Saudi Arabia, Israel Resort to Terrorism to Derail Iran Nuclear Talks

Muhammad Sahimi

Ever since Hassan Rouhani was elected Iran’s President on 14 June 2013 and promised that he will lead a government of “hope and prudence,” the United States’ most important allies in the Middle East – Saudi Arabia and Israel – and their lobbies here have been doing their best to prevent any agreement between Iran and the Obama administration regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Israel and its lobby in the United States have succeeded in persuading Washington to impose the most crippling economic sanctions on Iran, disrupting and threatening the lives of tens of millions of ordinary Iranians. But that has not been enough for Israel. It wants Iran to surrender its national sovereignty and its rights under Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty that gives Iran the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Thus, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been on an increasingly desperate diplomatic offensive to “prove” that Iran is not sincere in its effort to reach a nuclear agreement. After cynically calling the efforts by Iran’s new administration “a charm offensive;” referring to President Rouhani “a wolf in sheep’s clothing;” mentioning Iran 70 times and Rouhani – not Mr. Rouhani or President Rouhani – 25 times in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly meeting (while barely mentioning Israel’s war on the Palestinians); foolishly becoming an advocate of “democracy” for the Iranian people by declaring that if the Iranian youth were free,they would wear jeans and listen to Western music – which created a huge backlash by the Iranians (see here, here, and here), telling Netanyahu to first address democracy for the Palestinian people – and repeating his absurd claim that “Iran is preparing for another Holocaust,” Netanyahu threatened once again that if forced to,Israel will attack Iran alone.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has also let the world know that it is angry at the Obama administration for not attacking Syria, for imposing military sanctions on the military junta in Egypt even though they are insignificant, and for trying to reach a diplomatic resolution of the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. Never mind that Secretary of State John Kerry just said the other day that “Egyptians are following the right path.” This is a path that was paved by the junta overthrowing Egypt’s democratically-elected government and President Mohamed Morsi. Never mind that President Obama changed his mind about attacking Syria after the huge worldwide backlash against his threats of military attacks.

The opposition to U.S.-Iran rapprochement by Saudi Arabia and Israel, and the support of the former for the most extreme forces in Syria that have committed countless number of atrocities, have brought to the fore the real axis of evil consisting of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the War Party in the United States, as opposed to George W. Bush’s bogus “axis of evil.” The same Saudi Arabia that has always supposedly been the grand marshal of defending the rights of the oppressed Palestinian people, has now made an “unholy alliance” with Israel, ignoring the fact that much of Israel’s saber rattling over Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapon program is for distracting attention from the fact that it continues to devour the Palestinians’ lands, water, and other natural resources, and has made practically impossible the two-state solution for the problem.

The second round of negotiations between Iran and P5+1 – the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany – began on Thursday November 7 in Geneva, and the initial reports have indicated that progress has been made. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has even declared that the main framework for a long-term agreement may be reached during the two days of negotiations between the two parties. That is not the news that Israel and Saudi Arabia want to hear.

Thus, in addition to pressuring the Obama administration through their lobbies in Washington, another way of derailing the negotiations and killing any potential agreement between Iran and the U.S. that the unholy alliance has put in place is provoking Iran’s hardliners that are deeply suspicious of the West and oppose any rapprochement with the U.S. The hardliners have made their opposition clear, with the latest manifestation of which being the demonstrations that they staged in front of the former U.S. embassy in Tehran on Monday on the 34th anniversary of the hostage crisis. And the best way to provoke Iranian hardliners is by terrorist attacks inside Iran, although such attacks are nothing new.

The United States and its allies have been trying for decades to destabilize Iran by supporting small groups among Iran’s ethnic minorities that have secessionist tendencies and have been carrying out terrorist attacks inside Iran. These groupsinclude Jundallah, a Sunni extremist group that operated from Pakistan and for years carried out many terrorist attacks in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province on the border with Pakistan. Another group is the Kurdish Party of Free Life of Kurdistan,known as PJAK, the Iranian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party – usually referred to as PKK – in Turkey that has been listed as a terrorist group by both the European Union and the US PJAK is a secular group. A third group consists of Iranian Arabs in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan in southwest Iran, which is widely believed to besupported by Britain.

