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New York Times

LONDON — Iran’s Revolutionary Court has sentenced to death a former United States military serviceman of Iranian descent on charges of spying for the Central Intelligence Agency, the semiofficial Fars news agency reported on Monday.

The former serviceman, Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, 28, is the first American to receive a death sentence in Iran since the Islamic Revolution more than 30 years ago ushered in the estrangement in American-Iranian relations that has reached new levels of tension in recent months. Mr. Hekmati’s family in the United States has insisted he is no spy and was merely visiting family in Iran.

“It’s a very shocking sentence,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based advocacy group that has been following Mr. Hekmati’s case.

Mr. Hekmati, who has been imprisoned in Iran since August, had been charged by prosecutors with receiving espionage training at American bases in Afghanistan and Iraq before infiltrating Iran.

The Fars agency said he was sentenced to death for “cooperating with the hostile country and spying for the C.I.A.”

“The court found him Corrupt on Earth and Mohareb (waging war on God),” according to Fars. The formulation is routinely used in cases against alleged enemies of the Islamic Republic, and the charge carries the death sentence.

Mr. Hekmati’s detention became public last month when Iranian state television broadcast video of him. It identified him as an American-born Iranian-American from Arizona.

In the video, the man identified as Mr. Hekmati said he joined the United States Army after graduating from high school in 2001, served in Iraq and received training in languages and espionage.

He said he was sent to Iran by the C.I.A. to gain the trust of the Iranian authorities by handing over information, some misleading and some accurate. If his first mission was successful, he said he was told, there would be more missions.

The claims in the video could not be verified at the time. The C.I.A. declined to comment after the broadcast on Dec. 18.

In the televised confession, Mr. Hekmati was shown speaking in fluent English and Persian. He said he was a C.I.A. operative sent to infiltrate the Iranian intelligence ministry.

Iranian officials said their agents had identified him at the American-run Bagram air base in Afghanistan and tracked him as he infiltrated Iran. Mr. Hekmati’s family in the United States told American news media that he had traveled to Iran to visit his grandmothers and was not a spy.

The United States had demanded Mr. Hekmati’s release and the State Department said last month that Iran had not permitted diplomats from the Swiss Embassy, which represents American interests in Iran, to see him before or during his trial.

Accusations by Iran of espionage inside its borders are common, and Iran often announces that it has captured or executed people it says are spies for Western powers and Israel.

On Sunday, Heydar Moslehi, the Iranian intelligence minister, said Iran had arrested several spies who sought to carry out American plans to disrupt parliamentary elections in March, according to Fars.

Speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Mr. Moslehi said: “Our intelligence apparatus had complete information about the activities of the arrested spies. The detainees were in contact with abroad through cyberspace networks. We arrested them after we obtained full information about their espionage activities.”

Rick Gladstone contributed reporting from New York, and Artin Afkhami from Boston.

The Daily Caller
By Carolina May
3:43 PM 12/22/2011

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has announced that the Department of Defense will now allow Muslim and Sikh students participating in Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) to wear headscarves and turbans while in uniform.

The decision, announced Thursday, followed an October incident in which Muslim teen Demin Zawity quit JROTC when her commanding officer at a Brentwood, Tenn. high school would not allow her to wear her hijab in the homecoming parade.

CAIR later wrote to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta requesting “constitutionally-protected religious accommodations for the girl and for future Muslim JROTC participants.”

In a letter to the Muslim organization sent on Panetta’s behalf, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army Larry Stubblefield explained that based on the incident that led Zawity to quit JROTC, the Army will now be making more accommodations for religious headwear in the training program.

“Based on your concerns, the Army has reviewed its JROTC uniform policy and will develop appropriate procedures to provide Cadets the opportunity to request the wear of religious head dress, such as the turban and hijab,” Stubblefield wrote in the letter, made public by CAIR. “This change will allow Miss Zawity and other students the chance to fully participate in the JROTC program.”

Army spokesman George Wright confirmed Stubblefield’s letter to CAIR and explained to The Daily Caller that while JROTC is affiliated with the Army, it is not actually a part of the Army. The new procedures will provide JROTC with a exemption method more similar to current Army procedure mandated through the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

That law allows soldiers on active duty to apply for religious accommodation if they want to alter their uniforms in accordance with their religious beliefs. The exemptions are applied on a case-by-case basis. Soldiers who are transferred must reapply.

“Requests for ETP [exemptions to policy] to uniform and grooming standards (AR 670-1) based on religion, are considered on a case by case basis and balanced against military necessity ETPs are temporary, cannot be guaranteed at all times, not liberally granted, and may be revoked due to changed conditions,” Army regulations state.

According to Wright, currently there are three Sikhs and one Orthodox Jewish rabbi who have been approved to wear religious garb outside of their standard regulation uniform on active duty. One female Army captain has applied to wear the hijab for religious observance. Her case is pending.

