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16 June 2009

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Abu Sinan

Colonel,

The below comes from the Press TV, an Iranian news source back in April:

"No one in Iran will accept suspension," the Financial Times quoted Mousavi as saying in his first interview with the international media.

He said that Iran halted its enrichment work between 2003 and 2005 in the hope that it would build confidence in the peaceful nature of its program.

The Reformist candidate described suspension as a "bad experience and a tool to deprive Iran of having access to nuclear technology".

Given the fact that he played a role in the start of the Iranian nuclear program, was an early and avid supporter of Hizb'Allah, I dont understand where people are coming from in thinking that he will offer anything different in US/Iranian relations even if he can form a minority government.

He has stated he will work with international nuclear regulatory bodies, but do you think Israel will believe that the technology he has stated he wants to pursue will not also include a secret weapons program?

I doubt that this man, supporter and early backer of Hizb'Allah, will be believed by the Israelis, leaving us in the same situation no matter who leads Iran.

http://www.payvand.com/news/09/apr/1156.html

The Israelis are already well aware of this and I think it is pretty clear the installation of Mousavi as leader of Iran will change nothing.

"IAEA: Ahmadinejad election rival launched Iran nuclear program

International Atomic Energy Agency documents revealed that Iran began a secret nuclear program during the tenure of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the opposition leader running against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The documents, which Iran transferred to the IAEA several years ago, show that Tehran decided in 1987 to purchase the centrifuges it is using to enrich uranium"

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1092198.html

Clifford Kiracofe

Robert Fisk, who is walking around in the streets to observe breaking events and to talk with folks, says:

"[The protest] is absolutely not against the Islamic republic or the Islamic revolution.

It's clearly an Islamic protest against specifically the personality, the manner, the language of Ahmadinejad. They absolutely despise him but they do not hate or dislike the Islamic republic that they live in."

Fisk is a seasoned reporter to say the least.

He seems fairly clear: This is not about regime change, this is not about eliminating a republican form of government, this is not about eliminating the Islamic Republic which has been established, this is not about restoring the Pahlavis or the Qajars or the Safavids. This is about the person of the president and his leadership style and politics domestic and foreign.

Do note that their president just attended a regional conference in which the various leaders, including the Russians, were clear and correct in their diplomacy toward Iran by recognizing him as the official representative of the Islamic Republic.

The fundamental issue for the United States with respect to engagement is precisely what Col. Lang has been saying: both sides must make sincere efforts to engage. The challenge for the United States and Iran is to develop the modalities of DIRECT engagement.

On the US side there is our President, the "supreme leader" of our foreign policy. On the Iranian side there is the Supreme Leader. The Iranian Supreme Leader can certainly authorize and open the engagement and then handle it under his authority through the normal diplomatic channels using his foreign ministry. Who knows, this may already be going on and our President (and perhaps some Senators) may know much more than they are letting on publicly. Perhaps not but there is nothing wrong with secret diplomacy properly conducted through proper channels....this is normal.

The United States are represented in Iran by the Swiss government. Iran is represented in the United States by the government of Pakistan. We are not in a state of no relations, there have been discussions, there has been cooperation from the Iranian side, and so forth.

Again I would say that BOTH Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar have been publicly supportive of President Obama's handling of this difficult and complex situation. This should be the strongest possible indication/signal to the Iranian government that there is a bipartisan consensus that serious engagement should be attempted. Obviously, given the US past policy toward Iran involving the sensitive matter of the Mossadegh issue, for example, there is extreme caution being excercised at this moment. I think this is proper and correct.

It is self-evident that the malevolent "Zionist entity" and its assets and agents in the United States want to provoke the US into confrontation and war with Iran....this is public knowledge.

We need to work out a comprehensive agenda for mutual benefit with Iran.

The malevolent Zionist entity(Israel and the global complex supporting it) wants to prevent this by sabotage of US policy. Or at a minimum it wants to insert itself as a sort of "middleman" between Iran and the US.

This is not acceptable from the standpoiint of US national interests, vital and otherwise. The malevolent Zionist entity needs to be put firmly in its place. The US needs to move on and forward with its foreign policy in the Middle East and Central Asia and North Africa. Serious engagement with Iran is a key step but it takes two to tango as the Col. reminds.

