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Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Regime Kidnaps Mousavi and Karroubi

February 26th, 2011 - 9:20 pm

Yes it is true, not exactly as any one source has been reporting, but the two top leaders of the Green Movement, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, were kidnapped on Thursday night — when the streets of Tehran were full of armed men.  It was a typical Mafia-style snatch.  The two men — already under house arrest — were beaten and bloodied, and then were led out of their homes in blindfolds and handcuffs, stuffed in the trunks of the cars of their captors  from the Revolutionary Guards and, along with their wives, taken to a location in Tehran, then, on Friday, to another in Parchin, and finally to a third location, a heavily protected private residence.

So far only a few voices,  most notably that of Ayatollah Dastgheib (sorry for the link in Persian, but I can’t find a translation online yet), have been raised to denounce the action and call for the release of the hostages.  Needless to say, no Western leader has done anything yet, and nobody should expect any tough talk from Western capitals.  After all, Mousavi and Karroubi were never contacted by any Western leader after the electoral hoax of June, 2009, although at least some of those Westerners sent intermediaries to negotiate with representatives of the Iranian regime.

Terror works, you see.

I do not know if we will see Mousavi or Karroubi alive. For the moment, I imagine they are being interrogated and tortured in an effort to extract “confessions” of their obedience to foreigners. Indeed, the very evening of the kidnapping, Intelligence Minister Moslehi — whose name is on a list of Iranians under EU consideration for being sanctioned for their role in grave human rights violations — gave a late evening interview on national television  in which he spoke extensively of the “foreign hand” behind Iranian protests, and the next day he was quoted in a national news service as identifying yours truly as the inspiration behind at least some of the dissidents (again, it’s in Farsi, but in compensation there’s a flattering picture of me). He claimed that an Iranian arrested as a CIA agent was somehow inspired by my writings to work against the regime.

Actually it’s the other way around. It’s the courage of the Iranian opposition, and the hope that one day this evil regime will be removed, that inspires these blogs. And to judge by Moslehi’s rant, it’s doomed, because he has real trouble with information.  For all the attention and vitriol these fanatic buffoons direct at me, their Intel Minister does not even know where I work. He and his vaunted network can’t manage to find out that I have been at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies for two and a half years, which is pretty amazing when you consider that they have obviously been reading PJ Media.

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Bomb Libya

February 23rd, 2011 - 6:39 pm

Since our leaders evidently have no clue what to do in Libya, let’s give them a few ideas.  The basic rules are easy:  don’t do anything that is likely to make things worse, and you can forget about “negotiated settlements” once the bloodshed has reached the dimensions now engulfing Libya.  Finally, forget the UN (see point 1).

The first thing to do is deprive Gaddafi of as many instruments of mass murder as possible.  The most obvious of these is the Libyan Air Force, which is a small and outdated collection of aircraft, many of which belong in a museum.  More specifically:  some French F-1 fighters, some old Sukhoi’s, some old MIGs, and some helicopter gunships. (h/t Steve Bryen)

Destroy them.  It’s easy.  Our Air Force can probably wipe them out in less than half an hour.  If we want to play “good ally” we can invite other NATO countries to join in.  It seems the Brits are available (as they should be, after their disgusting liberation of the Lockerbie bomber), and I’ll bet you anything that the French and Italians, both of whom have decades of complicity with Gaddafi, will be happy to participate.  And the French have the Foreign Legion in the area, if memory serves.

That won’t “solve” the problem, but it will ease the people’s pain, and it might lessen the dreadful impression we have created, especially during the Obama years, that we only talk or negotiate slow-acting sanctions;  we don’t go in for decisive action (that is so Bush).

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Germans to Turks to Mullahs: The Back Door

February 21st, 2011 - 12:14 pm

In all the excitement, it was easy to miss the fact that there were two very high level visitors to Iran late last week and then over the weekend:  Turkish President Gul and German Foreign Minister Westerwelle. The sequence was not accidental.

Gul went first, and stayed for four days.  The Turks and Iranians are constructing a very complex network of deals and schemes, from coordinating action against Israel, to making the two currencies interchangeable, to making commerce virtually unregulated, to building and maintaining oil and gas pipelines, enabling Turkey to buy Iranian product at bargain prices, and granting exploration and development concessions to Gul’s people.

