Archive | August 3rd, 2013

How I Ran Afoul of Freemasons

NOVANEWS

WATCH OUT RACIST FREEMASON DICK ATKINSON BALSALL HEATH UK

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I am a Christian who has been persecuted by Freemasons (and other secret organizations) almost all my life. The police, fireman, lawyers, courts (in fact the entire government systems) have boxed me into a corner.  I realize this sounds like paranoia, but it is true… The snake continually strikes at my heels.  I am now crippled (from plane crash injury) and am afraid of what will happen if I fall.

My story although it sounds incredible is true, and I can back most of it up by evidence.

Is there anything you can do to help, or suggest where I can turn to for help?  This thing is way bigger than me and I can not continue fighting on my own.”

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(left. Hiding in plain view. Police woman places capstone on pyramid in front of Toronto police HQ on College St.)

With all its pretensions, Western society continues to be a hypocritical farce as long as its institutions are controlled by a criminal satanic secret society.

by “Tracy Wagner”

Around 1980, I was a young commercial pilot, aircraft salesman and manager.  My goal was to become an Air Canada captain.  I had always striven to be an ethical person. By accident, I discovered illegal activities including the importation of cocaine of which I was inadvertently involved.  I was afraid if I just quit, they would know what I had discovered and my life would be in danger.

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(left. Ottawa Logo – 666 is on every street sign, bus, cop car and city vehicle in nation’s capital) 

I went to the RCMP and was told that the business owner was already under surveillance. The police were looking for “higher ups” in major Canadian cities.

The RCMP agreed suggested I continue working (and continue to invest through my pay) until their investigation was complete and arrests were made.

I continued to work for several months but things got strange. On one occasion, I was threatened with a .38 special thrust into my stomach.

I had become the favorite corporate pilot and had met investors (money laundering) from around the world. I was also introduced to an Italian who was hiding from the police and was involved in the P2 Lodge scandal of that time.

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I was told that Freemasonry was just a front for the higher objectives; most Masons had no clue as to these real objectives. These were the New World Order and the rebuilding of Salomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, being built for the coming real messiah.

At that time I thought it all too incredible and believed that whatever the truth, it would be sorted out by the police when they made their arrests.

NO POLICE ACTION

I left the company in mid 1981 under threats and believed (as did the company secretary) that a contract had been placed on me for various reasons at that time.  Although I had agreed to cooperate with the police; there were some things I refused to do.

The secretary and I escaped, told the RCMP, and traveled north to Dawson Creek where I had arranged for another job as a pilot.  En route, while passing a transport truck in my car, the steering wheel came off in my hands.  Coincidence?

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(In UK, police actually wear the Masonic checkerboard on their hats)

I was then instructed to meet with RCMP officers in Edmonton, and Canadian Army Intelligence officials because of the “Official Secrets Act.”  At the meeting I was threatened. They told me that if I divulged anything about the above mentioned activities, that I could end up in jail for trumped up tax evasion charges.

In jail someone might come at me from behind. I would feel a slight prick in the neck, and that would be game over.  Or, I might end up in hospital from some unlikely accident. A procedure would go wrong and again, game over.  I though this awfully strange and wrong behavior, but assumed it was something to do with the nature of their investigations.  They paid the restaurant bill with U.S. dollars which I also thought strange.

Over the years as a pilot my wife and I invested in several rental properties.  Today we are close to losing it all and perhaps a quarter million dollars on top of that because of corrupt lawyers, police, fireman, the list goes on.  How many times I have been flashed an evil grin and Masonic ring I cannot count.  I have been told by business people and the police after they have robbed me through the courts that I have been blacklisted again by the OPP, RCMP and City Police and Fireman, although I have never done anyone any wrong.
—-

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(Chicago cops- same Masonic checkerboard) 


Why I didn’t Join the Masons
– See more at: http://henrymakow.com/2013/08/how-i-ran-afoul-of-freemasons.html#sthash.mrl8wxLe.dpuf

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Saudi Arabia backs religious tolerance – except at home

NOVANEWS

Saudi Arabia‘s deputy foreign minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah, last year hailed an agreement to establish a centre for inter-religious dialogue in Vienna, stating it would “work for establishing peace and justice and prevent misuse of religion for oppression and violence”. King Abdullah himself sponsored a conference for religious dialogue in Madrid attended by representatives of seven major world religions. Quoting a Qur’anic verse, the king told the delegates: “God’s will, praise be to Him, was that people should differ in their faiths. If the Almighty had so desired, all mankind would have shared the same religion.”

These are noble ideas, but judging from the treatment of the Saudi activist and blogger Raif Badawi, the king’s stated goal of religious tolerance applies only to those outside the kingdom’s borders. On July 29, a Saudi court convicted Badawi of insulting Islam, saying he had founded a “liberal” website and had insulted religion and religious authorities in television interviews. He was sentenced to 600 lashes and seven years in prison. Though Badawi has the opportunity to appeal, there is little hope that authorities will drop the verdict.

Saudi Arabia, whose legal system is based on uncodified principles of Islamic law, leaves judges largely free to decide what actions, in their view, constitute certain crimes, including serious offenses, such as insulting religion, as well as the appropriate punishments. The results of such a system are unsurprisingly arbitrary and unfair. In fact, local activists say that Badawi’s sentence – for establishing a website and peacefully expressing his opinions – is harsher than some sentences for Saudis convicted of terrorism-related offenses.

Shortly after the announcement of the verdict, I asked Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, how the judge determined that Badawi’s activities constituted an insult to religion. He told me that criminal court judge Faris al-Harbi noted simply that Badawi had created a “liberal” website, and said that “liberalism is akin to unbelief”. Expressing sympathy with liberal ideas in Saudi Arabia is apparently all it takes to be jailed and flogged for a religious offense.

Badawi has also faced societal censure for his views. In 2012, the well-known religious cleric Abdulrahman al-Barrak denounced Badawi as an apostate, effectively sanctioning his murder. And Badawi’s own father has vigorously condemned him on television shows and in media interviews, saying that his son should be punished. Badawi says he has never attacked Islam, any other religion, or people of religious faith. He has repeatedly said that he merely sought to encourage honest and open debate on religious and political matters in Saudi Arabia, such as the blatant abuses of the Saudi religious police and the use of religion to silence peaceful dissidents and those whose religious opinions differ from those sanctioned by government.

