Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mordechai Kedar: Engulfed by Fear

by Mordechai Kedar

Read the article in Italiano (translated by Angelo Pezzana)

The Persian Gulf suffers from severe geo-political disproportionality: on its eastern shore lies one large state, Iran, which operates methodically and consistently to implement its agenda, the goal of which is regional, if not wider, hegemony; while on its western shore lie no less than twelve Arab states: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the seven states of the United Emirates: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharqah, and Umm al-Quwain. Each state has its own story: a family that dominates the leadership, a unique character, its own internal problems, and its own individual agenda, which differs from state to state. As long as Iraq was under the control of Saddam, it was a counterweight to Iran, and the states of the Gulf took shelter in the shadow of Iraq. They also paid protection money to Iraq in the form of partial funding of the Iraqi military efforts during the years of the war against Iran between 1980 and 1988. Since their establishment, the ultimate goal of the Gulf states was to survive among the giants, Iraq and Iran, and the Emirates kept their distance from Saudi Arabia. Recently the Iranian titan took control of the Iraqi titan.

The states of the Arabian Peninsula have been trying for years to create a mechanism that would result in a united agenda, mainly from a security point of view, and in light of the war between Iran and Iraq, they created the "Gulf Cooperation Council" (GCC) in May 1981. The main achievement of this Council was the establishment of a military force by the name of the "Peninsula Shield Force", whose role is to defend its members from external attack. However, the Force was too weak and therefore unable to rescue Kuwait in 1990 from the Iraqi invasion. The most successful action of the Force was in March of 2011, when they became involved in the internal struggle in Bahrain to stabilize the minority Arab-Sunni rule over the majority Persian-Shi'ite population, which was rebelling against the regime under the influence of the "Arab Spring" and with the encouragement of Iran.

Since the regime of Saddam was overthrown in the year 2003, and since Iran has succeeded during the last year to bring Iraq into its sphere of influence, the Gulf states feel that the Iranian steamroller is approaching nearer and nearer to them, and the guillotine of the Ayatollahs is threatening the connection between the heads and shoulders of the sheikhs, princes and kings who live in the Arabian Peninsula. The states of the Peninsula feel that they are increasingly dependent on the United States and the West to guard their independence and their political and economic maneuverability, but the West seems tired and exhausted now, as a result of their failure in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its leadership - especially the current resident in the White House, who is heavily influenced by the approaching elections - lacks a backbone and has no ability to deter the Iranians and stop them from galloping towards regional hegemony that will include the whole Arabian peninsula. The Gulf states know that if Iran invades Kuwait and conquers it, as Saddam did in August of 1990, the world will not send its armies to rescue Kuwait again, but will sacrifice it on the Iranian altar in hopes that the Ayatollahs will be satisfied with that. And any other country can expect the same treatment.

The inherent split among the states of the Arabian Peninsula has been exacerbated recently by the internal problems that are tearing Yemen from within: the conflict between the North and the South awakens the desire among the tribes of South Yemen to renew the independence that they lost 22 years ago, in the never-ending war between the Sana'a regime and the Hawthi's in the district of Sa'da in the North and the activities of Al-Qaeda (and especially egregious was the terror attack that caused about a hundred fatalities among the soldiers of the army) against the central regime, weakening the domestic front of this state and threatening its integrity.

As a result, the geo-political situation in the Gulf in the recent period is that of total inequality: On one side is one unified state with a clear goal, possessing great power and a willingness to use it and the proven ability to do anything it wants without regard to the international community; and on the other side are 13 states including Yemen, with various competing concerns, and with complex internal conflicts. And in some of the states, large Shi'ite minorities exist which are an Iranian-Shiite "Trojan Horse" within Arab-Sunni states. And added to this already problematic situation is the history, which is no less complex and problematic: The Iranian takeover of three islands that belong to the Emirates which occurred back in the days of the Shah, but continues to be a focus of tension; the visit of Ahmadinejad to one of these islands about two months ago as a sign of Iranian sovereignty over them; Iranian naval maneuvers to close off the Strait of Hormuz; Iranian talk about the historical connection between Iran and Bahrain, which has a Persian-Shi'ite majority and Iranian talk about the obligation of Bahrain to return to the Iranian bosom; Iranian complaints to Saudi Arabia about how it relates to its Shi'ite minority that resides in the area of the oil fields; and the provocative behavior of Iranians who make the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, arousing sectarian tension among the Sunnis.

All of these factors together, and especially the lack of trust that the West and the United States will support them in their hour of need, has created among the leaders of the Gulf states great fear of the Iranian giant that is threatening to take them over, and today they are dominated by the feeling that there is no choice for them except to change the geo-political equation vis a vis Iran. To do this they must create common ground for their political and security policies, because the divisiveness that prevails in the Arabian Peninsula weakens them. Saudi Arabia, which sees itself - and very justifiably - as the main target of the Iranians, is leading this process. The Saudis know well that the main goal of the Iranians in the Arabian Peninsula, after or even before the oil, is the two holy cities of Islam, Mecca and Medina. Ever since the Ibn Saud family took over the Hijaz 90 years ago, the king boasts that he is "the Custodian of the Two Holy Places" and uses this as the basis of Islamic legitimization for his rule. A Shi'ite takeover of the Peninsula, which was stolen by the Sunnis, will turn back the wheel of history to the middle of the Seventh century, to the days of the Caliphate of Ali bin Abi Talib, the fourth caliph, and even now the Shi'ites dream of returning Islamic hegemony to his family. The Saudis view Shi'ism as a kind of heresy.

The Saudi push for some kind of unity in the Peninsula was declared in January 2012, when the emergency summit of the Gulf states met to discuss the Iranian threat in light of the developments of the "Arab Spring" and their ramifications for the stability of the Gulf states. In this summit, which met in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, the Saudi King Abdullah spoke to the attendees with this language (my comments are in parenthesis, M.K.): "We are meeting in the shadow of a challenge that demands that we wake up, and at a time when we must unify our forces and our voices.” The king declared to his listeners that there are threats to the security and stability of the Gulf; and despite the fact that he did not mention the source of the threats, there was no doubt to whom he was referring. He called to the leaders, his neighbors, "to rise (above the disputes) to the necessary level of responsibility that is required of them, and since the attendees were all part of the (Islamic) nation they must support their brothers (the Syrians) in order to rescue them from the bloodshed (of the Syrian regime, which is supported by Iran)".

King Abdullah added: "Our accumulated history and experience have taught us not to be satisfied with just talking about our situation and leaving it at that, because he who acts in this way will find himself at the end of the line and will be lost. And since this is not acceptable for any of us, I request from you to progress from this phase of cooperation to the phase of unification as one entity; this will remove the evil and bring goodness." There is no expression more severe than these religiously charged words in diplomatic Arabic language that can be used in order to convey a message about Iran. The fact that the name of Iran was not explicitly mentioned does not detract from the strength of the words. It must be assumed that behind the scenes, sharper, less diplomatic and more explicit expressions toward Iran were heard.

The anxiety of the Gulf states was exacerbated with the provocative visit of the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in April of this year, to the island of Abu Musa, one of three islands that belong to the United Arab Emirates according to the claim of the UAE, and that Iran took over in the days of the Shah, in 1971. This island is located in the Strait of Hormuz, opposite the shore of Abu Dhabi, and the military base that Iran established on it could serve the Iranian forces if they try to block the Strait. The visit triggered a wave of severe verbal responses by the UAE, and Iran responded with a wave of foul statements against the Gulf States. This response is important because it created a very bad atmosphere and high tension between the two sides of the Gulf. Here it is worthwhile to mention that the Arabs call the Gulf "The Arabian Gulf", while the Iranians insist on calling it "the "Persian Gulf", and whenever an Arab leader says "Arabian Gulf", the Iranians become upset and call in the ambassador for a scolding.

Hassan Sheikh al-Islam, the adviser for International Affairs to the head of "Majlis al-Shura" the Iranian parliament, said that "declarations by the leaders of the Emirates regarding the islands in the Persian(!) Gulf are part of an old plot that is supported by the leaders of Britain (which was the governor of the Gulf until it left during the process of the sixties) and the Zionist entity." Accusing the states of the Gulf of Zionism is meant to shut the mouths of Iran's detractors. (It's worthy of note that also Hitler in his day, would accuse his detractors of cooperation with the Jews.) The islands, according to Sheikh al-Islam, are an inseparable part of the land of Iran, so the president's visit to the island is a natural thing. He also accused Saudi Arabia of forgetting the two Saudi islands, Sanafir and Tiran, located at the mouth of the Gulf of Eilat, which Israel conquered in 1967 in the Six Day War, and still controls, according to him, because Sadat did not demand to get them back since they belong to Saudi Arabia. He claims that the Saudis are quiet so that they will not aggravate their friends in Tel Aviv, just as they and their friends in the Emirates are quiet about the Jewish occupation of Judea and Samaria that belong to the Palestinians, the occupation of the Golan Heights that belongs to Syria, and the Israeli takeover of Sheba Farms that belongs to Lebanon.

