Monday, June 29, 2009

Going gaga over Mousavi: when words of truth are meant for deceit

The events in Iran give me a great deal of heartache. That is not because I think Ahmadinejad had the elections rigged. Western reporters, including many from the BBC and American media who have been there and are familiar with Iran, seem to agree that there could have been voting irregularities but that the outcome of the election was unlikely changed.

Mousavi has won the hearts of the educated and the middle class, but those are not the only people that vote in Iran. Rural and poor Iranians as well as the millions of the Iran-Iraq war veterans and their families still remember what Ahmadinejad had done for them and he has their loyalty. And as someone who lived in a poor third world country for many decades I know that freedom of expression and democracy is more important than the air we breath for many of us, but for many others it take a back seat to having bread on the table for the children.

My heartache comes from that deep yearning to see Ahmadinejad vanish. He may be the poor man’s hero in rural Iran, but the growing stature of Iran in the world and the potential of the Iranian people is not only an Iranian matter. It is a matter of importance for all the Middle East, Arabs, and Muslims and for the whole world. Iran’s role in the world needs someone better that Ahmadinejad to be the face of Iran.

Another cause of the heartache is how the opposition protests were handled. It is one thing for the Iranian supreme leaders to state that there was no significant fraud, but it is another thing to behave as if the protestors are inherently evil and that protest in itself is an act against the nation.

The recent idiotic calls by an arrogant member of the supreme clergy to ‘harshly and cruelly’ punish protestors, and threatening their leader with execution go only to show how morally corrupt and bankrupt people in power can be. That is true even when their ideology is religion-based. People like those in power in Tehran today are further proof why clergy and religion fail to be the basis for governance of political entities.

Perceiving dissent as wrong and unpatriotic delegitimizes any government and any society no matter how ‘honest’ the election process is. Respecting dissent is the hallmark of a democracy. It supersedes - in my mind - fair elections. It tells of the health of the conscience of the nation. And it is a predictor of future trends. When it is present, the society is heading towards democracy sooner or later. Losing respect for dissidents is a prelude to full-fledged dictatorship: military, theocratic, or plutocratic no matter how fair the election that brought that government is.

How the current events will eventually play out in Iran is a matter for Iranians to resolve. But my hope and prayers are for those who seek freedom; not only for themselves (and only until they grab power) but for those who are willing to shed their blood to guarantee freedom and justice for all - even their own ideological opponents.

But Iran is not the only source of my heartache. For those who follow world media it is clear that most of the world is emotionally behind Iranian opposition symbolized by Mousavi. But it is amusing seeing how the Israeli and right wing American media outlets are going gaga over Iranian opposition. For the first two weeks after the elections, Haaretz, the Israeli daily newspaper, looked like it was a local Iranian news paper. There were days when nearly two thirds of the main webpage items were about Iran. Similar coverage could be seen on Fox news and some right wing web sites.

And it is not only the amount of coverage that worthy of notice. It is the tone: loving, caring, deeply concerned about the ‘people’. Even our congress had an urgent vote in support of the opposition by the kind majority (over 99%) that is only granted for unconditional pro-Israel support bills.

But, wait. Was that a pro Iranian dissidents vote or a hidden vote for pro-Israel interests? Its sponsors were Howard Berman and Mike Pence, some of the ‘most stalwart pro-Israel members’ according to the progressive Jewish blogger and journalist Richard Silverstein. Soon to follow was the screechy noise of Paul Wolfowitz, Krauthammer and other neocons trying to move the Iranian ‘regime change’ to the front burner. That is the kind of regime change that we, Americans, have been trying in the Middle East just to generate more income for our weapons industry, and to make Israel’s life more enjoyable by creating a cozy neighborhood for it at the expense of American life style, the blood of American youth and the health of the American economy.

