8.31.2006

Middle East Totalitarians and Existential Choice

It is extremely important, in my view, to make distinction between what is "pragmatic" and what is "existential" in political choices in the Middle East. This will explain and clear so much the occurrences and enlighten the Middle East policy

This is an excerpt from the latest press conference by PM Blair and President Bush in Washington followed with an indispensable question of mine:

Q Thank you. Mr. President, and Prime Minister Blair, can I ask you both tonight what your messages are for the governments of Iran and Syria, given that you say
this is the crisis of the 21st century?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Want me to start? My message is, give up your nuclear weapon and your nuclear weapon ambitions. That's my message to Syria -- I mean, to Iran. And my message to Syria is, become an active participant in the neighborhood for peace.

PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: The message is very, very simple to them. It is that, you have a choice. Iran and Syria have a choice. And they may think that they can avoid this choice; in fact, they can't. And when things are set in train like what has happened in Lebanon over the past few weeks, it only, in my view, underscores the fact they have this choice. They can either come in and participate as proper and responsible members of the international community, or they will face the risk of increasing confrontation.

And coming in and being proper members of the international community does not mean -- though I would love to see both Syria and Iran proper democracies -- does not mean to say that we insist that they change their government or even their system of government, although, of course, we want to see change in those countries. But it does mean Iran abides by its obligations under the nuclear weapons treaty. It does mean that Iran and Syria stop supporting terrorism. It does mean that instead of trying to prevent the democratically-elected government of Iraq fulfill its mandate, they allow it to fulfill its mandate.

Now, that's their choice. It's a perfectly simple one. They can either decide they are going to abide by the rules of the international community or continue to transgress them. And, look, in the end, that's the choice that they will have to make. But where I think they make a strategic miscalculation is if they think that because of all the other issues that we have to resolve and so on, that we are indifferent to what they are doing. There will be no side-tracking of our determination, for example, to make sure that Iran is fully compliant with the call that's been made on them from the whole of the international community in respect of nuclear weapons capability. And I hope they realize there is a different relationship that is possible with the international community, but only on the basis that has been set out.

My question is:

Could they make this choice?

Is the nature of this choice pragmatic or existential?

What the future is for totalitarian regimes if they take this course?

This is the time for political science and political thought to seek answers.

For my part, I believe that the nature of regime dictates its policy. This is definitely existential question.

Let us not hope and just work, I hope.

8.19.2006

Rice on Middle East Crisis and Resolution 1701

As usual, Dr. Rice proves again her statecraft, scholarship and insight.

Here is an op-ed by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice published in the August 16 edition of The Washington Post followed by the text of UNSC Resolution 1701.

A Path To Lasting Peace

By Condoleezza Rice

For the past month the United States has worked urgently to end the violence that Hezbollah and its sponsors have imposed on the people of Lebanon and Israel. At the same time, we have insisted that a truly effective cease-fire requires a decisive change from the status quo that produced this war. Last Friday (August 11) we took an important step toward that goal with the unanimous passage of U.N. Resolution 1701. Now the difficult, critical task of implementation begins.

The agreement we reached has three essential components:

First, it puts in place a full cessation of hostilities. We also insisted on the unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers. Hezbollah must immediately cease its attacks on Israel, and Israel must halt its offensive military operations in Lebanon, while reserving the right of any sovereign state to defend itself. This agreement went into effect on Monday, after the Israeli and Lebanese cabinets agreed to its conditions.

Second, this resolution will help the democratic government of Lebanon expand its sovereign authority. The international community is imposing an embargo on all weapons heading into Lebanon without the government's consent. We are also enhancing UNIFIL, the current U.N. force in Lebanon. The new UNIFIL will have a robust mandate, better equipment and as many as 15,000 soldiers -- a sevenfold increase from its current strength. Together with this new international force, the Lebanese Armed Forces will deploy to the south of the country to protect the Lebanese people and prevent armed groups such as Hezbollah from destabilizing the area. As this deployment occurs, Israel will withdraw behind the "Blue Line" and a permanent cease-fire will take hold.

Finally, this resolution clearly lays out the political principles to secure a lasting peace: no foreign forces, no weapons and no authority in Lebanon other than that of the sovereign Lebanese government. These principles represent a long-standing international consensus that has been affirmed and reaffirmed for decades -- but never fully implemented. Now, for the first time, the international community has put its full weight behind a practical political framework to help the Lebanese government realize these principles, including the disarmament of all militias operating on its territory.

The implementation of Resolution 1701 will not only benefit Lebanon and Israel; it also has important regional implications. Simply put: This is a victory for all who are committed to moderation and democracy in the Middle East -- and a defeat for those who wish to undermine these principles with violence, particularly the governments of Syria and Iran.

While the entire world has spent the past month working for peace, the Syrian and Iranian regimes have sought to prolong and intensify the war that Hezbollah started. The last time this happened, 10 years ago, the United States brokered a cease-fire between Israel and Syria. The game of diplomacy was played by others, over the heads of the Lebanese. Now Syria no longer occupies Lebanon, and the international community is helping the Lebanese government create the conditions of lasting peace -- full independence, complete sovereignty, effective democracy and a weakened Hezbollah with fewer opportunities to rearm and regroup. Once implemented, this will be a strategic setback for the Syrian and Iranian regimes.

The agreement we reached last week is a good first step, but it is only a first step. Though we hope that it will lead to a permanent cease-fire, no one should expect an immediate stop to all acts of violence. This is a fragile cease-fire, and all parties must work to strengthen it. Our diplomacy has helped end a war. Now comes the long, hard work to secure the peace.

Looking ahead, our most pressing challenge is to help the hundreds of thousands of displaced people within Lebanon to return to their homes and rebuild their lives. This reconstruction effort will be led by the government of Lebanon, but it will demand the generosity of the entire world.

