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THE current situation between Iran and the US is very tense, primarily because of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear power. But secondly because of its brand of Islamic fundamentalism that it exports - as in Sudan, Iraq, Lebanon, and in Israel; and its threats to all non-fundamentalist regimes throughout the Middle East.

US has been flying surveillance drones over Iran to seek evidence of nuclear weapons programs and to detect weaknesses in air defences, according to the Washington Post. (13 Feb 05)

News sources quote officials as saying the small, pilotless planes, penetrating Iranian airspace from US military facilities in Iraq, use radar, video, still photography and air filters designed to pick up traces of nuclear activity to gather information that is not accessible to satellites.

Aerial espionage is standard in military preparations for an eventual air attack and is also employed as a tool for intimidation.

“The Iranian government, using Swiss channels in the absence of diplomatic relations with Washington, formally protested the illegal incursions.”


IRAN has warned the US not to attack its nuclear facilities, and said talks with European nations might produce a deal to defuse the dispute over its alleged ambitions to build atomic weapons.

“They know our capabilities. We have clearly told the Europeans to tell the Americans not to play with fire,” an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said, referring to Washington’s refusal to rule out the use of force.

He said Iran was determined to continue its nuclear energy program despite pressure from Washington, which accuses Tehran of pursuing atomic weapons and says it does not rule out any option to stop it acquiring them.

France, Britain and Germany, on behalf of the European Union, have been trying to persuade Iran to scrap potential weapons-related activities in return for economic incentives.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last week Tehran must accept terms offered by the European Union or be referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

Iran denies US accusations that it is building bombs under cover of a civilian nuclear energy program, and says it would never permanently end its disputed nuclear activities.


FEB 19. According to the Globe and Mail, Iran has begun publicly preparing for a possible US attack. “Iran would respond within 15 minutes to any attack by the US or any other country,” said an official.

Tensions between Iran and the United States have increased over Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology. The Pentagon said recently that it has upgraded its battle plans for Iran — an act it described as routine. Iranian authorities say they, too, are preparing for war.

Iran’s Basiji militia, who were deployed in human-wave attacks during the Iran-Iraq war, is at present seven million strong. Globe says that Iran is seeking to mobilize militia recruits as it plans for the kind of warfare that has plagued US troops in Iraq.

How much of the activity is actual mobilization and how much is propaganda is not clear. Right now it’s a psychological war. Iran wants to raise the stakes for the US by highlighting the possible cost of an attack.

Within minutes of any attack, Iran’s air and sea forces could threaten oil shipments in the Persian Gulf or the Gulf of Oman. Allied Hizb’allah militia in Lebanon could launch attacks on Israel. And Iran could escalate the war by attacking US interests in Azerbaijan, Central Asia or Turkey.

Many analysts say Iran’s most powerful card is its influence in Iraq, where Iraqis who spent years in Iran as exiles are about to assume control of the government. “If Iran wanted, it could make Iraq a hell for the United States,” Hamid al-Bayati, Iraq’s deputy foreign minister, said in a recent interview.

- IRAQ -

FEB 13. A Shi’ite Islamist bloc won Iraq’s first multi-party election for half a century on Jan. 30, sealing the political resurgence of the long-oppressed majority, and sidelining the restive Sunni Arab minority.

The Shi’ite United Iraqi Alliance took around 48% of the vote, but that left it six or seven seats short of a majority in parliament.

A powerful Kurdish alliance came second with 25%, while a grouping led by interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shi’ite, came third with nearly 14%.

Few Sunni Arabs took part in the voting, which means the minority that has traditionally ruled modern Iraq and held a privileged position under Saddam, will have just a handful of seats and little political clout.

With no bloc gaining dominance on its own, there has already been furious horse-trading to try to strike deals. The Shi’ite bloc now has not only got to hold together as a group, but also form an alliance with others.”
In Washington, President Bush congratulated the Iraqi people “for defying terrorist threats and setting their country on the path of democracy and freedom.”

The 275-member National Assembly must agree on a president and two vice-presidents by a two-thirds majority. Those three officials will then agree on a prime minister and cabinet, and their choices must be approved by a majority in the assembly.


ONE of the main tasks of the National Assembly this year is to oversee the drafting of a constitution, which must be approved by a referendum. If the Sunni Arabs are largely shut out of government, they could potentially veto the constitution, causing political deadlock.

In other signs of tension ahead, Kurds in the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk erupted in celebrations after results showed them well ahead in the provincial vote — an outcome that will anger Arabs and Turkmen, who also lay claim to the city.

Sunni insurgents who have been attacking US troops and Iraqi security forces and officials, have also now turned on Shi’ites, raising fears of sectarian civil war in Iraq.


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