He also campaigned to rescue his sister, Samar Badawi, from domestic abuse. She fled to a Jeddah women’s shelter to escape the abuse. Badawi fought to get her out of prison after their father used the criminal justice system to jail her for seven months on the charge of “parental disobedience” – yet another ‘crime’ whose determination is left wholly to the discretion of individual judges.

Saudi authorities use religion as a tool of oppression in all too many instances. One is the case of Hamza Kashgari, who has sat in a jail cell without charge or trial since February 2012 for three tweets that authorities alleged were insulting to the Prophet Mohammed. Authorities also jailed the well-regarded Saudi novelist Turki al-Hamad in December 2012 after he tweeted a series of comments on religion, finally releasing him in June without charge. These cases demonstrate why the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has recommended Saudi Arabia as a Tier One Country of Particular Concern, stating that “the government privileges its own interpretation of Sunni Islam over all other interpretations…and continues to imprison individuals for apostasy, blasphemy, and sorcery.”

It is hard to imagine how such a horrendous record on religious freedom squares with the kingdom’s stated policy of promoting interfaith dialogue and religious tolerance around the world. If the Saudi government intends to have any credibility in fostering religious dialogue and harmony, it must first put an immediate end to invoking religion to punish those who peacefully advocate principles and ideas that the government does not share. The Saudi deputy foreign minister is right – religion should never be used to justify violence and oppression. But to seriously tackle this issue, he needs to look closer to home.

Adam Coogle is a Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch, who also monitors Saudi Arabia

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You Won’t BELIEVE What’s Going On at Fukushima Right Now

NOVANEWS

Tepco Has No Idea How to Stabilize the Reactors

fukushima

(Photo by Daniel Berehulak /Getty Images)

Washingtons Blog

You’ve heard bad news about Fukushima recently.

But it’s worse than you know.

The Wall Street Journal notes that radiation levels outside the plant arelikely higher than inside the reactor:

NRA [Nuclear Regulation Authority] officials said highly contaminated water may be leaking into the soil from a number of trenches, allowing the water to seep into the site’s groundwater and eventually into the ocean.

***

Both radioactive substances are considered harmful to health. An NRA official said Monday that the very high levels were likely to be even higher than those within the reactor units themselves.

***

It was by far the highest concentration of radioactivity detected since soon after Japan’s March 2011 earthquake and tsunami ….

How could it be more radioactive outside the nuclear reactors? The reactors have lost containment, and experts have no idea where the nuclear cores are.

And the problems which have been detected at ground-level are only the tip of the iceberg.  Japan Times points out:

Cesium levels in water under Fukushima No. 1 plant soar the deeper it gets, Tepco reveals

***

Tepco found 950 million becquerels of cesium and 520 million becquerels of beta ray-emitting radioactive substances, including strontium, in the water from 13 meters [~43 feet] underground.

Water from 1 meter down contained 340 million becquerels, and a sample from 7 meters down contained 350 million becquerels.

***

Cesium, a metallic element, is subject to gravity.

Yomiuri reports that highly-radioactive groundwater could start coming to the surface at the Fukushima plant:

TEPCO spokesman Noriyuki Imaizumi revealed the water level of the tainted groundwater in a test well located on the sea side of the No. 2 reactor has risen rapidly.

If the water level continues to rise, it could reach the ground surface,” Imaizumi, an acting general manager of the company’s nuclear power-related division, said at a press conference Monday.

According to the company, the water level has risen about 70 centimeters over the past 20 days.

***

To prevent contaminated groundwater from leaking into the sea, TEPCO is working to reinforce the ground foundation of seawalls. The rising water level in the test well means the measures to prevent leakage have been working.

However, the company apparently failed to give much thought to the fact that the groundwater would have nowhere else to go ….

Even Tepco admits that the groundwater problems are due to a lack of planning.  NHK points out:

[Tepco] learnt on Wednesday that its efforts to prevent radiation-tainted groundwater from seeping into the sea are failing.

***

TEPCO has been trying to solidify the embankment of the crippled power plant.

***

TEPCO says water levels in one of the contaminated wells have risen by about 1 meter since the work began in early July.

It says this is likely the result of its work to solidify the ground  [to a depth of 16 meters], using chemicals.

The company says soil up to 2 meters below the ground cannot be hardened, and water may be seeping out.

In addition, a top expert says that radioactive water could be flowing beneaththe seafloor … and could well up outside of the port “containment” zone:

Atsunao Marui, head of the Groundwater Research Group at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, said, “Groundwater also flows beneath the seafloor, so it’s possible that contaminated groundwater could spring up outside the port.”

Marui added that water outside the port also needs to be carefully checked.

Reuters notes that the bolts in Fukushima’s tanks will corrode in just a few years, and a plant workers reveal — “Tepco says it doesn’t know how long tanks will hold”:

Experts say Tepco is attempting the most ambitious nuclear clean-up in history, even greater than the Chernobyl disaster ….

***

Radioactive water that cools the reactors …]mixes with some 400 tonnes of fresh groundwater pouring into the plant daily.

Workers have built more than 1,000 tanks ….

With more than 85 percent of the 380,000 tonnes of storage capacity filled, Tepco has said it could run out of space.

The tanks are built from parts of disassembled old containers brought from defunct factories and put together with new parts, workers from the plant told Reuters. They say steel bolts in the tanks will corrode in a few years.

Tepco says it does not know how long the tanks will hold.

Asahi writes:

[Tepco’s] appallingly shoddy handling of radioactive water that is leaking from the crippled plant into the sea.

***

At the No. 3 reactor, highly radioactive “mystery steam” has been spotted.

The fact that radioactive substances are still being released into the ground, the sea and the air is irrefutable proof that the nuclear disaster of March 2011 is not over. The responsible parties must take this situation gravely ….

The utility’s glaring ineptitude with crisis management was noted right from the start of the Fukushima disaster.

***

We have zero faith in the utility’s reliability as an operator of any nuclear power plant. In fact, allowing the company to handle nuclear energy is simply out of the question.

The entire company now needs to be focused on preventing radioactive substances from escaping into the environment.

Yomiuri argues that the government agency overseeing Fukushima has no idea what’s going on:

The Nuclear Regulation Authority, which oversees safety management at the nuclear plant, decided to set up a working team to analyze conditions concerning contamination.

But the NRA’s actions have also been badly delayed. At a meeting Monday, an expert said the NRA “still can’t grasp the risks posed by the current situation.”

