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Entries in Washington Post (11)


The Latest from Iran (30 May): Pressure, Counter-Pressure, & a Letter from Majid Tavakoli

1800 GMT: Academic Corner. HRANA reports that 15 students at Shahid Beheshti University have been suspended for criticism of the Supreme Leader.

1755 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The sentence of Zia Nabavi, a member of the Right to Education Council, has been reduced to 10 years from 15 years on appeal.

1750 GMT: Economy Watch. Reformist member of Parliament Darius Ghanbari has warned that if disinvestment, excessive imports and loss of domestic production continue, Iran will have 60 million (out of a population of 75+ million) below the poverty line. MP Nasrullah Torabi has called on the Government to be "accountable" to the 40 million he says are already below that line.

NEW Iran Report: The Fight on the Cultural Front (Erdbrink)
Iran Document: Mousavi “Greens Will Not be Stopped by Arrests, Prisons, or Killing”
Iran: A Poem for Executed Teacher Farzad Kamangar
The Latest from Iran (29 May): Statements for 22 Khordad/12 June

1745 GMT: A Clerical Slapdown. Ayatollah Amini, the leader of Friday Prayers in Qom, asked yesterday, "How is it possible to administer for the underprivileged with temporary relief?"

Amini leveled the allegation at the Government that Ayatollah Khomeini's ideas were not considered by persons in charge. Noting that other underdeveloped countries have managed to overcome their difficulties within 30 years. he said an adequate plan should have been established to create work, to develop the cities, and to support universities.

1735 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch --- Inside Version (cont.). Human Rights Activists News Agency carries a story on the alleged aftermath of two videos, released by the agency earlier this week, with accounts of torture and rape by detainees who were in Rajaiee Shahr Prison.

On Saturday, two agents from the Intelligence Ministry transferred twenty prisoners to the Security Office in Rajaiee Shahr prison where they were interrogated and threatened. They also moved Mohsen Beikvand, the victim in one of the videos, to solitary confinement. Unknown men reportedly contacted Bahram Tasviri, the other victim from the videos, and told him that his image and reputation have been shattered outside of prison with the publication of these videos.

(Note: we have not posted the video, which is available in the HRANA story, because we feel it is vital to confirm the authenticity of the story given the serious allegations. Feedback from those who view the video is welcomed.)

1730 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch --- Inside Version. We return from a break to find a purported account of conditions at Evin Prison from detained journalist and filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad. The account includes Nourizad's meeting last week with Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi, who allegedly promised Nourizad's release if the political prisoner and his family gave no statements to the media.

Nourizad, in the letter to the Supreme Leader, calls Evin "the second Kahrizak", a reference to the notorious facility that was closed by Ayatollah Khamenei after revelations of abuses and killings of detainees.

0855 GMT: Earthquake Alarm! Khabar Online reports that women have been seen taking off their hijab, allegedly for sporting activities, in several parks and public spaces in Tehran.

0850 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Bahram Chagini, a university student and a member of the Mousavi presidential campaign, was reportedly arrested by intelligence agents in Arak in mid-May.

0840 GMT: Another Political Prisoner List. Rah-e-Sabz has published another set of names and details of 100 political prisoners in Block 350 of Evin Prison. About 70% are students.

There is one additional name of a journalist, Khashayar Jahanzad Farrokhi, to add to our running total. We estimate that 93 journalists remain in detention or are under threat of heavy bails.

0835 GMT: And Another Cleric is Summoned. Rah-e-Sabz reports that Ahmad Montazeri, the son of the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, has been summoned to and interrogated in a special clerical court.

0830 GMT: Cleric Responds to "Lies". Ayatollah Sane'i has expressed his regret, "Five years ago I said lies were spreading, but I didn't know they were to become a culture."

0820 GMT: Reformist Responds to "Lies". We reported on Friday about  Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting's distortion of the words of reformist activist Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, turning her into a traitor declaring, "Do not accept Iran."

