The Arab world is subject to genocide, it is true. It’s just that it’s mostly self-inflicted, and Israel has nothing to do with any of it. An article by Ben Dror Yemini, Ma’ariv correspondent

Hezbollah chief makes first public appearance since war –The coward slinks out of his hole after his followers died for him — How many virgins do you get for hiding??

Hezbollah leader appears in public
Friday 22 September 2006 7:54 AM GMT

Speaking at a victory rally in south Beirut in his first public appearance since the war with Israel, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said his group still had over 20,000 rockets available.Nasrallah joined hundreds of thousands of Hezbollah supporters who filled the devastated southern suburbs of Beirut on Friday with a sea of yellow flags to celebrate “divine victory” in their month-long war against Israel.“The resistance today has more than 20,000 rockets. The resistance is today stronger than on July 12 [the outbreak of the hostiltities] … and stronger than ever before,” he said.One of Israel’s stated aims in the offensive was to eliminate  Hezbollah’s capacity to fire rockets, thousands of which were fired at the country during the conflict.

Nasrallah last appeared in public at a news conference on July 12 when he announced the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah fighters, an act which led to the Israeli attacks.

The assembled crowd, which Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television said was in the hundreds of thousands, was swollen by Amal supporters waving the green flags of the sometime rival but more recently allied movement.

Supporters arrived from across Lebanon, with many setting off for the capital on Thursday by car and on foot from Shia villages in the south of the country, an area badly damaged in the Israeli offensive.

No weapon handover

Nasrallah said his fighters will give up their weapons only when “Israel’s threats” end and the Lebanese government is strong enough to protect the country.

“We will not give up our arms in a weak Lebanese state incapable of defending itself from the threat of Israel,” Aljazeera quoted him as saying on Friday.

“There is no army in the world that can [force us] to drop our weapons from our hands, from our grip.

“We will not release the two captured Israeli soldiers except in an exchange for Lebanese prisoners.“We do not want to keep our arms for ever. We do not say that our arms are forever, and this is not logical. It has to end. “But any word on disarming the resistance under this state, this authority, this regime and this current situation means keeping Lebanon under the risk of having Israel killing and bombarding at will.”

‘Strong, just state’

Aljazeera further quoted Nasrallah as saying “let us build a strong and just state”, and calling for a new Lebanese government of national union. 

“We are sticking to and calling for establishing a state but we will never let anyone to insult us.

“The time of victory has begun and the time of defeats has gone.”

The Hezbollah chief strongly criticised, albeit indirectly, the anti-Syrian Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who is a key government ally, and demanded that he apologise for his past statements.

Festive atmosphere

Fouad Siniora, Lebanon’s prime minister, was absent from the event and Aljazeera’s Beirut correspondent said many people shouted anti-Siniora slogans, urging him to resign.

The atmosphere at the rally was said to be happy and festive.

Muhammed Hajj Hussein, 50, said: “Today is a holiday for Lebanon and I have never felt more happy. I am very happy for the victory of the resistance.”Hasan Slyman said: “This is a victory for Lebanon and the Islamic world. I’m very proud and hope the international community will now act against Israeli violations and incursions into our airspace.”Ali Sahhar said: “Everyone thought the Israeli army was unbeatable, this wasn’t true and today we are declaring the victory the resistance achieved.” 

Long walk

The rally had been expected to coincide with the final withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from southern Lebanon, but Israel’s army chief said on Wednesday there were “a few issues to be wrapped up” before the pullout could be completed.

Israeli forces have been gradually pulling out from territory they captured in fighting which killed nearly 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 157 Israelis.

Hezbollah has declared victory in the war, during which it fired nearly 4,000 rockets into northern Israel.Border patrolEarlier, Nasrallah said on the group’s Al-Manar Television: “I call on you all to participate in a victory rally, your victory … in the southern suburb, the suburb of honour, glory, faith, steadfastness and victory for the whole country.

“Let us renew our covenant and declare our joy at the divine victory to the whole world.”

Under the terms of a truce which ended the fighting last month, UN and Lebanese army forces are deploying in the south to monitor the ceasefire and try to assert the authority of the Beirut government.But Nasrallah has said his fighters remain on the border with Israel and Hezbollah has dismissed demands that it disarm.

Earlier, Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, declined to say if the Hezbollah leader would be attacked if he appeared at the rally.

“And you think, that if he was, I would tell you – and tell him?” he told Israel’s Channel 10 television on Thursday.

Aljazeera + Agencies

Thousands Rally Against Pope in Mideast

Thousands Rally Against Pope in


Sep 22, 9:32 AM (ET)


JERUSALEM (AP) – Thousands of Muslim worshippers staged marches against Pope Benedict XVI in
Jerusalem, the
West Bank and
Gaza on Friday, waving green Hamas banners and denouncing him as a “coward” and an “agent of the Americans.”
The demonstrations in the
Middle East, as well as smaller rallies in
Pakistan and
Malaysia, came as Benedict invited representatives of Muslim countries to meet Monday at his summer residence, the
Vatican said. The
Vatican has been seeking to defuse anger across the Muslim world that followed the pope’s remarks about Islam last week in
Germany. Benedict cited the words of a Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as “evil and inhuman,” particularly “his command to spread by the sword the faith.” The pope said Sunday that he was “deeply sorry” about the reactions to his remarks and that they did not reflect his own opinions. Earlier this week, he said his comments were open to misinterpretation and that he had “deep respect” for Islam. He has not issued a direct apology, as demanded by Muslim leaders. Earlier in the week, protesters attacked seven churches in the
West Bank and
Gaza, causing little damage and no injuries. At Islam’s third-holiest shrine, the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in
Jerusalem, hundreds of worshippers hoisted black flags and banners that read, “Conquering Rome is the answer.” Protesters chanted, “The army of Islam will return.” The march dispersed peacefully. In the
West Bank city of
Nablus, Hamas supporters took to the streets after prayers, shouting slogans against the pope and waving Hamas flags. Raising their hands to the sky, the more than 2,000 protesters chanted: “We put up with hunger, detention and occupation, but we won’t put up with the offending the prophet. We sacrifice our lives for you prophet.” Marching in the streets of
Nablus, the protesters called the pope a “coward and agent of the Americans.” In northern
Gaza, more than 1,000 Islamic Jihad supporters shouted in praise of the prophet, and waved black flags. Khader Habib, an Islamic Jihad leader, told the crowd that the pope’s comments “indicate that this pope doesn’t understand Islam or the prophet.” In Ramallah, hundreds of Hamas supporters marched around the city center. Hundreds of radical Islamists chanting “Down with the pope” rallied in several Pakistani cities. More than 500 supporters of a coalition of six Islamic parties, called Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, or MMA, demanded the pope’s removal and accused him of supporting the policies of President Bush. “If I get hold of the pope, I will hang him,” Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, a senior MMA leader, told protesters in
Islamabad, who carried placards reading “Terrorist, extremist Pope be hanged!” and “Down with Muslims’ enemies!” In
Karachi, another MMA leader, Ghafoor Ahmed, accused the pope of wanting to force “Christians and Muslims against each other.” “We condemn the pope. We will not tolerate insulting remarks against Islam or our Prophet Muhammad,” Ahmed said at a protest that drew about 300 people. Another 200 rallied in the eastern city of
Lahore, while several dozen protested in
Multan. The demonstrations came a day after 1,000 clerics and religious leaders met in
Lahore and called for the pope’s removal and warned the West of consequences if it didn’t change its stance regarding Islam. Thursday’s meeting was organized by radical Islamic Jamaat al-Dawat group, which runs schools, colleges and medical clinics. In April,
Washington put the group on a list of terrorist organizations for its alleged links with militants fighting in the Indian part of
Kashmir. After the meeting, a statement was issued demanding the West “change its stance regarding Islam (or) it will face severe consequences.” It did not elaborate. It also said that jihad was not terrorism and that “Islam was not propagated with the sword.”
Malaysia‘s opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party staged demonstrations outside mosques nationwide, calling for the pope to fully retract his remarks. In
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia‘s largest city, some 150 party members chanted “Stop the insults” and held a banner that read “We Muslims are peace-loving people.” Associated Press writers Munir Ahmad in
Islamabad, Zarar Khan in
Karachi, Asif Shahzad in
Lahore and Khalid Tanveer in
Multan contributed to this report.


