Archive for January, 2012
TEHRAN (BNO NEWS) — Iran has sentenced two American citizens to eight years in prison after they were convicted of espionage and illegal entry, prosecutors said on Sunday.
Several non-official Iranian media outlets had already reported on Saturday that the two American citizens were sentenced to prison, but the news was not confirmed until Sunday by Tehran Prosecutor-General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi.
Dolatabadi said Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal were sentenced to eight years in prison after being found guilty, but added that they still have 20 days to appeal the verdict. The news shattered earlier hopes in the United States that Iran would release the two as sentencing took place during the Holy month of Ramadan, which is also a time of forgiveness.
Bauer and Fattal were arrested in July 2009 along with Sarah Shourd when they crossed the border in Iraq’s Kurdistan region into Iran. Iranian prosecutors charged them with entering the country illegally and having links to U.S. intelligence, a claim which the defendants and their families have repeatedly denied.
According to the detained Americans, they were hiking in Iraq when they unknowingly crossed the unmarked border into Iran where they were arrested by border guards. Iranian prosecutors have rejected those claims, saying there is ‘compelling evidence’ that they are spies.
Shourd was released on September 14, 2010, after 14 months of imprisonment. She was released on a $500,000 bail on ‘medical concerns,’ although no details were provided. Shourd has since returned home to the United States and does not plan to return to Iran to face trial.
In response to Sunday’s news, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States is “deeply disappointed” by the sentencing. “We continue to call and work for their immediate release – it is time for them to return home and be reunited with their families,” she said.
It was not immediately clear if Bauer and Fattal would receive credit for time already served.
Sunday, August 21st, 2011
Sun Aug 21, 2011
Pakistan has agreed to dispatch more mercenaries to Bahrain to help Al Khalifa regime’s crackdown on anti-government protesters in the Persian Gulf state.
The agreement was reached when Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari met King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa during his one-day visit to Bahrain on Wednesday, IRNA reported Saturday.
Manama has been recruiting former soldiers and policemen from Pakistan at a steady rate to strengthen the government’s forces.
In many demonstrations Bahraini protesters shouted slogans against Pakistani security forces in Urdu.
Pakistani and Saudi forces have played a major rule in suppressing anti-government protests in Bahrain since the beginning of unrest in the Persian Gulf country.
President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) Nabeel Rajab said Friday that the Pakistani recruits have behaved with a heavy hand toward demonstrators.
“They’re told they are going to go to a holy war in Bahrain to kill some non-Muslims or kafir [infidel] or Shias. They are paid well, maybe,” Rajab noted.
Tens of thousands of Bahraini protesters have been holding peaceful anti-government rallies throughout the Middle Eastern country since February, demanding an end to the rule of the Al Khalifa family.
Scores of people have been killed and many more arrested and tortured in prisons in a government-sanctioned crackdown on protests since the beginning of the demonstrations.
According to the BCHR, there are currently over 1,000 political detainees inside the country.
The first round of talks for Jordan’s admission to the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) will be held between September 10 and 15, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said yesterday.
Judeh is to meet his GCC counterparts in Saudi Arabia to outline a road map for Jordan’s admission to the bloc, he told a private sector panel set up to follow the issue.
In May, GCC leaders decided at a meeting in Riyadh to accept Jordan as a new member. The council comprises Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman.
Both Jordan and the GCC countries “stand to benefit” from Amman’s admission to the group, Judeh said.
Before Ibrahim Abdel-Wahed Mohamed left Sea Cliff for a tour of duty with the Marines in Iraq, he was Anthony Grant Vance, the son of American and Panamanian parents who had raised him as a Catholic.
Despite his Christian upbringing, though, he had been curious about Islam since his childhood in Kansas, where he had two Afghani friends. He thought about pursuing anthropology studies to further learn about religion and different cultures, but instead ended up joining the military.
Mohamed felt the pull toward the faith strengthen in Iraq — “the heart of the Islamic world,” as he says — and he reached out to the Muslim contractors on his base and started learning about the precepts of the Quran.
