“The people of Iran are asking themselves whether the UN Security Council is only decisive and effective when it comes to the suspension of the enrichment of uranium”

by Scott McLemee on September 23, 2007

An essay by Akbar Ganji that ran in The Boston Review a few months ago had one of the more striking contributor’s notes I have ever seen:

He is working on the third installment of his Republican Manifesto, which lays out a strategy for a nonviolent transition to democracy in Iran, along with a book of dialogues with prominent Western philosophers and intellectuals. He plans to return to Iran, where, he has been told, he will be re-arrested upon his arrival.

On the occasion of President Ahmadinejad’s trip to New York, Ganji has written an open letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations. It has received more than three hundred endorsements from around the world, among them Jurgen Habermas, Ziauddin Sardar, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Juan Cole, and Slavoj Zizek.

A copy was just forwarded to me by Nader Hashemi, a fellow at the UCLA International Institute, with the request that it be disseminated as widely as possible. The full text follows:

To His Excellency Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations,

The people of Iran are experiencing difficult times both internationally and domestically. Internationally, they face the threat of a military attack from the US and the imposition of extensive sanctions by the UN Security Council. Domestically, a despotic state has – through constant and organized repression – imprisoned them in a life and death situation.

Far from helping the development of democracy, US policy over the past 50 years has consistently been to the detriment of the proponents of freedom and democracy in Iran. The 1953 coup against the nationalist government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq and the unwavering support for the despotic regime of the Shah, who acted as America’s gendarme in the Persian Gulf, are just two examples of these flawed policies. More recently the confrontation between various US Administrations and the Iranian state over the past three decades has made internal conditions very difficult for the proponents of freedom and human rights in Iran. Exploiting the danger posed by the US, the Iranian regime has put military-security forces in charge of the government, shut down all independent domestic media, and is imprisoning human rights activists on the pretext that they are all agents of a foreign enemy. The Bush Administration, for its part, by approving a fund for democracy assistance in Iran, which has in fact being largely spent on official institutions and media affiliated with the US government, has made it easy for the Iranian regime to describe its opponents as mercenaries of the US and to crush them with impunity. At the same time, even speaking about “the possibility” of a military attack on Iran makes things extremely difficult for human rights and pro-democracy activists in Iran. No Iranian wants to see what happened to Iraq or Afghanistan repeated in Iran. Iranian democrats also watch with deep concern the support in some American circles for separatist movements in Iran. Preserving Iran’s territorial integrity is important to all those who struggle for democracy and human rights in Iran. We want democracy for Iran and for all Iranians. We also believe that the dismemberment of Middle Eastern countries will fuel widespread and prolonged conflict in the region. In order to help the process of democratization in the Middle East, the US can best help by promoting a just peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, and pave the way for the creation of a truly independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. A just resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the establishment of a Palestinian state would inflict the heaviest blow on the forces of fundamentalism and terrorism in the Middle East.

Your Excellency,

Iran’s dangerous international situation and the consequences of Iran’s dispute with the West have totally deflected the world’s attention and especially the attention of the United Nations from the intolerable conditions that the Iranian regime has created for the Iranian people. The dispute over the enrichment of uranium should not make the world forget that, although the 1979 revolution of Iran was a popular revolution, it did not lead to the formation of a democratic system that protects human rights. The Islamic Republic is a fundamentalist state that does not afford official recognition to the private sphere. It represses civil society and violates human rights. Thousands of political prisoners were executed during the first decade after the revolution without fair trials or due process of the law, and dozens of dissidents and activists were assassinated during the second decade. Independent newspapers are constantly being banned and journalists are sent to prison. All news websites are filtered and books are either refused publication permits or are slashed with the blade of censorship before publication. Women are totally deprived of equality with men and, when they demand equal rights, they are accused of acting against national security, subjected to various types of intimidation and have to endure various penalties, including long prison terms. In the first decade of the 21st century, stoning (the worst form of torture leading to death) is one of the sentences that Iranians face on the basis of existing laws. A number of Iranian teachers, who took part in peaceful civil protests over their pay and conditions, have been dismissed from their jobs and some have even been sent into internal exile in far-flung regions or jailed. Iranian workers are deprived of the right to establish independent unions. Workers who ask to be allowed to form unions in order to struggle for their corporate rights are beaten and imprisoned. Iranian university students have paid the highest costs in recent years in defence of liberty, human rights and democracy. Security organizations prevent young people who are critical of the official state orthodoxy from gaining admission into university, and those who do make it through the rigorous ideological and political vetting process have no right to engage in peaceful protest against government policies.

