"As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for it, now or ever." - Reagan, January 20, 1981

"In Vietnam, we tried and failed in a just cause. No More Vietnams can mean we will not try again. It should mean we will not fail again." - from No More Vietnams by Richard Nixon

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 - The year we achieved Victory in Iraq

We did It! I never doughted we could =D

Happy New Year Everyone!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ronen Bergman - Israeli intel on Ahmedinejad


What is written in Israeli intelligence files about president Mahmoud

He calls him “Ahmadi,” the kind of affectionate nickname you may give to a
loveable, harmless friend or pet, though that‟s not what he means at all. It also means
“My Ahamad” in Hebrew, and in a way, Mahmoud Ahmadenijad does belong to him,
because “he” is the person in Israeli intelligence in charge of the Iran file.
Paradoxically perhaps, this man who is familiar with every twist and turn in the life of
the Iranian who has often been called “the Hitler of Teheran,” relates in a moderate
and matter-of-fact manner to Aheadinejad‟s outpourings of invective against the state
of Israel and his delusionary denials of the Holocaust.
The few who have been given access to his written assessments or to his
briefings have discerned more than a smattering of admiration for “Ahmadi.” At one
closed forum, he recounted how he had once brought home a magazine with a
photograph of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on the cover. “And who‟s that,” asked
his wife. “You don‟t know? That‟s Khamenei, the ruler of Iran,” he replied, annoyed
that the wife of the Israeli intelligence officer in charge of that country‟s file never
knew who the most important man in her husband‟s professional life was.
“Never heard of him,” she said. “I thought your Ahmadi was the leader.” And
even as he tells the tale, a note of admiration sneaks into his voice, admiration for his
subject who hauled himself up from nowhere and by dint of brilliant political moves,
turned himself into the most famous Iranian in the world, the man who everyone
believes in the true wielder of power in Tehran.
Who is the president of Iran? In August 2006, the Iranian Presidential Office
launched a special Web site containing what was dubbed the autobiography of
Ahmadinejad. “I was born in 1956, 15 years after the powers invaded Iran,” he writes,
a reference to the occupation of the country by Russia and Britain, which feared it was
about to ally itself with Nazi Germany. He was born in Aradan, a small village near
the city of Garamsar, about 100 kms. south of Tehran, the fourth of seven brothers.
He writes that his father was a tough, religiously pious man, who made a living as a
blacksmith. The family moved to the capital when he was a year old, part of a large
wave of rural migrants who washed over the city. The grinding poverty and the
confusion caused by the encounter with the big city strengthened their religious
bonds. The modernizing measures of the shah‟s “White Revolution” only deepened
their alienation from the ruling powers.
Despite the hardship, Ahmadinejad relates in his blog, education was always
his parents‟ top priority. On his way to school, he would pass the homes of the rich.
His radical ideas ripened along this route, he says. Foreign analysts of his character
have come up with the theory that poverty, together with his smallness of stature and
his less than handsome countenance (his opponents mockingly call him “meimoun”,
the monkey) were the engine that propelled him onward and upward. Without going
into the accuracy or lack thereof of this psychobabble, there‟s no doubt that he was
driven to move ahead, and quickly. On his site he recounts that he achieved
outstanding results at school, and when he graduated he was admitted to university as
number 123 of 400,000 candidates, despite having suffered from a bleeding nose
during the exam. He enrolled as a student of engineering.
As a student, Ahmadinejad joined the huge protest movement against the rule
of the shah and in favor of Ayatollah Khomeini. He belonged to one of the religious
movements, known as the “Office for the Strengthening of Students‟ Unity,” which
was deeply involved in the takeover of the American embassy during the revolution
and in the subsequent detention of the hostages captured there. As yet, it has not been
established whether he was actually one of the kidnappers. He himself has denied it
and claimed that he was against the seizure of the embassy and argued that it was a
move that would not contribute anything. Incidentally, others who admitted to
actually taking part in the operation later reached key positions, oddly enough in the
reformist camp headed by Khatami.
There are two published photographs that cast doubt on his denials. In one of
them, a man who looks very much like Ahmadinejad is seen standing next to the
bound hostages. The second picture, released in October 2006 by sources who were
identified as close to the intelligence services of the former Soviet Union, shows one
of the kidnappers standing alone with a Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle and smoking
a cigarette. The image is clear and the man bears a very close resemblance to the
Iranian president, except that he looks older than the 23 that Ahmadinejad was in
1979. Detailed analysis of the facial features by powerful computers have files to
come up with unequivocal results.
Three of the former hostages claim emphatically that Ahmadinejad was one of
the leaders of the kidnappers. Why should this man, who never hesitates to attack the
United States in the bluntest terms, go to the trouble of denying his involvement in the
affair, if he was present or not? Some analysts say that he understands that an
admission of being implicated would place him personally, and not only a president of
the republic, in a direct confrontation with the United States, greatly restricting his
freedom to go abroad, especially to address the United Nations. Moreover, confessing
to taking part in such a violent act would be contrary to the concept that he is
constantly trying to put across, that it is the Muslims who are the victims, the doormat
that is trampled by the Americans, and not the assailants and kidnappers of helpless
According to Ahmadinejad‟s file in Israeli intelligence, after the revolution he
enlisted in the Revolutionary Guards as the engineering officer of one of its divisions
fighting Iraq. Information gathered by western intelligence agencies indicates that he
went on secret missions behind enemy lines in order to try and hook up with Kurdish
underground elements and activate them against Saddam Hussein. Mohsen Sazegara,
a founder of the Revolutionary Guards who held high positions in the regime and later
became a dissident journalist and professor who fled to the West in 2003, claims that
Ahmadinejad belonged to a particularly secret wing of the Revolutionary Guards that
handles tough cases and has “an independent network of secret prisons, which house
solitary confinement and torture cells.”
One need not accept as scriptural truth any information that such an
oppositionist and defector proffers, but it is clear that from that point on
Ahmadinejad, who left the service with the rank of colonel, based his career on two
primary foundations: the links with senior elements in the Revolutionary Guards that
he forged during his military service, and his connection with his own personal
spiritual guide, Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbakh-Yazdi, from the city of Qom,
one of the most extreme clerics in the country. This very senior theological authority
has become the guiding light for many members of the Revolutionary Guards and
members of the intelligence services, and of the conservative fundamentalist faction
in the Majlis, or parliament. With their help, he advanced up the political hierarchy.
After serving as governor of a number of districts, in 1993 he was made
advisor to the ministry of culture in 1993 and the next year he was appointed governor
of Ardabil province and was named outstanding governor in both 1995 and 1996 for
organizing the reconstruction of 7,500 housing units destroyed in an earthquake. In
1997 he was awarded his doctorate in transportation engineering and he served a
professor until 2003, when he ran for mayor of Tehran on a conservative Islamist
program and won, a victory ascribed to the 12 percent turnout.
According to the top-secret conclusion of a joint CIA-Mossad brain-storming
session about Iran in 2004, Ahmadinejad‟s appointment to senior political posts had
been part of a process of incorporation of former Revolutionary Guards members into
the Iranian administration. Israeli intelligence sees this process as fraught with the
danger of further extremism, because in that organization the loyalty of every member
to the regime and its values is under perpetual scrutiny. Whoever survives a stint there
in good favor must be more loyal, more obedient and more extreme than the average.
In the last years of the 20th century and the first of the 21st century, the entire Iranian
bureaucracy underwent a process which saw key posts taken over by ex-
Revolutionary Guards.
In addition to its security and public order roles, the Revolutionary Guards
corps is also a vast economic concern, raking in the profits from various totally
civilian projects. Ahmadinejad too played a role in these activities, although he
himself is known for living very modestly. Intelligence sources say it is his brother
Daoud who skimmed the cream of the big deals and is today a very wealthy man.
As mayor of Tehran, Ahmadinejad introduced a new municipal dress code,
requiring male workers to wear long sleeved shirts and to grow beards. He closed
down fast food outlets and ordered the removal of advertising billboards bearing
pictures of western movie stars. During his term, the Revolutionary Guards enjoyed
greater freedom than before in their violent street campaigns to enforce women to
obey the modest dress laws. It quickly became clear to the Iranians that he was a dyed
in the wool conservative. When President Khatami realized this, he barred him from
cabinet meetings, although by custom the mayor of the capital used to take part in
* * *

As the elections of June 2005 drew near, tension mounted steeply between the
conservatives and the reformists in Iran, against the background of the general
weakness of the outgoing president, Mohammad Khatami. Khatami had served two
terms and was constitutionally barred from running again. The heads of the
establishment decided to do everything to prevent the election of a new Khatami. The
Assembly of Experts, which elects the supreme leader and supervises his activities,
also screens the candidates for president and rules whether they meet the
constitutional criteria for the post, such as loyalty to the Islamic republic. Before the
2005 poll, the assembly scrutinized over a thousand candidates and ultimately
approved only six. Five of them were conservatives, and representatives of the
Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei in various governmental institutions, one of them
mayor Ahmadinejad. There was only one reformer, whose chances of election were
clearly nil.
They issues in the elections were domestic, mainly economic matters. All of the
candidates promised the citizens of Iran a better life. As part of his campaign,
Ahmadinejad took some photographers on a tour of Tehran, making sure to point out
the magnificent residence of the favorite in the presidential race, former president
Rafsanjani, a very rich man, who controlled large slices of two of Iran‟s major
industries: pistachio growing and oil exports. The mayor then showed them his own
very modest apartment. One of his campaign slogans was “Vote for your street
cleaner.” He told mass meetings that if elected he would solve the problems of the
young by providing jobs and housing, enabling them to get married, and that he
promised to allocate some of the countries oil revenues directly to the poor.
Most Iranian analysts predicted that Rafsanjani would win the election, and so
did Israeli intelligence. In the first round, he came in first, and Ahmadinejad second.
In the run-off, when the reformists saw that their candidate had been eliminated, many
of them never bothered to vote. Conservative voters were overwhelmingly opposed to
Rafsanjani. Three other factors cleared the way for Ahmadinejad‟s victory: a fatwa
issued by Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, ordering his followers to vote for him, strenuous
action by the Revolutionary Guards in his favor, and mainly massive mobilization on
his behalf of the popular militia, the Bassij, which Rafsanjani had treated with
contempt and had been nurtured by Ahmadinejad. Members of the militia, conducted
propaganda on his behalf and used military vehicles and fuel to transport voters to the
polling stations. His lowly and simple origins, of which he was so proud, spoke to the
militiamen. Most of the members of the Bassij come from similar backgrounds.
Ahmadinejad‟s election in June 2005 signaled the start of a “second
revolution.”i On November 15 the new president declared: “The nation proved in the
recent election its faith in the Islamic revolution and wants to see a revival of its
values. ii

