Posted by Karmel Melamed
With the recent talks between Iran and six of the world’s major powers on the Iranian regime’s pursuit on nuclear weapons, countless Jewish and non-Jewish groups in the U.S. are calling for local and state officials to turn up the pressure on the Iranian regime by enforcing tough federal sanctions. Specifically, the New York-based “United Against a Nuclear Iran” (UANI) has worked with the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and other Southern California groups to call on L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti to ban ships that have docked in Iranian ports from docking in the Port of Los Angeles. With this move activists believe the Iranian regime will be squeezed economically even further to stop their nuclear weapons pursuit. Unfortunately since his election earlier this year Garcetti has remained silent on whether to impose these sanctions for the Port of Los Angeles despite calls from countless Jewish groups and other human rights activists in the city. His office did not return calls to this reporter asking for comments as to why the mayor has not taken any stance on Iran sanctions and the Port of Los Angeles.
I recently had a chance to chat with David Peyman, an Iranian Jewish activist and senior advisor to UANI about the calls for Iran sanctions to be imposed on the Port of Los Angeles. The following is a portion of our conversation…
Why has UANI, the AJC and other Jewish community groups joined forces to push for this new call to pressure the Iranian regime financially with issues of ships docking at Iranian ports and also docking at the port of L.A. port?
There is a global consensus that enforcement of U.S. sanctions against Iran is having a severe impact on the Iranian economy and has forced Iran to the negotiating table to resolve the nuclear issue. It is still unclear whether the Islamic Regime is ready to abide by U.N. Resolutions and cease all enrichment activity, which is the only way to ensure they will not have a nuclear weapon break-out capability. But what we do know, is that more economic pressure is precisely what is necessary to raise the costs and make it worthwhile for Iran to abide by their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and U.N. Resolutions. I wrote in the Jewish Journal in 2008 “Sanctions only work if they are enforced” that we not only need strong sanctions to force Iran to give up its program, but that those sanctions must be enforced. Finally, several years later, President Obama started enforcing sanctions and empowered state and local governments to do the same under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act. Los Angeles is a major U.S. trading hub and ships that conduct business with Iran use the L.A. Port. We are asking the mayor and the Port Authority to force companies to make a decision between doing business with a terrorist regime seeking nuclear weapons—a regime that killed hundreds of U.S. marines and swore the destruction of Israel—or the Port of L.A. That’s an easy choice.
Has any specific piece of actual legislation on the ports and Iran been introduced at L.A. City Hall or at the state legislature yet?
No legislation is needed. The mayor must simply make his voice heard and demand that the Port Authority—whose members are appointed by the mayor—vote to restrict ships docking in Iran or conducting business with Iran from using our port. United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), founded by notable foreign policy figures Ambassador Dennis Ross, the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, former Clinton CIA Director Jim Woolsey, and former U.N. Ambassador Mark Wallace, along with major American-Jewish organizations, including the AJC, ADL, and Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Congregations wrote the mayor several months ago to request his support for this initiative. Unfortunately, the mayor did not even respond.
Following Iran’s President Rouhani recently visiting NY for his UN speech and talking about openness to negotiations and friendship the U.S. on the nuclear issue, there seems to be an effort on the part of the Obama administration to hold off on implementing any new sanctions on Iran. What do you say to critics of UANI who say, give this new Iranian president who is a "reformist" a chance on the nuclear issue before squeezing the regime anymore?
Actions speak louder than empty words. The Iranians are masters of delay, deceit and development of a nuclear bomb. President Rouhani publicly took credit for the successful ploy of talking to the West while advancing the nuclear weapons program when he was chief nuclear negotiator. Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was only half right when she said “we know that deception is part of the Iranian DNA.” Actually, Iranians don’t view their negotiating method as “deception.” Rather, it is part of the bazari negotiating approach completely foreign to the West. Iranians approach negotiations as a zero-sum affair and any negotiating method that achieves their goal is most certainly acceptable. After all, this is the bazaar. So for a deal to have any chance of success, Iran must fully disclose and dismantle its program and provide unfettered access to inspectors. This is what the Libyans did, and sanctions were quickly dropped thereafter. So Iran knows very well that the U.S. has no problems with dropping sanctions, because we did it with arch-terrorist Kaddafi. So if Iran wants to be transparent and honest, it does not require much effort and its intentions will be quickly evident. Until then, we must continue to increase the costs—during the negotiations—until they outweigh the benefits of Iran’s “deception.” Short of a military attack, the only costs are economic sanctions, and perhaps increased U.S. naval presence in the Persian Gulf and some kind of naval blockade or inspection of Iranian commercial ships.
How do you respond to critics of sanctions on Iran such as NIAC who claims that the sanctions only hurt the people of Iran and not the regime and therefore should not be implemented?
