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US confrontation with Iran: Key events

 
  

Project: US confrontation with Iran

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1970s

       The Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a militant Iranian political organization formed in the 1960s, kills US military personnel and US civilians working on defense projects in Tehran. MEK is currently led by husband and wife Massoud and Maryam Rajavi. MEK is part of a larger political organization know as the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). [Globalsecurity [.org], n.d.; US Department of State, 4/2005; National Council of Resistance of Iran website, n.d.; MIPT database MEK profile; Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002, 4/30/2003]
People and organizations involved: Maryam Rajavi, Massoud Rajavi, Mujahedeen-e Khalq
          

1976

       President Gerald R. Ford signs a presidential directive giving the Iranian government the opportunity to purchase a US-built nuclear reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel. Iran, with support from the US, wants to develop a massive nuclear energy industry that has complete “nuclear fuel cycle” capability so fissile materials can be supplied self-sustaining basis. US companies, chief among them Westinghouse, stands to make $6.4 billion from the sale of six to eight nuclear reactors and parts. The shah has argued that Iran needs a nuclear energy program in order to meet Iran's growing energy demand. Iran is known to have massive oil and gas reserves, but the shah considers these finite reserves too valuable to be spent satisfying daily energy needs. In a 1975 strategy paper, the Ford administration supported this view saying that “introduction of nuclear power will both provide for the growing needs of Iran's economy and free remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals.” Top officials in the Ford administration—including Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Chief of Staff Dick Cheney, and Paul Wolfowitz, who is responsible for nonproliferation issues at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency—are strong supporters of Iran's ambitions. Kissinger will tell the Washington Post 30 years later that the Ford administration was not concerned about the possibility of Iran using the facilities to produce nuclear weapons. “I don't think the issue of proliferation came up,” he says. But Charles Naas, deputy US ambassador to Iran at this time, will tell the Post that nuclear experts had serious concerns about potential proliferation. Naas will explain that the administration was attracted to the nuclear deal “terms of commerce” and interested in maintaining good relations with the shah. [Washington Post, 3/27/2005]
People and organizations involved: Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr, Henry A. Kissinger, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard ("Dick") Cheney
          

1993

       India and Iran sign a memorandum of understanding for a 2,670 kilometer pipeline that would transport natural gas from Iran's South Pars fields through 707 kilometers of Pakistani territory to India. The $3-5 billion pipeline would provide India with gas at half the cost of what it now pays. Though Pakistan would stand to earn $600-700 million a year from transit fees and would be permitted to purchase some of the gas for its own use, it is highly unlikely that the proposed pipeline will be constructed any time soon due to the poor relations between India and Pakistan. Furthermore, the pipeline would have to travel through Pakistan's Balochistan region over which Islamabad has only limited control. [Asia Times, 10/15/2004; Indo-Asian News Service, n.d.; Alexander's Oil and Gas Journal, 7/7/2000]
          

1997

       The US State Department includes the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a militant Iranian opposition group, in its list of foreign terrorist organizations. [Newsweek, 9/26/2002; US State Department, 2003; White House, 9/12/2002] MEK, which in English means, “People's Holy Warriors,” [Christian Science Monitor, 7/29/2004] is later described by its former members as a cult. Its husband-and-wife leaders, Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, exercise absolute control over the group's rank-and-file, requiring that members worship them and practice Mao-style self-denunciations. Many of the MEK's members are tricked into joining the group. For example, the parents of Roshan Amini will tell the Christian Science Monitor in 2003 that their son joined because he had been told he would be able to complete two school grades in one year and earn a place in college. But after joining, Amini was not permitted to leave. [Los Angeles Times, 12/5/2004; Christian Science Monitor, 12/31/2003]
People and organizations involved: Maryam Rajavi, Mujahedeen-e Khalq, Massoud Rajavi
          

February 17, 1998

       Richard Falkenrath, Executive Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, speaks at the Washington Institute's Policy Forum on the issue of Iran and weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Falkenrath argues that Iran “poses a greater long- term threat to US interests in the Persian Gulf,” asserting that it possesses significant quantities of chemical weapons, is developing and has small stocks of biological weapons, and intends to “produce medium-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching Israel and beyond.” The US should be concerned, he says, because a WMD-armed Iran would allow it to “deter the United States, disrupt US-led coalitions, and foment regional instability and arms races.” He recommends that the EU end its unconditional political and commercial ties with Iran, and work with the US and other allies to develop a new policy toward Iran and states like Russia that have been supplying Iran with nuclear materials. He also stresses that “US allies should enhance their ability to participate in US-led military operations against WMD-armed adversaries.” [Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, 6/8/1998]
          

Early 2000

       US Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) agents arrest Mahnaz Samadi, a leading spokeswoman for the National Council of Resistance, at the Canadian border because several years earlier, when she was seeking political asylum in the US, she had not disclosed her past “terrorist” ties as an MEK “military commander” or the fact that she had trained in an MEK camp that was located in Iraq. Hearing about the case from his constituents, Missouri Senator John Ashcroft comes to the rescue and writes a letter on May 10, 2000 to Attorney General Janet Reno opposing Samadi's arrest. In his letter, he calls her a “highly regarded human-rights activist.” [Slate, 3/21/2003; Newsweek, 9/26/2002; US State Department, 2003]
People and organizations involved: John Ashcroft, Mujahedeen-e Khalq, Mahnaz Samadi
          

September 2000

       When the Iranian National Council of Resistance, a front group for the militant Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), holds a demonstration outside the United Nations protesting a speech by Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, Republican Senators Ashcroft and Chris Bond from Missouri issue a joint statement expressing solidarity with the organization. [US State Department, 2003; Newsweek, 9/26/2002; Slate, 3/21/2003]
People and organizations involved: Chris Bond, John Ashcroft, National Council of Resistance, Mujahedeen-e Khalq
          

July 18, 2001

       Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation authors a report warning that recent agreements between Russia and China demonstrate that the two countries are “positioning themselves to define the rules under which the United States, the European Union, Iran, and Turkey will be allowed to participate in the strategically important Central Asian region.”
Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation Treaty - The treaty, signed two days before, includes a commitment to pursue “[j]oint actions to offset a perceived US hegemonism.” Cohen says the treaty “should signal to the Western world that a major geopolitical shift may be taking place in the Eurasian balance of power.”

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) - Cohen says the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), created on June 14 (see ), and consisting of Russia, China, and the Central Asian States of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, could undermine US influence in Central Asia.

