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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 02/07/2004 12:05:07 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 02/07/2004 12:09:34 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn

TEHRAN, 6 Feb. (IPS)

Iran plans to host the largest meeting of hard line Islamic groups regarded by the United States as terrorists, according to informed sources in Tehran.

Iranian officials said the ten-days conference starting next week would discuss strategy against the United States and its allies, particularly Israel and the best ways and means to increase military, financial and propaganda support for Palestinian groups fighting Tel Aviv.

According to same sources, organisations such as the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad of Palestine, the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah, and al-Qa’eda allies like the Ansar al Eslam would attend the meeting, to be chaired by Hojjatoleslam Ali Akbar Mohtashami, also known as "the father" of the Lebanese Shi’ite organisation.

Mr. Mohtashami, a former ambassador to Damascus and Interior minister now a reformist Member of the Majles, or the Iranian parliament, was in Lebanon last month where he coordinated with Hezbollah and representatives from the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad of Palestine the Tehran conference, expected to be inaugurated by a message from Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the leader of the Islamic Republic, in the presence of some high-ranking officials, including President Mohammad Khatami and Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Chairman of the Expediency Council.

The conference would be held amidst an unprecedented political crisis following the disqualification of most of incumbent reformist lawmakers and, is the largest of Arab and Palestinian radical groups opposed to peace with Israel.

Under pressures and "encouragements" from the Islamic Republic, Hezbollah, created by the Islamic Republic after the victory of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, agreed last week to a dramatic exchange of prisoners with the Jewish State.

As a result, Israel handed over to Hezbollah more than 400 Palestinian, Lebanese and Arab prisoners and the bodies of 50 Hezbollah fighters against those of three Israeli soldiers and a businessman kidnapped two years ago by Hezbollah agents in the Persian Gulf city of Dubai.

Mr. Kamal Kharrazi, the Iranian Foreign Minister, in Beirut two days ago to discuss the second phase of the German-mediated exchange with both Lebanese and Hezbollah officials also invited Mr. Nabih Berri, the Speaker of Lebanese parliament and leader of Amal, the Syrian backed Shi’ite organisation to attend the Conference, sources added.

Besides Middle Eastern Islamist organisations, most of them supported by the Islamic Republic and officials from Syria, secular and leftist insurgent groups from South America, Spain and Ireland would also be present, the sources said, adding that representatives of several participating groups are already in the Iranian capital.

3 posted on 02/07/2004 12:15:54 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn; nuconvert; Pan_Yans Wife; McGavin999; Pro-Bush; Cindy; MEG33; downer911; Eala; ...
Iran's President Says Election Will Not Be Fair

7 Feb 2004
Radio Free Europe

Tehran, 7 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Iran's President Mohammad Khatami says legislative elections due in two weeks' time will not be fair because of a conservative oversight body's decision to bar more than 2,000 candidates.

Iran's official IRNA news agency says Khatami and parliament speaker Mehdi Karrubi have sent a joint letter to the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to complain about the conservative Guardians Council's continuing disqualification of the candidates.

As a result, say Khatami and Karrubi in their letter, Iran's voters will have little motivation to come to the polls and will not have a chance to participate in a fair ballot.

But Khatami and Karrubi stopped short of calling for a postponement of the 20 February poll.

Iran's largest reformist party, headed by Khatami's brother, Mohammad Reza Khatami, has said it will boycott the election.
8 posted on 02/07/2004 4:33:25 AM PST by F14 Pilot ("Terrorists declared war on U.S. and War is what they Got!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran's Most Wanted: Filmmakers

February 06, 2004
News Wires
Jason Silverman

It's the most low-tech filmmaking imaginable. Director Ali Mantini's films have no crane or tracking shots. The cameraman rides piggyback on the shoulders of a crew member or bumps along on a donkey. The cast consists of nonprofessional actors, some of whom pay Mantini for the privilege of stepping before the camera.

Mantini edits the movie while lying on his back, holding strips of 8-mm film that an assistant illuminates with a bare light bulb. Each splice uses a carefully snipped piece of Scotch tape. When finished, the film is projected on a sheet taped to the wall of a house for Mantini's neighbors to see.

Welcome to Iranian underground cinema. Mantini, who works 60-hour weeks at a brick factory, spends weekends and holidays making movies. Each film is totally handcrafted. And each is completely illegal.

The Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, or REDCAT, a theater inside Los Angeles' new Walt Disney Hall, is screening a series of films from Iran's hidden cinema. The REDCAT is dedicated to showing cutting-edge works. The program includes Trial, by Iranian journalist and filmmaker Moslem Mansouri, which documents one of Mantini's film productions.

In Trial, Mantini's artistic pretensions seem comic -- he awards himself a best director prize at a wrap party -- but his intentions are profound. Mantini is determined to use his 18 films and 110 novels to share the kind of information he believes the Iranian government suppresses.

It's perilous work. Mantini faces imprisonment each time he takes out his camera or distributes a hand-bound book. Mansouri, who entered the United States under political asylum in 1999, estimated that Mantini and as many as 200 villagers -- Mantini's cast, crew and supporters -- have been jailed at one time or another for their filmmaking.

"The regime's response is very aggressive to any expression of this sort," said Mansouri, himself a former prisoner.

Since the Iranian revolution in 1979, the country's only sanctioned filmmaking has come about through government agencies. Within this system, world-renowned filmmakers including Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf have built an artful, innovative stream of movies. In terms of aesthetics, Iranian cinema has been an unqualified success.

But Mansouri indicated that these state-sponsored filmmakers do not have the freedom to explore the important issues facing Iranians. Underground filmmakers like Mantini, on the other hand, strive to tackle, head-on, Iran's societal ills.