As Enformable points out, top Japanese officials are finally calling for Tepco to be fired:

In case one hasn’t paid attention the constant stream of international experts who have called for TEPCO to be removed as the organization in charge of decommissioning the crippled Fukushima Daiichi reactors, Shunichi Tanaka,chairman of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has also called for Tokyo Electric to be removed. “It is simply too big for one company to handle,” said Tanaka, at a press conference Wednesday. “Placing all the burden (of controlling the site) on them won’t solve the problem.” 

Remember, an official Japanese government investigation concluded that the Fukushima accident was a “man-made” disaster, caused by caused by “collusion” between government and Tepco and bad reactor design.  And yet the Japanese government has allowed the culprit – Tepco – to oversee the “cleanup”, in the same way that the U.S. government allowed BP to oversee the “cleanup” of the Gulf oil spill even though BP’s criminal negligence caused the spill in the first place.

ABC Australia reports:

It’s taken about two-and-a-half years, but it seems the Japanese government is finally losing patience with the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant. The reason: its haphazard approach to stabilising the complex. Last week it was unexplained steam rising from the shattered remains of the building housing the melted reactor number three. This week it’s TEPCO’s admission that radioactive water from the plant has probably been leaking into the Pacific for the last three months.

Indeed, Asahi notes:

The operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant sat on its hands for more than two years despite having pledged to seal a leaking hole in a turbine building ….

NHK writes:

[Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide] Suga told reporters after the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that the government views this as a grave matter.

Tepco’s own advisors are also blasting the operator of the stricken nuclear plant.  AFP points out:

Foreign nuclear experts on Friday blasted the operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, with one saying its lack of transparency over toxic water leaks showed “you don’t know what you’re doing”… “appears that you are not keeping the people of Japan informed. These actions indicate that you don’t know what you are doing … you do not have a plan and that you are not doing all you can to protect the environment and the people.” [said Dale Klein, Former NRC Chairman and Tepco advisory committee member]

Nuclear expert – and former high-level nuclear industry executive – Arnie Gundersen says that Fukushima has “contaminated the biggest body of water on the planet”, and that the whole Pacific Ocean likely to have cesium levels 5-10 times higher than at peak of nuclear bomb tests.

How could this happen?   Doesn’t the ocean dilute radiation to the point it is rendered harmless?  No, actually:

Japan Times notes:

Fukushima … seems to lurch from one problem to the next ….

***

When the situation is so bad that Shunichi Tanaka, the NRAchairman, is stating in a press conference, with regard to water leaks, that “if you have any better ideas, we’d like to know,” it should be clear that Fukushima No. 1 still requires the upmost attention.

The chairman of the NRA also says (via the New York Times):

Considering the state of the plant, it’s difficult to find a solution today or tomorrow… That’s probably not satisfactory to many of you. But that’s the reality we face after an accident like this… We don’t truly know whether that will work….

Indeed, technology doesn’t currently even exist to stabilize and clean up Fukushima, and Tepco – with no financial incentive to actually fix things – has only beenpretending to clean it up. And see this.

 

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LIBYA: Death Sentences and the International Criminal Court

by VIJAY PRASHAD

On July 31, Ahmed Ibrahim was sentenced to death by a court in Misrata, Libya for incitement to violence against the February 15, 2011 uprising.

Ahmed Ibrahim, a cousin of Muammar al-Qaddafi, was part of the Jamahiriya’s Old Guard. Other cousins, such as Omar Ishkal, Mansour Dhao Ibrahim and Abdullah Othman, played a key role to shore up the collapsing hegemony of the Qaddafi revolution as the decades of the 2000s slipped by. Qaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, had been tasked with “opening-up” the economy, for which he hired a set of men with vast experience amongst Gulf Arab money – such as Mahmoud Jibril and Shukri Ghanem (Jibril would lead the political wing of the rebellion against Qaddafi, Ghanem would defect to that rebellion but then tumble into the Danube in 2012, drowning in one of the fine suits he always wore). Ahmed Ibrahim, the hammer of the Qaddadfa tribe and of Qaddafi the Elder, rejected the kind of reforms being pushed by Ghanem and publically clashed with him on several occasions. When Ghanem’s attempt to privatise the economy undermined the Qaddadfa hold on certain sectors (such as a marine transportation company held by Hannibal Qaddafi), Ahmed Ibrahim would fashion himself a dirigiste. He was not really that. He was just loyal to the Qaddafis, and fiercely so when the rebellion against the regime broke out in 2011.

Ahmed Ibrahim was captured with Qaddafi in Sirte after a NATO strike hit their convoy. It was Ibrahim who conducted the prayers for the dead before Qaddafi’s body was removed to be buried at a secret location in the desert. Taken captive by the Misrata militia, Ibrahim’s fate was already sealed. It was this militia that had the fiercest hatred of Qaddafi’s forces and his people, and it was at its hands that Qaddafi faced his ghastly end. A UN report from March 2012 showed that Qaddafi was taken alive after being injured, flying a white turban as a flag of surrender. Despite cell phone video that showed him being pushed around, and despite the braggadocio of the militia members themselves, the UN commission led by Canadian jurist Philippe Kirsch was “unable to confirm the death of Muammar Gaddafi as an unlawful killing and considers that further investigation is required.” No such “further investigation” took place. What one member of the commission intimated privately is that it is almost certain that Qaddafi faced an extra-judicial killing. If this is so, then there should be little faith in the Misrata process. The Misrata court’s decision is not final. It has to be ratified by the Libyan Supreme Court.

The case of Ahmed Ibrahim is not about this man alone. He has enough history of dastardliness to deserve time in a courtroom. What this case is about is the forthcoming trials of Saif al-Islam Qaddafi and Abdullah Sensussi, both held in Libyan prisons and both wanted by International Criminal Court

(ICC) warrants. The Libyan government has set its sights on having the trials of both men in Libyan courts, and so Ahmed Ibrahim’s trial is their preview. Tripoli believes that if it can prove that Ahmed Ibrahim had a fair trial, it can stave off the ICC warrants. With so little scrutiny of the Ahmed Ibrahim trail, it is unlikely that a fair adjudication of its process can be ascertained.

Navi Pillay’s Libya.

