Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Seeing Iran Through American Prism By Shibley Telhami

I liked this piece. It review the President Ahmadinejad's letter of a diffrent approach. It has published at Bartimore sun:

WASHINGTON -- When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent an 18-page letter to President Bush - the first such communication between leaders of the two countries since the 1979 Iranian revolution - the United States was only one of the intended audiences.

It has been clear for some time that Iran sees a significant international audience, especially in the Muslim world, where it seeks to exploit prevalent resentment of U.S. foreign policy. The positive popular reception that Mr. Ahmadinejad received in his visit to Indonesia is just one indication. The most remarkable outcome has been in the Arab world. (
Read the rest of this article here )

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Cool Video

Watch this video on the underground youth culture in Iran... it's pretty good. Except for the guy at the end who says, "whether we like Ahmadinejad or not, he's our president now so we support him." He's like one of the guys I've been wanting to beat up in the past few days to begin the summer.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Hamas or Hummus?

Here's an interesting article on the latest developments in Palestine, and a sarcastic title: "Does Carter STILL Want To Give Hamas a Chance'?"

As you know, tensions between
Hamas and Fatah have been escalating in the past few weeks. Hamas is one vote short of having an absolute 2/3 majority in the parliament (74 of 132 seats), with Fatah following in the second place (45 seats). Proportionally though, the two parties were much closer in the most recent elections: Fatah received 41.43% of the total vote, and Hamas 44.45%. Only a 3% difference.

Hamas recently established a
security force of its own. Yesterday, a plot to assassinate Fatah's chief security official was foiled. A few days ago, a Hamas official was caught smuggling more than 700,000 US dollars into Palestine - coming back from a trip to Qatar. Yesterday Mahmud Abbas met with Israel's foreign minister (the highest such contact among officials since Hamas's vicotry), and released 11$ million of Palestinian funds from Israel.

Two states are forming, each with its own financial and military wings.

You are facing tensions on three important levels:

At the individual level, you see a population more or less
roughly divided among Fatah and Hamas supporters;

At the state level, you have one party dominating the parliament and another controlling the executive, and more importantly, each faction now having its own armed security force (two armies in "one" nation) and financial donors;

And at the international level, more states are getting involved: Qatar, Iran, Saudi Arabia (funding Hamas), and the Isareli authority, U.S., and perhaps the E.U., leaning towards Fatah.

When these three levels of fragmentation - individual, state, and intentaional - converge, you have hightened prospects for civil war. Just look at Lebanon in the 1980s, or perhaps, even Iraq today.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Immigration Protest at UC Berkeley

Video sent by omemarian
Omid- I wish I could post this piece earlier. But as you know semester is about to end and it is hard to find extra time to do some unfinished thing....I am happy it's done now....

Friday, May 12, 2006

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize Winner at UC Berkeley

Omid- “Freedom is very limited in Iran …We have tried to develop the minorities rights, but the achievement has been nothing…I believe in the role of civil society. There are many best practices during the last years which are a victory for activists within the society…”, said Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel peace prize at her talk at UC Berkeley last Wednesday. The hall was full of enthusiastic audiences who were listening to a tireless women activist in Iran. Some of the people criticize her and believe that because of her international supports and protection, she could be more outspoken. But she doesn’t believe in this way. What should she say? I asked her idea on this point at the end of the talk; “This is the way I have chosen. We are following a mild process. There is no benefit at a radical way. I never choose an aggressive tone. I am going to be effective for my people within the country,” said Shirin Ebadi.

I believe in what she said. She was the attorney of our case with her colleagues and once we went together with another journalist, Roozbeh Mirebrahim, to the court to answer some questions of the judge. She came on time, asked us many questions and gave some advises. However the officials didn’t behave well with her, but at the same time she was really patient. She also coaches many other cases of political prisoners, deprived people, and women and I really admire her….I interviewed her for twice on “Women movement and Civil Society in Iran” and I was surprised by her answers which was totally straight and to the point, despite the middle eastern style which makes simple things very complicated.

Shirin Ebadi talked a little bit on her book too; “Iran, Awakening, a Memoir of Revolution and Hope”. I really like to read it...

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Daily show on "A letter to President Bush

Daily show
Video sent by omemarian
You can read the full text of Ahmadinejad's letter to President Bush published on the Le Monde website.

"You are familiar with history. Aside from the Middle Ages, in what other point in history has scientific and technical progress been a crime? Can the possibility of scientific achievements being utilised for military purposes be reason enough to oppose science and technology altogether? If such a supposition is true, then all scientific disciplines, including physics, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, engineering, etc. must be opposed."

Sit Down Comedy

This is just hilarious. I watched it several times. I don’t want to give it away so just watch it here.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Will Negotiations Resolve Iran's Nuclear Standoff?

The other day, Ahmadinejad sent a letter to President Bush which was immediately dismissed by Secretary of State Rice as a "ploy" to avert further international pressure over Iran's nuclear program.

Today, Ahmadinejad once again reiterated that Iran is ready to engage in a dialogue with "anyone" to settle its nuclear standoff. Hours later, AFP reported that the United States has given its European allies "a couple of weeks" to offer Iran new incentives to halt the country's controversial nuclear program.

The history of international relations in the past half a century shows that hardliners succeed more frequently in breaking long-standing taboos. Examples are frequent: Nixon's historic trip to China, Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement, Qaddafi's recent normalization of ties with the United States, Khomeini's decision to end the Iran-Iraq War in 1988, and so on.

It is much harder to question the commitment or motives of a hardliner than a middle-of-the-roader. Nobody could question Ariel Sharon's commitment to the Jewish cause, or Qaddafi's commitment to the preservation of the Libyan revolutionar ideals. Hardliners, therefore, are always in a stronger position when it comes to breaking long-standing taboos.

