Thursday, May 05, 2005

SEC Asks for Iran Disclosure

Yahoo News:

LONDON - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has asked oil companies, including Total SA and Norsk Hydro ASA, to disclose commissions they may have paid while doing business in Iran, a person familiar with the inquiry said.

That person said a letter from the SEC highlights concern that companies may have financed terrorism by doing business in Syria, Iran and Libya.

Its main focus, however, is Iran. The letter tells companies: "We want to know if you have paid commissions on contracts to the Iranian government ... the object of this inquiry is to help you to improve your disclosures" in SEC filings.

The person said the letter from the SEC was sent to a number of oil and oil services companies between December and February.

The letter, seen by the person, emphasizes Iran's embargoed status under the U.S. Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996, though the SEC's primary goal appears to be a check on whether companies have breached anti-corruption regulations.

The SEC in 2004 was ordered by the U.S. Congress to set up the unit to monitor companies that have operations in Iran and other countries under U.S. sanction.

"The SEC is looking at this," confirmed Kathryn Cameron Atkinson, a Washington lawyer with Miller and Chevalier Chartered who has advised the SEC on anti-corruption investigations.

Representatives of Norsk Hydro and Total said the companies had received the letter but they didn't provide details on its content.

Norway's Norsk Hydro is operator of the Anaran block in Iran in cooperation with the National Iranian Oil Co.

It has submitted bids for the massive Yadavaran fields, as well as other onshore blocks.

France's Total has a license for the South Pars offshore gas field.

Royal Dutch/Shell Group, which has two concessions in Iran's northern Persian Gulf concessions, has previously said it received an SEC letter in 2003 on its activities in the republic but said it didn't receive the latest letter.

A spokesman for the SEC declined to comment.

Though the letter is only a request for information, foreign companies can be investigated for bribes outside the United States if they are listed in New York through American Depository Receipts.

If wrongdoing is proved, a company faces the risk of fines from the courts and the SEC.

A lawyer familiar with the SEC said the standardized letter may be an attempt to uncover wrongdoing similar to those found in a recent lawsuit against Statoil ASA of Norway.

The 71 percent state-owned company is still under investigation for allegations of a $15 million bribe to the son of an ex-Iranian president.

The company accepted a fine by the Norwegian government last year for the bribery charges.

A Statoil spokesman said he wasn't aware the company had received the SEC letter.

In July, Swiss automation technologies company ABB Ltd. paid $16.4 million to settle SEC charges that it bribed government officials in Nigeria, Angola and Kazakhstan. It didn't admit guilt.

Another public execution in Iran

Iran Mania:

LONDON, May 5 (IranMania) - Five men convicted of "murder" or "armed robbery"

were hanged in Iran Wednesday, one of them publicly in the southwestern city of Ahvaz and four others in a prison in the capital, officials said.

Quoted by the official news agency IRNA, a judiciary official in Ahvaz said a man only identified as Reza H. was executed for stabbing to death Hossein A.. No further details were given.

The hangings in Tehran were carried out at dawn inside the city's main Evin prison, a judiciary official told AFP without giving any further details.

Press reports identified the four convicts as Hatam Gorgi, sentenced for the murder of a young man in a park; Ali Asghar Hojabri, who was found guilty of slaying a family of five; "armed robber" Mohammad Faranaki and triple killer Ali Asghar Mardi.

So far this year Iran has executed at least 21 people, according to an AFP tally based on witness and press reports.

In 2004 at least 159 people were executed in the Islamic republic -- the highest rate in the world after China -- according to human rights watchdog Amnesty International.

"Iran's" capital "offences" include murder, rape, armed robbery, apostasy, blasphemy, serious drug trafficking, repeated sodomy, adultery or prostitution, treason and espionage.


Cox and Forkum:

From The Seattle Times: Iran plans to resume uranium activities.