Hamas Columnist: Hizbullah’s Victory in Lebanon Opens the Door for a Third Intifada

 Print this article

August 13, 2006 No.1246
Hamas Columnist: Hizbullah’s Victory in Lebanon Opens the Door for a Third IntifadaIn an article published on August 7, 2006, in the Hamas semiweekly Al-Risala titled “Victory in Lebanon – towards a Third Intifada,” columnist Ibrahim Abu Heija’ encourages Hamas to use what he sees as Hizbullah’s victory as a springboard for a third Palestinian intifada. In the same issue, a cartoon (shown below) was published depicting Hassan Nasrallah as a general with dead Israeli soldiers hanging as tassels on his epaulettes. The following are excerptsfrom the article: [1]  “The Greatest Beneficiary [of the Victory in Lebanon] Will Ultimately Be the Palestinian Resistance” “What has become evident from the ongoing battles in the proud and resistant south of Lebanon is the confirmation of Israel’s failure in achieving its goals and the confirmation of the decline in its deterrence capability in comparison with what it was before it got embroiled in the Lebanese quagmire – despite the bloody slaughters that Israel committed against unarmed civilians… “What is noteworthy here is not only the collapse of the Israeli defense doctrine in the face of a well-organized community possessed of faith and will, such as Hizbullah, but what is more important in the Israeli loss is to examine the consequences of the victory and its implications on additional levels. “Hizbullah, which achieved the victory, will be the least of those who benefit from this victory, due to certain considerations relevant to the Lebanese arena, which is based on sectarian division. This does not mean that it will not gain greater strength and legitimacy than it had before, particularly since the Israeli aggression, as is evident, proceeds without direction and without any reckoning of consequences, and therefore gets itself entangled in guerilla warfare, in which Hizbullah is unsurpassed in its skill, and has a Syrian and Iranian backing that denies it nothing in terms of arms, money, support, and protection. “It detracts nothing from Hizbullah’s standing, nor from its right to enjoy the honor of victory, that it is a shield protecting Syria and Lebanon from breaking apart, and is a shield for Iran against an attack on its nuclear reactor. “However, the greatest beneficiary will ultimately be the Palestinian resistance, because all of the Arab, regional, and international equations, whether they are at variance or in agreement, revolve around the Palestinian cause, either in order to liquidate it or to defend it.” “This is an Important Moment That the Palestinian Resistance Must Seize” “This is an important moment that the Palestinian resistance must seize. It benefited from [a similar moment] at the beginning of the Al-Aqsa [Intifada], when the West Bank and Gaza spoke the Lebanese language, after they had long been immersed in American and Israeli illusions. And following [the Al-Aqsa Intifada], the incomplete [Israeli] withdrawal from the Gaza Strip was carried out. “And now, after the cease-fire [hudna] has been tried and the experience of changing the [Palestinian] Authority reached its peak, the door will be opened for a third Palestinian intifada that will transform the resistance from the stage of reaction [to Israeli] actions to [resistance] that is carried out at our initiative.” “The Arab Regimes… Showed Solidarity With Israel… and Placed their Bets on an Old Horse and a Losing Card” “The intifada will be honed on four sides: [1] The victory in southern Lebanon [underlines] the necessity of elites and Islamic and [pan-Arab] nationalist movements enhancing their service to the masses. This is especially true after the Arab regimes have lost the thin patriotic coating under which they hid and openly showed solidarity with Israel and manifested their dissatisfaction with the resistance [i.e. Hizbullah], and it did not occur to them that they had placed their bets on an old horse and a losing card. “This will fling the door wide open for the strong elites and movements to [make] radical changes in the structures of Arab [society], and the Palestinian resistance will benefit from this, anyway you look at it. “On the [second] side, the spectacle of failure in Lebanon will increase the bungling of the American administration in Iraq, and will expose its selective method of reform. This will affect America’s Mediterranean plans, and will lead it either to recoil and flee, or else will lead it to measures and solutions which aim to patch together the Palestinian issue through fragile regional and international coalitions. Neither course will save the United State’s standing and will not turn back the clock. “The Victory in Lebanon Will Weaken Those Palestinian Voices that [Call] for Making Concessions… and Cease-Fires” “The [third] side is this: the victory in Lebanon will weaken those Palestinian voices that are heard from time to time, sometimes calling for making concessions, at other times calling for fortuitous cease-fires. Hamas will be given a significant margin to gain legitimacy for carrying out [armed] resistance on various fronts where [at present] the Palestinian Authority objects and the resistance desists. “The Israeli Defeat in Lebanon Will Force Israel to Move towards Partial Withdrawals from the Shab’a Farms, the West Bank, and Perhaps the Golan Heights…” “The [fourth] side: the Israeli defeat in Lebanon will force Israel to move towards partial withdrawals from the Shab’a Farms, the West Bank, and perhaps the Golan Heights, in order to diminish the effects of its defeat, but this will in no way deceive the Palestinians, the Syrians, or the Lebanese; rather, it will push them all to make yet another move towards achieving their rights. “In general, it is important for the Palestinian resistance to exploit the effects of the victory in Lebanon for its own interests in order to achieve its rights and move forwards towards its objectives, and to encourage the whole public to unite behind its program. “The growing aggression in the Gaza Strip against children and women will be the most important incentive for accomplishing the equation of the new resistance and taking it beyond the implications of the prisoners’ document and the consideration of being in power to activating all the components of deterrence and counter-deterrence – namely, taking it from considerations of defense and reticence to the elements of attack and advance. That is, towards a third intifada.

