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Monthly Archives: October 2009

Khamenei Comes Out (or does he?)

October 17th, 2009 - 11:38 am

The Iranian regime is trying very hard to deny the many stories about the condition of Supreme Leader Khamenei.  The FARS news agency is pretty much typical:

Iran’s diplomatic sources strongly reacted to rumors spread by the western media outlets over the past few days regarding the health condition of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, describing such reports as slander.

The baseless report released by an American journalist alleging that Ayatollah Khamenei is in a coma is a “bold lie” and is part of the West’s plan to confuse the Iranian public in order to endanger the country’s internal stability, diplomatic sources said.

Apparently they felt that a bit more evidence was required, and so Fars and the ISNA Agency produced photographs purporting to show Khamenei and Ahmadinejad meeting the President of Senegal.  Except that they seem photoshopped, since the President of Senegal has changed his clothes between the two photos, while the supreme leader and the president are in virtually the same position–Khamenei’s left hand is slightly lower on the arm rest in the Fars picture, I think–and haven’t changed their clothes at all.

Have a look:

Here he's in his native garb

Here he's in his native garb

And here he is in a suit and tie

And here he is in a suit and tie

As a friend of mine suggested, a bit caustically, perhaps there’s a new Madame Tussaud wax museum in Tehran.

It’s not hard to demonstrate that Khamenei is in good health, but despite all the bombast, the regime has failed to do that.  He didn’t appear at Friday prayers, which certainly would have proved their claim.

I’m standing by my story.  These “diplomatic sources” and “photos” seem to me to provide added confirmation.

One final point:  I was not the first to report that Khamenei was in a coma.  According to the valuable Enduring America blog, that blue ribbon should be given to the left-wing Iranian site, Peiknet.  (Maybe this will provoke second thoughts among those who have been describing the story as a foreign “neocon” plot).   The first story on Enduring America carries the two pictures of Khamenei, Ahmadinejad and the Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, and finds that the picture of Wade in a suit was taken from a meeting three years ago.  And he wonders whether the one of Wade in a robe is really from today.

No doubt some bloggers who are more expert than I on analyzing images will have a look and tell me what they think.  I find the pictures so similar–except for Wade’s clothes–that they strongly suggest that “today’s” pic has been manufactured.

UPDATE:  In the story announcing President Wade’s trip on Press TV, we are told that he flew into Tehran this morning, and was scheduled to meet with his counterpart, President Ahmadinejad.  Nothing about Khamenei.  He was scheduled to fly to Paris this evening.

UPDATE II:  Sunday morning 18th Oct.  I think my suspicions about photoshopped pics were wrong.  The pictures are old file photos.  So my conclusions are:

–There was no meeting Saturday involving Khamenei and Wade.  The Senegalese met Ahmadinejad, as per the publicly announced schedule, and then went on to Paris;

–The failure of the Iranian news agencies to coordinate the photos was the result of the regime’s feeling that it was urgent to “prove” that Khamenei is in good health.  So the various agencies rushed to produce that “proof,” and instead only managed to increase suspicion;

I stand by my story that Khamenei was in a coma.  I believe he was moved (Saturday) from the special clinic where he had been treated, to his palace in Tehran.  And I also believe that on Saturday Rafsanjani twice tried to visit, and was twice sent away, the second time by Khamenei’s son.  More soon, in a separate post.

The Blog That Shut the Bazaar in Tehran

October 15th, 2009 - 3:29 pm

My last blog seems to have attracted an incredible amount of attention, and, as often happens, I have been given more credit than is absolutely necessary.  I printed an email from an Iranian I consider a very good source, to the effect that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had been taken to the hospital, and was in a coma.  I pointed out that it was easy to be wrong on such stories, and that in fact I had wrongly believed that Khamenei had died a couple of years ago.  But I thought the source was good and I passed on his/her information.

A day later, I added an update about a bulletin issued by the opposition movement, The Green Path of Hope, which said that there were many rumors in the Tehran Bazaar saying that Khamenei had died, that the Bazaaris were planning to shut down the next day, and that there was an unusual atmosphere in the streets of Tehran.

