Saturday, May 31, 2008


By Chris Zambelis (& editorial comments from Alan)

The People’s Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI), more commonly known as the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (“people’s mujahideen”; MEK), is one of the most organized and controversial Iranian opposition groups. Although it maintains an armed wing—known as the National Liberation Army (NLA)—and numerous front organizations, it derives its greatest strength from the slick lobbying and propaganda machine it operates in the United States and Europe.

Alan note: the Mullahs have managed over the last decade to corrupt many of the MEK so that there appears to be "two" versions, at odds with each other and with conflicting loyalties vis-a-vis the Islamic Regime in Iran.

Surviving original MEK members (remember Khomeini had about 30,000 of them in prison when Iraq went to war against him and had them all slaughtered) are now aged close to being in their seventies.

The MEK also boasts extensive support within U.S. government and policy circles, including many of the most vocal advocates of a U.S. invasion of Iran.

The MEK remains on the list of banned terrorist organizations in the United States and European Union (EU). Both parties have indicated no intention of reconsidering their positions.

The May 7 decision by the United Kingdom’s Court of Appeal to overrule the British government’s inclusion of the MEK on its list of banned terrorist organizations, however, may pave the way for both the United States and EU to reassess their positions regarding the MEK down the line.

Alan note: last year, France already removed them from their list of banned or terrorist groups and returned all the funds they had confiscated from the MEK.

Given the MEK’s history of violence and its willingness to act as a proxy force against Iran, such a move would represent a major escalation in hostilities between the United States and Iran, with consequences in Iraq and beyond.


The MEK is an obscure organization with a long history of violence and opposition activities. It emerged in the 1960s, composed of college students and leftist intellectuals loyal to Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq; the (very) leftist nationalist prime minister was deposed by a U.S.- and U.K.-backed coup in 1953 that restored Mohammad Reza Shah to power.

Alan note: Mossadegh was highly unpopular with most Iranians - except very liberal leftist students and gave free rein to the Tudeh (Communist) Party, whose pro-Soviet machinations through Mossadegh was about to hand Iran and its oil to the Soviet Union. Thus the West stepped in and removed him rather than restoring the Monarchy, which was a convenient method to achieve this.

Morever, as a prominent family member of the previous Qajar dynasty , he had removal of the Shah and restoration of the Qajars as his primary, unstated objective and was prepared to use the Tudeh and Soviets to achieve this at any cost to Iran. Including the oil he asked the shah to nationalize. Putting the young monarch at very grave physical danger from the West.

Its revolutionary zeal (carefully orchestrated by the Soviets through their Tehran Embassy) combined aspects of Marxist and Islamist ideologies in pursuit of its goal to overthrow the U.S.-backed Shah through armed resistance and terrorism.

Alan note: Islamist idelogical pretence was used to lure and enlist religiously superstitious and totally politically ignorant youths.

Its primary targets in the 1970s included ranking officials and symbols of the shah’s regime, both within and outside of Iran.

The regime responded in kind with intense repression through SAVAK, the shah’s domestic intelligence apparatus. (Aimed at the Marxists and Communists whose pro-Soviet policies enadangered Iran).

Thousands of members and associates of MEK were killed, tortured and jailed during this period.

(Alan note: there were less than two or three people executed in any given year by the Monarchy in the 25+ years of the Shah's rule. Not even thousands were killed in the Khomeini revlution so this "numerical fact" is totally wrong).

Consequently, like many Iranians at the time (who have lived to regret it), the MEK viewed the Islamist opposition as a positive force for change. The MEK supported the revolutionary forces and the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy and subsequent hostage crisis led by student activists in Tehran.

Alan note: Remember about 60% of Iran's population was under the age of 25 and wildly idealistic but not politically savvy, so inciting them was a relatively simple task, controlled by a team of a dozen Soviet urban gueilla psychologists, who enjoyed creating an anti-USA and Anti-Western frenzy inside Iran.

The group’s unique brand of Marxism and Islamism, however, would bring it into conflict with the rigid Shiite Islamism espoused by the post-revolutionary government.

The failure of a June 1981 coup attempt intended to oust Ayatollah Khomeini elicited a massive crackdown by the regime against the MEK, forcing the group’s leaders and thousands of members into exile in Europe.

