Scott’s choices (re. Iran matters)

(title tip to Gary Sick’s stimulating blog. )
Four compelling commentaries about Iran developments:
1. Suzanne Maloney’s “Clerical Error,” on Council on Foreign Relations web site:

The convergence of… — mass mobilization and elite infighting — has produced the most serious threat to the survival of the Islamic Republic since the early years of its existence. However the election turmoil plays out, it has irreparably shattered the Islamic Republic’s most important underlying assets — elite cooperation and popular participation….

Four weeks ago in these pages, I reviewed why “elite cooperation” was key to Iran’s complex decision making. Whether the consensus forming mechanisms can be restored is indeed a vital question.

The closest parallel to the current protests is the mass mobilization that preceded the 1979 revolution. Then, as is happening now, disciplined crowds spanning Iranian society’s traditional cleavages among generations, ethnic groups, and social classes poured into the streets…. The dissent that Mousavi is encouraging violates the central tenet of the Islamic Republic’s political culture, which is based on a shared commitment among “khodi,” or insiders, to the preservation of the system….

Maloney is less convincing on where this is going, yet provocative:

“The reformists on the streets and in the corridors of power have emphasized the moderate nature of their demands; neither group is seeking to overturn the Islamic system. This caution may help enable the regime to prevail, but its short-term survival may leave it fatally weakened. In the aftermath of a stolen election, Iranians will remain mobilized in unprecedented numbers against their government and the leadership will be undercut by profound internal cleavages…. What follows will — in either the short or long term — represent a genuine improvement for both the Iranian people and the international community.”

2. Anything by Roger Cohen, including his on-the-street account on Sunday, and especially his take in tomorrow’s NYTimes on “The Children of Tomorrow.
Among keepers in his Sunday essay, Cohen observes how Supreme Leader Khamenei “factionalized himself” by taking sides in a dispute central to the system. Instead of soothing the wounds, last Friday’s sermon catalyzed further broad demonstrations by “people of all ages. — an old man on crutches, middle-aged office workers and bands of teenagers.”
To Cohen’s doubts about whether the world, or the UN could help the protesters, one woman tellingly realized: “So, we are on our own.”
Even as the world indeed is watching, “in the end that is true. Iranians have fought this lonely fight for a long time: to be free, to have a measure of democracy.” Therein may be their best “weapon,” in the Iranian context — self-reliance.
For tomorrow’s column, Cohen movingly writes:

“I believe the loss of trust by millions of Iranians who’d been prepared to tolerate a system they disliked, provided they had a small margin of freedom, constitutes the core political earthquake in Iran. Moderates who once worked the angles are now muttering about making Molotov cocktails and screaming their lungs out after dusk. Moussavi is trying to calm their rage and coax the multiple security forces to his side….
Ten days on, however, the brutal use of force and [Leader Khamenei’s] polarizing speech have drawn many more Iranians toward an absolutist stance. Having wanted their votes counted, they now want wholesale change. If Moussavi wants to prevail, he must keep his followers tactically focused on securing a new election.

Cohen juxtaposes thuggish Basijis with those like shot-through-the-heart Neda Soltan, who risk everything to resist their youthful counterparts:

“I bow my head to the youth of Iran, the youth that is open-eyed, bold and far stronger and more numerous than the near-beardless vigilantes.”

3. As for what the US should be doing, consider first Eric Hooglund’s sober review in the Guardian of six reasons for why the US should “stay out:” Eric highlights cautions that Helena and I have separately raised, including:

“Given the nature of Iranian politics, any US statements or other efforts aimed at influencing the current debate are likely to assist the conservative advocates of government guided by religious principles – because they can tar the reformers with the brush of being agents of Washington.”

4. Andrew Parasiliti is more nuanced in commending the Obama Administration for its restrained balancing of principle and realism in today’s Chicago Tribune.

Timing is everything. If you are right at the wrong time, you are still wrong…. The U.S. should not pre-empt what might be a historic opportunity for U.S.-Iran relations and the Middle East…. The U.S. would be better served by a result that favors Iran’s reform movement led by Mir Hossein Mousavi. But that outcome in Iran is uncertain and the administration has the responsibility to best position the United States for all contingencies.

