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Something we should exploit
Posted by: mcq on Thursday, January 18, 2007

Want to focus Iran's attention away from Iraq? Then find a way, domestically, to foment unrest. A good look at what is happening in Iran shows that it may not be that difficult a job:
Prices for vegetables have tripled in the past month, housing prices have doubled since last summer — and as costs have gone up, so has Iranians' discontent with hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his focus on confrontation with the West.

Ahmadinejad was elected last year on a populist agenda promising to bring oil revenues to every family, eradicate poverty and tackle unemployment. Now he is facing increasingly fierce criticism for his failure to meet those promises.

He is being challenged not only by reformers but by the conservatives who paved the way for his stunning victory in 2005 presidential elections. Even conservatives say Ahmadinejad has concentrated too much on fiery, anti-U.S. speeches and not enough on the economy — and they have become more aggressive in calling him to account.
Now I don't know about you but this seems fertile ground for sowing discontent and supporting those who do. I mean sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander and we all know who is largely responsible for supporting much of the discontent in Iraq. And, frankly, it gives us a little back channel leverage.

And the sanctions?
The sanctions were limited to a ban on selling materials and technology that could be used in Iran's nuclear and missile programs and the freezing of assets of 10 Iranian companies and individuals.

But since then the price of fruit, vegetables and other widely used commodities in Iran — already rising — have skyrocketed, apparently because of fears of harsher punishment.

The inflation has hit Iranians hard, along with unemployment, which the government puts at 10 percent but which economists say could be as high as 30 percent. The government also says inflation is 11 percent, but experts estimate it at 30 percent.
A little "futures market" effect.

Yes, this is the sort of unrest a capable intelligence community and a smart administration would do everything in its power to exploit. Of course it would also already have the HUMINT assets in place to do that.

Me? I don't know. But I am wondering if, since we first decided Iran was a part of the axis of evil, we've done a single thing in this regard which would enable us to take covert advantage of this situation.
 
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I’d guess that we have. We’re a lot closer to the human aspect of the intelligence puzzle than we were before we were in Afghanistan and Iraq.
 
Written By: Arcs
URL: http://
No way, we must respect the sovereignty of a nation. Only Neo-Fascist Christianists would recommend such a so course contrary to International Law and Morality.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
This is good news, especially as the criticism is coming from conservatives, as well.

I just hope whatever we do covertly remains expremely covert. We must not confuse dissatifvation with domestic conditions with a lack of patriotism or love for the US. In fact, open US backing can be the kiss of death to many a movement in the Middle East. Softly, softly.
 
Written By: Laime
URL: http://
Ahmadinejad was elected last year on a populist agenda promising to bring oil revenues to every family, eradicate poverty and tackle unemployment.
So he ran as a Democrat?
 
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
that was funny Meagin,

I was one of the few of my friends who was never too concerned about this clown.
As long as a nation is strutting around like a peacock and saying foolish things, then there is no reason to take them seriously. More important, he is only a figurehead, the true power are the mullahs, and their ruling council.

I think that in Iran it is only a matter of time before we see some reforms and a less belligerent stance, provided we don’t do something to provoke them.
 
Written By: kyle N
URL: http://impudent.blognation.us/blog
So he ran as a Democrat?
Yes.

As you know McQ, I have been beating this drum for a while, and was part of the theme in our last podcast. Dissatisfaction and economic struggles have been a problem in Iran for some time.

Laime,

I agree about being soft, but in fact we are pretty popular in Iran, unlike the rest of the Middle East.

We, as private citizens as well as a government should be doing everything in our power to support the large democratic dissident movement in Iran. Where is the left? Where is the money for trade unions, dissident publications and other ways to build up a democratic resistance in Iran? This is an effort all parts of the ideological spectrum should be pushing. It isn’t all about our government. The Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact was undermined by a large number of private actors, many on the left, supporting democratic institutions, think Solidarity. The more we reach out to the people of Iran the better.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
The Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact was undermined by a large number of private actors, many on the left, supporting democratic institutions, think Solidarity. The more we reach out to the people of Iran the better.
Even Soros supported Solidarty (and Charter 77, and many others.)

This may be too much of a "touchy-feely" sentiment, but what if the U.S. tried to mentor burgeoning democracies and democracy-minded folks? An open program of "be more like us!" Maybe spreading the ideas that we were founded on would have more of a positive long-term effect than, say, going to war.

