The Blind Who Will Not See: The President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Iranian Death Spiral
I sometimes wonder where some of our smartest people get their ideas. Take Defense Secretary Bob Gates, for example. Discussing the possibility of military action against Iranian nuclear weapons facilities, he said: “And if it's a military solution, as far as I'm concerned, it will bring together a divided nation, it will make them absolutely committed to attaining nuclear weapons and they will just go deeper and more covert."
I don’t get it. Is there some sort of evidence? What could it possibly be, aside from the sort I get from my Ouija board? So I try to imagine one of the tens of millions of Iranian opponents of the regime. Perhaps he’s got a relative in prison; he probably knows people who have lost a family member or two to the regime’s killers and torturers. He dreams of a free Iran, of an end to the humiliating circumstances in which Iranians now find themselves: widely considered to be terrorists, barbarians, and savages. And then one day somebody blows up a bunch of nuclear labs, some secret military installations, and RG headquarters in the major cities. Does that guy now rally round the supreme leader? I don’t think so.
Not that I’m trying to talk Gates into bombing Iran; quite the opposite, in fact. Our greatest weapon is political, and consists in the overwhelming majority of Iranians who hate the regime. If we supported them with vigor and a sense of humor, I think the regime would be overthrown and we wouldn’t have to worry about the “military option.” But we don’t hear any vigorous support for the democratic opposition from this administration. And more to the point, nothing concrete is done for them. (I can tell you a few stories about OFAC’s refusal to permit would-be supporters to help the Green Movement, for example).
In the old days, Gates was a great analyst, but I think he has decided to be a blind man when it comes to Iran. He said a few other astonishing things as well. “We even have some evidence,” he said, “evidence that Khamenei is beginning to wonder if Ahmedinejad is lying to him about the impact of the sanctions on the economy, and whether he's getting the straight scoop in terms of how much trouble the economy really is in."
I think I can help the secretary of Defense here: Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei doesn’t believe anything President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says about anything. He knows he is not going to get the straight scoop from the man most Iranians refer to, not with great affection, as the chimpanzee. Khamenei only listens to a handful of people, including his son and designated successor, and members of his inner circle who have names like Larijani and Jaffari.
For the record, Khamenei said today that he and the Chimp get along famously, and the sanctions aren’t affecting much of anything in the Islamic Republic.
Khamenei's lying. He knows that the country’s going to ruin. Just read this, which tells of a secret analysis prepared for Khamenei, and which predicts the total collapse of the national economy in the near future.
- According to Les Echos, oil income, which constitutes two thirds of the country's income, was harmed by the departure of the Western companies after they were forced by the United States Treasury to choose between their interests in the U.S. and those in Iran. The French Total, Dutch Shell, Norwegian Statoil, and Italian ENI companies suspended their investments, and the Japanese Inpex may do the same shortly. Lack of foreign maintenance and spare parts affected oil production, the rate of which decreased from 4.2 million barrels per day in the middle of 2009 to 3.5 million barrels in the summer of 2010.
- Even the Turks are failing to deliver on their promise to supply gasoline (of which the Turks normally provide half); they stopped deliveries at the end of August. The fuel now comes from Turkmenistan, China, and Venezuela, or is smuggled in from Iraq.
- At the end of September, the Korean Kia and German Thyssen followed Daimler, Toyota, Caterpillar, and Hewlett-Packard, and suspended their activities. Munich Re, Allianz, and Lloyds now refuse to insure cargos and planes that transfer supplies to Iran, while funding foreign trade is becoming more complicated, since most of the banks avoid all contact with Iran.
- The banks in the UAE, which half of the Iranian import goes through, broke off all connections with the country two weeks ago, leading to a shortage of dollars (and a sudden increase of the dollar rate to 10.900 rial). On Saturday, the regime warned that it will suppress the demonstrations and strikes by the merchants that will most likely break out after the costly subsidies on consumption of food and fuel products (10 percent of the GNP) are cancelled...
