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Waging Cyberwar on Iran's Nuclear Program

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

08 Oct 2010 03:0652 Comments
SkullKey2_2.jpgPotential for catastrophic loss of life ignored by those hailing disruption.

[ analysis ] Ever since February 9, 2003, when the existence of the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz was formally announced by then President Mohammad Khatami of Iran, an unholy alliance of the Israel lobby in the United States, the neoconservatives, and the group of people that antiwar activists such as myself refer to as the War Party have suggested all sorts of ways to destroy Iran's nuclear program. Never mind that article IV of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, of which Iran was the very first signatory, recognizes its full right to nuclear technology, including uranium enrichment, for peaceful purposes.

In a seven-part series that I began posting in October 2003 -- the first six parts of which are here, and the seventh here -- I have explained all the relevant issues regarding the program. I have also posted many more articles on the subject here.

As I have explained in an article, there is so much propaganda and exaggerations, and so many half-truths, half-baked half-truths, and outright lies about the program that it has become an article of faith of the mainstream media in the United States and Europe to routinely talk about Iran's nonexistent "nuclear weapons program." Western officials speak as if the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has actually uncovered solid evidence -- or as former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei put it, a smoking gun -- for such a weapons program, though none has ever been found. Even the U.S. Congress got into the act of making unsubstantiated claims about Iran's nuclear program, prompting the IAEA to take the unusual step of issuing a letter that protested the House of Representatives' report.

In fact, the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of November 2007, representing the consensus of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, stated that Iran stopped its "nuclear weapons program" in 2003, even though it actually never presented any evidence, at least publicly, that such a program existed even prior to that date. For at least a year, there have been reports of a new NIE on Iran's nuclear program, but none has been released. Credible reports indicate that the reason is that the intelligence community has been resisting political pressure to change its view regarding the nature of Iran's nuclear program.

And what are the ways that have been suggested by the Israel lobby, the neoconservatives, and the War Party to "get rid" of Iran's nuclear program? Military attacks have had a prominent place in the list of "options." The drumbeats of war with Iran have indeed been getting louder.

In the latest call to war, Senator Lindsey Graham (R- SC), speaking at that bastion of warmongers, the American Enterprise Institute, called for bombing raids not only to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities, but also the nation's industrial capacity to the extent that the Islamic Republic would topple. Sanctions have also been called for, which indeed have been imposed by several United Nations Security Council resolutions, on top of the unilateral economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.

But two other approaches have also been suggested to tackle Iran's nuclear program that had not been talked about much, even though they have been in place for many years. One is to "decapitate" the program either by assassinating its leading figures -- scientists, engineers, and managers -- or encouraging them to defect to the West. The second approach, likewise suggested long ago, was creating industrial accidents by, for example, planting viruses to infect the computers that help run Iran's nuclear facilities.

For example, Michael Eisenstadt, director of Military and Security Studies Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), an offshoot of the AIPAC, the chief Israel lobby, suggested in "The Challenges of U.S. Preventive Military Action" -- a chapter of Checking Iran's Nuclear Ambitions (2004), edited by Patrick Clawson and Henry Sokolski -- the following covert actions against Iran's nuclear facilities (see pages 121 and 122):

Harassment or murder of key Iranian scientists or technicians;

introduction of fatal design flaws into critical reactor, centrifuge, or weapons components during their production, to ensure catastrophic failure during use;

introduction of destructive viruses into Iranian computer systems controlling the production of components or the operation of facilities;

damage or destruction of critical facilities through sabotage...

Eisenstadt's suggestion for murdering Iranian scientists or technicians is tantamount to state-sponsored terrorism. So, in his view, terrorism is committed only by weaker countries or groups against powerful nations. Eisenstadt does not also consider sabotage as either state-sponsored terrorism, or against international laws. In his view, international laws are good only so long as they advance the interests of powerful nations!

It is also completely clear that Eisenstadt has no notion of what constitutes a catastrophic failure in an industrial complex. We are talking about a system that includes nuclear reactors and nuclear materials. Any catastrophic accident or system failure in any large-scale industrial complex, let alone a nuclear facility, has immense consequences in terms of lost lives, long-term health problems, human suffering, and economic and environmental damage. We need only to recall what happened in Bhopal, India -- a nonnuclear accident -- and in Chernobyl, Ukraine -- a nuclear accident -- to see the consequences of a catastrophic industrial failure. Eisenstadt later tried to clarify what he had said, but his explanation amounted to hair splitting.

Another Iran pundit at the WINEP is its deputy director for research, the aforementioned Patrick Clawson -- see here for his latest writing on Iran. For some time, Clawson has advocated sabotage and the creation of industrial accidents in Iran's nuclear energy facilities. He was quoted in an October 15, 2004, article in the Los Angeles Times stating, "In an ideal world, the United States could disrupt Iran's nuclear program through covert means, such as corrupting software programs." In another article, he was quoted going even further: "The idea that the only contingency plan available is to use U.S. air raids is not true. Given the shoddy design of the Russian nuclear plants whose blueprints Iran is using for its facilities, one could well imagine that there could be catastrophic industrial accidents." At a WINEP conference, Clawson then declared,

Look, if we could find a way in which we could introduce computer viruses which caused the complete shutdown of the Bushehr system before it became operational, that would be delightful.

If we could find ways in which these very complicated centrifuges, which are spinning at such high speeds, could develop stability problems and fly apart, and the cascade [of the centrifuges] could be destroyed, I think that would be delightful.

That is what we get when pundits who have no knowledge about the scientific and technological issues involving uranium enrichment and nuclear reactors speak up.

Empty centrifuges do not usually spin. Centrifuges usually spin at high speeds when they are fully loaded with uranium hexafluoride in a gaseous state, used for enriching uranium. Destroying the cascade of spinning centrifuges, from which Clawson would derive delight, thus implies rapidly spreading the uranium compound everywhere and causing casualties. He also stated,

And, indeed, if we could find a way to create an industrial accident of the scale of the Three Mile Island which did not cause a single fatality, which would prevent Bushehr from becoming operational, I think that would also be very helpful.

Clawson's contention is that a nuclear accident of the type and scale of the Three Mile Island would not cause any fatalities. Clearly, he had not done his homework. All one need do to understand the fallacy of the claim is watch the award-winning documentary Three Mile Island Revisited. As its distributor describes, the video

directly challenges the claim of the nuclear industry and government that "no one died" from the core meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in 1979, America's worst nuclear disaster. Through the testimony of area residents and scientific experts, the documentary presents compelling evidence that cancer deaths and birth defects increased in the area surrounding the Pennsylvania plant.

The interested reader can also read "People Died at Three Mile Island," chapter 14 of a seminal book by Harvey Wasserman and Normon Solomon, Killing Our Own, the Disaster of America's Experience with Atomic Radiation, to learn more about the chilling facts of this nuclear accident, from birth defects and heightened child mortality rates to increased deaths from cancer.

Eisenstadt's and Clawson's statements were made six years ago. Why am I bringing them up now? Because "suddenly" a new computer worm, Stuxnet, began infecting Iran's computer systems, including some at Bushehr. The Internet is full of speculations about who designed the worm, what its targets are, and so forth. See, in particular, the blog by Richard Silverstein, who has been closely following developments in the matter. Stuxnet is a Windows-specific computer worm that was originally discovered in June 2010 by a security firm based in Belarus. It is designed to specifically to attack supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems that are used to control and monitor industrial processes. But while the world has been acting surprised, attempts to disrupt Iran's nuclear program and industrial capacity by creating accidents and assassinating key personnel, as indicated, have in fact a long history.

In July 2001, Col. Ali Mahmoudi Mimand, known as the father of Iran's missile program, was found dead in his office with a bullet in his head. No culprit was ever identified, but most analysts believed that he was assassinated by foreign agents. Dr. Ardeshir Hassanpour, a prominent figure in Iran's nuclear program, was murdered on January 15, 2007. Stratfor.com reported that Israel's Mossad had murdered Hassanpour. It is known that a large number of other Iraqi nuclear scientists have either disappeared or been killed.

