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Join Us At Today's Iranian Alert Thread – The Most Underreported Story Of The Year!

"If you want on or off this Iran ping list, Freepmail DoctorZin”

1 posted on 01/16/2004 12:13:18 AM PST by DoctorZIn
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To: Pan_Yans Wife; fat city; freedom44; Tamsey; Grampa Dave; PhiKapMom; McGavin999; Hinoki Cypress; ...
Join Us At Today's Iranian Alert Thread – The Most Underreported Story Of The Year!

"If you want on or off this Iran ping list, Freepmail DoctorZin”

2 posted on 01/16/2004 12:15:35 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
How to Deal with Iran's Mullahs? Recall Reagan

January 16, 2004
Houston Chronicle
Reza Ladjevardian

After the tragic and devastating earthquake in Bam, there have some discussions of a possible "earthquake diplomacy" between the Bush administration and the mullahs in Iran. Such rapprochement would precariously jeopardize America's strategic interests.

Since President Reagan's key-shaped cake to the mullahs and Iran-Contra until today, various intelligent, well-intentioned officials have tried to portray the mullahs as pragmatic. Now the argument goes that the mullahs and America have a mutual interest in ensuring stability in Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, there is no confluence of interests. The mullahs clearly understand the blossoming of democracy in that region would mean their eventual demise. As such, they would try to foil any such plans. The real problem is the mullahs themselves.

For more than two decades, they have diverted billions of dollars from Iran's oil revenues to filling their own pockets and financing international terrorism.

The mullahs' bloody hands are involved in countless numbers of terrorist acts across the globe, and it is they who introduced suicide bombers as a weapon. According to the CIA, the mullahs' Hezbollah is the "A list" of terrorists and more powerful than al-Qaida.

In dealing with the mullahs, the Bush administration ought to follow Reagan's example with the communists and not that of President Nixon. As Reagan rejected the Nixon doctrine of detente with the communists, and settled for nothing less than the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, President Bush should also accept nothing short of a full-fledged democracy in Iran.

Would the world have been better off today had Reagan compromised and continued Nixon's detente with the Soviets -- and not have applied the necessary financial pressure on them until their empire imploded?

Similarly, the longer the mullahs are in power, the more of a danger they present to the world. This is especially true in light of their nuclear ambitions.

The Bush administration needs to systematically expose the mullahs' corruption, incompetence and brutality in order to showcase the fallacy of Islamic fundamentalism as a political and economic ideology. This is an absolutely essential step in winning the war on terrorism so as to prevent further disillusioned Muslims from being seduced by the allure and false promises of this intolerant ideology.

Let the angry Muslim students hear and see what the Iranian students have had to endure under Islamic fundamentalism. Let them bear witness to the executions, tortures, beatings, drug addictions, lack of opportunities, sad and unhappy faces and wasted lives.

Similar to the last days of communism in which there were more communist sympathizers in Berkeley, Calif., and Cambridge, Mass., than in Moscow, Islamic fundamentalism has been completely refuted in Iran, but not yet so in Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc.

Helping the Iranian people to liberate themselves from the grasp of the mullahs could be accomplished with no American military involvement.

Through a mixture of coercion and engagement, America needs to pressure the Iranian government to implement two critical bills passed by Iran's Majlis, but rejected by the Council of Guardians. These two bills focus on establishing a free press and free elections.

Without a free press, a democracy would wither and die; with a free press a dictatorship would crumble. In the annals of history, no dictatorship has survived the onslaught of a free press. The newspapers that have been shut down and the journalists and students who have been imprisoned and routinely tortured seek a civil, democratic society based on the ideals of peace, equality, justice, transparency and a genuine representative government.

There is not a more critical issue facing America's foreign policy today than establishing a democratic role model in the Middle East. The Iran option won't require bloodshed or billions of taxpayer dollars. It would also be a prudent hedge in case the Iraq plan doesn't unfold as desired.

The mullahs' theocracy belongs in the dust bin of history just like communism and fascism. The Bush administration should not increase the life expectancy of this doomed regime by continuing the misguided policies of the past two decades and engaging in quid pro quo deals with the mullahs. Such myopic, politically motivated policies have enabled the mullahs to survive and to pose an ever greater menace for America.

Winning the war on terrorism is impossible so long as the mullahs are in power.

Ladjevardian, an Iranian-American, is a Houston-based writer. He can be e-mailed at
3 posted on 01/16/2004 12:40:32 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
British politicians against expulsion of Iran's MKO members from Iraq

AFP - World News (via Yahoo)
Jan 15, 2004

LONDON - Over 300 British politicians condemned Tehran for attempting to oust and extradite thousands of opponents from Iraq and called for Iran's main opposition group, the People's Mujahedeen, to be removed from a US list of terrorist organisations.

"The world now knows that the PMOI (People's Mujahedeen) is an essential part of the drive to halt the advance of fundamentalism in Iraq and the region," said a statement signed by 220 members of parliament and 85 Lords from Britain's second chamber.

"This underlines the need to remove the terrorist tag from the PMOI and hang it around the neck of the terrorist mullahs' regime in Tehran, which is also guilty of mass violations of human rights," the statement said.

"Thus it is important to recognise the presence of the PMOI in Iraq as an independent political movement," it said.