Where is the right’s Noam Chomsky?
 
Written By: Ronnie Gipper
URL: http://
but what if the U.S. tried to mentor burgeoning democracies and democracy-minded folks? An open program of "be more like us!" Maybe spreading the ideas that we were founded on would have more of a positive long-term effect than, say, going to war.
And what IF SAVAMA simply jails and imprisons the leaders and intimidates the rest? Alternatively, I see it, IF ONLY Chamberlain and Daladier had encouraged the Nazi Opposition! It wasn’t just opposition that beat the WTO it was BANKRUPTCY, from spending 25% of GDP on Defense.
Where is the right’s Noam Chomsky?
You mean anti-American Idiot-Liar... I don’t know according to the Left he can be found at 1600 PA Ave or on the radio from Noon-three Eastern, amongst several. AS a Conservative I’d say Allahu Akhbar we have none, but that’s just me.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Thanks in part to the Saudis, who’s decision to keep the oil spigots wide open is damaging Iran’s economy (and Venezuela which is a bonus)

 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Okay, okay, okay . . . the "Noam Chomsky" thing was dumb.

I’m glad that Bush doesn’t address the UN General Assembly thumping a copy of "Reagan, In His Own Hand" or "See I Told You So."
 
Written By: Ronnie Gipper
URL: http://
... although I kind of wish he’d read them.
 
Written By: Ronnie Gipper
URL: http://
Lance: .."we are pretty popular in Iran..."
————-
Yes, but that doesn’t mean that the idea of US intervention is popular. I read some backlash reactions among reformers to Bush’s speech at the UN, for example. Their message was ’let us do it our way’.
Personally, I think the US hand has to be very subtle, or we’ll blow it. I hope this administration has learned a few things about ’subtle’.

I have more hope for the effect of private contacts than government actions. If it became known that a group had received financial help from the US governernment, they would be open to harsher reprisals and animosity from other groups.
I have the impression that the reformists are not organized into one big bloc, like Solidarity in Poland, although I’m not sure I know enough about how they work.
 
Written By: Laime
URL: http://
Kyle N wrote:
I think that in Iran it is only a matter of time before we see some reforms and a less belligerent stance, provided we don’t do something to provoke them.
Without their abandoning their nuclear weaponisation program—dismantling the hardware and dispersing the human resources onto other projects—then a merely less belligerent stance isn’t good enough.

Dissolution of the Islamic part of the Islamic Republic of Iran, abandoning Hezbollah, and halting all support for insurgent/sectarian fighters in Iraq—that’s good enough.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Iranian reformers have urged Americans not to get involved because that creates an anti-American backlash. The fact is Iran is building a democracy, and the recent elections have weakened the fundamentalists in local governments and on the council of experts that chooses the Supreme Leader (essentially assuring it won’t be a radical fundamentalist). Reformers and conservatives in parliament have started to turn on Ahmadinejad, and I think that even without the US trying to exploit this (I doubt we could do much good — even those opposed to the government aren’t pushing for some kind of violent revolution, and we might risk halting the effort to build a real democracy), Iran is going to drift back to its pre-2003 mode of moving slowly towards more democracy and less fundamentalism. In fact, the one thing that would probably help the extremists and Ahmadinejad the most would be if we were to launch an attack against expected Iranian nuclear sites. (I talked a bit about this issue in my blog today, so you can click the link in the unlikely event you’re interested in my thoughts on this...)
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
You forgot the most important part:

"Women and children hardest hit."

Now, while I am all for not causing any backlash, keep in mind economic sanctions don’t always work very well and take a long, long time to work when they do.

p.s. wish the rest of the world had to worry about backlash, you know, like when Iran smuggles weapons into Iraq or sends missiles to Lebanon...it’s all "boys will be boys" eh?

 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Yes, but that doesn’t mean that the idea of US intervention is popular.
I certainly wasn’t arguing otherwise, though many groups call for the US to give them support.

The fact is Iran is building a democracy
Yeah, right.

I think that even without the US trying to exploit this (I doubt we could do much good — even those opposed to the government aren’t pushing for some kind of violent revolution, and we might risk halting the effort to build a real democracy)
Who says that exploit means violent revolution?
 
