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6/22/2009
‘HER NAME WAS NEDA’
CATEGORY: Iran, WORLD POLITICS

You have all probably seen the dramatic video of the young Iranian female protestor who died bloodily on camera. If you haven’t seen the graphic and disturbing slice of life from Iran on Saturday, it can be found here.

We now have a name to go with that bleeding, lifeless face. Allahpundit at Hot Air fills in some details:

Word on the street via one Iranian tweeter is that her name was Neda Agha Soltan. That’s also the name circulating on a few websites and now being attributed to her in a hastily arranged Wikipedia bio. The rumor - and it’s all rumor until some newspaper tracks down her family - is that she was 27 years old and a philosophy student. I hope to god this isn’t really her photo because the thought of her being so beautiful and dignified makes the murder somehow that much more obscene.

[...]

Update: A Farsi speaker tells HuffPo that this blogger is claiming that Neda was at the protest with her professor and several other students and that the fatal shot was fired by a Basij driving by on a motorcycle. No rhyme or reason; I wonder if he even aimed. The burial, reportedly, was today - and her memorial service was ordered canceled by the regime.

Robin Wright in Time Magazine (whose writings on the unrest have surpassed brilliance) fills us in on why Neda’s death may be a catalyst that will bring the regime down:

For the cycles of mourning in Shiite Islam actually provide a schedule for political combat - a way to generate or revive momentum. Shiite Muslims mourn their dead on the third, seventh and 40th days after a death, and these commemorations are a pivotal part of Iran’s rich history. During the revolution, the pattern of confrontations between the shah’s security forces and the revolutionaries often played out in 40-day cycles.

The first clashes in January 1978 produced two deaths that were then commemorated on the 40th day in mass gatherings, which in turn produced new confrontations with security forces - and new deaths. Those deaths then generated another 40-day period of mourning, new clashes, and further deaths. The cycle continued throughout most of the year until the shah’s ouster in January 1979.

The same cycle has already become an undercurrent in Iran’s current crisis. The largest demonstration, on Thursday of last week, was called by opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi to commemorate the deaths of protesters three days after they were killed.

Shiite mourning is not simply a time to react with sadness. Particularly in times of conflict, it is also an opportunity for renewal. The commemorations for “Neda” and the others killed this weekend are still to come. And the 40th day events are usually the largest and most important.

The way this woman’s death has galvanized the Iranian protestors (and will no doubt get big play in the rest of Iran as well) means that even if they arrest all the opposition leaders, reformers, as well as break the heads of demonstrators in the streets - this revolution is not over. Not by a long shot.

The question is will other clerics with influence recognize this and, in order to save something of the Islamic state, throw Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to the wolves?

Nazila Fathi and Michael Slackman in the New York Times write about the powerful former president Hashemi Rafsanjani and his efforts to form a coalition of clerics in the holy city of Qom to force Khamenei’s resignation and revamp the office of Supreme Leader:

But he remains a major establishment figure, and the detention of his daughter, albeit briefly, was a surprise. In Ayatollah Khamenei’s sermon on Friday, in which he backed Mr. Ahmadinejad and threatened a crackdown on further protests, he praised Mr. Rafsanjani as a pillar of the revolution while acknowledging that the two have had “many differences of opinion.”

Last week, state television showed images of Ms. Hashemi, 46, speaking to hundreds of people to rally support for Mr. Moussavi. After her appearance, state radio said, students who support Mr. Ahmadinejad gathered outside the Tehran prosecutor’s office and demanded that she be arrested for treason.

Mr. Rafsanjani, 75, heads two powerful institutions. One, the Assembly of Experts, is a body of clerics that has the authority to oversee and theoretically replace the country’s supreme leader. He also runs the Expediency Council, empowered to settle disagreements between the elected Parliament and the unelected Guardian Council.

The Assembly of Experts has never publicly exercised its power over Ayatollah Khamenei since he succeeded the Islamic Revolution’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in 1989. But the increasingly bitter confrontation between Ayatollah Khamenei and Mr. Rafsanjani has raised the prospect of a contest of political wills between the two revolutionary veterans.

Such a move by Rafsanjani would be unprecedented. But these are unusual times in Iran and the day may arrive when many long time critics of the regime among the clerical establishment will finally band together in order to save something of the old order - save something from what Khamenei and Ahmadinejad have apparently tried to bring down themselves by way of vote fraud.

More protests were called for today to honor the dead from Saturday. There ares still tens of thousands of security personnel deployed throughout Tehran to prevent it. We will have to see if the demonstrators - using modern tools of communication - can outsmart the authorities and gather in some strength to demonstrate that they are not finished - not by a long shot.

By: Rick Moran at 7:36 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

6/21/2009
A CONVERSATION WITH MY DEAD FATHER

Another oldie but goodie. This may be the most personal post I ever wrote for this site.

Originally published on June 16, 2007.

********************************

It’s Fathers Day again. Another timely reminder that you’ve been in the ground 25 years and I’m still here. Not only that, I get to sit and listen to everyone talking about their fathers - what they’re going to be doing with them, what present they got them. Not that I’m resentful, mind you. It’s just sometimes very hard to take when I see the rest of the world getting to enjoy the company of their fathers and here I am stuck with this imaginary conversation. I guess in 53 years if you haven’t learned that life isn’t fair (something you said many times) then you are destined to be unhappy and discontented. So I suppose I’ll have to make do with this little literary phantasm.

Would that it weren’t so.

So anyway…here I am. What do you think? Yeah, put on a few pounds. Come to think of it, I’m starting to look a lot like you when you were this age. I suppose that’s the destiny of all sons. I see fathers and their older sons together today and the resemblance is there for sure. Is it nature’s way of reminding us where we came from? If you could see your seven sons lined up in a row, most of us would remind you of yourself in some way. I hope that would give you some satisfaction.