In the wake of his victory he and his followers squeezed the reformist camp
totally out of the upper echelons of the government. He also took measures to restore
to the presidency the powers that Khamenei had taken away from Khatami.. His first
action was to allocate $1.2 billion to a special fund whose function is to help young
people find jobs, get married and buy homes. He proclaimed his intention of carrying
out agrarian reforms and giving the poor citizens of Iran shares in government-owned
companies. He also announced the replacement of the managements of seven
government banks, causing a slump on the Tehran stock exchange.iii Ahmadinejad
also undertook to clamp down on the corruption that had spread throughout the
government ministries and amongst senior figures in the regime.iv Key positions,
including the cabinet portfolios for foreign affairs, intelligence, interior, defense,
culture and Islamic guidance, were given to officers of the Republican Guards, friends
of Ahmadinejad‟s in the staff of the daily Kayhan, and associates in Tehran
On the issue of nuclearization, the new president toughened Iran‟s public
stance. His method of operation was the creation of faits accomplis, forcing the
international community to accept them retroactively. v Another step taken early in
his administration was to dismiss some 40, ambassadors, political ministers and
consuls, a move which was construed as a purge of reformists from the foreign
service.vi The significance of this move soon became clear to the Mossad. The
professional diplomats were replaced by Ahmadinejad‟s cronies in the Revolutionary
Guards. The obvious suspicion and fear were that they would carry out intelligence
and terror operations and not deal with the more conventional aspects of foreign
policy. Many of Iran‟s representative legations abroad increased drastically in size,
especially in Latin America. Thus, for example, the Islamic Republic has no fewer
than 30 diplomats in Nicaragua and 44 in Venezuela, and 20 each in Uruguay Mexico
and Colombia.
These numbers are very large, out of all proportion to the scope of relations
between Iran and those states, or to the diplomatic missions of other countries. The
posting of so many diplomats is a very expensive matter. “We have managed to
identify some of the people posted in past year in Iran‟s legations in Latin America
and Africa,” said a Mossad official in August 2007, “and we know them from their
actions against us in the past in Europe and in Lebanon. The very last word I would
use to define these people is „diplomat.‟”
These developments occurred against the background of Ahmadinejad‟s ever-
improving ties with his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez. Between the election
in Iran and the middle of 2007, Chavez went to Tehran six times, and the Iranian
reciprocated twice. Venezuela supplies Iran with refined petroleum products and Iran
supplies it with weapons. A direct air route has been instituted between the two
countries which, according to information reaching American intelligence from its
Argentinean sister agencies in July 2007, serves to ship weapons and various
measuring and monitoring instruments linked to Iran‟s nuclear project. The United
States was concerned that Iran was about to use Venezuela as a fa├žade for its efforts
the produce an atomic bomb and as a way to circumvent the international boycott with
which it has to cope.
In the sphere of human rights, there was an increasing deterioration after
Ahmadinejad‟s rise to power. The new president enthusiastically backed the
aggressive measures that were adopted in August 2007 to nip in the bud a drive
initiated by civil rights activists to collect a million signatures in favor of a changing
the laws that discriminate against women. A demonstration for women‟s rights on
June 12 of the same year was broken up by female members of the Bassij militia who
beat the protesting women and prevented them from carrying poster calling for equal
rights for women.vii The demonstration ended with the arrest of 70 male and female
civil rights activists, students, journalists and intellectuals. viii

It was during Ahmadinejad‟s term that the Iranian authorities announced that
an Iranian Kurdish woman, Malak Ghorbany, the mother of two, was to be stoned to
death for committing adultery. This form of execution is still the customary
punishment for women or unmarried girls convicted of having illicit relations with
men, even in cases where the woman is raped. The condemned woman‟s hands are
tied behind her back and she is wrapped in sheets and buried up to her neck in a pit,
and the public are invited to pelt her with stones whose size is prescribed in law until
she dies.
Within the framework of the new conservatism, Ahmadinejad energetically
continued the wave of newspaper closures that had begun before his accession to the
presidency. By the end of 2006, more than 100 newspapers identifying with the
reformist line were shut down. In September of that year a closure order was served
on the daily Shargh, the leading reformist paper still open at the time. It had openly
backed Ahmadinejad‟s rival for the presidency, Rafsanjani, who despite his loss had
retained his status as number two in the Iranian hierarchy, after the supreme leader.
Closing down Shargh was seen as an attempt to harm Rafsanjani‟s status, in advance
of elections to the Assembly of Experts IN 2006. ix These elections, which are held
every eight years, were seen as of great importance, because the assembly was set to
choose Iran‟s next supreme leader .
Before the elections for the Assembly and local authorities, Ahmadinejad
took several more steps against Iran‟s intellectual elite. On September 5 2006 he
called for a purge of liberal and secular personnel from the universities. x
Before that,
in May and June, dozens of faculty members whose positioned didn‟t jibe with those
of the government were forced to take early requirement. In addition, academics who
identified with Ahmadinejad were appointed to head the faculties, including many
with no experience in academic administration. Protests by students and faculty were
crushed harshly. xi

Instead of the relatively enlightened values of the reformists, under
Ahmedinejad it was the ethos of martyrdom that prevailed. At his second appearance
before the media, addressing a group of cinematographers, the new president laid
down the line: “"We want art that is on the offensive. Art on the offensive exalts and
defends the noble principles, and attacks principles that are corrupt, vulgar, ungodly,
and inhuman. Art reaches perfection when it portrays the best life and best death.
After all, art tells you how to live. That is the essence of art. Is there art that is more
beautiful, more divine, and more eternal than the art of martyrdom?”xii

Both toward the Iranians and toward the outside world, Ahmadinejad is
careful to persevere in presenting the common, somewhat ascetic image that won him
the election. He wears imitation leather jacket that give him the appearance of a
laborer doing his shopping after a day‟s work. He rides in a 1977 Peugeot, when he
receives guests, sometimes sitting on the floor, he offers them only light drinks and
fruit and sometimes black bread and lean cheese, nothing more. This is also how he
says that he wants to be received on visits abroad. “This is what I ate throughout my
childhood,” he has said. “At best, there were also some grapes.”
* * *
It wasn‟t Ahmadinejad‟s moves in the domestic sphere that made him famous the
world over. He achieve that status through his increasingly vitriolic verbal attacks on
the United States and especially Israel. Beyond his sincere belief that the Great Satan
and the Little Satan must be fought, the invective also had a practical value from his
point of view, as it put him in the spotlight and enhanced his status, after Khatami had
left the presidency almost powerless and facing him and competing for power were
two giants with vast experience, the former president Rafsanjani and Ali Larijani, the
head of the Supreme National Security Council, who was appointed by Khamenei as
chief negotiator on nuclear matters.
In order to distinguish himself from his rivals, Ahmadinejad made a series of
utterances which vied with each other in their virulence and crudity. In a speech
before students on Jerusalem Day, October 26, 2006, he addressed students under a
banner reading “A World without Zionism” and promised that the “the Islamic world
would soon wipe away the shameful stain of Zionism.” On the same occasion in the
presence of representatives of Hamas and Hizballah, he called for the continuation of
the armed Palestinian struggle and demanded that there be no compromise on any part
of the “Palestinian land.” Signing an agreement that recognized the State of Israel, he
warned, would be like “the surrender of the entire Muslim world.”xiii

The United States, Canada, the European Union, Russia and the United
Nations all were quick to condemn Ahmadinejad‟s words. The Iranian Foreign
Ministry rejected the censure of the Security Council, claiming it was “dictated by the
Zionist regime,” but declared that Iran had no intention of attacking another country.
Two days later, before a crowd of tens of thousands in Teheran, in clear defiance of
the international community, Ahmadinejad repeated his call to wipe Israel off the
Ahmadinejad‟s statements do not stand out for their delicacy or tact. When
Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke, he said, “I hope that the criminal
of Sabra and Shatilla will join his forefathers.” But the most extreme statements were
those which made about the most sensitive of all subjects in a Jewish context, the
Holocaust. The first came in a speech in the city of Zahadan in southern Iran in
December 2005. “The Holocaust,” declared there, “is a legend. They invented a
legend called „the massacre of the Jews‟ and they sanctify it more than God.” In the
same speech he proposed transferring Israel to Canada or Alaska or elsewhere in the
United States. Despite the angry reactions he continued, and at an Islamic conference
in Mecca in the same month, he said: “Some European countries insist that Hitler
murdered millions of innocent Jews. Although we do not accept this claim, we have a
question for the Europeans, „Is this a reason to support the conquerors of Jerusalem?‟”
and he said that if the Europeans were “honest people, they should give some of their
territory in Europe, Like Germany or Austria or other countries to the Zionists so they
can establish their state in European territory. If you offer part of Europe, we will
support you.”
Since becoming president, Ahmadinejad has welcomed a number of Holocaust
deniers facing prosecution to Iran and instructed the official media there to publish
their statements. Thus, for example, on Dec 13 2005, Iranian TV broadcast an
interview with Roger Garaudy, a French ex-Communist who converted to Islam, who
claims that the gas chambers were no used to kill Jews. A particularly bizarre version
of the president‟s theories was expounded by his political adviser Mohammad Ali
Ramin, in a speech at Gilan university, where he asserted that the Holocaust was a
myth invented by the West to serve its own interests. Ramin added that the aim of the
Holocaust conspiracy was to facilitate the establishment of the state of Israel, which
would, in turn, provoke the Muslims to rise up, confront the Jews, and massacre them.
'This [conspiracy],' he said, 'conducted by Europe and America, would lead to the
total annihilation of global Jewry." Ramin added that 'as a religious Muslim, who
believes in the equality of all nations, he must alert [people] to the fact that the state of
Israel was established as the result of a conspiracy against the Jews... So long as Israel
exists in the region there will never be peace and security in the Middle East. So the
resolution of the Holocaust issue will end in the destruction of Israel.”
In December 2006, Ahmadinejad hosted a conference in Tehran on the
Holocaust. He welcomed the 67 participants from 30 countries by informing them that
“By virtue of the wish of the nations and with God‟s help, the course of the Zionist
regime is on the downgrade. God has promised it, and it is the will of the nations.” He
added that, “Just as the Soviet Union has been wiped off the map and no longer exists,
so will the Zionist regime soon disappear.” Several prominent Holocaust deniers were
there, Prof. Robert Faurisson of France, David Duke, the former top Klansman from
Lousiana, Prof. Fredrick Toben of Australia and Lady Michele Renouf, the former
dancer and model who supported the British Holocaust denier David Irving. “Iran is
your home, and the home of all who seek liberty in the world,” the president told
them. “Here you may express your opinions and exchange ideas in a free and friendly

Before his election, only very little was known about Ahmadinejad to the intelligence
services of the United States and Israel. There was no file and he had not been a target
for information-collection. He was not considered a key figure in the Iranian
establishment. When he was elected and began to make headlines, the analysts had
little to go on as they began trying to find out what made him tick. But he made some
of their work easier with his incessant stream of declarations and speeches and the
many reports which quoted him and his associates, not to mention the series of high-
profile public actions that he took, all of which made him the total opposite of his
predecessor, Khatami‟s passive governmental style. At meetings that took place in
Washington and Tel Aviv between officials of the Mossad and Israeli Military
Intelligence and the CIA and the Pentagon, in April, July and December 2006 and
February 2007, attempts were made to analyze the motives behind the Iranian
president‟s conduct and to determine whether he was really as demented and
dangerous as he appeared to be.
Thus for example, they tried to comprehend what lay behind his vitriolic
statements against Israel and the Jews and other remarks and actions on the verge of
weirdness. Information obtained by Israeli intelligence indicated that Ahmadinejad is
supporter and a member of the second circle of the secret Hojjatiyeh movement. Set
up in the 1950s it was from the outset messianic, and more fanatical that even
Khomeini. Although it helped him take power, he saw it as a threat because it
opposed the principle of veliyat faqih, or the rule of a single religious sage, the
foundation upon which Khomeini based his arrogation of all the powers of
government. In 1983, he outlawed the movement, declaring it to be a great danger,
and went as far as having some of its leaders executed. But he could not touch one of
its leaders, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, though he did everything that he could to
neutralize him. Israeli intelligence‟s information indicates that Ahmadinejad is a silent
member of the movement. He has never admitted it. But he makes no bones about his
messianic beliefs.
According the Shi‟ite tradition the 12 imams descended from Ali,
Muhammad‟s cousin and son in law were blessed with divine properties that gave
them the ability to rule the community of Shi‟ite believers, and they served, according
to the faith, as God‟s representatives on earth. But since the disappearance of the 12th
imam in the year 941 and the break in his connection with the believers, they are
obliged to await his reappearance at any time. When missing imam, known as the
mahdi, arrives in order to lead the Shi‟ites he will show the world who God is, and
how right the Shi‟ites were in the faith over the generations, and in particular he will
correct the historical injustice that the Shi‟ites have suffered over the years as a
persecuted minority.
Although Khomeini was a believer in the eventual return of the mahdi,
messianism did not play a large part in the religious-political system that he founded
in Iran in 1979. He has his own agenda on this issue, and he transgressed against one
of the severest prohibitions in Shi‟a, and allowed his followers to call him the imam,
and to attribute messianic qualities to him. In this sense, the idea that the mahdi was
still to come and the eager anticipation of that event, which are considered by some
Shi‟ites to be no more than a myth by many Shi‟ites, were harmful to his own status.
Khomeini managed to keep messianism under control, and the separation between it
and Iran‟s internal politics was preserved. Khomeini used the faith in the mahdi in his
endeavor to change the Shi‟a from a passive congregation into and active, fighting
community. He told them that by taking energetic steps on behalf of Islam, they could
hasten to advent of the missing imam. But all that changed when Ahmadinejad rose to
power, and made messianism one of the central issues.
Early on in his term, he espoused a policy that emphasized his certainty in the
imminent arrival of the mahdi as the basis of his ideological doctrine and his political
actions. In contrast to the prevailing belief that no one can know for certain when the
mahdi will reveal himself, Ahmadinejad proclaimed more than once that it would
happen soon. He even went as far as to set a date for the event, at a meeting with a
foreign minister of another Muslim state, after being asked, “Is there a whiff of crisis
in your country?” His reply: “This is the prelude to the appearance of the missing
imam, who will come within the next two years.” And in a speech that he made
greeting Christians on the occasion of Christmas, he said: “I can assure that with
God‟s help the day on which Jesus will appear at the side of the missing imam is not
far off.”
In September 2005, at the end of his speech before the U.N. General
Assembly, he surprised the delegates when he uttered a prayer for the return of the
mahdi: “I beg you, almighty God, to hasten the advent of the last imam, as has been
promised.” On another occasion, he proclaimed that “the second wave of the
revolution has begun and it is mightier and more terrible than the first wave … the
president of America is like us. That is to say, he also receives inspiration … but
inspiration of the satanic kind. Satan gives inspiration to the president of America.”

