It was just weeks before he left Iran forever amidst a massive nationwide demonstration against him that the Shah of Iran broadcast his last speech to the people, apologizing for his past mistakes. On November 5, 1978, he pleaded: I heard the voice of your revolution. As Shah of Iran as well as an Iranian citizen, I cannot but approve your revolution. Let all of us work together to establish real democracy in Iran. I make a commitment to be with you and your revolution against corruption and injustice in Iran. Not so for President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. He did not apologize for anything in his speech to the people on their day of rage today. He did not make any amends and in fact repeatedly reinforced his power and authority: My instructions to the government stressed that they provide an opportunity to the masses to express their views. The government committed to my instructions and this was clear in the way the police handled the demonstrators. In my capacity as president of the republic and by virtue of all the power conferred to me by the constitution…
I address you today not only as president of your republic but also as an Egyptian citizen. And then he used the phrase that has even come to be dreaded amongst Americans: “I am shouldering my first responsibility to maintain the homeland security.” Like the Shah before him, Mubarak promised to change things. He promised that he cared about the people. I will always take the side of the poor people of Egypt.I have always been keen toward directing the government’s policies toward economic reform to lift the suffering of the people.He used phrases in succession that he rarely if ever had used before: “impoverished”, “the poor”, “people of low income”, “unemployment”, “raise the standard of living”, “freedom of expression”, “healthcare”, “housing”. Like the Shah before him — a man whose grave is in the heart of Cairo because he was refused burial in the nation of his birth — Mubarak’s big speech indicated how very out of touch he was with the reality of the people and the reality of his own shortcomings in addressing their concerns. We will continue our political, economic and social reforms for a free and democratic Egyptian society, embracing modern principles. I have always been keen toward directing the government’s policies toward economic reform to lift the suffering of the people. The problems facing us and the goals sought by us cannot be achieved through violence or chaos, they can only be achieved by national dialogue and conscious, concerted, genuine efforts. His speech most spectacularly overlooked the irony that if it hadn’t been for the “chaos,” he would never have undertaken to speak to the public at 1 a.m. on a Friday night. In the end, his threats against the people, though carefully worded, were clear enough: There is a fine line separating freedom from chaos. While I take the side of the citizen’s freedom to express their views, I also similarly adhere to defending Egypt’s stability and security. We should be conscious and aware of the many examples around us which drove people to chaos and mayhem where they gained no democracy or stability. Meanwhile, the streets of Egypt are still packed. Journalists who can are reporting that the speech was meaningless to the people, as they continued to defy government curfews and demonstrate through the night. The Shah’s last speech was also ignored. He, too was trying to conceal his anger at the insubordination of his people — the people he thought he owned, which he learned that he didn’t. Resting, deep in the corridors of Cairo, today he must have shivered in his grave at the lesson he learned, which Mubarak will no doubt learn himself — that is, if foreign governments do not interfere in the Egyptian people’s demands and abilities to change the direction of their future
Source: The Huffington Post
David Mednicoff – January 30, 2011
In a region prone to religious violence and sorely lacking in democratic government, the thinking goes, it is secular regimes that hold the most promise for change, and have been the easiest for us to support. Though perhaps never stated in such simple terms, this thinking underlies much of our diplomacy and analysis of a volatile and strategically important region.It’s easy to see why: A secular government is more like a modern Western democracy, and a better fit with our own tradition of separating church and state. We tend to believe that even if secular Arab regimes are oppressive, they represent at least a small step toward a more modern, stable, and democratic future for the region. Washington has funneled its greatest Arab aid to secular strongmen like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who openly trumpet the need to squelch Islamic political movements. It has dealt more warily with Islamic monarchies like Saudi Arabia. But can today’s secular governments really be the basis for a stable Middle East? The recent overthrow of the president of Tunisia suggests an uncomfortable answer. The Tunisian revolution was the biggest political news in the Arab world in years, triggering wide speculation
