Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fraud in Iranian elections

The results of the Iranian elections are hardly a surprise. As the connoiseur of elections in such regimes, Joseph Stalin, is said to have observed, "In elections, it doesn't matter who votes. It matters who counts the votes."
Since all the candidates had approximately similar stands on foreign affairs issues, the outcome of the Iranian election should not really be of much concern to the West or Israel. If anyone was so naive as to think that Iran is a democracy, it is their problem.
It is also naive to think that disorganized unrest such as that which is taking place in Iran now is likely to  topple the regime. At most, it will lay the foundation for a dedicated revolutionary movement that would mount a revolution at a more opportune moment. But contrary to mythology, revolutions can't just happen spontaneously in modern determined totalitarian regimes, because the regime has too many tools to disrupt revolutionary movements, demoralize their supporters and make opposition a practical impossibility. The Chinese regime could not be toppled by riots in Tienanmen. Even the Tsarist regime and the Russian provisional government would not have fallen without a succession of disastrous military reverses and the  determined  intervention of German intelligence on behalf of V.I. Lenin.
The disturbances will be blamed on Zionist neocons and American agents and the protestors will pay dearly for their folly. Wise people will keep their mouths shut and show sufficient enthusiasm for the regime.
Judith Apter Klinghoffer 


U.S. analysts find it "not credible" that challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi would have lost the balloting in his hometown or that a third candidate, Mehdi Karoubi, would have received less than 1 percent of the total vote, a senior U.S. officials told FOX News.

American "experts" on Iran are shocked, shocked, shocked Karim Sadjapour, analyst at carnegie endowment for international peace:

"I don't think anyone anticipated this level of fraudulence. This was a selection, not an election. At least authoritarian regimes like Syria and Egypt have no democratic pretences. In retrospect it appears this entire campaign was a show: (Supreme Leader) Ayatollah (Ali) Khamenei wasn't ever going to let Ahmadinejad lose."

Trita Parsi, President of national Iranian American council:

"I'm in disbelief that this could be the case. It's one thing if Ahmadinejad had won the first round with 51 or 55 per cent. But this number ... just sounds tremendously strange in a way that doesn't add up ... It is difficult to feel comfortable that this occurred without any cheating.

"If there is a fight in Iran and there are accusations of fraud and Mousavi declares himself a winner and you have numerous leading clerics and other figures recognising Mousavi, you are going to have paralysis and significant infighting in Iran. . . .

As can be seen below, the fighting has begun though it is not going to be easy. The Mullahcracy is not only brutal but technologically savvy:

Mr. Mousavi said there was an organized effort to block his campaign staff from communicating with one another and the public on Friday. The Ministry of Telecommunications imposed a nation-wide block of text messaging from mobiles. Mr. Mousavi's supervisors at polls were planning to report discrepancies by text messages.

Thousands of Mr. Mousavi's volunteer supervisors were not issued credentials by the Interior Ministry, which runs the elections, and were barred from polling stations, Mr. Mousavi said. Internet speed was slower than usual all day and by noon nearly all Web sites affiliated with Mr. Mousavi were blocked.

The campaign said that a group of people, who identified themselves as intelligence officers, entered Mr. Mousavi's campaign headquarters in northern Tehran on Friday evening demanding that the young strategists at the campaign, responsible for much of deploying new media techniques, leave the premises.

Mr. Mousavi's campaign lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh, said in an interview that Tehran's chief prosecutor informed Mr. Mousavi's campaign lawyer that security agents would arrive Saturday morning with a court order to shut down all their communication operations.

What next? That depends on the commitment and courage of Mosousavi's supporters. They are on their own. No one is going to lift a finger to help them and they know it.

See, BBC video of police response here

Report: Defeated Ahmadinejad rival Mousavi Arrested in Iran

We should not place too much credence in this report of a momentarily confused situation. Ahmadinejad and Khameinei hold the reins of police, army and political power in Iran, and it is unlikely that any protests will move them as long as the IRGC remains loyal to the regime. Mousavi's protest may be more valiant than it is wise.
Last update - 21:42 13/06/2009    
Report: Defeated Ahmadinejad rival arrested in Iran 
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent, and News Agencies  
Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi was arrested Saturday shortly after he was defeated at the polls by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an unofficial source reported.
According to the source, the presidential hopeful was arrested en route to the home of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that were a number of contradictory reports from Iran on Saturday, in a large part due to the heavy restrictions imposed on the media in the Islamic Republic, in particular on foreign reporters.

It was also reported that former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani resigned from all of his official positions in protest against the results of the election, which Mousavi denounced as rigged.
Supporters of Mousavi, the main election challenger to Ahmadinejad, earlier clashed with police Saturday as authorities declared that the hard-line Iranian president was re-elected in a landslide. Opponents responded with the most serious unrest in the capital in a decade and charges that the result was the work of a dictatorship.
Khamenei closed the door on any chance he could use his limitless powers to intervene in the disputes from Friday's election. In a message on state TV, he urged the nation to unite behind Ahmadinejad, calling the result a divine assessment.
But Ahmadinejad's main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has rejected the
result as rigged and urged his supporters to resist a government of lies and dictatorship.

The clashes in central Tehran were the more serious disturbances in the
capital since student-led protests in 1999 and showed the potential for the showdown over the vote to spill over into further violence and challenges to the Islamic establishment.
Several hundred demonstrators - many wearing the trademark green colors of
Mousavi's campaign - chanted the government lied to the people and gathered near the Interior Ministry as the final count was announced. It gave 62.6 percent of the vote to Ahmadinejad and 33.75 to Mousavi, who served as prime minister in the 1980s and has become the hero of a youth-driven movement seeking greater liberties and a gentler face for Iran abroad.
The turnout was a record 85 percent of Iran's 46.2 million eligible voters. Two other candidates received only a fraction of the vote.
Protesters set fire to tires outside the Interior Ministry and anti-riot
police fought back with clubs and smashed cars. An Associated Press
photographer saw a plainclothes security official beating a woman with his
In another main street of Tehran, some 300 young people blocked the avenue by forming a human chain and chanted Ahmadi, shame on you. Leave the government alone.
Mousavi's campaign headquarters urged people to show restraint.
Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli, who supervised the elections and heads the nation's police forces, warned people not to join any unauthorized gatherings. Earlier, the powerful Revolutionary Guard said it would not tolerate any challenges by Mousavi's green movement - the color adopted by Mousavi's campaign.
"I'm warning that I won't surrender to this manipulation," said a statement on Mousavi's Web site. "The outcome of what we've seen from the performance of officials ... is nothing but shaking the pillars of the Islamic Republic of Iran's sacred system and governance of lies and dictatorship."
He warned people won't respect those who take power through fraud.
"I'm warning I will not surrender to this dangerous charade. The result of such performance by some officials will jeopardize the pillars of the Islamic Republic and will establish tyranny," Mousavi said in a statement made available to Reuters.
The headline on one of Mousavi's Web sites read: "I won't give in to this dangerous manipulation."
It was even unclear how many Iranians were even aware of Mousavi's claims of fraud. Communications disruptions began in the later hours of voting Friday - suggesting an information clampdown. State television and radio only broadcast the Interior Ministry's vote count and not Mousavi's midnight press conference.
Nationwide, the text messaging system remained down Saturday and several
pro-Mousavi Web sites were blocked or difficult to access. Text messaging is frequently used by many Iranians - especially young Mousavi supporters - to spread election news.
At Tehran University - the site of the last major anti-regime unrest in Tehran in 1999 - the academic year was winding down and there was no sign of pro-Mousavi crowds. But university exams, scheduled to begin Saturday, were postponed until next month around the country.
The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Ahmadinejad plans a public address later Saturday in Tehran.
Even before the count began, Mousavi declared himself definitely the winner based on all indications from all over Iran. He accused the government of manipulating the people's vote to keep Ahmadinejad in power and suggested the reformist camp would stand up to challenge the results.
"It is our duty to defend people's votes. There is no turning back," Mousavi said, alleging widespread irregularities.
Mousavi's backers were stunned at the Interior Ministry's results after
widespread predictions of a close race - or even a slight edge to Mousavi. Many Iranians went to the people because they wanted to bring change.
"Almost everybody I know voted for Mousavi but Ahmadinejad is being declared the winner. The government announcement is nothing but widespread fraud. It is very, very disappointing. I'll never ever again vote in Iran," said Mousavi supporter Nasser Amiri, a hospital clerk in Tehran.
Bringing any showdown into the streets would certainly face a swift backlash from security forces. The political chief of the powerful Revolutionary Guard cautioned Wednesday it would crush any revolution against the Islamic regime by Mousavi's green movement.
The Revolutionary Guard is directly under the control of the ruling clerics and has vast influence in every corner of the country through a network of volunteer militias.
In Tehran, several Ahmadinejad supporters cruised the streets waving Iranian flags out of car windows and shouting "Mousavi is dead!"
Mousavi appealed directly to Iran's supreme leader, Khamenei, to intervene and stop what he said were violations of the law. Khamenei holds ultimate political authority in Iran. "I hope the leader's foresight will bring this to a good end," Mousavi said.
Iran does not allow international election monitors. During the 2005 election, when Ahmadinejad won the presidency, there were some allegations of vote rigging from losers, but the claims were never investigated.
The outcome will not sharply alter Iran's main policies or sway major
decisions, such as possible talks with Washington or nuclear policies. Those crucial issues rest with the ruling clerics headed by the unelected Khamenei.
But the election focused on what the office can influence: boosting Iran's sinking economy, pressing for greater media and political freedoms, and being Iran's main envoy to the world.
Before the vote count, President Barack Obama said the robust debate during the campaign suggests a possibility of change in Iran, which is under intense international pressure over its nuclear program. There has been no comment from Washington since Ahmadinejad was declared the winner. 

