened for war crimes and terrorism. [Los Angeles Times, 12/5/2004]

Entity Tags: People’s Mujahedin of Iran

Category Tags: US MEK policy

April 2003: US Military Bases to Surround Iran

Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper notes that with the construction of proposed US bases in Iraq, Iran would be surrounded. “[T]heir proximity to Syria and Iran could help the US to apply added pressure on those countries,” the paper says. “With US troops also stationed in Afghanistan, Iran is now almost surrounded by American forces.” [Daily Telegraph, 4/21/2003]

Category Tags: Geopolitics, US Intel on Iran

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) defends her support for the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) (see October 2002), a militant Iranian opposition group that has been included in the US State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations since 1997 (see 1997). “This group loves the United States” and they are “assisting us in the war on terrorism; they’re pro-US,” she says. “This group has not been fighting against the US. It’s simply not true.” Regarding the group’s past history, which has included lethal attacks against US citizens, collusion with Saddam Hussein, and terrorist attacks against Iran, she says that they are “past history,” asserting that they have “no bearing on what is going on right now in the field.” Ros-Lehtinen further says that there is “wide support” in Congress for the group and that the MEK will be “one of the leading groups in establishing a secular government in Iran.” Ros-Lehtinen currently chairs the House International Relations Committee’s Central Asia and Middle East Subcommittee. [Hill, 4/8/2003]

Entity Tags: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, People’s Mujahedin of Iran

Category Tags: US MEK policy

In an article about Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s support for the Mujahedeen-e Khalq [MEK] (see April 2003), The Hill quotes Iran experts who dispute the notion that MEK’s history of terrorism and collusion with Saddam Hussein is insignificant, as Ros-Lehtinen has argued. “I know about support on Capitol Hill for this group, and I think it’s atrocious,” Dan Brumberg of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace tells The Hill. “I think it’s due to total ignorance and political manipulation.…There’s not much debate [about the MEK] in the academic circles of those who know Iran and Iraq.” Similarly, Elahe Hicks of Human Rights Watch notes that “many, many Iranians resent” the MEK. “Because this group is so extremely resented inside Iran, the Iranian government actually benefits from having an opposition group like this.” And James Phillips of the Heritage Foundation says: “When they sided with Iraq against Iran in the [1980-88] war, that was the kiss of death for their political future. Even Iranians who might have sympathized with them were enraged that they became the junior partner of their longstanding rival.” He adds that even though “Some of their representatives are very articulate,… they are a terrorist group” and they have “a longstanding alliance with Saddam Hussein, and they have gone after some of the Kurds at the behest of Saddam Hussein.” [Hill, 4/8/2003]

Entity Tags: James Phillips, Dan Brumberg, Saddam Hussein, Elahe Hicks, People’s Mujahedin of Iran, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Category Tags: US MEK policy

Two weeks after the White House flatly rejected a comprehensive diplomatic offer from Iran (see May 4, 2003), Secretary of State Colin Powell approaches State Department official Hillary Mann, who wrote the original memo recommending that the Iranian proffer be considered. Powell tells Mann: “It was a very good memo. I couldn’t sell it at the White House.” [Esquire, 10/18/2007]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Bush administration (43), Hillary Mann, Colin Powell

Category Tags: Diplomacy, Geopolitics

The US Department of State releases its annual “Patterns of Global Terrorism” report. Included in its list of terrorist organizations is the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian opposition group in Iraq that has offices in Washington, DC. The report notes that the MEK helped Saddam Hussein during Iraq’s war with Iran and assisted the dictator in suppressing the Shia uprisings in southern Iraq and the Kurdish uprisings in the north after the first Gulf War. [US Department of State, 4/30/2003] During a press briefing that coincides with the release of the report, US Ambassador Cofer Black, Coordinator for Counterterrorism in the US State Department, is asked to explain why the US has permitted MEK to have an office in Washington. “The Secretary has recommended that the president determine that the laws that apply to countries that support terrorism no longer apply to Iraq,” Black explains. “The president’s determination to provide greater flexibility in permitting certain types of trade with and assistance to Iraq; thus, we can treat Iraq like any other country not on the terrorist list.” He insists that the “United States Government does not negotiate with terrorists,” but contends that MEK “is a pretty special group” and that the US considers the agreement as a “prelude to the group’s surrender.” [US Department of State, 4/30/2003]

Entity Tags: People’s Mujahedin of Iran, Cofer Black, US Department of State

Category Tags: US MEK policy, Geopolitics

Sadegh Kharrazi.Sadegh Kharrazi. [Source: University of Cambridge]In the wake of the US-led conquest of Iraq, the government of Iran worries that they will be targeted for US invasion next. Sadegh Kharrazi, Iran’s ambassador to France and the nephew of Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, drafts a bold proposal to negotiate with the US on all the outstanding conflicts between them. [American Prospect, 5/21/2006] Diplomats refer to the proposal as “the grand bargain.” The US sends neoconservative Zalmay Khalilzad, a senior National Security Council official, to talk with Iran’s UN ambassador, Javad Zarif. [Vanity Fair, 3/2007] The proposal was reviewed and approved by Iran’s top leaders Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Mohammad Khatami, and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi. Tim Guldimann, the Swiss ambassador to Iran, is used as an intermediary since the US and Iran do not have formal diplomatic relations. [Washington Post, 2/14/2007]
bullet According to the language of the proposal, it offers “decisive action against any terrorists (above all, al-Qaeda) in Iranian territory” and “full cooperation and exchange of all relevant information.” In return, Iran wants “pursuit of anti-Iranian terrorists, above all [the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK)],” a dissident Iranian group which the US officially lists as a terrorist organization.
bullet Iran also offers to accept much tighter controls by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in exchange for “full access to peaceful nuclear technology.” It proposes “full transparency for security [assurance] that there are no Iranian endeavors to develop or possess WMD” and “full cooperation with IAEA based on Iranian adoption of all relevant instruments (93+2 and all further IAEA protocols).” That is a references to IAEA protocols that would guarantee the IAEA access to any declared or undeclared facility on short notice.
bullet The proposal also offers a dramatic change in Iranian policy towards Israel. Iran would accept an Arab league declaration approving a land-for-peace principle and a comprehensive peace with Israel in return for Israel’s withdrawal to 1967 lines, a softening of Iran’s usual policy.
bullet The proposal further offers to stop any Iranian support of Palestinian opposition groups such as Hamas and proposes to convert Hezbollah into “a mere political organization within Lebanon.” It further offers “coordination of Iranian influence for activity supporting political stabilization and the establishment of democratic institutions and a nonreligious government” in Iraq.
bullet In return, Iran wants a democratic government in Iran, which would mean its Shiite allies would come to power since the Shiites make up a majority of the Iraqi population. The proposal wants the US to remove Iran from its “axis of evil” and list of terrorism sponsors. [American Prospect, 5/21/2006]
US Rejects Offer - The US flatly rejects the idea. “We’re not interested in any grand bargain,” says Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton. [Vanity Fair, 3/2007] The American Prospect will later comment that “Iran’s historic proposal for a broad diplomatic agreement should have prompted high-level discussions over the details of an American response.” State Department counterterrorism expert Flynt Leverett will later call it a “respectable effort” to start negotiations with the US. But within days, the US rejects the proposal without even holding an interagency meeting to discuss its possible merits. Guldimann, the Swiss intermediary, is reprimanded for having passed the proposal to the US. [American Prospect, 5/21/2006] Larry Wilkerson, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff, will later say that it was a significant proposal for beginning “meaningful talks” between the US and Iran but that it “was a non-starter so long as [Dick] Cheney was Vice President and the principal influence on Bush.” [Newsweek, 2/8/2007] He will also say that the State Department supported the offer, “[b]ut as soon as it got to the Vice President’s office, the old mantra of ‘We don’t talk to evil‘… reasserted itself” and Cheney’s office turned the offer down. [BBC, 1/18/2007] Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will later claim that, “We couldn’t determine what was the Iranians’ and what was the Swiss ambassador’s,” and says that he though the Iranians “were trying to put too much on the table.” National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will say of the proposal, “Perhaps somebody saw something of the like” but “I just don’t remember ever seeing any such thing.” [Newsweek, 2/8/2007] Colin Powell will later say that President Bush simply didn’t want to negotiate with an Iranian government that he believed should not be in power. “My position… was that we ought to find ways to restart talks with Iran… But there was a reluctance on the part of the president to do that.” He also says, “You can’t negotiate when you tell the other side, ‘Give us what a negotiation would produce before the negotiations start.’” [Newsweek, 2/12/2007] Days later, Iran will propose a more limited exchange of al-Qaeda prisoners for MEK prisoners, but the US will reject that too (see Mid-May 2003). Author Craig Unger will later write, “The grand bargain was dead. Flush with a false sense of victory, Bush, Cheney, and [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld felt no need to negotiate with the enormous oil-rich country that shared a border with the country America had just invaded.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 308-309]
Proposal Echoed Four Years Later - In 2007, the BBC will note, “Observers say the Iranian offer as outlined nearly four years ago corresponds pretty closely to what Washington is demanding from Tehran now.” [BBC, 1/18/2007]

