Vanunu sentenced to jail

original article

Israel’s Vanunu sentenced to jail

Vanunu says he is only pursuing a legitimate
anti-nuclear campaign [AFP]

An Israeli court has given a six-month jail term to a man who in 2004 completed an 18-year prison term for leaking nuclear secrets, this time for violating a ban on speaking to foreigners.

Jerusalem magistrate’s court sentenced Mordechai Vanunu on Monday, after he was convicted of 14 violations of the restrictions.
“All I want to be is to be free, to leave the country,” said Vanunu, who insists he only wants to pursue a peaceful anti-nuclear campaign.

In 1986, Vanunu was sentenced to 18 years behind bars after telling Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper about his work as a technician at the Dimona reactor.
Unauthorised contact

Israel has resticted Vanunu’s movements and personal contacts since he finished his first jail term.

Tel Aviv argues that Vanunu could leak new details on his past work at the Dimona nuclear reactor.

Vanunu was convicted in April of maintaining unauthorised internet contact with foreigners, including foreign newspapers.

He was also found guility of breaching prohibitions on entry to the occupied West Bank.

In addition to the six month jail term, the court also passed a six month suspended sentence.

The court said in its ruling that it would hold off on jailing Vanunu to allow him to appeal.

“While returning a man to prison after he served 18 years there does not bring joy to anyone, there was no other choice but to take this step to make clear that the nation will defend its secrets and protect its security,” Dan Eldad, a prosecutor, said in a statement.

Since his release, Vanunu, a convert from Judaism to Christianity, has denied charges that he has more classified information that he could leak if he was allowed to emigrate.

Kerry weighed politics versus lives in 2002 vote

Traprock ed note: It seems politics won. Does this surprise anyone who was paying attention at the time? See Charles Jenks’ June 20, 2003 article at

By Michael Kranish, Globe Staff | May 28, 2007 original article

WASHINGTON — Senator John F. Kerry voted for the Iraq war resolution in 2002 after weighing the political ramifications and being told by his future campaign manager that he would never be elected president in 2004 unless he sided with President Bush on the issue, according to a forthcoming book by Kerry’s former strategist.

The book by veteran Democratic Party strategist Robert Shrum, titled “No Excuses,” paints a portrait of an often-dysfunctional Kerry presidential campaign in which senior strategists clashed with each other.

It also quotes e-mails from Kerry’s former campaign manager that are highly critical of the behavior of Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry . An advance copy of the memoir of Shrum’s years in politics, slated for release in early June, was provided to the Globe.

Shrum, who was brought into the campaign to help provide Kerry with a strategic overview, provides a vivid de scription about the events leading up to Kerry’s decision to vote for the war.
He writes that Kerry telephoned him on the eve of the Oct. 11, 2002, vote. Shrum said Kerry was skeptical of Bush’s claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that he “didn’t trust Bush to give the diplomatic route a real chance.” Nonetheless, Kerry asked Shrum whether he would “be a viable general election candidate if he was in the small minority of senators who voted no.”
Shrum wrote that he told Kerry it was “impossible to predict the political fallout if we went to war.” But he wrote that Jim Jordan, Kerry’s former Senate press secretary and future campaign manager, “was insisting that he had to vote with Bush.”

Shrum wrote that Jordan had “hammered” Kerry with a warning: “Go ahead and vote against it if you want, but you’ll never be president of the United States.” Kerry voted for the war resolution and Jordan became Kerry’s campaign manager three months later.

Kerry declined to comment on Shrum’s book.

His spokesman, Vincent Morris, said, “Senator Kerry voted [for the war resolution] based on the promise of effective diplomacy and because he believed that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. He’s said previously that this was the most difficult vote he’s ever cast and he’s acknowledged his vote was a mistake. Since that day, he’s been one of the Senate’s most outspoken voices to end the war.”

