Iranâ€™s Foreign Ministry has summoned the German Ambassador to Tehran over the brutal murder of a Muslim Egyptian woman in a Dresden court.
Herbert Honsowitz was summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry to hear the strong objection of the Islamic Republic to the brutal murder of Marwa el-Sherbini. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hassan Qashqavi on Thursday condemned el-Sherbiniâ€™s murder as a despicable act in violation of â€œall human rights and values.â€
El-Sherbini, dubbed the â€œveil martyr,â€ was involved in a court case against her neighbor, Axel W., who was found guilty last November of insulting and abusing the woman, calling her a â€œterrorist.â€
She was set to testify against Axel W. when he stabbed her 18 times inside the Dresden court in front of her 3-year-old son.
El-Sherbiniâ€™s husband, Elvi Ali Okaz, came to her aid but was also stabbed by the neighbor and shot in the leg by a security guard who initially mistook him for the attacker, German prosecutors said. He is now in critical condition in a German hospital.
Pointing to the German governmentâ€™s delayed response to the incident, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said that it was Berlinâ€™s responsibility to ensure the rights and security of minorities, especially Muslims, living in Germany.
The Muslim population of Dresden condemned el-Sherbiniâ€™s killing, expressing concern about the consequences of such terrorist attacks against Muslims. Iranâ€™s Foreign Ministry also blamed Western countries for their â€œdouble-standardâ€ and â€œnews boycottâ€ regarding the case.
A policeman stands guard in front of the British embassy during an anti-Britain protest gathering in Tehran, April 1, 2007. Picture taken April 1, 2007.
The worldâ€™s attention is on Iran. But the rhetoric of reformists vs. conservatives and students vs. mullahs cannot capture the complexity of what is happening on the streets of Tehran. Here are six reasons why the situation in Iran cannot be reduced to simplistic headlines or Twitter feeds.
First, the post-election crisis in Iran is not only a reflection of divisions between conservatives and reformers. Perhaps more importantly, it has brought divisions within the conservatives to the forefront.
â€œIt is true that most of the armed forces, especially the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij, support the Supreme Leader and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the decision making in Iran is not exclusive to these two men,â€ said human rights activist Ghanim Jawad on the London-based (ANB-TV) Arab News Broadcast. He pointed to a â€œvertical division,â€ not only within the government but also within the society.
Ghanim added, â€œThis vertical division is more dangerous to the Islamic revolution than the eight years of war between Iran and Iraq.â€ That war, he said, united Iranian society. Now Iranian society is split and there are divisions within the Expediency Council, the Guardian Council, the parliament and the Assembly of Experts -â€“ all important decision-making institutions.
Most significantly, he added, the religious authority in the holy city of Qom is also divided.
Second, the disputed election results provided the spark that ignited the street demonstrations, but there were many other important reasons that pushed hundreds of thousands of Iranians into the streets.
The widely read journalist Fahmi Huwaidi wrote on Al Jazeera.net that â€œone must acknowledge that this is the first time since the Islamic revolution that people held such large demonstrations to express their anger toward the regime and the supreme leader.â€
Huwaidi added, â€œIt is hard to categorize all protesters under one title, but all have anger as a common denominator.â€ There is anger over the election results, lack of individual freedoms, tense relations with the West, high unemployment and inflation, government support of Hezbollah and Hamas, and lack of rights for Arab, Kurdish and Sunni minorities.
Third, presidential candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi has become the symbolic leader of the reformist movement, but that does not mean that he is the one who created this movement.
During his election campaign he was accompanied by former President Muhammad Khatami everywhere he went because Mousavi was not a good public speaker, wrote Huwaidi.
Many Iranians also question his alliance with pragmatic conservatives who are suspected of corruption, such as the head of the Expediency Council, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Arab author Azmi Bishara wrote on Al Jazeera.net that â€œcorrupt conservatives within the regime such as Rafsanjani rely on reformists such as Mousavi and Khatami as a way to renew their appeal, weaken the Supreme Leader, promote a more pragmatic policy and create better relations with the West.â€ Bishara, however, warned that the pragmatic conservatives may temporarily agree to reforms, but reverse their position once they are in power.
Fourth, the street demonstrations are not necessarily an indication that Iran is an oppressive government or less democratic than neighboring Arab states.
â€œThe position taken by the Iranian society toward claims of discrepancies in the elections is much better than the position of Arab societies toward similar claims,â€ wrote Huwaidi. Iranians at least protested on the streets and clashed with police and security forces for 10 days. Arab populations have now accepted election fraud as a fact of life and given up on trying to change it, wrote Huwaidi.
Political writer Ahmad Asfahani told ANB that he was impressed by the â€œvigorous Iranian societyâ€ that gave birth to three populist revolutions in less than 60 years: the uprising that followed the overthrow of Iranian Premier Mohammad Mossadeq in 1953, the Islamic revolution in 1979, and now, the 2009 street demonstrations.
Fifth, not all of the 20 people who were killed during the demonstrations were protesters. According to Ghanim, at least eight security force members were also killed. This shows that the security forces were not the only side that used violence.
Ghanim told ANB that in this situation it is hard to control either side. He added that this raised questions about who really killed the young Iranian woman Neda Agha-Soltan who became a symbol for the street demonstrations. Ghanem said that it is possible that she was killed by â€œsome groups who wanted to escalate the situation.â€
Sixth, the strong divisions within the major governing institutions in Iran show that the Iranian system is more similar to the American system than Arab regimes, whether they are ruled by presidents or monarchs. For example, the strong criticism that the Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani has made against the interior ministry as well as the criticism by Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri in Qom of the Guardian Council shows that Iran has its own system of checks and balances which does not exist in most Arab countries. This also was evident in the televised debates in which Ahmadinejad made strong accusations against senior Iranian officials, including Rafsanjani.
The Iranian system has many discrepancies but the same can be said about the American system. Bishara wrote that the differences between the Republicans and Democrats in the United States are not much bigger than the differences between the conservatives and reformists in Iran. There seems to be no fundamental change in many respects. Iranian mullahs have used their positions to become very wealthy, much as American corporations have used lobbyists to pass laws in Congress that benefit them.
The real question is how Iran will emerge from all of this. If it comes out more powerful, it will be a vindication of the political process in Iran and proof that its system works better than those of its Arab neighbors. That is what really makes Arab countries nervous.
TEHRAN (Reuters) – Two thirds of people detained during post-election unrest in Tehran last month have already been freed and another 100 will soon be released, Iranâ€™s police chief was quoted as saying on Wednesday.
â€œOne hundred more will be released in the next two days,â€ state broadcaster IRIB quoted Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam as saying in the northwestern city of Qazvin.
The same official last week said 1,032 people were detained in the capital following the disputed June 12 presidential election, but that most had since been let go.
Official results of the vote showing hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won by a landslide triggered days of mass street protests by supporters of defeated candidate Mirhossein Mousavi, a moderate who says the election was rigged.
State media say at least 20 people were killed as protesters clashed with riot police and members of the Basij militia. The authorities and Mousavi blame each other for the bloodshed. Hardliners have called for Mousavi to be put on trial.
Rights activists have said 2,000 detained during the voteâ€™s turbulent aftermath may still be held across Iran, including leading reformers, academics, journalists and students.
But a reformist member of parliament quoted Iranâ€™s general prosecutor as saying 2,000 out of 2,500 detained had been freed and that the remaining cases would be referred to the judiciary.
The MP, Mohammadreza Tadesh, was quoted by a reformist website as making the statement on Wednesday after a meeting with the prosecutor, Ghorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi.
Mousavi has demanded the release of â€œchildren of the revolution,â€ referring to many detained establishment figures.
They include a former vice president and other former officials who held senior positions during the 1997-2005 presidency of Mohammad Khatami, who backed Mousaviâ€™s campaign.
The authorities accuse the West, particularly the United States and Britain, of inciting unrest in the Islamic Republic following the election, which led to the most widespread street protests in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Security forces quelled the demonstrations but Mousavi and allies have refused to back down, saying Ahmadinejadâ€™s next government would be illegitimate.
The authorities reject vote rigging allegations. Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday it had been the worldâ€™s â€œfreestâ€ election.
