Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Blood for oil

Little to celebrate in Iraq
Robert Dreyfuss, The Nation: There's little to celebrate about the US pullback in Iraq. More than six years after the US invasion, Iraq is shattered. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dead -- far more, incidentally, than even the largest estimates of the number of Iraqis who died during 35 years of Saddam Hussein's rule -- its social fabric is utterly destroyed, its economy is in ruins, and its dominant political faction is in hock to neighboring Iran. And now what?

William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: While Iraq's Shia population celebrated in the streets and Iraq's Sunni population crouched in fear, another group got right to business: 'The long awaited auction of licenses to develop Iraq's huge oil reserves began Tuesday amid unusual contentiousness,' reported the New York Times... 'as multinationals demanded far more revenue from every barrel of increased production than the authorities were willing to allow. Scores of Chinese, Russian, American and British oil executives, representing eight of the world's top 10 non-state oil companies, gathered in a hotel meeting room in the Green Zone. They listened closely on headphones to translations as bids for six oil fields and two natural gas fields were read out and then rushed into consultations.'

Anonymous, Truthout: And so George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are closer than ever to achieving their original goal of securing Iraq's oil for the multinational oil companies who got them into the White House in the first place. Success is near, and all for the cost of a percent or so of one generation's young men and women, and a few trillion dollars.
Image source here.

'Let the Earth bear witness'

Requiem for a revolution
Pepe Escobar, Asia Times: What happened was the cementing of a dictatorship by the mullahtariat supported by the military... The army -- the IRGC -- didn't support the people. And the bazaari merchants and the oil and gas industry workers didn't go on strike...

From now on, civil disobedience will be key, from silent protests to strikes. The sound of 'Allah-O-Akbar' will be echoing from the rooftops for days and weeks and months. When Khamenei sided with Ahmadinejad, he shelved his cloak of supreme arbiter and turned into a gang leader. The social contract between millions of Iranians and the revolution was broken. In the long run, there will be blood, yes -- and there will be resistance. Iran is a very sophisticated society. There can be no turning back. But it will be a long and winding road.

So in the end there was neither reform nor revolution... But as Irish poet William Butler Yeats said, 'Let the Earth bear witness'; those that lived -- and will continue to live -- the dream of a better Iran should not and will not be forgotten.

Washington Post: At a small gathering in the house of an Iranian writer, people appeared resigned about the news. 'What difference was the council going to make?' one young woman asked a group of depressed-looking friends. No one offered an answer. Instead, people listed colleagues who have been arrested since the election. 'Why would they bring him in?' one man said of a journalist who was picked up in recent days. 'I don't care if I am next,' another man said defiantly... The uncertainty of the future dominated the conversation... Some talked about spending time in the countryside. Others were thinking of leaving Iran altogether... 'Things are going to change very rapidly from now on, for the worse.'

Bloomberg: Iran's Revolutionary Guards may be among the biggest winners... Guards officials may now cement their economic power... They already control more than 100 companies in the construction, real estate and energy industries... [The Guards'] influence has grown under Ahmadinejad, himself a guards veteran... Eight of the 21 posts in the president's cabinet are held by former members... At least one-third of Iran's parliament members are former guards... The organization is not monolithic. Though senior commanders picked by Supreme Leader Khamenei remain loyal, there are 'real fissures' between them and former members who favor better ties with the West.

Gary Sick, The Daily Beast: The Revolutionary Guards have been granted extraordinary influence over all functions of the Islamic republic -- military, political, economic, and even Islamic... The Guards themselves and companies run by the Guards have won major contracts in every corner of the economy, from airport construction to telecommunications to auto manufacturing. They have also allied themselves with some of the most conservative clerics... This is a formula for the kind of militarized and nationalist corporate state under a single controlling ideology that is not dissimilar to fascist rule in an earlier day. LIke fascism, it defines itself not only in terms of its own objectives but even moreso by what it opposes.
Image source here.

Iraqis celebrate US withdrawal from cities

Image source here.

Monday, June 29, 2009

And Canada?

Wanted: One selfless champion of democracy
James Travers, Toronto Star: All that matters now in this capital is what works. Political parties that once thought hard and said a lot about public policies are reduced to anointing leaders and hustling voters. Spending is so opaque that following the dollars is a long day's journey to nowhere. Appointed strategists, spin doctors and sycophants are more influential than cabinet ministers. Between elections, Canadian prime ministers exercise their authority with an audacity that would astound US presidents...

Along the way, parties and Parliament were neutered while a non-partisan bureaucracy, along with key agencies -- most notably the RCMP -- were politicized. Taxpayers and voters were pushed to the periphery, pawns to be managed, not citizens to be represented...