Military partnership - Cohen warns that the two counties are interested in boosting “each other's military potential as well as that of other countries that pursue anti-American foreign policies.” They could encourage the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in order to “force the United States to spread its resources thinly to deal with evolving crises in different regions simultaneously.”

Russian and Chinese economic cooperation - There are “numerous projects for developing free economic zones along the Chinese-Russian border and an international port in the mouth of the Tumannaya river (Tumangan)...,.” The Russian and Chinese also plan to “cooperate in developing a network of railroads and pipelines in Central Asia, building a pan-Asian transportation corridor (the Silk Road) from the Far East to Europe and the Middle East.”

Cohen's conclusion - Cohen urges US policy makers to “examine the changing geostrategic reality and take steps to ensure that US security and national interests are not at risk.” [Heritage Foundation, 7/18/2001]

People and organizations involved: Ariel Cohen, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)
          

November 20, 2001

       The Wall Street Journal publishes an op-ed piece by Eliot Cohen advocating the overthrow of the mullahs in Iran. Cohen writes: “First, if one front in this war is the contest for free and moderate governance in the Muslim world, the US should throw its weight behind pro-Western and anticlerical forces there. The immediate choice lies before the US government in regard to Iran. We can either make tactical accommodations with the regime there in return for modest (or illusory) sharing of intelligence, reduced support for some terrorist groups and the like, or do everything in our power to support a civil society that loathes the mullahs and yearns to overturn their rule. It will be wise, moral and unpopular (among some of our allies) to choose the latter course. The overthrow of the first theocratic revolutionary Muslim state and its replacement by a moderate or secular government, however, would be no less important a victory in this war than the annihilation of bin Laden.” [Wall Street Journal, 11/20/2001]
People and organizations involved: Eliot A. Cohen
          

December 2001

       The Bush administration sends two Defense officials, Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin, to meet with Iranians in Rome in response to an Iranian government offer to provide information relevant to the war on terrorism. The offer had been back-channeled by the Iranians to the White House through Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian arms trader and a central person in the Iran-Contra affair, who contacted another Iran-Contra figure, Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute. Ledeen passed the information on to his friends in the Defense Department who then relayed the offer to National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Hadley expressed no reservations about the proposed meeting and informed George J. Tenet, the director of the CIA, and Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage. According to officials interviewed by the New York Times, the United States Embassy in Rome was not notified of the planned meeting as required by standard interagency procedures. Neither the US embassy nor CIA station chief in Rome learn of the three-day meeting, apparently attended by both Ghorbanifar and Ledeen, until after it happens. When they do catch wind of the meeting, they notify CIA and State Department headquarters in Washington which complain to the administration about how the meetings had been arranged. [Newsday, 8/9/03; Washington Post, 8/9/03; New York Times, 12/7/2003]
People and organizations involved: Larry Franklin, George Tenet, Stephen Hadley, Michael Ledeen, Manucher Ghorbanifar, Harold Rhode, Condoleezza Rice
          

January 19, 2002

       George Melloan, a deputy editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, calls on the Bush administration to adopt a hardline policy toward Iran. “Mr. Bush has already advised the clerics to butt out of Afghanistan. Next will come attention to Iran's support of terrorism. It will need to start with a demand that Iran, the PLO and Hezbollah recognize Israel's right to exist or accept the consequences of refusal.” [Wall Street Journal, 1/19/2002]
          

February 8, 2002

       Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer meets with US Vice President Dick Cheney and tells him that Israel is concerned that Iran, which Israel believes will have nuclear weapons by 2005, represents a greater threat to Israel than Iraq. “The danger, as I see it, is from a Hezbollah-Iran-Palestinian triangle, with Iran leading this triangle and putting together a coalition of terror,” he tells Cheney. [Ha'aretz, 2/9/2002]
People and organizations involved: Richard ("Dick") Cheney
          

February 9, 2002

       Prime Minister Ariel Sharon meets with President George W. Bush. According to the Ha'aretz Daily, the goal of the meeting is to “convince the United States that Iran constitutes a strategic threat to Israel.” [Ha'aretz, 2/9/2002]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush
          

February 18, 2002

       Reuel Marc Gerecht, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, calls on the Bush administration to adopt an aggressive policy awards Iran. He says the US must make it clear that it “favors real popular government in Iran.” There are “only two meaningful options,” he writes, “confront clerical Iran and its proxies militarily or ring it with an oil embargo.” Gerecht clearly opposes any sort of dialog with Iran's government. “If Washington wants to dissuade and punish the clerical regime, it will have to use force, the only currency the clerics truly respect.... Starting at the periphery of the Iranian world—Lebanon and possibly Afghanistan—probably makes the most tactical and strategic sense. Lebanon, in particular, offers the United States the option of hitting three targets—Hezbollah, the clerics, and the Assad regime—at once. However, if al-Qaeda's liaison with Iran is active, then Washington should probably take the gloves off and hit the clerical regime with enormous force.” As a start, the US should tell Iran to halt its flights to Damascus, which “supply Hezbollah in Lebanon” with arms. Some of the arms are then routed to “Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank,” he says. They should also be warned that “any aircraft suspected of carrying military materiel will be forcibly diverted to Israel, shot down, or destroyed on the tarmac.” [The Weekly Standard, 2/18/2002]
People and organizations involved: Reuel Marc Gerecht
          

June 2002

       In Paris, Defense Department officials (including either Harold Rhode or Larry Franklin) meet with Iranian officials and Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian arms trader who had been a central figure in the Iran-Contra affair. The meeting reportedly resulted from “an unplanned, unscheduled encounter,” that took place without White House approval. An earlier meeting involving several of the same figures had taken place seven months earlier (See December 2001). [Washington Post, 8/9/03; New York Times, 12/7/2003] When Secretary of State Colin Powell learns of the meeting, he complains directly to Condoleezza Rice and the office of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. [Newsday, 8/9/03; Washington Post, 8/9/03]
People and organizations involved: Harold Rhode, Larry Franklin, Michael Ledeen, Manucher Ghorbanifar, Colin Powell
          

