Thursday, December 29, 2011

Will Iran Stop the Oil Flow?

Second Iranian Official Says Regime could Close Gulf to Oil Traffic

By Ramin Mostaghim
The Los Angeles Times
December 28, 2011

REPORTING FROM TEHRAN -- Iran’s top naval commander told Iran's English language Press TV on Wednesday that closing the Persian Gulf to oil tanker traffic would be "easier than drinking a glass of water" but added that Iran would not do so for now.

"Closing the Strait of Hormuz for Iran's armed forces is really easy ... or, as Iranians say, it will be easier than drinking a glass of water," said Habibollah Sayyari. "But right now, we don't need to shut it as we have the Sea of Oman under control, and we can control the transit."

In response, the Bahrain-based U.S. 5th Fleet's spokeswoman warned that any disruption “will not be tolerated,” the Associated Press reported. The spokeswoman, Lt. Rebecca Rebarich, said the U.S. Navy is “always ready to counter malevolent actions to ensure freedom of navigation.”

Sayyari's statement followed by a day a similar threat from Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi to close the gulf to tanker traffic, potentially disrupting the flow of Middle East oil to world markets, if Iran faces any fresh sanctions. However, there were no immediate signs that their words were a prelude to any military action or any more than verbal jousting with Iran's international critics.

Iran is facing international sanctions imposed in response to its pursuit of a nuclear program, which it says has peaceful designs but which the West fears will lead to the creation of atomic weapons.

“What does the West expect us to do when we are threatened and attacked?” said Ali Akbar Javanfekr, a media advisor to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “Should we just throw our hands up and give in? Mr. Rahimi's reaction was a defensive reaction and we are right to do so."

Observers said the Iranian comments suggested that the Islamic Republic was feeling the effect of the international sanctions. Some suggested that further punishment could create a backlash.

“The reaction of Mr. Rahimi shows clearly the sanctions so far have been painful and pressure is increasing," said an Iranian reformer and analyst who did not want to be quoted by name for security reasons. "And it also indicates that if Iran cannot sell its oil then nobody in the Persian Gulf should do so, and it is a serious reaction."

But an oil expert, who also did not want to identified, said : "It is suicide if Iran seals off the Strait of Hormuz and I think it will never be realized.”

Nader Karimi Joni,  economic and political analyst, said : “What Rahimi as vice president said is not a big deal or new. First of all, the commander of the Iranian naval force said that Iran does not intend to do it for the time being. Secondly, IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps] commanders on other occasions in the past have said similar things.

"It is not serious," Joni said of the threat, "and it will not be in the near future.”

Reza Zandi, an oil industry expert and columnist for the reformist Sharq daily, added: “The impact of Mr. Rahimi's remarks was only one U.S. dollar in increased oil price per barrel, nothing more.

"I do remember Mr. Rostam Qasemi, the oil minister, in Vienna said that Iran will not seal off the Hormuz Strait and the Iranian commander of navy said that sealing off the strait is a decision that must be made by top officials," Zandi said. "So it means that Iran is only responding to a threat, nothing more.

"Practically," Zandi added, "neither complete oil sanctions on Iran nor the complete sealing off the strait are feasible.”

Silencing Dissent in Israel

Israel TV Station’s Troubles Reflect a Larger Political Battleground

By Ethan Bronner
The New York Times
December 26, 2011

JERUSALEM — An Israeli television station reported last spring on numerous trips Benjamin Netanyahu had taken as an elected official to Paris, London and New York before becoming prime minister in 2009. Accompanied by his wife, he flew first class and stayed in baronial hotel suites. Mrs. Netanyahu had her hair styled and her wardrobe dry-cleaned. The bills, displayed on screen, were paid for by wealthy friends.

Traveling in luxury at the expense of others may violate public service rules and the law. It also doesn’t look good. But instead of accolades for its journalism, Channel 10 is now fighting for its life, and Mr. Netanyahu’s hostility toward it is being cast as part of a broader cultural and political war in Israel between the left and the right involving efforts to control the judiciary, the reporting of news and public discourse.

It is a battle that most immediately pits the rightist governing coalition against the liberal elite as the government refuses to postpone the station’s debt, which could force it to close.

“The fight over Channel 10 is partly a matter of revenge — Netanyahu wants to make them pay for what they did to him,” argued Nachman Shai, a member of Parliament from the opposition party Kadima and a former news executive who helped set up Channel 10 a decade ago. “But it is also part of a three-front struggle — over the courts, civil society and the media. The right wants to control every institution. Freedom of expression is at risk.”

Those around Mr. Netanyahu, who filed a million-dollar libel suit against the station, say Channel 10 is a failed business whose payments have been forgiven numerous times and is hiding behind political complaints and inflated concerns about free speech to make the public absorb its debts.

On its face, the request by Channel 10 is modest. It owes $11 million, most of it to an official regulatory body, the rest in taxes. Ayelet Metzger, deputy director general of the regulatory body, said both her agency and the Finance Ministry had agreed to postpone the debt for a year.

But a parliamentary committee this month voted against doing so. Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition obliged its members to vote no. This means that Channel 10 will, in theory, shut its doors at the end of January, when its 10-year franchise ends.

In practice, there will be a drawn-out battle to save it because of the belief that it plays a vital role in public debate through its crusading investigative news broadcasts. The only other independent station is Channel 2, which is also facing economic woes.

Otherwise, Mr. Netanyahu has strong influence over other media outlets: the state-owned Channel 1, State Radio and a freely distributed and successful newspaper, Yisrael Hayom, owned by a close American friend, the billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

President Shimon Peres, a member of Kadima, has weighed in, saying that the channel’s effort to survive is “a struggle for Israel’s democratic character.” In a related comment, he also declared himself “ashamed” of several bills being considered in Parliament that he believes chip away at democracy in Israel: an antidefamation law, one that silences loudspeakers issuing the Muslim call to prayer and another that prevents foreign governments from financing left-wing Israeli groups.

Last summer, Parliament passed a law making it possible to sue anyone who advocates boycotting things Israeli, including West Bank settlements.

Channel 10 infuriated the Netanyahus over the reports of lavish travel, when he was a member of Parliament and as finance minister, and spurred a continuing investigation by the state comptroller. But the channel also angered previous leaders, playing a key role in exposing the way the 2006 Lebanon war was conducted and publicizing suspicions of corrupt land deals in the family of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

It brought to the screen the fate of a Palestinian doctor in Gaza whose three daughters were killed in the 2008-2009 offensive there by Israeli forces, and showed a minister from the nationalist party Yisrael Beiteinu arriving at the home of a woman suspected to be his mistress and leaving the house the next morning.

“I believe that if we die, the message will be clear that if you have the guts to open a critical news company, you will go bankrupt,” said Raviv Drucker, the station’s chief investigative reporter, who broke the story of Mr. Netanyahu’s travels.

An executive of Channel 10 who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that he had been told by a top aide of Mr. Netanyahu that if Mr. Drucker were given a long vacation, postponing the debt would be a lot easier. Mr. Netanyahu’s office said no such conversation had occurred.

In previous years, Mr. Netanyahu actually intervened to save Channel 10 twice because, he said, he favors increasing broadcast outlets to expand the marketplace of ideas and debate. The Israeli news media, he and his aides complain, lean to the left and what the country needs is an Israeli version of Fox News.

Some say that is what Mr. Netanyahu thought he was helping to create when about five years ago he persuaded his friend, the American billionaire Ronald S. Lauder, to invest in the ailing Channel 10. But the structure of the channel makes it hard for owners to intervene in content.

Nonetheless, after the broadcast on Mr. Netanyahu’s travels was shown, the prime minister cooled his friendship with Mr. Lauder. Mr. Lauder declined to comment.

Another owner of the channel is the Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan. The third and largest shareholder is Yossi Meiman, an Israeli political liberal who has faced financial difficulties because of his investment in a gas pipeline from Egypt that has been repeatedly blown up since the Egyptian revolution.

Amnon Dankner, former editor of the newspaper Maariv and a veteran journalist, said that the threat to Channel 10 worried him deeply.

“For the first time, I fear the end of critical and investigative news as we have known it in Israel,” he said. “If Channel 10 closes, Channel 2 will grow tamer. Since childhood I have felt that freedom of the press was marching forward here. Now I feel it is retreating.”

But other journalists say the only thing that has changed is who is in power. Prime ministers from the Labor Party like David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin also held the press tightly, meeting with senior editors regularly.

“When the prime minister was ‘one of us,’ it seemed totally natural for him to silence his critics,” Ari Shavit, a columnist for the newspaper Haaretz, wrote in Thursday’s issue. “After 30 years of the media running roughshod over Likud, Likud is tyrannizing the media.”

Nahum Barnea, the main political columnist for the newspaper Yediot Aharonot, said that while the Channel 10 problem was about a failed business, it was part of the struggle for control of public discourse in Parliament.

“Many of the proposed laws have a common denominator,” he said. “People in the coalition think it is time for them to change the rules — the rules regarding the Palestinians, the Arab sector in Israel, the left and the media. The Channel 10 story is part of that. And if we are left with only one commercial channel, we will be a weaker democracy.”

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Bombs Explode in Damascus

Attacks on Syrian Government Buildings Seem to Strike the Heart of State Security Apparatus

By Alice Fordham and Joby Warrick
The Washington Post
December 23 2011

BEIRUT — Twin car bombs ripped through the morning calm of Damascus on Friday, killing at least 40 people and casting doubt on the ability of a newly arrived team of Arab League monitors to stem Syria’s growing violence.

