Friday, August 26, 2011

DOJ Keeping Islamic Bank Settlement Secret

by IPT News

The Justice Department has agreed to end its investigation into an international financial network with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and a Saudi prince in a settlement in excess of $30 million, sources tell the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

But DOJ officials refuse to release a copy of the settlement or make any comment on it.

"Unfortunately, we're unable to provide anything in connection with this matter," DOJ spokesman Charles Miller wrote in response to a query Aug. 16. He did not contest the existence of the settlement with the Islamic Investment Company of the Gulf (IICG). Repeated attempts to obtain the settlement, or at least a clear explanation of why it cannot be released when most government settlements are a part of the public record, have been unsuccessful.

"We will have no further comment," Miller said Wednesday.

Reports of a grand jury investigation into an IICG domestic affiliate called Overland Capital surfaced early in 2007. Though the grand jury was convened in Boston in September 2006, a terror-financing prosecutor from DOJ was leading the tax evasion probe into the bank, the Wall Street Journal reported. Overland Capital allegedly was controlled by the Dar al-Maal al-Islami Trust (DMI), an Islamic financial institution founded by Saudi Prince Mohamed al-Faisal and which had at least two influential Muslim Brotherhood figures on its board, the Journal reported.

It described DMI as "the hub of a network of banks and investment funds across Europe and the Middle East that cater to Muslims interested in strictly following Quranic principles, such as a ban on collecting interest." It cited records showing DMI held "an indirect 60 percent" share in Overland Capital.

The IICG, meanwhile, is a "wholly owned subsidiary" of DMI Trust, according to the Faysal Asset Management Limited website. IICG has operations on four continents and managed $1.6 billion in funds in December 2007. Saudi Prince Mohamed al-Faisal founded DMI Trust nearly 30 years ago, the Journal reported. He remains on its board, along with serving on the boards of Faisal Islamic banks in Sudan and Egypt.

The Faisal Private Bank reportedly was investigated during the 1990s for possible terror financing links. The Journal story notes that it was mentioned in a Hamas financing case involving transfers to the group and its current deputy political director, Mousa Abu Marzook.

DMI has had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, with at least two of the movement's contemporary figures serving on its board. Sudanese Brotherhood figure Hassan al-Turabi spent 10 years as a DMI director during the 1980s and early 90s, the New York Times reported in August 2007. During the same time he was a director, Turabi urged Osama bin Laden to move al-Qaida to Sudan, the 9/11 Commission Report said.

Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi also served as an early DMI Trust advisor, the Times reported. Though labeled a moderate by some, Qaradawi has a long record of anti-Semitism, support for Palestinian suicide bombings and attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, and recently expressed his desire to kill a Jew before he dies.

Records from civil litigation in Fort Worth indicate that the criminal investigation remained active as recently as February. In October, a judge granted a stay of discovery in a breach of contract lawsuit between Vinewood Capital, LLC and DMI Trust. The stay was based on a government request that is sealed. But in his order granting the stay, U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means wrote that the government asked for the delay to protect information from a key witness in the criminal investigation who is subject to discovery in the civil case.

"[D]isclosure of the contents of his testimony would substantially prejudice the pending criminal investigation," Judge Means wrote.

The criminal investigation involved statutes covering tax evasion and conspiracy to defraud the United States by IICG.

"Additionally," the judge wrote citing the sealed government motion, "while IICGB has not been indicted, the 'investigation has been ongoing for nearly four years[,] has continued to progress[,] and is nearing a conclusion.'"

In January, after DMI sought another discovery freeze in the civil suit, DOJ prosecutor Corey Smith wrote that, while the government requested the earlier stay, it did not need additional time. "The Motion also accurately represents my comment that I believe a settlement of the Criminal Case with [IICG] criminal counsel is likely in the very near future."

That appears to have happened. But the Department of Justice is keeping all the details secret.

IPT News (The Investigative Project on Terrorism)


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

One Million Israelis Under Missile Fire

by Noam Bedein

It took me 20 minutes to drive to Ashdod from Tel-Aviv on Sunday morning, August 21st, 2 days after Ashdod, the fifth biggest city in Israel, was hit by seven Grad missiles fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza. According the IDF Spokesperson’s Office, over 100 rockets and mortars were fired towards Israel since Friday, August 19th.

As has been the routine in Sderot for the past five years, my car windows are rolled down, the radio volume is lowered, and I get ready to hear a siren that will give me and everyone else 45 seconds to find a safe place. On the bright side, 45 seconds to run for your life is an improvement over the 15 seconds you have in Sderot.

The local news on the car radio announces burial plans for Yossi Ben Sasson, age 38, who was killed from the Grad missile the night before in Beer Sheva, when he was taking his wife, nine months pregnant, for a medical check up. And the news item that follows is about a young woman fighting for her life at the Soroka hospital, also in Beer Sheva.

I reach ‘Admor Me’gor’ street in Ashdod, where only a few days before – at 8:12 a.m. on Friday morning, August 19th, – a Grad missile exploded within range of 900 yeshiva students and high school kids who were beginning their school day.

Yakkov Bozaglo, 56, who was taking shelter from the Grad missile on Friday morning, described the huge explosion and the scene of three seriously injured men as they left their small synagogue; how they were treated for shrapnel wounds on the spot, while thanking G-d that the high school and elementary students were set to arrive 15 minutes after the explosion.

Driving onto the next scene where a missile penetrated three meters deep into the sand, burrowing into a ditch between two synagogues, causing damage, but leaving all the holy books and Ark with the Torah scroll unscathed.

Ariel Zeldman, age 26, who came to see his synagogue that morning, where he prayed during the attack, described how everyone ran outside, crossed the street to the 7th floor apartment building to take cover. Ariel described how he held the hand of an elderly man who only reached half of the distance and was also injured by debris, even though he had 45 seconds to find shelter.

Leaving Ashdod and driving south towards Sderot, the bomb shelter capital of the world”, there was a sign post on Route 4, next to Nitzan’s tent city encampment, with signs screaming: “6 years, until when?!”

The tents and sign depict the plight of Jewish residents from Gush Katif in Gaza who have been living in refugee-type conditions in Nitzan, since the IDF pulled all civilians and military personnel out of Gaza exactly six years ago, in August 2005.

Six years ago, these and other Gush Katif residents pleaded their case to the government and the media, warning that missiles will reach Ashdod if they and the IDF leave Gaza. Today, they point out that the 60 kilometer range Iranian Grad missiles in Gaza can easily reach the other tent encampments on Sderot Rothschild in Tel-Aviv. The former Gaza residents are genuinely concerned about attacks on other Israeli communities, including those in Tel Aviv, even though the leaders of the Tel Aviv encampment probably favored the forced expulsion of Jewish families from Gaza.

As the Internet site News1 headlined on Saturday night, one million Israelis in a 40 kilometer radius from Gaza are now under missile fire.

While Iron Dome batteries haves been erected near Beershava and Ashkelon, Ofakim and other Israeli communities can only dream of having an Iron dome battery to protect their town.

Ofakim, a development town located 20 kilometers from Gaza with a population of 30,000 people, was hit Saturday night by a Grad missile which exploded directly into the Amoyal family’s home. The rocket left their family home completely destroyed, something I hadn’t seen in five years of living and documenting Qassam attacks on Sderot.

At the Amoyal home, I saw brick walls up to 20 centimeters thick crashed and blown away into the kitchen, demolishing four rooms of the entire house, leaving Kfir Amoyal, age 25 , alone, shivering in his bedroom, suffering from shock and from light wounds.

Attacks from Gaza and Israeli targeted responses will continue for the foreseeable future. To our dismay, global media will continue focusing on Israel’s response to terrorism while ignoring or minimizing the terrorists’ and their leaders’ actions and constant declarations of their intention to wipe us off the map and out of existence.

In addition to our remarkable military capabilities, Israel needs a policy corollary to the Iron Dome when it comes to dealing with the driving force behind the Gaza terror regime and their counterparts in other parts of the country.

Israel must deal with the root of the problem and not waste time debating which town to protect or continue throwing money at complex and expensive technology that will, at best, only prevent a small percentage of rockets from reaching their targets.

Noam Bedein


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Cleansing Indonesia

by Frank Crimi

A shocking verdict rendered by an Indonesian court underscores the rising tide of violence and discrimination against religious minorities in Indonesia, long purported to be the world’s most tolerant Muslim nation.

