Saturday, June 11, 2011

Anti-Semitism on the Rise in Germany

by Soeren Kern

A highly-anticipated new report, "Anti-Semites as a Coalition Partner," which examines the increasing anti-Israel activism of politicians belonging to the German Left Party (Die Linke), has sparked a debate over the rise of anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Zionism in post-modern Germany. The study has been welcomed for drawing attention to the re-emergence of anti-Semitism in public discourse in Germany, and has even triggered a debate about Israel bashing in the German parliament.

Excerpts of the study, subtitled "The Left Party: Between Anti-Zionist Anti-Semitism and the Wish to Govern," were published by the center-left Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper on May 19. The report says: "A power has established itself within the parliamentary spectrum of the Left Party, which tolerates anti-Semitic positions.... Our thesis is that anti-Zionist anti-Semitism has become the dominant consensus position within the German Left Party."

The authors conclude: "The 'Left' is moving ever closer to governing and – as a result of vote-getting potential above all in eastern Germany – the possibility exists that for the first time in the history of the German Federal Republic a political party – which since 2010 has clearly positioned itself as anti-Semitic could gain power."

In a separate essay, "The Left Party Has an Anti-Semitism Problem" and published by the center-right Die Welt newspaper on June 8, 2010, German sociologist Samuel Salzborn wrote: "The Left Party has an anti-Semitism problem which can no longer be ignored. For the number of incidents – which originate from an anti-Semitic worldview – has increased dramatically since the beginning of the year. The pattern is always the same: ostensibly it is couched as criticism of Israel, but the arguments reveal themselves as anti-Semitic to the core. This can be seen by the participation by two current and one former Left Party representatives from the Bundestag in the Gaza Flotilla and thus with open collaboration with violent Islamists. The fact that Left Party functionaries are cooperating with radical Islamists, who have never concealed their anti-Semitic motives, is the result of a widespread radicalization of the party."

The accusations prompted a heated debate in the German Bundestag [parliament] on May 25. The debate, "Recent social scientific research into the potential anti-Semitic and anti-Israel positions and practices in the Left Party," addressed what many experts consider to be the dominant form of modern anti- Semitism in Germany: the loathing of the Jewish state. Hans-Peter Uhl, from the Bavaria-based Christian Social Union, a sister party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, accused the Left Party of "fishing for votes in anti-Semitic voter groups."

The German Left Party is an amalgamation of former East German communists, disaffected former Social Democrats and western German Marxists. In recent years, the Left Party has turned itself into an important fixture on Germany's political landscape. It garnered 12% of the vote in the last national elections in September 2009 and is now the fourth-largest political party in Germany. It is the most popular party in eastern Germany, and is in coalitions with the Social Democrats in the regional governments of Berlin and Brandenburg.

In recent months, members of the German Left Party have been involved in a series of aggressive anti-Israel activities.

In May, Left Party deputy Inge Höger appeared at a pro-Hamas conference in Wuppertal in North Rhine-Westphalia wearing a keffiyeh showing a map labelled "Palestine" on the entire territory of the State of Israel. At the 9th Palestinians in Europe Conference, which was titled "The Generation of Return Knows Its Way," Höger spoke about the "misuse of the Holocaust" in silencing criticism of Israel's "occupation policies." She also said that Israel has for "many years starved and indiscriminately bombed the population of Gaza because they voted democratically [for Hamas in January 2006]. The legend of Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East is a farce."

Also in May, Hermann Dierkes, the leader of the Left Party in Duisburg, penned an "Open Letter" in which he compared Israeli policy towards the Palestinians with the Nazi regime. Dierkes accused the Israelis of using methods against Palestinians that look "damn close to what the Nazis did in the 30s." In 2010, Dierkes termed Israel's right to exist as "petty."

In April, the Duisburg branch of the German Left Party posted a flyer on its website with a swastika morphing into a Star of David, and called for a boycott of Israeli products. The flyer, which calls Israel a "rogue state" and a "warmonger" states: "Oppose the moral blackmail of the so-called Holocaust! Truth makes free!" This is a pun on the "Arbeit macht Frei!" sign which is located above the entrance gate to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

In March, a group called the "Bremer Peace Forum" in the northern Germany city of Bremen staged protests in front of supermarkets urging Germans to boycott Israeli products. The Forum protesters distributed leaflets showing pictures of bloody oranges and held posters with the slogan: "Save the Palestinian people."

In a Call to Action dated March 3, 2011, the German Left Party declares: "Israel has occupied the West Bank for decades, contrary to numerous UN resolutions. More and more illegal Jewish settlements are being built and Israel exports the fruits that are harvested from there. This is against international law and the exports from the occupied territories are illegal. A boycott of Israeli products will move public opinion in order to increase international pressure on Israel, just as happened in South Africa."

In May 2010, two members of the German Left Party, Inge Höger and Annette Groth, and a former Left Party deputy, Norman Paech, participated in the so-called Gaza Freedom Flotilla that attempted to break Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Under the guise of providing humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, the three joined forces with Turkish Islamists in support of Hamas, which is committed to the destruction of Israel. The Left Party publicly applauded their efforts: "We are very proud," said party-leader Gesine Lötzsch said at the time.

Later that May, Höger, Groth and Paech filed a "war crimes" complaint against Israel with the German public prosecutor. The complaint accuses Israel of "numerous potential offences, including war crimes against individuals and command responsibility ... as well as false imprisonment."

The Left Party's foreign policy spokesman, Wolfgang Gehrcke, has been accused of attending pro-Hamas and pro-Hezbollah rallies in Germany, and he also has a track record of making anti-Israel statements to the German media.

Over the years, leading members of the Left Party have also waged an anti-Israel campaign. Left Party deputy Christine Buchholz has been a member of the party's "Shift to the Left" faction, which supports the "legitimate resistance" of Hamas and Hezbollah in their terrorist attacks against Israel. She has also played down the Iranian threat against Israel.

Left Party Vice President Sahra Wagenknecht, in an interview with Der Tagesspiegel in February 2010, accused Israeli President Shimon Peres of spreading "lies" about Iran's drive to build nuclear weapons. Wagenknecht and Buchholz were also the only ones to remain seated during a standing ovation for Peres during his Holocaust remembrance speech in the Bundestag.

But German anti-Semitism is not limited to just the far-left Left Party. A new study published by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a think-tank affiliated with Germany's Social Democratic Party, reveals high levels of anti-Semitism in Germany and a strong presence of anti-Semitism that is linked with Israel and is hidden behind criticism of Israel.

The April 2011 report, which is titled "Intolerance, Prejudice and Discrimination: A European Report," questioned roughly 1,000 people in each of eight European countries. The study found that 47.7% of Germans believe "Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the [Palestinians]." Nearly 50% of Germans believe "Jews try to take advantage of having been victims of the Nazi era." More than 35% of Germans agree with the statement: "Considering Israel's policy, I can understand why people do not like Jews."

A previous poll, "Iraq and Peace in the World," commissioned by the European Union in November 2003, found that 65% of Germans consider Israel to be the greatest threat to world peace, ahead of Iran and North Korea.

