Baha’i Leaders in Evin Prison Sentenced to 20 Years

The seven Bahai leaders in Iran

The seven Baha’i leaders who have been in Evin Prison for more than two years were sentenced this weekend to 20 years in jail for a series of false charges based on their religious affiliation.

The two women and five men have been in Evin prison since 2008 with sparse court appearances and continued and rejections to see their attorneys.

“If this news proves to be accurate, it represents a deeply shocking outcome to the case of these innocent and harmless people,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

“We understand that they have been informed of this sentence and that their lawyers are in the process of launching an appeal,” said Ms. Dugal.

There are over 300,000 practicing Baha’is living in Iran, who have faced jail time, the desecration of cemeteries and the destruction of entire villages in recent years.

The defendants were accused of espionage, spies for Israel, conspiracy against the Islamic Republic of Iran and the establishment of an illegal administration.

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Arab Countries: A Nuclear Iran Would be “Positive”

A majority of the Arab population support Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, says a new study by the University of Maryland and Zogby International.

Shibley Telhami, the principal investigator of the 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll announced at the unveiling of the study at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C. that an overwhelming number of Arabs feel that Iran has the right to pursue a nuclear program, even if the program is not for peaceful purposes.

This study goes against the opinion of many experts who say that Arab nations would oppose a nuclear-armed Iran, including Mustafa Alani, research director at the Gulf Research Centre in Dubai, who said “We have a shared interest in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power”.

The poll indicates that 77 percent of the surveyed Arab population think Iran has the right to pursue a nuclear program, which jumped up from 53 percent last year. More than half also acknowledged that Iran is likely pursuing a nuclear program for non-peaceful means. A majority (57 percent) also said it would be “more positive” for the Middle East region if Iran had a nuclear weapon. Last year, only 29 percent of the population felt a nuclear-armed Iran would be “positive” for Middle Eastern countries. A mere 20 percent say that Iran should be pressured to stop its program.

The survey focused on Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon and the UAE between June 29 and July 20 of this year.

“This does not mean they like Iran. Arabs have mixed feelings,” said Telhami. “This is highly correlated to how they feel about the U.S. and their hopefulness of U.S. foreign policy.” According to the poll, the greatest foreign policy issues that disappoint the surveyed countries are the Palestine/Israeli conflict and the War in Iraq. While the war in Afghanistan overwhelmingly trumps Western headlines, only 4 percent of the surveyed population said they were disappointed with Obama’s handling of Afghanistan.

Additionally, the surveyed countries feel that the U.S. and Israel pose a greater threat to Middle East peace than Iran. While Israel scored 88 percent, Iran scored 10 percent.

“What you have is an evaluation of Iran through the lens of bigger threats—when over 80 percent are worried over Israel, the Iran issue seems marginalized. So the evaluation isn’t really about Iran—a lot of it is “the enemy of my enemy.”

The poll suggests that the Arab community has also dropped in its support and optimism for the Obama Administration because of his handling of Iraq and relationship with Israel.

“This disappointment comes from the outcome of the Iraq elections. I don’t think we get it sometimes. It’s not that Arabs don’t care about Afghanistan, but it’s not the prism they evaluate American foreign policy,” said Telhami. “It’s not the main issue to them.”

63 percent are discouraged by Obama’s policies towards the Middle East, which changed dramatically from 15 percent in 2009.

To view the complete report, visit Brookings.

Preview: Brookings Releases Middle East Public Opinion Poll

Tomorrow at 10 AM, Brookings will formally release their findings of the 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll that details views of the Obama Administration, the War in Afghanistan and Iran’s Nuclear program from the perspective of major Middle East countries like Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and UAE.

They did release some key findings ahead of time, including a noticeable change in views towards Obama as President and head of the US military.While in 2009, 51% expressed optimism, that number has plummeted to 16%. More than half say they are “discouraged” by his performance.

However, the most interesting finding to me was that “A majority of the Arab Public now sees a nuclear-armed Iran as being BETTER for the Middle East.” This view contradicts many of the events I went to last month where experts said Middle Eastern countries fear a nuclear Iran.

The percent of Middle Easterners who feel Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon would be “positive” increased from 29-57% since last year.

