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Leading the Fight Against Human Trafficking

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS Middle East Correspondent

sexslaves2603_468x477 This past month the US State Department released it’s 9th annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which lambasted 4 Middle Eastern countries for their blatant human rights abuses. Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Syria have found themselves strange bedfellows on America’s ‘blacklist’, which means that unless these governments change their domestic policies to meet the minimum criteria for human rights they face a slew of sanctions.

According to the report, the global economic turndown has fueled the flames of an already exasperating situation. As a result, many traffickers in the Gulf region have moved underground to avoid detection and continue the slave trade. It’s no secret that the construction boom that has heralded many countries of the Middle East into a new modern age has been built with the blood, sweat and backbreaking work of poor migrant workers primarily from Southeast Asia. The sex industry is also flourishing in the Middle East, especially in Iran where ‘temporary’ marriages are legal and women are exploited by being denied the rights that a married woman possesses. Underground prostitution rings are present in all four of the blacklisted countries. Visa trading is also a major problem as migrant workers are lured to the Gulf with the promise of high salaries and a better life. However, once they arrive they soon learn that they are only paid a fraction of the salary that they were promised and are forced to live in deplorable conditions not fit for an animal let alone a human being.

This week the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia set itself apart from the other countries on the blacklist. The Saudi government has toughened its stance against human traffickers within its borders. New laws recently put into effect will punish traffickers with up to 15 years in prison and fine of more than one-quarter of a million dollars.

Saudi Arabia has long been fodder for critics accusing the kingdom of ignoring human rights abuses that are often well publicized in the media, but routinely ignored by the ruling government. The kingdom has also clearly defined, in writing, what constitutes human trafficking in the country. Sexual servitude and slavery, forced organ donations or forced medical experimenting and involuntary begging are all instances of trafficking under the new law, which metes out harsher punishments based on the victim of the crime. If the victim is disabled, a woman, child or elderly then the penalty is substantially increased. However, many critics still lament the fact that the definition does not better define the trafficking of children into the kingdom who are forced to work as sex slaves, beggars or street vendors. The new law also makes zero reference to women and children who are exploited or abused within their own family unit.

Following the cabinet meeting that signed the new law into action, the Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz was quoted as saying about the new law, “It embodies the principles of Islamic Sharia law which prohibit attacks on the rights of another human being to protect the rights of citizens and residents under Islamic law.”

The remaining three countries have done little to improve their human rights records since inclusion at the top of the list of human rights abuses. Kuwait, for example, does have a set of laws to defeat human trafficking within the tiny Gulf state. Unfortunately, the laws are difficult to enforce when so many citizens have influence to bend the laws in their favor. The phenomenon of ‘wasta’, or friends in high places, is too often the grease that moves the cogs of society no matter who gets hurt in the process.

11-30

After the Green Revolution Fails–Invasion Plans Anew

By Damian Lataan

With the failure of the Western powers to foment a popular uprising after the 12 June elections in Iran that they hoped would lead to regime change, the West has now had to return to the ‘Iran has nuclear weapons’ meme in order to pave the way for an attack against Iran in the hope that regime change can be affected that way.

In an interview on Sunday, Vice-President Joe Biden, when asked, “…if the Israelis decide Iran is an existential threat, they have to take out the nuclear program, militarily the United States will not stand in the way?” responded saying: “Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do when they make a determination, if they make a determination that they’re existentially threatened and their survival is threatened by another country.”

Biden was then asked: “You sa y we can’t dictate, but we can, if we choose to, deny over-flight rights here in Iraq. We can stand in the way of a military strike”, to which he responded, “I’m not going to speculate… on those issues, other than to say Israel has a right to determine what’s in its interests, and we have a right and we will determine what’s in our interests.”

Yesterday (5 July) ‘Timesonline’ reported that the Saudis had made it clear to Meir Dagan, Israel’s Mossad chief, that they would not object to Israeli overflights if they were on their way to targets in Iran. While a flight to Iran from Israel via Saudi Arabia would be much longer that a direct flight to Iran overflying Jordan and Iraq, a flight via Saudi Arabia would not require permission from any other country; not even the US to fly over Iraq. And if the Israelis can get permission from the Saudis to have support aircraft in the air in Saudi airspace to refuel the Israeli strike aircraft over, say, the Persian Gulf, then an Israeli strike against Iran is feasible.

It’s interesting that the report about the Saudi’s giving clearance for overflights to attack Iran were quickly denied by Netanyahu’s office. Clearly, the Israelis are anxious to bury this information though, one suspects, that it is now too late and the Iran ians will now have their spies in Saudi Arabia scanning the skies and radio bands for high flying aircraft heading west to east across Saudi Arabia toward the Persian Gulf.

It may well be that Israel could be keen to take advantage of the unrest that has recently unsettled Iran but now seems to have died down. A strike now, they may feel, might just reignite the embers of insurrection that still glow especially if there was also a strike against Iran’s security forces and it’s military.

Even if Israel did strike against Iran via Saudi skies, Israel would still need to rely on the US for support. The fuel required for the mission would need to be supplied by the US as would most of the munitions. US forces would also need to be on standby ready to prevent any Iranian retaliatory strikes against Israel and the US. Israel would also need to have its troops on standby at home in preparedness for retaliatory attacks from both Hezbollah and Hamas.

For Israel, a Hamas and Hezbollah strike against them would be what they want. It would provide the casus belli for Israel to invade both the Gaza Strip and south Lebanon – perhaps all of Lebanon – knowing that the Iranians would not be in a position to help them. And with Iran out of the equation, Syria would not dare move against Israel.

With the failure of the post-election Iranian revolution, Israel will now resort to its old rhetoric of ‘Iran has a nuclear weapons program’ to try again to get public opinion onside for when they launch their attack against Iran to effect regime change. With the US now clearly not standing in the way and the Saudis prepared to let the US off the hook with regard to being seen by the world as facilitating an Israeli attack by allowing the Israelis to overfly Iraq despite all the talk of pursuing a “diplomatic solution”, everything seems in place for the Israelis to feel free to attack Iran when ever they feel they are ready.

The prospect of a final confrontation between Israel and Iran is now off the back burner and back on to the front burner. The problem is, If and when it happens, it won’t be a simple make or break fight for Israel or Iran; the repercussions will reverberate around the world for years to come.

11-29

Six Reasons Why Iran

Cannot Be Explained in a Twitter Feed

New America Media, News Analysis, Jalal Ghazi

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A policeman stands guard in front of the British embassy during an anti-Britain protest gathering in Tehran, April 1, 2007. Picture taken April 1, 2007. 

REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl/Files

The world’s attention is on Iran. But the rhetoric of reformists vs. conservatives and students vs. mullahs cannot capture the complexity of what is happening on the streets of Tehran. Here are six reasons why the situation in Iran cannot be reduced to simplistic headlines or Twitter feeds.

First, the post-election crisis in Iran is not only a reflection of divisions between conservatives and reformers. Perhaps more importantly, it has brought divisions within the conservatives to the forefront.

“It is true that most of the armed forces, especially the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij, support the Supreme Leader and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the decision making in Iran is not exclusive to these two men,” said human rights activist Ghanim Jawad on the London-based (ANB-TV) Arab News Broadcast. He pointed to a “vertical division,” not only within the government but also within the society.

Ghanim added, “This vertical division is more dangerous to the Islamic revolution than the eight years of war between Iran and Iraq.” That war, he said, united Iranian society. Now Iranian society is split and there are divisions within the Expediency Council, the Guardian Council, the parliament and the Assembly of Experts -– all important decision-making institutions.

Most significantly, he added, the religious authority in the holy city of Qom is also divided.

Second, the disputed election results provided the spark that ignited the street demonstrations, but there were many other important reasons that pushed hundreds of thousands of Iranians into the streets.

The widely read journalist Fahmi Huwaidi wrote on Al Jazeera.net that “one must acknowledge that this is the first time since the Islamic revolution that people held such large demonstrations to express their anger toward the regime and the supreme leader.”

Huwaidi added, “It is hard to categorize all protesters under one title, but all have anger as a common denominator.” There is anger over the election results, lack of individual freedoms, tense relations with the West, high unemployment and inflation, government support of Hezbollah and Hamas, and lack of rights for Arab, Kurdish and Sunni minorities.

Third, presidential candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi has become the symbolic leader of the reformist movement, but that does not mean that he is the one who created this movement.

During his election campaign he was accompanied by former President Muhammad Khatami everywhere he went because Mousavi was not a good public speaker, wrote Huwaidi.

Many Iranians also question his alliance with pragmatic conservatives who are suspected of corruption, such as the head of the Expediency Council, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Arab author Azmi Bishara wrote on Al Jazeera.net that “corrupt conservatives within the regime such as Rafsanjani rely on reformists such as Mousavi and Khatami as a way to renew their appeal, weaken the Supreme Leader, promote a more pragmatic policy and create better relations with the West.” Bishara, however, warned that the pragmatic conservatives may temporarily agree to reforms, but reverse their position once they are in power.

Fourth, the street demonstrations are not necessarily an indication that Iran is an oppressive government or less democratic than neighboring Arab states.

“The position taken by the Iranian society toward claims of discrepancies in the elections is much better than the position of Arab societies toward similar claims,” wrote Huwaidi. Iranians at least protested on the streets and clashed with police and security forces for 10 days. Arab populations have now accepted election fraud as a fact of life and given up on trying to change it, wrote Huwaidi.

