Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Revenge in Drug War Chills Mexico


By ELISABETH MALKIN

Ensign Melquisedet Angulo Córdova, a special forces sailor killed last week during the government’s most successful raid on a top drug lord in years, received a stirring public tribute in which the secretary of the navy presented his mother with the flag that covered her son’s coffin.

Then, only hours after the grieving family had finished burying him in his hometown the next day, gunmen burst into the family’s house and sprayed the rooms with gunfire, killing his mother and three other relatives, officials said Tuesday.

It was a chilling epilogue to the navy-led operation that killed the drug lord, Arturo Beltrán Leyva, and six of his gunmen. And it appeared to be intended as a clear warning to the military forces on the front line of President Felipe Calderón’s war against Mexico’s drug cartels: not only you, but your family is a target as well.

Prosecutors, police chiefs and thousands of others have been killed in the violence gripping Mexico, with whole families sometimes coming under attack during a cartel’s assassination attempt. But going after the family of a sailor who had already been killed is an exceedingly rare form of intimidation, analysts say, and illustrates how little progress the government has made toward one of its most important goals: reclaiming a sense of peace and order for Mexicans caught in the cross-fire.

“There will be more reprisals, both symbolic ones and strategic ones,” said Guillermo Zepeda, a security expert with the Center of Research for Development, in Mexico City. “They will take revenge against not only the top people, but anybody who participates.”

The military and police forces who have been fighting the drug war typically cover their faces with ski masks to protect their identities. But the government generally releases the names of police officers and soldiers who have been killed in the drug war.

Responding to the killings on Tuesday, Mr. Calderón said, “These contemptible events are proof of how unscrupulously organized crime operates, attacking innocent lives, and they can only strengthen us in our determination to banish this singular cancer.”

The gunmen killed Ensign Angulo’s mother, Irma Córdova Palma, and his sister Yolidabey, 22, just after midnight on Tuesday as they slept, said Tabasco State officials. An aunt, Josefa Angulo Flores, 46, died on her way to the hospital and Ensign Angulo’s brother Benito died shortly after he was admitted to the hospital. Another sister, who was not identified, was injured.

Ensign Angulo, 30, was killed Dec. 16 when military forces surrounded an upscale apartment complex in the city of Cuernavaca, an hour’s drive south of Mexico City, and cornered Mr. Beltrán Leyva, who American and Mexican officials say was one of Mexico’s most violent drug lords.

Although Mr. Calderón called the death of Mr. Beltrán Leyva a significant victory in the drug war, federal officials warned almost immediately that it could spawn more violence.

Attorney General Arturo Chávez Chávez told reporters the morning after the raid against Mr. Beltrán Leyva that his subordinates would battle among one another to take his place at the head of the cartel that bears his name.

But what officials did not expect was that among the first victims would be the innocent.

Throughout the three-year-old drug war, Mexican officials have argued that only a tiny percentage of the dead are noncombatants. Indeed, the vast majority of the dead are believed to be members of drug gangs settling scores. Half of the bodies are not even claimed by their families, government officials have said.

But the government has also proved to be powerless to protect many of its own forces in the drug war, much less innocent bystanders. In just one case in July, gunmen suspected of being cartel members killed 12 federal police officers in the western state of Michoacán in retaliation for the arrest of one of their leaders.

The killings on Tuesday underscore how vulnerable civilians are. Many local police forces are corrupted by drug money, officials say, and even when they are not, they are no match for the drug gangs’ firepower.

In one of the most frightening attacks directed at civilians, suspected cartel members threw grenades into a crowd celebrating Independence Day in the president’s hometown in 2008, killing eight people. It seemed to crystallize the fear that the cartels could strike wherever and whenever they wanted, despite the deployment of thousands of troops against them.

Analysts said that new levels of narcoterrorism were possible as the drug gangs tried to spread fear among those fighting them.

“Any objective could be vulnerable,” Mr. Zepeda, the security expert, said. “The state should be expecting it.”

Antonio Betancourt contributed reporting.

Narco Pirates Smuggle Mexican Petrol into Texas


John Ross - The Rag Blog
go to original
November 19, 2009


Hot oil? Petroleum "pipa" with the mark of the Zetas, the infamous drug cartel branching out into petro-piracy. (NarcoGuerra Times)
Union crooks, drug cartels and U.S. corporations are stealing billions of bucks of Mexican petroleum.

Mexico City - In a catchy photo op staged this past August, officials of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are pictured handing over a four foot-long government check for $2.4 million USD to Mexican finance ministry officials as recompense for shipments of stolen Mexican oil smuggled into Texas right under the noses of U.S. customs enforcement officers and sold to Trammo Petroleum, a Houston transnational with branch offices in China, Brazil, Egypt, France, the U.K., and Switzerland.

Part of the shipment of purloined petroleum was then sold off to a German BASF subsidiary in Port Arthur for $2.4 million. According to the New York Times, the deal was brokered by one Josh Crescenzi, Rio Grande Valley supervisor for Continental Fuels and a bundler for former Texas oilman George Bush during his 2004 election campaign who is now in a federal protected witness program. Trammo CEO Donald Schroeder has pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property and will be sentenced in December.

The Texas case is, in fact, the tip of a sinkhole that involves tens of millions of barrels of stolen Mexican oil worth billions of greenback dollar bills, U.S. customs enforcement, corrupt oil union officials, dozens of mysteriously "disappeared" oil workers, and a dread drug cartel.

Mexican authorities calculate that more than 2,000,000 barrels are stolen from PEMEX, the national petroleum monopoly, each year by workers, company insiders, and organized crime. A 2007 New York Times investigation estimated that a billion dollars worth of Mexican oil was being siphoned from PEMEX annually through fraud, theft, and clandestine "tomas" ("takes") drilled into company pipelines. Thousands of gallons of jet fuel allegedly wound up in the tanks of drug cartel jets carrying cocaine in from Colombia for transshipment to the U.S.

PEMEX numbers (questionable at best) reveal that more than 1.5 million barrels were sucked out of the oil giant's pipelines in the first nine months of 2009 alone. A Mexican government investigation into one network of oil thieves operating in the Burgos sector along the border in Coahuila and neighboring Nuevo Leon states yielded 740,000 pesos in cold, hard cash and evidence of $46,000,000 USD in stolen oil sales, presumably to U.S. buyers.

The modus operandi of the petrol pirates is simplicity itself: "chupaductos" ("duct suckers") are attached to perforated pipelines and the oil pumped into tanker trucks or "pipas" that sometimes bear the PEMEX logo. Pipa drivers are provided with phony documentation from the Mexican Environmental Secretariat (SEMARNAP) attesting that the contents of the loads they are moving are liquid petroleum waste - the documentation is apparently good enough to satisfy the curiosities of U.S. customs inspectors.

Some of the stolen crude is processed at clandestine refineries into gasoline that is sold in both Mexico and the U.S. Gas stations in central Mexico, particularly in Puebla state, are ready customers for the hot oil if a recent article in the daily El Universal is to be believed. Major trucking and bus companies buy the purloined gasoline without any questions asked. A May 16th, 2008 raid by federal police agents at offices in Acolman, Mexico state resulted in the confiscation of documentation for dummy companies created to distribute the product.

PEMEX bulletins reported by El Universal establish that nearly half the stolen petroleum (48%) is sucked from pipelines that supply the country's six major refineries - Mexico, which has limited refining capabilities, sends most of its crude to Texas to be converted into gasoline that is then re-imported for domestic use.

22% of the "tomas" are tapped from two oil ducts feeding the Hector Lara refinery in Cadareyta, a city of 75,000 in central Nuevo Leon. Local papers report that PEMEX has shut down 33 "takes" in the Cadareyta pipeline network so far this year, most recently this past August 30th along the national highway in San Juan, one of dozens of tiny communities that pertain to the municipality. The perforated duct measures 24 inches around which experts say translates to a lot of petroleum.

Who is stealing Cadareyta's oil? One PEMEX investigation suggests the involvement of organized crime, most pertinently the Zetas, a ruthless band of narco traffickers, who began life as the dreaded enforcers for the Gulf Cartel. Noted for their expertise in beheading their rivals, the original Zetas were Mexican Army officials trained in drug war strategies at the Center for Special Forces in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Bored with protecting the interests of Osiel Cardenas, the Gulf Cartel capo who is now facing 30 years in the U.S. super-maxi penitentiary in Florence, Colorado, the Zetas have gone into business for themselves and are now assigned full-blown cartel status by Mexican drug fighters. More than a dozen Zeta offshoots now operate throughout Mexico and the cartel is diversifying into extortion, kidnapping, pirate goods, and the sale of stolen oil.

With 2000 members, Section 49 of the Sindicato Mexicano de Petroleros de la Revolucion Mexicana (STPRM) which holds the contract for the Cadareyta refinery is notorious for corruption and gangsterism. Up until 2007, the section was controlled by ten brothers named Vega, disciples of STPRM boss Carlos Romero Deschamps. In fact, Hilario Vega, then in his third term as secretary general of Section 49, was considered Romero Deschamps' heir apparent when leadership of the union devolves to northern sections of the STPRM in 2012.

One ex-Cadayreta worker, Tony Cantu, interviewed by the New York Times' Tim Weiner, testified that the Vegas were perfectly capable of killing dissidents to protect their concession - Cantu now lives in Houston. Hermen Macias, a Cadareyta newspaper editor who dared to cross the Vegas, claims he was repeatedly threatened with death before the union bosses began to mysteriously disappear.

The Vega brothers' enterprise began to unravel some 30 months ago when, on May 16th 2007, David Vega, AKA "El Ganso" ("The Goose") left a union meeting in high spirits with three fellow oil workers - the four reportedly had been plotting strike tactics if then-upcoming negotiations with the PEMEX refinery division fell through. But David Vega and his three companions never returned home. One unidentified eyewitness to their forced disappearance or "levanton" ("pick-up" in narco parlance) reported that the petroleros were waylaid by a commando of men dressed in black uniforms with no insignias and bullet-proof vests and carrying automatic weapons with grenades strapped to their belts - an outfit that fits the Zeta dress code - and spirited off in several large black cars.

The morning after the "levanton," Hilario Vega, the long-time Section 49 boss, received a phone call instructing him to rendezvous with the kidnappers in the parking lot of a Cadareyta Wal-Mart mega-store if he wanted to see his brother alive again. According to his son Josue Vega, Hilario complied and was never seen again.

Some news stories suggest that there were over 100 "levantones" in Cadareyta in 2007 - the number is imprecise because many families failed to report the disappearances of their loved ones to the police who did not seem very interested in clearing up the cases anyway - if recent criminal enterprise is any teacher the cops may well have been involved in the crimes themselves. Although an unspecified number of kidnapping victims were eventually allowed to return home, leftist Mexican senator Rosario Ibarra, the founder of the EUREKA Mothers of the Disappeared group, holds a list of 38 refinery workers who remain missing. Ibarra, whose own son, Jesus, a member of the 23rd of September Communist League, was disappeared by government agents in 1976, is a native of nearby Monterrey.

The indifference of local authorities, state and federal prosecutors, Section 49, and the national leadership of the STPRM at the disappearances of 38 oil workers, has been nothing short of sensational. Despite a resolution of the Mexican Senate urged by Ibarra and calling for a thorough investigation, the Federal Prosecutors' Office (PGR) insists it has no new information on the kidnappings and the investigation remains frozen in the cold case file. Even clues supplied by witnesses, such as the license numbers of vehicles used in the "levantones," have evaporated, according to Hilario's son Josue.

The younger Vega complains that, disillusioned by the PGR's lethargy, he contracted a billboard near the Cadareyta airport to display photos of his father and other missing petroleros but the billboard company canceled the contract on the pretext that it constituted "political advertisement." Candidates of Mexico's two most powerful parties, the PRI and the PAN, often advertise on billboards outside the Cadareyta airport.

