Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Confronting Female Genital Mutilation in Iran :: Al-Alawi and Schwartz in Weekly Standard

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Confronting Female Genital Mutilation in Iran

by Irfan Al-Alawi and Stephen Schwartz
The Weekly Standard
June 17, 2015
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Excerpt of an article originally titled "Confronting Female Genital Mutilation in Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan."
Iran's Hormozgan province has the country's highest rate of FGM.
Female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) exists in the Islamic Republic of Iran even while the redoubt of clerical dictatorship is absent from a recent survey of FGM in 29 countries, published by UNICEF. The UN agency examined states in Africa and the Middle East. The UNICEF document did not specify them in full, but named eleven. Four – Djibouti, Egypt. Guinea, and Somalia – are Muslim, and feature "universal" incidence of FGM, or a rate above 90 percent of all women.
In Muslim lands outside Africa, FGM is considered a recent phenomenon. An émigré Iranian cleric, Hassan Yousefi Eshkevari, has condemned the practice, arguing that it is unsupported by the Koran or any other Islamic sacred texts. He has declared, "For the past 1,400 years there was no reflection of this topic in books by Islamic scholars or clerics."
Kameel Ahmady, an Iranian social anthropologist, has shone a bright light on FGM in Iran, with a new, self-published study. Ahmady returned to Iran after he "worked in Africa for a number of humanitarian relief NGOs and was given the opportunity to observe UN projects to combat FGM in countries like Egypt, Somalia, Kenya and Sudan."
Stop FGM Middle East says the world must "put Iran on the map of FGM-affected countries."
In the northwestern and southern provinces of Iran, Ahmady, as noted by the advocacy group Stop FGM Middle East, interviewed 3,000 women and 1,000 men over ten years. The research disclosed widespread incidence of FGM in West Azerbaijan on the Iranian border with Turkey and Iraq, and in Hormozgan on the shores of the Persian Gulf. Repeated inquiries revealed that while FGM is declining, it is still common in some areas. In western Azerbaijan, FGM dropped from 39 percent to a current level of 21 percent. FGM fell less steeply in Hormozgan, where 68 percent said in 2011 that they had undergone genital cutting, but the figure decreased to 60 percent in 2014.
The substantive nature of Ahmady's work has led Stop FGM Middle East to call for a new international focus on the problem in Iran. The same organization has supported the Iranian investigator Rayeyeh Mozafarian, author of an academic thesis on the social and cultural background of FGM in the Hormozgan community of Qeshm Island.
Rayeyeh Mozafarian has interviewed hundreds of FGM victims in Iran.
For that effort, Rayeyeh Mozafarian interviewed 400 victims of FGM. She published an important book on the atrocious custom, The Razor and Tradition (Tigh O Sonnat) in 2013 – FGM is, in Iran, frequently carried out using razor blades. She has lobbied the UN for action on Iran, but the international body has failed to take notice of the situation in the Islamic Republic.
Stop FGM Middle East reports further that local anti-FGM campaigns have emerged in Iran. In the western Iranian province of Kermanshah, which is a center of FGM, two activists, Elham Hosseini and Osman Mahmoudi, have introduced classes on FGM for women and parents. They are training 50 psychology students to educate women against accepting imposition of FGM, and offer psychotherapy to those who have suffered it. Therapy for FGM is provided for married couples as well as women. Husbands often demand acceptance of FGM from their wives and daughters.
In his work on FGM, Kameel Ahmady learned,
Being male and having a 'non-traditional' background in the sense that I lived abroad... my detailed questions about this extremely sensitive topic – the cutting of the most private part of a woman's body – created resistance and bewilderment. I found that my research was not taken that seriously by some locals, especially the men. Some people, including some of my own relatives, were of the opinion that this subject is not an honorable one for an educated man . . .and the project was deemed not a 'manly' job.
Meanwhile, according to Stop FGM Middle East, some Iranian authorities have denounced FGM but the clerical regime has failed to act against it. Finally, the campaigners against cruelty insist, the world must "put Iran on the map of FGM-affected countries."
Iran cannot be expected to act soon against FGM – especially as its rulers hew to the devious and obstinate course visible in its shadow-play "negotiations" over its nuclear ambitions, and given the repressive habits it applies against internal dissent.
Irfan Al-Alawi is executive director of the London-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation. Stephen Schwartz, a fellow at the Middle East Forum, is executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington, DC.

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Where Is the Pope's Encyclical on Christian Persecution?

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Where Is the Pope's Encyclical on Christian Persecution?

