Category Archives: Iran

Fundraiser for key new book on Iran– please help!

As some JWN readers know, twelve days ago I launched an online fundraising campaign to support the writing and publication of one of my company’s most important books for 2013, a book by award-winning investigative reporter Gareth Porter that exposes how the U.S. and Israel have “manufactured” the whole scare about Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.
(Big thanks to Mr. Netanyahu for providing us with such a fabulous book cover image, by the way.)
The book will be called Manufactured Crisis: The Secret History of the Iranian Nuclear Scare. Gareth, who in June traveled to London to receive the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, is uniquely qualified to write this book. You can see more details about his qualifications over at the fundraising page. But he needs some financial support if he is to take time out from his continuing duties as a cutting-edge investigative reporter, and pull together the huge amount of material that he has amassed, into the form of this very sorely needed book.
We want, obviously, to get the book out as early in 2013 as we can… But it still all needs to be written!
My company, Just World Books, has given Gareth a small advance. But he needs quite a lot more support, if he is to be able to devote the time that this project needs– and to do so, starting in early December! We don’t have access (as the vast majority of the warmongers and scaremongers do) to huge gobs of funding from foundations or think-tanks. So this has had to be a “people’s” fundraising campaign; and in a way I’m very glad about that.
The fundraising platform that we’re working with, Kickstarter, has a generally good format. But it has an important feature that we all need to know about: Anyone launching a Kickstarter campaign has to designate both an end-date, and a target amount of money that she or he wants to raise before that end-date… And if the pledges made to the campaign as of that date don’t meet the target, then none of the money gets collected!
From the point of view of a project’s backers, that is probably a good thing. It means that you don’t end up pouring money into a project that never gets fully funded and that may therefore never get completed. From our viewpoint as the project’s authors, however, it means we absolutely need to meet the $10,000 fundraising target we set, before December 12, which was the cut-off date that I designated.
If we don’t reach the goal by then, not only we don’t get any of the money pledged, but also, I think we don’t even get access to the contact details of the pledgers, to ask them if they could find a way to support us, anyway.
Right, I agree that that latter aspect of the Kickstarter system seems really horrible.
But the Kickstarter folks are quite right to stress, as they do in some of their literature, that running a successful fundraising campaign takes time and energy; and that people who are planning creative projects should try to be strategic about minimizing the amount of time they have to spend fundraising.
So let me ask all of you readers of JWN to help us meet our goal.
This is not a “charitable” endeavor. It is a serious pitch for backing for an important publishing project… and we’re offering a graduated series of worthwhile “rewards” to everyone who contributes $10 or more. You can check them out on the right sidebar of the Kickstarter page there.
When I was planning this fundraising campaign, I decided it should run for 42 days. We launched it on October 24. We knew it would be hard to get much attention for it during the lead-up to and immediate aftermath of the U.S. election. But now, the election has finished and all the dust that it raised has settled. The fact that Pres. Obama won re-election does not mean at all that the threat of continued tensions and future, perhaps sudden, escalations between the U.S. and Iran–or, between Israel and Iran– has gone away.
Far from it!
Today, according to the Kickstarter page, we have 29 days left for our campaign. (I would have pegged it at 30 days, but never mind…) And we are already 22.6% of the way towards our goal.
My huge thanks to everyone who has expressed their support of this project– and their confidence in Gareth and me– by pledging, so far!
But we still need to raise the remaining $7,740 by December 12.
Can you help us, please?
Kickstarter will accept pledges in any amount from $1 up. We offer good rewards, at pledge levels from $10 right through $1,000. If you haven’t pledged yet, could you consider doing so? Pledging can be done quickly and simply through the Kickstarter page.
In addition, we’d appreciate anything you can do to help us spread the word about this fundraising campaign. There must be many ways in which, for example, you could tell your friends about it, and urge them to make a pledge, too?
If you’re a fellow blogger, could you blog something quick and simple about it? (I’d be happy to help you by giving you some “talking points” you could use in your blog post… Or, just take down some of the key points that Gareth makes about the project in the great little video that we put onto the KS page.)
If you’re on Twitter and want to tweet about the campaign, we’ve created this handy short URL you can copy and use: http://bit.ly/ManufCrisis… Actually, anyone can use that short URL, which is a whole lot easier to remember or copy than the long version.
And let’s not forget physical-media ways of doing outreach, either. I’m just about to make some print flyers about the campaign, to start handing out, including at the annual conference of the Middle East Studies Association of North America, which runs in Denver, Colorado, this weekend. Let me know if you’d like me to send you the PDF of the print flyers, so you can distribute some, too.
…So please, give us all the help you can. We need this fundraising campaign to succeed. That way, Gareth can get started very soon on the deep, sustained work that is needed to pull together all the materials he has collected, into this important book… And we can then know that this book can make a real contribution to setting the record straight on the lies, manipulations, and actual DIS-information on this issue that too many in the “west” have been subjected to, for far too long.
Thanks, everyone!

