Ahmadinejad: Zionists behind S. Ossetia, Abkhazia conflicts (& 63% of Americans support Israeli strike on Iran)

September 04, 2008

* Dutch spy agency: “U.S. to strike Iran in coming weeks”
* Saudi authorities “arrest those who display picture of Hizbullah leader”

* This is the second part of a two-part dispatch on Iran. This part deals mainly with military and security issues; the first part, titled “Top Iranian mullah compares women to donkeys (& a note on Sarah Palin),” dealt with human rights, and can be read here.



1. Iran expels Al-Arabiya reporter; Jews “buying up Iraq”
2. Ahmadinejad: Zionists behind South Ossetia, Abkhazia conflicts
3. Hamas welcomes Russian recognition for Abkhazia, S. Ossetia
4. Poll: 63% of Americans support Israeli strike on Iran
5. Iran says 4,000 atomic centrifuges working: report
6. Israel “won’t allow Iranian nukes”
7. U.S. rebuffs Israeli request for arms geared toward Iran strike
8. German, Austrian and Dutch firms helping Tehran
9. Dutch spy agency: “U.S. to strike Iran in coming weeks”
10. Russia threatens to supply Iran with top new missile system
11. Russian navy planning greater presence in Syria
12. Ahmadinejad lauded by key NATO member Turkey
13. Iran “supplies Hizbullah missiles that can hit most of Israel”
14. Hizbullah downs Lebanese helicopter
15. Hizbullah attempts to kidnap Israelis abroad prevented
16. Attack on El Al in Canada thwarted
17. Saudi authorities “arrest those who display picture of Hizbullah leader”
18. Another minor executed
19. There are two main values in life: holy war and martyrdom
20. First Iranian signs deal with an NBA team

[Note by Tom Gross]


Iran on Tuesday banned the Tehran bureau chief for the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel and told him to leave the country as soon as possible. Iranian student organizations supporting the Ahmadinejad government have welcomed the move against Al-Arabiya, saying some Arab countries are involved in a conspiracy against Islam in the same way that “the Jews conspired against the prophet Muhammad.”

And Aftab News today quotes a report by the Qatari newspaper Arab Online claiming Iraqi Jews who had been living in Israel are buying real estate “five times the real price” in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk in order to “erect a new Jerusalem.”



In the latest in a series of lies about Jews and Israelis, Iranian President Ahmadinejad has alleged that there is “evidence at hand which prove Zionists are behind the South Ossetia and Abkhazia events,” reports the Iranian Islamic news agency, IRNA.

Ahmadinejad made the remarks during a visit to Dushanbe, the capital city of Tajikistan, formerly known as Stalinabad.

“We have information which show Zionists have a central role in the South Ossetia and Abkhazia cases,” said Ahmadinejad in an interview with reporters on the sidelines of the 8th Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin has announced that the Georgian region of South Ossetia will join “one united Russian state,” and Russia will open military bases there.

(For background on the Georgia crisis, please see “The lessons for Israel and other small democracies from the Georgian conflict.”)


Incidentally, in the peak week of fighting between Georgia and Russia (the second full week of August), when thousands of civilians were killed, injured or driven from their homes, the leading human rights group, Amnesty International, harshly condemned Israel in three separate documents (even though the death rate in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at an 8-year low), but issued only four neutral statements related to the war in the Caucuses, reports NGO Monitor.



The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas has become one of the only groups outside Russia to recognize Georgia’s breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Last week, in a move condemned by virtually the entire world, even by China, Russia recognized the provinces as independent states. The Georgian population was ethnically cleansed from the area by Russian-led forces last month.

Perhaps Hamas would like Russia to recognize Gaza as an independent state too.



A new poll has found that 63 percent of Americans say they would support a preemptive Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, should international diplomatic efforts to curb its nuclear program fail, and 55 percent of those polled said they would support a surgical strike by the U.S. on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

96 percent of those polled said a nuclear Iran would pose an imminent threat to Israel, and 87 percent said it would pose a threat to the U.S.