For our part, the United States is helping to lead relief efforts for the people of Lebanon, and we will fully support them as they rebuild their country. As a first step, we have increased our immediate humanitarian assistance to $50 million. To secure the gains of peace, the Lebanese people must emerge from this conflict with more opportunities and greater prosperity.

Already, we hear Hezbollah trying to claim victory. But others, in Lebanon and across the region, are asking themselves what Hezbollah's extremism has really achieved: hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes. Houses and infrastructure destroyed. Hundreds of innocent lives lost. The blame of the world for causing this war.

Innocent people in Lebanon, in Israel and across the Middle East have suffered long enough at the hands of extremists. It is time to overcome old patterns of violence and secure a just, lasting and comprehensive peace. This is our goal, and now we have laid out the steps to achieve it. Our policy is ambitious, yes, and difficult to achieve. But it is right. It is realistic. And ultimately, it is the only effective path to a more hopeful future.

--------------------

Resolution 1701 (2006)

Adopted by the Security Council at its 5511th meeting, on 11 August 2006

The Security Council,

Recalling all its previous resolutions on Lebanon, in particular resolutions 425 (1978), 426 (1978), 520 (1982), 1559 (2004), 1655 (2006) 1680 (2006) and 1697 (2006), as well as the statements of its President on the situation in Lebanon, in particular the statements of 18 June 2000 (S/PRST/2000/21), of 19 October 2004 (S/PRST/2004/36), of 4 May 2005 (S/PRST/2005/17), of 23 January 2006 (S/PRST/2006/3) and of 30 July 2006 (S/PRST/2006/35),

Expressing its utmost concern at the continuing escalation of hostilities in Lebanon and in Israel since Hizbollah’s attack on Israel on 12 July 2006, which has already caused hundreds of deaths and injuries on both sides, extensive damage to civilian infrastructure and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons,

Emphasizing the need for an end of violence, but at the same time emphasizing the need to address urgently the causes that have given rise to the current crisis, including by the unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers,

Mindful of the sensitivity of the issue of prisoners and encouraging the efforts aimed at urgently settling the issue of the Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel,

Welcoming the efforts of the Lebanese Prime Minister and the commitment of the Government of Lebanon, in its seven-point plan, to extend its authority over its territory, through its own legitimate armed forces, such that there will be no weapons without the consent of the Government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the Government of Lebanon, welcoming also its commitment to a United Nations force that is supplemented and enhanced in numbers, equipment, mandate and scope of operation, and bearing in mind its request in this plan for an immediate withdrawal of the Israeli forces from southern Lebanon,

Determined to act for this withdrawal to happen at the earliest,

Taking due note of the proposals made in the seven-point plan regarding the Shebaa farms area,

Welcoming the unanimous decision by the Government of Lebanon on 7 August 2006 to deploy a Lebanese armed force of 15,000 troops in South Lebanon as the Israeli army withdraws behind the Blue Line and to request the assistance of additional forces from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) as needed, to facilitate the entry of the Lebanese armed forces into the region and to restate its intention to strengthen the Lebanese armed forces with material as needed to enable it to perform its duties,

Aware of its responsibilities to help secure a permanent ceasefire and a longterm solution to the conflict,

Determining that the situation in Lebanon constitutes a threat to international peace and security,

1. Calls for a full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hizbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations;

2. Upon full cessation of hostilities, calls upon the Government of Lebanon and UNIFIL as authorized by paragraph 11 to deploy their forces together throughout the South and calls upon the Government of Israel, as that deployment begins, to withdraw all of its forces from southern Lebanon in parallel;

3. Emphasizes the importance of the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory in accordance with the provisions of resolution 1559 (2004) and resolution 1680 (2006), and of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, for it to exercise its full sovereignty, so that there will be no weapons without the consent of the Government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the Government of Lebanon;

4. Reiterates its strong support for full respect for the Blue Line;

5. Also reiterates its strong support, as recalled in all its previous relevant resolutions, for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized borders, as contemplated by the Israeli-Lebanese General Armistice Agreement of 23 March 1949;

6. Calls on the international community to take immediate steps to extend its financial and humanitarian assistance to the Lebanese people, including through facilitating the safe return of displaced persons and, under the authority of the Government of Lebanon, reopening airports and harbours, consistent with paragraphs 14 and 15, and calls on it also to consider further assistance in the future to contribute to the reconstruction and development of Lebanon;

7. Affirms that all parties are responsible for ensuring that no action is taken contrary to paragraph 1 that might adversely affect the search for a long-term solution, humanitarian access to civilian populations, including safe passage for humanitarian convoys, or the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons, and calls on all parties to comply with this responsibility and to cooperate with the Security Council;

8. Calls for Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent ceasefire and a longterm solution based on the following principles and elements:

– full respect for the Blue Line by both parties;
– security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL as authorized in paragraph 11, deployed in this area;

– full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of 27 July 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State;

– no foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its Government;
– no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government;
– provision to the United Nations of all remaining maps of landmines in Lebanon in Israel’s possession;

9. Invites the Secretary-General to support efforts to secure as soon as possible agreements in principle from the Government of Lebanon and the Government of Israel to the principles and elements for a long-term solution as set forth in paragraph 8, and expresses its intention to be actively involved;

10. Requests the Secretary-General to develop, in liaison with relevant international actors and the concerned parties, proposals to implement the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), including disarmament, and for delineation of the international borders of Lebanon, especially in those areas where the border is disputed or uncertain, including by dealing with the Shebaa farms area, and to present to the Security Council those proposals within thirty days;

11. Decides, in order to supplement and enhance the force in numbers, equipment, mandate and scope of operations, to authorize an increase in the force strength of UNIFIL to a maximum of 15,000 troops, and that the force shall, in addition to carrying out its mandate under resolutions 425 and 426 (1978):

(a) Monitor the cessation of hostilities;

(b) Accompany and support the Lebanese armed forces as they deploy throughout the South, including along the Blue Line, as Israel withdraws its armed forces from Lebanon as provided in paragraph 2;

