Category : Iran

(WSJ) Reuel Marc Gerecht–The Secular Republic of Iran

Few organizations still carry the revolutionary torch. The Revolutionary Guards are willing to kill and die in Syria. The Basij, a “mobilization” force of club-wielding thugs under the command of the Guards, has been willing to murder its own countrymen to preserve the clerical state. But its commitment appears so sharp precisely because Iranian society as a whole has moved on.

Mosques all over Iran are empty at prayer times. In 2015 a Revolutionary Guard commander, Ziaeddin Hozni, revealed that only about 3,000 of the country’s 57,000 Shiite mosques were fully operational. And of the 3,000, some were only functioning during the religious months of Ramadan and Muharram. The Shiites have usually been less diligent than Sunnis in mosque attendance, but lack of attendance is striking in an explicitly Shiite state run by mullahs.

Do not underestimate how these trends influence the protests. Youth unemployment and the ever-rising price of food matter. But even more important is the collapse of the revolution’s civilizing mission among the college-educated children of the ruling elite and the poorly educated urban working class. Nothing in the nuclear accord can revive the fraternity that once bound Iranians together. The current eruptions may well fail to unseat the mullahs. Yet as the great medieval historian Ibn Khaldun warned, there is always another asabiyya, or galvanizing spirit of a superior force, waiting outside the capital, gaining unstoppable momentum.

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Posted in Iran, Islam, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(Christian Today) Pressure mounts on Boris Johnson to approach Pope and Archbishop over British mother jailed in Iran

A former foreign office minister and a senior Catholic have urged Boris Johnson to heed the advice of Tom Tugendhat MP and approach Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury to help negotiate the release of the British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who is imprisoned in Iran.

The support for Tugendhat’s suggestion comes as Christian Today has learned that neither Lambeth Palace nor Pope Francis has, at the time of writing, received any approach from the Foreign Office. Christian Today has approached the Foreign Office for comment.

Tugendhat, the chair of the foreign affairs committee of MPs and Conservative MP for Tonbridge and Malling, put it to the Foreign Secretary that religious leaders be used to negotiate Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release with the Islamic clerics who run Iran’s judicial system.

‘This poor woman is being used as a political football not only sadly here but in Iran,’ Tugendhat, who is a Catholic, told MPs in the House of Commons yesterday.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iran, Politics in General, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(Guardian) Tension mounts in Lebanon as Saudi Arabia escalates power struggle with Iran

Now, more than at any point in modern history, Iran and Saudi Arabia are squared off against each other as a race to consolidate influence nears a climax from Sana’a to Beirut and the tens of thousands of miles in between.

The standoff is seeing new ground conquered, previously unimaginable alliances being mooted and the risk of a devastating clash between two foes whose calculations had long been that shadow wars through proxies were safer than facing up directly.

The shift in approach has been led from Riyadh, where a new regime determined to put Saudi Arabia on an entirely different footing domestically, is also trying to overhaul how the kingdom projects itself regionally – and globally.

The ambitious, unusually powerful, crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has been given a mandate by his father, King Salman, to take on what the kingdom and its allies in the United Arab Emirates see as an Iranian takeover of essential corners of the Sunni Arab world.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iran, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces, Saudi Arabia

(LA Times) Iran’s latest culture battle: Should women in cars keep their heads covered?

Reihane Taravati, an outspoken social media activist, was riding in a taxi the other day when she received a stern reprimand from the driver.

Unbeknownst to Taravati, 26, her headscarf — which Iranian women are required to wear as a show of modesty — had slipped down the back of her head, leaving most of her hair exposed.

“Fix your scarf, or the undercover [moral] police will see it,” the cabbie told her. He worried about receiving a ticket in the mail, which would cost him about $30.

As Taravati relayed this story while sipping tea with friends in a Tehran cafe, a debate was raging in the Iranian capital that combines two things that people here obsess over: cars and the way women dress.

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Posted in Iran, Travel, Women

(WaPo) Trump wants to push back against Iran, but Iran is now more powerful than ever

President Trump’s tough talk on Iran is winning him friends in the Arab world, but it also carries a significant risk of conflict with a U.S. rival that is now more powerful than at any point since the creation of the Islamic republic nearly 40 years ago.

With its warning last week that Iran is “on notice,” the Trump administration signaled a sharp departure from the policies of President Barack Obama, whose focus on pursuing a nuclear deal with Iran eclipsed historic U.S. concerns about Iranian expansionism and heralded a rare period of detente between Washington and Tehran.

Many in the region are now predicting a return to the tensions of the George W. Bush era, when U.S. and Iranian operatives fought a shadow war in Iraq, Sunni-Shiite tensions soared across the region and America’s ally Israel fought a brutal war with Iran’s ally Hezbollah in Lebanon.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iran, Middle East, Politics in General, Theology

(Atlantic) A look at some of the Iranian refugees filling German church pews

Throughout Germany, the pews of churches like theirs are filled increasingly by asylum-seekers. Though two umbrella church organizations told me that they couldn’t provide exact statistics or comment on the nationality of the asylum-seekers attending church, Christoph Heil, a spokesman for the Protestant Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia””which includes 1,300 parishes””confirmed the pattern. “Normally we don’t count the number of asylum-seekers who are baptized because we don’t differentiate between who is an asylum-seeker and who isn’t, but [asylum-seekers asking to be baptized] appears to be a new trend,” he said.