Political writer Ahmad Asfahani told ANB that he was impressed by the “vigorous Iranian society” that gave birth to three populist revolutions in less than 60 years: the uprising that followed the overthrow of Iranian Premier Mohammad Mossadeq in 1953, the Islamic revolution in 1979, and now, the 2009 street demonstrations.

Fifth, not all of the 20 people who were killed during the demonstrations were protesters. According to Ghanim, at least eight security force members were also killed. This shows that the security forces were not the only side that used violence.

Ghanim told ANB that in this situation it is hard to control either side. He added that this raised questions about who really killed the young Iranian woman Neda Agha-Soltan who became a symbol for the street demonstrations. Ghanem said that it is possible that she was killed by “some groups who wanted to escalate the situation.”

Sixth, the strong divisions within the major governing institutions in Iran show that the Iranian system is more similar to the American system than Arab regimes, whether they are ruled by presidents or monarchs. For example, the strong criticism that the Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani has made against the interior ministry as well as the criticism by Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri in Qom of the Guardian Council shows that Iran has its own system of checks and balances which does not exist in most Arab countries. This also was evident in the televised debates in which Ahmadinejad made strong accusations against senior Iranian officials, including Rafsanjani.

The Iranian system has many discrepancies but the same can be said about the American system. Bishara wrote that the differences between the Republicans and Democrats in the United States are not much bigger than the differences between the conservatives and reformists in Iran. There seems to be no fundamental change in many respects. Iranian mullahs have used their positions to become very wealthy, much as American corporations have used lobbyists to pass laws in Congress that benefit them.

The real question is how Iran will emerge from all of this. If it comes out more powerful, it will be a vindication of the political process in Iran and proof that its system works better than those of its Arab neighbors. That is what really makes Arab countries nervous.

11-29

Iran Says to Free 100 More People Held in Unrest

By Fredrik Dahl

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Two thirds of people detained during post-election unrest in Tehran last month have already been freed and another 100 will soon be released, Iran’s police chief was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

“One hundred more will be released in the next two days,” state broadcaster IRIB quoted Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam as saying in the northwestern city of Qazvin.

The same official last week said 1,032 people were detained in the capital following the disputed June 12 presidential election, but that most had since been let go.

Official results of the vote showing hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won by a landslide triggered days of mass street protests by supporters of defeated candidate Mirhossein Mousavi, a moderate who says the election was rigged.

State media say at least 20 people were killed as protesters clashed with riot police and members of the Basij militia. The authorities and Mousavi blame each other for the bloodshed. Hardliners have called for Mousavi to be put on trial.

Rights activists have said 2,000 detained during the vote’s turbulent aftermath may still be held across Iran, including leading reformers, academics, journalists and students.

But a reformist member of parliament quoted Iran’s general prosecutor as saying 2,000 out of 2,500 detained had been freed and that the remaining cases would be referred to the judiciary.

The MP, Mohammadreza Tadesh, was quoted by a reformist website as making the statement on Wednesday after a meeting with the prosecutor, Ghorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi.

Mousavi has demanded the release of “children of the revolution,” referring to many detained establishment figures.

They include a former vice president and other former officials who held senior positions during the 1997-2005 presidency of Mohammad Khatami, who backed Mousavi’s campaign.

The authorities accuse the West, particularly the United States and Britain, of inciting unrest in the Islamic Republic following the election, which led to the most widespread street protests in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Security forces quelled the demonstrations but Mousavi and allies have refused to back down, saying Ahmadinejad’s next government would be illegitimate.

The authorities reject vote rigging allegations. Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday it had been the world’s “freest” election.

Iran’s main moderate party, Islamic Iran’s Participation Front, called on Wednesday for the immediate release of its detained members and other people arrested because of their activities in support of moderate candidates in the election.

In a statement on its website, it expressed deep concern about the health situation of some of those held.

“Whatever happens to them, those who in the name of law and sharia arrested them will be responsible,” the party said.

The Kargozaran party, seen as close to former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, earlier this week also called for the release of those detained and rejected the election result.

In Geneva, six U.N. human rights experts sought permission to visit Iran, saying they were concerned that political opponents of Ahmadinejad were continuing to be targeted.

“The legal basis for the arrests of journalists, human rights defenders, opposition supporters and scores of demonstrators remains unclear,” they said in a joint statement.

“Freedom of expression and peaceful assembly continue to be undermined and the situation of human rights defenders is increasingly precarious,” the statement said.

(Additional reporting by Geneva bureau; Editing by Myra MacDonald)

11-29

Another “Color Revolution?”

By Paul Craig Roberts

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Green revolutionary? Candidate Mirhossein Mousavi in May 30, 2009 file photo.   

REUTERS/Nikoubazl

A number of commentators have expressed their idealistic belief in the purity of Mousavi, Montazeri, and the westernized youth of Terhan. The CIA destabilization plan, announced two years ago (see below) has somehow not contaminated unfolding events.

The claim is made that Ahmadinejad stole the election, because the outcome was declared too soon after the polls closed for all the votes to have been counted. However, Mousavi declared his victory several hours before the polls closed. This is classic CIA destabilization designed to discredit a contrary outcome. It forces an early declaration of the vote. The longer the time interval between the preemptive declaration of victory and the release of the vote tally, the longer Mousavi has to create the impression that the authorities are using the time to fix the vote. It is amazing that people don’t see through this trick.

As for the grand ayatollah Montazeri’s charge that the election was stolen, he was the initial choice to succeed Khomeini, but lost out to the current Supreme Leader. He sees in the protests an opportunity to settle the score with Khamenei. Montazeri has the incentive to challenge the election whether or not he is being manipulated by the CIA, which has a successful history of manipulating disgruntled politicians.

There is a power struggle among the ayatollahs. Many are aligned against Ahmadinejad because he accuses them of corruption, thus playing to the Iranian countryside where Iranians believe the ayatollahs’ lifestyles indicate an excess of power and money. In my opinion, Ahmadinejad’s attack on the ayatollahs is opportunistic. However, it does make it odd for his American detractors to say he is a conservative reactionary lined up with the ayatollahs.

Commentators are “explaining” the Iran elections based on their own illusions, delusions, emotions, and vested interests. Whether or not the poll results predicting Ahmadinejad’s win are sound, there is, so far, no evidence beyond surmise that the election was stolen. However, there are credible reports that the CIA has been working for two years to destabilize the Iranian government.

On May 23, 2007, Brian Ross and Richard Esposito reported on ABC News: “The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert “black” operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell ABC News.”

On May 27, 2007, the London Telegraph independently reported: “Mr. Bush has signed an official document endorsing CIA plans for a propaganda and disinformation campaign intended to destabilize, and eventually topple, the theocratic rule of the mullahs.”

A few days previously, the Telegraph reported on May 16, 2007, that Bush administration neocon warmonger John Bolton told the Telegraph that a US military attack on Iran would “be a ‘last option’ after economic sanctions and attempts to foment a popular revolution had failed.”

On June 29, 2008, Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker: “Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership.”

The protests in Tehran no doubt have many sincere participants. The protests also have the hallmarks of the CIA orchestrated protests in Georgia and Ukraine. It requires total blindness not to see this.

Daniel McAdams has made some telling points. For example, neoconservative Kenneth Timmerman wrote the day before the election that “there’s talk of a ‘green revolution’ in Tehran.” How would Timmerman know that unless it was an orchestrated plan? Why would there be a ‘green revolution’ prepared prior to the vote, especially if Mousavi and his supporters were as confident of victory as they claim? This looks like definite evidence that the US is involved in the election protests.

Timmerman goes on to write that “the National Endowment for Democracy has spent millions of dollars promoting ‘color’ revolutions . . . Some of that money appears to have made it into the hands of pro-Mousavi groups, who have ties to non-governmental organizations outside Iran that the National Endowment for Democracy funds.” Timmerman’s own neocon Foundation for Democracy is “a private, non-profit organization established in 1995 with grants from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), to promote democracy and internationally-recognized standards of human rights in Iran.”

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

11-28

Iranian Elections: The ‘Stolen Elections’ Hoax

By Prof. James Petras, Global Research, Financial Times Editorial

“Change for the poor means food and jobs, not a relaxed dress code or mixed recreation… Politics in Iran is a lot more about class war than religion.”

Introduction

There is hardly any election, in which the White House has a significant stake, where the electoral defeat of the pro-US candidate is not denounced as illegitimate by the entire political and mass media elite. In the most recent period, the White House and its camp followers cried foul following the free (and monitored) elections in Venezuela and Gaza, while joyously fabricating an ‘electoral success’ in Lebanon despite the fact that the Hezbollah-led coalition received over 53% of the vote.

The recently concluded, June 12, 2009 elections in Iran are a classic case: The incumbent nationalist-populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (MA) received 63.3% of the vote (or 24.5 million votes), while the leading Western-backed liberal opposition candidate Hossein Mousavi (HM) received 34.2% or (13.2 million votes).

Iran’s presidential election drew a record turnout of more than 80% of the electorate, including an unprecedented overseas vote of 234,812, in which HM won 111,792 to MA’s 78,300. The opposition led by HM did not accept their defeat and organized a series of mass demonstrations that turned violent, resulting in the burning and destruction of automobiles, banks, public building and armed confrontations with the police and other authorities. Almost the entire spectrum of Western opinion makers, including all the major electronic and print media, the major liberal, radical, libertarian and conservative web-sites, echoed the opposition’s claim of rampant election fraud. Neo-conservatives, libertarian conservatives and Trotskyites joined the Zionists in hailing the opposition protestors as the advance guard of a democratic revolution. Democrats and Republicans condemned the incumbent regime, refused to recognize the result of the vote and praised the demonstrators’ efforts to overturn the electoral outcome. The New York Times, CNN, Washington Post, the Israeli Foreign Office and the entire leadership of the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations called for harsher sanctions against Iran and announced Obama’s proposed dialogue with Iran as ‘dead in the water’.

