|Southwest Asia News Digest
Beastman Cheney Blocks Iranian Prisoner Release
According to a report in the April 14 edition of the Washington Post, Vice President Cheney overruled Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice April 10, and refused to allow release of five Iranians who were detained by U.S. forces in Irbil, Iraq, last January. Rice had recommended that the five Iranians be freed, as there was no longer any value in holding them.
U.S. Soldier in Iraq Blasts White House Policy
The Pentagon's announcement of April 12, that it is extending Army tours of duty in Iraq from 12 to 15 months has been condemned by key Senators and others.
* "Once again the failures of this administration are being underwritten by our troops," said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, according to AP.
* Sen. James Webb (D-Va.), quoted in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, said he is "stunned" by the order, calling it a "continuing abuse of people who have put their lives literally in the hands of our leadership," and adding that "there are limits to human endurance and there are limits to what families can put up with."
* The policy "is another in a long line of examples of how the President's Iraq policies are making us less secure," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D-Nev.) said.
* Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the longer tours will have a "chilling effect" on recruiting and the Army's ability to keep soldiers from quitting.
* Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) asked what benchmarks and checkpoints does the Defense Dept. have in place to monitor the "viability of that [volunteer] force in light of this very dramatic order?"
* The Seattle Times reported that Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said, "Our troops and their families should not be forced to bear the burden of this administration's failed policies." Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), said, "Our brave troops and the many families who await their safe arrival home are once again paying the price for this administration's refusal to change course in Iraq."
"It flat out sucks, that's the only way I can think to describe it," said Pvt. Jeremy Perkins, 25, who works in an engineering battalion that clears roadside bombs in Iraq, reported the Washington Post. "I found this out today.... I still haven't told my wife yet. I'm just trying to figure out exactly how I'm going to break it to her that 'Honey, uh, yeah, [I] might be home before our next anniversary. Sorry I missed the last one.' "
Iran Offers Nuclear Energy Technologies to Gulf Nations
In an interview with Gulf News, on April 13, Alireza Shaikhattar, Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Affairs of Iran, said Iran is ready to share its nuclear technology with Gulf countries and open its research facilities to create confidence among neighbors and demolish the charge that his country is on its way to building a nuclear bomb.
Apparently Iran is making serious effort to have a better understanding with the Gulf countries. In a public debate at Doha on April 11, Prof. Mohammad Larijani, director of the Institute for Studies in Theoretical Physics and Mathematics in Iran, told panelists that the Gulf countries should not be suspicious about Iran's nuclear program. "Iran's neighbors in the Gulf Cooperation Council should actually be glad about Iran's peaceful nuclear program because they can share technology with it," Larijani said.
Also present at Doha was Hasan Rowhani, head of the Strategic Research Centre in Iran. Addressing the Arab World Competitiveness Roundtable, he called for the creation of the Arabian Gulf Security and Cooperation Organization comprising GCC, Iran and Iraq. The group would aim to establish a common security framework, combat terrorism, sectarianism, organized crime and drug trafficking, Rowhani pointed out.
IAEA Chief Debunks Iran Claim of 3,000 Centrifuges
IAEA Chief Mohammed ElBaradei reported on April 13 that Iran still has only several hundred centrifuges running uranium enrichment, notwithstanding Iranian claims to be running 3,000. ElBaradei said that Iran is only at the beginning stages of the "industrial-scale" production that was "announced" by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on April 9. ElBaradei downplayed suspicions of a hidden uranium enrichment program as not having been demonstrated, and stated that Iran does not have sufficient material to create a nuclear weapon. His evaluation was based on IAEA early April visits to the Natanz site, with additional visits planned in the days ahead.