Friday, June 12, 2009

Iran: The die is cast

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems to have swept to victory in Iran. Anyone who thought that elections would change the course of Iranian policy would have been wrong in any case, but the re-election of Ahmadinejad seems to seal the fate of the confrontation with the West. A different president would have brought a new style, if not new substance. Iran's concealed nuclear program however, was begun under reformist president Khatami, and would not be altered no matter who was in power.
By News Agencies 
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was ahead with almost 69 percent of the votes in Friday's presidential election, after 35 percent of the ballot boxes had been counted, election commission figures showed.
Ahmadinejad's main challenger, moderate former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, had nearly 29 percent of the votes cast, according to the commission which is part of the Interior Ministry.
Earlier Friday, Iran's IRNA news agency announced that Ahmadinejad was re-elected in a nationwide election after the polls closed Friday. The official count is still not ready, but supporters of the two front-runners, Ahmadinejad and Mousavi, have claimed victory.

Mousavi said at a Tehran press conference that he was the clear winner of the votes but accused the government of having made numerous legal violations.
Iranians packed polling stations from boutique-lined streets in north Tehran to conservative bastions in the countryside Friday with a choice that has left the nation divided and on edge: keeping hard-line President Ahmadinejad in power or electing a reformist who favors greater freedoms and improved ties with the United States.
Turnout was massive and could break records. Crowds formed quickly at many voting sites in areas considered both strongholds for Ahmadinejad and Mousavi, who served as Iran's prime minister in the 1980s and has become the surprise hero of a powerful youth-driven movement.
"I hope to defeat Ahmadinejad today," said Mahnaz Mottaghi, 23, after casting her ballot at a mosque in central Tehran.
Outside the same polling station, 29-year-old Abbas Rezai said he, his wife and his sister-in-law all voted for Ahmadinejad.
"We will have him as a president for another term, for sure," he said.
Voting was extended by six hours to midnight (1930 GMT, 3:30 p.m. EDT) to allow those still in line time to cast ballots.
Highly charged atmosphere, blistering recriminations
The fiery, month-long campaign unleashed passions and tensions. The mass rallies, polished campaign slogans, savvy Internet outreach and televised
debates more closely resembled Western elections than the scripted campaigns in most other Middle Eastern countries.
U.S. President Barack Obama said Iran's robust debate leading up to elections shows change is possible there, and it could boost U.S. efforts to engage Tehran's leadership.
In a sign of the bitterness from the campaign, the Interior Ministry - which oversees voting - said all rallies or political gatherings would be banned until after the announcement of results, expected Saturday.
In the only violent episode to be reported, a campaign organizer for Mousavi said about a dozen Ahmadinejad supporters attacked one of his campaign offices in Tehran with tear gas.
No one was injured, and police quickly dispersed the group, said Saeed Shariati, head of Mousavi's youth cyber campaign. There was no independent confirmation of the attack.
The cyber campaign ran several Web sites and Facebook pages supporting Mousavi. Authorities blocked at least three of them Friday.
The highly charged atmosphere brought blistering recriminations against Ahmadinejad - whom Mousavi said was moving Iran to a dictatorship - and a
stunning warning from the ruling establishment. The political chief of the powerful Revolutionary Guard warned Wednesday it would crush any revolution against the Islamic system by Mousavi's green movement - the signature color of his campaign.
The outcome will not sharply alter Iran's main policies or sway high-level decisions, such as possible talks with Washington. Those crucial policies are all directly controlled by the ruling clerics headed by the unelected Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
But Mousavi has offered hopes of more freedoms at home. If elected, he could try to end crackdowns on liberal media and bloggers and push for Iran to embrace Obama's offer of dialogue after a nearly 30-year diplomatic freeze. He favors talks with world powers over Iran's nuclear program, which the United States and others fear is aimed at making weapons. Iran says it only seeks reactors for electricity.
Iranians around the world also voted. In Dubai, home to an estimated 200,000 Iranians, the streets around the polling station at the Iranian consulate were jammed with voters overwhelmingly favoring Mousavi.
"He is our Obama," said Maliki Zadehamid, a 39-year-old exporter.
With the race too close to call, a top election official predicted turnout could surpass the nearly 80 percent in the election 12 years ago that brought President Mohammad Khatami to power and began the pro-reform movement.
A strong turnout could boost Mousavi. He is counting on under-30s, who account for about a third of Iran's 46.2 million eligible voters.
In Tehran's affluent northern districts - strongly backing Mousavi - voters waited for up to an hour to cast ballots. Mahdi Hosseini, a university student, blasted the firebrand Ahmadinejad for degrading Iran's image in the eyes of the world.
Ahmadinejad brought Iran international condemnation by repeatedly questioning the Holocaust.
In the conservative city of Qom, home to seminaries and shrines, hundreds of clerics and women dressed in long black robes waited to vote in a long line outside a mosque. Ahmadinejad's campaign has heavily courted his base of working-class families and tradition-minded voters with promises of more government aid and resistance to Western pressures over Iran's nuclear ambitions.
There were no reports of serious problems at the polls. But a top Mousavi aide, Ali Reza Beheshti, said some polling stations in northwestern and southern provinces ran out of ballots, claiming it was a deliberate attempt by the government to keep people from voting.
Iran's elections are considered generally fair, but the country does not allow international monitors. The ruling clerics, however, put their stamp on the elections from the very beginning by deciding who can run. More than 470 people sought to join the presidential race, but only Ahmadinejad and three rivals were cleared.
During the 2005 election, there were some allegations of vote rigging from losers, but the claims were never investigated.
After casting his vote in the white ballot box, the Supreme Leader Khamenei urged Iranians to remain calm.
"As far as I see and hear, passion and motivation is very high among people," Khamenei told reporters. "If some intend to create tension, this will harm people," he added.
After voting at a mosque on Friday in eastern Tehran, Ahmadinejad commented on the high turnout.
Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli said reports to election officials indicate an unprecedented turnout will be recorded in the country's election history, according to the official IRNA news agency.
Mousavi voted with his wife at a mosque in Tehran's southern outskirts.
In the southeastern city of Zahedan - where a bomb blamed on Sunni militants killed at least 25 people at a Shiite mosque last month - there were no reports of tensions. The bombed mosque was used as a polling station.
The race will go to a runoff on June 19 if no candidate receives a simple majority of more than 50 percent of the votes cast. Much depends on how many votes are siphoned off by the two other candidates: conservative former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei and moderate former parliament speaker Mahdi Karroubi.