Two and half years after the mystery "levantones," Hilario Vega's replacement as the interim secretary general of Section 49, Jose Izaguirre, has issued no public statement about his predecessor's disappearance. Izaguirre, who is under federal investigation for selling refinery jobs, makes no bones about his candidacy to become permanent secretary general of the section.

The silence of accomplices extends to STPRM boss of all bosses Romero Deschamps who the surviving Vegas inevitably refer to as "Don Carlos." "Don Carlos and my father were friends for life," affirmed Josue Vega in a recent Internet interview.

Carlos Romero Deschamps succeeded the legendary STPRM czar Joaquin Hernandez Galicia in 1989 after the omni-powerful "La Quina" was arrested and stripped of office on orders from then-president Carlos Salinas in a murderous raid on Hernandez Galicia's stronghold in Ciudad Madero Tamaulipas state - the body of a police agent freshly gunned down in Ciudad Juarez was purportedly flown into Madero so that La Quina could be charged with murder.

Hernandez Galicia had incurred the now-reviled ex-president's wrath by endorsing leftist Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, the son of Lazaro Cardenas who nationalized Mexico's oil industry back in the 1930s, from whom Salinas embezzled the 1988 presidential election. La Quina reportedly opposed Salinas's plans to re-privatize PEMEX and also had financed a slim volume - A Killer In Los Pinos (the Mexican White House) - that revealed how Carlos and his black sheep brother Raul shot and killed an Indian servant during a childhood game of Cowboys & Indians.

Carlos Romero Deschamps is a veteran mover and shaker in the ranks of the once-and-future ruling PRI party that after 71 years in power was finally deposed in the 2000 presidential elections by Vicente Fox's rightist PAN party. In a doomed scheme to stymie Fox's bid, the STPRM was used as a pipeline to funnel $110,000,000 USD in illegal contributions from PEMEX operating funds into the campaign coffers of losing PRI candidate Francisco Labastida, the so-called PEMEXgate scandal. Although PEMEX director Rogelio Montemayor was forced to flee Mexico to escape prosecution for the scandal, Romero Deschamps, then a PRI senator, enjoyed immunity that exempted him from prosecution (the "fuero") because he was a member of congress.

The PAN's unexpected triumph in 2000 taught Romero Deschamps which side of the coin the money was posted on and he soon closed ranks with Fox's successor Felipe Calderon in his designs to re-privatize PEMEX. During 45 Senate debates on Calderon's privatization bill, Romero Deschamps was a perpetual no-show despite the key role played by the STPRM in the nationalization process -- a strike by petroleros against the transnational "Seven Sisters" that then controlled Caribbean oil fields resulted in Cardenas's expropriation and nationalization of Mexico's petroleum industry in 1938. PEMEX was created soon after.

Both PEMEX and the STPRM soon fell under the control of the PRI from whose ranks corrupt union leadership emerged. By the oil boom and bust of 1976-82, corruption had become institutionalized and with 90,000 dues-paying members (and another 30,000 contract workers), the union has long been a PRI cash cow.

Like La Quina, Romero Deschamps is not reluctant to send in muscle to silence detractors. As recently as early October, "Don Carlos" dispatched his goons to attack dissident petroleros peacefully protesting outside the STPRM's Mexico City headquarters. Rivals disappear - the suspected fate of the Cadareyta workers is a case in point - and some suffer an overdose of lead.

Despite plunging PEMEX revenues as major offshore oilfields like Cantarell play out, Romero Deschamps and his cronies continue to be handsomely rewarded by the Calderon regime for their "cooperation." For years, investigators have sought to determine the dimensions of the pay-offs with which PEMEX buys the STPRM's allegiances. Recent revelations by the Federal Institute for the Freedom of Information (IFAI) indicate that between 2005 and 2007, management gifted Romero Deschamps and the union's executive board with over a billion pesos - 1,273,588,029 of them to be exact.

In 2007 alone, the oil union boss received 139 million pesos for "expenses." 75 million were issued for two STPRM "fiestas" and 532 million for "travel." Although the destination of these trips was not spelled out, Romero Deschamps, like his predecessor La Quina, seems to spend more time at the craps tables in Las Vegas than he does at STPRM headquarters.

John Ross will present his latest cult classic El Monstruo - Dread and Redemption in Mexico City ("a lusty corrido about a great betrayed city" - Mike Davis) at Modern Times, 888 Valencia Street in San Francisco's La Mision this Wednesday November 18th at 7 p.m. The masses are cordially invited. Ross is scouting venues in the midwest, south, and east coast for his winter-spring 2010 Monster Tour. Write him at johnross(at)igc.org with ideas.

Mystery of Amazon manatee migration solved



The mystery of why Amazonian manatees migrate has been solved.

Only in recent years did scientists find that the secretive aquatic mammal migrates from shallow to deep water.

Now researchers can reveal that the manatees make this perilous journey to avoid being exposed to attack by predators during the low water season.

That means the species maybe at greater risk than previously thought, say scientists, as migration and low water levels make them vulnerable to hunters.

The international team of researchers from Brazil and the UK publish their findings in the Journal of Zoology.

Great escape

The elusive Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis) is a large plant-eating mammal that lives in freshwater.

Due to its peculiar shape it has been described as a cross between a seal and a hippo.

The species is only found in the Amazon River basin from the river mouth to the upper reaches of tributaries of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, and Peru.

Every year they are probably migrating through narrow channels where they are exposed to hunters
Dr Eduardo Moraes Arraut
National Institute for Space Research, Sao Paulo, Brazil

The researchers studied manatees that live within the Mamiraua and Amana Sustainable Development Reserves in the north west of Brazil.

To obtain their results, the researchers asked local inhabitants about the animals' movements, studied the shapes and depths of the local rivers and lakes and then used radio tracking tags to follow the movements of 10 manatees.

During the high water season, between mid May and the end of June, manatees live in quiet lakes called varzeas that form within river flood plains, the scientists found.

Here the manatees consume 8% of their body weight in aquatic plants each day.

Then during the low water season, between October and November, the animals start to migrate as the water level drops.

They journey to deeper water within long narrow lakes called rias, that are submerged river valleys.

They do this because it becomes too dangerous to remain in shallow water, the scientists say.

If the manatees do not move, they become stranded and exposed to hunters such as caimans, jaguars and humans who stalk the water margins.

Lesser of two evils

Moving to the deeper habitat is not easy, as the large mammals must pass through narrow bottlenecks in the aquatic landscape, where human hunters wait for them.
Researchers put radio collar on a manatee
Researchers Edu and Antonio putting a radio collar on a male manatee

The perilous journey also has another downside; it forces the manatees to fast for several months due to a lack of aquatic plants.

"Amazonian manatees migrate to a habitat that doesn't offer easy living conditions in order to flee from a habitat that becomes inhospitable," says Dr Eduardo Moraes Arraut from the National Institute for Space Research in Sao Paulo, Brazil who undertook the latest study.

By doing so, they choose between the lesser of two evils.

"When you have two options that are not good, you choose the one that is less bad," says Dr Arraut.

Hunters respected

"I was surprised with the difficulty of the conditions the manatee lives in during the low water season," he says.

Manatees are in greater danger than previously thought
Dr Eduardo Moraes Arraut
National Institute for Space Research, Sao Paulo, Brazil

"I was also badly surprised with the fact that they are probably being killed yearly throughout the Amazon during migration."

Even though hunting manatees is illegal they are prized by local people for their meat and the status a kill bestows on the hunter.

"It is very difficult to kill one and hunters are respected people in their communities," explains Dr Arraut.

"Manatees are in greater danger than previously thought because every year they are probably migrating through narrow channels where they are exposed to hunters," he says.

Dr Arraut hopes to track manatees in other regions of the Amazon to find out if this is occurring elsewhere.

Operation Paperclip!


Operation Paperclip was the codename under which the US intelligence and military services extricated scientists from Germany, during and after the final stages of World War II. The project was originally called Operation Overcast, and is sometimes also known as Project Paperclip.

Of particular interest were scientists specialising in aerodynamics and rocketry (such as those involved in the V-1 and V-2 projects), chemical weapons, chemical reaction technology and medicine. These scientists and their families were secretly brought to the United States, without State Department review and approval; their service for Hitler's Third Reich, NSDAP and SS memberships as well as the classification of many as war criminals or security threats also disqualified them from officially obtaining visas. An aim of the operation was capturing equipment before the Soviets came in. The US Army destroyed some of the German equipment to prevent it from being captured by the advancing Soviet Army.

The majority of the scientists, numbering almost 500, were deployed at White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico, Fort Bliss, Texas and Huntsville, Alabama to work on guided missile and ballistic missile technology. This in turn led to the foundation of NASA and the US ICBM program.

Much of the information surrounding Operation Paperclip is still classified.

Separate from Paperclip was an even-more-secret effort to capture German nuclear secrets, equipment and personnel (Operation Alsos). Another American project (TICOM) gathered German experts in cryptography.

The United States Bureau of Mines employed seven German synthetic fuel scientists in a Fischer-Tropsch chemical plant in Louisiana, Missouri in 1946.

After WWII ended in 1945, victorious Russian and American intelligence teams began a treasure hunt throughout occupied Germany for military and scientific booty. They were looking for things like new rocket and aircraft designs, medicines, and electronics. But they were also hunting down the most precious "spoils" of all: the scientists whose work had nearly won the war for Germany. The engineers and intelligence officers of the Nazi War Machine.
The U.S. Military rounded up Nazi scientists and brought them to America. It had originally intended merely to debrief them and send them back to Germany. But when it realized the extent of the scientists knowledge and expertise, the War Department decided it would be a waste to send the scientists home. Following the discovery of flying discs (foo fighters), particle/laser beam weaponry in German military bases, the War Department decided that NASA and the CIA must control this technology, and the Nazi engineers that had worked on this technology.
There was only one problem: it was illegal. U.S. law explicitly prohibited Nazi officials from immigrating to America--and as many as three-quarters of the scientists in question had been committed Nazis.
Data-Points:
Convinced that German scientists could help America's postwar efforts, President Harry Truman agreed in September 1946 to authorize "Project Paperclip," a program to bring selected German scientists to work on America's behalf during the "Cold War"
However, Truman expressly excluded anyone found "to have been a member of the Nazi party and more than a nominal participant in its activities, or an active supporter of Naziism or militarism."
The War Department's Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) conducted background investigations of the scientists. In February 1947, JIOA Director Bosquet Wev submitted the first set of scientists' dossiers to the State and Justice Departments for review.
The Dossiers were damning. Samauel Klaus, the State Departments representative on the JIOA board, claimed that all the scientists in this first batch were "ardent Nazis." Their visa requests were denied.
Wev was furious. He wrote a memo warning that "the best intrests of the United States have been subjugated to the efforts expended in 'beating a dead Nazi horse.'" He also declared that the return of these scientists to Germany, where they could be exploited by America's enemies, presented a "far greater security threat to this country than any former Nazi affiliations which they may have had or even any Nazi sympathies that they may still have."
When the JIOA formed to investigate the backgrounds and form dossiers on the Nazis, the Nazi Intelligence leader Reinhard Gehlen met with the CIA director Allen Dulles. Dulles and Gehlen hit it off immediatly. Gehlen was a master spy for the Nazis and had infilitrated Russia with his vast Nazi Intelligence network. Dulles promised Gehlen that his Intelligence unit was safe in the CIA.
Apparently, Wev decided to sidestep the problem. Dulles had the scientists dossier's re-written to eliminate incriminating evidence. As promised, Allen Dulles delivered the Nazi Intelligence unit to the CIA, which later opened many umbrella projects stemming from Nazi mad research. (MK-ULTRA / ARTICHOKE, OPERATION MIDNIGHT CLIMAX)
Military Intelligence "cleansed" the files of Nazi refrences. By 1955, more than 760 German scientists had been granted citizenship in the U.S. and given prominent positions in the American scientific community. Many had been longtime members of the Nazi party and the Gestapo, had conducted experiments on humans at concentration camps, had used slave labor, and had comitted other war crimes.
In a 1985 expose in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Linda Hunt wrote that she had examined more than 130 reports on Project Paperclip subjects--and every one "had been changed to eliminate the security threat classification."
President Truman, who had explicitly ordered no comitted Nazis to be admitted under Project Paperclip, was evidently never aware that his directive had been violated. State Department archives and the memoirs of officials from that era confirm this. In fact, according to Clare Lasby's book Operation Paperclip, project officials "covered their designs with such secrecy that it bedeviled their own President; at Potsdam he denied their activities and undoubtedly enhanced Russian suspicion and distrust," quite possibly fueling the Cold War even further.
A good example of how these dossiers were changed is the case of Wernher von Braun. A September 18, 1947, report on the German rcoket scientist stated, "Subject is regarded as a potential security threat by the Military Governor."
The following February, a new security evaluation of Von Braun said, "No derogatory information is available on the subject...It is the opinion of the Military Governor that he may not constitute a security threat to the United States."

