Iraq, Iran, Israel

Iraq, Iran, Israel
: During the imprisonment of Iranian blogger Sina Motallebi, I linked frequently to Pedram Moallemian at Eyranian because he started the petition to free Motallebi (he also started a petition to “stop the hate” when he saw Nazi references on some Persian weblogs). He is one of a now-large group of Iranian bloggers I read daily and hope to get to know under the Tony Pierce dictum (below).

Lately when I’ve read and linked to Pedram’s blog I’ve had a twinge of difficulty as he, more and more, makes anti-Israeli asides. On one level, of course, I accept that; everyone’s entitled to an opinion, including opinions critical of Israel.

But two things have troubled me.

Today, Pedram takes me to task as a “member of the far right end of the political spectrum” (ha!) because I attack Yasser Arafat over his halfway condemnation — and thus, halfway endorsement — of suicide bombers. Arafat has murdered civilians and used his own people — his own youth, for God’s sake — as weapons, as human bombs. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion, Pedram, and mine is that Arafat is slime.

More often, Pedram attributes U.S. actions regarding Iraq — and more to his point, regarding Iran today — to the work of “the pro-Israeli group in Washington DC” and “hard-line American Jews.”

Pedram, not everything is about Israel. Not everything is about the U.S. What this is about, in the end, is local issues of freedom and human rights and democracy and responsibility.

As for Iraq: No matter how and why we got there, no one can regret the disposal of Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. That was vital for Iraqis, not Americans, not Israelis, but Iraqis.

As for Iran: I don’t want to see us inserting ourselves into Iran, considering our troubled history there. But you want to see change, there, Pedram, for you you are involved with opposition groups. There is ample reason for change. And it is best if it occurs from within. This is not Israel’s issue. I hope it does not become America’s issue. It is Iran’s issue.

I say all this in an effort to keep the dialogue going here in the Blogosphere. I’ve been excited to see bridges being built from person to person, country to country, culture to culture and I don’t want to see them blocked and bombed through glib assumption and accusation. We’re going to disagree; in fact, disagreeing is the best thing we can do so long as we keep on talking. So I’ll keep on disagreeing with Pedram and keep on linking to him.

  • Hear, Hear! When someone complains about another person whilst trying to enlist that other person for the first person’s quest, it makes it difficult to offer support.
    Accusations of perfidy do not make for genuine relationships.

  • Mike G

    “Not everything is about Israel. Not everything is about the U.S.”
    Man, when you finish convincing Pedram of this fact, maybe you could try convincing the rest of the Arab world, Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, Arundhati Roy, the entire peace movement, etc….

  • I am an Iranian, and I don’t believe that everything is about either Israel or the US. I have also raised non-Israeli/American related issues that have given way to dictatorship in the Middle East, e.g. history, economy,a nd cultural aspects.
    Having said that, I cannot be blind to the foreign interefernce. I cannot ignore the news that indicates Michael Ledeen (a neocon) organizes a “new revolution” in Iran as we speak. Please don’t call me conspiracy-minded. The news was all over a few days ago. This is just a snapshot of a history going on in the region.

  • Sounds like Pedram caught the Arab “blame the JOOS” disease. What a shame.

  • Moira

    Pedram snipes at the US regularly as well and seems to favor anti-US pundits and newspapers, so when I do read his site, I do so with that in mind. Everything we do is wrong and counterproductive: our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq merely increased worldwide terrorism and have been manifest failures, our intentions regarding Iran are sinister and we’re trying to put another puppet king in charge, etc., etc. He’s always willing to accept the worst that The Independent and The Guardian dish out. In fact, I’ve largely stopped reading his blog unless someone like you links to him.
    As for Arafat’s explicit mention of women and children, I will only say that condemnations of suicide bombers ALWAYS single out innocent women and children for special mention, so his comments may be a reflection of that. Arafat’s history certainly makes it easy to believe he was indirectly telegraphing approval of bombings that kill Israeli men (in or out of uniform), but may not have. The whole situation in the Middle East is in flux right now, and I think we need to stop reflexively evaluating the players based exclusively on what they’ve done or said in the past.
    Pedram is dead wrong IMO if he thinks the US would try to install Boy Reza Pahlavi as Shah given our recognition that Iranian anger toward the US is centered on our doing just that in 1956 and their goodwill toward the US reflects their having forgiven us for it and is not an invitation to repeat that disaster, but Pedram is reading the situation based upon our past actions and upon screwy anti-American pundits. We have to allow for changes in outlook and realize the US and others have learned from past mistakes. We didn’t try to reinstall a monarchy in Afghanistan even though we brought the old king back into the country for political reasons, and the Iranian monarchists may be playing a similar role.
    The loose group of Iranian monarchists surrounding Reza are an opposition group we are working with along with other opposition groups, and while there may be individuals who want the monarchy restores, there is every indication that that is just the pipe dream of a few. The Iranian people don’t want it and would never accept it.

