Monthly Archives: June 2009

IRAN enters a political minefield alongside Obama

IRAN Enters a Political Minefield alongside Obama


By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent  –  THE SEOUL TIMES

U.S President Barrak Obama and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

The Islamic Republic of Iran is hoping that the current political unrest will die down in order to maintain strict control over society. Yet clearly, millions of people in Iran and in the Iranian diaspora are worried about recent events. After all, people have been killed by government forces and tensions remain high. So is this the start of a fresh challenge against the higher echelons in Iran or will the crisis blow over when religious leaders get involved?

Before focusing on this, it is clear that the American leader, President Obama, is reluctant to get involved in the current crisis. This may or may not be understandable, depending on your point of view, however, I am bewildered by his statement about Mir Hossein Mousavi and President Ahmadinejad.

Obama stated that “there might not be much difference between the policies of President Ahmadinejad and rival Mir Hossein Mousavi.” However, given the severity of the crisis and with several people being killed, then Obama is clearly missing the main point.

After all, people do not willingly challenge a strong state which can use the state apparatus to crush any genuine opposition. It takes bravery to challenge the state apparatus and clearly it would appear that the election result was manipulated. However, for now nobody knows by how much and to what extent the real result was because it is feasible that Ahmadinejad won but by the margin given, then this is clearly debatable, surely?

However, we must remember that Obama visited the House of Saudi Arabia, the most despotic nation in the world which crushes all forms of genuine freedom, this especially applies to female emancipation and religious freedom. Given this, the same Obama was bound to remain aloof when people were dying for “democracy.” Therefore, is this the “new history” that Obama talked about? If so, it is hollow to the core and it would have been better if he had said nothing.

Turning back to Iran, then clearly the vote is hard to believe with regards to the final result. For Ali Sina, author of Understanding Muhammad, a Psychobiography, and founder of Faith Freedom International (FFI), he states that “Elections in the Islamic Republic of Iran have never been free. Candidates are screened and only those with proven loyalty to the regime are allowed to run.”

Despite this, it is clear that Mousavi may have been underestimated by the establishment in Iran. After all, Mousavi is clearly not bowing down to internal pressure, on the contrary, he is challenging the result of the election and in this sense, the ruling elite. You may deem Mousavi to be too close to the clerics or the higher echelons in Iran but sometimes people “do not play the intended game” and maybe Mousavi and other Iranians desire “real change”

Ali Sina also states that “….Iranians were surprised when the official news reported that Ahmadinejad was the winner” and he further continues that “Karroubi and Rezai received a humiliating 1%, or less.” Yet it seems most unlikely that Karroubi and Rezai would have done so badly, and the same applies to Mousavi who apparently obtained 33.7% of the vote, compared with Ahmadinejad who obtained 62.6% of the vote.

Therefore, many people find the result to be based on fraud. According to Ali Sina “The evidence of massive fraud was overwhelming. Not only had the result grossly contradicted the polls, neither of the challenging candidates won even in their hometown. Rezai observed that he had more campaign workers than votes.”

Mousavi himself states that “We are after a peaceful rally to protest the unhealthy trend of the elections and realize our goal of annulling the election results.” Mousavi also called for “a new presidential election that will not repeat the shameful fraud from the previous election.”

Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri also condemned the results of the election. He stated that “A government that is based on intervening in the vote has no political or religious legitimacy.” Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri also commented that “no sound mind” would accept the result.

After the death of Ayatollah Khomeini it appeared that Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri was well placed to become the next supreme leader. However, conservative Islamic leaders ousted him on the grounds that he rebuked aspects of the revolution. So it is clear that important conservative Islamic leaders and institutions know how to protect their power bases and Mousavi and his supporters face a major uphill struggle.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most powerful person in Iran appears to be at a loss. After all, initially Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had welcomed the victory of Ahmadinejad but now he appears to be wavering because of the need to “buy time” and preserve the Islamic Revolution. So the Supreme Leader is caught “in a political minefield” because his loyalty is towards maintaining conservative Islamic power and maintaining the current status quo whereby society can be ruled by indoctrination and the ruling elites.