Entity Tags: Kamal Kharrazi, Lawrence Wilkerson, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Zalmay M. Khalilzad, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, People’s Mujahedin of Iran, Richard Armitage, International Atomic Energy Agency, Hojjat ol-Eslam Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, Flynt Leverett, Hamas, Al-Qaeda, Colin Powell, Hezbollah, Condoleezza Rice, Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Donald Rumsfeld, Tim Guldimann, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Diplomacy, US MEK policy

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) hosts “The Future of Iran Mullahcracy, Democracy, and the War on Terror” at Washington DC’s Wohlstetter Conference Center. The forum, cosponsored by the Hudson Institute and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, includes a discussion on “What lies ahead for Iran?” and “What steps can the United States take to promote democratization and regime change in Iran?” Noted moderators and panelists include: Meyrav Wurmser of the Hudson Institute; Uri Lubrani of the Israeli Defense Ministry; US Senator Sam Brownback; Michael A. Ledeen and Reuel Marc Gerecht, both of the AEI; Bernard Lewis of Princeton University; and Morris Amitay of The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. [Institute, 5/6/2003]

Entity Tags: Morris J. Amitay, Bernard Lewis, Michael Ledeen, American Enterprise Institute, Meyrav Wurmser, Uri Lubrani, Samuel Brownback, Reuel Marc Gerecht

Category Tags: Neoconservative Hawks, Think Tank Activities

The Bush administration blames Iran for helping al-Qaeda bomb three foreign worker compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (see May 12, 2003). Though the US has no evidence of Iranian complicity in the bombings, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney insist that Iran must have been involved, and prevail upon President Bush to shut down the informal backchannel discussions between Iranian and US officials (see September 11, 2001). [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 249]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Al-Qaeda, Bush administration (43), Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Diplomacy, Geopolitics

Saif al-Adel.Saif al-Adel. [Source: FBI]Around May 4, 2003, Iran attempted to start negotiations in an attempt to resolve all outstanding issues between Iran and the US. The US completely rejected the offer within days. Iran immediately comes back with a more limited proposal, offering to hand over a group of al-Qaeda leaders being held in Iran in return for the US to hand over leaders of the Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK). The US had already officially listed MEK as a terrorist group. [American Prospect, 5/21/2006] Iran is believed to be holding a number of top al-Qaeda leaders, including military commander Saif al-Adel and Osama bin Laden’s son Saad bin Laden (see Spring 2002). The US had captured about 4,000 members of MEK in Iraq the month before, in bases where they had been staging attacks against Iran. Iran pledges to grant amnesty to most of the MEK prisoners, try only 65 leaders, forgo the death penalty on them, and allow the Red Cross to supervise the transfer. [Washington Post, 7/9/2004] Iran proposes to start with an exchange of information, offering to share the list of names of al-Qaeda operatives they are detaining in return for the US to share the list of names of MEK operatives US forces has captured in Iraq. This exchange of names is discussed at a White House meeting. Hardliners in favor of regime change in Iran argue that MEK is different than al-Qaeda. President Bush is said to respond, “But we say there is no such thing as a good terrorist.” [American Prospect, 5/21/2006] And he initially seems in favor of a prisoner exchange, saying about the MEK, “Why not? They’re terrorists.” [Washington Post, 7/9/2004] But Bush does not immediately approve the exchange of names, although he does approve the disarming of MEK who have surrendered to US troops and he allows the State Department to continue secret negotiations on the issue of exchanging names and prisoners in Switzerland. But on May 12, 2003, a bombing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia kills a number of US citizens (see May 12, 2003). Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney, and other neoconservatives argue that the bombing was planned by al-Qaeda leaders being held in Iran. [American Prospect, 5/21/2006] The Washington Post will report in 2007 that, “US intelligence officials said there are suspicions, but no proof, that one of [the al-Qaeda leaders in Iran] may have been involved from afar in planning” the Riyadh bombing. Some of Bush’s top advisers argue in favor of trading the prisoners, suggesting that directly interrogating the al-Qaeda leaders could result in important new intelligence leads. But Cheney and Rumsfeld argue that any deal would legitimize Iran’s government. Bush ultimately offers to accept information about the al-Qaeda leaders without offering anything in return. Not surprisingly, Iran refuses. [Washington Post, 2/10/2007] A planned meeting between US and Iranian officials on May 21 is canceled and negotiations come to a halt. The American Prospect will later comment, “In a masterstroke, Rumsfeld and Cheney had shut down the only diplomatic avenue available for communicating with Iran and convinced Bush that Iran was on the same side as al-Qaeda.” [American Prospect, 5/21/2006] Flynt Leverett, a State Department official dealing with Middle East policy, will later say, “Why we didn’t cut this deal is beyond me.” [Washington Post, 7/9/2004] One anonymous senior US official will later say, “One reason nothing came of it was because we knew that there were parts of the US government who didn’t want to give them the MEK because they had other plans for them… like overthrowing the Iranian government.” [MSNBC, 6/24/205]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, People’s Mujahedin of Iran, Flynt Leverett, George W. Bush, Al-Qaeda, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: US MEK policy, Diplomacy

Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) introduces the Iran Democracy Act (S. 1082) to encourage regime change in Iran. The bill would require the US to adopt a policy aimed at supporting “an internationally-monitored referendum in Iran by which the Iranian people can peacefully change the system of government in Iran.” It would also ensure that Radio Farda, a US-sponsored effort to improve the United States’ image among Iranians, devotes “a significant percentage of [its] programming… to discussing democratic change in Iran including an internationally-monitored democratic referendum in Iran.” [Office of Senator Sam Brownback, 5/19/2003; US Congress. Senate., 5/19/2003] The bill never becomes law. [GovTrack (.us), 5/19/2003]

Entity Tags: Radio Farda, Samuel Brownback

Category Tags: Calls for Overthrow, Neoconservative Hawks

CNN reports that despite US government prohibitions (see March 15, 1995 and May 6, 1995) banning US citizens and business from doing business with Iran, dozens of US companies are actively conducting business there, including Halliburton, ConocoPhillips and General Electric. The companies are using a complicated array of corporate loop-holes and off-shore accounts to maneuver around US laws. Michael Ledeen, interviewed by CNN, says these companies are aiding terrorism. “The oil companies are a wholly owned subsidiary of the government… the government is the primary sponsor of terrorism,” he says, additionally claiming that “they have separate organizations that are used to funnel oil profits and other profits into the terror network.” [CNN, 2/10/2003; CNN, 5/29/2003]

Entity Tags: ConocoPhillips, Halliburton, Inc., Michael Ledeen, General Electric

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Oil and Gas, Western Business Interests

Instead of considering Iran’s sweeping proposal to open diplomatic negotiations with the United States (see May 4, 2003), the Bush administration begins working on efforts to destabilize the Iranian government (see November 12, 2002, May 6, 2003, and May 19, 2003). Former National Security Council official Flynt Leverett says he believes the White House’s course is a dangerous one: “What it means is we will end up with an Iran that has nuclear weapons and no dialogue with the United States.” [Esquire, 10/18/2007]