Written By: Lance
URL: www.asecondhandconjecture.com
Who says that exploit means violent revolution?
What does it mean? I may be old fashioned, but I really don’t like trying to intervene in the affairs of other countries. It’s not like Iran really has the capacity to attack the US or anything.

They are obviously building a democracy, and the time from 1979 to 2003 saw continued liberalization of laws and lifestyle in Iran. It’s a vibrant and in many ways modern society. There was a nationalist backlash towards the right wing after the US invasion of Iraq, which emboldened people like Ahmadinejad. But I think that’s fading, especially as Iranians realize that they have little to fear from the US military.

So watch the democracy continue to develop and progress, and don’t get paranoid about a few silly things the weakened President says. Iran will be a regional power, and will have important relations with Russia and China (and if we really want to pressure Iran, it would be best to go through Russia and China). If Iraq has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t make other countries behave according to our whims. We have to accept reality, and accept that different states develop in different ways.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Scott,

Do you read the people you argue with before arguing? By "exploit" you and I are talking about the same thing. Supporting peaceful democratic change. Read my prior comments and think about what I was saying not what you want to oppose.
and the time from 1979 to 2003 saw continued liberalization of laws and lifestyle in Iran.
No, we saw a totalitarian dictatorship go back and forth between repression and trying to accommodate internal dissatisfaction. Castro does the same thing. Allow some openness and then pull it away when they see it get out of hand. In no way can we see a general move toward liberalization over that entire period. Obviously you know little of Iran and the real story of liberalization and repression. The Mullah’s may actually give up some real power at some point due to pressure or generational change, but the idea that they are trying to develop a real democratic society is a joke. The dead, tortured and imprisoned (count rising by the way) argue against that. You are confusing their essential weakness and attempts to shore up their power with deliberate efforts.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
No, we saw a totalitarian dictatorship go back and forth between repression and trying to accommodate internal dissatisfaction. Castro does the same thing. Allow some openness and then pull it away when they see it get out of hand. In no way can we see a general move toward liberalization over that entire period. Obviously you know little of Iran and the real story of liberalization and repression. The Mullah’s may actually give up some real power at some point due to pressure or generational change, but the idea that they are trying to develop a real democratic society is a joke. The dead, tortured and imprisoned (count rising by the way) argue against that. You are confusing their essential weakness and attempts to shore up their power with deliberate efforts.
I disagree completely with any attempt to label Iran as totalitarian. It most certainly did not fit that definition, it was more open and democratic in political debate and competition than most states in the region. I recommend the book "Modern Iran" by Nikki Keddie as a good book on Iran both pre- and post-revolution.

From a political science perspective Iran is interesting because it has formed what is often called an Islamic democracy, using the Koran almost like a defacto constitution, and splitting power between the Guardian Council (religious authorities) and political institutions. Elections are hard fought, and the reformers had won every election until recently. Yet the Guardian Council has the power to limit reforms and of course who can be a candidate. As such it’s usually categorized as a partial or developing democracy, not yet a true democracy (though the US during periods of slavery and denial of women voting would have also been seen as a developing democracy). I think ultimately you’re right that religious authorities will have to choose to give up power, as their authority is questioned and power reduced they’ll either have to do that. Their other option would be to try to become truly totalitarian, but I don’t think they’d be able to pull it off. Maybe we can do things to ’exploit’ the situation, but we have to be careful — they’ll exploit it if we can be portrayed as intervening and trying to shape Iranian affairs. Heck, we might do more to undercut the fundamentalists if we open up diplomatic relations and increase trade.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I noticed you didn’t address what we are really disagreeing about.

No, the reformers hadn’t won every election or been consistently more successful, and no reform was not on some steady track and winning every election. That however is a side argument over whether we should exploit the dissent in Iran, which we should. Peaceful Democratic pressure which we encourage, along with harming the powers that be through targeted attacks on the financial infrastructure of the mullahs.

As for whether they are totalitarian, I cannot see how any of the evidence you cite, even if wasn’t overly simplistic and misleading, changes the totalitarian nature of Iran. Maybe you have some fanciful definition of totalitarianism rather than the one put forward by the terms originator, Mussolini, but by that definition it is a totalitarian state. All aspects of society are to be at the service of the state (which is tied up with the establishment of a religious theocracy.) That they have highly circumscribed democratic aspects to how various parts of that project are implemented doesn’t change that. Ultimately the voting has to conform to that vision. When it does not the mullahs pull back the reformers, imprison or kill those who do not desist and restrict the choices of those who can be voted into office. If necessary fraud will be used to ensure the winner. This is not a new pattern following an upward path of reform that existed prior to Ahmadinejad’s election. He is just the latest example.

