Friday, February 16, 2007

The US vs Iran Part 2: Sunni vs. Shia Islam

On the radio, on television, and in the newspaper everyday words like "Shi'ite", "Sunni", "Shi'a" and maybe even "Qu'ran" pass us by, but not many people have an understanding of what they mean. Islam is a complicated religion, and to the western outsider its ideals, practices and teachings seem far too foreign to ever understand. And most Americans will never have a full understanding of the religious implications of a divided Islam, but today I'm going to try and explain to you whats going on in the Middle East

Its my belief that Judaism, Christianity and Islam all worship the same God, only with three different prophets speaking Gods word. Now that may sound crazy to you, but let me make my case first. Now firstly let me tell you that i am not trying to prove or disprove the existence of God, and my religious views have no effect on what i am about to say. I believe it is fundamental to understand that if you cannot prove the existence of god, you have only the teachings of his/her followers and prophets to correlate between religions. Judaism has Abraham as its founder, building altars to the one god "Yahweh" all across the middle east. Christianity of course uses the teachings of Jesus as its primary source of moral guidance, but the Old Testament (AKA The Hebrew Bible) is also part of the Christian faith. Add to that the fact that Jesus was Jewish, and spreading the teachings of the Old Testament, so we can establish that Jesus was teaching the word of Abraham. And since i said before i cant prove its the same god, I cant at least prove its the same book, with a different ending.

Now we come to Islam, the third piece in the triangle of the three major Religions in the world. Islam accepts the teachings of Abraham, and Jesus (although they do not acknowledge the holy trinity with Jesus as the son of god) and they add to that with the teachings of their prophet, Mohammed. Given that Christianity is the son of Judaism, with its teachings and practices taking root in the Hebrew bible and expanding with the New Testament. And given that Islam acknowledges and accepts the teachings of both Abraham and Jesus, and given the fact that i cant prove gods existence, we can prove that all three religions believe in the Old Testament. Since the Old Testament includes the creation of the world in its text, we can accept that Muslims, Christians and Hebrews all accept that the same God created the Universe

Muslims also believe that the Angel Gabriel (For all you Christians, he was the one who told Mary she was pregnant with Jesus) preached Gods word directly to Muhammad ibn Abdullah between the years of 610-632. Muhammad had many children (the number is widely disputed among scholars) but it is generally accepted that only one child, his daughter Fatima, outlived him. Fatima married Alī ibn Abī Tālib, and he is considered to be the father of Shia Islam. We will come back to that but imagine for a moment if the rumors of the Da Vinci Code and Dogma were true and Jesus and Mary Magdalene really were married, and had children. What would that mean for the religion? Whose words would have been more important, the apostles who served their entire lives to spread the word of Jesus, or his Children? This is the critical issue between Shia and Sunni Islam, because Muhammad had children, and disciples and never appointed a successor before he died. The Shiite's believe that Muhammad's son-in-law Ali was the rightful Imamah, or political and spiritual leader of Islam. While Sunni Muslims regard Abu Bakar, one of Muhammad's Sahaba (disciples), as the caliph (head of state) of the Islamic world. This is an area of interest because Abu was the first elected political leader of Islam (not religious), and to make matters more interesting Ali (the Shia Imamah) was the fourth man to be elected Caliph. Now things could have gone smoothly from there, but Ali was murdered by and the war between the bloodline of Muhammed (Ali-Fatima) and the rule of the Caliph began. Ali lived on after Fatima, and would have over thirty children with several wives, but his two most famous sons Husayn and Hasan who lived on to continue Shia Islam

With the differences in leaders, overtime there became a great difference in the religious laws of the two sects. As the laws changed, so did practice of religion with those laws. Sunni Muslims accepted westernization more and adapted to change, while Shia Muslims adhere to stern practices and values. A lot of the major hat rid stems from the liberation of women in Sunni Islam, and the freedom they are given in everyday life. This doesn't mean that all Shia Muslims are evil, but the Shia seem to be the ones causing a lot of the trouble in the Middle East. In the end its always how you interpret the words you are given, how your own values affect your faith that truly makes you who you are. Shia Muslims have been a minority for centuries, and maybe they have a right to be angry. After all, if it we're really true that Jesus had children, wouldn't you want the world to know? Wouldn't that be important enough to fight for? If anything can be certain its that Religion, all Religions have caused war at some point or another, and Christians should not look down on Muslims because they fight for their beliefs. For thousands of years, Christians did the same thing.

To bring us back to my continuing saga, we have established that Shia Muslims tend to be the most Radical. Guess what country has the highest percentage of Shia Muslims? Iran...

