Barrack Obama what you gonna do?
Stratfor Global Intelligence
9/11 and the 9-Year War
September 8, 2010 | 0855 GMT
By George Friedman
It has now been nine years since al Qaeda attacked the United States. It has been nine years in which the primary focus of the United States has been on the Islamic world. In addition to a massive investment in homeland security, the United States has engaged in two multi-year, multi-divisional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, inserted forces in other countries in smaller operations and conducted a global covert campaign against al Qaeda and other radical jihadist groups.
In order to understand the last nine years you must understand the first 24 hours of the war — and recall your own feelings in those 24 hours. First, the attack was a shock, its audaciousness frightening. Second, we did not know what was coming next. The attack had destroyed the right to complacent assumptions. Were there other cells standing by in the United States? Did they have capabilities even more substantial than what they showed on Sept. 11? Could they be detected and stopped? Any American not frightened on Sept. 12 was not in touch with reality. Many who are now claiming that the United States overreacted are forgetting their own sense of panic. We are all calm and collected nine years after.
At the root of all of this was a profound lack of understanding of al Qaeda, particularly its capabilities and intentions. Since we did not know what was possible, our only prudent course was to prepare for the worst. That is what the Bush administration did. Nothing symbolized this more than the fear that al Qaeda had acquired nuclear weapons and that they would use them against the United States. The evidence was minimal, but the consequences would be overwhelming. Bush crafted a strategy based on the worst-case scenario.
Bush was the victim of a decade of failure in the intelligence community to understand what al Qaeda was and wasn’t. I am not merely talking about the failure to predict the 9/11 attack. Regardless of assertions afterwards, the intelligence community provided only vague warnings that lacked the kind of specificity that makes for actionable intelligence. To a certain degree, this is understandable. Al Qaeda learned from Soviet, Saudi, Pakistani and American intelligence during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and knew how to launch attacks without tipping off the target. The greatest failure of American intelligence was not the lack of a clear warning about 9/11 but the lack, on Sept. 12, of a clear picture of al Qaeda’s global structure, capabilities, weaknesses and intentions. Without such information, implementing U.S. policy was like piloting an airplane with faulty instruments in a snowstorm at night.
The president had to do three things: First, he had to assure the public that he knew what he was doing. Second, he had to do something that appeared decisive. Third, he had to gear up an intelligence and security apparatus to tell him what the threats actually were and what he ought to do. American policy became ready, fire, aim.
In looking back at the past nine years, two conclusions can be drawn: There were no more large-scale attacks on the United States by militant Islamists, and the United States was left with the legacy of responses that took place in the first two years after 9/11. This legacy is no longer useful, if it ever was, to the primary mission of defeating al Qaeda, and it represents an effort that is retrospectively out of proportion to the threat.
If I had been told on Sept.12, 2001, that the attack the day before would be the last major attack for at least nine years, I would not have believed it. In looking at the complexity of the security and execution of the 9/11 attack, I would have assumed that an organization capable of acting once in such a way could act again even more effectively. My assumption was wrong. Al Qaeda did not have the resources to mount other operations, and the U.S. response, in many ways clumsy and misguided and in other ways clever and targeted, disrupted any preparations in which al Qaeda might have been engaged to conduct follow-on attacks.
Knowing that about al Qaeda in 2001 was impossible. Knowing which operations were helpful in the effort to block them was impossible, in the context of what Americans knew in the first years after the war began. Therefore, Washington wound up in the contradictory situation in which American military and covert operations surged while new attacks failed to materialize. This created a massive political problem. Rather than appearing to be the cause for the lack of attacks, U.S. military operations were perceived by many as being unnecessary or actually increasing the threat of attack. Even in hindsight, aligning U.S. actions with the apparent outcome is difficult and controversial. But still we know two things: It has been nine years since Sept. 11, 2001, and the war goes on.
What happened was that an act of terrorism was allowed to redefine U.S. grand strategy. The United States operates with a grand strategy derived from the British strategy in Europe — maintaining the balance of power. For the United Kingdom, maintaining the balance of power in Europe protected any one power from emerging that could unite Europe and build a fleet to invade the United Kingdom or block its access to its empire. British strategy was to help create coalitions to block emerging hegemons such as Spain, France or Germany. Using overt and covert means, the United Kingdom aimed to ensure that no hegemonic power could emerge.
The Americans inherited that grand strategy from the British but elevated it to a global rather than regional level. Having blocked the Soviet Union from hegemony over Europe and Asia, the United States proceeded with a strategy whose goal, like that of the United Kingdom, was to nip potential regional hegemons in the bud. The U.S. war with Iraq in 1990-91 and the war with Serbia/Yugoslavia in 1999 were examples of this strategy. It involved coalition warfare, shifting America’s weight from side to side and using minimal force to disrupt the plans of regional aspirants to gain power. This U.S. strategy also was cloaked in the ideology of global liberalism and human rights.
The key to this strategy was its global nature. The emergence of a hegemonic contender that could challenge the United States globally, as the Soviet Union had done, was the worst-case scenario. Therefore, the containment of emerging powers wherever they might emerge was the centerpiece of American balance-of-power strategy.
The most significant effect of 9/11 was that it knocked the United States off its strategy. Rather than adapting its standing global strategy to better address the counterterrorism issue, the United States became obsessed with a single region, the area between the Mediterranean and the Hindu Kush. Within that region, the United States operated with a balance-of-power strategy. It played off all of the nations in the region against each other. It did the same with ethnic and religious groups throughout the region and particularly within Iraq and Afghanistan, the main theaters of the war. In both cases, the United States sought to take advantage of internal divisions, shifting its support in various directions to create a balance of power. That, in the end, was what the surge strategy was all about.
The American obsession with this region in the wake of 9/11 is understandable. Nine years later, with no clear end in sight, the question is whether this continued focus is strategically rational for the United States. Given the uncertainties of the first few years, obsession and uncertainty are understandable, but as a long-term U.S. strategy — the long war that the U.S. Department of Defense is preparing for — it leaves the rest of the world uncovered.
Consider that the Russians have used the American absorption in this region as a window of opportunity to work to reconstruct their geopolitical position. When Russia went to war with Georgia in 2008, an American ally, the United States did not have the forces with which to make a prudent intervention. Similarly, the Chinese have had a degree of freedom of action they could not have expected to enjoy prior to 9/11. The single most important result of 9/11 was that it shifted the United States from a global stance to a regional one, allowing other powers to take advantage of this focus to create significant potential challenges to the United States.