If students’ activities displease the governing elites, they are summarily expelled from university and in many instances jailed. The Islamic Republic has also been expelling dissident professors from universities for about a quarter of a century. In the meantime, in the Islamic Republic’s prisons, opponents are forced to confess to crimes that they have not committed and to express remorse. These confessions, which have been extracted by force, are then broadcast on the state media in a manner reminiscent of Stalinist show-trials. There are no fair, competitive elections in Iran; instead, elections are stage managed and rigged. And even people who find their way into parliament and into the executive branch of government have no powers or resources to alter the status quo. All the legal and extra-legal powers are in the hands of the Iran’s top leader, who rules like a despotic sultan.

Your Excellency,

Are you aware that in Iran political dissidents, human rights activists and pro-democracy campaigners are legally deprived of “the right to life”? On the basis of Article 226 of the Islamic Penal Law and Note 2 of Paragraph E of Section B of Article 295 of the same law any person can unilaterally decide that another human being has forfeited the right to life and kill them in the name of performing one’s religious duty to rid society of vice. [1] Over the past few decades, many dissidents and activists have been killed on the basis of this article and the killers have been acquitted in court. In such circumstances, no dissident or activist has a right to life in Iran, because, on the basis of Islamic jurisprudence and the laws of the Islamic Republic, the definition of those who have forfeited the right to life (mahduroldam) is very broad.

Are you aware that, in Iran, writers are lawfully banned from writing? On the basis of Note 2 of Paragraph 8 of Article 9 of the Press Law, writers who are convicted of “propaganda against the ruling system” are deprived for life of “the right to all press activity”. In recent years, many writers and journalists have been convicted of propaganda against the ruling system. The court’s verdicts make it clear that any criticism of state bodies is deemed to be propaganda against the ruling system.

Your Excellency,

The people of Iran and Iranian advocates for freedom and democracy are experiencing difficult days. They need the moral support of the proponents of freedom throughout the world and effective intervention by the United Nations. We categorically reject a military attack on Iran. At the same time, we ask you and all of the world’s intellectuals and proponents of liberty and democracy to condemn the human rights violations of the Iranian state. We expect from Your Excellency, in your capacity as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, to reprimand the Iranian government – in keeping with your legal duties – for its extensive violation of the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights covenants and treaties.

Above all, we hope that with Your Excellency’s immediate intervention, all of Iran’s political prisoners, who are facing more deplorable conditions with every passing day, will soon be released. The people of Iran are asking themselves whether the UN Security Council is only decisive and effective when it comes to the suspension of the enrichment of uranium, and whether the lives of the Iranian people are unimportant as far as the Security Council is concerned. The people of Iran are entitled to freedom, democracy and human rights. We Iranians hope that the United Nations and all the forums that defend democracy and human rights will be unflinching in their support for Iran’s quest for freedom and democracy.

Yours Sincerely,

Akbar Ganji

[1] The relevant note of Article 295: “If a person kills someone in the belief that they are implementing the law of talion or that it is a question of someone who has forfeited the right to life [mahduroldam] and if the court is convinced that they were acting on this belief, if it subsequently becomes clear that the victim was not liable to talon or had not forfeited the right to life, the killing will be deemed to have been a mistake or involuntary murder. And if the claim that the victim had forfeited the right to life is confirmed, the law of talion and blood money will not apply.” The office of the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic has conveyed his ruling in this respect to the judiciary as follows: “In cases in which the death sentence has been issued for state agents and members of the Basij [militia] who killed someone in the context of performing their religious duty or in the belief that the victim had forfeited the right to life or that they were striving to impede vice, the eminent leader, while expressing his gratitude for the sensitivity that they have shown on these issues, has stated that the death sentence should be commuted, by any suitable means, to the payment of blood money and that His Eminence be informed about the case” (Yas-e Now [Tehran daily], 19 October 2003).

{ 3 trackbacks }

the __earthinc » Blog Archive » [1384] Of Akbar Ganji to Ban Ki-moon
09.24.07 at 2:59 pm
Akbar Ganji’s open letter « Amused Cynicism
09.25.07 at 12:58 am
a.poretic » Blog Archive » Tyrants and those that must bear them
09.25.07 at 5:21 am

{ 56 comments }

1

Josh Cohen 09.24.07 at 1:35 am

Next spring, Ganji has a book coming out with the Boston Review imprint at MIT Press. The book will include several essays, including the piece he published in Boston Review a few issues back, to which that remarkable contributor’s note attaches.