The Iranian spokesman accused "Abu Mut'ab" (the use of the nickname of Abdullah, King of Saudi Arabia is intended to express disrespect) of supporting the Syrian rebels, and that his Sheikhs issue fatwas (religious rulings) that obligate the Muslims to go to jihad against the Syrian rulers in order to establish a Salafi and Wahhabi regime in Syria similar to that of Saudi Arabia. Everyone knows that the enemy of the Islamic world is Israel, so why do the Gulf media deal with subtle things like the visit of Ahmadinejad to Abu Musa? The Gulf media should focus on Israel! These words against the media in the Gulf are aimed mainly at the al-Jazeera channel, which broadcasts from Qatar, and caused - in the opinion of the regime in Syria and Iran and the leaders of Hizbullah in Lebanon - the wave of Arab violence called the "Arab Spring" that was intended to improve the situation of the Zionist Entity by means of overthrowing Arab rulers.

The Iranian spokesman finished his words with a general declaration that Iran will not fall into the trap of regional bickering with the Arabs and saves all of its strength for coping with the real enemy, the Zionist enemy. The goal behind this declaration is to relax, or rather pacify, the Emirates in the Gulf, so that there will be no noise when Iran takes them over. However, their leaders know the deceptive ways of the Iranians, and are well aware of the fact that talk of the Zionist entity is precisely the proof that Iran sees the states of the Gulf as the first target for its tentacles.

In the middle of the month of May, about one week before this writing, it became known that the head of the "Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies" in Jedda, General Dr. Anwar 'Ishqi, said that the council of the summit of the Gulf states that was supposed to meet in Riyadh would decide on "a certain type of unity between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain". The meaning of such a declaration is that Saudi Arabia is already in secret negotiations with the Bahraini royal house, with the goal of declaring a union to fend off the Iranian attempts to take over the island, and to give legitimacy to the Saudi military involvement against the Persian-Shi'ite majority of the citizens of Bahrain. A union of this sort will turn such involvement into an "internal matter", so that other states will have nothing to say about it. These rumors have worried many people, in Bahrain as well as outside of it. For the Bahraini Shi'ite opposition, a union such as this would be the kiss of death; for Iran it might push off the day in which it will again control Bahrain, but the other ruling families in the Gulf states don't want to give up their independence and their wealth to become an organ in the aged Saudi political body.

All of the observers were reminded of the saying of King Abdallah from last January quoted above, and understood that Saudi Arabia and Bahrain indeed have passed from a stage of cooperation to the stage of becoming one entity in a way that will be acceptable for all sides. They are reminded that in the first Council of the Summit, a decision was taken to establish a think tank that would include three representatives from every state and would deal with the way in which the Gulf states can create some kind of union among them. The schedule was fairly tight: In February, names of participants were supposed to have been submitted, and in March - just one month afterward - the team was supposed to have served its recommendations.

When they heard about the idea of a union between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the Iranians were beside themselves with rage. The official news agency "Fars" called the idea "an evil Saudi-Gulf step intended to give legitimacy to the occupation of Bahrain", and the Iranian spokesman said in an interview on BBC that "if Bahrain unties with any other state, it must unite again with Iran, not with Saudi Arabia".

It could be that the declaration of 'Ishqi was intended to be a "trial balloon" to see what the reaction would be, and they would decide what action to take afterward, but it could also be that it was intended to prepare public opinion in the Gulf states for the time when they must accept the hegemony of the Saudi "big brother" so that it can rescue them from the "neighboring giant" of Iran. In many Gulf states there are significant Shi'ite minorities, some of which speak Persian, and the leaders of these states are well acquainted with the Iranian attempts to arouse these minorities to rebellion against the Sunni regimes such as that in Bahrain.

They watch with great concern how the balance of power is changing to their detriment globally, while China and Russia paralyze the West and enable Iran to race forward with its nuclear military plans. Their fear is increased when the head of the International Atomic Energy Association returns this week with an "agreement" that might be no more meaningful than the 2012 version of the "Munich Agreement”, which Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Great Britain, brought in 1938, declaring "peace in our time" which ended a year after that in the bloodshed that enveloped Europe as well as the rest of the world.

The leaders of the Gulf do not believe even one word that comes out of the Iranians' mouths, and they fear that the West may again fall into the trap of deception that Sa'eed Jalili laid in Baghdad. Western naiveté - in their opinion - will ultimately cause the states of the Gulf to fall at the feet of the Iranians and therefore they are trying now to find a way to create a union with Saudi Arabia. Bahrain is the weak link in the chain formed by the states of the Gulf, and therefore the union will begin with it. And the more that time passes and the further the West falls into the Iranian trap, the more the states of the Gulf will be pushed by their fear into the warm bosom of the Saudi family.


Dr. Mordechai Kedar ( is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav.

Links to Dr. Kedar's recent articles on this blog:

Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.

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

Baghdad Talks End in Deadlock, as Iran Refuses to Curb Nuclear Program

by The Associated Press

Two-day session yields agreement on just one thing: to reconvene next month in Moscow
Tough negotiations between Iran and world powers over Tehran’s nuclear program ended Thursday with a plan to meet next month for another round of talks but agreement on little else.

The open channels between Iran and the six-nation bloc — the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany — are seen as the most hopeful chances of outreach between Washington and Tehran in years. They also could push back threats of military action that have shaken oil markets and brought worries of triggering a wider Middle East conflict.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said both sides agreed to continue the discussions on June 18-19 in Moscow in hopes of a breakthrough on international concerns about the Islamic Republic’s ability to build atomic weapons.

The announcement capped two days of negotiations in Baghdad, where at times it appeared Tehran would withdraw from the talks in frustration over the West’s refusal so far to scale back tough economic sanctions.

“It is clear that we both want to make progress, and that there is some common ground,” Ashton, who is formally leading the talks, told reporters at the end of the talks. “However, significant differences remain. Nonetheless, we do agree on the need for further discussion to expand that common ground.”

Israeli leaders have been critical of the talks, claiming it allows Iran to buy time and drive a wedge between Washington and Jerusalem. On Wednesday, Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak said even possible moves by Iran to open its nuclear facilities to greater UN inspection doesn’t rule out a possible Israeli military strike.

Iran went into the Baghdad talks seeking guarantees the West will scale back on its sanctions, which have targeted Iran’s critical oil exports and have effectively blackballed the country from international banking networks.

Instead, Tehran’s negotiators on Thursday rejected proposals by the world powers to curb its nuclear program without getting much in return, calling them unbalanced. Saeed Jalili, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, demanded an overhaul to the Western plan and conveyed his concerns in a private meeting with Ashton on Thursday.

At the heart of the issue are two different proposals. On one side is an incentive package by the six-nation group — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — that seeks to halt the most sensitive part of Iran’s nuclear fuel production.

Iran, in turn, wants the US and Europe to ease harsh economic sanctions on its oil exports in return for pledges to give wider access to UN inspectors and other concessions.

The West and its allies fear Iran’s nuclear program could eventually produce atomic weapons. Iran insists its reactors are only for energy and research.

A senior US official predicted the pace of the talks — which began last month in Istanbul — would speed up in upcoming rounds.

“We are urgent about it, because every day we don’t figure this out is a day they keep going forward with a nuclear program,” said the US official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations more candidly. “We still think we have some time for diplomacy, but it’s not indefinite.”

Hassan Abedini, an executive for Iran’s state-run TV channel who was briefed on the discussions, called the proposal put forward by the US and its allies unbalanced and filled only with old plans that Tehran dismissed years ago.

The Western package calls on Tehran to halt the production of 20 percent enriched uranium, which is the highest grade publicly announced by Iran and used for the country’s lone medical research reactor. Western leaders fear the material — far above the 3.5 percent enrichment needed for energy-producing reactors — can be turned into warhead grade in a matter of months.

In exchange, the world powers offered benefits, including medical isotopes, some nuclear safety cooperation and spare parts for civilian airliners that are needed in Iran.

But they snubbed Iranian calls for an immediate easing of significant economic sanctions imposed on Tehran for flouting UN Security Council resolutions that demand the suspension of all enrichment.