Changing the players and forcing them to play in daylight won't make a lasting difference as long as the game is rigged. Situational as they are, the rules now ensure the Prime Minister is the only possible winner... Prime ministers, once safely installed, have most of the powers commoners spent hundreds of years stripping from monarchs. Surrounded by whispering courtiers and fawning supplicants, they rule beyond Parliament's reach and oversight. Incrementally, they have turned servant into master and democracy on its head...

The way out is the way back. Piece by piece, democracy must be rebuilt. It begins with political parties re-establishing their rightful place in the policy process by providing a gathering place for people who care about the country and have strong, even strident ideas on how to make it better. It continues by giving back to Parliament what is Parliament's -- the responsibility and resources necessary to follow the dollars from promise into pockets, to know what ministers are doing and to hold the Prime Minister accountable...

Parties have to take policy as seriously as politics. Committees must be less partisan and more professional. Bureaucrats need to rediscover the voice they once used to speak truth to power. Watchdogs must be unchained to sniff out wrongdoing and bark when it's found.

None of this will happen until someone more saint than politician makes it the prime minister's business to roll back the office's extraordinary authority. Barring that, followers that leaders have been pushing around for so long will have to declare that enough is more than enough. In the absence of one or the other, democracy will continue its slide into sham-ocracy.
Image source here.

Iran and Honduras: people in rebellion

'We have finally learned
to fight'
Michael Petrou, Maclean's: According to Payam Akhavan, a professor of international law at McGill University, the 'seismic shift' that has occurred is not the power struggles within Iran's political establishment, but the fact that the Iranian people have so forcefully demanded change. 'However much there may be factional politcs,... underneath them the ground is crumbling. In a country like Iran, with its demographics, with its socio-economic level of development, you cannot simply rule through intimidation and terror. You need to have legitimacy.'

By apparently rigging an already flawed election, by shutting down freedom of expression and by suppressing the media, by blocking email and cellphone communication, and by unleashing club-wielding goons against its own peacefully demonstrating citizens, the Islamic Republic has lost much of the limited legitimacy it once possessed. Millions of Iranians are unwilling to accept this. 'For years, I would say that I didn't have hope for my people and that they would never move like they did in 1979, said Mastaneh, the 23-year-old beauty salon worker in Tehran. 'But I was proven wrong. We have finally learned to fight.'

Al Giordano, The Field: Here's some interesting video from early this morning when military troops took the national palace and passersby in the street began to realize a coup was in progress. You don't need to understand Spanish (and through much of the footage, the audio is too low to hear anyway) to grasp the courage of the photographers and rank-and-file citizens denouncing the troops to their faces. In one scene, a woman beats on every soldier that passes her on their way into the presidential palace. In another, people walk right up to military tanks and surround them.

I'm struck by the similarities in the streets of Honduras to images we've seen this month from the streets of Iran... What I see is the same human phenomenon in both places: people in rebellion, yearning to breathe free against authoritarian and illegitimate regimes.
Image source here.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

This revolution isn't anywhere close to over

Thousands of Iranians ignore threats, march in rally
Los Angeles Times: The witness said pro-government Basiji militiamen and plainclothes security officials on motorcycles surrounded the rally and that Mousavi himself addressed the gathering by cellphone, which was attached to a megaphone, but the witness could not hear what he said. Protesters flashed victory signs as they filled the mosque and surrounding side streets. A female protester, covered completely by a black chador, taunted some of the police. 'Who are you?' she demanded. 'Are you Muslims?' Dumbfounded security officials stood and watched.

Mousavi speech (via cell phone to megaphone to Facebook to Twitter to YouTube)

Today's demonstration clearly indicates people aren't 'back to business as usual' -- they're angry, disturbed, and still willing to demonstrate in large numbers whenever they get the chance. Clearly the government has a hard task -- and their crude efforts to contain the crisis are not convincing the people... They may be beginning to realize that the anger among the people is having a long term impact on the country... It's evident possibly even majorities of a number of councils and parliament are suspicious of the election outcome. I don't think this revolution is anywhere close to over.

Images: Demotix and Indranil Mukhergee/AFP/Getty

'Unparalleled will and courage'

Thousands march in silent Tehran protest
CNN: About 5,000 protesters marched slowly and silently through Tehran on Sunday near a mosque where the government was allowing a demonstration for the first time in days... The gathering is officially meant to honor Mohammed Beheshti, who was killed in a bombing on this date 28 years ago.

