Wednesday, August 18, 2004

KERRY WINS THE ARAB VOTE

KERRY WINS THE ARAB VOTE

By AMIR TAHERI

August 18, 2004 -- ALTHOUGH attempts at linking President George W. Bush to the Arabs have generated a veritable industry in the past two years, there is evidence that most Arabs favor his Democratic Party challenger Sen. John F. Kerry. A Zogby poll taken this month shows that in the November presidential election Kerry is likely to collect more than two-thirds of the Arab-American vote. A similar pattern is emerging in the Arab world itself.
"If it were up to us, it would be 60 percent Kerry, 40 percent Bush," says Iyad Abu-Chaqra, an Arab columnist who has followed American politics for years. "Most Arabs have one dream this year: to see George W. Bush booted out."

Dislike for Bush has created the most curious Arab coalition in a long time.

The pan-Arab nationalists are angry at Bush because, toppling Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime in Baghdad, he destroyed the illusion of a "strongman" leading Arabs to unity and socialism. "It may take a generation before anyone talks of Arab unity without being laughed out of the room," says columnist Ahmad Rabii. "Those who dreamed of an Arab superpower will never forgive Bush." The pan-Islamists also dislike Bush, but for different reasons.

They see his talk of democracy as an attempt at preventing them from establishing their "ideal Islamic" system based on the Shariah rather than elections.

Bush's "Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative" is seen by Islamists as "a plot to impose a Western model."

"The Muslim world is not a blank sheet on which Mr. Bush could draw what he likes," says writer Walid Abi-Merchid, who would vote for Kerry if he could. Opposition to Bush's plans for democratization in the Middle East is put even more dramatically by Muhammad Shariatmadari, a mullah of Arab origin now acting as an advisor to Iran's "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi.

"Bush is trying to develop an American Islam," Shariatmadari says. "He thinks that Americans will not be safe in their homes until the Muslim world is dominated by pro-U.S. governments."

That view is echoed in sermons preached at mosques throughout the Middle East, Europe and the United States in recent weeks with an eye on the forthcoming American election.

One theme of these sermons is that Bush's call for free elections and reform in the Muslim world amounts to "an act of cultural aggression."

"Our Prophet did not run for office in any election," the sermon says. "He did not win any political debate. [Instead] he won the war against the infidel."

A deep-seated fear of elections is one key feature of the Islamist political psyche. The Koran includes a chapter entitled "Parties" (Ahzab), to warn against splitting the Umma (the community of the faithful) into rival political groups vying for power. "Kerry's recent statement that he would abandon Bush's democracy campaign in the Muslim world will please many Islamists," says the novelist Rubee Madhoun.

At an official level, most Arab and other Muslim governments are careful not to take sides. But it is clear that most want Kerry to win.

Since almost all Arab regimes could be described as despotic, it is clear that they all feel targeted by Bush's calls for reform and democratization.

Bush has committed himself to changing Washington's 60-year-old policy of supporting the status quo in the region. It is, therefore, no surprise that all regimes in the region feel threatened to some degree. Their hope is that under a President Kerry, the United States would abandon Bush's "adventurous attempt to remould the region."

"America needs a new perspective," says Javad Zarif, the Islamic Republic's ambassador to the United Nations. "The United States must change attitudes that have harmed its interests in the region."

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa has echoed similar sentiments in private conversations. He describes the liberation of Iraq as "the opening of the gates of Hell." In a recent meeting in Cairo, he told a visiting European diplomat that Kerry would be able to "close those gates."

The anti-Bush sentiment of the ruling elites in the Middle East is reflected in efforts to screen "Fahrenheit 9/11," Michael Moore's celluloid attack on the U.S. president. Last week, the mullahs running the Farabi Cinema complex in Tehran scrapped the season's program to screen Moore's "documentary."

"This film unmasks the Great Satan America," a spokesman said. "It tells Muslim people why they are right in hating America. It is the duty of every believer to see [this film] and learn the truth."

With the exception of Kuwait, which has banned it, Moore's film is shown or sold in pirated cassette form throughout the Arab world. Anti-American Arab television stations, including one owned by the Lebanese branch of the Hezbollah, have broadcast chunks of Moore's attack on Bush with commentaries more virulent than the original.

"We may not be able to drive the Americans out of Iraq," says Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader in Lebanon. "But we can drive Bush out of the White House by heating things up in Iraq." Bush is also seen as too pro-Israel in his Middle East policy.

"I would rather have [Israeli Premier Ariel] Sharon than Bush," says Abu-Chaqra. "The Palestinians may have a chance with Sharon; they have none with Bush."

Bush, however, has some supporters in the Arab countries and in the broader Muslim world. "The Arabs have never known what is good for them," says Iraqi columnist Adnan Hussein. "This is why they hate Bush. But what is Bush saying? He is telling them that their regimes are corrupt and bankrupt and that they have no future without democracy."

