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Monthly Archives: September 2009

The Wonderful Irving Kristol

September 30th, 2009 - 10:44 am

I have had trouble writing about the death of Irving Kristol.  He is one of those whose death is particularly hard to digest, because he was so full of life.  Blessed are those fortunate enough to have known him.

You will have read a great deal about Irving’s wisdom, of which he had a great abundance.  Not just smarts, but real wisdom, of a particularly Jewish sort, which was anchored to meaningful anecdotes.  Some of these were personal (when I wrote a book on Machiavelli he told me about a Tuscan farmhand who crossed himself when Irving asked for directions to the Machiavelli estate), others were drawn from history or from others’ experiences.  Each illuminated the point he was trying to make, or–for this too was a very important part of his wisdom–not make.  You see, Irving was one of those rare important people who was always willing to admit that he did not know the answer to some tough question.

There is a Jewish law, or perhaps regulation, called Lashon Harah, which forbids telling nasty tales about others.  It’s a very annoying restriction, especially in a place like Washington where gossip, especially “juicy” (that is, damning) gossip is the common currency.  None of us lives up to it, and I sometimes think that the only people who can possibly fulfill the law is someone who lives in a cave, or maybe in a very small town populated with saintly people.

Of all the people I have known, Irving is perhaps the only one who seemed to me to fulfill the requirements of Lashon Harah. I cannot ever remember him saying anything nasty about anyone.  Every now and then he would laugh out loud when someone’s name came up in conversation, and I suppose you might have interpreted that laughter as criticism, but there was never any sign of nastiness, let alone the intense bitterness that characterizes so much of life here.

In short, he was the nicest person I’ve ever met.  Incredible.  So yes, his ideas were important, and certainly the help he gave to young people was memorable and wonderful, but the emptiness I feel these days is because I know I will not hear that laughter, or see those twinkling eyes, or feel the uplifting of the spirit that always came from being near him.

Tommy Lasorda Comes To Washington

September 22nd, 2009 - 8:18 pm

Today they hung Tommy Lasorda in the National Portrait Gallery, and if you can believe it, the portrait is bigger than he is.  It was a wonderful event for a wonderful guy, who is a true American hero and one of our most inspirational leaders.

This was a totally non-Washington event.  Admiral Mullen (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for those of you in Rio Linda), a personal friend (Tommy went to Iraq with him, an event that almost brought Tommy, recalling it, to tears), was there, but for the most part it was Italians from Pennsylvania (family mostly) and baseball people, including the commissioner.

During the tributes to Tommy, one of his most famous slogans was quoted, and it’s so good we should all memorize it:

There are three kinds of people.

Those who make things happen;

Those who watch things happen;

And those who wonder what happened.

Tonight we went to the ballgame with him, and I was reminded once again that just being with Tommy Lasorda is a treat and an honor.  Even for a Yankee fan, ahem.

The Death Spiral of the Islamic Republic III

September 21st, 2009 - 9:59 am

Marx would have delighted in the events of the 18th, all over Iran.  Groucho, that is, for on the 18th the supreme leader and all his co-conspirators were transformed from figures of awe to objects of ridicule.  As Machiavelli likes to remind us, the most dangerous thing for any leader is to earn the contempt of his followers, and the Iranian people made it luminously clear that they would no longer be intimidated.  The regime had launched a vicious repression following the challenges to the “election results” of June 12th.  For a hundred days they had killed, raped, tortured and threatened.  In the runup to the 18th, the stern face of the leader of the Revolutionary Guards had appeared on television and his confident voice had been heard on the radio, warning that anyone who dared wear green, or carry protest signs, or chant criticism of the Islamic Republic, would be treated “very harshly.”  His words were like so much spittle in a storm; among the many chants in the streets that day, you could hear “rape, murder and torture will not silence us.”

When a tyrannical regime dies, you can see the symptoms in the little things.  Late Friday afternoon, after millions (yes, millions–this according to Le Monde, France 2, and L’Express, with the BBC saying that the demonstrations were bigger than those at the time of the Revolution) of Greens mobbed the streets and squares of more than thirty towns and cities to call for the end of the regime, there was a soccer game in Azadi Stadium in Tehran.  It holds about a hundred thousand fans, and it was full of men wearing green and carrying green balloons.  When state-run tv saw what was happening, the color was drained from the broadcast, and viewers saw the game in black and white.  And when the fans began to chant “Death to the Dictator,” “Death to Russia,” and “Death to Putin, Chavez and Nasrallah, enemies of Iran,” the sound was shut off.  So the game turned into a silent movie.