Furthermore, 90 percent said that should Iran possess nuclear weapons, they were concerned it may pass them, or related technology, to terror organizations such as Hamas and Hizbullah.

The poll, commissioned by The Israel Project, was conducted by leading pollsters Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies and Stan Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. 800 U.S. adults were surveyed.



Reuters reports that Iran has succeeded in installing 4,000 working nuclear centrifuges in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility – enough to churn out weapons-grade uranium for dozens of nuclear warheads.

The Islamic Republic has also announced it will install an additional 3,000 centrifuges in coming months, followed by thousands more.



Israel has put plans for a unilateral military strike against Iran into high gear, reports the Israel daily Ma’ariv.

The paper said that – fearing the U.S. won’t now take action in time – the Israeli cabinet held a special session three weeks ago where it approved plans to stop Iran from going nuclear “at any price” should diplomatic efforts to derail Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program fail.

There is a very real possibility that Iran under its present messianic Islamic government, whose president genuinely believes in “end of days” theories, and in the virtues of destroying Jews and infidels even if he makes “martyrs” of his own people, could launch a nuclear strike against Israel.

Ephraim Sneh, a Labor party Knesset member, has sent an eight-point document to both U.S. presidential candidates, saying, “There is no government in Jerusalem that would ever reconcile itself to a nuclear Iran. When it is clear Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons, an Israeli military strike to prevent this will be seriously considered.”

Sneh said the maximum window of opportunity for non-military options to stop Iran from going nuclear is 18 to 24 months.



Given the fact American-led forces control most of the airspace around Iran (in Iraq, Afghanistan, the gulf states, and so on), without American cooperation it would be extremely difficult for Israel to carry out any such mission.

So far, Israel has not received American authorization to use U.S.-controlled Iraqi airspace. The U.S. has also refused to sell to Israel advanced U.S.-made warplanes which would make it possible for Israel to strike without the need to land planes in one of the countries neighboring Iran in order to refuel.

U.S. National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen both visited Israel in June and, according to The Washington Post, told senior Israeli defense officials that the U.S. would not allow Israeli planes to overfly Iraq en route to Iran.

Vice President Dick Cheney is apparently willing to help Israel (in part because he sees it as a U.S. national interest and also because the Saudis are privately begging the Americans to let Israel take out Iran’s nuclear program) but Secretary of Defense Robert Gates opposes an attack on Iran.

Instead, the Americans have offered Israel permission to use a global early warning radar system, implying that the U.S. is pushing Israel to settle for defensive measures only. This is not something Israel can live with when it comes to nuclear weapons, say analysts.

The U.S. says it will deploy high-powered, early-warning missile radars in the Negev desert, to be manned by U.S. military personnel. The radars, known as X-Band, will be linked to a U.S. satellite-based alert network.



Ephraim Sneh also visited Switzerland and Austria last week in an attempt to lobby those two states. Both countries have announced massive long-term investments in Iranian gas and oil fields for the next decade. “Talk of preventing another Jewish Holocaust didn’t interest these guys,” Sneh said.

Separately, the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Austrian political organization “Stop the Bomb” have sharply criticized Austrian energy giants OMV and Royal Dutch Shell over their sponsorship of the 2nd Iranian Gas Export Conference to be held on October 4 and 5 in Tehran.

OMV has signed a $35 billion deal with Iran to develop the South Par gas field. The Austrian government is the largest shareholder in OMV.

And a Jerusalem Post investigation of the gas conference has found that Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank, two German Banks who pulled out of in Iran in October 2007, are listed as “correspondent banks” on the registration form for the fee covering conference attendance in Tehran. The U.S. Treasury Department is pressuring German banks to sever financial transactions with Iran.

Jewish and other groups demonstrated last week in Siegen, Germany, to protest against a major business deal by a local gas technology company, Steiner-Prematechnik-Gastec (SPG), to provide its expertise in turning gas into liquid fuel at three plants in the Islamic Republic. By contrast, the French company Total and the Norwegian company Statoil have now pulled out of projects in Iran.



