2009-12-31

Undisclosed Location

Where is the Secretary of State?
Nile Gardiner at the Daily Telegraph writes: “The White House should send a search party to track down Hillary Clinton. America’s foreign policy chief has been missing from the world stage for several days, and has become as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel at the height of the French Revolution.”

Come to think of it, we haven’t seen or heard from her since the Flight 253 bombing attack. ...

RTWT.

Barry Rubin on Obama and Iran

Barry Rubin at GLORIA Center: Obama's 2010 Policy
A friend of mine is angry, saying I'm too tough on President Barack Obama and that nothing he does pleases me. Well, I wish he'd do more that pleases me, and disconcerts America's enemies.

True, he has done three good things lately: his Nobel speech, which sounded like it was actually given by a U.S. president; his remarks on the demonstrations in Iran (better six months late than never), and his tough verbal stance about investigating the mistakes that led to the near disaster (though I worry they're less about dramatic change and more just a show to reassure the public that something will be done). I also pointed out that the administration's relationship with Israel was pretty good overall.

Yet on the single most important Middle East issue, Iran's nuclear program and its aggressive ambitions, hints about his policy are getting worrisome both because of what this administration isn't doing and what it's obviously thinking. The year has now ended with no major public move toward imposing serious sanctions. True, there are a few statements you can dig out indicating a turn in that direction. Yet what should have happened was a major public speech by December 31 about the administration's sanction plans. After all, it set that date as a deadline for action ten months ago yet let it pass with no visible action.

There are other bad signs that the administration still doesn't comprehend the problems it faces. ...

Full post at the link.

2009-12-29

Iran's Khamenei Planning to Escape to Russia?

According to this report, Iran's Supreme Leader and his family and henchmen may be planning to escape to Russia in the event that their criminal regime falls. Zand-Bon at Planet Iran:
December 29, 2009

Iran Global website has exposed a document that discloses information on Khamenei and various authorities of the regime’s possible escape to Russia.

The document is on the National Security Agency of the Islamic regime’s letterhead addressed from the office of the High Assembly of the Islamic Republic’s National Security official [name is redacted] to an individual [name redacted] in the revolutionary guards. The letter is dated 6th of Dey (December 27th).

It reads:

Re: Response to a letter number [redacted] written on the 5th of Dey (December 26th).

Salam Aleykom

With respect, we would like to inform you of the inspection, check up and preparation of the aircraft, destination Russia, for the purpose of transporting the Supreme Leader ....

Report: CIA Had Info on Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab

CNN:
The father of terrorism suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab talked about his son's extremist views with someone from the CIA and a report was prepared, but the report was not circulated outside the agency, a reliable source told CNN's Jeanne Meserve on Tuesday.

Had that information been shared, the 23-year-old Nigerian who is alleged to have bungled an attempt to blow up a jetliner as it was landing in Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas Day might have been denied passage on the Northwest Airlines flight, the source said.

Read the rest at the link.

UPDATE: Breitbart covers a certain 'Farouk1986' whose profile looks a lot like UFAM's:
Internet postings purportedly written by a Nigerian charged with trying to bomb a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day suggest a fervently religious and lonely young man who fantasized about becoming a Muslim holy warrior.

Throughout more than 300 posts, a user named "Farouk1986" reflects on a growing alienation from his family, his shame over sexual urges and his hopes that a "great jihad" will take place across the world.

While officials haven't verified that the postings were written by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, details from the posts match his personal history. ...

RTWT. H/T Van W. at Facebook. Breitbart credits the Washington Post with breaking the story.

Obama Condemns Tehran's "Iron Fist of Brutality"

BBC:
US President Barack Obama has condemned the Iranian government's attempts to quell recent protests, in which eight people have been killed.

He said the "iron fist of brutality" had been used to silence protesters, calling the actions of officials an "unjust suppression".

Barack Obama also urged the government to release detained opposition figures.

Notwithstanding the criticism some of us have directed at President Obama and his Middle East policies, the President deserves praise for this unequivocal and strongly worded statement. Go to the BBC's video link for the clip.

Star: Saleh 2009 = Saddam 1990 ?

Again via Jane, here's Lebanon's Daily Star:
Like Saddam Hussein, Ali Abdullah Saleh is an autocrat with a fair amount of blood on his hands, perched atop a decades-old security-oriented regime.

This regime does some things well, such as managing a personality cult, but it’s much less proficient at other tasks, such as running the country’s tribal and regional politics and generating stability.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt have stood with Saleh and the US is now getting heavily involved, providing the regime with missiles, sending unmanned drones to bomb areas affected by the Houthi rebellion, and dispatching covert military teams to join Yemen’s Army in pursuing threats to stability, under the rubric of the “war on terror” policy.

And like Saddam, Saleh deals with a large part of his country as if it’s the enemy. Iraq’s Kurds suffered atrocities in the weapons during the Saddam era, while the southerners of Yemen have also been treated horribly by the Saleh regime, and we’ve heard calls for secession from the central government in both countries. ...


UPDATE: Bill Roggio at Long War Journal has this on Yemen and Al-Qaeda:
As the US has stepped up cooperation with Yemen in targeting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, known terrorists wanted by the US government continue to operate in the open while the Yemeni government looks the other way.

The US has stepped up military and intelligence support with the weak Yemeni government and President Ali Abdullah Saleh over the past several months as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has grown more bold. The terror group has been plotting to target the Yemeni state as well as US and other foreign targets inside and outside Yemen, according to US intelligence officials.

The US deployed special operations forces to Yemen in the fall to work with the country's army and security serves to root out al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The terror group has opened large training camps in Sana'a, Abyan, and Shabwa provinces over the past year.

Read more: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/12/yemen_permits_wanted.php#ixzz0b8CtxvPx


UPDATE: CNN reports
The U.S. and Yemen are now looking at fresh targets in Yemen for a potential retaliation strike, two senior U.S. officials told CNN Tuesday, in the aftermath of the botched Christmas Day attack on an airliner that al Qaeda in Yemen claims it organized.

The officials asked not to be not be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information. ...


David Savage at the L.A. Times:
Yemen's emergence as a center for Al Qaeda activity has added another complication to the Obama administration's plan to close the U.S. military-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Yemenis make up the largest bloc of the remaining detainees. This month, six men from that country were sent home, and their lawyers expected that up to 40 more could soon be released from Guantanamo.

Now that an Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen has claimed to be behind the attempted bombing of an airline flight bound for Detroit on Christmas Day, however, the lawyers fear the administration will block further releases. ...

Dreams Into Lightning notes that that would just break our heart.

Yemen Passes Terror Financing Law

Yemen's Parliament today ratified the Tuesday the International Convention for the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism. Armies of Liberation reports:
After years of delay during which this bill was brought forth and then rejected by Parliament, Yemen passed a counter-terror financing law. The argument against the law was that it would hamper efforts to fund “legitimate resistance” movements like Hamas and other charitable giving. Also recall in 2005, when the UN circulated a list of 144 bank accounts associated with al Qaeda and/or the Taliban, Yemen closed one and took no further action in subsequent years. ...

More here.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and NWA 253: Roundup

CNN, December 27:
The alleged terror incident aboard a passenger flight from Amsterdam to Detroit has raised questions as to how a Nigerian man carried explosives through stringent security measures.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has been charged with attempting to destroy a passenger plane after he detonated a device on board a jet on Friday.

Authorities in the United States are investigating whether Abdulmutallab had any connections with terrorist organizations or was acting alone. ...


In from the Cold on Janet Napolitano's claim that "the system worked::
Of course, Napolitano didn't mention all the red flags that Farouk Abdulmutllab managed to raise over the past 4-5 months. Or the failure of various government agencies to connect the dots, and identify the Nigerian as a potential terrorist. Instead, she assures us, that the system worked as advertised. Never mind that we were just moments away from a "man-caused disaster," to use one of Ms. Napolitano's politically-correct terms for a terrorist attack.


Our number one Yemen woman, Jane points out possible Yemeni links:
PETN, our new vocabulary word, was used in both the attack of Prince Naif and in the recent airliner incident. In both cases the explosive device was sewn into underware. The Nigerian says he was trained at a camp near Sana’a (Arhab?), and recruited online by a “radical cleric” who facilitated contact with al Qaeda in Yemen. The Yemeni government hasn’t yet recieved any official communications from the US on the matter. ...

More here.

Debka:
DEBKAfile's counter-terror sources note that in the past year, Washington was strangely deaf to a flood of notices from Saudi, Egyptian and Yemeni security agencies warning that al Qaeda networks had established themselves in Yemen and so gained a jumping-off base into the Arabian peninsula and across the strategic Gulf of Aden. The network was now directly linked from Yemeni shores to Osama bin Laden at his new headquarters in Pakistani Baluchistan.

