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Iranian Sex and Circuses

June 1st, 2013 - 7:41 pm

Ronald Reagan used to marvel at the tendency of intellectuals and diplomats to get so involved in “understanding” other countries and cultures, no matter how hostile to the USA, that they ended up apologizing for them.  It’s an occupational hazard known as “clientitis,” and Reagan once remarked that he’d like to have a Bureau of American Affairs in the State Department so we could have some diplomats who would plead our case to THEM instead of the other way around.

Clientitis afflicts many Iran experts, in part because the country has a fabulously interesting history, and even today produces some impressive art, literature, and cinema.  There’s also the endlessly intriguing challenge to try to figure out who’s who and what’s what inside the Islamic Republic.  I’ve often said that Iran=Italy squared, in terms of political complexity.  You can’t identify the players even if you have the latest scorecard.

Still, there’s no excuse for so many articles and official pronouncements exploring who’s going to “win” the Iranian “elections.”  Nor is there any excuse for failing to understand the Obama administration’s latest pretense at getting tough on the regime.  And there is certainly no excuse for writing about a presumed sexual revolution that is threatening the regime, of all things.  Let’s get it straight.  In order:

The “election”:

Sohrab Ahmari, as usual, sums it up nicely in the Wall St Journal’s  weekend interview:

“Iran is a country with a government that was elected.” So declared Secretary of State John Kerry on a visit to France in February. His statement echoed an earlier one by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who during his Senate confirmation hearings in January pronounced the Iranian government “elected” and “legitimate.”

In the coming days, count on Western media to reinforce that view of Iranian democracy with coverage of the run-up to the June 14 presidential election. The horse-race aspect of the reporting is already in the air. There was breathless news on May 21 about the disqualification of dozens of presidential hopefuls…

He could have added Colin Powell’s unfortunate deputy, Richard Armitage, to the list (Armitage called Iran “some sort of democracy”) and the Mullahlogists are busily writing about “campaign rallies” and the like.  We will only have to endure this nonsense for two more weeks, unless  Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei decides to stage a runoff–unlikely, since it would enable crowds of people to gather in the streets, which Khamenei does not welcome.  He remembers the last time that happened, in 2009, when the regime was rocked by monster demonstrations against a fraudulent “election.”

The point is that, as I wrote a while ago, Iran doesn’t have elections,  it stages circuses (indeed, this year the families of the candidates will make appearances on television).  The regime picks the candidates, and the Leader picks the next president.  People do go and vote, but the outcome is not determined by their votes.  To treat the circus as a real election is to demonstrate your ignorance of Iranian politics.  Stalin had “elections” too, remember, as did his student Saddam Hussein.

The Big Change in Technology Sales to Iran

The U.S. government has made it possible to export smart phones, laptops, tablets, and computer software to Iranians who are not part of, or associated with, the regime.  It’s years late, and dollars short.  Back when the Green Movement was preparing for the 2009 uprising, some of us asked for an export license to send secure satellite phones to anti-regime Iranians.  If permission had been granted, it would have been possible for the opposition leaders to be much more effective, but the export license was not approved.  Now the Obama administration is trying to play catch-up, but I’m afraid it may be too late.  In the interim, the Iranian regime has created its own Cyber Army, and, armed with technology and expertise from their Chinese friends, they have become frighteningly effective at monitoring internal communications and Internet activity.

Many members of the Iranian opposition now fear the use of these devices, because they believe the regime can track usage and find the users.  My own research bears them out, at least in some cases.  A while back, an organization with which I am familiar placed some smart phones in downtown Tehran, in several different locations.  The phones were programmed to send SMS messages that were designed to get the attention of the security forces.  Did they ever!  Within minutes, the phones were seized.

Do you still want to send cell phones to the good guys in Iran?

This policy change may be not be helpful, as administration officials have been claiming in their remarks to journalists.  Indeed, it may be downright dangerous to Iranian users.  If so, it would not be the first time.  Three years ago, the American Government issued an export license for “anti-censorship software” called “Haystack.”   The State Department bragged about it, claiming it would greatly help anti-regime Iranian activists.  It turned out to be a trap, and was hastily withdrawn.

