iran-contra’s chickens come home to roost


By Ben Barrack

This article is the second of a series (Part one can be read here)

Is the establishment more concerned with holding onto power or protecting its secrets?

Why would the Obama administration reward Iran – a designated State Sponsor of Terrorism – with such a sweet nuclear deal to include $150 Billion as well as cede to the terror state’s demands for historical artifacts and more than $2 Billion in U.S. taxpayer money? And WHY WOULD THE REPUBLICAN PARTY LET HIM DO IT? A very disturbing truth is that the Republican and Democratic Party establishments – to include the Bushes, the Clintons and even Secretary of State John Kerry – have much to hide when it comes to the decades-old scandal known as Iran-Contra.

Iran’s mullahs are acting like they know it.

Hezbollah Afghanistan

In the 1980’s, the U.S. was on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood (Mujahideen) in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. That’s not really a secret but what is often overlooked is that there were Iran-backed Shia forces that aligned with the Mujahideen as well. Developed in 1979 and ultimately founded in 1987, Iran’s ‘Tehran Eight’ was also on the side of the U.S. in Afghanistan. All eight of the organizations that constituted the ‘Tehran Eight’ were headquartered in Iran and even included Afghan Hezbollah.

The U.S. backed an alliance of Sunni and Shia Mujahideen. Today, this is a critical reality that is completely avoided in establishment political circles.

It’s not about Monday Morning Quarterbacking. It’s about the long-term consequences of such alliances due largely to the refusal of politicians to come clean by acknowledging them, which only puts the country in more danger; it also gives Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood leverage against western leaders.

Chief among those consequences has been the unabated, Islamic infiltration of America that began to hit its stride in the early 1990’s, after the fall of the Soviet Union. Why has this issue been so ignored for so long by so many in power?

Read on.

Eugene Hasenfus: Downing of his plane on October 5, 1986 in Nicaragua exposed Iran-Contra

Since the Iran-Contra scandal broke in 1986, after a U.S. Cargo plane transporting munitions and other supplies was shot down over Nicaragua, every U.S. President either has a connection to the scandal or – as is the case with Barack Obama – is overtly sympathetic to both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian regime. The Bush and Clinton families both have a deep incentive to keep the truth about Iran-Contra hidden; it is perhaps a finalist for the ugliest truth in American politics award.

Officially, Iran-Contra was about a decision to sell weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of U.S. hostages and that the profits from those sales went to fund the Nicaraguan Contras, who were fighting the Communist-backed Sandanistas. What has been ignored by the government and the media for decades now is the CIA operation run out of Mena, Arkansas when Bill Clinton was Governor of that state and George H.W. Bush was Vice President. The alleged purpose of the operation, which began circa 1983, was to manufacture untraceable weapons and ship them to the Contras; the issue of cocaine shipments on returning flights has also been largely covered up.

In an exchange with legendary reporter Sarah McClendon in 1994, Clinton conceded her premise, that the Mena operation was real, that it involved cocaine trafficking and that Bush and Oliver North ran it. All Clinton did was deny his own personal knowledge, a claim that is simply not believable (even if he hadn’t later committed perjury):

Below is audio of the exchange if the video is taken down:

Audio Player

As Bush 41 was preparing to leave office, he pardoned six key figures in Iran-Contra on Christmas Eve, 1992. Of course, the bombshell decision made the front page of the New York Times on Christmas Day, itself a red flag. The pardoning of Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger was particularly troublesome because it prevented his notes from coming to light; those notes allegedly detailed Bush’s role in the scandal and potentially a huge conflict of interest:

Mr. Weinberger was scheduled to stand trial on Jan. 5 on charges that he lied to Congress about his knowledge of the arms sales to Iran and efforts by other countries to help underwrite the Nicaraguan rebels, a case that was expected to focus on Mr. Weinberger’s private notes that contain references to Mr. Bush’s endorsement of the secret shipments to Iran.

In one remaining facet of the inquiry, the independent prosecutor, Lawrence E. Walsh, plans to review a 1986 campaign diary kept by Mr. Bush. Mr. Walsh has characterized the President’s failure to turn over the diary until now as misconduct.

If true, it would certainly provide Iran with leverage over future U.S. administrations; more on that in a bit.


The October 23, 1983 Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut that resulted in the murder of 241 U.S. Service Personnel was traced to Iran’s Hezbollah. In response, Reagan pulled U.S. troops out of the area entirely. History indicates that Weinberger was the main voice that convinced Reagan to do so. In an article by K.T. McFarland, former National Security employee at the time, she suggested that the reason for the withdrawal had to do with prioritizing the Soviet threat over Islamic terrorism:

Some argue that Reagan’s refusal to engage Hezbollah and Islamic jihadists in the 1980’s led to the growth of Al Qaeda. Others argue that had Reagan gotten bogged down in a Middle East war, he couldn’t have defeated the Soviet Union and won the Cold War.

With the gift of hindsight, we now know that the U.S. wasn’t just choosing to focus on Soviet Communism over Islamic terrorists; it was also aligning with those terrorists in the effort.

Any discussion of Iran-Contra usually focuses on the U.S. decision to sell arms to Iran, which was formally introduced into the scandal in 1985, a full year after Iran was officially designated as a state sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. State Department.

At the time, Iran was in the middle of a war with Iraq (1980-88) so ostensibly, those weapons could have been used to fight Saddam Hussein’s forces, whom the U.S was also arming.


Today, Iran and Russia are allies but from 1983-86, the Soviet Union wasn’t just fighting the U.S.-backed, Iran-alilgned, Sunni Mujahideen (Muslim Brotherhood) in Afghanistan. It was also a period when relations between the Soviets and Iran were the most strained. According to Iranian Perspectives on the Iran-Iraq War, a 1997 book penned by Iranian Farhang Rajaee, the Soviets aggressively supported Iraq during the latter’s war with Iran:

In February 1983, Iranian authorities announced the arrest of leaders of the Iranian Communist Tudeh party. Influencing a wave of anti-Soviet policy in Iran, this move inaugurated a new era in Soviet-Iranian and Soviet-Iraqi relations. In May 1983, Iran expelled eighteen Soviet diplomats on charges of espionage and initiated a propaganda campaign against the Soviet Union suggesting that Muslims in the USSR were living in misery. Naturally, these actions angered Moscow…

According to Rajaee, this was consequential in a very tangible way:

The quantity and quality of Soviet-bloc military assistance to Iraq in 1983 were remarkable. Reportedly, the total amount of assistance was close to $5.1 billion. It made Iraq the largest recipient of Soviet-bloc military aid among countries of the Third World. Soviet military help to Iraq was accompanied by an anti-Iranian propaganda campaign.

As the Soviets were arming Saddam Hussein, the U.S. was essentially arming both Iran and Iraq.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the U.S. was covertly assisting the Muslim Brotherhood in Pakistan against the Soviets. This policy was spearheaded in 1979 by Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and kicked into overdrive under the Reagan administration.

Carter Nat'l Security Adviser Brzezinski meets with Mujahideen in Pakistan circa 1980.

In the years since, Brzezinski has remained comfortable not just speaking with the Muslim Brotherhood’s propaganda arm, Al-Jazeera, but also pushing its agenda:

[Click on image for intervew]

Throughout the tenure of President Barack Obama, Brzezinski remained a top foreign policy adviser.

In a 2011 interview with the Mujahideen’s network, Brzezinski advocated for the removal of Gadhafi in Libya, a position that clearly benefited the Muslim Brotherhood:

It’s safe to say that Brzezinski is siding with the Mujahideen today just as he did in 1979, when he traveled to Pakistan to rally the Islamic jihadists with then Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher at his side. This is made more significant because the Muslim Brotherhood has been incredibly successful at infiltrating the U.S. State Department:

In 1986, as the U.S. continued support for the Mujahideen (Muslim Brotherhood), fighters that would constitute the ‘Tehran eight’ and others in Pakistan, there existed the Alkifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn, New York. Alkifah was tied directly to Osama bin Laden’s network. As to what Alkifah was used for, a 1998 New York Times article explained:

The center’s stated purpose was to raise money and recruit fighters to help the United States-backed Afghan mujahedeen, who rebelled against the Communist Government in Afghanistan after an invasion by the Soviet Union in 1979.

That same article explained what happened to these future stealth enemies of the U.S. after the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989:

Most of the men who were drawn to Alkifah Center in its turbulent days have melted quietly back into their communities, say people in the neighborhood familiar with the center’s history.

Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman

In fact, in 1990, a man who would one day be the convicted mastermind of the New York City landmarks bombing plot and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman (the Blind Sheikh) was allowed entry into the U.S. and became the leader of Alkifah. Though the Blind Sheikh was given a life sentence, the whole truth about his presence in the U.S. remains officially unacknowledged.

This leads to an interesting excerpt from a 1991 TIME Magazine article by Richard Lacayo, relative to the involvement of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which was shut down that year. BCCI was ultimately found to have been a monstrously large criminal enterprise that laundered billions of dollars in drug money and financed illegal arms deals.

Lacayo wrote:

Investigators probing B.C.C.I. have told TIME that the Iran-contra affair is linked to the burgeoning bank scandal. Former government officials and other sources confirm that the CIA stashed money in a number of B.C.C.I. accounts that were used to finance covert operations; some of these funds went to the contras. Investigators also say an intelligence unit of the U.S. defense establishment has used the bank to maintain a secret slush fund, possibly for financing unauthorized covert operations.


“…some of these funds went to the contras.”? What of the other funds? Did any of them go toward funding the Mujahideen (Muslim Brotherhood) / Iranian fighters in Pakistan? After all, BCCI was founded by a wealthy Pakistani businessman and BCCI had a head office in Karachi.

Moreover, based on the fact that the Soviets were heavily arming Saddam Hussein’s forces in the Iran-Iraq war, would Iran not have had incentive to make things difficult for the Russians in Afghanistan too? Yes… and they did, via the ‘Tehran Eight’.

Did any of the BCCI accounts used by the CIA finance the Iranians just a few short years after American hostages had been released after being held captive for 444 days? What is inescapable is that during the 1980’s, the U.S., the Muslim Brotherhood, and Iran all aligned – to varying degrees – against the Soviets.

U.S. Hostages held in Iran.

This may very well have been a strategic necessity at the time but as is almost always the case, the cover-up is the bigger problem. The individuals behind the crafting and implementation of this strategy would be handcuffed – or targets of blackmail – depending on how the truth would play with the American people. This reality could conceivably manifest itself in a consistent and conspicuous refusal of American political leaders to confront – or even acknowledge – Islamic infiltration.

In a 1992 Newsweek article by John Schwartz, some powerful Americans were reported to have been extremely close to BCCI’s dealings:

…allegations of deeper American involvement raise troubling questions. Intelligence sources now say that Mohammed Hammoud, an alleged BCCI front man, was taped saying over the telephone, “If anybody knew how dirty the Americans are in this BCCI business, they’d be surprised-they’re dirtier than the Pakistanis.” He then said he was about to tell someone about the American role. Eight hours later, he was found dead.

It is not known specifically what Hammoud would have meant but what is known is that he had personal dealings with Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and that the two men met “several times” according to a 1991 Associated Press report:


Hatch and Hammoud first met in Washington in the early 1980s and had a number of meetings in later years. Hatch said they discussed Middle East politics and the American hostages in Lebanon… Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla, said this fall there are indications that Hammoud may have helped finance Hezbollah, a Mideast terrorist group that has held Western hostages in Lebanon. Hammoud died mysteriously last year in Beirut.

In 1993, a Senate Ethics Committee cleared Hatch of any wrongdoing in the BCCI scandal.

Squandering Support After 9/11 Attacks
President George W. Bush had a 90% approval rating after the 9/11 attacks. In the wake of those attacks, two countries were subjected to American wrath – Afghanistan and Iraq. Two that weren’t but should have been were Saudi Arabia and Iran; Sudan is arguably the third; Pakistan a fourth. Over the rest of his tenure, Bush’s poll numbers certainly reflected a misguided strategy.

George W. Bush had 90% approval rating after 9/11.

Bush left office with a rating barely over 30%. It can be argued that prior to Barack Obama getting elected, Bush’s decision to go into Iraq made him the most polarizing president in modern U.S. history (Obama has clearly won that distinction since). From that standpoint alone, the domestic consequences of going into Iraq make a compelling case for it being a bad decision, accuracy of the intelligence that said Saddam Hussein had WMD’s notwithstanding.

Bushes and Clintons gave U.S. Obama.

Afghanistan was downstream from a Saudi, state-sponsored, terrorism money supply. Evidence suggests Iran collaborated with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and elsewhere as well. Iraq wasn’t even invaded for its involvement in 9/11. The justification for going into Iraq was so out of phase with a 9/11 response that the entire exercise arguably made the political ground fertile for the election of Obama in 2008.

Hundreds of Saudi nationals were allowed to flee the U.S. in the days after 9/11, without being questioned. Saudi-backed sources of terror funding – like the Muslim World League (MWL), the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), Sulaiman Abdul Aziz Rajihi (SAAR), and several others were let off the hook. The sheer number of Saudi-connected groups not mentioned once in the 9/11 Commission Report is staggering.

Cheney was close to Iran-Contra investigation.

As the Iran-Contra scandal was unfolding, the future vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IN) was charged with investigating Iran-Contra in his role as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. The ranking member of that committee was future vice president under George W. Bush Rep. Dick Cheney (R-WY). Hamilton and Cheney became friends; that friendship continued during the 9/11 Commission’s investigation. As was the case with Iran-Contra, 9/11 was not fully investigated.

Cheney was the Secretary of Defense during the George H.W. Bush administration when Weinberger and five others were pardoned by Bush; he would later be the two-term vice president for Bush’s son.

Speaking of the 9/11 Commission Report, on pages 240-41, it reached a stunning conclusion as U.S. forces were already in Iraq. It concluded that Iran – through Hezbollah – may have collaborated with al-Qaeda in the attacks and that the U.S. Government should explore it further:

…while in Sudan, senior managers in al Qaeda maintained contacts with Iran and the Iranian-supported worldwide terrorist organization Hezbollah, which is based mainly in southern Lebanon and Beirut. Al Qaeda members received advice and training from Hezbollah… detainees have described the willingness of Iranian officials to facilitate the travel of al Qaeda members through Iran, on their way to and from Afghanistan… such arrangements were particularly beneficial to Saudi members of al Qaeda… we now have evidence suggesting that 8 to 10 of the 14 Saudi ‘muscle’ operatives traveled into or out of Iran between October 2000 and February 2001… In sum, there is strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers… After 9/11, Iran and Hezbollah wished to conceal any past evidence of cooperation with Sunni terrorists associated with al Qaeda… We believe this topic requires further investigation by the U.S. Government.

As the 9/11 Commission was concluding that the U.S. Government (presumably Congress) should investigate leads that could prove Iran’s culpability in the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration was doing Iran a huge favor. It was overthrowing Saddam Hussein while simultaneously allowing a prominent, Iran-backed Shiite cleric to undermine the war effort.

Muqtada al-Sadr: Not targeted by U.S. in Iraq, now an Ayatollah.

If there was one figure who inexplicably escaped American wrath during the U.S. war in Iraq, it was Iranian-backed Muqtada al-Sadr. Here was a man who actively undermined U.S. efforts there, even to the point of arming the Sunnis in Fallujah in 2004 (just 20 years earlier, Sunnis and Shiites aligned with the U.S. to fight in Afghanistan).

Today, al-Sadr is an Iranian-backed Ayatollah who got his way in Iraq and was ultimately promoted.

In the months prior to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011, Ayatollah al-Sadr had been demanding that withdrawal and may have influenced the decision to do so.

Moreover, it was revealed that Iranian weapons were being used to murder U.S. troops and had been throughout the war. Yet, Iran faced no real consequences from Bush’s administration and found favor with Obama’s.

The top U.S. official in Iraq in 2004 – L. Paul Bremer – even identified al-Sadr as an outlaw leading an effort that the U.S. would “not tolerate”.


Yet, despite al-Sadr’s high profile and prolific public appearances, he was never dealt with by the U.S. Bremer’s proclamation proved to be incorrect; al-Sadr’s existence was tolerated and he was ultimately rewarded.

Al-Sadr was a figure who would have been easy to demonize in much the same way Osama bin Laden was demonized after 9/11. Instead, his name barely scratched the surface of American consciousness. However, a woman named Cindy Sheehan became perhaps the most polarizing American citizen of that time. It’s safe to say that the incredibly divisive Sheehan found voice with the mainstream media and garnered active support and opposition.

According to Intelius, Sheehan once worked for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a right-wing think tank. At best, such an arrangement would seem a bizarre fit. In a 2015 interview with talk show host Lynn Woolley, Sheehan denied any knowledge of FDD when asked about her being identified as having worked there. Requests for comment from FDD went unanswered.

Why is the far left-wing Sheehan identified as having worked at right-wing FDD?

9/11 Widow Gets it Right as Bush Administration was Getting it Wrong
Something else was happening as the 9/11 Commission was finishing its work and as U.S. forces were in Iraq. Fiona Havlish – The widow of a man murdered by the 9/11 attackers – was the plaintiff in a lawsuit against Iran to prove the latter’s culpability in the attacks. This action was begun in February of 2002, more than one year prior to the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq in March of 2003.

American widow, Patriot and Heroine Fiona Havlish.

On December 22, 2011, U.S. District Court Judge George B. Daniels ruled for Havlish. Presented with 276 “Findings of Fact”, Daniels found Iran complicit in the 9/11 attacks.

How is it that Havlish rightly identified Iran’s involvement in 9/11 as early as 2002 and the George W. Bush administration never did? As the world bemoans faulty intelligence which said Saddam Hussein had WMD’s, isn’t the bigger blunder having less intelligence about all the players involved in the 9/11 attacks than a U.S. citizen?

The more likely scenario is that the Bush administration chose to ignore what Havlish knew. At a minimum, it failed to pay attention.

Havlish v. Iran begun in 2002.

Federal Judge Rules for Havlish 12/22/11

How about those “Findings of Fact”? Two key figures emerge when reading them. One is a senior Hezbollah commander named Imad Mughniyah and the other an Iranian defector named Abolghasem Mesbahi, who held prominent positions within the Iranian regime. According to facts #79 and #80, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri met with Mughniyah in Khartoum, Sudan in 1993. Representatives from “Iran, Hizballah, and al Qaeda” were all present and formed a terrorism alliance, demonstrating a dynamic of Sunni-Shiite collaboration when it comes to fighting the west.

Mesbahi testified that he had foreknowledge of 9/11 attack plans and received three coded messages from his sources in Iran, days before the attacks were carried out (July 23, August 13, and August 27, 2001). All three messages had to do with an operation named Shaitan dar Atash (Satan on Fire) and each message came with a bit more detail. According to his testimony, Mesbahi attempted to notify German intelligence officials but to no avail. He then reached out to the U.S. Embassy in Berlin to relay Iran’s involvement after the attacks but was ignored. Mesbahi testified he called the U.S. Embassy, visited it in person, and sent a letter per a guard’s suggestion but was ignored (facts #180-186).

Havlish – a private U.S. citizen – pursued these leads and a federal judge found the evidence in her favor to be overwhelming. The Bush administration did not pursue these leads while making the case for invading Iraq.


Iran and the Benghazi Attacks
On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks came the assault on the U.S. Special Mission Compound (SMC) and CIA Annex in Benghazi. Respected investigator Kenneth Timmerman insisted that Iran was involved, writing:

I first learned of the Iranian and Hezbollah presence in Benghazi in March 2011 from an American security contractor then in Libya. From the very beginning, the Iranians used local Arabs as well as Lebanese, Syrians and Sudanese recruits for their purposes.

After acknowledging the skepticism of critics who question Iranian involvement in the Benghazi attacks, Timmerman explained why the Iranians would be part of such an operation. It was…

…because the Iranians knew the United States would not strike back. They have been attacking us nonstop in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past decade, with little or no response.

It’s been widely acknowledged that Sunni Muslim Brotherhood-backed groups were involved in the Benghazi attacks. Ansar al-Sharia is one such group. In documents obtained by Judicial Watch, it was learned that the Department of Defense (DOD)…

…knew almost immediately that the Benghazi attack was committed by the al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood-linked “Brigades of the Captive Omar Abdul Rahman” (BCOAR), and had been planned at least 10 days in advance.

This would mean Muslim Brotherhood and Iranian collaboration in Benghazi if Timmerman is correct. In the years since, Iran has actually been rewarded through nuclear negotiations with the Obama administration. Iran was essentially the recipient of $150 Billion U.S. dollars and has not faced consequences for acts of war against the U.S., beginning with the hostage crisis of 1979-80.

Shouldn’t that money have gone to the plaintiffs in Havlish vs. Iran, et. al.?

How ugly is the truth about Iran-Contra?