The US-installed interim Governing Council (IGC) in Iraq announced on December 9 that it planned to deport the People's Mujahedeen group which is on the US State Department's list of foreign terrorist organisations.

The US administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, has said that members of the People's Mujahedeen in US custody would not be sent to Iran for trial, as demanded by Tehran, but to third countries.

"As clearly stated by experts in international law, Iraq is a country under occupation and therefore the status of the PMOI in Iraq is governed by international law, and not the IGC," British politicians said in their statement published at a press conference in Westminster in central London. The People's Mujahedeen mounted attacks inside Shiite-dominant Iran from neighbouring Iraq when Saddam Hussein was in power, but surrendered to the coalition in May, when US troops disarmed more than 3,800 of them.

They are now guarded by US troops at their base in Camp Ashraf, northeast of the Iraqi capital.
4 posted on 01/16/2004 12:57:07 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
7 posted on 01/16/2004 6:51:08 AM PST by knighthawk (Live today, there is no time to lose, because when tomorrow comes it's all just yesterday's blues)
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To: DoctorZIn
Can Iranians Change Their Political System?

January 16, 2004
The International Herald Tribune
A. William Samii

PRAGUE -- There has been an uproar in Iran over the hard-line Guardian Council's rejection of 3,533 out of 8,144 prospective candidates for the parliamentary election in February. Reformist legislators walked out of Parliament and mounted a sit-in. Some legislators and cabinet members, and all 27 provincial governors, threatened to resign. Regardless of how this crisis is resolved, it demonstrates all the problems with Iran's political system.

The Guardian Council comprises six clerics appointed by Iran's supreme leader, the unelected Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and six lawyers selected by the judiciary chief, who is appointed by the supreme leader. Its role in vetting electoral candidates is based on its interpretation of the constitutional article calling for it to "supervise elections."

This vetting process has upset many people for many years. Not only did the council reject hundreds of candidates before the February 2000 parliamentary polls, but it overturned the results in some constituencies where reformist candidates won. In response to past criticism, Khamenei has remarked that the council was the most important institution protecting the Islamic nature of the Iranian system and was duty-bound to "prevent infiltration of impure elements into pillars of the system."

Iran's popularly elected yet relatively powerless president, Mohammad Khatami, introduced legislation in 2002 that would limit the Guardian Council's role in elections, but the council also vets all legislation for its compatibility with Islam and the constitution; not surprisingly, it rejected Khatami's legislation several times.

The council's rejection of so many prospective candidates is striking, but what is truly unusual is its decision that 80 incumbent parliamentarians are ineligible.

The current crisis is likely to end in one of three ways. Rejected candidates have the opportunity to appeal to the Guardian Council, and there is the possibility, not unprecedented, that some of the rejections will be rescinded. This could be a face-saving outcome for all concerned, but there are unlikely to be thousands of successful appeals.

There also could be an election boycott, which has been threatened by several of the country's main reformist political parties, and which would probably lead to low voter turnout. The conservatives would not mind this - low turnout in the February 2003 municipal council elections allowed them to dominate the polls. On the other hand, the Iranian regime bases much of its legitimacy and credibility on holding regular elections with high participation. Indeed, it keeps the polling places open late, buses in voters and encourages public employees' participation.

The promise by President Khatami and the speaker of the Parliament, Mehdi Karrubi, to appeal to Khamenei reveals the third and most likely possibility. Khamenei said in a speech Monday to provincial governors, broadcast by state radio, that he saw elections as "ephemeral" events that nevertheless "generate enthusiasm" and "draw the people's attention." He urged Iran's governors to avoid tension and said the issue must be resolved through "legal channels." In the past this has meant that Khamenei would refer to another unelected body, the Expediency Council.

In the last few years the 35-member Expediency Council has sided with the Guardian Council on several important issues, possibly because six members are the clerics on the Guardian Council, another one is the judiciary chief, and most of the rest are conservative appointees of the supreme leader. In March 2003, for example, it decided to increase significantly the Guardian Council's budget for electoral activities, despite the protestations of the president and speaker.

The third possible outcome summarizes Iran's democratic dilemma - an unelected body has control over elections, and only an unelected official can overrule that body. For all the elections Iran holds, and for all the talk of reformists and religious democracy, the real decisions are made by a handful of conservative clerics operating behind closed doors.

In the presidential elections of 1997 and 2001, as well as the parliamentary election of 2000, Iranians voted in overwhelming numbers for reformist candidates who promised to change things. But the promises came to naught and Iranians came to see that their efforts are futile in the face of opposition from entrenched forces who can manipulate the system to maintain their grip on power.

Recognition of this situation is likely to keep voters at home on election day, and that is bad news for those who would like to see regime change without external intervention.

The writer is the senior regional analyst for Southwest Asia at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and prepares the weekly RFE/RL Iran Report ( The views in this article are his own.
8 posted on 01/16/2004 8:50:23 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran Quake Toll Tops 41,000, Could Reach 45,000

January 16, 2004
ABC News

Iran on Friday raised the death toll for the December 26 earthquake in the south-eastern city of Bam to 41,000, with a close aide to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei saying the final figure could hit 45,000, state media reported.

"In this incident, up until now 41,000 of the people of Bam have been killed, and there is a possibility that this could increase to 45,000. This is a great catastrophe," Mohammad Mohammadi-Gholpayghani was quoted as saying by the news agency IRNA.

