Sunday, May 21, 2006

Iran's draft law on dress has many worried

USA Today:

Posted 5/20/2006 10:46 PM ET

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A draft law aimed at encouraging Islamic dress raised fears Saturday that Iran's hard-line government plans to re-impose veils and head-to-toe overcoats on women who have shirked the restrictions for years, letting hair show and wearing jeans and shapely outfits. The looser social rules and dress codes are one of the few legacies left from Iran's once-strong reform movement.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose election last summer spelled the virtual end of the reformists' influence, came to office promising a return to Islamic values, with the support of clerical hard-liners.

Ahmadinejad has purged reformers from government, angered the West with calls for Israel's destruction and taken a tough line resisting U.N. demands that he curb Iran's nuclear program.

Iranian liberals had hoped that Ahmadinejad would not risk alienating a large sector of the young, who make up the majority of Iran's 70 million population.

But the draft law, which got preliminary approval in parliament last week, had many concerned.

"It is a ridiculous bill. Young Iranian girls will not return to the so-called Islamic loose-fitting clothes," said Sahar Gharakhani, a 25-year-old secretary wearing a colorful headscarf and a stylish jacket in Tehran on Saturday.

"The only way for authorities to make this happen is if they force it," she said.

The social gains made in the past were often measured in hemlines and retreating headscarves.

Laws in place since the 1979 Islamic Revolution require women to wear "chador" — a head-to-toe, loose-fitting black overcoat and veil that covers their hair and hides their shapes. They were enforced by religious police and paramilitaries, who castigated women who showed too much hair, wore makeup or had a chador that did not fit the required dark colors and shape.

Under President Mohammad Khatami, elected in 1997, enforcement became lax, and women took advantage, adding color to their clothes, pulling back scarves and shortening their coats.

Now on Tehran's busy streets, only some women adhere to the strict code of the chador. Others are seen in scarves that leave almost their entire heads bare, showing blonde-highlighted hair, and brightly colored formfitting jackets, called "manteaus," that stop just under the waist, revealing jeans and sandaled feet with painted nails.

The 13-article bill — which focuses on economic incentives for Islamic dress — has been touted by conservatives as a vital tool to curb Western influence in the conservative Islamic Republic.

No date has been set yet on a final vote on the bill.

"This bill brings no obligation, no imposition," said Emad Afresh, an Iranian lawmaker.

"It only requires the government to support the private sector," he said, adding that it was a way to "resist the (Western) cultural onslaught in a world where globalization is being imposed."

The bill does not call for police or other bodies to enforce stricter styles of dress for women.

Instead, it rallies state agencies to promote Islamic dress and "encourage the public to abstain from choosing clothes that aren't appropriate to the culture of Iran," according to the copy received from the parliament's press office.

It also would give economic incentives, including bank loans, to producers making Islamic-style clothing and impose tariffs on clothes imports. It leaves it to the Culture Ministry and others to define what Islamic dress means.

On Friday, a Canadian newspaper, The National Post, quoting Iranian exiles, said the law would force Jews, Christians and other religious minorities to wear special patches of colored cloth to distinguish them from Muslims. The report drew a condemnation from the United States, which said such a law would carry "clear echoes of Germany under Hitler."

A copy of the draft law obtained by The Associated Press made no mention of religious minorities or any requirement of special attire for them, and the Post later posted an article on its website backing off the report.

A crackdown on social mores could face stiff public resistance at a time when Iranians are more concerned with reviving the country's ailing economy and the escalating confrontation with the West.

Parvin Ardalan, a women's activist and journalist in Tehran, said the government clearly aims "to fight the Western dress code."

"But I don't think that they can just eliminate the Western dress altogether. It's going to be very difficult."

Parvaneh Khedmati, a 22-year-old administrator in a clinic, said she opposes the bill, even though she already wears a conservative, all-covering chador that leaves only her face exposed.

"I chose to wear a chador, I wasn't forced," she said. "The government has no right to impose anything this personal on the people. ... It's like a government telling people what to eat."

Iran's Iraq Strategy

Washington Post:

Tehran Could Retaliate Against Washington by Striking Next Door

By Steven Simon and Ray Takeyh

Sunday, May 21, 2006; B02

From the moment the first U.S. warheads detonate over an Iranian nuclear installation, the United States will be at war with the Islamic Republic. A vast tableau of American facilities around the world -- as well as the streets of U.S. cities -- could be targets for retaliation by Iran's agents and surrogates. "The Americans should know that if they assault Iran, their interests will be harmed anywhere in the world that is possible," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, warned last month.

The most likely theater of operations in the initial stages of a U.S.-Iranian conflict, however, would be next door -- in Iraq. Since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime, Iran has methodically built and strengthened its military, political and religious influence in Iraq. Iran's Revolutionary Guard has extensively infiltrated Iraq's Ministry of the Interior and police force, both mainstays of Shiite power. The hundreds of Iranian mullahs and businessmen who have slipped across the border have a commanding presence in southern Iraq's commercial and religious sectors.

Iran's sway over Shiite militias and its considerable paramilitary presence in Iraq give Tehran leverage in the ongoing nuclear stalemate with Washington, and would emerge as a key factor should armed conflict break out. U.S. forces and prestige are vulnerable in Iraq, making them particularly attractive targets. However, should Iran decide to strike in Iraq, it would have to weigh competing priorities: a desire for revenge against the Americans, and the strategic need to both avoid chaos in its western neighbor and bolster the political role of Iraq's Shiite majority. How Iran resolves this dilemma would go a long way toward determining the outcome of a U.S.-Iranian conflict -- as well as the future of the U.S. war in Iraq.

Iran's paramilitary and intelligence buildup in Iraq would put some members of the "coalition of the willing" to shame. Over the past three years, Tehran has deployed to Iraq a large number of the Revolutionary Guard's Qods Force -- a highly professional force specializing in assassinations and bombings -- as well as officers from the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security and representatives of Lebanese Hezbollah.

The Qods Force has a longstanding relationship with Hezbollah, which it trains and supplies in coordination with Syria through an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps unit in central Lebanon. In the words of Iranian Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, the IRGC commander, "The range of [the IRGC's] duty is not limited to our land and we have extra-border missions."

Iranian personnel have established safe houses throughout southern Iraq. They monitor the movement of coalition forces, tend weapons caches, facilitate cross-border travel of clerics, smuggle munitions into Iraq and recruit individuals as intelligence sources. Presumably, Tehran has recruited networks within U.S. military bases and civilian compounds that could be activated on short notice. Iran is also believed by regional intelligence agencies to have armed and trained as many as 40,000 Iraqis to prevent an unlikely rollback of Shiite control.

Coalition forces have suffered the consequences of Iran's military presence. U.S. and British officials contend that the IRGC has introduced into Iraq "shaped charge designs" -- powerful bombs that channel the force of an explosion into a narrow path. (Lebanese Hezbollah also has used such bombs effectively against Israeli tanks.) According to the British, at least 10 of their soldiers in southern Iraq have been killed since May 2005 by the combination of such explosives and remote triggering devices. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted in a March briefing with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that these makeshift bombs are "traceable back to Iran."