The explosions shattered two government buildings used by Syrian intelligence and security commanders and ushered in what some analysts feared is a new stage in the nine-month-old uprising. The Syrian government blamed al-Qaeda for the blasts, a claim that drew skepticism from Syrian opposition groups as well as Western governments and intelligence agencies.

But regardless of who carried out the bombings, the attacks marked a grim zenith in what was already the bloodiest week of the uprising. They were also a slap to international monitors from the Arab League, who began arriving this week to put pressure on Syrian authorities to halt attacks on opposition forces.

The bombings came as government troops were battling pockets of armed defectors in several parts of the country, despite an agreement with the Arab League to withdraw soldiers from populated areas. President Bashar al-Assad, who faces growing domestic opposition as well as tightening international sanctions, has been under international pressure to accept monitors and to allow independent media into the country.

The apparent targeting of Syria’s intelligence apparatus seemed to mark a significant escalation in unrest that has thus far seen the army deployed to quash protests in centers of opposition such as the city of Homs and that has included some clashes pitting the army against defectors and armed rebels.

Independent analysts said the attack could fuel panic and paranoia among an increasingly frightened population, particularly in Damascus, which has been largely spared until now.

“It signals that this conflict is getting much worse, not better and not simmering down,” said Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The explosions in the Kfar Sousa area of the capital came after nine months of anti-government demonstrations that have grown increasingly violent, with soldiers defecting and rebels taking up arms in response to a heavy security crackdown.

Assad has blamed the uprising on extremists, foreigners and armed gangs. After the bombings Friday, the Associated Press reported, the government quickly escorted the Arab League team to the gory scene and said the attacks backed its claims that the turmoil is not a popular uprising.

“We said it from the beginning: This is terrorism. They are killing the army and civilians,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad told reporters outside the headquarters of the General Security Directorate.

In Washington, U.S. officials condemned the attacks while acknowledging uncertainty about who was behind them. Intelligence officials questioned the veracity of the government’s assertions — issued by Syrian-run news media — that al-Qaeda was responsible, noting that it would be difficult for al-Qaeda to carry out such an ambitious operation in the tightly controlled police state. However, some analysts noted that the attacks bore many of al-Qaeda’s hallmarks, including the coordinated use of suicide bombers against heavily guarded targets.

“For the moment, it’s unclear who did the bombings,” said a U.S. official privy to intelligence files from the region.

Syrian opposition groups denied any involvement in the bombings. Some opposition figures theorized that pro-Assad forces could have staged the attacks to discredit the opposition and buttress state claims that “terrorists” are behind the uprising.

The blasts came a day after a technical committee from the Arab League arrived in Damascus to discuss implementing an agreement for monitors to come into the country and the military to withdraw from centers of protest.

The official Syrian Arab News Agency reported that 44 people were killed and 166 wounded in attacks that “were carried out by two suicide bombers with two booby-trapped cars.” The agency published gruesome photos of the carnage on its Web site.

Mutilated and torn bodies lay amid rubble and burned cars outside the General Security Directorate and a building housing a branch of the military intelligence service, as bystanders and ambulance workers carried victims to vehicles, the Associated Press reported.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner expressed sympathy for the victims of the bombing, saying, “There is no justification for terrorism of any kind.” But he stressed that the violence should not derail the Arab League’s efforts to monitor human-rights abuses.

“We hope that this mission will proceed unfettered in an atmosphere of nonviolence,” Toner said. “The burden is on the regime to cooperate fully and quickly with the monitoring mission.”

Citing a slow shift in recent months from peaceful protests to violent opposition, some analysts said it was possible — though not certain — that the bombings were the work of an opposition group.

“We are not going to know unless someone makes a claim,” said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. It could be useful for the Syrian government to blame al-Qaeda for such an attack, he added, even if there is no claim by the group or evidence that it was responsible.

“Just as Gaddafi found it convenient early on to blame everything on al-Qaeda,” Cordesman said, “so Assad finds it a very convenient way to say, ‘This is not a domestic resistance.’ ” He referred to Moammar Gaddafi, the Libyan strongman who was driven from power in August and killed by rebels who captured him in October.

Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, a branch of the Washington-based Brookings Institution, said he was “deeply skeptical” of claims that either al-Qaeda or an opposition group could have staged such an attack in Damascus.

“Syria doesn’t really have a record of this,” Shaikh said. “The security forces have not lost control of the situation to such an extent that this would seem likely.”

Shaikh also said it seemed suspicious that the media reported the attack so quickly, with pictures showing the car bombs already cleared away.

The Syrian Revolution General Commission called the bombings a “pathetic move” by the Syrian government and a “feeble attempt to plant fear and terror in the hearts of civilians.”

Warrick contributed from Washington.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hamas Embraces non-Violent Resistance

This analysis is shallow and offers a simplistic conception of what is moderate and radical. Resistance is always radical because it aims to dramatically alter the status quo in relation to not only Israel but also the existing economic, social and political structures. Thus many Islamist parties can be both democratic and radical. But still the news is important.

Hamas Moves away from Violence in Deal with Palestinian Authority

Islamic party that has controlled Gaza for five years is to shift emphasis away from armed struggle to non-violent resistance.

By Phoebe Greenwood in Gaza City
The Guardian
Sunday 18 December 2011

Hamas has confirmed that it will shift tactics away from violent attacks on Israel as part of a rapprochement with the Palestinian Authority.

A spokesman for the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniya, told the Guardian that the Islamic party, which has controlled Gaza for the past five years, was shifting its emphasis from armed struggle to non-violent resistance.

"Violence is no longer the primary option but if Israel pushes us, we reserve the right to defend ourselves with force," said the spokesman, Taher al-Nounu. On this understanding, he said, all Palestinian factions operating in the Gaza Strip have agreed to halt the firing of rockets and mortars into Israel.

The announcement on Sunday does not qualify as a full repudiation of violence, but marks a step away from violent extremism by the Hamas leadership towards the more progressive Islamism espoused by groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo.

The approach was concluded at recent talks between Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, in Cairo. Senior delegations representing the two factions met again in the Egyptian capital on Sunday to forge ahead with efforts to form a reconciled Palestinian government.

Iran recently cut its financial support to Hamas in a punitive response to moves within the Palestinian faction to relocate its exiled leadership, including Meshaal, from its base in Syria. Many among the Hamas rank and file have criticised their former ally, President Bashar Assad's violent assault on Syrian civilians.

Hamas believes the events of the Arab spring, in which uprisings have thrown off the old autocratic order and ushered in democratic, moderate Islamic governments in Tunisia and Egypt, have changed the landscape of the Middle East and is repositioning itself accordingly away from the Syria-Iran axis that has sustained it for decades, closer to the orbit of regional lslamist powers like Turkey and Qatar.

"European countries in particular see that the Muslim Brotherhood is a special kind of Islamic movement that is not radical. It could be the same with Hamas," said Nouno.

In a further concession to international legitimacy, the Hamas leadership confirmed on Sunday that it could entertain discussions regarding a peace agreement with Israel if the Quartet of peacebroking powers agree to modify its preconditions. Hamas will accept the foundation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders but stands firm in its refusal to acknowledge the state of Israel.

This softened tone on the international stage is not yet evident in Haniya's domestic rhetoric. Speaking at a rally in Kateeba Square, Gaza City, to mark the 24th anniversary of the foundation of the movement last week, the prime minister vowed to continue the "resistance".

"The resistance and the armed struggle are the way and the strategic choice for liberating Palestinian land from the (Jordan) river to the (Mediterranean) sea," he said.

The next step towards reconciliation will be made on Tuesday when representatives from all Palestinian factions meet in Cairo. Despite the process, officials within both Hamas and Fatah are sceptical that the effort will be successful. Hamas cites Abbas' insistence that Salam Fayyad continue as prime minister in a reconciled government as an obstacle to unity.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Post-Election Violence in Egypt

Egypt’s Military Clashes with Protesters in Cairo for Second Consecutive Day

By Associated Press
Saturday, December 17 2011

CAIRO — Egyptian soldiers clashed with hundreds of rock-throwing protesters in central Cairo for a second consecutive day on Saturday, in a resurgence of turmoil just days after millions voted in parliamentary elections.

The MENA state news agency said at least eight people have been killed in the clashes that have underlined the simmering tensions between activists and security officers. The violence also threatened to spark a new cycle of fighting after deadly clashes between youth revolutionaries and security forces in November that lasted for days and left more than 40 dead.

After a full day of clashes Friday, hundreds of protesters hurled stones early Saturday at security forces that have sealed off the streets around the country’s parliament building with barbed wire and large concrete blocks. Soldiers on rooftops pelted the crowds below with stones, prompting many of the protesters to pick up helmets, satellite dishes or sheets of metal to try to protect themselves.

Witnesses said that soldiers chased protesters through the streets, forcing them to retreat to nearby Tahrir Square, which served as the epicenter of the uprising that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak in February.

The violence first began late Thursday after soldiers stormed an antimilitary protest camp outside the Cabinet building near Tahrir Square, expelling demonstrators demanding an end to military rule and an immediate transfer of power to a civilian authority. Witnesses said troops snatched a protester, taking him into the parliament building and beating him. The troops later moved in, burning protesters’ tents.

The military took over after longtime President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular revolt in February. Rights groups and activists charge that the military is carrying on the practices of the old regime, including arresting and beating dissidents.

MENA said around 300 people have been injured in the ongoing clashes.

