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The Race for Iran

ASHURA IN ISTANBUL AND TEHRAN: WESTERN JOURNALISTS CONTINUE TO UNDERESTIMATE IRAN’S SOFT POWER

Yesterday was the 10th day of the Muslim holy month of Muharram—commemorated by Shi’a Muslims for centuries as the holy day of Ashura.  (We send our best wishes to all of our readers who are observing this special time.)  One of our readers highlighted something truly striking that happened yesterday, in connection with the observance of Ashura, but which was almost completely ignored in Western media coverage. 

In Istanbul—capital of the former Ottoman Empire and last seat of the Sunni caliphate—Ashura processions drew tens of thousands of Turks into the streets; even though the majority of Turkish Muslims are Sunni, at least 20 percent are Shi’a (most Alevi, with a relatively small number of “Twelver” Shi’a).  Notwithstanding freezing temperatures, an Ashura ceremony filled an Istanbul square with several thousand people.  The two main speakers at this event were Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and former Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, who continues to advise the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on international affairs. 

Erdoğan—whose Justice and Development Party is Sunni Islamist in orientation—said that the tragedy at Karbala 1,330 years ago affects all Muslims and should serve as a source of unity between Sunni and Shi’a.

“Our prayers, cries, and screams have been echoing in the sky for 1,300 years…Hussein’s sacrifice is [a] unification rather than a farewell, it is a beginning rather than an end, brotherhood rather than separation.  It is solidarity and integration…Nobody is superior to anyone in these lands, not the Sunni to the Shiites, not the Turkish to the Kurdish, the Laz to the Circassian, or the Persian to the Arabs…We are all the same in this land, together, brothers.” 

Dr. Velayati described Imam Hussein’s uprising as a lesson to Muslims about the moral and spiritual imperative to rise against bullying powers.  In Velayati’s account, Imam Hussein remains today the symbol of uprising against oppressors and tyranny.  The former Iranian Foreign Minister linked Hussein’s struggle to the cause of modern-day Palestinians, fighting to defend their rights in the face of Israel’s ongoing tyranny against Muslims, arguing that all Muslims are called to stand with the Palestinians in this fight.

Erdoğan’s participation in the Ashura ceremony undoubtedly reflects a mixture of considerations—including a genuine commitment to ameliorating and overcoming religious and ethnic divisions that continue to plague his country and its regional neighborhood, plus an interest in “pushing” back against narrow and highly sectarian Sunni fundamentalist currents in the region.  But it also reflects a judgment that this was an appropriate moment to underscore publicly that Turkish-Iranian ties remain strong and are grounded in the deep wellsprings of a shared culture and religious heritage as well as in overlapping strategic needs. 

In the aftermath of the Wikileaks disclosures, there has been much chatter in Western media and policy circles about the degree of Arab antipathy toward the Islamic Republic.  We have previously warned against underestimating the extent of Iran’s “soft power” in the Arab world (see here)—especially based on highly selective and biased reporting on the presumed attitudes of some Arab elites (see here).  But those doing the chattering would also be well advised to ponder that America’s closest Arab allies—Egypt and Saudi Arabia—are entering a period of political uncertainty because of impending changes in top-level leadership, and are, in any event, losing influence across the region (Egypt even more than Saudi Arabia, but the trend is clear in both cases). 

Turkey, by contrast, is a dynamic and rising force in the region whose leaders have captured the attention and respect of publics across the Muslim world.  It is clearly an important partner for the Islamic Republic.  But part of why Erdoğan, his Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, and their associates have proven to be so effective is that they understand strategic realities—including that the Islamic Republic is an important partner for Turkey.  More than any other factor, Turkish-Iranian cooperation undergirds what our colleague Alastair Crooke describes as the emergence of a strategically consequential “northern tier” in the Middle East (including Syria, important non-state actors like HAMAS and Hizballah, and, at least prospectively, Iraq, in addition to Iran and Turkey), see here.  Western analysts and commentators who continue to highlight what they portray as the Islamic Republic’s marginalization in the region really need to think again. 

While Western media largely ignored events in Istanbul yesterday, they were able to pay attention to Iran-related non-events.   In this regard, Scott Peterson—whose overt pro-Mousavi/pro-Green bias radically skewed his coverage of the Islamic Republic’s June 12, 2009 presidential election and its aftermath—published an emblematic piece in the Christian Science Monitor yesterday, see here, about Ashura in Tehran, which continues in the line of most of his recent reporting on Iranian politics.  In his story (filed from Istanbul, where he could have been writing about Erdoğan and Velayati at the Ashura commemoration there), Peterson claims that, on Ashura last year, the Green movement, “confident in their numbers and in standing up to tyranny on Ashura”, had “protested in force”, leading “many Green Movement activists” to predict even greater success, “perhaps even the end of the regime, in the next showdown, set for the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution on Feb. 11, 2010.”  But, as we predicted in the immediate aftermath of Ashura last year, see here, in the real world, nothing of the sort was going to happen; February 11, 2010 turned out to be a huge bust for the Green Movement, see here.  What transpired on Ashura last year was, in reality, both a clear indicator of the Green Movement’s political decline and a catalyst that accelerated this decline.  Peterson’s recounting of these events provides confirmation (inadvertent, we are sure) for the extensive collaboration between Western reporters and Green Movement activists that so thoroughly distorted Western coverage of Iran’s domestic politics in the wake of the 2009 presidential election. 

In his story yesterday, Peterson had to acknowledge that the Green Movement was “nowhere to be seen” in this year’s Ashura observances in Tehran, see here.  But hope springs eternal among at least some of Peterson’s Iranian contacts; as one of them told him, “We can’t create the ‘trigger’ of instability, [we’re] not powerful enough yet…We might be small now, but any small imbalance and we spread like wildfire”.  

An accurate and sober reading of political reality in the Islamic Republic and, indeed, across the region is essential if the United States and other Western countries are to formulate policies that promote real Western interests and foster regional stability.  Inaccurate and ideologically heated analysis, on the other hand, drives the United States closer to another misguided and lethally counterproductive war in the Middle East.  But, as far as Western media are concerned:  non-events (including some “hoped for” future that has nothing to do with current Iranian political realities) warrant a news story, but a profound and currently ongoing shift in the Middle East’s balance of power (which, among other things, entails a pronounced reduction in American influence in the region) does not. 

–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett

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166 Responses to “ASHURA IN ISTANBUL AND TEHRAN: WESTERN JOURNALISTS CONTINUE TO UNDERESTIMATE IRAN’S SOFT POWER”

  1. So much inspiration to be found here – thank you all, and enjoy your christmas holiday. I hope 2011 will be a blossoming year for all of you!

  2. fyi says:

    Rd. says: December 20, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    The 5 principles that you have enunciated are so general to be useless in practice.

    Biosphere is not infinite but energy is.

    With Infinite Energy, many things are possible.

    And you cannot be serious about this clap-trap of late Western Thinking: “reverence for Life” – surely not plants and animals that we destroy to live?

  3. Rd. says:

    Fyi “One could argue that the exercise of “profit motive”, left un-constrained, will cause damage to the human and material environments. “
    Pirouz_2 “Yes I am against basing the economy on profit motive. As I said before production must be based on the needs of the society not on profit.”

    That perspective is fairly close to what the Bare Foot Economics of Manfred Max-Neef, (Outside Looking-In) describes with his 5 principals; PERHAPS, this may be more in line with Pirouz_2 view(?)

    -economy is to serve people and not people to serve economy.

    -development is about people and not about objects.

    -growth is not the same as development. And development does not necessary require growth.

    -No economy is possible in the absence of eco system services.

    -The economy is a sub system of a larger finite system of biosphere. Hence, permanent growth is impossible. No economic interest under any circumstance can be above the reverence of life. Nothing is more important than life, all life.

