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Peace Roadmap

Selling a Vision of Hope: A Refreshing Alternative to Armageddon

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Australian TV outlet to review role in Beirut kidnap case

Australian TV journalist Tara Brown, second left, and Sally Faulkner, center, the mother of the two Australian children, sit in a mini van between the three crew members of Channel 9 Australian TV, after they released from the Lebanese jail, in Baabda east of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday April 20, 2016. An Australian mother and TV crew caught up in a high-profile child custody battle and detained in Beirut amid a botched attempt to take the woman's two children from their Lebanese father have been released on bail. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
SYDNEY (AP) ? An Australian media outlet on Thursday launched an internal investigation into its involvement in a bungled attempt to take an Australian woman's children from their Lebanese father, shortly after the woman and the Australian TV crew were released on bail from a Beirut jail in a dramatic climax to the international child custody battle.

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Category >> Iran
file under: self-interestSaudi Arabiapeace in the Middle EastIranHamas 12 Oct 2011 5:08 PM
Two Hints That Peace May Be Possible Posted by Nissim Dahan

In this increasingly hostile world of ours, it is only natural to search for even the slightest hint that peace may be possible. As I watched the news last night, two such hints came into sharp focus right before my eyes. The first is Iran's recent attempt to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. And the second is the imminent, God willing, release by Hamas of Gilad Shalit, a captive Israeli soldier, in exchange for the release of approximately 1000 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails.


You may well ask: Why do these seemingly two unrelated news items point to the possibility of peace?


Iran's assassination attempt underscores the threat that the current regime poses to the Sunni Arab world, and for that matter, to the world at large. It is seemingly inconceivable, in light of the threats that confront Iran's leadership, that they would even attempt such a bold and brazen attack, against a Saudi diplomat, on U.S. soil no less. Who in their right mind would do such a thing? And yet, as the last few years clearly demonstrate, Iran's leaders have not hesitated to finance and carry out terrorist attacks of all shapes and sizes, including the bombing of a Jewish synagogue in Argentina, with over 100 killed, as well as the murder of over 100 dissidents throughout Europe.


And as we all know, Iran makes no secret of her desire to develop nuclear weapons, and to use that umbrella, and her proxies, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, to wield an even greater influence throughout the entire region. There is no doubt that at least some of Iran's leaders wish to remake the Middle East in their image. Even if it turns out that this plot was perpetrated by a rogue faction, still: Would you want a rogue faction to have its finger on a nuclear trigger? Is that a risk we can afford to take?


It would be natural, therefore, for Saudi officials to be quite worried about Iranian intentions, especially considering the historical enmity between Shiites and Sunnis, the acts of terrorism sponsored by Iran, the attempt to become a nuclear power, and the recent attempted assassination of the Saudi Ambassador. Taken as a whole, the assassination attempt is just further confirmation of Iran's intent to take charge, and of her willingness to use extra-ordinary means to do so.


So why does this point to the possibility of peace? Because as Saudi looks around, and searches for a way to keep Iranian designs in check, she may have no choice but to look to Israel and the U.S., because only they have the wherewithal to accomplish such a mission, and the self-interest to do so. And therefore, a strategic alliance between Saudi, the Sunni Arabs, Israel and the U.S. may soon be in the offing. And what will be the price for such an arrangement? That is easy enough to fathom; assistance in closing the deal on peace between Israel and Palestine, and leveraging that into an overall understanding between Israel and the Arab world.


The second hint that peace may be in the offing is Hamas' apparent willingness to release Gilad Shalit in exchange for Israel's release of over 1000 Palestinian prisoners, 300 of whom are serving life sentences. Why does this prisoner swap bode well for peace, you may well ask. And the answer is quite simple. Because it shows, in a rather perverse way, that Israel and Hamas can cut a deal, even though both are sworn to each other's destruction, and have vowed never to negotiate with one another. Still, somehow, a deal was cut, and if that deal could be cut, it follows that other deals could be cut as well.


Ask yourself a simple question: Why did Hamas cut this deal? Because it wants to look good in the eyes of the people, and bringing home 1000 Palestinian prisoners looks good. Well, what if the people begin demanding jobs and a greater measure of freedom, which they are? What then? Is it just possible that if Hamas needs to deliver on jobs and freedom, that it too will look to Israel and the U.S. to help in this regard, because in reality, they are best able to do so? And if that is the case, what will be the price that Hamas has to pay? Well, that too is easy to fathom...peace! Nothing more, and nothing less. 


