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Entries in David Miliband (5)


Iran: The Regime's Fightback?

ASHURA4We awake this morning to look for the results of the Government's attempt to repair the humiliation of Sunday's Ashura protests, pushing back through the simple measure of detaining more and more activists, student leaders and journalists (the latest prominent detainee is Mashaollah Shamsolvaezin). All day on Monday, the reports came in of plainsclothes forces entering homes throughout the country to take away those who are supposedly fomenting the overthrow of the Islamic Republic. And this comes on top of reports that more than 1000 protesters were taken to Evin Prison after the Ashura demonstrations.

The regime is also trying, after the failure on the first day of Moharram to show mass support, to mobilise the Iranian public. The Coordination Council of Islamic Propaganda announced that a "large gathering" will be convened in Tehran's Enghelab Square on Wednesday to protest the Ashura riots. There will also be pro-Government demonstrations in the provinces.

And then there are the token displays of a regime still supposedly in control. The Iranian Foreign Ministry has declared it will summon the British Ambassador over the “meddling” remarks of Foreign Minister David Miliband, who criticised the Government's oppression of protest. (No word, however, whether Iran will challenge the high-profile and more assertive comments of President Obama.)

The Latest on Iran (29 December): A Desperate Swing of the Fist
Iran: Ashura’s Message “Iranians Are Not Punching Bags” (Josh Shahryar)
Iran: A Point of No Return?

We are working on a full analysis of these --- in our opinion, desperate --- responses for later in the week. For now, let's note two indicators that this is not going to steady the Government's (sinking?) ship.

First, the arrests have been tried before to break the movement. Indeed, they began even as President Ahmadinejad's supposed victory was being announced in June. They occurred after the mass marches of 15 and 20 June, the gathering for Rafsanjani's Friday prayers in July, before Qods Day in September, after the protests of 13 Aban in November....

And yet the Ashura demonstrations still took place. More importantly, they took place even though the regime had disrupted or contained the "leaders" of the opposition through their detentions and threats. The Jamaran memorial, with Mohammad Khatami's speech, was broken up on Saturday night. Mehdi Karroubi only emerged hours after the protests. Mir Hossein Mousavi was notable primarily because he was mourning the killing of his nephew by security forces.

The Ashura demonstrations still took place, despite the Government's repeated swinging of its fists. And have a look at the video that emerged --- emerged in numerous clips despite the hindrance to communications. Consider: many of those demonstrating were no longer covering the faces.

Second, it is one thing to punish those who defy those with another wave of detentions. It is another to assert your legimitacy. So this morning, questions: where was the Supreme Leader on Sunday and Monday, as his authority was being challenged? Where was President Ahmadinejad on Sunday and Monday, as his Iran --- which supposedly is "10 times stronger" in its unity than any Western country --- came out on the streets? Where were their Ministers who had been so vocal only two weeks earlier in threatening to crush those who would dared not obey?

Where now is this Iranian regime?


Today on EA (28 December 2009)

TOWN CRIERIran: The situation remains tense today. As we follow events and consider long-term significance,  we have an interim assessment: has Iran reached a point of no return? This follows Scott Lucas' five-minute, five-point reaction, given last night to an Italian journalist.

Demonstrations continued well into the night: we've posted the most recent clips we've received. And we now have the video of President Obama's statement this evening on Iran.

Josh Shahryar, who also live-blogged Ashura, concludes that, for the first time in 200 days, Iranians decided "enough was enough". His overall assessment, "Iranians are not punchbags", offers provocative thoughts on non-violence and self-defence.

As always, all the news as we hear it, can be found in our live weblog.

Palestine: EA's Ali Yenidunya reviews Mahmoud Abbas' interview last week with the Wall Street Journal, where he promised "No Third Intifada".

Israel/Palestine: EA's Ali Yenidunya analyses the anniversary of the Gaza War and asks "Who Won" after operation Cast Lead?

Britain/Israel: The controversy over the arrest warrant for former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni continues: the head of Britain's Muslim Council has written to the British Government criticising Foreign Secretary Miliband's statement on the need to change British law to prevent any further warrants.


Britain-Israel: Muslim Council Challenges Government in "Livni Arrest Warrant" Case

tzipi_livniThe Muslim Council of Britain's Secretary-General Muhammad Abdul Bari has written to Foreign Minister David Miliband, criticising his statement on the need to change British law to prevent another arrest warrant being issued - thereby preventing an Israeli official from visiting Britain.

