Friday, July 20, 2007

Israel Boycotts: Comfort ye, comfort ye my people

Journals are filled with "good cheer" stories about overcoming the effects of anti-Israel boycotts. According to the Guardian, Israeli universities signed a new European Union agreement that allows the nation's scientists to take part in the next six-year research program. The Guardian notes:
Israel's participation in European research programmes was called into question in 2002 when two British academics had a letter published in the Guardian advocating a moratorium on all grants and contracts to Israel from European cultural and research institutions.
Janze Potocnik, the EU's research commissioner, said: "Israel's association to the framework programme has proved to be of mutual benefit for both sides over the last couple of years. Whereas the European research area will benefit from the renowned excellence of the Israeli research community, Israel will gain full access to the biggest research programme in the world.
Of course, that doesn't prevent journals from boycotting articles by Israeli scientists and other academics, and it doesn't force researchers to treat Israeli post-doctoral applicants equally. There have been cases of discrimination in both areas and many others, even without the boycott initiatives.
The Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS) of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem has been accepted to a presitigious international consortium of such institutes. According to a Hebrew University announcement:
Membership for the Hebrew University's IAS was voted by the consortium's existing members – considered the Ivy League of advanced institutes. These include the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford; Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard; the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study; and Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin Institute for Advanced Study at Berlin. The Hebrew University is the tenth member to join the consortium.
The IAS in Jerusalem was accepted for its unique approach in hosting collaborative research groups and its academic achievements. It hopes that membership will open doors to further academic exchange and collaborative projects.
"We are looking forward to sharing experiences with these distinguished institutes for the benefit of all," said director of the IAS in Jerusalem, Prof. Eliezer Rabinovici. "Science should move forward by the tradition of openness and sharing and not by the ill winds of exclusion. Membership status in the SIAS consortium is a testament to the high caliber, innovative and collaborative research Israel engages in."
The IAS is the only one of its kind in the Middle East and was the fifth in the world to be established in 1975 – the first one being at Princeton. Twelve Nobel Laureates are associated with the Institute in the fields of chemistry, physics, medicine and economics.
And in the United States, labor unions roundly condemned the British boycott initiatives. An initiative begun by the Jewish Labor Committee was endorsed by a host of unions and union leaders, including the presidents of the AFL-CIO; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; American Federation of Teachers; United Food and Commercial Workers; Communications Workers of America; Masters, Mates and Pilots / ILA; American Postal Workers Union; International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; UAW; American Federation of School Administrators; Office and Professional Employees International Union; American Federation of Government Employees; UNITE-HERE; United Mine Workers of America; Sheet Metal Workers International Association; International Union of Painters and Allied Trades; Transportation Communications Union; American Federation Musicians; Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union; International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers; and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the presidents of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the A. Philip Randolph Institute. 
Others may join the initiative as well.
They signed the statement appended below. It is comforting and heartening to know that Israel still has friends who will speak up for fair play, but the ignorance and hate demonstrated by the boycotters is nonetheless unnerving, and the trend seems to be growing, despite the rise of the Hamas, and despite the Israeli disengagement from Gaza. The boycotts and divestment initiateves are a well organized and well financed pseudo-grass-roots campaign, conceived by people who are experts in organizing "spontaneous" movements and demonstrations. It has been been planned for years, and Jewish organizations were caught napping. (See Israel Boycotts and Divestment )
It really would have been better if we did not need this show of support.
Ami Isseroff
Statement of Opposition to Divestment from or Boycotts of Israel
July 18, 2007
We view with increasing concern the phenomenon of trade unions in a number of countries, including, most recently, the United Kingdom, issuing resolutions that either directly or indirectly call for divestment from and boycotts of Israel.
With the large number of local, regional and international conflicts, with the diverse range of oppressive regimes around the world about which there is almost universal silence, we have to question the motives of these resolutions that single out one country in one conflict.
We note with increasing concern that virtually all of these resolutions focus solely on objections to actions or policies of the Israeli government, and never on actions or policies of Palestinian or other Arab governments, parties or movements. We notice with increasing concern that characterization of the Palestinians as victims and Israel as victimizer is a staple of such resolutions. That there are victims and victimizers on all sides, and that many if not most of the victims of violence and repression on all sides are civilians, are essential items often not mentioned in these resolutions.
Any just and fair resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be brought about through meaningful negotiations between their elected representatives. We believe strongly in a two-state solution, brought about through meaningful negotiations, with the involvement and encouragement of the world community.
Trade unionists and their organizations seeking such a just and fair resolution should be assisting those working to bring the two sides together in direct talks and then negotiations. In this regard, we call for increased engagement of trade unions with their counterparts on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We support efforts of Palestinian and Israeli trade unionists and their organizations to maintain contact and cooperative and mutually supportive activities, even in the midst of tumult and political change within their respective communities and polities.
Calls for academic boycotts of Israel are inimical to and counter to the principles of academic freedom and freedom of association, key principles for which academics and educational unions have struggled over many years. Rather than limiting interactions with Israeli educators, academics and educational institutions, we see the importance of maximizing, rather than proscribing, the free flow of ideas and academic interaction between peoples, cultures, religions and countries.
Similarly, calls for journalistic boycotts of Israel are inimical to the free flow of information and journalistic objectivity, and must be opposed.
Rather than divestment from Israel, we believe that investment of time, energy and material aid is the best means to alleviate the ongoing suffering of Palestinians and Israelis. Engagement, rather than disengagement, with the Israeli people and the Palestinian people is needed, so that a just and fair resolution of this conflict may be pursued, and so that meaningful progress towards achieving the legitimate needs of Palestinians and Israelis can be made.
We offer our support to assist trade unionists as well as interested members of the community-at-large who are grappling with these matters, and who share our concern over simplistic and non-constructive approaches, whether in the form of misguided resolutions or other statements on the tragic conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
    Stuart Appelbaum
    President, Jewish Labor Committee
    President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union / UFCW
    Edward J. McElroy
    Secretary, Jewish Labor Committee
    President, American Federation of Teachers
    Morton Bahr
    Treasurer, Jewish Labor Committee
    John J. Sweeney
    President, AFL-CIO
    Clayola Brown
    President, A. Philip Randolph Institute
    Timothy A. Brown
    International President, International Organization of Masters, Mates &
    Pilots / ILA
    R. Thomas Buffenbarger
    International President,
    International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
    William Burrus
    President, American Postal Workers Union
    Larry Cohen
    President, Communications Workers of America
    Barbara J. Easterling
    Secretary-Treasurer, Communications Workers of America
    John J. Flynn
    President, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers
    John Gage
    President, American Federation of Government Employees
    Ron Gettelfinger
    United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America
    International Union
    Michael Goodwin
    President, Office and Professional Employees International Union
    Joseph T. Hansen
    International President, United Food and Commercial Workers International
    Edwin D. Hill
    International President, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
    James P. Hoffa
    General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
    Frank Hurt
    International President
    Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International
    Thomas F. Lee
    President, American Federation of Musicians
    Jill S. Levy
    President, American Federation of School Administrators
    William Lucy
    President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
    Gerald W. McEntee
    President, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
    Bruce S. Raynor
    General President, UNITE HERE
    Cecil E. Roberts
    President, United Mine Workers of America
    Robert Scardelletti
    International President, Transportation Communications Union / IAM
    Michael J. Sullivan
    General President, Sheet Metal Workers International Association
    George Tedeschi
    President, Graphic Communications International Union / IBT
    James A. Williams
    General President, International Union of Printers and Allied Trades

Asharq al Awsat speaks out against terrorism

This sort of article would not have been found in a Saudi-owned newspaper a few years ago.
As-Sharq Al-Awsat, London

Adel Darwish is a veteran Fleet Street Foreign
reporter and commentator on Foreign Affairs

Just as the second anniversary of the barbaric 7/7 terror attack on our capital city approached, terrorism bared its sharp teeth an unveiled it's ugly face once again. The terrorists nearly succeeded in claiming hundreds of innocent lives had it not been for a combination of good luck, the courage of a policeman risking his life to defuse a massive bomb, the quick reaction of another off-duty police officer and passengers at Glasgow airport and the terrorists' own incompetence.

