Friday, December 30, 2005

Is Washington planning a military strike against Iran?

Spiegel - Recent reports in the German media suggest that the United States may be preparing its allies for an imminent military strike against facilities that are part of Iran's suspected clandestine nuclear weapons program.

It's hardly news that US President George Bush refuses to rule out possible military action against Iran if Tehran continues to pursue its controversial nuclear ambitions. But in Germany, speculation is mounting that Washington is preparing to carry out air strikes against suspected Iranian nuclear sites perhaps even as soon as early 2006.

The most talked about story is a Dec. 23 piece by the German news agency DDP from journalist and intelligence expert Udo Ulfkotte.According to Ulfkotte's report, "western security sources" claim that during CIA Director Porter Goss' Dec. 12 visit to Ankara, he asked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to provide support for a possibile 2006 air strike against Iranian nuclear and military facilities. More specifically, Goss is said to have asked Turkey to provide unfettered exchange of intelligence that could help with a mission.

DDP also reported that the governments of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman and Pakistan have been informed in recent weeks of Washington's military plans. The countries, apparently, were told that air strikes were a "possible option," but they were given no specific timeframe for the operations.

In a report published on Wednesday, the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel also cited NATO intelligence sources claiming that Washington's western allies had been informed that the United States is currently investigating all possibilities of bringing the mullah-led regime into line, including military options.

More...

Former Syrian VP says Hariri threatened

AP - Former Syrian Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam, a one-time stalwart of the ruling Baath Party, said on Friday that former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri was threatened by Syria months before he was assassinated.

Khaddam made the claim as he declared a formal break with President Bashar Assad in a television interview from Paris, citing corruption within the regime and its failure to reform.

"Hariri was subjected to many threats from Syria. ... Dangerous things were said. Once he was summoned to Damascus ... and spoken to in extremely harsh words by President Bashar Assad," Khaddam said in the interview with Al-Arabiya, the pan-Arab satellite broadcaster, his first since he left Syria several months ago.

More...

Also:

Abdel Halim Khaddam Speaks up against Syrian Regime - Lebanese political journal

Kash reports: Today's press clippings

  • Times of London - What kind of foreign policy is this?: Washington’s confusion over Iraq is now reflected in its incoherent attitude to Syria

  • Wall Street journal - Right Islam vs. Wrong Islam: Muslims and non-Muslims must unite to defeat the Wahhabi ideology.

  • L.A. Times - The Sharon effect: Despite the repercussions of his mild stroke Dec. 18, Ariel Sharon dominates Israel's political landscape like a modern-day colossus, straddling two stunning realities that he himself helped to fashion.

Spielberg's 'Munich': A courageous effort well worth watching

By Kash Kheirkhah

Kash rates: 3/4

Steven Spielberg's 'Munich' opens by saying it is 'inspired' by a true story to caution us there might be scenes in it that don't necessarily match the real chain of events that followed the Munich massacre. But that doesn't stop me from calling it a great movie because it still manages to get its message across and that message is what this movie is all about.

'Munich' is a very audacious effort by Steven Spielberg who, although being a prominent Jew himself, finds a decent place in the middle of this age-old conflict and blames both the Israelis and Palestinians equally for their share in perpetuating the cycle of violence.

For over 35 years now a violent response from either side has 'justified' further attacks from the other in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Has it brought us any closer to peace ? No and we already know that but Spielberg's courageous attempt expresses this 'no' through the experience of a character who begins his mission with full faith in what he does only to end up questioning his own motives. The transformation 'Avner', a Mossad agent and the main character of the movie goes through is of the same nature that has now brought two old foes Shimon Perez and Ariel Sharon together in one party and placed them at the same negotiating table with President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas.

Spielberg's prayer for peace definitely commands our respect for it's one every peace-loving human being is willing to share with him.

ABC's Bob Woodruff set to broadcast from Iran

Reuters - ABC News' "World News Tonight" will kick off its new format Tuesday with co-anchor Bob Woodruff reporting from Iran.

Woodruff, a senior producer, a producer and two crews were scheduled to arrive late Thursday in Tehran. He left New York late Wednesday after anchoring "World News Tonight," bound for Paris and then on to the Iranian capital.

Plans call for Woodruff to report for "World News Tonight" beginning Tuesday, the first official day of his dual anchorship with Elizabeth Vargas. Vargas will anchor "World News Tonight" from New York on Tuesday, while Woodruff will contribute reports from Iran.

"It's one of the most important countries in the world right now. It's a regional powerhouse," Woodruff said. "It's a country we need to understand. It's big, it's powerful, it's wealthy, and it's right next to Iraq."

More...

Iran & Middle East: Latest headlines

  • Iraq: Accordance, rather than elections will decide the shape of the new Iraqi government- Iraq the model.

  • Lebanon: Judge Investigating Bank al Medina Beaten, Left for Dead - Lebanese Political Journal: it is believed that Khoury is targeted because he is investigating the multimillion dollar Bank al Madina scandal in which former Syrian overlord Rustom Ghazale is a prime suspect...

  • Egypt: U.S. Warns Egypt of Damaged Relations - Washington Post: The United States warned Thursday of potential damage to U.S.-Egyptian relations unless President Hosni Mubarak's government relaxes its hard line against a defeated presidential candidate...

Commentaries:

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The year in pictures (1)


Prior to the Dubai Duty Free Men's Open, tennis legend Andre Agassi and the No. 1-ranked Roger Federer of Switzerland couldn't resist the temptation to have a friendly 'hit' on the world's most unique tennis court, the Helipad of the Burj Al Arab luxury hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (David Cannon for Dubai Duty Free/Getty Images)

Ahmadinejad is no Shah and wears no turban

Iran va Jahan - For heaven’s sake to compare Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a shah (king) with a turban not only reveals Mr Friedman’s blindspot but also his apparent lack of understanding of Iran’s historical and religious makeup. Firstly, the new president is, despite his messianic tendencies and conversations with the Hidden Imam, a non-cleric. Even if he were a cleric, no true Islamic theologian would allow him to wear religious garb let alone carry the turban of a holy man. Secondly, comparisons to the Shah, is an unfair attempt to downplay the key role played by Iranian monarchs in the past 25 centuries. Whilst lacking in democratic virtues, many shahs characterized their rule by establishing their authority and the stability required for the flourishing of art, religion, education and material and cultural advancement.

But perhaps, Mr Friedman was drawing comparisons with the last Shah of Iran whose 37 year rule has so easily been written-off as has his positive accomplishments. This too, is misleading. True, at worst, the proud Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi may be criticised for his ambitious dreams for a modern Iran and falling from power, but he will also be remembered for promoting a civil society and a culture of tolerance practiced by his ancestors.

More...

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Bush administration policy toward Iran: No agreed-upon approach of any kind

Christopher Hitchens, Slate - If you want to know what the Bush administration policy is toward Iran, you will have to keep asking (and if you manage to find anything out, please let me know). After almost five years in office, there is no "go-to" person or department, no strategy in common with allies or with the United Nations, no agreed-upon approach of any kind. One gathers that military options have been excluded, for either regime-change or disarmament, but then one could probably have "gathered" that for oneself.

This appears to leave only two options: either a Nixon/China-style initiative that would try for state-level rapprochement and simultaneous economic and cultural openings, or an aggressive policy of helping internal opposition to the regime. The two might not be mutually exclusive. Millions of Iranians have satellite dishes and relatives in the West; there is a large and restive Kurdish minority that has been much encouraged by developments in Iraq; feminist and other dissident movements are extensive. It is sometimes argued that such groups do not want to be seen or painted as agents of the U.S. government. Very well, then, here is a great project for American human-rights and pro-disarmament and "civil society" groups to undertake. Whatever the case, it cannot be that such a despotic and arrogant regime feels that it can meddle everywhere without any cost to itself.