More and more may be doing just that, using consumer cameras and editing systems. Among the filmmakers represented in the REDCAT show are Mahnaz Afzali, a well-known actress, who shot her film, The Ladies, in a public restroom in a Tehran park, capturing the stories of prostitutes, runaways and other refugees from Iranian society.

Maziar Bahari's And Along Came a Spider features interviews with a man who became a hero after killing 16 prostitutes to "cleanse" Iranian society. Our Times and Zinat, A Very Special Day both explore the challenges facing female would-be politicians.

It seems a miracle that these films are being shot, let alone completed and sent overseas. But as more filmmakers hit the streets with digital camcorders in their backpacks, the Iranian government may have a harder time cracking down.

"With the advent of digital modes of recording, a lot of the things we thought we knew about repressive regimes and modes of censorship of cinema are not true anymore," said Berenice Reynaud, who with Shohreh Shashani and Caroline Masse curated REDCAT's Iranian program. "With a pocket digital camera you can record professional images, and you can have an editing system at home, so you don't need a permit. And you can walk outside of the country and present these images in the world."

That seems to be happening more often. Mansouri smuggled eight of his unfinished films out of Iran, and has heard other stories of friends escaping with provocative footage.

Iran isn't the first repressive country to have an underground, revolutionary cinema. In the 1970s, groups of radical filmmakers were embedded in the opposition parties in countries throughout South America. Today, China has a vibrant illegal filmmaking culture.

These underground films always have been difficult to exhibit -- you won't find them in theaters or on TV in their countries of origin. Mantini's films have not been seen outside his neighboring villages. However, low-cost video decks are helping get banned movies out into the world.

"These films have never had distribution and so could not be seen, and they haven't grown to the same strength as the official cinema," said Mansouri. "But the distribution and viewing of these underground films have increased a great deal. As soon as anyone gets their hands on something that can be considered a banned film they make copies and pass them on.",1412,62179,00.html?tw=wn_culthead_2
12 posted on 02/07/2004 10:15:46 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran Conservatives: Reformers Will Pay After Poll

February 06, 2004

TEHRAN -- Iran's conservatives, in chilling warnings, have told their reformist opponents they will pay dearly for the country's political crisis once February 20 parliamentary elections are over.

"Those executive officials who want to resign close to the time of the election should be dealt with like the enemies of God," hardline editor Hossein Shariatmadari wrote in his Kayhan evening newspaper earlier this month.

Under Iranian law, the charge is similar to blasphemy and carries the death penalty.

The reformists have seen the conservative-controlled Guardians Council vetting body bar thousands of their candidates from the poll.

They believe they could lose control of government and parliament if the election goes ahead and have called for it to be postponed. Some 120 MPs, who held a sit-in in parliament, have resigned, along with provincial governors and some ministers and deputy ministers.

Massoud Jazahiri, spokesman for the regime's ideological shocktroops, the Revolutionary Guards, warned those who had strongly protested against the mass banning of would-be candidates that they "will have to answer to the people's tribunal".

He said "MPs who organised a sit-in and made counter-revolutionary speeches insulting the values of Islam have written the blackest pages in the history of parliament".

For conservatives, the Guardians Council just did its Islamic, revolutionary and constitutitional duty when, during validation of prospective candidates, it disqualified more than 3,000 out of 8,000 for lack of respect for Islam and the constitution.

The Council denies any bias, although most of the barred candidates -- including some 80 sitting MPs and prominent figures -- were reformists.

Ayatollah Ahmad Janati, head of the 12-member Guardians Council, said it had never "cast a political look" on the candidates' files and had only applied Islamic law.

News of the banning on January 11 provoked what many see as the worst political crisis in the Islamic republic since it was founded in 1979.

In a bid to resolve the struggle, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told the Council to review its blacklist, resulting in the reinstatement of around 1,300 candidates but not ending the political conflict.

Reformists see the banning as the culmination of a "parliamentary coup d'etat", planned over two years, to eliminate them. Conservatives see the hand of foreign enemies behind their opponents.

Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri, advisor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told some 1,800 Friday-prayer imams late on Thursday: "A foreign conspiracy has been drawn up and a certain number of people were hoping that foreigners would intervene in their favour ... Shame be on those who have opened the way to foreigners."

Khamenei, whom the conservatives regard as one of their own, said on Wednesday that the elections could not be delayed even one day. They must go ahead as scheduled, on February 20, "to preserve the country and system against plots, and thwart the enemies of Islam and of the Islamic republic", he said.

Iran's "enemies" are traditionally the Americans and the Israelis.

Khamenei said "enemies of the republic" were "encouraging certain officials of the executive to step down from their posts", and they had also "infiltrated parliament".

"The strategy of the enemy is to prevent the February 20 elections from taking place," he said, adding that both sides in the crisis were "resisting" heavy pressure."The government and the people will foil this plot."

Reinforced by Khamenei's words, the conservatives, who control the security forces, have ratcheted up their threats.

"Hindering of the electoral process, by any government body, constitutes a violation of legal and religious duties and will thus be viewed as a criminal act and bring prosecution," warned Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, head of the Iranian judiciary.

On Friday, just two weeks from the scheduled election date, the chief editor of the hardline Resalaat paper, Mohamad Kazem Anbarloui, told the congregation in a mosque in Iran's clerical capital of Qom: "Those current MPs whose qualifications have been rejected by the Guardians Council are US spies and were implementing US rules instead of Islamic rules."
13 posted on 02/07/2004 10:16:49 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran Hosting Global Terrorist Conference

February 07, 2004
World Net Daily

Just as the U.S. State Department approves wider contact with Iran and as members of Congress begin planning the first official trips in 25 years, Tehran is sponsoring a 10-day conference of major terrorist organization beginning next week.

The purpose of the conference is to discuss anti-U.S. strategy.

Among the groups headed to Iran to participate are: Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and al-Qaida allies Ansar Al Islam.

