Robert Tait in Tehran
Tuesday December 5, 2006
The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Photograph: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who flaunts his ideological fervour, has been accused of undermining Iran’s Islamic revolution after television footage appeared to show him watching a female song and dance show.The famously austere Mr Ahmadinejad has been criticised by his own allies after attending the lavish opening ceremony of the Asian games in Qatar, a sporting competition involving 13,000 athletes from 39 countries. The ceremony featured Indian and Egyptian dancers and female vocalists. Many were not wearing veils.
Women are forbidden to sing and dance before a male audience under Iran’s Islamic legal code. Officials are expected to excuse themselves from such engagements when abroad but TV pictures showed Mr Ahmadinejad sitting with President Bashar Assad of Syria and Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister, during last Friday’s ceremony in Doha.
Religious fundamentalists, usually Mr Ahmadinejad’s keenest supporters, are asking why he attended a ceremony that violated his own government’s strict interpretation of Shia Islam.
The Baztab website, considered close to Mohsen Rezaee, a former revolutionary guard commander with links to powerful sections of Iran’s political hierarchy, said Mr Ahmadinejad’s presence had offended Shias in Iran and elsewhere. “The failure of Ahmadinejad to object and his constant presence has damaged the image of Iran’s Islamic revolution and its commitment to Islamic rules in contrast with the Arab countries in the Gulf,” it said.
The president’s aides insist he was not present during the singing and dancing. His press secretary, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, claimed Mr Ahmadinejad had left for Doha airport before the performance.
However, Baztab posted footage which purported to show Mr Ahmadinejad in his seat after the show. Jalal Yahyazadeh, a rightwing MP, said: “We have heard from some sources that Ahmadinejad was in the stadium at the time. Those who created the conditions for his presence should be investigated as quickly as possible.”
Rabbis urge Israelis to revolt against government
Prominent religious leaders warn Olmert ‘destroying Jewish state’
By Aaron Klein
© 2006 WorldNetDaily.com
JERUSALEM – A group of prominent rabbinic leaders in Israel and abroad yesterday issued a call for Israeli citizens to launch a democratic uprising to bring down the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. “Out of love for each and every Jew, we call on the people of Israel and its leaders to begin a democratic uprising to immediately replace this government, which constitutes an ominous threat to the nation of Israel,” the Rabbinical Congress for Peace, a coalition of over 1,200 rabbinic leaders and pulpit rabbis, said in a statement.
Among the Rabbinical Congress members who signed the statement were Mordechai Eliyahu and Abraham Shapira – both of whom served as chief rabbis for the state of Israel – and Rabbi Meir Mazuz, head of the Tunisian Jewish community in Israel and one of the country’s most well-respected rabbis.
The rabbis were responding to a national address last week commemorating the death of Israel’s founder and first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, in which Olmert stated he is willing to give up most of the West Bank in exchange for “real peace.”
During the speech, Olmert called for immediate negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Olmert said he would release “many, many” Palestinian prisoners as part of a deal.
“Ben-Gurion extended a hand in peace to Arab states the year Israel was born. The hand then returned empty, but, like then, the hand remains extended. I extend my hand in peace to our Palestinian neighbors in the hope that it won’t return empty,” Olmert said.
Olmert reiterated earlier pledges issues by his office of an Israeli West Bank withdrawal “to establish an independent Palestinian state, with territorial contiguity in the West Bank, a state that will enjoy full sovereignty and will have defined borders.”
The West Bank borders Israel’s major population centers and is within rocket firing range of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Israel’s international airport.
Since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip last summer, rockets have been regularly fired into nearby Jewish communities, killing Israeli civilians and prompting widespread panic. In Sderot, an Israeli city about three miles from the Gaza border, nearly 50 percent of children have been staying home from school for fear of rocket attacks, according to recent reports.
The Rabbinical Congress for Peace labeled Olmert’s national address a “crime.”
“In his deplorable speech, Olmert in essence announced a ‘liquidation sale’ and collective suicide of the people in Israel including the release of thousands of the most dangerous terrorists from Israeli jails. Israeli citizens must launch a democratic uprising and protest to bring down the government immediately,” the rabbis said in a statement.
Continued the statement: “Olmert adheres to the advice of false left-wing ‘prophets’ instead of adhering to the true prophets as expressed in the Jewish Code of Law that any territorial concession to the enemy will only lead to bloodshed. It will not contribute to calm nor will it promote peace.”
Olmert last week agreed to a cease-fire with the major Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip. The truce called for a halt of smuggling activity by Palestinians and a cessation of rocket attacks launched by militants in Gaza aiming at nearby Jewish communities in exchange for Israel withdrawing its ground troops from the Strip and halting military activity in the territory.
