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[Transcript]  Mosaic News - 12/28/11: World News from the Middle East [VIDEO]

US-Iran war of words intensifies over Strait of Hormuz

Al Jazeera, Qatar
Presenter, Male #1
The US army said it will not tolerate any disruption of naval traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. France called on Iran to respect the international agreement that stipulates free-flowing traffic in the strait. These statements come after Iran threatened yesterday not to allow "one drop of oil" to be shipped through the strait if the West imposes sanctions on its oil exports.

Reporter, Male #2
Iran is showcasing its power again, and this time in the broader areas of international waters. Not far from the Strait of Hormuz, Iranian warships are holding a drill. Military commanders say the strait is within firing range of Iran's missiles and they are waiting for the green light from political authorities. In the capital Tehran, the political response was prompt. High officials showed no restraint in openly stating that any sanction on the Iranian oil industry, in their opinion, means closing down the Strait of Hormuz.

Guest, Male #3 (Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, Member of Iranian National Security Committee)
We want cooperation, not collision. However, inflicting a strike on the Iranian oil industry will cause damages to the pipelines for oil transmission overseas.

Reporter, Male #2
But the fate of the Strait of Hormuz is not only connected with Iranian oil. The escalating tension between Iran and its neighbors over the rapidly changing developments in the region may alter the equation.

Guest, Male #4 (Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Iranian President)
In many historical incidents, certain dictators in the region impose sanctions on other countries. They are following in the footsteps of the US and spending their oil money on their plans. But their turn will come soon.

Reporter, Male #2
Everyone here is aware that closing the vital strait, through which nearly 40 percent of the world's oil is shipped, will not be done without ramifications.

Guest, Male #5 (Mahdi Aziz, Political Analyst)
If Iran proceeds to close down the Strait of Hormuz, there will no doubt be consequences. The region is witnessing many changes and an upheaval. Certainly, there will be reactions from other countries.

Reporter, Male #2
So this may be the final card that Iran plays before any confrontations take place. Iranians are living in anticipation these days, while the pressure on Tehran increases on one hand, and tension between Iran and its neighbors escalates on the other. In the street, the citizens are not hiding their concerns for the future as they look at both the inflated local economy and the developments in the region. Milham ar-Riya, al-Jazeera, Tehran.

Iran could easily block strategic oil route, admiral warns

Press TV, Iran
Our lead story: The commander of Iran's army has said the country can easily close the strategic Strait of Hormuz if necessary. The Iranian vice president warned that "not a drop of oil" would be allowed to pass through the Strait of Hormuz if sanctions were imposed on Iran's oil. The comments by the navy commander and Iranian vice president come as naval forces are midway through their ten days of exercises in the Strait of Hormuz and beyond. Among the objectives of the Velayat 90 drills is to expand Iranian armed forces in international waters and to prepare for piracy, terrorism, or induced disruption to regional trade.

One dead, three injured in Sanaa as government employees rally for reforms

Press TV, Iran
On to Yemen, where a civilian has been shot dead in clashes between forces loyal to outgoing ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh and opposition fighters in the capital Sanaa. Witnesses say the clashes broke out after Republican Guard troops tried to remove barriers near the Interior Ministry to try to bring normalcy to the capital following unrest. Three have been injured in the gun battle. In the meantime, hundreds of government employees have rallied in the capital Sanaa; they are demanding reforms. They also want what they call "corrupt managers" to be expelled. Rallies also continued demanding Saleh to stand trial. People hold him responsible for the deaths of many innocent people in recent months.

Dismissed workers march outside Bahraini Interior Ministry

Press TV, Iran
Bahraini regime forces have attacked anti-regime protestors in several villages across the country. Anti-government rallies were held in Sitra, Dar, and Ma'ameer. Several protestors were arrested after they were attacked by the Saudi-backed police. Protestors were chanting slogans against the ruling al-Khalifa regime calling for its downfall. On Tuesday, workers who had been sacked were taking part in anti-regime protests marched outside the Interior Ministry in the capital Manama. They urged the regime to immediately reinstate them. Many more people, including teachers and doctors have lost their jobs as part of the crackdown of pro-democracy protests.

Saudi boy in critical condition as security forces fire on protestors in Eastern Province

Press TV, Iran
The crackdown on anti-regime protests continues in Saudi Arabia. Saudi security forces shot and wounded four protestors in the Eastern Province. One of the wounded, a young boy, is in critical condition. The protestors took to the streets after Saudi security forces raided homes in Awamiyah district. The Eastern Province is the focal point for anti-regime protests in Saudi Arabia. The demonstrations come as Riyadh harshly enforced the ban on all anti-government gathering across the kingdom. International rights groups have frequently condemned the Saudi regime for what they call gross violations of human rights.

Arab League observer 'reassured' after visit to Syria, as death toll rises

New TV, Lebanon
Presenter, Female # 1
The head of the Arab League's delegation of observers confirmed that the situation seems "reassuring so far."

