OxDem's global Democracy Briefings are the latest addition to the Winds of Change.NET regional briefings series. This inaugural briefing by Patrick Belton of OxBlog and OxDem reviews developments in Iran after the February 20th 'elections'. Patrick also serves as president of the Nathan Hale foreign policy society and think tank for young professionals, which has a website at www.foreignpolicysociety.org.
Analysts report that Ayatollah Khamenei has emerged from his nation's elections with more power but less authority. That the basis on which Khamenei's power rests is growing narrower, even as last week's elections removed the parliament and presidency as sources of opposition, is indicated by the disqualification of the candidacy of firebrand Behzad Nabavi, along with those of several heroes of the Iran-Iraq war - all of whom are now all considered beyond the pale of the Ayatollah's narrowed constituency. Notably, even Hizbullah founding member Ali Akbar Mohtashami refused to stand for election, declaring the electoral process undemocratic and corrupt.
In protest to the disqualification of the 2,400 reformist candidates, abstention from voting was widespread. Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi abstained from voting in protest. Columnist Michael Ledeen reports an average turnout of twelve percent, with Tehran's slightly lower, and Isfahan's and Qom's (the latter the headquarters of the Shi'a religious establishment) closer to five percent. Writes Ledeen, "The only major city with a substantially higher turnout was Kerman, due to a local factor: A widely hated hardliner was running, and many people judged it more important to demonstrate their contempt for him personally by voting for others."
After the election results, democracy advocates are considering mounting a massive campaign of passive civil disobedience. Many argue that Khatami's gradualist reform agenda had failed to produce change, and they would not have supported him in elections even without the Guardian Council's disqualification of reformist candidates.
Speculation after the elections has rested on who Khameini will appoint to succeed President Khatami as president when his term ends later this year. The more pragmatic of the conservative factions are putting forward National Security Council secretary Hassan Rohani, while the more hardline faction is favoring Ali Larijani, the head of Iranian media and a leading figure in the suppression of reformist views in the media, known principally for his aired "confessions" of political prisoners and broadcasts into Iraq encouraging opposition to the American presence.
During the two nights of Ashoura, pro-democracy protesters held demonstrations to use the religious holiday to criticize the lack of democracy in the Iranian government, according to the Iranian students. Prominent young film director Ardeshir Afshinzadeh died from wounds inflicted during torture following his participation in the Ashoura protests.
Other topics today include: How bad was it?; the U.S. response; Iran and the U.S. presidential election; crackdown on Iranian bloggers; responses of Iranian students and other democratic advocates, and their plans for a way forward.
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Conservatives loyal to Iran's Islamic leaders took 149 seats in the 290-seat parliament. Reformers and independents held only 65 seats. In February, the Guardian Council -- with its blanket political veto on candidates and laws which it judges to be contrary to the principles of the Islamic revolution -- ruled on barring 4,000 reformist parliamentary candidates, including the president's own brother and 80 members of Parliament. Half were then overturned, by a plea from Ayatollah Khamenei, who was speculated to be seeking legitimacy for the clerical institutions of government. Immediately before the election, two reform-leaning newspapers were shut down for running a letter of protest which questioned the clerical role in the Iranian government.
THE US RESPONSE
The White House released a strongly worded, highly condemnatory response: "I am very disappointed in the recently disputed parliamentary elections in Iran. The disqualification of some 2,400 candidates by the unelected Guardian Council deprived many Iranians of the opportunity to freely choose their representatives. I join many in Iran and around the world in condemning the Iranian regime's efforts to stifle freedom of speech -- including the closing of two leading reformist newspapers -- in the run-up to the election. Such measures undermine the rule of law and are clear attempts to deny the Iranian people's desire to freely choose their leaders."
At lower levels of the federal government, AEI Iran expert Reuel Marc Gerecht reports "a sense in certain quarters" that Rafsanjani and Khamenei "may play a very rough game domestically--Hezbollah thugs beat dissidents, "rogue" intelligence agents knife and run down liberal intellectuals, the judiciary jails any dangerous political opposition figure too prominent to off, and the Council of Guardians preemptively disqualifies troublemakers from office--but externally they are... responsible, rational actors who are principally motivated by geopolitics and economics (and, in the case of Rafsanjani, lucre). They are, in other words, real men, not distracted by all the leftist intellectual debates that consumed so many on the Khatami side of the political house."
