Cartoons, Dissent, and Human Rights in Iran

20 de enero 2015Cruel anti-Semitic attacks are “never solely about Jews,” Ruth Wissewrote in the Wall Street Journal last week. Jews are the most vulnerable targets at hand to destroy the narrative of democracy that despots disdain—free speech, press, and religion. Such images are particular irritants to Islamists because they are threatened by freedom. And as noted student of Islam, Daniel Pipes argued in the National Review, “Images, not words, most disturb Islamists.”

Now controversy abounds worldwide and in America about whether to support free speech of the cartoonists of the weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo, which was attacked by gunmen earlier this month. Their rights should be supported because the satirical drawings reflect freedom from oppression: Gérard Biard, chief editor of Charlie Hebdo, told Meet the Pressthat cartoon parodies of religious figures safeguard freedom of religion, because they “declare that God must not be a political or public figure, but instead must be a private one.”

Despite protests and debate, many quietly laugh at despotic rulers of the directly affected areas, making despots’ lack of legitimacy apparent and erode their assumed right to rule. Cartoons and comedy are frowned upon by al Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri and his affiliate in Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Nasser al Wuhayshi; the Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, self-proclaimed “Caliph” of a new caliphate on Iraqi and Syrian territory; and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, “Supreme Leader” of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The latter prevails as if he had a right to rule from God and increasingly enforces his diktats by a brutal morality police force, said Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 and was punished by the regime for her defense of human rights in Iran.

Despotism and cruelty are an integral part of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It seeks to impose a brand of Shiite Islam on uncooperative Sunnis by extending its 1979 Islamist Revolution over the region covertly, as in Yemen,Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia. But wait: Saudi is also not a paragon of rights, having sentenced a man to a prison term and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam, a “vicious act of cruelty,” according to Amnesty International, which reported the incident earlier this month. A nuclear-armed Tehran, however, is much more dangerous than non-nuclear Riyadh, though they are both serial rights violators.

While President Obama finally seems to see al Qaeda and the Islamic State as the threats they are, he apparently views Iran as a normal state with which to do business. Consistent with the State Department Country Reports on Terrorism, Obama views al Qaeda and the Islamic State as perils, but he fails to hold the Iranian regime accountable for facts in the Department’s annual identification of Tehran as main state sponsor of international terrorism. Ditto for State’s report on the country’s human rights practices, which cites: “disappearances, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment…beatings and rape…arbitrary arrest and lengthy pretrial detention.”

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Iran’s Terror Tunnels

Tensions Remain High At Israeli Gaza BorderBreaking news about Cuba and North Korea has obscured equally important news about Iran. It is accelerating support for terror tunnels in Gaza aimed under Israel; rockets and missiles pointed toward Israel; as well as tunnels in Iran designed to hide cheating on nuclear obligations that could scuttle negotiations in Vienna.

Just as Israeli intelligence is unable to determine existence of terror tunnels without adequate human intelligence in Gaza, both Jerusalem and Washington have a hard time assessing nuclear tunnels in Iran. They lack appropriate human intelligence to reinforce signals and satellite intelligence. It is easier to track rockets and missiles from Iran into Gaza (and to Hezbollah in Lebanon). The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), based in Paris with an extensive network on the ground in Iran, has validated human intelligence capability. (Although controversy surrounds the NCRI about alleged payments to buy support, such claims are irrelevant to the merits of issues discussed here.)

Terror Tunnels

With Iranian assistance and funding, tunnels in Gaza display Tehran’s efforts to threaten Israel. By secretly helping its ally Hamas to build tunnels, Iran laid the predicate for the 2014 Gaza War. On Dec. 19, the Jerusalem Postreported that Hamas accelerated tunnel repair. Hamas admitted earlier this fall that tunnel construction had resumed. The Israeli military hasestimated that it cost Hamas $90 million to build the 32 tunnels that were uncovered. The tunnels required, on average, 350 truckloads of construction supplies each; contrary to using them for schools, hospitals, and housing, Hamas used supplies to rebuild terror tunnels.

