Livni blasts Iran at United Nations General Assembly

Livni blasts Iran at United Nations General Assembly

The world’s “moment of truth” regarding Iran has arrived, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday night, adding that the international community knows well the “lessons of the past” and the “consequences of appeasement and indifference.”

Iran doesn’t deserve a seat in the United Nations or among the family of nations, she said, telling the world leaders gathered in New York that there was “no greater challenge” today to the values of the democratic world “than that posed by the leaders of Iran.”

“They deny and mock the Holocaust,” she said. “They speak proudly and openly of their desire to wipe Israel off the map.”

Chiding the UN, which has been dragging its feet for months on whether to clamp sanctions on Teheran for not stopping its uranium enrichment, Livni asked, “What more needs to happen for the world to take this threat seriously? What more needs to happen to end the hesitation and the excuses?”

“The international community is faced with no greater responsibility than to stand against this dark and growing danger – not for Israel’s sake, but for its own; for the sake of the values it claims to embrace; for the sake of the world we all wish our children to inherit,” she said.

Livni’s blunt, harsh words against Iran were not universally applauded in Jerusalem, with one diplomatic official saying that Israel was making a mistake in becoming the spokesman for the anti-Iranian coalition.

“The Saudis are as afraid of Iranian getting the bomb as we are,” the Israeli official said. “But when we stand there and shout from the rooftops, they don’t have to – we are essentially doing their dirty work.”

The official said Israel should discreetly provide the international community with the relevant intelligence information regarding Iran, but should not take the lead in attacking Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his regime.

According to assessments in Israel, in addition to the Saudis, the Egyptians, Jordanians and Gulf States are extremely concerned about Iran’s nuclear march, and would like to see it stopped.

“When Israel stands up and shouts against Iran, they can all remain quiet,” the official said, saying that these countries might have taken a more public stand against Iranian nuclear weapons were the issue not perceived to such a large extent as an Iranian-Israeli one.

Livni told the world body that the “recent conflict in Lebanon should put to rest any lingering doubts about Iranian motives.” She said Hizbullah must never again be allowed to threaten the future of the region, adding that the world faces a critical test “to ensure the full implementation of [UN] Resolution 1701, and the immediate and safe release of the Israeli hostages.”

Regarding the Palestinians, Livni reiterated Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution. She quoted from a speech former prime minister Ariel Sharon gave a year ago at the UN General Assembly – widely perceived as his “victory lap” following implementation of the disengagement plan – in which he said the Palestinians were “also entitled to freedom and to a national, sovereign existence in a state of their own.”

This vision was not just Sharon’s, but the “vision of a nation,” Livni said, adding that two states meant just that – two states, one for Jews, which ingathered its own exiles, and one for Palestinians, with Palestinian refugees to be settled there.

“If Palestinian leaders are unwilling to say this, the world should say it for them,” she said. “This is the real and only meaning of the two-state vision. It requires each people to accept that their rights are realized through the establishment of their own homeland, not in the homeland of others.”

Livni seemed to address those in the international community questioning the wisdom of demanding that the Palestinian Authority renounce terrorism, recognize Israel’s right to exist and accept existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements, saying that these conditions “are not an obstacle to peace or to the establishment of a responsible Palestinian state. They are a crucial ingredient for their realization.”

Livni said a two-state solution required the creation of a new reality where “both sides will need to commit to compromise and to believe in coexistence.” Instead, she said, “the Palestinian Authority is dominated today by a terrorist organization that teaches children to hate and seeks to transform the conflict from a resolvable political dispute into an endless religious confrontation.”

Livni said being moderate in the Middle East is often perceived as being weak, and “our challenge is to empower the peacemakers and dis-empower their opponents.”

Livni said to do this the world must show “determination, not half-measures and vague formulations.” If the world hesitates, she said, “the extremists sense opportunity. And if it appeases, they sense victory.”•

Hugo Chavez: the Next Castro?