Brigadier General Ali-Reza Asgari, who was deputy defense minister in the Khatami administration, disappeared on February 7, 2007, in Istanbul, Turkey. Iran's position is that Asgari was abducted, but it is widely believed that he defected to the West, and may even have played a leading role in alerting Israel and the United States to the construction of Syria's nuclear reactor, which was destroyed when Israel bombed the site in September 2007.

In May 2009, Shahram Amiri, a junior scientist who was supposedly involved in Iran's nuclear program, disappeared during a trip to Saudi Arabia. He eventually emerged in the United States, but after several seemingly contradictory videos of him were posted on YouTube, he became an embarrassment to the Obama administration and was allowed to return to Iran. It is not clear that his short-lived defection was fruitful from a U.S. point of view.

The attempt to disrupt Iran's nuclear program by industrial accidents and through cyberwarfare also has an extensive history. First, there was Operation Merlin during the Clinton administration, even before the Natanz uranium enrichment facility was known to exist. According to James Risen, the intelligence correspondent for the New York Times, in February 2000 the CIA assigned a Russian nuclear scientist who had defected the task of providing deliberately flawed blueprints for nuclear warheads to Iran. As Risen explains in his book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, Operation Merlin backfired because the terrified Russian defector recognized the flaws and, hoping to protect himself as well as enhancing his credibility with Iran, pointed them out to his Iranian counterpart. According to the book, Operation Merlin may even have helped accelerate Iran's nuclear program.

A former CIA official told the Guardian that, in addition to Operation Merlin, there had been other attempts to set back Iran's "suspected nuclear weapons program." According to him, "There were a number of occasions when Iran was found to be acquiring equipment for nuclear weapons and rather than stop it, they fiddled with the equipment, particularly computer equipment, before it got to Iran," although the IAEA has never uncovered any evidence of a nuclear weapon program.

According to Risen, in 2004 a CIA agent sent an Iranian agent an encrypted electronic message, mistakenly including data that could potentially identify every CIA agent inside Iran. The Iranian was a double agent and handed over the information to Iran's Ministry of Intelligence. "Several of the Iranian agents were arrested and jailed, while the fates of some of the others are still unknown," Risen wrote in his book.

As for the Stuxnet worm, it has been known for some time that Israel has been trying to use cyberwarfare in order to disrupt Iran's nuclear program, perhaps in the belief that military attacks are too costly an alternative.

At the same time, even before the news about Stuxnet began to spread, there had been other tantalizing evidence of cyberwarfare efforts by the United States and/or Israel. For example, it has been known for over a year that the Natanz facility has been experiencing severe problems and roughly half of the close to 8,000 centrifuges installed there have not been working. The problem could at least partly be due to the computer problems caused by the Stuxnet worm. In fact, Randy Abrams, director of technical education at ESET, said, "It appears that it is possible that Stuxnet may have been responsible for problems in Iran's nuclear program over the past year -- however that is speculation and it is unlikely that the Iranian government is going to say if that was the case. It is even possible that it was the case and they don't know it."

Although the worm was discovered this past July, it is now known that its first version appeared in early 2009.

In addition, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited with President Barack Obama in Washington recently, it was reported that the issue of Iran was not at the top of their agenda. Why? Perhaps because both leaders knew about the damage that Stuxnet was causing to Iran's nuclear program.

Iran has confirmed that Stuxnet has infected close to 30,000 computers in Iran, including several at Bushehr.

The worm has also appeared in India, Indonesia, and China. According to the data of U.S.-based computer security company Symantec, 60 percent of all the computers in the world that have been infected by the worm are in Iran, while Russia-based Kaspersky puts the figure below 10 percent. Still, in terms of plausibly linked effects, it seems clear that the primary target was Iran.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, has said that full operation of the Bushehr reactor will be postponed by at least two months, although he did not say that the delay was due to the worm.

Indeed, he insisted that the main systems of the plant itself were untouched. "This contamination has not reached our main system. It was detected in some personal laptops and necessary measures were taken in this regard. Our main system is clean," he said. There are ample speculations that Stuxnet was specifically written to disrupt the work of the Bushehr reactor.

A major problem with Stuxnet is that it can reinfect the scrubbed computers; it will therefore not be easy to eliminate the worm from Iran's computer system.

It has been reported to be mutating and inflicting more damage on computerized industrial equipments in Iran. Hamid Alipour, deputy chief of Iran's Information Technology Company, was quoted as saying, "The attack is still ongoing and new versions of this virus are spreading."

In his blog, Richard Silverstein has speculated that Unit 8200 (read, Unit Eight Two-hundred), the largest unit in the Israel Defense Forces, may have been involved in infecting Iran's computer with Stuxnet. Unit 8200 is responsible for collecting signal intelligence and code decryption and is comparable in function to the U.S. National Security Agency. Others have reported that there is a marker with the digits 19790509 in the Stuxnet code, which has been speculated to refer to May 9, 1979. That is the day Habib Elghanian, the wealthy Jewish Iranian businessman, was executed by the revolutionary government that had taken power less than three months earlier. He was the first, and one of the very few, Iranian Jews to have been executed since the 1979 Revolution. John Markoff and David E. Sanger of the New York Times have speculated on a connection between the Stuxnet code and a Biblical reference to the Book of Esther, a tale in the Old Testament according to which the Jews preempted a Persian plot to destroy them.

Although the worm appears to have infected some computers in Bushehr, the main target of Stuxnet must be the Natanz enrichment facility. As mentioned earlier, it has been known for over a year -- coinciding with the first appearance of the worm -- that the facility has been experiencing severe problems. Evidence for Natanz being the main target has been described by Mark Clayton of the Christian Science Monitor.

He quotes Frank Rieger, a researcher with the GSMK, a Berlin encryption company that has been helping governments deal with the worm, as saying that Stuxnet has been designed to take control of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) of the thousands of identical centrifuges at Natanz, each of which has a small computer that oversees its temperature, operating speed, flow of cooling water, and other aspects. Silverstein speculates that another task of Stuxnet might be obtaining information about Iran's entire nuclear program.

Aside from the illegal nature of such attacks under international law, what is not mentioned at all by the mainstream media is the possibility that such cyberwarfare on the Bushehr reactor or the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz could create a catastrophic accident capable of killing thousands of innocent people. It is as if the potential human toll in terms of innocent Iranians has no significance. All that the mainstream media is concerned with and speculates about is what kind of damage may be inflicted on Iran's nuclear program, a program that at least so far has been a totally peaceful one.

Image by J. Anderson via The Tech Herald.

Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau

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Excuse me, Dr.Sahimi, but to me, this article is not on par with your other work published here. You have restated numerous speculations and organized them to present a picture of Iranian innocence and Western lack of concern for human life.

An example of pure speculation:

"In addition, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited with President Barack Obama in Washington recently, it was reported that the issue of Iran was not at the top of their agenda. Why? Perhaps because both leaders knew about the damage that Stuxnet was causing to Iran's nuclear program."

Whaaaat? Additionally, you do not mention the soldiers and bystanders killed in Iraq and Afghanistan by Iranian-produced/transported explosives. These events are not speculation; they are all too real and happen on a regular basis.

Additionally, how can you expect any westerner who values human rights to believe what Iran says when its president, for whatever reason, constantly lies about so many things - a simple example, 'we have no political prisoners.'

Avoiding armed conflict is the best prize, but there's no need to waste space on the page with this under-par, unfocused article.

Please do advise us about intra-gov't actions, that would be useful. For example, please describe the various judicial powers, who controls each, and what political territory each includes.

Again, thank you for so many previous contributions that inform.

Sincerely, Observer

Observer / October 8, 2010 6:04 AM

Welcome to a world with eroding orders!

Iran Gov is just gonna use this Stuxnet against Israel and ...etc and then they are gonna reciprocate this disfavor in one way or other and this vicious cycle would go on and on and on.

I am against iran having spend so much rescourses and money in a patchy nuclear misadventure. What the hell is gonna happen if some other stupid virus would mess up Bushehr's reactor after it starts operating.
Yet another Chernobil to come!

PersianTraveler / October 8, 2010 6:59 AM

Iran is a great place for Solar energy, with these billions thrown at Russians, Germans, Pakistanies, North koreans, black marketers ...etc , Iran could have become a great hub for clean solar energy .
What a waste.