Entity Tags: Flynt Leverett, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Calls for Overthrow, Diplomacy, Geopolitics

Larry Franklin.Larry Franklin. [Source: Win McNamee / Getty Images]Larry Franklin, a member of Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith’s Office of Special Plans, and Harold Rhode, a protege of neoconservative Iran “specialist” Michael Ledeen, meets with Iranian arms merchant and Iran-Contra figure Manucher Ghorbanifar in Paris. This is the third of three meetings (see December 9, 2001 and June 2002) between these figures. While no details of the discussions that took place at this meeting are available, it is likely that, like the other two, the main focus of the meeting is the manipulation of “evidence” showing Iraq has weapons of mass destruction in order to provide “proof” that the US invasion of Iraq was justified. (Franklin will later be convicted of passing classified US intelligence to Israel, and will be sentenced to 12 years in prison—see April 13, 1999-2004 and October 5, 2005). [Vanity Fair, 3/2007] Journalists Joshua Micah Marshall, Laura Rozen, and Paul Glastris later speculate that the meetings have a hidden agenda alongside the Iraq concern: the destabilization of Iran. They write, “[T]he [Defense Department]-Ghorbanifar meetings suggest the possibility that a rogue faction at the Pentagon was trying to work outside normal US foreign policy channels to advance a ‘regime change’ agenda not approved by the president’s foreign policy principals or even the president himself.” [Washington Monthly, 9/2004]

Entity Tags: Paul Glastris, Michael Ledeen, Laura Rozen, Douglas Feith, Manucher Ghorbanifar, Harold Rhode, Larry Franklin, Joshua Micah Marshall, Office of Special Plans

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair, Neoconservative Influence

Category Tags: Israel, Neoconservative Hawks

Humayun Khan (no relation to nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan) of Pakistan e-mails Israeli electronics expert Asher Karni, who is living in South Africa, with a request to purchase 200 dual purpose US-manufactured triggered spark gaps. Such devices are typically used in high-tech medical machines to break up kidney stones, but they can also be used to detonate a nuclear weapon. Khan asks Karni not to reveal that the end destination is Pakistan. Karni responds a few days later, informing Khan that he cannot fulfill the order because the US government would require an expert license for the deal. “I know it is difficult, but that’s how we came to know each other,” Khan replies. “Please help to negotiate this from any other source.” Nine hours later, Karni responds in another email: “Will do.” Karni places the order, indicating that the destination is Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa. According to US special agent John McKenna, the emails are intercepted by an informant in South Africa who promptly forwards them to the US Commerce Department. [Mother Jones, 5/2005; PBS, 7/27/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of Commerce, Humayun Khan, Asher Karni, John McKenna

Category Tags: Geopolitics

France’s Secret Service raids the compound of the Iranian terrorist opposition group, Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), an anti-Iranian group that has been on the US State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations since 1997. Among those arrested are husband-and-wife leaders Maryam and Massoud Rajavi. Following the arrests, nine MEK members across Europe set themselves on fire in protest. At least three of the protesters die. Critics claim that the self-immolations were ordered by MEK’s leadership. [New York Post, 6/17/2003; CNN, 6/22/2003; BBC, 7/1/2003; Los Angeles Times, 12/5/2004]

Entity Tags: Maryam Rajavi, Massoud Rajavi, People’s Mujahedin of Iran

Category Tags: US MEK policy

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issues new Pentagon guidelines for communicating with controversial Iranian dissidents. The new guidelines include clearing all meetings with Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith. Included in the contacts list of people who had been meeting with Pentagon analysts include: Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late Shah of Iran; Ayatollah Khomeini’s grandson, Hossein Khomeini, as well as Iran-contra figure Manucher Ghorbanifar. In response, Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) says, “My overall viewpoint is that we need to engage the Iranian Diaspora - the people who have come out of Iran, the defectors who have come out of the regime of the mullahs - and engage with them to communicate into Iran and help people organize for democracy in that country.” [New York Daily Sun, 12/2/2003]

Entity Tags: Manucher Ghorbanifar, Donald Rumsfeld, Hossein Khomeini, Reza Pahlavi, Samuel Brownback, Douglas Feith

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

Category Tags: Opposition Groups

Five of the six members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) conduct their first ever military exercises together. Experts say the joint-maneuvers demonstrate how important the SCO is to China in its effort to counter the growing US military presence in Central Asia. Alex Vatanka, of the London based Jane’s Intelligence, suggests the point of the exercises is to show the Central Asian states what China can offer as a partner that the US cannot. [Radio Free Europe, 8/5/2003]

Entity Tags: Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Geopolitics

Hossein Khomeini, Ayatollah Khomeini’s grandson, tells the Dutch Daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad that he would welcome a US intervention aimed at overthrowing the ruling mullahs. He says, “If it is only America that can bring freedom to us, let them do so.” [Radio Farda, 8/2/2003]

Entity Tags: Hossein Khomeini, Seyyed Ruhollah Khomeini

Category Tags: Calls for Overthrow, Opposition Groups

Newsday reports that according to a senior official and another source within the Bush administration, the “ultimate objective” of Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith and “a group of neo-conservative civilians inside the Pentagon is change of government in Iran.” The report says that the “immediate objective appeared to be to ‘antagonize Iran so that they get frustrated and then by their reactions harden US policy against them.’” It apparently is no secret within the administration, as Secretary of State Colin Powell has recently complained directly to the Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, about Feith’s activities (see August 2003). [Newsday, 8/9/2003]

Entity Tags: Douglas Feith, US Department of Defense, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld

Category Tags: Planning, Neoconservative Hawks

On order of US Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control freezes the financial assets of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which a State Department official says functions “as a part of the MEK [Mujahedeen-e Khalq].” Powell’s order also calls for the closure of the organization’s two offices in Washington. NCRI has hitherto enjoyed the support of several US legislators. [Voice of America, 8/15/2003; Associated Press, 8/15/2003] Powell’s order amends Executive Order 13224 on terrorist financing [US Department of State, 8/15/2003] , issued on September 23, 2001, which blocked the assets of organizations and individuals that US authorities believe are linked to terrorism. [US President, 9/23/2002]

Entity Tags: National Council of Resistance of Iran, US Department of the Treasury, Colin Powell, People’s Mujahedin of Iran

Category Tags: US MEK policy

France, Germany, and Britain succeed in persuading Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and permit intrusive inspections by United Nations monitors. The US refuses to join this effort, and continues to attempt to have Iran referred to the UN Security Council for violating its safeguard agreements. Unable to affect the negotiations between Iran and the Europeans, Bush officials are reduced to mocking the negotiations, with the State Department’s John Bolton asking, “How many IAEA meetings does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” Bolton is later asked what he thinks about the Europeans’ “carrot-and-stick” methodology of negotiating with the Iranians, and he replies, “I don’t do carrots.” Author J. Peter Scoblic later writes: “The problem was that the administration didn’t really do sticks, either. Although the Bush administration repeatedly made it clear that ‘all options were on the table,’ it never explicitly threatened military action or established red lines beyond which it would force Iran to pay some explicit price. Absent coercion or diplomacy, the Bush administration’s strategy was essentially one of hope—hope that the Iranian regime would collapse, yielding morally pure victory. Unfortunately, just as with North Korea (see May 4, 2003), dramatic change was unlikely; not only was the regime relatively stable, but Iranian reformers appeared committed to the nuclear program as well.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 249-250]

Entity Tags: John R. Bolton, Bush administration (43), J. Peter Scoblic, International Atomic Energy Agency

