Friday, September 28, 2007

Tammy Bruce Out of the Darkness--Lifting the Curtain on the Media Network Demonizers

I'm not a big fan of Bill O'Reilly. Political commentators and pundits are a mixed bag. O'Reilly's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, although he's not nearly as dull as Keith Olbermann among others.

Tammy Bruce, on the other hand, is a breath of fresh air compared to most political commentators. A former lefty like myself, an unapologetic lesbian (unlike myself), and one of the most clear-speaking of the media pundits, Bruce is worth reading and listening to.

Some people think everyone should hold exactly the same political opinions as themselves. A good term for them is gestapo-esque. Most vocal leftists that I observe speaking loudly in the media and the net are gestapo-esque. They want to shut up the people who disagree with them, and failing that they want to demonize them beyond redemption.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Inside Iran's House of Cards

Iran is the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism, with only North Korea and Venezuela jostling for future position. Michael Totten goes to the Kurdish border with Iran, looks across, and contemplates walking across undetected to conduct more interviews with Iranians. Here is is report on the Iranian mullahs' house of cards, from Kurdistan.
I’ve stood on the border myself and contemplated walking undetected into Iran. Komala leaders even offered to take me across and embed me themselves. “We can get you inside Iran and leave you for weeks, if you want, among our supporters and among our people,” Mohtadi said. “It is very easy.”

If I were caught in Iran without a visa or an entry stamp in my passport, I would almost surely be jailed as a spy. Tempting as the offer was, I had to pass. Anyway, I could speak to Iranian dissidents, if not necessarily ordinary Iranians, in the Komala camp just as easily as I could have inside Iran. As it happened, a famous Persian writer and dissident had arrived there just before I did.

Kianoosh Sanjari is a member of the United Student Front in Tehran. At 23, he has been imprisoned and tortured many times. His last arrest was on October 7, 2006, after he wrote about clashes between the Revolutionary Guards and supporters of the liberal cleric Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi. Charged with “acting against state security” and “propaganda against the system,” he was released on $100,000 bail last December. Some months later, he fled to Iraq and moved to the Komala camp.

Unlike most Iranian visitors who use Komala as a safe house, Sanjari didn’t bother remaining anonymous. He told me his real name and said I could publish his picture. If you can read Farsi, you can read his blog at “I’m just now coming out of Iran,” he said. “It’s a hell there. I know the sufferings. I am inclined to accept any tactic that helps overthrow this regime.”

“Does that include an American invasion of Iran?” I asked.

“Maybe intellectuals who just talk about things are not in favor of that kind of military attack,” he said. “But I have spoken to people in taxis, in public places. They are praying for an external outside power to do something for them and get rid of the mullahs. Personally, it’s not acceptable for me if the United States crosses the Iranian border. I like the independence of Iran and respect the independence of my country. But my generation doesn’t care about this.”

...Everyone I met at the Komala compound said the Iranian regime itself wallows deep in the post-ideological torpor that inevitably follows radical revolutions. Except for the most fanatic officials, the government cares only about money and power. “Followers of the regime are not ideological anymore,” Sanjari said. “They are bribed by the government. They will no longer support it in the case that it is overthrown. Even among the Iranian military and Revolutionary Guards, there are so many people dissatisfied with the policies of the regime. Fortunately there aren’t religious conflicts between Shias, Sunnis, and different nationalities.”

Mohtadi concurred. “The next revolution and government will be explicitly anti-religious,” he said.

The Iranian writer Reza Zarabi says the regime has all but destroyed religion itself. “The name Iran, which used to be equated with such things as luxury, fine wine, and the arts, has become synonymous with terrorism,” he wrote. “When the Islamic Republic government of Iran finally meets its demise, they will have many symbols and slogans as testaments of their rule, yet the most profound will be their genocide of Islam, the black stain that they have put on this faith for many generations to come.”

...If the Islamic Republic is overthrown, almost anything might happen. Iran could become a modern liberal democracy, as most Eastern European states did after the fall of the Soviet Empire. It could revert to a milder form of authoritarian rule, as Russia has. It could, like Iraq, face chronic instability and insurgent attacks. Or its various “nationalities” could tear the country to pieces and go the way of the Yugoslavs. Optimists like Sanjari and Mohtadi may have a better sense of what to expect than those of us in the West, but still they do not know.