The conference, dubbed "Ten Days of Dawn," is designed to mark the 25th anniversary of the return to Iran from exile of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the revolution that ousted the shah of Iran in 1979.

Officials said the conference, ordered by Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei, marks Iran's investment in sponsoring Islamic insurgency groups in the Middle East, Asia and South America.
15 posted on 02/07/2004 10:20:35 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
The Standoff with Iraqi Shiites Over Direct Elections

February 06, 2004
AEI Online
Reuel Marc Gerecht

The Bush administration needs to be aware of Islamic history as it works with the Iraqis to forge a democracy in their country. The Shiite Muslims, who constitute a majority of the population, are clamoring for direct elections after centuries of injustice suffered at the hands of others. If the administration rejects that approach to democratization, it runs a serious risk of losing Iraq to violence.

In the modern Middle East, much more than in the West, history is a living force. Denominated by faith, animated by folklore and daily language rich in religious allusion, and remembered overwhelmingly through military victory and defeat, Islamic history is an emotional keyboard for even the least educated and least faithful. When Yasser Arafat and his companions named his organization Fatah ("Conquest"), Muslims knew immediately the allusion to the surah of the Koran, with its references to victory over the Jews and Arabs uncommitted to God's calling, and to the early imperial conquests that made Byzantine Palestine Muslim. Shiite Muslims, whose core identity is built upon the injustice done to them by the larger Sunni Muslim world, have this historical sense in spades.

The Bush administration, in the person of L. Paul Bremer of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, is now at odds with Iraqi Shiite history and Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the most influential cleric in Iraq and probably the most renowned divine in Shiite Islam. The ambassador wants to transfer sovereignty from the Provisional Authority and its Iraqi Governing Council to a new Iraqi governing body chosen by caucuses controlled by the Provisional Authority and the Governing Council. This larger, arguably more representative, but unelected body would then control the political process leading to a constitutional assembly and national legislative elections. Ayatollah Sistani, however, wants direct elections for any provisional government, as well as for a constituent assembly. Beyond any modern education that Sistani may have had in Iran and Iraq--the great libraries of Shiism's religious schools are well-stocked with books about the Western tradition of one-man, one-vote--he certainly knows his flock's fate since Britain created Iraq from the ruins of the Ottoman state.

Simply put, Shiites everywhere have been cheated--by the Ottomans, British, Sunni Arab Hashemites, pan-Arab nationalists, Baathists, and the first Bush administration, which let them die by the tens of thousands when Saddam put down the rebellion following the first Gulf War. To make matters worse for the Shiites of Iraq, their country is the birthplace of Shiism, where annually the faithful commemorate (except when the Sunnis would not let them) the mother of all shortchanges, the defeat and martyrdom of the Imam Hussein, the son of the Caliph Ali and the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims loyal to an Umayyad caliph in Damascus--the folks who would later be called Sunnis--won the day, and kept on winning for 1,300 years (minus a few, usually short-lived, Shiite triumphs).

The Ashura celebrations of Hussein's martyrdom that occurred not long after the fall of Saddam Hussein produced a palpable political quickening throughout Iraq's Shiite community. As one cleric later remarked to me, in the spring of 2003 when the Shiites beat their chests in mourning for the betrayal of their imam, they were really saying the centuries of cheating had come to an end. For him, a democratic system in Iraq would ensure that no conspiracy of forces would ever again hurt Shiites. The age of taqiyya--the historic Shiite disposition toward dissimulation in self-defense--could finally end, and Shiites could live as normal men, that is, as Sunnis. Though the understanding of democracy among Iraq's Shiites, especially among the clergy, is more sophisticated than that, at heart this is the wellspring of their democratic sentiment and goodwill toward the United States. Sistani's commitment to the Bush administration's effort to midwife democracy in his country rides on this simple conviction. The more complicated America's blueprint for democracy in Iraq--and the caucus system envisaged by Washington is not easily grasped by American officials, let alone Iraqis--the greater the risk Sistani will abandon the project. Keeping it simple greatly helps to check the historical sense that betrayal is near.

The Administration's Perspective

Of course, American officials do not see it this way, and are increasingly perplexed, if not downright angry, that Sistani does not appreciate their good intentions. The caucus process, so the theory goes, will allow the Iraqi people more control over their affairs more quickly, with a transfer of sovereignty in less than 180 days. Preparations for elections would, in the CPA's view, take eighteen months (though some officials, particularly those at the State Department with experience in successfully jerry-rigging quick elections, think several months could be sliced off the CPA's prognostications). In addition, both Americans and many Iraqis hope the transfer of sovereignty to the new body selected by the caucuses will improve counterinsurgency operations in the Sunni Triangle (more Iraqis will be committed to the process as Iraqis become more responsible for protecting their own political system, and their kith and kin). And radical forces, particularly on the Shiite side, will not be able to use the ballot box to derail the fragile political order, which has been increasingly envenomed by Sunni-stomping Shiite followers of the clerical upstart Moqtada al-Sadr and Shiite-hating Sunni fundamentalists, who are, it appears, growing in number.

Also, as a senior State Department official fearfully confessed, there is no guarantee that the traditional Shiite forces behind Sistani will be able to stop the followers of al-Sadr, or the radicals within the Shiite Dawa party, or the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq once the passions start to flow in a more open election process. Democracy in this view is the handmaiden of militants in a post-totalitarian society. Conversely, "moderate" Shiite forces led by Sistani do not appear to many so moderate anymore since the ayatollah's recent actions suggest that he may be seeking a one-man veto of Iraq's new order. Sistani's conception of the separation of church and state is obviously not the preferred conception of many in the U.S. government or of the non-Shiite members of the Iraqi Governing Council. There is growing concern in certain quarters that Sistani--born, raised, and partly educated in Iran--shows signs of Persian hubris that might lead to an Iraqi version of Iran's Islamic Republic. Because of his "bad genes," and because members of his family are still in Iran, and thus subject to possible blackmail, Sistani could in fact become a Trojan horse for hardcore Iranian clerical influence throughout Iraq.