2

Quo Vadis 09.24.07 at 3:25 am

Shorter Akbar Ganji:

1. The US is responsible for the bad things done by the Iranian government under the Shah.
2. The US is responsible for the bad things done by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
3. The US is responsible for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

and…
4. Please say bad things about the democratically elected government of Iran because they are doing bad things.

Why do I get the impression that Akbar Ganji is fishing for endorsements?

3

BetsyD 09.24.07 at 3:37 am

1. The US backed the Shah over a democratically elected leader, whom we helped assassinate.

2. This led to a popular Islamic uprising in 1979. A few years ago, comments made by our internationally unpopular President may have affected the outcome of the election in Iran such that anti-reform candidates became favored by the Iranians.

3. The US is the world’s only superpower, and probably the only country that has the power to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace.

4. Presumably we should be willing to speak out against injustice wherever it exists. A “democratically elected” government has certainly sponsored plenty of injustice in the US.

4

Dan Simon 09.24.07 at 4:47 am

Iran’s dangerous international situation and the consequences of Iran’s dispute with the West have totally deflected the world’s attention and especially the attention of the United Nations from the intolerable conditions that the Iranian regime has created for the Iranian people.

I’m curious to know how he accounts, then, for the persistent, unmistakable lack of vigilant UN attention, year after year, towards the crushing of human rights in an entire planet’s worth of brutal dictatorships other than Iran, from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe–including numerous hellholes that the US has never even bothered to raise a noticeable fuss about.

In order to help the process of democratization in the Middle East, the US can best help by promoting a just peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, and pave the way for the creation of a truly independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel.

But wait–I thought all that “attention” the US was giving to the problem of Iranian internal repression was causing nothing but trouble–rallying the people to the cause of sovereignty and non-interference, and so on. Why wouldn’t a similarly intense level of American “attention” be just as counterproductive if directed a thousand miles or so further west?

Above all, we hope that with Your Excellency’s immediate intervention, all of Iran’s political prisoners, who are facing more deplorable conditions with every passing day, will soon be released.

Well, if there’s one problem that the UN really has devoted its nearly undivided attention to–for decades now, in fact–it’s the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. And apparently it’s been so effective that Ganji is now reduced to imploring that America step in and give it a try. Why on earth would he expect the UN’s intervention to be so much more successful in Iran than a thousand miles or so further west–or pretty much anywhere else it’s tried to solve a world problem, for that matter?

5

Doctor Slack 09.24.07 at 5:33 am

Well, if there’s one problem that the UN really has devoted its nearly undivided attention to—for decades now, in fact—it’s the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. And apparently it’s been so effective that Ganji is now reduced to imploring that America step in and give it a try.

Yeah, I guess having a superpower arming, bankrolling and heavily favouring one side in the conflict kind of makes it hard for the UN to make progress, huh? Chortle, chortle! Your side-splitting wit strikes again, Dan! Brilliant!

6

abb1 09.24.07 at 7:34 am

What Dr. S said. “Promoting a just peace” seems to be a polite form of ‘stop preventing the possibility of a just peace’. So, yes, intense level of American attention is counterproductive; the US government is too powerful, aggressive and arrogant in perusing its (perceived) interests abroad, and that’s clearly counterproductive.

7

joel turnipseed 09.24.07 at 7:59 am

Honestly? This post should just have been made w/comments turned off. It’s a great piece, worth reflecting on (and passing on to others) without the distraction of a comments thread (I say this in anticipation of what’s TK here, and having just read the embarrassing thread over at Yglesias).

8

bad Jim 09.24.07 at 8:32 am

Would it be such a bad idea for the U.S. to state that we don’t have immediate plans for an attack on Iran? Is it really against our interests, since we’re embroiled in counter-insurgency efforts on either side of that country, to offer assurances that we’re not on the verge of raining bombs upon them?

They’ve already offered assurances that they aren’t building nukes. Okay, Khameini issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons, but we know what a fatwa is worth: Salman Rushdie was on Bill Maher’s show last week. They didn’t follow through on killing him, so maybe they were just kidding, they’ll join the club and build a nuke instead. Or, maybe not.

If any of my party’s presidential contenders were willing to roll the dice, they might do worse than to note that Persia is probably not only not the most immediate threat we face, but a country with over a millenium’s worth of experience with the shit we’ve parachuted into.

Their president’s a bozo who looks like Ringo Starr, ours on his best days recalls Alfred E. Newman, so I doubt we’ll avoid a fresh disaster. I fear we’re looking into the bottom of Pandora’s box and finding the flattened butterfly of hope.

