This dispatch contains items relating to Iran, Syria and Libya.
1. Iran punishes Hamas for failing to back Syrian regime crackdown
2. Syrian cartoonist has hands and fingers broken after criticizing Assad
3. Cheney says he urged Bush to bomb Syria
4. U.S. and Israel “very concerned” about fate of Assad’s WMDs
5. Iran launches Bible-burning campaign
6. Ahmadinejad: “Zionists’ survival against human dignity; Holocaust is a lie”
7. Libyan “behind Yvonne Fletcher’s killing” found dead
8. Saif Gadhafi on Israel
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
IRAN PUNISHES HAMAS FOR FAILING TO BACK SYRIAN REGIME CRACKDOWN
The Reuters news agency reports that Iran has suspended its funding of Hamas because the Gaza-based terrorist group has failed to show more support for the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad which continues to massacre its own people.
Both the Syrian regime and Hamas are strongly under the sway of the Iranian regime and receive large sums of money from Teheran. Hamas is headquartered in Damascus.
Iran has demanded that Hamas organize rallies in Gaza in support of Assad. Most Palestinians are Sunni Muslims and most of the Syrians Assad’s “apartheid” Alawite regime is massacring and torturing on a daily basis are also Sunni Muslims, hence the reluctance of Hamas to speak out in support of Assad at this time.
SYRIAN CARTOONIST HAS HANDS AND FINGERS BROKEN AFTER CRITICIZING ASSAD
Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat – who is one of the most popular cartoonists in the Arab world – was kidnapped and severely beaten by hooded gunmen earlier this week. He was then dumped on the side of a road with a bag over his head. The attack came days after he published a cartoon comparing Syria’s president to Libya’s outgoing leader Muammar Qaddafi.
Ferzat, 60, had his fingers broken by the gunmen, who warned him never to criticize Assad again. Caricatures of the president are forbidden by Syrian law.
Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat lies injured at a hospital in Damascus
In 2006, the Assad regime was at the forefront of stirring up unrest against Denmark after cartoons of the prophet Mohammed were published in a Danish newspaper. The Danish embassy in Damascus was set alight. Despite this, in the last five years many senior European politicians continued to delude themselves and refer to Assad as a moderate and a reformer.
* For images of those Danish cartoons, and other historic images of Mohammed drawn by Muslims themselves, please see here.
CHENEY SAYS HE URGED BUSH TO BOMB SYRIA
Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney says in his new memoir (published yesterday) that he urged former president George W. Bush to bomb a suspected nuclear reactor site in Syria in June 2007 but Bush rejected his advice.
Cheney writes that he was “a lone voice” for military action against Syria among senior Bush administration officials in the room.
Other advisers were reluctant, Cheney says, because of “the bad intelligence we had received about Iraq’s stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction” before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The Israelis bombed the Syrian site three months later, and since then international bodies have confirmed that both Cheney and Israel were correct: the Assad regime, with North Korean help, was indeed trying to build a nuclear bomb at that site.
U.S. AND ISRAEL “VERY CONCERNED” ABOUT FATE OF ASSAD’S WMDS
The Wall Street Journal reports that the United States and Israel are concerned that amid the upheaval in Syria, weapons of mass destruction will find their way into the hands of terrorist groups. The Syrian regime may seek to store them with its Hizbullah allies in Lebanon, for example.
President Bashar Assad is believed to be in possession of large stockpiles of chemical weapons and long-range missiles capable of delivering the deadly loads. The list of unconventional agents includes mustard gas, VX and Sarin gas. It also believed that North Korea has continued to provide Syria with nuclear-related material, even after Israel bombed a previous facility in 2007.
IRAN LAUNCHES BIBLE-BURNING CAMPAIGN
Iranian authorities have resumed their campaign of systematically seizing and destroying bibles after a senior Shi’ite cleric issued an urgent warning about the spread of Christianity.
Authorities in northwestern Iran seized 6,500 bibles, according to the Iranian Christian news organization Mohabat News.
Mohabat reported that the government cleric Ayatollah Hadi Jahangosha has warned of “the spread of Christianity among our youth,” pointing to burgeoning satellite programming, literature, and religious articles “promoting Christianity”.
“Everyone in society should feel a responsibility in this matter and play his or her role in the spreading of pure Islam and fighting false and distorted cultures,” he said.
AHMADINEJAD: “ZIONISTS’ SURVIVAL AGAINST HUMAN DIGNITY; HOLOCAUST IS A LIE”
Delivering his Friday prayers pre-sermon address last week, Iranian President Ahmadinejad said “the Zionist regime’s existence is not merely a threat to the Palestinian and the entire regional nations, rather its establishment and continued survival undermines the interests, independence and dignity of all regional nations.”
He said “the prelude to establishment of the regime was lies and deception.”
“One of the big lies is the Holocaust fable.”
Islamic Republic News Agency/IRNA NewsCode: 30536134
LIBYAN “BEHIND YVONNE FLETCHER’S KILLING” FOUND DEAD
A former Libyan embassy official in London, one of three men sought by Britain over the murder of British police officer Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984, has been found shot dead in Tripoli.
