New Age Islam Edit Bureau
19 January 2016
the Scourge of Racism
By Sabria S.
Faisal — Need More Of You!
By Dr. Khaled
By Linda S.
Emptiness of Life In Exile
By Ramzy Baroud
Reform and Stop Pointing Fingers At The GCC
By Mustafa Al
Bright Is Iran's New Dawn?
Eradicating The Scourge Of Racism
By Sabria S. Jawhar
18 January 2016
Nearly 12 years ago while working with a
Saudi newspaper I met an eager, intelligent young Saudi woman who was prepared
to take on the world.
This was a time when young Saudi women were
testing the waters of journalism and were taking privately sponsored classes to
learn the craft of news reporting.
Some young ladies bowed out of the program
or went on to other things once they received their certificate of completion.
But Nawal Al-Hawsawi wanted to save the
world and she persisted long after some of her colleagues in class lost
interest. Even when some of her editors did not take her seriously she did not
lose hope that there was a place for her.
I have kept track of Nawal through the
years and have read with great interest her successes in the United States. She
married an American and now has children of her own. She is a certified
airplane pilot and a licensed family counsellor.
It surprised me not in the least when I
learned that she is working to aid victims of domestic violence. But it does
surprise me to learn that she is being attacked almost daily on social media
for her work and her background as a Saudi citizen.
I can identify with Nawal because we have
taken similar paths in our professional and personal lives, although I give her
the credit for being much more courageous and adventurous than me. We suffer
some of the same slings and arrows for our work and opinions, but Nawal’s work
makes mine look like I live the life of a princess.
The attacks on Nawal, including death
threats, are racist and delivered by many young Saudis who have delusions of grandeur
and believe somehow that there is a certain purity that can only apply to a
specific group of Saudis. Nawal is black so she is perceived by the ignorant as
not worthy of Saudi citizenship. As noted recently in this newspaper, there are
three categories in which the residents of Saudi Arabia fall, according to
those misled people.
“The Original Saudis descend from Bedouin
tribes, the ‘Vomit from the Sea,’ which is Saudis of foreign descent and
‘strangers,’ which are basically all expats.”
To the bigoted, Nawal falls into the second
category. I have heard about these categories many times and even have
discussed this at the dinner table with my family. But when Saudis take to
social media and ridicule other Saudis’ ethnic and regional background, it says
much more about them and their insecurities as Saudis than it does about Nawal
and people like her. To many independent-minded Saudis — and yes, there are a
few out there — it only puts Nawal above them. In fact, when some Saudis
ridicule individuals as vomit from the sea, it’s a reflection on them as
narrow-minded racists incapable of being true Muslims.
Nawal was born and raised in Makkah and
considers herself the daughter of Al-Hijaz, but she doesn’t carry the tribal
credentials or have that perfect alleged Saudi looks that makes her, in the
eyes of the hateful, a true Saudi.
I don’t deny that many Saudis divide their
brothers and sisters into numerous categories and even rank them whether they
are authentic. But that is true in many societies, such as what we are
witnessing in the United States presidential Republican campaign in which
apparently the only true Americans are white and Christian, or in Europe where
darker second-generation Europeans are still marginalized.
But frankly, we Saudis think of ourselves
as special because we live in the land of the Two Holy Mosques and the cradle
of Islam. Yet many of us behave as if we don’t live in this special place and
we don’t accept the teachings of Islam. Really, how do these racist bullies
look themselves in the mirror and call themselves Muslims?
Turki Al Faisal — Need More Of You!
By Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi
Jan 19, 2016
When I visited the United States of America
in January 2006, it was Bush time! I was invited by the National Democratic
Institute to attend the State of the Union address, and visit some of
Washington’s top newspapers and think tanks.
In the corridors of these houses of power,
I heard for the first time about the influence and reputation of the new Saudi
Ambassador Prince Turki Al Faisal. Many politicians, journalists and academics
were awed by his intellectual capacity and endurance.
The prince had visited 37 states, where he
had given many lectures, two a day at times, and met with thousands of
professors and students to discuss Middle East and Saudi-American issues.
The media followed his activities closely.
They invited, visited and contacted him on a daily basis. “We had unprecedented
access to the intellectual prince who was so hospitable and accommodating that
we couldn’t have enough of him,” said a journalist friend.