[1] Al-Risala (Gaza), August 7, 2006.


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

The unholy past of the Muslim cleric demanding the Pope’s execution

The unholy past of the Muslim cleric demanding the Pope’s execution 19.09.06 Add your view Choudary: Refuses to discuss his dissolute youth At 39, Anjem Choudary should be a symbol of success for his peers. Born into the working-class family of a market trader in Welling on the outskirts of London, he has risen – thanks to the opportunities offered by the British education system – to become a qualified lawyer. But it is unlikely his old school will be inviting him to be guest speaker on prize-giving day. Their former pupil is not famous for his elegant oratory in court. Instead, the articulate Mr Choudary preaches hatred and murder in the streets of Britain to the next generation of young, impressionable Muslims. See also… • Police to probe anti-Pope protest This week he stood outside Westminster Cathedral in central London to call for the execution of the Pope as punishment for ‘insulting Islam’. He fulminated against Pope Benedict XVl, adding: “Whoever insults the message of Mohammed is going to be subject to capital punishment.” It’s a long way from his days as a medical student at Southampton University, where, friends say, he drank, indulged in casual sex, smoked cannabis and even took LSD. He called himself ‘Andy’ and was famed for his ability to drink a pint of cider in a few seconds. One former acquaintance said: “At parties, like the rest of us, he was rarely without a joint. The morning after one party, I can remember him getting all the roaches (butts) from the spliffs we had smoked the night before out of the ashtrays, cutting them up and making a new one out of the leftovers. “He would say he was a Muslim and was proud of his Pakistani heritage, but he did-n’t seem to attend any of the mosques in Southampton, and I only knew of him having white girlfriends. He certainly shared a bed with them.” On one occasion, ‘Andy’ and a friend took LSD together. The friend said: “We took far too much and were hallucinating for 20 hours.” The only sign of religious fervour came in flashes of anger over Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. A friend from that time said: “You didn’t want to get him started on that. He would go on and on about the fatwa and he supported calls for the book to be banned. But he would have a glass of cider in his hand when he was carrying on about it.” Choudary failed his first-year exams, switched from medicine to commercial law and did his final year as a law student at Guildford, from 1990 to 1991, before moving to London. There his legal career stalled briefly and he filled in his time by teaching English as a foreign language in one of the many colleges off Oxford Street. But eventually, he found a position with a firm of solicitors and began completing his qualifications to become a lawyer. His personal life blossomed too. In 1996, aged 29, he married Rubana Akhtar and started a family. The couple, who settled in East London, have a daughter aged eight, and sons aged six and one. Then he met the cleric Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed at a mosque in Woolwich. Bakri, who is now banned from returning to Britain from Lebanon, had formed Al Muhajiroun, committed to the creation of a worldwide Islamic state, and Choudary quickly became a leading light in the group and its successor organisation, Al Ghurabaa. He is no longer a practising solicitor and has left his wife and children to concentrate on his extreme brand of Islam. It was Choudary who organised the Danish Embassy protests over the cartoons of the prophet Mohammed earlier this year, at which demonstrators dressed as suicide bombers and banners proclaimed: ‘Behead Those Who Insult Islam’. He lauded the September 11 hijackers as ‘magnificent martyrs’ and praised Asif Hanif, the British suicide bomber who killed three in Tel Aviv in 2003. After the July 7 atrocities in London, he vowed he would not tell the police if he knew a terror attack was being planned and urged Muslims to defend themselves against perceived attacks by ‘whatever means they have at their disposal’. His shocking pronouncements could be dismissed by some as the rantings of a mind clouded by religious fervour but Choudary has an audience and, at a time of increasing disaffection among young British Muslims, his activities are carefully monitored by Special Branch. A security source said: “He is not seen as premier league because he is so conspicuous. He is seen as an irritant but with a potential to inspire impressionable youngsters to go that one stage further.” Despite his hatred of all things British – he says: “If British means adopting British values, then I don’t think we can adopt British values. I’m a Muslim living in Britain. I have a British passport, but that’s a travel document to me” – he and his family live on state benefits. Rubana is said by friends to claim £1,700 a month in housing benefit and income support while Choudary has also claimed £202 a month in income support. Yesterday, Choudary declined to talk about his past dissolute life, dismissing it as ‘irrelevant’. He said: “I was born a Muslim and I have done my best to be a good Muslim all my life.” And the drugs and alcohol? “That’s not really part of what’s happening in the world today. Anyway, it is all fabricated. It is complete nonsense. “My personal family situation and background is irrelevant to the situation in which we live. I can talk about politics and Islam but I don’t want to talk about my personal life.” He was too busy to answer any further questions. He now belongs to a sect he refuses to name and continues to deny any direct involvement in terrorism. In a recent interview, he said: “Do I know how to make liquid explosives? No, I’m not military-trained. I can make an omelette.” A flippant remark from one whose extremism is so laced with threats of violence.

Voluntary Interviews Instead Of Forced TV Confessions

By Safa Haeri
Posted Monday, September 4, 2006

Paris, 4 Sept. (IPS) In a dramatic change of methods, the Islamic Republic has replaced the decades-long humiliating, shameful, degrading but above all unproductive broadcast on radio and televisions of confessions obtained from dissidents in prisons by “voluntary interviews”, as seen by the interview “offered voluntarily” by Mr. Ramin Jahanbaglou, the prominent Iranian scholar, philosopher and researcher to the semi-official ISNA news agency on 31 July 2006.

“A very excited, agitated man stormed the Agency, almost shouting I’m Dr. Ramin Jahanbaglou. I wanted to be interviewed. I’ve just been released from Evin” (prison).

This is how the Iranian Students News Agency described the arrival of Mr. Jahanbaglou at the agency’s head quarters in Tehran, “immediately after being freed on bail and even before going to his family and then for a much needed rest and peace “far from the media”.

I was arrested on 25 April and I accepted the charges of acting against national security and having contacts with foreigners

The arrest of the scholar, who has also a Canadian citizenship on 25 April on his landing in Tehran coming from India provoked an international outcry, with hundreds of Iranian intellectuals inside and outside the country signing petitions and international human rights organization urging the Iranian authorities for his “immediate and unconditional release”.

In his first public interview with Iranian news agencies one week after the arest, Intelligence Minister Hojjatoleslam Qolamhoseyn Mohseni Ezhe’i revealed that the university professor was arrested “on suspicion of assisting the U.S. in its efforts to provoke a velvet revolution in Iran”.

“I was arrested on 25 April and I accepted the charges of acting against national security and having contacts with foreigners”, Mr. Jahanbaglou told the three female journalists, adding immediately, “I was freed today. Honestly, I knew that people from all over the world would begin calling me as soon as I got home. I wanted to speak to someone to calm down”, he said, repeating and reiterating that during the four months he spent at Evin prison, he was “never treated harshly”.