PersianTraveler / October 8, 2010 7:01 AM

Your article proves that Stuxnet must have been very effective indeed ;-)
But seriously, I prefer a million computer worms to a nuclear bomb in the hand of the mullahs or war -- even though this regime is already waging war against it citizens!
As for the rest, I agree with Observer and PersianTraveler: you accuse the War Party of forging evidence, but fail to offer valid evidence for an Israeli origin of Stuxnet (the WINEP suggestions are no evidence).
Apart from that you conceal the fact that the Bushehr nuclear plant is built in a seismic active area, being a potential threat to the population on a daily base.
I really wonder about your excitement for such an outdated hazardous and polluting technology for Iran, which offers excellent conditions for clean and much less expensive solar energy (plenty of space and silicium available in the Kavir Lut).

Arshama / October 8, 2010 8:40 AM

Dear Observer:

Thank you for your kind words about my previous articles, and for your constructive criticism of this one. I "listen" to what the readers say.

But, you bring in issues that, as important as they are, are not related to the subject of the article, which is about how to and not to address Iran's nuclear program.

For example, the killings in Iraq and Afghanistan that you mention have nothing to do with Iran's nuclear program and the subject of the article. They are important, because they kill innocent people. But, since you have brought them up, let me briefly describe my thoughts.

Regarding Iraq: it was the U.S. and Britain that illegally invaded Iraq. It was the U.S. and Britain that brought to power the Shiite groups in Iraq, the very groups that had been supported, armed, trained, and given refuge to by Iran for over two decades. So, if the US believes that it has vital national interests half way around the world (which it does not, unless it is an empire) to the extend that it invades Iraq and causes the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people and displacement of over 4 million people, why should any Iranian government - Iraq's next door neighbor - not think Iran has no business in Iraq?
Recall that even the Shah was involved in Iraq.

In addition, the US military never actually produced any solid evidence about its allegations of Iran involvement in those bombing in Iraq - at least I and people like me are not aware of any - which prompted me and well-known journalist Reese Erlich to write an article about what you are talking about. See,


Afghanistan: Iran played a fundamental role in the defeat of the Soviet Union there. Iran also took in over 3 million Afghan refugees during that war. It was Iran that armed and trained the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, the group that entered Kabul and overthrew the Taliban in 2001, not the US. Iran also provided crucial support to the US when it invaded Afghanistan in 2001, and played a fundamental role in the emergence of National Unity Government there in the Bone Conference in Germany in December 2001, which was even acknowledged by the US. These are all in addition to the historical links and relations between Iran and Afghanistan (which in fact was part of Iran for centuries).

On the other hand, it was GW Bush that invaded Afghanistan. It was him that abandoned it. It is President Obama that has sent 30,000 additional troops there, when most people know that there is no military solution there. It is the US that has installed its own puppet there in Hamid Karzai, and supports him despite his corruption and rigging of last year's election. And, it is the US and NATO forces that kill innocent civilians there on a steady basis. Should I continue, or the point has been made?

Ahmadinejad: I myself have written about many lies of Ahmadinejad and all the atrocities that have been committed under him. I am sure you are aware of them. But, once again, they have nothing to do with the subject of this article.

The goal of the article is NOT to present an innocent image of the Iranian political establishment. Even a heavenly water cannot cleanse this regime. And, as you know, in my previous articles I have written extensively about all the crimes that have taken place. I do not even think that Iran has been completely innocent even when it comes to its nuclear program. But, its "sins" have also been vastly exaggerated. Couple that with the US double standards regarding nukes in Israel, Pakistan, and India versus Iran, and one gets the mess that we are in.

I have said consistently for over 12 years that the West has used all sorts of propaganda, lies, exaggerations, etc., in order to corner Iran regarding its nuclear program. As Mohamed ElBaradei said once, "Iran's nuclear program has been hyped" by the West. Yes, it has been hyped grandly. I believe in this deeply.

The goal of the present article IS to point out that, unlike what some people believe, the Stuxnet issue is nothing new. Such attempts have been going on for years, involving not only cyber warfare, but also more nefarious means.

The way to address the problem is not through assassination, and causing industrial accidents that can cost thousands of innocent lives. A nuclear accident anywhere is a nuclear accident everywhere. A nuclear accident caused by a computer worm at Natanz or Bushehr will cause much damage well beyond the immediate neighborhood of the accident.

Regarding the meeting between Netanyahu and the President: This was reported by several places at that time. It is not my speculations. In fact, had I not read the reports, I would not have thought even for a moment about speculating along these lines, because it was counter-intuitive to me.

Most of what you call speculations are those made by other credible experts, such as computer experts, not me. Many of them have a basis in reality. But, in every case, I gave the source, and it is up to you to decide how credible they are.

Finally, just because I oppose Ahmadinejad and the hardliners does not mean that I am going to forget about Iran's fundamental rights under international agreements. Iran's nuclear program was initiated by the Shah with direct encouragement and support of the U.S., and continued by the very regime that toppled him. How much more nationalistic can a program be?

But, at the same time, as I pointed out in the "Towards a Green Foreign Policy for Iran," the nuclear rights cannot supersede other rights of the citizens. That is my criticism, and I know it is Mir Hossein Mousavi's and others' like him.

Muhammad Sahimi / October 8, 2010 9:13 AM

Dear Observer,

You pose this question to Dr. Sahimi:

"Additionally, how can you expect any westerner who values human rights to believe what Iran says when its president, for whatever reason, constantly lies about so many things - a simple example, 'we have no political prisoners.'"

I am fascinated by your casually inductive mode of reasoning, which no doubt stems from your commendable "western" appreciation for human rights. With your permission, I'll try my non-western hand at it as well:

You throw into your post the well-worn claim, dressed up as incontrovertible fact, that Iran is involved in the delivery of IEDs to partisans and terrorists in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The U.S. and its camp-followers regularly trumpet this charge. But given that President Bush preposterously asserted in October 2007 that "this government does not torture people," how can we believe a word the Americans or their collaborators say on any contentious issue?

Have the Americans invited an impartial U.N. panel to examine the evidence and corroborate their allegations? If yes, please link to those findings and edify us non-western boors.

Perhaps that other western stalwart of human rights, professor Ian, can help you out with archival research? As we speak, Ian's burning the midnight oil at the British Library, feverishly dotting i's and crossing t's on his definitive rebuttal of Dr. Sahimi's writings on the Iran nuclear issue.

Ali from Tehran / October 8, 2010 9:54 AM

Yeah, I have to agree, this article is about 90% speculation. I suppose it can be said it's something of an organized catalog of related speculation.

But Muhammad, you're certainly no stranger to the game of speculation, given your obstinacy over issues related to the 2009 election.

Pirouz / October 8, 2010 10:07 AM

Thank you, Dr. Sahimi, for the reply. Personally and logically, Iran's use of nuclear power for peaceful purposes cannot be a problem. Reader commentary about Iran's earthquake status and solar power seems useful, too.

To date, all the hype about Stuxnet, cyberwar, etc, does not seem useful. I have no doubt that this category of 'weapons' is not new and that any nation with the ability attempts it.

Here's hoping you can and will inform about Iran's current judiciary setup in the future. Again, thank you for taking the time to explain.

Thank you, Ali from Tehran, for your statement of moral equivalencies, which actually highlights one of the major lapses in logic in today's world of dialogue.

Please do not imply that my comments suggested the existence of the category 'non-western boors.' As you well know, every culture has its boors, one of the many potentials of the human dimension. I had no intention of addressing them. Thank you.

Observer / October 8, 2010 8:43 PM

Dear Observer,

Apologies for drawing false moral equivalency between our inveterate liars and your congenital fibbers.

Your camp's canards (mobile bio-weapons labs, mushroom clouds, links to AlQaeda, aluminum tubes, Niger yellowcake, we do not torture, DU bombs not a health hazard, etc.) are obviously much more benign.

When can I expect you to link to reports from impartial investigative bodies corroborating U.S. claims of Iranian guilt in supplying IEDs to Iraq and Afghanistan?

A reminder of what you said to Dr. Sahimi:

"Additionally, you do not mention the soldiers and bystanders killed in Iraq and Afghanistan by Iranian-produced/transported explosives. These events are not speculation; they are all too real and happen on a regular basis."
(Observer, October 8 @ 6:04 AM)

Your kind indulgence in linking to such reports would help me understand how to distinguish "all-too-real" facts from 'Operation Himmler'-type false flag ops and self-serving "speculation".

