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Palestinian Myths: Building a National History (A)

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The Palestinians demand the entire territory of Palestine, “from the Sea to the River.” They have never abandoned their claim, and they are not ready to get any compromise and to reach to any agreement that gives them less than the entire territory.

One of the important strategies is their claim that they are an ancient and indigenous people in the territory of the Land or the Land of Israel. However, the claim is a total fabrication, and fails to stand up with any historic scientific scrutiny. Before the British Mandate, during the 400 years of the Ottoman Empire rule, this territory was an administrative one, divided into several Sanjaks (sub-provinces) under the Vilayet (province) of al-Sham (Damascus) that has neither a political unit nor a national entity.

All scientific and governmental German and British data and surveys clearly show an underdeveloped deserted land composed mainly of primitive hamlets. These including French historian Constantine Volney (Travels through Syria and Egypt, 1798); the mid-19th-century writings of Alphonse de Lamartine (Recollections of the East, 1835); Mark Twain (Innocents Abroad, 1867); reports from the British Consul in Jerusalem (1857), and many others.

The Ottoman’s census of 1882 recorded only 141,000 Muslims in all the historic Land of Israel, although the real number is probably double, since many hid to avoid taxes. The British census in 1922 reported 650,000 Muslims. Family names of many inhabitants attest to their origins: Elmisri, Misr, Masarweh (Egyptian), Chalabi, Horani (Syrian), Mughrabi (North Africa), Ajami (Persian), Halabi (Aleppan), Kurdi (Kurdish), and many more. Yet, the most comprised of Bedouin tribes from Jordan and Sinai.

The multifarious origins of these “Palestinians” involve family, tribal, and sectarian rivalries. They were attracted to the relative economic prosperity brought about by the Zionist Movement and the British. In 1934 alone, 30,000 Syrian Arabs from the Hauran region moved across the northern frontier into Mandatory Palestine. They even dubbed Haifa Um el-Amal (‘the city of work’). As for Nablus, based on the number of buildings in photos taken from Mount Gerizim, the population in 1909 could not have been greater than 2,000 residents.

‘Palestine’ has never been a territorial-cultural and political unit. The same refers for “Palestinians”. There were no people or a nation in history called by that name. The word “Palestine” was born only in the 20th century by the British. The land was officially named “Palestine” in English, “Filastin” in Arabic, and “Palestina (E.I.: the Land of Israel)” in Hebrew. The British could have chosen the name “The Holy Land” or other name, or even the Land of Israel, or other name with no historic relevance. In that case, there could have been no “Palestine” and no “Palestinian People.”

Consider the possibility the British have chosen the name “Jupiter.” In that case one would have hearing of a Jupiterian people fighting to liberate its Jupiterian land from the Jews, which have a four thousand documented written and proven history.

The fact is that all over the Mandatory period, Arab inhabitants avoided using the Arabic name Filastin, but the name “Arabs.” They considered themselves as Syrians, and the land was for them Southern Syria, part of the Syrian country. Only the Christian elite did make formal use of the name “Palestine.” This was the case almost till the middle of the 40ies of the 20th Century.  

Even the Palestinians themselves, leaders and the common people, had not considered themselves “Palestinians,” and had not referred to the territory as “Palestine,” and did not dream to establish a Palestinian State. The fictitious Palestinian people consists of an aggregation of clans and tribes drawn from the far-flung areas of the Middle East and North Africa.

An important episode is understanding the origin of the Arabic word “Nakbah,” disaster. The Palestinians refer to the name, after the book written by Constantine Zureiq, Ma’na al-Nakbah, as related to their disaster in the 1948 war. However, the original use of “Nakbah” was in 1920, the San-Remo Conference that confirmed the Mandatory system and the division of “Palestine” from “Greater Syria” (Antonius, the Emergence of Arab Nationalism). That is the Nakbah, disaster, of what was later on recognized as Palestinians was not the establishment of the State of Israel, but the partition of the territory known as Southern Syria (Suriya al-Janubiyah) taken out from its country origin, Syria, to become a separate territory by the British and French (Meinerzhagen, Middle East Diary).    