(c) Coordinate its activities related to paragraph 11 (b) with the Government of Lebanon and the Government of Israel;

(d) Extend its assistance to help ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons;

(e) Assist the Lebanese armed forces in taking steps towards the establishment of the area as referred to in paragraph 8;

(f) Assist the Government of Lebanon, at its request, to implement paragraph 14;

12. Acting in support of a request from the Government of Lebanon to deploy an international force to assist it to exercise its authority throughout the territory, authorizes UNIFIL to take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind, to resist attempts by forceful means to prevent it from discharging its duties under the mandate of the Security Council, and to protect United Nations personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, ensure the security and freedom of movement of United Nations personnel, humanitarian workers and, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of Lebanon, to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence;

13. Requests the Secretary-General urgently to put in place measures to ensure UNIFIL is able to carry out the functions envisaged in this resolution, urges Member States to consider making appropriate contributions to UNIFIL and to respond positively to requests for assistance from the Force, and expresses its strong appreciation to those who have contributed to UNIFIL in the past;

14. Calls upon the Government of Lebanon to secure its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel and requests UNIFIL as authorized in paragraph 11 to assist the Government of Lebanon at its request;

15. Decides further that all States shall take the necessary measures to prevent, by their nationals or from their territories or using their flag vessels or aircraft:

(a) The sale or supply to any entity or individual in Lebanon of arms and related materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts for the aforementioned, whether or not originating in their territories; and

(b) The provision to any entity or individual in Lebanon of any technical training or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of the items listed in subparagraph (a) above; except that these prohibitions shall not apply to arms, related material, training or
assistance authorized by the Government of Lebanon or by UNIFIL as authorized in paragraph 11;

16. Decides to extend the mandate of UNIFIL until 31 August 2007, and expresses its intention to consider in a later resolution further enhancements to the mandate and other steps to contribute to the implementation of a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution;

17. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council within one week on the implementation of this resolution and subsequently on a regular basis;

18. Stresses the importance of, and the need to achieve, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on all its relevant resolutions including its resolutions 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967, 338 (1973) of 22 October 1973 and 1515 (2003) of 19 November 2003;

19. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter

8.12.2006

NEO-INTERNATIONALISM

My website NEOINTERNATIONALISM is available now. Its main objectives so far are to promote the neo-internationalism and advocate the Middle East democratization focusing on the Middle East democratization policies, especially the relevant international policies.

This is the first step. I eventually intend this website to serve as a think thank on the themes of Middle East democratization policy and international politics of democracy promotion. Any collaboration, help and suggestion are solicited and welcome.

My personal page can be found here.

My perspective can be found here.

The campaign for promoting freedom and democracy, ending totalitarianism can be found here.

Lebanon's Liberation and Independence

As the liberation of Lebanon goes on by liberating Lebanon from the foreign regional determination concerning the Lebanese affairs including war and peace through some Lebanese surrogates, the Lebanese people are restoring their right to self-determination.

The international community is responsible for the high cost because every thing was obvious and perceived by the international community through the UNSCR 1559 and the following UN reports and resolutions.

To explain all those elements including the context I just need to repost an article of mine I wrote earlier this year, in which I warned of risking the regional security and stability, and nothing was late to become a reality.


Lebanon's Independence and Democracy

The forces of the old Middle East, the pre-2003 Middle East, through the totalitarian-terrorist alliance, are fighting to survive. After the consecutive failures in Iraq to restore the totalitarianism as an indispensable guarantee to the Middle East stagnancy, which based on the authoritarianism and the interdependent system of despotic regimes to ensure their sustainability, the pursuit now is to impede the international pro-democracy effort to spread out in the Middle East.

I have frequently said that liberating Lebanon belongs to the same sense of the course of action of liberating Iraq. This course of action represents the international "new deal" in the Middle East through the strategic effort to end the cold-war era in the region besides the Soviet legacy there. The success in Lebanon is important as much as the success in Iraq; it is a requisite for the long-term stability and for a thriving democratic project in the region.

The regional totalitarian and terrorist forces and their Lebanese proxies are flouting the international community and the international resolutions by murdering and intimidating the Lebanese politicians and intellectuals who are the symbols and cadres of the liberating Cedar Revolution. Furthermore, they are hindering the political reform in Lebanon and stalling the Lebanese people's ability to rule themselves and their country independently, freely and democratically.

Lebanon now is almost besieged from outside and inside too. The terrorist groups, which are directly attached to foreign governments characterized with their destructive role in the Middle East, as the Iranian terrorist group of Hezbullah and some Palestinian gangs commanded by a neighboring totalitarian regime, are still holding their arms and military bases on the Lebanese territory. Furthermore, some parties of those, mainly the Iranian terrorist group of Hezbullah, are playing the role of hindering the elected government from discharging its responsibilities in protecting the Lebanese people, sovereignty and democracy and ensuring the Lebanese independence and integrity through their participation in the government or/and their possession of arms and bases on the Lebanese territory constituting a de facto state inside the legitimate state.

The international powers must clearly realize the disastrous effects and consequences to inflict the stability and the democratic movement in the region and the geopolitical achievements of the Operation Iraqi Freedom too if they did not move seriously to ensure the full implementation of the UNSCR 1559. Furthermore, the international community holds the responsibility to protect the Lebanese people through decisive international measures.

The indecisiveness of the international community about the comprehensive war against Lebanon and its freedom and independence may ultimately cause Lebanon to be held as a hostage on behalf of some regional totalitarian regimes. In addition, it would let the Middle East reformers down and would serve the Middle East authoritarian status quo alongside risking more the regional security and fragile stability.

8.11.2006

Iran's Waning Human Rights

Any regime's foreign policy depends on the nature and the interests of this regime. The connection between totalitarian regimes and regionally destabilizing efforts is natural in contexts in which these regimes are at risk. We must be aware that regime's survival is what matters in determining the regime's domestic and foreign policy more than the state's interests and national security. This is a genuine political phenomenon in terms of totalitarian authoritarian political systems.