One can make the case, as I have, that whatever the origin of the Iraq war, remaining in Iraq to contain Iran is necessary. It is difficult to make a similar case for Afghanistan. Its strategic interest to the United States is minimal. The only justification for the war is that al Qaeda launched its attacks on the United States from Afghanistan. But that justification is no longer valid. Al Qaeda can launch attacks from Yemen or other countries. The fact that Afghanistan was the base from which the attacks were launched does not mean that al Qaeda depends on Afghanistan to launch attacks. And given that the apex leadership of al Qaeda has not launched attacks in a while, the question is whether al Qaeda is capable of launching such attacks any longer. In any case, managing al Qaeda today does not require nation building in Afghanistan.
But let me state a more radical thesis: The threat of terrorism cannot become the singular focus of the United States. Let me push it further: The United States cannot subordinate its grand strategy to simply fighting terrorism even if there will be occasional terrorist attacks on the United States. Three thousand people died in the 9/11 attack. That is a tragedy, but in a nation of over 300 million, 3,000 deaths cannot be permitted to define the totality of national strategy. Certainly, resources must be devoted to combating the threat and, to the extent possible, disrupting it. But it must also be recognized that terrorism cannot always be blocked, that terrorist attacks will occur and that the world’s only global power cannot be captive to this single threat.
The initial response was understandable and necessary. The United States must continue its intelligence gathering and covert operations against militant Islamists throughout the world. The intelligence failures of the 1990s must not be repeated. But waging a multi-divisional war in Afghanistan makes no strategic sense. The balance-of-power strategy must be used. Pakistan will intervene and discover the Russians and Iranians. The great game will continue. As for Iran, regional counters must be supported at limited cost to the United States. The United States should not be patrolling the far reaches of the region. It should be supporting a balance of power among the native powers of the region.
The United States is a global power and, as such, it must have a global view. It has interests and challenges beyond this region and certainly beyond Afghanistan. The issue there is not whether the United States can or can’t win, however that is defined. The issue is whether it is worth the effort considering what is going on in the rest of the world. Gen. David Petraeus cast the war in terms of whether the United States can win it. That’s reasonable; he’s the commander. But American strategy has to ask another question: What does the United States lose elsewhere while it focuses on the future of Kandahar?
The 9/11 attack shocked the United States and made counterterrorism the centerpiece of American foreign policy. That is too narrow a basis on which to base U.S. foreign policy. It is certainly an important strand of that policy, and it must be addressed, but it should be addressed through the regional balance of power. It is the good fortune of the United States that the Islamic world is torn by internal rivalries.
This is not dismissing the threat of terror. It is recognizing that the United States has done well in suppressing it over the past nine years but at a cost in other regions, a cost that can’t be sustained indefinitely and a cost that could well result in challenges more threatening than a rising Islamist militancy. The United States must now settle into a long-term strategy of managing terrorism as best as it can while not neglecting the rest of its interests.
After nine years, the issue is not what to do in Afghanistan but how the global power can return to managing all of its global interests, along with the war on al Qaeda.
"9/11 and the 9-Year War is republished with permission of STRATFOR."
Stratfor Global Intelligence
Rethinking American Options on Iran
August 31, 2010 | 0856 GMT
By George Friedman
Public discussion of potential attacks on Iran’s nuclear development sites is surging again. This has happened before. On several occasions, leaks about potential airstrikes have created an atmosphere of impending war. These leaks normally coincided with diplomatic initiatives and were designed to intimidate the Iranians and facilitate a settlement favorable to the United States and Israel. These initiatives have failed in the past. It is therefore reasonable to associate the current avalanche of reports with the imposition of sanctions and view it as an attempt to increase the pressure on Iran and either force a policy shift or take advantage of divisions within the regime.
My first instinct is to dismiss the war talk as simply another round of psychological warfare against Iran, this time originating with Israel. Most of the reports indicate that Israel is on the verge of attacking Iran. From a psychological-warfare standpoint, this sets up the good-cop/bad-cop routine. The Israelis play the mad dog barely restrained by the more sober Americans, who urge the Iranians through intermediaries to make concessions and head off a war. As I said, we have been here before several times, and this hasn’t worked.
The worst sin of intelligence is complacency, the belief that simply because something has happened (or has not happened) several times before it is not going to happen this time. But each episode must be considered carefully in its own light and preconceptions from previous episodes must be banished. Indeed, the previous episodes might well have been intended to lull the Iranians into complacency themselves. Paradoxically, the very existence of another round of war talk could be intended to convince the Iranians that war is distant while covert war preparations take place. An attack may be in the offing, but the public displays neither confirm nor deny that possibility.
The Evolving Iranian Assessment
STRATFOR has gone through three phases in its evaluation of the possibility of war. The first, which was in place until July 2009, held that while Iran was working toward a nuclear weapon, its progress could not be judged by its accumulation of enriched uranium. While that would give you an underground explosion, the creation of a weapon required sophisticated technologies for ruggedizing and miniaturizing the device, along with a very reliable delivery system. In our view, Iran might be nearing a testable device but it was far from a deliverable weapon. Therefore, we dismissed war talk and argued that there was no meaningful pressure for an attack on Iran.
We modified this view somewhat in July 2009, after the Iranian elections and the demonstrations. While we dismissed the significance of the demonstrations, we noted close collaboration developing between Russia and Iran. That meant there could be no effective sanctions against Iran, so stalling for time in order for sanctions to work had no value. Therefore, the possibility of a strike increased.
But then Russian support stalled as well, and we turned back to our analysis, adding to it an evaluation of potential Iranian responses to any air attack. We noted three potential counters: activating Shiite militant groups (most notably Hezbollah), creating chaos in Iraq and blocking the Strait of Hormuz, through which 45 percent of global oil exports travel. Of the three Iranian counters, the last was the real “nuclear option.” Interfering with the supply of oil from the Persian Gulf would raise oil prices stunningly and would certainly abort the tepid global economic recovery. Iran would have the option of plunging the world into a global recession or worse.
There has been debate over whether Iran would choose to do the latter or whether the U.S. Navy could rapidly clear mines. It is hard to imagine how an Iranian government could survive air attacks without countering them in some way. It is also a painful lesson of history that the confidence of any military force cannot be a guide to its performance. At the very least, there is a possibility that the Iranians could block the Strait of Hormuz, and that means the possibility of devastating global economic consequences. That is a massive risk for the United States to take, against an unknown probability of successful Iranian action. In our mind, it was not a risk that the United States could take, especially when added to the other Iranian counters. Therefore, we did not think the United States would strike.