The Electoral Fraud Hoax

Western leaders rejected the results because they ‘knew’ that their reformist candidate could not lose…For months they published daily interviews, editorials and reports from the field ‘detailing’ the failures of Ahmadinejad’s administration; they cited the support from clerics, former officials, merchants in the bazaar and above all women and young urbanites fluent in English, to prove that Mousavi was headed for a landslide victory. A victory for Mousavi was described as a victory for the ‘voices of moderation’, at least the White House’s version of that vacuous cliché. Prominent liberal academics deduced the vote count was fraudulent because the opposition candidate, Mousavi, lost in his own ethnic enclave among the Azeris. Other academics claimed that the ‘youth vote’ – based on their interviews with upper and middle-class university students from the neighborhoods of Northern Tehran were overwhelmingly for the ‘reformist’ candidate.

What is astonishing about the West’s universal condemnation of the electoral outcome as fraudulent is that not a single shred of evidence in either written or observational form has been presented either before or a week after the vote count. During the entire electoral campaign, no credible (or even dubious) charge of voter tampering was raised. As long as the Western media believed their own propaganda of an immanent victory for their candidate, the electoral process was described as highly competitive, with heated public debates and unprecedented levels of public activity and unhindered by public proselytizing. The belief in a free and open election was so strong that the Western leaders and mass media believed that their favored candidate would win.

The Western media relied on its reporters covering the mass demonstrations of opposition supporters, ignoring and downplaying the huge turnout for Ahmadinejad. Worse still, the Western media ignored the class composition of the competing demonstrations – the fact that the incumbent candidate was drawing his support from the far more numerous poor working class, peasant, artisan and public employee sectors while the bulk of the opposition demonstrators was drawn from the upper and middle class students, business and professional class.

Moreover, most Western opinion leaders and reporters based in Tehran extrapolated their projections from their observations in the capital – few venture into the provinces, small and medium size cities and villages where Ahmadinejad has his mass base of support. Moreover the opposition’s supporters were an activist minority of students easily mobilized for street activities, while Ahmadinejad’s support drew on the majority of working youth and household women workers who would express their views at the ballot box and had little time or inclination to engage in street politics.

A number of newspaper pundits, including Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times, claim as evidence of electoral fraud the fact that Ahmadinejad won 63% of the vote in an Azeri-speaking province against his opponent, Mousavi, an ethnic Azeri. The simplistic assumption is that ethnic identity or belonging to a linguistic group is the only possible explanation of voting behavior rather than other social or class interests.

A closer look at the voting pattern in the East-Azerbaijan region of Iran reveals that Mousavi won only in the city of Shabestar among the upper and the middle classes (and only by a small margin), whereas he was soundly defeated in the larger rural areas, where the re-distributive policies of the Ahmadinejad government had helped the ethnic Azeris write off debt, obtain cheap credits and easy loans for the farmers.

Mousavi did win in the West-Azerbaijan region, using his ethnic ties to win over the urban voters. In the highly populated Tehran province, Mousavi beat Ahmadinejad in the urban centers of Tehran and Shemiranat by gaining the vote of the middle and upper class districts, whereas he lost badly in the adjoining working class suburbs, small towns and rural areas.

The careless and distorted emphasis on ‘ethnic voting’ cited by writers from the Financial Times and New York Times to justify calling Ahmadinejad ‘s victory a ‘stolen vote’ is matched by the media’s willful and deliberate refusal to acknowledge a rigorous nationwide public opinion poll conducted by two US experts just three weeks before the vote, which showed Ahmadinejad leading by a more than 2 to 1 margin – even larger than his electoral victory on June 12. This poll revealed that among ethnic Azeris, Ahmadinejad was favored by a 2 to 1 margin over Mousavi, demonstrating how class interests represented by one candidate can overcome the ethnic identity of the other candidate (Washington Post June 15, 2009). The poll also demonstrated how class issues, within age groups, were more influential in shaping political preferences than ‘generational life style’. According to this poll, over two-thirds of Iranian youth were too poor to have access to a computer and the 18-24 year olds “comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad of all groups” (Washington Porst June 15, 2009).

The only group, which consistently favored Mousavi, was the university students and graduates, business owners and the upper middle class. The ‘youth vote’, which the Western media praised as ‘pro-reformist’, was a clear minority of less than 30% but came from a highly privileged, vocal and largely English speaking group with a monopoly on the Western media. Their overwhelming presence in the Western news reports created what has been referred to as the ‘North Tehran Syndrome’, for the comfortable upper class enclave from which many of these students come. While they may be articulate, well dressed and fluent in English, they were soundly out-voted in the secrecy of the ballot box.

In general, Ahmadinejad did very well in the oil and chemical producing provinces. This may have be a reflection of the oil workers’ opposition to the ‘reformist’ program, which included proposals to ‘privatize’ public enterprises. Likewise, the incumbent did very well along the border provinces because of his emphasis on strengthening national security from US and Israeli threats in light of an escalation of US-sponsored cross-border terrorist attacks from Pakistan and Israeli-backed incursions from Iraqi Kurdistan, which have killed scores of Iranian citizens. Sponsorship and massive funding of the groups behind these attacks is an official policy of the US from the Bush Administration, which has not been repudiated by President Obama; in fact it has escalated in the lead-up to the elections.

What Western commentators and their Iranian protégés have ignored is the powerful impact which the devastating US wars and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan had on Iranian public opinion: Ahmadinejad’s strong position on defense matters contrasted with the pro-Western and weak defense posture of many of the campaign propagandists of the opposition.

The great majority of voters for the incumbent probably felt that national security interests, the integrity of the country an d the social welfare system, with all of its faults and excesses, could be better defended and improved with Ahmadinejad than with upper-class technocrats supported by Western-oriented privileged youth who prize individual life styles over community values and solidarity.

The demography of voting reveals a real class polarization pitting high income, free market oriented, capitalist individualists against working class, low income, community based supporters of a ‘moral economy’ in which usury and profiteering are limited by religious precepts. The open attacks by opposition economists of the government welfare spending, easy credit and heavy subsidies of basic food staples did little to ingratiate them with the majority of Iranians benefiting from those programs. The state was seen as the protector and benefactor of the poor workers against the ‘market’, which represented wealth, power, privilege and corruption. The Opposition’s attack on the regime’s ‘intransigent’ foreign policy and positions ‘alienating’ the West only resonated with the liberal university students and import-export business groups. To many Iranians, the regime’s military buildup was seen as having prevented a US or Israeli attack.

The scale of the opposition’s electoral deficit should tell us is how out of touch it is with its own people’s vital concerns. It should remind them that by moving closer to Western opinion, they re moved themselves from the everyday interests of security, housing, jobs and subsidized food prices that make life tolerable for those living below the middle class and outside the privileged gates of Tehran University.

Amhadinejad’s electoral success, seen in historical comparative perspective should not be a surprise. In similar electoral contests between nationalist-populists against pro-Western liberals, the populists have won. Past examples include Peron in Argentina and, most recently, Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia and even Lula da Silva in Brazil, all of whom have demonstrated an ability to secure close to or even greater than 60% of the vote in free elections. The voting majorities in these countries prefer social welfare over unrestrained markets, national security over alignments with military empires.

The consequences of the electoral victory of Ahmadinejad are open to debate. The US may conclude that continuing to back a vocal, but badly defeated, minority has few prospects for securing concessions on nuclear enrichment and an abandonment of Iran’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas. A realistic approach would be to open a wide-ranging discussion with Iran, and acknowledging, as Senator Kerry recently pointed out, that enriching uranium is not an existential threat to anyone. This approach would sharply differ from the approach of American Zionists, embedded in the Obama regime, who follow Israel’s lead of pushing for a preempti ve war with Iran and use the specious argument that no negotiations are possible with an ‘illegitimate’ government in Tehran which ‘stole an election’.

Recent events suggest that political leaders in Europe, and even some in Washington, do not accept the Zionist-mass media line of ‘stolen elections’. The White House has not suspended its offer of negotiations with the newly re-elected government but has focused rather on the repression of the opposition protesters (and not the vote count). Likewise, the 27 nation European Union expressed ‘serious concern about violence’ and called for the “aspirations of the Iranian people to be achieved through peaceful means and that freedom of expression be respected” (Financial Times June 16, 2009 p.4). Except for Sarkozy of France, no EU leader has questioned the outcome of the voting.

The wild card in the aftermath of the elections is the Israeli response: Netanyahu has signaled to his American Zionist followers that they should use the hoax of ‘electoral fraud’ to exert maximum pressure on the Obama regime to end all plans to meet with the newly re-elected Ahmadinejad regime.

Paradoxically, US commentators (left, right and center) who bought into the electoral fraud hoax are inadvertently providing Netanyahu and his American followers with the arguments and fabrications: Where they see religious wars, we see class wars; where they see electoral fraud, we see20imperial destabilization.

James Petras is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by James Petras

11-28

Poll: Most Israelis Could Live with a Nuclear Iran

Haaretz

“Pretty soon . . . you will have nine weapons states and probably another 10 or 20 virtual weapons states.”–Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

Only one in five Israeli Jews believes a nuclear-armed Iran would try to destroy Israel and most see life continuing as normal should the Islamic Republic get the bomb, an opinion poll published on Sunday found.

