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Monthly Archives: January 2010

Infernal Iran; The Death Spiral Accelerates

January 28th, 2010 - 9:29 pm

Let’s start with economics.  Here are three recent tweets:

  • Updates on Iran’s economic situation: The price of bread has increased six-fold since subsidies slashed;
  • Iran’s Energy Ministry: The price of electricity for households will soon be quadrupled;
  • Bank Melli & Mellat have told AN (Ahmadinejad) if they don’t receive funds within 4 days, they’ll be bankrupt.

And here are some data on Ahmadinejad’s accomplishments from a Farsi web site:

  • 47% under poverty line.
  • 75% of all projects started remain unfinished&halted.
  • Average inflation of 20%.
  • Budget submitted one month late.
  • Welfare under $20 aftr promising $70 during elections.
  • Gov employees raises granted days before the election are now deduced in installments on paychecks.
  • Failure to submit progress reports & answer to legal authorities for the past 4 years.
  • No inflation-adjusting raises of Gov employees salaries & benefits.

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that people are racing to the banks to get their rials and toumans out, and convert them to some harder currency.  But the banks won’t give them all their money;  withdrawals are limited to $15,000 per account, and there have been many angry scenes.  The people know that the rulers are shipping out their own wealth, and they hear terrible rumors about the impending failure of major banks.

A Tweet:  “Bank Melli security guard fires at people, injures old man”

This bespeaks a far broader malaise, a slow descent of the Iranian state into the inferno.  As Ahmad Alavi, a thoughtful economist, put it, the state now faces a crisis of legitimacy.  The people are acting on the basis of their experience, and, lacking reliable information and confidence, the only way they have to conserve their assets is to take it from the bank.

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The Pundits Join the Revolution

January 27th, 2010 - 6:25 pm

Not so long ago I was in the pundit’s equivalent of the psychiatric ward, as one of a tiny handful of people (generally considered deranged) claiming that the Iranian people hated the mullahcracy, were prepared to rise up against it, were totally worthy of American (indeed broad Western) support, and would win.

All of a sudden,  a good-sized gaggle of born-again democratic revolutionaries have entered the bandwagon.  In the last couple of weeks, Bob Kagan, Charles Krauthammer, Jim Glassman, Ray Takeyh and Richard Haass have jumped on board.  God willing, they will stay and attract others.  Welcome, comrades!

So this seems a good time to catch up on bandwagon etiquette.  First, explain what got you here;  that’s a great way to encourage reluctant “realists” to join our revolutionary ranks.  Kagan understands that, and tells us why he changed his mind.  After the June 12th election fraud and the huge crowds that filled the streets of every major city in Iran, he notes, only a blind man could fail to see what was going on:

A year ago…there was little sign the Iranian people would ever rise up and demand change, no matter what the United States and other democratic nations did to help them. If the prospects for a deal on Tehran’s nuclear program seemed remote, the prospects for regime change were even more remote. These probabilities have shifted since June 12.

If he had had more space, Bob would undoubtedly have added, by today it should be clear that the mass movement aimed at regime change in Iran is truly that, and extends throughout all levels of Iranian society, most paradoxically to the Shi’ite clerical leaders.  Poor Khamenei keeps saying that religious leaders should speak up, by which he means “defend me!”  But they won’t;  they want him gone, as most Iranians do.

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The Real State of the Union: Fear.

January 26th, 2010 - 8:18 pm

Yes, I’m starting with Massachusetts.  I’m entitled.  My mother, of blessed memory, was born and raised in Pittsfield, Mass, one of six remarkable sisters, the daughter of a kosher meat wholesaler.  I lived in Pittsfield for a few years, attended Redfield School, and I was there when Dewey lost to Truman, one of my earliest political memories. We also lived for a couple of years in Springfield, where my father, of blessed memory, ran Indian Motorcycle Company towards the end of its storied history.

The Ledeens were of course Dems, and later on, in New Jersey, became liberal Republicans of the Clifford Case variety, but in Massachusetts I only remember Dems. And so it was with considerable surprise that I found that Pittsfield had gone for Brown.  Indeed, 69% of Pittsfield voters chose him.