But the censors forgot about the radio, and the microphones stayed open, so that millions of listeners could hear the sounds of the revolution.  And in Azadi Stadium, as in most parts of the country, the security officers either walked away or joined the party.

You will not have heard such stories, nor read about them in our “media,”  which have raised denial of the day’s major events to an art form of late.  Rather like the Iranian regime, which used to have an enormous influence on the way citizens thought, the major broadcasters and dead-tree scribblers have also become objects of ridicule.  On Sunday morning, Supreme Leader Khamenei proclaimed that the demonstrations had been an enormous success for the regime, but anyone looking at the pictures could see that he was short on sleep.  So would you if you had heard the thunderous shouts of “Death to the Dictator” during the night.  Khamenei’s claim was greeted with ridicule.

Sunday also brought open contempt from some of the most revered leaders of the Shi’ite world.  Khamene’i had declared Sunday the end of Ramadan, a day of feasts and prayers, one of the most joyous of the Muslim year.  Such a proclamation is supposed to be canonical, for Khamene’i speaks in the name of all Muslims.  But fifteen Grand Ayatollahs like Sistani (from Najaf, Iraq), Montazeri, Taheri and Sanei rejected Khamenei’s reading of the moon, and said that the feast could not begin until Monday.  No one could get away with such an open challenge to the supreme leader’s theological authority unless there were a considerable consensus that his rule was illegitimate.  And it’s even worse for him:   across the country, many mosques were closed on Sunday.  The faithful were told to go home and fast, and come back the next day for prayer.

No wonder Khamenei looks tired.  And in keeping with the avalanche of errors, today the Revolutionary Guards’ favorite newspaper kept the whole thing going, insisting that the supreme leader was right after all.  Stupid and irrelevant, a classic example of people in a hole who keep digging deeper.

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Here We Go…

September 17th, 2009 - 7:37 pm

Here we go.  The best way to get a feel of the tempo of activity comes from Twitter, and here are some Tweets Thursday evening Washington time, about 5 hours before the scheduled start of demonstrations:

Bus loads of Basij & Ansar-Al-Hezb Allah just arrived in Tehran from Shoshtar. Others R expected.

IRGC has been assigned the special mission of protecting portraits of the SL of being defaced by people throwing paint at them

They arrested more than 20 family members of political figures now. They’re taking hostages w/o legal grounds

Mousavi met with Sharestani (rep of Grand Ayat Sistani) was informed Marjas will soon speak
[ML: This is enormously important, if true it prefigures open criticism of the regime by leading Shi’ite clerics throughout the region, not just in Iran.  That Sistani would send his top aide to see Mousavi is quite something]

Mousavi went to Qum Wed, had dinner w the Society of Theologian Teachers & Researchers also the Reform Ayts

Mehdi Hashemi (Rafs son) asking to be given air time on IRTV to answer the fabricated charges against him

Last Sat 200 employees of Khoramshar (S. IR) mass transit went on 1 day strike for non payment of their wages

IRGC (guards) issued statement warning any disturbance & riots during Qods day will be confronted by Sepah

Karoubi announcing Qods day 11AM Haft Tir. Anti filtering software can be downloaded from his site http://bit.ly/pXmOC

In addition to the assassination of the Assembly of Experts member (1750 GMT), it is reported that the Chief Prosecutor in Kurdestan has been shot.

Tomorrow’s march routes for Mashhad and for Rasht have been posted.

In the latest of a series of assassinations in the province, the Kurdistan representative on the Assembly of Experts was killed today.

From an Iranian blogger in Tehran:  “People will come out but many are also leaving Tehran as it is a long weekend. Saturday is half closed and Sunday is a holiday. Many who participated in previous demonstrations are leaving Tehran or have left already and many are much scared of what happened to their colleagues, friends and other citizens.”

And a final tweet:

Police preventing ppl from leaving Tabriz (NW Iran) fearing they will join marches in Tehran.