Category Tags: Diplomacy, Geopolitics, Nuclear Program

Under pressure from the United States and European countries, the 35-member governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) passes a strongly worded resolution requiring Iran to comply with a number of demands related to its nuclear program by October 31. The action is spurred in part by a recent discovery of traces of highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium at an Iranian nuclear facility. The resolution—sponsored by Australia, Canada, and Japan—states that Iran must suspend all uranium enrichment activities, submit a full declaration of all imported material for its uranium enrichment program, and grant IAEA inspectors unfettered access to all its facilities. Iran must also “promptly and unconditionally” agree to an additional protocol that would give IAEA inspections more access than currently required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). [International Atomic Energy Agency. Board of Governors., 9/12/2003 pdf file; Associated Press, 9/13/2003; China Daily, 9/13/2003; Daily Telegraph, 9/13/2004] The US, which has long argued that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program, said in a statement before the resolution was passed that it believed “the facts already established by the agency about Iran’s nuclear program would fully justify an immediate finding of non-compliance by Iran with its safeguards obligations.” A finding of non-compliance would bring the issue before the UN Security Council, which could then levy sanctions on Iran. The other members of the board disagreed with the US position, instead arguing in favor of giving Iran “a last chance.” [US Department of State, 9/12/2003; Associated Press, 9/13/2003] After the passing of the resolution, the Iranian delegation storms out in protest. Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna, Ali Akbar Salehi, issues a veiled threat that Iran might withdraw from the NPT. “We will have no choice but to have a deep review of our existing level and extent of engagement with the agency vis-a-vis this resolution,” he says. He also states, “It is no secret that the current US administration… entertains the idea of invasion of yet another territory as they aim to re-engineer and reshape the entire Middle East region.” [Associated Press, 9/13/2003] In Washington, a US official tells Reuters, “This time we hope there’s not going to be a way to escape because this resolution is really tightening the noose on them.” If Iran is declared in non-compliance, the official adds, “Iran will forfeit its right to share nuclear technology for peaceful purposes” and Russia will not be able to provide nuclear fuel for Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant. [China Daily, 9/13/2003]

Entity Tags: United Nations, Bush administration (43), International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Akbar Salehi

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

The neoconservative American Enterprise Institute hosts Hossein Khomeini, grandson of the Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini. Khomeini leads a discussion on Iran’s future at the Wohlstetter Conference Center in Washington DC. He is introduced by Michael Ledeen. Both Khomeini and the AEI advocate the overthrow of Iran’s ruling mullahs by the US. [American Enterprise Institute, 9/26/2003]

Entity Tags: Seyyed Ruhollah Khomeini, American Enterprise Institute, Michael Ledeen, Hossein Khomeini

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence

Category Tags: Calls for Overthrow, Opposition Groups, Neoconservative Hawks

Iran’s foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi, says in a statement that Iran would allow Iraq to export oil through Iranian terminals or to enter into an oil swap arrangement of up to 350,000 barrels a day. A swap deal would help Iraq finance its reconstruction by allowing the country to export its oil to Iran’s refineries while Iran sells a comparable amount of Iranian crude oil on Iraq’s behalf. Iran also offers to supply its neighbor with electricity and gas, and says it could also help Iraq secure up to $300 million in buyers’ and suppliers’ credits. [Reuters, 10/24/2003]

Entity Tags: Kamal Kharrazi

Category Tags: Oil and Gas

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports that it has found “no evidence” Iran is trying to make nuclear weapons. But it says that because Iran has been secretive in the past it is not ruling out the possibility. The report, authored by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, says, “To date there is no evidence that the previous undeclared nuclear material and activities… were related to a nuclear weapons program.” [CNN, 11/10/2003]

Entity Tags: International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

John Bolton, speaking at a dinner for the right-wing publication American Spectator, calls the conclusions of a forthcoming IAEA report (see November 10, 2003) on Iran’s nuclear activities “impossible to believe.” The widely leaked report says inspectors have found no evidence that Tehran is developing nuclear weapons. Bolton insists that Iran’s “massive and covert… effort to acquire sensitive nuclear capabilities make sense only as part of a nuclear weapons program.” [Bolton, 11/12/2003] Responding to Bolton’s remarks, IAEA’s Director General Mohamed ElBaradei tells Time magazine, “We are not in the business of judging intentions. What we look for are facts and proof, and so far we have no proof of a nuclear-weapons program. The jury is still out.” [Time (Europe), 11/24/2003]

Entity Tags: Mohamed ElBaradei, John R. Bolton, American Spectator

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Israel

The US-appointed Iraq Governing Council orders the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) to leave Iraq by the end of year citing its “black history” in Iraq as a “terrorist organization,” a reference to the militant organization’s long history of working with Saddam Hussein (see 1991 and December 2003). But Pentagon officials do not want the MEK to leave Iraq, as they are considering plans to use the group against Iran. [Christian Science Monitor, 12/31/2003]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, People’s Mujahedin of Iran, Saddam Hussein, Iraqi Governing Council

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: US MEK policy

In an interview with a Pakistani satellite channel, Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan denies allegations that he was involved in selling nuclear secrets or equipment to Iran. “I am being accused for nothing, I never visited Iran, I don’t know any Iranian, nor do I know any Iranian scientist,” he says. “I will be targeted naturally because I made the nuclear bomb, I made the missile.” [Guardian, 1/31/2004]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

Several Middle Eastern countries respond positively to Libya’s pledge to end its weapons of mass destruction programs, including Iran. “Iran welcomes any step taken by any country to dismantle weapons of mass destruction,” says Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi. “But it is the time for the world to push for Israel’s disarmament, as the main threat to the region,” he adds. Israel reportedly has more than 200 nuclear weapons. [Center for Nonproliferation Studies, 5/1998; BBC, 7/5/2000; BBC, 8/23/2000; BBC, 10/21/2003]

Entity Tags: Hamid Reza Asefi

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Israel

The neoconservative American Enterprise Institute’s vice president, Danielle Pletka, says that guidelines set by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in August restricting the Pentagon’s communications with Iranian reformers have hindered analysts’ efforts to collect important information. (see August 2003) “I think information is a commodity we trade in freely in the United States,” she says. “The idea that informational meetings with Iranians should be off-limits to members of our government that deal with nonproliferation and national security seems to me to be foolish in the extreme.” [New York Daily Sun, 12/2/2003]

Entity Tags: American Enterprise Institute, US Department of Defense, Danielle Pletka, Donald Rumsfeld

Category Tags: Neoconservative Hawks

Neoconservative Michael Ledeen, in an op-ed piece published by the Wall Street Journal, makes numerous charges against the Iranian government, saying it supports terrorism and is on the verge of developing a nuclear weapon. He asserts that the Bush administration must therefore act soon against Iran. He says Iran is the “ultimate litmus test of the seriousness of the Bush administration” and that the administration’s “ability to conduct an effective campaign against the mullahs in Tehran will determine the outcome of the war against the terror masters.” Ledeen asserts that the US does not need to invade Iran to “liberate it,” rather it only needs to support the “enthusiastically pro-American” people, as the US did the “Serbs against Slobodan Milosovic, the Filipinos against the Marcoses, the Poles against Soviet Communism.” [Wall Street Journal, 12/19/2003]

Entity Tags: Michael Ledeen, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence

Category Tags: Calls for Overthrow, Neoconservative Hawks

General Electric does about $270 million in business in Iran through one of its foreign subsidiaries. The company has sold Iran hydroelectric equipment, medical equipment, and oil and gas equipment. Under current US law, companies are barred from doing business with nations that the US State Department has said are sponsors of terrorism. However the law does not prohibit a company’s foreign subsidiaries from engaging in such business. [Associated Press, 2/2/2005]

Entity Tags: General Electric, US Department of State

Category Tags: Oil and Gas, Western Business Interests

2004: Iran Forced to Import Gasoline

Iran, despite being OPEC’s second largest oil exporter, is forced to import a billion dollars worth of gasoline due to demand outstripping the country’s limited refining capacity. “We use 50 million liters of fuel each day, 10 percent more than just a year ago,” Seyyed Reza Kasaizadeh, planning director for the national refining and distribution company NIORDC, tells the Persian daily Khorasan. Roughly a quarter of that amount is purchased by the government on the open market, and then sold to the public at the same subsidized price as domestically refined fuel—roughly 35 cents per gallon. [Iran Daily, 12/12/2004] In addition to the subsidy program’s actual costs, the program also represents “a huge opportunity cost, because they could be selling that at world prices,” Ben Faulks, an analyst for the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit, tells the Washington Post in mid-2005. Iran hopes that its nuclear energy program will solve this problem by reducing the country’s industrial oil consumption needs. The country would then be able to sell more of its oil at market prices and substantially increase its revenue. [Washington Post, 7/4/2005]