The Democratic foreign policy establishment is calling for a conciliatory, realist approach to Iran. Writes Sandy Berger in the International Herald Tribune, "Washington should publicly offer to normalize relations with Iran - including a commitment not to change its government by force - and help it integrate into the global economy, provided that Iran gives up, definitively and verifiably, its weapons of mass destruction programs and ties to terrorist organizations."
IRAN AND THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Senator Kerry continues to call for normalization of ties with the Iranian regime. Reporters identify Kerry's fundraiser Hassan Nemaze, a longtime proponent of closer ties with Iran, as an influence of many of his campaign's statements.
The Iranian students condemned Kerry, arguing that his current position would result in an abandonment of all U.S. support for the cause of democracy in Iran.
OTHER RELATED EVENTS IN IRAN
Along with the crackdown on print media, one is underway on Iranian bloggers - see BBC (and see also Wiredís story on Iranian bloggers from last May).
There has been widespread consensus that last week's election results mark the end of the gradualist reform movement associated with Khatami. Leading dissident Hashim Aghageri has declared that Iran's reform movement is finished. Similarly, commentator Reza Bayegan writes "At the beginning of Mohammad Khatami's presidency, even many of those Iranians who were sympathetic to the Islamic Revolution privately felt reform was the regime's last chance. They argued that either Khatami would succeed in transforming the religious state into a democracy, or his presidency would be remembered as the final nail in the coffin of the Islamic republic. Unsurprisingly, a term and a half into his presidential mandate, Khatami is looking increasingly like an undertaker. His public credibility has all but vanished and the political movement that became synonymous with his name lies in tatters."
The student democracy protesters are of mixed feelings with regard to the Khatami party's downfall, having never accepted their reformist credentials in the first place. Psuedonymous Iranian student Koorosh Afshar writes: "Nearly four years ago, when we, the Iranian students, started the first phase of our new dissident movement, the so-called reformers (i.e., the pro-Khatami types) never staged "sit-ins" to support us. Vigilantes, revolutionary guards, and the Islamic republic's riot police were assailing us from every corner, as the reformers seemed to turn a blind eye to our struggle. Only when their own interests were on the line did the reformers stage sit-ins and resign.Ö You will have to excuse us Iranians for our lack of sympathy for these so-called reformers: Just ask yourself, as we ask ourselves, where they were while Iranian youths were being beaten, tortured, abducted, maimed, and deprived of their legitimate rights to continue their university studies. "
Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, testifying before committees of the European Parliament, decried the Iranian government's disqualification of thousands of parliamentary candidates as being contrary to Iran's commitments under the Charter of Human Rights. She called for an EU report on Iran, but rejected financial assistance for reformists, saying "Don't give us financial help because we'll be accused of being spies! We need your spiritual aid but not your financial help."
AllahPundit has an informative roundup of world-wide news that's very restrained compared to his usual style. Still, when Allah Is In The House you know you're also going to get stuff like this:
bq. "Dances With Wolves" defeating "GoodFellas" for Best Picture in 1990 remains known throughout Dar al-Islam as "the other naqba".
Heh. In other smile-producing news, Spring Training begins in only 33 days. FYI, O Divine One, The Crimson Jihad's next run-in with the NY Yankees is in a March 7th exhibition game. Looking forward to resuming our baseball jousts...
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Allah: My usual style isn't informative?? Just kidding. Thanks, Joe. read more
There's a bunch of stuff in my head I've been meaning to blog, but haven't. Time to fix that.
Topics will include: The human genome, aikido, a rice strain crossed with daffodil that prevents blindness but can't be given away, aging boomer relatives spawn a left-leaning anti-idiotarian, military transformation, what peace in the Mideast has to do with alcoholism, "gypsy blogging," commercializing space, and are we headed for a depression/Kondratieff Winter?