These warnings went unheeded by the relevant agencies in Washington.

Only two months ago, on Oct. 7, President Barack Obama told the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Virginia: "We're making real progress in our core mission - to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and other extremist networks around the world."

Citing a counterterrorism expert, Obama added: “Because of our efforts, Al Qaeda and its allies have not only lost operational capacity, they’ve lost legitimacy and credibility.”

Only three days before the US president's speech, on Oct. 3, the FBI arrested the Chicagoan David Headley at O'Hare Airport and charged him with targeting and conducting reconnaissance for the al Qaeda branch Lashkar e-Taibe's terror massacre in Mumbai of November 2008, which left more than 170 people dead.

A month later, US Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan shot dead 13 comrades at the Fort Hood base in Texas. Federal investigators persist in refusing to call the crime an act of terror although Hasan was shown to have been in regular correspondence with Anwar al-Awkali, the imam who was religious mentor to 9/11 hijackers and himself, from the time he relocated to Yemen in 2008.

The failed Christmas Day airliner bombing has strong leads to Yemen indicating that the attempt was plotted, planned and aided from that country.

Read the full article at the link. Debka concludes that "the weakness is conceptual rather than technical or human."

Finally, Roderick Jones at Counterterrorism Blog has a comprehensive analysis:
The visible US response to the latest attempted terrorist attack on the country, has so far sadly conformed to past mistakes and strategic blunders. The attempted attack by the Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as the NorthWest Airlines flight 253 was coming into land at Detroit airport has led to an increase in security by the TSA, which has so far taken the following form: restrictions surrounding in-flight entertainment on International flights coming into the USA, extra screening on flights coming into the USA, extra screening at domestic airports, restrictions on moving around the cabin one-hour before landing and discussion of restrictions on taking electronics on the airplane and of course the default extra screening of baby food, which seems to happen after every terrorist event. This is eloquently described as, 'TSA Security Burlesque' by an Atlantic Commentator.

It could reasonably be claimed that most people regard the security regime surrounding air-travel as at best a nuisance and at worst a catastrophic drain on economic resources. In large part the west's terrorist opponents have won this battle. Low-cost terrorist attempts at aviation infrastructure create enormous security reactions - truly exhausting and bleeding the west's financial and psychological capital to resist. Nobody who has suffered through a US domestic flight since 9/11 would argue the airline industry is in good-shape. As a key-component in global economic growth destroying the aviation industry is a good place for a nihilistic terrorist movement to start.

What has caused this? At this point, it is the reaction of United States Department of Homeland Security to any terrorist event involving aviation [which then spreads throughout the global aviation system], which heightens the operational success of militant Islamist terrorists against aviation targets. The noted, counter-insurgency expert David Kilcullen expertly puts this into focus [in his book Accidental Guerrilla] by highlighting the detrimental effects of US counter-terrorism policy. In short al-Qaeda does not represent an existential threat to the US, it has no path to victory looking at any reasonable scenario including the use of WMD-- but the US can defeat itself by unnecessary over-reaction and a fundamental misunderstanding of basic risk management and terrorist theory. Once again this is being demonstrated by the events in Detroit and the DHS reaction, which creates more disruption than the attack itself, destroys DHS and US credibility by mandating absurd responses, which focus on securing events after they have happened (for example, turning off in-flight entertainment because passengers can see a map - passengers can still look out the window or use their watches). ...

2009-12-25

Noel, Noel (Christmas 1940)

... I wanted to tell you about us, how wicked we are.
And yet also to say that the Star—you know the star I mean—
Is for some of us clearly visible still in the east at midnight rising, and all the night long burns serene—
And that on such nights on unaccustomed knees we kneel and in sweet discomfort
Pray for hours, and mean it, to be better than we are.
I am not one of these, I fear;
I loved you always for the things I read
About you in a book we had.
I did not meet you for the first time through the incense and stale smell
Of a room seldom aired, where people purred of heaven and howled of hell.
I used to read all day, when I was ten:
—You and Don Quijote were my heroes then.

Perhaps because of him I have been kind
Often with my heart, before consulting my mind.
I might have been wiser, had I learned direct from you—
Learned to make curlicues in the sand or on a scratch-pad while deciding what to say or do ...
Such as, "Sin—the waves come in—all pushing pebbles—each alone ...
I have it!—Let him among them who is without sin!—cast the first stone!"

I learned so young to know you, I could never see
Why we should not be playmates; you were wonderful,—
Oh, you were shiny!—and for some strange reason, fond of me.
But nothing will be done. I can do nothing. Nothing at all.
Only remember what you said, your voice, the way you said it,—
For it never was like something read, it was something heard, even while I read it—
And try to be wiser and kinder, in a world where Pity from place to place
Flees under cover of darkness, hiding her face;
Give Pity breathing-space.



- Edna St. Vincent Millay
from Make Bright the Arrows

Sailor


One more for the holiday, couldn't resist; it's Leonard Cohen with 'Suzanne'. Dutch subtitles at no extra charge.

2009-12-24

O Light Divine

Oh, all right. Here's something for the holiday. It's Celine Dion with an utterly breathtaking version of "O Holy Night". Enjoy.

Wieseltier on the Uses of Hatred

"As all hatred will ever be wrong." Leon Wieseltier begs to differ:
To be sure, hatred is not quite an analysis; but still a word must be said on its behalf. Hatred may be a sign that something has been properly understood. If you do not hate racism, then you do not understand what it is. If you do not hate Ahmadinejad, then you do not understand who he is. ...

Via Michael Totten.

Iraq's Mithal al-Alusi: Iran Nuclear Sooner than You Think

Via Planet Iran, here's JPost:
Dec. 25, 2009
HEATHER ROBINSON, Special to The Jerusalem Post , THE JERUSALEM POST

Iraqi parliamentarian Mithal al-Alusi is warning that Iran is much closer to attaining nuclear capability than most sources, including the International Atomic Energy Agency and the US State Department, believe. In fact, he predicts the Iranians could have a nuclear capability - and may announce that they have it - as soon as next month.

"We are receiving information which says Iran is so close to producing an atom bomb," Alusi said in an interview earlier this month, the latest in a series of interviews conducted since September. "All the international community, they don't realize how close [the Iranians] are to the goal... The Iranians will surprise us one day [soon] and say, 'We have it.'"

Alusi said he cannot reveal his sources of this information, because that would place in grave and imminent danger individuals within the Iranian "establishment" who risked their lives to share it with him.

"I am talking about Iranian insider information. Very clear, from inside Iran," he said. "There are people within Iran who want to be normal... They know this is a dangerous regime. You see how they treat their own people... Iran is terrorizing the world already. What will they do once they have the bomb and they are stronger?" ...

Go to the link for the rest. Now if that's not enough, Muslims Against Sharia links John Noonan at The Weekly Standard, who says that Iran could be working on not just a fission bomb (A-bomb), but a thermonuclear fusion device (H-bomb):
Iran's nuclear program is spread throughout a variety of experimental laboratories, hardened enrichment facilities, heavy water manufacturing plants, and two plutonium reactors currently under development (Bushehr could come online within a few months). That far exceeds what's needed to turn on the lights, but it's also beyond what's needed for a basic nuclear weapons program.

Consider North Korea, which manufactured two limited yield nuclear weapons using only a plutonium reactor, a plutonium reprocessing facility, and -- presumably -- some sort of weapons laboratory. Why is Iran pumping billions more into building and protecting triple the number of facilities required to build a basic nuclear weapon, akin to the Fat Man or Little Boy bombs detonated in 1945?

The answer could be that Tehran is skipping basic weapons construction and moving towards an advanced thermonuclear design. Consider that they've already experimented with advanced weapons designs like two-point implosion, nuclear triggers, and have built their own facility at Arak that could be used to produce both tritium, which is a suspected boosting agent in hydrogen bomb designs, as well as weapons-grade plutonium. They've spent billions building, hardening, and protecting uranium enrichment, which could be used along with plutonium in a staged nuclear device. All this at an astronomical cost and effort compared to the similar North Korean nuclear program.

And what of Ahmadinejad’s recent visit to South America, where he showed keen interest in Bolivia's massive lithium reserves? ...

Merry Christmas.

Yemen Airstrike Kills 30 Including Top Al Qaeda Figures

Internet Haganah has a roundup.

2009-11-22

Funny, there doesn't seem to be a problem with Western-style Communism.

