Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Homeland Security, Iranian Style

Ilan Berman, The American Foreign Policy Council: Iran Democracy Monitor No. 7
As the international crisis over its nuclear program continues to grow, the Islamic Republic is taking practical steps to clamp down on foreign influence within its borders. Iran's majles, or parliament, is reportedly set to review a new border security motion recently put forth by that body's Foreign Policy Committee. If approved, the measure would require American citizens to be fingerprinted and searched at all entry points into Iran. (Tehran E'temad-e Melli, April 9, 2006)


Iran has launched an "unofficial civil war" in neighboring Iraq, British military officials believe. In recent days, British Special Forces troops and intelligence specialists have been tasked with tracking the activities of as many as forty Iranian agents operating in southern Iraq. In all, some 500 intelligence operatives from Iran are suspected to have entered Iraq over the past couple of weeks, using the cover of the annual Shi'ite religious pilgrimage to the shrine of the Imam Hussein in Karbala. The infiltration, officials in London believe, is part of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's plan to position covert assets and "carve up" the former Ba'athist state once Coalition forces withdraw. (London Sunday Mirror, April 9, 2006)


Iran's state-controlled broadcasting sector is branching out in a different direction. Ezzattolah Zarghami, the head of Iran's official Voice of the Islamic Republic and Vision of the Islamic Republic radio and television stations, has revealed that government plans are underway for the establishment of a new public diplomacy vehicle: an English-language news station. The new media outlet, which is expected to be launched later this year or in early 2007, is intended for a sympathetic "audience outside the country" and will specifically produce programming for "Iranians residing outside Iran." (Tehran Kayhan, March 19, 2006) READ MORE


Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh has ignited a firestorm of controversy with a new investigative report outlining possible preparations for a military attack against Iran in the U.S. government. "The Bush Administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack," Hersh has written. More provocatively, Hersh alleges that the military scenarios being reviewed by the White House could include use of "bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapons" against fortified Iranian nuclear facilities. Administration officials, for their part, have vehemently denied the rumors, with President Bush asserting publicly that preventing a nuclear Iran "means diplomacy" rather than the use of force. (New Yorker, April 17, 2006; New York Times, April 10, 2006)


Russian experts, meanwhile, are warning of dire consequences should the United States take military action against the Islamic Republic. A U.S. strike on Iranian nuclear facilities is likely to involve more than 60 strategic sites and result in as many as 15,000 casualties, according to Radzhab Safarov, director of the Center for Modern Iranian Studies in Moscow. "However, the Iranian economy would not be paralyzed and it would not result in a political crisis in the country," according to Safarov. "On the contrary, Iranians would maximally consolidate around their political leaders, Iran would withdraw from all possible legal structures and start full-scale development of its nuclear program." Moreover, Safarov says, a military strike could lead to a complete cessation of Iranian oil exports - with major economic consequences for world markets. (Moscow RIA Novosti, April 11, 2006)