Iran – Reform Resuscitated?

In an article titled, “Iran Cleric Defy Election Ruling” the BBC reports, “In a statement to the press, the Assembly of Qom Seminary Scholars and Researchers said some members of the Guardian Council had “lost their impartial image in the eyes of the public.”

How can one accept the legitimacy of the election just because the Guardian Council says so? Can one say that the government born out of the infringements is a legitimate one,” it said.”

It goes on to say, “On Saturday, Mr Rafsanjani – an influential figure in Iranian politics and a prominent backer of Mr Mousavi during the election – met with the families of some of those who have been detained.

It was the first time he had spoken publicly since the election. He told the families that nobody with a “vigilant conscience” could be satisfied with the current situation.

“I hope with good management and wisdom the issues would be settled in the next days and the situation could improve … We should think about protecting the system’s long-term interests,” Mr Rafsanjani said.

A BBC correspondent said that Mr Rafsanjani appeared to be hinting that a process was going on behind the scenes, which might resolve the current crisis.”

While it remains incredibly hard to imagine the authoritarian regime buckling under pressure but it is truly unparalleled times in the life of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Never have there been open rifts within the clergy and never has the authority of the Supreme Leader been questioned by the clerics themselves as now.

May be a power-sharing arrangement is still possible? Or at least some reforms announced by the current regime itself to lighten up on social restrictions? May be the death of the 20 people (reported) will not be in vain?

What are your thoughts?

Iran – what next?

The standoff in Iran between the military-theocratic regime of Ahmadenijad-Khamanei and the opposition parties led by Mir Hussein Mussavi has entered a tense phase. Having so clearly defined their positions and by putting so much at stake neither party can back down easily.

Major Newspapers are writing that predicting how the stand-off is  going to end is not easy.  New York Times has an article, “As Confrontation Deepens, Iran’s Path is Unclear.” The BBC has an article titled, “Titanic clash for Iran’s future,” which ends thus, “They may be arguing over a disputed election. But they are really arguing over the future of the country. A momentous, titanic struggle, whose outcome no-one can predict.”

The common wisdom goes that the ones who have the military and the supreme leader on their side are infallible. However, make no mistake, the hundreds of thousands who are turning out daily to protest for the opposition is not the only reason the opposition is so emboldened this time.

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Iranian Election

We in the West were fed an image of Iran as a country full of Islamic zealots and a compliant and mind-washed citizenry. A country where there was not a cry for democracy but a whimper — people were too afraid to criticize the mullahs and the right wing politicians in bed with them.  I offer a recent article, The Magic Mountain, by Roger Cohen of his conversations with Iranian youth in the New York Times as testimony. Mr. Cohen, despite being one of the most incisive journalists and a great sympathizer of the democratic movement in Iran, could hear democratic voices only in whispers.

The reaction of the Iranian citizenry to the fraud perpetrated on them blows away that myth. The young and the old alike seem to be craving for democracy, lifting of the Islamic seize, freedom of speech and connection with the rest of the world.

Some interesting facts about the current elections:

All the ballots were cast by hand, i.e. were not computerized. In all a record 40 million people (80% of the electorate) voted. Elections closed Friday evening and given the gargantuan task at hand — of counting 40 million ballots manually — it was projected that the earliest indicators available will be by Saturday evening.

However, as early as Saturday morning Ahmadinejad was announced a winner. That was the first unbelievable part of the unfolding story.

Equally unbelievable, if not worse, was the margin. Supposedly, Ahmadinejad won 62.6% and Mousavi 34%. This made Ahmadinejad’s margin greater, much greater, than the first time he won beating Rafsanjani! The reasons that is so hard to believe are obviously the fury that is there for all to witness on Tehran’s streets and all the commentary pointed to the fact that the turnout was so high due to a lot of 1st time voters coming out to vote for Mousavi.  I encourage you to visit the BBC page “Iran poll results: Your Comments.” You will read comments from a lot of Iranians who are providing the inside story.

