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    News & Comments about the Middle East Iran: Intelligence from Tehran Elevates Concern in the West (Der Spiegel)
    Geplaatst door abby op Saturday 06 February @ 04:22:02 GMT+1 (2335 maal gelezen)

    The Secret Nuclear Dossier
    Intelligence from Tehran Elevates Concern in the West
    By Dieter Bednarz, Erich Follath and Holger Stark
    SPIEGEL 25 January 2010

    The West has long been suspicous of Iran's nuclear program. SPIEGEL has obtained new documents on secret tests and leadership structures that call into question Tehran's claims to be exclusively interested in the peaceful use of the technology.

    It was probably the last attempt to defuse the nuclear dispute with Tehran without having to turn to dramatic new sanctions or military action. The plan, devised at the White House in October, had Russian and Chinese support and came with the seal of approval of the US president. It was clearly a Barack Obama operation.

    Under the plan, Iran would send a large share of its low enriched uranium abroad, all at once, for a period of one year, receiving internationally monitored quantities of nuclear fuel elements in return. It was a deal that provided benefits for all sides. The Iranians would have enough material for what they claim is their civilian nuclear program, as well as for scientific experiments, and the world could be assured that Tehran would not be left with enough fissile material for its secret domestic uranium enrichment program -- and for what the West assumes is the building of a nuclear bomb.

    Tehran's leaders initially agreed to the proposal "in principle." But for weeks they put off the international community with vague allusions to a "final response," and when that response finally materialized, it came in the form of a "counter-proposal." Under this proposal, Tehran insisted that the exchange could not take place all at once, but only in stages, and that the material would not be sent abroad. Instead, Tehran wanted the exchange to take place in Iran.

    Once again, the Iranian leadership has rebuffed the West with phony promises of its willingness to compromise. The government in Tehran officially rejected the nuclear exchange plan last Tuesday. To make matters worse, after the West's discovery of a secret uranium enrichment plant near Qom, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defiantly announced that he would never give in, and in fact would build 10 more enrichment plants instead.

    Highly Volatile Material

    But officials in Washington and European capitals are currently not as concerned about these cocky, unrealistic announcements as they are about intelligence reports based on sources within Iran and information from high-ranking defectors. The new information, say American experts, will likely prompt the US government to reassess the risks coming from the mullah-controlled country in the coming days and raise the alarm level from yellow to red. Skeptics who in the past, sometimes justifiably so, treated alarmist reports as Israeli propaganda, are also extremely worried. They include the experts from the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose goal is prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

    After an extensive internal investigation, IAEA officials concluded that a computer obtained from Iran years ago contains highly volatile material. The laptop reached the Americans through Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), and was then passed on to the IAEA in Vienna.

    Reports by Ali Reza Asgari, Iran's former deputy defense minister who managed to defect to the United States, where he was given a new identity, proved to be just as informative. Nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who "disappeared" during a pilgrimage to Mecca in June 2009, is also believed to have particularly valuable information. The Iranian authorities accused Saudi Arabia and the United States of kidnapping the expert, but it is more likely that he defected.

    Iran's government has come under pressure as a result of the new charges. They center on the question of who exactly is responsible for the country's nuclear program -- and what this says about its true nature. The government has consistently told the IAEA that the only agency involved in uranium enrichment is the National Energy Council, and that its work was exclusively dedicated to the peaceful use of the technology.

    But if the claims are true that have been made in an intelligence dossier currently under review in diplomatic circles in Washington, Vienna, Tel Aviv and Berlin, portions of which SPIEGEL has obtained, this is a half-truth at best.

    According to the classified document, there is a secret military branch of Iran's nuclear research program that answers to the Defense Ministry and has clandestine structures. The officials who have read the dossier conclude that the government in Tehran is serious about developing a bomb, and that its plans are well advanced. There are two names that appear again and again in the documents, particularly in connection with the secret weapons program: Kamran Daneshjoo and Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

    Secret Heart of Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program

    Daneshjoo, 52, Iran's new minister of science, research and technology, is also responsible for the country's nuclear energy agency, and he is seen as a close ally of Ahmadinejad. Opposition leaders say he is a hardliner who was partly responsible for the apparently rigged presidential election in June. Daneshjoo's biography includes only marginal references to his possible nuclear expertise. In describing himself, the man with the steely-gray beard writes that he studied engineering in the British city of Manchester, and then spent several years working at a Tehran "Center for Aviation Technology." Western experts believe that this center developed into a sub-organization of the Defense Ministry known as the FEDAT, an acronym for the "Department for Expanded High-Technology Applications" -- the secret heart of Iran's nuclear weapons program. The head of that organization is Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, 48, an officer in the Revolutionary Guard and a professor at Tehran's Imam Hossein University.

    Western intelligence agencies believe that although the nuclear energy agency and the FEDAT compete in some areas, they have agreed to a division of labor on the central issue of nuclear weapons research, with the nuclear agency primarily supervising uranium enrichment while the FEDAT is involved in the construction of a nuclear warhead to be used in Iran's Shahab missiles. Experts believe that Iran's scientists could produce a primitive, truck-sized version of the bomb this year, but that it would have to be compressed to a size that would fit into a nuclear warhead to yield the strategic threat potential that has Israel and the West so alarmed -- and that they could reach that stage by sometime between 2012 and 2014.

    The Iranians are believed to have conducted non-nuclear tests of a detonating mechanism for a nuclear bomb more than six years ago. The challenge in the technology is to uniformly ignite the conventional explosives surrounding the uranium core -- which is needed to produce the desired chain reaction. It is believed that the test series was conducted with a warhead encased in aluminum. In other words, everything but the core was "real." According to the reports, the Tehran engineers used thin fibers and a measuring circuit board in place of the fissile material. This enabled them to measure the shock waves and photograph flashes that simulate the detonation of a nuclear bomb with some degree of accuracy. The results were apparently so encouraging that the Iranian government has since classified the technology as "feasible."

    SPIEGEL obtained access to a FEDAT organizational chart and a list of the names of scientists working for the agency. The Vienna-based IAEA also has these documents, but the Iranian president claims that they are forged and are being used to discredit his country. After reporting two years ago that the Iranians had frozen their nuclear weapons research in 2003, the CIA and other intelligence agencies will probably paint a significantly more sobering scenario just as the UN Security Council is considering tougher sanctions against Iran.

    Mulling Sanctions

    When France assumes the Council's rotating chairmanship in February, Washington could push for a showdown. While Moscow is not ruling out additional punitive measures, China, which has negotiated billions in energy deals with Iran, is more likely to block such measures.

    China could, however, approve "smart" sanctions, such as travel restrictions for senior members of the Revolutionary Guard and nuclear scientists. Fakhrizadeh is already on a list of officials subject to such restrictions, and Daneshjoo could well be added in the future.

    But the West would presumably be on its own when enforcing sanctions that would be truly harmful to Iran -- and to its own, profitable trade relations with Tehran.

    The most effective trade weapon would be a fuel embargo. Because of a lack of refinery capacity Iran, which has the world's second-largest oil reserves, imports almost half of the gasoline it uses. Sanctions would trigger a sharp rise in the price of gasoline, inevitably leading to social unrest. Experts are divided over whether it would be directed against the unpopular regime or if the country's leaders could once again inflame the Iranian people against the "evil West."

    This leaves the military option. Apart from the political consequences and the possibility of counter-attacks, bombing Iran's nuclear facilities would be extremely difficult. The nuclear experts have literally buried themselves and their facilities underground, in locations that would be virtually impossible to reach with conventional weapons.

    While even Israeli experts are skeptical over how much damage bombing the facilities could do to the nuclear program, the normally levelheaded US General David Petraeus sounded downright belligerent when asked whether the Iranian nuclear facilities could be attacked militarily. "Well, they certainly can be bombed," he said just two weeks ago in Washington.

    Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
    URL: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,673802,00.html

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    News & Comments about the Middle East www jihad com (Thomas Friedman)
    Geplaatst door abby op Thursday 17 December @ 00:56:20 GMT+1 (1985 maal gelezen)

    The New York Times
    www jihad com
    Published: December 15, 2009

    Let’s not fool ourselves. Whatever threat the real Afghanistan poses to U.S. national security, the “Virtual Afghanistan” now poses just as big a threat. The Virtual Afghanistan is the network of hundreds of jihadist Web sites that inspire, train, educate and recruit young Muslims to engage in jihad against America and the West. Whatever surge we do in the real Afghanistan has no chance of being a self-sustaining success, unless there is a parallel surge - by Arab and Muslim political and religious leaders - against those who promote violent jihadism on the ground in Muslim lands and online in the Virtual Afghanistan.