Certainly, we did not believe that the Israelis would strike Iran alone. First, the Israelis are much less likely to succeed than the Americans would be, given the size of their force and their distance from Iran (not to mention the fact that they would have to traverse either Turkish, Iraqi or Saudi airspace). More important, Israel lacks the ability to mitigate any consequences. Any Israeli attack would have to be coordinated with the United States so that the United States could alert and deploy its counter-mine, anti-submarine and missile-suppression assets. For Israel to act without giving the United States time to mitigate the Hormuz option would put Israel in the position of triggering a global economic crisis. The political consequences of that would not be manageable by Israel. Therefore, we found an Israeli strike against Iran without U.S. involvement difficult to imagine.
The Current Evaluation
Our current view is that the accumulation of enough enriched uranium to build a weapon does not mean that the Iranians are anywhere close to having a weapon. Moreover, the risks inherent in an airstrike on its nuclear facilities outstrip the benefits (and even that assumes that the entire nuclear industry is destroyed in one fell swoop — an unsure outcome at best). It also assumes the absence of other necessary technologies. Assumptions of U.S. prowess against mines might be faulty, and so, too, could my assumption about weapon development. The calculus becomes murky, and one would expect all governments involved to be waffling.
There is, of course, a massive additional issue. Apart from the direct actions that Iran might make, there is the fact that the destruction of its nuclear capability would not solve the underlying strategic challenge that Iran poses. It has the largest military force in the Persian Gulf, absent the United States. The United States is in the process of withdrawing from Iraq, which would further diminish the ability of the United States to contain Iran. Therefore, a surgical strike on Iran’s nuclear capability combined with the continuing withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq would create a profound strategic crisis in the Persian Gulf.
The country most concerned about Iran is not Israel, but Saudi Arabia. The Saudis recall the result of the last strategic imbalance in the region, when Iraq, following its armistice with Iran, proceeded to invade Kuwait, opening the possibility that its next intention was to seize the northeastern oil fields of Saudi Arabia. In that case, the United States intervened. Given that the United States is now withdrawing from Iraq, intervention following withdrawal would be politically difficult unless the threat to the United States was clear. More important, the Iranians might not give the Saudis the present Saddam Hussein gave them by seizing Kuwait and then halting. They might continue. They certainly have the military capacity to try.
In a real sense, the Iranians would not have to execute such a military operation in order to gain the benefits. The simple imbalance of forces would compel the Saudis and others in the Persian Gulf to seek a political accommodation with the Iranians. Strategic domination of the Persian Gulf does not necessarily require military occupation — as the Americans have abundantly demonstrated over the past 40 years. It merely requires the ability to carry out those operations.
The Saudis, therefore, have been far quieter — and far more urgent — than the Israelis in asking the United States to do something about the Iranians. The Saudis certainly do not want the United States to leave Iraq. They want the Americans there as a blocking force protecting Saudi Arabia but not positioned on Saudi soil. They obviously are not happy about Iran’s nuclear efforts, but the Saudis see the conventional and nuclear threat as a single entity. The collapse of the Iran-Iraq balance of power has left the Arabian Peninsula in a precarious position.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia did an interesting thing a few weeks ago. He visited Lebanon personally and in the company of the president of Syria. The Syrian and Saudi regimes are not normally friendly, given different ideologies, Syria’s close relationship with Iran and their divergent interests in Lebanon. But there they were together, meeting with the Lebanese government and giving not very subtle warnings to Hezbollah. Saudi influence and money and the threat of Iran jeopardizing the Saudi regime by excessive adventurism seems to have created an anti-Hezbollah dynamic in Lebanon. Hezbollah is suddenly finding many of its supposed allies cooperating with some of its certain enemies. The threat of a Hezbollah response to an airstrike on Iran seems to be mitigated somewhat.
Eliminating Iranian Leverage In Hormuz
I said that there were three counters. One was Hezbollah, which is the least potent of the three from the American perspective. The other two are Iraq and Hormuz. If the Iraqis were able to form a government that boxed in pro-Iranian factions in a manner similar to how Hezbollah is being tentatively contained, then the second Iranian counter would be weakened. That would “just” leave the major issue — Hormuz.
The problem with Hormuz is that the United States cannot tolerate any risk there. The only way to control that risk is to destroy Iranian naval capability before airstrikes on nuclear targets take place. Since many of the Iranian mine layers would be small boats, this would mean an extensive air campaign and special operations forces raids against Iranian ports designed to destroy anything that could lay mines, along with any and all potential mine-storage facilities, anti-ship missile emplacements, submarines and aircraft. Put simply, any piece of infrastructure within a few miles of any port would need to be eliminated. The risk to Hormuz cannot be eliminated after the attack on nuclear sites. It must be eliminated before an attack on the nuclear sites. And the damage must be overwhelming.
There are two benefits to this strategy. First, the nuclear facilities aren’t going anywhere. It is the facilities that are producing the enriched uranium and other parts of the weapon that must be destroyed more than any uranium that has already been enriched. And the vast bulk of those facilities will remain where they are even if there is an attack on Iran’s maritime capabilities. Key personnel would undoubtedly escape, but considering that within minutes of the first American strike anywhere in Iran a mass evacuation of key scientists would be under way anyway, there is little appreciable difference between a first strike against nuclear sites and a first strike against maritime targets. (U.S. air assets are good, but even the United States cannot strike 100-plus targets simultaneously.)
Second, the counter-nuclear strategy wouldn’t deal with the more fundamental problem of Iran’s conventional military power. This opening gambit would necessarily attack Iran’s command-and-control, air-defense and offensive air capabilities as well as maritime capabilities. This would sequence with an attack on the nuclear capabilities and could be extended into a prolonged air campaign targeting Iran’s ground forces.
The United States is very good at gaining command of the air and attacking conventional military capabilities (see Yugoslavia in 1999). Its strategic air capability is massive and, unlike most of the U.S. military, underutilized. The United States also has substantial air forces deployed around Iran, along with special operations forces teams trained in penetration, evasion and targeting, and satellite surveillance. Far from the less-than-rewarding task of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, going after Iran would be the kind of war the United States excels at fighting. No conventional land invasion, no boots-on-the-ground occupation, just a very thorough bombing campaign. If regime change happens as a consequence, great, but that is not the primary goal. Defanging the Iranian state is.
It is also the only type of operation that could destroy the nuclear capabilities (and then some) while preventing an Iranian response. It would devastate Iran’s conventional military forces, eliminating the near-term threat to the Arabian Peninsula. Such an attack, properly executed, would be the worst-case scenario for Iran and, in my view, the only way an extended air campaign against nuclear facilities could be safely executed.