Iranâ€™s main moderate party, Islamic Iranâ€™s Participation Front, called on Wednesday for the immediate release of its detained members and other people arrested because of their activities in support of moderate candidates in the election.
In a statement on its website, it expressed deep concern about the health situation of some of those held.
â€œWhatever happens to them, those who in the name of law and sharia arrested them will be responsible,â€ the party said.
The Kargozaran party, seen as close to former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, earlier this week also called for the release of those detained and rejected the election result.
In Geneva, six U.N. human rights experts sought permission to visit Iran, saying they were concerned that political opponents of Ahmadinejad were continuing to be targeted.
â€œThe legal basis for the arrests of journalists, human rights defenders, opposition supporters and scores of demonstrators remains unclear,â€ they said in a joint statement.
â€œFreedom of expression and peaceful assembly continue to be undermined and the situation of human rights defenders is increasingly precarious,â€ the statement said.
(Additional reporting by Geneva bureau; Editing by Myra MacDonald)
Green revolutionary? Candidate Mirhossein Mousavi in May 30, 2009 file photo.
A number of commentators have expressed their idealistic belief in the purity of Mousavi, Montazeri, and the westernized youth of Terhan. The CIA destabilization plan, announced two years ago (see below) has somehow not contaminated unfolding events.
The claim is made that Ahmadinejad stole the election, because the outcome was declared too soon after the polls closed for all the votes to have been counted. However, Mousavi declared his victory several hours before the polls closed. This is classic CIA destabilization designed to discredit a contrary outcome. It forces an early declaration of the vote. The longer the time interval between the preemptive declaration of victory and the release of the vote tally, the longer Mousavi has to create the impression that the authorities are using the time to fix the vote. It is amazing that people donâ€™t see through this trick.
As for the grand ayatollah Montazeriâ€™s charge that the election was stolen, he was the initial choice to succeed Khomeini, but lost out to the current Supreme Leader. He sees in the protests an opportunity to settle the score with Khamenei. Montazeri has the incentive to challenge the election whether or not he is being manipulated by the CIA, which has a successful history of manipulating disgruntled politicians.
There is a power struggle among the ayatollahs. Many are aligned against Ahmadinejad because he accuses them of corruption, thus playing to the Iranian countryside where Iranians believe the ayatollahsâ€™ lifestyles indicate an excess of power and money. In my opinion, Ahmadinejadâ€™s attack on the ayatollahs is opportunistic. However, it does make it odd for his American detractors to say he is a conservative reactionary lined up with the ayatollahs.
Commentators are â€œexplainingâ€ the Iran elections based on their own illusions, delusions, emotions, and vested interests. Whether or not the poll results predicting Ahmadinejadâ€™s win are sound, there is, so far, no evidence beyond surmise that the election was stolen. However, there are credible reports that the CIA has been working for two years to destabilize the Iranian government.
On May 23, 2007, Brian Ross and Richard Esposito reported on ABC News: â€œThe CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert â€œblackâ€ operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell ABC News.â€
On May 27, 2007, the London Telegraph independently reported: â€œMr. Bush has signed an official document endorsing CIA plans for a propaganda and disinformation campaign intended to destabilize, and eventually topple, the theocratic rule of the mullahs.â€
A few days previously, the Telegraph reported on May 16, 2007, that Bush administration neocon warmonger John Bolton told the Telegraph that a US military attack on Iran would â€œbe a â€˜last optionâ€™ after economic sanctions and attempts to foment a popular revolution had failed.â€
On June 29, 2008, Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker: â€œLate last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the countryâ€™s religious leadership.â€
The protests in Tehran no doubt have many sincere participants. The protests also have the hallmarks of the CIA orchestrated protests in Georgia and Ukraine. It requires total blindness not to see this.
Daniel McAdams has made some telling points. For example, neoconservative Kenneth Timmerman wrote the day before the election that â€œthereâ€™s talk of a â€˜green revolutionâ€™ in Tehran.â€ How would Timmerman know that unless it was an orchestrated plan? Why would there be a â€˜green revolutionâ€™ prepared prior to the vote, especially if Mousavi and his supporters were as confident of victory as they claim? This looks like definite evidence that the US is involved in the election protests.
Timmerman goes on to write that â€œthe National Endowment for Democracy has spent millions of dollars promoting â€˜colorâ€™ revolutions . . . Some of that money appears to have made it into the hands of pro-Mousavi groups, who have ties to non-governmental organizations outside Iran that the National Endowment for Democracy funds.â€ Timmermanâ€™s own neocon Foundation for Democracy is â€œa private, non-profit organization established in 1995 with grants from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), to promote democracy and internationally-recognized standards of human rights in Iran.â€
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com
By Prof. James Petras, Global Research, Financial Times Editorial
â€œChange for the poor means food and jobs, not a relaxed dress code or mixed recreation… Politics in Iran is a lot more about class war than religion.â€
There is hardly any election, in which the White House has a significant stake, where the electoral defeat of the pro-US candidate is not denounced as illegitimate by the entire political and mass media elite. In the most recent period, the White House and its camp followers cried foul following the free (and monitored) elections in Venezuela and Gaza, while joyously fabricating an â€˜electoral successâ€™ in Lebanon despite the fact that the Hezbollah-led coalition received over 53% of the vote.
The recently concluded, June 12, 2009 elections in Iran are a classic case: The incumbent nationalist-populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (MA) received 63.3% of the vote (or 24.5 million votes), while the leading Western-backed liberal opposition candidate Hossein Mousavi (HM) received 34.2% or (13.2 million votes).
Iranâ€™s presidential election drew a record turnout of more than 80% of the electorate, including an unprecedented overseas vote of 234,812, in which HM won 111,792 to MAâ€™s 78,300. The opposition led by HM did not accept their defeat and organized a series of mass demonstrations that turned violent, resulting in the burning and destruction of automobiles, banks, public building and armed confrontations with the police and other authorities. Almost the entire spectrum of Western opinion makers, including all the major electronic and print media, the major liberal, radical, libertarian and conservative web-sites, echoed the oppositionâ€™s claim of rampant election fraud. Neo-conservatives, libertarian conservatives and Trotskyites joined the Zionists in hailing the opposition protestors as the advance guard of a democratic revolution. Democrats and Republicans condemned the incumbent regime, refused to recognize the result of the vote and praised the demonstratorsâ€™ efforts to overturn the electoral outcome. The New York Times, CNN, Washington Post, the Israeli Foreign Office and the entire leadership of the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations called for harsher sanctions against Iran and announced Obamaâ€™s proposed dialogue with Iran as â€˜dead in the waterâ€™.
What is astonishing about the Westâ€™s universal condemnation of the electoral outcome as fraudulent is that not a single shred of evidence in either written or observational form has been presented either before or a week after the vote count. During the entire electoral campaign, no credible (or even dubious) charge of voter tampering was raised. As long as the Western media believed their own propaganda of an immanent victory for their candidate, the electoral process was described as highly competitive, with heated public debates and unprecedented levels of public activity and unhindered by public proselytizing. The belief in a free and open election was so strong that the Western leaders and mass media believed that their favored candidate would win.
The Western media relied on its reporters covering the mass demonstrations of opposition supporters, ignoring and downplaying the huge turnout for Ahmadinejad. Worse still, the Western media ignored the class composition of the competing demonstrations â€“ the fact that the incumbent candidate was drawing his support from the far more numerous poor working class, peasant, artisan and public employee sectors while the bulk of the opposition demonstrators was drawn from the upper and middle class students, business and professional class.
Moreover, most Western opinion leaders and reporters based in Tehran extrapolated their projections from their observations in the capital â€“ few venture into the provinces, small and medium size cities and villages where Ahmadinejad has his mass base of support. Moreover the oppositionâ€™s supporters were an activist minority of students easily mobilized for street activities, while Ahmadinejadâ€™s support drew on the majority of working youth and household women workers who would express their views at the ballot box and had little time or inclination to engage in street politics.