I’m sadly inclined to think that the latest move isn’t any better than “Haystack.”  Reading press accounts, I found an endorsement from NIAC, the National Iranian American Council, which is, let us say, not aggressively anti-regime (its chief is Trita Parsi, a very unreliable source who recently lost a libel suit he had brought against a writer who had accused Parsi of being an apologist for, and perhaps an agent of the regime).  The NIAC spokesman said “I think it really helps level the playing field with people who want to communicate on the Internet and the Iranian government that wants to stifle that information.”

I figure if NIAC likes it, it can’t be much of a threat to Khamenei.

The Great Sexual Revolution

It’s a happy thought, to be sure, the idea that the dreadful, misogynist regime in Iran is being relentlessly weakened by a great national orgy.  And that’s what we’re told by Afshin Shahi in a very readable and in many ways highly informative article in Foreign Policy.  Here’s the bottom line:

Slowly but surely, Iran’s sexual revolution is exhausting the ideological zeal of a state that is wedded to the farcical notion of a utopian society and based on brittle, fundamentalist principles.

Color me dubious, please.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
"Revolutions are acts of hope...";
This explains the current revolution of deliberate ignorance in America. And Barrack Obama is Commander in Chief of this "Hope" brigade.

You really want to see what the Islamic empire ultimately wants for the United States? Take a look at the slide show the National Review Online has for the Syrian Civil War; Those photos depict what they pray for America to look like, and most likely will, with the band of juveniles We currently have at the helm of Our government.
"Si vis pacem, para bellum" has kept many nations safe, but is completely ignored by the United States government.
Our military is engrossed in sexual & ethnic sensitivity training, and Our children are punished for fantasizing about guns.
We are breeding a society of lambs to appease the lion cubs.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"...If we could bring down the Soviet Empire without waging open war..."

We did not bring down the Soviet Union. Our CIA didn't predict the Soviet Union's demise and our State Department was still making concessions to the Soviet Union the very day that evil regime fell. Worse yet, we helped our internally collapsed Russian enemy back to its feet so it can continue to threaten us today.

Only a classic, Soviet-style purge of our State Department--a mass head rolling from top to bottom--can alter our suicidal national course.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"To its credit, the State Department still knows that the Iranian regime is the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism."

Personally, I give that nod to Saudi Arabia.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (22)
All Comments   (22)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
The beginning of victory is when Americans refer to the Iranian dictators as "dictators that parade as religious".
As long as the occupants of the American executive branch are committed to maintain the Iranian dictators, that parade as religious, in power at all cost; "we" are at a distinct disadvantage in trying to get rid of them.
As long as Americans live in the Yuri (go to the edge of the world) Andropov utopia: Americans can be made to believe any type rubbish...; we do not have much chance of winning the fight to replace the Iranian dictators that parade as religious.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
David Goldman also pointed out that prostitution among Iranian women is growing by leaps and bounds, and that this, as much as any other factor ("when a country starts selling its women") is a major indicator of societal collapse. And I strongly dispute your contention --your generalization-- that revolutions are acts of hope. They are, often as not, acts of desperation.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Mr. Ledeen, thanks for a wonderfully well-written article. You seem to have the sense that, as with the Communists of the Soviet Union, the card-carrying Islamofascists of Iran are about 5% of the population while the rest shut their doors, cover their windows, heave a sigh of disgust, and wonder when it will all be over.

I dearly look forward to a resumption of relations with the talented, hard-working, and pro-capitalism people of Iran. Oh, and . . . I totally expect the Republicans to surrender another natural constituency to the Democrats when Iran normalizes.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Defeating evil is always simple; DIFFICULT, but simple.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"It isn’t hard to understand Iran, or what we should do about it." So what should we do about it? Please tell us. Or just keep writing posts that offer zero solutions, much easier than offering solutions.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think you may have missed the solution --"....support the opposition, and denounce the evil Khamenei and his henchmen every single day.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
So nice to see your name (moniker) plastered here:
Do you want the J. Carney version, or the Michael Ledeen version?
And where's the BILL WESTERN version?
.......................;................;.................;..............;.............;............?????
(signed off automatically for lack of activity).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well I'll tell you pilgram, it sure ain't the John Wayne version.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Revolutions are acts of hope...";
This explains the current revolution of deliberate ignorance in America. And Barrack Obama is Commander in Chief of this "Hope" brigade.