  4. kooshy says:

    Empty December 20, 2010 at 10:39 am

    I agree with your assessment on the internal timing, and its message of suffering imposed by the forces of the wrong on innocents, but as it has been mentioned, the timing also is very much related to the current external factors, it is suppose to send a message of Iran’s confidence in its political and economic stability right before the actual negotiations starts. When the whole world is told, Iran is suffering by the western and UN sanctions. I suspect that is the reason people like Scott and the department of Information, so far, have became disappointed with the street seen in Iran. They certainly were not interested in cultural significance of Ashoura, and they rather very much preferred to ignore significance of Erdogan’s move.

    The point to conclude is that the western media and their related analyst and reporters are informed, but since they analyze Iran’s independence is threat to colonial western hegemony, on an ultra nationalistic and not necessarily only an economic posture they feel obliged to tow the western governments’ policies, that is why in the western media substantiated and realistic reporting is not an option, regardless of a shame in reporting that may later incur like what they towed for Iraq.

  5. fyi says:

    Pirouz_2 says: December 20, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    “Profit” is the cost of doing business.

    “Profit motive” is morally acceptable since its root lies in the idea of an autonomous individual, a moral agent, improving himself and his station in life.

    I cannot find anything wrong with it.

    One could argue that the exercise of “profit motive”, left un-constrained, will cause damage to the human and material environments. That is the duty of Law to pose such constrains as are deemed necessary or prudent to prevent such causes.

    In concrete terms, all enterprises in Iran ought to be run on profit motive – some could be regulated (such as power plants) and some could be unregulated. But the State cannot run the Iranian economy as efficiently as millions of people exercising economic choices.

    Subsidies should have been removed in 1988.

  6. Iranian says:

    So far the government’s plans to remove subsidies seems to be working well.

  7. Fiorangela says:

    yes, Thank you, empty, for your post at 10:39 am on Dec 20. It put Iran’s culture and actions into a very important context.

    And, in my opinion, it made Mr. Erdogan’s joint appearance with Dr. Velayati that much more significant: it seemed to signal that Erdogan and Velayati, Turkey and Iran, together understand and together will bear the blows of the West, encouraged by each other and their shared sacred traditions.

    as for me tho, gotta dash. It’s Christmas, you know; time for us Westerners to spread peace and love and goodwill. ta ta

  8. Pirouz_2 says:

    FYI:
    “Regrettably, I must conclude that you live in a dream world and have no appreciation of hard choices that Reality (of which I am sure you must have heard) forces upon us.

    Australia, Canada, and Norway all have extractive economies. As far as I know, they do not have subsidies. Norway, in fact, has a direct-payout program in which portions of the oil profits are given to the people.”

    I don’t think that you quite understood what I meant. All these countries that you mention have SIGNIFICANT non-raw material production. Neither Norway, nor Canada rely on oil for subsistence.
    Take away the subsidies provided by oil in Iran and the great majority of Iranians will start struggling with hunger. IT IS A UNIPRODUCT COLONIAL ECONOMY.

    “I am all for R&D but who is going to pay for it? The State, I persume?”

    Take away the “profit” factor and you will see that R&D becomes much cheaper than what you think. Money is nothing but a tool for trading comodities. For as long as there are comodities, money won’t be an issue. I understand that a lot of comodities used in the course of R&D are not produced in Iran and Iran will have to pay for them in hard cash (dollars) but for that purpose you can use the oil money.
    AND NO ONE SAYS THAT YOU CAN CREATE A MIRACLE OVER-NIGHT.

    “At any rate, that is a generation-long undertaking and will have no operational impact on the current situation.”

    As I said before there is no ‘one-night-miracle’. One-night-miracle is just a big hoax.

    “I surmise also that you are against the profit motive, yes?
    I mean, if instead of investing money in Iran-Khdor with a 3.5 % return you park the money in India in a bank with 15 % return per year, you could double your money.”

    Yes I am against basing the economy on profit motive. As I said before production must be based on the needs of the society not on profit. And no I wouldn’t close down Iran-Khodro and invest my money in a bank in India.

  9. fyi says:

    Pirouz_2 says: December 20, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Regrettably, I must conclude that you live in a dream world and have no appreciation of hard choices that Reality (of which I am sure you must have heard) forces upon us.

    Australia, Canada, and Norway all have extractive economies. As far as I know, they do not have subsidies. Norway, in fact, has a direct-payout program in which portions of the oil profits are given to the people.

    I am all for R&D but who is going to pay for it? The State, I persume? And how do you measure the return on R&D? At any rate, that is a generation-long undertaking and will have no operational impact on the current situation.

    I surmise also that you are against the profit motive, yes?

    I mean, if instead of investing money in Iran-Khdor with a 3.5 % return you park the money in India in a bank with 15 % return per year, you could double your money.

  10. Pirouz_2 says:

    FYI:
    “What are your recommendations (if not eliminating subsidies)?”

    First of all no recommendation is FAR better than the WRONG recommendation (ie. Subsidy cuts). It is like having a terminal case patient for whose disease we don’t know the cure, and someone tries to stab him in the heart and when the doctor tries to stop him, the person asking back: “so what is your recommendation?”

    Now I am not an economist, but I can tell you several things which I can think of:
    a) Iran’s major problem is that its economy (thanks to great Shah’s white revolution) is a colonial ‘uniproduct’ (ie. oil) economy. Since there is no significant production, people have to rely on the oil revenue. The first step should be to cure Iran from this oil dependency disease.
    b)The production must be planned and made based on the NEEDS of the society and not the PROFIT of the capital owner.
    c)Iran needs significant scientific and technologic development. This means education and R&D, and neither education nor R&D could be done by people who can’t even afford to eat or get a decent healthcare. Obviously cutting the subsidies and making poor much poorer, will only harm a TRUE development. Development can only be achieved if people can eat properly and have a decent health. The alternative form of development offered by the capitalism is only an empty lie which is about increasing the nominal GDP while there are a few billionairs, the vast majority of the society lives in abject poverty.

  11. fyi says:

    Pirouz_2 says: December 20, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Electricity and Gasoline were being sold below cost.

    What are your recommendations (if not eliminating subsidies)?

  12. Pirouz_2 says:

    @M.Ali and Eric;

    The issue with the subsidies in Iran is not about the electricity bill for some middle-class person going up by $2.
    First of all subsidies are not just for the energy, an important part of the subsidies goes towards basic nutrients such as bread.
    Secondly, subsidy cuts are not invention of Ahmadinejad, nor even are they the invention of Rafsanjani (during whose time the idea was first introduced), they are the ideas of World Bank, IMF and WTO.
    Thirdly, there is a BIG lie which is being told to the Iranian public, and I can understand that the low-income parts of the society because of their lack of education may be deceived, what bothers me is to see that people with decent education, people who know much better fall for it. There are some myths and facts about the subsidies:
    1) These are not subsidy reforms (هدفمند کردن یارانه ها ), these are subsidy eliminations (حذف یارانه ها). So the government is dowright lying about it! Why do I say that? Here are the reasons:
    a) if The purpose were NOT to take away the money to those who need but just to take away from those who DON’T need it, there would not have been any reason to put only half of the saving from cutting the subsidies back to people’s pocket (as the cash assistance), all 100% of the savings should have gone back to the people who needed it.
    2)The very fact that the government is saying that it would give the cash handouts to anyone who files a claim for need shows that they are not serious. Since when welfare has been given to ANYONE who files a claim for need?!?!
    3)If the real purpose is to cut the wasteful help from the government budget to those who live in Northern Tehran and really need no assistance, then why cutting the subsidies? Just make the electricity billing upto a certain amount of consumption with the subsidized prices and once it is above that consumption do the billing with regular market prices.
    4)Bread is the staple food (and indeed the most important source of nurishment) for the NEEDY not for the rich, the rich has no problem in buying plenty of red meat, diary products, fruit and vegetables. The main part of bread consumption is done by the lower classes in Iran, not the rich (who are a small minority anyway!). Cutting food subsidies DIRECTLY targets the poor not the rich!
    5) These policies shoved by institutes such as WB, IMF and WFO down the throat of developing countries have been followed FOR MANY MANY YEARS. And the results are out there for everyone to see: Argentina, Mexico, Turkey… Most people in Iran really don’t know what is going on in these countries and are just deceived by massive propaganda from the pro-globalization institutes and are mesmerized by the utterly meaningless membership of the G20 club.

