Skip to comments.Iranian Alert - December 5, 2004 [EST] -- IAEA 'bowed to pressure from Iran' on bomb materials
Posted on 12/04/2004 11:53:27 PM PST by DoctorZIn
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Watchdog 'bowed to pressure from Iran' on bomb materialsBy Damien McElroy, Foreign Correspondent
The world nuclear watchdog dropped a claim that Iran bought large quantities of a metal used to trigger explosions in atomic weapons after bowing to objections from Teheran.
The International Atomic Energy Agency at first accepted Western intelligence reports that the Islamic republic had bought "huge amounts" of beryllium from "a number of nations", but removed the claim from its final report on Iranian compliance with nuclear non-proliferation rules, published 10 days ago.
IAEA Director General
An earlier draft of the IAEA report, seen by The Telegraph, said that Iran had manufactured material to use with the beryllium that it had purchased as a "nuclear initiator in some designs of nuclear weapons".
A spokesman for the IAEA conceded that the agency had removed any mention of beryllium from its report, but said that the change was insignificant. She said: "There are all kinds of technical details in first drafts which are later removed. That's part of the drafting process."
Jacky Sanders, the American ambassador to the IAEA, however, said that Iran's assertions that it has never acquired or used beryllium were no longer reliable.
The climbdown by the IAEA reflected Teheran's insistence that it had never acquired or used beryllium, and helped Iran escape immediate referral to the UN Security Council over its nuclear ambitions. Instead, the IAEA board passed a resolution demanding that the country suspend uranium enrichment while the agency inspects declared nuclear sites.
The compromise agreement has been heavily criticised by American officials and others for failing to compel Iran to open all suspected sites to nuclear inspectors on demand. The IAEA last week revealed that Iran had refused access to two military bases where it is said to be developing nuclear material and missiles capable of carrying an atom bomb. The deal permitted inspections of Iran's existing civilian nuclear energy production sites only.
Western intelligence agencies have intercepted documents suggesting that Iran purchased equipment for delivery to the Parchin military base and a second facility at Lavisan. Satellite photographs suggested that weapons are being tested at the sites. The head of the IAEA, Mohammad ElBaradei said that Iran had repeatedly rejected requests to visit the sites. "We are following every credible piece of information," he said. "It takes time."
Iranian officials claim that they are not obliged to open up the facilities to weapons inspectors. "There is nothing required for us to do," said one Vienna-based official. "They should have evidence that there are nuclear activities, not just, 'We heard from someone that there is dual-use equipment that we want to see'."
The IAEA head, Mohammad ElBaradei, yesterday denied that he had collaborated with the Iranians to expunge the beryllium charge. He said: "We don't negotiate our report. At the end of the day not a single paragraph is shown to any single country until the report is out."
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As the West has tried in vain over the past year and a half to rein in Iran's nuclear-weapons program, the Islamist regime in Tehran has grown increasingly brazen in supporting terrorism. On Sunday, the Associated Press reported that in Tehran, an organization was registering men to train for terrorist attacks. The 300 men standing in line outside the headquarters of the organization, known as the Headquarters for Commemorating Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement, had three choices: training for suicide attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq, carrying out suicide attacks against Israelis or assassinating British author Salman Rushdie.
Officially the Iranian government says that it has nothing to do the organization. But the inaugural meeting of the group last June took place in the offices of the Martyrs Foundation, a semiofficial group that assists the families of soldiers who were killed in the 1980-88 war with Iraq. The meeting, held in a room decorated with the photographs of funerals for Israeli soldiers, was attended by a member of parliament and the head of the Revolutionary Guards, an elite organization involved in intelligence, military and terrorist training operations.
Indeed, since the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein last spring, Iran has been funnelling arms to Iraqi Islamists and ex-Ba'athists fighting against the liberation of that country. Al-Manar, the television broadcast arm of Hezbollah (an Iranian-backed terrorist organization that has killed hundreds of Americans) routinely broadcasts the most lurid, slanderous descriptions of the United States and the war effort in Iraq. Avi Jorisch of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, who closely monitors the work of al-Manar, describes programming urging Jihadists to kill American soldiers in Iraq. One video broadcast by the station says: "Down with the mother of terrorism! America threatens in vain, an occupying army of invaders. Nothing remains but rifles and suicide bombers." The video ends with an image of a suicide bomber's belt detonating. Another al-Manar video compares the United States to Nazi Germany and ends with a split screen of Adolf Hitler and President Bush. It shows the Statue of Liberty transforming itself into a knife-wielding monster covered in blood.
Iran has also harbored senior al Qaeda terrorists and Abu Musab Zarqawi, the prime mover behind Iraq's terrorist insurgency. In his new book Shadow War, investigative journalist Richard Miniter reports that Osama bin Laden is being harbored by Iran.
In the West Bank and Gaza, Hezbollah now speaks openly of its role in arming, training, financing and coordinating activities of Palestinian terrorist cells. In July, Hezbollah boss Hassan Nasrallah delivered a eulogy for Ghaleb Awali, a Hezbollah operative who is believed to have been assassinated by Israel. Mr. Awali was coordinating Palestinian terrorist operations in Gaza. And Iran supplied Hezbollah with a surveillance drone that invaded Israeli airspace from Lebanon last month, and has given the group surface-to-surface missiles that can reach more than 40 miles into the Jewish state.
If Iran succeeds in developing nuclear weapons, it is likely to become even more brazen in its support for terrorism in the coming years.
Why Only in Ukraine?
[Excerpt]By Charles KrauthammerFriday, December 3, 2004; Page A27
There has been general back-patting in the West about renewed European-American comity during the Ukrainian crisis. Both the United States and Europe have been doing exactly the right thing: rejecting a fraudulent election run by a corrupt oligarchy and insisting on a new vote. ... Considering our recent disagreements, that is a good thing. But before we get carried away with this era of good feeling, let us note the reason for this sudden unity.
This is about Russia first, democracy only second. This Ukrainian episode is a brief, almost nostalgic throwback to the Cold War. Russia is trying to hang on to the last remnants of its empire. The West wants to finish the job begun with the fall of the Berlin Wall and continue Europe's march to the east.