The survey, commissioned by a Tel Aviv University think-tank, appeared to challenge the argument of successive Israeli governments that Iran must be denied the means to make atomic weapons lest it threaten Israel’s existence.

Asked how a nuclear-armed Iran would affect their lives, 80 percent of respondents said they expected no change. Eleven percent said they would consider emigrating and 9 percent said they would consider relocating inside Israel.

Twenty-one percent of Israelis believe Iran “would attack Israel with nuclear weapons with the objective of destroying it,” the Institute for National Security Studies, which commissioned the poll, said in a statement.

The survey had 616 Jewish respondents and a margin of error of 3.5 percent, INSS research director Yehuda Ben Meir said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, like his predecessors, has hinted that Israel could attack Iran pre-emptively should Western diplomacy fail to curb its uranium enrichment.

The INSS survey found 59 percent of Israeli Jews would support such strikes, while 41 percent would not back the military option. A separate survey, commissioned by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, found 52 percent support for pre-emptive Israeli attacks on Iran, with 35 percent of respondents opposed.

Israeli Arabs, who make up some 20 percent of the population and are generally less likely to see themselves as targets of Israel’s enemies, were not included for budgetary reasons, he said.

Israel, the United States and other western nations say Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at manufacturing nuclear weapons. Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil producer, insists its uranium enrichment program is for civilian needs only.

But Iranian leaders’ anti-Israel rhetoric and support for the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah have stirred fears of a regional war.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu is expected to devote a more significant part of a major foreign policy speech to the Iranian threat, officials close to the premier said, in the wake of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s electoral win Saturday.

11-27

Neda

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS

_32921_Neda
A screen grab captured from the popular social-networking site YouTube shows the final moments of Neda Agha-Soltan, as she lies dying from a bullet shot through her heart by Iranian government forces. 

She stepped out of the car for just a moment to catch her breath.  And in the blink of an eye she was shot dead by government forces in the middle of an Iranian street.  The lone bullet hit Neda Agha-Soltan right in the chest. The 26-year-old university student began bleeding from her nose and mouth as her eyes rolled back into her head and her body became still. The woman whom friends have described as a loving friend and engaging companion was buried the next day.  Her family was not even allowed to hold a memorial service or hang a black banner on the front  door  because the government feared it would only further incense protestors and cause more havoc on the Iranian streets.

Neda’s death was captured on a cell phone video camera and uploaded to the Internet before her body was even removed from the street. Millions of Internet users have viewed the footage of Neda’s final moments online and her death has served as a catalyst for the continuation of protests against perceived voting irregularities, which resulted in the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

For thousands of Iranians, Neda has become the symbol of the fight against the oppressive Iranian regime. She was an innocent victim who was targeted simply because she attended a public protest against the government.  There have been many innocent victims of the Iranian government’s crackdown on so-called unlawful protests. Both men and women alike have been beaten by merciless government forces, with many losing their lives in the battle.

Neda’s death has, specifically, reached out to the hearts and minds of Iranian women who have been emboldened to let their voices be heard. Some women walk down the streets adorned with the Islamic headscarf while holding placards skyward. Others throw stones and chant anti-government slogans. While others yet have used themselves as human shields to protect the injured from further atrocities or helped the wounded get off the streets and away from government forces.

The current protests in Iran have been likened to the 1979 Iranian Revolution, however there has been a drastic change that runs along gender lines. The revolution that took place 30 years ago was comprised almost exclusively of male protestors whereas today female protestors are clearly outnumbering the men on the Iranian streets. It has taken years for Iranian women to find their voices. Their coming of age can be seen in screen grabs from cable news program and in video footage uploaded to the Internet.

No matter what the outcome of the current protests turns out to be or how many innocents are beaten and battered. There is one thread of truth that runs through it all and makes Neda’s assassination anything but in vain. And that truth is that the Iranian women are the new pioneers for change in their country. With every step that they take or stone that they hurl, Iranian women are fighting the good fight for change, democracy and freedom in their country.

11-27

Unrest in Iran Inspires Pro-Democracy Activists in the Arab World

New America Media, Commentary, NAM Correspondent

NAM Editor’s Note: Arab regimes haven’t publicly criticized or even mentioned what is happening in neighboring Iran, triggering much speculation among Arab bloggers as to why that is. The author of this piece wished to remain anonymous due to safety concerns.

2009-06-22T144637Z_01_WAS302_RTRMDNP_3_IRAN-PAHLAVI
Former Iranian Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi pauses while he speaks about Iran at the National Press Club in Washington June 22, 2009.    REUTERS/Larry Downing 

DAMASCUS — Images of bloody protesters and crowds numbering in the hundreds of thousands in the streets of Tehran have been broadcast into living rooms across the Arab world for five consecutive days, enchanting and inspiring pro-democracy activists in a region where pushes for democratic reforms tend to be met with an iron fist.

Meanwhile, Arab regimes have largely remained silent over the contested election. Leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan—the major Sunni powers in the region—haven’t mentioned the elections or allegations of fraud. In normal circumstances, this would be strange — these countries are the regional archenemies of President Ahmedinejad’s Iran.

Some say the reason behind their silence lies in their fear of bolstering pro-democracy movements in their own countries. “The unrest in Iran frightens dictators in the region because it makes it harder for them to justify their own absolute authority,” says Syrian blogger Yasir Sadiq. “If they see tyrannies come down around them, they’ll be afraid.”

Whether or not the Iranian elections were “stolen,” Iran is a long way ahead of most Arab countries when it comes to democracy — the country has a functioning electoral system. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the Gulf states don’t hold elections, and in Egypt and Syria, “elections” are so tightly controlled that the results are always known in advance.

The state controlled media in authoritarian Arab countries have mostly downplayed the events in Iran. Government controlled newspapers like Al-Thawra in Syria, Iran’s strongest regional ally, have kept Iran off the front pages and run headlines like, “The West needs to stop intervening in Iranian elections,” using age-old claims of conspiracies to deflect attention from actual popular desire for democratic reform.

“Governments all over the Arab world accuse pro-democracy movements of serving the west, or of being tools of the CIA or Mosad (Israeli intelligence),” says Syrian freelance journalist Khaled Al-Khetyari. “They are just trying to manipulate people by using this language because the people in power don’t want their populations to analyze what is actually happening in Iran.”

The Obama administration has been relatively silent on the unrest in Iran. On Wednesday, Hillary Clinton said it was up to Iranians to “resolve this internal protest.”

Al-Khatyari says the U.S. administration’s measured distance is a strategy the U.S. should stick to. “The last American administration latched onto any internal opposition to regimes it didn’t like. This always hurts local movements because it connects them to a country that most people here see as harmful to the region and it justifies repression by our governments.”

Syrian blogger Yasir Sadiq says he is encouraged by the Iranian opposition’s seven-point manifesto being circulated on the internet, which calls for the “Dissolution of all organizations — both secret and public — designed for the oppression of the Iranian people.”

“It’s inspiring to see people in the Middle East call for the end of secret services,” Sadiq says. “Organizations like this have oppressed people in the Arab world so much.”

Sadiq is reticent to believe that what he calls Iran’s pro-democracy “intifada” could be exported to Arab countries any time soon. “It’s difficult to hope for this kind of movement in the Arab world. We have a long way to go, but we hope that eventually, something like that will happen here.”

For now, he says, Arab activists will attempt to learn what they can from their counterparts in Iran. For days, Sadiq has been pegged to Twitter, the social networking tool that has allowed Iranians to organize demonstrations while the Iranian government institutes a near blackout of internet services.

“Arab bloggers’ main interest in what is happening in Iran is in figuring out how Twitter can be used to organize and bring our voices forward in our own countries,” he says.

The government in Syria may eventually try to ban it, like they have with other networking sites like Facebook, but Sadiq says he is not deterred. “The more they ban, the more ways we will find to get around their restrictions.”

11-27

The Children of Marx and Coca-Cola

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Berkeley–I take my title this week from the French cinematographer, Jean-Luc Godard’s Masculine / Feminine produced during the 1960s of which my forenamed title was one of the names of the Frenchman’s fifteen cinematic episodes / chapters; therefore, the name for this article, for your author feels there is much in common between this past week in Tehran and those heady days in Paris during 1968.

Almost four years ago this week, the young Iranian-American journalist, Azadeh Moaveni, came to Berkeley to promote her, then, recent memoirs Lipstick Jihad about growing up conflicted between her two cultures — American and Iranian.  Her experience has much to say to second generation immigrants of many sorts and to their parents as well.  This book for all its flaws does help them better understand their own bicultural children, and for us to better understand both their divergent generational peer groups. 

After college Azadeh moved to Tehran, her natal land.   What she discovered was not the fantasy of the past as held by her parents and the expatriate community, but the oppressive and even decadent lifestyle of her contemporaries in that nation of her infancy.  (Iran is a modern and in many instances a personally progressive State on a fast track to Post-Modernism, and not the stern theocracy that is too often portrayed in the West.)

For some reason my mid-May 2005 interview with Moaveni came at a time when Tehran was at the beginning of an exhilarating period of political reform as it is there now.  The youth demonstrated in the streets as during this past week against an Islamist regime they considered overly harsh. The young rebels she meet during the middle of this decade can even be considered hedonistic — totally unlike her imaginative homeland created during her American formative years. 

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, 60% of their population is under the age of thirty!  If anything, this shows they have a promising future.  Intimate versus public life is very finely etched in that realm that is ethnically dominated by the Persians.  To understand Iran, one has to comprehend the shifting role of her younger women which has been developing within the middle and upper urbanized classes, and it is these classes that have violently been dominate on the streets during this past week.  For “a woman it is an exciting time!” 

