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The Secret War: The Zionist Spy and the Formation of the Shia-Con
Written by S. M. Asadabadi
Friday, 20 May 2011 23:38
In the last article, we discussed the New Neo-Conservatism and the secret war with Iran. Briefly, we’ll discuss the definition of neo-conservatism including its origins and its ultimate goal. Starting with the most recent, the US has led wars in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Somalia, the Persian Gulf, Panama, Grenada and Nicaragua. In addition, covert interventions (like in Iran and Pakistan) have all been influenced by neoconservative ideology. Neoconservatives are advocates of preemptive military action and unlike their predecessors they do not believe in containment. Instead, they advocate preventative actions against modern threats and believe the United States should not be ashamed to use its unrivaled might to promote its values around the world. They believe that elites protect democracy from mob rule (Sourcewatch.org).
Most neoconservatives (neocons) share an unwavering support for Israel. In fact, some neocons have dual US and Israeli citizenships. They see Israel as the key outpost of democracy in the Middle East and it is not farfetched to say that Neocons are Zionists by nature. As we will discuss, neocons have gone to far lengths to lobby for Israel.
"The original neocons were a small group of mostly Jewish liberal intellectuals who, in the 1960s and 70s, grew disenchanted with what they saw as the American left's social excesses and reluctance to spend adequately on defense," (Neocon 101).
During the Reagan presidency, neocons greatly influenced US foreign policy in the 1980s. But in the 90’s, their calls for regime change in Iraq fell on deaf ears as President Bill Clinton called for restraint and humility in foreign affairs. In a desperate yet failed attempt to prompt Clinton to strike Iraq, they even tried to tie the Oklahoma City Bombings to Saddam Hussein.
During this time period, neocons spent much of their time cultivating their message and planning. Their forward thinking helped them gain key positions in the Bush administration. The 9/11 attacks pushed the Bush adminsitration closer to the neocon foreign policy. And within days of 9/11 neoconservative think tanks were calling for regime change in Iraq (Neocon 101).
Operation Iraqi Freedom After 9/11 the Neocons saw the opportunity to push forward their agenda to attack Iraq and install a more US friendly government. They concocted now debunked facts that linked Saddam with Al-Qaida – and thus with the 9/11 attacks. And of course, who can forget the now infamous stash of WMD’s that Saddam supposedly had but were never found. Who influence public opinion. The Neocons had to appeal to the American conscience by portraying the US operation in Iraq as an operation to liberate the Iraqi people from a ruthless oppressive ruler. In addition, this needed to be done in a method that did not appear to the world as being a war against Islam. Thee neocons thus branched out searching for Muslims groups who would be susceptible to their need and easy to “Americanize.” Their search led them to progressive Muslims groups, Sufis, and the Shi’as.
In a recently published tell-all book, Is it good for the Jews?: the Crisis of America's Israel Lobby, neocon Stephen Schwartz describes how some Shi'a clerics and leaders from inside the US were groomed and promised positions of power and clout if they openly accepted and indoctrinated the Shi'a masses into accepting the neocon agenda. These Shi'a clerics and leaders were referred to as "Shia-Cons" by US government officials and were funded and supported by the neocon movement months before the Iraq war. Lawrence Anthony Franklin, was instrumental in nurturing groups such as the Universal Muslim American Association (UMAA) which lead to the formation of other Shi'a groups.
[Larry Franklin's] duties at the Pentagon in 2003 included liaison with the leading Iraqi Shia Muslim clerics in the United States, who, as it happened. were also my close friends. I helped introduce some of them to Larry as the Iraq war approached. They became known as “Shia-cons," a Shia parallel with the neoconservatives or “neocons," for their enthusiastic backing of the war against Saddam. Larry, who clearly supported the war in Iraq, if only because it was his job to do so, attended “Shia-con” parleys, held through a grab-bag organization called the Universal Muslim Association of American (UMAA), newly minted to represent Shia interests. (Schwartz, page xiii)
With help from Stephen Schwartz, Franklin was able to infiltrate the Washington DC, Dearborn Michigan, and New York City Shi'a communities. He spent hours picking the brains of the Shi'a clerics about the situation in Iraq, to discern who would support U.S. policy and how factions in the U.S. community lined up with those in Iraq itself. Franklin promised the Shi'a leaders direct access to the foreign policy makers. Presumably, the information he covertly gathered was handed over to his superiors.
