Saturday, August 02, 2008

Our terminal stupidity

From Ynet News, 1/8/08, by Martin Sherman:

Israeli government seems to be working consistently against our national interest

"Yesteryear's spy masterminds, military geniuses, and political heavyweights have seemingly gone into high tech, leaving the state in the hands of corrupt, short-sighted mental midgets"
Daniel Pipes – July 21, 2008

... the leadership of Israel has clearly been afflicted with what can only be termed "terminal stupidity," which is bringing this nation to its knees - if not to its demise.

... Irrefutably, the concessionary doctrine adopted at the beginning of the previous decade proved to be a disastrous error. While this is something even the most ardent advocates may ruefully and reluctantly concede, there appears little willingness on their part to internalize the lessons of this regrettable endeavor, to acknowledge the fallacies on which it was based and to accept the unavoidable conclusions that arise from a dispassionate analysis of the past.

Quite the opposite - seemingly oblivious of the calamitous chain of recent events, the current leadership seems unswervingly resolute to press on with policies that are based on the same manifestly flawed precepts.

Having experienced the bombardment of both the north and the south of the country from areas evacuated by the IDF, the government is still pressing ahead with plans to transfer the highlands overlooking the coastal metropolis in the east to Palestinian control - thereby willfully and knowingly exposing the nation's only international airport, its road and rail system and its principle urban and industrial centers to the same fate suffered by Sderot and the surrounding villages in the south.

Baffling counterproductive elements
Astoundingly, this policy is being advanced even though the alleged rationale that was presented initially as its justification no longer exists. For if previously, the conceptual basis of conceding territory to the Arafat-regime was rooted in the claim that it was the only Palestinian partner with the necessary authority to implement an accord with Israel, today even this flimsy - and discredited - contention has been abandoned. Almost unbelievably, the current government is considering conceding to the Abbas-regime territory of vital strategic importance, despite the fact that no-one believes that it has the authority to impose its will on the Palestinian population - and certainly not to ensure the long-term implementation of a peace agreement with Israel.

Indeed if the IDF were to transfer control of Judea and Samaria to the feeble Abbas - an indispensable part of an peace deal - there is more than a tangible possibility that it would hastily toppled and replaced by radical Islamists, as it was in Gaza. So any concessions made to the allegedly "moderate" Abbas will readily, and predictably, fall into the hands of the extremists, whose enmity to Israel is the very reason that government refrains from negotiating with them. Can the Israeli leadership really be so blind so as not to see the self-contradictory - and self-defeating - nature of its policy?

The same question can be directed at the recent imbecilic decision regarding the wholesale surrender to ransom demands for the return of Israeli hostages – dead or alive. Perversely, instead of embarking on a harsh punitive policy to create disincentives for further kidnappings in the future, the conduct of the Israeli government in this traumatic and tragic affair has actually created enormous incentive for the Arabs to abduct more Israelis - and very little to keep them alive. The decision taken - and the one apparently about to be taken - are even more difficult to understand and to accept in light of past precedents, which show that, as matter of statistical certainty, released terrorists revert to their violent ways and will indubitably kill more Israelis.

Likewise the same baffling counterproductive elements characterize the policy regarding Gaza. It is difficult, if not impossible, to fathom the rationale behind the decision to halt military operations against the Hamas and other Palestinian terror organizations. For the present and regularly violated lull serves the strategic interests of the Islamists far more than it does those of Israel. Indeed, while it may bring brief and temporary respite to the harried the residents in the environs of the Gaza Strip, there is no doubt, and little argument, that it is being utilized by the radicals to regroup, rearm and retrain their forces. Thus any short-term benefits will soon be wiped out, with both Israeli civilians and soldiers facing even greater perils than today, making what is becoming increasing inevitable - a large-scale land operation - far more costly, bloody and difficult.

What could possibly motivate a responsible government to raise, rather than reduce, the level of risk; to reinforce, rather than remove, the source of dangers facing both its civilian population and its military combatants?

Of course the latest episode in this relentless march of folly relates to recent indirect contacts -via the good services of the Islamic-leaning government of Turkey - regarding Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. It is little short of staggering that immediately after finding it necessary to destroy a "strategic installation" which the Assad regime had surreptitiously been constructing, the government begins negotiations with the self-same regime, renown for its brutality and treachery, on the evacuation of the IDF from strategically vital territory - when it is precisely the IDF deployment in this territory that has made the Syrian border the most tranquil Israel has had for over one third of a century.

