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US confrontation with Iran

Project: US Confrontation with Iran
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James Dobbins.James Dobbins. [Source: PBS]James Dobbins, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation, writes an analytical piece on the subject of engagement with Iran: “Washington is not ready to join the Europeans in negotiating limits on Iran’s program, nor is it willing to offer any incentives. Conversely, the United States cannot threaten Iran with political isolation or economic sanctions because America already has in place a comprehensive economic embargo and blackout on communication.” Dobbins adds that “America has refused to negotiate, to offer concessions or to join in multilateral economic and political arrangements that its European allies may negotiate…. [W]hile Europe offers carrots, Washington brandishes no sticks. Given American difficulties in Iraq, a military invasion of Iran is implausible. An aerial attack on known nuclear sites in Iran might slow that country’s weapons program, but only at the cost of accelerated efforts at clandestine sites…. Washington is no more than an excited bystander offering advice from a safe distance.” In conclusion, Dobbins states that: “If blocking Iran’s nuclear weapons aspirations is as urgent as it would seem, then engagement on that issue is imperative. At present, nothing Iran does or fails to do will alter the American posture. This unyielding attitude undercuts the prospects for Europe’s effort to negotiate a positive resolution to the nuclear crisis. It also provides the weakest possible basis for common action in the absence of such a settlement.” [International Herald Tribune, 12/2/2004]

Entity Tags: James Dobbins, RAND Corporation

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Diplomacy, Think Tank Activities

During a dinner with visiting US nuclear experts, Iranian leaders Hashemi Rafsanjani and Hassan Rowhani say that Iran’s nuclear weapons research had been halted in 2003 because Iran felt it did not need the actual bombs, only the ability to show the world it could make them. “Look, as long as we can enrich uranium and master the [nuclear] fuel cycle, we don’t need anything else,” Rafsanjani says, according to George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Our neighbors will be able to draw the proper conclusions.” [Washington Post, 12/8/2007]

Entity Tags: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Hassan Rowhani, Hashemi Rafsanjani, George Perkovich

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, US Intel on Iran

Veterans of the Iran-Contra scandal meet for a “lessons learned” discussion, led by Elliott Abrams. One of the conclusions drawn is that, had they done it right, they could have gotten away with it. For future covert operations, they reportedly agree that they should abide by the following axioms: “One, you can’t trust our friends. Two, the CIA has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can’t trust the uniformed military, and four, it’s got to be run out of the Vice-President’s office.” [New Yorker, 3/5/2007]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Elliott Abrams

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

Category Tags: Iran/Contra Affair

Abdul Malik Rigi.Abdul Malik Rigi. [Source: ABC News]According to US and Pakistani intelligence sources interviewed by ABC News, US officials begin encouraging and advising Jundullah, a Pakistani militant group that has been staging attacks against Iran. The group is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran. [ABC News, 4/3/2007] Iran says the group is linked to al-Qaeda. [Reuters, 5/13/2007] Jundullah’s leader, Abdul Malik Rigi, formerly fought with the Taliban. Alexis Debat, a senior fellow on counterterrorism at the Nixon Center, tells ABC that Rigi “used to fight with the Taliban. He’s part drug smuggler, part Taliban, part Sunni activist.” Rigi commands “a force of several hundred guerrilla fighters that stage attacks across the border into Iran on Iranian military officers, Iranian intelligence officers, kidnapping them, executing them on camera,” Debat explains. According to ABC sources, the US government is not funding the group. [ABC News, 4/3/2007] Rather the group is receiving money and weapons through the Afghan and Pakistani military and Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI. [ABC News, 5/23/2007]

Entity Tags: Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Jundullah, Abdul Malik Rigi, Alexis Debat

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations

Early 2005: Iran Readying for US Attack

Iran reportedly begins preparing its military defenses for a possible US attack. An article in the Washington Times quotes one unnamed Iranian official who says “Iran would respond within 15 minutes to any attack by the United States or any other country.” Iranian newspapers report that Iran is expanding its 7-million-strong “Basiji” militia forces. A Western military expert based in Tehran says he believes Iran would not attempt to repel an initial invasion by US forces but would rather engage them in asymmetrical warfare once they are in. [Washington Times, 2/19/2005; Newhouse News Service, 2/21/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense

Category Tags: Predictions, Neoconservative Hawks, Preparation

The US sends teams of US-trained former Iranian exiles, sometimes accompanied by US Special Forces, from Iraq into southern and eastern Iran to search for underground nuclear installations. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005; United Press International, 1/26/2005; Guardian, 1/29/2005] In the north, Israeli-trained Kurds from northern Iraq, occasionally assisted by US forces, look for signs of nuclear activity as well. [United Press International, 1/26/2005] Both teams are tasked with planting remote detection devices, known as “sniffers,” which can sense radioactive emissions and other indicators of nuclear-enrichment programs while also helping US war planners establish targets. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005; United Press International, 1/26/2005] The former Iranian exiles operating in the south and east are members of Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a group that has been included in the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations since 1997 (see 1997) and included in a government white paper (see September 12, 2002) that criticized Iraq for its support of the group. After the US invaded Iraq, members of MEK were “consolidated, detained, disarmed, and screened for any past terrorist acts” by the US (see July 2004) and designated as “protected persons.” (see July 21, 2004) Initially, the MEK operate from Camp Habib in Basra, but they later launch their incursions from the Baluchi region in Pakistan. [United Press International, 1/26/2005; Newsweek, 2/15/2005] They are assisted by information from Pakistani scientists and technicians who have knowledge of Iran’s nuclear program. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] Pakistan apparently agreed to cooperate with the US in exchange for assurances that Pakistan would not have to turn over A. Q. Khan, the so-called “father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb,” to the IAEA or to any other international authorities for questioning. Khan, who is “linked to a vast consortium of nuclear black-market activities,” could potentially be of great assistance to these agencies in their efforts to undermine nuclear weapons proliferation. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] In addition to allowing Pakistan to keep Khan, the US looks the other way as Pakistan continues to buy parts for its nuclear-weapons arsenal in the black market, according to a former high-level Pakistani diplomat interviewed by Seymour Hersh [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] The United States’ use of MEK is criticized by Western diplomats and analysts who agree with many Iranians who consider the group to be traitors because they fought alongside Iraqi troops against Iran in the 1980s. [Christian Science Monitor, 12/31/2003]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan, Bush administration (43), People’s Mujahedin of Iran

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations, Nuclear Program, Opposition Groups

The US Air Force begins flying sorties over Iran from its bases in Afghanistan and Iraq in order to lure Tehran into turning on air defense radars so the US can develop “an electronic order of battle for Iran.” “We have to know which targets to attack and how to attack them,” an unnamed administration official tells United Press International. [United Press International, 1/26/2005] Bush officials initially deny the overflight reports. [Guardian, 1/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), US Department of the Air Force

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations

A Farsi-speaking former CIA officer says he was approached by neoconservatives in the Pentagon who asked him to go to Iran and oversee “MEK [Mujahedeen-e Khalq] cross-border operations” into Iran, which he refused to do. Commenting on the neoconservatives’ ambitions in Iran, the former officer says, “They are bringing a lot of the old war-horses from the Reagan and Iran-contra days into a sort of kitchen cabinet outside the government to write up policy papers on Iran.” He says their plans for Iran are “delusional.” “They think in Iran you can just go in and hit the facilities and destabilize the government. They believe they can get rid of a few crazy mullahs and bring in the young guys who like Gap jeans, all the world’s problems are solved,” he says. [Guardian, 1/18/2005] Journalist Craig Unger explains the neoconservatives’ willingness to rely on MEK fighters. For them, Unger writes, MEK is not a terrorist group, but “America’s best hope in Iran.” [Vanity Fair, 3/2007]

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

Category Tags: US MEK policy, Covert/Clandestine Operations

Reuel Marc Gerecht.Reuel Marc Gerecht. [Source: National Geographic]The Guardian of London interviews Reuel Marc Gerecht, a prominent neoconservative at the American Enterprise Institute, about the Bush administration’s policy in Iran. Gerecht, who is also a former CIA officer, says he believes that US strikes on Iran could set back Iran’s nuclear program. “It would certainly delay [the program] and it can be done again. It’s not a one-time affair. I would be shocked if a military strike could not delay the program.” Gerecht says that members of the Bush administration have not yet agreed on a policy for dealing with Iran and that the internal debate is just beginning. “Iraq has been a fairly consuming endeavor, but it’s getting now toward the point where people are going to focus on [Iran] hard and have a great debate.” [Guardian, 1/18/2005]