Since the alleged Muslim plotters; Arabs and Asians, have not yet been tried in a court of law, it would be inappropriate to examine their individual cases in this column; although two of them were caught red-handed driving a blazed jeep (an Iraq-style car bomb) into Glasgow airport. I will, instead, confine my comment to looking into their sick Islamism, or Islamist ideology. We must all call them ' Islamists' – until someone comes up with better terminology to distinguish them from the large body of Muslims who state that they are law abiding citizens who reject terrorism. And since the violent extremists themselves have turned the Muslim faith into a political ideology, I cannot find any other term that would be more appropriate to refer to them. These Islamists only see the world through their ideological glasses and interpret world events through their narrow view, holding any other interpretation in contempt.

I, therefore, call upon all Muslims who believe their faith to be one of peace, to speak out, distancing their religion from the ideology that Islamists use to justify mass murder, kidnapping, and terror by citing Quranic verses that they argue call directly for terminating non-Muslims.

Many Muslims write to me objecting to the use of the term 'Islamists' to refer to terrorist-related atrocities such as 7/7. But to illustrate the problem that journalists face in selecting appropriate terminology, one can refer to many other examples of violent political movements, especially as some aspects of their conflict run along the religious divide. The Republican movement in the Irish conflict for example had always been deeply rooted in the Catholic faith and massed support among Catholics. On the contrary, the Unionists would tease the Irish nationalists with their Orange marches, which in turn were deeply rooted in the Protestant orange order of the 17th century. However, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) never called itself a "Catholic" movement, nor did it ever in any of its literature invoke Catholic references (furthermore, the IRA, with a few exceptions mainly related to poor communication, had always given warning to avoid human casualties, while Islamist terrorism is designed to maximise human casualties).

In his video tape broadcast by Aljazeera, the 7/7 gang leader, repeatedly claimed that he committed his crime in the name of Islam, invoking verses from Quran and even referred to us, the British citizens, as the enemy (even though he was a British citizen by birth) against whom he was revenging an alleged 'attack' on a mythical or metaphorical entity, the Muslim Ummah (nation).

The theoreticians who set the philosophy of Islamism as a revolutionary violent political movement such as Hassan al Banna and Sayyed Qutb, the ideologues of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the granddaddy of all the modern movements, invoked selected verses from Quran when putting forward their philosophical argument to justify violence as means for their movement. They argued that it was a Muslim duty to 'kill the disbelievers wherever you find them'. Within a few years of launching the movement (the Muslim Brotherhood), this definition of targeted victims was extended to include fellow Muslims who followed a liberal way of life which contradicted the lifestyle prescribed by the Islamists.

Those who blew up cinemas, theatres, bars and nightclubs, or murdered judges, artists and intellectuals in Egypt in the 1930s and 1940s belong to a group that was named by its founder Hassan al Banna, the 'Muslim Brotherhood' that raised the slogan "The Messenger (Prophet Mohammed) is our leader and Jihad is our way."

It was evident that it gave the group the 'Muslim' label, which baptised itself with blood, fire and death. It also associated the name of the Prophet [pbuh], which is sacred to every Muslim to a slogan that limited the meaning of Jihad to a narrow literary meaning of 'a crusade or holy war' rather than its much deeper philosophical meaning of one's self discipline and spiritual commitment to elevate the lot of the individual and the community.

By the 1970s, other terrorist groups followed the example of the MB in selecting labels such as Muslim, or Islamic i.e. Islamic Jihad, al Gamaa al Islamiya (the Islamic Group), Ansar al Islam (Supporters of Islam) or adopting Islamic symbols or concepts in their names for instance, al Takfir wal Hijra (Atonement and Exodus), Mohammed's Army, Al Nagoon min al Nar (Redemption from Hell), Tawhid and Jihad (Monotheism and Jihad), Hisba (the Reckoning).

For example, the Dagmoush clan in Gaza that kidnapped and imprisoned the BBC reporter, Alan Johnston, for 114 days (and initially wanted a ransom to release him) called itself Jaish al Islam (The Army of Islam).

What do those who accuse British journalists of linking Islam with terrorism suggest we do? Since the terror groups themselves use Islamic labels and Islamic slogans, we have little choice but to refer to those groups by the very names that they choose for themselves.

Others, who are uncomfortable with publishing facts about terrorist and violent acts at the hands of Islamists groups like MB or Hamas, also accuse journalists and columnists of being unfair in criticising these groups because they are elected by the people.

This is granted. However, would the MB collecting approximately 20% of the votes in Egypt in the 2005 parliamentary elections rewrite history and change documented historic facts and exonerate the Muslim Brothers from acts of violence including murder especially when they claim with pride that 'jihad' is their chosen way of struggle?

Adolf Hitler's election by the majority of Germans in 1933 will never alter the fact that he was perhaps the biggest war criminal and mass murderer in the history of mankind. If the German people had not redeemed themselves by rejecting the Nazi ideology and making an historic apology, they would have still been held responsible for his crimes.

Almost every revolutionary political group or movement I can think of renounces violence as soon as it achieves its political objectives or joins the negotiation process for a settlement. Only the Islamist Jihadist groups have no declared aims to achieve, which would lead them to desist from terrorism. It seems that Jihadists are on a road-map for continuous terrorism, a process of indefinite permanent Islamic revolution.

It is beyond the human imagination how the failed Glasgow Airport terror attack was carried out by two doctors who had taken their Hippocratic Oath, to protect and save the sacred human life in any form.

Is it some sort of a short-circuit that fused the light in their minds and distorted the equilibrium of their souls to allow them to strike with the aim of killing as many people as possible on the first day of the Scottish school holidays when the airport was packed with families and children? Or is it the same ideology of hatred and dehumanising 'the other' that prompted Nazi officers to drive millions to the gas chambers? The difference in Glasgow is that the attackers targeted those who choose to lead a way of life that is not approved by the Islamists.

The car bomb discovered in the early hours of June 29, 2007 was aimed at the nightclub 'Tiger Tiger' in Piccadilly when it was packed with approximately 2000 women who were enjoying 'Ladies Night' without upsetting anyone or harming anyone. It is noteworthy that another terrorist gang (also Muslims) were jailed in April after a lengthy trial for conspiring to blow up targets including the 'Ministry of Sound' nightclub in London. The gang leader expressed his disgust at the nightclub following because 'immodestly dressed women were dancing like slags all night,' even though those 'slags' harmed no one. Poking his nose in other people's business by attempting to impose a dress code on them was not enough for that sick Islamist, rather, he wanted to change the way the majority of people choose to lead their lives.

Why didn't he leave the land of infidels and go to an 'Islamic Emirate' where the main duty of security service would be to protect his gentle eyes from the visual aggression of 'immodestly dressed women?

The Islamists main aim has little to do with Britain's foreign policy and more to do with forcing us to change our way of life in a cultural war.

It is a battle between the culture of vibrant life which is a basic human instinct, and the culture of death, as summed up by Egyptian playwright, Ali Salem, in Asharq al Awsat last month.

Terrorists want to ram their sick culture down other people's throats and force them to change their way of life. Why not? They have already succeeded in forcing people to change their dress-code, their ways of entertainment and their way of life in regions where democracy has retreated.

