I was attending a web chat with Ambassador James F. Jeffrey regarding the US policy toward Iran; sadly there were not many people from Iran. I strongly recommend reading the content of these links before going on.
It is obvious that Iran and the US are standing face to face because of different interests they have in the region, which includes, but is not limited to, making nuclear bombs, their policy toward Israel and interference in Iraq. Now what will be the policy of the US toward Iran?
It looks like the US is not considering a complete war with Iran in its options.
It also looks like the pressure from the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq on the Iran's government has led to more power for anti-American political forces in Iran.
So, now I think the remaining options are:
The second option is also already tried. You may have read about the news of the bombing in Khuzestan, and the riots for a cartoon in Azerbaijan. The regime shows a high degree of capability and power for dealing with such matters, so I think this option is also off the table.
The third option (using special-force operations in different parts of Iran for destroying various facilities) is nearly impossible. As you might remember, the first of such operations by delta forces to rescue the American hostages failed in Tabas. I don't think that the US politicians take the risks again. Aerial bombing using stealth fighter bombers may look like a good idea, but since most of Iran's strategic nuclear and military facilities are about a kilometer deep under mountains, it is totally useless and this would most likely destroy the economical infrastructure supporting the country instead. I guess Iran's obvious reaction will be to increase the number of attacks toward American forces in the region and to stage dealier attacks against Israel. This will be even more effective now, after the latest Arab-Israeli conflict. It could be even deadlier in terms of the number of civilian casualties. I am sure that American politicians will avoid such a conflict in favor of Israel.
I think the fourth option is becoming impossible more and more. In the first days after revolution the US was full of Iranian opposition members, and under their influence the US politicians underestimated the number of people who are in favor of the current government because of their religious background. Years of armed fighting by the Mojahedin, Toodeh and other political parties and the Noje coup d'état has shown that this government cannot be changed that easily!
I think now Americans need a new innovative idea, not yet used in their history. The increase in the budget toward Iran indicates they have come up with one, but what is it? Is it some thing bloodier than the above solution?
I hope that the new solution is spending that money on educating the next generation of Iranian politicians about realities in the new world.
On November 14, Mostafa Tabatabainejad, an Iranian-American student at UCLA was asked to leave the library when he failed to produce an ID in a random check after 11 pm. When he was slowly leaving, he was tasered by the police several times, with no good reason, according to eyewitness accounts. The incident was captured on a cellphone video and the shocking video is available on YouTube. It is torturing and gut-wrenching to watch these seven minutes and one is simply obliged to take action one way or another to help bring justice for Mostafa. The UCLA students staged a protest shortly afterwards, which forced the authorities to launch a serious investigation into the incident. The major media outlets ran the story. MSNBC broadcast the video and talked to Mostafa's attorney who is going to press federal civil rights charges against the police.
Surely, this incident calls for a thorough investigation to determine whether this was an abuse of power on the part of the police, and if it was how to stop such incidents happening again. The LAPD's record is not clean, and even if it was the citizens of a democracy should never take the proper use of power for granted. Fortunately the current technology (camera cellphones, internet and the two-billion-dollor YouTube) has made it possible for such news to be readily available to everyone almost instantly. There are even video commentaries by individuals calling for action. This is all good news on the balance side of the original awful news. And we should continue our vigilance.
In the mean time, I would like to call your attention to this point: even in a democracy, incidents like this happen. However, their happening does not reduce the moral standing of a free society, where these are exceptions to the rule, before a fear society, where they are the rule. The main difference is that in a free society like America's, citizens have the power and indeed the recognized right to follow up on these incidents peacefully. They can be reasonably hopeful to find a more just situation by addressing this and similar incidents when they arise.
In a fear society like Iran's today, there is no such hope. Indeed, the system is such that the news of such incidents get out only as the result of the rather heroic efforts of those who put their lives and livelihoods in danger. So, when a friend of mine who commendably reported the UCLA tasering incident was reminded (in Farsi) of the beating of students at one of Tehran's universities by government-backed armed vigilantes, I could only take it that he was mixing things up. Such mistakes will eventually cost us the better future we all hope to find in our homeland.