Later, after the prince resigned his post,
other journalists told me they felt sorry to lose him.
“He is a voice of reason, a torch of light
in the Mideast jungle of haze and chaos. More years of him would have created a
formidable lobby of friends and supporters of Saudi Arabia. Israel and Iran
have built their network of support this way. Intellectuals paved the way for
politicians and economists. You should do the same.”
I heard this and more from congressmen,
community leaders, academics and pressmen.
How did Prince Turki manage to achieve this
much in so short time? I asked Jamal Khashoggi, the ambassador’s consultant, at
“Openness and intelligent drive to minds
and hearts is the secret,” he explained. “The prince is an intellectual more
than politician. His charisma helped. Tirelessly, he took us to one trip after
the other, one city or state to another. We covered half the country, at least.
Almost all prominent universities and academic institutes had invited him. He
became a favorite speaker among researchers, professors and students.
“Helped by strong language and speech
skills, he managed to drive home the right messages. At the same time, he was
very accessible and hospitable. He met with almost all organizations and groups
who sought to see him, including boy scouts and school pupils. In a couple of years,
he had attended more social, school and media events than I could count.
“He did the same during his ambassadorship
years in the UK. In continental USA, however, it was so much more. He sponsored
events, chaired conferences, participated in seminars and hosted conventions.
Day and night, workdays and weekends, his day schedule was full and exhausting.
“The fruits were worth it. In a couple of
years the image of our country and society was much brighter. I am proud to be
part of that productive experience,” said Khashoggi.
Today, we miss the like of Ambassador Turki
Al Faisal and Ambassador Ghazi Algosaibi when we need them most. Ambassadors
have more responsibilities than diplomatic and administrative duties. We need
them to carry our culture, identity and message to the public and elites alike
wherever they happen to be. Few ambassadors, like Prince Mohammed Bin Nawwaf
and Dr. Abdulaziz Khojah, today, are playing such role.
The same is required of our universities,
organizations and research centres. All Saudi representatives and emissaries
shoulder the same responsibilities. They include diplomats, professors,
intellectuals, artists, journalists, businessmen and students.
In addition, every government department
needs a qualified media representative who could answer pressing questions,
explain confused events and do away with rumours and respond to media stories,
in timely fashion. In the age of social media and satellite TV, we need faster,
smarter and more informative responses.
To help our representatives do a better
job, we should provide them with professional training and accurate, updated
information. It is not enough to have Arabic and English speakers. Other
regional and international languages are needed, too. We need Farsi, Turkish,
Urdu, Swahili and Malay to communicate with Muslims. We also need to convey the
word in French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Russian and Chinese. To
bring our message across to the rest of the world, we should speak their
languages and understand their cultures.
We also need roaming intellectuals, like
Prince Turki Al Faisal, to attend every relevant conference and convention.
Groups representing civic institutions, business associations and
non-governmental organizations could greatly help in this regard.
Organizing and attending events,
conferences and forums held locally like Jeddah Economic Forum and Riyadh’s
Global Competitiveness Forum, or internationally, such as Davos and other
business and cultural events, would also serve the purpose.
It is high time we do all of the above. Our
country is great, our cultural heritage is unique and our message is universal,
but our messengers are not vocal, active, trained or enough.
Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah.
An Unforgettable Mistake
By Linda S. Heard
Iran is receiving pats on the back from
American officials and media for complying with the terms of the US-initiated
nuclear agreement that was rubber stamped by the nuclear watchdog the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Saturday.
So-called television commentators are
hailing a new era in West-Iran relations due to Tehran’s swift release of
American sailors, whose vessel strayed into Iran’s territorial waters, and view
the negotiated prisoner swap positively.
Obama’s critics, who accused him of
proceeding with the deal while ignoring the plight of four Americans in Iranian
jails, have been silenced, they say. Democrats may like to fool their
constituents that everything’s coming up roses and American holidaymakers may
shortly be boarding flights to Shiraz or Isfahan, but although that scenario is
a vote-getter, the big picture is riddled with negative ramifications.
Firstly, the lifting of sanctions on Iran
will unfreeze over $100 billion of Iran’s deposits and assets in phases. It
will permit the country to trade freely with Europe although US companies will
still be restricted from doing business with Iran in respect to US sanctions
related to its ballistic missile program and poor human rights record. Several
EU states, including Britain, are visibly rubbing their hands together in
anticipation of an inflow of big bucks and racing to reopen their embassies.
