The last month in Iran has been full of little clues and a few intrigues. I will try to pare them down. This update has been long coming, and before I become even more overwhelmed, I’ll try to do my best.
The beginning of the Gregorian year, January 1st, 2010, following the Ashura demonstrations, the most violent since summer, Mir Hossein Mousavi issued this statement. This included five primary conditions, giving structure and form to the Green Movement.
- Accountability for the current Ahmadinejad administration. Real application of the checks and balances of the judiciary and majles as outlined in the Constitution.
- New election laws, passed by the majles, to ensure lack of interference at all levels of government.
- Release of all political prisoners.
- A free media. Letting foreign press report, reopening banned newspapers and ceasing internet censorship and signal jamming.
- Upholding the peoples right to demonstrate without fear.
As was predictable, Kayhan, the Iranian Pravda, says in a headline (Farsi) that it was written by the CIA and Mossad. Five noted expatriate reform intellectuals issued their own ten demands. I would not put too much importance upon this, though, and offer it merely for your perusal.
On taking stock of the movement the day after the statement, Muhammad Sahimi stresses this “is a Marathon, not a sprint.” That the trio of Mousavi, former President Khatami, and two time Majles Speaker Karroubi, are no longer merely symbolic leaders. Sahimi continued:
Up until recently, the jury was still out on whether the trio truly led the Green Movement. It was particularly unclear whether Mousavi was truly interested in fundamental changes, or even had what it took to stand up for anything. Two important points about Mousavi must be considered. … by all indications, he is recognized by most of the supporters of the Green Movement inside Iran, as well as the hardliners, as the symbol and the leader of the opposition.
The fact that even the reticent Khatami has stepped more into the fray and that Karroubi says that even the shah would not have transgressed Ashura by creating such crimes demonstrates that they are taking their stand, and not backing down half a year into the movement.
The increased pressures, threats and attacks on the offices of heir apparent to Montazeri’s mantle, Grand Ayatollah Sane’i, and Karroubi; in addition to, increasingly empty promises to arrest the three and a full-on crackdown, give all the evidence I need that this is not the meaningless movement the hardliners and their Western apologists here claim. Indeed, this was an interesting article by Borzou Daragahi on the opposition movement in the heartland from the Los Angeles Times and the spread of DVD’s with footage of demonstrations. I, of course, caution against reading such sources with too much confidence in their representative nature. The one fact that we are certain of is that press access is extremely restricted, so wherever one’s sympathies lie, hard information is hard to come by. That is why Iran has become such a contested debate among policy experts and online bloggers alike (*ahem*), with the last line of refuge among apologists often coming down to these polls. My response? I wouldn’t care if they were a few dozen. Even if I were to accept the polls, it is irrelevant to the issue of human rights. That, too, is apparently controversial to the woo-woo. I’ve had more than one scoff at Amnesty International as an organization which is apparently part of the Zionist NWO conspiracy.
On that note, perhaps the highest profile apologists: the Leveretts. In a New York Times op-ed on January 5, they called on Obama to proceed on course, and ignore the Green Movement. In this they also went out of their way to simplify history, distort information, peddle conservative Iranian propaganda and construct straw man after straw man in what seemed like spite for inconvenient internal developments which complicated their pet cause: détente. While I do not entirely disagree with their call to proceed on a vigorous diplomatic track with Iran or their goals of rapprochement regardless of government (Nixon, China and the Cultural Revolution are often brought up to support this view, and indeed, Sen. John Kerry’s request to visit Iran got little notice), I thought that their blithe dismissal of those risking harm for human rights (click here for a recent roundup) was petty and unneeded to make that case. And their construct of arguing against this as an overthrow of the Islamic Republic by the secular elite was unbecoming to experts of their caliber. They often fall into the mire of Western foreign policy debate rather than addressing the situation in Iran directly – though in their follow up to criticisms, they doubled down on their rationalizations and ostensible objectivity. Juan Cole read my mind when he wrote:
Being someone who has spent his life studying Iran, I am of course frustrated by what I see as significant flaws in the debate as conducted by policy thinkers in the NYT. But I have long since concluded that the New York – Washington – Tel Aviv discourse about the Middle East is not about the Middle East but about New York and Washington and Tel Aviv, and that it is virtually impenetrable because it is driven by powerful interests rather than a dispassionate consideration of facts on the ground, a sense of proportionality, and a textured knowledge of the target country (and I do mean target).