So, let us empirically and transparently read the Middle East realities and events to find the basic relations and rules controlling what happens there.

See:

Here is a Backgrounder from the Council on Foreign Relations on the status of human rights in Iran the important Middle East player:

Iran's Waning Human Rights

By Lionel Beehner, August 9, 2006

Introduction

The recent death of activist Akbar Mohammadi in Tehran's Evin prison, followed by the ban of a leading human rights organization, are fresh signals of the low tolerance for dissent under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime. Human rights monitors say that in Iran critics are silenced, independent journalists and opposition members are arrested, and minorities are persecuted. Reports persist of torture in detention centers. With attention in the region focused on matters of war and peace—Israel's battle with Hezbollah, Iran’s nuclear program, sectarian warfare in Iraq—human rights violations appear to face less international scrutiny. Some experts argue that Washington's latest soft diplomacy efforts and its emphasis on encouraging regime change in Iran are only damaging the cause of Iranian activists. Others say more forceful action by the United States and others is needed to reverse Iran’s worsening human rights record.

What is the status of Iran's human rights record?

Rights watchdog groups say the regime's moves against government critics have recently intensified. "The situation has deteriorated in terms of targeting independent voices and organizations," says Hadi Ghaemi, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, pointing to a rising number of disappearances, incidents of torture, and summary executions, often by stoning. Experts say the basij, a volunteer military established by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini after the 1979-80 revolution, has cracked down on women, homosexuals, and ethnic and religious minorities like Azeris, Arabs, Christians, and Kurds. Ghaemi says sharia, or Islamic law, is now more strictly imposed by judges than under the previous regime of reformist President Mohammed Khatami. The result, says Karim Sadjadpour, the International Crisis Group's Iran analyst, is that "critics"—journalists, activists, human rights lawyers—"are not as bold as they once were."

What are some specific human rights violations in Iran?

  • Rise in summary executions. Of the ninety-eight Iranians executed so far this year, a dozen were women or minors (by comparison, Amnesty International reports sixty-nine executions between July 2005 and January 2006, two of whom were minors). Despite a moratorium in 2002, watchdog groups say death by public stoning of women has resurfaced (Iran's penal code allows it in cases of adultery), particularly in provinces where there is less media attention. Homosexuals are often targeted as well. Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which affords legal rights to minorities and minors.
  • Persecution of religious or ethnic minorities. According to the State Department, the Iranian government has severely restricted freedom of religion. There have been widespread reports of Iran's non-Muslim religious minorities—particularly the Baha'is—being harassed or imprisoned by government authorities. Charges of economic neglect and discrimination by various minorities have in some cases led to clashes between police and ethnic or religious minority demonstrators. In March, Baluchis attacked a police motorcade in southeastern Iran, killing twenty. In May, clashes in the northwest city of Tabriz between ethnic Azeris, which comprise a quarter of Iran's population, and government forces over an offensive cartoon in a state-run newspaper left nine people dead. In another incident, a number of protesting Ahwazi Arabs were killed by security forces in Khuzestan province. Since early 2005, there have been a number of attacks against government targets by Arabs, mainly in southwest Iran, where the bulk of the country's two million Arabs reside. But "the most difficult question for the regime to resolve is the Kurdish question," Sadjadpour says. There are 4.8 million Iranian Kurds, and they live in some of the least developed sections of the country. Sadjadpour says "given what they see next door—the newfound confidence of Iraqi Kurds—there's concern Iranian Kurds will agitate for greater autonomy."
  • Clampdown against human rights organizations. On August 2, Iran's Interior ministry banned one of the country's most prominent minority rights groups, the Defender of Human Rights Center (DHRC), founded by 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi. The group defends roughly 70 percent of Iran's political prisoners and has been particularly critical of the religious hard-liners in power. A number of similar organizations reported cases of harassment or curtailment of activity.
  • Abuse of prisoners. Mohammadi was the second prisoner at Evin to die—rights advocates say he was beaten—in custody over the past three years. He was one among thousands of students arrested in July 1999 during a protest over the closure of several newspapers. In April 2004, Iran's judiciary officially banned torture but the practice remains commonplace in prisons like Evin, where inmates are often subjected to sensory deprivation (or so-called "white torture"), solitary confinement, or floggings. Much of the prisoner abuse, the UN Special Representative for Iran of the Commission on Human Rights (UNSR) found in 2003, occurs in unofficial detention centers run by Iran's intelligence services and the military.
  • Intimidation of journalists. Reporters without Borders, in its most recent annual report, calls Iran "the Middle East's biggest prison for journalists and bloggers," with the number of threats, summons, and arrests of reporters increasing under Ahmadinejad's watch. Thirteen journalists were jailed in 2005, and what little independent media there is in Iran practice what investigative journalist Akbar Ganji calls self-censorship to avoid closure. Over the past decade, more than one hundred newspapers have shut their doors (A brief glasnost-type period under Khatami was followed by a press crackdown after the 1999 student uprisings). Ganji, released in March after serving more than five years in Evin, recently told an audience at the PEN American Center that detained journalists are often forced to confess to false crimes like espionage or face torture. Many are banned from leaving Iran. Last October, the Iranian government introduced so-called Press Courts to punish, monitor, or detain journalists suspected of violating the country's press codes, according to the State Department's 2005 Human Rights report. In Iran, "there's freedom of speech," Sadjadpour says, quoting an old adage, "but not freedom after speech."

Why is Iran's human rights situation worsening?

Because of Ahmadinejad's conservative stance on cultural issues and embrace of strict Islamic law, writes Bill Samii, a Middle East expert with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Another problem, Samii says, is the president's "appointment of officials with security and intelligence backgrounds for interior ministry and provincial government suggests the human rights situation will only worsen." Prominent Iranian activists, among others, say their country's human rights situation has been adversely affected by President Bush's refusal to disavow the military option to solve the impasse on Iran's nuclear activities. "[T]he threat of foreign military intervention will provide a powerful excuse for authoritarian elements to uproot [human rights organizations] and put an end to their growth," wrote Ghaemi and Ebadi, in a February 2005 New York Times op-ed.

