The latest phase of the long-running propaganda campaign preparing public opinion for a preventive war against Iran continues to heat up.  --  On Tuesday, AP's George Jahn reported that "[n]ew traces of plutonium and enriched uranium, potential material for atomic warheads, have been found at a nuclear waste facility in Iran," burying near the end of his story the fact that "[a] senior U.N. official familiar with the report cautioned against reading too much into the findings of traces of highly enriched uranium and plutonium, saying that Iran had explained both and that they could plausibly be classified as byproducts of peaceful nuclear activities. . . . [A]lthough the uranium was enriched to a higher level than needed to generate power, it was below weapons grade."[1]  --  ABC News reported that "The leaked report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna says Iran is not co-operating with attempts to investigate what the agency calls suspicious behavior.  The final report will be presented at an IAEA meeting next week."  --  AP's Ali Akbar Dareini said the report in question was four pages long and had been "made available to the Associated Press."[3]  --  According to an alarmist article in the New York Times, the report "said Iran had failed to provide full access to records needed to confirm its claims in June of having enriched uranium to a level of 5 percent, which is suitable for reactors" and "also said inspectors had made no progress in resolving the origin of recently discovered traces of highly enriched uranium, which can fuel atomic bombs.  In September, the agency revealed the discovery of the particles on a container from a waste storage facility at Karaj, not far from Tehran, but withheld judgment about where the material came from and whether it could be linked to a secret nuclear program.  Finally, the report said inspectors had recently found traces of yet another unexplained particle — plutonium — on samples from containers at Karaj, and the International Atomic Energy Agency was assessing a response from Tehran about their origin.  Plutonium, like uranium, can fuel atom bombs.  'Unless Iran addresses the long outstanding verification issues,' the report concluded, the atomic agency 'will remain unable to make further progress in its efforts to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities.'"[4]  --  The Times noted that "The report was sent to the 35 countries on the I.A.E.A.'s decision-making board in advance of its regularly scheduled quarterly session in Vienna on Nov. 23 and 24.  It was distributed on a confidential basis today but was quickly made available to reporters."  --  Working at cross-purposes to this campaign apparently, is the so-called Iraq Study Group:  Reuters, in reporting on the matter, noted that "James Baker, a Republican and former U.S. secretary of state who is co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, had a three-hour dinner in New York with Iran's U.N. ambassador Javad Zarif, the Washington Post reported on Sunday."[5]  --  But meanwhile, in Israel and the U.S., vitriolic anti-Iranian propaganda is being published representing Ahmadinejad as a murderous religious fanatic in the grip of a millenialist ideology who has become a leader of a theocracy.  --  A piece published Sunday by Ynet quotes a recent work of pure propaganda entitled What Makes Iran Tick by Raymond Tanter, an operative of the U.S. national security state who was involved in the pro-Iraq war campaign in 2002 and now supports the terrorist group Mujahideen-e-Khalq as an agent of regime change in Iran.[6]  --  Tanter's bigoted work raves that "Just as it is in the nature of the scorpion to sting, so it is in the nature of the ayatollahs ruling Iran to establish an Islamic empire and destroy Israel. . . . Toward these ends, the regime pursues nuclear weapons, subverts Iraq, and supplies money and arms to Islamist terrorist groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. . . . The deliberate initiation of war with Israel in July 2006 by Hezbollah, most probably at the direction of the Iranian regime, confirmed the worst fears about Ahmadinejad . . . a nuclear-armed Iran the single greatest security threat to the international community in general, and to the United States and Israel in particular."  --  Such articles are part of a sustained campaign to persuade the public that a pre-emptive attack on Iran is justified....

1.

IAEA FINDS TRACES OF PLUTONIUM IN IRAN
By George Jahn

Associated Press
November 14, 2006

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/world/4335104.html

VIENNA -- New traces of plutonium and enriched uranium -- potential material for atomic warheads -- have been found in a nuclear waste facility in Iran, a revelation that came Tuesday as the Iranian president boasted his country's nuclear fuel program will soon be completed.

The International Atomic Energy Agency report detailing the discovery also faulted Tehran for not cooperating with the U.N. watchdog's attempts to investigate other suspicious aspects of Iran's nuclear program.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a two-hour news conference in Tehran, asserted the world has no choice but to "live with a nuclear Iran," although he conceded his country was "still in the first stages" of its uranium enrichment program.

