2011-08-13 Human Rights News

Current news of any violations, legal progress, setbacks or other news in human rights as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Syria: Assad continues to ignore the UN security council, the Arab League, the governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and almost everyone else, killing at least 90 civilians this week, for a total of almost 2000 since the protests began in March.

United States: A US federal appeals court ruled on August 8 that former Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld had no immunity against being sued personally by US citizens Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel who allege torture at the hands of US troops. Last week, a US district judge in Washington ruled separately that a former American military contractor who also claims he was tortured in Iraq could sue Mr Rumsfeld. A lawyer for Mr Rumsfeld said the decision “puts American soldiers at risk”. Further appeals by the US justice department to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals or to the US Supreme Court are possible.

On July 12, Human Rights Watch produced an extensive report entitled Getting Away with Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees.

Carol Rosenberg covers the rehearsals for Guantanamo trials.

Cageprisoners reports A New York judge has declined to force an investigation into whether an Army psychologist developed abusive interrogation techniques for Guantánamo Bay detainees and should be stripped of his license.

Charles Graner, who was convicted of leading his six-member team in the sexual humiliation of naked prisoners as documented in the Abu Ghraib photos, was released after serving more than six-and-a-half years of a 10-year sentence.

Kyrgyzstan: Osmonjon Khalmurzaev, a Russian citizen, died two days after being released from police custody where he was allegedly tortured, Human Rights Watch reports.“Khalmurzaev’s torture and death show the chilling consequences that can result from total impunity for law enforcement officials who use torture for investigation or personal enrichment.” the family’s lawyer stated.

England: UK Prime Minister David Cameron supports plans by estate councils to evict familes from council housing if one member was involved in rioting, in addition to imposingharsh sentencing within the legal system. There are reports of an eviction which has already been served to a family which includes an 18 year old who has been only charged (not convicted) of burglary and violent disorder. The family also includes an eight year old girl. Other evictions reportedly include the family of a 12-year-old boy photographed stealing a £7.49 bottle of wine.

Cameron is also considering restrictions on social media websites, disrupting the use of cell phones services, messaging services or social networking tools, banning or removing face coverings, using the army to help quell riots and the use of water cannon and dye sprays.

Iran: The Committee to Protect Journalists reports “In recent days, Iranian authorities increased a prominent journalist’s prison term by two years and arrested a critical journalist who had just finished serving a prison sentence. Other journalists have suffered from declining health as a result of substandard conditions, extended periods in solitary confinement, and intentional abuse, according to news reports.

2011-05-23 Iran launches Human Rights News Agency to report violations by the west, not to be confused with Human Rights Activists News Agency which reports violations by Iran

Mohammad Karim Abedi, a member of the Iranian Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, announced last week that Iran will launch an English news group, The Human Rights News Agency, to publicize human rights violations in the west. Today, Chairwoman of the Human Rights Committee of the Parliament (Majlis) Zohreh Elahian told Fars News Agency, that human rights violations from countries such as the United States and Britain are grave. She called on Iranian NGO’s to increase publicity around these violations.

On May 13 Amnesty International published a report on the United States, which summarized:“Forty-six people were executed during the year, and reports of excessive use of force and cruel prison conditions continued. Scores of men remained in indefinite military detention in Guantánamo as President Obama’s one-year deadline for closure of the facility there came and went. Military commission proceedings were conducted in a handful of cases, and the only Guantánamo detainee so far transferred to the US mainland for prosecution in a federal court was tried and convicted. Hundreds of people remained held in US military custody in the US detention facility on the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. The US authorities blocked efforts to secure accountability and remedy for crimes under international law committed against detainees previously subjected to the USA’s secret detention and rendition programme.”

Amnesty expressed concern at the “Impunity” granted criminals in the US, pointing out“There continued to be an absence of accountability and remedy for the human rights violations, including the crimes under international law of torture and enforced disappearance, committed as part of the USA’s programme of secret detention and rendition.”

The report on the United Kingdom is summarized: “An inquiry into allegations of UK involvement in torture and other human rights violations of people held overseas was announced. Key counter-terrorism powers were under review. The government continued to rely on diplomatic assurances in its attempts to return individuals to countries where torture is practised. Allegations of human rights abuses by UK soldiers in Iraq continued to emerge. The Bloody Sunday Inquiry concluded that the deaths and injuries caused by British soldiers that day were unjustified. Forced returns to Baghdad continued.”