Entity Tags: Reuel Marc Gerecht

Category Tags: Predictions, Neoconservative Hawks

Iran hands over documents from a 1987 meeting in Dubai (see 1987) to a International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation (see November 2004). During the 1987 meeting, associates of A. Q. Khan presented Iranian officials with an offer to sell Iran the technology and materials to build a nuclear bomb. However, the IAEA does not uncover any evidence suggesting that the equipment was used in anything other than Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program. The violations are technical and based only on the fact that Iran failed to report the program. Despite its recent findings, the IAEA investigation claims it still lacks a clear understanding of Iran’s nuclear program. [Washington Post, 2/27/2005]

Entity Tags: International Atomic Energy Agency, Abdul Qadeer Khan

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

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

Israelis and US intelligence assets begin entering Iran, using third country passports, to create a network of front companies. The companies are intended to be used for funneling money, weapons, and additional operatives into the country. “It’s a covert infrastructure for material support,” a US administration official tells United Press International in January 2005. Vincent Cannistraro, a former head of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center who is also interviewed by UPI, says he is aware of these covert actions in Iran but doubts that they will be effective. He notes that the US did something similar in 1980 before the failed hostage rescue attempt. “People forget that the Iranians quickly rolled up that entire network after the rescue attempt failed,” he says. [United Press International, 1/26/2005]

Entity Tags: Vincent Cannistraro, Israel, United States

Category Tags: Key Events, Covert/Clandestine Operations

In Delhi, the India government hosts the first-ever round-table of Asian oil ministers from the Persian Gulf, China and Southeast Asia. Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanghaneh recommends creating an Asian Bank for Energy Development to finance energy projects in Asia, such as the long-proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project (see 1993). He also calls for lower prices for Asian energy supplies that are sold to Asian consumers. [Asia Times, 1/11/2005; World Peace Herald, 1/17/2005]

Entity Tags: Bijan Namdar Zanghaneh

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

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh interviews a government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon about the administration’s plans to invade Iran. He says that Pentagon officials, including Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, believe that a limited attack on Iran would inspire a secular revolution in the country. “The minute the aura of invincibility which the mullahs enjoy is shattered, and with it the ability to hoodwink the West, the Iranian regime will collapse,” the consultant says. [CNN, 1/17/2005; New Yorker, 1/24/2005]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Seymour Hersh

Category Tags: Predictions

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh interviews a former high-level intelligence official on the topic of the military’s increased control over US covert operations, the waning power of the CIA, and the administration’s plans to act militarily against Iran. According to the former official, the Defense Department has almost a free reign in the covert activities it oversees. “The Pentagon doesn’t feel obligated to report any of this to Congress,” the official says. “They don’t even call it ‘covert ops’—it’s too close to the CIA phrase. In their view, it’s ‘black reconnaissance.’ They’re not even going to tell the cincs [the regional American military commanders-in-chief].” On Iran, the former official is clear about the administration’s intent. “This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign,” the former official says. “The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign. We’ve declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah—we’ve got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism.” He says an invasion is not conditional in any way. “It’s not if we’re going to do anything against Iran. They’re doing it.” The source suggests that the administration will present its intentions to the public much differently than it did in the case of Iraq. “We’ve got some lessons learned—not militarily, but how we did it politically. We’re not going to rely on agency pissants,” explains the former official. “No loose ends, and that’s why the CIA is out of there.” [New Yorker, 1/24/2005]

Entity Tags: US Congress

Timeline Tags: US Military

Category Tags: Key Events

Indian Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar announces that he has invited Iranian officials to visit Delhi to discuss the long proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas-pipeline project (see 1993). “A delegation from Iran will visit India on the eve of the Asian gas buyers’ summit commencing on February 14 to initiate negotiations on a term-sheet for the delivery of Iranian natural gas by pipeline at the India-Pakistan border,” he says. “Our anticipated demand in 2025 for gas would be 400 million standard cubic meters (mscm) per day. Our output today is less than 100 mscm per day. It is not possible to meet the incremental demand from domestic production…. [I]mport of LNG, and natural gas through [a] pipeline is needed to meet the demands of the growing economy.” [Asia Times, 1/11/2005]

Entity Tags: Mani Shankar Aiyar

Category Tags: Iran-India pipeline, Oil and Gas

India announces that it has agreed to a $40 billion deal with Iran. Under the terms of the agreement, the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) will sell 5 million tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) annually to India over a 25-year period with the possibility of increasing the quantity to 7.5 million tons. India’s price will be computed at 0.065 of Brent crude average plus $1.2 with an upper ceiling of $31 per barrel. As part of the deal, India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) will participate in the development of Yadavaran, Iran’s largest oil field. India’s share in the oil field will be 20 percent, which translates into roughly 60,000 barrels per day of oil. Iran has retained a 30 percent stake while the Chinese state oil company Sinopec secured a 50 percent share in an agreement signed at the end of October (see October 29, 2004). India’s deal with Iran will also provide India with 100 percent of the rights in the 300,000-barrel-per-day Jufeir oilfield. [Asia Times, 1/11/2005; World Peace Herald, 1/17/2005] The agreement could give new impetus to the long proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project (see 1993). The Tehran Times, which is known to represent the views of the Iranian government, comments, “The Iran-India agreement on LNG exports will pave the way for the implementation of the project to pipe Iranian gas to India via Pakistan and the dream of the peace pipeline could become a reality in the near future.” [Asia Times, 1/11/2005]

Entity Tags: National Iranian Oil Company, Sinopec, ONGC Videsh

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

The Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC hosts the “Transition 2005: US Policy Toward Iran” discussion with David Kay and Kenneth M. Pollack of the Brookings Institution. Pollack states that “…the MEK as best I can tell, [inaudible] on the intelligence community, has very little support inside of Iran.” [Relations, 1/12/2005]

Entity Tags: Kenneth Pollack, Council on Foreign Relations, David Kay, Brookings Institution

Category Tags: US MEK policy

Iran allows International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to visit five buildings at the Parchin military site in response to US allegations that Iran has used the site to test explosives components for a nuclear bomb. Other buildings in the area, and four other areas at the Parchin site that the agency has identified as being of potential interest, remain off limits to inspectors. During their visit, the inspectors take samples to test for the presence of nuclear activity. [BBC, 1/5/2005; Weekend Australian, 1/13/2005; BBC, 1/19/2005; BBC, 1/19/2005; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/28/2005]

Entity Tags: International Atomic Energy Agency

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

Military analyst William Arkin publishes 3,000 US military code names along with brief descriptions in his book Code Names: Deciphering US Military Plans, Programs, and Operations in the 9/11 World. Included in his list is CONPLAN 8022 (see May 15, 2005), a top-secret pre-emptive plan to take out nuclear facilities and other threats in Iran, Syria, and North Korea. Another plan mentioned is Oplan 4305, which is a contingency plan for defending of Israel. [Arkin, 2005; MSNBC, 2/10/2005; MSNBC, 5/17/2005] Retired CIA officer Bill McNair accuses Arkin of “endangering national security.” [MSNBC, 2/10/2005]

Entity Tags: Bill McNair, William Arkin

Category Tags: Planning, Preparation

Iran and Russia agree to work jointly on the design and launch of the first Iranian communications satellite, Zohre, at a cost of $132 million. One of the signers to the agreement, Felix Myasnikov, the general director of the Aviaexport, says he believes “that the contract will be a starting point for Russian-Iranian cooperation in space exploration as well as in other spheres of high technologies, in particular, in the aircraft industry.” [Islamic Republic News Agency, 1/31/2005]

Entity Tags: Felix Myasnikov

Category Tags: Geopolitics

The National Iranian American Council releases findings from a national letter writing campaign, conducted between January 24 and 29, indicating that 98.1 percent of Iranian Americans would be opposed to the use of US military force against Iran. 89.5 percent of the participants said they favored negotiations between US and Iran as the best way to address current tensions. 30.4 percent supported joint disarmament of both Iran and Israel. [National Iranian American Council, 1/31/2005]