It seems that Rafsanjani has joined the call for a massive turnout.  He had traditionally led Friday prayers on Quds Day (celebrated tomorrow)–for twenty-five years!–but not this year.  Rafsanjani is always playing both ends against the middle, but his current play is significant, because he called for a protest against tyranny everywhere. The same words were used by Hasan Khomeini, the grandson of the Imam who came to Washington a few years ago.  On that occasion I asked him before a large audience, “what about freedom of religion?”  He gave an answer I had never heard before from a Muslim cleric:  “Absolutely, religion must be a free act,” he said, and then continued, “and so we must also have freedom of NO religion.”

Nobody I know really has anything approaching confidence in the size of the demonstrations, but we will know very soon.  Estimates range as high as 3 million in Tehran.  The Mousavi/Karroubi people are of course hoping for a very big turnout, and they have taken measures (within their limited capacity) to protect their supporters against armed attack.  Everyone expects considerable violence from the regime.

It’s significant that top regime leaders, such as the Kurdish representative on the Assembly of Experts, are being gunned down.  This is obviously in response to the wave of arrests of family members of the opposition leaders.  Mrs. Mousavi’s brother, for example, has been in Evin Prison in Tehran for three months, and subjected to harsh torture.

I am full of admiration for the dissidents, and furious and ashamed that my government is still unwilling to embrace their cause.  The dissidents face torture and death, but are unafraid.  My modern Chamberlains face nothing but the loss of the chance to sit down at a negotiating table with a group of monsters, but the Chamberlains are afraid to support freedom.  The Iranian dissidents submit their bodies to torture and death, while the Chamberlains withhold their voices.

And so they have become accomplices to evil.

UPDATE:  In case you thought the Iranians had lost their wit, as the sun rose in Tehran, this tweet appeared: ” OMG they have sun in Iran? They forgot to filter the sun ?”

UPDATE FRIDAY MORNING (WASHINGTON TIME):  Have a look at the New York Times’ blog .  It contains other links, as to the Guardian’s always very good coverage of Iranian events.  When Ahmadinejad was being interviewed, he got flustered by the chants of the protesters.

It’s fascinating to see the intersection of historical and contemporary events, don’t you think?  Ahmadinejad drools on about the “myth of the Holocaust,” while hundreds of thousands of people march, chanting that they will only risk their lives for their own country, not in a crusade against the Jews.  And, elsewhere, Obama seems not to have known that his rushed announcement on yanking the missile shield, came on the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland.

UPDATE:  If you’d rather follow it in French, this seems like a good live blog.  Among other things, you’ll learn that the French Government has condemned the violence used against the demonstrators.

I haven’t heard one word about all this on the morning radio talk shows.

UPDATE:  Reuters now says that Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami were all attacked when they joined the demonstrations, and were forced to leave.  Reuters is not very reliable IMO.  Haven’t seen anything about Rafsanjani.

Obviously there are lots of arrests and physical clashes.  And it’s impossible to get an accurate picture from the available fragments.  We’ll have better info in a few hours.

UPDATE:  Hah!  The “Green Wave TV Channel” is on the air.  Lots of videos.  No, I don’t know if they are really from today.  Probably most of them are.

UPDATE:  8:39 Washington time.  Tear gas around the University.  And just read a tweet in French saying there are 2-3 million demonstrators.

The regime supporters yell “Death to israel!” and the Greens chant back “Death to Russia!”

UPDATE:  Le Monde, L’Ezpress and France 2 are announcing “millions” of demonstrators, says a tweet.  Maybe Sazegara was right, he predicted 3 million in Tehran.

08:55 AM:  a tweet:  IRNA: Mohsen Ezjei is quoted saying that “the enemies of the system is threatening to overthrow it”

I’m gonna take Thurber the Airedale for a walk.

09:21 Tweet:  Anouncer said Karroubi himself said “Death to dictator” through bull horn

If you want to follow the Tweets, go here

Mousavi in the streets.

Khaled Mashaal [Hamas leader] and Ramzan [leader of Islamic Jihad of Palestine] are also in Tehran to attend the Friday prayer led by Ahmadinezhad. They are hearing anti-Palestinian chants.

09:35  From IRanian friends:

At this very moment the police is acting on and near Revolution Square. From all corners demonstrators are trying to move toward Ahmadinezhad and his Palestinian friends at the Tehran University.