“Giving up 20 percent enrichment levels in return for plane spare parts is a joke,” said Abedini. “The package is unbalanced and therefore unacceptable.”

The Associated Press


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

Show Up Obama's Ignorance on Profit's Role in a Free Economy

by Keith Riler

Barack Obama is out knocking Mitt Romney's "profit maximizing" experience as irrelevant to the job of President and bad for individuals and communities.

This line of thinking is sufficiently ignorant and incompetent so as to automatically disqualify Obama from the job he seeks. Profit maximizing, at the national level, is precisely what this nation now needs.

This is so basic that writing it feels silly.

Consider that gross domestic product (GDP) is the revenue line for the United States, with its most dynamic and important component being business activity in the private sector. GDP is "the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States."

Every one of us wants GDP to grow as large as possible - in Obama's words, to be "maximized," because in a growing economy, everyone is much more likely to find a better job. In a shrinking or flat economy, jobs are much harder to come by. When US residents find better jobs, their gross paycheck increases.

As we all know, the only difference between gross pay and take-home pay is taxes. With GDP maximized, gross pay is maximized. To maximize net take-home pay, taxes must be minimized.

Therefore, for the most US residents to maximize their material well being, GDP (revenue) must be maximized and taxes (expense) must be minimized. Combined, the maximization of revenue and the minimization of expense is also known as "maximizing profit."

We can only guess what Barack Obama thinks should be maximized and minimized, but he has inadvertently highlighted each voter's choice: a) vote Romney, maximize profits - maximize GDP, minimize taxes - and increase the material well-being of the most people, or b) vote Obama and get more policies that yield no return and do nothing for GDP or the material well-being of most people.

Keith Riler


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

Muhammad Raped while Bobby Stayed Mum

by Ryan James Girdusky

The cult of diversity has claimed four dozen more victims. On May 8, 2012, nine men were convicted of rape, conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with minors, trafficking for sexual exploitation, conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with children, sexual assault, and aiding and abetting a rape. All nine of the men are Muslim, eight are British Pakistani, and one is Afghani. The gruesome details of the crime are in themselves barbaric, but the responses from British police are languid and discomfiting.

The national scandal began in 2005 as the nine men in the Manchester area, some of them taxi drivers, would lure many young teenage girls, often 13 to 15 years old, with free food, drugs, and alcohol. The girls came from shoddy backgrounds; many were teenage runaways and living on social services. Once they were high or drunk, they were beaten and raped. They were passed around to other men, mostly of Pakistani descent, where they would be gang-raped by three to five men a night. One case involved a 13-year-old who became pregnant after she was gang-raped by three men. And yet another disgusting incident involved a 15-year-old who was so drunk that she threw up off the side of the bed while two Pakistani men raped her. Another involved a 15-year-old who was gang-raped by 20 men in one night.

The Telegraph stated, "There were 631 documented cases of abuse over a five-year period, and many will have been too afraid to tell their story."

The nine men were between the ages of 22 and 59. One of the men, Abdul Rauf, a married father of five, also happens to be a religious studies teacher at a local mosque. The men received a total prison sentence of 77 years.

The rapes are a tragedy -- it is a tragedy that vulnerable girls can be so easily abducted, raped, and abused. However, it is the delayed response by police and civil service in the area that is the national scandal. In August of 2008, one of the victims, then 15 years old, went to police and social workers; she provided the police with DNA evidence to back up her story of being gang-raped. Twice the police refused to prosecute. She continued to be raped by up to five men a night, four or five nights a week. Former Labour MP Ann Cryer said the silence of the Manchester Bobbies is due to the fact that they were "petrified of being called racists." The Manchester police and Rochdale social services publicly apologized, but their fears of being given the scarlet "R" were not in vain.

The accusation of racism can end public servants' careers, so oftentimes they must revert to political correctness.

Political correctness was also the fallback for most of the politicians in the House of Commons. Leading MP Keith Vaz stated that the gang-rapes were "appalling" but that it was important not to "stigmatize an entire community." He later stated, "I don't think this has anything to do with race."

However, Equalities and Human Rights Commission chief Trevor Phillips said, "I think anybody who says that the fact that most of the men are Asian and most of the children are white is not relevant, I mean that's just fatuous." Nazir Afzal, the chief crown prosecutor, who himself is a Muslim, stated that some immigrants bring "cultural baggage" with them from misogynistic societies.

The link between the crime and the girls' race is undeniable according to top officials in the Human Rights Commission, and yet most media outlets outside the U.K. still ignore the case. Had roles been reversed and it were twenty white men gang-raping a Muslim woman, the international media would not rest until there was blood in the streets. The hype of the Trayvon Martin murder is simply ignored when the victims cannot produce the narrative most multiculturalists in the mainstream media wish to project.

It is a sad day for Great Britain on the whole, not just for her victimized daughters -- for the nation which at one point had an empire so large that the sun never set on it has now been reduced to a nation of cowards. If a nation cannot perform its most basic obligation to protect its citizenry because its leaders prioritize protecting their multicultural ideology, that nation and its culture are dead. In the West, theological faith has given way to political religion -- a religion predicated upon self-deception and self-destruction, a religion, which may yet be proven to be as fatal for the West as it has so callously negligent toward these young girls. If Western civilization and all the fruit it has borne are to survive this seeming twilight, then both the ideology of multiculturalism and the cult of diversity must be defeated.

Ryan James Girdusky writes from New York City. He is a contributor to and has been published in many outlets including, the American Spectator, and the Christian Science Monitor.


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

Islam’s Cultural Revolution

by Giulio Meotti

Mao’s Cultural Revolution was one of the darkest chapters of the 20th Century: communist zealots, known as “the Red Guards,” attached revolutionary messages to Buddhist statues; seventeen professors from the Shanghai Music Conservatory committed suicide; intellectuals were harassed in public trials during which they had to confess their “sins,” kneeling on makeshift rostrums; thousands of churches, temples and monasteries were demolished; ancient libraries went up in smoke; imperial ceramics were smashed and religious relics melted down. Millions of people were killed.

A new Cultural Revolution is now taking place in the Middle East, where Islam’s Red Guards are obliterating the non-Muslim heritage. If Mao’s Guards took inspiration from the “red book,” Islamic zealots have the Koran. Their targets are Jewish shrines, Christian churches, ancient monuments and cultural masterpieces.

A few days ago in Timbuktu, Mali, Islamists destroyed the tomb of a Sufi saint, Sidi Mahmoud Ben Amar. Timbuktu is known as “the city of the 333 saints”, classified as Unesco World Heritage Sites. Sufism is a mystical dimension of Islam, but extremists believe Sufi shrines are “sacrilegious.” The UN cultural body didn’t raise its voice against this Islamic iconoclasm.

A few weeks before, Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah Al al-Sheikh, the grand mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, issued a religious fatwa, saying it is “necessary to destroy all the churches in the Arabian Peninsula.” The most important Muslim cleric in the land that gave birth to Islam called for the destruction of churches without his rule attracting any global condemnation.

While in Libya Jews have been throw out again after trying to restore Tripoli’s ancient synagogue, Egyptians are planning to block Israelis from making the pilgrimages to the tomb of a Jewish saint, Yaakov Abuhatzeira.

An Islamic mob destroyed the Institute of Egypt in Cairo, founded by Napoleon and containing 192,000 books and documents from as far back as the XIX century. Now, it’s gone. Napoleon’s legendary “Description de l’Egypte” is also lost (in 1822 Jean-François Champollion used this document to unveil the mistery of the hierogliphycs). Unesco, again, stood silent. As it stood silent when Egypt’s former cultural minister, Farouk Hosni, said he “would burn Israeli books in Egyptian libraries”.

Like in Mao’s China, Islamic salafists are trying to ban ancient statues that dot Egypt and suggested that the pagan treasures “could be covered with wax”. The sirens that embellish the fountain of Zeus in Alexandria have already been deemed “inappropriate” by the Salafist party, which decided to “veil” them completely with a sheet. Salafi leaders are also terrifying liberal intellectuals by calling for banning the novels written by Naguib Mahfouz, the only Arab Nobel Prize laureate for Literature who has been called “Egypt’s Balzac”, because his works “encourage drinking alcohol and using drugs”. Mahfouz’s novel “Awlad Haretna” is labelled as “atheistic”. Islamists also want to ban the greatest masterpiece of oriental literature, “One thousand and one arabian nights”, because it’s “depravity” and “offensive to the public good”.

