Iran: Dreams Underfoot

by matttbastard

(Image: sterno74, used under a Creative Commons licence)

Following the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, Tom Regan’s Terrorism and Security Briefing for the Christian Science Monitor became a must-read for anyone who wanted a daily general analysis of counterterrorism/counterinsurgency developments around the world. Unfortunately, Regan no longer compiles the briefing. But, late last week, he quietly emerged from an undisclosed location to pen this must-read take on the ongoing post-election turmoil in Iran.

Regan notes that the West may be projecting its own collective desire for transformative political reform in the region onto a murky, still-fluid situation that is not quite the widespread democratic uprising that the mainstream media and Western political establishment would have us believe:

…I strongly believe that what are seeing in Iran is something like a reality based TV show. It’s based on a real incident, but it’s still being shaped by the show’s writers and director (ie, the western media) to be the most interesting to a Western audience. We’re only seeing the bits of tape that conform to what the western media ([which] represent us) want the story to be. It’s real but it’s not reality.

First, this is most definitely NOT a national revolution. This is a protest largely based, as I said, in northern Tehran, the more affluent and prosperous area of the city where most of the universities are located as are (surprised) the hotels where most western journalists stay. As Time’s Joe Klein (who just got back from Tehran) noted in an interview on CNN yesterday, there is no protest at all in southern Tehran, the largest part of the city where the poor and less-educated live. This is Ahmadinejad ’s base. And there is almost no protest at all in rural areas. The regime is firmly in command in most of the country, and the more repressive elements like the Revolutionary Guard have yet to really make their presence felt.

You know, this beginning to sound like Beijing 20 years ago.

Now, there is always the chance that a revolt driven by a relatively small number of the country’s population will succeed in overthrowing the country’s regime. Especially in Iran, where one revolution has already done that. But that was a revolt approved by the large majority of the people against a hated despot. This is not the same situation. If there is hatred of Ahmedinejad it comes no where near close to the hatred felt for the Shah. It’s just not going to happen.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

h/t Karoli via Twitter

Related: Patrick Martin provides a history lesson on Mir-Houssein Mousavi, a most unlikely champion for Western-style liberal democracy, while John Palfrey, Bruce Etling and Robert Faris of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society share an informative survey of the overall Iranian web presence (which–surprise–may not conform with what we’ve been voyeuristically observing via Twitter). Elsewhere, Dana Goldstein gives us these two mustread posts on the role Iranian feminists have played in the uprising (h/t Ann Friedman). Also see the one and only Antonia Zerbisias (taking a welcome respite from blogging about her thighs and pention [sic]) for more on how–and why–the women of Iran have taken the lead in demonstrations.

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Green is the Colour of Freedom.

by matttbastard

Now this:

Mousavi supporters rally in Tehran

is a magnificent sight to start the day off with.

Freewheeling coverage of the ongoing Iranian election fall out @ Twitter.

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Nothing Sez ‘Common Ground’ Like Hatin’ teh JOOZ

by matttbastard

Awesome:

This January, a week after Barack Obama’s Inauguration, a conference called “Holocaust? A Sacred Lie by the West” was held in Tehran. Ahmadinejad, in a greeting that he sent to the conference, said that Zionists had “ensnared many politicians and parties.” In a follow-up statement, he added, “An incident known as 9/11 occurred. It is not yet clear who carried it out, who collaborated with them, and who paved the way for them. The event took place, and—like in the case of the Holocaust—they sealed it off, refusing to allow objective research groups to find out the truth.”

Iasked Thomas Pickering why Ahmadinejad had chosen that moment to talk so provocatively about the Holocaust. “I think he probably felt encouraged by the Pope,” Pickering replied, referring to the news that week that Benedict XVI had lifted an excommunication order on a British bishop and Holocaust denier. (The Pope later asked the bishop to recant.)

Heartwarming. Who says the Vatican has been backsliding on JPII’s ecumenical outreach efforts? Heckuva job, Ratzi.

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Ethics Smethics

by matttbastard

Novakula, Prince of Darkness, appears to be petulantly nursing a grudge like Phil Anselmo nurses a 40 of Jack Daniels:

I’d go full speed ahead because of the hateful and beastly way in which my left-wing critics in the press and Congress tried to make a political affair out of it and tried to ruin me. My response now is this: The hell with you. They didn’t ruin me. I have my faith, my family, and a good life. A lot of people love me — or like me. So they failed. I would do the same thing over again because I don’t think I hurt Valerie Plame whatsoever.