Just compare the high standard of performing arts in Egyptian movies in the 1930s and 1940s with the poor standard of Egyptian television drama today. Self-censorship has always been the death of creative art. Fearing the outcry of Islamists or even the threat of terrorism that they pose, Egyptian television bosses were cowed into cutting out scenes and performances that have always been part of Egyptian culture.

We must never permit the culture of death-mongers to change our way of life or force us to change the way we eat, drink, dress, or enjoy ourselves.

Hundreds of thousands of white Britons marched in the 1970s to denounce an ultra right-wing nationalist organisation condemning its racist slogans against immigrants. Where are the British Muslims today? Why don't they march in their thousands to denounce terrorism?

Why don't Islamic scholars and clerics rule that coercing people into a different way of life is un-Islamic and that one of basic Islamic teaching is that "there is no compulsion in religion"?


A Tale of Four Op-Eds: The Media's Cooperation with Hamas' PR Campaign

"The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims," proclaimed the Communist Manifesto a century and a half ago. "They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions." But this was before the age of public relations. Here is how it's done today.

Hamas leaders now write op-eds in the leading American newspapers either concealing completely or greatly distorting their group's aims. The newspapers are complicit in this process by accepting articles which either have nothing to do with the real Hamas or at least are full of demonstrable lies. While it can be argued that many op-eds contain untruths or that it is not the editors' job to make such judgments, the Hamas pieces go far beyond the other op-eds being published.

Thomas Braun, Lima, Peru




The 255 Palestinian prisoners released from Israeli jail bused to West Bank Betuniya checkpoint near Ramallah Friday

The 255 Palestinian prisoners released from Israeli jail bused to West Bank Betuniya checkpoint near Ramallah Friday

July 20, 2007, 10:25 AM (GMT+02:00)

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert freed them in a gesture of support for Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas. Most were Fatah members convicted for terrorist acts. They also included Popular Front deputy leader Abdel Rahum Maloukh, whose organization was responsible for the assassination of Israeli minister Rehavam Zeevi in 2001. One was held back for a further security check. A High Court majority of judges rejected a petition against the release filed by Almagor, an organization representing victims of Palestinian terror.

“This summer will see Muslim victories in the region and the defeat of our enemies!” – Ahmadinejad in Damascus


July 20, 2007, 1:25 AM (GMT+02:00)

The Iranian president trumpeted Iran's intentions for the Middle East when he arrived in Damascus Thursday, July 19. DEBKAfile's Middle East sources reveal that behind the braggadocio, his conversation with Iran's closest ally, Syrian president Bashar Assad, was acrimonious. In fact, he warned Assad he had better stop signaling his willingness for peace talks with Israel because this behavior was hampering Iran's plans for a war this summer.

Ahmadinejad reminded Assad that Tehran had spent almost a year on detailed preparations for a summer war and would not tolerate the Syrian ruler sabotaging this effort. Assad was reminded of his huge debt to the Islamic Republic. In the last few months alone, Iran put up hundreds of millions of dollars for Syria's arms purchases from Russia; Syria gets its oil gratis and raw materials and finished goods at subsidized prices.

Assad replied that with all due respect and appreciation for his Iranian brother's assistance, he is obliged to look after his country's interests, while of course cherishing his friendship with Tehran. Ahmadinejad pointed out that the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert's condition for talks was the severance of Damascus' ties with Tehran.

Far from pleasant too was the Iranian president's conversation with Hizballah's secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah, who drove to the Syrian capital from Lebanon in a heavily secured convoy. Nasrallah, who lives in fear of any Israel attack, rarely leaves his bunker hideout. Ahmadinejad asked Tehran's protégé to try and understand that his government was financially squeezed by its preparations for war and was therefore unable at the moment to remit the one million dollars promised to repair the war damage suffered by South Lebanon last year.

The Hizballah leader said that, while he fully understood Tehran's difficulty, he too was weighed down by the heavy cost of his pledges to the inhabitants of southern Lebanon.

Ahmadinejad had an easier time with the heads of eight of the nine Palestinian terrorist leaders hosted in the Syrian capital. With them he was upbeat.

Israel is a lot weaker than it pretends, he said, and a concerted struggle with Syria could easily bring down the Zionist state. He recalled Hizballah's "victory" last year as demonstrating that the Palestinians would be able to crush Israel without recourse to a large army. The coming months, he boasted, would see him marching into Israel shoulder to shoulder with the Palestinian brothers.

After meeting the group, the Iranian president held face to face interviews with each of the hard-line Palestinian leaders and heard their requests for armaments and funding. Before flying home, he left a group of Revolutionary Guards al Qods Brigade officers with instructions for the missions to be assigned to each of the Palestinian terror chiefs in the forthcoming summer war.

Pakistan Court Reinstates Chief Justice Removed by Musharraf

July 20 (Bloomberg) -- Pakistan's Supreme Court rejected President Pervez Musharraf's suspension of the court's chief justice, a case that prompted the biggest constitutional crisis of the military leader's eight-year rule.

A 13-member panel assembled from the 18 Supreme Court judges issued an order for the reinstatement of their colleague, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, today after hearing the case for more two months.

Chaudhry asked the panel to rule on the legality of his March 9 removal by Musharraf for allegedly misusing his authority, charges Chaudhry denied.

``The chief justice will be deemed to have been holding office during this period,'' the court said in the order read out at the Supreme Court in Islamabad.
Thomas Braun, Lima, Peru
Hopefully this does not mean that Pakistan with its atomic arsenal will fall into Islamist-Sharia power. Corruption under Musharraf is the lesser of evils.

Palestinian prisoner release - new era or more errors?

[ 20.07.07] Israelis have mixed feelings about the release of Palestinian prisoners and so do Palestinians. For Israelis, it is a worthwhile gamble if it really helps to destroy the Hamas and strengthen moderate Palestinians. But such gambles have not paid off in the past. Palestinians complained that they were not consulted about the list at all, but Abbas promissed that more would be freed shortly. Everyone was all smiles today as the prisoners got off the busses and were greeted, and Israeli PM Olmert promised the dawn of a new era. 
Most of those freed are from the Fatah movement, but they also include 61-year-old Abdel Rahim Malouh, second in command in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which assassinated Israeli minister Rehavam Ze'evi in 2001. Malouh initially would not sign a form saying he would refrain from any terror activity in the future. Hechanged his mind when Abbas intervened personally, according to a PFLP lawmaker.
Ami Isseroff

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Iran - a great cause for liberals

Iranmania and others tell us: Iran halts teenager's execution - that's the good news. 
LONDON, July 19 (IranMania) - Iran halted the execution of a teenager who murdered a drug dealer while still a minor, giving his family 10 days to reach a financial settlement with the victim's kin, his lawyer said, acording to an AFP report.

Sina Paymard, 19, who suffers from manic depression, was going to be hanged at dawn on Wednesday for murdering the 32-year-old man in a fight over drugs three years ago.
Paymard's case has drawn international attention not just over his age but also as he won a last-minute stay of execution in 2006 by moving the victim's family to tears with his flute playing seconds before he was due to be hanged.

Of course, if they can't raise the money, he gets hanged.
The articles states that donors have raise half the blood money. Half a blood money is NOT good enough. Iranian law is just:
The official blood money, cash paid out in the case of violent death, is set at 350 mln rials (37,600 dollars) for a man, and half that for a woman.
After all, men are worth more than women, right?
Here's how it works:

Under Iran's Islamic law, anybody who kills another person has to pay compensation to the victim's family who can refuse it and demand the murderer be executed.
This boy may escape by luck:

The teenager was to be hanged in September 2006, two weeks after he turned 18. But he asked as his last wish to play his Iranian flute (ney) before the executioners put the rope round his neck.
Touched by his playing, the victim's family agreed to demand financial compensation instead of the death penalty -- so long as Paymard could come up with the sum.
The boy is a great candidate for execuation:

... Paymard also suffered from "bipolar disorder", commonly known as manic depression, and complained that the court did not take his condition into account.
That was the good news. Here is the bad news:

Iran's conservative judiciary maintains that minors are not executed in the Islamic republic, but in some cases murderers have been hanged after reaching the age of 18.
In April, a man identified only as Mohammad was reportedly hanged in the southern city of Shiraz for murdering his friend when he was 16 years old.