A leading member of the Left Party, Gregor Gysi, in an interview with the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, said the accusations of anti-Semitism within his party are "nonsense." Left Party co-chairman Klaus Ernst told the Westfälische Rundschau: "We do not need any lectures from outside parties."


Soeren Kern

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

A Ladder for the PA, Please?

by Khaled Abu Toameh

The Palestinian Authority is searching for a ladder to climb down the high tree it climbed up regarding its intention to ask the UN in September to recognize a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines.

Already this week there were signs that the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah may delay the statehood bid under certain circumstances.

The Palestinian leaders may have finally realized that their decision to go to the UN would have serious repercussions for the Palestinians.

The US Administration has made it clear that it would veto a Palestinian-initiated resolution at the UN in September. The threat was relayed once again this week to two senior Palestinian envoys who visited Washington and held talks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Palestinian leaders in Ramallah are beginning to realize that the tree they climbed is high. Now they are waiting for someone to give them a ladder.

They now understand that it is not only the Americans who are opposed to their plan, but also several EU countries.

Palestinian officials have expressed fear that the Americans and Europeans would impose financial sanctions on the Palestinian Authority if it insisted on going ahead with its unilateral statehood bid.

This explains why the tone in Ramallah is now sounding different than before. Palestinian officials are now saying that they may abandon their plan in return for American and European guarantees that Israel would refrain from "creating new facts on the ground" in the coming months – a reference to construction of new homes in West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem neighborhoods.

In other words, the Palestinian Authority is no longer demanding a full cessation of settlement construction, but only that Israel refrain from creating new and irreversible facts on the ground.

Also, the Palestinians are now saying that they would be willing to return to the negotiating table with Israel if Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu openly declared his acceptance of US President Barack Obama's "two-state" speech at the State Department a few weeks ago.

The feeling in Ramallah is that the Palestinian Authority got itself into a mess with the statehood bid, and is now searching for a face-saving solution. What seems to have complicated matters for the Palestinian Authority is the fact that differences have erupted among its top leaders in Ramallah over the statehood idea. It remains now to be seen who will provide the ladder.


Khaled Abu Toameh

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

The Coming Crisis In The Middle East

by Barry Rubin

The gap between dominant Western perceptions of the Middle East and the region's reality is dangerously wide. While the "Arab Spring" is celebrated as an advance for moderation and democracy, in fact the advance is going to revolutionary Islamists. Developments in Turkey and Egypt especially threaten to plunge the Middle East back into an era of conflict, instability, and the worst threats to Western interests in decades.

There are several things very much predictable about the future of the Middle East area during the next year. First, on June 12, 2011, Turkey will have an election. That election will probably be won by the government, whether or not it gets a two-thirds majority. The current rulers will interpret this as a signal to take a much tougher line toward Israel and the United States. It is possible that the extent of the increase of Turkey's enmity toward Israel after that election will astonish the world.

If the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) wins a two-thirds majority, this means it will have control of rewriting the Turkish constitution. They will try to create a presidential regime, Erdogan will run for president, and Turkey will move into an increasingly visible alliance with Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah. This is not alarmism, it is a serious analysis.

Second, the Palestinian effort at the UN to gain unilateral recognition for a Palestinian state will fail. The United States will veto this, but it will to be a mess, a mess created by the incompetence of the Obama administration, which could have prevented this.

Third, is in regards to Egypt. There is no doubt that the Egyptian revolution is just as significant and just as bad as Iran's 1979 Islamist revolution. That development so destabilized the region and promoted revolutionary Islamism that it helped lead to six wars (Iran-Iraq; Iraq's invasion of Kuwait; U.S.-led invasion of Iraq; U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan; Hizballah-Israel war; Hamas-Israel war) and September 11 as well as to various Islamist upheavals, terrorism, and civil wars elsewhere (including in Algeria and Egypt).

Egypt will hold parliamentary elections in September 2011. As of now, the moderate democrats have not organized any serious party. The only serious parties organized are Islamist parties, not only the Muslim Brotherhood but others, and left-wing parties or radical nationalist ones.


To put it simply, what has happened in Egypt is not just the undoing of the "Mubarak regime" but the undoing of the "Sadat regime," that is, the revolution Anwar al-Sadat brought to Egypt in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Sadat changed Egypt's course from being a radical state seeking to destabilize other Arab countries, destroy Israel, and oppose U.S. interests. He deemphasized spreading revolution, made peace with Israel, and allied Egypt with the United States.

Now, with assistance from President Barack Obama, those processes have been undone. Egypt will return to the pre-Sadat era. The only question is the proportion of radical nationalism and Islamism in that mix.

It is not clear whether there will be an Islamist majority, but there will be a radical anti-American majority in parliament. There is no doubt of that. It literally cannot be any other way, so this will have to be covered in the media.

It will be interesting to try to predict what the headlines will look like in the New York Times the day after the election. How will they spin this? What will they say? What can they say about this? This is very, very serious. At that point, it should be clear that the Obama policy has been a catastrophe. He helped bring down the Egyptian regime and the result is a radical anti-American regime that is ready to go into conflict with Israel.

The opening of the Gaza border is one step in that direction. What then does it mean that they are opening the border, even if not now but when a new elected president and parliament take office? It means that weapons, terrorists, and money will flow freely into Gaza.

This in turn means that Hamas will become bolder, and at some point, perhaps in 2011-2012, it will attack Israel with rockets and mortars. Israel will then have to respond militarily. Though at that point, everyone will have to ask the question of what Egypt will do. What will the Egyptian government do? If Amr Moussa is president with a radical parliament or even an Islamist parliament, they could send troops. It could become an Egypt-Israel war.

There are, however, other possibilities. Perhaps they will simply let thousands of Egyptian volunteers go into Gaza to fight. Perhaps it will allow, or not be able to stop, or not try too hard to stop attacks across the Egypt-Israel border. Again, this is not some alarmist fantasy but realistic scenarios that one must be prepared for.

If Amr Moussa, who is not an Islamist or a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, is elected president, will he be able to resist pressure from parliament and the masses in order to maintain a tough stance? Will he want to do so? Instead, won't he try to take advantage of this to promote his own interests and anti-Israel beliefs? This is especially true, as Egypt's terrible economic situation would not permit him to offer the masses a better life or even food at current prices.

Now, one can say not to worry, that they won't do anything because the Egyptian military wants to continue to receive American aid money. That is indeed an argument, but is that enough? Can the entire Middle East strategy be based on that hope?

There have been cases where countries and governments have been willing to give up American aid for political goals. Remember that the Iranian revolution threw away all the American aid and military sales. Thus merely to maintain that everything will be fine because of that money issue is not a satisfactory argument. Moreover, one must keep in mind that Egypt is going to face a major economic crisis for which there is no solution, and no amount of U.S. aid is going to resolve that problem. The price of food will continue to increase.

The Egyptians will not be able to build new housing. They will not be able to handle the problem of unemployment. They will not be able to create jobs. This is the reality. What then will happen when--as is fully predictable--Egypt's government is unable to deliver on its promises and the country goes into crisis?

