Archive for the ‘IPT News’ Category
Guest Column: "Stress" from Phantom Torture Keeps Terror Suspect in Netherlands
by Abigail R. Esman
In one of the more bizarre interpretations of justice to emerge in a terrorism trial in the West, Dutch courts have blocked the extradition of Dutch-Pakistani terrorism suspect Sabir Khan from the Netherlands to the United States, citing concerns about the quality of psychiatric therapy he would receive in an American prison. The therapy, they say, is necessary to help him overcome the post-traumatic stress disorder he suffers from being tortured while a prisoner in Pakistan, where he was arrested in 2010 on charges of involvement with al-Qaida, and with twice planning suicide bombings on a U.S. military base in Afghanistan. Khan and his attorneys further maintain that American officials facilitated – and possibly even ordered – his seven-month ordeal.
The problem is, there is no evidence of his having been tortured. Even the Dutch consulate to Pakistan, who visited Khan during his incarceration there, said at the time that he "showed no signs of abuse," according to the AP.
That should not be all that surprising: Khan has repeatedly lied about his case, maintaining, for instance, that prior to his return to the Netherlands from Pakistan, Dutch authorities had assured him he would be freed once on Dutch soil – a promise they adamantly deny making.
Similarly, the only evidence Khan and his attorney, André Seebregts, have offered to support their allegations of American involvement in his torture are the statements of two other Dutch Muslim terrorist suspects imprisoned with Khan, one of whom told Dutch news agency ANP that he had once heard Americans talking with the prison guards. (He could tell, he claimed, that the man was American by his accent.) Pressed further, however, both suspects admitted they never actually saw an American on the premises.
Nonetheless, according to an AFP report earlier this year, Seebregts maintains that "Khan’s extradition to face five terror-related charges in a New York court would breach the European Convention on Human Rights preventing torture as well as Dutch law, which prohibits the handing over of a suspect to a country suspected of involvement in torture." Khan, also known as "Younis the Dutch," faces a 25-year sentence in the United States if convicted.
Clearly, such bullying manipulations of the facts by both the suspect and his lawyer aim at representing the would-be mass murderer as a victim. What is so shocking is that they are so far succeeding: Khan has managed to escape extradition since it was initially requested in June, 2012. Dutch courts have repeatedly first approved the extradition, only to block it later in a dizzying volley of decisions and appeals. Along the way, the courts have ruled in Khan’s favor on the basis of his — unsubstantiated — claims of torture, and against the US, demanding America prove it had no part in any torture that may have taken place — this knowing the impossibility of proving a negative in a court of law.
Worse, Khan was released from Dutch prison in April entirely on "humanitarian" grounds, based on the torture that may or may not ever have taken place.
This most recent court order is not just dangerous. It is also puzzling. The United States is not denying Khan access to proper psychiatric treatment; it simply will not (or cannot) provide the same kind of treatment he is used to – and which may or may not even be effective (assuming that the suspect suffered PTSD in the first place).
Moreover, if the Dutch are so deeply concerned about humane treatment and fairness, one would expect them to consider, too, the right of every man, woman, and child – and in this case, specifically of every American soldier – to be safe and protected from being slaughtered in a terrorist attack. By every measure of "humanitarian" concerns, such security should be paramount.
But not, evidently, in the Netherlands, where Sabir Khan now walks the cobbled streets a free man, willing, able – and likely – to kill, a walking bomb with all America as his target. And it seems that no one there will stop him.
Abigail R. Esman, the author, most recently, of Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (Praeger, 2010), is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands.
Related Topics: Abigail R. Esman
Nigeria’s Christians Plead for Help Against Islamist Onslaught
by Andrew E. Harrod
"We are in the vineyard of Allah," Abubaker Schekau, the leader of the Nigerian Islamist terrorist organization Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad ("People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad") has stated. Nigerian Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) representing a claimed 80 million Nigerian Christians, quoted Schekau during the second of two successive briefings last Thursday at the Rayburn House Office Building and the National Press Club. The chilling accounts of today’s Nigeria facing Islamist terror by Oritsejafor and his associates gave rise to a cry for American help.
The ravages of Shekau’s group, commonly known by its Hausa nickname Boko Haram (BH) or "Western education is forbidden," was a central concern for Oritsejafor. He described a Nigeria in which "every week I get a text message—a church was burnt or a pastor was murdered or Christians were randomly rounded up on a roadside and summarily executed." More than 100 Christians died a month on average during 2012, amounting to about 70 percent of all Christians killed around the world that year. Whether by machete-wielding mobs or Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIED) suicide bombing attacks on churches, "it is open season on Nigeria’s Christians."
CAN’s secretary for Borno state in northeastern Nigeria, Reverend Faye Musa Pama, was one such victim on May 14. That same day, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency (SOE) in Borno and neighboring Yobe and Adamawa states. Oritsejafor stated that Pama’s "children pleaded for his life; they refused, they killed him." Oritsejafor also received a call from another pastor in neighboring Yobe describing his imminent murder by a BH mob. "They are coming, they are shooting," the pastor said. "I couldn’t do anything until they shot him," Oritsejafor recounted. "That was the end, gone." The Nigerian lawyer and human rights activist Emmanuel Ogebe, meanwhile, described a Yobe state that has "been so de-Christianized" with "entire villages run out of town."
Church attendance "is down…drastically" in the Muslim-majority north, Oritsejafor noted. Nigeria’s 175 million people are almost evenly split north-south between Muslims and Christians. Oritsejafor cited one congregation dropping from 500 to 13 members. In some instances, a "pastor can come and sit there alone" in church on Sunday while his family remains home because of safety concerns. Even in Nigeria’s south, weekly church attendance has declined while many churches now feature metal detectors at their entrances.
