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Obama’s Iran Deal Ignited an Arms Race in the Middle East

Regime uses sanctions relief to beef up weaponry, leading their neighbors to do the same.

When a speedboat manned by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) personnel approached American vessels operating in open water, the U.S. Navy patrol craft USS Thunderbolt issued a series of warnings, all translating as “stay away, keep safe distance.” The Revolutionary Guards kept coming, as they often do, probing until the USN reacts.

A fanatic’s boat weaving among American warships could disrupt the U.S. formation and cause a collision. Tehran propagandists would tout that as a victory at sea. Worse, an Iranian boat might be a water-borne bomb capable of sinking a big ship. The deadly October 2000 terror attack on the USS Cole is very much on the minds of Navy sailors when Iran’s small boats appear. Read the rest of this entry »

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[VIDEO] 5 Issues for Trump on Radical Islam 

Clarion Project‘s Ryan Mauro examines some of the key challenges a president Donald Trump will likely face in office.

Iranian demonstrators hold anti-US slogans and portraits of supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a rally in Tehran's Azadi Square (Freedom Square) to mark the 34th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on February 10, 2013. Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Tehran and other cities chanting "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" as Iran celebrated the anniversary of the ousting of the US-backed shah. AFP PHOTO / BEHROUZ MEHRI

Iranian demonstrators hold anti-US slogans and portraits of supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a rally in Tehran’s Azadi Square (Freedom Square) to mark the 34th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on February 10, 2013. Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Tehran and other cities chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” as Iran celebrated the anniversary of the ousting of the US-backed shah. AFP PHOTO / BEHROUZ MEHRI

A member of jihadist group Al-Nusra Front stands in a street of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on January 11, 2014. Fighting pitting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) against other rebel groups -- including Al-Nusra Front, which is also linked to Al-Qaeda but is seen as more moderate -- broke out in Syria last week. AFP PHOTO / BARAA AL-HALABI

A member of jihadist group Al-Nusra Front stands in a street of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on January 11, 2014. Fighting pitting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) against other rebel groups — including Al-Nusra Front, which is also linked to Al-Qaeda but is seen as more moderate — broke out in Syria last week. AFP PHOTO / BARAA AL-HALABI

Professor Ryan Mauro is the National Security Analyst for the Clarion Project, a nonprofit organization that educates the public about the threat of Islamic extremism and provides a platform for voices of moderation and tolerance within the Muslim community. Clarion Project films have been seen by over 50 million people. Read the rest of this entry »


U.S. Held Cash Until Iran Freed Prisoners 

Administration officials have refused to publicly disclose how and when the cash transfer ransom payment authorized by Mr. Obama took place.

WASHINGTON — Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee report: New details of the $400 million U.S. payment to Iran earlier this year depict a tightly scripted exchange specifically timed to the release of several American panic-manprisoners held in Iran.

“‘Our top priority was getting the Americans home,’ said a U.S. official. Once the Americans were ‘wheels up’ on the morning of Jan. 17, Iranian officials in Geneva were allowed to take custody of the $400 million in currency, according to officials briefed on the exchange.”

The picture emerged from accounts of U.S. officials and others briefed on the operation: U.S. officials wouldn’t let Iranians take control of the money until a Swiss Air Force plane carrying three freed Americans departed from Tehran on Jan. 17. Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash home from a Geneva airport that day.

President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials have said the payment didn’t amount to ransom, because the U.S. owed the money to Iran as part of a longstanding dispute linked to a failed arms deal from the 1970s. U.S. officials have said that the prisoner release and cash transfer took place through two separate diplomatic channels.

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“The picture emerged from accounts of U.S. officials and others briefed on the operation: U.S. officials wouldn’t let Iranians take control of the money until a Swiss Air Force plane carrying three freed Americans departed from Tehran on Jan. 17.”non-stop-panic-4

But the handling of the payment and its connection to the Americans’ release have raised questions among lawmakers and administration critics.

 “Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash home from a Geneva airport that day.”

The use of an Iranian cargo plane to move pallets filled with $400 million brings clarity to one of the mysteries surrounding the cash delivery to Iran first reported by The Wall Street Journal this month. Administration officials have refused to publicly disclose how and when the cash transfer authorized by Mr. Obama took place. Executives from Iran’s flagship carrier, Iran Air, organized the round-trip flight from Tehran to Geneva where the cash—euros and Swiss francs and other currencies—was loaded onto the aircraft, these people said.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

“Our top priority was getting the Americans home,” said a U.S. official. Once the Americans were “wheels up” on the morning of Jan. 17, Iranian officials in Geneva were allowed to take custody of the $400 million in currency, according to officials briefed on the exchange.