So far, Tehran has been able to activate only two small experimental pilot enrichment plants that U.N. officials say have frequently broken down and have produced only small amounts of material suitable for nuclear fuel.

But Iran has progressed enough since resuming enrichment activities in February to provoke a U.N. Security Council demand that it freeze its program -- a call Tehran has ignored. It says it intends to move toward large-scale uranium enrichment involving 3,000 centrifuges by late 2006, then expand the program to 54,000 centrifuges.

Iranian nuclear officials say 54,000 centrifuges would produce enough enriched uranium to fuel a 1,000-megawatt reactor, such as the one being built by Russia that is near completion at the southern city of Bushehr. Experts have estimated Iran would need only 1,500 centrifuges to produce a nuclear weapon.

Tehran insists it is only seeking to generate low-enriched uranium for nuclear fuel and not the highly enriched variety needed for weapons. It also denies it is building a heavy water research reactor at Arak in order to obtain plutonium for nuclear arms, asserting it only wants to produce radioactive isotopes for medical research and treatment.

Still, when finished -- probably early in the next decade -- Arak could produce enough plutonium for about two bombs a year.

The Arak plant, along with the discovery of a secret Iranian enrichment program in 2003, Tehran's refusal to cease uranium enrichment and findings by IAEA inspectors have increased suspicions about Iran's program.

The IAEA board in February referred Iran to the Security Council, suggesting it had breached the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and might be trying to make nuclear weapons.

The U.S. and its European allies are negotiating with Russia and China over a draft Security Council resolution that would penalize Iran for its refusal to respect an Aug. 31 deadline to halt enrichment.

Ahmadinejad remained defiant. "I'm very hopeful that we will be able to hold the big celebration of Iran's full nuclearization in the current year," he said. Iran's calendar year ends March 20.

But he acknowledged Iran still has a long way to go before it can produce enough enriched uranium for the reactor at Bushehr. "We need time to produce enough fuel for one complete nuclear power plant," he said.

Tuesday's IAEA report, prepared for next week's meeting of the agency's 35-nation board, did little to dispel concerns.

Beyond detailing the new plutonium and enriched uranium findings at a nuclear waste facility, it also faulted Tehran for lack of cooperation.

"The agency will remain unable to make further progress in its efforts to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran" without more cooperation from Tehran, the report said.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, said Ahmadinejad's comments and the IAEA's latest discoveries "both demonstrate the urgency for the Security Council to act on Iran."

"Sanctions are obviously the only means to get Iran's attention," Bolton said.

As expected, the four-page IAEA report, made available to the Associated Press, confirmed that Iran continues uranium enrichment experiments in defiance of the Security Council.

A senior U.N. official who was familiar with the report cautioned against reading too much into the findings of traces of highly enriched uranium and plutonium, saying Iran had explained both and they could plausibly be classified as byproducts of peaceful nuclear activities.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the report publicly, said that while the uranium traces were enriched to a higher level than needed to generate power, they were below weapons-grade.

The findings, however, were likely to be cited by the U.S. and other nations suspicious of Tehran's nuclear agenda as adding to circumstantial evidence against it.

Tuesday's summary also listed specific cases in which Tehran failed to cooperate with agency inspectors.

They said Iran refused to let the IAEA increase monitoring of enrichment facilities at Natanz, did not respond to a request for more information on its enrichment program, denied access to suspicious equipment or military personnel, and refused to provide information on apparent experiments linking nuclear and ballistic missile research.

The report will be discussed by the IAEA board next week at a meeting expected to be dominated by Iran's nuclear program, particularly its intention to ask the agency for technical help for its Arak reactor.

Diplomats from nations on the IAEA board say the U.S. is lobbying against Iran's request. Seven diplomats, who demanded anonymity in exchange for discussing confidential information, told the AP they believed the board would deny Iran's request.

2.

IRAN FLAGS EXPANSION OF NUCLEAR PROGRAM

ABC News
November 15, 2006

http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200611/s1788998.htm

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he wants to expand the scale of his country's controversial nuclear program, installing 60,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges to produce nuclear fuel.

Iran's previous long-term target was 54,000.

It currently has two cascades of 164 centrifuges apiece that allow it to enrich uranium on a research scale.

Iran insists it wants to enrich uranium for a nuclear energy program, but Western countries fear it will be diverted to make nuclear weapons.

At the same time there are reports the international nuclear watchdog has found traces of enriched uranium at a waste facility near Tehran.

At higher levels such material can be used to make weapons.