on its deeper causes and how much it will spread to other countries. But one thing is undeniable: In a region full of monarchies and other unelected regimes, the government that fell — the one government unable to maintain enough hold on the public to weather a crisis — was the most secular one. For over four decades, Tunisia’s political leadership looked, if not like a model regime, then at least like a step in the right direction. Habib Bourguiba, its first independent leader, banished religion from a role in the state and actively promoted women’s rights and education. Since ousting Bourguiba in 1987, ex-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali attracted Western ties and tourists, consistently fighting Islamism and raising fears about its influence. Despite an impressive general record of economic achievement, Ben Ali has just become the first modern Arab leader to be ousted through popular mobilization. In Egypt, the most populous Arab country, another secular regime struggles to fend off the seething anger of its people. And in secular Algeria and Yemen, copycat protests may be setting the stage for similar widespread demonstrations. This rising tide of mass protests against Arab secular strongmen urges us to think again about the role of Islam and government. Decades of Western policy have pushed Middle Eastern governments toward secular reforms. But a more nuanced view of the region — one that values authenticity as much as Western dogma — suggests something different. If we are concerned about stability, balance, even openness, it may be Arab Islamic governments that offer a better route to those goals. To most Western thinkers, suggesting a role for religion in government seems to be sailing against the wind of history. Europe’s rise to industrial greatness, democracy, and global power came in the wake of deliberate secularization. Part of the enduring appeal of the American dream is its religious tolerance. Russia, China, and the rest of East Asia have all flourished economically, if undemocratically, under secular rule. Yet the examples in the Arab world look very different. The Middle East and North Africa is the world region most lacking in democratic government, tempting policy makers to imagine that positive change, as it has elsewhere, will go hand-in-hand with secularization. But the Middle East is also the origin and heartland of Islam, a faith sustained in part through its ability to serve as a political order as well as a religious belief. Unlike Americans, who may be deeply religious but are also raised to believe in separate realms of church and state, many quite moderate Muslims see nothing strange in the notion of a government fully infused with religious purpose. Survey research in the Arab world, such as the University of Michigan’s Arab Barometer project, has found that respondents generally consider themselves Muslims above other markers of identity, including national citizenship. As a result, Islam isn’t just a feature of a national government; for many citizens, it may be as important as the idea of the nation itself. By forcing Islam out of state politics, as Tunisia did, the government can actually reduce its own legitimacy in the eyes of the people, leaving it vulnerable and forcing it to lean more heavily on the machinery of a police state. One implication unsettling for many Westerners is that democracy in the Middle East might look very different from democracy in the West. In a global poll known as the World Values Survey, the vast majority of citizens of countries as diverse as Algeria, Egypt, and Jordan argue that state politics should be based on Islam’s system of jurisprudence known as the sharia. Similarly strong support exists for the proposition that Arab officials should be good Muslims. Secular regimes in Tunisia and Egypt have stayed in place through military force and fear. If citizens were allowed to choose, as they almost could before the army intervened in Algeria in 1992, they might vote for something that looks very different than our idea of a modern pluralistic government. But it might be insulated from the kind of instability and uncertainty we have seen recently. When Tunisians took to the streets this month, part of what motivated them was moral outrage about the corruption of their secular president’s family and cronies. Good Muslim leaders might not ignore their religion’s calls for social justice by so gross a level of stealing public funds. The uncomfortable fact for Western policy makers is that Arab traditional monarchies have fared much better in recent decades than secular republics: With at least a toehold in Islamic political tradition, monarchies have been able to weather crises and enjoy stable transitions between leaders. And although it’s common to lump all Arab governments together, whether conservative Muslim states like Saudi Arabia or police states like Syria, in fact the stability and popular legitimacy of an Islamic monarchy can allow for something surprising: modern openness.
