What is the Baha’i Faith?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WEBSITE ‘BAHAITEACHINGS.ORG’)

 

What is the Baha’i Faith?

The Baha’i Faith, the world’s newest independent global belief system, teaches the oneness of God, the unity of humanity and the essential harmony of religion.

Baha’is believe in peace, justice, love, altruism and unity. The Baha’i teachings promote the agreement of science and religion, the equality of the sexes and the elimination of all prejudice and racism.

Just about anywhere you go on the planet, you’ll find Baha’is—the Baha’i Faith is the world’s second-most widespread religion after Christianity, spanning the globe and working to unite it. Baha’is have no clergy or churches, gathering together in democratically-led communities and welcoming everyone.

The millions of Baha’is in the world come from every ethnicity, nationality, tribe, age, racial group, religious background and economic and social class. Gentle, peaceful, warm and welcoming, diverse Baha’i communities exist just about everywhere. Baha’is accept the validity of each of the founders and prophets of the major world religions, and believe in progressive revelation, the unique Baha’i principle that views every great Faith as a link in a single spiritual system progressively revealed by God to humanity.

Who is Baha’u’llah?

We spend our lives trying to unlock the mystery of the universe, but there was a Turkish prisoner, Baha’u’llah, in Akka, Palestine who had the key. – Leo Tolstoy

The Baha’i Faith is consolation for humanity. – Mahatma Gandhi

The essence of Baha’u’llah’s Teaching is all-embracing love, for love includeth every excellence of humankind. It causeth every soul to go forward. It bestoweth on each one, for a heritage, immortal life. Erelong shalt thou bear witness that His celestial Teachings, the very glory of reality itself, shall light up the skies of the world. – Abdu’l-BahaSelections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 66.

Tehran 1930's

Tehran, the city where Baha’u’llah was born

Baha’is follow the teachings of Baha’u’llah, who proclaimed the Baha’i Faith during the middle of the 19th Century, and who taught world peace, the oneness of all humanity and the essential unity of all religions. Born Mirza Husayn Ali in Tehran, Persia in 1817, Baha’u’llah was known early in his adult life as “the father of the poor” for his selfless work assisting the destitute and homeless. In 1863, Baha’u’llah began openly teaching the Baha’i Faith, with its revolutionary messages of human unity, the oneness of all Faiths, the equality of men and women, the agreement of science and religion and the establishment of a global system of governance.

Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah, whose title means “The Glory of God,” is the latest prophet to found a major world religion and usher in a new age of human development:

…in the kingdoms of earth and heaven there must needs be manifested a Being, an Essence Who shall act as a Manifestation and Vehicle for the transmission of the grace of the Divinity Itself, the Sovereign Lord of all. Through the Teachings of this Day Star of Truth every man will advance and develop until he attaineth the station at which he can manifest all the potential forces with which his inmost true self hath been endowed. It is for this very purpose that in every age and dispensation the Prophets of God and His chosen Ones have appeared amongst men, and have evinced such power as is born of God and such might as only the Eternal can reveal. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 67-68.

After the proclamation of his Faith, Baha’u’llah suffered forty years of exile, torture and imprisonment—all for announcing that a new revelation had been born. This great divine educator and messenger, despite the persecutions he bore, then wrote a series of epistles to the political and religious rulers of the world from his prison cell. Those letters, called the Tablets to the Kings, openly announced Baha’u’llah’s station and mission, and warned the world’s most prominent leaders that humanity faced disastrous consequences unless they laid down their weapons and convened to unite the world and end warfare.

Baha’u’llah called the entire world to collective action and to unity, and that call, Baha’is believe, has inaugurated a new age of spirituality, harmony and human maturation.

How Did Baha’i History Begin?

In a troubled time and place—Shiraz, Persia in 1844—a young merchant and mystic named Siyyid Ali Muhammad made a startling announcement: that he brought the world a new message from God.

Called The Bab (pronounced bob), which means “The Gate,” this new prophet created a furor in Persian society with his revolutionary teachings—spiritual and moral transformation, women’s emancipation and the raising up of the poor. The Bab also proclaimed that he had come to herald the birth of a new, universal revelation, one greater than his own, and to prepare the way for “He whom God shall make manifest”—the Promised One of all ages. The Babi Faith spread quickly, electrifying the masses and provoking severe reactions from the government and the clergy. Tens of thousands of Babis, including the Bab himself, were tortured, massacred and publicly executed for their beliefs.

The inauguration of the Bab’s message and mission set Baha’i history in motion.

Baha'u'llah's exiles from Persia to the Ottoman Empire

Baha’u’llah’s exiles from Persia to the Ottoman Empire

After the Bab’s execution in 1850, Baha’u’llah gradually assumed the leadership of the Babis. In prison in 1852, Baha’u’llah received the revelation that inspired the Baha’i Faith, and fulfilled the prophecies and promises of the Bab.

The Baha’i Faith now counts millions of followers across every region, continent and nation of the world. Baha’u’llah’s teachings emphasize justice, equality and religious unity, so even today many Baha’is in Iran and other Middle Eastern countries still face persecution for their beliefs.

Baha’u’llah suffered a life of torture and deprivation in order to bring the world a new set of spiritual teachings. Persecuted relentlessly, he still persevered in delivering that message, which has now begun to deeply affect and alter humanity’s future.

Who are the Baha’is?

The millions of Baha’is in the world come from every ethnicity, nationality, tribe, age, racial group, religious background and economic and social class. Gentle, peaceful, warm and welcoming, Baha’i communities exist just about everywhere. Baha’is accept the validity of each of the founders and prophets of the major world religions, and believe in progressive revelation, the unique Baha’i principle that views every great Faith as a link in a single spiritual system progressively revealed by God to humanity.

The Main Baha’i Teachings

Essentially a mystical Faith, the Baha’i teachings focus on the soul’s relationship with the eternal, unknowable essence of God, and recommend daily prayer and meditation to everyone. Baha’is believe that the human spirit lives eternally, and so endeavor to illumine their souls with spiritual attributes—kindness, generosity, integrity, truthfulness, humility and selfless service to others.

Also a practical Faith, the primary Baha’i principles advocate international unity, the complete cessation of all warfare, universal compulsory education for every child, a spiritual solution to the extremes of wealth and poverty, an end to religious fundamentalism and division, and a unified global response to oppression, materialism, and the planet’s mounting environmental crisis.

Baha’is believe in the independent investigation of reality, and encourage everyone to question dogma, tradition and superstition by embarking on a personal search to discover the truth. The Baha’i Faith has no clergy. Instead, a distinctive system of democratically-elected councils at the local, national and international levels administer and guide Baha’i communities. This unprecedented administrative order, fundamentally different from any other system of religious or political authority, has now become the first functioning system of democratic global governance, vesting power and initiative in the entire body of the believers worldwide.

The Baha’i writings say that religion must be the source of unity and fellowship in the world—but if it produces enmity, hatred and bigotry, the absence of religion would be preferable.

Quotes from the Baha’i Writings

Unlike many religions of the past, Baha’is have the original writings of the Baha’i founder Baha’u’llah, of his son and successor Abdu’l-Baha, and of the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi. Baha’is rely on and revere those inspiring, powerful works—and of course they’re available to all. The Baha’i teachings have been translated into hundreds of languages, including tribal and indigenous ones, to make them available to all the people of the world. In those Baha’i writings, Baha’u’llah’s new Faith calls on every human being to investigate its claim as the return of the prophets of the past religions, and the fulfillment of their promises of the dawn of a new day:

Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llahThe Revelation which, from time immemorial, hath been acclaimed as the Purpose and Promise of all the Prophets of God, and the most cherished Desire of His Messengers, hath now, by virtue of the pervasive Will of the Almighty and at His irresistible bidding, been revealed unto men. The advent of such a Revelation hath been heralded in all the sacred Scriptures… O ye lovers of the One true God! Strive, that ye may truly recognize and know Him, and observe befittingly His precepts. – Baha’u’llahGleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 5.

O son of spirit! My first counsel is this: Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting. – Baha’u’llahThe Hidden Words, p. 3.

That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race. The Great Being saith: Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth. In another passage He hath proclaimed: It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens. – Baha’u’llahTablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 167.

