Thursday, July 30, 2009

French Commanders in NATO

French general takes over NATO command in Virginia

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(BN) Holbrooke Says U.S. End to Afghan Drug-Eradication Effort `Well Received'

Bloomberg News, sent from my iPhone.

Holbrooke Says U.S. End to Afghan Drug Eradication Gets Results

July 30 (Bloomberg) -- The Obama administration's decision to stop eradicating drug crops in Afghanistan and increase funding for agricultural development is the "most well-received change of American policy" in the region, a U.S. special envoy said.

Richard Holbrooke, who returned July 28 from a weeklong trip to the region, told reporters yesterday the Bush administration wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on "counterproductive" efforts to wipe out opium poppy production.

"All we did was alienate" poor farmers who had no alternative cash crops or means of livelihood, "and we were driving people into the hands of the Taliban," said Holbrooke, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. "The amount of hectares we were destroying was inconsequential and the amount of money we were denying the Taliban was zero."

The decision to stop eradicating opium poppy was part of a larger policy shift ordered by President Barack Obama, who announced four months ago that he would send more troops, diplomats and development workers to Afghanistan to spearhead an integrated civil-military approach to eliminating terrorist safe havens in the region, including in Pakistan.

The new U.S. approach to drugs in Afghanistan "flies in the face of a lot of conventional drug-enforcement doctrine," said Holbrooke, a former ambassador to the United Nations under President Bill Clinton.

In countries such as Mexico, Colombia and parts of Thailand, much of the focus of U.S. policy has been to eradicate drugs, he said. "Here, the purpose of our policy is to strengthen the government and help defeat the Taliban," Holbrooke said. "And we were not doing it."

Interdiction Efforts

Rather than spending an estimated $44,000 per hectare, or 2.47 acres, to eradicate poppy crops, the U.S. will focus on drug interdiction efforts that target traffickers and the development of alternative crops, Holbrooke said.

He said that on his latest trip to Helmand and Kandahar provinces, two strongholds of the Afghan Taliban that are also among the most heavily planted with poppy crops, he had seen "the first tangible evidence that one of the most important policy shifts" made by the U.S. for the region "is beginning to show results."

Holbrooke said farmers had begun to understand that the U.S. was plowing hundreds of millions of dollars into developing the cultivation of lucrative legal crops and roads to marketplaces, providing alternatives that would allow them to abandon poppy cultivation.

In a separate roundtable yesterday, Josette Sheeran, executive director of the Rome-based UN World Food Program, said improved distribution techniques in Afghanistan have helped spur demand for wheat to the point where it's becoming competitive with the price of poppies.

To contact the reporter on this story: Indira Lakshmanan in Washington at

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Shadowland Replay from November 2003

Written about Iraq, relevant to Afghanistan:

Lessons of History

War can never be democratic. The danger of winning in Iraq could be losing in America

President Bush made one of his great speeches this week, calling for an end to despotism in the Arab world and preaching the values of democracy as the key to life, liberty and stability.

It's a vision that most Arabs would embrace. They're sick as hell of the repression, stagnation and tyranny the United States supported for so long just because certain rulers helped guarantee a reasonable price for oil, or fought communism in the 1980s, or fought Islamism in the 1990s or signed peace treaties with Israel. If the United States is truly making democracy its first priority, and putting all those other issues on the back burner, it could have the Arab masses firmly behind it.

But let's get real. The journey from despotism to democracy in the Middle East is going to take us down a bloody, thankless road and, the truth is, it's a trip that could put America's own democracy in danger.

Occupied Iraq is the critical test case. No need to recount once more all the delusions and illusions that led us into that mess. The position of the administration is now clear: we're not leaving until the country is up and running, with a constitution, elections and all the trappings of pluralism. No democracy, no exit.

But democracy doesn't beat an insurgency, which is what we're looking at right now. I've been covering guerrilla wars for almost 25 years, and in every case I've been convinced that the only way to defeat committed insurgents fighting on their home ground, in the short and medium term, is with ferocious, unrelenting repression. Afterward, compromise with the insurgents can help finish the job for good, and the democratic process can be part of that. But first: force.

This is one of the points the best-selling military historian John Keegan makes in his new book, "Intelligence in War: Knowledge of the Enemy from Napoleon to Al Qaeda" (Knopf) His argument is that intelligence is helpful in any battle, but rarely decisive. "War ultimately is about doing, not thinking," he concludes. And what you do in war can never be called democratic.