     So in the end, when push comes to shove, peace may be possible, not because people love one another, God forbid, or because they want a better world for their children, or because they believe in the sanctity of life. No, none of that crap. Peace may come one day because as we face some very common existential threats, we may finally come to realize that we actually need one another, for a change, to stave off these threats, and to save our very own necks.



file under: IranGreen Movement 10 Feb 2010 4:49 PM
Who Will Win In Iran? Posted by Nissim Dahan
I had the opportunity recently to read the Manifesto of the Green Movement in Iran. It's quite an impressive document; very reminiscent, in many ways, of American democracy, as spelled out in such historic documents as the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Thomas Jefferson would have approved. The trouble is, however, as the violence on the streets demonstrates, that the Green Movement's vision for Iran is very much at odds with the vision of the Ayatollahs and political leaders who hold the reigns of power. It may be helpful to compare and contrast these two very different visions.


The Green Movement talks about human rights: the right to be equal before the law, the right to freedom without discrimination, the right to participate fully in government, the right to own property, the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of thought, religion, education, opinion and speech, the right to a free press, the right of assembly, the right to work with just and favorable conditions in the work place, the right to unionize, the right to intellectual property, the right for a decent standard of living, the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to a speedy trial by an impartial jury with due process and with the assistance of counsel, and the right not to be punished in a cruel and unusual manner.


So what would the Ayatollahs say about these various human rights? Well, their actions speak louder than words. They send forth their riot police to quell dissent. They beat some people and imprison others. They torture as they see fit. They make a mockery of judicial proceedings, and sometimes, they choose to execute the innocent. Actions speak louder than words. My guess is that the Ayatollahs tolerate human rights, but only to the extent that such rights don't interfere with their hold on power. They readily choose to sacrifice human rights, and human beings for that matter, to the extent necessary to consolidate their strong grip on the levers of political power.


The Manifesto of the Green Movement talks quite a bit about democracy. It states that in a true democracy the people are sovereign; they are the highest form of political authority. Democracy requires compromise among competing factions. "Everyone has a right to be heard." We can choose our leaders and hold them accountable. "Laws and policies require majority support, but the rights of minorities are protected in various ways." There should be a balance of power between the judicial, legislative, and executive branches of power. Free and fair elections should be held at regular intervals. All parties and candidates should be able to campaign freely. As for religion, the Green Movement believes in a separation between church and state: "We believe God has no need for politics...the Mullahs would have more influence if they focused on religion." And as for the economy, they state, "The economy should be based upon free market principles, and its aim should be economic development, increase of productivity, improvement of the standard of living, and achievement of prosperity for all citizens in Iran."


What would the Ayatollahs say about these notions of democracy? Well, here again, actions speak louder than words. As for the idea that the power to rule comes from the people, they would say that the power comes from God, and as it so happens, God has entrusted that power to them. As for everyone's right to be heard, they would say that their voice embodies God's will, and should therefore be heard above all others. As for the rights of minorities, they would point out that minorities are out of step with the will of God, and are therefore not worthy of much consideration. As for free elections, they would allow the semblance of elections, but only among candidates which they approve. As for the separation between church and state heaven forbid, they would recognize no such separation since the power of the state is derived from God, and only they are entitled to define the nature of God and the substance of what He requires of us. And as for the economic resources of the nation, these too, as it happens, have been entrusted to them to do with as they wish, in the pursuit of goals to which they aspire.


So the question remains: Who will win in this existential struggle between these two competing visions for Iran, and beyond? The answer is: He will win who has the greatest faith in the truth of his convictions.

file under: IranHolocaust Denial 21 Sep 2009 10:54 PM
Why Would Anyone Deny The Holocaust? Posted by Nissim Dahan
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad chose to commemorate Quds Day on Friday, September 18, by expressing his usual doubts as to whether the Holocaust really happened. He stated that the Holocaust was used as a false pretext for occupying Palestinian lands. And he is quoted as questioning, "If the Holocaust was a real event, why don't they allow research on it to clear up the facts?"


