Saturday, June 30, 2018

Ocasio-Cortez victory raises the question: How many anti-Semites will Democrats swallow? - Karin McQuillan

by Karin McQuillan

When it comes to keeping power, Democrats have no moral compass at all.

The Ocasio-Cortez primary victory in a minority-dominated congressional district of New York is being greeted by many Democrat commentators as the future of the Democratic Party: hard left, non-white, and female. Add one more attribute: she hates Israel and supports Muslim terrorists, whom she compares to protesters in Ferguson.

This is intersectionality, the new creed of the Democrats' left wing. The good guys: feminists, blacks, Hispanics, LGBTQ. The bad guys: men, whites, Jews, America's heartland, Israel.
Ocasio-Cortez joins four other hard-left Democrat candidates in shoe-in blue districts who are openly hostile to Jews and Israel.
Ilhan Omar, the frontrunner to replace Rep. Keith Ellison in a Minneapolis House district, called Israel an apartheid regime as recently as May and once tweeted, "Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel."
Other candidates to draw similar attention include Scott Wallace in Pennsylvania, who was the subject of a Forward investigation showing that his charitable foundation had given more than $300,000 to pro-BDS groups, and Leslie Cockburn in Virginia, a former journalist whose book on the U.S.-Israel relationship was characterized in a New York Times review as being "largely dedicated to Israel-bashing for its own sake."
Jonathan Tobin at National Review notes that there is no longer support of Israel in the Democratic Party. Republicans have Israel's back by an 80% margin. Democrats can muster only 30% support for Israel. He ascribes the change to the transformation of the Democrats into a minority party.
The problem for pro-Israel Democrats is that their party, increasingly dependent on minority voters, has become vulnerable to intersectional arguments in which the Palestinian war on Israel is a Third World parallel to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The decades of Democrats turning a blind eye to Farrakhan's crude Jew-hatred have come home to roost. The new millennial vanguard of the party has no time for Jews.

The New York Post shows the familiar leftist slide into old-fashioned anti-Semitism. The paper writes about Ocasio-Cortez:
Her radicalized anti-Israel stance became apparent in a tweet blaming Israel for the recent violence in Gaza perpetuated by Hamas[.] ... She also blamed Palestinian deaths on Trump's decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish state's capital, Jerusalem.
Along with her tweets, a former New York City Council candidate whose platform was to "defeat the greedy Jewish landlords" both volunteered for her campaign and attended her election-night victory party.
How much of this will mainstream Jewish Democrats and other decent Democrats be willing to swallow? 

The answer is not promising. For decades, Democrats have been willing to tolerate rapist Bill Clinton, sexual predator Harvey Weinstein, the hate-filled Farrakhan with his inner-city supporters, and a long list of other morally depraved Democrats who could bring them money or votes. When it comes to keeping power, Democrats have no moral compass at all.

Karin McQuillan


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Lies, Damned Lies, and Immigration Policy - Bruce Thornton

by Bruce Thornton

The falsehoods that protect a political interest.

No policy debate is more filled with dishonesty and duplicity than immigration. The whine of political axes being ground is continually drowned out by Emma Lazarus sentimentalism, “we’re a nation of immigrants” clichés, promiscuous virtue-signaling, and the current weepy melodramas of children “ripped from their mother’s arms.” The whole sordid business exists, of course, to perfume some simple truths: Leviathan Dems want more voters and more dependents of the entitlement-industrial complex; Wall Street Republicans want plentiful cheap labor. The only thing missing are the facts about the reality of immigration both illegal and legal.

Start with imprecise numbers. We are told that there are currently 11 million illegal aliens in the U.S. Others say it’s closer to 20 to 25 million. The point is, nobody knows. We do know that close to a third of federal inmates are illegals. But we don’t know much about the rest, except for those illegal alien “dreamers” on television lamenting how they have to “live in the shadows.” We don’t know the extent of the costs to taxpayers of illegal immigration, even as we are told by amnesty supporters that they are net contributors to the economy through payroll and sales taxes. But they don’t tell us if that sum subtracts the $26 billion sent back to Mexico. We do know that taxpayers spend $2 billion a year to provide medical services to illegal aliens just in emergency room visits. According to Christopher Conover, state and local circumventions of federal prohibitions against health care for illegals are indirectly costing taxpayers $17 billion a year in care for illegal aliens. And that’s just health care. Some estimates put the total cost of illegal aliens at $89 billion, while others go as high $135 billion.

People who do not live among concentrations of illegal aliens can easily dispute these estimates, even though they’re based on government data bases. Nor do they recognize the damage to the quality of life in communities filled with large numbers of people from different cultures, values, and mores. They don’t get that the “broken windows” theory of policing applies to immigration as well. Violent crimes reflect a larger disregard for the law seen in violations of housing, animal, garbage, and sanitation regulations, or violations of traffic laws on DUIs, driving without a license, and hit-and-runs. Only a fraction of these violations leads to arrests or fines. Law enforcement often do not even bother to cite offenders or search for them, since they know the system will spit them back out, given the lack of resources to prosecute and incarcerate offenders. Then there’s the impact on public services like schools and hospitals and emergency rooms, where staff consume time tending to people who can’t speak English and who use the emergency room as their primary care physician. This degradation of a community that follows such daily disorder cannot always be quantified, but it has serious consequences. You have to live with it to really grasp the extent of this problem.

But few of the people who agitate for open borders or blanket amnesties have had that experience. That makes it easier for them to rely on dishonest generalizations laced with sentiment and emotion in order to support their policy prescriptions. The same evasion of fact applies to the practical details of legalizing tens of millions of people about whom we know very little. In most proposals, the bar is pretty low for letting serial law-breakers stay. In some plans, two or three misdemeanors will not lead to deportation, or stand in the way of getting the gift of American citizenship. These apologists think that breaking the law by sneaking over the border, driving drunk or without insurance, and using a false IDs to get government benefits are no big deal, nor are a warning sign about the character and values of the people who break these laws.