U.S. troops have improved their force protection skills over the past three years and are more adroit at detecting such bombs. But it is just not possible to fully safeguard 135,000 troops, let alone the 30,000 contractors and civilians working in Iraq. If the IRGC activated its agents within U.S. forward operating bases, or used indirect fire weapons -- Katyusha rockets or heavy mortars -- Iran could kill sizable concentrations of soldiers in mess halls, sleeping quarters, headquarters tents and other key facilities. The overall level of violence in Iraq -- 75 insurgent attacks per month in 2006, including 144 bombings that killed more than three people each -- would give Tehran some plausible deniability.

Iran's clerical regime could complicate matters for Washington even more by pressing its Shiite allies in Iraq to demand a U.S. withdrawal. The leading Shiite cleric in Iraq, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, has counseled patience and refrained from challenging the U.S. military presence; he is also wary of Tehran's influence over Iraqi politics. However, Abul al-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has closer ties to Tehran and has publicly chastised Washington for not tackling the Sunni insurgency. (The council's armed wing, the Badr Organization, musters thousands of armed members.) And the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr also receives subsidies from Iran.

Although the Islamic Republic may not be able to obtain a fatwa against the United States from Iraq's most esteemed clerics, it can still count on the backing of important segments of the Shiite community, particularly those jockeying for power within it. This support could quickly produce mobs of young men in the street protesting the occupation.

Tehran is capable of wreaking havoc in Iraq, and it may consider such a move in response to a U.S. attack. However, as Iraq continues its descent into chaos, Tehran must balance its desire to hurt the United States with the equally compelling objective of fostering an orderly transition to Shiite rule in Iraq.

This need for balance is rooted in Iran's wartime experience during its long conflict with Hussein's Iraq. As Iran and Iraq are both Shiite-majority nations, the historic animosity between them has had less to do with religion than politics.

Indeed, an uneasy consensus has evolved among the Iranian leadership that the impetus for the war with Iraq, which killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians from 1980 to 1988, lay in the Sunni domination of Iraqi politics. The Sunni minority sought to justify its rule under the Baathist regime by embracing a pan-Arabist program; ultimately, this quest for glory abroad led to an assertion of hegemony in the Persian Gulf region and a devastating war with Iran. Empowerment of the more congenial Shiites in Iraq emerged as a key postwar objective of the Islamic Republic, and that empowerment depends on a modicum of political and social stability.

Ironically, the Iranian clerical hard-liners, so adamant about suppressing the reform movement at home, have emerged as advocates of democratic pluralism in Iraq. The Bush administration's satisfaction with January's parliamentary elections was echoed by Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the reactionary head of the powerful Guardian Council, when he said: "Iraq is now going through its election cycle. The election results are very good." Iran's theocrats appreciate that the surest way to advance their interests is to support an electoral process that will yield a state with strong provinces and a weak federal structure. That would keep the Shiites up, the Kurds in and the Sunnis down.

How, then, will Tehran reconcile its war aims with its determination to preserve stability in Iraq? Look back to the early 1980s, when a U.S.-Iranian confrontation played itself out in hapless Lebanon.

In that conflict, Iran did not subvert Lebanon's already brittle society by assassinating politicians and damaging the national infrastructure. Iran certainly could have done so, given its extensive network of clerical sympathizers, guerrillas and terrorists. Instead, Tehran opted for an incremental and deadly campaign of violence against the U.S. presence. It was at the behest of Iran that Hezbollah wrecked the U.S. Embassy in 1983, wiping out the CIA's cadre of Near East experts, and struck American barracks in Beirut in 1984, killing 241 Marines.

In contemplating war with Iran today, the Bush administration should remember the lessons of Lebanon. The U.S. presence in Iraq -- with its ubiquitous convoys, vast embassy compound, vulnerable forward operating bases and legions of civilian workers -- provides equally tempting targets. The U.S. commitment to Iraq is of course far greater than it was to Lebanon a quarter-century ago. And Washington is unlikely to redefine its interests with the alacrity of the Reagan administration and withdraw as swiftly. Nonetheless, the burden under which the United States now labors in Iraq would become exponentially heavier, with the pressure to exit threatening to overwhelm the strategic need to stay.

Hitler Resurrected

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Jewish org's: Very disturbed by reports from Iran

Jerusalem Post:

May. 19, 2006

In response to numerous inquires, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued the following statement:

We are deeply disturbed by reports indicating that the Iranian Parliament (Majlis) may be in the process of adopting legislation that would require religious minorities in Iran -- including Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians -- to adopt distinctive color schemes, or according to some reports, different colored cloth markers that would identify them. This is part of legislation, originally introduced in 2004 but blocked within the Majlis, mandating that Iranians wear standard Islamic garments.

We have been seeking to clarify these reports but do not yet have confirmation. There are clear indications that various Iranian government agencies, including the Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, are working on new uniforms to be introduced in the fall.

While such legislation would be reminiscent of dark periods in the past, like the Nazi era when Jews and others had to wear identifying badges, it is also consistent with the racist and extremist ideology propagated by President Ahmadinejad.

We are monitoring the situation and seeking to ascertain the facts in order to determine the appropriate response. The initial reports have aroused concern in many governmental and non-governmental circles. We are confident that the facts will be clear soon and we will comment further at that time.

Iran religion plan appalling, says PM


Saturday May 20 07:22 AEST

Prime Minister John Howard has reacted with horror to a new Iranian law forcing Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges.

The Iranian parliament passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical "standard Islamic garments", Canadian newspaper the National Post reports.

The law, which has yet to be formally approved by Iran's "Supreme Guide", Ali Khamenei, before it comes into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims - a yellow strip of cloth for Jews, a red badge for Christians and blue cloth for Zoroastrians.

Mr Howard said he had not been formally briefed on the law but if the report was true, it would be totally repugnant. "It obviously echoes the most horrible period of genocide in the world's history and the marking of Jewish people with a mark on their clothing by the Nazis, and anything of that kind would be totally repugnant to civilised countries," Mr Howard said.

"If it is the case, it's something that would just further indicate to me the nature of this regime. It's a calculated insult - if it's true - not only to Christians but most particularly to Jews and therefore it has direct connotation for the state of Israel, which has been the object of hate speeches and speeches of vilification. It would be appalling."

The UN is currently trying to resolve a stand-off over Iran's nuclear program.

Mr Howard's Canadian host and counterpart, Stephen Harper, said the new law should help firm the UN's resolve to take action against the country.

"It boggles the mind that any regime on the face of the earth would want to do anything that could remind people of Nazi Germany," Mr Harper said.

"However, we've seen a number of things from the Iranian regime that are along these lines and the fact that such a measure could even be contemplated, I think, is absolutely abhorrent.

"And I would hope that as our allies wrest with the difficult issues surrounding Iran's apparent desire to obtain nuclear capacity, that they will reflect carefully on the nature of a regime that would even contemplate such actions or such thoughts."