BH also targets modern, Westernized schools because, as Oritsejafor stated, BH terrorists "see the West as Christian." Fifty of Borno’s 175 schools now lie in ruins. Fears that BH "will do more" have resulted in parents not sending their children to school. Christian girls face the further danger of abduction into coerced Muslim marriages.
At the National Press Club, James Fadele, president of the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN), rejected State Department claims that BH resulted from an "economic and poverty crisis" rather than a "Jihadist extremist mandate." Fadele referenced the World Bank’s Nigeria Economic Report released in May. Relatively calm Jigawa state reported therein a 77.5 percent poverty rate in comparison to an average 59.7 percent poverty rate for Nigeria’s northeast containing the "hotbeds of Boko Haram terrorism."
Oritsejafor identified BH as a "theological problem," an "ideological problem," and a "jihadist issue." BH started with "mullahs, sheikhs…people who studied the Koran."
"In the mosques," meanwhile, "there are things that are being taught that are not right." According to Boko Haram, "Islam must rule Nigeria" and Shekau had stated that "we will not stop until we create an Islamic state."
Seeing the BH problem as a "religious ideology," Oritsejafor’s solution was that "you must go to theologians." Oritsejafor calls upon these Muslim leaders to "sit down and break out your holy books" in order to develop theological responses to BH ideology. In this process, Orisejafor rejects any superficial, controversy-free dialogue with Muslims, in which people often afterwards think, "What did you just do: nothing." A willingness to "annoy" and "offend" is the "only way you can really get results."
Religious sensibilities aside, Oritsejafor noted that some Muslim leaders are unsurprisingly "afraid" to challenge BH. "If you don’t agree" with BH, "you are an infidel like me." After BH finishes with the Christians, it will turn to any Muslims not deemed sufficiently faithful and "will wipe them out."
Oritsejafor and his associates called for the State Department to designate Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. That action, CANAN executive director Laolu Akande stated, would inhibit the finances of BH. BH is not just working with "chicken change," but has "fat pockets" backing. A designation, Oritsejafor added, also "sends a message that these people are terrorists" from a world leader.
Nigeria’s porous borders only facilitate BH arms acquisitions, allowing arms in from an instable post-Gadhafi Libya as well as from strife-torn Mali, with Islamist fighters coming from there as well. An October 2010 seizure in Lagos, Nigeria, of 13 containers filled with munitions such as rocket launchers linked to Iran, also indicates ready suppliers for groups like BH.
Yet, even as parts of the American government have favored designating Boko Haram a terrorist organization, the State Department has refused to act. Its 2012 Country Reports on Terrorism, lists BH among the world’s top 10 terrorist perpetrators, second only to Afghanistan’s Taliban. A fact sheet distributed by the Jubilee Campaign, though, noted that five groups – Indonesia’s Jemaah Anshourut Tauhid, the Middle East’s Abdallah Azzam Brigades, Pakistan’s Haqqani Network, Mali’s Ansar Al-Dine, and Iraq’s Al Nusra – have all been designated terrorist organizations since 2012, despite mounting fewer attacks.
Ogebe dismissively explained State Department thinking that there are "good parts and bad parts of Boko Haram." Even as Boko Haram has avoided terrorist designation, the State Department designated Shekau himself as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) on June 21, 2012, with a $7 million reward on his head. "If he is a terrorist," asked Oritsejafor, "what about his organization?"
Ogebe noted the "irony" that Nigeria helped the United States after the September 11, 2001 Al Qaeda attacks, but now the United States is "dragging its feet" on BH. In contrast, the "American government is funding a lot of things for Muslims in the north," Oritsejafor complained. American aid to Nigerian Muslim schools completed a "trifecta" of mixing mosque and state in education from three levels of government, Ogebe said. In addition to the international American aid, the federal Nigerian government funded 400 madrassas and Muslim religious education is required for all public school children in the state of Sokoto.
Boko Haram victims, meanwhile, receive no relief from the Nigerian government, and have "personally paid their hospital bills," Oritsejafor said. "There are rich Christians. They should wake up."
He appealed to "awaken the conscience to stop this genocide." Fadele similarly ended the press club briefing by asking the assembled journalists, "what will you do, what will you write." To Nigeria’s suffering, "you may be the answer."
Hamas Holds Secret Meeting With Iran
by John Rossomando • Jul 29, 2013 at 1:07 pm
Hamas, Hizballah and Iran held secret talks last month in Lebanon in an effort to smooth over strained relations stemming from their rival stances on Syria, according to the London-based Asharq al-Awsat.
Hamas has supported Syrian rebels trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad’s regime and individual Hamas members have unofficially joined in the rebellion. But arms and fighters supplied by Tehran and its Lebanese proxy Hizballah have helped Assad rebuff rebel advances. Iran has retaliated against Hamas by dramatically cutting funding to the Palestinian terrorist group.
That, combined the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo, has put Hamas in a difficult bind. The Egyptian army has destroyed dozens of smuggling tunnels that fueled the economy in Hamas-run Gaza.
Mousa Abu Marzook and Muhammad Nasr, who belong to Hamas’s political bureau, represented the terrorist group at the recent meeting. Hamas leaders remain hopeful that Iran’s support will return to past levels.
"We have not lost allies; on the contrary, we are keeping all our friends, but there are issues that led to some apathy in the relationship, and we as a movement and government are eager to keep our fraternal relations with all the countries of region, which have a degree of cooperation, coordination, and support because Palestine is the cause of the [Muslim world] and not only the cause of the Palestinians. Therefore, we are eager to iron out all the differences in the interest of our people and cause," Hamas spokesman Ahmad Yusuf said in a statement.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Arghachi said that Hamas and Iran are close to resolving their differences and misunderstandings over Syria.