Asked about the conversation, Jordan answered, “It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to recount those conversations with Senator Kerry, but it’s ridiculous to contend that I had the influence to manipulate a man of his stature and substance and judgment on a vote of war and peace. Right or wrong, it was a vote based in conscience and conviction.”

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Kerry’s fellow Massachusetts Democrat, urged Kerry to vote against the war, according to Shrum. Kennedy talked with Kerry on the Senate floor before the vote, Shrum wrote, and “passionately contended that even if it looked like good politics now, siding with Bush was wrong on the merits — and even politically.”

Kerry’s vote for the war resolution opened the door for the surge of the Howard Dean candidacy, which became focused on the antiwar view of the former Vermont governor, according to Shrum.
Kerry, however, thought the Iraq war would be over quickly, Shrum wrote, adding that the senator said to him that “whatever misgivings he had about Bush’s course, the Iraq war, if it came, probably, almost certainly, would be over by the primaries.”

Aides to Kerry said it was natural for the senator to seek political advice from Shrum about the vote and stressed that Kerry also talked to CIA director George Tenet and Secretary of State Colin Powell, both of whom have said they believed at the time that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Kerry’s chief of staff, David McKean, said he walked with Kerry to the Senate floor before the vote. He recalled telling the senator: “Obviously a huge factor here is whether you believe there are weapons of mass destruction. He said, ‘I have no doubt about that.’ ”

In his book, Shrum acknowledges that he is viewed as being a “curse” to Democratic presidential candidates. The Massachusetts resident wrote that he worked on eight failed presidential campaigns, but notes that he directed 30 successful Senate campaigns.

Shrum, who declined to comment for this story, provides numerous examples of infighting within the campaign — particularly between him and Jordan.

As a senior strategist, he often clashed with Jordan, whose role as campaign manager also included strategic decisions. Shrum was among those who wanted Jordan ousted; Kerry eventually fired Jordan in November 2003 and replaced him with Mary Beth Cahill, a Shrum ally.

Shrum quotes from e-mails he said Jordan wrote about Kerry’s wife. Jordan is quoted as worried about Teresa Heinz Kerry’s interview with The New York Times: “What are the odds — take this as I mean it pls — that she won’t [expletive deleted] this up . . . wallow in victimhood. . . . There’s always a chance she’ll say something stupid. This has to stop.”

Shrum also has some criticism of Kerry, although it is usually paired with some praise.
For example, he wrote at length about Kerry’s decision to deliver a much-criticized South Carolina speech in which he formally announced his campaign. The outdoor speech — during which Kerry was drenched in sweat — later was portrayed as long-winded. Shrum wrote that Kerry wanted to kick off the campaign in Iowa, “but once again he allowed himself to be persuaded to go against his own instincts.”

At another point, Shrum wrote that in times of crisis, Kerry “was bold and decisive. At other times, he tended to second-guess, revise, fiddle, confer with anyone in sight, and try to please everyone around him. For him, I think the easier days in the White House might have been harder.”

Shrum, who subtitled his book “Concessions of a Serial Campaigner,” concedes that he made “indisputable mistakes” in 2004, backing a decision not to respond to attacks on Kerry’s Vietnam service with television ads in August 2004. Shrum said that the decision was forced, in part, by the campaign’s need to conserve money for the fall.

He also wrote that Kerry wanted his campaign to return fire, and “he was angry that we hadn’t listened to him and struck back sooner.” The failure to respond to the attacks has often been cited as one of the reasons for Kerry’s defeat.

The Kerry-Shrum relationship soured over time. Shrum wrote that after The Washington Post reported that Kerry was blaming Shrum and others for the campaign’s problems, “Kerry, who could have quieted this with a sentence or two, said nothing. My wife was enraged . . . [saying] ‘Bob, he’s left you up the river.’ ”

© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.

Chavez closes opposition TV station

[Ed. note: This is extremely disappointing. What is Chavey afraid of? First of all, a President – of any country – shouldn’t be making decisions on which tv stations are allowed to operate. Nationalizing media is not in the people’s interest, in my opinion. Second, if the station did have a hand in an illegal coup attempt, as he claims, then indict and prosecute – by fair and impartial judicial processes – those suspected of wrong doing.]