The worse distortions, however, come not just from a lack of reliable information or data, but from the fairy tales and pleasing myths proponents of lax immigration peddle.  “We are all immigrants” is a half-truth at best, and a banal historical fact that doesn’t distinguish between legal and illegal immigration, a bipartisan bad habit meant to distract voters from the failures of our indiscriminate immigration laws and policies. Correcting these dysfunctions caused by our porous border is a separate issue from how we decide whom we should allow in through a legal process.

Then there are the ridiculously false categories we trade in that ignore the great diversity of cultures, languages, religions, mores, and social habits––some compatible with ours, some not–– lying behind a meaningless word like, say, “Hispanic.” Some of the Bush clan’s experience with mostly Caucasian Cubans teaches them very little about immigrants from southern Mexico or Guatemala or Honduras. Even people from the same nation are not all the same. Mexico, for example, is divided by social class and race. A Mexican national can be a Caucasian, a mestizo, or an Indian, differences that in Mexico and the Mexican diaspora carry different social connotations and status. An immigrant from the Mexican state of Sonora or Monterrey will not necessarily speak the same language as an Indian from Oaxaca.

Finally, differences of culture are seldom acknowledged by proponents of unfettered immigration.  And when people do try to discuss them, they are dismissed as “racists” or “xenophobes,” wicked people who hate “diversity” and want to cling to their threatened “white privilege.” We should not allow this duplicitous and simplistic argument to stand. Cultural differences are real, and include everything from the treatment of women to attitudes towards the law. Moreover, these traditions and conventions are often incompatible with the host countries’. But rather than acknowledge those differences and take them into account when deciding whom we think can assimilate to our culture and benefit it, we pretend that they’re all the same, their different languages and complexions providing a pleasing “diversity” donned by people who think and believe and act just like us. All they need to be an American is a citizenship and access to government services.

And that’s the biggest lie of all. Before the Sixties, immigration worked in this country because the price of admission was to assimilate to American culture, and to discard, at least in public life, those traditions or values that contradicted American political and social habits and beliefs. One could opt out of that process, out of loyalty to or nostalgia for the old country, but that meant accepting that one would be handicapped to a certain degree in taking full advantage of the opportunities of America.

The better choice was to learn English, American history, American historical and civic heroes, and most importantly, the American creed embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. And in word and deed you had to make them your first loyalty. The space for honoring your home country was civil society: churches, ethnic associations, festivals, recipes, dances, and other traditions and mores some of which may be incompatible with America’s. But in the political square, those traditions and the beliefs had to be set aside, and certainly couldn’t be allowed to colonize and weaken the unum that is necessary for making a political community out of so many pluribus.

That model, of course, was rejected by the rise of identity grievance politics predicated on the belief that America was an oppressor. Increasing indiscriminate immigration, as the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act did by implementing policies such as chain migration, was one way to atone for America’s geopolitical sins by transforming its traditional character. In the process, it also increased the rolls of Democrats and enlarged the pool of cheap labor. Multiculturalism and “diversity” were the ideologies masking these political goals to transform America by changing what it means to be an American. Assimilation now became a wicked degradation of these vibrant, more authentic cultures by inflicting upon them a dehumanizing capitalism and pernicious American exceptionalism. And assimilation deprived the left of the future cadres of the revolution.

It hasn’t quite work out that way, of course. The power of American freedom, opportunity, and prosperity has still inspired immigrants to assimilate, most by the third generation. But the role of assimilation in inculcating the American ideal has been weakened in the university and popular culture, which has created a hypocritical cohort of those who have benefited materially from the American dream, yet endorse an artificial ethnic identity founded on grievance against America’s sins, and demands for various forms of reparations. Thus the monstrous hypocrisy and ingratitude of people who wave the flag of a country many of them or their parents risked their lives to leave, and to which most never, ever want to return.

Though weakened, assimilation works today in spite of the fashionable rejection of the traditional narratives of what comprises American identity. That’s why the progressives are so eager to keep the floodgates open, and are angry over Trump’s reforms. They sense that over time the persistence of assimilation will produce voters whose politics resemble that of most American voters: roughly divided between Democrat and Republican, progressive and conservative.

Ignorance of the facts and costs, along with the duplicitous narratives of immigration, are just a few of the impediments to reforming our immigration policies. But most of the time all we hear are lies told to protect a political interest. This political alliance between vote-mongers and cheap-labor-mongers makes sealing the border, and rejecting the serially failing “comprehensive” immigration reform, the necessary first steps to returning to the old model of legal immigration and vigorous assimilation that helped make America great.

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, a Research Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, and a Professor of Classics and Humanities at the California State University. He is the author of nine books and numerous essays on classical culture and its influence on Western Civilization. His most recent book, Democracy's Dangers and Discontents (Hoover Institution Press), is now available for purchase.


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Articles The Grand Bazaar, AMIA and Lockerbie - Caroline Glick

by Caroline Glick

It doesn’t take much to get the people on the streets. And in general, when Iranians take to the streets, they don’t demand tax reform. They demand an end of the regime.

News coverage of the large and growing anti-regime protests in Iran this week has included warnings by Iran “experts” insisting that the vocal support the protesters are receiving on social media from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is counterproductive.

Israeli and US statements of support for the Iranian people and their desire to rid themselves of the regime that oppresses them will only weaken them, experts warn. But several counter-indications make clear that these warnings should be disregarded.

In 2009, when millions of Iranians took to the streets in the Green Revolution, then-US president Barack Obama refused to support them. Like today’s experts, Obama argued that it would be counterproductive for the US to support the protesters as they demanded the overthrow of the regime that had just stolen the presidential election. Obama claimed that the US is so hated that the regime would use its support of the protesters to discredit the demonstrations.

In the event, Obama’s silence demoralized the revolutionaries who asked again and again why he refused to stand with them. Perhaps more importantly, by refusing to stand for the men and women of Iran who risked death to stand up to America’s bitter enemy, Obama gave Iran’s dictator Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his henchmen a green light to brutally repress the revolution. Which is exactly what they proceeded to do with nary a whimper of protest from the Obama White House.