But, as Ben Armbruster at Think Progress notes:

…Plame was “hurt” because of Novak’s column — she no longer has a career as a covert CIA agent. Moreover, Plame has said that she feared for her and her family’s lives after Novak revealed her identity.

But Novak ignores the point that Plame’s outing had broader national security implications. In fact, Plame’s CIA job was to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and as one former senior intelligence officer put it, the leak made “it harder for other CIA officers to recruit sources.”

Yeah, fuck piffle like Plame’s livelihood or national security. There are more important things at stake here. Like crazyglueing Robert Novak’s fragile-as-an-eggshell professional ego.

Hey, don’t worry, Bob — at least Travis Tritt understands your pain, and has some heartfelt advice on how to move on.

h/t Mustang Bobby

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PSA: Petition for the immediate release of Esha Momeni

by matttbastard

Via For Esha, the One Million Signatures Campaign has started a petition calling for the immediate release of imprisoned graduate student and womens rights advocate Esha Momeni:

To: His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,His Excellency Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi,

His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei,
His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,
His Excellency Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi,

We, the undersigned, have heard with great alarm of the arrest in Tehran, on Wednesday October 15, 2008, of Esha Momeni, a graduate student in film and communication at California State University, Northridge. This arrest was made by Tehran traffic police on the pretext that she had made an illegal turn, but we have since been informed that she has been transferred to Section 209 of Evin Prison and kept in solitary confinement.
We wish to make clear that at no time has Ms. Momeni been involved in any activities contravening the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran. She had returned to Iran for an extended visit mainly for the purpose of seeing family and friends, and also in order to carry out research related to her MA degree at California State University, Northridge. Ms. Momeni, a women’s rights defender and a volunteer of the California branch of a grassroots campaign called the “One Million Signatures Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws”, decided to make her Master’s thesis project a personal exploration of the shared experiences of everyday Iranians. This included interviews with some members of the Campaign. The activities of the Campaign are peaceful and merely aimed at reforming the Iranian laws in areas that discriminate against women; the Campaign has no political objectives.
Those who are privileged to know Ms. Momeni are fully aware of the sincerity and passion for justice which she brings to the promotion of a truer image of Iran outside the country, and we are therefore dismayed that she should have been arrested and detained despite not having engaged in any unlawful activities.
We, the undersigned, therefore demand Ms. Momeni be released immediately and without conditions so that she can return to complete her education. In addition we urge you to:
1.Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Esha Momeni;
2.Assure that while in detention she is granted immediate and regular access to her family, a lawyer of her choice, and any medical treatment necessary in light of her medical condition (kidney stones);
3 Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Iran.
Yours sincerely

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

Please add your voice here. Make sure to take note of the caveat offered by For Esha:

We request you not to sign petitions organized by organizations other than the One Million Signatures Campaign. While such petitions may mean well, they often contain inappropriate language and factual errors and as such are more likely to endanger Esha than help bring about her release.

And please forward the official petition to as many people as you can.

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PSA: Free Esha Momeni

by matttbastard

Update: Be sure to sign the official petition calling for Momeni’s release.

Change For Equality:

Esha Momeni, women’s rights advocate and a member of the Campaign from California was arrested on Wednesday October 15, 2008, while on a visit to Tehran. Momeni who is a photographer and graduate student was arrested in an unusual and illegal manner after being pulled over on Moddaress highway, by individuals who identified themselves as under cover traffic police on the pretense that she had unlawfully passed another vehicle while driving. Esha was arrested and taken to Section 209 of Evin Prison, managed by the Intelligence and Security Ministry.

Prior to her transfer to Evin, security officials searched her home and seized property, including her computer and films which were part of her thesis project. The security officials had an arrest warrant and court permission to search the home and seize property.

While Esha’s friends and colleagues were insistent about announcing the news of her arrest immediately, based on requests from her family this news was announced with delay. Security forces had promised Esha’s family that she would be released quickly if news of her arrest was not published.

Esha’s parents went to the Revolutionary Courts today, on the fifth day of her arrest, to follow up on the case of their daughter. Court officials told the Momeni family that they should not come to the courts again, and that their questions will not be answered until the investigation of Esha’s case comes to a close.