A human rights group headed by Iranian Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi said in a recent report that 15 people were sentenced to death in Iran in the past two years for crimes they committed as minors, AFP added.
Another case that has drawn attention is Delara Darabi, a 20-year-old artist, sentenced to death for murdering a relative during a burglary she and a friend committed at the age of 17 in the northern city of Rasht.
She has been jailed for the past three years for the murder of her father's cousin, which she said to have initially claimed believing she would not be executed as a minor. Her death sentence has yet to be commuted.
Iran has executed at least 118 people so far this year according to an AFP tally based on media reports.
Capital offences in Iran include murder, rape, armed robbery, apostasy, blasphemy, serious drug trafficking, repeated sodomy, adultery or prostitution, treason and espionage.
Good thing you are against capital punishment and those mean neocons like George Bush, right?
Ami Isseroff

Arab world moderates speak out

In The truth about the Arab media, Lee Smith explains who is leading Arab and Muslim protest against terror and extremism, and who is not doing it.

by Lee Smith  
In the wake of last month's terrorist attack in Glasgow and foiled plots in London, newspapers like the Guardian and the Independent, as well as members of the liberal-left intelligentsia, have placed the blame, not on Muslim extremism, but on British foreign policy. "[T]he new Prime Minister has to attend to the underlying causes of jihadist terrorism," The Independent explained in a July 1 editorial. "Of course, there is a link with foreign policy, in that British engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan is used as a grievance by the ideologues of al-Qa'ida to rouse anti-Western sentiment." Prime Minister Gordon Brown's new government has similarly decided to play down any connection between Islam and terrorism.
In accepting this argument, Western journalists and politicians may believe that they are making common cause with Muslim moderates. But Westerners have little sense of how the debates are playing out in Arabic and rely instead on entrepreneurs posing as mediators. Insofar as someone like Tariq Ramadan, for instance, is able to narrow the field and sell it as a choice between himself or Finsbury Park Mosque's fire-breathing Abu Hamza Al Masri, then it's no wonder he's become a media darling and that blaming the bombings on British foreign policy seems "moderate" in comparison. But there has been criticism of Arab and Muslim violence, and British accommodation, in at least one quarter, and it may be a surprising one to many: the London-based Arab media.

Neither in London, nor in the Arab and Islamic world has there been enough condemnation," says Hazem Saghieh, a columnist for Al Hayat. "Learning to accommodate these horrible acts is a symptom of mental disease." The Lebanese-born Saghieh is one of the pillars of London's Arab press establishment, a large collection of voices dominated, like all the Arab media, by Al Jazeera-style resentment and incitement, but also including a solid core of liberal or liberal-friendly outlets. Elaph, a Web-magazine that is something like an Arabic-language Slate, has one of its main offices in the British capital. So does Saqi Books, founded by Saghieh's late wife, Mai Ghassoub.

But the flagships of Arab liberal media are Al Hayat and the other London-based broadsheet Asharq Al-Awsat, both of which ran several articles in the last month unequivocally condemning the violence and those who justify it. "There are segments of the Arab media that seem to think it is a press freedom to incite people to kill others," Tariq Al Homayed, Asharq Al-Awsat's editor-in-chief, told me in a phone interview. "These people are more dangerous than the criminals themselves."

The origins of the Arab media and Arab liberalism are both found in the Middle East's landmark encounter with Western modernity--Napoleon's 1798 invasion of Egypt. The French scholars that accompanied him brought a printing press, and though the first newspaper published in the region was intended mostly for the French landing force, Napoleon's easy walkover showed Middle Eastern potentates how far the lands of Islam lagged behind its historical rival, Christian Europe. As Muhammad Ali Pasha, the father of modern Egypt, sent military students off to the continent to learn the latest advances in European war-making, one of the delegations included Rifa'a Rafi' al-Tahtawi, a young Al-Azhar-educated imam who immersed himself in French culture, history, literature and philosophy, including, among his favorites, Voltaire and Rousseau.
When Tahtawi returned to Egypt and became editor of The Egyptian Gazette in 1842, he substituted Arabic for Ottoman Turkish as the language of the educated classes and hammered out the foundations of Arab liberalism, including the emancipation of women, human rights, and political sovereignty issuing not from God or violent coercion but popular mandate. Tahtawi's early-twentieth-century progeny included intellectuals like Ahmed Lutfi al-Sayyid and Taha Hussein who used journalism as a venue to advance a rights-based liberal nationalism derived from English and French political theory, from Locke to Mill.
Arab liberals were already fighting a rear-guard battle by the time of Gamal Abdel Nasser's 1952 coup d'etat, but when the pan-Arabist demagogue nationalized the press--an example that regimes throughout the region emulated--the liberal era in the Middle East was officially over. Lebanon was one of the few to preserve its free press, until the civil war when many journalists and their press organs scattered, some of them, like Al Hayat, landing in London. And it was there the liberal Arab media enjoyed a renaissance of sorts, thanks to press freedoms unavailable in the Middle East and large sums of Saudi cash. It is perhaps surprising given the kingdom's well-earned reputation for funding global jihad, but most of the liberal pan-Arab media in London and now Dubai is majority-Saudi owned.
Today, as refugees from the violence of Arab-nationalist politics in the 1960s and 1970s, liberal Arab journalists in London acknowledge their affiliation with the West. And it is they who saw more clearly than anyone the danger of the UK's lax immigration policies.
"People like me kept saying, you are allowing radicals in this country," says Abdul Rahman al-Rashed, former editor of Asharq Al-Awsat and now a regular columnist at the paper. "These people were chased out of their own countries, and the British government chose to let them in. They pay for their housing and even pay for their lawyers to argue to extend their stay. This system is on auto-pilot." For Adel Darwish, a Fleet Street veteran who writes for a number of British papers as well as a column for Asharq Al-Awsat and, whose family left Alexandria, Egypt in 1959, the pattern of violence is familiar. "This all begins with the Muslim Brotherhood's campaign in Egypt in the 1930s, when they targeted cinemas, nightclubs, judges, and writers. This was before the creation of the state of Israel, or the U.S. was a major power in the region. What they did then is what they are doing now. They are targeting our way of life."

Here is the difference between Europe's "moderate Muslim" leadership and the liberal Arab media based there: The former wants much of what a liberal society has to offer, various opportunities and freedoms, as well as entitlements and concessions, in addition to a thick layer of Islam separating them from what they perceive as the sickness of liberal societies, the freedoms and entitlements of others; the latter, at one time anyway, had hoped for Arab societies to be more like Western liberal democracies.
"This liberal opinion reflects the private sector, business people, and media people," says Rashed, now General Manager of Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV. "Right now it is the only voice taking on the arguments coming out of the radical mosques."
Europe's moderate Muslims, like Tariq Ramadan, however, are not taking on the radicals; rather, they are translating the fear terrorism generates into shares of political power for themselves. Western intellectuals and journalists can either court the goodwill of men who claim to represent the vast majority of Arab and Muslim longing, or, they can listen to the intellectuals and journalists who are actually interested in promoting liberalism.
Lee Smith is a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute, where he is working on a book about the Arab media.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative goes into high gear, meets Hamas opposition