As for the rest… Well? I’m waiting. Cat got your tongue? Okay, let me start.

I’ll admit I’ve been a bit of a disappointment. Whatever it is you wanted for me in life (outside of the ubiquitous “be happy”) never quite materialized. I had my chances. But things got kind of…complicated along the way. Moreso than the others, the skein of my life has run pretty much against the grain. Wherever success or happiness lurked, I always seemed to find a way to pass them by. A career lost, a bad marriage, and the “Irish sickness” - 25 years can pass pretty quickly when there are large parts you don’t remember.

But things are better now as you can see. Amazing what a good woman can do for you, eh? And you should know. You had the best. We like to deny it but women are right when they say we’re all like little boys. There’s a part of us that wants to be cared for, that needs the nurturing love that only a woman can give. Oh, we make a big deal of resisting it - especially these days when we worry such thoughts are considered “incorrect.” But then you reach a certain age and you just don’t give a damn what others say. You know what you can give her and what she can give you and you base your relationship on the beauty of the symbiotic nature of love; a mystical beholdeness to each other that goes beyond the physical and enters the realm of the poets - a spiritual linking of minds and hearts that is truly the only valuable you own.

You know all of this, of course. I’m not telling you anything you didn’t experience yourself. But you were lucky enough to find it early in your life. I guess better late than never for me.

I wonder what you would think of my new career - if you can call writing a career. You always thought that writing was a calling, almost like the priesthood. It’s as fulfilling as anything I’ve ever done and too much fun to be called work. Sometimes, I get a chuckle imagining you reading some of the stuff I write. As an FDR liberal, I can just see your head shaking at some of my more conservative diatribes. No matter. You would have critiqued my stuff not for the political content but rather the stylistic aspects of a particular piece and cogency of my arguments. I bet you would have kept me on my toes.

But of course, despite your classically liberal politics, I have you to thank for my conservative ideological bent. All those children and I was the only one who ended up on the right side of the fence. And you had me pegged as a righty almost before I myself realized it when you suggested I read Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind shortly after I graduated from college. You knew exactly what would happen, didn’t you? Kirk’s references to Edmund Burke and other classical thinkers sent me off on an intellectual quest to find myself. I discovered that I agreed with the ideas espoused by conservative giants like Hayek, Eliot, Strauss, and Kristol. But you knew that. And you also knew that the love of learning and books that you instilled in all of us would carry me to my own “undiscovered country” of new ideas and different politics.

I bet that gave you a secret thrill, though. The idea that one of your brood would break with your politics validated your ideas on how to raise children; give them the freedom to discover the world on their own, guiding them where necessary but never dictating what they should think. Your library had books from every conceivable ideological point of view. From Karl Marx to Nietzsche, to Bishop Sheen. Each of us arrived at our politics in our own way, taking our own journeys of self exploration. And we were never lacking for encouragement or advice from you.

It’s amazing how much I think of you even though you’ve been gone these many years. I have Sir George Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony in Mahler’s 1st on one of my Rhapsody playlists and every time it comes on, it brings back a flood of memories of attending the Symphony with you and mother - after spending the afternoon in South Bend watching a Notre Dame football game. I can smell the leaves burning, the memory of those fall days are so powerful.

There are other reminders too - much too private and personal to put in this article. But ultimately, it comes down to this; you’ve never left me. If there is one thing I could say to comfort you wherever you are it is that despite the fact you have been gone almost half my life, your presence still fills my mind. The memories are important. But beyond memory, beyond the fading images on crumpled photographs, beyond the bleary, misty visage I see when I close my eyes, there is you. In my heart and soul. Until I draw my last breath on this earth.

And that, my dear daddy, is a comfort to me.

By: Rick Moran at 10:30 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

LOOK TO QOM FOR THE NEXT BREAKING STORY
CATEGORY: Iran, WORLD POLITICS

With tens of thousands of police, Revolutionary Guards, and paramilitary Basij’s on the streets of Tehran, mass protests of the kind we saw earlier in the week are, for the moment, not possible.

Demonstrating very effective crowd control techniques - along with a brutality that shocked the world - the regime’s strategy apparently worked fairly well. Any area where people began to mass, they sent a flying wedge of riot police (probably Rev Guards dressed in police gear) straight into the people and beat as many as they could, as hard as they could, as long as they could. In this way, they prevented tens of thousands from forming in order to protest.

Estimates of police and Guards deployed range from 25,000 to 60,000 in Tehran alone. And the Basij were busy overnight, keeping the pressure on reformists by carrying off several high profile home invasions in richer neighborhoods while scouring hospitals for people injured during the clashes.

That latter activity is being enthusiastically carried out as there have been reports that they are dragging people out of the hospitals and taking them to the notorious Evin Prison where, as one wag put it, “waterboarding will be the least that they do.”

Hossein Mousavi has issued another letter, asking people to go on strike if he is arrested. He says he is “prepared for martyrdom” which, given Khamenei’s threat during his speech on Friday to hold him directly responsible for any blood spilled, might be a prescient statement.

So with no mass demonstrations possible at the moment, what next?

Look for a shocker coming out of the holy city of Qom where former President Ali Hashemi Rafsanjani has reportedly been holed up with what we might loosely refer to as a kind of Shia “college of cardinals” since early this week. (I admit it is not the best analogy but the I am trying to impart a sense of the religious influence these mullahs have on Shias.) This from Nico Pitney who has been doing a bang up job at Huffpo in liveblogging events:

6:00 PM ET — Where is Rafsanjani? “According to an online reformist news source Rooyeh, Rafsanjani has been in Qom meeting some members of Council of Experts and a representative of Ayatollah Sistani.