Entity Tags: Ben Faulks, National Iranian Oil Refining & Distribution Company, Seyyed Reza Kasaizadeh

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Oil and Gas

Mohamed ElBaradei, the president of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), meets with Secretary of State Colin Powell to ask a second time for the US’s participation in European-led negotiations with Iran over that nation’s nuclear program (see Fall 2003). Powell refuses. The IAEA and the Europeans—France, Germany, and Britain—believe that the US’s participation in the negotiations is essential to convince Iran to make real concessions. Iran wants assurances that the US will not attack it. Moreover, Iran knows that the Europeans will wait for US approval for any incentives they offer, such as membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). During the negotiations, an Iranian diplomat tells British negotiator John Sawers not to keep pressing the Iranian delegation to give up its nuclear weapons development program: “Look, John, that’s what we are saving up for the Americans. We can’t spend all our possible concessions in negotiating with you. We’ll have nothing left.” As the Europeans continue to jockey with the balky Iranians, the US continues to stand apart—“leaving the driving to the EU,” as State Department neoconservative John Bolton will later comment. Only in 2005 will the Bush administration begin giving its grudging support to the negotiations, but it will continue to refuse to actually participate in them. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 249-250]

Entity Tags: World Trade Organization, Bush administration (43), Colin Powell, International Atomic Energy Agency, John R. Bolton, Mohamed ElBaradei, John Sawers

Category Tags: Diplomacy, Geopolitics, Nuclear Program

Hossein Khomeini, grandson of Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and a leading Iranian opposition figure, returns to Iran. During 2003, he spent several months in Iraq and visited the US, speaking at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) (see September 26, 2003). Khomeini’s return to Iran is a surprise to Michael Ledeen and the AEI. According to Ledeen, sources close to the Khomeini family suggest that he was lured back with a combination of threats and promises. Ledeen says that Khomeini’s wife was recently visited by Iranian security agents who told her, “If your children suddenly die in the streets, you must know that it was not our doing.” [New York Sun, 1/26/2004]

Entity Tags: Seyyed Ruhollah Khomeini, Hossein Khomeini, Michael Ledeen

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence

Category Tags: Opposition Groups, Neoconservative Hawks

Pentagon adviser Richard N. Perle speaks at a charity event whose stated purpose is to express “solidarity with Iran” and raise money for Iran earthquake victims. During the event, statements are made in support of “regime change in Iran.” The event is attended by FBI agents because of suspicions that the event has connections to the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a militant Iranian opposition group that is included on the state department’s list terrorist organizations. The US Treasury Department will freeze the assets of the event’s prime organizer, the Iranian-American Community of Northern Virginia, two days later (see January 26, 2004). Perle tells the Washington Post that he was unaware of possible connections to MEK. [Washington Post, 1/29/2004]

Entity Tags: People’s Mujahedin of Iran, Richard Perle

Category Tags: Calls for Overthrow, Neoconservative Hawks

The US Treasury Department freezes the assets of the Iranian-American Community of Northern Virginia after the organization holds a fundraising event (see January 24, 2004), the stated purpose of which was to provide support to Iranian earthquake victims. The FBI believes that some of the money raised was also meant to fund the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a US-designated terrorist organization whose mission is to overthrow the government of Iran. [Washington Post, 1/29/2004]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Treasury, Iranian-American Community of Northern Virginia, People’s Mujahedin of Iran

Category Tags: Calls for Overthrow, Neoconservative Hawks

During a visit to Russia, US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton tells the Russian daily Kyodo News that Iran is pursuing a secret nuclear weapons development program unbeknownst to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). [Antiatom News, 2/3/2004]

Entity Tags: International Atomic Energy Agency, John R. Bolton

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Neoconservative Hawks

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors say they have found designs for an advanced P-2 centrifuge used to enrich uranium in Iranian hands. The designs, which Iran should have declared to the IAEA, match drawings of enrichment equipment that were found in Libya and supplied by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. [Associated Press, 2/12/2004]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan, International Atomic Energy Agency

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

Asadollah Mikaeeli, the director of planning at National Iranian Oil Derivatives Refining and Distribution Company, announces that since 1982, Iran has doubled its oil refining capacity from 750,000 to 1.6 million barrels per day (mmpd). Notwithstanding, the country continues to import many petroleum products like gasoline and diesel, he says. [Alexander's Gas & Oil Connections, 2/25/2004]

Entity Tags: National Iranian Oil Refining & Distribution Company, Asadollah Mikaeeli

Category Tags: Oil and Gas

Ahmed Chalabi, a member of Iraq’s governing council, meets with the Baghdad station chief for Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security and informs him that the US has broken the code used to encrypt Iran’s intelligence communications. Chalabi says that he learned about the code-break from a drunken American official. A frantic exchange of communications takes place between the Iranian agent and Tehran concerning Chalabi’s claim. The US intercepts and decodes all of them, revealing Chalabi’s role. When the story is broken in the press, Chalabi denies having passed classified information to the Iranians. [Newsweek, 5/10/2004; New York Times, 6/2/2004; CBS News, 6/3/2004; News Insight, 6/9/2004]

Entity Tags: Ahmed Chalabi

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Geopolitics, US Intel on Iran, Neoconservative Hawks

An Iranian man appears in Turkey with a laptop computer and the phone number of a German intelligence officer. He calls the number, and 24 hours later, CIA analysts are poring over thousands of documents containing information and sketches. The CIA concludes that Iran is trying to retrofit its longest-range missile, the Shahab III, to carry a nuclear payload. The retrofit project is designated Project 1-11, the documents say, and analysts believe that the laptop information confirms their belief that Iran has a viable and active nuclear weapons program. Though the information on the laptop is from 2003 and earlier, it leads to the issuance of a National Intelligence Estimate (see August 2, 2005) that declares “with high confidence” Iran is working on a nuclear bomb, and will give ammunition to the Bush administration’s attempts to pressure Russia, China, and the US’s European allies to sanction Iran if it does not give up its uranium enrichment program. [Washington Post, 12/8/2007]
Origin of Laptop - The laptop was stolen by the Iranian citizen from an Iranian engineer, who some intelligence sources say may now be dead. The laptop contains designs by a firm called Kimeya Madon for a small facility to produce uranium gas, a substance that could be enriched for fuel or nuclear weapons. The laptop also contains drawings relating to the retrofitting of the Shahab III. The laptop’s information, so extensive that some say it may have been designed by an entire team of engineers, will be given unsubstantiated confirmation from an imprisoned Pakistani arms dealer, who will say that Iran took delivery of several advanced centrifuges that would greatly increase its nuclear knowledge. Although the documents are not verified, US intelligence considers them authentic.
Possible Forgeries - However, analysts admit it is possible that the documents are forgeries, perhaps from internal opponents of the Iranian government, or perhaps from the government itself in an attempt to convince Western intelligence agencies that its nuclear weapons program is still in an embryonic stage. The US denies that the documents were provided through the auspices of any Iranian dissident groups such as the Mujahedeen-e Khalq. [New York Times, 11/13/2005; Washington Post, 2/8/2006] The identity of the Iranian “walk-in” may be revealed four years later (see February 2007). By November 2004, administration officials begin to admit that they cannot confirm the reliability of the laptop’s documents (see November 2004 and November 17-18, 2004).