Related Topics: John Rossomando
Morsi Charged, MB Slammed As Egyptians Rally
by IPT News • Jul 26, 2013 at 3:55 pm
Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets Friday in competing rallies for and against the military’s July 3 ouster of President Mohamed Morsi.
The Muslim Brotherhood and other Morsi backers have held constant demonstrations since, many of which have turned violent. That prompted Army Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi to call for a rally Friday to show the depth of popular support for removing Morsi. The Brotherhood criticized that as a pretext for civil war and called for its own demonstration to show support for Morsi.
At least four people died in early clashes in Alexandria. They follow an edict by Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi that Morsi’s power be defended violently. "If he, who has disobeyed the ruler, does not repent, then he must be killed," Qaradawi said on Al Jazeera Sunday.
Morsi has been in custody since being forced from office. Before Friday’s rallies began, Egyptian prosecutors ordered him detained for more 15 days while they investigate espionage, murder and conspiracy charges against him in connection with a January 2011 jailbreak. Morsi was among 30 Muslim Brotherhood members freed in the jailbreak, while 14 security officers were killed.
The investigation seeks to determine if Morsi conspired with the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in the attack. Morsi has an association with Hamas that goes back at least a decade. A Brotherhood spokesman rejected the allegations as "nothing more than the fantasy of a few army generals and a military dictatorship."
But a former prominent member of the Brotherhood says the military had to force Morsi from office.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, the Brotherhood’s former European spokesman Kamal Helbawy said Morsi’s ouster was not a coup, but a response to massive popular sentiment that kept a tense situation from growing more violent. The Brotherhood, Helbawy said, brought this on themselves.
Morsi and the Brotherhood failed "to propose a vision for the country," Helbawy said. "Moreover, [Morsi] deepened the society’s divisions, increased polarization, relied solely on his constituency, neglected to use those with expertise and experience here in Egypt, ignored requests to amend the constitution and change the government and the attorney general, issued the Pharaoh-esque constitutional declaration in November 2012, and refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Tamarod [Rebel] campaign and the June 30 revolution."
Helbawy quit the Brotherhood last year, saying the group broke its promise not to run a candidate for president and was trying to monopolize power in Egypt. It’s fine for the Brotherhood to protest, he said in the interview, but criticized the violent rhetoric including chants of "Fight to the death," and "Victory or martyrdom." That message, and resulting violence, will further hurt the Islamist cause around the world, he said.
Related Topics: IPT News
In this mailing:
by John Rossomando • Jul 24, 2013 at 5:04 pm
Hamas finds itself in an uncomfortable predicament following the ouster of its longtime allies, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The terrorist group’s leaders worry that a wave of popular demonstrations similar to those that pushed Egypt’s military to depose Morsi could threaten their hold on Gaza. They also are worried that Egypt’s military rulers may try to reassert the sovereignty they held over Gaza prior to the 1967 Six-Day War.
The presence of Egyptian military helicopters over Gaza’s skies as part of Egypt’s crackdown on terrorists in the Sinai is particularly spooking Hamas. In addition, Egypt’s destruction of Gaza smuggling tunnels is crimping the economy.
"Even [former Egyptian president] Hosni Mubarak did not starve the Gaza Strip," a Hamas official told Reuters. "By destroying the tunnels without providing an alternative, the Egyptians are punishing the entire population of the Gaza Strip and deepening the humanitarian and economic crisis."
Al-Monitor reports that numerous social media sites calling for similar protests in the Palestinian territories spurred Hamas’s worries. As a result, it has moved to stifle public gatherings in Gaza regardless of the reason.
Repression of dissent is nothing new for Hamas, which has used harsh measures to keep opponents under wraps since it wrested Gaza from the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority following the 2007 civil war. It has repeatedly moved to breakup any demonstrations by opponents.
Hamas even intervened in a recent planned protest against an Israeli bill that opponents say would displace thousands of Bedouins. Hamas security forces moved in and interrogated Ibrahim al-Talaa, 24, the creator of a Facebook page against the plan.
The interrogators wanted to know if he had connections with the Egyptian Tamarod, or "Rebel," movement that prompted Morsi’s ouster. Al-Talaa said he didn’t, but told Al-Monitor that "I spent the whole day of the demonstration" being questioned.
Palestinian Facebook pages have been popping up calling for demonstrations against Hamas and Fatah, as well as against the division between the two factions, Al-Monitor reports.
A Facebook group calling itself "You Palestinian, Rebel" formed by young Palestinians in the territories and abroad is calling for the overthrow of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and the end of Israeli control. A Gaza spokeswoman said the online movement was influenced by the events in Egypt.
But some observers say an Egyptian-style street protest movement against Hamas’ control of Gaza is unlikely because the conditions in Gaza are different from those in Egypt.
"I believe that what happened in Egypt will absolutely affect life in Gaza at lead in the long term, especially if Hamas isn’t wise enough to deal with all these changes in Egypt," Atef Abu Sef, a lecturer at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, told Al-Monitor.
Related Topics: John Rossomando
by IPT News • Jul 24, 2013 at 10:27 am
One of the most influential Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leaders called on Egyptians to rise up against the army for removing President Mohamed Morsi – a Muslim Brotherhood member – earlier this month.
Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi made his comments Sunday on Al Jazeera, the Middle East Online news service reports. "if he, who has disobeyed the ruler, does not repent, then he must be killed," Qaradawi said, citing Quranic passages. "There is a legitimate ruler (in reference to Morsi) and people must obey and listen to him."