    Last week, five men from northern Virginia were arrested in Pakistan, where they went, they told Pakistani police, to join the jihad against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. They first made contact with two extremist organizations in Pakistan by e-mail in August. As The Washington Post reported on Sunday: “ ‘Online recruiting has exponentially increased, with Facebook, YouTube and the increasing sophistication of people online,’ a high-ranking Department of Homeland Security official said. ... ‘Increasingly, recruiters are taking less prominent roles in mosques and community centers because places like that are under scrutiny. So what these guys are doing is turning to the Internet,’ said Evan Kohlmann, a senior analyst with the U.S.-based NEFA Foundation, a private group that monitors extremist Web sites.”

    The Obama team is fond of citing how many “allies” we have in the Afghan coalition. Sorry, but we don’t need more NATO allies to kill more Taliban and Al Qaeda. We need more Arab and Muslim allies to kill their extremist ideas, which, thanks to the Virtual Afghanistan, are now being spread farther than ever before.

    Only Arabs and Muslims can fight the war of ideas within Islam. We had a civil war in America in the mid-19th century because we had a lot of people who believed bad things - namely that you could enslave people because of the color of their skin. We defeated those ideas and the individuals, leaders and institutions that propagated them, and we did it with such ferocity that five generations later some of their offspring still have not forgiven the North.

    Islam needs the same civil war. It has a violent minority that believes bad things: that it is O.K. to not only murder non-Muslims - “infidels,” who do not submit to Muslim authority - but to murder Muslims as well who will not accept the most rigid Muslim lifestyle and submit to rule by a Muslim caliphate.

    What is really scary is that this violent, jihadist minority seems to enjoy the most “legitimacy” in the Muslim world today. Few political and religious leaders dare to speak out against them in public. Secular Arab leaders wink at these groups, telling them: “We’ll arrest if you do it to us, but if you leave us alone and do it elsewhere, no problem.”

    How many fatwas - religious edicts - have been issued by the leading bodies of Islam against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda? Very few. Where was the outrage last week when, on the very day that Iraq’s Parliament agreed on a formula to hold free and fair multiparty elections - unprecedented in Iraq’s modern history - five explosions set off by suicide bombers hit ministries, a university and Baghdad’s Institute of Fine Arts, killing at least 127 people and wounding more than 400, many of them kids?

    Not only was there no meaningful condemnation emerging from the Muslim world - which was primarily focused on resisting Switzerland’s ban on new mosque minarets - there was barely a peep coming out of Washington. President Obama expressed no public outrage. It is time he did.

    “What Muslims were talking about last week were the minarets of Switzerland, not the killings of people in Iraq or Pakistan,” noted Mamoun Fandy, a Middle East expert at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London. “People look for red herrings when they don’t want to look inward, when they don’t want to summon the moral courage to produce the counter-fatwa that would say: stabilizing Iraq is an Islamic duty and bringing peace to Afghanistan is part of the survival of the Islamic umma,” or community.

    So please tell me, how are we supposed to help build something decent and self-sustaining in Afghanistan and Pakistan when jihadists murder other Muslims by the dozens and no one really calls them out?

    A corrosive mind-set has taken hold since 9/11. It says that Arabs and Muslims are only objects, never responsible for anything in their world, and we are the only subjects, responsible for everything that happens in their world. We infantilize them.

    Arab and Muslims are not just objects. They are subjects. They aspire to, are able to and must be challenged to take responsibility for their world. If we want a peaceful, tolerant region more than they do, they will hold our coats while we fight, and they will hold their tongues against their worst extremists. They will lose, and we will lose - here and there, in the real Afghanistan and in the Virtual Afghanistan.

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    News & Comments about the Middle East Palestinian Intellectual on the Arab World's Double Standard (MEMRI)
    Geplaatst door abby op Tuesday 01 September @ 01:13:04 GMT+1 (2771 maal gelezen)

    MEMRI Special Dispatch | No. 2493 | August 18, 2009
    Palestinian Intellectual on the Arab World's Double Standard

    In a recent article titled "Why Do We Condemn Only the [Israeli] Occupation?" Palestinian intellectual Ahmad Abu Matar, who resides in Sweden, criticized the hypocrisy and double standard which, in his opinion, prevail in the Arab and Islamic world. Abu Matar argued that the reaction to crimes in the Arab and Muslim world often depends on the identity of the criminal: Misdeeds perpetrated by a foreign force, such as Israel, tend to be harshly condemned, while those perpetrated by Arabs and Muslims against their fellow Arabs and Muslims are generally greeted with indifference, and in some cases even condoned.

    Following are excerpts from the article:(1)

    "The Arab Mentality is Flawed and Inconsistent When It Comes to Judging Actions and Deeds"
    "The Arab mentality is flawed and inconsistent when it comes to judging actions and deeds. Logical and objective [judgment] requires that identical deeds be judged identically, regardless of who is responsible for them. A good deed merits praise, whatever the identity, religion or nationality of the one responsible, whereas a bad deed deserves condemnation, whatever the identity, religion or nationality of the one responsible.

    "But the Arabs and Muslims, in their mentality and practices, ignore or violate this maxim, despite the Islamic teaching that 'he who remains silent in the face of [a distortion of] the truth is a dumb devil'...

    "Following are some of the main issues in which [this problem is evident]:
    Defining "Occupation"
    "There is a general agreement among cultures about the definition of the term 'occupation.' It is [generally] assumed that there is no such thing as 'nice occupation' that should be praised, versus 'nasty occupation' that should be opposed. There is only one [kind of] occupation, and there is no disagreement about its definition.

    "[The only exception to this is provided by] the Arab mentality, which harps only on the Israeli occupation of Palestine in 1948. The occupation of the cities Ceuta and Melilla [in North Africa], conquered by Spain nearly 500 years ago, is not mentioned in any Arab school curriculum.

    "The same is true for Iskenderun [Alexandretta] province, seized by Turkey [from Syria in the 1930s], which has [likewise] been completely forgotten by the Arabs - so much so that the Syrian regime under former president Hafez Al-Assad approved the present borders with Turkey, thereby confirming the province to be Turkish, and removed any mention of it as a Syrian province from the [Syrian school] curricula.

    "This is also the case with the Arab Ahvaz province, occupied [by Iran] in 1925, and with the three islands of the Arab UAE that were occupied by the Iranian regime in 1971. Nobody ever mentions them.

    "More than that - there are Arab writers who explicitly endorse term 'Persian Gulf' [instead of 'Arabian Gulf'], and argue that Iran, as a cultured country, has a greater claim to the three islands than the Bedouins of the Arab UAE and the Arabian Gulf.

    "Using the same skewed logic, someone could make the unpatriotic claim that Israel - advanced, cultured and democratic - has a greater claim to Palestine than the struggling Palestinian people, who cause themselves more casualties than the [Israeli] occupation causes them. This, despite the fact that, according to common sense and international law, occupation is occupation, regardless of the identity and [cultural] level of the people whose land has been occupied.

    "Based on this distorted Arab memory, the Arabs applauded Saddam Hussein when he occupied Kuwait in 1991, [and Saddam] played on the emotions of the ignorant masses when he said he would withdraw from Kuwait when [Israel] withdrew from Palestine. Can any [sort of] reasoning be more primitive and demagogical than that?

    "Judging Murder According to the Identity of the Murderer"
    "...When a Muslim murders a Muslim, an Arab murders an Arab, or a Palestinian murders a Palestinian, it evokes no radical or belligerent [reactions] on the part of the Muslims, Arabs or Palestinians. But when a Muslim, Arab or Palestinian is murdered by an Israeli or European, they raise hell - even though murder is murder, regardless of the perpetrator's identity or religion.

    "For example, thousands of pages have been written about the murder of the Egyptian woman Marwa Al-Sherbini(2) by a German man, and she has been termed a shahida. This murder - whose German perpetrator deserves the maximal punishment - raises a few questions regarding the double standards of the Arabs:

    "What about the hundreds of murders perpetrated every month in the Arab countries under the false pretext of 'preserving [family] honor?' In most of these cases, a young woman is murdered by her brother or some other [male] relative. He declares it openly, and the women of the neighborhood, as well as the victim's family, greet him with sweets and cries of joy. Who writes or demonstrates against this [phenomenon]? Autopsies have revealed that over 95% of the girls murdered this way are virgins, which means that there was no 'violated honor' to cry over [in the first place].