As the author described in detail in October 2009, Jundallah was supported for years by the United StatesSaudi Arabia, and Israel. Then, in December 2009 Selig Harrisonof Center for International Policy reported in the New York Times that the George W. Bush administration provided support to Jundallah through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate – the infamous ISI – and to PJAK through CIA and Israel’s Mossad, which has had long-term relations with the Kurds in both Iraq and Iran. Documents released by WikiLeaks in November 2010 indicated that Israel has tried to use Kurdish dissidents against Iran. Then, in an important article in January 2012 Mark Perry described how Israeli Mossad agents posed as American spies to recruit members of the terrorist organization Jundallah to fight their covert war against Iran.

In February 2010, Iran arrested Jundallah’s leader Abdolmalek Riggi, and executed him in June 2010. A month earlier, Iran had executed his brother, Abdolhamid Rigggi. The two executions were severe blow to Jundallah. Then, another Riggi, Abdolrauf Riggi, took over the leadership of Jundallah, but he was arrested by Pakistan in December 2010. Execution of the Riggis, the arrest of the third one, and lack of popular support due to ruthless tactics, such as beheading of Iran’s border guards, and revelations about foreign support for the group, eventually led to the demise of Jundallah. But, while the Iranian branch of the group formally disappeared (its Pakistani branch still operates within Pakistan, attacking Shiites), its offshoots have emerged and are just as brutal and deadly, and supported by the same foreign powers. This became abundantly clear in the latest terrorist attacks on Iran.

The latest terrorist attacks on Iran occurred on October 25, perfectly timed in advance of the Geneva negotiations. The Sunni terrorist group, Jaish al-adl (army of justice),attacked Iran from Pakistan, killing 14 Iranian border guards (12 of whom were conscripts), wounding six, and taking three guards as hostage. Jaish al-adl is a Salafi group, of the same type as those fighting in Syria against Syrian government and supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In an apparent retaliation, Iran executed 16 prisoners, although the Iranian government claimed that the sixteen, at least half of whom were members of the terrorist groups, had already received death sentences, but their sentences had not been carried out under a deal whereby in return for not executing them, their groups will not carry out any terrorist operations. Jaish al-adl has carried out many attacks in Iran; see herehere, and here. The statement that the group issued after its most recent attack has striking similarities with those of extremist Sunni group in Syria. In fact, in its statement Jaish al-adl declared that the attacks were in retaliation for alleged Iranian “massacre” in Syria and the “cruel treatment” of Sunnis in Iran. In addition, its flag and its style of attacks are very similar to those of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the terrorist group that is deeply involved in fighting in Syria. Similar to all other Sunni extremist groups, Jaish al-adl uses children in its operations, and carries out suicide bombing. Interestingly, no Western nation, including the United States, condemned the terrorist attacks. On November 7 the public prosecutor in city of Zabol in Sistan was assassinated, and for which Jaish al-adl took responsibility.

Jaish al-adl is led by Abdolrahim Mollazadeh, although he uses the pseudonym Salaheddin Faroughi. He was a prominent member of Jundallah. His brother, Abdolmalek Mollazadeh, was executed in January 2012 by the Iranian government, after he was arrested and charged with the assassination of a local Sunni leader, Molavi Mostafa Jangizehi, who had worked with the government and its paramilitary group, the Basij. After 12 other people were arrested in April 2012 in connection with the assassination, Mollazadeh fled Iran and moved to Pakistan, where he set up Jaish al-adl. Jaish al adl’s spokesman is Mohsen Mohammadi. Its first terrorist operation occurred in August 2012.

Jaish al-adl operates in a far more sophisticated manner than did Jundallah. It has aFacebook page (although it was recently blocked), and issues its statements not just in Farsi, but also in Arabic, English and other languages, in an apparent effort to put itself within the global movement of the Sunni groups. It has three military branches, named after three of its prominent “martyrs,” including Abdolmalek Mollazadeh. Based on its various statements since its first operation in 2012 and what has been reported in the Iranian press, it is estimated that Jaish al-adl has killed at least between 100-150 military personnel and policemen in Sistan and Baluchestan.