In February 2011, Deden Sudjana, a 48-year old Indonesian male, was one of twenty members of a Muslim minority sect called the Ahmadiyah who were violently attacked by an enraged Muslim mob while they gathered in a house in the Indonesian village of Cikeusik.

The fury of the mob attack — which ironically occurred during Indonesia’s Interfaith Harmony Week — was engendered by the presence of Ahmadiyah in Cikeusik. The Ahmadiyah, with 200,000 followers in Indonesia, is considered heretical by many Muslims because of its belief that Muhammad was not the final prophet.

While Sudjana and a handful of Ahmadiyah men tried to defend the property with stones and slingshots, they were quickly overwhelmed by nearly 1,500 Muslims, all armed with clubs, machetes and rocks.

In a terrifying scene caught on video, three Ahmadiyah men were killed and the others badly beaten. As the mob danced around the dead men, laughing and chanting “God is Great,” Indonesian police merely stood and watched.

However, the Indonesian police did manage to arrest Sudjana — whose hand was nearly severed by a machete in the attack — for ostensibly inciting the mob to violence by not leaving the home upon the mob’s arrival.

While that action may have been surprising, it was overshadowed in early August when an Indonesian court sentenced Sudjana to six months in jail. It was a verdict that understandably shocked Sudjana, given the fact that 12 members of the attacking mob had been given sentences between three to six months.

In fact, one of those attackers who had crushed in the skull of an Ahmadiyah man with a rock was released from prison days before Sudjana’s sentencing. Upon his return to Cikeusik, he was treated as a conquering hero by his fellow villagers. As one man said of the attack, “I do feel bad people had to die, but we had to clean our village.”

So, as he was being escorted from the courtroom, an incredulous Sudjana asked aloud, “I’m the victim. Why am I getting a higher sentence than some of the perpetrators?”

Mistreatment of the Ahmadiyah has escalated dramatically since 2008 when the Indonesian government decreed the Ahmadiyah to be a deviant sect whose followers could face up to five years in prison for practicing their faith. Since then, over a hundred violent incidents against the Ahmadiyah have been recorded, incidents which include the torching of mosques and homes.

One of the bigger driving forces behind those attacks has been the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a violent and hard-line Islamic militant group founded in 1998 whose stated goal is the implementation of Sharia law in Indonesia.

Unfortunately, the Ahmadiyah are not the only ones to offend the religious sensibilities of the FPI and other Muslim groups. Christians have also seen a dramatic escalation of discrimination and violence launched against them.

In 2011 alone, the Indonesian Community of Churches reported at least 20 churches were forced to suspend services due to mob threats and government intervention, with scores more torched and vandalized.

Unfortunately, replacing a destroyed church or building a new one is highly problematic as Indonesian law requires that construction of a new church must have the support of 60 percent of a community’s residents, an often impossible task for Christians who make up less than nine percent of Indonesia’s total population.

In one notable example, local authorities in Bogor, a suburb of the capital city of Jakarta, have prevented the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) from moving into a new building for over two years despite a ruling from Indonesia’s Supreme Court that the church be unsealed.

Yet, Bogor’s mayor, Diani Budiarto, has refused to comply with the order and has recently come up with a new excuse for not opening the church, reasoning that the street the church was built on has an Islamic name and is thus an offense to Muslims.

Unfortunately, the Indonesian government has refused to intervene in the case. According to Indonesia’s Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi, “this is the political reality in the field and it could cause disturbances to security and peace. It would not be healthy in the long run, even for the congregation members themselves.”

Unfortunately, Fauzi’s concern for Christian well-being is well-placed as Muslim intolerance has grown more overt. It’s a trend perhaps best expressed in June 2010, at the second Bekasi Islamic Congress in Bekasi, West Java, when Muslims were instructed to form Islamic paramilitary forces in readiness for a jihad against Christians.

Another more recent example of that intolerance occurred in February 2011 when a Christian man accused of blasphemy for distributing pamphlets that apparently insulted Islam received a sentence of five years in prison. However, a mob of over 1,000 Muslims, believing the verdict required a death sentence, went on a rampage, storming the courthouse and setting several local Christian churches on fire.

Yet, despite Muslims making up over ninety percent of Indonesia’s 240 million citizens, the Indonesian government insists it is committed to promoting religious tolerance, citing its constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion.

Instead, some have laid the blame for the rise in religious intolerance squarely at the doorstep of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Critics say that because Yudhoyono relies on the support of Islamic parties in parliament, he has been reluctant to condemn or act upon religiously-motivated violence and thus has emboldened the FPI and other Islamist groups.

While Yudhoyono hasn’t been a profile in courage in dealing with the issue, others say it is the Indonesian government’s own laws and its selective enforcement that are actually fueling the continued harassment and persecution of religious minorities.

Specifically, Indonesia’s blasphemy law grants local governments the freedom to charge and detain members of religious minorities that are considered deviant. In fact, in April 2010 Indonesia’s Supreme Court ruled that that it was constitutional to ban religious groups that “distort” or “misrepresent” official faiths.

While Indonesia officially recognizes six religions (Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism) in practice, the blasphemy law is applied primarily to perceived offenses against Islam.

Unfortunately, the punishment for those offenses, whether carried out by the Indonesian government or by an enraged mob, can be quite severe. As he lingers alone in his jail cell, it’s a fact Deden Sudjana understands all too well.

Frank Crimi


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Israeli Ambassador Confirms: Erdogan 'Hates Us Religiously'

by Andrew G. Bostom

The progressive dismantling of Turkey's experiment in Westernization/ secularization -- which began within a decade of Ataturk's death -- came to popular, if ugly, fruition with the election of the Necmettin Erbakan government in the early 1990s.

Erbakan was a full-throated, unapologetic promulgator of mainstream, "sacralized" Islamic Jew-hatred. The modern fundamentalist Islamic movement Erbakan founded (the Islamic Milli Gorus movement, which originated in 1969) has continued to produce the most extreme strain of Antisemitism extant in Turkey, and traditional Islamic motifs, i.e., frequent quotations from the Koran and Hadith, remain central to this hatred, nurtured by early Islam's basic animus towards Judaism. For example, Milli Gazete published articles in February and April of 2005, which were toxic amalgams of ahistorical drivel and virulently anti-Semitic and anti-dhimmi Koranic motifs, including these prototypical comments based upon Koran 2:61/ 3:112:

In fact no amount of pages or lines would be sufficient to explain the Qur'anic chapters and our Lord Prophet's [Muhammad's] words that tell us of the betrayals of the Jews. ... The prophets sent to them, such as Zachariah and Isaiah, were murdered by the Jews...

Erbakan mentored current AKP leaders President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan. Both were previously active members of Erbakan's assorted fundamentalist political parties, serving in mayoral, ministerial, and parliamentary posts. The IHH -- whose violent operatives featured prominently in the Mavi Marmara flotilla anti-Semitic incitement and subsequent bloodshed -- has its origins in this same Orthodox Islamic Milli Görüş movement.

In 1974, Erdogan, while serving as president of the Istanbul Youth Group of his mentor, former Prime Minister Erbakan's National Salvation Party, wrote, directed, and played the leading role in a theatrical play entitled Maskomya, staged throughout Turkey during the 1970s. Mas-Kom-Ya was a compound acronym for "Masons-Communists-Yahudi" - the latter meaning "Jews." The play focused on the evil, conspiratorial nature of these three entities whose common denominator was Judaism.

Now, finally, we learn that Erdogan's religiously-inspired Jew-hatred has not passed unnoticed by Gabby Levy, the Israeli ambassador to Turkey, whose term is scheduled to expire in a week. As recorded in a Wikileaks cable from October 2009, sent by the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey:

Levy dismissed political calculation as a motivator for Erdogan's hostility, arguing the prime minister's party had not gained a single point in the polls from his bashing of Israel. Instead, Levy attributed Erdogan's harshness to deep-seated emotion: "He's a fundamentalist. He hates us religiously and his hatred is spreading."

Andrew G. Bostom


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

What about Syria's and Libya's WMDs?

by Ethel C. Fenig

Adding to the worries about Iran's nuclear developments and now the fate of nuclear material in civil war wracked Libya is the status of other weapons of mass destruction(WMDs)--chemical weapons.

Both Syria and Libya possess them; however under Syria's Bashar al Assad and Libya's Moammar Khadaffi, brutal as they were, they controlled their chemical weapons. What will happen if and when the revolutionaries take over is uncertain and therefore frightening.