When France ousted operational elements of the group in 1986, many made their way to Iraq, where they joined Saddam Hussein’s war effort against Iran and enjoyed a safe haven.

Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, a (cultishly )charismatic husband and wife team that fled into exile in Europe, lead the MEK (Massoud is no longer around).

From her base in France, Maryam Rajavi currently holds the position of “President-Elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)” after her husband’s disappearance sometime in 2003. He is presumed to be in hiding. The Rajavis enjoy a fanatical cult-like following among MEK members and supporters.

The group’s cult-like character was displayed when 16 followers of the Rajavis staged dramatic public acts of self-immolation over a period of three days in June 2003 across major European and Canadian cities. The protests followed the arrest of Maryam Rajavi and 160 of her followers after a French court ruled that the MEK and its numerous front groups constituted a terrorist organization.

According to former members of the group, the MEK’s “human torches” are a testament to the stranglehold the Rajavis have over their followers and the extent to which members are brainwashed and manipulated psychologically into blindly following them.

The MEK is reported to maintain a list of volunteers ready and willing to perform acts of self-immolation on the orders of the leadership.

Like other cults, MEK members are often separated from their children and families and discouraged from maintaining contact with individuals outside of the group.

Former members who defected from the MEK describe the Rajavis as autocrats who demand unquestioned loyalty from their followers (, January 30, 2006).

Women make up a significant contingent of the MEK’s ranks, especially in its armed wing. In addition to its Marxist and Islamist pedigrees, the rise of the Rajavis to the group’s leadership led to the introduction of feminist ideologies into the group’s discourse.

This aspect of the MEK’s ideology indicates their attempt to tap into local grievances and international sympathy regarding the position of women in the Islamic Republic.

In this regard, the MEK presents itself as a liberal and democratic alternative to the rigid brand of Islamism espoused by the ruling clerics, an image it has cultivated in U.S. and Western policy circles to great effect.

The U.K. court based its ruling on the premise that the MEK has renounced violence and terrorism, and that it currently maintains no operational capability to execute future acts of violence.

Violence and Terrorism

The MEK’s long history of violence and terrorism includes the abduction and assassination of ranking Iranian political and military officials under the shah in the 1970s, as well as attacks against the clerical establishment throughout the 1980s. Foreign-based MEK operatives also targeted Iranian embassies abroad in a series of attacks.

MEK militants struck diplomatic officials and foreign business interests in Iran under both the shah and the Islamists in an effort to undermine investor confidence and regime stability.

Furthermore, the MEK targeted and killed Americans living and working in Iran in the 1970s, namely U.S. military and civilian contractors working on defense-related projects in Tehran (

The group has never been known to target civilians directly, though its use of tactics such as mortar barrages and ambushes in busy areas (and bank robberies) have often resulted in civilian casualties.

In addition, the MEK’s repertoire of operations includes suicide bombings, airline hijackings, ambushes, cross-border raids, RPG attacks, and artillery and tank barrages.

Saddam Hussein exploited the MEK’s fervor during the Iran-Iraq war. In addition to providing the group with a sanctuary on Iraqi soil, Saddam supplied the MEK with weapons, tanks and armored vehicles, logistical support, and training at the group’s Camp Ashraf in Diyala Province near the Iranian border and other camps across Iraqi territory.

In a sign of the group’s appreciation for Saddam’s generous hospitality and largesse, the MEK cooperated with Iraqi security forces in the brutal repression of uprisings led by Shiite Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens in 1991.

MEK members also served alongside Iraq’s internal security forces and assisted in rooting out domestic opponents of the regime and other threats to Baathist rule.

Despite its history of high-profile attacks, the MEK never posed a serious threat to the Iranian regime. The group never enjoyed popular domestic support, despite its claims to the contrary.

Alan note: an estimated 150,000 "boots on the ground" inside Iran. They do not have a brand stamped on their foreheads and as such can remain fairly invisible inside the Iranian populace - until they open their political mouths.