According to the source that asked to remain anonymous, during this meeting they recounted memories of the days of the Revolution.
A reasonable purpose of these meetings, according to the source, is that Rafsanjani is looking for a majority to possibly call for Ahmadinejad’s resignation.

As one reader points out, Sistani is “one of the most respected Grand Ayatollahs within Shia Islam in the world. He’s Iranian (from Mashhad, same city as Khamenei), but spends most time in Najaf/Karbala in Iraq.”

The Shia clerics are not a monolithic bloc. And the clerics in Qom may hold the key to breaking this situation wide open.

There is no love lost among many of the clerics in Qom and Grand Ayatollah Khamenei. The sticking point is the “Grand” designation for Khamenei’s clerical position. There are many clerics in Qom who believe the idea that Khamenei has that title - which denotes a piety and scholarly achievement that few attain - to be nonsense . Author and scholar Kamil Pasha points us to veteran Middle East reporter Robin Wright’s article up at Huffington Post:

The position of supreme leader has been controversial since it was created in the chaotic early days of the revolution to deal with internal squabbling. After his return from exile, revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khameini had originally returned to the religious center of Qom, but was forced to move back to Tehran as disputes among the fractious coalition that ousted the last shah began to fall apart.

Many of the Shiite clerics in Qom never embraced the idea of either a supreme leader or a central role for clerics in the new Islamic republic. Iran’s revolution represented not just a political upheaval. It was also a revolution within Shiism, which for 14 centuries had prohibited a clerical role in politics. With clerics taking over government, many senior Shiite clerics feared that Islam would end up being tainted by the human flaws of the state.

The current crisis has effectively revived that debate — and deepened the divide between the government and the Shiite clergy as well as with the public. The government includes many clerical institutions, including the 12-member Council of Guardians, the 86-member Assembly of Experts and the Expediency Council. But not even all of its members are happy with the election.

More importantly, senior clerics in Qom have noticeably failed to either endorse the election results or embrace Ahmadinejad, while long-time critics within the clergy used the crisis to encourage resistance to the supreme leader’s dictates.

The fact that Rafsanjani is in Qom could mean many things. He may be hiding out there, waiting to see which way the wind is blowing before leaping. Or, as Pitney reports, he may be trying to get these respected clerics in Iran’s holiest city to speak with one voice on the election fraud and Khamenei’s role in government. A strong, unified statement coming from Qom might spell curtains for both Ahmadinejad and Khamenei.

While Rafsanjani himself has been absent from view, his daughter spoke out strongly for the reformists. He even rated some heavy criticism from his old friend Khamenei on Friday, although he stopped short of warning the powerful Rafsanjani.

A couple of Grand Ayatollahs in Qom have already come out in favor of the protests. Robin Wright:

Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, who was originally designated to become supreme leader until he criticized the regime’s excesses in 1989, dismissed the election results and called on “everyone” to continue “reclaiming their dues” in calm protests. He also issued a warning to Iran’s security forces not to accept government orders that might eventually condemn them “before God.”

“Today censorship and cutting telecommunication lines can not hide the truth,” said Montazeri. “I pray for the greatness of the Iranian people.”

Others have also bestowed legitimacy on the protests. Grand Ayatollah Saanei — one of only about a dozen who hold that position — pronounced Ahmadinejad’s presidency illegitimate.

Neither man weilds much political influence. But if Qom’s clerical leadership calls on Khamenei to resign (thus delegitimzing his role as “Supreme Leader” even more), this would cause a crisis in government - a near civil war - as the clerical establishment would likely be ripped in two. It would paralyze the government and perhaps even split the security forces.

Because of that - and because many of the clerics in Qom have shown a great reluctance to involve themselves too heavily in politics - such a strong statement might not be forthcoming. But don’t count Rafsanjani out. He has a lot of friends in very powerful places. If he decides to risk a confrontation with Khamenei (him being a candidate to replace him although the reformers would take a dim view of that), anything is possible.

So I would look to Qom for the next big story in the Iranian revolution. Whether the blood spilled yesterday is enough to convince the religious in Iran to replace Khamenei is a question that will probably be answered shortly. They will either issue a call for his resignation, or Rafsanjani will emerge empty handed.  The old revolutionary and kleptocrat will try to trim events to fulfill his ambitions. But in the process, he just may free Iran from the grip of the fascists.

UPDATE: RAFSANJANI’S DAUGHTER,  FOUR  OTHER RELATIVES, ARRESTED

AP is reporting
the arrest of Rafsanjani’s daughter (mentioned above) and 4 other relatives of the powerful former president.

Um…they’re not being very subtle, are they? They know full well what Rafsanjani is up to and are making it clear to him that there will be consequences unless he ceases what he is doing.

No, these are not very nice people.

By: Rick Moran at 6:43 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)

6/20/2009
‘IT IS NOT OVER. IT HAS JUST BEGUN’
CATEGORY: Iran, WORLD POLITICS

That quote, from Andrew Sullivan’s gripping liveblogging of the riots in Tehran speaks volumes.

To a very large degree, the MSM has been left in the dust as far as reporting during this, what now must be termed (though I was reluctant to do so) a revolution in Iran. “The Revolution will be Twittered” is not a joke. Hundreds and hundreds of tweets every couple of minutes are relating a the first draft of history. It’s not newspapers or TV reports - ruthlessly suppressed by the regime - that are informing the world of the chaos, the blood, and the courage of the demonstrators.

It is a silly little social networking app that 1 month ago people were asking how long the Twitter fad might last. I don’t think too many will be wondering whether anything useful can be related in 140 characters anymore. What we’ve discovered is that it is the cumulative effective of the narration that imparts an emotional subtext and gives the reader a psychic connection to the event being twittered.