This turn of events is completely predictable; and yes, they are being ignored in the media. Now the new line is that the Muslim Brotherhood are "good guys" and moderates, while the problem is the radical jihadi Salafi groups. The Muslim Brotherhood is good; jihadists are bad; but the Muslim Brotherhood is a jihadi group and is an alliance with these groups. It is thus ridiculous to make this distinction.

Thus, a series of totally predictable crises lie ahead, yet there has been no serious analysis of the problems--much less the solutions--by the U.S. government, media, experts, and the public debate generally. Moreover, even those three crises leave aside other issues. As of June 2011, the U.S. government has still not done anything at all on Syria. Sanctions on Iran are leaking, and the three main reasons for this are known--they are China, Russia, and Turkey. The U.S. government, however, is doing nothing about that. In fact, it is consciously permitting leaks to continue.

There is a serious crisis ahead, one that might be seen as the return to the 1970s with Islamists in place of Arab nationalists. Yet again, all of this is totally predictable. While the Obama administration strategy on Israel is problematic, that is not the main problem. Nor is the problem the U.S.-Israel relationship. The problem is U.S. strategy in the region. In saying this, what has been observed is the following:

First, there are a significant number of people in the Arab world who agree with this analysis since it corresponds with their thinking. The fact that Saudi Arabia, with all of its faults, has had to take the lead in battling Iranian and Syrian influence shows that the U.S. government has not been doing its job properly. Second, it is increasingly being recognized by the American foreign policy establishment--although more privately than publicly--that the above statements are accurate, that the situation is dangerous, and that the White House in particular is doing a terrible job. There are also more and more people at the State Department, the Defense Department--including the secretary of defense and at least partly the secretary of state--who seem to be aware of these issues and problems. However, as long as they do not have the support in the White House, there is clearly little they can do to change this.


There are options in dealing with these threats. Israel can deal with this to a large extent successfully, or at least as successfully as possible. The first thing, which is already happening, is the need to rebuild what in Israel is called the Southern Front, which is the defense along the border with Egypt. This will be costly and Israeli army reserve soldiers will have to serve additional days, but it can be done.

Israel will also have to deal with the flotilla, which arrives in mid-June 2011. In addition, Israel will have to deal with any attempts by people to cross its border. What Israel does or does not offer the Palestinian Authority (PA) in negotiations is pretty much one of the least important issues for Israel at the moment; it is currently not a central issue.

The ideas held by Western governments, experts, and pundits are very much out of date. The central issue is not what borders Israel has or the future of Jerusalem. Rather, one is dealing with strategic issues. One must deal with 2011; the 1980s and 1990s have passed.

Nonetheless, by returning to the 1970s, this means going back to a time when Arab governments were radical or were intimidated by the radicals; when Arab governments seriously contemplated and did go to war with Israel; when Arab governments did not respect the United States as the world's sole superpower, and movements genuinely believed they would lead a revolution throughout the region to transform their societies in a radical and undemocratic manner. Today, Iran and Turkey have joined in on that destabilizing set of beliefs and policies.

There is no real U.S. pressure on Israel. The Israel-Palestinian issue is not the core problem in the region. It is a sideshow. It is not important.

At any rate, people focused on the wrong sentence in Obama's May 2011 speech. They focused on the sentence about the pre-1967 borders. The important sentence was the sequential plan, which was for Israel to turn over the entire West Bank to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for some unspecified security guarantees, thus producing a de facto Palestinian state.

What is important is not this sentence: "The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states." Rather, it is these two sentences that matter: "The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. The duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated."

Obama says, again it is important to repeat it, that Israel should withdraw to the 1967 borders and Palestine should become a non-militarized state. Then the two sides will negotiate about refugees, Jerusalem, and final borders. Obama was thus calling for the 1967 borders, with Israel giving up all of its bargaining leverage, and then--and this might never happen--the independent Palestinian state would agree to some border swaps. In effect, this means that Israel will return to its 1967 borders without "mutually agreed swaps."

In effect, what Obama told the PA is not to go through the UN, that his administration would give the PA what it wants in exchange for very small things. Of course, according to Obama's plan, the PA will have to agree to security guarantees and demilitarization, both of which they can disregard as an independent state.

What then will Israel do when it is back to its 1967 borders and the state of Palestine builds an army and lets cross-border terrorist attacks take place? Will it launch an invasion of a neighboring country? Will it depend on Obama to force the state of Palestine to keep its commitments?

Obama won't even force the PA to keep its commitment not to partner with a group that rejects the entire peace process framework (Hamas) or force Egypt to maintain its commitments under the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, guaranteed by the United States. Obama has no credibility, and no country--not only Israel, but nobody--can rely on him. At the same time though, there is no pressure on Israel at all from the U.S. government. Obama is telling the truth when he says that in fact the security relationship is quite good. Thus his talk about the peace process is just words, but his conduct of U.S. strategy is dangerously real.


The United States should call for the downfall of the Syrian and Iranian government. Even a purely verbal policy is superior to what is currently going on. It would encourage the opposition forces in those countries, who have been publicly saying, "Nobody is supporting us. Nobody is helping us." It is true.

The first step is a purely declaratory policy. Whatever possibility there is of an Islamist takeover in Egypt and Libya, there is less such prospect in Syria. First, one must remember that the Sunni Muslim Arab population of Tunisia is 100 percent. The Sunni Muslim Arab population of Egypt is 90 percent. The Sunni Muslim Arab population of Syria is 60 percent. Moreover, there seem to be proportionately more moderate democrats among Sunni Muslim Arabs in Syria than in Egypt. Is the Muslim Brotherhood a threat in Syria? Yes, definitely. Is it less of a threat than in virtually every other country except for Lebanon? The answer is also, yes.


The Syrian opposition is not likely to be able to overthrow Asad, though there is a chance. They should be supported, and the people of Iran should be supported (and those in Lebanon and Turkey should also be supported). At present, none of them are being supported by the United States.

Why have a policy of being nice to your enemies and nasty to your friends? Yet again, when discussing this, it is not just a matter of Israel. It is a matter of wide variety of political forces.

As for Egypt, the end of the peace treaty in practice is a certainty. Here is the problem: If Egypt no longer adheres to the treaty but does not publicly say that, then it becomes a judgment call for the United States. In other words, the Obama administration will have to decide whether or not it believes that the treaty is being kept. Thus for all practical purposes the treaty may be torn up, but the United States will refuse to acknowledge this.

If the PA and Hamas are able to agree on a joint cabinet--which may or may not happen--they will try to do it in a way that allows them to say, "Oh, no, Hamas is not part of the government." The U.S. government then will have to interpret whether or not it deems Hamas to be part of the government. Therefore, it is not inevitable that this would trigger a cutoff of U.S. aid to the PA or even any change in U.S. policy on the "peace process" issue at all.

The Obama administration can say no, Hamas is not part of the government, and the United States should continue to give aid. Then Congress will have to decide whether or not it views the PA to be in violation of the congressional law on aid and relations with the PA. Will there be a massive battle between Congress and the administration? Again, this is something that is terribly predictable, and people are not dealing with it.