Here a few videos:

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Countdown to Friday

September 15th, 2009 - 9:35 pm

The showdown set for Friday is becoming increasingly dramatic.  While the regime has still not moved against the actual opposition leaders, they are rounding up close associates and relatives, apparently hoping this will silence Mousavi and Karroubi, and they are threatening Rafsanjani to keep him ambiguously in line.  Thus, they have arrested three grandchildren of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, who called upon all clerics to come out and fight the regime (more below), along with the brother of Mrs. Mousavi, and relatives of leading clerics in Qom.  The New York Times reports on this today:

This tactic will not work against Mousavi and Karroubi, who are firmly convinced that they are in the right (they are both deeply religious) and that their cause will win, even if they are killed in the process.  And they seem prepared for this (remember that Karroubi provoked the security thugs who came to his office a few days ago: “Why don’t you arrest me now, it would be an honor”).

Indeed, just yesterday Karroubi had a meeting with Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, who attempted to convince him to be ‘reasonable,’ promising gradual reforms, etc.  Karroubi came out and issued an open letter, detailing the evidence of rape and torture in the prisons that he had presented to government investigators.

I don’t think anyone outside a very restricted circle in Iran imagined that Karroubi was capable of the courage he has shown in the past three months.  But there you have it;  he’s been heroic.

Meanwhile, Khamenei and the regime have been severely criticized by two leading Islamic figures, Abdolkarim Soroush (who has been teaching at Georgetown University and will be at Princeton this academic year) and Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, a longtime critic of Khamenei’s (Montazeri lost out to Khamenei as successor to Khomeini as Supreme Leader, but notwithstanding his motive for revenge, Montazeri is widely respected both in Iran and throughout the Shi’ite world).  The language is particularly harsh.

Soroush (in an open letter to Khamenei):

The fading fear of the people and the vanishing legitimacy of the concept of Supreme Leadership are the greatest achievements of the revolt of honor over plunder. The slumbering lion of courage and resistance has been awakened. Neither usurpation by the military, nor rape committed by the corrupt; neither dust thrown in the eyes of humanity, nor hot air to puff up the [regime's] ragged clothes; neither dependence on animal savagery, nor attacks on human sciences [Soroush is referring to a recent speech by Khamenei in which the Supreme Leader voiced concern about human sciences taught in Iranian universities because they instil secularism.]; neither the flattery of flatterers in your pay, nor the poetry of poem-selling fools; none of these will bend the back of the resistance…

We are of a fortunate generation. We shall celebrate the disappearance of religious despotism. A moral society and a government beyond religion are the beacons of our Green nation.

We shall cherish and esteem freedom, that same freedom which you did not value and unto which you heaped injustices. You were sold fascism and told that freedom is whimsical and permissive….If you had allowed the press to be free, it would have divulged corruption and the corrupt would not have dared engage in their misdeeds. If you had allowed people to criticize you, you would not have fallen into the abyss of dictatorship and the corruption of power. The people’s true words would have dispelled your daze of ignorance. They are the schools of the nation, not “enemy bases”. And what would have been so terrifying if the doors of those schools had been kept open and you had been able to learn there?

We will cherish religion, that same religion that you made a tool of your power and in whose name you gave lessons in slavery and melancholy. You did not understand that joy and freedom walk alongside true faith….and that religious power corrupts both religion and power. Governing a joyous, free, informed, and nimble people is an achievement, not lording over a bound and dejected nation.”

And Montazeri, in a letter to the Shi’ite clerics (this from a summary by his people):

Montazeri appealed to the clerics, warning them that they bore a heavy responsibility as jurisprudents (maraje’). This, he said, was because…they were responsible for defending the religion and for purging it of the deeds that this regime has been perpetrating in the name of the religion – deeds that are diametrically opposed to shari’a and to the goals of the Islamic Revolution.

Referring to the events of recent months following the presidential election, which he said included murder, oppression, and various human rights violations in the name of the religion and with the support of part of the regime’s religious establishment, Montazeri called on the clerics to declare out loud that they oppose the regime.

Montazeri pointed specifically to the regime’s pressure on former presidential candidates Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, whom he called men of honor, and again appealed to the clerics, saying that it is their role and their traditional and historic responsibility to act in light of the deeds of the regime, which are counter to Islam.

