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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Who’s Blowing Up Iran?

November 28th, 2011 - 7:16 pm

Another week, another explosion at or near an Iranian military installation (or is it a nuclear research facility?).  As usual, the regime doesn’t know what to say.  The mullahcracy is so intensely divided that different “spokesmen” from different ministries/news outlets/cults/mafias put out different versions.  There was an explosion, or at least “the sound of an explosion.”  This goes out on the wires.  Then, no, there was no explosion, it was just the sound of our fierce military training.  Then again, yes, there was something, but not to worry, just go home and shut up.  And so it goes in the Islamic Republic of Iran, as our president so loves to call his intended international partners.

I’ve been reporting for many months about the ongoing sabotage of pipelines, refineries, military sites, Revolutionary Guards’ aircraft and trains, and groups of regime thugs. and have received the usual cold shoulder from publications “of record,” which is to say silent sneers.  But the tempo of attacks, most notably the monster blast a week ago that vaporized General Moghaddam and his foreign visitors (at least some of whom had taken the shuttle from Pyongyang to be with him on what they wrongly expected would be a happy day) led the Washington Post’s man in Tehran, Thomas Erdbrink, to note the phenomenon in a useful story entitled “Mysterious Explosions Pose Dilemma for Iranian leaders.”  He gives us a pretty good rundown of the explosions, and, living as he does in Tehran, gives ample space to regime “explanations” such as bad welding, western sanctions, and so forth.  Given the number of foreign journalists who have come to a bad end in Iran, you’d do the same.

Safe in London, on the other hand, Roger Cohen of the New York Times has no doubt about what’s happening:  his guy Obama is waging a secret war against the mullahs. “It would take tremendous naïveté,” he lectures the great unwashed,  “to believe these events are not the result of a covert American-Israeli drive to sabotage Iran’s efforts to develop a military nuclear capacity. An intense, well-funded cyberwar against Tehran is ongoing.”

So color me tremendously naive.  I would really love to believe Roger Cohen;  the very idea that Obama, at long last,  has ordered a response to the Iranian war against the west (totally unmentioned, needless to say), is delightful.  But I don’t believe it, and Cohen doesn’t give us any evidence for it, aside from intoning, as the mullahs themselves are so wont to do, that it’s the infidels and the Zionists.

Yes, there’s a cyberwar, but Revolutionary Guards generals don’t get vaporized by Stuxnet.  And Cohen’s judgment is so swayed by his fandom for Obama that it verges on the worst of the early Chris Matthews.  Try this, for example:

Foreign policy has been Obama’s strongest suit. He deserves great credit for killing Osama bin Laden, acting for the liberation of Libya, getting behind the Arab quest for freedom, winding down the war in Iraq, dealing repeated blows to Al Qaeda and restoring America’s battered image.

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How Do Famous Italians Cope With Meltdown?

November 27th, 2011 - 3:31 pm

Thanks to the ever-vigilant Italian press, in this case the Corriere della Serawe know exactly how the heirs of the Renaissance deal with dark days.  They treat it the way they cope with any other attack of ill fortune:  with magic gestures, objects, curses and careful attention to details that encourage bad luck.

The delightful (and sometimes not) details come from a new book on the superstitions of Italian VIPs, which contains warnings from the “Committee for the study of the Paranormal,” and a concluding note from Cardinal Ersilio Tonini.  They didn’t ask me for any input, even though my new book on Naples contains abundant material on magic, including the best methods for warding off attacks from enemies with evil eyes.

The Evil Eye features prominently in Italians’ methods to fend off misfortune, but there are other sources of bad luck, ranging from an assistant who wears green underpants, a member of the audience dressed in purple–an evident evil eyer–and a dinner party with exactly thirteen people at the table.

What to do?  One, a prominent astrophysicist, recites “Sh*t” three times.  Another, a Neapolitan politician, hides a golden braid under her own golden hair.  Another puts two big packages of kosher salt in her bath at least once a week, others make the symbol of what we would call “hook ‘em Horns” and cross their hands across their lower body.  Then there are those who always go on board an airplane with their left foot first, those who spit three times, and those who keep little statuettes of holy men and women (from Mother Teresa to Russian saints) and of course those who carry a cluster of cat hair…and finally an actress who touches her breast before going on the set.

I wonder what Mario Monti, the economist with the tremendous misfortune of becoming Prime Minister at a moment when Italy is teetering on the well-known abyss, has tucked away in his pockets to lure Dame Fortune to his side.