Such policy debate is understandable, as this was the motivation that drove them to dispel such fanciful notions, often reverberating amongst the monarchist expat diaspora and neocons alike, that the régime is on its last legs. However; in this they misjudged and missed the mark. In the Jan. 1 demands of Mousavi, did they see a phantom call to annul the election? Since writing “Ahmadinejad Won. Get Over It” they themselves haven’t gotten over the fact that this moved beyond the election quite some time ago (though Karroubi did allude to “respecting the electorate”). And they shill fatalism of the Reformist’s eventual failure almost gleefully (which is in a sense okay, given the emotional connection Iranians have for Imam Hossein, or Rostam). The apologists online seem to be clinging to that argument desperately, as if it abridged the Constitutional rights of Iranian citizens to gather. Furthermore, they, along with the Leveretts, see it as a vast minority and dwindling, comparing those whom risk considerable violence to assemble with those whom are given the day off, fed, and handed banners. While many of these apologists try to deride the opposition as a “Tea Party Movement” for its inchoate message (as if anti-war marches during the Bush administration practiced message discipline) or as North Tehrani ‘Birthers’; a more apt comparison could be found in the upheavals of the Civil Rights Movement of 1960’s America. As Hooman Majd said in Foreign Policy:
What is evident is that if we consider Iran’s pro-democracy “green movement” not as a revolution but as a civil rights movement — as the leaders of the movement do — then a “win” must be measured over time. The movement’s aim is not for a sudden and complete overthrow of Iran’s political system. That may disappoint both extremes of the American and Iranian political spectrums, left and right, and especially U.S. neoconservatives hoping for regime change.
Their sin is that the Leveretts know better, and in their attempt at dispassionate analysis, they’ve overcompensated, downplaying the hardline response and Principlist maneuverings which is, in my mind, implicit evidence of a more than insignificant challenge to their political grip on power – though this is not imperiled so long as hardliners and conservatives hold all significant levers of power. I also take note of Flynt Leverett’s friend, Mohammad Marandi (video). Remind you of anything (video)? Other good responses were from Abbas Milani in The New Republic, Enduring America‘s Scott Lucas and Tehran Bureau‘s Muhammad Sahimi.
While articles like this from the Los Angeles Times with headlines hinting at a government threatened with collapse and the spin from pro-Reform sites such as Rah-e Sabz (Green Path) are to be kept in mind, as should individual first-hand accounts; the alternative is most often Iranian state propaganda – as papers and web sites contradicting the hardline position are methodically shut down and journalists thrown in jail. Last count, going up in past few days, is now 63 at this writing. So, forgive me if I have more faith in Western media (for all of its faults) and Reformist sites than even more reasonable Press TV (comparatively speaking in comparison with other state funded media) whom produced this “exposé” on Neda Agha-Soltan’s death being faked, and spawning a YouTube video or two reminiscent of Oliver Stone’s famous “back and to the left” scene and defended by the same Alex Jones types that believe the moon landing was a hoax. To fully nail home the link between Iranian hardliners and Western woo-woos, is this whopper of a headline: “Report: US weapon test aimed at Iran caused Haiti quake”.
Time and time again, what Hooman Majd describes as “schizophrenic” responses and one-trick pony attempts to control the message, later reports tend to contradict initial denial. This is true of the Kahrizak detention center affair. According to BBC:
Iranian MPs lifted a blanket of official denial on the country’s post-election upheaval today by blaming a senior regime insider for abuses that led to the deaths of at least three prisoners in a detention centre. …
Today’s report dismissed a claim from Mortazavi that the prisoners had died from meningitis and acknowledged that they had been assaulted.