By Ibsen Martínez
Sunday, August 6, 2006; B01

CARACAS, Venezuela

The democratic opposition in Cuba and abroad looks to the island’s new day, without Fidel Castro at the helm, as a moment of transition. But Castro and his regime’s apparatchiks refer instead to a “succession,” as though living in a monarchy. Nearly 200 years after Latin American nations began winning independence from imperial Spain, and on a continent that has produced so many wondrous novels about deteriorating despots succumbing to the perils of absolute power, it seems we still can’t let go of our kings.

The only problem with succession planning, of course, is that dead dictators can rarely stick around to supervise their elaborate designs. Today, things in Havana seem to be developing much as the ailing Castro desires, with younger brother Raúl assuming control. Nevertheless, the Shakespearean logic of royal successions suggests that more than one duke of Gloucester will try to crown himself Richard III. The extraordinary difference in this case is that not all the dukes vying to succeed Castro can be found in Cuba. To the south, across the Caribbean, another duke has emerged: Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

Indeed, Chávez is the piper leading the most strident anti-Americanism to parade through Latin America since the Bay of Pigs invasion, and his ascent has done much to shape the popular belief that radical left-wing governments modeled after his own will soon dominate the region. But does Chávez really have what it takes to assume Castro’s place as the leader of Latin American anti-imperialism? Will he become a permanent pebble in Washington’s shoe, as persistent and vexing as Castro, for decades to come?

Certainly, Chávez seems to believe so. However, he is missing much more than the charisma of the receding Cuban leader. He lacks the essential ingredient to take Fidel’s place: legitimacy. Castro, for all his faults, earned his anti-American and anti-imperialist stripes. Chávez, awash in petrodollars, is too embedded in the very global system he purports to reject.

Castro sets a high bar for any regional successor, all the more evident now at the moment of his political death.

Consider his superlative permanence in power: 47 years. That is 17 more years than Mexico’s Porfirio Díaz, 12 more than Paraguay’s Alfredo Stroessner and 11 more than Spain’s Francisco Franco. Even North Korea’s Kim Il Sung — the gold standard of aged despots — totaled only 46 years in power. To match Castro, Chávez would have to remain in office, without interruption, until 2045, past his 90th birthday.

Such prolonged rule is possible only in a totalitarian dictatorship that leaves no space for dissent. In Castro’s case, the Cold War helped him win absolute control over Cuban society. With a powerful and ever-present enemy so close, Castro could always manipulate the fear of an imminent invasion to militarize Cuban life. Any opposition was more than political — it was treasonous. Castro thus governed unencumbered by domestic adversaries.

Chávez, by contrast, lives in a post-Cold War world, his conspiracy theories about the CIA notwithstanding. And in an era of democratic consolidation in Latin America, he has much less room to suppress the opposition at home, no matter how hard he may try.

Despite Castro’s unquestioned power base, however, his capacity to disrupt his Latin neighbors, or even to predispose them against los Yanquis , has long been overestimated by his sympathizers, including Chávez. Castro’s anti-American credentials date to the 1960s, when the Cuban revolution, still imbued with childlike optimism, openly backed leftist guerrilla movements emerging throughout the continent. But one by one, they failed. Indeed, the dictator’s supporting role in the Soviet Union’s military adventures in Africa during the 1980s came about only after his efforts to spark uprisings closer to home faltered — a sort of revolutionary diversification strategy. Despite much rhetoric to the contrary, “exporting the revolution” ceased to be a priority for Castro long ago. After the Soviet collapse, survival became more important.

His regional appeal lingered, but in a half-hearted, nostalgic kind of way. Since the late 1980s, Castro has always been the star attraction at the inaugurations of democratically elected presidents throughout Latin America. His presence was a cheap and harmless way for other Latin American leaders to display a modicum of independence from the United States. Yet, as soon as the crazy uncle boarded his flight back to Havana, his erstwhile hosts quickly adopted the pro-market economic policies pushed by Washington and the International Monetary Fund. Castro — whether wiser or simply older, or both — looked the other way.