Secondly, the freeing-up of Iran’s oil
trade couldn’t have come at a worse moment in time when oil prices have
descended to less than $30 a barrel due to a glut in the market as well as a
fall in demand. Nigeria and some other OPEC member countries are feeling the
heat on their economies. They are calling upon Saudi Arabia and the United Arab
Emirates to agree to cutting production, which they’ve so far declined to do so
as to retain their market share.
However, word has it that Iran has been
stockpiling oil and although it’s an OPEC member, its Minister for Oil Bijan
Zanganeh told CNN that his country aims to increase output by 1.5 million
barrels a day by the end of this year. Global markets are already shuddering
downward and some analysts predict a 2008-type downturn may be in the offing,
which will impact businesses and jobs. A headline on the CNBC website reads
“Oil majors, Total, Shell send representatives to Iran as sanctions due to be
lifted.” Iran will be shielded from economic woes in the short term due to its
mega billion bonanza.
Thirdly, Iran will be in a financial
position to bolster its Shiite proxies, cells and spies in Arab countries; it
has already announced its plan to further aid groups it refers to as “the
resistance.” One can only guess how much money will be set aside to enhance its
weapons programs and expand its military capabilities. If the long-suffering
Iranian people are waiting for benefits in terms of infrastructure and job
creation, they might as well be waiting for Godot. The ayatollahs’ priority is
the dissemination of their ideology followed by the furtherance of its regional
The irony is Iran has been rewarded for
getting rid of a nuclear weapons program it didn’t have in the first place as,
according to the IAEA, it had been dismantled in 2009.
Iran may be playing comparatively nice with
the United States right now — naturally when it has so much to gain — but just
watch! As soon as it has all its assets and deals under its belt, it will once
again bare its teeth. Iran’s hard-liners who disapproved of the nuclear deal
are anxious to do just that.
Lastly, any hopes that Saudis and Iranians
can get round the same table to agree on ways of solving Syria’s civil war look
increasingly dim. US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to sweet talk
Saudi foreign minister are likely to fall on deaf ears when he was the prime
mover of the nuclear deal aided by his warm personal relationship with the
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javed Zarif cultivated by his daughter’s
Iranian husband, believed to have close connections to Iranian decision makers.
Thank you Obama and John Kerry for rattling
the global economy, destroying the economies of oil producing countries and for
triggering increased destabilization of a region struggling to recover from
years of violence and turmoil! I suspect Obama’s legacy and his Middle East
policy overall will be one he will eventually try to forget. Time will tell.
The Emptiness of Life In Exile
Ibrahim Mahmoud is a 77-year-old man who
lives with his family, which includes 11 children, in the Baharka Refugee Camp
in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region.
During his lifetime, he became a refugee
twice; once, when he was nine-years-old living in Haifa, Palestine, and the
second exile was more recently in Mosul, Iraq. Just weeks before Israel
declared its independence in 1948, Ibrahim lost his homeland and fled Haifa,
along with tens of thousands of Palestinian Muslims and Christians after
Israeli militias conquered the city in a military operation they called Bi'ur
Hametz, or “Passover Cleaning.”
Throughout Palestine, over 750,000
Palestinians were expelled or fled the horrors of the militia-instigated war,
and those who are still alive, along with their descendants, number over
When Daesh militias swept into Mosul, Iraq
in June 2014, Ibrahim plotted his flight, along with his whole family. Between
1948 and 2014, life was anything but kind to them. At first, they sold falafel,
and Ibrahim’s children left school to join the work force at a young age. They
all had cards that listed them as “Palestinian refugees,” and have never known
any other identity.