But of course, the sacrificial lamb they pinned this on, Saeed Mortazavi, claimed he was on vacation when these abuses and deaths occurred. Was the “butcher of the press” also on vacation when Zahra Kazemi, the Canadian photojournalist, was raped and her skull fractured in 2003? As Human Rights Watch pointed out, he was already a serial offender. In fact, after he was found responsible for Kahrizak abuses, the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, Lawrence Cannon, called for her case to be revisited (since he, the accused, was put in charge of investigating the original case!) and her remains repatriated to Canada, per her family’s wishes.
By far the biggest source of intrigue this past month, was the bizarre assassination of particle physicist, Masoud Ali-Mohammadi on January 12th. State media immediately hailed him as a faithful supporter of the Revolution and institution of the velayat-e faghih, and reflexively pinned the blame on the US and Israel. Students of Ali-Mohammadi were then quick to point out that he had been a supporter of Mousavi. Am I saying that being true to the Islamic Republic and to Mousavi are mutually exclusive? No. That’s not what I’m saying.
Mohammad Reza Ali-Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour were hung on January 28th, having been sentenced in October for being members of the Anjoman Padeshahi-ye Iran (API, also known as Tondar, whom are a relatively obscure group with the aim of reestablishing the Pahlavi dynasty), for planning attacks on Ahmadinejad and apparently being connected with the 2008 Shiraz terrorist Mosque bombing (even though three others were already tried and executed for that). The AP’s Ali Akbar Dareini (in league with Zionists, mind you) reported:
The two men were arrested before the turmoil set off by claims that Ahmadinejad’s re-election was fraudulent. But Iran brought them to court in the same mass trial in an attempt to show that the political opposition is in league with violent armed groups in a foreign-backed plot to overthrow the Islamic system.
In addition; nine others have been sentenced to death for their role in the Ashura protests on December 27th. Five were confirmed by the MeK to be affiliated with them (though there’s debate whether they were part of a “militant wing” or not). The others were, predictably, tied to the API or unspecified monarchist groups in general. Along with these, seven Bahá’ís arrested (initially thought to be ten) on Ashura have been accused of spying for Israel. This probably has something to do with the seat of the Bahá’í faith being situated in Haifa. It also has a great deal to do with the century of persecution this “heretical” religion has faced in its home country of Iran. This past November, a conservative newspaper was even banned for featuring a photo of this famous temple in Delhi for an Indian tourism ad. Anyone familiar with India knows that this was nothing unusual.
So, the effort to contaminate Mousavi’s followers is indeed concerted, and this would appear to be one of those “schizophrenic” moves, as Hooman Majd has called them. Recently, the Iranian English daily, Tehran Times, claimed February 2nd, that VEVAK’s head, Heydar Moslehi, had found “clues”, but no one has been arrested. Given VEVAK’s track record with assassinations of intellectuals, this strikes me as ironic as placing Saeed Mortazavi in charge of the 2003 Zahra Kazemi inquiry. However; just because IRI propaganda is a one-trick pony, doesn’t mean it is always wrong. As Muhammad Sahimi pointed out in his own speculation (much recommended for a comprehensive overview of the case), Israel does have a self-declared program to assassinate nuclear scientists (might designate it with one of my favorite terms: ‘overt-covert’), as Mossad did in 2007, with Ardeshir Hassanpour. And, NCRI/MeK still has a presence within Iran, as evinced by their uncovering clandestine nuclear enrichment sites in the past few years. One problem: Ali-Mohammadi was not a nuclear scientist, as initially reported in Israeli and Western news. Former Mossad head, Shabtai Shavit, still active in the Israeli intelligence community, said he had no idea who Ali-Mohammadi was. That begs the question why I would believe an arch-spook; but the question remains: why? As Muhammad Sahimi crucially asked, “who benefits?” Given the hotbeds that universities are, it could have been a warning to intellectuals and students. It could have been botched intelligence (after all, why would one go to such lengths to carry out such an attack?). It could have been designed as a false-flag by either the IRI or Western interests. This type of event is the bread and butter of conspiracy theorists. And, of course, it elicits certitude from those who blame Israel for absolutely everything under the sun, as well as the bitterest (understandable as it can be) of the Iranian diaspora cursing the akhoond-ha (mollahs). I myself will admit to joining in with jokes on my theory that it was a yarmulke-wearing elven ET astride a flying unicorn which farts rainbows and can bend the time-space continuum with his magic shofar. Bottom line though – from all initial accounts this was a nice man. And if I were to interpret clues, it would be that while the modus operandi of a bomb was that of exile terrorist groups, the account of Ali Mohammadi’s funeral offers its own clues, as well. Try and rest in peace, doctor.