In accordance with orders from Olmert, the IDF removed its troops from Gaza, but at least 23 rockets have been fired from the Strip since the cease fire was imposed.
WND reported yesterday the IDF has been instructed by the government here not to open fire or take any action against militants who are discovered launching rockets into the Jewish state, according to senior military officials.
The officials said Olmert’s security cabinet changed the IDF’s rules of engagement after the cease-fire went into effect. Now, if Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are caught launching rockets at Jewish cities, the Israeli military is forbidden to respond, the military officials said.
Previously, the IDF used artillery units and aerial strikes against militants discovered in the process of launching rockets.
IDF sources told WND the Israeli army several times the past few days identified militants about to launch rockets into Israel, but due to changed rules of engagement in response to the cease-fire, IDF forces were prohibited from taking out the rocket crews. For example, hours after the cease-fire was imposed, IDF units spotted seven Palestinians in Gaza setting up rocket launchers. Three rockets were then fired into Israel.
“There is nothing we can do about the rocket attacks. It’s only a matter of time before an Israeli is killed,” said an IDF official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to media.
Olmert yesterday told the Knesset his government would react with restraint to continuing Qassam attacks, saying Israel was hoping to give the cease-fire a chance to develop into further steps toward what he called a “peace process.”
“We will fully explore every possibility that can lead to momentum to begin a diplomatic process, and so we are now giving the truce a chance,” Olmert told the Knesset parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Also yesterday, Israeli intelligence officials told the Knesset Palestinians in Gaza have continued to smuggle weapons into the territory from neighboring Egypt.
Last week, IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz told Israel’s Knesset that Olmert did not fully consult with the Israeli army before agreeing to the cease-fire with Palestinian militants.
Terrorists: Cease-fire means chance to reload
In a series of WND exclusive interviews conducted immediately after last week’s cease-fire was finalized, leaders of the four largest Palestinian terror groups in Gaza said the new truce will be used to smuggle weapons into Gaza; reinforce and train “fighter units”; and produce rockets for a future confrontation with the Jewish state.
“The cease-fire offers a period of calm for our fighters to recover and prepare for our final goal of evacuating Palestine,” said Abu Abir, spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, a Hamas-allied terror organization in the Gaza Strip responsible for many of the recent rocket attacks against Israeli communities.
“We will keep fighting [Israel], but for the moment we will postpone certain parts of the military struggle,” said Abu Abir. “We will reinforce very quickly and rush what we are doing to prepare [for attacks against Israel] in Gaza and in the West Bank.”
Abu Abdullah, a senior leader of Hamas’ so-called “military wing,” told WND Hamas agreed to the cease-fire “because we need a period of calm to recuperate. This lull in fighting will not bring us to speak about peace.”
Abu Abdullah is considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas’ Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades, Hamas’ declared military wing.
He pointed to Hamas’ doctrine, which calls for the destruction of Israel and which refuses to recognize the Jewish state.
“The political leadership (of Hamas) will never compromise on these values,” the terror leader said.
Abu Abdullah said Hamas has its own political reasons to respect the truce.
“We wish to show Islam as a ruling party is capable of leading the Palestinian people. Since Hamas was elected, we have been through only chaotic periods. We want a period of calm to prove we are not only a revolutionary movement but to show the Palestinian people our rule is without the corruption of (the rival) Fatah (party).”
But Abu Abdullah said the cease-fire would ultimately end in violence.
“All the Palestinian people and all the Muslims will launch a direct confrontation with Israel. This may come soon or it may take some time,” Abu Abdullah said.
Abu Luay, a leader of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, told WND Israel’s call for a cease-fire “proves our rocket attacks work. The Zionists know there is now remedy for our rockets.”
The Islamic Jihad leader said Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel would resume “at a time of our choosing.”
Abu Ahmed, the leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the northern Gaza Strip, told WND his terror group would respect the cease-fire.
The Brigades, responsible for scores of suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks, is the declared military wing of Abbas’ Fatah party.
“We will respect the cease-fire as the president (Abbas) has ordered us to do,” said Abu Ahmed. “We keep our right to respond to any Israeli aggression. Our group does not give up any of its ideals, which is a withdrawal of the Israelis.”
The Iraq Study Group Report: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
By James Phillips and James J. Carafano
Posted Dec 06, 2006
Politics should end at the water’s edge. Americans need a bipartisan Iraq policy that acknowledges that there are no simple solutions and that the nation must invest the resources necessary to secure vital U.S. national interests. The report of the Baker-Hamilton Commission, formally known as the Iraq Study Group (ISG), offers that opportunity. It provides a clear-eyed, balanced assessment of the situation in Iraq and a largely practical set of recommendations to deal with the key military and political challenges facing the country.