October 2002

       Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida circulates a letter in Congress that expresses support for the Mujahedeen-e Khalq [MEK]. At the same time, however, Republican Congressmen, Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) and Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), outspoken critics of Iran's government, circulate a dissident letter chastising Ros-Lehtinen for including partial and inaccurate information in her letter. “We are strong opponents of the current government of Iran but do not believe that it is necessary to use terrorism or make common cause ... [with] Saddam Hussein to change Iran's government,” they write. “Particularly in view of the fact that the MEK is based in Iraq, has taken part in operations against the Kurds and Shia, has been responsible for killing Americans in Iran, and has supported the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran, we wanted you to have the full background on this organization as most recently reported by the Department of State, so that you may best decide whether to lend your name to this letter.” Ros-Lehtinen adds, “Some colleagues have signed similar letters in the past and then been embarrassed when confronted with accurate information about the MEK.” [The Hill, 4/8/2003]
People and organizations involved: Mujahedeen-e Khalq, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Henry Hyde
          

April 8, 2003

       In an article about Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's support for the Mujahedeen-e Khalq [MEK] (see April 2003), The Hill quotes Iran experts who dispute the notion that MEK's history of terrorism and collusion with Saddam Hussein is insignificant, as Ros-Lehtinen has argued. “I know about support on Capitol Hill for this group, and I think it's atrocious,” Dan Brumberg of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace tells The Hill. “I think it's due to total ignorance and political manipulation. ...There's not much debate [about the MEK] in the academic circles of those who know Iran and Iraq.” Similarly, Elahe Hicks of Human Rights Watch notes that “many, many Iranians resent” the MEK. “Because this group is so extremely resented inside Iran, the Iranian government actually benefits from having an opposition group like this.” And James Phillips of the Heritage Foundation, who is also interviewed by The Hill says: “When they sided with Iraq against Iran in the [1980-88] war, that was the kiss of death for their political future. Even Iranians who might have sympathized with them were enraged that they became the junior partner of their longstanding rival.” He adds that even though “Some of their representatives are very articulate, ... they are a terrorist group” and they have “a longstanding alliance with Saddam Hussein, and they have gone after some of the Kurds at the behest of Saddam Hussein.” [The Hill, 4/8/2003]
People and organizations involved: Mujahedeen-e Khalq, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
          

April 30, 2003

       The US Department of State releases its annual “Patterns of Global Terrorism” report. Included in its list of terrorist organizations is the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian opposition group in Iraq that has offices in Washington, DC. The report notes that the MEK helped Saddam Hussein during Iraq's war with Iran and assisted the dictator in suppressing the Shia uprisings in southern Iraq and the Kurdish uprisings in the north after the first Gulf War. [Sources: Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002, 4/30/2003] During a press briefing that coincided with the release of the report, US Ambassador Cofer Black, Coordinator for Counterterrorism in the US State Department, is asked to explain why the US has permitted MEK to have an office in Washington. “The Secretary has recommended that the president determine that the laws that apply to countries that support terrorism no longer apply to Iraq,” Black explains. “The president's determination to provide greater flexibility in permitting certain types of trade with and assistance to Iraq; thus, we can treat Iraq like any other country not on the terrorist list.” He insists that the “United States Government does not negotiate with terrorists,” but contends that MEK “is a pretty special group” and that the US considers the agreement as a “prelude to the group's surrender.” [US State Department, 2003]
People and organizations involved: Cofer Black, Mujahedeen-e Khalq
          

May 29, 2003

       CNN reports that despite US government prohibitions (see March 15, 1995 and May 6, 1995) banning US citizens and business from doing business with Iran, dozens of US companies are actively conducting business there, including Halliburton, ConocoPhillips and General Electric. The companies are using a complicated array of corporate loop-holes and off-shore accounts to maneuver around US laws. Michael Ledeen, interviewed by CNN, says these companies are aiding terrorism. “The oil companies are a wholly owned subsidiary of the government...the government is the primary sponsor of terrorism,” he says, additionally claiming that “they have separate organizations that are used to funnel oil profits and other profits into the terror network.” [CNN, 2/10/2003; CNN, 5/29/2003]
People and organizations involved: Michael Ledeen, Halliburton, Inc.
          

August 9, 2003

       Newsday reports that according to a senior official and another source within the Bush administration, the “ultimate objective” of Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith and “a group of neo-conservative civilians inside the Pentagon is change of government in Iran.” The report says that the “immediate objective appeared to be to ‘antagonize Iran so that they get frustrated and then by their reactions harden US policy against them.’” It apparently is no secret within the administration, as Secretary of State Colin Powell has recently complained directly to the Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, about Feith's activities. [Newsday, 8/9/03]
People and organizations involved: Douglas Feith
          

December 2003

       The US-appointed Iraq Governing Council orders the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) to leave Iraq by the end of year citing its “black history” in Iraq as a “terrorist organization,”—a reference to the militant organization's long history of working with Saddam Hussein (see 1991)(see December 2003). But Pentagon officials do not want the MEK to leave Iraq, as they are considering plans to use the group against Iran. [Christian Science Monitor, 12/31/2003]
People and organizations involved: John Ashcroft, Mujahedeen-e Khalq
          

April 2004

       Ahmed Chalabi, a member of Iraq's governing council, meets with the Baghdad station chief for Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security and informs him that the US has broken the code used to encrypt Iran's intelligence communications. Chalabi says that he learned about the code-break from a drunk American official. A frantic exchange of communications takes place between the Iranian agent and Tehran concerning Chalabi's claim. The US intercepts and decodes all of them, revealing Chalabi's role. When the story is broken in the press, Chalabi denies having passed classified information to the Iranians. [New York Times, 6/2/2004; Newsweek, 5/10/2004; News Insight, 6/9/2004; CBS News, 6/3/2004]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Chalabi
          

June 2004

       The Guardian of London reports that Iran is preparing “to launch an oil trading market for Middle East and OPEC producers.” The Tehran oil bourse (French for “purse”; used to describe a financial transaction exchange system), to be opened in 2005, could give top oil producing nations in the region greater control of the oil trade, threatening the supremacy of world's current major oil market exchanges, the London IPE and New York's NYMEX. [The Guardian, 6/16/2004; Reuters, 5/15/2004] Some observers believe oil at the new exchange would likely be traded in Euros. “From a purely economic and monetary perspective, a petroeuro system is a logical development given that the European Union imports more oil from OPEC producers than does the US, and the EU accounts for 45 percent of imports into the Middle East,” notes the Center for Research on Globalization. [Center for Research on Globalization, 10/27/2004]
          

June 24, 2004

       John R. Bolton, under secretary of state for arms control, tells the House International Relations Committee Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia that Iran is pursuing the development of nuclear weapons. “[Iran's] activities [go] well beyond any conceivable peaceful nuclear program,” he says, stating that no “comparable oil-rich nation has ever engaged, or would be engaged, in this set of activities.” He notes that Iran's uranium reserves account for less than one percent of its vast oil reserves and that its gas reserves are the second largest in the world. [US Department of State, 6/24/2004]
People and organizations involved: John R. Bolton
          