by Raymond Ibrahim
FrontPage Magazine
June 25, 2015
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Pope Francis recently released a new encyclical. Portions of it deal with environmentalism, global warming, and climate change. Naturally, this has prompted controversy.
It's noteworthy that Francis didn't merely make a passing comment on global warming during this or that sermon, but that he issued a papal encyclical on the matter. Encyclicals are much more formal and significant than remarks made during mass. They are letters written by a pope and sent to bishops all around the world. In turn, the bishops are meant to disseminate the encyclical's ideas to all the priests and churches in their jurisdiction, so that the pope's teaching reaches every church-attending Catholic.
All this leads to the following question: Where is Pope Francis' encyclical concerning the rampant persecution that Christians—including many Catholics—are experiencing around the world, the Islamic world in particular?
To be sure, the pope has acknowledged it. On April 21, during mass held at Casa Santa Marta, Francis said that today's church is a "church of martyrs." He even referenced several of the recent attacks on Christians by Muslims (without of course mentioning the latter's religious identity). Said Pope Francis:
In these days how many Stephens [early Christian martyred in Book of Acts] there are in the world! Let us think of our brothers whose throats were slit on the beach in Libya [by the Islamic State]; let's think of the young boy who was burnt alive by his [Pakistani Muslim] companions because he was a Christian; let us think of those migrants thrown from their boat into the open sea by other [African Muslim] migrants because they were Christians; let us think – just the day before yesterday – of those Ethiopians assassinated because they were Christians... and of many others. Many others of whom we do not even know and who are suffering in jails because they are Christians... The Church today is a Church of martyrs: they suffer, they give their lives and we receive the blessing of God for their witness.
The pope is acquainted with the reality of Christian persecution around the world. So why isn't he issuing an encyclical about it? Such an encyclical would be very useful.
The pope should instruct bishops to acknowledge the truth about Christian persecution worldwide.
The pope could instruct bishops to acknowledge the truth about Christian persecution and to have this news spread to every Catholic church. Perhaps a weekly prayer for the persecuted church could be institutionalized—keeping the plight of those hapless Christians in the spotlight, so Western Catholics and others always remember them, talk about them, and, perhaps most importantly, understand why they are being persecuted.
Once enough people are familiar with the reality of Christian persecution, they could influence U.S. policymakers—for starters, to drop those policies that directly exacerbate the sufferings of Christian minorities in the Middle East.
Whatever the effects of such an encyclical—and one can only surmise positive ones—at the very least, the pope would be addressing a topic entrusted to his care and requiring his attention.
As recently as 1958, Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical that addressed the persecution of Christians. A portion follows:
We are aware—to the great sorrow of Our fatherly heart—that the Catholic Church, in both its Latin and Oriental rites, is beset in many lands by such persecutions that the clergy and faithful ... are confronted with this dilemma: to give up public profession and propagation of their faith, or to suffer penalties, even very serious ones. ...
Missionaries who have left their homes and dear native lands and suffered many serious discomforts in order to bring the light and the strength of the gospel to others, have been driven from many regions as menaces and evil-doers.
Note that Pius does not mention the burning and bombing of churches, or the abduction, rape, enslavement, and slaughter of Christians. The reason is that Christians living outside the West in 1958 rarely experienced such persecution. In other words, today's global persecution of Christians is exponentially worse than in 1958. Pius complained about how Christianity was being contained, not allowed to spread and win over converts.
Global persecution of Christians is exponentially worse today than in 1958.
Today, indigenous Christians who've been in the Middle East before Islam was conceived are being slaughtered, their churches burned to the ground, their women and children, enslaved, raped, and forced to convert. "ISIS" is the tip of the iceberg.
Even in the West, statistics indicate that Islam is set to supersede Christianity, at least in numbers.
Yet there is no encyclical from Pope Francis on any of this. Instead, Francis deems it more fit to issue a proclamation addressing the environment and climate change.
If the pope doesn't think this is a priority issue, what can be expected from secular politicians in the West?
Whatever position one holds concerning these topics, it is telling that the pope—the one man in the world best placed and most expected to speak up for millions of persecuted Christians around the world—is more interested in speaking up for "the world" itself.
Bear in mind, the Christian worldview is not about "saving the earth"—"where moth and rust do corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal"—but in saving souls, both in the now and hereafter. The Lord questioned Saul of Tarsus as to why he was persecuting his flock, not about the environment.
Yet here we are: if even the Catholic pope does not deem the ongoing, systematic assault on Christianity and Christians a priority issue in need of its own encyclical, what can be expected from the average secular/atheistic politician in the West?
The answer is before us: brutal persecution and slaughter of Christians on the one hand, and absolute indifference from the West on the other.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and a Judith Friedman Rosen Fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007).
Related Topics:  Anti-Christianism  |  Raymond Ibrahim

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Palestinians: Why Salam Fayyad Lacks Popular Support

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Palestinians: Why Salam Fayyad Lacks Popular Support

by Khaled Abu Toameh  •  June 30, 2015 at 5:00 am
  • It is no secret that several senior Palestinian officials see themselves as potential successors to Abbas. Like his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, Abbas has stubbornly refused to share power with anyone. And like Arafat, he continues to run the Palestinian Authority as if it were his private fiefdom.
  • In Palestinian culture, it is more important if one graduates from an Israeli prison than from the University of Texas in Austin. A Palestinian who carries out an attack on Israel has more credentials among his people than one who studied at Harvard or Oxford universities.
  • It took Salam Fayyad too long to realize that no matter how many good things he does for his people, in the end he will be judged on the basis of his contribution to the fight against Israel, and not how much humanitarian and financial aid he provides.
Former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, pictured on January 25, 2013 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (Image source: World Economic Forum)
In a surprise move, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has frozen the bank account of a non-profit organization headed by former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
The decision is seen in the context of PA President Mahmoud Abbas's effort to undermine and discredit Fayyad. Abbas believes that Fayyad, who resigned in 2013, is seeking to replace or succeed him as president.
Following his resignation, the US-educated Fayyad established a Ramallah-based group called Future For Palestine. According to Fayyad, the group's mission is to "enhance the resilience of Palestinian citizens in their homeland, especially in marginalized and severely impacted areas, by providing the basic development requirements."
Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership did not like the idea from the beginning. Ever since Future For Palestine was established in August 2013, they have been working toward undermining the group and its founder, Fayyad.

