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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Cancer, Carter and Obama

January 30th, 2011 - 2:07 pm

There are some eery similarities between Egypt 2011 and Iran 1979, and some of them are unfortunately about American leadership.  There are some big differences, too, but for the moment let’s just look at some parallels and try to draw some necessarily tentative conclusions.  After all, everything is up for grabs right now and things will probably change a lot in the next few hours and days.

First of all is prostate cancer.  The shah was dying of it and Mubarak is afflicted with it.  We know Mubarak’s got it.  We didn’t know the shah had it.  One of the effects of the disease and its treatment seems to be that the person has difficulty making tough decisions, and it inevitably forces him to think about his legacy.  The shah didn’t want to go down as a bloody dictator, and he rejected all appeals from his generals to open fire on the demonstrators.  This encouraged the opposition and discouraged the military commanders.

Second is the role of Washington.  Carter did not know what to do, and he was operating on the basis of very bad intelligence.  Above all, he (thanks to his CIA) had very little good information about Khomeini.  He and advisers like Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Iran desk officer Henry Precht and NSC staffer Gary Sick all permitted themselves to believe that we could continue to have very good relations with Iran even if the shah were overthrown.   They failed to see the nature and extent of the  Khomeini movement, saw it as a “progressive revolution,” and UN Ambassador Andrew Young famously called the ayatollah a holy man, and even “some kind of saint.”

I don’t know the quality of our intelligence on the Egyptian opposition, but if former Ambassador Martin Indyk is correct (and all I’ve got to go on is a Tweet saying he said it on BBC Arabic), the White House and State Department may be signaling approval of Mohammed al-Baradei.  According to Al Jazeera — a very unreliable source to put it mildly — Obama has told leaders in the Gulf that the United States favors a “peaceful transition” to greater democracy.

Well, so do I.  But Baradei is one of the last men I would choose for that role.  He doesn’t like America and he’s in cahoots with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.  He would be likely to try to replay the ghastly catastrophe of 1979.  Bad for freedom, bad for the Egyptian people, bad for America.   Does our intelligence community not know this?  And if they do, why is Obama tilting towards this outcome?  If he is, that is…

In 1979 we came down hard on the shah to show restraint towards the demonstrators, just as we are today with Mubarak.  I understand that no American government, let alone an Obama government, can openly say to Mubarak: “What are you waiting for?  Put it down!”  I don’t know what we’re saying privately.  Gates has apparently spoken to his counterparts in Cairo and Jerusalem.  What did they say?  I don’t know, obviously, but that conversation would go a long way to clarify the real facts.  I’ll bet you that there was some sort of deadline to Mubarak:  if you can’t establish control within x days, we will have to work with the opposition.  That would be normal and sensible.

The greatest American sin in 1979 was to confuse the shah.  He didn’t know what we wanted.  From the State Department he heard calls for sweet reasonableness, entreaties not to use live ammunition against the mobs, and so forth.  From Brzezinski he heard pleas to be strong.  Maybe even to crack down violently.  The shah didn’t know who to believe.  Then it got worse.  We sent a General Huyser to Tehran with two sets of instructions:  a) to support a military coup and b) to prevent a military coup.  So the shah and the generals stood by and watched, and Khomeini’s multitudes, who knew exactly what they wanted, fought all-out and won.

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Egypt: Revolution? By Whom? For What?

January 28th, 2011 - 3:23 pm

As I’ve remarked in the past–but you can’t say the truth too often, right? — nobody knows what a revolution looks like.  And in fact that last clause may be very misleading, because there is no one thing that a revolution looks like.  Some revolutions happen very quietly, like the Information Revolution.  On the other hand, some very revolutionary-looking events, like lots of people in the streets calling for the downfall of a government or a regime, are just street theater.  Ask the “revolutionaries” who filled the streets of Paris calling for the end of de Gaulle.  Or the crowd that levitated the Pentagon.

You can’t judge a revolution by its theatrics.  Something real has to happen, something beyond marching, chanting slogans, and making demands.  Revolutions end systems of rule and replace them with new ones.  Is that happening now in the Middle East?  I think that the Green Movement in Iran is revolutionary, and that, if successful, it would end the Islamic Republic and replace it with a secular political system that separates mosque and state.  I think that the efforts by Hezbollah to take over Lebanon also constitute an attempt at revolutionary change, because it would turn the secular Lebanese system into an Islamic Republic.  It can go both ways.