More...

Monday, December 26, 2005

Shoot-out in downtown Toronto (update)

Tragic news coming out of Toronto:

Canadian Press - Five people were wounded by gunfire - two seriously - and were taken to hospital after the late-afternoon shooting amid hundreds of shoppers on bustling Yonge Street near the popular Eaton Centre shopping mall...Two other brazen shootings have taken place this year in the same area, which is popular with tourists but not usually known for violence. On a Saturday night in late July, a man was fatally shot in a crowd of about 1,000 people at Dundas Square despite a heavy police presence.

Believe it or not, this morning I was EXACTLY at the same spot checking out the stores, including Eaton Center opposite Dundas subway exit before I left Toronto.

Too spooky for wards I guess...

Update - Tuesday: Police now say that two groups of young people in their late teens to early 20s got in an argument and began shooting. As many as 10 to 15 people were involved in the shootout amidst the countless shoppers who lined a part of Yonge Street in downtown, outside Footlocker and across the street from Sam The Record Man and Future Shop stores.

I was really impressed with Toronto, its vibrant mood and its kind residents. It's really difficult to believe such a horrendous crime can ever happen in such a big crowd of people and despite heavy police presence in downtown. This also makes me wonder if Canada is really prepared against any possible terrorist attacks in the future.

Reining in Iran

Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Senate Majority Leader - Iran's ruling mullahs have waged a 26-year campaign to suppress dissent, support terror and pursue a nuclear weapons program. In recent weeks, it has become clear that international efforts to stop Iran's atomic program have failed to bear fruit. Unless we act quickly, the United States will have a nuclear crisis on its hands.

Today's Iran presents a sharp contrast between a ruling class hostile to the world and a populace ready to rejoin the global community. The Iranian people's desire for freedom, however, hasn't stopped the nation's leaders from trying to build a fearsome arsenal.

...If we let Tehran develop nuclear weapons covertly while IAEA negotiations slog forward, Iran's theocrats will have little reason to negotiate with anyone. The U.S. needs to act before a regime that has denied the real Holocaust unleashes another.

More...

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Turkish court: Iran is terrorist state

The Jerusalem Post - Following years of investigations based on intelligence reports, a Turkish court declared on Friday that terrorism is the instrument of Iran's foreign policy and that Teheran will not hesitate to use terrorism against its rivals in order to achieve its goals.

The Ankara court made public a key report detailing the parts played by nine Islamist militants in a long-running case over the murders of four prominent, pro-secular intellectual writers in the 1990s. According to the report, neighboring Iran deliberately trained Turkish Islamist radicals and supported terrorist activities aimed at undermining Turkey's strictly secular order.

"Terrorism, which is an instrument of Iran's foreign policy, has been frequently used by that country against Turkey because Teheran sees Turkey as a major rival in the region," the court document said.

More...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Shah with a turban

Thomas Friedman, New York Times - I'd like to thank Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for his observation that the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews was just a "myth." You just don't see world leaders expressing themselves so honestly anymore — not about the Holocaust but about their own anti-Semitism and the real character of their regimes.

But since Iran's president has raised the subject of "myths," why stop with the Holocaust? Let's talk about Iran. Let's start with the myth that Iran is an Islamic "democracy" and that Ahmadinejad was democratically elected.

Sure he was elected — after all the Iranian reformers had their newspapers shut down, and parties and candidates were banned by the unelected clerics who really run the show in Tehran. Sorry, Ahmadinejad, they don't serve steak at vegetarian restaurants, they don't allow bikinis at nudist colonies, and they don't call it "democracy" when you ban your most popular rivals from running. So you are nothing more than a shah with a turban and a few crooked ballot boxes sprinkled around.

More...

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Iranian threat

The Washington Times - For American policymakers, it is difficult to think of any geopolitical challenges that are currently more troubling than the prospect that Islamic Republic of Iran -- already one of the most violent, paranoid regimes in the world -- could soon develop nuclear weapons.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has vowed that a wave of Palestinian attacks would destroy Israel, and has questioned whether the Holocaust took place. If these were just the demented ravings of a powerless lunatic, they could easily be dismissed as mere bluster. But the Islamist regime in Tehran must be taken seriously.

More...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Meet Osama bin Laden's niece

Sydney Morning herald - She's not the model niece Osama bin Laden's looking for - but she is modelling.

This is how Wafah Dufour, the al Qaeda leader's niece, will appear in the January 2006 issue of GQ magazine.

Dufour, who took her mother's maiden name after the terrorist attacks in the US on September 11, 2001, is an aspiring musician struggling to make a name for herself.

She says she has never met Osama bin Laden.

"Everyone relates me to that man, and I have nothing to do with him," she said in the article.

"There are 400 other people related to him, but they are all in Saudi Arabia, so nobody's going to get tarred with it.

"I'm the only one here."

Photo: Wafah Dufour as she appears in GQ. Reuters

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Editor's note

Come this Friday, I'll be out of town for a couple of days and most probably won't be able to update "Kash's Newsroom". My apologies for that to all you who stop by here everyday.

In the mean time, I wish all my Christian friends and readers a very merry Christmas and hope that the year 2006 will bring joy and good health to you, freedom to my country Iran and a long overdue family reunion to me and all those, who like me, have been away from their loved ones for a long, long time.

Brokeback Mountain: A forbidden love of a different kind


I don't know if you have also noticed the subtle similarity that exists between the posters for the movies Titanic and Brokeback Mountain. What amazed me even more tonight after watching Brokeback Mountain was that both movies talk about love-- a "forbidden" love that is.

Brokeback Mountain is the story of two cowboys who fall in love with each other and then embark on a tormenting 20-year journey to keep their flame burning without letting anyone on to their affair because they very well know (Heath Ledger's Character Ennis Delmar in particular) what dangerous consequences their "forbidden love" could have.

Roger Ebert, the most famous movie critic in the world, sums that point up perfectly:

"'Brokeback Mountain' has been described as 'a gay cowboy movie,' which is a cruel simplification. It is the story of a time and place where two men are forced to deny the only great passion either one will ever feel. Their tragedy is universal. It could be about two women, or lovers from different religious or ethnic groups -- any 'forbidden' love."

Nominated for seven Golden Globe awards, Brokeback Mountain will most probably emerge as the Oscar favorite, specially in Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor in a Leading Role catagories.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Interesting note

NY Times today has raised kind of a similar point to what I made a few days ago regarding Ahmadinejad's anti-Israeli rhetoric: While the Iranians have insisted that their nuclear program is geared toward energy, not weapons, there have been some signals that Iran feels it would be easier to move ahead if it were an international pariah, like North Korea. And what better way to achieve pariah status in the West than to call for the obliteration of Israel?

My commentary: Islamic republic of Iran has been feeding on regional and international crises for the past 27 years to survive. Without a crisis of international dimensions, there would be no hypothetical enemy for the Islamic government authorities to pin Iran's each and every single social, economic and political problem on. and what easier target than Israel for a regime desperate to create a new full-fledged crisis in the Middle East?

Read my piece "What goals is Ahmadinejad after by his anti-Israeli remarks" here.

Read NY Times piece "Iranian's oratory reflects devotion to '79 revolution" here.

