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Iran Pressing Campaign To Undermine America

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 13, 2003 9:59 am    Post subject: Iran Pressing Campaign To Undermine America Reply with quote

Iran Pressing Campaign To Undermine America

August 11, 2003
The New York Sun
Ira Stoll

The Iranian government, feeling pressured by popular protests and by America's increasing presence in the region, is responding with a four-pronged policy aimed at preserving its regime and weakening America.

That is the assessment from those familiar with events inside Iran and nearby states. They describe a pattern by which Iran is reacting to the American defeat of Saddam Hussein.

What is significant is the aggressive nature of the Iranian moves, which both helps to explain some of the problems America has faced in postwar Iraq and at the same time threatens to eclipse them. The steps being taken in Iran, according to those familiar with them, include:

- Budgeting several billion dollars to build a nuclear bomb by the time of the next American presidential inauguration, in January 2005.

- Moving aggressively to expand Iranian influence in Syria by building mosques in Damascus and by providing free and low-cost oil to the Syrians.

- Undermining America in Iraq by working with Saudi Arabia, Syrians, and loyalists to Saddam Hussein.

- Pressing a campaign of meetings between Iranian officials and American foreign policy experts.

Efforts on the last front included a conference at Geneva on June 27 and 28 at which eight Iranians met with an international group that included a top White House counterproliferation official from the Clinton administration, Gary Samore, as well as the deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Patrick Clawson; a senior research fellow at National Defense University, Judith Yaphe, and the executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, Henry Sokolski.

"They were very anxious to get face-to-face time with American officials," Mr. Sokolski said, describing the Iranians as "pleading" for him to go to New York to meet with officials at the Iranian mission to the United Nations. He declined. "I think they want to make folks believe they are meeting with Americans all the time, that the dissidents should give up," he told The New York Sun.

Among the speakers at the Geneva meeting was Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, who sought to convince the Americans and Europeans that Iran's nuclear program was intended for civilian use.

The claim was "not credible," Mr. Clawson told the Sun. "It was spin. It was laughable. It was embarrassing."

Ms. Yaphe described the Geneva event as "a really interesting meeting" featuring "important Iranians" who were "serious people, well plugged in with the regime."

When it came to Iran's efforts to build a nuclear bomb, the Iranians "really didn't understand why it was viewed as such a bad thing, why there was so much opposition to it," she said.

Mr. Samore, director of studies at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, which organized the June meeting in cooperation with the Swiss Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, said he'd like to convene another, similar gathering in the fall, after a September meeting of the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Iran's actions are driven in part by a sense by the mullahs that they are being encircled by America. The American Navy has had ships in the Persian Gulf to support the liberation of Iraq.

The American military also has established bases in Qatar and in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. American troops are present in Iraq and Afghanistan, which both border Iran and which America is trying to reshape into free democracies.

America is pursuing an oil pipeline deal with Azerbaijan, which borders Iran. Turkey, which also borders Iran, is a NATO ally of America, and while the Turkey-America relationship has had its rough spots recently,Turkey is still in the American camp.

The Iranian actions are also driven in part by how it sees America acting toward other countries. North Korea and Pakistan are getting friendlier treatment from the Bush administration than Iran does, and the mullahs think that is because Pyongyang and Islamabad already have nuclear weapons.

Iran's nuclear program was detailed in a 5,000-word investigation in the August 4 issue of the Los Angeles Times, which reported, among other things, that "so many North Koreans are working on nuclear and missile projects in Iran that a resort on the Caspian coast is set aside for their exclusive use."

The Iranian actions against America in Iraq are driven by the examples of Somalia and Beirut, where Americans bled and fled. The Iranians are said to be hoping for America to react to the casualties in Iraq by leaving there, too.

The Iranians are happy to allow others to take responsibility for the attacks on American soldiers in Iraq, so they are working with traditional rivals, including the Saudis and Saddam Hussein's loyalists. The Iranians, who are Shiites, are focusing their attacks in traditionally Sunni areas of Iraq, but they are also active in Iraq's Shiite areas.

An Iranian story involves a man falsely accused of a crime by a scoundrel. The case goes before a meticulously honest judge. The man considers bribing the judge, but is advised that such an attempt would certainly backfire, with the insulted judge finding the man guilty. The accused man went ahead and sent the bribe, and was found innocent. Later, he explained that he had sent the bribe in the scoundrel's name. Such deception characterizes the Iranian activities in Iraq, according to those familiar with them.

The newly deepened ties between Iran and Syria are driven by needs on both sides. The Syrian regime had been funding itself by importing cheap oil from Saddam Hussein's Iraq and selling it at a profit. With Saddam ousted, the Syrians needed a new sponsor, and found it in Iran, which has stepped in to provide oil to Syria in exchange for the right to use Syria as a base of operations against America in Iraq.

The financial ties between Tehran and Damascus are mirrored by increasingly close religious ties. Syria's ruling sect, the Alawites, are considered heretics by many mainstream Muslims.

But in the early 1970s, a fatwa by the Imam Musa Sadr ruled that Alawis are a branch of Shiite Muslims. Sadr mysteriously disappeared in 1978, but his niece is now the wife of the president of Iran, Mohammed Khatemi. The Iranians are now building new Shiite mosques all over Damascus, and the Syrian dictator, Bashar Assad, appears to be trying to move Alawism closer to Shiism.

"There is a very, very close relationship between Iran and Syria," said the president of the U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon, Ziad Abdelnour. He said the ties had been "very much heightened" following the ouster of Saddam's regime in Iraq.

[url]http://daily.nysun.com [/url]
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