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran said yesterday [April 30] it is likely to resume uranium enrichment-related activities within a week, a process it halted last year to build confidence in talks with European countries and avoid referral to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

Tehran's announcement came a day after talks in London with European negotiators yielded no results. France, Britain and Germany, acting on behalf of the 25-nation European Union, are seeking guarantees from Iran that it will not use its nuclear program to make weapons, as Washington suspects.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Holy City of Qom is Hell for Bloggers

Reporters Without Borders:

Reporters Without Borders today condemned a crackdown on cyber-journalists and bloggers in the southern city of Qom where Mojtaba Lotfi, who is serving a nearly four-year sentence for articles he posted on the Internet, is gravely ill in prison and where local courts are harassing two bloggers, Farid Farid Modaressi and Mohamad Reza Fathi.

"Writing about politics or even social issues is an act of bravery in Iran, especially as the local authorities are now taking over the role of gagging bloggers from the central government," the press freedom organization said.

"For this reason, we hail the human rights report which has just been adopted by the European parliament and which condemns Iran's 'abject policies' towards journalists and cyber-dissidents," the organization added.

A teacher, Fathi was first summoned on 26 March by Edareh Amaken (a police office who specializes in investigating vice) and interrogated about his blog,, in which he has criticized the provincial government and the mayor of Saveh, near Qom. In a letter to President Mohammad Khatami, he voiced exasperation at the "scant capacity of civil servants to accept criticism."

The local police arrested him nine days later in the street, in front of his students, and paraded him handcuffed through the city. He was held for three days and was questioned again in a secret session without his lawyer being present. On his release, he was resigned to closing down his blog, despite its local popularity. Nonetheless, he will have to appear before the local judicial authorities again on various charges including publishing false information, insult, and disturbing the peace.

Modaressi, a blogger who was already imprisoned for a month at the end of last year, has received a summons to appear before a court in Qom on 14 May on charges of "insulting regime officials" in comments about the president and others in his blog, He has also been summoned to appear before a Tehran court on 10 May on a charge of "attacking state security."

Reporters Without Borders has learned that the health of Lotfi, a cyber-journalist and Qom resident, has seriously deteriorated since he was sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison in February. The conditions inside the prison have reportedly aggravated a lung ailment he has had since being exposed to chemical warfare during the Iran-Iraq war.

In its report on human rights worldwide in 2004, that was approved on 28 April, the European parliament condemned Iran's "abject policies" as regards the arrest and imprisonment of journalists and cyber-dissidents and violations of press and media freedom.

Trading with Our Enemies

American Enterprise Institute :

Zimbabwe Sucks Up to Iran, China, and North Korea

By Roger Bate Posted: Monday, May 2, 2005 ARTICLES Weekly Standard, Volume 010, Issue 32 Publication Date: May 9, 2005

As Western nations shun the Robert Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe, less scrupulous nations are filling the void. China, North Korea, and Iran are lending financial, military, and commercial support. Two weeks ago, Zimbabwe announced the purchase of six fighter aircraft from China with another six on the way. Enemy number one is Britain, claims Mugabe, and it wants to recolonize his country. He also alleges that George W. Bush is a threat: "We'll put up more of a fight than the Iraqis did." Such crazy talk would be amusing if the dictator's people weren't starving, and if he weren't building strong relations with regimes almost as odious as his own, and certainly more dangerous to us.

There is little doubt that Mugabe needs help. Having used his meager food supplies and hard currency as bribes in last month's stolen election, he has run out of resources. With the United States, the European Union, the Commonwealth nations, the World Bank, and most other agencies not wanting to help, he has established a "Look East" policy.

Talk has turned to whether immediate food needs might be funded by China or Iran. "We don't know where they will get the money from," says one aid worker. "[Iranian president Mohammad] Khatami was in Zimbabwe recently, so we wonder if it's someone like that."