July 2004

       The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) publishes a 79-page report, titled “Iran: Time for a New Approach,” urging Washington to resume talks with Tehran. The study, co-chaired by Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser under President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), argues against the view—held by many prominent neoconservatives in Washington—that Iranians would welcome a US-led effort to change Iran's government. “Despite considerable political flux and popular dissatisfaction,” the report says, “Iran is not on the verge of another revolution. Those forces that are committed to preserving Iran's current system remain firmly in control.” Instead, it argues, Washington should resume bilateral talks with the government. The authors of the report also argue that the administration should discourage Israel from attacking Iran's nuclear facilities because of the “extremely adverse consequences” that such an action would have on Western relations with Iran and because it would likely provoke an Iranian retaliation against US positions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report recommends a five-step process: [Inter Press Service, 7/20/2004 Sources: Iran: Time for a New Approach]
The US should offer Tehran a “direct dialog on specific issues of regional stabilization.” [Inter Press Service, 7/20/2004]

The administration should work out an agreement with Iran on the status of al-Qaeda operatives being detained by Tehran and that of the militant Iranian exile group, Mujahedeen-e-Khalq which is currently being held in US custody in Iraq. Tehran would have to agree not to provide any support to groups seeking to violently oppose the governments in Iraq and Afghanistan. [Inter Press Service, 7/20/2004]

The administration should work with Europe and Russia to negotiate an agreement with Iran requiring it to permanently ban all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. In exchange, The US should end its objections to an Iranian civil nuclear program. [Inter Press Service, 7/20/2004]

Washington should take a lead role in resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, which the report notes is “central to eventually stemming the tide of extremism in the region” [Inter Press Service, 7/20/2004]

The US should encourage an expansion of trade and relations between Iran and the wider world and support Iran's application to begin accession talks with the World Trade Organization (WTO). [Inter Press Service, 7/20/2004]

People and organizations involved: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Council on Foreign Relations
          

July 2004

       After a 16-month review by the US State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bush administration says it has found no basis to charge any of the 3,800 Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) fighters held in custody by the US at Camp Ashraf with violations of American law. The decision is made in spite of the group's long history of collusion with Saddam Hussein. MEK fought alongside Iraqi forces against Iran during the 1980s (see December 2003) and helped Saddam's internal security forces brutally put down the 1991 Shia uprisings (see 1991). The organization was also responsible for a number of American deaths during the 1970s (see 1970s) and has been listed on the State Department's list of “foreign terrorist organizations” since 1997 (see 1997). “A member of a terrorist organization is not necessarily a terrorist,” a senior American official explains. “To take action against somebody, you have to demonstrate that they have done something.” [New York Times, 7/27/2004; Christian Science Monitor, 7/29/2004]
People and organizations involved: Mujahedeen-e Khalq, Bush administration
          

July 21, 2004

       Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, the deputy commanding general in Iraq, says in a memorandum that the US has designated members of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) as “protected persons.” According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, people who are designated as “protected” cannot be punished collectively or forced to leave an occupied country. The members were afforded the new status only after signing an agreement rejecting violence and terrorism, the memo says. [New York Times, 7/27/2004; Christian Science Monitor, 7/29/2004] The memorandum angers Tehran. “We already knew that America was not serious in fighting terrorism,” Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi says, adding that by affording MEK fighters the new status, the US has created a new category of “good terrorists.” “The American resort to the Geneva Conventions to support the terrorist hypocrites [MKO] is naive and unacceptable,” he says. Despite the members' new status and despite having been cleared of any wrongdoing, the US military and the MEK leadership do not allow any of the group's members to leave Camp Ashraf. Several of the members say they were lured into joining the group with false promises and now want to return home to Iran. The MEK has been called cult-like (see ) and its leadership compared to Stalin by former members of the group. [Christian Science Monitor, 7/29/2004; Christian Science Monitor, 12/31/2003]
People and organizations involved: Mujahedeen-e Khalq, Geoffrey D. Miller
          

(Early September 2004)

       In a report to Congress, the Pentagon discloses its intention to sell 5,000 smart bombs to Israel. Included in the $319 million deal—to be financed by US aid money—are 500 one-ton bunker busters capable of penetrating two-meter-thick cement walls, 2,500 regular one-ton bombs, 1,000 half-ton bombs, and 500 quarter-ton bombs. According to the Pentagon, Israel needs these weapons to maintain its qualitative advantage and to promote US strategic and tactical interests. The sale is likely to go through despite Israel having used a one-ton bomb to assassinate a senior Hamas officer, Salah Shehadeh. Fifteen Palestinian civilians, including children, were killed in the internationally condemned attack. [Ha'aretz, 9/21/2004] It is widely speculated that the weapons would be used by Israel in the event that it strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities; Israel and the US have alleged Iran is involved in the development of nuclear weapons. [Seattle Post Intelligencer, 9/30/2004; Christian Science Monitor, 9/24/2005; Herald Tribune, 9/22/2004; Ha'aretz, 9/26/2004]
          

September 2004

       The Atlantic Monthly magazine commissions retired military officers, intelligence officials, and diplomats to participate in a war game scenario involving Iran. The three-hour war game deals “strictly with how an American President might respond, militarily or otherwise, to Iran's rapid progress toward developing nuclear weapons.” Its main objective is to simulate the decision-making process that would likely take place during a meeting of the “Principals Committee” in the event that Iran ignores the deadline set by the IAEA to meet its demands. Kenneth Pollack, of the Brookings Institution, and Reuel Marc Gerecht, of the American Enterprise Institute, both play the role of secretary of state—Pollack with a more Democratic perspective and Gerecht as more of a Republican. David Kay plays the CIA director and Kenneth Bacon, a chief Pentagon spokesman during the Clinton Administration, is the White House chief of staff. Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel, serves mostly as National Security Adviser, but plays other roles as well. He is also the person who designed the game. During the game, Israel's influence on the administration's Iran policy is highlighted, with Pollack noting at one point, “[I]n the absence of Israeli pressure how seriously would the United States be considering” the use of military force against Iran? One of the largest concerns raised, shared by all of the participants, is that a US attack on Iran would provoke the Iranians to interfere in Iraq. “[O]ne of the things we have going for us in Iraq, if I can use that term, is that the Iranians really have not made a major effort to thwart us ... If they wanted to make our lives rough in Iraq, they could make Iraq hell.” At the conclusion of the three-hour exercise, it is apparent that the players believe that the game's scenario offered the US no feasible options for using military force against Iran. [Atlantic Monthly, 12/2004; Guardian, 1/18/2005]
People and organizations involved: Kenneth Pollack, Sam Gardiner, Reuel Marc Gerecht, David Kay
          

