Latest Analysis and Commentary

"They Came to Kill Him": The Persecution of Christians - November 2019

by Raymond Ibrahim  •  February 16, 2020 at 5:00 am

  • "He was a 15-year-old adolescent. He was so deeply asleep in his bed that he didn't hear any of the noise around him. They thrust the blade of the axe so deeply into his skull, to the point we had to use a hammer to get it out of his head." Many Christians have been displaced by these ongoing attacks and live in "extreme misery," added another local: "This is beyond persecution. It is a dramatic situation, plunging thousands of families into a deplorable humanitarian crisis." — Rebecca, a witness, Barnabas Fund, November 15, 2019, Cameroon.

  • A group of Muslims beat, robbed, and threatened to kill a Christian evangelist if he did not convert to Islam.... [T]he Muslims indicated that they had physical pains and injuries. Fløttum offered to pray for them, they accepted, and he complied. They said they felt better and urged him to go with them and pray for another of their friends who was also suffering from a foot injury.... "They were very nice and I couldn't believe they would deceive me," he later said. They took him to a backyard, pushed him down a cellar staircase, and began to beat and kick him in the face...."While they kept me there, they threatened me and said they would kill me if I did not convert to Islam....I was scared and actually thought they were going to kill me because they said they had a knife and didn't want witnesses." — Idag.no, November 28, 2019, Norway.

  • "...although the Egyptian government has made some modest progress toward legalizing informal churches around the country and improving public discourse about Coptic rights, it has taken few steps toward systematically improving religious freedom conditions for vulnerable Christian populations, particularly in rural areas." — United States Commission on Interreligious Freedom (USCIRF), Annual Report 2019, Egypt.

Turkey's Council of State recently approved converting Istanbul's historic Chora Church, currently a museum, into a mosque. Chora Church's uniquely old and surprisingly intact artwork was first made in 1315 — more than a century before the Turkish invasion and conquest of Constantinople in 1453. (Image source: Gryffindor/Wikimedia Commons)

The Slaughter of Christians

Syria: On November 11, Islamic gunmen opened fire on a vehicle known to be carrying Christian leaders. Two Armenian priests, Father Abrahim Petoyan and Father Hovsep Petoyan, a father and son, were killed and a deacon was seriously wounded. ISIS claimed responsibility. The Armenians had been going to inspect repairs on an Armenian Catholic church that had earlier been damaged in Deir ez-Zor. "We continue to feel the presence of ISIS," responded the Armenian Catholic Archbishop Boutros Marayati of Aleppo, adding that Deir ez-Zor "is a very important town for us, because it is there that many of our martyrs were killed as they fled the Turkish genocide of 1915. Today there are no Armenian Catholics left there. Undoubtedly, the Turks don't want us to return, because our presence would be a reminder of the Armenian genocide."

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Ouyar Hassan Invited to the Polls... Again

by Amir Taheri  •  February 16, 2020 at 4:00 am

  • For four decades, Ouyar Hassan has put up with an ochlocracy disguised as a theocracy. Wearing an Anatolian smile, he has seen Iran become the only country in the world, perhaps with the exception of Zimbabwe, poorer than it was 40 years ago. He has seen Iran top the list of infamy in the word for the number of political prisoners and executions. He has witnessed the establishment of widespread corruption not as an aberration but as a way of life. For four decades, Ouyar Hassan has turned up at polling stations to cast his vote in fake elections for an ersatz parliament and an actor playing President of the Republic.

  • For the first time since the mullahs seized power, almost all political groups associated with them from the beginning... have publicly called for a boycott of the polls. Even some of the so-called "moderate-reformists", better known for their sheer opportunism than their moral courage, are calling for a boycott of the fake elections.

  • As usual, the authorities could try to manipulate the results in a number of ways such as refusing to register many would-be voters, pre-filling polling boxes and inflating the number of ballots cast in the provinces. Nevertheless, a massive boycott would be hard to camouflage. Such a massive refusal to play extras in a sinister masquerade would show that Ouyar Hassan is no longer prepared to let "those better than us" walk all over him.