When the Americans invaded Iraq in 2003,
they granted their soldiers and the Shiite-militias a free hand in that Arab
country. The once relatively thriving and peaceful Palestinian community of
refugees in Iraq was shattered. Now, according to the UN Refugees Agency, no
more than 3,000 Palestinian refugees are still living in Iraq, many of them in
Ibrahim has finally managed to escape
Mosul, and is living in a dirty and crowded refugee camp within
Kurdish-controlled territories in the north. Considering his old age and
faltering health, his story could possibly end there, but certainly not that of
his children and grandchildren. Ibrahim’s tragedy is not unique within the
overall Middle East refugee crisis. Nonetheless, if seen within its painfully
protracted historical context, Palestinian exile is almost unprecedented in its
complexity and duration. Few other refugee populations have struggled with
exile and were defined by it, one generation after the other, as Palestinians
To offer a new perspective on this issue,
about a year ago, I led a group of Palestinian researchers in an effort to
offer a unique and modern study of Palestinian exile, where the 1948 Nakba (or
Catastrophe) is examined within a larger context — of space and time — not only
in Palestine itself, but throughout the region and the world, as well. The
stories will appear in a book that is tentatively entitled: “Exiled.”
Since the first refugee was expelled from
his land in 1948, international aid workers, politicians, journalists and,
eventually, historians have examined the Palestinian experience, seemingly from
all of its angles. Exile then was first seen as a political crisis that can
only be fixed with the return of refugees, as instructed in United Nations
General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 194.
When that possibility grew dim, other
resolutions followed, all expressing the political contexts of each era: in
1950, 74, 82, 83, etc. Regardless of the nature of the discussion pertaining to
Palestinian refugees — whether legal, political or moral — the refugees
themselves were rarely consulted, except as subjects of selective and sometimes
dehumanizing poll questions, drawing their conclusion from the polled refugees
selecting “Yes” or “No”, or checking a box or two.
Many conclusions were drawn from various
polls that were often commissioned to reach political conclusions, and each
time such results are published, academic, media and political storms often
ensue. For Israel, the key concern is for the Palestinians to simply disconnect
from their historic homeland; for refugee advocates the struggle has always
been to demonstrate that the refugees’ desire to return remain as strong today
as it was nearly 68 years ago.
But between Israeli laws aimed at punishing
Palestinians for commemorating their Nakba, and efforts to keep the Right of
Return central to the debate, an actual disconnect happened between, for the
likes of Ibrahim Mahmoud of Haifa/Mosel, along with millions like him and the
rest of us. For Ibrahim, as is the case for Palestinian refugees in Syria,
Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine itself, across the region and the world, the matter of
exile is neither a political nor a legal point of view. It is an everyday
reality that has left numerous scars and manifestations on the refugees’
identities as people, their perception of themselves, of their surroundings, of
“home,” their internalization of the past, their understanding of the present
and their aspirations for the future.
After examining the profiles of hundreds of
Palestinian refugees, reviewing hundreds of answered questionnaires and
conducting thorough interviews with many, it became clear to us that, in the
minds of refugees (in fact, all Palestinians), the Nakba is not a separate
question to be discussed and resolved through political concessions or
pressures. Neither was it a legal question, so convoluted that it needed to be
assigned to the ‘final status negotiations” between Israel and the PLO —
negotiations that never happened, anyway.
Even Palestinians who seem unlikely to
exercise their right of return portrayed their lives with the question of Nakba
and exile as an essential one. Our study was cantered on the assumption that
the question of identity can better be examined through the accumulation of
personal narratives, which could eventually help us isolate collective common
denominators, so that we can offer answers to such question as: “What are the
group identifiers of Palestinians in the modern era?” “How strong is the common
Palestinian identity at the age of geographic, political and ideological
splits, regional turmoil and the most divisive military occupation?”
One of our findings, so far, is that
Palestinians are unified by a common tragedy, including those who have had
relatively stable lives and successful careers in exile; and that, neither
Muslims nor Christians, despite their unique narratives and claims to identity,
are, in fact, different in terms of that collective self-perception. Throughout
all the stories told and recorded, the Nakba and exile seem to hover above as
the most common foundation for the modern Palestinian narrative. According to
this modern narrative, the Nakba was not a historical event that existed at
some time between 1947 and 48, and ended with UNGA Resolution 194, which is yet
to be implemented. It is an ongoing story, a journey that neither ended at a
psychological nor at practical levels. Those who were expelled from Safad in
1948, for example, fled Jordan in 1970, then Lebanon in 1982 and, finally, from
Yarmouk in 2012 are a testament that, unlike common wisdom, exile for Palestinians
is not specific in time or space, but a cyclical process that is experienced by
every single Palestinian, even those who would declare that they have no
intentions of returning to Palestine.