A number of newspaper pundits, including Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times, claim as evidence of electoral fraud the fact that Ahmadinejad won 63% of the vote in an Azeri-speaking province against his opponent, Mousavi, an ethnic Azeri. The simplistic assumption is that ethnic identity or belonging to a linguistic group is the only possible explanation of voting behavior rather than other social or class interests.
A closer look at the voting pattern in the East-Azerbaijan region of Iran reveals that Mousavi won only in the city of Shabestar among the upper and the middle classes (and only by a small margin), whereas he was soundly defeated in the larger rural areas, where the re-distributive policies of the Ahmadinejad government had helped the ethnic Azeris write off debt, obtain cheap credits and easy loans for the farmers.
Mousavi did win in the West-Azerbaijan region, using his ethnic ties to win over the urban voters. In the highly populated Tehran province, Mousavi beat Ahmadinejad in the urban centers of Tehran and Shemiranat by gaining the vote of the middle and upper class districts, whereas he lost badly in the adjoining working class suburbs, small towns and rural areas.
The careless and distorted emphasis on â€˜ethnic votingâ€™ cited by writers from the Financial Times and New York Times to justify calling Ahmadinejad â€˜s victory a â€˜stolen voteâ€™ is matched by the mediaâ€™s willful and deliberate refusal to acknowledge a rigorous nationwide public opinion poll conducted by two US experts just three weeks before the vote, which showed Ahmadinejad leading by a more than 2 to 1 margin â€“ even larger than his electoral victory on June 12. This poll revealed that among ethnic Azeris, Ahmadinejad was favored by a 2 to 1 margin over Mousavi, demonstrating how class interests represented by one candidate can overcome the ethnic identity of the other candidate (Washington Post June 15, 2009). The poll also demonstrated how class issues, within age groups, were more influential in shaping political preferences than â€˜generational life styleâ€™. According to this poll, over two-thirds of Iranian youth were too poor to have access to a computer and the 18-24 year olds â€œcomprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad of all groupsâ€ (Washington Porst June 15, 2009).
The only group, which consistently favored Mousavi, was the university students and graduates, business owners and the upper middle class. The â€˜youth voteâ€™, which the Western media praised as â€˜pro-reformistâ€™, was a clear minority of less than 30% but came from a highly privileged, vocal and largely English speaking group with a monopoly on the Western media. Their overwhelming presence in the Western news reports created what has been referred to as the â€˜North Tehran Syndromeâ€™, for the comfortable upper class enclave from which many of these students come. While they may be articulate, well dressed and fluent in English, they were soundly out-voted in the secrecy of the ballot box.
In general, Ahmadinejad did very well in the oil and chemical producing provinces. This may have be a reflection of the oil workersâ€™ opposition to the â€˜reformistâ€™ program, which included proposals to â€˜privatizeâ€™ public enterprises. Likewise, the incumbent did very well along the border provinces because of his emphasis on strengthening national security from US and Israeli threats in light of an escalation of US-sponsored cross-border terrorist attacks from Pakistan and Israeli-backed incursions from Iraqi Kurdistan, which have killed scores of Iranian citizens. Sponsorship and massive funding of the groups behind these attacks is an official policy of the US from the Bush Administration, which has not been repudiated by President Obama; in fact it has escalated in the lead-up to the elections.
The great majority of voters for the incumbent probably felt that national security interests, the integrity of the country an d the social welfare system, with all of its faults and excesses, could be better defended and improved with Ahmadinejad than with upper-class technocrats supported by Western-oriented privileged youth who prize individual life styles over community values and solidarity.
The demography of voting reveals a real class polarization pitting high income, free market oriented, capitalist individualists against working class, low income, community based supporters of a â€˜moral economyâ€™ in which usury and profiteering are limited by religious precepts. The open attacks by opposition economists of the government welfare spending, easy credit and heavy subsidies of basic food staples did little to ingratiate them with the majority of Iranians benefiting from those programs. The state was seen as the protector and benefactor of the poor workers against the â€˜marketâ€™, which represented wealth, power, privilege and corruption. The Oppositionâ€™s attack on the regimeâ€™s â€˜intransigentâ€™ foreign policy and positions â€˜alienatingâ€™ the West only resonated with the liberal university students and import-export business groups. To many Iranians, the regimeâ€™s military buildup was seen as having prevented a US or Israeli attack.
The scale of the oppositionâ€™s electoral deficit should tell us is how out of touch it is with its own peopleâ€™s vital concerns. It should remind them that by moving closer to Western opinion, they re moved themselves from the everyday interests of security, housing, jobs and subsidized food prices that make life tolerable for those living below the middle class and outside the privileged gates of Tehran University.
Amhadinejadâ€™s electoral success, seen in historical comparative perspective should not be a surprise. In similar electoral contests between nationalist-populists against pro-Western liberals, the populists have won. Past examples include Peron in Argentina and, most recently, Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia and even Lula da Silva in Brazil, all of whom have demonstrated an ability to secure close to or even greater than 60% of the vote in free elections. The voting majorities in these countries prefer social welfare over unrestrained markets, national security over alignments with military empires.
The consequences of the electoral victory of Ahmadinejad are open to debate. The US may conclude that continuing to back a vocal, but badly defeated, minority has few prospects for securing concessions on nuclear enrichment and an abandonment of Iranâ€™s support for Hezbollah and Hamas. A realistic approach would be to open a wide-ranging discussion with Iran, and acknowledging, as Senator Kerry recently pointed out, that enriching uranium is not an existential threat to anyone. This approach would sharply differ from the approach of American Zionists, embedded in the Obama regime, who follow Israelâ€™s lead of pushing for a preempti ve war with Iran and use the specious argument that no negotiations are possible with an â€˜illegitimateâ€™ government in Tehran which â€˜stole an electionâ€™.
Recent events suggest that political leaders in Europe, and even some in Washington, do not accept the Zionist-mass media line of â€˜stolen electionsâ€™. The White House has not suspended its offer of negotiations with the newly re-elected government but has focused rather on the repression of the opposition protesters (and not the vote count). Likewise, the 27 nation European Union expressed â€˜serious concern about violenceâ€™ and called for the â€œaspirations of the Iranian people to be achieved through peaceful means and that freedom of expression be respectedâ€ (Financial Times June 16, 2009 p.4). Except for Sarkozy of France, no EU leader has questioned the outcome of the voting.
The wild card in the aftermath of the elections is the Israeli response: Netanyahu has signaled to his American Zionist followers that they should use the hoax of â€˜electoral fraudâ€™ to exert maximum pressure on the Obama regime to end all plans to meet with the newly re-elected Ahmadinejad regime.
Paradoxically, US commentators (left, right and center) who bought into the electoral fraud hoax are inadvertently providing Netanyahu and his American followers with the arguments and fabrications: Where they see religious wars, we see class wars; where they see electoral fraud, we see20imperial destabilization.
James Petras is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by James Petras
NAM Editorâ€™s Note: Arab regimes havenâ€™t publicly criticized or even mentioned what is happening in neighboring Iran, triggering much speculation among Arab bloggers as to why that is. The author of this piece wished to remain anonymous due to safety concerns.
Former Iranian Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi pauses while he speaks about Iran at the National Press Club in Washington June 22, 2009. REUTERS/Larry Downing
DAMASCUS — Images of bloody protesters and crowds numbering in the hundreds of thousands in the streets of Tehran have been broadcast into living rooms across the Arab world for five consecutive days, enchanting and inspiring pro-democracy activists in a region where pushes for democratic reforms tend to be met with an iron fist.
Meanwhile, Arab regimes have largely remained silent over the contested election. Leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordanâ€”the major Sunni powers in the regionâ€”havenâ€™t mentioned the elections or allegations of fraud. In normal circumstances, this would be strange â€” these countries are the regional archenemies of President Ahmedinejadâ€™s Iran.
Some say the reason behind their silence lies in their fear of bolstering pro-democracy movements in their own countries. â€œThe unrest in Iran frightens dictators in the region because it makes it harder for them to justify their own absolute authority,â€ says Syrian blogger Yasir Sadiq. â€œIf they see tyrannies come down around them, theyâ€™ll be afraid.â€
Whether or not the Iranian elections were â€œstolen,â€ Iran is a long way ahead of most Arab countries when it comes to democracy â€” the country has a functioning electoral system. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the Gulf states donâ€™t hold elections, and in Egypt and Syria, â€œelectionsâ€ are so tightly controlled that the results are always known in advance.