October 29, 2004

       China and Iran negotiate a $70-$100 billion deal that gives China's state oil company a 51 percent stake in Iran's Yadavaran oil field, located near the Iraq border. The Yadavaran oil field, once thought to be two separate oil fields (Koushk and Hosseinieh), contains more than 3 billion barrels of recoverable oil and a total reserve of 17 billion barrels. [Washington Post, 11/17/2004; Chinese Daily, 11/8/2004] China agrees to purchase ten million tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) annually for a 25-year period once Iran has constructed plants to liquefy the natural gas, a feat that could take more than five years. The amount could increase to as much as $200 billion if an oil deal, currently under negotiation, is also agreed upon by the two nations. [Persian Journal, 10/31/2004] As part of the deal, Sinopec, China's state oil company, will have the right to exploit Iran's Yadavaran oil field, located near the Iraq border, on a buy-back basis in cooperation with another major international oil company. The Yadavaran oil field contains more than 3 billion barrels of exploitable reserves and comprises the Koushk and Hosseinieh oil fields, “which were recently found to be connected at various layers, forming an oil field with a cumulative in-place reserve of 17 billion barrels,” the Chinese Daily reports. [Chinese Daily, 11/8/2004] Iran is estimated to have a 26.6-trillion-cubic-meter gas reservoir, the second-largest in the world. About half of its reserves are located offshore. Some observers suggest that the Iran-China agreement could establish a precedent that opens the way for other nations to do business with Iran. The US Iran-Libya Sanctions Act of 1996 (ILSA), which penalizes foreign companies for investing more than $20 million in Iran's oil and gas industry, has so far discouraged many companies from doing a large amount of business with the Islamic state. [Asia Times, 11/6/2005] Additionally, the Iran-China deal dramatically reduces the Bush administration's leverage over Iran, as its threat to bring Iran to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program is greatly weakened by the fact that China, as a permanent member, holds a veto at the council. [Washington Post, 11/17/2005]
          

November 24, 2004

       Pakistani prime minister Shaukat Aziz meets with Indian Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar in Delhi. Summarizing the meeting, Aiyar tells the press: “We did repeat what we have said earlier about using Pakistan as [a] transit corridor [for sourcing gas from Iran] creating mutual dependency [and] ... we need to replicate such mutual dependency ... in the wider trade and economic relationship between the two countries.” It has been reported that Washington is pressuring Pakistan not to enter into any sort of pipeline agreement with Iran. “The project, if it materializes, would also foreclose whatever prospects remain of the revival of the trans-Afghan pipeline project, which many still see as a raison d'etre of the US intervention in Afghanistan,” the Asian Times notes. [Asia Times, 1/11/2005]
          

December 2004

       Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visits Kabul, Afghanistan. During his visit Afghan President Hamid Karzai consents to Washington's decision to establish nine more permanent military bases in the country. The bases, to be manned by 2,200 troops, will be constructed in Helmand, Herat, Nimrouz, Balkh, Khost and Paktia. In the provinces of Khost and Paktia, there will be two bases. [News Insight, 3/5/2005] Observers note that Afghan President Hamid Karzai had little choice in the matter given that his government's continuing existence is dependent upon the private security forces provided by the US. [Asia Times, 3/30/2005]
People and organizations involved: Donald Rumsfeld, Hamid Karzai
          

December 2, 2004

       The New York Times reports that according to unnamed diplomats, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) believes that satellite photographs indicate Iran may be testing high explosives and that procurement records suggest Iran may have the equipment necessary for making bomb-grade uranium. [Reuters, 12/2/2004] This information was reportedly provided by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). [BBC, 11/18/2004] UN diplomats tell Reuters that inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would like to inspect Iranian military sites at Parchin, southeast of Tehran, and Lavizan II, in northeastern Tehran. However, the IAEA is not permitted to inspect those sites because it only has legal authority to visit sites where there are declared civilian nuclear programs. [Reuters, 12/2/2004] Five buildings in Parchin will later be inspected by the IAEA in January 2005 (see Mid-January 2005).
          

December 8, 2004

       Knight Ridder reports that, according to US officials, congressional aides and other sources, Pentagon and White House officials “are developing plans to increase public criticism of Iran's human-rights record, offer stronger backing to exiles and other opponents of Iran's repressive theocratic government and collect better intelligence on Iran.” Additionally, the administration would like to withdrawal troops from Iraq so Bush would have “greater flexibility in dealing with Iran,” one official tells the newspaper. [Knight Ridder, 12/8/2004] The news agency also says that the US is using the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) as a source for intelligence on Iran's weapons programs, even though the organization “remains on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist groups.” [Knight Ridder Newspapers, 12/8/2004]
People and organizations involved: Mujahedeen-e Khalq
          

December 12, 2004

       James Dobbins, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation, writes an analytical piece on the subject of engagement with Iran: “Washington is not ready to join the Europeans in negotiating limits on Iran's program, nor is it willing to offer any incentives. Conversely, the United States cannot threaten Iran with political isolation or economic sanctions because America already has in place a comprehensive economic embargo and blackout on communication.” Dobbins adds that “America has refused to negotiate, to offer concessions or to join in multilateral economic and political arrangements that its European allies may negotiate.... [W]hile Europe offers carrots, Washington brandishes no sticks. Given American difficulties in Iraq, a military invasion of Iran is implausible. An aerial attack on known nuclear sites in Iran might slow that country's weapons program, but only at the cost of accelerated efforts at clandestine sites.... Washington is no more than an excited bystander offering advice from a safe distance.” In conclusion, Dobbins states that: “If blocking Iran's nuclear weapons aspirations is as urgent as it would seem, then engagement on that issue is imperative. At present, nothing Iran does or fails to do will alter the American posture. This unyielding attitude undercuts the prospects for Europe's effort to negotiate a positive resolution to the nuclear crisis. It also provides the weakest possible basis for common action in the absence of such a settlement.” [Rand Corporation, 12/2/2004]
          

January 2005

       The US Air Force begins flying sorties over Iran from its bases in Afghanistan and Iraq in order to lure Tehran into turning on air defense radars so the US can develop “an electronic order of battle for Iran.” “We have to know which targets to attack and how to attack them,” an unnamed administration official tells United Press International. [United Press International, 1/26/2005 Sources: Unnamed Bush administration officials] Washington initially denies the overflight reports. [Guardian, 1/29/2005]
          