In other words, the study of Palestinian
exile, and the collective aspirations of the Palestinian people, when it comes
to their right of return is far more complex than a simple question that can be
addressed in a “Yes” or “No’ questionnaire, nor is it a matter that is open for
political negotiations. It is far more encompassing and best articulated by the
refugees themselves; without it, Ibrahim Mahmoud, his children and all of his
descendants will always be exiled, always described as refugees.
Zarif’s Reckless Accusations
By Abdulateed Al-Mulhim
Last week, I enjoyed reading an article
written by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif published in the New
York Times. The title of the article was “Saudi Arabia’s Reckless Extremism.”
The reason for enjoying the article is that
time and again it is proved that who’s who in Iran or who is the real authority
The Iranian foreign minister referred to
President Hassan Rouhani’s repeated declaration that Iran’s top foreign policy
priority was friendship with its neighbours, peace and stability in the region
and global cooperation, especially in the fight against extremism.
We all know that the Iranian foreign
minister became well-known to people in the region and to decision-makers in
the United States after his involvement in negotiations to win the release of
American hostages held by pro-Iranian gunmen in Lebanon.
Now, please look at the last sentence
again. “Americans held by pro-Iranian gunmen in Lebanon.”
Has anybody heard about this kind of
incident wherein any Saudi was found involved in taking hostages? So, who is a
reckless extremist, is it Iran or Saudi Arabia?
I would like to ask the Iranian foreign
minister one question: Which country is known for taking diplomats hostage and
for failing to protect diplomatic missions?
We all remember the hostage crisis of the
late 1970s that lasted for 444 days, which had resulted in an international
crisis. It could have escalated into a full-blown confrontation. In other
words, it was Iran that held American diplomats as hostages in an operation
that was given the green light from the government.
May be Zarif didn’t know about the incident
because as far as we know he was born in 1960 and his parents did not allow him
to watch TV, listen to the radio and he was not even allowed to read
newspapers. But during the revolution he became exposed to revolutionary ideas
and at that time the Iranians used to call the United States, the Great Satan.
So, guess where did Zarif at the peak of the Iranian revolution and the age of
17 go? Well, you guessed it correctly! He ended up in the United States. And he
ended up staying there for a long time and was one of those politicians who
served Iran in the United Nations. In other words, the Iranian foreign minister
reminds me of the Soviet era foreign ministers who knew more about the West
than their own country.
Zarif apparently doesn’t know or he doesn’t
want to know that Iran tops the chart when it comes to extremism. It is a
country known for its disrespect to foreign missions. And I will not talk about
the construction cranes used for executing Iranian men and women or their
numbers. Iran and its rulers are known for their desperate need for an outside
enemy to survive. As a matter of fact, the first officially announced plans for
the Iranian revolution was to export extremism and overthrow the governments in
Iran’s neighbourhoods. Shouldn’t their plans be to build Iran or to take care
of the Iranians? The world saw Iran spreading its extremist ideology decades ago
in Lebanon and other countries and had established many centres to recruit many
of the Arab youth to be used in terrorist attacks in various Arab countries.
During the Haj season in the late 1980s
some Iranian pilgrims were caught with C4 explosives. And let us not forget the
Iranian Revolutionary Guard operatives who followed Iranian dissidents and
former politicians all over the world to execute them. We do remember the
gruesome execution of Iran’s former Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar in Paris.
And let us not forget the thousands of Iranian politicians, scientists,
writers, doctors and merchants who were put on summary trials in 1979 and were
executed in cold blood. Nowadays you can see more Iranian doctors, scientists
and professionals in Los Angeles than you would see in Tehran. They left
because life in Iran was unbearable.
I think it would be more beneficial for the
Iranians to see Zarif walk around the streets of Tehran or go out and see the
small villages to learn more about the realities of life in Iran. Calling
America the “Great Satan” didn’t put bread on an Iranian’s table and calling
Saudi Arabia reckless will not hide the realities of the Iranian people
sufferings under your reckless Mullahs. And finally, Zarif, could you please
return the telephone that your thugs stole from our embassy in Tehran when they
attacked it. By the way, is attacking foreign diplomatic missions Iran’s way of
promoting stability and combating extremism?