Around this same time period, Stephen Schwartz wrote the book "Two Faces of Islam." A book which was academically ridiculed but played perfectly to the Shi'i emotions. In this book Schwartz manipulated historical facts to show how Shi'a Islam is far better politically for the US than Wahaabi Islam of Saudi Arabia. In this same book Schwartz categorically links all moderate Sunni organizations (CAIR, MSA, ISNA) as Saudi Wahaabi agents creating a fictional divide. By appealing to some of the Shi'as, Schwartz, was able to gain access to the New York leadership and participate in Shi'a venues.
Maryland based, UMAA is registered to a private house in Brooklyn, NY
In 2003, days before the Iraq war, the annual Shi'a Muharram Procession in New York City was undermined by the Franklin-Schwartz and the Neocon agenda. The Procession is a commemoration of the stance taken by Husain ibn Ali (the Grandson of Prophet Muhammad) against oppression and tyranny. For the past 20 or so years this procession has had little media exposure, until of course the Neocon's came into the picture. Caught by complete surprise, the organizers were ambushed by reporters from FOX News, the NY Post, and NBC asking them about their "Pro-Iraq War Rally" in Manhattan. The organizers were unsuccessful in conveying their obvious disdain of the misconstrued message of the Procession to the media. The damage was done—the neocons had successfully manipulated one of the most sacred of religious events and legitimized the Iraq war by showing massive Muslim support, even if fabricated.
Back in DC, Larry Franklin successfully pushed for the Shi'as to organize a national conference in support for the Iraq war. Schwartz writes:
Franklin spent a great deal of time in 2003 and 2004 schmoozing at the Washington conventions of the Universal Muslim Association of America (UMAA), a new organization founded to promote the interests of Shia Muslims in America.
A contact of Franklin and the main wheeler-dealer in UMAA was a Maryland urologist named Parvez Shah, a Pakistani Shia by origin. Every foreign freedom movement the United States has supported since the end of the Second World War, from the South Korean defense against North Korean aggression to the Iranians has had its Parvez Shahs: not-very-distinguished ethnic politicians who believe they can hire their people out as policy cattle, in exchange for notoriety or wealth. Parvez Shah is completely unlike the Iraqi politicians supported by the United States, but in the American milieu from which Shia support for the Iraq intervention emerged, he imagined himself a power to contend with.
Dr. Shah along with his trusted Shi'a clerics put into motion the first National Shia-Con Convention calling it the UMAA Convention. As promised by Franklin, he hand delivered the foreign policy-maker and the mastermind behind the Iraq War, Paul Wolfowitz to that event.
Schwartz quotes in the Weekly Standard the distrust of New York based Iraqi cleric, Sheilkh Fadhel al-Sahlani toward Arab regimes: "None of them has ever helped us. They did not accept Iraqi refugees after the [Gulf] war, except for some who were admitted to Syria. Only America helped us by taking in many refugees, and now there are thousands of us here. Only America really helped us. If the United States removes Saddam's fascist regime, I will support them." Schwartz reminds al-Sahlani how his words resemble those of President Bush and Paul Wolfowitz. Al-Sahlani concurs with a smile saying, “We understand them,” believing there has been a change in American policy.
A good start would be to bring Sheikh Fadhel Al-Sahlani, Sheikh Kedhim Sadiq Mohammed, and others like them to Washington, to meet with the men and women guiding our efforts in Iraq, and to meet with the capital's press, the better to explain the future of Iraq as envisaged by Iraqis themselves.