He did not name anyone specifically, Middle East Online notes, but his comments seemed focused on army commander Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who forced Morsi from office July 3, one year after Egyptians elected him. The move followed historic street protests by Egyptians who felt betrayed by Morsi’s leadership, seeing him more concerned with consolidating power for Islamists than in addressing Egypt’s critical economic crisis and other challenges.
But Qaradawi saw no cause to remove Morsi. "Who made you the general commander of the military?" he asked. "Who made you the minister of defence? It’s the same president you have removed who elevated you. You swore to obey him and you went against your word, which is haram [forbidden] in Islam."
That comments amount to a call for assassination, analysts told Middle East Online.
It’s just part of a campaign of heated rhetoric and incitement from the Muslim Brotherhood. Dozens of people have died in skirmishes since Morsi’s ouster, including 12 people on Tuesday. More than 50 people died when Muslim Brotherhood members surrounded the army’s Republican Guard headquarters July 8. A book found in the aftermath urged people to wage jihad against their foes.
This week, Essam el-Erian, vice president of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, called on pro-Morsi protesters to besiege the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
Al-Sisi, meanwhile, called for protests of his own by "every honorable and honest Egyptian" to "show your size and steadfastness in the face of what is going on."
Qaradawi lives in Qatar, the Gulf State which owns Al Jazeera. His program, "Shariah and Life," is among the network’s most popular. Al Jazeera is about to launch its new American channel. Qaradawi’s comments mark the latest troubling episode about the nature of the channel’s programming. More than 20 staffers quit in the wake of Morsi’s removal, citing the network’s bias for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Related Topics: IPT News
Bangladesh War Crimes Trial Proceeds Without ICNA Official
In the United States, Ashrafuzzaman Khan ostensibly is a respected Muslim cleric, president of the Imams of America association and past secretary general of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).
In Bangladesh, a court is hearing evidence alleging that Khan is a war criminal, someone who helped draft a list of intellectuals who would later be kidnapped and killed in the final days of the 1971 war of liberation against Pakistan.
Khan, 65, is being tried in absentia. Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal ruled last month that "there are sufficient and substantial materials" to warrant proceeding to trial against him on 11 war crimes counts.
He remains on the executive board of ICNA’s New York chapter and has not commented publicly on the allegations. He is being tried along with Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, a prominent imam in the United Kingdom who helped create the Muslim Council of Britain.
The two are accused of leading a killing squad called Al-Badar, which was an offshoot of the Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islami. The Islamists supported Pakistan during the war. As many as 3 million people died in battle for independence and millions more sought refuge in neighboring India. In its final days in December 1971, dozens of intellectuals – journalists, doctors, professors and others – were systematically rounded up. They were taken from their homes at gunpoint and later found in a mass grave. In some cases, the charging papers say, the bodies were never recovered.
"Al-Badar acted as ‘killing squad’, in furtherance of plan and policy of Pakistani occupation army," the Tribunal’s prosecution wrote. Khan was the "’chief executor’ of Al-Badar to the accomplishment of the barbaric crimes, in furtherance of common plan and design, with intent to paralyze the Bengali nation."
Britain’s Channel 4 broadcast a documentary on Bangladesh’s war of independence and the resulting atrocities which can be seen here.
Khan allegedly was on a central committee for the Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing, called Islami Chatra Sangha. The names of many victims were found in a diary found in Khan’s home after he fled the country.
Khan’s court-appointed attorney denies the charges, saying the Pakistani army was responsible for the killings and that Khan was never in Al-Badar.
So far, three witnesses have placed Khan at the scene of abductions:
1. Masuda Banu Ratna – whose uncle Giasuddin Ahmed was taken at gunpoint from Dhaka University – said she knew Khan and Mueen-Uddin from student political activities and recognized them when they came for her uncle. His body was found three weeks later, dumped in a mass grave.
2. Enamul Huq Khan testified that his father, a history professor, was taken from their home by a handful of men at gunpoint. He said he later was told by a man who was driving the Al-Badar squad around that Khan pulled the trigger and killed his father. He didn’t know Khan at the time, but said he recognized him the following year when a newspaper published pictures of Khan and Mueen-Uddin with a caption "help to capture the killers."
3. The son of slain journalist Selina Parvin said Mueen-Uddin and Khan were among those who took her away from their home on Dec. 13, 1971.
The Tribunal has faced some criticism, and its rulings sparked violent protests led by Jamaat-e-Islami. More than 80 people died after the Tribunal sentenced Jamaat leader Delwar Hossain Sayeedi to death in March.
Talk of Khan being charged has circulated for years. A report also indicated that the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations was investigating Khan to determine if he failed to mention his activities when he applied for U.S. residency and naturalization.
ICNA, the organization he led, was founded by South Asian Muslims. Its constitution draws heavily from the Jamaat-e-Islami and its curriculum emphasizes writings by Jamaat founder Syed Abul Ala Maududi. Maududi advocated that Muslims "must strive to change the wrong basis of government, and seize all powers to rule and make laws from those who do not fear God."
Khan offered a similar sentiment in greeting people to ICNA’s 1999 convention. Muslims, he wrote in the convention program, "have a culture and civilization which once ruled the world and still has the viability to rule the world again."
Khan has not publicly addressed the charges against him and ICNA has not commented since last month’s charges were accepted. In a March statement, it dismissed the tribunal’s existence as a purely political effort "to silence opposition figures" and said its actions amount to human rights violations. Mueen-Uddin has posted a statement denying all the charges against him and ridiculing the Tribunal.