The only thing that seems likely is that a showdown of some kind is coming, either between factions in Iran or between Iran and the rest of the world. Predictions of the regime’s imminent demise have been staples of Iranian expat and activist discourse for years, so it’s hard to take the latest predictions seriously. But authoritarian regimes increasingly seem to have limited shelf lives. As Francis Fukuyama’s flawed but compelling book The End of History points out, there has been a worldwide explosion of liberal democracies since the 18th century, from three in 1790 to 36 in 1960 to 61 in 1990. (In 2006 Freedom House classified 148 nations as free or partly free.) History isn’t over and never will be, but it hasn’t been kind to dictatorships lately.

It is instructive to read Totten's article in full. Totten, Michael Yon, Bill Roggio, and other independent observers have risked their lives to report from the front lines of islamist terror and tyranny. It is high time that westerners begin to listen.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Axis of Dumkopfs

Assad and Ahmedinejad have been very bad boys. Bad enough to be spanked. The problem is, they are not likely to learn anything from even a very harsh spanking. Their problems go much deeper.
Proof of cooperation between Iran and Syria in the proliferation and development of weapons of mass destruction was brought to light Monday in a Jane's Defence Weekly report that dozens of Iranian engineers and 15 Syrian officers were killed in a July 23 accident in Syria.

According to the report, cited by Channel 10, the joint Syrian-Iranian team was attempting to mount a chemical warhead on a Scud missile when the explosion occurred, spreading lethal chemical agents, including sarin nerve gas.

Reports of the accident were circulated at the time; however, no details were released by the Syrian government, and there were no hints of an Iranian connection.

The report comes on the heels of criticism leveled by the Syrians at the United States, accusing it of spreading "false" claims of Syrian nuclear activity and cooperation with North Korea to excuse an alleged Israeli air incursion over the country this month.

These bad boys will never learn, even if the entire world tells them to behave. They will require another type of solution entirely, before their bad behaviour will end.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Iran and the US Congress Digging Deep Holes for Themselves

It's clear that some people know just enough to acquire power, but not enough to do anything constructive with it. The US Democratic Congress shares that characteristic with the mad mullahs and mad dog president Ahmedinejad of Iran.
The Revolutionary Guards, or at least the al Quds force (which specialize in supporting pro-Iranian terrorists in foreign countries) is having a hard time in Iraq. With the collapse of al Qaeda in Iraq (because the Sunni Arabs turned on them), U.S. troops are now concentrating on Iranian supported groups. Coalition commando forces are specifically looking to capture as many al Quds operatives as they can. As a result of this, Iran has been pulling its al Quds people out of Iraq. Those that have been captured so far have given up embarrassing and damaging information.

In northern Iran, the war against the Kurds is not going well. Before 2003, Iran was supporting pro-al Qaeda Kurdish groups by providing sanctuary inside Iran, as well as weapons and supplies. These Islamic radicals took control of some villages inside Iraq, but were destroyed by Kurdish militiamen and American Special Forces. Then Kurdish separatists groups began sneaking into Iran and recruiting Iranian Kurds who were willing to fight. That problem has grown over the past four years, to the point that there are several thousand Revolutionary Guard troops, including artillery and some armored vehicles, operating along the Iraq border. The Iranian artillery fires shells at Kurdish villages in Iraq, and Revolutionary Guard patrols often cross the border. But the Iranians know they cannot get too aggressive. The Kurdish militias can handle Revolutionary Guard patrols, and the Iranians have suffered dozens of casualties in these clashes over the Summer. The Iranians also know that if they put too many people into Iraq, they will have to deal with American smart bombs. While some Revolutionary Guard commanders say otherwise, most Iranian military leaders don't want to fight U.S. troops, especially not in largely Kurdish areas along the Iraq border. Most of those Kurds would welcome an American invasion, and the Iranian generals don't want to invite one. Even with that restraint, the fighting over the last few months has left over 200 dead, and many more wounded.

In the southwestern province of Khuzestan, police executed three Iranian Arabs, who were accused of terrorist bombings inside Iran. The Iranian Arabs are despised by ethnic Iranians (an Indo-Aryan group, related to Indians and Europeans), and the current generation of Iranian Arabs are fed up with the discrimination they suffer. Their fathers fought bravely for Iran when Iran invaded in the 1980s, and all the government gave in return was more abuse. There's more anger than organization and violence. British agents are widely believed to be helping to organize armed resistance, but there's no proof. Those rumors have been an Iranian staple for over a century. But there are a lot of unhappy Arabs in Khuzestan, and there is some violence.