Many Iranians actively oppose the clerical regime and sympathize with segments of the opposition. At the same time, most Iranians also regard the MEK as traitorous for joining the Iraqi war effort against Iran and resent its use of violence and terrorism against Iranians at home and abroad (

Alan note: much of this hatred has been repeatedly fanned into flames by the Mullah regime, which is afraid of the MEK as the only opposition group with members with military and weapons training.

Approximately 3,500 members of the MEK remain in Camp Ashraf. Following an agreement with U.S.-led Coalition forces, MEK units allowed Coalition forces to disarm the group.

Decommissioned MEK units are currently under surveillance in Camp Ashraf. Their future status, however, remains a point of controversy.

Despite their demobilization, (Islamic) Iran believes that the United States is holding on to the group as leverage in any future confrontation with the Islamic Republic (see Terrorism Monitor, February 9, 2006).

Political Activism

Although it has been disarmed, the MEK retains the capacity to remobilize, especially if it gains a state sponsor.

Nevertheless, it is the MEK’s lobbying and propaganda machine in the United States and Europe that enables it to remain a relevant force in Middle East politics and a key factor in U.S.- Iranian tensions.

The MEK’s political activism falls under the auspices of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)—an MEK political front organization that also serves as an umbrella movement representing various (leftist and Communist) Iranian dissident groups.

These efforts persist despite the fact that U.S. authorities ordered NCRI offices in Washington to shut down in 2003 (New York Observer, June 5, 2007).

From Iran’s perspective, the U.S. position on MEK is both ambiguous and at times hypocritical. On the one hand, the MEK remains on the U.S. State Department’s list of banned terrorist organizations, yet the group remains on Iraqi soil, albeit disarmed and under surveillance by Coalition forces.

The MEK has cultivated a loyal following among an outspoken network of U.S. politicians, former and active government officials, members of the defense establishment, journalists and academics advocating violent regime change in Tehran.

The MEK is even credited in some of these circles for disclosing aspects of the Iranian nuclear program.

At the same time, it is accused of fabricating intelligence information to boost its profile in the United States (Asia Times, March 4).

With their call for regime change in Iran and pleas for international support, media-savvy MEK representatives based in the United States appear regularly on the cable news show circuit and other forums in Washington, DC in a campaign reminiscent of the one led by Ahmed Chalabi and the network of Iraqi exiles who mustered American support for the Iraq war.

The MEK has also gained legitimacy as a liberal and democratic force for positive change in Iran, despite evidence to the contrary.


The MEK will continue to capitalize on the ongoing tensions between the United States and Iran by enlisting the support of elements in Washington seeking a bargaining chip against Tehran.

It is important, however, to see this bizarre organization for what it is; that is, to see through (disbelieve) the façade of liberalism, democracy and human rights that it purports to represent through its propaganda.

The well-documented experiences of scores of former MEK members are reason enough to consider this group and any of its claims with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Alan note: the hatred the MEK has for the Mullahs will result, should a "sponsor" appear, in a "sandblasting" cleansing of Mullahs from the Islamic Iranian scene, to be replaced with quasi Islamic pretence and Soviet style Marxism with strong cultish and feminist overtones.

As such they are an excellent tool to clear out Mullahs but not a long term solution for the opposition diaspora. Junk Yard dog type of profile. Useful but not to be trusted not to turn on you.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Exclusive: Will Global Food Crisis Affect Americans Too?

Author: Jim Horn

The crisis hasn’t reached our shores yet, but hold onto your hat. The world is experiencing its first serious food crisis in years, and it could soon be coming to your pantry.

Government figures spoke of 250,000 job losses within the first quarter, 80,000 in March alone. Official unemployment rates are 5%.

But have you driven a freeway lately at morning rush hour? Where are the contractor pickup trucks, the lumber trucks, the cement trucks, the painters, the roofers? They look to be missing in action.

It seems as though those 250,000 job losses are in Southern California alone. And ask the Mexican government about their new migrant problem – huge numbers of returnees looking for food, work, and shelter – a migrant crisis for Mexico.

Many other hourly workers have had their hours cut back, and that doesn't reach the government tally sheets.

Add to this the fact that the prices of certain products are starting to soar and demand is outstripping supply. For example, my wife and I recently went to COSTCO and the rice pallet was empty.