And there is more, above all Turkey’s role as an enabler for the Iranians’ malevolent programs, from obtaining military technology to funneling cash to terrorists, to getting top euro for Iran’s stash of Western hostages.  FOOTNOTE:  hostages in Iran are never released unless ransom is paid.  When you see hostages coming out, the only questions are 1)how much was paid?  and 2) who paid it and how??

Gul was a middleman between the Germans and the Iranians in the matter of the release of two German journalists, whom Westerwelle collected in Tehran and accompanied back home.  We need not rely on inside sources to assert a Turkish role.  Gul bragged about it in public just today.  However, we do need good sources to know what the deal was.

There’s lots of dual-use technology (stuff that can be used for weapons systems or for “civilian” projects) that the Germans want to sell to Iran, but they can’t because of sanctions.  So the deal was a classic sanctions-busting maneuver.  Germans will sell the stuff to the Turks.  The Turks will send it on to the Iranians.  And the Iranians toss in two hostages.

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The Global Insurrection

February 19th, 2011 - 3:35 pm

If anyone doubted that we are living in a revolutionary age, the events of the past few months should have eliminated all the doubts.  From the Middle East to North and South America, people are demanding radical change, and are doing their damnedest to drive out their current leaders.  Some of them will be content to change leaders;  others insist on thoroughgoing revolutionary transformations.  That vast insurrection is “the event,” and we must try to understand it that way, not country by country or movement by movement.

Yes, I said “North America.”  Or did you not notice that the Tea Party is very much a part of it all?  Just ask Nancy Pelosi;  she has recently been taught quite a bit about the overthrow of leaders, and the power of mass movements.

While there are enormous differences from one regime to another and from one insurrectionary movement to another, the regimes now fighting for survival and the movements demanding their defeat and defenestration constitute a single coherent phenomenon.  If our universities taught real history instead of political ideology in the past tense, more Americans would understand this better.  The best place to start is R.R. Palmer’s wonderful two-volume study, The Age of the Democratic Revolution, 1760-1800, written in the 1950s and 60s (the paperback was printed in 1969), in which he chronicles the revolutionary movements that challenged the old regimes in virtually every modern country, from France and the United States to Poland and (yes!) Switzerland. I doubt any of our policy makers have read it, but the good news is that it seems to be still in print.  Kudos to the Princeton University Press for that.

Palmer notes that democratic revolutionaries were in contact with one another, learned from each other’s experiences, and planned strategy and tactics accordingly.  They managed this both by meeting, and, more commonly, mailing letters, sometimes across the Atlantic Ocean (without the “social media” that get so much credit for contemporary events).  They shared a common language featuring words like “liberty,” “freedom,” and “democracy,” and most of them looked to the American Revolution for lessons learned in the struggle against the British Crown.

Faced with a global insurrection, the forces of the old order likewise shared their understanding and their assessments of how to deal with their common threat.  Inevitably, they came to believe that they were under assault from a vast conspiracy, which in a way was true, but not in the way they believed.  There was certainly an intellectual/political conspiracy (just as the Committees of Correspondence in pre-Revolutionary America), but not, for the most part, the well-organized subversive underground the monarchists imagined.

It is similar today.  The Iranian regime clearly believes that its home-grown opponents are directed from outside the country by dark democratic forces in Washington, London and Jerusalem, and you can be sure that by now, the frightened tyrants from Damascus to Caracas (where, for three weeks now, young men and women have been on hunger strike outside the offices of the Organization of American States) are convinced that the usual  subjects, whispering in English and Hebrew, are orchestrating the whole thing.  They aren’t, although they should be.

The real conspiracies, today as in the 18th century, are among the democrats within the tyrannical regimes, or–little noted so far–in the hands of the tyrants. The Saudis sent help to Mubarak, and lobbied Washington to do the same.  Some of this has been reported, and no doubt there is lots more flowing through classified channels.  I have no doubt that the Iranians, Syrians and Turks are coordinating strategy and sharing intelligence, as are the members of the terror network.  They have two objectives:  preserve Islamic regimes they like, and topple their enemies by taking over the insurrection and turning it to carry out their wicked aims.

The vast insurrection is aimed at sitting rulers, but not all the insurrectionaries are fighting for freedom.  Indeed, many of them are prepared for martyrdom if they can advance the cause of even more terrible tyrannies, wrapped in the glory of a new caliphate.  The demonstrations in Bahrain and Jordan, like the virtual civil war in Yemen, are sponsored by the intelligence arms of the Iranian Islamic Republic, and supported by killers from Hezbollah, the Revolutionary Guards Corps, and their proxies.  And we have already seen the Egyptian Islamists come front and center to lay claim to the country.  Andy McCarthy is appropriately alarmed.