The first insurgency I covered in detail was El Salvador in the early 1980s. Back then, it was conventional wisdom among liberals that the activities of right-wing death squads were not only morally repellent, they were counterproductive in the fight against communists. They supposedly drove people into the arms of the rebels. In fact, the death squads were morally repellent. The slaughter they carried out, murdering and torturing many more of the innocent than the guilty, was nauseating. But it was effective. The urban infrastructure of the Salvadoran rebels was virtually obliterated, preventing them from launching any effective uprising for years to come. Salvadoran democracy, such as it is, was built on the corpses of those killed by the death squads. The party that has held the presidency ever since that war ended was founded by the leader of the death squads.

Much is made of guerrilla ideologies--communist, or Islamist, or Baathist. But the driving force in most guerrilla movements is simply dignity. Throughout history, long before any "-isms" were known, men fought against conquerors and occupiers because they found the presence of the foreigners humiliating. They used any means at their disposal to strike back, and as often as not they were denounced by the occupiers as bandits, savages and, yes, terrorists for doing so.

You discover the same pattern repeated over and over again, literally for thousands of years, in Robert Asprey's "War in the Shadows," a two-volume history of guerrilla warfare that came out in 1975 and really ought to be reissued now.

You read about a general in an occupation force saying, "There is but one way of inducing the violent rebels to become our friends, and that is by convincing them it is in their best interest to do so"--a none-too-veiled threat. Another complains that "the violence and passions of these people are beyond every curb of religion, and Humanity, they are unbounded and every hour exhibit dreadful wanton mischiefs, murders and violence of every kind, unheard of before."

The sentiments are familiar enough in Iraq right now even if the syntax is not. But the officers quoted by Asprey were British--Lord Cornwallis and Brig. Gen. Charles O'Hara--writing about Francis Marion, "The Swamp Fox," and other guerrillas in the Carolinas during the American Revolution. Cornwallis shattered the conventional American Army in the South in less than an hour at the Battle of Camden, but he couldn't get rid of those guys in the South Carolina Low Country, who just wouldn't play by the rules. The political leadership back in London was balking at the cost. The local allies Cornwallis picked up started to desert him. He couldn't get the boots on the ground to do the job. And he just couldn't understand why he couldn't win.
Some readers will call this moral relativism (and they're welcome to expound on the subject at But it's really just a matter of learning from the past experience of guerrilla fighting, and of terrorism. There are few mysteries here, unless we refuse to read the history at all....(more)

Friday, July 24, 2009

CNN: From Queens to Al-Qaeda

New Yorker says he would have been suicide bomber
Jul 23, 2009 231 GMT

A New York man who pleaded guilty in January to charges of aiding al Qaeda was ready to be a suicide bomber for the organization, but was told he needed more religious instruction, according to a document obtained by CNN on Thursday.
Bryant Neal Vinas gave an interview in March to Belgian prosecutors as part of a terrorism case there involving a cell he was associated with. CNN obtained the prosecution-prepared interview summary document from a Belgian defense attorney, and it was authenticated by both a federal prosecutor in New York and Vinas' defense attorney.
The French-language document gives a detailed picture of how Vinas traveled from New York to Pakistan and what he did while he was there....

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

(BN) Bashir Says Indonesian Policies to Blame for Terror Attacks That Killed 9

For the record....

Bloomberg News, sent from my iPhone.

Bashir Blames Indonesian Policies for Jakarta Attacks

July 23 (Bloomberg) -- Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir blamed the Indonesian government's policies for the suicide attacks on two luxury hotels in Jakarta and said terrorism won't end until authorities respect the supremacy of Islamic law.

"The main cause of this disaster is the Indonesian government," the Australian newspaper cited Bashir as saying yesterday. "This will not end until the government follows the right path."

Bashir, who is the alleged spiritual leader of Southeast Asian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah and lives in the grounds of an Islamic school in Java, refused to condemn the attacks and said violence was justified in the fight against non-Muslims, the newspaper said.

Authorities are struggling to identify the two bombers, who killed themselves and seven other people in the July 17 attacks on the JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels. Indonesian police yesterday released sketches of the suspects and appealed to the public for help.

The Marriot bombing suspect was described as a male aged 16 or 17, while the man who attacked the Ritz was said to be between 20 and 40 years old.

Police say the attacks may be linked to Jemaah Islamiyah, which is blamed for killing more than 280 people in a six-year bombing campaign in Indonesia.

Bashir endorsed the work of Noordin Mohammad Top, a wanted terrorist allegedly linked to the bombings, saying he "fights to defend Islam," according to the Australian.

Holy War

Bashir denies being JI's spiritual head and his conviction for involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings that left 202 people dead was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2006. He continues to call for jihad, or holy war, against the West.

Some terrorism analysts say the government must crack down on Bashir and other clerics in order to uproot Islamic extremism in the nation of 248 million people, the world's most populous Muslim country.