All of which is a long way of saying that there’s a lot of tumult in the Middle East (and not only the Middle East;  there were big demonstrations a few hours ago in Albania), a great perturbation in the Force, as Obiwan would say.  Lots of fighting.  Lots of factions.  In Egypt, which is by far the most important of the Arab countries affected by the tumult, there are genuine democrats and also members of organizations (from the Muslim Brotherhood to Islamic Jihad, Hamas, et al.) who would transform Egypt from an authoritarian to a totalitarian regime.

Remember my Grandma Mashe:  “Things are never so bad they can’t get worse.”

So how are we to look at it all?

The basic point is that most everything and everywhere is up for grabs.  From Yemen to Iran to Lebanon and Somalia,  from Egypt and Jordan to Syria and Tunisia, we’ve got tumult.  There are lots of different forces in play, and in many cases there is no way to know who will make what decisions, let alone what decisions they will make.  Orders will be given, some of them will be obeyed while others will be ignored.

Welcome to the real world.

Let’s take the most important Arab country, Egypt.   The key institution is the army, which does not want an Islamic regime, but also does not want Mubarak fils.  I suspect that if they agree to save the current regime (likely), they will want to inherit it.  They remember that the shah’s generals made a deal with the forces of Khomeini’s revolution in 1979, and were decimated.  But even if they prevail and put an end to the tumult, how long would that “order” last?  That may depend on other things in other lands.

The key to many of these tumults — certainly not all, for example, Tunisia — is Iran.  The mullahs have been pounding their chests and claiming to have inspired the insurrections.  Everywhere.  This is nonsense and they know it.  Few Jordanians or Egyptians want to live in the Arab version of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Indeed, you can be sure that the mullahs are frightened by a lot of this.  They know that the Iranian insurrection of 2009-2010 was the real inspiration for many of the demonstrators, and they know that the Iranian people know that, as they also know that Iranians are saying to themselves that “if the Arabs can overthrow their regimes, surely we (superior Persians) can do the same.”  That is why the thugs were out in force in Iran’s big cities the last couple of days.

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The New York Times Goes to (Spy) War

January 26th, 2011 - 6:26 pm

The New York Times has been amusing itself — for the second time in as many years — at the expense of Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, a retired CIA Operations Officer who has organized a team of investigators to provide up-to-date intel on Afghanistan and Pakistan.  So far there’s been a very very long article by a Mr. Mazzetti and an editorial by the usual suspects at Slimes Central.

I know Dewey pretty well, and although I haven’t seen him for a couple of years, I like him fine.  He’s great company, and the sort you want on your side in a fight.  But since I wanted to explore some of the themes in the Times’ campaign against him, I dragged out my battered Ouija board and after a couple of failed attempts I reached my old pal, the late head of CIA counterintelligence, James Jesus Angleton.  I figured he was the smartest spirit I could talk to.

JJA:  Ah there you are.  What’s up?

ML:  It’s snowing again so I’m engaged in indoor sports.

JJA:  Ha!  Talking to the dead is now an athletic event?

ML:  Absolutely.  Washingtonian Olympics, even.

JJA:  Great.  So what’s the main event this evening?

ML:  It’s midday actually.

JJA:  Not here;  here it’s evening.

ML:  (I never had the nerve to ask him where “here” was, so you’ll just have to move on).  Well, it’s this campaign against Dewey Clarridge.  Did you know him at the Agency?

JJA:  Nope.  He’s a lot younger than I, and he wasn’t in counterintelligence, and by the time I left he was still a junior officer.

ML:  Good to know.  You’d have liked him I think.

JJA:  Irrelevant and immaterial!  So what’s the problem?

ML:  Both Mazzetti and the editorialist strongly suggest that Dewey is engaged in illegal activity.  They call it “legally murky” or a violation of the Neutrality Act.

JJA:  I don’t believe anyone has ever been prosecuted for the Neutrality Act.  It’s supposed to stop non-government people from acting against foreign governments, but in practice it’s hard to stop Americans from supporting internal opposition to foreign regimes.  The First Amendment comes into play, for example.

ML:  I’m with you.  I guess people like me, who advocate regime change in places like Iran and the Soviet Union, could theoretically be prosecuted, even.