... this ...government seems to be working consistently and constantly against the national interest of the country, recklessly gambling with vital security issues and with the physical safety of its citizens, in the manifestly forlorn and unfounded hope that the most unlikely "best-case" scenarios will materialize....

... terminal stupidity ....

Sanhedrin Finds Chinese Regime Liable for Falun Gong Deaths

From "A True Chinese Rennaissance" (Blog):

NEW YORK—In an unprecedented decision, a special Israeli rabbinical council ruled last week that the Chinese regime has been responsible for the killing of Falun Gong practitioners.

"On the basis of the accumulation of the various testimonies and indirect evidence, the International Court of the Nascent Sanhedrin, came to the conclusion that there were unnumbered cases of killing of innocent Falun Gong practitioners [by agents of the Chinese government], perhaps also out of consideration of material benefits derived from organ harvesting," said the court in a decision dated July 15, 2008.

"If the human rights issues are not addressed before the Olympic Games begin, we consider participation in them by athletes and by spectators and political leaders to be an indirect danger to world peace," it further stated.

The ruling was issued in response to a request filed by Israeli Falun Gong practitioners in July 2007. The Sanhedrin, an ancient council of sages re-established by several rabbis in Israel in 2004 as a source of Jewish jurisprudence, comprises 71 scholars of Jewish law and is headed by Rabbi Adin Steinzaltz. Its International Court, a subcommittee addressing international issues, put out the present opinion as a form of religious guidance and on the basis of Jewish law.

The court issued the decision after examining testimony and evidence brought before it by human rights experts, including the U.S.-based Human Rights Law Foundation (HRLF) and David Kilgour, former Canadian Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific and coauthor of an independent investigation entitled "Report into Allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China." Also appearing before the council were several Chinese victims of rights abuses, including the widow of a man tortured to death in Chinese custody after being abducted for practicing Falun Gong.

"As a Jewish child growing up in the wake of the Holocaust, I made a vow to myself at the very young age of 13, that if it ever happened again, I would do all I could to put a stop to it," says attorney Terri Marsh. "Now as a human rights lawyer and legal participant in this case, I thank the Sanhedrin for finding the courage and wisdom to expose and condemn the crimes perpetrated by the Chinese Communist Party against members of the Falun Gong faith in China."

Political Pressure and Olympic Implications
According to the rabbinical body, the Chinese government refused to appear before it, but did submit written and digital materials to refute the complaints. It also reportedly applied political pressure on the court to drop the case, but as a body independent of the Israeli government, the council did not heed the request.

To ensure the fairness of the proceedings without the Chinese government’s formal participation, the court followed a tradition of Jewish jurisprudence and acted “not only as an objective Judge but at the same time as attorney for the side which is absent,” thereby subjecting witnesses to cross-examination.

Having found the Chinese government responsible for the deaths of Falun Gong adherents, the court demanded that the Chinese government "assure the minimum of liberties as indicated by the seven Noahide commandments," that it implement a Chinese law passed in May 2007 meant to end organ harvesting without consent, and that it allow a coalition of international organizations to enter China and freely investigate the Chinese government's compliance with the above mentioned commandments, considered to be the "Human Rights Charter according to the Torah."

Lastly, it stated that "if the human rights issues are not settled before the opening of the Olympics, participation in these Games may be understood to indicate indifference to human rights violations in China, and support for suppression," rendering such participation "an indirect danger to world peace."

Follow this link to the full translation from Hebrew of the Sanhedrin's decision.

Major discovery from MIT primed to unleash solar revolution

From MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) News, by Anne Trafton, News Office, July 31, 2008:

Scientists mimic essence of plants' energy storage system
In a revolutionary leap that could transform solar power from a marginal, boutique alternative into a mainstream energy source, MIT researchers have overcome a major barrier to large-scale solar power: storing energy for use when the sun doesn't shine.

Until now, solar power has been a daytime-only energy source, because storing extra solar energy for later use is prohibitively expensive and grossly inefficient. With today's announcement, MIT researchers have hit upon a simple, inexpensive, highly efficient process for storing solar energy.

Requiring nothing but abundant, non-toxic natural materials, this discovery could unlock the most potent, carbon-free energy source of all: the sun. "This is the nirvana of what we've been talking about for years," said MIT's Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT and senior author of a paper describing the work in the July 31 issue of Science. "Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon."

Inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants, Nocera and Matthew Kanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Nocera's lab, have developed an unprecedented process that will allow the sun's energy to be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Later, the oxygen and hydrogen may be recombined inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity to power your house or your electric car, day or night.