The Nobel prize-winning novelist Neguib Mahfouz expressed similar sentiments in a recent column published in a Cairo newspaper. He warned that any reversion by the United States to the policy of supporting the status quo is a setback for democracy in the region. Mahfouz believes that Bush is right in his diagnosis that lack of democracy breeds terrorism in the Middle East.

Other pro-reform writers, notably Daoud Kuttab, Ahmad Bishara and Abdul-Mun'em Saeed have also called on the United States to remain true to Bush's promise of supporting reform and democratization in the Muslim world.

Some Arabs, however, believe that, whoever is elected in the United States, there will be little change in Washington's policies in the Middle East.

"What we have is the madness that strikes the Arabs every four years when the Americans have a presidential election," says Walid Jumblatt, a Lebanese former minister and leftist leader. "The truth is that there is nothing in this [the American election] for the Arabs. Whoever wins, the fact remains that the United States is against the Arabs on all key issues, starting with Palestine."

E-mail:

amirtaheri@benadorassociates.com

Iran voices concerns over unrest in Afghanistan

Iran voices concerns over unrest in Afghanistan

www.chinaview.cn 2004-08-18 17:12:56

"TEHRAN, Aug. 18 (Xinhuanet) -- Iran on Wednesday voiced its concerns over the unrest in the western Afghan province of Herat,the official IRNA news agency reported. "Such incidents violate the security and peace of people in Herat and will leave negative impacts on the trend of province's reconstruction," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi was quoted as saying.

Afghanistan's Herat province borders upon Iran and its security situation exerts great influence on Iran. Tensions between Herat's governor Ismael Khan and his opponents turned into armed conflicts recently. The opponent military groups launched attack upon the provincial city of Herat on Aug. 14.

"We call on the sides involved to stop clashes and refer to dialogue," Asefi said. "The Islamic Republic hopes the interim Islamic government of Afghanistan will restore peace and security to Herat province as well as other regions through adoption of appropriate measures and prompt control of the situation," he added. Enditem"

If attacked, Iran will target Israel's Dimona nuclear eactor

If attacked, Iran will target Israeli reactor

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran — Accompanied by a warning that its missiles have the range, Iran yesterday said it would destroy Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor if the Jewish state were to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.
"If Israel fires a missile into the Bushehr nuclear power plant, it has to say goodbye forever to its Dimona nuclear facility, where it produces and stockpiles nuclear weapons," the deputy chief of the elite Revolutionary Guards, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr, said in a statement.

Bushehr, a coastal town on the Persian Gulf, is the site of Iran's first nuclear reactor. Built with Russian assistance, it's due to come online in 2005.

Iran says its nuclear program is strictly for generating electricity. But Israel and the United States strongly suspect Iran is secretly building nuclear weapons.

Israel has not threatened to attack the Bushehr reactor, but it has said it will not allow Iran to build a nuclear bomb. In 1981 Israeli fighters destroyed a nuclear reactor under construction outside Baghdad because it feared Iraq would acquire a nuclear weapon.

Iran Warns Iraq Over Missing Diplomat

Iran Warns Iraq Over Missing Diplomat16 August 2004 -- Iran today said it is holding Iraq's interim government responsible for the fate of its diplomat who went missing last week while traveling between Baghdad and Karbala.


Government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh warned that Iran is taking the matter "very seriously."

Also today, a group of Iranian lawmakers asked Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi to ensure the speedy release of diplomat Fereydun Jahani.

A group calling itself the Islamic Army of Iraq has claimed responsibility for Jahani's abduction, threatening to punish its captive unless Iran releases 500 Iraqis allegedly held captive since the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza-Asefi today said Tehran is "suspicious" of the group, saying the prisoner-of-war issue has been long closed with Iraq.

No War In Iran

No War In Iran

After the brutal conquest of Iraq, we should be very suspicious of any trends in U.S. foreign policy, and of what key players are saying about things. In the past few months there has been a frightening amount of talk about Iran; lies, distortions, and seemingly innocuous hints that when put together provide a glimpse of what may come.
In May, a resolution (http://www.oldamericancentury.org/downloads/hcon398-iran-bill.pdf) was passed in the House, which "calls upon all State Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), including the United States, to use all appropriate means to deter, dissuade, and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons..." The phrase “all appropriate means” appeared in similar legislation before the invasion of Iraq.

There is no evidence that Iran is, at present, developing a nuclear weapons program, or that it has the intention of doing so. Of course, there was also no evidence in the case of Iraq, and also, no nuclear weapons to be found. An International Atomic Energy Agency report in 2003(http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2003/gov2003-81.pdf) says that the Agency: “Welcomes Iran’s offer of active cooperation and openness and its positive response to the demands of the Board...” The U.S response was to insist that despite this new found candor, Iran's past violations somehow imply that they are currently, and actively, developing nuclear weapons. Indeed, Iran has been developing nuclear energy for 25 years, but this is permitted under international nuclear weapons agreements. The U.S. Insists that Iran is lying about nuclear energy, that such an “oil rich” country could produce energy by other means, and that of course, they're really building “weapons of mass destruction” (which makes you wonder, who are the real “conspiracy theorists” here?).

