Tag Archives: Iran

Obama Talks Peace to Iran, But Dishes Out Violence

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Obama Talks Peace to Iran, But Dishes Out Violence

by Jamasb Madani, April 09, 2013

 

Four years ago, President Barack Obama quoted the beloved 13th century Persian poet Sa’di in his first Nowruz message to the Iranian people. The address, with its veneer of peace and diplomacy, was a well-received gesture to both civil society and the leadership in Tehran, recognizing the Islamic Republic and celebrating the country’s ancient culture and history.

In this year’s Nowruz message, on March 18, 2013, President Obama recited more medieval Persian poetry, this time a famous 14th century poem from Hafez about friendship.

An informal and casual survey of public opinion on the heels of this address suggest that Obama’s renewed efforts to tap the well of goodwill failed to resonate with many Iranians. This time around, Obama’s speech has been received a somewhat negative response.

Over the past few years, U.S. hostility and pressure toward Iran has reached a critical level. As a result of draconian sanctions and a resulting drastic drop in oil revenues, Iran’s economy, currency, and people are hurting.

Many essential and non-essential goods have been subject to sanctions, both old and new. Measures preventing the sale of spare airplane parts to Iran have long made air travel unsafe, threatening the well-being of civilian passengers. More recently, unilateral sanctions imposed by certain Western countries have cut Iran off from the international banking industry, resulting in severe shortages in medicines and rising food prices that place the lives of millions of Iranians at risk.

While Obama’s Nowruz messages represent an attempt to achieve a sort of ‘cultural connectedness’ between Americans and Iranians, the U.S. government seems unaware of how its policies and actions toward Iran cut against these efforts.

During Iran’s post-reform years in late 1990′s, certain key terms became central to the Reformist discourse. Concepts such as ‘pluralism’, ‘tolerance’ (tasahol/tasamoh), and especially the term “violence” (khoshoonat’garaee) took on a deeper and more comprehensive meaning.

Based on a wider reading of the concept of violence, Iranian civil society has not only viewed the assassination of its scientists as a direct form of violence, but has also considered unilateral and crippling sanctions to be instruments of violence against the Iranian people.

These and other similar measures undermine the administration’s attempts to appeal to Iranians’ cultural sensibilities. Ironically, as President Obama delivered his first Nowruz message in 2009, urging Iran’s government to “unclench” its fists, his administration was accelerating a covert, cyber warfare initiative launched by the Bush administration, codenamed “Olympic Games.”

In the years that followed, as Obama delivered other Nowruz messages, the United States conspired with Israel to develop and launch additional attacks of cyber-terrorism against Iran, such as Stuxnet and Flame.

In the Iranian public psyche, cyber attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities are not mere technological sabotage, but rather instill collective fear and anxiety about damage to nuclear installations that threaten the safety of the Iranian population.

And let’s not forget the looming threat of direct military attack. With each passing year, and with every Nowruz message, the level of both real and potential American violence against Iran and Iranians has escalated.

As the targets of these threats, victims of collective punishment and the bearers of U.S.-imposed hardship, Iranians feel that Obama’s actions coupled with his recitation of the poetry of Sa’di or Hafez make for a disturbing juxtaposition.

In Hafez’s poetry and ethos, duplicity, hypocrisy, and pretense are considered major sins. It is fitting then that a group of democracy activists in Iran, in conversation with this writer, have suggested Obama reflect on the message of another Hafez poem:

Preachers who lecture others in the pulpit
in private, away from the public gaze, they do otherwise.
I have a concern; ask this question from the wise one in the group
those who order us to repent; they, themselves don’t consider any repentance?

Daryoush Mohammad Poor, an opposition activist who has translated the statements of former Iranian presidential candidate and reformist politician Mir Hossein Mousavi into English, was similarly offended by Obama’s Nowruz message this year.