We went a week later and that space (for rice) no longer exists because our COSTCO doesn’t have any rice. An Asian green grocer store where we often shop usually has abundant stacks of rice, but last week several pallets were empty.

Yes, we’ve heard about starvation in North Korea for years – because of the North Korean government’s mismanagement.

We’ve also been receiving reports about famine in Darfur, Sudan – in fact, throughout the Sahel of Africa. Some of that sad, tragic saga is not new. Part of the problem was created by the Europeans and Americans, but that’s another long, complex story.

The world is entering a new stage of genuine famine, and you can bet that when things really get ugly, don’t be surprised if America, the world’s whipping boy, will be held to blame for the tragedy.

Thirty years ago, the United States’ efforts in south Asia succeeded in developing new variants of hearty, fast growing, high yield rice grains that were drought and disease resistant.

It was the green revolution, and suddenly formerly famine ridden countries like India, Pakistan, China, and Indonesia became net food exporters. Bangladesh could even nearly feed its 150+ million people (all living in a space the size of Wisconsin).

Is the party over? There have been riots in Mexico over the high costs and shortages of corn. (Is it because we Americans are busily turning it into ethanol?)

People are killing one another in Haiti for a bowl of rice.

The Philippines is also facing a food crisis.

India, Brazil, Vietnam, and others have halted exports of grains in their efforts to maintain stocks to feed their own people, and to hold their domestic prices down.

The continuing Australian droughts have halted their mighty grains export business.

Corn costs are so high that ranchers are raising smaller herds, which will translate to even higher meat, milk and egg prices in the near future.

Other foodstuffs are seeing a hike in prices as well, as corn and corn syrup are used in a wide array of products.

A so-far unmanageable wheat rust (blight) has socked Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, wiping out crops.

This is spreading into grain belts of Turkey, the Ukraine, Russia, and eastern and south Asia. By next year, it could be in China and also here, in the Americas, having a devastating effect on our wheat crops if no remedy for the blight is found.

Bees pollinate crops – especially those from annuals like trees, and bee hives are collapsing. When crops go unpollinated there are very low yields, if any, so nut and fruit costs may soon soar as well.

In a year, famine will be widespread and millions people worldwide face death as a result. Here in America, it’s an election year. What are our political leaders doing – fiddling à la Nero?

Where is the House of Representative’s leadership? Where is the Senate’s leadership? Besides spitting at each other, what are Presidential candidates doing?

Is it too soon within the election cycle to raise these critical issues? I realize the public often has a short attention span, but some things are simply too important to wait for the electorate to wake up and smell the coffee.

Before you know it, the looming crisis means that Americans will be called on to ante up billions in food aid to the world’s starving. That will cost us more, in both taxes and in actual grocery charges, as we will be competing with ourselves for dwindling food supplies.

Here’s an idea:

OPEC oil producers are rolling in cash, and they ought to be the ones to ante up cash to feed the poor this time. Their gouging is part of the reason we have moved food off of the shelves and into fuel tanks.

I, for one, have had enough. And as I’m waiting for the fertilizer to hit the fan, I’m quietly stocking up on non-perishable foods.

Alan Note: Islamic jihadists, Hezbollah, various Palestinian and Syrian factions are all using food, distributed as charity from mosques and political office locations, to recruit or retain followers and engender sympathy for their various causes. Often using USA foreign aid food we give to the world free of charge and without strings in the name of humanity.

RELATED STORY.,0,2913579.story

When will we and our Dhimmis wake up to what is happening? The tide in Europe has begun to turn in some countries less rich than the USA, such as Denmark, where new immigration laws change the "let us assimilate you into us by dancing to your tune - to assimilate yourself to us - or leave."

When will we and the Dhimmis, notice that Palestinians have again rejected a dual State of Israel and Palestine and are not "victims"? That no Arab countries - with a fine line exception of Jordan - has accepted so-called Palestinians as citizens, given them a nationality and a full status as citizen.

Why? Because they know the Palestinian "people" are a false myth and while they try to shove it down Western throats, refuse to swallow the garbage themselves.

Only last week, Iraqi Palestinians, currently mostly expelled from the section of Bahdad Saddam Hussein had allocated to them, staged a protest in the desert camp where they now find themselves with little or no food and water, by wrapping themselves in coffins and lying down in freshly dug graves.