    "What about murder for expressing an opinion, which has become commonplace since the mid-20th century, and has become a source of fear for all Arab writers and philosophers - especially since the murder of Egyptian writer Farag Foda [by an Islamist extremist] on July 8, 1992? Farag resigned from the Al-Wafd party in protest over its alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1984 elections. He then tried to form a new party called Al-Mustaqbal, and was waiting for a permit from the parliamentary committee for party affairs. The Al-Azhar Scholars Front(3) launched a vicious attack on him, demanding a ban on the establishment of the party. [The Front also] published an announcement in the paper Al-Nour proclaiming him an infidel who must be killed, and some ignorant [Islamist] carried out this execution warrant. I say 'ignorant' because, when asked during his trial why he had assassinated Farag Foda, [the murderer] answered, 'because he is an infidel.' Asked which of Foda's books had caused him to consider [Foda] an infidel, he replied, 'I haven't read any of his books... I cannot read or write.'

    "There are other examples - such as the assassination attempt against the [Egyptian] writer Naguib Mahfouz in October 1995...  [Egyptian theologist] Dr. Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd likewise received death threats [that caused him to] flee Egypt for Holland over a decade ago. Now the Al-Azhar Scholars Front and [some] other organizations are waging a fierce campaign against the Egyptian Culture Ministry's awarding of a prize to [Egyptian intellectual] Sayyed Al-Qimni and [Egyptian philosopher] Dr. Hassan Hanafi...

    "These physical and intellectual murders do not concern the Arabs and Muslims at all, and do not prick their conscience or arouse their fervor. This is because they are murders of Arabs by Arabs, or of Palestinians by Palestinians. But the murder of Marwa Al-Sherbini by a German, or of the Palestinian boy Muhammad Al-Dura by the Israeli army, evoked a torrent of tears, mourning and breast-beating, with the victims called shahids and calls for revenge heard [from every direction]."

    Indifference to Hamas's Actions in Gaza
    "[Now let us turn] to the shameful Palestinian situation... Consider the following report:

    'Al-Zahhar: Hamas Will Prevent Fatah Activists from Attending [Fatah Conference in Bethlehem]
    'On July 24, 2009, top Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said that [his movement] would not allow Fatah members in Gaza to leave for the West Bank in order to attend the sixth Fatah conference... Despite mediation [attempts] by the Egyptians, Al-Zahhar told journalists after the Friday sermons: "[We will] reward good deeds with good and bad deeds with bad."'
    "We should ask the Al-Azhar scholars to interpret this [statement for us]! How many tears would we have shed had the Israeli occupation prohibited [these Fatah members from attending the conference]? Another report stated:

    'Al-Zahhar: 'Abbas Not Wanted in Gaza 'Referring to the possibility of a visit by PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza, Al-Zahhar said: "This is completely out of the question for security reasons. How can Abu Mazen return [to Gaza] in the present security situation? How can we arrange a reception for him?"'
    "Imagine that the Israeli occupation authorities had [prevented 'Abbas from visiting Gaza]. How many curses would the Arabs and Palestinians have hurled against the occupation? Al-Zahhar explained [the decision] by citing security reasons, as though he does not know who protects the Hamas leaders as they move around the Gaza Strip.

    "[The third report refers to] the number of Palestinians killed in clashes between Hamas and Fatah. Since the Hamas 2007 military coup in Gaza... [the two movements] have been waging a war there. According to Palestinian sources, this internal struggle (which has nothing to do with the Israeli occupation) has resulted in 700 dead and 3,500 wounded or maimed, in addition to hundreds who have been imprisoned on both [sides].'

    "Who among the Arabs and Palestinians has shed a tear over these fatalities? Who remembers them today, except their families? But the boy Muhammad Al-Dura - they are still writing ballads and laments about him, just because he was killed by the occupation.

    "Palestinians killed by other Palestinians do not count. Sometimes [the slogan is] 'blood is not [as cheap as] water,' and sometimes blood is cheaper than sewage...(4)

    "Finally, [consider] the following statement by Isma'il Haniya, prime minister of the deposed Palestinian government - that is, a government that is illegitimate in the eyes of the PA in Ramallah but perfectly legitimate in the eyes of Hamas in Gaza. On July 24, 2009, he told the Palestinian people that 'the road to Palestinian reconciliation is still long,' putting the blame for this on the Fatah leadership. The Fatah movement, for its part, put the blame on Hamas. The result on the ground is a long-term split between the West Bank and Gaza - which is manifested, [for example], by Hamas' threat to prevent Fatah representatives from leaving Gaza in order to attend their movement's convention.

    "Not a single Palestinian, Arab or Muslim will protest these acts perpetrated by Palestinians against their own brothers; [nor will any protest] the closing of the Gaza or West Bank to members of the rival organization. But the closing of the Rafah crossing by the Israeli occupation - that was cause for much shouting and condemnation, as well as for calls to kill and annihilate [the enemy].

    "This is the Arab double standard, which treats Arab misdeeds against Arab as a routine matter requiring no great scrutiny - whereas an identical act perpetrated by a foreigner against an Arab is treated as a heinous crime worthy of condemnation and punishment.

    "Remember the common Arab proverb, which is realized in our daily lives: 'My brothers and I against my cousins; my cousins and I against the strangers.'"

    (1) www.elaph.com, July 28, 2009.
    (2) Al-Sherbini was an Egyptian pharmacist living in Germany. On July 1, 2009, she was murdered at the Dresden court by a German man whom she had sued for making racist remarks against her.
    (3) A body of Al-Azhar alumni that does not officially belong to Al-Azhar. (4) Abu Al-Matar also mentioned the genocide in Darfur, pointing out that the Arab and Muslim world largely ignores it and even rejects International Criminal Court decisions regarding it.

    For assistance, please contact MEMRI at memri@memri.org.
    The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East. Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are available on request.

    MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations. Materials may only be used with proper attribution.

    P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837
    Phone: (202) 955-9070
    Fax: (202) 955-9077

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    News & Comments about the Middle East Reactions in the Arab World to Obama's Cairo Speech (MEMRI)
    Geplaatst door abby op Monday 08 June @ 04:03:42 GMT+1 (1698 maal gelezen)

    For illustrated version see: www.memri.org - SD2384

    Special Dispatch | No. 2384 | June 5, 2009
    Reactions in the Arab World to Obama's Cairo Speech

    The day after the June 4, 2009 address to the Muslim world by U.S. President Barack Obama, at Cairo University in Egypt, reactions in the government Saudi, Egyptian and Palestinian press reactions were diverse. In their editorials, some papers called it an historic speech heralding a new world order based on justice and human rights, and called on the Arab world to heed Obama's call for partnership, to improve relations with the U.S., and to advance the Arab peace initiative. Other newspapers discounted the importance of the speech, stating that Obama's policy should be judged by his actions, not his words.

    The following are excerpts from editorials and other articles on Obama's address:(1)

    Al-Madina (Saudi Arabia): The Soul Has Returned to American Values
    In its editorial, the Saudi daily Al-Madina stated: "President Obama's address to the Muslim world. is a reflection of a new U.S. trend toward the establishment of a new world order based on new foundations, relying on international law and seeking justice, peace, and wellbeing for all humanity.

    "This trend is an indication that the soul has returned to American values; it adds significantly to the achievements of [America's] founding fathers, who established these values and prepared the ground so those who came after could entrench and strengthen them. This is precisely what was [accomplished] by Woodrow Wilson. by Roosevelt. and after them, by Barack Hussein Obama, who has brought the U.S. back to its integrity."(2)

    Al-Ahram (Egypt): This Is a Change in the West's Centuries-Old Attitude Towards Islam
    The Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, in its editorial, called Obama's speech "the culmination of the statements [promising] change that began during [Obama's] election campaign, and gained momentum after his victory... [It can be said,] without exaggeration, that Obama's speech will enter the annals of history as one of the most important documents illustrating the desire of the West, headed by the U.S., to [adopt] a new stance towards Islam and the Muslims, after centuries of aggression and hostility."(3)

    Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia): Nothing New in Obama's Speech - We Must Wait for Actions
    The Saudi daily Al-Jazirah stated in an editorial: "Obama [said] nothing new, though he [quoted] more Koranic verses and hadiths [than his predecessors] - reflecting his broad education and his familiarity with Islamic texts. Former president George Bush also praised our religion and Islamic culture, but at the same time was eager to start wars in the Arab and Muslim lands, and he embroiled his country and our region in these wars.