By now, you can read all over the net that I was the source of the rumors about the death of the supreme leader, and it follows that I effectively shut down the Tehran Bazaar! That explains the headline at the top.  Frankly, I don’t think my blog is all that powerful.

In fact, I have never claimed to know anything about Khamenei’s death, and I still don’t know anything.  I hope to know something in the next few days, and you will probably know it when I do;  one way or another the facts have to come out, if only to calm the agitated spirits all over Iran.  People are apparently very nervous.  Not only was the Bazaar closed, but there seems to be a run on staples, as people stock up against the possibility of unsettled times.

I would have expected someone at a high level of the regime to say something, but so far as I know, only the Iranian Embassy in Armenia has spoken up, calling the reports (including mine) nonsense.  This produced an overstated headline from Fox News:  “Iran Blasts Back at Rumors of Supreme Leader’s Death, News Site Reports.”  The story isn’t nearly so dramatic.

The other “official” reaction came from an interesting source:  the web site Tabnak, which is close to Mohsen Reza’i, the former commander of the Revolutionary Guards and a failed candidate in the June presidential elections.  Tabnak predictably debunked my claim that Khamenei was in a coma, but then surprisingly translated the entire blog into Farsi.  So I asked some Iranian friends:  if they thought it was nonsense, why translate it all and put it up there?

Their answer was interesting.  They thought that the people at Tabnak believed I had it right, and they put it up in order to say “hey look at this!  The Americans know our most secret secrets.”  In any event, today they took down the translation, leaving only the insults.  And, I’m told (as you know I don’t read Farsi),  they took the extraordinary step of removing the translation from the blog archives.

Was it too “hot”?  I don’t know.  Maybe some day I’ll find out.

Khamenei Said to be in Coma

October 13th, 2009 - 6:55 am

This story has been floating around the net for the past day or so, but this report comes from a person who is in a position to know such things.  As I know very well (having been gulled into wrongly announcing Khamenei’s death a while back), it is easy to be misled, and Khamenei has had previous medical emergencies in the past, and recovered, but the source is excellent. Nonetheless, it’s always smart to apply the Reagan Caution:  Trust, but verify.  I’m doing my best.

Here is what he/she says:

Yesterday afternoon at 2.15PM local time, Khamenei collapsed and
was taken to his special clinic. Nobody – except his son and the
doctors – has since been allowed to get near him.
His official, but secret, status is: “in the hands of the gods”.

Reportedly this collapse is natural. Many would like him to move to his
afterlife but reportedly the collapse was not ‘externally induced’
[no poisioning]. The few insiders who know about the collapse see
this development “as a gift from the gods”.

His condition had already seriously deteriorated over the last
months, aggravated by his nervous condition due to [1] his
inability to solve the problems created by his manipulation of the
election results and the refusal of [a large part of] the
population to accept this, plus [2] his loss of religious authority
by means of the repeated condemnations of events by senior clerics

Reportedly the principal aims of Khamenei of the last couple of
weeks, if not months, were to ensure [1] a positive reputation as
his legacy and [2] the physical survival of his family members and
their wealth, reportedly now largely in Syria and in Turkey (remember the truck convoy of $8.5 billion in cash and gold that was seized by the Turks?).

Outlook is uncertain but speculation is – considering that he is in
coma since more than 24 hours – that he may not come out of his coma and/or that he may die very soon.

If he dies it is expected that immediately a bloody clash will
develop between the powers behind Rafsanjani, who will immediately
claim temporary religious authority and overall control, and the
powers behind Achmadinejad who will scramble in order to regain
control and ensure their survival.

UPDATE (Wednesday Oct 14th):  According to a bulletin from the Greens (Moussavi/Karroubi et al), there are widespread rumors in the Tehran Bazaar that Khamenei has died.  The Greens say they cannot confirm it, but that there is an “abnormal atmosphere” in the streets, which almost certainly means there are more security people than usual.

The bazaar will apparently be closed tomorrow, and perhaps Friday as well, pending developments.

Accomplices to Evil

October 12th, 2009 - 2:43 pm

Here’s yet another powerful video from Iran, this time from the Baha’i, who have long been singled out for special persecution.  There are lots and lots of these videos, as there are lots and lots of innocents being hung, shot, tortured and stoned to death by the butchers who rule that unhappy country.

