Iran prepares Salman Rushdie’s coffin, as Hillary Clinton cancels appearance at NY rally against Ahmadinejad

September 18, 2008

* CIA director confirms Syria was trying to build a nuclear bomb
* IAEA says uranium for six nuclear bombs goes missing in Iran
* Anger as Quaker organization invites Ahmadinejad to dinner at Manhattan’s Hyatt Hotel
* Ahmadinejad: Feast for elimination of Israel will soon be held

(Please note there is another dispatch that was posted today too: Netanyahu: “Joining a coalition under Livni is like joining Lehman brothers.”)



1. Iran prepares Salman Rushdie’s coffin
2. Italian PM warns: Ahmadinejad means what he says
3. Hillary Clinton cancels appearance at NY rally against Ahmadinejad
4. Quaker organization to host Ahmadinejad at Grand Hyatt Hotel
5. Iranian Christians charged with apostasy
6. Women’s rights activists sentenced to jail
7. Only military action can stop Iran, say experts
8. IAEA says uranium for six nuclear bombs goes missing in Iran
9. Bush agrees to sell bunker-busting bombs to Israel
10. BBC: Iran sending weapons to Taliban
11. Chief Hamas aide “assassinated in Syria”
12. CIA director confirms Syria was trying to build nuclear weapons

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


Photo of the Day. From the Iranian government-controlled Fars news agency:

Salman Rushdie’s coffin being prepared at the “International Exhibition of the Koran,” at the Imam Khomeini Grand Mosque in central Tehran this week. (There is also a coffin for the state of Israel in the background.)

The International Exhibition of the Koran also features an exhibit glorifying Palestinian suicide bombers. Visitors have been paying their respects besides large portraits of these murderers while reading prayers for the destruction of Israel.



Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi accused Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday of “lunacy” and warned fellow Europeans against not taking Ahmadinejad’s words seriously.

“I think we must pay the utmost attention to the lunacy of someone who says, perhaps for internal reasons, that Israel must be wiped off the map,” Berlusconi said in a speech in Paris.



Senator Hillary Clinton has canceled an appearance at a major New York rally next week because Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin will also attend. The rally will be held outside UN headquarters on September 22 to protest against Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The U.N. General Assembly opens that day, and Ahmadinejad is scheduled to address the body the following day.

Jewish groups say they are disappointed that Clinton appears to care more about petty partisan bickering than protesting the abysmal human rights record of the Iranian regime, which also sponsors terrorism in several countries and is openly flouting the international community as it rushes to build nuclear weapons.


The rally is sponsored jointly by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the National Coalition to Stop Iran Now, the United Jewish Communities, and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. Clinton is a senator for New York.

Some political commentators say the move by Clinton is foolish and may drive more of her supporters, concerned about the danger to the world of nuclear arms falling into the hands of jihadist extremists, to vote for a McCain-Palin ticket in November.

Iranian dissidents, Jewish leaders, and other human rights activists say they will join Sarah Palin as speakers at the 11.45 a.m. rally. Iran is one of the most brutal regimes in the world, repressing the rights of women, children and homosexuals, among others. In a speech at Columbia University in New York last year, Ahmadinejad said homosexuals no longer existed in Iran.



There is anger by opponents of the Iranian regime that the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization, is holding a dinner in honor of Ahmadinejad at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan in central New York on Sept. 25.

The dinner is to be co-sponsored by other American-based religious organizations, including the Mennonite Central Committee and the World Council of Churches.

Representatives from a broad range of Christian ecumenical organizations, including the Episcopal Church, say they plan to attend the dinner.

The New York-based Anti-Defamation League pleaded with the groups not to honor Ahmadinejad, calling the planned event “a perversion of the search for peace and an appalling betrayal of religious values.”


“It simply defies belief that these organizations with a mission of promoting peace through dialogue would choose Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from among the hundreds of world leaders and ambassadors who will be in New York next week for the U.N. General Assembly, as an appropriate and legitimate interlocutor on world peace,” the ADL said.

In addition to persecuting many religious minorities, such as the Bahá’ís, Ahmadinejad frequently denies the Holocaust and calls for Israel and its people to be destroyed.

Last month, according to a report (in Persian) from the government Fars News Agency, Ahmadinejad said “Soon the feast for elimination of Zionism [Israel] and destruction of the arrogant ones [Jews and Americans] will be held.”



Two Iranian Christians, Mahmoud Matin-Azad and Arash Basirat, who were arrested in May in Shiraz, have now been formally charged with apostasy. Sources say they were charged on September 5. A prominent Iranian Christian told Radio Farda that the pair may face the death penalty.



Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi told the pro-democracy Radio Farda that four women who are members of the One Million Signature Campaign – Parvin Ardalan, Maryam Hosseinkhah, Jelveh Javaheri and Nahid Keshavarz – have been sentenced to six months in jail for writing on women’s issues on the Internet.



Diplomatic efforts to stop an Iranian nuclear crisis may have run their course, a panel of leading experts on proliferation said in Brussels on Monday.

Among those in attendance at the special symposium were experts such as Ian Anthony from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, former Mossad official Uzi Arad, and Alfred Pijpers from the Netherlands Institute of International Relations.

On nuclear terrorism, the unanimous view was that in order to prevent disaster a “more energetic leadership” is needed.