Convinced that he was being called to Islam, he officially became a Muslim while still serving in Iraq. There he underwent Shahada, a profession of faith where a person testifies in front of others that “there is no god but God and Mohammad is the messenger of God,” as the Sunni declaration reads.
His transformation may seem dramatic, but it’s not entirely unique. The number of Latinos in the U.S. converting to Islam is growing, and Long Island is no exception.
In 1997, the American Muslim Council counted approximately 40,000 Hispanic Muslims nationwide, but that number could nowadays be closer to 75,000, according to Latino American Dawah Association (LADO), an organization committed to promoting Islam among the Latino community within the United States.
Juan Galvan, a member of LADO, affirms that Latino converts to Islam are increasing. “Many Muslim organizations have stated that the Latino Muslim community tripled or quadrupled after 9/11,” he says.
He explains that after the attacks, people wanted to know more about the religion. “Many people came to learn about Islam for the first time. Some people came to hate Islam, and some people came to love Islam.”
Mohamed firmly stands with the latter, as one of a small percentage of soldiers who fought in Iraq and returned with a new faith.
In some ways, his roots may have predisposed him to theological experimentation.
Born in Panama to an American Marine father and Panamanian mother, he was baptized and raised as a Catholic. His parents divorced when he was an adolescent, and his father became a Jehovah’s Witness. The conversion led his father to retire from the military after 13 years of service, telling Mohamed that once you decide to follow God, “you don’t pledge allegiance to a country, but you pledge allegiance to God.”
Still, Mohamed followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Marine Corps after he finished high school. As a Marine, traveled around the country, living in California, Virginia, North Carolina and New York, where he finally settled down.
It was working at the military base in Garden City when Mohamed first saw the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, a place that always intrigued him. “We passed by the mosque a couple times and I had the curiosity” he recalls. After several years on Long Island, he was sent to Iraq in 2008.
Two years have passed since Mohamed converted to Islam. Now he lives in Westbury, attends the Islamic Center of Long Island and is pursuing a major in education at CW Post.
He still maintains an open mind when it comes to other religions.
“I’m not here to put anyone else down for their beliefs,” he says. “I still believe that there are many lessons to be learned from other faiths.”
Source: Huffington Post.
Thu Aug 18, 2011
Government forces have attacked Saudi Arabian peaceful demonstrators in the east of the oil-rich kingdom.
Protesters took to the streets of Awamiyah town in the Eastern Province late on Wednesday, witnesses said.
During the protest, people demanded respect for human rights and the release of political prisoners in the country.
At least two demonstrators were arrested after breaking up the rally, according to reports.
The Eastern Province has been the scene of anti-government protests in recent months.
Saudi Arabia, a key US ally in the Middle East, is an absolute monarchy that does not tolerate any form of dissent.
Protest rallies and any public displays of dissent are considered illegal.
The government has become increasingly nervous about the protests that have taken the Arab world by storm, toppling the Egyptian and Tunisian leaders, and which reached Bahrain, Yemen and Libya.
KARBALA, Iraq, Aug. 17 (UPI) — Alleged movement of U.S. forces into Karbala last week was an act of terrorism that violates bilateral security arrangements, an Iraqi official said.
A lawmaker in the Sadrist political party, loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada Sadr, said U.S. forces entered parts of Karbala last week. Tariq al-Khekany told the Voices of Iraq news agency that U.S. forces spent about six hours in a Sadrist stronghold in the city.
“We condemn the said ‘terrorist’ operation, which stood counter to the (2008) security agreement, signed between Iraq and the United States,” he was quoted as saying.
U.S. combat forces withdrew to their military bases in Iraq in June 2009 under the terms of a bilateral Status of Forces Agreement with Baghdad. That agreement left Iraqi security forces in the lead of major operations.
A series of attacks and bombings Monday killed at least 89 people. Iraqi officials blamed national security forces in part for the attacks.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during comments Tuesday said that although no group had claimed responsibility for Monday’s attacks, it was likely a sign that al-Qaida in Iraq was “trying to assert itself.”
Iraqis are considering whether some U.S. forces would stay beyond a Dec. 31 deadline to withdraw. Sadrists blame the U.S. military presence for many of the country’s problems.