The bullet-ridden body of Abdulqadir al-Baghdadi, an embassy official in 1984 who went on to become chairman of the Libyan revolutionary committees and a senior regime apparatchik, was found in Tajoura, a suburb of eastern Tripoli.
It is not yet clear who killed al-Baghdadi, and some Libyans are even speculating that he may have been assassinated by British intelligence officials on the ground with rebel forces in Tripoli. There is no evidence for this.
Another Libyan embassy official, Matouk Mohammed Matouk, is still wanted in connection with the policewoman’s death.
I attach an article below by Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, a longstanding subscriber to this email list.
[All notes above by Tom Gross]
SAIF GADHAFI ON ISRAEL
The Libyan Apprentice
Seif Gadhafi, his father’s heir apparent, proved that evil is never banal and often self-conscious.
By Bret Stephens
August 23, 2011
The Wall Street Journal
Several years ago I sat next to Seif al-Islam Gadhafi at a luncheon in Davos and listened in astonishment as he extolled the virtues of – the Israeli military.
Why did the tiny Jewish state defeat its enemies time and again? Because, he explained, the Israeli army is not top-heavy with generals the way Arab armies typically are. Israeli NCOs know how to take the initiative without clear orders from the top. And mid-ranking officers don’t while away the hours scheming to take over the state.
So spoke the second son of Col. Moammar Gadhafi, apropos, I suspect, of the fact that I am a past editor of the Jerusalem Post. What did he intend by it? Was the praise for the Israeli military meant as a kind of diplomatic overture, or was it simply a remonstrance against brain-dead Arab ways? Did the scarcely veiled critique of his father’s regime – indeed, of the very way he came to power – hint at a broader change in political direction for Libya, or was it just fodder for credulous Westerners? If good wombs could bear bad sons, I wondered, maybe the reverse could also be true.
It didn’t take long before I was reminded of the Iron Rule of Davos: Nothing good that comes of it is ever real, and nothing real that comes of it is ever good.
Shortly after my encounter with Seif, the case of Libya’s imprisoned Bulgarian nurses – preposterously accused of infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV, horribly tortured, sentenced to death, and ultimately released as part of a diplomatic minuet that included arms sales to the regime – burst freshly into view. Then there was the case of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, given a hero’s welcome in Tripoli after his release on bogus humanitarian grounds by Scottish politicians. Col. Gadhafi also found time to declare jihad against Switzerland out of pique that his miscreant son, the aptly named Hannibal, had been detained there for beating a servant.
As for the Israeli angle, there was also the case of Rafram Chadad, an Israeli artist who was arrested in Libya while on an assignment to photograph the physical remains of the Jewish community of Tripoli. In a February interview with Tablet magazine, he described the methods of his torture:
“They tied me up again and began to hit my soles and knees with an iron pipe. After that they made me take my clothes off, and sitting in my underwear, they connected a car battery to my fingers and administered electric shocks.” Mr. Chadad then recalled the chilling words of his interrogator: “Welcome, you are in the custody of the Libyan secret police. We are the worst secret police in the world. If you had heard stories about us, you would kill yourself now.”
Where was Seif Gadhafi during all this? About the Bulgarian nurses, he freely admitted to al Jazeera that their confessions had been extracted by torture. About Megrahi, he was quick to say that the release was part of a quid pro quo with the British government involving lucrative oil concessions. About Mr. Chadad, he acknowledged the Libyans knew the Israeli was no spy but arrested him anyway “to reap benefits.”
Seif, in other words, knew that his was a kingdom of cruelty. He knew of the arbitrary arrests, the routine prison torture, the cynical diplomatic ploys, the wanton mistreatment of foreigners, the top-to-bottom abuse of the people. For a time he burnished a reputation as a reformer, aided by puff pieces in the New York Times that touted his “bold independent streak.” And Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch wrote in 2009 about a “Tripoli Spring” and praised Seif as “the real impetus for the transformation.”
Yet when the rebellion against the regime began, he promised to fight “until the last bullet” and later warned “liberals” that they would either “escape or be killed.” He also threatened to forge an alliance with Islamic extremists.
Now Tripoli is all but fallen and Seif is reportedly under arrest and possibly headed for a war crimes tribunal at The Hague. What are we to think of his loyalty to his father, other than as a proverbial case of the dog returning to his vomit? Nothing much I suspect, except as a fresh reminder that tyrants are not just tortured souls or over-zealous ideologues or misunderstood dreamers, and that evil is never banal and often self-conscious. The essence of tyranny is lust for power. And people will sacrifice for their lusts.
The more important question is why so many Westerners were ready to fall for Seif. He was intelligent, often surprising, wore well-cut suits and chewed his food with his mouth shut. He was also the face of a regime that tore through abattoirs of human flesh. The very name Seif means “sword.” Who could have forgotten it?
Nearly everybody did. Nearly everybody, out of some combination of moral indifference, economic self-interest, political calculation or a willingness to suspend disbelief, wanted to give Seif and his father’s regime a pass. Now sage commentaries are being offered as to whether the unkempt rebels will be able to chart a better course for Libya. They would do better to ponder what would have become of Libya in the grip of the polished apprentice in his immaculate suits.