The Obama administration can say that Hamas or no Hamas, supporting the PA is a vital U.S. interest. It can, indeed already is, saying the same thing about Hizballah participation in Lebanon's government. Soon it will have to decide on the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt's government, though Obama has preemptively said that it is okay with him. So the U.S. government will have no problem with the participation in governments of three different groups calling for genocide against the Jews and jihad against America.

What is needed is a strategy that recognizes that the principal regional problem is the challenge of revolutionary Islamism. The United States needs to take the lead in developing an alignment that brings together the United States, the Europeans, the relatively moderate Arab regimes, and Israel. They must build a strategy that supports the oppositions in Turkey, Iran, and Lebanon, and that recognizes the enemies are Iran and Syria, Hamas and Hizballah, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Iraqi insurgents. They must then deal with that in the manner that the Soviet Union and its allies were dealt with during the Cold War. It is very simple, and of course one would have to get into the details, but they are not going to do it.

What is truly amazing is that all of these things are visible; and yet people in positions of power--political, media, and intellectual--are simply pretending it is not happening. As a result, they will not be prepared. As a result of their not being prepared, the crisis will be worse.


Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

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

Friday, June 10, 2011

Abbas Is 'Trapped With September'

by Gavriel Queenann

Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas wants to "climb down from the tree" and restart talks with Israel, but can't due to widespread pressure, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

According to PA sources several senior PA officials are advising Abbas to forgo plans to seek a unilateral declaration of PA statehood at the UN in September due to opposition to the move from the United States.

However, the sources say the sense is that having announced his intentions to pursue the unilateral UN path, Abbas has "left himself with little room to maneuver and may proceed with the UN gambit simply to avoid a loss of credibility."

"We are trapped with September," one official told the AP. "We don't know what to do after that."

The PA officials, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity, said several top PA advisers were having second thoughts about the unilateralist track at the UN.

Among them are PLO second-in-command Yasser Abed Rabbo, PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat; and former PA representative to the UN Nasser Al-Qidwa.

Qidwa noted the limits of Abbas's unilateral UN track earlier this week, saying the PA should still rally behind statehood efforts at the UN, "but we should distinguish between getting support and getting recognition."

"We cannot get recognition simply because the US will veto it," the AP quoted Qidwa as saying.

Qidwa's comments suggest a growing realization that the unilateral UN track is problematic and promises an unclear conclusion that may not only change nothing, but may backfire and trigger a new wave of violence PA leaders cannot control.

Abbas attempt to step down from his self-created political precipice may be due to serious discussion in the US congress over cutting funding to the PA, which comes as the PA finds itself amidst another budget crisis. Abbas had previously said he would pursue the unilateral track irrespective of US objections - and even if US funds were cut.

Earlier this week, senior Israeli and PA negotiators traveled to Washington and held separate meetings with US officials to explore the possibility of restarting negotiations.

The meetings come as Hamas considers leaving the business of politics and governance to Fatah saying its involvement therein has "weakened the resistance enterprise."


Gavriel Queenann

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

Analysis: The Implications of the Washington Post-ABC News Poll

by Dr. Amiel Ungar

The Osama bin Laden interlude and the false prophecies of Barack Obama's electoral invincibility are now history. As could have been expected, the narrative of the 2012 elections has pivoted back to the bread-and-butter issue of the faltering US economy.

The joint poll by the Washington Post and ABC news displaying former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney leading President Obama, and a broad majority of Americans blaming the Obama administration for the state of the economy, have reinvigorated the 2012 race.

Governor Romney is a major beneficiary. He is considered competent by most respondents. In 2008, versus the Obamamania juggernaut, that may not have proven enough. This year, with the unemployment rate refusing to subside and the prices of homes in the doldrums, it may suffice, and the major issue for Republicans this year will be who can beat Obama. If Mitt Romney can convince Republican voters that he has the best chance, he may be home free because it means that they do not have to look elsewhere.

This puts the pressure on former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty has to establish his economic credentials in a hurry and he must create product differentiation with Romney and other contenders.

That is what brought Pawlenty this week to the University of Chicago in Obama's hometown and the center of his political organization. At the University, Pawlenty accused Obama of class warfare by attempting to pin responsibility for America's economic crisis on the rich and by proposing punitive tax brackets for them. Republicans like a candidate who can stick it to the opposition and especially those who negate Obama's claim that he is a unity figure and a post-partisan president.

Pawlenty broke new ground on economic proposals. He proposed simplifying the federal income tax to two tax brackets. It is axiomatic to most Americans that the tax system is too convoluted for normal people to understand so that this idea will resonate with voters.

Pawlenty recaptured the approach of Woodrow Wilson. The Democratic response to Republican ideas about tax-cutting is that the Republicans are always looking out for their well-heeled buddies in Wall Street and corporate America. Pawlenty has been campaigning on the theme of abolishing assistance to special interests irrespective of their political affiliation. He has made a splash in Iowa of opposing subsidies for ethanol, something that would appear to be political bravery or political suicide in an agricultural corn growing state like Iowa.

If Pawlenty miraculously emerges the victor from the primaries and takes the nomination, he will have created a potent synthesis of liberalism and populism with which to challenge Barack Obama and the Democrats at their own game.

That is why his proposals were savagely attacked by the Democrats and allied commentators and aroused interest amongst conservative papers such as the Wall Street Journal.

What is important for the candidate is that he has attracted interest that may boost his name recognition and prospects against Romney.


Dr. Amiel Ungar

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

Reclaiming a Historical Truth

by Efraim Karsh

I agree with Shlomo Avineri, in his op-ed "Zionism does not need propaganda" (Haaretz English Edition, May 23), that the tragedy befalling the Palestinian Arabs in 1948 was exclusively of their own making, and that there is therefore "a grave moral defect in the Nakba discourse."

I am surprised, however, by his assertion that "despite decades of research, to this day no document or broadcast has been found confirming ... [any order] by the Arab leadership for the population to leave." This claim couldn't be further from the truth. While most Palestinian Arabs needed little encouragement to take to the road, large numbers of them were driven from their homes by their own leaders and/or the "Arab Liberation Army" that had entered Palestine prior to the end of the Mandate, whether out of military considerations or in order to prevent them from becoming citizens of the prospective Jewish state. Of this there is an overwhelming and incontrovertible body of contemporary evidence - intelligence briefs, captured Arab documents, press reports, personal testimonies and memoirs, and so on and so forth.

In the largest and best-known example of Arab-instigated exodus, tens of thousands of Arabs were ordered or bullied into leaving the city of Haifa (on April 21-22 ) on the instructions of the Arab Higher Committee, the effective "government" of the Palestinian Arabs. Only days earlier, Tiberias' 6,000-strong Arab community had been similarly forced out by its own leaders, against local Jewish wishes (a fortnight after the exodus, Sir Alan Cunningham, the last British high commissioner of Palestine, reported that the Tiberias Jews "would welcome [the] Arabs back" ). In Jaffa, Palestine's largest Arab city, the municipality organized the transfer of thousands of residents by land and sea; in Jerusalem, the AHC ordered the transfer of women and children, and local gang leaders pushed out residents of several neighborhoods, while in Beisan the women and children were ordered out as Transjordan's Arab Legion dug in.