We have seen this Islamic Democracy/Socialist Democracy/(fillin the blank) Democracy argument put forward again and again as an explanation for why totalitarian states are not really totalitarian. It doesn’t hold any more water now than in its previous iterations. The Islamic Republic has always tried to use the forms of democracy keep the fiction of their true face one which can be plausibly defended. The leftists who have been beaten and killed bought it at one time as well. They found that once the Mullah’s were in power they were expendable and a threat. They could exist as long as they didn’t agitate for any of the things they fought for or would like to vote for. The vote was almost meaningless to them. It exists though, so in some peoples mind it is not a totalitarian state. A facade is what it is. Openness to some debate and democratic votes on some things are not what defines totalitarianism. Samoza was a vicious dictator who restricted debate and resisted any and all democratic forms, but he wasn’t a totalitarian. He was just a dictator.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
How would we know till afterwards? How do you know we aren’t doing it now?
 
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
Heck, we might do more to undercut the fundamentalists if we open up diplomatic relations and increase trade.

Where is most of the discontent and pressure to reform the Iranian government coming from?

The poor economy.

China teaches us that a killer economy without political freedom is tolerable to many people...let’s not give the mullah’s that luxury.

Oh, and hey, if theocracy and stoning gays to death is a vibrant democracy make sure to let your colleagues know that any Christian government in the USA would be a peachy keen...

p.s. TAKE THE KNEE PADS OFF and your argument would be much stronger.

 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Lance, excellent commentary. You should a blog ;)
 
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
Capt Joe,

Heh, well I just look at this as marketing, because as you know blogging pays so well!
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
As for whether they are totalitarian, I cannot see how any of the evidence you cite, even if wasn’t overly simplistic and misleading, changes the totalitarian nature of Iran.
In Political Science, totalitarianism by definition does not allow political dissent and tries to control every aspect of life. Iran clearly and self-evidently cannot be categorized as totalitarian.

Your long, vague and imprecise attempt to somehow say Iran is totalitarian just doesn’t make sense. There is too much political competition and debate, and reformers have won every election until the conservative/nationalist backlash to America’s belligerency. Moreover, there have been real loosening of rules and restrictions in response to public demands (even though many fear this might change with the recent conservative victories). In the last election, fundamentalists were roundly defeated in local elections, and for the board that chooses the Supreme Leader of the guardian council. That would be utterly impossible if Iran was totalitarian. They couldn’t have opposing views competing and elections that disappoint those in power.

To call Iran totalitarian is objectively wrong, even absurd.

Also, I’m convinced that trying to force countries to change by military means or some other intervention in their sovereignty is doomed to fail. Instead, I have faith in markets and individual liberties — the more we trade and deal with states, the greater likelihood of change. That happened with communism (except Cuba and North Korea — but they remain isolated), with China, Vietnam, and pretty much every state with which we deal and trade.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
reformers have won every election until the conservative/nationalist backlash to America’s belligerency
As I said, plainly false. Explain all of the 1980’s to me election by election and policy by policy if you are going to hold to that position. Any such examination does not show a steady movement away from the Revolution. Of course it is a ridiculous statement because if that were true then by 2003 and 26 years of progress Iran would have been a very different place than the Iran of 2003.

