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Entries in David Petraeus (3)


The Latest from Iran (11 January): Reading the Regime

2045 GMT: Sanctions La-Dee-Dah. Associated Press is a-quiver over this statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, though I'm not sure why:
It is clear that there is a relatively small group of decision makers inside Iran. They are in both political and commercial relationships, and if we can create a sanctions track that targets those who actually make the decisions, we think that is a smarter way to do sanctions. But all that is yet to be decided upon.

That's not a breakthrough declaration, only a holding one. The White House does not want the sweeping sanctions proposed by Congress and will go for a "targeted" approach. It's just not clear who is being targeted with what.

1945 GMT: Journalist Mohammad Reza Nourbakhsh has been sentenced to three years in jail by an appeals court for participating in rallies on 15 June. Nourbakhsh was originally given a six-year prison term.

1940 GMT: Beaten in Detention. Kalemeh claims Mehdi Mahmoudian, a senior member of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front, has been beaten by the authorities in Evin Prison.

NEW Iran Exclusive: The Latest Nuclear Riddle — Renewed Talks with “West”?
NEW Iran Analysis: Beyond the Headlines, The Regime Battles Itself
NEW Iran & Twitter: Myth v. Reality of Security and “Deep Packet Inspection”
NEW Iran & Twitter: Last Words on The Hell of Heaven (Shahryar)
Latest Iran Video: Military Commander Mullen on US Options (10 January)
Iran Special Analysis: A US Move to “Sanctions for Rights”?
Iran: Challenge to The Government in “The Heartlands”?
The Latest from Iran (10 January): “Middle” Ground?

1935 GMT: The Detained. Back from an academic break to find that an Iranian activist has posted the names of 156 people arrested between the religious days of Tasoa and Ashura (26-27 December) and 9 January.

1635 GMT: Spinning Rafsanjani. Hashemi Rafsanjani, speaking as chairman of the Expediency Council, has made another general call for reconcilation.

Press TV portrays this as "the Iranian nation should follow the rule of the law and avoid taking extrajudicial measures as not to obstruct the path of justice". While this could be applied as an injunction to both the opposition and Government forces, the state outlet puts the emphasis is on following the guidance of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic: "If [this is] obeyed, balance will return to the society and there will be no room left for frictions. Foreign enemies have clung to the current state of affairs in the country as it is apparent in their tone."

The website also tries to rebut the claim, made by Rafsanjani's brother this weekend, that the former President has been pressured into silence. Instead, it claimed that "Rafsanjani rejected the notion and said he was always trying to resolve the problems away from media hype".

1615 GMT: Those Wacky Leveretts. They may have had their pro-Government, anti-Green movement opinion, published in The New York Times, shredded by analyst after analyst, but that doesn't stop Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett from returning to their defence of the regime.

On their website, the Leveretts crudely twist a Wall Street Journal article (which was considered in an EA analysis yesterday on the US policy on sanctions, Iran's nuclear programme, and a "rights-first" approach) into "THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION MOVES TOWARD REGIME CHANGE IN ITS IRAN POLICY". They select and crop quotes, to the point of distortion, but this is their sleight-of-hand claim:
Buying into the proposition that the Islamic Republic is imploding has the effect of driving the policy argument toward support for “regime change” in Tehran.

Umm, no. There is a difference between analysis --- in this case, evaluating the internal difficulties in the Iranian regime --- and advocacy. It's the "is-ought" difference, one which should be picked up by an undergraduate student, let alone a supposed foreign-policy expert: noting that something "is" happening is not the same as declaring it "ought" to happen.

The Leveretts are not undergraduate students, so they know what they are doing. By putting out this claim, "whether President Obama and his advisers want to call their policy “regime change”, that is precisely the direction in which they are moving", they will buttress the propaganda line of the Iranian Government that the opposition can all be attributed to "foreign instigation". (I heard this declaration loud and clear in two presentations, including one by an  academic who works with the Leveretts, at the Beirut conference I attended last week.)

Since the survival of the Iranian regime rests in part on making that allegation stick, and since the Leveretts support the quest for that survival, let's just recognise this piece for what it is: an "ought" piece of advocacy rather than an "is" contribution to analysis.