Avineri mentions the strenuous Jewish efforts to persuade the Haifa Arabs to stay but not the AHC's order to leave - which was passed on to the local leadership by phone and secretly recorded by the Haganah. Nor does he note the well-documented efforts of Haifa's Arab leadership to scaremonger their hapless constituents, reluctant in the extreme to leave, into fleeing. Some Arab residents received written threats that, unless they left town, they would be branded as traitors deserving of death. Others were told they could expect no mercy from the Jews.

In the words of a British intelligence report: "After the Jews had gained control of the town, and in spite of a subsequent food shortage, many would not have responded to the call for a complete evacuation but for the rumors and propaganda spread by the National Committee members remaining in the town. Most widespread was a rumor that Arabs remaining in Haifa would be taken as hostages by [the] Jews in the event of future attacks on other Jewish areas: and an effective piece of propaganda with its implied threat of retribution when the Arabs recapture the town, is that [those] people remaining in Haifa acknowledged tacitly that they believe in the principle of a Jewish State."

Nor was this phenomenon confined to Palestinian cities. The deliberate depopulation of Arab villages too, and their transformation into military strongholds was a hallmark of the Arab campaign from the onset of hostilities. As early as December 1947, villagers in the Tul Karm sub-district were ordered out by their local leaders, and in mid-January Haganah intelligence briefs reported the evacuation of villages in the Hula Valley to accommodate local gangs and newly arrived ALA forces.

By February, this phenomenon had expanded to most parts of the country, gaining considerable momentum in April and May as Arab forces throughout Palestine were being comprehensively routed. On April 18, the Haganah's intelligence branch in Jerusalem reported a fresh general order to remove the women and children from all villages bordering Jewish localities. Twelve days later, its Haifa counterpart reported an ALA directive to evacuate all Arab villages between Tel Aviv and Haifa in anticipation of a new general offensive. In early May, as fighting intensified in the eastern Galilee, local Arabs were ordered to transfer all women and children from the Rosh Pina area, while in the Jerusalem sub-district, Transjordan's Arab Legion ordered the emptying of scores of villages.

To sum up, Zionism needs no propaganda to buttress its case, yet the historical truth needs to be reclaimed after decades of relentless distortion.


Efraim Karsh is research professor of Middle East and Mediterranean studies at King's College London, director of the Middle East Forum (Philadelphia) and author, most recently, of "Palestine Betrayed."

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

NYU's Superficial Entrapment Study

by IPT News

A new report from New York University's law school exaggerates the government's role in "manufacturing" evidence to support the claim of a rise in homegrown terrorism while also relying on a series of flawed and biased reports from groups hostile to law enforcement's counterterrorism efforts, an analysis by the Investigative Project on Terrorism shows.

The report, "Targeted and Entrapped: Manufacturing the 'Homegrown Threat' in the United States," was released May 18 by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, a division of the NYU School of Law. It contends that federal and local law enforcement agencies are unfairly targeting Muslims without any evidence they are involved in unlawful behavior. In some cases, the report contends, the government has used paid informants who unfairly trapped defendants into participating in terror plots.

In their effort to discredit federal cases against those suspected and/or convicted of terrorism-related plots, the report's authors have relied extensively on a series of studies written by their political allies, legal arguments by sympathetic but usually unsuccessful defense attorneys, and family members of convicted terrorists.

For example, in a section they entitle, "The Myth of Radicalization," the authors criticize a 2007 New York Police Department study on radicalization and call it "thinly sourced" and "reductionist." However, the source cited in the report's footnotes indicates it was another study by an allied group affiliated with the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice.

To prove their points, the authors cite three cases in particular:

    • U.S. v. Cromitie, in which four men were convicted of plotting to bomb a synagogue in the Riverdale section of the Bronx in New York.

    • U.S. v. Shnewer, which is also known as the Fort Dix, N.J., plot.

    • U.S. v. Siraj, in which a Pakistani immigrant living in Brooklyn was convicted of plotting to blow up a New York City subway station.

The cases cited in the report have all been upheld by courts throughout the country. In each case, defense attorneys and friends and family of the defendants claimed they were entrapped by law enforcement agencies. In each case, judges and juries rejected their claims.

In essence, the NYU report relies on the authors' and their allies' opinions that entrapment occurred, not the legal rulings of numerous juries and judges.

The report also relies on sources tied to the defendants for its claims about bias and profiling. For example, it claims there are "dozens of cases where informants were inserted into Muslim communities to lure young Muslim men into participating in concocted plots." The source for that contention was the opening statement of Troy Archie, the defense attorney for Eljvir, Dritan and Shain Duka, who were convicted of plotting to attack Fort Dix, N.J. in 2008.

In each case cited in the report, judges and juries have ruled against the entrapment claims made by the NYU authors.

U.S. v. Cromitie

In this case, federal agents arrested James Cromitie, also known as Abdul Rahman, and three other defendants in May 2009 and charged them with plotting to blow up a synagogue in Riverdale, the Bronx, and shoot down military aircraft at a nearby base with surface-to-air Stinger missiles.

The defendants claim they were entrapped by Shahed Hussain, an FBI informant. Last September, Hussain testified in federal court that he secretly recorded Cromitie and other defendants plotting to destroy the synagogue and other targets.

Cromitie and the others – Onta and David Williams and Laguerre Payen – told Hussain repeatedly that they planned to commit acts of violence, according to the recordings submitted as evidence in the case. "Without hesitation I will kill 10 [Jews] and then I will have to think 20,000 times before I kill one Muslim," Cromitie told Hussain.

Despite the defendants' claims of outrageous government conduct by the prosecutors, the court rejected their arguments. In a ruling issued May 3, the court wrote "there is absolutely no doubt that the defendants committed the charged crimes. … All facts pertinent to conviction were uncontested, except one – whether the defendants were predisposed … to commit the heinous crimes they were obviously prepared to carry out."

In their attempt to discredit the successful prosecution, the report's authors cite interviews with Williams' mother and brother saying that he tried to turn his life around after his release from prison. While that's a laudable goal, it doesn't prove entrapment. They are also hardly unbiased sources.

The authors don't even claim that Williams was innocent. Instead, they quote Alicia Williams, David Williams' aunt, saying she and her family "were pulled into a political game" created by the FBI. Perhaps, but that doesn't alter the facts that David Williams and the others agreed to participate in the scheme laid out by Hussain.

U.S. v. Shnewer

Known as the Fort Dix plot, this case involved a series of Albanian immigrants who were accused of plotting to attack the New Jersey military base. It involved two FBI informants, Mahmoud Omar and Besnik Bakalli, who helped obtain weapons to use in the attack, including a rocket-propelled grenade.

The five defendants – Mohamad Shnewer, Serdar Tatar and Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka – were convicted in December 2008 of plotting to kill soldiers at Fort Dix. They were acquitted of attempted murder charges.

Attorneys for the defendants raised the entrapment defense, but the judge rejected it before the trial. The NYU authors also report that the Dukas' defense attorneys didn't even emphasize entrapment. Instead, they claimed the brothers weren't aware of any plot at all.

So, their report, which leans heavily on the claims of entrapment, shows that the defense attorneys themselves didn't have confidence in the entrapment defense and didn't use it. The report also cites two news reports as evidence of concerns about entrapment. In both examples, however, the stories quote defense attorneys raising the issues, not objective reports.

