|Southwest Asia News Digest
Iran Discusses Pipeline Plan with Pakistan, India
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami announced that Iran is ready to form an international consortium for the security of the pipeline to India through Pakistan, reported the IRNA news service on April 16. In a telephone discussion with President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, Khatami said that the project could be fruitful in regional security and improvement. He said India was eager to see the project get off the ground, when Musharraf visits India. Musharraf welcomed Khatami's proposal for forming the consortium, and further expressed hope that the disagreements between Pakistan and India would be resolved in his trip to India, in addition to reaching an agreement on the issue of Kashmir.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kharrazi had discussed the matter by phone with Indian Prime Minister Singh, as well.
U.S. Funding Regime-Change Operations in Iran
For the first time in 25 years, the U.S. is openly sending funds into Iran, to support so-called "democracy" groups. As EIR has reported in the cases of Ukraine, Lebanon, and Kyrgyzstan, the U.S. and NGO "democracy" funds are covers for destabilizations, run from outside. In the case of Iran, the State Department is initially allocating $3 milliona relatively small amount, but the directionality is clear.
The State Department is soliciting proposals for what it calls "educational institutions, humanitarian groups, non-governmental organizations and individuals inside Iran to support the advancement of democracy and human rights," according to a note on the website of the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
But there are overlaps between this operation, and U.S. support for the Iraq-based Iranian terrorist group, the Mujahadin e Khalq, (MEK/MKO) which has planned, and carried out assassinations of Iranian officials (see next story). The U.S. already dishes out $15 million a year for Farsi radio and TV broadcasts into Iran, but this is the first instance that funds will be going directly into Iranian hands.
Iran plans to take legal action against this funding because it directly violates the U.S. agreement signed with Iran in 1981, known as the "Algeria accords," which ended the hostage crisis that began in 1979. On April 12, IRNA news service reported that an Iranian government spokesman said that the "foreign ministry will take necessary legal action" against Washington, without specifying any details.
Iranian Ambassador to the UN, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on April 10, described the U.S. plan as "a clear violation of the Algiers accords," noting that the U.S. had agreed "not to intervene directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran's internal affairs."
Mujahadin E Khalq Holds 'National Convention' in Washington
On April 14, two inter-related events took place, which escalated the U.S. neo-conservative/Israeli right-wing drive for regime change in Iran: a "convention" by the terrorist group, the Mujahadin E Khalq (MEK/MKO), and the passage of a new sanctions bill against Iran.
The Middle East Subcommittee, chaired by "Clash of Civilizations" warmonger, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla), passed the Iran Freedom Support Act; which codifies sanctions against Iran under a previous bill, and targets investments in Iran, by requiring investigations of these projects. It also threatens to withhold foreign assistance from countries that invest in Iran's energy sector "by defining this as direct support for Iran's regime." Ros-Lehtinen, who also sponsored the Syria Accountability Act, is a long-time supporter of the MEK.
At Constitution Hall in Washington, 300 members and supporters of the MEK, and its "legal" front group met to pressure the Bush Administration to take it off the "terrorist list." For more than a decade, the MEK was in the pay and support of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, until the U.S. occupation took over. It was the only full-fledged international terrorist group with training camps and command centers in Iraq. Since April 2003, the neo-cons, centered in Doug Feith's office, have been using it as an "Iranian Contra" force.
The website iranfocus.com, an outfit linked to the Pentagon neo-cons reported that the following dignitaries spoke or sent messages: Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) and Sen. James Talent (R-Mo), and Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo), Bob Filner (D-Calif), Dennis Moore (D-Kan), and Ted Poe (R-Texas). The meeting also heard from two former officers of the U.S. occupation of Iraq: Lt. Col. Thomas Cantwell, who had guarded the MEK at their camp in Iraq, which has 4,000 soldiers; and Captain Vivian Gembara.
The presence of terrorism expert Neil Livingstone at this event, links this operation back to the illegal Iran-Contra operations of the 1980s, run by Col. Oliver North, and then-Vice President George H.W. Bush.