    "Thus, speeches are one thing, and the practical implementation [of what they say] is quite another. The implementation may be impeded by political pressures and shifts in the international [situation] - unless the president is armed with strong belief in the principles he has declared, as well as with strength and determination that will help him to carry out his policy."(4)

    Editor of PA Daily: No Expectation for Change Hafez Al-Barghouti, editor of the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, wrote: "We do not expect the new American president to express hostility towards Israel or to demand that it dismantle settlements... He will remain hostage to the American imperialist interests, which are in tandem with [those of] the Israeli occupation...

    "We [do] hope that he will differ [enough from his predecessors] that he removes the hatred of Muslims and Arabs from American policy... and [we hope] that the Israelis, on both the right and the left, understand that peace is an international necessity and that the settlements, like the occupation, are an anomaly that must disappear..."(5)

    Saudi Columnist: Obama's Speech Won't Change American Policy Columnist 'Ali Sa'd Al-Moussa wrote in the Saudi daily Al-Watan: "Barack Hussein Obama cannot [bear the titles of] 'Honorable Sheikh' or 'Grand Ayatollah. America's strategic policy is declared in Washington, not by speeches of conciliation and friendship in Cairo. It must not be forgotten that when Barack Obama passed through Cairo in his armored car, [the Egyptian authorities] blocked off a third of the city's streets. This alone reflects the extent of the suspicion, fear, and hatred that still prevail between the two cultures, or two civilizations, which cannot be expected to [immediately] become closer the moment a speech ends. [But] Obama did prove that only liberal thinking can bridge this cultural abyss..."(6)

    Al-Ahram Editor: We Must Improve Relations with the U.S. Al-Ahram editor Osama Saraya wrote: "Obama's speech was good not only because of his personality, his influence, or the sentiments that have surrounded him since he arrived at the White House, but also because it contained new terms and ideas, and significant clues as to the expected changes in American policy in the coming years...

    "Obama has brought the U.S. closer to the Muslim world, and now we must draw closer to the U.S. if we are serious and if we want to take advantage of the proposed and expected changes in the U.S.'s positions. The solution to the problems between America and the Muslim world lie at the midpoint between the two sides, and there is no alternative but for each side to move some distance towards these solutions.

    "Iran will undoubtedly find in Obama's speech statements that will anger it. The rejectionist forces will surely find in it statements that arouse their enmity, and Hamas will find its words to be oil poured on the bonfire of rage. This, even though Obama stressed [the importance of] Hamas' participation in the negotiations for resolving the conflicts.

    "But unlike the forces that have chosen to flow at the margins of the Arab and Muslim river, a decided majority of Muslims certainly believe in the justice of Obama's words, and in his sincere desire to end the unnecessary conflicts and to find broad areas where the interests of everyone can meet."(7)

    Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia): Arab Countries Must Intensify Their Support for the Saudi Initiative

    The Saudi daily Al-Watan wrote: "[Obama's] speech went beyond [the narrow] framework of recognizing and apologizing for the actions of previous U.S. administrations; it expanded to discuss openness towards Islam and turning over a new leaf with Muslims - all Muslims.

    "A quick look at the principles included in Obama's speech clearly confirms the exit of American arrogance. and the entrance of a daring spirit that aspires to declare its desire for real cooperation, at the very least.

    "Now that the speech is over, and Obama has left [the region], an important question arises: What is the desired Arab and Islamic reaction to [it]? In the Arab arena, the Arab League should call a meeting on the leader or foreign minister level, to draw up a joint position giving increased support to the Arab peace initiative, based on Israel's current obstinacy. In the Islamic arena, the Organization for the Islamic Conference should call a conference or issue a comprehensive communiquי confirming the Islamic countries' and organizations' support of the interfaith dialogue [initiated by Saudi King 'Abdallah]."(8)

    Al-Hayat (London-Saudi Arabia) Editor: We'll Wait and See If the Arab World Wants Cooperation with the U.S.
    Al-Hayat editor Ghassan Sharbel wrote: "Dealing with George Bush was easier. The day after 9/11, he emulated Osama bin Laden, dividing the world in two. Barack Obama comes from another place... His address - composed with sensitivity, talent, responsibility, and courage - demands to be read in depth.

    "[Obama] wanted to say that the only superpower [in the world] had reexamined the past few years, and that it was unafraid of acknowledging mistakes; that [the U.S.] had decided to reach out a hand instead of a clenched fist; that it sought to encourage its partners, not to dictate to them; and that its partners cannot escape reexamining themselves [as well], based on mutual respect, common values, and interests so that there is a possibility of establishing a partnership in the future...

    "In [Obama's] speech there appeared sincere and clear messages of reassurance, as well as [messages] that included [the following] challenges: There is no room for terrorism, whatever the excuse; a Palestinian state is inevitable, but its establishment, according to Obama, requires recognition of the 'other state's' right to exist; [establishing the] Palestinian state is a Palestinian, Israeli, and American interest, and there must be no further expansion of settlements; Iran has the right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but there must be no nuclear bomb. [Likewise,] respect for all faiths, for minorities, for women's rights, and for freedom of expression are demanded from both [the Arab and Muslim world and the West].

    "The great respect that Obama showed to the Muslim world poses a test for it - it must provide the conditions [necessary] for partnership [with the U.S.]... We must wait and see whether Obama can [act] in [partnership] after expressing his desire to do so, and whether the Muslim world wants to join, and is capable of joining, the partnership of interests, dialogue, and agreements..."(9)

    Al-Hayat Columnist: Partnership With the U.S. - An Arab Interest **Columnist for Al-Hayat Raghidah Dergham wrote: "The Arabs and their leaders must remember that the peace endeavor is in the interest of the Middle East's younger generation. It is they who must transform the victory [achieved] in the battle for peace into an Arab victory - considering that for 42 years, Israel has rejected peace and maintained a siege mentality, since its 1967 occupation of the Arab territories, while many generations of Arabs were taught to call [this war] a defeat...

    "It is in the Arab and Muslim interest to consider forging partnerships with the U.S. and with President Obama, instead of wallowing in the culture of 'accusations of treason' and always blaming others. Arabs and Muslims are not always victims, although [at times] they, too, are victims of extremism and terrorist activities carried out by Arabs and Muslims, not against the U.S. and the West but against Muslims - as is now happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    "If only Obama's initiative vis-a-vis the Muslims and the Arab countries would be an incentive to innovative thought and the formulation of a strategy. that would shift [our] self-esteem from a place of Nakba and defeat to a place of self-confidence and ability to [create] impact and change.(10)

    Cartoons on Obama's Speech in the Arab Press see
    www.memri.org: SD2384

    (1) Syrian and Iraqi dailies do not appear on Friday.
    (2) Al-Madina (Saudi Arabia), June 5, 2009.
    (3) Al-Ahram (Egypt), June 5, 2009.
    (4) Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), June 5, 2009.
    (5) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), June 5, 2009.
    (6) Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), June 5, 2009.
    (7) Al-Ahram (Egypt), June 5, 2009.
    (8) Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), June 5, 2009.
    (9) Al-Hayat (London), June 5, 2009.
    (10) Al-Hayat (London), June 5, 2009.
    For assistance, please contact MEMRI at memri@memri.org.
    The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East. Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are available on request.

    MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations. Materials may only be used with proper attribution.