Chávez seems not to understand this hypocritical undertone to our region’s anti-Americanism. Recall the Summit of the Americas last November in Mar del Plata, Argentina, where he proclaimed the death of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, a long moribund initiative begun by President George H.W. Bush. Though Chávez garnered great press — not to mention fun photo ops with Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona — many of the Latin American governments that he aspires to lead on his anti-imperialist crusade preferred to keep quietly negotiating trade preferences with the United States.

The rest of the region seems to have internalized the key historical lesson of our long and contradictory relationship with the United States: One rarely crosses Washington without eventually suffering the consequences. Porfirio Díaz’s oft-quoted comment “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States” applies to Latin America as a whole. Chávez may seek to lead, but few may opt to follow.

In two centuries of U.S.-Latin American cohabitation on this continent, few leaders have been as consistent champions of anti-Americanism as Castro. His charisma, at home and abroad, surely played a role. But the longtime U.S. trade embargo against the impoverished island also gave Castro the political and (paradoxically) moral legitimacy of a proud Caribbean David standing up to the menacing northern Goliath. Poverty, in a perverse way, legitimizes anti-imperialism and its modern-day variants, anti-Americanism and anti-globalism. It also helps explain why even Castro’s bitter enemies recognize and respect his unbreakable attitude — one that is the basis of the feelings he inspires among many of the region’s residents.

Chávez, to put it mildly, does not inspire such emotions. Despite his integrationist rhetoric and efforts to buy allies (such as by acquiring big chunks of Argentine debt), he has become a divisive force, succeeding only in winning new enemies — or at least losing friends — throughout Latin America. His ties with fellow lefty head of state Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil deteriorated severely, for example, after Chávez encouraged Bolivian President Evo Morales to nationalize energy holdings, thus jeopardizing the investments of Brazil’s state-owned oil company in Bolivia. True to himself, Chávez probably will make the mistake of seeking to broker, in his antagonistic and backhanded way, the coming internal battles in Cuba.

Chávez has also heaped scorn upon Latin American governments that seek to improve their citizens’ economic prospects by quietly negotiating free-trade agreements with Washington. Yet Venezuela’s president enjoys the benefits of his own informal trade agreement with the United States; after all, Venezuela is one of the most dependable oil suppliers to the United States. In the first five months of 2006 alone, Venezuela exported nearly 1.2 million barrels of crude oil per day to the United States, putting it in fourth place after Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. With a wallet full of petrodollars, Chávez can fund an arms buildup and social programs at home while trying to export his Bolivarian ideals throughout the region.

Unlike Castro, Chávez has found the profitable path to anti-imperialism. But it is a devil’s bargain for Chávez, because such riches only erode the legitimacy he needs to lead a crusade against Washington. For how can you claim the anti-American and anti-globalization mantle when you so obviously benefit from both America and globalization? Chávez’s Venezuela feels less vanguard than throwback — the textbook case of a populist Latin American petrostate degenerating into an illiberal democracy, militarist as well as corrupt.

Absent Fidel, it is reasonable to expect that other leaders in the region may also aspire to become the new voice of whatever latent opposition to the United States remains. Chávez has neither the temperament nor the skill to beat out Lula, or Peru’s Alan García, or even Mexico’s conservative Felipe Calderón — why not? — for that role.

As quaint or misguided as it may sound today, true anti-imperialist leadership in Latin America still requires old-fashioned guts and commitment. Much of the mythology surrounding Latin America’s crusader par excellence, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, resides in the fact that, even through the manner of his death, he stuck to his guns. Castro, also true to his rhetoric, nationalized the Standard Oil affiliate in Cuba after the Bay of Pigs fiasco and stood up to the U.S. embargo for decades. But Chávez, his anti-American bluster notwithstanding, is still dealing with the Chevron Corporation.

