Because they were called assassins.

(via theatlantic)


Iran Worried U.S. Might Be Building 8,500th Nuclear Weapon
TEHRAN—Amidst mounting geopolitical tensions, Iranian officials said Wednesday they were increasingly concerned about the United States of America’s uranium-enrichment program, fearing the Western nation may soon be capable of producing its 8,500th nuclear weapon. “Our intelligence estimates indicate that, if it is allowed to progress with its aggressive nuclear program, the United States may soon possess its 8,500th atomic weapon capable of reaching Iran,” said Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi, adding that Americans have the fuel, the facilities, and “everything they need” to manufacture even more weapons-grade fissile material. “Obviously, the prospect of this happening is very distressing to Iran and all countries like Iran. After all, the United States is a volatile nation that’s proven it needs little provocation to attack anyone anywhere in the world whom it perceives to be a threat.” Iranian intelligence experts also warned of the very real, and very frightening, possibility of the U.S. providing weapons and resources to a rogue third-party state such as Israel

Iran Worried U.S. Might Be Building 8,500th Nuclear Weapon

TEHRAN—Amidst mounting geopolitical tensions, Iranian officials said Wednesday they were increasingly concerned about the United States of America’s uranium-enrichment program, fearing the Western nation may soon be capable of producing its 8,500th nuclear weapon. “Our intelligence estimates indicate that, if it is allowed to progress with its aggressive nuclear program, the United States may soon possess its 8,500th atomic weapon capable of reaching Iran,” said Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi, adding that Americans have the fuel, the facilities, and “everything they need” to manufacture even more weapons-grade fissile material. “Obviously, the prospect of this happening is very distressing to Iran and all countries like Iran. After all, the United States is a volatile nation that’s proven it needs little provocation to attack anyone anywhere in the world whom it perceives to be a threat.” Iranian intelligence experts also warned of the very real, and very frightening, possibility of the U.S. providing weapons and resources to a rogue third-party state such as Israel

"Closing the Strait of Hormuz is very easy for Iranian naval forces. Iran has comprehensive control over the strategic waterway."

Iranian Adm. Habibollah Sayyari • Claiming that Iran has the ability to close the Strait of Hormuz, a major waterway that’s extremely important for the distribution of one-sixth of the world’s oil. Sayyari’s threats come as Iran worries that the U.S. and its allies will start to sanction Iran’s all-important oil supply out of frustration with the country’s controversial nuclear program. Congress recently passed a bill to sanction the country’s central bank, which Obama plans to sign despite having misgivings about the effects it might have. As tensions continue to rise over Iran’s nuclear program, could military action become an option for the U.S.? source (viafollow)


(Source: shortformblog)

(Source: shortformblog)

Lebanon Charts a New Path

Foreign Policy:

This week, Beirut achieved an underwhelming milestone: after 140 days, Sunni billionaire Najib Mikati finally managed to form a government. This may not seem like much, compared to the paroxysms of political change which have toppled dictators and shaken the foundations of the Middle East’s most entrenched authoritarian regimes. Traditionally one of the region’s most politically turbulent countries, Lebanon has seemed positively serene by comparison to its neighbors. There has yet to be a replay of the seas of chanting protesters and billowing flags in the streets of Beirut which followed the 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

[…] The direction of the new government could profoundly re-shape Lebanon’s relationship with America and the international community, just as it will play an important role in determining the fate of the Syrian opposition to the Assad regime.

[…]

The international media and many Lebanese politicians have rushed to portray the new cabinet as being dominated by Syria and Iran because of the preponderance of March 8 figures in key ministries. In response, Prime Minister Mikati has insisted that he has no intention of threatening Lebanon’s relationship with the West, and that he is not a fig leaf for a “Hezbollah government.” For the time being, the Obama administration has opted to wait and judge the government “by its actions,” but there have already been calls by a few U.S. lawmakers to cut Washington’s aid and adopt a hard-line stance toward the new government in Beirut.