In a critical essay posted in both Persian and English on his website, “Malakoot,” Mohammad Poor writes that the American-Iranian impasse is not binary. For instance, as he explains, just because he is connected with the Iranian opposition, does not mean he will be silent about the devastating and lethal effects of Obama’s policies on the people of Iran.

Mohammad Poor addresses Obama directly, writing, “Remember, Hafez was – and still is – a great social critic of the conditions of his time. His strength lay in his being outside the circle of power. He was the voice of the powerless. He was never a two-term president of a superpower nation. If he lived today, he would probably be highly critical of you, too, as he would be critical of the leaders of Iran.”

With few exceptions, the opposition in and outside Iran explicitly opposes both unilateral and UN Security Council sanctions against the country. The anti-imperial legacy of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq, who was ousted during a CIA-led coup in 1953, still permeates the present Zeitgeist and ethos in Iran. As such, despite economic hardships and the relative popularity of Voice of America among some opposition members, so far the American/French/British axis has failed to cultivate any notable support for either foreign intervention or collaboration. As things currently stand, Iranians across the political spectrum blame the United States, and less, their own government, for their economic woes.

U.S. hegemonic domination has its internal contradictions and cannot avoid double standards, inconsistencies, and half-truths. But Hafez, the ‘elder of kharbat’, is precisely the antithesis of duplicity (riya). The term kharabat in Hafez’s poetry symbolizes a tavern, a gathering place where there is no pretense (tazvir), only the opportunity to be true to one another.

Those who threaten others with military aggression and destruction, those who unleash economic war and hardship and instill fear in the hearts of their victims, those who manipulate international organizations for their own ends, and make life difficult for so many people should not reference Hafez. In fact, Hafez is perhaps the last poet they should invoke, since his central message is to condemn hubris and selfishness (a’een khod’parasti).

A substantial number of Iranians believe that Barack Obama, who has relatives in Kenya and Indonesia, studied progressive politics at Columbia University and broke bread with public intellectuals like Edward Said, is a worldly, decent and dignified person.

But in the context of American hegemony, as the executor of oppressive policies toward Iran, Obama has become a perplexing puzzle for Iranians. For four years, Obama’s Nowruz messages have led the Iranian collective psyche to compartmentalize his various actions. The orchestrated hostility of the “American Regime,” the pain and suffering directed by the United States toward Iran are all changing this approach.

At the same time, the symbolism and dichotomy of Obama’s Nowruz messages, coupled with the history of U.S. structural violence against Iranian society, may provide a glimpse into the bigger picture behind Obama’s inconsistencies. In his capacity as president, Obama may have no choice but to bow to long-term American policies toward Iran. Many Iranians, in fact, maintain that the real culprit is not Obama, but rather an institutional form of thinking and worldview to which Obama himself is bound.

Unfortunately, it seems the president’s ideals are also victims of this power structure.

Rather than trying to appropriate Persian poetry to blunt American aggression, Obama would do well to heed the words of Hafez himself. Only then may he truly begin to pursue peace instead of issuing ultimatums. As Hafez poignantly observed,

Engage in love (of humanity) before it is too late; or the life-purpose given to you by the world will be wasted.

*Jamasb Madani is an architect and writer. His grandfather was an activist and strong supporter of Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq.

This piece was originally published at Mufta.org

 

http://original.antiwar.com/jamasb-madani/2013/04/08/obama-talks-peace-to-iran-but-dishes-out-violence/

Syrian death toll tops 19,000, say activists

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Syrian death toll tops 19,000, say activists

More than 2,750 people killed this month in Syria as July set to be deadliest month since uprising began

An activist group claims that more than 2,750 people have been killed in Syria so far this month, bringing the death toll since the conflict began to more than 19,000.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said if the current rate of killing continued until the end of July, it would be the deadliest month since the Syrian uprising erupted in March 2011.

The Observatory’s chief, Rami Abdul-Rahman, said on Sunday that 2,752 people, including 1,933 civilians, 738 government troops and 81 rebels, were killed in the first 21 days of July.

Abdul-Rahman said June had been the deadliest month with 2,924 deaths.