What leverage does the United States have on human rights in Iran?

Not much, experts say. "It’s very difficult to do anything from 5,000 miles away when you have no embassy in Tehran," Sadjadpour says, adding that the best U.S. policy should be, like the doctor's oath, "to do no harm." Iranian officials say the United States employs double standards because it supports regimes with poor human rights records like Saudi Arabia. Ghaemi calls the United Nations the most legitimate voice on human rights in Iran but says “its criticism has not been very forceful and not based on any independent investigations.” In a sign of the government's attitude toward the new UN Human Rights Council, it included in its delegation to the Council's opening session Tehran’s prosecutor-general Said Mortazavi, regarded by Western monitors as a rights abuser and implicated in the death of the Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in 2003.

What leverage do the Europeans have?

Very little, experts say. For the past few years there has been a formal human rights dialogue between Europe and Iran, but it has produced few tangible results, and last December, Iran suspended the dialogue. "They [Europe] felt like they weren’t holding the major cards," Sadjadpour says, adding that the United States holds more carrots than Europe on this issue and should therefore include human rights as part of the agenda if Washington and Tehran ever hold talks on the nuclear issue. Human Rights Watch and other organizations have criticized the European Union for not exerting enough pressure on Iran on the issue of human rights. But on July 26, the European Union did issue a statement blasting the Iranian government for its arrest of human rights lawyers, including Abdolfattah Soltani, a founder of the DHRC who was sentenced to five years in prison.

How does Iran’s human rights record compare to the rest of the region?

It’s better than most Arab states in the Middle East. Some independent newspapers are still permitted. Women generally enjoy more freedoms than in other states in the region, including the right to vote and attend university. Yet these freedoms, Sadjadpour says, "are in spite of the regime, not because of the regime." Further, Iran has had a different recent past than many of its Arab neighbors. "There’s been revolution, war, a reform movement—all of which has given rise to more widespread calls for protection of human rights than other [Middle Eastern] countries," Ghaemi says. "There is a grassroots movement [in Iran] that believes respect for human rights must be enshrined in the government. [Among the opposition] you don’t see much common views of ideology but you see a constant call for human rights and peaceful disobedience campaigns."

Iran's revolutionary history also distinguishes it from most Middle East countries. Roughly three-quarters of its population is under the age of thirty, meaning they were not as strongly influenced by the revolutionary era of the 1980s. "They don't have any special allegiance to the Islamic Revolution. Increasingly they are outspoken when their economic means are not met," Sadjadpour says. He says the failure of Khatami's eight-year reform movement (1997-2005) has resulted in a sense of apathy among young Iranians. "They tried to change the system via the ballot box," he says, "and it didn't work."

8.07.2006

U.S. Democracy Promotion, a Round-up

Here is a recent policy watch of the U.S. efforts, stances and statements concerning democracy promotion worldwide, especially in the Middle East:

(Source: International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)

Headlines:


  • New Egyptian Press Law Restricts Free Speech, U.S. Official Says
  • U.S. Pledges Full Support for Middle East Democratization
  • Bush Outlines Effort To Resolve Middle East Crisis Stressing Middle East Freedom And Democracy
  • U.S. Condemns Death of Iranian Activist
  • U.N. Council Must Address Rights Violations in Mideast, Sudan
  • U.S. Hails Anniversary of Iran's Constitutional Revolution

"...instead of having foreign policies based upon trying to create a sense of stability, we have a foreign policy that addresses the root causes of violence and instability.

For a while, American foreign policy was just, let's hope everything is calm, kind of managed calm. But beneath the surface brewed a lot of resentment and anger that was manifested in its -- on September the 11th. And so we've taken a foreign policy that says, on the one hand, we will protect ourselves from further attack in the short-run by being aggressive and chasing down the killers and bringing them to justice -- and make no mistake, they're still out there, and they would like to harm our respective peoples because of what we stand for -- in the long-term, to defeat this ideology, and they're bound by an ideology. You defeat it with a more hopeful ideology called freedom.

...I fully understand some people don't believe it's possible for freedom and democracy to overcome this ideology of hatred. I understand that. I just happen to believe it is possible, and I believe it will happen. And so what you're seeing is a clash of governing styles, for example. The notion of democracy beginning to emerge scares the ideologues, the totalitarians, those who want to impose their vision. It just frightens them, and so they respond. They've always been violent.

I hear this amazing kind of editorial thought that says, all of a sudden Hezbollah has become violent because we're promoting democracy. They have been violent for a long period of time.

And so what the world is seeing is a desire by this country and our allies to defeat the ideology of hate with an ideology that has worked and that brings hope. And one of the challenges, of course, is to convince people that Muslims would like to be free, that there's other people other than people in Britain and America that would like to be free in the world. There's this kind of almost -- kind of weird kind of elitism, that says, well, maybe certain people in certain parts of the world shouldn't be free; maybe it's best just to let them sit in these tyrannical societies. And our foreign policy rejects that concept. We don't accept it.

And so we're working. And this is -- as I said the other day, when these attacks took place, I said this should be a moment of clarity for people to see the stakes in the 21st century. I mean, there's an unprovoked attack on a democracy. Why? I happen to believe, because progress is being made toward democracies. And I believe that -- I also believe that Iran would like to exert additional influence in the region. A theocracy would like to spread its influence using surrogates.

And so I'm as determined as ever to continue fostering a foreign policy based upon liberty. And I think it's going to work, unless we lose our nerve and quit. And this government isn't going to quit."

President Bush, July 28, 2006

Contents:

New Egyptian Press Law Restricts Free Speech, U.S. Official Says

By Carolee Walker

Washington -- The Egyptian government should take a close look at its new law imposing curbs on what journalists can write about in that country, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack at a briefing July 11.