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“Mr. Obama said on Aug. 4 the payment had to be in cash because the U.S. and Iran have no banking relationship, eliminating the possibility of a check or wire transfer.”

The payment marked the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration announced it had reached with Tehran in January to resolve a decades-old legal dispute traced back to the final days of Iran’s last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. His government paid $400 million into a Pentagon trust fund in 1979 for military parts that were never delivered because of the Islamic revolution that toppled him. Read the rest of this entry »


Two US Navy Boats Reportedly in Iranian Custody

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“Earlier today, we lost contact with two small U.S. naval craft en route from Kuwait to Bahrain. We subsequently have been in communication with Iranian authorities, who have informed us of the safety and well-being of our personnel. We have received assurances the sailors will promptly be allowed to continue their journey.”

— Senior administration official

Two Navy boats are reportedly in Iranian custody, according to the Associated Press.

Iran has reportedly told the US that the crew will be returned “promptly.”

“Earlier today, we lost contact with two small U.S. naval craft en route from Kuwait to Bahrain,” a senior administration official said in a statement.

 

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Google Earth/Amanda Macias/Business Insider

“We are working to resolve the situation such that any US personnel are returned to their normal deployment. We are hopeful it will be resolved.”

— White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes

“We subsequently have been in communication with Iranian authorities, who have informed us of the safety and well-being of our personnel. We have received assurances the sailors will promptly be allowed to continue their journey.” Read the rest of this entry »


Iran’s Fellow Travelers at the New York Times 

Tourists walk on a platform at a station in Tehran after arriving in the Iranian capital on a luxury train from Budapest on October 27, 2014. The tourists from Germany, Russia, Switzerland, Denmark, Britain, Australia, Spain, Singapore and Turkey spent two weeks visiting Tabriz, Zanjan, Yazd, Isfahan, Shiraz before arriving in Tehran for their flight back to Istanbul, on a trip reportedly costing up to $31,000. AFP PHOTO/ATTA KENARE (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

For $7,000, the newspaper’s journalists will serve as tour guides to the Islamic Republic. (Evin Prison is not on the itinerary.)

James Kirchick writes: On Nov. 23, the New York Times published its latest of more than half-a-dozen articles pleading for the Iranian government to release Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post’s Tehran correspondent who was imprisoned on charges of espionage more than 16 months ago. “Western officials hoped that the nuclear agreement would usher in a new era of broader cooperation with Iran,” the editorial board wrote. “But as they begin taking steps to ease economic sanctions on Iran, as called for in the deal, the treatment of Mr. Rezaian has intensified their concerns about whether Iran can be trusted to fulfill its nuclear commitments.”

The editorial’s most recent admonishment, like those that preceded it, managed to elide some relevant details about the newspaper’s relationship to the subject matter. First, the Times editorial board would clearly count as a member of any group looking forward to “a new era of broader cooperation with Iran.” Second, the Times has done far more than merely “hope” for such cooperation. While the newspaper has been demanding the release of an American journalist — one now facing a prison sentence of indeterminate length — some of its own journalists, under the auspices of their employer, have been engaging in a commercial enterprise that benefits his captors.

“Tales from Persia” is the exotic name the Times has given to the 13-day getaway to Iran it operates. For $7,195 (not including airfare), participants are invited to join columnist Roger Cohen, editorial board member Carol Giacomo (who is leading the trip that is currently ongoing), or Paris correspondent Elaine Sciolino and hear their insights about “the traditions and cultures of a land whose influence has been felt for thousands of years.” The itinerary for the seven upcoming departures promises “beautiful landscapes, arid mountains and rural villages.” Needless to say, Evin Prison, where the Iranian government houses political prisoners and Rezaian continues to languish, is not among the stops, though a visit to the home of the late Ayatollah Khomeini is. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Iranians Mark Anniversary of Tehran’s U.S. Embassy Takeover

TEHRAN — American flags and effigies of President Barack Obama were set ablaze on Wednesday as thousands gathered to mark the anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the Iranian capital’s U.S. Embassy.

New and large anti-U.S. propaganda posters — including one mocking the raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima — were spotted in Tehran….