A few months later this meeting took place:
“I had a wonderful opportunity a couple of weeks ago, thanks to Larry Franklin and my staff who I want to publicly acknowledge to have a meeting with a number of you and quite a few of you here tonight, Shia leaders from many different parts of the community and different parts of the country.” --Paul Wolfowitz
Alliances between Foes An unidentified US intelligence official told Newsweek Magazine “Larry Franklin was driven by his disdain for the Iranian government, "for whatever reason, the guy hates Iran passionately." Schwartz alludes in his book how it became important to remove Khomeini from Shi'ism. The only way for the American Jewry and the Zionist lobby AIPAC will accept Shi'as is if the Neocons can prove to them this disconnect. A concentrated effort was made to find and promote Shi'as indifferent and even hostile towards Iran in the US.
Franklin, who frequented the Iraqi-American “Shia-cons’ i.e., influential Shia Muslims who like the neoconservatives, backed the United States in Iraq, kept his eye on the task at hand: lining up support for the intervention. Every element in his demeanor indicated that he believed in this mission. ln his meetings with Shia clerics, he seldom mentioned Iran, which was probably wise, because nearly all of them were and are soft on Tehran. They rejected the Khomeini scheme for clerical rule in politics. (Schwartz p. 231)
The search led the Neocons to low level clerics and secular community leaders concentrated in the DC, NY, and Dearborn areas. Paul Wolfowitz encouraged the Shia-Cons to distance themselves from Iran,
"...Part of the problem is the image the tyrannical Iran has projected to the world, a false image of Shia. This group I believe is wonderful because you’re speaking American words of Shia and the message you’re sending and the message I have heard tonight is an America message of tolerance and diversity."
-Excerpt from Wolfowitz's Speech at the UMAA Convention
American Jewish groups, however, looked at Shias, with their Khomeinist reputation, with great distaste, notwithstanding their importance in the approaching Iraq conflict. Throughout the Iraq war Shia Muslims, including the Shia-cons, and the American Jewish groups, although they might have been considered natural allies in supporting the democratization effort in Iraq, eyed each other gingerly, if at all.
The Neocon assisted these newly found leaders' perceived influence by creating front organizations. One such organization is the now debunked, "Society for Humanity and Islam in America." Recall that the Neocons wanted to show the Zionist lobbies that the Shi'as can be entrusted, the Jewish Week reports in December of 2003, a Queens, NY synagogue held a Jewish-Muslim dialogue:
Sheikh Agha Jafri, a Westchester-based Pakistani Shi’a who heads an organization called the Society for Humanity and Islam in America, told The Jewish Week after his appearance at the Beth Gavriel event, “If there were not an Israel, the Wahhabis would have gone after the Shi’a, whom they consider a heretic brand of Islam.”
“Jerusalem has no significance for Shi’a Muslims,” he said. “Our holy places are Najaf and Karbala [in Iraq] even before Mecca and Medina.” He added, “I am delighted by the U.S. presence in Iraq, which has liberated our people there.”
The term Sheikh is used in endearment when referring to seminary trained Shi'a cleric. The author has found no credible evidence to indicate that Agha Jafri has had any formal training at an Islamic Seminary. Author would like cite this as an example of how neocons awarded sheikhdom to whomever was loyal to their ideology.
It became common practice for the Neocons to pit the Shia-Cons against larger established Sunni Muslim organizations. For example, when the Zionist-leaning Union for Reformed Judaism (URJ) forged a partnership with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), a predominantly Sunni organization, the Shia-Cons led the charge by accusing ISNA of being extremist Wahabis. They reprimanded URJ for not working with moderate Muslims in an open letter published in The Jewish Week and signed by Nawab Agha, Stephen Suleyman Schwartz and other Shia-Cons.