After the 2008 Gaza War, Iran aided rehabilitation of tunnels destroyed or damaged in the fighting. During the Muslim Brotherhood one-year rule in Egypt (2012 to 2013), Iran accelerated transfer of rockets to Gaza by sea and land (Sudan and Sinai).

In his new book Terror Tunnels, Alan Dershowitz states that the 2014 War in Gaza required Israeli ground forces to gain access to the tunnels and shut them down. Israel was unable to determine their routes and exit ramps because they were too deep underground and not detectable from the air.

Israeli intelligence was largely unaware that Hamas had kept critical details about the tunnel network secret; Israel relies on technologies capable of eavesdropping on telecommunications in Palestinian territories. Hamas countered by wiring its longer tunnels with cables unconnected with the local telephone grid. Such is the importance of the tunnels that Israel’s Gaza War aim changed from mainly stopping rocket attacks to principally destroying the tunnels.

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Democratic transition to prevent revolutionary Iran from nuclear-armed status

US-VOTE-2012-DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN-OBAMAKey senators in the incoming Republican majority and like-minded Democrats have a vision of Iran as a revolutionary state. It is risky to conduct business as usual with revolutionary Iran. If “regime change from within” were an implicit part of U.S. policy, emergence of a free Iran that does not become a nuclear-armed state is likely. President Barack Obama, however, treats Iran as if it were a normal state to engage in give-and-take bargaining.

Regarding current talks to prevent Iran from getting the bomb, Republican senators believe they have votes from both parties to pass additional economic sanctions on Tehran to overcome a veto by Obama. The White House is on record to avoid congressional scrutiny of any agreement. But a bipartisan coalition could use its majority to compel a vote on any accord from the November 18-24, Vienna talks between the major powers and Iran.

Opposing congressional oversight, supporters of reaching out to Iran say it has not decided whether it is a revolutionary movement or a normal state; hence, U.S. diplomacy can strengthen pragmatists against revolutionaries. This unsuccessful search for a moderate highlights the fallacy of treating Iran as a normal state. Even “pragmatistsaccept rule by Iranian clerics.

Business as usual is consistent with a report that Washington may reestablish an economic-diplomatic presence in Tehran, if there were a positive outcome in Vienna. But expectations are rising that an agreement is likely to be a “bad deal.” If so, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chair of foreign operations subcommittee of the incoming Appropriations Committee and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), incoming Foreign Relations Committee chair are cosponsoring a bill intended “to kill” a bad deal, according to Graham.

In addition to being a nuclear threat, Iran may be building missile facilities in Syria to prop up the Assad regime. Such missile production is acclaimed on religious beliefs inherent in the Iranian Revolution: “Today, the Islamic Iran has grown into the world’s sixth missile power and this is a major source of pride for the Revolution,” stated an officer of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). It has enhanced military capabilities in Iraq “to steal the show from Washington,” with a blow by the IRGC to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, (ISIS).

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ISIL militants execute 300 Sunni tribesmen

noviembre 9On November 2  2014, Professor Raymond Tanter was on CCTV America.

Islamic State militants massacred Sunnis in Iraq’s western Anbar province, including dozens of women and children. At least 322 members of the Iraqi tribe died in the bloodshed with some bodies dumped in a well, according to the government.

Iraqi forces retaliated with airstrikes against ISIL targets in Anbar province. The Islamic militants are also destroying tombs, mosques and churches as they seize large areas of northwest Iraq and neighboring Syria, prompting the head of UNESCO to call on the international community to work together to preserve Iraqi cultural heritage.

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Terror tunnels and nuclear tunnels after the midterms

Hamas-Tunnel-Terrorists-3Congressional Republicans and Democrats espouse a policy toward Iran that takes Israel into account; results of the 2014 elections may induce the Obama administration to consult more with Congress and Israel; they are concerned about lack of intelligence on tunnels in Gaza and Iran.