The Libyan uprising began on February 15, 2011. By February 22, the UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay claimed that two hundred and fifty people had been killed in Libya, “although the actual numbers are difficult to verify.” Nonetheless, Pillay pointed to “widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population” which “may amount to crimes against humanity.” Pillay channelled the Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN from Libya, Ibrahim Dabbashi, who had defected to the rebellion and claimed, “Qaddafi had started the genocide against the Libyan people.” Very soon world leaders used the two concepts interchangeably, “genocide” and “crimes against humanity.” These concepts created a mood that Qaddafi’s forces were either already indiscriminately killing vast numbers of people, or that they were poised for a massacre of Rwandan proportions. Much of this was an exaggeration as I showed in Arab Spring, Libyan Winter(AK Press, 2012) and as was later established by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International and by the UN Human Rights Council’s own investigation (March 2, 2012).

Through Pillay’s pressure and the hyperbole of ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, warrants were drawn up at The Hague for the arrest of Qaddafi and his closest circle (including his son Saif al-Islam and Sensussi). The ICC’s role, and that of Navi Pillay, in creating the justification for the NATO intervention was crucial. It allowed Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy to ride the high horse of liberal interventionism, notwithstanding their green light to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to crush the rebellion in Bahrain and in its own dominion. It also allowed France and the US to exculpate themselves from their own tawdry relationship with Tunisia’s Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak respectively. Qaddafi was no doubt unhinged by the Arab Spring, having fulminated on the side of Ben Ali against YouTube and Kleenex (by which he meant Wikileaks) – “The Internet is like a vacuum cleaner, it can suck anything.” His forces did go after the rebels of February 15, and he and his clique did threaten them with grievous bodily harm. Within days, however, the entire east of Libya was lost to Qaddafi and things seemed dire in the northwestern cities of Mistrata, Az Zawiyah and Tajoura. The NATO intervention, backed by the ICC, the Human Rights Council chief, the UN Security Council and the Arab League, came less to prevent a massacre in Libya and more to try to control the outcome of the Arab Spring in North Africa. It was a doomed enterprise.

Having given the fig leaf to the NATO intervention, the credibility of the international agencies is now in question. The UN Security Council will not allow itself to be fooled as it was on its Resolution 1973, and nor will the Arab League – this is why there can be no UN-backed intervention in Syria. It is not only the Russians and the Chinese who are wary of any open-ended UN support, but also the members of the G-77, the group of the South. The Arab League was horrified when the “no-fly zone” turned into active air support on behalf of the rebels against the Qaddafi regime (Amr Moosa said so much, and had to be hornswoggled to the microphones by Ban Ki-moon to pledge his bay’at to the mission).

Calls for an investigation of NATO’s bombings based on UN resolution 1973 fell to deaf ears. NATO refused to allow the UN any access to its war logs, and denies the right of UN oversight for a mission conducted under UN auspices.

If the UN Security Council cannot assert its authority for an investigation, the ICC is not able to execute its warrants. The new Libyan government, backed by the NATO powers, has refused to turn over Saif al-Islam and Sensussi to The Hague. Matters came to a head by May 31 of this year when the ICC told the Libyan regime that it was not capable of holding a fair trial for these men. In its 91-page decision on the admissibility of the case against Saif al-Islam to the ICC, the three-judge panel found that “Libya has been found to be unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution against Mr. Gaddafi,” and so asked that he be surrendered to The Hague. On June 24, the Libyan government handed over a 98-page dossier to the ICC that made the case for a Libyan prosecution. The dossier did not deal with the most substantial problem with the Saif al-Islam case: he is being held in Zintan, and the Tripoli government cannot even get him transferred to its jail. If Tripoli cannot claim to hold the body of the prisoners, how can it claim that they will face a fair trial?

A Libyan filing on June 7 to circumvent the surrender notice was rejected on July 18. The ICC noted, “Libya is currently obliged to surrender Mr. Gaddafi to the Court.” The mood in the ICC turned in January of this year when a four-person team from the Court went to visit Saif al-Islam in Zintan. The local authorities, led by Ajmi al-Atiri, arrested one of the lawyers, Melinda Taylor, when they accused her of handing him documents. The ICC team noted that Saif al-Islam’s situation was “Kafkaesque” and that he will not be allowed a fair trial in these circumstances. This is the context in which Ahmed Ibrahim was tried in Misrata. A stench of victor’s justice pervades the courtroom. It is bad for the ICC, bad for Navi Pillay and bad for the idea of international law.

There was no investigation of NATO’s bombing by the UN. There will likely be no investigation of how the ICC and the Human Rights Council chief provided justification for the NATO war, and then how they were sidelined in the aftermath. There will be no investigation. But there should be.

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Syrian Civil War: For Syrians Who’ve Taken Refuge In Lebanon – Empathy, Resentment And A Bit Of Schadenfreude

NOVANEWS
Syrian in Lebanon
Siham, wife of Mohammad Darro Jamo, a well-known supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, mourns his death as she is comforted by a relative in Sarafand, southern Lebanon, July 17, 2013. Some fear the assassination is the latest sign of Syria’s civil war spreading to the neighboring country. Jamo, a commentator who worked for Syrian state media and often appeared on Arab TV channels, was attacked by gunmen hiding in his house in the southern town of Sarafand. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho

Syrian in Lebanon

Siham, wife of Mohammad Darro Jamo, a well-known supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, mourns his death as she is comforted by a relative in Sarafand, southern Lebanon, July 17, 2013. Some fear the assassination is the latest sign of Syria’s civil war spreading to neighboring Lebanon. Jamo, a commentator who worked for Syrian state media and often appeared on Arab TV channels, was reportedly attacked by gunmen hiding in his house in the southern town of Sarafand. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s civil war, they are effectively overrunning the nearest haven — neighboring Lebanon, where they now comprise almost one-fourth of the population, with thousands more arriving every day.

The influx has caused massive strains on the host country and growing resentment among the Lebanese, according to a survey published this month by a Norwegian research foundation.

The top concerns are economic pressures – unemployment, competition for business and downward pressure on wages as a result of Syrians’ willingness to work for very little — and the potential for a spillover of the increasingly sectarian Syrian civil war. Lebanon already suffers from high unemployment, low wages and exorbitant housing costs, and the influx of refugees and expatriates has exacerbated all of those problems.

Added to that, there are political and cultural tensions, particularly given that Syria occupied much of Lebanon during and after its own civil war, from 1976 to 2005.