As much as Khomeini tried to distance himself from the aura of the “missing
imam” in order to create his own sacred aura, so Ahmadinejad tries to get closer to the
coming of the mahdi in order to acquire at least a hint of divinity for himself. And not
always just a hint. For example, in addressing the nuclear question in October 2006 he
claimed a direct connection with Allah, in order to justify his tough line on the matter:
“Believe [me] that from the legal point of view, and in the eyes of public opinion, we
have succeeded completely. I say this because I know. Someone asked me, „So and so
says that you have a connection.‟ I replied, „Yes, I do.‟ He asked, „truly, do you have
a connection? With whom?‟ I replied, „I have a connection with God.‟” Ahmadinejad
even claims that he knows what God thinks, and claimed in April 2007, “God has
made the missing imam into our supporter.” And after the September 2005 speech at
the U.N., he said that during the speech he had felt “God‟s aura surrounding me.”
On a more practical level, Ahmadinejad always stresses that the ground must
be prepared for the imam‟s arrival. In May 2007, he said, “We have a mission and it is
to turn Iran into the state of the missing imam. He obliged all the ministers in his
cabinet to sign two pledges of loyalty: one to the missing imam and one to himself.
The minister for culture and Islamic guidance, Muhammad Hussein Zafar Harandi
was sent to throw the signed pledge of loyalty to the imam into a well at the Jamkaran
mosque in the holy city of Qom, where the Shi‟a faithful are accustomed to
consigning letters with their wishes. The well is believed to be the place where the
imam will reveal himself when he returns. This mosque, which before 2005 was never
considered politically important, was granted some $10 million for renovations by the
new president, in advance of the expected arrival of the mahdi and another $8 million
to provide food for pilgrims coming there to mark the mahdi‟s birthday in 2005.
Ahmadinejad ordered the convening of a special international seminar on the
subject of the mahdi‟s return. Addressing the seminar, he tried to persuade the West to
accept the mahdi as the universal messiah: “Today, the world is moving toward the
truth and the happiness of the world depends on its movement toward the truth.
Today, we invite everyone to move toward the truth, because there is no other way …
This celebration [of the 12th imam‟s birthday] is not restricted to Muslims alone, [but]
meant for the whole world. The Mahdi belongs to the whole of humanity.”
All of this is of more than mere theological importance, and it demands more
of a response than the bemused smile that this man, who to western eyes seems not
entirely attached to reality, may evoke. A man who thinks he is acting in the name of
God, and who claims that he has an open line to the deity, and who believes that it is
up to him to take practical and aggressive measures to hasten the advent of the
messiah, is a dangerous man, from the moment that he has access to and control over
power. Thus, for example, the Iranian president makes it clear that although he invites
the west to accept the holiness of his messiah, there is another side to the coin, one
that is menacing to those who do not accept the invitation.
“Those who do not comply with the call to move toward the truth cannot
expect a happy fate,” he said in September 2006. “I have heard the president of one
such country [He meant George W. Bush] … has said that the president of Iran is
threatening him. I say to him, it was not I who threatened you, but the whole world
threatens you, because the world stands firm against oppression and oppressors.
[Turning to the Western states, which he calls, the “forces of arrogance‟] You are
nothing compared to the power of God. We invite you to the straight path, the path of
the prophets, monotheism and justice. You are wrong if you think you can sit in your
glass palaces and decide the fate of the world … Our call [upon you] to walk toward
the truth [springs from] mercy. We do not want you to become entangled, because as
you know the result of oppression and lack of justice are perdition and destruction.”
The Iranian daily, Rooz reported in October 2006 that “some of
Ahmadinejad‟s associates speak often [about the need] to prepare the ground for the
arrival of the mahdi, explicitly connect [the fate of] the Iranian nuclear program to
this need …. According to reliable reports, they had stressed at various closed
meetings that the resistance to international pressure [on the nuclear issue] and the
insistence on the right to enjoy nuclear power are among the ways of preparing the
ground for the appearance of the imam.”
Ahmadinejad‟s spiritual mentor, Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi,
said at that seminar in October 2006 that the arrival of the mahdi would bring about
the establishment of one government over the entire world and that the struggle
against heresy and “international arrogance” prepares the ground and hastens his
The noise and the reverberations aroused by Ahmadenijad‟s utterances made
him into a media hero, and giving him a status far greater than his true power in the
Iranian regime. Not only was he neither number one not number two in the power
hierarchy, it was doubtful if he was even number three. But there was no doubt that he
managed to recover for the presidency fairly wide powers, and he became a key factor
that could not be ignored. There is also no doubt that he would have refrained from
saying some of the things that he said if her did not have the backing, even tacit
backing, from other sources, mainly Supreme Leader Khamenei.
Indirectly, Ahmadinejad‟s sensationalist statements also served his rivals,
Rafsanjani and Larijani, as they made them look like the mildest of moderates. The
unrestrained utterances drew considerable criticism in Iran itself, chiefly from former
president Khatami who accused the extremists in Iran of trying to “emulate Bin
Laden” and “giving the enemy the best of pretexts to attack Islam and Iran.” He added
that the extremists “compete with the Taliban in their calls for violence and the
perpetration of extreme crimes that are contrary to religion.”xv

In an April 2007 interview, Ayatollah Hussein Montazeri, the ousted heir
apparent to Khomeini leveled sharp criticism at the regime, at the leadership of
Khamenei and the policies of Ahmadinejad. He pointed out that “when the promises
of the present government for economic prosperity failed to come true, and the
workers and the teachers expressed their opposition and protested, in response they
were subjected to arrest and violent conduct in several cities.”
Condemning the response of the government to its critics, Montazeri declared
that “the protestors cannot be accused of conspiring with foreigners or be described as
… causing damage to national unity, without the presentation of evidence, proof,
documents that attest to it.” Montazeri also deplored the government‟s conduct
towards the struggle of Iranian women against discrimination and the arrests and
penalties and violence with which the women have to contend in their campaign to
secure a million signatures for changing the laws that discriminate women. Another
target of his criticism was Ahmadinejad‟s nuclear strategy, pointing out that “the
current crisis cannot be passed over by means provocative and useless slogans at a
time when the world powers are displaying sensitivity [towards iran‟s nuclear
project]. Such statements only exacerbate that sensitivity and bring the powers closer
to a consensus and a confrontation with Iran. ”
The cloak of piety and messianism donned by Ahmadinejad also raised the
hackles of many senior clerics, who saw him as no more than an impostor. In March
2007, for example, Ayatollah Yusuf Sanei, a friend of Khomeini‟s and an opponent of
both suicide bombing and nuclear weapons, who was head of the revolutionary courts
for a long time, came out strongly against the foreign, internal and economic policies
of the president, and especially his Holocaust denial: “There is no advantage in
isolation, and an American air offensive or sanctions would be a disaster …. We must
not do unto others what we do not want them to do to us, the Koran teaches us. The
Holocaust is history. Can we change the history of the nations? I do not understand
why we have gone into this matter. All of this is bad for Islam and for Iran.”
Supreme leader Khamenei tried to soften the confrontation, and at least to
keep an open dispute from erupting in the media. In public, he took Ahmadinejad‟s
side, praising his performance and demanding the president not be attacked. In the
wake of this call, the criticism leveled by Khatami against his successor was not
quoted in the Iranian press. xvi

On the other hand, Khamenei himself was far from enthusiastic about
messianic note that Ahmadinejad had adopted. Although he had been the prime
obstacle to the reforms that Khatami had tried to introduce, soon after it emerged that
the ultra-conservatives had won the election, Khamenei moved to balance the new
situation by reinforcing the status of the head of the Expediency Discernment
Council, Rafsanjani, and officially anchoring his position as number two in the
country‟s leadership.
One of Rafsanjani‟s first moves after his powers were expanded was to return
former president Khatami to the political arena, appointing him senior adviser to the
council. Together with the Foreign Ministry, the two men acted to soften
Ahmadinejad‟s aggressive statements in two key areas in Iran‟s foreign relations: the
nuclear program and the attitude to Israel. In two major interviews with the American
media, CBS‟s 60 Minutes and Time Magazine, at the end of 2006, the president
sounded a little less belligerent and hallucinatory. He said that he opposed the
proliferation of nuclear arms and added that he did not expect that the United States
and Iran would reach a military confrontation. However, a short time later he was
back to his old tricks and let loose a barrage of bellicose declarations.
Another expression of the struggle within the Iranian leadership came with the
seizure of 15 British marines and sailors in the Shatt al Arab waterway by an Iranian
Revolutionary Guards force in late-March 2007, and their release a fortnight later.
This action was an Iranian response to a series of moves that Tehran blamed on the
west, including the imposition of sanctions by the U.N. Security Council, and a
number of incidents of a more covert nature, which could have been the work of
western intelligence agencies (and will be dicussed in the next chapter). Someone in
Iran wanted to flex some muscles.
It was double show of strength: Firstly, the aim was to deliver a message to the
West that Iran would not tolerate what it perceived as violations of its sovereignty and
its dignity, and that it had ways of responding. The second message was for internal
consumption. Throughout the crisis, only Ahmadinejad‟s voice was heard. The other,
ostensibly more moderate, leaders, like Rafsanjani and Larijani, were silenced. In the
battle for the Iran‟s character, ideological extremists versus practical pragmatists, at
least this time the former had the upper hand. The abduction of the British troops
wasn‟t Ahmadinejad‟s first hostile move against the British. Material in Israeli
Military Intelligence‟s file on Ahmadinejad shows that even before becoming
president, while he was mayor of Tehran he was active in turning the anniversary of
the occupation of the American embassy in Tehran on November 4 1979 into a day of
anti-western demonstrations outside the embassies of western countries in the capital,
especially the British legation. The American embassy compound, known today as the
“Spies‟ Nest,” was empty, but protests were traditionally held there too. Most of the
demonstration were organized by the Bassij militia, which received funding for this
purpose directly from the city coffers, and tehn from the President‟s Office after his
election, according to a source inside the Tehran municipal bureaucracy recruited by
the Americans.
In May and June 2005, a number of demonstrations were held outside the
British embassy in Tehran. The participants (students, Bassij members, mosque-
goers) called for the embassy to be shut down, and for the ambassador to be expelled,
and for “a repeat of November 4 1979.” In the course of some of the protests,
demonstrators burned the flags of Great Britain, the United States, defied the security
forces and stoned the embassy.
After the adoption by the Security Council of Resolution 1737, in December
2006, dealing with Iran‟s refusal to fully cooperate with the International Atomic
Energy Agency, the president made a speech condemning the West in the former
American embassy compound. After the decision by the Board of Governors of the
IAEA to transfer the Iranian issue to the Security Council some 200 female members
of the Bassij demonstrated outside the British embassy and burned American flags in
February 2006.
The slogan “Death to England” was heard more and more frequently after
Ahmadinejad became president. He blames Britain (or “the Anglo-Saxon empire,” as
he calls it, not wishing to utter the correct name of the United Kingdom) for being
responsible for the establishment of the State of Israel, because of the renowned
Balfour Declaration of 1917, and for being the main ally of the United States in
general and in particular in the conquest of Afghanistan and Iraq.