…Students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979 and took dozens of Americans hostage. The hostages were held for more than 400 days and the crisis prompted the U.S. to sever ties with Iran….(read more)

Source: NBC News

From the YouTube video (above)

Iranians hold nationwide rallies, marking the 36th anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran. In the capital Tehran, people are gathering outside the building of the former American Embassy to chant slogans against US policies. November fourth is known as Student Day in Iran. 36 years ago today, a group of university students stormed the embassy building. Documents retrieved from the embassy showed the building had turned into a center of spying aimed at overthrowing the establishment following the victory of the Islamic Revolution just months earlier.

 


OH YES THEY DID: Iran ‘Convicts’ Hostage American Reporter In Secret Trial

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John Hayward reports: “News of a verdict in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court initially came early Sunday, but court spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei did not specify the judgment,” reports Rezaian’s paper, the Washington Post“In a state TV report late Sunday, Ejei said definitively that Rezaian was found guilty.”

“The judge who heard the case is known for handing down harsh sentences, and Rezaian potentially faces a sentence of 10 to 20 years. It is not even known if Rezaian himself has been informed of the conviction.”

The Iranians have not specified what Rezaian is guilty of or what his sentence will be. The “trial” wrapped up two months ago. Rezaian has already been imprisoned in Iran for 14 months. He has now been held hostage longer than the Americans seized in Tehran under President Jimmy Carter, a milestone Rezaian passed over the weekend.

“The judge who heard the case is known for handing down harsh sentences, and Rezaian potentially faces a sentence of 10 to 20 years,” the Post ominously notes. “It is not even known if Rezaian himself has been informed of the conviction.” His Iranian lawyer also appeared to be unaware of the conviction.

[Read the full text here, at Breitbart.com]

“Iran has behaved unconscionably throughout this case, but never more so than with this indefensible decision by a Revolutionary Court to convict an innocent journalist of serious crimes after a proceeding that unfolded in secret, with no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing,” said Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron in a statement. Read the rest of this entry »


CENSORSHIP: She’s 28. She Drew a Cartoon. Now She’s On Trial in Iran. #freeAtena

Free-Atena-Farghadani

Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani stands trial for charges that include insulting members of parliament and spreading propaganda against the system.

Mahsa Alimardani reports: First, Iran’s leaders restricted access to contraception. Then artist Atena Farghadani wrote a cartoon depicting them as animals.

“The image that led to her arrest came while Iran sought to outlaw IUDs and vasectomies, as Iran’s leaders pushed to increase the nation’s population.”

What came next for the 28-year-old artist? Arrest. Solitary confinement. A heart attack. And on Tuesday, the start of her trial on charges of spreading anti-Tehran propaganda and insulting the country’s lawmakers and supreme leader.

The image that led to her arrest came while Iran sought to outlaw IUDs and vasectomies, as Iran’s leaders pushed to increase the nation’s population.

She was initially jailed for five months in 2014 at the notorious Evin prison. She was released in December, but was detained again after publicly discussing her mistreatment by prison guards.

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“She was initially jailed for five months in 2014 at the notorious Evin prison. She was released in December, but was detained again after publicly discussing her mistreatment by prison guards.”

Three weeks after her second confinement, Atena went on a hunger strike to protest the poor prison conditions. The move led to a heart attack and a brief loss of consciousness in February, her lawyer told Amnesty International. Atena Farghadani has since been moved to another detention center and stopped her hunger strike, the human rights group reports, but advocates remain concerned about her health. Read the rest of this entry »


Maersk Tigris Update: Cargo Ship Seized by Iran released 10 Days Later, its Crew Safe

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Christine Mai-Duc reports: Iran has released a commercial cargo ship more than a week after it was seized by Iranian naval forces, the ship operator confirmed Thursday.

The Maersk Tigris, which was seized on April 28, was freed by Iranian officials after a court order, according to Cor Radings, a spokesman for Rickmers Shipmanagement, which manages and crews the vessel. Iran’s Ports and Maritive Organization confirmed the ship’s release.

Map depicting the MV Maersk Tigris’ original path toward the UAE and diversion after being intercepted by the IRGCN. (Source: marinetraffic.com)

The ship’s 24 crew members are in good condition, the company said in a statement. Radings added that “absolutely no violence” was used by the crew’s Iranian captors during the incident. The ship will now continue on to the port of Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates, where company officials will meet and attend to the crew.