I would like to make one thing clear here. I do not support terrorism and assassination by anyone – especially of scientists and intellectuals. Whether it be the mojahedin, monarchists, Israel, or the IRI itself. Israeli “fatwas” upon scientists associated with the nuclear program should be held in moral contempt. If you guys really are responsible for any of these acts post-election, knock it the fuck off! You are not helping! If you believe violence is a legitimate tactic, read this essay and make your counter-argument.
And congratulations to you, Sarah Palin. Iranian state-media rejoiced at this:
Say he decided to declare war on Iran or decide to really come out and do whatever he could to support Israel–which I would like him to do.
You just made yourself not only a hardline collaborator with that gem, but proved yourself to truly be ‘fucking retarded’. (don’t worry, I claim the same satire immunity granted to Rush).
But, back to the Iranian domestic front. January 16th saw this statement, from Police Chief Ahmadi Moghaddam (statements such as this were hardly isolated, and Ayatollah Jannati’s was characteristically more fiery, forgive me for only offering one):
“These people should know where they are sending the SMS and e-mail as these systems are under control. They should not think using proxies will prevent their identification,” Mr Ahmadi Moghaddam said.
He warned that those who incited others to protest or issued appeals: “have committed a worse crime than those who come to the streets”.
And this is not limited to within Iran’s borders:
A worldwide movement that has relied heavily on Web sites such as Twitter and Facebook to express opposition to Iranian authorities has found they aren’t the only ones taking advantage of social networking and media coverage; Iranian government forces are apparently using those same tools to hold citizens accountable for their relatives’ actions outside the country.
Also beyond Iran’s boundaries (well, according to International Law, not technically), two diplomats have issued resignations of protest due to governmental violence (well, more like one and a half). Mohammad Reza Heydari, posted in Oslo, and former diplomat Abolfazl Eslami in Tokyo has gone public with some provocative statements on the mood of those in the Foreign Ministry, supposedly. This is why attacking embassies like the Swedish incident is shortsighted.
22 Bahman, anniversary of the Victory of the Islamic Revolution has been stepping up the last week or two. Opposition leaders are full of resolve and defying calls of conservatives and Supreme Leader not to continue their “sedition”. Following are some excerpts from the prime leaders.
Karroubi in late January issued this:
Although today they have shut down newspapers, filtered websites, imprisoned many of our dear friends, closed down the office of [reformist] parties including the Etemade Melli office and even my personal office, although they fired shots at my car, although some are threatening everyday and are insulting Mir Hossein Mousavi, me and the great nation of Iran in every way possible and take our words out of content, but I am firmly announcing that I never compromise over people’s rights and one of the main rights of this nation is their votes that they casted in the ballot boxes while trusting the authorities; and I will be with the people till the very end and will try for holding free elections and eliminating current obstacles.
Khatami’s February 1st statement, while mentioning the elections, drives home the point I am making against those whom willfully ignore, downplay, or rationalize the events transpiring since:
The freedom that we are talking about is the freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, freedom of expressing that opinion, and freedom of employing that opinion and people being asked to give their inputs about that opinion.
The requirement for freedom in its true meaning, which in short is the power of the people over their own destiny, is the freedom of speech and assembly. How could it be possible that there are parties but they don’t have any platform to express their views and cannot hold gatherings?
In a calm and civil environment, people should get a chance to come and then it would be clear what poeple’s tendencies are. And more important than this is the elections that should be free, healthy, and trustworthy.
On February 2nd, Mousavi’s interview with Kalemeh came out. This included 14 points. The election was not mentioned (I realize my earlier claim is muddled, given Khatami’s and Karroubi’s continued skepticism). This is a classic Reformist platform, only explicit in its criticism. Instead of posting it all, I would really, really recommend reading it here. If not that, BBC gives an abstract. In addition; Khatami has a more recent 22 Bahman statement (Reformist plank, largely).