Turning back to Obama, then he is correct when he states that “The easiest way for reactionary forces inside Iran to crush reformers is to say it’s the U.S. that is encouraging those reformers,” he told CNBC. However, nobody is asking for America to openly get involved in Iranian politics because Iran is a nation of great richness and it is up to Iranian nationals to solve their own internal crisis.

Yet, Iran, and the leaders of this nation, must be made accountable for crushing genuine opposition and if the regime turns on the people then this is a different matter. After all, you have a big difference between containing political discontent and killing people via the means of state controlled power.

So when Obama stated that “I think it’s important to understand that although there is amazing ferment taking place in Iran, the difference in actual policies between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as advertised;” he appears to be saying that the result of the current situation is not important. Yet to the loved ones of people who have been killed, then clearly this current political crisis is serious.

Obama also voiced hope that leaders in Iran would respond “not with violence, but with a recognition that the universal principles of peaceful expression and democracy are ones that should be affirmed.” So is the new leader of America so naïve?

Does Obama believe that universal rights are being upheld in Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia? Where does this comment fit in with the current reality in Iran? At best, Obama is being extremely naïve or playing the “Cairo Muslim card” and letting the so-called Islamic world know that America does not care about human rights.
Or at worse, this statement by Obama is based on covering himself via deceit and can Obama state when Iran upheld “the universal principles of peaceful expression?”

Some people are hoping that fresh changes will arise from the current political crisis or that a “movement of freedom” will challenge the ruling conservative clerics and elites. However, many analysts believe that the current crisis will either peter out by itself or that opposition forces will be crushed.

I myself believe that nothing is predictable because history tells us this. However, it is clear that many Iranian people “are thirsty for democracy” and the next few weeks and months will be fraught with danger. Yet we do not need a world leader like Obama to belittle the current crisis in Iran because this issue is very important.

Ali Sina states that “The Iranian people have not had a candidate of their own since the Islamists took power. Candidates are screened and selected by the regime. Even through these ersatz elections people have tried to vote for the candidate that is less Islamist. Mousavi is not a democrat, but he represents a glimmer of hope. It is much easier to overthrow a moderate Islamic regime that is willing (to) give some freedom to people to voice their dissent than one that represses people, imprisons its opponents and kills its critics. The Iranians are looking for their Gorbachev, not to reform the Islamic regime, but to eventually get rid of it.”

Only time will tell what the final outcome will be but it is disconcerting to me when Obama is equating Mousavi with Ahmadinejad. Also, it is sometimes better to say nothing rather than say something, and maybe Obama should have remained silent on this issue because obviously he is thinking about the need to appease Islamic regimes.



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ISLAM needs to be challenged by true democracy

Islam Needs to Be Challenged by True Democracy


By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent    –  THE SEOUL TIMES

Islamists pray at a mosque in Seoul.

In the distant past major democratic nations could blame the Cold War for supporting despots like Suharto in Indonesia and authoritarian nations like Saudi Arabia and a host of other nations. However, after the demise of the Cold War many people had genuine hope that a New World Order would arise from the ashes of political and ideological divisions. Therefore, democracy “in your own backyard” is no longer good enough because it leads to mass hypocrisy.

After all, is it right to lambast North Korea but remain quiet about Saudi Arabia? Let us be frank, when the President of America, Obama, visited Saudi Arabia then all his human rights credentials “were thrown out of the window.” For females and non-Muslims suffer greatly in Saudi Arabia and the same applies to the minority Shia Muslim community which suffers so greatly.

So how can Obama lambast North Korea but remain silent about Saudi Arabia? From a female point of view, then women in North Korea have much more rights than they do in Saudi Arabia. Also, the vast majority of people who were responsible for September 11th were Saudi nationals, and of course not one single North Korean was involved. Yet sadly “oil politics” does get in the way and this is the problem, either you have a consistent policy or you should remain quiet.