“One prefers to speak on his own accord than to be compelled to talk to the media under pressure”, he said, explaining his strange decision to come to ISNA and “emptying himself”. “The interrogators were very polite to me and I was never treated in an inappropriate manner”, he insisted, adding “I accepted the charges of acting against national security and having contacts with foreigners. But I did not accept the charge of espionage”.

According to many Iranian intellectuals who had been in prison in Iran and subjected to the previous methods of forced “confessions”, what Mr. Jahanbaglou told ISNA is “exactly the same thing he would have said in a televised confession. The difference is that what he did is, in the view of the new men in charge of the dissidents, this kind of “instant interview” is more convincling.

“But Mr. Jahanbaglou’s interview does not fool anyone”, said Mr. Ali Keshtgar, the Editor of the monthly “Mihan” magazine in Paris, in an article entitled: “What the Evin University Did With Mr. Jahanbaglou?”, a reference to the authorities that call the notorious Evin prison as a “university”.

“I used to write articles about Iran and the Middle East in some Web sites which I was not aware were linked to intelligence services. I was sliding gradually, from what I thought was intellectual researches and works to what it was really: political activities against the interests of my country”, the philosopher admitted.

“I was not subjected to any physical and mental pressures. My interrogators were polite. They told me that I had contacts with such and such and I told them yes. They asked me if I thought I was acting against national interests, and I said I was acting against national interests… I was arrested for having ties to U.S. organizations”, Mr. Jahanbaglou added.

Continuing relentlessly, as ISNA put it, Mr. Jahanbaglou said: “I had ties to American organizations from 2001 to 2006. In fact, one particular organization, which offers scholarships and organizes events, invited me to some of its conferences. There I came into contact with some U.S. State Department officials as well as others. At some of the conferences I attended there were a number of American and Zionist intelligence agents. These contacts continued until finally, in one of my trips to attend a conference in Europe, I met a former advisor to Clinton who was also the head of the German Marshall Fund”.

“They (the Americans) take various NGO members abroad to educate them. Recently, some people have been officially invited to be trained in the U.S. under the pretext of attending scientific seminars or for business or employment. The initial financial assistance given to them is not enough to arouse the suspicion that they have been invited to be trained as spies”, Mr. Mohseni Ezhe’i had claimed during his press conference about the reasons behind Mr. Jahanbaglou’s arrest.

“My arrest had to do with “velvet revolutions”, explained the scholar, “and there were concerns about the people that I had invited to Iran. The German Marshall Fund had proposed a grant for a comparative research project on the role of Eastern European intellectuals and civil society in bringing down communism. The problem was to find ways of empowering intellectuals and non-governmental organizations in Iran”.

“Colour, Velvet, Orange revolutions”. This is exactly what Mr. Mohseni Ezheh’i had said in his press conference, charging Mr. Jahanbaglou “on suspicion of assisting the U.S. in its efforts to provoke a velvet revolution in Iran.

“The importance of means at the disposal of Mr. Jahanbaglou as well as his relations and communications attracted the attention of the (Intelligence) Ministry of him. Some of his activities were absolutely organized and organizational, point out to his mission”, the Intelligence Minister had then said.

If at that time, Mr. Mohseni Ezhe’i did not produced any documents proving Mr. Jahanbaglou’s involvement in any illegal political activity, four months latter, the professor bring them out of his sleeve, saying: “I accepted acting against national security through having contacts with foreigners and being part of a network. I accepted the charge of acting against national security but did not know that what I was doing was against national security”.

“What Mr. Jahanbaglou has said in his interview is exactly in line with the spirit of the leader, Ali Khameneh’i or the President, Ahmadi Nezhad

“In my opinion,” Jahanbegloo continued, “at least part of the scholarly community and elements within the civil society are in danger of doing what I did. I see many who receive conference invitations and grants, and who are contacted by American organizations. It is possible for them too to become part of networks that undermine national interests and what can be called ‘Iranian values.’ I am talking about civil society in general. Even those within the government can fall into this trap unknowingly”.

“What Mr. Jahanbaglou has said in his interview is exactly in line with the spirit of the leader, Ali Khameneh’i or the President, Ahmadi Nezhad, the theory of plots, warning Iranians, particularly the intelligentsia, against meeting anyone who is not a “khodi” (one of ours) because they are all enemies of Islam and the Islamic Republic”, points out Mr. Keshtgar, asking “how comes that an intelligent man like Mr. Jahanbaglou has not realized, as he says, what kind of people come to his lectures until he went to the Evin University?

In fact, in his interview with ISNA, Mr. Jahanbaglou, a graduate of the prestigious French Sorbonne University and other leading cultural and scientific institutions, warns Iranian scholars and intellectuals against attending international conferences organized by Western NGOs or other think tank centres or universities, “where one might meet American or Zionist agents disguised as researchers or scientists, a capacity some of them have”.

“They (NGOs and research foundations) had placed me in a path that I lately realized I’m caught in a chain of events. This could await others, as I was going to conferences where intelligent agents and Zionist elements were also present”, he admits, using the word “Zionist” which is the usual jargon employed by Iranian officials to designate Israelis.

“In his (Khameneh’i) sick mind, the Enemy” is not America per se. It is a secret group of people, let’s say some 15 to 20 members from Western nations, all without visage, probably directed by a Zionist and flanked by an American and a British Jew, acting against the whole world, including the United States, but particularly against Islam and the present Islamic regime of Iran”, explains Mr. Mohsen Sazegara, a former founder of the Revolutionary Guards turned dissidents and struggling for a “smooth regime change”.

Asked why he has lost weight, Mr. Jahanbaglou says “prison environment has its own conditions”, but quickly adds that after the fist month he spent in solitary confinement, he was treated “well, access to radio, television and newspapers. Even things for writing. Food was all right and surprised see everyone has access to good medicare”.

In his ISNA “voluntary interview”, Mr. Jahanbaglou, interestingly denied reports of having confessed on tape while in custody, asking angrily, “Who has claimed such a thing? In any case, no one from the judiciary talked to me about such a thing and I decided to talk on my own”, he said, referring to the Attorney General Dorri Najafabadi stating two weeks ago that the scholar had accepted his confessions being tapped and that the confessions would be released soon on State Television.

“Jahanbegloo has agreed to broadcast his confessions on national television,” Najaf-Abadi told reporters, “whether or not they would be broadcasted, that’s another issue.” In a separate interview, the judiciary’s spokesman, Karimi Rad, confirmed that a taped confession had been made. Prior to these interviews, hardliner daily Resalat had reported that Jahanbegloo’s confession tape had been screened at a certain “cultural” institution (the “Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution,” some analysts speculated), the London and Paris-based internet newspaper “Rooz” (Day) close to the reformers said.

“My real plan now is to return to the original project that I was working on prior to my arrest. I had traveled to India to study the culture. I want to go back to India and, god willing, publish my research in one or two volumes. That will take up a couple of years of my time”.