Ahmadinejad bans what has already been non-existent

By Kash Kheirkhah

There are a couple of points missing amidst all this hoopla regarding Ahmadinejad's "Western music ban" order. To begin with, there hasn't been any real Western music on Iranian TV and radio stations for the past 27 years. What Ahmadinejad has ordered banned is nothing more than some old instrumental versions of such famous tunes as "Hotel California", most of Kenny G and Yanni's compositions and some rather fast-paced electronic music such as Jean Michel Jarre's used with sports clips on Iran's state-run radio and TV which is an organization as dismal as anything devised and run by Iran's Islamic regime. In fact, any semblance of adherence to West, including all kinds of Western music were dispensed with by the reactionary mullahs right at the beginning of the revolution as they sought to consolidate their power. Iran doesn't have any "Western music" radio or TV channel and has never had any since 1979. In this context, Ahmadinejad's order sounds completely meaningless.

Second, Although "Western music" has been dead on Iran's broadcast media for the past three decades, it has been completely alive and kicking at homes, car stereos and Iran's famous private parties. Now, In the age of Satellite and internet, when one, in just a matter of minutes, can download his favorite music, and where all the computer stores across the country secretly (and at times openly!) sell Western music mp3 collections, one would be a world-class dumb to look for his favorite Western music on Iran's IRIB (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting)!

When I was a teenager, I had no access to any source of Western music other than my noise-filled shortwave radio ( although that same radio is why I like Queen's "Radio Ga Ga" so much!). However, my thirst for Western music and my motivation to oppose mullahs' nonsensical music policy were both so huge that now I know more about Pop, Rock and Country music than most of my Canadian and American friends do. For Mr Ahmadinejad's information, anytime his regime bans something, if anything the opposite result seems to be achieved!

Ahmadinejad once again is playing with the world's media, using them as his propaganda machine. Being fully aware of the world's growing sensitivity to his antics these days and in keeping with the ideology of his religious set, he is just adopting a virulently hardline stance that is aimed at solidifying his image as a dyed-in-the-wool extremist.

Having said all that, I believe there will come a day when the Iranian people will have to make their final choice between their country and a radical regime led by an anachronistic extremist who is clearly on the path of steering Iran toward a disaster.

Also read:

What goals is Ahmadinejad after by his anti-Israeli remarks?

I'll tell you who Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn't represent us true Iranians

The quest for freedom remains unchecked

George Melloan, The Wall Street Journal - Freedom House in New York yesterday released its annual report on how many people live in free societies. The news was once again good, with 27 countries and one territory showing gains and only nine showing setbacks. "The past year was one of the most successful for freedom since Freedom House began measuring world freedom in 1972," the report said.

...If the Iraqis and Afghans pull through under far more serious and lethal pressures and establish reasonably stable governments and economic bases, Mr. Bush will have won his big gamble in taking the war on terror to the places where terrorism is hatched. There will still be Iran and Syria to deal with, but the tide will have turned in the U.S. favor. The people of the Middle East will have won as well, gaining the promise of a better future.

That kind of future is being sought, particularly by young people, in benighted places all around the world. In such diverse societies as Belarus, Cuba and China -- as well as Iran -- there is ferment below the surface. New generations are becoming more politically conscious and increasingly aware that they are being denied their human dignity and individuality. Access to modern means of communication allows them to see how the other half of the world lives, not only in a material sense but in freedom from the fear of violence and abuse practiced by ruling thugs. It is not easy to overthrow police states, but it isn't easy either for politicians to rule people who resent brutal dominance.

More...

The whole awful regime will come crashing down

Simon Tisdall , Guardian - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's hostile jibes at Israel have caused almost universal offence. But Iran-watchers are divided over whether the president's statements mark a dangerous shift in Tehran's international outlook or form part of an internal power struggle.

But the most likely rational explanation for his behaviour was domestic political weakness, the British official said. His bid to purify the revolution had stirred up stiff opposition from old guard conservatives, reformists (who call his policies delusional) and corrupt "clerical oligarchs" who run the powerful bonyads - lucrative semi-official business enterprises which Mr Ahmadinejad wants to rein in.

Mr Ahmadinejad was trying "to be more religious than the mullahs", the official said. "But he is very naive. He has thrown away a lot of support by not delivering on his promises to ordinary people. This is all about internal dynamics. It's not Iran versus the west, it's Iran versus Iran.

And the more it goes on, the more likely the whole awful regime will come crashing down."

More...

Monday, December 19, 2005

In the Mideast, Democratic Momentum

Jackson Diehl, Washington Post - Amid all the noise of suicide bombings, talk of a quagmire for U.S. troops and a sectarian conflict that could lead to Iraq's disintegration, most people haven't noticed that in the rest of the Arab Middle East, the political momentum of the past year has been . . . distinctly democratic.

"There's enough going in the right direction . . . that I am one of those who believes that the intervention in Iraq will be good for democracy in the region in the middle term," is the way Mark Malloch Brown, the witty chief of staff to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, puts it. "I'm just not sure it will be good for democracy in Iraq."

With the world focused on Iraq's troubles, naysayers who insist that there has been no positive change, or even that the situation has grown worse, mostly aren't contradicted. Yet any honest examination of the Arab world shows that the transformation Bush called for on the eve of the war in 2003 got closer in 2005.

More...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

TIME: People who mattered 2005


TIME - He is an unlikely firebrand: the soft-spoken son of a blacksmith who still sometimes drives a 30-year-old Peugeot. But Iran's new President doesn't shrink from controversy. After winning a disputed election, he said he would continue Iran's nuclear program, called the Holocaust a "myth" and pledged to destroy Israel. Even some of the nation's ruling clerics are nervous about what he will do next...

The rest of the people who mattered 2005: George Bush & Dick Cheney, John Roberts, John McCain & Harry Reid, Tom Delay, Joseph Wilson & Valeri Plame, Patrick Fitzgerald, Cindy Sheehan, Ray nagin, Condoleezza Rice, Tony Blair, Pope Benedict XVI, The Google Guys, Steve Jobs, Geena Davis, Darth Vader, Kanye West, Michelle Wie

TIME's Persons of the year: For being shrewd about doing good, for rewiring politics and re-engineering justice, for making mercy smarter and hope strategic and then daring the rest of us to follow, Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono are TIME's Persons of the Year...

The Da Vinci Code


Newsweek: The most popular—and controversial—novel of our time hits the screen in May. An exclusive report on the second coming of 'The Da Vinci Code.'

If you're not one of the 25 million people worldwide who have read "The Da Vinci Code," you have six months to get caught up before the movie opens on May 19, 2006. You'll need a day or two, tops. Brown's frantic, addictive novel, about a Harvard symbology professor named Robert Langdon who gets embroiled in a murder mystery of Biblical proportions, is a combination thriller, religious manifesto and art-history lecture, with chapters about as long as a takeout menu. Since it was published in 2003, the book has become a global industry, spawning everything from critical documentaries to reverential bus tours.

More...

Friday, December 16, 2005

In Iran, Arming for Armageddon

Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post:
...The president of a country about to go nuclear is a confirmed believer in the coming apocalypse. Like Judaism and Christianity, Shiite Islam has its own version of the messianic return -- the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam. The more devout believers in Iran pray at the Jamkaran mosque, which houses a well from which, some believe, he will emerge.