He concluded by saying that the Iranian people is asking why the clerics are not coming out against the oppression and the injustice. He reiterated his call to the clerics to use their power, their ability, and their influence against the regime – because, he said, they know all too well that the regime requires their legitimization. The regime, Montazeri told the clerics, is exploiting you, and your silence makes you its collaborators.

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Showdown at the Tehran Corral

September 12th, 2009 - 2:53 pm


On Saturday, as reported on  Mousavi’s Facebook page,   “A new era of censorship has started following the statement by National Security Council (headed by Ahmadinejad) which banned all the domestic press from reflecting any news regarding Mousavi, Karoubi or the disputed presidential election! This has been confirmed by three reformist newspapers.”

In good Soviet fashion, Mousavi and Karroubi have been declared “non-persons.”  And the “elections,” which really were non-elections all along, have been put on the Iranian Index.  Within minutes, millions of bloggers, tweeters and facebookers had the news, and were accordingly talking about Mousavi, Karroubi and the elections.

This is the latest move by a regime that fears time is working against it, and, at least for the moment, the big showdown is now scheduled for next Friday, “Quds (Jerusalem) Day,” on which a monster demonstration has been called by the followers of the two non-persons to protest you-know-what.

Friday is always an important day for public political rhetoric, and yesterday Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei gave a very tough sermon at Friday Prayers in Tehran.  It was the mirror image of Mousavi’s warning of increased violence on the part of the regime.  Khamenei warned that the only legitimate topic for demonstrations on that date will be Palestine.  So if anybody shows signs of caring about Iran, the regime thugs will crack down on them.

Last night the chants from the rooftops of Tehran were louder than ever.  And so the regime has decided to go all-out to assert its power.  They have already arrested some of the top aides to Mousavi and Karroubi, and several leading bloggers sympathetic to the opposition.  A story during the week quoted Rafsanjani as saying that an arrest order for Karroubi–who has been vigorously demanding full disclosure of the horrendous treatment of demonstrators in the regime’s prisons–has already been issued and can be carried out any time.  However, most good analysts do not believe that the regime would arrest the dissident leaders until Ahmadinezhad has made his annual pilgrimage to the United Nations, early next week.  Most likely, the showdown will take place on Quds Day, next Friday.

That said, the Iranian universe is in great turmoil, and as Yoda used to say, there are great perturbations in the Force.  Most anything can happen.

The week is full of potentially major events.  Supreme Leader Khamenei’s birthday is this week, and he has long said that he would like to have one or two atomic bombs as his present.  Some are saying that the present is on schedule, but such stories have been told for more than two years.

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Iran’s Animal Farm

September 10th, 2009 - 9:00 pm

This is from Tehran Bureau blog.  Needs no comment, except “bravo.”

Animal Farm meets 1984

By HANA H. in Tehran | 10 Sept 2009

[TEHRAN BUREAU] Comment Iranian politics is an unpredictable madhouse made up of all the crazies, majorly deluded and mentally deranged thrown in with a few sane and semi-rational beings.

It is a terrain where short-term memory loss is a common characteristic and some people are more equal and others are definitely above the law.

Iran is a place where rumors circulating about mystery men are not just idle talk and almost always they turn out to be the puppeteers pulling the strings and running the show.

Disputes are settled in a tribal manner and one lucky bastard becomes an icon simply by being at the right place at the right time and for claiming one color as his own.

Iran is a country that was formerly an Islamic Republic, a theocracy; now it’s a big blank that fits no description.

With every news story that breaks, more and more people look at one another in amazement. One question showing in their eyes that many do not bring to their lips: ‘Is this still an Islamic country?’

While rape and sodomy are punishable under Sharia law — and Iran, no doubt, is a 100 percent heterosexual state — boys, girls and even middle-aged men have been violated in prison.

It now appears that homosexuals rising from within the ranks of the very ‘straight’ establishment have been deployed to numerous detention centers across the country so that no Iranian taken there will be deprived of their special treatment.

Non-Muslims are forbidden from entering sacred Shia shrines, but today one man treats one such shrine as a museum, taking a non-Muslim, one who is considered particularly corrupt by Islamic standards no less, into the highly revered place of pilgrimage. Oddly enough, there is no reaction from the Seminary or the usually vocal Sources, who not long ago saw it as their duty to issue statement after statement to shout their juristical doubts about the wrong-headedness of including women in the cabinet.