You almost have to feel sorry for the Russians. (I stress almost.) In the course of one generation, they have lost one of the greatest empires in history: first their Third World dependencies, stretching at one point from Nicaragua to Angola to Indochina; then their East European outer empire, now swallowed by NATO and the European Union; and then their inner empire of Soviet republics.
The Muslim "-stans" are slowly drifting out of reach. The Baltic republics are already in NATO. The Transcaucasian region is unstable and bloody. All Russia has left are the Slavic republics. Belarus is effectively a Russian colony. But the great prize is Ukraine, for reasons of strategy (Crimea), history (Kiev is considered by Russians to be the cradle of Slavic civilization) and identity (the eastern part is Russian Orthodox and Russian-speaking).
Vladimir Putin, who would not know a free election if he saw one, was not about to let an election get in the way of retaining sway over Ukraine. The problem is that his bluff was called, and he does not have the power to do to Ukraine what his Soviet predecessors did to Hungary and Czechoslovakia during the Cold War.
Hence the clash of civilizations over Ukraine and, to some extent, within Ukraine: the authoritarian East vs. the democratic West.
But this struggle is less about democracy than about geopolitics. Europe makes clear once again that it is a full-throated supporter of democracy -- in its neighborhood. Just as it is a forthright opponent of ethnic cleansing in its neighborhood (Yugoslavia) even as it lifts not a finger elsewhere (Rwanda, southern Sudan, now Darfur).
That is why this comity between the United States and Europe is only temporary. The Europeans essentially believe, to paraphrase Stalin, in democracy on one continent. As for democracy elsewhere, they really could not care less.
They pretend, however, that this opposition to America's odd belief in spreading democracy universally is based not on indifference but on superior wisdom -- the world-weary sagacity of a more ancient and experienced civilization that knows that one cannot bring liberty to barbarians. Meaning, Arabs. And Muslims. And Iraqis.
Hence the Bush-Blair doctrine of bringing some modicum of democracy to the Middle East by establishing one country as a beachhead is ridiculed as naive and messianic. And not just by Europeans but by their "realist" allies here in the United States.
Thus Zbigniew Brzezinski, a fierce opponent of the Bush administration's democracy project in Iraq, writes passionately about the importance of democracy in Ukraine and how, by example, it might have a domino effect, spreading democracy to neighboring Russia. Yet when George Bush and Tony Blair make a similar argument about the salutary effect of establishing a democracy in the Middle East -- and we might indeed have the first truly free election in the Middle East within two months if we persevere -- "realist" critics dismiss it as terminally naive.
If you had said 20 years ago that Ukraine would today be on the threshold of joining a democratic Europe, you, too, would have been called a hopeless utopian. Yes, Iraq has no democratic tradition and deep ethnic divisions. But Ukrainian democracy is all of 13 years old, much of it dominated by a corrupt, authoritarian regime with close ties to an even more corrupt and authoritarian Russia. And with a civilizational split right down the middle, Ukraine has profound, and potentially catastrophic, divisions.
So let us all join hands in praise of the young people braving the cold in the streets of Kiev. But then tell me why there is such silence about the Iraqis, young and old, braving bullets and bombs, organizing electorate lists and negotiating coalitions even as we speak. Where is it written: Only in Ukraine?
Islam and Freedom
James Q. Wilson
What are the prospects for the emergence of liberal societies in Muslim countries? Note my choice of words: liberal, not democratic. Democracy, defined as competitive elections among rival slates of candidates, is much harder to find in the world than liberalism, defined as a decent respect for the freedom and autonomy of individuals. There are more Muslim nationsindeed, more nations of any stripethat provide a reasonable level of freedom than ones that provide democracy in anything like the American or British versions.
Freedomthat is, liberalismis more important than democracy because freedom produces human opportunity. In the long run, however, democracy is essential to freedom, because no political regime will long maintain the freedoms it has provided if it has an ironclad grip on power. Culture and constitutions can produce freedom; democracy safeguards and expands it.
This is what lies at the heart of our efforts to make Afghanistan and Iraq into liberal states. Some on both the Left and the Right think it impossible to introduce democracy into the Muslim Middle East. One left-wing politician has condemned the effort as gunpoint democracy; a well-known leftist academic has pronounced it a fantasy; to a conservative journalist, open electoral systems in the Muslim world will only stimulate a competition among demagogues to see who can be the most anti-American. When it comes to Iraq, the columnist George F. Will has asserted that the country lacks both democratic citizens and a democratic culture, to say nothing of lacking George Washington, James Madison, and John Marshall. Even to hope for a liberal regime there, he argues, is like hoping in 1917 that the socialist leader Alexander Kerensky might continue to rule Russia after Lenin and the Bolsheviks arrived.
There are certainly grounds for pessimism. For centuries, only Great Britain and its former coloniesAustralia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Statescould be called democratic. And even in those countries, the struggle to acquire both liberal and democratic values had been a long and hard one. It took half a millennium before England moved from the signing of Magna Carta to the achievement of parliamentary supremacy; three centuries after Magna Carta, Catholics were being burned at the stake. The United States was a British colony for two centuries, and less than a century after its independence was split by a frightful civil war. Elsewhere, Portugal and Spain became reasonably free only late in the 20th century, and in Latin America many societies have never even achieved the stage of liberalism. The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan once remarked that, of all the states in existence in the world in 1914, only eight would escape a violent change of government between then and the early 1990s.
Nevertheless, liberal regimes have been less uncommon than democratic ones. In 1914 there were three democracies in Europe, but many more countries where your neck would be reasonably safe from the heel of government. You might not have wished to live in Germany, but Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Norway, and Sweden offered reasonably attractive alternatives even if few of them could then have been called democracies in the modern American or British sense.
As for the Middle East, there have been only three democracies in its history: Lebanon, Turkey, and of course Israel. Israel remains free and democratic despite being besieged by enemies. But of the two Muslim nations, only one, Turkey, became reasonably democratic after a 50-year effort, while Lebanon, which has been liberal and democratic on some occasions and not on others, is today a satellite of Syria and the home of anti-Israel and anti-Western terrorists; Freedom House ranks it as not free.