In Israel, Palestinian Muslims are erasing any Jewish trace on the Temple Mount, Judaism’s most holy site. In 2005 thousands of Arabs torched the synagogues in Gaza’s Katif Bloc. It was an orgy of hate, like that of the Red Guards. Twelve years ago, Arabs destroyed Joseph’s tomb, Judaism’s fourth holy site, smashing the stone structure and ripping it apart, brick by brick, as the Red Guards did with Tao’s temples. The arson attack on the Shalom al Yisrael synagogue in Jericho and the continuing gunfire at Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem are two other examples that come to mind in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Islam’s cultural revolution began when the Taliban destroyed the two wonderful Buddhas in Bamyan, Afghanistan. It was a turning point for a proto-Nazi ideology bent on the physical eradication of its enemies and their religious symbols. If Mao’s Red Guards destroyed the imperial Chinese heritage, Islam’s Red Guards want to cancel any non-Muslim trace in the Middle East. It’s a Koranic Inquisition.

Giulio Meotti


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

Negotiating with a Fantasy of the Iranian Regime

by P. David Hornik

The Iranian regime with which the P5+1 countries launched their second round of nuclear talks on Wednesday in Baghdad is not the real Iranian regime. That is to say, the Western, Russian, and Chinese diplomats will—at best—be negotiating with a fantasy-projection of the Iranian regime, and Tehran’s negotiators will be all too compliant in playing the part assigned to them.

At worst, the P5+1 diplomats will actually be aware of the true nature of the Iranian regime, but will act out the script of “negotiating constructively” with it so as to further certain ancillary goals—like lowering oil prices, boosting political fortunes, and above all, forestalling a possible Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

This constructive, reasonable Iran, ready to strike a deal and essentially having the same aims as the P5+1 countries except for a few bridgeable areas of disagreement, cannot be the same Iran that just this week called for the “full annihilation of Israel,” that has taken a steady toll of American lives in Iraq, that bragged earlier this month of its navy’s ability to threaten New York City, that has been responsible for an ongoing string of terrorist atrocities for over three decades, and that continues to intimidate its Persian Gulf neighbors with subversion and very real threats of conquest.

There is, indeed, a situation in which a regime like Iran’s would sue for reasonable terms and real compromise—if it were truly on the ropes. But, while the sanctions are taking an economic toll, not even the most determined optimists claim that Tehran is anywhere near teetering. Not while its nuclear program continues at full speed, and while, as Israeli analyst Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall notes, it has been continuing a policy of strategic “buildup, defiance, and power projection” in the face of all Western blandishments.

IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano’s claim on Tuesday, then, about an imminent—but still-unsigned—deal with Iran allowing inspection of some of its nuclear sites was a kind of ominous prelude to the Baghdad talks. It was the IAEA whose report last November—confirming all of Israel’s warnings about Iran’s unceasing progress toward the bomb—seemed to create a more serious atmosphere regarding the threat. It was Amano himself who heightened the sense of crisis in March by warning that Iran had tripled production of higher-grade enriched uranium.

The apparent ease, then, with which Amano sounded sanguine notes on Tuesday—after his first trip to Tehran since becoming IAEA chief in 2009—seems to further confirm the fatal flabbiness of will in the face of Tehran’s steadfast march toward its objective.

Indeed, as the talks got under way on Wednesday the mood in Israel—the country with the least room to indulge either outright fantasies or convenient fictions about the mullahs’ regime—ranged from skeptical to somber. As one official put it: “The Iranians are serial agreement violators. We know from past experiences how all these agreements between the IAEA and Iran end. Iran continued to establish uranium enrichment facilities in Natanz under the nose of the international community….”

A commentator was even more scathing, writing that: “The free world is pulling a fast one on us. And on itself. The agreement that the International Atomic Energy Agency reached with Iran is a pact among thieves. Thieves and liars. Everyone knows that this deal is not worth even the few words used to announce it.”

On Wednesday evening AP reported that in Baghdad the six world powers had offered Tehran a proposal focusing on its highest-level uranium enrichment at 20 percent, that “the proposal may meet a swift refusal from Iran,” and that “no breakthrough accords are expected,” so that

the negotiation process is likely to be long.

That could allow U.S. and European allies to significantly tone down threats of military action. But it would likely bring objections from Israel, which claims that Iran is only trying to buy time to keep its nuclear fuel labs in full operation.

In fact, Israel has already been objecting. Earlier on Wednesday Defense Minister Ehud Barak reiterated Israel’s demand for “a complete halt to Iranian uranium enrichment”—at all levels and in all venues, including the underground Fordow facility—and criticized Western “foot-dragging” in the talks.

But if the same pattern continues—Iran stringing the world powers along, the world powers all too willing to be conned, Israel issuing ultimatums and threats but not acting on them—the result will be a nuclear Iran.

P. David Hornik


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

Jordan: Bank Fires Women for Refusing to Wear Hijab

by Raymond Ibrahim

Several Arabic news reports appeared yesterday, Tuesday, May 22, exposing the new hijab policy of the Jordanian Dubai Islamic Bank. Under new ownership, bank management recently decreed that all females must wear the hijab, the Islamic veil, or be terminated. According to Najem News—which says the bank's policy "contradicts Jordan's laws and constitutions"—the bank "fired all female employees who refused to wear the hijab, after warning them that it is mandatory, despite the fact that some of the employees are Christians." There are also suspicions that, along with Islamizing the bank's atmosphere, this new policy was further set to target and terminate the Christian employees, since it is they who are most likely to reject the hijab.

One female Christian employee who had worked at the bank for 27 years is among those just fired. Though not available for comment, an associate of hers said in response to the new hijab rule: "Is this to be the new approach in Jordan during the Arab Spring revolutions—suppression of freedoms, intolerance for others, the exercise of intellectual terrorism, the quantization of minds, and the imposition of obligations in the name of religion?"

Some may be tempted to draw parallels between this and similar precedents in the West. For instance, some Western banks refuse to serve Muslim women in full hijab. However, this is done for security measures—show by the fact that the hijab is not singled out, but also hats, hoods and sunglasses—whereas the Jordanian Dubai Islam Bank is basing its policy entirely on religious discrimination.

Raymond Ibrahim


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

"Feeding Hate": Islamic Separatism in Britain

by Soeren Kern

Ul-Haq, 41, is also the leader for new generation of "home-grown" British Islamists who loathe Western values, support armed Jihad and preach contempt for Christians, Jews and Hindus. Ul-Haq, who preaches in mosques throughout Britain, outlaws television and music, and says football is a "cancer that has infected our youth." He is appalled by young women who want to get educated and go to university. He regularly praises the work of the Taliban and their attacks against British troops in Afghanistan. His sermons are broadcast to thousands of listeners on Radio Ramadhan Leicester in Urdu, Gujarati, Punjabi, Bengali, Somali, Arabic and English.

Leicester, one of the most rapidly Islamizing cities in England, has elected its first-ever Muslim mayor.

Abdul Razak Osman, an Indian-origin Muslim who was born in Kenya and who immigrated to Britain in 1971, was sworn into office during an elaborate investiture ceremony at the Leicester City Hall on May 18.

Osman's election reflects the growing influence of Muslims on local politics in Leicester. At his swearing-in ceremony, Osman declared: "I'm proud to be the first Muslim councillor to hold the position. We've had Christian, Hindu, and Sikh and now I'm able to bring the Islamic faith to the office, which is a great honor."

Leicester, an industrial city some 70 minutes north of London, is often promoted as Britain's quintessential multicultural success story. Immigrants currently make up nearly one-half the city's total population of 280,000, and Leicester is on the fast-track to become the first non-white majority city in British history. Many of the immigrants are of South Asian origin; and Leicester -- once known as a center for manufacturing shoes and textiles -- is now known for its many Hindu, Sikh and Muslim places of worship.

But a sharp rise in Muslim immigration in recent years is upsetting the city's ethnic balance, and is casting doubt upon the city's multicultural future.

After Christians and Hindus, Muslims are the third-largest faith group in Leicester. The city's Muslim population is estimated to be between 11% and 14% (or somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 Muslims), which is well above the percentage (4.6) of Muslims in Britain as a whole.

The Muslim population in Leicester is made up mainly of Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, as well as Turks, Somalis, Kenyans and Ugandans. According to the Ummah Forum, "you'd really like Leicester if you want to be around a large population of Muslims."

Muslim immigration has led to the proliferation of mosques in Leicester, which now has more than 200 mosques and madrassas [Islamic religious schools] and hundreds of informal Islamic prayer rooms located in basements, garages and warehouses.