The state controlled media in authoritarian Arab countries have mostly downplayed the events in Iran. Government controlled newspapers like Al-Thawra in Syria, Iranâ€™s strongest regional ally, have kept Iran off the front pages and run headlines like, â€œThe West needs to stop intervening in Iranian elections,â€ using age-old claims of conspiracies to deflect attention from actual popular desire for democratic reform.
â€œGovernments all over the Arab world accuse pro-democracy movements of serving the west, or of being tools of the CIA or Mosad (Israeli intelligence),â€ says Syrian freelance journalist Khaled Al-Khetyari. â€œThey are just trying to manipulate people by using this language because the people in power donâ€™t want their populations to analyze what is actually happening in Iran.â€
The Obama administration has been relatively silent on the unrest in Iran. On Wednesday, Hillary Clinton said it was up to Iranians to â€œresolve this internal protest.â€
Al-Khatyari says the U.S. administrationâ€™s measured distance is a strategy the U.S. should stick to. â€œThe last American administration latched onto any internal opposition to regimes it didnâ€™t like. This always hurts local movements because it connects them to a country that most people here see as harmful to the region and it justifies repression by our governments.â€
Syrian blogger Yasir Sadiq says he is encouraged by the Iranian oppositionâ€™s seven-point manifesto being circulated on the internet, which calls for the â€œDissolution of all organizations â€” both secret and public â€” designed for the oppression of the Iranian people.â€
â€œItâ€™s inspiring to see people in the Middle East call for the end of secret services,â€ Sadiq says. â€œOrganizations like this have oppressed people in the Arab world so much.â€
Sadiq is reticent to believe that what he calls Iranâ€™s pro-democracy â€œintifadaâ€ could be exported to Arab countries any time soon. â€œItâ€™s difficult to hope for this kind of movement in the Arab world. We have a long way to go, but we hope that eventually, something like that will happen here.â€
For now, he says, Arab activists will attempt to learn what they can from their counterparts in Iran. For days, Sadiq has been pegged to Twitter, the social networking tool that has allowed Iranians to organize demonstrations while the Iranian government institutes a near blackout of internet services.
â€œArab bloggersâ€™ main interest in what is happening in Iran is in figuring out how Twitter can be used to organize and bring our voices forward in our own countries,â€ he says.
The government in Syria may eventually try to ban it, like they have with other networking sites like Facebook, but Sadiq says he is not deterred. â€œThe more they ban, the more ways we will find to get around their restrictions.â€
Berkeley–I take my title this week from the French cinematographer, Jean-Luc Godardâ€™s Masculine / Feminine produced during the 1960s of which my forenamed title was one of the names of the Frenchmanâ€™s fifteen cinematic episodes / chapters; therefore, the name for this article, for your author feels there is much in common between this past week in Tehran and those heady days in Paris during 1968.
Almost four years ago this week, the young Iranian-American journalist, Azadeh Moaveni, came to Berkeley to promote her, then, recent memoirs Lipstick Jihad about growing up conflicted between her two cultures — American and Iranian. Her experience has much to say to second generation immigrants of many sorts and to their parents as well. This book for all its flaws does help them better understand their own bicultural children, and for us to better understand both their divergent generational peer groups.
After college Azadeh moved to Tehran, her natal land. What she discovered was not the fantasy of the past as held by her parents and the expatriate community, but the oppressive and even decadent lifestyle of her contemporaries in that nation of her infancy. (Iran is a modern and in many instances a personally progressive State on a fast track to Post-Modernism, and not the stern theocracy that is too often portrayed in the West.)
For some reason my mid-May 2005 interview with Moaveni came at a time when Tehran was at the beginning of an exhilarating period of political reform as it is there now. The youth demonstrated in the streets as during this past week against an Islamist regime they considered overly harsh. The young rebels she meet during the middle of this decade can even be considered hedonistic — totally unlike her imaginative homeland created during her American formative years.
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, 60% of their population is under the age of thirty! If anything, this shows they have a promising future. Intimate versus public life is very finely etched in that realm that is ethnically dominated by the Persians. To understand Iran, one has to comprehend the shifting role of her younger women which has been developing within the middle and upper urbanized classes, and it is these classes that have violently been dominate on the streets during this past week. For â€œa woman it is an exciting time!â€
The great rifts between the classes is most disturbing, though, with the lack of international observers recently, it is difficult to perceive whether there was massive vote rigging or not although small scale â€œdirtyâ€ tricks and denial to the polling stations has been proven. Whether there was enough fraud to throw the elections has not been demonstrated. The grave tensions between the urban elites and the rural Subaltern (a word employed to describe a wide range of the lower classes) exists within contemporary Persia.
Although Islam is still central to the state and society, the youth are still referred to as a lost generation. Western videos and other cultural artifacts have been officially banned, but they are openly smuggled, and popularly consumed. What is demographically notable about this upcoming generation is that there are notably more women than men within it. Noteworthy about the old Kingdom of the Shahs was the openness of Platonic relationships between the sexes, but this social custom has been discouraged by the current gender segregation encouraged by the Revolution. The authoress remarked because of this, â€œ…How can the younger generation be so obsessed with sex, but know so little about it?â€ It is thought in the Republic that â€œBeing a couple is petty and bourgeois.â€ Then she repeated a profundity: â€œLife in the shadow of the struggle is merely in the shadows.â€ Many women from conservative families have only become partially â€œliberated,â€ (but in essence there has been little change even for them.) Again, feminine identification is only attainable by the upwardly mobile!
Azadeh confesses that Iran was disappointing for her. â€œAny gathering could degenerate into a protest against the governmentâ€ as is the case today.
An anxiety of violence has been acclimatized by the State. The youthful — even during the period of Bush — still perceived America as a symbol of freedom.
They strove after a Western lifestyle and Modernism and Post-Modernism, too, but their governmental regime is formally anti-American which creates a conundrum between officialdom and the emerging anti-Modernistic society. The young people are almost purely positive towards America only because it is the antithesis of their own regime which they despise. (This could become a potentially dangerous if the Medes became more hegemonic within their region!)
The subtitle to Moaveniâ€™s book is A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran. She was raised in Santa Cruz (California) and studied at the University of California campus in Santa Cruz on the Northern shores of Monterey Bay. Winning a Fulbright, she lived in Cairo for three years studying Arabic as well. Time Magazine then employed her to cover the Middle East for three years. Lately, she has covered the Iraqi insurgency for the Los Angeles Times. Although Azadeh Moaveni now covers Baghdad, she makes her home in Beirut.
I think much can be perceived from Moaveniâ€™s comments on the situation in Iran. The split between those who chose to stay in Iran and those in the Diaspora is most pronounced: Much like the Havana Cubans and the Miami Cubans. So, when the local American domestic reporters talk to Iranian immigrants who have settled in the States, they, of course, are not the ones who have chosen to stay in their native land for many reasons; and, thus, are less likely to have a positive view of the 1979 Revolution. Most of the protestors on the streets of Iran are college students. Until legitimate international election observers can be put on the ground, it is almost impossible to say whether these polls were free and fair. Having been an election observer in a much smaller country myself (El Salvador), I can attest to the logistical nightmare of monitoring deeply contested polls.
There is no doubt that there are thousands of Iranian who yearn for real democracy. They are the onesâ€™s who are concerned about the detereorating law and order situation in their country. But what is interesting to note that those who are fomenting violence in Iran are those who have at their back several western intellligence agencies.
It is now a known fact that for the last 12 months these intelligence agencies have been supplying high quality communication devices in the thousands to Iranian youth to provide information in situation like these. Much of these electronic gagdets were sent to Iran from Los Angeles, by Iranian businessmen who recived the hidden grant from sources closer to intelligence agencies.
In 1953, western intelligence agencies played a similar game in toppling the Iranian democratic regime. Now many fear that the same game is being repeated.