Here are a few of the 700 suspicious characters who were allowed to immigrate through Project Paperclip.

ARTHUR RUDOLPH; During the war, Rudolph was operations director of the Mittelwerk factory at the Dora-Nordhausen concentration camps, where 20,000 workers died from beatings, hangings, and starvation. Rudolph had been a member of the Nazi party since 1931; a 1945 military file on him said simply: "100% Nazi, dangerous type, security threat..!! Suggest internment."
But the JIOA's final dossier on him said there was "nothing in his records indicating that he was a war criminal or and ardent Nazi or otherwise objectionable." Rudolph became a US citizen and later designed the Saturn 5 rocket used in the Apollo moon landings. In 1984, when his war record was finally investigated, he fled to West Germany.

WERNHER VON BRAUN; From 1937 to 1945, von Braun was the technical director of the Peenemunde rocket research center, where the V-2 rocket --which devasted England--was developed. As noted previously, his dossier was rewritten so he didn't appear to have been an enthusiastic Nazi.
Von Braun worked on guided missles for the U.S. Army and was later director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. He became a celebrity in the 1950s and early 1960s, as one of Walt Disney's experts on the "World of Tomorrow." In 1970, he became NASA's associate administrator.

KURT BLOME; A high-ranking Nazi scientist, Blome told U.S. military interrogators in 1945 that he had been ordered 1943 to experiment with plague vaccines on concentration camp prisoners. He was tried at Nuremberg in 1947 on charges of practicing euthanasia (extermination of sick prisoners), and conducting experiments on humans. Although acquitted, his earlier admissions were well known, and it was generally accepted that he had indeed participated in the gruesome experiments.
Two months after his Nuremberg acquittal, Blome was interviewed at Camp David, Maryland, about biological warfare. In 1951, he was hired by the U.S. Army Chemical Corps to work on chemical warfare. His file neglected to mention Nuremberg.

MAJOR GENERAL WALTER SCHREIBER; According to Linda Hunt's article, the US military tribunal at Nuremberg heard evidence that "Schreiber had assigned doctors to experiment on concentration camp prisoners and had made funds available for such experimentation." The assistant prosecutor said the evidence would have convicted Schreiber if the Soviets, who held him from 1945 to 1948, had made him available for trial.
Again, Schreiber's Paperclip file made no mention of this evidence; the project found work for him at the Air Force School of Medicine at Randolph Field in Texas. When columnist Drew Pearson publicized the Nuremberg evidence in 1952, the negative publicity led the JIOA, says Hunt, to arrange "a visa and a job for Schreiber in Argentina, where his daughter was living." On May 22, 1952, he was flown to Buenos Aires.

HERMANN BECKER-FREYSING and SIEGFRIED RUFF; These two, along with Blome, were amoung the 23 defendants in the Nuremberg War Trials "Medical Case." Becker-Freysing was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for conducting experiments on Dachau inamtes, such as starving them, then force-feeding them seawater that had been chemically altered to make it drinkable. Ruff was acquitted (in a close decision) on charges that he had killed as many as 80 Dachau inmates in a low-pressure chamber designed to simulate altitudes in excess of 60,000 feet. Before their trial, Becker-Freysing and Ruff were paid by the Army Air Force to write reports about their grotesque experiments.

GENERAL REINHARD GEHLEN; It was five years after the end of WW2 but one of Hitler's chief intelligence officers was still on the job. From a walled-in compound in Bavaria, General Reinhard Gehlen oversaw a vast network of intelligence agents spying on Russia. His top aides were Nazi zealots who had committed some of the most notorious crimes of the war. Gehlen and his SS united were hired, and swiftly became agents of the CIA when they revealed their massive records on the Soviet Union to the US.
Gehlen derived much of his information from his role in one of the most terrible atrocities of the war: the torture, interrogation and murder by starvation of some four million Soviet prisoners. Prisoners who refused to cooperate were often tortured or summarily executed. May were executed even after they had given information, while others were simply left to starve to death. As a result, Gehlend and members of his organization maneuvered to make sure they were captured by advancing American troops rather than Russians, who would have executed them immediatly.
Two months before Germany surrendered in 1945, the Gehlen organization made its move. "Gehlen and a small group of his most senior officers carefully microfilmed the vast holding on the USSR in the military section of the German army's general staff. They packed the film in watertight steel drums and secretly buried it in a remote mountain meadow scattered throughout the Austrian Alps.
General William Donovan and Allen Dulles of the CIA were tipped off about Gehlen's surrender and his offer of Russian intelligence in exchange for a job. The CIA was soon jockeyeing with military intelligence for authority over Gehlen's microfilmed records--and control of the German spymaster. Dulles arranged for a private intelligence facility in West Germany to be established, and named it the Geheln Organization. Gehlen promisd not to hire any former SS, SD, or Gestapo members; he hired them anyway, and the CIA did not stop him. Two of Gehlen's early recruits were Emil Augsburg and Dr. Franz Six, who had been part of mobile killing squads, which killed Jews, intellectuals, and Soviet partisans wherever they found them. Other early recruits included Willi Krichbaum, senior Gestapo leader for southeastern Europe, and the Gestapo chiefs of Paris and Kiel, Germany.
With the encourgement of the CIA, Gehlen Org (Licio Gelli) set up "rat lines" to get Nazi war criminals out of Europe so they wouldn't be prosecuted. By setting up transit camps and issuing phony passports, the Gehlen Org helped more than 5,000 Nazis leave Europe and relocate around the world, especially in South and Central America. There, mass murderers like Klaus Barbie (the butcher of Lyons) helped governments set up death squads in Chile, Argentina, El Salvador, and elsewhere.

KLAUS BARBIE; Known as the Nazi butcher of Lyons, France during World War 2, Barbie was part of the SS which was responsible for the and death of thousands of French people under the Germany occupation.

HEINRICH RUPP; Some of Rupp's best work was done for the CIA, after he was imported in Operation Paperclip. Rupp has been convicted of bank fraud. He was an operative for the CIA and is deeply involved in the Savings and Loan scandals. A federal jury has indicated they believe testimony that Rupp, the late CIA Director William Casey - then Reagan's campaign manager, and Donald Gregg, now U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, flew with George Bush to Paris in 1980, during the election in which Bush was on the ticket with Ronald Reagan. The testimony states that three meetings were held on October 19 and 20 at the Hotel Florida and Hotel Crillion. The subject? According to the court testimony, the meetings were to sabotage President Jimmy Carter's reelection campaign by delaying the release of American hostages in Iran. The hostages were released on January 20, 1981, right after Reagan and Bush were sworn into office. Iran was promised return of its frozen assets in the United States and the foundation for the Iran- Contra deal was set into motion.

LICIO GELLI; Head of a 2400 member secret Masonic Lodge, P2, a neo-fascist organization, in Italy that catered to only the elite, Gelli had high connections in the Vatican, even though he was not a Catholic. P2's membership is totally secret and not even available to its Mother Lodge in England. Gelli was responsible for providing Argentina with the Exocet missile. He was a double agent for the CIA and the KGB. He assisted many former Nazi high officials in their escape from Europe to Central America. He had close ties with the Italian Mafia. Gelli was a close associate of Benito Mussolini. He was also closely affiliated with Roberto Calvi, head of the scandal-ridden Vatican Bank. Calvi was murdered. Gelli's secret lodge consisted of extremely important people, including armed forces commanders, secret service chiefs, head of Italy's financial police, 30 generals, eight admirals, newspaper editors, television and top business executives and key bankers - including Calvi. Licio Gelli and others in P2 were behind the assasination of Pope John Paul 1.
The central figure in Europe and South America that linked the CIA, Masonic Lodge, Vatican, ex-Nazis and several South American governments, the Italian government and several international banks was Licio Gelli. He, with Klaus Barbie and Heinrich Rupp, met with Ronald R. Rewald in Uruguay to arrange for the Argentine purchase of the French-made Exocet missile, used in the Falkland Island attack to kill british soldiers.
Who is Gelli and why was he so important?
To understand Gelli, one must understand the complex post war years of Europe. The biggest threat to Europe in pre-war times was Communism - it was the great fear of Communism that gave birth to the Fascists and the Nazis. Though both sides were dreaded, the Fascists represented right-wing government, while the Communist represent left-wing government. It was the right-wing that the United States and the Catholic Church desired over Communism - because Communism would destroy the capitalistic system. This is why the CIA and the Vatican had go through with Operation Paperclip. The Nazis had massive amounts of Soviet intelligence, had infilitrated Communist partisans, and were in no way going to be given up to the Soviet Union.
Gelli worked both sides. He helped to found the Red Brigade, spied on Communist partisans and worked for the Nazis at the same time, a double agent. He helped establish the Rat Line, which assisted the flight of high ranking Nazi officials from Europe to South America, with passports supplied by the Vatican and with the full acknowledgment and blessing of the United States intelligence community. While on one hand, the U.S. participated in the war crime tribunals of key Nazi officials and maintained an alliance with the Communist Soviet Union, secretly, the U.S. was preparing for the cold war and needed the help of Nazis in the eventual struggle the U.S. would have with the Soviet Union. Gelli's agreement with U.S. intelligence to spy on the Communists after the war was instrumental in saving his life. He was responsible for the murder and torture of hundreds of Yugoslavian partisans.
The Vatican provided support to Nazis and Fascists because the Communists were the real threat to the Church's survival. The Italian Communists would have taxed the Church's vast holdings and the Church has had a dismal experience with Communist governments throughout the world - where religious freedom was stamped out.
Gelli was well connected with the Vatican from the days of the Rat Line and he worked for American intelligence, as well. Gelli formed the P-2 Masonic Lodge-which did not follow the direction of any Grand Lodge-and it was supplied with a sum of $10 million a month by the CIA. Its membership was a Who's Who in the intelligence, military and Italian community. So prominent was Gelli's influence, that he was even a guest of honor at the 1981 inauguration of President Ronald Reagan.
Gelli used blackmail in order to gain prominent members of his P-2 lodge, its membership is estimated at 2400 members, including 300 of the most powerful men in the Western World.. He was a close friend of Pope Paul VI, Juan Peron of Argentina, Libyan Dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi, and many high officials in the Italian and American governments - he is also reported to have had some financial dealings with the George Bush for President campaign.
Gelli and his P-2 lodge had staggering connections to banking, intelligence and diplomatic passports. The CIA poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Italy in the form of secret subsidies for political parties, labor unions and communications businesses. At the same time the Agency continued its relationship with far- right and violent elements as a back-up should a coup be needed to oust a possible Communist government. This covert financing was exposed by the Prime Minister of Italy in a speech to Parliament. He indicates that more than 600 people in Italy still remain on the payroll of the CIA. Licio Gelli was an ardent Nazi and a perfect asset of the CIA. As part of Reinhard Gehlen's intelligence team, he had excellent contacts. Licio was the go between for the CIA and the Vatican through his P2 Lodge.