Another problem with the expert position that Netanyahu and Pompeo and other senior Israeli and American officials should keep their counsel on the protests is that it is not at all clear why the experts think the protesters hate Israel and the US more than they hate the regime.

In the eight years since the regime suppressed the Green Revolution, it has not appeased the public nor earned its support. Indeed, by many accounts, public opposition to the regime has only grown with the passage of time. It doesn’t take much to get the people on the streets. And in general, when Iranians take to the streets, they don’t demand tax reform. They demand an end of the regime.

The slogans being shouted in Tehran’s grand bazaar this week – “Iran out of Syria,” “Iran out of Lebanon,” “I will die for Iran not for Syria or Lebanon,” and “Death to Palestine,” are not calls for a change in policy per se. They are a rejection of the Iranian revolution.
It is true that these protests may be insufficient to bring down the regime, but that too is no reason for Israeli and US leaders not to vocally support them. If anything, it is a reason to expand their efforts to destabilize the regime.

The Iranian regime is murderous and retains the financial capacity to buy the loyalty of security services and therefore have its orders obeyed when it tells its militia to violently repress the women demanding an end to its misogynist policies.

But from mass protest to mass protest, the regime’s legitimacy is eroded. And there is every reason to believe that the current demonstrations will only grow in the coming months as US economic sanctions barring Iran from participating in global markets are implemented.
Given the balance of power favors the regime, and that as protests grow the specter of mass repression increases, what else – short of war – can be done to weaken the regime?
In a word: AMIA.

Twenty-four years ago, on July 18, 1994, at Iran’s orders, Hezbollah terrorists in Argentina bombed the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina, or Jewish mutual aid association in Buenos Aires. Eighty-five people were murdered and more than 300 were wounded in the worst terror attack in Argentina’s history.

Twenty-four years on, despite abundant proof that the Iranian regime stood behind the massacre, no one has been charged, let alone punished for their actions. This despite the fact that murdered Argentinean prosecutor Alberto Nisman proved that Khamenei and then-Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani made the final decision to carry it out in a meeting of the Iranian Security Council’s Special Operations Group in August 1993. Due to Nisman’s work, frequent presidential candidate and top Khamenei advisor Mohsen Rezai and former defense minister Ahmad Vahidi along with three other former senior Iranian officials have been the subject of Interpol warrants since 2006. Vahidi and Rezai have traveled abroad since then but they have never been arrested or detained.

Instead, the only person who paid a personal price as a consequence of the investigation of the AMIA bombing was Nisman, the indefatigable Argentinean prosecutor who investigated the attack for 11 years. In January 2015, the evening before Nisman was set to present his findings to the Argentinean Congress, he was shot in the head in his apartment and killed.
Among Nisman’s findings was proof that then-Argentinean president Cristina Kirchner de Fernandez and then-foreign minister Hector Timerman were complicit in whitewashing Iranian involvement in the bombing.

Fernandez insisted that Nisman had committed suicide. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, it took an Argentinean court until December 2017 to find that he was murdered.
Nisman’s murderers, like the Iranians responsible for murdering 85 innocents at the AMIA building, are still at large.

The time has come to bring justice to the AMIA victims and their families. And the time has come to highlight the role that Khamenei and his henchmen played in conducting the mass murder. To this end, the Trump administration should give the Argentinean government a short period of time to either file indictments and begin trials of the Iranian officials responsible for the operation based on Nisman’s findings, or transfer responsibility to a more capable tribunal.

In parallel, the Trump administration can sign an agreement with Israel – that may be open to other governments as well, and Congress can pass legislation establishing the operation of a joint US-Israeli tribunal with jurisdiction over unsolved international terrorism cases that did not directly target US persons, territory or installations abroad.

Aside from everything else, a bilateral or multinational tribunal comprised of justices from liberal democracies would serve as a foil to UN tribunals controlled by anti-Western judges. In addition, by setting up the tribunal to operate outside the US, Congress can avoid the abysmal recent ruling of a federal court to the effect that terrorists who murder US citizens are constitutionally protected from being sued in US courts unless they specifically targeted Americans.

As for the UN, in 1992 and 1993, the UN Security Council passed harsh economic sanctions against Libya to force then-Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi to extradite two Libyan nationals suspected of carrying out the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988 that killed 270 people. Due to the sanctions, in 1998, the Libyan government extradited the suspects to Britain for trial. Gaddafi later apologized for the bombing and paid compensation to the families of the victims.

The Lockerbie model can be applied to the AMIA bombing as well. Security Council action against Iranian leaders can massively increase their international isolation. Depending on the structure and target of the sanctions, Iranian citizens can be subjected to significant restrictions on international travel and Iranian diplomatic missions can be shut down. The more powerful the sanctions, the more effective they will be in both deterring foreign governments from cooperating with the regime and causing Iranian nationals to be disgusted with the regime.

This brings us to the Lockerbie bombing itself. Nisman’s findings relied in large part on information presented by Iranian defector and former intelligence officer Abolghassem Mesbahi who served in Germany until he defected in the 1990s. Mesbahi reported directly to then-Iranian president Rafsanjani. Four years ago, Mesbahi revealed in an Al Jazeera documentary that Iran, not Libya, was responsible for the bombing. The attack, he said, was carried out by terrorists from Ahmed Jibril’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, headquartered in Damascus. Mesbahi’s allegations are substantiated by information collected by investigators at the crash site in Lockerbie and by evidence of similar bombs discovered in an apartment in Frankfurt rented by terrorists in the PFLP-GC weeks before the bombing.

Reports at the time claimed that in 1990, then-US president George H.W. Bush and then-British prime minister Margaret Thatcher chose to ignore the leads and follow less compelling evidence pointing to Gaddafi because the US wanted then-Syrian President Hafez Assad to join the US-led Arab coalition in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The case against the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was always controversial. Megrahi went to his death in 2012 protesting his innocence. And on May 3, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission decided to review his conviction “in the interests of justice.” A review request was submitted by his widow hoping to clear his name.