To be sure, there are such madmen among the other monotheisms. The Temple Mount Faithful in Israel would like the al-Aqsa mosque on Jerusalem's Temple Mount destroyed to make way for the third Jewish Temple and the messianic era. The difference with Iran, however, is that there are all of about 50 of these nuts in Israel, and none of them is president.

After his U.N. speech in September, Ahmadinejad was caught on videotape telling a cleric that during the speech an aura, a halo, appeared around his head right on the podium of the General Assembly. "I felt the atmosphere suddenly change. And for those 27 or 28 minutes, the leaders of the world did not blink. . . . It seemed as if a hand was holding them there, and it opened their eyes to receive the message from the Islamic Republic."

Negotiations to deny this certifiable lunatic genocidal weapons have been going nowhere. Everyone knows they will go nowhere. And no one will do anything about it.

More...

Also:

President Bush: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad an 'odd guy'

One of the real issues we're gonna have to deal with, and are dealing with is Iran. Iran is a threat...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

What goals is Ahmadinejad after by his anti-Israeli remarks?

Kash Kheirkhah

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments on Israel today are the third time since his June election that he has picked on Israel. In October, he called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." Last week in Saudi Arabia, he expressed doubt on whether the Holocaust took place and suggested Europe make land for a Jewish state if it felt guilty about it. This morning he went a step further, calling the Nazi Holocaust a "myth" used as a pretext for carving out a Jewish state in the heart of the Muslim world and once again asked Israel to be moved--this time-- to a place as far away as Alaska.

What goal is Ahmadinejad pursuing with such unfortunate, hate-mongering remarks?

Well, in my opinion, Ahmadinejad's strategy is three-fold:

First, Islamic republic of Iran has been feeding on regional and international crises for the past 27 years to survive. Without a crisis of international dimensions, there would be no hypothetical enemy for the Islamic government authorities to pin Iran's each and every single social, economic and political problem on and what easier target than Israel for a regime desperate to create a new full-fledged crisis in the Middle East?

Second, one of Iran's most important official policy lines for the past 27 years has been derailing the Middle East peace process. The recent unprecedented progress between Israelis and the Palestinians has certainly alarmed Iran. By questioning Israelis' right of existence and calling Holocaust-- one of the most sensitive and serious topics for Jews-- "a myth", Ahmadinejad is trying to affect the outcome of Israel's upcoming election. He very well knows that by scaring the Israeli public, he'll raise the winning chances of Likud hardliners who are opposed to the current peace deals with Palestinians.

Last but not least, Ahmadinejad's ultimate goal goes well beyond the above-mentioned reasons . In light of Iran's pursuit of nuclear technology, Ahmadinejad hopes his comments can trigger an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities similar to the one on Osirak in Iraq in 1981. Such an incident will play perfectly into his hands because first, it'll allow Iran to activate all Iranian-backed sleeper cells in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories and declare a"Jihad" on Israel for a justifiable cause and second, it'll create a crisis of un-precedented magnitude that, according to Ahmadinejad's now famous religious ideology, will set the stage for the re-appearance of Shiites' 12th Imam.

Also Read:

The Australian - Hamas vows revenge if Iran attacked

Kash Kheirkhah - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn't represent us true Iranians

Human Rights Watch: Iran's top ministers implicated in serious abuses


(New York, December 15, 2005) - Iran's new Minister of Interior is implicated in grave human rights violations over the past two decades, possibly including crimes against humanity in connection with the massacre of thousands of political prisoners, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper released today.

The briefing paper, Ministers of Murder: Iran's New Security Cabinet, details credible allegations that Minister of Interior Mustafa Pour-Mohammadi and Minister of Information Gholamhussein Mohseni Ezhei were involved in extremely serious and systematic human rights violations over the past two decades. It's completely unacceptable that men with such records would be serving in Iran's government, said Joe Stork deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. They should be removed from their posts and investigated for these terrible crimes.

More...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The murder of a journalist

Lebanese politician and the former editor and publisher of An-Nahar daily newspaper in Beirut, Lebanon was assassinated by a car bomb on December 12, 2005. Tueni's assassination coincided with the release of the second progress report of a United Nations inquiry into Syria's involvement in the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. The following extracts are from an article published today in Wall Street Journal in memory of Gebran Tueni:

...Gebran Tueni's defiance of despotic rule extended not only to Syrian occupation but to the presence of Hezbollah in Lebanese politics. He described Hezbollah as "an imported product from Iran. It has nothing to do with Lebanese identity." He went on to explain that Hezbollah is "a direct threat, acting in Lebanon like a state within a state," with "weapons everywhere." Hezbollah, he said, builds schools, hospitals, provides free education to children of poor families -- "but what are they teaching?" Hezbollah's strategy, he said, "is to transform us into an Islamic republic." Tueni described Iran as providing the weapons and the funding, and Syria as providing the cover.

...He said he expected a wave of Syrian-backed "assassinations, booby-trapped cars," but did not think that could stop Lebanon's democratic movement: "They can kill one, two, three of us," but then they are "finished." He paused and smiled, "Better," he said, if they stop at "one." They didn't. Gebran Tueni has now become the latest victim in a series of terrorist bombings that are an assault not only on Lebanese democracy, but on all those in the Middle East -- or anywhere else, for that matter -- who believe government should be a civil compact, not a rule of violence and fear. The urgent question by now is not only who precisely gave the order or laid the bomb, but who will act to put an end to this terror, and how.

More...

Democracy in the Middle East: A realistic ambition or a pipe dream?

By Kash Kheirkhah

US Secretary of States Condoleezza Rice's op-ed in Sunday's Washington Post is a clear acknowledgement of the inefficiency of what the US Secretary of States refers to as " US doctrines and debates of the past" toward the region which has now become the world's hotbed of terrorism :

The Middle East.For more than half a century, U.S. Foreign policy in the Middle East was based on "maintaining the status quo". Under the specter of Cold War, pro-Americanism in foreign policy turned into the only criteria by which the US measured its relationship with the local regimes. All they were required to do was make sure US economic and political interests in the region were protected against the immediate threat of Soviet Union. In return, Washington's post-World War policy of spreading the "cause of freedom" would take a back seat to the oppressive domestic policies of these regimes.

This unfortunate US diplomacy toward the Middle Eastern regimes step by tragic step led to what Dr Rice calls the "freedom deficit", a deficit which most unfortunately has, over time, turned the Middle East into a breeding ground for unprovoked terror and blind ideological hatred:


"The 'freedom deficit' in the broader Middle East provides fertile ground for the growth of an ideology of hatred so vicious and virulent that it leads people to strap suicide bombs to their bodies and fly airplanes into buildings. When the citizens of this region cannot advance their interests and redress their grievances through an open political process, they retreat hopelessly into the shadows to be preyed upon by evil men with violent designs. In these societies, it is illusory to encourage economic reform by itself and hope that the freedom deficit will work itself out over time."

What opened the US eyes to the failures of its previous doctrine and subsequently caused a major shift in US foreign policy approach toward the Middle East, in particular, was the tragedy of 9/11 which proved the US could no longer ensure its own national security without changing the "status quo" in the Middle East.

The Greater Middle Eastern Initiative was born into existence in late 2003 with that vision in mind : To promote democracy and good governance, build a knowledge society; and expand economic opportunities in the world's most vulnerable region to poverty, corruption, ethnic conflicts and radical ideologies. To quote Dr Rice again:


"Our experience of this new world leads us to conclude that the fundamental character of regimes matters more today than the international distribution of power. Insisting otherwise is imprudent and impractical. The goal of our statecraft is to help create a world of democratic, well-governed states that can meet the needs of their citizens and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system."