The official heads the office of the supreme leader, who on Friday made his second visit to the quake-devastated city to inspect recovery and relief operations.

Previous official estimates had put the death toll at between 30,000 and 35,000, although recovery crews in Bam have continued to pull out bodies as they work to clear the rubble.
10 posted on 01/16/2004 9:06:32 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran MPs: no compromise on candidate vetting

Friday, January 16, 2004 - ©2003

TEHRAN, Jan 16 (AFP) - The head of Iran's main reformist party vowed Friday that parliamentary deputies barred from standing for re-election next month would not compromise with hardliners who drew up the blacklist.

Mohammad Reza Khatami, the head of the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) and the younger brother of President Mohammad Khatami, said the thousands of other disqualified candidates must also have their candidacies approved.

His comments were made during the sixth day of a sit-in at the Majlis building, which has been the centre of angry protests since the Guardians Council -- an unelected watchdog that screens all legislation and candidates for public office -- moved to bar key reformists from contesting the February 20 polls.

"This sit-in has only one request, and that is to have an election based on the law. We will not compromise on that," said the IIPF leader, one of 83 mostly-reformist MPs who were on the Guardians Council blacklist.

"We will calmly press our demand to have free elections. But even if all the MPs are qualified but people outside the Majlis are not, we will continue our sit-in," he said.

"This is a matter of principle," he asserted, as scores of disgruntled MPs continued to occupy the Majlis building in central Tehran.

Of the approximately 8,157 people who registered to stand for seats in the Majlis, 3,605 have been disqualified.

With Friday a weekend here, many had also brought their families and children along. The Majlis building was also thronging with reporters, and security searches were stepped up for all people entering the building.
11 posted on 01/16/2004 9:08:02 AM PST by freedom44
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To: DoctorZIn
After 25, Shah of Iran's son hoping for change

WASHINGTON, Jan 15 (AFP) - Twenty five years after the fall of the Shah of Iran, his exiled son, Reza Pahlavi, says he still wants to be a catalyst for change in the country but that its Islamic regime is incapable of reforming itself.

The 43-year-old Pahlavi said in an interview with AFP that the new crisis caused by the blacklisting of reformist candidates for the Iran's February 20 national elections highlighted the country's problems.

"It is not a crisis between so-called liberal and radical factions, but between the whole regime and the people. This regime is not reformable. There must be a fundamental change," said Pahlavi.

The only way for the Iranian people to make their voice heard, he added would be "to boycott" the election as no elected body had been able to stand up to the conservative clerics led by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Scores of Iranian reformist MPs have vowed to maintain a sit-in in the Iranian parliament, despite the intervention of the supreme leader to order the Guardians Council, a 12 member religious body, to lift its disqualification of the reformist candidates for the election.

Pahlavi, a former pilot and father of two who now lives in the Washington area, was training on a US air base in Texas when his father, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, was forced to leave Iran on January 16, 1979, two months before the triumphant return to Iran of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who died 10 years later.

He said it was a difficult period for him and his family.

But refusing to join any political party, Pahlavi says he wants to act as a "catalyst" for change by campaigning for a national referendum for democratic and secular change.

On top of his book on the topic, "Winds of Change", Pahlavi appears regularly on radio and television programmes broadcast into Iran from abroad. Internet has also aided his efforts to reach Iranians.

Pahlavi said he has also had discrete contacts with some members of the Shiite Muslim clergy in Iran who favour a separation of religious and state powers, an even with the grandson of the Ayatollah Khomeini, Hossein Khomeini, who is now a critic of the regime.

Acknowledging that there were also problems with his father's authoritarian regime, Pahlavi is careful not to raise the possibility of a return to the monarchy. He said the Iranian people must choose between a republic or a constitutional monarchy.

Despite its record, the monarchy was at least more modern and progressive, he added.

"Today we are in a situation where instead of being 50 years ahead we are one or two centuries behind."

The fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq has encouraged Pahlavi that he can play a role in a new Iran.

"This regime has so far succeeded in hiding between the Taliban in Kabul and Saddam's regime in Baghdad. Today it is a regime that is withdrawing and can feel that it is weakening," said the shah's son.

Iran is a country "with 70 percent of the population aged under 30" that wants to be free and modern, according to Pahlavi. Change, he added, "is a question of time."
12 posted on 01/16/2004 9:09:12 AM PST by freedom44
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To: DoctorZIn
Political Barbs Welcome an Iranian Visiting France

January 15, 2004
The New York Times
Elaine Sciolino

PARIS -- With Iran embroiled in an internal political struggle, Hassan Rowhani, the head of that country's National Security Council, and Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin of France clashed Thursday over the coming Iranian parliamentary elections and human rights.

Mr. Rowhani also criticized France's decision to press for a legal ban on the Islamic veil in public schools.

In blunt language unusual in diplomacy, Mr. de Villepin demanded that Iran's elections next month be free and fair and that people arrested for their political beliefs be released.

"We hope that a page will be definitively turned with the coming legislative elections," Mr. de Villepin said at a news conference after the two men met at the Foreign Ministry. He described them as "an important marker of democracy."

With parliamentary elections scheduled for Feb. 20, Iran is mired in one of the most serious political battles in the 25-year history of its Islamic Republic.