Haghighatjoo has now threatened to file a lawsuit against IRIB and the Supreme Leader, as the head of the broadcaster. She explained that the Green Movement, with its initial slogan "Where is My Vote?", did not want regime change; however, after killings and imprisonments, many doubted that reforms could occur within the system. Haghighatjoo concluded, "I believe that the Constitution must be replaced by a secular system."

0815 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Hashemi Rafsanjani's daughter Faezeh Hasemi has responded to the attack on her office with an unsubtle swipe at the Government. This was not carried by common thieves; it was like a "Mongols attack" to incite terror.

0805 GMT: Parliamentary Moves. Following this week's election of leaders in Parliament, with one Deputy Speaker (Sadr) seen as pro-Ahmadinejad and another (Bahonar) criticised by "hardliners" --- Speaker Ali Larijani and his allies are pushing the line of "Parliamentary unity".

Larijani, quoted by his supporting website Khabar Online, declared that political divisions are not compatible with the Supreme Leader's ideas. Elyas Naderan, a leading critic of the Ahmadinejad Government, predicted that the "political alignment" of pro-goverment and anti-government factions will not persist.

Not all proceeded smoothly for Larijani's move, however: his press conference started 20 minutes late, suffered a blackout, and was suddenly cut off.

0800 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The scholars of the Middle East Studies Association have written to the Supreme Leader, calling for the release of Majid Tavakoli (see 0645 GMT) and other political prisoners.

0700 GMT: The Cultural Front. We have posted, in a separate entry, a report from  Thomas Erdbrink, the Washington Post correspondent in Tehran, on cultural resistance to the Iranian regime.

0645 GMT: A Letter from Tavakoli? There was a lot of chatter yesterday about a purported message from Majid Tavakoli, the detained student leader.

The letter has not been translated into English, but an EA reader wanted to get a sense of Tavakoli's analysis and objectives. So, over to EA correspondent Ms Zahra:
Tavakoli's statement reads like a mix of [prominent Iranian expatriate opposition figure] Mohsen Sazegara's daily lessons about non-violent struggle, parts of Mousavi's statements (esteqamat, perseverance), and expatriate demands for an end to the Islamic Republic.

As I never heard more than short statements by him, no idea if he is the author. If it is not by him, it could be a collective text, written by a reformist theoretician in prison --- I doubt this, however, because in my opinion reformists would never give up the Islamic Republic. It could also be the result of discussions in prison about future strategies for the Green Movement. In any case the phrasing is coherent, i.e., written by a single person.

An excellent text, insisting on the positiveness of the leaders, necessity of positive criticism, unity, fundamental demands like individual freedom and pluralism (to prevent a new dictatorship), clearly defined goals, and strategies of non-violence, along the lines of those set out by the scholar Gene Sharp.

It could also be an implicit reminder to Mousavi and Karroubi to be more definitive in their demands, but it is only advice and does not condemn them.

0630 GMT: We return from a Saturday night break to assess this morning's political situation, five days before the anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini and less than two weeks before the birthday of the 2009 election.

The regime made a big political move with the announcement that the Supreme Leader, introduced by President Ahmadinejad, will lead Tehran Friday Prayers from Khomeini's mausoleum. Can't be much clearer than this in a bid for legitimacy.

It's the first major regime rally since 22 Bahman (11 February), with Ayatollah Khamenei speaking at Friday Prayers for the first time since 19 June, when he reaffirmed Ahmadinejad's victory, warned the opposition not to challenge, and tried to keep Hashemi Rafsanjani in the fold.

So what were those various actors doing yesterday? Well, opposition figure Mir Hossein Mousavi had made another challenge with his statement to former political prisoners (again, can't get much more pointed in the symbolism than talking with those who had been unjustly detained under the Shah), and reformist groups and activists --- despite the Government's attempt to silence them --- continued to put out declarations of intent before 12 June.

Even more interesting,  however, were the manoeuvres around Rafsanjani. The former President's website issued its own response to the Government by re-issuing Rafsanjani's criticisms of President Ahmadinejad and the Iranian system, both in a letter to the Supreme Leader before the election and in Rafsanjani's 17 July Friday Prayer address (the last time he took the podium).