Just as Iran’s domination of the Persian Gulf rests on its ability to conduct military operations, not on its actually conducting the operations, the reverse is also true. It is the capacity and apparent will to conduct broadened military operations against Iran that can shape Iranian calculations and decision-making. So long as the only threat is to Iran’s nuclear facilities, its conventional forces remain intact and its counter options remain viable, Iran will not shift its strategy. Once its counter options are shut down and its conventional forces are put at risk, Iran must draw up another calculus.
In this scenario, Israel is a marginal player. The United States is the only significant actor, and it might not strike Iran simply over the nuclear issue. That’s not a major U.S. problem. But the continuing withdrawal from Iraq and Iran’s conventional forces are very much an American problem. Destroying Iran’s nuclear capability is merely an added benefit.
Given the Saudi intervention in Lebanese politics, this scenario now requires a radical change in Iraq, one in which a government would be quickly formed and Iranian influence quickly curtailed. Interestingly, we have heard recent comments by administration officials asserting that Iranian influence has, in fact, been dramatically reduced. At present, such a reduction is not obvious to us, but the first step of shifting perceptions tends to be propaganda. If such a reduction became real, then the two lesser Iranian counter moves would be blocked and the U.S. offensive option would become more viable.
Internal Tension in Tehran
At this point, we would expect to see the Iranians recalculating their position, with some of the clerical leadership using the shifting sands of Lebanon against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Indeed, there have been many indications of internal stress, not between the mythical democratic masses and the elite, but within the elite itself. This past weekend the Iranian speaker of the house attacked Ahmadinejad’s handling of special emissaries. For what purpose we don’t yet know, but the internal tension is growing.
The Iranians are not concerned about the sanctions. The destruction of their nuclear capacity would, from their point of view, be a pity. But the destruction of large amounts of their conventional forces would threaten not only their goals in the wider Islamic world but also their stability at home. That would be unacceptable and would require a shift in their general strategy.
From the Iranian point of view — and from ours — Washington’s intentions are opaque. But when we consider the Obama administration’s stated need to withdraw from Iraq, Saudi pressure on the United States not to withdraw while Iran remains a threat, Saudi moves against Hezbollah to split Syria from Iran and Israeli pressure on the United States to deal with nuclear weapons, the pieces for a new American strategy are emerging from the mist. Certainly the Iranians appear to be nervous. And the threat of a new strategy might just be enough to move the Iranians off dead center. If they don’t, logic would dictate the consideration of a broader treatment of the military problem posed by Iran.
Monday, August 30, 2010 7:21 PM
From: "President Barack Obama"
Tomorrow evening at 8 p.m. EDT, I will address the nation from the Oval Office about the end of the war in Iraq.
We are at a truly historic moment in our nation’s history. After more than seven years, our combat mission in Iraq will end tomorrow.
As both a candidate and President, I promised to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end. Now, we are taking an important step forward in delivering on that promise. Since I took office, we’ve brought nearly 100,000 U.S. troops home from Iraq, millions of pieces of equipment have been removed, and hundreds of bases have been closed or transferred to Iraqi Security Forces.
Our combat mission in Iraq is ending, but our commitment to an Iraq that is sovereign, stable and self-reliant continues. As our mission in Iraq changes, 50,000 U.S. troops will remain in Iraq to advise and assist the Iraqi Security Forces as they assume full responsibility for the security of their country on September 1. We will forge a strong partnership with an Iraq that still faces enduring challenges.
For nearly a decade, we have been a nation at war. The war in Iraq has at times divided us. But one thing I think all Americans can agree on is that our brave men and women in uniform are truly America’s finest. They have put their lives on the line and endured long separations from their family and loved ones.
All Americans owe our troops, veterans and military families a debt of gratitude for their outstanding service to our nation. Over the past few days, thousands of Americans have taken part in our Saluting Service in Iraq effort on WhiteHouse.gov, sending their messages of thanks and support to our troops.
Supporting our troops and military families is the responsibility of all Americans. My Administration is doing everything in its power to ensure that our troops, veterans and their families have the support they need as they serve, and the care and opportunities they need to realize their dreams when they return home.
I hope you will join me in welcoming our troops home and showing your gratitude for their heroic service.
President Barack Obama
Will Afghanistan be next for 'TROOPS' pull out?
President Barack Obama must walk a fine line in a speech on Tuesday night as he highlights progress toward winding down the war in Iraq while trying to avoid any perception of a "Mission Accomplished" moment.
The White House says the removal of all but 50,000 U.S. troops and the declaration of the end to the combat phase shows Obama is fulfilling a campaign promise he made in 2008 to pull out of Iraq.
Obama hopes that message will resonate with Americans ahead of the Nov. 2 elections, where his Democrats are struggling to keep their dominance in the U.S. Congress.
The address, scheduled for 8 p.m. EDT/midnight GMT, will be only his second from the Oval Office. Obama also used the high-profile venue in June to discuss his administration's response to the Gulf Coast oil spill.
As Obama prepared to deliver his speech, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden flew into Iraq on Monday to assure Iraqis the United States is not abandoning them.
Biden was to hold talks with Iraqi leaders amid a political deadlock almost six months after an inconclusive election in March over forming the next government.
Obama told NBC News in an interview on Sunday that Iraqis are "going through a political process that is natural in a fledgling democracy" but he added, "we're confident that that will get done."
Obama plans to visit troops at Fort Bliss, Texas, prior to the speech.
In the address, Obama must avoid coming across as too triumphant. To do so could evoke comparisons to President George W. Bush's May 2003 speech aboard an aircraft carrier. In front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner, Bush announced that major combat operations were over, a move that was seen as a huge misstep after violence later exploded.
"You won't hear those words coming from us," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said of the Mission Accomplished slogan. "Obviously tomorrow marks a change in our mission. It marks a milestone that we have achieved in removing our combat troops."
"That is not to say that violence is going to end tomorrow," Gibbs added.
More than 4,400 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein.
Obama, who opposed the Iraq war, rode a wave antiwar sentiment that boosted his support within his Democratic Party during the 2008 campaign.
When he took office in January 2009, the U.S. troop presence in Iraq was 140,000 troops and it reached a high of 176,000 under the surge ordered by Bush.
The roughly 50,000 U.S. soldiers still in Iraq are moving into an advisory role in which they will train and support Iraq's army and police.
The effective change on the ground will not be huge because the U.S. military has already been switching the focus toward training and support over the past year. Obama has promised to pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011.