Ali from Tehran / October 8, 2010 10:21 PM

Dear Ali from Tehran,

Please do not assign a 'camp' for this reader when you know not whereof you speak, truly.

As for 'impartial investigative bodies,' much depends on who defines them, does it not?

There doesn't seem to be much room for actual discussion between us, which I find regrettable. Let me close by wishing the Iranian people every success in their struggle to define their beloved country on their own terms.

Sincerely, Observer

Observer / October 9, 2010 12:11 AM

Dear Observer,

No links? What a surprise.

Hasbara doesn't respond well to stress-testing, does it now, Hector?

Ali from Tehran / October 9, 2010 12:45 AM

Ali from Tehran, thank you for enlarging the vocabulary. Had to look up 'hasbara.' You include Hector, slain on the battlefield of Troy? Strange analogy. Is this 'discussion' a 'combat?' Do the gods back you as they did Ajax? No matter.

Perhaps assigning labels to recipients of your correspondence isn't all that helpful. A familiar quote seems appropriate here - "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Observer / October 9, 2010 1:53 AM

Dear Observer,

You stress semantics and sidestep the main issue.

Provide a link to an independent finding that verifies your charge that Iran provides IEDs to Iraqi and Afghan insurgents.

Or could it be that your "all-too-real" factoid is unsupported by anything other than the U.S. antagonist's own claims and media circuses, the charges apparently made true by dint of repetition?

For a human rights fan, you take a very cavalier approach to substantiating a claim that could serve as a casus belli.

Repeat after me: Link, baby, link!!!

Ali from Tehran / October 9, 2010 3:04 AM

Every form of energy generation has advantages and disadvantages however, as of now nuclear energy is the leader in ‘large’ energy production until a ‘practical’ alternative is attained. Solar is a good complement at the present time, but not a solution. Just from a technical point of view and putting politics aside, Iran's approach to nuclear energy is justified. The foundation of this industry was laid out prior to 1979 and for several nuclear power plants to meet Iran's ever growing energy needs.


• Inexpensive
• Easy to recover if available
• Requires expensive air pollution controls (e.g. mercury, sulfur dioxide)
• Significant contributor to acid rain and global warming
• Requires extensive transportation system


• Fuel is inexpensive
• Energy generation is the most concentrated source
• Waste is more compact than any source
• Extensive scientific basis for the cycle
• Easy to transport as new fuel
• No greenhouse or acid rain effects
• Requires larger capital cost because of emergency, containment, radioactive waste and storage systems
• Requires resolution of the long-term high level waste storage issue in most countries
• Potential nuclear proliferation issue


• Very inexpensive once dam is built
• Very limited source since depends on water elevation
• Many dams available are currently exist (not much of a future source[depends on country])
• Dam collapse usually leads to loss of life
• Dams have affected fish (e.g. salmon runs)
• Environmental damage for areas flooded (backed up) and downstream

>Gas / Oil

• Good distribution system for current use levels
• Easy to obtain (sometimes)
• Better as space heating energy source
• Very limited availability as shown by shortages during winters several years ago
• Could be major contributor to global warming
• Very expensive for energy generation
• Large price swings with supply and demand
• Liquefied Natural Gas storage facilities and gas transmission systems have met opposition from environmentalists.


• Wind is free if available.
• Good source for periodic water pumping demands of farms.
• Generation and maintenance costs have decreased significantly. Wind is proving to be a reasonable cost renewable source.
• Well suited to rural areas.
• Need 3x the amount of installed generation to meet demand
• Limited to windy areas.
• Need many towers.
• Highly climate dependent - wind can damage equipment during windstorms or not turn during still summer days.
• May affect endangered birds, however tower design can reduce impact.


• Sunlight is free when available
• Costs are dropping.
• demand can be highest when least available, e.g. winter solar heating
• Does require special materials for mirrors/panels that can affect environment
• Current technology requires large amounts of land for ‘small’ amounts of energy generation


• Combines easily with oxygen to produce water and energy
• Very costly to produce
• Takes more energy to produce hydrogen then energy that could be recovered.

We are some 35 years away from nuclear Fusion which would be the ultimate.

• Hydrogen and tritium could be used as fuel source
• Higher energy output per unit mass than fission
• Low radiation levels associated with process than fission-based reactors
• Not available.

I hope Iran can ultimately take advantage of the newer generation III plant designs which offer a number of technical advanges over the current generation II PWR reactor of Russian design. The immediate advantage of generation III is prolonged life that can be extended to almost 3 times that of generation II reactors hence a better long term investment. Generation IV is in design and too far fetched. I encourage everyone to look into the future of the nuclear technology and you will be amazed by the improvements on the horizon. However, Iran would need a drastic change in her politics to take advantage of these opportunities. China is next in line for Gen. III and within 2-3 years. Once free we will do just fine. God bless our country.

Niloofar / October 9, 2010 11:27 PM


Excellent post.

Muhammad Sahimi / October 10, 2010 6:08 AM

Dear Observer,

Fascinating exchange with Ali From Tehran.

Juxtaposition of your comments regarding human rights and a president that lies along with your previous sentence of dying soldiers and bystanders evokes memories of past. I am speaking of Presidents that lie and bystanders that are killed; and, human rights that don't apply because the prisoners either don't exist or have no status.

Did you ever read "Animal Farm"? Mid-story an interesting transformation takes place where the seven commandments that guaranteed the "rights" of "animals" coalesce to one:
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

Yes, please do call liars "on the carpet" and do condemn abuses, but drop the act promoting the maxim of "Napoleon is always right." Selective human rights is simply a "club" to beat the "less equal" animals!

Incidentally, I am also curious about your sources for the "all to real" cases.

jay / October 10, 2010 8:20 AM

Ali from Tehran and Jay,

Do you guys read the press roundup portion of the TB?

The press roundup right before this article, has an article in it, from Indian press, that quotes Afganistan police saying they captured explosives and bombs from Iran. Read it.

muhammad billy bob / October 10, 2010 8:56 PM

Yes M.BillyBob! But I also read outside the MSM (which PBS/NPR/NYT/FOX/CNN are) and withhold final judgement until the facts are in. That is because news organizations (PBS/NPR included) have proven to be less than reliable sources of supposedly reliable news!

For example, Hasht-e-Sobh, a daily paper in Afghanistan reports that the container in question was fireworks from China and belonged to an afghan. This is also reflected (probably from the same source in the newsletter from the UN (United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan).

I say read but don't leap!

I don't know what will turn out to be the "true story", but I also don't assume that because it appeared on CNN and PBS, or PressTV, or Mehrnews for that matter, that it is the gospel - I am an equal opportunity skeptic!

Jay / October 11, 2010 2:47 AM

Pentagon Bob, the Oracle of Appalachia and dean of Ottoman Empire Studies at Hillbilly University, says:

"Do you guys read the press roundup portion of the TB? The press roundup right before this article, has an article in it, from Indian press, that quotes Afganistan police saying they captured explosives and bombs from Iran. Read it."

Well, Pentagon Bob, I did better than that. I linked to the original Times of India article and, with un-American thoroughness, read the whole thing.

A sentence from that article -- strangely not excerpted by TehranBureau -- says:

"Tehran, a long-running US foe, denies the charges AND SENIOR AFGHAN ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS SAY THEY HAVE NO EVIDENCE AGAINST IRAN." (emphasis mine)

Why do you think senior Afghan officials dispute the findings of their provincial police chief, Pentagon Bob? Enlighten me, please.

Also, it's intriguing that the weight of the claimed contraband found in the container was 20 tons. That’s a hairbreadth short of the maximum capacity of a 40 foot container (20.430 tons), leaving scarce margin to pack other material into the container to disguise the presence of explosives!

Perhaps the Iranians – and their American and Afghan adversaries -- should purchase copies of Arms Smuggling for Dummies (1st edition, 2010), recently published by Wiley.

Actually, the first reports were of 22 tons of explosives seized! After a bit of reflection, perhaps, they reduced it first to 20 and then to 19 tons a day or two later. Could it be that the confiscated explosives are drying out fast in the sizzling October sun?