Entity Tags: People’s Mujahedin of Iran, Kimeya Madon, Central Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: 2007 NIE on Iran, Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran

The Guardian of London reports that Iran is preparing “to launch an oil trading market for Middle East and OPEC producers.” The Tehran oil bourse (French for “purse”, used to describe a financial transaction exchange system), to be opened in 2005, could give top oil producing nations in the region greater control of the oil trade, threatening the supremacy of world’s current major oil market exchanges, the London IPE and New York’s NYMEX. [Reuters, 5/15/2004; Guardian, 6/16/2004] Some observers believe oil at the new exchange would likely be traded in Euros. “From a purely economic and monetary perspective, a petroeuro system is a logical development given that the European Union imports more oil from OPEC producers than does the US, and the EU accounts for 45 percent of imports into the Middle East,” notes the Center for Research on Globalization. [Center for Research on Globalization, 10/27/2004]

Entity Tags: Center for Research on Globalization

Category Tags: Financial, Oil and Gas

John R. Bolton, under secretary of state for arms control, tells the House International Relations Committee Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia that Iran is pursuing the development of nuclear weapons. “[Iran’s] activities [go] well beyond any conceivable peaceful nuclear program,” he says, stating that no “comparable oil-rich nation has ever engaged, or would be engaged, in this set of activities.” He notes that Iran’s uranium reserves account for less than one percent of its vast oil reserves and that its gas reserves are the second largest in the world. [US Congress. House. Committee on International Relations, 6/24/2004]

Entity Tags: John R. Bolton, House International Relations Committee

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Neoconservative Hawks

After a 16-month review by the US State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bush administration says it has found no basis to charge any of the 3,800 Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) fighters held in custody by the US at Camp Ashraf with violations of American law. The decision is made in spite of the group’s long history of collusion with Saddam Hussein. MEK fought alongside Iraqi forces against Iran during the 1980s (see December 2003) and helped Saddam’s internal security forces brutally put down the 1991 Shia uprisings (see 1991). The organization was also responsible for a number of American deaths during the 1970s (see 1970s) and has been listed on the State Department’s list of “foreign terrorist organizations” since 1997 (see 1997). “A member of a terrorist organization is not necessarily a terrorist,” a senior American official explains. “To take action against somebody, you have to demonstrate that they have done something.” [New York Times, 7/27/2004; Christian Science Monitor, 7/29/2004]

Entity Tags: People’s Mujahedin of Iran, Bush administration (43), US Department of State, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Category Tags: US MEK policy

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approves a top secret “Interim Global Strike Alert Order” directing the military to assume and maintain readiness to attack hostile countries that are developing weapons of mass destruction, specifically Iran and North Korea (see September 2004). The plan is revealed to be formally called CONPLAN 8022-02. The plans have contingency strategies for both a quick-action, highly choreographed strike on short notice against an enemy that is an imminent threat and also a more generic attack against an enemy’s WMD infrastructure, possibly with the inclusion of earth-penetrating nuclear weapons. In concert with the military strike there would be coordinated disruption such as turning off the electricity, jamming and spoofing radars and communications, penetrating computer networks and garbling electronic commands. [Washington Post, 5/15/2005]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, US Policy Papers, Calls for Overthrow, US Intel on Iran

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) holds its summit in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. [People's Republic of China, 9/17/2004; GlobalSecurity (.org), 7/4/2005] SCO members agree to form the Regional Antiterrorism Structure (RATS), a concept originally conceived in 2002 to encourage the exchange of information and to facilitate improved border coordination between members. Mongolia receives observer status at this summit, paving the way for future membership [GlobalSecurity (.org), 7/4/2005] , and Pakistan, India, and Iran are considered for possible future membership (see June 6, 2005). [Yom, 2002]

Category Tags: Geopolitics

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, the deputy commanding general in Iraq, says in a memorandum that the US has designated members of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) as “protected persons.” According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, people who are designated as “protected” cannot be punished collectively or forced to leave an occupied country. The members were afforded the new status only after signing an agreement rejecting violence and terrorism, the memo says. [New York Times, 7/27/2004; Christian Science Monitor, 7/29/2004] The memorandum angers Tehran. “We already knew that America was not serious in fighting terrorism,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi says, adding that by affording MEK fighters the new status, the US has created a new category of “good terrorists.” “The American resort to the Geneva Conventions to support the terrorist hypocrites [MKO] is naive and unacceptable,” he says. Despite the members’ new status and despite having been cleared of any wrongdoing, the US military and the MEK leadership do not allow any of the group’s members to leave Camp Ashraf. Several of the members say they were lured into joining the group with false promises and now want to return home to Iran. The MEK has been called cult-like (see January 2005) and its leadership compared to Stalin by former members of the group. [Christian Science Monitor, 12/31/2003; Christian Science Monitor, 7/29/2004]

Entity Tags: People’s Mujahedin of Iran, Hamid Reza Asefi, Geoffrey D. Miller, Geneva Conventions

Category Tags: US MEK policy

The Senate passes Senate Concurrent Resolution 81 (S.Con.Res.81) calling on Iran to immediately and permanently halt all efforts to acquire nuclear fuel cycle capabilities, in particular uranium enrichment activities. It is not voted on by the House. A concurrent resolution requires approval by both chambers of Congress. [US Congress. Senate, 11/20/2003] The proposed resolution, introduced by Senators Jon Kyl (R-Az) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca) the year before [Office of Senator Dianne Feinstein, 10/15/2003] , reminds Iran of its obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) never to develop or acquire nuclear weapons, lists several areas of concern, and urges the European Union to take a tougher stance against the country. It also calls for Japan to halt development of Iran’s Azadegan oil field, and France and Malaysia to withdraw their agreements with Iran to develop Iran’s Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) fields. Additionally, it orders the suspension of all investment and investment-related activities that support Iran’s energy industry. [US Congress. Senate, 11/20/2003]

Entity Tags: Dianne Feinstein, Jon Kyl

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, writes an op-ed entitled “The Hawks and the Doves Are Aflutter Over US Iran Policy.” Pletka provides a number of recommendations. “The fact is, neither tough love nor tough talk will achieve results in Iran because [Iranian] government—not just the so-called hard-liners but the ‘moderates’ and ‘pragmatists’ as well—are committed to supporting terrorism, developing nuclear weapons and annihilating Israel… First,… we must use the diplomatic and economic tools at our disposal to embarrass the regime for its abysmal human rights abuses, rally behind dissident student groups and unions and let them know that the US supports their desire for a secular democratic state in Iran. Second, the administration must persuade the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency to stand firm in their confrontation over Iran’s nuclear programs… Finally, the US must lead in the containment of Iran. Iranian weapons imports and exports should be interdicted; financial transfers to terrorists must be identified and confiscated; terrorists traveling into and out of Iran should be aggressively pursued and eliminated. These steps would not deliver quick solutions, but they are the only rational course available to the US and its allies. We have seen that engagement with the current leadership of Iran would not achieve policy change; all it would do is buy an evil regime the time it needs to perfect its nuclear weapons and to build a network of terrorists to deliver them.” [Los Angeles Times, 7/23/2005]

Entity Tags: Danielle Pletka, American Enterprise Institute

Category Tags: Calls for Overthrow, Neoconservative Hawks

Brig. Gen. Muhammad Baqer Zolqadr, Iran’s deputy chief of the elite Revolutionary Guards, says in a statement that Iran would launch an immediate retaliation if Israel were to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities “If Israel fires a missile into the Bushehr nuclear power plant, it has to say goodbye forever to its Dimona nuclear facility, where it produces and stockpiles nuclear weapons,” he says. [United Press International, 8/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Muhammad Baqer Zolqadr

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

Adam Ereli, the deputy spokesman at the State Department, says, “Iran is engaged in a clandestine nuclear weapons program.” Ereli adds, “This program is a matter of concern to the international community.” [Associated Press, 8/17/2004]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Adam Ereli

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

Iran claims to have arrested dozens of spies: “The Intelligence Ministry has arrested several spies who were transferring Iran’s nuclear secrets out of the country,” Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi says. But he provides few details about the identities of those arrested, other than to say that members of the armed opposition group Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) played prominently in the operation. [Reuters, 8/31/2004; Associated Press, 9/1/2004]

