Morning Report: November 2, 2006

The long arm of the regime. Iran shoots missiles, while London cops hassle an anti-regime activist.

Iran announces Shahab-3 test firing in new exercises. Debka: 'Iran announces test-firing of ballistic Shehab-3 missiles in first hours of new military maneuvers. Several kinds of short-range missiles were also launched in central desert area of Iran early Thursday, Nov. 2. Iran responded Wednesday night, Nov. 1, to the US-led naval movements and buildup in the in the Red Sea (see separate item) with an announcement by its Revolutionary Guard commander General Rahim Safavi of a big, new naval exercise opening on Nov. 2. Dubbed Great Prophet, the 10-day maneuver will take place in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. The RC Air Force would, he said, for the first time test-fire the Shehab-3 (picture of first firing) armed with “a cluster warhead.”' (Debka)

British police try to arrest Khatami plaintiff. Azarmehr:
British police today [November 1] tried to arrest Safa Einollahi as soon as he arrived to join other protesters against Khatami outside Chatham House today, but other protesters fought with the police and prevented them from taking Safa away.

Safa is one of the two Iranian refugees who had applied to the Met Police to have Khatami arrested under Section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1998. This Act requires the arrest of any individual, regardless of nationality, where there is evidence that they committed, condoned or colluded with acts of torture. The legislation has a universal jurisdiction, and therefore covers torture committed by Iranians against Iranians in Iran. Section 134, which incorporates the UN Convention Against Torture 1984 into UK law, also holds high state officials responsible if they fail to stop torture.

More on Sina Einollahi: 'The Metropolitan police have confirmed that they are investigating complaints lodged by two Iranian exiles who claim they were falsely imprisoned and brutally tortured while Khatami was in office. Safa Einollahi, 29, and Ali Ebrahimi, 34, claim that Khatami, who was in power from 1997 to 2005, was ultimately responsible for the atrocities they endured. They want him arrested under the 1988 Criminal Justice Act, which allows for any individual, regardless of nationality, to be arrested for carrying out, condoning or colluding in crimes of torture anywhere in the world.'
Azarmehr adds:
In a more sinister move, the Metroplitan police also entered Safa's house last night and interrogated him. Asking him questions like "What other friends do you have in Britain who were previously detained in Iran."

Sue Wilkinson from the Metropolitan Police, yesterday replied to the application made by Sabi & Associates lawyers who were acting on behalf of the two Iranian refugees and refused to issue an arrest warrant saying there was insufficient evidence that Khatami personally committed such acts of torture or ordered them to be conducted.

There's more. Read the full post at the link. (Azarmeher, The Times)

Bolton points finger at Syria, Lebanon. AP via Iran Focus: 'U.S. Ambassador John Bolton accused Syria and Iran on Monday of trying to destabilize Lebanon's democratically elected government by violating a U.N. arms embargo. Bolton stressed that Syria's obligations to respect a U.N. arms embargo authorized by the Security Council resolution that ended the 34-day Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in August "are particularly important as it is the one country other than Israel that borders Lebanon." Syria and Iran are supporters of Hezbollah, providing weaponry, training and funding to the group. He called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to abide by the commitment he made to Secretary-General Kofi Annan to support the resolution and the arms embargo.' (AP)

Missing soldier still being held. Reuters via Yahoo: 'The U.S. military said on Thursday it believed an American soldier who was abducted in Baghdad 10 days ago is still being held by his captors. U.S. military spokesman Major General William Caldwell also told a news conference there was a "tremendous amount of political activity" under way to secure the release of the U.S. soldier of Iraqi descent, who was kidnapped by gunmen while visiting relatives after leaving the security of the Green Zone. Caldwell identified the soldier as Ahmed al-Taie, a 41-year-old linguist and said he was visiting family "including his Iraqi wife" when he was kidnapped. His family told reporters he was taken by Shi'ite militiamen. "At this point, we believe the ones who kidnapped Ahmed currently still have him," Caldwell told reporters.' (Reuters)

Imagine our relief. Iran cannot build ICBMs. So says Russia's top general on RIA Novosti: 'Iran does not yet have the capability to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, Russia's top army general said Thursday. Tehran reported earlier on Thursday it has successfully launched several dozen long-range ballistic missiles during its ongoing large-scale military exercises. "According to our information, Iran does not currently have the technological and technical capability to build an intercontinental [ballistic] missile," Army General Yury Baluyevsky, chief of the General Staff of Russia's Armed Forces, told journalists. He said Iran's activity, if any, to develop ICBMs will be closely watched by the world's intelligence agencies. Moreover, such activity is restricted by international regulations on the development of cutting-edge missile technology, as well as by Tehran's non-proliferation commitments.' (RIA Novosti)

Commentary. I want to come back to an earlier post by Azarmehr, in which the UK resident wraps up his US visit with a tour of the Voice of America, Persian service studios:
... I had no idea however that I had such a reputation amongst some of the VOA staff until we visited the studios. As soon as I entered the room, one of the staff who preferred to speak English, said to our host who was introducing us "Is this the guy who is always criticising us on his weblog?"

"Don't worry, criticism makes you stronger." I replied and followed our host.

"As long as it is fair criticism" He shouted back.

I broke from our group and turned back and asked "Which one do you think was not a fair one?" I was intrigued to know.

"I am not saying you have not been fair, I am just saying keep being fair". He said.

Well that was a fair point. One can't argue with that. We should always strive to be fair.

But the most surprising reaction was from Bill Royce. When he saw me in the studio, his eyes nearly popped out and I thought he was going to have a heart attack. I was in email correspondence with Bill Royce back in 1996, when I started the website for NMIR in memory of Dr. Bakhtiar. I think my last email to him was when I expressed condolences at the time his wife passed away. I saw no reason for any animosity between him and I. Yet it seemed that a few critical reviews of VOA Persian programs and style, had turned this guy very much against me. Well too bad, people that wish to have a job for life and not be accountable to anyone, should not work in institutions that claim to represent a democratic system. It gives the wrong impression.

When I left Royce's office, I heard him say behind my back, "What is that right wing Fascist doing here in the studio?"

And these are supposed to be the good guys. These are the people our Government entrusts to spread its message - the voice, as it were, of America. WTF?

You might remember that Iranian activist Ghazal Omid was none too impressed with the State Department's efforts:
I have appeared on Voice of America and Radio Farda many times in English, Farsi, Kurdish and Afghan. You should be made aware that both censor my anti-regime comments, cautioning me off-air to be respectful to the Iranian authorities. Many of the people running VOA and Radio Farda left Iran after the revolution as political refugees. Some of them travel to Iran frequently via their Iranian passport while working, as a US citizen, for VOA in the United States. Many have lives and businesses in both countries and are trying to keep their feet dry in both places.

So whatever the people at the top may say about standing firm against the islamist regime in Tehran, we also have to deal with the lower-level regime enablers - whether the functionaries in Foggy Bottom or Red Ken's buddies in London.