As anticipated, High-profile diplomacy gets boost after Bush speech. Also as anticipated, Hamas rejects the entire Bush Middle East peace initiative. Ostensibly, it is because Bush backed Fatah. But, let's suppose that Hamas were decide to comply with all the Quartet demands, lay down its arms and recognize Israel. Bush would not be backing only Fatah in that case, would he? So in reality, Hamas is opposed to the peace initiative because they are opposed to peace with Israel. Since they have always said so, there is nothing surprising there. The problem is, of course, that Hamas tends to express their discontent with the peace process by blowing up people. Blowing up people tends to disrupt peace processes. It is bad for the health and makes the relatives of those who get blown up very angry.
That is why, as I wrote, there cannot really be any peace process as long as Hamas is not neutralized.
Ami Isseroff

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Syria is getting ready for something OK

...Assad, in his speech, called on Israel to respond publicly to peace overtures from Damascus.
"The Israelis should remember that the price of peace is lower than the cost of war," Assad said.
But, he said, Syria wanted "certain guarantees" from Israel - namely a promise for a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights as part of a peace deal, before negotiations would begin.
"There must be guarantees to return the whole land," Assad said. "We cannot enter negotiations without knowing what they're going to be about. They must present a word of trust or something written."
The Syrians should also remember that peace is better than war. What guarantees is Syria going to offer prior to negotiations? As Assad was speaking, it seems that Syrian reservists were being called to their posts - or so it is reported. What does it mean? A rumor? a misunderstanding? an exercise?
Ami Isseroff

A tiny flaw in Bush's Middle East Plan?

Was this the only thing wrong with the speech??  
Hilary Leila Krieger,
Jul. 17, 2007

Despite US President George W. Bush's declaration of increased support for the Palestinians, particularly financial help, the administration has acknowledged that no new funding requests have been made to Congress as part of the program outlined in Bush's speech on Monday.
Critics of the president and his speech seeking to reinvigorate the peace process and bolster Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas labeled the lack of promised financial support symptomatic of the administration's treatment of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, saying it shed doubt on whether the speech could impact the reality on the ground.
"The United States is taking a series of steps to strengthen the forces of moderation and peace among the Palestinian people," Bush said Monday. "First, we are strengthening our financial commitment."
He pointed to more than $190 million in humanitarian assistance, $225m. in loan backing and $80m. in a security-reform program to be headed by Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton.
Yet administration officials said Tuesday that what amounts to $194m. in humanitarian aid - a combination of the US yearly contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and $50m. in civil society and infrastructure funds - was already budgeted as part of the current year's spending, well ahead of Monday's speech.
Oops! But for sham renunciation of terror, after all, you can only expect sham increases in aid.

Prince Charles's toilet rolls find a new home

This is not strictly about the Middle East, but I thought it was worth forwarding for royal watchers who don't read the Jewish Chronicle, where this was reported. Enjoy, Wendy

Prince Charles's toilet rolls find a new home

12 July 2007

By By Leon Symons

Prince Charles just hates throwing things away. So what does he do with unwanted items from toothbrushes to kettles?

It emerged this week that in many cases they are sent to World Jewish Relief.

The Prince of Wales revealed his dislike of waste in an article for a national newspaper last week. He told The Sun how a decade ago he discovered that millions of pounds' worth of brand-new surplus goods were being dumped in landfill sites, often because of a tiny defect or a wrong bar code. So he set up an organisation, In Kind Direct, allowing charities to buy such goods for a small handling charge and distribute them to those in need.

World Jewish Relief became involved in the scheme in 1998. But its participation mushroomed after the prince — who was working with WJR on a community-centre project for the Jewish community in Krakow, Poland — was the guest of honour at the charity's annual dinner in 2003.

WJR chairman Nigel Layton said that "a film of our work was shown during the dinner which mentioned our gifts-in-kind programme. I was sitting next to the prince, who was fascinated by the programme and asked if there was a link to his In Kind Direct. That's where it really started."

Now WJR spends some £2.5 million annually on goods from In Kind Direct, dispatching container-loads to impoverished Jews in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Romania, Serbia and Hungary.

The programme covers items including toys, toothpaste, toilet rolls, shampoo, shower gel, Mothercare clothing, children's zip-up cardigans and jackets, Daks men's jackets, T-shirts, Disney apparel, Pampers nappies and baby wipes, adidas work-out boots and trainers, kettles and printer cartridges.

Mr Layton said: "Our gifts-in-kind programme has gone from £1 million to £5 million a year. We send the goods by container for which we have to pay the haulage costs to the destination. But even that is sponsored, so the cost to us is minimal."

A visit to Hell

"Legal" treatment at Iran, supported by the local "morality"
Ex-prisoner recalls Iran ordeal
A Frenchman who strayed into territorial waters spent 15 months locked up. His story is a rare glimpse of Tehran's legal system.
By Borzou Daragahi, Times Staff Writer
July 17, 2007

Dubai, United Arab Emirates — "YOU'RE free!" the cell leader at Evin prison told the inmate. "Get your stuff together." Stephane Lherbier dared not trust them.

Lherbier, a 34-year-old Frenchman and operator of a charter boat, accidentally had wandered into Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf during a fishing trip. For that, he had been locked up for 15 months in Iran, separated from his wife, Veronique, and their 3-year-old, Lola. Repeatedly, authorities had told him he was about to be released, only to dash his hopes in what he considered a form of psychological torture.

Court officers hustled him through quickie trials. Intelligence officers cloaked in darkness blindfolded him and subjected him to prolonged interrogations. He cried and begged for better treatment. Instead he found himself behind the giant gates of Evin, an imposing stone compound that has loomed large in the imaginations of Iranians since it was built by Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi more than 60 years ago.

An unknown number of Iranian political dissenters and at least three Iranian Americans seized by the government reside in Evin prison. Lherbier's account of his time there, provided in lengthy interviews and corroborated by Western diplomats in Tehran, gives a rare look at one of the world's most mysterious legal systems and the web of interrogation and imprisonment surrounding it.

Iranian officials insist the country's record on prisons and adherence to human rights standards has improved markedly in the last few decades. They note that Lherbier was allowed a weeklong break from prison in the middle of his sentence.


The fish weren't biting the morning of Nov. 29, 2005. Donald Klein, a 52-year-old German on vacation in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, had hired Lherbier to take him on a fishing trip in the gulf. Looking for better prospects, they motored by the tiny island of Abu Musa, about 50 miles from both Iran and Dubai. There, they were stopped by a gray, unflagged military boat equipped with a .20-caliber machine gun. Placed under arrest, they were flown to the Iranian city of Bandar Abbas and held at a military base.

For three days, their captors treated them politely and fed them well, although they could get no information and were not allowed to speak with each other, Lherbier said.

On the fourth day, Lherbier was awakened at 2 a.m. and taken to a room. The solidly built former factory worker was placed in a chair in a corner, facing the wall. He estimates there was silence for 15 minutes. Some people entered the room. Lherbier could not see faces as they began speaking in Persian to him.

Suddenly, someone pinched the back of his neck very hard and began screaming into his ear.

Lherbier thought he heard a gun cock. He winced in pain and cried for mercy. Everyone seemingly was speaking at once.

Through the chaos, a voice spoke in English, the first words Lherbier had been able to understand since he was arrested.

"He wants to kill you," the voice told Lherbier. "He wants to cut your head off. And you can be sure that nobody will find your body."

With that, the interrogations began.

The questioning lasted for hours over days, always starting after midnight. Officials drilled away, asking about Lherbier's family, his friends, his youth in the southern French city of Lyon, his military service in a special French mountain unit, his lifelong passion for the sea and his decision to gamble his life savings on a charter fishing business in the Persian Gulf.

Interrogators accused him of being a spy, alleging that he worked for British intelligence. They said they knew he had been in Iraq twice for training, that Klein was a colonel and he a captain. The fishing business he started in Dubai earlier that year was a cover, the Iranians told him.

