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19 June 2009

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Peter Hug

Well, that's an interesting article. But I do have a few questions to ask of it (or of the author, even if it isn't Kellie Harper)...

First, I'm not sure we here looking in on the mess know what the questions or even the motivations are that are driving this. I expect that it isn't simple - the (probably small) leadership group is clearly going around in circles, trying to figure out how to organize a rather messy reality, but at the same time I think that the people actually going to the demonstrations are going their own way in directions that may not support ANY of the leadership factions - I'm beginning to see stories about kids form the demonstrations going "Basiji Hunting" which if true (and I would expect actually pretty successful) is going to be a huge confounding factor on the ground going forward. Trying to find a constructive way to be a "humanitarian interventionalist" in such a situation is IMO a beautifully seductive invitation to a hell ten times worse than Iraq ever was. There are SO many ways that anything you could imagine doing would make matters worse, that the only rational approach is to pretty much do nothing - certainly nothing overt.

Second, although you clearly have a large fraction of the population of many Iranian cities (NOT just Tehran) motivated enough to go out and march, I think that many in the West are making a dangerous assumption and equivalency...namely, that if these people don't like Ahmedinejad and Khamenei, they therefore are deeply committed to turning Iran into a secular democracy along the lines of the United States. That's ridiculously stupid, and an invitation to disaster. Granted, the people in the street may want (a lot) to see the current set of politicians go away, but that doesn't speak at all to what they would want to replace them. Are these "humanitarian interventionalists" prepared to do whatever they do, and accept a result that is (i) STILL a deeply religious rather than secular state; (ii) STILL the default regional superpower in the Persian Gulf, and committed to exercising it's legitimate hegemony; (iii) STILL committed to a program of nuclear development, probably currently limited to electric power applications but with obvious military follow-on competencies; (iv) STILL deeply hostile to Israel on the basis of it's intransigence relative to the Palestinians; and (v) STILL prepared to see Iraq as part of their legitimate sphere of interest, and prepared to interfere there to achieve their ends?

Because that's my offhand guess as to what would result from a true, popular uprising in Iran right now. It would result in a country that is much more open socially (and probably religiously) but which would nevertheless still be quite Islamic in character, and which would have (legitimate) national interests that are not particularly congruent with those of the United States in all cases, and which would be prepared to pursue them aggressively.

Anyone who thinks that some beautiful "humanitarian intervention" is somehow going to bring sweetness and light to the Persian Gulf and the rest of the Middle East is in my opinion either smoking something I'd like to share, or in desperate need of a psychiatric evaluation. Sorry, that's just how I see it.

JohnH

This analysis is a refreshing departure from the propaganda of the newly minted bleeding hearts, who never gave a whit about the Iranian people before, but are suddenly filling the airwaves with pictures of aggrieved Iranians as evidence of their deep, abiding concern for their Iranian people.

Not that I don't think that Iranians have a lot of grievances. But I think Harper is right: it's a struggle between elites, neither of whom care greatly about the people. Whatever comes of it, ordinary Iranians' lot will not be greatly improved, except for a few token bones that the Rafsanjani/Mousavi camp them throw in their deep gratitude for returning the oil ministry to them.

par4

This was interesting Col.h/t Steve Clemons

kao-hsien-chih

The analogy with Tienanmen might be better than not: the recently published memoires of Zhao Ziyang shows that, at some point, the reformist politicians in China lost control of the student demonstrators--so that the latter were making much more radical (and unacceptable) demands (as well as a bunch of non-political demands, like better living conditions in university dorms). People like Zhao knew that, at that point, the game was up and crackdown was inevitable, but could do nothing to stop it.

Mousavi seems to be in the same situation as Zhao et al in China: he has been adopted as the face of the dissidents, but he is not really one of them--he is a regime insider, after all. He can't really tell the protesters to step down just because he'd been able to cut a deal with the other regime actors. But once the government decides to crack down, his career is over and there is no deal to cut any more.

Babak Makkinejad

Harper:

I think the distinction you make between "hardliner" versus "more moderate" is devoid of analytical content - it does not further understanding.

In US parlance, a moderate in the Middle East is someone or some political group or country that does not materially oppose the US policies [perhaps I should say fanatasies?] there.