Of at least equal concern to U.S. officials is the fact that a nonelected transitional government would also be much less susceptible to terrorist violence, and the Bush administration has been seriously concerned since August that violence could somehow derail the transfer of sovereignty, let alone messy, easily disrupted preparations for national elections. Election results could also easily be skewed by terrorist intimidation. More important, U.S. soldiers, who would have to be used extensively to protect the electioneering, would be much more open to insurgent strikes than they are now.

Understandably, the Bush administration does not want the U.S. casualty rate to spike upward close to November 2004--a possible scenario if the Bush administration allows national elections sooner, not later. And the administration really wants to find some way to vest the Arab-Sunni population, who were the backbone of Saddam Hussein's power, in the new political process. Rumors, probably based on fact, of moderate Arab-Sunni families' searching for visas to abandon Iraq are already spooking some U.S. officials, who know that a majority of Iraq's Arab-Sunnis are, though happy about Saddam's fall, distinctly uncomfortable with the idea of a Shiite-dominated state. Elections sooner not later could ruin the American hope that some political construct is possible for the Arab-Sunnis.

Elections later would, at minimum, punt the problem down the road--an appealing prospect at any time for a U.S. official, let alone during an election year when the Democratic candidate obviously intends to pummel the Bush administration over its handling of Iraq. (How any prowar Democrat can plausibly suggest that better prewar planning could have obviated the great schism between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq is not immediately apparent. The French, Germans, and Russians--the tripartite antiwar union that appears to form the core of Senator John Kerry's "international community"--have not shown in the last several hundred years notable adeptness with Muslim sectarian squabbles.)

And last but not least, U.S. officials do not want to flinch again before Grand Ayatollah Sistani for fear that the United States will completely lose control of the transition process. Bremer and the Bush administration have already blinked once, if not twice, and each time surely encouraged Sistani to push his views more strongly. Though the Bush administration is loath to admit it, the Provisional Authority and the Pentagon poorly handled the case of Moqtada al-Sadr, the firebrand descendant of the most famous and revolutionary Iraqi clerical family. According to U.S. officials, Sadr was behind the death of U.S. soldiers, but the Provisional Authority and the Pentagon declined to move against him directly (they did round up some of his men) because they feared Shiite repercussions. Sadr and Sistani undoubtedly learned from this failure of American will.

The easiest concern of the Bush administration to understand is its desire not to retreat again before Ayatollah Sistani. The United States will likely discover after July 1--assuming the June 30 date for the transfer of sovereignty holds--that its effective power in Iraq will evaporate quickly. Those on the American right who hope to use Iraq for years to come as a partner in projecting American influence throughout the Middle East, and those on the left who fear that American soldiers will be stuck in Iraq for years, are likely to learn this summer and fall that their hopes and fears are unfounded. American power in Iraq is ideological, not imperial. It is inextricably connected to the promise of democracy. If the Bush administration backs down on the June 30 date--effectively ceding the entire democratic process to Ayatollah Sistani--Ambassador Bremer's position in Baghdad could become ceremonial overnight.

Grand Ayatollah Sistani

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Anyone who has had any contact with the Provisional Authority knows how far removed it is from the real Baghdad, let alone Iraqi society. It is a good bet that Ayatollah Sistani understands the pitfalls of democracy in Iraq as well as Ambassador Bremer. A very good sign that many in the U.S. government (and in the press) are losing their balance and judgment concerning Sistani and the traditional clergy of Najaf is when they allude ominously to Sistani's Persianness, implying he contains within him the serious potential for theocratic authoritarianism and nasty anti- American behavior. Ironically, this nefarious Iranian DNA critique is the one that radical "pure-Arab Iraqi" clerics, like Moqtada al-Sadr, and others within the Dawa movement, have used against traditional clerics in Najaf and Karbala who have been insufficiently militant. Before them, the Hashemites regularly threw this gravamen at Shiite clerics, of Iranian lineage or not, who attempted to counter the Hashemite quest to centralize Iraq in Arab-Sunni hands. Ditto the Baath and Saddam Hussein.

The point is, you judge a Shiite cleric first and foremost by his writings, his lectures to his students, the younger clerics he has trained, and his mentors. By all of these criteria, Grand Ayatollah Sistani is a "good" mullah. There are two big intellectual currents in modern Shiite clerical thought. One leads to Khomeini and the other leads to clerics like Sistani. There are certainly overlapping areas between the two schools of thought--the place of women in post-Saddam Iraq will likely be a fascinating subject--but on the role of the people as the final arbiter of politics, there is very little reason to doubt Sistani's commitment to democracy. Clerics like Sistani may use high-volume moral suasion, they may suggest that a certain view is sinful, but they understand that clerics cannot become politicians without compromising their religious mission.

Having Iranian blood and family in the Islamic Republic surely has made Sistani more sensitive to the pitfalls of clerical dictatorship. Sistani is a true marja'-e taqlid--"a source of emulation"--the highest stature that any Shiite cleric can have. The Iranian revolution has done a superb job of deconstructing and diminishing the clerical educational system in Iran. The Islamic Republic now produces only national clerics, whose traditional juridical eminence barely extends beyond the confines of Iran's religious schools. Sistani is the last great transnational Shiite divine. His eminence easily reaches into his motherland. The relationship between Grand Ayatollah Sistani and the other senior clerics of Najaf with Iran's mullahs is a complicated work in progress. American officials would be wise not to sell Sistani short in his inevitable competition with Iran's hard-core clergy. The Iranians have not yet let loose hell against the Americans in Iraq even though logistically they probably could. One reason for this is surely Sistani, of whom Iran's ruling clerics must be careful and respectful. As in the matter of democracy in Iraq, Sistani may again become one of America's most effective allies.