There is another Sunni terrorist group in Iran in the same province of Sistan and Baluchestan, called Harakat Ansar Iran (HAI). It too has carried out many terrorist attacks in Iran; see here and here, for example. HAI also works with a Sunni extremist group, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, which currently operates under a new name,Ahlesunnat wal Jamaat, an anti-Shiite group that has been waging a low-intensity war in Pakistan for decades, and has murdered thousands of Shiites.

Both Jaish al-adl and HAI are offshoots of Jundallah. Although its current leader isAbu Yasir Muskootani, HAI still considers Abdolmalek Riggi as its “Amir” (religious/political leader). As mentioned earlier, Mollazadeh was a prominent member of Jundallah. HAI has declared that its aim is to “liberate” Iran and set up a government run based on the Sharia. Its emblem has striking similarities with that of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Since August, PJAK has been attacking Iran’s military, hence ending the unofficial ceasefire that it had with Iran for some time. After executing the sixteen prisoners in connection with Jaish al-adl attacks, Iran also executed two people that it had accused of membership in PJAK. The two had denied the allegation, although there is evidence that at least one of the two had received military training by PJAK. Both PJAK and Iran’s military accuse the other side of breaking the ceasefire. PJAK’s leader, Abdolrahman Haji-Ahmadi has taken the same position as Netanyahu’s,warning the West that it should not be “fooled” by Rouhani.

In supporting such terrorist groups, Saudi Arabia and Israel pursue different, but complementary goals. Saudi Arabia’s goal, first and foremost, is bringing the Shiite-Sunni sectarian war that it has been supporting in Syria to Iran, hence hitting it back for its support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime that Saudi Arabia’s-supported terrorist forces have not only not been able to topple, but are actually losing the war to. One goal of Israel is having allies that are willing to sabotage Iran’s nuclear facilities, and assassinating its nuclear scientists.

Both Israel and Saudi Arabia seek to destabilize Iran and its government, keeping it tied up with internal problems. And, both hope that the terrorist attacks will provoke the hardliners in Tehran to react strongly, retaliate militarily and, hence, not only give an excuse to the two countries and the United States to attack Iran, but also block any diplomatic resolution of the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. Thus, both President Rouhani and Obama must control their hardliners, and give diplomacy a chance.

The Business of “Human Rights” Hypocrisy

New Worker

The Prime Minister is in the Middle East this week hoping to bag billions of pounds worth of arms contracts from the feudal Arab rulers of Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf.

These Arab tyrants rely on Anglo-American guns to prop up their thrones and that has to be paid for one way or another.

The oil princes, first of all, pay in kind by allowing their territories to be used as strategic bases for imperialist global dominance. Some of the protection money comes from the honeymoon deals with the big oil corporations that have been exploiting Arab oil for over a century. The rest comes from purchasing unnecessary and immensely expensive military hardware from western arms companies that supply the Nato war-machine.

David Cameron is currently hawking the Typhoon Eurofighter to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia — countries which have some of the worst human rights records in the world. Saudi Arabia is ruled by a corrupt royal family whose power is maintained through tribal loyalty and a venal Muslim fundamentalist movement. There is no parliament apart from the “consultative assembly” which consists of 150 members who are all appointed by the king.

Slavery was abolished in 1962 and most menial tasks are now done by migrant workers who account for over 25 per cent of the entire population.

Women have no rights apart from those laid down by medieval Islamic law and tribal custom, which also applies to everyone else throughout the kingdom.

While Saudi Arabia is probably in a class of its own the Emirates are not much better. The UAE is a federation of several oil-rich Arab emirates that had formerly been British protectorates. Over 80 per cent of the population are immigrants who cannot vote. No political parties are allowed to organise and those few who can vote can only do so for a semi-elected federal council which is just a rubber-stamp for the princes.

Cameron, like all imperialist leaders, will always bang on the “human rights” drum when it suits the interests of British imperialism. The imperialists all used it to justify Nato’s overthrow of the Gaddafi government in Libya. They’ve tried to use it to mobilise public opinion behind Nato’s support for the Syrian rebels.