In an important analysis in Foreign Policy, Leonard Specter discusses

Syria is one of a handful of states that the U.S. government believes possess large stocks of chemical agents in militarized form -- that is, ready for use in artillery shells and bombs. The arsenal is thought to be massive, involving thousands of munitions and many tons of chemical agents, which range, according to CIA annual reports to Congress, from the blister gases of World War I -- such as mustard gas -- to advanced nerve agents such as sarin and possibly persistent nerve agents, such as VX gas.

In the hands of Assad -- and his father Hafez before him -- these weapons have been an ace-in-the-hole deterrent against Israel's nuclear capability. The Assad regime, however, has never openly brandished this capability: It did not employ chemical weapons in the 1982 Lebanon War against Israel, even after Israeli warplanes decimated the Syrian Air Force. Nor have they been deployed, or their use threatened, in attempting to bring Assad's current domestic antagonists to heel. And although Syria is accused of providing powerful missiles to Hezbollah, including some of a type that carried chemical warfare agents in the Soviet arsenal, Assad has not reportedly transferred lethal chemical capabilities to the Lebanon-based Shiite organization.

So despite their many faults and deplorable record on human rights, the Assads have treated their chemical arsenal with considerable care. But as the country potentially descends into chaos, will that hold true?"

Specter analyzes several possible scenarios.

"If anti-Assad insurgents take up arms, the chemical sites, as symbols of the regime's authority, could become strategic targets. And, if mass defections occur from the Syrian army, there may be no one left to defend the sites against seizure. This could lead to disastrous outcomes, including confiscation of the chemical weapons by a radical new national government or sale of the weapons as war booty to organized nonstate actors or criminal groups.

In such chaos, no one can predict who might control the weapons or where they might be taken. With these chemical weapons in the hands of those engaged in a possible civil war, the risks that they would be used would increase substantially. The problem would be worsened further if some possessors were not fully aware of the extent of the weapons' deadly effects.

And let's imagine that Assad is eventually removed: What leaders would gain control of these weapons after he departed? Saudi-backed Sunni groups? Iranian-backed Shiite organizations? Whoever they might be, it is unclear that the newcomers would follow the Assads' cautious-use doctrine and refusal to share chemical weapons with nonstate groups, or that the new leaders would be able to maintain strict security measures at the chemical sites.

Meanwhile, it's possible that an existential threat will cause the Assad regime to abandon its previous policy of restraint regarding chemical weapons. It is not a huge leap from attacking civilians with tank fire, machine guns, and naval artillery to deploying poison gas, and the shock effect and sense of dread engendered by even limited use could quash a citywide uprising within an hour."

And what can the US do about this? Very little, according to Specter.

"The options available to the United States to minimize these risks are limited at best."

Writing in Israel's YNet News, Yitzhak Benhorin reports on Libya's WMDs.

"Western analysts believe that the country's WMD (weapons of mass destruction) arsenal alone contains some 10 tons of various chemical agents which can inflict grave damage. It is also believed that Gaddafi was in possession of Scud-B missiles, over 1,000 tons of uranium powder and mass quantities of conventional weapons."

As part of a normalization process with the US, Khadaffi had agreed to and signed an agreement under President George W. Bush (R) destroying its WMDs, even sending the US blueprints of the country's nuclear infrastructure and also destroying several thousand aircraft and long range missiles. In addition

"In 2004 Tripoli joined the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) yet US sources claim that Libyan plans to halt production of chemical weapons and destroy chemical weapons arsenals were held up due to disputes between Libya and the US over funding an logistics."

Again the question, what can the US do about this?

"The Americans and their NATO partners are observing Libya via satellite, drones and other aircraft used to gather intelligence. The US and other countries also have intelligence personnel placed on the ground in Libya, tasked with aiding Libyan opposition factions in securing the chemical weapons' sites.

It is possible that NATO has personnel placed within the arsenals themselves, though this has not been confirmed."

Again, not much the US can do although probably more than in Syria.

And of course much is happening quietly, secretly.

hat tip:

Ethel C. Fenig


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Morocco Blocking Integration of Muslim Immigrants in Spain

by Soeren Kern

The Moroccan government is aggressively implementing "a strategy of great magnitude" to exert control over the religious and cultural beliefs and practices of the nearly one million Moroccan immigrants who reside in Spain.

The strategy involves establishing a parallel Muslim society in Spain by discouraging Moroccans from integrating into their host country, and by encouraging them instead to live an Islamic lifestyle isolated from Spanish society.

Rabat is also financing the construction of hundreds of mosques in Spain whose imams are directly appointed by the Moroccan government. Moreover, the North African country is attempting to impose Muslim religious instruction in Spanish public schools, and is pressuring Moroccan families to remove their children from those schools that fail to comply.

The observations are included in a newly leaked secret report prepared by Spain's National Intelligence Center (CNI), excerpts of which have been published by the Madrid-based El País newspaper.

The CNI document says: "Designed and developed by the [Moroccan] regime, the objective is to extend its influence and augment its control over the Moroccan colonies [in Spain] by means of religion."

The CNI document continues: Rabat "has as its main objective the control over its colony [of the one million Moroccan immigrants in Spain] to detect opposition movements to the regime and to prevent the emergence of Islamic currents that depart from the dominant one" in Morocco, which practices the Maliki school of Islam.

Rabat's "principal tool of control" is the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities [FEERI], whose president, Mohamed Hamed Ali, is a resident of the city of Ceuta [a Spanish enclave in northern Africa] and who proposes 'devolving' the city to Morocco," according to the CNI.

FEERI distributes its funds "not only among its members, but also among those associations who are prepared to follow instructions from Rabat." In the north-eastern Spanish region of Catalonia, where some 235,000 Moroccan immigrants have settled, the main recipient of Moroccan subsidies is the Consell Islàmic Cultural de Catalunya.

"The funds provided by Morocco to the Muslim communities in Spain are reaching considerably important quantities," according to the CNI.

In addition to FEERI, Rabat also supervises the religious beliefs of Moroccan immigrants "through its embassy and consulates, related personnel, and the Hassan II Foundation," which is presided by Princess Lalla Meryem, sister of King Mohamed VI.

The Hassan II Foundation, whose budget is not subject to oversight by the Moroccan parliament, funds Arabic language and Islamic culture classes at more than 100 public schools across Spain where the majority of students are Moroccan immigrants. The CNI says the classes discourage the integration of Muslim youth into Spanish society. "It [the classes] is a tool to teach the children of Moroccan immigrants how to be Moroccan" and not Spanish citizens, according to the CNI.

The "classes are taught exclusively by Moroccan teachers using teaching materials common in Morocco, but very different from those used in Spain, factors which result in that Moroccan youth profoundly internalize the differences" between themselves and their Spanish hosts.

Ultimately, the Moroccan state is thereby able to maintain control over its citizens abroad. With respect to the children, the control is exercised through learning the language and the official state culture." These classes also carry with them "Muslim religious instruction which is difficult to accept from the point of view of the configuration of teaching religion in our educational system," according to the CNI report.

A separate CNI report about financing Jihad in Spain provides other examples of how the Moroccan government is using Islam for political ends. For example, in November 2008, "the Moroccan Minister of Islamic Affairs organized and paid for a meeting in Marrakesh which was attended by a considerable number of imams and leaders of the Islamic communities in Spain," according to the CNI.

At that meeting, the Moroccan government promised "financing for all religious associations and mosques that are prepared to submit to the control of the [Moroccan] regime and to adhere to its instructions." The keynote speaker at the meeting was Mohamed Yassine Mansouri, head of the Moroccan Secret Service (DGED).

The CNI report also states: "The financing is having negative consequences for [multicultural] coexistence in Spain, such as the emergence of parallel societies and ghettos, Islamic courts and police that operate outside of Spanish jurisprudence, removing girls from schools, forced marriages, etc."

It continues: "There is insufficient control of financial flows involving grants and aid from other countries that are being funnelled to the Islamic community in Spain. For the most part donors are using alternative channels to ensure that their donations escape the control of the regular Spanish financial system. Donors should be made fully aware of the risks associated with such financing."

Morocco recently co-sponsored a weeklong seminar in Barcelona titled "Muslims and European Values" during which it was proposed that the construction of big mosques would be "a useful formula" to fight Islamic fundamentalism in Spain.

According to Noureddine Ziani, a Barcelona-based Moroccan imam: "It is easier to disseminate fundamentalist ideas in small mosques set up in garages where only the members of the congregation attend, than in large mosques that are open to everyone, with prayer rooms, cafes and meeting areas."