“What they have done to Jahanbaglou to confess exactly same things as Keyhan (hard line newspaper, a mouthpiece of Mr. Khameneh’i), corresponding exactly to the sickening plot theory of the leader and Ahmadi Nezhad?” asked Mr. Keshtgar, adding :This kind of interviews is the same old televised confessions under different name”. ENDS JAHANBAGLOU CONFESSIONS 4906

One Last Nail To The Coffin Of Independent Media in Iran

By Safa Haeri
Posted Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Paris, 13 Sept. (IPS) In one of its latest and most dramatic act of pressure against Iranian independent media, the authorities in the Islamic Republic closed down the country’s most influential and popular newspaper “Sharq” (Orient) on Monday.

The order was issued by the Government-controlled Press Supervisory Board, charging the pro-reform, mass circulation daily with a string of accusations, including “publication of blasphematory articles not in line with Islam, propagation of articles harmful to the Islamic Republic, prostitution, printing of pictures and photographs against public order, creating division among population by debates about ethnic and racial issues etc..”.

The donkey, an animal that in Iranian culture symbolises ignorance, naivety, stubbornness and craziness.

However, most Iranian political analysts, including some of the journalists at the paper said the most important thing that the Government did not like was a cartoon printed last week showing a chess board where a horse and a donkey, with a halo of light around its head are debating the regime’s handling of nuclear issue with the West.

Though cartoonists say the halo is not a halo, but an effect to separate the animals heads, it seems that the censors at the Iranian judiciary have made a rapprochement between the donkey of the cartoon with President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad’s talks last year to a senior cleric telling him when he was addressing the (last) United Nations General Assembly in New York and telling the audience about Mehdi, the Shi’ates hidden imam, suddenly a light descended on the vast room.

[The donkey, an animal that in Iranian culture symbolises ignorance, naivety, stubbornness and craziness, has its mouth open and light around him, while the horse shows no emotion].

“The closure of Sharq has no legal ground and on behalf of the Iranian Professional Journalists Association, we say that the Government of Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad has no regard for laws and acts on personal motivations in closing Sharq and (the monthly) Nameh (Letter)”, said Mr. Masha’allah Shamsolva’ezin, the Association’s spokesman and a veteran journalist.

“We are in a vicious circle, for, as a result of these pressures, closures and crackdowns, more Iranian intellectuals, journalists, scholars and others take refuge with outside-based media to express themselves and are immediately accused of collaboration with foreign media and arrested”, he told the 24 hours, Farsi-language Radio Farda, the Persian offshoot of Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty, based in Prague.

The closure of Sharq did not came as a surprise, as, in the one hand, the Government had urged the Judiciary not tolerate any criticism of the Ahmadi Nezhad Administration by the press and on the other, the paper had been under growing pressure by the Press Supervisory Board to change its managing director, Mr. Mehdi Rahmanian, a call that Mr. Shamsolva’ezin said was “almost unprecedented”.

State-run television said Sharq was shut because it failed to appoint a new managing director to “more aggressively supervise material published in the paper.”

Mr. Rahmanian, denounced such a demand, saying “Pressure on the press to change their managing director is illegal. The law doesn’t allow the board to make such a demand” he said.

“What is surprising is that Sharq had not been closed before, considering the man who is in charge of the press and publications”, one outside based journalist observed, referring to Mr. Saffa Harandi, a former deputy Editor of the hard line newspaper Keyhan, appointed by Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad as Minister for Islamic Culture and Guidance.

The paper, a mouthpiece of Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the megalomanica, egocentric leader of the Islamic Republic, who appointed Mr. Hoseyn Shari’atmadari, a security officer specializing in interrogating political dissidents and intellectuals as its Editor, is considered as politically the most vicious, repulsive, cynic, dangerous newspapers in the world, not hesitating publish completely fabricated articles to kill dissidents, particularly those not in line with Mr. Khameneh’i.

An example is the series of front page articles published on 12 September “proving” that the 11 September 2001 crushing of airplanes in the World Trade Centre twin towers was hatched at the White House.

“What Mr. Khameneh’i like, and Mr. Saffar Harrandi is executing, is having the Iranian media tailored after Keyhan”. The incriminated cartoon was a pretext to invade the last barricade of the reformists in Iran”, the journalist, himself one of he victims of Keyhan, pointed out.

Iran’s official news agency reported the paper was ordered closed down for “dozens of violations,” including the cartoon’s publication and “publication of material against the rulings by the Supreme National Security Council.” The council handles Iran’s nuclear negotiations with the West.

But informed sources told Iran Press Service that Sharq was closed after the Judiciary got the confirmation from Mr. Khameneh’i.

What is surprising is that Sharq had not been closed before.

“Considering the immense popularity and the influence of the paper, its closure was not an easy decision to take, for, no doubt, it badly harms the image of a President who portrays his Government of the Administration of compassion, love, Justice and tolerance beyond repair”, they commented, reminding that Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad has purged dozens of journalists, university professors and government officials seen as supporting reforms.

“I think one of the reasons the authorities decided to shut Sharq is that interior and exterior conditions are placing the government in a corner. In response to growing domestic and outside pressures, the Government see no other escape than closing political and social atmospheres at home, allowing no debate, tolerating no criticism”, Mr. Isa Saharkhiz, a nationalist-religious journalist and a former director of the Guidance Ministry under the first presidency of Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami told the internet newspaper “Rooz” (Day), edited in London and Paris.

“In recent months, nuclear officials have been warning the press to be careful over what they publish over Iran’s nuclear policy and not write anything that contradicts what they do”, reformist lawmaker Esma’il Gerami Moqadam told the Associated Press.

“From the letter wrote by Mr. Qolamhoseyn Elham (the Government’s official spokesman) to Mr. Sa’id Mortazavi (Tehran’s Public Prosecutor and the Head of the Capital’s Islamic Revolution tribunal) to crackdown on the media critical of the actions of the Government, it was visible that one goes towards a severe repression against the independent press”, Mr. Saharkhiz said, adding that in his view, one should expect more crackdown and pressures over the reformist media.

“The Government’s political and economic plans have all failed and the international atmosphere is also against the present administration. The best solution in the view of the officials is to restrict as much as possible the limited space for debating major issues like the controversial nuclear problem. At the beginning, they (government) started with telling the papers what not to write about and ended by telling them what to write, as seen by the latest decision of the Supreme Council on National Security telling the papers not to quote any source except some Iranian news agencies all close or sponsored or controlled by the Government”, he observed.

Sharq’s growing popularity and some recent events the paper organized, like celebrating one hundred years of Iran’s first Constitution, the celebration of the paper’s third year in existence, some of its very popular editorials and comments by mostly reformist personalities, commentators, scholars, diplomats etc all were subjects not liked by Mr. Khameneh’I and his sycophants like Ahmadi Nezhad.