While the Amnesty reports on every country deserve close scrutiny, it is quickly obvious that the reports on the United States and the United Kingdom justify the need for one or many news organizations devoted to detailing their human rights abuses. Presumably, the Human Rights News Agency is not to be confused with the Human Rights Activists News Agency, established in 2009 to “report and disseminate daily news of human rights violations in Iran.”

Iran’s own Amnesty report is summarized: “The authorities maintained severe restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly. Sweeping controls on domestic and international media aimed at reducing Iranians’ contact with the outside world were imposed. Individuals and groups risked arrest, torture and imprisonment if perceived as co-operating with human rights and foreign-based Persian-language media organizations. Political dissidents, women’s and minority rights activists and other human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and students were rounded up in mass and other arrests and hundreds were imprisoned. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees were routine and committed with impunity. Women continued to face discrimination under the law and in practice. The authorities acknowledged 252 executions, but there were credible reports of more than 300 other executions. The true total could be even higher. At least one juvenile offender was executed. Sentences of death by stoning continued to be passed, but no stonings were known to have been carried out. Floggings and an increased number of amputations were carried out.”

US news site Mother Jones commented, “Thanks to its focus on the West, the news agency can conveniently ignore the situation back home.” This is true. And vice versa.

2011-01-28 Cable: Qatar on the Israeli-Palestine talks, Egypt and Iran

US state cable 2010-02-24: 10DOHA71 outlines Senator Kerry’s meeting with Qatar’s Prime Minister, Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani (HBJ) on February 13, 2010. In the meeting, HBJ stresses that it is a mistake to exclude Hamas from Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, equates Egypt to a physician with one patient, and accuses Egypt of having a vested interest in dragging out the talks for as long as possible. He also warned against a US military action against Iran.

HBJ told Senator John Kerry February 13 that “everyone in the region” seems to have a separate plan for moving ahead on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute when only one plan was needed; a plan that both the Israelis and Palestinians would accept and finalize. HBJ underscored that it is a mistake to ignore Hamas in seeking a lasting agreement. Saying this does not mean that Qatar expresses a preference for Hamas, but the Palestinian Authority (PA) cannot sign off on an agreement on behalf of the Palestinians where open divisions exist.

Senator Kerry responded that we “are where we are.” He assessed that the Goldstone Report and dissatisfaction in Fatah’s ranks in the West Bank made it difficult for Abu Mazen to “give something to Israel” that would allow direct negotiations to begin between the parties. Add in Abu Mazen’s previous statements on the need for a full settlement freeze, and the ingredients for the Palestinian people to accept direct talks simply are not there.

Abu Mazen is out on a limb, responded HBJ. “He climbed a tree (drawing a line in the sand on settlements) and can’t get down.” HBJ noted that in conversations Qatar has held with Hamas’ leadership, it is clear that Hamas is ready to accept Israel’s right to exist. But the acceptance must come about gradually, not in one day. Senator Kerry said he had heard this elsewhere, but in his own conversations, he did not get the sense that Hamas was ready to accept Israel’s existence.

Qatar’s PM observed that the biggest obstacle on the Palestinian side to an eventual agreement with Israel is the reconciliation of Hamas and Fatah. HBJ maintained that it would have happened during the previous U.S. administration, but President Bush told Abu Mazen not to sign off on it. Reconciliation can happen, HBJ asserted, but only “if bigger countries in the region allow it.” The leaderships in Syria and Gaza consult each other, and no one leader in Hamas can take a decision alone, reported HBJ.

Chairman Kerry asked HBJ if Hamas is feeling political pressure from Gazans over their current living conditions. HBJ responded that anytime people do not have housing, schools or public utilities, their political leaders feel pressure.

According to HBJ, Egypt — the broker — has a vested interest in dragging out the talks for as long as possible. Egypt “has no end game; serving as broker of the talks is Egypt’s only business interest with the U.S.” HBJ likened the situation to a physician who has only one patient to treat in the hospital. If that is your only business, “the physician is going to keep the patient alive but in the hospital for as long as possible.” HBJ emphasized that Qatar, on the other hand, is interested only in bringing about peace in the region — and as quickly as possible.