The claim that Mikati’s government will actually be controlled by Hezbollah is an oversimplification, but there is no question that this new cabinet marks a watershed in Lebanese politics. As per its usual custom, Hezbollah only opted to accept two relatively insignificant portfolios out of a total of 30, while its allies (with whom it does not always see eye-to-eye) occupy the important ministries of defense, justice, telecommunications, labor, etc. It should be noted that the very fact that Mikati was chosen as prime minister rather than a more divisive “pro-Syrian” figure suggested from the very beginning that the March 8 coalition was wary of letting this government be painted as being “Made in Damascus and Tehran.” Mikati’s international stature, strong ties to Saudi Arabia, and his possession of a (rather tenuous) cabinet veto will likely be sufficient to calm fears that he can be steamrolled by the parliamentary majority, at least in the short term.

[Read More]

Iran implicated in 9/11 attacks by lawsuit

Jurist:

A lawsuit by relatives of 9/11 [JURIST news archive] victims has alleged that Iran knowingly aided [press release] al Qaeda [JURIST news archive] in carrying out the attacks, according to affidavits [memo of law, PDF] filed Thursday. Included in the affidavits, but under seal from the judge, are the testimonies of Iranian defectors who worked for Iran’s intelligence service, declaring that Iran helped plan the attacks through Hezbollah [BBC Backgrounder], as well as facilitated the escapes of al Qaeda operatives after the attack. The affidavits also include depositions of 9/11 Commission workers who believe Iran helped to orchestrate the account:

Havlish experts specifically conclude that the evidence is clear and convincing that Iran materially supported al Qaeda. Although each of the Havlish experts’ affidavits speaks for itself, two passages fairly summarize their views: It is our expert opinion to a reasonable degree of professional certainty that the Iranian Regime’s use of terror and, specifically, its material support of al Qaeda in multiple terrorist attacks, including 9/11, is beyond question.
The initial suit [text, PDF], Havlish v. Bin Laden [materials] was filed in 2002. Plaintiffs seek a default judgment since Iran has not mounted a defense, and $100 billion in damages, but have stated that their principal focus is the US admitting Iran’s involvement and mounting further investigations to that effect.

Previous attempts to indict other nations in the 9/11 attacks through litigation have failed. Two years ago, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit dismissed a lawsuit [JURIST report] brought by survivors of the 9/11 attacks against the nation of Saudi Arabia and four of its princes, ruling that the defendants were protected from prosecution under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 [text]. The appeals court upheld a 2005 ruling [JURIST report] by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiffs in that case were suing more than 200 defendants who allegedly helped fund and support Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda. Casey allowed a claim to proceed against the Saudi Bin Laden Group [corporate website], the successor to a construction company founded by Bin Laden’s father, because additional discovery is necessary to determine whether the company “purposefully directed its activities at the United States.” This is the first such suit against Iran.

bilalr:

Dorothy Parvaz is free - The Al Jazeera journalist, who disappeared in Syria 19 days ago, is back in Doha.

bilalr:

Dorothy Parvaz is free - The Al Jazeera journalist, who disappeared in Syria 19 days ago, is back in Doha.

Al-Jazeera:

Al Jazeera demands release of journalist
DOHA, QATAR - Al Jazeera has been given information that journalist Dorothy Parvaz has been deported from Syria to Iran.
This information has come from Syrian officials, who had previously told Al Jazeera they were holding Dorothy in Damascus, and that she would be released.
An Al Jazeera spokesman said: “We have now received information that she is being held in Tehran. We are calling for information from the Iranian authorities, access to Dorothy, and for her immediate release. We have had no contact with Dorothy since she left Doha on 29 April and we are deeply concerned for her welfare.”
A statement from Dorothy’s family said: “Dorothy is a dearly loved daughter, sister and fiancée, and a committed journalist. It is now nearly two weeks since she was detained. We appeal once again for Dorothy to be released immediately and returned to us.”
Dorothy is an experienced journalist who joined Al Jazeera in 2010. She graduated from the University of British Columbia, obtained a masters from Arizona University, and held journalism fellowships at both Harvard and Cambridge. She previously worked as a columnist and feature writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Journalists have faced ever increasing restrictions in Syria since the protests began.
For a complete list of Dorothy’s feature articles on Al Jazeera, view her profile.