Project Paperclip was stopped in 1957, when West Germany protested to the U.S. that these efforts had stripped it of "scientific skills." There was no comment about supporting Nazis. Paperclip may have ended in 1957, but as you can see from Licio Gelli and his international dealings with the CIA in Italy/P2, and Heinrich Rupp with his involvement in October Surprise, the ramifications of Paperclip are world-wide. The Nazis became employed CIA agents, engaging in clandestine work with the likes of George Bush, the CIA, Henry Kissenger, and the Masonic P2 lodge. This is but one of the results of Operation Paperclip. Another umbrella project that was spawned from Paperclip was MK-ULTRA.
A secret laboratory was established and funded by CIA director, Allen Dulles in Montreal, Canada at McGill University in the Allen Memorial Institute headed by psychiatrist Dr. Ewen Cameron. For the next several years Dr. Ewen Cameron waged his private war in Canada. What is ironic about Dr. Cameron is that he served as a member of the Nuremberg tribunal who heard the cases against the Nazi doctors.
When it was at its height in drug experiments, operation MK-ULTRA was formed. This was the brainchild of Richard Helms who later came to be a CIA director. It was designed to defeat the "enemy" in its brain-washing techniques. MK-ULTRA had another arm involved in Chemical and Biological Warfare (CBW) known as MK-DELTA. The "doctors" who participated in these experiments used some of the same techniques as the Nazi "doctors". Techniques used by Dr. Cameron and previous Nazi scientists include electro shock, sleep deprivation, memory implantation, memory erasure, sensory modification, psychoactive drug experiments, and many more cruel practices.
Project Paperclip brought us MK-ULTRA. Paperclip ultimately brought in key players involved in the Assassination of Pope 1, October Surprise (sabotage of Carter's peace talks), and a great many other things still classified to this day. The results of Project Paperclip were devastating, and very far reaching. I guess that is what you would expect from collaborating with Nazis.
This research shows that the OSS/CIA that was formed in the National Security Act, the same agency that employed hundreds of Nazis, has been in alliance with the Vatican through various Agency connections such as Licio Gelli. The CIA/Vatican alliance that Assassinated Pope John Paul 1, JFK, and hundreds of dictators of 3rd world countries is the Illuminati.
The Bavarian Illuminati has been around for centuries in one way or another. It's presence in the 20th century is the direct result of the Nazis. The Nazi connections to the occult and the Bavarian Thule Society were parallel to the American members of 33rd degree Freemasonry. When the Operation Paperclip was successfully executed, the Nazi element of the Bavarian Thule society was fused with the American members of Freemasonry to create the Illuminati.
Operation Paperclip, MK-ULTRA, October Surprise, and George Bush are all facets of the Illuminati, a group whose ideals are rooted in the occult, and dedicated to world domination.
Soon after the American Revolution, John Robinson, a professor of rural philosophy at Edinburgh University in Scotland and member of a Freemason lodge, said that he was asked to join the Illuminati. After studying the group, he concluded that the purposes of the Illuminati were not compatible with his beliefs.
In 1798, he published a book called "Proofs Of A Conspiracy," which states:
"An association has been formed for the express purpose of rooting out all the religious establishments and overturning all the existing governments.... The leaders would rule the World with uncontrollable power, while all the rest would be employed as tools of the ambition of their unknown superiors."
The CIA and the Vatican have rooted out all the religious establishemnts in the world. The CIA has overthrown and set up dictators under their control all over the world. The CIA and the Vatican have fullfilled the purpose of the Illuminati. The CIA and the Vatican _are_ the Illuminati.

Dossier compiled by Agent Orange
bibliography: 1. It's a Conspiracy! Michael Litchfield, Earthworks Press 2. Operation Paperclip, Clare Lasby, Athenaeum 1975 3. U.S. Coverup of Nazi Scientists, Linda Hunt, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 4. Acid Dreams, Martin Lee and Bruce Schlain, Grove Press 5. Journey Into Madness, Gordon Thomas, Bantam Books 6. Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman, Merle Miller, New York 7. Kiss the Boys Goodbye, by Monika Jensen-Stevenson and William Stevenson. 8. Inside Job - The Looting of America's S&L, by Stephen Pizzo, Mary Fricker 9. In God's Name, An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I, by David A.Yallop. 10. The Crimes of Patriots - A True Tale of Dope. Dirty Money, and the CIA by Jonathan Kwitny. 11. Mengele - The Complete Story, by Gerald L. Posner and John Ware. 12. Blowback, America's Recruitment of Nazis and its Effects on the Cold War, by Christopher Simpson. 13. Jury Says Story of Reagan-Bush Campaign Deal With Iran Is True, San Francisco Chronicle May 5, 1990. 14. Hawaii Scheme Cost Napans $500.000, Napa Register October 3, 1983. 15. The Vatican Connection by Richard Hammer 16. The Great Heroin Coup, Drug's, Intelligence & International Fascism by Henrik Kruger 17. The Nazi Legacy by Magnus Linklater, Isabel Hilton, Neal Ascherson 18. The P-2 Time Bomb Goes Off, May 1984 The Economist

Who is Illich Ramirez Sanchez?


Named "Ilich" as a paeon to Lenin (whose full name was Vladimir Ilyich Lenin) by his Marxist father, Ramirez was later known as Carlos the Jackal. His nickname came in part from the novel, The Day of the Jackal, a thriller once found by authorities among his belongings.
Background:
Born in 1949 in Caracas, Venezuela, where he was raised. He was also schooled in England, and attended university in Moscow. After his expulsion from the university in 1970, he joined the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a pan-Arab leftist group then based in Amman, Jordan.
Claim to Notoriety:
Ramirez' most famous terrorist move was the takeover of OPEC headquarters in Vienna at a 1975 Conference, where he also took 11 members hostage. The hostages were eventually transported to Algiers and freed. Although later debunked, assumptions that Ramirez had a hand in killing two of the Israeli athletes taken hostage at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich added to his reputation as a ruthless and effective terrorist. Indeed, many of Ramirez' feats had murky origins and unclear goals and sponsors—which also gave the self-proclaimed terrorist a mysterious glamour.

A 1994 review of David Yallop's Tracking the Jackal: The Search for Carlos, the World's Most Wanted Man suggests that the OPEC kidnappings may have been sponsored by Saddam Hussein, rather than by the PFLP, as has been suggested, or by Libyan leader Muammar Al Qaddafi:

Although it has long been thought that the armed attack on a Vienna meeting of the oil cartel and the kidnapping of 11 of the oil ministers were conceived and paid for by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the book makes a persuasive case that behind it was actually Saddam Hussein, seeking an increase in the price of oil to finance his impending war with Iran.

Mr. Hussein intended Carlos to use the kidnapping as a pretext to assassinate the Saudi opponents of a price rise, Mr. Yallop says, but the unreliable Carlos sold out his employer, as he so often did, and instead took a $20 million ransom from the Saudi Government (the hostages were in fact released).

Where He Is Now:
The Jackal was arrested by the French in 1994, in Sudan where he was living. He was convicted for several murders in 1997 and as of 2006 is still in prison.
Cross-Links:
Ramirez has expressed admiration for Osama bin Laden from prison, and more broadly for Revolutionary Islam, which is the title of a 2003 book he published from prison. In it, the jailed terrorist showed shades of his lifelong affiliation with leftist secular groups whose vision of conflict is shaped by class differences describing Islam as the sole "transnational

Did Saddam mimic Saladin?


By James Holmes



The weird ease with which the Iraqi army and regime fell last year, combined with the stubbornness of the subsequent insurgency, has occasioned lively debate in national security circles. Here's one hypothesis: The Iraqi dictator, taking his cue from Islamic history, deliberately lured the coalition into Iraq. Realizing that his enfeebled army couldn't stand against the U.S.—led coalition in conventional terms, he feigned defeat, ordering his henchmen to arm themselves and carry on the struggle by unconventional means.

A protracted war, reckoned Saddam, would wear down America's will to fight, allowing him to win politically despite being thrashed on the battlefield. Rather than go down fighting, the regime melted away and, perhaps in concert with foreign terrorists, commenced the insurgency that has bedeviled the pacification effort ever since.

Fanciful? In reality, such a strategy would be fully in keeping with the Muslim way of war. Ever since the Crusades, Islamic commanders have favored using light forces to harry more heavily armed Western armies. Muslim armies would often feign retreat, enticing their enemies into pursuing them. Having wearied their foes, they would envelop them and counterattack at an auspicious moment. Steeped in conventional war, the United States needs to come to terms with this distinctively Eastern brand of warfare.

There's ample reason to believe that Saddam knew about traditional Muslim strategies. Throughout the 1990s, Saddam chafed under the Desert Storm ceasefire terms, especially the UN—imposed sanctions and weapons inspections. In an attempt to slip these bonds, he sought to rally the Arab peoples to the Iraqi banner. He cast about for a symbol that would appeal to Arabs' memories of past glory.

He hit upon Saladin, the gallant 12th—century Kurdish general who had evicted Christian forces from Jerusalem and later fought armies led by Richard the Lion—Hearted to a standstill.

Rhetoric and political imagery linking the 20th Century despot with the 12th Century hero were ubiquitous. In Tikrit, the family seat of both men, a statue of a mounted, mailed Hussein conjured up memories of Saladin. So did similarly garbed statues adorning the dictator's Republican Palaces. A book published by an official press styled Saddam "Saladin II," while postage stamps showed the two men side—by—side.

Why Saladin? Two reasons stand out. First, the Kurdish champion had been the most powerful potentate of his day, uniting much of the Arab world under his leadership. Second, he had conquered Jerusalem, setting himself apart from other Arab heroes of antiquity. Saladin thus fit nicely into Saddam's diplomacy, which for years had been premised on real and threatened attacks on Israel.

But Saddam Hussein may also have taken his cue from Saladin in military matters. A master tactician, Saladin was skilled at using light cavalrymen to harass, tire out, and ultimately overcome armored Western knights. The feigned retreat was part of his battlefield lexicon. Indeed, as a young man, Saladin had distinguished himself by leading a feigned retreat and a victorious counterattack at the Battle of Ashmunein.

In 1191, during the Third Crusade, Saladin attempted the same feat against an army led by Richard the Lion—Hearted, near the coastal town of Arsuf. Schooled in Muslim tactics, the wily King Richard refused to take the bait. In a rare display of discipline, the Christian horsemen remained on the field of battle, allowing the battered Muslim army to take flight. There was no foolhardy pursuit.

What of Saddam? The Iraqi dictator was famously contemptuous of America's staying power in wartime, largely because——he believed——its leadership was vulnerable to premature war—weariness among the electorate. Not the physical burden of heavy arms and armor but political weakness, in the form of dissension among the American people and their elites, would eventually tire out the United States. It would quit the campaign, as it had in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia.

A prolonged insurgency would sap America's will, allowing Saddam's regime to prevail politically. It would regain power despite battlefield defeat.

If the speculation presented here is true, then, Iraq's Baathist regime replicated Saladin's strategy on a grand scale, ensnaring the U.S.—led coalition in a protracted guerrilla war which, if Saddam calculated correctly, the West lacked the stomach to win. The Iraqi tyrant seems to have erred in this regard, if last week's presidential election is any guide. A majority of Americans declined to turn President George W. Bush out of office over his handling of the Iraq war.

Even so, the United States could encounter similar strategies in the war on terror. If Saddam followed Saladin's lead, and if future antagonists do so, the U.S. military should follow that of King Richard. It should decline to fight on enemy terms. Honing its proficiency in counterinsurgent strategy, police duty, and postwar reconstruction would be a good start.

James R. Holmes, Ph.D. is Senior Research Associate, Center for International Trade and Security School of Public and International Affairs, University of Georgia
on "Did Saddam mimic Saladin?"