CARACAS, Venezuela (CNN) — Venezuelan police on Sunday used water cannons and what appeared to be tear gas to break up thousands of demonstrators protesting the government’s decision to close the country’s most-watched television station.

The protest began in front of National Telecommunications Commission headquarters after members of the National Guard seized broadcast equipment, including antennas, the result of a Supreme Court order on Friday.

During the clash, two or three bullets were shot into a nearby traffic light, police said. Soon afterward, the director of the Metropolitan Police, Juan Francisco Romero, pointed to the light, and said on television that police were “not going to accept the situation.”

It was not immediately clear who had fired the shots.

Police told The Associated Press that at least four officers were slightly injured after some of the protesters threw rocks and bottles.

After police stopped using the water cannons, the crowd regrouped, and video of the scene showed a peaceful mood, with people waving flags and chanting as night fell.

Inside the studios of Radio Caracas Television, employees cried and chanted
“Freedom!” on camera, AP reported.

“We are living an injustice,” presenter Eyla Adrian said, according to AP. “I wish that tonight would never come.”

President Hugo Chavez announced in January that the government would not renew the broadcast license for the station, long an outlet for opposition parties.

Chavez has accused the station of supporting the failed 2002 coup against him and violating broadcast laws.

He called the station’s soap operas “pure poison” that promote capitalism, according to AP.

RCTV, which has been broadcasting for 53 years, is slated to be off the air at midnight. It will be replaced by a state-run station.

“To refuse to grant a new license for the most popular and oldest television channel in the country because the government disagrees with the editorial or political views of this channel, which are obviously critical to Chavez, is a case of censorship,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

“We have arrived at totalitarianism,” said Marcel Granier, president of Empresas 1BC, which owns RCTV.

“We will reorganize and continue working. One is beginning a fight — not violent, but active, very active.”

Granier accused Chavez of being “afraid of free thought, of opinion, of criticism.”

The closing of the station will affect “more than 200 journalists, 3,000 workers and the entire Venezulean society,” the station said in a statement posted on its Web site.

Last week, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution condemning the decision to shut down the station.

Journalists Flor Santamaria and Carlos Guillen contributed to this story.

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

Press Release – No Honorary Degree for Andy Card

May 21, 2007


Based on information that has been revealed in the past week, a coalition of faculty, staff, and students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are demanding that the decision to award an honorary degree to Andrew Card, Jr. be reversed. Card was the White House Chief of Staff from 2000 to 2006, and headed the White House Iraq Group.

In the past week, a spate of media reports have revealed Card’s central role in pushing through illegal wiretapping policies. The Washington Post and New York Times reported Card’s 2004 attempt to bypass the acting attorney general and coerce the ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft to approve an extensive wiretapping initiative. Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified about how Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card visited an unresponsive Ashcroft in his hospital bed, asking him to allow wiretapping that Ashcroft himself considered unconstitutional. “Card was leading the effort to undermine the rule of law and to deceive the public. This vividly demonstrates the reasons behind the growing outrage at UMass among faculty, students and staff,” said Sigrid Schmalzer, a faculty member and member of the ad-hoc coalition that is opposing an honorary degree for Andrew Card.

Last week, Card telephoned two UMass faculty members to challenge their claims about his intellectual dishonesty. “Do you even know me?” he asked. Insisting that he deserved a doctoral degree from UMass recognizing his commitment to public service, Card repeatedly denied having violated federal and international law and misleading the public about the war in Iraq.

As a result of the new information, on Thursday, May 17, the UMass Amherst Faculty Senate voted 31-0 to revoke the honorary degree to Card. Faculty pointed out that students who acted as Card did — changing facts to support their opinions – would be convicted of violating the university’s academic honesty policy and punished, rather than receiving an honorary degree.