AP: Witnesses said riot police used tear gas and clubs to break up a crowd of up to 3,000 protesters who had gathered near north Tehran's Ghoba Mosque... Some described scenes of brutality, telling the Associated Press that some protesters suffered broken bones and alleging that police beat an elderly woman, prompting a screaming match with young demonstrators who then fought back...

Witnesses said the protesters also chanted, 'Ya Hussein, Mir Hossein,' linking Mousavi's first hame with a highly revered Shiite saint, Imam Hussein -- the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and a symbol of personal sacrifice for a cause. [Video here.]

Mousavi, meanwhile, signaled anew he won't drop his political challenge. In a new statement, he insisted on a repeat of the election and rejected a partial recount being proposed by the government... For the first time since the election, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani spoke publicly... claiming that 'suspicious hands' were trying to open rifts between the people and the Islamic system.

Video reportedly from today's march. This video shows Mehdi Karroubi, the other reformist candidate who has allied himself with Mousavi, participating in the march.

Christian Science Monitor: 'It's the scale of the arrests that's so incredible,' says Babak Rahimi, an American academic... 'The last time there was something close to this was the 1999 student uprising -- but then it was just the students. Now, we're talking about leading reformist politicians, 40-something journalists, everyone's at risk.'...

A source close to Mousavi says that the first and second circle of people around Mousavi have all been arrested or put under house arrest. Mousavi himself has limited ability to communicate with his team and his followers. The lack of leadership is visible on the streets, where demonstrators exhibit unparalleled will and courage, but lack direction and guidance...

In the case of journalists more generally, 'this is the widest crackdown that I can think of in memory... says Frank Smyth, [security coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists]. 'The scale of the arrests is extraordinary. At the moment there are more journalists in custody in Iran than anywhere in the world.'...

'It's like the disappearances [under former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet] in the 1970s, we simply don't know anything about the circumstances of their detentions,' [Mr. Rahimi] says. 'One guy who was arrested and released told me there's a large prison in the basement of the Interior Ministry. Another journalist went into hiding when the Basiji came to arrest him at his house -- even his wife doesn't know where is now. There's something mafia-like about the messages the government is sending now, you know, 'we're going to get you and your family.'
Getty image: Israeli woman at a June 27 demonstration in Tel Aviv.

35,000-year-old flute...

...is oldest known musical instrument
Los Angeles Times: The wing bone of a griffon vulture with five precisely drilled holes in it is the oldest known musical instrument, a 35,000-year-old relic of an early human society...

Excavated from a cave in Germany, the nearly complete flute suggests that the first humans to occupy Europe had a fairly sophisticated culture, complete with alcohol, adornments, art objects and music that they developed there or even brought with them from Africa when they moved to the new continent 40,000 years or so ago...

The flute was discovered last summer in the Hohle Fels cave, about 14 miles southwest of the city of Ulm, by archaeologist Nicholas J. Conard of University of Tubingen in Germany... The cave is the same one where Conard found the recenly described 40,000-year-old Venus figure, the oldest known representation of the female form; as well as a host of other artifacts, including ivory carvings of a horse's or bear's head; a water bird maybe in flight; and a half-human, half-lion figure...

The reconstructed flute, a little under 9 inches long, was found in 12 pieces in a layer of sediment nearly 9 feet below the cave's floor. The team also found fragments of two ivory flutes -- which are less durable -- that are probably not quite as old.

The surfaces of the flute and the structure of the bone are in excellent condition and reveal many details about its manufacture. The maker carved two deep, V-shaped notches into one end of the instrument, presumably to form the end into which the musician blew, and four fine lines near the finger holes. The other end is broken off, but, based on the normal size of the vultures, Conard estimates the intact flute was probably 2 to 3 inches longer.

In 2004, Conard found a 30,000-year-old, 7-inch three-holed ivory flute at the nearby Geissenklosterle cave, and he has found fragments of several others, although none are as old as the Hohle Fels artifact. Combined, the finds indicate the development of a strong musical tradition in the region, accompanied by the development of figurative art and other innovations, Conard said.

The presence of music did not directly produce a more effective subsistence economy and greater reproductive success, he concluded, but it seems to have contributed to improved social cohesion and new forms of communication, which indirectly contributed to demographic expansion of modern humans to the detriment of the culturally more conservative Neanderthals.
Image source here.

