By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tag: Iran

Greenway on Iran

Sharp analysis of the crisis in Iran by former Boston Globe columnist H.D.S. Greenway, now writing for GlobalPost. He begins:

Protests in the streets, angry crowds in numbers not seen since the revolution in 1979, have some people wondering if Iran is on the verge of revolution. But it’s more likely, if the street protests get out of hand, there will be a China-style Tiananmen, with voices crying for reform silenced by gun fire.

Greenway also gives President Obama high marks for not saying anything that would help Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “play the Great Satan card.”

We’re debating whether Obama has said enough here. It was also the subject of a Jeff Jacoby column in today’s Globe.

Obama’s rope-a-dope

I’ve been as frustrated as anyone that President Obama hasn’t spoken out more forcefully about what’s taking place in Iran. But I’ve also heard a contrary view — that if he is seen as giving support to the reformist candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, he risks whipping up anti-American sentiment in favor of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Here’s a fascinating excerpt from an Arab-American blog being highlighted by Global Voices Online. I have no idea who the writer is, but what he or she says makes a lot of sense:

Whether or not Mousavi had the election stolen from him, it seems clear the ruling class has made a calculating move. Anti-American sentiment is one of the strongest cards those wretched clerics hold. By merely softening the tone Tehran hears from Washington, Obama has weakened their hand considerably. But re-instating Ahmadinejad ensures that US-Iranian relations will continue down a rocky road. What happens next is crucial. If Obama takes a firm position as a result of what’s happening, the mullahs may emerge victorious.

Writing for the Independent, Robert Fisk says there are hopeful signs that the Iranian security forces’ support for Ahmadinejad may be fading. That would be an enormously important development.

“Look at this brave Iranian lioness”

Globe Voices Online has posted an update on what bloggers are saying and doing in Iran. There’s some pretty stunning material, including a video of a young woman kicking a member of the security forces.

Meanwhile, Simon Tisdall writes in the Guardian of unconfirmed reports that Hashemi Rafsanjani, the controversial mentor to the reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, may be in the holy city of Qom, measuring how much support he might have from the Assembly of Experts in a bid to topple the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.

Scenes from the Iranian protests’s “The Big Picture” comes through once again.

Analyzing fraud claims in Iran (II)

Maybe Ahmadinejad won after all. This analysis in Politico is pretty persuasive to my non-expert eyes.

More: A stunning commentary from the Guardian arguing that Ahmadinejad won.

Analyzing fraud claims in Iran

Did Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad steal his re-election victory? Hard to know without verifiable evidence. After all, it’s not difficult to believe that supporters of the opposition reform candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, who are said to be educated, middle-class and urban, were outnumbered.

Two pieces I came across yesterday, though, offer some pretty compelling evidence that Ahmadinejad really did steal the election. The first, a Q&A from the Guardian, pulls together a number of different strands. Though not well-sourced, if they prove to be true, they add up to a powerful indictment:

  • Normally, it takes three days to finish counting the ballots in Iran. This time, Ahmadinejad’s victory was announced in two hours.
  • Mousavi supporters say the Iranian interior ministry told Mousavi not long after the polls had closed that it appeared he’d won by a substantial margin.
  • According to the official results, Mousavi even lost to Ahmadinejad among members of his own ethnic group, with Ahmadinejad capturing 57 percent of the vote in Mousavi’s home base.

The second piece, a blog post by Middle East expert Juan Cole, argues that an Ahmadinejad victory makes no logical sense given voting trends over the past decade. Though Ahmadinejad won election in 2005, Cole observes that reformist forces boycotted that election. This time, they turned out in droves.

Meanwhile, the Guardian is now reporting that the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has ordered an investigation into claims of voter fraud. If you assume that Ahmadinejad’s re-election was exactly what Khamenei wanted — and Khamenei’s statements yesterday certainly indicated that — then this looks like a crack in the facade.

Maybe Khamenei and the people around him fear that Ahmadinejad overreached, and that if they don’t do something, they’ll all be in danger. We can only hope.

Elsewhere, the Boston-based international news service GlobalPost is putting up regular dispatches in a special section called “The Ground Truth in Tehran.”

Global Voices Online, which rounds up blogger commentary, has a section on the Iranian elections, though nothing new since Saturday.

One good gesture deserve another

Iran has released the Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi from prison.

This would be a good time for the United States to release the Al-Jazeera journalist Sami al-Haj from Guantánamo, no? According to Reporters Without Borders, al-Haj, arrested in 2001, has never been charged and has been interrogated more than 200 times.

Correction: Reporters Without Borders really needs to update its information — it turns out that al-Haj was released in 2007. Glenn Greenwald has all the details at Salon, including our continued detainment of Reuters freelance photographer Ibrahim Jassam. (Hat tip to Steve.)

Iranian-American journalist gets eight years

Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi has been sentenced to eight years in an Iranian prison, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports. The dispatch begins:

An Iranian court convicted journalist Roxana Saberi of espionage and sentenced her to eight years in prison today following a closed, one-day trial earlier this week, according to international news reports. Her lawyer said he will appeal. “Roxana Saberi’s trial lacked transparency and we are concerned that she may not have been treated fairly,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We call on the Iranian authorities to release her on bail pending her appeal.”

You have to wonder if Saberi has been caught up in the byzantine workings of internal Iranian politics. President Obama has attempted to find an opening to the regime. Iranians who don’t want to see any contacts between Iran and the United States obviously stand to benefit from Saberi’s imprisonment.

Obama now pretty much can’t — and shouldn’t — have anything to do with the Iranian government unless it releases Saberi. Which it won’t.

Here is a link to the CPJ’s online petition demanding freedom for Saberi. I’m going to go sign the Facebook version right now.

More: I see that the petition is now closed. But I joined the CPJ’s Facebook group, and urge you to do the same.

Still more: According to Global Voices Online, an Iranian blogger says Saberi is being held so that she can be used as a pawn in a prisoner swap.

Photo of Saberi with former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami.

Kudos for Stockman’s Iran story

I don’t like to state the obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs to be stated. Farah Stockman’s story on how a semi-American company took advantages of loopholes to bring a dangerous technology to Iran shows that the Boston Globe is still capable of competing at a national level — not all the time, not on every story, but when it picks its shots.

According to Stockman, an oil-services company called Schlumberger developed a drilling tool being used in Iran’s oil fields that contains radioactive materials capable of being converted into a so-called dirty bomb. The technology arose out of work in Schlumberger labs in Connecticut and Texas — yet because Schlumberger is not an American company, it was able to avoid U.S. rules prohibiting such technology transfers.

Scary stuff.

Roger Ailes’ latest war

Robert Greenwald, maker of the documentary “Outfoxed,” has put together a three-and-a-half-minute clip of agitprop from the Fox News Channel in which Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and company push for war against Iran.

As Greenwald shows, the rhetoric is almost identical to what Fox was saying in the run-up to the war in Iraq. Have a look:
You can learn more about “Fox Attacks Iran,” and sign a petition, here. Media Matters is on the case as well. This is scary stuff. As Christiane Amanpour observers in the clip, Fox’s warmongering on Iraq had a huge effect on how other media outlets behaved. Could it happen again?

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