The West has laid economic siege to Iran for 30 years. Recently, US Congress voted $120 million for anti-regime media broadcasts into Iran and $60-75 million in funding for opposition, violent underground Marxists and restive ethnic groups such as Azeris, Kurds and Arabs under the â€œIran Democracy Program.â€ Pakistani intelligence sources put the CIAâ€™s recent spending on â€œblack operationsâ€ to subvert Iranâ€™s government at $400 million.It is true that majority of protests we see in Tehran are genuine and spontaneous, western intelligence agencies are playing a key role in sustaining them and providing communications, including the newest method, via Twitter.
The Tehran government turned things worse by limiting foreign news reports and trying to cover up protests.
Several western experts have accused Iran of improper electoral procedures while utterly ignoring their autocratic Mideast allies such as Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which hold only fake elections and savage any real opposition.They have also ignore the voting irregularities that were witnessed in Florida and Ohio in 2000 and 20008, by officials close to republican Party candidate President Bush.
U.S. senators, led by John McCain, blasted Iran for not respecting human rights without making any reference to President Bush torture policy in Guantanamo Bay.
In fact the current feud is between the establishment and former establishment member Ali Akbar Rafsanjani who is waiting to pounce. He heads the Assembly of Experts, which theoretically has the power to unseat Iranâ€™s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.his power revolves round him and his family. He is considered the msot shrewed politician of Iran. It is possible that he may manipulate situation to the best of his interests.
But we must not live under any illusion that Rafsanjani would be a pro-western leader. He is as dangerous as the previsiou leader when it comes to Iranâ€™s nuclear ambition.
All that we need to do is to wait and see before making a final pronouncement on the current situation.
Former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani shown here voting with reform leader former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.
(Photo: Amir Kholoosi / ISNA)
Looking past their fiery rhetoric and apparent determination to cling to power using all available means, Iranâ€™s hardliners are not a confident bunch. While hardliners still believe they possess enough force to stifle popular protests, they are worried that they are losing a behind-the-scenes battle within Iranâ€™s religious establishment.
A source familiar with the thinking of decision-makers in state agencies that have strong ties to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said there is a sense among hardliners that a shoe is about to drop. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani – Iranâ€™s savviest political operator and an arch-enemy of Ayatollah Khameneiâ€™s – has kept out of the public spotlight since the rigged June 12 presidential election triggered the political crisis. The widespread belief is that Rafsanjani has been in the holy city of Qom, working to assemble a religious and political coalition to topple the supreme leader and Pres. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
â€œThere is great apprehension among people in the supreme leaderâ€™s [camp] about what Rafsanjani may pull,â€ said a source in Tehran who is familiar with hardliner thinking. â€œThey [the supreme leader and his supporters] are much more concerned about Rafsanjani than the mass movement on the streets.â€
Ayatollah Khamenei now has a very big image problem among influential Shiâ€™a clergymen. Over the course of the political crisis, stretching back to the days leading up to the election, Rafsanjani has succeeded in knocking the supreme leader off his pedestal by revealing Ayatollah Khamenei to be a political partisan rather than an above-the-fray spiritual leader. In other words, the supreme leader has become a divider, not a uniter.
Now that Ayatollah Khamenei has become inexorably connected to Ahmadinejadâ€™s power grab, many clerics are coming around to the idea that the current system needs to be changed. Among those who are now believed to be arrayed against Ayatollah Khamenei is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the top Shiâ€™a cleric in neighboring Iraq. Rafsanjani is known to have met with Grand Ayatollah al-Sistaniâ€™s representative in Iran, Javad Shahrestani.
A reformist website, Rooyeh, reported that Rafsanjani already had the support of nearly a majority of the Assembly of Experts, a body that constitutionally has the power to remove Ayatollah Khamenei. The report also indicated that Rafsanjaniâ€™s lobbying efforts were continuing to bring more clerics over to his side. Rafsanjaniâ€™s aim, the website added, is the establishment of a leadership council, comprising of three or more top religious leaders, to replace the institution of supreme leader. Shortly after it posted the report on Rafsanjaniâ€™s efforts to establish a new collective leadership, government officials pulled the plug on Rooyeh.
Meanwhile, the Al-Arabiya satellite television news channel reported that a â€œhigh-rankingâ€ source in Qom confirmed that Rafsanjani has garnered enough support to remove Ayatollah Khamenei, but an announcement is being delayed amid differences on what or who should replace the supreme leader. Some top clerics reportedly want to maintain the post of supreme leader, albeit with someone other than Ayatollah Khamenei occupying the post, while others support the collective leadership approach.
To a certain degree, hardliners now find themselves caught in a cycle of doom: they must crack down on protesters if they are to have any chance of retaining power, but doing so only causes more and more clerics to align against them.
Security forces broke up a small street protest on June 22 involving roughly a thousand demonstrators who had gathered to mourn the victims of the government crackdown two days before. Also on June 22, a statement issued in the name of the Revolutionary Guards demanded that protesters immediately stop â€œsabotage and rioting activities,â€ and threatened to unleash â€œrevolutionary confrontationâ€ against anyone who took to the streets.
Such a showdown could come later this week. One of the countryâ€™s highest-ranking clerics, Grand Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri has declared three days of mourning for those who have died in street protests. Grand Ayatollah Montazeriâ€™s declaration could bring thousands of Tehran residents back out into the streets starting on June 24.
Meanwhile, the Guardian Council, an unelected state body with election oversight responsibilities, announced June 21 that it had found numerous irregularities connected with the June 12 presidential vote. A council spokesman, for example, admitted that the number of votes cast in 50 cities throughout the country exceeded the number of registered voters in those locations. The Guardian Council indicated that there may be as many as 3 million suspect ballots, but stressed the suspected cases of fraud were not such that it could have influenced the outcome of the vote. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Ayatollah Khamenei has repeatedly characterized the election as a â€œdivine assessmentâ€ of Ahmadinejadâ€™s popularity.
An election analysis released by the London-based Chatham House appeared to confirm that the official results, in which Ahmadinejad was said to have won with nearly two-thirds of the vote, could only have been achieved with massive vote-rigging. The report was based on voting patterns from previous national elections, and on a 2006 census.
â€œIn a third of all provinces, the official results would require that Ahmadinejad took not only all former conservative voters, all centrist voters and all new voters, but also up to 44% of former reformist voters, despite a decade of conflict between these two groups,â€ said the report, which was prepared with the help of the Institute of Iranian Studies at the University of St. Andrews. The report also used statistical arguments to dispute the notion that Ahmadinejad was popular in rural areas of Iran. â€œThat the countryside always votes conservative is a myth,â€ the report said.
More and more of Iranâ€™s pro-government websites are under assault, as opposition forces launch web attacks on the Tehran regimeâ€™s online propaganda arms.
What started out as an attempt to overload a small set of official sites has now expanded, network security consultant Dancho Danchev notes. News outlets like Raja News are being attacked, too. The semi-official Fars News site is currently unavailable.
â€œWe turned our collective power and outrage into a serious weapon that we could use at our will, without ever having to feel the consequences. We practiced distributed, citizen-based warfare,â€ writes Matthew Burton, a former U.S. intelligence analyst who joined in the online assaults, thanks to a â€œpush-button tool that would, upon your click, immediately start bombarding 10 Web sites with requests.â€
But the tactic of launching these distributed denial of service, or DDOS, attacks remains hugely controversial. The author of one-web based tool, â€œPage Rebooter,â€ used by opposition supporters to send massive amounts of traffic to Iranian government sites, temporarily shut the service down, citing his discomfort with using the tool â€œto attack other websites.â€ Then, a few hours later, he turned on the service again, after his employers agreed to cover the costs of the additional traffic. WhereIsMyVote.info is opening up 16 Page Reboot windows simultaneously, to flood an array of government pages at once.
Other online supporters of the so-called â€œGreen Revolutionâ€ worry about the ethics of a democracy-promotion movement inhibitting their foesâ€™ free speech. A third group is concerned that the DDOS strikes could eat up the limited amount of bandwidth available inside Iran â€” bandwidth being used by the opposition to spread its message by Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. â€œQuit with the DDOS attacks â€” theyâ€™re just slowing down Iranian traffic and making it more difficult for the protesters to Tweet,â€ says one online activist.