Iran 'capable' of introducing Nazi-like clothing labels



OTTAWA (CP) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper was quick to condemn Iran on Friday for an anti-Semitic law that appears not to exist.

Harper seized on a newspaper report that said Iran's hardline government would require Jews and Christians to wear coloured labels in public.

The prime minister couldn't vouch for the accuracy of the newspaper report, but he added that Iran was capable of such actions and compared them to Nazi practices.

"Unfortunately, we've seen enough already from the Iranian regime to suggest that it is very capable of this kind of action," Harper said.

"We've seen a number of things from the Iranian regime that are along these lines . . .

"It boggles the mind that any regime on the face of the Earth would want to do anything that could remind people of Nazi Germany."

But western journalists based in Iran told their Canadian colleagues that they were unaware of any such law.

And Iranian politicians - including a Jewish legislator in Tehran - were infuriated by the Post report, which they called false.

Politician Morris Motamed, one of about 25,000 Jews who live in Iran, called the report a slap in the face to his minority community.

"Such a plan has never been proposed or discussed in parliament," Motamed told the Associated Press.

"Such news, which appeared abroad, is an insult to religious minorities here."

Another Iranian legislator said the newspaper has distorted a bill that he presented to parliament, which calls for more conservative clothing for Muslims.

"It's a sheer lie. The rumours about this are worthless," Emad Afroogh said.

Afroogh's bill seeks to make women dress more traditionally and avoid Western fashions.

Minority religious labels have nothing to do with it, he said.

"The bill is not related to minorities. It is only about clothing," he said.

"Please tell them (the West) to check the details of the bill. There is no mention of religious minorities and their clothing in the bill."

The Associated Press reported from Tehran that the draft law, which has received preliminary approval, would discourage women from wearing Western clothing, increase taxes on imported clothes and fund an advertising campaign to encourage citizens to wear Islamic-style garments.

According to existing law, women must cover from head to toe, but many young women, buoyed by social freedoms granted to them during the 1997-2005 rule of former President Mohammad Khatami, ignore the law.

The Post's front-page story, which quoted Iranian expatriates living in Canada, made headlines around the world and was the banner story on the popular Drudge Report website in the U.S.

The story said Iran would require Jews to wear yellow labels on their clothing in an eerie reminder of the buildup to the Holocaust. Adolf Hitler forced Jews to identify themselves with yellow Star of David patches.

Christians would need to wear red labels, and Zoroastrians would be tagged with blue.

The law was still to be approved by Iran's "Supreme Guide," Ali Khamenehi, the Post reported.

Calls to the Post newsroom for comment on the developments around the story was not immediately returned.

Harper called the report a reminder that the international community must prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons.

He made the remarks during a news conference in Gatineau, Que., with the visiting Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Both men provided lengthy answers to a question about the report.

Harper said he had seen the story and wasn't sure if it was true, before launching into his criticism of the Iranian government.

Howard said he hadn't seen the report. In answering the question, he sprinkled qualifiers into nearly every sentence to underscore uncertainty about the accuracy of the report.

"I haven't previously heard of that," Howard said.

"If that is true I would find that totally repugnant. It obviously echoes the most horrible period of genocide in the world's history - the marking of Jewish people with a mark on their clothing by the Nazis."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has previously described the Holocaust as a myth and has called for the destruction of the state of Israel.

Non-Muslims in Afghanistan were required to wear arm bands under the former Taliban regime.

The practice is a throwback to centuries-old rules imposed on non-Muslims living in Islamic states. Under Dhimmi law, non-Muslims were guaranteed security in exchange for paying a tax and wearing special labels on their clothing.

The U.S. government reacted with caution Friday.

The State Department said any such measure would be "despicable" and carry "clear echoes of Germany under Hitler."

U.S. government statistics indicate that 98 per cent of Iranians are Islamic. Other faiths are Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha'i.

Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he could not comment further because the precise nature of the proposal is unclear.

"I don't have all the facts," he said.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Iran president to send letter to Pope - paper


Thu May 18, 2006

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is writing a letter to Pope Benedict, following an unprecedented letter to U.S. President George W. Bush earlier this month, a newspaper said on Thursday.

"President Ahmadinjad's second letter is for Pope Benedict and will be sent in the next days," Jomhuri-ye Eslami newspaper, which is close to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, quoted unnamed sources as saying.

The newspaper gave no details of the letter's content. Iranian officials were not available to comment.

In the first direct communication between the two countries' presidents for more than two decades, Ahmadinejad wrote a long missive to Bush this month in which he questioned his commitment to Christian values and criticised U.S. foreign policy.

Some Iranian analysts and Western diplomats interpreted the letter as a veiled offer to open talks with Washington on the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme.

But Washington has said it has no intention of holding direct talks with Iran on the issue. Britain, France and Germany, the European Union's three biggest powers, plan to offer Iran a package of incentives to try to induce Tehran to freeze a uranium enrichment programme which the West suspects could be used to make atomic bombs.

Ahamdinejad has ruled out halting nuclear fuel work in return for incentives, saying the Europeans were offering "candy for gold".

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Venezuela Threatens to Sell F-16 Fleet to Iran

Fox News:

Tuesday , May 16, 2006 CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela's military is considering selling its fleet of U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to another country, possibly Iran, in response to a U.S. ban on arms sales to President Hugo Chavez's government, a Venezuelan military official said Tuesday.

Gen. Alberto Muller, a senior adviser to Chavez, told The Associated Press he had recommended to the defense minister that Venezuela consider selling the 21 jets to another country. Muller said he thought it was worthwhile to consider "the feasibility of a negotiation with Iran for the sale of those planes."

The U.S. State Department, however, warned that Washington would have to sign off on any sale of the F-16s — a possibility that spokesman Sean McCormack suggested was highly unlikely. "Without the written consent of the United States, you can't transfer these defense articles, and in this case F-16s, to a third country," McCormack told reporters in Washington.

Even before the United States announced the ban on arms sales Monday, Washington had stopped selling Venezuela sensitive upgrades for the F-16s.

Muller said officials have been considering options for replacing the F-16s for some time, since the United States has not been selling replacement parts for a year. He said the military was considering Russian Sukhoi Su-35 jet fighters, "which is the best jet fighter there is in the world right now."

Chavez has previously warned he could share the U.S.-made F-16s with Cuba and China — and look into buying new jets from Russia or China — because he said Washington was not supplying parts for the planes as agreed.

U.S. officials disputed that accusation, saying they were living up to their commitments under the deal. U.S. officials have said Venezuela is bound under the 1982 contract to consult with Washington before transferring any F-16s to another country.

"The recommendation that I'm making to the minister, and which I will make to the president at the appropriate time, is that the (F-16s) be sold to a third party because if they aren't complying with their part of the agreement, we don't have any obligation to comply with our part," Muller told the AP.