Normblog:
You can bet that if there's someone saying that some particular culture isn't receptive to the idea of human rights, they'll be hoping to foist on you a view that identifies that culture with the power-holders within it. I happen to have an example to hand. It's a man telling us that 'The Chinese have a powerful sense of their identity and worth. They have never behaved toward the West in a supplicant manner'. He goes on as follows:

The issue... is much deeper than Western-style democracy, a free media or human rights. China is simply not like the West and never will be. There has been an underlying assumption that the process of modernization would inevitably lead to Westernization; yet modernization is not just shaped by markets, competition and technology but by history and culture. And Chinese history and culture are very different from that of any Western nation-state.

So no need to worry about democracy and rights for them, they being so different and all?

Go read the rest at the link. Original source of that quote is here; Norm also quotes a different view, from two writers who are actually, like, Chinese and stuff.

2009-11-12

Feds to Seize New York Properties Linked to IRI

Via Cyrus at Facebook, here's The Daily News:
Putting the squeeze on Tehran, the feds moved Thursday to seize a mosque in Queens and a Fifth Avenue skyscraper from a nonprofit organization suspected of secretly funneling money to Iran.

"The Alavi Foundation has effectively been a front for the government of Iran," said Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara, who sued to grab more than $500 million in assets.

Read it all at the link.

Morning Report: 2009-11-12

Iran expects Russia to supply S-300 missiles. Arutz Sheva: 'Iran's Defense Minister, Ahmed Wahidi, said Thursday in an interview with an Iranian newspaper that his country expects Russia to stand behind a deal it signed with it for the supply of advanced anti-aircraft S-300 missiles.'

Strategy Page on bombings and loyalty in Iraq. Strategy Page provides an unsentimental look at contemporary Iraq:
Iraq has a loyalty problem. Too many Iraqis are only willing to give absolute (no bribes will work) loyalty to family or tribe. Thus at the national level, too many Iraqis can be bought, and you can never be sure who you can trust. Saddam dealt with this problem by trusting no one, except family and tribe. Even then, he constantly moved people around, and had to kill a few of his closest associates, to inspire more loyalty from the others. In a democracy, you replace the bullets with cash. The Iraqi government is so corrupt because many politicians see it as a matter of life or death to shower close associates with stolen money, to insure their loyalty. The one exception to this is the Kurds, who fear the Arab majority so much, that they have become, by local standards, incorruptible in security matters. The Kurds are still divided by families and clans, and still willing to be bought, but not when it comes to security. Many Kurds make a good living down south, as security contractors. This is actually a tradition that goes back centuries. You want a reliable bodyguard, go hire a Kurd.

Read the full article at the link.

Debka: Obama wants more time for Iran parley. Debka:
President Barack Obama and prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu talked for more than an hour and a half in the White House Tuesday, Nov. 9, all but fifteen minutes without advisers. There were no cameras and the usual post-meeting press briefings, joint communiques and interviews were cancelled. A curt White House statement said: "The president reaffirmed our strong commitment to Israel's security, and discussed security cooperation on a range of issues. The president and prime minister also discussed Iran and how to move forward on Middle East peace."

Netanyahu then headed out to Paris to see President Nicolas Sarkozy later Tuesday.

DEBKAfile reported Monday: US official sources admitted Monday, Nov. 9, that Tehran had finally blocked every compromise offered by the Obama administration through backdoor channels. This and the US president Barack Obama's Middle East peace initiative have both run into the sand. Secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Middle East envoy George Mitchell informed him last week after their failed bid to persuade the Palestinians to sit down and talk peace with Israel.

Clinton found Mahmoud Abbas in Abu Dhabi with one foot out of the Palestinian Authority leadership and exploiting Obama's misplaced reliance on a total Israeli settlement construction freeze on the West Bank and in Jerusalem to strike a rejectionist position for the sake of restoring his tattered credibility on the Palestinian street. On that score, there is nothing much for Obama to discuss with visiting Binyamin Netanyahu Tuesday, Nov. 10, although both found themselves under pressure to meet during Netanyahu's brief visit to Washington to address the General Assembly of the North American Jewish Federations. ....

2009-11-04

Republicans Win Big in Atlantic States

B. Daniel Blatt at Gay Patriot: Governor-elect Christie declares victory.
I do hope the president is listening to this speech, especially where he said that he doesn’t want the government to fix every problem. His supporters cheered that line heartily. He promises to turn the state capital upside down.

He talk about cutting taxes, spending and onerous regulation.

A lot of good stuff in this speech, sounds like my kind of Republican.


Gay Patriot: McDonnell's margin biggest for GOP in Virginia history.
It looks like Bob McDonnell is running ahead of George Allen’s tally in 1993 when that good man enjoyed the largest margin of any Republican in the history of the Commonwealth.

UPDATE: McDonnnell won Fairfax County by a whisker, 51-49. This is a very big deal, very big.


Republican takes New York's Westchester County.

But fellow Gay Patriot blogger ColoradoPatriot has some concerns.

Neo-Neocon has some thoughts:
It was a good night for the Republicans, a bad night for Obama and liberal Democrats. Especially in New Jersey.

Obama will never admit it. But will he take it to heart? I doubt it. It will be full steam ahead on the agenda, and the same for Pelosi (and to a lesser extent Reid), who will attempt to twist the resistant Blue Dog arms (or is it legs?) ever more forcibly. Should be interesting.

If same sex marriage can’t win in places like California and now Maine, then its day hasn’t quite come. However, I do think that, with the next generation coming up, it’s just a matter of time. ...

2009-11-03

Morning Report: 2009-11-03

Israeli Heron drones in Afghanistan. Debka:
Germany is the fifth foreign nation to acquire the Heron TP drone or other Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle technology for support missions against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, DEBKAfile's military sources report. Today, these drones complement the US Air Force's dominant role in Afghanistan air space, thanks to two useful features and the CIA's shortage of Predators for its own and NATO use:

1. The Israeli drones are cheaper.

2. The Herons' operational features include a long-distance range, the ability to stay aloft for 52 hours non-stop and tracking and targeting capabilities. They can carry out complex functions such as in-flight refueling and slotting into strategic missile defense systems.

Equipped with 1,200-horsepower engines, they carry 250 kilos of ordnance, mainly air-ground missiles. With this load, the Israel UAVs can reach an altitude of 11,000 meters. Flying empty, it can reach a height of13,700 meters. This means that the Heron can fly above regular commercial air traffic without becoming icebound thanks to another special feature, which is important in the freezing Afghan winters.

Our military sources report that the Canadian armed forces began using Israel UAVs a year ago, hiring them on charter from Israel's Aviation Industries. ...


Afghanistan: Terrorists get butts kicked. Strategy Page:
November 3, 2009: Two weeks of fighting in South Waziristan have left nearly 400 Taliban and al Qaeda dead, along with about 40 soldiers. Nearly has many Pakistani civilians and security personnel have been killed by terror attacks. While there are high (media) profile operations, they have little impact on Pakistani military capabilities, and have increased public support for the military offensive in the tribal territories.

Pakistan has seven brigades of troops advancing into South Waziristan ...


SWJ roundup. A sample of the stories Small Wars Journal is following this morning: Afghan presidential runoff canceled; suicide bomber kills 35 near Pakistan army headquarters; US concerned about Iraq election delay; Clinton tells Iran that US position will not change; and much more. Read it at the link.

2009-11-02

Morning Report: 2009-11-02

Obama appoints Hagel to intelligence post. Arutz Sheva: 'Jewish Republican party officials and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) are among several groups that have called on U.S. President Barack Obama to rescind his appointment of former senator Chuck Hagel as co-chairman of his Intelligence Advisory Board. Hagel made clear his attitude towards Israel when he spoke at the pro-Arab and self-proclaimed pro-Israel Jerusalem Street lobby last week. ...'

Jewish terrorist suspect Teitel arrested in Israel. Debka: 'DEBKAfile reports that at the end of a 12-year search, the police and Shin Bet finally caught up with the Yaacov Taitel, 37, from Shevut Rachel, whom they suspect of a long series of terrorist crimes. They arrested him in the Har Nof district of Jerusalem Oct. 9. Two of those crimes are the murders of an Arab taxi driver in June 1997 and an Arab shepherd in August of that year. His home was found stocked with an assortment of firearms, including a sniper's rifle, and a bomb-making facility. The police and Shin Beit report that Yaacov Taitel, who was born in Florida, USA, operated solo and was self-taught in the use of firearms and explosives. He was first arrested in 2000 after years aboard but released for lack of evidence. He then turned to Jewish targets. In November 2006, an explosive charge was found at the Eili police station with the slogan: "Sodomites get out?" The accused has campaigned extensively against the gay community and its annual parades.'

UK secular Muslims stand up to extremists. Azarmehr:
UK's secular Muslims today decided to stand up against the Islamic political extremists, the Al Muhajiroun, who call for the abolition of democracy and imposition of Sharia Law in Britain. And guess what? the Al-Muhajiroun decided not to show up!