Entity Tags: National Iranian American Council

Category Tags: Diplomacy

Two thousand Austrian Steyr Mannlicher GmbH high-powered armor-piercing sniper rifles are delivered to Iran, to be used as part of Iran’s effort to clamp down on the drug smugglers pouring in across the border from Afghanistan. The weapons deal, approved by Austria in November 2004, is opposed by the US, which expressed concerns that the weapons could ultimately be used against US soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and potentially Iran. [Associated Press, 3/26/2005; Arms Technology, 4/4/2005]

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Preparation

During a private meeting of Ariel Sharon’s inner cabinet at the prime minister’s private ranch in the Negev desert, Sharon gives “initial authorization” for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. [Sunday Times (London), 3/13/2005]

Entity Tags: Ariel Sharon

Category Tags: Planning, Israel, Neoconservative Hawks

The Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) says that it has provided the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with information that Iran is now producing polonium-210, beryllium, and neutron generators, giving Iran the capability to produce a detonator. MEK claims that Iran plans to have a nuclear weapon by the end of 2005. Mohammed Mohaddessin, head of the group’s foreign affairs committee, tells reporters that the information was obtained from “the Iranian people” and MEK’s network inside Iran. [Associated Press, 2/3/2005; Associated Press, 2/3/2005]

Entity Tags: Mohammed Mohaddessin, International Atomic Energy Agency, People’s Mujahedin of Iran

Category Tags: US MEK policy, Nuclear Program

A. Q: Khan (right) and Mahathir bin Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003 (left).A. Q: Khan (right) and Mahathir bin Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003 (left). [Source: CBC]A Sri Lankan named Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir is accused by President Bush of being the chief financial officer for an international nuclear black market linked to A. Q. Khan, the so-called father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb. Tahir sat on the board of Kaspudu Sendirian Berhad, which is owned by the Malaysian prime minister’s son, Kamaluddin Abdullah. The Associated Press claims that a search of publicly accessible files revealed the paper trail that outlines links between Abdullah and Abu Tahir. The paperwork revealed that they were both executives at Kaspudu Sendirian Berhad when Tahir made a deal for Scomi Precision Engineering to build components that Western intelligence sources claim were for use in Libya’s nuclear program. The Scomi Group fulfilled a $3.5 million manufacturing contract for machine parts negotiated by Tahir. Scomi officials say they did not know what the parts were for, while nonproliferation authorities claim they were for 14 centrifuges. US officials insist the components, tubes made up of thousands of small pieces, could only be used in a uranium enrichment program. A Scomi spokeswoman insisted that the company was told the parts were for the oil and gas industry. After the revelation, Abdullah severs ties to Tahir. Malaysian police say neither Tahir or Scomi have committed any crime and no arrests have been made, which the official government report backed up. President Bush has accused Tahir of using a Dubai based company called Gulf Technical Industries as a front for Khan’s network. [Malaysia, 2/21/2004; Time, 2/16/2005; CNN, 2/18/2005]

Entity Tags: The Scomi Group, Scomi Precision Engineering, Kamaluddin Abdullah, Gulf Technical Industries, Abdul Qadeer Khan, Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, Kaspudu Sendirian Berhad, George W. Bush

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

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

On a visit to Moscow, Iranian Ambassador Gholamreza Shafei says that Iran hopes to work jointly with Russia in space (see Late January 2005), and announces for the first time ever that “Russian-Iranian cooperation is also developing in the military and technical sphere.” [Islamic Republic News Agency, 2/1/2005; Middle East News Online, 2/3/2005]

Entity Tags: Gholamreza Shafei

Category Tags: Geopolitics

General Electric (GE) follows Halliburton and ConocoPhillips, announcing that the company will no longer accept business from Iran (see May 29, 2003). “Because of uncertain conditions related to Iran, including concerns about meeting future customer commitments, we will not accept any new orders for business in Iran effective Feb. 1,” explains Gary Sheffer, a GE spokesman. “This moratorium on new orders will be re-evaluated as conditions relating to Iran change.” [Associated Press, 2/2/2005; Forbes, 2/2/2005] 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. [BBC, 7/20/2004; Associated Press, 2/2/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Halliburton, Inc., General Electric, ConocoPhillips, Gary Sheffer

Category Tags: Western Business Interests

In an op-ed piece published by the Washington Post, David Kay, formerly of the Iraq Survey Group, recommends five steps the US should follow in order to avoid making the same “mistake” it made in Iraq when it wrongly concluded that Iraq had an active illicit weapons program. Three of the points address the issue of politicized intelligence. He implies that the US should learn from the experience it had with the Iraqi National Congress (see 2001-2003), which supplied US intelligence with sources who made false statements about Iraq’s weapon program. “Dissidents and exiles have their own agenda—regime change—and that before being accepted as truth any ‘evidence’ they might supply concerning Iran’s nuclear program must be tested and confirmed by other sources,” he says. In his fourth point, Kay makes it clear that the motives of administration officials should also be considered. He says it is necessary to “understand that overheated rhetoric from policymakers and senior administration officials, unsupported by evidence that can stand international scrutiny, undermines the ability of the United States to halt Iran’s nuclear activities.” And recalling the CIA’s infamous 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq (see October 1, 2002), he says that an NIE on Iran “should not be a rushed and cooked document used to justify the threat of military action” and “should not be led by a team that is trying to prove a case for its boss.” [Washington Post, 2/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Iraqi National Congress, David Kay, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: US Intel on Iran

Newsweek interviews Maryam Rajavi, one of the leaders of Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), at the organization’s compound in the French village of Auvers sur Oise. “I believe increasingly the Americans have come to realize that the solution is an Iranian force that is able to get rid of the Islamic fundamentalists in power in Iran,” Rajavi tells the magazine. She also insists that her group’s history of anti-Americanism has long past. [Newsweek, 2/15/2005]

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

Category Tags: US MEK policy, Calls for Overthrow

Newsweek reports that there is disagreement in the Bush administration over what to do with 3,800 Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) fighters being held in custody by the US at Camp Ashraf (see April 2003). The magazine says that parts of the Defense Department want “to cull useful MEK members as operatives for use against Tehran, all while insisting that it does not deal with the MEK as a group.” They would be sent to Iran to gather intelligence and possibly reawaken a democratic movement in Iran. The CIA however has objected to this strategy “because senior officers regard them as unreliable cultists under the sway of [Maryam] Rajavi and her husband,” Newsweek explains. A Defense Department spokesman however denies there is any “cooperation agreement” with the MEK and claims that the Pentagon has no plans for using MEK members in any capacity. But an MEK official interviewed by Newsweek said the opposite: “They [want] to make us mercenaries.” Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA) also feels the Defense Department has plans for MEK members. “The Defense Department is thinking of them as buddies and the State Department sees them as terrorists. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle,” he told Newsweek. [Newsweek, 2/15/2005]

Entity Tags: Brad Sherman, Maryam Rajavi, US Department of Defense, People’s Mujahedin of Iran

Category Tags: US MEK policy

In Iran, a blast occurring at a dam construction site near the town of Dailam triggers false reports of a missile strike on Iran’s Russian-built Bushehr nuclear plant. News of the blast sends stocks on Wall Street downward and pushes up oil prices. Iranian official Ali Agha Mohammadi of the Supreme National Security Council claims that the false reports were engineered by Washington as part of “psychological warfare” against Tehran. [Associated Press, 2/16/2005; Fox News, 2/17/2005]

Entity Tags: Ali Agha Mohammadi, Iranian Supreme National Security Council

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Oil and Gas

Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter tells a packed house at Olympia, Washington’s Capitol Theater that George W. Bush has “signed off” on plans to bomb Iran in June 2005. [United For Peace of Pierce County website, 2/19/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Scott Ritter

Category Tags: Planning

Sam Seder, hosting Air America’s Randi Rhodes show, interviews Scott Ritter about statements he made concerning US military plans against Iran three days earlier (see February 18, 2005). Responding to a question about possible US military air strikes on Iran, Ritter says: “I have sources, which are unimpeachable, which I would not state who they are, who told me in October of 2004 that the president had been briefed on military strike options against Iran that were to commence in June of 2005. And that the president signed off on these plans.” [Air America Radio, 2/21/2005]

Entity Tags: Air America Radio, Scott Ritter, Sam Seder, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Planning