# # Contributing Editor Jim Horn is a retired Foreign Service Officer who has served internationally for more than twenty-five years as a U.S. diplomat. He has enjoyed diverse assignments as a visa officer, an administrator, a security officer, and as an official in counter terrorism.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


In January 2000, a German engineer living in South Africa met with a friend and business partner to hatch a deal.

Gerald Wisser, a 61-year-old broker, visited his friend's pipe factory outside Johannesburg to see if his friend wanted to make a bid on a manufacturing project.

According to what Wisser later told investigators, his friend, Johan Meyer, pointed to a foot-and-a-half tall stack of documents and said, "That is the beast. I will make an offer."

"The beast" was machinery to assist with the enrichment of uranium. It was just one part of a much larger operation. Its goal: to provide the fuel enabling Libya to produce its own nuclear bombs.

To men like Wisser and Meyer, it was just another business project.

Wisser and Meyer's deal illustrates the increasingly white-collar nature of the nuclear bomb business. The popular image of desperate terrorists smuggling enriched uranium across borders may not be the most serious nuclear threat to the world.

Instead, the people helping to make the bombs are often successful businessmen made even richer through illicit deals for making the machines to enrich uranium and build bombs. They may live in suburbs and belong to country clubs. And their ability to operate under the guise of "legitimate" business makes catching up with them far more difficult.

Wisser sent word back to his business connection in Switzerland: His partner would take the job. It would cost $2.5 million between the two of them. Wisser's Swiss connection was the intermediary for a man in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. His name was Abdul Qadeer Khan.

A.Q. Khan was the architect of an audacious global trafficking network in sophisticated technology that supplied nuclear know-how and uranium enrichment equipment to North Korea, Iran and Libya.

Manufacturers and businesses from as many as 30 countries participated in the enterprise. "The beast," according to the National Nuclear Security Administration, was intended to become part of a uranium enrichment facility enabling Libya to produce as many as several nuclear bombs a year.

Gerhard Wisser and his partner, Johan Meyer, owner of the factory called Tradefin Engineering, had become part of the global network created by Khan to build nuclear weapons. Their job was to construct the inner plumbing—pipes, valves and the like—for the processing of uranium hexafluoride, a gas that is the precursor to enriched, weapons-grade uranium.

Khan assembled a network of businesses able to dodge international export controls by secretly obtaining the technology for nuclear enrichment from multiple locales. In some instances, the job was made easier by the fact that much of the technology needed to enrich uranium and build nuclear bombs has a civilian use as well, in everything from navigation to medicine to energy production, making exports far more difficult to control (and penalties, for mere export violations, far less than those for illegally building a nuclear bomb).

A global network of manufacturers, linked together by Khan according to their specialties, turned their otherwise legitimate businesses into contractors for enriching uranium. Most of them, unlike Gerhard Wisser and Johan Meyer, have yet to be prosecuted; some critics say one reason has been the United States' reluctance to cooperate on international investigations.

Khan operated his international sales network undetected for more than a decade. There is only one international body with the authority to monitor and prevent the trafficking of nuclear technology, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and it wasn't looking for operations such as Khan's.

Instead, until recently, both the United States and the IAEA have focused on the smuggling of uranium by criminals or terrorists. The U.S. poured hundreds of millions of dollars into a program aimed at providing former Soviet nuclear scientists with employment to keep them out of the black market.

But while the world looked to block the traffic in enriched uranium, A.Q. Khan, with the help of men like Wisser and Meyer, set out to help countries enrich their own.

"You have a situation where what you and I would view as respectable businessmen are going about selling the wherewithal to make nuclear weapons," says David Albright, a former nuclear inspector in Iraq and now president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS).

The most significant threat of nuclear proliferation today, says Albright, "comes not from smugglers with pocketfuls of uranium, but from people typically who are very successful businessmen who just want more. … You'd probably be sitting down at the country club and making a deal, or walking into someone's office and making a deal in some luxurious conference room."

Tradefin is housed inside a huge warehouse in a cluster of small factories called Vanderbiljpark about 30 miles south of Johannesburg. It shares a dusty street alongside tile, tire and paint manufacturers. Inside is a complex of rusting tanks, lathes and rumbling conveyor belts.