More than 60 members of Parliament began a sit-in on Sunday after the hard-line Guardian Council banned more than 3,000 potential candidates, including 80 of the current 290 members, from running. Most of the sitting lawmakers rejected were from the reformist camp, which won more than 70 percent of the seats four years ago.

In broadest terms, the confrontation reflects a brutal ideological and power struggle between conservatives, who preach adherence to a vision of an Islamic state in which order and security are the priority, and reformers who are determined to inject more freedom and openness into all aspects of political, social and economic life.

Coincidentally, the battle comes at a time of stock-taking in Iran as the country is poised to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its revolution next month. Twenty-five years ago on Thursday, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi fled the country for Egypt. He never returned, and he died 18 months later.

Mr. Rowhani, who is on a three-day visit to France, strongly defended Iran's electoral process, saying, "In the course of the last 25 years, Iran has accumulated enough experience concerning the democratic process."

Without singling out France, he rejected what he called "the interference of any country in the internal affairs of our county."

He was specific, though, about criticism coming from Washington. "The United States never speaks uniquely out of its concern for the future of the Iranian people," Mr. Rowhani said. "It pursues its own interest and tries to show hostility toward the Iranian people."

He added, "The last American presidential elections, which took place in truly catastrophic and dramatic conditions, do not allow the United States to talk about elections in other countries."

On Monday the deputy State Department spokesman, J. Adam Ereli, called on Iran's government to disavow attempts by hard-liners to shape the outcome of the election.

As head of Iran's National Security Council, which is responsible for security, intelligence, military and strategic policies, Mr. Rowhani, a cleric, has emerged as one of the most influential political figures in Iran. He reports directly to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader and the most powerful political figure in the country.

Mr. Rowhani negotiated an accord last October with Mr. de Villepin and his British and German counterparts that commits Iran to agree to more intrusive international inspections of its nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency and a suspension of its activities to enrich uranium.

Mr. Rowhani insisted in his meeting with President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday and in the news conference on Thursday that Iran was respecting its agreements with the agency, despite strong suspicions that the country is continuing to assemble centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium.

Richard A. Boucher, the State Department spokesman, said Wednesday that the nuclear agency had "called on Iran to adhere to its pledge to suspend `all' — all — enrichment-related and reprocessing activity." He added that the United States would watch carefully to make sure that Iran complied.

Mr. Rowhani also defended Iran's human rights record, saying he had told Mr. de Villepin that there was "not one person in prison in Iran except when there is a judgment by a judge following a trial."

He turned the tables on his French host, accusing France of violating human rights by passing a law banning Muslim girls from wearing veils to school. "We hope that Muslims will be free to practice their religion," he said.
14 posted on 01/16/2004 9:12:16 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
This just in from inside of Iran...

I have told that the police in Tehran surrounded the parliament this morning to prevent people to go there.
20 posted on 01/16/2004 10:47:27 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
UK's Straw To Meet Iran's Khatami at Davos

January 16, 2004
Dow Jones Newswires
The Associated Press

LONDON -- U.K. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw will meet Iranian President Mohammad Khatami at next week's World Economic Forum for broad-ranging talks expected to cover Tehran's nuclear program, a U.K. official said Friday.

Straw, whose visit to Tehran with his French and German counterparts in October helped broker an agreement on U.N. access to Iran's nuclear sites, will meet Khatami Wednesday at the event in Davos, Switzerland.

Iran agreed last month to accept unannounced inspections by the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency.
23 posted on 01/16/2004 1:06:39 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran Reformists to Fast In Attempt to Reverse Ballot Bans

January 16, 2004
The Associated Press
Dow Jones Newswires

TEHRAN -- Reformist lawmakers on the sixth day of a parliament sit-in vowed Friday to begin a fast in an attempt to force the reversal of the disqualification of more than 3,000 candidates from next month's election.

Mohammad Reza Khatami, a vice speaker of parliament who has been barred from the election, told a press conference inside parliament that reformist lawmakers would begin fasting Saturday.

"We are determined even more than before to resist illegal hard-line efforts to hold a sham election through mass disqualification of hopefuls," said Khatami, leader of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, Iran's largest reformist party, and a younger brother of President Mohammad Khatami.

"We are prepared to pay all costs of defending free elections," he said. "Without free elections, democracy is meaningless."

The Guardian Council, an unelected constitutional watchdog controlled by hard-liners, has disqualified thousands of the nearly 8,200 prospective candidates - including 80 sitting reformist lawmakers - for Feb. 20 legislative elections.

The move early this month caused outrage among reformists, and lawmakers have protested with sit-ins since Sunday.

The disqualifications were seen as an attempt to bolster hard-liners in the long-simmering power struggle with allies of President Khatami, who seek social and political reform.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei intervened Wednesday to cool down the developing political crisis and ordered the 12-member Guardian Council, appointed by him, to reconsider its disqualifications.

Reformers have welcomed Khamenei's intervention but say they are waiting to see how the council will interpret the order. Khamenei also told the council to "resist bullying tactics" by some lawmakers.

"We have seen no positive step by the council so far and there is no guarantee that there will be free elections. We will begin fasting as of Saturday to step up our campaign," Khatami said.