M. Simon points me to Matt Ridley's "The Humbling of Homo Sapiens". It's a very good article on the human genome, whose source of uniqueness may not be what you think. See also the story of "golden rice" engineered with daffodil genes. It breeds true, would make nobody rich, and holds the promise of preventing blindness in thousands of children. Why can't its inventor give it away?
Sean also writes: "Peace is a gift that only the Arabs can give themselves. We donít ask the bartender to cure the alcoholic, the alcky has to want to be cured and they have to do it essentially by themselves."
MAY 19/03: Our goal is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. If you find something here you want to blog about yourself (and we hope you do), all we ask is that you do as we do and offer a Hat Tip hyperlink to today's "Winds of War". Welcome!
Today's "Winds of War" is a collaboration with M. Simon, a frequent guest blogger here at Winds of Change.NET. Because the incoming format was slightly different, we've divided the report into independent sections (Wider War | Iraq | Roadmap | Iran).
Choices an unaccountable EU will make in future, too, if given the power. If this passes, its primary effect will be to successfully consolidate EU foreign policy and divide it from the USA. It's fair to assume we'd face a future European foreign policy that was both hostile and unaccountable.
Blaster's Blog explains "Why Iraq? Why Now?" Lots of folks have done that, of course, but Blaster does it with an interesting "Why Iraq?" Chart.
To give Blaster's chart even more oomph, please take a look at this Al-Qaeda nuclear threat on LGF. It comes with a picture from their video that is worth far more than 1,000 words. More like 1,000,000.
Donald Sensing, whose predictions for the start of the Iraq war are looking more and more on target, points us at two great columns. Tom Friedman's latest is fantastic. (I have never seen a more inconsistent columnist than Friendman - he's either great or in la-la land, with no in-between, and on the same subjects no less.) Meanwhile, Michael Kelly explains in the Washington Post how the Left's psychoses have sunk them from dominance to their present state of raving irrelevance. DisgustedLiberal.com agrees, and says they're dragging liberals down with them.
A Namby-Pamby Euro watches the war debate in Washington. No, really, that's how the author describes himself. He has some interesting observations, too. (courtesy of Sharkblog)
While we're in the "isn't that unusual" category, how about an intelligent, reasoned post about the abortion debate from one of its partisans? Impossible, you say? Not for Pejmanpundit. With third trimester procedures under the microscope these days, it's a timely subject - and more to the point, an excellent example.
India and Israel continue to strengthen their defense ties, and recently agreed to jointly market India's ALH (Advanced Light Helicopter). The ALH looks like a competitor to the UH-1 Huey, Westland Lynx, and Hughes 500. Wonder if Israel is also thinking that it might be better to have some light 'copters that can carry missiles, rockets or troops but didn't leave it open to U.S. pressure re: the way they're used.
Here's some interesting stuff I've come across lately:
Steven Den Beste has a post up wondering if perhaps France & Germany doth protest too much on Iraq because French & German companies have been bending or breaking the sanctions regime. There's actually a history of their involvement with Iraq's WMD programs that Steven didn't write about; suffice to say that I'd put even or better odds on his supposition coming true. I hope to get enough research time to lay some of that out for y'all over the next week.
A commenter on Rantburg points to some overlooked aspects of the Kuwaiti terrorist attack on American personnel the other day, one which could mean serious hardship for the victims' families. I sure hope Don is wrong.
On the bright side, Indonesians finally appear to be facing reality: the Bali bombing was the work of Indonesian Muslims, rather than moonbat conspiracy theories about the CIA et. al. Will it lead to coordinated, decisive action? Not really. Too many islands, too many places to hide, too many in cahoots. Indonesia will remain a source of regional trouble for its neighbours. But the worm is turning, and the momentum is no longer with the Islamists. Which means covert programs now have improved odds of success. Hope the CIA and India's RAW are busy down there.
Michael Ledeen, with yet another excellent article on Iran. Talk about the worm turning - even mullahs are unhappy these days. When will the Bush team start listening? Faster, please.