Entity Tags: Ali Yunesi, People’s Mujahedin of Iran

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Opposition Groups

The Shreveport Times, of Louisiana, interviews Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson, commander of the 8th Air Force, who tells the newspaper that his fleet of B-2 and B-52 bombers are on alert to launch strikes anywhere in the world against enemy countries suspected of developing weapons of mass destruction. “We’re now at the point where we are essentially on alert,” Carlson says, adding that his forces are the US Strategic Command’s “focal point for global strike” (see also July 2004) and have the capability to execute an attack “in half a day or less.” The US has expressed its most immediate concerns over Iran and North Korea. [Tribune (Chandigarh), 9/8/2004; Washington Post, 5/15/2005]

Entity Tags: Bruce Carlson, US Department of the Air Force

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran

The Atlantic Monthly magazine commissions retired military officers, intelligence officials, and diplomats to participate in a war game scenario involving Iran. The three-hour war game deals “strictly with how an American President might respond, militarily or otherwise, to Iran’s rapid progress toward developing nuclear weapons.” Its main objective is to simulate the decision-making process that would likely take place during a meeting of the “Principals Committee” in the event that Iran ignores the deadline set by the IAEA to meet its demands. Kenneth Pollack, of the Brookings Institute, and Reuel Marc Gerecht, of the American Enterprise Institute, both play the role of secretary of state, Pollack with a more Democratic perspective and Gerecht as more of a Republican. David Kay plays the CIA director and Kenneth Bacon, a chief Pentagon spokesman during the Clinton Administration, is the White House chief of staff. Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel, serves mostly as National Security Adviser, but plays other roles as well. He is also the person who designed the game. During the game, Israel’s influence on the administration’s Iran policy is highlighted, with Pollack noting at one point, “[I]n the absence of Israeli pressure how seriously would the United States be considering” the use of military force against Iran? One of the largest concerns raised, shared by all of the participants, is that a US attack on Iran would provoke the Iranians to interfere in Iraq. “[O]ne of the things we have going for us in Iraq, if I can use that term, is that the Iranians really have not made a major effort to thwart us… If they wanted to make our lives rough in Iraq, they could make Iraq hell.” At the conclusion of the three-hour exercise, it is apparent that the players believe that the game’s scenario offered the US no feasible options for using military force against Iran. [Atlantic Monthly, 12/2004; Guardian, 1/18/2005]

Entity Tags: Kenneth Pollack, Reuel Marc Gerecht, David Kay, Atlantic Monthly, Sam Gardiner

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Predictions

In a report to Congress, the Pentagon discloses its intention to sell 5,000 smart bombs to Israel. Included in the $319 million deal—to be financed by US aid money—are 500 one-ton bunker busters capable of penetrating two-meter-thick cement walls, 2,500 regular one-ton bombs, 1,000 half-ton bombs, and 500 quarter-ton bombs. According to the Pentagon, Israel needs these weapons to maintain its qualitative advantage and to promote US strategic and tactical interests. The sale is likely to go through despite Israel having used a one-ton bomb to assassinate a senior Hamas officer, Salah Shehadeh. Fifteen Palestinian civilians, including children, were killed in the internationally condemned attack. [Ha'aretz, 9/21/2004] It is widely speculated that the weapons would be used by Israel in the event that it strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities; Israel and the US have alleged Iran is involved in the development of nuclear weapons. [International Herald Tribune, 9/22/2004; Ha'aretz, 9/26/2004; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/30/2004; Christian Science Monitor, 9/24/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense

Category Tags: Planning, Israel

The International Atomic Energy Agency announces that weapons inspectors have found no evidence to support accusations that Iran is secretly developing a nuclear weapon. [CNN, 9/2/2004]

Entity Tags: International Atomic Energy Agency

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf meet at the Roosevelt Inn in Manhattan for an India-Pakistan summit to discuss how relations between the two countries can be improved. During the discussions, they consider the possibility of the long proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project (see 1993). “Such a project could contribute to the welfare and prosperity of the people of both countries and should be considered in the larger context of expanding trade and economic relations between India and Pakistan,” they say in a joint statement. [Indo-Asian News Service, 9/24/2004; Associated Press, 9/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Pervez Musharraf, Manmohan Singh

Category Tags: Iran-India pipeline, Oil and Gas

Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill), a future presidential candidate, says in an interview with the Chicago Daily Tribune that the US may one day need to use military force against Iran or Pakistan to prevent extremists from gaining control of nuclear weapons. He suggests that one possible scenario requiring the use force might be if Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is overthrown in a coup and extremists take over. Military force may also be necessary if negotiations with Iran fail, he says. “I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran.… And I hope it doesn’t get to that point,” he says. [Chicago Tribune, 9/25/2004]

Entity Tags: Barack Obama, Pervez Musharraf

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Calls for Overthrow

Vice President Dick Cheney says during a “town hall meeting” at Minnesota State University: “They’re already sitting on an awful lot of oil and gas. Nobody can figure why they need nuclear as well to generate energy.” [White House, 10/5/2004] The Washington Post later notes that “Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and outgoing Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz held key national security posts when the Ford administration made the opposite argument 30 years ago” (see 1976). [Washington Post, 3/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Ford administration

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Oil and Gas

China and Iran negotiate a $70-$100 billion deal that gives China’s state oil company a 51 percent stake in Iran’s Yadavaran oil field, located near the Iraq border. The Yadavaran oil field, once thought to be two separate oil fields (Koushk and Hosseinieh), contains more than 3 billion barrels of recoverable oil and a total reserve of 17 billion barrels. [China Daily, 11/8/2004; Washington Post, 11/17/2004] China agrees to purchase ten million tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) annually for a 25-year period once Iran has constructed plants to liquefy the natural gas, a feat that could take more than five years. The amount could increase to as much as $200 billion if an oil deal, currently under negotiation, is also agreed upon by the two nations. [Persian Journal, 10/31/2004] As part of the deal, Sinopec, China’s state oil company, will have the right to exploit Iran’s Yadavaran oil field, located near the Iraq border, on a buy-back basis in cooperation with another major international oil company. The Yadavaran oil field contains more than 3 billion barrels of exploitable reserves and comprises the Koushk and Hosseinieh oil fields, “which were recently found to be connected at various layers, forming an oil field with a cumulative in-place reserve of 17 billion barrels,” the Chinese Daily reports. [China Daily, 11/8/2004] Iran is estimated to have a 26.6-trillion-cubic-meter gas reservoir, the second-largest in the world. About half of its reserves are located offshore. Some observers suggest that the Iran-China agreement could establish a precedent that opens the way for other nations to do business with Iran. The US Iran-Libya Sanctions Act of 1996 (ILSA), which penalizes foreign companies for investing more than $20 million in Iran’s oil and gas industry, has so far discouraged many companies from doing a large amount of business with the Islamic state. [Asia Times, 11/6/2005] Additionally, the Iran-China deal dramatically reduces the Bush administration’s leverage over Iran, as its threat to bring Iran to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program is greatly weakened by the fact that China, as a permanent member, holds a veto at the council. [Washington Post, 11/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Sinopec

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Oil and Gas

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) begins investigating a 1987 meeting (see 1987) where two associates of A. Q. Khan presented Iranian officials with an offer to sell Iran nuclear technology and materials. [Washington Post, 2/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan, International Atomic Energy Agency

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

In Washington, 15,000 attend a rally supporting the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a militant Iranian opposition group that has an office in the capital. Representative Bob Filner (D-CA) speaks at the demonstration and calls for the removal of MEK from the State Department’s terrorist list. [Los Angeles Times, 12/5/2004; San Francisco Chronicle, 1/25/2005]