During a news conference with European Union leaders in Brussels, President Bush says that rumors suggesting the US is preparing to strike Iran are “simply ridiculous.” But he quickly adds that “all options are on the table.” [Reuters, 2/22/2005; CBS News, 2/22/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Category Tags: Planning

Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita denies that the US is flying drones on reconnaissance missions over Iran. He claims that recent news reports about the drones are inaccurate. “I would consider the source and leave it at that. I’m telling you that we’re not doing those kinds of activities,” Di Rita says. “To the best of our knowledge, it isn’t happening: period.” [US Department of Defense, 2/22/2005; Washington File, 2/22/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Lawrence Di Rita

Category Tags: Covert/Clandestine Operations

Hassan Rowhani, Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator, tells France’s Le Monde newspaper that Iran may be hiding its nuclear technology inside special tunnels because of threats of attack by the United States. Rowhani is asked, “Is it accurate that Iran has built tunnels meant to serve Iran’s nuclear activities?” He responds that these reports “could be true.… From the moment the Americans threaten to attack our nuclear sites, what are we to do? We have to put them somewhere.” [Associated Press, 2/25/2005]

Entity Tags: Hassan Rowhani

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Preparation

Kazakh Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev says during a news conference that the foreign ministries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) are reviewing membership applications submitted by Iran and Pakistan. [Interfax, 2/25/2005]

Entity Tags: Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Kasymzhomart Tokayev

Category Tags: Geopolitics

Alexander Rumyantsev, head of Russia’s Federal Atomic Energy Agency, and Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh sign a nuclear fuel supply deal. Under the provisions of the agreement, Russia will supply Iran with uranium fuel for Iran’s Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant, which once complete will produce 1,000 megawatts of electricity. Iran will be required to return all of the spent fuel to Russia to prevent the possibility that some of it will be used to produce bomb-grade plutonium. According to Rumyantsev, the first batch of enriched uranium fuel is waiting in Siberia ready to be shipped. [Reuters, 2/27/2005; Los Angeles Times, 3/1/2005] Russia’s more than $1 billion contract to build the reactor is said to have played a significant role in maintaining the strength of Russia’s nuclear energy industry. Russia, which has sent more than 2,000 workers to work with 3,000 Iranians at Bushehr, is keen on securing more contracts with the Iranian government. An additional 1,500 Russian specialists are scheduled to go to Bushehr soon to install more equipment. [Los Angeles Times, 3/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Alexander Rumyantsev, Gholamreza Aghazadeh

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Nuclear Program

US ambassador to New Delhi David Mulford informs India’s Oil Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar in a meeting that the Bush administration has reservations about Indian attempts to strike a deal with Iran on the long proposed $3-4 billion Iran-Pakistan-India gas-pipeline project (see 1993). According to the Indian Express, the meeting marks the first time the US has formally conveyed its concerns about the pipeline proposal. [Agence France-Presse, 3/10/2005; Dawn (Karachi), 3/11/2005; Voice of America, 3/17/2005]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), David Mulford, Mani Shankar Aiyar

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

More than 250 members of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a militant Iranian opposition group, return to Iran from Camp Ashraf in Iraq, accepting Iran’s December offer of amnesty. For years, the MEK leadership has assured the group’s members they faced certain death if they returned to Iran. Many remaining MEK members, over 3,500 in Iraq alone, say they are skeptical of the Iranian government’s promises and [Christian Science Monitor, 3/22/2005] dismiss the defectors as “quitters.” According to the Los Angeles Times, which interviewed several of Camp Ashraf’s residents, remaining MEK members appear to “show no interest” in going back. [Los Angeles Times, 3/19/2005]

Entity Tags: People’s Mujahedin of Iran

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: US MEK policy

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports in a statement to its 35-member board that the agency’s inspectors continue to have lingering questions about Iranian activities at the Parchin military site and that Iran has denied requests for additional visits to the complex (see Mid-January 2005). [BBC, 3/1/2005] Iran claims that it is not legally required to allow further inspections at Parchin, reasoning in a February 27 note to the IAEA that the “expectation of the Safeguards Department in visiting specified zones and points in Parchin Complex are fulfilled and thus there is no justification for any additional visit.” The agency disagrees. [New York Times, 3/1/2005] Additionally, the agency says in its statement that Iran has failed to provide information on how Iran obtained its advanced P-2 centrifuge equipment. The inspectors also say they are concerned about certain dual-use technologies at the Lavisan site, which Iran is also refusing to open to inspectors. [New York Times, 3/1/2005] A Western diplomat says the statement demonstrates “another failure to disclose activities, which fits a disturbing pattern,” adding, “It’s more evidence that the Iranians are unwilling to provide full disclosure.” [New York Times, 3/1/2005] But other officials note that the statement contains no evidence that Iran has an active weapons program. “The facts don’t support an innocent or guilty verdict at this point,” one agency official observes. [New York Times, 3/1/2005]

Entity Tags: International Atomic Energy Agency

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

In response to a BBC request for her views on the crisis in Iran, Danielle Pletka of the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute says: “The longer we wait and the more we negotiate, the longer Iran has to pursue a covert [nuclear] program…. The road to co-operation between Europe and the US involves pursuing the ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine because it will force the Iranians to be serious about dealing with the friendlier party. However, there’s a suspicion in the US and in Europe, and a strong certainty in Iran, that when push comes to shove, the Europeans aren’t going to be willing to cut the ties with the Iranians and say simply that Iran has been cheating, the deal is broken. We need to persuade the Europeans that even if you’re the good cop, you have to be prepared to pull the gun and make the arrest.” [BBC, 3/1/2005; Christian Science Monitor, 3/2/2005]

Entity Tags: Danielle Pletka, American Enterprise Institute

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Neoconservative Hawks

Jackie Sanders, chief US delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors, accuses Iran of “cynically” pursuing the development of nuclear weapons and attempting to deceive the world with claims that its nuclear program is peaceful. Her comments are in response to a recent report by the IAEA that said that Iran is not cooperating fully with inspectors, is continuing to construct a heavy water reactor despite agency requests to stop building, and is not fulfilling its reporting requirements in a timely fashion. Sanders called the IAEA report a “startling list of Iranian attempts to hide and mislead and delay the work” of the IAEA. [Associated Press, 3/2/2005]

Entity Tags: International Atomic Energy Agency, Jackie Sanders

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

Frances Townsend, Homeland Security Adviser to President Bush, tells the Club of Madrid, “State sponsors of terrorism such as Iran and Syria are with the terrorists and therefore against all of us.” She adds, “From this day forward the community of nations must be united in demanding a complete end to the state sponsorship of terrorism.” Praising Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, she refers to them as “ever stronger partners in the war against terror.” [India Monitor, 3/3/2005]

Entity Tags: Frances Townsend

The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) releases satellite images that show a heavy water plant under construction in Iran. Critics of Iran’s nuclear program say that once the plant is complete, it will be capable of supplying a heavy water reactor with enough heavy water to produce enough plutonium for one atomic bomb a year. But the heavy water plant is not illegal and Iran does not yet have a heavy water reactor. Iran claims its nuclear program is for civilian energy purposes only. [Reuters, 3/4/2005; Institute for Science and International Security, 3/4/2005]

Entity Tags: Institute for Science and International Security

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

The Bush administration says it will not back Europe’s plan to offer Iran economic and political incentives to abandon its uranium enrichment program unless there is a way to enforce it. The Bush administration favors an arrangement where the issue would be hauled before the UN Security Council, which has the authority to impose sanctions, in the event of Iranian non-compliance. [Reuters, 3/4/2005]

Category Tags: Diplomacy, Nuclear Program

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rohani, says the Middle East will become even more unstable if Iran is sent to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program. “This would be a particular problem for the United States because it has a lot of troops and equipment in [the] region and is in fact our imposed neighbor,” he says. Iran has complained that United States forces have effectively encircled it, with troops stationed in both Iraq and Afghanistan. [Al Jazeera, 3/5/2005]

Entity Tags: Hassan Rohani, United Nations Security Council

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Nuclear Program

John Bolton.John Bolton. [Source: Publicity photo via American Enterprise Institute]President George Bush selects John Bolton, currently an official in the State Department, to be the US ambassador to the UN. Bolton is a staunch neoconservative with a long record of opposing multilateral efforts. As undersecretary of state for arms control, Bolton opposed a multilateral effort in July 2001 to create broad worldwide controls on the sale of small arms (see July 9, 2001). In February 2002, Bolton made it clear that the Bush administration did not feel bound to the 1978 pledge not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states (see February 2002). Bolton was also a strong advocate of taking unilateral action against Saddam Hussein (see January 26, 1998) and in May 2002, he effectively removed the US signature from the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court (ICC) (see May 6, 2002). [USA Today, 3/7/2005]

