Shi’ite-Sunni rift laid bare by hanging

Shi’ite-Sunni rift laid bare by hanging

As predicted here by Hugh Fitzgerald.

By Lauren Frayer for AP, with thanks to Jeffrey Imm:

BAGHDAD — As Iraqis awoke yesterday to television images of Saddam Hussein’s neck twisted by a hangman’s noose, Shi’ites cheered, Sunnis vowed revenge and at least 80 persons died from bombings and death squads — not far from the daily average.In Baghdad’s Shi’ite neighborhood of Sadr City, victims of Saddam’s three decades of autocratic rule took to the streets celebrating, dancing, beating drums and hanging Saddam in effigy.

Celebratory gunfire erupted in other Shi’ite neighborhoods across the country.

Outside the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, west of the capital, loyalists marched with Saddam pictures and waved Iraqi flags.

Defying curfews, hundreds took to the streets vowing revenge in Samarra, north of Baghdad, and gunmen paraded and fired into the air in support of Saddam in Tikrit, his hometown.

“He’s gone, but our problems continue. We brought problems on ourselves after Saddam because we began fighting Shi’ite on Sunni and Sunni on Shi’ite,” said Haider Hamed, 34, a candy store owner in east Baghdad whose uncle was killed in one of Saddam’s many brutal purges….

There was no immediate sign of a feared Sunni uprising in retaliation for Saddam’s execution.

But the London Sunday Telegraph reported that 400 to 500 Shi’ites had been kidnapped in the past two months and messages to relatives said they would be killed if Saddam died.

The responses within Iraq to Saddam’s death echoed the larger reaction across the Middle East, with his enemies rejoicing and his defenders proclaiming him a martyr.

Iranians and Kuwaitis welcomed the death of the leader who led wars against each of their countries.

Some Arab governments denounced the timing of the 69-year-old former president’s hanging just before the start of the most important holiday of the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Adha.

Libya announced a three-day official mourning period and canceled all celebrations for Eid.

The jihad in Iraq will be intensified and attacks on invader forces will increase

The jihad in Iraq will be intensified and attacks on invader forces will increase”Reactions ranged from hailing Saddam as a hero to condemning him as another Hitler. “Jubilation and anger,” from Reuters:

…”There is a feeling of surprise and disapproval that the verdict has been applied during the holy months and the first days of Eid al-Adha,” a presenter on the official al-Ikhbariya TV said after programming was broken to read a statement.”Leaders of Islamic countries should show respect for this blessed occasion … not demean it,” said the statement, which was attributed to official news agency SPA’s political analyst.

[…]

“This is the worst Eid ever witnessed by Muslims. I had goosebumps when I saw the footage,” said Jordanian woman Rana Abdullah, 30, who works in the private sector.

Hesham Kassem, an Egyptian newspaper publisher and human rights activist, said airing the images was controversial, but added: “This man was one of the most brutal mass murderers in the history of mankind. He stands alongside Hitler and Stalin.”

But in the impoverished Iraqi village where Saddam was born, residents vowed revenge. “We will all become a bomb,” said one young man in Awja, 150 kilometres north of Baghdad.

Libya, the only state to show solidarity with Saddam in his death, declared three days of mourning and cancelled public Eid celebrations. Flags on government buildings flew at half-mast.

While many Arab governments refrained from comment, a senior aide to Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa called the execution “a tragic end to a sad phase in Iraq’s history”.

“We hope that the Iraqi people would focus on the future to be able to pass this stage, stop the violence and achieve reconciliation,” Hesham Youssef told Reuters in Cairo.

The Foreign Ministry in Egypt, the most populous country in the Arab world, expressed regret that authorities in Iraq went ahead with the execution, and for carrying it out on the first day of the Eid al-Adha feast.

“We hope that carrying out the execution … would not lead to more deterioration in the situation,” the official MENA news agency quoted the ministry’s spokesman Alaa El-Hadidi as saying.

The government of Iraqi neighbour Jordan said it hoped the execution would not have “any negative repercussions”.

Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, said Arabs wondered who most deserved to face trial: “Saddam Hussein, who preserved the unity of Iraq, … or those who engulfed the country in this bloody civil war?”

No street unrest was reported in Arab capitals, where Muslims were preoccupied with the Eid holiday, but thousands of Indians, mostly Muslims, staged anti-US protests.

Tajeddine El Husseini, a Moroccan international economic law professor, said Saddam’s “symbolic sacrifice” on a religious day when Muslims slaughter animals would make things worse.

In Afghanistan, a Taliban commander said Saddam’s demise would galvanise Muslim opposition to the United States.

“His death will boost the morale of Muslims. The jihad in Iraq will be intensified and attacks on invader forces will increase,” Mullah Obaidullah Akhund told Reuters by telephone.