Other Evidence of Collaboration
In September of 2014, as the Obama administration was facing increased pressure to do something about ISIS in Iraq and Syria, a new group was introduced into the equation – Khorasan. Prior to the announcement that U.S. forces had targeted Khorasan in Syria, the vast majority of Americans had never heard the term before.

In actuality, Khorasan is an al-Qaeda group that has been allowed to operate in Iran for years. relayed a telling excerpt from a book entitled A Citizen’s Guide to Terrorism and Counter-terrorism:

Long the leading state sponsor of terrorism, Iran has recently harbored famed terrorists such as Imad Mughniyah of Hezbollah (d. 2008), certain leaders of Al Qaeda, including… an Al Qaeda finances man, Yasin al-Suri, an ethnic Kurd and Syrian citizen.

That would be the same Mughniyah identified in Havlish.

In early 2015, documents obtained from Osama bin Laden’s compound revealed a working relationship between Iran and al-Qaeda.

Collaboration and Cover-Up with Iran

Nisman: Assassinated?

In 1994, a terrorist attack rocked Buenos Aires, Argentina when a bomb went off at a Jewish Community Center killing nearly 100 people. As has been typical, Iran – even though it was believed to be behind the attack – has never paid a price.

Argentina briefly made international news in early 2015 when one of its prosecutors – Alberto Nisman – was found shot dead in his apartment just hours before he was to present damning evidence implicating his government in the cover-up of Iran’s involvement, to Congress.

Nisman was to present transcripts of phone conversations between Iranian and Argentinian government officials, according to the New York Times:

Intercepted conversations between representatives of the Iranian and Argentine governments point to a long pattern of secret negotiations to reach a deal in which Argentina would receive oil in exchange for shielding Iranian officials from charges that they orchestrated the bombing of a Jewish community center in 1994…

…The phone conversations are believed to have been intercepted by Argentine intelligence officials. If proved accurate, the transcripts would show a concerted effort by representatives of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s government to shift suspicions away from Iran in order to gain access to Iranian markets and to ease Argentina’s energy troubles.

This points to the ability of Iran to blackmail entire governments into silence and a willingness of at least one western government to play along.

Officially, Nisman’s death remains unsolved but there are strong indications that he was assassinated for getting too close to the truth about some very powerful people:

Nisman had begun to make enemies in high places. Alleging there was an attempt to cover up Iran’s alleged role in the bombing, on 14 January he filed a criminal complaint against Argentina’s President and the Foreign Minister.

Why would a man who told his daughter that he was eager to showcase his work while assuring her that she would be “so proud” of him, commit suicide hours before he was to present that work?

During a 2015 speech at the United Nations, de Kirchner made a bombshell claim that in 2010, a representative from the Obama administration asked that Argentina provide Iran with nuclear fuel. When asked to put this request in writing, the Obama administration allegedly disappeared, according to de Kirchner.

de Kirchner at the United Nations

It remains unclear how Iran is able to command such leverage against the U.S. but there are indications that it has used threats and blackmail in the past.

According to an article in the Washington Times, the administration of Bill Clinton was so convinced of Iran’s involvement in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing that Clinton himself sent a cable to the Iranians expressing as much. In the cable, Clinton vowed not to make the evidence public, presumably to avoid an outcry from the American people for reprisals.

Clinton reportedly attempted to deal with Iran, to get them to cooperate in the Khobar bombing investigation based on some ridiculous notion that the country had recently elected ‘moderate’ leaders. Not only was that ill-advised but it put Clinton on defense:

…Tehran responded with a harsh denial, backed by its more radical theocratic ruling elite, and it even threatened to make public the cable Mr. Clinton had sent the Iranian leader…

The threat of going public alarmed top U.S. advisers, who feared the disclosure would lead to public pressure inside the United States to retaliate against Iran militarily or diplomatically, contemporaneous memos show.

“If the Iranians make good on their threats to release the text of our letter, we are going to face intense pressure to take action,” top aide Kenneth Pollack wrote in a Sept. 15, 1999, memo routed through White House aide Bruce Riedel to then-National Security Adviser Sandy Berger.

John Kerry (L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R)

The Secretary of State who negotiated the treasonous Iranian nuclear deal – John Kerry – was at the center of the Iran-Contra investigation but backed off when he got close. In a bombshell book by Terry Reed, who claims he was part of the Mena operation, there was “strong evidence” that Kerry’s lead investigator “actually helped to stymie the Mena investigation.” (Compromised, p. 518) This would have compromised Kerry.

It should not come as a shock that Iran is willing to use blackmail to get what it wants. How far back does this practice go?


Reagan’s National Security Adviser, Iran and Sudan
From 1983-85, Robert “Bud” McFarlane was Ronald Reagan’s National Security Adviser. He would later become one of the central figures in Iran-Contra.

In January of 1987, the New York Times reported that McFarlane was part of a delegation – which allegedly included Oliver North – that went on a secret mission to Tehran the previous May.

According to the Times:

A retired Central Intelligence Agency official has confirmed to the Senate Intelligence Committee that on the secret mission to Teheran last May, Robert C. McFarlane and his party carried a Bible with a handwritten verse from President Reagan for Iranian leaders.

According to a person who has read the committee’s draft report, the retired C.I.A. official, George W. Cave, an Iran expert who was part of the mission, said the group had 10 falsified passports, believed to be Irish, and a key-shaped cake to symbolize the anticipated “opening” to Iran.

The meeting was said to include a planeload of weapons that was being delivered to the Iranians. The Times wrote:

…the McFarlane mission was to deliver three planeloads of weapons starting with their flight to Iran. In return, all the American hostages were to be freed in Lebanon.

When no hostages were freed, the group’s three days were spent in fruitless argument with low- and middle-level Iranians.

Just one month after that article was published, McFarlane attempted suicide by overdosing on Valium. When explaining what drove him in that direction, McFarlane said he felt that he’d “failed the country.”

Those who say this is old news not worth confronting should consider what sort of activities McFarlane was engaged in more than 20 years later.

In 2009, the Washington Post reported on suspicious dealings between McFarlane and Sudan. In 2013, CNN reported that FBI agents raided McFarlane’s Watergate apartment to investigate those dealings. According to the report, McFarlane is alleged to have contracted with the Muslim Brotherhood-friendly nation of Qatar in an effort to actually represent Sudan:

The FBI said they had found a series of e-mails to McFarlane which agents believed to be from someone in the Sudanese intelligence service. After reviewing 2009 e-mails FBI agent Grayden Ridd said in his court document, “I believe these e-mails are evidence that McFarlane was entering into an agreement with the Government of Sudan to lobby the U.S. government officials on behalf of Sudan and to provide it with advice during negotiations with the United States.”

The agent further said it appeared McFarlane and his Sudanese contact intended to structure the deal so it would appear McFarlane was representing Qatar, a U.S. ally.

One year after that CNN report was filed, McFarlane and then House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) Chairman, Rep. Mike Rogers were both scheduled to attend an event to honor Ground Zero mosque imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, with Rogers slated to deliver the keynote address. Rogers eventually backed out of the event, presumably because of public pressure, but McFarlane was in attendance.

While Rogers was willing to honor Rauf until something changed his mind, it was only two years earlier that he identified Muslim Brotherhood-linked adviser to Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin as an “American patriot”.

Ground Zero mosque imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (L) and former Reagan Nat'l Security Adviser McFarlane (R) in 2014.

The event, put on by a group known as International Center for Religion and Diplomacy (ICRD) lists Abubaker Al-Shingieti as a Vice President. Al-Shingieti served as a henchman and top government official to Sudan’s government throughout the 1990’s, both before and after that country became a State Sponsor of Terrorism.

Al-Shingieti and Rauf at CFR in 2013

Several months prior to the ICRD event, Al-Shingieti and Rauf met at a Council on Foreign Relations event.

Al-Shingieti has held several prominent roles in the U.S. as well, to include time on the Hartford Seminary’s Board of Trustees and as Executive Director of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), a Muslim Brotherhood front group in the U.S. The IIIT was founded in 1981 by a man named Jamal Barzinji, an Arab Muslim who gained access to the White House during the George W. Bush administration; Barzinji spent years as the IIIT’s Vice President. He was also a colleague of Talat Othman, who was featured prominently in part 1 of this series.

Al-Shingieti and Barzinji at IIIT

Barzinji was also a key figure in the Operation Green Quest (OGQ) dragnet in March of 2002 that resulted in the raids of multiple Islamic organizations in Virginia. According to a 2004 article, Barzinji headed most of the “100 interlocking Muslim organizations” based there.

One such prominent organization was SAAR, the same SAAR not mentioned once in the 9/11 Commission report. According to the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), SAAR was founded in 1983 – the same year Iran-Contra allegedly commenced – and Barzinji served on the Board.

Two of the men alleged to have been instrumental in helping to get the Treasury Department to back-off the subsequent investigations after the OGQ raids were Talat Othman – who had served on the Board of Harken Energy in the late 1980’s with George W. Bush – and Khaled Saffuri – who was tapped by Karl Rove to lead the Muslim outreach effort for the Bush Presidential campaign.

Barzinji (now deceased) and Al-Shingieti were also very familiar with one another based on their respective roles with the IIIT.

Political Leaders Embrace Muslim Allies Against Soviets
In the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union, American political figures and power brokers embraced Muslims who were part of the Mujahideen’s stealth efforts in the U.S. The quintessential example of this lowered guard is perhaps best exemplified by Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) President and Founder Grover Norquist. However, powerful elected officials also fell victim.

Barzinji – who joined Othman and Norquist for a meeting at the White House in April of 2001 – is also credited with starting the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, VA in 1991 – the same year BCCI was shut down. This mosque is perhaps the most notorious in the U.S. It was visited by at least three 9/11 hijackers, Fort Hood jihadist Nidal Malik Hasan and was led by Anwar al-Awlaki. In fact, the Global Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi visited the mosque some time before 1999, when he was banned from the U.S.

The Chairman of the mosque at the time – Bassam Estwani – is seen in the photo below, sitting on the floor as al-Qaradawi was speaking. Estwani was very politically connected to members of Congress in both parties. He even had contact with President Bill Clinton and made multiple visits to the Oval Office.

Qaradawi at Dar al-Hijrah mosque (far left) and Estwani (on floor)

In February of 2001, newly sworn-in Speaker of the House, Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) permitted Estwani to deliver a Muslim prayer on the floor of the U.S. House. In 2015, it was learned that this was done at a time when Hastert was likely compromised by a homosexual scandal involving a minor. The indictment alleged that Hastert was being blackmailed beginning in 2010.


Estwani delivering Muslim prayer on House floor on February 7, 2001.

To be clear, there is no evidence that Estwani’s appearance involved blackmail. There is, however, evidence that the man who signed off on that appearance – Hastert – had already been compromised. Hastert and Estwani had also met one another at least twice by then.

In November of 2014, Hastert’s Republican successor as Speaker – Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) – permitted another Imam with a highly suspicious background to deliver a prayer from the House Floor. This Imam is Hamad Ahmad Chebli. Boehner bowed his head upon introducing Chebli.

Speaker Boehner bows head as Imam Chebli delivers prayer.

On Coming Clean
The facts are that during the 1980’s, the Reagan administration chose to align with – or at least empower – the Mujahideen and the ‘Tehran Eight’ against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Again, the wisdom and/or viability of that strategy is not being questioned.

However, the inability or refusal to deal with the long-term consequences is; those consequences have served to put the U.S. in grave danger in the years since.

Domestically, significant evidence exists that a covert operation to manufacture and ship untraceable weapons to the Nicaraguan Contras was put into place. In so doing, those who carried out that operation went around Congress and operated illegally on U.S. soil.

As this was going on, an extremely corrupt bank – the BCCI – was at the center of international covert operations involving U.S. intelligence assets; the CIA allegedly set up secret BCCI accounts to fund those operations.

Ten years after BCCI was shut down, the 9/11 attacks happened. If ever there was an opportunity for American politicians to come clean, that was the time.

They did not and now it’s far more difficult for them to do so.

This article is the second in a series. HERE IS A LINK TO PART 3.

muslim brotherhood and iran contra scandal

By Ben Barrack

This article is the first in a series.

Rezko (Center) and Othman (Right) in 1999.

Something… or someone… has kept the Republican Party establishment neutered on the issues of fighting Islamic infiltration and/or pushing back against the Barack Obama administration. There is one Muslim man who is connected to both Bush presidencies and at least two highly suspect Obama colleagues the John McCain campaign refused to go after in 2008. He provides the key to understanding why the Republican establishment protects the Muslim Brotherhood in America.

His name is Talat Othman and the two men he is connected to – besides George H.W. and George W. Bush – are Rashid Khalidi and Tony Rezko. Othman received an award from Khalidi’s boss, Yasser Arafat in 1997 for Othman’s contributions and support for the Palestinians. Othman is also credited with founding the Islamic Cultural Center (ICC) of Chicago.

In early 2015, the Center for Security Policy (CSP) published an exhaustive dossier of more than 100 pages that detailed Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) Founder, Grover Norquist’s embrace of Muslim Brotherhood-connected individuals and the subsequent influence these individuals gained inside America’s power centers, at great peril to national security. Conspicuously absent from the CSP dossier is even one mention of Othman.

In Chicago, Muslim American Othman served as Treasurer of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) with former PLO member and Barack Obama friend Rashid Khalidi, who was the ATFP’s Vice President. Othman is also credited with introducing convicted Obama fundraiser Tony Rezko to Illinois state politics. Othman’s career involves a stint as chairman of the terrorist-tied Islamic Free Market Institute (Islamic Institute) founded by Grover Norquist. For approximately three years in the late 1980’s and 1990, Othman sat on the Board of Harken Energy with George W. Bush and began consulting with then President George H.W. Bush in the Oval Office on the issue of Iraq and larger Middle East policy beginning in August of 1990.

Years later, Othman delivered a Muslim prayer at the 2000 Republican National Convention. Note he is introduced as the Chairman of Norquist’s Islamic Institute:

Then, less than one year later, in April of 2001 Othman got access to another Bush White House according to a guest list obtained by Paul Sperry. Joining Othman was Norquist and Jamal Barzinji who has been credited with authorizing construction of the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, VA. This mosque is a hotbed of Islamic hate speech and has been acknowledged as a front for Hamas. (h/t Ryan Mauro at Clarion):

Othman on April 2001, White House guest list.

In fact, Dar al-Hijrah once hosted Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the international Muslim Brotherhood’s top spiritual leader, before he was banned from entering the U.S. in 1999. That’s right, the man at the top of the Sunni Muslim terrorist food chain was welcomed into the mosque that Barzinji helped create:

Harvard Connections
Any serious discussion about the Muslim infiltration of the U.S. must include Boston, Harvard University and the Harvard Business School (HBS). Perhaps the most influential and successful Muslim enabler in the U.S is and has been Norquist; he is a political bridge that has helped bring Muslim Brotherhood apparatchiks into the Republican Party fold. In addition to him being the intermediary between stealth Muslim jihadists and George W. Bush’s gubernatorial and presidential administrations, Norquist is also a graduate of both Harvard University and HBS (class of 1981).

Lynne Cheney bows head during Muslim prayer at 2000 Republican Convention.

When Norquist was enrolling in Harvard as an undergraduate student in 1974, George W. Bush was already attending Harvard Business School (class of 1975). Regardless of whether the two men crossed paths then or not, their paths certainly crossed in Texas when Bush was Governor and then in Washington, DC when he was president.

Othman and Saffuri at 2013 ATFP

As Lee Stranahan discovered, Norquist’s sister Loraine also graduated from HBS (class of 1985). More significantly, her husband – a Muslim man named Majed Tomeh – graduated from HBS sometime that same decade as well. It would one day be learned that in 1998, Tomeh co-founded the Islamic Free Market Institute (Islamic Institute) with Norquist and a man named Khaled Saffuri, whom close Bush adviser Karl Rove tapped to lead the Bush presidential campaign’s Muslim outreach in 2000.

According to a Townhall article by Larry Kelley…

In 1997, Norquist brokered a meeting with then-Texas Gov. Bush to develop a plan to bring in a previously untapped voting block, he called it the “Muslim Strategy.” The meeting featured AMC boss and top Brotherhood member Alamoudi, top AMC lieutenant Khaled Suffuri, Karl Rove, Norquist and Talat Othman, a Saudi friend of Bush and fellow member of Harken Oil.

Othman was a close business colleague of George W. Bush for several years at Harken Energy and got access to then President George H.W. Bush in the Oval Office just two months after George W. sold more than $800,000 in stock on June 22, 1990 according to the Wall Street Journal.


While Othman did not attend Harvard, he did serve on the Dean’s Council at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, according to an archived page of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) website.

The timing and circumstances surrounding George W. Bush’s unloading of nearly $850,000 of Harken stock in June of 1990 was investigated by the SEC but the results of that investigation did not surface for more than a decade. Two months after Bush sold the stock, Harken reported more than $20 million in losses. The stock rebounded but then dropped even more significantly by the end of the year. In explaining why the investigation took more than a decade to come to light, the Guardian reported the information had been leaked to “embarrass” Bush.

Othman with Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.

During Bush’s tenure at Harken, the company landed a deal with the Government of Bahrain that many found curious. According to the Wall Street Journal, Amoco was all set to get the contract and the much smaller Harken landed the contract at the 11th hour. Harken’s team denied that it got the contract to curry favor with the Bush family or because the son of the President of the United States was on its Board. However, there was some acknowledgment by the company’s leadership that Bush’s presence on the Board was significant:

“You’d have to be an idiot not to say it’s impressive,” says Alan Quasha, former Harken chairman and its second-largest shareholder. (The largest, with 24.5%, is a Harvard University investment fund.)

Quasha is also a Harvard alum.

George W. Bush in his Harken days.

Again, speaking of Harvard, a 2002 Boston Globe article highlighted the details of misfortune that surrounded the university’s Management Company (HMC). For example, in 1991 HMC had a $200 million write-down, after risking 1% of its endowment on the energy company.

Several former Harvard Management officials said in interviews that they wanted to pull out of the Harken deal, but they said one man in particular – Harvard Management executive and Harken director Michael Eisenson – resolutely insisted he could turn around the investment by pumping more money into it.

The matter of Harvard’s heavy investment into Harken is one curious facet. Another involves the buyer of Bush’s stock. Harvard Management Co. president Jack Meyer was quoted in the Globe article:

“Harvard Management Company did not purchase Mr. Bush’s Harken shares. We do not know who did purchase the shares,” Meyer said when asked whether anyone connected to Harvard Management or Eisenson bought the shares.”

Ralph Smith, the man through whom Bush reportedly sold his shares was more than tight-lipped about who purchased them, according to a separate Boston Globe article:

…Bush sold his shares on June 22 via the broker, Smith. Smith could not be reached for comment, but has been quoted as saying the buy was an institution that he would never reveal.

It can therefore be concluded that said institution wished to remain anonymous after purchasing more than $800,000 in stock only to see that stock plummet in the weeks and months that followed. The buyer is still not known to this day.

Bank of Credit & Commerce International (BCCI)
According to the Journal at the time, the third-largest shareholder in Harken was Sheikh Abdullah Bakhsh, with a 17.6% stake. There was definitely a connection between Harken and BCCI, though the significance of that connection is not fully known. According to the Wall Street Journal in 1991, the year BCCI went defunct…

…Sheik Khalifa bin-Salman al-Khalifah, the prime minister of Bahrain and a brother of the country’s ruling emir, is identified on an October 1990 shareholder list as one of the 45 investors who own parent company BCCI Holdings (Luxembourg) S.A. The emir played a role in approving the Harken transaction.

Sheik Abdullah Bakhsh, a major Harken shareholder represented by Mr. Othman on the company’s board, has been a co-investor in Saudi Arabia with alleged BCCI front man Ghaith Pharaon, and used Khalid bin-Mahfouz, until recently a principal BCCI shareholder, as his banker.

1991 TIME Magazine Cover

In addition to Bakhsh being the third largest Harken shareholder at the time, the man with whom he dealt on matters relating to Harken was… Othman.

BCCI, founded in 1972 by a wealthy Pakistani financier, later figured into the Iran-Contra operations according to a 1991 TIME Magazine article. The bank was shut down in 1991 after its extensive and complex money laundering schemes came to light. There were guilty pleas and heavy fines levied against BCCI but accountability for the big players was in short supply.

Ghaith R. Pharaon, one such major player, was officially designated by the FBI as a fugitive, beginning in 1991. The UK Guardian reported in 2007:

The FBI accuses the Saudi millionaire of fraud “involving millions of dollars” in the case of the Bank of Commerce and Credit International.

BCCI collapsed in 1991 in one of the world’s worst financial scandals, embracing money laundering, arms dealing, bribery, tax evasion and much more.

The link to the FBI page identifying Pharaon as a wanted fugitive no longer works but Pharaon is presumably still a fugitive after 23 years; he has never been exonerated.

He must be doing a good job of hiding but where could he be?