Reporter, Female # 2
The Arab League's observers in Syria toured a number of neighborhoods in the city of Homs that are witnessing protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, notably Baba Amr and Bab el-Sebaa. The head of the observers' delegation, Mohammad Mustafa Dabi said the situation seems reassuring. He denied the occurrence of clashes and confirmed that the delegation has not seen tanks but saw some armored vehicles. He indicated that Tuesday was only the first day of the mission and that it requires additional investigations. He added that 20 members of the delegation will stay in Homs for a long time. Other observers will head to Daraa, Idlib, and Hama Wednesday night. And on the second day of the observers' mission, Syrian authorities announced the release of 755 prisoners arrested during the protests. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch accused the Syrian regime of transferring hundreds of detainees to sites that are off-limits to the Arab League's monitors. Al-Dunia satellite channel broadcast videos showing the confiscation of weapons it said were smuggled in a car coming from al-Hasakah. It also reported the killing of four Syrian soldiers and said others were injured in an ambush set up Tuesday morning by defected army and security forces in the southern province of Daraa. As the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said observers were in Homs for too brief a period to be able to understand the reality of the situation on the ground, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights expressed fear that the delegation's members will become false witnesses to the human rights violations in Syria. For his part, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on Syria to fully cooperate with the Arab League's monitors and grant them the utmost freedom. Lavrov added that Russia is concerned about the positions of some states asking the Syrian opposition not to deal with the delegation. He confirmed that such calls are provocative and damage the mission.

Presenter, Female # 1
Syrian blogger Tal al-Mallouhi, who has imprisoned for the last two years, started a hunger strike yesterday to demand her release, according to the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression. The center said al-Mallouhi's medical and psychological condition is deteriorating. Tal al-Mallouhi was arrested on December 27, 2009, and sentenced to five years in prison in late 2010 by the State Security Court in Damascus, a special judicial body. She was accused of providing information to a foreign country. According to Human Rights Watch, the young blogger commented on social issues and mainly discussed the fate of the Palestinians, and did not address the political situation in Syria.

A look at the 'year of the people' as seen from Tunisia

Al-Alam, Iran
Presenter, Female #1
2011 marked a historic chapter for the Tunisian people after the revolution was sparked and former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali's regime was toppled. The outcome of the revolution was reflected in the first elections of the National Constituent Assembly, which were characterized by transparency and a large turnout. The elections led the Islamist movement to take the reins of governance.

Reporter, Male #1
Just as 2010 ended, 2011 began with popular uprisings across Tunisia. The people rejected the dictatorship of former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, so they rebelled against him. And on January 14, the deposed president fled to Saudi Arabia. Political events developed at a rate Tunisians had never experienced. Former president of the Chamber of Deputies Fouad Mebazaa temporarily ran the country due to the political vacuum. Mohamed al-Ghannouchi continued his tasks as prime minister and announced the formation of a national government three days after Ben Ali fled. The youth raised their voices in what became known as "Kasbah One," rejecting the government for having maintained a number of the former regime's figureheads. And then, Ghannouchi's first government collapsed. Over a month later, Mohamed al-Ghannouchi could not handle a second sit-in in front of the government headquarters, so the prime minister submitted his resignation. He was succeeded by Beji Caid-Essebsi, who previously worked with former President Habib Bourguiba. The people called for a National Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution for the country. The High Commission for Achieving the Objectives of the Revolution was established, including the most prominent political groups. Despite the sit-ins, strikes, and security breakdown on the Libyan border, Tunisia managed to overcome the tribulations with minimal losses. October 23 was a date Tunisians will never forget. Elections for the National Constituent Assembly were conducted under the supervision of an independent High Commission. The elections met expectations in terms of transparency and turnout. The Ennahda Movement won the majority of votes and formed an alliance with the political parties al-Mu'tamar, or Congress for the Republic, and at-Takattul, the Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties. The alliance led Mustafa Bin Jaafar to head the National Constituent Assembly; Munsif al-Marzouqi became the president of the republic, and Hamadi Jebali became the prime minister. And so the picture was reversed: yesterday's prisoners and dissidents are today's rulers. The government was formed and began its work at the end of 2011 amid difficult economic and social challenges. The whole world is watching the new Tunisia, the country that opened the door to the other Arab revolutions.

Washington's reaction to the Arab revolution

BBC Arabic, UK
Presenter, Male #1
2011 was the year of Arab revolutions par excellence during which people rose up and regimes fell under the watch of the United States. Even the US's most optimistic intelligence reports did not expect a popular movement of this scale in the Middle East and North Africa. However, Washington, which is keen on supporting people's right to freedom of speech and democracy, as it claims, dealt with each revolution differently. The US's positions varied in the early stages of each revolution as it waited to evaluate the situation and determine its stance based on its greatest interests. The following report reviews the evolution of the various US positions on the Arab revolutions during the course of the year.