Sure a lot of the tweets are probably rumor, or perhaps even complete B.S. But have you seen how TV reports a major story lately? Anyone who watched coverage of Katrina can look at what the Iranians are doing with Twitter and other new methods of communication and realize that the MSM Katrina coverage suffers by comparison.

Video is reaching the outside world via YouTube, LiveLeak, and other video outlets. Camera phones seem to be the easiest way to visually relate the horror of the day. The authorities must be going apesh*t. They’ve done all they can to close off communications, even going so far as to censor western news broadcasts out of the country, and the story is still being told - relentlessly, courageously, and emotionally. The regime reminds me of someone trying to plug holes in a dam. Each time they succeed in keeping the water back, another leaks springs up somewhere else.

This is probably not a remarkable turn of events to many younger people. They have grown up with these technologies, use them with a comfort and ease that I envy. But for those of us a little older, this is nothing less than a revolution in communications; easily the equal of the satellite breakthroughs of the early 1960’s. Right before our eyes, we have two forces of history bursting into view - forces that have been roiling beneath the surface of our day to day vision for many years until necessity and opportunity have met in the streets of Tehran and, volcano-like, erupted into view. A new collective way for mankind to communicate and the world-historical impetus that is driving it on - Persians seeking freedom and justice - will be seen in the future as a watershed moment.

Meanwhile, Iran is bleeding. It is night there now. There will apparently be another attempt to gather after dark just as there will be the hated Basij to try and break it up. There will be no official death toll that anyone will believe but it is clear that scores are dead. I fear the night. The regime may use the darkness to teach the reformists an object lesson. This is what the Chinese did in 1989 at Tiananmen Square.

Ed Morrissey has the days events with commentary and video. Just keep scrolling. Ed has several graphic videos of the dead as well as snippets of the response to the crackdown.

As expected, as the violence has escalated, so has the rhetoric from the White House:

The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.

Martin Luther King once said - “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.

I think the non-violent tactics of King worked because of the times in which he lived and the nation he was trying to reform. As brutal as the southern authorities were on King and his followers, their ruthlessness pales in comparison to the determination of the Iranian regime to stamp out the prairie fire that is actually being stoked by their own callous stupidity towards their own people. The moral courage being demonstrated by those in the streets is to be admired. But it is their physical courage - their acceptance of the risk of death - that is important now.

The Iranians don’t need a Martin Luther King right now. They need a George Washington who can win a revolution. It won’t necessarily be with guns that victory will be achieved. But even if the regime succeeds here in stamping out the reform movement, things will never be the same in Iran and the day will come - as it does for all tyrants and tyrannical regimes eventually - when the walls come a tumbalin’ down and the natural state of being that all men are born into reasserts itself and victory is achieved. People are born free. No tyrant anywhere can take that away from us. It is our heritage as human beings and our right. And whether you speak Arabic, Kurdish, Turkomen, Farsi, or any other language where dictators suppress the will of the people, the Iranians have put them on notice that their days are numbered.

By: Rick Moran at 3:06 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)

MOUSAVI ROLLS THE DICE
CATEGORY: Iran, WORLD POLITICS

Tomorrow is a big day, maybe I’ll get killed tomorrow! - I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed. I’m listening to all my favorite music. I even want to dance to a few songs. I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows. Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow! - A blogger in Tehran 6/20/09

After Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s speech yesterday warning that further demonstrations would be viewed harshly, initial reaction from the Mousavi camp was that “no demonstrations were planned for Saturday or Sunday” and Mousavi himself would not be speaking.

Then, last night, word began to be passed via Twitter and the newly restored access to Facebook and other social networking avenues, that Hossein Mousavi was calling on his supporters to assemble in downtown Tehran for a demonstration at 4:00 pm local time.

Expect the crowds to be huge. Should we also expect bloodshed?

Mousavi is rolling the dice that the regime will not do what the Shah didn’t have the stomach for 30 years ago - fire into masses of people demonstrating against the goverment, making the streets literally run red with blood. This time, it won’t be the ill-disciplined Basij firing at the odd protestor in an unplanned response to a mob attacking their headquarters as was the case with the bloodletting earlier in the week. This time, it will be a coldly calculating, deliberately planned massacre - Tienanmen Square on steroids.

In 1989, the Communist Chinese only had a couple of thousand die hards in the square as targets. Most of the rest of the protestors vacated the square long before the army - conscripts from the provinces who were told they were putting down a “counterrevolution” - moved in and mowed down the kids who believed up to the last minute their government wouldn’t murder them.

This will be much different if the regime delivers on its veiled threats - which makes the determination of the protestors all the more remarkable.

I find it of unknown significance that the regime has re-established at least some communications networks. Evidently, Facebook, and SMS texting are no longer being blocked. The call for the march originated on Mousavi’s Facebook page. It is impossible to reasonably speculate why the regime would make it easier for the demonstrators to organize at this crucial hour. Are the protestors being assisted by a faction that wants to see Ahmadinejad/Khamenei fall? Are the authorities trying to create as many targets as possible, smoking out regime opponents so that they can arrest as many of them as possible? It may be important, it may not be. We may never know.

Meanwhile, some analysts here and abroad believe that the Supreme Leader miscalculated if he thought his speech would dampen enthusiasm for reform:

Khamenei, 69, appeared to have miscalculated if he thought he could cow the opposition with his tough speech, said Mohammad Sahimi, an Iranian-American professor of chemical engineering at the University of Southern California and political analyst.

“I think he has polarized the society far more than it was because he made clear what his preference is and where he stands and who he supports,” Sahimi said. The opposition is “openly defying this guy. In the short run, it may it lead to violence.”