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Eye on Iran: Critics Make Last-Ditch Effort to Hamper Iranian Deal

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Al-Monitor: "Skeptics of the Obama administration's nuclear talks with Iran are bringing maximum pressure to bear on negotiators ahead of the June 30 deadline for a deal. Key players both on and off Capitol Hill are raising their voices in the hopes of preventing what they say would be unacceptable concessions. Their statements suggest that a final agreement may yet attract broad bipartisan support, even as more conservative groups are already actively seeking to kill any deal. 'I think it would be incredibly irresponsible for us not to be raising concerns now and instead wait until a deal has hatched,' Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told Al-Monitor... Influential outside groups are taking a similar stance. United Against Nuclear Iran, under the presidency of former Obama administration arms control coordinator Gary Samore, for example has begun a multimillion TV and newspaper campaign ahead of the deadline. The nonprofit advocacy group is critical of past concessions on uranium enrichment and the easing of many restrictions after a decade but says it can get behind a final deal if it avoids further concessions. 'The outstanding items could turn those concerns into real catastrophic consequences for our national security if they went the wrong way,' Mark Wallace, the group's CEO and an ambassador to the UN under President George W. Bush, told Al-Monitor. 'That's why you're seeing us and others out there saying you can't concede on inspections, you can't concede on [possible military dimensions of past nuclear research], you can't give away these last remaining items because it's just too dangerous.' Wallace said the goal of the campaign was to provide a 'backstop' for negotiators who might be too eager to reach a successful deal after more than two years of negotiations. 'As a former diplomat I feel like I have the moral authority to say that sometimes diplomats get carried away in the pursuit of a deal rather than always focus on the merits of a deal,' Wallace said. 'And our role is to remind them that the merits count here.'" http://t.uani.com/1egpXGR

RFE/RL: "A spot aired on national television by United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) -- a nonprofit, nonpartisan group whose founders include former U.S. ambassadors and a former CIA director -- claims that concessions made by the United States in the negotiations go 'too far' and that 'America can't risk more concessions.' UANI announced last week the launch of 'a multimillion-dollar television, print, radio, digital, and grassroots campaign' that pushes Washington to take a harder line on key elements of the deal, including the inspections of nuclear sites, which have been publicly ruled out by Iranian leaders. The group said the campaign, which started on June 23, will continue throughout the negotiation process, including the time allotted to the U.S. Congress to weigh in on any final nuclear accord. Mark Wallace, UANI's CEO, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under former President George W. Bush, says Washington already made too many concessions to Iran under the so-called framework agreement reached in Geneva in April. He tells RFE/RL that 'further concessions' to Iran on critical issues regarding its nuclear program could lead to a 'catastrophically bad agreement.' 'We're trying to elevate the discourse to a level that is deserved for a foreign policy issue of such great consequences,' Wallace said. Wallace says his group is concerned that the tentative nuclear agreement will leave Iran's nuclear infrastructure intact and it would also allow the country to engage in research on advanced centrifuges." http://t.uani.com/1LFBKwm

NYT: "The United States warned Iran on Monday, in both English and Persian, that a preliminary agreement reached two months ago in Switzerland must remain the basis for a final nuclear deal. The warning appeared to reflect concerns among American and European negotiators that Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been attempting to backtrack on some crucial elements of the April agreement that was forged in Lausanne, the lakeside resort near Geneva. 'We do see a path forward to get a comprehensive agreement that meets our bottom lines,' said a senior United States official, who could not be identified under the ground rules for briefing reporters. 'This path forward has to be based on the Lausanne parameters. Period.' ... The United States and its negotiating partners are no longer trying to meet the original Tuesday deadline for wrapping up a final accord. Yet American officials hope to conclude the agreement so it can be submitted by July 9 to Congress, which would then begin a 30-day review period. 'No one is talking about a long-term extension' of the negotiating deadline, the official said. 'No one.'" http://t.uani.com/1LzQU5r

Nuclear Program & Negotiations

AFP: "A system has been reached in talks between Iran and major powers towards a nuclear deal that will give the UN atomic watchdog access to all suspect sites, a senior US official said Monday. 'The entry point isn't we must be able to get into every military site, because the United States of America wouldn't allow anybody to get into every military site, so that's not appropriate,' the official said. 'But if in the context of agreement... the IAEA believes it needs access and has a reason for that access then we have a process that access is given,' the official said on condition of anonymity. 'We have worked out a process that we believe will ensure that the IAEA has the access it needs.'" http://t.uani.com/1LFE32I

Reuters: "Iran and six world powers ramped up negotiations on Tuesday after accepting they would miss a June 30 deadline for a nuclear deal, with both sides cautioning that major obstacles to a lasting agreement remained. Diplomats said the Vienna talks would run on for as long as necessary to reach a deal... 'There are real and tough issues that remain which have to be resolved in order to get the comprehensive agreement, and we still do not know yet whether we will be able to get there,' a senior U.S. administration official told reporters. Zarif flew in on Tuesday morning with Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi, still recovering from major surgery in May, and immediately went into almost two hours of private discussions with Kerry. 'I am here to get a final deal, and I think we can,' he told reporters." http://t.uani.com/1g6x31O

AP: "Iran's chief diplomat insisted Tuesday he had a mandate to finalize a nuclear agreement despite increased signs of backtracking by his country's supreme leader, as talks with world powers were set to blow past Tuesday's self-imposed deadline without a deal. Returning to the negotiations in Vienna, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the diplomacy had reached a 'very sensitive stage' but that progress was possible. Asked by a reporter about his meetings at home, he said: 'I already had a mandate to negotiate and I am here to get a final deal and I think we can.' He then continued his discussions with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry." http://t.uani.com/1JupPkK