Reporter, Female #1
The Arab revolutions surprised and shocked the United States. There was clear confusion regarding its positions toward the revolutions, especially in the early days of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. The statements fluctuated and varied. At times, Washington advised its two allies Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak to carry out reforms and respond to the demands of the rebelling people; at other times, the US affirmed its partnership with the two regimes. The US administration did not take any decisive positions on the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions until after it made sure that all signs indicated that the revolutionaries had the upper hand. Then, the US began to call on the leaders to step down and attempted to build bridges with elements participating in the two revolutions. With the downfall of the regimes of Ben Ali and Mubarak, the US administration began to realize the scale of the upcoming changes to the region. So it began analyzing the internal and regional consequences of these changes to reduce its losses resulting from the downfall of the two friendly regimes and to guarantee that the changes would not negatively affect American and Israeli interests. Once again, the events on the ground developed faster than the US president's advisors could predict as the revolutions extended to Bahrain, Yemen, and the Sultanate of Oman. There, the situation was different. Washington did not call on the Bahraini king to step down or for regime change; rather, it timidly called for self-restraint. As for the Yemeni president, he is an important partner in the fight against al-Qaeda movement. For this reason, the United States did not abandon him until the opposition pledged to continue supporting US forces in the battle against al-Qaeda and its branches. As the revolution spread to Libya, the US's position became clear in what became known as "the Arab Spring." The relationship between Muammar al-Gaddafi and the United States had been very hostile. And despite that fact, Washington hesitated in openly announcing its support for the revolutionaries under the pretext that it did have adequate information about these revolutionaries or their ideology. As the situation developed in Libya, the US administration played an important political role in the militarization campaign that toppled Gaddafi, even if its military contribution was limited and lasted a short time due to the fierce internal US opposition to any American military involvement in Libya. As for Syria, its revolution also confused Washington. The downfall of Bashar al-Assad's regime is filled with complications and implications that may affect Israel, especially if the Golan front is mobilized. Therefore, the Obama administration did not express much enthusiasm about the toppling of al-Assad when the revolution erupted; instead, it repeatedly demanded that Assad carry out reforms. However, when the situation turned bloody, the US officials changed their tone. The American ambassador to Damascus began building relationships with various Syrian opposition parties as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned of civil war in Syria if Assad does not step down. Wafa' Ijbai, BBC, Washington.

Beit Shemesh rally against extremism 'a success' say protest organizers

IBA, Israel
State prosecutor Moshe Lador addressed the issue of Beit Shemesh violence and exclusion of women for the first time today, saying that his office will work with the police to eradicate the extremism among ultra-orthodox Jews. Lador's comments came on the heels of last night's rally in Beit Shemesh against religious extremism. The issue of marginalizing and denigrating women by the ultra-orthodox segment of the population seems to have gotten the attention of the government and law enforcement agencies. Last night's rallies were declared a success by organizers who say they are now hearing the issue addressed by officials who have become aware of the issue. Thousands of Israelis rallied against religious extremists who have targeted women, holding sighs saying "We won't become Tehran" and "We come close to the Torah through love, not hate."

Gaza reconstruction stalled three years after war on the Strip

Dubai TV, UAE
Presenter, Male #1
Three years have passed since the launch of the initial strike of the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip, but this region of the Palestinian territory is still unable to erase the destructive effects of war. Much of the international community's efforts aimed at accelerating reconstruction are often aborted due to internal Palestinian division and the Israeli siege, as Gazans turn to self-sufficient solutions, despite their weaknesses, to rehabilitate the Strip. Bassam al-Madhun reports from Gaza.

Reporter, Male #2
Three years have passed yet the reconstruction of what was destroyed by the occupation is still slow. Only 20 percent of over 3,000 destroyed residential units have been reconstructed.

Guest, Male #3 (Yasser al-Shanti, Deputy Minister of Economy of the deposed government)
This year, we were able to rebuild 20 percent of the residential units destroyed by the war. It's a very small figure, especially considering that it has been three years since the war ended. What do we expect? Do we wait for another ten years to complete the reconstruction?

Reporter, Male #2
The Gaza Strip has not received any tangible support, except for rehabilitation projects launched mainly by members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, due to internal Palestinian division and the Israeli blockade.

Guest, Male #4 (Mohammad Abu Ziada, Deputy Director of Contractors in Gaza)
The reconstruction was halted by a political order due to Palestinian division. The donor countries suspended their aid to the Gaza Strip but kept it in the West Bank.

Reporter, Male #2
The random reconstruction, which depends by and large on the smuggling of building materials such as cement and steel by Gazans through border tunnels with Egypt, has temporarily helped improve the job market and reduce unemployment.

Guest, Male #5 (Ali al-Bar, Construction Worker)
We don't always find work because building materials are scarce and very expensive. Not everyone can afford to build due to poor financial conditions.

Reporter, Male #2
The formula of reconstruction in Gaza is very difficult and requires Gazans to end the state of fragmentation in the area to help secure a dignified life for the residents of this narrow geographic enclave. Bassam al-Madhun, Dubai TV, the Gaza Strip.

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