As for totalitarianism, I’ll use how Mussolini, the terms creator, would have seen it. A system of rule, driven by an ideology, that seeks direction of all aspects of public activity, political, economic and social, and uses to that end, at least to a degree, propaganda and terror. That describes Fascist Italy and Iran to a T, but not Samoza or Pinochet. Certainly there are more extreme totalitarian states, such as Stalinist Russia. That some political scientists have adopted an extreme definition doesn’t change what its original meaning was. It is not autocracy, dictatorship or single party rule, though those are often features. The Revolutionary government is attempting to "seek direction of all aspects of public activity, political, economic and social." It has adopted some democratic features to implement that, but they are only given that room as long as those ends are served. If the mullahs feel those ends are not being served repression picks up, reformers and dissidents are reigned in or disappeared.
In the last election, fundamentalists were roundly defeated in local elections, and for the board that chooses the Supreme Leader of the guardian council. That would be utterly impossible if Iran was totalitarian.
Why would it be impossible? Are you suggesting that if those local elections were to result in any change in the fundamental policies of the country that they would be allowed to go forward? Not to mention that reformer in this context is a very relative term. These politicians are in no way representative of the dissident movement or the population as a whole. They do not advocate any fundamental change in the regime.
There is too much political competition and debate
Those holding positions anti-thetical to the the mullahs are not part of that debate, or to the extent they are they are under constant fear of death, torture and imprisonment as the graves of dissidents eloquently prove. This has never stopped, even under the ’reformers’ they allowed to tinker around the edges of the revolution. Said reformers are in fact guilty of murder on a large scale themselves. If just having dissidents who at some point are walking free determines a non-totalitarian society then Soviet Russia was not totalitarian either, which is something I am sure you would agree is absurd. Natan Sharansky as a free man, or the thousands of other dissidents at any one time walking "free" in the Soviet Union, in no way implies that dissent was accepted or that they were in any meaningful sense free. Like dissidents in Iran, if they were not imprisoned or killed, they were stalked and monitored constantly, with fear of doom always around the corner.

If this debate is so free and open, why all the underground means of communication that Iranian dissidents feel the need to avail themselves of? Why the anonymity to try and avoid the secret police? Are they all paranoid? Or could it be that their friends, or themselves previously have suffered at the hands of the repressive police and terror tactics the regime uses to keep the debate within certain bounds?
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
As I said, plainly false. Explain all of the 1980’s to me election by election and policy by policy if you are going to hold to that position. Any such examination does not show a steady movement away from the Revolution. Of course it is a ridiculous statement because if that were true then by 2003 and 26 years of progress Iran would have been a very different place than the Iran of 2003.
I gave you a book recommendation (I use it when I teach my unit on Iranian politics), and if you want to simply deny the truth then there’s not much I can do for you. I’m certainly not going to spend the time to go election by election and walk you through it, I don’t think you’re being honest.

Somoza and Pinochet were authoritarians, I wouldn’t label them totalitarian. Totalitarian governments would not allow the kind of political debate and competition Iran allows. I’ve never heard anyone try to label Iran totalitarian, it’s simply not an accurate label.

It is true that pure free debate does not exist in Iran — or in most countries in that part of the world. But it’s not totalitarian, and the power of the religious elite is indeed challenged. Iran is not a western democracy, but it is not as repressive as Saudi Arabia (Saudi Arabia is probably second to North Korea in levels of oppression — and North Korea is clearly totalitarian) and most Arab states, and many others in the world. It has made steady progress at least through 2003 in liberalizing life in Iran. I gave you a link to a good book (it’s only about $13 from amazon.com), but if you just want to keep asserting the opposite then there’s not much I can do — you seem to want to hold on to your belief regardless of the facts.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I’ve never heard anyone try to label Iran totalitarian
Funny, I hear it all the time, which says something for how cloistered your reading must be. As for your book, I may read it, but I have read a lot of books about Iran. Glad to know you have read one at least. You are a condescending SOB, and I notice that you have not discussed any evidence showing that reformers have won all the elections up to recently. You read it in a book. How quaint.

I am sure Azar Nafisi agrees with you. In reading her book, one is struck by the steady march toward openness she witnessed. Oh wait, that isn’t what one notices. Instead one sees a regime occasionally making liberalizing steps and then pulling the football away, imprisoning, murdering and otherwise oppressing people for doing what the regime itself claimed was okay. Speaking of which, from the Middle East forum discussing her book she wrote we get this discussing Iran:

At the core of Islamic fundamentalism is a repressive totalitarian ideology.


Now you have two sources for this absurd view, and I would suggest she has a pretty good take on it. I could get hundreds more, but obviously your definition of totalitarianism only applies to extreme situations such as North Korea. However, unlike autocrats, Iran’s state pervades even the most private of spaces, which Reading Lolita in Tehran illustrates very well, with even a reading group in a private home being not only suspect, but an experience where each participant was fearful of being reported at all times, including by their own family members. Where have we heard such tales before? Oh yeah, from the Soviet Union and other totalitarian states. The state was almost inescapable. That is totalitarianism, more extreme than fascist Italy even, and no amount of courageous dissent or debate is enough to change that. Are they unable or unwilling to fully cow the population? Yes, but that does not change its totalitarian nature, it only shows they have been unsuccessful in implementing their vision completely.