South Africa was buying grain on behalf of Zimbabwe, but has recently stopped this practice. Some 40,000 tons a month are being sent from South Africa to private buyers in the city of Bulawayo. It is possible these are government-to-government sales, though South African traders refuse to deal with the Zimbabwean Grain Marketing Board because of nonpayment problems in the past. One trader tells me to expect an increase in food traffic between South Africa and Zimbabwe over the next few weeks, as more funding, probably from Tehran, buys grain in Johannesburg. If true, one wonders, What the Iranians are getting in return? Mugabe is turning to less reputable nations because the Southern African Development Community is angry with him over the damage he has caused to regional reputations. Neighboring leaders are quietly applying pressure, such as demanding priority over Zimbabwe in food aid from South Africa. (Late-season droughts and poor management destroyed much of the maize crop in Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique.) Although his neighbors publicly support Mugabe, and endorsed the recent stolen election, none wants to go to Harare to be the first to congratulate him on his victory.

Mozambican president Armando Guebuza, who was elected in November, has deliberately shunned Zimbabwe. "We have so far visited Angola, Botswana, and South Africa. We have deliberately side-stepped Zimbabwe because it is coming out of a controversial election," said a senior aide two weeks ago. "We will visit Zimbabwe and Namibia sometime, not now because we do not want to be seen as the first country to endorse the government there by undertaking an official state visit," added the official.

With neighbors like these, it's no wonder Zimbabwe has had to cultivate other relationships. Mugabe has longstanding ties to North Korea, whose military trained Zimbabwe's notorious fifth brigade, which, on behalf of Mugabe, slaughtered 20,000 Ndebele in the 1980s. The North Koreans are short of food themselves, but cash transfers--to support food and military purchases--are possibly ongoing. Another nation Zimbabwe enjoys good relations with is Malaysia, where Mugabe and his wife Grace spend several weeks a year shopping in Kuala Lumpur.

While his people starve, Mugabe has spent $200 million on aircraft to defend himself against a nonexistent enemy. The aircraft are the K-8 advanced jet trainer, a Chinese copy of the British Aerospace Hawk. British prime minister Margaret Thatcher okayed sales of the Hawk to Zimbabwe soon after independence in 1980.

But in 2000 spare parts became scarce after Tony Blair slapped an embargo on trade with Zimbabwe to protest human rights abuses. So China has taken up the slack, selling spare parts and now the jets themselves.

So far these eastern governments' interest in Zimbabwe poses little or no threat, but some day they may require a payoff from their nasty African ally. So Washington will have to stay abreast of happenings in Africa's southern heart of darkness. South African political analyst Greg Mills, testifying before the House International Relations Committee last week, thinks the United States should continue to engage the different factions within Mugabe's own party, ZANU-PF. "There are fissures everywhere within the party," he told me, "and the U.S. must maintain dialogue.

Regime change is not likely, but change within the regime is possible."

However it comes, change is needed for the starving of Zimbabwe and to prevent the long-term threat of Mugabe's "Look East" policy.

_____ Roger Bate is a resident fellow at AEI.

Happy Days Are Here Again

Opinion Journal:

America stands astride the world, stronger and more self-confident than ever.


Wednesday, May 4, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

It's always risky to celebrate security and good times, especially in an age when there is no way to rule out that along with the usual perils of life, we will suffer another terrorist attack. But this spring, more than 3 1/2 years after Sept. 11, it does seem that since that day America has weathered a rough passage awfully well. That, and with the cherry trees just done blooming in Washington and New York's Central Park full of flowers (and, in the grand old tradition, amateur baseball teams), it feels worth a moment to stand back and observe that for all the usual ructions of politics and the more prominent idiocies of such institutions as Hollywood, academia and the imploding United Nations in our midst, rarely in recent decades has there been more sanity and self-respect abroad in this land.

That is clear not only in such minor but telling details as the humor with which Laura Bush, onstage at a press dinner in Washington this weekend, poked affectionate fun at the president's early bedtime habits--and was received with clamorous applause by an audience not overly loving of George W. Bush. It is also clear in such major matters as the resolve of most Americans, despite the loud groans of our most precious elite, to stay united behind the president in the need to win both the wars and the peace, in Afghanistan, Iraq and by extension a world in which we spend less effort appeasing our enemies and do more to address real threats. Better times can be seen in an economic recovery that has left room for the country to debate such matters as the fixing of the decrepit and wasteful Social Security system. And broadly better days are manifest in the general grace with which Americans in recent times have put up with high gas prices, disastrous weather, the threat of more terrorist attacks and the costs of trying to prevent them.