Consider that Zoominfo has a profile of a Ghaith R. Pharaon updated in 1998 that lists him as having sat on the Board of Governors with the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA):


Over at Intelius, there is some information about what appears to be the same Ghaith R. Pharaon. Note that this person worked on the Board of Governors with BNA Susidiaries. Also take note that he is identified as having lived in Brookline, Massachusetts, just three miles away from Harvard University, where he earned a degree from Harvard Business School in 1965.


So why is Pharaon so difficult to find? He shouldn’t be. Today, he’s listed as the Chairman of Falcon Cement / Attock Cement Pakistan Limited and is prominently featured on the company’s website:


Attock is also in the oil business as well and Pharaon’s whereabouts were not that difficult to determine as far back as 2005. On an Arabic news site at the time, he was profiled as a “leading Saudi business tycoon” in a story about how National Refinery Limited (NRL) was being purchased by Attock Oil Group (AOG). This was more than a decade after Pharaon became a fugitive from the FBI:

Led by leading Saudi business tycoon, Dr Ghaith R. Pharaon, the Attock Oil Group consists of The Attock Oil Company Limited (AOC), Pakistan Oilfields Limited (POL), Attock Refinery Limited (ARL), Attock Petroleum Limited (APL), Attock Information Technology Services (Pvt) Limited and Attock Cement Pakistan Limited.

When BCCI collapsed and its nefarious dealings became known, Pharaon was publicly identified as a major culprit. His co-investor in Saudi Arabia (Sheik Abdullah Bakhsh) was represented on the Harken Board by Othman.

Pharaon (L) in 2005

Yet, today, Pharaon no longer seems to be a person of interest, let alone an FBI fugitive.

As for Harvard, it’s worth noting that both Barack Obama and his father Barack Obama Sr. attended Harvard. In fact, as George W. was serving on the Harken Board, the man who would succeed him as President of the U.S. began attending Harvard Law School in 1988.

At a time when Saudi Sheikhs and business tycoons were major shareholders, one of whom was dealing directly through Othman, another Saudi Prince is suspected of having aided in Obama’s efforts to attend Harvard Law School. In 2008, Percy Sutton named names. In this video, Sutton claims Khalid al-Mansour prompted him to write a letter of recommendation for Obama and that al-Mansour worked for “one of the richest” men in the world. The man Sutton was referring to is believed to have been Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal:

Othman and Obama’s PLO Friend
In addition to Othman being the Secretary/Treasurer of ATFP the year it was founded, the Vice President was none other than Rashid Khalidi, the close friend of Barack Obama who was at the center of controversy on the eve of the 2008 election when the Los Angeles Times refused to relinquish a videotape recording of Khalidi’s farewell dinner in Chicago in 2003. The video reportedly showed Obama heaping praise upon Khalidi, a former mouthpiece for the PLO’s Yasser Arafat; even domestic terrorist Bill Ayers was in attendance.

Screenshot from ATFP Website from 2003.

At that dinner, Khalidi sat at the same table with both Barack and Michelle Obama. It is not known if Othman was in attendance but it certainly would not have been surprising if he had been. Othman called Chicago home and shared a prominent post with Khalidi at the ATFP that year.

Khalidi with the Obamas at 2003 farewell dinner.

While it was perfectly justified for conservatives and Republicans to point out the egregious journalistic injustice committed by the L.A. Times, it’s equally right to point out that close George W. Bush business partner Othman and Khalidi helped lead the ATFP. Is this why the McCain campaign of 2008 didn’t hammer Obama over Khalidi as much as it could have? Sarah Palin – McCain’s running mate – wanted desperately to attack Obama and the L.A. Times over Khalidi but the McCain camp provided little more than lip service to that scandal.

Othman and Khalidi in 2002.

Khalidi and Othman appear to have been close. In addition to being business colleagues at ATFP, both men attended social functions and fundraisers together. In this photo, taken in Chicago in 2002, Othman – identified as a chief donor – is standing with Khalidi. Convicted Obama fundraiser Tony Rezko was identified as having been at this event but not in the photo:

How about Rezko? Do you remember that wealthy, corrupt Barack Obama fundraiser who was ultimately convicted of fraud? The shady land deal between the two men came as close to sinking Obama as any scandal has. Do you remember how conservatives clamored for the McCain campaign to hammer Obama over that deal? If you do, you likely also remember how little attention McCain’s campaign gave to it.

According to Arab American Media Services, it was George W. Bush’s friend and longtime business associate Talat Othman who launched Rezko’s political career in Chicago. The elevated stature of Othman courtesy of his Harken days likely helped him gain access to Chicago mayor Richard Daley.

Rezko (far left); Chicago Mayor Richard Daley (second from right) and Othman (far right) circa 1999.

Speaking of Daley, it’s known that he has a history of rubbing elbows with Muslim extremists as well. Consider that in 2006, Daley joined Othman and radical Muslim Imam Jamal Said – who has verifiable connections to Hamas, a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and the larger Muslim Brotherhood – in a dedication ceremony. The purpose of the ceremony was to celebrate Chicago Muslims donating a garden to the city of Chicago.

Othman (speaking), Mayor Daley, and Imam Jamal Said in 2006.

Also in attendance that day was Ahmed Rehab, the Executive Director for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Chicago branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago). Here is a photo of Rehab with Othman:

Rehab (far left) and Othman (next to him).

The ATFP Today
In October of 2001, Operation Green Quest (OGQ) was launched by the Bush administration to help target the sources of terror funding in the U.S. In March of 2002, several offices were raided as part of the operation. However, just two weeks later, Khaled Saffuri (the man who founded the Islamic Institute with Norquist and led Bush’s Muslim outreach)  and Talat Othman (the man who represented the interests of a wealthy Saudi Sheikh and with whom Bush served on the Harken Board) attended a luncheon and spoke on behalf of Muslim civil rights in an effort to get the Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill to back off.

By all accounts, the efforts of Saffuri and Othman worked. The two men also appear to remain friends. In fact, both men attended the 2013 ATFP Gala:

Khaled Saffuri (L) and Talat Othman (R) at 2013 ATFP event.

The Master of Ceremonies at the Gala was none other than Palestinian ‘comedian’ Dean Obeidallah. Obeidallah has defended Muslim Brotherhood spy Huma Abedin and frequently takes pro-Muslim Brotherhood positions. In 2012, Obeidallah was promoted by CAIR and performed at the Muslim Brotherhood front group’s event in Los Angeles. In 2015, Obeidallah was part of a group that consisted of several stealth Muslim Brotherhood jihadists who Obama welcomed into the White House and later mocked those with concerns about infiltration.

Othman (L) and Obeidallah (R) at 2013 Gala.

Sununu at 2013 ATFP Gala

Former George H.W. Bush Chief of Staff and one time New Hampshire Governor John Sununu – an Arab Orthodox Christian – was also in attendance at the gala. Sununu is widely regarded as a Republican establishment figure. He backed Mitt Romney in 2012. What does it say about Sununu that he would attend this ATFP event, which was attended by stealth Muslim jihadists?

To further illustrate just how effective the Muslim Brotherhood’s political efforts have been within not just the Republican Party but also among conservatives, consider Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI). Amash has an extremely conservative voting record and is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).

Rep. Jim Jordan (L) and Rep. Justin Amash (C).

Amash was at the 2013 ATFP event and sat at a table with none other than Muslim Brotherhood enabler Norquist and his Muslim wife Samah Alrayyes:

Norquist wife Alrayyes (far left), Norquist and Rep. Amash (far right)

This is not to impugn Amash. It is meant to demonstrate that one of the results of the Republican establishment’s protection of the Muslim Brotherhood is that so little is known about this very stealth and nefarious group. Unless young congressmen like Amash know the truth about Norquist, being exposed to such a man’s influence is dangerous business.

In addition, highly controversial figure and stealth Muslim Brotherhood jihadist Suhail Khan attended the 2013 Gala as well. In this photo, he can be seen standing in the background behind Norquist and Alrayyes. Based upon his position, he would have been seated next to Amash, though at an adjacent table:

Alrayyes (front), Norquist at her side and Suhail Khan (back left) at 2013 ATFP gala.

Elephant in the Room Ignored
In March of 2015, Glenn Beck showcased Norquist for one full hour on two consecutive days of his show. On the first day, Beck reviewed Norquist’s connections. On the second day, Beck interviewed Norquist. As was the case with CSP’s dossier, absent from the conversation on both days was any mention whatsoever of Othman.

The reason likely has to do with the fact that Beck’s research relied heavily upon the CSP document, Agent of Influence: Grover Norquist and the Assault on the Right. Othman’s name was completely absent in that dossier.

Why was he not even mentioned ONCE by either CSP or Beck?

A couple of weeks after CSP’s dossier was published and days after Beck’s two-day exploration of Norquist, the Clarion Project’s Ryan Mauro reported that six Islamists with connections to the Muslim Brotherhood had been scheduled to meet with President George W. Bush on September 11, 2001 at 3:05pm in Washington, DC.


Though the meeting never happened, one of those six men was none other than Othman, who was still the chairman of the Islamic Institute at the time. Mauro cites the CSP dossier as his source that identified Othman as one of the six but the dossier never mentioned Othman and the attention Mauro devoted to Othman was limited to a one sentence reference to Othman speaking at the 2000 Republican convention.

Under a heading which should detail Othman’s background, Mauro only devotes that lone sentence to Othman (the first one). There is no mention of Othman’s ties to either Bush 41 or Bush 43.

During his interview with Norquist, Beck pointed the finger at Obama Attorney General Eric Holder as being the one responsible for shutting down OGQ. That’s a curious claim when juxtaposed with a 2004 Harper’s magazine article which identified DHS head Tom Ridge and Bush Attorney General John Ashcroft as having been the ones who shut down the operation.

Beck Expose of Norquist (Before interview):

Here is Beck’s interview with Norquist the next day:

NOTE: This article can be seen as the first of a series.

bushes and clintons help muslims infiltrate u.s.: a conspiracy theory

Bushes and Clintons eased Muslim Infiltration of the USA:  a conspiracy theory

By Ben Barrack

This article represents a conclusion based on a very extensively researched three-part series, which can be read here (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). If you want the detail that backs up the claims and conclusions below, please refer to those three parts.

Once the cold war had ended, many political power players inside the U.S. clearly decided to do business with representatives of the covert allies in the war against Soviet Communism. Aligning with those forces to defeat the Soviets is one thing; deciding to partner with them afterward is something altogether different. With hindsight, indications are that the euphoria of defeating the Soviet Union spilled over into a willingness to embrace nefarious individuals and groups that represented the forces and/or nations that helped the U.S. win the cold war.

That Euphoria began near the end of Ronald Reagan’s second term.

While speaking outside the Brandenburg Gate of the Berlin Wall in Western Germany on June 12, 1987, then President Reagan exhorted Soviet Union’s General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”:

Though it took more than two years for Reagan’s words to become reality, the wall was indeed torn down on November 9, 1989, during the administration of George H.W. Bush:

This event signified the end of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, eastern communism vs. western democracy. The U.S. had won the cold war.

What is often overlooked is that when it comes to the defeat of the Soviet Union, a covert alliance between the U.S., Saudi Arabia, the Pakistanis and the Muslim Brotherhood played a major role. This alliance began in relative earnest circa 1979. It did not end with the fall of the Berlin Wall; it continued and gave birth to strange bedfellows indeed.

In fact, indications are that power players in the U.S. political structure – from both parties – saw an opportunity to leverage the relationships its government fostered in those final years of the cold war. Americans for Tax Reform President and Founder Grover Norquist admitted as much in an interview with Glenn Beck in March of 2015.

Norquist – who is married to a Palestinian Muslim and shepherded stealth Muslim Brotherhood agents into the George W. Bush White House – is perhaps the Republican canary in the Muslim Brotherhood infiltration coal mine.

In the cold war’s final decade, western leaders embraced these allies and their apparatchiks. Stealth Muslim Brotherhood jihadists were brought into the circle of powerful politicians in Washington, DC.

President George H.W. Bush with Arab chief of staff John Sununu.

Beginning with George H.W. Bush in 1990, Muslim Brotherhood operatives who represented a group the U.S. aligned with against the Soviet Union were welcomed into the political fold. A group known as the Arab-American Council met with H.W. multiple times to discuss Middle East policy. Bush’s Chief of Staff John Sununu was an integral part of this early Muslim outreach.

To this day, Sununu continues to rub elbows with stealth Muslim Brotherhood jihadists.

The Clintons continued the practice of embracing stealth Muslim Brotherhood jihadists. The most notable are the chairman of the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, VA who made several visits to the Clinton White House, and Hillary’s closest adviser Huma Abedin. Abedin is both a stealth Muslim Brotherhood agent and was raised in Saudi Arabia. There are strong indications that the reason she is not outed by the Washington political establishment is because doing so would implicate that establishment.

George W. Bush and Karl Rove – Bush’s closest adviser – then allowed Norquist to bring stealth Muslim Brotherhood agents into the White House – both before and after 9/11. Rove tapped Norquist’s Muslim partner Khaled Saffuri to lead his boss’s Muslim outreach for the 2000 presidential campaign.

It’s safe to say that by the time George W. Bush was elected president, many political figures – both Democrat and Republican – had been compromised by their relationships with Muslim Brotherhood figures, which were being funded by the Saudis.

Then 9/11 happened:

If ever there was a time for Bush and the Washington political establishment to come clean with the American people about the bitter fruit of relationships with the Saudis and the Muslim Brotherhood, the 9/11 attacks provided them with that opportunity.

Perhaps as close as Bush came was on September 13th, two days after the attacks, at a press conference:

Instead, the administration hurriedly rushed Saudis of interest out of the U.S. and embraced leaders of stealth Muslim Brotherhood groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

Just how egregious were the dealings of the Bushes and the Clintons in the 1980’s and early 1990’s? Were they so bad that neither family could come clean after the worst attack on U.S. soil? My belief is that they’re pretty ugly and involve the dealings of very powerful U.S. politicians with the Pakistani bank known as the Bank of Credit & Commerce International (BCCI).

However painful those answers, they must be revealed. Yet, they remain covered up. Bush censored 28 pages that tell the truth about Saudi involvement in 9/11 at the very time he was taking American troops into Iraq.

The Washington establishment has much to hide; that is clear to anyone willing to look. It will not relinquish power easily or willingly. The proof that it has joined both parties at the hip is that the Republican Party fights conservatives more than it fights Democrats.

For years, the Bushes and the Clintons have covered up the truth that would begin a healing process for America.

The healing – no matter how painful – must begin.

Unfortunately, those with the power to begin the healing process also have the power to prevent it…

…for now.

authoritarian state vs revealing dark secrets: a conspiracy theory


By Ben Barrack

This is the third and final article in a series. Here are links to Part 1 and Part 2

There is a reason both political parties and the media have allowed Barack Obama to keep his Columbia days secret


It is not a conspiracy theory that Barack Obama refuses to release his Columbia University transcripts; it is a reality. It is Obama who has made the ground fertile for alleged conspiracy theories because one thing is certain; he is hiding something.

His propensity for lying only further undermines his credibility.

That is why it is not the least bit ridiculous to make the case based on solid, tangible data points, that Obama was an intelligence asset in his early adult years. Make no mistake; there are plenty. The onus is on Obama, not the American people at this point.

Was Obama hired to work for the U.S. in the latter’s effort to utilize the Mujahideen (Muslim Brotherhood) to defeat the Soviet Union in the 1980’s? Is that why his Columbia years are so sketchy?

Available evidence more than helps to make the case. Much of it could easily be debunked or disproven by a White House that refuses to do so; that is a red flag.

For starters, did a young Barack Obama fit the profile of such an asset? What would such an asset look like?

Frank Marshall Davis in later years

Ideally, a liaison between the U.S. and the Mujahideen would need to speak Arabic and English. As someone who once told a New York Times writer that the Islamic call to prayer was the “prettiest sound on earth” while reciting it with a “first-rate accent”, Obama certainly qualifies there.

How about an individual who understood the ideology of the Soviet Communist enemy? Obama qualified there as well. His childhood mentor Frank Marshall Davis was a card carrying member of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), the Soviet Union’s arm in the U.S. As such, a young Obama was marinated in Soviet ideology from approximately 1971 until he left for California to attend Occidental Community College in the fall of 1979.

In the U.S., Davis was under FBI surveillance from 1944-1963 and was subsequently allowed to live freely until his death in 1987.

Being able to speak Arabic and understanding the Soviet mindset would have placed Obama on an extremely short list of candidates for such a role.

Obama would have been a perfect fit. Then 25 years later – thanks to a pliant media and a gutless Congress – he became this country’s most reckless President after keeping all that time hidden from public view. Magically, Obama then became President of the United States who relied on advisors that were integral to the covert strategy in Afghanistan that began in the 1970’s and extended into the 1980’s.

On July 3, 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed a presidential finding at the behest of his National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. That finding set the wheels in motion for the U.S. to fund the efforts of the Mujahideen guerillas, who were attempting to overthrow the Soviet-backed communist government of Afghanistan. Once the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in December of that year, the U.S. aid to the Mujahideen increased dramatically, to include weapons, according to Brzezinski.

Obama and Brzezinski in Situation Room (former Nat'l Security Advisor for Reagan Robert McFarlane in background)

Barely one month after Carter signed that presidential finding, Obama turned 18; he was soon saying good-bye to Davis and hello to the radical, liberal college experience. If anyone would be interested in Obama as an intelligence asset in Pakistan, it would have been Brzezinski.

Coincidentally or not, Obama would rely on Brzezinski as a close foreign policy advisor when the former was elected President in 2008 and then throughout both of his terms. Even former Reagan National Security Advisor Robert “Bud” McFarlane joined Brzezinski in the Situation Room to counsel Obama (in 2013, McFarlane was caught attempting to help terror state Sudan negotiate with the U.S., which was covered in Part 2 of this series).

A few short months after Obama began attending Occidental, the stakes in the Soviet-Afghan war were significantly raised when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in late December of 1979.

Brzezinski standing behind Reagan, circa 1985.

Nearly two months earlier – on November 4th – 52 Americans were taken hostage in Iran. 444 days later and minutes after Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural speech on January 20, 1981, Iran announced the hostages would be released. The timing of this announcement, coupled with what would later become known as the Iran-Contra scandal – a component of which included trading arms for hostages – led to speculation that the Reagan administration may have negotiated with Iran in an election year. One publication – the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA) – suggested such a deal may have helped to create the “bizarre alliance” between the U.S. and Iran in the 1980’s.

Brzezinski also served as an advisor to the Reagan administration relative to the effort to help convince Congress to arm the Nicaraguan Contras.

College Student or Intelligence Asset?
In 1981, Barack Obama began attending Columbia University, not even two years after the U.S. had begun aggressively supporting the Mujahideen in Pakistan with arms in response to the Soviet invasion in late 1979. Obama graduated in 1983, the same year that a covert and illegal CIA operation was said to have been run out of Mena, Arkansas – with the approval of then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton – that both armed the Nicaraguan Contras and brought cocaine back into the U.S.

This operation – once exposed thanks to a plane crash – blew the lid off the Iran-Contra scandal. Politicians charged with getting to the bottom of that scandal chose not to.


The transcripts of Obama’s days at Columbia have never been released. If the White House were interested in debunking or disproving speculation that Obama was really a CIA asset at the time, a release of the transcripts would go a long way in doing so. The other possibility is that a President who has been elected and funded by the American taxpayers, would like to keep those taxpayers guessing. This too is unacceptable.

This leads us to a figure named Wayne Allyn Root, a man from the same graduating class as Obama at Columbia. In 2013, Root attended the 30th 1983 Columbia class reunion. Here is part of what he wrote about his experience:

I am a graduate of Columbia University, Class of 1983. That’s the same class Barack Obama claims to have graduated from. We shared the same exact major- Political Science. We were both Pre Law. It was a small class- about 700 students. The Political Science department was even smaller and closer-knit (maybe 150 students). I thought I knew, or met at least once, (or certainly saw in classes) every fellow Poly Sci classmate in my four years at Columbia.

But not Obama. No one ever met him. Even worse, no one even remembers seeing that unique memorable face. Think about this for a minute. Our classmate is President of the United States. Shouldn’t someone remember him? Or at least claim to remember him?

Again, a refusal on the part of Obama to release his transcripts fuels speculation instead of putting an end to it. Obama is either hiding something by not releasing those transcripts or he is being unnecessarily coy.

His college transcripts are not the only things Obama refuses to relinquish. His passport records are also off limits. In the months prior to the 2008 election, the State Department revealed that the passport files of Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain had been breached. Within two weeks – while at a fundraiser in San Francisco – Obama inadvertently reinforced his bonafides as a prime candidate for Muslim Brotherhood liaison in the 1980’s while admitting that he traveled to Karachi, Pakistan in the same year he began attending Columbia:

“I traveled to Pakistan when I was in college–I knew what Sunni and Shia was [sic] before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee…”

In the days that followed, ABC News cited the Obama campaign as revealing that Obama traveled to Karachi in 1981 for three weeks. His passport records have not been revealed so the American people are left wondering how many trips Obama did take to Pakistan.