The Iranian street is telling us otherwise. They are telling us to keep the pressure on this regime and not be deceived by ruthless clerics who have killed and tortured thousands of innocent Iranians. Those that suffer under the hands of this radical theocracy know its brutality and duplicity better than anyone. They also know they will never live to see a day of freedom if this regime possesses nuclear weapons. So until such time that we can verify that this regime has dismantled its program, the street wants sanctions in place, despite the pain. The evidence speaks for itself. When we increased economic pressure, the most liberal candidate who sought engagement with the West got elected. When we extended a naïve hand, we got the Holocaust-denying Ahmadinejad.
I understand that some prominent California legislator such as Speaker John Perez, imposing Iran sanctions for the ports because it will hurt California's already struggling economy in this recession. How do you respond to critics that say this sanctions move is ill timed and could hurt us economically in California?
First, there is no evidence that ships will stop porting in L.A. if they are forced to make a decision between us and Iran. Second, even if ships do decide to forego the U.S. for Iran, there is no evidence that it will have a significant impact on our economy or jobs at the port. We are speaking of a handful of ships. But most important, there is something called morality and a clear ethical compass. The means by which we support our economy are as important as the ends. If those means are dyed with the blood of innocents murdered by the Iranian regime, like our brave Marines in Beirut or our troops in Khobar Towers, or those means are tainted by money feeding a nuclear program run by a terrorist regime, then we must re-evaluate our priorities and who we elect to office. I hope that the Mayor does not share Mr. Perez’s short-sighted and confused view. But we have not heard from the Mayor, so we don’t know.
The calls in the U.S. for imposing Iran sanctions on the ports seems to be stemming human rights activists who believe the Iranian regime is responsible for a major human rights crisis against women, LGBT, labor unions and religious minorities. Can you please comment on this as well?
Iran continues to execute more of its own citizens per capita than any country in the world, including those convicted for the “crime” of homosexual conduct. Since Rouhani’s inauguration on Aug. 4th, at least 125 Iranians have been executed. The tragedy with Iran is that even if we get a deal on the nuclear issue and lift sanctions, this regime will continue to torture and execute its own people. One hopes that with the resolution of the nuclear issue and new economic opportunities, the contrived fallacy of a Western Great Satan will evaporate among all sectors of the Iranian population, and the people will rise in another Green Revolution—this time supported by the West—to oust corrupt clerics whose sole legitimacy is derived from protecting the people against this polemic. But if we don't have a resolution on the nuclear issue and we must resort to military force, perhaps the millions who rallied against the regime during the Green Revolution will use the opportunities presented by a military attack to remove this brutal regime from power. On this point, it is also important to note that we must respect the wishes of the Iranian people in an open democracy, even if it leads to some kind of Islamic state system. Some limited role of Islam in government must not necessarily be mutually exclusive from a democratic state that respects the rights of its people and international laws; just as a Jewish state can be a model for democracy and prosperity. There are and have always been liberal clerics in Iran. I am confident that the same Persians that gave the Jews the freedom to return to their beloved Jerusalem under King Cyrus will elect liberal-minded leaders that respect divinely granted rights and international norms. The point is that when Iranians can pick their system of government and their leaders freely, they will pick those who protect civil liberties and respect international laws. Iranians are not the Palestinians of Gaza. A free election will yield liberalism, not Hamas terrorism.
(UANI senior advisor David Peyman)
For more information on UANI's efforts to push for tougher sanctions on the Iranian regime, visit their site www.uani.org
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October 20, 2013 | 10:40 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
I continued to be amazed and baffled at how Americans and Europeans still believe that Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani is supposedly “moderate” and wants to supposedly implement new changes of freedom in Iran. As the popular saying goes “the proof is in the pudding” and Rouhani’s pudding since becoming president of Iran in August has been the same business as usual policy of horrendous human rights abuses that the Iranian regime has been notorious for years. This man is NO MODERATE! He is merely a smiling and softly speaking cleric who claims to be “nicer and friendlier to everyone” but in reality supports the same shameful repression of basic freedoms and human rights against the people of Iran that all of predecessors and clerics of the Iranian regime supported.
According to the latest reports released by the U.S. based “Iran Human Rights Documentation Center” (IHRDC) at least 125 executions have taken place in Iran since Rouhani became president of Iran in August with most of the people executed for supposed petty “drug offenses” and sham “security crimes”. Likewise the IHRDC reported that between September 11th and September 25th at least 50 people were executed in Iran alone and a total of 560 people were executed in all of Iran so far this year. Now I would like someone to explain to me what kind of leader is a supposed “moderate” when he allows any executions to take place for crimes of drug offenses?! Where is Rouhani’s benevolence towards human rights, freedom and equality which he repeatedly kept preaching to U.S. media outlets during his many interviews? It is downright shameful how western news media outlets and journalists failed to call Rouhani out on this horrible human rights record of his regime during his recent visits to the U.S.!