January 2005

       A Farsi-speaking former CIA officer says he was approached by neoconservatives in the Pentagon who asked him to go to Iran and oversee “MEK [Mujahedeen-e Khalq] cross-border operations” into Iran, which he refused to do. Commenting on the neoconservatives' ambitions in Iran, the former officer says, “They are bringing a lot of the old war-horses from the Reagan and Iran-contra days into a sort of kitchen cabinet outside the government to write up policy papers on Iran.” He says their plans for Iran are “delusional.” “They think in Iran you can just go in and hit the facilities and destabilize the government. They believe they can get rid of a few crazy mullahs and bring in the young guys who like Gap jeans, all the world's problems are solved,” he says. [Guardian, 1/18/2005]
          

January 2005

       Iran hands over documents from a 1987 meeting in Dubai (See also 1987) to a International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation (See also November 2004). During the 1987 meeting, associates of Abdul Qadeer Khan presented Iranian officials with an offer to sell Iran the technology and materials to build a nuclear bomb. However, the IAEA does not uncover any evidence suggesting that the equipment was used in anything other than Iran's civilian nuclear energy program. The violations are technical and based only on the fact that Iran failed to report the program. Despite its recent findings, the IAEA investigation claims it still lacks a clear understanding of Iran's nuclear program. [Washington Post, 2/27/2005]
People and organizations involved: Abdul Qadeer Khan
          

(Early January 2005)

       Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh interviews a government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon about the administration's plans to invade Iran. He says that Pentagon officials, including Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, believe that a limited attack on Iran would inspire a secular revolution in the country. “The minute the aura of invincibility which the mullahs enjoy is shattered, and with it the ability to hoodwink the West, the Iranian regime will collapse,” the consultant says. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005; CNN, 1/17/2005]
People and organizations involved: Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz
          

(Early 2005)

       The US sends teams of US-trained former Iranian exiles, sometimes accompanied by US Special Forces, into southern and eastern Iran to search for underground nuclear installations. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005; Guardian, 2/29/2005; United Press International, 1/26/2005] In the north, Israeli-trained Kurds from northern Iraq, occasionally assisted by US forces, look for signs of nuclear activity as well. [United Press International, 1/26/2005] Both teams are tasked with planting remote detection devices, known as “sniffers,” which can sense radioactive emissions and other indicators of nuclear-enrichment programs while also helping US war planners establish targets. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005; United Press International, 1/26/2005] The former Iranian exiles operating in the south and east are members of Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a group that has been included in the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations since 1997 (see 1997) and included in a government white paper (see September 12, 2002) that criticized Iraq for its support of the group. After the US invaded Iraq, members of MEK were “consolidated, detained, disarmed, and screened for any past terrorist acts” by the US (see July 2004) and designated as “protected persons.” (see July 21, 2004) Initially, the MEK operate from Camp Habib in Basra, but they later launch their incursions from the Baluchi region in Pakistan. [Newsweek, 2/15/2005; United Press International, 1/26/2005] They are assisted by information from Pakistani scientists and technicians who have knowledge of Iran's nuclear program. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] Pakistan apparently agreed to cooperate with the US in exchange for assurances that Pakistan would not have to turn Abdul Qadeer Khan, the so-called “father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb,” to the IAEA or to any other international authorities for questioning. Khan, who is “linked to a vast consortium of nuclear black-market activities,” could potentially be of great assistance to these agencies in their efforts to undermine nuclear weapons proliferation. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] In addition to allowing Pakistan to keep A.Q. Khan, the US looks the other way as Pakistan continues to buy parts for its nuclear-weapons arsenal in the black market, according to a former high-level Pakistani diplomat interviewed by Seymour Hersh [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] The United States' use of MEK is criticized by western diplomats and analysts who agree with many Iranians who consider the group to be traitors because they fought alongside Iraqi troops against Iran in the 1980s. [Christian Science Monitor, 12/31/2003]
People and organizations involved: Mujahedeen-e Khalq, Abdul Qadeer Khan, Bush administration
          

January 6, 2005

       Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida re-introduces a bill on United States' policy toward Iran (a similar bill was introduced in the 108th Congress in 2003). The bill, named the Iran Freedom Support Act (HR 282), says, “[I]t should be the policy of the United States to support independent human rights and pro-democracy forces in Iran.” It would also authorize the president to “provide financial and political assistance (including the award of grants) to foreign and domestic individuals, organizations, and entities that support democracy and the promotion of democracy in Iran and that are opposed to the non-democratic Government of Iran.” These efforts would be paid for with funds already “available to the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative, and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).” [Financial Times, 1/18/2005 Sources: Iran Freedom Support Act (H. R. 282)]
People and organizations involved: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
          

January 7, 2005

       India announces that it has agreed to a $40 billion deal with Iran. Under the terms of the agreement, the National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC) will sell 5 million tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) annually to India over a 25-year period with the possibility of increasing the quantity to 7.5 million tons. India's price will be computed at 0.065 of Brent crude average plus $1.2 with an upper ceiling of $31 per barrel. As part of the deal, India's ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) will participate in the development of Yadavaran, Iran's largest oil field. India's share in the oil field will be 20 percent, which translates into roughly 60,000 barrels per day of oil. Iran has retained a 30 percent stake while the Chinese state oil company Sinopec secured a 50 percent share in an agreement signed at the end of October (see October 29, 2004). India's deal with Iran will also provide India with 100 percent of the rights in the 300,000-barrel-per-day Jufeir oilfield. [Asia Times, 1/11/2005; World Peace Herald, 1/17/2005] The agreement could give new impetus to the long proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project (see 1993). The Tehran Times, which is known to represent the views of the Iranian government, comments, “The Iran-India agreement on LNG exports will pave the way for the implementation of the project to pipe Iranian gas to India via Pakistan and the dream of the peace pipeline could become a reality in the near future.” [Asia Times, 1/11/2005]
          

February 1, 2005

       On a visit to Moscow, Iranian Ambassador Gholamreza Shafei says that Iran hopes to work jointly with Russia in space and announces for the first time ever that “Russian-Iranian cooperation is also developing in the military and technical sphere.” [Middle East News Online, 2/3/2005; Islamic Republic News Agency, 2/1/2005]
          

