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Is There Hope for a Democratic Iran?

A police motorcycle burns during a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini in Tehran. Photo: Reuters/West Asia News Agency

In today’s Iran, a country teetering on the brink of the abyss and nearing total destruction, the sorrowful and fragmented society is desperately crying out for movement, cheer, and hope. The once vibrant nation now finds itself engulfed in despair, anxiety, protest, and anger, effectively trapped in a stagnant cesspool from which escape seems an insurmountable challenge.

The root cause of this dire situation is a despotic religious government, which, through its rigid and wretched governance, has devastated the entire country, leaving its people in a state of hopeless entrapment.

The religious octopus’ facade has cracked, revealing deep rifts between the detested and corrupt divine government and Iranian society.

Reflecting on the events since 1979, particularly after the decade of Ayatollah Khomeini’s tyranny that saw Ayatollah Khamenei succeed him and ascend to absolute power without the people’s consent or vote, it’s evident that Iranian society has repeatedly risen against its oppressors. Nearly 18 times, the people have mobilized in protest against religious despotism and swamp-like situations, only to be met with brutal repression, resulting in countless deaths and injuries. Each failed uprising has left the society more fragmented, intimidated by the regime’s overwhelming force, and ultimately finding itself in despair.

This cycle of protest and repression has been exacerbated by the regime’s crackdown on any semblance of dissent, employing executions, imprisonments, and fines to instill fear among the populace. The aim is clear: to solidify the prison that is Iran today. Despite this, there is a simmering unrest beneath — a clear indication that the current situation is untenable.

My previous article for The Algemeiner,Does America Have a Plan Once Iran’s Supreme Leader Dies?,” raises a crucial question about the future of Iran and the international response to its impending political vacuum. The impending death of Ali Khamenei and the question of succession could potentially trigger an “internal” transformation, offering a glimmer of hope for change. However, those within the regime’s inner circle are likely to seek to maintain their grip on power, sidelining public opinion and democratic aspirations in favor of military and security governance. The impending power struggle and internal rifts following Ali Khamenei’s death, and the ensuing succession crisis, are critical factors to consider

The religious government, with its extensive control over society, represents a significant barrier to Iran’s progress. The question then becomes: what will happen to Iranian society, especially the disillusioned young, non-religious generation, when this barrier finally collapses? The road towards democracy and the post-Islamic Republic era is fraught with challenges, including the enduring legacy of the 1979 upheaval and the resistance from those who cling to the past.

Programs encouraging society towards democracy and transitioning towards a post-Islamic Republic era may better start from this point, but a thousand other obstacles remain, including the remnants of participants in the 1979 upheaval who do not want the new generation to move past 1979 and Khomeinism.

Iran’s transition to democracy requires time, patience, and the emergence of dedicated, patriotic leaders capable of guiding the nation through its countless obstacles. These leaders must confront not only the remnants of the regime, but also secessionist threats, opportunistic revolutionaries, and forces of division. The transformation of a society accustomed to tyranny and fragmentation into one governed by democratic principles cannot happen overnight.

The notion that Iranians will seamlessly transition to a democratic system post-regime collapse is overly optimistic. The opposition, marked by its own issues of greed and disunity, seems ill-prepared for the future.

In the transition towards a stable and democratic Iran, the nation requires patriotic, firm, and compassionate leaders to navigate through the challenges posed by remnants of the oppressive regime, secessionist threats, and divisive forces. These leaders must guide Iran from the chaos of its current state towards genuine democracy and freedom, overcoming the naivety that a smooth transition will occur immediately, and addressing the deep-seated issues and expectations of a society on the brink of catastrophe.

Erfan Fard is a counter-terrorism analyst and Middle East Studies researcher based in Washington, DC. He is in Middle Eastern regional security affairs with a particular focus on Iran, counter terrorism, IRGC, MOIS and ethnic conflicts in MENA. He graduated in International Security Studies (London M. University, UK), and in International Relations (CSU-LA). Erfan is a Jewish Kurd of Iran, and he is fluent in Persian, Kurdish, Arabic and English. Follow him from this twitter account @EQFARD

The post Is There Hope for a Democratic Iran? first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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‘Enough is Enough’: Petition to Replace UNRWA Gets More Than 130,000 Signatures

View of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90.