For North Korea, unlike Saudi Arabia, is a victim of outside nations because “old” Korea was a victim of Japanese imperialism and brutality, and then global power politics helped to divide the Korean peninsula. More recently, America remains firmly entrenched in South Korea and sadly both Korea’s have been victims of past outside history. However, can Saudi Arabia claim the same divisions of society on outside powers to the same extent? Obviously not, but despite this Saudi Arabia can get away with anything, including not building one single Christian church or Hindu temple to serve the migrant population.

More recently, we had President Obama making an emotional plea towards the so-called Muslim world but look at the two nations he decided to launch this fresh agenda. Yes, he went to Saudi Arabia, the land that kills all converts from Islam to Christianity and where Saudi women face severe restrictions. Then he gave his lecture in Egypt, a land where Coptic Christians suffer persecution and where the same leader governs with an “iron fist” year after year. So once more, democracy, religious liberty, equality, and so forth, is “thrown out of the window” and “democracy is on a backburner.”

The “New World Order” was meant to usher in a new period whereby communism was defeated and “the march of democracy” was going to flourish. However, the “New World Order” never got started because capitalist nations still desire to trade with important nations like China and Saudi Arabia, and a host of others, which are undemocratic.

However, in China it is clear that greater freedom is happening and this nation is opening-up because commerce and trade is deemed to be more important than a rigid ideology. So the China of Mao Zedong is long gone and the current leaders of the Chinese Communist Party are very mild when compared with past leaders in the 1950s and 1960s.

Yet when we focus on mainly Muslim nations, the picture is very different because unlike China, opening up is not on the agenda when it comes to greater freedom. Yes, you have some mainly Muslim nations which are democratic, for example Indonesia, Malaysia, Senegal, and Turkey. However, in Turkey you have the Kurdish issue and marginalization of religious minorities and in Indonesia you have Christian-Muslim tensions in parts of this nation and West Papua suffers greatly.

Despite this, you have many positives within the above mentioned nations yet sadly, when we look at the “bigger picture” then it is clear that religious minorities see little in the way of “true democracy.” After all, if a Muslim converts to Christianity, Buddhism, or any other faith, in Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and some other nations, then this crime is punishable by death.

Meanwhile, in nations like Bangladesh the mainly Buddhist tribals (some are Hindu or Christian) suffer enormous persecution and the same applies to Hindus within Bangladesh. In Pakistan, all minorities suffer at the hands of radical Sunni Muslim zealots and in so-called moderate nations like Egypt, it is clear that you have many anti-Christian laws when it comes to equality.

Also, thousands of women, and the numbers could be in the tens of thousands, are killed in the name of so-called honour every year. These so-called honour-killings mainly go unpunished or very light sentences are given. Therefore, it is clear that women suffer at the hands of conservative Islam and honour killings have now began to happen in Western nations by migrants who have maintained this barbaric tradition. Other non-Muslim societies are also blighted by this terrible crime against humanity, however, it is clear that in parts of the Middle East and other areas like Pakistan, that this problem is severe and for the majority of Islamic clerics they appear to be silent about this real and tragic issue.

So today we have a new leader in America who “is bending over backwards” to accommodate mainly Muslim nations. However, what about the rights of Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, women, Muslim minorities, secularists, socialists, and others, who suffer in so many mainly Muslim nations? How can change happen when no constraints are put on trade or via major international institutions?

Democracy in your own nation is fine, providing you do not try to lecture other nations about the virtue of democracy and providing you state clearly that the human rights of others do not count. Yet nations like America and the United Kingdom use “democracy” to bash North Korea but remain quiet when it comes to Saudi Arabia. This dual policy is sickening and based on “power politics” and self-interests.

Given this, democracy, religious freedom, gender equality and universal rights, are being hindered so conservative Islam can keep on persecuting their respective dhimmi communities. Therefore, the House of Islam is free to spread radical Islam while at the same time Islam can persecute and kill non-Muslims or Muslim minorities in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and other nations.