It is far too soon for any certainties about the ultimate outcome of the US ambitious vision for the Middle East. In Iraq, a brutal insurgency is still doing all it can to wreak havoc with a democratically-elected government. Syria is still defiant of international demands to stop sponsoring terrorism in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestinian territories, and Iran is still pursuing its nuclear plans and continue to suppress its people and their wish for freedom and democracy.

Still, considering what we have seen happening in much of the region in the past two years, the Greater Middle East is definitely entering a new era of reform. It could take years if not decades to replace a culture of despotism and terror with one of freedom and democracy but the process that started with regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq could come to fruition in the not too distant future, if the United States stands firm on its promise of helping the peoples of the Middle East build their own democracies and "govern themselves in liberty."

Update - President Bush: "Elections in Iraq, a watershed moment in the story of freedom."

...The story of freedom has just begun in the Middle East. And when the history of these days is written, it will tell how America once again defended its own freedom by using liberty to transform nations from bitter foes to strong allies. And history will say that this generation, like generations before, laid the foundation of peace for generations.
to come.

More...

Sharon's spokesperson: Israel has the means to bring about the downfall of extremist Iranian regime

Israel urged the world to "open its eyes" to the Iranian regime and its nuclear programme after its outspoken president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described the Holocaust as a "myth". Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman pledged that Israel had the means to defend itself and would not allow for a second genocide of Jews.

"Thank God, Israel has the means at its disposal to bring about the downfall of this extremist regime in Iran. There will be no second 'final solution'," Sharon's spokesman Raanan Gissin said.

More...

Also:

Bush: 'Axis of evil' member Iran is 'real threat'

Rice: Iran is a problem that should be dealt with

71% of Iraqis feel good about their personal situation

Will Thursday's vote make political relationships any clearer in Iraq than the election last January? A survey conducted by SPIEGEL -- along with the US broadcaster ABC News and other international media partners in Iraq -- suggests that a high voter turnout can be expected.

Conducted by Oxford University and the University of Baghdad, the survey suggests a solid commitment to democracy; 6 out of 10 Iraqis prefer a democratic system to some sort of rule by an Islamic leader.

More...

To see the result of the survey click here.

Police seize forged ballots headed to Iraq from Iran

NY Times - Less than two days before nationwide elections, the Iraqi border police seized a tanker on Tuesday that had just crossed from Iran filled with thousands of forged ballots, an official at the Interior Ministry said.

The tanker was seized in the evening by agents with the American-trained border protection force at the Iraqi town of Badra, after crossing at Munthirya on the Iraqi border, the official said. According to the Iraqi official, the border police found several thousand partly completed ballots inside.

More...

Also in the news: Ahmadinejad denies Holocaust

TEHRAN, Iran - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad escalated his anti-Israeli rhetoric Wednesday, calling the Holocaust a "myth" used by Europeans to create a Jewish state in the heart of the Islamic world.

"Today, they have created a myth in the name of Holocaust and consider it to be above God, religion and the prophets," Ahmadinejad told thousands of people in the southeastern city of Zahedan.

More...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Italian court orders Iran asset freeze

Financial Times - A court in Italy has ordered the freezing of an Iranian government account held in a Rome bank in what lawyers say represents an unprecedented legal victory for three US families seeking compensation from Iran for its alleged support of Palestinian suicide bombings that killed their relatives.

Lawyers and activists in Washington said their success in Italy was likely to be followed by similar cases against Iran in other courts in Europe and possibly Asia. The ruling could also open the floodgates to similar civil cases against the Islamic regime and other states accused by the US of sponsoring terror.

More...

"Good Night, and Good Luck" named best film of 2005 by the National Board of Review


Reuters - George Clooney's McCarthy-era drama "Good Night, and Good Luck" was named best film of 2005 by the National Board of Review on Monday in the latest pre-Oscar award that helps narrow the field for the big prize.

Set in the 1950s and filmed in black and white, the film directed by Clooney chronicles the real-life conflict between television newsman Edward R. Murrow and Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

More...

Also: Click here to see Golden Globes nominations.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Syriana: An all too familiar story of political intrigue over Middle Eastern oil



By Kash Kheirkhah

Syriana, Hollywood's latest political thriller which has dominated movie headlines since its limited release in November, was finally opened to public this weekend. Was it worth the wait? Before answering that question, let's get down to the nitty gritty of the movie.

First off, there are still so many questions as to what "Syriana" means . Well, according to news sources such as the Washington Post, Syriana is a Washington think-tanky term to describe a hypothetical reshaping of the Middle East. As for the plot of the movie, it centers around the following characters and storylines:

Bob Barnes (George Clooney), a covert CIA operative and an expert in the Middle Eastern affairs who can speak perfect Farsi and Arabic. He completes his mission in Iran (which seemingly is gathering intelligence on the prospects of change in Iran's political system and the struggle between the reformers and hardliners) and returns to Washington.

Connex, a major US oil company in Texas, which loses a huge oil contract to the Chinese in the Persian Gulf. In the meantime, a smaller American oil company surprisingly secures a very lucrative deal to tap into the untouched oil fields of Kazakhstan. Connex decides to merge with the minor league oil company to maintain its presence in the region's oil fields but first decides to launch its own investigation into whether the company bribed Kazakh officials to win the deal; a violation of the US Corrupt practices act that could trigger a Justice Department investigation and eventually block the merger. To avoid such a scenario, Connex hires a Washington-based attorney to conduct a separate investigation, before the Justice Department digs up any dirt.

A young Pakistani oil worker who's laid off as a result of the merger and faces deportation. To both learn Arabic and avoid being deported, he enrolls in a madras and then is recruited by a radical Muslim terrorist organization.

An Arab king and his two sons, Prince Nasir--a visionary and reformer who wishes to establish democracy in his country through parliamentary elections and give women the right to vote--and his less-qualified, more pro-American younger brother.

Energy expert and financial consultant, Bryan Woodman (Matt Damon) in Geneva who later becomes Prince Nasir's financial advisor.

These characters and storylines all run parallel to eachother and naturally converge as we progress toward the end of the movie, although I'm not gonna reveal the end in case you haven't seen the movie yet.

Syriana is a fine movie but it still leaves a lot to be desired. One reason could be that the movie involves a lot of plots none of which get enough screen time to develop as well as they should in such a complicated story. For example:

How is Iran weaved into the main plot of the story? Except for the opening of the movie which shows Barnes at a party in Tehran, the other references to Iran seemed redundant and unrelated to the main plots. Barnes is said to speak Farsi (Persian) fluently but Clooney doesn't even speak a word (He is shown speaking Arabic in Lebanon though).

The timeline of the movie is yet another puzzle I couldn't finally figure out. The CIA officer does refer to 9/11 whereas we see Bill Clinton photo as the President of the United States. The Bush administration put Iran on its axis of evil nations list soon after 9/11, thus abandoning any hopes of a possible breakthrough from within the Iranian regime. In the movie, the Committee for Liberating Iran is still counting on Khatami and the reformers to wrestle the power out of the hands of the conservative Ayatollahs and lead Iran toward a secular democracy.

And as for the Arab king and his two sons, the movie is obviously referring to Saudi Arabia in a very superficial way. The politics of Saudi Arabia's royal court are much more complicated to be only limited to an ailing king and his two princes vacationing in Europe.