Mr. Mohammad Qouchani, a young and talented journalist who was taken as the paper’s Editor masterly brought in a number of what was left of professional newsmen and reporters. “Sharq has come to remain” he promised in his first editorial and in order to remain under the suffocating atmosphere, he walked carefully, avoiding sensitive issues to the point to be tagged by opponents and friends alike as being too conservative or close to some influential clerical circles.

“The closure of Sharq is frightening on two accounts, one because if they (authorities) can not tolerate a paper that was very careful and moderate, then what is that they can tolerate and on the second account, if this is the way they treat a newspaper that has adopted the principle of tolerance and accommodation instead of antagonism and confrontation, then what way remains for the intelligentsia community”, asked Mr. Ahmad Zeydabadi, another reformist journalist.

The Press Supervisory Board also ordered the political monthly “Nameh”, or Letter and “Yase No”, to be closed down, IRNA reported Monday.

The paper’s editor, Majid Tavalla’i, said the reason behind the closure was the publication of a poem from Ms. Simin Behbahani, a national poet about war

“Publication of the poem is seen as the main reason for the closure. They have taken that as an insult (to victims of Iran-Iraq War)”, Mr. Tavalla’i said.

Both Ahmadi Nezhad and Ayatollah Khameneh’i appear on a list of “press freedom predators”

A Yas-e No employee said the papers were padlocked by prosecutors later on Wednesday, and the sign on the building where the paper operates from was torn down.

Echoing the rhetoric of the nation’s 1979 Islamic revolution, Ahmadi Nezhad, a fanatic Shi’a Muslim, appears determined to remake Iran by reviving the fundamentalist goals pursued under the republic’s late founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Upon taking office last year, the hard line, anti-Western, anti-Israeli president replaced nearly all his country’s governors and lower provincial officials, as well as 40 ambassadors. Many of Iran’s top government officials are now either former commanders of the elite Revolutionary Guards or former hard-line security officials.

Last week, he urged students to push for a purge of liberal, secular university teachers, and dozens of such instructors have been sent into early retirement during Ahmadi Nezhad’s rule.

Both Ahmadi Nezhad and Ayatollah Khameneh’i appear on a list of “press freedom predators” compiled by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders each year.

On orders from the leader, the Judiciary shut down more than 200 newspapers, weeklies and other periodicals between 1999 and 2001, most of them pro reform or independent. ENDS SHARQ CLOSED 13906

Playing The Israel Card

By Amir Taheri
Posted Wednesday, July 19, 2006

”When nothing else works, there is always Israel!” This is how the late Egyptian journalist Lutfi al-Khuli liked to describe the motto of Arab radicalism decades ago. The analysis was apt because the Arab obsession with Israel did work on countless occasions.

Despots used Israel as an excuse for their brutal rule. Corrupt leaders adopted an anti-Israel rhetoric as a diversion from their misdeeds. Confused intellectuals used Israel as an object of hate to hide their ineptitude.

During the past 10 weeks arms supplies to Hezbollah have increased and Iran’s Defense Minister has met with Hezbollah leaders.

Arab radicals were not alone in using Israel as the “other,” whose hoped-for destruction would be the ultimate act of redemption for peoples seemingly abandoned by history. The late Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, the father of the Islamic Republic in Iran, also used anti-Israel rhetoric whenever he found himself in a tight corner.

More recently, three men have tried to play the Israel card as a means of getting out of their respective tight corners: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of the Islamic Republic, President Bashar Assad of Syria, and Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah. The reason is that these members of the triple alliance are under increasing pressure both from their domestic constituencies and from international opinion.

Ahmadi Nezhad is under pressure to respond to a carrots-and-stick offer by the five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany. He knows that a positive response to the offer could mark the end for his strategy of extending the Islamic Republic’s influence throughout the Middle East. At the same time he knows that a rejection of the package could isolate his regime, bring about international sanctions and weaken his already shaky rule inside Iran.

To avoid that choice Ahmadinejad decided to play the Israel card. This meant moving the Hezbollah pawn that the Islamic Republic created in Lebanon in 1982 and has financed, trained and armed for the past quarter-century.

It is no accident that during the past 10 weeks arms supplies to Hezbollah have increased dramatically. In the same period the Islamic Republic’s defense minister has met with Hezbollah leaders and commanders on at least two occasions.

According to Iranian media, the Islamic Republic has also increased the size of its military advisory delegation to Hezbollah as a “precaution against Israeli aggression”.

Syria’s Assad also found himself in need of an “Israel diversion.” He and members of his family and administration risk indictment for alleged involvement in the murder of Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri. Worse still, his regime’s opponents have just created a united front in which senior ex-Ba’athists sit alongside leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and prominent liberal and social-democratic figures.

Assad has tried to survive by becoming a liege of Teheran; but he knows that his Iranian masters might abandon him at any time.

Provoking a new conflict with Israel over Lebanon could give Assad a chance to cast himself in the role of the peacemaker. Buthaina Shaaban, one of Assad’s aides, has hinted that, if allowed to return to Lebanon, the Syrians would be prepared to disarm Hezbollah and make sure that the Lebanese border with Israel is as calm as the cease-fire line between Israel and Syria has been for decades.

Assad may also be prepared to drop Hamas, just as he dropped the PKK as part of a deal he made with Turkey a decade ago.

The third member of the triple alliance, Hezbollah, also needs an Israeli diversion. With the departure of the Syrians and the beginnings of democratization in Lebanon, Hezbollah has found itself increasingly isolated. Its performance in Lebanon’s first democratic general election was disappointing, to say the least.

Even more disappointing was its failure to fight the new democratic forces in the streets. Each time Hezbollah organized a demonstration against democratic forces, the latter responded with even bigger crowds. It is clear that the overwhelming majority of Lebanese want to see Hezbollah disarmed so that the country can have a single army under government control.

So what better tactics for Hezbollah than inventing a new war with Israel to remind the Lebanese that they still need the militia as their “national resistance”?

Most Arabs refuse to be dragged into a bigger war and most Lebanese do not see why they should risk their nation ruined solely to allow Hezbollah to remain a state within a state.

The trouble for Ahmadi Nezhad, Assad and Hezbollah is that the Israel diversion may not work this time as it has done in the past.

The current conflict may have diverted some attention at the G-8 from the Iranian nuclear dossier. But the issue is unlikely to fade away.

Ahmadi Nezhad knows that there is no substantial anti-Israel constituency inside Iran. His hope, therefore, is to win the support of the Arab regimes and masses for his ultra-radical stance against Israel. However, that has not happened. With the exception of Syria, no Arab regime has rallied behind the Islamic Republic over the nuclear issue. As for the mythical Arab Street, there is no evidence that it is about to explode in support of Ahmadi Nezhad.

As for Syria, it is unlikely that the current conflict in Lebanon will divert international attention from the Assad regime’s involvement in the Hariri murder. Nor is there any evidence that Washington may be prepared to make a deal with Damascus to insure the Assad regime in exchange for its cooperation on other issues, including disarming Hezbollah.