“It is essential to have a free press as part of the political dialogue within a country that is wrestling with issues of political as well as economic reform,” McCormack said.

The law, which the Egyptian parliament passed July 10, imposes fines on members of the press who criticize the government. A last-minute intervention by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak removed a provision on prison terms for criticizing the financial integrity of public figures, but journalists still can be jailed for stories defaming Egyptian officials and foreign heads of state.

“We are strong supporters of freedom of the press, in Egypt as well as elsewhere,” McCormack said. In published reports, Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch, a nongovernmental organization, said, “Criticizing public officials should not be a criminal offense at all, much less one punishable by prison terms.”

Twenty-five independent newspapers in Egypt went on strike July 9 to protest the proposed legislation. Several independent newspapers welcomed Mubarak’s intervention to change the legislation but vowed to continue fighting for additional changes that would eliminate the threat of prison sentences for journalists.

The United States and Egypt share close ties and annual U.S. aid to Egypt is nearly $2 billion. (See related article.)

In June, the United States signed a declaration of principles with Egyptian government officials bringing two U.S. security programs to Egypt. (See related article).

A transcript of McCormack’s remarks is available on the State Department’s Web site.

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U.S. Pledges Full Support for Middle East Democratization

By David Shelby, Washington File Staff Writer

Houston - The United States is committed to supporting democratic reforms in the Arab world, even if they produce election results that the U.S. government does not favor, according to Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch.

"We understand that there may be outcomes with which we are uncomfortable. We strongly support democracy, but we also reserve the right, as a government, to have a policy that contradicts the objectives of a particular political party, even if that political party was fairly elected," Welch told participants in a panel discussion on political Islam and democracy at the U.S.-Arab Economic Forum in Houston June 27.

Welch said that the presence of real political alternatives would ultimately undermine the appeal of radicalism. He said the United States is not opposed to dealing with Islamic political parties in principle. (See related article.)

"We should recognize that the concept of political Islam represents a broad diversity of views within the Arab and Islamic worlds. We should remind ourselves that violent jihadi groups form a very small minority among Islamist groups. The majority in many cases are legal Islamist political parties," he said.

The assistant secretary added that the United States has constructive dialogues with Islamist parties in Kuwait and Morocco. He said American and foreign laws prevent the U.S. government from dealing with certain Islamic political groups. By law, the U.S. administration cannot have dealings with parties considered to be terrorist organizations, and it will not engage groups that are not recognized as legitimate political parties under their own domestic laws.

Welch said that the demand for democratic reforms is rising in the Arab world and that change is inevitable.

"With this mounting pressure, governments across the region face important challenges: do they find ways to accommodate these demands or do they attempt to stifle them?" he asked.

He said that the change should be peaceful but that "it's up to the leaders of the region to provide a vision for the future that mobilizes people and offers hope."

Assistant Secretary Welch said the goal of the U.S. reform policy in the Arab world is to help build "strong institutions politically, economically and educationally so there can be an environment in which there is stable political competition and an informed population that can make a choice between what is legitimate and what is illegitimate in political expression."

He said democracy would take different forms in different countries but that it should have universal characteristics, such as freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of association, freedom of the press, rule of law, protection of minorities, and rotation of power.

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Bush Outlines Effort To Resolve Middle East Crisis Stressing Middle East Freedom And Democracy

Washington -- President Bush says urgent efforts to resolve the crisis in the Middle East are continuing, both through Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s weekend return trip to the region and an impending United Nations Security Council meeting that could authorize a multinational peacekeeping force.

In his weekly radio address July 29, the president stressed once again that an end to the current violence in Israel and Lebanon must be achieved through "a sustainable cease-fire," and be pursued in the broader context of achieving democratic change and lasting peace in the region.

Bush once again placed the blame for the current crisis squarely on Hizballah and its "unprovoked terrorist attacks on Israel." He also stressed the role of Iran and Syria and renewed demands that those two nations stop enabling the group’s terrorist acts.

"Iran must end its financial support and supply of weapons to terrorist groups such as Hizballah -- and Syria must end its support for terrorism and respect Lebanon’s sovereignty," Bush declared.

Citing his White House meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair the previous day, Bush said the two had agreed that "Lebanon’s democratic government must be empowered to exercise full authority over its territory" and that "militias in Lebanon must be disarmed, the flow of illegal arms must be halted, and the Lebanese security services should deploy throughout the country."

"We also agreed that a robust multinational force must be dispatched to Lebanon quickly," the president said. That would help speed delivery of humanitarian relief to the Lebanese people and facilitate the return of displaced persons to their homes, he added.

Bush stressed his view that the fighting in Lebanon is just the latest manifestation of a broader struggle between freedom and terror throughout the Middle East -- one that he said past American policy has failed to address successfully.

"For decades, American policy sought to achieve peace in the Middle East by promoting stability in the Middle East, yet these policies gave us neither," he said.

While describing the current conflict as "painful and tragic," the president said that, if dealt with effectively, it also represents "a moment of opportunity for broader change in the region."

He pledged continued U.S. efforts to help Iraqi leaders establish democracy, and to work toward achieving the vision of "two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security."

"When the Middle East grows in liberty and democracy, it will also grow in peace, and that will make America and all free nations more secure," Bush said.

More

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U.S. Condemns Death of Iranian Activist

Jailed for participating in protests, dissident Akbar Mohammadi dies in custody

By Lea Terhune, Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack joined human rights advocates around the world in condemning the death of a jailed Iranian student dissident, Akbar Mohammadi. Mohammadi, 38, died July 30 after a nine-day hunger strike in Tehran’s Evin Prison.“

The United States condemns the Iranian government’s severe repression of dissidents, and its continued crackdown on civil society and those fighting for personal freedom in Iran,” said McCormack in a statement issued August 1. The detention and harsh treatment of dissidents and opposition leaders, he said, is “part of a deliberate campaign by the Iranian government to silence the student movement in particular, and civil society more broadly.”