Funerals were expected Saturday for those killed a day earlier. Among the dead was Sheik Emad Effat, a cleric from Al-Azhar, Egypt’s most eminent religious institution. Effat had taken a pro-revolutionary position, criticizing the military and issuing a religious decree forbidding voting for former members of the regime in elections. He was shot in the chest after joining the protesters outside the Cabinet.

Many Egyptians have grown increasingly wary of the military and frustrated with its handling of the country’s transition period, and many activists accuse it of trying to hang on to power.

Mustafa Ali, a protester who was wounded by pellet shot in clashes last month, on Saturday accused the ruling generals of instigating the violence to “find a justification to remain in power and divide up people into factions.”

In a statement read on state TV Friday night, the ruling military said its forces did not intend to break up the protest and said officers showed self-restraint, denying the used any gunfire. It said the clashes began when a military officer was attacked while on duty and protesters tried to break into the parliament compound.

The young activists who led the protests against Mubarak have not translated that success into results at the polls, where Islamist parties won a clear majority of seats in the first round of voting last month over the more liberal parties that emerged from the uprising. Results from this week’s second round are expected in the coming days, with the rest of the country set to vote next month.

Images of troops protecting polling centers and soldiers carrying the elderly to the polls have served to boost the military’s image as guardians of the country. The military remains the ultimate authority on all matters of state in absence of a president.

The second round of voting took place Wednesday and Thursday in nine of the country’s 27 provinces. It covered vast rural areas where the religious stand of Islamist parties has strong support.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Revealing Documents about the Occupation of Iraq

Junkyard Gives Up Secret Accounts of Massacre in Iraq

By Michael S. Schmidt
The New York Times
December 14, 2011

BAGHDAD — One by one, the Marines sat down, swore to tell the truth and began to give secret interviews discussing one of the most horrific episodes of America’s time in Iraq: the 2005 massacre by Marines of Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha.

“I mean, whether it’s a result of our action or other action, you know, discovering 20 bodies, throats slit, 20 bodies, you know, beheaded, 20 bodies here, 20 bodies there,” Col. Thomas Cariker, a commander in Anbar Province at the time, told investigators as he described the chaos of Iraq. At times, he said, deaths were caused by “grenade attacks on a checkpoint and, you know, collateral with civilians.”

The 400 pages of interrogations, once closely guarded as secrets of war, were supposed to have been destroyed as the last American troops prepare to leave Iraq. Instead, they were discovered along with reams of other classified documents, including military maps showing helicopter routes and radar capabilities, by a reporter for The New York Times at a junkyard outside Baghdad. An attendant was burning them as fuel to cook a dinner of smoked carp.

The documents — many marked secret — form part of the military’s internal investigation, and confirm much of what happened at Haditha, a Euphrates River town where Marines killed 24 Iraqis, including a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair, women and children, some just toddlers.

Haditha became a defining moment of the war, helping cement an enduring Iraqi distrust of the United States and a resentment that not one Marine has been convicted. That is one of the main reasons that all American combat troops are leaving by the weekend.

But the accounts are just as striking for what they reveal about the extraordinary strains on the soldiers who were assigned here, their frustrations and their frequently painful encounters with a population they did not understand. In their own words, the report documents the dehumanizing nature of this war, where Marines came to view 20 dead civilians as not “remarkable,” but as routine.

Iraqi civilians were being killed all the time. Maj. Gen. Steve Johnson, the commander of American forces in Anbar, in his own testimony, described it as “a cost of doing business.”

The stress of combat left some soldiers paralyzed, the testimony shows. Troops, traumatized by the rising violence and feeling constantly under siege, grew increasingly twitchy, killing more and more civilians in accidental encounters. Others became so desensitized and inured to the killing that they fired on Iraqi civilians deliberately while their fellow soldiers snapped pictures, and were court-martialed. The bodies piled up at a time when the war had gone horribly wrong.

Charges were dropped against six of the accused Marines in the Haditha episode, one was acquitted and the last remaining case against one Marine is scheduled to go to trial next year.

That sense of American impunity ultimately poisoned any chance for American forces to remain in Iraq, because the Iraqis would not let them stay without being subject to Iraqi laws and courts, a condition the White House could not accept.

Told about the documents that had been found, Col. Barry Johnson, a spokesman for the United States military in Iraq, said that many of the documents remained classified and should have been destroyed. “Despite the way in which they were improperly discarded and came into your possession, we are not at liberty to discuss classified information,” he said.

He added: “We take any breach of classified information as an extremely serious matter. In this case, the documents are being reviewed to determine whether an investigation is warranted.” The military said it did not know from which investigation the documents had come, but the papers appear to be from an inquiry by Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell into the events in Haditha. The documents ultimately led to a report that concluded that the Marine Corps’s chain of command engaged in “willful negligence” in failing to investigate the episode and that Marine commanders were far too willing to tolerate civilian casualties. That report, however, did not include the transcripts.

Under Pressure

Many of those testifying at bases in Iraq or the United States were clearly under scrutiny for not investigating an atrocity and may have tried to shape their statements to dispel any notion that they had sought to cover up the events. But the accounts also show the consternation of the Marines as they struggled to control an unfamiliar land and its people in what amounted to a constant state of siege from fighters who were nearly indistinguishable from noncombatants.

Some, feeling they were under attack constantly, decided to use force first and ask questions later. If Marines took fire from a building, they would often level it. Drivers who approached checkpoints without stopping were assumed to be suicide bombers.

“When a car doesn’t stop, it crosses the trigger line, Marines engage and, yes, sir, there are people inside the car that are killed that have nothing to do with it,” Sgt. Maj. Edward T. Sax, the battalion’s senior noncommissioned officer, testified.

He added, “I had Marines shoot children in cars and deal with the Marines individually one on one about it because they have a hard time dealing with that.”

Sergeant Major Sax said he would ask the Marines responsible if they had known there had been children in the car. When they said no, he said he would tell them they were not at fault. He said he felt for the Marines who had fired the shots, saying they would carry a lifelong burden.

“It is one thing to kill an insurgent in a head-on fight,” Sergeant Major Sax testified. “It is a whole different thing — and I hate to say it, the way we are raised in America — to injure a female or injure a child or in the worse case, kill a female or kill a child.”

They could not understand why so many Iraqis just did not stop at checkpoints and speculated that it was because of illiteracy or poor eyesight.

“They don’t have glasses and stuff,” Col. John Ledoux said. “It really makes you wonder because some of the things that they would do just to keep coming. You know, it’s hard to imagine they would just keep coming, but sometimes they do.”

Such was the environment in 2005, when the Marines from Company K of the Third Battalion, First Marine Regiment from Camp Pendleton, Calif., arrived in Anbar Province, where Haditha is located, many for their second or third tours in Iraq.

The province had become a stronghold for disenfranchised Sunnis and foreign fighters who wanted to expel the United States from Iraq, or just kill as many Americans as possible. Of the 4,483 American deaths in Iraq, 1,335 happened in Anbar.

In 2004, four Blackwater contractors were gunned down and dragged through the streets of Falluja, their bodies burned and hung on a bridge over the Euphrates. Days later, the United States military moved into the city, and chaos ensued in Anbar Province for the next two years as the Americans tried to fight off the insurgents.

The stress of combat soon bore down. A legal adviser to the Marine unit stopped taking his medication for obsessive-compulsive disorder and stopped functioning.

“We had the one where Marines had photographed themselves taking shots at people,” Col. R. Kelly testified, saying that they immediately called the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and “confiscated their little camera.” He said the soldiers involved received a court-martial.

All of this set the stage for what happened in Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005.

A Tragedy Ensues

That morning, a military convoy of four vehicles was heading to an outpost in Haditha when one of the vehicles was hit by a roadside bomb.

Several Marines got out to attend to the wounded, including one who eventually died, while others looked for insurgents who might have set off the bomb. Within a few hours 24 Iraqis — including a 76-year-old man and children between the ages of 3 and 15 — were killed, many inside their homes.

Townspeople contended that the Marines overreacted to the attack and shot civilians, only one of whom was armed. The Marines said they thought they were under attack.

When the initial reports arrived saying more than 20 civilians had been killed in Haditha, the Marines receiving them said they were not surprised by the high civilian death toll.

Chief Warrant Officer K. R. Norwood, who received reports from the field on the day of the killings and briefed commanders on them, testified that 20 dead civilians was not unusual.

“I meant, it wasn’t remarkable, based off of the area I wouldn’t say remarkable, sir,” Mr. Norwood said. “And that is just my definition. Not that I think one life is not remarkable, it’s just —”

An investigator asked the officer: “I mean remarkable or noteworthy in terms of something that would have caught your attention where you would have immediately said, ‘Got to have more information on that. That is a lot of casualties.’ ”

“Not at the time, sir,” the officer testified.

General Johnson, the commander of American forces in Anbar Province, said he did not feel compelled to go back and examine the events because they were part of a continuing pattern of civilian deaths.

“It happened all the time, not necessarily in MNF-West all the time, but throughout the whole country,” General Johnson testified, using a military abbreviation for allied forces in western Iraq.

“So, you know, maybe — I guess maybe if I was sitting here at Quantico and heard that 15 civilians were killed I would have been surprised and shocked and gone — done more to look into it,” he testified, referring to Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. “But at that point in time, I felt that was — had been, for whatever reason, part of that engagement and felt that it was just a cost of doing business on that particular engagement.”

When Marines arrived on the scene to assess the number of dead bodies, at least one Marine thought it would be a good time to take pictures for his own keeping.

“I know I had one Marine who was taking pictures just to take pictures and I told him to delete all those pictures,” testified a first lieutenant identified as M. D. Frank.