Ziani said it is absolutely necessary to accept Islamic values as European values and that from now on, Europeans should replace the term "Judeo-Christian" with term "Islamo-Christian" when describing Western Civilization.

Soeren Kern


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Arab Spring for Dummies

by Daniel Greenfield

Last year, Israel had three stable borders and one unstable border. Now that the Arab Spring has turned into Terror Summer, those numbers have flipped around. Israel’s border with Egypt has become as troubled as the Lebanese border. And the Syrian border is following close behind.

Obama had thought to use the Arab Spring as the linchpin of his reelection campaign, tying the unrest that brought down Mubarak to his Cairo speech. But the ugly turn of events in the region has him distancing himself from events instead.

The Arab Spring did not become the Soft Power alternative to the Bush Doctrine that his advisers expected it to be. Instead the economic protests exploited by State Department backed activists are sliding formerly pro-American countries into the Islamist camp.

The regional instability is most visible as its fracture points on the Israeli border.

The Arab Spring succeeded in dismantling the region’s only enduring Arab-Israeli peace accord. The Camp David Accords signed by Sadat and Begin had been used as a model for regional peace for decades. But with the Obama backed overthrow of Sadat’s successor, it has become worthless.

In troubled times the Muslim world seeks unity by finding external enemies to fight. And Israel has become Egypt’s negative consensus. Egyptian presidential candidates from all sides have disavowed the Camp David Accords. It is the one thing that liberals and the Muslim Brotherhood can agree on.

Mohamed ElBaradei was Obama’s man in Cairo, a board member of Soros’ International Crisis Group and the choice of Western diplomats and reporters to replace Mubarak. But Egyptian voters weren’t biting. Desperate, ElBaradei leapfrogged Ayman Nour and other competitors who had already disavowed the Accords, by going one step further and threatening a war with Israel. ElBaradei’s warmongering bid for popularity showed how dangerous the post-Mubarak Egypt had become.

Sacrificing the Accords that brought some stability to the region in order to score political points in their election campaigns is a measure of how wildly irresponsible Mubarak’s successors are. And how wildly irresponsible the Obama administration’s actions in Egypt were.

Obama turned on Mubarak for political advantage. And Mubarak’s successors are turning on Israel for political advantage. But all this maneuvering could easily lead to war.

The abandonment of the Accords has sent a message to terrorist groups that the leadership in Cairo supports their agenda and is willing to play the role of the Lebanese government, as they act out the part of Hezbollah. And the Popular Resistance Committees, the group allegedly behind the terrorist attacks in Southern Israel, is closely tied to Hezbollah.

Egyptian troops are in the Sinai in violation of the Accords, and there has already been an incident between Israel and Egypt. The violence in the Sinai is tied to political instability in Cairo. The worse the instability gets, the worse the violence becomes.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the junta currently ruling Egypt, is facing a political backlash over its suppression of liberal protesters. The Council is at its weakest in domestic policy, but at its strongest in military affairs. The easiest way for it to score points is to stage an incident with Israel. Which Egyptian activists allege is exactly what happened in the firefight between Egyptian security officers and the Israeli army.

Egypt has recalled its ambassador and Israel is speeding up the construction of a border fence. Egyptian protests at the Israeli embassy culminated in a protester scaling the building to pull down the Israeli flag and replace it with the Egyptian flag to the cheers of the Egyptian media. And Iran is likely redirecting the money that it used to send to Hamas over to the PRC which has shown that it can successfully kill Israelis and push Egypt and Israel closer to war.

There is no way that this cycle of escalation can be broken as long as Egyptian politicians continue to disavow the Camp David Accords, while scoring political points by promoting regional instability. The destruction of the Camp David Accords has not only damaged relations between Israel and Egypt, it has undermined the very idea of the regional peace accord. If an accord cannot survive a change of government, then any peace treaty signed with an Arab state is worthless.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has recognized this new reality by conceding that treaties can no longer be signed with states. Instead she’s championing treaties signed with “peoples”. This proposal carries with it a whiff of her infamous fake African proverb, “It Takes a Village”. A village can’t raise a child– and an entire people can’t sign a treaty. Only where there is no father, does a child have to be raised by a village. And only where there is no stable government, does a treaty have to be signed with a people.

The State Department expected that their pet activists would smoothly take power in Egypt after an internationally overseen election. They were wrong. And the blame stops at the top. A week after Obama told Mubarak to step down; he was replaced by a military junta. But this disaster goes back to the diplomats training ElBaradei’s activists to use the Otpor formula that overthrew Milosevic in Yugoslavia. The media broadcast the narrative that a handful of Twitter activists calling for human rights had removed a dictator from power. Now their narrative is unraveling.

Secular heroes like Wael Ghonim and Ayman Nour have made their pathetic obeisances to Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamist hatemonger. ElBaradei has also tried to kiss the Brotherhood’s ring. Even the media is no longer able to deny that the Brotherhood is in the driver’s seat of Egyptian politics. The alliances it makes will determine who rules Egypt. And Hamas is the Brotherhood by another name.

The Camp David Accords were one of the few good things that Carter ever did. And in a dubious achievement, Obama has managed to bring down the only good thing that the worst administration until his had done.

Jimmy Carter had his Iran, and now Obama has his Egypt. If the bloodshed that Iran has inflicted on its people and its region could be credited to Carter’s account– Obama deserves the credit for the violence exploding out of Egypt. And for the wars to come.

Daniel Greenfield


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Gaza Terror Groups Announce New Ceasefire

by Elad Benari

Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and the other terror groups in the Gaza Strip declared another ceasefire with Israel late Thursday night, Voice of Israel Radio reported.

According to the report, rocket attacks aimed at southern Israel’s communities will stop at 1:00 p.m. Israel time on Friday.

The announcement came after at least 17 rockets and mortar shells were fired from Gaza on Thursday evening. The rockets and mortars exploded in open fields in Eshkol, the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council, and south of Ashkelon. The “Color Red” warning siren was sounded in the areas under attack.

Shortly after 7:00 p.m. another rocket was fired that struck near the Erez crossing. The IAF reported that warplanes struck a separate terror cell preparing a launch just before the Erez attack and scored a “precise hit.”

After 10:00 p.m., terrorists in northern Gaza fired yet another rocket at the western Negev city of Sderot. The rocket hit an agricultural facility east of the city.

Thankfully, there were no physical injuries in any of Thursday’s attacks, which came after at least 20 rockets were fired into Israel Wednesday night.

According to Voice of Israel Radio, the announcement of the latest ceasefire was surprising since only several hours before the announcement, the Islamic Jihad terror group criticized Hamas for suggesting that it stop firing rockets.

A spokesman for the Islamic Jihad had been quoted as saying that “whoever calls for a lull while Israeli aggression, including aerial strikes and bombardments of civil and military targets continues – must be living on a different planet.”

The latest ceasefire, however, may not mean much, as the terror groups have declared ceasefires in the past and almost immediately violated them. In fact, the latest round of violence came after Hamas declared a ceasefire on Sunday evening.

The Islamic Jihad used the fact that Israel killed one of its terrorists, who had been planning a terror attack in Gaza, as an excuse to launch a barrage of rockets at southern Israel.

Elad Benari


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Hamas in Political, Financial Squeeze

by IPT News

Hamas' rule in Gaza may face new difficulties, with reports emerging about the group's potentially dire financial situation and domestic pressure on its sponsors, Iran and Syria.

"In a sign of a cash crunch, the Hamas government in Gaza has failed to pay the July salaries of its 40,000 employees in the civil service and security forces," Reuters reporter Nidal al-Mughrabi wrote in a recent story on the group's financial woes. "Hamas leaders promised full payments in August, but not all employees received their wages as scheduled on Sunday."

The financial crisis was sparked by Iran's reduction - and then suspension - of aid, primarily because the group has not sponsored rallies in favor of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.

But Hamas finds itself caught between a rock and hard place, as Syria's embarrassing and brutal crackdown on protesters extended to a Palestinian refugee camp near the city of Latakia. Assad's naval gunships and armed forces pounded the camp, killing an unknown number of residents and forcing more than 10,000 Palestinian refugees to flee. Syria has since been accused of covering up the incident.

"On the one hand, Hamas does not want the Syrian regime to disappear," Syrian political scientist Bassam Ezbidi told The Media Line, a Jerusalem-based news agency. "But on the other hand, how can it justify its strategic alliance with a state that kills Palestinians? Hamas has always regarded itself as a resistance movement which represents the Palestinian people, and that's the bottom line."