Baha’is believe in one God, eternal in the past and the future, who loves and progressively educates humanity through successive revealed religions. The Baha’i writings say that the Creator is an “unknowable essence,” far beyond the capacity of creation to comprehend. To aid and enlighten us, God has provided humanity with divinely-inspired prophets and messengers throughout history, who founded the world’s great Faiths and brought ethical, moral and spiritual teachings to everyone.

The Essential Unity of All Religions

Progressive Revelation, All ProphetsThe Baha’i teachings center around unity, and Baha’is believe in the essential unity of all religionsBaha’u’llah emphasized the importance of unity, oneness and harmony in all human interactions, and said that the collective maturation of the human race has now brought us to the stage in our development where we can recognize our interdependence. The successive prophets and messengers founded their Faiths at different times in history, and each of those religions, Baha’is believe, form part of one single meta-religion—a unified, systematic, progressive revelation, one school with many teachers.

Baha’is accept, respect and revere the religions of AbrahamMosesKrishnaZoroasterBuddhaJesus ChristMuhammad, and also the sacred traditions of the prophets and teachers of indigenous peoples whose names written history may never have recorded. The Baha’i Faith encompasses, embraces and advances the past teachings of all those great Faiths, and Baha’is view Baha’u’llah as the most recent of these divine teachers.

Baha’u’llah called each of these divine messengers and teachers “Manifestations of God”—perfect mirrors of the Supreme Being’s love and concern for humanity, each of them destined to inspire entire civilizations based on their spiritual teachings and advance the collective maturation of humanity during their dispensations:

Consider to what extent the love of God makes itself manifest. Among the signs of His love which appear in the world are the dawning-point of His Manifestations. What an infinite degree of love is reflected by the divine Manifestations toward mankind! For the sake of guiding the people they have willingly forfeited their lives to resuscitate human hearts. – Abdu’l-BahaFoundations of World Unity, p. 89.

Baha’is Believe in the Oneness of Humanity

In the latest of the revelations in that great universal chain of being, Baha’u’llah taught the central Baha’i tenet of the oneness of humanity—saying “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” Accordingly, Baha’is consider themselves world citizens, working for the establishment of a universal human civilization based on love, spiritual virtues and the desire of all people for peace and prosperity:

O contending peoples and kindreds of the earth! Set your faces towards unity, and let the radiance of its light shine upon you. Gather ye together, and for the sake of God resolve to root out whatever is the source of contention amongst you. Then will the effulgence of the world’s great Luminary envelop the whole earth, and its inhabitants become the citizens of one city, and the occupants of one and the same throne. – Baha’u’llahGleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 217.

Human Nature–Fundamentally Noble and Spiritual

Baha’is believe that human nature is fundamentally spiritual, and that our souls make us noble beings. Although we all temporarily exist in our physical bodies here on Earth, Baha’u’llah taught, our true identities reside in our eternal souls. The primary purpose of each human soul, the Baha’i teachings say, is to know and to love God. Baha’is do not believe in doctrines of original sin or ultimate evil—instead, the Baha’i teachings say, each person can make the choice to characterize his or her life with divine attributes:

Man has two powers; and his development, two aspects. One power is connected with the material world, and by it he is capable of material advancement. The other power is spiritual, and through its development his inner, potential nature is awakened. These powers are like two wings. Both must be developed, for flight is impossible with one wing… We must strive unceasingly and without rest to accomplish the development of the spiritual nature in man, and endeavor with tireless energy to advance humanity toward the nobility of its true and intended station. – Abdu’l-BahaThe Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 59.

Our inborn spiritual nature can create a mystical relationship with the Creator, giving meaning and purpose to our lives. The Baha’i teachings say that process happens through meditation and prayer, the inner growth driven by our spiritual search for truth, the love we give to others, and ultimately as a result of our selfless actions to serve humanity.

Like all great Faiths, the Baha’i teachings have a dual aim—to speak to the inner spirit of each human being, and to propel the process of positive social development forward:

God’s purpose in sending His Prophets unto men is twofold. The first is to liberate the children of men from the darkness of ignorance, and guide them to the light of true understanding. The second is to ensure the peace and tranquility of mankind, and provide all the means by which they can be established. – Baha’u’llahGleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 79.

The Baha’i Faith provides the means for peace and tranquility through a progressive set of social teachings:

These fundamental Baha’i principles call for a complete restructuring of humanity’s priorities—from material to spiritual, from exclusive to inclusive and from divisiveness to unity.

You can find Baha’is just about any place you look—but you will probably need to look.

That’s because Baha’is don’t press their Faith on anyone else. Baha’u’llah wrote that Baha’is could not proselytize or compel the beliefs of others. Baha’is uphold the important principle of the independent investigation of truth:

Discover for yourselves the reality of things, and strive to assimilate the methods by which noble-mindedness and glory are attained among the nations and people of the world. No man should follow blindly his ancestors and forefathers. Nay, each must see with his own eyes, hear with his own ears and investigate independently in order that he may find the truth. – Abdu’l-BahaDivine Philosophy, p. 24.

Baha’is eagerly welcome anyone on a path of spiritual search—or anyone who would like to learn more about the Baha’i Faith. Many Baha’i communities around the world have informal meetings where seekers can examine and explore the teachings of this new Faith. Called “firesides” or study classes, those Baha’i meetings encourage questions and open-minded discussion about life. Everyone is welcome.

The Baha’i Houses of Worship

On each continent in the world, a Baha’i House of Worship welcomes everyone. With nine sides symbolizing the many paths to the one true God, Baha’i Houses of Worship are open to all, no matter what beliefs they hold. Similar to a church, mosque or temple—but with no rituals, rites or sermons—Baha’i Houses of Worship function as the center of a community’s spiritual life, and its humanitarian, educational and altruistic service and outreach. More than a hundred Baha’i Houses of Worship are in the planning stages, and seven now exist, with an eighth one, in Chile, set to open October 2016:

 

The Baha’i teachings ultimately envision these interfaith Houses of Worship in every community, serving as the dawning places of the mention of God and the central focal points of a number of charitable, public benefit institutions. The Baha’i teachings call the House of Worship:

…one of the most vital institutions in the world, and it hath many subsidiary branches. Although it is a House of Worship, it is also connected with a hospital, a drug dispensary, a traveller’s hospice, a school for orphans, and a university for advanced studies. – Abdu’l-BahaSelections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 99-100.

Many of these temples (like the Baha’i Lotus Temple in India, pictured) have become magnets for those from every Faith and no Faith, as a place to reflect, meditate and pray, and as beautiful monuments to the Baha’i ideals of the oneness of God, religion and humanity.

Understanding the Baha’i Calendar

The Baha'i Calendar

Names of the 19 Baha’i Months

Most new world religions bring a new calendar—and the Baha’i Faith does, too. Year one in the Baha’i calendar began in 1844, when the Baha’i Faith began with the announcement of the Bab’s revelation.

The Baha’i calendar, originally initiated by the Bab, bases its unique structure on the number 19. Called the Badi Calendar, meaning wondrous, it equalizes the length of every month and also accounts for variances in the Earth’s orbit around the sun—unlike any other calendar in use today. Composed of nineteen months of nineteen days each, each Baha’i calendar year begins in spring on the Vernal Equinox, on the day of the ancient Persian New Year known as Naw-Ruz.

With 19 months of 19 days each, the Baha’i calendar adds four (or in leap years, five) Intercalary Days to make up a full solar year of 365¼ days. Baha’is set aside those Intercalary Days for celebrations, hospitality, gift-giving and charitable works. The Intercalary Days immediately precede the final 19-day Baha’i month, when Baha’is fast during daylight hours. Intended as a reflective period of prayer and meditation, the Baha’i Fast symbolizes detachment from the material world, and utilizes the final 19 days of the year for revitalizing the inner spiritual life of each adult Baha’i.

The Baha’i Gardens

Shrine of the Bab located in Haifa, Israel

Baha’i Gardens in Haifa, Israel

The International Baha’i Centre, located in Haifa, Israel, now also attracts people from all over the world, not only as holy places of pilgrimage for Baha’is but as tourist destinations known for their serenity and delightful majesty. The Baha’i shrines and buildings on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, for example, have become known as the Baha’i Gardens, because of their extensive terraces, flowering gardens and the golden dome of the Shrine of the Bab, a landmark in northern Israel and a beacon of peace and hope worldwide.