Ahead of the speech, Republicans criticized Obama for what they say is a failure to acknowledge the success of Bush's troop surge in bringing down violence in Iraq. Obama had opposed the 2007 troop increase.
Gibbs said additional troops contributed to the reduction in violence but there were a "host of factors" that also played a role, such as the "Sunni awakening" movement in which Sunni tribesman and former insurgents decided to fight al-Qaida.
Obama plans to call Bush before the speech, Gibbs said.
One of Obama's aims is to ease growing anxiety among liberals in his party about the war in Afghanistan, where he has increased U.S. troop levels.
He has set July 2011 as the date for a beginning of a drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and he hopes the example of Iraq will reassure his Democratic supporters that he can keep his word.
Also looming in the background of Obama's speech are growing worries about the U.S. economy.
The Iraq speech and a Middle East peace summit he is hosting on Wednesday and Thursday mark a heavy emphasis on foreign policy this week. But a raft of gloomy economic data have dominated Americans' attention, which could potentially steal some of the thunder from the Iraq speech.
Obama, who visited wounded troops on Monday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, will use the Fort Bliss trip to pay tribute to the troops who have served in Iraq.
More than 7,000 troops from Iraq have returned to Fort Bliss over the last six months, including members of the 1st Brigade Combat Team who came back in August and were among the most recent wave of troops to leave, according to the White House.
Iran seeks more new weapons and bluster
By Dale McFeatters
August seems to be military-dog-and-pony-show month in Iran.
Last week, Tehran boasted about the test firing of a new liquid-fueled surface-to-surface missile, the Qiam-1.
On Monday, it proudly announced the opening of production lines for two new assault boats, the missile-armed Zolfgha and the high-speed patrol craft Seraj. The defense minister, Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, said the craft "will add remarkable powers to Iran's navy."
Earlier in the month, the navy proudly launched four Iranian-built subs.
But the theatrical centerpiece came Sunday, when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiled the nation's newest drone, the Karrar, or "Striker" in English. Literally unveiled it. The drone was draped with a gauzy cover that was ceremoniously pulled off at the appropriate moment, very much like the introduction of a new model at the Detroit auto show.
To further the similarity, the drone was positioned before a painted backdrop of blue sky and fluffy clouds and in front of some cutout scenery, presumably there to indicate mountains.
Drones are not especially graceful craft, and the Karrar looks especially clunky. But the Iranians claim the 13-foot jet can fly at 560 mph with a payload of two 250-pound bombs or a 450-pound missile. The drone has a range of 620 miles _ not far enough, as every report was quick to note, to reach Israel.
Ahmadinejad referred to the drone as "an ambassador of death," an odd way to convey what he called its "main message of peace and friendship."
And he had a warning for the U.S. and Israel. "The scope of Iran's reaction will include the entire earth," he said. And, lifting a phrase from Washington, Ahmadinejad said that "all options are on the table."
Iran has operated surveillance drones since the late 1980, according to the Associated Press. And, indeed, U.S. fighters shot one down just inside Iraq in 2009. The Iranian defense ministry said the drone was there by mistake.
Perhaps so. Iranian drone operations seem to be lacking in what the U.S. military calls "tradoc," training and doctrine.
In Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, Iran analyst Michael Ledeen reports that a few weeks ago the Iranian air force shot down three drones near the country's new nuclear reactor. The Revolutionary Guards rushed to the wreckage certain of finding proof of U.S. or Israeli espionage, only to find out the drones were Iran's own. Someone had neglected to alert the air force to the drones' presence.
There's a week left in August. Still time for more new weapons and more bluster.
Dale McFeatters is an editorial writer of Scripps Howard News Service (www.scrippsnews.com
Iran unveils 'Karrar,' unmanned bomber dubbed 'ambassador of death' by President Ahmadinejad
By Michael Sheridan
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Sunday, August 22nd 2010, 10:17 AM
Iranian Defense MinistryPhoto released by Iranian Defense Ministry claims to show launch of the Karrar, or striker in Farsi, the country's first domestically-built, long-range, unmanned bomber aircraft.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad showed off his country's latest piece of military hardware on Sunday, a new unmanned bomber aircraft.
The jet, dubbed "Karrar" ("striker" in Farsi), which measures about 13 feet, can travel a distance of 620 miles and carry up to four cruise missiles, state TV reports.
Ahmadinejad claimed the aircraft is not just meant as a means to strike at Iran's enemies, but also serves as a deterrent against attack.
"The jet, as well as being an ambassador of death for the enemies of humanity, has a main message of peace and friendship," he said during the aircraft's unveiling ceremony, which fell on the country's national day for its defense industries.
Iran routinely boasts of its military capabilities and hardware, with no verification from independent sources that its weapons can do what the government claims.
State TV later showed video footage of the plane taking off from a launching pad and reported that the craft traveled at speeds of 560 mph and could alternatively be armed with two 250-pound bombs or a 450-pound guided bomb.
Iran has been producing its own light, unmanned surveillance aircraft since the late 1980s.
Tensions with Iran have continued to worsen, as sanctions have failed to curtail its nuclear endeavors.
On Saturday, Russian and Iranian engineers began to load fuel into a nuclear plant in Bushehr. It is feared Iran could use material from the reactor to construct nuclear weapons, despite the government's claims about its peaceful purpose.
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Iran prepares to start up first nuclear reactor
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer – Fri Aug 20, 4:47 pm ET
BUSHEHR, Iran –
Iranian and Russian nuclear technicians made final preparations to start up Iran's first reactor on Saturday after years of delays, an operation that will mark a milestone in what Tehran considers its right to produce nuclear energy.
Nationwide celebrations are planned for the fuel loading at the Bushehr facility in southern Iran, while Russia pledges to safeguard the plant and prevent spent nuclear fuel from being shifted to a possible weapons program.
"The startup operations will be a big success for Iran," conservative lawmaker Javad Karimi said in Tehran. "It also shows Iran's resolve and capability in pursuing its nuclear activities."
The West has not sought to block the reactor startup as part of its confrontations over Iran's nuclear agenda, a clash that has resulted in repeated rounds of U.N. sanctions against Tehran. Washington and other nations do not specifically object to Tehran's ability to build peaceful reactors that are under international scrutiny.
However, it is seen by hard-liners as defiance of U.N. Security Council sanctions that seek to slow Iran's nuclear advances — which Tehran's foes worry could eventually push toward atomic weapons.
What concerns America and others — including Russia — is Iran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to make fuel for nuclear arms.
