TEHRAN MUST STOP SUPPORT TERRORISM OR FACE GRAVE CONSEQUENCES, ANALYSTS

By Safa Haeri, IPS Editor

TEHRAN-WASHINGTON 13 Sept (IPS) Two days after the terrible suicide operations by yet unidentified terrorists on major American targets inside the United States, some Iranians inside and outside the country expressed "deep concern" over the possible impact of the apocalyptic attacks on Iran.

Three passenger planes belonging to American carriers hijacked by suicide commandos crushed deliberately Tuesday morning on the twin World Trade Center towers in the posh Manhattan area of New York and over the Pentagon building in Washington D.C, killing and wounding thousands of people.

President George W. Bush termed the unprecedented operation as an "act of war" against the United States and promised that the terrorists would be identified and punished, no matter of time factor.Second tower explodes

"We have lived a national tragedy today, as our country was the target of terrorist attack. This morning, a faceless cowardice has attacked freedom, but freedom would defend itself. I want to assure the American people that all means and ways would be deployed to identify the perpetrators of these terrorist acts, as out nation stood witness to what is the worst in human nature. But we shall find these evils and give them the punishment they deserve", a shocked President told the nation from the White House.

Though the Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and some reformists joined other world leaders in condemning the terrorist attacks, but other Iranian officials blamed the deadly operation on America itself, saying Washington is responsible for international tension because of its support for Israel while some of them going as far as imputing it to Israel.

"On behalf of the Iranian government and the nation, I condemn the hijacking attempts and terrorist attacks on public centers in American cities which have killed a large number of innocent people," President Khatami said in reaction to the terrorist operation.

"My deep sympathy goes out to the American nation, particularly those who have suffered from the attacks and also the families of the victims", he said, noting, "terrorism is doomed and the international community should stem it and take effective measures in a bid to eradicate it".

But the regime’s unpopular leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i and other senior conservative tenors keep silent -- and "silence means consent", according to an Iranian proverb --.

"It is regrettable that Mr. Khatami did not offered any sympathy with the American government and leaders", observed Dr. Hooshang Amir-Ahmadi, the Head of the American-Iranian Council that works hard for normalisation of relations between Iran and the United States.

In his opinion, expressed Wednesday during an interview with the Persian service of Radio France Internationale, Mr. Khatami lost an "important and crucial" occasion to improve ties with Washington, which consider the Islamic Republic as a "rogue State" supporting international terrorism and particularly Arab and Palestinian extremist organisations opposed to peace with the Jewish State.

"America is terribly nervous and as it mourns the thousands innocent victims of the devastating terrorist attack, it is also ready to punish all terrorists and their supporters, one of them being Tehran", Mr. Amir-Ahmadi pointed out, observing that stopping all backing for terrorists is one of the US’s conditions to restore relations with Iran.

"In these sad and tragic days, Iran must act with maximum caution, or it could face terrible consequences", he warned.

For his part, Dr. Shahin Fatemi, a senior professor teaching International Economy at the American University of Paris termed as "pure hypocrisy" Mr. Khatami’s condemnation of terrorism and his sympathy to the "American people".

"So did Mo’ammar Qaddafi of Libya and the Syrian leader. Sheikh Yassine (the leader of HAMAS) and Sheikh Fazlollah (of the Lebanese Hezbollah), the Afghan Taleban and even Ben Laden", he pointed out ironically.

"His (Khatami’s) words would impress no one, as not only by terrorism he mean the rogue (Baghdad-based, Iraqi supported, financed and trained) Iranian Mojahedeen Khalq Organisation, but also it was the Islamic Republic that proudly spearheaded the hate of the Americans, with some ayatollahs going as far as encouraging anyone who would kill Americans", Mr. Fatemi observed.

Reminding Iran’s stated support for Arab extremist organisations such the Palestinian HAMAS and Islamic Jihad or the Lebanese Hezbollah and organising so-called "International" conferences to support the new intifada, such as the one held some months ago in Tehran, bringing together leaders of most Islamist radical groups, Mr. Fatemi said "with this background, there is no doubt that Iran would be in the eye of the cyclone".

"How can Iran condemn terrorism and terrorists while itself shelter terrorists", he said, referring to recent American claims that some Arabs responsible for the explosion at a building in the American military base of Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, that killed and wounded more than 400 American servicemen are living in Iran.