The Neocons feared Sistani would become a major road block for their war machine which was just gaining momentum. The quick thinking Neocons, with assistance from the Shia-Cons living in the US and London, were able to take advantage of Sistani's isolation by fabricating communications into the media on Sistani's behalf. The disinformation was so successful that it was perceived that Sistani supported the coalition's war. It came to the point that Sistani was forced to distance himself from what was being reported in the media. He released the following statement when asked, "From time to time various media organisations disseminate political statements from individuals who are described as “Sayyid Sistani’s representatives” or “his assistant” or “his spokesman” or by similar titles. The believers often wonder whether these statements actually portray the opinions of His Eminence or not?"
Nothing portrays the opinions of His Eminence (long may he live) unless it has been signed and sealed with his seal, or written and sealed with the seal of H. E’s Office - long may he live. All else is the opinion of those individuals. --20 Sha’aban 1424 - Hand written and Sealed by the Office of Ayatullah Sayyid Sistani Najaf Al-Ashraf
The Resistance Eventually the neocon and Shia-Con relationship faced some opposition. By the first UMAA convention there were pockets of Shi'a opposition to the blatant abuse and misuse of power. The Shia-Cons had initially ignored the resistance, labeling the group degenerate youths. To combat the daily online attacks against them, the Shia-Cons recruited youths (some were even paid employees) from the DC area to defend UMAA. The DC youths were fed the same deceit as the elders were fed by the Department of Defense:
"This is the most opportune time for the Shias to join US politics. If we show support for George Bush and the Iraq War, then the US will allow us [Shi'as] to dictate foreign policy in the holy lands (Iraq, Saudi Arabia)."
The constant Internet battles on forums and emails went ignored by the Shia-Cons and Neocons until the resistance gained a key ally- respected Shi'a Ulema (Scholars). Shamshad Haidar from Dallas, Texas led the Ulema revolt by calling for an all out boycott of UMAA.
This convention is organized by the supporters of the current US administration from our Shia community. Others who are involved either do not have any understanding of Islamic politics or want to fool themselves.
The organizers had contacted me this year also, and I advised them to close down this convention because they do not have any political mandate from the Shia community to show support for this administration. --Excerpt from email sent by M. Shamshad Haidar (May 2004)
This was followed by a statement by Dr. Idris Hamid from the Department of Philosophy, Colorado State University:
A Zionist Like Schwartz Is No Friend To Shi'i Islam - He has already contributed to the travesty of so-called Muslims and Shi'is clapping their hands to Wolfowitz, whom even enlightened non-Muslims recognize as an enemy of humanity – They want to turn our community into a willing agent of Taghut (oppressors).
The Shi'a Ulema then issued a collective response.
“Those secular people who organize conventions under the title of the UMAA only to praise the violent acts of the coalition forces in Iraq, and seek their help in pounding the innocent, strive to distort the face of true Islam. But their efforts will fail and the Ummah will unite to confront this axis of evil in our midst" --Excerpt from Statement given by Congress of Scholars (June 7, 2004)
Tradtionally, the Shi'a Ulema are held near and dear to the average Shi'a and if there were some Ulema calling for a boycott, something must really be amiss with UMAA. The stage was set for a show down. The Shia-Con tried to subdue the resistance by threatening lawsuits, using their political clout and placing Ulema on the No-Fly list and spreading false accusations against them by coining them “Shahaabi” (portmanteaus of the words Shi'a and Wahaabi), anti-Sistani and anti-government.
In addition, when the Shia-Con realized they were losing ground within the Shi'a communities they invoked the name of the hidden Shi'a Imam. UMAA spokesman, Agha S. Jafri (the same Jafri cited earlier) writes:
UMAA is a project of Imam-e Zamana [the Hidden Imam], and it is a gift of Allah (swt) to the followers of Ahl Ul Baytl. These mean muckrakers neither have the vision nor the foresight to understand long term benefits and ultimate rewards, this sincere and pious platform continues to offer to our poor, our hungry, our homeless and our persecuted. After Huqooq ul Allah (swt), comes Huqooq ul Ibad, and our faith can not (sic) be complete, unless we strive towards the accomplishment of both of these fundamental components of Islam. Inshallah, UMAA, some day in the future will become the global Shia organization.