From the looks of it, Tradefin might as well be producing ball bearings. Gerhard Wisser told German investigators that the factory was producing a water purification facility.

But when South Africa's Crimes Against the State police raided Tradefin in 2004, they found 11 shipping containers packed with machinery fully labeled for reassembly in Libya. IAEA inspectors would later confirm that the machines were capable of capturing and transporting uranium gas after it's been enriched in thousands of whirling centrifuges, the final stage before it's capable of being used for a nuclear bomb.

They also found a promotional videotape from A.Q. Khan's laboratory back in Pakistan which advertised Khan's ability to build the world's "finest uranium enrichment plants."

Tradefin did not produce the most sensitive technology offered by A.Q. Khan to the Libyans; that was provided by factories in Malaysia and elsewhere.

But it manufactured the connecting tissue, the mechanical valves and pipes, for the complex circulatory system of transformations necessary to convert uranium from its natural state in dirt into uranium hexafluoride gas and back into highly enriched, potentially explosive material for a bomb.

It's just these kinds of enterprises, doing work that looks commonplace on the surface, that make cracking down on proliferators a particular challenge, says Olli Heinonen, the IAEA's Deputy General of Safeguards, and the agency's chief nuclear inspector in Iran and Libya. "There are tens of thousands of … these kinds of workshops … doing the same kind of job that Tradefin was doing," Heinonen says.

In September 2007, seven years after "the beast" was born at Tradefin, Gerhard Wisser pleaded guilty to making and trafficking in nuclear weapons parts ordered by A.Q. Khan in violation of South Africa's laws against nuclear proliferation.

Last February, Wisser's chief engineer, Daniel Geiges, who was supervisor of the Tradefin project, confessed to similar charges. Tradefin's owner, Johan Meyer, the man who had turned that one and a half foot stack of documents into an actual, functioning "beast", had confessed to multiple charges of violating South Africa's anti-proliferation laws in 2005, and had assisted with the investigation into his former colleagues' activities on behalf of A.Q. Khan.

None will serve time in jail; all were given suspended sentences and forced to pay fines that, cumulatively, amount to more than $3 million.

The Khan network was first exposed in September 2003, when U.S. and British intelligence agents boarded a freighter en route to Libya and found a cargo hold full of centrifuges that were traced back to Pakistan. The leads generated by that intervention laid down a trail which led to some 30 countries, each one of which has different laws governing the export of sensitive technologies to nuclear or "rogue" states.

There is no international body that can bring smugglers to justice. If they are to be prosecuted, the cases must be brought by individual countries, but prosecutors may need information and help from other nations.

The discovery of the centrifuges prompted President Bush to declare, in a speech to the National Defense University, that the United States would launch an aggressive effort to cooperate with foreign military and intelligence services to "find the middlemen, the suppliers, and the buyers," and would cooperate with foreign military and intelligence services "to stop the spread of deadly weapons."

But critics say that the United States has not offered as much cooperation as Bush seemed to promise in pursuing the smugglers involved in the A.Q. Khan network. And more than four years later, not one of the members of Khan's vast network is in prison.

Out of the dozens of individuals and businesses in some 30 countries suspected of having links to the Khan network, no one other than the three businessmen in South Africa, and a fourth in the Netherlands (who served four months in prison in 2006) have been brought to justice.

One case against the man widely considered to be Khan's chief liaison in Europe, a German engineer named Gotthard Lerch, collapsed last year after the judge accused prosecutors of misconduct.

Lerch is scheduled to be retried this spring. His business partner in South Africa was Gerhard Wisser, who helped him buy prime real estate parcels in Cape Town in addition to engaging in black market nuclear deals dating back to the 1980s, according to a record of Wisser's interrogation by German police.

In late February came another blow to prosecutions of the Khan network: Swiss authorities dropped a part of their criminal case against a family team of engineers, Friedrich Tinner and his sons Urs and Marco, who had allegedly organized, from Switzerland, the shipment of centrifuges from a Malaysian factory to Libya. It was those centrifuges that were found aboard the BBC China, and were ultimately slated to be connected to the equipment manufactured by Tradefin in South Africa.