Is the matter as universally hopeless as this picture might suggest? Suppose, as a freedom-loving individual, you had to live in a Muslim nation somewhere in the world. You would assuredly not pick Baathist Syria or theocratic Iran or Saddams Iraq. But you might pick Turkey, or Indonesia, or Morocco. In what follows, I want to explore what makes those three countries different, and what the difference might mean for the future.
Turkey is the first, the best known, and almost the only democratic secular state in the world with an overwhelmingly Muslim population. It was created in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal, later known as Atatürk, who had become a hero by expelling the Greeks from the western part of his country after World War I.
By Atatürks time, Muslim thinkers and leaders everywhere had been struggling for centuries to find a solution to the catastrophic collapse of the Islamic world. Once the greatest empire ever known, with a remarkable record of military victories and cultural achievements to its name, Islam had been expelled from Spain in 1492; two centuries later, the temporarily resurgent forces of the Ottomans were defeated decisively at the gates of Vienna. The Ottoman holding of Egypt had been easily captured, first by the French and then by the English.
In the early 20th century, many who still dreamed of restoring Islams power thought the answer lay in acquiring Western arms and Western technologies. Atatürk had a different view. It was necessary, he believed, for a Muslim nation to do more than buy Western products; it must become Western. For him this chiefly meant turning to the principles of democracy and the teachings of science.
Speaking privately to a friend, Atatürk once remarked that I have no religion and at times I wish all religions at the bottom of the sea. As president of the Turkish Republic, he abolished the office of the Caliph and the Muslim religious courts, established a public-school system in which there would be no instruction in religion, legalized the sale of alcohol, gave to women the right to vote and to demand a divorce, instituted the compulsory use of the Latin alphabet, adopted a German commercial code, and allowed the selection of a Turkish beauty queen. Though for reasons of political prudence he allowed Turkey to be called an Islamic state, he revealed his true feelings on the matter when he converted Hagia Sofia, the great Byzantine cathedral turned Ottoman mosque, into a museum.
Atatürk favored democracy in principle but not much in practice. His followers dominated the government. Although at one point he decided there should be an opposition party, the experiment lasted only a few months before he ended it. But this is not to say that he was a dictator; instead, he was a tough ruler with a strong agenda, one who on occasion enforced that agenda by crushing dissidents and hanging their leaders, restricting press freedom, and closing down any organization or newspaper his government deemed subversive.
In 1945, seven years after Atatürks death, opposition parties were again made legal in Turkey; within four years, some 27 had been formed. In 1950 Turkey saw the beginnings of democratic government, with the first free elections. Thanks to Atatürk, who had made the Turkish army subservient to civilian rule, the military did nothing to prevent this development. But the army was, and has remained, determined to protect Atatürks secularism. Whenever some leader has veered too close to a religious orientation, the Turkish military has not hesitated to intervene, each time returning to barracks once the status quo ante has been restored.
The slow emergence of democracy has, however, led to modifications in the strict anti-religious stance established by Atatürk. In 1949, religious instruction was allowed on a voluntary basis. The year 2002 saw the first election of a party with a pro-Islamic leader who was not thereupon displaced by the military. This was Recep Erdogan, now Turkeys prime minister, once a follower of radical Islam and indeed jailed for inciting religious hatred. So far, though, the path of enlightened moderation seems to be paying dividends.
Next, Indonesia. It has taken a half-century for this historically tolerant nation to move from independence, acquired in 1949, to free presidential elections, carried out earlier this year. Indonesias first president, Sukarno, established a regime called guided democracy, which consisted mostly of guidance with very little democracy; in 1963, he proclaimed himself president for life. Thanks to economic mismanagement, however, combined with a rapid increase in the size and influence of the Indonesian Communist party and a disastrous decision to withdraw from the United Nations, he quickly began to wear out his welcome. In response to an attempted Communist coup détat in 1965, the Indonesian military removed Sukarno from power and put down the revolt in a campaign that produced hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Sukarnos successor was General Suharto, head of the military, who was repeatedly reelected to office by a large consultative assembly packed with hand-picked supporters. To ensure his reelection, Suharto banned most political parties. Although helping to redirect the Indonesian economyby the early 1990s, it was growing at a rate of 7 percent per yearSuharto practiced a crony capitalism that could not survive. When a severe financial crisis hit the country in 1997, he was forced to resign in favor of his vice presidentwho proceeded, rather surprisingly, to liberalize Indonesian politics. Scores of new political parties were created, a new election law was promulgated, civil servants and active military officers were banned from campaigning, strict limits were enacted on campaign contributions, and the presidency was limited to two five-year terms.
In the 1999 election, one major contending party was headed by Abdurrahman Wahid (popularly known as Gus Dur), the leader of a vast Muslim social organization and a moderate who favored a government without religious leanings. Another was headed by Megawati Sukarnoputri, or Mega as she is known; the daughter of ex-president Sukarno, she, too, supported a secular state with a democratic orientation. The consultative assembly picked Wahid for the presidency; Mega, whose party won more seats in parliament than any other, became his vice president.
Frail and soon blind, beset by financial scandals, ethnic violence, and a weak economy, Wahid was impeached by the legislature; his place was taken by Mega. Facing her was the need to deal with ethnic separatism in the provinces of Aceh and Irian Jayah, massive political corruption, and a moribund economy. She had only limited success. Jihad extremists, though lacking political power, have become violent in Indonesia, in one case killing hundreds of civilians, and radical Islamic schools, akin to the madrassas of Pakistan, now number well over 10,000. Corruption is rampant.
Under Mega, as under her predecessor, the Indonesians had one great advantage: they could remove her from office. This year there were new elections. In the first roundfor parliamentMegas party lost support in a vigorous contest with many other parties; in the subsequent balloting for a new president, Susilio Bambang Yudhoyno, a former military general who once headed the security services, won decisively, for the first time replacing a sitting Indonesian president by means of a popular vote. The new president has promised pluralism, tolerance, and a vigorous program of economic revitalization. One can only hope for the best.
Turkey and Indonesia are Muslim nations but not Arab nations. Morocco is both Muslim and Arab. After many centuries during which authority had been vested chiefly in tribal leaders, and then 44 years as a French protectorate, Morocco became a self-governing nation in 1956. King Muhammad V, who took undisputed power with the end of French influence, received the full support of local Islamic leaders; his son King Hassan II, who assumed office in 1961, made it clear that he spoke for all of Islam, proclaiming himself a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.