With Iranian assistance and funding, tunnels in Gaza displayed Tehran’s efforts to threaten Israel. By secretly helping its ally, Hamas—the Islamist movement that rules Gaza, build tunnels, Iran laid a predicate for the 2014 Gaza War.

There has been a resumption of tunneling in the aftermath of fighting. Hamas officials publicly acknowledge resumption of tunnel construction. The Israeli military estimates it cost Hamas $90 million to build 32 tunnels uncovered. The average tunnel required 350 truckloads of construction supplies; contrary to using these materials in building schools, hospitals, and housing, Hamas used them for tunnels.

After the 2008 Gaza War, Iran aided rehabilitation of infrastructure damaged in the fighting. During the Muslim Brotherhood one-year rule in Egypt, 2012-2013, Iran accelerated transfer rockets to Gaza by sea, land (Sinai and Sudan), and underground tunnels from Sinai.

Another Iranian ally, Hezbollah, may have an underground tunnel network leading into Israel’s north, which could be used to conduct an enormous terror attack on residents along the Israel-Lebanon border.

In Terror Tunnels, Alan Dershowitz makes a strong case for Israel’s “just war” against Hamas. The 2014 War in Gaza required use of Israeli ground forces to gain access to the tunnels and shut them down. Israel was unable to determine their routes and exit ramps in advance because they were too deep underground and not detectable from the air.

Israeli intelligence was largely unaware that Hamas had kept secret critical details about the tunnel network; Israel relies on technologies capable of eavesdropping on telecommunications in Palestinian territories. Hamas countered by wiring its longer tunnels with cables unconnected with the local telephone grid. Such is the importance of the tunnels, Israel’s Gaza War aim changed from mainly stopping rocket attacks to principally destroying the tunnels.

Regarding nuclear tunnels, Iran hides part of its facilities in networks of underpasses and bunkers across the country. Because it is difficult to determine what part of Iran’s nuclear program is hidden, there is a need for human source intelligence to complement electronic and satellite surveillance.

In 2002, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an opposition organization that can continue adding to the multisource basis for verification of Iran’s nuclear activities, revealed that Iran was building a secret underground nuclear plant at Natanz. Later, the Institute for Science and International Security determined it was for enriching uranium and released imagery of Natanz in December 2002.

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Obama’s Moment to Seize the Day in Iraq

descargaReports President Obama authorized surveillance flights over Syria suggest he is beginning to seize the moment given to him by the horrific execution of American journalist, James Foley. If he authorizes airstrikes into Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), even over the horizon from Iraq, it could reinforce the “moderate” Free Syrian Army against both ISIS and Assad. Even if such strikes also helped Assad against ISIS, they would be worth the effort.

Interests

If the surveillance over Syria indicates the President if abandoning his strategy of defensive containment and going on the offensive with a mini-surge—sending additional military advisors to Iraq in a rollback strategy to defeat ISIS, the surveillance is in the American interests. Rolling back ISIS from Iraq makes more sense if the President authorizes or our partners conduct raids into Syria, because ISIS forces will flee to eastern Syria when attacked in northwest Iraq.

U.S. Special Forces can act as spotters to identify targets in Syria, as they do in Iraq; otherwise, widening the battlefield space would not be as effective against ISIS. The President shattered his own campaign pledge of “not placing boots on the ground,” when he authorized deployment of U.S. military advisors in Iraq: They are at risk, walk on the ground, and wear boots. The deteriorating strategic landscape in Iraq gives the President political space to act in the national interest and jettison his prior vow not to be drawn into another land war.