The U.S. State Department, in announcing the ban on arms sales Monday, said the measure was in response to a lack of support by Chavez's government for counterterrorism efforts. The State Department cited Venezuela's close relations with Iran and Cuba, both of which the U.S. deems state sponsors of terrorism, saying Venezuela has developed a much closer "intelligence-sharing relationship" with Cuba and Iran.

McCormack also expressed concerns about Venezuela serving as a transit point for arms, and about alleged links between Venezuela and leftist Colombian rebels — an accusation Chavez dismisses as baseless.

Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said the U.S. ban on arms sales — which becomes effective for one year starting Oct. 1 — "is nothing new" since the U.S. government already effectively was blocking defense deals.

In a statement, Rangel called the terror-related accusations unjustified and hypocritical, particularly considering the United States' unwillingness to turn over Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA agent wanted for trial in on charges of plotting the 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger plane.

"These despicable accusations are based on a futile campaign to discredit and isolate Venezuela, to destabilize its democratic government and prepare the political conditions for an attack," Venezuela's Foreign Ministry said early Tuesday.

The U.S. arms embargo signals further deterioration in relations with Venezuela, a top supplier of oil to the United States. Venezuela is moving ahead with various other defense deals despite the U.S. ban, buying transport planes from Spain, helicopters from Russia and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles that are due to arrive soon.

Venezuela originally purchased its fleet of F-16s in 1983.

Chavez has accused the United States of breaching its contract to supply parts for the planes.

U.S. officials say the contract for the planes does not require the United States to supply parts indefinitely or to upgrade the planes. U.S. officials say periodic amendments to the F-16 contract have authorized the limited sale of replacement parts in the past.

Defense analyst John Pike said it wouldn't be very practical for Iran to buy Venezuela's F-16s because it, too, would have trouble finding spare parts due to an American arms embargo.

"I can't imagine why Iran would want to buy more airplanes that it can't get more spare parts for," said Pike, director of the Virginia-based defense think tank "I think it's basically posturing on Venezuela's part."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

EU powers to offer Iran reactor for atom deal: sources

ABC News:


May 16, 2006 — By Louis Charbonneau

BERLIN - The EU's three biggest powers plan to offer Iran a light-water nuclear reactor as part of a package of incentives if Tehran agrees to freeze its uranium enrichment program, EU diplomats said on Tuesday.

They said they would be very surprised if Iran accepted -- but would take a rejection as confirmation that its nuclear program does not solely aim at generation for peaceful ends. The United States and EU accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian atomic energy program, a charge Tehran denies.

A European Union diplomat said political directors from the "EU3" -- Britain, France and Germany -- and the office of EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana would discuss the proposal with U.S., Russian and Chinese counterparts in London on Friday.

"The EU3 and Solana are planning an offer of a European light-water reactor to Iran in return for a suspension of its enrichment program," the diplomat, familiar with the negotiations on Iran, told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Nuclear experts say light-water reactors are more difficult to use for weapons purposes than heavy-water plants.

The EU trio first proposed offering Iran light-water technology in 2005, after two years of negotiations. At the time, the Iranians said the offer lacked specific incentives. SLIM PROSPECTS

EU diplomats said the new offer would be more specific, partly because they were confident of full U.S. support.

But they made clear they saw little prospect that Iran would accept, and were aiming above all to demonstrate to skeptics such as Russia and China that the West was not trying to deprive Iran of civilian nuclear energy.

"No one believes that this reactor will be built, because Iran will say 'No'," an EU diplomat said, adding that a European reactor would be much more expensive for the Iranians than the $1 billion Russian plant currently under construction.

Even so, the United States, which has taken the toughest line against Iran, was at best grudging in its backing.

U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said he would not comment on the reactor idea but that the package had to include sticks as well as carrots -- "not half a package."

One U.S. official who deals with non-proliferation issues added: "Why should we be aiding and abetting their program?

"They are going to forge ahead with their nuclear weapons program. I think this is just an effort to see whether the Iranians say 'Yes' -- but they are not going to. Our position is going to be one of not a whole lot of enthusiasm."

According to a confidential EU document obtained on Tuesday by Reuters, the bloc is also considering an array of economic and political sanctions, including travel bans on Iranian officials, curtailing diplomatic ties, trade sanctions and the freezing of assets of Iranian companies and officials.


China's Foreign Ministry declared its support for what it expected to be a broad European offer of incentives.

But China and Russia are opposed to an EU-backed U.N. Security Council resolution that could penalize Iran if it continues sensitive nuclear development.

"We should not isolate Iran nor put pressure on Iran," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing in Beijing.

Iran again insisted it would pursue enrichment.

"Iran's decision to preserve this right is definite and irreversible," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.

After three years of investigation, the IAEA says it still cannot confirm that Iran's nuclear program is entirely peaceful, but has found no proof of a military program.

Iran's Asefi appeared to dismiss the latest EU package in advance, saying no incentive was required beyond implementing the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The NPT says signatories may research, develop and produce nuclear fuel for peaceful use.

But Western officials say Iran must prove its aims are peaceful before it can enjoy this right, after concealing an enrichment research program for 18 years until it was disclosed by an opposition exile group.

(Additional reporting by Jon Boyle in Paris, Evelyn Leopold at the United Nations and Carol Giacomo in Washington)

Iran says no to girly sportsmen

May 08 1:16 PM US/Eastern

Iran's hardline Islamic regime has had enough of footballers with long hair and plucked eyebrows.

"I will ban athletes with an effeminate look," the head of the country's Physical Education Organisation, Mohammad Ali-Abadi said, told the Etemad-Melli newspaper.

"It is really disgraceful for Iran that young people step onto fields wearing make-up," the top official fumed. "When a man enters the field with dyed hair and groomed eyebrows he is disrespecting society."

The paper said Ali-Abadi appeared to be particularly worried about footballers, and warned that "even though they get away with it now, they will be disqualified in future".

Iran supplied al-Qaeda in Iraq with AA weapons.

Iraq The Model:

According to this report from Azzaman, Iran's revolutionary guard corps is supplying Zarqawi's al-Qaeda in Iraq with Russian-made anti-aircraft weapons including the infrared guided, shoulder-born missile Sam 7 (Strela) in addition to other weaponry like machineguns and improved IEDs.

Iran Focus provides a translation of Azzaman's report:

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) had provided the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq heavy weapons including anti-aircraft missiles, it emerged on Friday.The Iraqi daily az-Zaman which is published in London and Baghdad quoted credible Iraqi sources as revealing that the IRGC had given al-Qaeda in Iraq, Strela-type SAM-7 surface-to-air missiles, modern explosives, and a large number of personnel arms including Kalashnikovs and BKC machineguns.

The report says Hizbullah of Lebanon played the mediator role in this deal:

Representatives of al-Zarqawi’s group met in Beirut with members of the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah and through them established channels with Tehran.

And the network grows to involve Iraqi facilitators, Azzaman adds:

Three of Zarqawi's aides entered Iran through a border cross-point in the Amara region in the south east of Iraq, IRGC personnel instructed the Iraqi border guards guarding that cross-point to facilitate the movement of the al-Qaeda members.