The Latter Days of the Assassins

rom A History of Secret Societies by Arkon Daraul (Citadel Press 1961/1989)

The ruler of one the most terrifying organizations the world has ever known was without a lineal successor. He had had both of his sons killed: one for carrying out an unauthorized murder, the other for drinking wine; certainly a case of "do as I say, not as I do". He called his two most trusted lieutenants from the strongholds which they maintained on his behalf: Kia Buzurg-Umid (Kia of Great Promise) and Abu-Ali of Qaswin. Kia was to inherit the spiritual and mystical aspect, while Abu-Ali attended to the military and administrative affairs of the Order. It is said that Hasan bin Sabah died almost immediately afterwards, in 1124, at ninety years of age; having given the world a new word; assassin. 'Assasseen' in Arabic signifies 'guardians', and some commentators have considered this to be the true origin of the word: 'guardians of the secrets".

The Organization of the Order, under Hasan, called for Missionaries (Dayes), Friends (Rafiq) who were disciples, and Fidavis, devotees. The last group had been added by Hasan to the Ismaili original, and these were the trained killers. Fidavis wore white, with a girdle, cap or boots of red. In addition to careful coaching in where and when to place the dagger in the victim's bosom, they were trained in such things as languages, the dress and manners of monks, merchants and soldiers, any of whom they were ready to impersonate in carrying out their missions. The chief was known as Sayedna (Our Prince, Leader), and popularly (because of the mountain stronghold of Alamut), as the Sheikh of the Mountain. This is the figure referred to in Crusaders' writings as 'Sydney', or 'Senex de Monte', the first word being a literal translation of the word 'Pir': Persian for Ancient, or Sage. There were three Great Missionaries, who ruled three territories. After the Friends and Fidavis came the Laziks, aspirants who were being trained for membership of the society, but were as yet uninitiated.

Hasan reduced the original number of degrees of initiation from nine to the mystical number of seven. A similar number of regulations formed the rules of the Order. This, in fact, comprised the working plan of the spreading of the Faith. The First Rule was the the Missionary must know human psychology in such a way as to be able to select suitable people for admission to the cult; and was summed up in the mnemonic: Cast no seeds upon rocks. The second rule of procedure was the application of flattery and gaining the confidence of the prospective member. Third came the casting of doubt into the mind, by superior knowledge. Fourthly, the teacher must apply an oath to student never to betray any of the 'truths' which were to be revealed to him. Now he was told, as the fifth stage, that Ismailism was a powerful secret organization, supported by some of the most important figures of the time. After this, the aspirant was questioned and studied, to discover whether he had absorbed the opinions of the teacher and attached himself sufficiently into a position of dependence upon his ideas. At this stage he was asked to meditate upon the meaning of the reported saying of the prophet that "Paradise lies in the shadow of swords". In the final degree, many difficult passages of the Koran were explained in terms of allegory.

How is it that the rules of this extraordinarily successful Order are known in such detail? It so happened that when the Mongols eventually overthrew Alamut by force of arms, their chief Halaku ('Destruction') Khan, asked his chief minister to examine their library. This most learned man, 'Father of Kings' Jawani, later wrote a careful book in which he detailed the organization of the Assassins, whose name he attributed to the use of the drug Hashish, which they were said to use in stupefying candidates for the ephemeral visit to 'paradise'.

It is possible that recruits were made in another way than by selecting gullible, fully grown youths. Legend has it that Hasan, once master of Alamut, used to buy unwanted childern from their parens, and train them in implicit obedience and with the sole desire to die in his service.

Buzurg-Umid ('Great Promise'), the second Grand Master, maintained the power of the Assassins on much the same pattern: building new forts, gaining fresh converts, terrorizing those whom he did not want to have killed and using them to further his designs of world conquest. Sultan Sanjar of Persia, in spite of several expeditions against the Viper's Nest, as Alamut was now being called, could do little about him. Ambassadors on each side were slain; a notable religious leader was captured by the Assassins, given a mock trial and flung into a furnace. The Grand Master at this time seldom put on the field more than two thousand men at a time: but it must be remembered that they were killers acting under an iron discipline, and more than a match for any organized army that they might ever have to face. Now the Order began to spread in Syria, where the continued contact with the Crusaders was established.

The warriors of the Cross were in fairly effective control of an area extending from the Egyptian border to Armenia in the north. Bahram, a Persian leader of the Assassin cult from Astrabad, gained control of a mighty fortress in Syria, in the region known as the Valley of Demons (Wadi-el-Jan), and from there spread from one fort to another. The Grand Prior Bahram now moved to an even more substantial fortified place, Massyat. Bahram's successor, Ismail the Lash-Bearer, planted a trained devotee on the saintly Vizier of Baghdad, into whose confidence he worked his way to such an extent that this Assassin, now called the 'Father of Trust', was actually made Grand Judge of Baghdad.

The Crusaders had by now been about thirty years in the Holy Land, and the Assassins decided that they could usefully form an alliance with them aimed against Baghdad. A secret treaty was therefore made between the Grand Master and Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem, whereby the Ismaili Grand Judge would have opened the gates of Baghdad treacherously to the Crusaders, if the fortified city of Tyre were handed over to the Assassins for their part in the transaction.

Something went wrong. The judge had ordered an underling to open the city's gates. This servant had told the military commander of Damascus, who lost no time in killing the man, the Vizier and six thousand people believed to be secret Assassins within the city. The Damascus garrison fell upon the Crusaders and beat them back in a thunderstorm which the Christian warriors attributed to divine anger at their unworthy pact, and the Assassins as an attempt by the powers of Nature to allow the Crusaders into the city under its cover.

Meanwhile the Grand Master was indulging in an orgy of destruction of individual rulers who opposed his creed; the list is interminable, but this is a fair example: "The celebrated Aksunkur, Prince of Mosul, was a warrior equally dreaded by the Christians and the Assassins. As this Prince, on his return from Ma'ara Masrin, where the Moslem and Christian hosts had parted without venturing to engage, entered the Mosque at Mosul to perform his devotions, he was attacked at the moment when he was about to take his usual seat by eight Assassins, disguised as dervishes. Three of them fell below the blows of the valiant Emir; but ere his people could come to his aid, he had received his death-wound and expired."

The fanaticism which inspired the killers was shared, it seems, by other members of their families, who had been thoroughly trained in the bloody creed: for the historian Kamal-ed-Din relates, "On this occasion when the mother of one of the youths who attempted Aksunkur's life heard that he had been slain, she painted her face and donned the gayest raiment and ornaments, rejoicing that her son had been found worthy to die the glorious death of a martyr in the cause of the Imam. But when she saw him return alive and unscathed, she cut off her hair and blackened her countenance, and would not be comforted."

Things thus continued for the fourteen years and a quarter of the Second Grand Master's rule. When he died he nominated his son Kia Mohammed as his successor. Under Mohammed the killings continued, a part of the sea-coast of Palestine came into Assassin hands, and the cult leaders reaffirmed their overt belief in orthodox Islam. In public, Ismailis were ordinary Moslems; the secret doctrine of the divinely guider leader was not to be discussed with the uninitiated.

But this most successful of secret societies soon showed that its strength ultimately depended upon a powerful leader: and Kia Mohammed was not such. Little by little it became obvious that his own son, Hasan the Hated, was the stronger personality. Now Hasan, through some magnetic power, was able to capture the imagination of the Assassins, soon having it believed that he himself was none other than the Power of All Powers, the Hidden Imam, who had been mentioned by the first Grand Master; an incarnation of all greatness. So important was he that he was the fountain of power, and others only held a measure of authority because he allowed them to have it.

This final absurdity was lapped up by members who had been conditioned to believe in things which were not, shall we say, exactly self-evident to the ordinary man. The doctrine of the all-powerful Invisible Imam was a part of Ismailism; and Hasan was ready even during his early manhood to assume the role. But, since his father was able to assert himself by having some two hundred and fifty of Hasan' followers murdered, he thought it wiser to hold his hand. In 1163 his chance came. Mohammed died, and Hasan II issued an order to all Ismailis to collect below the castle of Alamut.

Never before had such an assembly of killers, fanatics and dedicated perverters of the truth been seen. Hasan, probably in a state of megalomania, assured them that he had received a message from the Almighty that as from now, all the bond of religion were loosed: everyone might do as he liked. It was not necessary to keep up the pretences. And, furthermore, he, Hasan, was none other than the Hidden Imam. His word was law; and he was a form of the divintiy, not merely relaying instructions from above.

There was one further obstacle. According to Ismaili doctrine, the Hidden Imam was to be of the Family of Hashim, the blood of Mohammed the Prophet. Such descendants were known and revered: and it was common knowledge that Hasan II was not one of them. He overcame this difficulty by stating that he was not in fact the true son of Kia Mohammed the Persian, but an adopted child of the Caliphial family of Egypt. This pretence was carried on for four years, during which the crazed Hasan showed that he was not as mad as he might have been, by consolidating quite efficiently the power of the cult. Eventually, he was assassinated by his brother-in-law, Namwar ('The Famous'). Now the father-to-son succession seemed to be established. Mohammed II, son of Hasan II, began the cultivation of letters and sciences which was to distinguish successive Grand Masters of the Order. It was a conceit of his, in the time of the greatest flowering of Persian literature, that he was supreme among poets and philosophers. He used his assassins, too, to drive this point well home. The Imam Razi, one of the greatest thinkers of the time, refused to acknowledge the Assassins as the most advanced theologians: so Mohammed II sent an envoy to him, promising either a swift death by dagger or a pension of several thousand gold pieces a year. Suddenly the learned Imam's discourses seemed to lose their bite. One day, soon afterwards, he was asked why he did not attack the Assassins as of old. "Because," said the old man, with a nervous glance around the assembly where a murderer might lurk, "their arguments are so sharp, and pointed."

For thirty-five years Mohammed II ruled the Ismailis with a rod of iron; the only law was that of obedience to the Assassin will. The observances of ritual Islam were abolished. A new star had arisen: a power to stiffen resistance to Crusader penetration; Saladin, who was to become an implacable foe of the Assassins.

The Syrian branch of the cult grew in power, while the activities of the Eastern Assassins were carried out much more quietly, with missionaries being sent to India, Afghanistan, even the remote Pamir mountains which straddle China and Russia, where even today adherents of the sect are to be found. Saladin had overcome the other Ismaili branch and original home of Assassinism - Egypt - and restored the true faith to the people of the Nile. He now had enough booty for ten years' war against the Crusaders in Palestine, and troops to spare. His first task was to unify the forces of Islam; and this he determined to do by force if necessary. Sinan, Ancient of the Assassin cult in Syria, decided to oppose this terrible enemy of the Fatimites. Three assassins fell upon Saladin and nearly killed him. This made the sect a priority target for the Saracen chief. The Old Man of the Mountain, for his part, now unleashed a succession of fanatics, in every kind of disguise, upon Saladin. By 1176, Saladin decided that an end must be put to the cult. He invaded their territory and started to lay it waste, when the Assassin chief offered him freedom of action to fight the Crusaders, and no further attempt upon his life, if the cult were spared. These terms were agreed to, and henceforth no Assassin ever again attempted to molest Sultan Saladin.

This period introduces Sinan as yet another strange and terrible Assassin leader. He had decided that he was the incarnation of all power and deity, and that he would live the part. Sinan was never seen to eat or drink, sleep, or even to spit. Between sunrise and sunset he stood on a pinnacle of rock, dressed in a hair-shirt, and preached his own power and glory to delghted Assassins. Thus, at one and the same time, there were two chiefs of the Order, each busily telling his own followers that he, and he alone, was God. Hasan in Persia, Sinan in Syria, each commanded legions of devoted killers, all committed by oath to follow his path.

When Mohammed II died, he was succeeded by his son Jalaludin, who completely reversed the orders that the Assassins were to have no outward religious observances. He felt that he could do a great deal by adopting the cloak of orthodox piety, and sent ambassadors far and wide to announce his maintenance of the true faith. He went so far as to curse his predecessors publicly, in order to convince the incredulous that such a people as the Assassins could turn over a new leaf. As a result of what would today be called a long-term and comprehensive propaganda plan, he was acknowledged as a religious leader by half the orthodox monarchs of Islam, and (the first Assassin to be so styled) came to be termed Prince Jalaludin.