Source: United Press International (UPI).
TEHRAN, Aug. 16 (UPI) — Iran and Kurdish officials in Iraq have plans to set up a joint committee to fight Kurdish rebels along their border, an Iranian official said.
Hassan Danaifar, the Iranian envoy to Baghdad, said delegates from Tehran discussed forming an action plan with authorities in the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq to combat the guerrilla campaign of the Party for Free Life of Kurdistan, or PJAK, Iran’s state-funded broadcaster Press TV reports.
Danaifar added that high-ranking military officials from both sides would work to establish the committee.
Iranian officials have acknowledged sending troops to the border region and moving across the Iraqi border allegedly in pursuit of PJAK gunmen. Baghdad expressed frustration over Iranian action against PJAK, though Kurdish leaders told Iranian media recently that PJAK militancy presents a serious security concern in the region.
PJAK is considered a close affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which was blamed for killing Turkish soldiers near the border with Iraq in July.
Reports from Turkish news agency Today’s Zaman say Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech marking the 10th anniversary of his Justice and Development Party that Ankara’s patience with the PKK was wearing thin.
Source: United Press International (UPI).
February 20, 2011
Host, New America Now. Former producer, the BBC and Al Jazeera.
The Iranian people have been in the streets for decades. The big moments are crystallized in media memory — 1979, 1999, 2009, and now. There are people in the streets in Iran this week, as they were last week. They do not want an Islamic Republic of Iran. They want Iran.
In 2009, it was declared all across the international media that these people — young, old, men, women — are part of an organized movement called the Green Movement. “Iran’s Green Revolution” flashed across cable news networks and front pages worldwide.
Immediately, in the moments, then days, weeks, and now years of the discontent surrounding the election dispute, this green thing — the scarves, the flags, the color, the word — suddenly appeared in the protests and from the mouths of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and other figures who ultimately did not secure a win in the presidential election against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
And then the phrase “where is my vote?” appeared. In English. On placards and posters, and t-shirts, and buttons.
You haven’t seen any of this behavior in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen — anywhere where similar anti-government protests have taken place in the last month. It is not how people protest — they don’t get together and name their revolution, then color it, and choose a catchphrase for it, then pour into the streets to let everyone know.
It didn’t happen in Iran either.
The millions — and there were millions — who were in the streets in 2009 could care less about the Green Movement — in 2009 or today. They want rid of the Islamic regime — whether it is Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, or the old guard of Mousavi, Karroubi and the “Greens” who were and still are, so powerful in the Islamic establishment.
The Green leadership is a morally-compromised faction of the establishment — as any other element of the establishment — that wants power in an Islamic Republic of Iran, but cannot seem to get it or regain it because old friends have become new enemies in the regime.
As their individual histories and powerful political records have clearly reflected, they are not secular, they are not democratic, and they do not care about the inherent rights of the Iranian people, let alone see them as a priority.
For most Iranians, the Green Movement is what the international media is calling the massive mobilization to dismantle the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Even outside of Iran, if you attend rallies claiming to be of the Green Movement, many of them are actually rallies against the Islamic regime. Some of the speakers openly address the fact that the Iranians do not want more figures from that regime, they do not want the Green Movement’s leaders, they want the whole regime to be replaced with a government that is elected by the people.
And yet, the irony is that while so many Iranians say this, they know, and so does the US State Department and the UK Foreign Office and the other governments who support the Green leaders, that the Iranian people are so miserable, so trapped in a nation overtaken by Islamists and their massively powerful military and security complex, that they will accept the Greens.
Iranians will accept them — there is no other option anymore. The hope is that change — any change — will finally open the door to serious reform. In a poverty so deep as that which the Iranian soul has experienced in the last 32 years, hope is the only chance for survival.
But Iranians are not nearly as politically and internationally naïve as they were in 1979 and 1999. After the current Green Leader, former President Mohammad Khatami, crushed the student protests of 1999, refusing to support the students, many of whom died or suffered in the violent prisons of the Islamic Republic, everyone in Iran realized that the Islamic Republic’s establishment — a boy’s club of unshorn Islamists, many of whom are actually clerics — has not produced individuals who care about changing Iran into a government that represents the people.