Back To School —- email this to everyone it’s powerful –you decide on the petition it might be liberal

Islamists in U.S. prisons pose threat, report says

By Jerry Seper
September 20, 2006
Islamic extremists in U.S. prisons have taken advantage of a lack of religious monitoring to embrace violent interpretations of the Koran, posing a threat of “unknown magnitude” to national security, a report said yesterday.
    “Prisons have long been places where extremist ideology and calls to violence could find a willing ear, and conditions are often conducive to radicalization,” according to a study by George Washington University and the University of Virginia.
    “With the world’s largest prison population and highest incarceration rate, America faces what could be an enormous challenge — every radicalized prisoner becomes a potential terrorist recruit,” said the study, which was conducted for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
    An estimated 2 million people are imprisoned in the United States, and 6 percent of them are Muslim, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
    Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the committee’s ranking Democrat, said homegrown terrorism is a “grave enough concern” that Congress needs to consider whether to focus more attention and resources on it.
    “What controls can we put into place to curtail such conversions? Unfortunately, the number of qualified Islamic chaplains, or imams, is insufficient,” Mr. Lieberman said, noting that although more than 80 percent of religious conversions in prison are to some form of Islam, only 10 of the 200 chaplains in the federal system are devoted to Islam.
    The study said that just as young people may become radicalized by “cut-and-paste” versions of the Koran via the Internet, “new inmates may gain the same distorted understanding of the faith from gang leaders or other influential inmates.”
    Although radicalization is neither unique to Islam nor a recent phenomenon, an inadequate number of Muslim religious services providers increases the risk, the study said.
    Additionally, it said, the inability to track inmates after their release and a lack of social support to reintegrate them into the community give rise to a “vulnerable moment” in which they may be recruited by radical groups posing as social support organizations.
    The study said “Jailhouse Islam” incorporates violent prison culture into religious practice; a lack of manpower and resources hinder efforts to combat prisoner radicalization; and information collection and sharing among federal, state and local prison systems to track radical behavior and religious services providers is “difficult to assess.”
    The study said that no one profession was equipped to analyze and recommend change and that a multidisciplinary approach of religion, criminal justice, intelligence, law and behavioral sciences was necessary for “proactive analysis of the phenomenon.” It also called on Congress to establish a commission to investigate the issue.
    According to the study, prison gangs may adopt a form of Islam that incorporates values of gang loyalty and violence, and several imams characterized the phenomenon as a significant threat to security in prisons.
    The study noted several connections between former prisoners and terrorism, including:
    • Jeff Fort, a Chicago gang leader who converted to Islam while incarcerated in 1965. Fort founded a street gang known as El Rukn, which later brokered a deal with Libya to carry out attacks on U.S. police stations, government facilities, military bases and airplanes in exchange for $2.5 million and asylum in Tripoli.
    • Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the radical Egyptian cleric who plotted to bomb New York City landmarks in 1993. Sentenced to a life term, he issued a decree from federal prison ordering Muslims to kill Americans “wherever you find them.” Terror mastermind Osama bin Laden later said that edict gave religious authority for the September 11 attacks.
    • Richard C. Reid, who is thought to have converted to radical Islam while incarcerated in Great Britain. He was later apprehended while attempting to detonate a bomb on a U.S. commercial flight in December 2001.

Saddam ,Terrorism and the Dems’ Latest Fairytale

Saddam ,Terrorism and the Dems’ Latest Fairytale

One of my favorite writers has a response today in the New York Sun dealing with the twisted intel report the Senate Dems are trying to pawn off pre-election.

Recently the Senate Intelligence Committee published the second phase of its investigation into Iraq. The document has an outrageously lengthy name: “Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence on Postwar Findings About Iraq’s WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How They Compare with Prewar Assessments, Together with Additional Views.” It is a tendentious paper, reflecting Democratic posturing on the eve of the congressional elections. Four Republican senators on the committee complained in their dissent that it was written “with more partisan bias than we have witnessed in a long time in Washington.” That is an apt characterization of the section dealing with Iraq and terrorism.