Bari stated that Miliband's proposal, prompted by the recent arrest warrant for Israel's former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, would not only undermines judicial independence, but be an unjustified departure from the centuries-old legal traditions of Britain. It would damage respect for international law; all of which would, in the end, undermining Britain's reputation at home and abroad:

Israel-Palestine: Hamas “Provided Evidence” for Arrest Warrant for Livni
Israel and Britain: The Reaction to the Livni Arrest Warrant

Dear Mr Miliband,

I am writing to express the deep disappointment and grave concern of the Muslim Council of Britain (the MCB) at your views with regard to the warrant which a magistrate had lawfully issued for the arrest of the former Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, for suspected war crimes. As is well known the arrest did not take place and the warrant was withdrawn.

It appears that following expression of strong disapproval and anger by the Israeli government and representations by the Jewish Leadership Council you have shown willingness to review and remove the powers of magistrates in the UK to issue warrants of arrest against alleged Israeli war criminals.

As you must surely know the cornerstone of our much cherished legal system is respect for the rule of law. The separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary flow from it. It seems to us that you are allowing political exigency to undermine and erode fundamental legal traditions and conventions which are centuries old and have served our society well.

Your motivation to review and reconsider the current process for bringing war criminals to justice if found within our jurisdiction is political as well as manifestly partisan. Law in our legal system is the same for all – friend or foe. Your proposed step will treat “political friends” differently and indeed more favourably than those who may face same allegations but for whom a different process will apply. This cannot be right and will give rise to well founded perception of double standards in law enforcement.

We note that in your commitment to review and revise the process for issue of warrants by courts you have taken account of and been persuaded by the legal opinion of David Pannick QC. It is quite interesting that you have not chosen to seek views of others before making the commitment. Whilst we respect the capacity and standing of David Pannick QC to give legal advice, we do not accept that he is the only person in the legal fraternity to have expertise on matters of this kind. The matter is inherently very sensitive and it is contaminated by a perception of bias in choosing to rely solely on him. Such a major and far-reaching change in legal policy and process should not, we contend, be undertaken without due public consultation. We regret to have to say that the process that the government appears to have chosen to follow on this issue is fundamentally flawed.

It is our considered view that the change contemplated by you is such that it not only undermines judicial independence but also makes a wholly unjustified departure from the centuries old legal traditions of our country. The office of Magistracy is centuries old and people who hold such office are chosen irrespective of their political or other background and solely on the basis that they have the ability to apply the law without fear or favour. An appraisal of how their power to enforce international law has been exercised when called upon to do so will demonstrate that they have done so with competence and fairness.

Your proposed change sends out a clear signal that the government wants the courts to be subservient to political considerations. After all, the Attorney General is a political appointee and holds office, strictly speaking, at the pleasure of the Prime Minister.

The change that you propose also has the serious potential of severely reducing respect for international law and the treaties that give international jurisdiction for the pursuit of alleged war criminals. Commission of war crimes is an international crime as is engagement in torture. It is the clearly expressed wish of the international community as articulated in international law that people suspected of such crimes should be tried wherever they are found. We believe that the change that you propose may exempt some accused from prosecution and this will have a gravely adverse impact on the reputation of our country both at home as well as abroad.

You appear to be committing the government to the path of selective compliance with the enforcement of international law. This is surely not in the best interests of our country as it will add a further dimension to the double standards that our government is seen to have in relation to the politics of the Middle East.

Whilst we respect your quest to advance the prospects for peace in the Middle East, justice and fairness is not served by being or by being seen to be partisan and compliant to demands made by one major player in the conflict.

May we respectfully remind you that in your address at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies in May this year on ‘Building coalitions, winning consent’, you said, ‘To broaden the coalition and win consent, we need to understand the Muslim world better, or we will risk undermining the force of our own argument... we need to hold fast to our own values and support those who seek to apply them, or we will be guilty of hypocrisy...'.

It is hard to imagine how we could escape the charge of hypocrisy from those all too eager to point out our vacillation on allowing the law to take its course in the case of those suspected of committing war crimes.