Questioning the Shia popes is against Islam and the inhabitants of the Islamic Republic are taught to blindly follow these guardians of religion. The Sources are the go-to guys who can tell them how to properly perform important feats from relieving oneself to semi-important tasks such as ‘Islamically’ drawing in the last breath. Today the popes, cardinals and even the fathers are being labeled as ‘unhinged’ or thrown behind bars.

The Sources, who once oversaw the actions of the nation and claimed to be making sure that Iranians were promptly dispatched to heaven for following them in utmost piety, are now openly mocked for showing support for the people.

The founding fathers of the revolution and the martyrs of the Iraq-Iran war were once regarded as sacred men with divine powers, whose families were treated like untouchable royalty. Today, they are accused of being counter-revolutionaries, are assaulted and insulted and locked up.

Creating an enemy, a Mr. Jones, is vital for the survival of dictatorships, as it gives the masses an object of hate to blame for all shortcomings and prevents them from noticing how they are being manipulated by their rulers.

The ‘Mr. Jones’ of Iranian society, once the West, is no longer an external threat. Every last Khomeini apostle is now an enemy of the person of Big Brother himself and must be hunted down by thought police and put on trial for every committed and non-committed thought-crime.

In the battle of the pigs, the hypocritical swine will continue to eat away at each other until the last Snowball has been chased from the farm.

After all, in Iran ‘War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength, and … is President’.

The End of the World

September 9th, 2009 - 7:21 pm

There is a mounting body of evidence of a global alliance directed against the United States, running from Moscow to Tehran, Damascus and Caracas.  United by hatred of America, funded by oil and narcotics revenues (including our own), and unanimous in their contempt for free societies, the leaders of Russia, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Bolivia publicly declare their intentions and demonstrate their resolve.  Manhattan District Attorney, the legendary Robert Morgenthau, recently spoke of the Iranian-Venezuelan collaboration in very stark terms: “ [Iranian President Mahmoud]Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez have created a cozy financial, political and military partnership rooted in a shared anti-American animus.”

We know some of the consequences already.  Secretive flights from Tehran to Damascus and thence to Caracas arrive at a special area in the central airport, where men disembark, are not checked by immigration authorities, and are given Venezuelan passports.  Containers are unloaded and do not pass through customs.  Similar secrecy attends the return flights.  Neighboring countries believe that many of the men are officials of Hezbollah, who then fan out across the region (and perhaps across our southern border) to recruit foot soldiers for their expanding terror bases, and we know, thanks to a paramilitary operation by the Colombians at the beginning of the summer, that Chavez’ regime provided Swedish anti-tank missiles to the Colombian terrorist group FARC.  We also know, thanks to years of hard work by the DEA and South American partners, that Venezuela is a major transshipment port for cocaine and other narcotics.  The drugs are sent to Africa, and then to Europe, and finally into the United States.

There hasn’t been anything quite like this since the early days of the Second World War, when Argentina’s anti-democratic leaders, in league with like-minded tyrants in other South American countries, forged a secret alliance with Nazi Germany.  As today, there were plans for military cooperation to aid anti-American groups all over the continent, with the ultimate aim of establishing control over South America.  Both the United States and Great Britain had to devote considerable resources to thwart this scheme.

Today’s evil alliance is broader still, and you can see it easily.  Chavez was just in Iran, where he announced that Venezuela would provide Iran with gasoline (and it’s a safe bet that other deals and promises were made).  From Tehran and Mashad he went on to Moscow.  When he gets back to his own continent, he will no doubt talk with his comrades to explain their next steps.  As Morgenthau tells us, they are intent on enabling Iran to launder money, which in turn is closely connected with weapons purchases, drug smuggling, and terrorist finances.

You can see the machinations in several intriguing stories that have appeared in the past few days, all having to do with Russia and Iran.

UPI from Moscow:

Russia has begun deliveries of Pantsir S1 air-defense missiles to Syria, some of which are expected to be passed on to Iran, Syria’s strategic ally that has largely bankrolled the deal, according to the Interfax-AVN military news agency.

Interfax quoted Yuriy Savenkov, deputy director general of the Instrument Design Bureau, or KBP, as saying that deliveries started several weeks ago. KBP produces the Pantsir and other high-precision weapons.