9

ejh 09.24.07 at 9:00 am

What, me worry?

10

Quo Vadis 09.24.07 at 9:55 am

Joel @6

The argument at Yglesias was an inevitable consequence of the way Akbar Ganji made his appeal.

The sad thing is that he had nothing else to base his appeal on because the international community is suffering from an acute lack of original vision. At its core is a cadre of ‘thinkers’ so completely traumatized by the US that it is incapable of taking an action, expressing an opinion, conceiving an idea or articulating a value that isn’t predicated on some real or imagined US. Every discussion devolves into a discussion about the US because everything is a reaction to the US. The landscape of thought and discourse is devoid of anything else.

What Ganji needs is a well articulated ideology as appealing to the average Iranian as Ahmadinejad’s populism. Where could that possibly come from in today’s world? Wrapping his criticisms in a condemnation of the US might get Juan Cole to sign on, but it’s not going to sway the people who matter.

11

Patrick 09.24.07 at 1:26 pm

“4. Please say bad things about the democratically elected government of Iran because they are doing bad things.”

Isn’t that part of the UN’s job description?

12

Sebastian Holsclaw 09.24.07 at 2:10 pm

“The people of Iran are asking themselves whether the UN Security Council is only decisive and effective when it comes to the suspension of the enrichment of uranium”

It is decisive and effective when it comes to the suspension of the enrichment of uranium? Who knew?

13

Scott McLemee 09.24.07 at 2:22 pm

In posting this, I originally neglected to include a footnote — and also decided not to list the 300 or so signatories collected by Nader Hashemi (just because this is such a long post as it is).

The footnote has been added, above. And I’ve put up a supplement identifying those who have endorsed the appeal so far, to be updated as necessary.

14

engels 09.24.07 at 2:44 pm

What Joel said. Now back to your regularly scehduled trollfest…

15

joel turnipseed 09.24.07 at 2:51 pm

“What Ganji needs is a well articulated ideology as appealing to the average Iranian as Ahmadinejad’s populism. Where could that possibly come from in today’s world? Wrapping his criticisms in a condemnation of the US might get Juan Cole to sign on, but it’s not going to sway the people who matter.”

I don’t know, who matters? Do you? Those who endorsed Ganji’s appeal? I sure as hell don’t matter–not when it comes to this; not beyond my ability to vote (or blog, or mess with the heads of my neighbors at our monthly poker game, or a few other limited means at my disposal, like writing essays or book reviews or novels). “People who matter…,” it’s a curious appeal.

Quite frankly, I don’t think Ganji’s appeal wants for an ideology (and, though I agree with his point, it might have been even better without the graf on Israel-Palestine). What it wants is for as many people as possible to read it, then sit on it for a few days (what a luxury in our news cycle!).

I understand the need for vigorous public debate (if that’s what goes on in these threads!), and that there are a lot of difficult issues involved in defusing tensions both within Iran and between Iran and the U.S. (and Europe), but I still stand by my original intuition: this is one of those things that should just be plastered on as many blogs as possible, with comments turned off–to be read. Just that… read.

16

Dan Simon 09.24.07 at 3:36 pm

Yeah, I guess having a superpower arming, bankrolling and heavily favouring one side in the conflict kind of makes it hard for the UN to make progress, huh?

Even if we accept, for the sake of argument, the highly dubious premise that American support for Israel is the main obstacle to successful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s extremely hard to see what US aid dollars, arms and support can do to frustrate the UN’s efforts to influence Israeli policy that Iranian oil dollars and Russian and Chinese arms and support couldn’t do to frustrate the UN’s efforts to influence Iranian policy.

And that’s assuming that the UN would even make any efforts. As I pointed out–and you haven’t yet disputed–the UN’s recent record of active concern about human rights violations by tyrannical regimes is virtually non-existent, impassioned pleas from human rights leaders notwithstanding.

17

Quo Vadis 09.24.07 at 3:55 pm

Joel @15

Perhaps I wasn’t clear: The people who matter are the Iranians who may or may not vote Ahmadinejad out of office. He may be a lot of unsavory things, but he’s not one of those I like to call 98%ers like Kim Jong Il and the former ruler of Iraq.

18

abb1 09.24.07 at 4:38 pm

with comments turned off—to be read. Just that… read.

I don’t get it. What’s so sacred about this particular Iranian dissident and his letter that prevents commenting? What about, say, Chomsky or Shahak – should they also be read in silence?

19

joel turnipseed 09.24.07 at 5:34 pm

abb1,

Well, there’s nothing sacred about him. For all I know, he has no plan whatsoever to go back to Iraq and this is a publicity-grabbing stunt.