Signs of early culture beneath Lake Huron

Ancient hunters' clues found in lake
Structures were above water about 9,000 years ago

The Ann Arbor News: Using detailed government data on lake floor topography, a research vessel and a remote mini-rover equipped with a camera, scientists found what they believe are hunting pits, camps and rock structures called caribou 'drive lines' on the bottom of Lake Huron. Drive lines, also called drive lanes, are walls built of rocks that hunters used to lure caribou into ambush. A peculiarity of the deer species is that it readily follows linear cues, even though the rock walls are short enough to step over.

The structures were found on an underwater ridge that -- about 9,000 years ago --- was a land bridge above water. The 10-mile-wide Alpena-Amberly ridge stretches more than 100 miles from near Point Clark, Ontario to Presque Isle. The 1,148-foot 'drive line' structure found by U-M researchers closely resembles one previously discovered on Victoria Island in the Canadian subarctic.

'This is a really important time period in human history in North America,' said John O'Shea, curator of Great Lakes Archaeology in the U-M Museum of Anthropology... Much land-based archaeological evidence about early North Americans has been lost to time. But the extreme cold and neutral fresh waters of the Great Lakes help to preserve such finds.

Science Daily: The Paleo-Indians were nomadic and pursued big game, O'Shea said. With the Archaic period, communities were more settled, with larger populations, a broad spectrum economy, and new long distance trade and ceremonial connections. 'Without the archaeological sites from this intermediate time period, you can't tell how the got from point A to point B, or Paleo-Indian to Archaic. This is why the discovery of sites preserved beneath the lakes is so significant.'

Perhaps more exciting than the hunting structures themselves is the hope they bring that intact settlements are preserved on the lake bottom. These settlement could contain organic artifacts that deteriorate in drier, acidic soils on land.
Image source here.

Wind power for Vancover

Massive wind turbine set to be installed on Grouse Mountain

Artist rendering; photo by Handout

Vancouver Sun: A heavy-lift helicopter will be used early next week to fly the pieces of a massive industrial wind turbine -- a first for Metro Vancouver -- to the top of the Olympic Express chairlift at Grouse Mountain... Situated at an elevation of 1,230 metres or 4,100 feet, the turbine is expected to meet 20 per cent of the ski resort's power needs. Tourists will be able to ride an elevator inside the tower to a viewing area 58 metres off the ground... 'It's meant to be an iconic symbol for Vancouver, educational and inspirational and something that gives people hope for alternative energy in Vancouver,' Grouse Mountain spokesman Chris Dagenai said of the turbine. The facility, with a maximum generating capacity of 1.5 megawatts, should be built by August or September and producing power in early 2010.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

'Hollow army' limps to 2012: for what?

Operation Embargo: Canada spins the truth in Afghanistan

Brian Hutchinson, National Post: Acts of murder and terror are nothing new. But in Ottawa, government and military officials insist -- at least in public -- that the Canadian mission in Kandahar is making steady progress...

While [Kandahar Provincial Council deputy chairman Muhammad] Ehsan's unvarnished analysis brings little comfort, it's useful. 'The truth is, things are deteriorating. The truth is, we are despondent.'...

In a remarkably candid exchange with reporters earlier this year, Brigadier-General Denis Thompson, the outgoing commander of troops in Kandahar, described the results of local surveys conducted on behalf of the military. To no one's surprise, 55% of Kandahar residents surveyed said they felt relatively safe when asked in 2007. But only 25% said the same last year...

That was more than enough clarity for the Canadian Forces. The unflattering survey results were put back in the vault. A military spokesman told me they 'have been reclassified and aren't available for public consumption.'...

As expectations around the mission in Kandahar diminish, information about Canadian operations and results in the province are either withheld, or scrupulously finessed by the government and senior military brass. Case in point: Canadians were not informed that their military had permanently withdrawn from hard-won territory in western Panjwali district last fall...

Muhammad Ehsan is blunt... 'It was not wise to leave an area after you have pledged to eliminate the Taliban and bring stability to it. The money spent there, and the cost to Canadians, the soldiers they have lost there, and for what? You just left.'

Brian Stewart, CBC News: Canadians are unaware that the exhaustion of the combat mission is far worse than it has appeared... Only Lt. Gen. Andrew Leslie, the head of Canada's army has said enough to raise eyebrows. He insisted in the spring that his troops will need a year's rest after Afghanistan, along with replacement of worn-out equipment.

It's known within military circles that Leslie is far more concerned about the state of the army than he's admitted publicly... I was able to obtain a leaked internal military report on the state of the forces, signed by Leslie. The report actually refers to 'the hollow army.'

The restricted report... points out the current efficiencies in all branched of the military. Its most searing conclusion is that the army 'is now operating beyond its capacity.' 'The war in Afghanistan,' the report warns, 'illustrates deficiencies in the army and the Canadian Forces... The Afghanistan mission is particularly taxing on army capabilities and the current operations tempo is not sustainable.'...

