Archive for the ‘Farhang Jahanpour’ Category

TFF PressInfo 317: Yemen – The mainstream narrative is grossly misleading

By Jan Oberg, TFF director

Lund, Sweden, April 24, 2015

Double standards

A coalition led by Saudi-Arabia and supported by Western leaders has been bombing Yemen for about a month; it’s a clearcut international aggression and an extremely a-symmetric conflict.

But we’ve heard no calls for a ‘humanitarian intervention’ by NATO or a no-fly zone to prevent the now more than 1500 bombing raids from contining and hitting also civilian targets.

It’s not that international law is blatantly violated; sadly that has been seen before. It is the roaring absence of a clear condemnation by the UN, EU/NATO countries – usually calling themselves ‘the international community’ – and by the Western mainstream media.

Substance plays a minor role. What is right or wrong depends on who is doing what. This war is OK because the Saudi dictatorship and its coalition members are Western allies and armed by NATO countries.

The convenient but wrong narrative

Furthermore, the narrative has twisted this into a proxy war between Saudi-Arabia and the West on the one side and Iran, alone, on the other side blaming the latter for its alleged support to the Houthis.

It is no wonder that a group of eminent scholars on Yemen have published an open letter in Washington Post in which, among other things, they condemn the Saudi-led war on Yemen. Read the rest of this entry »

The World Must Stop the Saudi Massacre of the Yemenis

By Farhang Jahanpour

After four weeks of savage bombing of their impoverished neighbor, Yemen, the Saudis declared “Mission Accomplished”, and promised to halt their aerial bombardment at midnight on 22 April 2015. Yet only three hours later, they resumed their attacks with greater intensity from the sea and the air.

Although the conflict in Yemen has been going on for four years, it was the new 79-year old Saudi King Salman and his young son Muhammad bin Salman (believed to be between 27 and 33 years old) who has been appointed defense minister as well as running the royal court and the newly formed Economic and Development Affairs Council, in addition to being a member of the Political and Security Affairs Council, another key decision-making body, who decided to start the aerial bombing of Yemen.

The Saudis turning Yemen into another Libya or Syria
After having helped the attacks on Libya that resulted in the ouster of Mu’ammar Qadhafi and the mayhem that has followed, after supporting the Sunni insurgents to fight against the Iraqi Shi’a-led government causing tens of thousands of casualties as the result of suicide bombings, organizing and supporting terrorists to oust President Bashar Asad in Syria that have morphed into the terrorist group ISIS that has destabilized both Syria and Iraq and the entire region, and after sending forces to Bahrain to put down the pro-democracy movement in that country, it seems now it is Yemen’s turn to be turned into a failed state.

During the first four weeks of air strikes the Saudis have pummelled 18 of Yemen’s 22 provinces, striking schools, homes, refugee camps, crowded residential areas, power and water infrastructure, dairy factories and humanitarian aid supply, as well as blowing up a large part of Sanaa which is a world heritage site.

According to World Health Organization, at least 944 people were killed and 3,500 wounded in the first four weeks of the air strikes (some put the figures much higher). Hospitals are short of electricity and there is acute shortage of medicine to take care of thousands of wounded Yemenis who are in urgent need of treatment.

Furthermore, the entire country is without power, Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 316: Iran nuclear deal – They’ve done it!

By Farhang Jahanpour*

At last they have done it! After 36 years of hostility between Iran and the West, 12 years of nuclear negotiations initially between Iran and the European Troika (Britain, France and Germany), followed by talks between Iran and the P5+1, finally the two sides have agreed on a framework for a final, comprehensive agreement before the end of June.

It is clear that this agreement falls short of both side’s maximum expectations. It will be strongly opposed by the hardliners in Iran who believe that, as an NPT member, Iran is entitled to the full range of nuclear activities and, therefore, they will accuse the Iranian negotiators of a sell out.

On the other hand, the Israeli Prime Minister and his supporters in the US Congress, who are not satisfied with any agreement with Iran short of the cessation of all forms of nuclear enrichment in Iran, even at the cost of a war, will blame the Obama Administration of appeasement.

It is also clear that both sides have achieved their minimum demands. The West can be sure that Iran will not Read the rest of this entry »

Iran Nuclear Deal: Can One Dare Hope?