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“Islamophobia”

January 21st, 2011 - 7:46 am

If you haven’t discovered him yet, you should start paying attention to Pascal Bruckner, a French philosopher deeply involved in our current struggles.  His recent book, The Tyranny of Guilt; an Essay on Western masochism, is a first-class analysis of how Western guilt over presumed past crimes has paralyzed us in the present, preventing us from doing the good works our instincts would normally produce. He’s quite right, and although much of his subject matter is European, his insights are as important for us as for his fellow Europeans.

He’s written a very important essay on “Islamophobia,” in which he calls for the word to be banned. He notes that the term was coined by Iranian Islamists, as part of their campaign against the modern Western world, which was the point of the 1979 revolution that brought down the shah. And he goes on to analyze the several ways in which the word is used. First, it equates secularism with fundamentalism, by branding critics of Islam as intolerant fanatics, even when they criticize Muslims for intolerance. Second, it masks the jihad, using “Islamophobia” to deny the accuracy of their critics.

Those two tactics are aimed against us, non-Muslims who criticize the doctrines and practices of the Islamists. “Islamophobia” is deployed in the culture war in order to silence us. It fits seamlessly with the broader strategy of political correctness, which famously criminalizes free speech that offends the followers of favored ideologies.

We are not the only ones that the forces of radical Islam have targeted with “Islamophobia.” Above all, this pernicious concept is aimed at Muslims who want to debate their own doctrines, and perhaps even change them. This point is very often missed by the great majority of pundits, many of whom view Islam as something intrinsically unchangeable. Bruckner does not make this mistake, and his words are as accurate as they are eloquent:

…it wants to silence all those Muslims who question the Koran, who demand equality of the sexes, who claim the right to renounce religion, and who want to practice their faith freely and without submitting to the dictates of the bearded and doctrinaire.

…young girls are stigmatized for not wearing the veil, as are French, German or English citizens of Maghribi, Turkish, African or Algerian origin who demand the right to religious indifference, the right not to believe in God, the right not to fast during Ramadan…they are delivered up to the wrath of their religions communities in order to quash all hope of change among the followers of the Prophet (my emphasis ML).

Since our traditions of free speech are unlikely to be abandoned if there were an open debate, the would-be censors resort to legalistic maneuver;  they try to make criticism of Islam or of most any radical Muslim illegal.  Bruckner again: “On a global scale, we are abetting the construction of a new thought crime, one which is strongly reminiscent of the way the Soviet Union dealt with the ‘enemies of the people.’”

The establishment intellectuals and the other members of the ruling class don’t want to fight on the side of the opponents of “Islamophobia.” It’s so much easier to simply go along, taking refuge, as we have seen in the post-Tucson diatribes, in calls for “civility” that play directly into the hands of the enemies of free speech. As Bruckner warns, “our media and politicians are giving it their blessing. … Every objection, every joke becomes a crime.”

The latest battle in this very important war is now taking place in Copenhagen, in the vicious legal case brought against Lars Hedegaard, the head of the Free Speech Society.  In the upside-down Orwellian prison being erected around free speakers, Hedegaard is charged with racism and “hate speech” for criticizing Islamists’ persecution (and sometimes murder) of Muslim women. That such a case should be admitted into a Western courtroom is an outrage and a threat to all of us;  that any Western intellectual fails to rally to Hedegaard’s side is a badge of shame.

It’s a tough and nasty fight. Most Americans, most Europeans, and indeed most Muslims, are on our side. But few are willing to fight it out. Pascal Bruckner is one of those who is fighting, and he warrants our attention and our embrace.

Faster, please.

China: The First Mature Fascist State

January 20th, 2011 - 7:34 am

For nearly ten years, I have been arguing that China may well be the first example of a mature fascism in power.  The highest praise imaginable has been bestowed on this theory, by the People’s Republic itself.  When I published an updated version of my theory (first published in the Wall Street Journal in  2002 and reprised in different form in NRO thereafter) in the Far East Economic Review in May, 2008, the entire issue was banned in China.

On the occasion of Mr. Hu’s visit to Washington, it seems appropriate to revisit this theme, which seems to me to have been abundantly confirmed by events.