The International Baha’i Centre also houses the Seat of the Universal House of Justice, the democratically-elected administrative leadership body of the global Baha’i community.

Baha’is love beauty, as you’ll see if you visit the International Baha’i Centre or any of the world’s Baha’i Houses of Worship. Surrounded by beautiful gardens and fragrant flowers, illumined by creative, light-filled architecture and suffused with the peace and serenity of a truly spiritual atmosphere, these places host millions of visitors every year, silently proclaiming the peace and unity Baha’u’llah taught and the Baha’is work to achieve.

Becoming a Baha’i

Anyone can become a Baha’i.

Becoming a Baha’i means accepting Baha’u’llah’s unifying teachings, and deciding to try to follow the path of spiritual development the Baha’i teachings outline. There is no service, baptism or ceremony involved—becoming a Baha’i simply requires an inner, spiritual decision to embrace the teachings of the Faith and join your local Baha’i community. In many countries, Baha’is also sign a declaration card, which enrolls them in the Baha’i community and allows them to receive invitations to community events and gatherings.

When you make the decision to become a Baha’i, you also take part in a planetary movement to change the world. Baha’is work for peace, justice, equality, racial unity and environmental sustainability—all based on addressing the underlying, spiritual causes of such inequities. The new, optimistic model the Baha’i teachings offer the world takes a fresh approach to problem-solving, tapping into the deep well of human concern for others with a thoughtful, integrated and comprehensive spiritual energy.

Earth Illustration

Becoming a Baha’i makes you a world citizen, a part of the world’s newest major Faith and an immediate member of a loving, inclusive global community of truly remarkable souls.

Baha’i events—meetings, elections, parties, devotionals, holy day celebrations, a Baha’i “Feast” at the beginning of every month (the feast is a community gathering that usually includes prayers and readings from the Baha’i writings, a period of community consultation and refreshments)—tend to include lots of social interaction, with laughter, music and a general sense of joy and happiness. Depending on their size, Baha’i communities often meet in homes, local Baha’i centers or meeting rooms. Diverse and inclusive, most Baha’i meetings give participants the opportunity to meet and get to know people from different backgrounds, cultures and nations.

Baha’is never ask others for monetary contributions—in fact, only Baha’is can contribute to the Baha’i funds, and all contributions are completely confidential. No one ever passes a plate or requires anyone to participate, since every donation is considered private and personal.

Baha’is come from every walk of life, every social strata of society and every ethnicity, racial background, nation and age group. To answer the question “What is a Baha’i?” Abdu’l-Baha answered:

To be a Baha’i simply means to love all the world; to love humanity and try to serve it; to work for universal peace and universal brotherhood.” – Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 83.

If you’d like to meet Baha’is in your local area, they’re usually listed online, in a local newspaper or phone book, or in directories of places of worship. If you can’t find any local Baha’is, feel free to email us here at [email protected], and we’ll be happy to put you in touch with a nearby Baha’i community.

Additional Baha’i Resources

The Official website of the Baha’i Faith

www.Bahai.org

The Official website of the Universal House of Justice

www.UniversalHouseofJustice.Bahai.org

The Official website of the Baha’is of the United States

www.Bahai.us

The Official website of the Baha’is of Canada

www.ca.Bahai.org

Israel Is Not The occupier

                                           Israel is not the occupier-First Published On 9-23-2013

 

The Hebrew/Jewish people are not the occupier of the Holy lands, saying they are is an ignorant statement in itself. That statement is about as intelligent as saying the Navajo people are the occupiers of the white man’s lands in New Mexico. The Jewish/Hebrew people had lived in the Holy Lands for about 2,200 years before the creation of the Islamic religion. If people would check the history books you would find that Islam began in/about 632 A.D.. You might also be surprised to find out that Christian and Jewish Peoples dominated the whole Middle-East at the time of Islam’s inception. Israel is today only on a small sliver of the land that actually belongs to Her. If you look at the map of Israel that God Himself gave to the Hebrew people then you would see that it is not the Israelis who are living on Palestinian land.  By God’s orders all the land that the media is saying Israel is the ‘occupier’ of is totally a lie and they know it. In fact every inch of the ground that is currently Israel as well as all of Gaza and the West-Bank belongs totally 100% to Israel not the ‘Palestinians’. The only thing that doesn’t allow all the people of Palestine, Islamic, Jews and Christians to live in peace in the land of Israel is the teachings of the Islamic Faith. All people should be able to live in peace in the Holy Land together with no fear of any violence.

When Mohammed came back to Mecca from Media he came as a conquering general, not as a Holy man. Soon thousands of uneducated violent men were ridding rampant across all of the Middle-East and then up into France and Spain until they were finally turned back by force, back across the sea into North Africa. Holy man, really? Their MO was the same then as it is now, murder everyone who refuses to bow to their God, then take all of their possessions as spoils of war.

The Quran is not the primary Holy book of Islam; it is the secondary book of their faith. The Quran is the “sayings of the Prophet”. There is a book called the Hadith which is the book of “the works/actions” of the Prophet. All “good” Muslims are required to “do as the prophet did, to imitate his works”. This is the book that Islam tries to hide from the rest of the world because it shows their “action plan for Jihad on the rest of all the nations”.  It is no secret to the 20% or so of their faithful male population that can read, nor to the 50% or so of their preachers who can read, that Islam is at war with the rest of the world, and that war will never stop until Gabriel sounds God’s trumpet.

The Western countries and America are to lazy and to ignorant of religious realities to understand that a billion people are at war with them. There is an old reality, when only one side of something is at war, that is the side that will win. If you know Scripture, you would know these things and you would be able to see this blueprint being followed.

About 98-99% of all of the earth’s people who follow the God of love/kindness/ and caring are going to be murdered for their faith and for their possessions. Those that conform to the evils that are now upon all the earth in the effort to just get along, and to survive for now, will be crushed like the grapes in the wine-press at the sounding of God’s trumpet. All I can do is to feel sorry for those shallow scared people, that and pray for them to wake up before they are also murdered by this “God” of hate. God is love, God is not hate. If you are a person who is following a God of hate, you will forever live in the fire with him.

When you begin to realize that in the Middle-East that with Islam and with Judaism their religion is their politics and their politics is their religion, maybe you will begin to understand reality a little more. Just like Hamas took over Gaza and next they will root out Fatah (because they consider them to be more liberal), in the West Bank. Fundamental Islam will not share any power longer that they feel is necessary to do so. ISIS is a Sunni group, among the things they are trying to eradicate is everyone who is not a faithful follower of Sunni Islam, that does include all Shiite Islamist believing people. Iran is Shiite as is the Government of Syria and Iraq. For now this is where ISIS is concentrating most of it military power, for now. People the Middle-East is a total tender box, when it goes up the world economies are going to have the proverbial cow. This hell will soon be on our shores. Most folks in the world are totally unaware of it but many of the first shots have been fired in WWIII. If President Putin would wake up and realize where his and his country’s real enemies are and stop trying to act like a WWII thug it would be very helpful for world and Russian economies and their safety. We the people must have each others backs or we will all die.

Do you see how much good all the blood and money we poured into Iraq has done? Now we will have civil war there until one sect rules the others, then we get another cancer for their “Supreme” leader. Next, the president of Afghanistan is in talks with the Taliban to work out a government sharing plan “with American guidance”. Why did we “the west and the US” put all the blood and money into this country, to get this result? It will not be long until their president is dead or living in exile, and the Taliban will again rule that country. The only way to put an end to terrorism is to completely eradicate the cancer that is trying/going to kill you. America and the West are of to weak of a stomach for that. This is why one of the three Demons/anti-Christ will be from the Americas’, and all who will not “submit” to them will die. Friends/people/brothers, the world IS at war, everyone, everywhere has a decision to make (doing nothing is in itself a decision), are we going to die like free God-loving human beings, hoping and waiting on Gods’ trumpet, or we will die like animals on our knees before the ultimate tyrant.      

 

The people of Israel are well aware of all of these truths about their neighbors on all sides. The people of Israel know that they are hated by almost all of their neighbors people and their Governments. These people know that everyday they and their families are on the front lines of this war that all of the west seems to turn a blind eye to, as much as they feel they can get away with. If you pretend something isn’t there, it isn’t is it? The American Government doesn’t seem to understand the region. Our Governments Leaders all need to wake up, Israel is the best friend the United States has ever had. 