Entity Tags: John R. Bolton, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Key Events, Diplomacy

The New York Times reports that a nine-member bipartisan presidential panel is due to provide President Bush with a classified report describing American intelligence on Iran and North Korea by March 31 (see April 2, 2005). After a 14-month review, the panel, led by Laurence Silberman, a retired federal judge, and Charles S. Robb, a former governor and senator from Virginia, will conclude that US intelligence lacks sufficient intelligence to make firm judgments on Iran’s weapons programs. The Times reports that one of its sources said the “panel’s deliberations and conclusions characterized American intelligence on Iran as ‘scandalous,’ given the importance and relative openness of the country.” [New York Times, 3/9/2005; London Times, 3/10/2005]

Entity Tags: Charles S. Robb, Laurence Silberman

Category Tags: US Intel on Iran

Pakistan Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sheikh Rashid Ahmed says that the now pardoned A. Q. Khan was involved in black market nuclear arms deals and that he gave the Iranians centrifuge parts. “[Khan] had given centrifuges to Iran in his individual capacity and the government of Pakistan had nothing to do with this,” Ahmed tells reporters. Despite these acknowledgments, Ahmed says Pakistan “will not hand over [Khan] to any other country.” The Pakistani government insists that it had no knowledge of Khan’s activities, but numerous experts have questioned these claims noting that it would have been impossible for him to keep his activities secret. [BBC, 3/10/2005; CNN, 3/10/2005]

Entity Tags: Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Abdul Qadeer Khan

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

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

The United States and European Union (EU) indicate that they are ready to work together on a diplomatic approach to encourage Iran to give up its nuclear program. Condoleezza Rice says that the US is willing to drop it objections to Iran’s application to the WTO and “consider, on a case-by-case basis, the licensing of spare parts of Iranian civilian aircraft.” Europe, on the other hand, which has been under pressure from the Bush administration to harden its policy toward Iran, says it will have “no choice” but to support the issue being brought up at the UN Security Council if Iran does not discontinue its suspected nuclear weapons program. Up until now, the US and EU have been unable to agree on a single approach to dealing with Iran. [New York Times, 3/12/2005]

Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice

Category Tags: Diplomacy, Nuclear Program

Passengers associated with the pro-monarchist group Azarakhsh (Lightning) stage a long-planned sit-in on a Lufthansa plane at the Brussels Airport in Belgium. Several passengers demanded to be heard, one saying that “We want the European Union to remove the Islamic leaders from Iran.” Several claim to be members of Anjomane Padeshahi, another pro-monarchist group that wants to restore the country’s royal Pahlavi family. The German magazine Der Spiegel says it had received a letter from the group denouncing torture in Iran. The group promises more activity, possibly within Iran, in the near future. [Deutsche Welle (Bonn), 3/11/2005; BBC, 3/11/2005; Reuters, 3/12/2005; Reza Pahlavi II website, 6/10/2005]

Entity Tags: Azarakhsh, Anjomane Padeshahi

Category Tags: Opposition Groups

The India Daily reports that two US Navy aircraft carriers, the USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Carl Vinson, appear to be heading toward the Middle East where they will be joined by a third carrier group. The newspaper notes that the convergence of three carriers in the region would send a strong signal to both Syria and Iran. [India Daily, 3/12/2005] There is speculation that Iran may face a US naval blockade. [India Daily, 3/15/2005]

Category Tags: Planning, Preparation

Iran says that incentives put forward by Europe and the United States the previous day (see March 11, 2005) are meaningless. “The Islamic Republic of Iran is determined to use peaceful nuclear technology and no pressure, intimidation or threat can make Iran give up its right,” says Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi. The European Union and United States unveiled a “carrot and stick” approach to pressure Tehran to give up uranium enrichment which can be used to make bomb-grade fuel. Asefi argues that US prohibitions against the sale of aircraft spare parts to Iran should never have been imposed in the first place. “Lifting them is no concession and entering the WTO is a clear right of all countries.” He also says that Iran would be happy to implement measures—such as allowing intrusive UN inspections of its nuclear sites—in order to provide “objective guarantees” that it is not developing nuclear weapons. [Reuters, 3/12/2005; Voice of America, 3/12/2005]

Entity Tags: Hamid Reza Asefi

Category Tags: Diplomacy, Nuclear Program

The Sunday Times reports that Israel has drawn up plans for a combined air and ground attack on Iranian nuclear installations if Tehran does not give up its nuclear program. The plans have been discussed with US officials who, according to the Times, “are said to have indicated provisionally that they would not stand in Israel’s way if all international efforts to halt Iranian nuclear projects failed.” In preparation for the possible military strike, Israel has conducted military exercises using a mock-up of Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant. “Their tactics include raids by Israel’s elite Shaldag (Kingfisher) commando unit and air strikes by F-15 jets from 69 Squadron, using bunker-busting bombs to penetrate underground facilities,” the Sunday Times says. [Sunday Times (London), 3/13/2005] Ariel Sharon gave “initial authorization” for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities a month earlier (see February 2005).

Entity Tags: Ariel Sharon

Category Tags: Planning, Israel, Preparation

Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh signs a memorandum of understanding with his Indonesian counterpart Purnomo Yusgiantoro that Iran will build a $3 billion refinery in Indonesia. As part of the deal, Indonesia will receive 300,000 barrels per day of heavy crude and Tehran will get a 30 percent stake in PT Pertamina, Indonesia’s state oil company. National Iranian Oil Company and Pertamina will lead the four-year project, which Iran hopes will provide security for Iran’s market supply. [Islamic Republic News Agency, 3/16/2005; Bloomberg, 3/18/2005]

Entity Tags: Purnomo Yusgiantoro, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, National Iranian Oil Company, PT Pertamina

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Oil and Gas

Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the agency believes Iran will probably have the capability to produce a nuclear weapon “early in the next decade.” [Washington Times, 2/21/2005; US Congress. Senate Armed Services Committee, 3/17/2005]

Entity Tags: Senate Armed Services Committee, Lowell E. Jacoby

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

The Ukrainian government admits illegal arms dealers sold 12 Kh55 (X-55) cruise missiles to Iran and six to China in 2001 (see 2001). The missiles, with a range of 1550 miles, would give Iran the capability to strike Israel. The missiles, designed to carry nuclear warheads, were manufactured in 1987 with a reported service life of eight years. Former Russian Air Force commander Viktor Strelnikov and specialists who examined the missiles said that they were marked with the inscription “training.” Iran does not operate long-range bombers and experts say Iran would probably have to adapt its Soviet-built Su-24 strike aircraft to launch the missile. [BBC, 3/18/2005; Daily Star (Beirut), 3/18/2005; Financial Times, 3/18/2005; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/28/2005]

Entity Tags: Viktor Strelnikov

Category Tags: Preparation

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the US is opposed to the proposed Iran-India-Pakistan gas pipeline because it would strengthen Iran and thus negatively affect the United States economically. “Our views concerning Iran are very well known by this time, and we have communicated our concerns about gas pipeline cooperation,” she says. [Al Jazeera, 3/19/2005]

Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice

Category Tags: Iran-India pipeline, Key Events

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, tells pilgrims in Mashad that it is “fiction” that Iran is developing an atomic bomb. He says that he would give his life on the battlefield if Iran were attacked by the US and adds that he would not go into hiding if that were to occur, referring to President Bush’s low profile during the September 11 attacks. [Al Jazeera, 3/21/2005]

Entity Tags: Seyyed Ali Khamenei, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Predictions

Iran presents the European Union with a proposal whereby Iran would be permitted to produce enriched uranium on a small scale. The proposed pilot plant would have a small number of centrifuges, arranged in successive order to refine out enriched uranium. Experts say the plan would involve 500 to 2,000 centrifuges as opposed to the 54,000 that Iran currently has planned for large-scale industrial use. As part of the proposed agreement, Iranian officials would allow close monitoring of the pilot facility by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). [Agence France-Presse, 3/24/2005]

Entity Tags: International Atomic Energy Agency

Category Tags: Diplomacy, Nuclear Program

Alireza Jafarzadeh—a former spokesman of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an organization that is listed by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization (see August 15, 2003)—says that according to “well-placed sources” within the Iranian regime, “Iran has completed an underground tunnel-like facility in Parchin, which is now engaged in laser enrichment.” Jafarzadeh, who now heads the Washington-based think-tank Strategic Policy Consulting and regularly serves as a Fox News foreign affairs analyst, also says that “the underground site is camouflaged and built in an area of Parchin that deals with the chemical industry.” It is connected to “Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program,” he further claims. The underground facility is reportedly located in an area known as “Plan 1.” [Fox News, 2/20/2005; Reuters, 3/24/2005; Associated Press, 3/24/2005; Seattle Times, 3/25/2005] Iran has refused to give inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) unfettered access to Parchin (see March 1, 2005), and the US alleges that Iran is testing explosive devices there that could be used in nuclear weapons.