Leicester is also home to several mega-mosques. The Leicester Central Mosque complex has a capacity for nearly 3,000 worshippers. It also has a school, a community hall, a residence hall for imams, a mortuary and a guest house. The huge Masjid Umar mosque has four towering minarets and a grand dome that displays Arabic calligraphy from the Koran.

The most influential Muslim in Leicester is Shaykh Abu Yusuf Riyadh-ul-Haq, a hardline Muslim cleric who runs the Al Kawthar Academy, a well-known Islamic school in the city. Ul-Haq, 41, is also the leader of a new generation of "home-grown" British Islamists who loathe Western values, support armed Jihad and preach contempt for Christians, Jews and Hindus.

Ul-Haq, who preaches in mosques across Britain, outlaws television and music, and says football is "a cancer that has infected our youth." He is appalled by young women who want to get educated and go to university. He regularly praises the work of the Taliban and their attacks against British troops in Afghanistan.

In a typical sermon, entitled "Imitating the Disbelievers," ul-Haq warns British Muslims of the danger of being corrupted by the "evil influence" of Western culture. He also heaps scorn on Muslims who say they are "proud to be British," and argues that friendship with a Christian or a Jew makes "a mockery of Allah's religion."

In another sermon called "Jewish Fundamentalism," Ul-Haq says: "They're all the same. The Jews don't have to be in Israel to be like this. It doesn't matter whether they're in New York, Houston, St Louis, London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester. They're all the same. They've monopolized everything: the Holocaust, God, money, interest, usury, the world economy, the media, political institutions […] they monopolized tyranny and oppression as well. And injustice."

Ul-Haq's sermons are broadcast to thousands of listeners on Radio Ramadhan Leicester in Urdu, Gujarati, Punjabi, Bengali, Somali, Arabic and English.

According to American diplomatic cables that were obtained and published by the website Wikileaks, Leicester is home to the most conservative Islamic population anywhere in Europe.

A leaked diplomatic cable recounts the October 2007 visit to Leicester by Farah Pandith, the U.S. State Department's Senior Advisor for Muslim Engagement. The stated purpose of the visit was for the U.S. government to find ways to help Britain "update and improve" its approach to stopping "home-grown" Islamic extremists. The document says Pandith found the lack of integration of the Muslim community in Leicester to be "striking."

Among other observations, the cable states that Pandith was shocked to find "girls as young as four years old were completely covered." The document continues: "At a local book store, texts… seemed designed to segregate Muslims from their wider community, urging women to cover themselves and remain in their homes, playing up the differences between Islam and other religions, seeking to isolate Muslims from community, and feeding hate of Jews to the young."

The cable also recounts a discussion Pandith had with religious and community leaders at an Ahmadiyya (an Asian Islamic sect) mosque: "Yaqub Khan, General Secretary of a local organization called the Pakistan Association, insisted that he had to teach young people in Urdu. When Pandith challenged him as to why he would use Urdu with children who were growing up with English as their first language, Khan insisted that there were no good books on the Koran in English."

Leicester is also notorious for having the fourth-highest rate of unemployment in Britain. Moreover, the city has very high rates of illiteracy, and ranks as one of the worst five municipalities in England for education.

A recent survey, entitled "Muslims in Leicester," says that Muslims in the city are especially prone to underachievement and unemployment. The report says the inner city Spinney Hills neighborhood, which has the highest percentage of Muslims in Leicester, is also the ward with the lowest rate of full-time employment, the highest rate of unemployment, the highest level of economic inactivity, the highest percentage of "no qualifications" for work and the highest level of social housing.

Muslims are now demanding political power within the Leicester city council, as well as the freedom to wear their religious dress at work and to have halal food in the city hospitals. They are also seeking their own faith-based schools.

One such school, the Leicester Islamic Academy -- where female students wear the full-length dress and head-covering and the boys wear black robes and skullcaps -- has been accused by the British government of promoting Islamic separatism. Another state-run Islamic school in Leicester, the Madani High School, has run afoul of government regulators for reneging on its promise that 10% of its pupils would be non-Muslim.

The British government has tried -- unsuccessfully -- to reverse the tide of Islamic separatism in Leicester. In June 2008, for example, the city hosted the first in a series of road shows designed to tackle the problem of honor-based violence. Leicester has been plagued by forced marriages, kidnappings, physical and mental abuse of women, and other honor-based crimes against those who have not, according to family and local community members, conformed to religious or cultural expectations.

Trevor Phillips, the former head of the Commission for Racial Equality, has warned that Britain is "sleepwalking to segregation." In a speech in Manchester, he said: "Segregation is now so extreme in some schools that there is not much farther it can go. It does not help to prepare children in these schools for the real world." Phillips also described cities like Leicester as "literal black holes into which nobody goes without fear and trepidation and from which nobody ever escapes undamaged."

Alluding to the transformation of cities like Leicester, Michael Nazir-Ali, a former bishop of the Church of England, has lamented that Islamic extremists have turned parts of Britain into no-go areas for non-Muslims. Lashing out at the spread of religious separatism and the damage caused by the doctrine of multiculturalism, Nazir-Ali has also warned against the acceptance of Islamic Sharia law in Britain, and has criticized amplified calls to prayer from mosques, which he says are imposing an Islamic character on many British towns and cities.

Leicester's motto is Semper Eadem: "Always the Same." But Osman's promotion to city mayor implies that life in Leicester is fast changing.

Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.


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

Iran's Growing Presence in Latin America

by Alex Berman

Multimedia for this item

Audio Recording

Ilan Berman, an expert on regional security in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Russian Federation, is the vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council and has consulted the CIA and the Department of Defense. He has authored several books, including Tehran Rising: Iran's Challenge to the United States (2005) and Winning the Long War: Retaking the Offensive against Radical Islam (2009). On April 23, 2012, Berman addressed the Middle East Forum via conference call.

Tehran's October 2011 attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington using a Mexican drug cartel has focused international attention on what had until then been a largely-overlooked political phenomenon: the Islamic Republic's intrusion into the Western Hemisphere. But how deep is this penetration, and what does it seek to achieve?

In his conference call, Ilan Berman named four strategic objectives behind Tehran's Latin American endeavor:

  • Loosening the international noose: Squeezed by economic sanctions and increasingly isolated, Tehran has reached out to sympathetic regimes in an attempt to weaken the U.S.-led international effort to prevent it from building nuclear weapons. Exploiting anti-American sentiments in Latin America, the Islamic Republic has steadily increased the number of embassies in the region and built strong ties with the Venezuelan and Bolivian regimes.

  • Obtaining vital resources for its nuclear project: Having all but exhausted the uranium stockpiles acquired by the Shah from South Africa in the 1970s, Tehran has turned to Latin America in search of strategic resource partnerships and is now mining at several locations throughout Venezuela and Bolivia, albeit to little effect given its highly limited resource extraction capabilities.

  • Creating informal networks for influence projection and sanctions evasion: Working through proxies in Latin America's gray and black markets, Iran has sought out funding for its own protégés such as Hezbollah, which is said to be active at the crossroads of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina - also known as the Triple Frontier. In addition, Tehran has sought to leverage the fluid financial situation in the region as a means of circumventing crippling financial sanctions.

  • Establishing a terror infrastructure that could target the U.S. homeland: Iran's growing penetration of Latin America has also been manifested in paramilitary activity. In its 2010 report to Congress, the Department of Defense noted that elements of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps were stationed in the Americas and engrained in "embassies, institutions, and charities to develop relationships and ties with a well-established Shiite diaspora in the region." This has given Tehran the ability to destabilize unfriendly regimes and to target the U.S. homeland, as evidenced by the abortive 2011 terror attack.

According to Berman, the incident represents seismic shift in Tehran's strategic calculations: once reluctant to extend its global reach, the Iranian leadership has proved its readiness to attack the U.S. on its own soil. And while Tehran's Latin American effort remains a work in progress, so long as the administration fails to devise an adequate response to this challenge, the Iranian penetration - and the threats it poses to American interests and the U.S. homeland - will only continue to expand.

Alex Berman


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

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Our Shameful Afghanistan Legacy

by Seth Mandel

On Monday, Josh Rogin reported on a “shadow summit for Afghan women” held in Chicago during the NATO summit there, calling attention to the concern that allied withdrawal from the country will leave women in Afghanistan at the mercy of the grotesquely misogynistic Taliban. Yesterday, Human Rights Watch’s Ken Roth followed by lambasting NATO’s seeming lack of attention to human rights, especially for women in Afghanistan.

