Week in ReviewNoteworthy news and opinion items from the week ending May 15, 2011

  1. A Congressional Resolution Regarding Iran—and Some Marked Suggestions for Improvement
  2. Syria: Iran’s Best Friend and Critical Crutch
  3. Bin Laden Had Nothing on the Muslim Brotherhood
  4. Obama’s Chicago-Style Campaign Tactics
  5. Boehner Vows Big Cuts, Rules Out Tax Hikes: We Will See . . .

1. A Congressional Resolution Regarding Iran—and Some Marked Suggestions for Improvement

One of the most important stories of late is one about which you may not have heard. As the conflicts within the Iranian Regime continue heating up, U.S. lawmakers have introduced a resolution titled The Iran Human Rights and Democracy Promotion Act of 2011. The bill, introduced by Robert Dold (R-Ill.) and Congressman Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) in the House, and sponsored by Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in the Senate, would make it the policy of the United States:

(1) to deny the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran the ability to continue to oppress the people of Iran and to use violence and executions against pro-democracy protestors and regime opponents;

(2) to fully and publicly support efforts made by the people of Iran to promote the establishment of basic freedom, which build the foundation for the emergence of a freely elected, open, and democratic political system;

(3) to help the Iranian people produce, access, and share information freely and safely via the Internet and through other media; and

(4) to defeat all attempts by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to jam or otherwise deny international satellite broadcast signals.

Read the full text of the bill here.

This resolution is, of course, far from perfect. Among other things, item 1 is entirely vague—“deny the Government…” how? But given what the U.S. government has been doing about the regime in Iran—namely, nothing—this resolution is a step in the right direction. Items 2 through 4 are relatively good. Missing, of course, are a forthright statement of the illegitimacy of the Iranian regime and a call for its demise.

Enter the forty pro-freedom Iranian and American activists listed below.

These individuals, from the United States, Canada, and Europe, have signed an open letter to the U.S. Congress, in part praising their resolution but also demanding more stringent measures.

The open letter, written by Mansur Rastani, is not perfect either; among other things, it uses the term “democracy” where “rights-respecting republic” would be correct, and it calls for the involvement of the UN, which is a wholly illegitimate organization. But the general thrust of the letter is precisely what Americans should be demanding of our politicians with respect to the murderous theocracy in Iran—namely, that we “once and for all . . . stop further flirting with this government and put an end to the life of this regime.”

I reproduce the open letter here in full, with all forty signatories listed beneath it. (Bear in mind as you read it that English is not Dr. Rastani’s first language.)

May 11, 2011

Re: The Iran Human Rights and Democracy Promotion Act of 2011

Dear Senators Mark Kirk and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Congressmen Robert Dold and Ted Deutch

On May 4, 2011, you have introduced the resolution, The Iran Human Rights and Democracy Promotion Act of 2011, and asserted that the bipartisan legislation would make it the policy of the United States to deny the Iranian regime the ability to oppress the people of Iran, to fully support democratic activists inside Iran, and to help the Iranian people freely and safely access and share information.

Three decades of negotiation by various US administrations has shown that the regime is interested in dialogue only to buy itself enough time in order to develop its weapon’s program. IRI uses its proxies within the United States to convince various American officials that the regime is desirous of a discourse. The radical and irrational nature of the regime, intent on its expansionist ideology, makes any honest and meaningful dialogue with the regime an utter waste of time. This shift of focus on human rights of U.S. policy even though considered very late, is considered a step in the right direction but ignores the elephant in the room.

During the last thirty two years, in so many occasions Iranians have raised their voices for freedom and against the tyranny and oppression imposed by the totalitarian regime of mullahs but every single time they have been cracked down brutally by the Basij thugs of the regime. Thousands of our brave young men and women fought against political incarceration, torture, rape, and for all their basic freedom and human rights and so many have sacrificed their lives in their struggle for freedom and democracy.  In the history of mankind there have been few societies such as Iranians who has suffered so inhumanely and for so long in the hands of their invaders.