Thereafter, and until his death in 1999, Hassan, a playboy who had been predicted to last all of six months on the throne, played a powerful role, surviving two army plots, a left-wing revolution, the opposition of radical Muslim fundamentalists, and the hostility of Algeria and Libya. Repeated internal turmoil did not diminish Hassans commitment to religious liberty. Though Islam is the national religion, proselytizing was forbidden, Moroccos large Jewish population was protected, and nothing like the reactionary Wahhabi sect of Saudi Arabia was allowed to take root within the countrys borders. Unlike Turkey, Morocco has never established formal diplomatic ties with Israel; but the king conferred in secret with Israeli leaders in the 1970s and welcomed Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres to Rabat in 1986.
Hassan tried to give his monarchy a legitimate basis by means of what he called Hassanian democracy. Various draft constitutions were put to a vote, each receiving the somewhat suspicious support of well over 90 percent of the population; each authorized personal freedom and parliamentary rule while also granting the king the right to rule by decree in an emergency. One law threatened criminal prosecution for anyone publishing anything the king deemed personally offensive.
Despite these restrictions, domestic security improved, the status of women was enhanced, and radical Muslim fundamentalists were contained. The king once remarked that true Islam is tolerant because tolerance is the touchstone of civilization. In the 1990s political freedoms were expanded as Hassan sought membership in the European Union. A fifth constitution, approved in 1996, led to generally free elections, with no party winning a clear majority.
Upon Hassans death, his son assumed the throne as Muhammad VI. Announcing that he supported economic liberalism, human rights, and individual freedom, the new ruler backed up his words by granting amnesty to thousands of prisoners and overseeing elections in 2002 that were generally regarded as free and fair. Morocco has been closely attached to the West. It is formally associated with the European Union. It was the first Arab state to condemn Iraqs invasion of Kuwait. Freedom House calls todays Morocco partly free, ranking it ahead of its neighboring Arab states of Algeria and Tunisia and just behind Indonesia and Turkey. In freedom of the press, Morocco scores well above its neighbors. A recent survey of the status of women finds their position greatly improved, with women serving in parliament and holding an increasing share of jobs.
The country is not, however, problem-free. The 2002 elections created a governing coalition consisting of socialist and conservative parties and, troublingly, an opposition led by an Islamist party. In 2003, Islamic radicals carried out suicide bombings in the city of Casablanca. (The king responded that his country would never accept that Islam can be used for the satisfaction of ambitions [to] rule in the name of religion.) But Moroccos greatest problem is similar to that of almost all Muslim nations: how to create economic growth.
There are other Muslim or Muslim-dominated countries, including Mali and Senegal, that provide some respect for individual liberty. Kuwait has improved personal freedom since it was liberated from Iraqi rule. Even Pakistan has expanded press freedom, so that today it ranks, in the opinion of those who survey these matters, only slightly behind India.
What general conclusions can we draw from this brief survey? The first element that most of the freer Muslim countries have in common is the effort to detach religion from politics. This they have done by being secular (Turkey), by constraining Islamic leaders (Indonesia), or by having a ruler who combines religious tradition with secular rule (Morocco).
To do any of these things, one needs a powerful and decisive leader. No one reading an account of Atatürk or Hassan can fail to acknowledge the force of their personalities and the enduring loyalties they managed to command. So deeply did Sukarno implant the commitment to Indonesian nationalism as a key ingredient of his regime that his successor Suharto continued to embrace the same secular national ideology, complete with its emphasis on unity and religious tolerance. For years, any Indonesian political party, including religious ones, had to endorse this doctrine (called Pancasila) or risk being banned.
Separating religion from politics was the key to the development of liberal nations in the West, and it will be the key to the emergence of such states in the Muslim world. By contrast, the autocratic rulers of the Muslim Middle East have either installed theocratic leaders (Iran, the Taliban), or suppressed religious dissent without allowing political freedom (Egypt, Syria), or done both (Saudi Arabia).
Many people wonder whether, in this respect, Arab states differ essentially from non-Arab Muslim states. It is a good question, but I do not think we know the answer. Even what constitutes an Arab state is a bit ambiguous. A country can be called Arab if its people speak Arabic or are descended from inhabitants of the Arabian peninsula, or if its government is part of the Arab League. Twenty-four countries have Arabic as their official language. Among them are Morocco, which has made substantial progress toward liberalization, and Bahrain and Kuwait, which have made a bit of progress. These are, admittedly, more than matched by the autocratic regimes we find in Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. But the picture among non-Arab Muslim states is mixed as well: although Indonesia and Turkey have become reasonably free, against them one must set the mullah-controlled regime in non-Arab Iran.
Another conclusion concerns the role of the military. In nations with strong but not autocratic rulers (Turkey, Indonesia), the army has stood decisively for secular rule and opposed efforts to create an Islamist state; when fundamentalist parties arise, the military has usually shut them down, sometimes imprisoning their leaders. In a place like Pakistan, by contrast, the military has been divided and has on occasion supported Islamic claims; the same goes for Morocco, where the military sometimes launched ill-conceived attacks on King Hassan but at other times waged a successful battle against rebels in the Western Sahara supported by neighboring Algeria.
The tolerably liberal regimes have enjoyed still other advantages. For one thing, none of them has had to struggle against a significant ethnic minority demanding independence. Indonesia is overwhelmingly Muslim (except on Bali, a Hindu island known not for any desire for independence but for its happy inwardness). There are Kurds in Turkey with separatist views, but with the exception of a violent fringe they have not challenged the sovereignty of Ankara. In Morocco, some see a difference between Arabs and tribal Berbers; over the last decades, however, this has produced few major political quarrels.
In none of these three countries, moreover, are there significant conflicts between Sunni and Shiite Muslimsfor the simple reason that there are virtually no Shiites to be found in them. This offers a striking contrast to, say, Iraq and Pakistan.