Outside military observers insist the army still downplays its problems. Even the term 'hollow army' is not stark enough; it's now close to being a 'broken army,' suggests Doug Bland, a highly regarded military lecturer and historian from Queen's University... Bland recently suggested the military is so battered and worn by Afghanistan that any further service abroad, after Afghanistan, is unlikely for the foreseeable future... The concern, he said, should be less about leaving in 2011 and more about getting to 2011...

The Ottawa attitude seems to be: 'Oh well, Canada will be out of there soon.' Which Canada won't be, unless you consider 2012 a short time away.
Image source here.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Iran vigil in Vancouver

Vancouver Sun: Thousands gather in Vancouver to support Iranians fighting for democratic rights

'Fire below the ashes'

Eerie calm masks Iran tensions
BBC: It has been much quieter these last few days. One elderly witness said she felt it was the calm of the grave... When you ask Iranians about the way this might go, a phrase keeps cropping up. They say it might seem quiet to an outsider, but there is fire below the ashes.

Mohsen Makhmalbaf, The Guardian: Some suggest the protests will fade because nobody is leading them. All those close to Mousavi have been arrested, and his contact with the outside world has been restricted. People rely on word of mouth, because their mobile phones and the Internet have been closed down. That they continue to gather shows they want something more than an election. They want freedom, and if they are not granted it we will be faced with another revolution...

All the armed forces of Iran are only enough to repress one city, not the whole country. The people are like drops of water coming together in a sea.

Iran's New Revolutionaries
Babak Sarfarez, TehranBureau: In the past few weeks, millions of Iranians have voted with their feet, marched peacefully, experienced mass catharsis, pitched street battles and defied the government's edicts with increasing confidence. Before the crackdown, they got a taste of freedom and personal empowerment, and they won't soon forget it...

The Green Wave -- the name chosen by Moussavi for his movement -- is a multigenerational, multiethnic and multiclass phenomenon, though with a strong, urban, middle-class accent. It is also composed of men and women in roughly equal numbers... It has a critical component that is the linchpin of the entire movement: a class of young revolutionaries who have sustained it through difficult times. Many of these young men and women are between 18 and 24; they sport green armbands and masks, and they are fearless. Before the Revolutionary Guards stepped into the fray on June 20, the young militants of the Green Wave withstood days of unrelenting attacks by the fanatic Basij militia and the regular riot police.

What powers this new militancy?... Nearly every young person in Iran, particularly young women, can recount dozens of stories of humiliation and discrimination... For them, each rock thrown at the police, each hand-to-hand combat with the militiamen and vigilantes, each confrontation with the heavily armed Revolutionary Guards is not just an act of political defiance but a cathartic experience of personal liberation....

These new young revolutionaries are sophisticated and canny. They have few illusions about the magnitude of the problems facing their country or the complexities of living in a highly traditional and religious society... Despite the fact that they are overwhelmingly secular, their slogans mingle political and religious themes to avoid alienating the faithful...

In the days and weeks to come, this infant movement will face difficult challenges. It may suffer some setbacks and reversals, but what matters is the experience it has gained. At this stage, it is doubtful that fear alone can contain the rising tide of discontent or return things to the status quo ante.
Image source here.

Friday in Iran

* At 1pm today, Tehran's sky turned green.
* Iranians to Release Balloons into the air all over the cities to protest & in memory of victims of Uprising.
* Today, at one PM people all over Iran will be airing green baloons and make the sky GREEN!

Voice of America reports that more than 13,000 people have gathered at Zahra cemetery to mourn the dead. Google translation (of sorts) here.
Images from photo sites.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Breaking the barrier of fear

Hamid Dabashi, NYT:
I see the moment we are witnessing as a civil rights movement rather than a push to topple the regime... These young Iranians are not out in the streets seeking to topple the regime for they lack any military wherewithal to do so, and they are alien to any militant ideology that may push them in that direction.

It seems to me that these brave young men and women have picked up their hand-held cameras to shoot those shaky shots, looking in their streets and alleys for their Martin Luther King... Like the color of green, the very figure of Moussavi has become, it seems to me, a collective construction of their desires for a peaceful, nonviolent attainment of civil and women's rights. They are facing an army of firearms and fanaticism with chanting poetry and waving their green bandannas. I thought my generation had courage to take up arms against tyranny. Now I tremble with shame in the face of their bravery.