I think this will blow over.

curious

We have a pretty good intelligence picture on the ground--not from twitter and facebook, but from some serious Iran experts, who have moment to moment communication with different factions in the leadership, who are directly engaged in the power struggle behind the scenes."


Unfortunately this is so classic, even the Burmese junta knows how to counter it without blinking.

I think the Iranian by now already start hunting "core" operator that cause the riot. They already get all key khatami faction. Erin Abadi is in geneva, let's see if she can return (I doubt it. That should be an indication that her social support has completely collapsed) Next would be all infiltration operation.

How to gouge the efficiency: the minute the France 24/satellite phone reporter goes offline, that's how efficient Iranian secret service is. (I think she is a france Iranian, she is running around protected by mousavi faction. She should be the best, most well supported operator, more so than any external inteligence/experts/terrorists/operators in from Iraq & afghanistan. I think they can scan odd radio signal and know third operators are inside Iran.

So, it's now back to very basic. Bloody arm coup or not. Usually what "crack the nation" is when children of military family gets detained by the paramilitary (aside from active mutiny). Then things get dicey. They really need to tell their military people to keep their children in on "crack down" day. (which is another effective way to spread hush-hush, to stop going out.) But overall, the gentler the better. Soft crackdown is much more prefered than Pinochet style mass killing/detention.

It's all a matter of how discipline their military are. They have to keep their police and military morale high and use them judiciously. On the public side, they have to be seen only as face of authority, restoring order and only react.


While on counter intelligence side, they have to move very swift. Controlling communication channel, detaining key people, and chasing infiltration operation. They have to lock up border, scan airport list, scan radio, find weapons, and safe houses. etc. It's neighboorhood to neighboorhood operation in northern Tehran.

Once musavi leadership is decapitated and their communication line is coopted, then stopping the middle crew/neighboorhood team shouldn't be hard. Can be done gently. They don't want to antagonize the public even more, crowd control is the point. The effectiveness is proportional to how much people hate the bassij militia and how much civil authority central government still have. Probably will take about a month to set up and do the job. (How big is northern Tehran?)

On mousavi side, their challenge would be to keep the crowd going out. Time is not on their side, as more people being detained, the complete shape of communication channel and leadership are known.

As long as the internal of Iranian government is whole, there are some shred of respect left in people toward government authority, And the military doesn't crack, order and legitimacy can be restored.


ffs. This is a dime a dozen "coup attempt" now. I wonder where rafsanjani is.

Larry Kart

I'd run through a wall if Kelli Harper were cheering me on.

Highlander

Just think about it. The first thing the rulers of Persia would do to Kellie Harper is stick her in a burka,a veil, and maybe slap her around a little bit(or a lot). Then they would go back to contemplating how many Jews they can incinerate with their nuke.

Personally, I think they would be a lot better off if they just spent their time contemplating coach Harper as she is. And then they could just forget all that Jew and nuke silliness.

Babak Makkinejad

Highlander:

There are at least 25,000 Jewish Iranians living in Iran today.

And they are not molested.

And there has been a contiuous Jewish presence in Iran longer than in Palestine.

The world is not the way you think it is.

J

Highlander,

It's Israel who has the 'nukes', with the 'low number' being 150 thereabouts and the 'high number' being over 400. And you talk about Iran's non-existent nukes? The Persians don't use Burkas, that's the Afghan Taliban (who are enemies of Iran). The only ones claiming that Iran wants to incinerate anything, are the Israeli intel propaganda store fronts like MEMRI, who want American boys and girls to die for Israel's security.

Kelly Harper is a cute lady.

William R. Cumming

I must be missing something here. The Shah was tossed because he wasn't "ruthless" enough according to some. This leadership must have some sense of where street protests can lead? Internal security in Iran looks quite capable of suppression of dissent. So will that happen? No one seems to know even those impacted in IRAN by the protests-for and against. What we do know is the demographics--Majority of Iranians born after 1979 revolution. Corrutpion and consilidation of the entirety of the Iranian economy by Mullah's and Iranian Revolutionary Guard and others. Were expectations rising in IRAN? As in the A.J.P. Taylor (Birt) analysis that revolutions occur during periods of "rising expectations" not declining expectations. IRAN is flooded with internet activity so far unrestricted and WEB 2.0 seems leading the charge now. Has information led to "rising expectations?" The length and breadth of the protests look to me much more significant that public analyists or MSM in WEST have concluded. I certainly think so but not sure why or where that leaves US. Are the only options in IRAN now bloodshed and repression or something else? My guess is something else based on my view that IRANIAN politics and culture much more advanced and sophisticated than most in the WEST are willing to admit. Hey their culture is almost 4000 years old and cultures come and go. In IRAN the rotation between the secular and the religious has gone on for centuries. By the way, I know this question is somewhat simplistic--but was not ISLAM imposed on IRAN and not willing adopted without force? In fact was not ISLAM usually spread by force until the 20th Century?