Bala Ambati wonders "...where are moderate Muslims protesting the actions of Islamic fundamentalists with "Not in our name" banners or "No blood for Qur'an"? (We have one here, and this blog is his sign... wish there were more.) Bala is apparently an opthamologist of no small water - no idea where he finds the time to write, but I'm glad he does.
Meanwhile, recent cooperation between the inspectors and Western intellncies appeas to have uncovered something more significant than the chemical warhads. It may be evidence that Saddam has been pursuing a nuclear program despite Iraq's formal oficial denials to the U.N. CPO Sparkey over at Sgt Stryker has the link.
Are Black Republicans just window dressing? If these stories are true, this is shameful... and this response is, if anything, worse. There are unquestionably racists in both American parties, and the Democrat kind are certainly more vocal. None of this removes the onus on the Republicans to deal with inexcusable crap like this in their midst. If the response alone is true, someone in the California Republican Party deserves a serious ass-kicking.
Last week's self-contradiction award goes to TIME Magazine, for an article in its pages about "America's Ultra-Secret Weapon" - High Powered Microwaves (HPMs) that can fry electronics. Guess it isn't ultra-secret now, is it? (Hat Tip: Watch/, Randall Parker)
In other lighter fare, Charles at Little Green Footballs had to explain publicly that his bit about an Arab League protest of Israeli Ilan Ramon's recent space voyage was a gag. Somehow, the inclusion of the term "atomic wedgies" in the "report" failed to clue some people in.
In support of the Iranian Blog Burst idea, I'll be running at least one Iran-related item per day for the next week. Usually more. I'll also be linking to John's Open Letter to the Iranian People every day.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman banned in Iran! Accused of espionage, no less. Howard Fienberg of Kesher Talk has the whole story, and wonders "how the mad mullahs would react to a visit from National Review's James Robbins or Michael Ledeen... can you say public beheading?" Well, someone would certainly end up beheaded in that confrontation. As I've long maintained, "a man is judged by the enemies he keeps."
I'll Be Back, Part I: 6 Proposals for rebuilding the World Trade Center complex, complete with background coverage and previews of all 6 plans. With a top height of 86 stories, I must admit that I'm a bit disappointed. It looks like the designers have wimped out. None of these even measures up to the "twin lights" display. Surely we can do better.
I'll Be Back, Part II: These alternatives certainly pale before my preferred plan, a scaled-down version of this model. That plan not only encapsulates the essence of New York and provides a notable new landmark, it significantly enhances the structure's stability in the event of future terrorist attacks. I think it's a winner all around.
Another Blogtivist effort seeks to gather the goods on Demo-loony Congresscritter Cynthia "9/11 was a Bush plot" McKinney. Kesher Talk asks you to send in your articles, pointers, and other compilations of her looniness and payoffs from supporters of terrorism. If you do, her political enemies will put it to good use. Help her Democrat challenger make Ms. McKinney an ex-politician!
Josh Trevino of i330 finally went to Movable Type, and it looks great. Today's highlight analyzes the burdens of Empire when you're an American functionary, stranded in some screaming hell-hole filled with jihadis as you wait for the helicopters to arrive. And of course, wondering what to do with your cat. Fortunately, the State Department has some advice for you. Perhaps Colin & co. could do something useful for a change, and ship this briefing to Iran's mullahs. Now that would be a diplomatic statement worthy of the name.
LakeFX's Dan Hartung meditates on evil in this July 14 posting (sorry, Blogger's archiving is bust..scroll down to it). One paragraph in particular stood out for him, and I commend it to you, too: "Evil is the Bad elevated to the status of the inexplicable. To understand is to forgive. Evil sometimes means the thing we cannot understand, and cannot forgive."
Let me be clear. What happened to those American women in Saudi Arabia is beyond appalling, and needs to be dealt with. Starting with the slimy U.S. diplomat who expelled them from the Embassy into certain rape and imprisonment. That said, I do have less sympathy for people who went there of their own accord instead of being kidnapped. Saudi Arabia is not, repeat NOT a civilized country. When you visit the doghouse, don't complain about the fleas.