Standoff-ending precedents: The ‘USSR’ and Iran

I was just reading the generally sensible ‘Talk of the Town’ piece on Iran and WikiLeaks that Rick Hertzberg had in the Dec. 13 issue of the New Yorker, that landed on our stoop this afternoon. (Sorry, can’t easily find a link for it.)
The piece is interesting because– though Hertzberg seems to take for granted that Iran is actively toward possession of a nuclear weapon, which has yet to be proven– still, he argues that,

    the supposed remedy of a ‘military solution’ would be more unacceptable [than the things that might predictably happen if Iran does get a nuclear weapon.] A bombing attack on Iran’s far-flung, fortified nuclear facilities… would be the start of a war of unknown duration and immense human, material, and political cost… In the past decade, we have been drawn [he does not say by whom] into two wars on Muslim soil. Both began with promises of quick and nearly bloodless (for us) ‘victory.’ Neither has ended. We cannot afford a third.

Bravo.
However, Hertzberg then goes on to argue for a repeat of the containment policy that the U.S. pursued toward the Soviet Union from the late 1940s until the largely peaceful (well, peaceful for the U.S.) collapse of the Soviet Union from the late 1980s on.
However, if (as Hertzberg advocates) the people of Iran are to be successfully persuaded that following the path of the peoples of the former Soviet Union and bringing about the end of their current political system would be a wonderful thing for them (as well as for Americans), then this would have been a much more persuasive argument had the U.S. actually been a more generous and visionary ideological “victor” in the U.S.-Soviet Cold War.
In this regard, Pres. George H.W. Bush looks to have been a lot more skillful, smart, and persuasive than Pres. Clinton. It was Bush Senior who famously noted to Pres. Gorbachev in 1990 that he “wasn’t dancing on the ruins of the old Berlin Wall,” and who also reassured Gorbachev and the Russians that he had no intention of extending NATO further to the west. But after Bill Clinton became president in 1993 he did just that. He also worked through the IMF and other international financial institutions to force on the Russian people a humiliating dismantling of their social safety net that pushed millions of formerly middle-class former-Soviet families into poverty.
If Clinton had not acted in that triumphalist way, then the idea of an American “victory” in the kind of containment-based mini-Cold War that Hertzberg advocates against Iran might be more acceptable to Iran’s people. But how many people, anywhere in the world, would like to follow the kind of path that the Russian and other former-Soviet people were forced to tread throughout the 1990s? I suspect, not many…
Actually, the idea that in the 21st century the U.S. even has the global clout to mount and maintain– even against a decidedly second-class country like Iran– a replay of the Cold War it maintained for for more than 40 years against the USSR is already a chimera. Washington just doesn’t have that kind of global clout or that ability to assemble and maintain world-circling coalitions that it had throughout the second half of the 20th century.
Instead of advocating for a replay of that lengthy post-1948 Cold War, Hertzberg would do far better to concern himself with what it would take to get an actual, human-equality-based and tension-reducing negotiation underway between our government and Tehran. Now there’s a revolutionary idea…

The Iran/sanctions issue: Chinese netizens weigh in

In the lengthy updates to his Iran/sanctions post of yesterday, China Hand has some great excerpts from the comments board at China’s Global Times website:

    Judging from the comments, Chinese netizens–at least the subset that gets to comment on articles in Global Times–are, for the most part, not happy [with China having given such full and quick support to the U.S.'s sanctions proposal at the U.N.]
    Sample:
    It’s no use. There are too many people in the party with a tilt toward the United States.
    没有办法,党内倾美决策人太多。
    So you want to lead the life of a whore and have a ceremonial arch erected to commemorate your chastity! Don’t think the Chinese people don’t see and understand what’s going on!
    既要做婊子又要立牌坊!别以为民众看不懂!
    Any country that befriends China will end up the loser.
    任何国家跟中国交朋友都会吃亏的。
    We’ve lost a friend and gained an enemy.
    我们有少个朋友了,多个敌人
    When you drop stones on somebody who’s fallen in a well, you’re worse than a pig or a dog.
    落井下石猪狗不如
    Once Iran is sanctioned, America will start to classify China as a currency-manipulating country. When the bird is shot, the fine bow is put away; when the rabbit is caught, the hunting dog goes into the cooking pot. Wake up, comrades!
    等制裁完伊朗,美国就开始把中国列为“汇率操纵国”了,飞鸟尽良弓藏、狡兔死走狗烹啊!该醒醒了,同志们!

