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News ::
11 Feb 2002
URGENT : Check out the Iranian press service

TEHRAN, 9 Feb (IPS) A high-ranking officer of the Iranian intelligence and security services menaced the United States and Israel with "suicide attacks" against their soldiers and disclosed that "many young Iranians were preparing for suicide operations" against them.

TEHRAN, 9 Feb (IPS) A high-ranking officer of the Iranian intelligence and security services menaced the United States and Israel with "suicide attacks" against their soldiers and disclosed that "many young Iranians were preparing for suicide operations" against them.

The warning, published in the hard-line evening daily "Keyhan", was delivered by Mr. Hoseyn Shari’atmadari, the official interrogator of Iranian political prisoners, mostly intellectuals, appointed as the Editor of the daily by Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the staunchly anti-American leader of the Islamic Republic.

"Maybe Bush, his acolytes and America do not know that the pleasure and eagerness of martyrdom and killing American and Israeli military men are filling the hearts of great masses of Iranian people", Mr. Shari’atmadari told Friday some pro-Khameneh'i "talabeh", or students in Islamic theology in the city of Qom, considered as the "cradle" of militant Shi’ism, the second largest branch of Islam after Sunni.

He was replying to the American President who, in his recent State of the Union address to the Congress had described Iran, Iraq and North Korea as forming an "axis of evil".

The remarks both shocked and surprised Iranian clerical leadership, including the powerless President Mohammad Khatami, who accused Mr. Bush of "insulting" the Islamic Republic and "humiliated" the Iranian people.

Since then, no day has passed without some high-ranking official, from clerics to military, racing to warn Washington against "mistaking Iran with Afghanistan", referring to the United States military intervention in the war-shattered neighbour that served as a basis for "Al-Qa’eda" organisation during the rule of the orthodox Islamic Taleban.

"The Americans could enter Iran on their own, but could not leave it easily", warned former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani in last Friday sermon.

"Many of our young people are now preparing for suicide operations against US and Israeli soldiers with the aim of vengeance" for US threats and pressure on Iran in recent years, said Mr. Shari’atmadari, considered as one of the leader’s closest spokesmen.

But contrary to the outbursts from the officials, the Iranian civil society, intellectuals, scholars and most particularly students and leading independent opinion makers not only remained indifferent, but blamed Mr. Khameneh'i and his harsh attacks against the Bush Administration for the characterisation of Iran as an "evil" nation.

Iranians are particularly angry because they think Mr. Khameneh'i deliberately prevented prospects of improving Tehran-Washington relations opened after the 11 September terrorist attack on the US, attributed to Al-Qa’eda and its leader, Osama Ben Laden.

In his address to the Congress, Mr Bush also warned Iran against efforts aimed at destabilising the interim government of Mr. Hamid Karzai by sending arms and agents to local commanders as well as smuggling weapons for the Palestinian extremists opposed to peace process with Israel.

"There are many of martyr-seeking Iranians who are making themselves ready for suicide attacks on American and Israeli servicemen", Mr. Shari’atmadari claimed, adding that they are "thanking God for providing the occasion of revenge from these roots of corruption and giving them the holly occasion of killing Israeli and American soldiers".

Iran has categorically and angrily rejected US and Israeli charges of seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction or interfering in Afghanistan’s affairs, observing that Tehran played a "constructive" role during the inter-Afghan talks in Bonn and a half a billion US Dollars pledge for development projects in Afghanistan.

Mr. Shari’atmadari criticised Iranian officials who systematically deny accusation of acquiring nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, saying that it was Iran’s legitimate right to possess such warfare.

"With out enemies equipped with weapons of mass destruction, I say it is necessary for us to be after such weapons. "When our security is threatened, why should American and Israeli nationals remain in safety?" he asked.

Iranian analysts said Mr. Shari’atmadai was speaking on behalf of the leader and observed that the hard-line Secretary of the Council of Guardians, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati also made similar statement.

"The U.S. should learn lessons from the 8-year (1980-1988) Iraqi imposed war and know that Iranian Basijis (volunteer forces) are fond of martyrdom and will resist to the last drop of their blood", he told a group of local families of martyrs in the south-western city of Ahwaz.

Talking to reporters on Saturday, Mr. Khatami said the upcoming nationwide rally marking the anniversary of the victory of the Islamic revolution "would display Iranian nation's commitment to independence, freedom and national pride".

"As far as the independence, the territorial integrity and the national aspiration are concerned, nobody will heed the (political) differences and will take part in the scene whole-heartedly", President Khatami said.

Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani told worshippers at Friday prayers in Tehran University that a US military adventure would plunge Washington into a quagmire that "contains blood".

The outburst from the head of the Assembly for Discerning State’s Interests, one of the country's unselected but powerful institutions, was the latest reaction to President George W. Bush's inclusion of Tehran in an "axis of evil", which he said threatened the US with weapons of mass destruction and sponsorship of terrorism.

Iranian political analysts said after having dumped reforms promised by Mr. Khatami five years ago in his electoral campaign, the conservatives, led by Mr. Khameneh'i are now trying to put the clock back to "revolutionary days" by multiplying tension with outside world, as seen by the downgrading of relations with Britain in the one hand and warnings to neighbouring Pakistan, accusing Islamabad for "pushing" Taleban and eventually Al-Qa’eda people inside Iran, using long, difficult to control Iran-Pakistan borders.

After having denied for weeks that there were any Taleban or Al-Qa’eda members in Iran, Intelligence Minister Hojjatoleslam Ali Yoonesi and a member of the Majles Foreign Relations and Security Committee acknowledged this weekend that "some country and their foreign intelligence organisations" had "infiltrated" some Taleban elements in Iran.

"The hardening US attitude towards Tehran appears to have played into the hands of Iranian conservatives bent on undermining President Khatami's attempts to open up to the west", the "Financial Times" commented Saturday.

Tensions between Iran and Britain over appointing David Reddaway as ambassador to Tehran came to a head on Thursday when, on order from Ayatollah Khameneh'i, Iran rejected the nomination.

"Jomhoori Eslami", a daily that belongs to Mr. Khameneh'i had accused Mr. Reddaway of being a Jew, married to an Iranian "taqooti" (pro-Monarchy) woman and member of the Intelligence Service MI6.

The Foreign Office categorically rejected the accusations and said the move would affect bilateral relations and make Tehran-London "critical dialogue more critical". It also downgraded the access of the Iranian ambassador in London to a charge d'affaires level.

But Iran said Iran's decision was a "natural right", and called the UK move to reduce the Iranian envoy's access in retaliation "surprising".

"The Iranian opposition to Mr Reddaway marks a setback for Mr Khatami. Although the row was brewing before Mr Bush's speech, this week's conclusive rejection of the appointment appeared to confirm British and European fears that a hard-line US attitude against Iran would give a further pretext to hardliners to marginalise Mr Khatami", the FT added, observing that Mr. Khatami was "instrumental" in improving ties with Britain.

Full diplomatic relations resumed in 1998, after the Iranian government distanced itself from Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s "fatwa", or religious edict, against Mr. Salman Rushdie, the author of "The Satanic Verses", considered by many Muslim governments as insulting to prophet Mohammad. ENDS ANTI US ISRAELI ENTEHARI 9202

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