According to the FBI, a senior Iranian revolutionary guard co-ordinated the attack, carried out by some unidentified Saudi dissidents.

Iran denied any involvement and the Saudi authorities expressed anger with the American investigators on the ground that the investigations were not complete.

He also warned that in case Iran did not "revised" its "terrorist policy", it could well face the American wrath, as Ayatollah Khameneh’i always "and proudly" brands his regime as the United States "number one enemy".

However, the Iranian state radio and television that are under the direct control of Mr. Khameneh’i, a staunch foe of America in particular and the western "corrupt" culture and way of life, multiplied reports, footage and commentaries on the disasters in New York and Washington, interrupting its usual programmes, stressing on the US "panic."

At the same time, it did not hesitate to blame the attacks on Mr. Osama ben Laden, the Saudi anti-America crusader who operates from Afghanistan and is protected by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, better known as Taleban, accused by Shi’ite Iran to harm the "angelic" visage of Islam they claim to represent.

"Horror at the White House," was the headline on the conservatives-controlled English-language "Tehran Times", arguing that Washington was paying the price for its unilateral and unconditional support of the "Zionist racists", meaning Israel.

Mohammad Javad Larijani, an influential ideologue of the ruling conservatives did not hesitate to accused Israel for the tripe operations.

"The Zionists have the most interest in them, and only they are capable of carrying them out", he wrote in the conservative daily Jam-e-Jam, published by the Radio and Television Organisation.

"The extent of the attacks shows that only people well versed in the American system carried them out", he said, adding: "The motives are simple: the Zionists are bogged down in the occupied territories in spite of their crimes, and they want to shift the Middle East problem towards the United States to involve the Americans more".

"Palestinian groups, because of world opinion, would not carry out such acts, and (Osama) ben Laden is just a bogey-man", Mr. Larijani, a political adviser to the leader, added in his comment on the event.

"Just think that such a mad mind was about to become the (Iranian) regime’s Foreign Minister", one Iranian journalist reacted, referring to the 1997 presidential duel between the present President with Hojjatoleslam Ali Akbar Nateq-Noori, the candidate who, despite the strong backing of the powerful conservatives and blessed by Mr. Khameneh’i, lost the elections to Mr. Khatami.

Mr. Hossein Shariatmadari, a high-ranking intelligence officer specialising in interrogation of dissident intellectuals, journalists and politicians appointed by Mr. Khameneh’i as Editor of the after noon daily "Keyhan" blamed the terror attacks on the Americans looking to fight the "blood-thirsty and rapacious government" in the United States, reflecting the conservatives view of the tragic events that shocked both the United States and the world at large.

Although the US categorises Iran as "the most active state sponsor of terrorism" and there are elements in Iran, which would happily see such an attack on the US, intelligence sources do not believe any government in the Middle East would risk incur ring the anger of the US by being linked to an attack.

Reactions from political circles were numerous and mitigated. "Every human being with a conscience must condemn the killing of innocents", Nasser Qavami, Head of the Majles Judicial Committee said, quoted by Tehran Radio.

"This drama has created a new situation. Americans must think more about human rights. The people and the government must understand the suffering of the oppressed peoples", he said, referring to the Palestinians fighting Israeli occupation.

"No Muslim individual could be pleased with such events" Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Hojjatoleslam Hasan Rohani told the official news agency IRNA, adding that the Islamic Republic of Iran condemns "any form of terrorist acts as inhuman".

He also offered sympathy to the "bereaved American families", but stopped short of mentioning the American Government.

"From the Islamic point of view, we condemn terrorist acts and killing of defenceless human beings and regard it as an ugly and inhuman action" he added.

He described the terrorist operations as "very complicate", observing that terrorist acts to that extent must have enjoyed "precise intelligence support" and cannot be regarded as an ordinary terrorist act, because "those involved have managed to pass all security barriers and could cause such human disaster".

Mr. Ali Mazrou’i, a reformist deputy from the central city of Esfahan said the explosions that destroyed the 110 floors World Trade Center twin towers to the rubble and part of the American Defence Ministry must be "strongly condemned" because the people who were killed in this incident were generally ordinary people who have been deprived of the right to life.

"We cannot remain indifferent to this incident and it appears to have been very savage and reprehensible", Mr. Mazrou’i, who is also the Head of Iranian Journalist Guild, told the independent Iranian Students News Agency ISNA.