It has been a while since it was popular to refer to Mr. Bush by way of the diminutive "W." It has also been a while since anyone wondered whether Mr. Bush could name the capital of Togo, or for that matter of France. Even more to the point, it has been a while since the American press was flooded with anguished soul-searching articles exploring whether or not the rest of the world--especially in those quarters dominated by tyrants--loves us. In keeping with the doctrine of democratization that Mr. Bush put forward three years ago, the focus has switched to what we appreciate about our own values. With that comes a degree of integrity that the silent majority of the unfree world can appreciate far more than any cloying efforts by Washington to win friends by wooing despots who claim illegitimately to speak for their people.

The results have been much written about in recent times, but they bear noting again. As happened when President Reagan stood fast and spoke up in the 1980s about the "evil empire," places deemed lost to the free world have been waking up. Not only are we seeing a huge movement for democracy in Lebanon, along with stirrings in Egypt and even Syria and Saudi Arabia. Last week, in Washington, a North Korean defector announced the founding in this country of a group of North Korean dissidents-in-exile, dedicated to replacing what is probably the worst tyranny on the planet with a free society. It is a small beginning, but it is one more sign of a world changing for the better.

It gets hard even to remember at this point, but less than five years ago, in what feels like another age of the world--and perhaps it was--the talk of America was whether our future as a democracy hung on the swinging chads of the Florida election recount. Some doubted that the republic could survive this experience unmaimed. Along with that, the dot-com bubble burst. The recession into which the country had already begun sliding got worse. Then came the Sept. 11 attacks that scorched the Pentagon and leveled the Twin Towers. And as America picked itself up from these acts of war, there were lamentations not only for those who died, but for the loss of American innocence.

It was not in truth innocence that had been lost. America, like any free nation, depends on a system of trust, engendered by liberty and rule of law. This accounted for the spell of almost odd gentility with which we treated each other in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. And it accounts for the resolve that we have by and large discovered since. What we lost was a crippling naivetι, cultivated in the narcissistic 1990s. What we regained was pride in our country, and a revived appreciation both of the values that have made America great, and the need--even at high cost, or in the face of such stuff as U.N. disapproval--to defend them.


There are exceptions, of course. We could have lived without the recent spectacle of Mr. Bush helping Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah, a member of one of the world's most repressive regimes, down a bumpy path at the Crawford Ranch. We could do without the praise that has been lavished on one of the world's cruelest and most capricious dictators, Moammar Gadhafi, who gave up his nuclear bomb program out of fear, not friendship.

But overall, we have entered in era in which America--more than at any time since Ronald Reagan's presidency--speaks the truth and appreciates the worth of its own system, which is what has made it both powerful and free. More tough tests lie ahead. But I think it is worth taking a moment, in spring, to note how well we have weathered those of recent years.

Ms. Rosett is a journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Her column appears here and in The Wall Street Journal Europe on alternate Wednesdays.

The Hand of the Mullahs

The National Review:

The Hand of the Mullahs

What we know, and what we don’t do.

The State Department has once again awarded the blue ribbon to the mullahs of Tehran:

Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 2004. Its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Ministry of Intelligence and Security were involved in the planning and support of terrorist acts and continued to exhort a variety of groups to use terrorism in pursuit of their goals.

This is no small accomplishment, even for the leaders of the Islamic republic. As recent events in Iraq make all too clear, there are still lots of terrorists with an insatiable appetite for the blood of their friends and neighbors, even if it has gotten much harder for them to slaughter crusaders and infidels. As Coalition fighters repeatedly report, Iran's claw marks — often side by side with the Syrians' and the Saudis' — are all over innumerable terrorist strikes, from Fallujah and Hilla to Baghdad and Mosul in Iraq, and, with the melting snows, across Afghanistan as well.