Once again, Iran's kleptocrat ruling elite is now trying to organize a general election to burnish its so-called "Islamic democracy". As usual, the authorities could try to manipulate the results in a number of ways such as refusing to register many would-be voters, pre-filling polling boxes and inflating the number of ballots cast in the provinces. Pictured: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani casts his ballot for the presidential elections in Tehran on May 19, 2017. (Photo credit should read Majid Azad/AFP via Getty Images)

Since the 19th century, caricature has been used to highlight in a humorous mode the key features of famous persons or even a whole nation. In the latter case, some well-known examples include Uncle Sam, with his top-hat and carefully trimmed Van Dyke, representing the United States. England is represented by John Bull with his bowler hat, belly and rosy cheeks. French are made fun of with Gaston Dupont, wearing a beret, and with a baguette under his arm and a Gauloise in his mouth, who doesn't know whether his name should end with a D or a T neither of which are pronounced in any case. For its part, Iran is represented by Ouyar Hassan wearing a felt cap, long shirt and baggy trousers.

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The Terrorists Migrating into Europe

by Judith Bergman  •  February 15, 2020 at 5:00 am

  • "Most migrant terrorists involved in thwarted or completed attacks were purposefully deployed to the migration flows by an organized terrorist group to conduct or support attacks in destination countries." — Todd Bensman, "What Terrorist Migration Over European Borders Can Teach About American Border Security", Center for Immigration Studies.

  • Bensman's report indirectly proves that the three EU countries -- Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic -- which refused to take in any of the migrants that came during the migrant crisis, citing security concerns, were right.

  • The leadership of the European Union, however, initiated legal proceedings at the Court of Justice of the European Union against the three countries over the issue.... A ruling on the issue by the Court is expected early next year.

  • In response to the Advocate General, Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller, said that "ensuring security for our citizens is the most important goal of the government's policies. Our actions were dictated by the interests of Polish citizens and the need for protection against uncontrolled migration". — Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller, Reuters, October 31, 2019.

Todd Bensman, a senior national security fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, describes in a new report the extent to which terrorists disguised as migrants have entered the European Union to commit terrorist attacks. (Image source: Elekes Andor/Wikimedia Commons)

A new report, "What Terrorist Migration Over European Borders Can Teach About American Border Security", by Todd Bensman, a senior national security fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, describes the extent to which terrorists disguised as migrants have entered the European Union to commit terrorist attacks. Although the study was written primarily for an American audience to prevent the same mistakes from being made on US borders, the study is extremely relevant for the European public -- especially as Germany recently warned of a repeat migration crisis, similar to the one that occurred in 2015. According to Bensman:

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Italy: Salvini Facing Show Trial for "Kidnapping" Migrants

by Soeren Kern  •  February 14, 2020 at 5:00 am

  • In September, Sicilian prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro said that the kidnapping accusations against Salvini were "groundless" and recommended that he be acquitted of all charges. The Court of Ministers, however, overruled Zuccaro, who is now, paradoxically, required to proceed with prosecuting Salvini, even though he has already found him to be innocent.

  • The charges against Salvini appear to be part of a political vendetta against him as well as his opposition to mass migration. Case in point: Although the decision to prevent those onboard the Gregoretti from disembarking in July 2019 was made by Salvini in close coordination with senior members of the Italian government, only Salvini is facing prosecution.

  • "No contrary position was taken by the Prime Minister Conte.... This makes the hypothesis of individual action by Minister Salvini completely improbable." — Senator Erika Stefani, Lega Party, presenting documents showing that other ministers were deeply involved in discussions over the Gregoretti.

  • "If I have to go to court, I will explain to the judges that defending the borders of my country and protecting citizens was my duty and, serenely, I will go to that courtroom to represent millions of Italians, because I simply did what they asked me to do: to control who enters and who leaves Italy." — Former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini in a tweet, February 12, 2020.

  • Like Trump, Salvini's legal troubles are fuelling his approval ratings.... Surveys indicate that if Italy held elections now, Lega would win a majority together with its conservative allies.

The Italian Senate has voted to strip former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini of parliamentary immunity so that he can face kidnapping charges for refusing to allow migrants to disembark from a ship at a port in Sicily. This is in spite of Sicilian prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro saying in September that the kidnapping accusations against Salvini were "groundless" and recommended that he be acquitted of all charges. Pictured: Salvini (center) at a rally in Policoro, on August 10, 2019. (Photo by Alberto Pizzoli/AFP via Getty Images)

The Italian Senate has voted to strip former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini of parliamentary immunity so that he can face kidnapping charges for refusing to allow migrants to disembark from a ship at a port in Sicily.