(P.S. to Flynt and Hillary: Throwing in a picture of Senator Joseph Lieberman, who is calling for a "rights-based" approach to sanctions, with Ahmad Chalabi of Iraq "regime change" infamy, is a really nice touch.)

1505 GMT: Today's Fist-Shaker. It's Iran Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie making an appearance to tell Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi that it's time for measures against "elements behind the recent sedition....It is expected that the demands ... that those who were leading the post-election sedition are put on trial, are met."

1500 GMT: The "Reformist" Push. Former President Mohammad Khatami has put out his own statement, following that of Mehdi Karroubi, calling for an end to the "extreme violence" and dialogue over political, social, and economic issues.

1455 GMT: A Day for Analyses. Not sure why, but a lot of information seems to be falling into place today. The latest topic is Iran's nuclear manoeuvres with "the West" --- we've got an exclusive on Tehran's latest attempt to keep the discussions going.

1340 GMT: Waving Sticks. EA readers have offered comments considering the reasons for this weekend's declaration by General David Petraeus, the head of the US military's Central Command, that all military options are open in contingency plans for Iran (see yesterday's updates).

For the Iranian Government, however, there is a simple reading. The Foreign Ministry spokesman declared today, "[Petraeus'] comments are thoughtless and it is better that any statement made in this regard take a constructive approach."

1315 GMT: The Karroubi Statement (see 1150 GMT). Reuters has picked up on Mehdi Karroubi's declaration with takeaway quotes such as....
[I am] prepared for any disaster.....Some are thinking that they can block the reform course by closing down newspapers and putting reformers in jail ... but I remain firm in the path that I have chosen....I announce that such threats will not frighten me and will not weaken me in this path.

Agence France Presse has a shorter but similar article. Inexplicably, both Reuters and AFP miss the even more important part of Karroubi's statement, the 5-point proposal for resolution.

1200 GMT: We've posted a special analysis, based on latest developments and speech, of the battles within the Iranian regime. The conclusion? This will only be resolved "when someone stabs Ahmadinejad in the back".

1150 GMT: Karroubi's "5-Point" Plan. First it was Mir Hossein Mousavi with a 5-point post-Ashura proposal for political resolution; now it's Mehdi Karroubi.

Karroubi has written an open letter proposing 1) admission by Government officials of injustices; 2) adherence to the values of the Islamic Revolution through guarantees such as freedom of the press and legal rights; 3) adherence to non-violence for reform and acceptance of the Supreme Leader; 4) acceptance of criticism and an end to violence against those who dissent; 5) a national debate so Iranian people can make a free and informed decision about the way forward for the country.

1145 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz reports that 56 professors at Elm-o-Sanat University in Tehran have written in support of students, asking that they are able to take examinations without fear of disciplinary action over protests.

The intervention follows an open letter by almost 90 professors at Tehran University to the Supreme Leader, asking for a cessation of violence against demonstrations.

1130 GMT: The "Incomplete" Detainees Report. Parallelling and extending the "reformist" criticism that the Parliament report on detainee abuse is incomplete, Ayande News --- which is far from reformist --- is claiming that Iranian state media have not given a full account of the report and its discussion in the Majlis. Ayande even asks whether those responsible for the abuses at Kahrizak Prison are also responsible for output on Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting.

1110 GMT: Foreign Presence. The Government's overseas push is in Syria, as Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki visits Damascus. No significant news has come out of the talks so far.

0920 GMT: No major news this morning, but a lot of individual developments with deeper meanings this weekend. The Supreme Leader's speech, President Ahmadinejad's appearance in Parliament, the arrest of the Mothers of Mourning and their supporters in Laleh Park, the Parliamentary report on the abuse of detainees: all have gotten headline coverage, but the intra-regime tensions that they reveal have yet to be analysed, if recognised. We'll make a start on that analysis later today.