But the regime was putting out its own message for Rafsanjani this weekend: the office of his daughter Faezeh Hashemi was raided, soon after security forces moved upon the campus of Islamic Azad University --- established by the Rafsanjani Government and led until recently by Rafsanjani's son Mehdi Hashemi --- and seized computers and documents.

What does it all mean? Well, at this point I'll take the easy way out: too soon to tell....

Iran Report: The Fight on the Cultural Front (Erdbrink)

Thomas Erdbrink, one of the few "Western" reporters in Tehran, writes for The Washington Post:

Nearly a year after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed election victory led to wide-scale protests and a fierce government crackdown, members of Iran's thriving and internationally acclaimed cultural scene have emerged as a driving force for the opposition.

Filmmakers, singers and rappers are, in their own way, pushing for social and political changes, and many are paying the price of speaking out against a government that brooks little dissent. In response to films, songs and paintings inspired by the largest grass-roots opposition movement the country has seen since the 1979 Islamic revolution, the government has arrested artists and markedly increased censorship.

Although some artists have left the country to escape restrictions, others remain in Iran and have turned their work into tools of activism. But the protest message has to be subtle or indirect, and even then the work is often produced secretly, using legal loopholes or underground distribution networks to evade the notice of authorities.

When world-renowned director Jafar Panahi decided to make a film about a family caught in the turmoil after last June's election, he did not ask for permission from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Instead, the filmmaker turned his apartment into a film studio, with his wife cooking for the crew and friends playing the leading characters.

In March, security forces raided the home and arrested Panahi, the cast and his family.

"According to the law, nobody needs permits to film in their own house," he said in an interview. "But the government does not obey its own rules." Panahi was held for nearly three months; top directors such as Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami called for his release. State media reported that he had been making an "illegal movie."

On Tuesday, Panahi was released on $200,000 bail, pending the start of his trial.

"They arrest individuals to set an example to others," Panahi said Wednesday as his apartment slowly filled with guests, including actors and writers who gave him a hero's welcome. "My interrogators accused me of working for foreign intelligence agencies and said I was trying to make a movie highlighting problems in Iran. But I believe the rights and demands of millions who demonstrated have been ignored. I want to give them a voice."

He isn't the only one. The latest song by popular underground rapper Hich Kas, "Nobody," has become an instant hit, often blasting from cars on Tehran's busy streets. Hich Kas sings:

Good days will come when we do not kill each other

Do not look badly upon each other

A day we are friends and hug each other like in our school days

Read rest of article....

Turkey's Diplomatic Dance: The Nuclear Two-Step Between Iran & the US (Yenidunya)

Now we know why Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote a letter to President Barack Obama, saying that Ankara had "slightly opened the door" to a resolution but the ball was now in the court of the White House. The Washington Post reported:
On Wednesday, Obama spent more than an hour on the telephone explaining to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan why the deal his country cut with Iran was incongruous with a U.S. push to isolate the Islamic republic over its nuclear program, according to U.S. and Turkish officials.

Iran Nuke Analysis: Reading the US-Turkey Discussions

Obama acknowledged Turkey's mediation efforts and "stressed the international community's continuing and fundamental concerns about Iran's overall nuclear program as well as Iran's failure to live up to its international obligations", the White House said in a statement. Obama also told Erdogan that the sanctions push would continue, despite Turkey's opposition to new U.N. penalties on Iran. The U.S. official described the conversation as "frank".

The newspaper also published the analysis of Henri Barkey, visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, who believes Ankara is acting indpendently vis-a-vis Washington's regional policies:
For the Turks, it might be a Pyrrhic victory. They look great in the Third World that they thumbed their nose at the United States. But they are really screwing up the relationship with the U.S.

The Post headlined, "Spat over Iran May Further Strain Relations Between Allies U.S., Turkey".

Well, let's have a think about that. Ankara is trying to enhance its relative autonomy against Washington's dictations and the gains of its neighbours through its "zero problem" policy and "active diplomacy-first" approach.

However, Turkey is not going to move against Washington's interests as long as Ankara cannot find a balancing power. Wasn't it Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu who talked to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in prior to his victory on the table in Tehran?