Russia now must follow through with its agreements, signed by Iran, to remove all spent fuel at Bushehr and ship it back to Russia for reprocessing. That's would make it impossible for Iran to use plutonium, contained in the spent fuel, for nuclear weapons. Iran has said U.N. nuclear agency experts will be able to verify none of the waste is diverted.
The uranium fuel used at Bushehr is well below the more than 90 percent enrichment needed for a nuclear warhead. Iran is already producing its own uranium enriched to the Bushehr level — about 3.5 percent. It also has started a pilot program of enriching uranium to 20 percent, which officials say is needed for a medical research reactor.
President Barack Obama's top adviser on nuclear issues, Gary Samore, told The New York Times that he thinks it would take Iran "roughly a year" to turn low-enriched uranium into weapons-grade material. The assessment was reportedly shared with Israel and could ease concerns over the possibility of an imminent Israeli military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Iran's envoy to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said Thursday that any military attack against an operational nuclear power plant would be a direct violation of the U.N. charter. It also would likely provoke international outrage by possibly unleashing dangerous radiation.
Iran has repeatedly denied it is seeking to build atomic weapons and says it has a right to produce its own fuel for several nuclear power plants it plans to build.
The nuclear reactor was a goal launched by the U.S.-backed shah in the 1970s and is now a symbol of the Islamic state's nuclear prowess.
Iranian officials say nationwide celebrations will begin once the fuel loading begins Saturday at the 1,000-megawatt, light-water reactor. Iran says it plans to build other reactors and says designs for a second rector in southwestern Iran are taking shape.
Of greater concern to the West, however, are Iran's stated plans to build 10 new uranium enrichment sites inside protected mountain strongholds. Iran said recently it will begin construction on the first one in March in defiance of the U.N. sanctions.
Russia — which began work on the reactor in 1995 — has backed the U.N.'s latest economic squeeze on Iran. But Russian officials argue that starting up the long-delayed Bushehr reactor would require Iran to deepen cooperation with U.N. nuclear inspectors and possibly lead Iran to resume talks over its uranium enrichment program.
Yet Iran has not slowed its push for military advances. Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said Friday forces have test-fired a new liquid-fueled missile with advanced guidance systems for ground targets.
Vahidi gave no other details of the new Qiam-1 missile during a nationally broadcast address ahead of Friday prayers at Tehran University. But it could raise Western fears about another advance in Iran's missile arsenal, which already can target Israel and other parts of the region.
The fuel-loading operation is expected to take at least a week at Bushehr, about 745 miles (1,200 kilometers) south of Tehran. It will take more than two months before it begins generating electricity.
Experts from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, are expected to monitor the transfer of fuel from a storage site to the reactor, according to Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who is also the head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
The process ends years of foot dragging by Russia. Completion of the $1 billion project has been delayed several times. Iranian officials say operation of the plant is already more than a decade behind schedule.
On Friday, security was tight at the Bushehr site. Authorities only allowed cameramen and photographers to shoot from the gate of the sprawling complex on the shores of the Gulf.
Once fuel is loaded into the reactor, the Bushehr facility will be recognized as a nuclear plant under international terms.
Hamid Reza Taraqi, another hard-line leader, claimed the launch will boost Iran's international standing and "will show the failure of all sanctions" against Iran.
The Bushehr plant overlooks the Persian Gulf and is visible from several miles (kilometers) away with its cream-colored dome dominating the green landscape. Soldiers maintain a 24-hour watch on roads leading up to the plant, manning anti-aircraft guns and supported by numerous radar stations.
There are several housing facilities for employees inside the complex plus a separate large compound housing the families of Russian experts and technicians.
Russians began shipping fuel for the plant in 2007 and carried out a test-run of the plant in February 2009.
Russia has walked a fine line on Iran for years. It is one of the six powers leading international efforts to ensure Iran does not develop an atomic bomb. It has backed U.N. sanctions, but strongly criticized the U.S. and the European Union for following up with separate, stronger sanctions.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated Friday that Tehran was ready to resume negotiations with the six major powers — the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany — about its nuclear program but insisted Iran would reject calls to completely halt uranium enrichment, a key U.N. demand.
Ahmadinejad had earlier said the talks could start in September, but in an interview with Japan's biggest newspaper, The Yomiuri Shimbun, he said the talks could start as early as this month.
The Bushehr project dates backs to 1974, when Iran's U.S.-backed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi contracted with the German company Siemens to build the reactor. The company withdrew from the project after the 1979 Islamic Revolution toppled the shah.
The partially finished plant later sustained damages after it was bombed by Iraq during its 1980-88 war against Iran.
Before making the Russian deal to complete Bushehr, Iran signed pacts with Argentina, Spain and other countries only to see them canceled under U.S. pressure.
Bolton calls for Israel to strike Iran in the next eight days.
By Matt Duss on Aug 17th, 2010 at 10:55 am
Russia has announced that it will introduce fuel rods into Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor on August 21, which both Russia and Iran say is purely for civilian use. Appearing on Fox Business channel yesterday to comment on Russia’s move, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton told anchor David Asman, “If Israel’s going to do anything against Bushehr, it has to move in the next eight days.” “The point is that we can’t — we or Israel or whomever — can’t bomb these plants, this nuclear reactor,” Asman observed, “because it would send radiation flying in the air, it would affect thousands of people, Iranians.” Bolton reasoned that an Israeli strike must therefore happen immediately:
BOLTON: Well, unless the Israelis move within the next eight days. Once that uranium, once those fuel rods are very close to the reactor, certainly once they’re in the reactor as you say, attacking it means a release of radiation, no question about it. So if Israel’s going to do anything against Bushehr it has to move in the next eight days. If they don’t, then as I say something Saddam Hussein wanted but couldn’t get, a functioning nuclear reactor — because the Israelis bombed it in 1981 — something that Bashar al-Assad in Syria wanted, a functioning nuclear reactor — until the Israelis bombed it — couldn’t get, the Iranians, sworn enemies of Israel, will have.
ASMAN: Boy, we’ve literally run out of time, but within the next eight days, do you think it’s likely that within the next eight days the Israelis will strike?
BOLTON: I don’t think so, I’m afraid that they’ve lost this opportunity.
So, according to John Bolton, after August 21 there will be no point in striking Iran. Good to know.
The Israelis will have to attack the U.N. simultaneously in order to make this plan successful. Will we help them?
8/17/10 from Asia Times:
Security correspondent Ronen Bergman reported in Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s most popular newspaper, in July 2009 that former chief of military intelligence Major General Aharon Zeevi Farkash said the Israeli public perception of the Iranian nuclear threat had been “distorted”.