Therefore, I am ashamed by democratic nations which do not give two hoots about the rights of others in distant lands. Yet, the same democratic nations will use the “democratic card” to lambast weak nations like North Korea. So clearly America, the United Kingdom, and many other democracies, only use the democratic issue when it suits them but just like radical Islam, you can not switch democracy on or off.

So why is it correct to have democratic freedoms in Western societies and gender equality in Western law, when this criterion is not applied to other nations? Is this really what democracy means in America, the United Kingdom, and other nations?

The answer at the moment to this is clearly “yes.” And I am ashamed of such blatant “double standards” and surely human rights must be a universal right. What makes the situation even worse is that Western trade in nations like Saudi Arabia is vital for their economy and Western nations do have economic and political leverages at their disposal.

For example nations who welcome democracy, gender equality, religious freedom, and so on, should be brought into economic blocs and trade should be focused on these nations. In time both economic and political incentives will encourage greater democratization and this will help internal democratic movements or mere demands for greater human rights.

Of course I am not stating that this policy will work in every nation, or that it will eradicate all global problems in the world. Yet a “first step” needs to be taken and it is clear that this “step” must focus on the Islamic world in the main and other mainly non-Muslim nations like Myanmar which use persecution.

This may seem idealistic, and of course much research must be done to implement global policies with regards to economic blocs like the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement, and other important institutions, like the International Monetary Fund. Yet a policy of greater democratization needs to be implemented and a “New World Order” needs to begin.

Look at the consequences if this is not implemented. This applies to massive poverty, gender persecution, religious persecution, migration, civil wars, regional conflicts, terrorism, and countless other negative problems. Also, this upheaval does not only apply to far away lands, but to all nations, for September 11 proves that world problems are indeed great.

More important, isn’t democracy hollow if it only applies to internal democracy? For why should children, women, religious minorities, and so on, continue to suffer due to Western nations “turning a blind eye?” Surely democracy and universal human rights are more important than trade? So let us hope that political leaders will understand the need to change direction.

If not, then it is essential for voices which are”crying to be heard” in nations like Saudi Arabia to be met with genuine concerns in the West and not based on an economic agenda. If this means that lay people have to call for these demands, then get writing or demonstrating. For “silence” kills and allows persecution to continue.

The world now needs a “New World Order” based on democracy, liberty, freedom, religious freedom, gender equality, and so on. For don’t our fellow humans deserve equality in nations Saudi Arabia and any undemocratic nation, irrespective if they are mainly Muslim, mainly Buddhist, mainly Christian, or whatever? And isn’t democracy tainted when democratic nations openly trade with Saudi Arabia and countless other despotic nations?

Therefore, it is essential that the Obama way, the way of pandering and appeasement, is challenged because the global reality in many mainly Muslim nations is one of persecution or alienation, or both. Senegal, and a few others, are rare democratic nations within the Muslim dominated bloc, therefore, true democracy needs to challenge nations like Saudi Arabia but will this ever happen?



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NORTH KOREA’S point of view

North Korea’s Point of View


By Lee Jay Walker  – THE SEOUL TIMES
Tokyo Correspondent


Kim Il-Sung and Chairman Mao Zedong: Kim Il-Sung is seen making a toast at Donghu Hotel with Chairman Mao Zedong of China, who invited the North Korean leader to Beijing on Nov. 25, 1958. During the Korean War (1950-53). Mao sent huge troops to save Kim Il-Sung’s North Korean government.

The government of North Korea ordered a new nuclear test in the full knowledge that world leaders would rebuke the position taken by North Korea. However, for North Korea it is about protecting the nation state from hostile forces. It is also abundantly clear that the current leader of America, President Obama, is rather “new and inexperienced” when it comes to global issues and the leader of South Korea, President Lee Myung-Bak, is more hostile to North Korea. Therefore, the leaders of North Korea see a new opportunity to further their cause and to pave the way for the future leader of this nation.