    P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837
    Phone: (202) 955-9070
    Fax: (202) 955-9077


    Zie ook: Toespraak president Obama in Cairo over Midden-Oosten conflict

    Meer lezen... | Score: 0

    News & Comments about the Middle East Christians in Mideast Losing Numbers and Sway (NY Times)
    Geplaatst door abby op Saturday 16 May @ 21:01:56 GMT+1 (1506 maal gelezen)

    May 13, 2009
    Christians in Mideast Losing Numbers and Sway

    News & Comments about the Middle East Iran and Syria as state sponsors of terrorism (IICC)
    Geplaatst door abby op Saturday 16 May @ 20:40:32 GMT+1 (2441 maal gelezen)

    Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC)
    May 5, 2009

    1. Iran and Syria, two countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism by the US Department of State, have consistently pursued a long-term strategy of encouraging and inciting violence and terrorism against Israel ("resistance") by relying on Palestinian terrorist organizations (mostly Hamas) and the Lebanese Hezbollah. The purpose of that strategy is to strengthen the radical Iranian-Syrian axis in the Middle East, to weaken Israel by hitting its economy and social structure, to reinforce the radical Islamic forces in Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Iraq, and other sites in the Middle East and worldwide, and to undermine the prospects of a US-sponsored Middle East peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

    2. Iran and Syria tend to play down or even deny the military-operative nature of the assistance they provide to what the US Department of State has designated as terrorist organizations, portraying it as political, informational, or even humanitarian assistance. However, reliable intelligence information collected by Israel , the US , and other countries conclusively proves that those claims are false. The annual report on terrorism issued by the US Department of State, based on considerable information held by the US , conclusively proves that in 2008 there was no real change in the extent and nature of Iranian and Syrian support of terrorist organizations. For their part, the Iranians deny the findings of the report, claiming that it is the US which pursues a strategy of violence and terrorism, and that Iran itself is a "victim of terrorism".

    3. The US Department of State's annual report on terrorism, published in April 2009, dedicates a separate chapter to state sponsors of terrorism. Iran and Syria, two major state sponsors of terrorism, feature prominently in Chapter 3, which deals with the two countries. The report indicates that Iran remained the most significant state sponsor of terrorism and that it has long employed terrorism to advance its key national security and foreign policy interests. The report further notes that Iran continues to rely primarily on its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps- Qods Force to clandestinely cultivate and support terrorist and Islamic militant groups abroad, including: Lebanese Hezbollah, Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, certain Iraqi Shi'a militant groups, and Islamic militants in Afghanistan, the Balkans, and elsewhere (pp. 10, 182-183). Also according to the report, Hamas and Hezbollah continued to finance their terrorist activities mostly through state sponsors of terrorism Iran and Syria (p. 120).


    4. As indicated in the beginning of the chapter about Iran (pp. 182-183), " Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism". Iran's involvement in the planning and financial support of terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia had a direct impact on international efforts to promote peace, threatened economic stability in the Gulf, and undermined the growth of democracy.

    5. The report asserts that Iran remained a principal supporter of groups that are implacably opposed to the Middle East Peace Process . Iran provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC). Iran's provision of training, weapons, and money to Hamas since the 2006 Palestinian elections has bolstered Hamas's ability to strike Israel. According to the report, in 2008, Iran provided more than $200 million in funding to Lebanese Hezbollah and trained over 3,000 Hezbollah fighters at camps in Iran (p. 183). Since the end of the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, Iran has assisted Hezbollah in rearming, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. 1

    6. The report indicates that Iran 's Qods Force,2 the elite unit of the Revolutionary Guards, is the Iranian regime's main instrument of supporting terrorism outside of Iran . According to the report, the Qods Force provides assistance in arms, training, and funding to Hamas, other Palestinian terrorist organizations, Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraqi militants, and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan .

    7. Iranian authorities continued to provide lethal support, including weapons, training, funding, and guidance, to Iraqi militant groups that targeted Coalition and Iraqi forces and killed innocent Iraqi civilians. Iran's Qods Force continued to provide Iraqi militants with Iranian-produced advanced rockets, sniper rifles, automatic weapons, and mortars. In addition, Tehran was responsible for some of the lethality of anti-Coalition attacks by providing militants with the capability to assemble improvised explosive devices (IEDs) with explosively formed projectiles (EFPs) that were specially designed to defeat armored vehicles. 3 According to the report, The Qods Force, in concert with Lebanese Hezbollah, provided training both inside and outside of Iraq for Iraqi militants in the construction and use of sophisticated IED technology and other advanced weaponry. 4

    8. As for Al-Qaeda, the report indicates that Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior Al-Qaeda members it has detained, and has refused to publicly identify those senior members in its custody. Iran also continued to fail to control the activities of some Al-Qaeda members who fled to Iran following the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan (p. 183). 5

    9. In some places, the report mentions the growing ties between Iran and Latin American countries (which, we believe, may potentially increase Iran 's terrorist activity in Latin America ). The report also mentions that the US is concerned about the activity of Hezbollah and Hamas supporters in the tri-border area between Argentina , Brazil , and Paraguay . Regarding Iran 's terrorist activity in South America , the report mentions the following:

    a. Shipment of chemicals to Venezuela seized in Turkey : In November 2008, Turkish customs officials at the Port of Mersin seized a suspicious Iranian shipment bound for Venezuela which contained 22 shipping containers of barrels of nitrate and sulfite chemicals, commonly used for bombs, along with dismantled laboratory equipment. Customs officials detected the equipment during a search of 22 containers manifested as "tractor parts." They were being transshipped to Port of Mersin by trucks from Iran . In December, customs officials asked Turkish Atomic Energy Authority and military experts to examine the seized material. At year's end, disposition of the shipment remained undecided (p. 105).

    b. The report also indicates that Iran and Venezuela continued weekly flights connecting Tehran and Damascus with Caracas (p. 180). Passengers on these flights were reportedly subject to only cursory immigration and customs controls in Caracas . Venezuelan citizenship, identity, and travel documents remained easy to obtain, making Venezuela a potentially attractive way station for terrorists. 6


    10. The chapter on Syria (pp. 184-186) starts by saying that Syria was first designated in 1979 as a state sponsor of terrorism (meaning it is now thirty years since it was designated as a state sponsor of terrorism by the US Department of State). Syria has not been directly implicated in an act of terrorism since 1986, although it did continue to defend what it considered to be legitimate armed resistance by Palestinians and Hezbollah against Israeli occupation of Arab territory, and by the Iraqi opposition against the "occupation of Iraq ." The report also mentions (p. 185) Syria 's involvement in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, which is still being investigated by the UN. Syria assisted terrorist organizations by providing them with military, financial, political, and informational support, as detailed in the report.

    11. The report asserts that Syria provided political and material support to Hezbollah and allowed Iran to use Syrian territory as a transit point for assistance to Hezbollah. Hamas, Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), among others, based their external leadership within Syria 's borders. The Syrian government insisted these groups were confined to political and informational activities (a false claim often made by the Syrians), but groups with leaders in Syria have claimed responsibility for deadly anti-Israeli terrorist attacks. As for Hezbollah, the report further adds that, highlighting Syria 's ties to the world's most notorious terrorists, Hezbollah Operations Chief Imad Mughniyah, perished in a February 12 car bombing near Syrian Military Intelligence (SMI) headquarters in the Damascus neighborhood of Kafr Sousa. The report mentions that Mughniyah was wanted in connection with the 1983 bombings of the Marine barracks and the U.S. Embassy in Beirut , which killed over 350. The Syrian government acknowledged that one of the world's most wanted terrorists had been present and died on Syrian soil.

    12. The report asserts that President Bashar al-Asad continued to express public support for Palestinian terrorist groups. For example, Hamas Politburo head and de facto leader Khaled Mash'al and his deputies continued to reside in Syria . Syria provided a safe haven for Mash'al and security escorts for his motorcades. Mash'al's use of the Syrian Ministry of Information as the venue for press conferences this year could be taken as an endorsement of Hamas's message. Media reports indicated Hamas used Syrian soil to train its militant fighters, even though Syrian authorities claimed they attempted to prevent such activities. 7 The Syrian government allowed Palestinian conferences organized by Hamas, PIJ, and other terrorist organizations to take place in Syria .

    13. The report states that throughout 2008, Syria continued to strengthen ties with fellow state sponsor of terrorism, Iran . Syria 's Minister of Defense visited Tehran in May and initiated a Memorandum of Understanding on defense cooperation. Syria also allowed leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian groups to visit Tehran (p. 185). The report further notes that Asad continued to be a staunch defender of Iran 's policies, including Iran 's "civil" nuclear ambitions.
    Reactions to the report


    14. The US Department of State's report on terrorism was severely criticized by Iranian spokesmen, who wondered that the new administration, which had talked about change, did not change its view of Iran and was continuing to make false accusations against it. Initial reactions follow:

    a. Iran 's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, staying in Cuba for the Non-Aligned Movement conference, said that the United States ' accusations and the American "despicable" attitude were groundless. He further added that the US had no authority to accuse other countries of supporting terrorism while it followed a racist approach and continued its occupation, and that its doings in Guantanamo Prison were not to be forgotten (IRNA, May 1, 2009).

    b. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hassan Qashqavi noted that Iran was itself a victim of terrorism and was always suffering from terrorism at the hands of the Mojahedin-e Khalq. 8 He said that 16,000 Iranians had been killed by that organization. He also added that Iran had always spearheaded the struggle against terrorism, unlike the US , which supported "the Zionist regime which is a symbol of government terrorism" (Fars News Agency, May 4, 2009).