May 2008

Beijing Embraces Classical Fascism

by Michael Ledeen

Posted May 2, 2008

In 2002, I speculated that China may be something we have never seen before: a mature fascist state. Recent events there, especially the mass rage in response to Western criticism, seem to confirm that theory. More significantly, over the intervening six years China’s leaders have consolidated their hold on the organs of control—political, economic and cultural. Instead of gradually embracing pluralism as many expected, China’s corporatist elite has become even more entrenched.

Beijing Embraces FascismEven though they still call themselves communists, and the Communist Party rules the country, classical fascism should be the starting point for our efforts to understand the People’s Republic. Imagine Italy 50 years after the fascist revolution. Mussolini would be dead and buried, the corporate state would be largely intact, the party would be firmly in control, and Italy would be governed by professional politicians, part of a corrupt elite, rather than the true believers who had marched on Rome. It would no longer be a system based on charisma, but would instead rest almost entirely on political repression, the leaders would be businesslike and cynical, not idealistic, and they would constantly invoke formulaic appeals to the grandeur of the “great Italian people,” “endlessly summoned to emulate the greatness of its ancestors.”

Substitute in the “great Chinese people” and it all sounds familiar. We are certainly not dealing with a Communist regime, either politically or economically, nor do Chinese leaders, even those who followed the radical reformer Deng Xiaoping, seem to be at all interested in treading the dangerous and uneven path from Stalinism to democracy. They know that Mikhail Gorbachev fell when he tried to control the economy while giving political freedom. They are attempting the opposite, keeping a firm grip on political power while permitting relatively free areas of economic enterprise. Their political methods are quite like those used by the European fascists 80 years ago.

Unlike traditional communist dictators—Mao, for example—who extirpated traditional culture and replaced it with a sterile Marxism-Leninism, the Chinese now enthusiastically, even compulsively, embrace the glories of China’s long history. Their passionate reassertion of the greatness of past dynasties has both entranced and baffled Western observers, because it does not fit the model of an “evolving communist system.”

Yet the fascist leaders of the 1920s and 1930s used exactly the same device. Mussolini rebuilt Rome to provide a dramatic visual reminder of ancient glories, and he used ancient history to justify the conquest of Libya and Ethiopia. Hitler’s favorite architect built neoclassical buildings throughout the Third Reich, and his favorite operatic composer organized festivals to celebrate the country’s mythic past.

Like their European predecessors, the Chinese claim a major role in the world because of their history and culture, not just on the basis of their current power, or scientific or cultural accomplishments. China even toys with some of the more bizarre notions of the earlier fascisms, such as the program to make the country self-sufficient in wheat production—the same quest for autarky that obsessed both Hitler and Mussolini.

To be sure, the world is much changed since the first half of the last century. It’s much harder (and sometimes impossible) to go it alone. Passions for total independence from the outside world are tempered by the realities of today’s global economy, and China’s appetite for oil and other raw materials is properly legendary. But the Chinese, like the European fascists, are intensely xenophobic, and obviously worry that their people may turn against them if they learn too much about the rest of the world. They consequently work very hard to dominate the flow of information. Just ask Google, forced to cooperate with the censors in order to work in China.

Some scholars of contemporary China see the Beijing regime as very nervous, and perhaps even unstable, and they are encouraged in this belief when they see recent events such as the eruption of popular sentiment against the Tibetan monks’ modest protests. That view is further reinforced by similar outcries against most any criticism of Chinese performance, from human rights to air pollution, and from preparations for the Olympic Games to the failure of Chinese quality control in food production and children’s toys.

In all these cases, it is tempting to conclude that the regime is worried about its own survival, and, in order to rally nationalist passions, feels compelled to portray the country as a global victim. Perhaps they are right. The strongest evidence to support the theory of insecurity at the highest levels of Chinese society is the practice of the “princelings” (wealthy children of the ruling elites) to buy homes in places such as the United States, Canada and Australia. These are not luxury homes of the sort favored by wealthy businessman and officials from the oil-rich countries of the Middle East. Rather they are typically “normal” homes of the sort a potential émigré might want to have in reserve in case things went bad back home.

On the other hand, the cult of victimhood was always part of fascist culture. Just like Germany and Italy in the interwar period, China feels betrayed and humiliated, and seeks to avenge her many historic wounds. This is not necessarily a true sign of anxiety; it’s an integral part of the sort of hypernationalism that has always been at the heart of all fascist movements and regimes. We cannot look into the souls of the Chinese tyrants, but I doubt that China is an intensely unstable system, riven by the democratic impulses of capitalism on the one hand, and the repressive practices of the regime on the other. This is a mature fascism, not a frenzied mass movement, and the current regime is not composed of revolutionary fanatics. Today’s Chinese leaders are the heirs of two very different revolutions, Mao’s and Deng’s. The first was a failed communist experiment; the second is a fascist transformation whose future is up for grabs.