  13. fyi says:

    Empty says: December 20, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Almost no Western statesman understands Islam and Muslim polities.

    Most of the scholars of Muslim polities do not comprehend Islamic societies; they cannot construct a model that explains how these societies could function, – let alone resist their machinations. (This is changing due to the work of scholars like Gellner and others.)

    If they wanted to learn about Iran and Shia all they needed to do was to read Matthew Arnold’s 1875 essay on “A Persian Passion Play”. They also would have understood then that the Pahlavi dynasty could not last.

    The Western press, the most pampered press in the world and one of the least informed of the world, has to push the agenda of its ruling circles. By definition, whoever opposes the Western states in their post-Christian phase is a benighted fool (unless you have nuclear weapons ready to annihilate them.)

    Complaining about them is useless.

  14. Empty,

    Thanks for your heart-felt post (Dec. 20 at 10:39 AM).

    If it’s any consolation, not only Shia Muslims find it offensive that some choose to treat an important religious holiday as a political event, to be measured by the number of TV cameras, police and protesters (or lack thereof) on the streets.

  15. Empty says:

    Past few days, a lot has been written about Tasua and Ashura rituals by many Western media outlets (including this site). Most essays and coverage have focused on the mechanics of the rituals and their geographic and chronological dimensions. Some people have explored numbers on the streets and public places reducing the rituals to a question of mathematics. Others have investigated the number of mourners as a percentage of total population in this, that, or the other country again reducing these rituals’ breadth and depth to questions of demographics and statistics and their potential to serve as a “game-changer” or some such speculation.

    But what are the stories that are repeated in every “noheh” every chant, and every “azaa-daari” (mourning) with extremely vivid details? What is the significance of reciting such details? What are their relevance to today’s world? Their relevance to Iran-US relations? To Iran-West’s relations? To the US-European Sanctions? To the UN sanctions? To the US efforts to get consensus on these sanctions to pressure Iran to yield? To the question of “purposeful assistance” (hadafmandi yaraneh-ha) as part of the subsidy cuts? To the timing of these programs with exactly day in history in Moharram some 1350 years ago? Why was the program designed to start at the beginning of Sunday on the 13th of Muharram? What were the content of the speeches that were delivered by Zeinab? Speeches by other survivors of Tasua and Ashur massacare.

    Thousands of stories about Tasua and Ashura that are carved into the deepest psyche of Iranians and Shi’a regardless of their ethnicity, religion, age, and gender. Consider the following recitation, for example, that is told with incredible details in a “noheh”:

    It is Tasua. Hot, blistering, merciless sun is shining over the Karbala camp. The rays are hitting like whips the thirsty bodies of Hussein and his friends and family many of them women and children. The river is in sight and the water is flowing but the embargo on absolutely anything including water has been in place for more than two days now. The path to the water is blocked by Yazid’s soldiers. There is a strict order that anyone who would try to help the camp and smuggle water into the camp will be beheaded on the spot. There is also an open proposal that anyone who would sign the treaty denouncing Hussein and accepting Yazid’s rule would be spared. The cries of children asking for water have filled the camp. Looking at the dry parched lips of Ali Asghar and Umm-Kolsum, Abbas (Hussein’s brother) could no longer bear it. He picks up the empty “mashk”, leather water jug, fights his way through the army and the blockade till he reaches the river. His thirst is incredible and wants to quench. His hands filled with water half way to his mouth stops and pours down the water. He cannot possibly quench his own thirst while all his loved ones in the camp are dying of thirst. He fills up the jug with clean flowing water and starts fighting his way back through the wall of Yazid’s soldiers toward the camp again. He has barely made it through and is in sight of the camp with everyone watching. Ali-Asghar is told to bare a bit longer as his uncle, Abbas, is coming with water. Yazid’s soldiers rush toward Abbas and and, with a swift movement of their sword cut off his right arm with which he is holding the jug. Before the jug falls on the ground, he catches it with the left arm. With yet another swift motion of their swords, they cut off the left arm. Now with two of his arms cut off, Abbas take the jug to his teeth and drags his bloody body toward the camp where children are wailing. He is only a few steps from them when the soldiers rush and cut the jug into pieces spilling all the water. The hot sandy camp ground soaks up the water so fast as if there never were any water, as if the ground, too, signed the treaty with Yazid and betrayed Hussein.

    These are the stories that are told in every house, every mosque, every hosseinieh, and every noheh song during Muharram. [Those who posted on this site scavenging for crowd footages and gloating about lack thereof must also bother to ask when people weren’t on the street, what they were doing inside.]

    So many newspaper articles, so many channels, so many Western speculators write how the string of sanctions have had a biting effect on ordinary people. They search for the smallest signs that the sanctions are inflicting pain. They then magnify any evidence of such suffering, real or fabricated, many folds through their own loud speakers. They gloat and promise more sanctions, more pain, more hardship. They publicize how severely they are punishing this person and that person or this company and that company or this country and that country for having dared to defy the sanctions. They sink Iranians ships in the international waters. Ships that contain items of necessity to ordinary people for their day-to-day living and medicine and medical devices for their illnesses, nuclear fuel needed for treating their and their loved ones’ cancers. They brag about it in their own loudspeakers courtesy of VOA, BBC, and a couple of dozens of Farsi –language outlets. They let out a chorus of pressure and demands, so perceived as so fundamentally unjust by any people, Iranian or otherwise, and they promise a reduction in pain and suffering only if they yield and sign the treaty.

    There is a reason why the the subsidy cuts were implemented the day the were. That is on the thirteenth of Muharram. And there is a reason why Tasua and Ashura stories are told with such vividness and clarity in thousands of homes, mosques, hosseiniehs, and through street theaters. The misguided ones who comfort themselves by reducing all these to a question of mathematics and statistics, those who plaster large photos of gasoline lines, bank lines, and bread lines (real or fabricated), and those who point to YouTube uploads of who is/was out and who is/was in during Tasua and Ashura must surely pay attention that at the end of the day the sanctions and blockades and any potential war with Iran and all their negative consequences now and into the future are carved into the subconscious of Iranians (and many others), whether they themselves realize it or not, as ultimately a re-enactment of and parallel to two days of Tasua and Ashura in Karbala. I hear the US and Europeans are going for another series of sanctions. I wonder if the Istanbul talk would be held right before or right after Arba’een Husseini (the 40th day of mourning).

  16. M. Ali,

    You mentioned that you pay $2 a month for electricity, and don’t mind paying more by declining any subsidy.

    I certainly don’t deny that any increase in Iranians’ utility bills will be unwelcome — especially a 400% increase, as Scott Peterson reports in his recent story. And I recognize that incomes are generally lower in Iran than in the US.

    Even so, your $2 per month figure makes this 400% price increase seem much less significant than it first appeared. At that pre-increase rate, if the price of electricity went up 5,000%, I could still find you many Americans who’d be willing to swap electricity bills with their Iranian counterparts.

  17. M. Ali,

    “I make a decent living, and I don’t mind paying higher prices than 2 dollars per month for electricity.”

    You pay $2 a month for electricity? Can you figure out some way to ship some of that stuff to San Francisco?

  18. In the Scott Peterson story cited by the Leveretts, Peterson quotes a Green supporter who seeks to explain the absence of protests during Ashura this year:

    ““We can’t create the ‘trigger’ of instability, [we’re] not powerful enough yet…We might be small now, but any small imbalance and we spread like wildfire”.”