Of course, Ahmadinejad & Co. tried desperately to change the subject. Whether it was its nuclear offer to send LEU abroad or later tantrum to enrich itself (I, by the way thought the West totally misplayed this, and should have put the onus on Ahmadinejad to back up his bluff in a fractious Iranian political climate). Whether it was a failed rocket launch into space or proposed prisoner swap for the three American hikers (sorry, SPIES!). Whether it was again threatening to cut ties with the British Museum over the Cyrus Cylinder after threatening it for weeks (the irony of this is beyond words), or stoning the Italian embassy in Tehran amidst orchestrated cries of “Death to Italy” (WTF?!). And summoning Canada’s charge d’affaires for this? Sentencing Khatami’s former deputy foreign minister to six years and executing proxy Greens, check! Even censoring images and video of the ’79 Revolution itself? why not! Indeed, it’s as if they were trying to exhaust their full bag of tricks…
I will give credit to the MSM for not being completely distracted by the shiny ball tactic from Tehran to leave the slated demonstration completely uncovered. They do appear to have improved their learning curve. They have hysterically exaggerated the nuclear announcement as usual (Ahmadinejad has the MSM and American public at large so trained. He says “fetch” and we froth at the mouth and wag our tails obediently). Juan Cole says “oh noes!” to medical isotope levels of enrichment. I cannot believe I honestly caught a FOX news model saying this was close to the weapons grade level required. Oh wait, yes I can. But, the MSM still fails pathetically in connecting the two stories and taking into consideration the internal dynamics and intended geopolitical misdirection.
Today, the talk was also of sanctions aimed at the Pasdaran. This has been coming for some time. In my own mini-Rashomon entry I’ll treat the issue of sanctions:
- Wall Street Journal: “US Shifts Iran Focus to Support Opposition” (Jan. 9, 2010)
- Tehran Bureau (PBS): “New Sanctions Miss the Target” (Jan. 30, 2010)
- BBC News: “US expands Iran Guards sanctions” (Feb. 10, 2010)
- Press TV: “US blacklists Iranian commander, firms” (Feb. 10, 2010 – notice the picture of Stuart Levey)
Before ending this update in preparation for 22 Bahman, some fun.
- Sexually suggestive logo made up of letters and how the show “24” was part of the plot to elect Obama! (Pedestrian has some of the most original stuff – my tip o’ the hat)
- The color green in Iran’s flag was replaced with blue at Ahmadinejad speeches.
- Breaking news: Iranian turtle-astronauts defect to the west.
And, my final story, the subject of which was once an intellectual obsession of mine: “Iranians celebrate ancient Persian fire fest”
Thousands of Iranians gathered at dusk against a snowy mountain backdrop to light giant bonfires in an ancient mid-winter festival dating back to Iran’s pre-Islamic past that is drawing new interest from Muslims.
Saturday’s celebration was the first in which the dwindling remnants of Iran’s once plentiful Zoroastrian religious minority were joined by thousands of Muslims, reflecting a growing interest in the strict Islamic society for the country’s ancient traditions.
Video slide show worth watching for any interested in world religions (you just might recognize someone’s avatar in it).
Some music. And yes, this would be an example of the secular “Westoxified” upper middle-class. No a-ha moment here. I’ve also posted noheh videos. And any criticism to how out of touch I am with the “common Iranian on the street” I would say, so what? It isn’t only the élite that consume such Western-style music. And, why is it that the fundamentalists respond not solely with their own music, or their own ideas, but like the schoolyard bully outwitted, resort to bannings, force and intimidation? All should be free to express themselves. That is my conviction.
Hypernova – Viva La Resistance
My apologies for being late with this update, as well as all mistakes herein. For the umpteenth time, I am very adamant pointing out I am not a professional, and I know it. I was getting a little burned out and slacked off the past month in following Iran. I hope to be more prompt with the Revolution Day demonstrations. But, as with demonstrations before, this will take a few days, as that is how long it takes for information, videos and analyses to come out.