Meanwhile, Josh Shahryar and Mike Dunn have special analyses trying to put away the recent mis-information on #IranElection, Twitter, and security. Shahryar offers final words of reply to Will Heaven, the blogger for The Daily Telegraph who tried to blame "Twitterati" for endangering the Iranian people, while Dunn separates myth from reality over "Deep Packet Inspection".

The Latest from Iran (10 January): "Middle" Ground?

1950 GMT: An American Strategy? I really don't understand what the Obama Administration is playing at. At the same time as Administration officials are putting out the story that the US is moving to a "sanctions for rights" approach (see separate analysis), the top US military commanders are going on rhetorical red alert and talking about confrontation.

First there was the preview of General David Petraeus' remarks (see 0745 GMT). Now the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, is declaring that while the US is following a diplomatic path with Iran, military options cannot be ruled out. Mullen is also saying that he is convinced Iran is pursuing the military nuclear programme.

That might mean the US gun is loaded, but then Mullen says, "An attack by us or anybody else would be destabilising," and he assures that US officials have noted the "legitimate concern" that the Iranian opposition would have to support the regime in the event of a US assault.

I'm sorry, but I'm far too tired to make sense of this. Watch the video and see what you can do.

1935 GMT: Report Is Not Enough. The reformist Imam Khomeini Line party has declared that the Parliament report on detainee abuses is a positive step but is incomplete, failing to consider a number of allegations against officials and security forces. The party cites the attacks on University dormitories and the death of the Kahrizak doctor, Ramin Pourandarjan, as cases that should have been cited.

1930 GMT: Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi announced that a Syrian journalist working for Dubai TV, arrested on Ashura (27 December), was released Sunday. Doulatabi also said a Swedish diplomat was detained on Ashura and later freed.

NEW Latest Iran Video: Military Commander Mullen on US Options (10 January)
NEW Iran Special Analysis: A US Move to “Sanctions for Rights”?
NEW Iran: Challenge to The Government in “The Heartlands”?
The Latest from Iran (9 January): Watching Carefully

1920 GMT: Larijani Playing the Hard Man. Ali Larijani, the Speaker of Parliament, may have played supporting act to President Ahmadinejad's speech today, but he still took the opportunity to talk tough: "Opposition figures have to distance themselves from rioters in an attempt to correct their political records."

1720 GMT: Rafsanjani's Silence. The Los Angeles Times has picked up on the interview of Hashemi Rafsanjani's brother, Mohammad Hashemi (see 0730 GMT), explaining that the former President has been silent "because no one listens to him":
In the early days of the revolution the opposition based in abroad, monarchists, and his foes abroad stormed him with their verbal attacks. Now, unfortunately some people within the system make slanders against him and some media without paying attention to the remarks of [the Supreme Leader] keep on libeling him.

That's the positive way of being the situation: Rafsanjani is choosing to lie low, awaiting his chance to arise. The negative way of framing it might be that Rafsanjani has been pressured into submission.

1625 GMT: Ahmadinejad Targeted? You may have noticed a theme in our LiveBlog --- the growing conservative/principlist challenge to the President.

I held off on noting this video fully until an EA correspondent could confirm the reading, but in this clip, member of Parliament Ali Motahhari declares that Ahmadinejad has to be considered as one of the sources of trouble as well as Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

1535 GMT: Iran's Hot New Television Series. It's called "Confessions of Ashura" --- whether it's a documentary or fictional drama is likely to be in the eye of the beholder.

1515 GMT: And Another University Demonstration (see 1100 GMT). About 800 students gathered at Shahid Behesti University yesterday to protest attacks on the campus and detentions of their classmates.

1505 GMT: Diplomatic Protests. A former Iranian diplomat has claimed that five current foreign service officers, serving in four Iranian embassies in European countries, have applied for asylum.

1430 GMT: Mediawatch. Reuters is featuring the story of the Parliament report on detainees, especially the abuses at Kahrizak prison:
More than 145 people detained after Iran's disputed June election were kept for several days in a room of 70 square metres at a Tehran jail, including three who died, a parliamentary report was quoted as saying on Sunday....

It rejected the initial claim by officials, including then Tehran chief prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, that the three deaths were caused by meningitis...."Their deaths are attributed to various issues such as limitation of space, poor sanitary conditions, inappropriate nutrition, heat, lack of ventilation and ... also as a result of physical attacks."