Of the 270 of the victims of Flight 103, 179 were Americans – 35 were students from Syracuse University coming home for Christmas after completing a semester of study abroad in London and Florence. It goes without saying that if Iran was responsible for their murder, the American people, and their families, have a right to the truth. Following the information presented by Mesbahi, and the information already gathered by FBI investigators at the time of the bombing, the US should open a new investigation of alleged Iranian responsibility for the attack. The investigation should be public, and the names of Iranian officials suspected of involvement in the attack should be widely publicized.

Similar actions should be taken by other governments whose citizens have been murdered by Iran in acts of international terrorism.

The deeper the regime is implicated in acts of mass murder, the less able its leaders will be to justify their continued grip on power. The more Khamenei’s personal role in recognized worldwide, the less capable he will be to wield power and command obedience. Branded as murderers at home and abroad, Khamenei and his henchmen will find it harder and harder to suppress demonstrators demanding that they end their sponsorship of Syria’s genocidal dictator Bashar Assad and the terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas and surrender their power.

The lesson of Obama’s actions in 2009 and everything we have learned since then teach us that the Iranian people hate their oppressive, corrupt, and murderous regime far more than they hate Israel and the US. And the more the Iranian people know about the regime, the more they hate it.

So too, the more the world knows about the butchers in Tehran, the less likely world leaders and business leaders will be to cooperate with it.

The time has come to make clear what we are talking about when we note that Iran is the “largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.”

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post. 

Caroline Glick


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Good riddance to Justice Anthony Kennedy - Taylor Lewis

by Taylor Lewis

For once, the leftist freakout could be justified.

The Supreme Court’s longest service justice announced his retirement shortly after casting the deciding vote on a string of decisions that were seen as wins for the conservative side of the bench. Kennedy’s stepping down didn’t come as a surprise. There have long been rumors in Washington that he was considering hanging up his robe. With a Republican-controlled Congress and White House, the timing couldn’t be better, so as to ensure his seat would be filled with someone from the right side of the ideological spectrum.

In GOP circles, Kennedy’s notice was met with whoops and hollers of joy. Not only will President Trump nominate another justice to the high court, but he or she will be in the vein of Justice Neil Gorsuch, the strict constitutionalist with whom Trump filled Antonin Scalia’s seat.

The press is treating the prospect like a royal rumble match between Senate Republicans and Democrats. The hype is overblown. With 51 Republican senators, and no more 60-vote requirement on approving Supreme Court nominations thanks to Mitch McConnell’s canny changing of the rules to seat Gorsuch over Democrat intransigence last year, Trump’s appointment will have an easy path to the Court.

The change can’t come soon enough. Despite Kennedy’s rightward leanings, and his appointment by President Ronald Reagan, as a justice, he ruled based on a corrupted idea of freedom, one so flimsy and weak, it could be mistaken at times for liberalism.

The Left knows this. That’s why there is a fair bit of agonizing over Kennedy’s departure. “This is the fight of our lives,” declares Massachusetts’ own chief progressive senator Elizabeth Warren. “Kennedy’s retirement means that women’s health, equal marriage, and civil rights are all at risk,” she warns. Kennedy would, sometimes, pick “a few causes that liberals cherish,” writes Emily Bazelon of The New York Times Magazine. For liberals, he was an “occasional, if fickle, guardian angel.” Reverend Al Sharpton, in his usual breezily overblown manner, proclaimed that all “civil and human rights are at stake.”

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is oddly specific, warning that at least 20 states will pass laws “banning abortion outright” once Kennedy’s successor is confirmed. One can hope!
For once, the leftist freakout could be justified. Kennedy was the Court’s big swing vote because his conception of freedom aligned nicely with social liberalism’s narrow view of the human person. As Rusty Reno writes, “When it comes to engraving the sexual revolution into our basic law, Justice Kennedy has provided the key votes, and often the rationales.” It was this mistaken view that led him to vote with the liberal bloc of the Court and legalize same-sex marriage across the country. It also provided a bulwark against any challenge to Roe v. Wade should one have risen through the judicial system.

Kennedy’s vision was infamously summed up in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 case that reinforced the right to abortion. Writing in the joint majority opinion, Kennedy fully embraced the relativistic view that freedom is anything one decides it should be, regardless of external truths. “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life,” he waxed.

That passage, which is lauded by many libertarian legal scholars, sums up the ultra negative view of freedom. By its lights, a person is only truly free if they are treated like a blank slate, without history or connection to anything larger than their own subjective assumptions. Atavistic allegiance to concepts like family and religion may not infringe upon this sacred autonomy.

The “sweet mystery of life” passage, as the late Antonin Scalia derided it, is New Age feel-good claptrap that’s more at home in a weed smoke-filled dorm than a serious arena of law.
Kennedy would expand upon his reductive view of human liberty in his opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that invalided state bans on gay marriage. “The Constitution,” he wrote, “promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity.” Scalia, in his ever effervescent wit, also batted away this airy defining of supreme law by comparing it to the “mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”

There was only one problem: Scalia was writing from the traditional understanding of liberty. Kennedy was writing in the new. And it’s Kennedy’s paper-thin ontological view that rules the day.

The classical view of liberty saw freedom not as an excuse for unlimited autonomy. It balanced societal obligations with personal independence. Individuals, freely pursuing their ends, should strive toward a greater good. The Constitution was established with this framework of human nature in mind.

Kennedy’s philosophy strips liberty to the bone, desiccating its moral fiber until nothing but subjective solipsism remains.

Leftist liberals have plenty of faults. Their conception of the human person as an intractable grab bag of racial and sexual identities mixed up within society’s constricting norms turns life into a narrative about oppression and liberation. But at least there’s a narrative to it–or as Walter Sobchack opined, at least it’s an ethos. For Kennedy acolytes, there is no narrative, no larger picture of humanity. It’s autonomy, mystery, and nothingness all the way down.