Moreover, this doesn’t seem to be the first incident where similar weapons pass into Iraq from Iran; interesting that the state found al-Sabah newspaper-that is not normally in agreement with what Azzaman publishes-had a report on a similar smuggling incident that dates back to late April:

Sources in the border guards in Diyala province said that there are anti-aircraft weapons entering Iraq as part of deals between smugglers and insurgent groups in Iraq. Brigadier Nadhum Sherif commander of Diyala border guards told al-Sabah that on April 24-2006 his forces foiled the delivery of weapons to terror groups in the area of Qara-lous…weapon smuggling operation take place in remote areas far from the eyes of our forces but our corps received intelligence that weapon smugglers were about to deliver large amounts of weapons to the terrorists including Russian-made anti-aircraft weapons produced in 2005…we found the weapons left in hidden caches in the mountainous area…Just another example of how helpful a neighbor the Mullahs are, of course! They want everything to be stable on the ground.

Monday, May 15, 2006

By David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin

May 15, 2006

Rarely has the world been afforded such a clear glimpse into the unholy alliance between Islamic extremists and secular radicals in the West. That’s exactly what it got last week when the foremost Imam of the radical Left, Noam Chomsky, bestowed his blessings on the world’s largest terrorist army, the Shiite jihad outfit sponsored by Iran and known as Hezbollah (“Party of God.”)

Following a meeting with Hassan Nasrallah, the Lebanese terrorist group’s “secretary general,” Chomsky announced his support for Hezbollah’s refusal to disarm. Then, in an echo of Nasrallah’s recent declaration that President Bush is the world’s top “terrorist,” Chomsky pronounced his own fatwa on the United States calling it one of the “leading terrorist states.” It was a meeting of murderous radical minds.

In many ways, Chomsky’s newly forged friendship with Hezbollah -- the most recent entry in a lifetime befriending America’s most deadly enemies -- is the logical continuation of the professor’s longstanding admiration for global terrorists and Jew-haters. In fact, Chomsky devoted most of the nineties to touting Hezbollah as a “resistance” movement (which occasionally committed misguided acts against civilians) while singing its praises as a crusader for peace and social justice.

Typical was Chomsky’s 1996 book, World Orders Old and New Citing with approval a journalist’s observation that Hezbollah “is not a terror organization,” Chomsky explained that the terrorist who blew up 243 U.S. Marines in Lebanon and murdered untold citizens of Israel was only engaging in “legitimate resistance” against an oppressor and “avoids striking civilians except in retaliation for Israeli attacks on Lebanese civilians.”

Elsewhere in his book Chomsky claims that, in launching its attacks against Israel Hezbollah “carefully avoided civilian areas” and assured his readers that Hezbollah attacks were always “retaliatory.” Israel through Chomsky eyes presented quite a different story. Dispensing altogether with the studied euphemisms that marked his descriptions of Hezbollah, Chomsky unequivocally denounced Israel for using “terror weapons” to commit “atrocities” such as targeting “civilians” with “no provocation”.

The resulting effort bore little resemblance to fact. Rather than consider well-documented reports of Hezbollah’s repeated shelling (at its Iranian master’s prompting) of Northern Israel, killing women and children in the process, , Chomsky rejected the reports as so much American and Israeli propaganda. How after all, could the Great and Little Satans be telling the truth?

Rather than reflect on the fact that Hezbollah terrorists deliberately entrenched themselves among Arab civilians to cause the casualties so that Chomsky could protest, Chomsky falsely charged, that the Israeli military targeted the civilians, a claim which no reasonable human being could make. Even the anti-Israel UN felt compelled to acknowledge that “Hezbollah had resorted to using civilian areas to provide a human shield for its terrorist activity.”

In Chomsky’s version of the Elders of Zion, Israel is always the instigator, while the attacks of terrorists whose declared objective is the establishment of an Islamic state on Israel’s grave, are invariably “defensive.” Chomsky blames an upsurge in Hezbollah terror, for example, on Israel’s 1992 assassination, of Hezbollah leader (and mass murderer) Sheikh Abbas Mussawi. Yet Chomsky neglected to mention that Mussawi, speaking in behalf of Hezbollah openly proclaimed his genocidal goal: “We are not fighting so that the enemy recognizes us and offers us something. “We are fighting to wipe out the enemy.”

In Chomsky’s writings about Hitler’s heirs, the genocidal roles are always reversed. When Hezbollah broke an informal 1995 agreement to suspend attacks against civilian targets, Chomsky condemned Israeli military strikes, again omitting the fact that the complete annihilation of the Jewish state was Hezbollah’s stated goal.

In his 2000 book Fateful Triangle, Chomsky complained about media coverage that described Hezbollah’s shelling of the so-called Israeli “security zone” in Southern Lebanon as “terrorism,” Chomsky insisted that it was instead an act of “indigenous resistance to the rule of Israel and its proxies.” As usual, Chomsky was lying. Hezbollah’s attacks were against civilians inside the security zone not military targets. In a typical projection, Chomsky maintained in the face of the facts that it was Israel who was killing civilians, and (another lie) that Israel’s , official policy was to attack “villages and civilians” in Lebanon.

Today as its Iranian patron calls on the Muslim world to exterminate the Jews and finish Hitler’s job, Hezbollah is blessed by the embassy of America’s most prominent leftist, and better still, a self-hating Jew. While the international community and even the United Nations (whose resolutions Chomsky has repeatedly used as a sledge hammer against Israel), demands that the terrorist Party of God – which is an occupying army in Lebanon -- lay down its weapons, Chomsky provides the occupiers with a moral defense. According to Professor Chomsky there is a “persuasive argument” that the weapons “should be in the hands of Hezbollah as a deterrent to potential aggression and there is plenty of background and reasons for that.” (Many Lebanese are not persuaded. Commenting on Chomsky’s visit, a Lebanese observer pointed to the professor’s ignorance of the fact “that the Hezbollah arms scare the Lebanese people more than the Israelis.")

In fact, of course, the only “potential aggression” comes from Chomsky’s friends. In 2004, Hezbollah inked an agreement with Hamas – similarly dedicated to the extermination of Israel -- to continue their joint terrorist attacks against Israel. Hezbollah has also provided political support and weapons training to Hamas and al-Qaeda. In 2004, Hezbollah also launched an unmanned aerial vehicle that crossed Israeli airspace before crashing.

Hitler concealed his genocidal agendas from the German people and from his Chomsky-apologists. Hezbollah is more fortunate. In pursuing a second Holocaust of the Jews, it can count on Muslim support and apparently the support of American radicals as well. Therefore it makes no secret of what it intends. Its 1985 manifesto contains a section titled “The Necessity for the Destruction of Israel” that spells out the evil it seeks: “Our struggle will end only when this entity is obliterated. We recognize no treaty with it, no cease-fire, no peace agreements.” Like true jihadists, Hezbollah’s genocidal plans are not reserved for the Little Satan only but are its agenda for the Great Satan too. In 1993, Chomsky’s host Nasrallah declared: “Death to America was, is, and will stay our slogan.”