It is unclear what happens if Khan is convicted. The United States has no extradition treaty with Bangladesh, and U.S. Ambassador for Global Justice Stephen J. Rapp has been among those taking issue with some of the Tribunal’s standards. If the United States is satisfied with the evidence, or even if it can be proven that Khan was a part of Al-Badar and failed to disclose that fact on immigration papers, his interaction with the courts may be just beginning.
Iran Condemns Filmmaker as "Traitor" for Israel Visit
by IPT News • Jul 19, 2013 at 9:48 am
The Islamic Republic of Iran’s vehemently anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiment has never been limited to international politics. Such bigoted attitudes continue to spill over into the arts, which are supposed to transcend political differences. Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf continues to experience a severe backlash for his recent decision to attend the Jerusalem International Film Festival, causing immense criticism from many within Iran and the Diaspora.
The head of the Cinema Organization at the Ministry of Islamic Guidance ordered the Film Museum’s director to remove all of Makhmalbaf’s exhibits, including dozens of international awards.
Makhmalbaf left Iran in 2005. While visiting Israel for his film screening, Makhmalbaf, advocated for strengthened ties between the Iranian and Israeli people. Elements within Iran’s conservative media accused the film director of treason and collaboration with the "Zionists" against the Islamic Republic. Makhmalbaf’s film, "The Gardener," relates to the Baha’i community; a religious minority which suffers systematic and institutionalized discrimination in Iran. Much of the film was made in Israel, and the trailer emphasized violence committed in the name of religion
The backlash further emphasizes the Islamic Republic’s fear of the "soft war" allegedly waged by Israel and the West in an attempt to discredit the regime in the eyes of the Iranian population. International efforts to alleviate persecution of minorities and dissidents are perceived as a major threat to the stability of the regime.
Even the so called "pragmatic conservative" camp and reformist affiliated outlets criticized Makhmalbaf’s visit to Israel.
By simply visiting the Jewish state, Makhmalbaf’s image has been transformed from revolutionary cultural icon to a traitorous enemy of the Iranian people.
Roughly 150 intellectuals, academics, authors, artists, journalists, and human rights advocates released a public letter condemning Makhmalbaf, claiming a violation of the cultural and academic boycott of anything Israeli. On the other hand, 80 activists and academics of Iranian descent signed a letter to the Times of Israel praising Makhmalbaf’s visit. The signatories commended Makhmalbaf’s call for Israel to support democratic elements in Iran over conducting a military strike on its nuclear sites.
In an interview with the UK’s Guardian, Makhmalbaf described his time in Israel as "amazing" noting packed houses who attended three different screenings. As an artist, he said he tries to build friendship among people of different faiths and ethnicities.
That’s not something the Iranian regime wants people to see.
Related Topics: IPT News
Inside Israel’s Preparation for the Next Hizballah Conflict
by Paul Alster
Solid intelligence told the Israeli army that a Hizballah unit was in a house in a small south Lebanese village. Infantry soldiers from the Nahal Brigade were dispatched to eliminate the Iranian-armed terrorists.
Under clear, mid-summer night skies, the platoon closed in on the village. They moved stealthily across rugged terrain, down steep ravines, through the rocky scrubland then through heavily wooded brush.
They had already been moving on foot for a number of hours in full battle dress, carrying their weapons and other equipment. They were hot, sweating heavily, dusty. If they felt tired, the adrenalin of such a dangerous situation kept them alert and ready.
Cries of ‘Allah Hu Akbar’ bellowed amid automatic gunfire as soon as they broke cover and moved on a targeted house. A hand grenade was thrown from the upstairs window. A colleague swiftly dragged a wounded soldier backwards behind the cover of a boulder, out of sight of the Hizballah fighters.
The Israelis burst into the house, checking for booby-trapped pressure pads at the doorways, then rushed the defenders. A short, but vicious fire-fight was over in less than two minutes. The outcome: two Hizballah terrorists dead, two Israeli soldiers injured (one severely). The target was made safe.
Fortunately, this was a training drill, set in a scenario of renewed conflict with Hizballah in southern Lebanon. Israeli officials granted the Investigative Project on Terrorism access to observe it.
The young troops of the Nahal Brigade have been training for seven months. The village is a mock-up created by the IDF at the Elyakim base in the Carmel hills in northern Israel, a terrain similar to that found in southern Lebanon. It gives soldiers vital experience with the potential dangers they might face in a future conflict.
As many as 100,000 missiles have reportedly found their way into the hands of Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah’s Iranian-backed Hizballah since Israel unilaterally withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000. That arsenal might at any time spark a new conflict. The rapidly deteriorating situation in neighboring Syria has attracted elements of al-Qaida and a raft of radical Islamist groups fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army move into the area. They could pose an additional threat to the Jewish state.
The exercise showed the many challenges Israeli troops face during urban warfare. For example, reaching the target took longer than expected, and the unit lost the cover of darkness. The delay meant the raid came after the first call to prayer rang out across the valley, raising the possibility of civilians being in the line of fire. Even more care would have to be taken to avoid civilian casualties, regardless of whether Hizballah had imposed itself on the people of the village or were welcome guests.
Lt. Archi Leonard Cohen, deputy commander of the Nahal Guerilla Warfare Brigade, spelled out the objective of this particular exercise.
"The brush leads all the way to the village. The main street is often the most problematic section because it is often booby trapped. Then there is the casbah, normally at the center of the village. The soldiers are doing a three-hour hike before attacking the building. They will come through the brush then they’ll cross the street and capture the building."
The platoon commander, Captain Sarel Sabag, joined us. I asked if the chaos in Syria meant that these training exercises carried more significance.