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Obama’s getting kicked around from Lebanon to China, but nobody seems to notice the pattern. Why shouldn’t we think that the near-simultaneous attacks — China’s humiliation of Defense Secretary Bob Gates, and Hezbollah’s (that is to say, Iran’s) takedown of the Lebanese government — were coordinated? Or do you believe that the remarkable simultaneity of the events is sheer happenstance?

The two key bad actors — Iran and the People’s Republic of China — are known to be in cahoots. And Syria is one of Iran’s closest allies (some might say it’s a virtual Iranian colony). All three have strong reasons to demonstrate that the United States has opted out of the geopolitical game, or has been effectively stymied by the three. That message is a lot stronger when it’s sent in two separate theaters at the same time than if it has to be inferred from events spread out over weeks and months. It’s like the terrorist strategy of blowing up two targets in separate countries at the same hour, as they did to American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 or on occasion during the fighting in Iraq.

There is every reason to believe that we’re looking at the return of the axis of evil. These are not random events; they’re part of a global pattern aimed at our domination and ultimate destruction. If you read the articles linked above, you’ll find the same “message to the world” in both cases.

Lebanon:

Iran is signaling to the Obama administration, and to the West as a whole, that the main political developments in Lebanon are being decided today in Tehran and not in Washington. Failure to respond to this Iranian-sponsored provocation will only invite further adventurism on the part of the regime in Tehran elsewhere in the region, as it seeks to further establish its hegemony in the Middle East.

Iran, of course, with their unparalleled capacity for the big lie, blamed the United States and Israel for the Lebanese crisis.But they don’t fool anyone, with the possible exception of themselves….

And China:

As the Chinese like to say it was a “win-win” (or a win-win-win): embarrass the secretary of Defense, show the allies America’s impotence, and still have a summit that makes your president look good.

The authors are specialists, but if you asked them whether the two events look like peas in the global geopolitical pod, they would certainly say, “Hell, yes!”

That pod includes other menaces, from Russia to Venezuela, and the stern advice about Lebanon — “if you don’t do something to stop Iran in Lebanon, there’ll be hell to pay in the Middle East” — applies to the whole scene.  Evil is globalized, you know.

Meanwhile, life being full of surprises, we have an unexpected event in Tunisia, where one of the presumably most stable tyrannies in the region was overthrown by a popular insurrection.  As Josh Sharyar notes, this is a first in the Arab Middle East, and not at all what the “Arab street” was supposed to be about (that is, demanding the demolition of Israel). The overthrow of Ben Ali — who suggestively took refuge in Saudi Arabia — will likely have an immediate effect on the Iranian people, who will reason  that”if the Tunisians can do it, why can’t we?” And there are also very visible ripple effects in Jordan, Egypt, and Libya.  Authoritarian leaders don’t like it when others are deposed, because they fear these ripple effects. Just ask comrade Gorbachev.

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The Persecution of the Persian Christians

January 9th, 2011 - 7:11 am

I’ve received the following grim report on the persecution of Christians in the Islamic Republic of Iran, which I’m passing on to you.  It’s been sent to many news outlets and bloggers, but I haven’t yet seen it published.

According to a good Iranian source, 601 Christians–converts all–have been arrested in the past 130 days.  It’s a big campaign.

Here you go.

I have attached the photos and names of Iranian Christians who were arrested on Christmas and I am asking that you please publish them. It is important that their names and faces appear across our websites.

According to Elam Ministries, “in the early morning hours after Christmas day, the Iranian government arrested 25 Christians in Tehran and other locations. They also planned to detain sixteen others, but were unable to locate them. There are also unconfirmed reports that the authorities have arrested over 50 other Christians. According to BBC Persian, the Governor of Tehran has vowed to arrest more evangelical Christians.

One of those detained was able to make a call to friends from an unknown location on the morning of the arrests, leaving this message -

“Unfortunately early this morning the authorities came to our homes. They arrested us and many other believers. I want to ask you to pray for us. We are sure God will never leave us or forsake us. God bless you. Sorry for giving you bad news over Christmas, but I believe God will do something for us.”