Barack Obama has slightly - but significantly - altered the official line of the United States, seeming to come out a little more strongly for the right of the people to reform the government while maintaining it is up to the people to decide their future. In an interview with CBS (via Hot Air):

What you’re seeing in Iran are hundreds of thousands of people who believe their voices were not heard and who are peacefully protesting and - and seeking justice. And the world is watching. And we stand behind those who are seeking justice in a peaceful way. And, you know, already we’ve seen violence out there. I think I’ve said this throughout the week. I want to repeat it that we stand with those who would look to peaceful resolution of conflict, and we believe that the voices of people have to be heard, that that’s a universal value that the American people stand for and this administration stands for…

But the last point I want to make on this - this is not an issue of the United States or the West versus Iran. This is an issue of the Iranian people. The fact that they are on the streets under pretty severe duress, at great risk to themselves, is a sign that there’s something in that society that wants to open up.

This is actually quite good. “Seeking justice in a peaceful way” (a direct but subtle reference to the rigged election) and “[W]e stand with those who would look to peaceful resolution of conflict, and we believe that the voices of people have to be heard,” is closer to what he should have said from the outset. But it’s a niggling complaint. It’s easier to ratchet up the rhetoric as the president has done here than tone it down. It still won’t satisfy his many critics on the right but he’s not keeping score politically as much as he’s acting responsibly in a very difficult situation for the United States. As I said yesterday, everybody would love to see the president come down hard on the regime while making sweet music about supporting the reformers. The reasons not to are self evident. Those who believe differently do not have the responsibility if such rhetoric backfires.

Even if Mousavi had told his followers to stay home, the chances are good that a big demonstration would have been held anyway. Perhaps Mousavi realized this and decided to ride the wave of history rolling over Iran now rather than sit on the beach and watch. He is not in control of events. It remains to be seen whether his gamble that the regime will crack wide open as a result of the protests succeeds. Clearly, the regime has the capability to spill their own citizen’s blood. But do they have the heart for it?

We may find out today.

By: Rick Moran at 5:16 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)

6/19/2009
IRAN ISN’T THE PHILIPPINES
CATEGORY: Iran, Politics

I’m with Jonathan Chait on this:

President Obama has taken a cautious tone toward the demonstrators in Iran, with his stated reason being that more open support would discredit their cause. This strikes me as a sensible position. The revealed preferences of both sides suggest a mutual belief that an American embrace would hurt the protestors. The regime is trying (so far, without much success) to tie the demonstrators to the U.S., and the demonstrators are embracing the symbolism of the Iranian revolution (the color green, chants of “Alluah Akbar,” and so on) in order to demonstrate their patriotism and mainstream cultural status.

Still, this kind of judgment about an unfamiliar country’s internal politics is just a guess, and it’s a rebuttable proposition. What’s remarkable to me is that those on the other side refuses to rebut it. Today’s Washington Post op-ed page has two more columns lambasting Obama for failing to embrace the demonstrators. Today’s offerings are by Charles Krauthammer and Paul Wolfowitz. Neither one of them even mentions, let alone answers, Obama’s argument for why embracing the demonstrators would be counterproductive.

I don’t understand how you could write a column without ever once addressing the primary argument for the proposition you’re arguing against. The low quality of argument on this topic from the right is striking.

President Obama has had a horrid foreign policy so far in my opinion; weak, naive, too eager to engage enemies and push away from friends (Great Britain). He has done some things that needed to be done such as changing our strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And I have applauded his attempt to explain America to the Muslim world. (His Russia and China policies - vital for the future - have not really taken shape although he seems to have made a good beginning).

But when it comes to Iran, I think Obama - after an inexplicable delay - has got our response to the upheaval there just about right. And when smart guys like Krauthammer and Wolfowitz take him to task for not “standing up” for the demonstrators without once mentioning the unique and painful history of US-Iran relations, it makes me believe that those two gentlemen were attacking the president for the sake of expediency rather than critiquing a policy choice.

Wolfowitz especially should know better. In his op-ed, he writes of Reagan’s initial response to the electoral fraud of Ferdinand Marcos in stealing the election in 1986. It was mild and congratulated the Philippine people for the election while expressing concern about fraud being committed by perhaps both sides:

At the time, I was working for Secretary of State George Shultz as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and I shared Shultz’s dismay at the president’s comments. For more than two years, with the president’s support, we had carefully pressed Marcos for reform. Reagan himself once cited Lord Acton’s famous dictum, that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” while speaking of Marcos. Nevertheless Reagan’s unfortunate comment about fraud on “both sides” threatened to put the United States on the wrong side at a critical moment.

Fortunately, Shultz managed to convince the president that he had made a serious mistake. On Feb. 15, the White House issued a new statement: “The elections were marred by widespread fraud and violence perpetrated largely by the ruling party.” The following day, Marcos and Aquino each claimed victory. On Feb. 22, when Marcos ordered the arrest of two key reformers, as many as a million Filipinos poured into EDSA Square in Manila to block the arrests in a dramatic demonstration of “people power.”

The difference between Iran and the Philippines is night and day. Wolfowitz even acknowledges that not every situation is analogous to Iran but this is an especially broad reach. The two governments could hardly have been closer and the people - despite a checkered colonial past - were generally favorably disposed toward the American government.

Contrast that with the hostility between Washington and Tehran. And the Iranian people, while liking the country of America, hold no feelings of affection for our government. It cost us nothing to side with the Philippine people in their “Yellow Power” revolution nor did it undermine Aquino’s efforts at overturning the result of the election to have America on her side. Again, contrasting that with the situation in Iran, our strong support for the reformers in the streets would probably make a crackdown even more likely given the clinical paranoia of the Iranian regime. These guys see CIA agents under their beds and it wouldn’t be a much of a leap of illogic for them to connect Obama’s words of encouragement for the street protestors to actual collusion with our intelligence people.