In a series of rallies and demonstrations, hundreds of students and faculty have protested the award. Within a week, over 400 faculty members signed a letter asking the university to immediately revoke the offer to Card. According to University of Massachusetts Policy Doc. T93-060, “only persons of great accomplishment and high ethical standards who exemplify the ideals of the University of Massachusetts” are eligible to receive an honorary degree. Off the record, administrators have said that Card’s degree was offered in return for his help securing federal funding for major UMass research initiatives in the sciences.

The UMass Amherst protests against Card have received national attention. National blogs including Daily Kos have featured the story prominently, sparking heated debate over UMass’s decision. “The public record on Card’s actions should persuade the University to rescind the offer of an honorary degree,” said Steven Brewer, a faculty member in the Biology Department and Faculty Senator. “His behavior does not exemplify the high ethical standards that the University of Massachusetts should celebrate.”

# # #

UMass Protests Andy Card May 21-25

Honor Students, Not War Criminals!
UMass is a Public University: Card Shames Us All!

PROTESTS (for details, see below):
Tuesday, May 22, 12:30: March
Thursday, May 24, 4:30-6:30: Stand-out
Friday, May 25, 12:00-5:00: Commencement

Please join UMass students, faculty, and staff in opposing
UMass’s plan to award an honorary degree at graduate
commencement to Iraq War architect Andrew Card. During his
tenure as White House Chief of Staff, Card founded the
White House Iraq Group in order to coordinate efforts to
“market” (his term) the war to the American public. Andrew
Card shares responsibility for the lies and distortions
that led to the Iraq war and occupation. He is therefore
not eligible for an honorary degree which can be awarded
only to “persons of great accomplishment and high ethical
standards who exemplify the ideals of the university of

Tuesday, May 22, 12:30 p.m.
Whitmore Administration Building, UMass

A final march and rally will be held to try to prevent the
award. Meet in front of the Whitmore administration
building on the UMass campus. March to the Amherst Town
Commons. Our first rally brought 200 people; our second
rally had 400. Third time’s the charm!

Thursday, May 24, evening rush hour
Intersections at UMass or in your town

If the award goes forward as planned, please make signs
and stand on highly trafficked intersections on the UMass
campus or in your town during Thursday’s evening commute.
Suggested slogans: “Honor Students, Dis Card”; “Honor
Education, Not War Criminals”; “No Degree for Andrew
Card”; “Protest Tomorrow at UMass, 12:00,” etc.

Friday, May 25th, 12:00 p.m.
Mullins Center, UMass Continue reading UMass Protests Andy Card May 21-25

Students occupy Senator office overnight

For Immediate Release UPDATE
Campus Anti-War Network

Anti-War Activists Sitting In at Senator Kohl?s office

When: Rally at 8:30am(4/19)! Since about 3:00pm 4/18 until conference call with Senator.

Where: The Senator?s Office at 14 W. Mifflin St #207

Why: UPDATE: Activists are currently confined to a 10 by 20 foot room in Senator Kohl’s Office at the behest of the Senator’s State Director, we have been confined here as of midnight and have been denied access to our personal belongings including medication which is in the main office. We have been denied access to water, in that we are not allowed to refill jugs of water when going to the bathroom. Our bathroom access has been limited to 2 persons per trip. We have decided that the best response at this point is to ADHERE to these demands although they are unreasonable. We have decided to take this action because we recognize that these indignities have been imposed to divide us and weaken our message.
Our message is still strong; we continue to demand that Senator Kohl meet with us in person via a public forum although we have been promised a conference call Thursday morning. We still demand Senator Kohl take a stand against the war by de-funding the war and fully funding Iraq veteran?s benefits. We demand that Senator Kohl take a stand for reparations for Iraqi people and against the use of depleted uranium. Lastly we demand troops out now and money for jobs and education.