The Iranians who showed up today to support the secular Muslims also explained the forthcoming 4th November protests in Iran. Hopefully many people from today will stand in solidarity with the Iranian people and the Green Movement on Wednesday, outside the Islamic Republic Embassy between 6-9 pm. Lets show the world that the Green Movement is alive and moving forward.

The Spirit of Man has more:
Brace yourself for more anti-regime protests in the days ahead across the country.

Mousavi has hinted at new rallies while the criminal mullahs and their IRGC killers warned of more crackdown on November 4th protests. But the most heart warming news of all was the recent pledge by brave Iranian students to go back to street protests. The Islamic regime is shaken and suffering from big internal struggles. We need to do our part here to help the brave men and women who risk their lives to go out against this deadly regime.


Commentary. With this morning's post, I'm returning to regular posting here at Dreams Into Lightning. Stay tuned for more.

2009-11-01

El Día

When describing my father to people, I used to like to say, "Picture a cross between Albert Einstein and Captain Kangaroo." The soft-spoken, bookish Ken McLintock was, for most of the years I knew him, on the editorial staff of Choice Magazine. But in another lifetime, he had been a machine gunner in the Second World War. In a memoir written years later (and left unfinished), he recalled his experiences up until (but not including) his unit's arrival at New Georgia.

Dad's career as an editor seems to have begun during the war years; at any rate, he assembled a collection of original writings by his fellow soldiers of the 146th Field Artillery Battalion.
It was pure curiosity which led me to investigate a Japanese who had been killed about eight hours before, during the night. Before I saw the body itself, I saw a heap of clothing - or rather, rags - and I thought to myself: Is it possible that that shapeless object is a man? As I got closer, however, I saw the fallen enemy. After the first brief shock at the sight, I went ahead, dispassionately, coldly looking at him.

He was lying on his back, resembling a piece of wax statuary, with one hand flung across his waist, holding a bloodstained handkerchief (he had been machine-gunned in the stomach), and the other arm was crooked up with the hand resting near his head. His age was certainly under eighteen, and his youthful flesh was firm though colored a strange, waxy, yellow-white hue. His head was turned to one side, revealing a clean, bloodless hole in the neck where he had been shot by one not knowing he was already dead. His eyes were slightly open, and his lips parted. His boyish, beardless face was not entirely expressionless. On it I fancied I could see an expression revealing a boy trying to solve one of the great mysteries of life, a mystery that was beyond his grasp. ...


Dad also left a body of original writing. His remembrance of his mother recounts his memories of her singing career:
Mother's training, though, was not for the opera stage. Instead she sang with New York's Oratorio Society for years, and was soloist in a number of churches in the New York area. She also was a member of at least one church choir and even one synagogue choir (that of the famed Temple Emanu-El). Among the members of one of the choirs was Harry T. Burleigh, composer and arranger of Negro spirituals (as they were then called), including "Deep River". Burleigh was already well on in years when Mother knew him, and as the years went by, he would announce solemnly each year that this would be the last year he would sing "The Palms" at the Palm Sunday service.


In the one extant piece of writing that could be called a diary - dated New Year's Day 1968 - he speaks of feeling a quiet but invincible optimism:
despite having been uprooted a week before Christmas and kept until a week after Christmas in a warm house, somehow it will survive the shock of having been replanted (in a new location) this 15-degree day. And I know that, despite the cold, I will get the tree planted today. This is what I mean by invincible optimism. In other years I should have left the tree in the garage for a day or so -- letting the tree get accustomed to the cold, I would tell the world -- before planting it. Today I don't feel the need for any such evasion: I shall go out there within the hour, not joyfully, perhaps, but but at least without hesitation.


On pondering his qualifications for a certain job, he mused:
The job that I must do some day --
Fill an excavation or fule a flame --
I hope will not be asked of me too soon.
Were it tonight, or, say, tomorrow noon,
The fire would sputter, to my shame,
Or else the hole that's dug would be
So unexpectedly full of space
They'd think they'd buried in that place
Someone already more than half a ghost. ...


I do not know whether he ever got over the feeling of having lived "a life spent on the perimeter". In his later years, he embraced Judaism and became affiliated with a couple of local synagogues. For a too-short period of time, he was able to fulfill his own love of singing (and of Jewish music) in the choir of one of those synagogues.

Alzheimer's robbed him of his faculties quickly and ruthlessly. You know that scene in '2001: A Space Odyssey' where Dave has to disconnect HAL? Kind of like that.

***

My mother survived my father by about two and a half years. Her mother was the only grandparent living when Stephanie and I were growing up; we'd travel from our home in South Windsor, Connecticut to visit her in Bath, Maine every Thanksgiving.

I remember my mother as fiercely idealistic and intellectual, mistrustful of the world but relentless in her efforts to improve the world in spite of itself. She left no written works, but played a critical role in helping several friends - children and adults - to achieve literacy.

Her relationship with her mother was deep and deeply troubled. Long after the old woman was buried, Mom's voice would quiver with hurt and rage over things her mother had said or done to her as a child.

***

Stephanie was with us for twenty-eight years. She was preoccupied with mortality; one of her earliest poems observes:
Man is a fragile being,
Within himself and by himself,
Man is a dream,
An impossible dream,
And thinking he knows everything
Knows nothing
And is lost in the dream.
Imprisoned in him is a heart
That beats and stops, and all is lost.
Man fears death, though it must come ...


And then there is this:
The rain is water
from the sea
to the sky.
These rocks will be fossils,
my heart, thistles.
Only the sun consuming itself
will die.


Stephanie never felt at home in this world, as if she were migrating
through this country and out again
towards a greater desolation
than that from which I came.
Some days I am a gypsy
lying on sweet green grass or yellow fields
under a sky wide and full of sun;
some days I am a ragged dog
barking in alleys
among trash and empty bottles;
and some days I nearly forget -
but I can feel this body planning,
gathering forces,
signing documents;
all my time is borrowed time.


Even now, I find myself reading her poems and stories over and over again, always discovering something new.

Where the Night Water Runs
Once I chased a dream, a bird song,
a peacock feather,
through midnight down to the lapping water
silver crickets like ear-stars singing
all along the fields where fieldmice hide.
There is no place to go
but down to where the night water runs,
and runs black and slow,
slow like feet running in a dream.
Kind water, sweet and black
whispering, "I take nothing back.
I only go on."
The dream was really a beast
covered by night; I did not know,
and I followed the rank smell far,
too far away,
to find it, large
and turning, white clawed and snorting
too awful for fear,
too awful for running,
the song of my living too awful for fear -
and now to go on,
walking;
dawn is near.


Even now, she still visits me from time to time in my dreams.
Stephanie again, for a short time. I think we must have been teens or young adults. We were visiting the home of another family, perhaps relatives. It was getting late at night. I don't know if our parents were there or not. She was ready to drive home. Oh good, I thought, this will give us a chance to catch up; I haven't spoken with her in a long time. Even after I woke up, it was several minutes before I realized just how long it had been, and why.

2009-09-23

Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Slams Khadaphi Homophobe

Via Gay Patriot, Steve Rothaus reports:
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, just released an official statement regarding her criticism of Ali Abdessalam Treki, the new president of the United Nations General Assembly and former foreign minister of Libya, in favor of the criminalization of homosexual behavior:

“The anti-gay bigotry spewed by this Qaddafi shill demonstrates once again that the UN has been hijacked by advocates of hate and intolerance.

“Likewise, the leadership of the UN Development Program is held by the Iranian regime, which denies the presence of gays in Iran even as it murders them and other innocent citizens. ..."

Read the rest at Steve's Gay South Florida blog.

2009-09-20

On Enablers

From a friend at LiveJournal, Flip Flopping Joy takes on communities that enable abusers.

Israel, Iran, Russia

Debka says that CNN says that Russian President Dmitri Medvedev says that the Israelis said that they're not going to attack Iran.

In a CNN interview Sunday, Sept. 20, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said "Israeli colleagues" had told him they are not planning to attack Iran. He confirmed Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu had visited Moscow two weeks ago and had also met with him, but asked to keep the visit secret.

When Israeli President [Shimon] Peres was visiting me in Sochi recently, he said something very important for all of us: 'Israel does not plan any strikes on Iran, we are a peaceful country and we will not do this'," according to Medvedev.

DEBKAfile adds: Unless Medvedev's assertion is denied by Jerusalem, the Israel government has abandoned its military option to pre-empt a nuclear-armed Iran, but neglected to inform the Israeli public of this radical change of policy. For nine months, Prime minister Netanyahu has insisted that halting Iran's attainment of a nuclear weapon, even by military means, was his highest mission as prime minister. ...