Larry Kart

There are some photos here of Kellie Harper playing flag football:

http://thereporter.wcu.edu/2009/03/from-the-bench-with-kellie-harper-womens-basketball-head-coach/

I'd say she looks kind of determined.

Clifford Kiracofe

Instead of reasoning by inappropriate analogy, it seems to me that we should make an effort to understand Iranian history and culture as context for 1) analysis of the situation and 2)the policy discussion.

The present situation does not seem to indicate a desire of the Iranian people to restore the Pahlavis, the Qajars, or the Safavids. A republican form, including an Islamic republican form, of government seems to be the consensus of the people at this stage of their history.

How things sort out depends on not only the various elites and factions of the elites but also on the Iranian people themselves.

I strongly agree with President Obama that a serious engagement with Iran, its government and its people, is in the US national interest. Whether this is possible will depend on BOTH sides making a serious effort.

Irrespective of how things sort out internally in Iran, there is a government structure that our government structure will be dealing with...government to government, state to state.

At present the Supreme Leader in Iran is Mr. Khameni and thus he is the government official whom President Obama will be dealing with at the end of the day. Should Ayatollah Montazeri or another prominent figure replace the current Supreme Leader then that person would be who the US would deal with.

As President Obama has indicated, given the present state system in Iran, the presidential choice in Iran is not decisive in present day Iranian foreign policy. The foreign policy process would appear to be much more complex.

This is about state interests, not beauty contests, on both sides. To me it is logical that Iran needs to engage the world to attract the foreign direct investment, the technology, the know how etc. essential to further modernize the country. Given the present economic situation in Iran, it would seem to me that this would necessarily be on the agenda of the Supreme Leader and president of the country. A strong economy means a stronger Iran with an even greater regional role than it has at present...an objective all sides in Iran would seem to approve.

Is it any wonder that Iranian leaders and publics are sensitive about foreign interference given the history since WWII? Is it any wonder that Iranian leaders and publics are sensitive about the nuclear issue given the Israeli nukes aimed at them?

Is it any wonder that some Iranian leaders and publics are suspicious of foreign, particularly "Western" motives? Perhaps an SST reader specialized in Iranian affairs could explain to us just how the "West" denied Iran access to a modernized steel industry some decades ago forcing it to turn "Eastward"? Is it any wonder that Iran is presently quite comfortable with its relationship to the SCO?

curious

I certainly think so but not sure why or where that leaves US. Are the only options in IRAN now bloodshed and repression or something else?
Posted by: William R. Cumming | 20 June 2009 at 06:58 AM

Well, the Iranian can get cynical and twisted. My most twisted scenario, and I don't think they have the heart to pull this one.

They know that:
1. The world does not trust US and friends (not after zarkozy, Brown all yelling ...freedom, vote, etc) Everybody in the planet with colonization history suddenly have that sick churn in the stomach and thinking, these mofos are doing their thing again. (trust me on this.)

2. so, this is what Iran going to do. fabricate story, North Korean style.

kidnap few troops, US/UK in afghanistan/Iraq.

Then dress him up, take pictures/video, create narrative of infiltration/inciting riot. (blurry surveillance camera showing somebody injecting himself into Iran in a box. Real action hero stuff)

A well made story like that with perfect detail will destroy everything like media nuclear weapon. Everybody in the world will believe the Iranian. The louder we and UK government protest, the more believable the story is.

The Iranian will keep "finding" this fabricated story randomly over few months... Feed it into national TV.

With that: All hell breaks loose.
To kill the opposition faction, the Iranian will go "salvadorian style", angry mob of conservatives and believers killing every single khatami faction (funny looking hair? too fashionable? make up? dead.) What the calvin Klein wearing protestors don't realizes, the one who will kill them are not the basij, but their fellow citizens. Out of nowhere. (This is classic CIA method against 'red' in 50's and 60's. )

Afterward every single on of opposition leaders then be captured and tried for treason.