Another point being brought up is Iran's supposed links to Al-Qaeda, based on the fact that some Al-Qaeda “operatives” “may” have “passed through” Iran in the months before 9/11. Now, they also “passed through” the United States; does this imply that the Bush government was responsible for 9/11? Maybe some would say yes, but in any case, that's a very big stretch, and that seems to be the only tangible evidence of an Iran-Al-Qaeda link. Now, remember, the only tangible Iraq – Al-Qaeda link was the fact that an Al-Qaeda member received medical treatment in Iraq before 9/11; again, an absurd thing to base a “link” upon, but around the time of the Iraq War, the majority of the American population was led to believe that the “link” was very real. Bush and Cheney still insist that it is. With this as precedent, it's not unrealistic to believe that a link between Iran and Al-Qaeda could be fabricated, trumped up, regurgitated by the media, and quickly accepted as truth by the American population.

There have been some Iran-related rumblings in Israel, as well, which is important.Ariel Sharon declared that “We cannot allow Iranians to move forward in their efforts to develop nuclear weapons.” Chomsky writes, on July 26th(http://blog.zmag.org/ttt/archives/000911.html): “Not reported but quite important is the dispatch to Israel of 100 F16-I's, advanced jet bombers, with the very specific announcement that they can reach Iran and return...” This, of course, is tantamount to Israel declaring that it will, if necessary, bomb Iran; it may or may not happen, but imagine what the Iranian government and public will make of that statement? Well, Iran, through public relations official Seyed Masood Jazayeri, made quite clear what it thought: “[Israel] will not hesitate to strike Iran if they are capable of it. However, their threats to attack Iran's nuclear facilities cannot be realised. They are aware Teheran's reaction will be so harsh that Israel will be wiped off the face of the earth and US interests will be easily damaged." This spirit of mutual provocation obviously leads to an increase of hostility, which could be used as a pretext for aggression by both sides (of course, the U.S-Israel-UK-etc side is more likely to actually go through with its threats).

In Iraq, the Allawi government continues to put forth unfounded claims regarding Iraq, without comment from the U.S (Indeed, the U.S gave “protection status” to a group of “Anti-Iranian” militants in Iraq, which reveals much). Allawi's Minister of Defense referred to Iran as “Iraq's number one enemy,” despite the fact that the “Iraq” he is referring to is about a month old and has had no relations with Iran, and that any dispute between the nations would be a dispute between Iran and the United States. Iraq's Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib has spoken of “an Iranian conspiracy against Iraq,” without citing any evidence. Recently, members of the Allawi government have claimed an Iranian link to al-Sadr's army, stating that his army receives weapons from the Iranian government; again, without evidence.

The Bush administration has, indeed, already gone on record saying it will intervene in Iran if Bush is reelected: “THE US will mount a concerted attempt to overturn the regime in Iran if President Bush is elected for a second term. It would work strenuously to foment a revolt against the ruling theocracy by Iran's "hugely dissatisfied" population, a senior official has told The Times. The United States would not use military force, as in Iraq, but "if Bush is re-elected there will be much more intervention in the internal affairs of Iran", declared the official, who is determined that there should be no let-up in the Administration's War on Terror.” The convenient statement that there will be no use of “military force” should be taken with a grain of salt; it allows them to look like the “good guys” and later declare war “reluctantly,” putting all the blame on Iran, again, exactly what happened in Iraq.

Others have been banging the drums of war, also: the chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee recommended that the U.S get "very tough" against Iran, to prevent it from making nuclear weapons. What he meant by “very tough” is unclear, but can be inferred by looking at the context of American foreign policy.

Even if John Kerry is elected, the chances of U.S intervention in Iran remain high, if not higher. Kerry has said that he will continue the “War on Terror,” even saying that he'll do it “better” than Bush; Kerry's criticisms of the Bush wars are reduced to debates over execution, he wholly agrees with the underlying principle of imperialism (which, by any other word, still smells as rotten). He also does not have a history of failure to tarnish his rhetoric; Bush would have to fool the public for a second time, despite the fact that he was lying about everything the first time, with horrific results. Kerry's promise to "explore areas of mutual interest with Iran” probably should not be taken seriously, as with everything he says; as of now, he's desperately trying to win the election on the basis that he is a viable alternative to the Bush administration.

There has also been talk of sanctions against Iran, and other warnings and foreshadowings from various sources. The anti-war movement should be very aware of what is happening here. We must meet preemptive war with preemptive anti-war, we must be one step ahead of them at all times. The lives of tens of thousands of people (or many more, if the “War on Terror” explodes into something much bigger, as it is likely to do) could depend on global opinion and action, provided that force exists.