The documents uncovered by The Times — which include handwritten notes from soldiers, waivers by Marines of their right against self-incrimination, diagrams of where dead women and children were found, and pictures of the site where the Marine was killed by a roadside bomb on the day of the massacre — remain classified.

In a meeting with journalists in October, before the military had been told about the discovery of the documents, the American commander in charge of the logistics of the withdrawal said that files from the bases were either transferred to other parts of the military or incinerated.

“We don’t put official paperwork in the trash,” said the commander, Maj. Gen. Thomas Richardson, at the meeting at the American Embassy in Baghdad.

The documents were piled in military trailers and hauled to the junkyard by an Iraqi contractor who was trying to sell off the surplus from American bases, the junkyard attendant said. The attendant said he had no idea what any of the documents were about, only that they were important to the Americans.

He said that over the course of several weeks he had burned dozens and dozens of binders, turning more untold stories about the war into ash.

“What can we do with them?” the attendant said. “These things are worthless to us, but we understand they are important and it is better to burn them to protect the Americans. If they are leaving, it must mean their work here is done.”

Yasir Ghazi contributed reporting.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Palestinians Rally for Hamas in Gaza

Hamas' Gaza Anniversary Draws Tens of Thousands

By Ibrahim Barzak
Associated Press
Wednesday 14 December 2011

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Tens of thousands of Gazans turned out Wednesday for an anniversary rally of the ruling Hamas, a demonstration of strength for the Islamic militant movement ahead of Palestinian general elections tentatively set for the spring.

The annual rally has become an increasingly elaborate exercise in stagecraft since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 following internal fighting with forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The crowd faced a huge stage in the shape of a ship, meant to symbolize the Palestinian journey of return to all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, including what is now Israel.

A large replica of Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque, built on the ruins of the biblical Jewish Temples, served as a backdrop. "Oh, Jerusalem, we are coming," read one of the banners.

Hamas lawmaker Mushir al-Masri told the crowd that Hamas is "closer to liberating the holy land and holy shrines and closer to another great victory in coming elections."

Hamas, a branch of the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood, was established in Gaza in December 1987, shortly after the outbreak of the first Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation. It adopted a militant ideology that called for armed struggle against Israel, with the eventual aim of reclaiming all of historic Palestine.

Hamas grew in popularity over the years, in part because of its social welfare system, and defeated Abbas' Fatah movement in parliament elections in 2006. It has accumulated a large arsenal of rockets, anti-tank missiles and explosives. As part of its anniversary statement, Hamas said its militants have fired more than 11,000 rockets and mortar shells at Israel since 2000, and that the group has killed more than 1,300 Israelis in scores of attacks since its founding.

In the statement, Hamas said it would continue "all forms of resistance against the occupation, until liberation, independence and the return of the Palestinian refugees."

However, Hamas has largely stuck to an informal truce with Israel in recent months, and has tried to prevent other militant groups from firing rockets at Israel from Gaza. Rocket attacks on Israel have dropped sharply since a major Israeli military offensive against Hamas in the winter of 2008-2009.

Hamas organizers said some 350,000 people attended Wednesday's rally. The estimate could not be confirmed independently, but the rally site, a large open area, was packed and an overflow crowd spilled into adjacent streets.

The rally came a week before another round of reconciliation talks between Abbas and Hamas' top leader in exile, Khaled Mashaal.

The leaders said last month that they are ready for better relations, after years of acrimony, but failed to chart a clear path to new elections, tentatively set for May. Despite the apparent goodwill, gaps between the rivals are deep, and officials from both sides said it would be unlikely progress can be made at next week's talks in Cairo.

Since the takeover in 2007, Hamas has cemented control over Gaza, while a rival government reporting to Abbas has run parts of the West Bank, though Israel retains overall security control there.

On Wednesday, Israeli troops arrested a Hamas lawmaker in the West Bank, Ayman Daraghmeh, taking him from his home in the town of Ramallah, his family said. Israel has repeatedly detained members of the Hamas faction in the now-defunct Palestinian parliament, chosen in 2006 elections in the West Bank.

Of 47 Hamas legislators from the West Bank and east Jerusalem, 20 are currently in jail, the movement said. Daraghmeh, considered a Hamas pragmatist, was previously held for 20 months and released a year ago.

Associated Press writer Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank contributed reporting.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Criminalizing Islam in America

Beyond Guantánamo, a Web of Prisons for Terrorism Inmates

By Scott Shane
The New York Times
December 10, 2011

WASHINGTON — It is the other Guantánamo, an archipelago of federal prisons that stretches across the country, hidden away on back roads. Today, it houses far more men convicted in terrorism cases than the shrunken population of the prison in Cuba that has generated so much debate.

An aggressive prosecution strategy, aimed at prevention as much as punishment, has sent away scores of people. They serve long sentences, often in restrictive, Muslim-majority units, under intensive monitoring by prison officers. Their world is spare.

Among them is Ismail Royer, serving 20 years for helping friends go to an extremist training camp in Pakistan. In a letter from the highest-security prison in the United States, Mr. Royer describes his remarkable neighbors at twice-a-week outdoor exercise sessions, each prisoner alone in his own wire cage under the Colorado sky. “That’s really the only interaction I have with other inmates,” he wrote from the federal Supermax, 100 miles south of Denver.

There is Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, Mr. Royer wrote. Terry Nichols, who conspired to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building. Ahmed Ressam, the would-be “millennium bomber,” who plotted to attack Los Angeles International Airport. And Eric Rudolph, who bombed abortion clinics and the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

In recent weeks, Congress has reignited an old debate, with some arguing that only military justice is appropriate for terrorist suspects. But military tribunals have proved excruciatingly slow and imprisonment at Guantánamo hugely costly — $800,000 per inmate a year, compared with $25,000 in federal prison.

The criminal justice system, meanwhile, has absorbed the surge of terrorism cases since 2001 without calamity, and without the international criticism that Guantánamo has attracted for holding prisoners without trial. A decade after the Sept. 11 attacks, an examination of how the prisons have handled the challenge of extremist violence reveals some striking facts:

¶ Big numbers. Today, 171 prisoners remain at Guantánamo. As of Oct. 1, the federal Bureau of Prisons reported that it was holding 362 people convicted in terrorism-related cases, 269 with what the bureau calls a connection to international terrorism — up from just 50 in 2000. An additional 93 inmates have a connection to domestic terrorism.

¶ Lengthy sentences. Terrorists who plotted to massacre Americans are likely to die in prison. Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square in 2010, is serving a sentence of life without parole at the Supermax, as are Zacarias Moussaoui, a Qaeda operative arrested in 2001, and Mr. Reid, the shoe bomber, among others. But many inmates whose conduct fell far short of outright terrorism are serving sentences of a decade or more, the result of a calculated prevention strategy to sideline radicals well before they could initiate deadly plots.

¶ Special units. Since 2006, the Bureau of Prisons has moved many of those convicted in terrorism cases to two special units that severely restrict visits and phone calls. But in creating what are Muslim-dominated units, prison officials have inadvertently fostered a sense of solidarity and defiance, and set off a long-running legal dispute over limits on group prayer. Officials have warned in court filings about the danger of radicalization, but the Bureau of Prisons has nothing comparable to the deradicalization programs instituted in many countries.

¶ Quiet releases. More than 300 prisoners have completed their sentences and been freed since 2001. Their convictions involved not outright violence but “material support” for a terrorist group; financial or document fraud; weapons violations; and a range of other crimes. About half are foreign citizens and were deported; the Americans have blended into communities around the country, refusing news media interviews and avoiding attention.

¶ Rare recidivism. By contrast with the record at Guantánamo, where the Defense Department says that about 25 percent of those released are known or suspected of subsequently joining militant groups, it appears extraordinarily rare for the federal prison inmates with past terrorist ties to plot violence after their release. The government keeps a close eye on them: prison intelligence officers report regularly to the Justice Department on visitors, letters and phone calls of inmates linked to terrorism. Before the prisoners are freed, F.B.I. agents typically interview them, and probation officers track them for years.

Both the Obama administration and Republicans in Congress often cite the threat of homegrown terrorism. But the Bureau of Prisons has proven remarkably resistant to outside scrutiny of the inmates it houses, who might offer a unique window on the problem.

In 2009, a group of scholars proposed interviewing people imprisoned in terrorism cases about how they took that path. The Department of Homeland Security approved the proposal and offered financing. But the Bureau of Prisons refused to grant access, saying the project would require too much staff time.

“There’s a huge national debate about how dangerous these people are,” said Gary LaFree, director of a national terrorism study center at the University of Maryland, who was lead author of the proposal. “I just think, as a citizen, somebody ought to be studying this.”

The Bureau of Prisons would not make any officials available for an interview with The New York Times, and wardens at three prisons refused to permit a reporter to visit inmates. But e-mails and letters from inmates give a rare, if narrow, look at their hidden world.

Paying the Price

Consider the case of Randall Todd Royer, 38, a Missouri-born Muslim convert who goes by Ismail. Before 9/11, he was a young Islamic activist with the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim American Society, meeting with members of Congress and visiting the Clinton White House.

Today he is nearly eight years into a 20-year prison sentence. He pleaded guilty in 2004 to helping several American friends go to a training camp for Lashkar-e-Taiba, an extremist group fighting Indian rule in Kashmir. The organization was later designated a terrorist group by the United States — and is blamed for the Mumbai massacre in 2008 — but prosecutors maintained in 2004 that the friends intended to go on to Afghanistan and fight American troops alongside the Taliban.