That one is highly cynical, but very easy to do and incredibly effective.

----

US enters fully. bombing, infiltration, cruise missile, light infantry enter... yet another "operation enduring freedom" The usual dubious stuff.


-do the right thing. Chill down crowd control, mend rift, and go back to economic growth. (I believe this is the only way to do, very hard, but ultimately the best for everybody and least bloody)

- Arm coup by Iran faction backed by western weapons and intel. (We will know in about a month at the latest.)

J

Babak,

Take a look at:
http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_4823.shtml

What's your assessment regarding the article?

Mark Stuart

I wonder how much of a role the power struggle between the 'moderates' vs. the 'hardliners' played in the last street protests, compared to the role played by outside elements and forces? how much evidence do we have of its predominance in influencing last week events?

I just read a translation of Khamenei's speech last Friday, and i wonder if it's not just simply what he said it was?:
"This is between the [] parties"...someone from without the country had wanted "to make people believe that they had been fooled" to trigger regime change through violent street protests.

Could it have just been a media campaign from outside the country in the months that lead to election day, to surreptitiously make enough people believe that Mousavi's win was inevitable? Then feeling cheated, rightfully or not, these same people would feel compelled to demonstrate, counting on 'moderates' to jump on the bandwagon and their 'outrage' would have the revolutionary snow ball effect that often demonstrations have?

Khamenei's message was clear though and i'm not convinced the demonstrations will continue unabated for ten days:

The election campaign was open and transparent. The turnout was excellent. Some "outside forces" had wanted to cast doubt about the outcome in order to force regime change from the streets instead of the ballot box. But the rule of law will prevail. The people voted. Any other recourse beside legal action is not only anti-democratic but unconstitutional. If you take to the streets, it is at your own risk.

I wonder were I an Iranian in Tehran today, if i wouldn't be compelled to refrain from taking to the streets?

William R.Cumming:
the answer to your question is just a few clicks away. Iran is as much a muslim country as Lebanon is an arab one. At least for the present time. Playing on some divisive centuries old Persian/Zoroastrianism resentment is just prove of a hidden agenda.

"IRAN is flooded with internet activity so far unrestricted and WEB 2.0 seems leading the charge now."
"The length and breadth of the protests look to me much more significant that public analyists or MSM in WEST have concluded."

In a country that lies at the bottom of the list of countries with the highest computer ownership rate, where 23% are illiterate and where the central government can block FaceBook by the click of a button! Watch out people! Millions of young beautifull westernized Iranians are taking to the streets ready for regime change.

Khamenei : someone did want "to make people believe that they had been fooled".

arbogast

If what happens in Iran is any business of ours whatsoever, it has to do with the threats and actions of our ally Israel.

After, with Israel out of the picture, Iran = China. And you will recall the strong stance taken by the US on internal matters in China.

But when you include the 51st State, Israel, what happens in Iran directly concerns the US, and I believe it is this that Colonel Lang was implying in his recent post equating Iran with Hungary.

For that reason, a crypto-pacifist like myself believes that the US should do everything short of putting uniformed troops on the ground in Iran to overturn the hard-liners.

Interestingly, on the international scene, such an action would be met with a tremendous ho-hum.

The real question is what the Iranian reaction would be. Did the US's belligerence under Bush-Baby put the hard-liners in power.

An enigma wrapped in a conundrum.

Babak Makkinejad

William R. Cumming:

You asked" " was not ISLAM imposed on IRAN and not willing adopted without force".

The answer is no - people converted gradually and over time. Estimates vary but one that I recall was 11-th Century - the date by which the conversion to Islam was more or less complete in the Iranian Pleateau.

Babak Makkinejad

j:

I do not find the scenario of Mousavi-Montazeri rulership plausible.

I do not think Mr. Khamenei would have ever sacrificed Mr. Ahmadinejad. Nor do I think his position is weak or weakened.

I also think that Mr. Montazeri is not relevant, it is Mr. Rafsanjani who is. I wonder where he is - he was not present yesterday in the Friday Prayers at Tehran University; he is the Head of Expediency Council as well as the Speaker of the Assembly of Experts. His counterparts, the Speaker of Majlis and the Head of Judiciary as well as the President were present.