The great rifts between the classes is most disturbing, though, with the lack of international observers recently, it is difficult to perceive whether there was massive vote rigging or not although small scale “dirty” tricks and denial to the polling stations has been proven.  Whether there was enough fraud to throw the elections has not been demonstrated.  The grave tensions between the urban elites and the rural Subaltern (a word employed to describe a wide range of the lower classes) exists within contemporary Persia.

Although Islam is still central to the state and society, the youth are still referred to as a lost generation.  Western videos and other cultural artifacts have been officially banned, but they are openly smuggled, and popularly consumed.  What is demographically notable about this upcoming generation is that there are notably more women than men within it.  Noteworthy about the old Kingdom of the Shahs was the openness of Platonic relationships between the sexes, but this social custom has been discouraged by the current gender segregation encouraged by the Revolution.  The authoress remarked because of this, “…How can the younger generation be so obsessed with sex, but know so little about it?”  It is thought in the Republic that “Being a couple is petty and bourgeois.”  Then she repeated a profundity: “Life in the shadow of the struggle is merely in the shadows.”  Many women from conservative families have only become partially “liberated,” (but in essence there has been little change even for them.) Again, feminine identification is only attainable by the upwardly mobile!

Azadeh confesses that Iran was disappointing for her.  “Any gathering could degenerate into a protest against the government” as is the case today. 

An anxiety of violence has been acclimatized by the State.  The youthful — even during the period of Bush — still perceived America as a symbol of freedom. 

They strove after a Western lifestyle and Modernism and Post-Modernism, too, but their governmental regime is formally anti-American which creates a conundrum between officialdom and the emerging anti-Modernistic society.  The young people are almost purely positive towards America only because it is the antithesis of their own regime which they despise.  (This could become a potentially dangerous if the Medes became more hegemonic within their region!)

The subtitle to Moaveni’s book is A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran.  She was raised in Santa Cruz (California) and studied at the University of California campus in Santa Cruz on the Northern shores of Monterey Bay.  Winning a Fulbright, she lived in Cairo for three years studying Arabic as well.  Time Magazine then employed her to cover the Middle East for three years.  Lately, she has covered the Iraqi insurgency for the Los Angeles Times.  Although Azadeh Moaveni now covers Baghdad, she makes her home in Beirut.

I think much can be perceived from Moaveni’s comments on the situation in Iran.  The split between those who chose to stay in Iran and those in the Diaspora is most pronounced: Much like the Havana Cubans and the Miami Cubans.  So, when the local American domestic reporters talk to Iranian immigrants who have settled in the States, they, of course, are not the ones who have chosen to stay in their native land for many reasons; and, thus, are less likely to have a positive view of the 1979 Revolution.  Most of the protestors on the streets of Iran are college students.  Until legitimate international election observers can be put on the ground, it is almost impossible to say whether these polls were free and fair.  Having been an election observer in a much smaller country myself (El Salvador), I can attest to the logistical nightmare of monitoring deeply contested polls.

11-27

Who is Behind the Iranian Protests?

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO Editor-in-chief

There is no doubt that there are thousands of Iranian who yearn for real democracy. They are the ones’s who are concerned about the detereorating law and order situation in their country. But what is interesting to note that those who are fomenting violence in Iran are those who have at their back several western intellligence agencies.

It is now a known fact that for the last 12 months these intelligence agencies have been supplying high quality communication devices in the thousands to Iranian youth to provide information in situation like these. Much of these electronic gagdets were sent to Iran from Los Angeles, by Iranian businessmen who recived the hidden grant from sources closer to intelligence agencies.

In 1953, western intelligence agencies played a similar game in toppling the Iranian democratic regime. Now many fear that the same game is being repeated.

The West has laid economic siege to Iran for 30 years. Recently, US Congress voted $120 million for anti-regime media broadcasts into Iran and $60-75 million in funding for opposition, violent underground Marxists and restive ethnic groups such as Azeris, Kurds and Arabs under the “Iran Democracy Program.” Pakistani intelligence sources put the CIA’s recent spending on “black operations” to subvert Iran’s government at $400 million.It is true that majority of protests we see in Tehran are genuine and spontaneous, western intelligence agencies are playing a key role in sustaining them and providing communications, including the newest method, via Twitter.

The Tehran government turned things worse by limiting foreign news reports and trying to cover up protests.

Several western experts have accused Iran of improper electoral procedures while utterly ignoring their autocratic Mideast allies such as Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which hold only fake elections and savage any real opposition.They have also ignore the voting irregularities that were witnessed in Florida and Ohio in 2000 and 20008, by officials close to republican Party candidate President Bush.

U.S. senators, led by John McCain, blasted Iran for not respecting human rights without making any reference to President Bush torture policy in Guantanamo Bay.

In fact the current feud is between the establishment and former establishment member Ali Akbar Rafsanjani who is waiting to pounce. He heads the Assembly of Experts, which theoretically has the power to unseat Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.his power revolves round him and his family. He is considered the msot shrewed politician of Iran. It is possible that he may manipulate situation to the best of his interests.

But we must not live under any illusion that Rafsanjani would be a pro-western leader. He is as dangerous as the previsiou leader when it comes to Iran’s nuclear ambition.

All that we need to do is to wait and see before making a final pronouncement on the current situation.

11-27

The American Empire Is Bankrupt

By Chris Hedges

This week marks the end of the dollar’s reign as the world’s reserve currency. It marks the start of a terrible period of economic and political decline in the United States. And it signals the last gasp of the American imperium. That’s over. It is not coming back. And what is to come will be very, very painful.

Barack Obama, and the criminal class on Wall Street, aided by a corporate media that continues to peddle fatuous gossip and trash talk as news while we endure the greatest economic crisis in our history, may have fooled us, but the rest of the world knows we are bankrupt. And these nations are damned if they are going to continue to prop up an inflated dollar and sustain the massive federal budget deficits, swollen to over $2 trillion, which fund America’s imperial expansion in Eurasia and our system of casino capitalism. They have us by the throat. They are about to squeeze.

There are meetings being held Monday and Tuesday in Yekaterinburg, Russia, (formerly Sverdlovsk) among Chinese President Hu Jintao, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and other top officials of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The United States, which asked to attend, was denied admittance. Watch what happens there carefully. The gathering is, in the words of economist Michael Hudson, “the most important meeting of the 21st century so far.”

It is the first formal step by our major trading partners to replace the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. If they succeed, the dollar will dramatically plummet in value, the cost of imports, including oil, will skyrocket, interest rates will climb and jobs will hemorrhage at a rate that will make the last few months look like boom times. State and federal services will be reduced or shut down for lack of funds. The United States will begin to resemble the Weimar Republic or Zimbabwe. Obama, endowed by many with the qualities of a savior, will suddenly look pitiful, inept and weak. And the rage that has kindled a handful of shootings and hate crimes in the past few weeks will engulf vast segments of a disenfranchised and bewildered working and middle class. The people of this class will demand vengeance, radical change, order and moral renewal, which an array of proto-fascists, from the Christian right to the goons who disseminate hate talk on Fox News, will assure the country they will impose.

I called Hudson, who has an article in Monday’s Financial Times called The Yekaterinburg Turning Point: De-Dollarization and the Ending of America’s Financial-Military Hegemony. “Yekaterinburg,” Hudson writes, “may become known not only as the death place of the czars but of the American empire as well.” His article is worth reading, along with John Lanchester’s disturbing exposé of the world’s banking system, titled “It’s Finished,” which appeared in the May 28 issue of the London Review of Books.

“This means the end of the dollar,” Hudson told me. “It means China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Iran are forming an official financial and military area to get America out of Eurasia. The balance-of-payments deficit is mainly military in nature. Half of America’s discretionary spending is military. The deficit ends up in the hands of foreign banks, central banks. They don’t have any choice but to recycle the money to buy U.S. government debt. The Asian countries have been financing their own military encirclement. They have been forced to accept dollars that have no chance of being repaid. They are paying for America’s military aggression against them. They want to get rid of this.”

China, as Hudson points out, has already struck bilateral trade deals with Brazil and Malaysia to denominate their trade in China’s yuan rather than the dollar, pound or euro. Russia promises to begin trading in the ruble and local currencies. The governor of China’s central bank has openly called for the abandonment of the dollar as reserve currency, suggesting in its place the use of the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights. What the new system will be remains unclear, but the flight from the dollar has clearly begun. The goal, in the words of the Russian president, is to build a “multipolar world order” which will break the economic and, by extension, military domination by the United States. China is frantically spending its dollar reserves to buy factories and property around the globe so it can unload its U.S. currency. This is why Aluminum Corp. of China made so many major concessions in the failed attempt to salvage its $19.5 billion alliance with the Rio Tinto mining concern in Australia. It desperately needs to shed its dollars.

“China is trying to get rid of all the dollars they can in a trash-for-resource deal,” Hudson said. “They will give the dollars to countries willing to sell off their resources since America refuses to sell any of its high-tech industries, even Unocal, to the yellow peril. It realizes these dollars are going to be worthless pretty quickly.”

The architects of this new global exchange realize that if they break the dollar they also break America’s military domination. Our military spending cannot be sustained without this cycle of heavy borrowing. The official U.S. defense budget for fiscal year 2008 is $623 billion, before we add on things like nuclear research. The next closest national military budget is China’s, at $65 billion, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.