For example, Morocco holds yearly allegiance ceremonies confirming the king with titular status as head of the national religious community, dramatizing his legitimacy as a traditional leader. But over the years, Morocco has also accommodated religious opposition and debate. The country is one of the last Arab bastions of an autonomous, open Jewish community. Since independence in 1956, it has had the most and freest political parties in the Arab world. And Morocco’s Arab monarchical peers to the East, countries like Oman and the United Arab Emirates, have become centers of global culture, education, media, and tourism in recent years. The small kingdom of Qatar will be the first Middle Eastern state to host the World Cup, in 2022. Arab kings can act as a calming buffer between popular citizen demands and state institutions. Their relative legitimacy has allowed them to trim their repressive security apparatus, in comparison with states like Tunisia. Generally, monarchies rank highest among Arab states on global measures of good governance such as Freedom House’s index of freedom and the World Bank’s rule of law indicator. Morocco is the only Middle Eastern state to establish a national commission to acknowledge and redress previous human rights violations. By contrast, the mass killings of secular rulers like Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Hafez el-Asad in Syria have nothing like a parallel in post-colonial Arab royal history. If we think of “modern” governments as those that can accommodate change, freedom, and pluralism, then Islamic monarchies have satisfied this definition much more than secular republics in recent years. Certainly the thousands of protesters in Tunisia in the last month, and in Egypt at the moment, haven’t seemed impressed with the achievements of their secularist leaders. In fact, Arab monarchies that simulate aspects of the political Islamic past are not only comparatively stable, but better bets for controlled transitions to free governments. Recent global experience suggests that, despite the much-publicized intolerance of extremists, Islamic political ideas are compatible with democracy. Arab Islam’s long history provides many concepts that resemble, without duplicating, Western democratic practices, such as town meeting (“majlis”) and representative consultation (“shura”). Indeed, today’s Arab kings have adapted such ideas to negotiate and build consensus around important policies. And there is ample evidence that Islamist political opposition parties compete fairly in Arab elections, when they are allowed to do so. Washington’s understandable concern about particularly aggressive manifestations of Islam such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban — and the anti-Americanism of Iran’s Islamic revolution — has pushed us to hold almost monolithic views about the general nature of Muslim politics. But the bleak record of secular Middle Eastern states suggests that a sounder policy would be one more open to Islamic models of rule like Morocco and Qatar — nations sufficiently inoculated against direct attacks in the name of Islam that they can create public space for liberal education and open media. Such public space has already borne fruit in the form of increasing religious, secular, and mixed alternatives to express political views. Secular plural democracy developed in the West through a gradual process of disentangling the rigid links between state institutions and religion. Yet religious belief endured. Islamist monarchies have birthed cosmopolitan societies, such as in Dubai, and influential independent media empires, like Al-Jazeera in Qatar. When they are flexible, these monarchies may well be the midwives of a comparable, steady process of democratization that is appropriate to contemporary Arab Islam. By thinking more broadly about the progressive potential for Islamic politics in the Middle East, the West may reap another benefit. Viewed from the region, American intervention doesn’t look nearly as benevolent as Americans may imagine, and this has magnified a widespread view that Western powers fail to practice the ideals of freedom that they preach. Today, many Arabs believe that Western exhortations of religious tolerance and democracy are a cover for attempts at political control. A sounder US policy towards Middle Eastern governance would be one that considers what the people there truly want, not on our terms, but on theirs — whether secular or not.
David Mednicoff is a professor in public policy and social and political thought at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a research fellow at the Dubai Initiative at the Kennedy School at Harvard, and a former Fulbright Scholar to Morocco and Qatar
Washington Post – Jan 26, 011
State of the Union: ‘This is our generation’s Sputnik moment’ – Obama cited Sputnik and the Space Race as moments that inspired American innovation in the State of the Union.