February 18, 2005

       Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, appearing with journalist Dahr Jamail, tells a packed house at Olympia Washington's Capitol Theater that George W. Bush has “signed off” on plans to bomb Iran in June 2005. [United For Peace of Pierce County, 2/19/2005]
People and organizations involved: Scott Ritter, George W. Bush
          

February 22, 2005

       During a news conference with European Union leaders in Brussels, President Bush says that rumors suggesting the US is preparing to strike Iran are “simply ridiculous.” But he quickly adds that “all options are on the table.” [Reuters, 2/22/2005; Associated Press, 2/22/2005]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush
          

February 22, 2005

       Five US senators—John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, and Russ Feingold—visit Kabul. McCain tells reporters that he is committed to a “strategic partnership that we believe must endure for many, many years.” He says that as part of this partnership, the US would provide “economic assistance, technical assistance, military partnership, ... and ... cultural exchange.” He also adds that in his opinion, this would mean the construction of “permanent bases.” The bases would help the US protect its “vital national security interests,” he explains. However, a Karzai spokesman reminds the press that the approval of a yet-to-be-created Afghan parliament would be needed before the Afghan government could allow the bases to be built. McCain's office will later amend the senator's comments, saying that he was advocating a long-term commitment to helping Afghanistan “rid itself of the last vestiges of Taliban and al-Qaeda.” That does not necessarily mean that the US will have to have permanent bases, the office explains. [Associated Press, 2/22/2005]
People and organizations involved: Russell D. Feingold, John McCain, Lindsey Graham
          

February 27, 2005

       Alexander Rumyantsev, head of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency, and Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh sign a nuclear fuel supply deal. Under the provisions of the agreement, Russia will supply Iran with uranium fuel for Iran's Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant, which once complete will produce 1,000 megawatts of electricity. Iran will be required to return all of the spent fuel to Russia to prevent the possibility that some of it will be used to produce bomb-grade plutonium. According to Rumyantsev, the first batch of enriched uranium fuel is waiting in Siberia ready to be shipped. [Los Angeles Times, 2/28/2005; Reuters, 2/27/2005] Russia's more than $1 billion contract to build the reactor is said to have played a significant role in maintaining the strength of Russia's nuclear energy industry. Russia, which has sent more than 2,000 workers to work with 3,000 Iranians at Bushehr, is keen on securing more contracts with the Iranian government. An additional 1,500 Russian specialists are scheduled to go to Bushehr soon to install more equipment. [Los Angeles Times, 2/28/2005]
          

Late February 2005

       US ambassador to New Delhi David Mulford informs India's Oil Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar in a meeting that the Bush administration has reservations about Indian attempts to strike a deal with Iran on the long proposed $3-4 billion Iran-Pakistan-India gas-pipeline project (see 1993). According to the Indian Express, the meeting marks the first time the US has formally conveyed its concerns about the pipeline proposal. [Dawn, 3/11/2005; Agence France-Presse, 3/10/2005; Voice of America, 3/17/2005]
          

March 1, 2005

       The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports in a statement to its 35-member board that the agency's inspectors continue to have lingering questions about Iranian activities at the Parchin military site and that Iran has denied requests for additional visits to the complex. [BBC, 3/1/2005] Iran claims that it is not legally required to allow further inspections at Parchin, reasoning in a February 27 note to the IAEA that the “expectation of the Safeguards Department in visiting specified zones and points in Parchin Complex are fulfilled and thus there is no justification for any additional visit.” The agency disagrees. [New York Times, 3/1/2005] Additionally, the agency says in its statement that Iran has failed to provide information on how Iran obtained its advanced P-2 centrifuge equipment. The inspectors also say they are concerned about certain dual-use technologies at the Lavisan site, which Iran is also refusing to open to inspectors. [New York Times, 3/1/2005] A Western diplomat says the statement demonstrates “another failure to disclose activities, which fits a disturbing pattern,” adding, “It's more evidence that the Iranians are unwilling to provide full disclosure.” [New York Times, 3/1/2005] But other officials note that the statement contains no evidence that Iran has an active weapons program. “The facts don't support an innocent or guilty verdict at this point,” one agency official observes. [New York Times, 3/1/2005]
          

March 7, 2005

       President George Bush selects John Bolton, currently an official in the State Department, to be the US ambassador to the UN. Bolton is a staunch neoconservative with a long record of opposing multilateral efforts. As undersecretary of state for arms control, Bolton opposed a multilateral effort in July 2001 to create broad worldwide controls on the sale of small arms (see ). In February 2002, Bolton made it clear that the Bush administration did not feel bound to the 1978 pledge not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states (see February 2002). Bolton was also a strong advocate of taking unilateral action against Saddam Hussein (see January 26, 1998) and in May 2002, he effectively removed the US signature from the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court (ICC) (see ). [USA Today, 3/7/2005]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, John R. Bolton
          

March 8, 2005

       The New York Times reports that a nine-member bipartisan presidential panel is due to provide President Bush with a classified report describing American intelligence on Iran and North Korea by March 31 (see April 2, 2005). After a 14-month review, the panel, led by Laurence Silberman, a retired federal judge, and Charles S. Robb, a former governor and senator from Virginia, will conclude that US intelligence lacks sufficient intelligence to make firm judgments on Iran's weapons programs. The Times reports that one of its sources said the “panel's deliberations and conclusions characterized American intelligence on Iran as ‘scandalous,’ given the importance and relative openness of the country.” [The Times of London, 3/10/05; New York Times, 3/9/2005]
          

March 10, 2005

       Pakistan Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sheikh Rashid Ahmed says that the now pardoned A.Q. Khan was involved in black market nuclear arms deals and that he gave the Iranians centrifuge parts. “[Khan] had given centrifuges to Iran in his individual capacity and the government of Pakistan had nothing to do with this,” Ahmed tells reporters. Despite these acknowledgments, Ahmed says Pakistan “will not hand over [Dr Khan] to any other country.” The Pakistani government insists that it had no knowledge of Dr Khan's activities, but numerous experts have questioned these claims noting that it would have been impossible for him to keep his activities secret. [BBC, March 10, 2005; CNN, March 10, 2005]
People and organizations involved: Abdul Qadeer Khan
          

March 12, 2005

       The India Daily reports that two US Navy aircraft carriers, the USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Carl Vinson, appear to be heading toward the Middle East where they will be joined by a third carrier group. The newspaper notes that the convergence of three carriers in the region would send a strong signal to both Syria and Iran. [India Daily, 3/12/2005] There is speculation that Iran may face a US naval blockade. [India Daily, 3/15/2005]
          

March 13, 2005

       The Sunday Times reports that Israel has drawn up plans for a combined air and ground attack on Iranian nuclear installations if Tehran does not give up its nuclear program. The plans have been discussed with US officials who, according to the Times, “are said to have indicated provisionally that they would not stand in Israel's way if all international efforts to halt Iranian nuclear projects failed.” In preparation for the possible military strike, Israel has conducted military exercises using a mock-up of Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment plant. “Their tactics include raids by Israel's elite Shaldag (Kingfisher) commando unit and air strikes by F-15 jets from 69 Squadron, using bunker-busting bombs to penetrate underground facilities,” the Sunday Times says. [Sunday Times, 3/13/2005] Ariel Sharon gave “initial authorization” for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities a month earlier (see February 2005).
          