The leaked report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna says Iran is not co-operating with attempts to investigate what the agency calls suspicious behavior.

The final report will be presented at an IAEA meeting next week.

3.

IRAN SAYS NUCLEAR FUEL PROGRAM NEARLY COMPLETE
By Ali Akbar Dareini

Associated Press
November 15, 2006

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/headline/world/4333508.html

TEHRAN -- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad boasted today that Iran will soon have mastered the production of nuclear fuel, but he added the country was far from producing enough fuel to power its Russian-built reactor.

Iran has been locked in a standoff with the West over its nuclear program. The United States and its European allies have been seeking a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Tehran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment.

Addressing a press conference, Ahmadinejad claimed that the world had finally accepted that Iran has the complete cycle of fuel production -- from mining uranium to enriching it to the level required for consumption in a nuclear power plant.

"Initially, they (the U.S. and its allies) were very angry. The reason was clear: They basically wanted to monopolize nuclear power in order to rule the world and impose their will on nations," Ahmadinejad told a news conference.

"Today, they have finally agreed to live with a nuclear Iran, with an Iran possessing the whole nuclear fuel cycle," he said. He did not elaborate or give any example of the West's accepting Iran's enrichment capability.

President Bush said Monday there was no change in his position that Iran must first suspend uranium enrichment before there can be any dialogue with Tehran.

"Our focus of this administration is to convince the Iranians to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions. That focus is based on our strong desire for there to be peace in the Middle East. And an Iran with a nuclear weapon would be a destabilizing influence," Bush said Monday.

Ahmadinejad said Iran would talk to the United States if it "corrects its behavior," one day after British Prime Minister Tony Blair advocated seeking Tehran's help in ending the violence in Iraq.

The Iranian leader did not define the scope of any talks with the United States or say if Iraq or the nuclear dispute would be on the agenda of such discussions.

The U.S. and some of its allies allege that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, but Iran insists its program is peaceful and for generating electricity.

Uranium enrichment at low levels can be used to produce fuel to generate electricity but at higher levels can be use to make atomic bombs.

Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency have found unexplained plutonium and enriched uranium traces in a nuclear waste facility in Iran and have asked Tehran for an explanation, an IAEA report said Tuesday.

The report, prepared for next week's IAEA meeting, also faulted Tehran for not cooperating with the agency's attempts to investigate suspicious aspects of Iran's nuclear program.

The four-page report made available to the Associated Press also confirmed that Iran has continued uranium enrichment experiments in defiance of the U.N. Security Council.

Iran has said it will never give up its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel. Officials have said they plan to generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity through nuclear energy in the next two decades.

The Iranian leader said he hoped "to hold the big celebration of Iran's full nuclearization in the current year." Iran's current calendar year ends on March 20.

Though Ahmadinejad did not specify, he appeared to indicate that Iran was on the verge of proficiency in the whole cycle of nuclear fuel -- from extracting uranium ore to enriching it and producing nuclear fuel.

But the Iranian leader acknowledged that his country still had a long way to go before it could produce amounts of enriched uranium sufficient to power the reactor it has built at Bushehr, southern Iran, with Russian technical assistance. The reactor is due to come on stream next year.

"We need time to produce enough fuel for one complete nuclear power plant," he said.

Since revelations more than three years ago of a covert uranium enrichment program, Iran has moved to develop its capabilities, activating two small experimental enrichment plants and enriching small amounts of uranium to nuclear fuel level. Although that is far short of the weapons grade uranium that could be used for nuclear warheads, international concerns about Tehran's ultimate intentions led the Security Council to set an Aug. 31 deadline for an enrichment moratorium -- which Tehran has ignored. Officials have said they plan to have 3,000 centrifuges operating by next year -- enough to make enough material for several nuclear weapons a year.

Suspicions also are focused on Tehran's construction of a heavy water reactor that -- when completed in the next decade -- will produce plutonium waste, another pathway to nuclear weapons.

The IAEA declined comment on the Iranian president's remarks.

The Bush administration, frustrated by U.N. Security Council inaction on sanctions against Iran, is pressing a new agenda -- trying to deny Tehran U.N. aid for a plutonium-producing reactor that could be used to make nuclear warheads.

Diplomats from nations on the IAEA board say the U.S. is lobbying for denial of Iran's request for help on its Arak research reactor, where Iran says it wants to produce radio isotopes for diagnosing and treating cancer.