Upon allegedly graduating from Columbia, Obama took a job with Business International Corporation (BIC), a company that had been home to stealth CIA operatives according to a 1977 New York Times article by John Crewdson. In it, he identified BIC as one of a handful of publications that secretly used CIA assets:

…at least 22 American news organizations had employed, though sometimes only on a casual basis, American journalists who were also working for the C.I.A…

…Among the lesser known organizations were the College Press Service, Business International, the McLendon Broadcasting Organization, Film Daily and a defunct underground newspaper published in Washington, The Quicksilver Times.

At the end of the article, Crewdson quoted an unnamed, former senior intelligence official who was more than convinced that the practice of the CIA hiring reporters would one day continue:

“The pendulum will swing,” said one man who held a senior position in the C.I.A. for many years, “and someday we’ll be recruiting journalists again.”

When that day comes, he added confidently, “I will have no problem recruiting. I see a lot of them, and I know they’re ripe for the plucking.”

Was one of those recruits a young Barack Obama? If so, it would have happened during the Reagan administration. Would such a scenario help to explain the refusal of the Republican establishment to go after Obama?

1977 NY Times article revealing CIA hires operatives in mainstream media outlets (click for full article)

Barack Obama’s Brother Malik Obama
Then there is the matter of Barack Obama’s brother Malik Obama, who founded the Barack H. Obama Foundation (BHOF), named after Barack Obama, Sr. The BHOF was founded in 2008 inside the home of a one Alton Ray Baysden, a registered Republican. None of the paperwork was filed for years.

Then in 2011, presumably in response to a request from the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) to have the IRS investigate BHOF, Malik went to work filing illegally back-dated paperwork. Malik retroactively filed four years worth of 990EZ’s (2008-2011) and was ultimately approved in less than 30 days.

The 2008 and 2009 Forms – appearing to have been signed by Malik Obama – identify Baysden as the Executive Director, a position Baysden implies he never held. He also admitted he didn’t even know how to register a charity. In articles published at the time, he also appeared a bit reticent to talk about his role.

The 2010 and 2011 990’s list a man named Andrew Mboya as the Director of BHOF:


“Mboya” is an interesting name because in 1959, with the assistance and urging of then U.S. Senator John Kennedy, a man named Tom Mboya organized an airlift of 81 Kenyan students to the U.S. to attend college. During Kennedy’s presidential campaign, Mboya met with him.

JFK with Tom Mboya

One of those students was none other than Barack Obama’s father, Barack Obama, Sr., who was a good friend of Mboya. According to the JFK Library:

At a key point in the 1960 presidential campaign, a dynamic young leader from Kenya named Tom Mboya visited Senator John F. Kennedy. Mboya led a campaign of his own that would eventually bring hundreds of African students to America for higher education, including Barack Obama Sr., President Obama’s father. Kennedy’s decision to support the effort became an issue in the election and possibly a factor in his narrow victory.

As the Guardian once put it, if not for Mboya, Barack Obama likely never would have been born.

There are multiple reports and publications which claim that Tom Mboya was recruited by the CIA to help in the fight against communism in Africa. He was assassinated in Kenya on July 5, 1969.

It is not known whether Andrew Mboya is related to Tom but one thing is certain; the “Mboya” name is extremely significant relative to the Obamas’ family history.

Student Obama Benefits From Saudis as His Father Benefited From U.S.

Al-Mansour (L) and Alwaleed bin Talal (R)

In 2008, Percy Sutton, the former attorney for Malcolm X inadvertently revealed something he shouldn’t have when he told a television interviewer that a man named Khalid al-Mansour approached him to write a letter of recommendation to Harvard Law School for a then young Barack Obama in or about 1988. Al-Mansour was a close advisor and attorney for Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal; Sutton even appeared to reference Alwaleed, though not by name, when he mentioned al-Mansour’s lobbying on behalf of Obama.

That al-Mansour would know about – let alone lobby for – Obama at that time is significant, especially in light of the connections of Obama’s father to Mboya, who was a friend of JFK. Alwaleed represented the pinnacle of Saudi Royalty, not to mention the alliance between the U.S. and the Saudis over what was going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan during Iran-Contra.

Vernon Jarrett

In fact, it appears that the younger Obama may have benefited from a program similar to one his father benefited from as part of the Kenyan airlift. In a 1979 article based on an interview with al-Mansour, the father-in-law of Valerie Jarrett (the same Valerie Jarrett that would become President Obama’s closest advisor), Vernon Jarrett wrote the following:

Al-Mansour, 39, for several years has urged the rich Arab kingdoms to cultivate stronger ties to America’s blacks by supporting black businesses and black colleges and giving financial help to disadvantaged students.

In September, Al-Mansour said, he presented a proposed special aid program to OPEC Secretary-General Rene Ortiz when he visited OPEC headquarters in Vienna. Al-Mansour urged the establishment of a fund that would provide $20-million per year for 10 years to aid 10,000 minority students each year, including blacks, Arabs, Hispanics, Asians, and native Americans.

Any coincidences between al-Mansour, Obama and Alwaleed are further solidified as less than coincidences when Vernon Jarrett’s daughter-in-law is brought into the loop; she is Barack Obama’s most trusted advisor.

In 1988, the Mujahideen was seeing great gains in Afghanistan. If Obama had been an asset earlier in the 1980’s, the Saudis very well could have been aware of it. They were heavily invested in the defeat of the Soviets as well. Was Obama being rewarded? Or was he being groomed as a Manchurian candidate?

U.S. Alliance with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran to Defeat Soviet Union

Zia al-Haq (L), Brzezinski (C) and Jimmy Carter (R) circa 1979.

The stage for a U.S. alliance with Pakistan was set in 1977 when a man named Zia al-Haq was the beneficiary of a coup in that country. The rise of al-Haq also endeared him with Saudi Arabia. Though al-Haq became known as a ruthless Muslim fundamentalist, he helped lead the Mujahideen in its defeat of the Soviets. That was enough for the U.S. to choose him as an ally. That alliance started during the Carter administration and continued under the Reagan administration.

In 2010, Wikileaks revealed – via TIME Magazine – how the Saudis sought to spread Islam around the globe while aligning with the U.S. against the Soviets; it was quite the trade-off:

Saudi Arabia was a major backer of the military regime of General Zia ul-Haq, which seized power in 1977, embarked upon an Islamization campaign throughout Pakistan and was also a key U.S. ally.

To demonstrate just how close the alliance between the Saudis and Pakistan was at the time, consider the formation of the Rabita Trust in 1988. A wealthy Saudi and al-Qaeda financier named Abdullah Omar Naseef founded the Rabita Trust with al-Haq, who was the organization’s founding chairman. Al-Qaeda founder Wael Hamza Julaidan was the executive director of Rabita.

Al-Haq (L) and Reagan (R)

Halfway around the world and one year before al-Haq came to power in Pakistan, future close Hillary Clinton adviser Huma Abedin was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan on July 28, 1976. Two years later, the young Huma moved to Saudi Arabia with her family. That family included her Pakistani mother Saleha Mahmood Abedin, who would become a leader within the Muslim Sisterhood.

The same year Huma was born, Naseef met with her father in Gary, Indiana. Dr. Zainul Abedin would help found the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs (IMMA) with Naseef. This whole arrangement was commissioned by the Saudi Royal family. In fact, Huma herself served as an IMMA editor for over a decade. During that time, Naseef served on the advisory board.

Abdullah Omar Naseef

Historians and policy buffs will debate whether it was the right decision for the U.S. to align with such forces to overthrow the Soviet Communist scourge. The problem is that such decisions do not take place inside a vacuum.

As the U.S. was practically single-minded in its desire to defeat communism, the Muslim fundamentalists were thinking longer term; that thinking included the spread of Islam itself. Ironically, that’s precisely what the IMMA was founded to do. As the U.S. was aligning with the Mujahideen, the Mujahideen’s puppet masters and apparatchiks were hard at work, doing just that; they were spreading Islam. Huma Abedin – the woman who would find her way into then first lady Hillary Clinton’s inner circle in 1996 – had much bigger fish to fry.

Obama defends Abedin at White House in response to Bachmann's concerns about Abedin's Muslim Brotherhood connections.

On June 13, 2012, Rep. Michele Bachmann sent five letters to five separate Inspectors General (IG) expressing concern about Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the U.S. Government. Bachmann named names. Huma Abedin was one of those names and it was her name that caused a backlash even Bachmann wasn’t prepared for. The mainstream media, liberal Democrats, and establishment Republicans all came forward to denounce Bachmann and defend Abedin.

The controversy got so charged that even Obama felt compelled to intervene. On August 10, 2012, he openly embraced and supported Abedin against the charges.

Ailes (L) and George H.W. Bush (R) in earlier days.

It wasn’t just Democrats who defended Abedin. It was also establishment Republicans like Senator John McCain who did so. Fox News was far from fair and balanced on the issue, giving former Reagan campaign manager and Fox News contributor Ed Rollins – a platform to denounce Bachmann. Yet, Bachmann’s point of view on Abedin was not given voice on that network.

The reticence of Fox News to provide that platform can be explained in part, by the network’s allegiance to the Republican establishment. Roger Ailes ran the George H.W. Bush media campaign in 1988 and Prince Alwaleed was the second largest shareholder of Fox News parent company Newscorp. at the time. In light of Bush’s embrace of the Mujahideen’s political operatives in 1990, coupled with the subsequent, stealth havoc those operatives have wrought in the decades since, the powers that be at Fox News can’t afford to have the ugly truth told.


The vitriol of Rollins toward Bachmann was particularly off-putting; Bachmann raised legitimate concerns. Why would the former manager of Reagan’s 1984 Presidential campaign so smear the woman whose campaign he managed nearly 30 years later? As it turns out, Rollins is identified as a Senior Advisor for Teneo Holdings. This is the same Teneo Holdings that Abedin has done extensive work for. Douglas Band, the founder of Teneo, is largely considered to be as close a confidante to Bill Clinton as Huma is for Hillary. As such, Abedin and Band know each other quite well.

The silence of politicians from both political parties relative to Abedin’s Muslim Brotherhood connections – save for Bachmann in 2012 – has been deafening. Consider Naseef’s Rabita Trust, co-founded with al-Haq and led by an al-Qaeda founder. Abedin has had access to the halls of U.S. power since 1996 and is an underling of Naseef. Going after her now would implicate many, for their decades of silent complicity.

Speaking of 2012, the Republican nominee for president – Mitt Romney – took a dive on many fronts. One of them was the issue of Abedin, a topic he completely avoided. Bachmann’s findings were presented to Romney on the campaign trail and – as he did in his third debate with Obama – Romney took a dive.

It’s worthy of note that one of the voices in the Romney campaign’s ear was John Sununu. In 2013, Sununu rubbed elbows with stealth jihadists at the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP). Many of them were sympathetic to Abedin.


As the Carter and Reagan administrations were using Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Mujahideen to defeat the Soviets, it was the U.S. that was being played in many ways, not overtly but by long-term planning. Seeds were being planted that would one day release toxic spores for U.S. policy makers who couldn’t see past the wet dream that was the fall of the Soviet Union.

All the while, the Muslim Brotherhood operatives were busy, working to neuter U.S. power brokers by putting them in check mate.

History Repeating Itself
The behavior of leaders in America closely resembles that of a disgraced French General named Henri Philippe Pétain. In World War I, Pétain was regarded as a French war hero. Then, as the Nazis grew in strength and began conquering France in World War II, an aging Pétain was essentially called out of retirement to save his country once again.

That’s not what happened. Pétain betrayed his country and was convicted of treason after the war; he died in prison. Very revealing – in light of the behavior of today’s leaders – was Pétain’s defense. At trial, he insisted that while he outwardly collaborated with the Nazis, he inwardly wanted to help France and do the right thing. In the news report below about the trial, the narrator says something very salient.

As the trial proceeded, it became apparent to those who watched that it was more than Pétain who was on trial. Instead, an entire “way of thinking” was on trial. That way of thinking insidiously infected the leaders of France who preferred being perceived as incompetent than cowardly. They were so complicit in their own country’s demise that they feared the consequences of treason more than they feared the consequences of defeat:

Here is perhaps the most important audio excerpt from the above news report:

Audio Player

In Pétain’s day, the Nazis were the enemy he acquiesced to. In the early 21st century, western leaders are acquiescing to the Islamic world, which was aligned with the Nazis during World War II. The side of human nature displayed by Pétain is on display in no small order today.

Increasingly clear is that today, an “indifference to defeat” exists among the political establishment. If that indifference is similar to Pétain’s, it means there are many who prefer an authoritarian state over being held accountable for what they’ve done.

It’s a way of thinking held by a brood of vipers in Washington, DC.

birth of iraq


Gertrude Bell and the Birth of Iraq

by Chris Calder

America has its Founding Fathers; the modern nation of Iraq has a peculiar kind of Founding Mother.

Or maybe she was a national nanny. For Iraq’s Founding … Someone … was not Iraqi, but a red-haired, Oxford-educated mountaineer, an honored poet and opponent to suffragettes, an Arabist and proud British imperialist named Gertrude Bell.

Gertrude Bell designed — literally drew onto the map — the country that America is now trying to (perfectly Orwellian term) “rebuild.” She did so via her mastery of Arabic, Persian and Turkish; her deep knowledge of the Arab tribes and friendships with their sheiks; through the immense influence she carried with the leadership of the British Empire.

She was one of the world’s most powerful women at the beginning of the 20th century, a key shaper of the version of the Middle East over which our soldiers are killing and dying, for us, right now.

Even that brief, incomplete resume hints at why Bell’s name rarely makes the feminist pantheon. But why the mention of Gertrude Bell or of the West’s first invasion of Iraq is so rare these days is harder to understand.

Though maybe, in this age of the Memory Hole, not.

* * *

Gertrude Bell crossed Arabia when that land was largely a blank patch on Europe’s maps. She traveled alone, it’s said, but that’s not counting the train of servants, from cooks to armed guards to muleteers, all Arab, who followed her across the desert over more than a decade. Miss Bell, as she was known formally for her 58 years, dined on china even when she traveled by camel. And she always sent for the latest fashions from London even after she had lived as Khatun, a particular kind of great lady, in Baghdad for many years.

Bell very genuinely fell in love with the people of Arabia. (When she first visited the area, the land was a set of vilayets, or provinces of the Ottoman Empire). Bell’s fascination and affection were returned, and she received a warm welcome from people who might have shot a lone male British explorer.

Bell’s biographer, Janet Wallach, recounts the first journey Bell took from Jerusalem to Damascus in 1900: “In the heart of the mountains called the Jebel Druze, she rode through one tiny village after another, causing a stir as she passed the white-turbaned, black-robed men. At Miyemir she stopped to water her horse. The veiled women, dressed in their long blue and red robes, were filling their earthenware jugs, dipping them into the pool. Gertrude dismounted, and a young man about 19 approached; like all the Druze men and women, he had outlined his enormous eyes in black kohl. The beautiful boy took her hands, and, to her surprise, kissed her on both her cheeks. Other men followed, shaking her hand, eager to inspect the stranger.”

Bell was hooked, it was clear, when she wrote at the end of her trip from Damascus, “with the desert almost up to its gates, and the breath of it blowing in with every wind, and the spirit of it passing in through the city gates with every Arab camel driver. That is the heart of the whole matter.”

Six times over the next 12 years, Bell rode across Arabia, until she knew the doings of the sheiks better than those of British society. She became a renowned figure among the tribes, a Person, she liked to say. She got to know the intricacies of their alliances and rivalries:

“For the moment, at least, the Beni Shakr were her friends. Five years earlier they had called her a “daughter of the desert.” Now, as she lunched in her tent, enjoying a meal of curry served on fine china, washing it down with a glass of wine, one of the Beni Shakr joined her, and they sat together, drinking coffee, smoking her Egyptian cigarettes, and talking of the bloodthirsty Druze. At nightfall the desert turned cold and wet; she wrapped herself in her fur, slipped a hot water bottle between her sheets, and went to bed.”

A few days later Bell visits the very same Druze at their desert castle and finds them readying for battle against the Beni Shakr, whose tents she has just left.

“One (Druze fighter) noticed Gertrude. He strode up and raised his sword above his head. ‘Lady!,’ he cried, ‘the English and the Druze are one’.”

“‘Thank God!,’ she answered, ‘We too are a fighting race’.”

* * *

In 1914, the British indeed brought war to Mesopotamia. From their long-held (since the 17th century) base in Basra, they sent an army north along the Euphrates River toward Baghdad. But here’s where things stop looking like an old Imperial expedition and more like the nightmare battlefield of the 20th century. Over three months, the British lost 25,000 men during a siege at Kut. It was, at the height of British power, the nation’s biggest military disaster to that time.

Iraq was a battleground in the First World War for one reason.

As Wallach describes the British position at the beginning of the war, their “unrivaled navy delivered goods around the world and brought home three-quarters of (the country’s) food supply. To maintain its superiority, in 1911 the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, had ordered a major change, switching the nation’s battleships from coal-burning engines to oil. Far superior to the traditional ships, these new oil-burning vessels could travel faster, cover a greater range, and be refueled at sea; what’s more, their crews would not be exhausted by having to refuel, and would require less manpower.”

Wallach continues, “Britain had been the world’s leading provider of coal, but she had no oil of her own. In 1912, Churchill signed an agreement for a major share in the Anglo-Persian oil company, with its oil wells in southern Persia and refineries at Abadan, close to Basra. It was essential for Britain to protect that vital area…”

* * *

Unlike the American invasion 90 years later, the British drive to Baghdad was slow and excruciating. But after three months they captured the city and for a while things were calm, especially when compared to Baghdad today. Gertrude Bell, for instance, was given the title “Oriental Secretary” to the British government three months after the invasion ended. She rode her horse alone along the banks of the Euphrates River each morning at 6am before dressing for work.

At the office, she met with an endless stream of sheiks and religious leaders. Relying on her decade-plus experience in the desert, she discovered from these men, always men, their views about the future of the country, their needs, the needs of their people, and reported all to the British High Commissioner.

But the British either wouldn’t or couldn’t put together an Iraqi government. In truth, they weren’t totally convinced they wanted to sponsor an Iraqi state at all. Churchill favored letting most of Iraq go, fortifying only the oil fields near Basra.

A year and a half went by under British military rule before the tribes along the Euphrates rebelled. In a town called Dair, British soldiers arrested the mayor. The townspeople, Wallach writes, “blew up the oil dump, wounding 90 people, released all the prisoners from the jail and attacked the British army barracks. When the Political Officer tried to make peace in the town, the sheiks attacked him in a fury. Just as they were about to kill him, two British airplanes flew overhead, spraying the town with machine-gun fire.”

Iraq was Britain’s testing ground for the use of aircraft against guerrilla fighters and their villages (another of Churchill’s pet ideas). The British spent the 1920s, 30s, 40s and most of the 50s bombing and strafing desert outposts in Iraq. What does it say about the nature of progress that Britain and the US spent the 1990s doing essentially the same thing?

* * *

Examining Britain’s occupation of Iraq for clues to the future of America’s is a murky prospect. One interesting detail, though, is that a couple of years after Britain’s occupation began, the British public rebelled against the cost of the war. Officials started looking for ways to cut costs quickly. Churchill (again Churchill) called a conference in Cairo, inviting 40 experts on Mesopotamia: 39 men and Gertrude Bell.

Many officials wanted to pull out of Mesopotamia altogether, except for the Persian Gulf. Bell and a few others, like T.E. Lawrence, argued for making and backing an Arab kingdom in Iraq. Bell’s party eventually persuaded Churchill that Arab monarchies with British power behind them would make for a more stable region, cheaper in the long run as a provider of oil.

After the Cairo Conference, according to Wallach, “almost everything (Bell) had wished for now had a chance of coming true. The country would consist of all three vilayets — Baghdad, Basra and Mosul; the Sunnis, Shiites, Jews, Christians and Kurds would be united under a Sharifian king; and Iraq, rich, prosperous and led by Faisal, would be a loyal protégé of Britain. If Gertrude could bring it all off, it would be more than interesting, it would be a model for the entire Middle East.”

* * *

Back in Iraq, “model for the entire Middle East,” British soldiers were putting down the rebellion, killing an estimated 10,000 Iraqis. Most towns went again under British control; those which didn’t were razed with explosives. But the Iraqi resistance would not die, until the British were driven out more than 30 years later.

Furthering its plan to establish Arab kingdoms, Britain chose the sons of Sharif Hussein, Faisal and Abdullah, to be its native allies in the Middle East. Faisal was put on a throne in Damascus and crowned ruler of “Greater Syria.” Abdullah was crowned king of Transjordan.