Cameron tells us that he will not hesitate to raise the human rights issue when he meets his prospective Emirates buyers this week. He says:

“On human rights, there are no no-go areas in this relationship. We discuss all of these things but we also show respect and friendship to a very old ally and partner”. All of this is nonsense apart from the amusing euphemism for puppet government at the end.

British imperialism doesn’t give a toss about human rights in the Arab world or anywhere else for that matter. Like the rest of the pack the only real criteria used to judge a country’s “human rights” record is its use to imperialism.

Last year Anglo-American and Franco-German imperialism armed the Islamic fanatics whose revolt provided the pretext for Nato’s regime change in Libya. Today reactionary Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda gangs in Syria are given arms and money to overthrow the Assad government, while the oppressive Saudi and Bahraini regimes that are brutally suppressing their own “Arab Spring” are armed to the teeth by Britain and the United States.

All the Palestinian Arabs get is the occasional pious phrase from the European parliament while the Zionists step up the plunder of their land.

Cameron doesn’t fool anyone on the Arab street with his talk about Arab Springs and human rights.

But they’re not the ones being buttered up to buy more British weaponry…

Despite Ceasefire, Imperialists Continue Arming Syrian Terrorist Groups

New Worker

THE SYRIAN government has agreed to a temporary ceasefire following intense efforts by the United Nation’s special envoy over the past two weeks. But the Syrian army is continuing mopping up operations in the run up to the halt in fighting.

Meanwhile a senior Russian general says that the Nato-supported rebels have been supplied with top-of-the range Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and the Assad government has official accused France of openly arming and funding the terrorist gangs.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is also marking the Muslim festival with a general amnesty for crimes committed before 23rd October 2012, though it will not cover acts of terrorism, arms smuggling or drug dealing. The amnesty covers convicts and anyone who gives themselves up now but it will not apply to criminals who remain on the run.

Prisoners on death row will have their sentence commuted to life imprisonment and life sentences will be reduced to 20 years.

The Syrian armed forces and most of the sectarian rebel militias will observe a ceasefire over the four day Muslim holiday of Eid al Adha that begins on Friday.

United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Ibrahimi, who brokered the deal, says he hopes to use the lull to discuss a longer and more effective ceasefire to allow the political process to develop. And the UN’s head of peacekeeping operations, Herve Ladsous said that he was making plans to send a new observer force to Syria should a lasting ceasefire be agreed.

This week Russian Chief of Staff, Nikolai Makarov, told the Russian media that the Nato-backed rebels are now being supplied with state-of the art equipment.

General Makarov said he had “reliable” information that the rebels have obtained shoulder-launched missiles including US-made Stingers.

“The Americans are in denial, saying they have not supplied anything to the rebels,” General Makarov told reporters on Wednesday.

“But we have reliable information that the militias fighting against the Syrian government forces have portable anti-aircraft missile systems from several states, including Stingers made in the United States.”

“We still need to find out who has delivered them,” he said adding that it was possible that these and other weapons could have been delivered to the rebels from abroad by several means of transport, “including passenger planes”.

That the Syrian rebels have been armed and financed by US-led imperialism and their feudal Arab lackeys has been an open secret for months. Earlier in the year US President Barack Obama signed a secret order authorising the CIA and other covert US fronts to provide support for the rebels trying to bring down the Baathist-led government of Syria.

Now it seems that the rebels are even paid in Yankee dollars to spread death and destruction across the country. Rebel commanders have told the imperialist media that their gunmen get $150 a month via the Turks and some of the feudal Arab states including Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

London Olympics: Reversal of Saudi Ban on Women Athletes is a Veil for Western Imperialism

Saudi Women Athletes

Finian Cunningham

As the 2012 Olympics get under way tonight in London the grand ceremonial parade of nations can claim an historic first. For the first time in over a century of the modern Games, women athletes will be representing all 204 participating nations.