Reuters: "The United States on Monday rejected criticism that world powers negotiating a nuclear agreement with Iran have been making too many compromises, saying it hoped to get a good deal but was not certain that was achievable... The U.S. official was asked to respond to public criticism of the U.S. delegation in the talks and suggestions that the administration of President Barack Obama had been making too many concessions out of desperation to do a deal. 'We still do not know yet whether we will be able to get there,' he said. 'We want to, we hope to, but we do not know.' Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday accused the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China of retreating from tough positions in the talks. 'We see before our very eyes a stark retreat from the red lines that the world powers set themselves only recently, and publicly,' he said. 'There is no reason to hasten into signing this bad deal, which is getting worse by the day.' The U.S. official said the United States would not have spent endless time on negotiations just to give in at the end. 'It's really absurd,' the official said. 'If we were going to cave, I could be home already and I would be a really happy person ... we would have done that a long time ago,' the official said. 'Why would we be spending the hours doing this in the way we are if, you know, we were just (going to say to Iran) well whatever you want, you got.'" http://t.uani.com/1T0TmnD

AP: "World powers and Iran prepared to move past Tuesday's deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement, with officials suggesting significant backtracking by Tehran's negotiators that may need several more days of discussions to resolve... Several signs pointed toward Iranian intransigence and perhaps even backsliding on a framework it reached with world powers three months ago. At a briefing for some three dozen, mainly American, reporters, a senior U.S. official repeated several times that the final package must be based on the April parameters - 'period.'" http://t.uani.com/1KqGmWU

AP: "The Iranian nuclear talks are playing out in classic fashion: A self-imposed deadline appears to have been extended due to stubborn disputes, with the sides publicly sticking to positions and facing internal pressure from opponents ready to pounce on any compromise. Should the talks actually collapse, the alternatives are not appealing. The war option that the United States has kept on the table has few fans, and the world community does not seem willing to impose truly crippling sanctions. A dangerous period of uncertainty looms. Which way it goes may depend on which side needs a deal the most. Iran might seem the weaker party, with sanctions harming its economy. But its authoritarian regime puts up a convincingly brave front, and the Obama Administration, with its legacy on the line, seems at least as determined to conclude a deal." http://t.uani.com/1U3RPPh

Politico: "As he meets with Iranian officials in search of a nuclear deal in the coming days, John Kerry may sense another presence in Vienna's Palais Coburg hotel: his legacy. Over his 30-year political career, Kerry has long been knocked for delivering more talk than results. Achieving a nuclear deal he first began pursuing even before he became secretary of state could redefine his place in history. And that, Republican critics, foreign officials, and even some ex-administration officials say, is a big problem. Kerry's eagerness for a deal, they argue, risks that the Iranians will seduce him into a bad one. 'I don't know how anyone who has observed Kerry over the past two years would think differently,' says a former administration official who worked on Iran issues... Dennis Ross, another former senior Middle East aide under Obama with long experience in diplomatic negotiations said the key to effective deal making is 'being able to show you have a genuine interest in a deal but can live without one.'" http://t.uani.com/1Hs7W3E

JTA: "In nuclear talks between Iran and the major powers, it's deadline time, and skeptics on both sides are laying out red lines in a bid to shape a final deal. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader who had been wary of the talks, last week outlined his own expectations for the deal - and where there would be no compromise. On the American side, a five-point memo circulated by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has been influential in shaping how Congress and others are pressing the Obama administration... Khamenei's June 23 broadside to Iranian government officials and AIPAC's memo, 'Five Requirements for a Good Deal,' circulating for about a month, are being treated by experts on the talks as baselines for must-convince skeptics in both countries: the religious establishment in Iran and Congress in the United States. Under legislation passed in May, Congress gets an up or down vote on a deal... Congressional insiders say the AIPAC memo features prominently in conversations lawmakers from both parties are having with administration officials. It has also influenced other American groups seeking a say in the process. A letter last week organized by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy setting out concerns about the emerging deal and signed by 18 former government officials has a similar five-point format." http://t.uani.com/1egqb0B

Sanctions Relief

Reuters: "Asian imports of Iranian crude rose to the highest level this year in May, although buyers may have to curb any further increases if negotiators up against a deadline fail to reach a final deal on Tehran's disputed nuclear programme... Imports by Iran's four biggest buyers - China, India, Japan and South Korea - totalled 1.2 million bpd last month, down 1.9 percent from a year ago and the highest since 1.21 million bpd in December, government and tanker-tracking data showed... India's imports of Iranian crude oil rose 66 percent from a year earlier in to their highest level since March 2014." http://t.uani.com/1BTMJPv

Reuters: "India has asked refiners that owe about $6.5 billion to Iran for oil imports to build up dollar and euro balances to avoid downward pressure on the rupee if six world powers and Tehran reach a final nuclear deal. Local refiners still owe Iran about 55 percent of the bill for crude bought since February 2013, when a route to pay for Iranian oil through Turkey's Halkbank was stopped under pressure from U.S. and European sanctions... Once an agreement is reached, Iran would likely ask for payment of its oil dues, India's oil ministry said in a June 11 letter to refiners that was seen by Reuters." http://t.uani.com/1GWIaDe

Human Rights

CBS: "Kerry and President Obama are keen to see the deal finalized as a major credit to the administration's foreign policy credentials, but as CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan reports, no one has a more personal stake in the negotiations than the four Americans currently imprisoned or missing in Iran. With the U.S. and Iran talking for the first time in more than 30 years, their families believe that this is the best chance to bring their loved ones home, and they've come to Vienna to lobby for their release. For Sara Hekmati, a breakthrough in Vienna isn't a landmark nuclear accord with Iran -- it's getting her 31-year-old brother out of one of the country's most notorious prisons... U.S. officials say that at every meeting with the Iranians, they implore them to release these Americans but, so far, that has not been enough to bring them home." http://t.uani.com/1LzXglq