Mr. Royer had fought briefly with the Bosnian Muslims against their Serbian neighbors in the mid-1990s, when NATO, too, backed the Bosnians. He trained at a Lashkar-e-Taiba camp himself. And in 2001, he was stopped by Virginia police with an AK-47 and ammunition in his car.

But he adamantly denies that he would ever scheme to kill Americans, and there is no evidence that he did so. Before sentencing, he wrote the judge a 30-page letter admitting, “I crossed the line and, in my ignorance and phenomenally poor judgment, broke the law.” In grand jury testimony, he expressed regret about not objecting during a meeting, just after the Sept. 11 attacks, in which his friends discussed joining the Taliban.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t come out and clearly say that’s not what any of us should be about,” he said.

Prosecutors call Mr. Royer “an inveterate liar“ in court papers in another case, asserting that he has given contradictory accounts of the meeting after Sept. 11. Mr. Royer says he has been truthful.

Whatever the facts, he is paying the price. His 20-year sentence was the statutory minimum under a 2004 plea deal he reluctantly took, fearing that a trial might end in a life term. His wife divorced him and remarried; he has seen his four young children only through glass since 2006, when the Bureau of Prisons moved him to a restrictive new unit in Indiana for inmates with the terrorism label. After an altercation with another inmate who he said was bullying others, he was moved in 2010 to the Supermax in Colorado.

He is barred from using e-mail and permitted only three 15-minute phone calls a month — recently increased from two, a move that Mr. Royer hopes may portend his being moved to a prison closer to his children. His letters are reflective, sometimes self-critical, frequently dropping allusions to his omnivorous reading. His flirtation with violent Islam and his incarceration, he says, have not poisoned him against his own country.

“You asked what I think of the U.S.; that is an extraordinarily complex question,” Mr. Royer wrote in one letter consisting of 27 pages of neat handwriting. “I can say I was born in Missouri, I love that land and its people, I love the Mississippi, I love my family and my cousins, I love my Germanic ethnic heritage and people, I love the English language, I love the American people — my people.

“He said he believed some American foreign policy positions had been “needlessly antagonistic” but added, “Nothing the U.S. did justified the 9/11 attacks.”

Mr. Royer rejected the notion that the United States was at war with Islam. “Conflict between the U.S. and Muslims is neither inevitable nor beneficial or in anyone’s interest,” he wrote. “Actually, I suppose it is in the interest of fanatics on both sides, but their interests run counter to everyone else’s.” He added an erudite footnote: “ ‘Les extrémités se touchent’ (the extremes meet) — Blaise Pascal.”

He expressed frustration that the Bureau of Prisons appears to view him as an extremist, despite what he describes as his campaign against extremism in discussions with other inmates and prison sermons at Friday Prayer, “which they surely have recordings of.”

“I have gotten into vehement debates, not to mention civil conversations, with other inmates from the day I was arrested until today, about the dangers and evils of extremism and terrorism,” Mr. Royer wrote in a yearlong correspondence with a reporter. “Can they not figure out who I am?”

A Scorched-Earth Approach

In 2004, prosecutors believed they knew who Mr. Royer was: one of a group of young Virginians under the influence of a radical cleric, Ali al-Timimi, whose members played paintball to practice for jihad and were on a path toward extremist violence. After Sept. 11, federal prosecutors took a scorched-earth approach to any crime with even a hint of a terrorism connection, and judges and juries went along.

In the Virginia jihad case, for instance, prosecutors used the Neutrality Act, a little-used law dating to 1794 that prohibits Americans from fighting against a nation at peace with the United States. Prosecutors combined that law with weapons statutes that impose a mandatory minimum sentence in a strategy to get the longest prison terms, with breaks for some defendants who cooperated, said Paul J. McNulty, then the United States attorney overseeing the case.

“We were doing all we could to prevent the next attack,” Mr. McNulty said.

“It was a deterrence strategy and a show of strength,” said Karen J. Greenberg, a law professor at Fordham University who has overseen the most thorough independent analysis of terrorism prosecutions. “The attitude of the government was: Every step you take toward terrorism, no matter how small, will be punished severely.”

About 40 percent of terrorism cases since the Sept. 11 attacks have relied on informants, by the count of the Center on Law and Security at New York University, which Ms. Greenberg headed until earlier this year. In such cases, the F.B.I. has trolled for radicals and then tested whether they were willing to plot mayhem — again, a pre-emptive strategy intended to ferret out potential terrorists. But in some cases prosecutors have been accused of overreaching.

Yassin M. Aref, for instance, was a Kurdish immigrant from Iraq and the imam of an Albany mosque when he agreed to serve as witness to a loan between an acquaintance and another man, actually an informant posing as a supporter of a Pakistani terrorist group, Jaish-e-Muhammad. The ostensible purpose of the loan was to buy a missile to kill the Pakistani ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Aref’s involvement was peripheral — but he was convicted of conspiring to aid a terrorist group and got a 15-year sentence.

That was a typical punishment, according to the Center on Law and Security, which has studied the issue.  Of 204 people charged with what it calls serious jihadist crimes since the Sept. 11 attacks, 87 percent were convicted and got an average sentence of 14 years, according to a September report from the center.

Federal officials say the government’s zero-tolerance approach to any conduct touching on terrorism is an important reason there has been no repeat of Sept. 11. Lengthy sentences for marginal offenders have been criticized by some rights advocates as deeply unfair — but they have sent an unmistakable message to young men drawn to the rhetoric of violent jihad.

The strategy has also sent scores of Muslim men to federal prisons.

Special Units

After news reports in 2006 that three men imprisoned in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing had sent letters to a Spanish terrorist cell, the Bureau of Prisons created two special wards, called Communication Management Units, or C.M.U.’s. The units, which opened at federal prisons in Terre Haute, Ind., in 2006 and Marion, Ill., in 2008, have set off litigation and controversy, chiefly because critics say they impose especially restrictive rules on Muslim inmates, who are in the majority.

“The C.M.U.’s? You mean the Muslim Management Units?” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The units currently hold about 80 inmates. The rules for visitors — who are allowed no physical contact with inmates — and the strict monitoring of mail, e-mail and phone calls are intended both to prevent inmates from radicalizing others and to rule out plotting from behind bars.

A Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman, Traci L. Billingsley, said in an e-mail that the units were not created for any religious group but were “necessary to ensure the safety, security and orderly operation of correctional facilities, and protection of the public.”

An unintended consequence of creating the C.M.U.’s is a continuing conflict between Muslim inmates and guards, mainly over the inmates’ demand for collective prayer beyond the authorized hourlong group prayer on Fridays. The clash is described in hundreds of pages of court filings in a lawsuit. In one affidavit, a prison official in Terre Haute describes “signs of radicalization” in the unit, saying one inmate’s language showed “defiance to authority, and a sense of being incarcerated because of Islam.”

One 2010 written protest obtained by The New York Times, listing grievances ranging from the no-contact visiting rules to guards “mocking, disrespecting and disrupting” Friday Prayer, was signed by 17 Muslim prisoners in the Terre Haute Communication Management Unit. They included members of the so-called Virginia jihad case of which Mr. Royer was part; the Lackawanna Six, Buffalo-area Yemeni Americans who traveled to a Qaeda camp in Afghanistan; Kevin James, who formed a radical Muslim group in prison and plotted to attack military facilities in Los Angeles; and John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban.

An affidavit signed by Mr. Lindh, who is serving 20 years after admitting to fighting for the Taliban, complained that a correctional officer greeted male Muslim inmates with “Good morning, ladies.” (“No ladies were in the area,” Mr. Lindh writes.) Prison officials say in court papers that Mr. Lindh has repeatedly challenged guards and violated rules.

Unlike those at the Supermax, inmates in the segregated units have access to e-mail, and some were willing to answer questions. Mr. Lindh, whose father, Frank Lindh, said his son believed the news media falsely labeled him a terrorist, was not. In reply to a reporter’s letter requesting an interview, he sent only a photocopy of the sole of a tennis shoe. Since shoe bottoms are considered offensive in many cultures, his answer appeared to be an emphatic no.

There is some evidence that the Bureau of Prisons has assigned Muslims with no clear terrorist connection to the C.M.U.’s. Avon Twitty, a Muslim who spent 27 years in prison for a 1982 street murder, was sent to the Terre Haute unit in 2007. When he challenged the assignment, he was told in writing that he was a “member of an international terrorist organization,” though no organization was named and there appears to be no public evidence for the assertion.

Mr. Twitty, working for a home improvement company and teaching at a Washington mosque since his release in January, said he believed the real reason was to quash his complaints about what he believed were miscalculations of time off for good behavior for numerous inmates. “They had to shut me up,” he said.

Another former inmate at the Marion C.M.U., Andy Stepanian, an animal rights activist, said a guard once told him he was “a balancer” — a non-Muslim placed in the unit to rebut claims of religious bias. Mr. Stepanian said the creation of the predominantly Muslim units could backfire, adding to the feeling that Islam is under attack.

“I think it’s a fair assessment that these men will leave with a more intensified belief that the U.S. is at war with Islam,” said Mr. Stepanian, 33, who now works for a Princeton publisher. “The place reeked of it,” he said, describing clashes over restrictions on prayer and some guards’ hostility to Islam.

Yet Mr. Stepanian also said he found the “family atmosphere” and camaraderie of inmates at the unit a welcome change from the threatening tone of his previous medium-security prison, where he said prisoners without a gang to protect them were “food for the sharks.” When he arrived at the C.M.U., he said, he found on his bed a pair of shower slippers and a bag of non-animal-based food that Muslim inmates had collected after hearing a vegan was joining the unit.