Dan M

Colonel,

I agree strongly with "as I think, the real choice is between eventul war with Iran and a government in
Teheran that will enter into serious negotiations, then the moral choice is clear." I'm a long time admirer of you and your thoughtful analysis, even when i disagree with its conclusions. This is one of the best blogs i've ever seen for serious thought and disagreement (without descending into a cess-pool of name-calling and nonesense non-arguments, thanks to your moderating).

However, sometimes i feel like the dimwitted student in front of a teacher perhaps overly committed to the socratic method.

In this particular case it is manifestly clear to me that the best "choice" as you've framed it is "a government in Tehran that will enter into serious negotiations."

What is unclear to me is what exactly you think the US should do to bring about such a government and avoid the horror of another war. I this or another thread you wrote something like "we should use all diplomatic tools and the full force of the US government." That sounds good, but doesn't get me closer to understanding of your own opinion or whether i should share it. Obviously, some diplomatic tools when used exclude other diplomatic tools, for instance.

As to my own opinion -- i think obama is getting the tone so far just about spot on. While i lived a long time in Iraq and Egypt and travelled extensively in Arab lands, i have never been to Iran, do not have a deep understanding of its culture, history and current political power struggles. I'm all at sea when it comes to figuring out, precisely, what's going on right now and whether it's a good idea for the US to try to catch this still ill-defined tiger (for me at least) by the tail.

You don't owe an answer on this (and you may feel you've already provided a clear one -- like i said i'm feeling a little stupid in this instance) and I will still read often and occasionally contribute either way. But i think a little more clarity from you on what the US course should be (perhaps your next post) would be helpful in sharpenning up the conversation in the ole committee of correspondence.
Best
Dan

GulfCoastPirate

Mr. Lang,

Why do you think those are the two choices? What has Iran done to the US that would cause the US to declare war on Iran? Why would any government in Iran enter into any negotiations with the US over anything? I don't want to put words in your mouth but it seems to me you are implying that Obama will be forced into war by the same neocon/Likud crowd who wanted war in Iraq and he won't be able to withstand their drumbeat. Is this what you are thinking?

mo

Col.,
the moral choice is clear if Mousavi has or had in fact won the election.

If Ahmadinijad won and foreign interference results in some sort of "coup" then is there any point having a govt. that will enter serious negotiations if it is weak and unrepresentative?

If this "willing" govt. allows the country to stay democratic, are you not in fact guaranteeing that next time round there will be a sweeping landslide victory for someone even more hardline than Ahmadinijad?

Until there is, if there ever is, any clarity about the election results, i would suggest that any interference will be counter-productive.

lina

What Babak said. (with an extra dose of plaintive bleating).

How could anyone in their right mind believe a war with Iran would advance U.S. interests, regionally or globally, whether it's started by U.S. Neocons or Bibi, et. al.


lowlander

Moral choice??
How is it moral to interfere with the internal affairs of a sovereign state? Especially when the overwhelming majority within that sovereign state view the US with such disdain. To them serious negotiation is serious capitualation.

jedermann

“I can hear it now, the plaintive bleating... Oh, no, not interference in Iran's internal affairs, not that!!”

Is there a bright line here between permissible interference and impermissible interference in Iran’s internal affairs? How do you define the essential difference between McCain’s foolishness and what is implied by not standing by “while the Bassij and the police stamp out resistance”? Is it just a gut feeling about when and how to jump into this? Is this a one-off exception where we sacrifice the niceties of sovereignty and accept the consequences (again) in order to avoid the greater calamity of being drawn or goaded by Israel and our own MSM into a bombing campaign against Iran?

It is understood that much of the intercourse of nations is conducted in the shadows, particularly with entities like Iran. No one is so naïve as to believe that we are not or should not be looking after our own interests in every situation by both overt and covert means. Those occasions when the interests of a nation are deemed by its leadership to outweigh respect for the sovereignty of another country explain how “rational” decisions are taken to go to war.

zanzibar

Pat

As an experienced intel guy in your opinion what kind of forces need to be marshaled here in our country in order to prevent Israeli agitprop from driving policy and actions that are detrimental to our national interests? Or is that a fait accompli?

Why do you believe that the current Khamanei regime is uninterested in a dialog with Obama? What is in it for them to prevent a reconciliation?