As for Saudi Arabia, what is your point? Has anyone here defended Saudi Arabia? I know far less about Saudi Arabia than Iran, and I am willing to accept that it may be totalitarian, but I won’t make that claim. It is certainly repressive (though the idea that it is only exceeded in its repressiveness by North Korea is something I find hard to believe given the nightmare states that exist in this world, but I am willing to be persuaded) and I am certainly no friend of the House of Saud.


the power of the religious elite is indeed challenged.
Yes, and eventually there is a heavy price to be paid. It happens, but it is not allowed over time. Eventually the state closes in. Hence all the people arrested and who have disappeared. I guess I should send e-mails to all the dissident sites and tell them to stop their demonstrations and speaking out, because some people believe their existence means the regime isn’t as totalitarian as they claim! A lovely catch 22. Speak out, and if the regime doesn’t shoot you on sight it isn’t totalitarian! What are you people complaining about? It is just an imperfect democracy that is steadily reforming except when the evil US invades a neighbor. What a crock.

you seem to want to hold on to your belief regardless of the facts.
What fact have you given me? Not one. I mention that all who challenge the state at a fundamental level are in some way or another attacked by the state, you reply with platitudes like:
It is true that pure free debate does not exist in Iran
Wow, talk about covering up a hideous situation with understatement. I am sure Akbar Ganji put it this way while rotting in jail, his health failing while awaiting the next beating. "I was allowed to speak, so it isn’t so bad. It isn’t pure free debate, but they let me speak." Yeah, I am the one who has a problem dealing with facts.



 
Written By: Lance
URL: www.asecondhandconjecture.com
Erb:
I gave you a book recommendation (I use it when I teach my unit on Iranian politics), and if you want to simply deny the truth then there’s not much I can do for you.
If you won’t read yer book, you can’t have any knowledge!!
How can you have any knowledge if you won’t read yer book!?!
 
Written By: Linda Morgan
URL: http://
I just know that in terms of how totalitarian is defined in political science, you can’t categorize Iran’s political system that way, even if some of the people involved have a totalitarian ideology. The system has debate, a modicum of democracy, and those in power often see people win who they would prefer not to win. Give Iran time, you may be surprised how internal developments will push for change — certainly we can’t go in and change their system.

You seem to be posting bits from people with a political agenda. Nobody is saying that Iran is free and wonderful. I just note that the label you use is misleading, and seems designed only to justify anti-Iranian ideas. Ultimately I am more optimistic that Iran will change over time as long as outsiders don’t intervene or attack. You aren’t optimistic about that, it seems. Time will tell.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
You seem to be posting bits from people with a political agenda.
Well, considering I only posted from Nafisi herself (I guess she does have a political agenda, who doesn’t) and the BBC I guess you are right. Or do you mean dissidents? Well yeah, in understanding dissidents and their lives it helps to actually read them. Kind of like during the Soviet Unions existence you learned more about the real state of dissident actors from reading Solzhenitsyn and Samizdat literature than your typical Poli. Sci text with all kinds of discussion about the ways that the Soviet Union was responsive to its population. Of course, they had a political agenda unlike those who wrote from their detached, objective political science perspective. Of course, none of the Poli Sci texts has an agenda. Oh, would it help deal with your appeal to authority nonsense if I listed all the poli. Sci. texts in my personal collection on Iran, Iraq or the Middle East? Yeah, I have read them as well.
I just know that in terms of how totalitarian is defined in political science
That is neat, given that I gave a definition of totalitarianism that applies to how the term was originally used. The term was first used by Mussolini and that definition applies to Iran. So, since you won’t give me any facts, but mere assertion, how about at minimum a definition. Your definition.
I just note that the label you use is misleading, and seems designed only to justify anti-Iranian ideas.


Once again, have you read anything I have been writing? Anti-Iranian? Name anything anti-Iranian I have written. If you mean I am opposed to the totalitarian ideology of the dear departed Ayatollah and his followers, I assume that applies to you as well. If not, well, what can I say?
Ultimately I am more optimistic that Iran will change over time as long as outsiders don’t intervene or attack. You aren’t optimistic about that, it seems.