To this last question, I would respectfully ask, "Who are ‘they,' who are not allowing research to take place?" In addition, "What would the disallowed research show, if ‘they' allowed it to take place?" Tell me if I am mistaken, but to the best of my knowledge, thousands of books have been written about the Holocaust, by researchers of diverse religious affiliations and backgrounds. Did anyone put a gun to their head as to what they could delve into, and what they should leave alone? Is there some sort of Holocaust Research Police that I don't know about?


Ahmadinejad is not a stupid man. He has read the books, and seen the movies, and the pictures of the thousands of barracks which housed the Jews, and others as well, on their way to the gas chambers. He has seen photos of the piles of clothing, and shoes, and eyeglasses, and all the sundry possessions of the people who were once living, and who had their lives cut short by the brutality of the Nazis. So why bother denying such incontrovertible facts of history?


Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust because in his mind such denial serves a purpose. But to what purpose? Perhaps his denial evokes condemnation from the West, and such condemnation can be used to burnish his reputation for defiance against the "tyranny" of the West? Perhaps his denials and his hatred of Israel can be used to divert attention away from his government's failed policies, and can inspire support among the masses? Perhaps his fiery words can help to justify Iran's race to become a nuclear power? Perhaps his verbal attacks embolden Iran's proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, for further attacks against the Jewish State?


No doubt Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denials serve their purpose, at least in his mind, but there is also a price to be paid for such claims. When you deny the Holocaust, knowing full well that it took place, you deny yourself, because you are willing to predicate your views on the basis of a lie. So if you are willing to lie to yourself in such a brazen way, then who are you when you look in the mirror?


In addition, when you deny the Holocaust, you deny your own people, because you are willing to lie to them, and to lead them on the basis of the lies you tell. How can you claim to respect your people when you lead them on the basis of a lie?


And finally, when you deny the Holocaust, you deny the future of your nation. For a nation to lift itself up from poverty, and to come to terms with the competitive realities of a global economy, it must first come to terms with the truth, and make changes based on an accurate assessment of its condition. How can you come to terms with the truth when you are willing to sweep away the suffering and killing of millions, in the name of propaganda and short-sighted self-interest?


Ahmadinejad may have his reasons for denying the Holocaust, but he should question, in his own mind, whether his reasons justify the consequences. He betrays himself, his people, and the future of his nation, by clinging to his fantasies. The lies he tells are the lies which hold his people back. He speaks for calculation's sake, but on this score at least, he has miscalculated grossly.



file under: IranFreedomDemonstrations 19 Jul 2009 11:28 AM
What Should Obama Say To Iran? Posted by Nissim Dahan
President Obama finds himself in a bit of a bind when it comes to Iran. And the dilemma he faces is not unlike that faced by many policy makers when it comes to the Middle East. Who do you support, the government, or the people?


When he ran for the Presidency, Obama vowed to negotiate with Iran's leaders with respect to such contentious issues as their nuclear weapons program, and their support for terrorist groups. And at the time, the prospect of using diplomacy as an olive branch, seemed to be a reasonable approach, as contrasted with President Bush's inclination to wield big sticks, with no carrots in sight.


However, in the wake of Iran's most recent election, and in light of the protests and violent clashes which are taking place there, even as we speak, would negotiations with the newly elected government confer legitimacy to a regime whose legitimacy is being contested by a great many people on the street? And yet, if you ignore the current opportunities to negotiate, even with an unsavory regime, do you lose the chance to find a diplomatic solution to what could otherwise result in war?


But then again, if you fail to give moral support to the protesters, do you run the risk of betraying your ideals, and alienating the people, for that matter, by espousing the cause of freedom here at home, while failing to do so abroad. Do you dare to play politics as usual when freedom is at stake? Is it hypocritical to cherish freedom, on the one hand, but to withhold support from those fighting for it, on the other? And is there a price to pay for such hypocrisy?


In a way, President Obama's hesitation about supporting the protesters in Iran is symbolic of a much larger picture, whereby Western leaders find themselves torn between maintaining quiet deals and understandings that have been struck with non-democratic governments in the Middle East, and their supposed commitment in the West to the ideals of democratic reform and the right of all people to be free. The gap that often exists between pragmatic arrangements, especially those securing the free-flow of oil, and the moral obligation to empower people in their quest for human rights, is not an easy gap to bridge, and the decision is often made to sacrifice human rights on the alter of what is "real," and what is "necessary."