There are three categories of the balance-of-payment deficits. America imports more than it exports. This is trade. Wall Street and American corporations buy up foreign companies. This is capital movement. The third and most important balance-of-payment deficit for the past 50 years has been Pentagon spending abroad. It is primarily military spending that has been responsible for the balance-of-payments deficit for the last five decades. Look at table five in the Balance of Payments Report, published in the Survey of Current Business quarterly, and check under military spending. There you can see the deficit.

To fund our permanent war economy, we have been flooding the world with dollars. The foreign recipients turn the dollars over to their central banks for local currency. The central banks then have a problem. If a central bank does not spend the money in the United States then the exchange rate against the dollar will go up. This will penalize exporters. This has allowed America to print money without restraint to buy imports and foreign companies, fund our military expansion and ensure that foreign nations like China continue to buy our treasury bonds. This cycle appears now to be over. Once the dollar cannot flood central banks and no one buys our treasury bonds, our empire collapses. The profligate spending on the military, some $1 trillion when everything is counted, will be unsustainable.

“We will have to finance our own military spending,” Hudson warned, “and the only way to do this will be to sharply cut back wage rates. The class war is back in business. Wall Street understands that. This is why it had Bush and Obama give it $10 trillion in a huge rip-off so it can have enough money to survive.”

The desperate effort to borrow our way out of financial collapse has promoted a level of state intervention unseen since World War II. It has also led us into uncharted territory.

“We have in effect had to declare war to get us out of the hole created by our economic system,” Lanchester wrote in the London Review of Books. “There is no model or precedent for this, and no way to argue that it’s all right really, because under such-and-such a model of capitalism … there is no such model. It isn’t supposed to work like this, and there is no road-map for what’s happened.”

The cost of daily living, from buying food to getting medical care, will become difficult for all but a few as the dollar plunges. States and cities will see their pension funds drained and finally shut down. The government will be forced to sell off infrastructure, including roads and transport, to private corporations. We will be increasingly charged by privatized utilities—think Enron—for what was once regulated and subsidized. Commercial and private real estate will be worth less than half its current value. The negative equity that already plagues 25 percent of American homes will expand to include nearly all property owners. It will be difficult to borrow and impossible to sell real estate unless we accept massive losses. There will be block after block of empty stores and boarded-up houses. Foreclosures will be epidemic. There will be long lines at soup kitchens and many, many homeless. Our corporate-controlled media, already banal and trivial, will work overtime to anesthetize us with useless gossip, spectacles, sex, gratuitous violence, fear and tawdry junk politics. America will be composed of a large dispossessed underclass and a tiny empowered oligarchy that will run a ruthless and brutal system of neo-feudalism from secure compounds. Those who resist will be silenced, many by force. We will pay a terrible price, and we will pay this price soon, for the gross malfeasance of our power elite. 

11-27

Iran: Rafsanjani Poised to Outflank Supreme Leader Khamenei

Eurasianet

khatami-rafsanjani

Former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani shown here voting with reform leader former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.

(Photo: Amir Kholoosi / ISNA)

Looking past their fiery rhetoric and apparent determination to cling to power using all available means, Iran’s hardliners are not a confident bunch. While hardliners still believe they possess enough force to stifle popular protests, they are worried that they are losing a behind-the-scenes battle within Iran’s religious establishment.

A source familiar with the thinking of decision-makers in state agencies that have strong ties to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said there is a sense among hardliners that a shoe is about to drop. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani – Iran’s savviest political operator and an arch-enemy of Ayatollah Khamenei’s – has kept out of the public spotlight since the rigged June 12 presidential election triggered the political crisis. The widespread belief is that Rafsanjani has been in the holy city of Qom, working to assemble a religious and political coalition to topple the supreme leader and Pres. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“There is great apprehension among people in the supreme leader’s [camp] about what Rafsanjani may pull,” said a source in Tehran who is familiar with hardliner thinking. “They [the supreme leader and his supporters] are much more concerned about Rafsanjani than the mass movement on the streets.”

Ayatollah Khamenei now has a very big image problem among influential Shi’a clergymen. Over the course of the political crisis, stretching back to the days leading up to the election, Rafsanjani has succeeded in knocking the supreme leader off his pedestal by revealing Ayatollah Khamenei to be a political partisan rather than an above-the-fray spiritual leader. In other words, the supreme leader has become a divider, not a uniter.

Now that Ayatollah Khamenei has become inexorably connected to Ahmadinejad’s power grab, many clerics are coming around to the idea that the current system needs to be changed. Among those who are now believed to be arrayed against Ayatollah Khamenei is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the top Shi’a cleric in neighboring Iraq. Rafsanjani is known to have met with Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani’s representative in Iran, Javad Shahrestani.

A reformist website, Rooyeh, reported that Rafsanjani already had the support of nearly a majority of the Assembly of Experts, a body that constitutionally has the power to remove Ayatollah Khamenei. The report also indicated that Rafsanjani’s lobbying efforts were continuing to bring more clerics over to his side. Rafsanjani’s aim, the website added, is the establishment of a leadership council, comprising of three or more top religious leaders, to replace the institution of supreme leader. Shortly after it posted the report on Rafsanjani’s efforts to establish a new collective leadership, government officials pulled the plug on Rooyeh.

Meanwhile, the Al-Arabiya satellite television news channel reported that a “high-ranking” source in Qom confirmed that Rafsanjani has garnered enough support to remove Ayatollah Khamenei, but an announcement is being delayed amid differences on what or who should replace the supreme leader. Some top clerics reportedly want to maintain the post of supreme leader, albeit with someone other than Ayatollah Khamenei occupying the post, while others support the collective leadership approach.

To a certain degree, hardliners now find themselves caught in a cycle of doom: they must crack down on protesters if they are to have any chance of retaining power, but doing so only causes more and more clerics to align against them.

Security forces broke up a small street protest on June 22 involving roughly a thousand demonstrators who had gathered to mourn the victims of the government crackdown two days before. Also on June 22, a statement issued in the name of the Revolutionary Guards demanded that protesters immediately stop “sabotage and rioting activities,” and threatened to unleash “revolutionary confrontation” against anyone who took to the streets.

Such a showdown could come later this week. One of the country’s highest-ranking clerics, Grand Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri has declared three days of mourning for those who have died in street protests. Grand Ayatollah Montazeri’s declaration could bring thousands of Tehran residents back out into the streets starting on June 24.

Meanwhile, the Guardian Council, an unelected state body with election oversight responsibilities, announced June 21 that it had found numerous irregularities connected with the June 12 presidential vote. A council spokesman, for example, admitted that the number of votes cast in 50 cities throughout the country exceeded the number of registered voters in those locations. The Guardian Council indicated that there may be as many as 3 million suspect ballots, but stressed the suspected cases of fraud were not such that it could have influenced the outcome of the vote. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Ayatollah Khamenei has repeatedly characterized the election as a “divine assessment” of Ahmadinejad’s popularity.

An election analysis released by the London-based Chatham House appeared to confirm that the official results, in which Ahmadinejad was said to have won with nearly two-thirds of the vote, could only have been achieved with massive vote-rigging. The report was based on voting patterns from previous national elections, and on a 2006 census.

“In a third of all provinces, the official results would require that Ahmadinejad took not only all former conservative voters, all centrist voters and all new voters, but also up to 44% of former reformist voters, despite a decade of conflict between these two groups,” said the report, which was prepared with the help of the Institute of Iranian Studies at the University of St. Andrews. The report also used statistical arguments to dispute the notion that Ahmadinejad was popular in rural areas of Iran. “That the countryside always votes conservative is a myth,” the report said.

11-27

Study: Iran Vote Suspect

AFP

A new analysis of voting figures in Iran’s disputed presidential election published Sunday found “irregularities” in the turnout and “highly implausible” swings to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Independent British think tank Chatham House found that in two conservative provinces, Mazandaran and Yazd, the turnout was more than 100 percent a trend that it said was “problematic,” although admittedly not unprecedented in Iran.

The analysis of Interior Ministry figures also found that overall, there was a 50.9 percent swing to Mr. Ahmadinejad, with official results suggesting that he won the support of 47.5 percent of those who had backed reformist candidates in the2005 election.

“This, more than any other result, is highly implausible and has been the subject of much debate in Iran,” the study said.

Mr. Ahmadinejad was re-elected in the June 12election, but his main challenger, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, complained of irregularities, and thousands of his supporters have taken to the streets demanding a recount.

The analysis edited by professor Ali Ansari, director of the Institute of Iranian Studies at the University of St. Andrews challenges the suggestion that Mr. Ahmadinejad’s victory was due to the massive participation of a previously silent conservative majority.

It says his support in the countryside has been overstated, and the scale of his win in many areas would have required a massive and “highly unlikely” defection by voters who backed reformists in 2005.

The president received about 13 million more votes in this year’s election than the combined conservative vote in 2005, according to official data.

In 10 of the 30 provinces, Mr. Ahmadinejad would have had to win over all new voters, all former centrist voters and up to 44 percent of former reformist voters to reach the totals recorded by the Iranian authorities, the analysis said.

In many of these provinces, reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi did well in 2005, but the official results suggest that this year, his supporters did not back the main reformist challenger, Mr. Mousavi, but hard-line conservative Mr. Ahmadinejad instead.

“To many reformists, this situation is extremely unlikely,” the report said, noting that Mr. Karroubi is “of polar opposite views to Ahmadinejad on issues of political and cultural freedoms, economic management and foreign policy.”

Likewise, the analysis noted that Mr. Karroubi commanded strong support in rural areas in 2005 over Mr. Ahmadinejad; yet this year’s figures show strong support in the countryside for the incumbent.