The key component in Nocera and Kanan's new process is a new catalyst that produces oxygen gas from water; another catalyst produces valuable hydrogen gas. The new catalyst consists of cobalt metal, phosphate and an electrode, placed in water. When electricity -- whether from a photovoltaic cell, a wind turbine or any other source -- runs through the electrode, the cobalt and phosphate form a thin film on the electrode, and oxygen gas is produced.

Combined with another catalyst, such as platinum, that can produce hydrogen gas from water, the system can duplicate the water splitting reaction that occurs during photosynthesis.
The new catalyst works at room temperature, in neutral pH water, and it's easy to set up, Nocera said. "That's why I know this is going to work. It's so easy to implement," he said.

'Giant leap' for clean energy
Sunlight has the greatest potential of any power source to solve the world's energy problems, said Nocera. In one hour, enough sunlight strikes the Earth to provide the entire planet's energy needs for one year.

James Barber, a leader in the study of photosynthesis who was not involved in this research, called the discovery by Nocera and Kanan a "giant leap" toward generating clean, carbon-free energy on a massive scale. "This is a major discovery with enormous implications for the future prosperity of humankind," said Barber, the Ernst Chain Professor of Biochemistry at Imperial College London. "The importance of their discovery cannot be overstated since it opens up the door for developing new technologies for energy production thus reducing our dependence for fossil fuels and addressing the global climate change problem."

'Just the beginning'
Currently available electrolyzers, which split water with electricity and are often used industrially, are not suited for artificial photosynthesis because they are very expensive and require a highly basic (non-benign) environment that has little to do with the conditions under which photosynthesis operates. More engineering work needs to be done to integrate the new scientific discovery into existing photovoltaic systems, but Nocera said he is confident that such systems will become a reality. "This is just the beginning," said Nocera, principal investigator for the Solar Revolution Project funded by the Chesonis Family Foundation and co-Director of the Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Center. "The scientific community is really going to run with this."
Nocera hopes that within 10 years, homeowners will be able to power their homes in daylight through photovoltaic cells, while using excess solar energy to produce hydrogen and oxygen to power their own household fuel cell. Electricity-by-wire from a central source could be a thing of the past.

The project is part of the MIT Energy Initiative, a program designed to help transform the global energy system to meet the needs of the future and to help build a bridge to that future by improving today's energy systems. .... This project was funded by the National Science Foundation and by the Chesonis Family Foundation, which gave MIT $10 million this spring to launch the Solar Revolution Project, with a goal to make the large scale deployment of solar energy within 10 years.

Thursday, July 31, 2008


From The new York Post, July 17, 2008, by Ralph Peters:

MY greatest worry on Iran's nuclear threat to civilization isn't the military option. It's trying that option on the cheap.

...Military strikes must be the last resort. Even a successful attack would panic oil markets, interrupt supplies to an unknown degree and make enemies of the Iranian people for another generation.

But the fanatics in Tehran may leave us no peaceful alternative. In that case, the most disastrous thing we could do would be to launch an economy-model attack.

If forced to strike, we have to do it right. ...[There is no] chance that the Israelis could handle Iran on their own ... the Israelis lack the capacity to sustain a strategic offensive against Iran - or to deal with the inevitable mess they'd leave behind in the Persian Gulf. Israel's aircraft could do serious damage to Iran's nuke program, but the US military would face the potentially catastrophic aftermath.

Without compromising any secrets - the Iranians already know what we'd need to do - here are the basic requirements for smacking down Iran's nuke program:
* Take out Iran's air-defense and intelligence network to protect our attacking aircraft.
* Take down its national communications network to degrade its military reaction.
* Strike dozens of dispersed nuclear-related targets - some of them in hardened underground facilities, with others purposely placed in populated areas.
* Hit every anti-ship-missile installation along Iran's Persian Gulf coast and the Straits of Hormuz. The reflexive Iranian response to an attack would be to launch sea-skimmer missiles against oil tankers and Western warships. The Iranians know that oil's now the world's Achilles heel.
* Destroy Iran's naval capacity, including small craft, in the first 24 hours to prevent attacks on shipping (expect suicide attacks, too).
* Immediately take out all of Iran's long-range and intermediate-range missiles - not just those that could strike Israel, but those that could hit Saudi, gulf-state or Iraqi oil refineries, pipelines, port facilities and oil fields . . . or our installations in the region.
* Hit the military's key command centers in Tehran, as well as regional headquarters, with special attention to the Revolutionary Guards' infrastructure.
* Expect three to six weeks of intense air and naval fighting, followed by months of skirmishing and asymmetrical warfare. And Iraq will heat back up, too.