The average daily death toll in June was 94, while this month it has increased to an average of 131 a day.

Heavy fighting continued on Sunday as Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters battled government troops near the main intelligence base in the northern city of Aleppo, while helicopter gunships bombarded the capital, Damascus, in an effort to drive out insurgents, witnesses said.

Fighting raged in other parts of Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, and demonstrators defaced a statue of the president, Bashar al-Assad’s father, the late Hafez al-Assad, overnight in the central Shahba area, breaking off parts of the stone edifice, according to a video made by activists.

“Sounds of explosions from different areas are shaking the whole city. A heavy exchange of gunfire has been going on near the state security headquarters in al-Mouhafaza since the morning,” a resident there told Reuters by telephone.

Opposition sources said fighters from rural areas around Aleppo had been converging on the city of 3 million people near the border with Turkey. The rebel Tawhid Battalion said in a video statement that a battle to “liberate Aleppo” had begun.

In Damascus, Assad’s forces appeared to be retaking territory occupied by insurgents earlier in the week, driving them out of the Mezze district, according to residents and opposition activists.

Elite Fourth Division troops were besieging the northern neighbourhood of Barzeh and the sound of tank fire was heard in the district, they said. Helicopter gunships fired machine guns at the nearby district of Rukn al-Din and Qaboun.

Aleppo had previously, for the most part, escaped the country’s 16-month conflict, which has recently become a fast-changing guerrilla war between opposition fighters and the Syrian army, which has heavy weapons.

The battle in Aleppo comes after a devastating week for Assad, with fighting in the heart of Damascus; a bomb attack that killed four members of his military-security command; and predictions that his regime was entering its final weeks or months.

Assad’s forces continue to control key cities, at least during the day, but have lost much of the rural hinterland. The FSA has been able to capture a series of border posts with Turkey and Iraq, further puncturing the regime’s authority, and controls large areas of the northern and eastern periphery.

The FSA had previously reached within nine miles of Aleppo. On Saturday, activist Mohammad Saeed said dozens of FSA rebels had penetrated deep inside the city. There were reports that they had set up checkpoints in some areas. Video showed thick black smoke billowing over buildings. Some residents had painted walls with the pre-Ba’athist flag, the symbol of the revolution.

In a further sign of rapid regime erosion, four more army brigadiers were said to have crossed into Turkey, bringing the number of senior military defectors there to about 100. Another brigadier, Adelnasser Ferzat, defected to FSA fighters in Aleppo, it was claimed. In a video address in fluent Russian, he urges Moscow to dump Assad and back “freedom” and the rebels’ side.

Activists said as many as 7,000 Aleppo residents had fled to safety. Last week’s surge in violence trapped millions of Syrians, with areas of Damascus deserted and tens of thousands of refugees flooding into neighbouring Lebanon. Some 30,000 Syrians crossed the border into Lebanon on Thursday and Friday.

Diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis have been largely overtaken by events, despite a vote in the UN security council late on Thursday to extend the UN’s monitoring mission for 30 days.

The international community remains divided. Iran, Russia and China steadfastly support the Assad regime; Saudi Arabia and Qatar are overtly aiding the rebels; Britain, the US and the EU are calling for a “political transition” and Assad’s immediate departure. Meanwhile, Israel, the region’s most formidable military power, announced it would consider action to prevent Syria’s chemical weapons and missiles arsenal from falling into the hands of Hezbollah, Assad’s Shia Islamist allies in neighbouring Lebanon.

Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak, said: “I have instructed the military to increase its intelligence preparations and prepare what is needed so that … [if necessary] … we will be able to consider carrying out an operation.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/22/syria-death-toll-tops-19000

‘There will be no peace until Gaza blockade is lifted’

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‘There will be no peace until Gaza blockade is lifted’

Published: 22 November, 2012, 03:54

The ceasefire between Hamas and Israel is unlikely to last, as Tel Aviv will not lift the siege of Gaza, anti-war activist Don DeBar told RT. For a lasting peace, Gazans’ living conditions must be improved beyond the bare minimum for survival.