It would be hard to find a more non-similar historical analogy to Iran but Wolfowitz managed to do so by trying to draw a parallel with the Soviet coup in 1991 that saw Gorbachev under house arrest and Yeltsin - then a fresh face in the Russian parliament - standing on a tank outside of the parliament building calling on the plotters to release the Soviet premier. Again, it cost us virtually nothing to support the demonstrators and it may have even helped get Gorbachev released. There, we had real leverage unlike in Iran where we have none.

Krauthammer’s piece is mostly a political attack, criticizing the president for using Khamenei’s honorific “Supreme Leader”(?), using the president’s mild response to attack him for his outreach to Iran and naivete about being able to negotiate away their nuclear program. I agree with Charles about that but using the president’s response to the demonstrations as a club to beat him for his wrong headed approach to negotiations is wrong. These are two separate, distinct issues and while I wish the president would give up his unilateral outreach to Iran, I see nothing much wrong in his specific response to this crisis. Krauthammer tries to combine the two issues for the purpose of delegitimizing the president’s overall policy.

I wish the president had come out 48 hours earlier with his statement. I wish he would ratchet up the rhetoric a little. I wish there was some way we could let the Iranian reformers know we are with them 100% without raising the hackles of the regime which could lead to a bloody mess.

But wishing don’t get it done. I believe we are doing the demonstrators a favor by laying low and letting events unfold. There may come a time in the near future where Obama may wish to use stronger language to condemn the regime and support the demonstrators. Until then, he’s got it just about right - a Goldilocks moment for our president; moments that have been far too few in his young presidency.

By: Rick Moran at 11:58 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (10)

LIVEBLOGGING KHAMENEI’S SPEECH AFTER FRIDAY PRAYERS (UPDATED)

I started watching here in the middle of it.

4:38 AM: So far he has blamed “terrorists” who are present in the huge crowds for the violence.

The crowd sounds like it wants blood. . Chanting “Down with opponents of the revolution.”

4:40 AM: He is issuing a direct warning to the protestors. It is their fault if the protests turn violent and they will suffer the consequences.

4:42 AM - Criticizing west for putting out false election results. Khamenei acknowledges “new situation” in Iran.

4:45 AM: The West - “removed their masks” after election. Made some comments that revealed their true nature. Criticizing Obama for encouraging street protests.

4:46 AM: Protest violence carried out by western agents? That’s what the translator seems to be saying.

4:47 AM: Ah, memory. “Death to America” chant by crowd. Khamenei IS blaming “intelligence services” for violence.

4:48 AM: Strong criticism of US for Afghan, Iraq wars and support for Israel.

4:49 AM - OH MY GOD. Khamenei brings up Branch Davidian crackdown - “do they know anything about human rights?”

4:50 AM: Addressing the 12th Imam. “We are doing what we are obliged to do.”

4:52 AM: ” I am ready to put all on the line for the revolution. The revolution belongs to you (12th Imam). We will continue the path with full force. We ask you to support us with your prayers along the way.”

4:53 AM: Speech ends with crowd chanting that they would be willing to give their lives for the revolution.

Wrap up by pro-regime English speaking reporter fills in some of the blanks. He thinks it was a good speech, a “sensitive” speech. If that’s the guy’s idea of “sensitive” I’d hate to be married to him.

Khamenei insists on going through channels - the Guardian Council - to protest election.

Khamenei feels for shopkeepers and others who suffered property damage as a result of the protests.

The election “showed the people’s trust in the Islamic system.

Praised Rafsanjani but criticized him for siding with Mousavi.

Summary: Not as bombastic a speech that one would expect if a Tianemann style massacre was in the works. Khamenei seemed at one point to heavily criticize the Basij for attacking students in their dormitories (Allah has video of the attacks.) But clearly, he has called for an end to the street demonstrations and has ordered Mousavi to get with the program - after he and the other candidates meet with the Guardian Council tomorrow.

He laid the groundwork for a crackdown but stopped short of threatening one outright. He may have put a roadblock in front of the Basij - or it could be hypocrisy on his part. In short, we don’t know much more now then we knew before the speech.

UPDATE

The Guardian confirms what I thought I heard from the translator above and fills in some of the early parts of the speech I missed.

They take a much dimmer view of the possibility of a crackdown. They believe Khamenei’s warnings were clear and pointed. We’ll see. I think Allah is right and he will wait until after tomorrow’s sham meeting between the candidates and the Guardian Council about election complaints.

By: Rick Moran at 3:38 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

6/18/2009
THE CHICAGO WAY TO DEAL WITH NOSY IG’S

In Chicago politics, if someone starts investigating you, your cronies, or your dubiously legal activities, you basically have three options:

1. Come clean, beg for mercy, and agree to wear a wire to meetings with your partners in crime.

2. Send some goons to pay a visit to the investigator and try to persuade him that it is in the best interest of his continuing good health that he investigate someone else.

3. Get the investigator fired. (Preferable to #2 because goons are a big expense and not always feasible or available.)

In the case of nosy, independent-minded Inspector Generals, the Obama administration has eschewed the Goon Option for simply canning IG’s who displease them for peeking into the dark corners of the administration to sniff out corruption.

The tale of AmeriCorps IG Gerald Walpin has been instructive. Already a thorn in the administration’s side for barring Obama ally Sacramento Mayor Dennis Johnson from receiving any more AmeriCorps grants last year because hizonner insisted on using the monies for personal and political activities, Walpin really raised the hackles of Obama’s politicos when he refused to reinstate the mayor’s grant privileges so he would be eligible to dip into the stim fund cookie jar.