Regardless of what the Bush administration decides to do with the June 30 deadline, Bremer and the Provisional Authority are probably going to pass into desuetude quite soon. Once Sistani began Iraq's internal democratic discussion--a debate the Governing Council and the Provisional Authority had failed to generate on their own for months--Bremer's stature was destined to collapse. The Bush administration made Sistani strong the moment it decided to become a bit too clever about constructing an Iraqi political system to limit democracy in favor of communal stability and American self-interest.

So should the administration change course now, and either accelerate national elections for a provisional government before June 30, or abandon the deadline and the transitional caucus system for a directly elected body as soon as possible? The administration is obviously hoping that Sistani is sufficiently spooked by the possibility of a big confrontation with the United States that he will use the United Nations' intercession as a face-saving escape valve. A UN declaration about the logistical problems of having an election before June 30 would, so the theory goes, assuage the Shiites demonstrating on the streets and reinforce the confidence of Najaf's mullahs, who might doubt the democratic commitment of the United States. A man of moderation, Sistani might not want to aid the radicals who are itching for a fight. Unfortunately, this is not a great theory.

Sistani, like most Iraqis, does not really care what the United Nations thinks. The UN's reputation is distinctly bad in the country, especially among the Shiites, who saw it as an antiwar, pro-Saddam institution. Sistani might use the UN as leverage against the United States; he might use it as cover for a retreat. He could also simply discard its views without any hesitation. And the caucus system devised by the Americans and given to the Iraqi Governing Council to support is spiritually, if not operationally, a mess. Neither Ambassador Bremer, nor Colin Powell, nor Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has stood up and given a full-throated defense of this arrangement. They cannot. It really does not make much sense.

Whatever our legitimate concerns about moving directly to national elections, postponing the franchise is much more likely to increase resentment among those who believe in democracy in Iraq, and to raise unrealistic expectations among those who want to stall and diminish the chances of real representative government (which may, unfortunately, mean a significant slice of the Arab-Sunni population). Those Iraqis who participate in any new unelected transitional government could easily find themselves destroyed politically when they start making controversial decisions unbacked by the legitimacy and authority of elections. The passive voice is a disease in Middle Eastern politics. Unintentionally, the Bush administration could fuel irresponsibility among Iraq's people, who will gladly blame others for their problems. The Bush administration could end up fatally hurting the very Iraqis--the more liberal, Western-minded--who will be inclined to swallow their democratic reservations about the arrangement to work for the common good.

The Bush administration did not need to get itself into this situation. If it had put less emphasis on the expeditious transfer of sovereignty and more on accelerating the election process, the confrontation with Sistani could have been avoided. The grand ayatollah could not have attacked us for being too democratic. Under our watchful and still powerful eye, we could have encouraged Iraqis to develop political parties with a national reach. And it is unlikely that the transfer of sovereignty alone is going to diminish the American death toll in Iraq. It is unwise, especially in an election year, to punt these things down the road. We should assume that the Sunni-inspired violence in Iraq is going to get worse, and devise a strategy, buttressed by an ongoing, fast-paced democratic process, for handling it.

Unless the administration is lucky--and Grand Ayatollah Sistani will let the president know very quickly whether he is--it should be prepared to beat a tactical retreat on the issue of direct elections for a provisional government. It can choose: either direct elections within the June 30 deadline or direct elections as soon as possible after. But if Sistani decides to confront us on national elections and the White House chooses neither of the above, the odds are decent that we will lose Iraq to violence. The Bush administration will have played against Islamic history, not knowing the age of Shiite submission ended when American soldiers liberated the Iraqi people.

Reuel Marc Gerecht is a resident fellow at AEI.,filter./pub_detail.asp
16 posted on 02/07/2004 10:22:13 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
German FM Calls for Joint Mideast Initiative by U.S., Europe

February 07, 2004
News Agencies

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer called Saturday for Europe and the United States to join together in a broad effort to bring peace and stability to the Middle East.

A major push to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, fight terrorism and promote economic development in the Arab world would contribute toward overcoming U.S.-European rifts over the Iraq war, Fischer told an annual defense conference of major experts and officials, including U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and attended, among others, by officials from Israel, Jordan, Iran and the Palestinian Authority.

"Neither the United States nor Europe and the Middle East itself can tolerate the status quo in the Middle East any longer," Fischer said in speech opening the annual Munich gathering.

With Rumsfeld listening in the audience, Fischer strongly defended Germany's opposition to the Iraq war saying "we were not, and are still not, convinced of the validity of the reasons" - repeating phrasing that angered Rumsfeld at the conference a year ago, during the runup to war.

But he insisted that both camps must look ahead and confront what he called the world's greatest security threat: "destructive Jihadist terrorism," with its "epicenter" in the Middle East.

"We cannot counter the threat of this new totalitarianism by military means alone," Fischer said.

Broadly outlining his proposal, Fischer said the initiative should involved efforts to help Middle Eastern countries combat security threats, promote regional disarmament and foster democracy.

To help the region's economies, he suggested the creation of a Mediterranean free trade area and that Europe and the United States open their markets to more products from the area.

He also proposed a treaty under the umbrella of the NATO alliance pledging Middle Eastern countries to renouncing war and terrorism in return for Western promises of support for economic and social reforms.

The 40th annual Munich security conference, reputedly the "Davos" of the defense world, gets underway with a debate on the "Prospects of Transatlantic Relations".

Several hundred protesters demonstrated Friday against the conference, trying to block streets and tussling with police.

Police said they detained 28 protesters for suspected possession of illegal weapons, assault and resisting law enforcement officials. No one was injured during the protest in the center of the Bavarian capital, police said.

Police sealed off streets around the conference hotel. Conference opponents say they expect several thousand people for the main demonstration Saturday. The city of Munich has mobilized more than 3,500 police and security personnel to deal with any disruptions.