In 1945, the renowned Arab historian Philip Hitti vehemently claimed before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry that no Palestine had ever existed in history and there were no such Palestinian people. This was also the official position of the Palestinian and Arab representatives themselves to all international committees in the 1940’s. During the 1950’s, in all international conventions and the Arab leaders’ declarations, there was no “Palestinian people” nor “Palestinian refugees” problem but “Arab refugees.” Even as late as the UN Resolution 242 of November 1967, it mentions only “Arab refugees,” not “Palestinian refugees,” or a “Palestinian people.” One has also to recall that the Partition Plan of November 1947, mentions on an Arab state.

Indeed, contrary to the Palestinian’s propaganda and the “peace activists” lies in Europe, the small amount of people gathered from many places of the area around and consisted mainly by Bedouins never had a state and have never comprised a nation. Therefore, the later-on called Palestinians never “gave up in 1948 of 78% of Western Palestine, and they are ready to accept only 22% of the land,” as they claim in their fraud propaganda. This is sheer fabrication.

The later-on called Palestinians were not a political player in 1948; they were in a status of refugees under the control of Jordan and Egypt, until 1967, and they continued demanding the entire territory, and they have never given up the demand on every inch of it. They have never recognized the Jewish rights and they continue to demand Israel’s annihilation. It is only on them to prove, whether they are willing to reach a compromise. Since they discovered that they cannot achieve this by war, they work to implement the political course and are assisted by Europe to obliterate Israel from within (the “right of return” of the refugees) and by de-legitimization of Israel by the image and precedent of South-Africa (“Israel is an apartheid state”; “Israel is a racist state”).    

The Palestinian Authority propagation provides fabricated answers to the questions of national identity; historical roots of the Palestinians; and the nationality of the country called Palestine. If there is no Palestinian historical record to satisfy that need, myths and lies are concocted, and the education system is to serve as the most effective tool to mold and to shape the new generations and to create out of nothing a Palestinian history over the territory called Palestine.

This is the information the Palestinians get by propagation by all the social media:

a) To the question, who the Palestinians are? The answer is: the Palestinians are descended of the seven peoples of Cana’an. The educational and the communication media praise the Cana’anite origins. Palestinian academics explain in total fraud and twisted historical facts that even Israeli archaeological finds bolster the claim of the Palestinian-Cana’anites origin in the land, without any reliable sources.

Contrary to the numerous references in the Qur’an of the history of Banu Isra’il, the Children of Israel, the righteous side, and their victories over their Cana’anite enemies, the evil side. It also contradicts Allah’s Covenant with Jews, being the chosen people, the only people who deserve to inherit the land (5:21; 7:137; 17:104), to be known al-Ard al-Mubarakah (the blessed land); al-Ard al-Muqaddasah (the Holy Land); Ard Bani Isra’il (the Land of Israel).

b) To the question concerning the historical rights of the Arabs over Palestine, the answer is that they are ever since the dawn of history, and it is totally only theirs. They reiterate the following, in the educational system and the media: “Palestine is our country… through Jihad our country shall be liberated… Jihad and sacrifice become a personal duty on all the Palestinians… Draw your sword and let us gather for war with blazing fire for slaughter. go forward crying: Allahu Akbar.”

c) To the question concerning Jerusalem, the answer is that it is an ancient Arab city, built by the Jebusite Arabs before Islam. It is thousands of years old, its most ancient name, Jebus, is derived from the ancient Arabs, the Jebusites. Muslims must wage a Jihad war to liberate al-Aqsa Mosque from the Zionist conquest.

This ideological propaganda is accompanied by a sophisticated strategy in Western public opinion. The Palestinians initiated a highly successful campaign to assimilate into the European consciousness that Israel is the last remnant of colonialism implanted in the Middle East by European imperialism, so as to intensify the European guilt remorse: a) Israel occupies the land belonging solely to the Palestinians; b) Israel has uprooted the Palestinians as a nation, and scattered them out of their land; c) Israel continues to liquidating the Palestinians’ national and social heritage, by implanting a phony foreign culture.

The repeated stress of the Palestinian educational system on the ancient Arab identity of the land is obviously geared to posit Palestinian antiquity, absolutely imagined and fabricated without any need to produce scientific historical evidence to sustain the claim, is the main of Arab cultures. They need no proofs. However, these lies succeed internationally out of ignorance and lack of scientific historical knowledge.