Screw up the effort, and today's oil prices will double or triple, with severe downstream shortages showing up in a matter of weeks - every oil tanker's insurance will be canceled immediately, even if the Straits of Hormuz remain open (unlikely).

And we'll be in the global doghouse.

... We still want to win wars without hurting anybody, by just breaking the other guy's toys. And that's never going to happen.

If we have to fight, we have to fight to win.

Take down Iran's nuke program? I'm damned certain of one thing: If we start this one, we'd better get it right from the first shot.

Ralph Peters' new book is "Looking for Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World."

Kuwaiti Daily Reveals: Iran Building Secret Nuclear Reactor

From MEMRI Special Dispatch Series - No. 2006, July 29, 2008:

On July 29, 2008, the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa reported that, according to "highly reliable sources," Iranian authorities had begun construction of a secret nuclear reactor in the Al-Zarqan region close to the city of Ahwaz in southwest Iran, on the Iran-Iraq border.

The paper said that according to sources, Iran was working to distance its nuclear installations from international oversight. The English version of the report, published in the Kuwaiti Arab Times, said, "Disclosing [that] Tehran directed international A-bomb inspectors to other places, sources warned [that] the project poses a very serious threat to international security."
Also according to the sources, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) did not know about this site at all, since it was not included in negotiations with Iran in Geneva held in early July.

According to the report, the sources said that during 2000-2003, Iran expropriated the lands and homes of thousands of Arab citizens from the Al-Zarqan region, destroying homes of thousands of Arab citizens from the Al-Zarqan region....

Follow these links for a summary of the Al-Siyassa report, [1] and from its English [2] version in the Kuwaiti English-language daily Arab Times, which was also published July 29, 2008.

Some excerpts:

... a letter dated April 7, 2008 from the office of the assistant of IRGC commander in Al-Ahwaz city Brig. Hassan Jalaliyan, marked "highly confidential," to Mohammed Kayafir, manager of the Mehab Qudus Company for Construction and Supervision, which is building the reactor. The following is a translation of the letter:
"From the IRGC [Iranian revolutionary Guard Corps] Commander in the city of Al-Ahwas to the director in charge at the Mehab Qudus company for Construction and Supervision Mr. Mohammed Kayafir
"Re: The nuclear reactor at Al-Zarqan
"I thank you for the good services of the Mehab Qudus company, and at the same time I must remind you of the following items:
"1. All construction materials must be transported from the warehouses to the construction site in top secrecy.
"2. As part of the doctrine of caution, we reiterate yet again that during the transport of all required materials, you must ensure that this [transport] does not arouse the suspicions of any citizen in the region through which you are moving.
"3. In general, it is absolutely forbidden to hire any Arabic speakers or any citizen from Khozestan in the framework of the 'Al-Zarqan Nuclear Reactor' construction project. You must ensure that all manpower, including the driver, the accountant, the warehouse manager, the laborer, the technician, or the guard, comes from the northern provinces.
"In conclusion, we say yet again that all the construction work in this project must be carried out under absolute secrecy.
"From the aide to IRGC commander in the city of Al-Ahwaz, Hassan Jalaliyan."

....An Ideal Place to Build a Nuclear Reactor - The Local Residents Can Serve as a Human Shield
..."The site is more suitable for building a nuclear reactor than Bushehr, which is close to American bases." ...a nuclear power plant under construction at Darkhovin is in an open area on the main road between Ahwaz and Abadan - while the "Al-Zarqan nuclear reactor is in the middle of very highly populated areas, making it a very difficult target due to a possibility that the Iranian authorities will use civilians as human shields."

On January 31, 2008, the Iran Daily wrote that Iranian Atomic Energy Organization deputy head Ahmad Fayyazbakhsh had said that the nuclear power plant at Darkhovin, in southwestern Iran, would become operational in 2016. [3] ...

[1] Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), July 29, 2008,الأولى&nid=23454.
[2] Arab Times (Kuwait), July 29, 2008, (the text has been lightly edited for clarity).
[3] Iran Daily (Iran), January 31, 2008,

Monday, July 28, 2008

Japanese lawmaker calls for reduction in funding to UNRWA

Some SANITY at last, as reported in THE JERUSALEM POST, Jul. 24, 2008, by Etgar Lefkovits:

A Japanese parliamentarian said this week that he would work to urge his government to reduce funding to UNRWA, the mammoth UN body which deals exclusively with Palestinian refugees and their descendants, in the wake of continuing criticism of the organization.