Farkash and other military intelligence and Mossad officials believe Iran’s main motive for seeking a nuclear weapons capability was not to threaten Israel but to “deter US intervention and efforts at regime change”, according to Bergman.
Is that what Bolton is really worried about?
So Bolton and his crew poke Iran with threats of attacks until Iran is finally provoked into providing this sound byte:
“In that case we will lose a power plant, but Israel’s existence will be in danger,” Ahmad Vahidi was cited as saying today by the state-run Mehr news agency, in response to questions about the possibility of an attack by Israel on the Russian-built atomic facility at Bushehr.
Now Bolton and his neocon friends can crow, “See? Iran is threatening Israel! We have no choice! We must attack Iran now!”
Hmmm, how would Russia respond to such an attack I wonder…
We are not the world’s cop, no matter what neocons might like to think. It appears that way since we have no superpower rival. It is only a question of time when China reaches superpower status. There is also the possibility that Russia will also become a superpower again.
The Arabs receive our protection from Iran through our military presence in the ME. I think the Arab states need to be brought up sharply. They undermine us in many ways and they receive the protection for little or nothing which protects their supply of oil. The Arab oil states should be selling us oil at a discount. They do not have any military capability and in fact rely on Israel as a balance to Iran. We are the other ME power that keeps Iran in check.
Fortunately, for us, Mr. Bolton is recognized as one of the most repugnant Zionists in America. He is full of hate for Muslims and non-Jews in general and is proud of it. In other words, he is psychotic. Israel is a country of hypocritical psychotics. They think they have a right to have the atomic bomb but no one else does. More and more people are coming to the conclusion that Judaism is a cover for an international criminal organization. Watch “Missing Links” to learn the truth:
Is there a wingnut anywhere that’s not crazy?
I’m surprised they’re not advocating that America attack the entire rest of the world that lies beyond our borders in order to secure for everyone everywhere ‘Truth, Justice, and the American Way’ (Superman was after that back in the fifties, you know). Think of it: a one world government — ours. I think Republicans get hikaye a (toothpick sized) woodie just on the thought of so much power in the hands of so few.
Ahmadinejad lashes out at Russia
By JPOST.COM STAFF
Teheran criticizes Medvedev for supporting "US propaganda drama."
TEHERAN, Iran — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Russian President Dmitry Medvedev of turning against Teheran and joining US efforts to spread lies about its nuclear program on Friday, in the latest sign that Iran is drifting apart from a one-time key backer.
Ahmadinejad said Dmitry Medvedev entered a "propaganda drama" directed by Washington by saying last week that Iran was getting closer to being able to develop nuclear weapons.
The Iranian president has had harsh words for Moscow since it became apparent that Russia would support last month's new United Nations sanctions against Teheran for its refusal to stop parts of its nuclear program. In the past, Iran had depended on allies Russia and China — and their veto power at the Security Council — to block tough penalties.
"Russia is a great nation and we are interested in continuing friendship between the two nations but his (Medvedev's) remarks are part of a propaganda drama that is to be carried out by the US president against the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad said in a speech posted on his website Friday.
"In fact, Mr. Medvedev has kick-started this drama," he said.
Russia is in a difficult position in the international standoff with Iran, in part because it does not want to jeopardize decades of political and trade ties with the country. Still, Moscow has lately shown increasing frustration with Iran, and last month backed the new sanctions.
Medvedev said last week that although Iran is "an active and trusted trading partner ... this does not mean we don't care how it develops its nuclear program and what its military components look like. In this respect we expect explanations from Iran."
He also urged Iran to find the courage to cooperate with the international community over its disputed nuclear program.
Ahmadinejad first delivered unusual criticism of Medvedev in May, accusing him of caving in to US pressure for new sanctions, saying "justifying the behavior of Mr. Medvedev today has become very difficult."
Russia: Bushehr nuclear plant is harmless
Relations between Russia and Iran are ‘still good’
MOSCOW (Russian TV) – The spokesperson for the Rosatom Nuclear Energy State Corporation, Sergey Novikov says the Bushehr nuclear power plant is harmless.
“I think it is a very strong signal that international society supports such peaceful projects as Bushehr, because everybody understands that you cannot use a power plant in a hypothetical military program,” Novikov told Russian TV.
“A nuclear power plant just generates electricity. There are two double-purpose elements – enrichment and spent fuel management. Both of these elements are taken out of Iranian responsibility, because we are going to supply the Bushehr power plant with nuclear fuel.”
Vladimir Sotnikov, a political analyst from the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, says the opening of the nuclear plant demonstrates that ties between Russia and Iran are still strong.
“In the recent past there were some emotional statements on behalf of the Iranian leader, President Ahmadinejad, about the state of Iranian-Russian relations, but I think the nuclear commerce and nuclear industry are not affected by the statements. And I think that the trade relations between the Russian Federation and Islamic Republic of Iran are still good,” he told RT.
The Russian nuclear agency Rosatom, which is building the facility in Bushehr, announced that engineers will start loading the reactor with fuel on August 21, under strict control.
A Russian delegation, headed by Rosatom Director General Sergey Kiriyenko, will attend the launch ceremony.
The start date of the Bushehr power plant has been delayed a number of times.
Construction of the plant was started in 1974 by a German company, Kraftwerk Union A.G. (Siemens/KWU), but stopped shortly after the Islamic revolution in the country in 1979.
In 1995 Iran started cooperation with Russia, and in 1998 Russia signed up to complete the construction of the plant.
Works on Bushehr have been closely monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency and comply with all international norms and legislation.
The announced launch is attracting a lot of media attention, as Iran is under sanctions from the UN at the moment
Tehran Times Political Desk
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reached out to fellow Muslim nations this week for Ramadan. Mahmoud told Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir that he hoped for the victory of faithful and justice-seeking people during the holy month.
Fars News reported:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad extended his congratulations to all Muslim governments and nations on the start of the holy month of Ramadan.
In phone conversations with a number of his Muslim counterparts and statesmen, the Iranian president expressed hope that Muslim nations would enjoy God’s mercy and grace in the holy month…
…in his phone conversation with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the Iranian president hoped for the victory of faithful and justice-seeking people during the holy month of Ramadan.
Bashir, for his part, underlined that the Sudanese people and all the world Muslims pray for the victory of the Iranian nation against all its enemies.
Hopefully, Barack Obama will be able to talk some sense into him.