Now the Iranian regime’s leadership and other shameful apologists for the Iran regime will claim that Rouhani is a member of executive branch of government in Iran and has no control over the judiciary that carries out the law. Or these apologists or Iranian regime stooges will claim that the U.S. also carries out the death penalty for certain criminals and it only fair that Iran be able to do so as well. Both of these arguments are majorly flawed because Rouhani as the supposed leader of a country that claims to be democratic show have some control or even influence on what the security apparatus in Iran is doing and if he does not, then he not a true president but a mere puppet of Iran’s Supreme leader! Next, while the U.S. does have the death penalty, typically individuals who have carried our heinous crimes of murder and mass killings are tried on death penalty cases. Likewise every person in the U.S. under the U.S. Constitution is given proper representation by an attorney, allowed a fair trial and allowed multiple appeals with numerous courts before being executed. To the contrary, in Iran individuals are randomly arrested on minor charges of “drug use” or trumped up “security crimes against the state”, they are usually beaten to near death in order for the regime to extract false confessions from them and usually hug in public by construction cranes. Moreover the rate of executions for any crimes in Iran is ridiculously high as opposed to any other country in the world. Therefore those who claim Rouhani is not responsible in some way for these unjust executions is living in a fantasy fairytale land of make-believe!
Lastly the truly depraved nature of Iran’s totalitarian radical Islamic regime showed itself last week following news that an Iranian man who had survived a botched hanging in Iran has been ordered to be re-executed by hanging him again! The 37-year-old man who somehow survived the hanging was ordered by the Iranian courts to be given full medical treatment that he could be in perfect health and experience a second hanging for his crime of possessing illegal methamphetamine drugs. What I’d like to know is where was the “moderate” Rouhani when news of this man’s botched execution and re-execution orders came out? Why hasn’t the “moderate” Rouhani or any of the other “moderates” in his government called for this man to be pardoned, especially since he did not commit a violent crime? The truth of the matter is that Rouhani was never a “moderate”, but just as brutal and supportive of the tyrannical nature of the Iranian regime. If this is the way these “ moderate leaders” of Iran treat their own people, I pray we never see what they would do to the world with nuclear weapons in their hands.
We as Americans need to wake up and face the sad reality that Rouhani is NOT and will NEVER be a moderate. Likewise we need to urge our elected officials in Congress and in the White House not to be fooled by the empty rhetoric of Rouhani and realize that they are dealing with a truly evil man who is a part of an even more evil regime in Iran.
(left to right; Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, both radical fundamentalist Islamic clerics)
October 10, 2013 | 11:25 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
The Los Angeles Regional office of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) has long been at the forefront of forging new alliances with non-Jewish groups and communities in the city of Los Angeles when it comes to public advocacy on a whole host of issues. Yet the AJC’s on-going efforts for public advocacy concerning Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons is to be applauded because they have reached out to local groups that most Jewish organizations would never think of approaching. Last week the AJC joined in an event locally with “NetKal” USC’s Network of Korean-American Leaders to discuss the potential dangers of a North Korean nuclear attack and a nuclear attack from Iran’s current regime. There is perhaps no other local community in Los Angeles than the Koreans who best understand the dangers of a rogue regime headed by a lunatic dictator with access to nuclear weapons. Kudos to the AJC in outreaching to the Korean community and also learning their perspectives on two very dangerous regimes that could potentially plunge the world into an unspeakable chaos if either country launched nuclear weapons.
I recently had the chance to sit down and chat with Rabbi Mark Diamond, the Regional Director of AJC Los Angeles about the AJC’s outreaching event with the local Korean community. The following is a portion of that conversation…
Can you please share with us why AJC decided to go forward with this event regarding Iran and North Korea's threats of nuclear war at this point in time?
The relationship AJC Los Angeles enjoys with the Korean American community in general, and NetKal (USC’s Network of Korean-American Leaders) in particular, spans several years. Our partnership produced an acclaimed program in this series in 2012, a groundbreaking project that focused on human rights abuses, spearheaded by young professionals in the Jewish and Korean-American communities. This year’s program, “Crossroads of Diplomacy: Evaluating the Threats of North Korea and Iran,” was another example of how our communities are working together with common goals and interests. We are two large, diverse communities in southern California that come together for friendship and fellowship. We share a unique bond in discussing the dangers posed by two nations, in two different parts of the world, whose nuclear ambitions threaten their neighbors, regions and global peace and security. This program could not have come at a more critical moment given recent developments in Iran and North Korea.
Following your recent event, how receptive do you believe the local Korean community is in understanding the threat of a nuclear Iran to Israel and the rest of the world?
Few communities in the United States are more likely to understand the nuclear threat that Iran poses for Israel than the Korean-American community. The response by Korean American leaders and their concern, not only for the nuclear threats from North Korea, but also Iran, has been positive and humbling. The Korean American community in Los Angeles has expressed the utmost understanding for the situation that Israel faces and has expressed their desire to forge even stronger ties with the Jewish community through this unique partnership with AJC Los Angeles.
AJC has long sought alliance with many different non-Jewish groups locally and nationally on an array of issues. As a result of your efforts, how has the relationship between the Korean community and Jewish community changed locally regarding the Iranian nuclear issue?