Turkey is not defying Washington; rather, it is strengthening its position, amidst regional calculations, for the approaching UN Security Council vote on Iranian sanctions. Indeed, let me put forth a challenging prediction: for the time being, Washington will not be disappointed when Turkey abstains in the Council. And America will still need Turkey on the Iranian nuclear issue after the vote.

The Latest from Iran (19 May): Fallout

2035 GMT: The Uranium Sideshow. President Obama issued a boiler-plate, stay-the-course statement at a press conference alongside President Felipe Calderon of Mexico (which happens to have a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council):

"[We agree] on the need for Iran to uphold its international obligations or face increased sanctions and pressure, including UN sanctions. And I'm pleased that we've reached an agreement with our P5-plus-1 partners on a strong resolution that we now have shared with our Security Council partners.

Obama did not mention, for he was not asked, why he had encouraged Turkey to pursue talks with Iran leading to the uranium swap agreement in Tehran on Monday.

1845 GMT:Political Prisoner Watch. Housewife Masoumeh Yavari has been given a seven-year jail term at Rajai-Shahr Prison in Karaj. Yavari had been accused of "mohareb" (war against God), and the prosecutor had asked for the death penalty.

Zahra Jabbari, married and the mother of one child, has been sentenced to 4 years in prison. Jabbari was arrested during Qods Day protests on 18 September.

Student Activist Mohammad Yousef Rashidi has been handed a one-year jail term.

NEW Iran’s Uranium: Why Can’t the US Take Yes for an Answer? (Parsi)
NEW Iran’s Uranium: Washington “Can’t Afford to Look Ridiculous”, Makes Ridiculous Move (Emery)
NEW Iran’s Uranium: US Shows a Middle Finger to Tehran…and Turkey and Brazil and… (Gary Sick)
NEW Iran Document: Iranian Labour Unions “This is Not 1979″
Iran Analysis: Washington and the Tehran Nuclear Deal (Parsi)
Iran Alert: Filmmaker Firouz Faces Deportation From UK
Iran Analysis: The Contest at Home Over (and Beyond) the Uranium Agreement (Zahra)
Iran Analysis: Assessing the Tehran Nuclear Deal (Gary Sick)
The Latest from Iran (18 May): Getting Beyond the Uranium Agreement

1700 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The Revolutionary Court in Tehran has sentenced student and women's rights activist Bahareh Hedayat to 9 ½ years in prison: six months for insulting the president, two years for insulting the Leader, five years for anti-state and anti-national security actions, and two years, previously suspended, for organizing a gathering in June 2006.

Milad Asadi, another senior member of the alumni organisation Advar-e Tahkim Vahdat, has been sentenced to 7 years in prison.

Bahareh Hedayat's statement for Iran's National Student Day in December 2009:


1200 GMT: The Uranium Battle. Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's atomic energy agency, has issued the highest-level reaction to the US pursuit of a sanctions resolution at the United Nations, "They won't prevail and by pursuing the passing of a new resolution they are discrediting themselves in public opinion."

0940 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Masoud Heidari, the former head of the Iranian Labour News Agency,was released from prison on Tuesday. On Sunday, Heidari had begun serving a three-month prison sentence.

0840 GMT: Alice-in-Wonderland Media Statement of Day. I guess the editors of The New York Times have not paid any attention to the events of the last 72 hours:
Brazil and Turkey should join the other major players and vote for the Security Council resolution. Even before that, they should go back to Tehran and press the mullahs to make a credible compromise and begin serious negotiations.

0830 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Tahereh Saeedi, the wife of detained film director Jafar Panahi, has told Rah-e-Sabz that her husband has been on hunger strike since Sunday.

Panahi has demanded access to his lawyer, visits by his family, and an unconditional release until a court hearing is held.

Six journalists and cultural activists --- Mahnaz Karimi, Hafez Sardarpour, Mehdi Zeynali, Nader Azizi, Mustafa Jamshidi, and Ramin Jabbari --- were arrested on Monday in Iranian Azerbaijan.