The 32-years criminal records of Islamic regime in Iran is well known to the world community, as you know this regime has been the most active state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Its criminal record is well beyond just the human rights violations and the mass murder of Iranians inside the country, and includes: suicide bombers, support for terrorists across the region and the world, ties with al-Qaida, supplying IED’s to Iraqi insurgents to kill American soldiers  in Iraq and Afghanistan, threatening its neighboring countries and pursuing the nuclear weapons program, just to mention a few.

We also strongly believe that the Islamic government leaders in Iran are intent on developing nuclear weapons. With a nuclear Iran as a major power in the volatile Middle East and with oil price at 100 dollars a barrel, the Islamic Republic will expand its presence around the world. In collaboration with allies such as Russia, China and Venezuela, Islamic Republic will flaunt its military power in the Persian Gulf to demonstrate its regional dominance and superiority in the Middle East, challenging Israel into a direct and inevitable confrontation. If mullahs are allowed to realize their nuclear aspirations, its pernicious and disastrous impact will be felt far beyond the Middle East.

Because of the theocratic Islamic regime in Iran, the people in this country and in the region have been exhausted and living in uproar and agony. That is why it is imperative for the international community once and for all to stop further flirting with this government and put an end to the life of this regime. If the resolution would indeed make it the policy of the United States to refrain the Iranian regime the ability to oppress the people of Iran, to fully support democratic activists inside Iran, and to help the Iranian people freely and safely access and share information, then it is crucial for the congress to implement the following reassurances, which are the concern of the entire Iranian society, into the context of the resolution of Human Rights & Democracy Promotion Act of 2011.

As the democracy advocates on earth, U.S. along with the Western Powers should:

  1. hold the Islamic regime responsible for its violation of human rights inside the country and its terrorist acts across the globe,
  2. declare the illegitimacy of the regime,
  3. impose severe political & economic sanction on the government and all its leaders,
  4. Impose oil embargo: for as long as this regime is allowed to sell oil it will continue its oppressive policies and continue to remain as a threat to the world community
  5. prevent the travel of every member of the regime through the aerial, land and water borders,
  6. upon the fall of the regime, have the United Nation launch an international peer group supervision for a public referendum and establishing a provisional government, and
  7. issue the arrest order of all the members of the government for the domestic and/or international trial.

In the meantime we the undersigned Iranians/Americans also respectfully request that the resolution be combined with other legislative initiatives, which not only encompass the striking sanctions by the U.S. government on companies that sell service or products that enable the Iranian regime to oppress its people but also to embrace the support for the Iranian dissidents with the necessary logistic to facilitate their communication inside the country thru the internet, computer hardware/software, and portable phones to evade government censors.

Dear Senators and Congressmen, United States of America has always been known and stood as the democracy advocate across the world, and because of that we the undersigned on behalf of millions of oppressed Iranians expect that the continuing resolution on the floor be tailored to address the demands of Iranian oppositions. This way the world community can avert a regional and potentially global catastrophe and at the same time establish a democratic system of government in the region.


The Undersigned (alphabetic order):