But Burton â€” who helped bring Web 2.0 tools to the American spy community â€” isnâ€™t so sure. â€œGiving a citizenry the ability to turn the tables on its own government is, I think, what governance is all about. The publicâ€™s ability to strike back is something that every government should be reminded of from time to time.â€ Yet he admits to feeling â€œconflicted.â€ about participating in the strikes, he suddenly stopped. â€œI donâ€™t know why, but it just feltâ€¦creepy. I was frightened by how easy it was to sow chaos from afar, safe and sound in my apartment, where I would never have to experienceâ€“or even knowâ€“the results of my actions.â€
Meanwhile, San Francisco technologist Austin Heap has put together a set of instructions on how to set up â€œproxiesâ€â€”intermediary internet protocol (IP) addressâ€”that allow activists to get through the government firewall. And the Networked Culture blog has assembled for pro-democracy sympathizers a â€œcyberwar guide for beginners.â€ Stop publicizing these proxies over Twitter, the site recommends. Instead, send direct messages to â€œ@stopAhmadi or @iran09 and they will distributed them discretely [sic] to bloggers in Iran.â€
By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent
â€œThe tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.â€
An Iranian demonstrator shows a placard against Iranâ€™s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a demonstration outside the United Nations office in Kuala Lumpur June 15, 2009. Malaysian police used teargas to break up a crowd of around 500 Iranians demonstrating outside the United Nations mission against Iranâ€™s contested presidential election, a Reuters photographer said.
United by the common rallying cry composed of a mere three words, â€œWhereâ€™s my vote?â€, enraged Iranian protestors hit the streets this past Saturday in a show of defiance against the reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They numbered in the millions as they filled the streets to march against perceived election fraud. The popular candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, was seemingly robbed of certain victory as he received overwhelming support during his candidacy. Over the course of less than a week protestors have clashed with security personnel and pro-Ahmadinejad supporters on a daily basis. The result has been several horrendous and often vicious encounters that have played out on live TV and social networking sites on the Internet. Many protestors have been beaten to a bloody pulp and some have lost their lives in this unwinnable battle of hearts and minds. Iranian security forces show no mercy as they beat anyone, including women, with their batons. There have also been several recent reports of protestors being shot at with live ammunition, with at least seven protestors having been shot to death.
One would expect the commander in chief of any nation to calm the storm until cooler heads prevailed. Not Ahmadinejad, who is relentlessly holding on to his stifling reign of dictatorship. Instead of rising above the controversy, he is stirring the pot to keep the tensions at a fever pitch. Perhaps his strategy is to keep his detractors busy so that no one can challenge his win or recount the ballots. Why else would he clamp down so hard on media reports in Iran? Some journalists have been arrested while others have been forbidden from filming the bloody protests, Iranian reformists have been detained and telecommunications have been blocked.
But somehow, some way, the information keeps flowing. The battle has moved into cyberspace where it began and has taken on a life of its own to tell the world about the injustice being meted out to an innocent populous. Once again social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have been fundamental in uniting pro-Mousavi Iranians into a central force as well as harnessing global condemnation regarding the brutality in which demonstrators have been dealt with. Not since President Obamaâ€™s candidacy for the White House has there been such a political revolution been played out in cyberspace. In this case, American-operated websites have been vital in keeping the stream of information running. Twitter cancelled a scheduled site maintenance and rescheduled it to coincide with the Iranian time zone, which came at the request of no other than President Obama. YouTube has also been a willingly ally and has kept video footage of demonstrations up on its website. Normally, YouTubeâ€™s policy is to remove violent videos, but plans to leave the Iranian protest videos up for their â€œdocumentaryâ€ value.
As of press time, it seems that a minuscule wind of hope is beginning to blow into the Iranian capital of Tehran. The Ayatollah Khameni has promised a partial recount of the votes in question under the auspices of representatives of both parties. Meanwhile, the fight goes on in the Iranian streets with both sides refusing to coalesce. Rallies for both sides were held on Tuesday. Touting a ban on public gatherings, opposition leaders have scheduled even more rallies in the coming days.
By Thomas Erdbrink, Washington Post Foreign Service
A supporter of Iran’s presidential election candidate Mirhossein Mousavi, with her hair braided with green ribbons, attends a campaign rally in Tehran June 9, 2009. Green is the campaign colour of Mousavi.
TEHRAN, June 8 — Supporters of both leading candidates in this weekâ€™s Iranian presidential election flocked to mass rallies here Monday, and the gatherings underscored the differences between the tactics of the two camps.
More than 100,000 backers of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gathered in traditional fashion at a central mosque, arriving in buses organized by members of the baseej, Iranâ€™s voluntary paramilitary force. The crowds were so dense that Ahmadinejadâ€™s vehicle was unable to reach the stage.
Wearing a headband in the colors of the Iranian flag, the symbol of Ahmadinejadâ€™s campaign, Leili Aghahi, 17, waved at the president. Ahmadinejad stood for a while on the roof of his sport-utility vehicle, immobilized by the adoring crowd, then left without giving a speech.
â€œOur supporters like to be close to the president,â€ said Javad Shamaqdari, a presidential adviser on the arts who is also the director of Ahmadinejadâ€™s campaign movies. â€œThe Grand Mosque is a good, central meeting place for us,â€ he added.
Supporters of Ahmadinejadâ€™s main challenger, former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, had to be more inventive to find a place for their rally. Over the weekend, a government organization refused permission for his campaign to use Tehranâ€™s 120,000-seat Azadi Stadium for a rally originally planned for Sunday. But in less than 24 hours, using text messages and Facebook postings, thousands of Mousavi backers gathered along Vali-e Asr Avenue, Tehranâ€™s 12-mile-long arterial road.
Many brought green ropes or strings, which they tied together to form a giant chain in Mousaviâ€™s signature color. Groups wearing green head scarves or green T-shirts arrived from schools and universities. â€œThis way, down here,â€ student organizer Mohsen Ghadiri, 19, called to about 40 students from the prestigious Elm-o-Sanat University, as they looked for empty spaces in the long line of people.
â€œThanks to Internet and text messages, we can rally big crowds in a very short time,â€ noted Ghadiri, who wore a green shirt emblazoned with Mousaviâ€™s portrait. Shamaqdari, Ahmadinejadâ€™s adviser, called Mousaviâ€™s campaign tactics a form of â€œpsychological warfareâ€ copied from the â€œcolor revolutionsâ€ that swept away governments in Georgia and Ukraine.
â€œThey place groups of 100 people wearing colors at several locations in Tehran. This disrupts traffic, making people think that something big is happening,â€ he said. â€œThese are all the methods of a velvet revolution, but this one is only meant to get them votes.â€
Reza Badamchi, manager of a pro-Mousavi Web site, disagreed. â€œIf there are any similarities between our campaign and a velvet revolution, this is purely accidental. We donâ€™t want a revolution. We want Mousavi to win,â€ he said.
Badamchiâ€™s site, called Sepidedam.com, broadcasts speeches by Mousavi, who has repeatedly complained that state television favors Ahmadinejad. â€œSo we still get our message out through the Web. And the best part is, itâ€™s for free,â€ Badamchi said, adding that â€œthese are the most digital and virtual elections everâ€ in Iran.
Shamaqdari portrayed Mousaviâ€™s supporters as geeks who spend too much time at their computers.
â€œEven though it is bad for their mental health, Mousaviâ€™s supporters spend hours on the Internet,â€ he said. â€œOur youths are more social. They like to hang out at baseej centers, on the streets or play sports. They like to meet in groups. Mousaviâ€™s supporters are more solitary.â€
Berkeley–Very often the media takes up a story as â€œsexy,â€ and then drops it from their â€œradarâ€ when the media judges it to be no longer to be of active interest for their target audience, even though a good deal of the public are still wondering what has happened to the issue. Well, much has happened to Gaza since the Jewish blitzkrieg through Gaza ended last month, and I, as a journalist, intend to keep going back as a venomous Gila Monster in the American Southwest and Northern Mexican hangs onto his attacker with his venomous fangs to keep my readerâ€™s consciousness focused on the subject and its aftermath as they should be.