U.S. call for Afghan talks with Iran unacceptable: Larijani
TEHRAN - Iranian Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani says the United States’ call for talks with Iran on Afghanistan is unacceptable and Iran and the U.S. do not have a common approach to negotiations.
Speaking during a Majlis session on Sunday, Larijani made the remarks in response to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who recently said she is ready to hold talks with Iran on Afghanistan.
In early August, U.S. President Barack Obama also proposed holding talks with Iran on Afghanistan, claiming that since the two countries have a “mutual interest” in fighting the Taliban, “Iran should be a part of that (the talks) and could be a constructive partner.”
It is a “scandal” for the U.S. to talk deceitfully about negotiating with Iran after the UN’s anti-Iran sanctions resolution, Larijani stated.
On June 9, the UN Security Council approved the fourth round of sanctions against Iran in a 12-2 vote, but Brazil and Turkey voted against the resolution and Lebanon abstained.
The Iranian nation is well aware of the U.S. actions against the interests of Iran in various periods, Larijani noted and called for increased unity and vigilance toward the enemies’ deception.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the Majlis speaker noted, “The United States’ black record is before the nation’s eyes, so (the U.S.) mercenary policies must not be faced naively.”
“You have committed crimes in Afghanistan,” Larijani said, addressing the U.S., adding, “We are against the aggression committed by the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Afghanistan and oppressing the Afghan people.”
Iran and the U.S. do not have a common approach to negotiations, he noted.
He also stated, “Ms. Clinton condescends to hold talks with Iran on Afghanistan.”
The parliament speaker also praised the recent Majlis ratification which requires the government to take reciprocal action toward the measures taken by countries which are attempting to enforce a sanctions resolution against Iran and described it as a “timely” decision.
In response to the UN sanctions resolution, the Majlis approved a bill allowing the reciprocal inspection of foreign ships and banning the inspection of Iranian nuclear sites beyond the requirements of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The United States should be aware that the Majlis will keep a close eye on their behavior, and they should not suppose that by using a different tone they can “lighten the burden of their betrayal of the Iranian nation,” Larijani added
Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon will foster ties:
Tehran Times Political Desk
TEHRAN – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s forthcoming visit to Beirut will accelerate economic, trade and political ties with Lebanon, Tehran’s new ambassador to Beirut has said.
Ghazanfar Roknabadi described Ahmadinejad’s visit to Beirut as “important”, adding that Iran-Lebanon relation has entered a new phase.
Ahmadinejad was supposed to visit Beirut before August 11 at the head of a 70-member delegation, but his visit was postponed till after the holy month of Ramadan which will occur on September 10 or 11, depending on the sighting of the new moon.
The fact that a number of high-ranking officials from different countries including Saudi Arabia, Syria, Qatar and Iran have recently visited Lebanon proves the country’s key role in the region, the ambassador told the Mehr News Agency.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Roknabadi announced that a number of Lebanese economic ministers including economy and trade ministers will visit Iran in the near future.
He also commented on the new disclosures about Israel’s possible involvement in assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri revealed by Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader.
The ambassador said Nasrallah’s revelations have greatly influenced public opinion in regional countries and now all are waiting to hear an authentic answer
Iran president: Sept. 11 exaggerated
Ahmadinejad says U.S. used attacks as an excuse to invade Iraq, Afghanistan
TEHRAN — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Saturday the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks were exaggerated in a fresh broadside at the United States just days after President Barack Obama voiced willingness to talk to Iran.
Well-known for his anti-American and anti-Israeli rhetoric, the hardline populist Ahmadinejad also repeated his denial of the Holocaust, on which the consensus of historians is that six million Jews were exterminated by Nazi Germany.
Ahmadinejad said the Sept. 11 attacks with hijacked airliners on New York and Washington D.C. had been trumped up as an excuse for the United States to invade Afghanistan and Iraq.
Speaking at a Tehran conference, Ahmadinejad said there was no evidence that the death toll at New York's World Trade Center, destroyed in the attacks, was as high as reported and said "Zionists" had been tipped off in advance.
"What was the story of September 11? During five to six days, and with the aid of the media, they created and prepared public opinion so that everyone considered an attack on Afghanistan and Iraq as (their) right," he said in a televised speech.
No "Zionists" were killed in the World Trade Center, according to Ahmadinejad, because "one day earlier they were told not go to their workplace."
"They announced that 3,000 people were killed in this incident, but there were no reports that reveal their names. Maybe you saw that, but I did not," he told a gathering of the Iranian news media.
There is a published list of Sept. 11 dead from more than 90 countries available online.
A total of 2,995 people were killed in the attacks, including 19 hijackers and all passengers and crew aboard four commandeered airliners, according to official U.S. figures. The United States blamed the assaults on al-Qaida, led by Saudi-born Sunni Muslim fundamentalist Osama Bin Laden.
Ahmadinejad accused the U.S. government of exercising more media censorship than anywhere in the world.
Holocaust 'made up,' Iran leader reiterates
He had previously said the "9/11" attacks were a "big fabrication" and has rejected the historical record of the Holocaust. On Saturday, Ahmadinejad repeated his belief that the Holocaust had been invented to justify the creation of Israel.
"They made up an event, the so-called Holocaust which was later laid as the basis for the innocence of a group," he said.
Ahmadinejad last week challenged Obama to a televised debate on global issues during his trip to the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September.
Two years ago he asked to visit the site of the World Trade Center "to pay his respects" but New York police refused.
Washington succeeded in June in getting a fourth round of U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed on Iran to pressure it to suspend its disputed nuclear program.
Tougher U.S. and European measures have further tightened restrictions on doing business with the major OPEC country.
Obama signaled on Thursday he was open to talks with the Islamic Republic and was seeking "a clear set of steps that we would consider sufficient to show that they are not pursuing nuclear weapons."
Ahmadinejad has said he is prepared to return to international talks, which were last held in October, but insists that Iran has the sovereign right to enrich uranium.
Western powers fear the Islamic Republic aims to stockpile the material for possible use, when more highly enriched, in nuclear weapons, and U.N. nuclear inspectors cite indications that Iran is researching how to build a nuclear-tipped missile.
Tehran says it is refining uranium only for electricity and medical treatments.
Israel considers the combination of Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial and his pursuit of nuclear technology a potential threat to its existence and has said it does not rule out military action to prevent Iran developing atomic bombs.
A Washington-based think-tank with access to intelligence said on Friday Iran had begun using recently installed equipment to enrich uranium more efficiently, a step it said could be justified nominally on civilian grounds but in fact made more sense in the context of learning how to make bomb-grade uranium.