Andrew also notes that Obama “may be able to tap into a constituency for change in Iran regarding relations with the U.S. and create a kind of popular pressure on Iran’s leaders, whatever the outcome of the current political turmoil in Iran.”
It seems to me he already has. Obama’s No Ruz and Cairo speeches robbed Ahmadinejad of an easy American bogey with which to pound his critics. All three of his opponents proposed foreign policy changes in their campaigns — to seek a “new face to the world.” (among the Musavi slogans)
The incumbent President, knowing the potential appeal of the charge, shrewdly countered that it had been precisely his bold style, rather than alleged previous groveling, that brought the Americans to their senses.
The Iranian voter, quite aware of Iran’s flagging reputation in the world, understood the extraordinary significance of the debate. It’s an as yet unresolved argument.
Update:
5. Excellent interview with Fardideh Farhi, also on the Council on Foreign Relations web site. Note especially her ending hope for how the “clash of titans” might yet resolve itself:

“[W]e have these robust contenders–titans in some way–in a confrontation. To assume that this will lead ultimately to a victory of one over the other is unrealistic as well as dangerous because it may come at the cost of tremendous violence. My hope is that the path is opened to some sort of a compromise that allows, for example, a backing down on the part of Mr. Khamenei, perhaps some sort of a truth commission or a reelection, while at the same time he can maintain power, perhaps reduced power.”

23 thoughts on “Scott’s choices (re. Iran matters)

  1. Salah

    changes to Iran’s foreign policy
    The matter its not really with “foreign policy” as such although all tag rounded by foreign policy but US needs Iran for many reasons, Iran needs US/ West to get out of in the house problems caused by sanctions with Mullah/AN promises for Iranians.
    So its double side game here US working to pressure Iranians to come to their side without loosing their face, but Iranian so far resisting to surrender to US wishes but Mullah should now think twice for more open channels with US

  2. scott h

    Interesting hometown charlottesville angle to this, a local tv interview with an Iranian-American:
    http://www.nbc29.com/Global/story.asp?S=10574899
    She admits Iranians are in a tough position, “On the one hand, protesting against the oppressive government, on the other hand, there’s a really strong sentiment of not wanting to just become a western puppet.”

  3. scott h

    I just added Farideh Farhi’s latest interview with the US Council on Foreign Relations web site. (at bottom of original post)

  4. bb

    There is a story out there that Karoubi has made the following call today:
    Karoubi – I demand an immediate end to censorship by gov
    Karoubi – I demand that the bodies of the martyrs be released to the families for burial immediately
    Karoubi – I demand gov provide medical treatment for those injured
    Karoubi – I demand release of all political prisoners immediately
    Karoubi – I invite the nation to participate on Thurs in rememberance of those killed by this Gov
    Karoubi – In Iran the minority are ruling the majority with violence and oppression
    Karoubi – the right of the nation to challenge this unfair & corrupt election is the right of all muslims
    Karoubi – Para 29 of Constitution allows unarmed public gatherings without permit if they do not insult Islam
    Karoubi – The actions of this Gov insults all free peoples of the world
    Karoubi – The Gov has chosen to respond with oppression and violence
    Karoubi – It is regretable that the highest authority in Iran choses to ignore the peaceful demands of the people.
    If this statement is authentic, then surely it means this issue is not going away unless/until the regime conducts a full scale purge of the reform leaders, including Rafsanjani?
    How likely are they to do this? I keep being reminded of Iraq. The Baath regime dealt with opposition civilians by shovelling them into mass graves. It maintained an iron grip by banning cell phones, internet and satellite and ensuring that neighbours and family members were terrorised into spying on each other. That’s what a vile totalitarian police state looks like.
    I simply can’t see that Iranian system has ever even approached the climate that existed in Iraq.
    Am I being Pollyanna in saying a new election is virtually certain? It seems the only way out for Khamenei unless he wants to emulate the late Mr S Hussein.

  5. Domza

    Who will say that the narrative of Roger Cohen, as reported here, is any different from “The Scarlet Pimpernel” or the tales of Cavaliers and Roundheads that middle-class British children used to read, where the Cavaliers were always the dashing ones?
    Who would not like to think that the dashing architect Mousavi and his pretty academic wife, the two of them together the image of the discrete charm of the bourgeoisie, would not command the open-hearted support of tens of millions of forelock-tugging peasants?
    Especially in preference to that cad Ahmendinejad.
    Who would not dream of Andrew Lloyd-Webber setting the whole thing to a banal untroubling score and achieving a huge success with it on the West End?
    Who cannot but dream of Abba coming back to do a bittersweet new Iran-based version of “Fernando”?
    Or the Moussavis reincarnated for stage and screen as Persian Robin of Locksley and Maid Marion versus Ahmedinejad as the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham-on-Caspian-Sea?
    By the cringe.