"You don’t know where you might have to intervene," Sabag explained. "Lebanon? Syria? Now with the events in Egypt, who knows? These soldiers have only just moved on from basic training. This is one of their first exercises. In a few months they will be doing more complicated training exercises."
"There is the issue that Hizballah place themselves amongst the [civilian] populations – in the mosques, in the schools. It’s complicated," Sabag continued. "We try not to enter holy places, but we understand that Hizballah often use mosques, schools, and even kindergartens. If they are firing on us from inside the mosque for example, a school, or even a private house, we have to respond."
Fighting amid human shields is especially challenging. Civilian casualties prompt massive media criticism against the IDF without recognition that Hizballah, Hamas, and other Islamist terror groups, regularly place civilians in harms’ way.
"There are civilians that support Hizballah and those that don’t, but I believe that most residents don’t want to get involved," Sabag said. "They just want peace and quiet. Human shields are the most complicated thing. If it was an open area and it was us against them [Hizballah], it would be fairly straight forward. But when they use human shields every soldier knows that any house could explode, any car could potentially explode."
"We train a lot these days about ethics, the value of life, things we didn’t talk about years ago. Now it’s much more of an issue," he said. "All the officer courses focus on this. You have to get to the Hizballah, but it’s not at all costs. The [classic] training says that every building you go in you should throw a grenade first of all. Why be the first one in? But if we suspect there might be civilians inside we prefer not to throw grenades in. We first go in without even firing, trying to clear it out to avoid harming civilians."
That holds true even though it has cost Israeli soldiers their lives.
"I don’t think the world appreciates the steps the Israeli army takes to minimise civilian casualties," Cohen said. "But understand that we don’t do it to satisfy world opinion. Many Israeli men have been in the army and been in combat. They have families and children, and I think for their own conscience it gives them more strength knowing that the army they fight for is a moral army."
Recent reports suggest a new range of high specification weapons reaching the hands of both Hizballah and elements of the Free Syrian Army, including sniper rifles with a range of up to one mile.
"We always train for facing snipers" Cohen said. "When we move somewhere on foot we do so in the safest way we can, but it is part of the risks we take. Here, [in this training scenario] the distance doesn’t give them such an advantage. For this we have a different way of fighting. Hand-to-hand combat is very rare, but we learn Krav Maga [Israeli military martial arts] to build self-confidence, although we don’t expect to have to use this technique in combat situations. We are very well equipped and our soldiers have the Micro Tavor [assault rifle]. The tactics we use in the brush are obviously different to an open area."
Walking through the mock-up village, it is striking is how narrow the streets are and the number of blind corners around which your enemy might be ready to pounce at any moment.
"In this training village we have a small casbah" Cohen pointed out. "All the time we aim at giving each other cover. We know that when we are on the move covering fire is less effective than static cover fire. When we fight in the main street we use tanks to fight with us."
Hizballah and other terror groups are always quick to portray the civilian deaths as Israeli blood-lust, and there are plenty with set agendas in the international media prepared to accept this view without question. Errors will always be made in the heat of battle, but Cohen robustly defended the training given to Israel’s military with regard to civilian casualties.
Much has been written about the tunnels in Gaza where goods and weapons are smuggled into the Islamist enclave, but Cohen confirmed that Hizballah also has a huge amount of tunnels leading from village houses, mosques, and other buildings, and often leading outside the village. Hizballah fighters try to use these tunnels to emerge behind their attackers. The tunnels are often built with cement reinforcements sometimes two meters high, allowing the terrorists to dash back and forth, emerging from unexpected angles, and often giving the impression there are more of them than is actually the case. Even the tunnels have been recreated in the mock village.
"The tunnel openings inside houses are not normally covered even with a carpet. They are in clear sight so they can be used at a moment’s notice without anything slowing them down," Cohen said. "If they fire rockets at us and we identify where they are specifically firing from, that building will be targeted, but not the one next door."
Even if the house from which Hizballah has fired is destroyed by a retaliatory Israeli missile strike, the tunnels often provide the terrorists a quick means of escape.
Shia Muslim Hizballah fighters are currently embroiled in vicious fighting against the Sunnis in Syria. It seems unlikely in the current circumstances that they will seek another front and take on the might of the Israeli army, but no one in Israel takes anything for granted.
With so much of the Arab world now in turmoil, Israel remains ready to defend itself against terror attacks from Lebanese, Syrian, Gazan, or even Egyptian soil, the moment the wind changes – and that can be in an instant.
Paul Alster is an Israel-based journalist with a special interest in Israeli/Palestinian relations and Middle East politics. He is a regular contributor to FoxNews.com and the Times of Israel, and blogs at www.paulalster.comwww.paulalster.com
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Iranian Nuclear Crisis Nearing a Critical Tipping Point
by Yaakov Lappin
Iran is edging closer toward its goal of nuclear weapons possession and is leading the already deeply unstable Middle East region down a path to a new crisis.
The warning signs are being drowned out somewhat by the horrors of the Syrian civil war and deteriorating unrest in Egypt, but they are present for any observer to see.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently voiced his concern that regional instability is causing the international community to take its eye off the swiftly-approaching Iranian nuclear crisis. "They’re getting closer" to the nuclear red line, Netanyahu told CBS’s Face the Nation. "They should understand that they’re not going to be allowed to cross it."
Netanyahu stressed that the Israeli and U.S. clocks on this matter are "ticking at a different pace."
While Jerusalem’s stated red line is an Iran in possession of 250 kilograms of enriched uranium, Washington’s undeclared red line is significantly further behind that of Israel’s. For the Obama administration, a trigger for action would be irrefutable evidence of an Iranian order to assemble a nuclear weapon.