Finally, the movie takes an indirect jab at the Bush administration, questioning the sincerity of its Greater Middle East Initiative which makes me ask the following questions:

One: If unemployment and radical education are two main elements in turning young, innocent Muslims to anti-western terrorists as the movie rightly claims, why should GMI whose some of its provisions are specifically aimed at building a knowledge society and expanding economic opportunities in the Middle East as against the status quo be frowned upon?

Two: Would the US oil corporation politics, underhanded oil dealings and US involvement in other governments be any different under any other administration?

So was "Syriana" worth the wait? I'd say to some extent yes, but I'd also say the movie tries to handle too much of the convoluted Middle Eastern politics in too little time. In doing so, it only scratches the surface, leaving us bereft of some intricate twists highly expected in thrillers of this kind. In that respect, "Syriana" is a let-down.

I'll tell you who Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is

By Kash Kheirkhah

Last week, Newsweek's Richard Ernsberger Jr. asked "Who is this mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a mystic, a bumbling political novice or an imminent threat to Iran's established order?"

Well, Mr Ernsberger, I believe Ahmadinejad's remarks about Israel in Saudi Arabia, on the sidelines of a summit ironically convened to show a Muslim front against terrorism, clearly show that he's none.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the pure embodiment of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He is everything Iran's Islamic regime and its terror-spreading ideology are about. He's not a threat to the establishment. He is the establishment. Oh yes, he is the real deal, like it or not.

It's really interesting to see Western leaders repeatedly expressing their absolute "shock" and "disbelief" over Ahmadinejad's hate-filled jargon and abrasive manners in the past couple of months. It's almost as if they have lived on another planet for the past 27 years.

For 27 long years, the West pleaded ignorance to Iranian leaders fatwaing killings, sending agents to cut up Iranian dissidents in Europe, funding terrorist organizations in the Middle East and openly encouraging Muslims to "sacrifice" their lives for "sacred goals" such as the annihilation of Israel.

But on top of all that, as West left Ayatollahs to their own devices, they--just like the artificially intelligent beings of the movie "Matrix"-- began to cast their ideological spell on the masses, using them as their source of power and destruction.

The result? Multiplication of thousands of brain-washed agents such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who have been created and raised at the hands of their Ayatollah mentors to export Iran's "Islamic revolution".

Remember what happened in New York, London, Madrid, Bali, Amman, Sharm-Al-Sheikh, then take a good look at what's happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and you'll see that "terror agents" are everywhere now.

"Iran's Islamic Revolution" has been successfully exported.

Surprised? Shocked?

well, I'm not.

Ahmadinejad and his likewise have been there for the past 27 years my Western friends.

you just chose not to see them.

Also read: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn't represent us true Iranians

Why Promoting Freedom Is the Only Realistic Path to Security

By Condoleezza Rice

...Though the broader Middle East has no history of democracy, this is not an excuse for doing nothing. If every action required a precedent, there would be no firsts. We are confident that democracy will succeed in this region not simply because we have faith in our principles but because the basic human longing for liberty and democratic rights has transformed our world. Dogmatic cynics and cultural determinists were once certain that "Asian values," or Latin culture, or Slavic despotism, or African tribalism would each render democracy impossible. But they were wrong, and our statecraft must now be guided by the undeniable truth that democracy is the only assurance of lasting peace and security between states, because it is the only guarantee of freedom and justice within states.

More...

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood Wed

AP - Country music stars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood said "I do" on Saturday in a private ceremony at their Oklahoma home

Brooks, an Oklahoma native, and Yearwood exchanged vows before family members, said Nancy Seltzer, a publicist for the couple.

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Mein Kampf, Iranian edition

Rocky Mountain News - ...This is good news. Not, of course, because Ahmadinejad is an anti-Semitic crusader who would like to destroy Israel. That is very bad news indeed. But there is nothing new about such a person landing at the top of the heap in Iran. Ayatollah Khomeini said much the same things a quarter century ago. And the man who has been the supreme leader of Iran since Khomeini's death, Ayatollah Khamenei, has similarly pledged to root out the "cancerous growth" of Israel.

The difference is that Ahmadinejad issues his pronouncements with such raw gusto that he seizes the world's attention. Countries as diverse as Germany, China, Turkey, Britain, Canada and of course the United States have condemned Ahmadinejad's statements, as have the U.N. Security Council and European Union. Suddenly it is no longer acceptable to ignore the festering danger lurking in Tehran. The only question is whether the world will do more than protest.

Read more...

BBC changes its Tehran Pollution story

In a surprising move and without any explanation, BBC News has retracted its Saturday morning "Pollution in tehran kills 100" headline and its lead paragraph, revamping it to "Hundreds treated over Tehran smog":

BBC News - More than 1,600 people have been taken to hospitals in Tehran as pollution in the Iranian capital reaches critical levels, health officials have said

And here's how BBC opened the original story early yesterday morning:

BBC News - More than 100 people have died after pollution in Tehran reached critical levels, health officials said.

Hospitals have reported more than 1,000 cases of heart attacks and breathing problems, while many residents are complaining of fatigue and headaches...It is estimated that up to 5,000 people die every year from air pollution in the city.

More...

Seems to me the first report hasn't been correct after all.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A night to remember


To me, a Canadian of Iranian extraction as I'm called !!! (well, why not? there are only a couple of weeks left!), there has never been anything more indicative of Canada than Bryan Adams, his soothing, raspy voice and his wonderful music.

Earlier tonight-- after going through a very rough couple of days--I finally managed to see the Canadian idol of my not too distant younger years live in concert and sing along with him the songs I have lived with since the very first moment I ever heard them.

Tonight Bryan Adams took me back to my early college years, when I sat up until 1 a.m. in the morning for VOA's Music and More broadcast to hear his "Everything I do, I do it for you", a number one hit in the UK for 16 consecutive weeks.

Then came along "Please forgive me" and subsequently, a string of memorable hits that not only got me and everyone in the family into his music, but turned us all into his biggest fans. There was not a single moment during the concert that I wasn't thinking about my siblings and hundreds of thousands of other Iranian fans of Bryan Adams who would have cherished every single moment of his spectacular show tonight .

That even more so after he ended the show saying "I hope you had a great evening tonight, but don't forget how wonderful it is to be free."

How could I forget?

Tonight I got away from it all with "Everything I do I do it for you", "Summer of 69", "Please forgive me", "I'm ready", "Back to you", "Cuts like a knife", "Cloud number nine"...

Tonight I was in "heaven".

Egypt vote sets path for change

BBC News - The Muslim Brotherhood has done better than anyone expected in the Egyptian elections. It has around six times as many seats as it did in the last parliament.

It is all bad news for the secular opposition parties. They managed to win only a handful of seats. Their failure demonstrates once again how hard it is for small groups of educated, middle-class activists to connect with the great mass of Egyptian voters...

More...

Related:

Jim Hoagland, Washington Post- Arabs' Two Fears: The U.S. and Radical Islam

Iran blamed over Tehran air crash-BBC


The authorities in Iran are facing bitter criticism over Tuesday's crash of an ageing military transport plane that killed about 110 people.

Reports say the plane had experienced technical problems all morning, causing the take-off to be delayed for hours.

Iranian media also say the pilot had asked twice to return to Mehrabad airport to make an emergency landing, but was refused because it was busy.

More...

May God bless their souls...