We suggest that to understand the Muslim world better is to be aware of the deeply held view that our approach to states in the region is unequal and that our commitment to the observance of international law is ambivalent. Any change to the current procedures on universal jurisdiction and the right of magistrates to issue a warrant will only reinforce this view, with detrimental consequences.

The Prevent programme and your own department’s involvement in it through the ‘Bringing Foreign Policy Back Home’ project is built on the foundations of respecting the rule of law and the pillars of a democratic society. In deliberating over the recent controversy and prevaricating on upholding the rule of law, we run the risk of strengthening the claims of those who reject our democratic processes and view our commitment to law, domestic and international, as utilitarian and malleable.

We urge you to consider the grave consequences of interfering with established legal procedures and jeopardising our reputation at home and abroad.

I am copying this letter to the Minister for Justice, the Right Honourable Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government as your expressed views on this matter impact on their areas responsibilities in the government.

Yours sincerely,

Muhammad Abdul Bari
Secretary General

The Latest from Iran (7 December): The Marches of 16 Azar

16 AZAR POSTER52150 GMT: To end the day, we've posted a review by Josh Shahryar of the day's events.

2100 GMT: The Assault on Zahra Rahnavard. More on the alleged attack on Mir Hossein Mousavi's wife this afternoon at Tehran University: Persian2English has an English summary.

NEW Iran’s 16 Azar: A Review of the Day’s Events Throughout the Country
NEW Latest Iran Video: The Marches of 16 Azar – 2nd Set (7 December)
NEW Iran’s 16 Azar Protests: An Interim Analysis & Questions for the Green Movement
NEW Latest Iran Video: The Marches of 16 Azar (7 December)
NEW 16 Azar Opinion: “Iran’s Voice Will Be Heard”
NEW 16 Azar Special: A Letter from Inside Iran
Latest Iran Videos: The Eve of 16 Azar “Allahu Akhbar” and “Death to Dictator” Chants (6 December)
Iran Opinion: “Why The Green Movement Will Prevail”
Latest Iran Videos: The Eve of 16 Azar “Allahu Akhbar” Chants (6 December)
Iran Document: Mousavi Statement on 16 Azar and the Student Movement (6 December)
Iran Document: The Rafsanjani Speech to Students (6 December)
Iran: Routes and Information for 16 Azar (7 December)
Iran’s Critical Moment: 24 Hours to Go

2055 GMT: Britain Leads, Will US Follow? British Foreign Minister David Miliband has taken notice of today's events in a statement:

I share the concern of many people about the use of force to stifle demonstrations on Students' Day. This follows the large scale abuses of human rights that have taken place since the presidential elections on 12 June.

Freedom of speech and freedom of political expression are fundamental values which all governments should respect. We look to the Iranian authorities to up-hold the freedoms of their own citizens, not stifle them.

Will Britain's allies in Washington also issue a declaration of concern over "human rights"?

1935 GMT: Mediawatch. Hat-tip to The New York Times, with reporters Nazila Fathi (from Toronto) and Robert Worth (from Beirut) providing a good overview of the events today.

And a thumbs-down to The Daily Telegraph for unnecessarily provocative "news". Even if the claim that police fired "warning shots" is true, the headline, "Iranian police shoot at unarmed protesters during Tehran demonstrations", is a distortion beyond accuracy and common sense.

1925 GMT: Kalemeh, the website associated with Mir Hossein Mousavi, is reporting that Mousavi's wife Zahra Rahnavard, a faculty member at Tehran University, was physically attacked by a group of unknown women on the campus.

1910 GMT: Press TV Politics. Looks like those at the state outlet who are not so anti-opposition have tinkered with the coverage of today's events. The opening paragraph of the story that we reported earlier (1730 GMT) emphasized that the National Student Day had been "hijacked" by "anti-government demonstrations...foiled thanks to the presence of anti-riot forces".

This is the less provocative update: "Authorities on Monday arrested a number of people who damaged public property as opposition protesters and students staged rallies on Student Day in Iran, reports say."

1900 GMT: Back from an academic break. Thanks to TN McLaughlin for keeping an eye on developments. Just catching up with latest news.

1730 GMT: We've just posted the latest videos from Tabriz and and Najaf Abad universities at our latest video page.

1700 GMT: Scott Lucas "has left the building" for a couple of hours and the site is being watched over by EA's new team member, TN McLaughlin.