All the educational system and the PA media, mainly TV, use these daily repeated variety of claims by showing a map of the Middle East in which Israel does not exist and is replaced in its entirety by a country called Palestine. Under the words “our country Palestine”, the map replaces all Israel, which does not exist at all. The entire territory is Palestine. A map entitled “Map of Palestine before and after the war of 1967” defines the area of the State of Israel as the Arab lands conquered before 1967, while the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are defined as the Arab lands conquered in 1967. Maps of the Middle East in which Israel does not exist and its area is marked as “Palestine”, appear in all textbooks.

A map which accompanies the lesson which is compulsory to all pupils: “Palestine is our Homeland”, encompasses the entire State of Israel and specifies Israeli cities and villages as Arab even though most of them date from biblical times: Safed, Acre, Haifa, Tiberias, Nazareth, Beit She’an, Jaffa, Jerusalem and Beersheba, and other Israeli cities. A drawing shows a woman waving the Palestinian flag while in the background is the map of Palestine in the place of all Israel. All the geography books mark the entire territory of Israel as Palestine.

The Palestinian Television shows the same map, many times on a daily basis, at the beginning and the end of every news report. This substitution of Palestine for anything Israeli, and official Palestinian media even mark all Israeli technological scientific achievements as Palestinian origin.

These passages, and there is a huge amount of material, point to the tenacity in which the PA instill into the minds of its children, from the early ages of childhood the necessity and inevitability of a prolonged Jihad to liberate all Palestine. The insistent demand that the children should be prepared to fight and die in the service of this dream. Rejection of Israel, Zionists and Jews, which is based on moral, political, nationalistic as well as religious considerations, is absolute and total.

This whole historical structure that has been invented and fabricated by the Palestinians exposes the real traits of Arab-Islamic culture, and they instill it into the minds of children as an irrefutable truth, without any evidence or scientific sources. In so doing, they omit, refute and deny other’s heritage and existence. There is no mentioning of the Jews and acceptance of their historical claims. Unfortunately, because Western ignorance is so pervasive and there is also the human Western belief that in every issue there is truth, the Free World yields to these atrocious hideous blames of Israel.

The Zionist ideology which nurtures the Jewish State is the paradigm of racism, apartheid, imperialism and ethnic cleansing, and doomed to failure. Jewish qualitative characters are notorious, for they are treacherous, disloyal, and corrupt. They are plagued with racist beliefs and racial discrimination like Nazism, and the construct of Satan. Israel is brutal, fascist and genocidal. The best is Arieh Stav, Peace – Arab Cartoon, Shaarei-Tiqva, Ariel Center for policy research, 1999. From that time on, one can fill many huge volumes of this material.

The scientific and political truth is that there has never been a Palestinian history; never been a historical Palestinian country and sovereignty; never been a historical Palestinian nationalism, let alone an independent nation; never been a Palestinian ethnicity, a Palestinian language, and a Palestinian societal groupings and institutions. There was no Palestinian archaeology, no Palestinian population or settlements, and nobody knew historically and accepted politically a Palestinian state and a nation. What we see now is a new creation of a distinct Palestinian national identity only from the last seventy years. The Palestinian identity has been emerged and created because of the Israeli creation as a state in 1948, and the Israeli military victory in the 1967 war.

Palestinian nationalism is an entity negatively defined, by its opposition to Zionism, and not by its national aspirations due to historical and political facts. What unites Palestinians has been their opposition to the Jewish state and the desire to destroy it.

Along all the first half of the 20th century, the local inhabitants consisted of diverse individuals, several tribes and clans, some prominent families in cities, mainly a nomadic tribes, and new migrants from Syria, Egypt and Trans-Jordan and other places. The important issue is that they certainly did not consider themselves as a nation, and they were not considered by anyone as such, and their focus of identity was parochial – tribal and Hanulah, city dwellers, Ottoman subjects and later on Syrian residents.

They lived in the geographic area that historically belonged to Syria, and politically called under the British Mandate as “Palestine” in English. However, the concept of a ‘stateless Palestinian people’ is a fabrication, the big lie of the Middle East contemporary politics. The Palestinians have received billions of dollars from the international community tunneled directly to terrorism and corruption.

In fact, the so-called patriotism of indigenous Arabs has flourished only when non-Muslim entities (the Crusaders, the British, and the Jews) have taken control of the area called the Land of Israel. Not amazingly, when political control returns to the Arab-Muslim hands, this ardent patriotism magically wanes and the territory went into a political oblivion. This is the historical proven fact for 1400 years.