1400 GMT: Update --- Arrests of the Mothers of Mourning.

The 30 arrested Mothers of Mourning and supporters, arrested at Laleh Park yesterday, were taken by bus this afternoon to Revolutionary Court, passing more than 70 other mourning mothers and supporters had gathered since 8:30 a.m. outside Vozara detention centre. Those inside the bus showed Victory signs, while supporters followed in cars.

Those amongst the arrested include Mansoureh Behkish, Dr. Laila Sayfollahi, and sisters Hakimeh and Sedigheh Shokri.  One of the detained, a 75-year-old grandmother, has reportedly been taken to hospital.

1345 GMT: Ahmadinejad v. Parliament --- The Economic Front. President Ahmadinejad has addressed the Parliament to submit the draft of the Five-Year Development Plan to the Parliament. The plan sets the guidelines for the development of infrastructure, covering not only only the economy but also social, political, cultural, defense, and security areas.

No real clue in Ahmadinejad's rhetoric to either his political strategy or Parliament's reaction: "The draft is totally objective, enjoys an internal coherence, is compatible with the current situation of the country and is developed in a transparent and operational way."

1200 GMT: Taking Down Mortazavi? Parleman News reports that the findings of a special Parliament committee on arrests and detentions have been read in the Majlis.

According to the article, the role of Saeed Mortazavi, former Tehran Prosecutor General, in the abuses of Kahrizak prison was officially recognised, and this committee stressed that the judiciary system should be held accountable for events.

1100 GMT: Another Student Demonstration. Word emerges of a sit-in strike, coinciding with final exams, at Razi University in Kermanshah in western Iran to protest the illegal detention of classmates.

0950 GMT: Justice Denied. Economist and journalist Saeed Laylaz has not been allowed to read out his defence in the appeal of his 9-year sentence.

0935 GMT: We've posted a special assessment of Washington's shift in policy, "Sanctions for Rights"?

0930 GMT: Score 1 for EA, 0 for US Strategy. Less than two hours ago, we noted the declaration of General David Petraeus that all contingencies, e.g. military action, are in play regarding Iran, and predicted, 2No prizes for guessing what Iran's state media will make of that soundbite."

This just in from Press TV's website, "US drops strongest hint of Iran blitz in months."

0835 GMT: Piling on The Leveretts. Muhammad Sahimi joins the shredding of last week's New York Times opinion piece, by Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, trying diminish the Green movement and promote the Ahmadinejad Government.

0830 GMT: Movement Outside Tehran? We've posted an interesting piece by Borzou Daragahi of The Los Angeles Times on political shifts beyond the capital.

0745 GMT: This Weekend's Unhelpful Statements. From the Iranian side, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki made the jump from nuclear discussions to "regime change" allegations yesterday, "Western countries know that Iran does not seek to produce nuclear weapons. However, they intend to use it as a pretext for interfering in internal affairs."

No surprise there --- I heard a well-placed Iranian academic make the same "regime change" claim against the United States last week --- but it does nothing to break the stalemate in the talks on uranium enrichment.

And then from the US side, there's General David Petraeus, the head of the military's Central Command. Petraeus, in an interview to be aired on CNN today, whips out the spectre of The Bomb: "It would be almost literally irresponsible if CENTCOM were not to have been thinking about the various 'what ifs' and to make plans for a whole variety of different contingencies" against Tehran.

No prizes for guessing what Iran's state media will make of that soundbite, when it refers to "interfering in internal affairs".

0730 GMT: We're working on an analysis, to be published Monday, of manoeuvres including and surrounding the Supreme Leader's statement on Saturday. While the attempt to break the Green movement will continue, the question is whether this can be moderated, reducing overt violence and perhaps punishment specific officials for past excesses, while some notional "unity" arrangement can be struck with conservative/principlist critics.

Meanwhile, bits and pieces....

In the midst of these possible manoevures, an interesting comment from Mohammad Hashemi, who claims that former Hashemi Rafsanjani is remaining silent "because no one is listening".