The Arab government in Damascus lasted just under two years. (Jordan exists to this day, with Abdullah’s great grandson on the throne.) But in 1921, the French kicked out Faisal’s administration. Presented with an out-of-work king (Faisal) and a country dangerously adrift (Iraq), the British decided to put the two together. They organized a long, public processional for Faisal from Basra to Baghdad, hoping that by the time the tour was completed, Faisal would generate enough excitement among the public to allow the British to crown him “by acclamation” and get away with it.

Once again, Gertrude Bell was in the thick of the plans. She attached herself as advisor to Faisal and oversaw everything from the daily round of appointments to the furnishings of the new royal palace in Baghdad.

* * *

The wrench in Britain’s plans was named Ibn Saud. A powerful chieftain who had also been in the pay of the British for decades, he refused to submit to Faisal’s rule. The lands that his tribes and flocks roamed were not Iraq, he claimed, but Arabia, and his own.

All other methods failing, the British decided to carve a kingdom for Ibn Saud out of Transjordan and Iraq. The following passage describing how the deal was made is worth quoting at length. It is Wallach’s description of the birth of the modern Middle East, with hints of how things could have been:

“Ibn Saud’s slaves prepared for (Cox’s) arrival. Lavish white tents of various sizes were pitched in the sand for sleeping, bathing, dining and entertaining; thick carpets were laid, luxurious furnishings installed and ample supplies of fresh fruits, Perrier water, Cuban cigars and Johnny Walker Scotch were stocked for (Cox.)

“The negotiations over the boundary lines went on for five days and nights while Cox, dressed in his suit, bow tie and felt fedora, served as a mediator between the robed representatives of Iraq, Kuwait and Arabia. Ibn Saud demanded that the borders be based on tribes, not territory, and according to his scheme, two groups — Fahad Bey’s Anazeh and part of the Shammar — would belong to Arabia, regardless of how far north they traveled. The two tribes would become a movable border, expanding and contracting, adjusting as they searched for grazing grounds; the border would change according to their nomadic needs. “East is East and West is West,” Kipling had written, and the two were never farther apart. To Cox and the British, the notion of property revolved around territory, but for Ibn Saud and the Bedouin, the idea of property was tied to people.

“No progress could possibly be made, and by the sixth day Sir Percy lost his temper. With only Major Dixon at the meeting, he berated Ibn Saud as if he were a schoolboy. At the rate both sides were going, he told the perfumed Arabian ruler, nothing would be settled for a year. Ibn Saud was on the verge of tears; Sir Percy Cox was his father and mother, he cried, the one who had made him and raised him from nothing to the position he held. He would surrender “half his kingdom, nay the whole, if Sir Percy ordered.”

With that, Sir Percy took hold of the map. Carefully drawing a red line across the face of it, he assigned a chunk of the Nejd to Iraq; then to placate Ibn Saud, he took almost two thirds of the territory of Kuwait and gave it to Arabia. Last, drawing two zones, and declaring that they should be neutral, he called one the Kuwait neutral zone and the other the Iraq neutral zone. When a representative of Ibn Saud pressed Cox not to make a Kuwait neutral zone, Sir Percy asked him why. “Quite candidly,” the man answered, “because we think oil exists there.” “That,” replied the High Commissioner, “is exactly why I have made it a neutral zone. Each side shall have a half-share.” The agreement, signed by all three sides at the beginning of December 1922, confirmed the boundary lines drawn so carefully by Gertrude Bell. But for seventy years, up until and including the 1990 Gulf War involving Iraq and Kuwait, the dispute over the borders would continue.”

* * *

With the creation of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq, the map of the modern Middle East was complete. The British managed to keep their royal surrogates in Iraq until 1958, when military officers shot the young king (Faisal’s grandson), his regent and prime minister.

Gertrude Bell stayed on in Iraq, though her influence waned. Faisal, once he settled into power, needed his motherly British advisor less. Gertrude Bell’s main project became the archeological collection that formed the core of the Baghdad Museum. She also took an interest in women’s schooling and, before the sanctions and war of the past two decades, Iraqi women indeed had relatively great power and independence within the Muslim world, based largely on education. Of course now, under America’s reign of light, both the museum and women’s economic position are trashed.

Gertrude Bell died in May of 1924 at the age of 58. Her achievements were already, literally, written in stone. But she died outside the glow of power, using an extra dose of sleeping pills, Wallach writes, “to wipe away the dreary future.”

One thing the British were never able to do is to inspire in the mass of Iraqis the vision of a western style democracy for their country. Now America seems to be failing at the same thing, and many Americans ask why.

Perhaps for an answer we should look homeward.

Plenty Coup was a Crow Indian chief. His people, like Iraqis today, were impoverished in their own land and ravaged by war because they stood between Western expansion and the prime resources of the day. Plenty Coup talked about a different war, in a different time. Yet his words resonate. In many ways it has been the same war for all these years:

The Americans, he said, “spoke very loudly when they said their laws were made for everybody, but we soon learned that although they expected us to keep them, they thought nothing of breaking them themselves. They told us not to drink whisky, yet they made it themselves and traded it to us for furs and robes until both were nearly gone. Their Wise Ones said we might have their religion, but when we tried to understand it we found that there were too many kinds of religion to understand, and that scarcely any two white men agreed which was the right one to learn. This bothered us a good deal until we saw that the white man did not take his religion any more seriously than he did his laws, and that he kept both of them just behind him, like Helpers, to use when they might do him good in his dealings with strangers. These were not our ways. We kept the laws we made and lived our religion. We have never been able to understand the white man, who fools nobody but himself.”

(This article is based almost completely on Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell, Adventurer, Advisor to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia, by Janet Wallach, Random House, 1996.)  autobiographical account…


reclaiming islam

Reclaiming Islam

Posted by on January 28, 2015 in Culture, Discussions |Leave a comment

For Discussion: Please contribute your comments to London Toast at the bottom of this page.The subject is particularly sensitive, so we welcome any fact checks on the history, as well as your views. (N.B. The following piece is emotively as well as intellectually challenging, using provocative words such as “cleanse”.)

late 19th-early 20th century --- A painting of the Battle of Karbala, which took place on October 10, 680 A.D., in present day Iraq. The battle consisted of the large army of Umayyad Caliph Yazid fighting against 72 soldiers fighting with Imam Husayn, a grandson of the prophet Muhammed. Iman Husayn was killed during this battle. | Located in: Brooklyn Museum. --- Image by © Brooklyn Museum/Corbis

A painting of the Battle of Karbala,  — Image by © Brooklyn Museum/Corbis

In the battle of Karbala, 48 years after the death of Muhammed, depicted in Al-Musavi’s painting, Husayn the son of Ali and grandson of Muhammed was killed along with his family and his followers by the armies of the Umayyad Caliphate.It was the most crucial moment in the split between Shia and Sunni Islam. ( Image source: Brooklyn Museum ).

“Many people are understandably asking: What is the true nature of Islam? Is it that although there are many peaceful Muslims, Islam itself is not peaceful?

Classical Islamic law, developed over the history of Islam, is definitely not peaceful or benign, and therefore not suitable for this age; neither are its violent and grotesque progeny, such as Islamism and jihadism.

If Islam is a religion that stands for justice and peaceful coexistence, then this policy of jihad cannot be justified as sanctioned by a just and merciful creator.

Religious traditions have changed and evolved over time, therefore it is the duty of us Muslims, using reason and common sense, to reinterpret the scriptures to bring about an Islam that affirms and promotes universally accepted human rights and values. It is our duty to cleanse the traditional, literalist, classical Islam and purify it to make it an Islam that is worthy to be called a beautiful religion.

Looking at a year of beheadings by ISIS, child grooming abuses in the UK, the hanging judges of Iran, slaughtering and enslaving of Christians in Egypt and Africa, and various murders justified in the name of Islam throughout the world, many people are understandably asking: What is the true nature of Islam? Is it that although there are many peaceful Muslims, Islam itself is not peaceful?

If, for us Muslims, Islam is a religion of peace, justice, and mercy, how come the militants, who claim to be staunch Muslims — who are ready to die for Islam and who claim to have established a state in the name of Islam in Iraq and Syria by sacrificing blood and lives — are beheading journalists and aid workers, and enslaving religious minorities, all by citing Islamic Sharia Law?

The Taliban (literally “students”) in Afghanistan have persecuted religious minorities and inflicted human right abuses against women — and men who disagreed with them or who have fallen afoul of their laws. Boko Haram has also carried out human rights abuses in the name of Islam and Islamic law. In Malaysia, where “moderate” Islam is practiced, Christians cannot call God “Allah.” In Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, and supposedly an ally of the U.S., the policies and practices carried out by the state, and the Wahhabi religious scholars in the name of Islam, are woefully anti-humanitarian. Many Muslims from around the world perform the religiously required pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina; a number of them are on the dole of the petrodollars provided by the Saudis, but do not show much concern for the human rights abuses carried out in the name of Islam by the Saudi establishment.

Many devout Muslims, like monks in monasteries, are busily trapped in performing rites and rituals, and ceding ever more ground to extremists, without adequately reflecting on the history of Islam, the nature of God and the nature of revelation from God.

We Muslims commonly believe that God sent prophets and messengers to every corner of the world since the beginning of creation to guide humanity, but that most, if not all, of the messages got corrupted and adulterated, one way or another, except the message of Islam. But it seems natural that most people, Muslims or not, also see their own religion as the only true religion. But there are religious traditions, both in Islam, such as many Sufi sects, and in other religions, that affirm the transcendental unity at the core of almost all religious traditions, and that are inclusive and universalistic in nature.

Also, Muslims learn from the Qur’an that hubris, or arrogance, is the greatest sin committed by the Satan, and that it was arrogance that led him to disobey God. God asked him to bow to Adam, the first human, but Satan refused out of arrogance.

The current question seems to be: Did Muslims go astray very early on, when they conquered many lands and developed a massive doctrine and theology of intolerance (it took about 300 years to solidify Sharia after the passing of the Prophet Muhammad), due to pride and quest for power — the very arrogance that is prohibited? Although many conversions to Islam did not occur by the sword, the first four caliphs (the so-called “Rightly Guided”) and their successors did in fact send out armies to conquer the world. If Islam is a religion that stands for justice and peaceful coexistence, then this policy of jihad — and the idea that peace and justice can be achieved only under Islamic sovereignty — with Muslim rulers subjugating non-Muslims, cannot be justified as sanctioned by a just and merciful Creator.

The Islamic tradition is not monolithic; there are countless variants. Many of the Islamic Sufi traditions, for instance, that are often relentlessly condemned by the extremists, who likely see them as a threat to their own power — are notable for their pluralistic and humanistic nature, even though, historically, some orders may have been more martial than spiritual.

There have been many individual Muslims throughout history who are truly freedom-loving and who respect the rights of all human beings. Also, historically, a number of Muslim kings, sultans and emperors in Andalusia, Spain — and in the Ottoman Empire in Turkey, as well as in Mughal India — who treated their non-Muslim subjects kindly, albeit not with full equality. The Ottoman Sultans established a system of “millet” whereby people of other religious communities were allowed to live in the Empire in peace, although as second-class “protected” citizens, had to pay a head tax called jizya, but were otherwise freely allowed to follow their own personal laws and religions (Canon law for Christians and halakha for the Jews), without attempting to convert them by compulsion.

Maimonides, the early medieval Jewish scholar, for example, makes it clear that even in the “golden age” of Islamic rule in Spain, it could be a bit nightmarish for the non-Muslims; but if the rulers were reasonably kind and tolerant, and if the intolerant religious leaders were not in control, non-Muslims could live restrained but reasonably comfortable lives, as dhimmis (protected people), under Islamic suzerainty.

When Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, died in the year 632 CE, the Qur’an had not been compiled as a book. The messages said to have been revealed from God, or Allah, to Muhammad during a period of 23 years, during his prophetic career, were either orally passed down or written on animal bones, leather and scraps of parchment, without systematic collection or any adequate background or context.

The Prophet Muhammad himself did not provide any authoritative narration or explanation for the Qur’anic verses while he was alive. He also did not provide a method for selecting his successor, nor did he authorize his companions to record the Hadith (his actions and sayings) while he was alive. Later, therefore, subsequent generations would have to sift through mountains of dubious material, in an age of primitive record keeping — and during a period of discord, partisanship and violence, even among those who were close to the Prophet.
In the Battle of Karbala in 680 CE (48 years after Muhammad’s death), depicted in Abbas Al-Musavi’s painting, Husayn, the son of ‘Ali and grandson of Muhammad, was killed along with his family and all his followers by the armies of the Umayyad Caliphate. It was the most crucial moment in the split between Shi’a and Sunni Islam. (Image source: Brooklyn Museum)
The Qur’an and the six canonical Hadith collections primarily formed the twin pillars of the sources from which the scholars of Islam developed the principles of Sharia and the commandments of the Islamic laws. These try to give prescriptions and proscriptions for all human conducts imaginable.

But is it not possible that God wanted humans to use their brains and rational faculties, and that He did not provide step-by-step instructions for all the questions in life simply to be obeyed by humans without reflection or questioning? Although in Islam, there exists an important concept called ijtihad — independent reasoning in legal matters — the literalist, textual fundamentalist scholars declared this principle to be inoperable whenever there are clear-cut, decisive textual statements in the sacred texts on the issue in question. There is also a debate as to whether the gates of ijtihad were closed after the 10th century CE. While most traditional Islamic scholars and jurists still consider ijtihad to be the exclusive domain and prerogative of the preeminent religious scholars (mujtahid), and not for the general public, other scholars do not.

In the early days of Islam, right after the passing away of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslims splintered into many sects and factions. There were endless debates on the issues of religious doctrine, theology, and religious law, due to divergent interpretations of the Qur’an and the Hadiths. During that period, a group of theologians called the Mutazila, who based their theology on reason and rational thinking in conjunction with the sacred texts, waged an intellectual battle with the traditionalists, who gave absolute primacy to strict literal interpretations of the revealed texts: the Quran and the Hadith. Unfortunately for the future of the Islamic tradition, the literal traditionalists won the struggle, and went on to establish among the Sunni Muslims the four legal schools of Sharia, which became the dominant form of Islam from then onwards.

This mainstream, legalistic, text-bound, literalist Islam — now the dominant strain and controlled by the traditional Muslim scholars — is a mixture of both humanistic ethical values, combined with supremacist ethos, as it developed throughout the centuries. Due to its literalist tradition, it does not have the flexibility or the ability to overcome interpretations of the scriptures that are inimical to pluralistic and humanistic values.

Many equate this literalist, legalistic, text-bound Islam to be the “true” Islam. But just because it is the dominant form of Islam does not mean that it is the “true” Islam. A careful study of the history of Islam indicates that this view is utterly unwarranted. Religious traditions have changed and evolved over time, based on the understandings, interpretations, and practices of their adherents. Therefore, it is the duty of us Muslims, using reason and common sense, to reinterpret the scriptures to bring about an Islam that affirms and promotes universally accepted human rights and values.

Classical Islamic law is a synthesis and deduction of rulings from the Quran and Hadith by the medieval scholars from when Muslims were powerful. Beheadings and enslavement at that time were widespread among many societies, not unique to the practice of Islam. Muslims believe that in the Quran we have a document from God that provides ethical guidance and moral lessons from the Prophet and his followers in the language many at the time understood. They allude to the practices and conduct suitable for the time and place in which the Prophet lived and was trying to influence people.

There were many actions of the Prophet recorded in the “authentic” Hadith, such as holding slaves, carrying out beheadings and so on, which are not easy to accept according to the present day norms, to say the least. But for the textual literalists, there is no question that whatever the Prophet did, as recorded in the approved texts, must be accepted and emulated without any question or hesitation. And in order to strengthen their text-based legal methodology, the textual literalists elevated the status of the so called “authentic” Hadith to the status of the divine scripture, almost equivalent to the status of the Qur’an, believed by almost all Muslims to be the literal word of Allah relayed to the Prophet.

For the rest of us, however, first, we need to realize that the “approved” texts were recorded by early methods and at least after a century or two after the passing of the Prophet in an age of violent sectarian conflicts. Therefore, it might be wise to take with a big grain of salt, the accuracy of these so called “approved” texts. Second, if the actions of the Prophet were so important as exact examples, then, why didn’t he or his God make sure that authoritative, unambiguous, contemporary recordings of the actions were written down for posterity to follow? Either the Prophet or his God, or both, did not have foresight, or more than likely, these actions were not meant to be exactly copied and emulated, especially in different times, different places, and under vastly different circumstances.

While it is true that there are eternal principles in the Qur’an and the Hadith, such as peace, justice, and mercy, which are universal values, and therefore, incumbent on everyone to believe and practice at all times and at all places, it is also true that it is a betrayal of the true spirit of Islam to assume that God wanted Muslims to follow the Prophet blindly, slavishly, without thinking and reflecting. Is it possible, therefore, that the close-minded, literalist and text-bound tradition is a betrayal of the true spirit of Islam?

The pitfalls of the literalist methodology can be illustrated by looking at any textual document. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, for example, affirms freedom of speech. But we know that, to “shout fire in a crowded theater” (when there is no fire), for example, endangering public safety, does not fall under the protection of the First Amendment. Any text by its very nature is finite and limited, and therefore cannot be comprehensive. Therefore, to be a strict literalist is to live in constant conflict with common sense and with practical reason. According to the literalist classical scholars of Islam, “justice” is achieved only by being obedient to God and reason by itself is not to be trusted to decide what is just and unjust.

For these literalist, text-bound scholars, there are no objective standards of right or wrong by using reason alone. In the mind of the literalists, the killing of innocents, for example, is wrong not because we learn from experience or reason, but because that is what God says in the Qur’an and the Hadith. According to them, God could just as well have said, for example, in the scripture that the killing of innocents is right, and therefore that makes it right.

The god of these scholars is not therefore a merciful and rational God but a god of power whose motto is: “Might is right!” In order to preserve the absolute omnipotence of God, these scholars sacrifice rationality as an essential attribute of God.

As Prof. Robert Reilly writes in the article, “The Formidable Philosophical Obstacles to Islamic Constitutionalism”:

“There is a realm within which man is legitimately semi-autonomous and sovereign. Through his reason, he is called upon [to] figure out how to rule it and himself … God [in the Judeo-Christian tradition] speaks to man with equal force through his reason, as He does through revelation. Reason, therefore, is morally legitimate as a source of law. What is reasonable is morally good.”

If we Muslims want to stand up and challenge the literalism of the text-bound scholars and the militants who are beheading, enslaving and persecuting people around the world alike, we need to develop an interpretative methodology that balances revelation with reason as in other rational, religious traditions.

The militants are idealistic and impatient, and part of an ideology that has essentially become frozen in time, while the other Muslims are more careful, patient and circumspect, and dwell in a tolerant society without resorting to violence.

That is why many of these literalists believe that peace, justice and mercy (all interpreted according to the classical Sharia) can be achieved only under the sovereignty or hegemony of Islamic rule. And that is also why the OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference, since renamed the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), in 1990 came up with its own version of a human rights declaration, the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam — based on Sharia law — to supersede the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, approved by the UN in 1948.

So the vital question is: Can’t we Muslims also learn from all of human history and all of nature — the arts and the sciences — which are also created and originated from God, as in “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” as stated in the U.S. Declaration of Independence?

There are signs and hints in the natural world that provide guidance from the Creator on a continuing basis, even after all the textual revelations. Although God has stopped sending His messages (revelations) through human messengers, He is still providing messages, in the form of natural phenomena in the world He created, so that human beings can experiment and learn, and benefit — using reason and reflection.

Slavery and beheadings may have been suitable at some time in human history. But just because it is in the scriptural texts, it does not mean that we need to follow them to the letter so literally, for eternity — unless we happen to agree with the literalists, and reject using reason and thinking to learn from the natural sciences and the experiences of human history.

A religion that prescribes killing or criminalizing apostates; condones institutionalized slavery, stoning, beheading, flogging, and amputations; which restricts and criminalizes freedom of speech and freedom of religion; commands the stoning of adulterers; develops a theory of constant state of war with non-believers; discriminates and demeans women and people of other religions is not only “The Religion of the Bigots” but it is also the Religion of the Bullies.

Classical Islamic law, developed over the history of Islam, is definitely not peaceful or benign, and therefore not suitable for this age; neither are its violent and grotesque progeny such as Islamism and jihadism.

If we Muslims believe that “true” Islam, which is genuinely aligned with the will of the Creator, must be fundamentally peaceful, comprehensively merciful and objectively just, then it is our duty to cleanse the traditional, literalist, classical Islam and purify it to make an Islam that is worthy to be called a beautiful religion.”

Article by Ahmed Vanya , based in San Jose, California, fellow at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD).