Some of the officials taking part, including Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, were at pains to emphasize the strength of ties between Washington and Brussels, which were badly damaged by the Iraq war, at an informal NATO meeting here on Friday.

But scars were evident. Rumsfeld urged the Alliance to commit more troops and resources to Afghanistan and Iraq, but he was met with reluctance, notably on the part of France, to commit to any long term mission in Afghanistan.

In the afternoon, the talks turn to NATO, which new Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Friday had "had a difficult year".

The Alliance's role in Afghanistan, which will be boosted in the provinces though probably not before a general election there in June. How it might provide security in Iraq will be at the center of debate.

De Hoop Scheffer, French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie and her German counterpart Peter Struck will lead the talks at the luxury Hotel Bayerischer Hof.

Sunday's debate at the "Wehrkunde", as the conference was first known when it began in 1962, will be on "Future Developments in the Middle East" and is due to get underway with a speech by King Abdullah of Jordan.

Washington wants NATO to develop relations there to help build regional stability, and some six Middle East and northern African nations, including Israel and Egypt, are being invited to the Alliance summit in Istanbul in June.

With several Middle East officials present in Munich, Israel's security fence in and around the West Bank and its decision to dismantle some settlements promise lively discussion, as do developments in Iran.
17 posted on 02/07/2004 10:22:49 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
DoctorZin Note: The following article is an example of how ignorant the US media is of the situtation in Iran. They assume the struggle in Iran is between the reformists and the hardliner. They are ignorant of the third force in Iran, those that want to replace the current regime with a secular democracy.

Iran reform at the brink
Chicago Tribune - Editorial
Feb 7, 2004

When President Mohammad Khatami swept into office as a reformer in 1997, many Iranians hoped that his election marked the end of the tyranny of the mullahs and the beginning of significant freedoms. There were hopes that Khatami and his allies in parliament could deliver on promises of a free press, a more independent judiciary, more power for elected officials and less for unelected clerics.

But Iran's supreme ayatollah and his henchmen, the aptly named Guardian Council, have swatted aside most if not all parliamentary laws aimed at reform. In 1999, and again last year, that ignited violent student-led demonstrations in the streets. But those efforts fizzled.

Then came a brazen power grab by the hard-liners last month. The Guardian Council banned nearly half the 8,200 candidates from the Feb. 20 parliamentary ballot. Most of them were liberals who backed reforms--including the president's brother. That move all but guaranteed a sham election in which hard-liners would regain a parliamentary majority and cripple the reformers.

The move to fix the election finally seems to have awakened some gumption in the parliament's reformers. They're protesting, and about 125 have resigned. They're promising a boycott of the election unless most of those banned from the ballot are reinstated.

But their show of spine may be too little, too late. A few years ago, such an arrogant grab for power would likely have brought thousands of angry students into the streets. This time, almost a month into a crisis that could deal a lethal blow to the reform movement, the most ominous and disappointing development is the silence of those students. Those who seek greater freedoms are apparently content to stand on the sidelines, watching while legislators battle for their careers and their ideals.

That no major protest has yet erupted reveals how frustrated many have become with the slow, almost nonexistent pace of reform. Many students and others seem to be saying that it's not worth fighting for these reformers, since they've accomplished so little in seven years.

In a recent National Public Radio broadcast, producer Rasool Nafisi described how many of the young cope with the repressive society. "The term is `internal exile,' " he said. "It means that society has separated itself from the government and a great number of people take refuge and escape into various things from very hard drugs to foreign movies and watching satellite [TV] and basically pursuing a very personal, private life away from the edicts of the government . . . "

That could all change quickly. Pro-reform groups have announced boycotts of the election. One has called for a referendum over the future of the Islamic state.

The hope is that the mullahs are overplaying their hand. The ruling clerics would be foolish to believe that the students' muted reaction so far means that most Iranians have abandoned hope for greater liberty, freer markets, and modernization. With so many Iranians under 30, with prospects for better jobs and more freedom so bleak, it's probably only a matter of time before the mullahs lose their grip.

The reformers may be forced underground if the farcical election is held. But by strong-arming the reform movement from the national stage, the clerics should remember a basic law of physics: every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

The only question now is: when?
18 posted on 02/07/2004 10:29:04 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
'Senator Kerry would seek direct talks with Iran'

Saturday, February 07, 2004 - ©2003

Washington, Feb 6 (IranMania) --

According to Iran’s State News Agency (IRNA) democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry will seek direct talks with Iran if he wins the White House, his foreign policy chief said.

Rand Beers, national security issues coordinator for the Massachusetts senator, was critical of President George W Bush for shunning direct dialogue with Iran after branding it a member of an "axis of evil," dispatches indicated.

Speaking to a foreign policy forum, Beers said the question of nuclear non-proliferation was one of the most significant issues facing the world and Washington should press harder to advance negotiations.

Beers said Kerry, currently leading the pack in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, sought more direct efforts to thaw relations with Iran that have been frozen since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

"John Kerry is not saying that he is looking for better relations with Iran. He is looking for a dialogue with Iran," Beers said. "There are some issues on which we really need to sit down with the Iranians."

He listed the cultivation of opium poppies in neighboring Afghanistan, terrorism and nuclear non-proliferation as among the questions Kerry would like to take up directly with Tehran.

"It`s a realistic sitting down and having the kinds of discussions that we`re just not having because this administration is so tied in its own ideological views of Iran and waiting for the Iranian regime to collapse."

He said Kerry would want to work with a "broad range of countries" to stem the traffic in materials that could fall into the wrong hands and help make nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

"We`re going to have look at international (non-proliferation) regimes that currently exist and probably go through some revisions of those regimes in order to find a way to approach and address
19 posted on 02/07/2004 10:58:43 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
This is a very informative article from last May.