Friedrich Tinner was released from detention.
David Albright ascribes the troubles with that prosecution at least partly to the U.S. refusal to cooperate with Swiss authorities. Key evidence in that case, he says, is the centrifuges that are now in U.S. custody at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge nuclear research facility.

The agency brought U.S. and international journalists to see the centrifuges shortly after taking control of them in 2005, but repeatedly refused, says Albright, to give the same access to Swiss prosecutors.

"That's been one of the most frustrating things to see," Albright says, "is that there hasn't been a lot of cooperation. The Swiss have been asking for help, but the U.S. is not giving it. ...

They're not providing help with gathering evidence and understanding that evidence so the Tinners can be prosecuted more effectively."

Albright and others have speculated that the three men were intelligence sources who were promised immunity. Albright claims there's been an ongoing and unresolved "tension between those in the intelligence business, who are more focused on finding things than necessarily stopping them ... and people who are engaged in the legal enforcement business of not only stopping people but holding them accountable. ...

It makes the world more dangerous in the end. It allows people to get away with it."

The Department of Energy refused comment on the case.
The sense of frustration made its way even to South Africa, where Abdul Minty, that country's Minister for Non-Proliferation, told us, "Some countries that we knew were particularly well-placed to assist us [in prosecutions] did not assist us in the way that we expected. I think that this is a disappointment when there is so much emphasis being put globally on weapons of mass destruction and the need to stop proliferation.

"The fact that we haven't seen much success there is disappointing. ... What is important is that those engaged in these types of activities must not get the impression that they can get away with these things, because it is extremely serious."

Ambassador Minty did not specify which countries he was referring to. The indictment of Wisser and his colleagues lists meetings, participating companies, individuals and evidence based in at least four countries: Germany, Switzerland, Malaysia and the United States.

After those 11 containers filled with equipment destined for Libya were confiscated from Tradefin, the U.S. Department of Energy took possession of the entire shipment. William Tobey, deputy administrator for nuclear nonproliferation at the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration, submitted an affidavit to the South African court last May asserting that the United States would be unwilling to cooperate with the prosecution, and specifically refused to submit evidence regarding the nuclear nature of the shipment, unless the trial was held in secret, hidden from the public or the press.

The South Africans acceded to the U.S. request and put the trial under seal. But the effort to close the trial was successfully challenged by one of that country's leading newspapers, the Mail & Guardian, and a coalition of free expression organizations.

The coalition's success in opening the trial was followed in quick succession by the plea agreements of Gerhard Wisser and Daniel Geiges - whose avoidance of prison time, Albright argues, may be related to the government's subsequent inability to obtain cooperation from the United States in presenting evidence at a public trial.

"I'd rather not discuss that," responded the DOE's William Tobey when called for comment in March.

Meanwhile, A.Q. Khan himself is still a national hero inside Pakistan; he is under so-called "house arrest," confined to his mansion in Rawalpindi. Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff has repeatedly refused to make Khan available for questioning by either the IAEA or the United States.

Like those lingering networks left behind in South Africa, the knowledge and connections that Khan assembled have not gone away. Joseph Cirincione*, whom we interviewed when he was Director of Nuclear Policy at the Center for American Progress, comments, "The global nuclear black market is alive and well, despite claims by both the U.S. administration and Pakistan that the A.Q. Khan network has been smashed. It's just not true. A few people have been arrested but all the suppliers and the expediters are still out there."

As the IAEA's Olli Heinonen explained to us, "If the know-how is there, and the will is there, they don't need any A.Q. Khan. They can do it without him."

* Six months after we interviewed him, Cirincione became president of the Ploughshares Fund, one of the funders of this American RadioWorks project.

Saturday, May 03, 2008


The Iranian Calendar

Race and nationality as well as the related traditions, customs and culture have no relevance to the religion, faith or beliefs of a nation, and cannot be interlinked. Even if at one time Iranians have been forced to accept the yoke of Islam, they could not have lost their national identity, traditions, culture and civilization. A people’s culture and traditions are inalterably peculiar to them.

The history and culture of Iranians - and that of Semitic peoples were formed in a parallel manner; however, they latter grew in separate directions.