  1. Shahla Abghari, Professor of Microbiology, human and women rights activist
  2. Siavash Abghari, Professor of Finance
  3. Sheri Alvandin, Human Rights Activist and Publisher
  4. Debora M. Andress, Human Rights Activist
  5. Jeff Baird, CEO, Right Side Publications
  6. Cina Dabestani, Chairman of Constitutionalist Party of Iran, Washington DC Chapter
  7. Hassan Darashti
  8. Amir Ebrahimi, Supporter of Democracy and Secularism in Iran
  9. Jay Ewasiuk, Edmonton, AB
  10. Friborz Farhan
  11. Tarek Fatah, Founder, Muslim Canadian Congress
  12. Yasamine Gaeini, Khashm, Toronto Branch
  13. Morteza Gaeini, Khashm, Toronto Branch
  14. M. Jon Ghaffari, President, ESCS
  15. Firouzeh Ghaffarpour, Political Activist
  16. Roxana, Ganji, Human Rights Activist
  17. Dr. Gill Gillespie, Director, the Iran Information Project, UK
  18. Parviz Haddadizadeh “The New Iran” (TNI) Election commissioner18.  H. Hakimi, Retired Ambassador
  19. Sayeh Hassan, Barrister & Solicitor, pro-democracy activist, Canada
  20. Dr. Arash Irandoost, Pro-Democracy Movement of Iran
  21. Parvin Irandoost, Human Rights Advocate
  22. Tony Kantering, Political Activist
  23. Parviz Koupai, Supporter of Democracy and Secularism in Iran
  24. Arezou Lotfi
  25. Caspian Makan, Filk Maker-Human Rights Activist
  26. Walton K. Martin III, Director, the Iran Information Project, USA
  27. Cyrus Marvsati
  28. Zohre Mizrahi, Attorney, Human Rights Advocate
  29. Masoud Nasseri
  30. Dr. Mansur Rastani, University Professor
  31. Cyrus Pakdel, Supporter of Democracy and Secularism in Iran
  32. Pari Saffari, Bidar TV
  33. Frank Salvato, Executive Director, BasicsProject.org
  34. Dr. A. Samadani, X-President, Global University
  35. Sohrab, Shabnameh
  36. Behnaz Shariari, Member Stop Child Execution and Human Rights Activist
  37. Saied Shemirani, Political Activist: United Persian Organization
  38. Shahla Shirinpour, PG&E, Administrative/Subdivision Team Lead Assistant"
  39. Mehdi Zolfaghari,
  40. Dr. Daniel M. Zuckerman, D.D., Chairman, American for Democracy in the Middle-East

Now that’s a viable plan. And Rastani emailed it to every member of Congress.

As I and others at TOS have been saying for years, the key to ending America’s terrorism problem is ending the regime in Iran. Neither the Obama administration nor any Republican administration that might materialize in the near future is likely to bomb the Iranian regime out of existence as it should. But for something like the above resolution and suggested improvements to be implemented in the current political climate is possible, and this is the kind of policy that Americans should openly and loudly advocate.

Toward that end, I urge you to write your Congressmen and Senators, bring their attention to the open letter, and urge them to adopt these measures and improvements and make them into law. Even if your Representatives do nothing immediately, hearing from U.S. citizens repeatedly about what America ought to do about Iran will, over time, soften politicians to the possibility of taking rational action. I’ll have more to say about this in the forthcoming issue of TOS; in the meantime, these proposals—especially the open letter­—deserve our support.

2. Syria: Iran’s Best Friend and Critical Crutch

As I said in last week’s Review, the most important country involved in the Arab Spring is Syria, because of its significance to Iran. Elliot Hentov makes some good observations on this count. Excerpt:

Iran moved quickly to frame the uprisings across the Arab world as an "Islamic Awakening" and as a parallel to its own Islamic Revolution in 1979. But Tehran is visibly shaken by the possibility of regime overthrow in Syria. Despite American efforts to highlight Iranian support for the Syrian regime's efforts to retain power, in fact Tehran has little control over the future of political order in Syria. The turbulence in Syria and Iran's limited influence have significance beyond the immediate, urgent question of the survival of Bashar al-Assad. It shows powerfully how much Iran's influence is a function of external developments rather than internal strength -- and how that influence might be severely affected by changes in the regional environment beyond its control.

The longer trajectory of Iran's regional power highlights how deeply losing Syria might affect Tehran. . . .

In the absence of internal resources, Iran's foreign policy relies heavily on external assets, notably its partnership with Syria. Syria provides very critical logistical, political, and military support to Hezbollah in Lebanon and provides Iran's main gateway to relevance in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Without Syria, Hezbollah's capabilities could deteriorate and be susceptible to defeat in the next round of fighting. Damascus also facilitates Iran's relations with Hamas, as Syria is (still) the main headquarters of the group outside Gaza. Overall, these points of contact are of extremely high importance as the Arab-Israeli conflict itself is a major foreign-policy asset of Iran on which it builds its legitimacy. Losing direct access to the Arab-Israeli arena would thus be a detrimental blow to Iranian influence.