Interesting. The CCP has a very sophisticated approach toward encouraging the participation of “netizens” in public discourse. Of course the approach contains some very firm red lines regarding taboo topics. But the CCP also seems to use the discussion boards in which netizens participate as a useful sounding-board for the opinion of educated, well-connected citizens. So it’ll be interesting to try to figure out the extent to which this fairly scathing set of netizen reactions to Beijing’s diplomacy has any discernible effect on policy going forward.

A Grave View of US-Iran Relations

In some countries, mine included, today is remembered as “Veterans’ Day” or “Armistice Day.” Juan Cole sensibly wrote earlier today that “The most patriotic way to honor future veterans of foreign wars is not to create any unnecessarily.”
Fellow “Wahoo” and good friend Barin Kayaoglu, writing in the Turkish Weekly, goes a step deeper in considering the state of US-Iran nuclear negotiations.
Barin neatly anticipates the standard arguments from partisans on both sides, accusations of intransigence vs. bullying, terrorism vs. imperialism, then arguments over what to do, of all the reasons to be hard-headed, to fight the “necessary war.”
Barin trumps such verbal combat by considering the stakes from a very different vantage point, that of the grave. He takes us to the two sprawling national cemeteries of America and Iran, Arlington and Behesht-e Zahra. I’ve been to both; somber places where the two nations, where families, mourn their losses, the lives cut short. Barin concludes:

“The graves of fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters at these places are somber reminders of the real price of war.
So before Iranian and American policy-makers make up their mind about the next step, it would be humane for them to spend some time at Behesht-e Zahra and Arlington. Nothing can bring back the dead. But there is no good reason to start another Middle East war that would create new ones.”

Well said Barin. Amen.

Iran’s Capital Idea

The BBC this morning carries a curious item about Iran moving its capital city away from Tehran. It’s not a particularly new idea, and a geo-physical argument exists to support such a dramatic change.
Yet recent political earthquakes may also be involved in the calculation. The article buys into the misleading, if all too common Western sense of Tehran being more “liberal” and politically restive than the rest of the country. Right-o…. Tell that to Tabrizis.
In any case, maybe now we know the “real reason” why urban planners are such hot potatoes inside Iran. Hey, maybe this news could provide a “constructive” pathway to free Kian Tajbakhsh — to help with this whopper of an urban planning project.

MTV-U’s Poet Laureate: Simin Behbahani

MTV (Music Television) “University” has selected Simin Behbahani, “the poet who never sold her soul or her pen,” to be its second poet laureate.
For a visually challenged 82-years-young Iranian, how cool is that?
Beginning Monday, Nov. 2nd Behbahani’s poems will be featured on MTV-U in a series of 19 short films.
Why would MTV do this? Is it political? In the The Wall Street Journal, MTV senior Vice President Ross Martin explains:

“Her poems speak to us because they are from a part of the world that is front of mind and confusing… We know there’s a groundswell on U.S. campuses advocating freedom and an end to oppression in Iran. mtvU has a responsibility to hear that cry and respond to it.”

Amid Iran’s post election tumult, millions around the world heard Behbahani’s timeless lament at the death of Neda Soltani:

You are neither dead, nor will you die
You will always remain alive
You have an eternal existence
You are the voice of the people of Iran

Yet it is Behbahani, the reputed “Lioness of Iran,” who will now re-introduce millions of the world’s youth to Iran, through the medium of rock ‘n roll, music television, in her universal voice.
When Iran’s President Ahmadinejad dismissed those who protested the election’s legitimacy as mere “dirt,” Behbahani hurled the insult back, with the pen:

If the flames of anger rise any higher in this land
Your name on your tombstone will be covered with dirt

Yet MTV’s featuring of Behbahani should not be interpreted as adding to the cacaphony of voices pining for more invasions, war, sanctions, bloodshed. Nearly 30 years ago, Behbahani wrote of her horror in seeing a martial fever for war arise in her students then:

Oh, the child of today
If war is what you want
I am the child of yesterday
To me, war is shameful


MTV’s Ross Martin further explains the choice of Behbahani on his own blog,

“Behbahani’s poetry champions women’s rights and acts as a voice of peace and freedom during a time of political and social upheaval. Twice, she has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Poetry. Her poems illuminate not only the struggle of Iran but also the extreme beauty of the land, its people, and its history.”