    15. In response to the US Department of State's report, Hezbollah issued an announcement saying that it was not at all surprised by the findings of the report and by its "old-new" allegations, which Hezbollah considers "a badge of honor". The announcement says that the Americans do not address the term of "resistance" or anything that has to do with that term (used by Hezbollah and terrorist organizations, that term legitimizes violence and terrorism). It further states that the US , which does nothing but "occupation and aggression", arrogantly brands peoples and governments "terrorists". The announcement argues that when the US administration speaks negatively about Hezbollah, it actually praises it, because "Hezbollah's value is not in its impressive technology but rather in its willingness and commitment to matters of justice, in the spirit of deep responsibility to fight the inequity and the aggression of the occupation" (Hezbollah's organ Al-Intiqad, May 1).

    16. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah portrayed the report as part of a global US-led attack against Hezbollah, referring also to the semi-annual report issued by the UN Secretary-General. 9 According to Nasrallah, the purpose of the report is to portray Hezbollah as an organization involved in terrorism, drug trafficking, murder, forgery, and so forth. Nasrallah claims that such allegations are baseless, because Hezbollah represents "noble, real, pure and pristine resistance, which has perseverance, which fights the holy war [jihad], which is honest and loyal". He further notes that the problem with all the report writers is the respect and prestige commanded by Hezbollah, and the fact that the organization refuses to recognize Israel and the US regional hegemony. Nasrallah brought up the claim that if Hezbollah limited its activities to Lebanese internal affairs, even if those activities were violent, its name would be crossed off the list of terrorist organizations. According to Nasrallah, it is designated by the US as a terrorist organization because its goal is confronting Israel (Al-Manar, May 1).


    17. The Syrian official media has yet to respond to the findings of the annual report issued by the US Department of State. An unofficial Syrian website published a response on behalf of an organization calling itself Syria 's Independent Committee, which proclaims itself a representative of all sectors of Syrian society. The website countered the US report with a report of its own, portraying the US as a state sponsor of terrorism. The reason for that, the report says, is that the US formerly supported Bin Laden and established the Al-Qaeda organization in Afghanistan, it supports "the Israeli terrorism", it occupied Iraq and committed a genocide there (all4syria, May 2).

    1 Assisted by Iran and Syria , Hezbollah does not uphold Security Council Resolution 1701 and continues building up its military infrastructure in southern Lebanon . See our August 12, 2007 Information Bulletin: "One year since the acceptance of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the second Lebanon war: An interim report" .
    2 See our April 2, 2007 Information Bulletin: "Using the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards as the main tool to export the revolution beyond the borders of Iran " .
    3 One of the latest roadside IEDs developed using Iranian technological know-how is Shawaz 4, a shaped IED found in the possession of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Using high-energy explosives, those IEDs can reportedly penetrate over 200 mm of steel.
    4 Iranian technological know-how on producing lethal IEDs (such as Shawaz) was also provided to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. See our January 12, 2009 Information Bulletin: "Iranian Support of Hamas" .
    5 For more on Iran 's former "dual role" regarding Al-Qaeda, see our April 2003 Information Bulletin: "Iran as a State Sponsoring and Operating Terror" .
    6 On the activity of Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards in Venezuela , see our April 19, 2009 Information Bulletin: "Iran increases its political and economic presence in Latin America, defying the United States and attempting to undermine American hegemony. It also foments radical Shi'ite Islamization and exports Iran's revolutionary ideology, using Hezbollah to establish intelligence, terrorism and crime networks, liable to be exploited against the United States and Israel" .
    7 As at April 2008, 600 Hamas operatives trained in Syria . See our April 8, 2008 Information Bulletin: "Hamas's military buildup in the Gaza Strip" .
    8 Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) is a left-wing terrorist organization which operates in Iran since the 1960s. Since the 1980s, after Khomeini's revolution, the organization operates outside of Iran , mainly against the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is designated as a terrorist organization by many countries, including the US . It is also designated as a terrorist organization in the latest report on terrorism for 2008 (p. 283).
    9 For more information on the UN Secretary-General's report about the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559 and Hezbollah's response, see our April 28, 2009 Information Bulletin : "Exposure of a Hezbollah network in Egypt: state of affairs, implications, and reactions in Egypt and in the Arab and Muslim world".

    Meer lezen... | Score: 5

    News & Comments about the Middle East What's wrong with Arab education? (Daily Star)
    Geplaatst door abby op Wednesday 06 May @ 21:38:57 GMT+1 (1396 maal gelezen)


    This insightful article tells a bit about why Arab countries fail to progress despite fabulous oil revenues. It has nothing to do with
    Israel or Zionism, the usually named culprits. It has to do with education. The question is whether it is just an accident that Arab education is so poor, or whether we have to look deeper for the hidden causes. Why is education so poor despite the large investment? Is poor education the cause of child marriages, as the authors claim? How much education do you need in order to recognize that an 8 year old girl is not ready for marriage? (A.I.)

    By Raja Kamal and Tom G. Palmer
    Commentary by
    Monday, April 27, 2009

    Recently, a Saudi judge shocked many Saudis and global public opinion by upholding a marriage between an 8-year-old girl and a 47-year-old man. That ruling brought to public awareness an appalling practice that has for too long been hidden from view and shielded from open discussion and criticism.

    The case was not unique. Another highly publicized recent case in Yemen featured a 10-year-old girl who sought a divorce after being forced by her parents to marry a 30-year-old man, who took advantage of his power in order to rape and abuse her. It is disgraceful that such blatantly coerced "marriages" are allowed to take place at all. Yet, those familiar with educational systems in the Arab world are not surprised.

    Shameful traditional systems of education that suppress critical thinking make it possible for such backward practices to continue, shielded beyond a local, narrow, and unexamined view of religion. Rulings like that in Saudi Arabia are the outcomes of that failing educational system. Some Arab societies have failed miserably to produce well prepared generations capable of catching up with most corners of the world. The Saudi religious curriculum, which couples rote memorization of texts with uncritical acceptance of tribal practices, keeps the country backward. It does not prepare students to cope with modernity, nor to be productive participants in an increasingly global economy.

    Despite the flood of billions and billions in oil money to public education, Saudi students consistently score among the worst in math and science. The greatest culprit is the suppression of critical thinking, coupled with limited and weak exposure to math and science. An impressive investment in the infrastructure of higher education has not yielded positive returns. It is as if the state had purchased the most advanced computer hardware, but neglected to secure any software to run it.

    Most Arab educational systems fail to prepare graduates for productive lives. Each year thousands of students graduate from universities with degrees in Sharia (Islamic law) or Arabic literature. The vast majority of them will be unemployed, underemployed, or employed in the bloated government sector, which will further contribute to already bloated and inefficient government. Thinking for oneself - a precondition of both entrepreneurship and of democratic participation - is suppressed. It's little wonder that judges condemn innocent young girls to such fates.
    Saudi Arabia and other Arab states should look at the policies of the United States and India that transformed education and made it a major force in achieving economic growth.

    Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz of Harvard University have shown that economic returns on investments in education are enormous; college graduates in market-driven educational systems earn substantial returns on the investments of money and time involved. The willingness of Americans to invest in human capital, not merely for the elites but also for the masses, fueled American prosperity. The key, however, was not merely the quantity of investment, but the critical thinking it made possible. In contrast, Saudi Arabia lavishes money on free public education, with the goal of perpetuating a religious orthodoxy that is, in any case, taught by ill-prepared teachers. A better term for the rote memorization involved is not education, but indoctrination.

