Thursday, April 26, 2007

Women Charged with Threatening Iran's National Security

Four women's rights activists were sentenced to prison last week for their role in organizing the June 12, 2006 peaceful protest demanding equal rights for women. The activists are organizers of the "One Million Signatures" Campaign launched in August 2006 to demand an end to discriminatory laws against women. They were officially charged under article 610 of the penal code with "actions against the state" and threatening "national security," which is an unprecedented move in Iran.

Fariba Davoudi Mohajer was sentenced to four years in prison, three of which are suspended and one needs to be served. Parvin Ardalan and Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani were sentenced to three years, of which two and a half years are suspended and six months are to be served. Sussan Tahmasebi received a two-year sentence, of which one year and a half are suspended and six months are to be served.

Human Rights Watch has a photo essay featuring short bios of the detained women's rights activists.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Nuclear Safeguards and Supply Acts

Senators Lugar and Bayh, both from Indiana, have introduced a companion bill, S. 1138, to the International Fuel Bank bill introduced by Rep. Lantos on February 7, 2007. At the heart of the bills is a bargain: any country that forgoes uranium enrichment and reprocessing capabilities should be assured access to nuclear fuel at a reasonable cost. If enacted into law, the bills would provide $50 million for the establishment of the international nuclear fuel bank.

The principal issue if this ever becomes law, will be getting other countries in the world to go along with it, particularly when the United States continues to fail to fulfill its Article VI obligation under the Non-Proliferation Treat. Yes, remember that old thing? It's the bargain the U.S. and four other nuclear weapons states (Britain, China, France and Russia) struck with all of the world nuclear have-nots in 1968 in which they agreed to pursue in good faith negotiations for the elimination of their nuclear weapons. The other part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty bargain was that non-nuclear weapons countries agreed not to pursue nuclear weapons and in exchange they have the right to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. (As somewhat of a side note, Charles Furgeson at the Council on Foreign Relations has a new report out on nuclear energy that I highly recommend.)

So, back to the bills. It is clear that Iran and a few other countries are clearly targets for the measures. Senator Lugar's said when he introduced S. 1138:

"The future of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the larger nonproliferation system it supports is in doubt. The existing safeguards regime used by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has succeeded in forestalling nuclear weapons programs in the world's advanced industrial states, several of which were weighing the nuclear option 40 years ago. Unfortunately, this regime has failed to keep pace with the increase in the global availability of nuclear weapons technology, especially the technology and equipment for uranium enrichment and spent nuclear reactor fuel reprocessing, which can produce fissile material for weapons. Now the road to nuclear weapons can be traveled by determined countries with only a minimal industrial base. While the number of recognized nuclear weapon states has not dramatically increased over the years, the dangers of proliferation have become all too apparent as demonstrated by the A.Q. Khan network, the Iranian, North Korean, and Libyan examples."

Rep. Lantos also made clear he was targeting Iran when introduced his version of the bill, H.R. 885. He said: “If Iran’s nuclear program is truly peaceful, Tehran should welcome an opportunity to ensure a stable supply of nuclear fuel from an internationally-supported nuclear fuel bank located in a safe nation. If Iran is instead building a nuclear weapon, its nefarious intentions will be quickly exposed should it refuse to participate in this important project.”

Rep. McDermott on Iran

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) went on record with his position on Iran on April 18, 2007. Rep. McDermott stated:

..."The President has escalated the military presence in Iraq at the same time he has escalated the military rhetoric concerning Iran. The President's accusations against Iran are being planted like seeds in fertile ground. Is this how the President cultivates diplomacy, or is he sowing the seeds for another war?

"The House must pass legislation that would require a debate and a vote before the President orders U.S. Forces to launch a military strike against Iran. This is the people's House, and the American people have spoken. They don't trust the President, and they are worried about his saber rattling toward Iran.

"I think of it this way: If Iraq is a quagmire, and it is, then Iran will be quicksand, with America sinking deeper and deeper into a disastrous foreign policy grounded in brute force and producing brutal consequences: thousands of American soldiers dead, tens of thousands of American soldiers gravely wounded, billions of dollars borrowed and wasted, over 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed and injured, a raging civil war.


"Instead of doing something constructive, the President ordered a military escalation in Iraq that is destructive. The Iraqi people want us out of Iraq. The American people want us out of Iraq. But the President drives us deeper and deeper into Iraq and then threatens military action against Iran.

"As a lame duck President and as slave to his own failed foreign policy, Congress must ensure that the President cannot unilaterally strike Iran in the remaining months of his failed presidency. Congress must pass legislation that preserves the checks and balances to guarantee that the President must listen to someone other than the Vice President.

"America cannot afford to remain on a hair trigger until a new President takes the oath of office in January 2009, but that is exactly what will happen unless Congress steps up to ensure that the President stands down on a military strike against Iran. We must take away his blank check."

New Online Resource

Check out It's a new online resource that delivers discourse, discussions and debates on the world's most interesting political, social and cultural issues, and enables viewers to join the conversation. Click on the Advanced Search link and type in Iran. There are excellent presentations archived here.

McCain Sings Bomb Iran

I don't even know what to say to this except that it is disgusting. Here is a video of Sen. McCain singing "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran."