By Farhang Jahanpour

After 36 years of hostility between Iran and the West and 13 years of nuclear negotiations, first involving Iran and the European Troika (Britain, France and Germany), followed by the P5+1 (the above countries plus the United States, Russia and China), it seems that finally one can start to be optimistic and hope that a long, dark chapter will come to an end.

The next few days up to the end of March are the most crucial days in this long road, but after many ups and downs and many false hopes the end may be in sight. To be sure, nothing is certain until the final announcement has been made. Still powerful forces are hard at work to prevent the success of the talks, but there is some room for optimism. The important point to bear in mind is that talks with Iran were never only about Iran’s nuclear program.

The victory of the Islamic revolution toppled the staunchly pro-Western Mohammad Reza Shah who was acting as the gendarme of the region on behalf of the West, and replaced him with intensely anti-Western Ayatollah Khomeini who wanted to spread the Islamic revolution and replace the existing order with a religious theocracy. The revolution created the biggest upset in the history of the Middle East since the end of the First World War, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the Sykes-Picot division of the Middle East among various European colonial powers.

With the start of the Cold War and the rise of the American superpower, the Middle East was divided between the two blocs, with some countries such as Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya and Algeria leaning towards the East and other countries such as Iran, Turkey and Persian Gulf monarchies leaning towards the West. Despite occasional upsets, that situation had remained fairly stable until the victory of the Iranian revolution. Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 313 – Ignore the 47 irresponsible US senators

By Farhang Jahanpour and Jan Oberg

Jan Oberg

1. Despite the almost universal condemnation of PM Netanyahu’s speech, even by some of his supporters in the United States and Israel, it seems that Republican senators are not going to give up. One can only describe the letter by 47 Republican Senators to Iranian leaders as madness and even treason. Senator Tom Cotton who leads this initiative is deeply ignorant about the substance and about Iran.

2. They go against the wishes of President Obama and his negotiators and write to the supreme leader of Iran whom they have described as America’s worst enemy and worse than the ISIS with only one purpose: to torpedo the agreement. One should truly wonder at the honesty and sanity of such individuals.

3. Thankfully there are more moderate and thoughtful Americans who believe in the long-term interests of their country and the world, rather than being obsessed by the manufactured crisis by a foreign government or trying to score party points. (See links below). Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 312: Netanyahu’s Insulting, Dangerous and Divisive Speech: Wrong in Detail and Wrong in Substance

By Farhang Jahanpour

After all the huffing and puffing and all the aroused expectations about the speech by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the joint session of US Congress, the speech proved a great disappointment and even an embarrassment. A great deal has already been written about it, and there is no need to repeat all that here. Here I only wish to draw attention to some of the glaring distortions in the speech and the harm that it can do to the cause of Iranian and Israeli rapprochement and, more importantly, to the cause of peace in the Middle East.

The speech was a cynical use of the US Congress for domestic electoral ambitions.

Recently, Netanyahu had been trailing the Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog in the number of projected seats in the forthcoming Israeli election. He certainly hoped that as the result of the publicity that his speech would generate he could reverse the trend. In the process, his intrusion into America’s domestic politics has deepened the divide between the Democrats and the Republicans and has introduced a strong element of partisanship to US relations with Israel. In other words, the speech was more about himself than the fate of the State of Israel or US-Israeli relations or international peace.

When Senator Lindsey Graham, a senior Republican senator, visited Jerusalem last December, he told the Israeli leader: “I’m here to tell you, Mr. Prime Minister, that the Congress will follow your lead… [on Iran].” (1) Therefore, it was no surprise when the Republican Majority leader asked Netanyahu to address a join session of Congress, for the third time, to issue his marching orders.

After President Obama’s State of the Union address, in which he indicated that he was working hard to resolve Iran’s nuclear dispute by peaceful means, House Speaker John A. Boehner decided to invite the head of a foreign state to address the Congress without informing the White House or even Minority Democratic leaders.

This was an act of gross discourtesy to the president, a violation of diplomatic protocol, and a clear departure from the US Constitution that puts the executive branch in charge of foreign policy and relations with foreign political leaders. Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 303: Visit Iran in 2015 and see it for yourself

By Jan Oberg & Farhang Jahanpour

January 23, 2018

It’s a civilization of its own, very diverse and immensely rich, proud and hospitable.

It’s a country for lovers of history, architecture, religion, classical or contemporary art, literature, films, nature and landscapes – and, most of all, fellow human beings.