It explains why Kennedy is the favorite justice of people who regard filial duty as slavery, who view pederasty as just another form of love, and who refer to prostitutes as “sex workers.” He is a paragon of nihilism. His time on the Court won’t be missed.

Taylor Lewis


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Democrats Plot to Block Trump Kennedy Replacement - Joseph Klein

by Joseph Klein

They may be sorely disappointed.

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s announcement Wednesday of his retirement from the Supreme Court has sent the left into a tizzy.  Although Justice Kennedy has often sided with the more conservative-leaning Justices in 5-4 decisions, he has also joined the four liberal-leaning Justices as the swing vote on several contentious cases important to the left involving such issues as abortion rights and same-sex marriage. With Justice Kennedy’s retirement, which will take effect at the end of July, the door is open for President Trump to nominate a more reliable conservative replacement in the mold of his first pick, Justice Neil Gorsuch.  "We have to pick a great one. We have to pick one that's going to be there for 40 years, 45 years," President Trump told supporters at a campaign rally Wednesday night in North Dakota.

The president said earlier in the day that the replacement process will "begin immediately" and indicated that his nominee would come from a list of 25 candidates that the Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation helped put together for the president’s consideration. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the Senate “will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy's successor this fall." That task will be made easier because of the elimination of the Senate filibuster rule for judicial nominees, including for the Supreme Court. However, the Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate, including the ailing Senator John McCain of Arizona, Republican senators hostile to the president such as Senator Jeff Flake, and more moderate pro-choice Republican senators such as Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) who will be put off by a nominee perceived as an opponent of abortion. Assuming the Senate Democrats all oppose any nominee put forward by President Trump, securing Senate confirmation of President Trump’s nominee before this year’s mid-term election will not be easy.

Heeding the call of their radical left base and a pliant Trump-hating media, Democrats are promising total resistance to even meeting with the president’s nominee before the mid-term elections, let alone holding any hearings or an up or down floor vote. They are still sore over what they view as the Supreme Court seat stolen from the left in 2016 when Senator McConnell, backed by the Republican majority in the Senate, refused to allow hearings or a vote on former President Obama’s nominee to fill the seat left vacant by Justice Scalia’s passing, Judge Merrick Garland. At the time, Senator McConnell issued a statement declaring, “The American people‎ should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”

The left is now calling upon the Republican majority to follow what they are calling the "McConnell rule” and allow the voters in those states conducting elections for senator this November to have their voice heard before any nominee to replace Justice Kennedy is considered by the Senate. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer explained the contorted “reasoning” equating a presidential election year and a mid-term election year as follows:
“Our Republican colleagues in the Senate should follow the rule they set in 2016 not to consider a Supreme Court justice in an election year. Millions of people are just months away from determining the senators who should vote to confirm or reject the president’s nominee, and their voices deserve to be heard now as Leader McConnell thought they should deserve to be heard then.”

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin concurred, declaring: “The American people will decide the majority in the United States Senate. Following the tortured logic of Mitch McConnell, let’s let the American people speak.” Other Senate Democrats, including Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Dianne Feinstein and Elizabeth Warren, jumped on the so-called “McConnell rule” bandwagon to delay any Senate hearings or vote until after the mid-term elections. They have little choice if they want to avoid loud protests and backlash at the polls this November from their own base.

MSNBC host Chris Matthews described the stakes in his usual strident manner. “I don’t think the Democrats should allow meetings to occur with Trump’s nominee to fill this vacancy by Justice Kennedy,” Matthews said. “I think they have to fight eye for an eye for what happened in ‘16 when the Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, refused to even consider or even meet with Merrick Garland. There is no way politically the Democratic base will stand for any kind of hearings or vote for a Trump nominee before the election.”

Expect from the left their usual appeals to raw emotion and scare-mongering. Expect attempts to grind the Senate to a halt and to even deny a quorum for voting through theatrical walk-outs or boycotts of Senate committee and floor sessions.  We can also expect the left to engage in mass confrontational protests and uncivil disobedience, which could well involve attempts to occupy offices and, following the example set by pro-illegal immigration activists, to harass Republican Senators and any wavering Democrats up for re-election this year in red states. Such harassment would take place not only at the targets' offices, but also at their homes, restaurants or wherever the left’s targets can be found. Senator Warren of Massachusetts is already fanning the flames. She declared at a rally on Thursday in front of the Supreme Court, "People are rising up. Donald Trump is not the king. We will fight today, we will fight tomorrow and we will fight until this country lives up to its values." Other Democrat senators joined her at the rally.

There is no valid comparison between Senator McConnell’s action in 2016 and what Democrats in the Senate are asking for now.  "This is not 2016,” Senator McConnell said in response to the Democrats’ attempt to invoke the so-called McConnell rule.  “There aren't the final months of a second-term constitutionally lame duck presidency with a presidential election fast approaching. We're right in the middle of this president's very first term."

The differences are even more fundamental. A presidential election is national in scope. Americans across the country have the opportunity to make their voices heard on the direction of the Supreme Court, among other issues, when they cast their votes for president. Along with President Trump’s election, the Senate remained in Republican hands as a result of the 2016 elections. The voters spoke loud and clear. During this year’s mid-term elections, there is no opportunity for the equivalent of a nationwide referendum on the Supreme Court issue. Since only one third of the Senate membership is up for election during each election cycle, only the voters in the minority of states where such elections will be held this year will have the opportunity to make their voices heard this year on how the senators they elect should deal with President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

As the Hill reported with regard to the 2016 general election, “About 139 million Americans, or 60.2 percent of the voting-eligible population, cast a ballot in November’s elections, according to data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project.” According to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of the voting-eligible population voting in congressional elections in the last mid-term election cycle in 2014 was 41.9 percent, or 92,251,000 reported voters.

The comparative numbers speak for themselves. “Since 1978, voting rates have been consistently higher in presidential election years than in congressional election years,” according to the Census Bureau report. “In 2014, the overall voting rate was the lowest for a congressional election since the CPS [Current Population Survey] first asked about voting and citizenship status in 1978. At 41.9 percent, the 2014 turnout rate was 3.6 percentage points lower than in 2010 and 5.9 percentage points lower than in 2006.”