When communities become aware of one another’s concerns and begin to take that awareness to a deeper level—one of mutual understanding and respect—relationships themselves deepen and evolve. Though our dialogue and desire to learn more about how we share mutual interests, values and concerns, we have discovered that our communities are aligned in many ways. We acknowledge that there are similarities and differences between North Korea and Iran. North Korea and Iran both cheated on their pledges by seeking nuclear weapons capability. Both nations gave verbal assurances to the international community that was not backed up by corresponding action. Instead, they divert major resources to acquiring nuclear materials. Both were isolated and subjected to economic sanctions by the United States and international community. Both have abysmal human rights records. North Korea has long been a reliable supplier of arms and nuclear technology to Iran and both have united to undermine international efforts, including the UN Arms Trade Treaty, to set standards for cross-border transfers of conventional weapons.
Aside from the nuclear threat, there have been horrible crimes committed against humanity in both the regimes in North Korea and Iran. Has AJC and other non-Jewish groups you have worked with addressed this human rights tragedy in your panel events?
AJC was founded more than 100 years ago as a human rights organization. At the core of our global Jewish advocacy work is AJC’s mission, which includes “advancing human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world.” AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI) has documented shocking human rights abuses in Iran and North Korea. Speakers at our recent program addressed these abuses in their remarks, underscoring AJC’s concern for human rights in both countries.
What other non-Jewish groups and has the AJC has been outreaching to with regards to the issue of Iran's threat of nuclear weapons?
Central to AJC’s mission is our advocacy work with foreign diplomats and national, state and local elected officials. At each meeting, AJC leaders raise these issues with our interlocutors. We also engage in dialogue on this issue with our many faith and intergroup partners, including the Baha'i community, which is particularly engaged in the issue because of the persecution of the Baha'i community in Iran. This December, AJC Los Angeles will partner with the Los Angeles World Affairs Council for a major program featuring AJC Executive Director, David Harris, who will deliver a keynote address on the threat of a nuclear Iran and other global issues.
October 2, 2013 | 6:48 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
A few weeks ago Iran’s newly “elected” president Hassan Rouhani as well as Iran’s newest foreign minister Mohammad Javid Zarif both took to the social media site “Twitter” to tweet well wishes to Jews worldwide for Rosh Hashana. News media outlets in the U.S., Europe and Israel were all abuzz that Rouhani and Zarif were supposedly extending an “olive branch of peace” to Jews through their tweets for the Jewish new year. Yet many Iranian human rights activists and journalists like myself who have been following the Iranian regime’s media tactics for years know very clearly that the “tweets” from Rouhani and Zarif were not goodwill gestures to Jews, Israel or America— but merely propaganda stunts to fool individuals in the West that they are not as “bad” folks as Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who was a very proud and outspoken anti-Semite, Holocaust denier and hater of all things Western. The tweets from Rouhani and Zarif were a part of their larger publicity campaign to halt the strong sanctions on Iran by projecting a supposed “nicer” face to Iran’s totalitarian regime. It is clear to us journalists of Iranian background that Rouhani and his “moderates” cronies in Tehran are involved in full media damage control mode in an effort to paint a new giant happy face that was destroyed during the last eight years by Iran’s ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Western news media.
The Iranian regime’s propaganda wing never ceases to amaze me with their unending attempts to show that their regime is supposedly “all loving and kind” to the Jews with their endless publicity stunts, press releases and ridiculous statements made by Iran’s only Jewish member of parliament that the regime treats Jews with supposed 100% equality! I have written extensively about how the Iranian regime uses the Jews living in Iran as propaganda pawns to improve their image in their world. The Iranian regime is quick to pull out the Jewish member of Iran’s Parliament to show that Iran’s Jews have “fair representation”. Yet what the mainstream media does not realize are that comments made by any Jewish leaders in Iran to the Western media lack credible since these leaders have been hand-picked by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry to parrot what the regime tells them to say. Whenever any journalist goes to Iran to talk to the Jews, they are handed over to hand-picked Jews who have been given a script to read from—just as was the case with the Nazi films at Theresienstadt during World War II. What is even more outrageous about Iran’s propaganda machine is that the regime does not grant visas to journalists it deems unsympathetic to their regime! So the Iranian officials have had pretty much free reign in spewing their one-sided message regarding Iranian Jews that is in no way objective. This is by far not fair and balanced journalism!
The Iranian regime, much like the Nazi regime, loves to parade the Jews of Iran in front of the international news cameras to attack Israel in any way possible because they know these news outlets will carry stories about Jews “condemning Israel”. Anyone in the right mind who actually believes that the Jews of Iran hate Israel is foolish. Jews along with other religious minorities in Iran live in constant fear for their lives because the Iranian regime by law treats them as second class citizens who have few rights than the Muslim majority and can be immediately punished for a whole host of “crimes” the regime can conjure up. The only reason Jews in Iran even participated in the sham protests against Israel or America is because members of Iran’s secret police threaten their lives if they do not do what these radical Islamic thugs dictate to them!