As it happens, when I decided to write this piece, I did a regular google search for the UCLA student's name in Farsi to see what Iranians are saying about him. Among the search results I found this: Tohid Ghaffarzadeh, a student at the Free University of Sabzevar, was stabbed to death by a Basij member (in Farsi) on November 13, a day before Mostafa was tasered by UCPD. The reason: Tohid was talking to his fiancée (or girlfirend, who knows?) in front of the University entrance, and the vigilante Basij member found that against "his religious beliefs" and acted "upon his religious duty," according to the University's security chief. There was no news of the killing until yesterday, five days after the indicent, and then only on a web site that is filtered by the government inside Iran. Instead, the national state TV is running the news of the UCLA tasering for its propaganda value over and over again.
So, let's all do our best to bring justice for Mostafa, but at least for justice's sake, let's not in the process of doing so forget Tohid's funeral.
Recently, I read a book titled "The Confederation" which has a very interesting historical review of The Confederation of Iranian Students, National Union from late 1950s till late 1970s, the last years of its activity. Confederation was a very strong anti-shah student organization which played an important role among the oppositions of the Shah's regime. What strikes me about this organization and its several tousands members, all Iranian students living outside Iran, is how much active they were at those times when the only tools of communication were expensive phone conversations. For more than 20 years, Confederation had regular annual gatherings where they were attended by student representatives from all around the world. They were responsible for many anti-Shah demonstrations in Europe and North America which had a great impact on raising international pressure on Shah.
While reading the book, I kept comparing those times with the recent years. Despite the significant increase in the number of Iranian students outside Iran, there is not much political activism one can see, if any. You rarely see students signing an online petition and almost never, you can find them organizing a demonstration. Probably, the only political student organization outside Iran which still exists is the Union of Islamic Students’ Associations in Europe which has some kind of affiliation with the Iranian government. There may be several other groups using the label of Iranian students but they can hardly represent even a small group of Iranian students.
I know, it's been almost 30 years and the world has changed a lot. We, too.
When he had not yet officially taken office, the sheer thought of him being the president caused the markets to collapse. I thought it would all be temporary and the country would soon go about its usual business, because after all, he might be the president but he will have to leave the day to day affairs to the people who know, more or less, what they are doing.
When he claimed he was surrounded by a glow of light during his UN speech last November, I simply thought he is just a delusional man who is, in a rather twisted way, obsessed with the idea of being among "the chosen ones".
When he called for Israel to be wiped off the map, I thought he was a tiny man trying to please his islamic vigilante audience; someone who has forgotten that he now represents a country, and not his neighborhood's company of Baseejis. The world took it very seriously, but I thought there is no reason to be alarmed, as he could not even manage to move an exhibition complex out of Tehran, let alone a country out of the Middle East.
Then, he started with his election-time gestures, maneuvers, and publicity stunts, disregarding and bypassing the institutions and the beaurocracy that he himself is the head of, making everyone wonder if he actually realizes that the election is long over, and that he indeed is the president. He continued with his ridiculous trips to the provinces, and holding cabinet meetings in different provinces, as he had promised, spending God knows how much money on the trips, and collecting what is now claimed by the state radio as close to 3 million letters of request from people. When Saeedi, his "executive deputy", who is also in charge of dealing with these letters was asked about the costs of the trips, he said we only eat bread and cheese, and the president himself most often does not even eat that. "So what?" I said. "Populism works for them, and they are simply taking advantage of it. Millions of dollars have been being plundered each year during the past three decades. A few more wasted on these populist shows won't make much of a difference."