The ISG report does clarify some of the ugly dilemmas intrinsic to Iraq and will provide a useful reference point for the ongoing policy debate on Iraq. Its recommendations comprise a sensible and realistic way forward in Iraq, with one major exception: Drawing Syria and Iran into efforts to stabilize Iraq would accomplish little at great expense or even backfire, undermining stability. The ISG’s broad approach of reducing U.S. forces’ combat role while increasing their role training Iraqi troops and police would put U.S. resources where they can do the most good as Iraq’s government tackles the difficult political issues behind the country’s current violence. Conversely, as the ISG finds, an abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces would lead to strategic, moral, and humanitarian disaster.
The Iraq Study Group (ISG) report correctly called for the U.S. to:
Put security and stability first. The ISG rightly emphasizes that reducing sectarian violence in Iraq is essential. This, as the report explains, must be accomplished by the Iraqi government. The Iraqis must work to establish political stability by forging an effective power-sharing agreement that includes moderate Sunni Arab leaders and purging the government of the influence of sectarian militias. And it must protect the population and combat the death squads, terrorists, and insurgents that seek to fuel an ever-deepening cycle of sectarian violence.
To these ends, the ISG report concludes that the Iraqis must take more responsibility for their security and that the U.S. military must undertake a disciplined reduction of the combat role of American troops and focus primarily on providing support for Iraqi forces . This is the right approach.
Make the training of the Iraqi army and police a higher priority. The ISG report correctly emphasizes the importance of increasing the strength and effectiveness of Iraqi military and police forces, which were initially neglected in the postwar period. More recently, American advisers have been embedded in Iraqi army units, with good results. The ISG advocates extending this practice to Iraqi police forces to increase their effectiveness, help root out corruption, and reduce human rights abuses. The ISG also recommends increasing the number of advisers, trainers, and embedded troops from 5,000 to 20,000 to accelerate and intensify training. It stresses the need to assign some of the Pentagon’s best officers to training and advisory positions. To assure this outcome, it underscores the importance of making sure that such assignments should be a career-enhancing move for officers.
Reject partition. Seeking stability, some have advocate “soft partition” of Iraq into autonomous mini-states of the three major sub-national groups. But this would be a formula for endless conflict because negotiating boundaries acceptable to all the groups would be impossible. Moreover, neighboring states such as Iran and Turkey would be drawn into the factional struggle in support of their Iraqi allies, fanning the flames of regional conflict. Iraq is a mosaic that would disintegrate into hundreds of autonomous territories, not just three. Baghdad, Mosul, Kirkuk, and other major cities are inhabited by many different groups and would be mired in unending conflict. Partition could quickly degenerate into murderous ethnic cleansing that would poison relations between Iraqis for decades to come.
Moreover, partition is a question that should be settled by Iraq’s sovereign government, not Washington. If the United States drops its goal of a unitary Iraq and calls for partition, it will give undeserved credibility to anti-American conspiracy theories that contend the U.S. seeks carve up Iraq to weaken the Arabs relative to Israel and the Kurds.
Reject an immediate withdrawal. A rapid pullout would be a strategic, moral, and humanitarian disaster. Withdrawal would abandon Iraq’s nascent democratic government, betray Iraqis who have taken tremendous personal risks to support a democratic government, and undermine U.S. credibility with other allies and adversaries.
The big winners of a quick U.S. withdrawal would be al-Qaeda and Iran. Al-Qaeda would be emboldened and bolstered by a rush of recruits seeking to join what they perceive to be a successfully cascading global jihad. It would use Iraq as a base for exporting Islamic extremism to surrounding countries and terrorism to the entire world. Iran, meanwhile, would quickly replace the United States as the most influential foreign power in Iraq.
Reject a timetable for withdrawal. The ISG report wisely concluded that troop withdrawals should be based on security conditions on the ground in Iraq, not on political considerations in Washington. The ISG projects that U.S. combat troops would be able to begin pulling out by early 2008, based on the estimate by General Casey, the U.S. commander in Iraq, that Iraqi forces need 12 to 18 months to gain enough capacity to assume responsibility for security throughout the country.
General John Abizaid, the Commander of the U.S. Central Command, warned against a timetable for troop withdrawals in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services committee on November 15: “At this stage in the campaign, we’ll need flexibility to manage our force and help manage the Iraqi force. Force caps and specific timetables limit our flexibility.”
Advocates of a timetable for troop withdrawals argue that announcing withdrawals would force Iraqi leaders to do more to assume responsibility for security and reach a sustainable agreement on power-sharing. But that policy could backfire if it is rigidly followed regardless of the security situation. If a drawdown of U.S. forces is accompanied by an increase in violence, it would beharder to build effective Iraqi security forces and make nervous Iraqi Shiite leaders less willing to take risks to strike a political deal with Sunni leaders.