And yet, as is becoming quite obvious in Iran, the voice of the people resonates loudly around the world, and is not easily silenced, even by the most repressive of regimes, using the harshest means of intimidation. Especially now, in the time of the internet, and you-tube, and twitter, and all the other varied tools of instant and ubiquitous communication, the natural inclination to speak out cannot be stifled easily. And as people around the world begin to speak to one another, the collective wisdom of the common man will begin to coalesce, and to make itself heard, and known, and believed, and a new ideology will be born, based on such ancient common sense principles as: the right to be free, the right to speak out and to be heard, the right to pursue happiness, and the right to search for justice whenever justice is denied.


So what advice can we give President Obama as he navigates through these treacherous waters? Perhaps we could tell him, as he takes everything into consideration, that freedom may not always be easy to support, nor practical in the short-run, but it is a moral imperative for many around the world, just as it is for Americans here at home. And therefore, we owe it to those struggling on the street, and to our long-term strategic interests, to find a way to lend our support to the cause of freedom, and to make it clear to all the dictators out there, that sooner or later, they will have no choice but to accommodate the will of the people, and their yearning to be free. It doesn't have to mean chaos. It doesn't necessarily have to mean war. It just means that society will only find its peace when the fundamental aspirations of the people are taken into consideration, and become a permanent fixture in the political landscape.



file under: IranFreedomDemonstrations 6 Jul 2009 2:20 PM
Freedom in Iran Posted by Nissim Dahan
People around the world are not all the same. They don't all want the same exact things. But at the end of the day, my guess would be that most people the world over do want some similar things, and that freedom would probably top the list of what most people need and want. Iranians are no exception.


What is freedom? Not an easy question to answer considering all the hype that goes into that one simple word. Freedom means different things to different people, and its meaning changes as circumstances dictate. One approach is to say that freedom is our say in how our lives are playing themselves out. We want to believe that our small voice is being heard even in the midst of the noisy confusion that fills our daily lives; that we matter in the overall scheme of things. And the belief that everyone should count, may explain some of what is going on in Iran.


Freedom means that if we're already being given the right to vote, that our vote should count, and not be swept under the rug of authoritative ambition. People want a say in who governs them, in who holds the reigns of power, and in what policies he or she decides to pursue. It is not simply my right to vote that is important, but the knowledge that my voice, as contained in my vote, will be heard, even if only as a whisper.


Freedom touches on the personal as well. Women, for example, may choose to dress traditionally, but they want to make that choice, not have it thrust upon them by angry men wielding big sticks. My right to choose is at the heart of what it means to be free.


And people want a say as to which direction their country is heading. Dictators no doubt have their ideological agendas. But what is deemed necessary by the dictators is not necessarily in the best interest of the people. The man on the street often knows best what is in his best interest better than anyone else. People have a right, for example, to demand that their government's economic policies will create good paying jobs, and not sky-high unemployment. People want to be proud of their nation, and not have to justify why certain ill-conceived policies are further isolating them from the world community. People want to believe that their personal security is being regarded as sacred, and not undermined by the looming threat of war.


The yearning for freedom is a hard thing to quash. There are people in Iran putting everything on the line; even their own lives. The fight for freedom often brings out the best in us, by which we are willing to sacrifice our own safety for the sake of something we believe in, something greater than ourselves. The willingness to rise to the occasion, and to put a noble cause, like freedom, above everything else, is unique to us as human beings, and is what allows us to aspire to our greatest potential.


I don't envy the leadership in Iran. They must be frustrated beyond belief. They have convinced themselves that they know what's best for their people, and somehow, the people just don't get it. How dare they rise up in this fashion?


I don't know what will happen in Iran. But I do know that something has happened there already. Their votes were silenced, so the people rose up and made sure that their voices wouldn't be. Would this make a difference in the long run? No one knows for sure, but one thing is certain; Iran will never quite be the same. The people have spoken, and their voices will reverberate in our collective consciousness forever, along with all those countless others who cast their lots in the search for freedom and justice. Those voices can never be silenced. They will continue to make themselves heard until the day comes when the dream of freedom will be made real, and when true justice will be meted out to all.

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