The protesting lawmakers said their sit-in will continue until all disqualified candidates are allowed to run in the upcoming polls.

"We are defending the basic right of all Iranians to choose and be chosen," said Meysam Saeidi, another reformist lawmaker disqualified from the election.

"This is the final battle for democracy in Iran where hard-liners seek to impose brazen dictatorship through sham elections. There is no way to give in," he said.

Khamenei, who holds ultimate say in Iran, is seen as the leader of hard-liners, but has reined them in on occasion in the past to prevent an overt clash with liberals.

He met council members Wednesday and told them that incumbent legislators, who already have been approved by the council for past elections, should be deemed qualified to run "unless it's proven otherwise."

For new candidates, he said, "logical and common qualification is sufficient, and there is no need for further investigation."

Iran's 27 provincial governors have vowed to resign by Monday unless disqualifications are reversed. Khatami's administration has indicated it may not even hold the elections if disqualifications aren't reversed.

Hard-liners, who control unelected bodies including the judiciary, have thwarted the president's reform plans for years.

The Feb. 20 elections are seen as a test for Iran's reformers, whose popularity has waned because of their perceived failure to deliver on promises of liberalization.

Reformists believe the ruling Islamic establishment needs to become more open and respect the demands of its overwhelmingly youthful population and accuse hard-liners of seeking to impose dictatorship in the name of Islam.

But hard-liners hope to prevent a parliament dominated by reformers, who have sought profound changes and support Western-style democracy, which the conservatives say is against the principles of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
24 posted on 01/16/2004 1:07:38 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn

26 posted on 01/16/2004 4:47:19 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn; AdmSmith; Pan_Yans Wife; F14 Pilot; PhilDragoo; freedom44
The Splits

David Warren/1-14-03

The Syrian president, Bashir Assad, may soon have a bigger problem with Hezbollah than Israel has. This is because, after a generation of hosting the most psychopathic arm of Iran's psychopathic theocracy, Mr. Assad no longer wants to know them. His minority Alawite, Baathist dictatorship, which Hezbollah has helped to sustain over the years, suddenly finds itself in a position where it must make new friends. Specifically, it is in urgent need of better relations with Turkey, the United States, and Israel; and Hezbollah is not popular with any of them.

It isn't in the forefront of the news, but the Syrian dictatorship is under huge and growing pressure from an increasingly impatient Bush administration to stop the terrorist insurgency into Iraq through Syria. The U.S. also wants Syria to open to Western inspection, as Libya has just done, the Assad regime's illicit weapons programmes, and for them to surrender Saddamite agents and weapons that they are almost certainly hiding.

This at a time when Syria has never been so isolated within the Arab world. It is now surrounded by American allies on all sides, except for a small patch of oceanfront, and the former state of Lebanon, which it continues to occupy in defiance of all international law. And Damascus is the headquarters for about a dozen Jihadist organizations whose senior members are on almost everyone's most-wanted list.

Imad Fayez Mughniyeh is among them -- Hezbollah's ingenious operations chief, mastermind of innumerable very bloody incidents, including the bombings of the U.S. embassy and marine barracks in Beirut back in 1983. The Americans want him very, very badly.

President Assad continued to offer lip service to the "Islamic revolution" months after that ceased to be fashionable, with the fall of Baghdad. He briefly imagined himself filling the fallen Saddam Hussein's shoes as the rhetorical champion of the "oppressed Arabs". He did this, I believe, more out of stupidity than from any other motive. With the passage of months, it became obvious to him and to his advisers that they were isolated, abroad. Worse, they became increasingly isolated at home, where the televised sight of Iraqis celebrating the overthrow of Baathism in the streets of Baghdad was putting ideas into the streets of Damascus.

The back-pedalling now is frenetic. Last week, Mr. Assad went on an appeasement tour of Turkey, the northern neighbour that almost invaded Syria in 1998 -- before his father and predecessor evicted the Kurdish guerrilla leader, Abdullah Ocalan, and shopped his Damascus-based terror operations to the Turks.

The Turks strongly advised, as the Americans had been doing, that it was time for Syria to make peace with Israel; and this week Mr. Assad is wrestling with his own past vows, in order to make that possible. There were semi-secret Israeli-Syrian negotiations for the return of the Golan Heights in exchange for a Sadat-style recognition of Israel's legitimacy, that ended in the year 2000. These should shortly resume.

But, not yet able to acknowledge domestically the evaporation of his negotiating position, Mr. Assad cannot stop blustering. Yesterday, he turned down publicly and rather contemptuously an invitation from Israel's president, Moshe Katsav, to visit Israel directly. He insists that the negotiations with Israel resume from where they left off, rather than starting again from scratch. This latter position is pure buffoonery, since the two sides would have to negotiate even to agree where the last negotiations left off.

His justified fear of the U.S. has him making distance from Hezbollah's chief sponsor, the ayatollahs' Iran, and possibly shopping minor terror assets quietly. Iran's ayatollahs in turn are making their own cautious concessions to the U.S., in light of Iraq. Such splits are happening throughout the region, as various regimes manoeuvre to assure their own survival in the face of a post-Saddam earthquake. Even Saudi Arabia is making discreet overtures to Israel, about an eventual peace treaty that could leave the Palestinians as diplomatically isolated as the Assad regime now finds itself.

