Ethnic tensions are rising in southwest Iran's Khuzistan province along the Iraqi border, where violence has left three dead and injured in recent days. Protests by the region's Arab minority were sparked by reports that authorities were planning to colonize the city of Ahvaz with ethnic Farsies. Nationwide operations of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV were suspended by the government April 18 on charges of inciting the unrest. (AP, April 18)
As Bush equivocates, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter states in a commentary for al-Jazeera that he was told by an anonymous "someone close to the Bush administration" that the U.S. military attack on Iran is slated for June 2005. An Israeli determination that Iran's uranium enrichment program could be functional by then was cited, Ritter says.
A March 3 account in Newsday indicates that Iran's secret police are hunting down dissidents who have taken refuge in neighboring countries. Newsday highlights the case of Abdulrahim Raeesi, political science professor who was arrested in Tehran by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security after he wrote an article calling for greater democracy in a banned newspaper. Tortured in custody, he was then hospitalized.
Iran and Russia signed a deal Feb. 27 to get the Bushehr nuclear reactor, Iran's first, up and running. Under the deal, Russia agrees to supply fuel, and Iran agrees to have the spent returned to Russia so that it cannot be re-processed for nuclear weapons. Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh and Alexander Rumyantsev, the head of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency, actually met at the Bushehr plant for the signing.
"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous," Bush told a news conference after talks with European Union leaders in Brussels. "Having said that, all options are on the table," he added, drawing laughter at a clear reference to military action. Bush did not respond to a call by French President Jacques Chirac to stop blocking Tehran's candidacy for the World Trade Organization. (Reuters, Feb. 22)
Up to 400 are reported dead in an earthquake which struck near the city of Zarand in Kerman province of southeastern Iran. (RFE/RL, Reuters, Feb. 22) A December 2003 earthquake at the city of Bam, also in Zarand, killed some 30,000 and led to some ripples in Iran's political order. See WW4 REPORT #94
Speaking at an anti-war event in Olympia, WA, former Iraq weapons inspector Scott Ritter claimed that President Bush has already signed off on plans to start bombing Iran in June, ostensibly to eliminate weapons of mass destruction. If we live so long, I guess we're gonna find out if the guy really has inside dope. (United for Peace of Pierce County, Feb. 19)
Writes Israeli left-wing commentator Uri Avnery in a Feb. 19 piece for Media Monitors Network, "Beware of the Dog!":
It is not very flattering to be paraded like a Rottweiler on a leash, whose master threatens to let him loose on his enemies. But this is our situation now.