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The Full “Corner” Post

September 7th, 2009 - 2:01 pm

Somehow NRO is having some trouble posting my full reply to my friend Andy McCarthy.  I’m sure it will be fixed soon, but in the meantime, here it is:

Nothing is better than getting honest criticism from a serious person.  It’s almost impossible to find it nowadays, and I’m very grateful to Brother Andy for his kind words and trenchant comments.  Ditto to Mark.  How did these lawyers learn to write so well?  I thought they beat that out of you in Law School…

Bush Doctrine:  As I remember it, we declared war on terrorist groups and on the countries that supported them.  Indeed, we would not distinguish between the ones and the others.  There was no democracy component. It was war;  we had been attacked and we were now responding.

We blasted Afghanistan because al Qaeda was there, and the Afghans wouldn’t turn them over to us despite the two ultimata.

I was a big supporter of the Bush Doctrine.  I still am.  But I disagreed with the methods and the “sequence.”  I thought that if we were going to go after state sponsors, the number one sponsor was (and is) Iran.  Moreover, I didn’t (and don’t) think we had to bomb or invade Iran in order to remove the regime that sponsored the terrorists.  I thought we could do something similar to what we did to the Soviet Union:  support the dissidents with broadcasting, communications technology, public demands, funds for strikers, and so forth.

You don’t think this is likely to succeed, and you are certainly in good company.  But the Iranian people have repeatedly and at great cost to their wellbeing and even their lives showed their hatred for this regime.  Strikes are ongoing, demonstrations take place daily, and after what we have seen there since June 12th, it seems to me that the country fulfills all the conditions of a revolutionary situation. By the way, I do not believe that a free Iraq is the mullahs’ worst dream.  I hope I said that the mullahs feared the effect of a free Iraq, as of a free Afghanistan.  I think that’s true;  revolutions spread, even in the tyrannical Middle East, and the Iranian leaders live in great fear.  They’re right to be afraid, especially of American support for the overwhelming majority of the Iranian people.  Like most people who have looked at this, you don’t think it’s likely.  But then, hardly anyone thought the current uprising was likely (I did, as you know).

But then, most people did not think we had a chance of provoking the collapse of the Soviet Empire.  And as for forces to repress potential dissident uprisings, I don’t think the KGB was inferior to the Revolutionary Guards.

I almost always thought that the Iranian revolution would need outside support, and urged us to provide it.  I am not of the Wehner/Will school that foresaw a rippling wave of democracy sweeping across the region.  Rather, I thought  that we had a chance of overthrowing many of the terror-supporting tyrants by political means rather than by invasion.  I believe, furthermore, that if the Iranian regime comes down, it will have a huge effect on the terrorist organizations all over the world.  I think that a free Iran would be pro-Western, would terminate support of the terrorists (Sunni and Shi’ite alike, as well as the secular terror groups), and would be interested in living in peace with its neighbors.

Where is Islam in all this?  To take your colorful example, Ayatollah Sistani has expressed many noxious thoughts.  But then, he’s of a tradition that suggests that men with turbans shold be in the mosques, not in the chanceries.  The Islamists that you and I dread and wish to defeat have a different view of things;  they want men with turbans in control of everything.  They want some sort of Caliphate, a true nightmare.  It is noteworthy that Sistani recently sent a secret message to Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei, condemning the violent repression the regime has directed against the Iranian people. He’s a fundamentalist, as you rightly say, but he’s not a jihadi.

That 31-year old Iraqi whose claim that his people don’t believe in liberalism or secularism seems conjured out of a hat, frankly.  I thought most people agreed that the last Iraqi elections showed the growth of less sectarian parties.  As for Iran, that’s a country with a tradition of secular self-government, where the Islamists are now so deeply scorned that I cannot imagine a man with a turban being freely elected to anything.  Unlike Iraq, where democracy must be learned, the Iranians know all about it.  Indeed, if you read the statements of the many dissident ayatollahs these days, you can see that they believe that Islam has been discredited by the regime.  You can hardly miss this:  every night millions of Iranians take to the rooftops and chant “Allahu Akbar,” Allah is great.  They shout this, not to praise the theocratic regime, but to mock it.  For those words are immediately followed by “Death to the Dictator!” who, famously, rules in the name of Allah.

So yes, “freedom” has different meanings from region to region and from tradition to tradition, but in the case of Iran (and, I think, for most Iraqis) it is understood much as we do.

