One blogger’s personal bridge to nowhere

Iran more impotant to Saddam than the U.S.

Brian Fung of FP Passport uncovers some fascinating tidbits from U.S. interrogations of Saddam Hussein. I found the following extremely interesting.

saddamhusseinHussein continued the dialogue on the issues relating to the significant threat to Iraq from Iran. Even though Hussein claimed iraq did not have WMD, the threat from Iran was the major factor as to why he did not allow the return of the UN inspectors. Hussein stated he was more concerned about Iran discovering Iraq’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities than the repercussions o the United States for his refusal to allow UN inspectors back into Iraq. In his opinion, the UN inspectors would have directly identified to the Iranians where to inflict maximum damage to Iarq. [sic, and emphasis mine]

What’s most shocking is how completely U.S. policymakers seem to have missed this angle. So obsessed were they in Hussein’s “terrorist” threat — or, more accurately, in selling the fear of this threat to their political constituencies back home — that they entirely misunderstood motives that, with any serious study of the reason, would have been eminently clear.

Combined with something else I read recently (I think it was this) about the corresponding futility of trying to understand the Iranian nuclear program without reference, first and foremost, to the Iraq-Iran war, this information proves to me the preeminence of regional dynamics over the big “anti-American” confrontation that American politicians always seem to assume is the driving force of everything. This is hubris, certainly, but it is also just supremely short-sighted. And it’s the kind of thing that torture definitely won’t help you uncover.

(image from flickr user iDip under a Creative Commons license)


July 6, 2009 Posted by | Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy, U.S. politics | , , | 1 Comment

Freedom in the Middle East or bust

Beyond such stomach-churning lines like this (and we all know Michael Gerson’s 5th grade-level aptitude for similes) — “Democracy is not inevitable like communism was said to be; it is inevitable like hope.” — Gerson’s op-ed today is unsurprisingly political hackery. His broad brush paints an admittedly jagged swath across the Middle East, but this trajectory still inevitably leads — this is Bush’s former speechwriter, remember — where else but to freedom.

Inevitable democracy

Inevitable democracy

But while the development of democracy in the Middle East is not linear, it is also not random. It moves in steps, but upward. Taken together — a constitutional Iraqi democracy, a powerful reform movement in Iran, democratic achievements from the Gulf sheikdoms to Lebanon — this is the greatest period of democratic progress in the history of the region. Given consistent outbreaks, it seems clear that the broader Middle East is not immune to the democratic infection.

This reminds me of nothing so much as Condoleezza Rice’s cringe-worthy utterance that death and violence simply represented the natural “birth pangs of a new Middle East.” The reflexive habit of neoconservatives to any spate of elections as a triumph of this abstract notion of “freedom” — even, remarkably, when they acknowledge, as Gerson does, the tendency to “overinterpret events to confirm preexisting views” — is simply an indication of how politically fraught this term has become. Gerson does not need to analyze the specific politics and social dynamics of each Middle Eastern society; he sees what he wants to see (in Iran, that means a “powerful reform movement” and “martyrs” of democracy, who will no doubt eventually succeed), and uses these out-of-context planks to reconstruct his political project: vindicating his old boss’s “freedom agenda.”

Such a baldly partisan op-ed contributes less than nothing to informed discourse; its only effect is in reminding readers that Republican talking points, whatever the facts on the ground, will prevail. The ark of the political universe is long, one might surmise, but it bends inevitably toward freedom democracy the GOP.

(image from flickr user carcollectorz under a Creative Commons license)

June 26, 2009 Posted by | Conservatives, Foreign politics, Middle East | , , , , | Leave a comment

We torture terrorists like you torture bloggers

Which country could this be?

Over the next seven years he was arrested nine times, imprisoned six, flipped between “official” and secret prisons, surveilled and harassed by the secret police, subjected to endless interrogations, held both in overcrowded cells and incommunicado in solitary confinement (for a total of nine months), beaten while blindfolded and subjected to extreme sensory deprivation.

Only when you torture bloggers.

Only when you torture bloggers, that is.

Well, it’s Bret Stephens writing in The Wall Street Journal, so, you guessed it, it’s gotta be Iran. But forgive me if, after reading Mark Danner’s review of the ICRC reports on CIA black sites, the description didn’t sound strikingly similar to U.S. treatment of the erstwhile “enemy combatants.”

For conservatives, making this comparison naturally means that I am a heretical, terrorist-coddling America-hater. But still, I like to think that they might take some unintentionally perverse solace in the fact that, whereas the Iranian torture described above was applied to a mere blogger, we save our torture for the much bigger (alleged) fish.

(image from flickr user takomabibelot under a Creative Commons license)

March 24, 2009 Posted by | Iran | , , , | Leave a comment

A must-read on Iran

Roger Cohen, on some Revolutionary Guards real Iranians that he spoke with. A snippet:

The Great Satan is great also in his power to exert fascination. “Death to America” has become background noise, as interesting as piped elevator music.

The revolution freed Iranians from the brutality of the shah’s secret police, Savak, and delivered a home-grown society modeled on the tenets of Islam in place of one pliant to America’s whim. But like all revolutions, it has also disappointed. Freedom has ebbed and flowed since 1979. Of late, it has ebbed.

Beneath the hijab, that is to say beneath the surface of things, frustrations multiply. Women sometimes raise their hands to their necks to express a feeling of suffocation. Hard-pressed men, working 12-hour days to make enough to get by, are prone to hysterical laughter with its hint of desperation.

It’s always worth remembering that there are 70 million people in Iran, only one of whom is named Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Many are young, curious, cosmopolitan, and none too happy with the economic tailspin that Mr. Ahmadinejad’s nonsensical financial policies has brought about. Iranians will play a far greater part in shaping their own future than American bluster, strategies, or policies ever will. Its elections, it needs no reminding, will be very interesting.

February 13, 2009 Posted by | Middle East | , , | Leave a comment

Satellite God

Iran launched its first homemade satellite into space.  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reasoning?

Mr Ahmadinejad said the satellite was launched to spread “monotheism, peace and justice” in the world.

Because people will see the satellite and think it is the one true God?

February 3, 2009 Posted by | Humor, Middle East | , , | 3 Comments

Peace, war, and something in between

A RealClearWorld editorial explains why Iran is No. 2 on its list of who is most likely to “cause Obama’s first 3 am call.”

The United States and Iran have quietly – and sometimes vociferously – been somewhere between peace and war for nearly 30 years.

Um…aren’t relations between any two countries generally “somewhere between peace and war?”  Granted, many may be at the explicit “peace” end of the spectrum, but this still falls within the given range, no?

With this level of specificity, I just don’t feel much to fear from a country that may or may not be espousing — either vociferously or quietly — feelings of vague non-peacefulness.

November 18, 2008 Posted by | U.S. Foreign policy | | Leave a comment