About the most momentous event since the truce (which seems near failure) since it has been broken several times by the Israeli army, are the Israeli elections and the right-wing Likud leader, Benjamin Netanyahu has been asked to forming a government. He has pledged to wipe out Gaza, and to expand Settlements on the West Bank. On the other hand, the U.N. (United Nations) has been asked by Tehran to expel Tel Aviv from the General Assembly!
Few relief supplies have been permitted through the borders by either the Muslim-dominated Egypt or the Jewish State, also, to relieve the haggard denizens of the Strip. During the middle of February a fact-finding delegation from the British Parliament were beleaguered by Israeli military thugs. The chair of the delegation was quoted â€œIt was a bit weird to be hassled by another country when entering a [sovereign] nation.â€ A similar event occurred when an American Congressional deputation visited post-War Gaza.
About a month and one-half ago, a program on Gaza was presented off campus in this city. My criticism of the agenda was that it lacked the (academic) rigors of the campus assembly on the following day that I reported as â€œGaza under Siegeâ€ printed here not many weeks ago. I must denounce the knee-jerk radicalism of Berkeleyâ€™s hoi po loi, and their Americo-centric prejudices. The two Muslim Arabs were quite perceptive plus one American who has worked extensively in the area, and I shall consider their quotes quite carefully. The others I shall gloss over.
The organizer of the event called this an â€œemergencyâ€ meeting. â€œAn emergency is a situation that demands immediate action!â€ Americans are stuck in an illusion. â€We are demanding that the slaughter in Gaza to stop,â€ but we in the American public are only accumulating misconceptions!
I gave an account of the Palestinian-American Professor Hatem Bazian of U.C. (University of California at) Berkeley comments in my previously mentioned article. The Gaza crisis began considerably before December 28th last. The prior Truce was violated by the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) on November 4th, 2008.
Israeli and/or U.S. State Department press releases dominate the American dialogue on what was the old Mandate of Palestine. There is a new campaign for the Middle East promoted by the United States, Israel and their â€œfranchisesâ€ (the â€œmoderateâ€ Arab States) to corner the regionâ€™s resources. The District of Columbia is enabling a classic â€œdivide and conquerâ€ between the Shia and Sunnis as a mechanism to force the Arabs, Persians and Central Asian Turks to sell the West their oil at a reasonable price.
â€œIsrael acts as an advance â€˜aircraft carrierâ€™ for the U.S.A.,â€ but, at the same time, Israel may possess different objectives from North America.
Curiously, though, Tel Avivâ€™ myth of strategic invincibility was severely damaged by their defeat over Galilee by Hezbollah (and Iran technologyâ€™s) missiles in their 2004 War.
Unfortunately, the major Israeli Parties all appealed strongly to the (illegal) Settlerâ€™s vote. On this side of the Atlantic, â€œObama isnâ€™t going to fight against Israel or AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee].â€ (An AmerIndian speaker, Tony Gonzalez, called it â€œObama Romanizationâ€) which has swept the young and the idealistic off their feet.
The minor local politician (former Afro-American Oakland City Councilman and the son of a past Mayor), Wilson Riles, Jr., said â€œWe have to listen to what Hamas is saying,â€ but he equates a Fourth World country to the problems of the U.S.! â€œWe got to move againstâ€¦structures in this community.â€ At least, â€œWe have to commit to Palestineâ€¦,â€ and, further â€œâ€¦We must [do our] researchâ€¦â€ of course. Further, there was a Black minister who reacted with the correct moral outrage, â€œI feel the pain and outrage from what has happened!â€ Yet it was his pain from afar and not the outrage of the victims themselves. He does talk of the accusations of â€œanti-Semitismâ€ for those who defend the Palestinian people. He declared that we must not cringe from the charge: â€œSilence is unthinkableâ€¦â€ Ultimately, though he goes back to the accountability of the American government (for which they unarguably possess and hold responsibility).
Denis Bernstein a supposed â€œinvestigative reporterâ€ for the local Pacifica radio outlet (KPFA) felt â€œIt is time to end the savagery to these people!â€ Agreed, but â€œIt [also] is time for a one State solution!â€ [Sic!]
Larry Everest who seemed to come from an â€œOld Leftâ€ perspective, and was of (anti-Zionist Jewish) heritage was, also, in favor of a one-State solution, but this would be where the Palestinians would dominate in a way similar to M.K. Gandhiâ€™s envisioning on the â€œJewish Problemâ€ published in a seventy-year old issue of his Harijan, and republished on these pages quite some time ago, â€œIsrael is a Settler Colonial Stateâ€¦a garrison State for [U.S.] Imperialism!â€ I think this is an over simplification of agency, and absolves Tel Aviv in its lack of morality where the U.S. is more than the enabler par excellence that makes it possible for the hand of the doer to enact the deed. The truth is that the â€œevilâ€ can be stopped in either in D.C. or in Judah itself. Bazian pointed out previously above in this piece that the policies of the two oppressor allies do diverge.
Much of the rhetoric that night was polemic, and was direct more against the American State than the Modern Israeli nation who decided to devour Gaza for their objectives of a greater Israel. Our guilt lies in giving them the weapons et al., and that has to stop!
Paul Larudee, whose project to relieve the Gazans by sea was written up by me twice in these pages, stated that â€œPalestine is made to suffer because they are not Jews.â€
He notes how the State of Israel has expanded the definition of Jewishness to allow more potential Settlers within as citizens; therefore, he sarcastically, avers â€œWhy not make the Palestinians Jews!â€ I am not sure of the taste of his suggestion, but Palestine is, also, a geographical â€œneighborhood,â€ and all who live within should be considered Palestinian (again, back to the â€œMahatmaâ€™sâ€ 1938 essay), and that would include the Jews as in the pre-Partition Ottoman Province.
He believes racism is the core of the problem. I would argue that it is not racism since they belong to the same race, but Sectarianism.
Hisham Ahmed is a blind Palestinian-American Professor at a small (San Francisco) Bay Area Roman Catholic College who was raised in a refugee camp located near Jerusalem.
â€œIsrael had unleashed a savage attack upon Gazaâ€¦ [and the Gazans] had to stand up! Before the onslaught a Cabinet Minister from the Knesset remarked â€œâ€¦We have to start a holocaust on Gaza!â€ This is a â€œ…act of sadism!â€ As my readers know, and Ahmed re-emphasizes, Gaza has been under a total blockade for years. Although Dr. Hisham is a critic of Hamas, he attests that they had upheld their part of the prior treaty. The West bank is hell, too. They wish to â€œâ€¦destroy our will to resist,â€ but their PR (Public Relations; i.e., propaganda) has failed! â€œâ€¦Israel is uglyâ€¦Egypt is sitting on a volcanoâ€¦â€ which can only lead to lead to international instability! Before proceeding to sanctions, he suggests a legal campaign from granting visa to Israeli officials from entering the United States. â€œThe fall of Palestine is real,â€ but independence is near!
Thereâ€™s a revolution in Iran that, for once, has nothing to do with politics, religion or the nuclear arms race. In fact, it has more to do with vanity than anything else. The number of Iranians, both men and women, seeking to alter their appearances with the help of a scalpel has increased exponentially over the years. Blame it on satellite television and the Internet, which bombards the average Iranian with images of western beauty around the clock. The influence of the West on the Iranian culture is evident, and proudly worn, in the form of designer clothes, extravagant make-up and so much bling that even the Ayatollah might do a double take.
One of the biggest beauty trends to hit the country is plastic surgery. A veritable bevy of surgeries are available for the Iranian elite from facelifts to tattooed make-up to glittering rhinestones surgically implanted in the gums. However, the most popular surgical procedure is rhinoplasty, or the common nose job. The procedure is so in demand that Iran has become the nose job capital of the world. There are an estimated 3,000 licensed plastic surgeons in Tehran alone. And the majority of Iranian plastic surgeons have performed tens of thousands of procedures, which is much more than their western counterparts often perform in a single year.