Find out more info on the event here

This Week in D.C.: August 2-6

For Monday

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars will hold a talk on US-China relations from 1:45-5:30 PM with a number of speakers from Harvard focusing on economic challenges.

For Tuesday

The Wilson Center will continue its discussion of US-China relations from 9 AM to 4:45 PM with a focus on political relationships and economics

CSIS will hold a talk on the Post-Afghanistan Marine Corps with Robert O. Work-the Under Secretary of the Navy, and Commanding General of the Marine Corps Combat Development Lt. General George Flynn. It will run from 12 PM- 2PM

New America will hold a talk on the impact of civilian casualties in Afghanistan with speakers from Center for American Progress, Afghanistan International Security Assistance Force and the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a business meeting nominating a series of ambassadors from Peru, Columbia, Zambia, Greece, the BBG and many more

The Congressional Executive Commission on China will hold a hearing on “Political Prisoners in China: Trends and Implications of US Policy” with representatives from Human Rights Watch, the Dui Hua Foundation and the Council on Foreign Relations. It will take place in room 628 in Dirksen.

For Wednesday

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on “Government Preparedness and Response to a Terrorist Attack Using Weapons of Mass Destruction.” At 10 AM in 226 Dirksen.

The Middle East Institute will hold a talk on India, China and Asia’s growing presence in the Middle East from 12 PM to 1 PM

At Noon, the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Henry Odein Ajumogobia will make a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations along with former US Ambassador to Nigeria Princeton Lyman. It’ll take place at the Council on Foreign Relations at 1777 F. ST. NW DC

The US Geological Survey will hold a lecture on “Hidden Treasures in Troubled Nations: Afghanistan” at 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive in Reston, VA. At 7:-00 PM

For Thursday

CSIS is holding the 2010 International AIDS Conference at 9:30 AM in Vienna with speaker Jeff Crowley, the Director of the US Office of National AIDS Policy for the White House.

Also, CSIS will hold a forum to discuss Mexico’s oil production in the wake of the Gulf Oil Spill with Juan Carlos Zepeda Molina, director general of the National Hydrocarbon Commission of Mexico.

CSIS will also hold a press conference from 10:30 AM-12 PM with Deputy Secretaries of State James Steinberg and Jacob Lew on the next phase in America’s relationship with Iraq. Location: St. Regis Hotel, 16th and K Sts. NW.

At 10 AM, Brookings will unveil the 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll

The Women’s Foreign Policy Group is holding a briefing on the state of refugees in Kyrgyzstan at 12 PM

At  12 PM, the Spy Museum will hold a book discussion and signing on “The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency” at the International Spy Museum on F st.

For Friday

The National Defense University Foundation will hold a discussion on “Nuclear Deterrence and the Nuclear Defense” with speaker Steve Henry, assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Matters at the Capitol Hill Club at 8 AM

Today: D.C. and Other Major Cities Hold Protest Against Execution of Iranian Woman

Washington, D.C. is among the many cities scheduled to hold protests against the execution of Sakineh Mohammedie Ashtiani this afternoon. I found out on Twitter that the protests are set for 30 cities including New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Washington, D.C. and Ottawa. While executions happen quite often in Iran, these protests are meant to remind people that the fight for her life isn’t over. Although government officials said they will not stone her, she will still likely be executed–probably by hanging.

On July 2, groups held protests against her stoning outside of the Pakistan Embassy (where the Iranian interests section is located. They don’t have their own embassy because the U.S. and Iran don’t have diplomatic relations).

Today, protests will take place between 12-3 (yes…in the heat) at the Pakistan Embassy. I would have gone to check it out if I wasn’t at home in Indiana visiting family. But if anyone is there…send along pictures! For more info, visit the International Committee Against Stoning.

Some of the comments on CNN.com stuck out to me because of how these people spoke with conviction about adultery in the U.S. and the media’s portrayal of this issue. Someone wrote:

“Hey, did you know America has the highest amount of murders, lawsuits, and broken relationships due to adultery. This is a perfect example of why though, because you all, along with our government, condone it like it is giving change to the poor or something. Iran, and the other Muslim cultures have virtually no adultery, and this is why. You find a plan or law, and if it works to upgrade the overall moral, you stick with it.”