  • Moira,
    You have some thoughtful points regarding Iran’s monarchists. I had started feeling that Washington is using them only to put more pressure on Tehran. I put that in my weblog too. There are two things here:
    1- Can I use parts of your comment here in my weblog?
    2- I came across a report suggesting that Tehran might take all these attempts by Washington as a mere warning, not a real intention.

  • Moira

    Well, I’m honored. Please take what you like. I’ve lately become so hopeful that Americans and Iranians will soon be friends. It’s such a fascinating culture, and I’d love to visit the country some day. I tend to agree with pundits who say that Iranians have the best shot at constitutional democracy in the Middle East: they already have the requisite voting structure in place and they have a high degree of political maturity in the things self-government requires, like issue awareness, public and reasoned debate, civil rights and basic freedoms. There’s a “velvet” revolution taking place in Iran, and I think the people who count in the US goverment know that. In fact, I think the recent decision not to pursue good relations with the current Iranian government reflects the realization that resuming diplomatic ties with the Guardian Council will make things more difficult for the reformers.
    I read the following on the blog of Iranian Ali Reza Nourizadah’s website in which he’s being interviewed by someone named Mehrdad Khonsari:
    “MK: What effect has the transformation of the region following the overthrow of the Iraqi regime had on the various political forces that are competing for power in Iran?
    ARN: Today, it is more than clear that we are dealing with three important forces for change: First, there are those within who are observing certain red lines as clearly stipulated by the regime. Despite their desire for the complete overhaul of the IRI, these people

  • Moira,
    1- Thanks.
    2- I didn’t know that Nourizadek had an English weblog.
    3- I couldn’t agree more that Iranians have the best shot in the region, and some even argue they have a better shot than some East European countries in the late ’80s or early ’90s.
    I admire your continuation of linking to Pedram’s site despite your feelings. But being a visitor to his weblog and just finishing reading that particular post, I think “anti-Israel” is a too strong a word. What he argues could very well be raised by some members of the labour party in Israelas well. I read really radical comments from Israelis inside Israel –not people like Chomsky. So you tell me, are they anti-Israel too?

  • Hooman:
    It’s not just one post, but a collection of comments in a lot of posts, especially lately. I’ve not let it stop me from linking to him before and didn’t comment on it before; it’s just that today, since he commented on me, I decided to add my view.
    Thanks for asking

  • Jeff,
    I really admire you for this article. I liked your civilized way of reasoning against Pedram.
    However, I dissagree with you in what you wrote about america’s intentions in the meadle east. Unfortunately, I tend to believe that many of US action in this region are charged with strong pro-Isreali policies. As Charlie Rose put it in an interview with Khatami last year: unconditional support of Isreal is an American value. I really wish I was wrong because I personally like jewish people. But the more I live in the States the more I find reason in support of this idea. Unconditional support for Isreal combined with having the hardline polititians controlling both Isreali and the US governments has really complicated the situation in the middle east and has added drastically to the problem of unqualified, stupid regimes in the Arab (+ Iran) world.

  • Diana

    Michael Ledeen is an American Jewish neocon who believes in revolution in Iran; I’m an American Jewish conservative who believes that our foreign entanglements should be kept to a bare minimum. In other words, American Jews are all over the map with respect to foreign policy.
    And your point is?