The cost of a nose job in Iran ranges from between $3,000-$5,000 a pop and is something that only the wealthy can afford. Rich Iranians who have the procedure often wear their bandages for weeks longer than they are supposed to in an obvious attempt to show off their â€˜red badge of courageâ€™. And even those who cannot afford the luxury of a nose job still try to increase their social status by donning fake bandages in a bid to create the illusion that they had the surgery.
Notably, Iranian men are just as likely to opt for plastic surgery as their female compatriots are. Years ago, it would have been a bit taboo for men to even consider going under the knife for the sake of their looks. However, times have changed with some Iranian men choosing to have plastic surgery so that they will be more pleasing for women to look at and have a better chance of marrying a beautiful woman.
Iranian experts in the field of plastic surgery, explain away the plastic surgery trend on one of two reasons. Either the candidate simply wants to look more beautiful or they have deeply rooted psychological problems. In the case of the latter, some Iranians are rejected with a refusal by the surgeon to conduct the operation. As a result, an enormous black market for plastic surgery procedures has emerged in Iranâ€™s underground where unlicensed surgeons perform risky operations in unclean conditions. The consequences are already beginning to bubble to the top in the form of facial disfigurement lawsuits that have flooded the Iranian court system.
It just goes to show that no matter where the locale, seeking perfection has become a marketable fashion trend that fuels the fires of an industry that feeds off of the insecurities of man.
Many Arabs Favor Nuclear Iran
By Jonathan Wright
CAIRO (Reuters) – The United States found little support in the Arab world when it invaded Iraq in 2003.
In a military confrontation with Tehran over Iranâ€™s nuclear program, it should not expect any more.
Some Arabs, mainly outside the Gulf, are positively enthusiastic about Iranâ€™s program, even if it acquires nuclear weapons, if only because it would be a poke in the eye or a counterweight to Israel and the United States.
Others, especially in countries closest to Iran, are wary of any threat to the status quo and the instability it might bring.
Most in the Arab world see the U.S. and European campaign against Iran as hypocritical, while Israel refuses to allow international nuclear inspections and is thought to have some 200 nuclear warheads.
â€œI want the whole region free of all nuclear weapons but if the West continues its double-standard approach on this issue then Iran has the right (to have them),â€ said Abdel-Rahman Zaâ€™zaâ€™, a 29-year-old Lebanese engineer.
â€œThis could provide some balance against Israel and help the Palestinians in their negotiations. We have to take our rights because they are not going to be given to us,â€ he added.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptâ€™s largest opposition group, said this week it saw no harm in Iran developing nuclear arms.
â€œThat would create a kind of equilibrium between the two sides â€” the Arab and Islamic side on one side and Israel on the other,â€ said deputy Brotherhood leader Mohamed Habib.
Arab League chief Amr Moussa said on Tuesday policies toward nuclear programs in the region needed thorough review.
â€œThese policies which are based on double standards will blow up and escalate this issue and this escalation will not include only Iran and Israel,â€ he said. The Arab League represents 22 Arab governments, from Morocco to the Gulf.
Iran says it has no intention of making nuclear bombs and wants enriched uranium only to generate electricity. The United States says it does not believe it.
Analysts said they detected a surprising level of sympathy and support for Iran in the region.
â€œItâ€™s amazing how encouraging people are of the whole thing. Some think the Iranians are on the way to acquiring it (nuclear weapons capability) and are quite excited,â€ said Hesham Kassem, editor of the independent Cairo newspaper Al Masry Al Youm.
â€œThere doesnâ€™t seem to be any awareness that it might be a calamity,â€ added Kassem, who said he personally was afraid of an arms race bringing in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey.
Mohamed el-Sayed Said, deputy director of the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, a Cairo think tank, said: â€œPeople are very very warm about it (Iranâ€™s nuclear program).â€
â€œAnyone who challenges the United States will find a great deal of support. Thatâ€™s a very profitable enterprise in public opinion terms,â€ he added.
â€œEven if it takes an arms race, people donâ€™t mind. What we have here is wounded dignity and revulsion about the lack of fairness and double standards.â€
Most Arab governments have called for a peaceful solution to the confrontation with Iran, in the hope that diplomacy will enable it to develop nuclear energy under U.N. supervision.
If they speak about nuclear weapons, they say the whole Middle East should be nuclear-free, implicitly including Israel. U.S. officials say they can only deal with Israelâ€™s nuclear activities after a comprehensive Middle East peace.
Analysts in the Gulf raised special concerns. â€œGulf states are legitimately concerned about Iran joining the nuclear club,â€ said Abdel-Khaleq Abdullah, a professor of political science in the United Arab Emirates.
â€œThe possibility of a fourth Gulf war is just beyond our ability to manage. We donâ€™t want it. It will just make life miserable and hell,â€ he added.
Saudi analyst Dawoud al-Sharayan said an Iranian nuclear bomb could give the United States a pretext to maintain its military forces in the Gulf and add to the tension.
Saudi Arabia would then have the right to think about having its own nuclear weapon, he added. –
(Additional reporting by Mohammed Abbas in Cairo, Alaa Shahine in Beirut, Miral Fahmy in Dubai and Andrew Hammond in Saudi Arabia)
“New Urgency” to Curb Iran
By Christian Lowe
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia said on Wednesday it wanted to refrain from taking action before a U.N. deadline set for Tehran to halt uranium enrichment expired, but a top U.S. official believed other countries were inching toward action.
Tensions remained high, with oil prices hitting a new high above $73, partly driven by fears the dispute could disrupt shipments from the world’s fourth-largest oil exporter.
“What I heard in the room last night was not agreement on the specifics but to the general notion that Iran has to feel isolation and that there is a cost to what they are doing,” UnderSecretary of State Nicholas Burns told reporters.
“Now we need to go beyond that and agree on the specifics of what measures we need to put that into operation,” he said.
He said Iran’s shock announcement last week that it had enriched uranium to a low level and planned to produce it on an industrial scale had focused the minds of the international community.
The US and its European allies say Tehran could divert highly enriched uranium to make bombs.
“What is new is a greater sense of urgency given what the Iranians did last week … Nearly every country is considering some sort of sanctions and that is a new development. We heard last night and again today that all of those that spoke are looking at sanctions,” Burns said.
In a surprise development, an Iranian delegation appeared later in the day in Moscow for talks with officials from the EU3â€”Britain, France and Germanyâ€”although one European official said he did not expect a “breakthrough.”
The Security Council on March 29 gave Iran a month to halt enrichment and answer questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on its nuclear program.
Russia and China, which both have veto power in the council, say they are not convinced sanctions would work. U.S. officials had hoped to use the talks to persuade them to take a tougher line on Iran, which it suspects of seeking nuclear weapons.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said some countries, including Russia, wanted to wait until the U.N. nuclear watchdog reports on Iranian compliance on April 28 before acting.
“We are convinced of the need to wait for the IAEA report due at the end of the month,” Lavrov told reporters.
An Iranian delegation headed to Moscow for talks on the dispute, Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki told state radio.
He said officials from the Foreign Ministry and the Supreme National Security Council would “discuss possible solutions which could pave the way to reach a comprehensive understanding based on a recognition of Iran’s right to nuclear technology.”
Iran says it only wants nuclear power for civilian use, but Russia said Tehran was not responding to international demands.
One diplomat from a country that opposes Iran’s nuclear work said Iran could suggest a “pause.”
“This is to prepare the ground for renewing negotiations with the Europeans,” the diplomat, said about the proposal. It was unclear how long the pause would be.
A senior EU3 diplomat said he would welcome Iranâ€™s presentating such an initiative and halting their enrichment research. But it would have to be more than a brief technical pause in order for the Europeans to revive negotiations with Tehran.
Burns said Washington was opposed to allowing Iran any kind of pause, calling some of Iran’s negotiating positions “a ruse.”
Market worries that the nuclear crisis might disrupt Iranian oil exports pushed oil above $73 a barrel, a fresh record.
Tuesday’s meeting of deputy foreign ministers from Russia, China, the United States, Germany, France and Britain underlined international differences over punitive action against Iran.
All the powers have said they are determined to solve the problem through diplomatic means, but the US is alone among them in not ruling out military action.
Pres. Bush plans to raise the issue during PM Hu Jintaoâ€™s visit.