As a journalist who exclusively covers Iranian Jewry and has close ties to the community, I am personally baffled at how member of the media in the U.S. and Europe can make any assertions that life is great for Jews in Iran. On a regular basis, I am reminded by countless Iranian American Jewish leaders to “watch” what I might be writing about the Iranian regime for fear that what I may report on may have negative repercussions on the Jews of Iran. So my question is why on earth are Iranian American Jews so concerned about my words and the safety of their brethren in Iran if everything is supposedly so fine and dandy for Jews in Iran? If Jews are supposedly free to practice their religion in Iran without restrictions, then why have the Iranian regime’s leaders during the last 34 years forced Jews to keep their Jewish day schools open on the Sabbath which is holy to the Jewish people? Why do Iranian authorities repeatedly refuse the Jewish community’s requests to close their Jewish schools during the Sabbath in Iran? Also, why have nearly 100,000 Jews fled Iran since 1979 if life is supposedly so fantastic and free for Jews in Iran? Likewise, if things are so happy and rosy for the Jews of Iran, then was Toobah Nehdaran, a 57-year-old married woman brutally murdered and had her body mutilated by radical Islamic thugs in the Iranian city of Isfahan in November 2012? Why have Nehdaran’s murders not been brought to justice yet by the Iranian authorities? All of these clear facts prove that Rouhani and all the other Islamic clerics who control the Iranian regime do not give a damn about the Jews of Iran or the Jews of any other country!
I was quite surprised that news media outlets in the U.S. and Europe have been fooled into believing that Rouhani and his gang are supposedly “nicer” and “moderate” than the other radical Islamic leaders of Iran’s current regime. The fact of the matter is that Rouhani is NO MODERATE! It is a misnomer for anyone to call him a “moderate” because he currently does not take any stance on Israel, the rights of Jews or minorities in Iran, or on the nuclear issue that are any different than his predecessor Ahmadinejad or Iran’s brutal Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei! The only difference between Rouhani and Ahmadinejad is that Rouhani smiles for the western news media cameras, speaks of wanting supposed “peace with the west” and says he wants to give more freedoms to the people of Iran. But the proof is in the pudding and while Rouhani may talk the talk of being “different or moderate”, his actions are no different than those of Ahmadinejad. The centrifuges in Iran’s nuclear sites are still spinning full speed ahead, Baha’is and Christians are still being brutally tortured and killed in Iran for practicing their faiths and Rouhani has not denounced the calls from other leaders in Iran who want Israel destroyed. Sadly Americans and Europeans do not understand the Farsi language programs broadcasted by Iran’s state-run media and do not see nor hear the real Rouhani. Throughout the recent “elections” in Iran Rouhani kept boasting in his news media interviews and during the candidate debates that he was the only one during the 1990’s as Iran’s nuclear negotiator who deceived the West and bought time for the nuclear program to get to this irreversible stage! Now people who may not believe me, can always buy a copy of Rouhani’s biography in Farsi (that has not been translated into English) online in which he point blank admits to deceiving the West in order to buy Iran more time for their nuclear program. Also the news media in the West also forgets that Rouhani was one of only a handful of presidential candidates hand-picked by Iran’s Supreme Leader to run for the presidency of Iran. So how moderate and how open to change can a man who has been approved by Iran’s most radical leader truly be? Lastly, let us not forget that Rouhani from the age of 18 was a protégé of and studied under Iran’s late dictator the Ayatollah Khomeini-- the brutal founder of Iran’s current radical Islamic regime. So anyone brought up with Khomeini’s idiotic radical fundamentalist Islamic ideologies can in no way be a moderate!
In the end it also very funny to me to sees how that regime prevents average Iranians and journalists from using social media sites like Twitter, while at the same time Rouhani and Iran’s leaders easily use Twitter to get their propaganda messages out to the world! The hypocrisy of the Iranian regime is truly amazing! Let us disregard this bogus Rosh Hashana tweet from Rouhani and all the other clowns in Iran’s regime who claim to “love” the Jews but are really faking it.
(Ileft to right; Iran's former president Mahmoud Ahmadenijad and Iran's current president Hassan Rouhani)
August 18, 2013 | 11:10 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Back in December of last year I was utterly shocked and disgusted that several American based social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube had permitted Iran’s totalitarian fundamentalist Islamic Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to start his own pages and have a presence on their sites. As an Iranian American journalist, I am horrified on a daily basis to learn about the constant harassment, torture, imprisonment and cold blooded killings of journalists and bloggers in Iran face when they post stories or blog postings that the regime’s leadership in Iran does not approve of or deems “subversive of their reign”. Since 2009 Khamenei and his notorious “Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp” (IRGC)—a terrorist organization have spent millions of dollars to cut the Internet service or purchased software that blocks access to popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for average people in Iran. It is indeed ironic that the very man that has blocked and censored the people of Iran from using American social media sites, is now himself using these very sites to spread his own fundamentalist Islamic propaganda and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Moreover, I am still baffled at how the current Obama administration has continued to permit Khamenei, the leader of the IRGC-- a known terrorist organization, to even have a presence on American social media sites when U.S. federal laws specifically prohibit the use of U.S. servers for the purposes of advancing terrorism! Shame on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and other U.S. based social media websites for not holding Khamenei and his terrorist sponsoring thugs to same standards and rules as any other users who wish to perpatuate their terrorism and radical Islamo-fascist ideology through social media sites.