Getting in the way of a Chicago politician seeking to reward a friend is crazy, according to the White House. Or, at least, it shows that the IG who isn’t playing the game must be suffering from some kind of dementia as the Obama crew crudely smeared Walpin by saying that his firing was an “emergency” because he was so “confused” and “disoriented” that it questioned his “capacity to serve.”

Yes, that sort of thing happens in Chicago too although most of the time, it’s done with a little more subtly. Nothing so crude as a press release from the Mayor’s office accusing a high ranking bureaucrat of losing his mind. More likely, a call to a friendly reporter accusing him of being a drunk or having an affair suffices in the Windy City.

The effect is the same. Rather than giving legitimate reasons for firing a watchdog - not that there are any in this case - the White House made up some crap about Walpin being too old and feeble to do the job. No doubt, “witnesses” will turn up in the press shortly to confirm Dr. Rahmbo’s diagnosis of mental incapacity.

“Will no one rid me of this meddlesome IG?” Obama might have asked. Presidents do things for political purposes all the time and firing one IG for being a squeaky wheel is really nothing much to get too worked up about.

But what if he has fired two IG’s - in two weeks - and potentially de-gonaded a third?

He was appointed with fanfare as the public watchdog over the government’s multi-billion dollar bailout of the nation’s financial system. But now Neil Barofsky is embroiled in a dispute with the Obama administration that delayed one recent inquiry and sparked questions about his ability to freely investigate.

The disagreement stems from a claim by the Treasury Department that Barofsky is not entirely independent of the agency he is assigned to examine ¿ a claim that has prompted a stern letter from a Republican senator warning that agency officials are encroaching on the integrity of an office created to protect taxpayers.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, sent the letter Wednesday to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner demanding information about a “dispute over certain Treasury documents” that he said were being “withheld” from Barofsky’s office on a “specious claim of attorney-client privilege.”

A White House spokesman declined to comment, referring questions to the Treasury Department. Treasury spokesman Andrew Williams said late Wednesday that the agency would read Grassley’s letter and respond to the senator before any public comment.

[...]

Separately this week, the International Trade Commission told its acting inspector general, who is not subject to White House authority, that her contract would not be renewed.

Grassley had become concerned about her independence because of a report earlier in the year that an agency employee forcibly took documents from the acting inspector general.

“It is difficult to understand why the ITC would not have taken action to ensure that the ITC inspector general had the information necessary to do the job,” Grassley wrote on Tuesday.

Less than three hours after the letter was e-mailed to the agency, the acting IG, Judith Gwynne, was told that her contract, which expires in early July, would not be renewed.

I know what you’re thinking, you Obamabots out there. “You got nuttin’. Where’s da proof? Nuttin’ happened here dat’s important. It’s a dis…a dist…it idn’t important, dat’s all.”

Perfect Chicago Way response. Better yet, why not include the defense of the year; “Well, Bush, he done it too!”

Got me there, pal. In 8 years, I’m sure Bush did indeed probably fire an IG or two. Can’t find any cites by googling but some intrepid lefty out there - my bet is on Steve Benen or perhaps Eric Boehlert - showing Bush doing the dirty deed will arise in the blogosphere by the end of the day.

And if he did, then what? Many on the left no doubt criticized Bush - quite rightly - at the time but are now defending Obama for doing the same thing? I guess because Bush wasn’t from Chicago, he just didn’t have the touch with these political executions. No style, no flair, no imagination in burying a hatchet in an IG’s head by smearing him as being senile.

It is the Barosfsky case that is the most intriguing. What is he on to? The response to Grassley’s letter was a polite way of saying “keep your nose out of our business.” What is that business? The FBI (and Barosfsky himself) believe there is massive fraud in the TARP program with possible kickbacks made to Congressmen. The IG’s office has already opened 20 investigations into such cases - probably about 19 more than the White House wanted. By playing a slow down game with the IG, Treasury is hoping their Democratic allies in Congress will rescue them by refusing to investigate. Grassley will try gamely but without the resources of a committee staff, he will be hard pressed to come up with anything.

Of course, this probably won’t deter Barosfsky. More likely, the White House is building a case to fire him as well - probably for “not following procedures” or some such transparent lie. With the press still on his side, why should they care what the reason is when the media and the Obamabots will accept anything they say at face value?

The Walpin story has already led to a criminal investigation being undertaken by the FBI for obstruction of justice in the Sacramento case. Proof enough that Chicago Way politics has migrated east and infected the highest levels of the American government.

Why couldn’t we have exported something else like Deep Dish Pizza or the Cubs?

By: Rick Moran at 9:34 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (14)

6/17/2009
IT’S IMPORTANT TO HAVE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE
CATEGORY: Politics

It is the summer of conservative discontent, having to not only put up with a radical statist in the White House, but also a faithless crew of misanthropic nincompoops running the Republican party.

It’s enough to make a grown righty weep - or put his fist through the wall. And that, oh gentle and discerning reader, is the subject for today’s missive. What is the proper public attitude to portray to the outside world while your insides are gurgling as if ready to vomit forth all of your anger and frustration at how Goddamned unfair it all is.

From many on the left - gross exaggeration, hyperbole, hysterical denunciations, false assumptions, and a deliberate effort to smear, tar, and feather conservatives by tying them to the most extremist, wacky, nutjobs who would fit right in with just about anyone who currently occupies a padded cell in a mental institution but has absolutely nothing in common with mainstream conservatives.

In Washington - a gaggle of gabby gas bags who try and talk like conservatives around election time but otherwise, think that Kirk is a character in a science fiction TV show from the 60’s and Hayek is a conveyance you use to paddle down a river.

