Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Only Mullahs Can Flirt

There has been no shortage of idiotic petitions in recent years. Remember the petition against Professor Rob Sobhani for speaking the truth about the plight of the Iranian women? From the same cast of characters who a couple of years ago did a cyber pimping campaign for Mullah-US relations, here comes another equally idiotic petition against the US plan to allocate funds for democracy promotion in Iran (which hasn't even been approved by the Congress yet). According to these dinosaurs, it is ok for mullahs to flirt with everyone including the Americans but it is not ok for the Iranian people to get the support they badly need.

Which country in the recent past has made peaceful transition to democracy without US overt and covert support?

Monday, March 27, 2006

The End of History is Here, but for Middle Easterners It is Just the Beginning
The bottom-line in Professor Francis Fukuyama's book "The End of History and the Last Man" (which by the way is an excellent read) is that liberal democracy ends wars and revolutions by eliminating the major sources of contradiction in societies (thereby putting an end to History). Building strongly on Alexander Kojeve's reading of Hegel, Professor Fukuyama informs us of the end of History after the collapse of the Communism in late 80's and early 90's.

Professor Fukuyama doesn't apparently believe that Middle East is anywhere near the end of History, see his latest in the Wall Street Journal, A Better Idea.

Despite his criticism of the Bush administration's policies in the Middle East, it seems that the administration is doing exactly what he suggests in the last three paragraphs of his article. First, as the White House new national security document states, the promotion of democracy is a way to fight terrorism in the long-run. In the short-term, drastic measures such as preemptive wars are to be pursued. Second, the US and the West in general have made no attempt to roll back election results in Palestine or Iraq (not publicly at least). They are using "soft power" (e.g. withdrawal of the aid to the Palestinian Authority) to make groups such as Hamas to govern more responsibly.

It also bothers me a lot that things related to Iran are treated in such a degree of sloppiness and vagueness even by people like Professor Fukuyama. Examples:

-The elections in Iran are bundled together with elections elsewhere in the Middle East to prove the point that Islamism is on the rise, and push for elections isn't really working.

-Iran is a semi-democracy (whatever the term means) and democratic but not liberal (amusingly enough, Iran is the only example of an illeberal democracy in Prof. Fukuyama's famous book).

It is both sad and funny that Iran is held to standards much lower than even Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe when assessing the "democratic degree" of its elections. Few cases of fraud and intimidation are enough for the West to dismiss the election results in Belarus but in Iran election of Ahmadinejad becomes a hotly debated topic and evidence as to how "democratic" means can produce "illiberal" results. Official election figures are thrown around as valid data points as if the freeness and the fairness of the election were rubber-stamped by no less than Jimmy Carter himself.

While much of the Middle East might be longign for Islamist experimentation, Iran is entering a new post-Islamist era. It remains to be seen whether this era brings liberal democracy, rise of a new form of Fascism, or disintegration of Iran along ethnic lines.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Zaneirani feels the injustice as strongly as it exists.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Lies, Deception, and the Washington Post
When the so-called reformers swept to power in Iran in 1997, many were hopeful that they would use their position to embolden and empower the Iranian people in their struggle against the tyranny, while taming the oppressors and convincing them to yield to the will of the people. The irony was that the so-called reformers did exactly the opposite: they tried to put restraint on people's growing unease and dissatisfaction by scaring them of the let loose hardliner boogeyman. In some cases they even blamed the victims for going too far beyond the "capacity" and "red lines" of the reform movement. People not intimately familiar with Iranian affairs may think that the "extremism" they were warning people against was something like armed struggle against the regime. Not exactly. Akbar Ganji was labeled extreme by his own friends for his investigative journalism regarding the killings of several dissident intellectuals. He was specifically blamed for his criticism of Rafsanjani by Masoud Behnoud who claims to be a reformist journalist. Batebi was called extremist for posing with the bloody Tshirt of a friend who was beaten up by regime thugs.

The same cast of characters are now extending a similarly twisted logic to blame Bush, or stupid George as shamelessly phrased by former reformist journalist Emadedin Baghi, for his so far moral support of the Iranian people. But this time around they are getting prime time coverage from Karl Vick and David Finkel of the Washington Post to perpetuate their lies and deception.