Seven diplomats, who demanded anonymity in exchange for discussing confidential information, told the Associated Press separately Tuesday that they believed that the 35 member nations of the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog would deny Iran's request when the IAEA meets next week.

But even a total denial of technical aid for Arak, while symbolically important, is expected to do little to slow the eventual completion of the reactor, let alone Iran's nuclear program. When finished -- probably early in the next decade -- Arak could produce enough plutonium for about two bombs a year.

--Associated Press writer George Jahn in Vienna, Austria, contributed to this report.

4.

World

Middle East

IRAN'S PRESIDENT SEES PROGRESS IN NUCLEAR PROGRAM
By William J. Broad and Nazila Fathi

New York Times
November 14, 2006

[PHOTO CAPTION: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a press conference today in Tehran, Iran.]

Iran’s president declared today that its nuclear program was nearing an important milestone, even as international atomic inspectors reported that they had found unexplained traces of plutonium and that Tehran had continued to be so uncooperative in answering questions that they had been unable to confirm its claims of progress made nearly a half year ago.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran was hoping soon to master the nuclear fuel cycle, even as world powers try to agree on sanctions over suspicions that Tehran is seeking the means to make atomic bombs. Iran says it only wants to create fuel for its reactors so it can generate electricity.

"I hope we can have our celebration of Iran’s full nuclearization this year," Mr. Ahmadinejad told a news conference in Tehran, apparently referring to doing everything from extracting uranium ore from the ground to enriching it into reactor fuel. Iran’s calendar year ends in March.

A four-page report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, based in Vienna, said Iran is moving ahead in its efforts to purify uranium while refusing to answer basic questions about its atomic program.

For instance, the report said Iran had failed to provide full access to records needed to confirm its claims in June of having enriched uranium to a level of 5 percent, which is suitable for reactors.

The report also said inspectors had made no progress in resolving the origin of recently discovered traces of highly enriched uranium, which can fuel atomic bombs. In September, the agency revealed the discovery of the particles on a container from a waste storage facility at Karaj, not far from Tehran, but withheld judgment about where the material came from and whether it could be linked to a secret nuclear program.

Finally, the report said inspectors had recently found traces of yet another unexplained particle -- plutonium -- on samples from containers at Karaj, and the International Atomic Energy Agency was assessing a response from Tehran about their origin. Plutonium, like uranium, can fuel atom bombs.

“Unless Iran addresses the long outstanding verification issues,” the report concluded, the atomic agency “will remain unable to make further progress in its efforts to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities.”

The report was sent to the 35 countries on the I.A.E.A.’s decision-making board in advance of its regularly scheduled quarterly session in Vienna on Nov. 23 and 24. It was distributed on a confidential basis today but was quickly made available to reporters.

In Tehran, Mr. Ahmadinejad once again defied international demands that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment program, and he declared that his country ultimately planned to expand its program to an industrial level with 60,000 centrifuges.

In a news conference with Iranian journalists broadcast live on state-run television, Mr. Ahmadinejad said he hoped to soon hold "a celebration of Iran’s full nuclearization" and brushed off suggestions that Iran might suspend the reactor-fuel program, saying there was no way Iran would turn back.

Mr. Ahmadinejad said Iran had prepared itself to confront possible sanctions by the West. "Nothing has been passed against Iran yet but we are ready for any condition," he said. "They will do their best and so will we. In the end, the winner is whoever stands more firmly."

He said Iran was willing to hold talks with the United States if it changed its attitude. "We want to have good relations with all countries, but they have a certain attitude and think they own the world,” he said. “Our people cannot tolerate that.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad said he would soon send a message to the American people that would explain the Iranian viewpoint.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said at a news conference today that Iran might not respond positively to a request by the United States to hold talks over Iraq.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, said last week that Iraqi officials had asked Iran to hold talks with the United States and that Iran would consider so if Washington made an official request. But Mr. Mottaki said that Iran had not made its decision yet and that it would review the request, the ISNA news agency reported.

So far, Iran has built two cascades of 164 centrifuges for uranium enrichment -- the process of purification used to make nuclear reactor fuel and, at great purity, the core of an atomic bomb. It has announced that it wants to have 3,000 centrifuges operating by March 2007.

Nuclear experts have estimated that it could take a plant of 3,000 centrifuges as little as nine months to make 25 kilograms of highly enriched uranium -- enough for anywhere from one to five small nuclear arms, depending on the skill of the bomb makers.

Intelligence analysts say Iran could be anywhere from three to nine years away from having the capability to build an atomic bomb.