* * *
“The revolutionary regime in Iran has long lost the justification for its
existence,” says Reuel Marc Gerecht, who for five years from 1989 to 1994, ran the
CIA‟s espionage networks in Iran. “On the other hand, there is a tradition in the
Middle East that a regime never relinquishes power of its own free will. A totalitarian
regime that knows it is running on its last fumes of gasoline can become very
devastating toward its citizens. The great advantage of the ultra-religious regime in
Iran, as I perceive it through the perspective of what I was told by my agents, is the a-
political nature of the population. The average Iranian simply wants to be left alone.
They‟d like the ayatollahs to get out of their lives, but without getting involved
themselves. This works to the benefit of the regime, of course.”
What is the strongest group in Iranian society, from which the rebellion
may come, in your opinion?
“That‟s easy: the women. This is a very vibrant group, very strong and
influential in Iranian society. The women also have one of the last flags of the
revolution, forgive the expression, by the balls: the chador. The other flag is the
hatred for the United States and Israel. The chador is the way in which the revolution
is visible in every square, on every street. Through the chador, they create the sense of
an Islamic revolution on the move. Take it away, and bye- bye ayatollahs.”
People who know both the CIA and Gerecht say that it is no wonder that he
lasted no more than a decade at the agency. First of all, he is a Jew in an organization
that for years has been known to prefer Wasps. Apart from that, he is a rebel, and he
hated to accept the authority of an intelligence agency about whose rigid bureaucracy
many thousands of words have been written. On top of it all, he has been described as
an eccentric intelligence genius with a crazed look in his eye, a very short fuse, and
unusual whims, in a body which prides itself for its strict discipline. And indeed, after
five frustrating years at the head of the Iranian desk he resigned and went into
business on his own.
The frustration began on his first day in the job, when he became aware of the
American intelligence deployment in Iran: “The flaws were so fundamental that I was
stunned. If you don‟t speak Persian, you‟ll never get it. In the CIA there today, after
my departure , to the best of my knowledge, only one Persian-speaking person.”
Gerecht is convinced that there is no prospect for a revolution initiated from
the outside. “When you speak of a revolution, two questions must be addressed: Is it
possible to carry out a revolution in Iran with money or the with the help of outside
organizations, and if so is the CIA capable of doing it? I‟ll start with the second
question. The United States does not know how to mount such an operation and is not
capable of doing it. If they ever uncover the truth about how the CIA tried to subvert
one regime or to prop up another one, it will be revealed that generally it ended in
failure, and even if there was a success, it wasn‟t due to us. As to the first question, in
any case there is no chance of such an operation succeeding. There‟s no way the
external opposition organizations can be activated. They are small and weak and do
not grasp the magnitude of the changes that Persian society has undergone since ‟79.
The fate of the Iranian people is really in its own hands, and that is the way it should
Another secret of the regime‟s survival has been the lack of an alternative,
both inside and outside. Take for example Asad Homayoun, a deputy foreign minister
under the shah, sitting in his little office in Washington DC and wringing his hands in
despair. Apart from periodical meetings with former colleagues in the shah‟s
government, putting out a monthly newsletter and taking security measures against
assassins, who are very unlikely to come anymore, he has nothing to do in his
capacity as head of the Azagedan Foundation, one of the small and ineffectual groups
that Gerecht was talking about. Homayoun understands that if the ayatollahs manage
to acquire nuclear weapons, the chances of the counterrevolution that he is still hoping
for ever happening will be greatly diminished. “From the moment that they get the
bomb,” he warns, “it will give them hegemony over the entire Persian Gulf, immunity
from military intervention by the West, and an insurance policy for their regime for
many more years to come.”
Homayoun‟s realistic perception is a rare commodity. In the course of my research
for this book, besides the shah‟s son I met many Iranians, including many very
wealthy and influential ones. I heard innumerable prophecies on the impending
demise of the government in Tehran. But the opposition groups that they represented
could never manage to unite under one common umbrella, although they do share one
thing in common: 28 years after the revolution, they all seem to be well aware that
they have no realistic chance against the rule of the ayatollahs. Aware, but in denial.


At the bottom line, Israeli and American interest in Ahmadinejad‟s personality begins
and ends at the question of whether he will push the nuclear button, if and when Iran
acquires one. The reply, according to the best analyses, is double negative. Firstly,
because no one will let him anywhere near the button, as the authority to do so is not
his; and secondly, because even if he did have the chance to give the order, he is
despite everything a realist, who has taken several measures which appear to be
extreme in order to show defiance and thereby gain power, without connections to his
belief in the things that he said.
Ahmadinejad, according to western assessments, is not the problem, but the
symptom. The fact that a person like him occupies so senior a position and expresses
such extreme ideas without being restrained truly represents a shift to the right in Iran,
toward the ultra-conservative camp. That shift is of great importance, coming as it
does despite the collision course between Iran and the west that Ahmadinejad is
gleefully galloping along. To a certain extent, he is playing into the hands of
Rafsanjani and Larijani, by making them seem more moderate.
The sanctions which have been imposed on Iran over the years, and especially
since early-2007, were relatively easy to handle, but its international isolation has
caused it heavy economic damage. Since Ahmadinejad took over as president, not one
new contract for the export of oil or natural gas has been signed. The boycott that the
United States imposed on companies that maintain links with Iran blocked
technological advances at the oil wells, leading to a 5-8 percent drop in production
each year. In the state of affairs prevailing in 2007, Iran, which holds some 11 percent
of the world‟s oil reserves, will be able to go on exporting only until 2015. Oil
revenue accounts for some 50 percent of the government‟s income. The country‟s
refineries are is such a wretched state that it has to import 40 percent of its fuel
consumption. In order to stave of a popular uprising and survive, the regime has to
subsidize the costs of fuel, gas, electricity by some $20 billion a year, or 15 percent of
the GNP. In April 2007, the attempts by the United States to exert economic pressure
on Iran by “persuading” western companies to refrain from trading with it reached a
peak. A number of large banks and financial institutions heard lectures from
administration officials about what Iran does with the money that goes through their
companies, and they said they would consider ending their relationships with Tehran.
At the same time, in the assemblies of several of the states of the union bills were
introduced to instruct the pension funds of those states to divest their stocks in
companies doing business in Iran. In brief, as a direct result of its difficult
international situation, Iran was embroiled in severe economic difficulties.
Ahmadinejad, nevertheless, carried on regardless.
The extremism expressed in the Tehran regime‟s foreign policy, or at least by
those in the regime whose views were expressed by Ahmadinejad, did not reflect
public opinion, which was concerned principally with internal problems. The decline
of the hardliners in elections for local government and the Assembly of Experts in
December 2006 bore this out. But the public has very little to say and zero influence
over issues like the export of the revulution and nuclearization. The shift of the
leadership toward more extreme positions had additional implications for the future of
the country, when it comes to the composition of the Assembly of Experts, the body
that will have to decide who becomes supreme leader after Khamenei, who turned 68
in 2007 and according to persistent rumors was suffering from serious medical
problems. With the decline in the strength of the reformist camp, and the rise of
Ahmadinejad, the future did not look encouraging.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The 1991 shi'a uprising in Iraq

see this video as well, a lot of the footage from the above video came from here, and this contains the english subtitles


Iraq: Ali Al Hailla

by Kechia Smith-Gran and Brandon Sprague

Ali Al Hailla knows that words can be powerful. The former poet and soldier is from a small Iraqi town near Babel where, according to the Bible, the diffusion of different languages originated. As the story in Genesis goes, the denizens of Babel tried to build a tower to Heaven. They would have succeeded too, had not god confounded their words so they could not communicate.

But Al Hailla's words, in the form of an anti-war poem, communicated his sentiment all too well to the Iraqi secret police agents who have the habit of trolling for the smallest signs of dissent among its citizenry.

In 1983, Al Hailla was a sophomore studying English literature at Baghdad University. He joined a student club that was, through poems and short stories, protesting the Iran-Iraq war. Al Hailla wrote an allegorical poem about a musical shepherd who was drafted into the army only to lose a hand and foot to a landmine while on the frontlines.

The tale pointed out that not only did the shepherd lose his livelihood because he could not walk, but also without his hands, he could not play his flute, the one means of comfort he had Al Hailla said an informant went to the authorities. Listen to Al Hailla's poem.

"Under the one-party governmental dictatorship, I wasn't encouraging people to go to the army and I spent four years of life in jail for that," he said, the bite evident in his voice.

In prison he was given no writing materials, but it didn't matter. Al Hailla has not written a word of poetry since his release from jail.

"I learned my lesson. It's basically killing your spirit and that's what happened," Al Hailla said, the sadness and finality behind them poignant.

Al Hailla said he could not reveal his true identity out of fear that there may be retaliation against his family, some of whom still live in Iraq. And now, even though the 38-year-old has been away from Iraq for 10 years, the pain still remains. To use his gift of words would only unlock that pain.

"I tried to write sometimes but, you know, it gets you to the whole experience you had before and you suddenly feel there is some line you don't want to cross. You don't want to go there at all."

Released in 1988, Al Hailla went back to his family home in Hailla (also known as Al Hillah) in Babel, 50 miles south of Baghdad. It was the place he had spent a fairly idyllic childhood among the ruins of the ancient Babylon City two miles to the north.

As a child he played on the backs of the Babylonian lion statues and later on, as a teen, he took dates to the site of the hanging gardens, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. He went off to university to seek more wonders. But he returned five years later looking so thin, so disheveled and so long in the beard, his mother did not even recognize him. She had believed him to be dead, which was not a surprising assumption since when people are arrested by the so-called 'civilian intelligence bureau,' they disappear completely. Their family cannot make inquiries; they are not allowed to see a judge or a lawyer. No one asks questions out of self-preservation. "They can't ask about you so basically they don't," Al Hailla said. "And when you get out they hide their eyes."

The ordeal extinguished Al Hailla's light. He quietly returned to the university to finish his studies, receiving his degree in English Literature in 1989, but from there on, his choices were limited. Although he wasn't inducted into the wartime draft -- the Iran-Iraq War ended in August of 1988 -- he was conscripted into the Iraqi Army for two years, the usual amount of time for a college graduate.

Personal choice is really a myth in Iraq, Al Hailla said. And that myth is exploded by the time children reach the sixth grade. That was the year Al Hailla and his classmates were forced to sign a pledge to become a member of Saddam Hussein's ruling Ba'ath Party. "It's part of the life there and you are in sixth grade, but what do you know about politics?" he asked. "So you make a decision for your life on a paper that you sign when you are 12 years old." Everyone in Iraq signed these cards, he said. Each and every one.