In case there is any confusion about my antipathy to radical Islam, like you I was outraged at the inclusion of Shariah in the Iraqi Constituion, as I had been similarly horrified when Afghanistan was declared an Islamic Republic.  But I do not believe that Muslims are doomed to follow a set of unchangeable and unacceptable convictions and orders to slaughter or enslave all the infidels.

I know this is too long, forgive me.  But two more points:  first, the notion that Iraq is simply an Iranian colony.  That’s a real stretch.  Most Iraqis dislike their Iranian neighbors.  But they have to pay attention to the facts on the ground.  We are leaving, and, at least for today and tomorrow, the Iranians are staying.  As I have said for years, you cannot possibly have decent security in Iraq so long as the mullahs reign in Tehran, because Iraqi leaders know that the Iranians can kill them.  Maliki know this better than most;  he was once a member of an Iranian terrorist proxy.  He’s seen it first hand, and perhaps he’s even done it with his own hands.  So the Iraqis have to take out insurance, and at least pretend to bend to Iran’s will.  This is hardly a matter of Islamic brotherhood.  Oy.

If you want to give Muslims a chance, the key is to defeat the radical Islamists.  Our defeat of al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army in Iraq was a very important event;  people all over the region understood that Iran had been kicked between the legs.  But if we now walk away, and pretend that our problems with Iran are just a misunderstanding, the jihadis will return.  Indeed they are returning right now, precisely as I expected.

We can’t win this thing unless we defeat the Islamist regime in Tehran.

Final note:  Afghanistan. If we retreat from Afghanistan, it will be the greatest boon to jihadi recruiters since the destruction of the Twin Towers.  They will then prepare the next assault on us, and eventually kill more of us, here and elsewhere.  So leaving is self-defeating.  I have little hope of a flourishing Afghan democracy in my lifetime.  A family member who has spent time there suggests that if all goes well, it might join the Third World.  At the moment it’s more biblical.  But few Afghans will freely throw in with the Taliban if we show, as we did for a while in Iraq, that we cannot be defeated and we are not going to leave.

Women in Colors

September 6th, 2009 - 6:51 pm

I got an email from a friend in Poland, commenting on the enormous change in style following the fall of communism.  Everyone was in black and gray in the bad old days, but that went out with the Soviet Empire, and people started to wear colorful clothes.

It was the same in Spain.  Under Franco, the women were all in black and gray, but within a couple of months they were in red, yellow and orange.  Wonderful!

It’s not just the Muslims who dread free women.  Dictators always do, regardless of the official ideology.  This discussion always gets distorted by those who think that women should be “free” to wear anything they wish, thereby missing the point that the misogynists are the ones calling for burkas etc.   But the apologists for the Islamists find positive things to say about the women who cover themselves up.  I remember a leading American female journalist, at the time of the 1979 Revolution, saying that she felt sexier in a chador than in a miniskirt.  Believe me, she wasn’t.  And those anti-female dress codes are not canonical, by the way.  It’s not the Koran that says women have to cover themselves, it’s imams and mullahs and sheikhs, giving their own interpretations.

All of which is a long introduction to the revolutionary nature of Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard.  She’s religious and wears a head covering, but during the campaign she said that, while she thought women should cover their heads, if any women chose not to, that was fine with her.

That sort of freedom strikes at the dark misogynistic heart of the Islamic Republic, as women in colors threaten dictators everywhere.

And the failure to defend Iranian women is a very black spot on the honor of our three female secretaries of state, and of the so-called feminists, who for the most part have thrown in with the misogynists.  Why?  Because defending women’s freedom would have been “good for Bush,” and now would be “bad for Obama,” who famously swore to throw his support to school girls who wanted to wear a hijab to class.

UPDATE:  There’s a very brave female journalist in Sudan who was arrested for wearing pants (Freud would have fun with this one, eh?), and refuses to (even) pay a fine.  Al-AP is so excited they even screwed up the headline, which itself is worth some free association (they confused “flogging” with “fogging,” and I hope they are careful about the pronunciation).

And with regard to Nazi Germany, remember that the Fuhrer was quite insistent that women know their place:  Kirche, Kuchen, Kinder…”church, kitchen and children.”

UPDATE II:  Thanks to Prayer, News & Action for linking.  There are other interesting links about “Women in Gray” etc.