Then, he decided to play "chicken" with the EU and the UN security council, and poke fingers into the eyes of pretty much everyone on the planet whom he sees as infidels, ironically except for Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. Threat of sanctions and military action started hovering over our heads. I started getting a little nervous about the prospects of having to relive the experiences of 1980's, when I was a child, this time, however, as an adult. Thanks to George Bush's insane way of handling the affairs in Iraq, and North Korea's just-in-time adventurism, Iran went off radar screens every time it got close to a serious showdown.
Right before Nowruz (the Iranian new year holiday), he decided that the idea of daylight-saving time is a nonesense and that "there is no evidence that it actually helps reduce electricity consumption." "It just causes inconvenience for people's noon-time prayer," his spokesman said. But as usual, I brushed it off as yet another one of those things the people will have to cope with when they elect someone like him. "It would cost the people a lot of money but I suppose it won't kill anyone," so I thought.
Then he decided to write to George Bush, and then Angela Merkel, and then Jacque Chirac. I thought that he made a complete fool out of himself and that we were once again the laughingstock of the World, but then again, weren't we already? So I actually did not worry about it and even hoped that in their twisted idiotic ways, "The Luminescent Man" and the other not so bright politicians in the world would indulge in what one might call a harmless ranting in writing, if not "dialog among the civilizations".
Then, when the political atmosphere was anything but tense, and for no apparent reason even by Islamic Republic's standards, he started attacking peaceful gatherings and arresting people. First, it was the women's gathering near the city's theatre complex. Then, it was Ramin Jahanbegloo, a philosopher who was very careful not to step on anyone's toes or cross anyone's "read lines". Then it was another women's gathering along with the arrest of a former parliament member. Then his police force started raiding homes again, to bring down people's satellite dishes. Then, an executive order was issued to stop providing high-speed Internet services to people, putting a 128Kbps cap on the bandwidth. During all that, I said to myself: "well, it's only natural for him to do so. He is an extrimist fundamentalist. What did people expect when they voted for him, Roosevelt?"
During all that, and much more, I was silent, or in denial, depending on how one looks at it. Not that I usually would, or can, do much, but I did not even write about it on FToI. It was, for lack of a better word, insipid to complain about something so obvious. To me it was all clear. He is a guy who took office, partly through coercion and vote-rigging, and partly, and a great part I might say, through the votes of simple-minded uninformed people. "They asked for it. And as for you, well, I suppose it is time for you to cut your losses and leave Iran like almost everyone else you know," I said to myself.
Recently however, The Luminescent Man's actions and words have become very alarming. Not that they have necessarily become any more idiotic or more irresponsible than, for instance, the "wipe off the map" speech, but his latest comments concern matters that are prefectly within his realm of control as the president, as opposed to his delusional babblings about the world affairs. A few weeks ago, he suggested to dissolve the "planning and management organisation", a place where all key and strategic policies ought to be conceived, assessed, and planned, not to mention laying out the country's annual budget. By doing this, he is practically dismantling the final remaining institutional elements that stop him from running the country like a grocery shop in a small village. Not stopping there, he suggested that the "no more than two children" policy enforced with so much difficulty by previous administrations was a nonsense, that it is "yet another one of those vices of the West induced upon us, because they are so much affraid of the idea of us outnumbering them." He said: "we have the capacity for a population of 120 million people." He suggested that working women should be persuaded to stay home by getting a full pay but having to work a lesser number of hours depending on how many children they have!
Last Tuesday was the Fitr holiday, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadhan. The government, at the very final hours declared both the following Wednesday and Thursday as national holidays bringing the country to a four day long halt. Some people say he is planning to abolish the Nowruz holidays and replace them with a four day holiday at the end of Ramadhan like many Arab countries. I would say we would be giving him too much credit by assuming that. This deranged man is out to ruin this country, not by any calculation but by sheer madness, which makes him even more dangerous. The world has every right to be affraid of him, and I am now just as affraid of what he will do, to me, to my family, and to my country. I have to agree with Saeed Hajjarian this time, that the abolishment of this government is an immediate necessity.
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
- Martin Niemöller