The ISG went astray when it recommended that the U.S. should:
Invite Iran and Syria to play a greater role in Iraq. As Sen. Joseph Lieberman noted on CBS’s “Face the Nation” this past Sunday, “Asking Iran and Syria to help us succeed in Iraq is like your local fire department asking a couple of arsonists to help put out the fire. These people are flaming the fire.”
Iran and Syria have been very much part of the problem in Iraq and cannot be trusted to be part of a genuine solution. Both seek to inflict a decisive foreign policy defeat on the U.S., and both seek to throttle democracy in Iraq because it would pose an ideological threat to the survival of their repressive regimes. Syria’s President Bashir Assad leads the world’s only Baathist regime after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Assad has harbored high-ranking Iraqi Baathist leaders who continue to finance and direct diehard Baathist insurgents inside Iraq. Syria also allows radical Islamic movements to funnel militants, money, and weapons to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups operating in Iraq. Iran provides money, arms, sophisticated bombs, and training to Shiite militias, including Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, which has staged two bloody uprisings against U.S.-led coalition forces.
Both countries have a long history of supporting terrorism and opposing democracy. Neither can be trusted to fulfill any pledges to help stabilize a democratic Iraq. Washington already has talked to Damascus about cutting the flow of foreign Islamic militants across Syria’s border with Iraq. The Assad regime promised to crack down on cross-border movements but has failed to do so, just as it failed to expel Palestinian terrorist groups from its territory despite promising to do so. U.S. efforts to open a dialogue with Iran’s revolutionary regime failed in the Carter, Reagan, and Clinton administrations. There is little reason to expect a different outcome with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is even more hostile to the United States than previous Iranian presidents.
Although neither Iran nor Syria could be counted on to fulfill promises of cooperation, both can be expected to demand a high price in exchange for making promises. Syria would seek international acceptance of a renewed sphere of influence in Lebanon and the shelving of a United Nations investigation that has implicated Syrian officials in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Iran, which continues to ignore the U.N. Security Council’s August 31 deadline for halting uranium enrichment, is sure to demand a relaxation of international pressure against its nuclear efforts.
The ISG recognizes some of the risks involved in seeking greater Iranian and Syrian involvement in Iraq. It warns against making concessions to the two rogue states on other issues in order to secure their participation in an international conference on Iraq. But the problem is that Iran will use a conference as a shield to deflect international pressures on the nuclear issue. It will seek to use its “cooperation” on Iraq to drive a wedge between the U.S. and Europe, which is likely to use diplomatic engagement with Iran as a backdoor to bail out of its half-hearted pledges to impose sanctions on Tehran for violations of its nuclear obligations.
The U.S. should seek to mobilize greater international support for Iraq’s young government from the European Union, Russia, China, Japan, and Middle Eastern governments that genuinely support progress in Iraq, such as Turkey, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab states in the Persian Gulf that have an interest in stabilizing Iraq and containing Iran. The Bush Administration already has sought greater international efforts in Iraq through the “Iraq Compact,” which will lead to greater international aid commitments in exchange for government reforms and an agreement on national reconciliation inside Iraq. This is a better approach than seeking worthless promises, in exchange for great U.S. concessions, from Syria and Iran.
The Ugly Realities
The ISG correctly recognizes some ugly realities about the conflict in Iraq that the Bush Administration and Congress must take into consideration when crafting future U.S. policy:
The struggle in Iraq is both a low-grade civil war and a crucial front in the war against al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda’s terrorist atrocities have provoked Shia militias to retaliate indiscriminately, fueling sectarian violence and strengthening Sunni Arab support for the insurgency. A full-scale civil war is still avoidable, despite al-Qaeda’s determined efforts, but only if Iraqi leaders work together to prevent it.
U.S. troops are the chief obstacle to a worsening civil war, regional instability, and a victory for al-Qaeda. If U.S. troops are withdrawn without a sustainable Iraqi agreement on national reconciliation and power-sharing in place, the results will be an increasingly fierce civil war that will draw in Iraq’s neighbors and further destabilize the volatile region.
If the U.S. pulls out abruptly, Iraq will become a failed state and a dangerous breeding ground for international terrorists. American neglect of Afghanistan after the 1989 Soviet pullout helped pave the way for a bloody civil war and the rise of the Taliban. Washington cannot afford to make a similar mistake in Iraq. An abrupt pullout from Iraq would have much more severe consequences, given Iraq’s oil resources and strategic location in the heart of the Arab world and in close proximity to huge Persian Gulf oil supplies.
Even if the U.S. decides to withdrawal its combat troops, a continued U.S. military presence will be needed to provide logistical support, air support, intelligence, and training for Iraqi forces for years to come. A complete U.S. pullout is not only severely risky but also impractical.