Bangladesh anti-Islamist pleads for protection from government terror

Questions to Mr. Robert Blake


Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O. Blake will be arriving in Bangladesh on Saturday, June 13, for a two day visit. This is his first visit to Bangladesh as Assistant Secretary. He will meet with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni, Home Affairs Minister Advocate Sahara Khatun, and opposition leader and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. In each of these meetings, the Assistant Secretary will discuss new opportunities for cooperation between the United States and Bangladesh. He will also meet with parliamentarians, business people, and members of civil society.

Robert Blake is a career Foreign Service Officer. Ambassador Blake entered the Foreign Service in 1985. He has served at the American Embassies in Tunisia, Algeria, Nigeria and Egypt. He held a number of positions at the State Department in Washington, including senior desk officer for Turkey, Deputy Executive Secretary, and Executive Assistant to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs. Ambassador Blake served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Mission in New Delhi, India from 2003 – 2006, as Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives from 2006 to mid-2009, and as Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs from May 2009 to the present.

Mr. Blake earned a B.A. from Harvard College in 1980 and an M.A. in international relations from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in 1984.

Great news! But, I would like to press here one question for Mr. Blake! During this Dhaka trip, will he show any interest on the point of state-patronized terror on the civilians of this country? Will he try to know, why Bangladesh government is continuing all forms of repressive actions on me just because I confront religious extremism and jihad? Will he try to know, why Bangladeshi government shows no respect to the US House Resolution Nu. 64? Will he ask his counterparts in Bangladesh as to why Bangladeshi government is continuing repression on press?

For the kind information of Mr. Robert Blake, Bangladesh government has been totally silent when unknown men claiming to be 'intelligence people' are continuing to chase my car, watch my house and even threatening me over phone, saying the government was 'following' me. Why the government should follow me? Am I a criminal? Is it a crime for any individual to confront killing of Jews and Christians in the name of jihad? Is it a crime for any individual to demand relations between his country and the democratic nation of Israel? Is it a crime to confront hate speech?

These 'intelligence people' are doing everything to frighten my neighborhood by continuing to watch my house from every corner, asking questions to my neighbors about who am I and what I do etc. etc.. etc...

Many of my neighbors are even reporting to me that these intelligence people are harrassing them for being my neighbor.

I contacted a number of intelligence officials and none ever came back to me with any response as to whether these people are sent by them.

Mr. Blake possibly will know that, jihadists are being breeded in thousands of madrassas in the Muslim nations. They are poisoned with the the indoctrination of hating United States, Israel, Jews and Christians as 'enemies of Islam'.

Mr. Robert Blake, you will be happy to know that majority of the people in Bangladesh are peaceloving. They do not support religious extremism. When JMB kingpins were nabbed in the country, people were celebrating it. When they were hanged, the entire country was satisfied to witness this. Bangladesh is truly a peace-loving nation. Only point is, we need our governments to understand the minds of the people. Our governments should stop appeasing the Islamists and religious fanatics.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

The hate industry

The hate industry: Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial policy has turned into one of the controversial issues ahead of Iran's presidential election. Without acknowledging the true extent of the Holocaust, the president's opponents claim that Holocaust denial has isolated Iran and compromised its interests.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hitler's dream come true


Expelling people from their homes, a crime against humanity in the Balkans, is now U. S. policy in the Middle East

George Jonas, National Post  Published: Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ahmad Gharabli, AFP, Getty Images

Antiquity's historians noticed the durability of evil. The ancient Greeks would have smiled at the illusion of 20th century observers describing World War I as "the war to end all wars" or the Soviet Empire's collapse as "the end of history."

Greek mythology represented evil as Hydra, the nine-headed monster, a renewable resource if there ever was one. No sooner did Heracles cut off one of its heads, the monster grew another two.

The hero solved the problem by calling on his nephew, Iolaus, to cauterize the neck-stump with a firebrand. In the legend, it worked like a charm. In real life, the method has proved less reliable. In our times Heracles can still cut off Hydra's head -- maybe, with luck -- but can't stop it from growing new ones.

No sooner did Hydra's hideous Hitler-and Mussolini-heads roll at the end of the Second World War, than out popped its Stalin, Mao, Kim Il-Sung, Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh and Pol Pot heads to produce the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the killing fields of Cambodia. Heracles went snicker-snack and ugly heads flew off again, but now the monster's neck sprouted Ruhollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussain, Kim Jong-il, Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his nuclear ayatollahs. Hijackers, suicide-bombers, two Gulf Wars, 9/11 and Afghanistan followed.

Last month some of Heracles' latter-day nephews gathered at a conference in Norway. The roster of participants at the Oslo Freedom Forum read like a veritable Who's Who of contemporary Hydra-hunting and neck-stump cauterizing Iolauses. They included Elie Wiesel, the scourge of Nazis old as well as neo; Vladimir Bukovsky, who first exposed the Soviets' use of psychiatry to suppress dissent; Armando Valladares, the poet who spent decades imprisoned in Castro's island Gulag (where Canada's naifs like to vacation) and Paiden Gyatso, the Tibetan Buddhist monk who spent 33 years in the labour camps of Mao and his disciples.

The intrepid Harry Wu was there, the dissenter who after 19 years in re-education camps risked returning to China to expose, among other things, Beijing's use of executed prisoners for organ transplants. Kang Choi-Hwan, a child-inmate in North Korea's Yodok concentration camp -- one of very few to escape the Kim dynasty's grip--also attended. So did Leyla Zana, a politician imprisoned in Turkey for daring to speak Kurdish after her election in parliament.

Given that using an ethnic minority's language is a punishable offense in Turkey, the Islamic world's most Westernized democracy, if Jews became a minority in a post-Zionist Israel, would anyone fancy a Jewish parliamentarian's chances trying to speak Hebrew?

Yelena Bonner didn't. In her keynote address [appended below] , the widow of Andrei Sakharov, scientist and foremost cauterizer of Stalin's neck-stump, made no reference to Greek mythology. She only noted that the "incredible changes" since the fall of the Berlin Wall haven't necessarily improved the world.

Quite the opposite: "The world has become more alarming, more unpredictable and more fragile."

The 86-year-old widow of the nuclear physicist who played a pivotal role in boosting the Kremlin's military bang before reducing its moral bang to zero, mused about how the ostensible decapitation of race-or class-based tyrannies actually brought the world closer to their monstrous visions.

"At first, anger and horror was provoked by the terrorists who knocked down the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and by their accomplices in London, Madrid and other cities," Bonner recalled. "Later, [president George W.] Bush was blamed for everything, and as always, the Jews -- that is, Israel."

Two states for two people sounded good, until one looked at the numbers and the fine print on refugees, the scientist's widow told the hometown of the stillborn Oslo Accords. The population of Israel is about 7.5 million, of whom 5.4 million are Jews and 1.5 million Israeli Arabs. A two-state solution, in which the Palestinian state permits no Jewish settlements but the Jewish state offers the right of return to more than 4.5 million Palestinians classified as refugees, adds up to a Palestinian state cleansed of Jews neighbouring a nominal Israel in which Arabs outnumber Jews substantially.