On the external effects of the incident on the world's future developments, he said: This incident showed that the phenomenon of globalization is acting in such a way as to not leave any country unaffected and the world has become a single village in which events of this kind can occur at any moment in any country and have an impact on the entire world. I think that this makes it necessary to undertake a general reassessment of international relations and the interactions that countries have to have with one another.

Within hours of the attacks in New York and Washington, the US and other western intelligence organisations put Osama ben Laden, the Saudi-born anti-American crusader at the top of the list of suspects.

Afghan dissidents in both the United States and Europe hoped that the drama that surprised the world would lead to the liberation of their war-torn nation from the savage rule of the Pakistan-backed Taleban.

"America must realise that it is time to finish the master terrorist Ossama and his Taleban supporters who works hand in hand with Pakistan", an Afghan intellectual told IPS.

Intelligence sources said he was probably the only terrorist leader who could mount such a complex, co-ordinated attack.

Ben Laden, who lives in Afghanistan, warned only three weeks ago he would launch an "unprecedented attack" on the US.

The US blames him for the twin explosions on its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998; killing and wounding 224 people, most of them African, and for the attack on the US destroyer Cole in Yemen last October, killing 17 sailors.

Mr. Ben Laden denied responsibility for the Tuesday’s attack as for other terrorist operations linked to his organisation.

"There are indications that people with links to Ben Laden and the al-Qaida organisation may have been responsible, but it is still too premature and that has not been determined", an American intelligence analyst said, asking for anonymity.

Abdel-Bari Al-Atwan, editor of the London-based "Al-Qods al-Arabi" (Arab Jerusalem) newspaper who has access to the Saudi millionaire said Ben Laden's followers were almost certainly behind the attacks and said he had warned only three weeks ago of such an attack.

Mr. Ben Laden declared war on the American "infidels" for landing more than 50.000 soldiers on the "sacred soil of Islam", after the 1990 war against Iraq, spearheaded by the United Stated, after Iraqi dictator attacked and invaded neighbouring, oil-rich Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia, Washington main ally in the Persian Gulf and also because of the US support of Israel against the humiliated Arabs and Palestinians.

During the Afghan war of the 1980s Ben Laden, then a "darling" of Washington, supported the Afghan mojahedeens (holly warriors) fighting the Red Army’s occupation of Afghanistan.

He not only paid for thousands of Muslim volunteers from the Middle East to join the mojahedeens, but also went there himself to fight.

Taleban’s supreme leader Mollah Mohammad Omar adamantly refuses to hand him over to the Americans, saying they should present well-founded documents proving Mr. Ben Laden’s involvmnt in anti-American terrorist operations.

The US, even before yesterday's attack, had been circulating photographs of Ben Laden round Afghanistan and offering a $5m (Ł3.43m) reward.

After the Clinton administration retaliated for the attacks on American embassies, by bombing a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum believed to produce explosives for him, faxes were sent from Peshawar in Pakistan by the "International Islamic Front for Holy War against the Jews and Crusaders", a group also believed to be backed by Ben Laden.

It said it was mobilising against the US and Israel to bring down their aircraft, prevent the safe passage of ships, orchestrate occupation of embassies, and force closure of American and Israeli companies and banks.

The group warned that Islamic militants had already been mobilised and would be "pitiless and violent". There was a worry in the US that "sleepers" were being put in place.

Two Islamic militants living in Britain who have lent their support to Osama ben Laden and a jihad (holy war) against America and its allies said the attacks were predictable consequences of US foreign policy in the Muslim world, according to "The Guardian" newspaper.

Sheikh Omar ben Bakri ben Muhammad, the founder of the al-Muhajiroun group, said: "I was expecting this to happen and it's about time the Americans paid. I regret the death of innocent people but in our hearts we are very happy."

Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Masri, the imam of the north Finsbury mosque and a former mojahedeen fighter in Afghanistan, said that US policy in the Middle East had "designed a pressure cooker without a vent". To find those responsible, he said, "America will have to go back and see whom they have provoked the most", the paper quoted him as having said.

Sheikh Bakri said he believed those responsible would have come from the international jihad movement, which he described as "the right hand of Osama".

Of all the Islamic groups in the Middle East, Hizbollah, based in southern Lebanon and backed by Iran and Syria, is the best organised and best disciplined. It would not act without being given the nod by Iran or Syria. ENDS US TERRORISM 13901