As a lay person it seems to me that what we are witnessing is a power struggle among the leadership of the Islamic revolution. A battle between the Rafsanjani group and the Khamanei group in the classic sense - a battle for the spoils of power. I have read that Rafsanjani is one of the wealthiest indivduals in Iran with large assets and has significant support among the clergy in Qom and has always had a rivalry with Khamanei who he believes usurped his rightful role as the Supreme Leader and Khomeni's heir. I am very interested in reading more about this dynamic.

jedermann

It would seem that the forced choice is between doing whatever is necessary to get someone we can talk to in Iran and disenthralling ourselves from the influence of those who see war with Iran as the only way of ensuring Israel’s survival. Has our thinking and policy making really become so distorted by fear that it is now only conceivable to choose the former? If so, this is a colossal failure of self-governance for us that will set off a cascade of ill effects.

Babak Makkinejad

All:

http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/postglobal/ali_ettefagh/2009/06/foreign_media_is_to_blame.html

Charles I

Re: dealing with forced choices among unpleasant alternatives.

I've been coming here about 5 years, and this has been your constant theme, informed by manifest exemplary honourable long term service.

You have brought home to me, a complete bleeding heart, that making the unpleasant forced choices, after as flinty-eyed and coldly sober informed analysis of your own ultimate interests possible, ends up being the only clear moral choice.

Interesting that Ahmedinejad's sole impact seems whether we have a raving bumpkin held out as an excuse not to engage the very same regime of actual rulers - The Guardian Council of billionaire mullahs - as opposed to swooning over a Moussavi Presidency that as many above noted, likely amounts to as much actual change in core positions as putting lipstick on a pig produces leaner bacon.

I was stunned to see on Debkafile an hour ago a scrolling squib "Mossad cheif Dagan: Iran will have nuke ready for delivery in five years, barring hitches. this is a real existential threat for Israel and must be stopped".

http://www.debka.com/index1.php

Stunned because I heard the damn missile was pretty well set to go a week Friday, soon as the Mullahs revoke the Fatwa against using nuclear weapons, which would have been the signal to destroy Iran, no?

Charles I

p.s my answer is b: we seek to use every diplomatic and information tool at our disposal to support them

Eliot

Colonel Lang,

What would an effective intervention look like? What sort of action would help the protesters without delegitimizing their efforts? At what point do you run the risk of pushing the fence sitters into the government camp?

Thank you,

Eliot

Ian

Something like half of Iranian voters were pro-Ahmadinejad as of election day. (~45%? Who knows?) The counterprotests have been well-attended. These people who really did vote for Ahmadinejad will need to be won over if substantive change is going to happen from within.

That weakens the case for intervention. Contrast this situation with Hungary-56 or the Prague Spring. In both cases support for reform was overwhelming. That doesn't seem to be true of Iran right now.

To sharpen the question, what if the population is genuinely split as to whether or not they favor the current regime? Should we intervene (how?) to help a not-overwhelmingly-popular political movement take over the country?

(By the way, why do you think the current Iranian government would be unwilling to negotiate? The Iranians have repeatedly offered to do so, and the US has repeatedly refused.)

N. M. Salamon

Colonel and readers:

There will not be war with Iran for the elite in Washington knows something similar to:

At: http://anz.theoildrum.com/node/5490#more
[and they do not dare too waste more enregy on another war, esp as that might inflame the whole ME -literally and figuratevely]

Part 3 [of 4 to come] analysis what the world needs to invest yearly to 2052 to maintainthe energy used now having respect that al fossil fuels are going to be near exhausted [or too expesnive to produce: takes more energy to produce than the product of the endevaour]. The study is based on Enginnering study submitted to the Astralian Parliament. 9% of GDP for Australia, somewhere of 5% of WORLD GDP for the world.

This is not possible, so section 4 will discuss some ideas???

Read all three sections, they are not easy, but demand attantion
GL

Jose

"If, as I think, the real choice is between eventful war with Iran and a government in Teheran that will enter into serious negotiations, then the moral choice is clear."

Col, why do we always seem to demand a government that will enter into serious negotiations every time we lose an election in the Middle East?

Why can't we negotiate with whatever government the Middle Easterners elect?