Roth noted that “many of the world leaders assembled in Chicago — though, notably, not Karzai — spoke eloquently about their commitment to human rights, particularly for women. But the test of that commitment is whether anybody cares enough to put in place a concrete plan to carry it out.” Human rights advocates are worried that when troops leave, the Taliban will work to delete any and all progress on women’s rights. This morning, the Taliban again answered that concern: they will not wait for the troops to leave:

More than 120 schoolgirls and three teachers have been poisoned in the second attack in as many months blamed on conservative radicals in the country’s north, Afghan police and education officials said on Wednesday….

Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), says the Taliban appear intent on closing schools ahead of a 2014 withdrawal by foreign combat troops….

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education said last week that 550 schools in 11 provinces where the Taliban have strong support had been closed down by insurgents.

Perhaps it would be worse if officials pretended to care, because that would create expectations. But it’s worth remembering that, as Jamie Fly wrote in the April edition of COMMENTARY, concern about the treatment of women in Afghanistan under the Taliban predated 9/11:

The year was 1998 and Hollywood was up in arms over a new social cause: the plight of Afghan women under the repressive rule of the Taliban. Mavis Leno, wife of Jay Leno and chair of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan, told members of Congress, “The U.S. bears some responsibility for the conditions of women in Afghanistan. For years our country provided weapons to the mujahideen groups to fight the Soviets.” Leno and the Feminist Majority pushed an extensive U.S. campaign to delegitimize the Taliban until the rights of female Afghans were recognized.

The Taliban enforced a strict morality code for both men and women, but women and girls bore the brunt of the most brutal repression… It is not surprising that such a moral wasteland came to serve as the staging ground for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda as they planned the attacks of 9/11. Bin Laden’s ideology and that of his Taliban hosts sprang from the same vile swamp.

And to that “moral wasteland”–and the security threat it poses–Afghanistan may soon return. Fly argued for reversing cutbacks to Afghan security forces and renewed focus on negotiating with and strengthening the Afghan government, not the Taliban. Roth suggested the two sides “establish an independent mechanism — some sort of national ombudsman — where civilians could file complaints about the use of abusive force, and where officials would be authorized to investigate and, if appropriate, recommend prosecution.” He added that American aid to the Karzai government can be used as leverage.

But he also said that when he talked to officials about it during the NATO summit, everyone liked the idea, and no one expressed the least bit of interest in actually proposing it or fighting for it. The women of Afghanistan won’t soon forget the brief window of opportunity they had, nor will they forget our apparent apathy as it is taken from them.

Seth Mandel


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

U.S. Aid to Pakistan Must Be Monitored

by Max Boot

The NATO summit in Chicago has come and gone and still no agreement with Pakistan on reopening the NATO supply line that had been closed last November after a border fight between Pakistan’s troops and a contingent of U.S. and Afghan soldiers. President Zardari had been invited to the meeting on the assumption that an agreement was imminent and that his appearance would be the final push needed to finalize the details. Instead, he showed up and was snubbed by President Obama, who rightly refused to hold a meeting with Zardari until a deal was done. Various news outlets have reported that the two sides remain far apart in how much per truck NATO will have to pay Pakistan: The Pakistanis reportedly want a staggering $5,000 per truck–far more than the cash-strapped Pentagon wants to pay.

Meanwhile, a Pakistani court has handed down a 33-year prison sentence to the doctor who assisted the CIA in locating Osama bin Laden. This is adding insult to injury and underlines, for the umpteenth time, that Pakistan is no ally of the U.S. Sometimes it can act in cooperation with the U.S., but even that is increasingly rare these days. Thus, it makes perfect sense that a Senate appropriations subcommittee just voted to slash U.S. aid to Pakistan, to $1 billion, roughly half the amount the administration had requested, and even part of that is conditional on the reopening of the supply line.

Frankly, it is difficult to see why we are providing any aid to the Pakistan state when it continues to support the Taliban, Haqqani Network, and other insurgent groups that are killing Americans and our allies. Perhaps some aid to Pakistan’s civil society is warranted, but it must be carefully monitored to assure that it does not help to subsidize Pakistan’s military. Some level of payments for trans-shipment rights may still be justifiable, but I’m not even sure of that. The Pakistan supply line has been closed since November, and it is not clear it has had much of an impact on NATO military operations.

When I was in Afghanistan a few weeks ago, I found even remote bases well-stocked with the kinds of provisions (e.g., ice cream and eggs) that had been scarce during past supply disruptions. That’s a tribute to the U.S. success in rerouting logistics through the Northern Distribution Network, and yet another reason why we need to think twice before extending any more aid to Islamabad.

Max Boot


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

Egypt: If There’s No Danger of Radicalism and Islamism Why Can’t You Provide Evidence?

by Barry Rubin

Consider one fact that demolishes the apparatus of nonsense about moderate Islamists and the credibility of those claiming there is nothing to worry about. These are the same people who have been declaring for more than a year that the Muslim Brotherhood is moderate. Yet now the Brotherhood’s presidential campaign has shown it to be extraordinarily radical, openly demanding a caliphate and that Egypt become a Sharia state.

Suddenly they change the subject. Nobody acknowledges that they were wrong about the Brotherhood. They focus now on a different candidate who we are told is the true moderate Islamist, as if their previous favorite “moderate Islamist” movement has now thrown off its camouflage.

“Democracy, as Western democracies have long known,” wrote Shadi Hamid, in predicting a Brotherhood majority in the parliamentary election some months ago, “is about the right to make the wrong choice.” True. But foreign policy, as everyone has long known, is about dealing with the consequences of wrong outcomes and trying to prevent them if possible.

We are told that Abdul Moniem Abul Fotouh is the “moderate Islamist” candidate for president of Egypt whom the West should support. He promises that Egypt will be an Islamic but civil state with equality for all of its citizens. The problem is that Abul Fotouh keeps making statements that belie that image, statements never mentioned by those who ridicule fears about Egypt’s new government.

One ignorant neoconservative wrote in a Canadian newspaper that the regime couldn’t be dangerous because in the presidential debate the question of Israel was only raised near the end. Naturally, the debate structure wasn’t determined by Fotouh and what he said about Israel was quite threatening, namely that it is a racist enemy based on occupation and threatening Muslims with 200 nuclear weapons. At any rate, the main problem is not what the new regime will do to Israel but what it will do to Egypt, eventually followed by what it will do to Israel.

This follows, of course, the national security editor of the National Journal explaining that there’s no danger of a radical Islamist Egypt because he could find one (neo)conservative who agreed with him on that issue. What’s truly funny here is that I’m not exaggerating in describing their best arguments.

Here is a new statement by Abul Fotouh. In an interview on an Egyptian television station, Abul Fotouh said he was against “terrorism” but then explained that Usama bin Ladin was not a terrorist, that the United States only called him one in order to “hit Muslim interests,” and that the killing of bin Ladin was an “act of state terrorism.” In other words, he’s saying September 11 wasn’t an act of terrorism but that Obama’s policy is anti-Muslim and terrorist.

I’d agree that he’s better than the official Muslim Brotherhood candidate but there are still lots of other problems with this “moderate Islamist”:

–Does he mean to keep liberal promises that contradict his previous (and current) statements on many issues?

–Can he deliver on these promises even if he wanted to do so? The Islamist non-moderate parliament and the Constitution it will write is unlikely to be along the lines he claims to advocate.

–While the other leading candidate, Amr Moussa, would resist Islamization of Egyptian society and policy, Abul Fotouh would support it, believing he can stop at a certain point, having both Sharia rule and a tolerant liberal approach.

Yet what he would actually be doing is to preside–whatever his intentions–over the Islamization process that cannot be easily stopped or reversed. –If he does resist the radical parliament it will just limit his power in the Constitution. Remember that the role of the president has not yet been defined and Abul Fotouh will play no role in legally defining it.

–How many supporters does Abul Fotouh have in parliament? Answer: Zero. Yes, the Salafists (25 percent of parliament) support his candidacy but they are more extreme than the Brotherhood. Will he alienate this base so that every Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist in parliament votes against him on every issue?

–Can a civil state be run under Islamic law? He says that he will give equality to women and Christians, to liberals and socialists. Is he going to appoint such people to high offices? Remember that non-Islamist regimes found a way to balance on this issue by appeasing the Islamists and traditionalist clerics up to a point but then using their dictatorial powers to do other things (grant a bit more rights to women; ally with the United States and make peace with Israel; implement civil law imported from Europe, etc). A democratic state dependent on a pro-Islamist electorate cannot do that.

–What would he do when Salafists–the people who voted for him—attack churches, women not wearing “proper” clothing, and secularists? Call out the army and repress them? Remember what matters is not just what the state does itself but also what it allows others to do.