If the supposedly crafty Iranians intend to supply the Taliban by shipping ordnance thru customs checkpoints, and in such a stupid and lazy manner, then your soldiers and mercenaries have precious little to worry about.

I sincerely wish you, Observer, Ian and other garden-variety western human rights enthusiasts a safe and uneventful occupation of Afghanistan.

Ali from Tehran / October 11, 2010 12:02 PM

Ali, it seems you've misunderstood the passage from the article you quote, because you've certainly misrepresented it.

Here's how it appears in the original article:

"Foreign military commanders and some Afghan officials have accused Iran of providing weapons to the Taliban, the chief group leading the insurgency since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted its regime from power."

"Tehran, a long-running US foe, denies the charges and senior Afghan administration officials say they have no evidence against Iran."

So, in fact, no "senior Afghan administration officials" were "disputing the findings of their provincial police chief" in this case, as you incorrectly claimed. This is obviously a background passage on the long-running debate that precedes this incident by years.

I see you also keep insisting that the only acceptable evidence of U.S. and local Afghan claims that Iran has been arming partisans is some fanciful "impartial U.N. panel to examine the evidence and corroborate their allegations." What exact purpose do you imagine such a panel would serve? And exactly how it would have to be constituted so it would satisfy your standards for impartiality?

Here's an informative link--a detailed report on Iran-Afghanistan arms shipments that appeared this March on Britain's Channel 4: http://www.channel4.com/news/iran-supplies-weapons-to-taliban . Afghan security services say the arms show "the true extent of direct support from the Iranian government for the insurgency." Iranian officials say they'd never! Hmm...

Salman / October 11, 2010 8:33 PM

Dear Salman,

You dismiss my citing of senior Afghan officials (on lack of evidence for Iranian involvement in aiding Afghan militants) as a misleading "background passage" unrelated to the recent Nimroz haul, but then refer me to a Channel 4 ‘investigative’ report from seven months ago that -- by your own logic of chronology -- ought to be fully covered and contradicted by that selfsame background passage. Hmm...

It is probably of no interest to you that the damning Channel 4 news report you so relish is the product of Nima Elbagir, a journalist engaged to a British diplomat working diligently for Her Majesty’s government. Hmm... Talk about the incestuous relations of media and state!

And, undoubtedly, it does not bother you in the least that the "Afghan security services" quoted in the Channel 4 report may owe their position, pay and allegiance to Anglo-American overlords. Hmm...

An impartial UN panel seems "fanciful" to you? What purpose would it serve, you ask? These are disingenuous questions, so I will simply say that impartiality means that persons associated with states that are (or were) involved in the occupation, or those accused of aiding militants, would not dominate the panel, and that full details of the investigation were made available for public scrutiny. In fact I’m surprised that the Americans have not suggested the formation of such a panel yet, given the mass of incontrovertible evidence they’ve collected.

I wish you and your western human-rights cohort a safe and happy occupation of Afghanistan.

Ali from Tehran / October 12, 2010 12:58 AM

Ali, dear fellow, I'm afraid you're simply losing it now.

(1) Indeed, the sort of damning evidence presented in the Channel 4 report (check out the video for the full impact of the evidence) falls under the umbrella of the background section in the article that titillated you so, but "contradicted" by it? Hardly. It's really for each of us to judge: do you tend to lend more credibility to the denials by Iranian diplomats and nonspecific references to senior Afghan officials' purported lack of evidence...or to the extensive material evidence shown in the Channel 4 report and the on-air statements by Rahmutallah Safi, the head of border police for Herat, and ordinary border officers? Your fervent faith in the former is very funny, my friend.

(2) I encourage everyone to read the Al-Bab article you so kindly linked to--it's a lovely piece--and, again, judge for yourselves whether the fact that Nima Elbagir's fiance is a British diplomat whom she met in Sudan in any way undermines the evidence presented in her reportage from Afghanistan.

(3) I am aware--unlike you, it seems...unless you're being disingenuous--that everyone involved has certain allegiances, and certain fears, as well. (It seems clear that senior Afghan officials tread very lightly in any area that might offend the great power on their western border.) But auto-pilot insinuations of the sort you make hardly help us to arrive at wise judgments. Fully weighing the available evidence, while remaining clear-eyed about its sources, is a much more helpful methodology.

(4) Yes, your beloved "impartial UN panel" seems fanciful to me and it is your dodging of my question that is rankly disingenuous. Again, what purpose would it serve? If Iran's involvement in arms trafficking to Afghan insurgents was "impartially" established, what then? Sanctions? It seems to me the Western powers have no trouble imposing sanctions at will--either through the UN or directly--without indulging in Ali's Impartial IED Investigation Panel.

P.S. Your mind-reading skills are most impressive, sir. You have miraculously determined that Nima Elbagir's fiance is "diligent" and I am a member of a "western human-rights cohort"! Why do you bother writing at all? Simply communicate with us all telepathically!

Salman / October 12, 2010 2:04 AM

Salman the Clear-Eyed dismisses as politically-motivated the denials by senior Afghan officials of 'evidence' implicating Iran in the Taliban insurgency:

"It seems that senior Afghan officials tread very lightly in any area that might offend the great power [Iran] on their western border."

Really, pundit? But Afghan officialdom seems quite fearless of denouncing, at the highest levels, their far more powerful and proximate eastern neighbour, Pakistan. Go figure.

Salman invites readers to link to Nima Elbagir’s "lovely" interview on El-Bab to "judge for [themselves] whether the fact that [her] fiance is a British diplomat whom she met in Sudan in any way undermines the evidence presented in her reportage from Afghanistan."

By all means, allow readers to judge whether a journalist being in bed (literally) with a serving British diplomat constitutes a 'rank' conflict-of-interest in producing reportage on subjects so near and dear to the British foreign policy establishment as the pacification of Afghanistan and the demonization of Iran.

What purpose would an impartial UN panel serve, you ask with peeved, wide-eyed gullibility? Well, for one thing, it would prevent nations steeped in the black art of false-flag operations from concocting Gleiwitz Station incidents and using them as casus belli. Its findings, moreover, would have far more credibility than the 'cry wolf' allegations of the Anglo-American establishment and their Afghan cronies.

And, as a sweetener for you, the UN panel could be empowered to refer its findings to the UNSC for further action.

Salman says: "Your fervent faith in the former [denials by Iranian diplomats] is very funny, my friend."

How did you surmise I had "fervent faith" in Iranian denials, Salman, and why did you come to think of me as your friend? Who’s pretending to be a mind-reader now?

Ali from Tehran / October 12, 2010 4:21 AM

Ali from Tehran,

"Why do you think senior Afgan officals dispute...."

It's pretty obvious to anyone that is impartial, don't you think?

NATO troops are on their way out, they can barely handle the fight amongst their own people, and they are going to antagonize another army? Not likely.

Other than that, there are many other examples of such arms shipments into Iraq and Afganistan.

I'm not going to do your research for you. I will not waste an hour of my life to reference articles that you will claim are biased, for one reason or other. Your mind is made up, and no proof to the contrary will satisfy you.

One thing about a U.N. inquiry..... Who do you think pays for the vast majority of these U.N. inquiries??? It's the U.S. taxpayer. That's a good excuse for you to use when these inquiries come out against your opinion.



Just as I wrote to Ali, There are a great many articles online about Iran supplying various political groups inside Iraq and Afganistan with arms. Please do a simple google search. Take the information as you will.

muhammad billy bob / October 12, 2010 4:56 AM

Ali from Tehran,

Ummm, I think you are forgetting that Pakistan is far less threatening to Afganistan than Iran is. At least Pakistan gives lip service to an independepent Afganistan, and for the most part does not supply the forces that want to overthrow that government.

Iran is quite the opposite. Iranian foreign policy sees Afganistan as a threat and therefore encourages instability in that country. What is most important to them is that they have an Islamic government in place in Afganistan, a government that is sympathatic to greater Islamic law and Islamic law dominating the region.

The current Afgani government has every reason to fear the Iranians, much more than the Pakistanis. The Pakistanis can not even control their western provinces, let alone go past that and attack Afganinstan. Iran does have problems controlling it's population, but it is nowhere near as severe as in Pakistan. And the rhetoric coming from Iranian government towards The Afgani government is quite bellicous. Much more so than Pakistan towards Afganistan.

muhammad billy bob / October 12, 2010 5:36 AM

Dear Pentagon Bob,

You say the Afghan govt. doesn't denounce Iranian arms smuggling because it's too hard-pressed fighting off the Taliban and wants to avoid antagonizing a new adversary.