1633 GMT: Urgent --- Tavakoli Detention. An EA contact confirms the arrest today of Majid Tavakoli, a leader of the Amir Kabir University student movement. Tavakoli was also arrested and injured in detention in 2007.

1623 GMT: More from an EA source inside Iran:
I'm gonna check the streets, Haft-e Tir, and Ferdowsi before going home!

Right now I am getting this news from the students at the University of Tehran. People are pouring into the streets gradually as they are leaving their work, and more protesters are going to Enghelab Sq. Students leaving the university and ordinary people ARE joining them!

1615 GMT: Must-See Story of Day. It comes from none other than Iranian state media Press TV, who have summarised the significance of 16 Azar:
Students in Iran gathered to commemorate the national Student Day as reports suggest a number of anti-government protesters have attempted to hijack the occasion....

The occasion...provided opposition protesters with an opportunity to stage anti-government demonstrations. However, their efforts were foiled thanks to the presence of anti-riot forces in several parts of the capital....

The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported that police arrested a number of the rioters who set on fire trash bins. The news agency added that a group of rioters wearing green clothes destroyed the Amir Kabir University's entrance gate on Vali Asr street and attacked the students inside the campus. The rioters, IRNA said, also tore down the security station inside the university. They also threw rocks at a bank on campus. The report added that students in return chanted slogans, calling the rioters "traitors."

We have written Press TV to confirm who and where were the students who protested for the Government today, rather than "hijacking" the occasion. So far, no reply.

1555 GMT: Was Rafsanjani's Daughter at Rally Today? Chatter has persisted throughout the day that Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani and a prominent activist, was at a university rally in Tehran. We've posted video which claims to be of Hashemi today.

1545 GMT: Curious. One of the most active sites in the post-election discussion, Revolutionary Road, has disappeared.

1510 GMT: Leaders Who Have Spoken (Kind Of): The one prominent Green Movement figure who is in the media today is Mehdi Karroubi, but it is in an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde, carried out before 16 Azar. The soundbites, as put out by Agence France Presse, are pretty bland and point towards the theme of "unity":
The solution to arrive at reconciliation is tolerance and acceptance of criticism. We need to work to restore the trust between the authorities and the people. Repression is not at all the solution, neither today nor tomorrow.

Mir Hossein Mousavi's intervention is with an Iranian website, his own Kalemeh, condemning the authorities:
You fight people on the streets, but you are constantly losing your dignity in people’s minds. Even if you silence all the universities, what are you going to do with the society?

1500 GMT: Observations That Make You Go Hmmm.... "No major reformist leader was present during the protests."

1410 GMT: Add Khaje Nasir and possibly Hamedan Universities to the list of locations of protests. Hamedan has been largely free of protests up to now.

One interesting notes: demonstrators in clips in our videos have been waving Iranian flags stripped of the Islamic "coat of arms" in the centre.

1330 GMT: We've just posted a second set of videos of demonstrations from across Iran. Meanwhile, there is confirmation of protests at Azad University in Tehran and Azad University in Arak City.

1250 GMT: Protests in Isfahan confirmed.

1245 GMT: First pictures of large gatherings outside the Universities:




1220 GMT: Protest at Kermanshah University is now confirmed. Heavy clashes near Tehran University, with reports of beatings.

1210 GMT: We've posted an interim analysis from our Mr Smith, asking a couple of important questions about today's protests.

1205 GMT: More from our inside source in Tehran (see 1145 GMT):
All Radios are blocked, and there is no internet connection around University of Tehran.

At the beginning of the Taleghani St. there were - and still are - at least 10 totally BLACK buses and vans, and some vehicles that carried the guard-rails in order to block the streets, but the Buses are not EMPTY! They are full of riot forces! And there is a special van right in front of the eastern gate of the uni full of women commandos to catch the women [protesters.

1200 GMT: A picture has been posted of the demonstration at the Iran University of Science and Technology.

1145 GMT: This in from a source inside Iran:
I've been at University of Tehran since 8:00 this morning and so far there were
only a handful of clashes between the students and security forces.

University of Tehran, UNDER HEAVY CONTROL: The plain cloths forces are in the university and are controlling all gates of the University. The Uni of THR is surrounded by the security forces. They are at all the streets close to the Uni of THR, Enghelab Sq., Qods St., Vesal and Taleghani St.