0820 GMT: Shutting Down the Inquiry. Parleman News writes that a reformist proposal to investigate Iran's prisons has been rejected by the Parliament. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani insists that the Majlis continues to observe prisons and has forwarded a report to the National Security Council.

0815 GMT: Claim of Day (No, It's Not about Uranium). Rah-e-Sabz claims new accusations of impropriety against Mohammad Javad Larijani, a high-ranking official in the judiciary. The website asserts that a deal has been struck: Ahmadinejad will not press a corruption case against Larijani, while the official and his powerful brothers will drop charges against First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi.

0810 GMT: And There's Always a "Terrorism" Story. Press TV features a summary of its interview with Abdolmalek Rigi, the captured leader of the Baluch insurgent group Jundullah: "While in Morocco, suspected Israeli or US agents had given him a list of people to assassinate in Tehran."

0755 GMT: Evaluating the Uranium/Sanctions Story. We have three analyses of the US response to the Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement: Trita Parsi asks why Washington cannot take Yes for an answer, Chris Emery suggests it is because the US feels it "cannot afford to look  ridiculous", and Gary Sick thinks Washington just showed the middle finger not only to Tehran but to Turkey, Brazil, and a lot of other countries.

The Washington Post has posted a copy of the sanctions resolution introduced by the US into the United Nations Security Council.

0635 GMT: Nuclear Spin of Day. Peyke Iran tries an different angle to attack the Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement. The website claims that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip is angry about his reception in Tehran: he and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva were offered an Iranian breakfast of sangak bread, Bulgarian white cheese, walnuts, and inferior dried fruit.

0630 GMT: Mousavi's Bodyguard. More manoeuvring over Monday's arrest of Mir Hossein Mousavi's head of security, Ahmad Yazdanfar. Khabar Online claims that Yazdanfar "withdrew" from his position, and the story that he was detained is a fiction of the "leaders of sedition" and foreign media.

Opposition outlets have responded that Yazdanfar is not "political" at all but a simple security officer. Through his arrest and the kidnapping, terror, and torture of others, the Government is slowly becoming a terrorist group.

0615 GMT: Iran's Debate on the Tehran Deal. The Government is still facing some opposition to the Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement. From the conservative wing, Ahmad Tavakoli (and possibly, through indirect means, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani) made challenges on Tuesday. On the reformist side, Darius Ghanbari asked why Iran had waited seven months and expended so much capital in its foreign policy, only to move towards an agreement it could have had in October.

The response of pro-Government politicians is that this is only a "declaration", not a "treaty", so Tehran has not entered any binding commitments. Or, as Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said, "If the Vienna Group (US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, China) accepts Iran’s terms and conditions...both parties commit themselves to the implementation” of the deal."

(Which means that Washington's response --- throwing out any consideration of the agreement in favour of a sanctions-first approach --- has sheltered the Ahmadinejad Government against its internal opponents.)

0530 GMT: For many observers, the nuclear sideshow will remain the main event today. The Obama Administration pretty much guaranteed that when, despite the Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement on a procedure for a uranium enrichment deal (and despite the small fact that President Obama appears to have encouraged the Turks to pursue the deal --- more on that later), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton loudly and not very politely announced that the US was proceeding with a sanctions resolution in the United Nations.

The resolution was submitted in the late afternoon, so now we will be treated to a lot of posturing on all sides, possibly obscuring this bottom-line assessment, courtesy of the National Iranian American Council: "This is an unbelievably stupid move on the part of the Obama administration. Not only are we rejecting our own terms of the agreement, but we are doing so in as tactless and diplomatically insulting way possible."

Meanwhile, on the centre stage of Iranian politics....

Containing Mousavi

Muhammad Sahimi offers a concise summary of the latest steps by the Government to intimidate Mir Hossein Mousavi ahead of the election anniversary on 12 June, including the arrest of Mousavi's top bodyguard.

The Labour Front

We have posted, in a separate entry, the statement of the Network of Iranian Labor Unions setting out its view of opposition to the Government, "This is Not 1979".

Iran Labor Report posts an overview of recent workers' protests.