  • Mike G

    “I tend to believe that many of US action in this region are charged with strong pro-Isreali policies.”
    I tend to believe this too. You know why? Because Israel is a democracy and would be a peaceful society if it could, which stands in marked contrast to all the screwed-up terror-sponsoring kleptocratic hellholes it’s surrounded by, and to the worthless murdering rulers of which Yassir Arafat would very much like to add himself. When and if sane Arab countries come into being, maybe we’ll be in favor of their policies, too.

  • Diana

    And what is *your* point?
    Do you seriously think that the US is looking to destabilize the Iranian regime because of some Jewish-American neocons? The neocons, Jewish and non-Jewish, have been pushing for regime change in Iran since 1980. I know, because I was present at the creation of the whole neocon movement, as a Reagan Democrat.
    Only now have their dreams come close to reality because of two things: 9/11 and a very Christian President, the first President in decades not to have one Jew in his cabinet.
    Some cabal.

  • Miranda

    just to complete the picture

    whose side is Pedram on, I wonder?

  • Charlie

    Hooman — One of those confusing things about a free press is that people say all sorts of crazy things.
    Yes, Michael Ledeen is on about Iran again; he has as much of a fixation with Iran as Cicero had with Carthage. But considering that last year he was agressively arguing that we should forget about Iraq and go after Iran, I don’t think you need to worry that he’s got a lot of control over the US foreign policy.

  • Truth

    When the day comes that unqualified opposition to Israel in the Middle East stops– then you may begin to see a modification of what you call “unqualified support for Israel” in the US. The complaint of you Middle Easterners, I judge from your name that you are one, that the US isn’t even- handed in its dealings between Israel and the rest of you is shamelessly hypocritical. When do Middle Easterners ever show any even- handedness in their attitudes or actions toward Israel? They don’t. They demonize it. What you and the other “even-handed” complainers mean is why doesn’t the US abandon Israel. That way, it would be so much easier to isolate and destroy the only non-Muslim democratic country in the area. Because, be honest, you don’t want a country like that to succeed there. Yet, at the same time, you live here in the US and, I assume, you expect us to accept your right to do so and to succeed here. Again, there is a double standard that you either deny to yourself or apply with hypocritical impunity.

  • Israel supports and does terrorist acts just as Palestine does; however, U.S has double standards and only Palestinians get hammered and accused. If America really wants to block the road to terror and open “road map”, it better open the road to diplomacy and allow the UN, not even other counteries, just UN, put some preassure on Israel by diplomacy. Seven of the last nine vetoes at the Security Council have been by the United States, and six of these seven have been of draft resolutions criticizing the Israeli Government in some way. The most recent, in December 2002, was a draft resolution criticizing the killing by Israeli forces of several United Nations employees and the destruction of the World Food Program warehouse in the West Bank. In total, the US has blocked 35 draft resolutions on Israel.
    America isn’t even pursuing the right of its own citizens regarding Israel; I am sure you heard about Rachel Corrie, the 23 year old American student in Gaza who was killed when she was run over by a bulldozer while trying to block Israeli troops from demolishing a Palestinian home; her pictures were everywhere. What happened to her? How well was the story covered and developed by U.S media? Who was condemned for it? This was an American citizen and we didn’t hear much about her; can we then expect to hear anything about the Palestinians that are being killed? On the other hand, we are bombarded with Israelis being the victim of terror and etc.
    I am not saying Israel bad, Palestine good; no. I am saying being one-sided is not fair and that is why terror has grown and that is why it even hit US back at home. None of Middle Eastern countries have nuclear weapons and WMD as Israel has; but all the fuss was about Iraq, which turned out as false as it could be up to this minute, and now its about Iran.
    As for liberating Iraq; listen to the press conferences, Bush’s speeches, and everything else before the war; how many times did we hear “liberating Iraq”? How many times did you hear WMD? No one heard anything about liberating Iraq, not until it became clear that there were no WMD as it was expected to be. Suddenly we became Iraqi-lovers after 30 years under Saddam, just as we suddenly became Afghani-lovers after 7 years of Taliban ruling that country. This war was not about liberating Iraqis, that was a side effect of the war, not the objective of it.