USA Today: Negar Mortazavi, who lives in Washington, D.C., stays in touch with Iranian friends who have been protesting in Tehran. On Saturday, a male student described on the phone violent clashes between protesters, police and plainclothes militia. One scene stood out, and 'he couldn't believe his eyes... He decided it was time to start running when the police were coming. He turned back and saw some women still standing. These women are not afraid.'

Diavad Salehi-Isfahani, NYT: Rapidly expanding health and educational opportunities since the revolution have transformed the Iranian family from traditional to modern, turning women from mothers and housewives into spouses, the Persian word for which -- hamsar -- literally means equal.

With the decline of patriarchy at home, demands for equal rights for women in society and greater social freedoms in general have grown. This is why Mr. Moussavi's call to remove the morality police from the streets resonated so strongly with youth and the larger middle class... He promised to promote the rule of law and greater equality of opportunity.

Laura Secor, The New Yorker: What is new today is not that cracks have opened inside a monolithic system, or even that particularly powerful figures, like Rafsanjani, have broken onto the side of the reformers. What is new is the fierce mass movement from below, this is not confined to students and intellectuals but seems to span demographics and age groups. Even while exercising legal rights, nonviolent methods, and issuing constant appeals to Islam and to the ideals of the revolution, this movement has openly defied Khamenei, the Basij, and the Revolutionary Guards, by ignoring the threats of bloodshed and mayhem. Nothing like that has happened in thirty years...

Even if they lose, Mousavi and his supporters will have permanently changed the landscape of protest in Iran by breaking what had once seemed an impermeable barrier of fear.
Image source here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Who wins?

Mir Hossein Mousavi, on his Facebook page: Guns vs. 'the greatness of God,' armed forces vs. mobile phones, batons vs. mourning, lies vs. cameras, national television vs. Twitter, bullets vs. Facebook, power vs. dignity... Who wins?

Bet on Neda's side
David Ignatius, Washington Post: On one side you have all the instruments of repression in Iran, gathering their forces for a crackdown. On the other you have unarmed protesters symbolized by the image of Neda Agha Soltan, a martyred woman dying helplessly on the street, whose last words reportedly were: 'It burned me.'

Who's going to win? In the short run, the victors may be the thugs who claim to rule in the name of God: the Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Basij militia and the other tools of an Islamic revolution that has decayed and hardened into mere authoritarianism. They have shown that they are willing to kill enough of their compatriots to contain this first wave of change.

But over the coming months and years, my money is on the followers of the martyred Neda. They have exposed the weakness of the clerical regime in a way that Iran's foreign adversaries -- America, Israel, Saudi Arabia -- never could. They have opened a fundamental split in the regime. The rulers will try to bind this wound with force, and salve it with concessions, but neither approach will make the wound heal.

We are watching the first innings of what will be a long game in Iran... How will the conflict proceed? Jack Goldstone, a professor at George Mason University who studies revolutions, sees a three-stage process that leads to regime change. First, members of the elite defect and form an opposition; then the nation polarizes and coalitions are formed; and then the mass mobilization. These three elements of the revolutionary process are already present. The ferment will ripen as the regime tries to avert step four -- its demise.

Juan Cole, Informed Comment: The fact is that despite the bluster of the American Right that Something Must Be Done, the United States is not a neutral or benevolent player in Iran. Washington overthrew the elected government of Iran in 1953 over oil nationalization, and installed the megalomaniac and oppressive Mohammad Reza Pahlevi, who gradually so alienated all social classes in Iran that he was overthrown in a popular revolution in 1978-79... Moreover, very unfortunately, US politicians are no longer in a position to lecture other countries about their human rights...

American politicians should keep their hands off Iran and let the Iranians work this out. If the reformers have enough widespread public support, they will develop tactics that will change the situation. If they do not, then they will have to regroup and work toward future change. US covert operations and military interventions have caused enough bloodshed and chaos. If the US had left Mosaddegh alone in 1953, Iran might now be a flourishing democracy and no Green Movement would have been necessary.

Military operations after Afghan end date?

Canada's Afghan tab will be $1.35B more
Vancouver Sun (CanWest): The Treasury Board says that the cost of Canada's military mission in Afghanistan for the next two years will be $1.35 billion higher than projected a year ago by the Defence Department. Those revised estimates of the incremental costs of the Canadian Forces mission in Afghanistan are posted on the Treasury Board website. The Defence Department, citing national security provisions, censored an Access to Information request by the federal NDP that asked for those figures three weeks ago...