--William J. Broad reported from New York, and Nazila Fathi from Tehran.

5.

U.N. AGENCY: UNCLEAR IF IRAN'S NUCLEAR AIMS PEACEFUL
By Jon Hemming

Reuters
November 15, 2006

Original source: Reuters

TEHRAN -- The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency said on Tuesday it could not confirm if Iran's nuclear intentions were entirely peaceful and that Tehran was pressing ahead with uranium enrichment despite the threat of sanctions.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's report seemed to bolster Washington's call for Tehran to give up uranium enrichment -- or face U.N. sanctions -- before it agrees to any talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Ahmadinejad told a news conference on Tuesday he was ready to talk with the United States if there was a change of attitude in Washington, which faces pressure to deal directly with Tehran to help ease violence in neighboring Iraq.

But the White House responded that Tehran must end its uranium enrichment, stop meddling in Iraq and play a constructive role in the Middle East.

"I don't think this is about a U.S. attitude adjustment," said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House National Security Council.

The IAEA said Iran is still stonewalling agency investigations. It reported U.N. inspectors have found unexplainable traces of plutonium in samples of particles of highly enriched uranium at a nuclear waste site. In larger amounts, plutonium and HEU can detonate atom bombs.

The State Department said the U.N.'s credibility was at risk if it did not act after this report and its findings underscored the need for a strong resolution against Iran.

"There must be costs to that failure to abide by the demands of the international community," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

"This is starting to become an issue of the credibility of the Security Council," he said. "We are doing everything we can to have the Security Council function as it was envisaged functioning," he added.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, who leads Washington's drive for sanctions on Iran, said Ahmadinejad's statements and the IAEA report show the urgency in U.N. action. "Sanctions are obviously the only means to get Iran's attention," he said in New York.

NUCLEAR FUEL AND IRAQ TALKS

Iranian officials have often said they were ready for talks with the United States, but have always made negotiations conditional on major U.S. policy changes. Ahmadinejad said he would soon explain his policies to the American people.

"The conditions concern the attitude of the American government. If they correct their behavior, we will talk to them like others," he said at a news conference.

Bush's administration is also conducting a review of its policies in Iraq and a report by the outside Iraq Study Group is expected to offer involvement by Iran and Syria as one alternative course. Bush has maintained that any talks with Iran are predicated on Tehran abandoning its nuclear plans, which Western powers believe involve making nuclear bombs.

Ahmadinejad on Tuesday gave further evidence that giving up the nuclear program, which he says is to generate electricity, was not on his agenda.

"We want to produce nuclear fuel and we have to install 60,000 centrifuges, but still we are at the first stages," Ahmadinejad said at news conference carried by state television.

Iran so far runs two chains of 164 centrifuges, known as cascades, which can make fuel for use in nuclear power plants or material for warheads. Previously it had said it wanted 54,000 centrifuges. On their own, these cascades would take years to produce enough material for a bomb.

Washington broke ties with Tehran in 1979 after Iranian students stormed its embassy and took 52 Americans hostage.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is among those promoting U.S. engagement with Syria and Iran over Iraq, an idea under discussion by the Iraq Study Group -- commissioned by Bush to review policy in Iraq.

James Baker, a Republican and former U.S. secretary of state who is co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, had a three-hour dinner in New York with Iran's U.N. ambassador Javad Zarif, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.

The newspaper did not say when the dinner took place.

Hamid Reza Haji Babaee, a member of the Iranian parliament's national security committee, described the meeting as "the beginning of negotiations" with America, the Iranian Web site Aftab reported.

Other members of parliament played down the significance.

(Additional reporting by Mark Heinrich and Francois Murphy in Vienna, Evelyn Leopold at the United Nations and Sue Pleming and Tabassum Zakaria in Washington.)

6.

AWAITING THE IRANIAN MESSIAH
By Yaakov Lappin

** A glimpse into the apocalyptic ideology gripping the Iranian government **

Ynet
November 12, 2006

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3327251,00.html

He challenges the largest superpower on earth, threatens a regional superpower with annihilation, and mocks international efforts to keep tabs on his nuclear program. Where does the unswerving confidence of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad come from?

To whom did Ahmadinejad refer to when he told the United Nations in September: "I emphatically declare that today's world, more than ever before, longs for . . . the perfect righteous human being and real savior who has been promised to all peoples and who will establish justice, peace, and brotherhood on the planet. Almighty God . . . make us among his followers and among those who strive for his return and his cause."