  • jennetic

    Aslan: The UN is worthless. Trying to pressure Israel via UN “diplopmacy” will get you nowhere. As has been repeated above, Israel gets US support because it is a democratic nation in an area full of, excuse the saying, nut-bag bloody dictators.
    To say that Israel is the reason behind all the terrorism in the ME, and the reason why 911 occurred, indicates a laspe in logic. By that reasoning, the US should just nuke the ME because it isn’t happy with terroristic acts against it. In the “Israel Is To Blame” logic, people are driven to act and no one is responsible for their own actions. From this side of the pond, it sure seems like too many people in the ME focus on Israel and not enough on their own governmental problems (just an opinion).
    Maybe it’s a blind American optimism, but it seems to me that Israel isn’t about to nuke anyone- Yassar Arafat would, if he could. So would Hussein, so would many of the dictators in the region.
    Last, the US did meet its primary objectives in Iraq. We hope that the Bush administration sharpens its learning curve with nation-building post-war, but at least they are being flexible and trying. It is true that liberating the Iraqis was not the goal of the war, but a happy side effect. Freeing the Jewish people from concentration camps was not the goal of WWII, but a happy side effect- justification enough.
    Toppling Hussien also met other military strategic objectives, which are now in place. It will be quite a while before we can really see how everything played out. I do hope we find WMD, because it was never really in any doubt that they were there. I hear many Anti-war people complain that there was never a clear reason to go to war in Iraq, when actually there were many additive reasons. The WMD were the big one, but not the only one. This action will change the face of the ME, and will greatly affect Europe (read: shifting of US military bases and setting of Old/New Europe power-plays) for better or for worse.

  • Diana

    Isn’t dialogue great? Why, it sounds just like….the United Nations!!
    peace out,

  • Diana,
    Dialogue is great. Especially so long that people keep using a civilized language (just like yours) rather than insulting their opponents. It does sound like the United Nation (without the veto right I hope ;-)
    Mike G.
    So, we both agree that America provides unconditional support for Israel no matter what the occupation army does in Gaza stripe.
    I also share with you the belief that the ruling regime in my country, as well as the Arab countries, is backward, undemocratic, cruel and unpopular. This is a humiliating fact for all the middle eastern including myself. The founders of Israel brought the democratic traditions with them from Europe whereas the Middle Easters have had to grow democracy from the scratch in lands that have been governed with totally different traditions for millenniums. For that purpose they have to change many things including their economy. Relying on a single resource like oil is a major barrier against democracy and pluralism. Despite that things are gradually changing from within. Look at Iran for example. Anyhow, lack of democracy does not justify United States double standards in the Middle East, especially noticing that America has not helped the development of democracy in the Middle East in the past 50 years as much as it has damaged it.
    Your nickname and your impolite feedback suggest that you are an absolutist who thinks he/she owns all the truth. This blocks the way to establish any dialogue.

  • Sasaan

    There was a poll in about which person you suggest for the next regime of iran, most of vote was for Rajavi (leader of Mujahedin – MKO), as you know MKO is an terrorist group… i myself never visit that site because it’s not really voice of iranian, maybe a little of thousand …

  • Mike G

    Jafar, I do not necessarily agree with that at all, as evidenced by the fact that I never said it.
    There’s a lot not to like about Israel’s policies. But it’s about 1/100th of what there is not to like about any of the countries around it. And none of it involves attempting to blow the US up, which is a big one for me, sorry to say, and is something considerably deeper and more meaningful than a “double standard” (more like a rational response in the name of self preservation, as well as a moral judgement). If the Palestinians don’t like a hardline thug like Sharon, maybe they need to give some serious, honest thought to how he got elected over more sympathetic challengers. And why they now have so much less than they could have had at Oslo.