What is an honorable man of the right to do? Well, we have two choices as I see it, best summed up in two wildly different attitudes explained by Stacy McCain and Big Hollywood’s John T. Simpson.

McCain on “Ann Coulter’s favorite lesbian,” Cynthia Yockey:

You can’t beat a man who refuses to admit defeat. You can kill a man like that, but you cannot defeat him otherwise, because he has gotten it in his mind to keep fighting, whatever happens.

Sunday I had a phone conversation with Cynthia Yockey in which she calmly and cheerfully explained that she was going to get David Letterman fired. Republicans are too willing to take that kind of abuse, Cynthia said, but she comes out of the gay-rights movement, and they don’t roll that way.

We talked a while, but the main thing I took away from the conversation was Cynthia’s determination to fight a one-woman campaign against Letterman. Even if no one else joined her anti-Letterman crusade, she would fight on alone. As long as it takes, whatever it takes, she has envisioned her goal, and intends to achieve it.

Dave has pissed off the wrong lesbian.

I have been in Ms. Yockey’s line of fire and I do not envy Mr. Letterman. In fact, if I were he, I just might be contacting my agent right about now and have him approach ABC about that 11:30 - 12:30 slot. ABC would hire Jeffrey Dahmer as a talk show host if they thought they could beat out The Tonight Show.

For contrast, here’s Mr. Simpson’s way of dealing with our current adversity:

Really sucks to be a conservative these days. I feel like I’m walking around with a big bulls-eye on my back. I know many of the Left, especially Keith Olbermann, Frank Rich, Paul Krugman, the New York Times editorial staff and all the pundits at HuffPo and KOS would find that statement hilariously ironic, given the recent shooting deaths of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas and security guard Steven T. Johns at the Holocaust Museum. Then again, they’re not the ones being branded en masse as co-conspirators in those murders. Conservatives are.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with Mr. Simpson. He’s a good conservative and a good writer. But this kind of hand wringing, “Oh woe is us,” pity party is definitely NOT what we like the public face of conservatism to be. Give me 300 Yockeys and I will conquer the country,

RSM agrees:

The novelist Tito Perdue once said to me, “How many Spartans would it take to bring down America? Ten thousand? One thousand? One?”

What Tito was trying to express was the vast difference between the softness of modern decadence and the adamantine hardness of the ancients. Those Spartans who died at Thermopylae were so much tougher than the average American of 2009, it’s almost like talking about two entirely separate species.

Nevertheless, there are those rare few who emulate the ancient virtues, who accomplish great things not because they are more talented or more intelligent or more fortunate, but simply because they are truly determined and pursue their aims relentlessly.

(Note: Not sure I’d want to be that tough. Or live in that kind of warrior society where even going to the bathroom was militarized.)

Rather than fretting about what we can’t control, perhaps it’s time for some relentlessness in achieving what we need to achieve to throw the bums out and retake control of America’s destiny.

We can wring our hands all we want to in private. We can make Obama voodoo dolls and stick it with so many pins that Pinhead would be envious. We can vent our anger all we want by playing Rock ‘em, Sock ‘em Robots with our kids. (The deliciously satisfying feeling of hitting your opponent’s robot’s jaw just right, causing it to fly up off his neck can be found nowhere else in gamedom.) We can spend hours coming up with new and improved invective to hurl at liberals when their attacks become too much to stomach.

But this is no substitute for presenting to the world a snarling, spitting, pit bull-like exterior that will strike terror in the heart’s of liberals everywhere. There is something truly unsettling about watching as your opponent keeps coming at you regardless of what you do to stop them. (”I tried ‘A!’ I tried ‘B!’ I even tried ‘C!’ and the bastard is still coming!”). It is at that point, your erstwhile foe either beats a hasty retreat or leaves himself open to a good gutting that is both emotionally satisfying as well as being politically productive.

There are many of us who, for reasons of upbringing or moral rectitude, might look in askance upon such outward displays of barbaric behavioral splendor. But after all, if the Visigoths or the Saxons had been one whit less relentless in their drive for power and booty, we might be speaking Russian or perhaps Chinese because North America would almost certainly not have been settled by northern Europeans. There’s even a chance we’d be speaking Turkish or perhaps Arabic given the close call western civilization had in 1529 at the gates of Vienna.

The point being, single minded focus on a goal has a lot of merit. It’s how most successful people achieve what they set out to do. Little Billy Clinton in Hope, Arkansas dreaming of being president when he grew up probably never doubted he’d make it someday. Most professional athletes - even those born with enormous talent - were unstinting in their youths about practicing and bettering themselves, preparing for their future career because they knew they could make it.

A little more Yockey and a little less Simpson, please. Connect with your inner Visigoth. Embrace your outer Spartan. Think big, talk big, do big. And never - I mean never - let them see you cry. There’s no crying in politics. Just ask Ed Muskie. Or Hillary Clinton. Turn those feelings of helplessness into a cold, relentless anger and conservatives will probably get a lot farther than by rolling over and groveling for scraps from the left.

By: Rick Moran at 9:35 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (50)

6/16/2009
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: IRAN — PARTY LIKE IT’S 1979

You won’t want to miss tonight’s Rick Moran Show, one of the most popular conservative talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, I will welcome globe trotting writer and journalist Michael Totten and Kevin Sullivan, editor of RealClearWorld for an in-depth look at the crisis in Iran.

The show will air from 7:00 - 8:00 PM Central time. You can access the live stream here. A podcast will be available for streaming or download shortly after the end of the broadcast.

Click on the stream below and join in on what one wag called a “Wayne’s World for adults.”

The Chat Room will open around 15 minutes before the show opens,

Also, if you’d like to call in and put your two cents in, you can dial (718) 664-9764.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio

By: Rick Moran at 3:15 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)