(i) The Board of Deputies of British Jews welcomes the opportunity to respond to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into Iran.
(ii) Established in 1760, the Board of Deputies of British Jews is the democratic representative body of the Jewish community in Britain.
(iii) Since the times of Sir Moses Montefiore, who was President of the Board for most of the period between 1840-1874, the British Jewish community has played an active role in seeking to secure the well being of Jews throughout the world. Today the International Division of the Board carries out this work.
(iv) The Board of Deputies has always sought to protect the rights of Jews and Jewish communities wherever they may be under threat. For example, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Board (the forerunner to the International Division) worked to present a coordinated response to the situation in the Soviet Union.
(v) The Board maintains close links with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and holds regular formal meetings on issues of international concern to the Jewish community.
(vi) In this paper we wish to draw attention to a number of issues of concern which we believe should be taken into account by those who are assessing Britain's relations with Iran. The issues we wish to raise relate to: weapons of mass destruction; human rights; sponsorship of international terrorism; and the particular case of the Iran 10.
2.IRAN'S FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC POLICIES-BACKGROUND
(i) Mohammad Khatami was elected President in February 1997 and since then has sought to implement a program of reforms. This reform program notwithstanding, Iran has continued to seek non-conventional weapons capability as well as long-range ballistic missiles. It continues and has even expanded its sponsorship of Palestinian terrorist organisations and continues to oppose the Middle East peace process, while continuing also to act in violation of international human rights norms.
(ii) These policies continue unabated, which suggests either that President Khatami supports them or he is powerless to stop them. (It should be noted that Iran's security services, the Ministry of Intelligence and Interior and the Revolutionary Guards remain under the control of the spiritual leader Ali Khameni.) The implications for regional and global security are serious.
(iii) One of the first official statements of the new supposedly reformed and pro-democracy parliament in Tehran called for the complete destruction of the State of Israel. The Majlis (parliament) was further quoted saying that: "The brave resistance of Hezbollah in Lebanon was successful due to the guidelines of Late Ayatollah Khomeini and the current spiritual leader and we hope that all occupied lands could be freed from the Zionist annexation and we pray to God for the destruction of the intruding Israeli regime."
3. ACQUISITION OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION (WMD)
(i) Iran remains one of the most active countries seeking to acquire WMD technology and to develop an indigenous capability to produce various types of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their delivery systems. (US Director of Central Intelligence Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, 2 February 1999).
(ii) Russia and China continue to supply missile-related goods and technology to Iran. In July 1999 Iran tested the Shahab-3 missile with a range of 1,300 km and the Defence Minister has stated publicly that a Shahab-4 missile is being developed with a longer range and heavier payload than the Shahab-3. (US Director of Central Intelligence, 2 February 1999).
(iii) Iran has manufactured and stockpiled chemical weapons (CW) including blister, blood and choking agents and the bombs and artillery shells for delivering them. (US Director of Central Intelligence, 2 February 1999) Intelligence sources in Israel and the US say that Iran is prepared to equip its agents with chemical and biological weapons in order to carry out its terror attacks, according to the Sunday Times. (Ma'ariv, 10 September 1999).
(iv) Iran continues to seek fissile material and technology for weapons development and has set up an elaborate system of military and civilian organisations to support its effort. Various Russian entities continue to market and support a variety of nuclear-related projects in Iran. These include the construction of a 1000-megawatt nuclear power reactor in Bushehr, Iran. These projects, along with other nuclear-related purchases, will help Iran augment its nuclear technology infrastructure, which in turn would be useful in supporting nuclear weapons research and development. (US Director of Central Intelligence, 2 February 1999).
(v) The latest "Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, 1 July Through 31 December 1999" relating to Iran is attached at Appendix A with further information at Appendix B.
4. SPONSORSHIP OF TERRORIST ORGANISATIONS
(i) Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terrorism. The Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security have institutionalised the use of terrorism as an instrument of policy since 1979. (Ambassador Michael Sheehan, Coordinator for Counter-terrorism, US State Department, testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 2 November 1999.)
(ii) CIA Director George Tenet told the US Congress, "Hardliners continue to view terrorism as a legitimate tool of Iranian policy, and they still control the institutions that implement it." Iran continues to be involved in a range of terrorist activities. These include providing support such as financing, equipping, offering training locations, and offering refuge from extradition to some of the most lethal terrorist groups in the Middle East, notably Hamas, Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In the case of Hezbollah and Hamas, Iranian support includes tens of millions of dollars each year. (The Sunday Telegraph reported on 15 August 1999 that Iran had made a transfer of Â£3 million to Hamas.)