As his pilgrimage to Hezbollah’s mecca confirms, it is Noam Chomsky’s life-dream as well.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

US gives up asylum seeker to Islamic regime


May 14, 2006, 00:05

Un-confirmed reports are stating about the role of the US Government in the forced return of an Iranian asylum seeker to the Islamic regime. Majid Kavoosi, was handed by the US Embassy, in UAE, to the Interpol which handed him, in its turn, to the Islamic republic regime.

According to the same sources, Kavoosi had handed several secret files to the US Embassy based on promises of granting him asylum.

The latter risks the death sentence for his role in the murder of a notorious repressive Islamist judge who was known for having ordered the executions of tens of freedom fighters. In addition, Kavoosi was part of a guerilla group which was seeking the overthrow of the Islamic regime and which was involved in several attacks against the regime's symbols of political and financial power.

An increasing number of exasperated Iranians are resorting to the use of violent actions in response to the Islamic regime use of bullets or issuance of harsh sentences against any kind of real democratic movement or genuine peaceful uprising,

It seems that Kavoosi, as like as many opponents to the Islamic regime, had literally trusted this message of President Bush stating that "the day that the Iranian People chose to stand up, they won't have a better ally than the US!"

The hand over of Kavoosi coincides with rumors stating about some 'non-official' visits, of Iran, made by Americans close to the Pentagon and the State Department. If confirmed, such news would be an additional blow to the trust that many Iranians have placed in the American Administration and its claim of intending to promote Human Rights and Democracy in the region.

Already, other rumors are circulating among the Iranian opposition on the existence of a kind of "Iran Opposition Black List" and the influence exerted by some WDC based think tank circles, on part of the American media, US legislators and the State Department, in order to boycott genuine Iranian secularist opposition groups or to avoid granting them of any kind of financial support. Concerted efforts have been undertaken, in that line, in order to promote and finance docile Iranian individuals or groups which are ready to follow any kind of instruction.

From Publius Pundit

My post over there (click on the title to open the page):


It’s with great sorrow that I learn that the U.S. gov’t caved in to the Mullahs.

SMCCDI, a secular , democratic and anti-islamist movement committed to regime change in Iran reports some worrying news.

Many Iranian oppositionists had used to support President Bush and now the U.S. gov’t sells its soul to the Islamic regime and announces it won’t grant funds to the Iranian oppositions.

If Bush’s popularity has reached a new low, it is not because of being a “warmongering” administration, as some naive pundits claim. No. It’s because it has caved in to the terrorists and the terrorist regimes.

It has decided to stay on the side of Europe and the U.N.

It has decided to be multilateralist. The President has no longer the guts he had in his first term. In spite of his anti-terror rethoric, he is doing a Clinton. It reminds me of when Clinton had shamefully repatriated the Cuban boy Elian back to Castro’s Cuba.

The past seems to repeat itself, when the U.S. betrayed those seeking freedom and stood with tyrannical regimes.

Let’s hope we will not hear the usual people wondering “why don’t the Iranians overthrow their regime by themselves?”.

Europe has no intention to support the dissidents. And now the U.S. seems to think the same. How could one think that the Iranians would overthrow the regime without a minimal moral and economic support?

Without any doubt, this is a big blow to the Iranian oppositions.

Now one should hope that the Islamic regime refrain from using its atomic bomb against Israel and the West.

But, given the European and American attitude and behavior, not only will the Mullahs stay more time in power, but they will have the time to use their deadly arsenal.

From SMCCDI: US gives up asylum seeker to Islamic regime.

Read the whole thing.

P.S. : I wish this post will not be used by the America-haters for their own purposes.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Noam Chomsky openly supports Hebzollah

He spoke directly from terrorist Hebzollah's Al Manar TV:

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Would an attack on Iran be legal?


Tuesday, 9 May 2006

By Paul Reynolds

World Affairs Correspondent, BBC News website

As diplomatic attempts continue in the UN Security Council to get Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment activities, the question has been raised about an American attack on Iran and whether it would be legal under international law.

If the US decided to attack Iran, it would probably claim that it was acting pre-emptively and exercising an inherent right of self-defence under the UN Charter.

One can rule out the US taking the other main legal path by which one state can attack another - an authorisation of force by the Security Council. Russia and China, both veto holders, are opposed to sanctions against Iran, let alone military action.

And nor would it invoke the growing doctrine of a humanitarian intervention, as the conditions needed for that do not apply.

So the US would probably seek to justify an attack under the self-defence principle, and it would first of all have to outline the nature of the threat.

Currently, this would refer to Iran's previously secret development of enrichment technology, and therefore its forfeiture of trust; its refusal to follow Security Council demands to suspend enrichment; and its president's hostile comments on Israel's right to exist.

All of these would be declared a threat to the US, its interests and to regional and world security.

At some future date, the US might bring forward further arguments, depending on how Iran's nuclear programme develops.

Article 51

Having defined the threat, the US would then invoke Article 51 of the UN Charter, which allows self-defence.

This article says: "Nothing in the present charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security."

To get round the phrase "if an armed attack occurs", the US would say that international law does not require that an attack is actually taking place, and that its own new doctrine of pre-emption, an extension of the self-defence principle, was being implemented.

It justified pre-emption in a National Security Strategy document in 2002, after the attacks of 11 September 2001:

"The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction - and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile attacks by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act pre-emptively."

The US might say that it was acting in protection of or at the request of Israel, which could argue that it was under a greater threat than the US itself.

Collective defence is allowed by the UN if the original state claiming self-defence asks for help.

It is possible that, if the Security Council ever agreed a resolution under the enforcement of Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, which orders a member state to comply, the US could declare that it was enforcing it unilaterally.

International law

Would such arguments be accepted in international law?

There is some legal backing for the principle of not waiting too long.

A British judge, Dame Rosalyn Higgins, who was made president of the International Court of Justice in February, said before she joined the court: "In a nuclear age, common sense cannot require one to interpret an ambiguous provision in a text in a way that requires a state passively to accept its fate before it can defend itself."

However, the general view among international lawyers is that there has to be the threat of an "imminent" attack.

British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, who used a complex series of Security Council resolutions on Iraq to justify the 2003 invasion, was critical of pre-emption in the House of Lords in April 2004: "International law permits the use of force in self-defence against an imminent attack, but does not authorise the use of force to mount a pre-emptive strike against a threat that is more remote."

There is therefore a fairly fundamental divergence between the US doctrine and the view of much of the rest of the UN membership. At the very least, there is no settled opinion.

The question of imminence

Elizabeth Wilmshurst, senior fellow in international law at the British think tank Chatham House, who resigned as a legal adviser to the Foreign Office because she felt the invasion of Iraq was illegal, told the BBC News website: "There is currently no basis for an American attack on Iran under Article 51. There certainly is not a case for self-defence at the moment.

"You do not have to wait for an attack but the threat has to be real and imminent."

She did not think the conditions for a self-defence argument existed. "Does enrichment of uranium count as a threat?" she asked. "It has not been weaponised. Is there a threat?"