Aslan, Reza "No God But God" (Random House, 2006)
Nasr, Vali "The Shia Revival" (Norton, 2006)
Lewis, Bernard "What Went Wrong" (HarperCollins, 2003)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The US vs. Iran: The History Part 1 of 5

At a time when a country is engaged in active combat in two countries, and is losing troops daily in both those countries one would think the last thing on the mind of said countries leaders would be to attack another country...right? Wrong. America is now blaming the death of at least 170 US Soldiers on Iran. Senior Bush Officials are claiming the Iranians are supplying the Shia extremists with 81mm Explosive Mortars, capable of destroying tanks or other armored vehicles. Bush officials also authorized Military force against Iranians on a special list of 31,690 men and women believed to be supporting the Shia extremists inside Iraq.

Condelezza Rice even went so far as to say that Iranians are "Training Shia militants". Dick Cheney added to that by saying "I think it's been pretty well-known that Iran is fishing in troubled waters, if you will, inside Iraq. The threat that Iran represents is growing, it's multi-dimensional, and it is, in fact, of concern to everybody in the region". This from the man who said "We Will be greeted as Liberators" and "The War is in its last throws". However, a man who hasn't been proven to be a liar yet also supports the claims. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last week that serial numbers on the mortar shells are "pretty good" evidence that Iran is providing weapons to the militants. Pretty Good? Reminds me of his predecessor saying he was sure their wear Chemical and Biological weapons in Iraq and he knew where they were. An Uneasiness came over me as i looked at headline after headline about Iran supporting Shia Militants.

So I decided to do a little more research about Iran, about the Iran-Iraq war and about Americas relationship with Iran over the past 15-20 years. Toda we will start by taking a look at the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), the pre-cursor to the Persian Gulf War (1990-1991), and sometimes referred to as Persian Gulf War I. If there was ever a time for America to have a serious problem with a country using Chemical and Biological weapons, this was it. Saddam's regime and Military used Sarin, Mustard Gas and VX on the Iranians (A Nerve Agent causing all muscles in the body to contract, leading to death by asphyxiation). However this time, the United States was on Iraqs side.

In the Summer of 1980 United States National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski met with King Hussein of Jordan to discuss plans for a Military cout against Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. To grasp why America had such a problem with Khomeini it is necessary to know what the Iranian White Revolution of 1963 did to help spread Democracy, Liberalism and Peace in Iran. The White Revolution was an Economic, Political and Cultural Policy Reform started by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in order to improve literacy, the economy and the overall health of Iran. The Revolution was extremely controversial because it opposed many traditional Shia values, and took away power from the Clergy. As wonderful as an idea as the White Revolution was, it like all things in politics fell victim to corruption, scandal and general mismanagement. And sadly this was not the Shahs first error, failure to meet Oil Revenue profits promised, creation of SAVAK (an SS like Military Police with unlimited power), and his creation of a political monopoly with one party ruling all led to the Iranian Revolution.

This Revolution led to Ayatollah Khomeini seizing power and turning the Monarch into the Islamic Republic. Before coming to power Khomeini was the leading critic of the White Revolution, and extremely opposed to the westernization of Iran. Khomeni successfully stopped the Shah from granting women the right to vote, and from passing a law giving women legal equality in Marriage issues. Khomeni promised a government that would adhere to values of Islam, opposed westernization and more importantly ridding the Middle East of all western influence. Khomeni believed that Shia leaders all through the Middle East could rise up and come to power the same way he had, and together form a united Islamic Republic. This was a strong force to have bordering Saddams Secular Iraq (something that Khomeni viewed as completely against the foundations of Islam) and one that posed a serious threat. Lucky for Saddam a group of Iranians opposed to Khomenis rule were planning a coup under the leadership of former Iranian Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar. And that gets us back too why the United States National Security advisor was in a sweaty conference room with Saddams closest friend on July 7th, 1980.

Clearly Khomeni wasn't just a threat to Iraq and the Middle East, but to the United States. If his Radical Islamic, Anti-Western ideas spread to countries with military capability to attack America. Not to mention the Iran Hostage Crisis, which involved the capture of the US embassy workers in Tehran and their being held captive for 444 days (the Hostages were still being held at this point). So the US asked Saddam to support the military coup and try and overthrow Khomeni, and he agreed. There was just one problem, the coup was shot down before it could even get under way as Khomeni had learned of the coup ahead of time, and had USSR operatives hunt down Bakhtiar in France and kill him, along with 600 of his supporters in Iran.