If Salvini, who leads the anti-mass-migration party, Lega (League), is found guilty, he faces a ban on holding political office and up to 15 years in prison. He has said that he acted in Italy's national interest and that the charges against him are politically motivated, aimed at silencing criticism of the country's open-door migration policy.

Under Italian law, ministers enjoy immunity for actions taken while in office — unless the Senate votes to lift that protection. On February 12, the Italian Senate voted 152-76 in favor of lifting Salvini's immunity, after a parliamentary committee on January 21 recommended the action.

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Iran, Not Saudi Arabia, Is to Blame for Yemen's Humanitarian Crisis

by Con Coughlin  •  February 13, 2020 at 5:00 am

  • Now, with the humanitarian crisis reaching a critical juncture with an estimated 80% of Yemen's 24 million population in need of assistance, aid organisations are finally waking up to the central role the Iranian-backed Houthis have played in creating the disaster.

  • As humanitarian officials prepare to meet in Brussels this week -- Thursday -- to discuss the Yemeni aid crisis, the main topic of discussion will be what has been described as the unprecedented and unacceptable obstruction tactics being employed by the Houthis that are preventing vital aid supplies from reaching the country's starving population.

  • In their latest bid to seize control of the aid distribution, the Houthis have recently imposed a 2 percent levy on all the international aid agencies operating in the country, prompting one aid worker to claim that the Houthis could be using the aid money to finance the war.

  • Whatever the outcome, no one will be in any doubt that it is the Iranian-backed Houthis, and not the Saudi-led coalition, who are primarily responsible for creating Yemen's disastrous humanitarian crisis.

As Yemen's humanitarian crisis reaches a critical juncture, with an estimated 80% of the country's 24 million people in need of assistance, aid organisations are finally waking up to the central role the Iranian-backed Houthis have played in creating the disaster. Pictured: Displaced persons fill water containers at a makeshift camp in a village in Hajjah province, Yemen, on May 9, 2019. (Photo by Essa Ahmed/AFP via Getty Images)

In the five years since Yemen was plunged into its bitter civil war, it has invariably been the Saudi-led coalition, which enjoys the support of the US, Britain and France, that has been blamed for causing what is widely regarded as the world's greatest humanitarian disaster.

Throughout the conflict the main focus of coverage in most of the Western media has been on the role played by the Saudi military in intensifying the conflict, with Riyadh taking the lion's share of the blame for the estimated 100,000 Yemenis that have died.

The Saudis, it is true, have not always covered themselves in glory in the way they have conducted the military campaign, with frequent reports of Saudi warplanes attacking civilian targets.

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Qassem Soleimani: Iran's Latest 'King of Martyrs'?

by Denis MacEoin  •  February 13, 2020 at 4:30 am

  • Esmail Ghaani, Soleimani's successor as head of the Quds Force, has promised: "to continue martyr Soleimani's path with the same force and the only compensation for us would be us would be to remove America from the region."

  • So much terrorism has come from Tehran.... as distant as Latin America.

  • One might also ask why has the United Nations never held Iran accountable for these violations?

  • One might also ask if the time has finally come for the UN's largest donors -- read the US -- to rethink their generosity? Why not, as Ambassador John R. Bolton long ago recommended: "that we should pay for what we want and insist that we get for what we pay for."

Esmail Ghaani, Qassem Soleimani's successor as head of Iran's Quds Force, has promised: "to continue martyr Soleimani's path with the same force and the only compensation for us would be us would be to remove America from the region." (Image source: Tasnim News [CC by 4.0])

When news broke on the morning of January 3 that Qassem Soleimani, an Iranian general who for many years had headed the Quds Force, the powerful extraterritorial operations arm of the regime's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), had been assassinated -- along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, head of the Iraqi Ketaib Hezbollah militia -- in a US drone strike at Baghdad airport, pundits across the globe burst into print, some to condemn, others to praise his killing.