HBJ noted that since its inception the Quartet has been anti-Hamas and aligned with the interests of Abu Mazen, Egypt and Jordan. These partners of the Quartet, observed HBJ, are the very partners who have not delivered a Palestinian-Israeli agreement.

Returning to his theme that “peace brokers” act in their own self-interest, HBJ observed that President Mubarak of Egypt is thinking about how his son can take his place and how to stave off the growing strength of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian government, said HBJ, has jailed 10,000 Muslim Brotherhood members without bringing court cases against them. The Egyptian “people blame America” now for their plight. The shift in mood on the ground is “mostly because of Mubarak and his close ties” to the United States. His only utility to the U.S. is brokering peace between Palestinians and Israelis, so he has no interest in taking himself out of the one game he has, underscored HBJ. “Tell your friends (in Egypt) they must help themselves.”

As for Qatar, “We want to help Abu Mazen and the Palestinians,” declared HBJ. The short-term needs of Palestinians in Gaza are acute, said HBJ. We need to broker a quick reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah and move forward quickly on rebuilding Gaza. Senator Kerry asserted that HBJ was preaching to the converted and told the PM he was “shocked by what I saw in Gaza.”

Continuing to illustrate how Egypt had not delivered for the U.S. on Palestinian issues, HBJ said Qatar was told in late 2008 that Israel and the U.S. needed the Egyptians to deal with the crisis in Gaza. Yet former Israeli PM Olmert later complained to Qatar that Egypt is a big country and not nimble; it could not move fast enough. Senator Kerry pointed out he was in Cairo at the time Qatar was calling for an Arab League Summit in December 2008/January 2009 and asked HBJ for his perspective on the rift between Qatar and Egypt at that time.

HBJ told Senator Kerry that Mubarak refused to come to Doha for a meeting of Arab leaders, preferring that the meeting take place in Riyadh. The request to move the meeting was relayed to Qatar by the Saudis, not the Egyptians. Saudi Arabia, as a big country like Egypt, has a vested interest in keeping Egypt afloat, said HBJ. The Saudis agreed to host the meeting in Riyadh not because they objected to traveling to Doha, but because the Egyptians did. “So we argued over the meeting location” while the Palestinians suffered, and we in Qatar “called a meeting and said whoever comes, comes.”

Qatar is worried, said HBJ, about Egypt and its people, who are increasingly impatient. Mubarak, continued HBJ, says Al Jazeera is the source of Egypt’s problems. This is an excuse. HBJ had told Mubarak “we would stop Al Jazeera for a year” if he agreed in that span of time to deliver a lasting settlement for the Palestinians. Mubarak said nothing in response, according to HBJ.

Asked his advice on bringing about an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, HBJ said President Clinton recognized before leaving office that Egypt was a problem. When President Clinton sought help at the end of his term in reaching a final deal, the Saudis and Egyptians did not encourage him, said HBJ. “They told him to do what he thinks right.” Culturally, said HBJ, that is the way Arabs say “you are on your own.” And President Clinton was, said HBJ.

Now we are at a stage, said HBJ, where Egypt does not want Arab League involvement in brokering a reconciliation agreement among the Palestinians unless the talks bog down. HBJ said he had told Abbas that climbing down from his tree on no settlement activity so that talks can go forward will require Arab support. But the Egyptians won’t allow it.

Senator Kerry noted that Special Envoy Mitchell had made a lot of requests of Arabs but with little success. Leaving Qatar aside, the Chairman asked HBJ for proposed next steps. HBJ said he trusts the Saudis, but because they talk openly to Egypt and do not want to create more problems for Egypt than the Egyptian government already has, it is essential to bring in the small countries and start there.

HBJ suggested one or two GCC members, Morocco (although the King there is hesitant) and Syria as the core membership of an Arab League committee to address Palestinian-Israeli concerns. HBJ told Senator Kerry the inclusion of Syria might surprise him, but having Syria play a role would create jealousy among the Arabs. Some jealously and rivalry is just what the U.S. needs, opined HBJ, to get the process moving.