    There is a good reason why writing teachers warn against the use of “mixed metaphors.”. A good metaphor creates a clear “word picture” in the reader’s mind. Mixing two metaphors — in the quoted sentence, a gun and a fire — creates no clear picture.

    No clear picture: Might this Green supporter’s botched metaphor have turned out to be a pretty good metaphor after all?

  19. Rehmat says:

    fy1 – Iran and USrael have differences on the so-called security issues in every part of the Muslim world.

    Israel’s fear of Iran is an international problem
    http://rehmat1.wordpress.com/2010/02/10/israels-fear-of-iran-is-an-international-problem/

  20. Rehmat says:

    Iranian@Iran – Were you participating in the Ashura procession in Tehran or watching the gay parade in Tel Aviv?

  21. Pirouz says:

    “Lucas, Freedom, Mousavi, Freedom!”

    That is too funny.

  22. M.Ali says:

    Also, I didnt listen to the President’s speech on the subsidies, but if he said this, “”even if we don’t get it right at the first stroke, we will correct things on the second or third try” bravo to him. I like that on many occassion, I feel that in his talks with the Iranian people, he’s very direct and to the point.

  23. M.Ali says:

    Something I like to mention about the subsidies. Why does every report mention that 80 dollars is going to every household? Its not, its going to any household that has signed up for the programme and the government is asking people that can afford it not to sign up.

    For example, I havent signed up for it. My electric bill would come up to 4 dollars for 2 months. I make a decent living, and I don’t mind paying higher prices than 2 dollars per month for electricity, and I don’t need to be compensated by the government. The point of this subsidy removal is to benefit the lower classes.

  24. Pirouz_2 says:

    @kooshy:
    Re your message on December 19, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Yes, it is a really interesting analysis. Thank you very much for bringing it to my attention.

  25. Iranian@Iran says:

    …I forgot to mention that the streets of Tehran were completely empty during Tasua and Ashura too. People were so outraged that they feared they might crash their cars if they left their houses. The empty streets were also full of Mousavi supporters carrying his pictures and chanting “Lucas, Freedom, Mousavi, Freedom!”. Needless to say I wept when I woke up.

  26. Iranian@Iran says:

    Scott Lucas

    There are riot police all over the city of Tehran and police cars are stationed in front of all the gas stations. There are also long lines forming in front of banks, as prices have doubled overnight. People are extremely angry and ready for another revolution…I think this would be great stuff for a novel.

  27. masoud says:

    fyi,

    Those villagers are already using smart cards to fill up their cars, they can use them at the grocer just as well. Give people some credit. Iran needs to get away from a cash economy, and this could have been a huge boost in that direction.

    The number I had heard for percentage of economy under state control was 60, but with so much of the economy being black market these are all just guesses. I think the free market is over rated, and hope that Government maintains significant oversight if not control of all heavy industries.

  28. fyi says:

    masoud says: December 20, 2010 at 12:27 am

    Not sure about smart cards; many people in the villages and provincial towns would have no idea how to use them – they are much more familiar and comfortable with banks and bank accounts. Also, Iran being a cash-based society; I think bills will be more acceptable.

    I hope that the government gets out of as much of the economy as possible. During the 12 year premiersship of Mrs. Thatcher, she could only privatize 16% of the Crown Corporations. I do not know what the current ratio is in UL but I think in Iran more than 80% of the economy is either directky owned by the state or controlled by it. I think that has to change.

    Free Market is a fine idea but I am not sure how far it can go in Iran where the word “profit-seeker” is an insult.

  29. masoud says:

    fyi,

    The point of my post was that the reporter asserts that the payments are set 76$ per household, and only a one time lump sum, which he then contrasts to the permanent 400% rise in energy prices. Whereas everyone knows the payments will be deposited on a monthly basis and will depend on the size of the family in question.

    It boggles my mind everyday how awful this newspaper is. You get the feel that their just like a bunch of high school girls gossiping about how the real reason so and so in missing gym class is because she’s bulimic. I wonder if the editors of the NYT might be conceded enough to think that their influence is so wide ranging that their little ‘white lies’ might inspire a run on the banks or spark wide ranging protests.

    As for the current plan, I think if the government had gone with a smart card version of the coupon system that was in place in the eighties, it would have given them finer grained control over the amount of subsidies to allocate to individual goods and had a much smaller inflationary impact, not to mention left a lot more money over for investment in infrastructure and industry. One would have set rules dealing with the transferability and expiration of these electronic credits, but I am sure some sensible scheme could have been reached(although i admit it’s not a trivial problem).

    This current plan is better than nothing, and is urgently needed, but there is something i don’t like about the way everyone in Iran is embracing free market rhetoric.

  30. fyi says:

    Sakineh Bagoom says: December 18, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Iran and US have differences on the so-called security issues in the following area:

    1- The War in Palestine
    2- Iraq
    3- Lebanon
    4- Persian Gulf
    5- Nuclear Developments in Iran

    The War in Palestine fundamentally limits the degree to which the relationhship between the 2 states can be normalized. For as long as the war continues, Iran and US cannot have normal diplomatic relations. I can state this with metaphysical certainity.

    Since peace in Palestine is unachieveable, that leaves cease-fire. A Hudna, based on HAMAS paramteres, can be achieved. But it will not lead to recognition of Israel by Iran, or Syria, or Lebanon, or Saudi Arbaia – among others. But this Hudna, could give Iranians the cover they need to get down from their high horse on Palestine and re-opne the US Embassy in Iran.

    In regards to Iraq, US is concerned that the combined Iran-Iraq Entente as a threat to Saudi Arabia – a mega Shia block that could threaten Eastern Saudi Arabia (and remotely Kuwait); where the oil wells are. Here, US wants to address this via strategic alignment with Iraq (against Iran). Iran will do all she can to prevent it. In my opinion, this is the most likey place for Iran and US to go to war. And this is the area that any negogiations between the 2 states will be extremely hard to conduct and to conclude successfully. Most likely, each side will try to push the other out. Since US is going to be militarily out by 2011 – this will boil down to money and propaganda.

    On Lebanon, again, I think Hudna is the only viable choice. That is, a cease fire – say mediated by UN – is concluded between Israel and Lebanon. Hizbullah will remain what it is today and wait, like Israel, for the next war (if any). Just like the Korean Peninsula.

    On the Persian Gulf, since Iranians are not rearming and Iraqis will not have neither money nor the will to rearm nfor many years, US can assume an over the horizon posture and pursue her schismtaic adversaries to her hearts content. In this area, in my opinion, each side can live with this scenario.

    On nuclear development, US-EU Axis and Iran can only reach a Hudna as well. The proposed Hudna of 2006 – proposed by Mr. Sloana – was not acceptable to Iran in that it limited her development of nuclear technologhy without benefiting her in substantial ways. A new nuclear hudna might be achieveable in 2011 but I personally cannot think of its possible parameters.

    My view point is basically that US-Iran relations are at a point that peace (resolution of all outstanding issues between the 2 states and restoration of normal diplomatic/cultural/commercial relationships) is no longer possible. Case fire, how ever, might be possible. But even this cease fire will be dependent on cease fire in Palestine.

  31. fyi says:

    masoud says: December 19, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Can you outline an alternative plan for removal of the energy and food subsidies in Iran?

  32. fyi says:

    Lysander says: December 19, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Iran had multiple foreign exchange rates from 1980 until 2002 – it took them 10 years to implement it eventhough its necessity was understood by all.

    The removal of subsidies also was something that everyone in the Iranian leadership agreed with. But until the UNSC sanctions, the political will had not crystalized around it. This was the gift of UNSC (and US hostility).

    Gasoline was being sold in Iran below finished cost for 20 years. So was natural gas, gasoil, and naphta. This was truly encouraging wasteful behavior by the Iranian population at larger.