'JIHAD'. What It Means, Who Can Declare It.

Posted by Amir Taheri
Saturday, May 03, 2003

With the campaign to liberate Iraq victorious, it is perhaps time for Muslims to review the improper use, not to say outright abuse, of the term ''Jihad.'' Can the concept of ''Jihad'' be reduced to one of a call for taking up arms to defend just anyone? Can any Tom, Dick, or Harry declare ''Jihad''?

The first so-called ''Jihad'' fatwa in support of Saddam Hussein came from the fugitive terrorist Osama bin Laden. (Or whoever pretends to be him--but in this writer's opinion, bin Laden has long been dead.) That fatwa, of course, had no value because bin Laden, though a rich boy, has no religious qualifications.

A more disturbing fatwa came from Sayyed Hussein Fadhlallah, a mid-ranking Shiite mullah who advertises himself as the spiritual guide of the Lebanese branch of the Hezbollah.

Yet Fadhlallah lacks the qualifications for issuing edicts on so important an issue. His support of Saddam made him an exception within the Shiite clergy that was unanimous in Iraq, Iran, and in Lebanon in denouncing the Ba'athist regime.

Fadhlallah is free to support Saddam. But he has no right to present a political opinion as a religious position.

The race to declare ''Jihad'' gathered pace as the war drew closer. By the end of March we had calls for ''Jihad'' from Saddam Hussein, his psychopathic son Uday, and the clownish information minister, Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf.

More disturbing was the call for ''Jihad'' from Muhammad Saeed al-Tantawi, rector of the government-run Al Azhar Seminary in Cairo. Tantawi's edict illustrated his theological confusion.

He stated, as his premise, that Saddam Hussein was ''a terrorist'' for having invaded Kuwait in 1990. He also said that Saddam was responsible for the war because he could have avoided it by resigning and leaving Iraq. Yet Tantawi drew this astonishing conclusion: ''Martyr operations against the invading forces in Iraq are permitted under religious law.''

Islamic religious law, however, does not permit suicide under any circumstances.

In Islame, suicide is an ''unpardonable sin'' (zunb layughfar lah), in the same category as denying the Oneness of God. People who commit suicide cannot be buried in a Muslim graveyard and are put to rest away from human habitation and in unmarked tombs.

The sheikh of Al Azhar also seemed to be ignorant of another important Islamic principle: No one can choose to become a martyr: Only God decides whom to make a martyr.

Because God chooses martyrs sparingly, we do not have a dime-a-dozen martyrs in Islam. In the various wars waged by the Prophet, hundreds of his best friends, relatives, and aides fell in battle. Only a handful won the status of martyr.

Not everyone who dies in a war becomes a martyr. And he who commits suicide deliberately while killing others is certainly a double sinner, destined for Hell, not a martyr headed for Paradise.

The principle is simple: Only God who gives life has the right to take it. In a Western-style re-reading of Islam, people like bin Laden, Fadhlallah, and Tantawi equate the concept of ''Jihad'' with that of ''Holy War'' in Christianity. They provide ammunition for Islamophobes to portray the entire Muslim community of almost 1.2 billion people, as ''terrorists and suicide-bombers.''

In Islam, however, no war can be holy. Wars can only be ''allowed'' or ''not allowed'' (yajuz wa la yajuz) on the basis of necessity or otherwise. The concept of ''Jihad'' (literally: exertion or effort) covers a range of activities that could include taking arms--in precise, extremely rare, circumstances in pursuit of clearly defined goals. But even then the taking of arms does not produce a ''holy war.''

One could wage ''Jihad'' through diplomatic, cultural, and economic means, but never in defence of a regime or a ruler that oppress Muslims. Islam has no mechanism for excommunication, so Saddam's claim to be a Muslim must be accepted. But anyone familiar with Islamic theology would know that Saddam's regime fitted the definition of ''Taghut'' (rebel against Divine Will).

Here is how the great medieval Muslim theologian Ibn Babyueh described such regimes: ''A government may be led by individual Muslims [and yet] be in rebellion against Divine Will, in which case combating it is the duty of believers.''

Another important theological principle, spelled out by classical Islamic theologians, including Fakhr Razi, is that a Muslim has the right to ally himself with a non-Muslim who is ''friendly but distant'' against a Muslim who is ''near and hostile.'' (On this basis, various Muslim principalities made occasional, and tactical, alliances with this or that Christian force against other Muslim states during the Crusades.)

A call for ''Jihad'' could be considered only if it unites the Muslim community, not if it adds to its divisions. The gentlemen who declared ''Jihad'' in support of Saddam Hussein have, in fact, deepened divisions in both Sunni and Shiite communities. Islamic theology regards the fomenting of such divisions as a sin.

One more important point: The person who declares ''Jihad'' must enjoy a large measure of recognition as the ''a'alam al-ulema'' (The Most Learned of Theologians), at least within his immediate community. And he must be in a position to personally take the lead, to risk his own life and the lives of those near to him (aqruba-ihum), in the enterprise. It is not possible to tell the Iraqis, or the Palestinians, ''Go, kill, and get killed so that we can applaud from a safe distance!''

The gentlemen whose ''Jihad'' declarations we have discussed lack such qualifications. Bin Laden is an adventurer on the loose. Fadhlallah, a politician rather than a theologian, does not enjoy consensus even among Lebanese Shiites. Tantawi, an employee of the Egyptian government, lacks the independence required of theologians. As for Saddam, Al-Sahhaf and Uday, now fugitives, their ''Jihad'' consisted of running to the nearest hole in which to hide.

The non-Muslim world, especially in the West, must beware: The conditions that must be present and the rules that must be applied before 'Jihad' is declared are so complex that one can hardly imagine a situation in which they would be applicable today.