Geneva-based monitor group UN Watch has collected more than 130,000 signatures in support of replacing UNRWA — the UN agency responsible for Palestinian refugees — after it was exposed to have extensive connections to Palestinian terrorists.

The petition was announced at a UN Watch conference which aimed to “address the humanitarian situation in Gaza and formulate a plan for a future beyond UNRWA,” which the planners described as “a failed agency.”

The petition notes that, over the past few months, it has been reported that at least 12 UNRWA employees took part in Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attacks, about 1,200 UNRWA members have terrorist connections, thousands of UNRWA teachers are part of a Telegram channel that celebrated Hamas’s attack, and Hamas built a large tunnel under the UNRWA headquarters.

“Since its creation in 1949, the agency has brainwashed Gazans into believing that their home is not Gaza, but rather on the other side of the fence, in Israel,” the petition says, referencing the fact UNRWA counts Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank as refugees even though they are living in land they consider to be Palestine.

“Enough is enough,” the petition concluded, “It’s time to stop the perverse logic of an agency that perpetuates war. It’s time to replace UNRWA.”

The show of popular opposition to UNRWA comes as a growing number of countries — more than a dozen so far — have pulled funding from the UN agency amid its many scandals. 

The US State Department said “The United States is extremely troubled by the allegations that twelve UNRWA employees may have been involved in the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel,” and, consequently, it “has temporarily paused additional funding for UNRWA while we review these allegations and the steps the United Nations is taking to address them.”

Other countries, such as Japan, used similar language, noting that it was “extremely concerned” and that it would pause new funding until an investigation takes place.

Israel welcomed these developments. Israel’s Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, said “major changes need to take place so that international efforts, funds and humanitarian initiatives don’t fuel Hamas terrorism and the murder of Israelis.”

However, others argue that, without UNRWA, Palestinians would have no way of obtaining critical humanitarian aid.

In January, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, after the Biden administration announced that it would pause funding to the agency, “Cutting off support to @UNRWA – the primary source of humanitarian aid to 2 million+ Gazans – is unacceptable. Among an organization of 13,000 UN aid workers, risking the starvation of millions over grave allegations of 12 is indefensible.”

“The US should restore aid immediately,” she argued.

The post ‘Enough is Enough’: Petition to Replace UNRWA Gets More Than 130,000 Signatures first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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The New York Times Shares Anti-Israel Conspiracy Theory About Boars

The headquarters of The New York Times. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

In a recent profile of the Israeli settlement of Homesh and the tensions between its Jewish residents and their Palestinian neighbors, The New York Times’ Steven Erlanger uncritically echoes the claim that some settlers are using boars to uproot local Palestinian agriculture.

Partway through the piece, Erlanger writes, “They [settlers] chop down olive trees, roll flaming tires down the hills to burn crops and even send boars to dig up Palestinian seedlings and fruit trees, the locals say.”

In the next paragraph, he expands on this claim, relating how a local Palestinian man has bought dogs to keep these boars away from his land.

This is not the first time that Israelis have been accused of setting wild boars loose in order to attack Palestinians and destroy their property.

However, in the more than 15 years that this libel has made the rounds of both Palestinian and foreign media outlets, it has proven to be only an incendiary cudgel used against the Jewish residents of the West Bank — not a legitimate news story.

Why would @nytimes legitimize the utterly ridiculous charge that Israeli settlers are “send[ing] boars to dig up Palestinian seedlings and fruit trees?”

It’s all just a load of porky pies. https://t.co/lSP0FHpSVW pic.twitter.com/sJSK1yZEXQ

— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) February 26, 2024

As far back as February 2007, the Elder of Ziyon blog reported on the Palestinian claim that Israeli settlers were using trained wild boars to terrorize local Palestinian communities and to tear up their agricultural fields.

This claim was repeated in April and June 2007, as well as February and May 2008.

However, the claim that Israelis were using trained wild boars against local Palestinian communities really gained steam in 2012, when it was reported that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had previously stated that Israelis were training wild boars to uproot Palestinian trees and to “spread corruption on the face of the earth.”

In 2014, Abbas reiterated this baseless claim at a conference in Ramallah.

Since then, this libel has routinely popped up in Palestinian publications as well as news outlets aimed at foreign audiences.

As the blog Israellycool has previously noted, when it comes to blaming Israelis for wild boar attacks in Palestinian areas, there are a wide variety of conspiracies about how Israel is to blame.