But no such negotiations are easy, given the past. There is too much rhetoric to climb down from quickly.

One of the diplomatic difficulties for statesmen from democratic countries, is the Arab leaders' unfamiliarity with the exigencies of electoral politics. I am not being sarcastic about this -- I've been told by people who have had firsthand experience, that even so urbane a leader as Egypt's Hosni Mubarak genuinely fails to understand what it might be like to have an electorate.

In the case of Bashir Assad, who, like his father before him, compounds imaginative with other intellectual disabilities, the problem is especially acute. He persists in making ludicrous demands, for the sake of his public image. He does not understand, for instance, that no prime minister of Israel can give away the Golan Heights, as a precondition for having a conversation with him. This is because a substantial majority of Israelis, many of whom still remember that the Golan Heights were used prior to their conquest in 1967 as a platform from which to rain shells down upon lower-lying Israeli villages, would rather keep the high ground. They might give it back, but not for nothing.

On the other hand, Mr. Assad has a political problem, that we fail to appreciate fully: that if he does make peace with Israel, Hezbollah will skin him alive.
27 posted on 01/16/2004 6:37:14 PM PST by nuconvert ( "It had only one fault. It was kind of lousy.")
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To: AdmSmith; Pan_Yans Wife; F14 Pilot; PhilDragoo; freedom44; knighthawk; Eala; seamole; Valin

David Warren/1-17-04

Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Husaini al-Sistani, Iraq's highest-ranking Shia cleric, has begun seriously throwing his weight around in Iraq, helping to organize a demonstration in Basra yesterday of tens of thousands of Shia faithful, to chant "No to America!" and demand immediate mass elections -- in a country which has not had a reliable census in several decades, and where the infrastructure for a fair general election does not yet exist. Raising the temperature further, the second-ranking Shia cleric, Hojat Al-Islam Ali Abdulhakim Alsafi, has written a sarcastic public letter to President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, that is being read in all the mosques.

The Shia of Iraq are not an homogenous and discrete ethnic group. Most are racially and linguistically Arab, which alone distinguishes them from the Shia of Iran. While their numbers are overwhelming in the southern third of Iraq, they may be found everywhere; and among Arab Iraqis, there is some degree of shading between Shia and Sunni sects. Unknown, but very large proportions are not religious; and the tribal orders of the countryside break down in Basra and other large cities. And not all the devoted pay their respects to Ayatollah Sistani.

Nevertheless, Sistani has more prestige than anyone in Iraq, and when he commands the faithful to take to the streets, his orders are echoed in the Friday prayers, and reinforced by stick-wielding zealots.

More fundamentally, power corrupts. I fear that Iraq's Shia clerics and their camp followers have only begun to get a taste of power, and their appetite for it will grow quickly as they acquire more. This in a country with no experience of give-and-take, no machinery of checks and balances -- things which take decades or centuries to grow, and require stability.

This is evident in Ayatollah Sistani's own proclamations. He began by counselling Iraqis to co-operate with U.S. and British troops, and by declaring that he had no political aspirations. While he still plays the role of a purely religious leader, he has surrounded himself with political operatives. His demands have become more strident, and are now coupled with threats. He adds new demands to further increase the pressure: most recently saying that the snap election must be combined with a referendum on whether U.S. troops should be allowed to stay.

The U.S. position is constrained, thrice over. 1. Since the Iraqi people were not defeated, but liberated from a tyrant by the U.S. invasion, the U.S. does not have the luxury of dictating to the conquered. 2. Since it refused to install the secular-Shia Ahmed Chalabi as an "Iraqi Karzai" for moderate forces to rally around, it has left the Shia clerics to fish the whole pool. 3. The Bush administration further gave away its key wild-card trading position. It has publicly declared it will not consider breaking the country into three or more constituent national parts (say, Kurdistan, a Sunni-majority "Upper Mesopotamia", and a Shia-majority "Lower Mesopotamia"). The threat of this last would be the natural trump against a Shia power-play.

It could become a threat regardless, for the Shia clerical muscle-flexing is already making the Kurdish leadership feel claustrophobic. They have had the pleasure of governing themselves, and have done a good job of creating a fairly open and prosperous society in the part of Iraq that was put under the protection of the allied no-fly zone after the Gulf War. They are powerfully allergic to mullahs whose sense of reality is evaporating.

And the Sunni Triangle, which the American soldiers are finally getting under control (violent incidents and casualties dropping week by week), could suddenly re-erupt as people who did well out of Saddam Hussein's tribal Sunni dictatorship, contemplate the prospect of the U.S. delivering the country into the hands of their most lethal enemies. They know the Americans won't massacre them; but they also know that the Shia have scores to settle with them. Their solution has always been, strike first.

Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, is currently in the States with a delegation of the Iraqi governing council under its present rotating chairman Adnan Pachachi. While Mr. Bremer again consults anxiously with the White House on what to do, Mr. Pachachi is leading an American-backed Iraqi appeal to the United Nations in New York, to please get involved in the Iraqi transition. Once again, U.N. cover is wanted to take some of the heat off the U.S. But as we've seen in the past, the last thing the U.N. wants to do is to be helpful.