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NBC Duped by Iran’s Attack on Israel

Israeli Flag

On Wednesday, 8 February, the NBC Rock Center TV program website ran a provocative story, “Israel teams with terror group to kill Iran’s nuclear scientists, U.S. officials tell NBC News.” The main sensational allegation of the story is that in conducting covert operations in Iran, Israel’s intelligence uses the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MeK), an Iranian dissident organization that the State Department classifies as a terrorist organization, despite the law and facts.

In an article published in the National Interest, I discuss how Tehran and its allies in Baghdad routinely blame the MeK for terrorist actions in Iran and Iraq, despite evidence to the contrary.

In an effort to suppress dissent, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) shapes opinion about the MeK. The Ministry plants false stories in the media that are used to justify a false narrative against the MeK. For example:

In October 2011, the MeK exposed Islamic Revolutionary Guards Force Quds Force (IRGC-Quds Force (QF) for plotting to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States and blow up the Saudi Embassy in Washington. That disclosure reinforced additional sanctions Treasury placed on the IRGC-QF three days earlier.

And what is Tehran’s response when confronted with evidence of its complicity in the assassination plot? The Ministry of Intelligence and Security blames Israel and the United States and asserts MeK involvement. The State Department promptly denied MeK responsibility and accused Tehran of “fabricating news stories” and spreading “disinformation” to exploit skepticism about the plot.

In Iran Policy Committee’s book Terror Tagging  contains a reference to the bombing of  the Imam Reza shrine in Mashad/Mashhad in June 1994, which was mentioned in the NBC report, allegedly implicating the MeK and linking it to one of the operatives in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing— Ramzi Ahmed Yousef. But one source accuses a Pakistani militant not the MeK as having links to Yousef for the 1994 Mashad bombing:

“Although [the Iranian] government blamed the Mujahedin-e-Khalq in a TV show to avoid sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunni, the Pakistani daily ‘News’ of March 27, 1995 reported, ‘Pakistani investigators have identified a 24-year-old religious fanatic Abdul Shakoor residing in Lyari in Karachi, as an important Pakistani associate of Ramzi Yousef. Abdul Shakoor had intimate contacts with Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and was responsible for the June 20, 1994, massive bomb explosion at the shrine Imam Ali Reza in Mashhad.'”

At the time of the 1994 bombing, the MeK denied any role. And a few years later, during the regime’s factional feuding, a former member of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence stated the bombing had been perpetrated by the MOIS, and in particular, by Saeed Emami, then a deputy of the Ministry.

For a more detailed background on the unwarranted terrorist listing of the MeK, check out the book Terror Tagging

Photo: samlavi, Creative Commons

Terror Tagging of an Iranian Dissident Organization

Terror Tagging of an Iranian Dissident Organization

As in the children’s game of “chase and tag,” opponents of the main Iranian dissident organization—the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MeK)—oppose removal of an unwarranted terrorist tag imposed on it by the U.S. State Department, in effect, chasing the MeK to tag it with legally irrelevant arguments for continuation of the terrorist designation.
ISBN: 9780979705120
Retail Price: $9.99
Publication Date: December 1, 2011

By Iran Policy Committee Publishing Posted in Titles

President Obama and Iran

President Obama and Iran

(Engagement, Isolation, Regime Change)

The Obama administration is in the process of choosing among three options or is fashioning a policy package of all three concerning Iran: isolation, engagement, and regime change.
ISBN: 9780979705113
Retail Price: $19.95
Publication Date: June 22, 2010
http://www.bookmasters.com/marktplc/02273.htm

By Iran Policy Committee Publishing Posted in Titles

President Obama and Iraq

President Obama and Iraq

(Toward a Responsible Troop Drawdown)

The book explains why insurgents ceased attacking U.S. forces in Iraq and turned against al Qaeda, and how the U.S. drawdown can be achieved while preserving gains of the political-military surge.
ISBN: 9780615281124
Retail Price: $14.95
Publication Date: September 30, 2009
http://www.bookmasters.com/marktplc/02273.htm

By Iran Policy Committee Publishing Posted in Titles