Iran has been working on nuclear power for years now, but they tell us it is just for peaceful purposes like generating power. Never mind that they are sitting on a lake of oil. And never mind that Iran has lied and admitted to their lies about their nuclear plans before.

But this news article will really make people sit up and notice. Oh, but who am I trying to kid? This will slip past unnoticed by most people.

Iran has met a key demand of the U.N. nuclear agency by delivering blueprints that show how to mold uranium metal into the shape of warheads, diplomats said Tuesday, in an apparent concession meant to stave off the threat of new U.N. sanctions.

But the diplomats said Tehran has failed to meet other requests made by the International Atomic Energy Agency in its attempts to end nearly two decades of nuclear secrecy on the part of the Islamic Republic. [emphasis mine - CM]

Did you catch that? Iran’s “peaceful” nuclear program included blueprints for making nuclear warheads. Who wants to bet that those blueprints were Iran’s only copies of the plans? *cricket chirp* Yeah, I didn’t think I’d get any takers on that.

Thanks to Little Green Footballs for pointing out this story. I’m sure you won’t hear about it on the nightly news programs.

The good news is that Iran has announced it will release the 15 British sailors and Marines captured over a week ago by Iranian forces. Britain says it was performing its duty in Iraqi waters, but Iran claims British forces were in Iranian waters. Frankly, I don’t trust anything coming out of Iran, knowing that they have admitted to lying before. This reminds me of another time when Iran held Westerners as hostage. I’m old enough to remember hearing the nightly news reporters count the number of days that Americans had been held hostage by the Iranian government. After 444 days, Iran released these hostages as President Reagan stepped into office. Their release came because of actions taken by President Carter on the eve of leaving office. And President Carter pretty much gave Iran everything it wanted in the Algiers Accords of January 19, 1981. Iran was paid, and Iran released the hostages. So what did Iran get in exchange for their current British hostages? We may never know, but I do know that once you start paying the Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane.

Again I am struck by the way history appears to be repeating itself. Back in the early months of 1936, Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. But here’s the interesting thing that we didn’t realize until many years and millions of dead later: Hitler could have been stopped easily at that point, as outlined in the following snippet from Wikipedia:

Heinz Guderian, a German general interviewed by French officers after the Second World War, claimed: “If you French had intervened in the Rhineland in 1936 we should have been sunk and Hitler would have fallen”. Hitler himself later said:

“The forty-eight hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-racking in my life. If the French had then marched into the Rhineland we would have had to withdraw with our tails between our legs, for the military resources at our disposal would have been wholly inadequate for even a moderate resistance.”

Had France squawked about the re-arming of the Rhineland, Hitler would have been forced to retreat, and that retreat would have caused him to lose power. But France had no backbone, so Hitler proceeded, and millions died. Merci beaucoup, France.

Did we just miss the equivalent event this time around? I am afraid that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — the same man who is thought to have been involved in the U.S. Embassy overthrow in 1979 — received his Danegeld to negotiate the release of the British hostages. This makes me wonder whether we just missed the opportunity to use a little force now in order to stop a greater threat later. And make no mistake: Iran poses a threat to the Middle East and the world right now with its support and funding of terrorism, and it will become an even worse threat when the country gets nuclear weapons.

In 1936, Hitler could have been overthrown easily with a show of force at the right time. Have we missed the opportunity to do the same in 2007 with Ahmadinejad in Iran? I hope not.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is making headlines with her visit to Syria. I’ll ignore the headscarf nonsense that has some people all hot and bothered; and I’ll ignore the fact that she’s meeting with the leaders of Syria, a puppet-state of our dear friends in the Islamic Republic of Iran; and I’ll even ignore the fact that President Bush objected to her visit. Instead, I’m going to focus on a matter I believe is more important: just what the hell is she doing over there?

