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The Failed Obama Iran Policy: Now What?

October 31st, 2010 - 7:09 pm

On October 25, Ambassador Dennis Ross — among other things, the National Security Council’s czar for Iranian matters — spoke in Florida to an AIPAC conference. It’s worth paying attention when Ross speaks, because he’s one of the best practitioners of the diplomatic arts, and, having done this sort of thing for several administrations, he is always very careful.  His words are canonical; you don’t have to wonder if he didn’t mean precisely what he said or whether he is at cross purposes with his president.

His Florida speech can therefore be taken as one of the clearest and most authoritative efforts to defend the administration’s Iran policy, and warrants our serious attention.

He began with a false claim that Obama’s outreach to the Iranian regime is something new.  “The first step…was making an unmistakable offer of engagement to the Iranians to show their government — and the rest of the international community — that we were committed to resolving our long-standing differences with Iran through peaceful diplomacy on the basis of mutual respect.  We recognized that during the years of not talking, Iran significantly expanded its nuclear program and sowed its breed of terror and coercion across the region.”

This is the administration’s central myth about Obama and Iran. In reality, there were no “years of not talking.” The Bush years were full of talking, culminating in an embarrassing failure. Secretary of State Rice went to the United Nations to await the promised arrival of a high level Iranian delegation that she expected would sign an agreement with the United States.  Iran would stop enriching uranium, and America would lift sanctions.  But the delegation never arrived.

This was only the latest in a 30-year run of failed “peaceful diplomacy on the basis of mutual respect.” Every president from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama has tried it, and all have failed, even the current crowd, as Ross admits just a few words later:  “Iran’s own behavior over the past two years…has demonstrated that it prefers defiance and secrecy to transparency and peace.”

Ross continued, “Iran continues to rely on tactics of intimidation and coercion to gain influence, a pattern clearly on display during President Ahmadinejad’s provocative recent visit to Lebanon and through Iran’s ongoing support for Hizballah.”

Quite right.  But he doesn’t go nearly far enough.  It’s not just a matter of “intimidation and coercion.” The central issue is NOT Iranian diplomatic recalcitrance;  it’s the murder of American soldiers in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

And that is the issue that nobody — not national security officials, not members of Congress, not pundits — wants to talk about.  They avoid it with a remarkable single-mindedness, because to acknowledge it means having to respond forcefully, and no president for more than 30 years has been willing to do that.

It’s the poisonous turd in the diplomatic punchbowl, and it infuriates our fighting men and women, who know full well who’s blowing up their brothers and sisters.  And even some of their top brass — from Admiral Mullen atop the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense Gates and all too many service secretaries and commanders — tiptoe delicately around the defining issue of the war.  Whatever their private convictions, they are not about to risk their careers by publicly challenging their commander-in-chief.

As for Dennis Ross and his cohorts in the White House and Foggy Bottom, they send birthday greetings to Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

IRAN: State Department spokesman’s birthday message for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

October 29, 2010 |  7:03 am


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I got a note today from an African friend.  He describes himself as “sad and angry” over the death of our mutual friend, Kobus Joubert.  We don’t know all the details yet, but he was apparently shot and killed on his farm in Zimbabwe.

You won’t recognize his name, but Kobus was a wonderful man with a rare combination of courage, generosity and virtue. He ran the programme that created 9,000 successful black small tobacco farmers in three years without government help and only with the resources of the farmers themselves and the tobacco growers’ association. These small scale farmers have mostly also now lost everything, because they depended on the big commercial farmers to help them farm profitably.

As my friend writes:

Despite Mugabe’s destruction of his country, Kobus never lost his commitment to Zimbabwe and its people. When he realized that there would be no corn crop because the big farmers had been kicked off their farms, he planted corn instead of tobacco and told the locals that they could come and harvest it from his farm, to stay alive over the winter. When his farm was eventually seized, he refused to go away;  he lived in a caravan on the side of the gravel road at the entrance to his farm. Eventually last year,  the Mugabe politicians returned his farm to him, mostly due to pressure from the locals in his district.

This killing is about more than wasting a good man’s life, it is about destroying the goodness of life itself for an entire nation. All Zimbabweans will in time rue the day that Kobus died, because he represented so much opportunity and had done so much good. And it was killed off with him. His death is another triumph for evil in Zimbabwe.

Years ago, Gabriel Ledeen (Captain, USMC, inactive reserves) and I went to Zimbabwe and spent a week with Kobus and his colleagues, and saw first hand the miracles they performed for the black farmers of the country.  Mugabe hated it, and drove most all of the white farmers out of the country.  Kobus was one of a handful who stayed behind.