Arab representative government has never been established in Palestine, either in 1948 or during the next 19 years of Arab rule until 1967. Because other Arabs co-opted the Palestinian cause as a rallying point that would advance their political interests. The real change came only after 1967, with the inspiration of Arafat, the creator of the Palestinian people and identity and the establisher of its political center.

He who really wishes to get good reliable knowledge about the Palestinian situation, it is highly recommended to separate the sophisticated propaganda from the real issues and situations.

It is highly important to compare the Palestinians’ socio-economic and political situation and at least 80 countries from the third world, including some Arab states. At the same time one has to recall that this relatively high Palestinians standard of living is out of international money donation and not their work. They received money much higher than the monies given to recover Europe after WW2 with “Marshall Plan.”

It is no less important to have good knowledge how that is the Palestinians have received billions and billions of dollars, while taking perhaps the lion’s share of world humanitarian support, putting aside and neglecting at least one billion people around the world who get nothing and are literally dying.

It is easy to have pictures of the Palestinians cities and villages to really understand the relatively high standard of living as compare to the Third World countries, including Arabs, and again to recall they were all out of the international generosity that stops there and very scant poor donation given to other peoples.

When one gets the reliable information and discard the propaganda, he understands that the continuation of the conflict with Israel is a must for the Palestinians. This is a highly profitable industry they don’t want to stop. Without it they will have to get up tomorrow and start working for their living.    

Professor Fuad Ajami, of John’s Hopkins University (NYT, June 19, 2007) sees this as sheer fantasy. An accommodation with Israel is imperative, but the Palestinian leaders still demanding to have it all “from the River to the Sea.” The Arab states have compounded the Palestinian radicalism, granted them everything and nothing at the same time, and there was thus no need for the Palestinians to moderation and realism. The Palestinians should know better, Ajami continues, no Arabs wait for Palestine anymore, and aside from a handful of the most romantic messianic Israelis, there is a recognition that the Palestinians must come to term with reason and live in peace with Israel, or to drop off the history.

Today, As Israel celebrates 68 years of independence, new publications appear by the Palestinian Authority that actively disseminates its ideology that denies Israel’s fundamental right to exist in any borders. The PA regularly proclaims and actively teaches Palestinian children that all of Israel is an illegitimate “occupation,” and that all Israeli territory is occupied. Palestinians are regularly and intensively taught to anticipate a future without Israel when all of its territory will be part of the “State of Palestine.” These are also Abu Mazen’s declarations, for example on October 28, 2015, and March 11, 2016, in the official PA TV.

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Papal visit to Iraq: Breaking historic ground pockmarked by religious and political minefields

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Copyright © Dicastero per la Comunicazione - Vatican Media

When Pope Francis sets foot in Iraq on Friday, he will be breaking historic ground while manoeuvring religious and political minefields. So will his foremost religious counterpart, Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Husayni al-Sistani, one of the Shia Muslim world’s foremost scholars and leaders.

The three-day visit contrasts starkly with past papal trips to the Middle East that included Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Azerbaijan, states that, unlike neighbouring Iran, are more accustomed to inter-faith interactions because of their Sunni Muslim history and colonial experience or in the case of Shia-majority Azerbaijan a modern history of secular and communist rule.

Unlike in Azerbaijan, Pope Francis is venturing in Iraq into a Shia-majority country that has been wracked by sectarian violence in which neighbouring Iran wields significant religious and political influence and that is home to religious scholars that compete with their counterparts in the Islamic republic. As a result, Iraqi Shiite clerics often walk a tightrope.

Scheduled to last 40 minutes, Ayatollah Al-Sistani’s meeting with the pope, a high point of the visit, constitutes a double-edged sword for a 90-year-old religious leader born in Iran who has a complex relationship with the Islamic republic.

Ayatollah Al-Sistani has long opposed Iran’s system of direct rule by clerics. As a result, he has eschewed executive and political authority while playing a key role in reconciling Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis, promoting inter-tribal and ethnic peace, and facilitating the drafting and ratification of a post-US invasion constitution.

Ayatollah Al-Sistani’s influence, however, has been evident at key junctures in recent Iraqi history. Responding to an edict by the ayatollah, Iraqis flocked to the polls in 2005 despite the risk of jihadist attacks. Large numbers enlisted in 2017 to fight the Islamic State after Ayatollah Al-Sistani rallied the country. The government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi resigned in 2019, four days after Ayatollah Al-Sistani expressed support for protesters demanding sweeping reforms.