The Bush administration has pulled off so many miracles in Iraq so far, that they should not be counted out for another. But they are now playing with a bad hand, against people who anyway cheat at poker. They have no motive to raise the stakes; the trick now is to cut their losses.
28 posted on 01/16/2004 6:43:41 PM PST by nuconvert ( "It had only one fault. It was kind of lousy.")
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To: DoctorZIn

Get Iraqis on their own.

by Amir Taheri
National Review Online
January 16, 2004

Is the Bush administration having second thoughts about its plan to transfer power to an interim Iraqi government by the end of June?

The question is raised by recent remarks made by officials in Washington and Baghdad about possible delays in implementing the plan. The cited source of their doubts is a statement made last Sunday by Grand Ayatollah Ali Muhammad Sistani, the most prominent religious leader of Iraqi Shiites.

Sistani's comment was a response to a group of unnamed "believers" who wished to know what he thought of the plan to set up an interim government. The ayatollah replied: "The ideal mechanism is an election, which many experts believe is possible to hold within the next months with an acceptable level of transparency and credibility."

The Coalition plan, however, envisages a process of selecting the interim government through a number of caucuses and informal consultations with ethnic, tribal, religious, and political groups. The Coalition authorities, and almost all Iraqi political parties, believe that the country is not yet ready for free and fair elections, and that an interim government representing all strands of opinion is the best option.

Thus, Sistani's call for elections is seen by some officials in Washington and Baghdad as a definitive rejection of the current plan. But this is a dangerous misreading not only of Sistani's intentions, but also of the role that the Shiite clergy should play in a future democratic Iraq.

To begin with, Sistani's statement is a fatwa, which means an opinion, and not a decree or an edict, as some U.S. officials, including L. Paul Bremer, the Coalition's chief civilian administrator, seem to believe.

In Shiism, as in Islam in general, no religious expert (mujtahid) has the authority to issue either a decree or an edict. There are no popes and cardinals in Islam, and the opinion of one religious expert could be challenged or even contradicted by another's. Believers refer to experts when they feel they cannot find the proper answer to a question on their own. If they find the answer given by one expert inadequate or unreasonable, they can always refer to another expert or revert to their own judgment. In other words, the religious expert in Islam is like a medical doctor whose diagnosis may be challenged or rejected by a second opinion.

All of this is based on a key principle of Islam: the notion that an individual bears sole responsibility for his actions. There is no confession or excommunication. The believer has a duty to consult as widely as he can before he acts on any matter, yet in the end, the decision is his, and his alone.

This principle, however, has been challenged however, notably the late Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini. They claim that most Muslims, being poor and illiterate, lack the knowledge and moral strength needed to make correct decisions. They call the masses the mustazafeen, meaning "the enfeebled ones".

"The mustazafeen need the guardianship of the theologians, as much as sheep need a shepherd," Khomeini wrote almost 50 years ago. It was on that principle that Khomeini based his Islamic republic in Iran in 1979 and wrote a constitution under which a mullah, designated as "The Supreme Guide," has absolute power beyond the wildest dreams of even the most despotic monarch.

Sistani understands all this perfectly. For almost 50 years he has been in the camp of those who have defended mainstream Islam against Khomeinist and other deviations from the faith. Thus Sistani would be the last person to claim that he has any authority to dictate what the people of Iraq should or should not do. It would be a supreme irony if this veteran anti-Khomeinist cleric is transformed into an Iraqi version of the ayatollah by Bremer and company.

To be sure, the Coalition authorities must respect Sistani, not only because it is good politics but also, and perhaps especially, because he deserves the highest degree of respect. Sistani should also be consulted, albeit not directly by occupation officials, on all issues just as other prominent Iraqi citizens are. But it would be wrong to treat Sistani as a political leader of Iraqi Shiites. When it comes to taking and applying political decisions, the Coalition must deal with Iraqi politicians. Dragging Sistani into politics is bad for Iraq, bad for him, and bad for the Coalition.

How, then, should one take Sistani's latest opinion? The cleric says that holding elections is the "ideal," and not the only, mechanism for forming an interim government. This means that if his ideal mechanism were proved unrealistic by present circumstances he would be prepared to change his opinion. This could be done with the help of the Governing Council, whose current chairman, Adnan Pachachi, is in contact with Sistani and the United Nations, whose experts agree that Iraq is not ready for elections.

But even if, at the end of the day, Sistani remains unconvinced, that should not bring the whole process to a halt. It is unlikely that Iraqi Shiites would be foolish enough to repeat their mistake of 1920 and choose to stay out of the nation's political life. Holding elections is not a religious duty, but a matter of political expediency. The Koran calls for consultation (shawr), and not elections in the Western democratic sense, as a key for legitimizing any government.

I do, however, happen to agree with Sistani that the ideal way to form an interim Iraqi government is through free and fair elections. I also share Sistani's belief that such elections, though extremely difficult to organize, are not impossible to hold.

Having said that, the responsibility for Iraq lies with the Coalition and the Governing Council, not with any theologian or media commentator. Theologians and media commentators, and others who might contribute to the debate, must be heard. But the ultimate decision, legally and morally, rests with the Coalition. If a premature attempt at holding elections leads to disaster, it won't be Sistani or any media commentator who will pay the political, and other, costs of failure.

What's most needed now is for Iraq's governance to be handed over to the Iraqis, as quickly as possible. I doubt that Sistani would want to be held responsible for postponing the transfer of power to the Iraqis and for prolonging the occupation. The Coalition rejects the election option not because it is technically difficult, but because the results cannot be pre-scripted.