Remarks. Well, the Israelis may or may not have said such a thing to Medvedev; I wasn't there. My guess would be that the Russians are making the claim publicly to see if they can goad Jerusalem into issuing a denial or non-denial. But what do I know? Anyway, Debka adds:
According to the Kremlin transcript, the Russian president said: My Israeli colleagues told me they are not planning to act in this way and I trust them." he said. Although Russia has no defense agreement with Iran, "this does not mean we would be indifferent to such an occurrence…"

These words indicate that the Kremlin is not absolutely sure that Israel has indeed abandoned a possible strike against Iran and is holding an implicit threat of Russian military intervention over Israel's head - just in Regarding the contract Russia signed two years ago to sell Iran S-300 air defense missile systems Medvedev said that "any supplies of any weapons, especially defensive weapons, cannot increase tension; on the contrary, they should ease it." Israel has repeatedly protested this sale as a boost to the defense of Iran's nuclear sites. His words indicate that Moscow intends to go through with the sale to Iran and possibly Syria too. ...

So we'll just have to wait and see what happens.

2009-08-14

And now for some AthensBoysChoir

EZ Heeb.


We won't stop the beat till the world be changin' ...

Have a great Shabbos.

2009-08-05

Iran Report: 2009-08-05

14 Mordad 1388. Latest Iran news: a citizen is freed, an opposition leader is arrested, a US flak double-talks, and a hero dies.

Protester rescued from regime thugs. Azarmehr has new footage of a protester rescued from the basijis.

Mousavi campaigner detained. Raye Man Kojast reports: 'In the late hours of Tuesday night, Mir-Hamid Hassanzadeh was detained at the office of Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA), where he is advisor, the local Tabnak website reported.'

Enemies. The Spirit of Man has a few choice words for the mullahs and their enablers in the United States. 'If I had any doubt about pro-Mullah nature of the Obama regime, those doubts are now turned into certainty and solid belief. Today NPR reports that the White House has called Ahmadinejad the 'elected leader' of Iran. At a time when world leaders like British PM Brown and German Chancellor Merkel have refused to recognize the Iranian government, this dangerous move is highly insulting and offensive, especially to thousands of Iranians who were killed or are now in jail.'

Gibbs says he misspoke. Arutz Sheva: 'On Wednesday, [White House Spokesman Robert] Gibbs told journalists, "Let me correct a little bit of what I said yesterday... I would say that's not for me to pass judgment on."

Alireza Davoudi remembered. Women's rights activist Alireza Davoudi died at the age of 26 from injuries he suffered during his imprisonment and torture. Rahai Zan TV has video (Farsi) here and here.

2009-07-20

Iranian Queer Railroad

Iranian Queer Railroad:

The IRanian Queer Railroad (IRQR) is our new organization’s name since October 9, 2008. For IRQR, we are working to create a simple structure and focus upon supporting Iranian queers to be safe on their journey and to arrive in a new country to live and be free.

The Underground Railroad was an informal network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th century Black slaves in the United States to escape to free states and mainly to Canada with the aid of abolitionists who were sympathetic to their cause. In Canada they had their freedom. In the past few years one of our major activities was about asylum seekers who must escape Iran due to their sexual orientation and we will continue this work under IRQR. Iranian queer refugees are resettling in Canada, and also in United States and in parts of Europe. ...

Via Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi at Facebook.

Iran Update: 2009-07-20

29 Tir 1388. One month since the June 20 uprisings began, it's clear the Middle East will never be the same.

CNN: 'Middle East is changed forever.' Hamid Dabashi writes: 'With the commencement of the civil rights movement in Iran in June 2009, the moral map of the Middle East is being changed right in front of our eyes, with the democratic will of one nation having thrown a monkey wrench into the geopolitics of the region. The moving pictures of Iranians flooding colorfully into the streets have forever altered the visual vocabulary of the global perception of "the Middle East."' Read the full article at the link.

Models wear green for Iran. Via Rah-e Azadi, this article (Italian) shows fashion models sporting green armbands for Iranian solidarity.

Arutz Sheva: Iran VP denies resignation. Just in from A7: 'Iranian vice president Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie denied quitting his post Monday after state run media announced in the morning that he had resigned following hardliner criticism. Mashaie, whose son is married to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s daughter, once said that Iran is a “friend of the Israeli people.”'

British embassy official reported freed on bail. Xinhua: 'Iran has released on bail head of the security and political division of the British embassy in Tehran Hossein Rassam, who was arrested due to involvement in Iran's post-election riots, local English-language Press TV reported on Sunday. ...'

Video: Protestors brave tear gas, chant against "dictator" Khamenei. Azarmehr has a clip of protestors chanting "مرگ بر خامنه ای" and burning pictures of leaders. Notice that many of these folks aren't even trying to hide their faces from the camera.

Winston at TSOM: Obama's dangerous presidency. The Spirit of Man: 'But as far as I see Mr. Obama has been busy disabling/dismantling the United States arsenal of freedom with his massive public spending bills and coward attitude in matters of foreign policy and has aimed to really turn America to a socialist dead-land like France, Canada or Britain. That said, nothing has enraged me more about him than his bizarre and dangerous approach towards the Iranian regime since taking office in January. He's proven to be a dangerous man.'

2009-07-13

Iran Report: 2009-07-13

Iran report, 22 Tir 1388. Social networking spies, tempers ablaze in Tehran, and disgraceful deal-making.

Iran's Facebook police. NPR:

A trusted colleague - who is married to an Iranian-American and would thus prefer to stay anonymous - has told me of a very disturbing episode that happened to her friend, another Iranian-American, as she was flying to Iran last week. On passing through the immigration control at the airport in Tehran, she was asked by the officers if she has a Facebook account. When she said "no", the officers pulled up a laptop and searched for her name on Facebook. They found her account and noted down the names of her Facebook friends.


Khomeini, Khamenei pictures burned in Tehran. Via Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi on the infamous Facebook, 37 beautiful seconds of a poster of the theocrats being torched, to cheers of "Marg ba diktator!"

Terrorists for journalists. The Belmont Club comments on a reported swap of suspected Qods Force hostages for detained journalist Roxana Saberi.

2009-07-12

Concert for Iran - Ashkenaz, Berkeley

Via Shirzad Sharif at tribe.net:


Date & Time:
Sunday, July 26, 2009
8:00 PM

Location:
Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center
1317 San Pablo Ave
Berkeley, CA

VERY SPECIAL ASHKENAZ IRANIAN SOLIDARITY PERFORMANCE...

Benefit Event $5 donation, proceeds go to support Human Rights Watch & Ashkenaz!

Local Bay Area Iranian musicians, activists and visual artists come together for an evening of Iranian national music and performance of freedom songs in solidarity with the Iranian people's freedom movement.

Featuring:
Shirzad Sharif: (Dutar, Tanbur, Tonbak & Daf)
Kaveh Hedayati: (Vocals, Setar)
& other special guest musicians...

Visual Artist: Neda Sharif

For more information please visit:
www.shirzadsharif.com

Iran Update: 2009-07-12

A little late in coming, but here's a couple of links to posts on the 18 Tir (July 9) protests and other recent events in Iran and the Iranian world.

"Buy yourself some ice cream." The Spirit of Man has video of a group of people gathering in western Tehran and being politely asked to disperse by the local police. TSOM emphasizes that the ordinary street cops aren't the enemy here:

I've heard/read so many times about police officers not wanting to beat up people or engage in street clashes. I've heard/seen that only Basijis and plain-clothed thugs attack and kill people mercilessly. And what we see in this short clip may confirm that police do not want to be violent. These regular police agents live in that country and I doubt that things happening around them have started to affect them as well. They're underpaid and not well taken care of. Their main body is consisted of conscripts and they hate their jobs for all I know. They live in the very same country and they can not be against the will of their brothers and sisters. I hope these signs of crack among regime's security apparatus grow bigger and deeper. Only if regular army starts to protect people next time Basijis shoot into the crowds or IRGC refuse orders to massacre people. That'll be the end of the mullahs.


Sohrab Erabi dies in Evin. Azarmehr has the bad news:

19 Year old Sohrab Erabi, one of the thousands of protesters who have been imprisoned, has died while in custody in Evin prison. Sohrab had passed his university exam entrance this year and would have enrolled as an undergraduate student in September. He was arrested on Saturday 20th June and taken to Evin prison.


Dream until your dream comes true. Also from Azarmehr, a video tribute to the Iranian people who have risked and sacrificed so much in the struggle for freedom.