The historic landmark is down to a last-minute U-turn by one country – Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom has up to now never permitted its women to participate in the Olympics because of its draconian application of Islamic Sharia law, which forbids women to be present in public gatherings of both sexes. But the real issue is not the Saudi rulers’ desire to cover up their women – it’s the need for the Western powers and their Arab proxies to cover up ongoing imperialist aggression in the Middle East.

Only in the last few weeks – before the 9 July deadline – did the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee rescind its decades-long moratorium on sending female athletes to the Olympics – a ban that has been in force ever since the kingdom first began participating in the Games in 1972.

As a result, some Western mainstream media are now talking up the occasion in glowing terms as a “breakthrough for women’s rights”.

But a more pressing question not being asked is: how can a country in the 21st century even have a policy of barring women from the world’s foremost sports event?

Moreover, the royal rulers of the House of Saud only relented on the female ban after sustained pressure from the Swiss-based International Olympic Committee, which reportedly threatened to exclude the entire Saudi team if the country did not comply with the Olympic Charter of racial and gender equality.

Another factor was that the other Persian Gulf Arab monarchy, Qatar, and the obscure Southeast Asian kingdom of Brunei had earlier lifted their ban on women participating in London 2012. Along with Saudi Arabia, these were the only three countries in the world that had maintained a prohibition on female athletes partaking in the Games. It is likely that the Qatari rulers realised that they needed to abandon that position owing to their ambitions to turn the emirate into a sporting hub of the Middle East and to expedite the holding of the 2022 Football World Cup.

Saudi Arabia, therefore, was facing the invidious title of being the only nation in the world to bar women from the globe’s premier sporting celebration. Given the symbolism of common humanity that the four-yearly event is supposed to represent, the Western-backed kingdom would have been in the spotlight as a backward, feudal pariah.

The anachronistic position of Saudi Arabia is made all the more glaring when the timeline of women’s participation in the Olympics is considered. The progressive rise in female involvement in the Games can be viewed as a correlation with the general worldwide increase in women’s rights over the past century.

In the 1908 Games, the International Olympic Committee recorded that women represented a mere 1.8 per cent of all competitors. By 1948, female participation increased to 9.5 per cent; and by the last 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the ratio had risen to more than 42 per cent.

Given this rising tide of women athletes over the decades, the Saudi rulers would have been exposed as an utter discrepancy in the eyes of the world.

But this is about much more than sport and women’s rights.

There are high geopolitical stakes at play. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have emerged as the pivotal Arab states promoting the Western powers’ neo-imperialist agenda in the Middle East. This agenda has been unfolding over at least the past decade, but it has come into sharper focus over the last year with regard to Libya, Syria and Iran.

The agenda of regime change towards Libya, Syria and Iran has been cloaked with a cynical, disingenuous concern by Western governments for democratic reform and protection of human rights. The espousal of noble, lofty rhetoric by Washington, London, Paris and Germany has facilitated outright, criminal military interference in Libya that resulted in the overthrow and murder of Muammar Gaddafi as well as the deaths of up to 50,000 Libyans from seven months of NATO aerial bombing.

The same Western deception of concern for democracy, human rights and international law, is being replicated for the destabilisation of the Syrian government of Bashar Al Assad, and for justifying the relentless military aggression towards Iran.

In all this geopolitical manoeuvring, the monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar have provided a crucial semblance of indigenous Middle Eastern support for the Western powers in their policies towards Libya, Syria and Iran – policies that would otherwise be quite rightly seen as naked imperialism.

But a fatal flaw in this Western-Arab “coalition for democracy” is the appalling and barely concealable track record of the Arab monarchies. The absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia in particular is, according to several criteria, perhaps the most repressive regime in the world. The House of Saud, ruled by the ageing King Abdullah bin Abdulazis ibn Saud, has zero tolerance for any political dissent. It has cracked down brutally on the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain over the past 17 months causing dozens of deaths and thousands of illegal detentions. In recent weeks, the Saudi military has intensified repression against its own popular protests for democratic reforms, which has resulted in several deaths from live fire, as well as mass arrests. Currently, there are some 30,000 political prisoners being held in the kingdom under unknown conditions.

