Archive for March, 2007

Iranians Blame the West for Sunni Unrest

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

TEHRAN – As a Shia majority country with several large ethnic groups like the Kurds, Arabs, and Baluchis that follow the Sunni faith, Iran has for years been vulnerable to unrest, riots, and terrorist attacks that officials routinely attribute to foreign powers.

“Iranian intelligence services have acquired information that show the United States, Britain, and Israel have been behind the unrest in various parts of Iran, including Khuzestan, Kurdistan, and West Azerbaijan in the past few years,” Mostafa Pour Mohammadi, Iran’s intelligence minister, was quoted as saying by the Aftab News Agency.

IAEA: Iran may have halted nuke program

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

VIENNA, Austria Iran seems to have at least temporarily halted the uranium-enrichment program at the heart of its standoff with the U.N. Security Council, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday.

Some fear Iran’s space program is hostile

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s announcement that it launched a research rocket has called new attention to a space program that Tehran says is peaceful but which some fear aims to produce long-range ballistic missiles that could reach Europe or the United States.

Exactly what Iran launched, or even what it aimed to do, remains the subject of debate, speculation and possible misinterpretation.

But there are parallels to the controversy over its nuclear program.

Afghan children die as US drops one-tonne bombs

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

Nine civilians, including four children, were killed in Afghanistan when US planes dropped two 2,000lb bombs on their mud home. Their deaths came after at least eight civilians were killed by US Marines a day earlier.

It has been a disastrous two days for the Americans in Afghanistan. First US Marines trying to get to safety after being ambushed by a suicide bomber sprayed gunfire wildly across one of the busiest roads in the country, killing passers-by.

And now US planes have dropped two bombs on a family home, killing children aged between six months and five years.

Last year, the Afghan President Hamid Karzai wept as he pleaded for Western soldiers to take more care to avoid killing civilians. But the killings continue.

That Karzai–Mr. Unocal–such a softie.

Bomb Shatters Baghdad’s Storied Literary Street

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

…Tai, short with round glasses, was leaving a bank after collecting his pension when the car bomb detonated. “It was a huge explosion,” he said, as ambulances carrying the injured sped past. “My head and face were full of dust and ash from the burning books.”

Imad Abbas, 39, a burly man with thinning hair, was in his stationery shop when he heard the explosion. Shelves and boxes fell on his head, he recalled. The electricity went off. Outside, a car burned. Then his store caught fire.

He ran upstairs to the balcony and began shouting for help. Fifteen minutes later, he was rescued by firemen. One of them placed Abbas on his back and carried him down, depositing him near a corpse covered with a blanket.

“I just returned from the dead,” Abbas said.

When Saddam Hussein was in power, Mutanabi Street exuded a defiant spirit that reverberated through its bookstores and the famed Shabandar Cafe. Here, intellectuals, over cups of sweet tea, engaged in lively debates.

But in recent months, the street had become a casualty of Iraq’s incessant violence. As thousands of educated Iraqis left, many of the original booksellers closed shop. Others were kidnapped or killed. Many fled the country. Checkpoints, street closings and a Friday curfew kept customers away.

Still, the street was a hive of activity in the mornings, mostly because of a brisk trade in stationery products. Abbas said he believes that’s why the street was attacked.

“They want to drive down the trade of Iraq,” he said of the perpetrators. “They are trying to humiliate our history and humiliate our people.”

Iran’s rare treasures under threat

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

In his quiet office at the British Museum, among the portraits of long-dead explorers and copies of 3,000-year-old inscriptions, one of the greatest experts on the archaeology of the Middle East has a series of maps of Iranian nuclear installations spread out across his desk.

John Curtis’s maps fill him with foreboding: because they show how many of Iran’s nuclear plants are perilously close to ancient cultural sites. Natanz, home to a uranium enrichment plant, is renowned for its exquisite ceramics; Isfahan, home to a uranium conversion plant, is also a Unesco world heritage site and was regarded in the 16th century as the most beautiful city on earth.

Other nuclear installations lie close to Shiraz, dubbed ‘the city of roses and nightingales’, famous for the tombs of medieval poets; Persepolis, the great palace of King Darius, whose ruins are still magnificent; and the 6th century BC tomb of Cyrus the Great, the Persian ruler who was said to have been buried in a coffin of gold.

Four years ago Dr Curtis was warning that war in Iraq would be a disaster for some of the oldest and most important sites in the world. He has since seen his worst fears confirmed: the site of ancient Babylon became an American military base; thousands of objects are missing from the national museum at Baghdad; and looted artefacts have been illicitly excavated and smuggled out of the country.

Now Dr Curtis dreads seeing history repeated, this time through the escalating threat from the United States against Iran. ‘Any kind of military activity whatever in Iran, whether aerial bombing or land invasion, would inevitably have the gravest consequences, not only for its people but for its cultural heritage – which should be a matter of concern not just to Iranians but to the whole world,’ he said.

Iran, Saudi alert to “enemy” plots: Ahmadinejad

Monday, March 5th, 2007

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran and Saudi Arabia agree that Muslim nations should be alert to efforts by enemies to divide their ranks, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said after his first official trip to the kingdom, Iranian media reported on Sunday.

Ahmadinejad met Saudi King Abdullah on Saturday after which Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saudi al-Faisal said Sunni Muslim heavyweight Saudi Arabia and predominantly Shi’ite Iran agreed to fight the spread of sectarian strife.

A Saudi official had said the kingdom would seek Iran’s help to prevent tensions in Iraq erupting into full-blown civil war.

“Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are aware of the enemies’ conspiracies, and while condemning these conspiracies, we invite all Muslims to be aware of the enemies’ plans with wisdom,” Ahmadinejad was quoted by Iran’s ISNA news agency as saying.

Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran are among the most influential nations of their respective branches of Islam. U.S.-allied Arab governments fear Iran is gaining influence in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Iraq.

“About the Palestinian and Iraqi issues, we had discussions in detail. In many cases, we had a common point of view. Both countries oppose the enemies’ control over the Islamic region.”

It’s sort of amusing how much news has come out in the past week that seems designed to refute the Seymour Hersh article point for point about Saudi Arabia throwing cash around to deliberately provoke ‘sectarian strife.’ And the Pakistanis similarly encouraging al Qaeda activity in Iran with US blessing (and bucks) while being ceremoniously scolded for not doing enough to fight al Qaeda.

Afghan, US forces target Pak post

Monday, March 5th, 2007

PESHAWAR: The Afghan Army and US forces based in Afghanistan attacked a joint post of the Pakistan Army and paramilitary Frontier Corps at Lowara Mandi in North Waziristan agency on the Pak-Afghan border while US gunship helicopters were noticed violating PakistanŐs airspace during the past two days.

Pakistan: No entry for coalition troops

Monday, March 5th, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan vehemently denied Saturday the U.S. military’s claim that coalition forces in Afghanistan have the authority to pursue Taliban fleeing across the border into Pakistani territory.

“There is no authorization for hot pursuit of terrorists into our territory,” Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad, spokesman for the Pakistan Army, told The Associated Press on Saturday. “Whatever actions are needed to fight terrorism, we are taking them.”

Cambodia anyone?

Sects slice up Iraq as US troops ‘surge’ misfires

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

au contraire. The surge is right on target because the purpose IS to slice up Iraq…