Every time I watch one of these, I am reminded again of Martin Luther King Jr.’s great line, that when it is all over, we will remember the silence of our friends more than the actions of our enemies.  And so I marvel at the leaders of the West, who with rare exceptions remain silent, and who have become accomplices to evil.

Which is why I wrote Accomplice to Evil, now in the bookstores that will admit to having it…

Laurent Murawiec died a couple of days ago, and his funeral was held this morning in the same cemetery in the Maryland countryside outside Washington where my parents’ bodies are buried.  A surprisingly large turnout, I thought–Laurent was not a ‘famous’ person by Washington standards–and a very nice rabbi.  His brothers flew in from Paris.  His parents, however, were not up to the trip.

Laurent was one of the bravest and most brilliant intellectuals of his generation.  I have no doubt that his work will be studied for a very long time, and in a just world he would have been honored and acclaimed by all those who care about the advance of understanding.  His slim volume, The Mind of Jihad, is hands down the best book on the subject, and his book on Saudi Arabia, Princes of Darkness;  the Saudi Assault on the West, produced an international reaction so intense that it at once made him a controversial figure and a target of the powerful Saudi lobby, as well as a valued expert among the best strategic thinkers in America and Europe.

Today’s eulogies stressed Laurent’s inquisitiveness, his vast knowledge, his independence of spirit, and the elegance of his work.  All true.  But I think they missed the most important thing about him, which is also the thing most pundits miss about great minds:  the playfulness of his mind.  Laurent loved puns, adored jokes, and delighted in juggling apparently contradictory themes and ideas in order to rearrange them into a new, coherent understanding of our world.  In his last weeks, although he suffered a lot from a terrible combination of infections and cancer, he never stopped laughing.  Just as his playfulness and wit got him to a level of understanding far beyond anything most of his contemporaries achieved, it also enabled him to fight against his doom with a vigor that confirmed his creativity.

Laurent’s combination of courage, wit and creativity reminds me of another friend, our neighbor up the street Charles Krauthammer.  I am given to understand that Charles endures considerable pain, and yet his cheerfulness brightens our neighborhood.  Like Laurent, Charles loves humor and adores playing;  he’s a talented chess player.  All of which confirms my belief that original thinkers are playful.

Which is not to say that all great game players are original thinkers.  I spend a good deal of time playing competitive bridge, and it’s very hard to find a bridge champion who also excels at some other enterprise.  There are exceptions, but they are very rare indeed–such as Pierre Chemla, a great French classicist who won several international championships at the bridge table.  And there are some celebrated businessmen who have done very well, too.  But almost all the great bridge champions were just bridge players, as almost all the great chess masters were just chess players.

But I insist that most of the great thinkers were, and are, playful.  And Laurent Murawiec was one of the most playful of them all.

Which is why his passing is a double loss.  We are deprived of both his genius and his sparkling, playful humor.

The Copenhagen Fiasco: The View from Beyond

October 3rd, 2009 - 3:26 pm

The failure to win the Olympic Games is the result of a  combination of sex, lies,  and an intelligence failure.  So I oiled up the ouija board and, after three failed efforts, contacted my old friend, the late James Jesus Angleton, the legendary former chief of CIA counterintelligence.  I mean, who better to analyze the fascinating events leading to the Copenhagen fiasco?

JJA: Sorry, I was sleeping.  Didn’t hear your earlier calls.

ML: It’s hard for me to figure out what time it is where you are…

JJA: Hard for me, too, frankly.  How do you measure the passage of time in eternity?  We don’t have very organized schedules.

ML: Either do I.

JJA: Hah!  But that’s different.  You’ll see.  So what’s up?

ML: The big news around here is that “Chicago” was dissed by the International Olympic Committee in Copenhagen.  Most people assumed that President Obama wouldn’t have gone there unless he believed we were going to win .  Then, after Chicago was thrown out in the first round, a lot of people started to say that he knew it was going to be tough, and only went because he thought his personal charm would turn it around.

JJA: Before the results were in, it sure sounded as if the folks in the White House thought it was in the bag for Chicago, didn’t it?

ML: It did, but then they might have been trying to put the best face on a tough situation.