"The result is strange and terrifying," said Bonner, "because Israel will be essentially destroyed ... A judenfrei (Jew-free) Holy Land -- the dream of Adolf Hitler come true at last."

Hitler's term was actually judenrein, but either way it's ethnic cleansing. Expelling people from their homes, a crime against humanity in the Balkans, is now U. S. policy in the Middle East. "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," said President Obama last week in Cairo. Will the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that bombed Serbia for expelling Bosnian and Albanian Muslims from disputed territories in the former Yugoslavia, bomb Israel for not expelling Jewish settlers from disputed territories in the former Palestinian Mandate? Far-fetched, yes; impossible, no.

Oslo is quiet. Iolaus' heirs have flown home. When Heracles meets Hydra next, it may be at a war crimes trial in The Hague. Perhaps the hero will be on the bench and the monster in the dock, but it could be the other way around.


This is the speech of Yelena Bonner - famous human rights activist and widow of the late Nobel Prize Laureate Andrei Sakharov  for Oslo Freedom Forum

Please distribute this speech as widely as possible, including media.

Lament in Oslo

In his invitation to this conference, the president of the forum, Thor Halvorssen, asked me to talk about my life, the suffering I have endured and how I was able to bear it all. But today all that seems to me quite unnecessary.

So I will say only a few words about myself.

At the age of 14, I was left without my parents. My father was executed, my mother spent 18 years in prison and exile. My grandmother raised me and my younger brother. The poet Vladimir Kornilov, who suffered the same fate, wrote: "And it felt that in those years we had no mothers. We had grandmothers." There were hundreds of thousands of such children. Ilya Ehrenburg called us "the strange orphans of 1937."

Then came the war. My generation was cut off nearly at the roots by the war, but I was lucky. I came back from the war. I came back to an empty house. My grandmother had died of starvation in the siege of Leningrad. Then came a communal apartment, six half-hungry years of medical school, falling in love, two children and the poverty of a Soviet doctor. But I was not alone in this. Everyone lived this way. Then there was my dissident period followed by exile. But Andrei [Sakharov] and I were together! And that was true happiness.

Today, summing up my life (at age 86, I try to sum up my life every day I am still alive), I can do so in three words. My life was typical, tragic and beautiful. Whoever needs the details - read my two books, Alone Together and Mothers and Daughters. They have been translated into many languages. Read Sakharov's Memoirs. It's a pity his diaries haven't been translated; they were published in Russia in 2006. Apparently, the West isn't interested now in Sakharov.

THE WEST isn't very interested in Russia either, a country that no longer has real elections, independent courts or freedom of the press. Russia is a country where journalists, human rights activists and migrants are killed regularly, almost daily. And extreme corruption flourishes of a kind and extent that never existed earlier in Russia or anywhere else. So what do the Western mass media discuss mainly? Gas and oil - of which Russia has a lot. Energy is its only political trump card, and Russia uses it as an instrument of pressure and blackmail. And there's another topic that never disappears from the newspapers - who rules Russia? [Vladimir] Putin or [Dimitry] Medvedev? But what difference does it make, if Russia has completely lost the impulse for democratic development that we thought we saw in the early 1990s. Russia will remain the way it is now for decades, unless there is some violent upheaval.

During the years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world has experienced incredible changes in an exceptionally short period. But has the world become better, or more prosperous for the 6 billion 800 million people who live on our small planet? No one can answer that question unambiguously, despite all the achievements of science and technology and that process which we customarily call "progress." It seems to me that the world has become more alarming, more unpredictable and more fragile. This alarm, unpredictability and fragility are felt to some extent by all countries and all individuals. And civic and political life becomes more and more virtual, like a picture on a computer screen.

Even so, the picture of life, formed by television, newspaper or radio remains the same - there is no end to the conferences, summits, forums and competitions from beauty contests to sandwich-eating ones. They say people are coming together - but in reality, they are growing apart.

And that isn't because an economic depression suddenly burst forth, and swine flu to boot. This began on September 11, 2001. At first, anger and horror was provoked by the terrorists who knocked down the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and by their accomplices in London, Madrid and other cities, and by the shahids, suicide bombers who blew themselves up at public spaces like discotheques and wedding parties whose families were rewarded $25,000 each by Saddam Hussein. Later, [George W.] Bush was blamed for everything, and as always, the Jews - that is, Israel. An example was the first Durban Conference, and the growth of anti-Semitism in Europe, noted several years ago in a speech by Romano Prodi. Then there was Durban-2; the main speaker was [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad proposing to annihilate Israel.

SO IT IS about Israel and the Jews that I will speak. And not only because I am Jewish, but above all because the Middle Eastern conflict since the end of World War II has been a platform for political games and gambling by the great powers, the Arab countries and individual politicians, striving, through the so-called "peace process," to make a name for themselves, and perhaps win a Nobel Peace Prize. At one time, the Nobel Peace Prize was the highest moral award of our civilization. But after December 1994, when Yasser Arafat became one of the three new laureates, its ethical value was undermined. I haven't always greeted each selection of the Nobel Committee of the Storting [Norwegian parliament] with joy, but that one shocked me. And to this day, I cannot understand and accept the fact that Andrei Sakharov and Yasser Arafat, now posthumously, share membership in the club of Nobel laureates.

In many of Sakharov's publications (in his books Progress, Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom and My Country and the World, in his articles and in his interviews), Andrei Dmitrievich wrote and spoke about Israel. I have a collection of citations of his writing on this topic. If it were published in Norway, then many Norwegians would be surprised at how sharply their contemporary view of Israel differs from the view of Sakharov.

Here are several citations from Sakharov: "Israel has an indisputable right to exist"; "Israel has a right to existence within safe borders"; "All wars that Israel has waged have been just, forced upon it by the irresponsibility of Arab leaders"; "With all the money that has been invested in the problem of Palestinians, it would have been possible long ago to resettle them and provide them with good lives in Arab countries.

THROUGHOUT THE YEARS of Israel's existence there has been war. Victorious wars, and also wars which Israel was not allowed to win. Each and every day - literally every day - there is the expectation of a terrorist act or a new war. We have seen the Oslo peace initiatives and the Camp David handshake and the road map and land for peace (there is not much land - from one side of Israel on a clear day you can see the other side with your naked eye).

Now, a new motif is fashionable (in fact it's an old one): "Two states for two peoples." It sounds good. And there is no controversy in the peacemaking Quartet, made up of the US, the UN, the EU and Russia (some great peacemaker, with its Chechen war and its Abkhazian-Ossetian provocation). The Quartet, and the Arab countries, and the Palestinian leaders (both Hamas and Fatah) put additional demands to Israel. I will speak only of one demand: that Israel accept back the Palestinian refugees. And here a little history and demography are needed.

According to the UN's official definition, refugees are considered those who fled from violence and wars, but not their descendants who are born in another land. At one time the Palestinian refugees and the Jewish refugees from Arab countries were about equal in number - about 700,000-800,000. The newly-created state Israel took in Jews (about 600,000). They were officially recognized as refugees by UN Resolution 242, but not provided with any UN assistance.

Palestinians, however, are considered refugees not only in the first generation, but in the second, third and now even in the fourth generation. According to the UN Works and Relief Agency's report, the number of registered Palestinian refugees has grown from 914,000 in 1950 to more than 4.6 million in 2008, and continues to rise due to natural population growth. All these people have the rights of Palestinian refugees and are eligible to receive humanitarian aid.