باراک اوباما در نشست مشترک مجالس نمایندگان و سنای ایالات متحده سیاست های کلان دولت خود در سال جاری را اعلام کرد. آقای اوباما در نطق سالانه بر امور داخلی به ویژه اقتصاد، بیکاری و کسری بودجه کلان دولت فدرال تمرکز و شعار” آینده از آن ماست” را به دفعات تکرار کرد. آقای اوباما در این نطق فقط یک بار به ایران اشاره کرد. او گفت: به خاطر تلاش دیپلماتیک برای اینکه ایران به تعهدات بین المللی اش عمل کند، دولت ایران در حال حاضر با تحریم هایی رو به روست که بیش از همیشه سخت تر و جدی تر است
This weekend I attended and spoke at The Iran Democratic Transition Conference in George Washington University. The conference was organized by The Institute of World Politics and The Confederation of Iranian Students. I attended as an independent activist and with an open mind; because I believe that if we want to promote democracy we have to start practicing it today! Although this was a very controversial conference, and I had received numerous calls from various political activists urging me not to attend, I decided to attend and judge for myself. While this conference had the potential of accomplishing something very useful and positive, unfortunately it fell very short of that goal. Overall the goal of the conference seemed to be the self-promotion of “The Confederation of Iranian Students” as well as an undertone of reformist propaganda. The following are my observations and thoughts on various panels and speakers:
Another speaker was the well know reformist Alireza Nourizadeh who spent most of his speech trying to convince the audience “not to bring up Mousavi’s past, not to say that thousands of political prisoners were executed during Mousavi’s time as the prime minister, because this would prevent unity and would not allow the movement to move forward. He also attacked the term “secularism” by stating that 60% of the Iranians were afraid of the term, and perceived it to mean “someone would come and rip of their daughter’s skirt.” Mr. Nourizadeh did not indicate where he had gotten his statistics from…
PNNVideo | January 25, 2011
Appeal to save Hindus and Sikhs and Christians from Extinction targeted upon by Jihadists in Pakistan
Dr.Radhe Shyam Kumar – Jan. 25, 2011
We are appalled and horrified to know that over one hundred Hindu families (about 500 people) in Pakistan ’s Balochistan province are making frantic efforts to seek political asylum in India after becoming the target of a campaign of vilification, demonization, kidnapping and extortion by Jihadists supported by Pakistan ’s spy agency ISI. Over the last 5 years, more than 5,000 Hindus have already moved from Pakistan ’s Sind province to Rajasthan , India . Their tattered clothes, emotionless faces and vacuous eyes tell their dismal tale. Most of these Hindus refugees look like zombies. Although no figures are made available, anecdotal evidence and human rights groups say that persecution and conversion of Hindus and Sikhs have risen in the last two years, with temples and gurudwaras being desecrated and worshippers being attacked. According to Basant Lal Gulshan, Balochistan’s Minorities Affair Minister “forty-one Hindus were abducted during the past three years and four more were killed when they resisted kidnapping attempts. In the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Talibans have warned Hindu men to grow beard and Hindu women to wear burqa in order to avoid being beaten or fined by Lashkar extremists. Last year, Islamic militants directed Sikh community in the NWFP either to convert to Islam, leave the land of their forefathers or pay 12 million rupees ($140,000) jizya – the medieval tax levied on non-Muslims in Islamic state. ‘DNA” reported in its issue of May 28, 2010 that over 50 Pakistani Hindus have converted to Islam in the Sialkot district of Punjab within a week (between May 14 and May 19) under pressure from their Muslim employers in a bid to retain their jobs and survive in the Muslim-dominated society. Hindu women are raped. Men are harassed, beaten up or slain, and children are abducted. Harassment and torture
of minorities – Hindus and Christians – in Pakistan is going on unabated. In the latest matter, a Hindu girl near Karachi, Pakistan, was abducted, forcefully converted to Islam and kept in a Muslim mosque in Pakistan. It is the Taliban effect. At the time of Partition of India in 1947, there were somewhere between 20 to 24% Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan . They were forced to convert to Islam or leave the country. In the last 63 years Hindus and Sikhs have been ethnically cleansed from Pakistan. It is not only Hindus and Sikhs who suffer indignity and humiliation; Christians are also treated like criminals, and charges of blasphemy are leveled against them on the flimsiest of excuses. In March, 2010, Dr. Manjit Singh Randhawa, President of Sikh Nation Organisation, had appealed to the United Nations against forced conversion and racial discrimination of minorities (Hindus and Sikhs) to prevail upon Pakistan to repeal the ‘Nizam-e-Adl 2009 Regulation’ that has “legitimized and legalized tyranny” by ‘Taliban’, in complete disregard to its international commitments under various UN Conventions, to safeguard Human Rights of its citizens within international borders of Pakistan. Jihadists in collaboration with Pakistan military have radicalized Pakistani society in the most dangerous manner. In a show of strength, on January 9, 2011, over 40,000 Islamists gathered in the streets in Karachi , the capital of Sind province in Pakistan , under the banner of Tahaffauz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat which is a conglomerate of religious parties opposed to amendments of the country’s blasphemy laws. They showed support in favor of Mumtaz Quadri, the assassin of Governor of Punjab , Salman Taseer, and showered him with rose petals. Speakers at the meeting openly threatened to kill anyone supporting blasphemy law while 3,000 police officers watched them helplessly. Mumtaz Quadri was promised legal help by 200 lawyers. For more information on this you may contact Gopinath Kumar, Editor-in-Chief of Pakistan Hindu Post at http://pakistanhindupost.blogspot.com/.
Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan are facing an uncertain future. Their plight is miserable. They live in fear of abduction for ransom, armed robberies and murder. Under the circumstances, we appeal to the governments of India , the USA , the United Nations, and all global human rights groups to stop egregious human rights violations and rescue these hapless Hindus, Sikhs and Christians from the jaws of death as soon as possible.
Faith Freedom.org President
January 24, 2011
Opponents of the late shah of Iran stood side-by-side with former regime officials at a memorial service in Maryland for his son Alireza Pahlavi, who killed himself earlier this month. United in grief, the men and women openly wept on Sunday as they watched a photo montage of Pahlavi as a baby, a young boy in Iran, at his graduation from Princeton University and playing with one of his nieces. “This is not just a tragedy for the family, it’s a tragedy for the Iranian people,” Alireza Nourizadeh, who was editor of Iran’s Etelaat Newspaper when the shah was deposed in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, said. “I was not very fond of the shah — that’s the least you could say — but I cried today. When Alireza Pahlavi committed suicide, it was as if the son of every Iranian had committed suicide,” he said. Nourizadeh cried as he watched the photos flash past on a large screen at Strathmore Music Center in Bethesda, and ushers handed out tissues as the 2,000 people in the auditorium gave in to their grief. “When I saw those images of the prince as a young boy,” Nourizadeh said later, “it made me wonder why we fought all those years ago for change. “All we did was replace an undemocratic regime with a bunch of cannibals.
” Pahlavi, 44, had struggled to come to terms with the political troubles in Iran and never got over the death of his father and sister, his older brother Reza Pahlavi said when he announced his tragic death on January 4. The deposed shah fled into exile in 1979 and died a year later. The body of the shah’s youngest daughter, princess Leila Pahlavi, was found in 2001 in a London hotel. An inquest heard that she had taken a fatal cocktail of prescription drugs and cocaine. Iranians came from around the world to attend Sunday’s memorial service, many wearing large round badges showing pictures of Alireza and Leila Pahlavi, and others wearing lapel pins of the Iranian imperial flag. “I love them like my own family,” said Homa Monassebian.”This hurts a lot, especially with what is happening in Iran. I came here 40 years ago but my heart and soul are still in Iran,” she said. Simin Farhoodi, whose husband was jailed after the revolution because he had held a government job under the shah, sat behind Nourizadeh and wept. “It’s very sad. If it teaches us anything, I suppose it is to be close to our children, to make sure that they don’t feel alone with all that is happening in Iran,” she said. Farhoodi was pregnant with her second child when her husband was jailed in Iran after the overthrow of the shah. She stayed in the country to help secure his release before they moved to the United States. “Maybe our generation is better able to handle everything that’s happening in Iran than the younger generation, because we are used to things being unfair,” she said. Alireza Pahlavi, the youngest of the shah’s five children, moved to the United States as a teenager during the revolution. He obtained his first degree from Princeton University in 1984 and a Masters Degree from Columbia University in 1992. He never married and was undertaking a doctorate at Harvard University in philology and ancient Iranian studies when he took his own life.