“Given the circumstances, they were treated in a fair way,” Radings told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday. Read the rest of this entry »


UPDATE: Contact Made With Crew of Ship Detained by Iran: Sailors on Maersk Tigris in Good Condition but Confined to Cabins

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DUBAI— Asa Fitch reports: The manager of a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship Iran seized in the Persian Gulf said its crew members were in good condition, but were confined by guards to their cabins and the ship’s mess area.

“They’re all in relatively good condition, but it’s not a good situation and is still of concern to us.”

Rickmers Shipmanagement, the Singapore-based global shipping company that operates the M/V Maersk Tigris, had brief phone contact with the crew of 24, most of whom are from Eastern Europe and Asia, said Cor Radings, Rickmers’ spokesman.

“They’re all in relatively good condition, but it’s not a good situation and is still of concern to us,” Mr. Radings said. He added that the company was working with “international parties and experts” to secure the ship’s release, although he declined to provide details of that effort.

“Cargo-vessel seizures are a rarity in the Gulf, through which hundreds of ships carrying oil exports travel each day.”

On Tuesday, an Iranian patrol fired warning shots over the bow of the Maersk Tigris and directed it to a rendezvous point close to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, said U.S. officials and Rickmers. Rickmers said the ship was in international waters at the time.

In response to a distress call by the Maersk Tigris, the U.S. sent a Navy destroyer Tuesday to the Strait of Hormuz, the 21-mile-wide passage through which 30% of the world’s seaborne oil shipments pass.

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“The seizure comes as conflict in Yemen has heightened tensions with Saudi Arabia, which sits on the southwestern shore of the Gulf, and Iran, which sits across from it.”

On Wednesday, the USS Farragut and three other smaller Navy ships were keeping watch on the strait and sending surveillance planes overhead, said Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

Under agreements between the U.S. and Marshall Islands, Col. Warren said the military had a treaty obligation to protect the Maersk Tigris, but said the U.S. was pursuing diplomatic options to resolve the confrontation.

Pentagon officials said Iran’s intentions in seizing the cargo ship were unclear. Some officials said they saw the move as an effort by Tehran to demonstrate its ability to control the strait after the U.S. military moved an aircraft carrier through the region as a warning to Iran to turn back a flotilla suspected of carrying weapons bound for Tehran’s allies in Yemen. Read the rest of this entry »


Iranian Defector: ‘The US negotiating team are mainly there to speak on Iran’s behalf’

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Pro-Hassan Rouhani Iranian editor defects while covering nuclear talks in Lausanne

Ahmed Vahdat and Richard Spencer report: A close media aide to Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, has sought political asylum in Switzerland after travelling to Lausanne to cover the nuclear talks between Tehran and the West.

Amir Hossein Motaghi, who managed public relations for Mr Rouhani during his 2013 election campaign, was said by Iranian news agencies to have quit his job at the Iran Student Correspondents Association (ISCA).

“There are a number of people attending on the Iranian side at the negotiations who are said to be journalists reporting on the negotiations. But they are not journalists and their main job is to make sure that all the news fed back to Iran goes through their channels.”

“The US negotiating team are mainly there to speak on Iran’s behalf with other members of the 5+1 countries and convince them of a deal.”

“My conscience would not allow me to carry out my profession in this manner any more.”

He then appeared on an opposition television channel based in London to say he no longer saw any “sense” in his profession as a journalist as he could only write what he was told.
“There are a number of people attending on the Iranian side at the negotiations who are said to be journalists reporting on the negotiations,” he told Irane Farda television. “But they are not journalists and their main job is to make sure that all the news fed back to Iran goes through their channels.
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Jason Rezalan

“My conscience would not allow me to carry out my profession in this manner any more.” Mr Mottaghi was a journalist and commentator who went on to use social media successfully to promote Mr Rouhani to a youthful audience that overwhelmingly elected him to power. Read the rest of this entry »

DEATH TO AMERICA

Death-to-America

Obama doesn’t take the Iranian chant seriously. He should.

Mona Charen writes: Maybe I’m too sensitive, but when a foreign autocrat leads his people in chants of “Death to America,” I take it personally.

President Obama and Secretary Kerry apparently don’t. The chant, which became a staple of the Islamic Republic during the 1979 revolution, is not a relic of the past. Just last weekend, at a rally in Iran, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was interrupted by the chant as he was denouncing American “lies” and “arrogance.” He smiled and responded, “Of course yes, death to America, because America is the original source of this pressure.”