Financial struggles are a hit that Hamas has been unwilling to fully acknowledge. Despite the group's claims that it is only having "financial liquidity" programs, Hamas' reliance on Iranian aid vastly exceeds its revenues from all other sources. Taxes on merchants and goods from Israel and tunnels accounted for about a tenth of the group's $540 million budget last year. Iranian aid is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

There has also been a sharp decline in funding from the Muslim Brotherhood, another major supporter of the Palestinian terrorist organization, as the Brotherhood allocates funds to political forces of the Arab Spring.

Financial support isn't the only thing that Iran and Syria offer Hamas. The group has withstood tremendous diplomatic pressure from outside sources, particularly since it violently seized the Gaza Strip in 2007. Iran and Syria have helped the group sustain its campaign of terror through weapons shipments and advanced military courses.

In 2006, Syria proclaimed its unabashed support for Hamas, promising to raise funds for the group and establish direct phone links with it. "We are not afraid of anyone in our support for the Palestinian cause," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said at a joint press conference with Hamas leader Mahmoud Az-Zahar. Huge Iranian shipments of weapons passed through Syria on their way to Hamas, including 50 tons of weapons which were seized by the Israeli navy in March.

Despite a common interest in harassing Israel, Hamas' brotherly relationship with Syria has soured at a rapid pace. Hamas refused to support the crackdown on fellow Sunni protesters in Syria, putting it at odds with the country's non-Sunni leadership and Iran's Shiite government. In May, Hamas fought back against rumors that it would move its offices from Damascus to Cairo, even arguing with reports on the move from its ally, the Muslim Brotherhood. Although these rumors proved to be false, the negativity between the two parties has been an open secret in diplomatic circles and even on the Palestinian street.

Outside pressure on the group has been matched by internal stresses.

Islamist groups are pushing Hamas to Islamize Gaza more rapidly and thoroughly, at times carrying out violent actions. Salafi Islamists like Jaljalat and Jaish al Islam call for an Islamic Emirate based in Gaza, creating a base for an unending war with Israel.

These groups also believe that Hamas doesn't go far enough in resisting its enemy. On online forums and in rallies, they accuse Hamas of "leaving the path set by the group's great founders," including the liberation of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem and "defending the Quran." Instead, they claim, Hamas has grown too close to disbelievers and uses "fake" scholars who go so far as to justify the killing of Muslims. Worst of all, they are accused of abandoning the jihad against Israel.

Hamas has maintained an uneasy relationship with these Salafi groups, at times cooperating for attacks but often cracking down on them. They have even smashed smaller groups like Jund Ansar Allah, who denounced Hamas, declared their own Emirate, and started to impose a stricter form of Shariah in a corner of Gaza.

Many Gazans, on the other hand, are resentful of the material prosperity of the Hamas elite or in its harsh imposition of certain Shariah restrictions.

Many among Gaza's budding middle class are Hamas members, a fact which the group denies but is sparking resentment among many people. "Hamas has become rich at the expense of the people," The Associated Press quoted one Palestinian saying. The story noted that Hamas rose to power by "tending to the poor - through charitable aid, education and medical care - along with its armed struggle against Israel."

The imposition of Islamic law has been both harsh and cynical, with Hamas activists sometimes using the excuse of religion to violently break up protests against Hamas rule. Restrictions on women and public displays of affection have been applied, sometimes half-heartedly, sparking protests from secular groups about religious coercion and Islamists about the slow pace of Islamization.

Hamas has also felt pressure to balance between Western considerations and local concerns. A leader of a fellow militant group, the Popular Resistance Committee, wants greater Islamization in society, but recognize the "foreign considerations" at play. "If the West weren't applying pressure, Hamas would probably enact more Islamic laws," he said, according to a report by the International Crisis Group. In effect, Hamas pushed its agenda as a movement into the government, using rumors and haphazard enforcement to create a self-censorship in Gaza.

In addition to pressure on its core in Gaza, thousands of Hamas supporters outside of Gaza have faced a campaign of arrest, according to the Islamist group's news site. Primarily, this has been an effort by its Fatah rivals who have sought to control Hamas' growth and activity in the West Bank.

IPT News


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Momentum Seen For Un Sanctions Against Syria

by Rick Moran

Both the US and EU have their own set of sanctions already in place against Assad and his inner circle: Freezes on bank accounts, travel restrictions and the like.

Now the UN appears ready to put its weight behind sanctions, including perhaps a total arms embargo against the regime.


Syrian security forces killed at least 15 anti-government protesters since yesterday as the U.S. and its European allies sought to freeze President Bashar al- Assad's assets and impose an arms embargo on the country.

At least three protesters were shot dead today in the central city of Homs, while yesterday's deaths took place across the Hama governorate, Homs and the northern province of Idlib, Mahmoud Merhi, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, said by phone.

The U.S., Britain and France yesterday circulated a draft resolution to United Nations Security Council members that would freeze the foreign assets of Assad, his brother Maher and 21 other senior government officials. The president was excluded from the list of 22 officials whose travel from Syria would be barred. Maher Assad commands a Syrian army division.

Assad has used tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and helicopters to crush the most serious threat to his family's 40- year rule. The uprisings began in mid-March after revolts ousted the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt and sparked conflict in Libya.

There were nationwide protests late yesterday in the Damascus suburbs of Harasta, Kisweh and Douma and in the town of Zabadani, near the border with Lebanon, Merhi said today.

The key, as always, is Russia. Putin never met a thug he didn't like and his recalcitrance in imposing sanctions on Syria has as much to do with the profitable business arrangement Russia has with Syria as anything else. The Russians keep a steady supply of arms moving into Syria and they seem reluctant to cut that business off at this point.

But the sensibilities of the UN have been outraged by Assad's brutality so perhaps Russia might believe its time to cut their losses and join the bandwagon by voting for sanctions.

Action may be taken in the Security Council by week's end.

Rick Moran


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Nuke Experts Warn Of Dirty Bomb Material In Libya

by Rick Moran

The threat comes from the chaois [chaos] that ensues from any change of government and the insecurity of nuclear materials that could be used to fashion a bomb.


Olli Heinonen, head of U.N. nuclear safeguards inspections worldwide until last year, pointed to substantial looting that took place at Iraq's Tuwaitha atomic research facility near Baghdad after Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003.

In Iraq, "most likely due to pure luck, the story did not end in a radiological disaster," Heinonen said.

In Libya, "nuclear security concerns still linger," the former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in an online commentary.

Libya's uranium enrichment program was dismantled after Gaddafi renounced weapons of mass destruction eight years ago. Sensitive material and documentation including nuclear weapons design information were confiscated.

But the country's Tajoura research center continues to stock large quantities of radioisotopes, radioactive waste and low-enriched uranium fuel after three decades of nuclear research and radioisotope production, Heinonen said.

Refined uranium can have civilian as well as military purposes, if enriched much further.

For a terrorist with access to such materials, the challenge would be to build a device that would spread the radioactive contamination over the widest possible area. That takes an expertise lacking in all except trained terrorists from al-Qaeda labs.

Unless that stash of low level radioactive material is secured, I don't see us being quite as lucky as we were with the Iraqi stockpile.

Rick Moran


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Misreading the Mullahs

by Aaron Menenberg

For decades now, Western governments have been seeking to contain Iranian nuclear ambitions through a standard stick-and-carrot policy combining incentives for reforms with financial sanctions for retrenchments. This approach has failed primarily because it lacks appreciation of Iranian history and Islamic values as well as the extent of the regime's religious convictions and its attendant goals. Yet as Tehran experiences a slow but significant weakening of its governing blocs with many young Iranians free of the virulent anti-U.S. sentiments that fed the Islamic Revolution,[1] positive gains can be made if the Western capitals properly understand and act upon the Iranian reality.

The Regime's Islamist Convictions

In a 2005 speech to residents of the holy city of Qom, Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamene'i, outlined the errors made by the West in its evaluation of Iran, including its underrating of "the pivotal role of the religious and spiritual leadership in Iran."[2]

The Islamic Revolution was led by a group that believed that Islam would triumph over secular governance and that Iran, as the only country where a true Islamic government had been established, would play a central role in this victory. In the words of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the revolution's leader and the founding father of Iran's Islamic Republic:

The Iranian revolution is not exclusively that of Iran because Islam does not belong to any particular people … We will export our revolution throughout the world because it is an Islamic revolution. The struggle will continue until the calls "there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah" are echoed all over the world.[3]

This perspective remains a core belief of the Iranian leadership.[4] For Khamene'i, the revolution was about the restoration of the Islamic faith to the center of society's political, social, and religious life. Likewise, many within the current regime believe that the achievement of the goal of an umma (Islamic nation) on a global scale would be greatly facilitated by the attainment of nuclear weapons, which in turn makes the pursuit of these weapons too enticing to concede.