IHR: "According to official reports, Iranian authorities carried out two amputation sentences in the Central Prison of Mashhad on Sunday (during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan). One of the prisoners was identified by Khorassan newspaper as M.A., 26 years old, accused of theft by breaking into a residential home and stealing money... The other prisoner, reportedly charged with ten counts of theft, was transferred to the Central Prison of Mashhad for the execution of his sentence.'" http://t.uani.com/1R1BOKA

Foreign Affairs

Reuters: "France has asked its firms to prepare a return to Iran ahead of a likely deal with powers to curb Tehran's nuclear program, but Paris' tough stance in talks and ties with Sunni Arab states means its 'love-hate' relationship with Iran will continue... 'Everyone is looking at Iran with greed,' said a senior French official. 'It's an important market, but it's not the only one. There was a strategic decision to be made on who could face Iran as it pushes its pawns in the region. That's Saudi Arabia and Egypt. That's the choice we've made.'" http://t.uani.com/1R1ypvd

Opinion & Analysis

UANI Advisory Board Member Michael Singh in WSJ: "With reports suggesting that the June 30 deadline for a deal on Iran's nuclear will be missed, just as previous negotiating deadlines were, we're on the brink of not an end but a new phase in this diplomatic saga. After July 9, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act-which President Barack Obama signed into law last month-mandates that Congress gets an additional 30 days to review the accord, or 60 total. During this period, the president would not be permitted to extend Iran any sanctions relief beyond that stipulated by the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action. By the standards of the Middle East today, two months is an eternity-and the Obama administration is surely wary of leaving an accord in diplomatic limbo for that long. Such a period would give Iranian opponents of a deal time to appeal to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; give time for events in Syria, Iraq, or elsewhere to disrupt diplomacy; and/or allow critics in the U.S. to organize opposition to an agreement. Such fears could tempt negotiators on both sides to consider a diplomatic gambit that would lock the accord in place before Congress has its say. Per the framework parameters the U.S. announced April 2, the U.N. Security Council resolutions penalizing Iran for its nuclear activities will be replaced as part of a final deal. This new resolution would formally endorse the agreement and establish mechanisms such as a new International Atomic Energy Agency inspection regime and a 'procurement channel' governing Iranian imports of sensitive technology. It would also re-impose sanctions on 'conventional arms and ballistic missiles, as well as provisions that allow for related cargo inspections and asset freezes.' Taking such action at the U.N. before or during the congressional review period could, however, render Congress moot. Even if lawmakers disapproved of the deal, it will have been granted legitimacy by the U.N. Security Council's action and international sanctions against Iran will have been lifted. Other countries would judge that they had sufficient basis to proceed according to the deal's provisions with or without U.S. participation, though some might hesitate if the administration declared its intention to abide by Congress's decision and continue enforcing U.S. sanctions. Whatever the administration's preference, the president signed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act into law; accordingly, he should not cast a vote at the Security Council until Congress has had its chance to weigh in... All this means that the best course of action for the U.S. and its European allies would be to present Iran with a take-it-or-leave-it offer, walk away without committing to renew negotiations, and continue unilaterally adhering to the Joint Plan's limits, as long as the Iranians do likewise. At the same time, Washington should visibly prepare its backup options-new and resumed sanctions or even a military strike-in coordination with allies to convey to Tehran that the status quo can only deteriorate, not improve, should its intransigence continue." http://t.uani.com/1RPO5wW

Ahmad El-Assaad in WSJ: "Ever since it entered the Syrian civil war, the Iranian-funded Lebanese-Shiite terror outfit Hezbollah has suffered tremendously and in many different ways. Over the past two years, more than 1,000 Hezbollah fighters have died in that war, and the Lebanese people's resentment toward the group has increased. Lebanese Shiites who don't belong to Hezbollah have also been targeted for scorn by the rest of the country, even though many of us oppose its vicious ways. Long gone are the days when a large portion of the Lebanese population believed that Hezbollah is there to protect them and Lebanon. The mask has fallen off. Most Lebanese now see Hezbollah for what it is: a militia that works for the Iranian regime and must therefore obey Tehran's orders. And to quiet the disenchanted voices, to make them dare not speak out, especially in the Shiite areas, Hezbollah has become more oppressive than ever. The war in Syria has been a big financial burden on Hezbollah as well. The cash coming from Tehran is not what it used to be. In many Shiite neighborhoods, Hezbollah is asking people for donations. This has weakened the image of Hezbollah, as people see that its coffers are no longer filled as they once were. Most young men join Hezbollah not because they believe in its talk about 'resistance,' but simply because it's the only option for the poor, unemployed and uneducated Shiites to earn a few hundred dollars a month. The source of Hezbollah's financial troubles is obvious: The Iranian regime has spent exorbitant sums trying to support and sustain the Assad regime in Damascus. With a population of approximately 80 million, Iran's gross domestic product is only $369 billion. The United Arab Emirates, by comparison, with a population of nine million, has a GDP of $402 billion. Yet despite its penurious position, Iran continues to ignore its domestic and social problems. Instead, just like the old Soviet Union, it is stretching its influence throughout the Middle East as if it were an economic powerhouse, not an economic disaster. Furthermore, Tehran views Hezbollah's results over the past 33 years as such a success that it is now franchising it. From Hamas in the Palestinian territories to the Sadrists in Iraq to the Houthis in Yemen, these proxy terrorist organizations are an exact replica of Hezbollah. Now the Obama administration is negotiating a flawed nuclear deal with the Iranian regime that will see Tehran get a windfall of up to $150 billion. With so much cash on hand, Tehran would surely create new Hezbollah franchises elsewhere in the Middle East and order all these radical proxy groups to wage even more wars in the region. At the very least, Tehran would be eager to give a good boost to its pride and joy-Hezbollah-and help it buy its way out of the problems it is facing in Lebanon now. I recently met in Washington D.C. with senators, members of Congress and think-tank analysts. When I shared my worries with those close to the Obama administration, the response was, 'Let's get a deal now on the nuclear issue and then we'll work out a plan on how to stand up to this Iranian invasion of the Middle East.' When I pressed them further on the matter, I got no answers... It has become clear to me that there is no plan. At best, if there will ever be a plan, it will be as successful as the one we see unfolding today against Islamic State. There is no doubt that a nuclear deal with Iran would be a nightmare for my beloved Lebanon and for all the other countries in the Middle East that are controlled, or could be controlled, by Iranian proxy groups... To those who say that this nuclear deal is a recipe for peace, I say that this deal is an invitation for more wars in the Middle East." http://t.uani.com/1Ns7Slh