Let me back up a bit. The U.S. government is made up of three branches — Judicial, Executive, and Legislative. Madam Speaker is a leading member of the Legislative body. This simply means it is her responsibility to write the laws that the Executive will enforce. But what authority does the Legislature have in negotiating with a foreign nation? Here’s a quick refresher course in Constitutional limits on the powers of Congress:

Section 8 – Powers of Congress

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

That’s a fair number of things for Congress to do. So did you notice the part empowering Congress to negotiate with foreign dictators? Yeah, neither did I. Basically, visiting foreign countries and heads of state is not part of Speaker Pelosi’s job. But far worse than just going beyond the bounds of her job, Speaker Pelosi is actively undermining the President. Whether you like him or not, President Bush is responsible for representing the nation to others–not Speaker Pelosi, even if she believes she can do a better job.

To make the actions of Speaker Pelosi easier to understand, let’s think of an example closer to home. Consider a teenager who has come home way past his curfew for the third time in a week. His dad is reading him the riot act and reminding him that the agreed-upon punishment is being grounded for a full week. His mom can choose to stand with his dad, supporting him, or she can undermine his authority by playing “good cop” to the dad’s “bad cop.” If she chooses the latter course of action, the teenager comes to realize that Mom is a pushover, and all he needs to do is work on her to get out of any problem he happens to be in. This is a recipe for disaster.

And a disaster is exactly what Speaker Pelosi is asking for when she undermines the President. But what else would you expect from the party of defeat?

 Madam Neville Pelosi

Thank you, Madam Neville Pelosi. In addition to the comic above, Cox and Forkum nicely sum up Speaker Pelosi’s ineffectual discussions with Syria: “It’s impossible to have a “dialogue” about peace with an intransigent and bloody state sponsor of two groups who openly want to destroy the free state of Israel. This is the mess that Pelosi and her ilk refuse to see.”

UPDATE (4/5/2007 9:29:58 AM): More people are recognizing how Madam Speaker inserted her foot deeply in her mouth with her visit to Syria. What is the problem? The Washington Post explains the Speaker’s failure here:

After a meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Ms. Pelosi announced that she had delivered a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that “Israel was ready to engage in peace talks” with Syria. What’s more, she added, Mr. Assad was ready to “resume the peace process” as well. Having announced this seeming diplomatic breakthrough, Ms. Pelosi suggested that her Kissingerian shuttle diplomacy was just getting started. “We expressed our interest in using our good offices in promoting peace between Israel and Syria,” she said.

Only one problem: The Israeli prime minister entrusted Ms. Pelosi with no such message. “What was communicated to the U.S. House Speaker does not contain any change in the policies of Israel,” said a statement quickly issued by the prime minister’s office. In fact, Mr. Olmert told Ms. Pelosi that “a number of Senate and House members who recently visited Damascus received the impression that despite the declarations of Bashar Assad, there is no change in the position of his country regarding a possible peace process with Israel.” In other words, Ms. Pelosi not only misrepresented Israel’s position but was virtually alone in failing to discern that Mr. Assad’s words were mere propaganda.

We have a Secretary of State for a reason — so buttinskies like Speaker Pelosi don’t blunder through mistakes like this gaff with the consummate skill of a head-scarfed cow in a china shop. Captain Ed of Captain’s Quarters summed up Madam Speaker’s gaff in this manner:

Pelosi somehow forgot the part about ending support for terrorism when she met with Assad. She told the Syrian dictator that Israel was ready to meet with Assad on a peace proposal, which only told part of the story. In delivering only part of the message, Pelosi not only arrogated to herself the role of American foreign policy director — which Condoleezza Rice has as Secretary of State — she did the same with Israel’s foreign policy as well.

Not a bad night’s work for an incompetent.

When diplomats meet with enemies, they make sure to get their positions coordinated with their allies and execute strict message discipline. They do not “wing it” — they check with their elected governments when any questions arise about the directions of talks. Only someone with an ego in inverse proportion to her talent would start making stuff up as she goes when dealing with the Syrian-Israeli relationship, one of the most explosive in the world.