Iran Should Reform And Stop Pointing
Fingers At The GCC
By Mustafa Al Zarooni
January 19, 2016
Poor Iranian record on human rights
surpasses that of military juntas.
Will Iran come clean and join its
neighbours in peaceful coexistence after years of sectarian conflicts that have
raised tensions in the region? With sanctions now lifted against the country,
it must make amends and end its covert reign of terror, settle disputes with
its neighbours and improve the rights situation in the country.
Despite the hostile attitude of Tehran, the
GCC, specifically the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, did its best to improve ties
with the country. The late King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz rubbed shoulders with
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the then Iranian president while receiving the leaders of
Muslim countries in the holy city of Makkah two years ago.
This gesture of the late monarch should
have led to reconciliation, but some influential clerics in Iran moved to
silence voices of reason by sending out a message of sectarian and communal
hatred, and the Iranian masses responded with street protests.
Iran is at it again with the attack on the
Saudi embassy earlier this month. I agree with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad
Zarif, who through his column, 'Saudi Arabia's Reckless Extremism' in The New
York Times (Jan 10), said his country is ready to engage in ''dialogue, promote
stability and combat destabilizing extremism", while categorically
rejecting the rest of the article which only serves to further divide the
Reacting to the column, UAE Foreign
Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan said on Twitter that anyone who
reads the article would think that Zarif is the foreign minister of a
Scandinavian country that champions freedoms. "He who builds a glass house
should not throw stones on others,'' Shaikh Abdullah tweeted.
I am not defending freedoms in the GCC, but
Iran has nothing to boast about. Tehran's atrocities have been documented by
various international human rights organizations. The poor Iranian record on
human rights surpasses that of military juntas and dictatorial governments. The
latest incident is the arrest of the Iranian reform poetess Hila Siddiqui when
she returned home from a journey abroad.
The view of the gallows on cranes and
dozens of people lynched in public places in Iranian cities is shocking beyond
belief. Those being hanged are human rights activists, free speech supporters
and those fighting for a just society.
Sectarian strife begins and ends with Iran.
Recently, Revolutionary Guards commander Mohammed Ali Al Jafaari spoke of the
presence of 200,000 Iranian fighters in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen.
Jafaari's statement casts light on the role the regime's military is playing in
countries in the region. It raises eyebrows, and certainly reveals flagrant
meddling in the affairs of the GCC and Arab countries.
After Iran's latest efforts in Yemen were
foiled by GCC and Arab coalition forces, there is evidence that it is stoking
sectarian tensions in Saudi Arabia. Nimr the cleric was funded and supported by
Tehran, and his arrest and execution was because a red line was crossed by the
regime. Saudi Arabia, a sovereign country, has every right to deal with
anti-nationals the way it chooses to under its law.
With the nuclear deal and the lifting of
sanctions, the GCC and Arab countries will be closely watching Iran's actions
on the ground. President Hassan Rohani had said after the nuclear deal last
year that the region has nothing to fear from his country.
It may not be a nuclear power but Iran has
tested ballistic missiles; it has indulged in arms proliferation and has
military assets in the entire region by its own admission. The country is now
open for business, its people can have a better life and investments will flow.
President Obama spoke directly about Iran's
destabilising role in the region and offered reassurance to Arab allies in the
Middle East. ''We remain steadfast in opposing Iran's destabilizing behaviour
elsewhere, including its threats against Israel and our Gulf partners, and its
support for violent proxies in places like Syria and Yemen.''
Limited sanctions on the country will
remain for its violations of human rights, for its support of terrorism, and
for its ballistic missile program, the president said.
''.We are going to remain vigilant about
it. We're not going to waver in the defence of our security or that of our
allies and partners,'' the president said. Vigilance is the key for Obama.
But we will go a step further and say a
fair amount of distrust is good when dealing with Iran. We will borrow from
former US president Ronald Reagan and call it a ''distrust and verify
Just How Bright Is Iran's New Dawn?
By Belen Fernandez
18 Jan 2016
Belen Fernandez is the author of The
Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, published by Verso. She is a
contributing editor at Jacobin Magazine.
Imagine that 10 Iranian soldiers aboard
Iranian military vessels had turned up off the coast of the United States.
It's safe to assume that, whatever course
of action was selected by US officials in response to the incursion, it would
not have involved briefly detaining the visitors and then sending them on their
merry way without a disproportionate amount of bellicose rhetoric and
conspiracy theories launched by the sectors of US and international society
that specialise in such things.