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) in the Sun Sentinel: "The objective of the United States in the P5+1 negotiations with Iran is not to reach an agreement by June 30; it is to reach an agreement that verifiably prevents Iran from ever developing nuclear weapons capability. When negotiators announced that they had arrived at a framework for a deal back in April, we were told that the purpose of the next June 30th deadline was to have a timeline for working out the mere 'technical details' that remained. What we have learned since then, however, is that the unresolved issues are not small technical details but actually matters of great consequence. Chief among them is the possibility, recently floated by Secretary John Kerry, of a final deal that fails to require the Iranian regime to fully disclose the possible military dimensions (PMD) of its nuclear program. Failing to require such transparency from Iran would undermine the enforceability of any deal. That's because the weapons inspectors who will be charged with monitoring Iran's compliance with an agreement are the same weapons inspectors that Iran has blatantly ignored, obstructed, and disrespected for the past decade. For years, weapons inspectors at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have documented Iran's repeated violations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, from building an illicit underground nuclear procurement network to conducting warhead research in secret facilities. Indeed, it was the IAEA's referral of Iran to the U.N. Security Council in 2006 that spurred the passage of numerous resolutions calling for Iran to suspend enrichment and give inspectors greater access to Iran's nuclear facilities, scientists, and suspected military sites. And since Iran entered into an agreement with the IAEA to resolve outstanding concerns in November 2013, the regime has continued to stonewall the efforts of inspectors to determine the extent of Iran's nuclear weapons program... After years of calling for compliance with the IAEA, for the United States and our P5+1 partners to adopt an agreement that allows Iran to retain a nuclear enrichment program without first answering for its past behavior, sends the regime the dangerous message that ignoring the IAEA has no repercussions. We cannot have confidence in a deal that provides Iran, the world's number one state sponsor of terror, with access to over $100 billion in frozen assets without demanding it recognize the authority of international weapons inspectors charged with verifying Iran's satisfaction of what must be an extensive set of preconditions to sanctions relief.  Given Iran's long history of deception, there is no accountability without robust transparency... We hope that diplomacy with Iran succeeds. Yet giving Iran a pass on these issues from the beginning not only neuters the IAEA, but undermines our chances of reaching any deal that could be worthy of support. With so many nations around the world invested in a diplomatic solution that prevents Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, there is no value in meeting a deadline if the majority in Congress views it as a bad deal. As Senator Bob Corker recently said to Secretary of State John Kerry, 'If it takes longer to get the right deal, take longer, please.' The Senator is right. Our ability to maintain intense economic pressure on Iran gives us no reason to stop negotiating until we are satisfied that all paths to nuclear weapons capability are cut off. That means a deal that empowers instead of delegitimizes the IAEA." http://t.uani.com/1GK3Xuv