In the southeast, there's a lot of violence, and several hundred casualties a year. But it's more crime-wave than war. It's all about drugs. Iran is a prime market, and transit route, for heroin and opium from Afghanistan. Pushtun tribes in Afghanistan, and Baluchi tribes in Iran, are getting rich from this trade, and the police, reinforced by Revolutionary Guard units, are fighting a losing battle against the well armed and motivated (by huge amounts of cash) smugglers.
Strategy Page

The US Democratic Congress needs the Iranians to succeed in Iraq. That is their only hope to precipitate a disastrous US withdrawal soon--so as to wrap up this US defeat as Bush's Vietnam. That's what the US Democrats are praying for, for Christmas. An unequivocal US loss in Iraq.

As soon as the US public understands that that is the extent of the forward thinking of the US Democratic Party--a monumental defeat for the US military--the 2008 election will begin to gel.

Monday, September 17, 2007

War With Iran Not Improbable

The French foreign minister has publicly said what most intelligent observers have been thinking--Iran is placing itself almost irrevocably in the path of war with the west.
The world should "prepare for war" with Iran, the French foreign minister has said, significantly escalating tensions over the country's nuclear programme.

Bernard Kouchner said that while "we must negotiate right to the end" with Iran, if Teheran possessed an atomic weapon it would represent "a real danger for the whole world".

The world should "prepare for the worst... which is war", he said.

...Amid unconfirmed reports that the US is drawing up plans to attack Iran's nuclear installations, Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, said that diplomacy remained the administration's preferred approach.

Asked if President George W Bush would consult Congress before launching any strikes on Iran, Mr Gates said he would not be drawn on "hypotheticals".

But he added: "We always say all options are on the table.

"But clearly, the diplomatic and economic approach is the one we're pursuing."

...A senior US nuclear official said that North Koreans advisers were in Syria and that Damascus might have had contacts with "secret suppliers" to obtain nuclear equipment.

Syria and North Korea have both denied allegations that some sort of joint nuclear project was the target for the Israeli precision airstrike 10 days ago.

Iran is playing a game for which it is not suited, beyond a certain point. It is easy to taunt a more powerful adversary when there is little chance of paying any consequences. Iran's mad mullahs and the apish Ahmedinejad have perhaps less taunting time left than they imagine.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Islamist Turkey Exports Terror to Germany

Will the German government place an import tariff on Turkish terror imported into Germany? Perhaps that explains Turkey's rush to join the EU--no more terror tariff!
On Thursday, September 6, the German authorities were still hunting some ten suspects, described as a mixture of Germans, Turks, and others. This Turkish connection is troublesome in light of the recent election of the Sunni-centric, religious AK party in Turkey. German Turkish and Kurdish Muslims have described infiltration of their communities by "soft" fundamentalists ever since the religious parties emerged as a serious political force in Turkey more than 20 years ago. Similarly, moderate Muslims in Turkey's neighboring and related cultural zones, the Balkans and Central Asia, now warn that Turkish, rather than Arab, Islamists are beginning to throw money around and establish networks in their regions.

... Al Qaeda is losing the war in Iraq. Its fanatical dedication to Wahhabi-style takfir--or expulsion from the religion and slaying of Muslims with whom it disagrees--has alienated many Sunnis who formerly fought against the U.S.-led Coalition and the Iraqi government (see Frederick W. Kagan's "Al Qaeda in Iraq"). As Iraqi Sunnis change sides in our favor, al Qaeda is bent on transferring the jihadist battlefield to Europe, which is the nearest and most vulnerable theater of opportunity.

The European Union has not formulated an effective common anti-terror strategy. European federal authority is fragmented and subject to local political vagaries--as seen by the hurried withdrawal of the Spanish from Iraq after the Madrid metro horror. Differences like that between, in the past, typically secular Turkish and Kurdish Muslims in Germany, diverse groups of Arab and African Muslims in France, and radical Muslims from Pakistan and India in the United Kingdom have also obstructed a common EU response.

...There are not enough Uzbeks or even Pakistanis in Germany to support a "homegrown" radical Islamist network among them, and for the Germans of Turkish origin, as indicated, the phenomenon is new and imported. In Germany, at least, terrorism is clearly not "homegrown"--it is an exotic import, supported with foreign money.