Have you seen any of these points–even one–mentioned in the mass media, much less being given a fair hearing? I have been told that the U.S. government has not seriously considered or developed any contingency plan on what to do if a radical, Islamist Egypt emerges threatening U.S. interests and making more likely a future war with Israel. Compare this with the fears of an Egyptian liberal at a time when many such people and the Christian minority are in despair.

While real debate about Egypt is largely suppressed, we have a fascinating example of what the mass media will permit on the issue in Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol’s op-ed in the New York Times. Suppose you were skeptical about the dominant U.S intellectual, Obama Administration, mass media narrative of Islamism and events in the Middle East? The only way to get an op-ed into the newspaper is to accept its framework but inject a bit of doubt.

Thus, the title of the op-ed is “Can Islamists Be Liberals?” Not only do the hegemonic forces deem the answer to that question to be “Yes” but regard anyone who questions it to be fit only to dwell in the outer darkness.

What Akyol does so skillfully (the fact that he’s a Muslim makes it more permissible) is to avoid outright questioning of that thesis–if he said “no” one doubts his article would have been published–but to put the ball in the other side’s court: He challenges the Islamists to prove they are real democrats. Of course, his lead begs the question:

“For years, foreign policy discussions have focused on the question of whether Islam is compatible with democracy. But this is becoming passé. In Tunisia and Egypt, Islamists, who were long perceived as opponents of the democratic system, are now promoting and joyfully participating in it. Even the Salafis now have deputies sitting in the Egyptian Parliament, thanks to the ballots that they, until very recently, denounced as heresy.”

Well, if you’ve been following this question closely, the outcome is not the least bit surprising. After all, Islamists have been running for election in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan for many years. Hamas ran and won in the Palestinian territories six years ago. (Funny, there doesn’t seem to have been an election since then.) Even in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has been running in elections for years, though usually as part of another party. So the issue is not whether they are willing to run, if offered the opportunity, but whether they are going to win.

Akyol continues: “For those concerned about extremism in the Middle East, this is good news. It was the exclusion and suppression of Islamists by secular tyrants that originally bred extremism. (Ayman al-Zawahri, Al Qaeda’s leading ideologue, was a veteran of Hosni Mubarak’s torture chambers.)”

Now that second sentence may be true but in a very different way than it appears to be. The Islamists of the 1930s and 1940s, before there were “secular tyrants” were quite extreme. After all, for example, they sided with the Nazis and sought—albeit incompetently—to raise rebellions against the British and French as well as their own local rulers. Is it really hard to understand the difference between extremist ends and extremist tactics?

The goal is to seize state power and transform country and society. Precisely how one does it depends on the circumstances.

Thus, it is absurd to state as a fact, as Akyol does: “Islamists will become only more moderate when they are not oppressed, and only more pragmatic as they face the responsibility of governing.” That is a thesis about radicals that remains to be proved. It was said of Lenin and of Hitler, and more recently about Arafat and Khomeini.

It usually doesn’t work out that way, at least moderation can only occur after many decades have passed and many dead have fallen. At this point in his article, having appeased the deities of pro-Islamist “political [but not factual] correctness”, is where Akyol makes his ingenious point: “But there is another reason for concern: What if elected Islamist parties impose laws that curb individual freedoms — like banning alcohol or executing converts — all with popular support? What if democracy does not serve liberty?”

The day before his op-ed came out, I published an article in PJ Media entitled, “What Do Egyptians Want? A Democratically Elected Islamist Dictatorship.” And that’s precisely the point that Akyol makes, albeit in language that is acceptable to the mainstream media. To show his genius in playing within the currently permissible rules, Akyol then quotes a saint of the mainstream narrative to make his point:

“This question is seldom asked in the West, where democracy is often seen as synonymous with liberalism. However, as Fareed Zakaria warned in his 2003 book The Future of Freedom, there are illiberal democracies, too, where the majority’s power isn’t checked by constitutional liberalism, and the rights and freedoms of all citizens are not secured.”

If Zakaria said such a thing, it must be true, right? Of course it is no accident that Akyol is a Turk because, of course, though he never says so directly, this is precisely what’s been happening in his own country. The question he then raises is this: Just because Islam says it, must a government do it? I’d suggest that in the case of non-Islamist Muslims they can—as we’ve seen in many cases over many years—ignore those injunctions.

To believe, however, that Islamists can do it is quite a leap. After all, their whole reason for existence is to remake society and to impose Sharia law as they interpret it.

Think of this parallel: Would a social democratic government impose the dictatorship of the proletariat just because they were socialists or were originally rooted in Marxism? No, of course not.

Would a Communist government that adheres to Marxism-Leninism-Joe Stalin thought impose the dictatorship of the proletariat? That’s something quite different.

And Akyol actually proves my point: “When Muslims say Islam commands daily prayers or bans alcohol, are they talking about public obligations that will be enforced by the state or personal ones that will be judged by God?” Obviously, non-Islamist Muslims argue these are largely personal obligations; Islamists insist that they are public obligations.

The Saudis, Akyol points out, are hypocrites because they impose strict religiosity at home but then have a wild time abroad. How can this not remind us of William Shakespeare’s brilliant political observation: “Let me have men about me that are fat; Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o’ nights: Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.”

Or in other words, better a sybaritic hypocrite who takes bribes than a true-believing fanatic. In the latter category, think of the Taliban, the Iranian regime, Hamas, Hizballah, and Usama bin Ladin. Of course, the West generally believes there are no such thing as “fanatics,” they are all cynical, materialistic pragmatists under the skin. Yet at their moment of greatest triumph, believing Allah is behind them and the corrupt West is crumbling, which do you think the Muslim Brotherhood is going to be?

Barry Rubin


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

Iran Killed its own Nuclear Scientist, Pinned it on ‘Mossad Spy,’ Arab TV Station Reports

by Elhanan Miller

Alleged Israeli agent, who was executed last week, carried a badly forged passport and was never shown dead, Al-Arabiya claims

Alleged Israeli spy Majid Jamali Fashi during his trial in Tehran (photo: AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Alleged Israeli spy Majid Jamali Fashi during his trial in Tehran (photo: AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran killed one of its own nuclear scientists but blamed his death on a so-called “Israeli spy” who it executed last week, a leading Arabic news channel reported Wednesday.

Iranian authorities on May 15 executed Majid Jamali Fashi, who was convicted of assassinating nuclear scientist Masoud Ali Mohammadi in a car bombing in January 2010. The New York Times speculated that the assassination of Mohammadi was “part of a shadow war played out between Iran and Israel.”

But Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya, quoting Iranian opposition sources, said that Iran used Fashi as a scapegoat to please local public opinion. The opposition sources said they even doubted that Fashi was really executed, noting that the footage of his execution aired on public television was short and blurred.

The sources speculated that Iranian intelligence assassinated Mohammadi, the nuclear scientist allegedly killed by Fashi, because it had discovered that he intended to defect to the West.

Al-Arabiya said that the Israeli passport attributed to Fashi by Iran was so badly forged it “was not becoming of a country capable of building nuclear facilities.”

The channel reported that certain characteristics of the passport indicate that it was issued in the 1990s, not in 2003 as printed on it. Other obvious faults in the travel document include a misplaced passport number and a photo which displays the face tilted to the side rather than directly facing the camera.

“The Mossad would not place an illegal photo on a passport given to an agent in order to travel in Europe and elsewhere, as airport authorities would easily suspect it,” the report claimed.

Emanuele Ottolenghi of Commentary magazine also noted that Fashi is looking away from the camera in the alleged passport and that he appears to be an adult. If the 2003 date was accurate, Fashi would have been 15.

The Harry’s Place blog said that the facsimile displayed by Iranian TV shares exact details with a facsimile of an Israeli passport available through Wikipedia: Both were issued on Nov. 17, 2003 in Netanya.

Iran has repeatedly accused Israel of assassinating nuclear scientists in an attempt to thwart its nuclear program. Israel has not commented on such accusations.

(JTA contributed to this report)

Elhanan Miller


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

The Folly of Sanctions on Iran

by Clare M. Lopez

World powers are scrambling to find some magic formula that will ratchet back rising tensions over Iran's nuclear weapons program. United Nations (U.N.) International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) secretary-general Yukiya Amano flew to Tehran on Sunday, 20 May 2012, for last-minute talks with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in advance of the P-5 + 1 talks scheduled to begin in Baghdad on Wednesday, 23 May 2012.