Persian2English offers the latest information on detained members of the student movement Daftar-Takhim-Vahdat.

Afghanistan and the Long War: "Obama, Tell Me How This Ends"

US TROOPS AFGHAN4From Andrew Bacevich in The New York Daily News:

On the march to Baghdad, back when America's war on terror was young, a rising star in the United States military lobbed this enigmatic bon mot to an accommodating reporter: "Tell me how this ends." Thus did then-Maj. Gen. David Petraeus in 2003 neatly frame the issue that still today haunts the U.S.-led effort to defeat violent anti-Western jihadism.

To know how something ends implies knowing where it's going. Yet eight years after it began, the war on terror is headed back to where it started. The prequel is the sequel, Afghanistan replacing Iraq as the once and now once again central front.

Afghanistan: A Few Numbers You Might Want to Know About the War

So are we making progress? Even as President Obama escalates the war in Afghanistan, that question hangs in the air, ignored by all. Rather than explaining how the struggle will end, the President merely affirms that it must continue, his eye fixed on pacifying a country of which his own secretary of state recently remarked "We have no long-term stake there."

How pacifying Afghanistan will bring us closer to the figurative Berlin or Tokyo that defines our ultimate objective is unclear. True, the 9/11 plot was hatched in Afghanistan, and we want to prevent any recurrence of that event. It's also true that Dallas was the site of our last presidential assassination. Yet no one thinks that posting Secret Service agents in the Texas School Book Depository holds the key to keeping our current President safe.

Then there is the Af-Pak argument --- that U.S. military action in Afghanistan is necessary to ensuring the stability of nuclear-armed Pakistan. Selling Pakistanis on the logic of this argument poses a challenge, however, given that the eight-year Western military presence in Afghanistan corresponds to an eight-year period during which Pakistan has edged steadily closer to internal collapse.

In reality, the chief rationale for pouring more troops into Afghanistan derives from a determination to restore the credibility of American arms, badly tarnished in Iraq. Thanks to Petraeus' rediscovery of counterinsurgency doctrine, road-tested in Surge I, U.S. forces ostensibly won a belated but significant triumph. Surge II could show that Iraq was no fluke.

Military analysts who a decade ago were touting the wonders of precision-guided munitions now cite counterinsurgency as the new American way of war. Killing the enemy has become passé. Advanced thinking now assigns top priority to "securing the people," insulating them from violence and winning them over with good governance. Twenty-first century American military officers speak the language of 20th century social reformers, sounding less like George Patton and more like Jane Addams.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has declared his intention to remedy "the weakness of \[Afghan political\] institutions, the unpunished abuse of power by corrupt officials and powerbrokers, a widespread sense of political disenfranchisement and a longstanding lack of economic opportunity."

Undertaken in Louisiana or Illinois, this would qualify as an ambitious agenda. In Afghanistan, it qualifies as a tall order indeed.

But assume the best: If McChrystal replicates in Afghanistan the success that Petraeus achieved in Iraq - ignore, please, the government ministries imploding in Baghdad - where does that leave us?

To sustain public support, a protracted war needs a persuasive narrative. Americans after Dec. 7, 1941, didn't know when their war would end. But they took comfort in knowing where and how it was going to end: with enemy armies destroyed and enemy capitals occupied.

Americans today haven't a clue when, where or how their war will end. The Long War, as the Pentagon aptly calls it, has no coherent narrative. When it comes to defining victory, U.S. political and military leaders are flying blind.

Historically, the default strategy for wars that lack a plausible victory narrative is attrition. When you don't know how to win, you try to outlast your opponent, hoping he'll run out of troops, money and will before you do. Think World War I, but also Vietnam.

The revival of counterinsurgency doctrine, celebrated as evidence of enlightened military practice, commits America to a postmodern version of attrition. Rather than wearing the enemy down, we'll build contested countries up, while expending hundreds of billions of dollars (borrowed from abroad) and hundreds of soldiers' lives (sent from home).

How does this end? The verdict is already written: The Long War ends not in victory but in exhaustion and insolvency, when the United States runs out of troops and out of money.