There are multiple signals indicating that Iran is moving forward with the major components of its nuclear program, while keeping the level of its enriched uranium below a certain level to avoid triggering an Israeli military strike.
Iran’s nuclear trajectory is unlikely to be affected by Hassan Rouhani’s election as the new president, since he must defer all decisions on nuclear policy to the country’s unelected supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. Only Khamenei can order the regime to cease Iran’s march towards nuclear weapons, and he has clearly refrained from doing so.
A growing chorus of international observers, including the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), noted that the twin policies being pursued by the United States and the international community – biting sanctions coupled with diplomacy – have failed to convince Khamenei to abandon the nuclear program.
Sanctions have taken a painful toll on the Iranian economy, contributing to inflation, the devaluation of the Iranian currency, and more than halving Iranian oil exports (from 2.6 million barrels a day in 2011 to 1.1 million barrels a day currently). And yet, none of these pressure points has caused Khamenei to budge.
Some defense experts in Israel have called into question President Barack Obama’s assurances that he will not allow Iran to go nuclear, and suggest that Washington is on an unintended course toward a policy of containment, not prevention.
Iran’s goal is to anaesthetize the international community until such time that it can present itself to the world as a nuclear-armed state, and transmit the message that its new status is a fait accompli. According to Israeli assessments, Iran aims to ultimately arm itself with some 200 atomic bombs.
Iran hasn’t yet become a nuclear-armed state, but time is running out.
Iran’s deviously skillful delay and deceptions, its constant nuclear progress, together with the failure of the sanctions and negotiations approach, may well force a reluctant Israeli decision to take military action sooner, rather than later.
Israel views military action as the second least attractive scenario, as such a development would likely have a direct spillover effect on the entire region, which is already destabilized due to the Syrian civil war, and which is experiencing chronic sovereignty failures in several states, such as Egypt and Lebanon.
A military strike on Iran would almost certainly drag Israel into a confrontation with Hizballah (now deployed in both Lebanon and Syria), and end up forcing the Israeli military to engage hostile forces on multiple fronts simultaneously, such as Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria.
The Israel Defense Forces have been training intensively (as detailed below) for simultaneous, multiple-front warfare, marked by heavy rocket and missile attacks on the Israeli home front.
As unattractive as that scenario is, it is preferable to an even worse development for Israeli national security: A nuclear Iran.
Assembling the Iranian nuclear puzzle
As it engages the international community in a series of fruitless negotiations to buy itself time, the Iranian regime is carefully and consistently putting into place all of the components needed to acquire atomic bombs.
Iran’s steps, as confirmed by the IAEA, include: Installing faster centrifuges at its uranium enrichment facilities in Natanz and Fordow (the latter is borrowed deep into a mountain); working on a nuclear trigger mechanism at a facility in Parchin (where IAEA inspectors have been denied access for several years); and investing heavily in a delivery system, in the form of a medium and long-range ballistic missile program.
The Iranians are also working on a covert, parallel nuclear program, to create atomic bombs from plutonium. The heart of this program is based at the Arak heavy water facility.
And yet, when it comes to amassing enriched uranium, Iran is staying behind a red line, one Netanyahu drew at the United Nations last year. Netanyahu made clear that Israel would spring into action if Iran came to possess 250 kilograms or more of medium enriched uranium (MEU), enough material to create one atomic bomb after the MEU is converted to highly enriched uranium (HEU). The process of converting MEU to HEU is relatively straightforward and easy for a country that has mastered the production of low and medium enriched uranium.
In 2012, just as Iran began to approach Netanyahu’s red line, it converted 113 kilograms of its uranium stockpile to nuclear fuel, thereby stepping back from the brink, and decreasing international tensions. As of May this year, Iran began approaching the red line again, stockpiling 182 kilograms of MEU, according to the latest IAEA report.
All the while, Iran’s stockpile of low enriched uranium (LEU), the first and most difficult phase of a nuclear weapons program, continues to grow. Israel estimates that Iran has at least 6.5 tons of LEU.
Hence, Iran is carefully calibrating its uranium enrichment levels, while moving forward in all other nuclear program fields to a phase where it can breakout to the atomic bomb phase at short notice.
Publicly, Israel has signaled that the trigger for potential strike lies with the quantity of MEU in Iran’s possession. However, in light of the progress Iran is making in many other spheres of the nuclear program, one cannot rule out the existence of additional, unannounced red lines, such as Iran’s plutonium-based nuclear efforts.
In the line of fire
Israel is far more threatened by a nuclear Iran than the United States, for the following reasons: Its small size; the concentration of millions of Israelis in cities on the country’s coastal plain; its regional proximity to Iran; and the fact that Israel is the object of an obsessive ideological-religious covert war waged by the Iranian regime against it, which has included an ambitious Iranian armament program designed to turn southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip into rocket launching bases.
Israel, the target of annihilationist Iranian rhetoric issued by top regime figures on a regular basis, has a smaller window of opportunity to strike Iran than the U.S., and would have to move earlier than Washington because of its more limited long-distance strike capabilities.
The core of the Israeli defense doctrine holds that Israel cannot depend on any foreign power, even its most trusted ally, to deal with developing existential security threats.
This means that if Israel misses its window of opportunity to act, it would violate a central tenet of its own defense doctrine. The very fact that Israel hasn’t launched a strike yet is evidence of the fact that the window of opportunity for Israeli military action remains open.
However, daring and successful covert operations, such as Stuxnet, the most advanced computer virus in history, and the mysterious blasts that have killed key members of the Iranian nuclear project in Tehran and elsewhere, have caused temporary delays at best.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned that Israel must prepare for the possibility of striking Iran’s nuclear program on its own, and called the Iranian nuclear threat "the most significant" to Israel, the Middle East and the "modern world."