Mohammadi had been arrested and sentenced to death for throwing Molotov cocktails during the 1999 protests at Tehran University. His sentence was commuted to 15 years imprisonment. He was given nearly two years leave for medical treatment of injuries sustained during his incarceration. He was arrested again in June.

Mohammadi’s lawyer Khalil Bahramian said he would distrust results of a forensic examination unless a neutral doctor conducted it. He also said he had been denied access to his client by prison authorities.

Human Rights Watch calls Mohammadi’s death “suspicious,” and Amnesty International, in an August 1 statement, said it “signals a need for justice reform” in Iran. The human rights groups also called for a halt to “torture and other ill-treatment in Iranian prisons.”

Human rights advocates and the U.S. government have also expressed concern about the well being of Mohammadi’s brother Manouchehr Mohammadi, who is in Evin Prison for participating in the same 1999 protests. Former Member of Parliament and student leader Ali Akbar Moussavi Khoeini and labor union leader Mansour Osanloo are two among a number of dissidents who remain imprisoned for speaking out.

“[W]e call on the Iranian Government to respect the human rights of all Iranian citizens, including students, members of religious minorities, workers and women, and to release those arrested and imprisoned as a consequence of defending universally accepted human rights and freedoms,” McCormack said.

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U.N. Council Must Address Rights Violations in Mideast, Sudan

By Carolee Walker, Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The U.N. Human Rights Council must address human rights violations among Palestinians and Israelis, as well as in Sudan’s Darfur region, Burma and North Korea, U.S. Ambassador Warren W. Tichenor told the council June 26.

Calling on council members to be “intellectually honest,” Tichenor said the council should give equal attention to “the indiscriminate terror attacks that murder innocent Israelis” as to violations of Palestinians’ human rights.

Tichenor, the U.S. representative to the United Nations office in Geneva, also said that more involvement of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Gaza and the West Bank “could help make a real difference in many lives.

”The goal in the Middle East is for Israel and the Palestinians to live side by side as two independent states in peace and security, Tichenor said. But “with a Hamas Palestinian government that continues to endorse the destruction of Israel … this long sought after goal remains elusive,” he said.

Tichenor also said the new council “must take action to streamline and depoliticize its agenda, to provide technical assistance and support to nations that need it, and to fund the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

”The new council is holding its first session from June 19 to June 30 in Geneva. The United States did not seek membership on the Human Rights Council but is an observer of its deliberations. The United States has pledged to support the council politically, diplomatically and financially.

Government and government-supported militia in Sudan’s Darfur region continue to commit serious human rights and humanitarian law abuses, Tichenor said, although the U.N.’s Commission on Human Rights resolution in 2005 calling for human rights monitors in Darfur offers “room for hope” in the region.

Tichenor said the council must act on abuses in Burma, a country with a “complete absence of basic human rights,” as well as in North Korea.

North Korea, Tichenor said, “remains one of the world’s worst human rights violators.” The regime’s violations, Tichenor said, “include torture, summary or arbitrary executions, widespread forced labor, an extensive inhumane prison camp system and infanticide and forced abortions in those prisons.”

Patrick Smeller, the State Department’s human rights officer to the U.S. mission in Geneva, called on the council to support the full implementation of the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

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U.S. Hails Anniversary of Iran's Constitutional Revolution

1906 movement led to increased democracy in Iran

By David Shelby, Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – The U.S. State Department paid tribute to the centennial anniversary of the 1906 Iranian Constitutional Revolution, calling it “a defining political moment for advancing the democratic ideas it represented.”

In an August 4 statement, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, “Iranian nationalists set forth a powerful and revolutionary concept: a written constitution founded on the rule of fair and just laws, providing for a free press and respect for individual rights.”

On August 5, 1906, in the face of persistent political activism and resistance to Iran’s autocratic form of government, Iranian ruler Mozafar el-Din Shah issued a decree calling for the drafting of a constitution and the formation of a parliament, known as the Majles. The new Majles was seated two months later, and the shah signed the new constitution December 30, five days before his death.

The following ruler, Mohammed Ali Shah, sought to roll back the political reforms, but constitutionalist forces continued to challenge the shah militarily, ultimately forcing his ouster and exile in 1909.

“This short-lived but noble constitutional movement was a significant victory for Iranian democracy and for the cause of freedom in the Middle East,” McCormack said. “Since 1906, Iranians from all walks of life have continued the struggle against unchecked power, corruption, and wide disparities in wealth.”

He said the United States supports the Iranian people’s aspirations for an open society, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, respect for human rights, the rule of law and government accountability.

“Americans believe in liberty and democracy for Iran and commemorate one hundred years of ongoing struggle toward a truly democratic state worthy of its great people,” he said.

The text of the statement is available at the State Department Web site.

8.02.2006

About Iran Regime

In the context of the international struggle for the new Middle East, where freedom, democracy and peace should replace totalitarianism, authoritarianism and violence come from the dictators' interdependent authoritarian system, which fights to survive after the liberation of Iraq in 2003 through the Operation Iraqi Freedom. We need to know more about the key players in the Middle East starting from their domestic affairs and internal structure including the power structure to understand the events and conceive a vision about the region dynamics and, finally, to have a transparent empirical insight into the Middle East affairs and geopolitics.

(See:

Therefore, I am posting quotes about Iran from the Freedom House book, Freedom in the World 2005, selected by Prof. R.J. Rummel:

Iranians cannot change their government democratically. The most powerful figure in the Iranian government is the Supreme Leader…, currently Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-Khamenei; he is chosen for life by the Assembly of Experts, a clerics-only body whose members are elected to eight-year terms by popular vote from a government-screened list of candidates. The Supreme Leader is commander in chief of the armed forces and appoints the leaders of the judiciary, the heads of state broadcast media, the commander of the IRGC, the Expediency Council, and half the members of the Council of Guardians. Although the president and parliament are responsible for designating cabinet ministers, the Supreme Leader exercises de facto control over appointments to the ministries of Defense, the Interior, and Intelligence.