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to tell Iran to stop enriching uranium, or it will be forced to tell them to stop again:

The U.N. Security Council unanimously voted Saturday to impose additional sanctions against Iran for its refusal to stop enriching uranium, a move intended to show Tehran that defiance will leave it increasingly isolated.

Iran immediately rejected the sanctions and said it had no intention of suspending its enrichment program, prompting the United States to warn of even tougher penalties.

And to prove that they are on the complete up-and-up about their uranium enrichment plans, Iran announced that they would limit their cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog organization, and they would press on with their enrichment activities without cease.

Oh yeah, the U.N. Security Council has really put the fear of the U.N. into Iran. I think it’s time for the U.N. to bring out the big guns.

 The Big Guns Misfire

What is it about Islam that can’t stand criticism or disagreement? Abdul Karim Nabil Amer, also known as Kareem Amer, found out just how fragile Islam is when his four-year prison sentence was upheld by the Egyptian appeals court this week. What was he sentenced for? Was it murder? Rape? Kicking cats? Nothing that inconsequential. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment for insulting Islam, and an additional year for insulting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

In case you were wondering, there is no such thing as freedom of speech in Egypt.

To prove the point about the brittleness of the Ummah, Iran is likewise pissed about the new movie 300 because it insults the Persian civilization. But as the report says, it’s much more than just an insult:

Javad Shamqadri, an art advisor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, accused the new movie of being “part of a comprehensive U.S. psychological war aimed at Iranian culture”, said the report.

Time to learn a new nursery rhyme:

Sticks and stones will break your bones,
But Islam will behead you.

Childish, yes. Insulting, yes. Truthful, yes. And it’s also something I can do without being hauled off to court, because here in the U.S. we still have freedom of speech.

Sadly, it’s possible to watch that freedom evaporate wherever Shari’a law becomes national law.

In the news today, we discover that Iran has decided to ignore the stern warning from the United Nations to stop enriching uranium or face another stern warning:

Iran has ignored the latest UN deadline to suspend uranium enrichment and is actually extending it, a report by nuclear watchdog the IAEA has said.

The refusal to observe the Wednesday deadline could lead to further UN sanctions against Iran.

I am shocked, shocked I tell you, that Iran would fail to heed the U.N. deadline. But it’s more than just continuing with enrichment; Iran is willing to stop enriching uranium only if others do so, too:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday said his country was ready to stop its enrichment program and return to talks provided Western nations also stopped their own. Ahmadinejad told a crowd of thousands in northern Iran one day ahead of a U.N. Security Council deadline that it was no problem for his country to stop, but that “fair talks” demanded a similar gesture from the West.

This absurd “you first” attitude is about the level of diplomatic seriousness I’ve come to expect from Ahmadinejad, and the talented Cox and Forkum do a great job of skewering it, too.

Throw Down

It’s no surprise to read reports that Iran has been involved with the fighting in Iraq. If you have been following the reports of Iraq,
this news shouldn’t be a surprise at all.

So knowing that Iran has been involved in the fighting in Iraq, I was glad to read that Iraq has closed its border with Syria and Iran, but that’s not an easy thing to do when you have over 2,000 miles of border to secure. But it is a good start.

But it’s only a start. If we were really concerned about getting rid of the terrorists and militants in Iraq and turning that country around, we’d let the military do what it does best. For far too long they have had their hands tied. The surge of 20,000 new troops into Iraq is a good plan, and it has already yielded good results with Moqtada al-Sadr fleeing to Iran.

But our Democrat “leadership” is fighting the surge, but they have already shown that they have no victory plans for Iraq.

That’s about what I expect from Democrats, but what really troubles me is the comments President Bush has made that we can negotiate diplomatically with Iran to solve the conflict there. If Neville Chamberlain were alive today, I believe he could offer some advice to President Bush about achieving “peace for our time” when negotiating with madmen. Cox and Forkum have sadly nailed our President’s idea of limited engagement with those who are fighting us.

Limited Engagement

This is an article in the series A Look Into Islam.