Afghanistan Analysis: Diplomatically Clinging to Guns and Counterinsurgency (Mull)

EA correspondent Josh Mull is the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can also read his work at Rethink Afghanistan:

There's been a lot of public debate lately about our counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy in Afghanistan. Derrick Crowe looked through the government's own reports and discovered the approach is a giant failure. Steve Hynd wonders if it isn't stratagem at all, but an ideology. I asked if we even had any idea what's going on with the strategy. Gareth Porter finds that Pentagon leaders don't like it, and Nancy Youssef piles on that the military is turning against COIN. And in Youssef's piece, one of the Grand Dragons of the COIN blogosphere, Andrew Exum (Abu Muqawama to the cool kids), appeared to distance himself from the strategy. "I can't imagine anyone would opt for this option," he said.

Exum later clarified his statement, sort of, but he had a good point:
If you continue to have a problem with the fact that we are now pursuing a counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan, by the way, you should spend less time whining about the generals and think tank researchers and take the issue up with the president. As the secretary of state [Hillary Clinton] said today at USIP [US Institute for Peace], while holding forth on the strategy reviews that took place in the spring and fall, "the president reached a conclusion [after the reviews of 2009] that should be respected by Americans."

It's a bit of stretch for Exum to throw all the blame on the politicians, seeing as how he and a host of other COINdinistas built their Washington Beltway careers on an aggressive preaching of counterinsurgency religion to those same politicians. But our leaders are primarily responsible for the policy failure.

For instance, Afghan president Hamid Karzai visits Washington with a peace plan, and we just take it as normal that he has to "persuade a sceptical Barack Obama that it is time to negotiate with the Taliban." Skeptical about negotiating? Obama has a Nobel Peace Prize, and he's skeptical?

Exum's quote from Secretary Clinton is equally outrageous. We've so completely lost sight of our peaceful capabilities, so misunderstood the point of our civilian foreign policy agencies, that even our diplomats demand our military occupations be "respected". Our problem is not picking the right military strategy, but picking any military strategy at all.

Why is the Secretary of State out there championing the President's military strategy? Exum pointed out the President's stated objectives in Afghanistan and said he couldn't advocate "in good faith" any other strategy but counterinsurgency to meet those objectives. Fine, no mystery why he thinks that. I'll even accept that Obama is dense enough to reach only that conclusion. But our top civilian diplomat, she's fine with that? She saw those same reports, and she came to the conclusion that we needed more COIN? What is it exactly that we mean by diplomacy, and what is it we think our diplomats are supposed to be doing? Here's Exum again, this time in the Washington Post (h/t Derrick):
Exum, who sensibly proposed that Obama "settle upon one point person for dealing with the Afghan president," asked: "Is either the ambassador in Kabul or the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan an effective interlocutor with Afghan policymakers? Is the U.S. Embassy in Kabul fully supporting the counterinsurgency campaign?"

Is that what our diplomats are for? Supporting the military? Maybe that's why we don't have an "effective interlocutor" with either Afghanistan or Pakistan, because our diplomats are just tool bags for our violent and bloody counterinsurgency. What good is it for the Afghan government to complain about civilian casualties when the people they're complaining to work for the folks causing the civilian casualties to begin with? "Um, can you ask your boss to stop shooting us?" No wonder they feel like they don't have an effective partner over here. Here's more from that WaPo piece:
A pivotal player here is Karl Eikenberry, the retired general Obama appointed as ambassador. Eikenberry's relations with Karzai are bad; his relations with McChrystal may be even worse. Since January a steady stream of stories has documented their clashes over tactics, including Eikenberry's opposition to the formation of local militias and quick development projects in Kandahar. Now they are at odds over how to respond to an Afghan request for an upgraded strategic partnership, including a U.S. security guarantee. Here's another contrast with Iraq: There was no daylight between military commander David Petraeus and then-ambassador Ryan Crocker.

Yeah what contrast, because unlike Afghanistan, Iraq is awesome now.

Why is it bad that our diplomat is "clashing" with the military? Good for him that he's not just rubber stamping whatever the generals put in front of him. Those "quick development projects" are the perfect example of what Eikenberry is supposed to do.