Estimates of the numbers of Syrians in Lebanon vary, but by any measure they’re staggering. Officially, the U.N. reports that there are currently 625,000 Syrians in Lebanon; the Lebanese government says there are 500,000 more who are not registered. Most fled the violence in Syria during more than two years of fighting, and there is no end in sight to either the conflict or the flow of refugees. The U.N. also estimates that 5,000 Syrians are killed every month and that an average of 6,000 flee the country every day. Such a scale of displacement has not been seen since Rwanda’s genocide 20 years ago.

For many of those fleeing, Lebanon offers a rare refuge, particularly because Egypt – another potentially attractive destination – has imposed strict visa requirements, severely limiting the number of Syrians who can go there. The U.N. reports that about 478,000 Syrians also have ended up in Jordan, 386,000 in Turkey, 158,000 in Iraq and 81,000 in Egypt.

According to the survey conducted by Fafo, an independent research foundation based in Norway, about 70 percent of the Lebanese population wants the U.N. to place Syrians in refugee camps. Almost all Lebanese surveyed told pollsters that in their view Syrians are taking away jobs and pushing down wages; about one in three Lebanese supported closing their border with Syria altogether.

Some of the survey’s findings reveal xenophobia and bigotry toward Syrians, especially among young Lebanese. Others reveal great empathy. Eighty percent of adult Lebanese under the age of 24 say they are uncomfortable sharing a meal with a Syrian or living in close proximity to one. Paradoxically, about 70 percent surveyed say they’re comfortable praying with a Syrian, and in some parts of Lebanon, such as Nabatieh in the south, locals have generously taken Syrian refugees into their homes.

A surreal incident in northern Lebanon recently highlighted the darker undercurrents when the hospital in the town of Menieh kicked out nearly 30 Syrian patients. Footage that surfaced online showed bandaged Syrian men stranded by the side of a road, some on crutches or in wheelchairs.

“We thank you for the reception you’ve shown us,” said an indignant worker from the charitable Office of Syrian Refugee Affairs, which was overseeing the patients’ affairs. He was apparently addressing the hospital administrators.

The details of the incident remain in dispute. The hospital says the patients were discharged for not paying their bills, and that all of them were healthy and ready to go home. The charity says it paid the bills on behalf of all patients, but that the hospital discharged them prematurely anyway, and added that some patients had their splints removed before injured bones had a chance to heal, and “some patients were not even allowed to collect their personal belongings before being kicked out.”

My own experience as a Syrian-American

I am myself a Syrian-American journalist based in Beirut, and while my job requires me to be objective, including about issues affecting Syrians, it is impossible to ignore the way my own day-to-day interactions are influenced by the complicated Lebanese-Syrian relations in play. I frequently benefit from Lebanese hospitality, but sometimes encounter overt schadenfreude over the misfortunes of my countrymen. When I first arrived in Beirut about a year ago, no bank would serve me.

The response I received over and over was, basically, “Sorry, we realize you want to open a checking account as a U.S. citizen, but you’re still of Syrian origin.” In one afternoon I visited six banks, all of which turned me down, citing international sanctions against Syrians. (Never mind that the sanctions target only certain individuals, or that as a U.S. citizen I am not subject to them.)

“Take it up with your treasury,” one bank manager said with a shrug, referring to the U.S. Treasury, which initiated many of the finance-related sanctions against Syria.

“We Lebanese suffered war for 15 years. Now it’s your turn,” said another manager.

In the end, a bank that hosts a freelance employers’ account agreed to open a checking account for me.

Then there are more subtle incidents, where it quickly becomes clear that my presence as a Syrian is not appreciated. Inside the posh ABC mall in Beirut’s predominantly Christian neighborhood of Achrafieh, I have noticed the turned faces when I’m in the company of other Syrians, and our audible conversation clearly carries our Syrian accent. This reaction is in stark contrast to when I shop in the company of Westerners and passersby think we are American or European.

I also occasionally encounter predictable commentary from urbanites oblivious to their own prejudices. “Oh, you’re Syrian?” they may ask with thinly disguised surprise, looking me up and down, as if no Syrian could possibly escape whatever stereotype they have in mind. “But you didn’t grow up there, right?”

And there are the polite and stoic neighbors who stand on their balconies and watch quietly as I get in or out of a car with Syrian license plates, and the otherwise gregarious waiters, bartenders and merchants who go stone cold the instant I utter a few accented words.

For many Lebanese, the Syrian accent triggers painful memories of the time before 2005, when Syrian troops ran amok in many parts of Lebanon, harassing Lebanese citizens at checkpoints, looting and destroying private property with impunity.

My personal subjectivity also makes me feel badly for the Lebanese. They were just starting to get it together after years of civil war and an anemic reconstruction phase when the influx of Syrians began. Syria is their 900-pound gorilla, and as much as many Lebanese want nothing to do with the war in Syria, there is no way for Lebanon to remain unaffected by the horrendous violence next door. Recently, Lebanon even became an active participant in the war when its Shi’a militia Hezbollah openly joined the fight alongside Syrian regime troops.

Sensitive Syrians, for their part, complain about their misfortune and what they perceive as a lack of reciprocity. Syria took in thousands of fleeing Lebanese during Lebanon’s civil war and as recently as 2006, when Israeli fighter jets pounded Lebanon.

“We placed them in our homes and in our hearts,” goes the usual Syrian complaint. “We’ve taken in everyone. The Palestinians. The Iraqis. We even allowed the Lebanese to work in Syria. But now that we need a safe haven, everyone turns their back on us.”

All of this is further complicated by the fact that many Lebanese are related by blood or marriage to Syrians. As one perplexed Westerner recently asked: “What’s the difference between Lebanese and Syrians anyway? They look and sound the same to me, and they eat the same food!” He later suggested, “Are they perhaps like Americans and Canadians?”

I told him it might require the combined intellectual prowess of anthropologists, political scientists and numerous shrinks to answer his question. All I know is that despite the bad and the ugly about life as a Syrian living in Lebanon, there is remarkable empathy and warmth. And I’m not just talking about my beautiful and supportive circle of Lebanese friends. I’m talking about the likes of one Beiruti taxi driver who almost moved me to tears recently. The instant he heard my Syrian accent, he gave a long sigh, his soulful brown eyes looking back at me in his rear view mirror.

“Over the years, I’ve been all over Syria as a traveler with my family,” he said. “To be honest, I wish I had never gone. I wish I had never grown to love Syria so much. Because at least now my heart would not be breaking into a hundred thousand pieces.”