We are getting some very cheery news out of Iraq these days:

Shiite militiamen grabbed six Sunnis as they left Friday worship services, doused them with kerosene and burned them alive near an Iraqi army post. The soldiers did not intervene, police Capt. Jamil Hussein said.

The savage revenge attack for Thursday’s slaughter of 215 people in the Shiite Sadr City slum occurred as members of the Mahdi Army militia burned four mosques, and several homes while killing an unknown number of Sunni residents in the once-mixed Hurriyah neighborhood.

Shiites killing Sunnis — Sunnis killing Shiites. It’s a nice cycle of violence that stretches back for centuries, and this long cycle is part of the violence we see in Iraq. So how critical is knowing the differences between Shi’a and Sunni forms of Islam to understanding the situation in the Middle East? Some people think it is important, as you can tell from this “Bush is a moron” post on Daily Kos: “Bush didn’t know there was a difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims as late as January 2003.” I can still feel the “yuk yuk – what a moron” vibes almost a year after it was first posted. But the KosKids aren’t the only ones using the meme that we need to understand the differences between Shi’as and Sunnis. Jeff Stein of the New York Times recently published an opinion piece about knowing the differences.

FOR the past several months, I’ve been wrapping up lengthy interviews with Washington counterterrorism officials with a fundamental question: “Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?”

A “gotcha” question? Perhaps. But if knowing your enemy is the most basic rule of war, I don’t think it’s out of bounds. And as I quickly explain to my subjects, I’m not looking for theological explanations, just the basics: Who’s on what side today, and what does each want?

After all, wouldn’t British counterterrorism officials responsible for Northern Ireland know the difference between Catholics and Protestants? In a remotely similar but far more lethal vein, the 1,400-year Sunni-Shiite rivalry is playing out in the streets of Baghdad, raising the specter of a breakup of Iraq into antagonistic states, one backed by Shiite Iran and the other by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states.

Unfortunately, Mr. Stein lost the power of his analogy when he brought up the Catholics and Protestants of Northern Ireland. How much do you really need to know about the differences between Catholic and Protestant versions of Christianity to understand the decades-long conflict there? And what do these differences have to do with the current situation? Do you think the IRA set up bombs to protest Martin Luther’s nailing up 95 theses to the church doors in Wittenberg? Were Sinn Féin shootings accompanied by leaflets demanding that Protestants accept the supremacy of the Papacy? Or did the conflict have more to do with whether the northern counties of Ireland would be governed by Dublin or London?

Likewise, do the religious differences between Shi’a and Sunni Muslims have much to do with the current conflict in Iraq and the Middle East? When Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim, was in power, he was able to give the minority Sunni population more power than they normally would have had in the majority Shi’a population of Iraq. Now that Saddam’s out and the Sunni power with him, it’s not surprising that there are Shi’a wanting to get some payback. And just as the conflict in Northern Ireland is less about religion than about political struggles, Iraq is likewise a struggle for political control. The religious differences just point up the opposite camps.

So just what are the differences between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims? From my Christian point of view, there’s not much of a difference between the two, but the main point of departure seems to be how the two groups view the succession of leadership after the death of Mohammed in the 7th century. Sunnis, comprising about 85% of the Muslim populace, believe that the first four caliphs to come after Mohammed were Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali. Shi’as, comprising about 10-15% of the Muslim population, believe that the true successor of Mohammed was his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, the fourth Caliph to Sunnis. That’s your main difference, folks. Yes, there are minor differences associated with how the two groups pray and other aspects of their belief, but what is the practical use of knowing that Sunnis pray touching their heads to prayer rugs, while Shi’as pray touching their foreheads to hardened clay from Karbala? Do you think the Shi’as shouted, “Use Karbala clay when you salat, you Sunni heretics!” when they set Sunnis on fire this week?

Jeff Stein finished his article with the following paragraph:

Some agency officials and members of Congress have easily handled my “gotcha” question. But as I keep asking it around Capitol Hill and the agencies, I get more and more blank stares. Too many officials in charge of the war on terrorism just don’t care to learn much, if anything, about the enemy we’re fighting. And that’s enough to keep anybody up at night.