Finally, it is important to note the continuing impact of the West on Muslim political systems, both for good and for ill. Socialism was embraced by Sukarno in Indonesia, which led to economic chaos and his replacement by Suharto. Fascism is the basis of the Baath parties in Syria and Iraq, and in the latter it provided the basis for the quarter-century rule of Saddam Hussein. Another Western idea, liberal democracy, became rooted in Turkey, though it has taken over a half-century to do.
But in most Muslim countries today, the chief rival to autocratic secular rule has been not Western ideologies but Islam. On a purely institutional level, it is not hard to see why. Islam is organized into mosques, and many of these support charitable and educational organizations that provide services reaching deep into the society. Political activism gathers around religion the way salt crystallizes along a string dangling in sea water.
The Protestant Reformation helped set the stage for religious and even political freedom in the West. Can something like that occur in Muslim nations? That is highly doubtful. There is neither a papacy nor a priesthood against which to rebel; nor are mosques comparable to churches in the Catholic sense of dispensing sacraments. There will never be a Muslim Martin Luther or a hereditary Islamic ruler who, by embracing a rival faith, can thereby create an opportunity for lay rule.
Thus, although there are moderate Islamic leaders, the best-known voices are those of the radicals, who use language ominously resembling that of Ayatollah Khomeini, the revolutionary who captured Iran from the Shah. Abdessalam Yassine, described by some as the major Moroccan political alternative to King Muhammad VI, wants to create an Islamic democracy in which governance would be entrusted to the wise, not the sly. Rachid Ghannouchi, an exiled Tunisian leader, says he hopes somehow to preserve the Muslim faith while allowing personal freedom.
But Ghannouchi also decries the Western freedom that has produced greed, deception, and brutality and that believes in no absolute value that transcends the will of man. To him, a free man should be Gods vice-regent. Many religiously inspired Westerners might agree with this in a metaphoric sense, but the historical lesson of the liberal West is that freedom trumps absolute values. This creates a problem Ghannouchi cannot solve.
As I have noted, political freedom in the West emerged out of a centuries-long struggle between the Church and its religious opponents. Tolerance slowly emerged as the only feasible alternative to intra-religious conflict. After many centuries, such religious tolerance was converted into secular rule in England, France, Germany, and Scandinavia. It may therefore take a long time before the proponents of Islamic democracy, whatever that slippery term means, abandon their efforts and realize that no nation can be governed effectively simply on the basis of Islamic law.
How does all this relate to Iraq? Like Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, Iraq was created by European mapmakers after World War I. The borders of the new nation corresponded somewhat to those of Mesopotamia, a region once called the cradle of civilization. But when Iraq was created, as Margaret MacMillan points out in Paris 1919, a history of map-making after World War I, there was no Iraqi people. There was also no Iraqi nationalism, only Arab. The population was deeply divided, with Basra oriented toward India, Baghdad toward Persia, and Mosul toward Turkey. Creating one nation in that place was akin to creating Yugoslavia after World War II. It could only be done by a powerful ruler, like Tito.
Great Britain tried twice to bring strong central government to Iraq, and both times it failed. In the 1920s the British army occupied the country; when that became too costly, the British withdrew, leaving behind a constitution that empowered King Faisal. When Faisal died and his son could not manage affairs, the country splintered along ethnic lines. Civil war erupted, with military officers emerging as heroes. By the 1930s, the army controlled politics.
At the beginning of World War II the British Army once again occupied Iraq, in order to prevent Baghdad from forming an alliance with Adolf Hitler that would have jeopardized access to Iraqi oil. Britain also wanted to prevent the creation of an anti-British barrier between Egypt and India. This time the army stayed for seven years, ending with a failed effort to create a successful constitutional monarchy. As soon as its troops departed, the Iraqi army took power and initiated a reign that did not end until the American invasion last year.
Our chances of leaving an enduring legacy of freedom in Iraq are therefore uncertain. But uncertain does not mean impossible. An opinion poll taken in April 2004 suggests that, at least in principle, the Iraqi people do support liberal and democratic government. About 40 percent want a multiparty democracy like that found in most European nations, while only about 13 percent say they would prefer a theocracy of the sort found in Iran.
To be sure, support for a parliamentary democracy is unevenly distributed. Those who live in heavily Shiite areas are about as likely to want a theocracy as a democracy, while in the Sunni areas, where our troops have experienced the most attacks, and where the once-dominant but heavily outnumbered Sunnis fear majority Shiite rule, a parliamentary system is the most popular choice.
The good news is that, as compared with support for democracy, support for a liberal regime is very broad. Over 90 percent want free speech, about three-fourths want freedom of religion, and over three-fourths favor free assembly. Freedom is more important than democracya fact that might well have been true in America and England in the 18th century.
And here is where an important lesson lurks for us. Scholars at the RAND corporation have studied Americas efforts at nation-building in the last half-century, ranging from our successes (Germany and Japan) to our failures (Haiti and Somalia) and to all the uncertain outcomes in-between (Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo). One of the most important things we should have learned, they conclude, is that while staying long does not guarantee success, leaving early ensures failure.
In order for freedom to have a chance of developing in Iraq, we must be patient as well as strong. It would be an unmitigated disaster to leave too early. Our Iraqi supporters would be crushed, terrorists and Islamic radicals would have won, and our own struggle and sacrifices would have been for naught.
Liberalism and democracy would bring immeasurable gains to Iraq, and through Iraq to the Middle East as a whole. So far, the country lacks what has helped other Muslim nations make the changea remarkably skilled and powerful leader, a strong army devoted to secular rule, an absence of ethnic conflict. If we may nevertheless be cautiously optimistic, it is because of the hope that we will indeed stay there as long as we are needed.
JAMES Q. WILSON is the Ronald Reagan professor of public policy at Pepperdine University. A version of the present essay was delivered as a lecture at the Manhattan Institute in New York.
Released Iranian reformist journalists write letters of repentance: report(AFP)
4 December 2004
TEHERAN - Three Iranian reformist journalists released in the past days have written letters of repentance, saying they were brainwashed by foreigners and counter-revolutionaries, press reports said Saturday.
Newspapers have carried the letters of repentance allegedly written by Omid Memarian, Shahram Rafizadeh and Roozbeh Mir-Ebrahimi to the head of Irans hardline judiciary.
The trio were detained in a recent crackdown on reformist journalists and contributors to controversial Internet sites.