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Syrian Civil War: For Syrians Who’ve Taken Refuge In Lebanon – Empathy, Resentment And A Bit Of Schadenfreude

Iran will be a different country under President Rouhani

NOVANEWS
American journalist Nile Bowie’s interview with Kourosh Ziabari
 

KouroshZiabari

Nile Bowie – After a turbulent eight-year tenure of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the people of Iran have made their voices heard in recent presidential elections by electing a reformist who will undoubtedly take a very different approach to pressing national issues. Though many hoped to see meaningful diplomatic engagement between Iran and the United States when U.S. President Barack Obama came to office, ties between Tehran and Washington remain as tense as ever, with Iran subjected to a crippling economic sanctions regime over its disputed nuclear program.

Although leaders in Israel and the United States repetitively insist that Iran is edging closer to the threshold in being able to create a nuclear weapon, evidence shows that Tehran’s nuclear program is for civilian purposes. Despite conducting its nuclear activities within the framework of international law, average Iranian citizens are the main victims of punishing US-led sanctions that have destroyed the Iranian currency and made life-saving medications unaffordable for most. To discuss how Iran’s newly elected president will face the challenges and controversies that dominate the Iranian political landscape, Russia Today columnist Nile Bowie talks to award-winning journalist Kourosh Ziabari and explores the recent presidential elections in Iran, the signals it’s sending to the international community and the possible changes in Iran’s foreign and nuclear policy.

Q: Hassan Rouhani, a reform-minded moderate cleric and former nuclear negotiator under President Khatami, will be Iran’s new president. There is talk in Washington of direct US-Iran talks in light of Rouhani coming to power. Rouhani campaigned on a platform of trying to “normalize” relations with the West, and he even made statements like, “It is good to have centrifuges running, provided people’s lives and livelihoods are also running.” Given Rouhani’s stance, did the Iranian public treat these elections as a public referendum on the nuclear issue? And how did Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei interpret the results?

A: To be honest with you, I should confess that the June 14 presidential elections in Iran was firstly an examination for the current of extremist rightists who believed that the country’s affairs could be managed through maintaining hostility and animosity with the Western world, prolonging the nuclear controversy and relying on skimpy business and trade with Russia and China. The candidate of this stream, Mr. Saeed Jalili, simply attracted an insignificant minority of the votes, 11.37%. I’m not saying that succumbing to the irrational demands of the world powers is a solution to Iran’s problems, but the political parties and streams supporting Mr. Jalili, who was supposedly Dr. Rouhani’s main contender, but came third in the final vote, irresistibly believed that the nuclear standoff with the West was not something significant and crucial for the future of the country. This is while Dr. Rouhani and his massive supporters had astutely come to the conclusion that the nuclear issue was the country’s main concern and the Achilles heel that was paralyzing the country’s economy, political structure and international stature.

As a result, Dr. Rouhani based his campaign slogans on his foreign policy priorities which included the normalization of relations with the West in general, and the United States in particular, interaction with the outside world, improving Iran’s ties with its neighboring countries and finally bringing the controversy surrounding Iran’s nuclear program to an end.

As you precisely mentioned, the recent elections in Iran have been a public referendum on the nuclear issue. Even the most ordinary Iranian citizen had recognized that the staggering inflation, unusual supply of money in the society, the skyrocketing increase in the price of consumer goods, housing and automobiles, the unprecedented devaluation of Iran’s currency, Rial, and the annoying unemployment of the educated youth all stemmed from mismanagement in Iran’s nuclear program. According to some critics of President Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy, if nuclear energy is our inalienable right, which unquestionably is, then cheap and inexpensive foodstuff, medicine and medical services, safe and secure transportation, a renewed aviation fleet, high-speed internet connection, employment, housing, free education and proper income are our inalienable rights, as well.

As for the Supreme Leader, he doesn’t seem to be dissatisfied with the results, but of course his favorite president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is leaving the office, and after all, Dr. Hassan Rouhani is a reformist, and Ayatollah Khamenei has been traditionally unfriendly with the reform-minded politicians, unlike the late founder of Islamic Revolution Imam Khomeini.

Q: When Rouhani was Iran’s nuclear negotiator, he played a key role in reaching an agreement with France, Britain and Germany that resulted in Iran suspending its uranium enrichment program. Would Rouhani concede to freezing the country’s civilian nuclear program to ease Western pressure, despite Iran being an abiding signatory to the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty? What could the response be from the Supreme Leader if Rouhani accepts US measures that are deemed to be wholly unfavorable to Iran?

A: Well, as you may have noted, President Rouhani implied during his first press conference on June 17 that the age of suspending uranium enrichment has passed. He says this because Rouhani is not alone in making decisions about Iran’s nuclear program. We have the parliament’s (Majlis) influential Foreign Policy and National Security Committee which is consisted of a number of conservative lawmakers mostly opposed to the reformist movements in Iran who boldly and resolutely resist the decisions of the president if they wish, the state TV which is supervised by the representative of the Supreme Leader and has a great impact on the course of political developments in the country, and above all, the Supreme Leader himself, who has the final say on the most of foreign policy issues, particularly the nuclear issue and the possible direct negotiations with the United States.

So, suspending the enrichment of uranium which is seen as an unforgivable crime in Iran, cannot be put on agenda. However, everything depends on the craftsmanship of President Rouhani who has demonstrated that as a diplomat, he is able to handle the affairs in such a way that all the disputes can be settled in a short period of time. He may give certain concession to the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, UK and the U.S.) which neither the Supreme Leader nor the parliament hardliners can criticize or deny. For example, he may accept a temporary suspension of uranium enrichment in return for the freezing of the banking and gold sanctions. As the next step, he may put forward the offer that Iran can ship a certain amount of its low-enriched uranium (LED) to France or Russia and receive fuel rods for using in Tehran Research Reactor.

This step can be reciprocated by the lifting of EU’s oil embargo against Iran. Finally, Iran can promise to suspend its 20% enrichment of uranium, and continue enriching uranium to the extent of 3.5%, as it was doing before 2003. This can be a promising and serious sign that Iran is determined to resolve the nuclear standoff. And as a reward, the United States and European Union can lift all the sanctions and move toward the full normalization of relations with Iran and settle the remaining disputes on such cases as human rights, Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the U.S. support for the anti-Iran terrorist cult MKO. In this path, both parties should learn to forget about the past grievances and only contemplate on the future. Such an approach would guarantee Iran’s rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to have a peaceful nuclear program, and will alleviate the concerns of the international community regarding the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities.