Israel’s Minister for Strategic Affairs, Yuval Steinitz, said recently that "time is running out. We have only a few months. The danger is a global one, which will change the face of history. Iran could have hundreds of atomic bombs and hundreds of long-range missiles."
The past two years have seen tighter Israeli-American coordination and cooperation on Iran. These have been led by the national security advisors of both countries, Tom Donilon and Yaakov Amidror, both of whom have recently resigned.
Additionally, the recently-retired US Army’s Central Command Chief, General James Mattis, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he had no doubt Israel would act if and when Iran crossed a nuclear red line, and that it is able to do so without US assistance.
Mattis also bluntly told the committee that economic and diplomatic efforts are failing.
Envisaging a strike
According to foreign reports, Jerusalem possesses a feasible attack plan that can cause major damage to Iranian nuclear sites, and which can set back the country’s nuclear program by a number of years.
The Iranian regime would be able, however, to reactivate the program and resume its efforts if an agreement with the international community to freeze future nuclear activity is not reached.
Although nothing is known of the strike plan, it is possible to envisage a few possibilities. Multiple aerial routes are available for Israeli aircraft to reach targets in Iran. In any attack route, the Israel Air Force would probably have to neutralize or evade the radar systems of transit countries.
According to foreign reports, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) has more than 100 F15i and F16i fighter jets that can fly to and Iran and return without needing to refuel, and which can carry large payloads.
Foreign reports also say Israel possesses long-range Jericho ground-to-ground missiles, which can theoretically strike targets in Iran.
Israel also possesses the advanced midair refueling capabilities required for carrying out sorties over multiple Iranian targets situated between 1,500 and 2,000 km. away from home.
Possible targets include uranium- enrichment sites at Natanz and Qom, the uranium- conversion plant at Isfahan, and a heavy water reactor in Arak.
Once over Iran, the IAF would need to paralyze Iranian air defenses, possibly employing advanced electronic warfare capabilities, and deploy bunker-busting bombs against nuclear sites, which are reportedly in its possession.
Israeli intelligence satellites could provide real time detailed images from the battle arena, while fleets of giant Heron 2 drones, which have the wingspans of Boing 737 commercial airliner, and could carry out intelligence in Iranian skies as they hover over the launching sites of Iranian Shihab-3 missiles.
Israel Arrow 2 anti-ballistic missile batteries can intercept Shihab-3 barrages from Iran (the Arrow 3 system, which intercepts incoming ballistic missiles space, is not yet operational).
On the ground, Iran would order Hizballah to respond to a strike with an onslaught of rockets on the Israeli home front.
Israel’s solution to this threat involves devastating air force strikes using new weapons systems and a lightning ground invasion of southern Lebanon to quickly extinguish the rocket threat and dismember Hizballah as a fighting organization.
Yet several unknowns remain, such as the impact a strike would have on the Syrian arena, home to Hizballah and Iranian military forces.
While Israel has no desire to activate its military option, it will never agree to living under Iran’s atomic shadow.
Yaakov Lappin is the Jerusalem Post’s military and national security affairs correspondent, and author of The Virtual Caliphate (Potomac Books), which proposes that jihadis on the internet have established a virtual Islamist state.
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Indications of Syrian, Palestinian role in Egypt Street Violence
by IPT News • Jul 11, 2013 at 2:14 pm
Late last month, as millions of protesters converged in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and other Egyptian cities demanding President Mohamad Morsi’s ouster, tens were killed and hundreds injured, many of them by pro-Morsi gunmen firing into crowds (one such volley can be heard in video footage of a protest in Assiut, where four people were killed). Rumors began circulating that some of the shooters were Syrians and Palestinians paid by the Brotherhood to disrupt the protests.
There is growing evidence that the rumors are true. On July 6, the Central Cairo Prosecution announced that it had a Syrian national in custody, Mohamed Hassan al-Berdkany, who was arrested a day earlier while firing birdshot at protestors from Qasr Al-Nile bridge leading to Tahrir Square. Berdkany, who fled with his family from Syria after the start of its civil war, admitted to receiving cash and a shotgun from the Brotherhood. He named another Syrian, Ahmed al-Soury, as a key figure recruiting Syrians to join Brotherhood protests. He also identified a Palestinian, Bassel al-Feroun, as responsible for paying Palestinians to take part.
Little information about the investigation has been made public, and it is not clear how extensive foreign involvement in the Egypt crisis has been or whether senior Brotherhood leaders signed off on it. Nevertheless, Egypt’s new interim government appears to be taking the threat very seriously. The Interior Ministry released a statement advising Arab expatriates to avoid demonstrations, ostensibly for their own safety. On July 8, authorities issued a decree requiring Syrian nationals to obtain a visa and security permit before entering the country (under Morsi they were allowed in unconditionally) and began enforcing it a few hours later by deporting 276 Syrians who had just arrived from Damascus and Beirut.
The concern seems to be that Syrian refugees in Egypt (more than 77,000, according to UNHCR; other estimates put the number at over 150,000) constitute a ready pool of recruitment for Islamist provocateurs eager to maintain plausible deniability. Most are relatively poor Sunni Muslims, have no prior connection to the Brotherhood infrastructure in Egypt, and are concentrated in urban areas where major protests take place. They are generally sympathetic to Morsi, who went to bat for them in June by closing the Egyptian embassy in Damascus and calling for a no-fly zone in Syria, despite the fact that there is less (and less intense) popular support for the rebels in Egypt than in many other Arab states (evident from polling and the breakdown of non-Syrian Arabs killed fighting for the rebels).
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