This article today is not about vindicating North Korea’s foreign policy or the government of North Korea. It is merely focused on the point of view of North Korea. After all, nearly all articles about this nation just lambast the current leader and offer no real solutions or theories. Instead it is just the same negative mantra.

Before we focus on the “democratic morals of the West” we need to focus on real issues. For example, both India and Pakistan have developed their respective nuclear stockpiles in recent times. Despite this, Pakistan is still deemed to be an ally of America and India is increasingly being seen to be a future power.

Also, what about Israel? For it is clear that Israel is a nuclear power and that in the past this nation developed a nuclear capability but this will not stop America from being pro-Israeli. Do not get me wrong, I am not arguing that America should be anti-Israel or anti-India, or whatever, but we need a more honest approach to North Korea.

Iran will also share a similar view to North Korea when it comes to the need to protect the nation state. After all, other nations like America, China, the Russian Federation, France, and the United Kingdom, all have nuclear weapons. Also, given America’s recent history, for example Vietnam, bombing Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and others, then clearly nations who view America with hostility are deeply alarmed.

After all, you have never had a war between two nuclear powers and clearly it would appear that obtaining nuclear weapons is in the interest of marginalized nations.

So when we turn to the nuclear reality, it is clear that the leaders of North Korea understand history. After all, you have never had a war between two nuclear powers. However, for nations who were seen to be weak, like Iraq, Vietnam, and Serbia (the former Yugoslavia), and a host of others, we saw the real notion of Western democracy.

Then if we focus on democratic values it all comes apart once more. For how can you lambast North Korea on the one hand but support nations like Saudi Arabia on the other hand? Yet for nations like America and the United Kingdom, and a host of others, this issue does not even enter the equation. Why?

Also, does North Korea have foreign troops based throughout any other nation? Of course not, yet in both Japan and South Korea, and a host of other nations, you have American armed forces. So when it comes to being an independent nation, it is apparent that North Korea is more independent with regards to national independence than either Japan or South Korea.

Turning back to democracy and lambasting North Korea on this issue, then how does this relate to America’s foreign policy? After all, what happened to democracy when America dropped Agent Orange all over Vietnam? This was followed by America supporting right-wing governments in Central and Latin America.

Also, more recently, thousands of people in Yugoslavia were killed by “democratic bombs” and the majority of people killed were ordinary civilians, including small children and old people. The same applies to the huge loss of life in Iraq and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan. You may support America in all of these invasions or you may deem these conflicts to be in the interest of national security or whatever. Yet for nations like China, the Russian Federation, India, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, and many others, they were all opposed to America’s foreign policy.

Yet during the same timescale, did North Korea invade anyone? Apparently not! Despite this, the nation of North Korea is deemed to be a major threat to humanity and “beyond the pale.” However, for North Korea it is America, and not North Korea, which is a global threat to peace. You may not agree with this, or I may not agree with this, it is not important, but if you look at history then which is more absurd?

Turning to history, we must remember that Korea was invaded by Japan and colonized in 1910. So how different are the leaders of both Korea’s and which nation can claim to be independent or pro-Korea?

The first President of South Korea, President Syngman-Rhee, 1948-1960, was pro-America, despotic, and used pro-Japanese collaborators in order to control South Korea via “an iron fist.” He and the American government abided by the same ex-leaders who had sided with Japan against their own people. Therefore, the new leaders of South Korea had helped the Japanese in their anti-Korean policies.

The next strong leader of South Korea to emerge, after the short leadership of Yun Bo-seon, was that of Park Chung-hee (President 1963-1979). Park had a Japanese name (Takaki Masao) and he clearly did well under the Japanese colonial system. For he went to the Japanese Manchurian military academy and Park once more adopted another Japanese name, this time he was called Okamoto Minoru. Park continued to prosper during the invasion of China by Japan.

After all, be became a lieutenant and fought for the Imperial Japanese Army, however, it is not fully known if led imperial troops against native Koreans. However, he was involved in the fighting in Manchuria and many Korean communists had supported China in its struggle against Japan.

