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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.

Whither US Public Diplomacy?

In writing on the symbolic irony in President Bush’s visit to Monticello, (above) I took note of James Glassman’s recent statement that “our mission is not to improve America’s standing in the world.” Glassman’s comment, as the new Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, deserves more context and question. Glassman was appearing on June 23rd, with Shibley Telhami, on the PBS NewsHour, responding to recent bashing of the American government’s al-Hura Arabic language broadcasting program. Criticisms had been particularly pointed on the CBS 60 Minutes program and in the Washington Post, with the most intense fury focusing on al-Hura broadcasting speeches by Hizbullah leader Nasrallah.
Glassman had tried to short-circuit Telhami’s contention that US broadcasting has so little to show for itself, if the money was wisely spent, or if it had any chance of improving world views of America. Thus Glassman’s statement that “improving America’s image was not its mission.”
But just what then is the mission of Public Diplomacy and its broadcasting board of governors? Glassman answered that,

“Our job is to be professional broadcasters, to show the world, to show people in places like Tibet, and in Burma, and Tajikistan what a free press is like and to tell them what’s happening in their own countries.”

This is difficult terrain, as within seconds, Glassman contends that broadcasting Hibzullah’s Nasrallah was a mistake, because he’s a terrorist. Yet were al-Hura to be a “free press” impressing “the other” with how free America’s media really is, then by Glassman’s guideline, it should be able to report Nasrallah’s comments. For better or worse, Nasrallah is a “happening” in Lebanon.
I have some empathy with Glassman. He follows Charlotte Beers, Karen Hughes, et. al. into a thankless, intensely controversial role. Critics, including those within the US government, commonly proclaim that its US policies, not the medium of broadcasting, that are to blame for poor perceptions of America in the world.
Yet if anything, Mr. Glassman, perhaps reflecting his recent roles at the American Enterprise Institute, has been quite enthusiastic about the role of public diplomacy in “winning” hearts and minds abroad – in itself. Indeed, Glassman in February 2005, defined public diplomacy as,

“the promotion of the national interest by informing, engaging and influencing people around the world. … Of course, policy counts most, and many foreigners simply disagree with our policies – in Iraq, on the environment, on trade. But we have a better chance of winning them over if we explain ourselves well.” (from 2/21/05 Scripps Howard News Service oped)

Glassman, as of 2005, was an enthusiastic proponent of US public diplomacy actively endeavoring to “influence” foreign publics – the “opinions of mankind.” His department’s own web site still quotes him as saying, “The task ahead…. [is to] engage in the most important ideological contest of our time – a contest that we will win.”
But when faced with the enormous difficulty of the task, we have the new Secretary declaring that, “our mission is not to improve America’s standing in the world.”
So which is it? To influence or not to influence; to engage or not; to “win” but “not improve America’s image?” Hopefully Mr. Glassman will help us untie the knot in the near future. Til we get that clarity, any readers want to take a crack at resolving this apparent tension? Am I being more dense than usual?
For discussion, two documents: First, a still excellent 2003 Harvard Review article by legendary US Ambassador Chris Ross, who offers “seven pillars of public diplomacy.” Much “wisdom” herein; Move over Lawrence. I especially think Mr. Jefferson would approve of Ross’s #7:

“The final pillar of public diplomacy recognizes that the United States must build the foundations of trust and mutual understanding through a genuine commitment to dialogue. We must listen to the world as well as speak to it. The failure to listen and to provide more avenues for dialogue will only strengthen the stereotype of the United States as arrogant, when, in fact, we are often only being inattentive.”

Secondly, consider the important 2003 Study, “Changing Minds: Winning Peace,” a report of the Congressional Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World. Chaired by another former Assistant Secretary of State, Edward Djerejian, the report helped lay the groundwork for dramatic increase in spending and reorganization of America’s “public diplomacy” efforts.
The report’s very title speaks of “changing minds” — presumably that would include improving America’s standing in the world. Members of the advisory group included Chris Ross, Shibley Telhami, and… James Glassman.

Conetta continues discussion of ‘Necessary Steps’ report

Contribution from Carl Conetta of the Project for Defense
Alternatives to the discussion on the ‘Necessary Steps’ report on how to
withdraw from Iraq,

sent June 28, 2008 in response to the comments
made on the report
by Helena Cobban, June 25

Published here by
permission of Carl Conetta and under JWN’s usual Creative Commons
license (main principles: always give attribution; don’t use for
profit-making endeavors without negotiating specific permission.)

On Saturday Carl Conetta, who
was a member of the “experts’ group” for the recent “Necessary Steps”
report, sent me this thoughtful response to
my JWN comments of June 25.
of what he wrote
he  keyed directly to the rows in the table in that
post.  So as soon as I have time, I shall make a  new
column for the table and insert his comments into it.  It’s a
good discussion. ~HC

Here’s what Carl wrote:

I found
your review of the report thoughtful and
helpful. Probably the most thorough and thoughtful review that the
report will
receive. So thank you. Important additions and amplifications as


some of the points of difference you
mention, my comments:

Handoff to UN. I tend toward your view, but
there were differences among participants about UN capacities, Iraqi
of UN authority, and whether leaning heavily on the UN would really
congressional concerns about post-withdrawal stability. Personally, I
think the
first two of these concerns are resolvable. But whatever the nature of
the UN
mandate after US withdrawal, it would have to be sell-able to an Iraqi
that is pretty sick of occupation by foreigners.

Arab-Israeli conflict. I agree that much of
the instability that troubles the Muslim world gains impetus from this
But I don’t think resolution of it is essential in order to
reduce the risks of
post-withdrawal bloodshed and chaos in and around Iraq. And the latter
was the aim of the report.  Baker-Hamilton linked the two
theaters with a
bigger vision and agenda in mind. If, indeed, reducing the risks I
mention are
contingent on progress in the A-I conflict, then we’ll be in
Iraq a long time.
Conversely, some of the international mechanisms that would be
established as
part of the Task Force agenda might contribute indirectly to progress
in the A-I
conflict (mostly by building cooperation with Syria and
Iran).  Of course,
progress in A-I disputes would be helpful to stability in
Iraq.  And the
issue, IMHO, is as important.

Elections and constitution. I think the
balance of opinion on the TF was that this would follow on the new
reconciliation” process and/or be a necessary part of it. There was
concern, I think, that specifying too many requirements here would
withdrawal or undercut withdrawal sentiment. Also, some debate and
tension about
what constitutes ongoing meddling. So we had to balance different
Anyway, I agree that Iraq’s long-term stability requires a
rewrite. I think that the present election system is also flawed.
Moreover, this
needs to be overseen by the United Nations.

You’re right that not enough was said about
repatriation and assistance to IDPs. But I don’t think anyone
intended to
exclude or impede these options. The point was that
repatriation will be a
long task and perhaps not preferred by the displaced Iraqis. The
concern here was not to subtly compel repatriation when many may just
want to
get the hell out and stay out for a while. Still, most will want to
return, if
not right away then soon or eventually. I think we all support that
And the report should have said more about how we could facilitate


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