The entire population of Israel is about 7.5 million, of which there are about 2.5 million ethnic Arabs who call themselves Palestinians. Imagine Israel then, if another 5 million Arabs flood into it; Arabs would substantially outnumber the Jewish population. Thus created next to Israel will be a Palestinian state cleansed of Jews, because in addition to the demand that Palestinian refugees return to Israel, there is also the demand that Judea and Samaria are cleansed of Jews and turned over to Palestinians - while in Gaza today there is not a
single Jew already.

The result is both strange and terrifying, because Israel will essentially be destroyed. It is terrifying to see the short memory of the august peacemaking Quartet, their leaders and their citizens if they let this happen. Because the plan "two states for two peoples" is the creation of one state, ethnically cleansed of Jews, and a second one with the potential to do the same. A Judenfrei Holy Land - the dream of Adolph Hitler come true at last. So think again, those who are still able, who has a fascist inside him today?

AND ANOTHER question that has been a thorn for me for a long time. It's a question for my human rights colleagues. Why doesn't the fate of the Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit trouble you in the same way as does the fate of the Guantanamo prisoners?

You fought for and won the opportunity for the International Committee of the Red Cross, journalists and lawyers to visit Guantanamo. You know prison conditions, the prisoners' everyday routine, their food. You have met with prisoners subjected to torture. The result of your efforts has been a ban on torture and a law to close this prison. President Obama signed it in the first days of his coming to the White House. And although he, just like president Bush before him, does not know what to do with the Guantanamo prisoners, there is hope that the new administration will think up something.

But during the two years Schalit has been held by terrorists, the world human rights community has done nothing for his release. Why? He is a wounded soldier, and fully falls under the protection of the Geneva Conventions. The conventions say clearly that hostage-taking is prohibited, that representatives of the Red Cross must be allowed to see prisoners of war, especially wounded prisoners, and there is much else written in the Geneva Conventions about Schalit's rights. The fact that representatives of the Quartet conduct negotiations with the people who are holding Schalit in an unknown location, in unknown conditions, vividly demonstrates their scorn of international rights documents and their total legal nihilism. Do human rights activists also fail to recall the fundamental international rights documents?

And yet I still think (and some will find this naïve) that the first tiny, but real step toward peace must become the release of Schalit. Release, and not his exchange for 1,000 or 1,500 prisoners who are in Israeli prisons serving court sentences for real crimes.

Returning to my question of why human rights activists are silent, I can find no answer except that Schalit is an Israeli soldier, Schalit is a Jew. So again, it is conscious or unconscious anti-Semitism. Again, it is fascism.

THIRTY-FOUR YEARS have passed since the day when I came to this city to represent my husband, Andrei Sakharov, at the 1975 Nobel Prize ceremony. I was in love with Norway then. The reception I received filled me with joy. Today, I feel Alarm and Hope (the title Sakharov used for his 1977 essay written at the request of the Nobel Committee).

Alarm because of the anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli sentiment growing throughout Europe and even further afield. And yet, I hope that countries, their leaders and people everywhere will recall and adopt Sakharov's ethical credo: "In the end, the moral choice turns out to be also the most pragmatic choice."
From a speech to the Freedom Forum in Oslo on May 19.

World Passivity in the Face of Advanced Nuclear Challenges

INSS Insight No. 112, June 8, 2009
Asculai, Ephraim


With the countries of the world looking on, Iran reached its next serious milestone: the accumulation of enough low enriched uranium (LEU) to enable it to further enrich it and produce one Significant Quantity (S.Q.), or 25 kilograms, of high enriched uranium (HEU). This is considered the quantity that is sufficient for the production of one core for an HEU-based nuclear explosive device. The Iranians reached this milestone some months earlier than expected, due mainly to their efficiency in installing and operating a large number of gas centrifuges, the machines that perform the enrichment operation.

This assessment is based on the information contained in the latest (June 5, 2009) report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). At the present time Iran has no reason to produce HEU, since it would be more reasonable for it to accumulate a much larger quantity of LEU, and then enrich it in one batch to a quantity of HEU, sufficient for building a small arsenal of nuclear weapons. Should Iran decide that it wants to further enrich LEU to HEU, it could transform some of the operating LEU cascades (agglomerations of centrifuges), and complete the HEU enrichment in much less than a year. It would probably reason that it needs two explosive devices for underground nuclear tests (the second comes in case of the failure of the first) and then an additional one or two, as a deterrent or for actual use.

The information contained in the IAEA report suggests that four S.Q.s could be produced by the end of 2011 or even somewhat earlier. This could certainly happen if the world continues with the mild and ineffective actions ostensibly intended to prevent Iran from reaching further milestones. In the short term, the world is waiting for Iran's upcoming presidential elections, yet the fact is that no real change can be expected since more than the president, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, is the de-facto ruler of Iran, and it is his decisions that matter. In addition, the Supreme Leader controls the Revolutionary Guards, who control the weapons of mass destruction production and deployment, including the missiles of Iran. The change that could come out of the elections is a change of tone to one more conciliatory towards the West that could further lull it into thinking that there is a chance for a complete halt, if not a rollback of the nuclear weapons development program. Although many have agreed that Iran is succeeding in its play for time, the Obama administration is still taking its time, pinning hope on elusive "talks" that may or may not succeed. Yet Iran is now so close to its target that the chances of halting if not dismantling its nuclear program are almost gone. Only very strong action, such as sanctions of the type imposed on Iraq in 1991, with "catch-all" prohibitions on commerce and diplomatic relations, could perhaps force Iran into obeying the Security Council's demands concerning the suspension of activities.

The same day that the IAEA sent its report on Iran to its Member States, it also issued a report on Syria. Although less elaborate than the report on Iran, it has one very interesting point and an unfortunate omission. Paragraph 17 of the IAEA report, mentions that samples taken by the IAEA at a declared nuclear facility contained anthropogenic natural uranium particles, of an unnoted type. These were found inside hot-cells and associated equipment. This is quite interesting, since the natural uranium particles found at the Dir Alzour bombed reactor site were also denoted as "anthropogenic," i.e., the uranium was processed by human hands and not transformed by processes in nature. Inexplicably the IAEA report does not give any details of the composition of the particles, and more importantly, does not answer the question whether the particles found at both sites were similar. If similar, could they be indicative of reactor-fuel origin? If the particles are similar, why then does the IAEA continue to hamper on the issue of the possible Israeli bomb origin of the particles found at Dir Alzour? Whoever bombed the Dir Alzour site certainly did not bomb the declared laboratories and introduce the particles into them. This would refute any Syrian claim that the particles at the bombed site are of Israeli bomb origin. Moreover, what were these particles doing in and around the hot-cells?

The second issue and the significant omission from the report on Syria is that the IAEA desists from declaring the Syrian activities indicative of illicit nuclear activities and in non-compliance with Syria's obligations as a member of the NPT. This, unfortunately, is consistent with IAEA behavior, where the Director General is not willing to point a finger at a Member State and declare it as possibly being in non-compliance. He should have done that, and then given the state in question some time to disprove the allegations against it. Once the grace period elapses, the verdict against that state should become absolute. In the present system, however, no state can do wrong. As long as the state has stories to tell, and as long as it vaguely promises access, no indictment will come out of the IAEA. That is the case with Syria.

The issue of the IAEA and Iran is much worse, since the IAEA first became aware of and then noted in its reports Iran's lies, its concealed and undeclared activities, and its refusal, even now, to give the IAEA information to which it is legally entitled. As Dr. ElBaradei's term as IAEA director general draws to a close, one can only hope that the next director general, to be elected soon, will take a more realistic and less forgiving attitude towards those NPT members that are not willing to cooperate fully with the IAEA.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Exodus Obama Forgot to Mention

Published: June 8, 2009

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S speech to the Islamic world was a groundbreaking event. Never before has a young, dynamic American president, beloved both by his countrymen and the nations of the world, extended so timely and eager a hand to a part of the globe that, recently, had seen fewer and fewer reasons to trust us or to wish us well.