He was wary. “I thought they were trying to indoctrinate me,” he said. “They never tried.” The consensus of the inmates, he said, “was that 9/11 was not Islam.” “These guys were not lunatics,” he said. “They wanted to be back with their families.”


It may be too early to judge recidivism for those imprisoned in terrorism cases after Sept. 11; those who are already out are mostly defendants whose crimes were less serious or who cooperated with the authorities. Justice Department officials and outside experts could identify only a handful of cases in which released inmates had been rearrested, a rate of relapse far below that for most federal inmates or for Guantánamo releases.

For example, Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, a Kuwaiti Canadian who plotted with Al Qaeda to attack American embassies in Singapore and Manila, pleaded guilty in 2002 and began to work as an F.B.I. informant. But F.B.I. agents soon discovered he was secretly plotting to kill them — and he was sentenced to life in prison.

Nearly all of these ex-convicts, however, lie low and steer clear of militancy, often under the watchful eye of family, mosque and community, lawyers and advocates say. A dozen former inmates declined to be interviewed, saying that to be associated publicly with a terrorism case could derail new jobs and lives. As for Mr. Royer, he is approaching only the midpoint of his 20-year sentence.

Did he get what he deserved? Chris Heffelfinger, a terrorism analyst and author of “Radical Islam in America,” did a detailed study of the Virginia jihad case, and concluded that Mr. Royer’s sentence was perhaps double what his crime merited. But he said the prosecution was warranted and probably prevented at least some of the men Mr. Royer assisted from joining the Taliban.

“I think a strong law enforcement response to cases like this is appropriate nine times out of 10,” Mr. Heffelfinger said. Mr. Royer himself, in his long presentencing letter to Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, said he understood why he had been arrested. “I realize that the government has a legitimate interest in protecting the public from terrorism,” he wrote, “and that in this post-9/11 environment, it must take all reasonable precautions.”

Today, Mr. Royer’s only battle is to serve out his sentence in a less restrictive prison nearer his children. In what he called in a letter “a heroic sacrifice,” his parents, Ray and Nancy Royer, moved from Missouri to Virginia to be close to their son’s children, now aged 8 to 12.

“I found it necessary to be a surrogate father,” said Ray Royer, 70, a commercial photographer by trade, in an interview at the retirement community outside Washington where he and his wife now live. When his son, who still goes by Randy in the family, converted to Islam at the age of 18, his parents did not object. Later, when he headed to Bosnia, they chalked it up to his active social conscience. “Religion is a personal thing,” the elder Mr. Royer said. “He’d never been in trouble.”

Ray Royer was at his son’s Virginia apartment in 2003 when the F.B.I. knocked at 5 a.m., put him in handcuffs and took him away. Now, years later, he alternates between defending his son and expressing dismay at what Randy got himself into.

“He did help his buddies get to L.E.T.,” or Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani militant group later designated as a terrorist organization. “He admitted to it. He should pay the price.” Still, he added, “maybe he deserved five years or so. Not 20.”

Ray Royer sat at his home computer one recent evening, looking through a folder called “Randy Pics” — photographs tracing his son’s life from childhood, to fatherhood, to prison.

“He loved his family,” the father said of his son. “Why would he put this cause ahead of his family? I still don’t really know what happened. I’m still trying to figure it out.”

Friday, December 9, 2011

English Translation of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's Speech 6 December 2011

In His Name

The Speech delivered by Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in Raya Square on the tenth of Muharram.

The word given on the platform

In the Name of Allah, The Compassionate, The Most Merciful. May Allah reward you and us generously for our great catastrophe which afflicted us by the martyrdom of Abi Abdullah Al Hussein (Peace be upon him).

Peace be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings. I liked to be among you for a few of minutes. They allowed me to do so for that long only or else I would have liked to be among you always.

I wanted to be with you on the tenth of Muharram for a few of moments so that we reiterate together and make the whole world hear us saying our final choice and reiterating our pledge to Al Hussein who stood all by himself facing 30 thousand men. He was a true manifestation of his father Ali Bin Abi Taleb (Peace be upon him) who used to say: "By Allah, were I to confront them all by myself and they were as numerous so as to fill the whole world, I wouldn't have cared or felt scared." Al Hussein was put before two choices: "The bastard son of a bastard has put us before two choices: war or humiliation". Forever and no matter what the challenges and the dangers might be we tell all those who bet on scaring us, weakening us or threatening us that we are the companions of Abi Abdullah Al Hussein (Peace be upon him) who said: Humiliation, how remote!

Brothers and sisters! On the tenth day of Muharram, we renew our pledge to Al Hussein (Peace be upon him). We say what his companions told him on the tenth night of Muharram: Shall we remain alive after your decease? Shall we remain alive after your decease? May Allah make life unpleasant after your decease O Hussein. By Allah, if I were to be killed then incinerated, then spread in air, then resurrected, then I fight and be killed, then incinerated, then spread in air – if that is to be made by me a 1000 times – I will not abandon you O Hussein. Peace be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings.

The televised word

I Take refuge in Allah from the stoned devil. In the Name of Allah, The Compassionate, The Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, The Lord of the World. Peace be on our Master and Prophet – The Seal of Prophets – Mohammad and on his Chaste Household, chosen companions and all prophets and messengers.

Peace be on you my master and Lord Abu Abdullah and on all the souls gathering around your holy site. Peace be on you as long as I remain alive and as long as night follows day. May Allah make it not my last visit to you. Peace be on Hussein, Ali the son of Hussein, the children of Hussein and the companions of Hussein.

Peace be on you scholars, brothers and sisters. Peace be on you all and Allah's mercy and blessing. May Allah reward you and us generously for the catastrophe afflicted on the prophet of Allah and his Household peace be upon him.

First I would like to thank you all for this great attendance, for the faithfulness, the pledge, the commitment and the patience. You have spent last night awaken. Still you woke up early and spent all this time under the sun. As in all the previous years, neither the hot summer nor the cold winter hindered you from attending the meeting of faithfulness with your lord Abi Abdullah Al Hussein (Peace be upon him).

I thank you for your massive attendance. May Allah Al Mighty accept your efforts.

On the tenth of Muharram – on the day of the martyrdom of Abi Abdullah All Hussein and his Household and companion and what afflicted him – I along with you offer our consolation and solace to the Master – the Prophet of Allah (peace be on him) and the Household of the Prophet of Allah (Peace be upon him), our Imams (peace be upon them), our Master – Baqiyetullah on Earth, the grandson of Imam Hussein, the Lord of Our Time May Allah make his appearance near – his righteous deputy, His Eminence Imam Leader Sayyed Ali Khamenai (May Allah prolong his age), all our great religious authorities, our Islamic nation and all Muslims especially the followers of the Prophet (Peace be upon him and his Household).

We announce our consolation and solace on this day which we mark annually to renew our commitment to our line, faith, pledge, path, steadfastness, will and determination to continue on the path on which the prophets, messengers, good men and millions of martyrs died. Karbala is but a great prominent link in this historic, great prophetic track which will remain forceful until the Hour of Resurrection.

Brothers and sisters! As we have talked about Ashura on the past nights and postponed talking politics until today, I will say a couple of words in principle.

First: We must point out, highlight and remind that the true threat to this nation, all its states, peoples and governments is the US-Israeli project – the US administration whoever its president is. It's this enemy who occupies Palestine, violates its sanctities and attacks the Palestinian people and the peoples of this region. It's the greater plunderer of our wealth and the capabilities of our nation. It's this American. It's this Israeli. What is required from our people always is that it becomes aware of this truth and not be deceived by this new American deception.

The Americans tried during this year to present themselves as defenders of human rights, the freedom of peoples and the democracy of the Arab world. We know these crook hypocrites. We know their history which is pregnant with supporting dictatorships. All of these dictatorships enjoy the support of the US administration on the political, media, intelligence, military and all other levels. Now when the people revolted and America found that its followers are collapsing and tumbling, it renounced them.

Brothers and sisters! Do you know that this is the nature of Devil as Allah portrays him in the Holy Koran? On Doom's Day, the Devil does that. When the Devil reaches with his followers a dead end, he renounces them. He depicts himself as innocent. On the contrary, he says he had no power on them.

What asserts the devilish nature of the US administration is that it abandons its followers, allies and tools at the first turning point. It abandons them and searches for its interests and for means to lessen its casualties.

Our Arab and Islamic peoples must know that the US administration is the enemy and the threat. Didn't these peoples hear US president Obama days ago addressing the Jewish Lobby and the Jewish organizations in America saying: 'My administration gave the security of Israel what no other administration gave." That's true. Even more, under Obama, the CIA turned from a great inveterate intelligence body which works on essential cases to a detective in Lebanon for the Mosad and the Israeli security apparatuses? It spies on this fighter and on that fighter. It searches for an arsenal, a rocket platform, a leadership headquarters and the house of an official. The US intelligence apparatuses turned to small spies at the service of Israel and to defend Israel.

O Arabs! O Muslims! O peoples! O political forces! Do not be taken by the US administration. It is America which is occupying your Palestine and your Al Qods and threatening your holy shrine. It is America which is responsible before the Israeli enemy for detaining thousands of Palestinians in jails besides displacing, torturing and besieging thousands others in Gaza and the West Bank. It is this America which we must recall on the tenth of Muharam so that we do not mistake the enemy as a friend. He who doesn't have insight mistakes the enemy for a friend. We must remember that the enemy is this US administration and its tool in the region. Israel is not its ally but rather its tool. It uses Israel as a spearhead to humiliate the Arabs and the Muslims, to vanquish Arabs and Muslims, to impose the US will on Arabs and Muslims, to furnish itself with arms market and to plunder the oil in the countries of Arabs and Muslims. None of us must ever forget that.