The future of Iraq will be determined by Iraqis more than by Americans. The conflict in Iraq is winnable if the Iraqi government can foster national reconciliation, reach out to secular and moderate Sunni Arab leaders, and strike a power-sharing agreement that will assuage their concerns about Iraq’s constitution and the distribution of oil revenues. The United States will play an important supporting role, but Iraqis must take the lead to contain and ease sectarian strife, build a broad-based ruling coalition, and marginalize and eventually disarm the sectarian militias. But if the Iraqi government fails to reach a sustainable power-sharing arrangement with moderate Sunni Arab leaders that drains support from the insurgency, then the security situation will deteriorate regardless of what the United States does.
A Way Forward
The ISG’s findings are consistent with the goals and policies of the Administration, with the exception of the recommendation to draw Iran and Syria into an international conference. The ISG advocates policies that are compatible with President Bush’s definition of success: an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself.
The ISG report recognizes that the United States must remain actively engaged in Iraq to provide its fledgling government the best opportunity to avert civil war, humanitarian crisis, regional instability, and creation of a breeding ground for global terrorists. This report provides an opportunity for all sides of the political spectrum to acknowledge that there are no easy answers in Iraq. Iraq policy often boils down to a choice of lesser evils. As bad as things are now, the situation could rapidly worsen. A sudden withdrawal would create the worse case scenario. The best course is for America to finish the job it started: helping Iraqis secure the future of Iraq.
Such a policy would greatly contribute to America’s highest priority, winning the global war against terrorism. Washington must prevent Iraq from becoming a base of operations for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups that target Americans. The United States has a vital interest in building an Iraq that is an ally in the war on terrorism, not an adversary. The United States must also prevent Iraq from falling under the influence of Iran and Syria, two of the world’s most dangerous state sponsors of terrorism.
The Bush Administration had hoped that democratic elections would boost stability in Iraq, but they have not yet had a calming effect, in part because many of the sectarian political parties have exacerbated tensions. A stable, democratic Iraq remains a worthy long-term U.S. goal, but this project now rests primarily in Iraqi hands. If the Iraqi government can inch toward political stability while containing the insurgency and denying terrorist groups a base for international operations, that would be a net victory for the United States, even if Iraq remains a far-from-perfect democracy.
As the ISG report recommends, the United States should press the Iraqi government to purge its institutions of members of sectarian militias and to disband the militias. The infiltration of militia members into government institutions, particularly the Ministry of Interior and national police force, has undercut support for the government. The Maliki government should prepare a detailed timetable for purging government institutions of sectarian influences and demobilizing and disarming the militias, particularly the Mahdi Army controlled by radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The Mahdi Army has played a major destabilizing role by lashing out against innocent Sunni Arabs after terrorist attacks that targeted Shiites. This kind of vengeance only exacerbates the downward spiral toward open civil war.
Washington must also urge Maliki to reach out to moderate Sunni Arab leaders and negotiate a sustainable power-sharing agreement. Sunni Arab leaders have reasonable concerns about the equitable distribution of oil revenues, amending Iraq’s constitution, and gaining a strong voice in a national unity government. These must be addressed. A national consensus is needed to mobilize greater popular support for the government and undercut support for insurgents and militias.
Washington and Baghdad should negotiate mutually acceptable benchmarks for the gradual drawdown and redeployment of U.S. troops. These benchmarks, measured province by province, could include: the size, effectiveness, and degree of training of Iraqi army and police forces; the estimated size and capability of insurgent forces; the degree of popular support for the insurgents compared to the government; the capability of Iraqi forces to defend important oil facilities and other vital infrastructure; the capability of Iraqi forces to interdict the flow of supplies and fighters across Iraq’s borders; and the level of threat to coalition supply lines.
The aim should be to gradually redeploy U.S. forces out of Iraq’s cities and out of roles best filled by Iraqis as soon as the Iraqis are able to replace Americans in those areas. U.S. military forces would retain the lead in counterterrorist operations and provide strong support to Iraqi forces fighting the insurgency, but Iraqi forces should increasingly take the lead in defending Iraqi civilians, government facilities, and economic infrastructure. Over time, American forces would act as SWAT teams, not as street cops. This would allow for a gradual drawdown of U.S. forces. However, U.S. servicemen would still be needed for expanded military training, air support, logistics support, intelligence functions and counter-terrorist operations for years to come.
Doubts grow over Muslim lawmaker’s loyalty
Keith Ellison tied to group that holds Quran as highest legal authority
The first Muslim member of Congress is linked to a radical Islamic school of thought that requires loyalty to the Quran over the U.S. Constitution, WND has learned. Rep.-elect Keith (Hakim-Mohammed) Ellison, D-Minn., has drawn fire for asking to take the constitutional oath on the Quran rather than the Bible at a swearing-in ceremony next month.