I think my touchstone here is Trilling’s essay “On the Teaching of Modern Literature,” which if it were written now would have to be–well, not even written: it would just be a Chast or Koren cartoon (and probably already is). But the general sentiment I had in mind was, “Aren’t there things so important, so critical, that a rush to incorporate them into classroom discussion or, now, blogs, quickly sucks any life or importance out of them and just turns them into fodder for whatever random opinion/grudge/joke/tangent/etc–and doesn’t this count as a loss?”

As, for instance, I have thoroughly derailed this thread?

20

joel turnipseed 09.24.07 at 5:36 pm

NB: “Iraq” s/be “Iran”…

21

Dan Simon 09.24.07 at 5:56 pm

“Aren’t there things so important, so critical, that a rush to incorporate them into classroom discussion or, now, blogs, quickly sucks any life or importance out of them and just turns them into fodder for whatever random opinion/grudge/joke/tangent/etc—and doesn’t this count as a loss?”

Of course there are. The problem is that it requires considerable arrogance to claim that one knows exactly which things these are. For example, I believe that most of my personal blog postings fall into this category, but recognizing my own fallibility, I nonetheless keep my comments feature turned on for every post.

It’s possible that you’re right about Ganji’s statement being so right and so urgent that it needs to be disseminated as widely and respectfully as possible. It’s also possible, though, that I’m right, and his statement is a noble sentiment wrapped in such utter disconnection from reality as to neutralize its good intentions completely. I see no way to resolve that question without vigorous and open discussion.

22

Quo Vadis 09.24.07 at 7:01 pm

I suppose the reason I’m so unimpressed with this appeal is that I’ve heard all of these criticisms before over the years both in the media and firsthand from Persian exiles of my acquaintance. Is this really news to anyone? If not then why is it now something we should sit and ponder where it was not before?

23

Quo Vadis 09.24.07 at 7:45 pm

I wrote:

I’ve heard all of these criticisms before over the years both in the media and firsthand from Persian exiles of my acquaintance.

I shouldn’t have referred to them as exiles, they are more accurately willing immigrants from Iran.

24

Philip Hunt 09.25.07 at 12:50 am

abb1 (#19): I don’t get it. What’s so sacred about this particular Iranian dissident and his letter that prevents commenting?

I think the point Joel was making was that the letter is good and stands for itself. When I read it (before I read the comments here) the only comment I could think of making to it was “I agree”, which sounds a bit lame.

Anyway, I think this Ganji’s letter deserves the widest circulation so I’m republishing it on my blog.

25

Lee A. Arnold 09.25.07 at 6:03 am

List of Signatories typo #271 Bettina Aptheker

26

abb1 09.25.07 at 7:34 am

I can think of many comments,Philip.

27

Tracy W 09.25.07 at 9:14 am

I have for a while felt that the most useful thing the US could do for democracy and human rights in Iran would be to loudly proclaim its support for the official Iranian leadership and roundly criticise the democrats /protestors /writers /etc for undermining the Iranian state and good social order.

Not that I think the US government should support the official Iranian leadership. It just strikes me that the US is so despised in the region that the best thing the US government could do to help change the Iranian government is by allowing Iranian human rights activists to portray the Iranian government as a US puppet.

If nothing else the confusion for the Iranian leaders would be amusing.

28

Doctor Slack 09.25.07 at 1:36 pm

Dan: So, you’re accepting “for the sake of argument” the supposedly “dubious” premise that American support for Israel has been an obstacle to peace, but rather casually rejecting the related premise that said support might be a motivator for other countries and groups in the region to arm themselves? That’s a nifty little trick.

Not that I’m really inclined to let you get away with “dubious,” mind you. That American support was a big part of what emboldened the Israeli far right to actively sabotage any possibility of a workable two-state solution (through illegal settlements among other things) falls rather into the category of “obvious.” To say that American support of Israel is not one of the factors motivating the invasion of Iraq — and the subsequent equally dishonest buildup to war with Iran, founded on a fictitious “nuclear crisis” — now that would be “dubious.”

29

Katherine 09.25.07 at 1:48 pm

Quo Vadis @ 2 – there is nothing democratic about a state that systematically oppresses c.50% of its population. That’s women, by the way, in case you had forgotten about them.

30

abb1 09.25.07 at 2:04 pm

But the women in Iran have the right to vote, Katherine. If all of them collectively (all 50% of the population) felt oppressed, they could easily elect politicians favoring a more liberal interpretation of the Islamic law; that’s what the word ‘democratic’ means. If this doesn’t happen, something must be wrong with either your math (the 50%), or your definition of the word ‘oppress’ or both.