Despite the remarkably widespread belief that socioeconomic misery causes revolution, it is not so. Revolution is not an act of desperation, not a final throw of the dice by those with nothing left to lose. Revolution is an act of hope undertaken by those who believe they can change the world for the better. The regime knows it has failed to win the support of most Iranians, and like good totalitarians they are trying to recapture the culture and force it into a Shi’ite strait jacket before the people bring them to justice for their many crimes. The history textbooks are being rewritten, and ancient Persian history — particularly the epic story of Cyrus the Great — are being removed, as if the country only really started with the Islamic conquest. Religious monitors are being placed in schools from the earliest years through university. And popular culture is more and more repressed: no music is permitted, while the once-proud cinema has been crushed. One of the country's greatest directors, Jafar Panahi, was recently dragged before an Islamic court, where he delivered a memorable defense of his art and his independence:
I am not a film maker who judges but one that invites other to see. I don’t get to decide for others or to write any kind of manual for any body; please allow me to repeat my pretension to place my cinema beyond good and evil. This kind of belief has caused my colleagues and my self a lot of trouble; many of my films have been banned, along with the films of other filmmakers like me. But it is unprecedented in Iranian cinema to arrest and imprison a filmmaker for making a film, and harass his family while he is in prison. This is a new development in the history of Iranian cinema that will be remembered for a long time.
Meanwhile, despite the ban, there is a flourishing musical underground, mostly in the big cities, that sings of hope and (revolutionary) change. For example, this one, from a female rapper named Mana:
Freedom, happiness go hand in hand
A way is needed, informing people is important, Rock building
Playing hard, we’re lions, not sissies with swords in our hands, path opening
problem solving in farsi, Iranian from the bottom of our heart love we spread
street to street we run around, you will hear us whether you go up or down
tonight is yours, where you going, look at em, its new years, set up your table
we give jewels, say your full
Thats freedom ya'll
Thats freedom ya'll
more more whether you’re a boy or girl
use your voice for talent
for your children in the cold streets ...
This smoldering rebellion is not the product of sanctions, pace Bob Gates. But those who are searching for a moment to fulfill their dreams of freedom are certainly encouraged to see the regime's incompetence in dealing with its crisis. Foremost among the freedom fighters are Iranian women, long the preferred victims of the dreadful Khomeinist regime. Of late, the women in Tehran's Evin prison were moved into cells with drug addicts, so that they might be assaulted by drug-deprived prisoners. This grisly operation was justly and powerfully denounced by the pasionaria of the Green Movement, Mousavi's wife Zahra Rahnivard: "Transferring female political prisoners to the Methadone quarantine ward for addicts is a waste of time, as it will not only NOT cure their addiction to freedom and democracy, but will bring them closer to God."
See what I mean about the soul of revolution?
Finally, there is a recent bombshell out of Lebanon, where the regime and its favored paramilitary instrument, Hezbollah, have been trying frantically to suppress the release of a UN report on the 2008 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. It has just been announced that the former Revolutionary Guard Commander and former Iranian Deputy Minister of Defense Ali-Reza Asgari -- who famously defected to the West in 2007 -- will testify at the trial. The tribunal has accused Hezbollah of having a hand in that assassination.
Lebanese daily Al Diyar Online, in its Monday November 15th issue, confirmed this report and said that this could be a game-changer in the various political equations inside Lebanon. Lebanese journalists have called this witness “the king on the new chess board.”
We never know what will catalyze the final crisis of a failed and hated regime. We could have been the catalyst for revolution many times in the past years, especially the years after 9/11. But we chose to blind ourselves to the reality of an Islamic Republic that kills Americans with the same zeal it directs against its own people. The sanctions are at least a positive move, because they show the Iranian people that we are not totally supine. But the sanctions are not enough. We need to support the forces of revolution in Iran.
Someone should tell Bob Gates. And his colleague at State, Mrs. Clinton. And their president, who is totally absent from this gripping drama.