    The troubles of Iranians are no reason for Americans to gloat, however. I expect the United States will be going through analogously painful belt-tightening exercises over the next 2 decades; Social Security, Medicare, and Defense will be cut.

  33. kooshy says:

    Piroz / and Piroz_2

    Have you read this it is very interesting analysis of velvet revolutions

    http://www.farsnews.net/newstext.php?nn=8909210329

  34. Humanist says:

    In this video Antiwar.com’s Scott Hornotn talks about Neocons, Likudnik and US Lies on Iran and much more:

    http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2010/12/17/scott-horton-on-war-video/

  35. Castellio says:

    This article argues for a nuclear Iran. I find it far from convincing on that point, however, it does try to suggest a positive and balancing role for contemporary Iran, and does try to promote open engagement.

    The value of a nuclear Iran By Chan Akya.

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LL18Ak02.html

  36. Lysander says:

    off Topic but interesting development from the AP via yahoo news.

    “TEHRAN, Iran – Security forces flooded Iran’s capital in a warning against possible unrest as fuel prices surged 400 percent Sunday under plans to sharply cut government subsides and ease pressure on an economy struggling with international sanctions.

    The so-called economic “surgery” has been planned for months, but was repeatedly delayed over worries of a repeat of gas riots in 2007 and serious political infighting during the standoff with the West over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

    But the timing for the first painful steps — just after a first round of nuclear talks with international powers and a second planned for early next year — suggests one of the world’s leading oil producers is feeling the sting of tightened sanctions. And it might open more room for possible compromises with world powers, including the United States, in exchange for easing the economic squeeze….”

    Read the rest:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/ml_iran_economy

    Notice how every move is presented in the worst possible light for Iran. I don’t mean to minimize the economic pain that many Iranians will feel from the ending of a subsidy. But I wanted to note how the AP presents the news vs how I would present it.

    AP presents it like this;
    1) Sanctions are biting hard. This is a desperate move by Iran.

    2) Lots of riot police because Iran fears public unrest

    3) This will hurt the Iranian economy even more through inflation.

    4) Public dissatisfaction will help our next color revolution attempt (unstated, but hinted.

    5) Iran is doing this to spend more on the military (unlike the minimal military spending in the US)

    Lysander sees it like this;
    1) Subsidies encourage poor distribution of resources and economic waste. Ending subsidies is a painful but very effective step in making the economy more efficient and resilient.

    2) Despite previous fuel riots in 2007 and the recent election disturbances, Iran took this step anyway. A sign that the government is confident it has control of the situation and that it enjoys enough public support.

    3) While sanctions are no doubt harmful to the Iranian economy, Iran’s reaction shows that it will adjust it’s economy accordingly, rather than submit to western demands. In fact, sanctions provide an opportunity for Iran to do what it should be doing even without sanctions.

    4) I don’t know how the government plans to spend its savings, but increasing defense spending, given the never ending threats by the US and Israel, is hardly unreasonable.

    5) The west has already played its most effective sanctions card, limiting Gasoline imports, and Iran has absorbed the blow and used it to become stronger rather than weaker.

    Again, I understand many Iranians have come to depend on these subsidies. I wont make light of their suffering. But economically speaking, this is a very positive development for Iran.

  37. masoud says:

    The nyt never fails to disappoint. Look at William Young’s article about the subsidies reforms:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/20/world/middleeast/20iran.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

    “The government tried to cushion the blow by making a one-time payment to each household of about $77.”

    The paper doesn’t even list the city the reporter filed from. Has this become common practice?

  38. masoud says:

    Look at the garbage Lucas is printing on his site. I say no one should engage with him until he grows up a little. It’s sad that the resident Israeli on his forums has a better grip on reality than his ‘leading correspondents’.

    A leading EA correspondent who watched the speech summarises:

    My initial feelings are that Ahmadinejad is conscious he was walking on a tightrope. He was continously is trying to convince people, as if he could feel their scepticism. At one point, he reached out by claiming —- rather sensationally — that he was a freelance taxi driver, so he fully knows the plight of motorists.

    The economic reality is that, whatever the merits in principles of the subsidy cuts, Ahmadinejad’s approach has been haphazard and remains so. On the one hand, the targeting of bread and gasoline guaranteed dramatic headlines and long queues at gas stations, as motorists tried to beat the implementation of the increased prices. Thousands of police in riot gear were reportedly at the gas stations to deter violence, and police were also seen patrolling streets and guarding banks.

    On the other hand, the grand Presidential plan remains vague. He declared that each family member would receive 80,000 tomans ($80) over two months and could begin withdrawals on Sunday; however, he urged people not to rush to the banks to withdraw the funds. “Should they get the money and go shopping, it will disrupt the market and people themselves will be harmed.” he cautioned.

    Our correspondent continues:

    There is not much substantial and hard fact information beyond the gasoline rise. Ahmadinejad said, “Wait for the new water and electricity bills to reach you in a couple of months and see what has changed” and “even if we don’t get it right at the first stroke, we will correct things on the
    second or third try”.

    There is no orderly method being applied across society. Gasoline and a very few other goods are being re-priced in a clear and universal way. The rest is unclear and murky.

  39. Reza Esfandiari says:

    Is Obama the Manchurian candidate? Even Bush was more charismatic.

    Could they be manipulating Obamabot behind the scenes.

  40. Pirouz says:

    Concerning this year’s Ashura in Tahran:

    From a law enforcement perspective, Iran’s NAJA police presence didn’t appear extraordinary by US standards for crowds projected for their size. I’ve studied the few YouTube clips and photos that have been published, and the presence appears to be similar to what San Francisco experienced on September 11, 2002 (a year after 9/11).

    In some ways also, it reminded me of the law enforcement presence in Oakland following the court sentencing of a BART PD officer for shooting and killing a detained passenger while handcuffed. (I’m speaking only in terms of PD presence, not circumstances or conditions of protest/potential protest.)

    Maybe a more apt comparison would be San Francisco’s law enforcement presence the year the Halloween party was cancelled in the Castro. Just about everyone in the department pulled duty that night (more than 600 officers) and citizens congregating in groups of more than 2 or 3, or milling about was forbidden. Anyone resisting the order was promptly arrested.

  41. James Canning says:

    PressTV (via AFP) has interesting comment today by Salam Feyadh (PA’s prime minister):
    “We’re looking for some form of self-rule, we’re looking for a sovereign state of Palestine, where we Palestinians can live as free people.” Hear, hear!

  42. Persian Gulf says:

    quite expected (wikileaks episode)

    http://irna.ir/NewsShow.aspx?NID=30132433

  43. Rehmat says:

    Obama is a habitual liar – especially when it comes to the Muslim world. His African and Muslim connections were exploited by the Zionist Lobby to protect Israel – in order to hasten the second coming of Christ.

    He did agreed with “Iran’s rights to its nuclear program” BUT on the condition that Iran has to PROVE to Zionist Occupied America to “its good intentions” – and we all know what those “good intentions” mean to Israel Lobby which put Obama in the white house in the first place.

    Vienna Group’s latest Chutzpah
    http://rehmat1.wordpress.com/2010/12/09/vienna-groups-latest-chutzpah/

  44. kooshy says:

    Arnold- I first read about this interview on Iran’s Fars news, with a headlined in Fars that read “ Obama acknowledges Iran’s right to nuclear energy” rest of story covers the same standard US administrations cliché that rights comes with obligation, etc. etc., when I searched English Hürriyet to find the actual interview there is all I could find.

    Something interesting that I saw yesterday is that Ahmadinijad in a live TV interview said that the negotiations with 5+1 after Turkey will continue in Brazil and then and finally in Tehran, how would he say that if some notion of this has not been termed.

  45. James Canning says:

    fyi,

    Agreed, utter stupidity obtains in some of the “religious” belief of the low-church Protestants in the US. A good example is Noah’s Ark, with many believers convinced the dinosaurs were aboard the Ark with Noah!