When I listen to all those folks who bemoan African poverty and pull on the heartstrings of wrongly guilt-ridden Westerners to extort “aid” to “save” the poor Africans, I am reminded of men like Kobus, and many others I have  known.  They knew that “aid” only enriched the tyrants and doomed the poor.  If the West were serious about helping Africa, we’d direct our energies on the overthrow of evil men like Mugabe (add your own favorites here) and strengthen the forces of freedom, which abound all over the continent.

But political correctness dictates that we are not entitled to criticize “other cultures,” and our only option is to apologize for our past presumed sins and transfer wealth to those rulers who are relentlessly wrecking their countries and killing those who are genuinely working to make things better.

It’s a murderous ideology, and Kobus is its latest victim.  But not the last.

The latest bunch of previously secret reports from Wikileaks abundantly document the Iranian war against Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Have a look at the New York Timeslatest account, which is a model of fine journalism:  lots of information, links to the primary documents, and good context throughout.  These guys are good enough to write for Pajamas…

Typically, CNN acts as if these were new revelations, although they are not.  American military officers in Iraq and Afghanistan have been telling us for many years that the Iranians were up to their necks in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they were arming, funding, and training terrorists to kill Americans, and doing quite a bit of it themselves.  A lot of the lethal “roadside bombs” came from Iran, and a lot of terrorists were either Iranians or foreigners (including Sunnis, contrary to the popular myth that Sunnis and Shi’ites don’t work together) trained in Iran by Iranians.  There are even some reports that Iranians used some sort of chemical or biological weapons, although these are not confirmed and may well be wrong.

For extras, there’s information confirming what I have written for quite a while, namely that the American “hikers” were not in Iran at all, but in Iraq.  The Iranian kidnappers crossed the border to capture the Americans, just as the London Telegraph said early on, and what the Nation concluded after an on-the-spot investigation.

So thanks to Wikileaks for showing that I’ve been pretty much on-target all along, and thanks to those newspapers that accurately reported this information.

No thanks go to those who claimed that the opposite was true:  those like Sy Hersh who wrote again and again that American forces were operating in Iran, and who warned that the Bush administration first, and now the Obama administration, were planning a shooting war against the Islamic Republic.  Hersh and the various Giraldis, Lobes, Cannistraros, and their echo chambers on the wacky left should take the opportunity to apologize for failing to report what was actually going on:  the Iranians were waging war against us, while we were doing precious little to fight back, despite a high cost of life and limbs.

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Those Clever Mullahs

October 19th, 2010 - 3:02 pm

A funny thing happened this morning, when I received a phone call from someone claiming to be a prisoner in an Iranian jail.  There was a lot of talk in the background, as if the call was made in a train station or an airport.  The caller asked me what the American Government was going to do next?  Would there be more sanctions or what?

I said I didn’t work in the government and had no knowledge of their intentions.

Why didn’t the government punish the leaders?  He asked.

They have, I said.  Several individuals have been identified by Treasury as targets for punishment.

What will the US Government do for us?  He asked, adding that if America invaded Iran, most Iranians would support it.

You have to ask the government these questions, I said.

Can you put me in touch with someone in the government?  He continued.

No.  I’m a writer, not a government official.

And so it ended there.  I told him I hoped he would get out of jail…

The phone number listed on my phone was 33331727290.  Assuming that’s an international call, it came from France.  But of course the number can be falsified if, as I rather imagine, it came thanks to an Iranian government agency.

It seems to me that the caller was trying to get me to say something to indicate that I was working for Obama.  After all, I’m regularly accused of being an organizer of the opposition movement, and the tyrants in Tehran seem to believe that the US Government, in cahoots with the evil Zionists, is the moving force behind it all.

And so they came up with this clever scheme (NOT).

I was not the only writer to receive a provocation from Iran today.  A well known journalist friend of mine got an email claiming to come from an Iranian living in Tehran that said, in part,

We are an opposition group.  We love our patriot but not this regime we want change this regime and for this project we have ideas:

In Tehran, we know where Khamenei(Leader of regime), President Ahmadinejad and other leaders of regime live, we know their houses and their families.If you provide our necessairy and protect us we can hit them.Also we can make explode a microbiological bomb in Tehran near a military laboratory of pasdaran organization where I know, then media broadcast in the world…

I wonder how many others have received similar provocations…Journalists writing freely are a great threat to the regime, as Khamenei said last year:

“Today, the most effective international weapon against enemies and opposition is the weapon of propaganda and the media. Today, this is the most powerful weapon and it is even worse and more dangerous than the atomic bomb.

And so they’re busily trying to manufacture “proof.”  Which comes naturally to them, to put it mildly.