Ironically, the support for MEK from the U.S. is angering Kurdish leaders, and creating tensions with the new Iraqi government. The MEK were engaged in campaigns against the Kurds, on behalf of Saddam Hussein's regime, claims the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Washington. Jalal Talabani, the head of the PUK in Iraq has just become President of Iraq. And in Iraq, Salvation Association, which includes former members of the MEK have petitioned President Talabani to put the MEK leaders in Iraq on trial for war crimes committed during the Saddam Hussein regime.
A Dangerous Development: Arab Separatists Clash with Iranian Military
On April 16, al-Jazeera. television reported that clashes broke out between Iranian military forces and ethnic Arab Iranians who are calling for an independent state in southern Iran. The majority of Iranians are non-Arab. Sources in the region said at least three ethnic Arabs had been killed and many injured in demonstrations in the southern province of Khuzestan.
Not surprisingly, the British have their hand in this new conflict. The demonstrations were organized by the London-based Popular Democratic Front of Ahwazi Arabs in Iran. Over 250 arrests were made. A representative of the group, speaking to al-Jazeera from London, said there were movements within and outside Iran pressing for independence of the region, home to at least 3 million Iranians of Arab descent. "The demonstrations to mark 80 years of Iranian occupation were peaceful, but the Iranian authorities confronted the people with violent means and military force," he said. He said Iranian military units had besieged several ethnically Arab villages after the demonstration.
The London-based group said there will be forcible relocation of about 3 million Arab Iranians from the Ahwaz region to other areas inside the Islamic republic. There have been reports of protests spreading to other Iranian cities in the south. The group calls this ethnic cleansing. The group has been circulating a copy of a letter, allegedly signed by former Iranian Vice President Muhammad Ali Abtahi, which outlines a plan to change the composition of the population in Ahwaz by relocating non-Arabs to the city to make them the majority. The letter was widely circulated in Ahwaz and other cities in Khuzestan.
Khuzestan is an oil-rich province that borders Iraq, on the Persian Gulf. One question raised is: Are there any elements inside Iraq who are associated with this group?
Ex-Mossad Chief: Danger of Military Coup in Israel
Danny Yatom, a Member of the Knesset from the Labor Party, and former chief of the Mossad, warned that there may be a danger of a military coup by right-wing messianic officers in the Israeli Defense Forces. Yatom, who is also a reserve major general, made the comments at a seminar on a book entitled Code Blue by Tzvis Emitai, reported Ha'aretz on April 10. Code Blue describes a scenario in which the radical right gains control of the IDF and overthrows the government. It comes out at a time when right-wing messianic rabbis have called on religious soldiers to refuse orders to remove settlers, and for soldiers on leave not to return to duty.
When Yatom was asked at the seminar why he believed such a coup was possible, he said, "Yarmulke-wearers are excellent soldiers, but the rabbis have a great influence over them, and they are ready to obey the rabbi before they obey their military commanders. A few years ago, I thought a scenario like this was completely delusional, but since then, we've seen ... the delegitimization of the government and Knesset, and rabbis inciting revolt and conscientious objection, and that, for many soldiers, the instructions of the rabbis are stronger than their orders." He said there was now a need for a public debate "in order to guarantee our democracy and not allow right-wing nationalist groups to carry out a coup. The judicial system needs to use an iron fist against inciters calling for conscientious objection in order to halt this phenomenon."
Similar comments were made by Brig. Gen. (ret.) Danny Rothschild, President of the Council for Peace and Security, who said, "The whole debate centered on the book and its scenarios. My first response was that something like this could not happen in Israel, but I started to re-think the matter. To say that it will never happen is not responsible. After I hear rabbis calling upon soldiers to desert the army, I fear what will happen when rabbis tell soldiers to take over the government."
The chairman of the Likud Young Guard, Yoel Hasson, reacted strongly against these remarks, and called for a formal complaint to be filed against Yatom in the Knesset's ethics committee. National Religious MK Zevulun Orliev called the comments "incitement." Nonetheless, it is well known that the level of right-wing religious officers in the combat regiments has increased considerably. The percentage of these officers in the IDF is higher than in Israeli society at large.