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-TX) in the Washington Examiner: "We are on the cusp of the latest deadline for a final agreement over Iran's nuclear weapons program. In the next few days, we may see a signed deal that reflects the framework announced by the Obama administration and Iranian negotiators back in April. It is an emerging agreement that almost no one, including former advisers to President Obama, believes would be a strong deal that sufficiently advances U.S. interests and bolsters our national security. Indeed, the ayatollahs would have good reason to celebrate. They will likely be able to trumpet an internationally recognized right to enrich nuclear material, Iran's reentry into the global economy, the right to maintain a hardened underground research facility, the ability to stiff-arm international inspections and a 10 to 15-year glide path toward an unfettered nuclear program. Such a deal would satisfy the ayatollahs' dual strategic goals of eliminating the international sanctions regime that has hampered Iran's economy and maintaining nuclear weapons breakout capability. The achievement of both goals would significantly enhance Iran's regional influence, insulate it from outside pressure and more deeply entrench the revolutionary regime of the ayatollahs... The core reasons the U.S. has long sought the dismantlement of Iran's nuclear weapons program are simple. First, a theocratic revolutionary regime that is the top state sponsor of terrorism would pose an unacceptable risk should it obtain nuclear weapons capability. Iran's ayatollahs have already been killing Americans for more than three decades. They are the lead financier and arms supplier of Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, terrorist organizations dedicated to destroying Israel, and they've murdered Jews around the world. If Iran commits these crimes against the West now, imagine what Iran would do with a nuclear umbrella. Second, if Shiite Iran possesses breakout capability, its Sunni Arab rivals will also seek to obtain it, sparking a cascade of proliferation across the region. The Middle East is turbulent, with intersecting tensions and high probabilities for military miscalculation. Turning the region into a nuclear tinderbox could portend global catastrophe. It is difficult to see how either of these outcomes would be foreclosed by the agreement likely to be signed by the Obama administration. The pending accord would not deny Iran nuclear weapons capability. Instead - and by design - it affords Iran that capability and only seeks to persuade the ayatollahs not to order the actual construction of a nuclear weapon. This is folly. Allowing Iran to keep a significant nuclear infrastructure will enable the regime to continue research on advanced centrifuge technology and shorten the time it will take to make a dash for nuclear breakout. And Iran may use the veneer of a legitimized supply chain to mask illicit work on nuclear weapons... To prevent the nuclearization of the Mideast, we need an agreement that verifiably denies Iran nuclear weapons capability. Administration officials may deride this position as a 'pie-in-the-sky' proposal that the Iranians will never accept. But this obscures the fact that it had been the consensus U.S. position for years until the Obama administration backed away from it in the current negotiations... But it is not too late to reverse course. President Obama has said on numerous occasions that no deal is better than a bad deal. And make no mistake: The deal currently envisioned is a bad deal. That is not only my opinion. A consensus is building among national security experts - including former inner-circle advisers to President Obama on Iran - that the pending accord gives away the store to the Iranians. The president should take his own counsel regarding a bad deal. He should continue talks past tomorrow's artificial deadline for however long it takes to eliminate Iran's nuclear weapons capability. That would be a strategic gain for which lifting sanctions would be justified. Failing that, the president should cite Iranian intransigence, break off talks, reinstate the full spectrum of economic sanctions and fortify the credible threat of military force. What the ayatollahs respect is strength. And this is a moment - perhaps more than any other time of his presidency - for President Obama to be strong." http://t.uani.com/1T10noF

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email Press@UnitedAgainstNuclearIran.com

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.  UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

Book Review: Ayaan Hirsi Ali's "Islamic Reformation." Can It Work?

Steven Emerson, Executive Director
June 30, 2015

Ayaan Hirsi Ali's "Islamic Reformation." Can It Work?