The committee chose largely to ignore or discount information showing that Saddam Hussein’s regime was actively involved in terrorism from 1991 to the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom for some years before Operation Iraqi Freedom began. One telling example is the statement of Centcom spokesman, General Vincent Brooks, on April 6, 2003, as American forces rushed toward Baghdad. General Brooks described an American raid on Salman Pak, a large Iraqi intelligence compound south of the city, stating: “This raid occurred in response to information that had been gained by coalition forces from some foreign fighters we encountered from other countries, not Iraq. And we believe that this camp had been used to train these foreign fighters in terror tactics, …one of a number of examples we’ve found where there is training activity happening inside of Iraq. It reinforces the likelihood of links between his regime and external terrorist organizations, clear links with common interests. Some of these fighters came from Sudan, some from Egypt, and some from other places.” Originally included in the report, General Brooks’ statement was removed by an 8-7 vote, with Republican Senator Hagel siding with the Democrats.

The millions of documents captured in Iraq fare little better in this review. Only a small fraction of the documents have been processed, but one American official familiar with them told this author that they nonetheless reveal such extensive Iraqi dealings with terrorists that they justify the war. Journalist Stephen Hayes reported in the Weekly Standard on January 16, that captured documents and photographs reveal that between 1999 and 2002, Saddam’s regime trained over 8,000 “radical Islamic terrorists” at three camps in Iraq, including Salman Pak.(more)”

Read it all. It’s worth your time.

Clarice Feldman   9 19 06

Support for Venezuela’s Chavez weakens, poll says

Wed Sep 20, 2006 12:18 PM ET

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) – Support for President Hugo Chavez has weakened before a December election but the anti-U.S. incumbent is still likely to return to power, a poll published in an opposition paper showed on Wednesday.

In a head-to-head race between Chavez and the governor of an oil-producing region, who last month united opposition groups behind him, the president has 48 percent support, compared with his rival’s 30 percent, the poll said.

Until the traditionally fragmented opposition joined forces to back Manuel Rosales, most polls showed Chavez with at least triple the support of his challengers.

Published in the main opposition newspaper, El Nacional, Wednesday’s survey by Hinterlaces suggested some voter fatigue with Chavez, who has failed to fulfill ambitious pledges despite spending much oil revenue on the majority poor.

But the survey contrasted sharply with the results from another respected pollster Datanalisis, which days earlier showed the president leading by more than 30 percentage points in a poll conducted at the same time as that of Hinterlaces.

Polls released this month have drawn skepticism from both campaigns and independent analysts.

Still, the polls could influence undecided voters. They may start to believe a ballot cast for Rosales will not be wasted as they see him apparently closing the gap on Chavez, according to political analysts.

Hinterlaces surveyed 1,000 people across Venezuela at the end of August. It did not give a margin of error.

Pope’s Speech Again Demonstrated The Fragility of Islam

Posted Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Paris, 20 Sept. (IPS) If he wanted, and it was not his aim, the Pope Benedict XVI could not perform in a better way to demonstrate the irrationality, the intolerance and the violence of the Muslims when he spoke about relationship between Islam and violence in Germany last week.

In part of his speech at the University of Regensburg on “faith and reason,” the pontiff recounted a conversation between an “erudite” Byzantine Christian emperor and a “learned” Muslim Persian circa 1391, the pope quoted the emperor saying, “Show me just what Mohammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”.

Faced with angry and violent demonstrations by Muslim mobs and mounting, unabated virulent criticism from Muslim leader, reminiscent of those that erupted after a Danish newspaper printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed a year ago, the Pope, in a move to mollify Muslim anger, expressed publicly on Sunday his “deeply sorry” for the outrage sparked by his remarks on Islam and stressed they did not reflect his personal opinion.

I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address…

“I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address … which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims,” the pope said during the traditional Angelus blessing from the balcony of his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo outside Rome.

He stressed that the passages he quoted during a speech at Regensburg University “do not in any way express my personal thought.”

“I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect”, he added.

The pope’s expression of regret appeared to fall short of the full, personal apology Muslim leaders had demanded.

Iranian leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, said the Pope had been “manipulated” by all those that, led by the United States, the Zionists and the Western press, are after a new “crusaders war against Islam and Muslims”.

“World’s oppressors, led by the United States, see their survival in creating religious tensions for the international community and the Pope, with his speech, helped that policy”, the Ayatollah observed on Monday, stopping short of attacking the Catholic’s spiritual leader personally and by name.