Contradicting other reports that say a U.S. airstrike on Iran’s nuclear program is off the table for the present time, the largest daily paper in the Netherlands, De Telegraaf, reported last weekend that its nation’s intelligence agency has been working closely with the CIA to help prepare a planned U.S. air attack on Iran.

De Telegraaf added in a front-page article that the Dutch intelligence service, the AIVD, has called off an operation aimed at infiltrating and sabotaging Iran’s weapons industry due to an assessment that a U.S. attack on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program is imminent.

The report claimed that the Dutch operation had been “extremely successful,” and had been halted because the U.S. military was planning to hit targets that were “connected with the Dutch espionage action.”

The impending airstrike on Iran was to be carried out by unmanned aircraft “within weeks,” the report claimed, quoting “well placed” sources.

According to De Telegraaf, information gleaned from the AIVD’s operation in Iran has provided several of the targets that are to be attacked in the strike, including “parts for missiles and launching equipment, and this information has been shared with the CIA.”



The (London) Sunday Telegraph reported last weekend in what the paper calls “an exclusive” (in fact it was already reported on this website some days earlier) that: “U.S. intelligence fears the Kremlin will supply the sophisticated S-300 system to Tehran if Washington pushes through NATO membership for its pro-Western neighbors Georgia and Ukraine, The Sunday Telegraph has learned.”

“The proposed deal is causing huge alarm in the U.S. and Israel as the S-300 can track 100 targets at once and fire on planes up to 75 miles away. That would make it a ‘game-changer,’ greatly improving Iranian defenses against any air strike on its nuclear sites, according to Pentagon adviser Dan Goure. ‘This is a system that scares every Western air force,’ he said.”

Tom Gross adds: The S-300, is one of the most advanced multi-target anti-aircraft-missile systems in the world. It has a reported ability to track up to 100 targets simultaneously while engaging up to 12 at the same time. It has a range of about 200 kilometers and can hit targets at altitudes of 27,000 meters.

A senior Israeli airforce officer said last week that Israel needed to do “everything possible” to prevent the S-300 from reaching the region.



Russia is also stepping up cooperation with Iran’s close ally, Syria.

The Russian navy will make more use of Syrian ports as part of increased military presence in the Mediterranean, a Russian diplomat said at the end of last week.

The announcement comes as tensions rise between Moscow and the West over Russia’s role in Georgia. As noted in a previous dispatch, Syrian President Bashar Assad was one of the only leaders in the world to back Russia in its recent assault on Georgia, and even flew to Moscow on a solidarity visit in mid-August as Russian troops were ethnically cleansing Georgians from South Ossetia.

“Our navy presence in the Mediterranean will increase. Russian vessels will be visiting Syria and other friendly ports more frequently,” Igor Belyaev, the Russian charge d’affaires, told reporters in the Syrian capital.

Russia has sold Syria weapons systems in the past, including the advanced surface-to-air Strelets system, and its warships already had been calling on Syria’s northern port of Tartous. Many of Iran’s weapons systems also come from Russian suppliers.



There is concern in Israel that Iranian President Ahmadinejad was so strongly lauded during his visit last month to Turkey, which is supposedly a close ally of Israel and a key NATO member. Photos here.



The London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi reports that Iran has equipped Hizbullah with longer-range advanced missiles capable of accurately hitting targets throughout most of Israel. The paper added that they are much more lethal than the missiles that Hizbullah used to kill over 100 Israeli civilians in towns and villages throughout northern Israel in the 2006 Hizbullah-Israel war.

According to the report, the rockets can accurately hit civilian targets in most of Israel, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and would be used if Israel launches a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

In a separate report, the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Siyasa reported last Tuesday that 300 Iranian experts were working to build an array of weaponry in the mountainous regions of western Lebanon.

Iranian defense experts are also reportedly in Lebanon in an effort to assist Hizbullah in developing anti-aircraft capabilities.