After five days, a doctor came to examine Lherbier and Klein. Their captors said the ordeal was over — they could go. They put the pair of them in a car and drove them off the base.

"It's been terrible," Klein whispered to Lherbier as they left. "But at least we'll be free now."

Instead, the two men were taken to a different compound and locked inside windowless cells. Lherbier slept on a floor with filth and cockroaches, wrapping himself in a coarse, dirty blanket, trying to ignore the faint smell of chlorine. Silence stretched on for hours.

In the night, the men were once again dragged to interrogations.

Lherbier explained repeatedly that on his map, Abu Musa was marked as part of the United Arab Emirates. He said he was new to the gulf and didn't know the island was among several claimed by both countries. He wrote down answers on sheets of paper. His interrogators angrily ripped them up.

WHEN Lherbier did not show up that first night, the manager of the hotel where his boat was anchored told Veronique the news was probably bad: Her husband had either been taken by pirates or arrested by the Iranian navy. The next day, when the Emirates' coast guard couldn't find Lherbier's boat, officials said he probably had been arrested by the Iranians.

For five days, Veronique pressed French and Iranian diplomats for information, taking Lola in her arms to the Iranian Consulate. On the fifth day, the Iranian Foreign Ministry acknowledged that Iranian authorities had detained Lherbier and Klein.

"I felt relieved," Veronique said. "It was the first I knew he was alive."

But it was not until Christmas Day, nearly a month after the detention, that Veronique knew for sure. She was at home. Her cellphone rang. It was Stephane.

"I found his voice very strong," she said. "I was afraid that he'd been completely destroyed."

The call lasted less than a minute. "I cried," she said. "I think I cried the whole day."

In late January 2006, Veronique was allowed to travel to Bandar Abbas with Lola. The couple were allowed to spend an hour together in a courtroom. It was the first time Stephane had seen his charcoal-haired wife and brown-eyed daughter in two months. "It was very hard, but it was good," Lherbier said. "It gave me hope."

ALREADY, however, his hopes had been raised repeatedly and dashed.

On Dec. 10, Lherbier had been told that he would be given a military trial. Iranian officials sat him in an office and told him that if he confessed to being in Iranian territorial waters and paid a fine worth about $350, he would be freed.

All the documents were in Persian, but he quickly signed everything.

"After these 10 days, if it was 10 million euros, I would have said, 'No problem, no problem,' " he said.

The next day he and Klein were given showers, fresh kebabs from a restaurant and full packs of cigarettes. Then they were told to make a videotape. They were placed together in front of a bunch of fake flowers, jugs of fruit juice and bowls of fruit and told to say everything had been great. Everyone got chummy. One investigator suggested Lherbier should start a sport fishing business in Iran. The man urged Klein, a stonemason, to invest in Iran.

"You know in Iran we have the best stones in the world," he told them.

The next day, Jacques Pellet, a diplomat at the French Embassy in Tehran, greeted Lherbier in a government office in Bandar Abbas. He gave him a photo of Lola, a letter from his wife and the equivalent of about $110 in Iranian cash.

"I felt safer. Because I knew that everyone knew my story and that people were fighting for me," Lherbier said.

Authorities told him once again that he was free, that it would just take a few days to resolve some bureaucratic matters in Tehran.

Six days later, however, they said authorities in Tehran had rejected the decision to release them. First, Lherbier and Klein would have to stand trial.

Lherbier described the trial and appeal, which stretched from January to March 2006, as a "joke" and was convinced once again that he would be released soon. Instead, he and Klein were sentenced to 18 months in prison.

In mid-March, the two men were taken to a plane and flown to Tehran. Again their spirits lifted. Perhaps, they dared to think, they had won their appeal and would be let go this time.

But they were driven from the airport to Evin, a fortified compound on the slopes of the Alborz Mountains, just north of Tehran.

The two men were stuffed into a single cell roughly 6 1/2 feet long by 6 feet wide. They tried to sleep on the cold concrete floor despite a light that was on 24 hours a day. A video camera was trained on them. Someone shoved food through the door three times a day; it was always rice. A hole behind a partition at one end of the room served as a toilet.

The pair took turns shuffling back and forth.

"It was impossible to breathe," Lherbier said. "I thought I would die."

After a week, a doctor examined them and told them the judge had rejected their appeal. They were fingerprinted and put for two days in a dank holding cell filled with violent criminals.

"Are you a Christian? Are you a Christian?" one prisoner asked Lherbier. "Pray for me! I am sentenced to death because I had an affair with a woman. Please pray for me!"

AS Lherbier soon learned, Evin is a vast complex made up of many sections, each different, each named by the internal telephone code.

Their first cell had been in Section 209, an infamous wing used to house political dissidents. Soon, however, they were sent to a less stringent section that housed mostly white-collar criminals.

They could call their families daily. Stephane heard that Lola put on a head scarf whenever she wanted to talk to her father, pretending to get ready to go to Iran.

Prisoners bought supplies using a debit card that was refilled by relatives on the outside. Lherbier and Klein bought coarse bedsheets for about a dollar each and wrapped them around wooden planks for makeshift mattresses on the bunk beds. They quickly discovered one could buy anything in Evin, including contraband.

"Opium, crack, ecstasy, cocaine — everything you want," Lherbier recalled.

For a fee, prison guards could arrange sexual encounters with female prisoners staying in another section of Evin, Lherbier said. The prison has its own school, hospital, concession shops and its own taxi service to shuttle prisoners, family members, employees and lawyers across the vast distances between the buildings.

"It's like a city, this jail," Lherbier said.

Iranians long ago nicknamed it the University of Evin because of the vibrant intellectual life within its gates. Lherbier got into the swing of it. He picked up some Persian words. A high school graduate, he began reading voraciously, including texts on ancient history as well as Ken Follett thrillers. He read books about Iran brought to him from the French Embassy, including "Guests of the Ayatollah," Mark Bowden's recent account about the taking of American hostages in 1979.

He smiled as the prisoners changed the television channel every time a cleric came on, and he chuckled at the nickname they gave Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Pinocchio.

He swam in a prison pool filled with cool, clean mountain water. But he stopped after he was told the pool had been used to execute political prisoners during the tumultuous first years of the Islamic Republic.

He befriended other inmates, including one French-speaking former IranAir executive who claimed he was in prison for refusing to bow to corruption, and Shahram Jazayeri, a well-connected businessman and political insider. A showboat, Jazayeri smuggled a fancy layered cake into Evin for Stephane's birthday.

WORD of their predicament spread through Europe. Veronique started a website to promote her husband's cause and collect funds to pay for his defense. On an April 2006 trip to Tehran, she visited Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, the head of Iran's judiciary, personally lobbying him for her husband's release.

Every 15 days, guards would tell Lherbier and Klein they would be released in a week. As months passed, even some of the prison guards wondered aloud why they were being held so long. Western diplomats in Tehran suspect the two men were being kept as potential bargaining chips that the government could use to seek release of two alleged Iranian security service operatives held in prison in France and Germany for killing Iranian political dissidents in Europe.

On Feb. 25 of this year, Lherbier was on the phone with his mother when the captain of his prison cell suddenly told him he had five minutes to get ready to leave. "I didn't believe it," Lherbier said. "It was too fast."

The prison yard was full of well-wishers. He made hasty goodbyes. His fellow inmates tossed sweets at him as he walked down the corridor, praising the prophet Muhammad and his descendants. "Azad! Azad! " the other prisoners cried. "Free! Free!" When he was fingerprinted and greeted by a French Embassy official, he finally believed he was about to be let go.

He flew to Dubai to rejoin his wife and daughter, and he agreed to discuss his experience after Klein was released later in the spring.

Lherbier harbors little, if any, bitterness about his experience. He said he would like to stay in the region, make another go at the fishing business. But for Veronique, the experience has been too much.