But events are moving in a different direction. Mr. Khamenei, in his sermon, has both praised Mr. Rafsanjani and implicitly threatened him with exposure. I expect Mr. Rafsanjani to show up in an official photograph together with other Iranian leaders soon.

I do not have enough information regarding the manipulation of the Iranian supporters of Mr. Mousavi by foreigners. Certainly there seems to have been a flat rejection of the elections as fraudulent without supplying any evidence [to this day I have not seen any]. In fact, the more I have read the Internet, the more I have become convinced of the results of the Iranian presidential elections. For example, Mossad chief Meir Dagan on Tuesday told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that "Election fraud in Iran is no different than what happens in liberal states during elections."

I do not think that some of the men behind this internal power struggle care about Iran's foreign relations at the moment; they care about their own position and power. This type of thinking showed itself several times under the Presidency of Mr. Khatami whereby foreign visitors to Iran were harassed by the “pressure-elements” in order to sabotage his détente policies with US and EU states. As I have observed before, US leaders, however misguided one would consider them at times, love the United States. One clearly cannot say the same thing about some Iranian leaders.

In regards to foreign relations; the plot is too thick. In my opinion, Russia, China, and even India have a very very very serious stake at the preservation of an independent (but pricky) Iran. A US-EU allied Iran is not in the cards.

N. M. Salamon

An Expatriate USA citizen, in Spain, has an interesting statistical analysis of the Tweet messages from IRAN. This analysis seems to suggest outside direction of the student "revolt". There is no mention in MSM on the 400 millon $ attempt to undermine Iran's goverment [as per previous news, and analysis in the New Yorker], nor indication from the USA administration that this effort should cease as a REALISTIC SIGN THAT MR OBAMA'S CAIRO SPEECH WAS NOT EMPTY BS.
\
The cited blog is always interesting

N. M. Salamon

Sorry left out the url:
http://seaton-newslinks.blogspot.com/

Clifford Kiracofe

It is not easy to get a sense of the situation in recent days, particularly through the distortions of Western ("pro-Israel") corporate media. Here is a sample of images and video by locals getting online from on the ground over there:

http://iranelection.posterous.com/

dcgaffer

The demographic factor should be minimized. Like Britain & France, post WWI, Iran lost a generation due to the Iran – Iraq war. Those lost were youngsters during the Revolution and theoretically most bound and indoctrinated in its worthiness and continuation. The generation(s) since then do not have such an emotional investment; the majority, I think it safe to say, are interested in outcomes.

While I agree that this started in large part as a dispute between ruling elites, it moving past that. A betting man would wager that this turmoil will be brutally and successfully put down, but regardless the trendline Iran was following has been skewed.

I believe many draw the wrong lesson from events like Tiananmen. While it failed, China did change, it had to change, not as fast or as far as hopes would wish – but it is better than it was (and paradoxically more of a challenger to the US than it could ever had been if such had not occurred).

We have a tendency to discount the revolution in communications in the past 30-40 years. One can make a pretty powerful argument that one of the prime movers of the fall of the Soviet Union was not anything the US did, but the ubiquity of the fax machine. The Internet hardly existed 10 years ago. The greatest threat to any authoritarian regime is information.

Arun

Suspicion about how many tweets are really Iranians in Iran on twitter:

http://openanthropology.wordpress.com/2009/06/17/americas-iranian-twitter-revolution/

I'm afraid that Americans who won't waste two breaths to ask for investigation (let alone prosecution) of the previous Administration are perfectly happy to have Iranians shed their blood in the name of liberty.

Highlander

When the Israelis went into Gaza in order to silence the Hamas rocket launchers. This blog was alive,virtually seething with righteous indignation over the supposedly cruel Israeli actions against those nice sweet innocent Hamas boys in Gaza. Who after all had only fired around a thousand rockets or so into Israel.

Now with the Persian Mullahs slaughtering their own people in the streets. All I hear is academic discussions of the dynamics of Iranian politics and revolutionary movements in general. No cries of justice for the mounting pile of dead muslims killed by their muslim masters( disporportionately females, I belive from the evidence.)

Even some dark hints that the CIA with the help of those clever JEWs are behind it all.(You don't suppose Bush and Cheney are still in control do you?)

I'm to far away to smell the stench of innocent Iranian blood being shed.
What I do smell is the stench of hypocrisy from some of you posting here.

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