Entity Tags: Robert Earl (“Bob”) Filner, People’s Mujahedin of Iran

Category Tags: US MEK policy

Several months after the CIA receives an Iranian laptop computer supposedly containing top-secret information about Iran’s nuclear program (see Summer 2004), US officials admit they cannot confirm the reliability of the laptop’s documents (see November 17-18, 2004). [New York Times, 11/20/2004] Under analysis, the documents begin to lose reliability. Nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis of the New America Foundation will later say that he and fellow experts began disparagingly referring to the computer as “the laptop of death.” One of the biggest warning flags, Lewis will say, is the crude manner in which the documents on the laptop were constructed: “What led many of us to have serious doubts about it was how utterly unconnected from reality some of the information seemed. Some of the reports indicated that some of the view graphs were done in Powerpoint, which suggested to me that the program was not terribly sophisticated.” [Inter Press Service, 12/9/2006; New York Times, 12/4/2007]
IAEA Response - Officials with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will say that the laptop evidence, like much of the US’s other intelligence on Iran, is unreliable. “Since 2002, pretty much all the intelligence that’s come to us has proved to be wrong,” a senior diplomat at the IAEA will say. Another IAEA official will describe the agency’s intelligence stream as “very cold now” because “so little panned out.” IAEA officials are suspicious of the documents in part because most of the papers are written in English and not in Persian. “We don’t know. Are they genuine, are they real?” a senior UN official will ask. Another official who was briefed on the documents will describe himself as “very unconvinced.” Iran’s representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, will call the laptop documents nothing but “fabricated information” and “nonsense.” [Los Angeles Times, 2/25/2007]

Entity Tags: Jeffrey Lewis, International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran

An Iranian exile group says it has evidence that Iran is still enriching uranium and will continue to do so despite an agreement it signed pledging it to halt such activities. The group, the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), the political arm of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), also charges that in the mid-1990s, Iran bought the plans for a Chinese nuclear bomb from the global nuclear technology network led by Pakistan’s A. Q. Khan. Khan’s network sold the same type of bomb blueprint to Libya, which has renounced its nuclear ambitions (see December 2003). The NCRI’s Mohammed Mohaddessin says the Khan network also provided Iran with a small amount of highly enriched uranium, though the amount is too small to use for a weapon. While the NCRI provided information in 2002 that helped disclose Iran’s secret nuclear program, many of its subsequent allegations have been proven false.
Claims - Mohaddessin uses satellite photos to show what he says is a new nuclear facility inside Tehran’s Center for the Development of Advanced Defense Technology (CDADT). He says that the CDADT also houses chemical and biological weapons programs, and that Iran began enriching uranium at the site in early 2003. Mohaddessin refuses to provide any evidence for his claims, instead saying, “Our sources were 100 percent sure about their intelligence.” Those sources, he says, are scientists and other people working in the facilities, and local citizens living near the facilities who see what he calls suspicious activities.
Reaction - Many diplomats and arms control experts dismiss the NCRI’s claims, saying the claims are an attempt to undermine the recent agreement Tehran signed with Britain, France, and Germany to restrict its uranium enrichment program. In return, the agreement says, Iran can continue working on developing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. [Washington Post, 11/18/2004]

Entity Tags: Mohammed Mohaddessin, People’s Mujahedin of Iran, National Council of Resistance of Iran, Abdul Qadeer Khan, Center for the Development of Advanced Defense Technology (Iran)

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran, Neoconservative Hawks

Secretary of State Colin Powell tells reporters that the US has intelligence showing Iran’s active pursuit of a nuclear warhead. The evidence, Powell says, documents Iran’s attempt to adapt ballistic missiles to deliver nuclear payloads. He says: “I have seen some information that would suggest that they have been actively working on delivery systems.… You don’t have a weapon until you put it in something that can deliver a weapon.… I’m not talking about uranium or fissile material or the warhead; I’m talking about what one does with a warhead.” Powell does not claim that Iran has the nuclear material—enriched uranium—to actually construct a bomb. “I’m talking about information that says they not only have these missiles, but I am aware of information that suggests that they were working hard as to how to put the two together.… There is no doubt in my mind—and it’s fairly straightforward from what we’ve been saying for years—that they have been interested in a nuclear weapon that has utility, meaning that it is something they would be able to deliver, not just something that sits there.”
Implication - Nonproliferation expert Joseph Cirincione says that Powell is implying that Iran is trying to reduce the size of a nuclear warhead to fit on one of its ballistic missiles, a difficult task. “Powell appears to be saying the Iranians are working very hard on this capability,” Cirincione says. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said just days before that it had not seen any information that Iran had conducted weapons-related work, Cirincione notes. The Bush administration is likely to press for sanctions from the UN. Powell says that the US will monitor international verification efforts in Iran “with necessary and deserved caution because for 20 years the Iranians have been trying to hide things from the international community.” [Washington Post, 11/18/2004]
Claims Said to Be Unverified - A day later, US officials say Powell’s claims are unverified, and come from a single, unvetted source that has not yet checked out. The single source is an Iranian citizen who approached US intelligence officials with a laptop computer crammed with documents and sketches purporting to be from Iran’s nuclear weapons program (see Summer 2004). Powell and other senior Cabinet members were briefed on the laptop revelations last week, and though it was stamped “No Foreign,” meaning it was not to be shared with any foreign nations, President Bush decided to share some of the information with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Administration officials tell diplomats from Britain, France, and Germany that Powell misspoke in alluding to the laptop intelligence. Powell’s office says Powell stands by his remarks. [Washington Post, 11/19/2004]

Entity Tags: International Atomic Energy Agency, Joseph Cirincione, Tony Blair, Bush administration (43), Colin Powell, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran

Iran agrees to suspend nuclear enrichment activities at its Isfahan and Natanz nuclear plants. The deal was arranged by Britain, France, and Germany. Iran insists the facilities are for peaceful civilian use and are not capable of producing the quantity or quality of refined products needed for the development of nuclear weapons. [BBC, 11/22/2004]

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

Pakistani prime minister Shaukat Aziz meets with Indian Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar in Delhi. Summarizing the meeting, Aiyar tells the press: “We did repeat what we have said earlier about using Pakistan as [a] transit corridor [for sourcing gas from Iran] creating mutual dependency [and]… we need to replicate such mutual dependency… in the wider trade and economic relationship between the two countries.” It has been reported that Washington is pressuring Pakistan not to enter into any sort of pipeline agreement with Iran. “The project, if it materializes, would also foreclose whatever prospects remain of the revival of the trans-Afghan pipeline project, which many still see as a raison d’etre of the US intervention in Afghanistan,” the Asian Times notes. [Asia Times, 1/11/2005]

Entity Tags: Shaukat Aziz, Mani Shankar Aiyar

Category Tags: Iran-India pipeline, Oil and Gas

Two Iranians attempting to illegally export thousands of American-made night-vision systems to Iran are arrested in Vienna by US and Austrian authorities. [Associated Press, 3/26/2005]

Category Tags: Preparation

The New York Times reports that according to unnamed diplomats, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) believes that satellite photographs indicate Iran may be testing high explosives and that procurement records suggest Iran may have the equipment necessary for making bomb-grade uranium. [China Daily, 12/2/2004] This information was reportedly provided by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) an alleged front group for the Iranian resistance group and designated terrorist organization Mujahedeen-e Khalq. [BBC, 11/18/2004] UN diplomats tell Reuters that inspectors for the IAEA would like to inspect Iranian military sites at Parchin, southeast of Tehran, and Lavizan II, in northeastern Tehran. However, the IAEA is not permitted to inspect those sites because it only has legal authority to visit sites where there are declared civilian nuclear programs. [China Daily, 12/2/2004] Five buildings in Parchin will later be inspected by the IAEA in January 2005 (see Mid-January 2005).

Entity Tags: People’s Mujahedin of Iran, National Council of Resistance of Iran, International Atomic Energy Agency

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Opposition Groups

Knight Ridder reports that, according to US officials, congressional aides and other sources, Pentagon and White House officials “are developing plans to increase public criticism of Iran’s human-rights record, offer stronger backing to exiles and other opponents of Iran’s repressive theocratic government and collect better intelligence on Iran.” Additionally, the administration would like to withdraw troops from Iraq so Bush would have “greater flexibility in dealing with Iran,” one official tells the newspaper. [Knight Ridder, 12/8/2004] The news agency also says that the US is using the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) as a source for intelligence on Iran’s weapons programs, even though the organization “remains on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist groups.” [Knight Ridder, 12/8/2004]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Bush administration (43), People’s Mujahedin of Iran

Category Tags: US MEK policy, Planning, Opposition Groups

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