In recent years, Iran has hardly needed to
raise a finger to get neoconservative and other parties united. Back in 2011,
for example, a congressional subcommittee heard testimony regarding the alleged
threat to US homeland security posed by Iranian actions in Latin America.
Among these actions was a reported request
from the Iranian embassy in Bolivia for more than two dozen spaces at the
international school in La Paz for the offspring of diplomatic personnel.
La Paz, mind you, is no fewer than 6,225
kilometres from Washington, DC - in other words, a much longer distance than
that between the Iranian homeland and the US military boats which appeared last
week in Iranian territorial waters.
And while Iran released the 10 detained US
soldiers in expedited fashion, various Western politicians and media couldn’t
help but exploit the opportunity to cast the Islamic Republic as the aggressor
in this case.
Out With the Old, In With the New
The incident took place just days before
the lifting of many sanctions against Iran as part of the nuclear deal, widely
hailed as the dawn of a new era in relations between the maligned country and
the so-called international community. But just how bright is that dawn?
For starters, the US' imposition of
entirely new ballistic missile sanctions against Iran even as the other
sanctions were being lifted would seem to indicate that, as far as the
"international community" is concerned, the Islamic Republic is still
persona non grata.
The United States' imposition of entirely
new ballistic missile sanctions against Iran, even as the other sanctions were
being lifted, would seem to indicate that, as far as the 'international
community' is concerned, the Islamic Republic is still persona non grata.
Perennial squawking by the US political
establishment about Iran's "destabilising activities" in the Middle
East is another indicator of the prevailing notion that, whatever superficial
improvements the country might undertake, it is fundamentally and inescapably
Axis of Evil material.
Never mind that Israel, America's partner
in crime in the Middle East, would appear to occupy the position of regional
destabiliser-in-chief - and not only because it regularly massacres civilians.
A non-signatory to the Treaty on the
Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (a document for ever invoked to demonise
Iran), Israel happens to possess a sizeable covert arsenal of nuclear weapons
threatening the entire area, as such weapons tend to do.
And what do you know: Israel is now
requesting an increase in US military aid to possibly $5bn annually; up from
the astronomical sum it already receives, to counter Iran and related nemeses.
A new dawn, indeed.
Barack Obama & Co can blather all they
like about the nuclear deal and attendant prisoner swap as constituting a
victory for "diplomacy". But the fact is that self-appointed
"diplomats" have been waging war by other means on Iran for years.
A key pillar of this war involves economic
sanctions, with the first US sanctions on Iran dating back to 1979. American
independent scholar Sayres Rudy recently discussed more contemporary
incarnations of the sanctions regime at a conference entitled "Fragments
of Empire After the American Century" - fittingly held at one such
fragment, the American University of Beirut.
Joking that he develops a rash any time he
hears the phrase "international community", Rudy observed that that
said grouping "proudly and visibly collectively punished the Iranian
population to achieve selective disarmament of the nuclear-unarmed Iranian
state, although it remains targeted and threatened continually by nuclear
The beauty of sanctions for those who
deploy them, Rudy noted, resides in their "seemingly bureaucratic, lawful,
objective, transparent, and non-violent" nature, which provides a
civilised veneer for what can amount to the decimation of populations.
A short 2013 dispatch on the New York Times
website describes the "devastating" effects of sanctions on Iran,
where "the health of millions of Iranians has been compromised due to the
shortage of Western medical drugs and supplies".
In Iraq, as we all know, sanctions
dispensed with some half a million children - an outcome endorsed by Madeleine
Albright, the former US Secretary of State, as follows: "We think the
price is worth it."
Writing in the online magazine Warscapes in
October of last year, meanwhile, Max Ajl pointed out that an "eas[ing of]
Iran into an accommodation with the US-dominated global system" would
require Iran to "become a very different country than it is now - one that
does not contest Israeli interests [and] one that does not use its oil riches
for human-centred development" but rather for purchases from Lockheed
Martin and other such goodies.
Until that happens, Iran will effectively
maintain its position as international bull’s-eye. Maybe we should hold off on
the "new dawn" celebrations.
Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman
at Work, published by Verso. She is a contributing editor at Jacobin magazine.