Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Washington examining ways of forcing Iran to drop nuclear program

Iran's outstanding investigative reporter and London-based journalist Dr Alireza Nourizadeh reports in Today's Asharq Al-Awsat how the United States is planning to deal with Tehran in the weeks ahead as the critical November meeting of IAEA, in which Iran's referral to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions will be decided, draws nearer:

Officials close to President George W. Bush have warned Iran that the current US administration is examining ways to force Tehran to comply with “the will of the international community regarding its nuclear program” and giving up its secret nuclear program, uranium enrichment and the production of heavy water in Isfahan and Arak.

Asharq al Awsat has learned that the head of a major US oil company, who had previously met with Iranian officials in Geneva, sent an emissary to Tehran last month to hold talks with presidential national security advisor, Ali Larijani.

On a visit to the UN headquarters in September, where he held private meetings with officials close to the US administration, Larjani indicated the Islamic Republic’s desire to communicate directly with Washington, in light of the failure of European mediators (the United Kingdom, France, and Germany) to change the course of US-Iranian relations.

In Tehran, the emissary informed Iranian official the Bush administration was currently studying a number of options, including re-opening old cases implicating Iran in terrorist attacks in which US citizens were injured and killed and US institutions destroyed.

An Iranian source revealed, on condition of anonymity, that the report by UN investigator, Detlev Mehlis, into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which implicated Syria, had sent shockwaves through the Iranian leadership. Officials in Tehran were greatly worried because of the strategic links with Damascus and because the report mentioned the name of Ahmad Jibril, head of the Popular front for the Liberation of Palestine (general command) who maintains close links to the Iranian security and intelligence services. Iran had been warned that Washington was ready to adopt the same hard-line approach it was following with Damascus, the source reported.

According to the same source, Washington was considering whether to use evidence of Iranian involvement in a number of past terrorist attacks to encourage its supporters to call for the appointment of a UN investigator to look into Tehran’s role in:

1- Killing 300 US servicemen in the bombings of US Marines headquarters in Beirut in 1983.
2- Bombing the French army base in Lebanon in 1983.
3- Bombing the US embassy in Beirut in 1984.
4- Hijacking a TWA airplane and murdering a former US army officer on board the US flight and throwing his body on the tarmac at Beirut’s airport in 1985. Kidnapping at least 12 US citizens and killing one of them and contributing to a hostage dying while in captivity during the Lebanese civil war. Bombing the Khobar Towers in June 1996 killing 19 US servicemen and inuring 372.

Asharq al Awsat has also learnt that the Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had publicly conveyed his anger at the way President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was handling the nuclear negotiations and was holding the president personally responsible for the changing European position and the International Atomic Agency’s threat to refer Iran before the Security Council.

Khamenei has requested former presidents Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami and ex foreign ministers Ali Akbar Velayati and Kamal Kharzai as well as Gholamreza Agazadeh, head of Iran’s atomic agency and Dr. Hassan Ruhani, former head of the nuclear program, to devise a strategy to rescue Iran from its current crisis caused by what the Supreme leader described as the President’s lack of experience and qualification to oversee such a critical issue.
Earlier this month, Rafsanjani had appointment Khatami to the State Expediency Council (SEC), which he heads. A number of high-ranking officials are expected to meet this week to prepare for the SEC taking charge of the nuclear file.