Three days ago, a member of the war-mongering and neocons hornet-nest called American Enterprise Institute was on NPR’s Talk of the Nation informing us that if we do not go all the way behind Iranian opposition ‘we’ [i.e., Obama’s administration] ‘will be giving Democracy a bad name’!!!!!! Even McCain (remember that guy?) is rearing his head again trying to revive the long lost dream expressed in his famous ‘Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran’ with an attempt to coerce Obama into a more aggressive stance against Iran.

The ‘love fest’ that Israeli and right wing American media and institutions suddenly have for the ‘people of Iran’ is not surprising. It is predictable and along the same line of the former Darfour love fest, Kurdish people love fest, and even the early Iraq wartime Shi’a love fest. While undeniable legitimate causes existed in those situations, the intention of the love fests was far from altruistic as it claimed to be.

Israel and its representatives in the US used the Darfur atrocities very well for their public relations campaign and we all still remember the media theme of ‘Arab Muslim Sudanese versus the African blacks’. At present some of the Darfur leaders are in and out of Israel using Jerusalem as a stage to launch some of their PR campaigns.

The Israeli sympathy for the ‘aspiration of independence of the Kurds’ is even more pervasive that what they did in Darfur with military expertise and weapon deals between Kurds and Israel. A couple of months ago on Al-Jazeera, an Iraqi Kurdish leader looked like a mumbling incoherent idiot when he was asked to explain the nature of the ‘cooperation’ between Iraqi Kurds and Israel – enough said. For Israel, a foothold in the murky waters of Kurdistan could be a triple strike with a planted destabilizing element in Iraq, Iran and Turkey simultaneously. I do not think this will play out the way Israel wants, but they will not stop trying.

I believe the Iranian opposition is not opportunistic, and not as easy to manipulate or fool as some of the Darfur rebel leaders or even some of the Iraqi Kurdish leadership. One exception could be the few Iranians who still yearn for the days of aristocracy rule of the former Shah Reza Pahlavi, a ruthless dictator and a staunch supporter of Israel. Other than that, I doubt any Iranian opposition leaders would be sending thank you notes to Israel, McCain or Wolfowitz.

But for Israel and the US neocons, the chance to stir the pot and murk the waters with some public relations gains against the generic Islamic threat seem too good to let go.

I know where I stand, and where true democracy lovers stand on the fight in Iran. I know how valuable are the lives lost and the blood shed. I can feel in heartache and see tears in the eyes of the friends of the Iranian people.

But the crocodile tears in the eyes of Israel and the neocons, and their fake sympathy are unlikely to fool many in Iran. They know as much as I know that the words these fake friends utter are lip service to ulterior goals.

As we say in Arabic about such words "كلمة حق يراد بها باطل" or my rendition of that in English
the words may be righteous, but the intentions are not”.



  1. What about Roger Cohen? What do you think of his coverage over the last several months and the change in his reporting since the Iranian election?

  2. I'd say that the common people of the US, Israel, and Europe truly do have good intentions when they speak about supporting Iranians (or Darfur, or Kurds). The problem comes from the governments that put "spin" on the news, that help decide which news is reported (even in the US), and try to use news media for their own political goals.

    Also, remember that Jews immigrated from Iran in large numbers after the Islamic revolution there. They now make up a small but well-educated, politically active, quite significant block in Israeli politics. (Much like Cuban immigrants in the US.)

    In my opinion, absolute power is always, always corrupting. When Europe was ruled by the Catholic Church, the popes became well-known for being corrupt. In any "Islamic Republic", no matter how saintly the founder may be, the leaders will quickly become corrupt. They cannot help it -- absolute power is corrupting.

    We see that corruption now in Iran.

    There is corruption in Western democracies, but at least it is limited by elections, terms, and a free press. Power is balanced, and cannot become absolute. As Churchill once said, "Democracy is the worst way to run a country, except for all the alternatives".

  3. Hello Becky, and it is good to get comments from you again.
    I totally agree with you and I think the spirit in my posting is in line with what you said.
    the comparison to Cuban American and their lobbying is well taken. An hour ago on Talk of the Nation there was a lively discussion about the older local Iranian 'supporters', especially in LA where there is a lot of support of the shah and a desire to see his regime returns.