Iran’s client militia Hizbullah shot down a Lebanese government helicopter over a village 12-miles north of the Israeli border last Thursday, apparently thinking it was an Israeli helicopter. The officer who was piloting the chopper was killed and two others were wounded.



Israeli counterterrorism officials have revealed that they have prevented five separate attempts by the Iranian proxy militia Hizbullah to kidnap Israeli citizens outside Israel in recent weeks. Details of the events remain subject to Israeli government censorship to prevent Israeli operatives being exposed.

All of the attempts were foiled with the assistance of foreign intelligence agencies, according to Yediot Ahronot. Hizbullah is known to have cells in West Africa, South America, Asia and Canada.



Plans by an unknown group to attack staff of Israel’s national carrier El Al in Canada have been thwarted, Israel’s Channel Two television reported yesterday.

Security procedures for crews overnighting at hotels between flights have now been changed, it added. Security sources said that the cell apparently belonged to Hizbullah.

El Al has been targeted for attack several times in the past. For example, two people were killed in July 2002 when a gunman opened fire on El Al passengers at Los Angeles International Airport. An Israeli security official shot dead the gunman before he murdered any more passengers.

In 2005, seven Dutch youths planning to attack an El Al plane were arrested. In June 2006, Swiss authorities revealed an attempt by a Muslim terror cell to attack an El Al plane. In November 2006, the German government arrested six Muslims on suspicion of planning to blow up an El Al plane after takeoff from Frankfurt.



According to the Iranian weekly Sobh-e Sadeq, the mouthpiece of Iranian Supreme leader Ali Khamenei circulated among the Revolutionary Guards, Saudi authorities have arrested a man for public display of Lebanese Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah’s picture.



One week after the execution of Reza Hejazi, another child offender, Behnam Zare, has been hanged in Iran. Zare’s lawyer – who represents 25 other minors on death row – says his client’s execution was unexpected. He claims Zare was hanged on a day when sentences are not normally carried out at Shiraz prison.

There is a photo of Zare here.



The veteran Iranian affairs analyst Menashe Amir comments, in a MERIA symposium:

I would like to say that I am neither optimistic nor pessimistic about the future of the Iranian impact on the Middle East, because it very much depends on the policy and the action of the Western countries, especially Europe and the United States, and also the Arab countries.

Regarding Ahmadinejad’s philosophy, he thinks that Islam is a young and dynamic movement that is winning, and he is ready to sacrifice. Ahmadinejad believes that there are two main values in life: One is jihad (holy war) and the other is shihada (martyrdom).

Because we are ready to fight and ready to kill and be killed, the final victory will be ours. The reason is that the Western countries don’t want war, they are not ready to make a sacrifice, they want to have their good life. That is the reason that the final victory will be ours. So it very much depends now on the policy of the Western countries as to how to confront Iran and how to confront this kind of ideology.

I think the West can defeat the Iranian regime if it acts very decisively and united. The Iranians are very afraid of the U.S. military, especially U.S. marines power. If the Americans put a real serious and direct threat on Iran to create this impression that they are going to attack, and if they bring in sanctions against Iran, and if the important powers cooperate and implement the sanctions against Iran, and if the West helps the 60 to 70 percent of Iranians who aren’t happy with their current rulers, the regime will be changed. I am not saying this will lead to democracy, that’s not so easy, but it can lead to a regime in Iran that will think about the interests of the people and not export Islamic revolution or support terror organizations.



And finally, on a lighter note, Hamed Ehadadi has signed to play with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, making him the first Iranian to earn a slot in the world’s top basketball league.

The 23-year-old center shined with Iran’s national basketball team at this month’s Beijing Olympics, averaging 16.5 points and 10 rebounds a game, making him the only player in the tournament to average a “double double.”

The 7’2”, 254-pound Ehadadi made headlines off the court last month when he was photographed embracing Russian national team coach David Blatt after Iran lost to Russia at the Beijing Olympics. Boston-born Blatt has played at and coached several Israeli teams since the 1980s.

-- Tom Gross

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.