Q: In the run up to the recent elections, Washington cast doubt over the legitimacy of the electoral process in Iran, while many mainstream analysts implied that these elections would somehow be controlled by the Supreme Leader, and that his candidate would surely be the winner. The opposite turned out to be true, with the only reformist being elected with a strong majority. Do you think these elections were portrayed fairly by Western media?

A: The electoral process in Iran had not been frequently challenged and questioned by the Western powers prior to the 2009 presidential election which was marred with the allegations of vote-rigging. It was surely an irretrievable damage to Iran’s public image in the world; however, we should scientifically investigate and figure out whether the reelection of President Ahmadinejad was fraudulent or not. At any rate, this was the only election in the Islamic Republic’s history which was labeled with vote-rigging, and I cannot say for sure if the allegations leveled by the West are true. Of course we had several parliamentary and presidential elections in which the reformists came to power; so it’s not the case that those who are elected are necessarily the hand-picked choices of the Supreme Leader.

At least in the 2013 election, it was demonstrated that those who undermine Iran’s electoral process have been thinking wrongfully. A reformist president was elected who certainly was not the favorite choice of the Supreme Leader. The portrayal of Iran’s presidential elections by the Western mainstream media resembles their general depiction of the Iranian society, their attitude toward the cultural, social and political developments in Iran and their viewpoint toward the Iranian lifestyle. They cannot detach themselves from the cliches which they have been parroting about Iran. This lopsided, impartial and biased portrayal of Iran has caused millions of American and European citizens to think of Iran as a retarded, uncivilized, deserted and miserable country with people who are not familiar with the representations of the modern civilization. Of course they don’t allow their audience to know that Iran is a country which had once stood atop the peaks of human civilization, science, literature and “decent” way of living…

Q: What does Rouhani’s victory say about the changing political sentiments in Iran after two terms of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Where is Iran today after Ahmadinejad more generally – in terms of economic and social conditions? How do you think Iranians will remember Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

A: Well, it’s wrong to evaluate the performance of politicians in black and white. Like every other president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has had remarkable contributions to his society, and of course pitfalls and shortcomings which deteriorated the lives of the Iranians across the country. However, I think for the majority of Iranians, especially those who live in the urban areas, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s tenure will be remembered as a period of economic hardships, political tensions and social restrictions as manifested in the closure of newspapers, cultural associations like the House of Cinema and the Association of Iranian Journalists.

Ahmadinejad, as the second non-cleric president of Iran’s history, could have left a memorable legacy for the Iranian people, but by selecting incompetent managers, disallowing the journalists and experts to critique and evaluate his performance, taking up an aggressive and confrontational foreign policy and attending to the issues which were not relevant to him, tarnished his own reputation. But please don’t forget that once he was in power, I always supported him and his administration against the spates of attacks being unleashed on him by the Western media, but now that he is leaving office, it’s time to talk about the tough 8 years we had with him more transparently. Let’s bear this in mind, that criticizing Ahmadinejad is not equivalent to being opposed to the Iranian government or the Islamic system. We all stand by our country and defend it against the ill-wished, ill-mannered enemies, but now, we want a peaceful and constructive interaction with the world instead of enmity and hostility.

Q: Iran’s model of religious democracy is basically unprecedented – it aims to blend modern participatory electoral politics together with a system of governance based upon Islamic ethics, administered by religious officials. Despite hardships and difficulties imposed by Western sanctions since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, it is a political system that continues to claim massive public support. What are Iran’s biggest achievements? Have attitudes both internationally and domestically changed towards Iran after the recent elections in contrast to what happened in 2009?

A: Unquestionably, the Islamic Revolution of 1979 was a turning point in the course of Iran’s contemporary history. It brought to an end frequent years of Iranian government’s subservience and obedient to the United States. The revolution emerged out of several years of civil protests against the tyrannical government of Mohammad Reza Shah. The Pahlavi dynasty had blatantly denied the Iranian citizens their basic political, social and economic rights. The whole country was kept in a constant state of underdevelopment and backwardness, the equal distribution of wealth was not on the government’s agenda and the economic situation of the country was really deplorable. Although the foreign diplomacy of Iran was vivacious thanks to the strong relationships the court had with the White House, people were usually dissatisfied with their living conditions. The government was unable to meet the people’s demands and provide them with the facilities they needed for a moderate life.

Following the revolution, the number of universities, schools, hospitals, roads, sports stadiums, housing units, department stores, cinemas, theaters, public libraries, factories, power plants and other infrastructures needed for the development of the country increased significantly and a new movement began for the renovation of the country’s infrastructures. You may not believe, but prior to the 1979 revolution, people in tens of major cities and thousands of villages in Iran didn’t have access to electricity, drinking water, fossil fuels and safe roads. It was the revolution that swayed the government officials to think of new solutions for improving the people’s livelihoods and enhancing the infrastructures.

Imam Khomeini, the late founder of Islamic Revolution, was a reform-minded spiritual leader, and this is why certain extremist insiders at the top of the Iran’s political echelon are afraid of his thoughts and his approach toward the way of managing the country’s affairs. You see that two of the close allies of Imam Khomeini, namely Mirhossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi were unexpectedly put under house arrest after they protested the results of the 2009 presidential elections. Their only crime was that they run against the incumbent President Ahmadinejd, otherwise, I don’t see any reason for their unwarranted imprisonment. Albeit it should be added that the United States and its European allies also irreparably betrayed the reform movement by explicitly supporting Mousavi and Karroubi in the 2009 election and calling them opposition leaders, and this gave the hardliners in Iran an excuse to stigmatize them and deprive them of their political rights and somehow exclude them from the political scene.

So, back to business, I think Imam Khomeini founded a new political system which was supposed to respond to the people’s material and worldly needs while helping them realize religious and moral sublimity and remaining committed to the principles of morality and ethics. This system of government revived the lost and forgotten human values which the secular world had consigned to oblivion and even sometimes opposed.

This is the main reason for the Western powers’ opposition to the Islamic Republic. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran began championing the cause of the oppressed Muslim nations, especially the people of Palestine who had been subject to Israeli occupation for decades. The Islamic Republic was predicated on resisting hypocrisy and double standards; something pervasive and ubiquitous in the Western powers’ behavior. These standards cannot be tolerated and even condoned by the Western powers whose major policies are always blended with portions of hypocrisy and duplicity. This is why the Islamic Republic has so many adversaries in the world, even among the Islamic states of the Middle East.