­“Unless the people of Gaza are allowed food and medicine and material to rebuild their blown-up country, then there is no justice until that happens and probably be no peace,” Don DeBar, an anti-war activist and journalist said in an interview with RT.

RT: Given the experience of previous ceasefires between Israel and Hamas – how long do you expect this to last?

Don DeBar: Well unfortunately earlier they had included the lifting of the blockade of Gaza in the peace agreement, and just here and now that is not the case. The reason for the entire extension of the hostilities – the precondition – has not been lifted, which is the starving of the 1.5 million people of Gaza by Israel illegally. So until that blockade is lifted, any act of violence that comes out of Gaza – as mild as they are, are really the acts of self defense from a people that are being starved to death. So until that precondition is removed, there should be no peace, and certainly there will not be.

RT: Gaza is celebrating the truce, with the head of Hamas declaring it as a victory over Israel. How much of a victory for Hamas is it?

DD: Their condition degraded from being starved to being starved and bombed, and now the bombing apparently will stop. And so that is the reason to celebrate, as meager as it might seem, in the face of starvation. But the real crime here is the fault of the Arab nations, including Egypt and the others. Egypt has no problems supporting a revolution with material, a quote-unquote revolution in Syria. They had no problem allowing material to be smuggled into Libya to overthrow the Libyan government, and yet they’ve been acting as a gatekeeper for Israel, even under Morsi, at the various crossings into Gaza. Rather than the Egyptian population marching into Gaza and standing with them, which it sounded like it was going to happen a couple of days ago, now we have this. Again, we’ll see what happens – but unless the people of Gaza are allowed food and medicine and material to rebuild their blown-up country, then there is no justice until that happens and there probably be no peace.

RT: Is it a victory because they’re not being bombed anymore?

DD: I would consider it a victory also if I were being bombed – but they need to be dealing with the material things of life, and they need food, medicine, construction materials, water – the things everyone else needs and feels entitled to, and the things everyone else is allowed under international law – and to go to war over it when they’re denied.

RT: The previous war four years ago, while even bigger in scope, didn’t stop Hamas attacks in the long-term. Do you think the latest Israeli offensive has managed to achieve its goal?

DD: No, other than to destroy some of the means of self defense that the Gazans had. Again, the precondition to dealing with that is to give people, if not justice, at least enough to survive and have a decent life. Right now it’s 1.5 million people in an open-air prison camp without food, without medicine, without the material means of survival except through those crumbs that are allowed to pass through the hands of the Israelis. Until that changes, Israel will not see peace and it should not.

RT: Few expected Israel to sign up to a ceasefire hours after the terror attack on its capital in the last 24 hours – most expected retribution instead. What was the key factor that made this truce possible?

DD: Probably Hillary Clinton and her going there. Morsi has a serious problem and it may hinge on that. The revolution that took place in Egypt has been guided by the people from the streets, and the real hot button issue that certainly diverges between leadership and people there is how the leadership deals with Israel. And the people in Egypt are not happy with the situation in Gaza even before these recent hostilities, and if Morsi did not do something and look as if he did something, then his position would become extremely untenable. It may well be just them just trying to keep Morsi in there and his compliance is what’s behind this most recent effort. But it will fail.

RT: Netanyahu’s reportedly just said Israel’s next mission will be to stop weapons smuggling from Iran to Gaza. How does he plan to do that?

DD: It sounds like they’re beginning a PR offensive against Iran, and it’s going to justify some sort of Israeli strike against Iran. It will probably happen before the election, if it does happen.

http://rt.com/news/israel-gaza-peace-blockade-287/

Syria: over 5,000 deaths forecast for September

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Syria: over 5,000 deaths forecast for September

The death toll from fighting in Syria’s civil war has escalated sharply, as expectations grow that a foreign military intervention would be necessary to try and contain the bloodshed.