Blog updates have been posted throughout the night at:

Press may contact Chris at (608) 215-0735.
If unavailable, please contact Kate at (608) 345 – 9964

Our website:

A Peace Week with Ann Wright

A Peace WEEK, (April 14 – 21)
Col. Ann Wright < --> Rev. Billy
…and Traprock thought that it would be
great to bring Scott Ritter back to Indianapolis (we brought him
there last in the summer of ’02). So with the help of VFP and other
friends, he’s back – this April 18th (see below for details)

What an amazing week-end this will be in the Valley.
What a week ahead for Congress, if we persist!
And we help bring Scott Ritter to Indianapolis, April 18.


Col. Ann Wright resigned after 29 years
of service, on March 20, 2003 in objection to the
invasion of Iraq.

She’s here for the W Mass Social Forum–30 groups
have helped to support richly diverse and important
discussions. The Forum runs Sat. 9AM – 9PM
at Umass Amherst, School of Management, near the
Fine Arts Center. And on Sunday until 1pm.

At about 4:30 play a Step-Up Theater game to
portray many ways people use power. On the way
to dinner spell out IMPEACH with our bodies for YouTube.
Dinner is catered at Earthfoods, followed by a performance
at Mahar auditorium. For fun in the evening can we paint a
BIG peace sign to send to DC.

At 10am Sunday morning during the OPEN SPACE offerings
Ann Wright will Speak on Dissent in Democracy.

You can also visit with her here:

1. Outside the Green Fields Market, Main Street
(where the Pioneer Valley War Tax Resisters
provide an information table, Sat, 9-12?)

2. Greenfield Vigil, Sat. 11-12
or Amherst Vigil, Sun. ~12-1

3. Over Dinner at China Gourmet in Greenfield, 5PM
(Please call both here and CG to make a reservation:
at the Traprock Table: 773-7427 + 774-2299)

4. Or at the Holocaust Memorial Service, 7PM
at Temple Israel on Pierce St, Greenfield.

Recently …
swastikas were found painted on Poet’s Seat Tower,
… Come. It’s ALWAYS a good time to stand in solidarity
against genocide, brutality, and torture.
We support plans being laid by Greenfield’s Human Rights
Commission for a community conference to address
the problems and resolutions available for prejudice,
racism, intimidation, etc.


5. Jeremy Scahill spoke Monday at Odyssey Books from
his new book on Blackwater. You can hear him
thanks to Ed Russell !


6. An amazing PBS special on soldiers’ writings
airs at 10PM Monday, April 16, in a week-long series.
This previewed in Northampton Friday night.


7. Next week Frances Crowe returns to DC.
When Frances travels that far, you know it’s for a good
reason. Congress come back after a two-week recess
and prepares to vote for more billions for killing.
If you go please consider inviting passersby to
HONK for PEACE. 202 224- 3121 reaches any
Congressional office until 6PM weekdays.


8. It’s now spring break for many high school students.
Why not make it PEACE WEEK?
Any fine peace or justice initiatives in your Franklin
County towns?

We appreciate one-page nomination letters for the annual
Peacemaker Awards — five $100 and other prizes
awarded by the Interfaith Council of Franklin County
and Traprock Peace Center. Please mail your letter in April!

9. And, Scott Ritter in Indy:

As Indiana National Guard members face call up for offshore deployments to Iraq,
Veterans for Peace Indiana Chapter #49 invites you to discuss:

U.S. Policy in the Middle East:
Target Iran / The Role of Congress

Hear Scott Ritter
US Marine, Gulf War Veteran and former UNSCOM Weapons Inspector
and Honorable Andy Jacobs
Korean War Veteran and former Indiana Congressperson

These veterans discuss the buidl-up toward war with Iran, and
what Congress is and isn’t doing about it. Ritter warns that aircraft carrier
battlegroups will have maximum potential for an attack on Iran’s nuclear
reactor from March through June. One hundred and three US nuclear
reactors could become targets if the US (or Israel, using US weapons)
attacks Iran’s reactor. In Ritters book, “Target Iran” he examines
the Bush administration’s regime-change policy and the potential of Iran
to threaten U.S. national security interests.