News of Saddam’s death shocked Palestinians, many of whom had seen him as an Arab hero for his missile attacks on Israel during the 1991 Gulf War that ended Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait.

“The Americans wanted to tell all Arab leaders who are their servants that they are like Saddam, nothing but a sheep slaughtered on Eid,” said Abu Mohammad Salama at a Gaza mosque.

Hamas lawmaker Mushir al-Masri said Saddam’s execution was a “proof of the criminal and terrorist American policy and its war against all forces of resistance in the world”.

In Kuwait, where Saddam is reviled for his 1990 invasion, parliament speaker Jasim Mohammad al-Kharafi hailed the execution, saying it had brought the country “two Eids”.

Top Saudi cleric issues religious edict declaring Shiites to be infidels

Top Saudi cleric issues religious edict declaring Shiites to be infidels

Friday, December 29, 2006

CAIRO, Egypt A top Saudi Arabian Sunni cleric on Friday declared Shiites around the world to be infidels who should be considered worse than Jews or Christians, the latest sign of increasing sectarianism in the Middle East. Abdul Rahman al-Barak, one of the top several Wahhabi clerics in Saudi Arabia and considered close to the Kingdom’s royal family, also urged Sunnis worldwide to oppose reconciliation with Shiites. The Wahhabi stream of Sunni Islam that is followed in Saudi Arabia is conservative and views Shiites as heretics.

“By and large, rejectionists (Shiites) are the most evil sect of the nation and they have all the ingredients of the infidels,” Abdul Rahman wrote in a fatwa, or religious edict, that was posted on his web site Friday.

“The general ruling is that they are infidels, apostates and hypocrites,” he wrote. “They are more dangerous than Jews and Christians,” he wrote in the edict, which Abdul Rahman said was in response to a question from a follower.

Like most hardline Sunnis, Abdul Rahman employed the word “rejectionists,” used as a derogatory term to describe Shiites because they opted out of the Sunni school of Islamic theology. He also said the sect was the work of a Jewish conspiracy.

Abdul Rahman’s remarks comes amid concern by many Sunni Arabs about what they perceive as a Shiite revival following the 2003 war that toppled Saddam Hussein in Iraq. They include Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Earlier this month, Nawaf Obeid, an adviser to the Saudi embassy in Washington, spoke of “massive Saudi intervention to stop Iranian-backed Shiite militias from butchering Iraqi Sunnis” if the United States withdraws from the country. Saudi citizens are also reportedly raising funds for Sunni insurgents in Iraq.

Earlier this month, about 30 prominent Saudi Wahhabi clerics called on Sunni Muslims around the Middle East to support their brethren in Iraq against Shiites and praised the anti-American insurgency.

Thousands of Iraqis have been killed this year in sectarian bloodshed between the majority Shiites and the Sunni Arab minority, who lost their dominance after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Saudi Arabia, like most Arab countries, is predominantly Sunni but has a significant Shiite minority.

Michigan’s Hezbollah Connection

Michigan’s Hezbollah Connection




by Jim Kouri, CPP

 

Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, proclaimed himself neutral — “I don’t take sides for or against Hezbollah; I don’t take sides for or against Israel,” he said — there appears to be problems of Hezbollah activities within his and fellow traveler Rep. John Conyer’s own backyard.

A Dearborn Heights MI, man pleaded guilty on recently to charges of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and using illegally obtained funds to help finance the terrorist group Hezbollah.

Youssef Aoun Bakri, 36, pleaded guilty in federal court as he stood before US District Judge Gerald E. Rosen. The original indictment charged Bakri and other defendants with  operating a criminal enterprise to traffic in contraband cigarettes and counterfeit goods, producing counterfeit cigarette tax stamps, and laundering money.

Most troubling was the fact that part of the profits made from the illegal enterprise were given to Hezbollah, a designated foreign terrorist organization (DFTO), according to the indictment.

Bakri faces maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Two other defendants, Imad Majed Hamadeh, 51, of Dearborn Heights and Theodore Schenk, 73, of Miami Beach, Fla., have already entered guilty pleas to basically the same indictment.

“Fighting terrorism and keeping our citizens safe from its reach, is the Department of Justice’s number-one priority. Raising money for designated terrorist organizations, like Hezbollah, is a serious crime which will be vigorously pursued in the Eastern District of Michigan,” US Attorney Stephen Murphy said.

“Together, we will use all of the legal tools available to us to disrupt criminal activity that funds terrorist organizations,” he said.

According to Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of the Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s Office of Investigations in Detroit, “ICE will continue to work with other law enforcement agencies to dismantle criminal organizations. Racketeering is a serious crime, and ICE will continue to investigate those who exploit our borders to facilitate their criminal enterprise.”