There are a bunch of at least 50 security forces at every corner of all junctions close to Uni. The Valiasr-Taleghani, Vesal-Taleghani, Enghelab Valiasr Junctions. The Traffic Police doesn’t allow any car to stop even for a second in Valiasr and Taleghani St.

Student of the Uni of THR gathered in front of the Western Gate of the Uni and were chanting "Death to Khameneie and Death to Dictator", where security police attacked them and spread them soon. Uni of THR is under HEAVY control and the Plain Cloths forces with their radios are controlling every gate of the Uni.

1120 GMT: First picture of protest at Elm-o-Sanat University.

1105 GMT: Take That! Al Jazeera English, which has been struggling to report from Iran, just led with video of the Tehran University demonstration and the voiceover, "The Pictures the Government Didn't Want You to See".

1100 GMT: Confirmed. Tear gas used in at least two locations in Tehran.

And pictures are up indicating the size of the gathering at Sharif University.

1055 GMT: Catching Up with Protests. After posting a series of videos, here is our view: Protests in Tehran at Tehran Uni, Amir Kabir University, Sharif University, with clashes at Vali-e Asr. Protests outside Tehran at Mashhad University and Shiraz University, although the latter appears to be relatively small (100s rather than 1000s) at this point.

1015 GMT: This in from an EA correspondent with excellent links inside Iran:

"The number of students is increasing by the minute. There are a great number of plainclothes officers present at this rally. Through raising their hands and giving the victory sign, and by presenting the symbols of the green movement, the students are circulating in and around the university.

The chants are 'Down with the Demagogues', 'Mahmoud the traitor, You have destroyed us and the soil of this country, You have killed the country's youth, God is Great, God is Great…'

There are clashes between students and guards standing outside of the university at Vali-Asr. Some photographers and cameraman are taking pictures and filming in order to identify the students. According to the news, there are buses parked at the Somaie Park Street to transfer the arrested students.

There is an organized group of Basijis moving towards the Vali-asr gate. This group includes plain-clothes officers and a small number of university Basij and has clashed with green students."

1005 GMT: Claimed picture of gathering at Amir Kabir University


0949 GMT: First article from a major US newspaper (as opposed to wire service report) --- Borzou Daragahi in the Los Angeles Times, "Students, security forces face off in Tehran".

0945 GMT: We are treating this report, from Josh Shahryar, as confirmed. Two women have been arrested near Tehran University, while 30 buses have brought security forces to the area.

0940 GMT: Unconfirmed but Important? We are being flooded with reports, from good sources, which we are trying to verify. Here goes:

Students gathering in large numbers at Amir Kabir University in Tehran, possibly clashing with security forces, and at Tehran University. 1000 students at Shiraz University.

Clashes at Enghelab Square near Tehran University. Chants of "Mousavi is an excuse, the entire regime is the target".

0935 GMT: We've posted the first videos of the day, the gathering of students at Sharif University in Tehran.

0855 GMT: The First Reliable Snapshot? Rah-e-Sabz, the reformist website, reports that all quiet so far in Tehran with no violence. Cellphones have been cut off.

0845 GMT: Reza Sayah of CNN, from a source: "Pockets of crowds chanting 'God is Great' along Revolution [Enghelab] Ave near Tehran University".

0825 GMT: Reports are coming in of clashes and "beatings" by security forces, both via Twitter and ePersian Radio.

In other post-June marches, there has been a pattern where these reports emerge early in the day. On occasions, they have proven to be true; on others (such as the gathering in front of the Iranian Parliament in June), they have been exaggerated.

So, for now, we are treating all of these as unconfirmed and will not post until we have reliable source for confirmation.

0815 GMT: Report - "School of Veterinary Studies on Gharib Street, Tehran also surrounded and occupied by police"

0755 GMT: Report - sounds of protest being heard from inside Sharif University in Tehran.

0735 GMT: Report that Tabriz University surrounded by security.

0730 GMT: More photos appear to verify the security presence around Tehran University.

0725 GMT: Going to Be a Long Day. With the security clampdown around Tehran University, protest routes have been revised. The first "official" marches will begin about 3 p.m. local time (1130 GMT).

0715 GMT: First photo from today in Tehran, if authentic, verifies the security presence around Tehran University (see 0600 GMT). There are forces on motorcyles and a white screen to prevent people from outside seeing into the University.