    India's investment in education has lifted hundreds of millions from abject poverty through impressive real economic growth. The late prime minister, Indira Gandhi, once said, "education is a liberating force, and in our age it is also a democratizing force, cutting across the barriers of caste and class, smoothing out inequalities imposed by birth and other circumstances." That liberating force has not been merely state-funded, as James Tooley of Newcastle University has demonstrated in his field research and his recent book "A Beautiful Tree." The poor invest heavily from their meager resources to secure education for their children. One result of such skill- and critical-thought oriented education has been the growth of high-tech industries in India, a prospect undreamed of only a few years ago.

    The task facing many Arab countries is acknowledging the priority of education over mere schooling. The answer isn't just spending more money. Alchemy didn't fail because of a lack of investments in alchemy academies. A curriculum centered on memorization of dogma should be reformed to allow critical thought, a key ingredient in escaping backwardness. That's as true of judicial backwardness, as it is of economic backwardness. Thorough-going educational reform - involving not merely money, but orientation to the market and critical thinking - can produce judicious judges. Memorization will merely perpetuate backwardness.


    Raja Kamal is senior associate dean at the Harris School for Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago. Tom G. Palmer is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and vice president for international programs at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. This commentary was written for THE DAILY STAR.

    Meer lezen... | Score: 0

    News & Comments about the Middle East Iran increases political and economic presence in Latin America (Terrorism Info)
    Geplaatst door abby op Monday 27 April @ 20:09:30 GMT+1 (1988 maal gelezen)

    Iran increases its political and economic presence in Latin America
    Iran increases its political and economic presence in Latin America, defying the United States and attempting to undermine American hegemony. It also foments radical Shi'ite Islamization and exports Iran's revolutionary ideology, using Hezbollah to establish intelligence, terrorism and crime networks, liable to be exploited against the United States and Israel. 


    1. Since Ahmadinejad was elected president of Iran in August 2005, there has been a marked improvement in the country's relations with Latin America , especially Venezuela and Bolivia . The common denominators are their anti-American ideology and the desire to provide a satisfactory revolutionary alternative to what they consider American imperialism. Iran exploits its relations with Latin America to establish a foothold (using, among other means, Hezbollah) and to establish a political, economic, religious and terrorist-intelligence presence in the region.

    2. The springboard for Iranian influence, and the figure marketing Iran to other Latin American countries, is Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez , a leader in anti-American defiance. Chavez has met with Ahmadinejad a number of times in both Tehran and Caracas , and in effect opened Venezuela – and later Bolivia , Nicaragua and Ecuador – to the Iranians. Latin American leaders who were almost unknown in Tehran until Ahmadinejad was elected have become familiar faces, and their relations with Iran are blooming.

    3. Iran 's increased activity in Latin America is part of its overall strategy , and its goals go far beyond the desire to achieve hegemony in the Middle East . Iran , which regards itself as besieged by the United States and stubbornly conducts a nuclear crisis with the West, seeks to pose a revolutionary challenge to America in its own back yard, as well as in various areas of Asia and Africa . To that end Tehran exploits its relative advantages of anti-American ideology and rhetoric. The Iranians use as political leverage petrodollars and Muslim populations, some of them Shi'ite-Lebanese, living in key Latin America countries and potentially able to advance Iranian interests.

    4. Those interests, which lie behind Iran 's desire to strengthen relations with Latin America , are:

    i) To improve Iran 's strategic position vis-à-vis the United States by posing a potential threat and creating a kind of balance of power which will challenge America by collaborating with revolutionary countries in Latin America and establishing a significant presence on their soil. Iranian assets in Latin America may be used practically in the dialogue the Obama administration is trying to advance with Iran to settle the nuclear crisis.

    ii) Economically , to erode the sanctions imposed on Iran through new markets. That can be done by coordinating prices with the major oil exporting countries ( Iran and Venezuela are respectively the fourth and fifth largest exporters of oil in the world). That also can be done by cooperation in refining crude oil should the sanctions against Iran be ramped up, since Iran has difficulties in refining its own oil and is completely dependent on imported distillates.

    iii) To damage Israel 's relations with Latin American countries , for example the severing of Israel 's diplomatic relations with both Venezuela and Bolivia during Operation Cast Lead. In addition, such a situation creates an internal political climate which encourages attacks on Jewish communities in Latin America , as witnessed by the vandalizing of the largest synagogue in Caracas , the capital of Venezuela.

    iv) To create intelligence and terrorism networks which will provide Iran with operational options to respond to events or initiate terrorist attacks against Israel and the United States, under the right circumstances when the order is given.1 Iran uses its proxy Hezbollah , whose activities and presence are widespread and increasing in Latin America , including in ordinary crime such a drug dealing.

    v) To spread Iranian, Khomeini-inspired Shi'ite Islam to the non-Muslim communities in Latin America, and at the same time to disseminate the ideology of the Iranian Islamic revolution and Iranian political influence in Muslim communities, especially Shi'ite-Lebanese (part of Iranian activities around the world).

    5. As it does in the Middle East , in Latin America Iran uses terrorism and subversion to advance its aims. And as in the Middle East and elsewhere, the main Iranian operational arm is the Revolutionary Guards . The Revolutionary Guards assist Hezbollah, whose activities in Latin America began before Ahmadinejad , and serve as its proxy for constructing terrorist networks. Hezbollah raises the funds necessary for maintaining the terrorist networks in Lebanon and Latin America and connections with local criminal cartels, such as those in the Gran Chaco triangle bordered by Brazil , Argentina and Paraguay , Venezuela 's Margarita Island and among the drug cartels of Colombia and Mexico . During the 1990s Hezbollah and Iran 's terrorist networks in Argentina were used to carry out two mass-casualty terrorist attacks in Buenos Aires (the bombing of the Israeli embassy in 1992 and of the AMIA building in 1994) in retaliation for the blows suffered by Hezbollah in Lebanon .

    6. The United States is well aware of the threats and challenges posed by Iran 's activities in Latin America . That was recently made evident by a series of statements from senior American figures working in the military, the intelligence community and the State Department about the dangers of Iranian activity. For example, in January 2009 Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense , told the Senate that he was "more concerned about Iranian meddling in the region than [about] the Russians [meddling in the same region]." Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence , told the Senate Armed Forces Committee in March 2009 that Chavez's growing ties with Iran and the corruption prevalent in Venezuela were creating a convenient environment which Hezbollah could exploit for its own uses. James Stavridis, Commander of the US Southern Command , told the Senate Armed Forces Committee in March 2009 that there had been an increase in the level of Iranian activity, including the opening of six new embassies in Latin America during the past five years and extensive activities concerning religious conversion [i.e., conversion to Shi'ite Islam] in the region. He said that it "is a concern principally because of the connections between the government of Iran , which is a state sponsor of terrorism, and Hezbollah..."

    7. As far as Israel is concerned, Iran 's activity in Latin America is a wasps' nest of short-term and potential long-term threats . Politically , Iran 's activity is liable to sabotage Israel 's relations with Latin American countries, as has already occurred with Venezuela and Bolivia . It also encourages physical manifestations of anti-Semitism targeting local Jewish communities, as occurred in Caracas , Venezuela . With regard to terrorism , Iran exploits its growing ties with Latin American countries to construct local terrorist networks , using the Revolutionary Guards and its own intelligence services, with Hezbollah as its proxy. In our assessment, the networks are already in place and some of them are operative. Twice during the 1990s they carried out suicide bombing attacks in Argentina and are liable to be used in the future for retaliatory attacks within the more limited Israeli-Lebanese-Palestinian context or even against Israel as part of Iran's overall confrontation with the United States and Israel, for example in the scenario of escalating the nuclear crisis.

    8. The objective of this study is to examine the various aspects of Iranian policy in Venezuela and in Latin America in general. The study illustrates the dangers and challenges inherent in the situation for Israel , and even more so for the United States and the West. It is divided as follows:

    i) Iranian activity in Latin America, America 's back yard.

    ii) The presidents of Iran and Venezuela : a new revolutionary vision.

    iii) Petrodollars and economic cooperation as levers of political influence.

    iv) Harnessing Latin American policy to Iran 's Middle Eastern agenda.

    v) The Tehran-Caracas-La Paz axis.

    vi) Ecuador as a target for Iranian activity.

    vii) Seminars in Iran on Latin America .

    viii) Latin America as a target for the spread of Shi'ite Islam and the export of the Iranian Islamic revolution's ideology.

    ix) The Wayuu tribe and Hezbollah Venezuela as a case study.

    x) Using electronic media for propaganda in Latin America .

    xi) Crime and terrorism in the service of Hezbollah and Iran in Latin America .

    xii) Rising worries in the United States .