Tehran, IRAN: Iranian photographers and journalists mourn after identifying the bodies of their colleagues at Tehran's forensic department 07 December 2005, following yesterday's plane crash. The International Federation of Journalists called today for a probe into the crash of an Iranian military C-130 airplane, which the association described as the "worst-ever" accident involving journalists. The decrepit transport plane ploughed into a densely-populated area of Tehran 06 December killing 110 people, including 68 journalists on assignment to report on military exercises. AFP PHOTO/ATTA KENARE (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

To be an Iranian...

Tehran, IRAN: An Iranian woman cries for her son killed in a plane crash in southern Tehran 06 December 2005. At least 100 people were killed today when an aging Iranian military transport plane smashed into a smog-covered densely populated residential area of Tehran. Official media said all 94 passengers and crew of the C-130 -- bought from the United States before the Islamic revolution nearly three decades ago -- died in the crash next to a high-rise housing block and domestic gas supply depot. AFP PHOTO/HENGHAMEH FAHIMI (Photo credit should read HENGHAMEH FAHIMI/AFP/Getty Images


To be an Iranian...

To be an Iranian means being born into a country whose people have been suffering for ages.

To be an Iranian means losing loved ones to wars, execution, and exile.

To be an Iranian means grieving for untimely deaths and weeping for unfulfilled dreams.

To be an Iranian means having holidays not to celebrate but to mourn.

To be an Iranian means neither belonging to your country, nor to any other nation.

To be an Iranian means experiencing the wrath of God every year, as if 27 years of living under an inhumane regime hasn't been enough.

To be an Iranian means never-ending pain, agony and misery.

To be an Iranian means living anything but life...

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I'll stay foolish. I'll stay hungry.

It hurts to live with a dream, yet to be unable to fulfill it; to show you have what it takes to be where your heart is, yet to see others ignore it; to be raring to embark on the journey you have been waiting for almost all your life, yet to be rejected every single time you try to make it happen. It really does.

I've been thinking a lot about Steve Jobs's Commencement address for the past couple of days and tried to find my solace in the amazing story of his life and his inspiring words:
Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

..Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself...

That's certainly not an easy road. But it's definitely the road I need to take just like ever other human being who has followed their dream; a road with the difficulties and uncertainties that even Aaron Brown, former CNN anchor refers to in his speech to communications students:

"I had to find a relationship between the things I dream and the person I am. They don't have to exist separately. But I've been where you are and I know how scary it is. Just remember that you can do this - whatever your 'this' is. In the difficult times that will surely arise, remember that it is possible - think about my life. In my life, all I worried about was plan A and plan A was to get in the door. Everything else will work itself out."

I guess I'll stay foolish. I'll stay hungry...

Steven Spielberg: Solving the stalemate in the Middle East worth a try


Time Magazine's latest issue calls Steven Spielberg's new movie a "secret masterpiece":

The first and most important thing to say about Munich, Steven Spielberg's new film, is that it is a very good movie--good in a particularly Spielbergian way. By which one means that it has all the virtues we've come to expect when he is working at his highest levels. It's narratively clean, clear and perfectly punctuated by suspenseful and expertly staged action sequences. It's full of sympathetic (and in this case, anguished) characters, and it is, morally speaking, infinitely more complex than the action films it superficially resembles--pictures that simply pit terrorists against counterterrorists without an attempt to explore anyone's motives...
Steven Spielberg's latest film, "Munich," centers on the aftermath of the killings of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany.

According to Reuters, in the interview with Time, Spielberg says he hopes his movie can take a shot at reviving the Middle East peace process :


"I don't think any movie or any book or any work of art can solve the stalemate in the Middle East today, but it's certainly worth a try. We don't demonize our targets.They're individuals. They have families. Although what happened in Munich, I condemn."

"There is something about killing people at close range that is excruciating," Spielberg tells the magazine. "It's bound to try a man's soul."
According to Drudge Report, Spielberg also responds to the rumors and suggestions that he is too pro-Israel to make a fair movie:


"I'm always in favor of Israel responding strongly when it's threatened. At the same time, a response to a response doesn't really solve anything. It just creates a perpetual-motion machine," Spielberg says. "There's been a quagmire of blood for blood for many decades in that region. Where does it end? How can it end?"
In "Munich", Eric Bana stars as a Mossad agent who leads a secret Israeli squad assigned to assassinate 11 Palestinians suspected of planning the killings. Reuters adds that Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner "would not reveal the identity of the man Bana portrays, whom they interviewed at length."

The Munich massacre occurred at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, when members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage by the Palestinian terrorist organization "Black September", assumed to be an operational cover for Yasser Arafat's Fatah group. The attack led directly to the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes, five of the eight kidnappers, and one German police officer, and was followed by a series of Israeli revenge assassinations of the principal planners.

According to Wikipedia, British Author Simon Reeve writes that the Munich massacre was one of the most significant terror attacks of recent times, one that "thrust the Palestinian cause into the world spotlight, set the tone for decades of conflict in the Middle East and launched a new era of international terrorism.

"Munich" is due out December 23 here in North America. Click here to watch the trailer.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Sixth-month anniversary of 'Kash's Newsroom'

This Friday, December 9, will mark the sixth month since I began "Kash's Newsroom". First of all, let me take this opportunity to tell you how grateful I am to all of you for making this weblog part of your online ritual and also for contributing to it by sharing your thoughts and opinions with me via your comments and emails.

Now, I'd like to encourage you please to help me improve the quality of "Kash's Newsroom" by sending me your feedback on what you see here. What is it that you like about this weblog? What's it that you don't like or you'd like to see more of?

I'll be more than glad to hear from you. Please inform me of your opinions, suggestions or criticisms by either leaving your comments under this post or emailing me at kashkh04@yahoo.com.

Don't forget: It's you, the readers who make this weblog a wothwhile effort. So once again, I'd like to thank you all for visiting "Kash's Newsroom".

Ramsey Clark: From shaking hands with Ayatollah Khomeini to defending Saddam Hussein


Ramsey Clark, US Attorney General under president Lyndon B. Johnson who once shocked the world by rushing to meet and shake hands with Ayatollah Khomeini in January 1979 and later made a habit of it by giving legal council and advice to such notorious figures as Slobodan Milosevic, former president of Yugoslavia and an accused war criminal, is now, as Christopher Hitchens puts it, 'sticking up for' Saddam Hussein.

Hitchens's reaction to Clark's response to the first charge brought against Saddam is quite an interesting read. Hitchens quotes Clark who in a recent BBC interview and in response to the first charge brought against Saddam--the massacre of Shiite town of Dujail--said: "He (Saddam) had this huge war going on, and you have to act firmly when you have an assassination attempt."

Now note how Hitchens beautifully puts Clark's response in perspective:

Just go back and read that again. Ramsey Clark believes that A) the massacre and torture did occur and B) that it was ordered by his client and C) that he was justified in ordering it and carrying it out. That is quite sufficiently breathtaking. It is no lessbreathtaking when one recalls why Saddam "had this huge war going on." He had, after all, ordered a full-scale invasion of the oil-bearing Iranian region of Khuzestan and attempted to redraw the frontiers in Iraq's favor. Most experts accept a figure of about a million and a half as the number of young Iranians and Iraqis who lost their lives in consequence of this aggression (which incidentally enjoyed the approval of that Nobel Peace laureate Jimmy Carter). And Ramsey Clark says that the aggression is an additional reason to justify the massacre at Dujail.
Be sure to read Hitchens's whole article here.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Nicholas Burns: Americans share the Iranian people's vision for a prosperous, peaceful and democratic Iran

R. Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, gave a speech titled "U.S. Policy Toward Iran" at the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in washington, D.C. on Wednesday, November 30. Here are the highlights of the speech :

The United States and Iran: A Complicated History

...A quarter of a century ago, the Iranian revolution unseated a close U.S. ally in the Shah. After his fall, we nonetheless attempted to engage with Iran's new Islamic leadership. The forces that had come together in the revolution were diverse but united in their goal of overthrowing the Shah. As in most revolutions, however, they lacked unity when it came time to create a new way forward and a new government. The result was a disastrous and bloody struggle for power that ultimately stifled the Iranian people's quest for greater freedom and democracy.