But if Iran is shipping ordnance to the Taliban, it's already antagonistic and adversarial enough, isn't it?

Don't you proof-read your own material for coherence and consistency before pressing the 'send' button?

Ali from Tehran / October 12, 2010 5:48 AM

Ali, how did I determine that your faith in denials of Iranian arms trafficking is fervent? MAYBE WHEN YOU QUOTE IN ALL CAPS THAT'S KIND OF A DEAD GIVEAWAY, MY FRIEND.

And how did I come to think of you as my friend, friend? No mind-reading involved at all--you remain the only telepathic genius here. It's simple: You chose to address me as "dear," dear. As far as I'm concerned, that makes us bosom buddies. Blood brothers, if you will.

Oh, Ali, if only you paid attention to anything that wasn't guaranteed to reconfirm your fervent faith. You asked, "If Iran is shipping ordnance to the Taliban, it's already antagonistic and adversarial enough, isn't it?" The answer, dear friend, is no. If you followed the argument laid out in the Channel 4 report, you would know that the prevailing view among those whose views you dismiss out of hand is that Iran is assisting the Taliban just enough to keep them, NATO forces, and the Afghan government mired in an endless conflict, but not enough for them to regain a decisive edge. Iran could get much more adversarial and antagonistic if it chose. As difficult as the current situation is for the Afghan government, that alternative would obviously be much worse.

Salman / October 12, 2010 6:09 AM

Dear Salman,

I am enthralled by the self-serving logic of your fellow conspiracy-theorists at Channel 4:

"... Iran is assisting the Taliban just enough to keep them, NATO forces, and the Afghan government mired in an endless conflict, but not enough for them to regain a decisive edge."

Such a stratagem will only work if Iran is the sole, or at least the preponderant, armorer of the Taliban, and can therefore hope to fine-tune the intensity of conflict to achieve the precarious balance you describe above. But not even the nuttiest Iranophobes in the Anglo-American establishment assign Iran the lead role in arming the Taliban.

This “prevailing view,” as you put it, is an exact replica of the rationale informing hoary claims of Iranian aid to Sunni insurgents in Iraq.

Nice try, non-friend. Do come up with more sophisticated arguments next time. You are not dealing with simpletons on TB.

Dear Pentagon Bob,

You have laid another priceless Fabergé egg:

“Ummm, I think you are forgetting that Pakistan is far less threatening to Afganistan than Iran is. At least Pakistan gives lip service to an independepent Afganistan, and for the most part does not supply the forces that want to overthrow that government. Iran is quite the opposite. [...] ... the rhetoric coming from Iranian government towards The Afgani government is quite bellicous.”

With your permission, I will print it out and frame it next to your other post claiming that Iran was part of the Ottoman Empire 150 years ago.
[Ref,: TB Article, “The Isolation of Ahmadinejad”, Muhammad Sahimi, 30 Apr 2010, Point #5 of Muhammad Billy Bob’s post of May 2 @ 3:51 PM, www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/04/the-isolation-of-ahmadinejad.html]

Umm, word of advice, Pentagon Bob: Before pontificating on the geopolitics of strange, far-off countries, do learn to spell their names correctly.

Ali from Tehran / October 12, 2010 8:00 AM

Dear M.BillyBob,

As if another reader was telepathic, with permission, may I quote him... "if only you paid attention to anything that wasn't guaranteed to reconfirm your fervent faith".

When words such as "prevailing view" form the backbone of an argument, one has to see faith and dogma strolling in holding the leash.

Regurgitating the word salad in the echo chamber some call news does not sustain ones mind - it merely feeds the thrash bin.

Open your mind, if you are willing to! See for example, our favorite largest news wire service AP reporting complete falsehoods here on mdiatematters web site: "http://mediamatters.org/research/200908250017"

For another example, if you have the appetite, familiarize yourself with the history of The New York Times' coverage of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. It will help solidify in your mind that the Iraq show with Judith Miller was not the first or the last theater.

News is a positive assertion of facts that is independently and rigorously verifiable by the weight of independent evidence - the rest is entertainment for the starving mind, or gospel for the converted.

Jay / October 12, 2010 8:51 AM

Exactly, Jay. Evidence is what counts. Evidence like the extensive video and photographic record of copious amounts of materiel of Iranian manufacture interdicted by Afghan border police.

While there is abundant evidence that there is a substantial flow of arms from Iran to Afghan insurgents, that evidence itself does not make clear whether the traffic is state-backed, truly black-market, or some combination. However, the volume of the whining from the simpleton crowd of IRI propagandists that the traffic isn't happening at all makes state involvement most likely.

Salman / October 12, 2010 12:18 PM

Dear Salman,

I suggest that you do not worry about "simpleton crowd of IRI propagandists" as your superior intellect will surely overwhelm any propaganda.

I did use the word evidence in the context of the last sentence of my post at 8:51 AM. However, if you would notice, it appeared in a sentence that also contained the words "independent" and "rigorously verifiable". There are numerous instances where photographic records and video evidence have turned out to be "manufactured" - by all sides.

The mere fact that there is flow of arms across borders is not in dispute - in fact, it would be unusual if there was no flow! What is at issue is the "who" and possibly the "why".

During the years of the Clinton administration when Iran was the conduit of American weapons to Bosnia, and in instances when those weapons were discovered in transit (with pictures!), thereby pointing to American support of Bosnians, I don't recall the Iranians stepping forward to admit: "it was us doing the transport for the Americans!"

What some of us object to is "selective outrage"! Selective outrage, as exercised by some, is too transparent of a ploy - particularly when it is directed at individuals with a slight sense of honesty spiced by a smidgen of historical knowledge.

It is amply more convincing when the exercise of moral authority is without regard to race, color, creed, national boundaries, political and religious affiliations, etc.

Jay / October 12, 2010 5:03 PM

Ali from Tehran and Jay,

I don't see why you find it so hard to believe that the Iranian government would supply various political factions to the east and west of itself.

Like any government the Iranian government obviously wants to influence who will come out victorious in these wars on their borders. It is certainly benefical to them that "their side" wins the political battle. With less threatening forces as their neighbor, that is obviously a very large plus.

Again, there is ample evidence of this. If you want to believe that the Iranian government is some kind unique government who would never under any circumstance aid others in neighboring countries, that's your delusion.

I do not particuarily trust the news reports coming out the major news sources of the U.S. Not because of any conspiracy, but mostly do to laziness. But there is enough real evidence, from many sources, to support the obvious concerns of the Iranian government to effect the wars to it's east and west.

Do the research, keep an open open mind, and you will see the obvious. But if you maintain the attitude that the Iranian government is some kind of unique group of people that they do not care who wins these wars on their border, and would certainly never supply their favorites with weapons, you can find as many excuses as you can think of.

muhammad billy bob / October 12, 2010 6:05 PM

Ali from Tehran,

Again your assumptions are quite inncorrect. As I have written before on this site, I am fortune enough to have free air fare (less taxes) to anywhere in the world.

I have been to Pakistan many times. I've been to Egypt, to Israel, to India, to Turkey, etc. These places are hardly "strange far-off countries".

I haven't been to Iran, because I really do not feel like being held captive, a very real possibility. If they were ever to have a government that didn't want to arrest foreigners as spies, I would love to visit Iran.

Once again, I have to remind you to check your ill-informed biasis before posting.

muhammad billy bob / October 12, 2010 6:30 PM

Dear M.BillyBob,

Absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence. If you read my post at 5:03 PM, I say, and I repeat,

"The mere fact that there is flow of arms across borders is not in dispute - in fact, it would be unusual if there was no flow!"

I refer to no conspiracies, unless you are implying that there is a conspiracy by the "IRI simpletons"! There need not be a conspiracy to explain collective behavior.

I make no claim that the Iranian government holds a unique position. To the contrary, I believe that in many ways they are more similar to western governments than they are different - in particular, I believe they would act rationally and covertly to protect the interests of the government of Iran.