To avoid controversy, Ayatollah Al-Sistani is likely to downplay the very aspects of a meeting with the pope that political and religious interlocutors of the head of the Catholic church usually bask in: the ability to leverage the encounter to enhance their legitimacy and position themselves as moderate and tolerant peacemakers.

With state-controlled media in Iran largely refraining from mentioning the visit and Iranian Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claiming the mantle of leadership of the Muslim world, Ayatollah Al-Sisi is likely to avoid projecting the encounter as a recognition by the pope that he is Shiite Islam’s chief interlocutor or that the holy Iraqi city of Najaf, rather than Iran’s Qom, is the unrivalled capital of Shiite learning.

Sources close to Ayatollah Al-Sistani, who rarely receives foreign dignitaries, have described his encounter on Saturday with the pope as a “private meeting.”

“Khamenei will not like it,” said Mehdi Khalaji, an Islamic scholar who studied in Qom and is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Critics are likely to note that Ayatollah Al-Sistani was meeting the pope but had failed to receive in December Iranian Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi, who is touted as a potential presidential candidate in elections scheduled for June and/or successor to Ayatollah Khamenei.

Mr. Khalaji noted that Iran has long downplayed Ayatollah Al-Sistani’s significance that is boosted by the fact that he maintains a major presence not only in Najaf but also in Qom where he has a seminary, a library, and a clerical staff.

Shiite scholars suggest that is one reason why Pope Francis and Ayatollah Al-Sistani are unlikely to issue a Shiite-Christian equivalent of the Declaration of Human Fraternity that was signed in Abu Dhabi two years ago by the pontiff and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the Cairo-based historic cathedral of Islamic learning.

“Al-Sistani does not want to provoke Khamenei. There is no theological basis to do so. Muslims cannot be brothers of Christians. Mainstream Islamic theological schools see modern Christianity as inauthentic. They view Jesus as the divine prophet, not as the incarnation of God and his son. In short, for official Islam, today’s Christianity is nothing short of heresy,” Mr. Khalaji said, referring to schools of thought predominant in Iran. “Sunnis are a little bit more flexible,” he added.

Mr. Khalaji noted further that Shiite religious seminaries have no intellectual tradition of debate about inter-faith dialogue nor do any of the offices of religious leaders have departments concerned with interacting with other faith groups. “The whole discourse is absent in Shia Islam,” Mr. Khalaji said.

That has not stopped Ayatollah Al-Sistani from maintaining discreet contacts with the Vatican over the years.

In a bid to popularize the concept of inter-faith dialogue, Pope Francis is scheduled to hold a multi-religious prayer meeting in Ur, the presumed birthplace of Abraham, revered as the father of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

By the same token, Pope Francis, concerned about the plight of Christians in the Middle East and particularly Iraq that has seen the diverse minority shrink from 1.2 million before the 2003 US invasion to at most 300,000 today, will want to build on the Shiite leader’s past calls for protection of the minority faith group from attacks by militants and condemnation of “heinous crimes” committed against them.

The pope hopes that a reiteration by Ayatollah Al-Sistani of his empathy for the plight of Christians would go a long way in reducing pressure on the community from Iranian-backed militias that has stopped many from returning to homes they abandoned as they fled areas conquered by the Islamic State.

The pope’s visit, little more than a month after a bomb blast in Baghdad killed 32 people and days after rockets hit an airbase housing US troops, has sparked hope among some Iraqis that it will steer the country away from further violence.

That hope was boosted by a pledge by Saraya Awliyat Al-Dam (Custodians of the Blood), the pro-Iranian group believed to have attacked the airbase, to suspend its operations during the pope’ visit “as a sign of respect for Imam Al-Sistani.”

Said Middle East scholar Hayder al-Khoei: “There will be no signing of a document, but both (Pope Francis and Ayatollah Al-Sistani) are advocates of interfaith dialogue and condemn violence committed in the name of religion. The meeting will undoubtedly strengthen the voices and organizations who still believe in dialogue.”