"With time, you find you signed basically to be executed if you are working with an opposition group or you want to work with secret party."

But despite the risks, Al Hailla broke his loyalty oath for a second and final time. When his unit, stationed in Al Amarah in southern Iraq, received orders to march on Kuwait in August 1990, Al Hailla decided not to go.

"My decision was to desert the army," he said. Al Hailla took a bus to Babel and hid at his uncle's farm nearby for four months until the United States and its coalition of allies began airstrikes on Iraq. By Jan. 17, 1990, the Iraqi army was in retreat. A month later, Al Hailla said, he heard of President George Bush Sr.'s call to the citizens of Iraq:

"There is another way for the bloodshed to stop," Bush said on Feb. 15, 1991, "And that is, for the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside and then comply with the United Nations' resolutions and rejoin the family of peace-loving nations."

The announcement was followed up with leaflets and broadcasts. Al Hailla was one of thousands of Iraqis who answered that call. Most paid with their lives.

"For two months we were fighting the regime and then, you know, politics always change and the Americans, their interests (suddenly were) not with revolution, their interests were to keep the dictator," said Al Hailla.

The Americans decided it was more prudent not to support the rebellion and as part of the Feb. 28 cease-fire agreement allowed Hussein to use his gun ships to crush the rebels on the ground.

"America left us to be slaughter in Iraq," Al Hailla said. "Basically there was fighting in Iraq and [the U.S.] said that's not the way we want it and so they let the Iraqi army kill them. Basically they killed more than 80,000 from the revolt."

Without the U.S. and its allies to fight, the Iraqi army soon took control of the borders so that Al Hailla and his comrades could not escape through Iran. They wandered along the border for two weeks until hearing about a refugee camp that had just opened up near Saudi Arabia.

Little did Al Hailla and the remnants of the rebel army know, but they were headed for another prison.

"The refugee camp was surrounded by army and we were not allowed to leave the camp and not allowed to do anything," he said, adding that they were captured as prisoners of war by the American army, even though the cease-fire had been signed 15 days before.

The GIs pulled out two weeks later, leaving the Iraqis' uncertain status and equally uncertain fate to the Saudi government. It was where Al Hailla would stay -- in a no-man's land in the middle of the desert -- for four years.

Life was hard. Closed off from the outside world, Al Hailla stayed in a tent with six other men in the camp, which was called Rafha.

"You know, when you live in the desert under 125 degrees in summertime and in a tent with no electricity, and nothing there, the situation was really bad," he said. It took its toll on Al Hailla.

Four years and I never saw green at all, no green. It was basically moving you know I always say this it is moving. The sand is moving; it is like the sea. You see the waves and it always sand, sand, sand," said Al Hailla.

After a year, the refugees in Rafha began radical protests for more rights and representation -- some buried themselves neck deep in the sand and allowed the elements to slowly kill them, some hanged themselves on makeshift crosses, others went on hunger strikes. Many died. According to Al Hailla, the Saudi guards opened fire on the crowd during a demonstration and killed 80 refugees.

But the protest worked. The United Nations agency for refugees opened an office to take care of the more than 30,000 Iraqis living there.

Since Al Hailla spoke some English, he got a job as a translator for the agency. By 1992, people started to leave the camp for Britain, Sweden, Canada, the United States and any other countries that would grant them asylum.

Al Hailla's turn came in 1994, when he was finally allowed to go to the United States. But he said he was lucky. The resettlement program to other countries was discontinued due to lack of world attention. And after nearly 12 years, there are still more than 5,000 refugees living in Rafha camp.

Al Hailla, who now lives in Washington D.C. with his wife Victoria, said that after Sept. 11, there is even less of a chance to get his former comrades out of Rafha. "The Congress and the state department said, 'It's over.' We are trying to keep (Iraqis) here out of trouble, not getting any new people."

Al Hailla said he feels mixed about going home. Two out of his eight siblings live in Europe after leaving under similar circumstances. But his family still living in Iraq does not mention their names. "My family saw what happened to me and my elder brother and my sister and they don't even want to talk about it. Like they are dead."

Still, it is home.

"Even if it's a really bad experience it's still home that's the place where you live. And sometimes you think, 'Oh god, I just want to go back and swim …or sometimes you think, 'Oh no I don't want to go back to that horror again and sometimes you think, 'I want to work to change that so next generation will never face what we faced.' You know home is home."

Al Hailla said until the government changes it is not his decision to go back. But when he recalls ancient Babel, the village of his childhood, he finds his words. The words of a poet.

"Life is so simple when there is no war. You know you live and you don't see limits, you see the open sky and you are a kid and just run and run and run behind a soccer ball. It's all that. Plum trees. The food which is different than here. It is in general something forbidden that you want to see. And you cannot delete your memories."


Saturday 8 November 2008 (10 Dhul Qa`dah 1429)

Iraqis in Rafha camp still struggling for asylum
Ghazanfar Ali Khan | Arab News

RIYADH: A total of 106 Iraqi refugees living in Rafha camp for the past 18 years are still struggling to find a third country for asylum, Firas Kayal, external relations officer at the UNHRC Regional Office here, said.

Asylum cases of the Iraqis, who fled Iraq and came to Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War, are yet to be considered by other countries.

“The UNHCR, however, is very grateful to the Saudi government, which has been extremely generous in providing food, shelter and medicine besides other basic amenities of life to about 35,000 original Iraqi refugees, who fled to Saudi Arabia at that time,” said Kayal, speaking after the release of a UNHCR report concerning refugees on Thursday. The report, first released in Geneva, provides a statistical overview of asylum applications filed in 38 European and six non-European countries.

The UN refugee agency report shows that the number of Iraqis seeking asylum in industrialized countries dropped in the first six months of 2008, but they were still by far the top destinations of refugees seeking asylum. According to the report, the number of claims made by Iraqis (19,500) during the first six months of 2008, was higher than the combined number of asylum petitions submitted by citizens of the Russian Federation (9,400) and China (8,700), the second and third most important source countries.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ahmadinejad at Columbia


Iran's president at Columbia University - a transcript
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 09.25.2007