31

Dan Simon 09.25.07 at 2:34 pm

So, you’re accepting “for the sake of argument” the supposedly “dubious” premise that American support for Israel has been an obstacle to peace, but rather casually rejecting the related premise that said support might be a motivator for other countries and groups in the region to arm themselves?

Yes, I’m rejecting it–not only as ludicrous, but also as totally irrelevant. My point was simply that even assuming American support for Israel to be at the heart of the UN’s failure to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the current Iranian government and its supporters have far more resources at their disposal than Israel ever did, and therefore should have no trouble at all resisting any UN attempts to change Iran’s internal human rights situation. Ganji’s appeal to the UN to solve the problem of government oppression in Iran would thus appear, by the same logic, to be rather feckless.

[more puerile Israel-and-America-bashing crap]

We can take up the Israel stuff elsewhere, Crooked Timber permitting–I, for one, would rather stay on-topic.

32

Chris Bertram 09.25.07 at 2:53 pm

_they could easily elect politicians favoring a more liberal interpretation of the Islamic law_

No they couldn’t. IIRC, liberal candidates get weeded out by some religious commitee before the election takes place.

33

abb1 09.25.07 at 3:30 pm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_Iran
The Guardian Council can veto parliamentary and presidential candidates. Half of the Guardian Council members are elected by the parliament and the other half appointed by the Supreme Leader, who himself is elected by the Assembly of Experts, which itself is an elected body. Rather complicated scheme, but still appears to be fully democratic, in the usual sense of the word. At least there no electoral college there.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iranian_presidential_election,_2005
In 2005 run-off election Ahmadinejad defeated Rafsanjani (liberal reformer) 62% to 36% with 60% turnout. If the gender-based oppression was such a big issue, the Iranian women could easily elect Rafsanjani or any of the other 5 first round candidates, each of them (according to what I read) more liberal than Ahmadinejad.

34

Z 09.25.07 at 4:01 pm

IIRC, liberal candidates get weeded out by some religious commitee before the election takes place.

Chris, though what you write is correct, abb1 is still right. Liberal candidates are weeded out by some commitee in Iran, but in the last parlementiary elections, the electorate still voted for rather conservative candidates; and in the last presidential election, Iranians chose one of the most conservative one. They had a wide choice of more liberal and reformist candidates and they rejected them. How to interpret this is not that easy, as the following assertions are both true:

1) Iranians, in particular women, do not live a state guaranteeing some basic liberties and are victims of state-sanctionned abuse.

2) Iranians regularly vote in non-negligible margins for candidates that perpetuate or even worsen this situation.

I remark that the same was and is true in more democratic countries, and even in some hailed as models.

35

Chris Bertram 09.25.07 at 4:09 pm

Thanks for that Z and abb1, I stand corrected.

36

abb1 09.25.07 at 4:14 pm

Exactly. The word ‘democracy’ is now completely in the doublespeak territory, as in “women are oppressed, therefore not a democracy”.

Yes, women are oppressed and homosexuals are murdered and (most tragically, of course) intellectuals are persecuted AND it is a democracy.

37

franck 09.25.07 at 4:36 pm

z is correct, but incomplete.

Rafsanjani is not really a “liberal reformer”. He’s a representative of the bazaari faction, who control most of the economic power in Iran and prevent a more liberal market economic from developing. They are considered to be corrupt and often blamed for perpetuating poverty in Iran.

Ahmadinejad was widely supported for his common touch and belief that he would crack down on corruption and improve the economic position of the vast part of the country.

People really want greater freedom in all aspects of their life in Iran, and pushing for better economic prospects is very important. Ahmadinejad was seen as a vehicle for that. In this he has comprehensively failed.

So people did vote for the more “conservative” candidate, but an equally precise way of describing the election is that people voted for greater economic development and poverty reduction and against big business and market monopolies.

The more liberal (in all senses) candidates had already been thrown out by the government bodies restricted to clerics. In that sense the system is anti-democratic – a significant number of powerful political posts are restricted to a small class of people in the country by law.

38

abb1 09.25.07 at 5:56 pm

Franck, what was wrong with, say, prof. Mostafa Moeen, one of the leading Iranian researchers in the field of pediatric immunology and allergy? What is he representative of and why did he finish fourth in the 1st round?