Conflict in Syria where more than 5,000 people were forecast to die this month alone. Photo: AFP

By , and Richard Spencer

7:51PM BST 27 Sep 2012

Activist groups that track death tolls said that more than 5,000 people were forecast to die this month alone, substantially above the 4,000 that died in August. By contrast, the worst month in the Iraq conflict – after the initial invasion – accounted for 3,028 lives, in July 2006.

The United Nations refugee agency meanwhile predicted that up to 700,000 Syrian refugees could flee abroad by the end of the year, nearly quadrupling its previous forecast.

Lord Owen, the former Foreign Secretary who oversaw peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia, warned on Thursday that the scale and nature of conflict would eventually demand a united response from Russia and the West.

“This is a full scale civil war and my experience is that only an enforceable ceasefire will end it,” he said. “Time is not on our side given the ghastliness of the fighting, the number of massacres and horrors of sectarian divisions becoming permanent facts on the ground.”

Free Syrian Army fighter scans for targets from a building in Aleppo, Syria

In an article for the Daily Telegraph, Lord Owen today calls on Nato to use its formal ties with Russia to start talks on enforcing a no-fly zone in joint arangement that would not target the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president escalated the “blame game” with the West, accusing the US and others of sowing chaos in Syria.

“The most important thing is that our partners cannot stop themselves,” he said. “They have already created a situation of chaos in many territories and are now continuing the same policy in other countries – including Syria.”

Michael Clarke, the head of the Royal United Services Institute thank tank, predicted Syria’s neighbours would be sucked into choosing sides in what is likely to be a drawn-out battle.

“As this becomes a fully-fledged sectarian war in the next couple of months the whole fabric of the Levant will be torn apart and what you will have is a Saudi Arabia vs Iranian proxy war involving elements in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan,” he said.

“The West is going to find it harder and harder to resist calls to intervene to contain the problem rather than stop the killing.”

David Cameron condemned the Russian and Chinese government for blocking UN-backed action to stop the conflict in a speech to the UN on Wednesday.

Douglas Alexander MP, the shadow foreign secretary, said: “The sheer scale of the suffering being endured in Syria demands that the

international community renews its efforts to achieve unity and action.”

Arab states have endeavoured to end the conflict but are publicly divided over regional military intervention, with comments at the UN exposing sharp divisions between major Muslim nations.

Mohammad Morsi, Egypt’s new president opposed calls from the Emir of Qatar for a military intervention by Arab League states, while a meeting he had called of the Middle East “quartet” – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran – was cancelled after the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, decided not to travel to New York.

Prince Turki al-Faisal. a former Saudi Arabian ambassador to America, told CNN that “Nato and some combination” of other states would eventually be forced to intervene to quell fighting. “That requires military force,” he said. “For somebody to deny this at this time is, I think, deluding themselves.

Wednesday was the most lethal day of the Syrian civil war yet, according to activist support groups inside and outside the country as the killing reached 343, according to one count.

Scores of bodies were discovered in the southern Damascus suburb of Dhiyabiyah, men of all ages who had apparently been shot in cold blood.

While Syrian opposition groups put the overall death toll in the 18-month war above 30,000, Amnesty International puts the toll at 21,000-plus.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9572101/Syria-over-5000-deaths-forecast-for-September.html

 

U.S., France boost Syria support, less than rebels hoped

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U.S., France boost Syria support, less than rebels hoped

Washington offers additional $45 million in aid

* France to boost contacts with Syrian opposition

By Andrew Quinn and Amena Bakr

NEW YORK, Sept 28 (Reuters) – The United States and France announced increased support for opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday, but there was no sign that the direct military aid the rebels want to create safe havens for civilians is on the way.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a meeting of foreign ministers in New York that the United States would provide an additional $45 million in non-lethal and humanitarian aid to the Syrian opposition.