Entity Tags: Fox News, Alireza Jafarzadeh, National Council of Resistance of Iran, International Atomic Energy Agency

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

India’s petroleum and natural gas minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar, announces that Pakistan has invited India to join them in talks, set for April 2005, with the Iranian government on a proposal to construct a natural gas pipeline from Iran to India. India is Asia’s third-largest energy user and has long awaited such an invitation to join the $4 billion, 2,775-kilometer pipeline project. [BBC, 2/5/2005; Bloomberg, 3/28/2005; Agence France-Presse, 3/28/2005]

Entity Tags: Mani Shankar Aiyar

Category Tags: Iran-India pipeline, Diplomacy

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami personally accompanies about 30 journalists deep into the underground nuclear plant at Natanz, a uranium enrichment facility located 250 km (150 miles) south of Tehran. The group of foreign and local journalists is permitted to film and take video footage of the complex. Natanz is built more than 18 meters (54 feet) below ground due to “security problems.” The journalists are shown another facility in the city of Isfahan. “If we were looking to make atomic weapons, we could have completed these [facilities] in hiding,” Khatami tells the reporters. The gesture is viewed by many as an attempt to undermine support for a possible aerial attack by the United States or Israel. [Reuters, 3/30/2005]

Entity Tags: Hojjat ol-Eslam Seyyed Mohammad Khatami

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Nuclear Program

The Mujahedeen-e Khalq’s (MEK) political wing, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), holds a press conference in Paris. Mohammed Mohaddessin of the NCRI tells reporters, “In mid-2004, [Iran’s supreme leader] Khamenei allocated $2.5 billion to obtain three nuclear warheads.” Mohaddessin claims the Iranian regime is accelerating work on a reactor in Arak, 150 miles south of Tehran, which could produce enough plutonium for one atomic bomb per year. “The regime told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) the reactor would be operational in 2014, but in reality, they want to start it in 2006 or 2007,” he says. In August 2002, the NCRI first revealed information about the Arak heavy-water production plant, along with the Natanz uranium enrichment plant (see August 2002) describing it then as part of a secret nuclear weapons program. Iran later declared both sites to the IAEA. [Reuters, 3/31/2005; National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, 5/12/2005]

Entity Tags: International Atomic Energy Agency, Seyyed Ali Khamenei, People’s Mujahedin of Iran, Mohammed Mohaddessin, National Council of Resistance of Iran

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

Rumors spread in the Arab-dominated western Iranian city of Ahwaz that the government is considering the forced migration of Arabs to Iran’s northern provinces. The rumors are based on a letter purportedly written by Iran’s vice president, Muhammad Ali Abtahi. [Al Jazeera, 4/17/2005; BBC, 4/19/2005] The Iranian government claims the letter was fabricated by “foreign agents,” and aimed at exploiting ethnic tensions to create civil unrest. [Xinhua News Agency (Beijing), 5/26/2005] The Popular Democratic Front of Ahwazi Arabs in Iran, however, insists the letter is authentic and represents the regime’s long-standing objective to forcibly relocate Arabs. The controversial letter results in clashes between police and ethnic Arabs in Ahwaz. Although Arabs dominate Ahwaz, they account for only three percent of Iran’s total population. [Al Jazeera, 4/17/2005; BBC, 4/19/2005]

Entity Tags: Muhammad Ali Abtahi, Popular Democratic Front of Ahwazi Arabs in Iran

Category Tags: Geopolitics

Asian News International reports that according to official Pakistani sources the US government is reconsidering its opposition to the $4.2 billion dollar Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline (see 1993). The Bush administration has been opposed to the proposed pipeline on grounds that it would help Iran, a potential target of future US military strikes. But since the consortium is hoping to involve US corporations, these companies are apparently putting pressure on the White House to back the pipeline. Without the approval of the US government, the companies would be barred from participating in the pipeline’s construction. According to sources, the US is considering pursuing a strategy that would leverage its possible support for the pipeline against Iran in its disagreement over the country’s nuclear program. [News (Islamabad), 4/2/2005]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Iran-India pipeline, Geopolitics, Western Business Interests

As expected (see March 8, 2005), the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction concludes that the CIA’s intelligence on Iran is weak. The nine-member commission, headed by Federal appeals court judge, Laurence Silberman, and Charles S. Robb, a former governor and senator from Virginia, finds that US intelligence had few human assets in Iran and only limited direct knowledge of Iran’s missile and nuclear programs. [New York Times, 3/9/2005; Los Angeles Times, 4/1/2005; Middle East Newsline, 4/2/2005]

Category Tags: Key Events, US Intel on Iran

Fox News interviews two retired US military generals and a military expert and asks them to discuss the Bush administration’s military options for dealing with Iran. [Fox News, 4/24/2005] They offer four possible scenarios:
Covert action - The Bush administration could send CIA agents or commandos to sabotage Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Naval blockade - The US could implement a naval blockade at the Strait of Hormuz and halt Iranian oil exports.
Surgical strikes - The US could launch cruise missiles at Iran’s nuclear facilities. “e are moving some aircraft carrier groups into the Persian Gulf as we speak,” notes retired Army Major Gen. Paul Vallely. “They will be positioned to launch any aircraft from the Mediterranean Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf.” After the cruise missiles, F-117 stealth fighter jets would destroy the country’s radar system and B-2 bombers would drop 5,000-pound laser-guided bunker busters on buried targets like the Natanz enrichment site or the deep tunnels in Isfahan.
All-out assault - An all-out assault involving ground troops, according to the experts interviewed by Fox, would be the least likely scenario.

Entity Tags: Council on Foreign Relations

Category Tags: Predictions, Think Tank Activities

Lorne Craner, president of the International Republican Institute (IRI), praises the Bush administration’s plan to spend three million dollars on the “advancement of democracy and human rights” in Iran (see April 11, 2005). “I am pleased to hear it has happened,” he tells United Press International. “The United States has been spreading democracy for years in other countries, it’s good we’re now doing it in Iran.” He also tells the newswire that IRI hopes to be awarded one of the State Department’s “democracy advancement” grants so it can work with Iranian groups. [United Press International, 4/11/2005] Only a year before, the Republican-controlled IRI was implicated in the ousting of Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide. It was accused of providing a cover for the training of a 600-member paramilitary army of anti-Aristide Haitians (see (2001-2004)).