In the last 32 years, any individual who displayed any loyalty to the people of Iran above the Islamic Republic has been eliminated. Anyone who could have been a sincere leader of the people — a person who valued inherent rights, a person whose religion did not supersede the people’s needs — that person was not allowed to live. So there remains no one powerful but those from the regime. The Green Leaders know this very well.
But what they don’t know — and the reason they shuffled into the background when they didn’t get the power they wanted — is that in this Internet age, in this age when Iranians are some of the most educated and knowledgeable people in the world, they do not need a leader to change their country. They are doing it themselves in the streets.
Listen to them this year as compared with 2009 — they are no longer merely denouncing Ahmadinejad — they are denouncing the system itself.
They have been shouting “down with the system”, “down with the velayat-e faqih.” Iranians have for millennia been of different tribes, religions and ethnicities but they have always survived as a nation. They do not want this ‘velayat-e faqih’ system — rulership of the supreme Islamic cleric, to put it simply — which is the foundation of power of the Islamic Republic establishment and the Green Leaders.
So as you watch the new protests — these demonstrations that were inspired by recent Arab revolts which were in turn inspired by Iran’s earlier demonstrations — remember this: the Iranian people do not want the Islamic Republic, whatever shade it comes in.
They want a government of the people, for the people, and by the people. When the Green Leaders win the power they have sought for years — and they will eventually win — they will not be off the hook, because the people want real change, not another game of musical chairs.
Source: Huffington Post.
Mon Aug 15, 2011
Bahraini demonstrators have once again held rallies in several villages to demand the release of political prisoners and the pullout of the Saudi forces from their country.
Despite the government crackdown on protests, peaceful Bahraini demonstrators took to the streets on Monday to continue voicing their demands.
Thousands of protesters poured into the streets in the villages of Sitra, A’ali, Sanabis and several other locations on Sunday, calling for the downfall of the Al Khalifa regime.
Anti-government protesters have been holding protest rallies in Bahrain since mid-February.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates deployed military forces to Bahrain in mid-March to assist the Manama government in its brutal crackdown on the popular protests.
Scores of people have been killed and hundreds more arrested in Bahrain since mid-February. Numerous protesters have also been detained and transferred to unknown locations during the brutal onslaught on protesters.
Amnesty International has condemned the brutal crackdown on peaceful protests and detention of Bahraini demonstrators.
According to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, there are currently over 1,000 political detainees inside the Middle Eastern country.
Mon Aug 15, 2011
An analyst says US administration is putting intense pressure on the Iraqi government to extend the stay of American troops in the country beyond the 2011 deadline.
“I don’t believe they (US troops) will be leaving [Iraq] by the end of this year (2011)… the Americans are pushing for a new agreement,” Zayd al-Isa, a Middle East expert, told Press TV on Monday.
Al-Isa pointed out that Washington has lost many important allies in the popular uprisings currently sweeping the Arab world and it cannot afford to lose its grip Iraq too.
The Middle East expert added that President Barack Obama is afraid that pulling US troops out of Iraq may lead to the deterioration of the situation in of the country, which may work against him in the 2012 presidential election.
“The Republicans, particularly the neo-conservatives, are going to use it (US troop pullout) against them (Obama and his Democratic supporters) [in the 2012 election], particularly if there is deterioration in the situation,” Al-Isa said.
The analyst, however, said that breaching the terms of the withdrawal agreement between Washington and Baghdad would as be illegal as it is binding.
The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between the United States and Iraqi governments mandates that Washington withdraws its troops from Iraq by the end of December 2011.
The US invaded Iraq in 2003 under the pretext of destroying alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) belonging to executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
However, it was later found that the country did not possess any WMDs at the time and that the US and Britain, which led the invasion, were well-aware of the non-existence of such weapons in Iraq, but took military action against the oil-rich nation anyway.
Over one million Iraqis have been killed as a result of the occupation, according to a study by the British polling group, Opinion Research Business (ORB).