U.S. v. Siraj

Shahawar Matin Siraj and James Elshafay conspired to plant explosives at Manhattan's 34th Street subway station in August 2004, just before the beginning of the Republican National Convention that was held at the nearby Madison Square Garden. Elshafay pled guilty to conspiracy in October 2004, and testified against Siraj at his trial. Additionally, an NYPD undercover police officer, known as Kamil Pasha, testified against Siraj. The jury convicted Siraj in May 2006 in Brooklyn federal court on all four counts of conspiracy, and the judge sentenced him to 30 years in prison in January 2007.

The evidence against Siraj also included secretly taped conversations between him and an NYPD paid informant, Osama Eldawoody, an Egyptian engineer. In those conversations, Siraj expressed his hatred for the United States and his interest in placing explosive devices in various parts of New York City. Siraj's sole defense at trial was his claim that he was entrapped by Eldawoody. In its analysis of the law of the entrapment defense, the trial court noted that Siraj's evidence of government inducement was minimal:

"The only evidence defendant offered on this subject was his own testimony that the confidential informant constantly talked to him about the war in Iraq and inflamed his anger against the United States and its treatment of Muslims, for example, by showing him pictures of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib." U.S. v. Siraj, 468 F. Supp. 2d 408, 415 (E.D.N.Y. 2007).

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed Siraj's conviction, and the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari.

"[A] rational jury could find that Matin failed to carry his burden," the Second Circuit panel noted. "Matin's only evidence of inducement was his own testimony. And that testimony was contradicted by the testimony of a cooperating witness and the case agent. The government further undermined Matin's credibility by demonstrating that he had lied under oath. We therefore conclude that the evidence sufficed to convict Matin."

But like their discussion of the previous two cases they use as examples, the NYU report authors ignore the decisions of the courts and jury and present the defendant's version of the facts of the case from the mouths of the defendant's family. Siraj's mother is quoted as saying, "Many men in our communities have been targeted, and the women and children are left out in the cold."

After their cursory discussion of these cases, the authors make generalized and sweeping conclusions that "[t]hese cases and other documented practices are suggestive of larger patterns of law enforcement activities that are targeting Muslim communities around the country." As evidence of this statement, the authors direct the reader to several footnotes which cite reports by their political allies, such as the ACLU and the Council for American-Islamic Relations, which have consistently opposed all counterterrorism efforts by the US government since 9/11. Why do these cases demonstrate profiling and impermissible actions? Because they say so.

With no independent corroboration, the study recommends sweeping changes in the way terrorism investigations are conducted. Among them: "The FBI is explicitly and consistently prohibited from using informants to engage in entrapment or inducement to commit crimes."

Attorney General Eric Holder has made it clear that such drastic changes would crimp law enforcement's ability to thwart budding terrorist plots. In a speech given in December to a Muslim lawyers group, Holder acknowledged sting operations may be unpopular, but they work.

"Since 2001, more than 400 individuals have been convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related violations in federal courts," he said. "And in those terrorism cases where undercover sting operations have been used, there is a lengthy record of convictions."

"Those who characterize the FBI's activities in this case as 'entrapment' simply do not have their facts straight - or do not have a full understanding of the law," Holder added.

"Our nation's law enforcement officials deserve our gratitude – and respect. Without their work – and their willingness to place public safety above personal security – government simply could not meet its most critical responsibility of protecting American lives."

The NYU report simply re-argues points defense counsel have argued unsuccessfully in the legal system. To rely on circular reasoning to claim that the government is "manufacturing the homegrown threat in the United States" is nothing more than an attempt to re-litigate the defendants' claims after they have lost.


IPT News

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

All Ahmadinejad's Men

by Ali Alfoneh

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's sacking of foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki has opened another chapter in the ongoing power struggle between the president and the supreme leader, Ali Khamene'i. Interpersonal as it may seem, this confrontation symbolizes the struggle between the Islamic Republic's old elites and Ahmadinejad's burgeoning patronage network, which challenges their authority. How has the president managed to build such a formidable power base? Who are the key members of his coterie, and will they enable their benefactor to outsmart the supreme leader to become Iran's effective ruler?

Was Khamene'i the Real Target?

The sacking of Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, on December 13, 2010, was a clear snub to Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamene'i, and opened another chapter in the ongoing power struggle between him and President Ahmadinejad.

On December 13, 2010, while the foreign minister was on an official visit to Senegal, Ahmadinejad replaced Mottaki with Ali-Akbar Salehi, former Iran Atomic Energy Organization director.[1] Following the public outrage about dismissing a cabinet minister on a diplomatic mission, "an informed source" claimed that the government was unaware that Mottaki was abroad.[2] But upon release of the news that Ahmadinejad himself had ordered Mottaki to deliver a personal message to the Senegalese president,[3] first vice president Mohammed-Reza Rahimi and senior assistant Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi said that Mottaki had been informed of the dismissal prior to the trip—a claim which the foreign minister denied.[4]

A model career diplomat, Mottaki was never a key player in the Islamic Republic regime and owed his cabinet membership to Khamene'i. This, along with newly revealed information about the circumstances of his sacking, provides insights into Ahmadinejad's real target: the supreme leader.

According to Ayandeh News, approximately a week prior to Mottaki's dismissal, Ahmadinejad had privately complained to Khamene'i of "lack of coordination between [government] agencies and [the presidency's] restricted authority" and had voiced his resolve to replace the foreign minister. No decision was made, and Ahmadinejad did not raise the issue on his next meeting with Khamene'i on December 6, 2010. However, upon leaving the supreme leader's office, the president told one of Khamene'i's secretaries that "he had forgotten to raise the issue of Mottaki's dismissal with Ayatollah Khamene'i and asked him to inform him [Khamene'i] about it."[5]

Khamene'i has hitherto failed to comment on Mottaki's dismissal in public but gave the green light to various foes, such as parliamentarians and the press, to criticize Ahmadinejad.[6] He also opened another front against the president as the judiciary announced it was investigating corruption charges against Vice President Rahimi.[7] But as Ahmadinejad ignored the public outrage, Khamene'i took a defensive position. According to Ayandeh News, in a conversation "with one of the grandees," Khamene'i stressed that "Mottaki's dismissal had not been coordinated with him and that his approval had not been sought concerning appointment of the acting foreign minister [Ali-Akbar Salehi]."[8]

The President's Permanent Purge

The sacking of Mottaki continues a relentless purge begun during Ahmadinejad's first term in office. Upon entering the presidential palace in 2005, he faced the same challenge encountered by all his predecessors: Though the president has the prerogative of appointing cabinet ministers, more often than not, these appointments are imposed on him by the regime's ruling elites.