Reviewed by Abigail R. Esman
Special to IPT News
June 30, 2015
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It is cocktail hour on an April afternoon in 2004.. The sun is hot on Amsterdam's canals, and I am sitting at Café den Leeuw on the Herengracht with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali is still a member of the Dutch Parliament, and we talk about Islam. Specifically, we talk about the concept of "moderate Islam," or what she calls "liberal Islam." And she has one word for it.
"It's absurd," she says. "It's complete nonsense. There is no 'liberal Islam.'"
Things change.
In her latest book, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now (Harper Collins, 2015), Hirsi Ali offers her vision of a "reformed Islam" – a re-imagining of the religion in contemporary terms, a forging of a path to that very same  liberal Islam. As she states, "When I wrote my last book, Nomad, I believed that Islam was beyond reform, that perhaps the best thing for religious believers in Islam to do was to pick another god. I was certain of it.... Seven months after I published Nomad came the start of the Arab Spring, and I thought simply: I was wrong."
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is perhaps best known as the writer of "Submission," a highly controversial film about the oppression of women under Islam, which was produced by Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. The film aired less than four months after she and I had the conversation at Café den Leeuw. That same November, a Muslim extremist shot and stabbed Van Gogh as he bicycled to work. The killer, Mohammed Bouyeri, stabbed a letter into Van Gogh's lifeless body with the promise that Hirsi Ali would be next.
At the time, the Somali-born Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim, was an outspoken critic of Islam. Now a bestselling author and activist, she lives in the U.K. and the U.S., where she teaches at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass. She established the AHA Foundation in 2007, to work to end honor violence worldwide.
Unlike her previous two books, Infidel and Nomad, which were essentially autobiographical, Heretic offers a manifesto of sorts: a program for freeing Islam from what she calls "a host of anachronistic and at times deadly beliefs and practices." She presents her case with the careful and deliberate skill of a philosopher. In clear, readable language, she provides a basic history of Islam and citations from the Koran and the hadiths before laying out her blueprint for change.
Heretic begins with a historical overview of Islam aimed at distinguishing what she calls "Mecca Muslims," or those who follow Mohammed's early teachings and the first section of the Koran, from "Medina Muslims," such as members of al-Qaida, al Nusra, al-Shabaab, and other Muslim extremist and terrorist groups.  For Medina Muslims, she explains, "true" Islam is found in the latter phase of Mohammed's life, after his flight from Mecca to Medina in 622. It was then, with the establishment of the first Caliphate, that Islam's more militant, violent and political ideologies emerged. It is largely because of these two distinct phases in the history – and holy texts – of Islam that so much debate still takes place about the nature of the religion and its practice.
But it is also because its adherents claim the Medina texts are the "last word" on Islam, the final incarnation of Allah's vision for humanity, that Hirsi Ali states early in the book: "Let me make my point in the simplest possible terms: Islam is not a religion of peace."
This distinguishing between Mecca and Medina Islam (or Mecca and Medina Muslims, as Hirsi Ali puts it), is not new: the author's own mentor, Afshin Ellian, did just this in defining Islam as a political religion in a 2009 publication. But Hirsi Ali may be the first to explain this to a general public, and certainly her popularity as an author and celebrity figure are useful in informing a wider audience.
She does, both eloquently and persuasively, in the first half of the book, which virtually anyone, including (or perhaps especially) Hirsi Ali's ideological opponents, would benefit from reading. In fact, one could almost call it "irresponsible" for those who attempt to speak out on the problems of radical Islam to do so without reading these pages.
Unfortunately, she does less well in the second half of the book. No doubt Hirsi Ali's hope for a Muslim reformation is earnest; but her argument suffers under what is either an unwillingness to look religious fundamentalism itself head-on, or – quite possibly – her own naiveté, a general unawareness of, say, fundamentalist Christian views, and of the history of secular Muslim countries such as Turkey.
To be sure, she neatly and powerfully lays out the facts about radical Islam in the West and the failure of Western governments and communities to face the threat in the name of "tolerance" or "religious freedom." She re-issues her frequent, yet-unheeded plea for more action against honor crimes in the West. She cites important studies on the popularity of sharia law and interviews (by others) with jihadists. She points repeatedly to the Islamic vision of an afterlife, in Hell and Paradise, as the fomenter of death wishes and martyrdom, the driving force behind violent jihad.
And then she offers a five-part solution:
"Muslim clerics need to acknowledge that the Koran is not the ultimate repository of revealed truth. They need to make explicit that what we do in this life is more important than anything that could conceivably happen to us after we die. It is just a book. They need to make clear that sharia law occupies a circumscribed role and is clearly subordinate to the laws of the nation-states where Muslims live. They need to put an end to the practice of delegated coercion that inflicts conformity at the expense of creativity. And they need to disavow completely the concept of jihad as a literal call to arms against non-Muslims and those Muslims they deem apostates or heretics."
If only it were that simple. If only we could take a chorus of 1,000 imams, place them before the charismatic Ayaan Hirsi Ali and have them repeat after her, in harmony, these very edicts. If only this were enough to change the desperate and passionate beliefs of hundreds of millions across the world.
Alas, indeed. No sooner has Hirsi Ali prescribed her remedy than she tells us of various predecessors, poets and philosophers mostly, who made similar efforts – and were executed as heretics.  It is hard to understand why things would be different today – even in the face of the (now failed) Arab Spring. One has only to look at the current state of affairs in Turkey, that great, secular, democratic republic founded less than 100 years ago by a Muslim who claimed to despise religion, who called for "sane reason," and which is now Islamizing by the day. One has only to remember the elegant Iranian women, dressed in Western couture, and the magnificent collections of art by Picasso and Kandinsky, by Lichtenstein and Warhol, at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art – and to look now at the country's brigades of "morality police."
"There were such times," I found myself wanting to say to her as I read. "Yet look what happened next."
Yet Hirsi Ali insists that the Arab Spring revealed a growing and unquenchable longing for liberation, for the reform of Islam itself, and not just for the end of dictatorships. Even if true, one has to wonder: which were the majority voices? And does it matter if the Medina Muslims are the minority, when they are willing to fight to the death to win? Isn't that already the case?
In fact, the thousands of men and women raised in the West who have now joined the Islamic jihad tell a different story. It is easy enough to say "stop glamourizing death and heaven" as Hirsi Ali does throughout this book. But one needs only a passing familiarity with Freud's Future of an Illusion to know how unlikely this is, and certainly in our own time.
Despite her certainty that Christians do not make heaven appear preferable to life on earth, for many evangelical Christians, this is not the case. I recall one 10-year-old girl telling me not long ago that she looks forward to every birthday because each one brings her closer to heaven and to Jesus. The difference, however – as Hirsi Ali does note – is that Christians don't usually go about killing themselves and others to get there.
There are other problems with her arguments, not the least of which is the question of who her audience actually is. Radical Muslims are hardly going to listen to her. And because of her often harsh rhetoric over the years, Hirsi Ali has alienated herself so greatly from even "moderate" Muslims that few of them are likely to be eager to follow her direction.
At the same time, there are millions of "moderate" Muslims. There are even atheist Muslims. (Yes, really.) In that sense, the "reformation" already exists. But it will not move everyone, and it is not moving the extremists any more than it moves extreme, fundamentalists Christians who bomb abortion clinics and Orthodox Jews who abuse women. (Not to mention the fact that I find it unlikely that any priest or rabbi would refer to the Bible as "just a book," let alone an imam speak this of the Quran. But I could be wrong.)
And it seems to me that it is especially in Islam that such a global reformation is unlikely: the notions of world domination in a Caliphate and of power over women is too seductive, winning over the heart and mind of the common man.  The narcissist who sees himself a hero, the sinner yearning for redemption, the youth raised with convictions of right and wrong that differ from our own but are equally as strong – these men will not let go of this Islam. They will fight to preserve and to empower it across the earth. They are the Islamic State.
All this said, Heretic remains an important book, not only for its explication of Islam but because, most of all, it confronts its readers with facts about jihad, about terrorism, about the abuse of Muslim women – and, too, about the good that lies within the roots of the Islamic faith. Many of the stories Hirsi Ali tells are ones most Americans either never knew, or have forgotten. And we need to know. This, too, is part of what will help create change.
Which is why, although I cannot agree with Ayaan Hirsi Ali's strategies (I would choose a remolding of minds through education in the arts and sciences); and although I'm not sure I agree that such reform is even possible, I commend her deeply for this book. Clearly one thing has not changed about the Hirsi Ali I knew over a decade ago in Amsterdam: She has started the discussion. Now it is time for the rest of us to join her.
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.
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