Muslim converts to Christianity that I spoke to in Germany cited the redemptive power of Jesus’s story, and disillusionment with Islam. It’s also worth noting the more earthly forces potentially at work: Germany does not grant refugee status to Iranians as easily as it does Syrians and Iraqis. Around 27,000 Iranians applied for asylum in the EU in 2015, with Germany hosting the overwhelming majority; according to Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, 60 percent of Iranian requests for asylum received positive answers that year. Iranians seeking refugee status must prove that if they are sent home, they stand the risk of being persecuted for their beliefs. In Iran, that often means Christian converts.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, Europe, Germany, Iran, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

(WSJ) Bp Demetrios of Mokissos–ISIS Is Guilty of Anti-Christian Genocide

The 21 [Coptic] men executed that day [in Libya] were itinerant tradesman working on a construction job. All were native Egyptians but one, a young African man whose identity is uncertain””reports of his name vary, and he was described as coming from Chad or Ghana. But the power of his example is unshakable. The executioners demanded that each hostage identify his religious allegiance. Given the opportunity to deny their faith, under threat of death, the Egyptians declared their faith in Jesus. Steadfast in their belief even in the face of evil, each was beheaded.

Their compatriot was not a Christian when captured, apparently, but when challenged by the terrorists to declare his faith, he reportedly replied: “Their God is my God.” In that moment, before his death, he became a Christian. The ISIS murderers seek to demoralize Christians with acts like the slaughter on a Libyan beach. Instead they stir our wonder at the courage and devotion inspired by God’s love.

While we remember these men’s extraordinary sacrifice, is there not more that we can do to stop this genocide against Christians in the Middle East?

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Coptic Church, Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Syria, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(W Post) Anne Applebaum–No, Iran is not ”˜opening up’

Sanctions have been lifted on Iran, and a moment of change has arrived. President Obama has called this “a unique opportunity, a window, to try to resolve important issues.” The brilliant ex-diplomat Nicholas Burns has said we are at a “potential turning point in the modern history of the Middle East.” And of course they are right. The diplomacy of the Middle East will now change, for better or for worse, forever.

But be very wary of anyone who claims anything more, and certainly be careful of anyone who claims anything more for Iran itself. President Hassan Rouhani is not Mikhail Gorbachev, and this is not a perestroika moment. Iran is not “opening up” or becoming “more Western” or somehow more liberal. Maybe Iran’s foreign minister will now pick up the phone when John Kerry calls. But other than that, the nature of the Iranian regime has not altered at all.

On the contrary, the level of repression inside the country has grown since the “moderate” Rouhani was elected in 2013. The number of death sentences has risen. In 2014, Iran carried out the largest number of executions anywhere in the world except for China. Last year, the number may have exceeded 1,000. Partly this is because Iran’s chief justice has boasted of the eradication (i.e., mass killing) of drug offenders, many of whom are juveniles or convicted on dubious evidence.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iran, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Politics in General, Prison/Prison Ministry, Psychology, Theology

(Reuters) Wife of Iran-held pastor hopes to rebuild her marriage amidst great struggle

Naghmeh Abedini is looking forward to reuniting next week with her husband, Saeed, the Iranian-American pastor freed on Saturday after more than three years in an Iranian prison.

But she’s not rushing the reunion.

In an interview at her parent’s home in Boise, Idaho on Wednesday, Abedini said that rebuilding their marriage after her husband’s imprisonment will take time.

The relationship, she said, has been strained in recent months by the publication of an email she sent to friends and supporters late last year. Her note described “physical, emotional, psychological and sexual” abuse by her husband, who she said was addicted to pornography.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Iran, Marriage & Family, Middle East, Missions, Pastoral Theology, Pornography, Prison/Prison Ministry, Psychology, Theology, Violence

Imprisoned Iranian Pastor Farshid Fathi finally released

anian Christian pastor Farshid Fathi was released on 21 December 2015 after five years in prison in Iran for his faith in Jesus Christ.

“We are deeply grateful for your faithful prayers for Farshid while he has been in prison,” Elam Ministries, whose mission is to help expand the church in the Iran region, said in a statement.

“We would like to request that you continue praying for Farshid today and in the coming weeks,” Elam said. “Please pray especially for protection, his family and his adjustment to life outside prison.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Iran, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Politics in General, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Premier) "Time is running out" to save Christians in Middle East, stresses Lord Carey

A Former Archbishop of Canterbury has urged Prime Minister David Cameron to do more to help Christians in the Middle East saying “time is running out”.

Lord Carey said more had to be done to support followers of Christ who face persecution or death at the hands of Islamic terrorism.