Commentary. Beginning today, my semi-regular Morning Report feature will be replaced with Iran-focused roundups like this one. Additionally, Dreams Into Lightning will focus mainly on Iran-related events for the foreseeable future.

2009-06-22

Iran Update - 1 Tir 1388

Latest from Revolutionary Road:


180 journalists issued an statement re government pressure stopping them from reporting
8:25
Laleh Park and Shiroudi Stadium have become the command center to organize anti-riot police and plain clothes
8:28
"Frightening reports coming from Tabriz (Mousavi’s hometown); they resemble Saturday’s massacre in Tehran"
8:31
England restricts travels to Iran, withdraws embassy families stationed in Tehran
8:33
Police Using Gunfire, Tear gas,Electric Bat. Clashes at Enghelab SQ
8:35
people:Regime of Coup d'état, abdicate, abdicate!
8:40
Maziyar Bahari arrested in Tehran. he was Newsweek reporter
8:43
In Enghelab sq. police shooting the air, using tear gas & electric batons
8:50
People are gathering near Mellat Park (North Tehran) Near State TV, Trafic Jamm & Lights and Horn
9:00
At least 47 killed and 1206 injured from this days!

Kudos and many thanks to Saeed for this difficult and dangerous work.

Statement from Ayatollah Boroujerdi:

In the name of God the beneficent the merciful

We in addition to honoring the brave people of the oppressed and under religious despotism country, His Excellency Mr. Mir Hosein Mousavi and the zealous clergy Mr. Mehdi Karoubi also praising the right protests of the people against inattention to the sacred votes of the nation that has shouted the slogan of justice, announce our multilateral support on the divine and national insurrection of the mass of the oppressed people of Iran moreover we point out that the world concern on the gravity of the Human Rights situation in Iran is an usual matter and based on the aware conscience and no body can call it interfering in Iran affairs because Iran government is interfering in the affairs of Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan in an unjustified way by abusing this subject(concern on Human Rights ) with all its equipments.

Today, noble nations have been annoyed for the lack of equality and freedom and the oppression and injustice applied on Iranian nation by the government and are planning to reflect the voice and the groan of millions of the injured people who are tired of this condition.

The followers and devotees of the liberal clergy, Ayatollah Seyed Hosein Kazemeini Boroujerdi who supports the separation of the religion from government

Go to the link for Persian and Arabic text.

Via Howard Baskerville posting at Michael J. Totten, here's an incredible Flickr gallery for the Iran protests. The pseudonymous Baskerville also writes:

If you are worried by the conduct of the Iranian regime, you have understood the country better than many commentators. What Americans now see is that Iranians are a people with spirit who are not easily broken. For all the claims that Americans are an unsophisticated bunch, they know that a regime and its people are not one and the same. What has happened in recent weeks has confirmed that instinct.

Are those protesting true believers in democracy? We do not know, because they have never been given the chance. What we do know is that they reject the dishonesty of a repressive theocracy. For that reason alone, we should stand with them.


At Rahai Zan (Emaincipation of Women), Mino Hemati interviews Soraya Shahabi. In Persian.

Azarmehr pokes lots of holes in the fantasy of "elite" Iranian protesters and a "working class" islamist regime.

For latest updates in Persian and English, don't forget to bookmark Raye Man Kojast?

Via Muslims Against Sharia, here's Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed at al-Sharq al-Awsat:

The anxiety that is being felt by pro-Iranian Arab groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and others, is clearly articulated in their overstated defense of Ahmadinejad and their denial of the uprisings seen in Iran. It is only natural for such groups to be overcome by fear as Iran represents the backbone of their existence, and whatever affects the regime in Tehran will undoubtedly affect them twofold.

On the Arab scene, Iran's defenders rushed to desperately defend it in the media, denying what the rest of the world has clearly seen in terms of hundreds of thousands of protestors being led by members of the [Iranian] regime itself [and therefore not influenced by foreign powers]. These Arabs insisted that the images that we are seeing, and the interpretation of what is happening, is nothing more than conspiracies, exaggeration, and lies. However in reality the excuses mentioned above is closer to [describing] their interpretation of what is happening [in Iran]. These Arabs are either in a state of self-denial, refusing to believe what is happening in Iran, or they are aware of the truth but want to paint a different picture for the Arab world, and especially for their own followers, who must be in a state of shock.

Hezbollah supporters - and I am not talking about its leaders or theorists - believed as late as yesterday that Iran was unified, and that the leaders of the Islamic Revolution saw eye to eye. However all of a sudden they began to hear accusations of treason, treachery, and corruption being leveled [from one side at another in Iran], and they witnessed a large-scale rebellion [in Tehran]. ...

Go read the rest at the link.

Gateway Pundit has some of the best Iran coverage anywhere. First go listen to Gateway Pundit's exclusive audio interview with Ahmad Batebi (with Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi translating). Excerpt:

The regime has dwindled the internet speed down to a minimum right now. They've disconnected all the phones. All the SMS and text messaging has been disconnected. They've thrown out Western and foreign journalists. They've closed down all Iranian newspapers. They've put filters on all of their opposition websites. They've arrested dozen of activists, human rights and civil activists. They are arresting and beating dozens of people on the streets every day. And, people need to know that if they do not stand by the Iranian people shoulder to shoulder right now, that they themselves will come face to face with this very regime. And if this regime is allowed to have a nuclear weapon it will do the exact same thing with the entire world. This regime does not represent the people of Iran. And, morally the people of the world need to support the people of Iran and not what the regime wants."

Go to the link to listen. Gateway Pundit's latest post shows that the protests continue despite threats from the regime.

Steve Schippert at ThreatsWatch has analysis:

This is a huge development. One of the biggest questions I and others have had since the Iranian protests/revolt/revolution began was whether Mousavi would be any different in tangible effect (Hizballah & Hamas support, etc.) than Ahmadinejad and whether Rafsanjani was seeking to sack 'Supreme' Leader Khamenei simply to acquire the powerful position for himself. That question perhaps may have been answered today.

My ears first perked up when word made it through the grapevines over the weekend that Rafsanjani had been meeting with other Ayatollahs and clerics in Qom, and had among them a representative of Iraq's Ayatollah Ali Sistani.

Why? Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in 2007 made two very critical statements: that "I am a servant of all Iraqis, there is no difference between a Sunni, a Shiite or a Kurd or a Christian," and that Islam can exist within a democracy without theological conflict. You will never hear such words slip past the lips of Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei. Ever.

Sistani's presence at the Rafsanjani talks in Qom, Iran, through a representative brings therefore added significance. And the al-Arabiya report above seems to suggest that Rafsanjani is not seeking Sistani's support for superficial reasons. ...

Iran's Date with Destiny

As you surely know by now, March 20 marked the major confrontation between Iran's regime and its people. Gateway Pundit has updates. Michael Ledeen has analysis. The Spirit of Man writes:
Updated @ 9:35 am ET: There seems to be a bad case of news black out from inside of

Iran. I can't access any of my contacts. I have heard confirmed reports of explosion/blast in Khomeini's grave. I'm hearing that the govt has shut down public transit system, possibly to prevent people from commuting to the assembly sites.

Via TSOM, Revolutionary Road is updating continuously:

5:30
In Khosh Street police is attacking people with batons and pepper spray trying to disperse people, shots can be heard around Azadi
5:33
They are throwing Teargas constantly people: down with khamene'i
5:35
Heavy clashes on azadi street, chants of death to khamene'i,The street is full of rocks and fire!
5:38
Voice of shooting in Azadi street...
5:40
police using tear gas, water cannons to disperse thousands of protesters in Tehran,They are beating "people" in Enghelab St., not only the protesters!
5:42
people are trapped between Behboodi and Enghelaab
5:48
people are trapped between Behboodi & Enghelaab. gunshots being fired into the air...
5:50
2,000 to 3,000 protesters at Tehran University!
5:53
Enghelab street is fulll of people between ghods st. and Enghelab square
5:54
So Hard conflict in Azadi ST
5:55
Intense clash in Enghelab
5:55
Houses in alleys opening doors to injured protestors,hallway is full of beaten people!
5:56
Police have closed off Tehran University
5:58
Two bomb blasts in Tehran
5:59
Many of people arrested
6:00
An explosion near the shrine of Khomeini,killing one person and minimum 2 people are injured
6:01
metro/subway is closed...
6:05
Shooting directly to the people in Azadi ST
6:07
Vanak Square reportedly full of civilian-dressed forces
6:08
Fars news agency: the blast occurred near the shrine of Iran's revolutionary founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
6:09
Amirabad was closed of my plain clothes basij, tear gas was used
6:10
50-60 basij bikers were present . the amount of people were 2000 in that area due to blockages of roads

And finally, this from TSOM:

This is a brief letter written by an Iranian woman who is going to attend the anti-regime rally tomorrow:

I'll participate in the rally tomorrow in Tehran. It might be violent. I may be one of those who will die tomorrow. I want to listen to all beautiful tunes that I have heard in my life, again. I want to listen to some cheap Los Angeles made Iranian music. I always wanted to have much narrower eyebrows too. Yeah, I'll check in with my hair-dresser tomorrow before I go to the rally. Oh, there are some excellent scenes in the famous Iranian movie Hamoon I want to see before I leave. And I gotta re-visit my own bookshelf. Iran's poets Shamloo's and Farrokhzad's poems are worth re-reading. I've to see the family photo albums once again.