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Iraq Opens Hands to the Pope Francis’ Historic Visit

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Copyright © Dicastero per la Comunicazione - Vatican Media

The world looks forward to Pope Francis’ historic visit to Iraq which is considered the first papal trip represented by the Roman Catholic Church to the cradle of civilization, Mesopotamia, despite spreading the second wave of COVID-19 and the security situation in Iraq. This expected visit has an important impact on highlighting the challenges and disasters of humiliation, the sectarian war and displacing people, Yazidis persecution, and fleeing the Christian minorities that faced Iraq during all these past years after the US invasion occurred in 2003.

The three-day-visit is considered as the message of peace after years of war and violence, referring that the Pope’s visit is as a pilgrim to the cradle of civilization. The papal visit includes Baghdad, Erbil, Mosul- Qaraqosh, and Ur city. The trip comes after 18 months as the pandemic restricts his movement, and it is the first visit to the Middle East when he visited the U.A.E in February 2019 where he met and celebrated in front of 180,000 people at the Zayed Sports City stadium in Abu Dhabi.

The papal visit was intended to occur twenty years ago when St. John Paul II tried to visit Mesopotamia during Saddam’s regime, but the endeavors failed to complete that proposed trip. “The people of Iraq are waiting for us. The people waited for St. John Paul II who was not permitted to go. We cannot disappoint them twice”, said the Pope.

In a video message addressed by the Pope to the people of Iraq, he expressed his happiness and longing to meet the people who suffered from war, scourges, and death during all these years. “I long to meet you, to look at your faces and to visit your blessed ancient land and the cradle of civilization,” the Pope said.

It is expected that the purpose of the Pope’s visit is to preserve the rest of the Christians in Iraq. According to the estimation of the charity aid of the Church in Need, the numbers of Christians have decreased from 1.4 million to under 250,000 since the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, especially in the cities of northern Iraq. Many Christians were killed and fled from 2014 to 2017 due to the Islamic State occupation and due to their atrocities, persecution, and violence against the Christian areas. The Pope yearns for meeting the dwindling Christian communities in Mosul, Qaraqosh, and Nineveh plains where these regions had suffered from the atrocities of ISIS in 2014 and people had been compelled to flee.

The world is waiting for the most significant historic meeting between the 90-year-old Shia Muslim cleric, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and the 84-year-old Pope Francis in the Shiite shrine city of Najaf. The expected meeting is seen as a real chance to enhance the bonds of fraternity between the Muslims and Christians and to lighten the impact of the islamophobia concept that swept Europe and America due to the terrorism actions that happened in Europe. This expected meeting that will be by Saturday signifies a historic moment when the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani meets Pope Francis, illustrating the fraternal bonds to make people live in peace and tranquility.

Back in February 2019, the Pontiff Francis and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Cairo’s al-Azhar mosque and the most prestigious leader in Sunni Islam, agreed and signed the declaration of fraternity, affirming peace among all nations. The two parties in this document adhere to fight extremism in every place in the world. If the Pontiff and the Grand Ayatollah sign a document like the declaration of fraternity, this will give Najaf’s Marjiya a very great impact, and this move will be seen as the first step to decrease the religious tensions and fill the gap of the clash of civilization. This document, if it is enacted, will have a great impact to make peace prevailing and encouraging Muslims and Christians to live in peaceful coexistence.

Ur, which is the oldest city in the world, is to be visited by the pontiff. It is considered the biblical birthplace of Ibraham, the common prophet to the Christians, Muslims, and Judaism and the father of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is expected that there will be prayers in Ziggurat where this place is one of UNESCO world heritage sites. This visit to this historic site will help the landmark to polarize people from Iraq and outside to visit it after years of negligence and ignorance attention to its importance and the vital role that can help Iraq to increase the public income.

The papal visit has many different messages to the people of Iraq. Firstly, the expected meeting with the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani reflects the fraternal and human stances, and this meeting underlines the important role played by the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani after the US-led-invasion in 2003. Secondly, his visit to Ur to pray there is a message of the peaceful coexistence between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, trying to point out that all these three religions emerged from one source. Thirdly, the Pope endeavors to be with the Christians who suffer from the past events of persecution, humiliation, and atrocities. His presence among them is a message of tranquility, serenity, peace, and contentment to live in Iraq with the Muslims and to abandon fighting against others. Finally, the Pope’s visit to Iraq pays the world’s attention to the religious importance of Iraq and the significant role that can be played by Iraq.