If you ever have someone give you the “gotcha” question about the differences between Sunnis and Shi’as, here’s how you can answer: “Yes, I know the differences. Can you explain to me what particular aspect of those differences is causing them to kill each other?”

But there is one major difference between the two groups that is well worth understanding, and that is knowing which nation or group belongs to which camp. The map below shows the areas of Sunni Muslims in light green, while Shi’a areas are dark green.

Muslim distribution

This is important because of the three nations that have Shi’a populations: Iraq and Iran with their majority Shi’a populations, and Syria’s minority. Syria and Iraq had political ties through their common Sunni Ba’ath parties. Iraq and Iran have religious ties with their majority Shi’a populations. With the fall of Saddam Hussein and the Sunni controlled Ba’ath party in Iraq, their is a Shi’a non-Ba’ath nation between Iran and Syria. While there are religious differences, the main question now regards which group will rule and exert political control.

So how easy is it to tell the difference between a Sunni and a Shi’a? It can be difficult. Here are three pictures. Can you tell the religion of these people?

Who am I?Who am I?

So, who are these people? Have you guessed right? Drag your mouse over the text below to see the answers:

Left image: Shi’a. Specifically, this is Ayatollah Khomeini.
Right image: Sunni.

How did you do? OK, one last test. Can you identify the religion of these people?

Who am I?

Answer: These people are Sikh, not Muslim at all. The name of the religion is properly pronounced “Sick,” not “Seek” as the Western media often do.

For more information, you can watch this interesting video. And speaking of videos, I’ll close off this way-too-serious post with a humorous video from the British comedy show “Goodness Gracious Me” about three Eastern religions.

UPDATE (11/28/2006 10:56:33 AM): Yep, I completely flip-flopped Sunnis and Shi’as in Iraq. Now fixed.

There is an old joke that has been told about many different people. It basically goes: “How can you tell if [person] is lying? His lips are moving.” Earlier this year Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told us that Iran was pursuing nuclear technology for purely peaceful reasons. Notice Ahmadinejad’s lips moving? Yep. Lies. And here is the proof from the “see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil, have no clue” IAEA organization.

New traces of plutonium and enriched uranium — potential material for atomic warheads — have been found in a nuclear waste facility in Iran, a revelation that came Tuesday as the Iranian president boasted his country’s nuclear fuel program will soon be completed.

If the IAEA can find plutonium in Iran, and they can’t find their own butts using both hands, a map, and three Sherpas, then what does this tell us about Iran’s intentions? This discovery is interesting since the only peaceful uses for plutonium are in outmoded pacemakers or in deep space probes like Cassini and Galileo. And we all know that Iran leads the world in the manufacture of old pacemakers and probes for outer space.

So if Iran isn’t using plutonium for those two peaceful uses, then what is the only use left? Weapons of mass destruction. The discovery of plutonium in Iran gives me a nice warm fuzzy. He tells us he wants peace. He tells us that the Iranian nuclear program is only for peace. And he tells us that he has no territorial claims to make in Europe. Wait. That last one was a statement by Adolph Hitler in the run-up to World War II. But there’s no similarity between Hitler and Ahmadinejad. None whatsoever. Well, other than their desire to rule the world and kill Jews, but those are just coincidences. Really. Ahmadinejad is a man of peace, and he would never lead a rally chanting “Death to Israel” and “Death to America.”

And if we believe Ahmadinejad is telling us the truth, then the joke is on us.

The geniuses of Cox and Forkum have added another cartoon showing how America has been confronting terrorism since September 11th, 2001.

Confronting Terrorism

It’s been five years since Islamic nutjobs used airplanes to carry out acts of terror. Almost 3,000 people died because a radical branch of Islam claims that Allah said it was OK to kill infidels. On this anniversary, look around you and see how people are remembering this day. Are they remembering the terror they felt and steeling their resolve to remain free, or are they hiding their heads in the sand and pretending it didn’t happen?

What about you?