    The study in Hebrew:  The Hebrew version

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    News & Comments about the Middle East What Iran Really Thinks About Talks With the USA (Michael Rubin)
    Geplaatst door abby op Sunday 19 April @ 19:24:15 GMT+1 (1508 maal gelezen)

    It's a game of diplomacy without sincerity.

    On Apr. 9, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's atomic energy agency, announced that the Islamic Republic had installed 7,000 centrifuges in its Natanz uranium enrichment facility. The announcement came one day after the U.S. State Department announced it would engage Iran directly in multilateral nuclear talks.

    Proponents of engagement with Tehran say dialogue provides the only way forward. Iran's progress over the past eight years, they say, is a testament to the failure of Bush administration strategy. President Barack Obama, for example, in his Mar. 21 address to the Iranian government and people, declared that diplomacy "will not be advanced by threats. We seek engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect."

    Thus our president fulfills a pattern in which new administrations place blame for the failure of diplomacy on predecessors rather than on adversaries. The Islamic Republic is not a passive actor, however. Quite the opposite: While President Obama plays checkers, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei plays chess. The enrichment milestone is a testament both to Tehran's pro-active strategy and to Washington's refusal to recognize it.

    Iran's nuclear program dates back to 1989, when the Russian government agreed to complete the reactor at Bushehr. It was a year of optimism in the West: The Iran-Iraq War ended the summer before and, with the death of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini, leadership passed to Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, both considered moderates.

    At the beginning of the year, George H.W. Bush offered an olive branch to Tehran, declaring in his inaugural address, "Good will begets good will. Good faith can be a spiral that endlessly moves on." The mood grew more euphoric in Europe. In 1992, the German government, ever eager for new business opportunities and arguing that trade could moderate the Islamic Republic, launched its own engagement initiative.

    It didn't work. While U.S. and European policy makers draw distinctions between reformers and hard-liners in the Islamic Republic, the difference between the two is style, not substance. Both remain committed to Iran's nuclear program. Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, for example, called for a Dialogue of Civilizations. The European Union (EU) took the bait and, between 2000 and 2005, nearly tripled trade with Iran.

    It was a ruse. Iranian officials were as insincere as European diplomats were greedy, gullible or both. Iranian officials now acknowledge that Tehran invested the benefits reaped into its nuclear program.

    On June 14, 2008, for example, Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, Mr. Khatami's spokesman, debated advisers to current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the University of Gila in northern Iran. Mr. Ramezanzadeh criticized Mr. Ahmadinejad for his defiant rhetoric, and counseled him to accept the Khatami approach: "We should prove to the entire world that we want power plants for electricity. Afterwards, we can proceed with other activities," Mr. Ramezanzadeh said. The purpose of dialogue, he argued further, was not to compromise, but to build confidence and avoid sanctions. "We had an overt policy, which was one of negotiation and confidence building, and a covert policy, which was continuation of the activities," he said.

    The strategy was successful. While today U.S. and European officials laud Mr. Khatami as a peacemaker, it was on his watch that Iran built and operated covertly its Natanz nuclear enrichment plant and, at least until 2003, a nuclear weapons program as well.

    Iran's responsiveness to diplomacy is a mirage. After two years of talks following exposure of its Natanz facility, Tehran finally acquiesced to a temporary enrichment suspension, a move which Secretary of State Colin Powell called "a little bit of progress," and the EU hailed.

    But, just last Sunday, Hassan Rowhani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator at the time, acknowledged his government's insincerity. The Iranian leadership agreed to suspension, he explained in an interview with the government-run news Web site, Aftab News, "to counter global consensus against Iran," adding, "We did not accept suspension in construction of centrifuges and continued the effort. . . . We needed a greater number." What diplomats considered progress, Iranian engineers understood to be an opportunity to expand their program.

    In his March 24 press conference, Mr. Obama said, "I'm a big believer in persistence." Making the same mistake repeatedly, however, is neither wise nor realism; it is arrogant, naïve and dangerous.

    When Mr. Obama declared on April 5 that "All countries can access peaceful nuclear energy," the state-run daily newspaper Resalat responded with a front page headline, "The United States capitulates to the nuclear goals of Iran." With Washington embracing dialogue without accountability and Tehran embracing diplomacy without sincerity, it appears the Iranian government is right.

    Mr. Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

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    News & Comments about the Middle East Durban II: A theater of the absurd (Gerald Steinberg)
    Geplaatst door abby op Sunday 19 April @ 19:03:10 GMT+1 (1596 maal gelezen)

    Analysis: A theater of the absurd
    Apr. 17, 2009
    Gerald M. Steinberg , THE JERUSALEM POST

    Two large tents have been set up inside the United Nations compound in Geneva to handle the large crowds expected to line up for passes for the Durban Review Conference, opening on Monday. In addition to diplomats, there will be hundreds of officials from non-governmental organizations that claim to promote human rights, and a large media presence - certainly much larger than most events here usually warrant.

    Apart from the tents, very little else at the event - which is taking place in the grand buildings constructed for the failed League of Nations between the two world wars - is ready.

    The original UN World Conference Against Racism, held in Durban, South Africa in 2001, was prepared in Teheran under the radar of the governments of the United States and Israel, and when it suddenly turned into a virulent propaganda event, there was little that could be done.

    The declaration of the government session was toned down, but still singled out Israel and all but ignored the real issues of racial discrimination around the world. In parallel, the NGO Forum did the heavy lifting of demonizing Israel, using terms like "apartheid" and "war crimes," and adopting a strategy of boycotts and isolation.

    In contrast, for this Review Conference, every move has been examined under the spotlight of public debate, and the efforts led by Iran and Libya to repeat and expand on their successes in 2001 were quickly exposed. Instead of waiting for the last minute, first Canada, and then Israel, the United States and Italy announced that they would not participate in a similar betrayal of the moral foundations of human rights. Other European officials have made similar-sounding statements, while waiting to see if the text and surrounding events could be made palatable.

    This threw the entire planning process into a state of chaos: With three days to go before the opening, the UN still does not know who is attending and who will be staying away. The vague statements and rumors change hourly - sometimes it is Germany that is reportedly out, other times Holland, Britain or the Czech Republic, or perhaps all 27 members of the European Union (this one seems unlikely).

    And, in part as a result, there is no agreed draft text to be discussed, or perhaps more correctly, there are several versions. It seems that every day, a UN official announces that the final - really final this time - consensus text is about to be unveiled, resolving all of the disputes, and reestablishing the legitimacy of this event.

    On Wednesday, UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay made a plea for help in preventing the disintegration of this conference, arguing that "lives are at stake. The future and hope of countless victims of racism lie in your hands."

    Indeed, there are real victims of discrimination, even in the heart of Europe, but the anti-Israel obsession, to which even "respected" NGOs like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch contribute, has all but erased these moral issues. Pillay's plea also came far too late. She, like her predecessor Mary Robinson in 2001, was guilty of silence as the racists - led by Libya and Iran - were allowed to dominate the anti-racism agenda.

    And then, to top off the absurdity, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that he would be attending. Ahmadinejad is the personification of everything the anti-racism conference was designed to address - he is a Holocaust denier who has called for genocide against Israel. Under his regime, Iran has become one of the major violators of human rights, oppressing women, minorities, religious groups like the Bahais and the small Jewish community, which live in constant fear of sudden arrests for "espionage."

    When the news of the Iranian leader's decision reached the UN officials in Geneva, you could see and hear the combination of laughter and embarrassment. They recognized that there was no greater symbol of the hypocrisy represented by the Durban process - not even the radical NGOs which are planning to carry placards declaring "Zionism is racism" and similar slogans through the streets of Geneva, in a pale imitation of their moment of glory in Durban.

    What is left of the Durban Review Conference is a circus, symbolized by the white tents. Whatever happens now is unlikely to change the overall conclusion that the Durban process which began in 2001 - based on demonizing Israel through the abuse of moral-sounding rhetoric - has now been exposed, ridiculed and perhaps defeated. If this is indeed the result, it will be a long time before the United Nations agrees to another such circus.

    Prof Gerald M. Steinberg is Executive Director of NGO Monitor and heads the Political Studies Department at Bar Ilan University.

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