In addition to the electoral sham, the Internet connection and cell phone service has been switched off.  Text messaging was shut down during the campaign itself since Mousavi was using text messages to arrange campaign rallies and getting his message out. And lest you think these outlandish excesses of power take place only during election times, I heard an Iranian on a show on National Public Radio mentioning that no purchases over the Internet are allowed from outside of Iran — even an Amazon.com book cannot be purchased from Iran. Of course, facebook, twitter etc. are filtered.

Despite these gross violations of people’s right, I am sure Ahmadenijad will have the gall to stand on US soil when next addressing the UN general assembly and criticize American democracy and extol his implementation of Iranian government.

One of the comments at the BBC page is rather despondent. It is written by one Milad from Mashhad, Iran, “Today I learned that the worst thing in life is to think that you have a chance while you don’t.”

While I fully understand Milad’s sentiment, I see things differently. I see that the generation born after the Iranian Revolution has not bought the lies and deceptions that the mullah regime has successfully imposed upon the pre-revolution citizens. As the current generation of mullahs and corrupt right wing politicians like Ahmadinejad gets old, I see a strong chance for true democracy in the Iran of the future.

The only possible solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict – Part III of III

We Need True Leadership

The hour is getting late and we are heading towards the precipice. Innocent people are dying in hordes as a result of twisted thinking being called sane policy. Generations will live with untold damages to their Psyche.

We need true leadership from Barack Obama, the next Israeli PM, Mahmoud Abbas, Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair and Putin. Why, Putin you may ask?

The Road to Middle East Peace goes through Moscow!

Last American administration’s insistence of not talking to Iran and Syria has only strengthened Moscow’s historical ties with Iran to a point where Kremlin alone has some sway on Tehran. In addition, the planned Missile Defense System in Poland has ensured that Moscow does not use its leverage on Iran for furthering US and hence Israel’s interest.

In a great article in NY Times titled “Let Russia Stop Iran” the authors Oded Eran, Giora Eiland and Emily Landau argue, in essence, that Obama should improve relations with Russia and ask in return for Russia to have Iran stop its Nuclear program.

I believe the following minimal steps need to be undertaken urgently:

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The only possible solution to the Israel-Palestine Conflict – Part II of III

The Current War – Hamas is to blame for triggering this conflict and Israel is to blame for triggering a war.

Hamas’ rocket attacks in violation of the peace deal are absolutely to blame for the start of the conflict, but we can always leave it to Israel to escalate it to a disproportionate level with, very importantly, rather murky objectives that, like I have argues in part 1, never really get fulfilled.

And lest anyone is thinking the war is only between Israel and Hamas they are sadly mistaken. For this war is not only between Israel and Hamas, it is a high stakes geo-political chess game being played by Iran, Hezbollah and Syria on one side – who use Hamas as a mere proxy — and Israel is doing the bidding of the out-going American administration along with, possibly, reacting to internal political dynamics.  An interesting article by William Kristol at New York Times website on why America needs Israel to fight. I find the probability of success of the approach postulated by Mr. Kristol – even if it were to succeed – to actually weaken Iran to be close to zero.

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The only possible solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict – Part I of III

Why violence is not the answer?

Because despite 60 years of violence the problem obviously still exists. Everytime Israel attacks or retaliates violently, the actions in the mid to long run result in emblodening the violent arm of the Pan-Palestine resistance even if the military objective is successful. Two examples , also referred to in an interesting  NY Times Article , from past history to back the assertion:

1. In 1982, Israel drove out Yasser Arafat and his PLO forces from South Lebanon. The military objective was achieved, its own Northern border was secured, Yasser Arafat came to the negotiating table but in the mean time Iran set up an even more potent and radical force on Israel’s Nothern border in the form of Hezbollah.

2. In 2006, Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and Israel retaliated with a war on Lebanon resulting in deaths of at least a thousand Lebanese (including Hezbollah fighters) but resulting in strengthening Hezbollah, Iran and Hamas to a point where Hezbollah has replaced a moderate US leaning party as the most powerful party in Lebanon.

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