Ah, yes, our "friends" the Saudis. Norwegian Blogger gets to the heart of their dilemma, and knows how to deal with them. His ancestors would be pleased.
Speaking of cons, hypocrisy doesn't even begin to describe this. Anyone still think the ACLU and its affiliates actually have much to do with free speech or civil liberties? Me neither... just one more piece of evidence in a long, long list.
I know this one's a few days old. But damn, it's good. Vodkapundit explains why the environment is better off when people are rich. Much better off. Howard Fienberg makes similar points in his July 9 Tech Central Station column. They both make necessary points, but the debate needs to go further. The challenge is preserving the environment as economies come up the growth curve... and that raises a whole new set of issues. Hopefully, as technology advances we can continue to improve those odds. But it will take more than technology to pull off the transitions.
"Linking small things, for big bucks." Nanotechnology is still in its early stages, but Nanodot points to recent developments like a new nanotechnology center at Purdue University in Indiana aimed at linking scientists and entrepreneurs. As Rand Simberg often reminds us when discussing space travel, it's not just an engineering challenge; it's about building an industry.
Jeffrey Harrow covers new developments in the war. Not the War on Islamists - the war the entertainment industry is waging on its customers. (This means you!) Read his "Musical Technological Escalatio" reports, and you'll see that this characterization may not be an exaggeration.
Ranting & Roaring has one positive development on the copyright front, courtesy of a proposal by Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA) to extend fair use rights. Since the industry is doing its level best to remove them from you entirely, this is an important development. Rep. Boucher's home page has an email link, and you might consider using it to express your support.
Good news and bad news from Venezuela, an important cog in our oil supply situation and the chief architect of OPEC's price increases over the last several years. El Sur completes his rundown of recent developments by noting: "The opposition's initial mass actions... all carried with them the possibility... of a coup. That now in 'been-there, done-that' status, a new approach is needed. This approach, when found, will probably be much more difficult to realize than a coup would have been. On the other hand, it will also be more legitimate, which means its benefits will be longer lasting." Let's see: raising oil prices, trashing Venezuela's oil infrastructure, cozying up to narco-terrorists, arming unaccountable militia gangs internally - however it happens, some lasting change there is sorely needed.
Bob Frankston of the charmingly-named tech site SATN.org has a very worthwhile essay. It starts out covering programming, then quickly broadens into meaningful philosophy. "It wasn't really a matter of lying to myself as much as not having the incentive to seek the truth. What we have is a failure of advocacy. I simply didn't have the incentive to solve a problem that I didn't know was solvable." And of course, that dynamic explains a lot of other things as well.
Pejman asks if anyone else is concerned that a Polio virus was recently created by chemical means in a lab. Charles Murtaugh has some good additional perspective on this subject. Here's what it means: it means that any virus whose genetic sequence is mapped will be re-creatable in the not-too-distant future, without requiring original specimens. That's bad enough in the hands of a country like Iran, but the means will eventually become available at much lower levels than that. Welcome to the first harbingers of the scenarios Bill Joy painted in his famous WIRED article: "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us."
Robert Batley on the American Way of War, from Gettysburg on the one hand to Omaha Beach on the other. "In the war on terror further tests lie ahead, President Bush tells us, including action to topple Saddam. History suggests the chief test will be not whether Americans will abide body bags, but whether they can grasp the nettle."
Uzbek jihadis are infiltrating Pakistan in significant numbers. They can't go back to their homeland, and Afghanistan isn't safe any more either. Many are in Waziristan, while others are moving toward cities like Karachi. Apparently, many Middle Easterners are also escaping via Karachi, and returning to their homelands by sea. Read the July 15 Eurasianet report. Looks like Karachi is becoming a very dangerous place....
Looks like we have our own problems right here, too. In "All the Hate That's Fit to Print" The Weekly Standard notes that: "One expects appeals to the extremist jihad to be heard in the streets of Karachi, in the canyons of Tora Bora, and from the government media of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Some of the most strident voices, however, are here in the United States, directed not from the Middle East or South Asia, but from modern offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and the Detroit suburbs." Not surprising... Winds of Change covered this very issue, with an example from Toronto, Canada, back on April 22, 2002.