"If Indonesia is serious about fighting JI they must arrest and retry" Bashir for "preaching hatred," Rohan Gunaratna, head of the Singapore-based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said this week.

Police carried out DNA tests on the remains of the hotel bombers in an effort to identify them, police spokesman Nanan Soekarna said yesterday. The results showed they didn't belong to men called Nur Hasbi and Ibrahim, who were identified in local media reports as the suspected bombers.

Soekarna declined to comment on media reports that Noordin's wife was arrested by counterterrorism police in Central Java.

Suspected Mastermind

Noordin is the suspected mastermind of the 2002 Bali attacks and was allegedly involved in the 2003 bombing at the same Marriott hotel in Jakarta that killed 12 people, a 2004 blast outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta that killed at least nine, and another attack in Bali in 2005 when three suicide bombers killed themselves and 20 other people.

He leads a JI splinter organization, and after the Bali attack in 2005 identified himself as the head of a group called al-Qaeda for Southeast Asia, according to the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

The U.S. State Department's Rewards for Justice Program refers to Noordin as one of the most dangerous members of JI, saying he is "believed to be a top recruiter, strategist and fundraiser."

Foreigners Killed

The near-simultaneous bombings on the hotels were the first terrorist attacks in Indonesia in almost four years. The attackers killed themselves and wounded about 50. Three Australians, one New Zealander and one Indonesian were among the dead and police are carrying out tests to confirm a Dutch couple was killed.

The attacks came nine days after elections in which President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won a second five-year term, partly on his perceived ability to contain extremism.

"Terrorism is the enemy of all of us," Yudhoyono told members of his Democrat Party at a post-election meeting in Jakarta late yesterday. "They destroy everything and their victims are plenty. Let us save this country through prevention and by not giving space to these terrorists."

To contact the reporters on this story: Achmad Sukarsono in Jakarta at Ed Johnson in Sydney at .

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NYTimes: Iraqi Leader’s Visit With Obama Dwells on the Positive

From The New York Times:

Iraqi Leader's Visit With Obama Dwells on the Positive

President Obama told Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki the U.S. was on track to withdraw combat forces by next August....

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The Leader: Not so supreme?

Iran president defies supreme leader over deputy

(BN) Obama Gets 87% Favorable Rating Among Investors Outside U.S.; 49% at Home

Bloomberg News, sent from my iPhone.

Obama Approval at 87% Outside U.S.; 49% at Home Among Investors

July 23 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama has rock-star appeal among the investing class -- except in his own country.

The Quarterly Bloomberg Global Poll of financial investors and analysts finds attitudes about the new president in Asia and Europe are overwhelmingly positive. In the U.S., by contrast, they are slightly negative.

In Europe and Asia, 87 percent of respondents say they view Obama positively, compared with just 49 percent in the U.S. His standing among American investors is even lower on economic matters: only a quarter of U.S. poll respondents rate his economic policies as "good" or "excellent," compared with more than half in Europe and Asia.

Obama's "stratospheric favorability ratings" outside the U.S. after five months in office are related to attitudes about his predecessor, former President George W. Bush, says J. Ann Selzer, the president of Selzer & Co., a Des Moines, Iowa-based polling firm that conducted the survey.

"It speaks as much to the visceral distaste for George Bush outside of the U.S," she says. In Europe and Asia, more than four of five poll respondents choose Obama over Bush as the president offering better economic leadership. In the U.S., investors pick Bush, 43 percent to 41 percent.

Brown, Putin, Lula

Worldwide, Obama has a 73 percent favorability rating, far higher marks than those of a sampling of other leaders, including U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has a 34 percent favorable rating, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, with 23 percent, and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, with 49 percent.

Equity investors around the world have done well since Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration. The gains were most pronounced in Asia, where the MSCI Asia Pacific Index has risen 28 percent. In the U.S., the S&P 500 Index has risen 19 percent. The benchmark index for U.S. equities has rallied 41 percent over the past four months, led by a 95 percent rise in financial firms. European investors, though they are more bullish on Obama than their U.S. counterparts, have fared less well: The Eurostoxx 50 Index has risen 14 percent.

The poll of investors and analysts on six continents was conducted July 14-17. It's based on interviews with a random sample of 1,076 Bloomberg subscribers, representing decision makers in markets, finance and economics. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Fixed-Income, Equity

There isn't much difference in favorability ratings for Obama across professions. Among respondents in the fixed-income sector, he gets 70 percent, while his rating with equity investors, it is 71 percent.

A plurality of all investors, 43 percent, rate Obama's economic policies as good or excellent. Twenty-eight percent say they are average and the same number say they are below average or poor.