Since late last year, thousands of individuals have “liked” Khamenei on Facebook in hopes of starting a dialogue with the notorious dictator, but it is obvious to many of us that follow the Iranian regime that he is using U.S. social media sites to only advance his own agenda and spread his message of hate to the West. Since the social uprisings against Iran’s fraudulent election in 2009, student activists and political opposition groups have tried to use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to get their messages out and organize some sort of an organized movement that criticizes Iran’s current dictatorial regime. Yet these bloggers and activists have been shut down by Khamenei’s IRGC that has launched an all-out cyber war against these democracy activists and cracked down on them harshly. According to bloggers and activists in Iran that I am in touch with, the Iranian regime has recently even created a type of “Facebook police,” that is also in charge of searching people’s pages on Facebook for “offensive” comments and even photos of women in Iran who are not wearing the compulsory Hijab or head scarf! Still some activists and journalists in Iran have learned to bypass the censorship through proxy sites and software. But the Iranian regime has not let up on crushing nearly every single voice of opposition using social media sites to oppose them. Late last year, Sattar Behesti, a 35-year-old Iranian blogger based in Iran was allegedly tortured to death by the Iranian regime’s thugs after he continuously criticized the regime on his blog and on his Facebook page. Where was the U.S. and European media’s coverage and outrage over this heinous killing of Behesti who was merely voicing his opinion? How do the major western media outlets and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have the audacity to continue allowing Khamenei to spew his garage on their sites, but fail to uplift and support bloggers and journalists using words to fight an oppressive regime that they live under? It seems as if journalists and bloggers worldwide who enjoy the freedoms of expressing themselves and speaking out when wrongs may have occurred, are now asleep at the wheel when it comes to Iran’s leaders cracking down on journalists and bloggers in Iran!
While some may have thought that Khamenei and his IRGC clowns may have gotten away with spewing their garbage on U.S. social media sites, one sole Iranian human rights activist has kept the spotlight on their hypocrisy. That man is Roozbeh Farahanipour, a former Iranian student activist and founder of “Iranians for a Secular Iran” which is based in Los Angeles. Kudos to Farahanipour who started an online campaign to get Facebook to remove Khamenei's page and circulated a diagram and step-by-step directions in English and Persian on how to report the page to Facebook! It seems as if this sole former journalist and human rights activist is only one willing to hold Khamenei accountable and motivate an online campaign to force Facebook and similar sites to boot this tyrant dictator off U.S. social media sites. Those interested in joining his campaign can visit the “Kick Khamenei Off Faceb00k” page here.
Perhaps once average journalists, bloggers and freedom loving users of Facebook worldwide raise their voices in opposition to Khamenei’s presence of these social media sites, he will finally be booted off Facebook. Until then, we as Americans and those who cherish democracy must not remain silent while such a heinous dictator crushes the voices of opposition who yearn for freedom and denies the people of Iran the use of the same sites to express their desires to be free.
June 30, 2013 | 11:22 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
My piece this week in the Times of Israel places the spotlight on the "Shulamit Gallery" in the L.A. artists neighboorhood of Venice which is showcasing the art works of more than a dozen promising and successful Iranian Jewish artists. These artists are no doubt pioneers in the Iranian American Jewish community for breaking with their community's long taboo of not working in the field of art. They have instead followed their dreams and their creaitve passions to make art-- even if their income is not high at the begining. Iranian Jewish artists such as Jessica Shokrian, Krista Nassi, David Abir and others deserve kudos for trailblazing a new path that adds to the richness of their community's culture and not necessarily seeking financial gain. Likewise Shulamit Nazarian, who established the new gallery showcase these artists work deserves a tremendous amount of praise for pushing the envelope in the community and sharing a different side of this community's heritage.
June 22, 2013 | 11:15 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
For past month it has been frustrating to see how American and European news media outlets have been naïve and stupid enough to give coverage to the latest presidential “election” in Iran that was nothing more than a charade. There was nothing democratic, fair or just about the latest “election” in Iran. If one looks more closely at this race, it is clear that the election was based on one-sided, dictatorial and repressive laws set by Iran’s radical fundamentalist Islamic regime. While the Islamic cleric, Hassan Rouhani was proclaimed the new president of Iran, the election was just a façade to make the West believe that Iran is allowing for people’s voices to be heard in a “democratic” manner. Yet in reality the country is still run by a brutal dictatorship under the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The entire regime set up by Iran’s fundamentalist Shiite Muslim clerics is based on all the real power of the government lying with the Supreme Leader. In 1979 when the regime was established by the Ayatollah Khomeini, the government was crafted under the doctrine of "the Guardianship of the Theologians" (also known in Farsi as ‘Velaayat-eh Fagheeh’). Basically this doctrine states that the average man or individual has not created laws and all laws were created by almighty God. Therefore according to the ruling clerics in Iran, the country’s average citizens are “not qualified enough” or basically too stupid to interpret the laws of God and hence the masses “need” one Ayatollah or a council of Shiite Muslim clerics to interpret God’s laws for the population. So one is left wondering what part of this ass backwards system of government in Iran is democratic where only one religious leader or a group of religious leaders make all of the country’s laws?
