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.
You read it here first, but now its official. Iran's government has officially blamed US spy drones for a wave of UFO sightings, and warns that it will shoot the craft down. Information Minister Ali Yunessi threatened that if the craft come within range, "they will definitely meet our fire." (NYT, Feb. 18)
Two weeks ago, WW4 Report cited a little-noted UPI story that the US Air Force has already started flying misions over Iran, to "grid" the country's military and industrial infrastructure for bombing raids. Today comes a report from Israel's Haaretz that bombing may have already begun—even if by accident. "A powerful explosion was heard this morning on the outskirts of Dailam in the Bushehr province. Witnesses said that the missile was fired from an unknown plane 20 km from the city," Iran's Arabic language Al-Alam said. Ominously, the site of the explosion was just 180 kilometers from the Bushehr nuclear reactor, Iran's first, built with Russian assistance. No immediate accusation of a US attack was made, and a spokesman for Iran's Interior Ministry even raised the possibility of "friendly fire"—that an Iranian plane could have accidentally dropped a fuel tank. US officials were circumspect. "We've seen the reports and we're looking into it," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
The current White House drive for intervention against Iran may actually have more to do with strategic control of oil and gas resources than Tehran's nuclear ambitions. Pakistan's Daily Times reports Feb. 11 that at the Third Asia Gas Buyers' Summit about to commence in New Delhi, India hopes conclude a deal with Iran to build a new pipeline to import natural gas. Tehran and Delhi are said to be waiting for approval from Islamabad for the pipeline to cross Pakistan's territory. Significantly, the article also said that India's Petroleum Ministry is "looking at the feasibility of bringing a pipeline from Turkmenistan to India through Afghanistan and Pakistan."