Honorable Andy Jacobs, Jr. refused pay increases while serving
in the House of Representatives. Ralph Nader says, “Andy Jacobs
is the conscience of the House.” Will Congress protect the interests
of ordinary people, or promote the interests of profiteers? Jacobs’ book,
“1600 Killers”, gives an insiders view of Congress.

These speakers could help citizens
save lives, of soldiers and civilains,
here and abroad.

Moderator: Pierre Atlas
Political Science Professor and Director of Franciscan Center for Global Studies at Marian College

Wednesday April 18, 2007 7-8:30 pm

At the General Pershing Room
of the Indiana War Memorial on the
corner of Michigan and Meridian St.,
in downtown Indianapolis.
Please enter from Michigan Street/North Entrance.

A dinner with guest speakers is available nearby by reservation for $35 at 5:30. Make advance reservations soon at Details will be emailed to you.

Reservations for a dinner in Indianapolis on Thursday evening, on the topic, “The Art of War for Waging Peace”

Sponsored by: Indianapolis Peace House & Plowshares,
Indianapolis Peace and Justice Center, Traprock Peace Center.

For more information contact Charlie Wiles in Indianapolis,
(317) 466-0114 or Sunny Miller in Deerfield, MA (413) 773-7427.

Traprock Peace Center
103A Keets Road
Deerfield, MA 01342


9. Next Saturday, April 21 enjoy hearing Rev. Billy and
The Church of Stop Stopping Gospel Choir,
Shelburne Falls Memorial Hall, Sat 7PM,
and Brattleboro, Sunday, 7PM
This is sweet music.


10. Thanks to Bob McCormick for great help on the
property hunt. Traprock needs to move by Aug. 31.
A Home Team is forming to invite help from friends &
gounders, whether for $10, $100, $1,000 or $10,000.
Thanks for your visionary contributions.

This tax season,
Let’s all pay more,
For peace than war.

Best regards,
Sunny Miller

Please see the calendar for more advance notice
in a Neighbors’ Network to End War,

Israel seeks all clear for Iran air strike

original article

by Con Coughlin in Tel Aviv
Last Updated: 12:30am GMT 25/02/2007

Israel is negotiating with the United States for permission to fly over Iraq as part of a plan to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

To conduct surgical air strikes against Iran’s nuclear programme, Israeli war planes would need to fly across Iraq. But to do so the Israeli military authorities in Tel Aviv need permission from the Pentagon. [Ed. note: so much for Iraqi sovereignty]

A senior Israeli defence official said negotiations were now underway between the two countries for the US-led coalition in Iraq to provide an “air corridor” in the event of the Israeli government deciding on unilateral military action to prevent Teheran developing nuclear weapons.

“We are planning for every eventuality, and sorting out issues such as these are crucially important,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

“The only way to do this is to fly through US-controlled air space. If we don’t sort these issues out now we could have a situation where American and Israeli war planes start shooting at each other.”

As Iran continues to defy UN demands to stop producing material which could be used to build a nuclear bomb, Israel’s military establishment is moving on to a war footing, with preparations now well under way for the Jewish state to launch air strikes against Teheran if diplomatic efforts fail to resolve the crisis.

The pace of military planning in Israel has accelerated markedly since the start of this year after Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, provided a stark intelligence assessment that Iran, given the current rate of progress being made on its uranium enrichment programme, could have enough fissile material for a nuclear warhead by 2009.

Last week Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, announced that he had persuaded Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad for the past six years and one of Israel’s leading experts on Iran’s nuclear programme, to defer his retirement until at least the end of next year.

Mr Olmert has also given overall control of the military aspects of the Iran issue to Eliezer Shkedi, the head of the Israeli Air Force and a former F-16 fighter pilot.

The international community will increase the pressure on Iran when senior officials from the five permanent of the United Nations Security Council and Germany meet at an emergency summit to be held in London on Monday.