Sec.Def. Gates: Diplomacy with Iran is Working

On his tour through the Middle East, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that diplomatic efforts to resolve the standoff over Iran's nuclear program are working and should be given a chance to succeed. At a news conference with his Isreali counterpart Amir Peretz, Gates said, "We agreed it was important to deal with the Iranian nuclear problem through diplomacy, which appears to be working. These things don't work overnight, but it seems to me clearly the preferable course to keep our focus on the diplomatic initiatives, and particularly because of the united front of the international community at this point."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

ISIS Publishes IAEA Letter to Iran's Representative

The International Atomic Energy Agency Communication dated 18 April 2007 to the Resident Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran is now available on the Institute for Science and International Security's (ISIS) website.

ISIS has obtained a copy of a letter dated August 18, 2007 from the IAEA to Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's representative to the IAEA. The communication notes that Iran has informed the IAEA that it has put into operation eight cascades at the Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz and that some uranium hexafluoride (UF6) has been introduced into the cascades. ISIS understands that the quantity of UF6 introduced at this time is small and that the cascades are operating under low pressure, indicating that Iran is at an early stage of enrichment in the cascades. The letter also urges Iran to allow the IAEA to conduct "design information verification" inspections at the Arak reactor, currently under construction, at the earliest opportunity. View the letter

Thursday, April 12, 2007


On April 12, 2007, artist Mitra Lore will dedicate a new work entitled, “Conviction,” during a meeting of a coalition of organizations that are working to resolve tensions between the US and Iran and rebuild relations through dialogue and diplomacy. The dedication will take place at 5 pm EDT in the Langston Room and the artwork will be on display at Busboys and Poets in Washington DC (2021 14th Street NW).

According to Mitra, “This art piece reminds us of the legacy we are leaving behind for our children, their children and the generations to follow. From the crimes we commit in the name of God to our never-ending greed for dominance, power and possessions.” She adds that the piece is “dedicated to people who support nations’ solving their conflicts through non-violent means.”

For more information on “Conviction,” please visit For more information on the coalition of organizations calling for dialogue and diplomacy with Iran, please visit

Democratic Presidential Candidates on Iran

In a MoveOn virtual Townhall meeting on Iraq this week, here's what some of the Democratic Presidential Candidates had to say about Iran:

Senator Clinton
"Fourthly, we need to convene an international conference; it is time we bring other countries together to help forge a stable future for Iraq. I have long advocated engagement with countries in the region including Iran and Syria, and I applaud speaker Pelosi and her delegation for going to the region, as I applaud the Republican delegation that did likewise. We have to start a process to deal with those countries."

Senator Obama
"Well, I’ve been saying for a year that we have to realize that the entire Middle East has a huge stake in the outcome of Iraq, and that we have to engage neighboring countries in finding a solution. Now, I believe that includes opening dialogue both Syria and Iran. We know these countries want us to fail… I’m under no illusions there, but I also know that neither Syria nor Iran want to see a security vacuum in Iraq filled with chaos, and terrorism, and refugees and violence, since those could have a destabilizing effect on the entire region, including within their own countries."

Senator Dodd
“Well, I believe the President should seek authority from Congress in advance of taking military action against Iran or any other state for that matter. Now, under extreme circumstances, unforeseen circumstances, emergencies, I think it would be appropriate for the President, any President, to act to repel an attack in our country or armed forces that are legally positioned around the world.”

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Lantos Blasts Back at Bush

In response to the White House's comments that it would be "unproductive and unhelpful" for members of Congress to visit Iran, Chairman Tom Lantos of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs issued this statement today:
"Members of Congress are not simply potted plants, though the White House apparently would like them to be. Congress plays an important role in determining policy and providing funding for America's international policies. It is important for us to get first-hand information on these critical issues facing our nation, because as we have unfortunately seen, we cannot rely on the Administration to give us accurate and untainted information."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Iran Sends Signal of How They Wish to be Treated

For those who have been monitoring the capture of 15 British soldiers in the disputed waters in the Northern Gulf, the peaceful settlement of the issue today demonstrates further evidence of how Iran is saying it wants to be treated by the international community. If the international community sits down and negotiates with Iran, the country will respond in kind. Perhaps the US should learn a lesson from this most recent experience. While there is no excuse for bellicose behavior from any party, whether the Iranians, British or Americans, my point is that Iran changed its behavior in the process when the British calmed their rhetoric and said they were willing to negotiate in this instance. This case demonstrates that strong, determined diplomacy can work and this is precisely the path that should be pursued in dealing with Iran on other issues, including Iraq security, the Israel-Palestine issue and Iran's nuclear program.

Secret War Against Iran

ABC News is reporting on a "Secret War Against Iran." According to the story:

"A Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News.

"The group, called Jundullah, is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran.

"It has taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials."

Shirin Ebadi Proposes Nuclear Referendum

Nobel Peace Prize winner and Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi is proposing a "nuclear referendum" in Iran about the nuclear issue. In an article for Rooz Online, she writes:

"...Unlike the suggestions to hold a referendum on choosing a political system or altering the constitution, which have been opposed by the Iranian government, the country's officials should not have any logical reasons against holding a national referendum on the nuclear issue. If, in a just and transparent environment, the Iranian people vote for the continuation of the government's nuclear policies, then the referendum would be completely in favor of the government, strengthening its negotiating position with respect to the international community's. On the other hand, even if the results of this referendum are contrary to the government's official nuclear policies, the country's officials should not be unhappy with holding it. Clearly, no nation will be ready to pay the price of policies that a majority of its citizens oppose. Hence, this will bring about a dangerous and uncertain situation for the Iranian government in its confrontation with the international community, forcing it to "retreat" under pressure from below. This presents the Iranian government with a face-saving opportunity to retreat from its current position in an "honorable" way, rather than be labeled to be scared of international pressures... "