Of course the recent election has changed the international and domestic attitudes toward Iran. The new government will surely receive a more popular support from the Iranian people, and it will help the government in the nuclear negotiations to have the upper hand. The election has also signaled Iranian people’s craving for moderation and rationality, instead of extremism and radicalism.

Q: Iran has previously extended its hand in efforts to cooperate with the US in specific areas, and Washington failed to honor these efforts. Is there good reason to doubt the sincerity of the US in talks with Iran? Would it give up the ‘regime change’ policy it has maintained from the start of the revolution?  

A: Undisputably, the Iranian government is right if it’s dubious toward the United States and its presumed efforts to reach out to Iran. Iran has always expressed willingness to hold talks with the United States on equal footings and based on mutual respect. But the point is that whenever some rational elements in the power structure of the two countries decided to facilitate the talks, the United States killed the chances of a fruitful and beneficial negotiation by imposing sanctions. Look at the recent sanctions bill which the House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed, by a vote of 400 to 20. The new Iranian president, as I’m answering to your questions, has not sworn in yet. But the U.S. lawmakers have imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran. What’s the logic and rationale behind this new round of sanctions? How do the U.S. Congressmen justify the new oil embargo while the new Iranian president hasn’t ever had the chance to sit on his chair in the presidential palace and issue the first presidential decree, which is the appointment of his ministers? So you see that radicalism and fanaticism have always harmed Iran and the United States. Of course the new round of sanctions, if approved by the Senate and signed into law by the president, will deliver a lethal blow to President Rouhani’s call for moderation and interaction with the West.

It is for sure that certain U.S. administrations, especially the Reagan and Carter administrations, and the George W. Bush’s administration, had intentions for implementing the policy of regime change in Iran. Supporting, financing and aiding the terrorist cult Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) which has killed some 40,000 Iranians since the 1979 revolution is one of the signs indicating that the U.S. government, at certain junctures of time, pursued a policy of regime change in Iran. But there are indications that President Obama has changed this policy and that Washington has come to its senses and realized that the age of revolutions in Iran is over.

Q: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu recently threatened Iran with military action over accusations that Tehran is building nuclear weapons, and called Rouhani a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has heavily pushed a bill seeking to impose a de facto ban on Iran’s oil exports, a cut off of any trade involving the euro, and moves to target Tehran’s shipping and automobile sectors. It would also curtail Washington’s ability to waive sanctions on third countries and their companies that continue to do business with Iran. Would the US take a chance to thaw relations with Iran under Rouhani in spite of Zionist pressure and significant lobbying?

A: Well, if AIPAC successfully convinces the U.S. Congress and government to ratify this bill, I can say for sure that there will never ever be a single speck of chance for a peaceful solution to the controversy over Iran’s nuclear program. The Zionists will extinguish all the possible ways of reconciliation between Iran and the United States to the detriment of Washington. It’s the United States which will lose a probable ally, and it is  Europe which will be deprived of a lucrative market for free trade and business. By the way; let me clarify something. At this juncture, the Iranian people feel sympathetically toward the American people and their culture and civilization. But by pursuing the Zionist agenda, the Americans will even lose the minimal support they enjoy here in Iran.

Q: Aside from the nuclear and political issues, what are the biggest issues facing the Iranian nation today? What can Rouhani do to create meaningful solutions in line with popular reforms? If his moves are not well received by the Supreme Leader, is it possible that he might stymie any significant shifts toward reform?

A: There are several challenges ahead of President Rouhani and his team. First of all, he should sweep away the legacy of extremism that has been left in Iran’s public sphere. He should bring back morality to the Iranian society. In these 8 years, the conservative media have been relentlessly attacking the reformists and their supporters, calling them seditious, mobsters and criminal. This approach should change and the conservative media should learn that there’s a limit to the toleration of their destructive approach. I have always criticized these media for repeatedly insulting the reformist leaders and millions of people supporting them, saying that such media talk of their political opponents as if they are criminal Zionists massacring the defenseless people of Palestine in the Occupied Territories and the Gaza Strip!

Accordingly, we need to address the concerns of the cultural activists, authors, journalists, musicians, movie-makers and other artists who need greater freedoms, a better environment for creating rich and exalted artworks and participating in political activities without any restrictions.

Secondly, the concern Rouhani and his cabinet should address is the nation’s economic woes. The country is currently facing an astounding hyperinflation, unprecedented cut in the export of oil and petrochemical products, citizens’ decreased purchasing power, etc.

And finally, we have the foreign policy challenges. We need to settle our unnecessary disputes with not only the Western powers, but the Arab world, our neighbors and finally the United States. We need to find a viable solution for the nuclear controversy, which will surely solve many of the nations’ problems.

Q: Media reports claim that Iran’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Javad Zarif, is Rouhani’s pick as foreign minister. Zarif is said to be highly respected by those in the United States, and even Vice President Joe Biden told the Washington Post in 2007 that Zarif could “play an important role in helping to resolve our significant differences with Iran peacefully.” What kind of changes do you see coming in Iran’s foreign policy? Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to visit Tehran as the first foreign guest of Rouhani. How will Iran’s relationship with Russia, and also China, grow?

A: Of course the appointment of Dr. Zarif as Iran’s new foreign minister marks a significant change in Iran’s foreign policy. Zarif is a reform-minded, moderate diplomat, like Rouhani himself, and he can certainly make effective contributions to a negotiated solution for Iran’s nuclear deadlock. But please note that the change in Iran’s foreign policy has already started, even before President Rouhani takes office. Officials from more than 40 countries are slated to attend his inauguration ceremony. Isn’t this a major breakthrough for him, while he hasn’t yet sworn in as the president? So, it sounds like the world is embracing Dr. Rouhani as a new president who has come to power with a slogan of moderation and constructive interaction with the world.

Of course the change which I expect is that we will not be hearing adventurous statements by the foreign ministry officials, we will not find our president being left with an empty hall while addressing the UN General Assembly, we will not find our president being booed in the Columbia University and we will not find our president being called a hawk by those who are the real hawks of our world today. Iran will be hosting dignitaries from all around the world, especially given that it has assumed the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement, but I’m sure that the whole world, including the European nations, will come to reconcile their differences with us.

This interview was originally published on the Land Destroyer blog.

Posted in IranComments Off on Iran will be a different country under President Rouhani


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