Hamas, al-Wefaq, or AmADinnerJacket I and II, etc...

If Obama gets into a war with Iran his chances of reelection are greatly diminished, cut a deal it's cheaper and in both of our interests.

So far our record is 2 stalemates (Iraq and Gaza) and 2 tactical defeats (Lebanon and Afghanistan).

LeaNder

I agree with Patrick Lang.

Obviously much money flows into the Iranian opposition but all the money couldn't produce what we see without a critical mass yearning for more democracy. Freedom is restricted to inside your home, you aren't free from control in the streets. Don't forget, Iran is a young country. I fear religious fundamentalists as much as fascists or red fascists. Remember the Iraq-Iran war? The young know this story and their war commanders then and now.

Remember Bani-Sadr (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abolhassan_Banisadr>Banisadr) was quickly discovered too "moderate" for the religious revolutionaries.

He was interviewed by a German public channel yesterday from Paris, were he lives heavily guarded. He speaks of a larger democratization movement in Iran, of which he is part. Yes, he says a new "revolution" in Iran is possible. Should I worry that he may be sponsored by the French and US goverment? I supported the Iranian opposition too.

I transcribed the passage and tranlated it.

http://www.zdf.de/ZDFmediathek/content/777492?inPopup=true>ZDF Bani Sadr interview in German

Translation:

Question: You once helped to start a revolution, does what you hear and see now from Tehran have the look-and-feel of a new revolution?

Bani-Sadr: Now, you can say I have worked towards the current situation, that the current situation becomes a reality. There is a movement within the Iranian people, it could be the beginning of a new revolution maybe not near-term but long-term, there will be a big change in Iran, a change from a dictatorial regime to democracy. This is a process that is currently beginning.

Patrick Lang

All

I spent the day wandering around in Shenandoah County, Virginia today with my old friend Jim. We visited the Cedar Creek battlefield, had lunch at the Wayside Inn in Middletown and went south to Crabill's Meats in Tom's Brook to buy a couple of dry aged porterhouse steaks and a rack of baby back ribs. I bought a country ham there last month. It will hang in the basement until Christmas.

On the way back I listened to the news about Iran on the satellite radio in the
Escalade.

Having arrived in Alexandria, I have read all this.

The last thing I want to see is war between Iran and the US or war between the US and anyone. A lot of you are "new correspondents." I will tell you again, that it is MY friends who die in wars, and my friends' children. Unless you are exceptional, your friends and kin will not die or be maimed in our wars. They have better things to do.

My choice of unpleasant alternatives is based not on anything that the Obama Administration might decide to do but rather what American public opinion might "command" of the American government under the flail of relentless and largely monopolistic "information operations" projected toward an image of Iran as a "global threat," (Matthews' words last night).

Do I think the American public is that gullible and vulnerable? Yes, I do. There is a certain innocence, a certain naivete, a certain ignorance. If your daughter or son wants to study the Humanities, perhaps you should be more receptive.

You think we are free to act as we choose? God bless you. pl

LeaNder

Abu Sinan, I can understand your argument concerning Moussavi. But it may be bigger than just him. I wouldn't be on the streets for him but for issues, for more democracy. Less power to the guardians of public morals! Fundamentalist morals are usually accompanied by double standards. What about the trade with girls, children? The oh, so moral 19th century also had the most brothels.

Strictly Obama addressed the issue to my satisfaction, it can't be that some may have it and others not. It must be nuclear disarmament and control of all. Israel included.

Amileoj

Colonel

Assuming the situation does continue to escalate: what sorts of actions can we take to aid the opposition, and how will we know when the time is right to start doing so?

This is a genuine not a rhetorical question. I don't have a very satisfying sense of what our realistic options are, or of their sequencing or timing, if things do go this way.

Byron Raum

It seems to me that many have forgotten that before the election, we were being analyzed at that the Iranian election would bring no change whatsoever even if Mousavi won. Now, suddenly Mousavi is the darling of these people, the son of democracy, etc. etc. The best outcome for the warmongers is not either one winning, the best outcome is the ability to throw enough mud to make it unclear as to who the legitimate negotiating Iranian authority is. We have already seen this strategy in effect with the eternally absent Palestinian partner for peace.