JJA: To be sure, to be sure.  However, if you were a counterintelligence person you’d look at it differently.

ML: No doubt I would.  But then, I’d look at the handsome guy in the mirror differently, too.

JJA: Very droll.  But let’s look at how these bids are won, shall we?  There’s a very big committee, more than a hundred strong, and a smaller executive committee.  These are the players, they make the decisions.  They’re like a government or a big corporation, let’s say.  If you want such an organization to award you a contract, how do you go about it?

ML: I lobby.

JJA: Yes, you lobby.  And you corrupt, too.  You do favors, you promise even more favors if you win, and in short you do the same things that an intelligence service’s case officer does when he recruits agents.  This process is well known in Chicago.

ML: No kidding!

JJA: I don’t kid.  This is serious stuff.  So let’s assume that, one way or another, the Chicago committee (call it CC for short) was on good terms with many of the decision-makers on the IOC.

ML: No doubt.

JJA: OK.  I can easily imagine one of these gentlemen (there are very few women on the IOC) telling one of the CC people, “we need to sweeten the pot, if you’ll put up another bit of money, it’ll be in the bag.”  And I can imagine the CC sweetening the pot, and the gentleman in question assuring them it was now in the bag.

ML: And on that basis, the president would fly to Copenhagen to get the credit.

JJA: Even as any of us would.  Except someone who knew enough to understand the temptations to which the IOC guys were being subjected.

ML: Such as?

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I suppose it’s a tribute to the president’s tenacity, or perhaps his inability to think outside the box of conventional wisdom, but he seems to be totally unwilling to accept a Divine gift.

He’s facing some terrible foreign policy decisions, decisions he doesn’t want to make, and he’s right to want to avoid them, because whichever way he tilts, it’s going to be bad for him.  Take Afghanistan.  McChrystal and Petreus have told him that if he doesn’t go all in, to the tune of forty thousand or so additional American fighters, he’s likely to see the war there go into the tank.  Those generals are outstanding leaders and analysts, and if they say that, it’s probably true.  On the other hand, President Obama is probably being told by his political brain trust that, if he antes up the forty thousand, there will be anger from his left (his solid base), while if he doesn’t provide the new troops, and bails out, there will be anger from mainstream Americans.

Remember your Patton:  “The American people hate a loser.”

So either way, the president is likely to alienate a considerable number of voters.  Which, needless to say, displeases him.

Take Iran.  The Islamic Republic is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism (or whatever I’m supposed to call it in Newspeak), is directly and indirectly killing Americans most every day in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is working on atomic bombs.  Most of the time, he seems to think that the first two are “management” issues;  it’s a variation of law enforcement.  But he’s made it clear for quite some time that he is determined to prevent Iran from building its own nukes.  He’s said it so many times that one has a tendency to forget the many rhetorical changes:

–On April 6th, “Now, Iran’s leaders must choose whether they will try to build a weapon or build a better future for their people.”

–On June 4th, in Cairo, “…It is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America’s interests. It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.”

–On July 7th, in Moscow, “We should be united in opposing…Iran’s efforts to acquire a nuclear weapon.”

–On September 23rd, to the United Nations General Assembly, “We must embrace a new era of engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and our work must begin now.”

–On September 25th, in Pittsburgh at the G20 meeting, “Iran must comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions and make clear it is willing to meet its responsibilities as a member of the community of nations. … [T]he Iranian government must now demonstrate through deeds its peaceful intentions or be held accountable to international standards and international law.”

–On October 1st, in his press conference, he used both of his basic themes, the “outstretched hand” and the “time is up”:  “we’re not interested in talking for the sake of talking. If Iran does not take steps in the near future to live up to its obligations, then the United States will not continue to negotiate indefinitely, and we are prepared to move towards increased pressure. If Iran takes concrete steps and lives up to its obligations, there is a path towards a better relationship with the United States, increased integration with the international community, and a better future for all Iranians.”

He had previously given Iran a late September deadline, then let it slide to October 1st, and it has now been extended to an October 18th “followup meeting.”

It’s pretty obvious that Iran has no intention of abandoning its nuclear program.  Just look at the headlines in the official press: “Iran will not give up its right under any circumstances,” and “Excellent negotiations today.”

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