Moreover, the Iranian “elections” were entirely bogus and undemocratic because more than 700 individuals applied to run for the position, but only eight individuals that were “acceptable” to the Supreme Leader were permitted to run. This is ridiculous! Again this does not sound like a legitimate free, open and democratic election when only eight people hand-picked by the Supreme Leader are allowed to run and everyone else is totally shut out. All of the eight candidates were approved by the Supreme Leader, so no doubt they share some, if not all of his totalitarian and radical Islamic views. Besides, in a country where the Supreme Leader has so much power and authority, I doubt very much he would permit anyone who does not share his radical fundamentalist Islamic views to obtain any power or even figure-head status. So one is left wondering why the hell the news media in the U.S. and Europe continue to focus on the Iranian elections and give coverage to the race as if it were democratic and fair like elections in the West? Clearly the Iranian regime’s leadership is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the world with this sham election in order to give legitimacy to their evil reign in Iran. Likewise, experts familiar with the Iranian regime have repeatedly stated that the "presidents" under the Iranian regime today have less power than the prime ministers during the reign of the late Shah of Iran. All the legal loopholes for the power of the presidency were closed in the current Iranian constitution in order to prevent the “phony government” which is “run by the president” from having any real power. In reality, all of the real power of the regime lies with the Supreme Leader and a select group of Islamic clerics that have allegiances to the Supreme Leader and make major policy decisions dealing with foreign affairs, nuclear issues, major military affairs, major economic issues and major cultural issues such as free speech, free expression and women’s rights. While the “phony government” in Iran may have some leeway in operating the lower level day to day activities in the country, again they do not call any of the major shots in Iran. In fact, the Supreme Leader, has his own "advisers" paralleling every governmental ministry in Iran. These individual advisers, who only answer to the Supreme Leader, are the ones who help make all major policy decisions in Iran’s regime and dictate them down to the phony ministries whose leaders are merely puppets. This is clearly not a democracy, nor anything nearly close to a democracy!
As for Rouhani, it is a clear misnomer for the media in the U.S. and Europe to refer to him as a “moderate”. While he may not have been as radical and to the right of some of the other eight presidential candidates in Iran, the man is by no “moderate” by Western standards. First of all, Rouhani is a formally trained fundamentalist Shiite Islamic cleric who was following the Iranian regime’s founder, the late Ayatollah Khomeini back in 1965 when Khomeini was not in power and preaching anti-Western ideology all over Iran. Next, Rouhani was among the primary henchmen of Khomeini following the establishment of the regime in 1979 and helped organize the Iranian military and stabilize the regime’s radical Islamic government institutions that are currently in place in Iran. His effort clearly cemented the power and strength of Khomeini and the Islamic clerics who had toppled the government of the late Shah in Iran. In addition, for 16 years from 1989 to 2005, Rouhani served as the direct representative of the Supreme Leader Khamenei on the Supreme National Security Council in Iran which is a small group of Islamic clerics making all of the major security decisions of the Iranian regime. Again, if Rouhani is a supposed “moderate”, then why the hell was he directly tied to the Supreme Leader for so many years? All of Rouhani’s past close ties to the Iranian Supreme Leader and the Ayatollah Khomeini are crystal clear evidence that this man is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and is just as radical and evil as the Supreme Leader as well as all of the other clerics who run the current Iranian regime.
The current U.S. administration should not allow itself to be fooled into believing that for some reason Rouhani can be trusted and tough sanctions can be removed from the Iranian regime. Rouhani, like his predecessors and the entire Iranian regime’s leadership will not back down on their pursuit of nuclear weapons no matter what. If anything, the current tight U.S. sanctions on Iran must be ratcheted up so the regime can collapse and a democratic government can be put in place in Iran.
May 28, 2013 | 10:54 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
In July 1994 agents of the Iranian regime under the direct orders of the Iranian government bombed the Jewish center in Buenos Aires, Argentina killing 85 innocent individuals and injuring more than 300 others. For the last 19 years the Jewish community in Argentina has been pressing its government and the international community to bring the masterminds behind this heinous crime to justice, but they have thus far failed. To the contrary, each government in Argentina since 1994 has been seeking to cozy up to the totalitarian radical Islamic mullahs ruling Iran for obvious economic benefits. Yet the Jewish center bombing has remained a thorn in the sides of presidents and leaders in Argentina who have been pushing hard to normalize relations with Iran. No president until the current Argentine President Cristina Kirchner has been able to remove this obstacle to closer relations with the Iranian regime.