It was then that Aryan history and culture began to immerge. Almost all Europeans (Germans, Slavs, Scandinavians, Anglo-Saxons, Romans and Greeks), Northern Indians, Iranians and Armenians belong to Aryan history and civilization.

All of them are from the same descent, originating from Pamir and the Middle East. In the second millennium B.C. E., they emigrated to south and west. Because of their origin and place of birth, they are technically called Indo-Europeans.

From all those groups, the Hittites and the Medes formed the first Aryan country. Iran’s written history started with the Medes.

Hegel, the founder of Historical Philosophy, named Iran the world’s first history making country.

The Medes established their country in 708 B.C. Cyrus the Great, conquered the Medes in 550 B.C., consolidating the local Medes kingdom into the Achaemenid Empire.

Preceding Cyrus, the Medes ruled as local Anzan (Ilamit) kingdom and paid tribute to the rulers of the Assyrian Empire.

Even though later Muslim Arabs ruled over Iran for almost two centuries, it cannot be said that Iranians became Arabs.

Only under duress did Iranians convert to Islam but did not change their culture, which obviously could not have been done.

From the view point of history, every nation has a starting

point in time. Based on this framework, Mohammad’s flight from Mecca to Medina became the beginning of Arab calendar, at the start of which a desert wondering scattered people became a consolidated nation acquiring governance.

According to the Old Testament, the Semitic people are the descendants of Noah’s oldest son “Shem”, wherefore they are called “Semitic”. Some historians believe that the Semitic people came into being in the fourth millennium B.C.E. in East Africa and then moved to north.

Others believe that they came into being in the Arabian Peninsula, a theory that seems more plausible.

Where Mohammad’s Hegira from Mecca to Medina was chosen as the beginning of the Arab calendar, Iranians owe their unity to the Achaemenid dynasty, especially to Cyrus the Great. The Iranian calendar therefore deserves to be based on the beginning of the Achaemenid dynasty.

The date of Cyrus the Great’s famous proclamation, which is recognized as the first Bill of Human Rights, is the best possible date for this purpose; for it is a reminder of the greatest historical glory bestowed upon the Iranian people.

History is unalterable; at no time for any reason can it be sacrificed to the changing politics of the day; otherwise, history cannot exist.

It is necessary to reiterate that on the occasion of the same Bill of Human Rights, in the Jewish and Christian’ Holy Book “The Bible”, Cyrus the Great is heralded as a Messiah of God and diffuser of freedom on Earth.

Therefore, among billions of the world’s Christians and Jews who consider the Book as Holy Testament, Cyrus has found an exceptional status. Perhaps tens or hundreds of thousand names “Cyrus” they have given to the individuals, has a significant meaning.

Cyrus’ internationally acclaimed proclamation (found on a cylinder in Babylon and is now housed in the British Museum in London) is one of the most incomparable documents that humankind has ever seen.

This decree, along with a philosophic poem by our great Iranian poet “Saadi”, became the motto of the United Nations. It is the pride of the world and of Iranians in particular.

In consideration of all encompassing international importance of the Declaration, the date of Cyrus the Great’s declaration should be the beginning date of the Iranian calendar. In other words, such internationally recognized declaration should be every Iranian’s pride to recognize the year 538 B.C., as the start of Iranian calendar 2544; (2006 + 538 = 2544).

It is suggested that the said date be put in use starting this Now-rooz of 2545, instead of using non-Iranian base for the calendar. Every Iranian must insist on using 2545 anywhere.

The proposed date has no religious or political (Monarchy) roots, but has its unique historic and internationally acknowledged base.


This article has been written in consultation with several history books, such as Chronological History of Iran by Dr. Pasargad, The History of Iran by Habibollah Shamloui, together with exchange of ideas with knowledgeable friends and in consultation with Dr. Shojaeddin Shafa whose enthusiastic input completed this research.

Dr. Shafa’s handwritten and oral advice: “The date fixed during the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi was based on the history of Declaration of Cyrus the Great at the time; but due to some logically understandable political reasons, it did not meet the final approval.

Today those political obstacles have vanished and the date of the Declaration of Human Rights by Cyrus the Great becomes the best choice.