As important, Mr. Obama did not mince words. Never before has a president gone over to the Arab world and broadcast its flaws so loudly and clearly: extremism, nuclear weapons programs and a faltering record in human rights, education and economic development — the Arab world gets no passing grades in any of these domains. Mr. Obama even found a moment to mention the plight of Egypt's harassed Coptic community and to criticize the new wave of Holocaust deniers. And to show he was not playing favorites, he put the Israelis on notice: no more settlements in the occupied territories. He spoke about the suffering of Palestinians. This was no wilting olive branch.

And yet, for all the president's talk of "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world" and shared "principles of justice and progress," neither he nor anyone around him, and certainly no one in the audience, bothered to notice one small detail missing from the speech: he forgot me.

The president never said a word about me. Or, for that matter, about any of the other 800,000 or so Jews born in the Middle East who fled the Arab and Muslim world or who were summarily expelled for being Jewish in the 20th century. With all his references to the history of Islam and to its (questionable) "proud tradition of tolerance" of other faiths, Mr. Obama never said anything about those Jews whose ancestors had been living in Arab lands long before the advent of Islam but were its first victims once rampant nationalism swept over the Arab world.

Nor did he bother to mention that with this flight and expulsion, Jewish assets were — let's call it by its proper name — looted. Mr. Obama never mentioned the belongings I still own in Egypt and will never recover. My mother's house, my father's factory, our life in Egypt, our friends, our books, our cars, my bicycle. We are, each one of us, not just defined by the arrangement of protein molecules in our cells, but also by the things we call our own. Take away our things and something in us dies. Losing his wealth, his home, the life he had built, killed my father. He didn't die right away; it took four decades of exile to finish him off.

Mr. Obama had harsh things to say to the Arab world about its treatment of women. And he said much about America's debt to Islam. But he failed to remind the Egyptians in his audience that until 50 years ago a strong and vibrant Jewish community thrived in their midst. Or that many of Egypt's finest hospitals and other institutions were founded and financed by Jews. It is a shame that he did not remind the Egyptians in the audience of this, because, in most cases — and especially among those younger than 50 — their memory banks have been conveniently expunged of deadweight and guilt. They have no recollections of Jews.

In Alexandria, my birthplace and my home, all streets bearing Jewish names have been renamed. A few years ago, the Library of Alexandria put on display an Arabic translation of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," perhaps the most anti-Semitic piece of prose ever written. Today, for the record, there are perhaps four Jews left in Alexandria.

When the last Jew dies, the temples and religious artifacts and books that were the property of what was once probably the wealthiest Jewish community on the Mediterranean will go to the Egyptian government — not to me, or to my children, or to any of the numberless descendants of Egyptian Jews.

It is strange that our president, a man so versed in history and so committed to the truth, should have omitted mentioning the Jews of Egypt. He either forgot, or just didn't know, or just thought it wasn't expedient or appropriate for this venue. But for him to speak in Cairo of a shared effort "to find common ground ... and to respect the dignity of all human beings" without mentioning people in my position would be like his speaking to the residents of Berlin about the future of Germany and forgetting to mention a small detail called World War II.

André Aciman, a professor of comparative literature at the City University of New York Graduate Center, is the author of the memoir "Out of Egypt."

15 questions about Obama's Cairo speech

Dr. Walid Phares
15 Hard Questions About the Cairo Speech
June 8, 2009

Perhaps the most challenging task for analysts and commentators to accomplish after having listened to President Obama's speech in Cairo (addressed to the "Muslim World") is to know how to read it, understand the links between the points he made, capture the arguments inserted by his speech writers and thus analyze the text as a major policy change since 9/11. In short, I would recommend for readers to establish a "map of the speech" before venturing to its various exotic suggestions and hints.

Evidently, each political constituency in America, the region and the international community has its priorities and will jump to the part it deems most pressing, either exciting or depressing. However, I suggest looking at the whole idea of addressing the "Muslim world" or as the President coined it often in his speech, "the Muslims" (two different things), and understand where Obama is coming from and going to. To help in this analytical task -- and to simplify what seems to be complex -- I propose to raise the following questions and address them separately in the debate before re-sowing them as a one bloc of ideas. Here are the ones I identify as building blocks of the Obama "Muslim platform" drawn from his speech

1. Is the equation of mending relations between a nation state, America, and a whole civilization, Islam, rational? Is it academically sound to put one country and fifty two other countries in one framework of relationships? Are all 52 Muslim countries in one basket and America in another? Who framed this equation?

2. The speech mentioned "violent extremists" several times as the foe to contain and isolate. Is there not a clearer explanation of what is "violent extremism" and who are the followers of such a behavior? Is it about violence only? Are all those who practice violence, from household abuse, gangsterism to mass murder part of one group? Of course not. So what constitutes extremism? Do "violent extremists" have an ideology, a platform, goals, strategies? Are they the Jihadists that the whole world knows about? Why wouldn't President Obama simply names them as such?

 3. The speech argued that Americans were "traumatized" because of 9/11 and thus their view of Islam changed. Why would their view of a religion change because of an attack perpetrated by 19 hijackers? Who is drawing this conclusion? In short, if indeed Americans had a change in perception after 9/11, what was their perception before? Is this reality or is it the framing of the war of ideas by the apologist elite? Why is there a complex of guilt forced on Americans? 

4. The speech argued directly and indirectly that the US government -- because of 9/11 -- did things it was not supposed to do constitutionally (or ethically). Among these breaches Mr. Obama mentioned the opening of Guantanamo. The question is: Is opening a detention center in a state of war (even not declared officially) in which active elements of the armed opponents are detained is an act aimed against an entire religion? Who said so and who framed it as such?

5. The speech delved into the claim that Islam "has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality." While it is perfectly legitimate for academics to engage in such research and draw the conclusions they wish, can an elected President in a liberal democracy make philosophical assertions in the field of controversial and debated conflicts -- not part of his or her national realm?

6. The speech -- rightly so -- praised the integration of Muslim-Americans in their own country. But did the President mention why a large number of American citizens fled many Muslim countries, including Muslim-American citizens? 

 7. The speech -- rightly so -- rejected stereotypes about Muslims and America. However who made these stereotypes, who propagated the narrative that they exist and who is indoctrinating segments of societies about the latter?

 8. The President gladly (after significant messaging preceding the speech) mentioned Darfur. But he never called it genocide, why? Moreover, what is to be done about it? The speech was generous about what Israel and Hamas must do, and about U.S. forthcoming spending in the region, but left the audiences clueless about what to do about the first genocide of the 21st century. Why?

 9. The speech called Iraq's war one of choice but stated that Iraqis are better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. Doesn't this statement need more explanation? Is the conclusion that it is better to leave people under tyrannies even if they are subjected to mass killing? As for Afghanistan, the President didn't mention the Taliban once. Who are NATO, the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan facing off with? Is it normal that the one Jihadi force which protected al Qaeda as launched the 9/11 attacks and is on the offensive against democracies in two Muslim countries is not identified in the speech to the Muslim world? 

 10. The speech reasserted – logically -- a U.S. standing policy of supporting a two-states solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, if Israel and the Palestinian Authority have agreed on such principle already in 1993, who then is obstructing the process? Why wasn't the obstructing force, Hamas and Iran, named as such? 

 11. The speech granted Iran a right to develop a peaceful nuclear program, but who denied it to the Iranian people to begin with? The question is about the Iranian regime's expansionist agenda in the region not the type of technology. Nuclear capacities in the hands of a terror regime will become dangerous and armed. Is it not about the intentions of the regime?