Entity Tags: International Republican Institute

The Bush administration announces plans to spend $3 million on supporting “the advancement of democracy and human rights” in Iran. The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor says it expects to award between three and 12 grants ranging from $250,000 to $1 million to educational institutions, humanitarian groups, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals. [US Department of State, 4/8/2005; Associated Press, 4/11/2005] Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Javad Zarif, says the plan is “a clear violation” of the 1981 Algiers Accords which prohibits the US from intervening “directly or indirectly, politically or militarily in Iran’s internal affairs.” [Islamic Republic News Agency, 4/11/2005]

Category Tags: Geopolitics

The National Convention for a Democratic, Secular Republic in Iran is held in Washington, DC and attended by about 300 supporters. Speakers at the event include members of Congress, legal scholars, and Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the political wing of Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK). Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA.) tells the crowd, “Unless we deal with Iran, there will never be a solution in Iraq.” [US Newswire, 4/13/2005; National Convention for a Democratic Secular Republic in Iran, 5/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Maryam Rajavi, Robert Earl (“Bob”) Filner, People’s Mujahedin of Iran, National Council of Resistance of Iran

Category Tags: US MEK policy, Neoconservative Hawks

Speaking at a forum on Middle East peace sponsored by The Week magazine, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger warns that if Iran succeeds in building nuclear weapons it could touch off an arms race that could lead to the end of civilization. “I do not believe that living in a world with 20 or 30 nuclear states is a situation that civilized life can support,” he says. [New York Daily News, 4/15/2005] But during the 1970s, Kissinger and other US officials had supported Iranian efforts to develop a nuclear energy program (see 1976 and April 22, 1975). At the time, they were not concerned about the potential for Iran to use the technology to develop nuclear weapons. Nor were they concerned about proliferation. Kissinger told the Washington Post in March that he did not “think the issue of proliferation came up.” [Washington Post, 3/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Henry A. Kissinger

Category Tags: Nuclear Program

Leslie Gelb, president of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), returns from a trip to Iraq and complains that Washington is exhibiting a “totally unrealistic optimism” about events in that country. Gelb, a former Pentagon official, also says in his report that the US military is preparing Iraqis for a future war with Iran. “It became very apparent to me that these 10 divisions were to fight some future war against Iran. It had nothing to do—nothing to do—with taking that country over from us and fighting the insurgents,” Gelb concludes. [Gelb, 4/26/2005; Boston Globe, 6/17/2005]

Entity Tags: Council on Foreign Relations, Leslie Gelb

Category Tags: Geopolitics

Russian President Vladimir Putin dismisses Israeli concerns that Russian sales of nuclear components to Iran represent a threat to Israel’s security. According to the terms of Russia’s agreement with Iran, Putin explains, Iran must return all of its spent nuclear fuel to Russia so it cannot be used for military purposes. [Associated Press, 4/28/2005]

Entity Tags: Vladimir Putin

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Israel

Human Rights Watch reports that 12 former members of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) have alleged they were subjected to routine detention, solitary confinement, beatings, and torture as punishment for criticizing MEK leadership or trying to leave its ranks. The former MEK members, now in Europe, told Human Rights Watch that they spent several years in Abu Ghraib prison until Saddam Hussein released them during his last year in power. One of those interviewed, according to the report, recalled that during the mid-1990s a prisoner died after an intense beating. Two other former MEK members said they were held in solitary confinement for extensive periods of time, one for five years, and the other for eight and a half years. After the report’s release, Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) denies the allegations cited in the report. [Human Rights Watch, 5/2005; BBC, 5/19/2005]

Entity Tags: Human Rights Watch, People’s Mujahedin of Iran, Saddam Hussein

Category Tags: US MEK policy

Iran announces that it will resume nuclear enrichment-related activities within a week following unsuccessful talks with European nations. In remarks that follow the announcement, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says Iran has the right to develop a nuclear energy program. “Anybody who comes to power through the presidential elections will not want, nor will the nation allow him to, take a step against the people’s interests,” he says. [Associated Press, 5/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Seyyed Ali Khamenei

Category Tags: Diplomacy, Nuclear Program

May 4, 2005: Blair Denies Plans to Invade Iran

In an interview with Britain’s Channel 4 television, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, insists his country has no intention of invading Iran. “I’ve got no intention of bombing their nuclear installations or anything else,” Blair says. [Islamic Republic News Agency, 5/4/2005]

Entity Tags: Tony Blair

Category Tags: Geopolitics

The foreign ministers of Britain, France, and Germany write to Hassan Rouhani, head of Iran’s Supreme Security Council, warning that they will end negotiations with the Iranian government if it resumes its nuclear energy program. The letter marks the first time European countries have threatened to sign on to the Bush administration’s hardline strategy in dealing with Iran. [Washington Post, 5/12/2005]

Entity Tags: Hassan Rouhani

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Nuclear Program

South of Tehran, over 200 men and women attend a ceremony to volunteer themselves as suicide bombers against Israelis and against American forces in Iraq. It marks the third such ceremony organized by the Headquarters for Commemorating Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement in the past year. The group is calling for martyrdom attacks against Israel, the assassination of British author Salman Rushdie, and “attacks against occupiers of holy places” in Iraq. The Iranian government has distanced itself from the organization. [Israeli Insider, 5/12/2005]

Entity Tags: Headquarters for Commemorating Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement

Category Tags: Israel, Preparation

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan warns the US that the Security Council would probably deadlock on any resolution to levy sanctions against Iran for its refusal to halt its nuclear energy program. The US and Britain have been urging that Iran be brought before the Security Council if it does not give up its program. In an interview with USA Today, Annan explains that both China and Russia, with their close ties to Iran, would certainly veto any proposal to impose sanctions. [USA Today, 5/15/2005]

Entity Tags: Kofi Annan, United Nations

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Nuclear Program

The Washington Post reports that during the summer of 2004, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved a top secret Interim Global Strike Alert Order (see July 2004), code-named CONPLAN 8022, “directing the military to assume and maintain readiness to attack hostile countries that are developing weapons of mass destruction, specifically Iran and North Korea.” [Tribune (Chandigarh), 9/8/2004; Washington Post, 5/15/2005]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld

Representatives from Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan meet in Tehran as part of an effort to resolve territorial disputes concerning oil and gas exploitation in the Caspian Sea. During the meeting, Iran’s special representative for the Caspian Sea Affairs, Mehdi Safari, says that Iran is opposed to the militarization of the Caspian region. [Xinhua News Agency (Beijing), 5/16/2005]

Entity Tags: Mehdi Safari

The governments of Iran and Azerbaijan sign a non-aggression pact agreeing that neither government will allow a third state to set up a military base on its soil in order to launch military strikes on the other. [Islamic Republic News Agency, 5/16/2005]

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Diplomacy

Iran’s foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi, visits Iraq and meets with top officials, including Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. The visit marks the highest profile meeting between Iran and Iraq since US forces ousted Saddam Hussein in spring of 2003. At a news conference, Kharrazi tells reporters, “We will not allow terrorists to use our lands to access Iraq,” and adds, “We will watch our borders and will arrest infiltrators, because securing Iraq is securing the Islamic Republic.” [CNN, 5/17/2005; Christian Science Monitor, 5/20/2005]

Entity Tags: Kamal Kharrazi, Ibrahim al-Jaafari

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Diplomacy

India’s Ministry of External Affairs, known as South Block, produces a report on the potential legal implications of going ahead with the long-proposed $4.3 billion Iran-Pakistan-India gas-pipeline project (see 1993). The report warns that India could get slapped with sanctions by the US under the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996. South Block says activities that lead to annual investments of over $40 million and directly increase Iran’s ability to develop its oil and gas resources may trigger sanctions from the US. But South Block also notes in its report that Turkey, Britain, the Netherlands, and Japan all invested in Iran’s hydrocarbon sector after the Act went into force and did not attract sanctions. The European Union and Canada have both challenged the law and Iran has called the law “inadmissible intervention in its internal and external affairs.” [US Congress, 8/5/1996; Indian Express, 5/21/2005]

Entity Tags: Ministry of External Affairs

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Iran-India pipeline

About 500 protesters demonstrate in Huntington Beach, near Los Angeles, calling on the Bush administration to back the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian opposition group, and remove the organization from the State Department’s list of US-designated foreign terrorist organizations. One of the speakers at the event is Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political front for the MEK. Addressing the crowd via satellite, she tells them that she believes the opposition’s efforts will soon payoff. [Los Angeles Times, 5/23/2005]

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

Category Tags: US MEK policy

May 25, 2005: BTC Pipeline Opens

The $4 billion US-backed Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline officially opens. The pipeline begins in Baku, Azerbaijan and travels 1,762 km (1,000 miles) through Georgia to the Mediterranean port city of Ceyhan in Turkey. The pipeline has been under construction for ten years and was built by a consortium of oil companies including Amerada Hess, ConocoPhillips, Eni, Inpex, Itochu, Statoil, Total, SOCAR, TPAO, Unocal, and BP. The pipeline is expected to bring one million barrels of oil per day to the West. [Institution, 3/4/2003; BBC, 5/5/2005; BBC, 5/25/2005]

Entity Tags: Unocal, British Petroleum, TPAO, SOCAR, Total, Eni, ConocoPhillips, Amerada Hess, Inpex, Itochu, Statoil

