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Iran's Khamenei scores points with cleric critics
"Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, appears to have scored a political success by gathering leading clerics in the holy city of Qom around him in a show of unity after months of in-fighting.
Iranian media highlighted pictures on Thursday of a smiling Khamenei sitting with several top Shi'ite Muslim dignitaries, including some who have been critical since the disputed re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last year.
The carefully filtered images reinforced Khamenei's call for Iranians to unite against foreign enemies he accused of trying to destabilize the country through economic sanctions and denying it the right to advanced nuclear technology.
"Our enemies want to make people disillusioned with the system...They portray a dark and gloomy horizon of the future," he told a crowd in his first speech in Qom on Tuesday.
"National unity is very important and must be strengthened with every passing day... and by that I am addressing both officials and ordinary people. We should take it seriously."
Among the sages pictured sipping tea with Khamenei was Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi, a critic of Ahmadinejad, along with five other clerics who have the elevated status of "marja-e taqlid" (source of emulation), meaning that Shi'ite Muslims may choose them as a personal spiritual guide.
Their turnout belied rumors that senior religious figures would boycott Khamenei's annual visit to the center of Shi'ite learning in protest at a fierce crackdown on reformists and moves to isolate and intimidate dissident clerics.
"All different groups and figures without exception had come to welcome the leader and everyone felt that they were united," Tehran-e Emrouz daily quoted Makarem-Shirazi as saying.
The display of relative clerical unity followed a triumphant visit to Lebanon by Ahmadinejad last week that underlined wider support for Iran among Arabs and other Muslims who admire Tehran's defiance of the United States and Israel.
"(Khamenei's) trip shows the leader has the power to unite factions ... and it is a message to those who hoped the in-fighting may lead to the collapse of the system," a senior Western diplomat in Tehran said.
However, while conservative clerics who have voiced concern about the economy or the prerogatives of the clergy came to meet Khamenei, more liberal figures who backed opposition candidate Mirhossein Mousavi last year have so far stayed away.
Whether the spirit of reconciliation endures beyond his nine-day visit remains to be seen. Clerical sources say unease is rife in Qom over a perceived drive by Khamenei to position his second son, Mojtaba Khamenei, as his potential successor.
The leader offered no public olive branch to critics of last year's election, which the opposition said was rigged, or of the suppression of pro-democracy protests with mass arrests, show trials, alleged torture and the execution of several activists.
"Last year's sedition vaccinated the country against political and social microbes which could have a negative impact and it increased people's insight," he told supporters, who punctuated his speech with chants of "Death to America" and "Death to Israel."
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei website is http://www.khamenei.ir/
Also view the fall & weakening of Israel lost big little brother Manasseh (United States) with little big brother Ephraim (Britain) and found helpless brother Judah (Israel)
"Iraqis are turning to neighboring nations, and especially Iran"
American influence has so dwindled in Iraq over the last several months that Iraqi lawmakers and political leaders say they no longer follow Washington's advice for forming a government.
"The Iraqi politicians are not responding to the U.S. like before. We don't pay great attention to them," Shiite lawmaker Sami al-Askari, a close ally of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said Thursday. "The weak American role has given the region's countries a greater sense of influence on Iraqi affairs.
Vice President Joe Biden, the administration's point man for Iraq, has doggedly lobbied Iraqi leaders, both on the phone and in six trips here over the past two years.
Iraqis, however, measure U.S. influence largely by its military presence, which dipped by threefold from the war's peak to 50,000 troops in late August. As a result, Baghdad is now brushing off U.S. urgings to slow-walk a new government instead of rushing one through that might cater to Iran.
"The Iranian ambassador has a bigger role in Iraq than Biden," said a prominent Kurdish lawmaker, Mahmoud Othman. He said the Americans "will leave Iraq with its problems, thus their influence has become weak."
"Watch" for the next post to the 100% accuracy of the May 15th Prophecy written at LastDayWatchers
Ahmedinejad in Lebanon: shifting regional power balance
"The outcome of the July war [victory for Hizballah in 2006], the formation of a national unity government, which in turn, was the byproduct of Hizballah's military performance in the May clashes of 2008, all these factors strengthened Hizballah's -- and by extension Iran's -- position in Lebanon."
"Ahmadinejad's visit demonstrated that Lebanon, qua state, is no longer under the US orbit"
"This is especially the case given the US and Israel's repeated objections -- not to mention threats -- to the visit."
Distracted America will rue the day it forgot about Hezbollah
"The leaders of all other parties and factions in Lebanon, from Christian to Druze, cringe with fear when the name of Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, is mentioned.
The once-vaunted tribunal, long stalled, has been pre-empted by highly credible threats of violence if its belated findings turn out to be awkward for Syria or Hezbollah. The son of the murdered Hariri, like the son of the previously murdered Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt, has been forced to “make nice” in the most degrading fashion with the capo Bashar Assad, whose family almost certainly slew the heads of theirs. And the Party of God possesses two vetoes, one over the outcome of any Lebanese election it does not win and another on the timing of the next war with Israel to be launched from Lebanese territory"
The Akedah: A story about sanctity of life
"The story is a simple one. God, it is written, "tested Abraham." Abraham passed the test and was declared a God-fearing man because he did not hold back his son from God. In a test between reverence and love, reverence won. Abraham preferred reverence for God over love for his son, as one can see both from what is told in the story and what is hinted at there. Before the Akedah, Abraham is told, "Take your son, your only one, whom you love," while afterward he is praised as one who "did not hold back your son, your only one, from Me." No more "whom you love."
Strong earthquake hits Mexico
"(CNN) -- A 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck Mexico's Gulf of California on Thursday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.
The quake, which registered at a depth of 6.2 miles (10 kilometers), was centered between southern Baja California and the Mexican state of Sinaloa, about 65 miles from the city of Los Mochis in Sinaloa, the USGS said."
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