Penstorm, in response to the above article,  asks:  ” The time has come for all faiths to disavow the perversions which have crept in over hundreds of years. A simple, scholarly, contextualising of the books and scripts would be an important advance. Not one source is free from scrutiny. The Old Testament of the Christian bible advocated “An eye for an eye: a tooth for a tooth”. The New Testament contradicts the old one with the humble teaching: “When your enemy smites you, turn the other cheek”. Societies have continued to evolve since the books were written, and growing enlightenment continues to be needed in their interpretation. Many religions need to acknowledge their brutal pasts and presents.  For instance, will learned teachers now urgently put forward a fresh critique of Judaism, which, evidenced by the brutalities of the modern state of Israel, seems to have lost its way on its zealots’ road to Zionism? Their recent holocaust experience leaves them no excuse for today’s cruelty, especially against innocent children. If modern societies cannot learn from the horrifying lessons of history, what hope for civilised peace? Honestly?”

Karbala, the Chain of Events

Highlights of Karbala, History of Mu’awiyah and Yazid, events of ‘Ashura, and lessons from Karbala.

Highlights of Karbala

The events of Karbala reflect the collision of the good versus the evil, the virtuous versus the wicked, and the collision ofImam Husayn (the head of virtue) versus Yazid (the head of impiety). Al-Husayn was a revolutionary person, a righteous man, the religious authority, the Imam of Muslim Ummah.

As the representative of his grandfather Prophet Muhammad (S), Imam Husayn’s main concern was to safeguard and protect Islam and guide fellow Muslims. On the other hand, the staying power of the rulers (Mu’awiya and his son Yazid) depended solely on the might of the sword. They used brute force to rule over the Muslim empire even by all possible illicit means.

Imam Husayn as head of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) never recognized Mu’awiya nor his followers. Before him Imam ‘Ali (a.s.) had fought battles against Mu’awiya because Mu’awiya continuously violated the Islamic principles. Imam Al-Hasan (a.s.) had to swallow the bitter pill of making a peace agreement with Mu’awiya, in order to safeguard the security of the Ummah which was at stake.

When Yazid son of Mu’awiya declared himself as a ruler over the Ummah, he demanded Imam Al-Husayn’s (a.s.) allegiance of loyalty. Imam Husayn on his part flatly rejected Yazid’s rule and behavior, for there was no way Yazid could represent Islam, it would be blasphemy. But Yazid, the tyrant ruler over the Ummah, was adamant in his demand, and tension between the two parties increased day by day.

Imam Husayn was quick to realize that giving allegiance of loyalty to Yazid would serve no purpose but to jeopardize the survival of Islam. To safeguard and protect Islam, therefore, the Imam had no choice but to confront and collide with Yazid’s rulership irrespective of consequences. Since Yazid had ordered his commanders to seize the Imam’s allegiance of loyalty at any cost, even by brutal force, the commanders had to assemble a relatively large army, surrounding Imam Husayn’s camp in a desert called Karbala.

Then they cut off the basic necessities to the camp, including access to water. The camp consisted of Imam Husayn, his family, friends, and companions, all of whom stood fast and firmly with him. These braves would rather face death for the noble cause of Islam, than submit to the outrageous tyranny and the un-Islamic ways of Yazid.

Thus, Karbala proved to be a clash involving Islamic truths versus falsehood, right versus wrong, belief versus disbelief, and the oppressed versus the oppressor, faith against brute force. Karbala was about standing in the face of oppression, regardless no matter the cost. Thus, in Karbala, Al-Husayn the 57 year old grandson of Prophet Muhammad (S), sacrificed his totality and all he had, for one goal.

This goal was to let the truth triumph over falsehood eventually, and he did that brilliantly.

His goal was to foil the plan that Mu’awiya had expertly developed for his son, Yazid, which was to establish a permanent Bani Umayya rulership over the Muslim Ummah (even by sacrificing the Islamic principles), but doing it in the name of Islam. Brilliantly, Imam Husayn succeeded in foiling this plan and he exposed the disreputable nature of Bani Umayya though this was at the expense of his life.

Who Was Mu’awiya?

Mu’awiya was son of Abu Sufyan, a leader of Bani Umayya clan which was one of the clans of Quraish tribes. Mu’awiya grew up in a family known to be cunning, worldly, materialistic, and power hungry. Mu’awiya became Muslim only when Prophet Muhammad (S) triumphed over Mecca. Those who became Muslim in this manner were called Tulaqaa’, (a term scornfully used for the disbelievers who became Muslims to save their lives).

Mu’awiya, his father Abu Sufyan, his mother Hind, and his brother Yazid son of Abu Sufyan were all Tulaqaa’; Mu’awiya never forgot this stigma for the rest of his life; he could never shake it from his mind, thus a feeling of malicious vengeance always existed in his heart. Mu’awiya’s character and aspirations were entirely opposite to that of his sister, Umm Habiba, who was one of the wives of the Holy Prophet (S). Unlike Mu’awiya, Umm Habiba was a sincere believer and a pious person.

Omar, the second Khalifa, appointed Mu’awiya’s brother, Yazid son of Abu Sufyan, as the Governor of Syria when the Muslims captured that territory from the Byzantines. Within a few years, Yazid son of Abu Sufyan died of a disease, and Omar appointed Mu’awiya in his brother’s place as the Governor. Upon coming to power, Mu’awiya took advantage of the rich public treasury of Syria using it personally to buy favors and influence people.

Thus he built a large base of support among some tribes, almost to the fanatic level. He used this to his advantage in later years to form a network of informants (spies) against Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) and their devotees.

Jamal Confrontation

When Imam ‘Ali (a.s.) became Khalifa, he decided to remove Mu’awiya immediately, notwithstanding Mu’awiya’s strong base of support. At that time, Mu’awiya had been the governor of Syria, Palestine, and Jordan for 17 years. Mu’awiya became defiant, he refused to obey ‘Ali’s orders. Brazen and unabashed, he even declined to recognize ‘Ali or give allegiance of loyalty to him.

Also in defiance, Mu’awiya established a parallel government in Greater Syria, and started a campaign of treacherous accusations and malicious rumors against Imam ‘Ali (a.s.). He falsely blamed Imam ‘Ali for the killing of Uthman, the third Khalifa, and urged people to take up arms against the Imam. He spread these notorious accusations constantly to incite an uprising against ‘Ali (a.s.).

At the same time A’isha, the Prophet’s widow, became highly vocal against Imam ‘Ali (a.s.). She called for taking revenge for the blood of Uthman. As a result, a party of 3,000 insurgents supported by Sahaaba (Companions) such as Talha and Zubair, along with A’isha headed toward Basrah. The insurgents upon reaching Basrah clashed with the local authorities and finally occupied a portion of Basrah. Soon after the occupation these insurgents spread a reign of terror among the people, killing no less than 600 local Muslims, pilfering the treasury and stealing the arms supplies of the armory.

As a Khalifa in charge, Imam ‘Ali (a.s.) could not ignore the situation, he had to act and restore peace and order. He ordered his forces to proceed to Basrah. As the Imam’s forces reached near Basrah, Imam ‘Ali (a.s.) tried to persuade the insurgents led by A’isha, Zubair and Talha to change their minds and avoid confrontation, but he did not succeed. A battle broke out though Zubair elected not to fight; Talha was wounded then bled to death.

Thousands of people lost their lives. A’isha fell down from the camel after it was disabled; but luckily she was not hurt. Imam ‘Ali asked Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr, (A’isha’s brother), to take A’isha to Basrah for a few days, and from there to escort her to Medina with full honor and dignity. Upon leaving Basrah Al-Hasan (a.s.) and Al-Husayn (a.s.) accompanied the Prophet’s widow for some distance before bidding her farewell.

Imam ‘Ali (a.s.) stayed in Basrah for a few weeks to restore law and order. He compensated for the dead, and decided to forgive and absolve all who fought against him, exactly as the Prophet (S) had done when he triumphed over Mecca 40 years earlier.

Battle of Siffin

Upon returning to Kufa, Imam ‘Ali (a.s.) immediately prepared for the anticipated clash with Mu’awiya. The defying Mu’awiya continued to violate the Islamic principles by personally using the public treasury for espionage and buying peoples’ loyalty. The people of Syria fully believed him and the in false picture he presented. Ultimately this resulted in a confrontation called Battle of Siffin when the troops of the two sides met at Siffin.

The battle saw ferocious fighting for nine days when Mu’awiya’s forces were near collapse. His troops were fleeing and in disarray, and their retreat was in massive disorder, running helter skelter. Mu’awiya was alarmed, tense and frightened, preparing to run away, when he learned of a clever trick. The trick was indecent and unbecoming, it was to make the Holy Quran as an instrument and exploit it, to use it as a tool to his advantage.

Mu’awiya seized on this immediately and commanded his fighters to raise 500 Holy Qurans on tips of spears, in order to stun the troops of Imam ‘Ali. As jolting as it was, this maneuver did break the onslaught and the momentum of ‘Ali’s fighters, for they were very pious men. But Imam ‘Ali was quick to recognize this deceit, he knew how deceptive Mu’awiya was, and now that being near collapse, Mu’awiya wanted to save his neck at the expense of the Quran itself.

With that in mind, ‘Ali (a.s.) urged his generals not to halt, but to keep fighting since victory was almost at hand. Alas, ‘Ali’s generals and fighters were in shock, for the sight of the Holy Quran high on spear heads was startling to say the least. They could not take it. Not willing to fight, they wanted to accept Mu’awiya’s offer to halt the fighting and negotiate instead. The termination of the battle in this manner and the consequences thereof proved to be disastrous to say the least, especially for Ahlul Bayt and Islam.

It is said that there was a conspiracy between Amr Ibnil Aas of Mu’awiya’s side, and Ash’ath Ibn Qais, a General in Imam ‘Ali’s camp, who was working as a spy against ‘Ali, secretly working as an agent for Mu’awiya. In this battle 45,000 men lost their lives in Mu’awiya’s camp, and about 25,000 in ‘Ali’s (a.s.) camp.

Many men of high caliber from both sides died, especially Ammar Ibn Yasir, the great Companion of the Prophet (S), who was 90 years old and fought on Imam ‘Ali’s side against Mu’awiya.

After Siffin

Imam ‘Ali’s (a.s.) generals, who stopped the battle to negotiate with Mu’awiya, did not pick the right person for the negotiation. They unyieldingly refused to accept Imam ‘Ali’s choice, instead they picked Kufa’s Governor,Abu-Musa Ash’ari, an incompetent Governor who had been previously dismissed from office by Imam ‘Ali. Mu’awiya appointed Amr Ibnil Aas, a shrewd and cunning man, to be his representative in the negotiation. Negotiation between the two sides did not take place for about one year.

When the two negotiators came face to face, it was clear that Ash’ari’s capability was no match for his opponent Ibnil Aas. In the negotiations, Ash’ari proposed that, both Mu’awiya and Imam ‘Ali (a.s.) were to abdicate and to let the people hold election for the Khilaafah. Amr Ibnil Aas, a deceptive man at best, quickly agreed to Ash’ari’s proposal and asked Ash’ari to first announce the agreement.

Ash’ari stood up and announced, “O people, we have agreed not to consider ‘Ali or Mu’awiya for Khilaafah. You may choose or elect whomever you think is fit.” The cunning Amr Ibnil Aas stood up next to say, “O people! I won’t consider ‘Ali for the Khilaafah. But Mu’awiya, in my opinion, is the person for that office!”

Upon hearing this (and feeling deceived), the people screamed disapprovingly, an uproar was the result. Imam ‘Ali’s (a.s.) camp was in shock, they were double-crossed, deceived and lied to, they felt deeply cut. Amr’s double crossing and deception was simply beyond their imagination. They left the place bewildered and utterly disappointed. Because of this a large group of Imam ‘Ali’s supporters defected to form a separate group calledKharijies, meaning the Outsiders.

The Khariji became fanatically opposed to Imam ‘Ali and Mu’awiya. Some of their members met secretly in Mecca and drew a plan to assassinate ‘Ali (a.s.) in Kufa, Mu’awiya in Syria, and Amr Ibnil Aas in Egypt. Three fanatics took the responsibility, they were to attack their victims in the morning, the same day, as the would-be victims were going to the mosque to lead the morning salat.

Ibn Muljim attacked and fatally wounded Imam ‘Ali (a.s.), whereas Mu’awiya escaped with a light wound of his buttock. Amr Ibnil Aas was ill that day and his replacement was killed by the Khariji. Imam ‘Ali (a.s.), in wounded condition, conferred the Imamah and the reign of the Islamic nation to his 37 years old son Al-Hasan.

Peace Agreement Between Imam Al-Hasan And Mu’awiya

Imam Hasan (a.s.) faced extremely difficult conditions from the start. He observed that fear, anxiety and much distress were ever present in Kufa, Basrah, Medina and other towns. The anxiety, uncertainty and insecurity were caused by Mu’awiya’s ill dealing of sincere Muslims. Mu’awiya had spread secret agents all over to defame Ahlul Bayt.

Imam Hasan knew that his father Imam ‘Ali (a.s.) had stood like a lion in all difficulties and fought battles against Mu’awiya, but these confrontations had resulted in heavy casualties on both sides.

A mass scale family devastation was visible everywhere. Considering all circumstances, Imam Hasan (a.s.) discussed the matter with his brother Husayn (a.s.) and other relatives. He revealed to them that in order to end the bloodshed and to provide a reasonable safety and security to the Ummah, he would make a peace agreement with Mu’awiya and abdicate until after Mu’awiya’s death. After a few days of careful consideration, Imam Hasan (a.s.) accepted an agreement as per the terms dictated by the Imam and agreed to by Mu’awiya. Four noteworthy terms of this agreement were:

– People of Syria, Iraq, Hijaz, Yemen and other places shall enjoy amnesty against persecution,

– Friends and companions of Imam ‘Ali (a.s.) and all their women and children shall be protected from all dangers,

– Mu’awiya is to immediately stop the use of abusive language with reference to Ahlul Bayt (cursing Imam ‘Ali) after Salat of Jumu’a), and

– Mu’awiya shall not appoint anyone as his successor.

Once the treaty was signed, Imam Hasan (a.s.) and brother Husayn (a.s.) moved out of Kufa and settled in Medina. Over there both Imams lost no time in holding nightly meetings for Islamic discussions. The nightly meetings proved very successful and gained tremendous popularity. More people started to attend, to hear the Imams give of their fountain of knowledge on Islam and humanity.

The reputation of these meetings began to fly to faraway places. People from as far away as Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, and other distant areas travelled to Medina to learn about the Islamic values. As years passed, the knowledge thus given started to bear fruits. The number of Islamic scholars multiplied and increased considerably.

In the meantime Mu’awiya, unabashedly elected to disregard the terms of his treaty with Imam Al-Hasan.

a) He sent secret agents to terrorize, kidnap, or even kill innocent people specially those who were loyal to Ahlul Bayt (a.s.).

b) Instead of helping the needy with the public treasury, Mu’awiya’s governors and their surrogates used the public treasury for personal use, freely and excessively as they wished.

c) Freedom suddenly died, and dictatorship took its place.

d) Mu’awiya gathered a very large number of collaborators who unabashedly would do anything for money.

Mu’awiya’s Plot to Poison Imam Hasan (a.s.)

It was Mu’awiya’s ardent desire to impose his son Yazid (who had been named after his uncle) upon the Muslims by making him the succeeding Khalifa, despite the fact that Yazid was the playboy of the time, with many evil habits including gambling, heavy drinking, and indulgence in the pleasures of the flesh.

But the peace agreement would not permit Mu’awiya to appoint Yazid as his successor, (According to the agreement Imam Hasan would immediately become Khalifa upon Mu’awiya’s death). Therefore, it was obvious to Mu’awiya that, if Al-Hasan did not outlive him, Mu’awiya could do as he pleased. Thus Mu’awiya planned to kill Imam Al-Hasan in order to pave the way for his son Yazid to be his successor.

Mu’awiya sent one of his agents to contact Imam Al-Hasan’s wife Joda who was the daughter of Al-Ash’ath (once a secret agent for Mu’awiya against Imam ‘Ali in the Battle of Siffin). Joda was asked a small favor, i.e., to put a little poison in Al-Hasan’s food, and in return Mu’awiya would give her a large sum of money and also make her wife of his son Yazid. She found the offer too attractive to ignore, and foolishly agreed to accept it. A few days later, she mixed poison in honey and gave it to the Imam.

As soon as the Imam took the poisoned honey he became seriously ill. Sensing that his death was imminent, the Imam designated his brother Al-Husayn (a.s.) to be the third Imam. Although Imam Al-Hasan knew he was poisoned, he did not reveal that to anyone but to his brother Al-Husayn.

One thing Al-Hasan had wished was to have his burial by the side of his grandfather, Prophet Muhammad (S). Imam Husayn made all the arrangements to fulfill that wish but Mu’awiya’s governor over Medina did not let that happen and used military force to stop it. Imam Al-Hasan was 47 year old when he died of poisoning.

Medina was never the same without Imam Hasan (a.s.). Everyone missed him dearly. People at first did not believe Mu’awiya poisoned Imam Al-Hasan, but soon found out the truth.

When Husayn (a.s.) was designated as the 3rd Imam he was 46 years old. Imam Husayn (a.s.) carried on with his mission of teaching Islam as before. A large number of people kept coming to see him and to learn from him. This process continued for several years when people began to hear an ugly rumor that Mu’awiya wanted his son, Yazid, to succeed him.

Mu’awiya Designates Yazid as Successor

Mu’awiya began a campaign to introduce Monarchy into the structure of Islam. To have Monarchy, by force or otherwise is alien to Islam, an innovation in religion, simply not acceptable. Everyone knew that, for Islam does not subscribe to any form of Royalty through inheritance or Monarchy. In Islam it is supposed to be Shura.

Nevertheless, Mu’awiya sent his agents to the prominent members of the communities to obtain allegiance of loyalty to his son Yazid. But Yazid was evil, of the drinking type, incompetent, contemptible, and a pleasure-seeking person. People knew that. So the people protested vigorously. There was anger everywhere.

Emotions went sky high. To calm people down, at least temporarily, Mu’awiya decided to send his son Yazid to Mecca for the pilgrimage. Yes, Yazid did go to Mecca but only after taking alcohol with him as well as a chorus of girls for his entertainment.

Mu’awiya Dies

Mu’awiya was getting older day by day. At the age of 75, he became seriously ill. He was nearing death. He lay weak and lifeless as if something was choking and strangling him. He felt tortured and tormented, and continuously cried for mercy. He was in terrible pain. He wanted to die but death would not come close to him.

His conscience tormented him for the calamities that he brought upon the Islamic Ummah specially Ahlul Bayt. Mu’awiya suffered in agony for many many days. His suffering continued until he breathed his last. At the time of his death, the 30 year old Yazid was nowhere near him, he had gone for fun on a hunting trip.

(Please note that Mu’awiya’s brother was by the name of Yazid, and he had named his son after his brother.)

Yazid Becomes Ruler

Upon Mu’awiya’s death, Yazid, 30 years old, managed to impose himself on the people and become the Khalifa. At first people refused to accept him as a representative of the Prophet (S) and Islamic Ummah, but Yazid approached people in mosques for their favors. Like his father Mu’awiya, Yazid used all possible means like bribery, coercion, pressure, threats, and force to receive the people’s acceptance of him as the legitimate ruler.

Many people were worried, threats to their lives and livelihood was too menacing, so they grudgingly and reluctantly gave in. But, Imam Husayn (a.s.) and his family (who practiced Islam in its true sense), did not give in. As the true representative of Prophet Muhammad (S), Al-Husayn flatly refused accepting Yazid either as a Khalifa or a leader of Islam. Despite Yazid’s intimidating military power the Imam stood firm in his resolve and chose to challenge Bani Umayya’s authorities.

Yazid commissioned Waleed Ibn Ut’ba, his Governor over Medina, to ask for Imam Husayn’s allegiance of loyalty or else upon refusal, his head. Waleed invited Al-Husayn to a meeting for the purpose. Imam Husayn did not give his word at the meeting and decided to leave Medina along with his family to proceed to Mecca. When Al-Husayn reached Mecca he received 12,000 letters from Kufa urging him to go to Kufa to be their leader, and be the Khalifa. Imam sent an emissary, his cousin Muslim Ibn Aqeel, to Kufa to ascertain first-hand information about the situation in Iraq.

In the meantime Yazid spread a network of informants and secret agents in Mecca to assassinate the Imam during pilgrimage. Imam learned about the spies, and carefully evaluated the situation in Mecca. Imam Husayn knew that Yazid son of Mu’awiya had no regard for Islamic values and teachings, that he would do anything to enforce his tyrannical rule.

Imam Husayn also knew that giving allegiance of loyalty to an imposter like Yazid would certainly place Islam at great jeopardy. Therefore he decided to leave Mecca for Kufa to prepare for a confrontation with Yazid and his forces.