Messrs. Vick and Finkel join Baghi to blame Bush for the arrest/interrogation of Baghi's wife, his daughter, and an amiable mullah by the name Ali Afsahi. Their crime? Attending a workshop on human rights and non-violent movements 16 months ago, which by the way they characterized as a rip-off at the time. Bush administration's crime? Asking Congress to approve $85M to support the cause of democracy in Iran 16 months later! If there is any moral to this story, it tells us that the Bush administration should find ways of pushing much more forcefully for democracy in Iran if they are serious about it. Of course Karl Vick and David Finkel's conclusion is quite different. For them the sweetest part of the story is probably when Baghi calls Bush stupid George. More interestingly they mention closure of 100 publications in 2000 by the hardliners. About the same time, Ganji and many other activists go to jail (even initially sentenced to death) for attending a conference in Berlin. At that time there was no stupid George in the White House to offer $85M for the cause of democracy. The only thing the White House had to offer then was Madam Albright's appeasement of the mullahs.

We all understand that Baghi loves his wife and daughter. But so does the jailed dissident Mehrdad Heydarpour who can only dream about his 4-year old daughter Mahtab behind bars. For Karl Vick, David Finkel, and Emadedin Baghi's information, Mr. Heydarpour received no training in non-violent movements or any money from the White House.

We should focus on real agents of change. The true freedom fighters can be found among the brave young people who signed the manifest "A letter from Iranian students to the freedom-loving people of the world." Unlike Baghi, they need and appreciate help and support from all freedom loving people of the world, even from Mr. Vick and Mr. Finkel.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Quote of the day
"I've never said that America is the eternal city of Plato, but I did say it was the eternal city of Wafa Sultan." Wafa Sultan in a debate with Ahmad Bin Muhammad on Aljazeera TV on the issue of Islamic extremism. Dr. Sultan's critical views of radical Islam has so far cost her numerous death threats. Of course nobody to my knowledge has threatened Dr. Bin Muhammad for his critical views of the West.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Mullahs' Miserable Failure

According to a confidential poll in Iran, 69% of the Iranians do not recognize the nuclear issue a matter of national aspiration and 86% do not believe that nuclear technology is worth a military conflict. While 98% of those polled believe that the nuclear standoff will utlimately lead to some sort of military conflict between Iran and the US and a scenario similar to Iraq, only 28% of the people expressed concern or worries about such conflict. Moreover, about 94% of ethinc Arabs in Khuzestan province and about 91% of Kurds do not consider the nuclear standoff a matter of major concern. Finally, only 11% of those polled believe that the populist Ahamadinejad is capable of solving their economic problems.

With the miserable failure of mullahs' nuclear diplomacy it appears that the mullahs are heading for either a humiliating concession or a conflict. This poll shows that the mullahs have also failed miserably at tying the nulcear standoff to nationalistic sentiments and nationalization of the oil industry in the 1950's.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The “E” Word

Around the time Ahmadinejad was being crowned as the regime’s new clown in chief, a curious phrase started appearing rather frequently in several English language articles on Iran: the Persian Empire. Now that Iran seems to be heading for a conflict with the west, the phrase reappeared in an article by a renowned scholar Dr. Edward N. Luttwak in Los Angeles Times. In this article Dr. Luttwak challenges the notion that Iran is a nation-state “but rather a multinational empire dominated by Persians, much as the Soviet Union was once dominated by Russians.”

Naïve Iranians may find it appealing to think of their land as Persian Empire, as it reminds them of a glorious past. In the stage of world politics, however, the term spells doom and gloom as it did for the Soviet Empire in the 80’s. Identifying Iran as an empire, Dr. Luttwak then goes on to challenging the assumption that Iranians will unite behind their leaders in face of military strikes: “…Only among the Persians are many likely to react to an attack as the axiom prescribes; others [ethnic minorities] might welcome the humiliation of their oppressors.” One possible implication is that such strikes may very well be the starting point for ethnic unrest or worse a civil war. In an earlier article the same Dr. Luttwak argues (unlike many other commentators) that a surgical strike could delay Iran’s nuclear program for years by targeting few key installations and that such strike can infact accomplish its goal in “a single night.”

The bottom-line is that the west can terminate or thwart the Iranian nuclear program through a variety of options ranging from economic sanctions to military strikes. While these options may be viewed as costly or unfavorable by the west, their consequences will be catastrophic for us. We should not let the clowns in power in Iran speak to our nationalist sentiments or set the political discourse. The question for us is not whether we should possess nuclear technology. This is a question that should be publicly debated and resolved in a free democratic Iran. The real question is whether we want to stay on the collision course with Ahmadinejad and other criminals of the Islamic regime leadership in the driver’s seat.

The way out of this crisis is a concerted campaign to oust the regime.