Martin also notes how none of this would have been possible were it not for the literary skills and devotion of Professor Farzaneh Milani. Her translations bring Behbahani’s “iconic” poems to life in English. If Behbahani is Iran’s national poet, Milani has rendered her the world’s.

To stay alive, you must slay silence,
to pay homage to being, you must sing….

Jackson Diehl finally loses his sanity?

What happens to someone when he lives in, and imbibes the air of, the Washington bubble for so darn’ long that he completely forgets what the real world looks like? Well, read Jackson Diehl’s piece in Sunday’s waPo, and you can get some idea.
The guy has completely lost touch with the real world!
His lede (lead) is this:

    The Obama administration’s positive tone following its first diplomatic encounter with Iran covers a deep and growing gloom in Washington and European capitals. Seven hours of palaver in Geneva haven’t altered an emerging conclusion: None of the steps the West is considering to stop the Iranian nuclear program is likely to work.
    Not talks. Not sanctions, even of the “crippling” variety the Obama administration has spoken of. Not military strikes. And probably not support for regime change through the still-vibrant opposition.

Who is he hearing this from?
If it is not the voices inside his own sad head, it must be a small coterie of like-minded people who are all that he talks to these days.
I’ve talked to plenty of people in Washington in the past coupe of days. They have all been– to some degree or another– moderately excited by the outcome of Thursday’s P5+1+1 talks in Geneva and hopeful that those talks might help ramp down the tensions between Washington and Iran, avert war, and lead to a more sensible set of relationships between Washington, Iran, and the rest of the world.
I guess we don’t talk to the same people.
But to be honest, Diehl lost the skill of being a good listener, so essential to the journalist’s art, a long time ago. (According to Ken Silverstein, he lost it a long time ago– certainly at some point before 2002, when he became a rah-rah cheerleader for the necessity and benefits of a US invasion of Iraq.)
But now, it’s gotten so that Diehl hears only the voices inside his own head and those voices of others that he can portray as echoing his own idiosyncrasies.
Six paras into his latest piece, he finally gets to discussing last Thursday’s breakthrough talks in Geneva:

    What of Thursday’s talks in Geneva? Iran agreed to international inspections of its new nuclear facility and to ship out of the country some of the uranium it has enriched. Yet those modest concessions may complicate the negotiations and the prospects for sanctions. The headlines about them already obscured the fact that Tehran’s negotiator declined to respond to the central Western demand: that Iran freeze its uranium enrichment work. Iran has rejected that idea repeatedly, and there is no reason to believe the hard-liners in power will change their position.
    In the meantime, talks about the details of inspections and the uranium shipments could easily become protracted, buying the regime valuable time. (On Friday the Associated Press quoted a member of the Iranian delegation as saying it had not, in fact, agreed to the uranium deal.) Meanwhile, Tehran’s tactical retreat has provided Russia and China with an excuse to veto new sanctions — something they would have been hard-pressed to do had Iran struck an entirely defiant tone in Geneva.

Here you truly see the mind of a paranoiac at work… Everyone’s against us! Non-western powers are never to be trusted! They’re all ganging up on us! Etc., etc…
The sad thing is that Jackson Diehl is not just some individual, unconnected voice on the op-ed page. He’s the deputy editor of the WaPo’s editorial page, and for some reason is regarded as a serious voice on foreign affairs throughout much of he Washington political elite.
I guess the new spirit of realism that has been slowly seeping through official Washington has passed him by. Correct that: not merely passed him by, but actually left him very deeply disturbed indeed. As a result, he has retreated even deeper into some neocon-inspired “American Uber Alles” dreamworld, quite unaware that in reality the fate of the country we both love is nowadays deeply interdependent with the fates of non-western powers like China, Russia, and so on.
Deal with it, Jackson.
Deal with the fact that American citizens, constituting less than 5% of humanity, do not have all (or even most) of the answers for all of humankind and we are no longer able to impose our will on the other 95% in the same way that Pres. G. W. Bush so thoughtlessly and arrogantly did– with your enthusiastic approval– for all the years he was in office.
The world’s changed, Jackson Diehl. It would be kinda nice if either you or the WaPo could recognize that and give the new facts of slightly more equal human powers in the world some due recognition.
It would also be great if you could acknowledge and even welcome the fact that, since Thursday, there is serious new hope for de-escalating the tensions between Washington and Iran, and building a new, less conflict-ridden (and therefore, much more humane) set of relationships in the Middle East and Central Asia.
But I, for one, am not going to hang around and wait for you to come to that relaization. Hanging on the every-last-word of the WaPo and its much-vaunted editorial-page team does seem, after all, so very twentieth century.

IPS piece on global power shifts and Iran

It’s here. Also archived here.
One bottom line is here:

    In 2003, Russia and China were unable (both in strictly military terms, and in terms of global power equations) to block the invasion of Iraq. But since 2003, Russia has stabilised its internal governance considerably from the chaotic state it was still in at that time, and China has continued its steady rise to greater power on the world scene.
    Two developments over the past year have underlined, for many U.S. strategic planners, the stark facts of the United States’ deep interdependence with these two significant world powers. One was last autumn’s collapse of the financial markets in New York and other financial centres around the world, which revealed the extent of the dependence the west’s financial system has on China’s (mainly governmental) investors.
    The other turning point has been the serious challenges the U.S. faced in its campaigns against Islamist militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Earlier this year, Pakistani-based Islamist militants mounted such extensive attacks against convoys carrying desperately needed supplies to U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan that Washington was forced to sign an agreement with Moscow to open alternative supply routes through Russia.
    Russia and China both have significant interests in Iran, which they are now clearly unwilling to jeopardise simply in order to appease Washington.

The other is here:

    Thursday brought dramatic evidence of the growing weight of non-western powers in policies toward Iran. What is still unclear is when there will be evidence of any parallel growth in their influence in Arab-Israeli peace diplomacy.

Barak: Iran not existential threat

Ehud Barak to Yediot Aharonoth:

    “I am not among those who believe Iran is an existential issue for Israel.”
    Barak said “Israel is strong, I don’t see anyone who could pose an existential threat,” although he did add that he viewed Iran as a challenge to the whole world.

(HT: Stephen Walt.)
The Reuters report linked to above takes care to note– as few US media would*– that,

    Israel is assumed to possess the only atomic arsenal in the Middle East.

I would modify that a bit. Israel’s is the only ground-based nuclear arsenal in the region that we know of. However, a portion of the US Navy vessels plying the region’s waters can also be assumed to have them.
Still, it is excellent that Barak is on the record with this statement.

* Update: But MJ Rosenberg noted this in his very informative post on the topic at TPM Cafe.

In 2009, as 2001: US needs Iran, Russia

On September 12, 2001, as US military planners started examining the options they had t counter-attach against Al-Qaeda and its hosts in Afghanistan, they and their colleagues in the State Department rapidly realized that if they wanted to actually topple the Taliban regime in Afghanistan they’d need the help of two key nearby powers: Iran and Russia– and to a lesser extent, India.
They got the help they needed from those regional actors, and went ahead with the invasion operation.
Now, eight years later, the US/NATO forces are still in Afghanistan. And those forces are in deep trouble there. (Osama Bin Laden, btw, is still at large.)
The 95,000 US/NATO forces in Afghanistan are already significantly dependent on Russia and Iran, to be able to maintain their presence in that craggy and distant land. If their commanders are to avert the many worse catastrophes that loom there, they will need even more help from both Russia and Iran.
That is part of the essential background to the decision the State Department announced yesterday, that the US will be participating in the meeting that the Tehran government proposed Wednesday, between Iran and the P5+1 group.
Dafna Linzer of ProPublica notes at that link,

    Iran reiterated many of its previous ideas for talks while scaling back specific requests made in previous proposals [2] (PDF). Among other things, Tehran called for an end to hostilities and for talks on issues of specific concern to Iran, such as drug trafficking and security in the Middle East. Unlike previous Iranian proposals, this one does not contain a litany of past grievances with the United States and does not assert an Iranian commitment to advancing its nuclear efforts.

On Friday, Russian PM Vladimir Putin expressed his country’s clear opposition to any further escalation of outside pressure (whether sanctions or military force) against Iran.
There is now confirmation from Tel Aviv that Israeli PM Netanyahu made a secret visit to Moscow shortly before Putin announced this decision. If, as we can assume, he discussed the Iran file while there, then evidently he failed to prevent Putin from making that clear decision against escalation.
The Israeli government and its many powerful and well-organized supporters inside the US have been vigorously campaigning for all non-Iranian powers– especially the western governments– to ratchet up the level of pressure they place on Iran.
Today in Israel, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, who is also Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy, gave an interview to Reuters in which he seemed somewhat seriously behind the curve, still arguing that Russia and China might get on board the anti-Israel campaign.
I doubt it. Maybe it’s time for Israel and its supporters in western countries to grow up and take a realistic look at the fact that within the world community that needs to make the decision on this matter they are in a very small minority.
And quite evidently, very few people– even in the strongly pro-Israeli United States– will be in a mood to forgive Israel if its actions towards Iran put at risk the lives of 60,000 US service members in Afghanistan.