- Gearing up for anti-Israel rallies, Hezbollah hoists banner threatening Israel
- Iranian Supreme Leader issues fatwa banning contact with religious minority, calls Baha'i "deviant and misleading"
- Explosion during Syrian battles kills 40 as Assad boasts of coming victory
- By 400-20 vote, House passes "most stringent" Iran sanctions bill
What we’re watching today:
- Hezbollah has hung a banner on the Lebanese side of the Israeli-Lebanese border threatening Israel, as the group prepared events surrounding its annual celebration of Al-Quds Day. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979 created the holiday, such as it is, and explained at the time that it was meant to target the "usurper Israel." Reports of Hezbollah's banner - which reads "we're coming" - came as Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah gave a televised speech describing "historic vengeance between [Hezbollah] and Israel." The threats will be read against deepening concerns that Hezbollah is dragging Lebanon into regional conflicts at the behest of Iran. Lebanese President Michel Sleiman today slammed the Iran-backed terror group for having "gone beyond Lebanon's borders," a reference to Hezbollah's activities on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. Lebanese officials blame Hezbollah for importing the sectarian conflict into Lebanon and bringing the country to the brink of collapse.
- Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa instructing Iranian citizens to avoid all dealings with the country's Baha'i minority, calling the religion "deviant and misleading." The sect is not recognized by Iran's post-Revolutionary constitution and is considered heretical under Iranian law. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979 was explicit that the Baha'i should be denied neither religious nor political liberty under an Islamic government. The regime has been blasted for persecuting and imprisoning even Baha'i infants. The plight of the Baha'i community has triggered human rights pressure on Tehran from U.S. and Canadian politicians. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has criticized Iran over its persecution of religious minorities.
- An explosion at an ammunitions depot in the Syrian city of Homs today killed at least 40 people, as rebels fired rockets at regime positions within the central city. Forces loyal to the Bashar al-Assad regime have been assaulting rebels in the city for the better part of a month. The loss of Homs by the opposition would mark another strategic victory for the regime, after forces made up largely of Hezbollah troops backed by Syrian air power seized the city of Qusayr last month. Assad this week boasted openly that Syrian forces would defeat the rebellion, which has been raging in the country since early 2011.
- By 400-20 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday, introduced by Reps. Ed Royce and Eliot Engel, tightening sanctions on the Islamic republic and specifically targeting its oil trade. Rep. Ted Deutch contextualized the legislation at a Tuesday panel hosted by The Israel Project noting that the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act will send a message on the eve of incoming Iranian president Hassan Rouhani's inauguration that the U.S. was committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Bloomberg described the legislation as "the most stringent package of sanctions against Iran," and quoted Royce to the effect that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei "intends to continue" pursing nuclear weapons. Khamenei controls Iran's posture toward nuclear negotiations and during the recent election preemptively banned concessions to the West. Rouhani himself is a revolutionary-era cleric who has been described by analysts as a "consummate regime insider." He has bragged that nuclear negotiations during the early 2000s provided the regime with time to expand and advance its nuclear program.
The Algemeiner, August 2 - The State Department issued two reports this week, one on patterns on global terrorism and the other on religious freedom and oppression around the world. In both reports, one country took a preeminent and shameful place – Iran.
I would urge readers to take a look at these reports in detail. They are both available in full on the State Department’s website and they provide a graphic warning about the nature of this regime which is trying to acquire nuclear weapons.
The report on religious freedom made sobering reading. Iran’s population is 89 percent Shia Muslim and 9 percent Sunni. An estimated two to five million persons practice Sufism. The largest non-Muslim minority is the Baha’is, who number 300,000 to 350,000. Unofficial estimates of the Jewish community’s size varied from 20,000 to 30,000.
The report cataloged persecution by the regime of Baha’is, Christians, Zoroastrians, Sufis, Sunni clerics, Muslim converts to Christianity and even Shia religious leaders who did not fully support government policies or the supreme leader’s views.The regime also fosters open antisemitism.
Discrimination begins with the Iranian constitution and other laws and policies which severely restrict freedom of religion and a legal system which fosters religious abuse and discrimination. The constitution does not provide for the rights of Muslim citizens to choose, change, or renounce their religious beliefs. The government automatically considers a child born to a Muslim father to be a Muslim and conversion from Islam is deemed apostasy, which is punishable by death.
The report states: “Government rhetoric and actions, particularly since the June 2009 elections, created an increasingly threatening atmosphere for nearly all non-Shia religious groups, most notably for Baha’is, as well as for Sufi Muslims, evangelical Christians, Jews, and Shia groups that did not share the government’s sanctioned religious views.”
The government continued to imprison and detain Baha’is based on their religious beliefs. “In addition to killings, executions, and arrests, Baha’is suffered frequent government harassment and persecution, and their property rights generally were disregarded. The government raided Baha’i homes and businesses and confiscated large amounts of private and commercial property, as well as religious materials belonging to Baha’is. The government reportedly seized numerous Baha’i homes and transferred them to an agency of Supreme Leader Khamenei,” the report said.
Harassment and arrests of Sufis also continued during the year including some15 Sufi webmasters and journalists who reportedly still were being held at year’s end.
At least 300 arrests of Christians were reported during the year. Some were held in secret locations without access to attorneys. There were numerous incidents during the year of Muslim converts to Christianity facing harassment, arrest, and sentencing. Many arrests took place during police raids on religious gatherings, during which religious property also was confiscated.
The report on terrorism was equally illuminating. It found that Iran “increased its terrorist-related activity, likely in an effort to exploit the uncertain political conditions resulting from the Arab Spring, as well as in response to perceived increasing external pressure on Tehran.”
Daniel Benjamin, coordinator for counterterrorism, said in a briefing: “We are increasingly concerned about Iran’s support for terrorism and Hezbollah’s activities as they’ve both stepped up their level of terrorist plotting over the past year and engaging in their most active and aggressive campaigns since the 1990s.”
Benjamin added: “Iran is and remains the preeminent state sponsor of terrorism in the world … Together with Hezbollah, as they pursue destabilizing activities around the globe, we are firmly committed to working with partners and allies to counter and disrupt Iranian activities and to prevent Iran from sponsoring new acts of terrors. And we think that the international community is increasingly alert to this threat and will resist it.”
The report, which covers 2011, said Iran provided weapons and training to assist the Assad regime in Syria in its brutal crackdown that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians.
Iran also continued to provide weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including the Palestine Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. Iran has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in support of Hezbollah in Lebanon and has trained thousands of Hezbollah fighters at camps in Iran.
The facts are there for all to see. This is the truth about this regime.
Click here to read the original analysis.