Esha Momeni is a graduate student at the School of Communications, Media and Arts at California State University, Northridge. Esha had come to Iran two months ago to visit with her family and to work on her Masters thesis project, focused on the Iranian women’s movement. To this end, she had conducted video interviews with members of the One Million Signatures Campaign in Tehran.

Women’s rights activists object to the unusual manner in which Esha was arrested, as well as the irresponsible treatment of her family members by security forces. Further they strongly object to the unjustified and unwarranted arrest of this women’s rights defender.

A weblog in support of Esha pressing for her release has been established, which includes interviews with her professors… . The weblog as well as the site of the Campaign, Change for Equality, will continue to provide news on developments about Esha’s case. Take a look at the blog For Esha.

Take action now–please write to the following contacts:

* Leader of the Islamic Republic, His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, The Office of the Supreme Leader, Shoahada Street, Qom, Islamic Republic of Iran, Faxes: + 98.21.649.5880 / 21.774.2228, Email: info@leader.ir / istiftaa@wilayah.org / webmaster@wilayah.org;
* President, His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Presidency, Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: + 98.21.649.5880, E-mail: dr-ahmadinejad@president.ir;
* Head of the Judiciary, His Excellency Mr. Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi, Ministry of Justice, Park-e Shahr, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: +98.21.879.6671 / +98 21 3 311 6567 / +98 21 3 390 4986, Email: Irjpr@iranjudiciary.com / info@dadgostary-tehran.ir;
* Minister of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Mr. Manuchehr Motaki, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Abdolmajid Keshk-e Mesri Av, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: + 98.21.390.1999, Email: matbuat@mfa.gov;
* Director, Human Rights Headquarters of Iran, His Excellency Mohammad Javad Larijani, C/o Office of the Deputy for International Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Justice Building, Panzdah-Khordad (Ark) Square, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: + 98 21 5 537 8827
* Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Chemin du Petit-Saconnex 28, 1209 Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 7330203, Email: mission.iran@ties.itu.int;
* Ambassador Mr. Ahani, Embassy of Iran in Brussels, avenue Franklin Roosevelt, 15 A. 1050 Bruxelles, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 762 39 15. Email: iran-embassy@yahoo.com.

– [express] concern at the arrest of Esha Momeni, and [urge] on the authorities to treat her humanely in detention, and protect her from torture or other ill-treatment;

– [ask] the authorities to ensure that while in detention she is granted immediate and regular access to her family, a lawyer of her choice, and any medical treatment she may require;

[express] concern that her arrest was apparently in connection with her peaceful activities in support of equal rights for women in Iran and in the context of her graduate research;

– [urge] the authorities to release her immediately and unconditionally if she is not to be charged with a recognizably criminal offence and brought to trial promptly and fairly

h/t Vanessa @ Feministing (via Feminist Daily News); more from CNN, DKos, Melissa Wall, and David Blumenkrantz. Also see this article on the 0ne Million Signatures Campaign, written by Momeni in 2007.

Previous Change for Equality PSAs:

Background: More on the still-ongoing One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality from Change For Equality (more here) and Ms. Magazine.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to add your name.

arton103.jpg

Update: Be sure to sign the official petition calling for Momeni’s release.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Taking it to Tehran Via Tel Aviv?

by matttbastard

With the publication of Sy Hersh’s recent New Yorker article detailing how Bush administration officials have ramped up US special forces activity in Iran, all eyes are once again fixated on the contentious Gulf state–and the potential of an Israeli-initiated proxy attack.

ABC News:

A senior defense official told ABC News there is an “increasing likelihood” that Israel will carry out such an attack, a move that likely would prompt Iranian retaliation against, not just Israel, but against the United States as well.

The official identified two “red lines” that could trigger an Israeli offensive. The first is tied to when Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility produces enough highly enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon. According to the latest U.S. and Israeli intelligence assessments, that is likely to happen sometime in 2009, and could happen by the end of this year.

“The red line is not when they get to that point, but before they get to that point,” the official said. “We are in the window of vulnerability.”

The second red line is connected to when Iran acquires the SA-20 air defense system it is buying from Russia. The Israelis may want to strike before that system — which would make an attack much more difficult — is put in place.