Jalaludin died in 1203, after twelve years of leadership of the cult, handing over to Alaeddin (Aladdin), a child of nine years of age. Weak, inefficient, stupid, Alaeddin made little mark upon history. It is said that his main activity was tending sheep, to which he was passionately attached, and he even had a small hut built in a sheepfold, where he spent most of his time. He was extraordinarily cruel, in spite of the contact with the sheep, and continued to terrorize in time-honoured fashion any person, great or small, who did not pay tribute or otherwise co-operate with the organization.

The Assassins' hands, ears and eyes were everywhere. Once fully initiated, a man might be sent to a place a thousand miles away, there to take up residence and live: waiting for the moment when orders came to him from Alamut to fulfil his fatal destiny. A story is told of the court of the Shah of Khwarism, thus: "The Ismaili ambassador spent some time with the Vizier. One day, after a splendid banquet when the wine which they had been drinking in violation of the law had mounted into their heads, the ambassador told the Vizier by way of confidence that there were several Ismailis among the pages, grooms, guards and other persons who were immediately about the Sultan. The Vizier, dismayed and at the same time curious to know who these dangerous attendants were, besought the ambassador to point them out to him, giving him his napkin as a pledge that nothing evil should happen to them. Instantly, at a sign from the envoy, five of the persons who were attendants in the chamber stepped forth, avowing themselves to be concealed Assassins, 'On such a day and at such an hour,' said one of them, an Indian, to the Vizier, 'I might have slain thee without being seen or punished; and if I did not do so it was only because I had no orders from my superiors.' "

The Vizier begged for his life. But word got the Sultan, who ordered the Assassins to be apprehended and burned alive, and "the five chamberlains were cast on the falming pyre, where they died exulting at being found worthy to suffer in the service of the great Sheikh of the Mountain." The Assassins had the last laugh, for an order arrived immediately afterwards from Alamut, that the Shah must pay ten thousand pieces of gold as compensation for each man killed - which he did.

Another subsidiary activity which the Assassins delighted in was holding captive in Alamut of useful, rare and distinguished personages who could be of value to them in educational, military or other spheres. One was a physician, another a famous astronomer, a third the greatest painter in Persia, who worked to the order of the chief alone.

The end of chapter was near, for the Mongol hordes under Halaku, lieutenant of Chinghiz, were steadily destroying all the civilization of Islam which lay in their inexorable path westwards. Rukneddin, son of Alaeddin, succeeded him and tried at first to turn the Mongol tide. After a series of encounters, pitched battles, intrigues and counter-intrigues, Rukneddin was taken. He played for time as long as he could, but was eventually murdered in his own turn by the victorious Mongol chief's men. Assassin power in Persia was broken, and what remained of the members were ordered - none knows by whom - to conceal their faith and await a signal that the cult was in full operation again. Alamut was silenced, and the Syrian headquarters alone remained.

It was a long time until the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt was able to overcome the Mongol thrust. In 1260, however, he carried the banners of Islam victoriously against them, and restored the fortress of Alamut and other properties to the Assassins, who were strongly surviving underground. They soon found that they had exchanged one master for another, for the Egyptians were now employing them for their own purposes. Ibn Batuta, the great traveller of the fourteeth century, found them well entrenched in their former strong places, being used as the "arrows of the Sultan of Egypt with which he reaches his enemies."

The supposed suppression of the creed which followed the Mongol destruction did not in fact take place. Copying each other, historians have asserted that Assassinism died six hundred years ago. Now and again, however, fresh facts of their continued existence still come to light. In the eighteenth century an Englishman, the British Consul at Aleppo in Syria, was at pains to make this better known: "Some authors assert," he wirtes, "that these people were entirely extirpated in the thirteenth century by the Tartars... but I, who have lived so long in this infernal place, will venture to affirm that some of their spawn still exists in the mountains that surround us; for nothing is so cruel, barbarous and execrable that is not acted, and even gloried in, by these cursed Gourdins."

The Assassins were widely dispersed throughout Asia. The rise of the Thugs, the secret society of assassination of India, followed the Mongol invasion of Persia. indeed, at least one of the Thug recognition-signals (Ali bhai Salam!) indicates salutations to Ali, the descendant of the Prophet most greatly revered by the Assassins. Ismailis, not all of them recognizing the one chief, reside in places as far apart as Malaya, East Africa and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). They would not necessarily feel that they are Assassins in the same sense as the extremists who followed the old Sheikhs of the Mountains; but at least some of them revere the descendants of the Lords of Alamut to the extent of deification.

The modern phase of Ismailism dates from 1810, when the French consul at Aleppo found that the Assassins in Persia recognized as their divinely-inspired chief a reputed descendant of the Fourth Grand Master of Alamut, who then lived at Kehk, a small village between Isfahan and Tehran. This Shah Khalilullah "was revered almost like a god and credited with the power of working miracles... the followers of Khalilullah would, when he pared his nails, fight for the clippings; the water in which he washed became holy water."

The sect next appear to the public gaze through an odd happening. In 1866, a law case was decided in Bombay. There is in that city a large community of commercial men known as Khojas: "A Persian," the record tells us, "Aga Khan Mehalati (i.e., a native of Mehelat, a place situated near Khek) had sent an agent to Bombay to claim from the Khojas the annual tribute due from them to him, and amounting to about £ 10,000. The claim was resisted, and the British court was appealed to by Aga Khan. Sir Joseph Arnold investigated his claim. The Aga proves his pedigree, showing that he descended in a direct line from the fourth Grand Master of Alamut, and Sir Joseph declared it proved; and it was further demonstrated by the trial that the Khojas were members of the ancient sect of the Assassins, to which sect they had been converted four hundred years before by an Ishmaelite missionary, who composed a work which has remained the sacred book of the Khojas."

In the First Afghan War, the then Aga Khan contributed a force of light cavalry to the British forces. For this he was awarded a pension. Hitti, in his History of the Arabs, notes (p. 448, 1951 edition) that the Assassin sect, known as Khojas and Malwas, gave over a tenth of their revenues to the Aga Khan, who "spends most of his time as a sportsman between Paris and London."

The influence of the new form of organization and training, as well as initiatory techniques, of the Assassins upon later societies has been remarked by a number of students. That the Crusaders knew a good deal about the Ismailis is shown from the detailed descriptions of them which survive. S. Ameer Ali, an Orientalist of considerable repute, goes further in his assessment: "From the Ismailis the Crusaders borrowed the conception which led to the formation of all the secret societies, religious and secular, of Europe. The institutions of Templars and Hospitallers; the Society of Jesus, founded by Ignatius Loyola, composed by a body of men whose devotion to their cause can hardly be surpassed in our time; the ferocious Dominicans, the milder Franciscans - may all be traced either to Cairo or to Alamut. The Knights Templar especially, with their system of grand masters, grand priors and religious devotees, and their degrees of initiation, bear the strongest analogy to the Eastern Ismailis."

Brief history of Islam!


Islam is a religion that began in the 7th century in the Arabian Peninsula. In the Arabic language, islam means "submission," which in a religious context means submission to God. A person who submits is called a muslim, which is also the word for a follower of the religion of Islam. Western writers in the past have sometimes referred to Islam as "Mohammedism." This word can be offensive to many Muslims, because it insinuates the worship of the prophet Muhammad as a deity, which is not a component of Islam the way the worship of Christ is a component of Christianity.

In exploring the history of the Islamic World from its beginnings in the 7th century to the decline of the Great Islamic Empires around 1600, this tutorial aims to address some such western misconceptions of Islam, while also providing a comprehensive survey of political, military, and cultural events over the first thousand years of Islamic history. With approximately 1.2 billion Muslims in the world - 22 per cent of the world's population - Islam is the second largest religion after Christianity. In the recent past Christians have generally seen less population growth than Muslims, however, and some estimates show that the number of Muslims in the world is increasing at a faster rate than the world population as a whole. Understanding the origins and history of this major world religion is key to understanding its present and future role in the world.

The Islamic World to 1600

Roman Title

In the centuries before 600 CE, the Roman Empire was the most influential power in many regions that would later become Islamic. The Roman state developed from an early monarchy into a republic, established around 500 BCE. By the 3rd century BCE Rome had completed its conquest of the Italian Peninsula, and embarked on military campaigns against foreign powers. The first major conflict, known as the Punic Wars, involved Rome and Carthage, an empire in North Africa. Sparked by Carthaginian expansion into Greek settlements in Sicily, the Punic Wars ended with a Roman victory and subsequent control of all Carthaginian territory. Roman territory eventually came to include the region encircling the Mediterranean Sea, including Spain, North Africa, Greece, Asia Minor, and Egypt. More information on the expansion of the Roman Empire.


Beginning in the 3rd century CE, the Roman state underwent a prolonged series of crises. Regional disparities of long standing induced the Emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305) to officially split the empire. However, it was again briefly reunited by Constantine I (r. 306-337), who also became one of the Roman Empire's most significant rulers. He was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity. Christianity had long been one of many religions present in the empire, and over its first three centuries it had evolved from a Jewish sect into a complex system of beliefs, though it continued to include a number of rival currents. Constantine's conversion and his subsequent actions to protect the Christians of the realm were instrumental to the religion's survival and expansion. In 313 he signed the Edict of Milan, establishing a policy of toleration for Christians in the Empire, and in 325 he organised the Council of Nicaea, which attempted to establish standard articles of faith to resolve doctrinal disputes among Christians. In 330 Constantine built the city of Constantinople on the site of the ancient Greek city, Byzantium, as the principal capital of the Roman Empire, whose power was slowly shifting east from Rome.

The reign of Theodosius I (r. 379-395) was also important for the Roman Empire, as he was the last to rule over a united empire. He entrenched the separation between the Eastern and Western Empires in 395 by assigning his son Arcadius to rule in the East, and his son Honorius to rule in the West. From that time until the fall of the Western Empire to Germanic invaders in the late 5th century CE, the empires were separate. Theodosius was also the first ruler to declare Christianity to be the official religion of the Roman Empire. In 451, the Council of Chalcedon divided the Christian world into five patriarchates, or regions to be overseen by a patriarch: Rome (whose patriarch later assumed the title of pope), Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. When the Islamic conquests of the 7th century brought the latter three patriarchates under Muslim rule, Constantinople became the leading city of Eastern Christianity. Eventually the division between the Western church, based in Rome, and the Eastern church, based in Constantinople, culminated in the Great Schism of 1054, when the Pope in Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople excommunicated each other. The result was the formation of the Catholic Church in the west, and the Eastern Orthodox Church in the east.

In the 5th century the Western Empire progressively disintegrated, and in 476 Romulus Augustus, the last Roman Emperor in the west, was deposed by the German leader, Odovacer. The empire's eastern regions survived as a functional state. Though attempts to recapture large blocks of territory in the west were not successful, the emperors resident in Constantinople continued to rule over one of the most powerful empires in the region.

The Byzantine Empire

Although the rulers, inhabitants, and enemies of the Eastern Empire knew it as the Roman Empire, even after the collapse of the Western Empire in 476, it has acquired the name, Byzantine Empire, from later historians. The name is based on the ancient Greek city of Byzantium, which became the site for Constantinople in 330. Emperor Justinian (r. 527-565) reclaimed the Italian Peninsula from the Visigoths, bringing the Christians of the former Western Empire under Byzantine rule. He also conquered northwest Africa and coastal Spain, temporarily bringing most of the Mediterranean under Byzantine control. The Sassanid Empire in Persia, a historic enemy of the Roman Empire, began a new campaign into Byzantine territory in 610, the same year that Muslims believe Muhammad received his first revelation from God, in Mecca, that he was the prophet of Islam. Within 30 years these three civilisations - the Byzantine, Persian, and Arab - would collide in what was for some a very unexpected way, as the Muslim Arabs embarked on a rapid expansion campaign that brought down the Sassanid Empire and took a large swath of Byzantine territories in North Africa and Mesopotamia. As we shall see in the following chapters, the Islamic and Byzantine Empires were enemies for centuries. They constantly traded territory, particularly in the region of Asia Minor that surrounded Constantinople. In 1453, however, the Muslims would finally defeat the Byzantine Empire completely, with the sack of Constantinople.