    It reminded me of the older richer Cuban American and desire to see the good old past days when they were rich, of undisputed authority, and made piles of money out of poor cheap Cuban labor. they speak of democracy in Cuba just as a stepping stone to get back in power, then democracy is out of the window.

    I agree that governments put a spin and that the average person my feel differently. But I disagree to put the blame totally on governments. Many lobbying group and conservative ideologues are more to blame than Obama's administration at this point. Those ideologues (AEI, McCain, Wolfowitz, and their media mouth pieces) take more blame in the US than the white house. The stupidity of our congress behavior goes only to show how ignorant and thoughtless puppets most of them are.
    The only one opposing voice out of 405 was Ron Paul, hardly a defender of theocracy and one of the few that is educated enough and smart enough to see through the intentions of the bill.
    Two representatives voted 'present' One of them, Keith Ellison, said that the Congress "should not allow ourselves to be used". That goes to validate my thoughts that this was more of a pro-Israel vote than a pro-Iranian people vote.

    I am sure few more representatives knew that. They just did not mind being used or had the guts to stop the flow.

    Democracy it the ONLY way to govern in a civil society. And it is not perfect obviously, as we have seen so many times democracies manipulating, abusing and stirring wars to undermine other peoples hopes for democracy.

  4. Michael:
    I would not lump Roger Cohen with the like of Krauthammer or wolfowitz. He is educated and know what he is talking about. He does not like what the theocracy is doing, neither do I. He is supporting the people out of real appreciation for their struggle and not as a facade to cover some ideological agenda. And so I am.
    The question is what do you think?

  5. First about Roger Cohen: I think he did a near 360 on his reporting on Iran.

    What do I think? I think you are falling to the trap Ahmadinejad wants you too. To make it about US "neocons", the West, and Israeli interests. Just because people you disagree with support something, it doesn't mean you have to oppose it or at least not support it. And by supporting it (the Iranian protesters), I mean what Obama has done. I don't really listen to American right wing media so I don't know what they say.

    I also disagree with your description of the "Lobby" conspiracy. Silverstein isn't someone I would give any journalistic authority to. I wonder what you think of Philip Weiss. The president of Honduras was just exiled by a military coup. Everybody in the region stated that they oppose the coup. What's the difference between what the "neocons" said about Iran and what everybody said about Honduras?

    The problem with countries like Iran is that one can't really tell what the people want. Even if Iran has "elections", so does Syria, so what then?

    Question: describe the "ideological agenda" of which you talk about? Is it a movement to topple despots or to oppress the people of the Third World?

  6. Michael:

    Roger Cohen stated, and I quote: "I’ve also argued that, although repressive, the Islamic Republic offers significant margins of freedom by regional standards. I erred in underestimating the brutality and cynicism of a regime that understands the uses of ruthlessness”.
    Then he followed with: "I’ve argued for engagement with Iran and I still believe in it, although, in the name of the millions defrauded, President Obama’s outreach must now await a decent interval."
    That is hardly the 180 degree turn you suggested (although you used the "360 degree" phrase, which describes his position better, but I know you did not mean it).

    The difference between ideologues and thinkers is that thinkers accept to change opinions when inputs change. Ideologues, on the other hand, generate the same output regardless of the input. You can pretty much predict what Krauthammer, Daniel Pipes, or Bolton would say, no matter what the situation is. Like one-dimensional 'thinkers', they stay on message - more or less like propagandists too (see Bolton’s op-ed in WP today for example).

    As for the trap I fell in; it must be not a very good trap. Because I do not believe in theocracy or clergy rules 9and I never did), I do not believe in oppressing dissenters and never did; and I grew up detesting dogmas and dictators, and I still do.