"I would like to persuade the Japanese Government to reduce funding to UNRWA," said Yoshitake Kimata, a Member of the House of Councilors of the National Diet of Japan.

The Japanese lawmaker was in Jerusalem this week for a conservative conference of pro-Israel evangelicals from Asia, which included a session by Tel Aviv University's Dr. Martin Sherman on the differences between UNRWA, and UNHCR, the UN's main refugee agency. [Yesher koach, Dr Sherman!! - SL]

Israel has long complained over the direct involvement of some members of UNRWA's predominantly Palestinian staff with Palestinian terror groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
UNRWA insists that such cases are aberrations, and that it has a "zero-tolerance" policy towards terrorism.

However the problem with UNRWA is a lot greater than just Palestinian staff involvement with terror groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Go to this article for a summary of the issues.

Gaza - how did this happen?

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Jul. 27, 2008, by Herb Keinon:

The government needs to take a hard look at the situation in the Gaza Strip, because if it doesn't, it will have to ask itself five years from now how it allowed the situation there to get out of hand, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the cabinet Sunday.

Olmert's comments came during a discussion about the calm in the Gaza Strip, whether it was holding, and how Israeli should respond to Palestinian infractions.

Olmert said he would hold a security cabinet meeting on the situation in Gaza, because the calm was enabling Hamas to build itself up and creating a "problematic" reality.

...He told the ministers that the arms-smuggling from Sinai into the Gaza Strip continued, and that Palestinians had fired on Israeli communities in the western Negev since the calm went into effect last month. The security cabinet needed to meet and discuss how to deal with the situation, he said.

...Barak said Israel had acted in the "proper manner" by not responding militarily to violations of the cease-fire, and that the calm was meant as a "time out" that Israel should utilize to improve its situation, in case the cease-fire collapsed and Israel decided large-scale military action was inevitable.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, meanwhile, took a hard line on how Israel should respond to the Palestinian cease-fire infractions, saying it was clear that when the Palestinians fired on Israel, Israel should fire back. It was more difficult, she said, to come up with a measured and reciprocal response to the smuggling from Egypt into Gaza.

Israel, with its reaction to the cease-fire violations, needed to send the message that it would not put up with continued rocket fire and that it did not matter which organization was doing the firing, Livni said. "Since Hamas was interested in the calm, the chance of escalating the situation is small," she said.

...Diskin, meanwhile, told the cabinet Hamas had a continued interest in preserving the cease-fire, and that the organization was taking advantage of the quiet to increase its level of training and preparation and to build itself up. For instance, he said, concrete allowed into Gaza as a result of the cease-fire was being used by Hamas to build bunkers. He said that the smuggling of arms from Sinai continued and that some four tons of explosives, as well as 50 anti-tank missiles and dozens of light arms, had been smuggled into the Gaza Strip since the cease-fire went into effect.

The situation in Gaza, Diskin said, was causing frustration for the Palestinian Authority, and PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad was behind talks of a Fatah-Hamas government of technocrats, or even putting a combined Fatah-Hamas security apparatus under an Arab umbrella, because he was worried Hamas was benefiting and becoming stronger as a result of the calm.

Russia an autocracy "very unhelpful to peace in the world."

From / correspondents in Washington / Agence France-Presse, July 28, 2008:

RUSSIA has become an autocracy under Vladimir Putin and the Russian president-turned-prime minister has taken the country down a "very harmful" path, US Republican presidential candidate John McCain said overnight.

"We need to improve their behaviour," Senator McCain told ABC television when asked about his threat to exclude Russia from the Group of Eight if he wins the White House in November.
"His government - former president Putin, and now Prime Minister Putin - has taken his country down a path that I think is very harmful," Senator McCain said. "They've become an autocracy."

"In the last week or so, look at Russia's actions," he said. "They cut back on their oil supplies to the Czechs, because the Czechs made an agreement with us. They have now thrown out - or forced out - BP out of Russia.

"They continue to put enormous pressures on Georgia in many ways. They're putting pressure on Ukraine. They are blocking action in the United Nations Security Council on Iran," Senator McCain said.

