Posted by Karmel Melamed
Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told an audience of diplomats at the United Nations in Geneva that “gay rights are human rights” and that “it should never be a crime to be gay”. Yet what was surprising about Mrs. Clinton’s gay rights speech for many of us who have been following the Obama administration’s foreign policy on human rights was its lack of real substance. She stated the U.S. would make decisions on asylum and aid to countries based on their record of human rights towards LGBT but nothing more. Why wasn’t there a bold call to rally western nations to pursue a tougher “no nonsense” stance against regime’s who abuse or kill LGBT because of their sexual orientation? There seems to no “bite” to the Obama administration’s supposed support for human rights for LGBT around the world. Moreover Mrs. Clinton’s speech failed to mention the serious violators of LGBT rights in the Middle East like Saudi Arabia and Iran where homosexuals are routinely executed for their sexual orientation. Iran’s government follows Sharia or Islamic law that prohibits any type of sexual activity outside the realm of heterosexual marriage, and homosexuality is considered “a violation of the supreme will of God.” Specifically, in Islamic law homosexuality is referred to as “lavat,” which is Arabic for sodomy and in Iran is punishable only by death.
Those interested in reading about the Iran government’s significant human rights abuses against LGBT in Iran, can read my recent article about it in the Advocate magazine.
One is left wondering why Mrs. Clinton and the Obama administration for that matter are shying away from or frightened to call out the Iranian regime for their unspeakable crimes against LGBT living in Iran? One would think that the current U.S. administration would make sure to use almost every opportunity they come across to single out and isolate Iran’s fundamentalist Islamic regime. While many nations around the world may be swayed into believing Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful, the majority of them cannot deny that Iran’s policy of executing LGBT is utterly horrid. So why isn’t the Obama administration trying to win world support against Iran’s regime for their human rights violations instead of the nuclear issue? This move would no doubt more easily isolate Iran among the countries of the world. And if would seem that once Iran is isolated to a greater extent, it could potentially change its behavior when it comes to the nuclear issue. But it seems as if the Obama administration is fine with not doing anything of the kind when it comes to isolating Iran internationally on all issues. Yes one can argue that there are many violators of LGBT rights in the Middle East and Africa— but are any of them actively pursuing nuclear weapons and calling for their neighbors to be “wiped off the map” like Iran’s leadership has? The crimes against LGBT and humanity in general committed by Iran’s current leadership during the last 32 years are some of the most horrendous to date and cannot be ignored! For this simple reason alone, Iran must be singled out from the family of nations for their human rights abuses. And for Mrs. Clinton to avoid mentioning Iran in her very important speech, yet again I believe shows weak leadership by the Obama administration when it comes to the issue of Iran policy by the U.S.
I hate to admit it but it seems as if Mrs. Clinton’s speech was nothing more than a 2012 election ploy by the Obama administration to fire up her party’s support among LGBT in the U.S. for President Obama. If there was more substance in her speech and if she had made a real effort to call out Iran’s regime for its LGBT abuses, it would have revealed Mrs. Clinton’s true courage to stand up for real human rights and stand up to Iran for its failed human rights record. In the coming 2012 elections those who truly care about LGBT human rights should call out the Obama administration for their failure to do and say nothing about the unspeakable LGBT abuses occurring in Iran today.
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December 19, 2011 | 9:30 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
The United States Senate very rarely passes votes unanimously on major legislation during the course of a year and in its long history. Yet earlier this month the U.S. Senate voted unanimously on one of the most stringent sanctions to date on Iran’s Central Bank. The legislation was spearheaded by both Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illionis— indeed a very unusual occasion when both parties come agree to hammer out a bill that benefits the country and the world. But these two courageous lawmakers and the rest of the U.S. Senate clearly realized that Iran’s attaining nuclear weapons is a very serious matter and stopping that regime now with tougher economic sanctions without firing a single bullet was the right move. Despite passage of this landmark amendment known as “Menendez -Kirk” in the Senate, President Obama and his administration have for some foolish reason refused to support it!
I think it’s important to lay out what the amendment truly calls for in order for one to realize how totally ludicrous it would be for any U.S. lawmaker to oppose it. The amendment does the following…
“Prohibits the opening or maintaining in the U.S. of a correspondent account or a payable-through account on foreign financial institutions engaged in non-petroleum-related transactions with the Central Bank of Iran after 60 days. In addition, it imposes sanctions on foreign financial institutions, including central banks, engaged in petroleum-related transactions with the Central Bank of Iran after 180 days with 180-day special exemptions tied to the availability of non-Iranian oil on the market and a country’s significant reduction in purchases of Iranian oil. Likewise it provides a humanitarian exception for food, medicine and medical devices. Lastly it allows the president with an unclassified national security waiver authority every 120 days”.