It seems that sanctions have next to no chance of working before Iran acquires a nuclear bomb. Some 10,000 companies in Europe are believed to be collaborating with Iran on the development of its gas and oil industry, an industry with an approximate turnover of $100 billion.

Prospects for a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Iran are extremely slim, given that Russia and China, both veto-wielding members of the Security Council, oppose them.



Separately, the (London) Daily Telegraph reports that the nuclear experts at the IAEA responsible for monitoring Iran’s nuclear program have discovered that enough enriched uranium, which if processed to weapons grade level could be used to make up to six atom bombs, has disappeared from the main production facility at Isfahan. The Daily Telegraph adds that American spy satellites have identified a number of suspicious sites, which the Iranians have not declared to nuclear inspectors, that intelligence officials believe are being used for covert research.

The Isfahan complex, which enriches raw uranium “yellow cake” into material that can be used for atomic weapons, is supposed to be subject to close supervision by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

But the Iranians only allow IAEA inspectors access to the final stage of the production process, where the uranium in gas form – UF6 – is stored. By conducting a careful study of the amount of material stored at Isfahan, and the amount of “yellow cake” known to have been processed at the plant, nuclear experts believe between 50-60 tons of uranium – sufficient to produce five or six atom bombs – has gone missing from the plant. “If Iran’s nuclear intentions are peaceful, then why are they doing this?” an IAEA nuclear official told the Telegraph.



After delaying the request for some time, American President George W. Bush has come down in favor of selling Israel sophisticated weapons for use against heavily fortified targets, including bunker-busting bombs. Contrary to previous reports suggesting that the Bush Administration would not sell Israel the equipment, that could be integral to any future Israeli military strikes upon Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities, the U.S. Department of Defense announced it would sell the Israel Air Force (IAF) 1,000 new smart bombs, rumored to significantly enhance the IAF’s military capabilities.

The Pentagon said the U.S. will provide Israel with 1,000 units of Guided Bomb Unit-39 (GBU-39) – a special weapon developed for penetrating fortified facilities located deep underground.

The $77 million shipment, which includes launchers and appurtenances, will allow the IAF to hit many more bunkers than currently possible.

The GPS-guided weapon is said to have a 50-percent probability of hitting its intended target within 5-8 meters, which should greatly reduce the risk of collateral damage.



The Iranian regime is sending weapons across the border to the Taliban in Afghanistan, claims a new BBC investigation.

“Taliban members said they had received Iranian-made arms from elements in the Iranian state and from smugglers. The UK says its troops have intercepted arms which it believes were given by a group within the Iranian state,” reports the BBC.

“Iranian-made weapons have improved the Taliban’s ability to attack the American military deployed in his area. ‘There’s a kind of mine called Dragon. Iran is sending it, we have got it,’ a Taliban commander told the BBC. ‘It’s directional, it destroys. If you lay an ordinary mine, it will cause only minor damage to Humvees or one of their big tanks. But if you lay a Dragon, it will be destroy it completely.’”

The British ambassador to Kabul, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, confirmed the BBC findings. “It’s a very dangerous game for Iran, a Shia state, to be supplying Sunni extremists like the Taliban,” he said.



Syrian opposition groups report that the chief aide to supreme Hamas leader Khaled Meshal was assassinated last week in the city of Homs, north of Damascus. The Freedom Party of Syria, which is exiled in the U.S., says Hisham al-Labadani was slain in broad daylight by unknown gunmen. The Syrian government has refused to comment on the report. Hamas has also stayed silent. If true, Labadani would be the most senior Hamas figure killed outside the Hamas heartland of Gaza.

Some experts say that the nature of the attack – carried out in broad daylight in front of many witnesses – pointed to the likelihood that the Syrian regime was itself behind it. The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz speculated that it may have been a message from the regime of Syrian President Basher Assad for Hamas to halt cooperation with Iran. There is apparently a split among Assad’s inner circle between those that want to maintain close ties with Iran and those that want to distance Syria from Iran.

The Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai reported earlier this month that Hamas head Meshal would soon leave Damascus to live in Sudan, another radical Islamic state, in a move stemming from Syria’s desire to advance indirect peace talks with Israel.

Meshal has been based in Damascus since his expulsion from Jordan ten years ago. Hamas denied the report of the move to Sudan.



CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden confirmed on Tuesday in a speech in Los Angeles that Syria was pursuing nuclear weapons last year.

“We were able last year to spoil a big secret, a project that could have provided Syria with plutonium for nuclear weapons,” Hayden said, according to a Reuters report. He also confirmed that North Korea was assisting in the Syrian effort.

The air strike on a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor last year was the result of intelligence cooperation that included a “foreign partner,” Hayden added. “Our foreign partnerships were critical to the final outcome,” he said. Hayden declined to say whether that partner was Israel.

Among past dispatches that dealt with this subject, please see:

* Syrian nuclear chief eliminated (& IDF soldiers risk lives to rescue Fatah men) (Aug. 5, 2008)
* Al-Jazeera: “U.S. Air Force, carrying tactical nuclear weapons, flew with Israel during Syria raid” (Nov. 2, 2007)
* Der Spiegel: North Korea trained Iranians at Syrian nuclear site (in the dispatch: Libya’s Gaddafi says Israel will kill Obama – “as it did JFK”) (June 23, 2008)
* Syria update: “This was one of the five most important acts in Israel’s history” (Oct. 22, 2007)

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