Timeline Tags: Peak Oil

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Oil and Gas

Iran’s information minister, Ali Younesi, accuses the US of pursuing a policy of regime change in Iran by exploiting ethnic and racial tension. One month before, the Iranian government claimed that “foreign agents” were behind an April letter (see Early April 2005) purportedly written by Iran’s former vice president, Muhammad Ali Abtahi, promoting the forced relocation of Iranian Arabs to the country’s northern provinces. Also that month, Washington earmarked $3 million to “promote democracy in Iran” (see April 11, 2005), a move criticized by Tehran as interfering in Iran’s internal affairs. [Xinhua News Agency (Beijing), 5/26/2005]

Entity Tags: Ali Younesi, Muhammad Ali Abtahi

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Calls for Overthrow

The London Times reports that according to a senior insurgent commander in Iraq, injured Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has fled Iraq, possibly to Iran. Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for numerous bombings, assassination, and beheadings across Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in March 2003. According to the insurgent commander, al-Zarqawi’s convoy was attacked as they were escaping an American offensive near the town of al-Qaim in northwestern Iraq in early April. [Sunday Times (London), 5/29/2005] Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hamid Reza Asefi dismisses the report as “amateur newsmaking.” [Associated Press, 5/29/2005]

Entity Tags: London Times, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Geopolitics

Christopher Brown of the Hudson Institute writes that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is “perhaps the most dangerous organization that the American people have never heard of.” Brown asserts that the SCO’s publicly stated goals, including fighting terrorism, are a sham. He writes that the SCO is the most obvious but most ignored challenge to the US and warns that the potential future inclusion of Iran into the organization could lead to weapons proliferation. He reasons that “since one of the programs of the SCO is the linking of the road systems in the region,” the transportation of dangerous goods between Iran and China would increase dramatically. [FrontPage Magazine, 5/30/2005]

Entity Tags: Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Hudson Institute, Christopher Brown

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Neoconservative Hawks, Think Tank Activities

US Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld warns governments in Middle East not to help Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, recently reported to have been seriously injured in Iraq. “Were a neighboring country to take him in and provide medical assistance or haven for him, they, obviously, would be associating themselves with a major linkage in the al-Qaeda network and a person who has a great deal of blood on his hands.” [US Department of Defense, 6/1/2005] Zarqawi is rumored to have fled to Iran for treatment (see May 29, 2005).

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Al-Qaeda in Iraq

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Diplomacy, US Intel on Iran

Iran announces it has successfully tested a new solid-fuel missile motor for use in its Shahab-3 missiles. A Shahab-3 missile using solid-fuel has a range of 2,000 km (1,280 miles) compared to the standard Shahab 3 with a range of only 1,500 km (930 miles), putting US regional military bases and Israel within reach. The Shahab-3 can be configured as a two-stage missile equipped with a warhead. Solid fuel engines make ballistic missiles more accurate and improve deployment time. [Federation of American Scientists, 4/6/2005; New York Times, 6/1/2005; Ha'aretz, 6/1/2005]

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Preparation

Jephraim P. Gundzik, president of the investment firm Condor Advisers, Inc., writes in the Asia Times that George Bush’s unilateralist foreign policy has spurred “monumental changes in the world’s geostrategic alliances.” Chief among these “is the formation of a new triangle comprised of China, Iran, and Russia,” he notes. “To China and Russia, Washington’s ‘democratic reform program’ is a thinly disguised method for the US to militarily dispose of unfriendly regimes in order to ensure the country’s primacy as the world’s sole superpower. The China-Iran-Russia alliance can be considered as Beijing’s and Moscow’s counterpunch to Washington’s global ambitions. From this perspective, Iran is integral to thwarting the Bush administration’s foreign policy goals. This is precisely why Beijing and Moscow have strengthened their economic and diplomatic ties with Tehran. It is also why Beijing and Moscow are providing Tehran with increasingly sophisticated weapons.” [Asia Times, 6/4/2005]

Entity Tags: Jephraim P Gundzik

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Category Tags: Geopolitics

A delegation from India visits Pakistan to discuss cooperation in the oil and gas sectors. The 11-person delegation is headed by Indian Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Mani Shankar Aiyar. The two countries agree to establish a working group to review the legal, technical, commercial, and financial parameters of the proposed Iran-India-Pakistan gas pipeline (see 1993 and January 27, 2003) that would transport natural gas 2,775 km from Iran to India via Pakistan. They plan to start the project by December 31, 2005. [Islamic Republic News Agency, 6/5/2005; Tribune (Chandigarh), 6/5/2005] At a press conference on June 6, Aiyar is asked about US concerns expressed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in March (see March 19, 2005) that the pipeline would strengthen Iran. Aiyar responds that construction of the pipeline is contigent only upon an agreement being made between India and Pakistan. [Tribune (Chandigarh), 6/5/2005] India and Pakistan also discuss the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) pipeline (see January 18, 2005), which they agree should extend to India. [Tribune (Chandigarh), 6/5/2005; Associated Press, 6/5/2005] The delegation also explores the possibility of exporting Indian diesel to Pakistan. [Islamic Republic News Agency, 6/5/2005]

Entity Tags: Mani Shankar Aiyar, Condoleezza Rice

Category Tags: Iran-India pipeline, Oil and Gas

June 6, 2005: Iran, India, Pakistan Join SCO

Iran, India, and Pakistan join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as observers, paving the way for permanent membership (see May 30, 2005). [Islamic Republic News Agency, 6/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

Category Tags: Geopolitics

In his new book, “Countdown to Terror,” Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA), the vice chairman of the House Homeland Security and Armed Services Committees, accuses the CIA of dismissing an informant who he says has valuable information on Iran. Weldon’s source claims to have knowledge that Osama Bin Laden is in Iran and that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ordered a terrorist assault on the US called the “12th Imam attack.” But according to Bill Murray, a former CIA Station Chief in Paris who met with Weldon’s source on four occasions, the information provided by the informant was believed to have originated with Iranian gunrunner Manucher Ghorbanifar, a “known fabricator,” familiar to the CIA since the 1980s (see December 9, 2001 and December 2003). Murray compares Ghorbanifar to Ahmed Chalabi, whose false claims about Iraqi WMD were fed to US intelligence, Congress, and the public during the lead-up to war with Iraq. [American Prospect, 4/1/2005; New York Times, 6/8/2005] Murray later identifies Weldon’s source, whom Weldon nicknames “Ali,” as Ghorbanifar’s associate Fereidoun Mahdavi. According to Murray, Mahdavi is a complete liar. “Mahdavi works for Ghorbanifar,” Murray will say. “The two are inseparable. Ghorbanifar put Mahdavi out to meet with Weldon.” Weldon was accompanied on at least one visit to “Ali” by Peter Hoekstra, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. [American Prospect, 6/10/2005; Vanity Fair, 3/2007]

Entity Tags: Laura Rozen, Peter Hoekstra, Manucher Ghorbanifar, House Intelligence Committee, Curt Weldon, Ahmed Chalabi, Bill Murray, Fereidoun Mahdavi

Category Tags: Neoconservative Hawks

Iran downplays the significance of the opening of the US-backed $4 billion dollar Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline (see May 25, 2005) that will carry oil from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean port city of Ceyhan, Turkey. The project was supported by the US government, which believes the pipeline will weaken Iran’s leverage over the distribution of oil. Mahmood Khagani, director for Caspian Sea Oil and Gas Affairs in Iran’s petroleum ministry, says the project makes little economic sense. “Iran’s route is the shortest, cheapest, and potentially the most lucrative,” he says. [Agence France-Presse, 6/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Mahmood Khagani

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

India’s Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar says that Iran has agreed to research the possibility of extending the proposed 2,670 km Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline (see 1993) to China. [PakTribune (Islamabad), 6/13/2005]

Category Tags: Iran-India pipeline, Oil and Gas

Vice President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems Leonid Ivashov says during a press conference that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) should be more forceful in expressing its position regarding the US presence in Central Asia. Russia sees the region as highly strategic and believes that the SCO should resist US attempts to replace Russian military forces in the region. “We [Russia] should not have left Central Asian countries face to face with the US in this issue. We should have expressed our position within the SCO framework on NATO striving for presence in the region,” he says. “It is impossible to break the US and NATO resistance in the sphere of base preservation single-handed,” he adds. [Novosti Russian News and Information Agency, 6/19/2005]

Entity Tags: Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Leonid Ivashov

Category Tags: Geopolitics

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