Thursday, June 25, 2009

Former Iranian Revolutionary Guard Speaks Out

Foreign Affairs is a very well respected professional journal on US foreign policy. It is widely read in Washington DC.

Suzanne Maloney has recently written an excellent piece on the situation in Iran, with which I was very impressed. She also gives this list of required reading on Iran.

She also recommends an author named Akbar Ganji. She writes:
Akbar Ganji’s biography itself offers a trenchant commentary on the ebb and flow of ideological orthodoxy in the Islamic Republic. Having served during the regime’s early years in the Revolutionary Guards and the fearsome Intelligence Ministry, Ganji progressively became disenchanted. By the mid-1990s, he had transformed himself into an influential political journalist, assailing Iran’s senior leadership in newspaper columns on the regime’s excesses. Arrested in 2000, he later spent nearly six years in prison, where his fate attracted worldwide attention. Today, Ganji remains passionate about realizing a genuine representative state in Iran, although he effectively lives in exile. These writings present his erudite denunciation of Iran’s current system and his effort to chart a path forward.
Quite an endorsement. He has also written an article recently for Foreign Affairs. It's a very good read, and brief. He writes:
This is nothing less than an electoral coup, and its aim goes far beyond bringing victory to Ahmadinejad; it is a full-fledged takeover of the of Khamenei's central goals is to create a new unified ruling elite with vast political and economic power. Khamenei and his supporters have been snuffing out dissent among intellectuals, political parties, labor unions, clerical seminaries, and civil society groups. They have been enhancing ideological uniformity at the senior level of government by defaming previously high-ranking officials, such as former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. They have also been extending their control over state corporations, large industries, and banks in a bid to create a state-run form of capitalism that would benefit them.
Wow. That's much the same thing that Reza Aslan is saying. Our gut reaction to things like this is to smile and say, "Ah, you're just a conspiracy theorist." But this is being said by a lot of people who have a LOT of credibility, lots of credentials - people who know what they're talking about. We in the West need to open our eyes.

Of course, once we realize the truth, then usually people in the US say, "Yes, let's topple their government just like we did to Iraq!" That's not the right reaction. Toppling Iran, believe it or not, would be VASTLY more difficult than toppling Iraq. It would take much, much longer. It would be a lot of urban warfare. A lot of American troops would die. It took Americans about a month to grow weary of the war in Iraq. Americans have a very weak stomach. This is not the 1940's anymore, when everyone pitched in for the war effort. We live in a different world. Many, many people in the US are squeamish about warfare, and as soon as someone dies they'll be screaming for it all to be over, for it all to end. They will stop caring about what's at stake, choosing instead to just be offended at the shedding of blood. Our country has forgotten that there are some things worth dying for.

We can't go to war with Iran. We don't have the stomach for it. We don't have the troops for it. We're not willing to pay for it. If we go to war with Iran, they'll win. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't understand what's taking place there.

Outside Iran, at an Afghan Truckstop...

Here's an interesting piece from a journalist in Afghanistan (which borders on Iran to the East) at a truckstop, interviewing Iranian truck drivers. It appears the country is divided.

Rumors of Compromise?

Tehran Bureau is publishing rumors of a possible compromise in Iran involving a runoff election between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad. I say "rumors" because at this point that's all it is.

My response? Not bloody likely.

If it were true, it would signal a major, major shift in Khamenei, the Supreme Leader. So far, Khamenei has bet all his chips on Ahmadinejad. That's why people are chanting "Death to Khamenei" in the streets of Iran. He certified the election results too early, less than 24 hours after the vote (he was supposed to wait three days). In last Friday's sermon he said that Ahmadinejad was closer to his own position, and just yesterday he spoke publicly saying that there would be no compromise. I didn't even bother to post about it, because it wasn't anything new. No, Khamenei has vowed not to budge, and has so far been willing to shed the blood of his own people to keep from budging. Why would he suddenly do an about face? What's changed?

Also, if it were true, who has to be the source of the rumor? Wouldn't it have to be one of Khamenei's top aides? If Khamenei was truly willing to compromise, who would he tell?

We must also ask, who is he negotiating with? Mousavi? Parliament? Who?

Tehran Bureau cites Mehdi Noorbaksh, of Harrisburg University of Science and Technology as their source, who says he got a phone call late last night from someone in Iran. That's it.

Now, I can understand that Noorbaksh wants to protect the source in Iran, whoever they may be. But I'd be willing to bet that whoever the mysterious caller from Iran is, they're speculating; it's their own theory. It may be a very well educated guess, but it'd still be just that, a guess, a prediction. Noorbaksh stressed that it's a possibility, a mere possibility, and then cites reasons for why it may be correct. They sound like reasons supporting a theory. They certainly aren't evidence.

Evidence that a compromise may be in the works would be witness testimony that negotiations are ongoing. No such evidence has been cited. No one has claimed to have been present at such negotiations, nor have they claimed to have heard rumors of such negotiations. No, Noorbaksh only says that there's a possibility of a compromise.

Noorbaksh should have said, "I believe that this is what might happen." Instead, we are told, "There IS a possibility of..." When you use words like "is", you need to provide some evidence.

In my judgment, there's nothing in the report on Tehran Bureau to suggest that this is anything other than someone's speculative theory turned into a rumor.

Reza Aslan on the Daily Show

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FBI Interrogation: Saddam Was Afraid of Iran, not US

Click here.

Apparently, Saddam was lying about having WMD because he was afraid of Iran, and therefore wanted them to be afraid of him. He said that if he had had any WMD, he would have used them against the US.

This has apparently come out in now declassified FBI interrogation reports of Saddam after his capture.

Aslan: Slow Military Coup in Iran

Reza Aslan analyzes the situation in Iran here. (If your computer wants to print the article, just hit cancel. I used the "print" link because it was a little less annoying to look at. If you want the original article, click here.)

Aslan's basic theory is this: that there's a military/intelligence body called the Pasdaran that has been slowly taking over the country behind the scenes since Ahmadinejad was elected. It sounds fairly plausible, but no concrete evidence is offered to support the theory, so I can't really evaluate it properly.

Who is Larijani?

He's the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament.
Since the election, Larijani has rarely been noted or quoted in the western press, except for an occasional sentence in the print media. Media attention has been directed primarily toward Rafsanjani as the man to watch in the current turmoil. As Speaker of the Majlis, Larijani immediately and repeatedly condemned the violence against the students at Teheran University on Monday night (June 15). The website of the Iranian Majlis (parliament) for the week of June 13-17 reported that the Larijani said he had visited some of the areas where students had been assaulted and asked what the “meaning” was of attacking students in their dormitories at 2:30 in the morning. He said that laws had to be observed, and that the Minister of the Interior must be held “accountable for such incidents.” Larijani promised that the Majles would “seriously investigate” such issues.

On Thursday, even CNN had taken note: “Speaker Ali Larijani blamed the Interior Ministry for the raid on the dorm and attacks on civilians.” The article added that “Larijani’s comments are seen as an unprecedented rebuke to Ahmadinejad, who has been taking heat from many religious conservatives who’ve knocked the president’s criticism of protesters. And such criticism reflects an unprecedented public airing of a rift among ruling conservatives.”