"I am not as strong as I was," she said, her eyes watering. "I feel broken."

Veronique, a native of the Caribbean island of Martinique, demanded that they get as far away as possible from this baffling part of the world, and he couldn't argue. They're moving back to the Caribbean, where they first met.

"Iran is terrible," Lherbier said, "because you don't know who decides."
A bonus:
Iran: 17 year old sentenced to death over sexual relations with girlfriend

Tehran, 13 July (AKI) - A court in Sanandaj, in Iranian Kurdistan, has sentenced to death Mosleh Zamani, 17, on charges he had sexual relations with his girlfriend before the two were married.

Another 22 minors along with Mosleh are reportedly today on death row in Iran.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Report: Ex Mossad Agent predicts terror attack in US, US intervention in Iran

Report: "Former Israeli agent predicts new terror attacks in USA"

The letter that is appended in the link was received as an anonymous e-mail that has been "circulating." As far as I know it is only on the Web in precisely this form at a Bulletin Board forum. It may be the scoop of the year, or it may be a silly hoax. Whoever originated this letter, the "I," didn't trouble themselves to sign their name to it, which should be a big warning. It claims that former Mossad agent Juval Aviv predicts a massive Al-Qaeda attack in the United States in the near future.
The letter also hints at US initiatives against Syria and Iran:
He says this is well known in intelligence circles but our government does not want to alarm Americans.  However, he also said that Bush will attack Iran and Syria before he leaves office  
That surmise that is somewhat supported by a recent report in the Jerusalem Post.
Juval Aviv was really the Mossad agent involved in killing the Munich Olympic Games terrorists, but there is no guarantee that the writer of what is below actually met him, or that Aviv really said any of these things. This report is not the first indication that Al-Qaeda is reorganizing and planning another attack on the United Staes. Many of the things stated below seem to make sense from a security standpoint. That doesn't mean that the prediction of an imminent Al-Qaeda attack came from Juval Aviv, or that such an attack is really being planned. The background information, such as the fact that the US relies too much on satellites and El-Int, and doesn't have a good Human Intelligence organization, is all well known, and could have been written by almost anyone at any time.
 As of today, at least, this letter has not been debunked as a hoax, but that doesn't mean it will not be proven a hoax. It also doesn't mean there will not be a terror attack as predicted.  
Ami Isseroff

"The Neo-Talibans" - Al-Jazeera TV Documentary on the Mentality and Methods of the Taliban

"The Neo-Talibans" – Al-Jazeera TV Documentary on the Mentality and Methods of the Taliban
The following are excerpts from a television documentary on the "Neo-Talibans," which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on July 5, 2007:
Click here to view the clip
"Opium is Known as 'The Petroleum of the Afghans'... Taliban Itself is Financed By This Crop" 
Al-Jazeera TV reporter Ahmad Zeidan: "Opium is known as 'the petroleum of the Afghans.' The abundance of water in this region has been invested in a remarkable way. When America built these conduits in the days of the Afghan king Zahir Shah, it did not know they would be irrigating the poppy fields behind me. These fields, which account for half of Afghanistan's GNP, were destroyed by the Afghan Taliban movement, but they appeared again after its fall. Now, Taliban says it will not interfere in the daily affairs and livelihood of the Afghans. What was prohibited yesterday is permitted today."
"The workers harvesting the opium kept working around us, without interruption or inhibition. International and Afghan players are behind the great game of opium, and it is said that Taliban itself is financed by this crop, and in return, the Taliban keeps silent about it."

Haji Abd Al-Nasser Mirweyes, Taliban Commander, Hazara Jift region, Helmand: "I am very optimistic this year. The spring offensives will begin after the harvest season, when it is hot. The region's inhabitants are now working in agriculture, and when they finish their work, they will go to their homes, and take up their weapons in order to join us, Allah willing. I am very optimistic. In two to three months, you will witness a great change here in Helmand Province, Allah willing." [...]
"Allah Be Praised, the Locals Do Us a Great Service; They Welcome Us Into Their Homes, and We Can Set Up our Court Wherever we Want"
Reporter: "The neo-Talibans have understood that times have changed, and have become difficult. Therefore, they have set up mobile headquarters, in order to manage the regions under their control."
Rahmat Allah, governor of Hazara Jift region: "Our leaders have asked us to look for new locations, because the infidels have occupied our town. The mujahideen's tactics are to seek new locations for security reasons, and in order to spare the civilians any difficulties. We are prepared for any kind of sacrifice, but what we care about is what happens to the civilians. That is why we change our location every so often. Allah be praised, the locals do us a great service. They welcome us into their homes, and we can set up our court wherever we want. Nobody interferes in our affairs. Each of the two councils that happened to convene together when we visited has its own authorities and responsibilities."
Hajj Muhammad Anwar, member of the tribal shura council: "We in the tribal shura council deal with personal and tribal conflicts. The religious scholars rule on matters pertaining to religion. We maintain close coordination with the Taliban, and they give us whatever we want."
Reporter: "We were on our way to the front line of the Taliban. During the journey, we heard a song by the Afghan singer Darwish: 'Yesterday, we destroyed the Kremlin Palace, and today we are destroying the White House.'
"We reached the front line. We parked our cars in a hidden place. Dozens of fighters spread out there."
"The commanders communicated with the front line, in order to enable us to proceed toward it.
"The moment the commander pointed to the location of the Taliban's enemy, the latter began to shower us with bullets. The Taliban had orders to maintain the calm, and to entrench themselves.
"We are now at the front line of the Afghan Taliban fighters in Helmand Province. Political observers believe that the Americans made a complete error by assuming that the problem lay in the main cities of Afghanistan. They occupied these cities and took control of them, but they did not realize that it is these rural Afghan regions that constitute the turf of the Taliban fighters.
"The change and development of the military mentality have taken over the second emirate. Anybody who knew the first emirate senses the tremendous difference in the military tactics employed. This is evident in the use of international tactics of guerrilla warfare, such as concealing hundreds of fighters along the line of fire."
Hafez Hamid, front-line commander: "The purpose of the tunnels and trenches is to enable the mujahideen to hide and defend themselves during an enemy attack. After the enemy has passed over us, we attack it from behind. We have often defeated the enemy and caused it casualties this way.
"Our challenge is to restrict the battle. We are concerned that the battle might reach the populated regions, which the international and Afghan forces want to target, under the pretext of pursuing us."
Reporter: "This is what I was told by Hafez Hamid, who stressed that the fighters use a rota system."
"There are Many Mujahideen, Quite Enough"
Hafez Hamid: "Allah be praised, there are many mujahideen, several thousands. We replace them. The mujahideen come to the front line for 10-20 days, and then we send them back and bring another brigade. There are many mujahideen, quite enough."
Reporter: "This is a mujahideen preacher, who fights on the front line. I asked him why he is fighting here."
Preacher: "The infidels went beyond their borders and attacked our country. All the world's infidels have banded together to attack our country, to affront the religion of Islam, and to violate our honor. Because they violated our honor and occupied our country, Afghanistan, it is incumbent upon every man and woman to participate in Jihad, because this is an individual duty. That is why we set out to wage jihad."
Reporter: "Dadallah showed us CDs produced by the Taliban's information department. This is completely alien to the original mentality of Taliban, which prohibited the photography of any living thing. This led us to ask Dadallah to visit the Taliban's information hub.
"A new day bears new surprises for us. We drove in a convoy of cars, led by Dadallah himself. Within several hours, we reached the information center of Taliban. Dadallah supervised every detail, and issued written instructions. Youth in their 20s and 30s work at this information center, which has everything related to film production, in addition to issuing communiqués.
"The center was preparing to launch an FM radio service, in an effort to confront the enemy's propaganda, as they say.
"I wanted to visit the Taliban's production line of suicide bombers, or the fedayeen or martyrdom-seekers, as they are called by the Taliban. Eventually, Dadallah agreed, after I had been imploring him for months.
"We reached the place, and encountered dozens of Taliban men in military garb, training.
"The commander of the suicide – or fedayi – operations, was inciting them as part of their physical and psychological training. He said to them:"
Commander of the Taliban's suicide bombers brigade: "Our motto is to fight the infidels and all types of heresy in the world. The program of suicide attacks that we have started will force the infidels worldwide to know who we are. The Koran is replete with verses that remind us of our covenant with Allah. Allah willing, we will develop the fedayi program and operations, to the point that whoever loves Islam will prepare to carry out a fedayi operation against the infidels."
Reporter: "We were allowed to meet some of them. One of them explained why he was resorting to this method."
Omar Khan, member of the Taliban suicide bombers brigade: "The Koran, the hadith, and our commanders require us to make sacrifices and to carry out martyrdom operations. This is written in several places. Violence and oppression are directed against Muslims in countries in the Islamic world, such as Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, and Afghanistan. The Muslims are humiliated every day, and therefore, we wanted to sacrifice our spirit and our blood, in order to help our people achieve freedom."
Reporter: "About a week after this meeting, Dadallah was killed. The fuel of the Taliban resistance, in the eyes of these fighters, is the foreign occupation, rumors about rape cases, the targeting of civilians, the corruption of the rulers, the maltreatment of the prisoners, and there are other reasons.
"We returned after a while to meet Dadallah's successor Haji Mansour. We encountered the same approach and the same mentality – from his interest in the media to his emphasis on suicide operations, and on the theory of the neo-Talibans.
"Haji Mansour surprised me when he told me that commander Abd Al-Nasser Mirweyes, who was our guide in Helmand, was killed along with his brother, Dadallah. The sun of a great Helmand commander has set. That's what Mansour said." 