Despite a virtual Western media blackout on the widespread Saudi violations, nevertheless the Western public is aware, even if just vaguely, of the kingdom’s despotism, in particular, the suppression of women’s rights.

It is compulsory for Saudi women to cover their bodies with the black abaya dress; they are forbidden from driving cars; and they must be accompanied at all times by a male guardian who is also required to give permission for travel, medical attention, opening a bank account, or if even if the woman wants to leave the house on a mundane errand. The obscurantism of the kingdom towards women’s rights takes on even more sinister meaning with the omnipresence of the Mutaween – the so-called religious police – who have powers to arrest women if they are not attired to the satisfaction of the police. The Mutaween are also empowered to administer physical punishment and are known to abuse their powers for their own gratification – invariably with impunity.

Some court cases underscore the plight of Saudi women. In one case where a woman was caught driving a car in the Red Sea city of Jeddah she was sentenced to receive 10 lashes with a whip. A more disturbing case in 2006 was that of a teenage girl who was kidnapped and gang raped by seven men. She was sentenced to six months in prison with 100 lashes – because the judge ruled that the girl should not have been outside her home alone in the first place.

The contradiction of Saudi Arabia and the other absolute Gulf monarchs championing democratic reforms and human rights in other Middle Eastern countries on behalf of the Western powers is, of course, an absurdity. And because of that, Western media and political leaders have no doubt striven to keep that gross anomaly out of public view, because if it were dwelt on by the Western public then the propaganda cover for Arab-backed Western regime change in the Middle East – purportedly on the basis of promoting democracy and human rights – would be completely blown away.

At this critical juncture in the Middle East’s political affairs when Washington, London, Paris and Berlin are desperately trying to force regime change in Syria, it is even more imperative that the propaganda offensive – based on spurious concerns for human rights – is shored up with credibility.

In this context, the abrupt and reluctant acquiescence by Saudi Arabia and Qatar to permit female participation in the London 2012 Olympics takes on its real significance. This is not, unfortunately, a long-overdue triumph for women’s international rights. It is more a cynical and temporary sop to cover for Western imperialism and its despotic Arab conduits in the Middle East.

Another indicator of the political influence on the Saudi and Qatari team selection is that the female athletes from both countries are being waived in under the International Olympic Committee’s discretionary rules. The two Saudi females and three Qataris are being allowed to participate even though those individuals did not qualify according to the normal Olympic standards governing their respective sports that applied to the other 10,500 athletes.

Furthermore, the mere admission of the Saudi and Qatari female athletes – while a tribute to the individuals concerned – does not cancel out a culture in both kingdoms where women’s sports are discouraged and even banned. It is telling that the two Saudi female athletes – one in judo, the other in track and field – have resided and trained outside the country for several years. In Saudi Arabia, women’s sports are banned outright. There are no public facilities or sporting bodies for women. Even in schools, females are forbidden from partaking in athletics because it is deemed “immodest” by the authorities. There has also been a vicious backlash in the kingdom against the two women entering the London Games with some commentators on Saudi social media denouncing them as “Olympic prostitutes”.

In other words, the mere extemporary reversal of official Saudi and Qatari policy towards women in the Olympics does not herald any thing like the necessary sea change in institutional and cultural practice.

Finally, it may be noted that the two countries in the Middle East which Western governments are tacitly designating for regime change – Syria and Iran – are sending mixed gender teams, as they have done for decades. While both these countries have certain deficits in terms of women’s rights, they are nonetheless in a different league by comparison with the Arab monarchies.

Iran has eight sportswomen among its team of 53, while Syria is sending four female athletes among its total of 10. Both countries have a history of active female participation in sports. Syria’s only Olympic Gold Medal victory ever, for example, was won by the legendary Ghala Shouaa in the women’s heptathlon in the 1996 Atlanta Games. The high profile of women in Syrian and Iranian sports reflects their prominence generally in public life over many decades, including education, arts and professions.

Which is another reason why the Western-sponsored Arab monarchies had to be dragged out of the Dark Ages – at least for the occasion of the London 2012 Olympics. That contradiction would have won a Gold Medal for hypocrisy.