Many friends and relatives urged Imam Husayn not to go to Kufa, but he insisted on going. Imam Husayn, along with family, friends, and companions began the journey toward Kufa (1,100 miles) in a long caravan in the blistering heat of summer.

On the Way to Karbala

During the early phase of the journey the caravan met Al-Farazdaq (a famous poet) at a place called al-Sifah. Al-Farazdaq advised the Imam not to go to Kufa because though people’s hearts were with him (Imam), their swords would be against him. But the Imam continued with the journey, and he received the first letter from his emissary Muslim Ibn Aqeel with good news.

The letter indicated that the people were more than ready to welcome the Imam in Kufa and were looking forward to his leadership. Imam Husayn decided to send another emissary to Kufa with a message. The caravan kept proceeding toward Kufa. Many days passed but the Imam did not receive any more responses from Muslim Ibn Aqeel.

In Kufa Muslim Bin Aqeel with the help of Mukhtar Al-Thaqafi and Hani Ibn Urwah continued to hold secret meetings with the supporters of the Imam. Within a short time the gatherings started to gain momentum. Yazid through his spies and informants learned about Muslim’s successes in Kufa. He appointed the tyrantUbaidullah Ibn Ziyad to replace al-Nu’man Ibn al-Basheer as Governor of Kufa.

Meanwhile, as Al-Husayn’s caravan got closer to its destination (Kufa), coming to a place called Zubalah, Imam Husayn unexpectedly received shocking news. The shocking news was about Muslim Ibn Aqeel and the person who provided him shelter, Hani’s Ibn Urwah, both of whom were arrested and beheaded by the Governor Ibn Ziyad. Mukhtar was also arrested and imprisoned and tortured by Ibn Ziyad.

Imam Husayn gathered his companions and disclosed to them about the bad news, and said, “Our Shi’a have deserted us, those of you who prefer to leave us may do so freely and without guilt.” Becoming scared, some companions left the caravan. Imam Husayn continued with the journey along with close companions and family members until he was face to face with 1,000 horsemen led by Hurr al-Riyahi representing the enemy.

The enemy army blocked the camps of Imam Husayn (a.s.) from advancing. Tension started to rise between the two. The Imam addressed the enemy explaining to them his motives for going to Kufa, that it was in response to the invitation of the people. He even showed them a bagful of letters he received from Kufa. Hurr said that he and his men were not the writers of those letters. Imam told them that if they did not like him to advance with the journey, he was prepared to return to Hijaz.

Hurr replied, “We are commissioned to follow you until we take you to Governor Ibn Ziyad, and suggested to the Imam to go towards a station which is neither Kufa nor Medina.” Imam Husayn found the proposal fair and turned the caravan away from Kufa. Hurr and his army marched parallel to the Imam. The two sides reached a village called Nainawa where Ibn Ziyad’s messenger (Yazid’s governor over Kufa) delivered a message to Hurr.

The message read, ” …force Husayn to a halt. But let him stop in an open space, without vegetation or water.” Hurr conveyed the contents of the letter to Imam Husayn.

The Imam, his family and companions defiantly resumed their journey and reached a place where another enemy force blocked their move and forced them to stop. When Imam Husayn learned that the place was called Karbala, he felt he reached the destination and ordered his camp to be setup. That day was 2nd of Muharram, Hijri 61.


Upon learning that his army had succeeded to lay a siege around the Imam’s camp, Governor Ibn Ziyad sent additional military units to Karbala and appointed Umar Ibn Sa’ad in charge. Imam Husayn (a.s.) opened a dialogue with Umar Ibn Sa’ad and convinced him to lift the siege so that the Imam with his family and companions could leave Iraq.

Umar Ibn Sa’ad liked the Imam’s proposal and sent a message to Governor Ibn Ziyad notifying him about the results of the talks with Imam Husayn (a.s.). Ibn Ziyad also found the Imam’s proposal acceptable. However before agreeing to it officially, Shimr Bin Dhil-Jawshan, opposed it strongly. As a result Ziyad wrote a letter to Umar Ibn Sa’ad commanding him to either go to war with Imam Husayn (a.s.) or be relieved of his duties as commander of the army and Shimr would not only replace him but despatch Ibn Sa’ad’s head to Kufa.

Umar Ibn bin Sa’ad got the letter. After pondering over the consequences he decided to fight Imam Husayn (a.s.). On the 7th day of Muharram he moved his troops closer to the camp and began to surround the Husaini camp. Ibn Sa’ad laid a blockade around the camp to cut it off from access to the river Euphrates, to deprive it of water in a move to force them to surrender.

Two days later, (on the 9th of Muharram), the enemy’s military forces closed in on the camp of Imam Husayn (a.s.). Imam asked his brother, Abbas, to talk to Ibn Sa’ad and request a delay of the aggression by one night. Umar Ibn Sa’ad agreed to the demand. He ordered his troops to delay the aggression till next morning.

Imam Husayn and his pious companions spent that night in prayers. During the night the Imam told the companions, ” ….the enemy is interested in none but me, me alone. I’ll be most delighted to permit each and every one of you to go back, and I urge you to do so….” All companions screamed in response, “By Allah, never, never! We will either live with you or die together with you.”


Finally, the day of Ashuraa dawned upon the soil of Karbala. It was the day when Jihad would be in full bloom, blood would be shed, 72 innocent lives would be sacrificed, and a decisive battle would be won to save Islam and the Ummah.

It had been a few days since the water supply was cut off by the enemy. Children were crying for water, the women were desperate for water, Zainul-Abideen, the son of Imam Husayn (a.s.) was sick with fever. The suffering from the thirst was too painful to bear. And despite this, not a single person in the camp made any complaints or even questioned the mission of Imam Husayn. Each member supported the Imam wholeheartedly and enthusiastically.

Next morning Imam Husayn (a.s.) went out of the camp and saw Umar Ibn Sa’ad mobilizing his troops to start the hostility. He stared at the intimidating army, and as large as it was Imam Husayn showed no signs of compromise. Imam Husayn raised his hands in prayer:

“O Allah! It is Thee in whom I trust amid all grief. You are my hope amid all violence. Thou are my refuge and provision in everything that happens to me. How many grievances weaken the heart, leaving me with no means to handle them, during which friend deserts me, and enemy rejoices in it. I lay it before Thee and complain of it to Thee, because of my desire in Thee, Thee alone. You relieve me of it and remove it from me. Thou are the Master of all Grace, the Essence of Goodness, and the Ultimate Resort of all Desire.”

Before the actual engagement was to take place, Hurr, the previous commander of the enemy force, felt his conscience violently stirring, he was in turmoil. Upon realizing the gravity of the situation, he suddenly broke away from Umar Ibn Sa’ad’s camp (along with two others). They rushed toward Imam Husayn (a.s.) to join his camp.

Hurr’s heart was jumping with joy, his mind relieved of an agonizing tension. Hurr’s defection worried Umar Ibn Sa’ad very much, lest others do the same and defect. So Umar Ibn Sa’ad threw an arrow in the air to indicate the start of the battle. This was the outset of a catastrophe and a tragic event that Mu’awiya had once conceived to happen.

The Battle

Imam Husayn’s supporters insisted on being the first to fight. Therefore, they took the brunt of the enemy attack. The battle was ferocious. Within a short time the Imam’s supporters slay a large number of the enemy fighters; they were on the offensive and the enemy on the defensive. This caused apprehension and confusion in the enemy military, the 72 of Husayn’s against the 5,000 of the enemy (some say 30,000) being on the defensive.

So worried and nervous, the enemy commander-in-chief ordered his army not only to set fire to the Imam’s tents (which were occupied mostly by frightened females and children), but at the same time reinforced his fighters with more troops.

The heroes began to fall, they were men of valor welcoming martyrdom, and they fell one after another, for the enemy was overwhelming in number. By noon time the Imam stopped the fight to perform the Salat (prayer). By this time those left were mainly his family and a few supporters. They performed the Salat together. Two supporters were guarding the performers of Salat. The enemy was standing still, watching!! When Salat was finished one of the guards fell dead; there were 17 arrows in his back.

‘Ali Akbar, Husayn’s son obtained permission to fight and dashed toward the enemy. He engaged them in fierce fighting, falling on them like thunder, slaying numerous fighters. He continued to move forward, deep inside the enemy. The enemy was overpowering in number, it overwhelmed him cutting him with swords and spears, and his body became nothing but wounds gushing blood, until he died.

Imam Husayn (a.s.) rushed to the area and picked up the wounded limp body and brought it to the appalled camp. His sister and others in the camp were horrified and shocked at the scene.

Abbas and five other brothers of Imam Husayn went to fight. They also engaged the enemy in a fierce fighting, almost doing the impossible. Abbas went toward the river to bring some water for the thirsty children. While he was returning on his horse with the water, he was attacked by a large horde of the enemy, overwhelming and severely wounding him. As much as he tried Abbas could not save the water, he fell from his horse to breath his last.

Next to the battle field went the sons of Imam Al-Hasan and Zainab and their cousins (about 17 of them). They were all in their teens but each stood bravely, believing in the mission, facing a formidable enemy, and showed no less enthusiasm in their quest to embrace the martyrdom.

Al-Husayn and His Baby

By the afternoon 70 brave persons had sacrificed their lives in Karbala to save Islam. All had fought under nerve racking conditions, severe thirst, dehydration, exhaustion, and agonizing feeling of what would happen to the family of the Prophet (S) afterwards. Husayn endured all that and more, for he saw all his beloved ones brutally cut to pieces, including children. Remaining the only one, Imam Husayn was to face the enemy head on.

Precisely at that moment Imam Husayn heard his baby crying incessantly, agonizing because of the thirst. Imam Husayn’s love for his family was unbound, especially for a suffering baby. He held the six months old baby, his youngest son (‘Ali Asghar) in his arms, and appealed to the enemy fighters for some water for the baby.

Imam wanted to awaken their conscience and stir their human feelings but the stone-hearted enemy, instead of giving water, zoomed an arrow toward the agonizing baby and killed him instantly. Imam Husayn was shocked. He felt an unbearable wave of pain. The sight of the limp baby in his arms was agonizingly painful. He filled his palm with the blood of the baby, and threw it upwards toward the sky, complaining to Allah (swt),

“O’ Allah, O’ my Lord! My consolation is the fact that Thou in Thine Majesty are witnessing what I am going through.”

Al-Husayn by Himself

Imam Husayn (a.s.) was alone, one man against thousands. He took them on, fighting them bravely, and kept fighting, receiving many wounds in the process. Thousands of enemy fighters were surrounding him but none dared to move toward him.

The silence was broken when Shimr screamed for an attack, and then screamed again, threatening, and in response they attacked collectively, and one sword fell on Imam Husayn’s left wrist and deeply cut his left hand. The blood gushed like a fountain.

Another sword was soon to follow and it hit his upper back. Imam Husayn (a.s.) felt numb as he fell to the ground, bleeding profusely. He was near the point of shock, even though staggering he tried to stand by leaning on his sword. Then he received the fatal blow.

It was at this point, that Shimr whose mother was a disbeliever, came forward and severed Imam Husayn’s noble head from the body, the noble head kissed often by the Prophet (S)! Shimr and others had the audacity to carry it on the tip of a spear to Yazid, 600 miles away!

Umar Ibn Sa’ad ordered the horsemen to trample upon the supine bodies of Imam Husayn and all others killed, to disfigure them even further, as if the wounds, the bloodied bodies, and the headless forms were not enough.

For three days the exposed bodies of the martyrs were left lying in the desert of Karbala. Afterwards, the people of the tribe of Bani-Asad, who were not far away from the battle field, helped bury them.

Umar Ibn Sa’ad and his forces (representing Bani Umayya) took the women and children as prisoners in shackles, put them on camels, and proceeded in a caravan from Karbala to Kufa. At the forefront of the procession were the heads of Imam Husayn (a.s.) and his followers on the tip of spears. The scene was both grotesque and pathetic. This was the leftover of the beloved family of Prophet Muhammad (S), in such a deplorable unimaginable condition, all caused by people who called themselves Muslims!

Lessons from the Tragedy of Karbala

Karbala is the cruelest tragedy humanity has ever seen. Yet, the startling (though appalling) events in Karbala proved like a powerful volcano that shook the very foundation of Muslims, it stirred their consciousness, ignorant or learned alike. For sincere Muslims, Karbala turned into a triumph. The tragic event became the very beacon of light to always remind Muslims to practice Islam honestly and sincerely, to do what is right irrespective of consequences, and fear no one except Allah (swt).

On the other hand, Yazid never achieved what he and his father had planned to achieve, for within three years, Allah’s wrath fell upon him, causing him to die at the age of 33 years. And within a few decades the rule of Bani Umayya crumbled and came to an end.

The tragedy of Karbala taught humanity a lesson that standing for the truth and fighting unto death for it is more honorable and valuable than submitting to the wrongful, especially when the survival of Islam is at stake.

Distance between Medina and Karbala about 1,100 miles.

Distance between Ibn Ziyad in Kufa and Yazid in Damascus about 750 miles.

Average travel by camel per day: 30-45 miles.


1. Mowlana Rafiq H. Naqvi, Khutbas at Salat of Jumu’a, Idara

2. Mowlana Amir M. Faizi, Muharram Majlis, Idara

3. Dr A.S. Hashim’s Books: Ahlul Bayt and Al-Khulafaa Al-Rashidoon

4. Al-Balagh Foundation: Ahlul Bait #5, 1993 (Iran)


A’isha: Widow of the Prophet (S) and a leader during Jamal Confrontation.

Abbas: Brother of Imam Husayn, flag-bearer during Karbala.

Abu Sufyan: Leader of Bani Umayya, Mu’awiya’s father, was inveterate enemy of Islam.

Abu Musa Ash’ari: Governor fired by Imam ‘Ali, was selected to arbitrate after Siffin.

Ahlul Bayt: The household of the Prophet (s), consisting of ‘Ali, Fatima, al-Hasan, al-Husayn and the 9 Imams descending from al-Husayn (peace be upon them all).

Al- Farazdaq: A famous poet.

Al- Nu’man Ibn al-Basheer: Governor over Kufa replaced by Ibn Ziyad through Yazid’s order.

‘Ali Akbar: Son of Imam Al-Husayn, martyred in Karbala.

‘Ali Asghar: Baby of Imam Al-Husayn, martyred in Karbala.

Ammar Ibn Yasir: A famous highly revered Companion, on ‘Ali’s side, killed in Siffin.

Amr Ibnil Aas: A cunning deceptive person, in Mu’awiya’s camp, arbitrator after Siffin.

Ash’ath Ibn Qais: A spy General in ‘Ali’s armed forces, also the father of Joda (wife of Al-Hasan).

Bani Asad: The tribe that buried Al-Husayn and the other martyrs of Karbala.

Bani Umayya: A clan known to be power hungry, greedy, and materialistic, of Mu’awiya.

Basrah: An important town in south of Iraq.

Byzantines: The Christian superpower ruling over Syria and Egypt that lost to Islam.

Hani Ibn Urwah: The man who helped Muslim Ibn Aqeel in Kufa and lost his life for the cause.

Hurr Ibn Yazid alRiyahi: The Commander of the enemy force who defected to the side of Imam Husayn.

Ibn Muljim: The killer of Imam ‘Ali while ‘Ali was performing Salat Al-Subh.

Ibn Ziyad: The Governor over Kufa responsible for the atrocities of Karbala.

Imam: The 12 Divinely Commissioned leaders of the Ummah after the Prophet (S).

Imam AlHasan (a.s.): The second Divinely Commissioned Imam, and the brother of Imam Husayn.

Imam ‘Ali (a.s.): The first Divinely Commissioned Imam, and the father of Imam Hasan and Husayn.

Imam Husayn (a.s.): The third Divinely Commissioned Imam, hero of Karbala, brother of Imam Hasan.

Iraq: Country in which Imam Husayn suffered at the hands of its military.

Jamal: Battle imposed on ‘Ali by A’isha, Talha, and Zubair.

Joda: Wife of Imam Al-Hasan, who poisoned him when enticed by Mu’awiya.

Karbala: The site of the ugliest atrocities committed against Al-Husayn, his family and devotees, but Karbala saved Islam from disintegration in an indirect way.

Khalifa: Head of state after the Prophet (S).

Kharijies: The outsiders who turned against ‘Ali, then killed him while he was praying.

Medina: Famous town of the Prophet (S) in Arabia.

Mu’awiya: Of Bani Umayya clan, brother of Yazid, also father of the infamous Yazid of Karbala.

Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr: Brother of A’isha who fought on ‘Ali’s side during Battle of Jamal.

Mukhtar AlThaqafi: Loyalist of Ahlul Bayt.

Muslim Ibn Aqeel: Cousin of Al-Husayn and his emissary to Kufa, killed by Ibn Ziyad.

Omar: The second Khalifa who appointed Mu’awiya as the Governor over Syria.

Quraish: The clan of the Prophet (S).

Shimr Bin DhilJawshan: The killer of Imam Husayn, his name will remain in infamy.

Siffin: Battle imposed on ‘Ali by Mu’awiya.

Syria: Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine nowadays used to be called Syria.

Talha: Sahaabi, leader during Jamal Confrontation, killed during that battle.

Tulaqaa’: Denigrating term used by Muhammad (S) for the disbelievers who had to become Muslims after Mecca was triumphed over.

Umar Ibn Sa’ad: Commander-in-chief of the military forces against Imam Husayn in Karbala.

Umm Habiba: Sister of Mu’awiya, daughter of Abu Sufyan, wife of the Prophet (S).

Uthman: The third Khalifa killed by the protesting Muslims.

Waleed Ibn Ut’ba: Governor over Medina when Yazid son of Mu’awiya declared his rulership.

Yazid son of Abu Sufyan: Brother of Mu’awiya, governor of Syria for a few years until he died.

Yazid son of Mu’awiya: Son of Mu’awiya, the infamous despicable ruler, cause of Karbala tragedy.

Zainab: Sister of Al-Husayn, heroin of Karbala, losing her children for the cause.

Zubair: Sahaabi, leader during Jamal Confrontation, refused to fight during that battle.

why we lost

A 3-Star General Explains ‘Why We Lost’ In Iraq, Afghanistan

November 09, 2014 5:22 PM ET
Why We Lost:  A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars
by Daniel Bolger

“I am a United States Army General, and I lost the Global War on Terrorism.”

Those are the frank opening words of a new book by retired Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger, Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account Of The Iraq And Afghanistan Wars. Bolger continues:

“It’s like Alcoholics Anonymous. Step one is admitting you have a problem. Well, I have a problem. So do my peers. And thanks to our problem, now all of America has a problem. To wit: two lost campaigns and a war gone awry.”

In over 500 pages, the retired three-star general describes the conflicting agendas that haunted both campaigns, as well as the difficulty of identifying the enemy and the looming specter of Vietnam.

“The bravery and sacrifice of the people that I was privileged to serve with should be saluted,” he tells NPR’s Karen Grigsby Bates. “And the mistakes, the errors made by guys like me have to be accounted for and explained so we can learn and do better in the event we have to do something like this again.”

It’s a timely work, scheduled to be released on Veteran’s Day — a few days after Friday’s announcement that the president has authorized the deployment of 1500 additional troops to Iraq.

Bolger tells Grigsby Bates about the worrying signs he noticed at the very start of the campaigns, and why the conflicts were so challenging for the U.S. military.

Interview Highlights

On his earliest hints that the operations might not be successful

What I saw almost immediately was trouble figuring out who the enemy was. We knew within a day or two of the 9/11 attacks that it was al-Qaida, a terrorist network that had a headquarters element, if you would call it that, or a chairman of the board in Osama Bin Laden. And they were operating out of Afghanistan.

But that’s not who we ended up fighting most of the time. Sure, we went after al-Qaida at times. But we ended up fighting the Taliban, which were Pashtun people in Afghanistan who were trying to run that country. We evicted them in 2001. And we ended up fighting Sunni Arab insurgents in Iraq, who again — although they might make common cause with al-Qaida — those weren’t the guys who attacked us on 9/11.

On the lack of advance information about enemies on the ground

One of the things that we often say in the military is you have to fight for information, or fight for intelligence. So as we developed this picture and it became obvious that we were fighting an insurgent enemy mixed into a civil population that was suspicious of us anyway as outsiders (and that was true in both Afghanistan and Iraq), it really brought up the second point, which is what is the U.S. Military trained to do? And the U.S. Military is trained to carry out short and decisive conventional operations against a uniformed [enemy in formations].

So if you want us to go in and do something along the lines of 1991 Desert Storm, where we go against armored divisions and air force squadrons of the Iraqi forces and destroy them and capture the remainder, that’s what we’re trained to do. It’s very, very difficult to take even the great troops that we have and send them into a village to try and sort out which of the males there … might be insurgents, [or] who might be just people living in the area, [or] who might potentially be government supporters, when you don’t speak the language and you really don’t understand what’s going on in that village very well.