"We want better Russian behaviour internationally, and we have every right to expect it," he said. "And I will do what I can to see that they reverse many of the behaviour patterns which have really been very unhelpful to peace in the world."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Terrorist killed in Hebron

From THE JERUSALEM POST Jul. 27, 2008 by staff and AP:

A senior Hamas terrorist responsible for February's deadly suicide bombing in Dimona was killed in an arrest operation in Hebron in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The army said that in a joint IDF, Border Police and Shin Bet operation, the forces surrounded a house where the terrorist was hiding. Shots were fired from the building and the forces returned fire, the army said. The army eventually bulldozed the house hours later when the man refused to surrender and the terrorist's body was seen being removed from the rubble.

The IDF added that during the heavy exchanges of fire, troops heard explosions from inside the house, presumably from bombs stored inside.

The man was identified as 25-year-old Shihab Na'atsha, a Hamas explosives engineer. The IDF said Na'atsha assembled the bomb belt used in the Dimona attack on February 4 that killed 73-year-old Lubov Razdolskaya and wounded 40 other people.

Also in Sunday morning's operation, the forces arrested Na'atsha's accomplice, Wa'al Bit'ar, as well as another Hamas terrorist, Abed Abu Aysha....

Iranian military convoy rocked by mystery explosion

From The telegraph (UK), 25 Jul 2008, by Con Coughlin:

Iran's Revolutionary Guards have launched an urgent inquiry after a mysterious explosion wrecked a military convoy in Tehran, killing at least fifteen people and injuring scores more.

The explosion took place in the Tehran suburb of Khavarshahar as the military convoy left a munitions' warehouse controlled by the Revolutionary Guards. According to reports received by Western officials, the convoy was taking a consignment of military equipment to Hizbollah, the Shia Muslim militia Iran supports in southern Lebanon, when the explosion occurred.

Senior Revolutionary Guard commanders immediately imposed a news black-out following the explosion, even though it could be heard throughout the capital Tehran, and no details of the incident have so far appeared in the Iranian media.

But Western officials yesterday said they had received reports that the explosion took place in Tehran on July 19, and that the Revolutionary Guards had launched an investigation into the causes of the blast. "This was a massive explosion that was heard throughout Tehran," one official told the Daily Telegraph. "Even though lots of people were killed the Revolutionary Guards are trying to conceal what really happened."

Iran is believed to have recently stepped up arms shipments to Hizbollah in preparation for any future armed confrontation with the West over its controversial nuclear enrichment programme.

The Revolutionary Guards' investigation into last weekend's explosion is understood to be looking into the possibility that it was caused by sabotage. Iran has suffered a number of unexplained explosions in recent months, including an explosion at a mosque in Shiraz, which had been holding a military exhibition, and another incident at a missile site that killed dozens of Iranian technicians.

Last month Seymour Hersh, the respected American investigative journalist, reported that US President George W Bush had authorised up to $400 million (£200 million) to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran to destabilise the regime.

Iran ends "cooperation" with UN nuclear arms probe

From The Washington Post, by GEORGE JAHN, The Associated Press, Thursday, July 24, 2008:

VIENNA, Austria -- Iran signaled Thursday that it will no longer cooperate with U.N. experts probing for signs of clandestine nuclear weapons work, confirming the investigation is at a dead end a year after it began.

The announcement from Iranian Vice President Gholam Reza Aghazadeh compounded skepticism about denting Tehran's nuclear defiance, just five days after Tehran stonewalled demands from six world powers that it halt activities capable of producing the fissile core of warheads.

....Iran, which is obligated as a signer of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty not to develop nuclear arms, raised suspicions about its intentions when it admitted in 2002 that it had run a secret nuclear program for nearly two decades in violation of its commitment.

The Tehran regime insists it halted such work and is now only trying to produce fuel for nuclear reactors to generate electricity. It agreed on a "work plan" with the Vienna-based IAEA a year ago for U.N. inspectors to look into allegations Iran is still doing weapons work.

At the time, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei hailed it as "a significant step forward" that would fill in the missing pieces of Tehran's nuclear jigsaw puzzle ...The investigation ran into trouble just months after being launched. Deadline after deadline was extended because of Iranian foot-dragging. The probe, originally meant to be completed late last year, spilled into the first months of 2008, and beyond.

Iran remains defiant....Aghazadeh's comments Thursday appeared to jibe with those of diplomats familiar with the probe who told The Associated Press that the IAEA had run into a dead end.

....Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday accused Iran of not being serious at the Geneva talks. She warned that all six nations were serious about a two-week deadline for Iran to agree to freeze suspect activities and start negotiations or else be hit with a fourth set of U.N. penalties.....

Associated Press writer David Stringer in London contributed to this report.