International fundraising and businesses like SAMED are one part of the PLO's financial strength. But a British assessment says the PLO became one of the world's richest terrorist organizations through methods that look a lot like a criminal syndicate. This is a growing pattern among terrorist organizations, including the IRA and Protestant paramilitaries, FARC in Colombia, and others. My next Tech Central Station piece will begin to sketch out why that might matter.
And proving once again that there really is no honour among thieves, comes a report that a lot of this money is being siphoned off by Arafat and his cronies. This has always been true, but apparently the pace has accelerated lately. (Thanks to Terror Watch for these PLO pointers)
Is it open season on Canadian Jews? Note: David Rosenzweig was related to my fellow bloggers at Mideast Realities. I'll leave the last words here to his wife: "My hope is that those who carry a message of hate in their hearts be one day blessed with the true joy of knowing what it means to be able to transmit love and peace to other human beings, as my husband did every day of his life."
Pakistan has the right idea, sentencing "Sheikh" Omar to death for the murder of Danny Pearl (see video) and giving his accomplices life in prison. Omar isn't exactly going quietly.
Bill Allison of Ideofact has a great in-depth look at Islam and Social Justice, as seen through the eyes of Sayyid Qutb. "Who the hell is he?" you ask. How about: the ideological father and touchstone for Bin Laden & company's view of Islam. If we're at war with Islamism, he was its Mussolini. Start with some background. Then we can go on to topics like Qutb's view of Christianity, the role played by freedom of conscience, and the rights of women. Bill and my oft-missed friend Adil Farooq were/are two of the deepest thinkers in the Blogosphere when it came to Islam and the West. I always find their thoughts worth reading.
Jane Galt of "Live from WTC" says she is not G-d, and does not even play G-d on TV. So much for that theory.
Charles Oliver at Shoutin' Across the Pacific (whose blog lacks permalinks), points to a very interesting piece by Morgan Stanley's Stephen Roach. He says the U.S. economic downturn is not a normal business cycle dip, but the results of a "popped asset bubble." So what? You say. Well, if he's right it changes the length of the resulting recession, and the effects on consumer habits. Read and consider.
A father who lost his firefighter son during a colossal act of misjudgement by the US Forest Service fought for change - and won. A major national agency has been forced to change despite its initial stonewalling, and fighting forest fires will now be safer for many hundreds of young men and women. Good on ya, Mr. Weaver... and our deepest condolences go with you. Thanks to DangerousMeta for the pointer.
Follow Me Here notices a crop of new books that assesses why our collective hopes for marital bliss have soured and what might be done about it. "Viewed together, they reflect a surprising consensus that has emerged of late between liberals and conservatives." If true, this is important news.
(10:00am) Some nice confirmation of those reports about Karachi, courtesy of the Canadian Navy. HMCS Iroquois nabbed 2 Al-Qaeda suspects, trying to escape by sea. ABC News has the story.
Another suicide bombing in Israel. 7 dead, 15 injured near Emanuel at the hands of an explosion near an armored bus, followed by gunfire from terrorists dressed as Israeli Defence Forces soldiers. Hey, isn't dressing in the uniforms of your enemy a war crime punishable by summary execution? Just asking.
Sharkblog has a talent for finding realy revealing stuff. Like this Psychotic Death Cult Photo Album from Hamas' military wing. Sometimes a picture really is worth 1,000 words.
...but if you're more of a text and analysis guy, then Charles at Little Green Footballs has you covered. Start with today's piece on suicide bomber motivations, then continue to the recent terrorist strategy meeting in Tehran. Al-Qaeda representatives are believed to have attended, and of course their allies in Hezbollah were there too. Here's what it looks like to me: Iran has just stepped to the fore as Al-Qaeda's main state sponsor, in a deniable but clear fashion, and is bankrolling their effort to reconstitute themselves to the tune of about $50 million. My note in Charles' comments section explains.