By seizing the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and holding American diplomats hostage, Iran's hard-liners commandeered the new Iranian state and stripped away the very democratic rights which many Iranians had sought. Those who stood for Iran's democratic future were suppressed. The country's international standing was shattered, as was its long relationship with Washington. Thus began a new era of complex and troubled relations between Tehran and Washington, characterized by direct Iranian support for Lebanese Hezbollah's terrorism against the United States, beginning in the early 1980s.

More...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Akbar Ganji: Recipient of the "Dialogue of Cultures" award

The Foreign Press Association Media Awards 2005

The winners of the Foreign Press Association Media Awards were announced at a ceremony attended by the Rt Hon Jack Straw, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Mr Straw gave the keynote address on “A Dialogue of Cultures”, which was the theme for this year’s event and marked the presentation of a new award dedicated to a journalist who has excelled in promoting discussion between conflicting sides or has made the journey between different ideologies and cultures.

Also present were leading politicians, celebrities and media personalities including Dr Muhammad Abdul Ghaffar Abdulla, Minister of Information and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs; Baroness Boothroyd; Sir Bob Geldof; human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger; broadcaster Sue MacGregor; Antonella Notari, global spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross; Lord Owen and FPA external judges Sir Simon Jenkins, Stewart Purvis and Amir Taheri.

Dialogue of Cultures Winner: Iranian investigative journalist, Akbar Ganji

Through his writings, Akbar Ganji has encouraged Iranians to cross the divide from a culture of fundamentalism to a culture of freedom. For this he risks losing his life. He has said: "My voice will not be silenced, for it is the voice of peaceful life, of tolerating the other, loving humanity, sacrificing for others, seeking truth and freedom, demanding democracy, welcoming different lifestyles, separating the private sphere and the public sphere, religion and state, promoting equality of all humans, rationality, and above all, a profound distaste for violence…” The FPA will honour the life and work of Akbar Ganji by making him the first recipient of the "Dialogue of Cultures" Award.

More...

Insulting the clergy


According to Iranian Labor News agency, one of the students who took part in a demonstration earlier this week against the newly appointed chancellor of the University of Tehran has received an order to appear before court or face arrest on charges of "insulting the clergy".

The demonstration took place after students at the University of Tehran refused to attend classes and instead gathered outside the campus library to demonstrate against the appointment of ayatollah Amid Zanjani--a former prosecutor mullah with no academic background-- as the new chief of Iran's oldest university.

The frightened ayatollah suffered further humiliation when several angry students pushed him and threw his turban off his head while he was being escorted out of the university.

Detlev Mehlis slams 'Syrian propaganda'-BBC

BBC News- The head of a UN inquiry into the killing of the former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri has accused Syria of using propaganda to discredit the commission.

Detlev Mehlis told Lebanese newspaper al-Safir the tactics were similar to those used by Communist states in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. Mr Mehlis insisted the inquiry had not been undermined by a witness who recanted his testimony last week.

Hossam Taher Hossam said he was bribed to give evidence against Syria. Mr Hossam alleged in an interview on Syrian TV that Mr Hariri's son Saad had met him several months ago and offered him $1.3m to testify against Syrian officials. Mr Hariri's family has dismissed the statement.

More...

Preemptive surrender: Someone please call that freedom-loving president, please.

Michael Ledeen's article in NRO seems to be neoconservatives' first official reaction to the news of US approaching Iran for assistance in quenching the ongoing insurgency in Iraq:

...It's hard to imagine what President Bush expects to gain from this little announcement, or indeed from talks with the Iranians. The last time Ambassador Khalilzad went in for extended talks with the mullahs, he produced a triumph of unnecessary appeasement: the proclamation that Afghanistan would be called an "Islamic republic." It seemed to me at the time that this was not at all what the president had had in mind, but it seems to me now that I was clearly wrong. For if W. really intended to take a stand against the Iranian regime, he would not have approved Khalilzad's (shameful, in my view) preemptive surrender to Iran's most important diplomatic goal, nor would he have rewarded Khalilzad by sending him to Baghdad, nor would he approve of the public announcement of a new round of talks with the mullahs.

More...

And this reaction from NY Sun which also questions US latest approach to Iran:

Get that. The man in charge of a military devoted to the violent spread of Islamic theocracy [Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi] has just said his side is winning in Iraq, not to mention Lebanon and Palestine. And America now wants to engage Iran in limited negotiations to cooperate in thwarting terrorism in Iraq. Let us pause to marvel at the wonders of foreign policy "realism."

This sort of diplomatic maneuver does not fit neatly into the "realism" of the president's new approach to Iraq. The realists will point out that there is no guarantee that support for Iranian democrats will yield regime change, let alone when this will happen. And in a sense they are right. It is next to impossible to predict the timing and success of non-violent democratic revolutions.

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Photo of the day


Reuters - Barcelona's Brazilian soccer player Ronaldinho (R) poses with Scottish actor Sean Connery before a friendly soccer match at the Nou Camp Stadium in Barcelona, Spain, November 29, 2005. The match, between Barcelona and a team comprising Israeli and Palestinian players, had been planned for three years and is backed by the Peres Centre for Peace, a foundation set up by Israeli politician Shimon Peres. The game is aimed at building understanding and respect between Israelis and Palestinians and to contribute to the quest for peace in the Middle East. REUTERS/Albert Gea

Shimon Peres throws his support to Sharon


Ending a week of speculation, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres quit the Labor Party-- his political party of six decades-- yesterday to campaign for Ariel Sharon's new centrist party. The 82-year-old Peres, who has held every major Cabinet position, left Labor after his humiliating loss to union leader Amir Peretz in the race for party leader three weeks ago. He said he was supporting Sharon because he had the best chance of restarting the peace process with the Palestinians. New York Times and Washington Post report:

NY Times - Peres Hails Sharon's Leadership as He Supports New Party:

The move was widely anticipated. Still, it adds to the sense that a major political realignment is under way, with consequences that will shape Middle East peace efforts for years to come.
The dovish Mr. Peres, 82, and the hawkish Mr. Sharon, 77, have often worked together in coalition governments despite their political differences. But this is the first time they have headed into an election under the same banner, with the aim of creating a broad consensus on how to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is not clear how many votes he might draw to Mr. Sharon's party.
Still, his endorsement of Mr. Sharon as a leader who is serious about settling the conflict with the Palestinians could sway some centrist and liberal voters who would not have considered voting for Mr. Sharon in the past...

Washington Post - Peres Quits Labor, Endorses Sharon:

Peres's departure, the latest turn in his nearly five-decade career in Israeli party politics, leaves Labor without its most recognizable figure, and largely concludes a shift in Israeli politics triggered by Sharon's decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip earlier this year. It also means that the next Israeli parliament, scheduled to be elected March 28, will be the first since the 1950s without Peres as a member.His endorsement, which infuriated veteran Labor officials, could enhance Sharon's centrist credentials at a time when the prime minister is seeking recruits to his new party, known as Kadima...