Kirchner’s dream of final normalized relations with Iran took a “positive” step forward when in January of this year her foreign minister Héctor Timerman and the Iranian foreign minister signed a “memorandum of understanding” to establish a joint bi-national “truth commission” that would once and for all investigate the causes of the 1994 Jewish center bombings in Buenos Aires. For the Jewish community in Argentina and to the rest of the normal world, this “truth commission” made up of Argentine and Iranian hand-picked officials is nothing more than a “sham” effort by both governments to clear the names of former and current Iranian government officials involved with the planning and execution of the 1994 Jewish center bombings in Buenos Aires. This past week the joint Argentine-Iranian “truth commission” was finally approved by the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and will likely move forward with findings that individuals such as former Iranian intelligence chief Ali Fallahian; Mohsen Rabbani, the former cultural attache at the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires; former Iran diplomat Ahmad Reza Asghari; Mohsen Rezaei, the former leader of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards; Ahmad Vahidi, the current Iranian defense minister and former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani were “not responsible” for the bombings.
Shame on Argentina’s Kirchner and her government cronies for turning a blind eye to the clear evidence of blood on the hands of Iran’s current and former officials! Shame on Kirchner for rubber stamping a false investigation into the Buenos Aires Jewish center bombing! Shame on Kirchner for placing Argentina’s “economic growth” and “trade relations” with Iran over the most important need to bring the Iranian murderers of innocent individuals to justice! Shame on Kirchner for sweeping this heinous 1994 crime under the rug in an effort to cozy up to the ruthless mullahs running Iran’s regime! Shame on Kirchner and her government cronies for ignoring the clear evidence that Iranian agents and leaders clearly planned and carried out the 1994 Jewish center bombing!
The evidence of Iran’s clear links to the 1994 Jewish center bombings in Buenos Aires are known to all. In November 2006, Argentine federal Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral issued an arrest warrant for Rafsanjani and eight other former Iranian officials based on evidence collected by the police and prosecutors. Then in March 2007, the international police agency, Interpol issued so-called “Red notices” for the arrest of five former Iranian officials based on the Argentine courts’ findings in the case. Also in an interview in September 2007 with Fox cable news, Miguel Angel Toma, the former head of the Argentina’s intelligence service, revealed that the Iranian government directly ordered terrorist bombings of the Buenos Aires Jewish community center. The Iranian President at the time of the bombing, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and members of the Iranian Supreme Council of Security all met in Mashhad, Iran, on August 14, 1993 to plan the bombing, Toma said.
So there is obviously no need for a joint Argentine-Iranian “truth commission” surrounding the case of the Jewish center bombing and this sham commission is obviously set up by Kirchner and her cronies to “smooth things over” with the Iranian government. One might wonder why Kirchner seeks normal relations with Iran’s brutal totalitarian regime? Well the pieces of the puzzle fit quite well when you look at the situation through Kirchner’s eyes. First and foremost, the normalization of relations between Argentina and Iran will likely boost Argentina’s current lacking economy. This is because the Iranian regime, which is under significant international sanctions pressure, is unable to purchase raw materials and goods from most countries, but the regime will now have a willing seller of such materials and goods in Argentina. Likewise the Argentine government under Kirchner is seeking to purchase Iranian oil which is also quite cheap nowadays as again many countries worldwide are following tightened sanctions on the purchase of Iranian oil. In addition, the Argentine government under Kirchner would love to sell arms, aircraft and military supplies to the regime in Iran which is again more than eager acquire such weaponery and has the cash to purchase them. Throughout the 1980’s Argentina ignored international arms sanctions against Iran’s regime and sold weapons to the Iran’s ruling clerics during their bloody war with Iraq. No doubt Kirchner would like to renew those old lucrative arms deals with the Iranian regime. Moreover, many are not aware, but Argentina is home to one of the largest growing populations of Shiite Muslims of Lebanese origin-- many of whom are very sympathetic to Iran’s Shiite clerics. No doubt Kirchner wants to make nice with Iran’s regime in an effort to curry favor with Shiite Muslims living in Argentina. Lastly, Kirchner, who is an American-hating socialist leader, wants to forge alliances with other regimes such as Iran and Venezuela who “oppose American and Western imperialism”. With the death of Venezuela’s late dictator Hugo Chavez, Kirchner today picks up and carries the evil Latin American torch for kissing up to the Iran regime.
In the end, I am honestly not surprised that Kirchner or other Argentine government officials would seek friendships with anti-Jewish individuals and regimes like Iran. After all Argentina’s dictators such as Juan Peron and others were notorious for offering safe haven to countless Nazis and Nazi sympathizers for decades after World War II. It’s clearly no surprise that again heartless Argentina leaders like Kirchner are turning their backs on the Jewish community and on real justice for their own financial gain.