Obama's policies for handling of the crises in the financial and auto markets, is praised by Italian poll respondent Mario Di Marcantonio, a 32-year-old portfolio manager for Eurizon Capital SGR in Milan.

"Companies like Goldman and Morgan Stanley have been able to survive this crisis and do business as usual, and people working at GM will continue to have their jobs," he says. "I don't think they can solve the problems of the world overnight, but at least they're starting to fix it."

Government Bailouts

The views of Chris Gurkovic, a 36-year-old strategist for First Brokers Securities LLC in Jersey City, are typical of many U.S. respondents. He says bailouts of the auto and financial industries and Obama's health-care proposals are making Americans like him nervous about the government's role in the economy, and rates the president "very unfavorably" in the survey.

"I feel that we're becoming a socialist nation," Gurkovic says. "It's not a step in the right direction; the big- government policies kind of scare me."

Brown, the U.K. prime minister, gets low grades across the board. This is particularly true in Europe, where only one- quarter of respondents gave him a favorable rating.

Putin also gets bad marks from these investors, including those in Asia, where half of the respondents give him an unfavorable rating.

Brazil's Lula does better, though about one-third of the poll participants say they have "no idea" how they feel about him.

The political profile of the majority of global investors in the poll is similar to Obama's coalition. Half say they consider themselves either left of center or centrist; 42 percent say they are right of center. In the U.S., 43 percent of respondents describe themselves this way.

Obama does best with those who describe themselves as on the left: 94 percent of respondents in that group rate him favorably, compared with 80 percent of those in the center and 60 percent of those on the political right.

To contact the reporter on this story: Heidi Przybyla at

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Rafsanjani, now Khatami ...

Iran's Khatami wants

referendum on

government's legitimacy

Mon Jul 20, 2009 6:37am EDT
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By Zahra Hosseinian

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian reformist former president, Mohammad Khatami, called for a referendum on the legitimacy of the government, challenging the supreme leader who has backed the result of the disputed June presidential poll.

Clashes erupted in central Tehran between police and reformist protesters for the first time in weeks on Friday after another former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, declared the Islamic Republic in crisis after the disputed June 12 poll.

"The only way out of the current situation is to hold a referendum," websites on Monday quoted Khatami as saying. "People should be asked whether they are happy with the current situation ... If the vast majority of people are happy with the current situation, we will accept it as well."...(more)

NYTimes: Netanyahu’s Talk of Peace Finds Few True Believers

From The New York Times:

MEMO FROM JERUSALEM: Netanyahu's Talk of Peace Finds Few True

In the weeks since Benjamin Netanyahu accepted the principle of a
Palestinian state, officials are questioning his commitment to a final
peace accord....

BBC Mobile | BBC News | Top stories | Iran bails UK embassy employee

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Progress on the West Bank?

West Bank plan bears fruit, but much more needed

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

NYTimes: Iranian Cleric Is Seeking the Mantle of Khomeini

From The New York Times:

NEWS ANALYSIS: Iranian Cleric Is Seeking the Mantle of Khomeini

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president, has cast himself in a new light: as a player with the authority to interpret Iran's ideals....

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Captured in Afghanistan

Video: Captive soldier fears he won't get home

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Press TV: Iran's Intelligence Minister on the Alleged Election Conspiracy

Inte'l Minister details Iran election dossier
Sat, 18 Jul 2009 10:13:16 GMT
Iran's Intelligence Minister Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'i
Iran's Intelligence Minister provides his views on the post-election events, and seeks to explain the role of both domestic and foreign elements in creating the unrest.

In Friday comments, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'i claimed that close aides to the defeated candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi knew that he would lose the presidential race so they tampered with the election polls prior to the June 12 vote.

“The balance tilted heavily in favor of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from June 3 onwards in such a way that some key members of Mir-Hossein [Mousavi]'s campaign were sure of his defeat,” he said.

“But, they would, by no means, allow Mir-Hossein to know the situation. To keep up his morale, they even tampered with the opinion polls,” he added.

According to the minister, the president's provincial visits had compelled Mousavi's supporters to relinquish the idea that the former premier would win the elections - an idea that they had formed after some of the candidate's provincial campaign tours.

“Three days prior to the elections, when they were sure of Mousavi's defeat, they started a series of activities such as creating doubt about vote rigging,” said Mohseni-Eje'i.

“On the Wednesday and Thursday leading up to the elections, they reached the conclusion that they must disrupt the atmosphere by presenting the idea of vote rigging. And they kick-started the plan straight after the elections,” he added.... (more)

Crisis? What Crisis?