Even if there is a somewhat higher voter turn-out this year than in 2014, it is highly unlikely to exceed 50 percent. The last time that happened was in 1982. It is unreasonable, to say the least, for Democrats to expect that the duly elected president, in the middle of his first term, defer to a minority of the voting-eligible population in a non-presidential election cycle before proceeding with his constitutional duty to nominate a replacement for Justice Kennedy. Then again, using reason and logic to make their arguments is not the Democratic politicians’ or their base’s strong suit. 

"The Senate at its best, in my view, does involve herding cats," Senator McConnell said back in 2014, not long before he assumed his position as Majority Leader. "I mean, I've got everybody from Susan Collins [a moderate Republican from Maine] to Ted Cruz and various places in between. It's a diverse conference." Senator McConnell will need to do everything in his power to keep his "diverse" caucus together to prevail in one of the most momentous battles of our time.

Joseph Klein is a Harvard-trained lawyer and the author of Global Deception: The UN’s Stealth Assault on America’s Freedom and Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations & Radical Islam.


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Post-Election Turkey: The Birth of an Islamist-Nationalist Alliance - Burak Bekdil

by Burak Bekdil

Four decades after emerging as marginal parties in the 1970s, Turkey’s militant Islamists and militant ultranationalists won a combined 53.6% of the national vote and 57% of parliamentary seats.

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 878, June 29, 2018

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Four decades after they emerged as marginal parties in the 1970s, Turkey’s militant Islamists and ultranationalists won a combined 53.6% of the national vote and 57% of parliamentary seats. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said in the past that he would make foreign policy “in line with what my nation demands,” highlighting the Islamist sensitivities of his voter base. He will now add nationalist sensitivities to that foreign policy calculus. This will likely mean confrontations with nations both inside and outside Turkey’s region. 

Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24 sent messages on many wavelengths. The voters asserted the unchallenged popularity of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is the longest-serving Turkish leader since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. They welcomed an infant center-right party, IYI (“good” in Turkish); recognized the country’s Kurds as a legitimate political force; and gave a cautious nod to an emerging social democrat politician, Muharrem Ince, Erdoğan’s closest presidential rival.
More strategically, Election 2018 marked the official birth of an Islamist-nationalist alliance that will recalibrate Turkey’s foreign policy calculus in line with the strong wave of religious/nativist nationalism that brought this alliance to power.

In power since November 2002, Erdoğan easily won the presidential race with 53.6% of the national vote in the first round (any number beyond the 50% mark would have sufficed). But his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) won only 42.5% of the parliamentary vote, down seven percentage points from its result in the elections of November 2015. The AKP won 293 seats in Turkey’s 600-seat house, falling short of a simple majority of 301.

Had this been just another parliamentary election, the AKP would be unable to form a single-party government. But legislative changes that followed the April 2017 referendum now allow political parties to enter the parliamentary race in alliance with other parties. Erdoğan chose as his ally the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which has its ideological roots in the militantly ultranationalist, pan-Turkic ideology of the 1970s. On June 24 the MHP won 11.1% of the national vote and 50 seats, bringing up the “allied” (i.e., the governing) seats to 343 – which gives the AKP-MHP alliance a comfortable parliamentary majority.
Four decades after emerging as marginal parties in the 1970s, Turkey’s militant Islamists and militant ultranationalists won a combined 53.6% of the national vote and 57% of parliamentary seats. Erdoğan has said in the past that he would put foreign policy “in line with what my nation demands,” highlighting the Islamist sensitivities of his voter base. He will now be adding nationalist sensitivities to that foreign policy calculus. This is likely to mean confrontations, perhaps bold ones, with several nations both inside and outside Turkey’s region.

Turkey’s new ruling ideology will, first of all, make it practically impossible to return to the negotiating table for peace with the Kurds. That is an MHP red line that Erdoğan will prefer not to cross. MHP’s militaristic posture will also boost Ankara’s desire to show more muscle in Kurdish-related disputes in northern Syria and northern Iraq. (MHP’s only solution to the Kurdish dispute is military might.)

Turkey’s decades-long, obsessive foreign policy goals include making Jerusalem the capital of the Palestinian state, asserting an ideological kinship with Hamas, stoking sectarian hostilities against Syrian President Bashar Assad, and making threats about drilling off the shores of the divided island of Cyprus. To these will probably be added an “Uighur cause,” a subject about which the MHP is particularly sensitive.

The AKP’s election manifesto stated an intention to “overcome problems and improve bilateral relations with the United States.” But the manifesto also said Turkey would make an effort to “improve bilateral relations with Russia.” It said, “We will continue our close coordination with Russia on regional subjects, especially on Syria.”

In practice, Erdogan’s balancing act between Russia and the US resembles Brazilian dictator Getulio Vargas’s “pendulum policy” during WWII. Vargas offered support to Hitler and Mussolini at times, but ended up siding with the Allies.

MHP’s involvement in government policy will be totally irrelevant when it comes to operating the modern-day Turkish pendulum.

Erdoğan’s relations with the US are ideologically hostile but de facto transactional. They will remain so. His relations with Russia are largely transactional and will probably gain further ground, politically as well as militarily, as the discrepancy between Turkish and western democratic cultures widens. Erdoğan ideologically belong to the strongmen’s club.

As Turkey’s gross democratic deficit, largely created under Erdoğan’s governance, is blended with MHP’s notoriously isolationist, xenophobic ideology, Turkey’s theoretical goal of accession into the European Union (EU) will gradually become null and void. Erdoğan will soon announce plans to shut down the ministry dealing with accession negotiations with the EU and turn it into “a department of the Foreign Ministry.” This should not surprise anyone.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family

Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist. He regularly writes for the Gatestone Institute and Defense News and is a fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is also a founder of, and associate editor at, the Ankara-based think tank Sigma.