March 19, 2005

       US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the US is opposed to the proposed Iran-India-Pakistan gas pipeline because it would strengthen Iran and thus negatively affect the United States economically. “Our views concerning Iran are very well known by this time, and we have communicated our concerns about gas pipeline cooperation,” she says. [Al Jazeera, 3/19/2005]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice
          

March 28, 2005

       India's petroleum and natural gas minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar, announces that Pakistan has invited India to join them in talks, set for April 2005, with the Iranian government on a proposal to construct a natural gas pipeline from Iran to India. India is Asia's third-largest energy user and has long awaited such an invitation to join the $4 billion, 2,775 km pipeline project. [Bloomberg, 3/28/2005; Agence France Presse, 3/28/2005; BBC, 2/5/2005]
          

April 2, 2005

       Asian News International reports that according to official Pakistani sources the US government is reconsidering its opposition to the $4.2 billion dollar Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline (see 1993). The Bush administration has been opposed to the proposed pipeline on grounds that it would help Iran, a potential target of future US military strikes. But since the consortium is hoping to involve US corporations, these companies are apparently putting pressure on the White House to back the pipeline. Without the approval of the US government, the companies would be barred from participating in the pipeline's construction. According sources, the US is considering pursuing a strategy that would leverage its possible support for the pipeline against Iran in its disagreement over the country's nuclear program. [Asian News International, 4/2/2005]
          

April 2, 2005

       As expected (see March 8, 2005), the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction concludes that the CIA's intelligence on Iran is weak. The nine-member commission, headed by Federal appeals court judge, Laurence Silberman, and Charles S. Robb, a former governor and senator from Virginia, finds that US intelligence had few human assets in Iran and only limited direct knowledge of Iran's missile and nuclear programs. [Middle East News Line, 4/2/05; New York Times, 3/9/2005; Los Angeles Times, 4/1/2005]
          

May 25, 2005

       The $4 billion US-backed Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline officially opens. The pipeline begins in Baku, Azerbaijan and travels 1,762 km (1,000 miles) through Georgia to the Mediterranean port city of Ceyhan in Turkey. The pipeline has been under construction for ten years and was built by a consortium of oil companies including Amerada Hess, ConocoPhillips, Eni, Inpex, Itochu, Statoil, Total, SOCAR, TPAO, Unocal, and BP. The pipeline is expected to bring one million barrels of oil per day to the West. [Brookings Institution, 3/4/2003; BBC, 5/25/2005; BBC, 5/5/2005]
          

June 9, 2005

       Iran downplays the significance of the opening of the US-backed $4 billion dollar Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline (see May 25, 2005) that will carry oil from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean port city of Ceyhan, Turkey. The project was supported by the US government, which believes the pipeline will weaken Iran's leverage over the distribution of oil. Mahmood Khagani, director for Caspian Sea Oil and Gas Affairs in Iran's petroleum ministry, says the project makes little economic sense. “Iran's route is the shortest, cheapest, and potentially the most lucrative,” he says. [Agence France-Press, 6/9/2005]
          

(June 12, 2005)

       India's petroleum Minister Mani Shankar says that Iran has agreed to research the possibility of extending the proposed 2,670 km Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline (see 1993) to China. [PakTribune, 6/13/2005]
          

September 24, 2005

       The International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Governors passes a resolution declaring Iran in non-compliance with its safeguard obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The resolution calls on Iran to suspend all enrichment-related activity, cease construction on a heavy water research reactor, and provide agency inspectors access to research and development locations and documentation. The resolution also calls on Iran to “[p]romptly ... ratify and implement in full the Additional Protocol,” which would require Iran to allow short-notice inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities. [IAEA, 9/24/2005] Iran has signed but not ratified it. [Washington Post, 9/26/2005] If Iran fails to comply with this resolution, the board could decide at its next meeting in November to refer the matter to the UN Security Council. A referral to the Security Council would set the stage for the possible imposition of sanctions on Iran. Iran has repeatedly stated that it will not relinquish its right under the NPT to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. The resolution, sponsored by Britain, France, and Germany, passes with 22 votes. Twelve countries abstain, including Russia, China, Pakistan, South Africa and Brazil, and only one—Venezuela—opposes the resolution. India, under strong pressure from the US (see September 10, 2005), backs the resolution, despite its close ties to Iran. The resolution marks the third time in two decades that an IAEA resolution has not been approved unanimously. [BBC, 9/25/2005; Associated Press, 9/25/2005; India Economic Times, 9/26/2005; Washington Post, 9/25/2005] Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki calls the resolution “politically motivated, illegal, and illogical,” asserting that the “three European countries implemented a planned scenario already determined by the United States.” [India Economic Times, 9/26/2005]
          

September 28, 2005

       Iran's Supreme National Security Council spokesman, Ali Aghamohammadi, says that Iran has no intention of withdrawing from a multi-billion dollar deal to sell natural gas to India. There have been rumors that Iran, upset over India's support of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution declaring Iran in breach of its Safeguard Agreements (see September 24, 2005), had informed India the deal was in jeopardy. “We have had good, deep relations with India in many fields and regional affairs and their behavior at the IAEA was strange and we didn't expect them to vote against Iran,” he says. Nonetheless, “We don't want to review our current relations with India and their vote against Iran doesn't affect the gas project.” [BBC, 9/28/2005]
          

October 5, 2005

       Britain accuses Iran of having played a role in the transfer of explosive technology from Hezbollah in Lebanon to the Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr's Mehdi army in Iraq. British officials say Iran is responsible for the deaths of all eight UK soldiers killed in Iraq this year, all of whom died in explosions. Iran denies the charges. [Al Jazeera, 10/6/2005; BBC, 9/5/2005]
          


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