Now those of us who are well aware of the serious threat a nuclear Iran is to the free world and also believe the military option is not the right route to take against Iran, are simply baffled at why President Obama will not sign this amendment into law! We all know that a key component that is keeping Iran’s radical fundamentalist Islamic regime surviving is its financial lifeline— which is now a shaky economy. So one is left wondering why the President who has said “a nuclear Iran is not acceptable” has failed to take a solid step in squeezing Iran’s lifeline? Moreover one is shocked at how the President has failed to sign Menendez –Kirk, even though it was unanimously passed in the Senate by both Democrats and Republicans? How can President Obama oppose Menendez –Kirk that also gives him both a national security waiver and a waiver to avoid international difficulties to the flow of oil in the world? Mr. President what is stopping you from delivering a strong blow to Iran’s regime without taking the military option? Mr. President what more do you need to sign this necessary bill that could expedite demise of the Islamic Republic of Iran with firing a single shot?
I contacted the White House press office a few times via e-mail and asked for a legitimate answer as to why the President refuses to sign Menendez –Kirk, but never heard back from them. Yet I’m not the only one frustrated by the President’s failure in taking a strong leadership role on Iran policy and this amendment, just listen to U.S. Senator Menendez, who is from the President’s political party, expressing his disappointment and outrage at President Obama’s lack of support for this powerful amendment…
The President’s refusal to support this amendment is yet another prime example of a golden opportunity that the President has passed on in effectively stopping Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons without taking military steps. President Obama’s first passed up golden opportunity to help stop Iran’s regime came in the summer of 2009 when the brave people of Iran began protesting in the streets of Iran against the rigged presidential elections. The people of Iran began marching in the streets demanding for greater freedoms, democracy and an end to the brutal dictatorship of Iran’s notorious mullahs. What did the President do in response to the Iranian people’s cries for help? For several days he did nothing! He did not utter a word of backing for their cries for help. Finally after a week or so when the protestors were killed, beaten and imprisoned, President Obama gave a watered-down weak speech asking for the Iranian regime to “allow for greater freedoms” for their people. The people of Iran were disappointed with the President’s catastrophic failure to back them and their quest for true freedom— and they showed this disappointment when they chanted in the streets; “Obama you are either with us or you are with them!” The President did nothing when he could have more vocally stepping onto the world’s stage in support of Iran’s people. The President wanted to “make nice” with the mullahs ruling Iran in an effort to lure them to the negotiating table on the nuclear issue. Well this approach clearly failed and the regime’s leadership spat in his face and refused to negotiate. President Obama instead could have pledged economic and diplomatic support for the people of Iran’s desires to be free from their oppressive regime. He could have urged the people of Iran to topple their bloodthirsty oppressors by promising support from the U.S. All of this potential help from the President could have possibly helped start the demise of Iran’s current regime and Iran’s nuclear weapons program without a single bullet or missile fired by the U.S. or any other country. Yet in the end the President missed this golden opportunity and proved that his approach and policy of dealing with Iran is an utter failure.
Lastly what continues to baffle me about the President’s failure to sign this stringent sanction on Iran’s Central Bank is the fact that the European governments, whom have more trade with Iran and purchase Iran’s oil in larger volumes, are now considering similar tough sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank— while we in the U.S. who do not trade with Iran and do not purchase Iranian oil are doing nothing! It just doesn’t make sense for us here in the U.S. not to stop Iran’s financial lifeline when we have little if nothing to loose financially from doing so!
Readers of this blog often e-mail me or post comments asking why I am so critical of President Obama’s approach on Iran. Well his failure to take courageous and effective leadership steps (without taking military steps) as I’ve listed above are prime examples of why this U.S. President is either a complete fool when it comes to dealing with Iran, or surrounded by fools who are advising him poorly on Iran, or just completely incompetent when it comes to serious foreign policy issues relating to Iran and the Middle East! The President’s lack of effective leadership on the Iran issue should put into question his competency to be the commander-in-chief of this great nation in next year’s presidential election. My only hope is that average Americans and the media will ask the President the tough questions when it comes to his lack of leadership on the Iran issue and ask him why he refused to sign the bi-partisan supported Menendez –Kirk amendment that could have helped stop Iran’s nuclear program without firing a single bullet! If Iran ever obtains nuclear weapons during President Obama’s watch, he will go down in history as the president who brought both America and the world closer to nuclear annihilation.