Iran, Lebanon and Iraq

HBJ said Iran’s president views the U.S. as a country that is overstretched and in difficulty as a result of too many commitments. Iraq, Afghanistan, and the U.S. economy are the three main problems President Ahmadinejad sees. HBJ observed that a Western attack against Iran for Ahmadinejad would be good politics, because it would allow him to take out his opposition using the war as a pretext. Senator Kerry asked clarification of whether Ahmadinejad had said these things, or if HBJ inferred them from conversation.

Qatar’s PM said Ahmadinejad had told him, “We beat the Americans in Iraq; the final battle will be in Iran.”

HBJ said putting economic pressure on Iran is the best way to get the leadership to rethink its quest for nuclear weapons. To be successful, he told Senator Kerry, Russia would definitely have to be on board, as would the Central Asian countries bordering Iran that provide food and supplies.

Asked his perception of the state of play with the opposition, HBJ said the U.S. had done a good job of standing back and not becoming the symbol of the opposition. Cracks in the regime are appearing. It is highly significant that many demonstrators ignored Khamenei when he called on them to stop their protests. The four key pillars of Iranian power — the court, oil sector, imams, and Revolutionary Guards — all must stick with him, stressed HBJ. There are cracks in the system, but the downfall of the regime may not be in the cards.

Asked what the sanctions should target, HBJ said the money that Iran derives from oil. Depriving Tehran of this revenue would force the regime to negotiate.

Senator Kerry observed that Ahmadinejad was making it easier by his actions. There is wide consensus in the Executive and Legislative branches of Washington to press ahead. Senator Kerry warned that Ahmadinejad “should not equate Afghanistan and Iraq with what he faces.”

HBJ encouraged Chairman Kerry to bear in mind that Iran is clever and makes its opponents dizzy in the quest for deals. They will keep you working on a deal and then start from scratch with a new interlocutor. HBJ stressed that Iran will make no deal. Iran wants nuclear weapons, and HBJ said he would not be surprised to see Iran test one to demonstrate to the world its achievement.

On Lebanon, Senator Kerry asked if Iran and Hizballah are ratcheting up their weapons stockpiles as part of Iran’s war against Israel. HBJ affirmed that is the case.

On Iraq, HBJ told Senator Kerry that Prime Minister Al-Maliki wants a Shia state, even though the Sunnis (when you count Kurds and non-Kurds) have the majority.

2011-01-28 Cable: Mubarak discusses Iran and a “split” within Arab ranks

US State cable 2009-02-23: 09CAIRO326 describes a February 17, 2009 meeting between US Senator Joseph Lieberman and Egyptian President Gamal Mubarak.

Gamal criticizes the Israeli government’s decision not to move forward on the Gaza ceasefire without the release of Corporal Shalit. “The various Palestinian factions are due to begin reconciliation talks in Cairo “in about 10 days” and this development will make those discussions more difficult. It makes Egypt look bad, and strengthens Hamas.”

Gamal discusses a split within Arab ranks between “moderates” (Egypt and Saudi Arabia) and “radicals” (Syria and Qatar). He is of the opinion that Iran has skillfully exploited the lack of movement towards peace. The best way to thwart Iranian ambitions in the region, according to Gamal, is to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and create a unified
Palestinian government. “The Palestinians need elections, both residential and parliamentary.”

Lieberman asks if Gamal thought the US should re-engage with Iran. “As long as Ahmedinejad is there, I am skeptical,” Gamal responded. The one thing that is clear, Gamal stressed, is that by removing Saddam, the U.S. opened the door for Iran to flex its muscles and spread its influence throughout the region. “Like it or not, Saddam was a stumbling block to Iranian aspirations. His fall led directly to an increase in Iranian influence on the region.” Now, it is all the more important not to send a message of weakness to the Iranians, Gamal said, “neither from the U.S., nor from the moderates in the region.” We cannot “concede to their policy of aggression.”

There are many in the region, Gamal explained, who believe that the U.S. was weakened by its actions in Iraq, and that Iran was strengthened. Furthermore, there is a perception that the U.S. has been hurt by the economic crisis …(and) will deal with problems in the region in a “less confrontational” fashion … Lieberman said that the U.S. will nonetheless engage in an even more aggressive Middle East foreign policy than previously, as evidenced by President Obama’s choice of Secretary Clinton and Special Envoy Mitchell.