The author portrays it as a disagreement over "tactics," like one wants to zig while the other one wants to zag, but remember, we talked about this before. Eikenberry's plan actually helped Afghans, a lot, by letting them develop energy solutions themselves, while the military's "quick development project" was just a gigantic fuel burden on the locals and a massive welfare commitment from the already retarded central government.

A lesson: our diplomats actually know what they're doing when it comes to development. The military on the other hand, is terrible at it. And more than being terrible at it, the military also harms other development work by experts:
NGOs however insist that the international military by definition cannot be seen as a neutral actor. Many NGOs have also refused to go into areas that have recently been 'cleared' through operations by international military forces. In a public campaign over the past year, Oxfam, Care, Save the Children UK and other international NGOs with long experience in Afghanistan have said the militarisation of aid is putting ordinary people on the frontlines of the conflict.

"Humanitarian aid has to be independent, neutral and impartial" says Hassan El Sayed of Solidarites. "Can you imagine how we would be perceived if we arrive after US tanks?" Most of the principled NGOs would not be able to go into these areas, he says.

But I thought our military was working on security, making it safer to operate?
Laurent Saillard, the Director of Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR), an umbrella body for Afghan NGOs [says,] "What gives the NGOs their capacity to work is the quality of their relationship with the community. What guarantees the security is not the military or their operations. This is a myth. It is complete propaganda. NGOs don't buy it and have never asked ISAF or the US army for their security."

So our military sucks at development aid, they're screwing up development aid that actually works, and the answer to that is? 30,000 more troops, expanding the drone strikes, and night raids, night raids, night raids! Huh? Is the President that ignorant? And more than him, is the military that blind? They suffer enormously for our policy failures, it's not like they pay any less of a price for this mess. Well, just look at what they're saying:
The only feature of McChrystal's strategy which the Pentagon report treats as having proven effective against the insurgents is its most controversial element: the programme of Special Operations Forces (SOF) night raids against suspected Taliban in their homes, which has stirred anger among Afghans everywhere the SOF have operated.

In an indirect expression of doubt about the impact of the McChrystal strategy, the report suggests that the willingness of Taliban insurgent leaders to negotiate will be influenced not by the offensives aimed at separating the population from the Taliban but by the "combined effects" of the high-level arrests of Taliban leaders in Pakistan and targeted raids by special operations forces against "lower level commanders".

They think the night raids are effective, and very helpful in our negotiations with the Taliban. But how? What exactly do we get from these arrests of Taliban leaders? What does it have to do with negotiations?
[Officials] said [Mullah Baradar] had provided American interrogators with a much more nuanced understanding of the strategy that the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, is developing for negotiations with the government of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, who is visiting Washington next week.

Mullah Baradar is describing in detail how members of the Afghan Taliban’s leadership council, or shura, based in Pakistan, interact, and how senior members fit into the organization’s broader leadership, officials said.

Oh. It's not the arrests that are so effective. It's talking to the Taliban.

We could skip the brutal special forces raids entirely, given thatAfghans are protesting and getting gunned down in the streets over all the sweet actionable intelligence we're getting. They're angry because we're killing them. There's nothing about a "night raid" that makes it effective, it's just the basic act of talking to the other side that's so successful at creating peace. And yet when the military looks at their own strategy, their only conclusion is that "separating the population from the Taliban," development work, is useless, but the guys bursting into homes guns blazing at 3 in the morning, well they're a big help! It's just baffling.

And our elected representatives, President Obama and Secretary Clinton, not to mention newcomers just running for office, they're getting the same information. They know the casualties they're causing, they know the trillions they're pissing away, yet they cling to these absurd ideas about counterinsurgency. Why? Is it because of people like Exum? Is it because COIN is a religion?

What is so attractive about occupation? It's not going to work. We'll never be able to accomplish any of our goals in Afghanistan so long as the war continues. We have the non-military capability to accomplish both the development and counter-terrorism work, not to mention the countless international agencies providing assistance. But first we have to bring our troops home.

Join us on Rethink Afghanistan’s Facebook page and collaborate with the tens of thousands of others around the country working to bring this war to an end.