(iii) Evidence has led the Clinton administration to conclude that Iran is increasing the flow of arms and money to terrorist groups in an effort to derail the Middle East peace process. This was discussed at length at a meeting of counter-terrorism officials from the G8 countries and British and German officials presented evidence similar to that presented by the US. (Washington Post, 4 December 1999.) In November 1999, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak told Prime Minister Blair that Iranian supported groups were preparing a fresh offensive against the peace process giving a general warning regarding the possibility of imminent attacks by radical terrorists. Mr Blair was reported to have informed British intelligence agencies that have since warned vulnerable targets in the UK. (Sunday Times, 12 December 1999.)
(iv) Increased support and shipments of guns and explosives for Hamas as well as evidence of a new direct relationship. Evidence of this emerged from information and computer data uncovered when Jordanian authorities recently raided the offices of Hamas in Amman. (Washington Post, 4 December 1999.) Iranian intelligence has given Hamas an estimated $5 million to fund terrorist attacks on Israeli targets. The money, provided in August 1999, was the first of several monthly payments which were transferred into the bank accounts of Hamas officials in an agreement with Hamas in return for a marked increase in terrorist activity. (Sunday Telegraph, 15 August 1999.)
US intelligence sources have said that Iran "operates an ongoing pipeline that gives at least millions of dollars a year to Hamas alone." Iran also continues to make direct payments to the families of suicide bombers, according to US and Israeli sources. (Washington Times, 18 August 1999.)
(v) Accelerated deliveries of arms to Hezbollah including long-range Katyusha missiles capable of reaching targets deeper into Israel. (Hezbollah is the organisation which fought Israeli forces in the security zone in Southern Lebanon and which has fired hundreds of missiles into Northern Israel.) (Washington Post, 4 December 1999.) Following the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, there is still the risk of escalation and missile attacks from closer to the newly defined international border.
(vi) Iran supports the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, responsible for a number of attacks and suicide bombings inside Israel. In March 1999 a US District Court ruled that Iran should pay $247 million to the family of Alisa Flatow, a US citizen killed in a Palestinian Islamic Jihad bomb attack in Gaza, in April 1995, because Iran provided funding to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad that carried out the attack. (US Department of State: Patterns of Global Terrorism 1998.) In addition, Israeli security sources state that they have detained several Palestinian terrorists following their return from Iran where they received training in weapons, explosives and sabotage, with a view to carrying out terror operations in Israel for the Islamic Jihad. (Israel Foreign Ministry.)
(vii) The US believes that Iranian officials might have played a part in planning or facilitating the June 1996 bombing of a US military housing complex in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 US servicemen. (Ambassador Michael Sheehan, coordinator for counter-terrorism, US State Department, testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 2 November 1999.)
Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk told Congress that there is "information about the involvement of some Iranian officials" in the Khobar bombing." CIA sources say terrorists received money and passports from Iran and that Iranian agents were casing American facilities in 1995. (Newsweek, 15 October 1999.)
"We have information that links Iranian officials to the Khobar bombing incident," said Michael Sheehan, the State Department's co-ordinator for counter-terrorism. "The FBI has that information, the intelligence community has that information," said Sheehan. (NBC Nightly News, 2 December 1999.)
Allegations are mounting that the Khobar bombing was directed by Iran, US officials say. New information obtained by US law enforcement alleges that meetings took place between the suspected bombers and two officers of Iran's Revolutionary Guard. The former head of counter-terrorism for the CIA stated: "The FBI has concluded that the Khobar bombing was supported and possibly ordered by the Iranian intelligence service." (USA Today, 2 November 1999.)
(viii) Signs that Iran is encouraging the growth of alliances between terrorist groups that have traditionally shunned one another have underscored these developments. For example, there is clear evidence that Hamas and Hezbollah are training in Lebanon under Iranian supervision. (Washington Post, 4 December 1999.)
(ix) There is evidence that Iran, according to a minister in Ehud Barak's government, has taken a strategic decision to use terrorism to bring about the failure of the peace process. Barak's government has acknowledged that acts of terrorism pose the greatest danger to the prospective peace.
According to Israeli security sources, "Iran has sent terrorists who look like Europeans to the [Palestinian] territories in order to carry out attacks aimed at torpedoing the peace process." Israel's army Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz warned of "specific information about planned attacks, based on intelligence information." (Agency France Presse, 13 October 1999.)
According to the head of Palestinian Preventative Security Service Jibril Rajoub, "Iran is supporting and aiding Islamic militants in an attempt to spoil the peace process." He further said that leaders from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah recently went to Iran, and were encouraged by Iran to "liberate Jerusalem."
The Arabic press began reporting in September 1999, that official Iranian envoys were urging Hezbollah Secretary-General Nassrallah to join the joint effort to undermine the peace process. According to these reports, Iran is willing to furnish Hezbollah with operational assistance by means of Iranian embassies in a number of countries. (Yedioth Achronot, 15 October 1999.)