The Iranian plateau, much of the territory of present-day Iran, was first populated in the 9th century BCE, when the Medes people migrated there from Central Asia. The Medes were followed by the Persians in the 8th century BCE, and these two groups laid the foundation for a series of empires that arose on the Iranian plateau over the next thousand years. Around 750 BCE the Medes people formed their own kingdom, called Media, in the northwest plateau, becoming powerful enough by 612 BCE to defeat the older Assyrian Empire to the west. In 550 BCE, however, the Persian leader Cyrus the Great led the Persians into battle against the ruling Medes people, resulting in the unification of the two groups under the name of the victor, the Persians. Cyrus also captured the city of Babylon on the Euphrates River and freed the Jewish captives there, earning himself a place in the Book of Isaiah. The first Persian Empire, the Achaemenid, emerged from Cyrus' victories, and lasted until the 2nd century BCE. The Achaemenid Empire was the largest empire yet seen in the ancient world, extending at its height as far east as the Hindu Kush mountains in present-day Afghanistan. Economically, the Achaemenids established an efficient trade system throughout their empire. Persian words for many commodities spread throughout the region as a result of this commercial activity, some of which are still used in English today. Examples include bazaar, shawl, sash, turquoise, tiara, orange, lemon, melon, peach, spinach, and asparagus.

The Greeks of the eastern Aegean coast were the first western subjects of the Achaemenid Empire, bringing the Greek and Persian cultures together for the first time. It was the start of a long relationship between the two, which would later result in frequent military conflict as their respective empires grew. Religiously, the Achaemenid Empire featured a variety of polytheistic religions, or those that worship more than one god. What its followers claimed was the world's first monotheistic religion developed on the Iranian plateau, though, based on the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster (also called Zarathustra). By the time of the Achaemenid Empire, Zoroastrianism - which most religious scholars now categorise as dualism, not monotheism - was gaining converts among the Persians.

Zoroastrianism

By the 4th century BCE, Macedonia had become a strong force in the west, challenging first Greece, then lands further east. About 330 BCE, Alexander the Great of Macedonia invaded Persia and sacked the capital at Persepolis, ending the Achaemenid Empire. Although Alexander has achieved almost mythic status in western history, the Persian view of him is understandably quite different. Persia did not regain its Achaemenid-era power until the Sassanid Empire rose in the 3rd century CE. In the meantime, Persia was ruled by weaker dynasties, the Seleucid and the Parthian, a period sometimes called the Hellenistic period in Iran because of the Greek cultural influence. Greek statues and temples from this era have been found as far east as Punjab and the Persian Gulf region. Anti-Greek sentiment that began under the late Parthian Empire and continued under the Sassanids, however, has led to a poor memory of this period of Persian history. As we shall see, the influence was not only one way; Persian culture, and especially religion, would also have a great effect on many Judeo-Christian ideas.

About 224 CE, the Parthian governor of the province of Fars (which still exists as a province in present-day Iran), brought down the central government in Ctesiphon and established the Sassanid Empire, taking the throne as Ardashir I. The Sassanid Empire would last over 400 years, and would be the last Persian Empire before the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century brought the region under Arab rule. For this reason the Sassanid Empire is important to our understanding of Islamic history, because it was instrumental in promoting Persian nationalism, and creating a Persian identity that remained strong even after the Islamic conquest and attempted Arabisation of the region.

The Sassanid Empire was almost constantly at war with the neighbouring Roman Empire to the west; Ardashir's son, Shapur I, even captured the Roman Emperor, Valerian, for a time in 260. The animosity between the two empires was exacerbated in the 4th century, when the Roman Emperor, Constantine I, converted to Christianity, and later, Theodosius I made Christianity the official state religion. After that, relations between the two empires took on an increased religious aspect, as the Roman Empire sought to protect all Christians outside its borders, including those under Sassanid rule. The Christians in the Sassanid Empire had not previously faced persecution for their religion, since they were mostly Nestorian Christians, a different branch of Christianity than that practiced in the Roman Empire. For that reason the Sassanids viewed their Christians not as following the religion of the enemy, but rather another Persian religion. Still, the Sassanid Christians were the first to be suspected of political disloyalty whenever the empire came into conflict with the Romans after Constantine's time.

While Christianity had become the state religion of the Roman Empire, Zoroastrianism had been the official religion of the Sassanids since the beginning of their empire in the 3rd century. The Zoroastrian church became very powerful, and its head, the mobadan mobad, joined the military and bureaucratic leaders as one of the most important men in the empire. Zoroastrianism is also said to have influenced Judeo-Christian theology, such as that pertaining to the dualism between good and evil, or light and darkness; the belief in angels and archangels; Satan as the epitome of evil and the adversary of God; the idea of paradise and hell; the idea of the continued existence of the soul past that of the body; reward and punishment by divine justice; the resurrection of the dead; the Last Judgement; beliefs in millennial periods and the end of the world; and the coming of a Saviour at the end of the world. Many of these ideas would also appear in Islamic theology. Zoroastrianism, which itself might have absorbed some of these ideas from Buddhism and Hinduism, was thus an important influence on several religions that followed it.

Politically, Khusrau I (r. 531-579) is considered the most influential Sassanid ruler. He has been compared to the 16th century Safavid ruler Shah Abbas I for instituting reforms that changed the empire. He reformed the army by providing soldiers with salaries and equipment, thus earning their loyalty and decreasing the power of nobles with private armies. He also improved efficiency in the tax system, by changing the method of assessment and collection. This was perhaps his most significant reform, because the Sassanid tax system later became a model for tax collection in the Islamic caliphate. The Muslims were also influenced by the office of the Sassanid prime minister, which became a prototype for the Islamic grand vizier.

After 50 years of peace, Khusrau II (r. 590-628) resumed hostilities with the neighbouring Byzantine Empire, the successor to the Roman. He rapidly expanded into Byzantine lands, capturing Jerusalem in 612 and Alexandria in 619, while placing Constantinople, the Byzantine capital, under siege. The Byzantines responded by staging a surprise attack through the Caucasus into the northern Sassanid Empire. They sacked Ctesiphon in 627, and Khusrau II was killed while fleeing the city. There were 11 more rulers in the following 10 last years of the Empire, but after Khusrau II the Sassanids grew weaker and more inefficient. The Empire collapsed under a rapid military assault by the invading Arabs between 636 and 642. Although the Arabs, seeking to spread their new religion, Islam, had fewer numbers and a simpler military structure than the Persians, the Sassanid Empire was weak from fighting the Byzantines. By remaining highly mobile and not relying on long supply lines, the Arabs rode in on horses and camels and defeated the Persians first at the Battle of Qadisiyya in 636. By 638 they had occupied the Sassanid palace in Ctesiphon, forcing the young king, Yazdegard III, to flee. Continuing through the Zagros Mountains, the Arabs won two more decisive battles, at Jalula and Nihavand in 642, to take over the entire Iranian plateau.

After 400 years, the quick collapse of the Sassanid Empire was a bit of a surprise. There are several possible reasons behind it, however. Not only had the Persians and Byzantines mutually wearied each other, but each regarded themselves as superior to the rest of the world, which was seen as somewhat barbarian. They therefore focussed their energies on fighting each other, while virtually ignoring other threats. The Arabs were particularly underestimated; the Persians gave more credence to the threat from raiding groups from the east than to the Arabs, possibly due to the Persian victory in southern Arabia that helped the Sassanids maintain control of the Red Sea trading route in the early 6th century. By the time of the invasion, however, the Arabs were able to take advantage of Persian weaknesses, such as disunity among the provinces and a lack of allegiance among the people to the Sassanid central administration. Many Persians submitted to the invaders when the Arabs demanded less taxes than the Sassanids had, and did not force conversion to Islam. Later, Islam did spread to non-Arab groups, most notably the Persians, who began to convert in significant numbers as Islamic rule over Persia strengthened in the centuries after the initial conquest. However, the Sassanid Empire played a major role in developing a distinct Persian nationalism, which survived the Islamic conquest and mass conversion of Persians to Islam. The Persians and the Arabs would become the leading ethnic groups in the Islamic world, and each soon realised that their cooperation was fundamental to the survival of the empire.

The Arabian Peninsula - or, simply, Arabia - is a rectangular piece of land surrounded by the Red Sea on the west, the Persian Gulf on the east, and the Arabian Sea to the south. To the north lie Syria and Mesopotamia, lands which saw the birth of both Judaism and Christianity. Many Jewish and Christian influences had penetrated Arabia before the coming of Islam in the 7th century, but the inhabitants of the Peninsula - the Arabs - did not follow either of those religions. Islam, as taught by the Prophet Muhammad, himself an Arab, was the religion that would convert the Arabs en masse to monotheism, or the belief in only one God.

A Note on Muhammad's Name

The people who inhabited the Arabian Peninsula - which they called Jazirat al-Arab, or "Island of the Arabs" - were nomads, who survived the harsh desert environment by adhering to a seasonal migration cycle. For four months from June to September, the Arabs waited out the summer heat, until the rains came in October. The eight months until the following summer were then spent travelling between grazing grounds on the desert's fringes. Their travel was eased by the domestication of the camel, which allowed the Arabs access to the harsh Arabian desert.

Camels

By about the 5th century, some Arabs (a word which seems to mean "desert dweller") established settlements in the desert and abandoned their nomadic ways. After that, the remaining Arab nomads became known as the Bedouins, while settled Arabs assumed a different identity and refused to acknowledge their shared ancestry with the Bedouins. One settlement that grew in Arabia was Mecca, which later became the birth place of Muhammad, and later still, the holiest city of the Islamic faith.

Mecca

The nomadic Bedouin population would prove difficult to convert to Islam in the 7th century, not only under Muhammad, but under his successors as well. Much of the Bedouins' reluctance to embrace Islam as quickly as the settled Arabs was due to their strong adherence to traditional religions. The Arabs were polytheistic, meaning they believed in and worshipped more than one god. Different regions of the Arabian Peninsula often had their own patron deity, which usually had its own shrine. Arabs often embarked on pilgrimages to different shrines throughout Arabia. Above their various gods, however, the Arabs also believed in a supreme God, who they called al-ilah, or "the God." The word, contracted as Allah, was later used in Islam as the name of the one and only God. In pre-Islamic Arabia, however, Allah was believed to be not the only God, but simply the highest among many gods.

The Arabs, like the ancient Greeks, were not only polytheists, but they were also humanists. They valued human life for the duration of its time on earth, and they did not subscribe to a belief in any sort of afterlife. Many Arabs rejected Christianity for that reason - the belief in Christ's resurrection was inconceivable, even ridiculous. They believed only in the human world, and the prayers they offered to their gods pertained to that world, not to salvation or redemption in heaven.

Monotheistic religions - those that accept and worship only one God - were present in the Arabian Peninsula before Islam. Judaism and Christianity existed among the populations of southern Arabia, and Judaism was particularly influential in the city of Yathrib, which became known as Medina in Islamic times. Nestorian Christians, driven from the Byzantine Empire in the 5th century over differing opinions of doctrine, settled in Persia and in the northern Arabian Peninsula and converted some Arabs there. Zoroastrian traders from Persia passed through Mecca and other trading centres often enough to exert a small religious influence. Trade also linked the Arab world with Christian Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia) across the Red Sea, which intermittently controlled parts of Yemen and southern Arabia. For the most part, however, the Arabs retained their traditional faith until the emergence of Islam in the 7th century CE.