Neither side seems to want an all-out war. On October 7, 2019, US President Donald J. Trump tweeted:

"... it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home. WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN."

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Is Today's Cannabis the Same as at Woodstock or Is It Now More Dangerous?

February 13, 2020 at 4:00 am

(Image source: iStock)

Gatestone Institute to examine the impact of legalized marijuana in 2020. Details to follow...

Coronavirus: Death of Dr. Li Wenliang Rocks China

by Gordon G. Chang  •  February 12, 2020 at 5:00 am

  • [T]he disease ravaging the country could be, as is now said, China's "Chernobyl," the cover up of a disaster eventually leading to the downfall of the regime.

  • Many analysts expect Beijing to stimulate the economy, but stimulus works only if there is underlying economic activity. With much of the economy shut down, there is not much to stimulate. A dead economy is an existential crisis for a regime whose primary basis of legitimacy is the continual delivery of prosperity.

  • The boldness of recent demands shows that, due to the outbreak, the Chinese people are starting to lose their fear of Xi and the Communist Party. Rudd and Chinese propagandists are saying the Party will weather this crisis, but when people are no longer afraid, anything can happen.

  • "If they do not give us an explanation, we will not give up," said Lu Shuyun, the mother of Dr. Li Wenliang, demanding to know why Wuhan police harassed him while he was trying to save patients.

  • In this contest, bet on the mother. After all, she has about 1.4 billion angry people on her side.

Dr. Li Wenliang, who died from the coronavirus on February 7, had been reprimanded by the Chinese government, with seven other doctors, for warning of the outbreak in December. He was accused of "spreading false rumors" and "disrupting social order" and, for his brave efforts, was briefly detained and interrogated. Pictured: A vigil to mourn Wenliang on February 7 in Hong Kong. (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

On hearing the news that Dr. Li Wenliang had died from the coronavirus on February 7, people in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, under strict quarantine, opened their windows and cried. Others took to the streets to blow whistles for the whistleblower. Grief and anger, expressed from China's streets and balconies and social media platforms, has reached almost unprecedented levels in recent days.

Li, reprimanded with seven other doctors for warning of the outbreak in December, was accused of "spreading false rumors" and "disrupting social order" and, for his brave efforts, was briefly detained, interrogated, and forced to sign an "admonishment notice." Li undoubtedly contracted the virus treating patients at Wuhan Central Hospital.

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Russia's 'Wagner Group' Doing Its Dirty Work?

by Lawrence A. Franklin  •  February 12, 2020 at 4:00 am

  • The Kremlin under President Vladimir Putin still manages to exploit opportunities in Africa and Latin America that threaten to diminish U.S. influence. To this end -- to extend its power to regions beyond its borders and limited resources -- Moscow established the Wagner Group.

  • The Wagner Group masquerades as a private commercial enterprise, but it is actually a mercenary arm of the Russian Defense Ministry, run by a long-time Putin associate, the oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin.

  • Putin has pledged support to rebel leader General Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA), in his effort to overthrow the UN-recognized government in Tripoli.

  • One motivation for Putin's support for Haftar's rebel army may be Moscow's desire to gain access to Libya's oil wells, almost all of which are under Haftar's control.

  • The Wagner Group provides Putin with an aggressive force to safeguard his interests, while allowing him plausible deniability in the event of a confrontation with Washington.... One hopes the White House is listening.

The Wagner Group, a mercenary arm of Russia's Defense Ministry, provides President Vladimir Putin with an aggressive force to safeguard his interests, while allowing him plausible deniability in the event of a confrontation with Washington. Pictured: Putin at the military Patriot Park in Kubinka, Russia, on September 19, 2018. (Photo by Alexey Nikolsky/AFP via Getty Images)

Although Russia is no longer the superpower it was during the days of the Soviet Union, when it posed a genuine threat to U.S. interests around the world, the Kremlin under President Vladimir Putin still manages to exploit opportunities in Africa and Latin America that threaten to diminish U.S. influence. To this end -- to extend its power to regions beyond its borders and limited resources -- Moscow established the Wagner Group.