(x) Hardliners in the Iranian government have begun funding radical Palestinian groups which want to mount a new intifada uprising aimed at wrecking the chances of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The Iranian delegation led by Ali Akbar Velayati, the former Iranian foreign minister who now serves as an adviser to Ali Khameni, met with radical Palestinian leaders in Damascus and, according to Middle East sources, distributed Â£2 million. The largest portion of the Â£2 million went to Ahmed Jibril of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, whose members were at one time suspected of building the device that brought down the Pan Am jet over Lockerbie in Scotland. (Sunday Times, 6 August 2000.)
(xi) While the Iranian Government stated it would take no action to implement the Fatwa issued against the author Salman Rushdie, the fatwa has not been revoked and the Iranian Government has not required the 15 Khordad Foundation to withdraw its reward for any person carrying the fatwa out. In fact, the Foundation increased the reward to $2.8 million. (US Department of State: Patterns of Global Terrorism 1998.)
(xii) Members of the Committee will find much useful information in Ely Karmon, Why Tehran Starts and Stops Terrorism, Middle East Quarterly, December 1998.
5. IRANIAN ANTISEMITISM AND HOLOCAUST DENIAL
(i) In addition to regular public attacks on Israel, the Iranian government controlled media has taken up the cause of Holocaust denial. Radio Iran has become a prominent forum for Holocaust deniers from all over the world. Holocaust deniers interviewed by Tehran hosts on this network include Ahmed Rami, Ernst Zundel, Roger Garaudy, David Irving, Ingrid Rimald and Frederick Toben. Radio Iran is broadcast on short wave to many countries worldwide and may be accessed via the Internet. (Archiv-Notzien, February 2000; Zundelsite, March 1999, February 2000; Journal of Historical Review, July/August 2000.)
(ii) In an editorial, Iran's English-language Tehran Times newspaper praised the stance taken by David Irving, the disgraced Holocaust denier. The full text of the Tehran Times editorial of 11 April 2000 is attached at Appendix B.
6. VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS
(i) The Amnesty International 1999 Annual Report cites institutional violations of basic human rights including freedom of religion, freedom of expression, the right to life and prohibitions on torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. Amnesty reports that in 1999 hundreds of political prisoners were held, some without charge and that judicial punishment of flogging and stoning was carried out as well as scores of executions-some without trials. In addition, the UN special representative on the Islamic Republic of Iran continued to be denied access to the country.
(ii) Amnesty has reported that a large number of Islamic scholars and grand Ayatollahs were detained or held under house arrest for making statements or publishing articles critical of the regime. At least 20 members of the Bahai religious minority were under continued detention without charge with six facing the death sentence.
(iii) Amnesty has also condemned the death sentences passed against four people arrested in connection with the student demonstrations in Iran in July 1999 and called for the immediate halt of trials held in secrecy. According to Amnesty, "Torture is widespread in Iran" and detainees may have been tortured to extract confession. (Amnesty International: Public Statement, 16 September 1999-Iran: Time for judicial reform and an end to secret trials.)
(iv) Human Rights Watch reported the death of Ruhollah Kakhodah-Zadeh, a member of Iran's small Jewish community who was hanged in prison without being charged with a criminal offence or any form of legal proceeding.
(v) The US State Department Human Rights report 1998 outlined the absence of inhuman punishments. It also noted that human rights monitors allege that many of those executed for criminal offences such as narcotics charges are actually political dissidents.
(vi) Many religious minorities suffer discrimination and interference from Government authorities. The Government interferes with the administration of their schools and harasses their adherents. Although Christian and Jewish communities are regularly harassed and are denied the opportunities in jobs and education that other Iranian citizens enjoy, the Bahai community has been the target of a specific campaign of abuse. The UN special representative reported the existence in 1993 of a Government policy directive that instructed government agencies to block the progress and development of the Bahai community, expel Bahai students from universities, restrict their employment and deny them "positions of influence", especially in education. (US State Department, Human Rights Report 1998.)
(vii) For a more detailed analysis of human rights and minority treatment in Iran, as well as the following case of the trial of the Iranian Jews, please refer to the Appendix C.
7. TRIALS OF JEWS IN IRAN
(i) 13 Jews were held in Iran on charges of espionage on behalf of Israel and the United States. The 13 Jews were arrested in March 1999. Their arrest was only made public in June 1999 and they were in detention throughout the period leading to their trial (three were released on bail in January 2000).
The charges were clearly false. Both Israel and the United States have stated categorically, at the highest levels, that the individuals involved have never been engaged in espionage on their behalf. The spurious nature of the charges and their possible anti-semitic basis are borne out by the professions of the accused-Hebrew teachers, Jewish community leaders, circumcisers, ritual slaughterers, a Jewish cemetery attendant and a 16-year-old boy.