The indictment charges that between 1996 and 2004, a group of individuals worked together in a criminal enterprise to traffic in contraband cigarettes, counterfeit Zigzag rolling papers (used for rolling marijuana cigarettes), and counterfeit Viagra; to produce counterfeit cigarette tax stamps; to transport stolen property; and to launder money.

The enterprise was international in scope and operated from Lebanon, Canada, China, Brazil, Paraguay and the United States.

Also named in the indictment and awaiting a January 7, 2007 trial dates are: Karim Hassan Nasser, 37, of Windsor, Ontario; Fadi Mohamad-Musbah Hammoud, 33, of Dearborn, Mich.; Majid Mohamad Hammoud, 39, of Dearborn Heights; Jihad Hammoud, 47, of Dearborn; Ali Najib Berjaoui, 39, of Dearborn; Mohammed Fawzi Zeidan, 41, of Canton, Mich.; and Adel Isak, 37, of Sterling Heights, Mich.

Others charged in the indictment, who are currently wanted as fugitives and believed to have left the United States are: Imad Mohamad-Musbah Hammoud, 37 of Lebanon, formerly of Dearborn; Hassan Ali Al-Mosawi, 49, of Lebanon; Hassan Hassan Nasser, 36, of Windsor, Ontario; Ali Ahmad Hammoud, 64, of Lebanon; Karim Hassan Abbas, 37, formerly of Dearborn; Hassan Mohamad Srour, 30, of Montreal, Quebec; Naji Hassan Alawie, 44, of Windsor, Ontario; and Abdel-Hamid Sinno, 52, of Montreal, Quebec.

US law enforcement is coordinating their efforts with the Canadian intelligence and security services and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to capture the fugitives who escaped into Canada.

The indictment alleges that Imad Hammoud, along with his partner, Hassan Makki, ran a multimillion dollar a year contraband cigarette-trafficking organization headquartered in the Dearborn, Mich., area between 1996 and 2002.

Makki pleaded guilty in 2003 in federal district court in Detroit to racketeering and providing material support to Hezbollah. Some of the cigarettes were supplied to the organization by Mohamad Hammoud, who was convicted in 2002 in federal district court in Charlotte, NC, of, among other crimes, racketeering and providing material support to Hezbollah.

Makki and Mohamad Hammoud, who were not charged in the indictment, were identified as un-indicted coconspirators. They both are currently serving prison sentences in related cases for their activities in this matter.

The indictment charges that the group would obtain low-taxed or untaxed cigarettes in North Carolina and the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in New York and bring them into Michigan and the State of New York for the purpose of evading tens of millions in state cigarette taxes. The enterprise obtained large profits by reselling the cigarettes at market prices in Michigan and New York. The enterprise sometimes used counterfeit tax stamps to make it appear as though state taxes had been paid.

The indictment additionally charges that portions of the profits made from the illegal enterprise were forwarded to Hezbollah. Some members of the enterprise charged a “Resistance Tax,” a set amount over black-market price per carton of contraband cigarettes which their customers were told would be going to Hezbollah. Some members of the enterprise also solicited money from cigarette customers for the “orphans of martyrs” program run by Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon to support the families of persons killed in Hezbollah suicide attacks and other terrorist operations.

The US Secretary of State has designated Hezbollah a foreign terrorist organization. An entity may be designated as a foreign terrorist organization if the Secretary of State finds that: (1) the organization is a foreign organization; (2) the organization engages in terrorist activity; and (3) the terrorist activity of the organization threatens the security of US nationals or the national security of the United States.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Intelligence Division of the New York City Police Department maintain that Hezbollah terrorist cells are deeply entrenched in the United States. One of Hezbollah’s largest headquarters is located in Toronto, Canada, but they claim they are members of the political-wing of Hezbollah and not its military-wing.
 

Is Romney’s Michigan Support Crumbling?

Is Romney’s Michigan Support Crumbling?

December 29, 2006

CBN News has been talking to operatives in the state of Michigan and the news is not good for Governor Romney. I’ve learned that there are at least four Republican Representatives from the Michigan State House that are seriously rethinking their support of Romney for President.

These are members of Romney’s steering committee in Michigan who are now having reservations about recent revelations about Romney’s past comments in regards to marriage, abortion and the Boy Scouts. There’s a good chance that they could jump ship. I know that one of them wrote to Romney’s office demanding specific answers to certain questions. If these members jump ship, the logical choice would be for them to back Senator Sam Brownback for President. Unlike Romney, Brownback has no past skeletons in his closet when it comes to these issues.