You really want to see what the Islamic empire ultimately wants for the United States? Take a look at the slide show the National Review Online has for the Syrian Civil War; Those photos depict what they pray for America to look like, and most likely will, with the band of juveniles We currently have at the helm of Our government.
"Si vis pacem, para bellum" has kept many nations safe, but is completely ignored by the United States government.
Our military is engrossed in sexual & ethnic sensitivity training, and Our children are punished for fantasizing about guns.
We are breeding a society of lambs to appease the lion cubs.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"...If we could bring down the Soviet Empire without waging open war..."

We did not bring down the Soviet Union. Our CIA didn't predict the Soviet Union's demise and our State Department was still making concessions to the Soviet Union the very day that evil regime fell. Worse yet, we helped our internally collapsed Russian enemy back to its feet so it can continue to threaten us today.

Only a classic, Soviet-style purge of our State Department--a mass head rolling from top to bottom--can alter our suicidal national course.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We most certainly did bring down the Soviet Union. Reagan, Thatcher, the Pope brought it crashing down. Reagan also used the Saudi's by having them lower the price of oil to the point the Soviet's could not compete, losing their only source of income from their natural resources. It's history.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Right, "hurled".
If it weren't for the intense engagement of Reagan and Thatcher with Gorbachev, the USSR would be the most powerful nation on earth today.
But, if you get your history from today's sources, you'd never know that fact.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You left out a Polish Pope and a Polish trade leader to whom many attribute the Soviet collapse. Victory has many authors. The fact remains that the Soviet Union expired of its own internal rot.

In any event, Reagan couldn't get elected in America today and Thatcher's passing was cheered by contemporary Brits chanting "ding dong the witch is dead." Russia and China and international Islam are ascendant and we are in steep decline.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Because morons wouldn't elect Reagan, and morons booed Thatcher is irrelevant to what they did. It's history.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hey, hurled;
As much as I like the Polish, and appreciate their legacy, at this time their engagement was coincidental; Any and all corroboration was welcome.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"To its credit, the State Department still knows that the Iranian regime is the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism."

Personally, I give that nod to Saudi Arabia.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Besides, if Iran has been our sworn enemy for 30 years, then that's yet another argument against our intervention in Iraq.

Iraq and Iran were locked in an uneasy stalemate. They had even gone to war in 1987. Iraq's Republican Guard was a deterrent to Iran.

Our destruction of Iraq as a major power just strengthened Iran's strategic position.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Roger that!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Iranian regime is a sworn enemy of the United States and ritually declares genocide against the people of the United States every Friday. The Iranian government reminds me of Henery Hawk from Looney Tunes; it's a tiny little chicken hawk that wants to kill a chicken. It is dangerous mainly because it isn't taken seriously. Washington officialdom has been acting like Foghorn Leghorn for at least thirty-four years.

“Clientitis” is essentially a form of pedantry. In order to conduct intelligent diplomacy, one needs to have a thorough grounding in world history and a more than thorough grounding in the history of one's own country. Understanding other cultures is important, which is precisely why it is important to know cultural context and precisely why it is important to understand one's own history well enough to understand the domestic overtones to one's foreign policy.

Requiring diplomats to learn American history would be a good start. Besides, many people who talk of understanding other cultures don't actually understand the cultures they are studying – precisely because they refuse to story their own history. Their tunnel vision blinds them to aspects of the very specialization they are studying. If only to serve as a corrective lens, Ronald Reagan's suggestion of a Bureau of American Affairs at the State Department has merit. That said, putting the Bureau of Indian Affairs under the State Department would be rather like dipping pure sodium into water.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Requiring diplomats to learn American history would be a good start."

I'd say extend that to all aspirants for high office as well. Fail the test, you do not get on the ticket, simple as that.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The problem with that is that there are lots of different histories of America. The Leftists strongly prefer books like those of Howard Zinn which talk about an America built by rapacious capitalists on the backs of oppressed natives and slaves. As long as the test is slanted that way - which it surely would be if created by Leftists - diplomats with similar sentiments would have no trouble passing the test. Therefore, the tests wouldn't help restore sense to the diplomatic corps. In fact, they would even tend to help screen out people who didn't think along the same lines; some of them would surely be appalled at the thought of describing their own history as being a story of exploitation and plunder and choose a different career.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's wishful thinking that it would be effective because ideology trumps fact with these people.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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