I'll have to call my friends and say good-bye to them. In this big world, my possession is only two bookshelves. I've already told mom and dad whom to give these books to in case I never come back. There are only two more courses left for me to get my BA degree but to hell with the degree. I'm anxious and excited.

I wrote these scattered words for the future generations so that they know we were not sentimental or uselessly emotional. I'm writing this so they know we did every thing in our power to make this work for them and so that they realize if our forefathers surrendered to the Arab and Mongolian invaders physically, but they didn't give in to their tyranny with their spirits. They resisted it. And I wrote this for tomorrow's children...


***
UPDATES:

Azarmehr:

People have been trying to reach Azadi Sq in groups of 100-200 but at every crossroad there is heavy riot guard presence. Gun shots can be heard throughout Tehran constantly. Riot guards have used high pressure water canons with boiling water to disperse the crowds. Never before has so much tear gas been used. [video at link]

Debka:

Tension rose in the Iranian capital Saturday afternoon, June 20, when supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi set fire to the campaign headquarters of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Heavy police forces fired in the air to break up a clash between the two groups.

Earlier, demonstrators making their way to Tehran's Enghelab Square and Tehran University on the eighth day after Iran's disputed presidential election were prevented from forming into a procession by military police, anti-riot police and Basijj militia wielding water cannon, night sticks and tear gas. This was reported by witnesses using e-mail and other means of communication.

Two Iranian news agencies reported that a suicide bomber blew himself up near the tomb of the Islamic Revolution's founder Khomeni, injuring two people. This was not confirmed as independent news organizations are strictly controlled.

The crowds turned out in defiance of warnings of tough action against any attempts to demonstrate from supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Friday and later the police. Their numbers could not be independently confirmed but the huge security presence appears to have outnumbered protesters.

***

Shiro-Khorshid Forever (Sayeh Hassan):

According to one of my contacts who was present during today’s protest in Tehran security forces have opened fire on protestors. My contact witnessed the shooting of three (3)protestors. Right now as we speak security forces have attacked protestors in the Amir Abad Area.

There are also Regime helicopters circling the area, they are mostly Sepah helicopters and to a lesser degree police helicopters.

Another eyewitness has seen a young girl shot to death in Jalalzadeh street.

People are also shouting "death to dictator" "Seyed Ali Pinochet, Iran Chili Nemishe" meaning Ali khameni Pinochet, Iran won't be another Chili"

Roger Cohen at New York Times:

TEHRAN — The Iranian police commander, in green uniform, walked up Komak Hospital Alley with arms raised and his small unit at his side. “I swear to God,” he shouted at the protesters facing him, “I have children, I have a wife, I don’t want to beat people. Please go home.”

A man at my side threw a rock at him. ...

Richard Fernandez:

The President’s actions suggest that he has finally torn up the draft agreements he had hoped to conclude with the Iranian regime simply because there is no one any longer to send them to. ...

TSOM has an appeal, in Farsi, to the Iranian regular army from a veteran:



به عنوان افسر وظیفه سابق ارتش و کسی که از خانواده ارتشی هستم از کسانی که این مطلب رو در داخل سازمان ارتش مردمی ایران مطالعه میکنند تقاضای عاجزانه میکنم که برادران و خواهران خود در خیابانهای تهران و شهرستانها را در مقابل بسیج نامردمی مسلح تنها نگذارید. از همه افسران و درجه داران و سربازان عزیز ایران بعنوان یک هموطن عاجزانه در خواست میکنم پناه مردم ایران عزیز باشید. مردم ایران همگی برای ارتش جان برکف ایران احترام و ارزش فوق العاده ای قائل بوده و هستند. اجازه ندهید مردم کشته و زخمی شوند. از شما عاجزانه تقاضا دارم به فکر مردم عزیز باشید. مردم بیگناه ایران به ارتش بعنوان پناهگاه خود مینگرند. لطفا مردم رو در این ساعت دشوار تنها و بی دفاع نگذارید. مردم همیشه و هر لحظه به سازمان مقدس ارتش اعتماد داشته و خواهند داشت. بعنوان یک ایرانی از همگی شما میخواهم به یاری مردم بیگناه ایران بشتابید. مطمئن باشید مردم ایران هیچگاه جانفشانی ارتش در طول جنگ تحمیلی و سالهای بعد از انرا فراموش نکرده و نمیکنند. مردم ایران و خانواده های ارتشی همگی شاهد تبعیض علیه ارتش و پرسنل معزز ان بوده اند. اجازه ندهید جماعتی بیگانه مردم ایران را در خیابانها قتل عام کنند. از دوستانی که در ایران این مطلب رو ملاحظه میکنند خواهشمندم از برادران ارتشی خود کمک و راهنمایی بخواهند


Fernandez:

What you are watching is a vast classroom in action. This is what used to be called a “radicalizing experience”. All the people you see on the video, for however long they live, will remember where they were this day. Whatever happens outwardly the old Iranian regime can never put things back together in quite the same way again because the interior landscape of the country has changed. It has been said that “what is essential is invisible to the eye.” This date has marked itself; and the calendar has singled out the day as a landmark not of a passage to a place, but of a transition between one idea and another. They are on the other side.

2009-06-19

Iran

A week ago, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner of the so-called elections in Iran. Supporters of his rival - and opponents of the regime - staged massive protests. Due to personal obligations and the pace of events, I haven't been keeping up with the Iran situation here, but I'm going to try to catch up a little now.

Azarmehr, June 12:

Pro-Ahmadinejad news websites are already announcing Ahmadinejad as the outright winner. Rajanews says 69% have voted for Ahamdienjad and 28% for Moussavi. Islamic Republic News Agency IRNA, has also announced Ahmadienjad as the certain winner.


The picture shows, club wielding pro-Ahmadinejad supporters are already in the streets intimidating the people. [photo at link]

Via Gateway Pundit, the Globe and Mail, June 13:

Thousands of protesters clashed with police after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won an election which his reformist challenger called a “dangerous charade“.

The protests were a rare direct challenge to Iranian authorities. The result and its violent aftermath raised fresh questions about the direction of Iranian policies at a time when U.S. President Barack Obama wants to improve relations with Iran.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Iranians to respect Ahmadinejad’s victory, which upset expectations that reformist candidate Mirhossein Mousavi might win the race.

Michael Ledeen, June 15:

To start with, the BBC, long considered a shill for the regime by most Iranian dissidents, estimates between one and two million Tehranis demonstrated against the regime on Monday. That’s a big number. So we can say that, at least for the moment, there is a revolutionary mass in the streets of Tehran. There are similar reports from places like Tabriz and Isfahan, so it’s nationwide.

For its part, the regime ordered its (Basij and imported Hezbollah) thugs to open fire on the demonstrators. The Guardian, whose reporting from Iran has always been very good (three correspondents expelled in the last ten years, they tell me), thinks that a dozen or so were killed on Monday. And the reports of brutal assaults against student dormitories in several cities are horrifying, even by the mullahs’ low standards.

Western governments have expressed dismay at the violence, and Obama, in his eternally narcissistic way, said that he was deeply disturbed by it ...

Before I go on, I want to make a few observations about Mousavi. As some of the more cynical commenters on my Facebook page have correctly observed, Mousavi is not, himself, what we would call a "good guy". That is to say, he is not running on a "freedom, democracy, and secularism" platform and he is no less a part of the establishment than Ahmadinejad. He is simply a rival thug. So, what are we to make of the demonstrations?

Here's Ledeen, June 17:

I think that many pundits insist on thinking about the Iran-that-was-five-days-ago, instead of the bubbling cauldron that it is today. The same mistake is repeated when people say that Mousavi, after all, is “one of them,” a member of the founding generation of the Islamic Republic, and so you can’t expect real change from him. The president made that mistake when he said that he didn’t expect any real difference in Iran’s behavior, no matter how this drama plays out.

