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 (via • follow)
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.
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.
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.
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.