All candidates for election to the presidency and 290-seat unicameral parliament are vetted for strict allegiance to the ruling theocracy and adherence to Islamic principles by the 12-person Council of Guardians, a body of 6 clergymen appointed by the Supreme Leader and 6 laymen selected by the head of the judiciary chief (the latter are nominally subject to parliamentary approval). The Council of Guardians also has the power to reject legislation approved by parliament (disputes between the two are arbitrated by the Expediency Council, another non-elected conservative-dominated body, currently headed by former president Au Akbar Rafsanjani)….

Freedom of expression is limited. The government directly controls all television and radio broadcasting and, since 2003, has reportedly had some success in jamming broadcasts by dissident overseas satellite stations. The Press Court has extensive procedural and jurisdictional power in prosecuting journalists, editors, and publishers for such vaguely worded offenses as "insulting Islam" and "damaging the foundations of the Islamic Republic." In recent years, the authorities have issued ad hoc gag orders banning media coverage of specific topics and events. Since 1997, more than 100 publications have been shut down by the judiciary and hundreds of journalists and civil society activists have been arrested, held incommunicado for extended periods of time, and convicted in closed-door trials….

…[T]he government systematically censors Internet content. Since 2003, the government has forced Internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to a list of "immoral sites and political sites that insult the country's political and religious leaders." … In September [2005], the authorities launched a massive crackdown on free expression, arresting at least 25 journalists, civil society activists, and computer technicians involved in Internet publishing, on charges ranging from defamation to "acts against national security." According to Human Rights Watch, many were coerced by interrogators to sign written confessions saying they had taken part in an "evil project" directed by "foreigners and counter-revolutionaries."

Religious freedom is limited in Iran, which is largely Shia Muslim with a small Sunni Muslim minority. Shia clerics who dissent from the ruling establishment are frequently harassed…. The constitution recognizes Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians as religious minorities and generally allows them to worship without interference so long as they do not proselytize. However, they are barred from election to representative bodies (though a set number of parliamentary seats are reserved for them), cannot hold senior government or military positions, and face restrictions in employment, education, and property ownership. Some 300,000 Baha'is, Iran's largest non-Muslim minority, enjoy virtually no rights under the law and are banned from practicing their faith. Hundreds of Baha'is have been executed since 1979….

Academic freedom in Iran is limited. Scholars are frequently detained for expressing political views, and students involved in organizing protests often face suspension or expulsion by university disciplinary committees….

The constitution permits the establishment of political parties, professional syndicates, and other civic organizations, provided they do not violate the principles of "freedom, sovereignty and national unity" or question the Islamic basis of the republic. In 2002, the 44-year-old Iran Freedom Movement was banned on such grounds and 33 of its leading members imprisoned. In 2004, at least four prominent human rights activists were prevented by the authorities from traveling abroad.

The 1979 constitution prohibits public demonstrations that "violate the principles of Islam," a vague provision used to justify the heavy-handed dispersal of assemblies and marches. Hard-line vigilante organizations unofficially sanctioned by the conservative establishment, most notably the Basij and Ansar-i Hezbollah, play a major role in dispersing public demonstrations.

Iranian law does not allow independent labor unions to exist, though workers' councils are represented in the government-sanctioned Workers' House, the country's only legal labor federation. While strikes and work stoppages are not uncommon, the authorities often ban or disperse demonstrations that criticize national economic policies. In January, security forces in the village of Khatunabad in southeastern Kerman province attacked striking copper factory workers, killing at least four people and injuring many others….

The judiciary is not independent. The Supreme Leader directly appoints the head of the judiciary, who in turn appoints senior judges. Civil courts provide some procedural safeguards, though judges often serve simultaneously as prosecutors during trials. Political and other sensitive cases are tried before Revolutionary Courts, where detainees are denied access to legal counsel and due process is ignored. Clerics who criticize the conservative establishment can be arrested and tried before the Special Court for the Clergy. The penal code is based on Sharia and provides for flogging, stoning, amputation, and death for a range of social and political offenses. In February, Mohsen Mofidi died in a Tehran hospital shortly after receiving 80 lashes on charges including possession of a medicine containing alcohol, possession of a satellite dish, and aiding his sisters' "corruption." In July, an Iranian court acquitted a government intelligence agent on charges of beating Canadian-Iranian freelance photographer Zahra Kazemi to death in July 2003 after she was detained while taking photos of Evin prison. The court refused to call to the witness stand six senior judicial officials present during Kazemi's interrogation.

Iranian security forces subjected hundreds of citizens to arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention in 2004. Suspected dissidents are often held in unofficial, illegal detention centers, and allegations of torture are commonplace. Although legislation banning the use of torture in interrogations was approved by parliament and the Council of Guardians in May, allegations of torture persisted throughout the year. In August, according to local human rights groups, a prisoner who had been left hanging by his wrists had to have his hands amputated.

There are few laws that discriminate against ethnic minorities, who are permitted to establish community centers and certain cultural, social, sports, and charitable associations. However, Kurdish demands for more autonomy and a greater voice in the appointment of a regional governor have not been met, and some Kurdish opposition groups are brutally suppressed. The opposition Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI) alleged that two of its members were executed in December 2003. In June 2004, security forces reportedly arrested 80 ethnic Azeris for allegedly "spreading secessionist propaganda."

Although women enjoy the same political rights as men and currently hold several seats in parliament and even one of Iran's vice presidencies, they face discrimination in legal and social matters. A woman cannot obtain a passport without the permission of a male relative or her husband, and women do not enjoy equal rights under Sharia (Islamic law) statutes governing divorce, inheritance, and child custody. A woman's testimony in court is given only half the weight of a man's. Women must conform to strict dress codes and are segregated from men in most public places. In August, a 16-year-old girl was executed after being sentenced to death for "acts incompatible with chastity."