The Turkish experience is trying to tell us that Islamism--even in its moderate forms--is still a threat to non-muslim populations. Admitting Turkey to the EU will simply make it much easier for the "moderate Islamists" of Turkey to export an intrinsically violent culture to Europe.

Islam was born out of violence, spread by violence, and attempts to dominate as much of the world as it can through violence. While Islam may be a religion of peace from an Islamist perspective, from a European perspective it is an existential poison.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Iraq's Struggle: Who You Gonna Believe? The Media or Your Lyin' Eyes?

The list of those who have invested deeply in a US defeat in Iraq (actually a defeat for the Iraqi people) is long, and includes most western media, most leftist politicians, most leftist bloggers, and most academics in the social sciences. Iraq indeed has relatively few westerners who believe in its future. How long would that take to change?
The major problem in Iraq is back in the United States. There, many politicians either don't bother, or don't want to believe, what is actually happening, and has happened, in Iraq. In a way, that makes sense. Because what is going on in Iraq is so totally alien to the experience of American politicians. Moreover, many Americans take a purely partisan, party line, attitude towards Iraq. So logic and fact has nothing to do with their assessments of the situation.

...When Saddam was deposed in 2003, most (well, many) Sunni Arabs believed they would only be out of power temporarily. This sort of thing you can pick up on the Internet (OK, mostly on Arab language message boards, but it's out there). Saddam's followers (the Baath Party) and al Qaeda believed a few years of terror would subdue the Shia, scare away the Americans, and the Sunni Arabs would return to their natural state as the rulers of Iraq. U.S. troops quickly picked up on this Sunni mindset. Because Sunni Arabs were the best educated group, most of the local translators the troops used were Sunni Arabs, and even these guys took it for granted that, eventually, the Sunni Arabs would have to be in charge if the country were to function. The Sunni Arabs believed the Shia were a bunch of ignorant, excitable, inept (and so on) scum who could never run a government. Four years later, the Shia have sort-of proved the Sunni Arabs wrong. Now many Sunni Arabs want to make peace, not suicide bombs.

Which brings up another major issue in Iraq. Many Iraqis believe only a dictator can run the country, and force all the factions to behave. However, a majority of Iraqis recognize that dictatorships tend to be poor and repressive, while democracies are prosperous and pleasant. The problem is that the traditions of tribalism and corruption (everything, and everyone, has their price) do not mesh well with democracy. This doesn't mean democracy can't work under these conditions, many do. It does mean that it takes more effort, and the results are not neat and clean, as Americans expect their democracies to be.

The basic problem is that the United States is divided into two groups; those who have worked (or fought) in Iraq, or otherwise paid close attention to what's happening on the ground, and those who create their own picture of what's happening, one that fits other needs (personal, political, religious). No amount of wishing will change what is going on over there. The majority of the population hates the Sunni Arabs, who now have four years of terrorist attacks added to their list of sins. The Kurds, although beset by corruption and factionalism, have shown that you can still have peace, security and prosperity if everyone works together. The Arabs to the south see that, but have not been able to work together well enough to make it happen. Will the Arabs be able to overcome their factionalism and hatreds? THAT is the big question. What is lost in all the rhetoric about Iraq is that Iraq is the only real Arab democracy in the Middle East. Egypt is a one party state, a dictatorship masquerading as a dictatorship. Every other Arab state is either a dictatorship or a monarchy.

Iraqis know they are in a position to show the way, to an era of better government, and the freedoms and prosperity that flows from that. Iraqis know they have problems with religion, tribalism and corruption. Iraqis know what they are up against. Do you?

Strategy Page

Once a blogger, a journalist, a politician, an academic, an intellectual invests so deeply in defeat that he cannot possibly extricate himself without serious explanation, such a person--unless scrupulously honest--will feel forced to present defeat as the reality, well beyond the point when a reasonable person begins to have doubts. Since a widespread belief in defeat often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, such persons may feel that their best course is to bluff the situation to the end. They feel, if they are lucky, that defeat will surely happen, if they can convince everyone of its inevitability.

This pretense of theirs, which seems the most important thing in the world to maintain, is actually quite a small thing in reality. But will they ever understand?

To them, it is important that a particular politician, or a particular political party, or a particular ideological grouping, or a particular nation, lose. But it is the people who want a better life who will lose, thanks in no small way to these small time investors, who invested so deeply in the defeat of those they hated, which was actually the defeat of the hopes of many millions for a better life.