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Restart Iran Policy by Stopping Tehran’s Influence Operations

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Another US administration is trying to figure out its Iran policy. And, as always, the very regime at the core of the riddle is influencing the policy outcome. Through the years, the clerical rulers of Iran have honed the art of exploiting America’s democratic public sphere to mislead, deceive, confuse, and influence the public and government.

Yet Washington still does not have a proper taxonomy of policy antidotes when it comes to Tehran’s influence operations.

Arguments dictated by Iranian intelligence services echo in think tanks and many government agencies. These include the extremely misguided supposition that the murderous regime can be reformed or is a reliable negotiating partner for the West; or that there is no other alternative but to deal with the status quo.

How has Tehran been able to deceive some in the US into believing such nonsense? First, by relying on the policy of appeasement pursued by Western governments. And second, through its sophisticated influence operations facilitated by that policy.

Consider three recent instances.

First. Just last month, an Iranian “political scientist” was charged by the Justice Department for acting as an unregistered agent of Iran and secretly receiving money from its mission in New York. “For over a decade, Kaveh Afrasiabi pitched himself to Congress, journalists, and the American public … for the benefit of his employer, the Iranian government, by disguising propaganda as objective polic1y analysis and expertise,” the Justice Department noted.

Afrasiabi has an extensive body of published work and television appearances. In July 2020, according to the Justice Department, he linked many of his books and hundreds of articles in an email written to Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, saying: “Without [Zarif’s] support none of this would have been possible!”

Second. Across the Atlantic, one of Zarif’s official diplomats in Europe, Assadollah Assadi, was convicted and given a 20-year prison sentence by a Belgian court on February 4 for trying to bomb an opposition rally in the outskirts of Paris in June 2018.

Court documents revealed that Assadi crisscrossed Europe as Tehran’s intelligence station chief, paying and directing many agents in at least 11 European countries.

Assadi’s terrorist plot in 2018 was foiled at the last minute. The main target was Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). Hundreds of Western lawmakers and former officials were also in attendance.

Third. Unable to harm its opposition through terrorism, the regime has expanded its influence operations against NCRI’s main constituent organization the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), which Tehran considers its arch nemesis.

For decades, the mullahs have misled, deceived, and confused America’s Iran policy by disseminating considerable disinformation about the democratic opposition. This has in turn resulted in bungled American responses to Tehran’s threats.

In a breaking revelation this month, a former Iranian intelligence operative wrote a letter to the UN Secretary General, outlining in glaring detail how the regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) recruits, pays, and controls dozens of agents across Europe to influence policy.

Forty-one-year-old Hadi Sani-Khani wrote that he was approached by intelligence agents who lured him into the Iranian embassy in Tirana, Albania (MEK’s headquarters). He said he wants to go back to Iran. On one condition, the embassy responded: Cooperate with the regime’s intelligence against the MEK. He subsequently met with the regime’s intelligence chief, Fereidoun Zandi, who coordinated a network of paid agents in Albania since 2014. The intelligence chief was later expelled by Albanian authorities along with the regime’s ambassador.

Khani was paid 500 euros per month to write and publish anti-MEK articles and also send copious amounts of similar propaganda to members of the European parliament. Dozens of websites are operated by Tehran’s intelligence, some of which are, astonishingly, undeclared sources for unsuspecting Western journalists, think tanks and government agencies when it comes to the MEK.

In many cases, reporters have met directly with the regime’s intelligence agents for their stories. In September 2018, for example, according to Khani, a reporter from German newspaper Der Spiegel traveled to Albania. Khani recalls: “We met the Der Spiegel reporter in a Café in Ramsa district in Zagozi square. Each of us then told her lies about the MEK which we had been given in preparation of the meeting. … [Later on,] she occasionally asked me questions about the MEK which I then raised with the embassy and provided her the response I received.”

Der Spiegel published the story on February 16, 2019, parts of which were copied from websites affiliated with Iran’s intelligence service. Following a lawsuit, a court in Hamburg ordered Der Spiegel to remove the defamatory segments of its article.

These same agents also met with a New York Times correspondent at the same Café, who subsequently wrote a piece against the MEK, regurgitating the very same allegations.

The mullahs’ influence operations are a serious obstacle to formulating an effective US policy toward Tehran. As long as the regime’s agents are allowed to exploit America’s public sphere, cultivate important relationships, infiltrate the media and think tanks, and influence serious policy deliberations in Washington through a flood of falsehoods, America will be at a substantial disadvantage.

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