December 13, 2011 | 12:52 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Los Angeles area Iranian Jewish radio talk show host and financial investment manager, John Farahi last week was charged in U.S. Federal District Court in downtown Los Angeles with allegedly defrauding more than 100 local Iranian American investors and various financial institutions of nearly $20 million through an elaborate Ponzi scheme he carried out for nearly five years.
The 41-count indictment stated that 54-year-old Farahi misled investors by telling them their funds were being invested by his Beverly Hills firm, NewPoint Financial Services Inc., in unsecured corporate bonds, FDIC-insured certificates of deposit, government bonds, and corporate bonds issued by companies backed by funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Yet the indictment alleges that Farahi did not make these investments for his clients but instead used the funds to make Ponzi payments to his firm’s earlier clients, traded in high-risk future options trading and used the funds for his own personal use and to support his family’s lavish lifestyle.
“Starting in 2008 Farahi allegedly failed to tell NewPoint Financial Services investors that he had lost at least $15 million through his undisclosed options trading— even as he continued to solicit investors for NewPoint Financial Services,” indicated a recently released U.S. Department of Justice statement about the case.
In addition, the indictment states that since 2003, Farahi used his radio program, “The Economy Today,” featured on the Studio City-based Farsi-language Radio Iran KIRN 670 AM, to target members of L.A.’s Iranian American community— many of whom were Iranian Jews, recommending they make appointments at his firm. According to the indictment, Farahi also allegedly lied to major banks about his financial condition in order to drawn funds from lines credit he had with the banks.
In April 2009, following the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into Farahi and his firm, the indictment states that Farahi allegedly conspired with his Century City attorney, David Tamman, to cover up his fraud scheme from the SEC. As a result Tamman was also recently indicted for his alleged involvement with the cover up of Farahi’s supposed Ponzi scheme.
According to U.S. Federal statutes, if convicted on all 41 criminal counts, Farahi could face a maximum sentence of more than 700 years in federal prison and Tamman could face a maximum sentence of 190 years in federal prison.
Farahi’s indictment has only added to the local Iranian Jewish community’s embarrassment as it comes on the heals of the recent conviction of Ezri Namvar, another local Iranian Jewish investment banker and real estate developer. Namvar was sentenced in October to seven years in federal prison for stealing about $20 million from four clients who had given money to his company to facilitate1031 exchanges— transactions in which property sellers defer paying taxes by parking proceeds with an intermediary until they find another property to buy.
In late 2008, two dozen creditors — most of them from Southern California’s Iranian Jewish community — filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition against Namvar and his Namco Capital Group company, accusing him of losing as much as $500 million loaned to him in an alleged Ponzi scheme. While that case is still ongoing, a substantial number of local Iranian Jewish victims of Namvar’s alleged scheme have been financially devastated.
A. David Youssefyeh, a local Iranian Jewish attorney representing nearly a dozen former Namvar investors, said Farahi’s indictment has only further shaken the trust among the tight-knit local Iranian Jewish community who once closed business deals with handshakes alone.
“Farahi’s indictment is another blow to our community, but hopefully out of all of this we will rise with even higher ethical standards in our business dealings, said Youssefyeh. “Although 99.9 percent of our community has had no issues in their business dealings, hopefully Mr. Namvar’s conviction and Mr. Farahi’s indictment will be warning to those who may be tempted to take the easy road in the future”.
In January 2010 the SEC filed a lawsuit against Farahi, his company, his wife, Gissou Rastegar Farahi, and the firm’s controller, Elaheh Amouei for allegedly misleading and defrauding individuals working with his financial investment firm. While the SEC suit has been placed on hold pending the current criminal charges against Farahi, the suit alleged that Farahi’s investors’ money was transferred into personal accounts controlled by Farahi and his wife to build their mansion in Beverly Hills.
Both Farahi and his wife moved in high-end social circles within the local Iranian Jewish community and were involved in organizing fundraising events at the West Hollywood-based Temple Beth El, which is owned and operated by the Iranian American Jewish Federation (IAJF). Farahi’s wife, a former IAJF board member, also helped organize high-profile fundraising events in the community for Hilary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid.
The Justice Department statement indicated that after voluntarily surrendering to authorities and being arraigned on December 9th, Farahi was taken into custody. A spokesperson for the Justice Department indicated that bail was denied for Farahi who still remains in custody.