Would it, therefore, be too absurd to hope for a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear crisis at a time when hardliners are in power both in Washington and Tehran?

- Assareh

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Ahmadinejad The Populist

(The clip has 2 parts. The first is a selection of one of Ahmadinejad's campaign speeches, in which he promised social freedoms and declared that the government has no business to interfere with people's preferences. The second segment is of the recent crackdowns in Tehran and elsewhere on people's "unislamic covering." Thousnads of veiled women and security forces have been installed on busy street corners to harass the better-dressed Tehrani women.)
Populism is the political doctrine that supports the rights and powers of the common people in their struggle with the priveleged elite. Ahmadinejad's campaign platform, as well as his post-election policies, qualify him as a populist leader.
(1) Redistribution of Wealth: Ahmadinejad's main campaing promise was to "spread the oil wealth." In one speech, he lamented that "60% of the country's resources are spent on Tehran." In another, he proposed using oil money to finance the distribution of stocks from state-owned enterprises directlyto people . Such messages travel fast in a country where nearly 40% of the population lives under poverty.
(2) Justice: Another aspect of populism is the primacy of justice over freedom. In a famous campaign speech, Ahmadinejad declared,
"We must revolutionize our economy by prioritizing justice... anyone who wants to
talk about the economy needs to address this issue of justice... The prophets
came in the first place to institute justice..."
(3) Statism: Populists advocate using all state resources to elevate and address the interests of the common man. One of Ahmadinejad's first proposed measures after becoming president was the creation of the non-profit Mehr-e Reza Fund. The main function of the this fund, which would receive 30% of Iran's hard currency reserve funds, is to "solve the problems of the youth, particularly marriage." When the parliament struck down this measure Ahmadinejad went forward and established the fund anyway with an executive order. Here, checks and balances, separation of powers, and everything else is subbordinated to state activism.
(4) Empowerment: Populist leaders gain popularity initially because they instill a sense of empowerment in their followers, most of whom come from the lower strata of the society. In addressing Western powers, Ahmadinejad often remindshis audience of the invincibility of Muslims and Iranians:
The Iranian nation is a learned nation. It is a civilised nation. It is a
history-making nation... You know and we know: you need us far more than we need you.
(5) Corruption: For a moment, set aside whatever faults Ahmadinejad might have: he is not corrupt. A rare breed among Iran's notoriously corrupt rulers, Ahmadinejad lives in a modest house in Tehran's Narmak district. Conversely, his main rival in the 2nd round, former president Rafsanjani, is estimated to be the wealthiest man in Iran.
In the past few months we've witnessed a resurrection of populist leaders in Latin America, where income inequaility has become a polarizing national issue. In Iran too, the extreme disparity of wealth might go a long a way in explaining the unexpected rise of Ahmadinejad.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

New York vs. Virginia

Virginia was once the “mother of Presidents”, producing eight great presidents between the late 18th century and the early 20th. But it has been a long time since a charismatic leader has emerged from the land of Thomas Jefferson. This year Virginia has two of her sons to offer to the presidential race, one a former Democratic Governor of the state and the other a current senator. Gov. Mark Warner and Senator George Allen have both publicly stated their intentions to run for the nomination of their parties. Mark Warner made a fortune by entering into the cellular phone business in the early 90’s and made millions of dollars. George Allen is the son of the famous "Coach Allen" of the Washington Redskins who moved from southern California to Virginia to coach DC’s only football team. Warner is a moderate Democrat who opposes partial birth abortion, gay marriage, and harsh gun laws and supports the capitol punishment for the most violent criminals. Warner is a young, enthusiastic southern governor who reminds many observers of Bill Clinton. George Allen however is a true conservative Republican. The junior senator from Virginia has everything a good, solid, conservative politician must have.
The state of New York has also surprised us all by producing a record number of likely candidates: Senator Hillary Clinton (D), Governor George Pataki(R) and Mayor Rudi Giuliani(R). This blue state will most likely produce the challenger to the GOP front runner, John McCain, for the Republican primaries.
Hillary Clinton is a dangerous proposition for the Democrats. She is a polarizing figure who lacks many characteristics needed for a successful presidential candidate; most importantly: Charisma. Governor Warner is the only Democrat who has a real opportunity to win the 2008 Presidential election. Southern states will never vote for the super feminist/boss-lady like wife of Bill Clinton. Governor Warner can carry the South and bring the Democrats back to the White House after 8 years of bitter defeat by the Republicans. My advice to the Democrats: Don’t blow it again with a northern super liberal.


This Smells of War!

This, I really believe, smells of war:

DHL Suspends Service to Iran
DHL has international delivery service to 220 countries! Including
Anguilla, Afghanistan, Sudan, Cuba, North Korea - yes, it gets weirder - and Iraq!! Iraq! DHL has 6 offices in Iraq. But it has just closed down its office in Iran. "Due to unforseen circumstances": You mean, war?

My good friends always tells me that the U.S. is bent on changing the regime; game over. over. Retaliation in case of an attack? No way, he says, not in a major way at least.

Look at the history of the
Iran-Iraq war: the U.S. got involveddirectly, attacking Iran's navy direcly, shototing down a civilian Iran Air airliner. What did Iran do? In Khomeini's words, "drink the poison" and immediately accept resolution 598, a weaker version of the 1982 offer to Iran which, by the way, also included fifty billion dollars in damages to be payed to Iran, courtesy of the Arab League.

I'm starting to believe in what my friend is saying more and more. The parallels are striking. I smell War! Watch this
anti-war slideshow to Black Sabbath's song "War."

- Assareh

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