I don’t think a vote of such magnitude was based merely on anger, a word invariably trotted out to explain Democratic defeats (remember the “angry white man” a few years back?).  I do believe that passion played a big role, but a somewhat different one:  not anger, but fear.  They’re afraid of Obama.  Afraid of what he’s doing to them, and therefore prepared to change sides.

This fear is extremely broad-based.  It is not limited to social class nor to domestic or foreign policies.  Banks are not lending, companies are not hiring, because they are afraid of what Obama will do next.  Both are afraid of onerous taxes, including new health care burdens, and the banks fear new regulations and the consequences of the recently declared war on evil bankers by the president.  Seniors are afraid they will be deprived of medical treatment.  Juniors are afraid they are going to be forced to buy health insurance they don’t think they need.  Across the board, Americans are afraid they’re not going to find work, and won’t be able to afford a house.  And, as the Massachusetts vote showed, Americans are worried about threats from abroad, worried about Iran, afraid of terrorist attacks, and afraid the Obama Administration doesn’t take all this seriously enough.  As Scott Brown put it, most Americans think our tax dollars should go to fighting terrorists, not to pay lawyers to defend terrorists.

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Hezbollah Hacked In Iran

January 15th, 2010 - 3:43 pm

This too funny: go to www.hizbollah.ir and watch what happens, heh.  Don’t miss the internet address it takes you to.

The Farsi message at the top quotes the Koran:

“Those who rule over people either by justice or deceit. You should know that deceiving people is like sticking a saw in the a*se. There is no way 4ward and no way back”  (h/t anonymous iran)

In case it’s taken down, you get this:  “THE END IS FUCKING NEAR” on a bright green background.  Here’s another link:  http://www.facebook.com/notes/freedom-messenger-ghasedane-azadi/hezbolahs-web-site-in-iran-has-been-hacked-/253033364589 کون ، لا الطريق أمام وألا يبقى الطريق
ای کسانی که بر جماعتی بر حق یا تقلب حکومت می کنید، بدانید که فریب خلق خدا اره در کون کردن است، نه راه پیش باقی می گزارد و نه راه پس


ما بی شماریم

Early Tuesday morning — sometime between 7:30 and 8 o’clock — physics professor Massoud Ali-Mohammadi was killed in an explosion while in his automobile leaving for Tehran University.  The explosion came from a motorcycle rigged with explosives that had been parked in front of his house for three days.  It was detonated by remote control.

Despite a torrent of disinformation from the regime, Ali-Mohammadi was not involved in the secret nuclear weapons project, and — again contrary to the regime’s lies — he was certainly not a regime loyalist.  Indeed, he was among many university professors who supported Green leader Mir Hossein Mousavi during last spring’s heated electoral campaign (see the entry at 1259 GMT on Enduring America).  Why was he killed now?  Because he was planning to leave the country for Stockholm, where he’d been offered a one-year fellowship in his chosen specialty, particle physics.

So unless the killers were totally confused, this was not a blow at the regime by its enemies, whether domestic or foreign (as you can imagine, there were all sorts of wild accusations from official media, blaming the murder on America, Israel, the MEK, which plays the crocodile to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s Captain Hook and obscure “royalist” organizations abroad), but rather the opposite:  it was a vicious assault by the regime against one of its critics.

The use of the motorcycle is suggestive, for such devices were used by Iranian proxies in Iraq.  I am told that the assassination is the first such act on Iranian soil by the Revolutionary Guard’s “foreign legion;” highly trained killers from Lebanese Hezbollah.  Members of the legion had participated in street fighting in Tehran during recent demonstrations and were identified at the assassination site. Their bloody act Tuesday morning suggests that Khamenei has decided to go all out to crush his enemies.  If further confirmation is required, it has come from Khamenei’s personal spokesman and representative to the Guards, Ali Saeedi, who, we hear from Scott Lucas at Enduring America, has reportedly declared that the the deaths of 75,000 people will be worthwhile if the Islamic Republic is thereby preserved.