 12. The speech mentioned that there has been a controversy about democracy in the region, particularly because of the Iraq war. The question is: what is that controversy about, and thus where does the U.S. stand in this debate? Are there different values for different countries and cultures when it comes to freedom? What are they?

 13. The speech advocated religious freedoms. The question is who is breaching them? The President mentioned the Maronites and the Copts but didn't explain who is causing them harm?

 14. The speech addressed women's rights and the President rejected one Western position in the debate about Muslim women's freedom assessment, and asserted the rights of some women to wear the Hijab unquestioned. However why didn't he list the grievances of Muslim women who do not want to wear the Hijab and are forced to do so? The President argued that the real issue in women's status is education. But isn't their education a political and fundamental right? How can women practice the right to education if they cannot practice their freedom to choose it?

 15. The speech announced – gladly -- that the United States will be spending money to help Muslim communities develop on multiple continents. But why didn't the President ask the rich elite in these countries to share the burden if not to assume it fully? Why would a nation in the northern part of the Western Hemisphere be footing the bill of development in remote regions where the financial establishment is buying shares of and controlling the American economy?

These are only few questions about a speech that will be studied and used by the current administration, its opposition, future administrations, regimes in the region, the Jihadists and dissidents alike for many years to come. It is essential that the students of such text focus on the essence and draw the proper conclusions. Indeed words matter, especially in the midst of a raging war of ideas, even if the author of the speech and the speech writers' main goal is precisely to end such a war.

Palestinian suicide attack- against Palestinians!

It is only a matter of time, before an attack succeeds...
Last update - 12:56 09/06/2009       
Three Hamas women arrested for plotting suicide attack against Fatah
By The Associated Press
Palestinian Authority security forces have arrested three Palestinian women who were allegedly planning a suicide attack targeting
their own policemen in the West Bank.
Palestinian official Jamal Muheisen said Tuesday the women are members of Hamas, the Islamic group that has a long-running feud with the Western-backed Fatah government in the West Bank.
Muheisen said the women were arrested Sunday on their way to the town of Qalqiliya, where four police officers and four Hamas militants were been killed in recent clashes.
He added that one woman was carrying an explosive belt and confessed she intended to blow herself up in a police compound.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A bit behind schedule, Saudi Arabia moves into the twentith century - with Movies

In 1961, Saudi Arabia took a bold step into the nineteenth century, when, under the pressure of the evil, colonialist, petroleum driven imperialist Americans, it abolished slavery. This step threatened the traditional Saudi way of life, and is a prime example of Western arrogance. Now, succumbing to the evil blandishments of the west, the Muslim monarchy has introduced, horror of horrors, the cinema. into the capital city of Riyadh. Protesters rightly pointed out that films violate Islamic values. There is no telling where this degeneracy will end. Will they grant women the right to vote? Drivers' licenses? Will they stop punishing homosexuality with death? Will they stop cutting off the hands of theives? Will they, horror of horros, allow Jewish sons of dogs and apes, or Christian sons of dogs and pigs, to practice their own religions or to enter the holy city of Mecca?  

Protests as Saudi film screened in Riyadh

A policeman talks to a convervative protester as they walk past posters advertising the film Menahi.
Conservative protesters believe the film undermines Islamic values

People in the Saudi capital Riyadh are being allowed to go to the movies for the first time in 30 years.


The film is a Saudi-made offering called Menahi, a comedy about a naive Bedouin who moves to the big city.

A few religious hardliners have tried to turn movie-goers away, or to disrupt the performances.

No women were allowed into the performance, which followed similar initiatives in other Saudi cities with more liberal Islamic traditions.

The country has begun to open up to the arts since King Abdullah came to the throne in 2005.

But it still took the film's producers five months to gain government permission for showings in Riyadh, at a government-run cultural centre, and there was little advance publicity.

Public cinemas were shut down in Saudi Arabia in the 1970s, as the country's deeply conservative leaders feared they would lead to the mixing of the sexes, and undermine Islamic values.

Since then, there's been little public entertainment, except for horse and camel racing, and festivals celebrating traditional Saudi culture.

Saudi Arabia is also the base of the Arabic entertainment company Rotana, owned by the billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

The Rotana network has produced Menahi, and it has already been showing it in several other Saudi cities, including Jeddah and Taif.

Woman were allowed into screenings outside Riyadh, although they sat on the upper floor while the ground floor was reserved for men. But Islamic practice is even stricter in Riyadh.


The film has been showing in Riyadh since Friday, at the King Fahd Cultural Centre, with two performances a day attracting near capacity audiences of about 300.

On Saturday, a group of conservative men gathered outside the centre, trying to persuade people from going in.

Most cinema-goers politely ignored them, as they queued up for soft drinks and popcorn, and for a chance to pose with the film's stars.

Prince Alwaleed, a nephew of King Abdullah, has said he believes that cinemas will eventually open in Saudi Arabia. And last year the kingdom held its first Saudi film festival.

The audience for Menahi has been enthusiastic, with one movie-goer, quoted by AFP news agency, calling it "the first step in a peaceful revolution".

In 2005, the Saudi authorities allowed a hotel in Riyadh to screen foreign cartoons dubbed into Arabic to audiences - but only to women and children.

Lebanese election Results - in Detail

Good Mews from Lebanon - for a change. It's not great news, because Hezbollah still gets to vote with AK-47s, but at least the pro-West, moderate coalition maintained, and perhaps expanded, its majority. Michel Aoun's courting of Hezbollah cost him seats. Likewise, Walid Jumblatt, once stalwart in defense of Lebanese independence, shocked his audience of party faithful by declaring, in the last days of the election, that they would have to bow to the "inevitable" and accept Hezbollah hegemony. He too lost votes. A key thing novices have to know about Lebanese politics is this: "Everyone" supposedly knows that March 8 or M8 is the pro-Syria and pro-Hezbollah alliance, while March 14, or M14 is the pro-West, anti-Syrian bloc that coelesced around Saad Hariri, son of the popular Rafiq Hariri who was assassinated either by Syria or the Hezbollah.  Tony Badran has the story. But what he is not saying is that the Lebanese election law still seems to discriminate against the Shi'a, who are probably a majority (Lebanon has not had a census in a long time) and in favor of the Christian minority, many of whom have fled abroad. Another thing to keep in mind is that Hezbollah has a way of reduing the parliamentary majority of the government - it seems to murder MPs it doesn't like. Someday murders them, at any rate.

Tony Badran
Let's run through what seems to be the final result of the election. It seems, with the preliminary results, that the March 14 coalition and its independent allies have won 71 seats, adding one seat to their current total, despite what March 8 thought would be an electoral law advantageous to them (the 1960 law adopted in the now-defunct Doha Accord). This puts to rest the myth that in 2005, M14 won because of its alliance with Hezbollah and the gerrymandering of the electoral law of 2000. M14's victory is clear. It ran unified lists and wherever M14 won, the lists won in total without any breaches.

Who are the winners and losers?

Obviously, M14 as a coalition emerges victorious. The independents add a couple to the total number but M14 still maintains a majority on its own. It's a decisive majority trashing once and for all Bashar Assad's "imaginary majority" and "transient few" snide remarks.

Hariri reemerges with the biggest bloc and thus keeps his position as head of the parliamentary majority. The Future Movement sailed through in the north, Beirut, the Western Bekaa and Zahle, and swept two seats in Sidon. The Lebanese Forces performed very strongly in Koura and Batroun, with M14 sweeping both, and eliminating Aoun's son-in-law Gebran Bassil in what is a major symbolic victory.

Walid Jumblat sacrificed from his share for the sake of the M14 alliance, and he emerges with a slightly diminished bloc as a result.

On the other side, Michel Aoun took a hit with the loss of his son-in-law, and saw his huge margin in Keserwen dwindle down drastically to about 2,000 votes, with Mansour al-Bone and his list performing ably.