While many murders do happen from cheating husbands and wives, that doesn’t forgive the execution of people as a law for adultery. Another commenter wrote that the international community should stay out of this because she is being executed for the “murder of her husband” rather than adultery. As I noted in a previous post that she was accused of being an accomplice in her husband’s murder, and in the U.S., a person can be sentenced by being associated with the murder of someone. However, in her case, she was also additionally punished for the adultery and received almost 100 lashes in front of her son.

Another commenter raised a question that many rights groups and governments debate when justifying their involvement overseas:

“We have no right to interfere,in any way, in what is clearly an Iranian internal matter.We need to learn to keep our noses out of things that do not concern us.We have no right to tell another country how to govern themselves.”

This is the belief of many people in the international community on America’s involvement in the world. But when a tragedy strikes or a group is in need of aid, people turn to the U.S. and say “why didn’t you help? Why didn’t you respond?!”

While I agree–countries cannot force laws upon others–I do think there are certain universal, basic, fundamental human rights that cross borders. And those who subscribe to those rights (rights to safety, equality, expression, belief, etc) should hold others less fortunate accountable. That’s where the international community can apply pressure to stand up for the voiceless.

DC Foreign Policy Events July 19-23

For Monday

The Center for American Progress hosts a talk on the New START and the Outlook for American National Security from 9am-10

After CAPs event, Heritage will host START event titled “Will Obama Arms Control Agenda Stop with the new START? From 12-1pm. It would be interesting if someone went to both and compared the perspectives since one is a liberal think tank and the other is conservative.

The Wilson Center will host a talk on U.S./China relations for an all day event (9-5:00) on the same day, it will host a talk on the possibilities for nuclear peace with Iran at noon.

The National Endowment for Democracy will hold an event on democracy in East Asia from 12-2pm, with lunch served until 12:30.

The Washington Foreign Press Center will hold a roundtable discussion on “Six months later: Examining Relief Efforts in Haiti at the National Press Building” at 1:00 pm.

For Tuesday

The National Foreign Trade Council will hold a seminar on the new Iran sanctions laws at Dewey and LaBoeuf on 1101 New York Ave at 8:00 am.

At 9:00, Third Way whill hold a talk on “Beyond Border Security: Combating Mexico’s violent drug cartels” with speakers Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas; Mexican Ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan; Matt Bennett, vice president of public affairs at Third Way; and Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post located at HVC-215, U.S. Capitol.

The National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Rethinking our Defense Budget: Achieving National Security through Sustainable Spending” at 2154 Rayburn at 10:00 am. I wonder how they propose to finance a war “sustainably” and what that could mean for the war budget.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing for Nominees for Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen Ambassadorships at 2:30pm.

Heritage will also feature a program on how the Visa waiver program could enhance US security from 10-11am.

USIP will hold an event on Kosovo and its EU-Atlantic future from 10-11:30am.

The Middle East Institute will hold a talk on how women are transforming the Middle East between 12pm-2. I would love to see this one, but unfortunately that’s the day I will be participating in communications training and then going out of town.

Brookings will have a live web chat on “The Ongoing War on Terrorism” with Daniel Byman from 12:30-1:30pm

At Busboys and Poets, author Philip Smucker will discuss his book “My brother, my enemy: America and the battle of ideas across the Islamic world.”

For Wednesday

Georgetown will host the screening of an interesting film on Gaza at 6:30 called “Voices of Palestine: Aisheen” or “Still Alive in Gaza”

For Thursday

At 9:30, The Wilson Center will hold a talk on environmental growth in Latin America and the Caribbean at 9:30 am.

At 10, there will be a full committee hearing on managing the Defense Department in a time of tight budgets at 2118 Rayburn.

At the same time, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing with the Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade Subcommittee on “Transshipment and Diversion: Are US Trading Partners Doing Enough to Prevent the Spread of Dangerous Technologies?” at 2172 Rayburn.

CATO will hold a talk on the Implications of the US-India Nuclear Agreement at 12:30.

For Friday

CSIS will host an event on the future of the OSCE security dimension, which would be a nice followup to the OSCE events last week.