Juan Cole is dismissive of the former benchmark:

This [first] “red line” is pure bullshit. There is no evidence that Iran is enriching uranium to weapons grade at all, much less that it is making enough highly-enriched uranium that it will be able to make a bomb in 2009.

You can’t use low-enriched uranium to make a bomb. It has to be highly enriched. Iran–as far as anyone has proved–is only making the low-enriched kind, and from all accounts it isn’t doing such a great job of that, either. If it made high-enriched uranium, that could be detected by the inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, who regularly inspect Iran’s facilities. I.e., it just isn’t there and the idea that Iran could have enough material to make a bomb by next year is ridiculous. Now if it turned all its centrifuges to this task, then maybe it could achieve that result, though most experts think Iran’s ability to enrich is still exaggerated. It could not highly enrich without creating atomic signatures detectable by the inspectors.

The IAEA says that there is no evidence–zilch, zero, nada– that Iran has facilities for enriching to weapons grade or that it is trying to do so

With that mind, along with last year’s all-but-forgotten NIE (y’know, the one that unequivocally states that Iran isn’t actively seeking to develop nuclear weapons), how potent a threat does Iran actually present?  Geoffrey Kemp, director of Regional Strategic Programs at The Nixon Center and special assistant to the president for the Middle East during the first Reagan administration, provides a Realist analysis of the ‘threat’ posed by Iran to the US, Israel, and Middle East, dubbing it “an imaginary foe”:

Rhetoric about Iran’s malign propensities has received much attention. A worst-case analysis, most vigorously argued by Norman Podhoretz, an advisor to former-presidential-candidate Rudolph Guiliani, would suggest that once Iran gets hold of nuclear weapons, its messianic president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, may be inclined to use them, especially against Israel. Ahmadinejad and his coterie believe in scenarios that call for a bloody battle between true believers and infidels as the precursor for the return of the Hidden Imam and the establishment of a world government. This is why Iran, unlike other nuclear powers–including the Soviet Union and China during the cold war–may not be susceptible to the logic of deterrence. For this reason they must be stopped from getting the bomb. In the absence of any diplomatic solution this simply calls for a military strike against the Iranian nuclear facilities. (1)

While such apocalyptic visions are frightening, to infer, as Podhoretz does, that Ahmadinejad is another Adolf Hitler does not take into account the reality of Iran’s strengths and weaknesses. [Iran] is an important regional power that wants to be taken seriously and have an influence on Middle East geopolitics. Yes, it has energy reserves, a talented, educated population, and a unique geographical position that strides both the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea–and it may even soon have the capacity to build nuclear weapons. But its ability to act as a regional hegemon is constrained by political, economic and military limitations. For all the rhetoric about Iran as a new Mideast colossus, the reality is that Iranians are not a martial people.

With regards to an attack on the part of Israel, Kemp evaluates the steps Israel would have to take to initiate a series of strikes against Iran:

Israel could conduct such an attack with cruise missiles from its small fleet of tactical submarines from locations in the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf. Yet these submarines have limited inventories of missiles. A purely seaborne strike could do little more than mount a token attack on the key Iranian facilities—especially the well-protected and deeply buried uranium enrichment facility at Natanz—unless it used nuclear weapons.

In terms of conventional air-strike capabilities the Israeli Air Force is certainly capable of reaching a number of targets in Iran. The problem is it would have to pass over either Turkey; Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq; or fly a nearly three-thousand-mile-long one-way route via the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. It is inconceivable that Turkey would give permission for the use of its airspace—though Israel might be prepared to ignore the wishes of the Arab countries. But once its aircraft enter Iraqi and Gulf airspace, they will encounter the full array of air defenses that the United States has established since the beginning of the Iraq War. Unless the United States gave permission for such an Israeli attack Israel would risk encountering U.S. anti-air action before it even reached Iran.

But, as Kemp notes, “the consequences of such an attack on oil markets, U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the reaction of Iraq’s government and possible Iranian retaliation against Israel are awesome and suggest such action has a low probability of being authorized.” He does however acknowledge that, despite his conclusion that Israeli air strikes against Iran are counterproductive to US interests and regional stability (and won’t put much of a dent in Iran’s nuclear ambitions), an Israeli-initiated attack could still take place if “this is what the Bush administration wants to happen.” Despite this, Kemp remains convinced that “while some White House advisors may still contemplate such an action, it would be far more difficult to convince the secretaries of defense and state that another Middle Eastern war would serve American interests.”