Al-Jazeera:

Al Jazeera demands release of journalist

DOHA, QATAR - Al Jazeera has been given information that journalist Dorothy Parvaz has been deported from Syria to Iran.

This information has come from Syrian officials, who had previously told Al Jazeera they were holding Dorothy in Damascus, and that she would be released.

An Al Jazeera spokesman said: “We have now received information that she is being held in Tehran. We are calling for information from the Iranian authorities, access to Dorothy, and for her immediate release. We have had no contact with Dorothy since she left Doha on 29 April and we are deeply concerned for her welfare.”

A statement from Dorothy’s family said: “Dorothy is a dearly loved daughter, sister and fiancée, and a committed journalist. It is now nearly two weeks since she was detained. We appeal once again for Dorothy to be released immediately and returned to us.”

Dorothy is an experienced journalist who joined Al Jazeera in 2010. She graduated from the University of British Columbia, obtained a masters from Arizona University, and held journalism fellowships at both Harvard and Cambridge. She previously worked as a columnist and feature writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Journalists have faced ever increasing restrictions in Syria since the protests began.

For a complete list of Dorothy’s feature articles on Al Jazeera, view her profile.

Gadaffi had al-Sadr killed and buried in Libya

Bloomberg:

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s regime has a matter days before it falls, Al-Hayat reported, citing Major Abdel Moneim al-Houni, a former member of Libya’s revolutionary command council who resigned as the country’s ambassador to the Arab League on Feb. 20.

Houni told the Saudi-owned newspaper that Imam Moussa al- Sadr, chairman of Lebanon’s Shiite Islamic Council, who went missing on a visit to Libya in August 1978, was killed and buried in the Sabha region in the southern part of the north African country. Houni said his brother-in-law, who was the pilot of Qaddafi’s private plane, was tasked with transporting Sadr’s to Sabha and was killed himself shortly after doing so to keep the crime secret.

Lebanon’s examining magistrate issued a summons in 2008 for Qaddafi to appear for questioning about Sadr. Relations between Libya and Lebanon were strained by the disappearance of the cleric and two of his aides. Libya has always maintained that Sadr left the country to Italy.

I wish more outlets were covering this - Bloomberg is the only non-Iranian or Lebanese source I could find.

Brief background: al-Sadr, an Iranian, helped found the Shi’a group Amal in Lebanon. Amal played a key role in that country’s 1975-90 civil war. In 2008, Lebanon indicted Gadaffi over al-Sadr’s disappearance. Al-Sadr’s niece is married to former Iranian president Mohamed Khatami, and Iraqi resistance leader Moqtada al-Sadr is his cousin.

theatlantic:

Senior officers in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have written a letter to their commanding officer demanding assurances that they will not be required to open fire on anti-government demonstrators… Following the recent violence that occurred during anti-government protests in Egypt, the officers argue that it is against the principles of Shi’ite Islamic law to use violence against their own people.

In a suggestion of a major split within the Islamic Republic’s ruling hierarchy over its handling of anti-government protests, the letter has been circulated widely throughout the ranks of the Revolutionary Guards, the body responsible for defending religious system. The letter, a copy of which has been seen by the Daily Telegraph, is addressed to Major Gen Mohammad Ali Jafari, the Guards’ commanding officer. It calls on Major Gen Jafari to issue guidance to both the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij paramilitary militia to use restraint when handling anti-government protests.

Read the full story at The Telegraph

"

This morning I discovered other elements to this sinister imaginary cabal. At around eleven o’clock, after a walk around the area of downtown north of Tahrir, I got into a cab and headed toward the Nile. Three times I found the road blocked by armed men demanding to see my passport, and twice they let me through with the usual apology for having to waylay me. On the third of these, the man roared with delight at seeing my foreign passport and began flipping through it, his eyes drawn first to the stamps with Arabic script. He called over others, and within seconds at least a dozen men in plain clothes surrounded me, two locking my arms behind my back, another threading his fingers tightly through a beltloop, and all the rest hooting with delight at having caught a real Iranian spy.