                                            

The Pollution in Iran’s Ahwaz Region Turns Deadly

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

The Pollution in Iran’s Ahwaz Region Turns Deadly

Image: public domain from Pixabay.

Severe sandstorms have blanketed Iran’s Ahwaz region again this past week, with people choking as atmospheric dust levels reach 57 times the safety limit set by the World Health Organization. In late January the news broke that citizens were crowding hospitals across the predominantly Arab region—which is desperately poor despite being home to over 95 percent of the oil and gas resources claimed by Iran—complaining of severe shortness of breath and respiratory problems. Between January 21 and 25, three people died from severe respiratory illnesses.

The area is blanketed by a thick smog of sand and visibility is down to under 200 meters. The government has suspended flights to and from regional airports and closed schools, offices and banks across the once-lush province.

In 2013, the city of Ahwaz, the capital of the region, topped the World Health Organization’s list of most polluted cities in the world. According to the report, Ahwaz’s average Air Quality Index score was 372—the global average is around 71—or “Hazardous”. It was the only city on the list with an average value above 300. Reporting on the situation at the time, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) wrote that “contributing factors include desertification caused by river diversion and the draining of the marshes and the oil, petrochemical, metals and sugar and paper processing plants in and around Ahwaz.”

More than four years later, the situation in Ahwaz remains unchanged, and the group most affected are the region’s indigenous Ahwazi Arabs, who have long been discriminated against by successive Iranian governments.

The reason for the high rates of pollution is the accelerating desertification of the region, due to the extensive drying of the rivers and marshes as a result of the massive river-damming and diversion project initiated when Hashemi Rafsanjani became president in 1989. The project has seen millions of gallons of water rerouted from the region’s rivers to other parts of Iran and has intensified the already high rates of pollution and environmental degradation in the region.The dust storms combine with the constant clouds of choking pollution released into the atmosphere by the region’s petrochemical refineries and factories—none of which are subject to any environmental regulations or oversight—and also with the pollution produced by the burning of sugarcane.

Speaking on condition of anonymity due to fears of reprisals by the Iranian regime, an Ahwazi high school student told Global Voices that, “The burning used to take place during the day, but after there were protests by local Arabs chanting ‘We might be able to buy potable water, but we cannot buy clean air!’ they have begun burning it at night. This morning, the school grounds were covered in several centimetres of ash from the burning. I already have severe asthma, and this is making my condition worse.”

Sugarcane in the Ahwaz region

Sugarcane is not indigenous to Iran, but has been cultivated in the region since the 1960s. During the tenure of Hashemi Rafsanjani the government embarked on an ambitious state-subsidized sugarcane-farming project that involved the seizure of thousands of hectares of farmland from Ahwazi farmers whose ancestors had farmed there for generations. Thousands of families were driven into abject destitution as their farmland was converted into vast sugarcane plantations.

These efforts have brought little profit: the sugarcane project has proven economically disastrous, with imports far cheaper than local production. The greater concern, however, is the widespread pollution and environmental devastation it has wrought on a region that was once the breadbasket of the Gulf area. Across the Ahwaz region, in cities like Falahiyeh, Muhammarah and Abadan, massive plantations of palm trees whose produce was famed across the Middle East have either been deliberately destroyed or simply left to wither. Also at serious risk are the region’s flora and fauna, as the Falahiyeh wetlands and the Hor-Azim wetlands are almost completely destroyed.

Sugar refineries are depleting the already scarce supply of river water for their water-intensive processes, and polluting the region’s remaining rivers and streams by pumping untreated chemicals used in the sugar-cleaning and refining process back into the waterways. This leaves the water downstream unusable and high in saline, which destroys the arable lands of the region’s poor Ahwazi farmers.

Then there’s the burning of the sugarcane, which takes place on plantations around the Ahwazi capital and other cities in the region before the May-November harvest. The smoke from burning sugar cane is thick and heavy due to the dense sugar and alcohol content; instead of drifting upward it blows across the land, causing severe and sometimes fatal respiratory and skin problems among the population.

The heavy toll on health

At the end of January, at least three Ahwazi Arabs were reported to have died as a result of respiratory problems caused or exacerbated by the region’s severe air pollution. One of them, 43-year-old Kareem Abdul Khani from the city of Susa, who suffered from chronic asthma, was rushed to the city’s Mafi Hospital on January 21 after complaining of dizziness and difficulty breathing due to the severe pollution in the area, which greatly exceeded usual levels. He died the following day.

The second man, 47-year-old Hamid Hamdian from Mollasani County near Ahwaz city, had been suffering from respiratory disease for some time. He died suddenly after being overcome by severe breathing problems.

The third man, 34-year-old Ahmed Chenani from Hamidieh city, 30 kilometers west of Ahwaz, died from chronic respiratory problems on the night of January 25, after suffocating from the air pollution blanketing the area. Family members who rushed him to the Golestan Hospital in Ahwaz city, said that the lack of adequate medical facilities and the negligence of medical staff contributed to his death.

Rates of cancer in the region are also rising. A member of the medical staff at a hospital in Ahwaz who, like other interviewees, wished to remain anonymous, said that ten years ago the hospital had 40 beds that were largely underused. In recent years, the hospital has become overrun with cancer patients.

All this is a huge price to pay, especially for the indigenous Ahwazi Arabs, who are still denied all but the most menial jobs in sugarcane and oil—the two industries wreaking havoc on their home region‚—while ethnic Persians are brought in from other parts of Iran and offered high wages and modern, purpose-built housing in segregated settlements. Despite being natives of the wealthiest region in Iran in terms of resources, the majority of the Ahwazi people live in medieval conditions under a de facto apartheid system.

Iranian intellectuals call for referendum amid political unrest

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN)

 

Iranian intellectuals call for referendum amid political unrest

Letter with 15 signatories says Iran’s leaders have failed to deliver on republican ideals

Pro-government rally in Iran
 Women hold posters of the Iranian revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini and the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a pro-government rally. Photograph: Mohammad Ali Marizad/AP

A group of prominent Iranian intellectuals have said they have lost hope that the Islamic Republic can reform, and have called for a referendum to establish whether the ruling establishment is still backed by a majority.

A day after Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, touted the idea of holding a referendum as a means to heal Iran’s deepening political divisions, 15 figures – including some based in Iran – said leaders had failed to deliver on republican ideals.

Signatories to the letter include the Nobel peace prize-winning lawyer Shirin Ebadi; Narges Mohammadi, a human rights activist currently imprisoned in Tehran; Nasrin Sotoudeh, a rights lawyer; and the film-makers Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Jafar Panahi.

Rouhani did not elaborate on what he was proposing to put to a vote, but he has sounded increasingly frustrated about the political stalemate.

The judiciary has limited his ability to improve social freedoms despite his triumph in last year’s presidential election, and critics say his recent budget, which allocated huge funds to state bodies under the control of hardliners, demonstrated his lack of power.

Meanwhile, the Iranian currency has taken another dive against the dollar in recent days, adding to fears about the state of the economy.

Speaking last week, Rouhani expressed concern about what he said was the unwillingness of his hardline opponents to listen to the voices of ordinary people, particularly after a wave of unrest that began in late December.

“The previous regime, which thought that its rule would be lifelong and its monarchy eternal, lost everything because it did not listen to the voices of criticism, advice, reformers, the clergy, elders and intellectuals,” he said, referring to the late shah’s rule. “The previous regime did not listen to the voice of people’s protests and only listened to one voice, and that was the people’s revolution. For a government that only wants to hear the sound of revolution, it will be too late.”

The activists’ letter states: “Four decades have passed since the establishment of the Islamic republic, a government whose obsession with Islamisation has left little room for republican ideals.”

It criticises the conservative-dominated judiciary, which acts independently of Rouhani’s government. “The judiciary is reduced to the executor of the political wishes of those who hold the reins of power. So many women, lawyers, journalists, teachers, students, workers and political and social activists have been harassed, arrested, convicted of serious crimes and sent to prison, solely for criticising officials, enlightening public opinion, inviting the rulers to respect separation of religion from government or demanding women’s relief from the mandatory veil.”

Last month Mehdi Karroubi, an Iranian opposition leader currently under house arrest, wrote a letter attacking the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power in Iran. Direct criticism of Khamenei is rare.