Did I miss something? Shoot me an email or tweet @ladansusan

This Week in DC: July 5-9

Did I forget something? Email me at ladansusan@gmail.com to list a foreign policy event.

For Tuesday:

UPDATE:

(Latest from the AP) Netanyahu is in Washington–Jewish groups pressuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop archaeological digs and construction that’s said to be desecrating ancient Jewish cemeteries in the Holy Land will gather in front of the Israeli embassy, rally in front of the White House, and march to the State Department.

At 2:15, Netanyahu will be at the Pentagon with Sec. Gates for an honor cordon.

UPDATE: In the afternoon, Secretary Geithner will meet with Heng Swee Keat, the Managing Director of Singapore’s Monetary Authority, and Chan Heng Chee, Singapore’s Ambassador to the United States, at Treasury. Closed press.

The USIP hosts “Counter-narcotics in Afghanistan” where they discuss a new Center for International Cooperation (CIC) report entitled “Drug Production and Trafficking, Counterdrug Policies, and Security and Governance in Afghanistan.” It will discuss, according to USIP:

  • Current counternarcotics policy in Afghanistan is financially benefiting – rather than hurting – insurgents;
  • Rural development efforts should be focused on assisting rural populations – aid should not be conditioned on desistance from poppy-growing; and
  • Counternarcotics policy should be refocused to discriminate against illegal armed groups and corrupt officials in enforcement.

The event will be held at USIP from 10:00-11:30

CSIS will hold a talk on the need for an OSCE head of state summit in light of recent events in Kyrgyzstan. At the Ministerial Meeting in Athens in December 2009, Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev of Kazakhstanreiterated the proposal of President Nursultan Nazarbayev that the OSCE hold a summit of heads of state and government during 2010. The event will take place between 12:15 and 1:45 at CSIS.

For Wednesday

I will be at the 2010 Campus Progress conference hearing an inspiring panel of young leaders who were hand selected from hundreds of applicants. They’ll talk about important issues like immigration, climate change, LGBT issues, foreign policy and the war in Afghanistan. I’ll be live blogging from here, of course. More details on the event here.

Otherwise:

New: At 10:00 am, there will be a briefing on Afghanistan with Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commander, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command and deputy commander, U.S. Forces at the Pentagon.

Also interesting: The Voice of America, at its huge, nice headquarters, will have a press conference on AIDS in preparation for the international AIDS conference. The speaker will be Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health and one of the key advisors to the White House and Department of Health and Human Services on global AIDS issues.

Carnegie is hosting a talk on Cross-Strait relations between China and Taiwan. It is an all day panel with lunch included from 10-5:00 at Carnegie. More info here.

Brookings is holding an event on the African economy from 2-4. Find more info here.

CSIS will be holding a talk on the recent elections in Mexico from 3:00-4:30. For some news on the elections, I recommend following Jeff Antebi on Twitter. Very interesting person to follow!

At night, Young Professionals in Foreign Policy will hold a talk on the convergence of foreign policy and economic policy from 7-8:30.

For Thursday

I’m really excited about USIP’s Thursday event on bloggers in war zones called “Blogs and Bullets.” I hope to attend and hear many bloggers from the Middle East share their stories and possibly write a post on it for RFE. The event will be webcasted and if I can, I will surely live Tweet it. More info here.

Also on Thursday, a talk on the U.S.’s partnership with Hungary at the Potomac Institute with the Ambassador to Hungary.

The Berkeley Center will hold a talk on women’s roles in religion and peace building, Brookings will hold an event on Japan, The Stimson Center will hold a talk on Pakistan and Busboys and Poets will feature a documentary on children in Gaza.

For Friday

From July 8-9, the Greek Deputy Foreign Minister will be in town, meeting with the Assistant Secretary for Trade Promotion and Director General of the US & Foreign Commercial Service, Suresh Kumar, at the Department of Commerce.

USIP will hold two events tomorrow–one on Southern Sudan and building an education system in conflict at 10:00 and another on war torn societies at 1:00 featuring the release of a framework for Measuring Progress in Conflict Environments (MPICE) developed by the United States Institute of Peace in collaboration with the Department of State, Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute.