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Entries in Germany (3)


The Latest from Iran (14 April): Ahmadinejad's Struggle

1720 GMT: Ahmadinjead Brings Culture to the World; Students Aren't Sure. The President's adivsor, Somreh Hashemin, has told university students that "world discourse" has changed because of Ahmadinejad's statements --- therefore it now has culture, science, and ethics.

Students at Allameh Tabatabei University may not have been convinced, however, as both reports and video indicate:


Iran’s Nukes: Can Tehran and the US Make A Deal?
The Latest from Iran (14 April): Ahmadinejad’s Struggle

1715 GMT: Out of Jail and On-Line. Former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, jailed for several months after the election and selected for a high-profile "confession" in August, has resumed blogging.

1710 GMT: Economy Watch. MP Alireza Mahjoub has predicted a continuation of the poor situation, with 40% inflation, poverty, and economic "suffocation".

1700 GMT: Absence or Protest? Khabar Online reports that one-third of MPs were missing from the Majlis today.

1555 GMT: The Corruption Case. MP Elyas Naderan, the leading Parliamentary critic of First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, has sarcastically thanked the Government for accusing him of making false charges. Naderan assured that he will continue to press the corruption case.

1545 GMT: The Row Over the 15 June Demonstration. Morteza Tamaddon, the Governor of Tehran Province, may have denied his reported statement that the large 15 June protests were authorised. Kalemeh, the website of Mir Hossein Mousavi, however, is persisting with the claim. The website documents Tamaddon's apparent approval of 15 June rally.

1525 GMT: The "Other" Khamenei. Continuing his show of support for reformist leaders, Seyed Hadi Khamenei, the brother of the Supreme Leader, has visited Mohsen Mirdamadi, the chairman of the Islamic Iran Participation Front. Mirdamadi is on temporary release from his prison sentence.

1510 GMT: But China Eases the Pressure? And while there is the ongoing public show over Beijing's will-it-won't-it join international sanctions, this news --- coming as other oil firms stop imports to Iran --- is striking:
State-run Chinaoil has sold two gasoline cargoes for April delivery to Iran, industry sources said on Wednesday, stepping into a void left by fuel suppliers halting shipments under threat of U.S. sanctions....

While others back out, Chinaoil has sold a total of about 600,000 barrels worth around $55 million to the Islamic Republic.

The cargoes were Chinaoil’s first direct sales to Iran since at least January 2009, according to Reuters data. Chinese firms have previously sold through intermediaries, traders said.

1445 GMT: Is Third-Party Enrichment Back On? Reading President Ahmadinejad's bluster in recent days, we asked (1040 GMT), "Is the President actually holding the door open for another push at a deal on uranium enrichment?"

Well, have a look at Iranian state media's presentation of the latest words from the head of Iran's atomic energy organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, in an interview with a Russian newspaper:
The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) says Tehran would accept a nuclear fuel swap, should the West manage to win back its trust.

The US-proposed UN-backed deal requires Iran to send most of its low-enriched uranium abroad for further processing and conversion into fuel rods for Tehran's research reactor....

Salehi said that Iran had agreed to the IAEA-backed proposal [for third once it was proffered but needed guarantees from the West that it would deliver the fuel in a timely manner — a demand shrugged off by the West.

"We did not refuse. We agreed at once and we agree now. The only problem is guarantees. They suggested that we hand over a thousand pounds of our 3.5% low-enriched uranium. And wait until the entire amount of uranium has been enriched to a level of 20%," he said. 'Suppose we have given all our uranium. But where is the assurance [that we receive the fuel in a timely manner]?"

1430 GMT: The German Squeeze. The German carmaker Daimler has announced that it will
almost entirely cease business
in Iran.

Daimler's chief executive Dieter Zetsche  told shareholders, The policies of the current Iranian leadership have compelled us to put our business relationship with that country on a new footing. In general, our business activities with Iran will now be limited to meeting our existing contractual obligations and continuing our cooperation with established customers."

Daimler will relinquish its 30 percent stake in Iranian Diesel Engine
Manufacturing, a subsidiary of Iranian Khodro Diesel.

The move is further testimony that behind the public rhetoric of leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for state-based sanctions on Iran, the real pressure is coming from the disinvestment of private companies. Daimler's move following the pullout from Iran of two of Germany's largest insurance companies.

1110 GMT: And, cutting through the Presidential rhetoric and posturing, we've posted an analysis by Julien Mercille on the possibility of a US-Iran deal on enriched uranium for Tehran's medical research reactor.

1040 GMT: Blowing Smoke. How many dramatic foreign policy pronouncements do we get to enjoy from President Ahmadinejad this week?

Following his assessment of foreign leaders as "retarded" and his letter to the United Nations implying that the US Government set up 9-11 for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the President has said that "[US President Barack] Obama cannot do anything in Palestine, they won't let him do anything and he has no chance" and there is no possibility of success in Iraq and Afghanistan: "What can he do in Iraq? Nothing. And Afghanistan is too complicated."

So Ahmadinejad concludes, "Mr. Obama has only one chance and that is Iran. This is not an emotional comment, it's scientific."

Which only leaves the question, success with Iran through what? Is the President actually holding the door open for another push at a deal on uranium enrichment?

1000 GMT: The 15 June March. Still some confusion over whether Iranian authorities --- specifically, Morteza Tamaddon, the Governor of Tehran Province --- said they had authorised the mass demonstration three days after the election.

The Green Voice of Freedom repeated the claim of Parleman News, itself taken from an alleged Tamaddon interview with a magazine, that the march "was actually held with legal authorisation". It appears, however, that GVF has not noted Tamaddon's subsequent denial, which we reported yesterday, of the supposed statement. His line remains that the protest, which brought hundreds of thousands and possibly millions on the streets, was illegal.

0245 GMT. Rafsanjani Watch. Make of this what you will: Hashemi Rafsanjani has made a well-publicised visit this week to Seyed Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the late Ayatollah Khomeini.

Hassan Khomeini has been under sustained pressure from the Government throughout the post-election crisis over his apparent support for opposition demands,

0240 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Ashura protester Hossein Vahed has received a two-year prison sentence.

0230 GMT: Economy Watch. Khabar Online reports that Iran has "lost" $2 billion on oil fields.

0215 GMT: You Can't Keep A President Down (Or Can't You?).

The President-Parliament battle over economic plans escalates. Ahmadinejad has insisted that all changes will be implemented this year.

Key legislators and Ahmadinejad critics are not being so positive, Ahmad Tavakoli has declared that an agreement between two or three MPs and the President doesn't mean an agreement between the Majlis and the Government. That line is also taken by Elyas Naderan.

How serious is the dispute? Vice President Fatemeh Badaghi has threatened MPs by asserting that immunity for their actions exists only in Parliament.

Afghanistan: Death And The Prices We Pay for Intervention

Stephen Walt ,  writing on Foreign Policy about the recent Wikileaks release on the killing of civilians in Iraq in 2007 by US forces, touches on the idea that massacres like the one in the Wikileaks video are to be expected as part of the price of our interventionist policies:
Notice that I am not suggesting that the personnel involved failed to observe the proper "rules of engagement," or did not genuinely think that the individuals they were attacking were in fact armed. Rather, what bothers me is that they were clearly trying to operate within the rules, and still made a tragic error. It reminds us that this sort of mistake is inevitable in this sort of war, especially when we rely on overwhelming firepower to wage it. When we intervene in other countries, this is what we should expect.

Afghanistan: The Humanity Missing From Our Debate

It's an excellent point, but unfortunately it's too easily dismissed with the old "war is hell" cliche, as in this piece from Bouhammer:

Soldiers cannot get wrapped around every single life they are forced to take by virtue of being in combat. Soldiers (and I use soldiers generally describing all service-members), use dark humor and take it all in stride when they have to take lives. They can’t be effective by getting wrapped around the axle over taking human lives. So what you hear in this video is soldiers being soldiers. Nobody likes killing innocents, especially children and that is evident when the soldiers on the ground immediately start calling for a MEDEVAC to come get the wounded children.

Clearly not everyone sees killing people as an unacceptable price of war, particularly when it's soldiers doing it. Bouhammer simply took Walt's adviceand expected the horrible deaths as a natural result of the policy.

But there is a bit more to the price of war than just the loss of lives. So let's get a little cold-hearted for a moment and just accept that we need to murder these people as part of our strategy. Even if we're OK with that, the price of this strategy is still astronomically expensive.

Let's start just with the cost of transporting supplies to our troops. Not the supplies themselves, just the cost of transporting them. Tom Engelhardt explains:
Believe it or not, according to the Washington Post, the Defense Department has awarded a contract worth up to $360 million to the son of an Afghan cabinet minister to transport U.S. military supplies through some of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan – and his company has no trucks. (He hires subcontractors who evidently pay off the Taliban as part of a large-scale protection racket that allows the supplies through unharmed.) This contract is, in turn, part of a $2.1 billion Host Nation Trucking contract whose recipients may be deeply involved in extortion and smuggling rackets, and over which the Pentagon reportedly exercises little oversight.

That'sthe US taxpayer, paying $2 billion just for trucks run by corrupt warlords and Taliban interlopers who will use them to smuggle  God knows what, possibly drugs or guns used to kill our soldiers. Lovely. But we have to pay that, because in order for our war strategy to work we've got to have soldiers in "some of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan".

That's just for the trucks. How do we get the supplies on to those trucks? Well, they come through an airbase in Kyrgyzstan. The price for that is the usual support for a police state dictator and paying rent with US taxpayers' money. And that price is about to go up:
The news of ongoing unrest in the central Asian republic has been received with concern by Washington. The U.S. embassy in Bishkek said it was "deeply concerned" about "civil disturbances" in the country, in a statement released on Wednesday.

Saying that the situation in Kyrgyzstan was "still very fluid", John Kerry, the chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, expressed "regret for the loss of life" in the country and called on all sides to be "calm and refrain from violence". He called upon Kyrgyz parties to address the "underlying political, economic and social issues" in a "transparent process that brings stability and fundamental rights to all."

The U.S. State Department said that transport operations at the Manas military installation outside Bishkek have been "functioning normally." The U.S. military has used the base over the past several years as a staging post for its operations in Afghanistan. Despite the call for the base’s closure by opposition leaders reportedly in charge now, it remains to be seen whether the new government will take practical steps toward that end.

There are worries in the U.S. that the new opposition-led government may increase the rent for Manas base by renegotiating the terms of its agreement with the U.S., according to Foreign Policy’s Cable blog. Such a renegotiation, Cable said, may offer Russia an opportunity to influence an agreement over the base.

So our pet dictator was ousted in a violent uprising (I won't get into the awful stuff he did to deserve that here), and now the new opposition government is going to be raising the rent, if not evicting us completely. This also apparently gives Russia, who we desperately need in other matters like the Iranian nuclear file, a bargaining chip to play against the US.

But the cost goes beyond rent or trucks or anything you can put a dollar sign on. We're also actively working to subvert European democracies as part of the cost of our war:
A newly leaked CIA report prepared earlier this month analyzes how the U.S. Government can best manipulate public opinion in Germany and France -- in order to ensure that those countries continue to fight in Afghanistan. The Report celebrates the fact that the governments of those two nations continue to fight the war in defiance of overwhelming public opinion which opposes it -- so much for all the recent veneration of "consent of the governed" -- and it notes that this is possible due to lack of interest among their citizenry: "Public Apathy Enables Leaders to Ignore Voters," proclaims the title of one section.

We're paying the CIA to figure out how to screw over the voters of France and Germany, and I wouldn't be surprised if the same chicanery was happening in American politics. We're way past blowing taxpayer funds and into the territory of destroying our own national values. And for what? Who actually stands to benefit from all of these prices that we're paying?
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has slammed Western backers for the second time in a week, accusing the United States of interference, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

In a private meeting with up to 70 Afghan lawmakers Saturday, Karzai also warned that the Taliban insurgency could become a legitimate resistance movement if foreign meddling in Afghan affairs continues, the Journal said, citing participants in the talks.

During the talks, Karzai, whose government is supported by billions of dollars of Western aid and 126,000 foreign troops fighting the Taliban, said he would be compelled to join the insurgency himself if the parliament does not back his bid to take over Afghanistan's electoral watchdog

That's right, we're paying a couple billion to Taliban warlords over here, propping up a police state over there, subverting democracies all over the place, and all for a corrupt mountebank like Karzai who wants to join the Taliban. And remember, I'm just picking examples out of thin air here; the cost of trucks, the Kyrgyz airbase, the CIA memos. These aren't even the total cost of the war which will wind up costing in the trillions.

Let's go back to Walt's piece:
It reminds us that this sort of mistake is inevitable in this sort of war, especially when we rely on overwhelming firepower to wage it. When we intervene in other countries, this is what we should expect.

See, Americans do expect these costs. They understand the cliches that "war is hell" and, indeed, expensive. But Americans do question why they're paying these costs only to prop up criminals like Karzai. Why are we paying billions to Taliban smugglers and police states and anti-democratic intelligence operations just to build a country for a guy who wants to join the Taliban? And he's the best thing we've got over there, we've been there for over 9 years, there is no one else.

Americans aren't opposing the cost of this war because they magically turned into pacifist hippies, they oppose the cost because we're paying for nothing over there. The best case scenario for the current price we're paying is we shell out trillions in deficit money, leave our soldiers to keep dying and killing innocent civilians for the next few years, subvert democracies worldwide, and destroy our own national values. All so Karzai will maybe not join the Taliban. Whatever goals we have in Afghanistan are simply not worth the price we're paying.

Josh Mull also writes for The Seminal and Rethink Afghanistan.

Iran: 4 Ways the US Can Help the Green Movement (Shahryar)

Josh Shahryar writes for The Huffington Post:

Let's face it. On the question of what the U.S. government should do with Iran, the American public is bitterly divided --- less divided than on health care reform, but still very much so. The hawkish side of the spectrum, seeing an enemy in the Islamic regime, advocates a US attack on Iran or at least on its nuclear installations. The dovish side continues to embrace the policy of sympathetic ambiguity; they neither want an attack nor do they have a way of getting the nuclear issue resolved. All the while, the Iranian regime continues to play the West like a fiddle.

The Latest from Iran (3 April): Celebration

It gets interesting, however, when the question of the Green Movement comes up. Both sides generally agree that it is the moral responsibility of the US Government to help it. But while the dovish side expects the US to simply make a few gestures of goodwill, the hawkish side is urging the government to do more than just send Nowruz greetings to the people who are facing detention, torture, and death for demanding their rights.

And with good reason. If the Green Movement succeeds, it will create a democratic nation which would very likely end up being an ally of other democratic nations against dictatorships in the Middle East.

But every time someone speaks up and asks the U.S. to do more than just impose sanctions and to help the Green Movement further, the common criticism is, "Well, what can the US do without interfering in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state?"

Don't be fooled. There are things the US can do to help the Green Movement. Things that would not only help the movement, but at the same time would not be direct interference in the internal affairs of another state. Here's a shortlist of some immediate steps the US can take to help:

*Thousands of Green Movement activists and supporters have crossed the border into Turkey since violence began against them. However, dissidents face a critical situation. Refugees are not permitted to permanently reside in Turkey, but many had hoped for a temporary escape from the regime. These men and women need immediate help in finding a safe haven. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' long arms are probing for them in Turkey, and regime agents easily cross the border as there is no visa requirement between the two countries.

I met a dissident in January. Through sheer luck and help from concerned Americans, he'd made his way to the US through Turkey after languishing there for over six months and living in constant fear of the IRGC. He spoke of horrific conditions where it was not even safe to take a stroll on the streets because Iranian agents roam Turkish neighborhoods looking for refugees.

The Guardian of London has already published two reports, on 3 December and 17 December, on the intimidation of dissidents in Turkey by Iranian agents. In one case, the dissident was raped. The situation has gotten so dire that Germany has decided to offer asylum to some of these refugees in Turkey, "in a gesture of solidarity against human rights abuses by the Tehran regime".

The US Government can and should follow suit, providing these dissidents refuge on its own soil and putting diplomatic pressure on Turkey to stop the violence and intimidation against them. It can also fund Iranian diaspora organizations like OMID Advocates helping refugees and fighting for their rights.

This will help the Green Movement find a foothold abroad and establish a connection between its leadership and the US Government. At the same time, lives can be saved and minds can be converted. Such an opportunity lies in Turkey, just begging for sympathetic government officials in the US to exploit it.

*The Victims of Iranian Censorship (VOICE) Act was a great first step. But this only goes one way for the most part. It helps broadcast what the West is saying to Iranians, but what about the Iranians shouting out to the West? The US Government can and should further expand funding for Iranian websites that get news out to the public in the US and the rest of the world. News websites like Rah-e-Sabz and Radio Zameneh have proven invaluable sources of information about the events in Iran.

Human rights organizations like RAHANA have been the most accurate doorways to the reality of human rights abuses there. They rely on funding and donations to sustain themselves. Such outlets need nurturing if the Green Movement is going to get the word out to the public.

Right now, Iranians are managing to get information to each other. If they were unable to do so, they wouldn't be able to get thousands to come out on the streets of Iran for protests. The challenge is for their voices to be heard abroad. The Iranian government's restrictions and the clumsiness of certain media organizations are forcing the Iranian public to use Twitter and YouTube. Websites run by Iranians and websites with sources inside Iran must receive funding if the Islamic Republic's grip on the flow of information is going to be weakened.

*The Department of State has criticized Iran's nuclear ambitions extensively. However, when it comes to criticizing Iran for its violation of basic human rights, its track record is embarrassing. Human rights abuses committed by the Iranian government in the past 10 months have included illegal detentions, torture, rape, and murder.

Yet the US Government has not pressed a single resolution in the United Nations to condemn Iran's flagrant human rights abuses. The US could have used the opportunity to get the international community to open its eyes, but it is far too busy building up coalitions for sanctions. While sanctions against Iran are important, resolutions that recognize the regime's brutality are equally as important, as they deter the publics of United Nations member states from supporting their governments' favorable stances towards Iran.

The US must spearhead a UN resolution, condemning Iran's human rights abuses to set the record straight. Humanity must be made aware of how grave these crimes are if the US is to win world support against Iran and favour with the Green Movement.

*Finally, President Barack Obama needs to address the people of Iran and the Green Movement directly. Doing so, he needs to make clear in no uncertain terms that the US supports their fight for gaining the rights guaranteed to them by the Iranian Constitution and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I remember growing up during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Every time a world leader stood up and said, "We are with you," it gave the cause of kicking the Reds out a huge moral boost. The Green Movement needs just such a lift.

Short and campy little Nowruz messages that intricately sidestep the issues with broad smiles won't do. The Green Movement will not be helped much by software. It will not be helped by arranging for visas for Iranian students. It will not be helped if it is treated like a movement that has died down and was restricted to 2009. The Green Movement needs its own speech, not just an honorable mention in a speech designed to engage the Iranian regime in a discussion about its nuclear policy.

The President needs to put on a stern face and speak up like the leader of the Free World. Obama must make it clear that the Green Movement has the full backing of the U.S. government and follow it up with action.

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."

This is the second time I've quoted this invocation in the case of Iran. I hope it doesn't fall on deaf ears.