These contradictory conspiracies include the allegations that Israelis are setting these pigs against Palestinian communities; that Israeli security fences are protecting Jewish communities while allowing for Palestinian areas to be ravaged; that Israelis are allowed to shoot wild boars while Palestinians are not; and that Israeli construction has forced these animals to venture into Palestinians towns and cities.

If this claim about Israel-trained fighter pigs seems fantastical, it’s because it is.

As HonestReporting noted last year (when we critiqued a UK education magazine for publishing similar absurd claims), there is no evidence that wild boar attacks in Palestinian areas of the West Bank are attributable to a nefarious Israeli plot.

In recent years, due to a variety of factors, there has been an uptick in boar sightings in both Jewish and Palestinian communities in the West Bank, as well as parts of pre-1967 Israel. In fact, the rise in boar appearances inspired a 2021 New York Times profile on the boars of Haifa.

Parallel to the rise in boar sightings has been the rise in boar attacks, with both Jewish Israelis and Palestinians falling victim to the pigs’ aggression and viciousness.

Even Yesh Din and B’Tselem, two Israeli organizations that focus on alleged human rights abuses in the West Bank, have found there to be “no evidence” of any boar attacks in Palestinian communities being attributable to a Jewish conspiracy.

This boar conspiracy is yet another point in a long line of Israel-related animal conspiracy theories.

While they might seem ridiculous, some of the theories include:

The claim that Israel trained dolphins to serve as spies or assassins.
The claim that a vulture was trained by the Mossad to conduct reconnaissance.
The claim that Israel was using rats to drive out Palestinians from their eastern Jerusalem homes.
The claim that the Mossad was responsible for a slew of shark attacks in the Red Sea off the coast of the Sinai Desert.

Much like these other conspiracies, the claim that boar attacks in the West Bank are attributable to an Israeli plot is hogwash, and should not be spread by The New York Times or other reputable news organizations.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

The post The New York Times Shares Anti-Israel Conspiracy Theory About Boars first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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The True Motivation of Terror — Hamas Terrorists Don’t Want a State

Yahya Sinwar, head of the Palestinian terror group Hamas in Gaza, in Gaza City on April 14, 2023. Photo: Yousef Masoud / SOPA Images/Sipa USA via Reuters Connect

What really drives terror against Israel? To begin a proper answer, we must first understand the universal human need “to belong.” This primal need can be expressed harmlessly, as in sports fandom or rock concerts, or perniciously, as in jihadist terror-violence.

In matters of terrorism, widely alleged political motivations (e.g., sovereignty, “self-determination,” and statehood) are actually secondary or reflective. In the case of any proposed “two-state solution,” Palestinian sovereignty is never anything other than political manipulation or subterfuge. Not only would a Palestinian state fail to stop Palestinian terrorism, it would render such terrorism increasingly likely and even more injurious.

In ancient times, Aristotle already understood that “man is a social animal.” Typically, the seminal philosopher recognized, even a “normal” individual can feel empty and insignificant apart from any tangible membership in the “mass.” Inter alia, that mass is the State. Sometimes, however, it is the Tribe. Sometimes the Faith (always, of course, the “one true faith”). Sometimes it is “The Liberation” movement or simply “the Revolution.”

Details aside, whatever the mass claims of any particular moment, it is an unquenchable craving for belonging that threatens to produce catastrophic downfalls of individual responsibility and variously correlative triumphs of collective wrongdoing. Today, in jihadist-centered parts of the Middle East, unless millions can finally learn how to temper the overwhelming human desire to belong at all costs, all military, legal, and political schemes to control war and terrorism will fail.

It’s time for more serious explanations. To more genuinely understand what lies behind Palestinian terrorism against Israel, science-based analysts must first learn to look more deeply behind the news. In the final analysis, such “molecular” looks could helpfully explain jihadist fusions of susceptible individuals into murder-centered terror gangs. Prima facie, in the jihadist Middle East, war and terrorism would never take place in the absence of such inherently barbarous collective identifications.

Earlier, relevant core concepts were clarified by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Whenever individuals crowd together and form a mass, both recognized, the exterminatory dynamics of a mob can quickly be unleashed. More precisely, they discovered, these dynamics could lower each single person’s moral and intellectual level to a point where even anonymous mass killing would be widely welcomed and encouraged. This is precisely what happened with Hamas’ October 7, 2023, attack upon vulnerable Israeli civilians.