    For those reason I am not fond of Ahmadinejad and his clergy controlled system. But that does not mean that I should not see the 'other trap' that you are in, which uses fake sympathies and superficial declarations of support for democracy just as a mean to further the neoconservative cause and their love for starting as many wars as they can (It is good business, as you know.) and for slandering the prospective enemy.

    Now to the 'big conspiracy' you think I believe in. It is not a global cabal-type conspiracy. I call it: extremely well -aligned interests that lead to coordinated propaganda and lobbying effort to further those interests. It is a sort of business deal. The alignment is a bit to good that it often raises suspicion.
    end of part 1
    see part 2 below

  7. Part 2

    But if you deny that there is a HUGE Israel interest lobby in the US, and an enviable propaganda machine, then the mental trap you are in is a lot better the Ahmadinejad trap that you think I am in.

    The alignment of Neoconservative agenda with Israel’s agenda is not a secret. And Israelis, neoconservatives (Jewish, Christians, or otherwise) and others are pretty open about it. For example see
    [Ending the neoconservative nightmare - Haaretz - Israel News - Mozilla Firefox]
    In 1996 a group of then opposition U.S. policy agitators, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, presented a paper entitled "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" to incoming Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The "clean break" was from the prevailing peace process, advocating that Israel pursue a combination of roll-back, destabilization and containment in the region, including striking at Syria and removing Saddam Hussein from power in favor of "Hashemite control in Iraq."

    The key neocon protagonists, their think tanks and publications may be unfamiliar to many Israelis, but they are redefining the region we live in. This tight-knit group of "defense intellectuals" - centered around Bill Kristol, Michael Ledeen, Elliott Abrams, Perle, Feith and others - were considered somewhat off-beat until they teamed up with hawkish well-connected Republicans like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Newt Gingrich, and with the emerging powerhouse of the Christian right. Their agenda was an aggressive unilateralist U.S. global supremacy, a radical vision of transformative regime-change democratization, with a fixation on the Middle East, an obsession with Iraq and an affinity to "old Likud" politics in Israel. Their extended moment in the sun arrived after 9/11.

    Beyond that, Israel and its friends in the United States should seriously reconsider their alliances not only with the neocons, but also with the Christian Right. The largest "pro-Israel" lobby day during this crisis was mobilized by Pastor John Hagee and his Christians United For Israel, a believer in Armageddon with all its implications for a rather particular end to the Jewish story. This is just asking to become the mother of all dumb, self-defeating and morally abhorrent alliances.
    You can also find some interesting points by Daniel Levi (an Israeli politician) here
    (although I have a feeling you may not like Daniel levy more than you like Silverstein):
    On Joe Klein and the Jewish Neoconservatives
    Finally, it is OK not to like Richard Silverstein, but many people do. And at least somebody in the British Guardian think he has some journalistic authority.

    Michael: I think we do have very different mind sets, and we will just have to agree to disagree.

  8. Khaled,

    I think the Israeli lobby is a delusion. There might be a neocon(interventionist foreign policy) lobby, but it is not in anyway acting on behalf of Israeli interests or even Jewish interests. First, most American Jews (77%) opposed the Iraq war. Even my dad, an IDF veteran, opposed the Iraq war. Second, Israeli officials always said that Iran was the problem, not Iraq. Look here:

    So what interests do these neocons serve? Israel? Jews? Christian Right fantasies? Oil?

    It looks like everyone likes to blame somebody else, but Jews and Israel, I think they are the last two things one should blame the Iraq war on. So what interests are aligned with whom? I think that it is just plain ol' Republicans playing to their base.

    One thing I guess we do agree on, is that attacking Iran is a bad idea. But why not just say that you support peaceful protests in Iran?

  9. Michael: I am glad we finally found something we agreed upon. If you did not get my deep support for the protesters in Iran, then I should have been more explicit. My whole rant about protection and respect for dissent as a requirement for a society to be considered decent is about that, in Iran and everywhere else. If you re-read my word you find that sentiment there. and I thought it was clear - but the bottom line, we agreed on that. Enjoy the weekend.