39

franck 09.25.07 at 6:16 pm

abb1,

I don’t think there was anything “wrong” with Moeen. He didn’t get complete support from the reformers, but I don’t totally understand why. I also don’t completely understand why he didn’t get more support in the election. A number of people were surprised that he wasn’t disqualified, actually, so it’s hard to tell what maneuvering occurred behind the scenes.

It’s important to realize that the presidency is rather weak, and one main aim of Ahmadinejad is to increase the power of the presidency relative to other power centers in the government. It seems like he has mostly failed in this as well. One reason many people became disillusioned with the presidency under Khatami is that he wasn’t either able or willing to change things. (People continue to argue about which was more true.)

But there were other candidates running as more democratic and human-rights oriented who were expressly disqualified by the Guardian Council – take the two Ebrahims, Ebrahim Asgharzadeh and Ebrahim Yazdi. They also disqualified all the women from running for various reasons.

So, we can characterize Iran as a democracy with some anti-democratic elements.

40

Z 09.25.07 at 7:00 pm

So, we can characterize Iran as a democracy with some anti-democratic elements.

A fair enough description, as far as I am concerned.

41

Doctor Slack 09.25.07 at 7:32 pm

the current Iranian government and its supporters have far more resources at their disposal than Israel ever did

IOW you have no idea what you’re talking about. Shocker. I think breaking this off was the right decision for you.

42

Dan Simon 09.25.07 at 9:37 pm

Total US aid to Israel in 2005 and 2006, as a percentage of Israel’s 2006 GDP: 3.1%
Total increase in oil export revenues in 2005 and 2006, compared to 2004′s total, as a percentage of Iran’s 2006 GDP: 4.9%

Having a clue what you’re talking about: priceless

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Doctor Slack 09.26.07 at 1:06 am

Country that has United States and its army as an ally: Iran! No, wait…

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snuh 09.26.07 at 2:14 am

“…assuming American support for Israel to be at the heart of the UN’s failure to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…”

i have no idea why you are merely “assuming” this, given the number of times america has been vetoed UNSC resolutions regarding israel.

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Dan Simon 09.26.07 at 5:42 am

Country that has United States and its army as an ally: Iran! No, wait…

I’m keen to hear all about the US military’s solemn commitment to protect Israel, and all the actions that Israel’s enemies would long ago have taken, but for fear of US military intervention.

i have no idea why you are merely “assuming” this, given the number of times america has been vetoed UNSC resolutions regarding israel.

Well, yes, if you believe that a cascade of UNSC-sponsored resolutions against Israel is all it would take to solve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, then you would naturally assume US support for Israel to be the cause of the UN’s failure. I happen to consider that belief laughably unrealistic, but regardless, my point stands–Iran’s allies on the UNSC are every bit as capable of vetoing anti-Iran resolutions as the US is of vetoing anti-Israel resolutions.

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abb1 09.26.07 at 7:14 am

…if you believe that a cascade of UNSC-sponsored resolutions against Israel is all it would take to solve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute…

UNSC-sponsored resolutions could easily lead to economic sanctions and that would definitely resolve the dispute.

…Iran’s allies on the UNSC are every bit as capable of vetoing anti-Iran resolutions…

Hmmm, they are sure capable, but what’s your point? Is in your mind ‘being capable to veto’ the same thing as ‘having vetoed a whole bunch’?

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Doctor Slack 09.26.07 at 1:58 pm

I’m keen to hear all about the US military’s solemn commitment to protect Israel

Because after all, the fake “nuclear crisis” with Iran and buildup to an attack thereon can have nothing to do with Israel, and the US has consistently advocated tough measures against Israeli escalations of the conflict with the Palestinians and it is not the norm for American politicians to proclaim undying support for Israel. Dan, your brilliance continues to astound me. Hats off.

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Uncle Kvetch 09.26.07 at 4:06 pm

Speaking as an American taxpayer here: If it’s true that the billions of dollars in aid we provide to Israel every year is as meaningless as Dan says, can we have it back?

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Glorious Godfrey 09.26.07 at 4:30 pm

(begin trollish digression)

There are no surprises in Dr. Slack’s link, really. The Israeli mainstream is mostly only concerned with straightforward comparisons of its military strength with those of its foes in the region. There’s certainly very little faith in the transformative power of democracy, and not much interest in the things that the neo-cons and/or other Beltway insiders get hot and bothered about, like the geopolitics of oil or consigning pansy stuff like the Powell Doctrine to oblivion.

This bit springs to mind:

“Israel was more concerned with the relative military threat posed by Iran and Iraq, whereas neo-conservatives in the Bush administration were focused on regime change in Iraq as a low-cost way of leveraging more ambitious changes in the region.”