'The left hand and the right hand seem to have different strategies here. It's time they came clean and let the public know what was going on.' said NDP defence critic Jack Harris... 'You've got secret numbers for national security reasons, then they put them on their website.'... Harris said it is also curious that the Treasury Board figures show for the first time an estimate for the fiscal year 2011-12 when the combat mission is due to end. He said that suggests the military has a plan for operations in Afghanistan after the planned withdrawal date.
Image by Jonathan Fowlie; source here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Bazaar general strike!

Tweets via persiankiwi:
Mousavi -- We will not expend any more energy talking to the Gov in the streets -- we must change course
Mousavi -- From Today [Tuesday] every morning at 9am WE ALL travel to Tehran Bazaar -- whatever reaction from Gov -- Bazaar will close
Mousavi -- stop all work and travel with friends & family toward Tehran Bazaar every day at 9am
Mousavi -- do NOT wear green -- dress normally -- bring your children -- if stopped u are ONLY going shopping
Mousavi -- the objective is to bring Tehran to standstill -- millions of people go shopping but NOBODY SHOPPING
Mousavi -- There is nothing to fear -- if asked -- YOU ARE ONLY GOING SHOPPING
Mousavi -- no matter what the reaction of the Gov -- the Bazaar will close or be at standstill

Al Giordano: This is quite brilliant on a tactical level. It is a method of contributing to a General Strike without calling it one. It gives the bazaari shopkeepers a pretext to shut down the bazaars -- the backbone of Iranian commerce -- without risking losing their market posts (as the State has threatened). It allows demonstrators a large degree of stealth heading to and from the 'demonstration' without placards or wearing green or anything else to call attention to them as individuals. It focuses the struggle in a highly public place -- one that exists in every city and town -- where if the State chooses violent repression it will provoke even more opposition from previously unmobilized forces.

How does the regime deal with that? It leaves no good choices for those trying to hold on to what is already a shaking grip on their power.

There are unconfirmed reports today that a national strike is underway already, including by Iran state television which has reported that today, Tuesday, thirty percent of workers in the country have not shown up on the job. If state media is admitting 30 percent, it is a safe bet that adherence to the strike is larger than that. It would also be very impressive because the government has warned that any citizen that participates in a strike will be fired from his and her job, or lose his or her space in the public markets...

Their demonstrations and strikes are infused with appeals to that clergy to exercise its influence and change the course of the State. The protests are not aimed at Washington, or at the United Nations, nor at any other external power to intervene (if there's one thing that almost all Iranians agree on it is that they will never again be ruled from abroad)... The demonstrations are, instead, very shrewdly aimed at the internal dynamics inside Iran; the self-actualized protests of a people very well informed as to their indigenous opportunities for self-rule.

'The process is slow -- but certain'

Roger Cohen, NYT: The Islamic Republic has been weakened. Why? I see five principal factors. The first is that the supreme leader's post -- the apex of the structure conceived by the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini -- has been undermined. The keystone of the arch is now loose...

The second is that the hypocritical but effective contract that bound society has been broken. The regime never had active support from more than 20 percent of the population. But acquiescence was secured by using only highly targeted repression (leaving the majority free to go about its business), and by giving people a vote for the president every four years.

That's over. Repression will be broad and ferocious in the coming months. The acquiescent have already become the angry. You can't turn Iran into Burma. The resistance of a society this varied and savvy will be fierce.

The third is that a faction loyal to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, fiercely nationalistic and mystically religious, has made a power grab so bold that fissures in the establishment have become canyons...

The fourth is that Iran's international rhetoric, effective in Ahmadinejad's first term, will be far less so now. Every time he talks of justice and ethics, his two favorite words, video will roll of Neda Agha Soltan's murder and the regime's truncheon-wielding goons at work. The president may prove too much of a liability to preserve.

The fifth is that, at the very peak of its post-revolution boom, the regime has lost a whole new generation -- and particularly the women of that generation -- by failing to adapt.

Christiane Amanpour: The women have been a very dominant factor in Iran throughout the ages. It sounds counterintuitive because in some instances, in the court of law, no matter what law we're talking about -- criminal, divorce, inheritance, child custody, etc. -- women count for only half of a man. But in society women have been very strong, and women have had a much more vibrant, participatory role in Iran than in any other of the countries around that region... And ever since the beginning, 30 years during the revolution, women were out on the streets en masse. Because it then became an Islamic society, traditional men could not keep the women out of the public sphere anymore, couldn't keep their girls from going to school, because now it was an Islamic society and there was no reason to do that. So now 65 percent of university students are women. Women are in all sorts of spheres of professional endeavor.

A series of recent tweets by persiankiwi:
At Friday prayers last wk Khamenei named Rafsanjani -- it is very unusual to name anyone at Friday prayers. Rafsanjani is head of Guardians who appointed Khamenei -- He has power to remove him too. During elections ANejad attak reputation of Rafsanjani on behalf of Khamenei. Rafsanjani is possibly most powerful man in Iran -- he has support of army and many of Revolutionary Guard. Ppl of Iran know that Rafsanjani opposes Khamenei and ANejad -- there is a bit division between them for past 10yrs. Until today Rafsanjani has remained silent about elections fraud in Iran -- this silence is v/important.

Rafsanjani is waiting 4 Gov to show world extent of their suppression of ppls. Rafsanjani is also waiting for wave of support to grow both in & out of country. Rafsanjani is slowly eroding support for Khamenei from behind scene. Rafsanjani is standing back to see who is who -- who support who -- to see who is trusted. Rafsanjani is allowing Revolutionary Guard commanders to choose their side -- with ppl or against -- trusted or not. When all positions clear -- Rafsanjani has the military, financial & clerical power to mobilise. The process is slow -- but certain -- when Rafsanjani speaks -- he will be heard.
Image source here.

Harper government concealing cost of war

Cost of Afghan war now a state secret, Tories say

National Post: In a significant policy shift, the Canadian government now believes that telling the country's taxpayers the future cost of the war in Afganistan would be a threat to national security... The Defence Department cited a national security exemption when it censored a request under the Access to Information Act by the federal NDP for the military costs of Canada's participation...

The military's new secrecy comes after the financial cost of the mission became a major issue for several days during last fall's federal election campaign.

During the campaign, after he secured the agreement of all parties including the ruling Conservatives, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page released a detailed report that suggested the full cost of the mission could reach $18.1-billion by 2011. Mr. Page's study took into account the long-term costs of caring for physically and mentally ill soldiers...

In a recent speech, Defence Minister Peter MacKay touted the price tag of the government's program to buy new equipment for the military, telling an audience of defence contractors and lobbyists that the government would spend $60-billion on new capital acquisitions by 2028...

Last year's figures showed the cost ballooning to $1.007-billion for 2007-08 and projected they would reach $1.009-billion by 2008-09. But this year's figures show that the cost for 2008-09 was higher than projected, at $1.190-billion. 'Some of the existing numbers changed so dramatically. It's not clear what the reason was for it,' [NDP defence critic Jack] Harris said.
Image by Jonathan Fowlie; source here.

Endurance: the women of Iran

I cannot sleep and not write this: Today in Haft-e Tir, there were so many members of basij that they outnumbered the demonstrators 3 or 4 to 1. They were less focused on women. This must be related to the murder of poor Neda. And this was also why whenever they got hold of a man, women would surround them and shout don't beat him, don't beat and they would turn and anxiously say we didn't beat him. It was astonishing. They explained; they talked... Women are playing an amazing role in the streets; both in terms of numbers and effectiveness.

Anne Applebaum, Washington Post: There is a connection between the violence in Iran over the past week and the women's rights movement that has slowly gained strength in Iran over the past several years...

Years of work and effort lie behind... the number of women on the streets -- and their presence matters. Their presence could strike the deepest blow against the regime... The Iranian clerics know that women pose a profound threat to their authority, too... the regime would not bother to brutally repress dissidents unless it feared them deeply. Nobody would have murdered a peaceful, unarmed young woman in blue jeans -- unless her mere presence on the street presented a dire threat.

The regime may succeed. Violence usually succeeds, at least in the short term, in intimidating people. In the long term, however, the links, structures, organizations and groups set up by Iranian women, not to mention the photographs of the past week, will continue to gnaw away at the Iranian regime's legitimacy... I cannot count how many times I've been told in recent years that 'women's issues' in the Islamic world are a secondary subject... But regimes that repress the civil and human rights of half their population are inherently unstable. Sooner or later, there has to be a backlash. In Iran, we're watching one unfold.

After 5 days of not being heard of a female student of Azad University of Bandarabbas, now it has been confirmed by security guards that she has been killed. She was shot and taken away by security guards in front of the entrance of Bandarabbas Azad University on June 18. To avoid spreading the news her body was buried secretly and without informing her relatives.

Gary Sick: Don't expect that this will be resolved cleanly with a win or loss in short period of time. The Iranian revolution, which is usually regarded as one of the most accelerated overthrows of a well-entrenched power structure in history, started in about January 1978 and the shah departed in January 1979. During that period, there were long pauses and periods of quiescence that could lead one to believe that the revolt had subsided. This is not a spring; it is a marathon. Endurance is at least as important as speed.
Image source here.