Damascus also lessens Tehran's isolation as its only loyal ally in the region. Syria aside, Tehran does not enjoy the trust of any other governments in the region. Even Lebanon and Iraq, with their influential Shiite constituencies, are beholden to the complex sectarian makeup of their polities and therefore constrained in their relations with Iran. Above all, Syrian support creates the veneer of pan-Islamic solidarity and reduces Iran's Shiite and Persian character, which otherwise sets it apart from most of the Arab world.

Any regime that would follow Assad would likely be less forthcoming toward Iran. By definition, any successor regime would be more reflective of the Sunni majority and resentful of most legacies of the current Alawite-dominated regime, including its close ties with Tehran. Most problematically, Iran lacks an alternative to Syria. There is simply no other regional player interested and able to provide comparable goods. Therefore, if Assad went down, so would Iran's regional influence. . . .

Read Hentov’s whole piece here.

3. Bin Laden Had Nothing on the Muslim Brotherhood

While Islamists in Egypt assault and murder Christians for accepting the wrong fantasy, Ayaan Hirsi Ali points out that the death of Osama Bin Laden, though welcome, is far from the end of America’s terrorism problem. The greatest danger, Ms. Ali argues, is not the impatient “commando” approach of Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, but the “gradualist” approach and “bottom-up” movement of the Muslim Brotherhood, as illustrated by its efforts in Egypt, and Khomeini’s in Iran. Excerpt:

Unlike Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood has evolved and learned the hard way that the use of violence will be met with superior violence by state actors. The clever thing to do, it now turns out, was to be patient and invest in a bottom-up movement rather than a commando structure that risked being wiped out by stronger forces. Besides, the gradualist approach is far more likely to win the prize of state power. All that Khomeini did before he came to power in Iran was to preach the merits of a society based on Islamic law. He did not engage in terrorism. Yet he and his followers took over Iran – a feat far greater than bin Laden ever achieved. In Iran the violence came later. . . .

Just how likely is it that Egypt will end up – after the inevitable transition period – being ruled indirectly or directly by the Muslim Brotherhood?

Three factors

The answer depends on a combination of three factors – two domestic and one foreign:

  1. The Brotherhood’s strength within the Egyptian military, which is still in charge of the country;
  2. The absence of a formidable secular rival within Egypt;
  3. The willingness of America and her allies to underestimate the ambitions and the political skills of the Muslim Brotherhood.

For the moment it looks like all three factors are working in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Make no mistake: The Brotherhood are working to realize the vision summarized in their motto: “Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Qur’an is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”

A series of concrete goals derived from this motto used to be available on their website, though this is (perhaps not surprisingly) unavailable at the present time. Fortunately, some of the contents have been republished at http://mideastweb.org.

A closer look at the Brotherhood's goals

Among the “sub-goals” of the Muslim Brotherhood:

  • Building the Muslim individual … with a strong body, high manners, cultured thought, ability to earn, strong faith, correct worship, conscious of time, of benefit to others, organized, and self-struggling character;
  • Building the Muslim family: choosing a good wife or husband, educating children Islamically;
  • Building the Muslim society;
  • Building the Khilafa (a form of union between all the Islamic states);
  • Mastering the world with Islam.

True, the Brotherhood’s leaders have insisted that they are committed to democracy and the rule of law. But they will give an idiosyncratic twist to these commitments.

I expect them to establish a political order based on the Sunni version of an Islamic state. Based on lessons learned from their Islamist brethren elsewhere, they will seek to establish a political order of shariah, or Islamic Law. This would include a judicial system that does not question but merely applies shariah law, a “virtue and vice” police to enforce the Sharia lifestyle and an education and information system that seeks to indocrinate the youth and build “the Muslim individual.”