Senator Lieberman then asked Gamal for his assessment of Qatari behavior. They are coordinating closely with Syria and Iran, Gamal said, “in an orchestrated attack on Egypt and other moderate Arab states.” Qatar has enabled Hamas to hamper every effort we have made to cement a ceasefire in Gaza. For some reason, Qatar seems to want to play the role of spoiler.

Gamal said that while Egypt has so far escaped the worst effects of the crisis, “we are bound to feel the brunt of it eventually.” and advised that the US economy needed “a shock”. “You need to inject even more money into the system than you have, and you need to get as much of the bad debt as possible out of it; “you must remove the toxic assets from the books”.

 

2011-01-28 Cable: The Amir of Qatar discusses Syria, Egypt, and Iran

US State cable 2010-02-23 10DOHA70 details a February 14, 2010 meeting between Senator John Kerry and the Amir of Qatar. In the meeting, the Amir stresses the importance of Israel’s return of the Golan Heights to Syria. Hamas “for sure,” he said, will accept the 1967 border but will not say it publicly so as to lose popular Palestinian support. The Amir accuses Egypt of delaying an agreement between Israel and Palestine to extend their own role. “According to the Amir, Fatah and Hamas agreed on a memorandum of understanding, but the Egyptians wanted it changed.” The Amir offers to deliver a message from the US to Iran.

Syria

Chairman Kerry pointed out that Syria’s facilitation of arms to Hizballah and its turning a blind eye to missile upgrades in Lebanon do not represent risk-taking in the promotion of peace. The Amir implied that it would take U.S. intervention on the Syrian-Israeli track to address these issues and asked Senator Kerry what he would have Damascus do. The Amir said Syria is ready for peace, but asked if the Israelis are ready. Would Israel accept to resume Turkey’s mediation between Syria and Israel? Would the U.S. play a role in advancing the Syria track? The Amir encouraged the U.S. to work the Golan Heights issue first. He stressed that Syrians are very different from Iranians in “mentality,” and said the Syrians turned to Iran for support only because they had nowhere else to go. Now is the time, the Amir told Senator Kerry, to reach out to Damascus.

Senator Kerry responded that the U.S. is prepared to play a strong role in bringing about peace in the region. President Obama, said the Chairman, understands that he personally must engage and do so strongly. Chairman Kerry told the Amir he is convinced that we can see great progress in the coming year by moving swiftly from proximity talks, to direct talks between the parties and ending with final status discussions. Senator Kerry noted that one of the biggest problems for Israel is the potential return of 5-6 million Palestinian refugees. The parties broached the return issue in discussions at Taba and agreed that the right of Palestinian return would be subject to later negotiation, pointed out the Chairman. If we can proceed from that point on the right of return, the Senator believes there is an “artful way” to frame the negotiations on borders, land swaps, and Jerusalem as a shared capital.

Any negotiation has its limits, added Senator Kerry, and we know for the Palestinians that control of Al-Aqsa mosque and the establishment of some kind of capital for the Palestinians in East Jerusalem are not negotiable. For the Israelis, the Senator continued, Israel’s character as a Jewish state is not open for negotiation. The non-militarization of an eventual Palestinian state and its borders can nonetheless be resolved through negotiation.

The Amir underscored that Abu Mazen needs Arab support to make the above happen. Hamas “for sure,” he said, will accept the 1967 border but will not say it publicly so as to lose popular Palestinian support.

Senator Kerry told the Amir he knew Qatar could help the U.S. but asked how we deal with those who advocate violence. The Amir said the short answer is to work the Syrian track, which means pushing for Israel’s return of the Golan Heights to Syria. The Amir said return of the Golan is important not just to Syria but also to Hizballah and Iran. The U.S. must bear in mind that Misha’al, a leader of Hamas based in Damascus, has drawn the conclusion that the Oslo accords were bad for Arafat. He lost the support of his own people and died living under Israeli siege. The Syrians can help Misha’al and others make tough choices, but only if the U.S. demonstrates to Syria early on a willingness to address the Golan. Senator Kerry responded that the U.S. would accept a legitimate discussion of the Golan Heights.

What is more, said the Amir, the U.S. needs to support Turkey’s mediation between Israel and Syria. It is important that the U.S. encourage Israel to understand that that resolving the status of the Golan Heights is very important to the United States.