Muhammad, whose name means "worthy of praise," was born about 570 in Mecca. His father, Abdullah, died before Muhammad was born, and his mother, Amina, died when he was six years old. His paternal grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, then cared for him until his own death two years later, after which time Muhammad spent the rest of his childhood in the care of his uncle, Abu Talib. Little is known about his early life, but he was not wealthy, and it is believed he was a shepherd. When he was 25 he married Khadija, a wealthy widow about 15 years his senior. Despite her age, Khadija would bear Muhammad six children, four of whom survived to adulthood - daughters Zaynab, Ruqayya, Fatima, and Umm Kulthum. Ruqayya later married Uthman, and Fatima married Ali, men who became the third and fourth caliphs, respectively, of the Islamic world after Muhammad's death. It is said that Khadija and Muhammad were truly in love, and that although polygamy was common in Arabia, she was his only wife until her death in 619.

Muhammad frequently retreated to Mount Hira, a place of privacy and contemplation near Mecca, to meditate and consider his spirituality. Islamic tradition relates that it was during one such trip, in 610, when he was 40 years old, that Muhammad first heard the voice of the angel Gabriel, who recited to him the word of God, today written down in the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an, meaning "recitation."

The Qur'an

It is significant that Muslims believe that what Gabriel told Muhammad came directly from God, and that Muhammad was simply God's messenger. Muslims do not believe that Muhammad himself was divine in any way, an important distinction that sets Islam apart from Christianity, which does believe in the divinity of Jesus. Muslims believe that Gabriel continued to send Muhammad messages from God until the prophet's death. Muhammad immediately began preaching the message he had received; his wife, Khadija, was his first convert, soon followed by his cousin and future successor, Ali. Islam says that the message was similar to those received by the early Hebrew prophets: that God is one, he is all-powerful, he is the creator of the universe, and that there will be a Judgement Day when those who have carried out God's commands will enjoy paradise in heaven, and those who have not will be condemned to hell. As we have seen, these ideas were also part of the Zoroastrian religion.

By 615, Muhammad had gained several converts. These early Muslims were persecuted in Mecca, mainly by wealthy merchants who controlled the city and feared that the new faith would challenge their economic monopoly. That year, about 80 Muslims fled from Mecca to Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia) to take refuge with Christians there, who were enemies of the polytheistic Meccans. Muhammad's daughter, Ruqayya, and her husband, Uthman, were among those who fled, although Muhammad himself stayed in Mecca. The Abyssinian Christians treated the Muslims well, helping to form Muhammad's positive view of Christians. He labelled both Jews and Christians "People of the Book," because their religion had a holy scripture. For this reason, Muhammad considered Judaism and Christianity to be superior to the polytheistic, humanist Arab religions. Islam also had several beliefs in common with the two older religions, and today calls itself the third "Abrahamic" religion because of what it sees as common roots between the three.

The Abrahamic Religions

Before Muhammad's wife, Khadija, and his uncle, Abu Talib, both died in 619, Muhammad experienced his famous "Night Journey." Although there are several versions of what occurred that night, Islam holds that the angel Gabriel came to Muhammad while he was sleeping near the Ka'ba one night, and escorted him first to Jerusalem, then through seven heavens - where he met Abraham, Moses, and Jesus - to the presence of God. This event later helped establish Jerusalem as the third holiest city in Islam, after Mecca and Medina. During his journey, Muslims believe that Muhammad was told of several tenets of Islam that became some of the most basic acts of the religion, such as praying five times daily.

In 620, Muhammad married A'isha, whose father, Muhammad's friend Abu Bakr, would become the first caliph after Muhammad's death 12 years later. In 622, at age 52, Muhammad finally fled persecution in Mecca, taking his followers north to the city of Yathrib. After his arrival, the name of the city was changed to Medinat un-Nabi, the City of the Prophet, or Medina. Muhammad's journey to Mecca is known as the Hijra, or emigration, and marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar.

The Islamic Calendar

Medina was much more tolerant of Islam than Mecca had been, and the religion flourished among the community there. Muhammad expanded his role as a religious leader into more of a community leader in general, marking the initial partnering of religious and administrative affairs, which would become a standard practice in the future Islamic empires. He built a house there that became the model for the mosque later built on the site, the Prophet's Mosque, which has since become the second holiest shrine in Islam, after the Ka'ba in Mecca.

In 624, Muhammad decided the Medinans should intercept a camel caravan on its way from Syria to Mecca, for the purpose of disrupting Meccan economic activity and obtaining the cargo for his followers. In the resulting Battle of Badr, the Medinans won a decisive victory despite being outnumbered by the Meccans. The event served to unify the Medinans and weaken the Meccans. It was also the first significant victory in battle for a people who would soon grow into the formidable military force that would defeat long-standing empires from Persia to Egypt.

Also in 624, Muhammad decided that the qibla, or direction of prayer, should be the Ka'ba in Mecca. This strengthened Muhammad's resolve to bring Mecca under Muslim control, and several more battles were fought between the two cities. Mecca was progressively weakened by the continued Muslim tactic of interrupting caravan traffic, and by 630, the city fell to the Muslims with little resistance. Muhammad ordered a general amnesty, thus winning over Meccans who feared retaliation for past persecution of Muslims, and the faith began spreading in the city. Muhammad destroyed the polytheistic idols in the Ka'ba, and dedicated the monument to Islam. It became, and today remains, the spiritual centre of the Islamic faith.

In 631 Muhammad reached peace settlements with the leaders of local Christian and Jewish communities, thus bringing those groups under Muslim protection, as long as they paid the jizya tax demanded of all non-Muslims. In 632 he led a pilgrimage to Mecca for the first time, but 3 months later, at age 62, Muhammad unexpectedly became ill and died in Medina. He was survived by 10 wives but only one child - daughter Fatima, who would later become Ali's wife, and would also lend her name to a 10th century Islamic dynasty in Egypt.

Thus ended the life of the man Muslims believe to be the last prophet God sent to earth. Today, his influence can be gauged by the fact that more male children in the world have the name Muhammad than any other.

Islamic theology is a large field, requiring detailed study to fully understand. There are several basic beliefs and practices, however, that can be outlined here. Central to Islamic belief is the absolute power of God. Islam is strictly monotheistic, believing that there is only one God, omnipotent and merciful, and that associating any human being or image with God is an unforgivable sin. We have already seen how this view translates into the Muslim rejection of the Christian belief in Jesus' divinity, as well as in the Trinity, and it also means that Muslims do not accept idolatry, or shirk.

As we have also seen, Muslims believe that Muhammad was the last of a series of prophets that God sent to earth. While respecting the teachings of all earlier prophets, Muslims believe that Allah sent his final message to Muhammad in order to correct the corruption of the previous messages. As with the other Abrahamic religions, Satan also exists in Islamic theology, but Islam's strict monotheism maintains that God is the most important figure. Satan is not nearly as important in Islam as he is in Christianity, for example. Also unlike Christianity, Muslims do not believe in original sin. They believe that God pardoned Adam's sin in order for human beings to begin life without sin. Muslims who have sinned in their lives, and who sincerely repent and submit to God, can be forgiven for their sins. Muslims also believe in a Judgement Day, when the world will end and the dead will rise to be judged.

There are Five Pillars of Islam, which are the most important practices for a Muslim to observe:


1. Creed (Shahada): The statement of Shahada in Arabic is: "Ashhadu al-la ilaha illa-llah wa ashhadu anna Muhammadar rasulu-llah." An English translation would be: "I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His Messenger." This declaration of the faith must be uttered publicly at least once in a Muslim's lifetime, although most Muslims recite it daily.

2. Prayers (Salate): The Muslim holy day is Friday, when congregations gather just past noon in a masjid, or mosque in English, the Muslim place of worship. The three holiest places of worship in the Islamic world are the Mosque of the Ka'ba in Mecca, the Mosque of the Prophet Muhammad in Medina, and the Masjid Aqsa, adjacent to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. An Imam, or religious leader, gives a sermon and leads the congregation in prayer. Muslims do not need to be in a mosque in order to pray, however; they may do it anywhere - a house, office, school, or even outside. They must observe the qibla in all cases though, by facing towards the Ka'ba in Mecca when praying. Prayers must be performed five times daily - at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and nightfall. The prayers always contain verses from the Qur'an, and must be said in Arabic. Muslims believe that prayer provides a direct link between the worshipper and God.

3. Purifying Tax (Zakat): Muslims believe that all things belong to God, and that humans hold wealth in trust for him. For that reason, it is believed that wealth should be distributed throughout the community of believers, or umma, through a purifying tax. The usual payment is 2.5 per cent of a person's wealth every year, the proceeds of which are distributed to the less fortunate. Additional charity work is also encouraged.

4. Fasting (Sawm): During the month of Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, Muslims fast between dawn and dusk. They must abstain from food, liquid, and intimate contact during those hours of the day, in order to commemorate the Muslim belief that Ramadan was the month in which the Qur'an descended from the highest heaven to the lowest, from which it was then revealed to Muhammad in pieces over 22 years. Fasting is seen as a method of self-purification, by cutting oneself off from worldly comforts. The sick, elderly, travellers, and nursing or pregnant women are permitted to break the fast during Ramadan, provided they make up for it during an equal number of days later in the year. Children begin the ritual at puberty. The end of Ramadan is celebrated by the Eid al-Fitr, one of the major festivals on the Muslim calendar.

5. Pilgrimage (Hajj): All Muslims are required to make one pilgrimage to Mecca in their lifetimes, provided they are physically and financially able to do so. The Hajj begins in the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar which means, like Ramadan, it does not correspond to a specific month in the solar calendar. Modern transportation methods, particularly the airplane, have made it possible for many more Muslims to make the Hajj today than 1400 years ago. Like Ramadan, the end of the Hajj is also celebrated with a festival, the Eid al-Adha, which is celebrated by all Muslims, whether or not they made the pilgrimage. These two festivals are the highlight of the Islamic year.

Gender Roles

The roles assigned to men and women in Islamic theology have often come under fire in the Judeo-Christian world, mostly due to misunderstandings of Islam's position on gender roles, or the corruption of Qur'anic doctrine by present-day political leaders in Muslim countries. The Qur'an says that men and women are created equally before God, and that while they have different attributes, neither gender is superior. Both men and women have souls and can go to Heaven if they lead a life without sin, contradicting early Christian doctrine that women do not possess souls and are inherently evil, because of Eve's original sin. Islam does not blame Eve for what it believes happened in the Garden of Eden; it maintains that both Adam and Eve were responsible, but they repented before God and were forgiven. Believing women descended from the sinful Eve colored Christian ideas of women's character for centuries - as untrustworthy, morally inferior, wicked beings - with menstruation, pregnancy, and childbirth believed to be punishment for all women after Eve. The Qur'an has no such images of women, who are not put on earth solely to bear children, but also to do good deeds the same as men.

The Qur'an states that women are not possessions of men. They are free to choose their own husbands and maintain their own names after marriage. Divorce is permitted, though discouraged. Polygamy, or the practice of a man having more than one wife, is also permitted - to a maximum of four wives - with the stipulation that the man must have means to care for all of his wives. Both women and men are encouraged to seek knowledge, and to manage their own financial assets. A wife has the right to claim financial support from her husband, but a husband is not entitled to his wife's earnings, inheritance, or property. Women can own their own property, enter into legal contracts themselves, and give testimony in legal proceedings. A wife has the right to receive a mahr, or dowry, from her husband upon marriage, which cannot be returned under any circumstances. She also has the right to kind treatment from her husband.

Still, one should not assume from the rights listed here that medieval Islamic society featured perfectly balanced gender roles. Women were still considered fertile fields to which men should go, menstruation was treated as an illness, two women were required in order to testify in legal proceedings in the place of one man, and a woman's inheritance was generally half of her brother's. Both men and women are required by the Qur'an to dress modestly, in order to be judged on the basis of character rather than appearance, and they must dress differently from unbelievers. For women, this includes the Hijab, which for some Muslim women covers the head and body except for eyes and hands, while for others covers only the hair. It seeks to ensure that a woman is not viewed as a sexual being by those other than her husband.

These basic tenets of gender roles are set out in the Qur'an, but as with many religions, the word of the holy scripture has not always been followed by those with political power. Women, for example, have not always been permitted their Qur'anic rights by Islamic regimes throughout history, just as gender roles in Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or other religions are not always carried out in everyday life.