Karroubi, a former speaker of parliament, wrote: “You have been Iran’s top leader for three decades but still speak like an opposition. During the last three decades you have eliminated the main revolutionary forces to implement your own policies, and now you should face the results of that.”

Iranian officials say high turnouts in elections show that the establishment is still popular. Critics dispute that, saying many voters participate in the hope of bringing about change.

Saeed Barzin, a London-based Iranian analyst, said Rouhani’s call for a referendum was a threat to push back the economic and political meddling of an unelected faction dominated by hardliners, in particular the Revolutionary Guards.

“The undercurrent issue is how the power will be distributed after Khamenei, and in a way the power struggle has already begun,” Barzin said. “Reformists feel under threat that the current situation might lead to people losing hope in reform or becoming radical or becoming apolitical. Hardliners, on the other side, might see an opportunity here to scapegoat Rouhani and even conduct a soft coup d’état, but it’s a gamble.”

Barzin said he was not impressed by the activists’ letter, though the range of signatories was interesting. Even those based in Iran, he said, did not represent mainstream reformists, who would view holding such a referendum as the establishment acquiescing to its own destruction.

In Iran, Environmentalists Now Seen as Spies

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Photo

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran arriving at a news conference, with a portrait of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, last week in Tehran. Credit Abedin Taherkenareh/European Press photo Agency

TEHRAN — The increasingly bitter feud between Iran’s president and hard-line commanders and clerics exploded into the open over the weekend with the arrest of a top environmental official and the prison death of a prominent Iranian-Canadian environmental activist who was arrested last month.

The official, Kaveh Madani, the deputy head of the Department of the Environment, was arrested on Saturday, interrogated, and apparently released on Monday by intelligence agents affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. His department posted an image of him on Twitter during a meeting on Monday with the German ambassador to Iran, Michael Klor-Berchtold.

The arrest of Mr. Madani, 36, an American-educated academic on leave from London’s Imperial College, was particularly embarrassing for President Hassan Rouhani, who had recruited him as a sign the country is ready to welcome back expatriate Iranians.

It was consistent with a series of actions taken by hard-line groups in recent months to publicly humiliate and undermine Mr. Rouhani, analysts say. They are accused of instigating the protests that shook the government around the New Year in an effort to show that Mr. Rouhani’s promises of economic growth were failing. That backfired when the protests spread to 80 cities and anger quickly turned against the Islamic establishment.

The hard-liners had been incensed by Mr. Rouhani’s decision to leak a sensitive government budget document showing generous payouts to support military adventures and conservative clerical organizations while cutting subsidies for the poor and middle class.

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“I have never seen the fight between these two factions so open here in Iran, the government versus those who are nonelected,” said Farshad Ghorbanpour, an analyst with close ties to the Rouhani government. “I’m afraid that if solutions are not found, we might see escalation and even clashes in the near future.”

The sparring is taking place against a backdrop of growing public dissatisfaction with the government over the mismanagement of the economy, corruption, bank failures and the powerful sense that people no longer want the government to tell them how to live — symbolized this month by numerous women publicly removing their hijabs to protest mandatory veiling.

With the arrests of Mr. Madani and several environmental activists including Kavous Seyed Emami, the Iranian-Canadian, the fight seems to have expanded into the environmental arena as the government confronts growing fears of water shortages this summer. The activists, some critical of the government for long-term mismanagement of water supplies, have been accused by the Revolutionary Guards of spying.

Photo

Kavous Seyed Emami in a photo provided by his family. Creditvia Agence France-Press — Getty Images

Mr. Seyed Emami, one of the founders of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, Iran’s most prominent nongovernmental organization focused on the environment, was quietly arrested along with six associates in January, a spokesman for the family said on Saturday.

The spokesman said that the family had been told that he killed himself in prison after having confessed to spying. The family denies the allegation of spying and doubts he committed suicide, but the prison authorities have so far refused to return Mr. Seyed Emami’s body to the family for a proper autopsy. He was to be buried on Tuesday, and it remained unclear if the family’s wish for an independent autopsy would be granted.

Also unclear is where the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, comes down in the feud between the hard-liners and Mr. Rouhani. Mr. Khamenei has long sought to balance opposing factions to preserve his power, and analysts said he would be unlikely to take a strong stand on one side or the other until he felt he had no choice. On major decisions, like the nuclear agreement and seeking better relations with the international community, he has supported Mr. Rouhani, if grudgingly.

On Sunday, Mr. Rouhani struck back at his opponents, warning the Revolutionary Guards, the judiciary and the clerical councils that his government is considering organizing a referendum to break the deadlock between those who want change and those who want to hold it back.

“Anywhere we may have differences,” he said in a speech at the 39th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, “we should refer to the vote of the people and a referendum.”

While there is little chance of that plan succeeding, analysts say, suggesting a referendum could perhaps help Mr. Rouhani regain popularity among the middle classes who have become cynical over his inability to deliver on years of promises of a more open and transparent economy and greater personal freedoms.

“Mr. Rouhani insists on diverting attention away from his failing economic policies,” said Hamidreza Taraghi, a hard-line political analyst. “The government is not allowed to initiate referendums on everything, only in the case of a stalemate between separate powers. These are just disputes.”

Since the New Year’s protests, the pressure on the two sides has only increased, with the economy dragging and the national currency, the rial, falling sharply in value against the dollar and the euro. The government is having trouble attracting desperately needed foreign investment, because of unilateral United States sanctions and uncertainty over the fate of the nuclear agreement.

In an apparent victory for Mr. Rouhani, the minister of defense, Amir Hatami, said in January that Ayatollah Khamenei had ordered both the regular army and the Revolutionary Guards to sell off economic assets to the private sector. But the arrests and pressures indicate there will be no smooth transition, if any, analysts said.

“This country is in deadlock. I think last month’s so-called-protests were incited and encouraged by government opponents, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps,” said Saeed Laylaz, an economist close to the government. “I think the opponents of Rouhani want to show their teeth after the president has made clear he wants to harness the power and influence of the non-elected parts of the state, including the Guards

Israel-Iran Fight Steps Into The Open

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

No longer shrouded by ‘foreign reports,’ Israel-Iran fight steps into the open

Long-heard warnings of war between Jerusalem and Tehran are poised to become reality – unless someone can stop it

Judah Ari Gross

Israeli soldiers survey the border with Syria from a military post in the Golan Heights, following a series of aerial clashes with Syrian and Iranian forces in Syria, on February 10, 2018. (Flash90)

Israeli soldiers survey the border with Syria from a military post in the Golan Heights, following a series of aerial clashes with Syrian and Iranian forces in Syria, on February 10, 2018. (Flash90)

On Thursday, the International Crisis Group think tank and advocacy firm warned in a new comprehensive report that Israel and Iran (plus its proxies) were barreling toward open conflict in Syria.

Those prescient warnings came true — in part, at least — throughout Saturday morning, beginning shortly before 4:30 a.m., with the violation of Israeli airspace by a drone that the Israeli military says was piloted by an Iranian operator from an airfield that Tehran had taken control of months before, with Syrian permission.

Israeli jets conducted reprisal raids in Syria, during which one of the F-16 fighter planes was apparently hit by shrapnel from an exploding anti-aircraft missile and crashed in northern Israel, in what appears to be the first downing of an Israeli plane since 1982.

The aircraft’s pilots bailed out; one of them was seriously injured.

A picture taken in the northern Israeli Jezreel Valley on February 10, 2018, shows the remains of an Israel F-16 that crashed after coming under fire by Syrian air defenses during attacks against ‘Iranian targets’ in the war-torn country. (AFP PHOTO / Jack GUEZ)

Air force jets then completed a second set of retaliatory strikes. In the two rounds, the Israeli military said, its aircraft targeted several Syrian air defense systems as well as four Iranian positions in the country.

This was the first time Israel publicly acknowledged conducting airstrikes against Iranian-held locations in Syria, though not the first time it had done so, according to foreign reports.

In the aftermath of the Saturday morning clash, Israeli, Syrian and Iranian politicians released tough, threatening statements aimed at one another. The United States backed Israel’s right to self-defense. Russia called for calm on all sides, but singled out Israel for violating Syrian sovereignty with its strikes, while conspicuously ignoring the Iranian drone’s airspace violation.