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Tehran (and elsewhere) yesterday

February 15th, 2011 - 6:30 am

The Iranian regime doesn’t tolerate foreign tv cameras when the people are demonstrating their contempt for the tyrants.  So there is no Iranian equivalent of Tahrir Square, at least for CNN, BBC, and the others.  But there is plenty of video coverage.  This should slake your thirst for the moment;  I am still waiting for reports from outside Tehran and then I will give you an overview.  For now, it’s clear it ws a very big deal, and it is surprising that both Washington and Istanbul called on the Iranian regime to permit freedom of assembly and expression.  Indeed Turkey’s President Gul asked to talk to the demonstrators.

Just as the anecdotal broken clock rings true twice a day, so Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei got it right last Friday at his rare cameo appearance at prayers when he said that Iran had inspired the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia (and he could have added Jordan and Yemen, where the inspiration has been more material than ideological).

Except that he had the inspiration all wrong (indeed he had it inside-out and backwards). It wasn’t, as he claimed, Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution that inspired many of the demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, but rather the mass movement that started in 2009 in defiance of the theocratic tyrants who rule the country.

But Khamenei was right in saying that there was now an active insurrection all over the Middle East, and there is clearly an interplay between the demonstrators from one country to another.  As Wael Ghonim, the poster boy of the Egyptian uprising, said to the Iranians, we hope to inspire you, as you have inspired us.  And there is little doubt that the Tunisian and Egyptian examples have spurred the Iranian Greens to be more ambitious and perhaps more aggressive.  Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the most public Green leaders, requested a permit to demonstrate in support of the peoples of Egypt and Tunisia. It was a clever maneuver, since the supreme leader himself had praised the Arab insurrections, and if — as one could have predicted — the regime nixed the request, then the Greens had a fine example of theocratic hypocrisy.

Then the Greens went further, and called for mass demonstrations for tomorrow, Saint Valentine’s Day.  This carried an additional layer of symbolism, for the regime, terrified as it is by any act of love or mere fun, had banned all Valentine’s Day celebrations. Moreover, as the right to assemble and express oneself is guaranteed by the constitution of the Islamic Republic, the Greens are entirely within their rights to demonstrate.

But of course such legalistic niceties are quite beside the point in Iran today. It’s not a matter of rights, it’s all about power and cruelty, and the regime has been relentlessly hunting down anyone who criticizes them. The official execution rate has been running at one every eight hours, and the real rate is higher; there are reliable reports of waves of secret executions. This suggests profound concern and perhaps real fear at the highest levels. Ahmadinejad, Khamenei, and the others of course know full well that most of the people hate them, and if they have any doubts all they have to do is listen to the chants of “Death to the Dictator!” that have rocked the major cities the last two nights.

There are real signs of concern, and perhaps even some indication of a wavering will in the corridors of power. Supreme Leader Khamenei just went to the holy city of Qom for the sixth time in three months, trying to convince the senior ayatollahs to rally around his flag, but the frequency of his travels suggests it isn’t working to his full satisfaction.

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The Spooks’ Black Thursday

February 10th, 2011 - 3:57 pm

Bad day for the “Intelligence Community” here in Washington.  CIA chief Leon Panetta opined that Mubarak was very likely going to resign in a few hours, while DNI (Director of National Intelligence) General James Clapper declared the Muslim Brotherhood “largely secular” and has “eschewed violence.”  These analyses from our mastodontic Intel establishment no doubt encouraged the president to gush about living through an historic moment in world history, and to proclaim that young people were primarily to praise for the epic events of the day.

Except that Mubarak didn’t resign, and the Brothers aren’t secular and have long embraced and practiced violence, and we don’t yet know exactly what history is being made, let alone who is making it.

Oh, well…tomorrow’s another day.  Indeed this afternoon is another day, as Clapper’s spokespeople assured us that he really knows all about the Brotherhood, and is “well aware that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a secular organization.”

Pity he didn’t say that to Congress.