But at the end the “degenerate youths” had dealt a powerful blow and the 3000 delegates dwindled down to a few hundred at the last UMAA convention. In 2009, the same Muharram Procession hijacked by the Neocons was reclaimed by Shi’a youths. They held an oversized banner that read, “Be Like Husain, Fight Oppression,” demanding liberation for the people of Iraq, Palestine, and Yemen.
US government officials and the Shia-Cons realized their mistake. They had underestimated the power and influence of the Shi'a Ulema and the determination of the Shi'a youths. They needed to form an organization that was headed by Shi’a Ulema and predominately run by the youths. Since they had already identified ambitious low level clerics, it was only a matter of empowering them.
This year, the United Muslim American Association has moved their annual convention out of DC, in fact, out of the US completely into Toronto, Canada. The reason for this move is unclear but the author believes a change of venue was seen as a way to escape the political turmoil the organization has faced. Toronto has a large but divided Shi’a population- an opportunity worth tapping in to.
“American flag will be the symbol of the liberation of Islam”
A typical Shia-Con scholar, Dr. Maqsood Jafri, speaks of the great liberator, America. He continues to say America is following the Sunnah (footsteps) of Prophet Muhammad by liberating Iraq. He wishes America continues to similarly liberate more nations in the Middle East.
Post Iraq Invasion and the Spawning of New Groups
By 2003-2004, it was clear the Neocon plan had worked seamlessly and the Iraq war was in full fledge. Neocons were now scoping their next target, Iran. They knew the UMAA name was tarnished and that solely using UMAA to gain domestic support for attacking Iran would not be enough. New groups quickly formed by using the momentum of the anti-UMAA sentiment. These groups created a fictitious atmosphere in which it would be perceived that these groups were fed up with UMAA and thus breaking away from it. However, since there was some overlap between members of UMAA and these new groups, members were advised to erase their cyber footprints by deleting all public forum postings that were in support of UMAA. By claiming ignorance and misuse of their names, the spiritual guides and the Shi'a Clerics of UMAA were appointed to lead these new organizations. These new organizations were led by the Ulema and run by youths.
The new groups accepted the Neocon idealogy of Islamic Plurarlism (See: Center for Islamic Pluralism). The groups readily engage in interfaith programs with members from the Zionist lobby AIPAC. The idea is to desensitize the Muslims over the issue of Israel and Palestine while engaging in dialogue with the Jewish Community. Recall the Neocons want to convince the Zionists and the American Jews that the Shi'as are an asset when it comes to the war against Iran.
Organizers of the annual pro-Palestinian Al-Quds Rally in Washington DC cited that Shia-Con clerics refused to attend the rally and discouraged members of their congregations from attending as well.
Shia-Con clerics and leaders were promised political power if they gave up the plight of Palestinians. As the Iranian President Ahmedinejad was questioning the formation of Israel in occupied Palestine for a crime committed in Europe against the Jews—conservative handlers from the ACU (American Conservative Union) were sending the Sunni and Shi'a clerics to Achwaartz and Dachau in 2010. This move was primarily to prove to the American Jews that there was a growing rift between the Musilms (and in particular the Shi’as) and Iran.
Caption: A visiblely shaken Imam Rafiq Naqvi chairman and founder of the Washington based Islamic Information Center (IIC) and a close confidant of UMAA founder Dr. Pervez Shah Credit: Suhail Khan (ACU)
Note: ACU organizers of the CPAC Convention have invited speakers such as Pamela Geller, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, and Newt Gingrich
Another observed trend is that Shia-Con clerics and leaders have encouraged their congregations to participate in FBI and DHS meet and greet seminars. In these seminars, recruitment to these agencies was very common. Many of the new Shi'a recruits have been from poor and unstable backgrounds and enter the agency impressed by the salary and believing they will help the Shi'a cause. Unfortunately, these Shi'a agents have actually been used to entrap fellow Shi’a, such as in the case of Rafic Labboun.