The aerial exchange thrust what had previously been a long-simmering but largely quiet conflict into the international spotlight and raised concerns that this bout will be the first of many clashes — and, in the nightmare scenario, the start of a full-fledged war across Syria, Lebanon and northern Israel.

I don’t think it’s the last time we’ll see such an event, but for the time being both sides will restrain their responses

However, the prevailing belief among Israeli defense analysts is that Saturday’s events were not the prelude to open war, but the beginning of an extended period of increased tension, which is liable to see additional clashes.

“I don’t think it’s the last time we’ll see such an event, but for the time being both sides will restrain their responses,” Sima Shine, a career defense official and current senior researcher at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies think tank, told reporters on Sunday.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (L) attends a briefing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (R) in response to the escalation of tensions along the northern border on February 10, 2018. (Ariel Harmoni/Defense Ministry)

She added, during the phone briefing organized by the Media Central group, that escalation is in neither side’s best interest.

Amos Yadlin, a former fighter pilot and Military Intelligence chief, described Saturday as the “most significant day of fighting” in what Israel describes as its “campaign between wars,” often referred to in Hebrew by its acronym, Mabam.

“Despite the containment of the incident, the campaign is expected to continue,” Yadlin said.

In its report, released two days before Saturday’s flareup, the Crisis Group laid out how this campaign between Israel and the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis has developed and how it can be prevented from escalating further.

The organization tracks the current tensions to the Syrian regime’s battlefield victories over the past two and a half years, which it has achieved in large part due to support from the Russian military, which has provided significant air power since September 2015.

These have opened the Iran-led axis to shift toward preparing for a future conflict with Israel.

Only Moscow is in a position to mediate a bolstering of the deescalation agreement. Unless it does, the rules of the Syrian game are likely to be worked out through attack and response, with risk of escalation

According to the think tank, Russia is also the only entity able to prevent such a bloody war, having emerged from the Syrian civil war as the region’s sole remaining superpower after the United States dramatically scaled back its involvement in the conflict.

“Only Moscow is in a position to mediate a bolstering of the deescalation agreement. Unless it does, the rules of the Syrian game are likely to be worked out through attack and response, with risk of escalation,” according to the report.

In this photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, right, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

The group outlines three main issues that need to be addressed: the presence of Iranian and Shiite forces near the Israeli Golan Heights; the construction of Iranian military infrastructure in Syria; and ensuring any clashes that do take place remain confined to Syria.

The Crisis Group has also been working directly with Russia to try to persuade it to accept the role of mediator between Israel, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria.

“And we are seeing some traction with Russian officials,” Ofer Zalzberg, a senior Jerusalem-based analyst for the group and one of the report’s authors, told The Times of Israel last Wednesday ahead of the document’s publication.

The recipe for disaster

As Syrian dictator Bashar Assad vanquishes the remaining pockets of resistance in the country, the Israeli concern is that his allies — Iran, Hezbollah and Iran-backed Shiite militias — will be freed to focus on establishing positions along the Israeli border from which to antagonize the Jewish state, as well as permanent naval and air bases to bring in more advanced weaponry and conduct attacks.

Israel has designated these issues to be “red lines,” which it will not allow to be violated, and has said it will take military action if they are.

In its report, the Crisis Group warned that if the Iranian axis presses on with these efforts and Israel retaliates in kind, there is significant potential for escalation or even a large-scale war that could destabilize the entire region.

Israeli security forces inspect damage to a house after a Katyusha rocket attack by Hezbollah from southern Lebanon in the northern Israeli town of Nahariya, July 15, 2006. (Pierre Terdjman / Flash90)

The military assessments of what a war between Israel and Hezbollah would look like are chilling: Hezbollah launching over 1,000 rockets and missiles at Israeli cities and strategic sites each day, along with attempted infiltrations of Israeli communities along the Lebanese border. Israel conducting wave after wave of airstrikes against Hezbollah infrastructure, which the terrorist group has embedded deep inside civilian areas, ensuring significant noncombatant deaths, as well as large-scale IDF ground force maneuvers in southern Lebanon.

Zalzberg said a major part of the problem is that there are no established “rules of the game” between Israel and Iranian proxies in Syria, as there are in Lebanon, where Israel has been fighting Hezbollah off-and-on for decades.

That means the “rules” will be sorted out through back-and-forth, tit-for-tat clashes like Saturday’s. But this is a perilous path, fraught with opportunities for miscalculation and resulting in unintended casualties on both sides.

For instance, Israeli officials often refer to the “proverbial kindergarten” — the type of target that if hit, even accidentally, would prompt Israeli citizens to demand harsh and swift reprisals. As Iran and Hezbollah lack civilian targets in Syria, their equivalent might be a case of significant casualties from an Israeli airstrike, which would forced them to retaliate.

This is a current concern, following Saturday’s exchange, as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a watchdog group, reported that at least six pro-regime fighters — including both Syrians and foreign nationals — were killed in Israel’s strikes and that “the death toll is expected to rise because there are some people in critical situation.”

Zalzberg added the potential for escalation in Syria is driven higher by the fact that different sides do not have a clear grasp of one another’s goals and viewpoints, citing a year’s worth of interviews by the Crisis Group with officials in Jerusalem, Tehran, Beirut, Amman, Moscow and Washington.

The report and its authors argue that it is ultimately in Russia’s best interest to avoid an all-out war between Israel and the Lebanon-based, Iran-backed Hezbollah, which would have the potential to completely destabilize the region.

Unlike in the 2006 Second Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah when the fighting was primarily limited to northern Israel and southern Lebanon, the view of both Israeli and Hezbollah officials is that the next conflict between the two groups would also include fighting in Syria.

Israeli artillery howitzers fire on Hezbollah targets at the Israeli-Lebanese border on July 18, 2006. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“A massive campaign by Israel will do enormous damage to [Damascus and its backers’] achievements, perhaps even destabilizing the regime itself,” the report noted.

According to Zalzberg, this is not a desirable situation for Russia, as Moscow would like to see Assad regain near-total control over Syria.

The analyst noted that this is at odds with Iran, which wants to see Assad in power, but does not necessarily want to see him becoming too powerful, preferring instead to have Syria controlled by a coalition, similar to Lebanon, so that its Shiite militias could play a more significant role in the country.

Russia and only Russia

Moscow’s active support for Assad and his other main supporters, Iran and Hezbollah, has left Israeli officials decidedly wary of their Russian counterparts.

The Crisis Group report quotes an unnamed Israeli Foreign Ministry official as saying of the Russians, “It’s hard to trust them. They tell us they are not selling weapons to Hezbollah, but we know for a fact that they do. Their policies are cynical. They are not an enticing mediator.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during an event marking International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, January 29, 2018. (Vasily MAXIMOV/AFP)

Yet there is an understanding among some in Israel that, while not enticing, Russia is the only mediator that has significant leverage over Iran and Hezbollah.

Israel has already had to maintain a close, if uneasy, relationship with Moscow due to its involvement in the region.

After Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jets that had invaded its airspace, Moscow installed an S-400 missile defense system in Syria. With the system, one of the world’s most advanced anti-aircraft batteries, Russia can monitor the overwhelming majority of Israel’s active airspace, including Israeli military flights.

Or, as one Israeli official told the Crisis Group, “A fly can’t buzz above Syria without Russian consent nowadays.”

This came as a shocking blow to the Israeli Air Force, which had, until then, enjoyed aerial superiority in the region, and required Jerusalem and Moscow to set up a hotline to prevent any potential conflicts between the two militaries.

Israel has also worked diplomatically with Russia to secure a buffer zone around the southwestern Syrian border, in which Hezbollah and other Iran-backed Shiite militias would not be allowed to maintain a presence.

In this photo released on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian government forces stand next to a bus which is waiting to evacuate Syrian rebels and their families from Beit Jinn village, in the southern province of Daraa, Syria. (SANA via AP)

The border area has naturally been of significant concern for Israel, which is loath to see Hezbollah set up military positions along the Golan Heights to join the significant infrastructure it has already put in place in southern Lebanon.

Last month, the Syrian military, with some assistance from Shiite militias, regained control over the area of Beit Jinn, or Beit Jann, which is located just 13 kilometers (8 miles) from Israel’s Mount Hermon ski resort.

Though it is currently focused on retaking the area of Idlib in northwestern Syria, this coalition is likely to soon focus its attention on the Quneitra and Daraa regions, near the Israeli border.