Mr. Karroubi’s vote appeared to have collapsed entirely this year, even in his home province of Lorestan, where his share of the vote went from 55.5 percent in 2005 to just 4.6 percent in 2009.

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s supporters explain the trend by claiming that Mr. Karroubi and Mr. Ahmadinejad have a similar appeal as “men of the people [Note] which explains the trend [/NOTE] ,” Chatham House noted.

11-27

Turkey FM Urges Iranians to Accept Election

Hurriyet

hurriyet
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet DavutoÄŸlu

ANKARA – Breaking a week’s silence on the deadly rift in Iran following the recent controversial events, Turkey has contradicted the Western position and advised Iranian people not to overshadow “the dynamic and well-attended” political elections.

FM urges Iranians to accept election “We believe that the problems in Iran will be solved via its inner mechanisms, with the best possible result. In this context, we truly hope that the dynamic and well-attended political election will not be shadowed by the recent developments, and we send our best regards to the people of Iran with the strong conviction that they will reach the best conclusion in a short time,” Foreign Minister Ahmet DavutoÄŸlu told reporters Monday during a meeting with visiting United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdallah bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan.  

Turkey has become one of the first countries to congratulate President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory in the general elections, where he defeated reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, without considering the opposition’s assertions of fraud in the vote counting. It has been tight-lipped since the beginning of the demonstrations in Iran, where at least 10 protesters have died. Davutoğlu, known as a Middle East expert, in his first statement late Sunday, said he discussed regional developments with his Azerbaijani counterpart at a surprise meeting in Istanbul.

“Iran is of utmost importance to us. It is one of our most important neighbors with which we share common history. We believe that Iran will solve its problems within itself in the framework of healthy consultation and one-on-one negotiations. Iran’s stability is vital for the entire region’s stability. Turkey will respect all decisions made in this respect,” he said.

Davutoğlu did not touch on the fact that the police were using disproportionate force against protesters and the rights of assembly and to demonstrate were disregarded by Ahmadinejad’s regime. The foreign minister’s statement reveals that Turkey’s sole interest is in maintaining regional stability through favoring the status quo in Iran, according to diplomatic sources. For many, Turkey’s current foreign policy does not prefer a change of regime in Iran for strategic purposes.

According to Semih İdiz, a columnist for daily Milliyet, President Abdullah Gül’s “reflexive” congratulation call to Ahmadinejad just after the elections has raised many questions.

“Those who are skeptics are not only the Westerners. The diplomats of countries who are closely observing the recent developments with concern, like Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Egypt, are also curious about the same things,” he wrote in his column on Monday.

Grasping developments

“By this approach Turkey has been doomed to a position where it hasn’t been able to grasp the recent developments in Iran. Our ignorance of this neighboring country is clearly seen when we observe the fact that most of our people choose to state the most common and simple argument, yet once again, that suggests that the United States and EU are involved in the recent developments in Iran.”

11-27

Iran’s Cyber Battle

By Noah Shachtman, Wired

2009-06-15T185045Z_01_TEH202_RTRMDNP_3_IRAN-ELECTION More and more of Iran’s pro-government websites are under assault, as opposition forces launch web attacks on the Tehran regime’s online propaganda arms.

What started out as an attempt to overload a small set of official sites has now expanded, network security consultant Dancho Danchev notes. News outlets like Raja News are being attacked, too. The semi-official Fars News site is currently unavailable.

“We turned our collective power and outrage into a serious weapon that we could use at our will, without ever having to feel the consequences. We practiced distributed, citizen-based warfare,” writes Matthew Burton, a former U.S. intelligence analyst who joined in the online assaults, thanks to a “push-button tool that would, upon your click, immediately start bombarding 10 Web sites with requests.”

But the tactic of launching these distributed denial of service, or DDOS, attacks remains hugely controversial. The author of one-web based tool, “Page Rebooter,” used by opposition supporters to send massive amounts of traffic to Iranian government sites, temporarily shut the service down, citing his discomfort with using the tool “to attack other websites.” Then, a few hours later, he turned on the service again, after his employers agreed to cover the costs of the additional traffic. WhereIsMyVote.info is opening up 16 Page Reboot windows simultaneously, to flood an array of government pages at once.

Other online supporters of the so-called “Green Revolution” worry about the ethics of a democracy-promotion movement inhibitting their foes’ free speech. A third group is concerned that the DDOS strikes could eat up the limited amount of bandwidth available inside Iran — bandwidth being used by the opposition to spread its message by Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. “Quit with the DDOS attacks — they’re just slowing down Iranian traffic and making it more difficult for the protesters to Tweet,” says one online activist.

But Burton — who helped bring Web 2.0 tools to the American spy community — isn’t so sure. “Giving a citizenry the ability to turn the tables on its own government is, I think, what governance is all about. The public’s ability to strike back is something that every government should be reminded of from time to time.” Yet he admits to feeling “conflicted.” about participating in the strikes, he suddenly stopped. “I don’t know why, but it just felt…creepy. I was frightened by how easy it was to sow chaos from afar, safe and sound in my apartment, where I would never have to experience–or even know–the results of my actions.”

Meanwhile, San Francisco technologist Austin Heap has put together a set of instructions on how to set up “proxies”—intermediary internet protocol (IP) address—that allow activists to get through the government firewall. And the Networked Culture blog has assembled for pro-democracy sympathizers a “cyberwar guide for beginners.” Stop publicizing these proxies over Twitter, the site recommends. Instead, send direct messages to “@stopAhmadi or @iran09 and they will distributed them discretely [sic] to bloggers in Iran.”

11-26

“Where’s My Vote?”

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

“The tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

–Thomas Jefferson

2009-06-15T113648Z_01_BAZ09_RTRMDNP_3_MALAYSIA-IRAN-PROTEST

An Iranian demonstrator shows a placard against Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a demonstration outside the United Nations office in Kuala Lumpur June 15, 2009. Malaysian police used teargas to break up a crowd of around 500 Iranians demonstrating outside the United Nations mission against Iran’s contested presidential election, a Reuters photographer said.

REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad

United by the common rallying cry composed of a mere three words,  “Where’s my vote?”, enraged Iranian protestors hit the streets this past Saturday in a show of defiance against the reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  They numbered in the millions as they filled the streets to march against perceived election fraud.  The popular candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, was seemingly robbed of certain victory as he received overwhelming support during his candidacy.  Over the course of less than a week protestors have clashed with security personnel and pro-Ahmadinejad supporters on a daily basis.  The result has been several horrendous and often vicious encounters that have played out on live TV and social networking sites on the Internet.  Many protestors have been beaten to a bloody pulp and some have lost their lives in this unwinnable battle of hearts and minds. Iranian security forces show no mercy as they beat anyone, including women, with their batons. There have also been several recent reports of protestors being shot at with live ammunition, with at least seven protestors having been shot to death.

One would expect the commander in chief of any nation to calm the storm until cooler heads prevailed. Not Ahmadinejad, who is relentlessly holding on to his stifling reign of dictatorship. Instead of rising above the controversy, he is stirring the pot to keep the tensions at a fever pitch. Perhaps his strategy is to keep his detractors busy so that no one can challenge his win or recount the ballots.  Why else would he clamp down so hard on media reports in Iran? Some journalists have been arrested while others have been forbidden from filming the bloody protests, Iranian reformists have been detained and telecommunications have been blocked.

But somehow, some way, the information keeps flowing.  The battle has moved into cyberspace where it began and has taken on a life of its own to tell the world about the injustice being meted out to an innocent populous. Once again social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have been fundamental in uniting pro-Mousavi Iranians into a central force as well as harnessing global condemnation regarding the brutality in which demonstrators have been dealt with.  Not since President Obama’s candidacy for the White House has there been such a political revolution been played out in cyberspace.  In this case, American-operated websites have been vital in keeping the stream of information running. Twitter cancelled a scheduled site maintenance and rescheduled it to coincide with the Iranian time zone, which came at the request of no other than President Obama. YouTube has also been a willingly ally and has kept video footage of demonstrations up on its website. Normally, YouTube’s policy is to remove violent videos, but plans to leave the Iranian protest videos up for their “documentary” value.

As of press time, it seems that a minuscule wind of hope is beginning to blow into the Iranian capital of Tehran. The Ayatollah Khameni has promised a partial recount of the votes in question under the auspices of representatives of both parties. Meanwhile, the fight goes on in the Iranian streets with both sides refusing to coalesce. Rallies for both sides were held on Tuesday. Touting a ban on public gatherings, opposition leaders have scheduled even more rallies in the coming days.

11-26

High times in Kabul

By Colin Freeze

2009-06-16T030937Z_01_KAB12_RTRMDNP_3_AFGHANISTAN-DRUGS

Afghan farmer looks at anti-narcotics poster in Talbozag village June 14, 2009.

REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Kabul — Sayyed Mohammed, 28, has hollow eyes, a fist full of coins, and a $4-a-day heroin habit.

“I’m addicted,” he tells me in an open air drug market in Kabul, both of us ankle-deep in rubble and ruin.

“I was treated two times in Pakistan, but for one month, I’ve been readdicted.”

Part of the reason he’s back on drugs, he says, is because they are so cheap. “Each dosage costs 100 Afgani,” he explained – the equivalent of $2.

In Afghanistan, opium, and its derivative, heroin, have long tended to be seen as export commodities. Addiction? Largely a foreign problem.

But the nation is slowly realizing the chickens have come home to roost. In rural regions such as Kandahar, the complaints centre on insurgents taxing the opium crops, funding insurgency to the tune of tens of millions of dollars a year.