0700 GMT: "Modarres Highway and the Abbas Abad and North Mofatteh intersections have been quiet. Motorcyclists and plain-clothes officers can be seen in the surrounding streets."

0635 GMT: Reuters is the first "Western" media outlet to pick up on today's events: "Iranian police surround university to prevent protest".

Reports that G-mail, Ultrasurf, and Freegate are NOT working inside Iran.

0630 GMT: "The situation around Karim Khan Bridge is normal, and no one has so far witnessed the security forces and the anti-riot police in large numbers. However, the presence of plain-clothes officers has been quite noticeable."

0615 GMT: Mediawatch. CNN International TV has run a 60-second overview "Dissent in Iran", with the country "bracing for more student protests" and a Government crack-down. Don't expect much soon from the station, however, as it is struggling for information and sources; its Twitter feed declares, "Monitoring all information from Iran today on possble protests but being very careful as there"s confusion about."

The BBC has issued an open call for information from anyone inside Iran.

Andrew Sullivan, who provided excellent live-blog coverage early in the crisis, has promised to return today, but as he is writing from the US, his "Daily Dish" will swing into action around 1200 GMT.

0600 GMT: We're preparing for the day. A full English translation of Mir Hossein Mousavi's statement on 16 Azar and the student movement will soon be posted, there is video of last night's rooftop "Allahu Akhbar" protests, and we have published a letter from an Iranian who recently returned to the country. We also have an analysis of the significance of today's event and an opinion from Iran News Now, "Why the Green Movement Will Prevail".

First reports indicate "all sidewalks around Tehran University occupied by security forces and main gates covered by scaffold"; Sharif University also said to be surrounded by security. There is a report of "Basij militia and plain-clothes officers concentrated around the following streets: Fatemi, Karagar, and Enghelab". Internet traiffic is very slow"

Middle East Inside Line: Thomas Friedman Saves the Arab World

FRIEDMANSharmine Narwani, writing in The Huffington Post, takes apart Thomas Friedman's lecture to Arab peoples, "America vs. The Narrative":

Hard as I try, my mouth is fixed in an unattractive gape -- unable, it seems, to correct itself. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, in his usual clumsy attempts to suggest liberal sympathy while in fact propagating many, many Mideast myths, has caused this unfortunate disfigurement.

In his most recent column on Saturday, Friedman decided to help us understand a phenomenon sweeping the Arab and Muslim worlds, and was generous enough to coin an actual phrase to simplify this concept for the benefit of all Western civilization -- he calls it "The Narrative."

According to the New York Times columnist, "The Narrative is the cocktail of half-truths, propaganda and outright lies about America that have taken hold in the Arab-Muslim world since 9/11." Yes, he capitalizes it. Like "The Donald." Or "The Treaty of Versailles."

Kind of him to generalize this way. It would have been far more difficult for me if I actually had to think about the Arab-Muslim world as a diverse grouping representing real-life individuals from varying cultures, histories, religions, political persuasions and stages of social, political and economic development.

In his column, Friedman expands on his "The Narrative," saying these Arab-Muslims feel that "America has declared war on Islam, as part of a grand "American-Crusader-Zionist conspiracy" to keep Muslims down."

I don't suppose that our declaration of a grandiose "War on Terror" which refused to distinguish between extremist Salafi militants and legitimate resistance movements -- dubbed a "mistake" by no less a figure than British Foreign Secretary David Miliband earlier this year -- had anything to do with that perception?

Miliband wrote in the Guardian in January that the term "War on Terror" is "misleading and mistaken," and that efforts to "lump" extremists together had been counterproductive, playing "into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in common."

How positively Friedman-esque.

He might further note that the current Obama administration has also ceased to use such terms because they have been singularly divisive and entirely unsuccessful.

But I digress. My mandibular deformity was actually caused by Friedman's pronouncement that for at least two decades...

"U.S. foreign policy has been largely dedicated to rescuing Muslims or trying to help free them from tyranny."

Where does one begin, pray tell? Tyranny, might be a good starting point. Friedman may care to note that two of the most tyrannical governments in the Arab world -- Egypt and Saudi Arabia -- are, in fact the US's closest allies in the Arab Mideast. Egypt has been ruled with an iron fist by President Husni Mubarak for three decades, a man who hits slam-dunks every election year by garnering an eyebrow-raising 90% of the popular vote -- and whose prisons are notorious torture cells for political dissidents. The theocratic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia doesn't even try to feign democratic trappings. No elections, state-controlled media, zero tolerance for dissent -- women forbidden to drive by religious mandate.