Of this, $30 million would be for humanitarian assistance and $15 million for non-lethal help, such as radios and training. The new pledges pushed total U.S. humanitarian aid for Syria to more than $130 million, and non-lethal aid to opposition groups to almost $45 million.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the same meeting of the so-called Friends of Syria – an informal group of countries supporting Assad’s ouster – that Paris was increasing its contacts with Syria’s armed rebels.

“The process is complex but the Syrian people have been waiting for 18 months for the opposition to succeed to move forward,” Fabius said. “It is within this perspective that France has increased its contacts with representatives of the armed opposition.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague backed an increase in practical support to Syria’s political opposition, especially to those who needed to provide services in rebel areas.

The 18-month-old uprising against Assad has descended into a civil war. More than 30,000 people have been killed, according to opposition activists, and there are fears the conflict could destabilize the wider Middle East.

But despite Friday’s announcements, foreign assistance to the Syrian rebels has fallen well short of the foreign-protected safe havens the opposition wants and offers little hope of relief to the worsening plight of civilians.

France started channeling aid to rebel-held parts of Syria in August so that these safe havens could administer themselves and help stanch a flow of refugees trying to escape deadly air strikes by Assad’s forces.

However, credible protection for “liberated” areas would require no-fly zones patrolled by foreign aircraft and there appears little chance of this happening.

Such an intervention would require a mandate from the U.N. Security Council – something resolutely opposed by veto-wielding members Russia and China.

The council’s deadlock appears unbreakable at the moment, Western diplomats say.

The deadlock led frustrated Western powers, Turkey and Gulf Arab states to establish the informal Friends of Syria group, but Western powers have said they will not supply weapons to the lightly armed Syrian rebels, who have few answers to attacks by Assad’s combat planes and helicopter gunships.

CLINTON BLAMES IRAN

Clinton blamed Iran for propping up Assad, saying Tehran would do all it could to support him. “Let’s be very frank here – the regime’s most important lifeline is Iran,” she said.

“Last week a senior Iranian official publicly acknowledged that members of the Iranian (Islamic) Revolutionary Guard Corps are operating inside Syria,” Clinton said.

“There is no longer any doubt that Tehran will do whatever it takes to protect its proxy and crony in Damascus. Iran will do everything it can to evade international sanctions.”

She was referring to international steps to force Iran to abandon its nuclear program, which the West says is aimed at producing atomic bombs. Tehran says the program is for generating electricity and other non-military purposes.

The U.N. General Assembly’s annual gathering of world leaders this week saw sharp clashes between Iran and Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested that Israel might take military action to prevent Iran from reaching the point where it has enough enriched uranium for a bomb. On Friday, the United Nations urged all sides to tone down “shrill war talk.”

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby told the Friends of Syria group, which was meeting on the sidelines of General Assembly, that the situation in Syria was becoming “more explosive.”

“We need to start a transitional period,” he said. “A transitional period means a change to another regime.”

The Friends of Syria includes the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. Russia and China, which have vetoed three U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Assad’s onslaught on the opposition, are not members.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who attended the meeting, later told the U.N. General Assembly it was “the inability of the Security Council to act that still encourages the Syrian regime to kill ever more people.”

“The situation in Syria has evolved into a real threat to regional peace and security,” he said. “The Syrian regime deploys every instrument to turn the legitimate struggle of the Syrian people into a sectarian war, which will engulf the entire region into flames.”

Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani told reporters he was not satisfied with the international response on Syria.

“We have to send a military force to stop the bloodshed, this is request from Qatar’s emir,” he told reporters.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called the blockage at the Security Council “unacceptable,” and added: “It is necessary to unite the opposition.”

Qatar said it would organize a meeting soon to try to unite all strands of the Syrian opposition in an effort to create a provisional government. Earlier this week, Qatar called for Arab nations to “interfere” in Syria.

Fabius said he wanted this government to be recognized by the Friends of Syria at its next meeting in Morocco.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani said the meeting would probably be held on Nov. 1, but he did not expect it to reach a plan on how to proceed.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/28/un-assembly-syria-idUSL1E8KSB1R20120928