Middle East Miscellany

by Michael Rubin

Turkey and Iran: A Kiss between Friends

Mohammad Reza Rahimi, vice president of Iran, said in Istanbul yesterday: “Turkey is the best friend of Iran in the world. Turkey is very important for Iran’s political and economic security. Our Supreme Leader Khameini also asks for acceleration of political, economic and security relations with Turkey.” At the end of the conference, Rahimi Sadeghian, co-chairman of the Turkish-Iranian Business Council, kissed Prime Minister Erdoğan to thank him for his support increasing trade volume, and political and security cooperation. Turkey’s State Minister for Foreign Trade said that Turkey-Iran trade is up 86 percent.

Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Gates still plans to sell Turkey the latest generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighters without so much as a study to ensure that Turkey cannot transfer the technology upon which our Air Force will depend to Iran. Staffers say that Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee are reluctant to ask the Pentagon to study the issue because both the State Department and Turkish diplomats say it could complicate relations.

Terrorists Penetrating Iraqi Kurdistan?

In May, young Kurdish journalist Sardasht Osman was kidnapped from the campus of Salahuddin University, in the heart of the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil, and found murdered in Mosul. Eyewitnesses said he was seized by Kurdish security forces under the control of Masrour Barzani, the Kurdish leader’s son. Sardasht had received death threats, allegedly from Barzani, after penning a satirical poem, “I am love with Barzani’s daughter.” The kidnapping and murder happened against the backdrop of a tour arranged by the KRG office in Washington for prominent American pundits, many of whom subsequently wrote glowingly about Kurdistan’s progress. 

Now, the Kurdish Regional Government — headed by President Masud Barzani and Prime Minister Barham Salih — has released the results of its investigation: They claim that an Islamist terrorist group kidnapped Sardasht in the heart of Erbil and spirited him out of the region to kidnap him. The Committee for the Protection of Journalists has already declared that the investigation “lacks credibility.” Beyond a single forced confession, there is little evidence to support Barzani’s claim, and the investigation does not account for Barzani’s death threat to Sardasht, the apparent participation of security forces in the kidnapping, and the kidnappers’ magical ability to speed through every checkpoint while spiriting Sardasht to his death.

But let’s take Masud Barzani and Barham Salih at their government’s word: Their findings suggest that Ansar al-Islam, a group responsible for targeting Americans, now have free rein to penetrate and operate in Iraqi Kurdistan, and that the Kurdish security forces are unwilling or unable to do anything about it. That is not a good sign as we prepare to withdrawal. Masud Barzani may want the image of statesman, but with this latest report, he has become the Kurdish Baghdad Bob.

Iran’s Other Hostages

Much has been written about the release of an American woman who the Iranian government imprisoned after accusing her and her two colleagues of straying into Iranian territory while hiking in northern Iraq. Meanwhile, seven Baha’i leaders remain imprisoned in Iran on spurious charges. Shastri Purushotma, human rights officer at the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, writes to inform me that “the lawyers who are defending the seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders were told orally by a court clerk that the sentences have been reduced to ten years.” This follows Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s condemnation of the 20 year sentences. Says Purushotma: “The fact that this reduction of sentence has occurred is evidence of the effect that international attention can have on the actions of the Iranian government.” Indeed. Credit where credit is due: The Obama administration may be late to understand, but when dealing with the Iranian regime’s atrocious human rights abuses, it is best to speak loudly and often.

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