“Time is running out for Christians in the region,” he said.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Syria, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(CC) Israel’s dreams and nightmares: speaking with Author Yossi Klein Halevi

With civil war in Syria, the emergence of ISIS, and the growing power of Iran, a new Middle East seems to be in the making. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become in some ways a sideline to these other developments. What do you see emerging out of these developments with regard to Israel/Palestine?

For the first time since the collapse of the Oslo process in 2000, I feel a small stirring of optimism and can see a way out. The defining conflict in the Middle East is no longer between Arabs and Israelis but between Sunnis and Shi”˜ites. Much of the West hasn’t yet internalized this historic shift. The Saudis are now meeting regularly with Israelis and even allowing those meetings to become public knowledge. This is unprecedented.
During the Gaza War last year, even as anti-Israel demonstrations were happening in the West, Israel was receiving urgent messages from Sunni leaders demanding that it destroy the Hamas regime. Hamas is especially detested by many Sunnis for making common cause with Shi”˜ite Iran””it’s the only Sunni Muslim Brotherhood organization to break ranks in the Sunni-Shi”˜ite war.

All of which is to say that the Middle East looks very different from the Middle East than it does from the West. When Israelis looks around the region, what we see is that the most intact society left is Israel. I say that with more anxiety than pride, because this is the region in which I live, in which I’m raising a family. My prayer is for a Middle East in which all its peoples will find their safe place. Ultimately, the success of the Jewish homecoming depends on our finding our place in the Middle East.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

[Reuters] Iran may have built extension at disputed site: U.N. nuclear watchdog

Iran appears to have built an extension to part of its Parchin military site since May, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said in a report on Thursday, as part of its inquiry into possible military dimensions of Tehran’s past nuclear activity.

A resolution of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Parchin file, which includes a demand for fresh IAEA access to the site, is a symbolically important issue that could help make or break Tehran’s July 14 nuclear deal with six world powers.

The confidential IAEA report, obtained by Reuters, said:

“Since (our) previous report (in May), at a particular location at the Parchin site, the agency has continued to observe, through satellite imagery, the presence of vehicles, equipment, and probable construction materials. In addition, a small extension to an existing building” appeared to have been built.

The changes were first observed last month, a senior diplomat familiar with the Iran file said.

The IAEA says any activities Iran has undertaken at Parchin since U.N. inspectors last visited in 2005 could jeopardize its ability to verify Western intelligence suggesting Tehran carried out tests there relevant to nuclear bomb detonations more than a decade ago. Iran has dismissed the intelligence as “fabricated”.

Read it all and for the earlier Associated Press report see AP Exclusive: UN to let Iran inspect alleged nuke work site and follow up here

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Iran, Middle East

(AI) Walter Russell Mead–A Deal Iran’s Hardliners Can Love

So why would the smarter, more far-seeing leaders of the IRG see the deal as a good one? Certainly there are some attractive features from an Iranian perspective. There is the good news about the progressive dismantling of limits on Iran’s nuclear program. here are the cumbersome and weak inspection procedures that allow Iranian negotiators plenty of wiggle room for incremental cheats. There is the delicious reality that the drive to negotiate the deal has weakened the core alliances that are the heart of America’s strategic position in the Middle East. And there’s more: the prospect of an end to the conventional weapons embargo, the windfall gains from unfreezing assets and the boost to Iran’s economy that will come with the end of the sanctions.

But the real reason the deal is a gift to Iran isn’t in the language of the deal itself; it’s the path the deal opens up for Iran in the region. At a time of unprecedented crisis among Iran’s Sunni Arab rivals, the nuclear deal offers Iran a historic opportunity to aim for the hegemony of the Persian Gulf and to achieve the kind of world power that Shi’a religious enthusiasts and Persian nationalists believe is their due. God Himself, Iranian hardliners can tell the Supreme Leader, has opened this door for Iran; it is his duty and his destiny to walk through it.

So what’s Iran’s path? Simple, unfortunately. If Iran ratifies the deal, confines its cheating initially to the margins and then opportunistically pursues an agenda of regional expansion it can move towards the glittering prize that has dazzled Iranian nationalists since the time of the Shah: effective control over the oil resources of the Persian Gulf.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Energy, Natural Resources, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Iran, Middle East, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(J Post) US-Iran diplomacy fails to bear fruit for Christian pastor imprisoned in Iran

While the White House and Congress prepare for a final showdown over the controversial Iran nuclear deal, three American prisoners and one missing American in Iran are awaiting their own fate.

One of the prisoners is Pastor Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American Christian pastor who has been detained in Iran since 2012. He has become the international face of the brutal persecution of Christians by the Islamic Republic.

Abedini was arrested by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps while visiting relatives and building an orphanage in the city of Rasht. Initially placed under house arrest, he was transferred to Iran’s notorious Evin Prison and later to Rajai Shahr Prison.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Foreign Relations, Globalization, Iran, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Ministry of the Ordained, Missions, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture