Category Archives: Uncategorized

End-of-August Open Thread

I’m on a short vacation with the family. Until I can resume posting here, I’ll moderate your comments and post the sensible ones. (If I get the internet connection and the time to do so, that is.)

Nothing to add

… to the “news” from the State Department about the “media note from George Mitchell that we have begun indirect talks and that he will be returning to the region next week.”
Nothing to add, that is, to what I wrote here last week, that with all this business of “proximity talks” it looks as if we are rushing forward helter-skelter… to 1949.

Khomeini guardian’s jarring question

Iran’s ongoing internal “chess match,” the intense controversy over Iran’s presidential elections and the aftermath, is not only “not over,” it’s getting profoundly interesting. The charges & counter-charges continue to fly, with both sides dredging up extraordinary heavyweights, figuratively and literally, to their cause. A few mind-boggling examples:
Those notables who boycotted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-inauguration included no less than Hassan Khomeini, grandson of the very Ayatollah who led the 1979 revolution. Khomeini was otherwise occupied visiting one Alireza Beheshti, son of a famous clerical martyr from the early years of the revolution. Beheshti had just been released from imprisonment — for being a close aide to Mir Hossen Musavi, the still resisting leader of the green wave.
From another direction, Mohammad Javad Larijani is the newest prominent voice blasting Musavi and Khomeini for “treason,” for betraying the revolution (etc., etc.) Curious. I’ve long followed Javad Larijani’s work. When not being a genuine “theoretical physicist,” he’s been a noted “facilitator” behind various efforts to improve ties to the US. He’s also a member of the extraordinary brothers Larijani (e.g. Ali, current Parliamentary speaker and Sadegh, the new Judiciary Chief).
Topping that comes a pointed question for Larijani from Mohammad Ali Ansari, a keeper of the flame (if you will) for Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini as the director of Khomeini’s Publications. While defending the house of Khomeini, Ansari tosses his own rhetorical doozy:

“how can we criticize a ban on holocaust investigations calling it an undemocratic act, and then adamantly deny a simple demand for a probe into a recent election in Iran?”

What a question.

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Meshaal: the longer NYT text, and a question about Haaretz

So, later in the day on Tuesday, after I had complained about the NYT only running tiny snippets from Taghreed al-Khodary’s five-hour interview with Hamas head Khaled Meshaal, the NYt did put some longer excerpts from the interview onto its website.
That’s excellent news. (I had looked on the website for some longer version of the interview, a couple of times during the day Tuesday, but never found them. Thanks to the friend who sent me this link.)
Here is the first topic he speaks to, which is very important:

    On the Hamas Charter and a Palestinian State:
    The most important thing is what Hamas is doing and the policies it is adopting today. The world must deal with what Hamas is practicing today. Hamas has accepted the national reconciliation document. It has accepted a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders including East Jerusalem, dismantling settlements, and the right of return based on a long term truce. Hamas has represented a clear political program through a unity government. This is Hamas’s program regardless of the historic documents. Hamas has offered a vision. Therefore, it’s not logical for the international community to get stuck on sentences written 20 years ago. It’s not logical for the international community to judge Hamas based on these sentences and stay silent when Israel destroys and kills our people.

The rest of it is really worth reading, too.
Today, there is news (e.g. here) that the reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fateh are in a bad state.
But beyond that, Haaretz is running a story that starts thus:

    The Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas will not accept a two-state solution as a means to end the conflict with Israel, the movement’s Damascus-based politburo chief Khaled Meshal said Saturday.
    Meshal said that Hamas rejects the two-state solution but could still be part of a national unity government if a Palestinian state is established based on 1967 borders.

They give no further details regarding the context or provenance of that “news”. They do not have a correspondent in Damascus (!), so they must have gotten it from somewhere– though they give no clue as to where, let alone giving due attribution to the source.
I did a quick search to see what news report it might be they were referring to. Can anyone help identify the source? Or is their lede there just based on a misunderstanding? Or is it a really mendacious piece of disinformation?
Haaretz is, generally, a pretty good source of information. But there are, certainly, people who work there who are strongly opposed to Hamas.

Just Do It, George

I know everyone was glued to her or his TV screen watching George Bush’s farewell address, and if you were then you were no doubt struck by a line in his speech that was stolen from Jimmy Carter’s farewell address 28 years ago. (h/t Heather Hurlburt)

George Bush’s 2009 farewell address
:

    “And I will always be honored to carry a title that means more to me than any other: citizen of the United States of America.”

Jimmy Carter’s 1981 farewell address:

    “In a few days, I will lay down my official responsibilities in this office — to take up once more the only title in our democracy superior to that of president, the title of citizen.”

Now George Bush can function as a citizen! Think about it. And there are things that George (like Jimmy) wants to do.
In March 2008, after U.S. President George W. Bush got an earful about problems and progress in Afghanistan, he said:

    “I must say, I’m a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed. It must be exciting for you … in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger.”

Well, we’ve got some jobs lined up for George now that he’s leaving office where it will be romantic, you know, confronting danger. Afghanistan! Yes, that storied land of the Hindu Kush and the Khyber Pass can now be a reality for Georgie.
Heck, he’s only 62 years old and with all that mountain-biking I’m sure that even a dummy like him he can handle the easy jobs we’ve found for him.

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Get Afghanistan Right

This is “Get Afghanistan Right Week” and here is some information to look at:
We Can’t Afford to Sink Deeper into the Afghan Quagmire
Let’s be clear: the war in Afghanistan is not “the good war.” It is not “the right war,” as President-elect Obama has called it. Nor is it really Bush’s war, considering how many Congressional representatives (Democrats included) initially supported it and continue to favor the Obama administration’s calls for escalation. And yet it’s not quite Obama’s war either — though it could be soon. Right now it’s just our country’s war, and as such we need to be able to discuss it frankly and freely — with open discourse that was absent in the run up to both this war and the one in Iraq.
Taking Down Pro-Escalation Arguments
In this month’s issue of Foreign Policy, Nathaniel Fick and John Nagl lay out a detailed pro-escalation argument. Alex Thurston takes them apart.
Obama’s Got One Thing Right About the Mess In Afghanistan– It’s Inexorably Connected To The Mess In Pakistan
Five Suggestions for Diplomatic Progress in South Asia
It’s not fair to criticize escalation in Afghanistan without offering alternatives, so here are the five things to do instead of escalating.
More good stuff here.
And my previous article Operation Enduring Failure
What do you think?

‘Locals’ as the new ‘natives’

I am getting really fed up with media and other depictions of the indigenous people of any country/state/region as “locals.” It very often has the same patronizing, imperialistic overtones to it as the now debased term “natives.”
Does anyone else feel the same way?

Hometown C’ville speaking gig on Iran, Monday

I will be speaking– along with Iran analyst Carah Ong– at this event next Monday evening, in Charlottesville. If you’re anywhere near, come along and bring your neighbors.
It is important for Virginians, like all Americans, to get a vivid understanding of the dangers of the escalatory moves that some of our fellow-citizens and congressional reps are continuing to push for, regarding Iran… and to continue to build the constituency for de-escalation and meaningful negotiations, even with governments with whom we have disagreements. (That’s called “diplomacy.”)
And yes, copies of my Re-engage! book will also be for sale there.