Lucky for us, Saddam decided to invade Iran himself, starting an 8 year war, with the US supporting Iraq the entire. The US sold Iraq over 200 Million dollars in Helicopters, guns and other technology, hoping it would win out over the Radical Regime of Khomeni. And in the Irony of Ironies the US even sold Iraq the material to develop Chemical weapons that we would someday not even be able to find. Chemical weapons that were used to kill over 100,000 Iranians, and injure thousands more. The two countries also battled for control of oil in the region, consistently destroying oil tankers and damaging each nations economy. After 8 years of bloody conflict the UN finally stepped in after the US Navy launched and Operation Praying Mantis on Iran because of Damage sustained to the USS Samuel B. Roberts. Before this turned into a Global Conflict with the West vs Radical Islam the UN was able to get Iran and Iraq to agree to a cease-fire.

In the end Saddams soldiers had killed over a million Iranians (over 100,000 using Chemical weapons as i said before) and had economically crippled Iran. That was over twenty years ago that the Iraq-Iran war ended, have relationships between the two former enemies really turned into a conspiracy against America. Is Iranian President Ahmadinejad just getting back at the US for their support of Iraq over 20 years ago? Is he trying to form the Islamic Republic that Khomeni wanted? Or is this all just another pack of lies being fed to us by the Bush Administration?

Continued in the US vs. Iran: The Second Gulf War

Monday, February 12, 2007

Gore 2008: Can He Win the Nomination?

The Democratic Nomination for President will not be easily won by anyone; unless of course, Al Gore decides to toss his hat into the ring. The Former Vice-President turned celebrity has said publicly that he will not be running for President in 08', but that hasn't stopped the great Media Machine. Rolling Stone Magazine in their January 23rd issue contained an Article interviewing the former Presidential Candidate, and at the same time focusing on why he would be a valued candidate. "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" has had two segments focusing on the possibility of a Gore run, and sites like and are popping up everywhere. Olberman himself even stated on air that Gore admitted if enough people asked him, he would run.

The Democratic playing field got more crowded today with the long awaited announcement of Bill Richardson announcing his running, completely overshadowing the announcement of that Obama guy...In all seriousness, Richardson is a perfect candidate for president. He is a former Secretary of Energy, Former Ambassador to the UN and former US Representative, an ideal candidate with superior knowledge of how to deal with many of our Nations most pressing issues. Richardson's only problem is, as i so not-so-coyly indicated is that no one knows who he is. With the field already crowded with Obama, Clinton, Edwards and now Biden there is just no room for a lowly Governor from New Mexico, no matter how experienced he is.

Enter Oscar Nominee, Al Gore. As Former Senator, Former US Representative, Former Vice President and world renowned enviormentalist Gore possesses all the experience that Obama and Edwards lack. With the success of An Inconvenient Truth Gore has wiped all remaining views of him as "Stiff" or "Boring" and has presented the world with a new, fresh Al Gore. An Al Gore with a positive public image is not a candidate to be scoffed at, and he could be a legitimate threat to any Republican if he won the Democratic Nomination. His appearances on SNL and Futurama have shown he has a sense of humour that people can appreciate, something that Hillary Clinton is still Juggling with. Hillary possesses all the qualities to be a great President, the only problem is Hillary can't seem to shake the Media Houndog biting at her heels. At a Campaign stop in Davenport, Iowa Hillary tried to make a joke by saying she knew how to deal with "Evil, Bad Men", the joke being of course referring to her husband, Former President Bill Clinton. The Only problem was the media didn't get the joke, and for the next several weeks Clinton's comments we're ripped apart. Add to that the fact that in a recent MSNBC poll only 7% of Americans want to know more about Hillary Clinton, and thinks don't looks so good for the former First Lady. Joe Biden also recently committed a phonetic Faux-Pas in referring to Barack Obama as "clean", and he subsequently was also torn apart by the media.

So We've established that Gore has the experience to Edge out Obama and Edwards, and that the Media Vultures are constantly circling Biden and Clinton. That leaves us with a handful of candidates like Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich and Former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Vilsack. And who could forget our dear friend and Bill Richardson, seems everyone has forgotten him, with no mention of his announcement on any major news websites. Well, I'm going to support you Bill, because as much as i hope he will run it seems Al Gore is content on focusing on Enviormental Issues for the rest of his life. The nail in the coffin was Gore's comment to The Associated Press last week "I am not planning to run for President Again". Of course he followed it with "Then Again, i haven't completely ruled it out".


To Be Continued in "Gore vs The Republicans"