Nor did she accept that the US could enforce a Chapter Seven resolution by itself. "This requires a further resolution authorising force and is a settled view," she said.

That an attack is illegal is also a view shared by former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. He told reporters the other day that an Article 51 action could not be justified.

The new Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, has not gone that far, saying only that nobody had any "intention" of attacking Iran.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has pointedly refused to say that an attack is "inconceivable", a word used by Mr Straw, but whether this is a tactical use of language to rattle Iran or whether it foretells potential British support for an attack is not clear.

Ms Wilmshurst accepted that Israel might regard itself as threatened, given the remarks made by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But she added: "Israel would have to take an objective, realistic view as to whether there was a real threat, and I am doubtful at the moment."

The Caroline incident

Much of the traditional doctrine on self-defence comes from an incident in 1837 near the Niagara Falls, in which a boat called the Caroline was attacked and tipped over the Falls by British forces that moved into American waters from Canada. The boat was being used by Canadian rebels preparing an attack.

Some very elegant diplomatic exchanges between US Secretary of State Daniel Webster and British Foreign Secretary Lord Ashburton led to the acceptance of Webster's principles of pre-emptive self-defence. These held that it was justified only in cases in which the "necessity of that self-defence is instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation".

The UN Charter basically adopted that rule, and a highlevel group which looked at UN reform in 2004 said that "Article 51 needs neither extension nor restriction in its long understood scope". The General Assembly confirmed that view. However there remains some debate about how "imminent" a threat has to be, and how large.

The doctrine of pre-emption has therefore not received widespread international backing. Last year, Chatham House sent a questionnaire about self-defence to 13 international lawyers in Britain. As a result, a number of principles were drawn up to give precision to Webster's phrasing.

These stressed the importance of imminence.

Post-9/11 style pre-emption was not endorsed.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

No comments...

Persians Gather To Commemorate Holocaust

Holocaust- a slide presentation for Ahmaghinejad to see:

By Karmel Melamed

Nearly 1,000 Persians Americans and local civic leaders of different religious backgrounds gathered at the Nessah Cultural Center in Beverly Hills last Sunday, April 23, to honor the memory of the nearly six million Jews who perished in the Nazi genocide during World War II.

The event this year was of particular importance for local Iranian Jews and Muslims as a show of unity against recent statements made by Iran?s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denying the existence of the Holocaust.Tonight is a historic event as Iranians of various faiths have gathered here to commemorate the Shoah and we pledge that this tragedy will never be repeated, said George Haroonian, an Iranian Jewish community activist and the day?s event coordinator.

Keynote speaker Rabbi Marvin Heir, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in West Los Angeles, said remembering the tragedy of the Holocaust is especially significant today as Iran?s government has been developing nuclear weapons and its President has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction.

"Many in the world don?t understand why Jews are so obsessed with commemorating the Shoah," Heir said. "We must remember because we paid a dear price for allowing the world to be silent when it was going on more than 60 years ago."

Another speaker, Stanford University professor and director of the Iranian Studies program, Dr. Abbas Milani, spoke of the long history of tolerance between Iranians and Jews despite the anti-Semitic rhetoric from Iran?s current regime.

"I'm here to tell you that the words of Ahmadinejad do not represent the views of the majority of Iranians in the world," Milani said. "I hope the world realizes that the captive people of Iran and those Iranians in exile do not make the same choices as Ahmadinejad and are not in the same camp as the Nazis."

Members of various southern California-based Persian language satellite radio and television outlets opposed to Iran?s current regime were also on hand to cover the event at Nessah, which will be broadcasted in Iran in the coming days.

Many of the thousands who turned out for the event waited on foot for several hours just to hear the speakers and catch a glimpse of a 20-minute video showing a collection of anti-Semitic speeches made by Ahmadinejad and Holocaust revisionist programs on Iran state-sponsored television stations.

Experts familiar with Iran?s fundamentalist Islamic regime said Ahmadinejad's comments about the Holocaust were not designed to divert the world's attention from Iran?s nuclear crisis, but were based on the Iranian government's deep-rooted anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi ideologies.

"This issue of Holocaust revisionism is not just a diversion or demagoguery," said Frank Nikbakht, founder and director of the Committee for Religious Minority Rights in Iran. "It is really what the Iranian government officials believe and not just what Ahmadinejad believes. It is part and parcel of their long-term program of global jihad as embodied in the current Iranian constitution."

About 10 Holocaust survivors were also in attendance, including 88-year-old Menashe Ezrapour, a Westwood resident and the only known Iranian Jewish Holocaust survivor to be interned in Nazi concentration and work camps during World War II.

At the start of the war, Ezrapour was an Iranian college student studying engineering in Southern France when he was sent to various camps, including the notorious Gurs Concentration camp. After more than 60 years of silence about his experiences, Ezrapour went public two years ago about his suffering at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust.

What I went through in the camps is too painful to recall, but I thought it was important to be here today to remember those who perished," Ezrapour said.

Many in the audience were in tears during the event as special Hebrew prayers were chanted for the victims of the Holocaust and six candles representing the millions who perished were lit by Ezrapour and the speakers.Haroonian and other organizers said Ezrapour?s story is important because it represents first-hand proof of the tragedies of the Holocaust from an Iranian who experienced the same events that Iran?s President denies ever occurred.

Other officials in attendance at the Nessah gathering were Israeli Consul General Ehud Danoch, Beverly Hills Vice Mayor Jimmy Delshad, and Deputy Director of Community Affairs for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Michelle Kleinert

Dicey - Cox and Forkum

Experts Warn of Drawbacks of Potential UN Sanctions Against Iran

Voice Of America:

By Dan Robinson Capitol Hill

03 May 2006

Experts have cautioned a congressional panel about potential drawbacks from any U.N. sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said on Capitol Hill that a vote on an Iran resolution in the U.N. Security on Iran will be a key test for Russia and China and their willingness to cooperate with efforts to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Ambassador Bolton says the United States would like to see a unanimous decision from the Security Council on Iran.

Although that is widely seen as unlikely, despite U.S. efforts to persuade Moscow and Beijing, he says Russian and Chinese abstentions would not stop the progress of a sanctions resolution.

"It's not impossible that we would proceed without them, and if they abstain then that resolution would go into effect, as would subsequent sanctions resolutions if we get to them," said John Bolton.

Ambassador Bolton faced tough questions from House lawmakers at the hearing examining the viability of United Nations sanctions.

Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen is concerned U.S. efforts to gather support may suffer from fallout from the way the Bush administration handled the Iraq issue, and suspicion in foreign capitals that Washington would use a resolution to justify a future military strike.

"The concern at the U.N. that resolutions adopted may at some point be used by the United States or another country as a point for unilateral military action," said Chris Van Hollen.

Experts appearing with Ambassador Bolton at Tuesday's House subcommittee hearing cautioned against hasty action.

Carne Ross, a former British diplomat, urges dialogue and more patience with Tehran, saying sanctions may not succeed without broad political support.

"Ramping things up at this rather accelerated rate that the U.S. is doing, pushing things through to the Security Council in a very determined and aggressive and time-limited fashion is not the way to win political support," said Carne Ross.

At the same time, Ross adds military options cannot not be ruled out, and Iran could help ease tensions by allowing international inspectors full access to its nuclear facilities.

Republican Congressman Christopher Shays is not optimistic China and Russia will support U.N. sanctions.

"I just don't have any faith that Europe's heart or Russia's heart or China's heart is in having sanctions," said Christopher Shays. "I think it is a message to Iran [that sanctions are not] going to happen so they don't need to fear them, and then what I fear is the only thing left on the table is [the] military option."

If European countries want to head off such a scenario, Shays says they must recognize there is no way around sanctions.

George Lopez, professor at the Joan Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, says U.N. members should carefully consider potential outcomes of prospective sanctions, as well as drawbacks, including possibly giving more rhetorical ammunition to Iran's leadership.

"We saw this with [former Serbian leader] Slobodan Milosevic," said George Lopez. "We saw this with [former Liberian president] Charles Taylor. There is no reason knowing what we know now to reinvent the same scenario with a quite erratic Iranian leader. And while we don't have responsibility for that Iranian leader, we do have a responsibility for the outcomes of [policies] which will only further aggravate a situation rather than accomplish our goals."

Tuesday's hearing came as U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns told reporters in Paris the Security Council is preparing a stiff international message for Iran on its nuclear program.

It also coincided with the latest threatening statements from Iran, including one by a Revolutionary Guard leader saying Iran would retaliate first against Israel in the event of any attack.

2 female critics of Islam discuss need for reform

YNet News:

(05.03.06, 09:26)

Canadian author, Dutch politician express their criticism of Islam, discuss need for reform of religion; ‘we Muslims have completely lost sight of balance between religion and reason,’ author says

Associated Press

A Canadian author and a Dutch politician expressed their criticism of Islam and discussed the need for reform of the religion.

Writer Irshad Manji and Dutch Parliament member Ayaan Hirsi Ali, also an author who launched a book on Tuesday and wrote the movie that provoked the murder of director Theo van Gogh by an Islamic radical, spoke before an audience at the 92nd Street Y in New York, a Jewish arts and culture center, about the reform of Islam.

“The way in which my religion has been practiced and promoted for the last several hundred years is such that codes of honor - very Arab and very primal - have become enmeshed in the practice of Islam so that even though this is not a problem from Islam it has become a problem for Islam,” Manji said.

But the author mixed serious discussion with humor, greeting the audience with “Salaam, shalom, and for the atheists out there, ‘How the hell are you?”’ Manji, currently a visiting fellow at Yale University and syndicated columnist for the New York Times, wrote “The Trouble With Islam Today,” a book critical of Islam.

The 37-year old, born in Uganda to parents of Indian and Egyptian descent who moved to Canada where she grew up, told the audience that a sense of humor was necessary to opening a dialogue and questioning Islam. When asked if the approach would work, her co-panelist Hirsi Ali answered in a somber tone, “Not until we draw cartoons of the prophet.” A dissident of Islam

In her book “The Caged Virgin,” Hirsi Ali mentions the riotous reactions in many Muslim countries after a Danish newspaper published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. She also cites the example of a Newsweek magazine report that a copy of the Quran was flushed down a toilet. Newsweek later retracted the report, which sparked riots in some Muslim countries that left dozens of people dead.

“We Muslims have completely lost sight of the balance between religion and reason,” Hirsi Ali writes in the new book.

The 36-year-old former refugee from Somalia, who fled an arranged marriage and ended up in the Netherlands where she would eventually be elected to parliament four years ago, says she is an atheist, but retains her past as a Muslim.

“I am a dissident of Islam - I share this history, I share the culture, I share the religion, my parents and everyone have stayed Muslims my whole life and I feel an obligation to share that which I believe now,” she said.

In addition to being close in age and two of the most outspoken critics of Islam, both women say they have needed to take security measures.

Hirsi Ali spent 2 1/2 months in hiding after Van Gogh’s murder in 2004 and said she recently had a neighbor force her to move by court order because of the danger she could bring as a terrorist target. Manji said she has also received numerous threats.

“You have bodyguards,” Manji said, turning to Hirsi Ali, “I have an excellent relationship with the Yale and the Toronto police.”

‘Protect freedom of expression’

Manji said she would go to Egypt in June for her foundation, Project Ijtihad, an organization designed to spur “A reform that enables the emerging generation of Muslims, especially young women, to challenge the authoritarianism of critical thinking.”

But the task is challenging, Manji said, as culture and religion have become intertwined throughout the history of the religion.

Both women agreed that the there is potential for dialogue and the eventual reform of Islam in the West.

“If both Europe and the U.S. both succeed in protecting freedom of expression ... Then that can happen,” Hirsi Ali said.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Thousands march in Iran labor protest


Monday, May 1, 2006; Posted: 11:35 a.m. EDT (15:35 GMT)

TEHRAN, Iran, (Reuters) -- Thousands of Iranian workers on Monday protested the growing use of short-term employment contracts. It was the most vociferous May Day demonstration the Islamic state has seen in years.

The protest came as a reminder to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that, although embroiled in an international dispute over his country's atomic ambitions, he was elected to improve living conditions for the poorest members of society.

Short-term contracts, while better paid than regular staff contracts, allow bosses to fire workers more easily and cheaply.

"The contract worker is a slave as he lives in fear of being sacked," said Aliasghar Ghaliaf, 37, who has worked in a textile factory on a permanent contract for 19 years.

"Employers set us up against the contract workers, accusing us of not working hard enough," he added.

Paper-factory worker Masoud Cheraghi, 40, said, "Some employers even make contract workers sign a resignation form without a date on it."

The demonstrators, numbering some 10,000, called for Labor Minister Mohammad Jahromi to resign and brandished placards with bread stuck on them to symbolize their hand-to-mouth existence.

Some wore headbands saying, "The short-term contract is a slavery law." Others carried banners that read, "Labor strikes must be revived."

The protesters spread out for more than a kilometer (0.6 mile), beating their chests in a reference to religious mourning ceremonies.

Unions exist in Iran but their power is limited. Authorities quickly snuff out strikes and protests over living conditions.

Short-term contracts were introduced by the previous administration of pro-reform cleric Mohammad Khatami as part of attempts to make the state-heavy economy more efficient. The Labor Ministry said it was looking at ways to "optimize" the contracts in favor of workers. The Labor House, the largest labor foundation in Iran, said temporary contracts were a threat to job security.

"This is an idea that sacrifices the rights of the workforce on the pretext of boosting investment and profits," said the Labor House's legal adviser Arash Faraz.

Ahmadinejad is a religiously conservative populist who won a landslide presidential election victory in June after promising to deliver petrodollars from the world's fourth biggest oil producer to the people.

Iran's government says 10.9 percent of the workforce is unemployed, but some economic analysts say the real figure could be nearer 25 percent.