Iran ignored a UN deadline of last Wednesday to halt uranium enrichment. Officials will discuss arms controls and whether to cut back on the $25 billion-worth of export credits which are used by European companies to trade with Iran.

A high-ranking British source said: “There is a debate within the six countries on sanctions and economic measures.”

British officials insist that this “incremental” approach of tightening the pressure on Iran is starting to turn opinion within Iran. One source said: “We are on the right track. There is time for diplomacy to take effect.”

US funds terror groups to sow chaos in Iran

original article

By William Lowther in Washington DC and Colin Freeman, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:30am GMT 25/02/2007

America is secretly funding militant ethnic separatist groups in Iran in an attempt to pile pressure on the Islamic regime to give up its nuclear programme.

In a move that reflects Washington’s growing concern with the failure of diplomatic initiatives, CIA officials are understood to be helping opposition militias among the numerous ethnic minority groups clustered in Iran’s border regions.
The operations are controversial because they involve dealing with movements that resort to terrorist methods in pursuit of their grievances against the Iranian regime.

In the past year there has been a wave of unrest in ethnic minority border areas of Iran, with bombing and assassination campaigns against soldiers and government officials.

Such incidents have been carried out by the Kurds in the west, the Azeris in the north-west, the Ahwazi Arabs in the south-west, and the Baluchis in the south-east. Non-Persians make up nearly 40 per cent of Iran’s 69 million population, with around 16 million Azeris, seven million Kurds, five million Ahwazis and one million Baluchis. Most Baluchis live over the border in Pakistan.

Funding for their separatist causes comes directly from the CIA’s classified budget but is now “no great secret”, according to one former high-ranking CIA official in Washington who spoke anonymously to The Sunday Telegraph.

His claims were backed by Fred Burton, a former US state department counter-terrorism agent, who said: “The latest attacks inside Iran fall in line with US efforts to supply and train Iran’s ethnic minorities to destabilise the Iranian regime.”

Although Washington officially denies involvement in such activity, Teheran has long claimed to detect the hand of both America and Britain in attacks by guerrilla groups on its internal security forces. Last Monday, Iran publicly hanged a man, Nasrollah Shanbe Zehi, for his involvement in a bomb attack that killed 11 Revolutionary Guards in the city of Zahedan in Sistan-Baluchistan. An unnamed local official told the semi-official Fars news agency that weapons used in the attack were British and US-made.

Yesterday, Iranian forces also claimed to have killed 17 rebels described as “mercenary elements” in clashes near the Turkish border, which is a stronghold of the Pejak, a Kurdish militant party linked to Turkey’s outlawed PKK Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

John Pike, the head of the influential Global Security think tank in Washington, said: “The activities of the ethnic groups have hotted up over the last two years and it would be a scandal if that was not at least in part the result of CIA activity.”

Such a policy is fraught with risk, however. Many of the groups share little common cause with Washington other than their opposition to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose regime they accuse of stepping up repression of minority rights and culture.

The Baluchistan-based Brigade of God group, which last year kidnapped and killed eight Iranian soldiers, is a volatile Sunni organisation that many fear could easily turn against Washington after taking its money.

A row has also broken out in Washington over whether to “unleash” the military wing of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), an Iraq-based Iranian opposition group with a long and bloody history of armed opposition to the Iranian regime.

The group is currently listed by the US state department as terrorist organisation, but Mr Pike said: “A faction in the Defence Department wants to unleash them. They could never overthrow the current Iranian regime but they might cause a lot of damage.”

At present, none of the opposition groups are much more than irritants to Teheran, but US analysts believe that they could become emboldened if the regime was attacked by America or Israel. Such a prospect began to look more likely last week, as the UN Security Council deadline passed for Iran to stop its uranium enrichment programme, and a second American aircraft carrier joined the build up of US naval power off Iran’s southern coastal waters.

The US has also moved six heavy bombers from a British base on the Pacific island of Diego Garcia to the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, which could allow them to carry out strikes on Iran without seeking permission from Downing Street.