Sistani is right, and the Coalition is wrong. But this is not the end of the world: Iraq has been liberated and will have plenty of free elections in future. Emerging from half a century of despotism, terror, and war, the people of Iraq cannot afford a prolonged period of uncertainty. They need a clear political roadmap that, though it may not be ideal, would nonetheless suffice in guiding them through a difficult period of transition.

— Amir Taheri is an NRO contributor and the Iranian author of ten books on the Middle East and Islam. He is reachable through
31 posted on 01/16/2004 10:17:52 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn

A P.C. mess.

by Michael A. Ledeen
National Review Online
January 16, 2004

We are now making the Afghans and the Iraqis pay a terrible price for American political correctness, and the price is being exacted by our diplomats and misnamed "strategists." The fundamental error — enshrined, as the splendid Diane Ravitch has recently explained in her stellar work on American history textbooks — is the belief that American political and civic culture is just one among many, no better and quite likely considerably worse, than most. Hence we have no right to tell anyone, here or elsewhere, how they should behave.

This leads inevitably to one of Jerry Bremer's favorite dicta, which is that the United States policy in Iraq must be "even-handed." We will not support one party, or group, or faction, against the others. We're not going to take sides. We will manage things in such a way that all Iraqis will have a fair shot at political participation, and then we will let the Iraqis decide what they want.

That doctrine is lethal to freedom in the Middle East, where none of the many active tyrants in the region has the slightest interest in even-handedness. The tyrants want to survive, and if at all possible, to win. They do not want free societies or polities in Iraq and Afghanistan, because they fear the spread of freedom to their own countries, which would spell their doom. So they are feverishly supporting their own tyrannical kind under the benevolent noses of American overseers. The Saudis, Iranians, Syrians, and others are pouring money, mullahs, imams, killers, and political enforcers into the recently liberated countries. They are spending millions of dollars to blanket Iraq with anti-American, fanatical broadcasts from an amazing number of radio and television stations (Iran alone is running more than ten of them), and they are supporting those Iraqis who will push for Islamic tyrannies in both countries.

Our misguided notion of even-handedness is in effect a surrender to the forces of tyranny. We do nothing to support the pro-democratic, basically secular groups and parties, we in fact have long withheld funding (despite laws and appropriations to the contrary) from the Iraqi National Congress — a pro-American, democratic, inclusive, and even multicultural umbrella group — and we have recently acquiesced in legislation in both Iraq and Afghanistan that gives Islamic law — sharia — privileged standing, specifically in civil marriage and inheritance procedures.

No wonder the Baghdad dentist who operates writes caustically "I'm so happy about this, now I can marry and divorce in any way I like. Yay! I'm at the moment gathering family members to go to the local cleric so I can divorce my fourth wife which I don't really like anymore, and get myself an 11 year-old virgin. All the other small details will be settled within the family and with the blessings of the Sayid."

President Bush should tremble at the thought that all our efforts to bring democracy to the Middle East will, instead, replace one form of tyranny with another. He should have been outraged when our ambassador plenipotentiary in Kabul, Zalmay Khalilzad, twice accepted the definition of Afghanistan as an Islamic republic. He should intervene to stop (Islamic) legal proceedings against two Afghan women now charged with "blasphemy" for questioning the desirability of giving sharia special status in the new national constitution. And he should insist that Americans not fight, and even die, for the creation of yet more theocratic states in the Middle East.

All this is the inevitable result of the doctrines of political correctness, which make it socially unacceptable to state the simple truth that the United States has developed a superior political culture, one of the crucial elements of which is the separation of church and state. When Alexis de Tocqueville recognized this act of genius in the early 1830s, he marveled that it made both politics and religion stronger and more responsive to the needs of their followers, and he urged Europeans to adopt it. Scholar after scholar, including some of the best of the Islamic world, have recognized that an excessive intrusion of certain Islamic precepts into civil society has contributed mightily to the lack of freedom, creativity and even scientific knowledge. The liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan gave hope that the region's long decline might be reversed. Yet our own leaders, on the ground and back in Washington, are permitting one of the main elements in the ruin of the region to reassume its dominant role.

Our diplomats are clearly not as prepared to fight politically for democracy as our soldiers fought militarily to remove the Taliban and Baathist tyrannies. Yet both are integral parts of the same war, and should be waged with equal conviction and equal intensity. The difference seems to be that our soldiers had no doubt of the legitimacy of the American cause, while the diplomats and strategists — in the Pentagon and the National Security Council as in Foggy Bottom — are afraid to assert it and fight those who challenge it.

We've made a terrible mess. As "riverbend" — another Iraqi blogger — puts it: "This is going to open new doors for repression in the most advanced country on women's rights in the Arab world! Men are also against this (although they certainly have the upper-hand in the situation) because it's going to mean more confusion and conflict all around." But our guys won't risk criticism for being politically incorrect, by fighting for our values, and insisting that our wisdom be used to create a better and freer Middle East.
32 posted on 01/16/2004 10:20:04 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
This thread is now closed.

Join Us At Today's Iranian Alert Thread – The Most Underreported Story Of The Year!

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33 posted on 01/17/2004 12:13:18 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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