It is not hard to get this story; I have abundant first-hand testimony to these facts from military and civilian sources in both countries. Any serious news organization could get it, but none seems to want it.The State Department knows it, and says so in its own peculiar convoluted way:

Iran pursued a variety of policies in Iraq during 2004, some of which appeared to be inconsistent with Iran's stated objectives regarding stability in Iraq... Senior (Iraqi) officials have publicly expressed concern over Iranian interference in Iraq, and there were reports that Iran provided funding, safe transit, and arms to insurgent elements...

In normal English, that would read, "Iran says it wants stability in Iraq, but it isn't so; the mullahcracy supports the terrorists." Had the State Department been interested in expanding its context ever so slightly, it could have added, "and its support for the terrorists is coordinated with the Syrians." A few months ago, American forces in Iraq captured photographs and documents about a meeting in Syria between Iraqi terrorists and Syrian and Iranian intelligence officials. Similar information was found in Fallujah.

If we cast our gaze elsewhere, we find the Iranians fighting democracy in Lebanon. Their Syrian buddies have withdrawn their armed forces — while sending their intelligence officers back into the country in new wardrobes — which leaves the Lebanese to the tender mercies of Hezbollah, the Iranian-created and mullah-operated organization that is the most dangerous band of killers on earth. And they have other allies, too, ranging from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (Ahmad Gibril's assassins, who have taken over a goodly number of rocket launchers and T55 tanks that the Syrians thoughtfully left behind in Damour and in the Bekaa Valley) to the militias of the Syrian Socialist National Party, the Baath Party, and the Tawhid in Tripoli.

All this raises some very embarrassing questions for President Bush and his top strategists. We know this is going on, yet we are fighting a purely defensive war in Iraq alone. The Iranians, Syrians, and Saudis have all heard the president say he wants an end to tyranny in the Middle East, because he understands the passionate embrace between the tyrants and the terrorists. The Iranian, Syrian and Saudi terror masters know that those words are aimed at their rule, and they are rightly afraid, afraid that Bush's vision will inspire their own people to become the gravediggers of the old regimes.

The terror masters hoped and expected that they would be able to turn Iraq into a replay of Lebanon in the 1980s, when they drove American and French armed forces out of the country. But they have failed. Contrary to their hopes and expectations, we — and the Iraqi people — have not been spooked by the wave of terror, and the Iraqis have demonstrated grit, bravery, and patience far beyond most expectations. Indeed, as the slaughter of innocent Iraqis grows, the people are manifestly becoming more resolute; dead national guardsmen and soldiers are quickly replaced with new volunteers, and the murder of government officials has not deterred Iraqi citizens from participating in government. The Iraqis are fighting back.

Worst of all, from the standpoint of the terror masters, the ultimate threat — freedom — is growing stronger, just as the president wishes, and freedom is spreading even though, despite his constant promises to support democratic revolution, he is doing virtually nothing to help it. He, along with Secretaries Rice and Rumsfeld, has not rallied to the side of the Iranian people, even though the Iranians have abundantly demonstrated their desire to be rid of the mullahs. Two weeks ago there were massive demonstrations and work stoppages in the oil-rich regions, centering around the city of Ahwaz. The demonstrators called for an end to the regime, scores of people were killed, and hundreds were beaten and arrested. On May Day, workers again demonstrated against the regime, this time in all the major cities. In Tehran, strongman and likely president-in-waiting Hashemi Rafsanjani was hooted down by the crowd, and pictures of him and Supreme Leader Khamenei were torn down and trampled. Yet no one in the American Government spoke a word of support for the demonstrators, and no one has yet endorsed the one thing that unites the overwhelming majority of Iranians, whatever their political proclivities: a national referendum on the legitimacy of the regime itself. If there were a national ballot on the single question — Do you want an Islamic republic? — the regime would pass into history overnight. But there is silence in official Washington.

The anti-Rafsanjani demonstrations are very important, because Rafsanjani will soon formally declare his candidacy for the presidency. Elections are scheduled for June, and the regime is desperate to "prove" its standing with the people. To that end, they will use force and trickery to produce a huge voter turnout. They will compel all government employees and all military personnel to go to the polls, and they will spread rumors (if you don't vote, you'll never get an exit visa; if you don't vote, your family members will be punished, etc.) to bring the unwilling to vote. The mullahs know that many millions of Iranians plan to boycott the elections, in a kind of silent demonstration of contempt.