While Tony Blair reiterated last week that Britain still wanted a diplomatic solution to the crisis, US Vice-President Dick Cheney yesterday insisted that military force was a real possibility.

“It would be a serious mistake if a nation like Iran were to become a nuclear power,” Mr Cheney warned during a visit to Australia. “All options are still on the table.”

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany will meet in London tomorrow to discuss further punitive measures against Iran. Sanctions barring the transfer of nuclear technology and know-how were imposed in December. Additional penalties might include a travel ban on senior Iranian officials and restrictions on non-nuclear business.

Additional reporting by Gethin Chamberlain.

UK doubles naval presence in Persian Gulf

original article

UK doubles naval presence in Persian Gulf

By Damien McElroy in Manama, Bahrain
Last Updated: 4:04pm GMT 25/02/2007

Britain’s senior naval officer in the Persian Gulf has revealed that Royal Navy deployments in the region have doubled since October in a build-up that matches the rapid escalation of American maritime firepower.

Commodore Keith Winstanley, who serves as deputy commander of coalition maritime operations for US Central Command, has told The Daily Telegraph that British trade and strategic interests dictate the necessity of a high and sustained commitment to patrol the seas around the Middle East.

“If you look at the UK component we have almost doubled it,” he said in an interview aboard HMS Sutherland in Mina al-Salman port.

“Most of these ships are here on training missions but there is no doubt that we could use the warfighting capabilities they possess.”

Cdre Winstanley said there was a message for Iran in the expansion of the coalition fleet in the waters of the Persian Gulf, Sea of Oman and Arabian Sea.

More ships on patrol would have strategic effects that went beyond the operational benefits of increased patrols.

Royal Navy commanders insist the build-up in the Gulf has not been ordered by the Ministry of Defence in direct response to Teheran’s pursuit of an atomic weapons programme in defiance of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

But there are hopes that additional vessels will intensify pressure on the regime in Tehran to abandon its nuclear activities.

The additional Royal Navy vessels sent to the Gulf include HMS Cornwall, a type 22 frigate, two mine sweepers, HMS Ramsey and HMS Blythe, and a vessel from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

The British ships will work in an American-led coalition of naval vessels, which has expanded rapidly in recent weeks with the arrival of a second aircraft carrier battle group, led by USS Stennis.

While most of the coalition is engaged in routine patrols, Cdre Winstanley refers to the area of operations as the “battle-space”.

Commitments include protecting Iraq’s southern oil terminals against attack until the Iraqi navy can prove its competence to ensuring the six miles of shipping lanes through the Strait of Hormuz remain open.

Up to 80 per cent of Europe’s trade with the Far East and a substantial proportion of the world’s oil and gas is shipped through local waters.

Cdre Winstanley said British strategic and economic self-interest dictated a strong Royal Navy commitment to the region.

“We have a vested interest in the freedom of the high seas,” he said.

“We can’t do that alone but we can make a contribution. There is a threat of widespread economic attack that I don’t see diminishing.”

Nineteen countries belong to the coalition led by US Admiral Patrick Walsh and his deputy, Cdre Winstanley.

Maps at the command centre show the position of 45 naval vessels from the southern coast of Pakistan to the east coast of Africa.

Terrorist threats and piracy loom large in operational plans.

Al-Qa’eda has attacked and destroyed US vessels in Arabian ports and its leaders repeatedly called for strikes against oil platforms and loading docks.

British developed computer software, the Automatic Identification System (AIS) tracks vessels bigger than 300 tonnes throughout 2.5 million square miles.

Unlike traditional radar systems, the AIS gives naval planners a three dimensional view of the seas that enables detection of any unusual movements.

Commodore Bruce Williams who commands Task 150, the southern segment of the coalition, said the concentration of naval firepower has steadily reduced the risk to commercial shipping.

“There are no guarantees,” he said.

“This is an area of economic vulnerabilities but we can cause the environment to shift to make it harder for those who would attack us to do their business.”

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