Still, political commentator Jed Babbin, a former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, noted that the point of a uniform is uniformity.

“Look at the word: ‘uni’-’form’ — everybody wears the same thing,” Babbin told TheDC. “The military is by its own nature diverse and creates a culture in which everyone, regardless of their race or creed, is blended into one force for a common purpose. This [uniform exemption] divides it, balkanizes it on religious grounds… the point of JROTC is to get you ready for ROTC in college which is preparing you to go on active duty. So if you are going to allow it for ROTC? Why don’t you allow it on active duty?”

CAIR, though, cheered that now Muslims and Sikhs will be able to fully participate in JROTC while wearing their religious attire.

“We welcome the fact that Muslim and Sikh students nationwide will now be able to participate fully in JROTC leadership activities while maintaining their religious beliefs and practices,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad in a statement.

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 By Neil Munro - The Daily Caller   11:35 AM 12/15/2011

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used an international conference on religious freedom Wednesday as a platform to suggest that Islamic governments which suppress Christianity are secretly afraid Islam will lose out in a public debate.

“Every one of us who is a religious person knows there are some who may not support or approve of our religion, but is our religion so weak that statements of disapproval cause us to lose our faith?” she asked the attendees, who included national representatives from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

“Especially when one person’s speech seems to challenge another person’s religion’s belief, or maybe even offends that person’s religious beliefs … we defend our beliefs best by defending free speech for everyone,” she said, while citing her own experience as a Methodist — a Christian movement made up of many Protestant denominations, and where debate is common.

Clinton’s senior aide, the Saudi-born Huma Abedin, said the speech was largely unscripted. “Mostly, it was off-the-cuff,” Abedin told The Daily Caller.

Among the attendees were representatives of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Clinton did not mention any country by name, nor did she specifically mention Islam.

But her diplomatic rebuke of Islamic governments was daring and novel, partly because it may prompt a violent response, or even a careful counterargument, from advocates of Islam in the Arab world.

However, Clinton’s speech did not address similar sensitivities in the United States, where cooperating progressives and Islamists frequently say Islam’s critics are mentally ill, and typically refuse to debate the context and meaning of their own religious texts.

In August, for example, the liberal Center for American Progress issued a report titled “Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.” The report was aimed at several critics of Islam, including Robert Spencer, a best-selling author whose repeated requests for debates have been ignored by allied progressive and Islamic advocates in the United States.

Similarly, Department of  Justice officials have described American critics of Islam as mentally unstable, a danger to national security, or similar to the Ku Klux Klan, whose history includes frequent murders of black and Republican legislators and activists.

“Materials that portray Islam as a religion of violence or with a tendency towards violence are wrong, they are offensive … will not be tolerated,” and are a threat to national security, Dwight Holten, a top DOJ official, said on Oct. 19 at a Washington, D.C. event scheduled by the department.

Muslim immigrants to the United States may turn away from integration because of “Islamophobia” or racism, Holton added. When a reporter for TheDC asked Holton to explain his charges, he pushed a door shut in the reporter’s face.

At the same event, Mohamed Magid, a Sudan-born Islamic advocate in the United States, asked for criticism of Islam to be criminalized. One member of the audience was Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, who did not rebuke or even respond to the request by Magid, who now serves as president of the largest Islamic umbrella group — the Islamic Society of North America.(RELATED: Progressives, Islamists huddle at Justice Department)

Secretary Clinton’s speech was delivered at the close of a closed-door conference intended to begin implementation of a 2011 U.N. resolution dubbed “16/18.”

That resolution was passed this year, in place of another favored by hard-line Islamic countries that would have declared criticism of Islam to be criminal defamation.

The successful resolution is titled “Combating Intolerance, Negative Stereotyping and Stigmatization of, and Discrimination, Incitement to Violence and Violence Against, Persons Based on Religion or Belief.” It urges all governments to promote tolerance of all believers, to promote “a wider knowledge of different religions and beliefs,” to counter religious discrimination, anti-Semitism and “Islamophobia.”

The deal encourages and helps activists in many countries to establish religious freedom, said Ambassador Michael Kozak, the U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

The Department of State gathering was an off-the-record meeting of experts from roughly 30 countries. Attendees discussed legal and regulatory measures to promote religious freedom and free speech.

The three-day meeting was impacted by U.S. domestic politics. For example, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee was allowed present a claim, while a Christian group, the Traditional Values Coalition, was excluded from the event and from preparatory discussions. The coalition’s president, Andrea Lafferty, was briefly detained just prior to Clinton’s speech.

The meeting, and Clinton’s speech, Lafferty told TheDC, downplayed the large-scale persecution and killing of Christians in Islamic countries, including Sudan, Iran, Pakistan and Egypt.