  6. Salah

    News circulated inside Iran that the position of supreme leader may be abolished.
    So what AN up to?

  7. Salah

    Andrew Sullivan about Roger Cohen article:

    He too saw this coming, and was vilified by the usual suspects for reaching for peace. If you want to read classic old media journalism by a reporter with passion and courage, his missive tonight is as good as it gets. Cohen proves the old media is not dead. May it rise again.

    Roger Cohen in no way “saw this coming.” In fact, he made a name for himself internationally as one of the leading Western apologists for Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, arguing that the regime was substantially benign and that engagement with these murderers was practically a moral necessity. He saw nothing coming, nothing at all. He has even admitted as much. To his credit, last week he wrote: “I erred in underestimating the brutality and cynicism of a regime that understands the uses of ruthlessness.”

  8. scott h

    gee Salah, Why don’t you reveal the name of the neocon accuser — Jeffery Goldberg:
    http://jeffreygoldberg.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/06/what_roger_cohen_saw.php
    Sullivan, writing in a subsequent reply:
    “By “seeing this coming,” I meant simply that he saw before this election a wave of exuberance, openness and democratic fervor that helped complicate the picture of an allegedly totalitarian Iran. Others didn’t see it, because they were already convinced it was irrelevant. But Cohen was right in seeing the potential of this movement that many neocons wanted to dismiss so recently.”
    Some of us (ahem) took the elections campaign seriously, with all their flaws, while Goldberg, and the talking points were determined to denounce then as a sham…. The latter missed what was coming. Yet it was there in the slogans before the election: “if they cheat, Iran will erupt.”
    Classic neocon doublethink. Change the subject, avoid examination of your own error, and engage unseemly personal barrages at those who had it right as Hitler’s allies….

  9. Domza

    Great articles, JFL.
    That should be it, done and dusted. One more colour bogus revo thwarted. Paul Craig Roberts thinks there is permanent damage to Iran but I am not so sure. It may be the colour revo industry that takes the permanent damage. I hope so.

  10. scott h

    Thanks for the links John Francis.
    Your examples remind me of Professor Inis Claude’s quip that political analysis sometimes becomes a circle, with the far left and the far libertarian right (PC Roberts, Lew Rockwell, etc.) joining hands, having more in common with each other than what Schlessinger (sr) used to refer to as the “vital center”
    Golly, some of these chaps are even more stretched than the most fantastic of Iran conspiracy theories — in assuming everything is made in America.
    Or as Peter Beaumont put it in the Guardian recently:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jun/21/peter-beaumont-iran-crisis-ahmadinejad
    “The urge to split the world into two warring camps is childish — The Iran crisis is being hijacked by those who see themselves as anti-imperialists or pro-democrats, missing its true complexity”
    For those with open minds to hear it, read it.
    I realize though it’s so much easier to stick to the pre-canned ideological frameworks, and to cherry picks snippets of reality to feed the theory, than to catch up on local facts, histories and cultures…. And so it goes

  11. scott h

    Ok, Domza, you’ve made the same point here now what 100 times? — that the color revolution must be fake because your ideological framework says it must be so. Evidence to the contrary then is irrelevant. Doesn’t matter to you that your argument parallels exactly what Khamenei’s and A/N’s people claimed — that Musavi and co. were agents of imposed velvet revolutions & such… and that Musavi and co. early on took great pains to emphasize their colors were “religious, not velvet” (and I documented in my late May posts on the elections)
    Do you have anything “fresh” to offer?

  12. Domza

    Scott, you shouldn’t do that. Never mind that it is rude, but putting words into another person’s mouth is a killer of dialogue.
    There is a lot more to be learned from this story but not with you when you are in your present mood.

  13. scott h

    or let’s see if I can anticipate where the pre-canned frameworks will respond to future protests (say, on Thursday):
    From the far left:
    1. Ah, they’re being secretly funded either by the US State Dept (never mind that Bush era program is being shut down) or by George Soros. They couldn’t possibly do this themselves.
    From the libertarian right:
    2. Well, their color is green, so it must be funded by American greenbacks. And besides, Musavi long ago was a “leftist” on his economics — and we can’t support that….
    and from the neocon right:
    3. Oh Father Ledeen-be-praised neocons, “see, they really are campainging for overthrowing the entire system, for rejecting Islam, for wanting to be “liberated” by Lieberman, McCain, Netanyahu… or as the Jerusalem Post put it yesterday…. “this is Israel’s opportunity.” Bring back the Shah, da father of Iranian “democracy”
    Play on…. :-}

  14. Salah

    at those who had it right as Hitler’s allies….
    Scott, Yah you are right with Cohen…who had it right as Hitler’s allies….
    Cohen supports the American-led invasion of Iraq. “we’re going to have to play buffer against the dominant Shia for several years”
    Roger Cohen is not more than Cries Wolf,”….