According to Shiite Islam, the twelfth Imam, named Mahdi, is the awaited messiah who will establish the rule of Islam around the world -- following a massive war during which Islam's enemies are expected to be decimated. Iran's official state websites are filled with information about the Islamic Republic's messiah.

"Imam Mahdi was unseen from the eyes of common people and nobody could see him except special group of Shiites . . . After the martyrdom of his father he was appointed as the next Imam. Then he was hidden by God's command and he was just observable by the special deputies of his own," the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting website declares.

'ONE STRIKE TO END INFIDELS'

Iran's state broadcasting website also contains a special hadith (tradition) prayer, to be recited on the birthday of the Mahdi: "Today is Friday, a day you are expected to come; the faithful will be free of cares and troubles when you shall arrive, and with one strike shall put an end to the intrigues of the infidels."

Speaking to Ynetnews, Professor Raymond Tanter, one of the authors of the forthcoming book What Makes Iran Tick, which explores the Shiite Islamist ideology of Iran, said there was no questioning the belief of Iran's leaders in the coming of the Mahdi.

Tanter, President of the Iran Policy Committee, a Washington-based organization comprised of former officials from the White House, State Department, Pentagon, and intelligence services, said: "The Iranian leadership, particularly Ahmadinejad, welcome the apocalyptic vision of the return of the hidden Imam. And all the strains of Islam believe in the eventual return of the Mahdi, also known as the twelfth Imam, or the Shiite messiah. After a period of great destruction, once the forces of evil are defeated, the so-called twelfth Imam is supposed to reign over a period of great prosperity."

"When Ahmadinejad was mayor of Tehran, he set up an urban renewal program that would make it easier to facilitate the Mahdi's return. He created passageways and roadways that would allow the Mahdi to return triumphantly. He operationalized this concept," Tanter added. The Iranian president did not view himself as the Shiite messiah though, according to Tanter.

'MAN OF A THOUSAND BULLETS'

"Ahmadinejad was called the man of a thousand bullets. Because he would give the last bullet for someone who has been tortured, and primarily executed by firing squad. Ahmadinejad's role was to put the last bullet in, in case the person was still squirming. After a thousand people had been killed, supposedly he said, he had it with that particular job," Tanter said.

Tanter noted Ahmadinejad's comments after a speech to the U.N. General Assembly in 2005, which he also concluded with a call for the Mahdi to return. After the speech, Ahmadinejad said that "the hand of God had held all of them" in a hypnotized-like state, and had "opened their eyes and ears."

"Before the return of the Mahdi, there must be a suitable representative to govern in the Mahdi's place," Tanter explained.

"They are ruling until the Mahdi comes. That is the justification for Khamenei to rule," he added.

Tanter said that "most of the ayatollahs in Iran don't buy this, that you can facilitate the return of the messiah," adding that Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah probably "doesn't take it that seriously."

"Ahmadinejad is taking steps well beyond the rest of Islam," he said.

MESSIANIC NUCLEAR WEAPONS

"There is a link between Iran’s nuclear weapons program on one hand, and its ideology of trying to facilitate a cataclysmic event to hasten the return of the Mahdi. As a result, no conceivable positive or negative incentives will influence the leadership of the clerics and the revolutionary guards from acquiring nuclear weapons. They need nuclear weapons in order to facilitate the ideological precepts of the return of the Mahdi," said Tanter.

"The process of diplomacy as far as Ahmadinejad and Khamenei are concerned is to prevent sanctions that would constrain the nuclear weapons progress, and to that extent Iran has done well to drag out this process," he added.

Citing realist arguments that Iran needs nuclear weapons "to deter neighbors in a tough neighborhood," Tanter said such views were misguided. "These nuclear weapons are tied to the return of the Mahdi, and no one says this," he says.

An excerpt from What Makes Iran Tick left no doubts over the author's view of Iran's intentions: "Just as it is in the nature of the scorpion to sting, so it is in the nature of the ayatollahs ruling Iran to establish an Islamic empire and destroy Israel."

It continued: "Toward these ends, the regime pursues nuclear weapons, subverts Iraq, and supplies money and arms to Islamist terrorist groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. . . . The deliberate initiation of war with Israel in July 2006 by Hezbollah, most probably at the direction of the Iranian regime, confirmed the worst fears about Ahmadinejad .&nbnsp;. . a nuclear-armed Iran the single greatest security threat to the international community in general, and to the United States and Israel in particular."