His trip follows by several days a remarkable op-ed, authored by a distinguished group of Western leadership figures, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal on 16 May 2012. Meir Dagan, August Hanning, and R. James Woolsey are former heads of the intelligence services of Israel, Germany, and the U.S., respectively; Gen. Charles Guthrie is a former chief of staff of the British armed forces, Ms. Kristen Silverberg is a former U.S. ambassador to the EU, and Mr. Mark D. Wallace is a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. for management and reform. These people have joined together in a new initiative of the U.S.-based group United Against Nuclear Iran and the U.K.-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue. The urgent purpose that animates all of them -- Secretary General Amano, the P-5 + 1, and this group -- is to persuade Iran's leadership to abandon its quest for a deliverable nuclear weapon before Israel, the U.S., or some combination of world powers decides that a military strike against Iran is the only way to halt its nuclear weapons program.

What is so striking about all of these well-meaning efforts is their apparent foundation on the conviction that the Iranian leadership makes cost-benefit calculations the way Westerners do. Collectively, these authors are world leaders who represent some of the finest minds and real-world experience of their generation. And yet, their conviction that "[i]t is still in Iran's interest to change course and address international concerns regarding possible military aspects of its nuclear program" betrays a disturbing tendency to presume that the Iranian regime somehow shares with them a common perspective about the objectives of governance and the conduct of foreign affairs. This is mirror-imaging of the most dangerous kind.

Because the stringent sanctions imposed on Iran by the international community demonstrably "are having a tangible impact" and causing serious damage to the Iranian economy, judgments are made that, at some point, the Iranian leadership will conclude that it is either unable or unwilling to continue its drive for a deliverable nuclear weapons capability. While measures such as recommend by the WSJ op-ed team -- denial of access to the international banking system, shipping, and insurance coverage -- indeed could bring the Iranian economy to its knees if globally enforced, it is also just as likely that anticipation of such increasingly stringent measures would galvanize the Iranian regime to accelerate completion of its nuclear weapons program.

This is because a number of unsustainable assumptions underlie the sanctions plan. First and foremost is a failure to understand the ideological motivation that drives Iran's current leaders, from the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, himself to the commanders of the Iranian military forces, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and its affiliated Qods Force, and the most influential clerics identified with Khomeini's revolution, such as chairman of the Expediency Council, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Even though traditional Twelver Shi'ite doctrine holds that full-on jihad has been illegitimate since the Greater Occultation cut off communications with the Twelfth Imam (the Shi'ite Mahdi) in the 10th century and that pious Shi'a neither can nor should do anything to force Allah's hand (to send back the Mahdi or usher in the End Times scenario), it is precisely because Khomeini and his successors broke ranks in some ways with the historical, traditional Shi'a Islam -- but reverted to it in others -- that the current Tehran regime's quest for the bomb is so threatening. Realization that Iran is working on a potentially devastating pre-emptive capability to deliver perhaps just one nuclear bomb of the Super-EMP variety should lend the utmost urgency to our focus on this ideology.

By institutionalizing jihad in the 1989 Iranian constitution as a policy of state to spread the Khomeini revolution, and designating the IRGC/Qods Force and a strategy of "striking terror into the hearts of the enemy" (Q 8:60) as the means to accomplish that, Tehran's mullahs clearly challenge traditional Twelver doctrine in a number of ways. For example, even as Khomeini cracked down on the Hojatieh Society (established in the 1950s to counter Bahá'í beliefs) because its members presumed to expedite the return of the Twelfth Imam, he also permitted his own followers to bestow on him the title of "Imam," which would have been blasphemous for anyone else (although Khomeini never claimed actually to be the Twelfth Imam). In fact, Khomeini's ideology more accurately may be described as an extrapolation of traditional Shi'ite thought about the necessity of an all-powerful "Guardian Jurist" to guide Shi'a society in the period of waiting for the return of the Mahdi; but in arguing for an activist, frankly jihadist Imamate in the interim, he allowed the Shi'ite clergy significantly to stretch earlier bounds of theological inquiry and scholarship.

In other ways, Khomeini's personification of the all-powerful Guardian Jurist hearkens back in time, for example, to the 16th-century figure of Muhammad al-Baqir Majlesi, who was one of the most powerful and influential Shi'a clerics of all time. In his position as Sheikh al-Islam (Islamic Leader of the Land), a title given him by the Safavid ruler Sultan Husayn, al-Baqir was tasked with imposing Shi'a Islam on a Persian population theretofore Sunni. Certainly, Khomeini's visceral Jew-hatred echoes that of his forbear. Under the rule of Khomeini's successor as supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, though, it has been but a short ideological leap from "preparation" for the imminent return of the Mahdi to Ahmadinejad's fervent formulation of "let my words and deeds hasten the return of the 12th Imam." The Iranian president's apparent fixation on his own role as a central figure in the Mahdi narrative and quarrels about this with Khamenei, however, should not obscure the very real devotion to that same narrative by the supreme leader, who sees himself as the mythical "Khurasani Sayyed," foretold in the Shi'a ahadith as the leader who prepares the way for the 12th Imam.

One of the most revealing glimpses the West has seen of this deeply internal Iranian worldview came to light by way of Reza Kahlili, the pseudonymous former IRGC Pasdar and CIA recruited agent, who obtained a copy of a disturbing Iranian video whose title translates as "The Coming is Upon Us." Produced by Ahmadinejad's office and screened for the supreme leader to apparent acclaim followed by wide distribution among the ranks of the IRGC, this film lays out the conviction of Iran's current leadership that the 12th Imam will return during their tenure in office and that they will play a central role in the cataclysmic events attendant to his reappearance on earth.

This brings us back to the unsustainable assumptions upon which current sanctions strategies appear to be based. Obviously, the current Iranian regime and a significant percentage of its power centers operate at least to some extent under a set of ideological beliefs all too often dismissed out of hand by "rational" Westerners, whose confidence that they can understand and even influence the behavior of these adversaries in ways that will deter them from acts hostile to U.S., Western, and international interests may be disastrously misplaced. Another unsustainable assumption about the existence of somehow "universal" definitions of national-level reason and rationality that inevitably must lead to a rejection of violent solutions[1] fails to take into account how doctrinally inspired mindsets deliberately can implement policy that appears to all outside the inner circle militarily impossible or even knowingly suicidal (ideologically driven martyrdom).

None of this is to assert that the current Iranian regime is definitely, without any doubt, a "suicide bomber in macrocosm," as Louis Rene Beres, professor of political science and international law at Purdue University, would put it. It is to acknowledge, however, that irrationality and barbarism quite routinely overwhelm more idyllic visions of human nature. Jihadis around the world almost daily choose to place their individual human mortality on the sacrificial altar to a deity they believe promises in return both personal immortality in Paradise and the survival and triumph of Islam on earth. Not confined to the totalitarian paradigm of Islamic metaphysical belief, apparent irrationality occurs in the secular but equally totalitarian world, too: during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro actually urged Moscow to initiate nuclear war with the U.S. rather than give in to President Kennedy's demands to remove its missiles, in the full knowledge that retaliatory strikes from the U.S. would obliterate Cuba.

Difficult as it may be for those who see themselves as enlightened thinkers of the 21st century to accept that a totalitarian dictatorship, whether of the Islamic or secular variety, may be willing to sacrifice not just its own people (economically or existentially), but its own very existence, in the quest for an ideological higher value, when dealing with this Iranian regime, it is imperative that we do so. Supposing that Khamenei or his Islamic revolutionary cohorts can be convinced by any means to abandon the quest for what has been the sine qua non of their 33-year reign of power -- the acquisition of deployed nuclear weapons with which to impose their will upon and perhaps annihilate their ideological enemies -- is not realistic. While increasingly harsh economic sanctions may well convince the mullahs that their window of opportunity to complete Iran's nuclear weapons program is closing rapidly, it does not follow that such a realization would convince them to relinquish the quest. Quite to the contrary, that realization would more than likely spur them to accelerate the program with every resource at their disposal to achieve what they seek before it gets even more difficult. Additionally, it must be noted that the regime's firm belief in its own place in the Shi'ite eschatology of the 12th Imam also comes with temporal boundaries. Ahmadinejad's term of office ends in 2013.

The bottom line is this: the Iranian regime cannot, by any means, be induced to give up its intent and motivation to "get the bomb." Intent cannot be changed. But the regime can and should be.

[1] Beres, Professor Louis Rene, "AFTER OSAMA BIN LADEN: ASSASSINATION, TERRORISM, WAR, AND INTERNATIONAL LAW," March 2012. Awaiting publication.

Clare M. Lopez


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