1:50 P.M. EDT, MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2007(Note: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments are through interpreter.)
MR. BOLLINGER: I would like to begin by thanking Dean John Coatsworth and Professor Richard Bulliet for their work in organizing this event and for their commitment to the School of International and Public Affairs and its role -- (interrupted by cheers, applause) -- and for its role in training future leaders in world affairs. If today proves anything, it will be that there is an enormous amount of work ahead of us. This is just one of many events on Iran that will run throughout the academic year, all to help us better understand this critical and complex nation in today's geopolitics.
Before speaking directly to the current president of Iran, I have a few critically important points to emphasize. First, in 2003 the World Leaders Forum has advanced Columbia's long-standing tradition of serving as a major forum for robust debate, especially on global issues. It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore in any way implies our endorsement of those ideas or our weakness of our resolve to resist those ideas or our naivety about the very real dangers inherent in such ideas. It is a critical premise of freedom of speech that we do not honor the dishonorable when we open our public forum to their voices; to hold otherwise would make vigorous debate impossible.
Second, to those who believe that this event should never have happened, that it is inappropriate for the university to conduct such an event, I want to say that I understand your perspective and respect it as reasonable. The scope of free speech in academic freedom should itself always be open to further debate. As one of the more famous quotations about free speech goes, it is an experiment as all life is an experiment. I want to say, however, as forcefully as I can that this is the right thing to do, and indeed it is required by the existing norms of free speech, the American university and Columbia itself.
Third, to those among us who experience hurt and pain as a result of this day, I say on behalf of all of us that we are sorry and wish to do what we can to alleviate it.
Fourth, to be clear on another matter, this event has nothing whatsoever to do with any rights of the speaker, but only with our rights to listen and speak. We do it for ourselves. We do it in the great tradition of openness that has defined this nation for many decades now. We need to understand the world we live in, neither neglecting its glories nor shrinking from its threats and dangers. It is inconsistent with the idea that one should know thine enemy -- I'm sorry -- it is consistent with the idea that one should know thine enemies, to have the intellectual and emotional courage to confront the mind of evil, and to prepare ourselves to act with the right temperament. In the moment, the arguments for free speech will never seem to match the power of the arguments against, but what we must remember is that this is precisely because free speech asks us to exercise extraordinary self-restraint against the very natural but often counterproductive impulses that lead us to retreat from engagement with ideas we dislike and fear. In this lies the genius of the American idea of free speech.
Lastly, in universities we have a deep and almost single-minded commitment to pursue the truth. We do not have access to the levers of power, we cannot make war or peace, we can only make minds, and to do this, we must have the most fulsome freedom of inquiry.
Let me now turn to Mr. Ahmadinejad.
First, on the brutal crackdown on scholars, journalists and human rights advocates. Over the past two weeks, your government has released Dr. Haleh Esfandiari and Parnaz Azima and just two days ago, Kian Tajbakhsh, a graduate of Columbia with a PhD in Urban Planning. While our community is relieved to learn of his release on bail, Dr. Tajbakhsh remains in Tehran under house arrest, and he still does not know whether he will be charged with a crime or allowed to leave the country.
Let me say this for the record, I call on the president today to ensure that Kian will be free to travel out of Iran as he wishes. (Applause.) Let me also report today that we are extending an offer to Kian to join our faculty as a visiting professor in Urban Planning here at his alma mater in our Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and we hope he will be able to join us next semester. (Applause.)
The arrest and imprisonment of these Iranian Americans for no good reason is not only unjustified, it runs completely counter to the very values that allow today's speaker to even appear on this campus, but at least they are alive.
According to Amnesty International, 210 people have been executing In Iran so far this year, 21 of them on the morning of September 5th alone. This annual total includes at two children, further proof, as Human Rights Watch puts it, that Iran leads the world in executing minors.
There is more. Iran hanged up 30 people this past July and August during a widely reported suppression of efforts to establish a more democratic society. Many of these executions were carried out in public view, a violation of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party. These executions and others have coincided with a wider crackdown on student activists and academics accused of trying to foment a so-called "soft revolution." This has included jailing and forced retirement of scholars. As Dr. Esfandiari said in a broadcast interview since her release, she was held in solitary confinement for 105 days because the government believes that the United States is planning a velvet revolution in Iran.
In this very room, last year we learned something about velvet revolutions from Vaclav Havel, and we will likely hear the same from our World Leaders Forum speaker this evening, President Michelle Bachelet of Chile. Both of their extraordinary stories remind us that there are not enough prisons to prevent an entire society that wants its freedom from achieving it.
We at this university have not been shy to protest the challenge -- and challenge the failures of our own government to live by our values, and we won't be shy about criticizing yours. Let's then be clear at the beginning. Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator. And so I ask you -- (applause) -- and so I ask you, why have women, members of the Baha'i faith, homosexuals and so many of our academic colleagues become targets of persecution in your country? Why, in a letter last week to the secretary-general of the U.N., did Akbar Ganji, Iran's leading political dissident, and over 300 public intellectuals, writers and Noble Laureates express such grave concern that your inflamed dispute with the West is distracting the world's attention from the intolerable conditions in your regime within Iran, in particular the use of the press law to ban writers for criticizing the ruling system? Why are you so afraid of Iranian citizens expressing their opinions for change?
In our country, you are interviewed by our press and asked to speak here today. And while my colleagues at the law school -- Michael Dorf, one of my colleagues, spoke to Radio Free Europe, viewers in Iran a short while ago on the tenants of freedom of speech in this country -- I propose further that you let me lead a delegation of students and faculty from Columbia to address your universities about free speech with the same freedom we afford you today. (Applause.)
Secondly, the denial of the Holocaust. In a December 2005 state television broadcast, you described the Holocaust as "a fabricated legend." One year later, you held a two-day conference of Holocaust deniers. For the illiterate and ignorant, this is dangerous propaganda.
When you have come to a place like this, this makes you, quite simply, ridiculous. You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated. You should know -- (applause) -- please -- you should know that Columbia is the world center of Jewish studies -- us a world center, and now in partnership with the -- Institute of Holocaust Studies.
Since the 1930s, we provided an intellectual home for countless Holocaust refugees and survivors and their children and grandchildren. The truth is that the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history. Because of this, and for many other reasons, your absurd comments about the debate over the Holocaust both defy historical truth and make all of us who continue to fear humanity's capacity for evil shudder at this closure of memory, which is always virtue's first line of defense. Will you cease this outrage?
The destruction of Israel. Twelve days ago you said that the state of Israel cannot continue its life. This echoed a number of inflammatory statements you have delivered in the past two years, including in October 2005, when you said that Israel "should be wiped off the map", quote-unquote. Columbia has over 800 alumni currently living in Israel. As an institution, we have deep ties with our colleagues there. I have personally spoken -- personally, I have spoken out in most forceful terms against proposals to boycott Israeli scholars (in/and ?) universities, saying that such boycotts might as well include Columbia. (Applause.)
More than 400 -- more than 400 -- more than 400 college and university presidents in this country have joined in that statement.
My question then is, do you plan on wiping us off the map too? (Applause.)
Funding terrorism: According to reports of the Council on Foreign Relations, it's well-documented that Iran is a state sponsor of terror that funds such violent groups as Lebanese Hezbollah, which Iran helped organize in the 1980s, Palestinian Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. While your predecessor government was instrumental in providing the U.S. with intelligence and base support in the 2001 campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan, your government is now undermining American troops in Iraq by funding, arming and providing safe transit to insurgent leaders like Muqtada al-Sadr and his forces. There are a number of reports that you also link your government with Syria's efforts to destabilize the fledgling Lebanese government through violence and political assassination.
My question is this: Why do you support well-documented terrorist organizations that continue to strike at peace and democracy in the Middle East, destroying lives and the civil society of the region?
The proxy war against the United States troops in Iraq -- in a briefing before the National Press Club earlier this month, General David Petraeus reported that arms supplies from Iran, including 240- millimeter rockets and explosively formed projectiles, are contributing to, quote, "a sophistication of attacks that would by no means be possible without Iranian support." A number of Columbia graduates and current students are among the brave members of our military who are serving or have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. They, like other Americans with sons, daughters, fathers, husbands and wives serving in combat, rightly see your government as the enemy.
Can you tell them and us why Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq by arming Shi'a militia targeting and killing U.S. troops?
And finally Iran's nuclear program and international sanctions: This week, the United Nations Security Council is contemplating expanding sanctions for a third time, because of your government's refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment program. You continue to defy this world body by claiming a right to develop a peaceful nuclear power, but this hardly withstands scrutiny when you continue to issue military threats to neighbors. Last week, French President Sarkozy made clear his lost patience with your stall tactics, and even Russia and China have shown concern.
Why does your country continue to refuse to adhere to international standards for nuclear weapons verification, in defiance of agreements that you have made with the U.N. nuclear agency? And why have you chosen to make the people of your country vulnerable to the effects of international economic sanctions, and threaten to engulf the world in nuclear annihilation? (Applause.)
Let me close with a comment. Frankly -- I close with this comment frankly and in all candor, Mr. President. I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions. But your avoiding them will in itself be meaningful to us. I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mindset that characterizes so much of what you say and do. Fortunately I am told by experts on your country that this only further undermines your position in Iran, with all the many good-hearted, intelligent citizens there.
A year ago, I am reliably told, your preposterous and belligerent statements in this country, as at one of the meetings at the Council on Foreign Relations, so embarrassed sensible Iranian citizens that this led to your party's defeat in the December mayoral elections. May this do that and more. (Applause.)
I am only a professor, who is also a university president.
And today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for. I only wish I could do better. Thank you. (Cheers, extended applause.)
MR. COATSWORTH: Thank you, Lee.
Our principal speaker today is His Excellency the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mr. President. (Applause.)
INTERPRETER: The president is reciting verses from the Holy Koran in Arabic. (Not translated.)
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Oh, God, hasten the arrival of Imam al- Mahdi and grant him good health and victory, and make us his followers and those who attest to his (rightfulness ?).
Distinguished Dean, dear professors and students, ladies and gentlemen. At the outset, I would like to extend my greetings to all of you. I am grateful to the Almighty God for providing me with the opportunity to be in an academic environment, those seeking truth and striving for the promotion of science and knowledge.
At the outset, I want to complain a bit on the person who read this political statement against me. In Iran, tradition requires that when we demand a person to invite us as a -- to be a speaker, we actually respect our students and the professors by allowing them to make their own judgment, and we don't think it's necessary before the speech is even given to come in -- (applause) -- with a series of claims and to attempt in a so-called manner to provide vaccination of some sort to our students and our faculty.
I think the text read by the (dear ?) gentleman here, more than addressing me, was an insult to information and the knowledge of the audience here, present here. In a university environment, we must allow people to speak their mind, to allow everyone to talk so that the truth is eventually revealed by all. Most certainly he took more than all the time I was allocated to speak. And that's fine with me. We'll just leave that to add up with the claims of respect for freedom and the freedom of speech that is given to us in this country.
In many parts of his speech, there were many insults and claims that were incorrect, regretfully. Of course, I think that he was affected by the press, the media and the political sort of mainstream line that you read here, that goes against the very grain of the need for peace and stability in the world around us.
Nonetheless, I should not begin by being affected by this unfriendly treatment.
I will tell you what I have to say, and then the questions he can raise and I'll be happy to provide answers. But for one of the issues that he did raise, I most certainly would need to elaborate further so that we for ourselves can see how things fundamentally work.
It was my decision in this valuable forum and meeting to speak with you about the importance of knowledge, of information, of education. Academics and religious scholars are shining torches who shed light in order to remove darkness and the ambiguities around us in guiding humanity out of ignorance and perplexity. The key to the understanding of the realities around us rests in the hands of the researchers, those who seek to undiscover (sic) areas that are hidden, the unknown sciences. The windows of realities that they can open is done only through efforts of the scholars and the learned people in this world. With every effort, there is a window that is opened and one reality is discovered.
Whenever the high stature of science and wisdom is preserved and the dignity of scholars and researchers are respected, humans have taken great strides towards their material and spiritual promotion. In contrast, whenever learned people and knowledge have been neglected, humans have become stranded in the darkness of ignorance and negligence. If it were not for human instinct, which tends towards continual discovery of the truth, humans would have always remained stranded in ignorance and no way would have discovered how to improve the lives that we are given. The nature of man is, in fact, a gift granted by the Almighty to all. The Almighty led mankind into this world and granted him wisdom and knowledge as his (kind ?) gift, enabling him to know his God.
In the story of Adam, a conversation occurs between the Almighty and his angels. The angels called human beings an ambitious and merciless creature and protested against his creation, but the Almighty responded, quote, "I have knowledge of what you are ignorant of," unquote. Then the Almighty told Adam the truth, and on the order of the Almighty, Adam revealed it to the angels.
The angels could not understand the truth as revealed by the human beings.
The Almighty said to them, quote, "Did not I say that I am aware of what is hidden in heaven and in the universe?" unquote. In this way, the angels prostrated themselves before Adam.
In the mission of all divine prophets, the first sermons were of the words of God, and those words "piety," "faith" and "wisdom" have been spread to all mankind. Guiding the holy prophet Moses -- may peace be upon him -- God says, quote, "And he was taught wisdom, the divine book, the Old Testament and the New Testament. He is the prophet appointed for the sake of the children of Israel, and I rightfully brought a sign from the Almighty. Holy Koran -- (inaudible word) -- sura," unquote.
The first words which were revealed to the holy prophet of Islam call the prophet to read, quote, "Read, read in the name of your God, who supersedes everything," unquote. The Almighty, quote again, "who taught the human being with the pen," unquote; quote, "the Almighty taught human beings what they were ignorant of," unquote.