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Demonizing Defense Lawyers: The True Road to Tyranny

by Alan M. Dershowitz  •  February 12, 2020 at 1:00 am

  • I said that if a president did something entirely legal, with a mixed motive that included his desire to be re-elected, that mixed motive could not turn a legal act into an impeachable offense. I also said that a good motive could not turn a criminal act into a lawful one.

  • Those lawyers were demonized as I am being today. I have a thick skin, developed over many years of defending controversial and unpopular clients and causes. But I am concerned that young lawyers will be deterred from representing such clients and causes for fear it will destroy their careers. I am hearing that from young lawyers and students.

  • Demonizing defense lawyers for representing politically incorrect clients and causes is the true road to tyranny.

Pictured: Alan Dershowitz speaks in the United States Senate during impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, on January 27, 2020. (Photo by Senate Television via Getty Images)

I grew up in the age of McCarthyism, when lawyers who represented suspected communists were blamed for the alleged sins of their clients. I never expected to see a return to that benighted time, especially by self-proclaimed progressives. But it's back.

I appeared on the Senate floor as constitutional counsel against impeachment, not as a regular, full time counsel for US President Donald J. Trump. As I said in my opening remarks: I come not as a partisan but to " defend the constitution" from partisan misuse. I laid out the constitutional arguments in an academic manner.

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Palestinians: The Dangers of Singing

by Khaled Abu Toameh  •  February 11, 2020 at 5:00 am

  • The only songs Hamas and its followers want are those that promote hate and violence.... "I will eat you alive, tastes best without salt, Zionist – Yes, yes, you."

  • The members of Sol Band did not call for "scattering the body parts" of Jews; that is probably why they are being targeted by Hamas and its allies in the Gaza Strip.

  • What is disturbing, however, is the silence of the international community, specifically the EU partners of Islamic University in Gaza, where Farra serves as a lecturer. Do the Europeans working with the university condone threats against musicians?... The EU countries and educational institutions are most likely ignoring such threats because they were not made by Israel.

  • The silence of the international community emboldens Hamas... and allows them to continue their repressive measures against Palestinians. It also allows Hamas and terror groups to continue calling for blowing up the skulls of Jews and eating them alive.

The only songs Hamas and its followers want are those that promote hate and violence.... "I will eat you alive, tastes best without salt, Zionist – Yes, yes, you." Pictured: Members of the Hamas "Protectors of the Homeland Police Band" practice in Gaza City on November 4, 2007. (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images)

Palestinian musicians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip are facing death threats after a Muslim scholar, Sheikh Mohammed Sliman al-Farra, published a fatwa (a legal opinion or ruling issued by an Islamic scholar) prohibiting a local band from performing.

Farra works for Islamic University of Gaza, a member of four regional and international associations of higher education, and has project partnerships with more than 130 European universities and research centers located in 21 EU countries.

Published on November 23, 2019, the fatwa targets Sol Band, a Palestinian music group established in the Gaza Strip eight years ago:

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Are You Smoking Cannabis Then Driving a Car?

February 11, 2020 at 4:00 am

(Image source: iStock)

Gatestone Institute to examine the impact of legalized marijuana in 2020. Details to follow...

Palestinians: After Inciting Violence, Abbas Comes to New York To Fight a Peace Plan

by Bassam Tawil  •  February 10, 2020 at 5:00 am

  • "Other stateless people can only dream of being offered independence and $50bn by the US president.... If only the Yazidis or Baluchis or Kurds or Rohingya Muslims were so lucky." – Tom Gross, January 29, 2020.

  • The plan... offers the Palestinians most of the land captured by Israel in 1967 that more than doubles their territory; a government with realized human rights and institutions of democracy, such as a free press, and $50 billion -- all as part of an extraordinary opportunity to build a flourishing Palestinian State.

  • Incredibly, Palestinian leaders seem to believe that no one understands that it is their own incitement that is instigating violence, not a peace plan yet to be implemented.

  • Abbas has no peace plan. That is probably why he is now hoping that the violence he incited will force Israel and the US to surrender even greater concessions to the Palestinians.