The Constitution specifies that members of Congress shall be bound by an oath to support the constitutional law of the land. In the oath, Ellison will be required to swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic … without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.”
Critics argue he has conflicting loyalties, while Ellison insists he’s a patriot.
But within days of being elected, Ellison held a workshop on politics for a group closely affiliated with a radical Islamic school that preaches no Muslim can pledge loyalty to the Constitution or make laws outside the laws of the Quran, which the school’s leaders assert is the “supreme law” of the land, trumping all man-made laws including the U.S. Constitution.
A black convert to orthodox Sunni Islam, Ellison spoke to the North American Imams Federation, or NAIF, at the group’s Nov. 19 conference in Minneapolis.
His talk flowed into a breakout session listed on the agenda simply as “American Open University,” according to the conference program. It turns out the university is a “distance-learning” center based in Alexandria, Va., and known to local law enforcement as “Wahhabi Online.”
Later that day, Ellison met with NAIF’s president, Omar Ahmad Shahin, who lectures at the same American Open University. (He also met at the time with New York imam Siraj Wahhaj, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.) The radical Islamic school trains many of NAIF’s more than 150 members, who control mosques across America.
American Open University supports Sharia, or Islamic law. And its founder and chairman, Jaafar Sheikh Idris, has denounced the U.S system of democracy as “the antithesis of Islam” and argued no man has the right to make laws outside Allah’s laws expressed in the Quran.
“There is a basic difference between Islam and this form of democracy,” he says. “The basic difference is that in Islam it is [Allah’s] law as expressed in the Quran and the Sunna that is the supreme law within the limits of which people have the right to legislate.
“No one can be a Muslim who makes or freely accepts or believes that anyone has the right to make or accept legislation that is contrary to that divine law,” Idris adds. “Examples of such violations include the legalization of alcoholic drinks, gambling, homosexuality, usury or interest, and even adoption.”
Conversely, laws prohibiting polygamy and domestic violence also violate the Quran.
Further, he maintains that no Muslim elected to Congress or the White House can swear to uphold the U.S. Constitution and still be a Muslim.
“No Muslim could become president in a secular regime, for in order to pledge loyalty to the constitution, a Muslim would have to abandon part of his belief and embrace the belief of secularism – which is practically another religion. For Muslims, the word ‘religion’ does not only refer to a collection of beliefs and rituals, it refers to a way of life which includes all values, behaviors and details of living,” Idris says. “Separation of religion and state is not an option for Muslims because it requires us to abandon [Allah’s] decree for that of a man.”
He further explains: “Islam cannot be separated from the state because it guides Muslims through every detail of running the state and their lives. Muslims have no choice but to reject secularism for it excludes the laws of [Allah].”
Also, he asserts that “there is absolutely no compromise: Any belief that contradicts Islam is false.”
Backed by CAIR
Ellison’s campaign was backed by the Washington-based lobby group Council on American-Islamic Relations, a partner organization to American Open University-affiliated NAIF. CAIR held fundraisers for Ellison, a civil-rights lawyer and one-time acolyte of Louis Farrakhan who admits to making anti-Semitic remarks in the past (under various alias including Keith Hakim, Keith Ellison-Muhammad and Keith X Ellison).
CAIR’s founder has argued the Quran should replace the Constitution as the highest authority in the land. The group’s director of communications, moreover, has expressed his desire to see the U.S. become an Islamic state. CAIR is an offshoot of the Islamic Association for Palestine, a suspected front for the terrorist group Hamas.
Pundit Dennis Prager and other critics have demanded Ellison take the constitutional oath on the Bible, arguing the constitution derives its authority from the Bible, not the Quran. If Ellison puts his hand on the Quran, Prager says he would be in effect nullifying his oath and undermining “American civilization.”
“He should not be allowed to do so,” he asserted in a recent column.
Another critic, Glenn Beck of CNN, questioned Ellison’s loyalties. “Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies,” he asked Ellison on a recent show.
“There’s no one who is more patriotic than I am,” Ellison replied. “And so, you know, I don’t need to prove my patriotic stripes.”
Others point out Ellison has shown a pattern of disrespect for U.S. laws, raising the question whether he’s qualified to make law. Failure to pay his taxes resulted in liens on his home. Failure to pay more than 40 parking and traffic tickets has twice led to suspension of his Minnesota license. He’s also racked up hefty fines from campaign finance violations and defended the leader of a cop-killing gang.
Constitutional scholars say Congress is under no obligation to seat Ellison as a new member of the 110th Congress.
“The Senate and House have the power to seat new members,” says Mark Levin of the Landmark Legal Foundation in Washington. “They could say, ‘Nope, sorry, we’re not swearing you in, and we don’t care how many citizens voted for you.”