Rafsanjani backs "law-breakers": Iran hardliner

Sat Jul 18, 2009 5:40am EDT

By Fredrik Dahl and Hashem Kalantari

TEHRAN (Reuters) - A hardline editor seen as close to Iran's top authority accused former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Saturday of backing "law-breakers," highlighting deepening establishment divisions after a disputed election.

Hossein Shariatmadari, editor-in-chief of the Kayhan daily, also criticized Rafsanjani, a powerful cleric and rival of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for saying in a sermon on Friday that the Islamic Republic was in crisis.

In apparent defiance of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Rafsanjani said many Iranians had doubts about the official result of the June 12 vote. He also took issue with the way the authorities had handled the poll and its aftermath.

As he led Friday prayers at Tehran University for the first time since the election, tens of thousands of protesters used the event to stage a huge show of dissent.

Clashes erupted near the university between police and followers of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, who came second and still contests results that showed Ahmedinejad was re-elected by a wide margin.

The government has portrayed post-election mass protests last month as the work of local subversives, or "rioters," and Western powers seeking to topple the Islamic establishment.

"Most certainly Mr Rafsanjani is familiar with the definition of a crisis ... The most meaningful word to describe the current conditions is a conspiracy," Shariatmadari said in an editorial. He is seen as a close ally of Khamenei.

He said Rafsanjani, a moderate who backed Mousavi's election campaign, had done nothing to prevent the gathering of Mousavi supporters inside and outside Tehran University, where prayers are held each Friday and broadcast live on state radio....(more)

Well-known figures from more than 60 countries, from Noam Chomsky to Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, ask Tehran to free the Canadian-Iranian journalist.

Newsweek Web Exclusive

Nearly 300 of the world's most respected authors, filmmakers, and journalists have put their names to petitions this week calling on the Iranian government to release NEWSWEEK correspondent and documentary film director Maziar Bahari from prison. He has been held since June 21 in Tehran without access to a lawyer or the ability to see his family, even though no formal charges have been brought against him.

Among more than 100 authors who signed a letter sent to authorities in Tehran by PEN American Center and PEN Canada on Thursday were Nobel laureates Orhan Pamuk of Turkey, Wole Soyinka of Nigeria, and Nadine Gordimer of South Africa. Booker Prize winner Aravind Adiga is on the list, as is Italy's Umberto Eco. Martin Amis and Paul Auster, Mario Vargas Llosa, Don DeLillo, E. L. Doctorow, Ha Jin, Ian McEwan, Michael Ondaatje, Zadie Smith, and Saadi Youssef all call on the Iranian government "to release Mr. Bahari, and all others detained in connection with their post-election reporting in Iran, immediately and without condition."

While careful to avoid confrontational language and any comment on the internal Iranian dispute over the June 12 election results, the PEN petition and others underscore how closely the world is following the cases of individual detainees in Iran. The range of signatories also speaks to the diversity of Bahari's work not only as a journalist, but also as a filmmaker and playwright... (more)

Useful links:
Petition: The PEN American Center

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Maziar Bahari on the Daily Show in Early June

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Jason Jones: Behind the Veil - Minarets of Menace
Daily Show
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PressTV: Canada Pressuring Iran on Nukes

G8 leaders, including Harper, in front of the Grand Hotel at Heiligendamm, Germany, early June, 2007.

Canada is reportedly to use the upcoming Group of Eight summit to push fellow industrialized nations to forge a unified position on Iran's nuclear program.

Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper is to take the issue to the G8 summit in a bid to "come out with a coherent position to deal" with Tehran, Dimitri Soudas -- a spokesman for the premier -- said on Tuesday.

The spokesman went on to label the Islamic Republic as an "extremely dangerous" serious threat", which possesses "a nuclear proliferation program with a clear objective".

Washington and its European allies accuse Tehran of trying to create a nuclear weapons capability. Iran, however, dismisses the allegation, saying its uranium enrichment is solely aimed at peaceful energy production.

The leaders of the United States, Russia, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy, also known as the G8, are to meet in the Italian city of L'Aquila on Wednesday to discuss issues such as the economic crisis and climate change.

Hot on the agenda will be China's proposal of a currency alternative to the dollar as the global reserve.

The debate over the replacement of the dollar is extremely sensitive, as financial markets are wary of risks to US asset values. China itself holds up to 70 percent of its $1.95 trillion in official currency reserves in the dollar.

Several emerging market countries have also suggested that they are willing to reconsider the dollar's role and are willing to see a more diversified international monetary system.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday said the “the system based on the dollar" has proven to be flawed.

Suresh Tendulkar, economic adviser to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is also reportedly urging the government to diversify its foreign holdings away from the dollar.