The trickery has to do with Rafsanjani's grand return to national politics (he is an ex-president). He intends to campaign as the anti-establishment candidate par excellence, and has reportedly connived with Khamenei to prepare a super-reformist image. Rafsanjani intends to run against the Supreme Leader, criticizing the regime's performance on everything from foreign policy (hoping to seduce the West into thinking that he — who has been a key figure in the mullahcracy for decades — will produce the long awaited "opening" to the United States) to the management of the economy. It is unlikely that many Iranians will fall for this; they remember Rafsanjani as one of the most brutal leaders of the vicious crackdown on the student demonstration of the late eighties (a story recounted in shocking detail in the memoirs of the Grand Ayatollah Montazeri), and they are aware of the billions that he and his family have reportedly stashed away in foreign banks and real estate.

All of this is public information, yet we do not hear it from our leaders, and the silence in Washington must be terribly discouraging to the Iranian people. It will get even worse if the Rafsanjani ploy or others that will follow are taken seriously by our diplomats, as they surely will by those Europeans eager to continue to do business in Iran and restrain the United States from pursuing regime change there.

It is long past time for the president to show that he is serious about winning the war against terror; it can't be done by speeches alone, and it doesn't require armed invasion. But it does require action: political action to support and aid the forces of democratic revolution in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.

If you listen to the hateful speeches of Rafsanjani, Khamenei, and the other tyrants in Tehran, you will hear them warning us that our day of judgment will soon arrive. They publicly enlist thousands of would-be martyrs, eager to wage jihad against us wherever they find us, here and overseas. And they are already here. In early March, Mr. Mahmoud Youssef Kourani, a resident of Dearborn, Michigan, pled guilty to providing material support to Hezbollah. The Detroit News carried the story, of which the last three paragraphs deserve our most careful attention:

Kourani received training in weaponry, spy craft and counterintelligence in Lebanon and Iran...Kourani was "a member, fighter, recruiter and fund-raiser for Hezbollah." His brother is Hezbollah's chief of military security in southern Lebanon and oversaw Kourani's activities.

Kourani...has been in custody since May 2003, when federal agents...charged him with harboring an illegal immigrant. Kourani pleaded guilty, served six months in a federal prison and was awaiting deportation...when he was indicted in 2004 on the terror charge.

We're talking about the brother of the chief of Hezbollah's military security in Lebanon, a man trained as an agent by the Iranians.

We dawdle at our peril, and yet we dawdle.

To continue to say "faster, please" is like spitting into the wind. We're back at September 10, waiting for our enemies to rouse us from our contented torpor.


Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. He is resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.

Iran: Further information on: Fear of imminent execution, Abbas Hosseini

Amnesty International:

PUBLIC AI Index: MDE 13/018/2005 03 May 2005

Further Information on UA 87/05 (MDE 13/011/2005, 15 April 2005) Fear of imminent execution


Abbas Hosseini (m), Afghan national, aged 19The execution of Abbas Hosseini has been stayed until 8 May 2005. He had been scheduled to be executed on 1 May for a murder committed when he was 17. If his execution goes ahead, it will be in breach of treaties that expressly prohibit the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by those under the age of 18.

According to reports on 30 April, the stay was granted in order to give the victim's family another opportunity to accept payment of compensation (diyeh) in return for the commutation of the death sentence. The family has so far insisted that the death sentence be carried out.

If the victim's family continue to insist on the death penalty, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei, may still commute the death sentence or pardon Abbas Hosseini. However, under Article 24 of The Islamic Criminal Code and Article 110 of Iran's Constitution, the Supreme Leader can only act if the Head of the Judiciary recommends a commutation or a pardon.


As a state party to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Iran has undertaken not to execute anyone for an offence committed when they were under the age of 18.