Source: AlARAB ONLINE
Transport Intelligence, January 24, 2011
Lawerence Latif – Jan 24, 2011
THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC of Iran has launched a cyber police unit to crack down on communications between political dissidents. The country’s cyber police will patrol the information superhighway looking to tackle what it calls “Internet crimes”. It all sounds fairly reasonable until you read that the cyber police unit’s remit includes subverting social networks that police chief Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghaddam said promote “espionage and riots”. Ahmadi Moghaddam said that Iran’s cyber police will take on the “anti-revolutionary” dissident groups that used online social networks to organise protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad following disputed elections held in 2009. “Through these very social networks in our country, anti-revolutionary groups and dissidents found each other and contacted foreign countries and triggered riots,” said Ahmadi Moghaddam, referring to the protests that took place at the time. Then, Iranian protestors used social notworking not only to organise demonstrations but also to disseminate information as the government shut down mobile phone networks
and suppressed reporting by traditional media within the country. The announcement that Iran has launched a cyber police comes after the New York Times claimed that the Stuxnet worm was a joint Israeli and US effort. The worm targets Windows-based supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) machines, specifically systems running Siemens’ Step 7 software. According to the NYT article, the Stuxnet worm did significant damage to Iran’s centrifuges that it is using to enrich uranium into fuel for nuclear energy plants. However, Iran’s cyber police mission to suppress social networks due to their proven ability to help dissidents organise anti-government protests likely will itself only motivate more protests.
Source: The INQUIRER
January 24, 2011 – Sourece: CBSNEWS
ندا;در خارج از ایران و در ایران، به عنوان نماد ندای اعتراض ایرانیان و ندای آزادی خواهی ایرانیان و نماد صدای اعتراض دموکراسی خواهان در این اعتراضات شناخته میشود و برخی از عنوان «فرشته آزادی» برایش استفاده کردند… / ندا آقاسلطان ( ۳ بهمن۱۳۶۱ در تهران – ۳۰ خرداد ۱۳۸۸ در تهران) یکی از دهها نفری بود که در جریان اعتراضات مردمی به نتایج انتخابات ۲۲ خرداد ۱۳۸۸ در روز شنبه ۳۰ خرداد ۱۳۸۸ (۲۰ ژوئن ۲۰۰۹) در محلهٔ امیر آباد تهران (خیابان کارگر شمالی، تقاطع خیابان شهید صالحی و کوچهٔ خسروی) به ضرب گلوله کشته شد. انتشار فیلم کوتاهی از لحظات جان سپردن وی که با تلفن همراه گرفته شد، بازتابهای فراوانی در رسانههای جهان بهدنبال داشت. به نوشته هفته نامه تایم، لحظه جان سپردن وی پربینندهترین مرگ یک انسان در تاریخ بشریت شد
Thomas Joscelyn – January 23, 2011
For the second time in less than a year, former British prime minister Tony Blair testified before the Iraq Inquiry on Friday. The Inquiry is investigating the circumstances that led up to the Iraq war and its aftermath. And for the second time Blair warned of collusion between Iran and al Qaeda. In Blair’s estimation, the problems post-Saddam Iraq faced would have been manageable had it not been for the nefarious influence of external actors such as al Qaeda and Iran. No one foresaw their collusion on the eve of the Iraq war, Blair testified. But al Qaeda’s spectacular suicide bombings and Iran’s extensive sponsorship of terrorists and extremists were the main drivers of the violence that engulfed Iraq in violence. Toward the end of his testimony, Blair described the two biggest lessons he learned from the Iraq War. He began by saying that “[o]ne of those political lessons is to do with the link between AQ and Iran.” Blair stated [emphasis added]: I wanted to make it very clear to you that I think you need to look at this issue to do with AQ and Iran in a broader context and also the linkages between the two, because I think there are a whole series of particularly defense intelligence reports
from 2005 and 2006 which are very, very important in this regard and which detail quite extensively the nature of those activities. Blair addressed the relationship between Iran and al Qaeda in his written testimony submitted to the Inquiry as well. In a section entitled, “The Role of AQ and Iran,” Blair explains that the British intelligence community drastically underestimated both al Qaeda’s and Iran’s designs on post-Saddam Iraq. Their roles were a “game-changer,” Blair contends, and “the dimension not foreseen, that almost tipped Iraq into the abyss.” “If anything,” Blair writes, “it was thought that whilst Iran would have a keen interest, naturally, in what happened in Iraq it would be more interested in promoting stability than instability.” That was clearly wrong, Blair says. And that assessment quickly changed after the March 2003 invasion, when intelligence reports highlighting Iranian-sponsored violence began to pour in. One such British report, dated Sept. 23, 2004, “stated that the Sunni