No Comment: French Student Arrested in Tehran

The PressTV Version:

France demands Iran free arrested French woman

Tue, 07 Jul 2009 04:59:36 GMT

France has called on the Islamic Republic for the release of a 23-year-old French academic detained in Iran since 1 July, on charges of spying.

Clotilde Reiss was arrested at Tehran's Imam Khomeini Airport (IKA) last Wednesday as she was about to leave the country for Beirut.

The arrest of Reiss, a teaching assistant at the University of Isfahan in central Iran, is believed to have taken place over her presence at the country's recent protests after the June 12 election.

"There is no reason for Clotilde to be detained," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told France 3 television. "We demand her release."

Earlier, the French Foreign Ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador in Paris for an explanation on the issue.

Reiss was charged with spying after she sent a private email to a friend in Tehran discussing the situation in Isfahan, according to a diplomatic source close to her case.

Kouchner said the charges were related to "the sending of pictures taken by mobile telephone."

"I think that's what it's about. That's not espionage, it cannot be. This accusation is absurd," he added.

The French Foreign Ministry has also issued a statement, warning that an appeal has been made for the solidarity of all its European partners on the issue.

The arrest of the French academic comes in the aftermath of the June 12 presidential vote in Iran which pushed Tehran into a scene of violence.

Earlier last week, Iran arrested 9 British embassy staff over suspicions of having a role in provoking the post-election unrest in the country.

While eighth of the nine employees detained by Iranian authorities have been released, there still remains one political analyst in detention charged with acting against Iran's national security.

In reaction to the arrests, the 27-nation European Union is mulling over a decision to withdraw all its ambassadors from Iran.


The France24 Version:

- -

Paris demands immediate

release of French academic

Monday 06 July 2009

Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, called for the immediate release of a French academic arrested in Iran last week for spying as she prepared to board an aircraft to leave the country and return home.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Fwd: Rami G. Khouri, "Hypocritical Kvetching"

Sent from my iPhone

Begin forwarded message:

From: Agence Global <>
Date: July 6, 2009 4:13:08 AM GMT+02:00
To: Agence Global <>
Subject: Rami G. Khouri, "Hypocritical Kvetching"

Negotiating with Iran cannot be any more difficult than it was with the Soviet Union. So why the hesitancy -- and the anguished, hypocritical debate in the West?

Release Date: 06 July 2009
Word Count: 804
Rights & Permissions Contact: Agence Global, 1.336.686.9002,

Hypocritical Kvetching
by Rami G. Khouri

ROME -- One of the big questions that will be with us for some time is about how countries around the world, especially the United States and other Western democracies, should deal with the government and ruling elite in Iran. This follows international condemnation of the regime's behavior in falsifying the presidential election results and then harshly ending the street demonstrations that broke out in protest.

This is understandable, but slightly hypocritical, which is nothing new in how Western democracies deal with Middle Eastern autocracies. I and many others in the region do not quite understand why the United States and the West rightly debate how to deal with Iran, while they make no parallel effort to explore options on how to deal with the many other countries in the region and the world that apply the same tough standards of state heavy-handedness, rigged or no elections, and harsh means to control what people think, hear and say.

Two important issues are at play here. The first is the problem of double standards, of making a big show of how one should interact with Iran while simultaneously ignoring the anti-democratic behavior of most other countries in the Middle East or dictatorial states like North Korea and Burma. Probably the most common criticism of Western powers from around the world is that they often apply two different standards to countries that act in the same manner, such as rigging elections, ignoring UN resolutions, or restricting their citizens' basic freedoms. Many will ask: Why the fuss over Iranian electoral and human rights abuses, when the same or very similar behavior in places like Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Libya, Sudan and other countries in the Middle East is quietly ignored?

The second and more significant issue here is about how foreign countries, especially the United States and leading Western democracies, can and should behave in the face of blatant abuse of power and suppression of citizens' rights in countries like Iran. There is not much to debate here, in view of recent history. The best way to deal with regimes you do not like is to engage and challenge them through diplomacy. Isolating and punishing governments via sanctions has limited or no impact. The more the West pressured or threatened Iran, using the legitimacy of the UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the more Iran dug in and speeded up its nuclear technology development.

One of the important lessons of the past decade has been about the limits of the use of both military and political force to bring about changes in the behavior of regimes. Governments that want to stand their ground in the face of Western pressure -- such as Iran and Syria -- indicate that threats and sanctions are incapable of achieving the sort of regime policy changes that Western powers seek. This question now arises again even more dramatically with Iran. Should the United States and the Western world punish and isolate Iran, or continue to negotiate with it?

