NEWS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Cheney meets resistance on Iran

Washington tells EU firms: quit Iran now

Multinational companies are coming under increasing pressure from the US to stop doing business with Iran because of its nuclear programme. European operators are facing threats from Washington that they could jeopardise their US interests by continuing to deal with Tehran, with increasing evidence that European governments, mainly France, Germany and Britain, are supporting the US campaign.

It emerged last night that Siemens, one of the world’s largest engineering groups and based in Germany, has pulled out of all new business dealings with Iran after pressure from the US and German governments. This follows the decision by Germany’s three biggest banks, Deutsche, Commerzbank, and Dresdner, to quit Iran after a warning from US vice-president Dick Cheney that if firms remain in Tehran, they are going to have problems doing business in the US. [complete article]

Iraqi sees thaw in U.S.-Iranian ties

An Iraqi official said Friday that he expected another round of talks this month including his government and those of Washington and Tehran, after the U.S. military freed nine Iranians it had detained in Iraq.

Two of the Iranians released early Friday by the U.S. were among five men detained in January in an American raid in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil. The U.S. had said they were members of Iran’s elite Quds Force, which Washington suspects of aiding Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq and smuggling armor-piercing bombs into the country. Tehran has said the five men are diplomatic staff at its Irbil consulate. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — It’s often said that the complexity of Iran’s power structure makes it difficult for foreign governments to decipher Iran’s intentions. Tehran may well view Washington in the same way. While President Bush warns about the risk of World War III and Cheney is pushing forward on the economic war path, Defense Department officials are interested in reducing US-Iranian tensions. Not only have Iranian hostages been released, but the Navy has quietly returned to a one-carrier presence in the Gulf. At the same time, the intelligence community has been unwilling to arm Cheney with a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran — already held up for more than a year because in its current form it is “unsatisfactory” as support for Cheney’s military objectives.

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