Second: Also in this framework, all of us must remember that the US administration – after its former project of a Neo Middle East was frustrated by the resistance movements in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq and the awareness of the peoples in the region and the opposing resisting countries on top of which come Iran and Syria – woke up with the awakening and revolution of the Arab peoples to renew the Neo Middle East project but from another gate. It is the gate of ordeal, internal struggle, sectarian and factional sedition and tribal, national and racial strife. That's because this is the only option which is still available before America and Israel to reproduce its domination over the region. We must all be aware of that. In this framework, we stressed and we still stress that we must avoid sectarian and factional speech or instigation because that serves Israel, America and the enemy of this nation; it does not serve this nation. We must all respect each other's sanctities. Here I stress on the fatwa of His Eminence Imam Khamenai (May Allah prolong his lifespan) to respect all sanctities and symbols of every section and faction.

Third: In this framework, we come to Al Qods, Palestine, the central cause and the axis of the struggle in the region. Today we must warn against the judaization which is taking place. We are not talking about a judaizing project. There is actual judaization. Everyday new steps are taken for achieving total judaization of Al Qods. Days ago, houses were demolished in West Al Qods. They daily take decisions to build thousands of residential units. Now there are parts of Al Qods Mosque which are threatened of demolition due to reparation works. What we fear and what we must fear is that amid the occupation of the Arab peoples in their internal crises, that Israel ceases the opportunity and strikes a final blow to Al Qods Mosque. Anyway, that'll be the worst folly Israel ever perpetrates since the establishment of this usurping entity. However, the peoples must be aware, present and alert because there is a danger of this kind which is threatening sanctities. Palestine must be the primary central cause no matter how difficult internal national situations were and no matter how struggles and conflicts aggravated in any country. This is what we believe in and what we work for.  

Fourth: As far as the Arab options are concerned, we bargain on the awareness of these peoples and the options of peoples. In Tunisia, the people gained victory over their tyrant and carried out elections. We hope that the Islamic and national forces live up to the expectations and ambitions of the honest and noble Tunisian people.

In Libya, the people gained victory over their tyrant. Here also the political forces are responsible for achieving the ambitions of this people who offered thousands of martyrs.

In Yemen, the great challenge still exists. Some are trying to tear Yemen and take it back to sectarian and factional ordeal to liquidate the revolution and its targets and ambitions. That requires great awareness.

In Bahrain, the people are carrying on their peaceful movement despite all aspects of suppression, deception and hypocrisy. They still insist on achieving their legitimate national goals.

In Egypt, great changes are taking place. This made Israel shake. Even Barak mentioned that with apprehension. We all look at Egypt with hope because any true change in Egypt is for the interest of the nation and the interest of Palestine. Any true change would turn the strategic milieu for Israel in the region as that would limit Israel's options in the region. That would put Israel before a historic crisis and a crisis of existence. This is the great challenge before the Egyptian political forces which win in the elections and form the new authority in Egypt. It's the challenge of Palestine, Al Qods, Gaza, the West Bank, Camp David and the stance from this entity. We hope and we bet that the Arab peoples won't be deceived with all of this US hypocrisy. When the Arab peoples overpass their internal ordeals, they will return to their normal posts where the forces of this nation and its peoples are mustered so as to face this central cause. As such these Americans will flop as they had already flopped. Hereof I move to Iraq and then to Syria and finally to Lebanon.  

In Iraq today and within few days, it is supposed that the US pull out from Iraq be wrapped up. There is a US defeat in Iraq. It's a true defeat. The Americans didn't come to Iraq to pull out from it. Their goal and expectations were to stay in Iraq, control Iraq, and establish legally and field fortified military bases for scores of years. However the heroic resistance in Iraq, the steadfastness of the Iraqi people, the steadfastness of the political forces and the high expenses of the US occupation in Iraq imposed on it to take the decision of withdrawal. I will also tell you that the Iraqi resistance operations did not receive Arab and international media coverage and that many of the resistance factions used to circulate video tapes and CDs on its clear qualitative strong effective operations on Arab and international satellites. Still the world used to neglect these operations, and still a great number of the Iraqi resistance operations were blacked out to serve the morals of the US Army and the US administration. This asserts the nature of the media and satellites which control the Arab and Islamic world.

Anyway, what took place in Iraq is a true defeat. The resistance forces and the sacrificing people of Iraq must celebrate this great victory even if there are remarks on the endings. Still in general there is a very great historic victory which is achieved by the Iraqi people and the Iraqi resistance. This must be brought to light and uncovered before the whole peoples of the region. When Israel is defeated in Lebanon and Gaza, that means that Israel is being overpowered. When America is defeated in Iraq, that means America is being overpowered. As it was overpowered in Iraq, it might be overpowered in any other country. However the Americans want to lessen the impact of the defeat; thus they are depending on evoking smoke and misleading events. In this framework, what is taking place in Syria, the threats to Iran, the story of the Saudi Ambassador to Washington and all what is taking place in the region is to preoccupy the peoples of the region from eye-witnessing the defeat of the US Army which has presented itself as the only great power in the world but was defeated by the Iraqi men and the Iraqi fighters.

Unfortunately, I say that the Americans have managed to do so to a great extent. If you watch the Arab and international satellites where is the headline on the US withdrawal from Iraq?

Where are the footages of tanks and soldiers withdrawing? Yesterday I read in the newspapers that perhaps there are still 19 or 9 thousand or 900 US soldiers. I don't know. Well how did the 150 thousands withdraw from Iraq? No one felt or watched that. The Americans managed to cover that. In fact when we watch satellites we find that the first headline is Syria; the second Egypt; the third Libya; the fourth Tunisia; the fifth Yemen and I don't know what the sixth is. If it is still possible, they may talk about the US withdrawal from Iraq. This is deliberate and not by chance. Thus today the responsibility of the resistance forces in the Arab and Islamic world especially in Iraq, the responsibility of the Iraqi people and media and the responsibility of every faithful media is to show the defeat.

On the tenth day of Muharam, we felicitate anew the new historic event in which blood gained victory over the sword. The Iraqi people who were fighting with machine guns, RPJs, bombs and Katusha in the best circumstances could defeat the most powerful army in this world ever. If the Israeli Army is the most powerful army in the region, the US Army is the most powerful army in the world. Still it was defeated in few years. It was defeated with blood, jihad, resistance, determination and will. What is most important today is being alert to what might take place following the US withdrawal from Iraq, US devilry and the ordeal project it seeks in the whole region. That depends on the awareness of our Iraqi brethrens and their dialogue, mutual understanding and tolerance besides their commitment to their country and their unity.

Here I come to Syria. Our stance from the very first days is clear. We are with reform in Syria. We stand with the regime which resisted and opposed hegemony and supported resistance movements. We say yes for addressing all reasons and aspects of corruption or disorder. We say yes to all forms of reform which the Syrian leadership accepted in fact and which the Syrian people call for. However some do not want reforms in Syria. They do not want security, stability, civil peace or dialogue either. Some want to destroy Syria. Some want to make up for their defeat in Iraq. Syria is a partner in defeating the Americans in Iraq. So some want to make up for their defeat in Iraq and for their great strategic defeat which is very much possible – I'm not saying it is an absolute defeat but rather very likely defeat – in Egypt. The change of the regime in Syria is for whose interest? Is it for the interest of Palestine or the Palestinian people? Is the change they call for in Syria for the interest of Al Qods or the nation? No!              

Anyway, whenever someone tries to hide something, it appears in the slips of his tongue and his features. The so called Syrian National Council which was formed in Istanbul and which some western and Arab states view as a legitimate representative and a converser in the name of the Syrian people is headed by Burhan Deeb Galyoun. He is a university professor. Two or three days ago he said: If we could change the regime and take power in Syria, we want to cut our ties with Iran. (That is quite clear). We want to cut our ties with the resistance movements in Lebanon and Palestine. (He named Hezbollah and Hamas). Well, these are accreditation cards for whom? These are accreditation cards for the Americans and the Israelis. Well, Professor Galyoun, what will you do with Golan Heights? He said he will resort to the international community to see what they can do. We want to negotiate with the international community. This comes 20 or 30 years of negotiations which led nowhere. So it becomes clear that their expectations are to severe Syria's ties with the resistance movements in the region to which Syria represents a source of power and vice verse. They want to fall anew in the bosom of the international community for the sake of Golan Heights. This is the alternative proposal, the alternative authority and the alternative regime! There is even worse. I used to stop here. The brethrens used to have two viewpoints: whether we comment or not. However, making a comment overweighs according to me. One of the leaderships who considers himself belonging to an Islamist organization in Syria said if we managed to change the situation in Syria, we will cross the Lebanese borders and go to Lebanon to fight, punish and dwarf Hezbollah. Great! These are accreditation cards for whom? They are for America and Israel. That's because Hezbollah is the enemy of America and Israel. It's Hezbollah who defeated Israel and established for its defeats in the region. This is intended for the Syrian people. It is also intended for every Lebanese who tells you to have patience and wait because you are reading things in Syria in a wrong way. On the contrary, the past couple of days revealed that we were reading things in a very correct way. The essential point is attacking the resistance movements. It is not reforms and addressing corruption and multiplicity which are required in Syria. What is required in Syria is treacherous Arab regime. This is the truth. With our respect to those who demonstrate in Syria and those who fight having something else in mind we tell them to be aware because they will be exploited in a project of this kind. There is a project that goes against their conviction, religion, culture, national belonging, nationalism, Syrian identity and true belonging. However anyway, these statements and these positions made us more convinced in the validity of our position. We frankly say that we want and call for calmness in Syria, dialogue in Syria, peace in Syria and to address things calmly. We condemn sanctions. We condemn any form of ordeal or any aspect of sectarian and factional instigation. Indeed, I foretell all those who threaten from across seas and oceans that fleet, legions, convoys and battleships have come from behind seas and oceans but were destroyed on Beirut's shores.      