I have an Iranian stamp, a tourist visa from 2009. Like the United States, Iran includes a photo of the visa-holder on the visa itself. So they saw the visa, with all my biographical details and my photo and “Islamic Republic of Iran,” and thought they were looking at the passport information page of an Iranian citizen. Pretty soon I was being dragged through the street like a deformed farm animal, and the people around me were yelling “Iranian! Iranian!” while I cried out in my best English in protest. We passed two cafés, and no one even bothered to take a shisha pipe out of his mouth to inquire about me.

"

Suspected of being an Iranian spy, The Atlantic correspondent Graeme Wood was dragged through the streets of Cairo by an Egyptian mob.

Read his latest dispatch from the revolution here.

(via theatlantic)

(via theatlantic)

By DAVID COLE
Published: January 2, 2011

DID former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Tom Ridge, a former homeland security secretary, and Frances Townsend, a former national security adviser, all commit a federal crime last month in Paris when they spoke in support of the Mujahedeen Khalq at a conference organized by the Iranian opposition group’s advocates? Free speech, right? Not necessarily.

The problem is that the United States government has labeled the Mujahedeen Khalq a “foreign terrorist organization,” making it a crime to provide it, directly or indirectly, with any material support. And, according to the Justice Department under Mr. Mukasey himself, as well as under the current attorney general, Eric Holder, material support includes not only cash and other tangible aid, but also speech coordinated with a “foreign terrorist organization” for its benefit. It is therefore a felony, the government has argued, to file an amicus brief on behalf of a “terrorist” group, to engage in public advocacy to challenge a group’s “terrorist” designation or even to encourage peaceful avenues for redress of grievances.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe Mr. Mukasey and his compatriots had every right to say what they did. Indeed, I argued just that in the Supreme Court, on behalf of the Los Angeles-based Humanitarian Law Project, which fought for more than a decade in American courts for its right to teach the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Turkey how to bring human rights claims before the United Nations, and to assist them in peace overtures to the Turkish government.

But in June, the Supreme Court ruled against us, stating that all such speech could be prohibited, because it might indirectly support the group’s terrorist activity. Chief Justice John Roberts reasoned that a terrorist group might use human rights advocacy training to file harassing claims, that it might use peacemaking assistance as a cover while re-arming itself, and that such speech could contribute to the group’s “legitimacy,” and thus increase its ability to obtain support elsewhere that could be turned to terrorist ends. Under the court’s decision, former President Jimmy Carter’s election monitoring team could be prosecuted for meeting with and advising Hezbollah during the 2009 Lebanese elections.

The government has similarly argued that providing legitimate humanitarian aid to victims of war or natural disasters is a crime if provided to or coordinated with a group labeled as a “foreign terrorist organization” — even if there is no other way to get the aid to the region in need. Yet The Times recently reported that the Treasury Department, under a provision ostensibly intended for humanitarian aid, was secretly granting licenses to American businesses to sell billions of dollars worth of food and goods to the very countries we have blockaded for their support of terrorism. Some of the “humanitarian aid” exempted? Cigarettes, popcorn and chewing gum.

Under current law, it seems, the right to make profits is more sacrosanct than the right to petition for peace, and the need to placate American businesses more compelling than the need to provide food and shelter to earthquake victims and war refugees.

Congress should reform the laws governing material support of terrorism. It should make clear that speech advocating only lawful, nonviolent activities — as Michael Mukasey and Rudolph Giuliani did in Paris — is not a crime. The First Amendment protects even speech advocating criminal activity, unless it is intended and likely to incite imminent lawless conduct. The risk that speech advocating peace and human rights would further terrorism is so remote that it cannot outweigh the indispensable value of protecting dissent.

At the same time, Congress also needs to reform the humanitarian aid exemption. It should state clearly that corporate interests in making profits from cigarettes are not sufficient to warrant exemptions from sanctions on state sponsors of terrorism. But Congress should also protect the provision of legitimate humanitarian aid — food, water, medical aid and shelter — in response to wars or natural disasters. Genuine humanitarian aid and free speech can and should be preserved without undermining our interests in security.

David Cole is a law professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

Well, it looks like several of my undergrad and grad school papers, as well as my Master’s thesis, will get me convicted of treason….

I hate this court.