Not that I blame him personally.  Not at all.  He, like Panetta,  just repeated what the experts in Spookland told them, and it’s invaluable for us to know that.  We have been reminded yet one more time that our “intelligence” experts are operating on the basis of some amazingly politically correct and demonstrably false stereotypes that have very little to do with the often ghastly realities of the real world.  Those stereotypes include the (false) conviction that Sunnis and Shi’ites can’t work together, that the root problem of the Middle East is Israeli intransigence, that even the most fanatical Muslims (i.e. the Iranian tyrants) are amenable to reason and “really” want to make a deal with us, and that Mubarak can be overthrown by the news media and demonstrators, especially young ones.  The Panetta statement is a form of wish-fulfillment, not serious intelligence.  Serious intelligence officers were obliged to tell him, and he was obliged to tell Congress, that we did not know what Mubarak was going to say.

The men and women who are responsible for this latest intelligence failure come from the same bureaux and agencies that fed us the ridiculous National Intelligence Estimate that claimed Iran had stopped its quest for atomic bombs, after all.  The latest nonsense is of a piece with the earlier stuff.

But telling the truth about our knowledge of Mubarak’s intentions would have revealed that we lack important sources at the highest level of the Egyptian regime.  I hope we’re better connected to the Egyptian Army leaders.

Clapper’s gaffe is considerably more worrisome, because it suggests that the analysts are trimming their sails to the winds of appeasement blowing out of the White House.  Remember that President Obama lobbied to have the Brothers attend his Cairo speech in June, 2009.  This rightly concerned a lot of people, because it suggested that he was either sympathetic to them or that he believed he could sway them with his “special gift” of gab, the same model he applied to Iran.  But the Brothers have been preaching hatred of the West, and the mission of jihad in order to recreate the Caliphate,  for more than eighty years.  It isn’t bloody likely they’ll abandon their mission just because they heard a speech.  It seems to me that serious analysts would warn that Brotherhood statements in the midst of the tumult are not to be taken as true reflections of their intentions, and would want to remind policy makers that the Ayatollah Khomeini, before consolidating power in Tehran, swore up and down that he did not want political power at all, and surrounded himself with Westernized intellectuals of a decidedly secular bent.

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The Problem of the Friendly Tyrant

February 3rd, 2011 - 7:40 pm

We’ve had many alliances with friendly tyrants, from Stalin to Papa Doc, from Mubarak to Pinochet, from the shah to the Saudi royal family.  It’s not an easy embrace.  If you’re the American president you know, or should know, that it’s only a matter of time before the American people — or at least a big chunk of “public opinion” — turn against the tyrant and demand that we support his domestic enemies, real and imagined.  You don’t want that, since you know that in the ensuing political free-for-all you will be stained with the same spray of slime that besmirches the tyrants.

On the other hand, if you pull the plug on the tyrant, you send two very dangerous messages. You tell all our allies that we’re weak and unreliable — which discourages them, along with all the would-be friends and allies who are trying to figure out what to do. And you tell all our enemies that we are weak and will run at the first sign of trouble.  For extras, if the abandoned tyrant should win, he won’t be a great friend of ours again.

That’s a bad parlay.

Many people are now saying that it is always wrong for America to support dictators.  “Always” is too much.  Was it wrong to join the Soviets in the war against the Axis?  Would it have been better to sacrifice thousands of American lives in order to avoid the moral stain on our standard?  Are tactics to be trashed in favor of a single strategy?  As I keep saying, we are often compelled to choose between various evils, and it is a legitimate choice.  It’s the way the world generally works, in fact;  it’s rare to have a fully attractive and morally impeccable option.

Plus, while tyrants are contrary to our national DNA, there are dictators and dictators.  Some can be convinced to democratize, and those chances are increased if they trust us and are willing to work with us.  One way to get from dictatorship to democracy — and that is our national mission — is to get friendly tyrants to liberalize their polities.  Peaceful transitions have been accomplished, and, by the way, in societies that were widely believed to be intrinsically, almost genetically, authoritarian.  To take two:  Taiwan and Spain, both of which democratized from the top down.

Tyrants don’t like this process at all, obviously.  It drains their power, and may even cost them their job.  And they worry about darker consequences, like standing trial for various criminal acts, from repression to corruption.   That’s why Franco laid the groundwork for democracy, but left the actual process to his successors.  But the Taiwanese actually did it;  the ruling party created a system that was guaranteed to remove the party from power, perhaps only temporarily but perhaps for a long time.  It could not have happened without American help and perhaps (I don’t know this, I only suspect it) promises of safe haven if things got very bad.

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