To disguise Iranian nuclear ambitions, Khamene'i has argued that Islam prohibits the production of weapons that could kill innocent civilians. In reality, this prohibition has not ended Tehran's nuclear drive, a substantial part of which was made under Khamene'i's watch. The religious establishment has always found sufficient rationalizations to support such efforts.

By contrast, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has openly stated that the arrival of the Hidden Imam, a messianic figure for Shiites, could be accelerated by global chaos and violence. Talking to European diplomats, he asked, "Do you know why we should wish for chaos at any price?" to which he answered, "because after chaos, we can see the greatness of Allah."[5]

It would be wrong, however, to imply that the president and Khamene'i see eye to eye on the religious justification for Iran's nuclear program or its broader foreign policy goals. Ahmadinejad is a well-established believer in the idea that mankind can (and should) accelerate the return of the Hidden Imam while Khamene'i does not agree that Muslims should work for the Imam's return though he does believe that the return is extremely desirable. Nor, for that matter, did Ayatollah Khomeini, the revolution's mastermind and leader, believe in expediting this messianic eventuality. That the current Iranian president is a diehard messianic is in fact a departure from the revolution's more down-to-earth Islamic imperialism.

When Khamene'i was brought into the role of the supreme leader, many within the religious establishment had reservations due to his limited religious credentials, his main forte being his extensive political experience. Prior to his elevation, Khamene'i cofounded the Islamic Republic Party and held numerous political and security positions, including deputy minister of defense; acting commander in chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps; member of the Majlis (parliament); head of the Council of Cultural Revolution; and state president. This presented a challenge to the revolution's religious ideals, in part because the Islamic Republic was not fully grounded in the infallibility of Islam, as is commonly assumed, but rather in the adoption and practice of Islam as it meshed with the regime's socioeconomic practices. Although Khomeini's theory of the rule of the jurist (velayate faqih), concentrating all spiritual and temporal power in his hands, was largely compatible with Islam's millenarian history, it was not so much designed to implement Islamic law as to give the supreme leader the authority to refine or overrule it.[6] Khamene'i's political background has thus been useful in sustaining Khomeini's legacy, allowing the regime to pursue its political interests through its authority to judge and selectively apply Islamic law.

As Ahmadinejad has increasingly politicized the religious component of the regime, Khamene'i has remained truer to its purity, creating a growing divergence between the two. In the unrest attending Ahmadinejad's 2009 electoral victory, the president and his supporters sensed an opportunity to wrest some powers from the supreme leader and the religious establishment, whose unpopularity and challenged authority made them vulnerable.

For his part, Khamene'i promoted those who supported his overall agenda, rewarding them with money and positions of power and surrounding himself with conservative mullahs articulating "active presence of people believing in religion and the values of the Islamic Revolution" to maintain the status quo.[7] Yet as Iranians increasingly voiced the demand for constitutional and governmental change, Ahmadinejad played the populist card by feigning a more secular approach. His chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, articulated the vision:

An Islamic government is not capable of running a vast and populous country like Iran. Running a country is like a horse race, but the problem is that these people [the clergy] are not horse racers.[8]

Ahmadinejad also picked several legislative and judicial fights with the clerics, challenging their prohibition of women in cabinet posts and also appointing some women to senior administrative posts, including provincial governorships. In January 2010, Science Minister Kamran Daneshjou inaugurated an international conference for women in the sciences in Tehran. Ahmadinejad's wife delivered a speech in which she touted women, knowledge, and science as "cornerstones of Allah's creation."[9]

Moreover, the president included only one cleric in his post-2009 government, as opposed to the three clerics serving as ministers during his first tenure. Ahmadinejad's cultural advisor, Javad Shamghadari, has likewise recommended that the hijab (head covering) should not be mandatory while Daneshjou encouraged people to observe a moment of silence at funerals instead of the traditional reciting of the first chapter of the Qur'an.[10]

Between Ahmadinejad's stacking of the government with those sympathetic to his goals and his dismissive attitude toward the theocrats, judges, and legislators, the president and his protégés have successfully attempted to take advantage of the religious hardliners' unpopularity to tilt the balance of power in their favor.[11] In this sense, religion is shifting away from the center of the domestic narrative. In time, this may help produce a less Islamist government. Nevertheless, foreign and nuclear policy is formed by the supreme leader and clerics, and among Iranian diplomats and negotiators, religion still plays a critical role that must be taken into account.

Mixed Historical Legacy

For Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (r. 1941-79), the nuclear program, which he estab-lished in the early 1970s, was the ultimate reaffirmation of Iran's imperial glory. The shah's overthrow and the rise of the Islamic Republic did not eliminate the widespread pining for grandeur and influence, which still permeates the narrative of many Iranians and has been made more acute by the country's steady decline over the past few centuries.

For much of its history, Iran enjoyed imperial prowess, stretching at its height over some eight million square kilometers. The first great empire was founded in the sixth century BCE by Cyrus the Great, who went on to subdue the proud empire of Babylon; and as late as October 1970, the last reigning monarch, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (r. 1941-79), chose to celebrate his fifty-second birthday on the 2,500th anniversary of this empire, vowing allegiance to its imperial legacy in front of his worldwide assembly of guests:

To you Cyrus, Great King, King of Kings, from myself, Shahanshah of Iran, and from my people, hail! ... We are here at this moment when Iran renews its pledge to history to bear witness to the immense gratitude of an entire people to you, immortal hero of history, founder of the world's oldest empire, great liberator of all time, worthy son of mankind.[12]

The shah's overthrow and the rise of the Islamic Republic did not eliminate the widespread pining for grandeur and influence, which still permeates the narrative of many Iranians and has been made more acute by the country's steady decline over the past few centuries.

The impact of this perception cannot be overstated. Iranians look at the painful record of military and diplomatic defeats and humiliation and see a great civilization brought down by colonial powers that have cheated it of its ability to regain its pre-modern exploits. Small wonder that Iranian negotiators consider themselves the aggrieved party at the negotiating table, a sentiment that often results in bombastic and overly-aggressive behavior and rhetoric (by Western standards) that make compromise exceedingly difficult.

The Moderate Mirage

During and after the Islamic Revolution, the international community put faith in the idea of Iranian moderation against all available evidence to the contrary. From William H. Sullivan, U.S. ambassador to Tehran at the time of the revolution, who expected Khomeini to assume a "Ghandi-like role,"[13] to the 2003 assertion of European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, that the Iranians "have been honest" in discussing their nuclear project,[14] to Barack Obama's proposed "engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect,"[15] the international community has long deluded itself into a belief in Iranian moderation. In the words of Reza Kahlili, pseudonym for a double Hezbollah-CIA agent:

President Obama needs to realize that the Iranian leaders' animosity toward the U.S. and the West has nothing to do with who the president of the United States is … the biggest misconceptions the West [has] about Iran is that it is possible to negotiate with the Iranian leadership, that there might be other players in power who could change the direction of Iran's policies, and that moderates might one day succeed in changing the regime's behavior.[16]

Bernard Lewis attributes the dichotomy between Iranian moderates and extremists to Western political notions:

A familiar feature of revolutions, such as the French and the Russian, is tension, often conflict … Certainly there has been no lack of such tensions and conflicts between rival groups, factions, and tendencies within the [Iranian] revolutionary camp. The distinction between moderates and extremists is, however, one derived from Western history, and may be somewhat misleading when allied to the Islamic revolution in Iran.