But religious seminaries across Iran shut on Sunday to stage protests over the pope’s “outrageous” remarks, while Morocco on Saturday said it was recalling its ambassador to the Holy See.

Even Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami, the former “moderate” Iranian president criticized the Pope, stating that it is strange to observe how ignorant Benedict is about Islam, a faith of tolerance and humanity.

A hardline cleric linked to Somalia’s powerful Islamist movement to call for Muslims to “hunt down” and kill the pope, while an armed Iraqi group threatened to carry out attacks against Rome and the Vatican.

“We want a personal apology (from the Pope). We feel that he has committed a grave error against us and that this mistake will only be removed through a personal apology”, Muslim Brotherhood Deputy Leader Mohammed Habib told Reuters.

Gunmen shot and killed an elderly Italian nun Sunday at a children’s hospital in the Islamist-controlled Somali capital of Mogadishu, in what Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi denounced as a “horrible act.

And a third day of attacks on Christian places of worship in the Palestinain territories saw unknown assailants throw Molotov cocktails and a burning tire at two Catholic churches in the northern West Bank.

The worst demonstrations took place in Pakistan, where Muslim parties are the most virulent, even though the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone on Saturday had stated that the pope’s words had been misinterpreted and were meant as a rejection of the religious motivation for violence, “from whatever side it may come”.

But the “regrets” and explanations seems to not satisfy the fury of the Muslims, urging proper apology.

We feel that he has committed a grave error against us and that this mistake will only be removed through a personal apology

In a statement that resumes the sentiment of other Muslim political and religious officials, the Hamas-led Palestinian government said it did not view the Pope’s statement as an apology.

In France, a country with the largest Muslim community, most religious experts and analysts agreed that the Pope had made a mistake by talking about such a sensitive subject at a time that the world’s political atmosphere is heavy with religious confrontations.

“Has the new Pope made a blunder with his speech of 12 September in Germany? And why he went to look into history of Islam examples of contradictions between the faith and the reason, as if it did not exist in the long history of Christianity. And why he did not start by sweeping in his door front instead of going to search arguments in controversial literatures?”, wrote Henri Tincq, a leading religious analyst at the French influential daily “Le Monde” on Tuesday 19 September.

Nevertheless, Mr. Tincq concludes in his interesting analytical article that one way or another, Islam does feel very fragile to react with such a violence every time it is tackled by outside, as seen by the case of Salman Rushdie, the Danish cartoons and now the Pope and does Islam knows any other way to react every time it feels insulted?”

“The answer (to Mr. Tincq) is that contrary to other religions, Muslim religious leaders never allowed any discussion, any debate about this faith, but only to confirm Islam’s traditional line in every matter of life. There has been no reform in Islam and anyone who tried to challenge it, he was assassinated”, one Iranian religious expert pointed out.

“The scale and intensity of the Muslim reaction had cast doubts on the pope’s next scheduled foreign trip in November to Turkey.

However, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said the visit would go ahead as planned.

“A change is out of the question for us right now,” Gul said, while describing the pope’s comments in Germany as “really unfortunate” and a setback for efforts to promote better understanding between religions and cultures. ENDS POPE MUSLIMS 20906