How Long Can the Iranian Regime Last?

October 18th, 2010 - 9:07 pm

I’ve received many questions about the recent explosion at a Revolutionary Guards base near Khorramabad (near the Iraqi border) that reportedly killed nearly twenty Guardsmen and, according to some accounts, destroyed several new Shehab missiles.    The regime described it as an accident, but even the Washington Post’s Thomas Erdbrink, who often shows a touching tendency to accept the official version of events, had his doubts: “It was unclear whether the incident…was an accident or the result of terrorism or sabotage.”  He was right to wonder; there have been three such events at the Imam Ali Base in the last several months, and while there are lots of accidents in Iran, it is most unlikely that repeated explosions are all accidental.

The base is a training center for high-level Iranian officers and experienced foreign fighters. According to a reliable Iranian source, the foreigners were being trained in the use of roadside bombs, the so-called IEDs that account for most American and other NATO casualties in Afghanistan. Those were apparently ignited, along with jet fuel, and killed 19 Iranian officers and badly burnt another 14, most of whom are in critical condition. No figures are available for the foreigners, although some of them were certainly killed or wounded.

The base was attacked by two men on motorcycles, who first killed two security guards and then launched rockets over the walls into the base. There were indeed four missiles at the site, but they were short-range missile with a range of 200-250 kilometers, not the latest generation of intermediate-range Shehabs.

The latest deaths bring the number of RG casualties in the last 26 days to 102, which gives you a sense of the intensity of the internal war against the Iranian regime.  Earlier in the month, armed gunmen attacked police in Kurdestan, killing five and wounding four others.

Meanwhile, Iranian workers and merchants were also challenging the regime, with workers walking off the job in the south and the operators of the gold bazaars locking up their shops all over the country, nominally in protest against the new 3% value added tax, but actually against the regime’s increasingly centralized control over the national economy.  Negotiations to end the shutdown broke down early this week,  as it became evident that the regime was determined to crush the traditional merchant class.  Indeed, the Iranian currency becomes weaker by the day, which has the dual effect of ruining the traders and smugglers who have long been the source of merchandise for the bazaars, and further empowering the Revolutionary Guards who have abundant quantities of hard currency from their (legal and illegal) oil business.

In addition to pauperizing the merchant class, the regime is striking at other middle-class sectors by rationing gasoline and ending subsidies for such staples as cooking oil, sugar, and rice. The subsidies will be replaced by aid — in the form of coupons — for the staples, which will be given to supporters and withheld from opponents. In this manner, the Iranian economy will increasingly resemble that of North Korea, albeit with a very wealthy state and elite, living the good life financed by oil revenues.

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Groucho Plays Tehran

October 5th, 2010 - 8:54 pm

The Islamic Republic looks more and more like a Marx Brothers creation. The leaders proclaim themselves invincible, but just offstage, we can hear the sounds of breaking crockery.

For starters, the currency is crashing — Iran may well be the only country in the world in which the dollar is not only gaining strength but is the object of unbridled passion. In the past couple of days some money changers have refused to sell dollars because the market is just too volatile.  As RFE/RL tells us:

the rial declined 13 percent against the dollar last week as demand for the U.S. currency soared among businessmen and ordinary people. On September 29, the rial was 12,500 to the dollar; a week earlier, a dollar was worth 10,500 rials.

Even Iran’s loyal Syrian allies are unwilling to take a chance on the rial; Syrian merchants have been refusing Iranian money in their shops.

For those who would take refuge in gold, forget it; the gold bazaars are on strike all over the country. Take a look at this short video of the bazaar in Hamadan.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the country’s leaders do not know how to cope with the economic, social, and political chaos they have created. More and more companies have been given to the military.  Six energy and petrochemical firms were transferred to military control in recent weeks,  in a clear demonstration of the inability of government ministries to do their job.

Instead of addressing the country’s very real problems, Iranian leaders are devoting considerable time and energy to such crucial issues as proper Islamic uniforms for the national women’s soccer team, and new bicycles for women that would avoid attracting men’s attention.

The one thing that the regime does know how to do is repress, and every day actual and suspected dissidents are thrown into jail, where they are lashed and tortured, and often executed. But the opposition is anything but silent. Prisoners are writing detailed accounts from their jail cells, to the great consternation of their oppressors, and the leaders of the Green Movement are more outspoken with every passing day.  Mir Hossein Mousavi, for example, commented on his Facebook page that “converting lying into a method to run the country is the sign of fear as well as the sign of decline; they (totalitarians)  not only are afraid of the street rallies and demonstrations, but they are even frightened by the green wristbands of artists, athletes and youth.”

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