You see in the first verses revealed to the holy prophet of Islam words of reading, teaching and the pen are mentioned. These verses in fact introduce the Almighty as the teacher of human beings, the teacher who taught humans what they were ignorant of. And another part of the -- (inaudible word) -- on the mission on the holy prophet of Islam -- it is mentioned that the Almighty appointed someone from amongst the common people as their prophet in order to, quote, "Read for them the divine verses," unquote; and, quote again, "and purify them from ideological and ethical contaminations," unquote; and, quote again, "to teach them the divine book and wisdom," unquote.
My dear friends, all the words and messages of the divine prophets, from Abraham and Isaac and Jacob to David and Soliman and Moses to Jesus and Mohammed, delivered humans from ignorance, negligence, superstitions, unethical behavior and corrupted ways of thinking with respect to knowledge and a path to knowledge, light and rightful ethics.
In our culture, the word "science" has been defined as "illumination." In fact, the "science" means "brightness" and the real science is a science which rescues the human being from ignorance to his own benefit. In one of the widely accepted definitions of science, it is stated that it is the light which sheds to the hearts of those who have been selected by the Almighty; therefore, according to this definition, science is a divine gift, and the heart is where it resides.
If we accept that "science" means "illumination," then its scope supersedes the experimental sciences, and it includes every hidden and disclosed reality. One of the main harms inflicted against science is to limit it to experimental and physical sciences; this harm occurs even though it extends far beyond this scope.
Realities of the world are not limited to physical realities. And the material is just a shadow of supreme realities, and physical creation is just one of the stories of the creation of the world. Human being is just an example of the creation that is a combination of the material and the spirit.
And another important point is the relationship of science and purity of spirit, life, behavior and ethics of the human being. In the teachings of the divine prophet, one reality shall always be attached to science. The reality of purity of spirit and good behavior, knowledge and wisdom is pure and clear reality. It is -- science is a light. It is a discovery of reality, and only a pure scholar and researcher, free from wrong ideologies, superstitions, selfishness and material trappings, can discover the reality.
My dear friends and scholars, distinguished participants, science and wisdom can also be misused, a misuse caused by selfishness, corruption, material desires and material interests, as well as individual and group interests. Material desires place humans against the realities of the world. Corrupted independent human beings resist acceptance of reality and even if they do accept it, they do not obey it.
There are many scholars who are aware of the realities but do not accept them. Their selfishness does not allow them to accept those realities. Did those who in the course of human history wage wars not understand the reality that lives, properties, dignity, territories and the rights of all human beings should be respected? Or did they understand it but neither have faith in nor abide by it?
My dear friends, as long as the human heart is not free from hatred, envy and selfishness, it does not abide by the truth, by the illumination of science and science itself. Science is the light and scientists must be pure and pious. If humanity achieves the highest level of physical and spiritual knowledge, but its scholars and scientists are not pure, then this knowledge cannot serve the interest of humanity, and several events can ensue.
First, the wrongdoers reveal only a part of the reality which is to their own benefit and conceal the rest, as we have witnessed with respect to the scholars of the divine religions in the past too. Unfortunately today we see that certain researchers and scientists are still hiding the truth from the people.
Second, scientists and scholars are misused for personal, group or party interests. So in today's world, ruling powers are misusing many scholars and scientists in different fields, with the purpose of stripping nations of their wealth.
And they use all opportunities only for their own benefit.
For example, they deceive people by using scientific methods and tools. They, in fact, wish to justify their own wrongdoings, though, by creating nonexistent enemies, for example, and have insecure atmosphere. They try to control all in the name of combatting insecurity and terrorism. They even violate individual and social freedoms in their own nations under that pretext. They do not respect the privacy of their own people. They tap telephone calls and try to control their people. They create an insecure psychological atmosphere in order to justify their warmongering acts in different parts of the world.
As another example, by using precise scientific methods and planning, they begin their onslaught on the domestic cultures of nations, the cultures which are the result of thousands of years of interaction, creativity and artistic activities. They try to eliminate these cultures in order to separate the people from their identity and cut their bonds with their own history and values. They prepare the ground for stripping people from their spiritual and material wealth by instilling in them feelings of intimidation, desire for imitation and mere consumption, submission to oppressive powers, and disability.
Making nuclear, chemical and biological bombs and weapons of mass destruction is yet another result of the misuse of science and research by the big powers. Without cooperation of certain scientists and scholars, we would not have witnessed production of different nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Are these weapons to protect global security? What can a perpetual nuclear umbrella threat achieve for the sake of humanity? If nuclear war wages between nuclear powers, what human catastrophe will take place? Today we can see the nuclear effects in even new generations of Nagasaki and Hiroshima residents which might be witness in even the next generations to come. Presently, effects of the depleted uranium used in weapons since the beginning of the war in Iraq can be examined and investigated accordingly. These catastrophes take place only when scientists and scholars are misused by oppressors.
Another point of sorrow, some big powers create a monopoly over science and prevent other nations in achieving scientific development as well.
This, too, is one of the surprises of our time. Some big powers do not want to see the progress of other societies and nations. They turn to thousands of reasons, make allegations, place economic sanctions to prevent other nations from developing and advancing, all resulting from their distance from human values, moral values and the teachings of the divine prophet. Regretfully, they have not been trained to serve mankind.
Dear academics, dear faculty and scholars, students, I believe that the biggest God-given gift to man is science and knowledge. Man's search for knowledge and the truth through science is what it guarantees to do in getting close to God, but science has to combine with the purity of the spirit and of the purity of man's spirit so that scholars can unveil the truth and then use that truth for advancing humanity's cause.
These scholars would be not only people who would guide humanity, but also guide humanity towards the future, better future. And it is necessary that big powers should not allow mankind to engage in monopolistic activities and to prevent other nations from achieving that science. Science is a divine gift by God to everyone, and therefore it must remain pure. God is aware of all reality. All researchers and scholars are loved by God.
So I hope there will be a day where these scholars and scientists will rule the world and God himself will arrive with Moses and Christ and Mohammed to rule the world and to take us towards justice.
I'd like to thank you now, but refer to two points made in the introduction given about me, and then I will be open for any questions.
Last year, I would say two years ago, I raised two questions. You know that my main job is a university instructor. Right now as president of Iran I still continue teaching graduate and Ph.D.-level courses on a weekly basis. My students are working with me in scientific fields. I believe that I am an academic myself, so I speak with you from an academic point of view.
And I raised two questions. But instead of a response, I got a wave of insults and allegations against me, and regretfully, they came mostly from groups who claimed most to believe in the freedom of speech and the freedom of information. You know quite well that Palestine is an old wound, as old as 60 years.
For 60 years, these people are displaced; for 60 years, these people are being killed; for 60 years, on a daily basis, there's conflict and terror; for 60 years, innocent women and children are destroyed and killed by helicopters and airplanes that break the house over their heads; for 60 years, children in kindergartens in schools, in high schools are in prison being tortured; for 60 years, security in the Middle East has been in danger; for 60 years, the slogan of expansionism from the Nile to the Euphrates has been chanted by certain groups in that part of the world.
And as an academic, I ask two questions, the same two questions that I will ask here again. And you judge for yourselves whether the response to these questions should be the insults, the allegations and all the words and the negative propaganda, or should we really try and face these two questions and respond to them? Like you, like any academic, I, too, will keep -- not get -- become silent until I get the answers, so I am awaiting logical answers instead of insults.
My first question was, if, given that the Holocaust is a present reality of our time, a history that occurred, why is there not sufficient research that can approach the topic from different perspectives? Our friends refer to 1930 as the point of the departure for this development; however, I believe the Holocaust, from what we read, happened during World War II after 1930 in the 1940s. So, you know, we have to really be able to trace the event.
My question was simple. There are researchers who want to push the topic from a different perspective. Why are they put into prison? Right now there are a number of European academics who have been sent to prison because they attempted to write about the Holocaust, so researchers from a different perspective, questioning certain aspects of it -- my question is, why isn't it open to all forms of research? I have been told that there's been enough research on the topic. And I ask, well, when it comes to topics such as freedom, topics such as democracy, concepts and norms such as God, religion, physics even or chemistry, there's been a lot of research, but we still continue more research on those topics. We encourage it. But then why don't we encourage more research on a historical event that has become the root, the cause of many heavy catastrophes in the region in this time and age? Why shouldn't there be more research about the root causes? That was my first question.
And my second question -- well, given this historical event, if it is a reality, we need to still question whether the Palestinian people should be paying for it or not. After all, it happened in Europe. The Palestinian people had no role to play in it. So why is it that the Palestinian people are paying the price of an event they had nothing to do with?
The Palestinian people didn't commit any crime. They had no role to play in World War II. They were living with the Jewish communities and the Christian communities in peace at the time. They didn't have any problems. And today, too, Jews, Christians and Muslims live in brotherhood all over the world, in many parts of the world. They don't have any serious problems.
But why is it that the Palestinians should pay a price, innocent Palestinians? For 5 million people to remain displaced or refugees of war for 60 years are -- is this not a crime? Is asking about these crimes a crime by itself? Why should an academic, myself, face insults when asking questions like this? Is this what you call freedom and upholding the freedom of thought?
And as for the second topic, Iran's nuclear issue -- I know there's time limits, but I need time. I mean, a lot of time was taken from me.
We are a country. We are a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency. For over 33 years we were a member state of the agency. The bylaw of the agency explicitly states that all member states have the right to the peaceful nuclear fuel technology. This is an explicit statement made in the bylaw. And the bylaw says that there is no pretext or excuse, even the inspections carried by the IAEA itself -- that can prevent member states' right to have that right.
Of course, the IAEA is responsible to carry out inspections. We are one of the countries that's carried out the most amount of -- level of cooperation with the IAEA. They've had hours and weeks and days of inspections in our country. And over and over again, the agency's reports indicate that Iran's activities are peaceful, that they have not detected a deviation, and that Iran has -- they've received positive cooperation from Iran. But regretfully, two or three monopolistic powers, selfish powers, want to force their word on the Iranian people and deny them their right. They keep saying -- one minute. (Laughter, applause.)
They tell us you don't let them -- they won't let them inspect. Why not? Of course we do. How come is it anyway that you have that right and we can't have it? We want to have the right to peaceful nuclear energy. They tell us, "Don't make it yourself. We'll give it to you."
Well, in the past, I tell you, we had contracts with the U.S. government, with the British government, the French government, the German government and the Canadian government on nuclear development for peaceful purposes. But unilaterally, each and every one of them canceled their contracts with us, as a result of which the Iranian people had to pay the heavy cost in billions of dollars.
Why do we need the fuel from you? You've not even given us spare aircraft parts that we need for civilian aircraft for 28 years, under the name of the embargo and sanctions, because we are against, for example, human rights or freedom? Under that pretext you deny us that technology?
We want to have the right to self-determination towards our future. We want to be independent. Don't interfere in us. If you don't give us spare parts for civilian aircraft, what is the expectation that you'd give us fuel for nuclear development for peaceful purposes?
For 30 years we've faced these problems; for over $5 billion to the Germans and then to the Russians, but we haven't gotten anything, and the worst have not been completed. It is our right, we want our right, and we don't want anything beyond the law, nothing less than what international law. We are a peaceful-loving nation. We love all nations. (Applause, cheers, booing.)
MR. COATSWORTH: Mr. President, your statements here today and in the past have provoked many questions which I would like to pose to you on behalf of the students and faculty who have submitted them to me.
Let me begin with the question to which you just --
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: (In English.) It is one by one, one by one.
MR. COATSWORTH: One by one, it is, yes. (Applause.)
The first question is: Do you or your government seek the destruction of the state of Israel as a Jewish state?
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: We love all nations. We are friends with the Jewish people. There are many Jews in Iran living peacefully with security. You must understand that in our constitution, in our laws, in the parliamentary elections, for every 150,000 people we get one representative in the parliament. For the Jewish community, one-fifth of this number they still get one independent representative in the parliament. So our proposal to the Palestinian plight is a humanitarian and democratic proposal.
What we say is that to solve the 60-year problem we must allow the Palestinian people to decide about its future for itself. This is compatible with the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and the fundamental principles enshrined in it. We must allow Jewish Palestinians, Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians to determine their own fate themselves through a free referendum. Whatever they choose as a nation everybody should accept and respect. Nobody should interfere in the affairs of the Palestinian nation. Nobody should sow the seeds of discord. Nobody should spend tens of billions of dollars equipping and arming one group there.
We say allow the Palestinian nation to decide its own future, to have the right to self-determination for itself. This is what we are saying as the Iranian nation. (Applause.)
MR. COATSWORTH: Mr. President, I think many members of our audience would be -- would like to hear a clearer answer to that question, that is -- (interrupted by cheers, applause).
The question is: Do you or your government seek the destruction of the state of Israel as a Jewish state? And I think you could answer that question with a single word, either yes or no. (Cheers, applause.)
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: And then you want the answer the way you want to hear it. Well, this isn't really a free flow of information. I'm just telling you where I -- what my position is. (Applause.)
I'm asking you, is the Palestinian issue not an international issue of prominence or not? Please tell me, yes or no. (Laughter, applause.)
There's a plight of a people.
MR. COATSWORTH: The answer to your question is yes. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Well, thank you for your cooperation.
It is -- we recognize there is a problem there that's been going on for 60 years. Everybody provides a solution, and our solution is a free referendum. Let this referendum happen, and then you'll see what the results are. Let the people of Palestine freely choose what they want for their future. And then what you want in your mind to happen, it will happen and will be realized. (Applause.)
MR. COATSWORTH: Which was posed by President Bollinger earlier and comes from a number of other students. Why is your government providing aid to terrorists? Will you stop doing so and permit international monitoring to certify that you have stopped?