He continues,

A more accurate description … would present the conflict as one between pragmatists and ideologues. The latter are those who insist … on maintaining the pure doctrine of the revolution … The former are those who, when they have gained power … find it necessary to make compromises.[17]

Yet even the likelihood of finding those pragmatists (not to be misconstrued for moderates) is unfortunately very low. There is no formal mechanism in the Iranian system for reaching a compromise between different political stakeholders, which in turn makes a bargain between the various factions virtually impossible.[18]

Further complicating the advent of moderation is the deception commonly practiced by the Iranian regime, grounded in the revolution's religious doctrine. Among its foremost stipulations are the concepts of khod'eh and taqiyya, religiously sanctioned practices of deception, which have been in heavy rotation among Iran's government and religious establishments and are found at its very core. Thus, for example, while in exile in Paris, Khomeini promised that no clergy would hold office when the revolution won power. Back in Iran and empowered by his victory, he concentrated all power in his hands in his capacity as the republic's supreme authority. When challenged on his broken promises, he invoked the concept of taqiyya.[19]

"When we were in negotiations with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the facility in Isfahan," Hassan Rowhani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005, candidly admitted. "The day we started the [negotiating] process, there was no such thing as the Isfahan [nuclear] project."[20] While Rowhani was distracting the European negotiators, the Iranians moved from having no uranium-converting capability to building a conversion plant, producing during this period enough yellow cake for five atomic bombs.[21] The spokesman of the supposedly moderate president, Mohammed Khatami, was quoted as saying, "We had an overt policy, which was one of negotiation and confidence building, and covert policy, which was a continuation of the activities."[22]

True, the reality of political and religious Iran is too complicated to be exclusively explained by taqiyya and khod'eh; yet, as demonstrated by Khomeini's comment, these millenarian Islamic practices continue to play an important, if not the leading, role in Tehran's overall strategy and must be taken into account.

Tehran Defies the Sanctions

On July 10, 2009, leaders at the Group of Eight summit in Italy gave Tehran a two-month deadline to begin negotiations over its nuclear program. On October 1, representatives of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, as well as Germany, met Iranian representatives in Geneva and outlined a three-point agreement, which was to be accepted by Tehran by December 31, 2009. Yet no sooner had the ink dried on the document than the Iranian government announced the postponement of an impending U.N. inspection of the Qom facility by two weeks, a move widely seen as a ploy to buy time for hiding evidence of nuclear activities. The Iranians then waited until the expiry of the deadline to present a counterproposal: Instead of shipping the low enriched uranium (LEU) abroad in a single batch, the Iranians would send it in stages and replenish the dispatched materials with LEU purchased abroad. This would allow Tehran to keep its LEU stockpile, the activity that motivated the international concern and negotiations in the first place.

To break the deadlock, Obama came up with a compromise: sending Iranian LEU to Turkey for temporary safekeeping. Tehran ignored the offer, stating that it would only exchange LEU for nuclear fuel on Iranian territory. In defiance of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) censure, the mullahs announced their intention to build ten new enrichment plants and reasserted their determination to begin enriching LEU. And as if to add insult to injury, a day before the Geneva deadline, Tehran gave the West one month to accept its counterproposals or be confronted with full scale production of high enriched uranium.[23]

The clerics, however, did not await the expiry of their own ultimatum to reject the Geneva principles altogether. Soon thereafter, Tehran moved 94 percent of its LEU to the Natanz enrichment plant and began spinning it in centrifuges. On March 17, 2010, Iran's atomic chief and vice president, Ali Akbar Salehi, tabled another proposal: Tehran would hand over 1,200 kilograms of LEU only after it received 19.8 percent enriched uranium and only if the transfer took place on Iranian soil.[24] With the specter of U.N. sanctions looming large, Tehran signed a deal with Turkey and Brazil, not dissimilar to the Geneva agreement, only to threaten to annul the deal if the sanctions passed. Once this happened, Tehran threatened to revise its ties to the IAEA, postpone nuclear talks with the West, and retaliate for any inspection of its ships.[25] Despite Obama's "open hand" outreach—a departure from George W. Bush's implied clenched fist—Tehran has not demonstrated any serious intention to reach a negotiated agreement. Nor, it seems, has it been deterred by the West's sanctions attempts.

According to Gary Sick, the National Security Council's Iran expert, during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, the "fatal flaw of U.S. policy" was Washington's belief in its ability to bring sufficient pressure on Tehran to release the hostages, which incubated from "the tendency to underestimate Khomeini's willingness and ability to absorb external economic and political punishment in the pursuit of his revolutionary objectives."[26] This belief seems to exist today in large parts of the international community, which are convinced that, notwithstanding its defiant rhetoric and political and economic attempts to circumvent the sanctions, for instance by setting up foreign banking operations and weapons factories in Venezuela[27] and possibly in Sudan,[28] Tehran lacks the will and stamina to absorb international punishment.

Rejecting the idea that Tehran will comply with Washington's demands in order to avoid sanctions, Ahmadinejad retorted, "Your incentives are definitely not more valuable than nuclear technology … How dare you tell our people to give up gold in return for chocolate?"[29] That he associated nuclear technology with gold and economic incentives with chocolate provides an insightful glimpse into the psyche of the Iranian leadership and the priority it gives its nuclear program. The belief that economic concerns can be used to influence Tehran thus misses this wider motivation.

It is also crucial to understand that the 1979 revolution was based on ideas—ideas that were and still largely are unrealized in the public realm—rather than actions. These ideas underpin the regime's ideology, motivation, goals, actions, and sense of purpose. During the nuclear negotiations, the Iranians have been asked to compromise at a time when compromise itself would constitute failure. This would be a virtually impossible demand for any political actor, not least one that has repeatedly expressed readiness to die for the sake of avoiding such failure and has impudently crossed numerous red lines set by the international community.

"We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah," Ayatollah Khomeini responded to the Iraqi invasion in September 1980. "For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam remains triumphant in the rest of the world."[30] Echoing this mindset, Ahmadinejad wrote to President Bush:

Those with insight can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic system … We increasingly see the people around the world are flocking towards a main focal point—that is the Almighty God."[31]

Persistent Western Misperceptions

There is an irreconcilable gap between the West's and Tehran's nuclear positions: The former wants a non-nuclear Iran; the latter is determined to be a nuclear power. As the mullahs see it, those who oppose their ideology and attendant policy goals are driven by inequitable, selfish, and immoral motives and have no business asking the Islamic Republic to compromise its ideological precepts.

To this must be added the historical legacy of weaknesses, which has led Iranians to view negotiations as a means of survival and to entrench in non-conciliatory positions. From the mid-eighteenth century to the Azerbaijan crisis of 1945-47 when the Iranians prevented the Soviets from stationing large numbers of troops on their territory, Iran was in a steady process of decline, powerless to preserve its territorial integrity and subjected to periodic foreign encroachments and occupations. Furthermore, Iranians often found their sovereignty compromised by internal divisions and political failures originating in powerful foreign influences, as in the constitutional movement of 1906-11, the role of the foreign powers in the reforms of the Pahlavi shahs, and the U.S.-sponsored overthrow of Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh in the early 1950s.

With this legacy narrating its political twentieth-century experience, the revolution was supposed to catapult Iran to the top of the regional, and eventually global, power pyramid. Thirty-two years later, the regime is finding its position as a rising regional player limited by the challenges it is facing from both domestic and international forces. Domestically, the religious authority with which the supreme leader and the religious bodies rule is facing unprecedented criticism while the current government was formed following dubious elections that led to massive and ongoing public protest. Internationally, Iran has inspired great suspicion and outright distrust and animosity throughout the Arabic-speaking world that, combined with Western and Israeli concerns, has brought together an unusual alliance against it. In this context, the nuclear ambitions, religious fanaticism, and heavy-handedness of the current regime should also be seen as an attempt to revive the passion of the revolution, which its leaders perceived to have disintegrated across large swaths of Iranian society.

Against this backdrop, the Iranians have approached the nuclear talks as a means to achieve their nuclear ambitions, viewed as indispensable to Iran's role as the preeminent Islamic power. Supporting this idea, former Iranian deputy foreign minister Mohammed Javad Larijani has said that "diplomacy must be used to lessen pressure on Iran for its nuclear program … [it is] a tool for allowing us to attain our goals."[32]

While Western societies view the concepts of negotiations and compromise as portals to peace and stability, the Iranian perspective is fundamentally different. In Khamene'i's own words, "Rights cannot be achieved by entreating. If you supplicate, withdraw, and show flexibility, arrogant [i.e., Western] powers will make their threat more serious."[33] Still, the West believes that it can goad Tehran into flexibility.

One of the Iranian regime's other priorities is its survival, which it secures through suppressing dissidents, shielding Iranian society from the outside world, consolidating power, and adopting independent and aggressive positions internationally. Viewed from this vantage point, rapprochement with the West constitutes a potential challenge to the regime's survival. Despite this, the West still believes that it can succeed by offering rapprochement.