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Why Britain's Deradicalization Programs Are Failing - A. Z. Mohamed

by A. Z. Mohamed

Unwittingly, Home Secretary Sajid Javid showed just why the deradicalization programs he is defending do not work.

  • The two effective initiatives were, "one defying political correctness and tackling difficult issues head-on and the other directly addressing extremism in religious [Islamic] texts." — The Times.
  • Unwittingly, Home Secretary Sajid Javid showed just why the deradicalization programs he is defending do not work. He said nothing about the boy's family's religious faith, radical Islam or the narrative of hate and intolerance founded on a "radical" interpretation of the Quran and Sunna to which the boy may well have been exposed at home, at the mosque and over the internet.
  • The trouble with Javid's tribute to those Muslims who "stand up against all forms of extremism" is that bigotry and bloodlust are not merely figments of Islamist extremists' minds. They stem from an authentic interpretation of Quranic verses and hadiths, which currently dominates the Muslim world.
The vast majority of deradicalization programs in the UK are at best ineffective and at worst counter-productive, according to a recent study by the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT, also known as the "nudge unit"), a social purpose company partially owned by the UK government, but that works in partnership with the Cabinet Office.

As the Times reported recently, BIT examined 33 deradicalization programs across Britain, in schools, youth centers, sports clubs and English-language classes. Most of these are part of Prevent -- a strategy presented in 2011 to the UK Parliament by the Secretary of State for the Home Department -- designed to keep vulnerable citizens from becoming terrorists or supporting any form of violent extremism inspired by radical Islamist or right-wing ideologies. BIT found that only two of the programs have been successful.

The main reason for the failure of the other 31 programs, according to the Times' report on the study, is:
"...that facilitators were uncomfortable dealing with sensitive topics and would often refuse to engage if they were brought up. BIT found that teachers in particular were afraid to bring up matters of race and religion with their students without appearing discriminatory, often causing them to refuse to talk about these topics entirely."
The two effective initiatives, according to the Times, were "one defying political correctness and tackling difficult issues head-on and the other directly addressing extremism in religious [Islamic] texts."

In Britain, the majority (82%) of the 228 people in custody for terrorism-related offenses espouse Islamist extremism. In August 2017, the EU's counter-terrorism coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, said that the UK has more radicalized Muslims than any other European country. He added that Britain "has identified 20,000 to 35,000 radicals. Of these, 3,000 are worrying for MI5, and of those 500 are under constant and special attention."

In a speech in London on June 4, Britain's recently appointed Home Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, said that the UK's
"... biggest threat [today] is from Islamist terrorism – including Al Qa'ida, but particularly from Daesh.
"While the so-called caliphate is a thing of the past, Daesh continues to plan and inspire attacks both here and abroad as well as recruiting British citizens to fight.
"Over the past 5 years, our law enforcement and intelligence agencies have foiled as many as 25 Islamist-linked plots."
"But the threat doesn't only come from Daesh.
"Extreme right-wing terrorism is also an increasing threat... Daesh and the extreme right wing are more similar than they might like to think.
"They both exploit grievances, distort the truth, and undermine the values that hold us together.
"And they don't hesitate to learn lessons from each other."
"The Prevent strategy will remain a vital part of our counter-terrorism work.
"Yes, I recognise the criticisms, but I absolutely support it.
"Misapprehensions around Prevent are often based on distortions.
"They are based on a lack of understanding about the grassroots work that is involved, and the efforts by civil society groups and public-sector workers to protect vulnerable people.
"We have a moral and social obligation to safeguard vulnerable people from the twisted propaganda of those seeking to radicalise them.
"And Prevent is about doing just that."
To illustrate the benefits of Prevent programs, Javid told the story of a 13-year-old boy:
"He witnessed domestic abuse at home and suffered from racist bullying at school. He started to watch violent propaganda online and to show an interest in fighting for Daesh. But he was given the mentoring and support that he needed to stop him from going down that wrong path. Now his mum says, and I quote, 'he's no longer on the path to radicalisation and all he wants to be is a car salesman.'"
Unwittingly, by recounting this tale, Javid showed just why the deradicalization programs he is defending do not work. He reduced the radicalization of a Muslim teenager to domestic abuse, racist bullying at school and online violent propaganda. He said nothing about the boy's family's religious faith, radical Islam or the narrative of hate and intolerance founded on a "radical" interpretation of the Quran and Sunna to which the boy may well have been exposed at home, at the mosque and over the internet. Instead, Javid provided a politically correct narrative to back up his assertion that Prevent is not only a success, but part of the "new counter-terrorism strategy" he was unveiling.

Javid then devoted a whole section of his speech to his fellow Muslims in Britain:
"After any [terrorist] attack, a lot of well-meaning people will line up to say it has nothing to do with Islam. That the perpetrators are not true Muslims. I understand this reaction. I know they are not true Muslims. But there's no avoiding the fact that these people they self-identify as Muslims.
"Let me be very clear. Muslims are in no way responsible for the acts of a tiny minority who twist their faith. And I know that there is no such thing as a single, homogenous Muslim community. Muslims live and thrive in all walks of British life and society.
"Globally, Muslims are by far the biggest victims of Islamist terrorism. And Muslims are fighting and dying on the frontline of the battle against terrorism every day.
"It would be absurd to say that the actions of a tiny handful in any way represent a peaceful, wonderful religion shared by a billion people worldwide.
"That's exactly why, although we all share the responsibility for tackling terrorism, there's a unique role for Muslims to play in countering this threat.
"British Muslims up and down the country are leading the fight against Islamist extremists by throwing them out of their mosques and by countering poison online and on the streets. It is incredibly powerful when a young Muslim man turns their back on the preachers of hate, and say: 'Your bigotry and bloodlust have no place in the modern world.'
"I want to say to all those who stand up against all forms of extremism that this government stands with you..."