In a recent analysis, Haaretz correspondent Yossi Melman cautioned those who would interpret the recent brinkmanship emanating from Tel Aviv as a signal that that military action on the part of Tel Aviv is a done deal:

Israeli leaders and officials have recently intensified their campaign against nuclear Iran. The messages from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Ambassador to Washington Salai Meridor and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz is clear: Israel will not tolerate a nuclear Iran. Indeed Israel is very concerned by the likelihood that Iran, whose leadership has called for the Jewish state’s destruction, will be able to produce nuclear weapons.

These public statements, as well as closed talks between Israel’s leadership and leaders around the world, can be interpreted as “preparing the ground” for the possibility that Israel will attack Iran. It is also correct that all the bodies dealing with the “Iran case,” including the Mossad, Military Intelligence, Operations Directorate of the Israel Defense Forces, Israel Air Force and the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, are planning for the worst-case scenario. This is their professional duty. But one cannot conclude, as many have following a report in The New York Times (June 19) that an Israeli attack is certainly around the corner. Not only has such a decision not been made in any relevant forum in Israel – the question has not even been discussed.

Melman notes that a “significant factor” in any decision to strike Iran is the political landscape in Tehran:

Next May, presidential elections are scheduled in Iran. If Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei decides he is fed up with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, mostly because of the worsening economic situation, and prevents him from running for another term, or does not support him, this dramatic turn of events could also affect Iran’s nuclear program.

Marc Perelman, writing in The Forward, has more on Ahmadinejad’s domestic woes:

On June 1, Ahmadinejad’s archrival and likely 2009 opponent, Ali Larijani, was elected to the powerful post of speaker of parliament for one year. Within hours of Larijani’s victory, an Iranian media outlet reported allegations that close to $35 billion in oil proceeds — nearly half of Iran’s annual revenue from oil — was missing from government coffers.

“Electioneering has started in earnest,” said Meir Javedanfar, an Israel-based Iran scholar and co-author of a biography of Ahmadinejad. “Larijani wants to expose Ahmadinejad by casting light on corruption and even challenging him on the nuclear issue. In other words, he wants to beat him at his own game.”

While key decisions on Iranian national security and foreign policy remain firmly in the hands of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, observers say Larijani’s return to power suggests that Khamenei’s support for Ahmadinejad is on the wane. Much of the rising discontent among Iranians is centered on the economic woes the country has endured under Ahmadinejad, but among the ruling clerical elite there is also growing resentment of the president’s frequent invocation of religious principles to justify his policies.

And from Kamal Nazer Yasin of Eurasia Insight:

Concern is mounting among various conservative factions in Tehran that Ahmadinejad’s confrontational approach to international politics, combined with his thorough mismanagement of the economy, is undermining the traditionalists’ hold on power. While many continue to view Ahmadinejad as the man who can best unite key conservative constituencies — militant nationalists and Islamic pietists — traditionalists want to place greater restraints on Ahmadinejad, hoping that he becomes a less divisive figure in Iranian politics.

[…]

Presently, Larijani is viewed as one of the few politicians in Iran with sufficient stature to make Ahmadinejad listen to the complaints and desires of other conservative factions. In accepting the parliamentary speakership, Larijani made two key policy statements designed to put Ahmadinejad on notice. Concerning the nuclear issue, Larijani announced an intention to strengthen parliament’s oversight of the government. He went so far as to indicate that he might open an alternate, parliament-controlled channel of communication with the United Nations.

Whether all this is enough to deter ‘bomb bomb Iran’ hardliners within the Bush admin (or, more realistically, bolster the resolve of Defence Secretary Gates, Secretary of State Rice, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to resist acquiescing to hawkish demands) remains to be seen. But, as Kemp warns, “punishing the Iranians and setting back their nuclear program for months or years will reinforce the nationalism of the country and give the mullahs a further lease on life”–a view shared by noted Iranian human rights activists Akbar Ganji and Shirin Ebadi, who both note that the international community’s focus on Iran’s nuclear program has, according to Ganji, “pushed aside the struggle for democracy and human rights”, allowing the regime to exploit “the pretext of an “impending war” to crack down more severely on its opponents.”

Ebidi puts it succinctly: “As a human rights activist I tell the people of the world that if you want to help people in Iran the solution is not to launch an attack.”

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