Human rights crackown in Iran

Christian Science Monitor tells us about an Iranian crackdown on dissent.  
The government has restricted media, targeted academics, and, in one month this spring, stopped or detained 150,000 people – including four Iranian-Americans.... 
While running for president of Iran in 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad went out of his way to counter charges from opponents that his victory would bring to power "Islamic fascism" and the "Iranian Taliban."
The archconservative said Iran had bigger issues to deal with – economic, nuclear, and growing threats from the US and the West – than the status of women's head scarves, and the extent of personal freedoms that had grown under his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami.
But today Iran is in the grip of the most widespread crackdown since the 1979 Islamic revolution, with targets that range from women and student activists, to the media, to four Iranian-Americans accused of using US funds to undermine the regime. Analysts say the message of the repressive steps is clearly that hard-liners remain in charge, despite US efforts against the Islamic Republic and severe economic woes that led to the torching of 19 gas stations last month, when rationing was abruptly imposed.
"Their argument is that no matter what happens in Iran, no matter how many social disturbances exist, we are in control, and our position will not change," says Farideh Farhi, an Iran expert at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.
This tougher "security outlook," as it is called in Iran, has been enabled by a top-down transformation of the ministries of intelligence, interior, and culture and Islamic guidance since Mr. Ahmadinejad and his hard-line allies took over, says Ms. Farhi. But it's also been facilitated by US actions, including $75 million for "pro-democracy" activities the regime sees as intended to foment a revolution.
In a one-month period this spring, security forces stopped or detained 150,000 people – women for insufficiently covered hair and tight-fitting clothes, and men for Western haircuts and attitudes. Most were released quickly, but many "hoodlums and thugs" were arrested, police said.
"This is a comprehensive security plan of the whole [Islamic] system, not just Mr. Ahmadinejad," says Saeed Laylaz, an economic and security analyst in Tehran. The crackdown is being pursued on three levels, says Mr. Laylaz: First, by "attacking ordinary people" to increase the police's street presence. Second, going after student activists – including eight who were arrested after chanting to Ahmadinejad "Death to the dictator" last winter – and intellectuals like the Iranian-Americans, and purging universities of liberal professors. And third, arresting a top insider on spying charges – former nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian – "as a warning notice to people who are thinking that they could do something against the system," says Laylaz.
Economic woes on the rise
Ahmadinejad was elected on the promise of bringing Iran's vast oil wealth to the "dinner table" of poor Iranians. But instead unemployment has risen, along with inflation, and Iran's small refining capacity – Iran imports 40 percent of its gasoline, at $4 billion each year – has forced an easing of long-standing subsidies at the pump. Now cars are limited to just less than a gallon a day, and motorists are fuming.
The violent reaction, when authorities gave only three hours notice that rationing would start at midnight, "could have been worse," but for the pre-emptive crackdown, says Mr. Sadjadpour.
"People sensed that the regime and the basiji [volunteer ideological forces] were really on a head-cracking spree the previous few weeks," says the analyst. "It made people think twice before going out onto the streets to vent their criticism."
Still, images of burning gas stations did little to calm nervous Iranians. "Unfortunately, Mr. Ahmadinejad did not [fulfill] his promises to poor people," says Laylaz. "This social unrest is an immediate and direct consequence of those policies.... And at the moment, the social structure of this country is absolutely fragile and sensitive about economic issues."
That is the result of a new Machiavellian calculation, says Sadjadpour: "Whereas Khatami and the reformists said our best security is people's happiness, [this hard-line] worldview is that it is much better to be feared than to be loved.
"Their behavior is much more out of desperation than of strength," he adds. "It doesn't show that you are very confident about your place as a regime, when 67-year-old women are being suspected of undermining Iran's national security."
Why aren't we surprised by all this? And why aren't we impressed by the claim that the behavior is undertaken out of desperation? Tyrants LOVE being tyrants. They don't tyrannize out of desparation. People who love power in that way, love to exercise it. Repression is what Islamism is all about after all. That is the purpose of the whole thing.
Ami Isseroff

Iraq: Who is the enemy??

While Mr. Bush puts the emphasis on Al-Qaeda in Iraq, it seems there is a much worse enemy:

Capt. Sean Lyons, the company commander leading the raid, said ... "This whole area here is just absolutely dominated by Jaish al-Mahdi," he said, using the Arabic for the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia led by the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. "They control the power distribution."

In the 10-square-mile district of West Rashid, the Mahdi Army also controls the housing market, the gas stations and the loyalty of many of the residents, according to the soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment. The militia has a structure familiar to U.S. soldiers: brigade and battalion commanders leading legions of foot soldiers. Its fighters are willing and able to attack Americans with armor-piercing bombs, mortars, machine guns and grenades. Meanwhile, the political wing of Sadr's movement plays an outsize role in the national government.

West Rashid confounds the prevailing narrative from top U.S. military officials that the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq is the city's most formidable and disruptive force. While there are signs that the group has been active in the area, over the past several months, the Mahdi Army has transformed the composition of the district's neighborhoods by ruthlessly killing and driving out Sunnis and denying basic services to residents who remain. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, described the area as "one of the three or four most challenging areas in all of Baghdad."

Dominance by Shiite militias is typically associated with places in eastern Baghdad, such as Sadr City, while areas west of the Tigris River and south of the Baghdad airport road are home to large Sunni enclaves. Not long ago the western neighborhoods conformed clearly with this perception. U.S. soldiers estimate that a year ago, Sunnis made up about 80 percent of the population there and Shiites 20 percent. But those numbers have now reversed, after a concerted effort to cleanse Sunnis from the area, according to U.S. military officials. Graffiti marking the walls in these neighborhoods herald the new order: "Every land is Karbala, and every day is Ashura," read one slogan, extolling the Shiite holy city in southern Iraq and a major Shiite religious holiday.


Read more here. Is President Bush giving Americans the straight goods on Iraq? (or do we already know the answer to that one).

Ami Isseroff