The Spy Among Us In June 2003 the FBI were investigating Israeli espionage on US soil and suspected leaks within the US administration. The FBI bugged the Tivoli restaurant in Arlington, VA eavesdropping on a secret meeting between Naor Gilon, chief of political affairs at the Israeli embassy in Washington; Steve Rosen, longtime policy director and key operative of the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC); and Keith Weissman, AIPAC’s senior Iran specialist. To the FBI's surprise, Larry Franklin then walked in and joined them. Newsweek reporters Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball wrote: “Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, in the description of one intelligence official, Franklin walked in to the lunch out of the blue.” Franklin had sensitive information about two pro-Iranians groups in Iraq, Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Dawa Party. According to Isikoff and Hosenball,
At one point [FBI agents] watched him allegedly attempt to pass a classified U.S. policy document on Iran to one of the surveillance targets, according to a U.S. intelligence official. But his alleged confederate was ‘too smart,’ the official said, and refused to take it. Instead, he asked Franklin to brief him on its contents – and Franklin allegedly obliged. Franklin also passed information gleaned from more highly classified documents, the official said.
This was the break the FBI were anxious for— a leak in the Department of Defense. Justin Raimondo, writes:
When the FBI finally went in and searched his office and home, they found a treasure trove of evidence: a total of 83 classified documents. According to the affidavit accompanying the prosecutor’s complaint, “approximately 38 were classified ‘Top Secret.’ 37 were classified ‘Secret,’ and “approximately eight” were marked ‘Confidential’ ” There is no mention of AIPAC, nor even the names of Rosen and Weissman, in the affidavit. All reference to Israel has been scrubbed out of the functional, legalistic, unrevealing prose, but there is one real stunner: “The dates of these documents spanned three decades.”
In 2006 Larry Franklin was convicted and sentenced for espionage on behalf of the state of Israel. Franklin pled guilty to several espionage-related charges and was sentenced in January 2006 to nearly 13 years in prison which was later reduced to ten months house arrest. Two former AIPAC employees were also indicted, but the case was dismissed.
The impact of what Franklin divulged to Israeli intelligence may have led to the assassination of Iran-leaning Iraqi Shi'a leader Ayatollah Sayed Mohamad Baqir Al-Hakim of SCIRI and also the bombings of Al-Askhari mosque in Samarra, Iraq leading to sectarian strife between Shi'as and Sunnis. Some analysts believe the Zionists were able to use the information obtained from Franklin to change the focus of US foreign policy from Iraq to Iran >Read: Calling Team B by Jim Lobe
In our research we found an intricate web of organizations, some led by the same individual or family members of those individuals. We intentionally retracted some of the names of individuals and organizations involved in this neocon conspiracy as our goal was not to expose them but to expose the ‘grand scheme.’
As noted in the first article in these series, the great prize for the neocon remains Iran. The neocons by their very nature are opportunists who plan well into the future. For them, world politics is like a slow and calculated game of chess in which they are setting up their pieces for the checkmate. It behooves us to not be short sighted and to be aware of the grand scheme. It’s quite plausible that the Shia-cons are well intentioned with a genuine desire for a brighter future and that the neocons exploited these intentions. But if so, it is clear that their shortsightedness has had a catastrophic affect on the lives of millions.
In our attempt to reach our goals we should never forgo the plight of the oppressed for the “greater cause.” We should never have to compromise our values in order to be accepted in the inner circles of politics. We must continue to encompass goodness towards all while moving forward.
S. M. Asadabadi is an investigative blogger and activist. He currently resides in Cairo, Egypt.
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