On a speaking visit to the NATO Defense College in Rome this week, I was not surprised that this issue surfaced repeatedly. The colonels and generals from NATO countries, in their relaxed academic setting that fosters reflection and analysis, seemed to echo the more frenzied posture of their politicians back home in asking how one should deal with Iran.

NATO, in particular, has the advantage of its members' own experiences in how they resolved this issue in their confrontation with the Soviet Union decades ago. The Soviet Union was a police state of epic and tragic proportions, which used force to suppress its citizens' rights and also to subjugate neighboring countries. It was far more dangerous than Iran can ever be. Yet the West correctly adopted a combination of approaches that included fighting wars through proxies around the world, applying diplomatic pressure, waging propaganda media battles, and engaging deeply in diplomatic endeavors.

The most important of the latter was the East-West process of d├ętente that started in the early 1970s, including the launch of the "Helsinki process" to establish a Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Thirty-five countries in August 1975 signed the Helsinki Final Act. It included three "baskets" dealing with political relations (including outlawing the use of force and prohibiting intervention in the internal affairs of any state) economics and environment, and "cooperation in humanitarian and other fields" that promoted greater people-to-people contacts. A decade and a half later, the Soviet Union collapsed.

Iran is ripe for change from within, as we have witnessed in the past decade, through several elections and now in the behavior of many brave street demonstrators. Negotiating with Iran cannot be any more difficult than it was with the Soviet Union. So why the hesitancy -- and the anguished, hypocritical debate in the West?

Rami G. Khouri is Editor-at-large of The Daily Star, and Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, in Beirut, Lebanon.

Copyright © 2009 Rami G. Khouri – distributed by Agence Global

Released: 06 July 2009
Word Count: 804

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Agence Global is the exclusive syndication agency for The Nation, Le Monde diplomatique, as well as expert commentary by Richard Bulliet, Nadia Hijab, Rami G. Khouri, Peter Kwong, Patrick Seale and Immanuel Wallerstein.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Iason Athanasiadis Freed - The PressTV Version

Iran releases Washington Times reporter
Sun, 05 Jul 2009 15:22:04 GMT
Iran says that a Greek Washington Times journalist detained following post-election unrest in the country has been released.

“Because of the humanitarian efforts made by Iran's envoy to Greece and Iran's envoy to the United Nations, the Greek journalist was released today,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi told state television on Sunday.

The official said the photojournalist, Iason Athanasiadis, who was covering the events in Iran following the June 12 vote, had been arrested over “unethical and unprofessional behavior and his role in fuelling the recent unrest,” IRIB news agency reported.

Qashqavi stressed, however, that formal charges against Athanasiadis were over his illegal entrance into the country, after being barred from crossing into the country in an earlier row with the authorities.

He did not elaborate on the subject but added that he had used his British passport on the other occasion.

Iranian authorities had earlier said Athanasiadis had been detained for exceeding the duration of his visa to stay in Iran.

The landslide victory of re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been challenged by his rivals, who reject the results as fraudulent.

Unrest broke out when hundreds of thousands of their supporters took to streets to demand a recount. The rallies have lost momentum since last Sunday but the president's chief rival, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, has since questioned the “political legitimacy” of the Ahmadinejad administration.


Salon: The Iason Athanasiadis Story

Iran: "The guest is God's friend"

The detention of journalist Iason Athanasiadis is a legal abomination -- and a breach of Iranian hospitality

By Sandy Tolan

Photos by Iason Athanasiadis

View a slide show of Iran photos by Iason Athanasiadis.

July 2, 2009 | Journalism's deepest, most honest contributions inevitably spring from on-the-ground reporting, unencumbered by policy agendas in Washington, London or other foreign capitals. That's what epitomizes the work of my friend and colleague Iason Athanasiadis, and it's why his detention by Iranian authorities, on June 17 when trying to board a flight out of Iran, is so troubling.... (more)

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Corrected AFP dispatch about Maziar Bahari