Though Israel secured its buffer zone for that area this summer, the Crisis Group report notes that it would be relatively easy for these groups to get around the restriction, “for instance by integrating the fighters into the Syrian army or simply having them don its uniforms.”

The advocacy group argues that before the Syria-Iran-Hezbollah axis moves toward the southwest, Russia should work to negotiate an agreement between it and Israel.

There is still time for Russia to try to broker a set of understandings to prevent a confrontation, protecting both its investment in the regime and Syrian, Israeli and Lebanese lives

The Crisis Group notes that Israel’s insistence that Iranian and Iran-backed troops stay out of southern Syria will be the most difficult to negotiate, as Hezbollah and the Shiite militias would not be inclined to accept it and could easily cheat by disguising themselves as Syrians.

However, the authors say this could be resolved by getting Russia to agree to prevent Iran from setting up the types of infrastructure most concerning to Israel, like a seaport through which the Islamic Republic could carry out attacks against Israeli natural gas fields, an airport to transport weapons to Hezbollah, or a factory for the production of precise missiles.

“There is still time for Russia to try to broker a set of understandings to prevent a confrontation, protecting both its investment in the regime and Syrian, Israeli and Lebanese lives,” the Crisis Group wrote.

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Syria shoots down Israeli warplane as conflict escalates

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

(The Devil is in Tehran, His name is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the un-elected Dictator who calls himself the ‘Supreme Leader’)(trs) 

Syria shoots down Israeli warplane as conflict escalates

Crash site of an Israeli F-16 jet in northern Israel. Photo: 10 February 2018Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionThe Israeli F-16 jet crashed near a village in northern Israel

An Israeli F-16 fighter jet has crashed after being hit by Syrian air defences during an offensive in Syria, the Israeli military says.

The two pilots parachuted to safety before the crash in northern Israel. It is believed to be the first time Israel has lost a jet in the Syrian conflict.

The plane was hit during air strikes in response to an Iranian drone launch into Israeli territory, Israel says.

The drone was shot down. Israel later launched further strikes in Syria.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) say they hit aerial defence batteries and Iranian military sites in the latest strikes.

Israeli air strikes in Syria are not unusual, the BBC’s Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman says, but the loss of an Israeli fighter jet marks a serious escalation.

In other developments in the Syrian conflict on Saturday:

  • A Turkish helicopter was shot down as the country continued its offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria. Two soldiers on board were killed, the Turkish military says
  • UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said the past week was one of the bloodiest in Syria since the conflict began in 2011 – with at least 277 civilian deaths reported

How did events unfold on Saturday morning?

The Israeli military says a “combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel”.

It tweeted footage which it says shows the drone flying into Israeli territory before being hit.

In a further response, the IDF “targeted Iranian targets in Syria”, according to the military. The mission deep inside Syrian territory was successfully completed, it said.

After coming under Syrian anti-aircraft fire, the F-16’s two crew members ejected and were later taken to hospital. One of them was “severely injured as a result of an emergency evacuation”, the IDF said.

It is the first time Israel has lost an aircraft in combat since 2006 when an Israeli helicopter was shot down over Lebanon by a Hezbollah rocket, the Jerusalem Post reports.

All five crew on board – including a female flight mechanic – were killed in that incident.

Anti-aircraft effects over the Syrian-Israeli border in the Golan Heights. Photo: 10 February 20218Image copyrightEPA
Image captionAnti-aircraft fire smoke over the Syrian-Israeli border in the Golan Heights

Alert sirens sounded in areas of northern Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights because of Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

Residents reported hearing a number of explosions and heavy aerial activity in the area near Israel’s borders with Jordan and Syria.

An Israeli F-16 takes off. File photoImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe fighter jet was carrying out strikes on Iranian targets in Syria, the Israelis say (file picture)

Syrian state media quoted a military source as saying that the country’s air defences had opened fire in response to Israeli “aggression” against a military base on Saturday, hitting “more than one plane”.

What did Israel do next?

Israel launched its second wave of strikes in Syria. Eight of the Syrian targets belonged to the fourth Syrian division near Damascus, IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus said.

All the Israeli aircraft from this sortie returned safely.

“Syrians are playing with fire when they allow Iranians to attack Israel,” the spokesman warned.

He added that Israel was willing to exact a heavy price in response but was “are not looking to escalate the situation”.

Meanwhile Iran and the Tehran-backed Hezbollah movement in Lebanon – which are allied with the Syrian government – dismissed reports that an Iranian drone had entered Israeli airspace as a “lie”.

Russia expressed “serious concern” over the Israeli air strikes and called for all sides to show restraint.

What is the Iranian presence in Syria?

Iran is Israel’s arch-enemy, and Iranian troops have been fighting rebel groups since 2011.

Tehran has sent military advisers, volunteer militias and, reportedly, hundreds of fighters from its Quds Force, the overseas arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

It is also believed to have supplied thousands of tonnes of weaponry and munitions to help President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the pro-Iranian Hezbollah, which is fighting on Syria’s side.

Tehran has faced accusations that it is seeking to establish not just an arc of influence but a logistical land supply line from Iran through to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Presentational grey line

A powerful new element

Analysis by BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus

For years Israel has been striking at weapons stores and other facilities in Syria with a single goal – to disrupt and, as far as possible, to prevent advanced Iranian missiles being delivered to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Syria has often been the conduit for these shipments, but the changing balance of power there, with the Assad regime’s survival bolstered by Iranian help, has introduced a powerful new element – a direct Iranian role in the crisis.

A more confident Iran is alleged by Israel to be setting up bases in Syria(whether for its own or its proxy Shia Muslim militia forces is unclear).

But it is also alleged to be developing missile factories, both there and in Lebanon, to make the supply lines to Hezbollah less vulnerable.

Israel’s campaign to disrupt missile supplies is becoming ever more complex.

And Iran risks becoming a direct actor in this conflict, ever closer to Israel’s own borders.

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Presentational grey line

Iran A Member Of The U.N.: Refuse Religious Freedom: Payback Time!

IRAN REFUSE CHRISTIANS U.N. GUARANTEED RELIGIOUS RIGHTS, PUTS THEM IN PRISON

                                      IT’S PAYBACK TIME: TURNABOUT IS ONLY BEING FAIR 

 

U.N. RESOLUTION #50/183

(ALL U.N. NATIONS WILL: ELIMINATE ALL FORMS OF RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE)

Here is my solution to countries like Iran who persecute the people of every non-Islamic religion within their borders even though they as a U.N. member State are not allowed to do this. I know that my solution will never happen simply because almost all the U.N. Nations including the U.S. have no guts (at least the politicians don’t). Iran has jailed Christians in their ‘Revolutionary Court’ to between 10-15 years in prison for the ‘crimes of evangelizing and for having at home churches’. So, all U.N. Nations should take any Iranian citizen that is within their borders who dares to go to a Mosque, at home Mosque or who is caught teaching the Islamic faith in public and put them in prison if they are found guilty of these ‘crimes’! Turn about is fair isn’t it? The Iranian government must either abide by the U.N. laws or their citizens abroad should be treated exactly as they treat others. The only other ‘fair’ option is if Iran does not change their actions at once and free these people then the U.N. needs to ‘grow a set’ and throw Iran out of the U.N.!

UN Demands Iran’s Islamic Regime Give Christians a Fair Trial

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

 

UN Demands Iran’s Islamic Regime Give Christians a Fair Trial

(PHOTO: REUTERS/HEINZ-PETER BADER)An Iranian flag flutters in front of the United Nations headquarters in Vienna, Austria, June 17, 2014.

Four U.N. human rights experts have issued a joint statement, urging Iran to ensure “a fair and transparent final hearing” at the country’s Revolutionary Court for three Iranian Christians who have been sentenced for “conducting evangelism” and “illegal house church activities,” among other charges.

The U.N. special rapporteurs on the human rights situation in Iran, freedom of religion, minority issues and the right to health have expressed their concerns over last year’s sentencing of Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz, former Assyrian Pentecostal Church leader in Iran, and house church Christians Amin Afshar Naderi and Hadi Asgari, to between 10 and 15 years in prison for various charges.

The Revolutionary Court was due to hold a hearing in the case Sunday but it is not still known if the court ended the case, confirmed the sentences or referred it to the Supreme Court, according to Radio Free Europe.