I think that is wrong; at this point, Mousavi either brings down the Islamic Republic or he hangs. If he wins, and the Islamic Republic comes down, we may well see the whole world change, from an end of the theocratic fascist system, to a cutoff of money, arms, technology, training camps and intelligence to the world’s leading terrorist organizations, and yes, even to a termination of the nuclear weapons program.

I think that, whatever or whoever Mir Hossein Mousavi was five days ago, he is now the leader of a mass movement that demands the creation of a free Iran that will rejoin the Western world. And yes, the wheel could turn again, this revolution could one day be betrayed, all kinds of surprises no doubt await the Iranian people. Yes, but. But today, there is a dramatic chance of a very good thing happening in Iran, and thus in the Middle East, and therefore in the whole world.


And Michael Totten at Commentary, June 18:
I do not trust Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. He is part of the Khomeinist establishment, although a crudely sidelined one at the moment. His record as former prime minister isn’t much more attractive than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s record as president.

The democracy movement is rallying around him, but the activists should be careful. Ruhollah Khomeini managed to convince Iranian liberals and leftists to forge an alliance with him to topple the Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1979, but he brutally smashed them once the revolution swept the old regime out of power. Alliances between liberals and Islamists is extraordinarily dangerous – for liberals.

At the same time, though, it’s possible that Mousavi has changed. Michael Ledeen seems to think so. “He is not a revolutionary leader,” he wrote, “he is a leader who has been made into a revolutionary by a movement that grew up around him…Whatever plans Mousavi had for a gradual transformation of the Islamic Republic, they have been overtaken by events.” ...

Please go to the link for the rest, including Totten's commentary on an article by Robert F. Worth in the New York Times.

Now covering the rallies, here's Azarmehr:

Massive crowds, mourning the martyrs of the protests so far, sing the true national anthem of Iran ["Ey Iran"] and not the official Islamic Republic one [video]...
Protests in Rasht. Young girl is caught badly beaten up, God knows what happened to her afterwards at the hands of those savages. [video]

The Spirit of Man posts running updates:

5:34 am ET: Now calling protesters 'terrorists'? Khamenei wants an END TO STREET RALLIES & threatened the protesters with more consequences.

5:37 am: Khamenei said budging under pressure is dictatorship. He is again threatening the heads of the opposition. He says people should try the 'kinder' way and saying if people go another way, then I'll be more blunt. 5:41 am: He's now taking a jab at the US and EU governments. I think he's trying to link the protests to the foreign governments now.

5:50 am et: Khamenei is saying Iran is no Georgia and there'll be no velvet revolution in this country. Now giving food to the stupid leftists in the western world... saying Iraq war is against human rights. Now criticizing Hillary Clinton and her husband for Waco incident. Khamenei says the Iranian govt is the defender of 'human rights' around the world. 5:51 am ET: He is now basically saying that he is willing to give his life to defend the revolution & Islamic state.
-----
My gut feelings: I predict Tiananmen Square in Iran

Stay tuned for more.

2009-06-09

Equality California versus Proposition 8

Following the California State Supreme Court's decision two weeks ago to let Proposition 8 stand, Equality California is taking the issue of marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples back to the ballot box, and reinstate the right of same-sex couples to marry.

Win Marriage Back: Make it Real! is a coordinated, grassroots and media effort to build support for the freedom to marry at the local level and over the airwaves. Together, we will introduce ourselves to the people of California, winning their hearts and minds and ensuring that we win marriage back once and for all.

EQCA's goal is to reach out to voters in areas like Orange County, San Diego, Sacramento, and the Inland Empire who may be undecided about the issue, or who may be willing to reconsider their past support of Prop 8. You can donate to this campaign here. This follows a recent campaign in Central California called Meet in the Middle.

Remarks. I had the opportunity to do some canvassing with Equality California here in downtown San Francisco. It was a challenging environment because most people were in a hurry and couldn't stop, but there was a strong sense of support from the people we talked to. Of course, this is San Francisco!

A key aspect of this campaign is that it will aim to get marriage equality passed through the legislative process, as opposed to a court decision. One of the few negative comments I got was from a man who said, "The people have spoken!" And I wonder if some of the original support for Prop 8 might have come from people who weren't necessarily hard-core opponents of gay marriage, but rather small-government conservatives who saw the original State Supreme Court decision as a case of unelected courts overstepping their authority.

The Volokh Conspiracy has a post by Ilya Somin (dated May 25, 2009) addressing the question of whether judicial decisions supporting same-sex marriage are a net liability for marriage equality.

Legal scholars such as Jeffrey Rosen and Gerald Rosenberg have argued that judicial decisions striking down state bans on gay marriage have ultimately set back the cause of gay equality by stimulating an anti-gay marriage political backlash. Back in November, I wrote a post criticizing this view, noting that judicial decisions have led to much faster adoption of gay marriage than would have occurred otherwise. Since November, three more states - Iowa, Maine, and Vermont, have legalized gay marriage and New Hampshire is likely to do so soon, despite some delays. Three of those four states (all but Iowa) have adopted gay marriage through the legislative process (or almost done so, in the case of NH), which suggests that the power of the anti-gay marriage backlash is waning.

These developments provide additional support for my argument that judicial review has been a net plus for the gay marriage movement. It is unlikely that either these four states or the two that adopted gay marriage earlier would have done so as quickly were it not for the momentum generated by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's 2003 Goodridge decision mandating gay marriage equality in that state. Until that point, gay marriage seemed a very distant prospect in virtually every state, even the more liberal ones. ...

Go to the post for links, and some great discussion in comments. It's important to note that some gay activists prefer the legislative approach. Here's Jonathan Rauch writing back in 1999:

I should say that I firmly favor gay marriage, both on humanitarian grounds and because I think it is good social policy. If gay people exist — that is, if we are not just neurotic heterosexuals who need to get our act together — then surely we ought to be encouraged to marry and settle down. It has never been clear to me why discouraging stable gay relationships in favor of sex in parks and porn shops is good for the American family, or anyone else.

Nonetheless, gay marriage is a deeply polarizing issue, to put the case mildly. To impose it judicially on a predominantly hostile country would beg for a backlash — against gays, against the courts, against government broadly.

And Rauch's analysis of "Not Whether, but How" from this past winter:

Same-sex marriage can, I think, shed light on how to understand the tensions in today’s conservatism. The way the country is dealing with same-sex marriage teaches something about the sense in which America is more truly and coherently conservative than are the current leaders of its conservative movement.

The coming debate over the fate of Proposition 8 will provide Californians many opportunities to give this issue the thoughtful discussion it deserves. I am confident that soon - very soon - lesbian and gay Californians will enjoy full equality of marriage rights, won through the assent of the people of California.

2009-06-03

Morning Report: 2009-06-03

Dutch PM won't meet with Dalai Lama. AP via YNet reports that Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has declined meeting with the Dalai Lama of Tibet during the latter's visit to the Netherlands.

Irshad Manji to Barack Obama. Activist Irshad Manji has a few things to say to President Obama on the occasion of Obama's upcoming Cairo speech:

This Thursday, President Obama will deliver a highly anticipated speech to Muslims — and he’ll be doing it from Cairo.

While many gush and fawn over Washington’s new approach to diplomacy, not everyone’s convinced. Consider this email from Robert, a friend of mine who happens to be an ardent Democrat:

“It is hugely disappointing that [President Obama] is going to Egypt to talk about his outreach to the Muslim world. Who is he going to be addressing as his local audience — Hosni Mubarak? The Muslim Brotherhood?

I wonder if dissidents and reformers who are behind bars will even be able to see or hear the speech (not likely). Such audacious hope our President will be inspiring that day.

And to follow it with a trip to Normandy to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landing, which was the beginning of the end for Hitler and Nazi fascism — liberating continental Europe to allow for democracy. The mind reels.”


Obama’s got other speech problems. Read this email, recently sent to me by Harudin in Malaysia:

“Are you sure you are a faithful Muslim??? Why you are too fear to this religion??? Are you working with white house???”

Translation: Even in the age of Obama, the White House represents a den of oppression to many a Muslim. This, despite the president’s emphasis in his January 20 inaugural address that America will resume its perch as a champion of human rights everywhere ...

BBC hearts pro-regime Iranians. The Spirit of Man:

Got a call from a friend in Iran who was was very shocked after watching a segment on Persian language service of BBC about some Iranian expats in Canada who support Ahmadinejad's re-election. He was curious to know who these morons are. I had nothing to tell him but all I said was that the Iranian regime in partnership with anti-freedom leftist Iranians in BBC has managed to buy agents of influence around the globe. I told him people he had seen on Islamic regime-friendly BBC Persian TV program are the direct beneficiaries of the Iranian revolutionary regime and the guys in BBC are showcasing these agents of influence for people like him inside of the country so he'd never ever think the regime would go away ...