Iran May Fall Victim to Law of Unintended Consequences

Iran May Fall Victim to Law of Unintended Consequences By Amir Taheri Posted Wednesday, September 20, 2006 E-mail this page Printer-friendly page Riyadh (Arab News) “We are putting up the sandbags and erecting the barbed wire fences,” says Dahbashi. “We expect the siege to start at any moment.” Dahbashi (not his real name) is a chubby wheeler-dealer with contacts all over the world. He is currently in Europe to find ways and means of helping the Islamic Republic of Iran escape the worst consequences of any sanctions that the United Nations might choose to impose on Iran over alleged secret nuclear plans. Tehran’s plan to render sanctions ineffective, even before they are imposed, has three facets. The first consists of relocating Iranian assets in places where they cannot be seized or frozen. If Dahbashi is right, that task has already been largely achieved. Over the past few months, billions of dollars in Iranian assets have been transferred from Western banks to financial institutions less likely to heed any advice from Washington. In most cases the import business is handled by the commercial wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard in the manner of a military operation. The second facet consists of stockpiling dual-use products likely to be denied to Iranian importers when, and if, sanctions are imposed. Over the pas few months, scores of Iranian businessmen in Europe and the United States have been contacted by Tehran officials to give a helping hand in speeding up the flow of sanction-busting goods. The massive increase in imports has led to a doubling of waiting tie for ships to unload at Iran’s principal ports, including Bandar Abbas (on the Persian Gulf), while a stream of lorries continues non-stop from Turkey. In most cases the import business is handled by the commercial wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard in the manner of a military operation. Finally, Iran’s sanctions-busting plan includes a strong diplomatic element. The Islamic republic has already won the express support of no fewer than 116 of the 192 members of the United Nations for its position regarding the nuclear issue. Although the Security Council may end up imposing some sanctions on the Islamic republic, it is not at all certain that its decisions would be respected by a majority of the UN member-states. One of the sanctions envisaged is to deny Islamic republic officials visas for foreign travel. However, even that symbolic measure is unlikely to be implemented in any effective way if only because a majority of UN members already have special visa waiver accords with Tehran regarding diplomatic and service passports. The idea of freezing the personal assets of leading Islamic republic officials is also a non-starter as most of them have had ample time to take precautionary measures. Paradoxically, however, Tehran’s success in countering sanctions in advance may hasten their imposition by the Security Council. The reason is that Tehran’s friends in the council, especially Russia and China, might decide that it is not worthwhile to pick up a quarrel with the US to stop sanctions that would not hurt Iran in any case. The law of unintended results may operate in yet another way: If sanctions prove ineffective from the start, the US and its closest allies might decide that the only effective move against the Islamic republic is military action. In other words, Tehran’s success in countering possible sanctions may render a military clash inevitable. According to Tehran sources, President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad has also “factored in” such a possibility. “A limited military clash would suit Ahmadinejad fine”, says a former Cabinet minister in Tehran. “The Americans will appear, fire a few missiles, and go away. Ahmadinejad would declare victory and pursue his grand plans with renewed vigor”. The self-confident mood advertised by Ahamdi Nezhad in his star appearance at the non-aligned summit in Havana, Cuba, and the fiery speech he is expected to deliver at the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week, indicate a firm belief that he has already won his first battle against the American “ Great Satan.” Portraying his predecessors as weak men who gave in to American pressure, Ahmadinejad counts on his macho image to help his faction win the crucial elections in the autumn. The first set of elections will decide the control of local government authorities throughout the country. Ahamdinejad’s ultra radical faction already controls nearly half of the municipalities including in such major cities as Tehran and Mashhad. In many parts of the country, however, the more conservative faction of the Khomeinist movement is still in control with the help of local dignitaries. The second set of elections is of even greater importance as it will determine the shape of the Assembly of Experts. This 92-man body of mollas elects and, if necessary, dismisses the “Supreme Guide”. At present, the conservative Khomeinist factions have a majority in the assembly and could, at least in theory, exert pressure on the current “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenehe’i to restrain Ahmadi Nezhad. Lacking a credible candidate of their on for “supreme guide” the conservative Khomeinists, led by former president Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, may try to retain their majority in the assembly by backing Khamenehi. The US sets out to cut Ahmadinejad down to size by focusing on the nuclear issue, and ends up helping the ultra-radical president strengthen his position at home. The key question, therefore, is whether Ahmadinejad would choose to maintain his current alliance with Khamenehi or would try to get his own religious mentor, Ayatollah Muhammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi elected “supreme guide”. The balance or probabilities right now is that Ahmadinejad will decide to keep Khamenehi at least for the time being. Ahmadinejad’s ultra-radical faction still has a long way to go before it can purge the conservative Khomeinists from positions of political and economic power within the establishment. What is certain, however, is that Ahmadi Nezhad’s success in warding off external pressures and projecting an image of invincibility abroad would enhance his position at home. And, there, we may see yet another illustration of how the law of unintended consequences works: The US sets out to cut Ahmadinejad down to size by focusing on the nuclear issue, and ends up helping the ultra-radical president strengthen his position at home. And, that, in turn, would make it much harder for him or any other Islamic republic leader to accept the compromises needed to avoid a collision course. ENDS AHMADI US 21906 Editor’s note: Mr. Amir Taheri is a well known Iranian journalist, political analyst, commentator and political analyst covering for many international media. The above article was published by Saudi newspaper Arab News on 16 September 2006.