But that is unlikely to happen, he says, “because they would never challenge the electorate,” even in time of war.
Levin adds that the legislative branch is entering uncharted waters.
“A Muslim congressman with access to U.S. secrets is a situation we haven’t yet faced,” he said. “But it’s one that would certainly raise issues of loyalty and trust.”
Members of Congress are not required to undergo FBI background checks before gaining access to classified information.
In addition to CAIR, the NAIF-affiliated American Open University, however, has raised a number of red flags at the FBI, including the fact that:
A former CAIR official, Bassem Khafagi, headed IANA. He pleaded guilty to terror-related charges and was deported after 9/11.
Last month’s NAIF conference program outlining Ellison’s session, titled “Imams and Politics,” says Muslim involvement in Western politics is a “sensitive” issue.
“Imams must be able to provide Muslims with the proper guidance and educate them on the etiquettes [sic] of any political involvement within the Islamic context,” the program says. “Questions also arise on whether imams and Islamic centers should be involved in politics at all and what the extent of this involvement should be.”
Transcripts of his talk and the subsequent breakout session on American Open University were not made available to the public
This illuminating graphic accompanies the editorial “Tale Of Fibbing Imams” at Investor’s Business Daily (thanks to Paul Sperry).
In the post-9/11 era, the Bush administration’s new project of spreading freedom and democracy in the dictators-ruled countries became one of the most discussed and closely followed topics in the media and at all levels of society. Although many doubted the means Bush Administration undertook to spread democracy around the world, there was hardly any disagreement on the point that freedom and democracy can usher in peace and prosperity. Believing in this fundamental premise, many in the US and around the world supported the aggressive policy of instituting democracy by overthrowing the authoritarian governments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
However, the adventure of spreading democracy itself has not fully succeeded in those two countries so far. All indications suggest that it faces rough going. These countries have remained breeding grounds for terrorists to some degree.
Can democracy be imposed from without? If we look back into the 1930s and 40s, we see clearly that the world’s most incorrigible dictators of that era, the imperialist militarists of Japan, the brutal expansionist Nazis of Germany and the deadly fascists of Italy, have been replaced by the fine democratic governments imposed by the intervention of the allied forces in the post-WW II period.
The skeptics may argue that the rule of the game has changed now and it does not work anymore. But let us consider the intervention in mainly Christian Bosnia-Herzegovina in the mid-1990s. After the downfall of dictatorial communism, these regions ran into a disastrous civil war as a result of religio-ethnic fighting between the minority Muslims and the majority Christians. Unlike Afghanistan and Iraq, intervention quickly brought the fighting and violence under control. Since then, reconciliation, reconstruction and democratic processes have made steady progress. All indications suggest that secular democracy and peace will continue to strengthen and be lasting.
However, there is one concern. Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise amongst the Muslim populace and al-Qaeda and other like-minded Islamist groups are spreading their tentacles to that region. Hence, the future of a lasting peace and democracy in Bosnia-Herzegovina will solely depend on how the Muslims behave in the coming years and decades.
Similarly, the United States’ forced ouster of Charles Taylor of Liberia and Aristride of Haiti, both Christian countries, have so far held in good stead. More pressing interventions in Muslim countries, namely in Somalia and Afghanistan, have miserably failed during the same period. Instead of bringing democracy and peace, interventions in these countries have made the world a much more dangerous place by inspiring Muslims at far corners of the world to form new terrorist groups and strengthening the already existing ones. On the other hand, there are no indications that interventions in Christian countries, namely Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, have inspired any Christian group in far places, say in Nigeria, Philippines, Australia, USA, Canada or South America, to create terrorist groups and to unleash violence of any sort.
Those who argue that democracy and rule of law cannot be imposed by outside interventions are obviously wrong, as demonstrated by the interventions in Japan, Italy and Germany in post-WW II era. All indications from the more recent but unfinished interventions in the Balkan, in Liberia and Haiti also prove them wrong. However the critics are right when considering the intervention in Somalia in 1993 and more recent ones in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In order to understand this intriguing disparity in success of outside interventions in Muslim and non-Muslim countries, one must grasp the fundamental precepts of Islam, which is the common ideological denominator that binds them together. Islamic scholars over the centuries have divided the world into two domains. The first being the Dar-al-Islam (house of peace), which constitute the domains dominated and ruled by the Muslims according to the Islamic laws. The other is the Dar al-Harb (house of war), which is dominated and ruled by the non-Muslims and Muslims must wage a ceaseless war (so it called ‘house of war’) against it in order to bring it into the domain of Dar al-Islam, thereby fulfilling the wishes of the almighty creator.
Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406) is a towering Islamic thinker, historian and philosopher. According to famous comtemporary Islamic thinker Prof. Tariq Ramadan, whom Time Magazine voted to be one of the world’s 100 greatest thinkers and scientists in 2004, considers Ibn Khaldun as giant Muslim contributor to the Greek rationalism, philosophy and science that were later transmitted to the Europeans prior to the advent of Enlightenment in Europe [Roots of Rationality, Guardian 22 Sept, 2006].
In affirming this principle of Islam, Ibn Khaldun wrote of the Christians in his greatest treatise, ‘The Muqaddimah’:
“We do not think that we should blacken the pages of this book [Muqaddimah] with discussion of their [Christian] dogmas of unbelief. In general, they are well known. All of them are unbelief. This is clearly stated in the noble Koran. To discuss or argue those things with them is not up to us. It is for them to choose between conversion to Islam, payment of the poll tax, or death.” [For more affirmation, see Koran: 9:29]
In affirmation of the Koranic edict of fighting the infidels (non-Muslims) until religion is Allah’s (Islam) alone [Koran 8:39], he furthered wrote of the Dar-ul-Harb in ‘The Muqaddimah’ :
“In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty because of the universalism of the mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force. The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense.” [Quoted in State and Governance in Medieval Islam, Ann Lambton (1981), Oxford University Press, New York, p201]
In today’s violence and terrorism stricken world, those involved in the desperate search for peace, should understand the basic Islamic principles and thoughts. Dar al-Islam (Islamic world), with whatsoever there-in, is the perfect abode of peace and prosperity, which is achievable only by the institution of the divine laws of the only true God, Allah. Islam is the complete and perfect code of life for governing perfectly all aspects of human life: social, moral, spiritual, religious, political, economic and everything else. Extra-Islamic doctrines, such as democracy, are inferior to the divine Islamic codes of governance. Outside interventions and democracy in Islamic countries are, thus, not necessary; neither do Muslims accept it.
On the other hand, Dar al-Harb, which does not hold such perfect code of governance, has scope of improvement. Hence, the imposition of democracy and freedom were quickly accepted in countries like Japan, Germany and Italy etc. The international policy-makers who might be at a fix over their repeated failures to achieve those goals in Muslim countries which are easily achievable elsewhere, must understand these fundamental distinctions between Islamic and the non-Islamic countries.
By Jim Krane
Published December 6, 2006
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran’s top national security official urged Arabs yesterday to expel the U.S. military from bases in the region and instead join Tehran in a regional security alliance.
The offer was a strong sign of Iran’s rising assertiveness in its contest with the United States for influence in the region.
Persian Gulf countries, suspicious of Iran’s intentions, are unlikely to respond to the call and push out the U.S. military or end U.S. security deals they view as offering them an umbrella of protection, many here said.
But smaller countries, such as Kuwait, do have to tread a fine line of not antagonizing either Washington or Tehran. Some Gulf countries refused to participate in recent U.S. Navy maneuvers in the Gulf so as not to offend Iran.
Iran’s top national security official, Ali Larijani, apparently aimed to allay Arab concerns and raise suspicion about U.S. intentions in his speech yesterday. He told Arab business leaders and political analysts that Washington is indifferent to their interests and will cast them aside when they are no longer useful.
“The security and stability of the region needs to be attained and we should do it inside the region, not through bringing in foreign forces,” Mr. Larijani said. “We should stand on our own feet.”
Such words are a direct rejection by Iran of the “notion that it can be contained,” said Vali Nasr, an Iran specialist with the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, who attended the conference.
Speakers at the Arab Strategy Forum said they think Iran’s rising clout came as a direct result of the faltering U.S. policy in Iraq that has put Iran’s Shi’ite allies in control of the government in Baghdad.
Mr. Larijani’s proposal outlines what analysts here describe as an attempt to split the Arab world into two camps: a U.S.-Israeli-Arab coalition that seeks to contain Iran and an anti-American, anti-Israeli alliance led by Iran.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for wiping Israel off the map and expressed doubts about the Holocaust. Yesterday, Iran’s foreign ministry said it will hold a two-day international conference next week on the Holocaust to examine the event without any “preconceived ideas.”
Most Arab governments remain firm U.S. allies, but Persian Iran’s tough stance against Israel and the West has broad grass-roots appeal.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other Sunni-dominated countries have expressed misgivings about the growing influence of Iran’s Shi’ite-dominated government, which in the 1980s sought to export its Islamic revolution and topple neighboring governments.
“Nobody is asking the Americans to pack up and leave,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a Dubai-based political analyst. “There are vital American interests here, and the smaller Arab countries need protection.”
Mr. Larijani expressed annoyance at Arab fears about Iranian intentions, saying Iran and its Sunni-dominated neighbors have more in common with each other than with the United States or Israel.
He assured Arab leaders that Iran seeks “peaceful coexistence” and could replace the security umbrella of U.S. bases in the region.