Before all of these developments that are taking place in the region, we always insist that we do not deal with the Lebanese affair as if Lebanon is an isolated island. Indeed, this is an essential principle. No one can and it is not correct that any one deals with the situations in Lebanon or all what is taking place in Lebanon apart from what is taking place in the region. In fact, they are deeply and forcefully connected to what is taking place in the region. Hereof and from our understanding of priorities, we were always and we still insist on civil peace. We still insist in transgressing ordeal no matter what its reasons are and no matter how much the atmosphere is instigating and no matter how much oppression and falsehood there are. In Lebanon there is much oppression and falsehood. Others from abroad also help in that. For example, yesterday they were threatening. A figure from the Syrian Opposition showed up on a satellite outlet and said that Hezbollah in the North is breaking into hospitals and arresting the Syrian wounded. Does anyone believe such a speech! Still this is said with much indolence on essential Arab satellites… If anything takes place in this country, no matter how trivial it is, they blame Hezbollah for that. This is really a good indicator because it means that their true obsession and preoccupation is Hezbollah. Thus in everything whether trivial or important they hold Hezbollah responsible for what is taking place – and at times what is not taking place in fact. Still we show patience and tolerance. Some want to push things in Lebanon towards internal ordeal. Well we do not want any form of internal ordeal and we must face that with wisdom, patience, awareness, tolerance and overlooking things.

Indeed, we also call in Lebanon for addressing governmental disorder and to activate governmental action because this is a true national need. In this framework, we reiterate our assertion on the importance and the validity of the demands of the Reform and Change Bloc. The government and the Premier are Inshallah serious in assuming national responsibilities. These issues must be addressed so that governmental action dash in a good way.

We assert achieving justice as far as the false witnesses file is concerned. We assert on doing justice for the officers who were unjustly and aggressively arrested. These false witnesses must be punished because the issue was not that of false witnesses. Their role did not end with putting the officers in jail. They also caused great political events in the country. Some people are confused. They consider that the false witnesses file had to do with four respectful officers and a group of respectful citizens who were hurled to prison. That's not the whole story even though this is great oppression. The false witnesses led to enmity between Lebanon and Syria, to instigation in Lebanon, to sharp divisions, to factional and sectarian tension and to the killing of tens of Syrians unjustly.

What is strange is that political forces and personalities in Lebanon make a big uproar for some Syrian kidnapped who are not kidnapped. They say they are 12. However there are three who are lost. Well, where are the 12? Everyday they evoke the issue and condemn it while they were silent and they remain silent on scores or hundreds of Syrians who were killed in Lebanon due to false accusations and false witnesses. So this is not a trivial file. No one is underestimating it or belittling it. No one deals with it as something marginal or transient. Still what is most important is the continuous current Israeli intimidation whether through spies and collaborators or through CIA agents. That's because day after day, it is being proved that the CIA is mobilizing spies for Israel or spying apparatuses which the Resistance, the Army and the concerned security forces are discovering gradually among other Israeli violations and aggressions. We really don't know what Israel is preparing for Lebanon.

In this framework also, we stress on the threefold formula that provides Lebanon with invulnerability, strength and dignity: the Army, the people and the Resistance. These are the elements of power to which we adhere. As I said yesterday, we on Ashura like to deliver a message which is not new but decisive, clear and final to all those who conspire and nurture hopes or wait for changes. This Resistance in Lebanon with its arms, organization, fighters, mind, culture and presence will remain Inshallah. This Resistance in Lebanon Inshallah will carry on, and all your conspiracies, connivance and psychological, media, political and intelligence war will not be able to harm it. We will adhere to our resistance. We will adhere to the arms of the Resistance. On the tenth day of Muharam, I will tell you more. Day after day our number is increasing. We are improving. Our training is enhancing, and our confidence in the future is increasing. Our arms are developing. If anyone bargains that our arms rust, we are able to replace the rust arms, and we are able to modernize everything.

There is a true misunderstanding concerning arms. Some say that the arms of the Resistance are the reason for chaos and disorder or some security unrest in Lebanon. See how much deception there is in that! This is deviltry. Deviltry is the mission of the devil. What arms are used in civil war? What arms cause ordeal? What arms lead to killing, robbing and causing skirmishes? We are all Lebanese and we all know that the Kalashnikov, the M16, the gun and at most the BKC or RBJ and hand grenade are weapons which all Lebanese possess. Well did it ever happen that a security skirmish or a civil war ever take place and a Zilzal Rocket or a Raad Rocket or a Kheibar Rocket or rocket launchers or Rocket of (Haifa and far behind Haifa and even further behind than Haifa) was used in it? Never! If any skirmish takes place in the country in whatever region, the Kalashnikov, the RBJ, the BKC or the hand grenade is used. These are owned by all the Lebanese. Let no one say he does not own weapons. Arms of this level are possessed by families, clans and individuals. This is the problem of internal security and not the arms of the Resistance. Those who want internal security must seek to address the crisis of this kind of arms: how do we control them; how do we organize them? As for those who want to disarm us or thinks of disarming us from Zilzal Rocket, the far range rockets, rocket launchers, maritime defense capabilities or aerial defense capabilities, by that they would be offering a great service to Israel. That means what Israel failed to achieve in 33 days while backed with the whole world, world technology and satellites, air force, reconnaissance planes and the most developed weapons, they want to achieve through dialogue, through political talks or through the media. I will tell you that this will never take place and will never be achieved.

On the day of tough, decisive and historic choices, we wrap up the tenth of Muharram as we do every year. You and I will tell the whole world that here in Lebanon we took the initiative since 1982.

We conclude as we do every tenth of Muharram. You and I will tell the whole world. Here in Lebanon we took the initiative since 1982. We did not wait for the international community, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference or any one in the world. With our will, determination, youth, men, women and humble capabilities we resisted, fought, offered martyrs, restored our land, freed our prisoners and restored our dignity. With our resistance we will guard our land, dignity, honor and country against harm inflicted by anyone in the world.

No risks, threats, intimidations, events or changes will prevent us from performing this obligation and responsibility. We belong to the Imam who stood once all alone facing 30 thousand men. Every one of us is not alone facing these. We are tens of thousands in Lebanon. We are full-fledged trained fighters who are ready for martyrdom. We are the adorers of Abi Abdullah Al Hussein (peace be upon him). We are a force which is still ignored by the enemy. The enemy will remain ignorant of this power. Every enemy will be taken aback through its forceful presence and innovation in any field of confrontation.

Thus on the tenth of Muharram we say: Time of bargaining on our dignity, honor, presence, nation, land and sanctities for whatever price is over. Circumstances changed radically. Thus we wrap up renewing our pledge to Al Hussein (peace be upon him). We tell him: O our master! O our Imam! As you sacrificed everything for your great goals and preferred that you be killed along with your Household and companions for the sake of your aims, we will guard this path. However, we will also make a victory out of your blood, intellect and culture. Our call and pledge to you on the tenth of Muharram will persist to be.

Brothers and sisters! After all martyrs fell and Al Hussein remained all alone but still strong, tough and radiant, he made a call. The call was not for the army which was before him. It was rather a call to all those who are held in the loins of men and the wombs of women all through history until Doom's Day. His call was "Is there anyone willing to support me?" The answer will always be made with the blood, spirit, position, intelligence, jihad and resistance: "At your service, O Hussein!" May Allah reward you generously and bless your efforts. May Allah forgive you and us. Peace be on Hussein, the children of Hussein and the companions of Hussein. Peace be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings.

Translated by Zeinab al-Saffar.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Reviving Bahrain's Lost Revolution?

Bahrain Security Forces Break up Shiite Demo

Agence France Presse
7 December 2011

DUBAI — Bahraini security forces on Wednesday fired tear gas to disperse a demonstration by Shiites who were marching towards the centre of the capital, the opposition and witnesses said.

The protesters — who numbered in their thousands according to the opposition and 350 according to officials — were heading to Manama's Pearl Square, epicentre of an anti-government movement.

After setting out from the village of Al-Daih, the protesters marched towards the city centre chanting "We want the regime to fall" and "We are returning to Pearl Square," said a witness who requested anonymity.

Police fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the demonstrators, the witness said.

Mohammed al-Maskati, head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, told AFP that security forces had also used rubber bullets.

"Many people were affected," Maskati said.

A protester who asked not to be identified said he had been wounded by a rubber bullet, but that he would not go to hospital for fear of being arrested.

In a statement on its Twitter page, the interior ministry said: "About 350 individuals took part in illegal procession on Al-Budaiya road after (Shiite Ashura) rituals in Daih. Police interfered."

Sunni-ruled Bahrain was rocked by Shiite-led democracy protests between mid-February and mid-March, when they were crushed by security forces backed by its Gulf neighbours.