As if the carnage unleashed against the Iranian people were not bloody enough!  So we can expect to see further escalation in the near future.  The regime can be expected to use the disinformation about Ali-Mohammadi’s assassination to justify mayhem on a greater scale.

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Flying Barely

January 10th, 2010 - 7:30 pm

Half way across the Atlantic earlier today I looked up to see a naked man–a young white male–walking from economy towards first class.  Totally bare.  He was not chanting any threatening words in Arabic or any other language.  In fact he didn’t say anything.  He was not in a hurry, not streaking.  He was just walking at a normal pace, not looking left or right, not schmoozing up the attendants.  An afternoon stroll.

He didn’t look or behave like a terrorist and he was certainly not wearing an explosive belt.  As I said, he wasn’t wearing anything at all.  I briefly wondered if he was a next-generation suicide bomber with explosives shoved up an orifice, but by the time that thought matured–if he was going to blow himself up where had he hidden the detonator?–the whole thing was over.

At a certain point he was greeted by a couple of men I assume to have been air marshals, and his adventure was over.  His clothes were located and he dressed.  He had a University of Virginia sweat shirt  (What would Tom Jefferson have said?).  I didn’t see him again until we landed, when the police took him off.

It was all very quiet.  The crew and the marshals were totally professional.  I never heard anyone yell.  Probably he was either nuts or stoned.  Or both.

There’s got to be a lesson in there somewhere, maybe even two, and here they are:

ONE:  I, like most frequent flyers nowadays, am mentally ready to hurl myself at some guy with a weapon or who acts like a terrorist.  But I was totally paralyzed by the naked man.  It was like watching a silent movie that might turn out to be hard core porn.  But then again maybe it was a comedy.  You couldn’t tell, because the tempo was so relaxed.

So it seems to me that naked terrorists might be very dangerous.  I hope Homeland Security is working on this;

TWO:  If the airlines are going to permit passengers to take off their clothes and stroll down the aisles, they should limit it to good looking women.  They might even charge extra for those flights.

2B:  They make you turn off your telephone, so I didn’t get any pictures…

So we hear from Jay Solomon on the front page of today’s Wall Street Journal. Or at least from his headline.  Once you get into the text, it seems much less.  It seems that, after seven months of courageous demonstrations from millions of Iranians, at least some of our policy makers have realized that the tyrannical regime headed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad is widely hated and has lost legitimacy with its subjects.  That is all to the good, as is the new tone of statements from President Obama and others in clear support of the dissidents.

But there is as yet no sign of  “helping” the opposition.  Nor does Solomon provide any reason to think that any such policy is in the works.  The most that can be said, based on his report, is that we are considering a Hippocratic policy:  do them no harm.

As Solomon describes it:

Senior U.S. officials stressed in interviews this week that President Barack Obama isn’t moving toward seeking a regime change as its policy for Iran. Rather, these officials said, Washington remains committed to a dual-track approach of pursuing dialogue aimed at ending Iran’s nuclear program while applying increasing financial pressure if the talks fail.

To which one’s immediate question is:  haven’t the talks failed?  It’s been 31 years now.  And even Obama’s promise to “act” if, there were no breakthrough by New Year’s Day has been dropped.   So it’s business as usual.  Appeasement.

Both the Obama administration and the Iranian dissidents have been wary of any direct contacts, due to fears such meetings could provide ammunition for Tehran…

Nonsense!  The dissidents are not wary of “contacts.”  Rather they are discouraged and more than a bit peeved at the lack of any contacts from the Western world.  The so-called “fears such meetings could provide ammunition” to the regime is like the West’s refusal to save the European Jews during the Holocaust or help Soviet dissidents during the Cold War.  The Iranian dissidents are already being raped, tortured and executed en masse, and we are daily blamed for the very existence of the opposition movement.  This “excuse” is the classic language of appeasers.

Still, the White House’s re-evaluation of the Green Movement marks a significant evolution of Mr. Obama’s Iran policy since demonstrators began openly challenging President Ahmadinejad’s re-election in June, said diplomats and analysts.