I was brainwashed by hardline elements to destroy the image of the regime by relating with counter-revolutionaries and talking to foreign radio, said the letter by Memarian, who maintained a controversial web log.
I and people like me in the past years have been trapped by the ones who were merely concerned with their own political benefits and used us as puppets, Mir-Ebrahimis letter said, according to the reports carried by several papers.
I have in the past years insulted the Supreme Leader. I was made to believe all the problems on the way to reforms stemmed from the head of the regime, it added.
I spread lies as I was influenced and encouraged by the ones who have for years been wounding the Islamic regime, read a letter written by Rafizadeh, according to the same reports.
The journalists lawyer was not available to provide confirmation.
Omid Memarian and Shahram Rafizadeh were released from jail on Wednesday evening on a bail of 500 million rials (56,800 dollars), student news agency ISNA said. Roozbeh Mir-Ebrahimi was released the week before on a bail of 300 million rials (34,000 dollars).
In the past months, Irans hardline judiciary arrested a number of reformist journalists accused of publishing propaganda against the regime, acting against national security, disturbing the public mind and also insulting religious sanctities.
Iran's growing AIDS crisis shifts from the needle to the bed
Wed Dec 1,10:26 AM ET
Health - AFP
TEHRAN (AFP) - Health experts warned that Iran's growing AIDS (news - web sites) problem was moving away from drug users and into the bedroom, and appealed to Islamic authorities to go further in breaking a taboo over all things sexual.
"The trend of transmission has changed from intravenous drug users to high risk sexual behaviour," said Minoo Mohraz, a doctor and specialist in Iran's official AIDS Association.
"People cannot afford to get married so young, and are getting married older. The gap is being filled by more prostitution," she said Wednesday.
But experts point to a likely figure of at least 40,000, saying this is disguised by a lack of testing facilities and the unwillingness of sufferers to come forward.
"AIDS is still largely a taboo, and policy makers have for a long time been in denial," Mohraz told AFP in an interview.
"And people who are infected or fear to have been infected do not come forward because of the social stigma associated with AIDS. In our culture we have a problem with high risk behaviour and extra-marital sexual activity."
As an example of the stigma, she claims that only two years ago she was the first person to have mentioned the word "condom" on national television -- and that only came after she overcame stiff opposition from some officials.
"I told them that if they won't let me talk about condoms and sexual behaviour, I won't go on TV. So finally they relented."
There are signs that attitudes in the Islamic republic are adapting to the threat of AIDS -- even if public discussion of what goes on under the sheets is still considered to be at best vulgar, at worst criminal.
World AIDS Day has been marked with a fresh barrage of information being broadcast over the conservative-controlled radio and television frequencies in the Islamic republic.
Some officials have even gone on air to call for the state to distribute condoms free of charge.
But Mohraz, whose AIDS Association is attached to the health ministry, said Iran still has a long way to go in accepting that HIV/AIDS is not a problem that remains confined to the country's injecting heroin addicts.
"Policy makers think that if you talk about something, it will encourage the activity," she said.
"So public awareness and education is by no means consistent. They talk about it on TV for World AIDS Day and that's the end of it until next year."
This view is backed up by another AIDS worker, Mahmood Reza Moussavi, a psychologist working at one of Tehran's handful of dedicated clinics.
"The general public is extremely ignorent. Some families lock the infected member in the cellar and cut all contact with them," he said, warning that women in particular were reluctant to come forward for testing and support.
"Most of the patients who seek help are heroin users who come here for methadone therapy," he said -- adding that the rest of the sufferers do so in silence.
"What we need is consistent therapy and psychiatric help," Moussavi said, explaining that a particularly discreet form of health structure needed to be built up.
"People just cannot cry out loud in public: 'I am HIV positive'."
At Crucial Juncture, Iran Seeks Edge on U.S.[Excerpt]
By Robin WrightWashington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 5, 2004; Page A19
TEHRAN -- A quarter-century after U.S.-Iran relations collapsed, Iranians are angrier and more anxious about U.S. policy than at any time since 1979-81, when the United States took in the deposed and dying shah, Iranian students seized the U.S. Embassy and 52 hostages were held for 444 days.
Repeated U.S. warnings about Iran's nuclear intentions have sparked widespread fears of a new confrontation, Iranian officials and analysts said -- one that would dwarf the crisis that erupted after Tehran's 1979 revolution.
In an effort to contain U.S. influence along Iran's borders and preempt U.S. action, they said, Tehran is trying to exploit two trump cards -- its influence over neighboring countries and rising international demand for oil. Iran is beefing up aid to allied groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are scheduled to hold elections next year. Iran is also using oil to deepen alliances with strategic nations like energy-hungry China.
The situation is a sharp reversal from a year ago, when swift victories by U.S.-led coalitions in Iraq and Afghanistan sent shock waves through Iran. The country was almost encircled by U.S. troops on land and sea, analysts here said. The squeeze was a major factor in Iran's agreeing in October 2003 to give up uranium enrichment, a key process for peaceful nuclear energy that can be diverted for military use.
But Iraq's persistent insurgency, the failure of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan to capture Osama bin Laden and the inability of Kabul's U.S.-backed government to consolidate national control have made the United States more vulnerable in the region and given Iran more leverage, said officials and analysts in both nations.
"The United States has all these places, but it can't be successful without Iran," said Mohsen Rezaie, a presidential contender who commanded Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard. "We are now at the top of the mountain, and the Americans are at the bottom."
A year ago, the Bush administration boasted about the positive impact that free and fair Iraqi elections would have on Iran. Today, the administration is concerned about Iran's negative impact on Iraq, said Robert Malley, a former assistant to President Bill Clinton who works for International Crisis Group, a non-profit, conflict-analysis organization.
"Chaos in Iraq and higher oil prices have emboldened the Iranian regime, which still feels threatened by U.S. pressure but far more confident it can withstand it," Malley said in an interview in Washington. As Iranians debate how to deal with the United States, he said, the situation has strengthened ideologues who advocate "standing firm," particularly on nuclear issues.
Iran walked out of an original nuclear deal, which had to be renegotiated this fall by Britain, France and Germany. Moreover, the deal is only a preliminary agreement; a permanent arrangement remains elusive.