  46. James Canning says:

    kooshy,

    Surely Obama is well aware Turkey believes that a good way to insure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons is to cooperate with Iran and other countries in the interests of ending the occupation of the Golan Heights and the West Bank by Israel.
    This would lower the level of tensions in the Middle East by a great deal.

  47. James Canning says:

    kooshy,

    If Obama believes US-Turkish cooperation is more important than ever, perhaps he should pay attention to the logic behind Turkey’s relations with Syria and Iran, and the logic behind Turkey’s approach to Hamas and Hezbollah. But this would offend the Israel lobby.

  48. fyi says:

    Rehmat says: December 19, 2010 at 5:38 am

    Sufis Thought & Practice does not supersede or make obsolete the 5 schools.

    Tariqat is always based on Shariat.

    They certainly are not a replacement for traditional Islamic practice.

    Furthermore, the Sufi orders have been decisive in the creation of certain Muslim states; e.g. Iran and Libya.

    I know that Western people are looking for an alternative to existing Islam and are standing-up Sufi orders as alternatives.

    They lack understanding of what has been going on in Islamic historiy.

  49. Arnold Evans says:

    Kooshy, that’s a summary of the interview. Is that what Hurriyet published?

    Since that article says the interview was published on Sunday, I hope what was published was the full text of the interview, rather than that article itself.

    “Our partnership is resilient, and we agreed that the irresponsible acts of WikiLeaks do not threaten it,” Obama said in the interview, which was published by Hürriyet on Sunday. “Given the increasingly complex challenges the world faces, I believe that U.S.-Turkish cooperation is more important now than ever.”

  50. Scott Lucas,

    I haven’t been following closely your posts about TV coverage of Ashura, so maybe I’m missing your point. There were no protests this year, I gather, so there wasn’t much to televise.

    Were opposition people planning some protests that were cancelled because of an anticipated police crackdown? I can’t claim to pay much attention to these matters, but I hadn’t heard about any such plans, so I’m not sure who was out there to be cracked down on in the first place.

  51. Castellio says:

    “Among the insinuations is that a massive Israeli intelligence campaign against Iran resulted in four major Revolutionary Guard plane crashes in a single year (2003), a 2005 explosion at an Iranian nuclear site, and “disappeared” nuclear scientists. This Nana report acknowledges claims made here and elsewhere that Ali Reza Asgari was kidnapped by the Mossad in 2007. It notes that in the same year another Iranian nuclear scientist died of inhaling poison gas. In 2008, Iran further claimed it had exposed a spy ring run by the Mossad. It also notes the two other Iranian nuclear scientists assassinated in the past few months in Teheran. The one scientist who survived these attacks did so, the report trumpets, “by dint of a miracle.” ”

    http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2010/12/19/bergman-bibi-will-send-israeli-bombers-on-their-way-to-iran/

  52. Arnold Evans says:

    Barack Obama seems to have given a written interview to Turkey’s Hurriyet. If anyone has a link to the full text, I’d very much appreciate being able to read it.

    Obama says US-Turkish ties ‘more important than ever’

  53. Humanist says:

    Leaked information on Geneva 5+1 meeting:

    http://www.tehrantimes.com/Index_view.asp?code=232388

  54. Empty says:

    Rehment says, “Empty – goes empty again. Turkish shias are mostly Sufis – just like the 15% Muslims in Bosnia.”

    1. What has Mr. Goodarz anything to do with Ms. Shaghayegh? (Or, what has that got anything to do with the price of tea in China?)

    2. fyi wrote: “Caferis” is a strange appellation: meaning “Heretic”. It appears he might have misunderstood the word “Caferis” and have read it as Kaferis (“k” pronunciation for “c” as in Cafe) which would then have meant Kafir meaning “heretic”. Therefore, explaining the word seems appropriate.

    3. Ja’afari School of Thought were spread by the students of Imam Ja’afar Sadeq, the 6th Imam of Iranian Asno-Ashari (12-Imamers) Shi’a, Isma’eili (of Isma’eili sect) Shi’a, and some others (who may or may not be Shi’a). One methodology that was perfected by the Ja’afaris is using if/then statements to follow various logical contingencies about different outcomes and then make iterative decisions based on a dynamic back-and-forth evaluation of both the process and potential outcomes.

    For example, with respect to believing in God and concept of Ma’ad (Return in the Day of Judgment), the students were baffled how to present a logical argument especially as it related to praxis. Imam Ja’afar Sadeq presented the following argument:

    A) If you assume that there is a “Ma’ad” and conduct your life according to the principles of Islam and live a simple, honest, and just life; refrain from all lies and deceptions; help others in need, etc. and it turns out that your assumption was false and there is no Ma’ad, then, what have you lost other than living a good and decent life that is good for you and your community?

    B) If, however, your assumption is correct and there indeed is “Ma’ad”, then you have won both in this life and the hereafter.

    C) If you live your life with lies, deceptions, etc., and there is a Ma’ad, then you have destroyed your and your communities’ lives in this world and have secured yourself a decent punishment in this world and in the hereafter.

    D) Conversely, if you do all the bad deeds and it runs out there is no “Ma’ad”, then you have just created hell for yourself and others in this life.

  55. Rehmat says:

    Empty – goes empty again.

    Turkish shias are mostly Sufis – just like the 15% Muslims in Bosnia.

    And response to my earlier question – Zionist Jewish terrorists destroyed over 600 mosques and a few dozen churches in the occupied Palestine during the 1948-50. Late Professor Israel Shahak admitted that.

    Israeli hatred even doesn’t spare their fellow Jews either.

    http://rehmat1.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/jewish-racism-against-jews-in-israel/

  56. Iranian@Iran says:

    Scott Lucas,

    Don’t be such a fool. Press TV has other things to do than to show footage of Ashura day and night. If you are so obsessed, go watch the Persian channels.

  57. Unknown Unknowns says:

    FYI:
    I would agree with your astute (as always) characterization of both Protestantism and the Wahhabi/ Salafi types as schismatics who have “rejected the relevance of Tradition and Authority in the interpretation and understanding of Revelations and Scriptures.” I sometimes use the word neo-Kharijite to categorize the latter generally, as the mentality that gives rise to this schism is by no means new.

    With regard to your other question (Furthermore, the division of the Jafari school and the other 4 schools is more similar to the difference between Eastern Orthodox Christians and the Catholic Church, yes?), I think that is correct also, by and large. The Ja’fari rite is closer to the four Sunni rites than they are to each other in most aspects. Exceptions to this being muta’ (temporary marriage, which the Prophet did not forbid, but which the second Caliph ‘Umar took it upon himslef so to do – a ruling which ‘Ali annuled), and some inheritance laws which favor the feminine gender more in the Ja’fari rite. It goes without saying that the analogy to EAstern Orthodoxy is limited by the fact that there is no priestly class in Islam, nor, therefore, any heterodoxy; only heteropraxis or antinomian sects.

  58. Empty says:

    “Caferis” is Jaferis (c=j in Turkish) — Ja’afari school of thought (Maktabe Ja’afari) same school of thought as majority Iranian Shi’it

  59. fyi says:

    Frank Rettenberg says: December 18, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    “Caferis” is a strange appelation: meaning “Heretic”.

    Good name for designating Shia by Sunni Turks – has been like that for 600 years; everytime Central Asian Turks invaded the Iranian plateau.

  60. fyi says:

    James Canning says: December 18, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    I was only speaking about the attitude towards the interpretation of religion.

    The fragmented schismatics in US sometimes are just plain silly and most of the times plain foolish in their illiterate approach to the Christian Scriptures.