When asked if religious freedom was being advanced in Muslim-majority countries by the administration’s current foreign policy — which encourages the removal or dictators but does not condemn Islamic groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood — Kozak said “time will tell.”

But the diplomatic debate that led to the 16/18 resolution is driven by Islamic advocates.

In orthodox Islam, there is little to no room for religious debate outside the boundaries of tradition. In several Islamic countries, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, people are executed for blasphemy, heresy and apostasy, which is the act of abandoning one’s religion.

Islamic advocates say the harsh punishments are mandated by Islamic texts and local culture, which do not fully separate mosque and government, and often view religious dissent as betrayal.

Those views are markedly different from Christian texts, which promise a loving God, mandate the separation of church and state, and expect moral freedom.

Clinton’s speech reflected those Christian themes. American believers argue — but do not demand — submission from their rivals, she said. Instead, “we trust that over time, if [our rivals] are wrong, they will come to see the errors of their ways.”

In contrast, she continued, there’s reason for concern when “people are not confident in their religious beliefs to the point where they do not fear speech that raises questions about religion.”

Her speech included both new and old themes in American religion.

She argued that “truly at the root of every major religion is a connection with the divinity, is an acceptance and a recognition that we are all walking a path together.”

That claim of religious universalism is not widely shared by Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu or Buddhist clerics. For example, Islamic clerics say the Bible’s Old Testament is really a Muslim text that is misunderstood by Christians and is distorted by Jews. Similarly, most Christians say the Christian God is guided by love and reason, and rewards faith from free people, while most Muslim clerics say Allah requires submission and accepts forced conversions.

But Clinton also repeated the traditional American Christian view that human rights “are rights endowed by our creator within each of us… [and] we have special obligations to protect these God-given rights.”

That’s a markedly more traditional view than that held by her boss, President Barack Obama.

In November, for example, he excluded Christianity from his Thanksgiving message, and suggested that Americans’ rights to freely speak, vote, assemble and own property depend on the approval of other Americans. “No matter how tough things are right now, we still give thanks for that most American of blessings — the chance to determine our own destiny.” (RELATED: Democrat leaders merge church and party)

Throughout her speech, Clinton returned to the argument that religion requires freedom. And she repeatedly, although diplomatically, prodded Islamic governments to tolerate other faiths. Without citing any countries, she directed her criticism at Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, where laws actively penalize or bar rival religions.

“We know governments which fear religion can be quite oppressive, but we know that societies that think there is only one religion can be equally oppressive.”

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By: David A. Patten and Kathleen Walter

The political calendar probably will determine whether President Barack Obama supports attacking Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, national security expert Andrew McCarthy tells Newsmax.TV.

The president’s policies on major issues such as Obamacare, the supercommittee impasse, and Iran have become fully subjugated to his single-minded drive to win re-election, said McCarthy, the former assistant U.S. attorney in New York City who also is an author and columnist.

“It has all been scheduled in such a way that he can try to present himself to the electorate as a pragmatic centrist,” McCarthy said in the exclusive Newsmax interview. “And all of the alarms will go off after the election, when it’s too late. But I think right now it’s quite obvious — it should be obvious to everyone — that their big priority is to get re-elected. And they will do almost nothing to be diverted from that.”

With this in mind, McCarthy said Obama’s response to an Israeli attack on Iran could be muted, depending on when it occurs.

“If it does get down to late in this election season, and it’s a close election, I don’t think Obama can afford to give Israel that hard a time” if it attacked Iran, McCarthy told Newsmax. “On the other hand, I think he has tried to put distance between the United States and Israel. And if he gets a second term, I would expect that to be much more bluntly obvious than it is now.”

Obama and his predecessors in the Oval Office blundered by not calling out Iran as America’s enemy No. 1, McCarthy said.

“What I don’t understand is why we do not in a very unambiguous way to make it clear that we consider Iran to be the enemy of the United States, that we want regime change in Iran,” he said. “And that we organize every lever of American foreign policy, whether it’s diplomacy, the military — any policy whatsoever that we have that touches on Iran, the organizing principle should be that we want that regime gone, just as when Ronald Reagan was out president, the defeat of the Soviet Union was our national imperative. And it had a very good organizing effect on what our policy was downstream.”

McCarthy, who led the successful prosecution of the terrorists who carried out the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, said the United States should focus on regime change in Iran, regardless of the Persian theocracy’s progress in building a nuclear weapon.

“We need to totally rethink this. The nukes are a big problem because of the regime that will have the nukes,” he said.

McCarthy, author of “The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America,” also warned that, if the administration waits until after the 2012 election to confront Iran, “it will probably be too late to stop a nuclear-armed Iran.”

“I imagine that they’re very close,” he said of Iran’s effort to obtain nuclear-weapon capability. “We ought to assume that they’re very close. I’d rather be pleasantly surprised, than alarmed.”

© Newsmax. All rights reserved.



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