A department of state or caliphate would seek to establish and nurture relations with allies while urging those allies to undertake joint economic, diplomatic and military action against perceived adversaries. The Organization of the Islamic Conference is one example of this. And note the recent leading role that Egypt’s interim government has taken in reuniting Hamas and Fatah while excluding the U.S. and Israel from these activities. . . .

Ms. Ali goes on to explain how she thinks the Brotherhood will work to achieve its long-term goals—both within Egypt and abroad. And she warns that “Western policymakers should be exceedingly wary about the influence of the gradualist jihadists on the events now unfolding in Egypt and the rest of the Middle East. Bin Laden is dead. Al Qaeda may soon follow him to the grave. But the doctrine of jihad lives on.”

Read the whole article here.

4. Obama’s Chicago-Style Campaign Tactics

And then we have our thugs at home. As Investors Business Daily explains,

Under the guise of rooting out Chicago-style political corruption from government contracting, President Obama seems intent on signing an executive order that would enshrine it.

Last month, the White House drafted an order that would require any company bidding on a federal contract to disclose not only its company donations to federal candidates going back two years, but those of its directors and officers as well.

It would also force these firms to disclose contributions to independent groups that might spend some of the money on campaign ads. And it would warehouse all this data in a searchable government database.

The executive order claims this is all in the interest of keeping the federal contracting process "free from undue influence." . . .

But, as the Washington Examiner explains,

This proposed order is anything but benign. Not only does it require disclosure of individual contributions to partisan candidates, it also covers donations to any organization that might use the funds for "independent expenditures or electioneering communications," otherwise known as political speech protected by the First Amendment. So all firms hoping to do business with the federal government would have to investigate the personal political activities of their principals and report them to federal bureaucrats and their politically appointed overseers (Democrats kid only themselves if they think Republicans won't do the same thing once they get back in the White House).

Liberal groups claim that these disclosure requirements are only meant to increase transparency, not chill political speech. But if that were true, consider this: In 2010, Obama's liberal allies, including unions, spent $95 million on independent expenditures like those funded by corporations. But unions that sign collective bargaining contracts with the federal government are exempt from the Obama order's "disclosure" requirements. Clearly, the chill would only be felt among Obama opponents.

Read the IBD piece here, and the Examiner piece here.

5. Boehner Vows Big Cuts, Rules Out Tax Hikes: We Will See . . .

Much is being made of House Speaker John Boehner’s promise this week to cut “trillions, not billions” in spending, not to raise the debt ceiling until said spending cuts are enacted, and not to raise taxes. In the famous words of Richard Pryor, we will see, we will see. . . For now, mark Boehner’s words. The Wall Street Journal has the rundown. Excerpt:

In a speech to the Economic Club of New York, Boehner laid down a tough marker in the nettlesome debate over allowing Washington to elevate its $14.3 trillion debt limit. Saying that spending cuts must total "trillions, not billions," Boehner said any spending cuts must exceed the debt limit.

"Without significant spending cuts and reforms to reduce our debt, there will be no debt limit increase," Boehner told an audience of New York's business and financial elite. "And the cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in debt authority the president is given." . . .

In a question-and-answer session following his speech, Boehner reiterated an earlier position that it would be irresponsible to not allow the federal government to borrow more, which could lead to a default. However, he also ruled out the possibility of raising taxes as part of any potential deal.

Raising taxes is "off the table," Boehner vowed, drawing a stark contrast with opposition Democrats, who have called for tax hikes on upper-income earners. The speaker added that raising taxes "would have a devastating impact on the economy." . . .

If the Speaker had added that raising taxes “would be a further violation of the rights of producers,” I’d be less skeptical. Read the whole WSJ piece here. And, again, you can contact Boehner and your Representatives here to let them know what you demand in exchange for your future support.

*  *  *

I hope you enjoyed this edition of TOS’s Week in Review. Feel free to forward the link to others who might enjoy it as well. —CB

Joshua Lipana and Daniel Wahl contributed to this WiR.

(TOS does not necessarily agree with the content of articles to which we link.)

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