Nevertheless, 11 child offenders have been executed in Iran since 1990, and at least 36 children are under sentence of death. On 20 January 2005 Iman Farokhi was executed for a crime committed when he was 17 years old. On the same day an Iranian governmental delegation claimed that Iran does not execute people under the age of 18, in a declaration to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The Committee, which monitors states' implementation of the CRC, urged Iran to immediately stay all executions of people convicted of crimes committed when they were under 18, and abolish the use of the death penalty in such cases. The Committee said that it "deplored" the fact that Iran had continued to carry out such executions even after it ratified the CRC, including the execution that had taken place that day.

For the last three years, the Iranian authorities have been considering legislation that would prohibit the use of the death penalty for offences committed under the age of 18. Rasoul Mohammadi, a 17-year-old boy who was due to be executed on 16 April at Esfahan prison was granted a stay of execution as a result of "ambiguities" about his age (see UA 86/05, MDE 13/012/2005, 14 April 2005 and follow-up, MDE 13/015/2005, 18 April 2005).

Disarming Hezbollah, freeing Lebanon

The Washington Times:

Published May 4, 2005

Although Syria's withdrawal of its 14,000 troops from Lebanon sounds like good news, it is only one step in the right direction. The Lebanese people cannot truly be free until Syria also removes thousands of intelligence operatives it maintains in Lebanon -- including those in the Bekaa Valley, a longstanding haven for terrorist training bases, and various Palestinian refugee camps throughout the country. This has not been done. In addition, Iran, which has up to 100 of its Revolutionary Guards in the country for terrorism-training purposes, needs to remove them. And Hezbollah -- the country's only indigenous militia, needs to be disarmed.

With parliamentary elections scheduled to take place on May 29, United States and France are continuing to press demand that Syrian ruler Bashar Assad remove all vestiges of Syrian control from Lebanon. On Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier issued a joint statement demanding an end to any "residual" Syrian presence on Lebanese soil. Washington and Paris issued the statement after Lebanese Prime Minister Nagib Miqati told the French newspaper Le Monde that Syrian Army troops remained "within Lebanese territory" in the eastern Bekaa Valley.

Even if the Syrian Army and intelligence services were to completely vacate Lebanon, the country cannot genuinely be considered free so long as Hezbollah -- which is in reality the cat's paw of the mullahs in Tehran -- retains its armed force. It is five years since Israel ended its occupation of southern Lebanon, the purported reason why Hezbollah needed to be armed to the teeth. The terrorist organization maintains 13,000 rockets it can target northern Israel with, along with unmanned aerial vehicles that have conducted apparent reconnaissance operations in Israeli airspace in recent months. This is particularly troubling in view of Israeli charges that most of the terrorist activities in the Palestinian territories are being directed by Hezbollah operatives based in Beirut. With the money it receives from Iran ($100-200 million a year) and logistical support from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards based in Lebanon, Hezbollah would more than hold its own in a military confrontation with the Lebanese Army. This situation is intolerable. Elections run the real risk of becoming empty exercises if a sovereign nation's army is forced to stand down should Hezbollah not accept the results.

Fortunately, President Bush has made it clear that forcing Hezbollah to disarm is an essential component of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, the measure pushed by Washington and Paris and passed in September, calling for the departure of foreign forces from Lebanon and the disarming of armed groups. Ultimately, the Lebanese people "are going to decide the fate of the country," Mr. Bush told the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation in an interview last month. Referring to Hezbollah, the president added: "And you can't have a free country if a group of people are like an armed militia. In other words, there needs to be a police organized by the state, a military organized by the state. But citizens groups that are armed, trying to impose their will on a free society is just not the definition of a free society."

In the interview, the president also appeared to raise the possibility of providing some sort of international assistance to enable Lebanon to reconstitute its security services and police. And Congress and the administration should seriously consider the possibility of providing technical assistance and training of a new Lebanese army -- one capable of protecting the people from all of the terrorist groups and militias that have brought so much death and destruction to the country. In the meantime, Washington and the international community must remain vigilant about purging all vestiges of malevolent Syrian Ba'athism from positions of authority in Lebanon.