Saturday, November 22, 2008

Iran Ramps Up Spy War With Hanging Of Telecom Salesman

Iran wants to prove to the world community that it is continuing to take a hard line on the nuclear issue with the reported Saturday hanging of a telecoms salesman Ali Ashtari, 45, who the state claims was paid $50,00USD by the Israeli Mossad to buy satellite phones and other communications items to intercept Iranian military communications, government officials and the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency. Iran had previously used prison terms of 4 to 13 years in cases involving spying on their government or military, so the execution was a dramatic step in sending an angry message to the world community. The world community seeks both cooperation as well as transparency with Iran's nuclear program for it not to be used for military purposes, but the hanging is another example of how Iran feels about this nuclear issue.

The salesman who was hanged, reportedly used encrypted computer messages as well attempted to distribute satellite phones to other agents within Iran to spy on government officials, military leadership and Iran's nuclear program according to Iran's claims. And supposedly he confessed to such crimes the state claims. However their is no independent way to verify if Iran used torture or other means to get a confession or whether the salesman was really a spy at all. The main purpose of the Iranian announcement of the hanging seemed to be a blunt message to the world community to stay out of Iran's affairs and that Iran would not cooperate on the nuclear issue.

The problem with Iran taking such a hard position as this is that it actually increases the likelihood of Israel taking military action in the future if President Barack Obama is less willing to do more than negotiate with Iran or use sanctions. Iran and Israel could well find themselves pushed to the brink of war if the world community cannot get the cooperation of Iran for more openness with their nuclear program as well as safeguards that it not be used for military purposes.

But in the short run, Iran may use more "show executions" to send a climate of fear into the world spy community to stay out of their military affairs. But the reality is that that is unlikely to deter the West from preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, so Israel will most likely act at some point if they fear that their security is actually threatened.

President Barack Obama might well face a difficult challenge during his administration if Israel and Iran come to the brink of war over the nuclear issue and what the U.S. response should be. And the toughness of expected Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton might play a major role in attempting to prevent this major international incident.


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