The biggest loser from this new Israel diversion may well be Hezbollah. Neither the Islamic Republic nor Syria is prepared to risk a bigger war in order to save it from destruction.

This was made clear Friday, when Ahmadinejad, speaking during a provincial tour, called on the “international community” to end the conflict by “restraining Israel.” This was strange – coming from a man who, before the current fighting, had vowed to destroy Israel on more than a dozen occasions.

Inside Lebanon, Hezbollah has failed to enlist the support of General Michel Aoun, the Maronite politician who has signed an alliance with Nasrallah.

Ahmadi Nezhad, Assad and Hezbollah may well have planned for a limited conflict with Israel, one in which the Jewish state would ultimately back down, handing them a moral victory. Their plan may have been based on the assumption that Israel would not dare widen the scope of the war triggered by Hamas and Hezbollah.

Today, the trio find themselves alone. Most Arabs refuse to be dragged into a bigger war – in the shaping of which they had no say. Moreover, most Lebanese do not see why they should risk the destruction of their country solely to allow Hezbollah to remain a state within a state. The “Israel diversion” tactic may have passed its sell-by date. ENDS ISRAEL HEZBOLLAH 19706
Editor’s note: Mr. Amir Taheri
is a well known Iranian journalist, commentator, political analyst and writer.

The above article was published on 18 July by “The Jerusalem Post”.

Highlights are by IPS

God’s Army Has Plans to Run the Whole Middle East

By Amir Taheri
Posted Wednesday, July 26, 2006

‘You are the sun of Islam, shining on the universe!” This is how Muhammad Khatami, the mullah who was president of Iran until last year, described Hezbollah last week. It would be no exaggeration to describe Hezbollah — the Lebanese Shi’ite militia — as Tehran’s regional trump card. Each time Tehran has played it, it has won. As war rages between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, Tehran policymakers think that this time, too, they can win.

“I invite the faithful to wait for good news,” Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last Tuesday. “We shall soon witness the elimination of the Zionist stain of shame.”

What are the links between Hezbollah and Iran? In 1982 Iran had almost no influence in Lebanon. The Lebanese Shi’ite bourgeoisie that had had close ties with Iran when it was ruled by the Shah was horrified by the advent of the clerics who created an Islamic republic.

Seeking a bridgehead in Lebanon, Iran asked its ambassador to Damascus, Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, a radical mullah, to create one. Mohtashamipour decided to open a branch in Lebanon of the Iranian Hezbollah (the party of God).

After many meetings in Lebanon Mohtashamipour succeeded: in its founding statement it committed itself to the “creation of an Islamic republic in Lebanon”. To this end hundreds of Iranian mullahs, political “educators” and Islamic Revolutionary Guards were dispatched to Beirut.

Within two years several radical Shi’ite groups in Lebanon, including some with Marxist backgrounds, had united under the Hezbollah name and became the main force resisting the Israeli occupation of Lebanon after the expulsion of Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in 1983.

Terror has been its principal weapon. Throughout the 1980s Hezbollah kidnapped more than 200 foreign nationals in Lebanon, most of them Americans or western Europeans (including Terry Waite, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s envoy). It organised the hijacking of civilian aircraft and more or less pioneered the idea of suicide bombings against American and French targets, killing almost 1,000 people, including 241 US marines in Beirut and 58 French paratroopers.

The campaign produced results. After Hezbollah’s attacks, France reduced its support for Saddam Hussein. America went further by supplying Iran with TOW anti-tank missiles, shipped via Israel, which helped to tip the Iran-Iraq war in favour of Iran. In exchange Iran ordered Hezbollah to release French and American hostages.

Once the Iran-Iraq war was over, Tehran found other uses for its Lebanese asset. It purged and then reshaped Hezbollah to influence the broader course of regional politics while using it to wage a low-intensity war against Israel.

In 2000, when the Israelis evacuated the strip they controlled in southern Lebanon, Tehran presented the event as the “first victory of Islam over the Zionist crusader camp” and Hezbollah was lauded across the Arab world. Hezbollah taunted the Israelis with billboards on the border reading, “If you return, we return”.

To prop up that myth, Tehran invested in a propaganda campaign that included television “documentaries”, feature films and books and magazine articles. The message was simple: while secular ideologies — from pan-Arabism to Arab socialism — had failed to liberate an inch of Arab territory, Islamism, in its Iranian Khomeinist version working through Hezbollah, had achieved “total victory” over Israel in Lebanon.

Since 1984 Iran has created branches of Hezbollah in more than 20 countries. None has equalled the success of the Lebanese branch, which until recently enjoyed something akin to cult status among Arabs, including non-Muslims, because of the way it stood up to Israel.

It has not even cost Iran very much. Hezbollah was launched with just £13m. After that, according to best estimates, Iran spent £32m to £54m a year on its Lebanese assets. Even if we add the cost of training Hezbollah fighters and equipping them with hardware, Hezbollah (the strongest fighting force in the Middle East after Iran and Israel) has not cost Iran more than £1.3 billion over two decades.

According to Naim Kassem, Hezbollah’s number two, the party has an annual budget of £279m, much of which comes from businesses set up by the movement. These include a bank, a mortgage co-operative, an insurance company, a travel agency specialising in pilgrimages to Muslim holy places, several hotels, a chain of supermarkets and a number of urban bus and taxi companies.

In its power base in southern Lebanon, particularly south Beirut and the Bekaa valley, it is possible for a visitor to spend a whole week without stepping outside a Hezbollah business unit: the hotel he checks into, the restaurant he eats in, the taxi that takes him around, the guide who shows him the sights and the shop where he buys souvenirs all belong to the party.

Hezbollah is a state within the Lebanese state. It controls some 25% of the national territory. Almost 400,000 of Lebanon’s estimated 4m inhabitants live under its control. It collects its own taxes with a 20% levy, known as “khoms”, on all incomes. It runs its own schools, where a syllabus produced in Iran is taught at all levels. It also runs clinics, hospitals, social welfare networks and centres for orphans and widows.

The party controls the elected municipal councils and appoints local officials, who in theory should be selected by the central government in Beirut. To complete its status as a virtual state, the party maintains a number of unofficial “embassies”: the one in Tehran is bigger and has a larger number of staff than that of Lebanon itself.

I invite the faithful to wait for good news. We shall soon witness the elimination of the Zionist stain of shame.”

Hezbollah also has its own media including a satellite television channel, Al-Manar (the lighthouse), which is watched all over the Arab world, four radio stations, newspapers and magazines plus a book publishing venture. The party has its own system of justice based on sharia and operates its own police force, courts and prisons. Hezbollah runs youth clubs, several football teams and a number of matrimonial agencies.

Its relationship with the rest of Lebanon is complex; it occupies 14 seats in the 128-seat national assembly and holds two portfolios in the council of ministers. But it still describes itself as “a people-based movement fighting on behalf of the Muslim world”.