I object to hypocrisy! I say that if one is to present CNN/PBS/FOX stories as evidence, then one has to accept the PRESSTV/MEHR/TT denials as evidence as well. Neither one is evidence, of course.

Do not mistake my equal condemnation as support for one side or other. I say that acts leading to aggression and inhumanity must be condemned - that the slaughter of many thousands of civilians using weapons provided, or in use, by all sides must stop. I choose not to be selective about such matters and not to make hypocritical statements of the sort that seem to excuse certain actions and not others.

It is equally abhorring to be an apologist for any side - more so when that side is promulgating violence and injustice. By challenging hypocrisy I hope to engage people to examine their foundational assumptions and reflect on their "good guy/bad guy" view of the world.

jay / October 12, 2010 11:19 PM


I agree with alot of your statements.

There are a couple of areas that I disagree with you, regarding your references to U.S. media. And journalist ethics in general.

As you may have noticed I referenced the rather easy article from India Times in my post. Just one of many examples of assertions of Iranian government involvement in the wars on it's borders. It was particularily easy to reference this article as it was in the press roundup right before this article.

This article did give "the other side". And Ali from Tehran promptly jumped on this denial for all that it was worth. This was a pretty good case of journalism being ethical. They reported what the local Afgani officals said, they got the response from Iranian government officals, and they went to the national Afgani government. They left it up to the reader to determine who was being most honest.

I admit, like most americans, I see very little of CNN/PBS/FOX. Just look at their ratings. When I do channel surf through these networks it's ususally a story about some celebrity. And on the rare chance it's not about a celebrity, it is certainly not about international affairs. Let alone, Iran supplying it's neighboring factions with arms.

But fortunately, there are a great many other news sources available in the world. As I have repeatedly stated, do the research. If you are truely concerned about this issue there is plenty of information available to you.

It is my suspicision that Ali from Tehran could care less what evidence is put before him, he would deny that it exists at all costs.

You seem to slightly more open-minded. But as I say again, do the research, there is plenty out there and no one else is going to do it for you, if you are truely concerned about this issue.

muhammad billy bob / October 13, 2010 1:34 AM

Dear M.BillyBob,

My references were to MSM and not to the broader US media scene. MSM is where a lot of Americans, directly or indirectly, get their view of the world. Admittedly, there are excellent alternative media sources in the US - the same is true for Iran, as has been pointed out to me, and it is true even more if you are willing to exercise your french and german a bit.

I made no sweeping ethics statements regarding US media or any media for that matter. I tend to believe that most people are decent - the majority. However, the few that are not and happen to be in a position to greatly influence events can do real damage. And, these people pop up all over the MSM. As small a group as they may be, here or elsewhere, given that they can pop up in any outlet, one has to be skeptical of any item that is published. A healthy dose of skepticism all the time!

I noted your earlier reference to the India times and I also pointed to other source earlier. However, it is unequivocal that the majority of people do not get their news from India times and the fine points of equivocation did not appear in the MSM reports.

The thrust of the main points that started this thread remain, that there is no proof for the alleged activity of sending explosives - although the weight of evidence and historical trends suggests that much weapons trading activity has taken place in similar circumstances. However, the claims of "damning evidence" is at best bogus and at worst propaganda - which inspired the reference to hypocrisy!

jay / October 13, 2010 7:50 AM


What does your acronym "MSM" stand for?

I agree the vast majority of people are decent, if not more so. I also think the vast majority of people can tell when they are being lied to, or played in todays jargon. Especially, in the U.S. where we are accustomed to hearing that Pepsi is better than Coke, take this pill and your member will be larger, etc.

Back to your assertion that claims of damning evidence are bogus at best..... I have to ask, have you actually done even basic research on the subject? If so why do you come to conclusion that such claims are bogus?

I have read the reports from those in the area. Yes, most are from U.S. and allied armies and police. But, who do you think is going to intercept and report these shipments? It's certainly not going to be the intended receiptents. Or the shippers.

Use your healthy skepticism equally. Be skeptical of a government in Iran that claims to be "the freesest country in the world". Be skeptical of a government that shuts down media outlets that disagree with it's policies. Can you really accept any information that is approved by the IRI? They are notorious liars.

muhammad billy bob / October 13, 2010 8:23 PM

Dear M.BillyBob,

MSM stands for mainstream media.

Your assertion that people can tell when they are being lied to is without merit. It is not historically supported by any empirical evidence, and it has been refuted in specific psychological experiments. What may be more appropriate to say is that people sometimes know when they are being lied to, or people may eventually learn that they have been lied to.

With regards to "damning evidence", and I put that in quotes in my original writing, you miss a key point once again. In the American-English vernacular, "damning evidence" is used to infer that the evidence is conclusive - it is not the same as "evidence". I accept that notion that there is weapons traffic but reject the notion that there is conclusive evidence that IRI has transferred illicit weapons to Afghans. We can imagine the NATO-American response if in fact there was conclusive evidence.

You have repeatedly suggested that one has to do ones research. For any research to be fruitful, one has to have a discerning eye for the subtitles of language and one has to read with a critical eye in order to avoid misreading key points. I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and believe that you do your research. May I then suggest that you always read with a critical eye and attend to the subtle details.

To answer your specific question regarding IRI: As I have explicitly stated before, I accept information at face value from any political or governmental body, including the IRI, or any one else you may list.

jay / October 13, 2010 11:34 PM


You "accept information at face value".....

Do you not think information from different people have differnet values.

For example, If Bernie Madoff were to offer you a no lose investment, would you take that at face value?

You are only taking on side of the story as face value. The side of the Iranian government. You are certainly not taking the U.S. or it's allies side at face value. What's more, you a deliberately discounting the evidence put forth by the U.S. and it's allies, out of hand. Very hard evidence, such as traceable serial numbers, known arms sales, etc. That's as hard evidence as your going to get.

But, I feel I'm wasting my time here. I ask again, have you even looked at the stories regarding this issue? Iraq, and Afganistan?

You seem to have made your detrimination without proper examination. Your conclusions will fit your idealogy. No matter how you have to contort realities.

muhammad billy bob / October 14, 2010 12:06 AM

My last sentence should have read:

I do not accept information at face value from any political or governmental body.

Jay / October 14, 2010 12:21 AM

Jay, sorry, disregard, the face value portion of my post.

But the rest remains. You, and most everyone, accept or not accept information from others based on their past reliablity. The IRI has absolutely no relabilty. The U.S. has at least a little left. But coupled with actual footage of serial #'s, manafests, etc. I would tend to believe what I see, not what I hear without any confirmation.

My main concern is once again, have you even seen any of the evidence put forth? And do you even care?

muhammad billy bob / October 14, 2010 4:19 AM

Pentagon Bob says:

"The U.S. has at least a little [reliability] left."

Sure it does, Pentagon Bob. What's more, Santa Claus bivouacs in Greenland during October, the Tooth Fairy will be slipping IOU's in lieu of cash under your pillow this year, and the Moon is made entirely out of swiss cheese.

Footage, serial numbers, manifests? Wow! Reminds me of Colin Powell's magnificent performance at the UNSC. He even showed satellite pictures and let us listen to secret radio intercepts of evil Iraqis whispering: 'Move the WMDs now, Abdul, the inspectors are coming!'

Ali from Tehran / October 14, 2010 6:51 AM

Dear M.BillyBob,

It was Ronald Reagan that said: "Trust but verify!"

It is unclear to me how meaningful the notion of reliability is when one is assigning it to a heterogeneous body of people, organizations, goals, motives, and policies - this applies to US or the IRI.

It is more meaningful to speak about reliability of individuals - or individual journalists. In the case of individuals with an unblemished history of reliability I do assign a higher weight of evidence.

As Ali from Tehran points out, organizations can put on a dazzling show of manufactured visuals through their devoted representatives. I have seen the "visuals" in the particular case of your interest and I continue to remain a skeptic.

What I care a great deal about is the Afghan and US loss of lives.

jay / October 14, 2010 8:35 AM

Ah, my dear friend Ali has rejoined us, but he has lost his spectacles and substituted past spectacle. It looks like Colin Powell to you, Ali, standing among those mounds of Iranian manufactured guns and mines and rocket launchers in Herat? It sure looks like Afghan border police to me.

Afghan, African American, what's the difference? Right, friend?