  61. Frank Rettenberg says:

    I have to amend my initial post, which was crafted too late in the evening. A recheck of the Turkish press indicates that the Ashura demonstrators were not Alevis, who, as far as I can determine, recognize the martyrdom of Huseyin but do not celebrate Ashura, but Caferis, a sect of Azeri Shia who migrated to eastern Turkey after World War I. It would not have been appropriate for Erdogan to invite an Iranian official to address Alevis, but the Caferis are clearly another matter.

    In all my travels in and out of Turkey and all my conversations with Turks over the years, the Caferis never came up for discussion. I am therefore uncertain of their numbes and their political orientation. If there is someone knowledgeable participating in this discussion, I’d appreciate his enlightening me.

  62. Rehmat says:

    Gen. Giora Eiland: “Israel does not know how to beat Hezbollah”.

    http://rehmat1.wordpress.com/2010/12/19/eiland-israel-does-not-know-how-to-beat-hezbollah/

  63. James Canning says:

    Sakineh,

    I think the Leveretts would say the US will have better chances of resolving the Israel/Palestine problem if the US achieves better relations with Iran. Something the “hawks” in Israel and the US don’t like.

  64. Rehmat says:

    “We should live in one state, not only because of the blatant failure of Oslo. The very idea of partition is wrong. We can follow the example of New Zealand, where the European incomers live together with the native Maori, the example of Mandela’s South Africa, the example of Caribbean, where children of Spanish settlers, African slaves and native Amerindians blended into the beautiful new race. Let us tear up our Declarations of false Independence and write a new one, of mutual dependence and love,” Israel Shamir.

    http://rehmat2.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/palestine-a-single-democratic-state/

  65. Sakineh Bagoom says:

    I’d be very interested in seeing a few words from the participants/owners of this site regarding “linkage” and how uncomfortable the notion of “linkage” makes many Israel hawks as in what Matt Duss’ article relays:
    “Basically, the “linkage” argument holds that continued irresolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict hinders America’s ability to achieve its national security goals in the region, both by serving as a driver of extremism and a source of anti-American sentiment. Critics of the argument contend that the significance of the conflict has been vastly overblown, and that “the Palestinian issue” is simply an excuse used by violent extremists and lacking genuine salience among Arabs, despite what they may say in public. ”

    http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/12/16/linkage_and_its_discontents_what_wikileaks_reveals_about_israel_palestine

  66. James Canning says:

    fyi,

    As I’m sure you know, much of the impetus for the Protestant Reformation was dislike of sending of treasure from Northern Europe to Rome so the princes of the Church could live like, well, princes.

    Wahabi Islam was a convenient means for Ibn Saud to rally support for taking on the Sultan-Caliph in Constantinople. In other words, it was politcal as much of religious. Politics were of course a very large element in the “religious” wars in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries.

  67. James Canning says:

    Eric,

    Yes, and what items would be regarded as parts of Hezbollah’s “budget”? Iran has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to repair damages to buildings, roads, etc caused by Israel in the 2006 war.

  68. Interesting headline in my local paper (San Francisco Chronicle):

    “Iran Slashes Hezbollah Annual Budget by 40%”

    Do you suppose many readers would interpret such a headline to mean that Hezbollah’s annual budget is some routine matter taken up each year by Iran’s legislature? If you’re not sure about that, are you a bit more sure that that’s exactly what the headline writer intended for readers to believe?

    But who knows — maybe that is what happens. After all, consider the source of this report: a German wire service, which in turn cited a story in the Jerusalem Post, which in turn quoted an “Israeli intelligence assessment.” You can’t get a much less biased source than that for a story about Iran or Hezbollah.

  69. Humanist says:

    This time there are lots of comments on Islam, Sunni, Shia and religions as a whole.

    Any eager Iranian here who is interested in the views of critical thinkers or philosopers can download free many books from Internet. Efsha.co.uk has about 20 Farsi books. There are more in the links mentioned there.

    I enjoyed reading:

    1- Tavaloid Digar A well-referenced critical view of 3 Monotheistic Religions
    2- 23 Sal (Banned book by Ali Dashti) A well-researched critical look at Mohammad’s Life
    3- Allah o Akbar Critical thoughts about Islam.
    4- Pendar e Khoda Translation of Richard Dawkins’ God Delusion. (Difficult to read, yet worthwhile)

    There are 15 similar Farsi books on Religion and Islam including 3 on Shia sect. (I haven’t read any of them yet)

    For open minded English speaking folks Richard Dawkins’ book is a good one to start.

  70. fyi says:

    Unknown Unknowns says: December 18, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    So the (neo-)Salafists and the Wahabi are akin to Protestants in Christianity in having rejected the relevance of Tradition and Authority in the interpretation and understanding of Revelations and Scriptures.

    Furthermore, the division of the Jafari school and the other 4 schools is more similar to the difference between Eastern Orthodox Christians and the Catholic Church, yes?

    It is astonishing then that the Protestant Muslims are fighting, by-and-large, the Protestant Christians. Two groups of schismatics fighting each other.

  71. Scott Lucas says:

    Salam Reza,

    The footage, shown on Press TV in their Friday round-up of Ashura, only had “Markazi” with no further identification of town or village.

    Sorry….

    S.

  72. fyi says:

    Fiorangela says: December 18, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    The concept of “Savior” was also due to Zorastrian Religion – Saoshyant, I think, he is called. But this does not contain the same religious ramifications. It is more like Benefactor.

    Politicians who are interested in creating Win-Win situations would want to learn about the “Other”.

    That does not obtain here because of the asymmetry of power; as one side thinks that that asymmetry will gurantee it success.

    You may recall what happened in Selma – Blacks had a very limited objective, having to do with dignity and respect. The leaders of the Whites, wanted to continue to humiliate Blacks and break them or their will to resist.

    The Whites failed but not before they caused Blacks to move to a position that destroyed trust between the two races in Selma as well as the rst of the United States with all the attendant negative consequences.

    I expect nothing less in the confrontations of US-EU Axis with Iran and US-EU Axis & Israel in Palesntine.

  73. Fiorangela says:

    BiBiJon wrote: “There is an us-and-them quality to these formulations. I believe they are rooted in old thinking.”

    Very perceptive, and well said.

    In addition to an “us-and-them quality,” consider the sense of ‘temporality:’ If I understand correctly, Zoroaster introduced the concept of an afterlife that was related to one’s behavior in this world. Christianity maintains the idea of an afterlife of reward or punishment based on one’s behavior in this life. However, the Jewish tradition does not. Life ends at death; a person’s LIFE is judged on his accomplishments in this life, and at death, it ends. Period, full stop.

    In addition, the Jewish and Christian traditions both focus on a savior/messiah/leader who will “save” the people. Various Christian denominations view the centrality of this savior in vastly different ways. For example, some view the savior/messiah/leader as the sacrificial lamb of god whose death is substitutionary atonement for the sins of the believer, thereby ensuring that the believer will enjoy rewards in the afterlife; others see the messiah/savior/leader as a model of fully integrated human behavior that may involve personal suffering but that structures a life worthy of reward in the afterlife.

    These are powerful distinctions that politicians would do well to attempt to understand in trying to figure out the motivations of the Other.

  74. fyi says:

    http://www.amazon.com/Essays-Criticism-Matthew-First-Complete/dp/1429

    In 1872, Matthew Arnold, the great Victorian poet- “Dover Beach” –and
    man of letters, wrote a monograph, “A Persian Passion Play”, in which
    he highlighted the essentials of Shi’ism.

    In Arnold’s view, the Shia’s bloody re-enactment of the murder Ali–
    and his son, Hussein, 19 years later-was a pageant of martyr-theatrics
    strongly reminiscent of the passion plays staged at the same time in
    Europe.

    (And since in Arnold’s day, the geographic border between the Shia in
    present-day Iraq and the Shia in present-day Iran was not so distinct-
    and since, in any case, the majority of Shia in the region have always
    been Persian-it made sense to entitle the piece, “A Persian Passion
    Play.” )

  75. Yosra says:

    Your analysis is much appreciated and appears correct to a great extent to my modest view as a middle easterner.