The U.N. experts said the charges and sentences were “completely contrary” to Iran’s obligations under international law. “We are additionally concerned about the lack of health care made available to them while in detention and, in particular, about the current health condition of Mr. Asgari, who remains in prison.”

They noted, “Members of the Christian minority in Iran, particularly those who have converted to the faith, are facing severe discrimination and religious persecution.”

The independent U.N. experts urged “the government to immediately and unconditionally release all those who have been arrested and detained for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief.”

Shamiram Isavi, the wife of Pastor Tamraz, was earlier this year sentenced to five years in prison, allegedly for endangering national security.

“As far as we know, and based on Mrs. Isavi’s own statements, no evidence has been presented in the case to show that she was engaged in spying or disturbing national security. She has denied all the charges,” Kiarash Alipour, a spokesman for Article 18, a U.K.-based organization focusing on Christians in Iran, told the Centre for Human Rights in Iran.

“Mrs. Isavi explained during the interrogation that when the Assyrian Pentecostal Church was shut down, she attended home churches and prayed with fellow Christians and discussed the Holy Book,” Alipour said. “It’s astonishing that a country’s national security could be threatened by a gathering of Christian believers.”

Officials claimed that Isavi was “acting against national security” through her efforts in organizing house churches, which is not allowed in Iran, as well as attending Christian seminars abroad.

Tamraz was arrested with Isavi and their son, Ramin, along with 12 other Christian converts, in December 2014 in Tehran.

In November, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams called on Christian leaders to intervene for the release of a British mother, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a 38-year-old project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, being held in an Iranian prison.

Islam And Dictators 

Islam And Dictators 

As most people know the world experienced an event called “The Arab Spring” just a few years ago. The event started when a man through exasperation of the inequalities that were laid upon his life decided to end his life by setting himself on fire. This tragic event started an uprising of the people that spread across North Africa and the Middle East. The people of these countries raised up together to challenge their countries leaders in unprecedented numbers. The results of these uprisings do vary but it would be lying to say that these countries and their people are now living in peace.

 

The United States government has been involved in this region of the world since before I was born (I am 61). Their adventures attributes or lack thereof can easily be argued long and loud from the Arab people’s point of view, their governments point of view, and the American people’s points of view. Many Americans are sick and tired of our country being the “world’s policeman” but just as cops on the street can be good and/or evil our country has often lacked moral ethics in how they performed their activities. But just as different Arab countries leaders and their people like and dislike things our government has done that has touched their lives, I would just like to share with you fact that just as you and your country’s government do not always see eye to eye with each other, that the American people do not always back what our government is doing in regards to events that affect you and your lives.

 

Most of the American people I believe before 1972-73 knew little about anything that was to do with your countries. I was a teenager during that time and I was in the American military (1977) before I ever heard of the Shah of Iran, I am not sure that I had ever heard of the country of Iran before the events of his departure from your country. The more that I paid attention to the events concerning the Shah and our country’s involvement the more it sickened me about things our country had done to the people of Iran. As just about anyone and everyone should know by now the American government was playing a deadly game with Russia during those “cold war” years. Both countries governments used other countries like pawns in a chess game not caring about the collateral damage their actions were putting upon the people of these countries.

 

The American government installed and supported many evil people, even crazy people (Saddam), giving them many weapons which the tyrants used against their own people. I am going to step back to Iran in the 1978 era when the people of Iran were able to get rid of one Tyrant to unfortunately have an even more evil person step into the leadership of their country. I know that statement will get some people mad but to be honest about things, here in America we have had many evil people in all different levels and departments of our government including some very evil Presidents. The Shah was a very evil person but after his departure, you the people, got locked into a government that is one of the most evil the world has ever known.

 

Libya, as most everyone knows is one of the countries that had a horrible lunatic for a leader who you the people, with some outside help from Jihad organizations was able to overthrow. But you the people have now got a living situation that is very dangerous for all of its citizens with so many armed groups fighting for more control. I am glad that this was one leader that wasn’t one of the CIA puppets because he was a horrible non-humanitarian leader. Our government propped up dictators from the Philippines to Central America to Africa to the Middle East. It Saddens me as an American and as a loving heart Christian that our government did some of the things to you that they did but it is not like we the people of America condoned our government’s actions.

 

Syria, their President is the only leader that it seems is going to remain in office but only because he was able to get foreign help from nations like Russia and Iran and terrorist groups like Hezbollah. The cost of this failed Civil War is hundreds of thousands of people are dead with probably that many and more wounded. There is also the factor of how to go forward as a nation. There is many billions of dollars of damage to businesses and homes and the factor of the human cost of getting that country back to a functional condition is going to take several decades.

 

The United States as you know involved themselves militarily in Afghanistan and Iraq after the 9-11-2001 attacks here in America. I believe that going into Afghanistan was a legitimate action. But when our government went into Iraq in March of 2003 to get Saddam this was an Unconstitutional illegal act, thus and illegal action by our President. I try to always be honest and fair in all that I do and say, but in doing this it seems like I get most everyone mad at me. Thus saying, I personally believe that our President at the time, George W Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld are all three guilty of War Crimes and should all three be behind bars right now. Now, if you fast forward to today, look at all the sectarian violence in Iraq and in Afghanistan with the government trying to get the Taliban murderers to become part of that government. Besides cutting off the figurehead of Al-Qaeda on May 2nd of 2011 what did all the blood and all the trillions of dollars accomplish for the lives of their average countryman?

 

Egypt is the last country that I am going to focus on tonight because I am not trying to create a manuscript out of this post. The people of Egypt throughout history for the most part are now and have always been a great people even though they have had many Rulers who used and abused them. Ever since your President Anwar Sadat was murdered by Islamist traders, you the people have been saddled with a Dictator/President who you finally overthrew about three years ago. When you, the people of Egypt were doing your rallies there in the Square in Cairo the Western media kept interviewing protesters from the square pointing out to us viewers how it was the educated class of people who were the protesters. They would often say how the side streets and alleys were jammed with people but these reporters did not go into those side streets and alleys because of security issues. I knew even then that the Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood were more than happy to let the School Teachers, Doctors, and Lawyer types be the one’s speaking to the foreign press while they waited in the back streets hoping that the President would be run out of office. When President Mubarak was removed by the Military and elections were set in place I had no doubt who would win and then the people of Egypt who voted in The Brotherhood would see first hand how they now had another tyrant leading their country. To the praise of the majority of the people the people realized how badly they had been lied to and how inept these Islamist leaders were and once again with the help of your Military you brought down yet another Dictator.

 

There is a common thread that runs throughout the Muslim part of the world and that of course is the Islamic faith. I know that it sounds horrible but the pattern of governments that have come and gone and come again to your countries has been where a Military backed Dictator has ruled your country or you had a Religious Leader rule your country. The debate for your countries has been a case of which one is going to be the most cruel toward the population. It has seemed that the only situation where the lazy, uneducated, hate filled Islamist fundamentalists who allow the population no basic human rights or freedom of expression is when a Military backed Dictator has been your countries ruler.

 

It is and has been my belief for a long time now that the only way that people can have freedom in their country is if they remove the tyrant themselves. How Egypt has gotten rid of their last two Presidents has worked but it always comes down to where the loyalty of the nation’s Military is. Muslim countries who prefer to have a so-called Religious Leader as their ruler it is up to you to see that He or She is acting toward the populous with caring and love for the people. Proof that these so-called “Clerics” like the people of Iran are enslaved by are a horrible choice for National Leadership has been proven to the people of your country’s time and time again. The people of your countries are to this day wrapped up in constant violence and almost all of this violence is directly to do with the Islamic Faith in how people choose to interpret your Holy Books words. Personally, I believe that God can choose to kill or let live whomever He wishes and that He does not need anyone’s help to kill or harm anyone. If God wants you or I dead, if He really is God, He can just speak it or wish it and it will be so. Anyone who uses a Religion to kill or harm another person is themselves a Servant of Satan. If you really believe that the One you call God says for you to do these things, you very much need to examine Who it is that you are worshiping because it sure isn’t a God. God is peace and love, not hate and killing. I from the depths of my heart wish peace and prosperity and love to each and every one of you. I do pray for you everyday because there is so much hate and violence that surrounds you and your families daily, shalom.