Did Ahmadinejad win? Slate had a very interesting article showing that it is statistically very suspicious for him to have done so. ( http://www.slate.com/id/2220608/ ) This, of course, assumes that the Iranian authorities don't understand statistics.

For those who decry the effects of the US 2000 elections, keep in mind that Obama would not have been possible without those results. In an uncertain world, the ultimate results are not only impossible to predict, there are no ultimate results. Without question, when Obama sits across the table from whoever it is from the Iranian side, he is going to wonder whether he is dealing with the legitimate representive of the Iranian people. Be that as it may, what is imperative is that Obama gets the opportunity to be in this situation.

Arun

"The forced choice among unpleasant alternatives" is of our own making. Even a nuclear-armed unfriendly Iran headed by Ahmedinejad does not pose a real threat to the United States. At least, none in comparison with the threat the Soviet Union posed.

538.com has information from the last election that Ahmedinejad is not weak at all in urban areas; his strong showing there is one of the arguments used to suggest the election was rigged.

Meanwhile, we seem to be saying, we need the Iranian election overturned because we cannot curb our impulses to war. If that is the case, our moral choice is clear - we should throw ourselves to the mercy of the United Nations.

Jon T.

Col Lang, Good Evening. Your last post is a powerful reality check for me who lives at this moment away from the physical conflict. Often, as now, when I hear the assessment of media control put up against the idea of acting as we choose I consider again Tolstoy's work "The Kingdom of God is Within You". He spoke of young men always doing the bidding of unknown, unseen power movers, and often gladly so, until grievously injured or truth encountering when thus ensues the moral wrestling internal. That book prompted Mohandas Gandhi to leave the bar in England and found Satyagraha leading to Indian independence, partition, English diminution and so much anon. We live in a powerfully transformative time. Contemplation of the truth is needed and clear action thus sourced is desired. Thank you for this open forum.

Curious

He speaks of a larger democratization movement in Iran, of which he is part.
Posted by: LeaNder | 17 June 2009 at 06:42 PM

I think everybody in Iran is aware that current structure must change. Demonstrations becoming more often and involve more people. That the old suppression techniques is not acceptable and only lead into more public outrage.

In the meantime technological progress is in the side of students. Soon student can create their own darknet independent of government reach. Once there is secure way to communicate, everything is trivial.


brief timeline of student protest.

-1997 Election
-Iran student protests, July 1999 (1999) (~70 died)
-18 Tir national day of protest (2003) (?)
-2009 Iranian presidential election (2009) (<100 died)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iranian_reform_movement

---------

Current big protest will inevitably either push the status quo to seek reform in earnest, face next even bigger public outrage, or new form of continuous attack. And they know they won't survive the next one without destroying the country. They have to start orderly reform in less than 3 years. Public security organisations are going to be reformed or people will start bombing them. I think they know that. I doubt Iran-US relationship won't thaw if Iran keep growing at 6% clip another 4 years. (Everybody will say, wtf are we doing? Let's make money instead. eg.China/Russia) Israel will still be the idiot one out. So don't worry about that.

Now, let's say current regime change happens, clearly the clerical and revolution guardian are not keen of having. That means mousavi has to purge in seriously massive way that will lead into long term structural instability. After he took office, next 2-3 years will be nothing but shooting on the street, then he has to put very repressive police state to suppress all the internal security apparatus crazies who now wants to seek revenge.

With that we will see all sort of weird stuff in Iraq, afghanistan. We gonna get clever and try to play side. But in the end we are setting up a giant underground intel mercenaries that will make taliban looked like boy scout. All that in pursue of neutralizing nuke and containing unstable Iran under mausavi.

Bottom line, we want stable and fast growing Iran. Who cares who is in charge. The people of Iran will straighten up their leaders pronto in good economy.

We will have much faster normal/peaceful/stable relationship that way instead of this stupid regime change gag.

The student will now all go underground and create invisible network. It's on. They will realize they need to acquire all necessary skill. Not just writing cute manifesto and clever speech, but real analytical and wide spectrum transformation involving everybody.

And Obama administraiton/Hillary crew better realize funny gag like regime change won't solve Israel Palestinian problem. It will lead into Egypt and Saudi destabilization.

If I were the Iranian, I would start working on that Real-Dollar peg just to stay even with the regime change gag.

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