The Iranians are easy to get in contact with anywhere you go, also no animosity against Westerners. They are eager to talk politics and culture and if you are open yourself you’ll soon find yourself at a family table. And the food is high quality, things taste nature more than industry.

You’ll get much more value for your foreign currency in Iran than in most other countries.

It is safe – as safe as any European country and much safer than the rest in the Middle East. It is comparatively cheap. You may obtain your tourist visa at the local embassy but also upon arrival. (Special procedure for U.S. citizens, though).

By just going there you’ll get a more balanced view of Iran than you can possibly get from your media.

You’ll build people-to-people bridges and gain mutual respect and – for sure – make friends. And – who knows? – make a little peace too.

So, we’ve put together just a few of links to a diversity of aspects of what the visitor is likely to experience – just to wet your appetite…

UNESCO World Heritage sites in Iran

Rick Steves – the most surprising country…

Life in the streets of Tehran

Scenary and landscapes

Why is Rumi the best-selling poet in the U.S.?

Tehran’s longest avenue

Persian cuisine

Isfahan – beauty and history

Panoramic views of Shiraz

Classical music

Dick Davis, author, “The Face of Love: Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz

Love and Pomegranates – Artists and Wayfarers on Iran

Life in Iran – An Australian journalists explorations

The luxurious Iranians

Yazd – centre of Zoroastrian culture

UNESCO world heritage – Tabriz Basar complex

Teahouses and coffee shops Read the rest of this entry »

In defense of freedom of expression

By Farhang Jahanpour

The Wednesday edition of Charlie Hebdo (a week after the barbaric attack by two deranged terrorists on its premises) carried a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad, with a caption “Je Suis Charlie”, with a tear drop on his face announcing, “all is forgiven”. It is not clear who is forgiven and for what, but if it refers to the terrorists it certainly is not appropriate.

This time the magazine did not publish only 60,000 copies as it usually does, but three million copies, thanks to the generous help that it has received from various sources and also with the help of cartoonists from all over the world.

Richard Malka, a Sephardic Jew, who saw ten colleagues and four of his co-religionists massacred on that dreadful day, was one of the first to call for the magazine to continue functioning. When asked whether they would publish more cartoons of Muhammad, he replied in an interview with France Info radio on Monday: “Naturally. We will not give in, otherwise all this won’t have meant anything.”

Free speech tops all other considerations

This is as it should be, because in the final analysis freedom of expression tops all other considerations, as it is at the root of all other liberties and the quality of life that we enjoy in democratic societies.

More than three million people demonstrated in Paris and other French cities on Sunday, carrying the sign “Je Suis Charlie”. This did not mean that they agreed with everything that Charlie Hebdo stood for, but they wished to uphold the right of that satirical magazine to express itself freely.

Only a few days before the attacks in Paris, Pen America published a disturbing report on “Global Chilling. The Impact of Mass Surveillance on International Writers”, showing that mass surveillance by the United States and other governments had produced a very negative effect on free expression, leading to self-censorship. It further showed that concern about surveillance was almost as high among writers living in democracies (75%) as it was among those living in non-democratic states (80%). It would be tragic if the killing of a few journalists in Paris were allowed to result in greater self-censorship and to curtail freedom of expression.

The terrorists and those who wish to limit freedom of expression by violent means should learn that far from forcing others to silence, their acts will backfire and will have the opposite effect. If the terrorists intended to help the cause of Muslims in the world, it has had precisely the opposite effect and has intensified a climate of suspicion and cultural clash between Islam and the West.

It should be added that the terrorist outrage was not an Islamic act against Christians, Jews and secularists. It was the act of two terrorists against Muslims, Christians, Jews and people of no faith.

That vile act had nothing to do with Islam

In fact, after the carnage and the resulting anger, it is important to remember that Read the rest of this entry »

ISIS in a Sunni-Shia perspective

By Farhang Jahanpour

A shorter version of this article has been published by IPS

When ISIS suddenly emerged in Iraq it declared as one of its first targets the Shi’is and what it called the Safavids. The Safavid dynasty (1501-1736) was one of the most powerful Iranian dynasties after the Islamic conquest.

At its height, it ruled an area nearly twice the size of modern Iran, including large parts of modern Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Eastern parts of Turkey and Syria, and large areas of Western Afghanistan and Baluchestan, the North Caucasus, as well as parts of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

However, what irks the Sunni jihadists most is the fact that the Safavids made the Twelver School of Shi’ism Iran’s official religion, something that has continued to the present time.