  15. seth edenbaum

    50 Million in american support for the opposition.
    Cohen’s “we are with you” is really annoying. And the Israelis are guilty of far worse than what the iranian government is doing right now; but get none of the press. The Iranian government is guilty of far worse as well but that was back when Mousavi was helping to run it.
    Iran is divided. Even Scott H has a hard time admitting that.
    And I find that more than problematic, considering where he’s posting.
    http://pulsemedia.org/2009/06/23/british-iranians-protest-bbc/
    They also link to AbuKhalil (and break him into paragraphs!)
    “But the hypocrisy is quite stunning. They are admiring the dare of the population when the Palestinian population shows more dare.
    They are outraged at the level of repressive crackdown by the regime when Israeli crackdowns on demonstrations are far more brutal and savage?
    They are admiring the participation of women in a national movement, when Palestinian women led the struggle from as far back as the 1930s (see the private papers of Akram Zu’aytir).
    They are outraged that the Iranian government is repressing media coverage, when the Israeli government is far more strict: when it was perpetrating slaughter in Gaza few months ago, the Western press was not allowed any freedom of movement except the hill of death where Michael Oren led reporters to watch Israel’s brutal assault on the Palestinian civilian population from a distance.
    The media coverage in the US and UK prove beyond a doubt that increasingly the Western press has been serving as a tool for the various Western governments. If the government cheers, the media cheer, if the government condemns, the media condemns, etc.
    …Yesterday, the Ahmadinajad side mustered tens of thousands in a show of force, yet the three thousands who demonstrated for Khomeini groupie, Mousavi, received far more coverage.”
    Every time I mention Iran I mention Gaza and the west bank.
    If you don’t do that you buy into the narrative. I don’t read Sullivan. And Cohen is good but not good enough.

  16. Salah

    Even Scott H has a hard time admitting that.
    This is norm with the writer, as he did same about Iran’s rule in Iraq after 2003 invasion and occupation just last years he shamefully come to admit Iran have some rule inside Iraq….very shameful by some one call himself “expert” in Iran/Mullah Matter ….

  17. bb

    “They are admiring the participation of women in a national movement, when Palestinian women led the struggle from as far back as the 1930s (see the private papers of Akram Zu’aytir).”
    Doesn’t stand up. If the Palestinians had used non-violence against the occupation instead of suicide bombings they wouldn’t be in the divided mess they are today.
    Unfortunately Palestinian women in the 90s up until a couple of years ago were more renowned for celebrating their mothering of mass homicide/suicide martyrs than they were for the organised non-violent protest we are seeing in Iran.
    Hamas (and its western fan club) bear much of the blame; but the testosterone driven PLO also had much to do with it.
    It was when the women in northern ireland started to organise around non-violence that attitudes among the men started to change. It was their generation of sons and husbands who eventually enabled peace to be made there. The same will go for Palestine and we’ll probably see it in the wake of the green revolution. Next PA elections watch for wives being trotted out for the ameras.

  18. Muezzin

    “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
    Boy, these are orgasmic times for you hypocrites, JES, Titus, bb. Just as Darfur was cooling down you have Iran to stick your blood dripping fangs into. Every genocidal jew worth his lox, from Kissinger down to shit for brains Pipes the younger, is coming out from under their rocks. But then I am not surprised, there is after all several millennia of hard wired behaviour that is difficult to control.

  19. seth edenbaum

    I have a comment in moderation for some reason.
    It contained a link to HC’s posts on the women of Hamas and a reference to Mubarak Awad, the Christian pacifist Israel tossed out while allowing Hamas to grow. Passive resistance to Zionist policies is bad PR. Better to have the nutjobs.
    Still, arguments for the moral distinction between suicide and military bombing has always struck me as self-serving.
    The two arguments are the shock of the explosion -no helicopter blades whooshing, no rocket scream- or the sanctity of the body.
    As I said in the last attempt by that logic the immorality of the V-2 in the London Blitz would have to do with the shock of the explosion and not the bombing itself. And war is dedicated to the destruction of the body.

Comments are closed.