Internal political shifts have also changed the dynamics of the U.S.-Iran standoff. A year ago, Iran's president and the majority in parliament were reformers who wanted to bring down the "wall of mistrust" between the two nations.
But conservatives took control of parliament this fall, after many reform candidates were barred from running in February elections. And conservatives are expected to do whatever it takes to win the presidential election next spring, Iranian analysts say.
So rather than spur political change, Iranian analysts warn that U.S. military action on suspected Iranian nuclear sites could backfire, echoing the impact of Iraq's 1980 invasion. The eight-year Iran-Iraq war reignited Iranian nationalism and allowed fundamentalist clerics to consolidate their hold on Iran just when the Islamic revolution had begun to wobble.
"If America uses military means against Iran, even if it attacks only one point, the result here will be a rise of militarism in Iran -- and the suppression of any democratic trend," said Mohsen Mirdamadi, a ringleader of the embassy seizure 25 years ago, who later became a pro-democracy member of parliament. "This is a problem for reformers," he said.
Iranian officials contend that Bush's reelection, strongly backed by conservative Christian groups, also redefined the standoff.
"The problem America has with Iran is not political, not economic. It's religion, now that the new conservatives . . . are behind Bush," said Mohammed Hashemi, a U.S.-educated member of Iran's Expediency Council, a body that weighs in during deadlocks between parliament and a top clerical panel. "U.S. policy toward Iran is based on a religious war."
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have always been complex, haunted by the revolution's introduction of militant Islam and the hostage trauma. Today, relations are troubled by Iran's support for extremist groups such as Lebanon's Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, as well as by Iran's suspected weapons program.
In contrast to its continued reluctance to deal with Tehran, Washington restored diplomatic contacts with Vietnam after a war that killed about 57,000 Americans and over 1 million Vietnamese, and with China after a Communist revolution that cost millions of Chinese lives, produced a nuclear bomb and led to a cold war with the West.
"It makes no sense 25 years later not to be talking to each other," L. Bruce Laingen, a retired U.S. diplomat and the ranking hostage in the embassy seizure, said in an interview in Washington. "I'm not advocating relations tomorrow, but we have a lot to talk about and we should start. The U.S. is staring [Iran] in the face on both borders and on the Gulf."
Whether Iran's conservatives and a second Bush administration will confront each other is hotly debated here. Despite stubborn rhetoric, some major political figures sound almost wistful about the potential for a diplomatic thaw.
"This very hot atmosphere of tension . . . should be defused, and we should move toward a friendlier or more tranquil situation. Continuing tensions are not in the interest of either the U.S. or Iran," said Mohammed Javad Larijani, a former presidential contender.
A senior U.S. official involved in Iran policy described Iran as "the Rodney Dangerfield of the Middle East." Iranians, he said, have a pathological desire -- like a little brother who wants his big brother's approval -- for us to say we respect them." ...
Iran and Hezbollah trying to undermine renewed peace efforts By Ze'ev Schiff
Iran and Hezbollah have intensified their efforts to operate in the territories and in Israel so as to undermine the possible renewal of the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians by ensuring that no cease-fire agreement takes effect.
The two recently have focused on recruiting dozens of individuals from West Bank groups like Tanzim and Gaza Strip groups like the Popular Resistance Committee.
Israel has arrested 19 Palestinian activists recruited or controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. In addition, security services have identified Hezbollah's smuggling weapons and other military equipment through tunnels connecting the Sinai to the Gaza Strip.
The General Security Services has followed for some time activities by Iran, and its proxy, Hezbollah, in the territories and Israel. The security services attribute 21 attacks in which 50 Israelis have been killed and 216 injured to Tanzim cells controled by Iran.
Following the death of PA chairman Yasser Arafat, Iranian and Hezbollah activities have intensified, and it is believed that the two have penetrated cells in the northern West Bank and in Bethlehem.
According to intelligence estimates, Iran and Hezbollah will concentrate their efforts in undermining any chance of renewing the peace process, and if a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians is achieved, they will seek to destroy it.
Reports of the possibility of renewed negotiations between Syria and Israel also have led Iran to prepare its own diplomatic initiative in Damascus to get clarifications from its occasional ally.
Iran is opposed to negotiations between Israel and Syria and the possibility that an interim agreement may result in Hezbollah's withdrawal from Lebanon's southern border with Israel.
Iran and Hezbollah also are focusing attention on intelligence gathering. Among equipment confiscated from one of the group's operatives was a GPS-equipped cellular telephone device that pinpoints the position of structures and locations for targeting. The device was delivered in Damascus to Haldoun Ruhi Barghouti of the northern West Bank village of Kubar.
Hezbollah agents worked with partial success on the development of a "bomber kite" capable of carrying several kilograms of explosives with which they planned to target a Gaza Strip settlement. The testing of the kite was halted when a number of cell members were arrested.
Intelligence information also suggests that Iran is passing over millions of dollars to Palestinians via Hezbollah contacts. Iran, in effect, is a replacement for former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who subsidized families of Palestinian suicide bombers or those injured in the fighting.
In the territories, the funding is being managed by various Islamic welfare organizations. Three brothers belonging to the Abdu family in Nablus were arrested for their role as money handlers on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah.
The local organization with which Iran has the closest affiliation is Islamic Jihad, while Hamas maintains a permanent representative in Iran. The larger Hamas wants to retain a degree of independence with Iran, but accepts financial and technical assistance from Tehran and its agents.
Hezbollah, meanwhile, is focusing its efforts on Tanzim. Several of the West Bank group's operatives have visited Lebanon and participated in training exercises there.
The Lebanese Shi'ite organization also is trying to foster ties with Israeli Arabs primarily via contacts abroad.
EU blasts Iran for human rights abuse
Saturday, December 04, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com
LONDON, Dec 4 (IranMania) The European Union sent a letter to Irans Foreign Ministry expressing concern over the violation of human rights in Iran, Irans Aftab Daily reported.
The EU letter comes while Iran and Europe are to resume talks on nuclear, political and economic issues next week.
The European Union called on Iran to immediately release all those recently arrested in connection with Internet activities as well as those active in NGOs.
The letter added: All 25 EU members will back a resolution against Iran as regard the violation of human rights and abuse of civil liberties in the country.