Thai Military launches coup, Muslim general takes power– Thailand

Thai Military launches coup, Muslim general takes power

“Recently, Sondhi urged negotiations with the separatists in contrast to Thaksin’s hard-fisted approach.” Yeah, those origami were pretty tough.

“Thai Military Launches Coup, Takes Power From Prime Minister Thaksin,” from AP, with thanks to all who sent this in:

Across the capital, Thais who trickled out onto barren streets welcomed the surprise turn of events as a necessary climax to months of demands for Thaksin to resign amid allegations of corruption, electoral skullduggery and a worsening Muslim insurgency in the south. Many people were surprised, but few in Bangkok seemed disappointed.A few dozen people raced over to the prime minister’s office to take pictures of tanks surrounding the area. “This is exciting. Someone had to do this. It’s the right thing,” said Somboon Sukheviriya, 45, software developer snapping pictures of the armored vehicles with his cell phone.

Thaksin recently alienated a segment of the military by claiming senior officers had tried to assassinate him in a failed bombing attempt. He also attempted to remove officers loyal to Sondhi from key positions.

Sondhi, who is known to be close to Thailand’s revered constitutional monarch, will serve as acting prime minister, army spokesman Col. Akarat Chitroj said. Sondhi, well-regarded within the military, is a Muslim in this Buddhist-dominated nation.

Sondhi, 59, was selected last year to head the army partly because it was felt he could better deal with a Muslim insurgency in southern Thailand, where 1,700 people have been killed since 2004. Recently, Sondhi urged negotiations with the separatists in contrast to Thaksin’s hard-fisted approach. Many analysts have said that with Thaksin in power, peace in the south was unlikely.

FBI Raids Missouri Islamic Leader’s Home

FBI Raids Missouri Islamic Leader’s Home

No reasons given for the search, but it may be linked to this. “FBI Raids Mo. Islamic Leader’s Home,” from AP, with thanks to Mackie:

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — FBI agents searched the home of a prominent Islamic community leader and Iraq war critic, a bureau spokesman said, declining to reveal any reasons for the search.A dozen agents searched the home of Shakir Abdul-Kaf Hamoodi and his wife on Monday, FBI spokesman Jeff Lanza said. Agents removed boxes and computer equipment throughout the day, neighbors said….

Federal agents on Monday also raided the offices of a Southfield, Mich., Muslim charity organization, Life for Relief and Development, where Hamoodi has worked.In that raid, the warrants were based on a criminal assertion, but the affidavits were sealed, William Kowalski, an assistant special agent in the FBI’s Detroit office, told the Detroit Free Press.

The Michigan charity’s head of legal services, Ihsan Alkhatib, said the agents are investigating whether the charity conducted business in Iraq before the 2003 war in violation of legal sanctions against the country.

Alkhatib said the organization “did everything by the book.”

Lanza declined to discuss whether the Michigan and Missouri searches were connected.

Hamoodi, 54, is a former University of Missouri engineering professor who now owns an international grocery store. He said he has worked as a paid organizer and fundraiser for the organization for several years. He said he cooperated fully with federal investigators.

“They came in, asked questions, I told them the answers and they left,” he told the Columbia Missourian.

Hamoodi, who grew up in Iraq but has lived in Columbia for 21 years, has been an outspoken critic of the Iraq war and recently had his home defaced with graffiti.

The search came three days after bureau officials met with Muslims at a local mosque to try to improve community relations.