Romney has been under criticism lately because of a letter he wrote in 1994 when he was running for the U.S. Senate. In it, Romney thanks the Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts, a gay Republican group, for its support. He also calls for equality for gays and lesbians. In the letter, Romney also said he supported President Clinton’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding gays serving in the Armed Forces, describing it as “the first in a number of steps that will ultimately lead to gays and lesbians being able to serve openly and honestly in our nation’s military.” Romney has lately been positioning himself as the candidate for family value conservatives in 2008.

As for whether gays should be allowed to be leaders in the Boy, Romney said this in 1994 when running for the U.S. Senate, “I support the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue.all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.”

What I’m being told from a well placed source on the ground is that the representatives who may leave Romney are really questioning the legitimacy of his conservative credentials. Romney has always said he has evolved on these issues over the years, but these folks in Michigan think it’s okay to evolve, but some of this seems to be major flip flop material, especially on the life issue where they point out how he’s gone from pro-choice in 1994, to pro-life in 2000, to pro-choice in 2002 and now back to pro-life.

Romney’s office will dispute this, but what they can’t dispute is a potential unraveling among their steering committee in Michigan. Michigan is crucial to Romney. He has significant family roots there and it’s one of the first four primary states. He needs to do well there. Stay tuned for more in this space.

Saddam’s last moment

Saddam Hussein hanged: Iraqi official

Saddam Hussein hanged: Iraqi official
Fri Dec 29, 2006 10:57 PM ET

By Mariam Karouny

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging shortly before 6 a.m. (10:00 p.m. EST) on Saturday, U.S.-backed Iraqi television station Al Hurra and Arabic satellite channel Arabiya said.

Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Labeed Abbawi also said the execution had taken place.

“I believe so, yes. He has been executed. It has been officially announced that he has been executed,” Abbawi said, speaking by telephone to BBC News 24.

The former Iraqi president ousted in April 2003 by a U.S.-led invasion was convicted in November of crimes against humanity over the killings of 148 Shi’ite villagers from Dujail after a failed assassination bid in 1982.

An appeals court upheld the death penalty on Tuesday and the government rushed through the procedures to hang him by the end of the year and before the Eid al-Adha holiday that starts on Saturday, coinciding with the haj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Earlier, senior officials told Reuters they were expecting to see the former president hang between 5:30 and 6 a.m. (0230 and 0300 GMT).

U.S. television showed scenes of cheering and flag-waving Iraqi-Americans in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan, home to the largest U.S. Arab-American community.

Arabic satellite channel Arabiya said Saddam’s half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti and former judge Awad al-Bander were also executed by hanging on Saturday.

The Iraqi government had kept details of its plans shrouded in secrecy amid concerns it could spark a violent backlash from his former supporters with Iraq on the brink of civil war.

The execution will delight Iraq’s majority Shi’ites, who faced oppression during Saddam’s three-decade rule, but may anger some in his resentful Sunni minority.

Some Kurdish leaders had sought a delay so they too could see justice for the man they accuse of genocide against them.

ONCE BELLIGERENT STRONGMAN

Saddam’s conviction on November 5 was hailed by President Bush as a triumph for the democracy he promised to foster in Iraq after the invasion almost four years ago.

With U.S. public support for the war slumping as the number of American dead approaches 3,000, Washington is likely to welcome the death of Saddam, despite misgivings among many allies about capital punishment.

But the hanging could complicate efforts by Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to heal Iraq’s sectarian divisions with violence spiralling out of control and threatening to pitch the country into full-scale civil war.

Once the belligerent strongman of the Middle East, Saddam’s power crumbled when U.S. tanks swept into Baghdad in April 2003. He fled and was captured in December that year by U.S. soldiers who found him hiding in a hole near his home town of Tikrit.

During his three decades in power, Saddam was accused of widespread oppression of political opponents and genocide against Kurds in northern Iraq. His execution means he will never face justice on those charges.

Defiant to the end, Saddam insisted during his trial that he was still the president of Iraq.

He said in a letter written after his conviction in November that he offered himself as a “sacrifice”.

“If my soul goes down this path (of martyrdom) it will face God in serenity,” he wrote in the letter.

Defense lawyer Issam Jhazzawi earlier told Reuters Saddam’s exiled daughters in Jordan were bracing for his imminent death.

“The family are praying for him every minute and are calling on God that He let his soul rest in peace among the martyrs,” he said.

His daughter Raghd, who is exiled in Jordan, “is asking that his body be buried in Yemen temporarily until Iraq is liberated and it can be reburied in Iraq,” a source close to the family said by telephone before the execution.

(Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald, Ibon Villelabeitia, Claudia Parsons in Baghdad and Suleiman Khalidi in Dubai)