Go back and re-read what I wrote. In fact I am one who believes in just that. Your inability to follow what I have been writing or arguing, and have been writing and arguing in favor of for quite some time in other settings as well, calls into question your ability to evaluate anything. Go back and read for comprehension and restate my argument back to me. That is a technique I learned long ago while teaching that is very effective in forcing people to actually read what an argument is saying. If you can’t master that why should I believe you even understood the book you have recommended. Azar Nafisi has an agenda indeed.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: www.asecondhandconjecture.com
So at the bottom line we disagree on terminology. I know that in modern political science Iran certainly is not considered totalitarian. You say it could be interpreted that way based particular old definitions. I gave my reasons why it can’t be seen as totalitarian in modern terms (election loses, political debate and contention). But if we’re just disagreeing on a label to use, it’s meaningless.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb
Fine, but if it used to justify some of the claims you have made then I have a problem.

Nor is it an old definition. It is what totalitarianism has been recognized to be. If Political science has distorted the term in recent years (and considering I have read political scientists who apply the term as I do I question your assertion as well) to mean something different one might ask why?

You are soft pedaling the real face of this regime by implying that dissent is tolerated if imperfectly so. That is untrue, and shows a disturbing lack of appreciation for the way that totalitarian regimes work. You are in essence falling for the regimes propaganda and minimizing the real pressure the dissidents are under. It is quite extreme and the regime’s tolerance is merely a result of the true depth of dissatisfaction that barring a massive and extremely bloody crackdown they are unable to fully stamp out. None of these dissidents is tolerated, the axe always eventually falls:
The Iranian Reformist Daily Rooz reports that the trial of the Iranian journalist and women’s rights activist Jeila Bani Yacoub, who participated in a June 2006 demonstration in Tehran, has commenced. She is accused of distributing anti-regime propaganda and participating in an illegal gathering.


The daily also reports that the Iranian regime’s actions against student organization activists are continuing. During the past week, a leading activist, Aram Nasratpour, was arrested. Another activist, Rasoul Jafari, was sentenced to six months in prison, and three students from the University of Allama-Tabatabai in Tehran were temporarily banned from attending classes.


No violence is alleged, just going to demonstrations and handing out literature. They have now gone from being "tolerated" to arrested. That is every dissidents ultimate fate. Of course the source has an agenda, I guess it therefore didn’t happen.

Nor were the recent elections a win for reformers. Hard liners and various regime friendly figures dominated the election even if the current president did not. Nor has it ever been different. There are significant differences between the Rafsanjani wing of the ruling parties and Mahmoud’s, however that is like saying that Trotsky, Stalin and Bukharin were different. All were part of the ruling party representing a narrow political option. That the others ended up dead at Stalin’s hand in no way implies that if voting had been allowed between those options we could call it pluralism in any meaningful sense. No real opposition is allowed a chance at power and that power invades the most private and intimate of relationships. That last part is where totalitarianism in practice really shows its face.

Or to quote another dissident responding to their President:
Are you serious? Or you are playing with us? You support human ideals? Do people like journalists even have any human rights in Iran? How can you call yourself a defender of human ideals when your political faction shut down 150 publications in the past four years? How dare you speak of defending human ideals in a country where the rights of women, ethnic groups, religious minorities and the general public are constantly under attack, and where women do not even have the right to gather in defense of their rights?

.......

In your letter, you referenced the recent elections in America [saying], ‘Undoubtedly, the American people are not satisfied with this behavior and they showed their discontent in the recent elections. I hope that in the wake of the mid-term elections, the administration of President Bush will have heard and will heed the message of the American people.’ What you say is correct. The United States is a country in which people can refuse to vote for an administration that acts against their public opinion. In recent elections too the American people voted for the Democrats because they were not satisfied with Bush’s performance.

“But what can the poor Iranian people do when they are not satisfied with an administration? Does the Guardian Council allow the people to send their true representatives to public office? Do dissidents even have the right to voice their opinion in Iran? Why preach something that you do not practice?
So is he wrong? Are you still going to claim he is mistaken and he can voice his opinion? Are you going to tell him he does get the chance to elect representatives he desires? I suspect he would strike you if you said it to his face. Does he have an agenda as well? Of course, wouldn’t you?
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com

 
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