The backbone of all that is Hezbollah’s militia, a fighting force of about 8,000 men, trained and armed with the latest weapons by Iran and Syria. Of these about 2,000 men represent an elite force under the direct command of the party’s secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah, a former pupil of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, the man who founded Iran’s Islamic republic. But the party also claims more than 30,000 reservists.

Arab and western experts concur that Hezbollah’s militia is a stronger fighting force than the Lebanese army that is supposed to disarm it under United Nations resolution 1559. Also, most soldiers in the official Lebanese army are Shi’ites who would balk at fighting their own.

Accounts concerning Hezbollah’s arsenal of weapons vary. The militia is said to be armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and an Iranian rapid-fire gun initially modelled on the Israeli Uzi. The party’s crown jewels, however, are an estimated 14,000 rockets and missiles shipped in from Iran over the past six years. Most of these are modified versions of the Soviet-designed Katyusha. The party also has some Chinese-made Silkworm missiles for special use in naval warfare.

“The Israelis would be foolish to think they are dealing with nothing but a bunch of mad fanatics,” says a former Iranian diplomat now in exile. “Hezbollah in Lebanon is a state in all but name: it has its territory, army, civil service and economic and educational systems.”

A few minutes’ drive south from central Beirut takes you into what appears to be a different country. Beirut itself has European-style architecture, shops, hotels and cafes with men and women mostly wearing western clothes.

Once you enter Hezbollah land, the scene changes. You feel as if you are in Qom, the Iranian holy city, with men sporting bushy beards and women covered by mandatory hijab, milling around in noisy narrow streets fronted by nondescript shops. Billboards that advertise global bands in Beirut are used in Hezbollah land for pasting giant portraits of Khomeini and the Iranian “supreme guide” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Not surprisingly Hezbollah describes its territory as “Dar al-Iman” (House of Faith).

When it took over southern Lebanon, Hezbollah found a territory devastated by years of domination by the Palestinian al-Fatah (the area had once been called Fatahland) and the Israeli invasion of 1982. There were almost no schools, no hospitals, few jobs and certainly no security.

Hezbollah provided all that. At the same time the movement imposed a strict religious code that gave the poor Shi’ites a sense of moral superiority over other Lebanese who aspired after western lifestyles. A generation of Shi’ites in southern Lebanon has grown up in a world shaped by Hezbollah’s radical ideology.

Over the years the Lebanese branch has been woven into Iran’s body politic. Many Hezbollah militants and officials have married into Iranian religious families, often connected to influential ayatollahs. Dozens of Lebanese Shi’ites have worked and continue to work in the Iranian administration, especially in the ministries of security, information and culture. Since the mid-1980s, most of the Lebanese Shi’ite clerics have undertaken training in Iran.

In exchange, thousands of Iranian security officers and members of the Revolutionary Guards have lived and worked in Lebanon. As Ali Yunesi, Iran’s former intelligence minister, said: “Iran is Hezbollah and Hezbollah is Iran.”

Throughout the 1980s Hezbollah kidnapped more than 200 foreign nationals in Lebanon, most of them Americans or western Europeans

Support for Hezbollah cuts across the political divides within the Iranian ruling establishment. Whether “reformist” or “hardliner”, Iran’s ruling mullahs and their political associates look to Hezbollah as a reflection of their own revolutionary youth. Last week parliamentary members of the Islamic Majlis in Tehran set aside their disputes to unite in their demand to go and fight alongside Hezbollah in Lebanon if Sheikh Nasrallah called them.

Why has Tehran decided to play its Lebanese card now? Part of the answer lies in Washington’s decision last May to reverse its policy towards Iran by offering large concessions on its nuclear programme. Tehran interpreted that as a sign of weakness. Ahmadinejad believes that his strategy to drive the “infidel” out of the Islamic heartland cannot succeed unless Arabs accept Iran’s leadership.

The problem is that since the Iranian regime is Shi’ite it would not be easy to sell it to most Arabs, who are Sunni. To overcome that hurdle, it is necessary to persuade the Arabs that only Iran is sincere in its desire and capacity to wipe Israel off the map. Once that claim is sold to the Arabs, so Ahmadinejad hopes, they would rally behind his vision of the Middle East instead of the “American vision”.

That strategy pushed Israel to the top of Tehran’s agenda. This is why, in May, Tehran became the first country to grant the Hamas government in the occupied territories an emergency grant of £27m to cope with a freeze imposed by European Union aid and other international donations. As moderate Arab countries have distanced themselves from Hamas, Iran along with Syria has stepped in.

The pincer war launched by Hamas and Hezbollah against Israel is also related to domestic politics. In the occupied territories, Hamas needs to marginalise Mahmoud Abbas’s PLO and establish itself as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. In Lebanon, Hezbollah wants to prevent the consolidation of power in the hands of a new pro-American coalition government led by Fouad Siniora, the prime minister, and Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader.

(Shi’ites make up about 40% of the population, Christians 39% and Sunnis, Druze and others the remainder.) If the pincer war against Israel is won, Iran would be able to expand its zone of influence, already taking shape in Iraq and assured in Syria, to take in Lebanon and Gaza. This would be the first time since the 7th century that Persian power has extended so far to the west.

The strategy is high risk. If the Israelis manage to crush Hamas and destroy Hezbollah’s military machine, Iran’s influence will diminish massively. Defeat could revive an internal Hezbollah debate between those who continue to support a total and exclusive alliance with Iran until the infidel, led by America, is driven out of the Middle East and those who want Hezbollah to distance itself from Tehran and emphasise its Lebanese identity. One reason why Hezbollah has found such little support among Arabs in Egypt and Saudi Arabia this time is the perception that it is fighting Israel on behalf of Iran, a Persian Shi’ite power that has been regarded by the majority of Arab Sunnis as an ancestral enemy.

In Lebanon, for the first time in two generations, a consensus is emerging among the country’s different ethnic and religious communities that the only way they can live together in peace is by developing a sense of Lebaneseness.

This means that Arab Sunnis must abandon their pan-Arab aspirations while Christians must stop looking to France as their “original motherland”. In that context Hezbollah’s Iranian ideology cannot but antagonise the Sunnis, the Druze and the Christians, many of whom are angry at the destruction of their country that Hezbollah has brought about by once again antagonising Israel.

The mini war that is taking place between Israel and Hezbollah is, in fact, a proxy war in which Iran’s vision for the Middle East clashes with the administration in Washington. What is at stake is not the exchange of kidnapped Israeli soldiers with Arab prisoners in Israel. Such exchanges have happened routinely over five decades. The real issue is who will set the agenda for the Middle East: Iran or America? ENDS HEZBOLLAH26701

Editor`s note: Mr Amir Taheri is a veteran Iranian journalist, commentator and writer. HE CONTRIBUTE THE ABOVE ARTICLE TO tIMES; WHICH PUBLISHED ON 23 July 2006

Highlights are by IPS