Furthermore, this was done with Aoun's preferred electoral law, which he had been bragging about since the Doha Accord saying that he "forced" it on the other parties, and that it would "liberate" the Christian vote, especially in places like Ashrafiyeh, and that he would expand his bloc to over 30 MPs. Well, his list was demolished in Beirut 1 (Ashrafiyeh), where M14 swept all five seats.

Also, his allies in Zahle (Elie Skaff and the "Popular Bloc") got smashed, with M14 performing very strongly there.

Nevertheless, Aoun scored big in districts with large Hezbollah votes, namely Baabda and Jbeil. While a victory in Jbeil was expected, the sweep in Baabda is a net win. Aoun also maintained his sweep in Keserwen, despite a dramatically narrower edge. He also did well in the Metn, winning 6 (in alliance with the Armenaian Tashnag party) out of 8, with Michel Murr and Sami Gemayel getting the other two. As such, Aoun will still claim he is the strongest in the Maronite heartland. Nevertheless, the win is very obviously a lot shakier than the "tsunami" of 2005, and nothing made it clearer than his son-in-law's big loss in Batroun. Batroun, whose citizens lost an Army pilot, shot down in his helicopter by Aoun's Hezbollah's allies, threw out the Aounists completely.

In effect, the Christian vote, as always, is still split. Aoun and his allies (Frangieh, Tashnag) will still have the largest Christian bloc (the seats in Jezzine will not be counted because they were never in play for M14, and they were gifts from Hezbollah -- and, incidentally, a setback for Berri).

The Tashnag Party, which huffed and puffed (and was puffed up by Western journos) mightily before the elections, ends up with a dud, getting only two seats (keeping the seat in Metn, and gaining a seat in Beirut 2). The other Armenian seats (Zahle, Beirut 1) went to M14.

Similarly, Michel Murr didn't pull off the kind of performance many thought he would, keeping only his seat in the Metn. He fielded a candidate in Baabda (Gharios) who lost. His companion in the Metn, Sarkis Sarkis, also lost.

Similarly, the so-called centrist bloc that was touted before the elections, comes out decidedly smaller than even initially thought. The bloc was supposed to be affiliated with the President, Suleiman, with candidates close to him, or effectively putting themselves in his corner, not breaking through: Nazim Khoury in Jbeil, al-Bone and Farid Haykal Khazen in Keserwen, Edmond Gharios (and even perhaps Pierre Daccache) in Baabda, and even Murr himself. Although there are others who did make it (people like Robert Ghanem, etc. can still support the President), the bloc as initially conceived did not quite materialize.

This balance of power will now be transferred to the battle over the cabinet formation. M14 has a clear victory, and so will pick the Prime Minister. The battle, however, will be over the heresy of the "veto third" -- which has no existence in the constitution or the Taef Accord. Hariri has been consistently rejecting its continuation in the future cabinet, and he got support today from
Jumblat as well, who called it a "fallacy." M14 will agree to a national unity government, though its principled position now is that it rejects the "veto third" formula. They are making plenty of noise about giving a boost to Suleiman, and how that will materialize remains to be seen. M8 is almost certainly going to reject it and will cite the relatively weak performance of the so-called independents/centrists as support for their position. This is a potential looming crisis on the horizon, as I argued in my pre-election briefing, especially since Hezbollah and the March 8 groups have shown themselves to be anti-democratic and violent forces who wouldn't hesitate to paralyze the country and ultimately attack people in their homes to get what they want.

Let's see how this plays out.

Lebanon Elects Pro-West Alliance as Hezbollah Challenge Fails

By Massoud A Derhally

June 8 (Bloomberg) -- Lebanon's pro-Western coalition defeated the Iran-backed Hezbollah bloc to win re-election in a vote that may help President Barack Obama reinvigorate peace efforts in the Middle East.

The governing alliance headed by Saad Hariri gained 71 seats in yesterday's election to the 128-member parliament, according to official results announced by Interior Minister Ziad Baroud at a press conference in Beirut today. The Hezbollah-led grouping won 57 seats, he said.

Victory for Hariri's coalition comes days after Obama's June 4 visit to Cairo and his call for a "new beginning" between the U.S. and the Muslim world. Hezbollah has opposed American policy in the region, mocked Arab allies of the U.S. for failing to help the Palestinians, and resisted international efforts to disband its militia, which fought a monthlong war with Israel in 2006.

"This was the first real victory by pro-American groups in the ideological battle that has defined this region in the last 10 years," said Rami Khouri of the American University of Beirut. Previously, "every time the U.S. tried to help somebody in the region, it hurt them and they lost."

The U.S. classifies Hezbollah as a terrorist group and backs United Nations resolutions to disarm its militia. Vice- President Joe Biden signaled during a visit last month that the U.S. may reconsider aid to Lebanon -- worth $1 billion in the past three years -- if the Hezbollah bloc won the vote.

Concern over the financial consequences of a Hezbollah-led government may have helped Hariri win votes, said Josh Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

'Bleak Picture'

"The line of the pro-Western coalition was, if you vote for those guys then Lebanon is going to be Gaza and Iran," he said. "That's a bleak picture, and the Hezbollah alliance didn't have a comeback."

The election result was a "big surprise," as the Hezbollah coalition was expected to win a narrow majority, and may increase pressure for the Shiite group to disarm, said Ghassan Schbley, an analyst at the Rand Corporation.

"The challenge now will be to see how the next government will be shaped and if the pro-Western coalition will form a national unity government that includes Hezbollah and its allies," he said.

Forming a new government may take more than a week, based on previous elections.

The winning coalition plans to nominate Hariri, the son of former premier Rafiq Hariri who was killed by a bomb in 2005, as prime minister, Marwan Hamadeh, a lawmaker and key Hariri ally, said in an interview today. The victors are ready to enter talks on a national unity government with Hezbollah and its allies provided there are no preconditions, he said.

Hezbollah Veto

Hezbollah and its allies were granted a veto on government policy when they entered the current unity government a year ago, under an accord aimed at ending clashes between the two camps in May 2008 that killed at least 80 people.

Led by Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah won popularity by driving the Israeli army out of south Lebanon in 2000 to end an 18-year occupation, and by fighting Israel again in 2006.

U.S. allies in the Middle East will likely welcome the Hariri victory. Egypt last month accused Hezbollah of plotting terrorist attacks in the country, and detained 49 people it said were the group's agents. Saudi Arabia and Jordan have expressed concern over growing Shiite and Iranian influence in the region.


Israel's Foreign Ministry said in an e-mailed statement that any new Lebanese government must ensure the country is not used as a base for attacks on Israel, and must clamp down on arms smuggling to Palestinians via Lebanon.

As in past Lebanese elections, both sides accused each other of vote-buying. Abdo Saad, the head of the independent Beirut Center for Research and Information, said before the election that hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on buying votes, mostly by regional powers such as Hezbollah's backer Iran and Saudi Arabia, which supports Hariri.

Lebanon's political system distributes parliament seats and government jobs among different groups. The president is always a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament a Shiite. Hariri's coalition includes Sunnis, Christians and Druze, while Hezbollah's main ally was the Christian party of former army general Michel Aoun.

With voting split along sectarian lines, and the Shiite and Sunni districts largely locked up, the Christians were the swing voters in the election.

Aoun's failure to win over enough Christians to the Hezbollah bloc was key to its defeat, said Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Middle East Center in Beirut. Concern that secular lifestyles may be threatened under a Hezbollah-led government backed by Iran, and that Syrian influence in the country may revive, was a deterrent to such voters, he said.

"His alliance with Hezbollah is simply very difficult to sell to many Christians," Salem said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Massoud A Derhally in Beirut at

Last Updated: June 8, 2009 09:07 EDT