In urban areas such as Kabul, where the Taliban and poppies are less visible, the complaints centre on the corrupting power of drug money, evidenced in the “poppy palaces” that have popped up around town.

Families speak of young men who are getting high instead of getting jobs.

Ground zero for this is Kabul’s Russian Cultural Centre, a sprawling complex shelled heavily during the civil wars of the 1990s. Faded murals still show industrious workers cast in the Soviet Realist mould, but today’s denizens have succumbed to a culture of hopelessness and despair.

Dozens of addicts call the centre home, including Mr. Mohammed, who was reflective before he wandered off to exchange his coins for more drugs.

“Heroin has given a bad name to Afghanistan,” he said. He added he was more concerned about teenagers than himself. “The problem is that they are jobless,” he said. “I tell them, ‘It is not going to reduce your problems, it is going to add to your problems.’ ”

Afghanistan grows more opium than the world can use, forcing rivals such as Myanmar and Laos have cut back because their poppies can no longer compete.

“For a number of years now, Afghan opium production has exceeded [world] demand,” wrote the United Nation’s office on drugs and crime last year.

“The bottom should have fallen out of the opium market,” it said. “It has not.”

Prices, however, have fallen somewhat, and this may also have helped spread addiction in Afghanistan “It’s an increasing problem, day by day,” said Jamal Nazir, a social worker at a Kabul rehab clinic.

Many of his patients arrive from the Russian Cultural Centre, he said, including teenagers. “I have special sympathies because they are the energy of Afghanistan.”

Families shuffled in and out of the rehab centre before Friday prayers. The visitors came from every strata, from poor farmers to the local gentry.

“My wife’s brother, he is addicted,” said Dr. Shah Mahmoud. “Our youths go out of Afghanistan, for work to Iran or neighboring countries, and get addicted.”
He complained of “high authorities,” getting involved in the drug trade and with mafia groups.

Afghanistan’s culture of impunity has to end, he said.

“We blame the government for this problem,” he said. “The government should arrest and hand over to the law those people who are involved in this criminal business.”

11-26

In Iran Election, Tradition Competes With Web

By Thomas Erdbrink, Washington Post Foreign Service

2009-06-09T155641Z_01_AJS09_RTRMDNP_3_IRAN-ELECTION

A supporter of Iran’s presidential election candidate Mirhossein Mousavi, with her hair braided with green ribbons, attends a campaign rally in Tehran June 9, 2009. Green is the campaign colour of Mousavi.

REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

TEHRAN, June 8 — Supporters of both leading candidates in this week’s Iranian presidential election flocked to mass rallies here Monday, and the gatherings underscored the differences between the tactics of the two camps.

More than 100,000 backers of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gathered in traditional fashion at a central mosque, arriving in buses organized by members of the baseej, Iran’s voluntary paramilitary force. The crowds were so dense that Ahmadinejad’s vehicle was unable to reach the stage.

Wearing a headband in the colors of the Iranian flag, the symbol of Ahmadinejad’s campaign, Leili Aghahi, 17, waved at the president. Ahmadinejad stood for a while on the roof of his sport-utility vehicle, immobilized by the adoring crowd, then left without giving a speech.

2009-06-09T154316Z_01_AJS04_RTRMDNP_3_IRAN-ELECTION “Our supporters like to be close to the president,” said Javad Shamaqdari, a presidential adviser on the arts who is also the director of Ahmadinejad’s campaign movies. “The Grand Mosque is a good, central meeting place for us,” he added.

Supporters of Ahmadinejad’s main challenger, former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, had to be more inventive to find a place for their rally. Over the weekend, a government organization refused permission for his campaign to use Tehran’s 120,000-seat Azadi Stadium for a rally originally planned for Sunday. But in less than 24 hours, using text messages and Facebook postings, thousands of Mousavi backers gathered along Vali-e Asr Avenue, Tehran’s 12-mile-long arterial road.

Many brought green ropes or strings, which they tied together to form a giant chain in Mousavi’s signature color. Groups wearing green head scarves or green T-shirts arrived from schools and universities. “This way, down here,” student organizer Mohsen Ghadiri, 19, called to about 40 students from the prestigious Elm-o-Sanat University, as they looked for empty spaces in the long line of people.

“Thanks to Internet and text messages, we can rally big crowds in a very short time,” noted Ghadiri, who wore a green shirt emblazoned with Mousavi’s portrait.
Shamaqdari, Ahmadinejad’s adviser, called Mousavi’s campaign tactics a form of “psychological warfare” copied from the “color revolutions” that swept away governments in Georgia and Ukraine.

“They place groups of 100 people wearing colors at several locations in Tehran. This disrupts traffic, making people think that something big is happening,” he said. “These are all the methods of a velvet revolution, but this one is only meant to get them votes.”

Reza Badamchi, manager of a pro-Mousavi Web site, disagreed. “If there are any similarities between our campaign and a velvet revolution, this is purely accidental. We don’t want a revolution. We want Mousavi to win,” he said.

Badamchi’s site, called Sepidedam.com, broadcasts speeches by Mousavi, who has repeatedly complained that state television favors Ahmadinejad. “So we still get our message out through the Web. And the best part is, it’s for free,” Badamchi said, adding that “these are the most digital and virtual elections ever” in Iran.

Shamaqdari portrayed Mousavi’s supporters as geeks who spend too much time at their computers.

“Even though it is bad for their mental health, Mousavi’s supporters spend hours on the Internet,” he said. “Our youths are more social. They like to hang out at baseej centers, on the streets or play sports. They like to meet in groups. Mousavi’s supporters are more solitary.”

11-25

Roxana Saberi’s Release Bodes Well for U.S.-Iran Relations

By William O. Beeman, New America Media

2009-05-12T113428Z_01_TEH102_RTRMDNP_3_IRAN-USA-JOURNALIST Roxana Saberi, the 32-year-old Iranian-American journalist convicted of espionage in Iran has been released to her family, and will soon return to the United States.

While her international community of family, colleagues and friends can rejoice in her release, it was predictable from the moment of her arrest, based on the history of such events in Iran in the past.

Although no one will know for sure exactly how events proceeded against her, it is possible to speculate how Saberi’s arraignment and trial developed.

The espionage charges against Saberi were utterly unfounded. They were likely the result of an escalation within the Iranian judicial system as official after official tried to cover their tracks for a series of abortive attempts to charge her with a crime.

She was first detained for the relatively minor offense of having purchased a bottle of wine. Since religious minorities in Iran are allowed to manufacture, sell and consume alcohol, the country is awash in liquor. It is easily obtainable by everyone—even government officials. Most likely the arresting official did not know that Saberi was an American passport holder born in the United States, and was probably chagrined to discover that this case was likely to create international brouhaha.

A more serious charge was then sought to justify the first arrest. The discovery that her press credentials had expired some months earlier provided that opportunity. Saberi had continued to file stories for a number of American news outlets, reportedly because officials assured her that the expiration of her press pass was inconsequential. Since she could demonstrate that Iranian officials had allowed her to continue writing, this charge would also not hold water.

Finally, the serious charge of espionage was lodged. As foolish and unsubstantiated as this charge was, it was plausible in Iran. Rumors that American CIA operatives were active in Iran were widely promulgated in Iran. These suspicions were reinforced through extensive documentation found in New York Times reporter James Risen’s 2006 book “State of War.” Additionally, on April 4, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz confirmed an earlier rumor that an Iranian nuclear scientist had been assassinated by the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, inside Iran.

Iran experienced one horrendous situation involving a foreigner arrested for spying in Iran in 2003. Canadian-Iranian Zahra Kazemi was raped, beaten and tortured to death (although Iranian authorities claimed she died of a stroke) for allegedly having photographed prohibited parts of Evin Prison, where she was later incarcerated. Her death caused an international uproar. The Iranian government, clearly badly burned by the Kazemi case has since been careful to make sure that her situation is not repeated.

Foreigners — dual nationals — accused of espionage have been held for a time, usually in conspicuously humane circumstances, while the government wrings as much publicity out of the event as possible for a domestic and regional audience. The accused prisoners are then released in a show of clemency.

This was the case with Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. Ms. Efandiari was visiting her 90-year-old mother in 2006 when she was arrested. It is likely that her connection to Lee Hamilton, director of the Wilson Center, made her an object of suspicion. Hamilton had long connections to the CIA and to groups promoting democratic revolutions in places like Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

Kian Tajbakhsh was arrested at about the same time on the same charges. Tajbakhsh worked for George Soros’ Open Society Institute. Soros had also been active in the same “revolutions” in the region.

Both Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh were held under relatively humane circumstances and released some months later.

The Iranian presidential election next month was also a likely reason for a quick dispensation of Saberi’s case. Iran would like the world to focus on the election, and not on an ongoing saga of an international journalist in their prison system.

In the Saberi case, Iran actually did itself some good. It showed that it had a functioning judicial system—however imperfect—with an appeals process that eventually yielded the correct result.

The Obama administration, by engaging in diplomacy and sober statements of concern regarding Saberi, not only aided the process of her release, but likely set the stage for further improved relations between the United States and Iran. We now have a situation where Iran undertook an action of which the United States disapproved. The United States expressed itself in a non-hostile manner, and the Iranian government responded with a positive redress of that action. This bodes well for future U.S.-Iranian relations. It is only regrettable that this had to come at the price of Saberi’s unjust incarceration.

William O. Beeman is professor and chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota. He is past president of the Middle East section of the American Anthropological Association. He has lived and worked in Iran for more than 30 years. His most recent book is The “’Great Satan’ vs. the ‘Mad Mullahs’: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other” (University of Chicago Press, 2008).