  • It now remains to be seen whether the Security Council and the international community will demand an end to continued Palestinian terrorism and rejection. Failure to do so will only allow Abbas and Hamas to proceed with their long-standing scheme of inciting their people to pursue terrorism every time they are offered a plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has called on his people to step up "popular resistance activities" to protest US President Donald Trump's ostensible "conspiracy." Abbas's non-stop incitement has resulted so far in the deaths of three young Palestinian men in the West Bank, who were killed by the Israel Defense Forces while attacking soldiers with firebombs. Pictured: Abbas denouncing Trump peace plan in Ramallah on January 28, 2020. (Photo by Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty Images)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is on his way to the United Nations Security Council to speak against US President Donald Trump's plan for Middle East peace -- "Peace to Prosperity" -- after having incited his people, yet again, against Israel and the US.

Abbas's non-stop incitement has resulted so far in the deaths of three young Palestinian men in the West Bank -- Nidal Ahmed Nafleh, 19, Yazan Munther Abu Tabeekh, 19, and Mohammed Salman Haddad, 17 -- who were killed by the Israel Defense Forces while attacking soldiers with firebombs.

Why did the three men take to the streets to attack IDF soldiers? Because Abbas called on his people to step up "popular resistance activities" to protest the ostensible Trump "conspiracy."

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France Quietly Reintroducing the Crime of Blasphemy

by Giulio Meotti  •  February 9, 2020 at 5:00 am

  • Today, in France, using freedom of expression to criticize Islam is clearly an extremely dangerous act, even if you, like Mila, are a child.

  • France is rapidly going from laïcité (secularism) to lâcheté (cowardice); from freedom of expression to unconditional surrender. France keeps trying to procrastinate while Islamism thrives on the elites' rapidly abandoning their Judeo-Christian values.

  • Feminist organizations, so quick to denounce "toxic masculinity" and "patriarchal structures of domination", were also silent.

  • Today, in France, the country of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which always sanctified freedom of expression and the right to criticize religion and ideologies, some within the justice system.... are quietly and de facto reintroducing the crime of blasphemy.

Today, in France, the country that always sanctified freedom of expression and the right to criticize religion and ideologies, some within the justice system are quietly and de facto reintroducing the crime of blasphemy. (Images source: iStock. Image is illustrative and does not represent any person named in the article.)

France had just come out of the fifth anniversary of the massacre at its satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo than it was plunged into a similar case. On January 18, Mila O., a 16-year-old French girl, made insulting comments about Islam during an Instagram livestream.

"During her livestream, a Muslim boy asked her out in the comments, but she turned him down because she is gay. He responded by accusing her of racism and calling her a 'dirty lesbian'. In an angry follow-up video, streamed immediately after she was insulted, Mila responded by saying that she 'hates religion'".

Mila continued, saying among other things:

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A Man of a Thousand Faces Wears a New Mask

by Amir Taheri  •  February 9, 2020 at 4:00 am

  • In the meantime, conscious of the fact that Iranians are suckers for real or fake academic titles, to enhance his persona, Rouhani enrolled in a British college in Glasgow to obtain a PhD in Islamic law. Thus, in a few years' time, he was able to rebrand himself as Dr. Hassan Rouhani, the "moderate reformist with Western education."

  • By the 1990s, in Western policy circles, Rouhani had acquired the reputation of "a man with whom we can work".

  • Rouhani's message, peddled by cronies including Foreign Minister Muhammad-Javad Zarif, is that the internal opposition and foreign powers worried about Iran should be patient and help "moderates" re-orient the storm-stricken ship of the regime towards calmer waters.

  • Will Rouhani's scenario, for easing Khamenei off his pedestal, work? I doubt it. Rouhani may be a talented man of a thousand faces, but 40 years of experience has shown that every one of those faces turned out to be a mask.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani may be a talented man of a thousand faces, but 40 years of experience has shown that every one of those faces turned out to be a mask. (Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images)

Whatever one might think of Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, one thing is certain: had things gone differently in Iran 40 years ago, he might have become a writer of penny-dreadfuls with provincial themes. Rouhani's talent for fiction writing is demonstrated by the way he has reinvented himself over the decades.

In 1977, when the first rumbles of revolution roared in Iran, he was a student, going by the name of Hassan Fereidun, in England, seeking a degree in textile design.

A few months later, he re-named himself Rouhani, meaning spiritual or clerical. Fereidun was a Persian nationalistic name and would not do for a man plotting to cast himself as a champion of faith.

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