  • Diana

    The founders of Israel brought the democratic traditions with them from Europe…
    False. The founders of Israel virtually all from pre-revolutionary Russia and Poland*. There was no democratic tradition in either country. Far from it.
    You’ll have to search further for an explanation as to why Israel is democratic. My own explanation is simply that Jews don’t enjoy torturing and killing other Jews. The occasional assassination, yes, but the idea of a Jewish Saddam mass-murdering other Jews is unthinkable.
    Now, once you internalize that insight, you might conclude that people who don’t hate and torture themselves don’t hate and torture other people.
    Are we communicating now?
    Regarding Israel’s policies, all countries do crazy things. But not all countries are capable of self-correction. Some countries are run by mass-murdering maniacs who are immune to reason. Some countries are run by hard-liners who can be persuaded/forced to make a deal.
    There are at least two dozen majority Muslim states in the world. One or two fall into the rational category. The rest are brutal, repressive dictatorships whose main victims are…Muslims themselves, esp. women.
    You tell me.
    Oh, I forget, you already have: it’s the fault of the United States.
    May I give you a bit of advice? There’s a psychotherapist named Albert Ellis who wrote a ton of books. Skip most of them and get “The Guide to Rational Living.” There’s a chapter called “How to Stop Blaming and Start Living.” Read it.
    Worth the price of the book.
    *Actually, the “Pale of Settlement.” Google it!

  • Diana,
    “Are we communicating now?”
    We kept communicating to the point that you said “you already have: it’s the fault of the United States.”
    Where did I say such thing? I clearly mentioned that lack of democracy has internal reasons rather than external. Only, United States, as an influential power that always prides itself for exporting democratic values to the world has historically not helped solving the problem as much as it has complicated it. In case of Iran, consider the CIA role in 1953 military coup against a popular government, years of providing support for a dictator king in Iran, evidences that during 1978 and 1979 the US embassy covertly spend money to back Islamic fundamentalists againnst the emerging communist rebels (before the hostage crisis), evidences that US encouraged lengthening the Iran-Iraq war during 80s (the war actually saved the Mullahs neck in Iran),etc. Of course none of these means that whatever happened was the fault of the US, internal forces are to be blamed first. My only point is that during the cold war US did not often used its influence for promoting democracy, though some times it did. The anti-american, “blame the US for everything” stereotype that you have from the Middle Easters is far from accurate.
    I do have comments on other points that you raised but this has already gotten to lengthy.

  • Diana

    Jafar, I was responding to this:
    Unconditional support for Isreal combined with having the hardline polititians controlling both Isreali and the US governments has really complicated the situation in the middle east and has added drastically to the problem of unqualified, stupid regimes in the Arab (+ Iran) world.
    Right, you weren’t blaming the whole ball of wax on the US, but you came close.
    The fact is that no amount of meddling that the US has done excuses the regimes of the Middle East. The US “meddled” in Europe, it “meddled” in Japan, it meddles in a lot of places. Democracies were installed, yes, installed, in Europe and other places because the people there were capable of sustaining it.
    The ME has many problems with democracy because the family structure, mentality and dominant religion of the region aren’t conducive to democracy, markets, or independent inquiry.
    Like I said, Jafar, stop blaming and start living. I checked out your blog. You are quite young. When I was your age, I was blaming everyone else too.

  • Diana,
    1. Democracy was RESTORED in Erope after WWII, not installed. Democracy cannot be installed. It is a learned process and is very gradual. I give America a lot of credit for that restoration.
    2. If you pride yourself for America’s role in restoring democracy in the Europe (that you truly should) then by the same token you should take the blame for the occasions when America blew it in other places.
    3. “The ME has many problems with democracy …” I guess I have already mentioned twice that I understand and admit all these.
    4. I am 30 years old.
    5. “When I was your age “ But you look so young maam ;-)
    6. Can I use some of your comments in my blog? I may be critical of those comments.

  • Diana

    Last things first: yes, you can use my comments.
    I’m not aware of a country in Europe where the US restored democracy. Oh, you mean those little constitutional monarchies that we liberated, like Denmark and Holland? OK. But I thought that we installed, that is, forced democracy on Germany & Japan.
    I am ancient.