We’ll have to wait a bit for that book, but wouldn’t you love to read about the superstitions of world leaders?  Does Barack Obama have a little icon to rub at tough moments?  Does Nicolas Sarkozy curse three times?  Inquiring minds want to know, because such things are at least as important as leaders’ statements on the economy…

 

The War Against the Mullahs

November 16th, 2011 - 8:03 pm

This past weekend’s monster explosion at a Revolutionary Guards base outside Tehran has attracted the usual assortment of speculation and “informed information,” most of it sucked from the thumbs of pundits who feel they must write quickly.  There is still a scarcity of hard information, but I’m reasonably confident that:

–There were two explosions at the RG base at Bidganeh, one smaller, the other very large.

–At almost the same time, there was an explosion at another military base in the west, in Luristan.  The explosions seem to have been coordinated.

–The area around Bigdaneh is a military zone, with various facilities including two air fields, thus questions like “was it a munitions depot or a missile base?” are best answered “yes. Both.”

These attacks on the Guards — the symbol of the regime’s intensifying repression and slaughter of the Iranian people — are part of a pattern that includes explosions at refineries and pipelines. At the same time, strikes have been spreading (and no wonder;  up to 30,000 retired teachers have been waiting for their pensions for many months).  In short, people have lost patience, and the smaller of the two explosions at the RG base was aimed at Major General Hasan Tehrani Moghaddam, one of the most brutal of the country’s military leaders.

Contrary to the inevitable suspicions of the thumb-suckers (the Americans did it!  no, the Israelis did it!  no, it was an accident!), the operation was planned and carried out by Iranians from the opposition-that-does-not-exist.  They intended to demonstrate that no leader is safe from the people’s wrath (if that base can be penetrated, any place can, and if that man can be assassinated, anyone can), and that the opposition knows its gravediggers.

The second, larger, explosion was not planned, nor was the extremely high number of casualties (I am told that hundreds of people, including some “very important foreign dignitaries,” were blown up).  That second blast was apparently from a quantity of liquid fuel designed to extend the speed and accuracy of Iran’s Shahab-3 missile, the one the mullahs hope will some day carry a nuclear warhead.  My sources claim that the fuel caused the big white plume seen in the photographs.  The cloud may well have caused respiratory problems for the survivors.

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As usual, whenever the situation permits, the British press — led by the screaming meemies at the Financial Times — calls for the defenestration of Silvio Berlusconi.  “In the name of God and Italy, go!” the FT intones at the beleaguered PM.  A bit pretentious, yes, but then they’re the smartest newspaper in the world and so they consider themselves fully authorized to speak on behalf of the Almighty, and  of their favorite vacation spot.

You probably know that the Brits have long had a love/hate affair with Italy.  They love it because it’s so pretty, the weather is usually better than what they’ve got (although these days the weather in Italy is catastrophic, but never mind), and they hate it because it seems to them that the Italians have a lot more fun than they do.  As well they may, although Italy’s a lot tougher than the romantics suspect.  The campaign against Berlusconi has been raging for many years, and he’s been convicted of so many crimes in the British press (although, to the rage of his critics, not by Italian courts, whose judges are for the most part on a very different part of the political landscape from Berlusconi) that the very sight of him at international meetings provokes new outbursts.  The latest is of a piece with that tradition.

It has always seemed odd to me that so many self-proclaimed defenders of press freedom are so vitriolic about the man who may well have saved Italy’s media from total control by the country’s political parties.  It was Berlusconi who funded private tv way back in the seventies, at a time when every news broadcast on the official, state-owned networks was under party management, as they mostly remain today.  The liveliest and most independent newspaper in the country, il Foglio, is underwritten by the Berlusconi family.  Meanwhile, “his” TV broadcasts are chock full of anti-Berlusconi journalists.  So what, exactly, is their problem?

(Answer:  They don’t like competition).

And of course, going back to the Brits’ stereotype of the Italians, it’s obvious to a blind man that Berlusconi et. al. have a great deal more fun than the pols in London, although it’s certainly not for lack of trying, as we all know.  I will never forget a plaintive editorial in an Italian newspaper about the Profumo scandal in Great Britain, with its all-star cast of gorgeous spies and harlots, and the Italian editorialist moaned “the Brits and the Americans have endless sex scandals;  we’re supposed to be the Latin lovers and we haven’t had a decent sex scandal for years.”

Berlusconi solved that bit of national shame.

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