The vast majority of Muslims ignored the numerous calls for 'Jihad' coming from individuals who have no right to do so. Those who declared ''Jihad'' in support of Saddam must be treated as politicians, not religious leaders, and treated as any other politician anywhere. They use the term ''jihad'' as many in the West use the term ''crusade,'' for example as ''a crusade against genetically modified food'' and so on.

Next time you hear someone declaring ''Jihad'' on behalf of Muslims, you can be sure that he is a politician using a sound-bite for good effect--not a theologian expressing a serious Islamic position.

Editor's Note: This article written by Amir Taheri appears in ChronWatch courtesy of Eleana Benador of Benador Associates.
30 posted on 02/07/2004 7:24:17 PM PST by nuconvert ("Why do you have to be a nonconformist like everybody else?")
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To: DoctorZIn

by Amir Taheri
New York Post
February 6, 2004

February 6, 2004 -- CONSIDER the case of Abdul Qadeer Khan, known to his compatriots as AQK — the physicist regarded as the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb.

Some Pakistanis consider him a second father of the nation (after Muhammad Ali Jinah, who led Indian Muslims into secession at the end of British colonial rule).

Until recently, AQK was worshiped as almost a saint by quite a few Pakistanis. Last month, however, he was arrested and charged with the illegal transfer of Pakistani nuclear technology and materiel to Iran, Libya and North Korea. This week, he made a televised confession, admitting the charge and taking sole responsibility. The confession came after a tete-à-tete with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

AQK and Musharraf want the matter wrapped up quickly. But this won't be easy.

If AQK acted without official authorization, he broke Pakistan's national-security laws and could be charged with espionage and high treason. But if he was ordered to sell nuclear technology and materiel to Iran, Libya and North Korea, then successive Pakistani governments would be implicated.

Long known as an ardent Islamist, AQK claims he was only trying to help brotherly Muslim nations acquire nuclear weapons to defend themselves against "the Zionist entity," meaning Israel.

That claim is hard to sustain.

To start with, North Korea, which does not have a single Muslim citizen, can hardly be regarded as a "brotherly Islamic nation." As for Iran and Libya, although their leaders have spoken of their desire to "wipe Israel off the map," there is no indication that their peoples share that obsession.

"There was never ever any kind of authorization for these activities by the government. I take full responsibility for my actions," AQK said on TV. But he is almost certainly being made the fall guy for policies pursued by successive Pakistani governments. His program was supervised by Pakistan's military intelligence agency, the ISI, from the start. It is unthinkable that he could have passed nuclear secrets to foreign powers for years without the ISI knowing.

What is alarming, however, is the reaction of many Pakistanis. AQK has received thousands of emails and letters telling him that, regardless of what the law might say, they approve of what he did. Pakistani media are full of op-ed pieces and editorials praising his devotion to Islam and claiming he was "doing his duty as a Muslim" by helping other Muslim states acquire weapons available to "Jews and Crusaders."

This is a scandalous claim.

A Muslim's duty is to believe in the oneness of God, Muhammad's prophecy and the Day of Judgment. A Muslim is also required to pray every day, fast in Ramadan and live a life of good deeds and decency. Helping others make atomic bombs is certainly not part of those duties.

Efforts to explain away AQK's behavior highlights the moral bankruptcy of the Islamist philosophy. That philosophy divides humanity into Muslim and non-Muslims. It then transforms Muslims into a tribe whose members must remain loyal to it and to one another regardless of moral imperatives common to humanity.

Such an approach abolishes ethics, leaving us not with such concepts as good and evil but "Muslim" and "non-Muslim." It also abolishes politics.

Thus nuclear proliferation, a political issue, is transformed into a theological one. One need not bother about whether the people of Iran want the bomb. What is important is that Iran's Islamist regime must have it to use against real or imagined enemies.

Nor need one worry about the morality of selling nuclear technology to Libya, a country headed by an unstable megalomaniac. Nor about the fact that Libya has been unable to repair the elevators in its only luxury hotel for the past two years. (The only elevator repairman in the country is an Egyptian named Hazim Jawad.)

Having reduced religion to a political ideology, the Islamist has no qualms about considering North Korea's militantly atheist regime as an honorary Muslim state.

All that North Korea, Iran and Libya (at least until recently) have in common is a pathological hatred of the United States. And that echoes the late Ayatollah Khomeini's claim that today it is "impossible to be a Muslim without hating America."

Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy now says he no longer hates America and welcomes U.S. investment and trade. Would that transform Libya into a non-Muslim nation? The Iranian mullahs hate America because it prevents them from exporting their revolution to the whole of the Middle East, annexing the Shi'ite holy shrines of Iraq and wiping Israel off the map.

The North Koreans? They hate the U.S. because it does not let them invade South Korea and turn it into a Stalinist concentration camp.

The message of the Islamist is stark: No matter how faithfully you perform your religious duties, you cannot be regarded as a "good Muslim" unless you hate America and help its enemies.

This is a recipe for religious and moral chaos. Under it, any individual could decide what action is "Islamic" and what is not. The logic used to justify the transfer of nuclear technology and materiel to Iran, Libya and North Korea would also justify giving it to al Qaeda and the terrorists operating in Iraq.

It would also justify giving nuclear weapons to Pakistani terrorist groups that want to seize power because they claim that Musharraf, and AQK for that matter, are not "Islamic" enough.

A political case could be made for Pakistan having nuclear weapons. There could also be a political explanation why Pakistan sold nuclear technology. Muslims might need to have nuclear bombs like anybody else. But these are political issues on which people may agree or disagree. To turn them into religious issues is an act of betrayal not only of politics and common sense but of Islam.

The claim that AQK should be let loose because he did his "Islamic duty" must be rejected by Muslims. A political scandal must not be covered up as an act of Islamic piety.

31 posted on 02/07/2004 9:14:51 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!

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

32 posted on 02/08/2004 12:04:02 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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