Khamene'i stated,

Cutting ties with America is among our basic policies. However, we have never said that the relations will remain severed forever … the conditions of the American government are such that any relations would prove harmful on the nation and thereby we are not pursuing them … Undoubtedly, the day the relations with America prove beneficial for the Iranian nation I will be the first one to approve of that.[34]

However, taken in the context of his speeches and policies, the message is not one of moderation but entrenchment. While some have offered this quote as evidence of moderation, a more probable interpretation is that Khamene'i simply believes once Tehran gets what it wants, the two countries' positions will be better attuned and their relations will consequently improve. While it is true that the Iranian regime craves the legitimacy attending renewed relations with Washington, experience shows that Tehran has thus far been highly adept in engaging the U.S. government while simultaneously showing it the back of its hand, thus winning the perception game. This may allow the Iranian regime to achieve the goal of recognition without having to pay for it.[35]

Furthermore, although Khamene'i has repeatedly spoken about the importance of Iran's scientific and technological pursuits for national sovereignty, and while one of the revolution's main criticisms of the shah was his reliance on foreign countries for labor and expertise in these fields, the West seems to believe against all available evidence that Tehran will outsource its nuclear science and technology.

Nor have Western leaders taken the supreme leader's dismissive view of the sanctions at face value. For one thing, Khamene'i has argued that not only are sanctions "not going to have any adverse effect on our country and nation," but they will actually help Iranians become more self-sufficient by forcing them to stand on their own feet.[36] For another, he claimed that even in the unlikely event that sanctions would have an adverse effect, this would be a cost worth paying. In his words:

In order to attain independence and achieve national sovereignty and honor, any nation will have to pay a price. But nations should incur such expenses … they should be hopeful of the valuable results of their endeavors, despite all the attempts that are being made … to undermine their hopes and aspirations.[37]


Western engagement policy in general and the Obama administration's outreach in particular have failed because of their fundamental misperception of the Iranian religious and historical narratives, as well as Tehran's attitudes, goals, and strategic priorities. For the Islamic Republic regime, nuclear weapons are not a bargaining chip but the ultimate means for achieving its hegemonic ambitions abroad and securing its indefinite grip on power at home.

This is not to say that there are no ways to deter Tehran, but these will require a fundamental revision of Western working assumptions and negotiating strategy, with engagement giving way to a more aggressive approach. Specifically, the West should

  • Curb its enthusiasm and flexibility in dealing with Tehran and ratchet up the price of engagement;
  • Encourage Arab and Muslim states to take tougher stands against Iran, both unilaterally and in regional and international organizations, such as the U.N., the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference;
  • Take steps to reduce the impact of a global rise in oil prices;
  • Invest in the Global Internet Freedom Consortium's operations to help Internet users evade government censorship;
  • Establish a unified U.S. approach by aligning the strategies of the executive and legislative branches;
  • Ensure that Moscow will not deliver the S-300 antiaircraft system to Iran;
  • Establish a credible military threat in coordination with Israel, possibly by initiating a naval blockade of Iran;
  • Intensify the efforts to reduce the capabilities and impact of Iran's proxies; and
  • Establish better ties with the Iranian people, especially the opposition and youth, through indirect engagement such as increased reach of Western media in Iran, confronting Iranian human rights abuses at international forums, and frustrating government censorship of the Internet.

In 1961, Antulio Ramirez Ortiz used a gun to become the first person to hijack a U.S. aircraft. Forty years later, it took only knives for nineteen men to hijack four U.S. aircraft and use them as weapons of mass destruction to murder over 3,000 people. Clearly, weapons in themselves are not the potential enemy but rather the people possessing them. The way to prevent a nuclear Iran, therefore, is to concentrate less on its nuclear program and more on the regime seeking to acquire this capability.

Aaron Menenberg is a Menachem Begin Heritage Center Israel Government Fellow with the Israeli Ministry of Defense in Judea and Samaria where he works for the International Organizations and Foreign Affairs Branch of the Civil Administration. The views expressed here are his own.

[1] Mohsen Sazegara, "The Importance of Iran's Domestic Political Atmosphere," in Patrick Clawson, ed., Engaging Iran: Lessons from the Past, Policy Focus #93 (Washington, D.C.: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, May 2009), pp. 6-7; Mehdi Khalaji, Apocalyptic Politics: On the Rationality of Iranian Policy, Policy Focus #79 (Washington, D.C.: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Jan. 2008), p. 17.
[2] Karim Sadjadpour, Reading Khamene'i: The World View of Iran's Most Powerful Leader (Washington D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2009), p. 19.
[3] Farhad Rajaee, Islamic Values and World View: Khomeini on Man, the State, and International Politics (Lanham: Universities of America Press, 1983), pp. 82‑3; Baqer Moin, Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah (London: I.B. Tauris, 1999), p. 236.
[4] See for example, The Washington Post, June 4, 2009; Shimon Shapira and Daniel Diker, "Iran's 'Second' Islamic Revolution: Its Challenge to the West," Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, June 2008.
[5] Asharq al-Awsat (London), Feb. 2, 2007, quoted in MEMRI Blog, Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington, D.C., accessed Mar. 22, 2011.
[6] See, for example, David Menashri, "Iran: Doctrine and Reality," in Efraim Karsh, ed., The Iran-Iraq War: Impact and Implications (London: Macmillan, 1989), pp. 42-6.
[7] Jamsheed K. Chosky, "Why Iran's Islamic Government Is Unraveling," Current Trends in Islamic Ideology, June 15, 2010.
[8] PBS Frontline, Tehran Bureau, Nov. 8, 2009.
[9] Ibid., Jan. 27, 2010.
[10] Ibid., Dec. 1, 2009.
[11] For Ahmadinejad's systematic purging of Khamene'i's supporters and building of his own patronage system, see, Ali Alfoneh, "All Ahmadinejad's Men," Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2011, pp. 79-84.
[12] Newsweek, Oct. 25, 1971.
[13] Gary Sick, All Fall Down: America's Tragic Encounter with Iran (Lincoln: Author's Guild, 1986), p. 193.
[14] Agence France-Presse, Nov. 17, 2003.
[15] The Washington Post, Mar. 21, 2009.
[16] Hannah Elliot, "Q&A with Reza Kahlili, Iranian Double Agent," Forbes, May 20, 2010.
[17] Bernard Lewis, "Islamic Revolution," The New York Review of Books, Jan. 1, 1988.
[18] Patrick Clawson, The Perfect Handshake with Iran: Prudent Military Strategy and Pragmatic Engagement Policy (Washington, D.C.: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2010), p. 2.
[19] Abbas Milani, "Pious Populist," The Boston Review, Nov./Dec. 2007, p. 5; for further analysis, see Dore Gold, The Rise of Nuclear Iran (Washington, D.C.: Regency Publishing, 2009), pp. xii, 62, 185, 246, 248.
[20] Elaine Sciolino, "Showdown at the UN? Iran Seems Calm," The New York Times, Mar. 14, 2006; Therese Delpech, Iran and the Bomb: The Abdication of International Responsibility (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), p. 113.
[21] The Daily Telegraph (London), Sept. 13, 2004.
[22] Michael Rubin, "Diplomacy by Itself Won't Work with Iran," Investor's Business Daily, Feb. 13, 2009.
[23] Sen. Daniel Coats, Sen. Charles Robb, Gen. (ret.) Charles Wald, "Meeting the Challenge: When Time Runs Out," Bipartisan Policy Center, June 2010, p. 15.
[24] Ibid.
[25] All Headline News (Washington, D.C.), June 29, 2010; al-Jazeera TV (Doha), June 10, 2010.
[26] Sick, All Fall Down, p. 242.
[27] "The Link between Iran and Venezuela: A Crisis in the Making?" remarks by Robert Morgenthau, district attorney for New York County at the Global Financial Integrity Symposium, Brookings Institute, Sept. 8, 2009.
[28] Jonathan Schanzer, "The Islamic Republic of Sudan?" Foreign Policy, June 10, 2010.
[29] Glenn Kessler, The Confidante: Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of the Bush Legacy (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2007), p. 203.
[30] Amir Taheri, Nest of Spies: America's Journey to Disaster in Iran (New York: Pantheon Books, 1989), p. 269.
[31] Bret Stephens, "Iran Cannot Be Contained," Commentary Magazine, July/Aug. 2010.
[32] Tehran Times, Mar. 3, 2009.
[33] Business Week, June 4, 2007.
[34] Khamene'i's address to students in Yazd, Jan. 3, 2008, cited in Sadjadpour, Reading Khamene'i, p. 17.
[35] For additional analysis, see Michael Singh, "Changing Iranian Behavior: Lessons from the Bush Years," in Clawson, Engaging Iran.
[36] Sadjadpour, Reading Khamene'i, p. 11.
[37] Ibid.

Aaron Menenberg


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Share It