Hahaha, what a wonderful euphemism. Even sort-of leftist Serious Analysts in Washington appear to be somewhat afraid of being called “puerile America-bashers” by the likes of Dan Simon.

(end trollish digression)

50

Dan Simon 09.26.07 at 9:03 pm

Because after all, the fake “nuclear crisis” with Iran and buildup to an attack thereon can have nothing to do with Israel,

Yes, of course–I forgot all about that Elders of Zion conspiracy thing. Other than that, though…

and the US has consistently advocated tough measures against Israeli escalations of the conflict with the Palestinians

Exactly–approximately as tough as the measures that Russia and China have advocated against Iran’s human rights violations, support for terrorism and nuclear ambitions. (If you’ll recall, my whole point was that American support doesn’t insulate Israel any more than Russian and Chinese support insulates Iran.)

and it is not the norm for American politicians to proclaim undying support for Israel.

I don’t know about “undying support”, but Russian politicians tend to be roughly as warm and friendly towards Iran as their American counterparts are towards Israel–at least on those days when Iran isn’t in arrears on its armaments and nuclear technology payments.

Speaking as an American taxpayer here: If it’s true that the billions of dollars in aid we provide to Israel every year is as meaningless as Dan says, can we have it back?

Well, at least with respect to the non-military aid, no less a light than Binyamin Netanyahu argues for its termination, and that’s certainly good enough for me. (I should point out, though, that he may have an ulterior motive: this aid is largely granted to honor a reciprocal deal worked out as part of the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, and its termination may give political momentum to terminating American aid to Egypt, as well. I think that would be just fine, but others may disagree.)

As for the military aid, it’s probably less important than folks like Netanyahu will claim, but it’s also strongly leveraged by the restrictions that direct most of it towards the purchase of expensive American arms technology, raising production volumes and thus reducing amortized development costs. By military standards, then, it’s really just a drop in the bucket.

Is in your mind ‘being capable to veto’ the same thing as ‘having vetoed a whole bunch’?

Iran’s backers have certainly made plain their willingness to veto resolutions against Iran that they consider too harsh. For a variety of reasons, those proposing such resolutions have generally chosen to water them down rather than force the veto, whereas those proposing anti-Israel resolutions have been happy to force an American veto. The effect is essentially the same, though.

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Doctor Slack 09.26.07 at 9:07 pm

I forgot all about that Elders of Zion conspiracy thing.

Zing! That stupid cheap shot wasn’t predictable at all, Dan! You’re four for four!

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Doctor Slack 09.26.07 at 9:20 pm

Oh and: (If you’ll recall, my whole point was that American support doesn’t insulate Israel any more than Russian and Chinese support insulates Iran.)

And if you’ll recall, my point was that claiming Russian and Chinese support puts Iran at parity with Israel is, shall we say, misleading. (And yes, the “nuclear ambitions” stuff really does show telltale signs of being bullshit, in the same way that Saddam Hussein and WMDs were bullshit. Funny, I remember being accused of conspiracy theory then, too!)

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abb1 09.26.07 at 9:42 pm

So, the US is the real victim here – being forced by the evil UNSC states to veto every anti-Israel resolution in recent history. The US would’ve gladly agreed to impose a slightly watered-down punishment on Israel, if given a chance.

I am supposed to be the resident clown here, Dan.

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seth edenbaum 09.27.07 at 6:27 am

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seth e 09.27.07 at 6:55 am

Well that didn’t work did it?
And we all got kicked out of the internet cafe early for some reason.

I had included Tony karon’s latest post and a recent one by Helena Cobban on the holocaust rescue miniseries on Iranian TV.

The letter linked above is written in weak kneed internationalese. And I’m more than a little of the opinions on issues of morality of those who can refer even in jest to one country’s ‘realness’ on the question of boycotts ask the Palestinians and their academics and do as they request. In the meantime the ignoesnce of Iranian culture oilitical and otherwise continues to disgust.

Its almost as bad as gaving to listen to Americans whine about Darfur.
The foundations of such rationalism rest on pure symptom.
And Iran has the right undernational law to nuclear power and the Israelis have no right to deny the will of the Iranian people. I may not agree with them but the majority of Iranians are in favor.

Iranian and israeli culture are meeting in the middle ground between civilization and barbarismo. But they’re headed in opposite directions.
Which is which?

The answer is obvious if you’re paying attention.

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seth e 09.27.07 at 7:01 am

Barbarismo

The blackberry has a mind of its own.
And a quick witted one too.

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