On what gave him confidence during the operations that they might still be successful

We really had two ways we could prosecute this war. The first was essentially to do what we did in Desert Storm. And both Afghanistan and Iraq started with a very short, successful, decisive U.S. initial invasion. And at that point, we had the option — we could have backed out and left it to the local people to sort it out. It might have been sort of ugly and it might have been sort of unsatisfying. But in both cases, we didn’t do that. We decided to stay.

“ We could have backed out and left it to the local people to sort it out. It might have been sort of ugly and it might have been sort of unsatisfying. But in both cases, we didn’t do that. We decided to stay.
– Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger

The only way you can win that is the local people have to take the lead, and they have to have the sure knowledge that they’ve got a long term U.S. commitment to help them in the things they have trouble with.

And when I made that statement at Veterans’ Day [in 2012, expressing confidence in the mission], I was hopeful that the United States would make a long-term commitment to both countries.

It seems like in Iraq, we’re gonna have a degree of commitment more than we probably thought we would in the fall of 2011 [when the U.S. Army withdrew from the country], based on their fight against ISIS and what we’re trying to do to help them now.

Afghanistan, though, I keep hearing the same noises about [how] we’re gonna draw down to just an embassy and a few hundred people there within a year or so.

On what he would have done

Given what I knew then, I would have recommended to do like we did in 1991 and turn it over to the local folks. You know, give them some backing, but not much beyond the embassy or maybe a couple hundred advisers or something. Certainly not hundreds of thousands of troops on the ground for ten years.

iraq maps showing religious and ethnic divisions

27 maps that explain
the crisis in Iraq

by Zack Beauchamp, Max Fisher and Dylan Matthews on August 8, 2014

The current Iraq crisis began in early June, when the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which already controls parts of Syria, seized much of northern Iraq, including the major city of Mosul. The conflict has roots in Iraq’s complicated history, its religious and ethnic divisions, and of course in the Iraq War that began with the 2003 US-led invasion. These 27 maps are a rough guide to today’s crisis and the deeper forces behind it.


    1. Iraq’s demographic divide

      Iraq’s three-way demographic divide didn’t cause the current crisis, but it’s a huge part of it. You can see there are three main groups. The most important are Iraq’s Shia Arabs (Shiiism is a major branch of Islam), who are the country’s majority and live mostly in the south. In the north and west are Sunni Arabs. Baghdad is mixed Sunni and Shia. And in the far north are ethnic Kurds, who are religiously Sunni, but their ethnicity divides them from Arab Sunnis. Iraq’s government is dominated by the Shia majority and has underserved Sunni Arabs; the extremist group that has taken over much of the country, ISIS, is Sunni Arab. Meanwhile, the Kurds, who suffered horrifically under Saddam Hussein, have exploited the recent crisis to grant themselves greater autonomy.

    2. Sunni-Shia balance in the Middle East

      This map of the region’s Sunnis and Shias is crucial for understanding the larger geopolitics of the Iraq crisis and how its neighbors are responding. Look at the swath of mostly-Sunni territory in northern Iraq and eastern Syria, both countries that are led by Shia-dominated governments; a lot of that grey area is under ISIS control. While no one in the Middle East is happy about ISIS’s takeover, the Shia governments are responding most forcefully, and the crisis is giving common cause to the Shia governments of Syria, Iraq, and Iran. This could exacerbate already-bad tension between the region’s Sunni and Shia powers, which have been supporting opposing sides in the Syrian civil war.

    3. The Kurdish region, in Iraq and beyond

      The Kurds — who are long-oppressed minorities in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran — have been fighting for their own country for more than a century. They’ve come closest in Iraq, where, since the 2003 war, the international community has pushed to give them an unprecedented degree of autonomy. Since the recent crisis began, they’ve taken even more de facto autonomy for themselves, and recently seized control of the oil-rich area around Kirkuk, which is part Arab and part Kurd. The big problem for Kurds is that all of Iraq’s neighbors want to prevent an independent Iraqi Kurdish state, because they fear their own Kurdish populations will then fight to break off and join them.

    4. Iraq’s enormous oil reserves

      Iraq has the fifth largest proven oil reserves of any country, after Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and Iran. Production has gone up since the fall of the Hussein regime; in February 2014, 3.6 million barrels were being pumped a day, while in 2002 about 2 million were pumped a day. In 1991, following the Gulf War, a mere 305,000 barrels were pumped a day, gradually picking up as the country recovered from its defeat. The oil is concentrated in the Shia south and Kurdish north, with Sunni regions to the west notably lacking in oil wealth. That makes it all the more significant that the Sunni ISIS rebels have targeted the country’s largest oil refinery and have suggested they plan on seizing much of the country’s northern oil fields; see the map of “ISIS’s 2006 plan for Iraq and Syria” below for more on that.

History of Iraq

    1. The Battle of Karbala, 680 AD

      Sunnis and Shias have gotten along fine for most of Islam’s history, but the Syria and Iraq crises are driving them apart today, and it helps to understand the historical roots of how Islam split along these two major branches and what it has to do with Iraq. In the 7th century, soon after the Prophet Mohammed who founded Islam died, there was a dispute over who should succeed him in ruling the vast Caliphate he’d established. Some wanted to elect a successor, while some argued power should go by divide birthright to Mohammed’s son-in-law, Ali. The dispute became a civil war, the divide of which began today’s Shia (the Partisans of Ali, or Shi’atu Ali, hence Shia) and Sunni. Ali was killed in the city of Kufa, in present-day Iraq. 20 years later, his followers traveled with Ali’s son Hussein from Islam’s center in Mecca up to Karbala, which is in present-day Iraq, where they were killed in battle and the war ended. Their pilgrimage is mapped here; it made Kufa and Karbala, and other locations in southern Iraq, the heartland of Shia Islam.

    2. The Safavid Empire at its height

      Almost a thousand years after Ali and Hussein’s deaths, the Persian Safavid Empire (today we would call it Iran) expanded to conquer much of eastern Iraq. This is still a source of distrust between the Arabs of Iraq and the Persians of Iran, and reinforces a belief that the much-larger Iran seeks to conquer or control Iraq. This is important for remembering that Iraqi Shia might share a religion with Iranians, but they’re still wary of Iran. But it’s an even bigger issue for Iraqi Sunnis, who sometimes believe that Iraqi Shia are secret pawns of Iran and will refer to Iraqi Shia as “Safavids.” The worse the ISIS crisis gets, the more Iraq’s Shia government turns to Iran for help, and the more that Sunni Iraqis fear a Shia plot against them.

    3. How the Sykes-Picot agreement carved Iraq’s borders

      You hear a lot today about this 1916 treaty, in which the UK and French (and Russian) Empires secretly agreed to divide up the Ottoman Empire’s last MidEastern regions among themselves. Crucially, the borders between the French and British “zones” later became the borders between Iraq, Syria, and Jordan. Because those later-independent states had largely arbitrary borders that forced disparate ethnic and religious groups together, and because those groups are today in conflict with one another, Sykes-Picot is often cited as a cause of warfare and violence and extremism in the Middle East. Scholars are still debating this theory, which may be too simple to be true. But the point is that the vast Arab Sunni community across the Middle East’s center was divided in half by the European-imposed Syria-Iraq border, then lumped in to artificial states with large Shia communities.

    4. Saddam Hussein’s Al-Anfal campaign against the Kurds

      In 1988, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons to kill tens of thousands of Iraqi Kurds in the country’s north. The attacks — which he named the al-Anfal Campaign after an episode in the Koran — were meant to put down Kurdish rebels who were fighting for autonomy. Al-Anfal killed in just a few months an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 civilians, although Kurdish groups say it was closer to 180,000. While the genocide is most infamous for Saddam’s use of chemical weapons, this map also shows the less-known but similarly brutal mass execution sites, where Kurdish families were slaughtered en masse, and resettlement camps. The US responded tepidly at the time — it was tilting toward Saddam in his ongoing war against Iran — but Al-Anfal later became a justification for international action against Iraq, and is a big part of why Iraqi Kurds were granted autonomy after Saddam was toppled in 2003.

    5. The 1990 Gulf War order of battle

      On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded its neighbor Kuwait following disputes about oil production, and installed a puppet regime to run the country. After several months of occupation, a UN-sanctioned international coalition led by the US used ground and air forces to forces Iraqi forces out. The ground campaign to push back the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was surprisingly short, beginning with the advance of coalition forces from Saudi Arabia into both Kuwait and Iraq on February 24, 1991. Within days Iraqi forces were retreating, and on February 28, President George H.W. Bush declared a ceasefire. The air war, however, began on January 17, and was devoted to destroying the Iraqi air force, anti-aircraft facilities, command infrastructure, and other military targets. Iraq responded by launching missile attacks on both Israel and Saudi Arabia; while Israel was not involved in the conflict directly, Iraq hoped to draw it into armed conflict and convince other Arab states to abandon the coalition. Israel exercised restraint, however, and the Arab forces remained part of the coalition. On January 29, Iraq attacked the Saudi city of Khafji, but was driven back by Saudi, Qatari, and US military forces two days later.

    1. The anti-Saddam uprisings of 1991

      In March 1991, Saddam Hussein looked vulnerable to many Iraqis after his defeats in the Iran-Iraq War and in the Gulf War that had ended just weeks earlier. Kurdish rebels in the north and Shia Islamists in the south rose up in rebellion, among others, to oust Saddam. President Bush, who had thousands of troops stationed mere miles away, called on Iraqis to rise up. Many Iraqis believed the rebels would receive US military backing, but the support never came. While the rebels made large advances at first, particularly in the south, within a few weeks Saddam had defeated them and slaughtered thousands in reprisal killings. The episode left Iraq’s opposition devastated, ultimately strengthening Saddam’s hold. Many Iraqis who had risen up felt betrayed by the US and by Bush personally. Some American foreign policy officials and scholars also felt the US should have used the opportunity to push all the way to Baghdad and topple Saddam, a belief they advocated for years and finally carried into the George W. Bush administration a decade later, providing part of the ideological basis for the 2003 US-led invasion.

    2. The no-fly zones imposed after the Gulf War


      The no-fly zones imposed after the Gulf War

      After the Gulf War, the United States, France, and Britain set up “no-fly zones,” in which Iraqi aircraft were forbidden to fly, in the northern tip and south of Iraq. The ostensible purpose of the zones were to protect the Kurdish and Shia populations from Iraqi air strikes after Saddam’s massacres. In practice, this meant British and American aircraft patrolling Iraqi airspace continuously between the two Gulf Wars. The Iraqi military would frequently shoot at the international aircraft patrolling the zones, though they never shot down a manned plane. After Operation Desert Fox in 1998, when the US bombed Iraq ostensibly as punishment for not complying with UN weapons inspectors, the low-level conflict over the no-fly zone escalated. Saddam offered a reward to anyone who shot down an American or British plane, while the Western forces began regularly targeting Iraqi anti-air and other military emplacements. This all goes to show that the US military never really left Iraq — the no-fly zone only lifted just before the Coalition invasion began in 2003.

    3. Why Saddam drained Iraq’s marshes

      The marshes in southeastern Iraq weren’t just a beautiful ecosystem; their bounty also fed 450,000 people by 1991. But after Shia insurgents began using them as a base to hide from goverment forces — one Iraqi called them “our Sherwood forest” — Saddam drained the water out of them. By diverting the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates river, Saddam deprived insurgents of a sanctuary. He also forced the so-called Marsh Arabs who lived nearby to flee; the poulation of the largest nearby city fell from 67,000 to 6,000 by 2003. Iraqi engineer Azzam Alwash led a movement to restore them after Saddam was desposed, but the Draining of the Marshes proves just how far Saddam was willing to go to more effectively kill his Shia opponents.

    4. What sanctions did to Iraq

      During the period between the first and second Gulf War, the US and its allies enforced a containment policy against Iraq, and while military measures like no-fly zones (see above) played a role, the main mechanism was economic sanctions. UNICEF claimed that about half a million children died as a result. Then-UN ambassador Madeleine Albright, confronted with that figure, famously said, “we think the price is worth it.” The accuracy of that figure, however, is in some doubt. Michael Spagat of Royal Holloway College, University of London notes that three out of four surveys examining the period found no changes in child mortality rates following the Gulf War. “There were no hundreds of thousands of extra deaths,” he concludes. That’s hardly a settled point — Columbia researcher Richard Garfield, for one, put the number of excess child deaths between 1991 and 2002 at350,000. But, as the chart shows, this is a point where little is known with much certainty.

2003 invasion

    1. The coalition against Iraq, 1990 and 2003

      While the United States was the prime contributor of troops to both the first Gulf War and the second, both were backed by international coalitions contributing troops, humanitarian aid, and other assistance. In 1991, that coalition was backed by a UN Security Council mandate and included among its ranks most of Western Europe (notably France and Germany) as well as several of Iraq’s neighbors, like Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia (which was actively threatened by Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, and was itself invaded by Iraq in the course of the war). As you can see in the above order of battle, French and Arab forces actively participated in the ground attack on Iraq. The 2003 invasion had no such consensus backing it. The UN Security Council declined to support the mission, with France and Germany opposed, and not a single Middle Eastern country expressed support. Only four countries — the US, UK, Poland, and Australia — participated in the initial invasion, and while others assisted in various capacities, it was nonetheless mostly an American and British operation.

    2. How the invasion overran Iraq in one month

      The invasion was mainly staged from Kuwait, with troops advancing northeast before reaching Baghdad in the second week of April. The ground advance was supplemented by air strikes, beginning in Baghdad at the Presidential Palace but escalating in scale as the invasion began in earnest. About a week into the invasion, the 173rd Airborne Brigade parachuted into northern Iraq and joined forces with Kurdish rebels, claiming the city of Kirkuk on April 10; American and Australian special forces were charged with securing the western portion of the country and preventing possible SCUD missile launches. Before the invasion, General Tommy Franks claims that the US, using a double agent, successfully tricked the Iraqi government into believing that the US would invade through Jordan, catching them off-guard when the actual invasion from Kuwait began.

    3. How de-Baathification devastated the Iraqi army

      As you can see in the chart, the combined forces of the Iraqi army were comparatively minuscule in 2005 as compared to 2009. Why? In 2003, the US government essentially disbanded the Iraqi army. The plan was part of a policy called de-Baathification, the purpose of which was to cleanse the government of any influence from former members of Saddam’s Baath Party so the ancien regime didn’t reassert itself after its toppling. The problem with this plan is that a large number of recently unemployed Iraqi soldiers went and joined insurgent militias, greatly strengthening the anti-government forces while simultaneously stripping the government of its military capabilities. The effects of de-Baathification redound to this day: ISIS has become infinitely more skilled by incorporating skilled Saddam-era officers.

    4. The rise and fall of the Sunni insurgency, 2006-2008

      ISIS was formerly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). At its peak level of influence in 2006, AQI controlled significant chunks of Sunni Iraq, and even set up a quasi-government along harsh Islamic lines in some of the land it controlled. However, the Sunni population turned on AQI — partly out of anger with AQI’s brutal rule and partly out of political interest. This Anbar Awakening, named after the province in which it began, resulted in former Sunni insurgents partnering with the American and Iraqi militaries to uproot AQI. AQI was roundly defeated, and lost effective control over almost all of its previous domain. The fall of AQI illustrates just how much ISIS depends on support from Sunni Iraqis. If it angers the population, they can provide critical intelligence and cooperation that would allow the Iraqi military to crush them.

    5. Iraqi civilian deaths, 2003-2010

      No one suffered more from the Iraq War than Iraqi civilians. The fluctuations in this chart show the three distinct stages of the war. The first, from 2003 to 2005, was the war between the US-led invasion force and Iraqi forces, including government forces as well as Islamist and nationalist insurgents. Civilians in this period were bystanders. In early 2006, however, Iraq’s conflict became what is often described as a civil war, fought among three factions: Sunni insurgents, including Islamist extremists and former Saddam loyalists; Shia militias, some of them rogue members of state security forces; and the US-led occupation force. In this period, which lasted two awful years, civilians were often the target of the violence, with bombings and death squads seeking to ethnically cleanse Baghdad in particular. While conditions improved significantly after 2008, many fear that the current crisis could reignite the sectarian hatreds and militias of 2006 to 2007.

    6. The ethnic cleansing of Baghdad


      The ethnic cleansing of Baghdad

      There are few grimmer symbols for the devastation of the Iraq War than what it did to Baghdad’s once-diverse neighborhoods. The map on the left shows the city’s religious make-up in 2005. Mixed neighborhoods, then the norm, are in yellow. The map on right shows what it looked like by 2007, after two awful years of Sunni-Shia killing: bombings (shown with red dots), death squads, and militias. Coerced evictions and thousands of deaths effectively cleansed neighborhoods, to be mostly Shia (blue) or mostly Sunni (red). Since late 2012, the sectarian civil war has ramped back up, in Baghdad and nationwide.

The current crisis

  1. ISIS’s 2006 plan for Iraq and Syria

    This map is hypothetical, but the fact that it exists at all speaks to ISIS’s ambition. Aaron Zelin, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, found this 2006 map produced by ISIS, showing the areas it hoped to control and overlapping oil sources. The correctness of the map aside (there is not actually much oil in this area, despite the little derrick icons), it shows that the group has been thinking about the economics of its war and how to self-fund. It currently controls much of this desired territory, and some reports indicate ISIS has enough some oil production and refinery facilities, a big step toward being able to fund its own war.

  2. The Sunni protest movement of 2013

    Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did a lot to assist in ISIS’s rise. Since becoming Prime Minister in 2006, he has centralized a great deal of power in his office, and run the Iraqi government along Shia sectarian lines. Naturally, this infuriated Sunnis, who organized a series of protests around the country in 2012. These continued into 2013, and the Maliki government began to see them as a serious problem. Unable or unwilling to resolve the protests politically, the Maliki government turned to force. His security forces killed 56 people at protest in the northern town Hawija alone in April 2013. The forcible breakup of the protest movement convinced some Sunnis that their only solution was military, helping militant groups like ISIS and the more secular Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia (JRTN) recruit from and curry favor with the Sunni minority.

  3. Syria’s civil war

    This map shows the state of play in Syria’s civil war, which after three years of fighting has divided between government forces (red), the anti-government rebels who began as pro-democracy protestors (green), Kurdish rebels (yellow), and the Islamist extremist fighters who have been moving in over the last two years (blue). Areas under government control tend to overlap with religious minorities, whereas both kinds of rebels are mostly from the Sunni Muslim majority. This is crucal for understanding the Iraq crisis because ISIS spent a year fighting and winning territory in Syria before it opened its offensive in Iraq. ISIS fighters have been in many cases fighting with and overpowering the more moderate rebels. This has happened in part because extremists have received funding from Gulf countries, in part because they are better at attracting foreign fighters, and in part because Syria’s government has refused to target ISIS, correctly believing that foreign powers like the US may hate Assad but would ultimately prefer him to ISIS. All of that helped give ISIS a staging ground, territory, and battlefield training for its assault now.

  4. Where ISIS has control in Iraq and Syria

    The red-shaded areas across Syria and Iraq show the widest extent of what could be considered territory under ISIS control. In many cases, ISIS does not directly govern the territory so much as that they have expelled government forces; in some places it’s more contested than controlled by any one side; and in others, such as the large Iraqi city of Mosul, ISIS appears to have handed control over to local Sunni groups. So this is not quite an ISIS mini-state, but it is a vast swath of Sunni Arab territory across two countries that’s held in part by an Islamist group so extreme that they were kicked out of al-Qaeda.

  5. ISIS’s war in Iraq as of August 2014

    This map shows who controls what in Iraq as of early August. The black dots show ISIS control; yellow and red are either contested or under threat. The city of Mosul is circled — that’s because ISIS may have seized a huge Iraqi dam there, which could be used to flood large parts of the country and deprive Iraqis of water. Sinjar is also circled: that’s where ISIS militants have expelled at least ten thousand Yazidis, and ethno-religious minority, sending them fleeing to the top of a mountain where they are waiting to be killed by ISIS or die of thirst. ISIS has also pushed into Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, which had previously resisted the group. The Kurdish capital, Erbil, is where a number of American and other foreign government personnel are based, after evacuating Baghdad. On August 7, President Obama authorized air strikes to defend both Erbil and Sinjar from ISIS.

  6. The spike in Iraqi deaths since 2011

    Compare this chart to number 18 above, of Iraqi civilian deaths from 2003 to 2010, and you can see why people are so worried about sectarian civil war returning. This chart of rising civilian deaths in Iraq since 2011 shows just how bad things have been getting, near or at wartime levels. But it also shows that this crisis did not begin as suddenly as it may seem to Americans; there has been rising sectarian violence over the last year and a half, much of it terrorism by Sunni extremists who have targeted the government and Shia civilians.

  7. Iraqi civilians displaced by the crisis