Jay, your expressions of skepticism are much more reasonable. Here is why I lend relative credence to the evidence and reports of Iranian arms trafficking that come from Western and Western-aligned sources: there is not any great motivation to deceive with such reports.

Colin Powell's sad performance at the UN is actually the perfect counterexample. The motivation for all the shallow, hyped-up "evidence" presented then is clear: to fabricate the veneer of a casus belli against Iraq (I know my dear friend Ali will appreciate my adoption of his favorite Latinism). But that simply doesn't apply in this case. If there is going to be war with Iran--or a U.S.-approved attack--the casus belli is already well-established and it has nothing to do with arming Afghan insurgents: it's the (yes, hyped-up) threat of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. And the case for interim sanctions is equally well-established and entirely independent: there's that supposed weapons program again, and now, at last, the very real issue of outrageous human rights violations (whether general sanctions are just and either general or individual sanctions are effective are very different questions).

We know from history that no powerful country is above putting on a "dazzling show" if it suits its purposes. But, simply put, there is precious little motivation for the Western powers to do so in this case. It is very, very likely that we are seeing Afghan policemen complain about weapons coming from Iran to Afghan insurgents because weapons are in fact coming from Iran to Afghan insurgents and Afghan policemen would really, really like it if that stopped.

Salman / October 14, 2010 9:15 AM


Organizations, and governments are groups of individuals, correct? More on this later....

To use your example, Ronald Reagan was a proven liar. But does that mean those that carried out his wishes were liars? In the case of Oliver North and those that conducted arms sales to Iran were liars. What's more they took every effort they could to keep these sales from anyone they could.

Reagan is an etremely good example when comparing Iran's government supplying it's allies to it's east and west. Obviously it was much easier to catch Reagan in his lies because there were a majority of an opposite party in congress, and a press that was anxious, and most importantly, not threatended by imprisonment or death, to reveal the lies of Reagan. In Iran today we do not have this luxury.

Although it is much more difficult, for the reasons mentioned, it is clear that some of the individuals who are members of the Iranian government, have, and are supplying various political groups in Afganistan, Iraq, and Lebanon, and probably Jordan, and less conclusively Saudi Arabia, and Yemen and Egypt.

..............Back to your individuals comprise governments arguement. This is a very important point. Especially in Iran. Where the government is comprised of many individuals who are quite fractious. Governments are groups of people who find comfort in numbers. They are people who can exerted their will somewhat comfortably, because they other individuals (i.e. police) will enforce their will. In Iran today, there is just the barest majority of individuals in government willing to carry out many of the orders passed down from from their superiors.

But there is still a majority of these individuals, who are stealing their paychecks from the ordinary Iranian people, from various, coercive methods who are using those resources to supply others in it's neighboring countries.

Once more, and maybe finally. Have you even bothered to look at evidence, from anyone, about supplies from Iranian government officals to Iraq and Afganistan? If you'd like just look at the denials from Iran. They are instructive, in and of themselves.

It seems you really don't care. It seems your main goal is to defend the individuals in the Iranian government at all costs. If that is so, just say so. It'll save us all alot of time.

muhammad billy bob / October 14, 2010 11:15 PM

Dear M.BillyBob,

I know that you have been accused of carrying water for various US government agencies. I could care less if it is true or not. I only care if you are making a cogent statement that can be rationally discussed.

Your latest post is full of accusations, innuendo, and other irrational thought patterns that is difficult to discern.

Name calling and accusations are the bastion of the ill-willed and the ill-mannered. I will let you be!

Jay / October 14, 2010 11:32 PM

Ali from Tehran,

Who would you trust more? Colin Powell or Khamenei?

It's a close call. Both are pretty well known liars.

I'd go with Powell....Because he lives in a society that has people who are free to examine if his claims are correct. But, I'd still be skeptical, as Jay says.

Khamanei does not live in a society where it is exceptable to question his lies. When someone questions Khamanei's idiotic claims, no one is allowed to investigate, at penalty of long terms in rather bad prisons.

Just a side note, As an Iranian I would think you would know that Iraq had WMD's at one point. They certainly used them against Iranian troops. It was not very likely they would have used them against the U.S. proper, but they did have them. Are you denying this? Afterall, the only proof that Iraq had chemical weapons was from the U.S. and it's allies, including Iran, which was a receipent of U.S. weapons sales in the mid '80's when these so called attacks of Iraqi WMD's happened. Did it not happen because the U.S. evil media reported it happended?

muhammad billy bob / October 14, 2010 11:36 PM

Salman plumbs new depths of insincerity with his latest post. He now avers:

“Here is why I lend relative credence to the evidence and reports of Iranian arms trafficking that come from Western and Western-aligned sources: there is not any great motivation to deceive with such reports.”

“If there is going to be war with Iran--or a U.S.-approved attack--the casus belli is already well-established and it has nothing to do with arming Afghan insurgents: it's the (yes, hyped-up) threat of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.”

“But, simply put, there is precious little motivation for the Western powers to [forge or hype Iranian arms trafficking] in this case.”

What a meretricious line of reasoning you advance, Salman: since there is already a single casus belli there is no “motivation” for the West to concoct more.

As with Iraq, there is a need for a litany of accusations to coopt various constituencies in the war-making nations. It’s never sound policy to put all your eggs in one hyped and heaving basket. The nuclear file motivates some, threats to Israel and links to al-Qaeda antagonize others, and involvement in attacks on US personnel aggravates the all-important military constituency who may otherwise be wary of opening a large new front.

The fact that Observer broached the non-sequitur of Iranian arms trafficking to Afghan and Iraqi resistance in response to an article speculating on cyber-sabotage of the Iranian nuclear program, and your own opportunistic harping on human rights abuses, neatly illustrates this multi-pronged approach.

Allegations of Iranian aid to the Taliban should be taken by those raising them to the UN and investigated by an impartial panel of experts. Don’t quibble with the definition of ‘impartiality’ or ask what it would all be in aid of. I’ve already dealt with those silly diversions above.

Those mounds of Iranian weaponry may yield unexpected secrets to eyes more expert than yours.

Ali from Tehran / October 14, 2010 11:40 PM

Dear, dear Ali. Do you really think you're fooling anyone?

"Allegations of Iranian aid to the Taliban should be taken by those raising them to the UN and investigated by an impartial panel of experts."

Oh, "should" they? Why don't we start with an even more important issue, one on which economic sanctions are now directly based, and one much more likely to be the focus of a potential casus belli: the outrageous human abuses that continue to be perpetrated by your beloved IRI regime. May we start with an impartial UN investigation of those? I'm sure you agree, dear friend, that we "should" begin there.

Unfortunately, the regime has also not allowed any independent UN human rights monitors into Iran since 2005, despite repeated requests. Hmmm..., as we like to say, dear chum.

When we see you demonstrate your "sincerity" by championing that long-thwarted impartial UN investigation, I'm sure we'll all be moved to join your fevered demands for one in Herat.

Salman / October 15, 2010 1:10 AM


You’re madly hopping around from issue to issue, non-friend. It’s bad for your knees and quite embarrassing to watch.

My “beloved” IRI regime? Still mind-reading?

IRI’s galling human rights abuses are a proven topic and not in dispute by me or anyone else on this board.

Moreover, it's the height of improbability that "proving" these abuses in UN fora would motivate opinion in the war-making states to embark on a new military adventure, or even provide sufficient legal cover for it.

Stop filibustering and do try your honest best to stay on topic.

Ali from Tehran / October 15, 2010 9:20 AM

Oh, Ali, my dear friend. Talk about some embarrassing hopping around.

The topic is impartial UN investigations into issues causing contention between Iran and the West. I believe you are the only person who is begging on his knees for such an investigation into the rather blatant arms trafficking from (oh, "whomever" in) Iran to Afghan insurgents. On the other hand, many, many people--including, if you were unaware, many, many Iranians--have asked for such an investigation into human rights abuses within the Islamic Republic of Iran. It appears that you share the opinion of the IRI regime that such an investigation would be entirely worthless. That's really all we need to hear from you to know you. Good night, bunny.

Salman / October 15, 2010 2:00 PM

Sleep tight, Salman. Shalom.

Ali from Tehran / October 16, 2010 4:58 AM