Senator Kerry asked the Amir if Hamas is under pressure given the circumstances in Gaza. The Amir answered by saying that Hamas needs Iranian support. He added that the biggest misconception in the region is that the Syrians, who host Hamas leaders in Damascus, go to Iran because they like the Iranians. This is wrong. Syria goes to those who will not shun them.

Egypt

The Egyptians have not delivered, said Senator Kerry. The Amir said the Egyptians’ goal is to stay in the game and maintain their relationship with the U.S., which is built around brokering Middle East peace, for as long as possible. According to the Amir, Fatah and Hamas agreed on a memorandum of understanding, but the Egyptians wanted it changed. The Amir remarked that he has a feeling he knows which capital (Cairo) is the source of reports that Gaza is under pressure. He said the economic pressure in Gaza on families is not what it was. He offered as an example that Qatar Charity recently offered a family in Gaza 500 USD, but the family declined the gift saying its members had enough to get by and suggested another family that was in more dire need of assistance. The Amir said the notion that a family would turn down money is new.

The Amir told Senator Kerry that everyone knows “Egypt has a problem with the Muslim Brotherhood. Okay, we understand. But Egypt should not expect the world to take external actions that would help it internally.”

Asked his advice for President Obama, the Amir recommended the establishment of a small U.S.-Qatar committee to discuss how to proceed. Qatar is close to Hamas, emphasized the Amir, because “we don’t play in their internal politics.” That does not mean we share their ideology or do not disagree with them. “I can remember many arguments with them (Hamas) on the 1967 border with Israel.” The Amir noted that he had mediated with Hamas previously at the U.S. request, namely when he urged Hamas at the previous Administration’s request to participate in Palestinian elections.

Returning to the leadership of Hamas, Senator Kerry asked the Amir for his insights into how the leadership, with leaders sitting in both Gaza and Syria, makes decisions. The Amir said the impression that Misha’al sits in Damascus and others take orders from him is wrong. Several key players within Hamas are involved in decisions. They have differences over policy, but “the bottom line is that they all want the Palestinians to take their rights from Israel.”

Iran

Senator Kerry observed that the international community is moving toward imposing additional economic sanctions on Iran and asked the Amir for his perspective. The Amir answered that his first obligation is to defend the interests of Qatar. Due to the natural gas field Iran shares with Qatar, Qatar will not “provoke a fight” with Iran. He added that in the history of the two countries, “Iran has not bothered us.” That said, the Amir noted that Iran is an important country in the Middle East. He faulted the U.S. for “making the mistake of speaking up for protesters” after the disputed Iranian presidential elections.

The Iranian regime is strong, continued the Amir, because President Ahmadinejad is uncorrupted. “That is the secret to his success.” Khatami is also not corrupted, but as a reformer he is in a weak position. Rafsanjani, on the other hand, is corrupt.

Senator Kerry lamented that every communication the current Administration has attempted to the Government of Iran has gone back channel and been met with no response. The U.S. needs to talk directly with senior Iranian officials replied the Amir. The Amir then asked, “What if I talk to the Iranian President. What would you have me say?”

Senator Kerry responded, “The U.S. seeks serious discussion and sought to create a new foundation for a relationship based on Iran’s non-confrontational compliance with IAEA requirements and other mutual interests.” Those interests include dealing with drug-running, the Taliban, and illicit trade. The Chairman told the Amir he feared that Iran still thinks it is dealing with the 1953 America that tried to overthrow the Iranian government.

The Amir responded that you cannot blame them for having that attitude, and Senator Kerry agreed, adding that the U.S. has a very different posture in the post-Cold War world of today. Iran has ambitions; I know this from other regional leaders, said the Senator. These are the first words that come out of their mouths.

Iran wants to be a “big power,” agreed the Amir, but what sort? He reminded Senator Kerry the U.S. should not forget that Iranians are Persian and the U.S. needs to approach them in that framework.

Senator Kerry stressed that the U.S. “would love to have that dialogue.” The U.S. respects Iranian civilization — talent, art, culture, etc. It is crazy to continue on this collision course. The region needs schools and jobs, emphasized the Chairman, not another war. The Amir agreed that “demographics are a big worry.” Not just for the countries in the region but for the U.S. too.