At best, the re-evaluation demonstrates a grudging recognition that the Intelligence Community once again failed to understand events in Iran.  Obama’s words in support of the Green Movement are indeed encouraging, but in order for the Journal‘s headling to be correct, the United States has to actually DO some things.  Those things are easy, proper, inexpensive, and non-violent, just like the Green Movement itself.

Here a few such actions:

First, provide aid to the families of the political prisoners, and of the dissident martyrs.  This should be accompanied by public calls for the release of the prisoners and an end to torture and all human rights violations in Iranian prisons;

Second, provide modern communications devices to dissidents.  In the Cold War we sent fax machines to Soviet dissidents;  today’s freedom fighters need modern telephones and servers;

Third, bring an end to the regime’s successful jamming of radio and tv broadcasts into the country (nowadays, BBC, VOA, PARS and Farda are effectively off the air, while Iranian broadcasts on the same Hotbird satellite–including no less than seventeen tv channels–broadcast with no difficulty.  Iranians need to know what is going on in their own country, and they need to hear encouraging words from the West.

Simple, proper and non-violent, but effective measures against an evil, violent regime that is killing its own people and ours every single day.

Faster, Please.

Maybe the tyrants decided Kerry is just too tall to fit into their torture cells, and the continued economic crunch doesn’t permit significant expansion.  Or, more likely, all the cells are full even as the nationwide ravaging of dissidents continues apace, even to the first violent shutdown of a mosque, this one in Shiraz, associated with Ayatollah Dastgheib, a supporter of Green leader Mir Hossein Mousavi.  And in the last few days, regime clerical supporters in Qom tried to demote the standing of Grand Ayatollh Sane’i, the heir to the mantle of the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri.

Meanwhile, security forces are now killing demonstrators with sawed-off shotguns, the traditional weapon of the Sicilian Mafia, loaded with heavy shot.

In short, the embattled regime is at war with most everyone except the thin sliver of fanatical and/or opportunistic loyalists around Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad (the latter increasingly absent from major events).  And even within that band of torturers, assassins, and terrorists, many of whom have been killing Americans for  decades, the tension sometimes explodes, as it did during the recent Ashura demonstrations, when, I have been told,  one of his colleagues shot General Ahmadreza Radan (Deputy Police Commander) three times during a heated disagreement.

Not to mention that the Revolutionary Guards are under attack.  The regime announced yesterday that 7 security forces had been killed in a shootout with “drug smugglers” in Khorasan Province near the Afghan border.  The real number was more than 25, with another dozen or so wounded, and they were gunned down by anti-regime Balouch.  The fighting was so intense that the RG had to call in helicopters and then armored vehicles.

So the mullahs aren’t much interested in foreign visitors who want to talk about new departures. It’s not just Americans;  they just nixed a long-planned visit from some European parliamentarians (appropriately organized by the Green Party).  Seems the Euros actually wanted to talk to dissidents (which was not on Kerry’s agenda).  Imagine!

There’s a lesson there about the “talking cure.”  Back when Ronald Reagan decided to do everything he could for the Soviet dissidents, American diplomats meeting with their Soviet counterparts always had a list of political prisoners suffering in the Gulag Archipelago;  that list was presented at the meetings, along with a request that the prisoners be released.  Moreover, support for the dissidents was outspoken at international meetings (George Shultz was especially good at this).  The Wall Street Journal recently suggested that we begin to familiarize ourselves with the names of Iranian dissidents, which is all to the good.  Here are a few more:

  • Heshmatollah Tabarzadi:  An engineer, who has already spent seven years in prison.  He is secular, not a devout Muslim, but is widely respected on both sides of the religious/secular divide;
  • Mashaolah Shamsolwaezin:  A journalist and human rights activist who founded several newspapers during Khatami’s presidency;
  • Emadedien Baghi: A student of the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, He was himself a spiritual figure, but he has abandoned the turban.  He was arrested because of an interview on the BBC Farsi servicewith Montazeri.
  • Ahmad Qabel: A progressive theologian who nonetheless wants a secular state.  He was also a Montazeri student.
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