Ahmadinejad, however, has moved away from the political traditions and elites of the past and has systematically purged those cabinet ministers forced on him by other groups, beginning with the roads and transportation minister, Mohammed Rahmati,[9] whom he had inherited from his predecessor, President Mohammed Khatami. From the camp of Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, Ahmadinejad dismissed economy and finance minister, Davoud Danesh-Ja'fari,[10] and oil minister, Mohammed-Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh.[11] He even dismissed cabinet ministers imposed on him by Khamene'i, including interior minister, Hojjat al-Eslam Mostafa Pour-Mohammedi,[12] and intelligence minister, Hojjat al-Eslam Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ezhehi.[13] Other ministers dismissed by Ahmadinejad were cooperatives minister, Mohammed Nazemi Ardakani;[14] education minister, Mahmoud Farshidi;[15] industry and mines minister, Ali-Reza Tahmasbi;[16] and welfare and social security ministers, Mohammed Nazemi Ardakani[17] and Parviz Kazemi.[18] Mottaki's dismissal—the first purge in Ahmadinejad's second tenure—eliminates any pro-Khamene'i and pro-Ali Larijani representatives in the cabinet since the foreign minister was active in Larijani's 2005 presidential bid.[19]

Ahmadinejad's Network

Ahmadinejad's history of purging, as well as his sacking of Mottaki, have demonstrated that inclusion in the president's network, rather than subservience to Khamene'i, who is either unwilling or incapable of defending his own favorites, is the best career move for the Islamic Republic's elites. Members of what Iranians call the "Party of the Wind (Hezb-e Bad)," ranging from American University professor Hamid Mowlana,[20] to Tehran University professor Sadegh Zibakalam,[21] who recently defected from Rafsanjani's camp with his praise of Ahmadinejad's chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, are trying to join the president's ranks. This, however, is easier said than done. Bagher Alayi, Ahmadinejad's classmate at Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST) in the 1970s, recalls his colleague's university network:

They did not easily allow anyone to join their team … They had to be completely convinced that this person thought the same way as themselves and to be convinced of his loyalty before allowing him to join their ranks. They would also make investigations, and even then would be careful.[22]

Ahmadinejad has not changed much since his university days. His network is recruited from a closed circuit comprising his fellow IUST alumni, local government and security executives who served in the northwestern parts of Iran in the 1980s, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officers who received civilian academic degrees from IUST in the 1990s, those who served Ahmadinejad during his brief tenure as Tehran mayor (2003-05), along with a few family members, and some high ranking IRGC officers who seem to have a power base independent of Ahmadinejad.

Ahmadinejad's Mentor and Strategist

To find the roots of Ahmadinejad's circle of trust, one must look into the political dynamics at play at Iran University of Science and Technology on the eve of the 1979 revolution. It was there that the future president's road to radical politics began and where he forged the most important friendship of his life with Samareh Hashemi, his fellow IUST student, religious mentor, and political strategist. Unlike Ahmadinejad, who hails from an unprivileged family of immigrants to Tehran, Hashemi belongs to the religious upper-middle class in Kerman province, is the nephew of Islamist theoretician and prime minister, the late Mohammed-Javad Bahonar, and is also the uncle of current parliamentarian Mohammedreza Bahonar. In the immediate aftermath of the revolution, Hashemi and Ahmadinejad headed a radical Islamist student faction at IUST,[23] following the line of "the late [Ayatollah Ali] Ghoddousi, representative of the leader's deputy [Grand Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri[24]] at the IUST," unlike the other faction which followed the "representative of the leader at the university."[25]

Hashemi and Ahmadinejad's group suffered a major setback at the November 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Inspired by the late Ayatollah Mohammed Beheshti, the Islamic Republican Party cofounder, their faction had opposed the takeover. Beheshti himself had held secret negotiations with U.S. diplomats a week before the seizure and was not interested in the release of the documents,[26] instead advocating the takeover of the Soviet embassy. But the seizure of the U.S. embassy and the taking of U.S. diplomats as hostages proved a tremendous success for the perpetrators. Envious of the prestige of the leftist hostage takers, Hashemi and Ahmadinejad readily aligned themselves with the rightist revolutionary faction, especially the Islamic Republican Party. They established the Office of the Consolidation of Unity Student Organization and together with the late party firebrand, Hassan Ayat, set in motion what became known as the Cultural Revolution,[27] namely, the closure of universities in Iran for over a year, the purge of Iranian universities of undesirable academics and students—including Marxists—and the rewriting of academic materials according to the Islamic Republic's ideological and political doctrines.[28]

Building the Rings of Power

The Cultural Revolution did not prove the astounding success Ahmadinejad and Hashemi had hoped for, and its management was soon handed over to the Supreme Council for the Cultural Revolution. The two students abandoned university life in pursuit of further revolutionary adventures in the shadow of the Iraqi invasion of Iran in 1980, but they allegedly swore to their leftist opponents, "We will return to conquer the country!"[29]

The Northwestern Ring. The path to conquest went through executive and security positions in the northwestern parts of Iran, which at the time was in a state of civil war—either because of ethnic conflict over Kurdistan or political upheavals as a result of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed-Kazem Shariatmadari's rivalry with Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini—which challenged central government authority. Ahmadinejad himself served as governor of Makou and Khoy and advised the governor generals of Kordestan Ardebil.[30] His colleagues from this era, known as the "Ardebil ring" (perhaps better called the northwestern ring), are heavily represented in Ahmadinejad's second cabinet. These include Hashemi, who served as West Azerbaijan governor general and Kordestan's political deputy, and who is today a senior assistant to Ahmadinejad;[31] Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, who established the IRGC intelligence unit in Kurdistan and was promoted to the local security council of the West Azerbaijan province;[32] first vice president Rahimi, who served as Kordestan governor general;[33] housing and urban development minister, Ali Nikzad, who was Ardebil governor general;[34] welfare minister and former commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Sadegh Mahsouli, who served as West Azerbaijan deputy governor in the early 1980s,[35] and Martyr Foundation director, Masoud Zaribafan, who is a relative of Ahmadinejad's and served as Mahabad governor and also on the Tehran Islamic City Council when Ahmadinejad was mayor.[36]

The Science and Technology Ring. Following the end of the Iran-Iraq war, many former Revolutionary Guards officers pursued academic studies to prepare themselves for public office. So did Ahmadinejad and Samareh Hashemi who returned to the university. Back at IUST, they kept the university's doors wide open to friends they had made in the Guards and security services in the northwestern parts during the war. In the 1990s, the IUST developed into a veritable PhD factory for the Revolutionary Guards, which explains the over-representation of IUST and IUST/IRGC alumni in Ahmadinejad's cabinet. The list includes commerce minister, Mehdi Ghazanfari;[37] industry minister, Aliakbar Mehrabian, who is also Ahmadinejad's nephew;[38] labor and social affairs minister, Abdel Reza Sheikholeslami;[39] and roads and transportation minister, Hamid Behbahani.[40]

The Tehran Municipality Ring. Ahmadinejad's tenure as mayor of Tehran proved as important to his network as his university days and executive posts in northwestern Iran.[41] Prominent Tehran municipality personalities of his coterie include recently sacked National Youth Organization director, Mehrdad Bazrpash;[42] science and technology deputy, Nasrin Soltankhah;[43] and industry minister, Aliakbar Mehrabian.[44] Parallel with the rise of Rahim-Mashaei, came a meteoric rise by former Mashaei subordinates at the Tehran municipality during Ahmadinejad's tenure as mayor. Hamid Baghayi, Iranian cultural heritage handicrafts and tourism organization director, is the most prominent among Mashaei's protégés.[45]