Those who received the voice message were impressed by the caller’s courage and calmness.

Armed, plain-clothes, special security officers forcefully entered the homes of Christians while they were asleep, and verbally and physically abused them. They were handcuffed and taken for interrogation. Among those arrested were five married couples. One couple was separated from their two-year old baby. Another couple was also forced to leave their baby that the mother was breast feeding. A number of single young women were also among those taken.

Another sixteen Christians would have been arrested, but were not at home. The security forces broke into at least five such homes, ransacking them, taking personal possessions, changing the locks and placing a government seal on the door. Family members of these Christians have been called by the authorities and threatened and harassed. They were instructed to tell the Christians to surrender themselves.

After many hours of interrogation, eleven of the detained were released. The other fourteen are still in prison. There has been no contact from eight of the arrested. Six have been able to make a very short call to their families. In one of the brief calls, one of the arrested complained that they are being subjected to sleep deprivation.

None of them has been granted any legal representation. No charges have been made, though it is clear that they were arrested for their active Christian faith.There has been a gross lack of due process. The government authorities have not provided any written documents as to the reason for the arrests, any record of the items confiscated, and family members are not allowed to visit the detained.

The Elam Team

The Shooting in Tucson

January 8th, 2011 - 6:23 pm

As Rush would say, the media “coverage” of the Tucson attack gives us a learning opportunity.  One of the wise sayings I preached to our kids is “there is no reward for being wrong first.”  Would that the media believed that.  But no.  We’ve been told that Rep Giffords was dead (NOT), that her attacker was an Afghan vet (NOT), that he was a Tea Party sympathizer (NOT) and that he was a leftist (but he likes Mein Kampf–as well as the Communist Manifesto).

A lot of these errors–and the haste that provoked them–are politically motivated, but, as Maimon Schwartzchild notes, they are part of a pattern that includes some (formerly) serious (liberal) scholars.  He doesn’t have an explanation for it, but I do.  The political anger comes from people who can’t win an honest debate, and whose view of the world is demonstrably false.  If they want to throw their intellectual weight around, the easy way is to attack their opponents in a very personal and nasty way (the hard way is to rethink their view of the world).

Then there’s the case of pundits like Howard Fineman, who announces that the Arizona shootings will produce a big change in American politics, because the politicians will henceforth be afraid to appear in public.  This seems unlikely to me, although I’ve been hearing it ever since the assassination of John F. Kennedy forty-eight years ago.

Yes, I know that the news market demands speed, and that the pundits feel they have to say something about everything.  But it’s still better to take your time, get the facts right, and recognize that you really don’t know what’s going to happen next.

Life is full of surprises, and we live in a very surprising time.

UPDATE:  Thanks to topsy.com for the link

The Iranian War of All vs. All

January 7th, 2011 - 7:21 pm

Ahmadinejad just fired fourteen of his closest advisers, a few  days after firing Foreign Minister Mottaki, a man he didn’t much like.  Does this suggest a strong, confident regime to you?  Not to me.  Meanwhile, in a spectacular display of bumbling confusion, one bigtime prosecutor says that Green leaders Mousavi and Karroubi are going to be put on trial, and then another bigtime prosecutor says “we didn’t say it would happen right away.” And then the regime backs off altogether, saying that the necessary conditions aren’t present.

Indeed, it’s even worse than that.  While the prosecutors are trying to figure out what to do about the Greens, the supreme leader himself announces a vicious 10-day campaign against his opponents.  And just what do you think he has in mind?  Why, he’s going to issue some statements, that’s what.

Meanwhile, in yet another sign of the regime’s profound distrust of the country’s armed forces, there’s a “restructuring” of the Army.  You and I would call it by its proper name:  a purge.

So what’s going on?

In part, it’s probably a blizzard of trial balloons.  For more than a year, some of the most vicious regime leaders have been calling for the trial, imprisonment and punishment of the opposition leaders, insisting that failure to act vigorously would strengthen the anti-regime forces.  Supreme Leader Khamenei is believed to have argued that a move against Mousavi and Karroubi would unleash a mass uprising, with an uncertain outcome. The recent threatening statements from Iranian prosecutors seemed designed to measure the public’s likely reaction if Karroubi, Mousavi et. al. were arrested.

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