Iran mulls trials as it steps up post-election crackdown
ATTENTION - AMENDS scheduled slug ///
TEHRAN, July 4, 2009 (AFP) - Iran is considering pressing charges against a British embassy staffer, a Newsweek journalist and several reformist leaders, lawyers said on Saturday, as the regime intensifies its crackdown on protests over last month's presidential election.
The accused include key figures from reformist 1997-2005 presidency of Mohammad Khatami who oversaw a thaw in relations with the West. They are all held suspected of "acting against national security," the lawyers said.
Any prosecutions would spark a new downturn in Tehran's relations with the West. On Friday, European Union governments already called in Iranian envoys across the 27-nation bloc in protest at the detention of British embassy staff.
Lawyer Abolsamad Khorramshahi said he was seeking permission to see detained embassy political analyst Hossein Rassam after being told by his family of the accusations against him.
"I have not met with him yet, but I will ask the judiciary for an appointment," Khorramshahi told AFP. "I was told by a close relative that he is accused of acting against national security."
On Friday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he was "urgently seeking clarification" from Iran after a senior official said that some locally recruited staff of the British embassy would stand trial.
A total of nine local staff at London's embassy in Tehran were initially arrested late last month, but the British government said seven have since been released.
Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the head of the Guardians Council -- the powerful watchdog body that upheld hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reelection in the disputed June 12 vote -- charged on Friday that embassy staff had instigated the post-election protests and that some would face prosecution.
A second lawyer acting for Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari and a number of reformist leaders said he too had so far been unable to see his clients.
"Bahari is accused of acting against national security, and I still have not been able to meet him despite going to the prosecutor's office several times," Saleh Nikbakht told AFP.
Nikbakht said he is also representing former deputy foreign minister Mohsen Amizadeh, ex-government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, former deputy economy minister Mohsen Safai-Farahani and former vice-president Mohammad Ali Abtahi, all of whom served under Khatami.
Behzad Nabavi, former deputy speaker of parliament between 2000 and 2004 when it was reformist-controlled, is another of his clients.
"I was not able to see any of them, and Safai-Farahani and Nabavi have not been able to contact their families either," Nikbakht said.
"Any kind of interview and confession by these people who are being held in prison is invalid under the law and the Iranian constitution," he added.
Less than a week ago, the Fars news agency reported an "interview" with Bahari, in which he said that he had filed "unreal and biased reports from Iran which were driven by greed."
Newsweek's Middle East editor, Christopher Dickey, said he was unaware of charges being pressed against the journalist.
"Our understanding is that Maziar Bahari may be under suspicion of acting against national security but that no formal legal charges have been levelled againt him," he told AFP.
Scores of journalists and reformist politicians were arrested following Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election, which triggered mass protests and charges of fraud.
On Saturday, a leading hardline daily called for Ahmadinejad's leading challenger, former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi, who decribed the election as a "shameful fraud," to be tried for treason, along with Khatami.
The Kayhan newspaper, whose editor is appointed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, accused Mousavi of "killing innocent people, inciting riots, hiring thugs to assault people, evident cooperation with foreigners and playing the part of US fifth column."
"Mousavi and Khatami should account for these horrendous crimes and evident treason in an open tribunal," it added.
bur/kir/srm Iran AFP 041125 GMT 07 09

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Response to alleged "confession" by Maziar Bahari

NEWSWEEK Magazine issued the following statement on July 1:

Maziar Bahari has been detained in Iran since June 21 without access to a lawyer. An Iranian state news agency reports that Bahari has said he participated in a Western media effort to promote irresponsible reporting in Iran. NEWSWEEK strongly disputes that charge, and defends Bahari's work. Maziar Bahari is a veteran journalist whose long career, both in print and in documentary filmmaking, has been accurate, even-handed, and widely respected. NEWSWEEK again calls for his immediate release.


A version reported on CNN International (and, no, I am not the managing editor of Newsweek, I am the Paris Bureau Chief and Middle East Regional Editor):

The CNN written report:

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

New York, June 30, 2009--The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on the Iranian authorities to immediately release all jailed journalists and to stop vilifying the foreign press. CPJ also welcomed the release of a number of employees of the reformist newspaper Kalameh Sabz who had been held since June 23.

In recent days, the Iranian government has launched a campaign designed to malign the foreign press, blaming demonstrations that followed the contested June 12 presidential elections on foreign news media, particularly British and U.S. news outlets. On June 19, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed foreign media for social unrest, calling it "evil" for allegedly misleading and agitating the Iranian people. According to Iranian news reports, an official also claimed that the BBC, not government gunmen, had shot Neda Agha Soltan, the demonstrator whose death was caught on camera and broadcast across the world, purportedly to agitate the people of Iran against the government.

Fars News agency today posted an 11-page "confession" by Tehran's Newsweek correspondent Maziar Bahari, who was detained on June 21, in which he is reported to have said, according to a translation on The Washington Post's Web site: "The activities of Western journalists in news gathering and spying and gathering intelligence are undeniable." The document also claims Bahari said: "I, too, as a journalist and a member of this great Western capitalism machine, either blindly or on purpose, participated in projecting doubts and promoting a color revolution."

"The Iranian government invited international media to cover the presidential campaign when they wanted to showcase the elections," said CPJ executive director Joel Simon. "When journalists covered the street protests that erupted in the disputed aftermath, the government turned on the media, essentially blaming journalists for doing their job."... (more)