So let's count the Egyptian and Saudi populations out from Friedman's description, because they probably don't feel like they have been "freed from tyranny." Let's instead turn our conversation to his "rescuing Muslims" scenario.

Hundreds of thousands of Arab and Muslim men, women and children ceased to exist after our onslaughts in Iraq and Afghanistan. US politicians cheered on Israeli troops as they decimated entire civilian neighborhoods in Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza in 2009, destroyed non-military infrastructure vital to these areas and killed over a thousand innocent civilians in each place. Israel fired off one million cluster bomblets in Lebanon, most of these in the war's final three days while ceasefire agreements were being negotiated - knowing full well that 98% of victims are civilians, a third of them children. Says Friedman:

"Have no doubt: we punched a fist into the Arab/Muslim world after 9/11...primarily to destroy two tyrannical regimes -- the Taliban and the Baathists -- and to work with Afghans and Iraqis to build a different kind of politics. In the process, we did some stupid and bad things. But for every Abu Ghraib, our soldiers and diplomats perpetrated a million acts of kindness aimed at giving Arabs and Muslims a better chance to succeed with modernity and to elect their own leaders."

Forgive me, but is Friedman saying that our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were about regime change? I foolishly thought we had sold the notion to the global community that this was about bringing Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda to justice for their role in 9-11. If this is so, Arabs and Muslims should forgive us for being liars as well.

"A million acts of kindness?" Name three.

And then Friedman posits that "most of the Muslims being killed today are being killed by jihadist suicide bombers in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Indonesia..." Tell you what. Name three Americans who can read and do not know that the US government funded, groomed, armed and created the jihadists we are fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq today.

"You need to tell us what it (Islam) is and show us how its positive interpretations are being promoted in your schools and mosques," Friedman urges Arabs and Muslims worldwide. Perhaps if we ceased our efforts to block the popular and balanced coverage of Al Jazeera's English channel from being broadcast on our television screens, we would get a clearer picture of the Muslim word, Tom.

Most galling, however, is Friedman's attempt to coin a phrase and insert it into our own nation's narrative. It smacks of Hasbara, a Hebrew term -- often interpreted as 'propaganda' -- used by Israel and its supporters to direct the Middle East debate and reshape public opinion abroad.

This is a matter of significant priority for the Israeli government, and it has at its disposal a veritable army of Hasbara activists in all the important international capitals and campuses. For an unusual -- meaning, available to the public -- example of Hasbara in action, one need only look to the 116-page document "The Israel Project's 2009 Global Language Dictionary" published on Newsweek's website, with talking points for Hasbara activists on everything from Iran's nuclear energy program to the Gaza War to illegal Settlements in the West Bank.

I can only imagine that Friedman wrote this column at 3 am one morning in a full-flegded Jerry McGuire moment that he will hopefully come to regret. He has no facts whatsoever to back up his assertions, and his only source for information on this supposedly widespread "The Narrative" that has infiltrated the collective Arab-Muslim brain is -- wait for it -- the claims of an anonymous "Jordanian-born counterterrorism expert."

Forgive me for saying this because I actually think well of Jordan and its resourceful citizens. But, the current Jordanian establishment, like many other Arab and Muslim elitists, is so far up the collective US, Israeli and Saudi arse, it would take major surgery to find it, let alone free it. Find some new friends, Friedman.

"Many Arab Muslims know that what ails their societies is more than the West, and that The Narrative is just an escape from looking honestly at themselves," concludes Friedman.

Tom, look honestly at yourself. Do you really think that if Arab-Muslim societies were free of external interference and able to elect their leaders in democratic elections, they would hold these alleged grievances?

I suggest that our double standards in dealing with the Middle East and our many, many failed policies there, including propping up brutal leaders to do our bidding, justifiably engenders resentment and anger, not just in the region, but globally too. You ought to have passed by Europe during Israel's Gazan military adventure earlier this year when hundreds of thousands of Europeans in all their major cities protested angrily against the IDF's killing spree. Then again, maybe we would have been forcibly subjected to another one of your columns on the Misinformed European Narrative.