The interesting point is that the Safavid dynasty had its origin in a Sunni Sufi order, but at some point they converted to Shi’ism and then used their new zeal as a way of subduing most of Iran. Although there had been some minor Shi’a dynasties in the past, nearly all other major Iranian dynasties, as well as the bulk of the Iranian population, had been Sunnis. Indeed, when the Safavids came to power there were so few Shi’a scholars and clerics in Iran that they had to import some from Lebanon.

The Shi’a zeal of the Safavids was partly due to the fact that they were fighting against the Sunni Ottoman Empire, and therefore their adherence to Shi’ism was mainly political, in order to set them apart from the Ottomans who also carried the title of Sunni caliphs. The Safavids made their capital, Isfahan, into one of the most beautiful cities in Iran and the Middle East as a whole.

The Iranian Constitutional Revolution (1905-11) laid the foundations of modern Iran, with a constitutional monarchy. The two Pahlavi kings (1925-1979), while ruling as absolute monarchs, were militantly secular and tried to modernize Iran and turn it into a Western-style country.

The 1979 Revolution in Iran

However, not only did the 1979 Islamic revolution end that period of secular reforms, but it also put an end to a 2,600 year-old Iranian monarchy, and replaced it with a clerical regime based on the principle of Velayat-e Faqih, or the guardianship of Shi’a jurisprudent.

What makes the Islamic revolution unique is that for the first time in the history of Iran, and indeed in the history of Islam, it brought clerics to power. Read the rest of this entry »

Al-Baghdadi, Self-Proclaimed Caliph of the Islamic State (Part 2)

By Farhang Jahanpour

Part 1 of this series

A shorter version of this article has been published by IPS

When Ibrahim al-Badri al-Samarrai adopted the name of Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Husseini al-Quraishi and revealed himself to the world as the Amir al-Mu’minin (the Commander of the Faithful) Caliph Ibrahim of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the whole world had to sit up and take notice of him.

The choice of the long title that he has chosen for himself is most interesting and symbolic. The title Abu-Bakr clearly refers to the first caliph after Prophet Muhammad’s death, the first of the four “Orthodox Caliphs”.

The term Husseini presumably refers to Imam Hussein, the Prophet’s grandson and Imam Ali’s son, who was martyred in Karbala on 13 October 680. His martyrdom is seen as a turning point in the history of Islam and is mourned in elaborate mourning ceremonies by the Shi’ites throughout the world on the 10th of Muharram each year, which is accompanied with many processions and self-flagellation.

Both Sunnis and Shi’is regard Imam Hussein as a great martyr, and as someone who gave up his life in order to defend Islam and to stand up against tyranny.

Finally, al-Quraishi refers to Quraish, the tribe to which the Prophet of Islam belonged.

Therefore, his chosen title is full of Islamic symbolism.

According to an alleged biography posted on jihadi Internet forums, al-Baghdadi is a direct descendant of the Prophet, but curiously enough his ancestors come from the Shi’a line of the Imams who descended from the Prophet’s daughter Fatimah.

According to this alleged biography, al-Baghdadi derives his lineage directly from nine Shi’a Imams, “Ali Al-Hadi, Muhammad al-Jawad, Ali al-Rida, Musa al-Kazim, Ja’far al-Sadiq, Muhammad al-Baqir, Ali Zayn al-Abidin, Husayn Bin-Ali, Ali Bin Abi-Talib, right up to the Prophet’s daughter Fatimah and ending in Prophet Muhammad himself.”

Despite his great hostility towards the Shi’is, is this genealogy a way of portraying himself as the true son of the descendants of the Prophet, thus appealing to both Shi’is and Sunnis?

According to the same biography, al-Baghdadi was born near Samarra, in Iraq, in 1971. It is alleged that he received BA, MA and PhD degrees in Islamic studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad. It is also suggested that he was a cleric at the Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal Mosque in Samarra at around the time of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. (1)

According to a senior Afghan security official, al-Baghdadi went to Afghanistan in the late 1990s, where he received his early jihadi training. He lived with the Jordanian militant fighter Abu Musab al-Zarqarwi in Kabul from 1996-2000. (2)

It is likely that al-Baghdadi fled Afghanistan with leading Taliban fighters after the US invasion of Afghanistan following 9/11.

After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Zarqawi and Read the rest of this entry »


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