(ii) The accused did not receive a fair trial. The proceedings were closed to the public. The Iranian definition of espionage is not the same as that in the West. Under Iranian law, any contact whatsoever with Israel is defined as espionage, the maximum penalty for which is the death penalty. The accused were not allowed to appoint their own lawyers, while their state-appointed lawyers had complained of obstruction. While the institutional hardships placed on the Jewish community in Iran, as well as other minorities such as Christians and Bahais, are well documented by leading human rights organisations such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, few voices were raised in defence of these incarcerated Jews, particularly within Iran itself. Furthermore, Jewish leaders stated that the trial had led to attacks on Jewish businesses including one case of arson. Concern regarding the fate of the 13 Jews was acute in light of previous experience: two Jews were executed in 1997 on espionage charges and in 1998 a 60-year-old man was executed on vague charges of being a Zionist agent. Since 1979, 15 Jewish leaders have been executed under similar circumstances.
(iii) It has already been noted that Iran supports and directs a number of extremist terror groups opposed to the Middle East Peace Process. The activities of these pose a genuine threat to the entire peace process. Recent US and European intelligence assessments concluded that Iran was stepping up and expanding its efforts to encourage more terror by these groups because of the renewed momentum in the peace efforts. It would seem clear that the arrest of and trial of the 13 Jews is a continuation of this hostile policy towards Israel through the Iranian Jewish community.
(iv) Sentences were handed down on Saturday, 1 July 2000 in the trial of 13 Jews in Iran accused of espionage. Ten of the defendants were given sentences of four to 13 years while three were acquitted. All of the sentences were subject to appeal.
(v) The international community has consistently condemned the entire episode. The 13 Jews were held for months without charge, denied the right to appoint their own lawyers and denied access to their government-appointed lawyers. Before the trial began eight defendants "confessed" and pleaded guilty. These "confessions" were paraded on television in a blatant publicity stunt, which hinted at the dubious nature of the entire trial. In the light of the lack of proper legal counsel and their extended incarceration, many observers are convinced that these "confessions" were made under duress.
(vi) On 21 September 2000 the Shiraz Court of Appeal announced the appeal verdict of the Iran 10. Contrary to press reports, the prison sentences of the ten were not reduced. Instead, the court overturned the lower court's ruling on how the prison sentences would be served. The lower court ruled that the sentences of each prisoner were to run consecutively. The Appeal Court verdict accepted the lower court's ruling on the sentences, but makes their prison sentences run concurrently. In addition, the Appeals Court upheld the lower court's convictions of the 10 on the charges of co-operating with a foreign government, ie, Israel. The Iran 10 will therefore remain imprisoned for terms ranging from between two to nine years.
Despite claims by Iranian officials that Iran's judicial branch was "independent", in early September, the judiciary announced a delay, reportedly to provide a reprieve to President Khatami during the trip to the United Nations where he was attempting to portray Iran's regime as one that respects the rights of its citizens.
(vii) The verdicts raise many questions as to the appropriate Western response. Western governments must surely give thought as to whether they can rightly carry on with business as usual, given the clear violations of the human rights of these innocent Jews. The situation calls for a clear and robust response.
8. BRITISH RELATIONS WITH IRAN-POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS
(i) The British Government currently pursues a policy of "constructive engagement", the aim of which is to support the "reformists" within President Khatami's regime. Unfortunately, this policy has not had the desired effects. The key organs of the Iranian state are firmly in the hands of the "conservatives" who control Iranian foreign policy, security and the judiciary amongst others. Indeed, at the time of writing, a large number of moderate press and media publications have been forcibly closed down in an attempt to curtail the public drive for reform.
(ii) It must be remembered that the so-called "moderates" take a similar approach in their dealings with Israel as the hardliners. There is a general consensus that Israel is a racist expansionist state that should be destroyed.
(iii) Evidence exists that suggests that when the West adopts a firmer approach to dealing with Iran, the Iranian regime is prepared to curb some of its more excessive behaviour. It has been argued that the outcome of the trial of the 13 Iranian Jews was positively affected by international pressure which prevented death sentences being passed.
(iv) The current contacts with Iran are most likely being driven primarily by economic interests. The financial and trade incentives being offered have no place in an "ethical" foreign policy and merely reward the Iranian regime for its support for terrorism and abuse of human rights.
(v) We believe that the fate of the Iran 10 must be a test case for Britain's relations with Iran. The British Government must seriously consider whether it can continue with diplomatic relations if the 10 continue to be imprisoned.
Parliamentary material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO on behalf of Parliament.