In today’s jihad-oriented Middle East, Islamic faith has been placed in the witting service of war and terror. Hamas terror against Israel is fueled by effectively unchallengeable evocations of “divine will.” Ironically, the net result of any such perfidious summoning is to drown out any authentic hints of sacredness or godliness.

Doctrinally, once empathy and compassion are extended outside the terrorizing jihadist mass,they must go unrewarded. In the case of Jews, moreover, humane sentiments must also be actively punished. Here, as generalizable virtues, empathy and compassion become extraneous and presumptively self-destructive.

There are pertinent details. In the name of allegedly divine commandment, jihadist/Hamas terror-criminality offers the wider world neither salvation nor holiness, but only conspicuously lethal “groupthink.” Among other things, the dissembling rhythms of this annihilating ethos make it futile for Israel to advance even the most honest efforts at peaceful coexistence.

This fundamental dilemma can never be solved by pundits, political leaders or self-declared “experts.” True solutions will require the concentrated intellectual efforts of uncommonly gifted thinkers. For Israel, it would emerge, any purported two-state solution could be a “final solution.” Here, the ironies would be both insufferable and unconscionable.

To undertake increasingly urgent investigations of Hamas terror-criminality, capable scholars and policy makers should look much more closely at the complex determinants of human meaning. Before we can slow-down terror-violence against Israeli and various other noncombatants, Hamas and kindred groups will first have to be shorn of their inclination to bestow celebratory status upon murderers. To affect those mass-directed individuals who turn to terrorism (i.e., ritualistic murder) for affirmations of personal worth, capable thinkers should first identify more benign but still comparably attractive sources of belonging.

In the very deepest analytic sense, Hamas terror-violence represents the result of cumulative individual failures to draw personal meaning “from within.” In Gaza and other mass-directed Palestinian areas, “redemption” requires “the faithful” to present tangible and perpetual proof of belonging. In any such presentation, evidence of participation in violence against Israeli men, women, and children is self-evidently gainful.

At its heart, Palestinian terror-violence against Israel is a problem of displaced human centeredness. Ever anxious about drawing meaning from their own “inwardness,” Hamas adherents draw ever closer to mass-based defilements. In all too many cases, a blood-soaked voice of anti-reason makes even the most gratuitous forms of terror-killing seem glorious.

There is more. When it is correctly understood as a form of religious sacrifice, Hamas terrorism confers the greatest possible form of power. This is the power of “martyrdom,” or power over death. At that stage, it is not merely belief or belonging that is being offered to jihadist murderers. It is also immortality. Lest anyone forget, the heroic death that the Palestinian “martyr” expects to endure is nothing more than a transient inconvenience on the path to a life everlasting. In essence, therefore, the Palestinian shahid “kills himself” (or herself) in order not to die.

At birth, each person contains the possibility of becoming fully human, an opportunity that could reduce potentially destructive loyalties to any murderous mass. Indeed, it is only by nurturing this indispensable possibility that we humans can seek serious remedies to war and terrorism. In principle, at least, Israel’s long-term struggle against Hamas and other jihadists should be to encourage potential terror-killers to discover the way back to themselves as empathetic human beings. But that’s hardly a realistic suggestion.

It’s a time for a summation. Israel should never misunderstand or misrepresent the core causes of Palestinian terror. To wit, Hamas killers are not most genuinely interested in sovereignty, “self-determination,” or statehood, but rather in evidence of belonging, pretended heroism, and a faith-reinforcing immortality.

For the immediate future, Israel will need to continue its life-saving military response to jihadist terrorism, especially when Hamas leaders remain determined to sacrifice Palestinian civilian populations for narrowly cynical and self-serving reasons. If Hamas leaders really believe in their own “sacred” promises of life everlasting to Palestinian “martyrs,” why are they unwilling to “sacrifice” themselves or their families? Only when this core question is raised and candidly answered could Israelis finally understand why well-intentioned concessions to Palestinian statehood would be misconceived and self-destructive.

Louis René Beres, Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue, is the author of many books and articles dealing with nuclear strategy and nuclear war, including Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (University of Chicago Press, 1980) and Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (D.C. Heath/Lexington, 1986). His twelfth book, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy, was published by Rowman and Littlefield in 2016. A version of this article was originally published by Jewish Business News.

The post The True Motivation of Terror — Hamas Terrorists Don’t Want a State first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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