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[Read the full text here, at National Review]

Some in Iran have said that during negotiations over a nuclear deal, Iranians should downplay the “Death to America” chant, common after Friday prayers and at political rallies. But the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) rejects this advice, insisting, according to the semi-official Fars news agency, that the United States “is still the great Satan and the number-one enemy of the [Islamic] revolution, and the Islamic Republic and the Iranian nation.”

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[RELATED: Terrorists You Can Trust]

Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark,) responded bluntly: “When someone chants, ‘Yes, certainly, death to America,’ we should take him at his word, and we shouldn’t put him on the path to a nuclear bomb.”

IRAN-POLITICS-ANNIVERSARY

We are left to wonder at the equanimity high-ranking members of this administration show toward the unyielding hostility of the Iranian regime. Read the rest of this entry »


HOAX: ‘Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei Has Issued a Fatwa Against the Development of Nuclear Weapons’

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Why the Phantom Fatwa?

I wrote about President Obama’s March 19 statement on the Persian new yearin “Our Supreme Leader is a Supreme Fool.” In the statement Obama asserted: “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, and President Rouhani has said that Iran would never develop a nuclear weapon.”

It Doesn’t Exist

Obama’s assertion follows closely on Secretary of State Kerry’s assertion to the same effect. I quoted Kerry’s citation of the fatwa in “Of fatuity and fatwas.”

The fatwa, however, doesn’t exist. It has never been seen. As Andrew McCarthy explains, the fatwa is a patent hoax. Andy writes (emphasis in original): “The invaluable Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has done extensive research into compilations of Khamenei’s published fatwas…No such fatwa has ever been published.” Andy links to MEMRI’s two 2013 posts in search of the fatwa in the omitted sentence.

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In a post at the Weekly Standard, Tom Joscelyn now simply asks of these gentlemen to whom the protection of our national security has been entrusted: “Produce the fatwa.” This is a perfectly reasonable request.

We heard the incessant yammering of the left about President Bush’s scrupulously accurate “16 words” in the 2003 State of the Union Address. The deal the Obama administration is about to produce with the Islamic Republic is enormously consequential. Obama and Kerry would have us believe that the fatwa they cite carries some significant weight in their case, otherwise why the repeated references to it? Yet it doesn’t exist. Read the rest of this entry »


Representing the 1%: Michelle Obama Celebrates Iranian Holiday at White House

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John Nolte writes: Why did God invent New Media? Because when the First Lady of the United States appeases a lunatic Islamic regime like Iran, the mainstream media is going to cover that fact up. The fact here is that Wednesday at the White House the First Lady celebrated Nowruz, which White House Dossier describes as the “Iranian festival of spring that marks the beginning of the Persian new year.”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with honoring the many events celebrated within this magnificent e pluribus unum melting pot of ours. The problem is that this is not about honoring a group of people who make up less than 1% of our population. When the Obama White House celebrates the Amish holiday of “Old Christmas” be sure to fire me up a flare.

That spectacle wasn’t about anything other than kissing up to the women-oppressing, homosexual-murdering Islamic theocrats in Iran who have only three goals: 1) Get a nuclear weapon. 2) Use that weapon to wipe out Israel. 3) Jump into a pile of 72 virgins. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Lebanese Female TV Host Rima Karaki Shuts Down Rude Porch-Dick ‘Islamist Scholar’ Hani Al-Seba’i on Live TV

A male Lebanese scholar was promptly shut down by a female host on a talk show after telling her bluntly to “shut up, so I can talk.”

“How can a respected sheikh like yourself tell a TV host to shut up?!”

— Host Rima Karaki

During a Mar. 2 discussion on Lebanon’s Al-Jadeed TV about Christians joining Islamic groups, Islamist scholar Hani Al-Seba’i was giving his take on the historical context when host Rima Karaki tried to ask a more specific question.

“It’s beneath me to be interviewed by you.”

— Islamist scholar Hani Al-Seba’i

He told her not to cut him off, to which she responded, “In this studio, I run the show,” according to a YouTube clip with English subtitles uploaded by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

“Just one second. Either there is mutual respect, or the conversation is over.”

— Host Rima Karaki

Al-Seba’i says he will answer the questions the way he wants to answer them and, when told that time was running out, adds: “Are you done? Shut up, so I can talk.”

“How can a respected sheikh like yourself tell a TV host to shut up?!” Karaki responds.

“It’s beneath me to be interviewed by you,” the sheikh fires back. Read the rest of this entry »