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Well, I want to pose a question here to you. If someone comes and explodes bombs around you, threatens your president, members of the administration, kills the members of the Senate or Congress, how would you treat them? Would you award them or would you name them a terrorist group? Well, it's clear. You would call them a terrorist.
My dear friends, the Iranian nation is a victim of terrorism. For -- 26 years ago, where I work, close to where I work, in a terrorist operation, the elected president of the Iranian nation and the elected prime minister of Iran lost their lives in a bomb explosion. They turned into ashes.
A month later, in another terrorist operation, 72 members of our parliament and highest ranking officials, including four ministers and eight deputy ministers, bodies were shattered into pieces as a result of terrorist attacks. Within six months, over 4,000 Iranians lost their lives, assassinated by terrorist groups, all this carried out by the hand of one single terrorist group. Regretfully that same terrorist group, now, today, in your country, is being -- operating under the support of the U.S. administration, working freely, distributing declarations freely. And their camps in Iraq are supported by the U.S. government. They're secured by the U.S. government.
Our nation has been harmed by terrorist activities. We were the first nation that objected to terrorism and the first to uphold the need to fight terrorism. (Applause.)
MR. COATSWORTH: A number of questioners, sorry, a number of people have asked.
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: We need to address the root causes of terrorism and eradicate those root causes.
We live in the Middle East. For us, it's quite clear which powers sort of incite terrorists, support them, fund them. We know that. Our nation, the Iranian nation, through history has always extended a hand of friendship to other nations. We're a cultured nation. We don't need to resort to terrorism.
We've been victims of terrorism ourselves, and it's regrettable that people who argue they're fighting terrorism, instead of supporting the Iranian people and nation, instead of fighting the terrorists that are attacking them, they're supporting the terrorists and then turn the fingers to us. This is most regrettable.
MR. COATSWORTH: A further set of questions challenge your view of the Holocaust. Since the evidence that this occurred in Europe in the 1940s as a result of the actions of the German Nazi government, since that -- those facts are well-documented, why are you calling for additional research? There seems to be no purpose in doing so, other than to question whether the Holocaust actually occurred as an historical fact. Can you explain why you believe more research is needed into the facts of what are -- what is incontrovertible?
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Thank you very much for your question. I am an academic, and you are as well. Can you argue that researching a phenomenon is finished forever, done? Can we close the books for good on a historical event? There are different perspectives that come to light after every research is done. Why should we stop research at all? Why should we stop the progress of science and knowledge? You shouldn't ask me why I'm asking questions. You should ask yourselves why you think that it's questionable.
Why do you want to stop the progress of science and research? Do you ever take what's known as absolute in physics? We had principles in mathematics that were granted to be absolute in mathematics for over 800 years, but new science has gotten rid of those absolutism, gotten -- forward other different logics of looking at mathematics, and sort of turned the way we look at it as a science altogether after 800 years. So we must allow researchers, scholars to investigate into everything, every phenomenon -- God, universe, human beings, history, and civilization. Why should we stop that?
I'm not saying that it didn't happen at all. This is not (the ?) judgment that I'm passing here. I said in my second question, granted this happened, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people? This is a serious question. They're two dimension. In the first question, I --
MR. COATSWORTH: Let me just -- let me pursue this a bit further. It is difficult to have a scientific discussion if there isn't at least some basis -- some empirical basis, some agreement about what the facts are. So, calling for research into the facts when the facts are so well-established represents for many a challenging of the facts themselves and a denial that something terrible occurred in Europe in those years. (Applause.)
Let me move on to -- (pause).
Mr. President, another student asks, Iranian women are now denied basic human rights, and your government has imposed draconian punishments, including execution on Iranian citizens who are homosexuals. Why are you doing those things?
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Those in Iran are genuine true freedoms. The Iranian people are free. Women in Iran enjoy the highest levels of freedoms. We have two deputy vice -- well, two vice presidents that are female at the highest levels of speciality; specialized (roles ?) in our parliament and our government and our universities, they are present in our biotechnological fields and our technological fields. There are hundreds of women scientists that are active in the political realm as well.
It's not -- it's wrong for some governments, when they disagree with another government, to sort of -- try to spread lies that distort the full truth. Our nation is free. It has the highest level of participation in elections. In Iran, 80 percent -- 90 percent of the people turn out for votes during the elections, half of which -- over half of which are women, so how can we say that women are not free? Is that the entire truth?
But as for the executions, I'd like to raise two questions. If someone comes and establishes a network for illicit drug trafficking that affects the (use ?) in Iran, Turkey, Europe, the United States by introducing these illicit drugs and destroys them, would you ever reward them? People who lead the lives -- cause the deterioration of the lives of hundreds of millions of youth around the world, including in Iran, can we have any sympathy to them? Don't you have capital punishment in the United States? You do, too. (Applause.)
In Iran, too, there's capital punishment for illicit drug traffickers, for people who violate the rights of people.
If somebody takes up a gun, goes into a house, kills a group of people there, and then tries to take ransom, how would you confront them in Iran with -- in the United States? Would you reward them? Can a physician allow microbes, symbolically speaking, to spread across a nation? We have laws. People who violate the public rights of the people by using guns, killing people, creating insecurity, sell drugs, distribute drugs at a high level are sentenced to execution in Iran, and some of these punishments -- very few are carried in the public eye, before the public eye. It's a law based on democratic principles. You use injections and microbes to kill these people, and they are executed or they're hung, but the end result is killing.
MR. COATSWORTH: (Off mike) -- and drug smugglers. The question was about sexual preference and women. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country. (Laughter.) We don't have that in our country. (Booing.) In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have it. (Laughter.)
But as for women, maybe you think that being a woman is a crime. It's not a crime to be a woman. Women are the best creatures created by God. They represent the kindness, the beauty that God instills in them. Women are respected in Iran. In Iran, every family who's given a girl is given -- in every Iranian family who has a girl, they're 10 times happier than having a son. Women are respected more than men are. They are exempt from many responsibilities. Many of the legal responsibilities rest on the shoulders of men in our society because of the respect culturally given to women, to the future mothers. In Iranian culture, men and sons and girls constantly kiss the hands of their mothers as a sign of respect, a respect for women, and we are proud of this culture.
MR. COATSWORTH: (Off mike) -- one is, what did you hope to accomplish by speaking at Columbia today?
And the second is, what would you have said if you were permitted to visit the site of the September 11th tragedy?
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Well, here I'm your guest. I've been invited by Columbia, an official invitation given for me to come here, but I do want to say something here.
In Iran, when you invite a guest you respect them. This is our tradition required by our culture, and I know that American people have that culture as well.
Last year, I wanted to go to the site of the September 11th tragedy to show respect to the victims of the tragedy, show my sympathy with their families, but our plans got overextended. We were involved in negotiations and meetings `till midnight, and they said it would be very difficult to go visit the site at that late hour of the night. So I told my friends then that we need to plan this for the following year, so that I can go and visit the site and to show my respects. Regretfully, some groups had very strong reactions, very bad reactions. It's bad for someone -- to prevent someone to show sympathy to the families of the victims of the September 11 event -- tragic event.
This is a respect from my side. Somebody told me this is an insult. I said: What are you saying? This is my way of showing my respect. Why would you think that? Thinking like that, how do you expect to manage the world and world affairs? Don't you think that a lot of problems in the world come from the way you look at issues because of this kind of way of thinking, because of this sort of pessimistic approach towards a lot of people because of certain level of selfishness, self-absorption that needs to be put aside so that we can show respect to everyone, to allow an environment for friendship to grow, to allow all nations to talk with one another and move towards peace?
I wanted to speak with the press. There is 11 September -- September 11 tragic event was a huge event. It led to a lot of many other events afterwards. After 9/11, Afghanistan was occupied and then Iraq was occupied, and for six years in our region there is insecurity, terror and fear. If the root causes of 9/11 are examined properly -- why it happened, what caused it, what were the conditions that led to it, who truly was involved, who was really involved -- and put it all together to understand how to prevent the crisis in Iraq, fix the problem in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.
MR. COATSWORTH: A number of questions have asked about your nuclear program. Why is your government seeking to acquire enriched uranium suitable for nuclear weapons? Will you stop doing so?
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Our nuclear program, first and foremost, operates within the framework of law, and second, under the inspections of the IAEA, and thirdly, they are completely peaceful. The technology we have is for enrichment below the level of 5 percent level, and any level below 5 percent is solely for providing fuel to power plants. Repeated reports by the IAEA explicitly say that there is no indication that Iran has deviated from the peaceful path of its nuclear program. We're all well aware that Iran's nuclear issue is a political issue; it's not a legal issue.
The International Atomic Energy Organization -- Agency has verified that our activities are for peaceful purposes. But there are two or three powers that think that they have the right to monopolize all science and knowledge. And they expect the Iranian people, the Iranian nation, to turn to others to get fuel, to get science, to get knowledge that's indigenous to itself -- to humble itself. And then they would of course refrain from giving it to us too.
So we're quite clear on what we need. If you have created the fifth generation of atomic bombs and are testing them already, what position are you in to question the peaceful purposes of other people who want nuclear power? (Applause.) We do not believe in nuclear weapons, period. It goes against the whole grain of humanity.
So let me just tell a joke here. I think the politicians who are after atomic bombs or are testing them, making them -- politically they are backward, retarded. (Applause.)
MR. COATSWORTH: I know your time is short and that you need to move on.
Is Iran prepared to open broad discussions with the government of the United States? What would Iran hope to achieve in such discussions? How do you see, in the future, a resolution of the points of conflict between the government of the United States and the government of Iran?
PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: From the start, we announced that we are ready to negotiate with all countries. Since 28 years ago, when our revolution succeeded and we established -- we took freedom and democracy that was held at bay by a pro-Western dictatorship, we announced our readiness that besides two countries, we are ready to have friendly relations and talks with all countries of the world. One of those two was the apartheid regime of South Africa, which has been eliminated, and the second is the Zionist regime. For everybody else around the world, we announced that we want to have friendly, brotherly ties.
The Iranian nation is a cultured nation. It is a civilized nature. It seeks, it wants, new talks and negotiations. It's for it. We believe that in negotiations and talks, everything can be resolved very easily. We don't need threats; we don't need to point bombs or guns; we don't need to get into conflict if we talk. We have a clear logical about that.
We question the way the world is being run and managed today. We believe that it will not lead to viable peace and security for the world, the way it's run today. We have solutions based on humane values and for relations among states. With the U.S. government, too, we will negotiate. We don't have any issues about that, under fair, just circumstances with mutual respect on both sides.
You saw that in order to help the security of Iraq, we had three rounds of talks with the United States. And last year, before coming to New York, I announced that I am ready, in the United Nations, to engage in a debate with Mr. Bush, the president of the United States, about critical international issues. So that shows that we want to talk, having a debate before the world public -- before all the audience, so that truth is revealed, so that misunderstandings and misperceptions are removed, so that we can find a clear path for brotherly and friendly relations. I think that if the U.S. administration -- if the U.S. government puts aside some of its old behaviors, it can actually be a good friend for the Iranian people, for the Iranian nation.
For 28 years they've consistently threatened us, insulted us, prevented our scientific development, every day under one pretext or another. You all know Saddam the dictator was supported by the government of the United States and some Europeans countries in attacking Iran. And in -- he carried out an eight-year war, a criminal war. Over 200,000 Iranians were -- lost their lives. Over 600,000 Iranians were hurt as a result of a war. He used chemical weapons; thousands of Iranians were victims of chemical weapons that he used against us. Today, Mr. Nobal Vinh (ph), who is a reporter, an official reporter, international reporter, who was covering U.N. reports in U.N. for many years, he is one of the victims of the chemical weapons used by Iraq against us.
And since then, we've been under different propaganda sort of embargoes, economic sanctions, political sanctions. Why? Because we got rid of a dictator? Because we wanted the freedom and democracy that we got for ourselves? But we can't always tell. We think that if the U.S. government recognizes the rights of the Iranian people, respects all nations, and extends a hand of friendship with all Iranians, they too will see that Iranians will be one of its best friends.
Will you allow me to thank the audience a moment?
I -- well, there are many things that I would have liked to cover, but I don't want to take your time any further. I was asked, would I allow the faculty and Columbia students here to come to Iran? From this platform, I invite Columbia faculty members and students to come and visit Iran, to speak with our university students. You are officially invited. (Applause).
University faculty and the students that the university decides are the student association's chosen select are welcome to come. You're welcome to visit any university that you choose inside Iran. We'll provide you with a list of the universities. There are over 400 universities in our country, and you can choose whichever you want to go and visit.
We'll give you the true platform. You can -- we'll respect you 100 percent. We will have our students sit there and listen to you, speak with you, hear what you have to say.
Right now in our universities on a daily basis, there are hundreds of meetings like this. They hear, they talk, they ask questions, they welcome it.
In the end, I'd like to thank Columbia University. I had heard that many politicians in the United States are trained in Columbia University, and there are many people here who believe in the freedom of speech, in clear, frank conversations; I do like to extend my gratitude to the managers here in the United States -- at Columbia University -- I apologize -- the people who so well-organized this meeting today. I'd like to extend my deepest gratitude to the faculty members and the dear students here. I ask Almighty God to assist all of us to move hand in hand to establish peace and future filled with friendship and justice and brotherhood. Best of luck to all of you. (Applause.)
MR. BOLLINGER: I'm sorry that President Ahmadinejad's schedule makes it necessary for him to leave before he's been able to answer many of the questions that we have or even answer some of the ones that we posed to him. (Laughter, applause.) But I think we can all be pleased that his appearance here demonstrates Columbia's deep commitment to free expression and debate. I want to thank you all for coming to participate. (Applause.)
Thank you.
Transcript courtesy of the Israel Project