extremist presence in Iran was ‘substantial.'” Blair adds: “This was emphasised in December 2004.” Blair told the Inquiry that British intelligence officials were more concerned about the possibility of al Qaeda attacks inside the UK and elsewhere than they were about the al Qaeda network already operating inside Iraq. And this was a serious shortcoming in their pre-war analyses. In his written testimony, Blair explains: There was no sense that AQ would mount a full-scale operation in Iraq after the removal of Saddam. In retrospect as I said in my evidence, the intelligence that al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian AQ leader, had been in Baghdad in May 2002 should perhaps have been given more weight. But actually most of the British authorities were at pains to separate Saddam from AQ in 2002 not to link them. That changed after the war had begun, however, and the roles played by both al Qaeda and Iran became “obvious.” Blair writes: Throughout 2003-2007 I would be chairing meetings, receiving updates, getting weekly reports on the situation all of which reflected this changing security picture. In any event, the roles of AQ and Iran became increasingly obvious and open. AQ was claiming responsibility for the terrorist attacks and the U.S. and our special forces were focussed on going after them. The type and nature of the EFP and IEDs made Iranian involvement clear. This was backed up by the intelligence. Muqtada Al Sadr, whose JAM militia was our main opponent at the time, fled to Iran.There is a temptation throughout the West to think of Iran and al Qaeda as separate problems. But Blair has repeatedly rejected that notion. In his testimony before the Inquiry last year, Blair explained [emphasis added]: What nobody foresaw was that Iran would actually end up supporting AQ. The conventional wisdom was these two are completely different types of people because Iran is Shia, the Al-Qaeda people are Sunni and therefore, you know, the two would never mix. What happened in the end was that they did because they both had a common interest in destabilising the country, and for Iran I think the reason they were interested in destabilising Iraq was because they worried about having a functioning majority Shia country with a democracy on their doorstep, and for Al-Qaeda they knew perfectly well their whole mission was to try and say the West was oppressing Islam. It is hard to do that if you replace tyrannical governments with functioning democracies. Although many have pointed to collusion between Iran and al Qaeda in the past, the relationship is still not widely understood. The 9/11 Commission concluded that the “relationship between al Qaeda and Iran demonstrated that Sunni-Shia divisions did not necessarily pose an insurmountable barrier to cooperation in terrorist operations.” For example, the Commission found that “the evidence of Iranian involvement” in the June 1996 Khobar Towers bombing “is strong,” but “there are also signs that al Qaeda played some role, as yet unknown.” More importantly, al Qaeda’s Aug. 7, 1998 embassy bombings were modeled after Iran’s and Hezbollah’s attacks in Lebanon in the 1980s. Osama bin Laden asked for Iran’s assistance in learning how to execute attacks similar to Hezbollah’s 1983 bombing of the US Marine Barracks, which left 241 Marines dead. Iran and Hezbollah agreed to help, according to the 9/11 Commission, and al Qaeda operatives traveled to Iran and the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon to receive training. Among the terrorists who received the training were members of al Qaeda’s military committee as well as “several operatives” who were involved in the embassy bombing in Kenya. Evidence of Iran’s hand in the 1998 embassy bombings surfaced during the trial of some of the al Qaeda terrorists responsible. Captured al Qaeda terrorists testified that Iran and Hezbollah trained al Qaeda operatives in the early 1990s. Clinton administration prosecutors included a mention of the relationship with Iran in their 1998 indictment of al Qaeda for the embassy bombings. The 9/11 Commission also left open the possibility that Iran and Hezbollah assisted al Qaeda in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The Commission cited several connections between the hijackers, Iran, and Hezbollah in a section entitled, “Assistance from Hezbollah and Iran to al Qaeda.” The Commission concluded that “this topic requires further investigation by the U.S. government.” In the years since the Commission finished its work, top US military officials, Saudi royals, Iraqi leaders, Israeli security officials, and others have pointed to collusion between Iran and al Qaeda. Evidence of the relationship can also be found in numerous State Department cables and ISAF intelligence reports released by Wikileaks, as well as other sources. Still, it is a rarity for senior Western political leaders to openly address the relationship as Blair did on Friday.
Source: The Long War Journal