However, Kim Il-sung, the first leader of North Korea, who was Prime Minister between 1948-1972 and President from 1972-1994, had fought against Japanese imperialism. Therefore, unlike South Korean leaders or high officials, Korean nationalism and independence had been kept alive by North Korean leaders.

Kim Il-sung, known as the “Great Leader,” had risked everything in order for North Korea to become independent. Kim had been raised in a Protestant Christian family and his maternal grandfather had been a Christian pastor. Both his parents were active in the Christian church and both were anti-Japanese.

He joined various anti-Japanese guerrilla groups in northern China and this proved vital for two factors. Firstly, he clearly fought against the invaders of Korea and secondly, China would remain loyal to him during the Korean War. So clearly, it was Kim and not future leaders in South Korea, like Park Chung-hee, who had fought against Japanese imperialism with bravery.

If we look at regional politics, then is North Korea so unique? Yes, political systems are different and economic development stages are also hugely different. The same applies to political and economic freedom. However, is the political mindset so different in parts of Asia?

For example, the nations of China, Japan, Iran (1979 onwards), Laos, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Vietnam, and others, have one common thread. This applies to the same political party dominating society and the central role of consensus ideology or thinking.

This does not mean that all societies are similar, of course they are not, but all the above nations have “a guiding political party” or “guiding ideology” which maintains order. Of course, we can argue that North Korea goes to the extreme, but you do have the same power-plays happening but under different systems in other parts of Asia.

Focusing on past history, then is North Korea a victim of many negative forces? This applies to “old” Korea being overwhelmingly feudal and based on agriculture prior to Japanese imperialism. After all, the nation was called the “Hermit Kingdom.”

Korea, therefore, went from feudalism to Japanese imperialism and then the Korean peninsula became a victim of global power politics. Added to this, you had the height of the Cold War and an alien ideology, communism, adding to the equation.

On top of this, millions have died and been displaced since 1905 onwards and many massacres have happened, be they by outside forces, for example by America or Japan, or because of internal massacres.
After all, how can North Korea trust South Korea given the closeness of the leaders to either past imperial Japan or to modern day America, or to both outside nations? How can you forgive “your brother” when they colluded with outside nations?

Obviously, the South Korean point of view will be very different, but today is about trying to understand all the competing forces which have pulled both nations apart, despite sharing the same ethnic identity and to understand the current stalemate.

If we turn to current events, for example the Six-Party Talks, then it is clear that North Korea is linking military developments alongside obtaining “a genuine peace” whereby America no longer threatens the nation, and also to obtain economic aid in order to stabilize the economy. The six-party talks aim is to find a peaceful resolution to a very complex problem. For North Korea, they believe that they need a security guarantee because of a possible military attack by America or by combined American and South Korean armed forces.

Also, Japanese leaders have played the nationalist card in order to bash North Korea for a very long time. Yet look at the consequences, yes, they have merely forced North Korea into a corner and this is always dangerous. So today we have a more potent leadership in North Korea which is bent on protecting its independence.

The Japanese government used the nationalist card during the recent dispute over a missile test or satellite which was launched by North Korea on April 5. Other more moderate regional nations, notably the Russian Federation and China, stated that nations must remain calm otherwise the consequences may become dire. However, Japan continues to make “noisy statements” and clearly North Korea will see this to be nothing more than an historical hatred of Korea by nationalists in Japan who still pray to war criminals.

Therefore, irrespective if you “love” North Korea or “hate” the government of North Korea, it is essential to try and see the world “through their eyes.” Also, if you consider everything, then North Korea may have some valid points when it comes to international relations and being independent.

This article is not meant to be an “apologist” article, on the contrary, it is merely meant to challenge the daily anti-North Korea mass media and to merely add a different dimension. People should remember that Koreans have suffered at the hands of others throughout the 20th century and sadly today both Korea’s are divided because of this history. However, how can the Korean peninsula move on when one side is “ridiculed” or “despised?” Surely, a new approach is needed?




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