UN nuclear chief angrily denies charges of collaboration with Iran12-04-2004, 15h52
VIENNA (AFP) - UN nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei angrily denied charges he had collaborated with Iran ahead of publishing written reports on his investigation of the Islamic Republic's controversial nuclear programme.
Yoshikazu Tsuno - (AFP/File)
"We never show a report to any single member" of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), "not the least of course an inspected country," ElBaradei told AFP in a telephone interview on Saturday.
ElBaradei was reacting to news reports that he had heeded Iranian demands to drop mentions of IAEA requests to visit the Parchin military site and Iran's use of the strategically sensitive metal beryllium in a report he had made to the IAEA board on September 1.
AFP had in September quoted a US official as saying ElBaradei had done this and there have been further such allegations in the media since then.
The United States wants the IAEA to take Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions for what Washington says is a covert nuclear weapons program but ElBaradei says the "jury is still out" on whether Tehran's program is peaceful or not.
Diplomats said there were elements in the administration of US President George W. Bush who feel ElBaradei, who is Egyptian and a Moslem, is too soft on Iran and oppose his winning a third term in 2005 as IAEA chief.
The official US position is that heads of international organizations should not serve more than two terms, as ElBaradei will have done by next year.
ElBaradei said it was a "gutter accusation" to accuse him of an Islamist bias.
He said whether a country he works on "is Moslem or Buddhist makes not an iota of difference," especially since IAEA reports are a "collective process" involving international teams of experts.
"All the Arab, Israeli, US, North Korean, Iraqi and Iranian media are criticizing me at one point or another and this just might show that we are doing the right thing," ElBaradei said, referring also to IAEA investigations of North Korea and Iraq's nuclear programs.
ElBaradei also characterized as "gutter accusations" reports that he gives Iran advance looks at his reports, which are filed ahead of IAEA board of governors meetings that decide how tough the agency will be on Tehran over its nuclear program.
"We don't leak (special IAEA reports on Iran) to any single person outside the 10 or 20 people who are involved in the process," of drafting the text at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, ElBaradei said.
"We don't negotiate our report . . . at the end of the day not a single paragraph is shown to any single country until the report is out," ElBaradei said.
He said the IAEA did not "even discuss" the report ahead of time with Iran beyond technical requests for information.
"Three Iranian reformist journalists released in the past days have written letters of repentance, saying they were brainwashed by foreigners and counter-revolutionaries,"
One can only begin to imagine what kind of torture and threats made them do this. (if indeed they did)
El Baradei's picture reminds me of a courtroom scene in the movie "Thief", where such gestures were used to negotiate bribes...
Iran hands Egypt wanted Islamist official: report(DPA)
5 December 2004
CAIRO - Weeks before the Egyptian Interior Minister made a rare visit to Teheran, Iran handed Egypt a senior Islamist member of the outlawed Gamaa Islamiya, the London-based al-Hayat newspaper reported Sunday.
Al-Hayat, quoting a statement by the London-based al-Maqrizi Centre for Historical Studies, said Mustafa Hamza was currently in an Egyptian prison.
Hamza was one of the gunme allegedly involved in a 1995 assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak during a summit in Ethiopia.
He was also wanted for the 1981 assassination of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and served three years in prison until he escaped to Afghanistan.
Al-Hayat said Hamza was delivered to Cairo under a deal that includes establishing Iranian cultural centres in Egypt, and Egyptians giving Iran security information about Iranian opposition members living in Egypt.
Another part of the deal, al-Hayat reported, includes improving the image of Iran in the US administration through Egyptian mediation.
Hamza faces three death sentences in Egypt. His name is included in a 1996 Egyptian list of 14 most dangerous wanted Islamists living abroad.
Egyptian Interior Minister Habib al-Adli made a rare visit to Teheran last week to take part in a meeting of Iraqs neighbouring countries interior ministers.
Last week, the same London-based centre announced that a senior leader of al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, Rifai Taha, detained in a Cairo prison since 2001, was continuing to refuse to renounce violence as a condition for a reduced sentence.
Taha was an aide of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and was seen in a 2000 interview alongside him and Egyptian Islamic Jihad leader Ayman Zawahiri during which they renewed a call for jihad (holy war) against the United States.
Iran signals military sites off limits to UN nuclear inspectors(AFP)
5 December 2004
TEHRAN - Iran said on Sunday it was not obliged to allow UN atomic energy agency inspectors to visit military sites alleged to be involved in secret nuclear weapons work, but that it was willing to discuss the issue.
It is not a matter of unlimited commitments and unlimited inspections, foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters when asked if International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) teams would be able to probe two suspect military facilities.
We will act in accordance with the NPT (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty), our duties and responsibilities, Asefi added.
The IAEA is mandated under the NPT to verify that all nuclear material in a country is declared and not being diverted for nuclear weapons purposes, as the United States claims is the case in Iran.
But under the NPT and even its additional protocol -- also signed by Iran -- the agency has limited inspection powers.
The Vienna-based watchdog has asked Iran if it can visit the Parchin military base east of Tehran, where US officials have said the Iranians may be testing high-explosive shaped charges with an inert core of depleted uranium as a dry test for how a bomb with fissile material would work.
IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei told AFP in an interview that he had every reason to expect that Iran will allow us to go to the site.
But Asefi said Iran has not been officially asked by the IAEA if it can inspect Parchin, although he did add that we are ready to cooperate within the framework of our commitments with the IAEA.
The IAEA is also researching another site in Tehran, Lavizan II, which the exiled Iranian opposition has alleged is a site involved in the secret enriching of uranium.
Iran insists its nuclear programme is solely directed at generating electrity, and fiercely denies allegations it is seeking weapons.
The country escaped possible UN sanctions last week after agreeing to a deal with Britain, France and Germany to suspend its controversial fuel cycle work in exchange for a package of incentives.
A temporary suspension means a short while, not a long time, Asefi said of the suspension.
However he said comments Friday by powerful former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani that the freeze would not last more than six months should not be seen as a firm timeframe. Asefi said Rafsanjani only mentioned six months an example.
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ElBaradei has to go. A third term would mean nukes for more regimes.
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