Men of the IRGC

Apart from those guardsmen who are somehow related to Ahmadinejad, there are also a number of IRGC officers who do not seem to owe their appointments to the president's benevolence and may well be the choice of the Revolutionary Guards. The list includes former IRGC Quds Force members, cabinet secretary, Majid Doustali,[46] and defense and armed forces logistics minister, Ahmad Vahidi.[47] Apart from Hashemi, Mehrabian, Mahsouli, and Sheikh al-Eslami mentioned above, other former IRGC officers in Ahmadinejad's second cabinet include communications and information technology minister, Reza Taghipour Anvari;[48] cooperatives minister, Mohammed Abbasi;[49] culture and Islamic guidance minister, Mohammed Hosseini;[50] education minister, Hamidreza Hajibabayi;[51] energy minister, Majid Namjou;[52] interior minister, Mohammed-Mostafa Najjar;[53] oil minister, Masoud Mirkazemi;[54] and science and higher education minister, Kamran Daneshjou.[55]

The strong cabinet presence of former IRGC officers who have a shorter acquaintance with Ahmadinejad, and who neither belong to the northwestern ring nor owe their civilian academic degrees to Ahmadinejad and Hashemi, has important implications. It suggests that Ahmadinejad has had to reciprocate the IRGC's contribution to his reelection. Increased IRGC participation in the country's economic life and its seizure of publicly-owned economic enterprises—such as Iran Telecommunications in the largest trade in the history of the Tehran Stock Exchange[56]—is another price Ahmadinejad has had to pay to remain in office.


Ahmadinejad's sacking of Mottaki is the latest example of his systematic purge of political rivals and their replacement with his own protégés, so as to make the cabinet cohesive and relatively easy to control. At the same time, this patronage network excludes members of powerful elites who have ruled Iran since 1979, and who will consequently feel free to criticize the president since they are not involved in the decision-making process.

No less importantly, the move constitutes yet another public snub to Khamene'i, who seems unwilling and unable to protect his own protégés, thus opening the door to his further weakening. Is Khamene'i ready for a showdown with Ahmadinejad, or will he continue to watch his prestige crumble amidst his rival's provocations? Regardless of the outcome of the power struggle between the two, a third party could be the ultimate victor: the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, whose power will only grow as the civilian politicians continue their war of attrition.

[1] Tabnak News Agency (Tehran), Dec. 13, 2010.
[2] Khabar Online (Tehran), Dec. 19, 2010.
[3] Farda News (Tehran), Jan. 1, 2011.
[4] Ibid., Dec. 19, 2010.
[5] Ayandeh News (Tehran), Jan. 2, 2011.
[6] Parsineh (Tehran), Dec. 13, 2010; Mehr News Agency (Tehran), Dec. 13, 2010; Kayhan (Tehran), Dec. 14, 2010.
[7] Asr-e Iran (Tehran), Dec. 20, 2010.
[8] Ayandeh News, Jan. 2, 2011.
[9] Aftab News Agency (Tehran), July 7, 2008.
[10] Fars News Agency (Tehran), Apr. 4, 2008.
[11] Now-Andish News (Tehran), Aug. 19, 2007.
[12] Farda News, May 17, 2008.
[13] Tabnak News Agency, July 26, 2009.
[14] Aftab News Agency, Oct. 28, 2006.
[15] Ibid., Nov. 23, 2007.
[16] Fars News Agency, Aug. 8, 2007.
[17] Hamshahri (Tehran), Nov. 18, 2006.
[18] Aftab News Agency, Sept. 25, 2006.
[19] Radio Farda (Prague), Dec. 14, 2010.
[20] "President Appoints Professor Mowlana as Advisor," President of the Islamic Republic of Iran website (Tehran), Aug. 19, 2008.
[21] Mahramaneh News (Tehran), Jan. 19, 2011.
[22] Shahrvand-e Emrouz (Tehran), Nov. 13, 2007.
[23] Ebtekar (Tehran) Apr. 16, 2008.
[24] See, "An Ayatollah Condemns an Unjust Ruler," Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2010, pp. 73-6.
[25] Shahrvand-e Emrouz, Nov. 13, 2007.
[26] Tabnak News Agency, Apr. 23, 2008.
[27] Shahrvand-e Emrouz, Nov. 13, 2007.
[28] "Negahi Be Tarikhcheh-ye Showra-ye Ali-ye Enghelab-e Farhangi," Secretariat of Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution website (Tehran), accessed Jan. 3, 2011.
[29] Shahrvand-e Emrouz, Nov. 13, 2007.
[30] "Zendeginameh," Presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran website (Tehran), accessed Jan. 3, 2011.
[31] Hamshahri, Apr. 14, 2009.
[32] "Mashaei Yek Moemen Va Yek Modir-e Velayat-Madar Ast," Masha News (Tehran), accessed Jan. 3, 2011.
[33] Mardomsalari (Tehran), Apr. 22, 2008.
[34] Fars News Agency, Aug. 21, 2009.
[35] Jahan News Agency (Tehran), Nov. 8, 2009.
[36] Alef News Agency (Tehran), Mar. 4, 2007.
[37] Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA, Tehran), Dec. 16, 2009.
[38] Ham-Mihan News Agency (Tehran), May 7, Aug. 23, 2009.
[39] Jame'-ye Eslami-ye Karegaran-e Esfahan (Isfahan), Aug. 25, 2009.
[40] Hamshahri, July 29, 2008.
[41] For a survey of Ahmadinejad's tenure as Tehran mayor, see Frederic Tellier, "The Iranian Moment," Policy Focus, no. 52, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Washington, D.C., Feb. 2006.
[42] Ham-Mihan News Agency, May 10, 2009.
[43] Fars News Agency, Sept. 21, 2009.
[44] Ham-Mihan News Agency, Aug. 23, 2009.
[45] Mahramaneh News, Jan. 11, 2011.
[46] "Tabarshenasi-ye Koudetachian," Enghelab-e Eslami Dar Tab'id (Paris), accessed Dec. 8, 2009.
[47] Tabnak News Agency, Sept. 1, 2009.
[48] "Mo'arrefi-ye Mohandes Reza Taghipour Be 'Onvan-e Vazir-e Ertebatat Be Majles," Ministry of Information Technology and Communication website (Tehran), Aug. 21, 2009.
[49] Hamshahri, Mar. 25, 2007.
[50] Jam-e Jam (Tehran) Aug. 29, 2009.
[51] "Hamidreza Hajibabayi Kist?" Kanoun-e Farhangian-e Esfahan website (Isfahan), Nov. 13, 2009.
[52] Tabnak News Agency, Nov. 8, 2009.
[53] Hamshahri, Mar. 25, 2008.
[54] Ibid., Apr. 4, 2007.
[55] Fars News Agency, Aug. 21, 2009.
[56] Ali Alfoneh, "The Revolutionary Guards' Looting of Iran's Economy," Middle East Outlook, American Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C., June 2010.


Ali Alfoneh is a resident fellow at American Enterprise Institute.

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