Roger L. Simon

Iran: odd timing of Saberi's release

No one can but rejoice at the release of Japanese-American-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi from Tehran’s Evin Prison today. I have met personally with students once incarcerated in Evin and let me assure you a stay in Iran’s most famous jail makes Gitmo or Abu Ghraib, however you conceive them, seem like the Four Seasons. The former prisoners I interviewed had faces that looked like early cubist Picasso’s from their beatings. One had had his brother murdered in a nearby cell.

Nevertheless, it’s worth speculating on the timing of the release of Ms. Saberi, who originally had a one-day (closed) trial and then suddenly had a five-hour (closed, of course) appeal that turned an eight-year sentence into a two-year suspended sentence. I’m no expert on the internal workings of the mullocracy, but it strikes me they are not in as great a position as it would seem at this moment. The Arab states are getting fed up with them and are more than a little bit concerned about Iranian nuclear ambitions. Israeli PM Netanyahu is about to arrive in Washington. Conventional wisdom goes that the Israeli PM is on the hot seat with an increasingly unfriendly US administration. That is certainly true to a serious extent. But oddly enough, the Iranians, paranoiacs par excellence, may not be perceiving it that way. They may see themselves as suddenly boxed in by a burgeoning alliance between (largely Sunni) Arabs and Israel with US backing. Hence – they have sent a signal. You see, we’re not such crazies. Of course, as we all know, the subtext is – leave us alone to build our bomb. Let’s hope the Obama Administration pays close attention to this behavior. [Are you optimistic?-ed. Are you?]

UPDATE: For those of you who thought Maoism was dead, it may be finished in China but it’s alive and well on Salon with Glenn Greenwald, who writes of reactions to Saberi’s release: “It simply would not be possible for his brain [Eli Lake in the New Republic] to process the fact that what he’s describing as the hallmark of an uncivilized country is that which the U.S. does repeatedly and in far more oppressive ways than what Iran did in the Saberi case. In that regard, he is a typical American journalist.”

[How do you think Greenwald would react if he were incarcerated in Evin Prison?-ed. I hope it’s not in Section 209.]