Sajid Javid, Britain's Home Secretary. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

The trouble with Javid's tribute to those Muslims who "stand up against all forms of extremism" is that bigotry and bloodlust are not merely figments of Islamist extremists' minds that lead to their violent conduct. They stem from an authentic interpretation of Quranic verses and hadiths, which -- according to Londonistan author Melanie Phillips -- "although millions of Muslims don't subscribe to it, currently dominates the Islamic world." Sadly, worldwide, Muslims, too, are often victims of Muslim violence.

For deradicalization programs -- and counter-terrorism initiatives -- to work, they must first defy political correctness, tackle the root causes of Islamist extremism and address all related sensitive issues, including those which appear in Islamic texts. British Muslims should not only participate in this endeavor, but be on the front lines, monitoring early signs of radicalization and ceasing to show sympathy for or to rationalize violence.

A. Z. Mohamed is a Muslim born and raised in the Middle East.


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Experts eye prospects for change in Iran at big Paris exile conference, with praise for Trump - Hassan Mahmoudi

by Hassan Mahmoudi

A top French intelligence official said there's finally a U.S. president who knows what's going on.

In Paris Friday, freedom-loving Iranians held a major "Free Iran 2018" conference, featuring a panel discussion with experts from the U.S., Canada, France, and Algeria, discussing the consequences of recent protests in Iran along with what's going on with the Iranian opposition. Among them, there were experts who praised both Iran's top opposition leader, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, and President Trump.

The panel discussion was a public exchange of ideas, giving experts and audience members the chance to discuss the difference between what we saw before in past protests and what we see now going on in Iran.

Mitchell Reiss.

According to a National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI) report, Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, a former director of U.S. State Department policy, who moderated the event, said, "Today Madame Rajavi [the leader of NCRI] is widely respected as the inspiration behind the democratic movement for change in Iran," adding that the current momentum is on the side of those who want a democratic Iran. "Credit must go first and foremost to Madame Maryam Rajavi and the members of NCRI," Reiss said, reminding listeners of the role the Iranian opposition played in the protests.

"Many in America will rally to your cause if you present them," Reiss said.

"There's a material difference between what we saw before and what we see now. The protests are widespread, and that is a hopeful sign," said Michael Mukasey, former U.S. attorney general during the George W. Bush administration.

The JCPOA (Ben Rhodes's Iran deal) gave Iran a lot of money, and that money did not go into the economy, Mukasey said. "The slogans of the protests are focused on telling the regime that we're not interested in seeing our money spent on Lebanon and Syria. We want it to be spent here."

"We want to thank the men and women of Iran that have come to the forefront to fight for everything that the MEK has stood for," said Louis Freeh, former director of the FBI.

Louis Freeh.

Freeh reminded the audience that the regime and the IRGC (Iran's revoluationary guard) continue to export terrorism in the region and that sanctions have not deterred the primary goal of exporting terrorism.

"However, the command and control of the regime has started to deteriorate considerably," he said. A testament to that fact is that the protests are becoming inclusive and are covering all of Iran.

"The resumption of sanctions is a key change and catalyst," Freeh said, reminding that despite rhetoric we hear from different European states, companies will not take the risk of secondary U.S. sanctions for dealing with Iran.

"It's time to push forward with confidence, consistence and with a vision," Freeh concluded. "Part of that vision is getting Madame Rajavi to visit the United States."

"I'm pleased to stand in solidarity with you and the people of Iran," said John Baird, former foreign minister of Canada.

John Baird.

Baird praised Iran for its phenomenal history and its great people and education. "The only thing holding the people of Iran back are the mullahs," Baird said. "We must rally these people to come together and fight for a better future."

"It's the first time in 65 years that a American president understands something about Iran," said Yves Bonnet, former governor and head of France's Internal Security Service (DST).

Yves Bonnet.

"In a true democracy [such as] ours, we have all the keys to understand the ideals PMOI and the NCRI, which we share," Bonnet said, praising the PMOI-MEK for having stayed true to its ideals and its course despite the many trials and tribulations in the recent decades.
"The political situation in Iran is like a volcano," Struan Stevenson, coordinator for change in Iran and former president of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq, asserted.

Stevenson remarked that the significance of recent protests in Iran is that it was a massive uprising not only in Tehran, but in 142 cities. "These are young people who are prepared to risk the ultimate price and go to protests," he said. "There's going to be a volcanic eruption that will sweep away this evil regime."

Despite the regime's violent retaliation, arresting 8,000 people and torturing 14 people to death, people are still protesting, Stevenson said.

"The people who are taking to the streets have had enough," he said. "They look at the way the mullahs have stolen their money and are using the wealth of Iran to finance Bashar al-Assad and the brutal Shiite militias in Iraq, to finance Houthis in Lebanon, Hezbollah in Lebanon. They're saying forget about Syria, think about us."

Stevenson also emphasized that there are no moderates in the Iranian regime and protesters are saying that in their protests. "Rouhani is not a moderate or else he wouldn't be president," he said. "He's an evil monster like the other mullahs."

Stevenson also said that last week's protests in Tehran's bazaar are significant because the merchants of the Grand Bazaar were considered the traditional backbone of the regime. "But now they're protesting to the collapsing economy," he said.

"The interesting thing that has emerged from all this: The leaders are now pointing the finger of blame at the MEK," Stevenson said. "They used to say the MEK is ... insignificant. Now they're saying that they're behind the uprisings. They fear the MEK."

Stevenson concluded by saying Mrs. Rajavi must be invited to the United Kingdom. "We the people of Europe expect more from our leaders," he said.

"We cannot have a moderate mullahs' regime because the regime is based on using Islam to kill people. The regime can't have a moderate current," said Sid Ahmed Ghozali, former prime minister of Algeria.

Ghozali spoke to the importance, the history, and the role of the MEK, especially as protests erupt across Iran, reminding listeners of their history and the sacrifices they've made to promote democracy and freedom in their country.

"Tomorrow there'll be a democratic movement that will be able to manage the economy of the country," he said, underlining that the Iranian opposition is the only viable alternative to the current regime.

Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate, specializing in political and economic issues relating to Iran and the Mideast.


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