Many scientific and technological transformations are underway, noted the Senator, “but Iran misinterprets the road to being a great power and the degree to which the international community is concerned about Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.” We are at a “fork in the road,” and Iran must choose between confrontation or building partnerships. If the latter, we can open up new opportunities for cooperation in the sciences, technology, education, robotics, energy and other ongoing transformations.

Senator Kerry reported that leaders of regional Arab countries tell me they want nuclear weapons if the Iranians have them. The Amir responded that he did not believe they were serious, but are saying this to put additional pressure on Iran.

The Chairman noted that the disputed Iranian presidential elections may have derailed U.S. efforts to have serious dialogue with Tehran. The Amir agreed, offering that the Israelis are also using Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons as a diversion from settling matters with the Palestinians. The historical backdrop of Arab-Persian relations does not help, the Amir added.

Final Thoughts

The Amir advised the U.S. to continue trying to open a dialogue with the Iranian leadership. He also told Senator Kerry the U.S. needs to tell the Israelis they are causing the U.S. to lose the hearts and minds of Muslims. There was a time, such as during the Suez Canal crisis, when the Arabs loved the Americans and disliked the British and French, he said.

Senator Kerry asked the Amir how the U.S. goes about changing its reputation. The Amir said first and foremost the U.S. must do everything in its power to find a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the best way to begin is by moving first on the Syrian track.

The Chairman of the SFRC said he expects a genuine effort by the President this year on an agreement and expressed his hope that Iranian issues would not complicate matters. The Amir agreed, adding that China likes the distraction for the U.S. as its forces fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senator Kerry concurred, noting that China is lending the U.S. money and expanding its influence at U.S. expense. He added that he ran against President George W. Bush saying the war with Iraq was the wrong war in the wrong place and time.

The Amir closed the meeting by offering that based on 30 years of experience with the Iranians, they will give you 100 words. Trust only one of the 100.

2011-01-03 US Dep’t of State Internet Freedom Programs

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) and the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) are looking for organizations interested in submitting proposals for projects that support what the document terms ‘internet freedom’. Specifically, they have US$30 million for

projects that will foster freedom of expression and the free flow of information on the Internet and other connection technologies in East Asia, including China and Burma; the Near East, including Iran; Southeast Asia; the South Caucasus; Eurasia, including Russia; Central Asia; Latin America, including Cuba and Venezuela; and Africa. Programming may support activities in Farsi, Chinese, Russian, Burmese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Arabic, French, and other languages spoken in acutely hostile Internet environments.

 

The State Department’s previous attempts at promoting ‘internet freedom’ met with a lack of success, according to Foreign Policy because “By aligning themselves with Internet companies and organizations, Clinton’s digital diplomats have convinced their enemies abroad that Internet freedom is another Trojan horse for American imperialism.” The statement from the link above: “DRL and NEA support programs … in countries and regions of the world that are geo-strategically important to the United States.” may have helped convince their enemies. They will have the opportunity to disprove that idea when all of the following technology is turned in all other directions, as history shows it will be. Always assuming any of the new projects work better than, for instance, Haystack.

Counter-censorship Technology: … to get around firewalls and filters in acutely hostile Internet environments.

Building the Technology Capacity of Digital Activists and Civil Society in Hostile Internet Environments in the Near East: Training on and access to communication platforms to share electronic information securely; training for activists, bloggers, citizen journalists, and civil society organizations to allow them to safely and anonymously participate in online forums; and promotion of peer-to-peer data sharing between mobile devices.

Virtual Open Internet Centers: … identify and archive censored content and creatively reintroduce content and counter-censorship tools into those online environments. … Competitive proposals will include centers focused on two or more of the following languages: Farsi, Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese, Russian, Spanish, and Burmese, in addition to languages of other countries with hostile Internet environments.

Emergency funding: Establishment of an emergency fund for netizens under threat because of their web-based activism. …

Internet Public Policy: Support for projects focused on media law reform in countries where changing legal and regulatory frameworks for the Internet have the potential to create acutely hostile Internet environments. …

From Foreign Policy:

“The Internet is far too valuable to become an agent of Washington’s digital diplomats. The idea that the U.S. government can advance the cause of Internet freedom by loudly affirming its commitment to it — especially when it hypocritically attempts to shut down projects like WikiLeaks — is delusional. The best way to promote the goals behind the Internet Freedom Agenda may be not to have an agenda at all.