    Only to the issue of celebrating Ashura, it has been a trend this year among mainstream Sunnis to note that the loss of Al-Hussein has been a tragedy for all Muslims but that it should unite rather than separate Muslims. It was still stressed, though, according to Sunni faith that hurting oneself has nothing to do with the tradition of Prophet Mohamed – peace be upon him.

    So as much as it could be a sign of political power, there’s a rising awareness of Shiite presence although still parting with certain aspects of the celebration.

  76. kooshy says:

    Empty says: December 18, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Bravo, ماهم، از تحیر جمله سرگردان شدیم، سپا س

  77. M.Ali says:

    fyi, “How many Sunni Mosques are in Tehran?”

    I dont know. I’m a non-practicing Sunni, so I wouldn’t know, to be honest.
    By the way, I find it curious that Shia cities in Iran have so little mosques! Sunnies pop 10 up in every street.

    rehmat, “Which Wahhabi madrasa have you studie?”

    I’m not sure, brother. I remember when I was a kid my parents sent me to summer Quran classes one year in my hometown in Iran and in Dubai, I had obligatory classes in school up to 9th grade, where it became optional, so I opted out. I dont know if you consider these “Wahhabi madrasas”

    And this is a good time as any for me to make this comment. Have you ever made any post at RFI that did not include comments about Israel, Zionists, and/or Jews?

    Empty,
    I’m loving that you are taking the unofficial title of storyteller. I love your stories. I admit (shamefully) that I grew up reading western stories rather than Iranian ones, and your posts are a joy to read for me.

    Bibijon,
    “They are distinct from those who cannot imagine life without an absolute ruler to obey. Therefore they imagine a horse race between Turkey and Iran. But, there is no horse race. ”

    I hope you are right. I suppose I’m unfortunately a bit of a skeptic. While I’m sure there is no race between the two countries now, I wonder if the same mindset will remain in the future.

    Its just that people change. It reminds me of a Roger Waters song I heard (Empty is quoting old Iranian poems, and I’m posting rock lyrics, sorry guys!)

    “When I was 17 my mother, bless her heart, fulfilled my summer dream
    She handed me the keys to the car
    We motored down to Paris, fuelled with Dexedrine and booze
    Got bust in Antibes by the cops
    And fleeced in Naples by the wops
    But everyone was kind to us, we were the English dudes
    Our dads had helped them win the war
    When we all knew what we were fighting for
    But now an Englishman abroad is just a US stooge
    The bulldog is a poodle snapping round the scoundrel’s last refuge”

  78. Fiorangela says:

    M Ali, re people’s perceived need for a leader.

    see Utne Reader: Political Starfish

  79. MHF says:

    Participation of Erdogun in Ashura events in Istanbul, is indeed is most important political and diplomatic event. Former Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati’s participation in the same event with Erdogun, is even exceptionally important message that West should pay attention.

    I checked the http://WWW.Zeybebiye.com web site, where I believe this event took place. There were at least a dozen photos of the event in their site, many showed Erdugan himself, among others, but none had Velayati’s picture, or to the extent I read the descriptions of the events in the same site, Velayati was mentioned as a speaker or even participant. I wonder why?

  80. BiBiJon says:

    M.Ali says:
    December 18, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Humbly I can speak only for myself, and express my hopes. I cannot presume to know what motivates the populace.

    A group of nations in one region at this time are coming together. The Leveretts occasionally refer to them as an axis of resistance. Others refer to them as the northern tier. There is an us-and-them quality to these formulations. I believe they are rooted in old thinking.
    A group nations are involved in a collective of partnerships bracketed by fairness, and mutual respect. What motivates them is bread-and-butter issues of national interests. They are being resisted. But that does not make them an axis of resistance. They are distinct from those who cannot imagine life without an absolute ruler to obey. Therefore they imagine a horse race between Turkey and Iran. But, there is no horse race. That is what I see and I find it novel.

  81. Empty says:

    Note: Si = 30; Morgh =bird; Simorgh = A mythical bird who lived in Tooba tree at the foothills of the mountain of Ghuff (attributed to the Alborz Mountains near Damavand) according to Shahnameh Ferdowsi

    It wasn’t the best of times for the birds. Harsh winters followed hot, dry, seedless and fruitless summers. Those who were lucky enough to survive hunger, drought, and the winter cold would fall prey to the predators and get trapped into the bird hunters’ nets. The mature ones among the birds decided to gather around and form a conference (strategic meeting) to brainstorm about their problems and try to see how they could free themselves from their harsh predicament. “Things can’t go on like this,” said one bird. “We need someone wise, just, and compassionate to guide us,” another bird said. “Someone who could help us and protect us,” a few others uttered. There seemed to be an agreement among the birds that there is a vacuum of just and wise leadership. As the discussion went on, Hod-Hod (Hoopoe) said, “you know, I’ve heard that in far away places on the mountain of ‘Ghuff’ there is an incredibly large, majestic, and wise bird. They call her/him Simorgh. S/he would be perfect to lead us. I propose that we take a journey to the mountain of Ghaff and ask/persuade Simorgh to give us the honor and become our leader and to help us through tough times.” All birds agreed to that proposal and set a date to start their journey. On the designated day, thousands of birds gathered. Before they began the journey though, some birds excused themselves from the journey on account of being too old, or too tired, or too weak, or having too complicated a life. Some excused themselves and tried to discourage others by claiming that Simorgh is all a myth and is not real and they will all perish for nothing. The rest of the birds, which amounted to still thousands, took off and began their journey. The passed over many valleys and mountains. Many found green fields (no relation to modern day green movement in Iran) and decided to settle down there. Many died. Many changed their minds halfway in the journey and returned. Many got fooled and fell prey to predators and delicious-looking seeds in various nets along the way. Of the thousands of birds who had begun the journey, only thirty actually made it to the mountain of Ghaff (as hezaran si be dargah amadand=of the thousands, only thirty arrived at the destination). Much to their dismay, the thirty (si) birds (morgh) noticed a mountain like any other mountain with no sign of any Simorgh or any so-called majestic leader. Sad, disappointed, and tired, they collapsed with exhaustion. Deep into a state of hopelessness and despair that their journey and sacrifices had been all in vain, suddenly a virtual sun rays reflected back onto them the image of Simorgh:

    هم ز عکس روی سی مرغ جهان — چهره سیمرغ دیدند آن زمان
    چون نگه کردند ای سی مرغ زود — بیشک این سی مرغ آن سیمرغ بود
    در تحیر جمله سرگردان شدند — می ندانستند این یا آن شدند
    خویش را دیدند سیمرغ تمام — بود خود سیمرغ سی مرغ تمام
    چون سوی سیمرغ کردندی نگاه — بود خود سی مرغ در آنجایگاه
    ور به سوی خویش کردندی نظر —بود این سیمرغ ایشان آن دگر

    They kept on looking at themselves (si-morgh = 30 birds) and the image of Simorgh. It was unmistakable. Simorgh and si morgh were one and the same.

    Summarized from the poems of Attar in Mantegho-Tair (The Discourse of the Birds) – Source: Sheykh Faridedin Attar Neyshaboory, Mantegho-Tair, by Mohammad Javad Mashkoor, 4th Edition, Tehran Booksellters, Tehran, Iran.

  82. James Canning says:

    Bussed-In -Basiji,

    Isn’t one of the problems in Egypt today the fact that Sunni extremist religious belief is growing? The Coptic Christians are suffering as a result.

  83. James Canning says:

    Frank Rettenberg,

    Yes, Turkey strongly supports Iran’s domestic nuclear power programme and equally strongly opposes any Iranian nuclear weapons programme. The first position reinforces the second. This concept or formulation seems difficult for idiot neocon warmongers in the US to grasp. And other idiot warmongers, some of whom pretend to be “liberal” Democrats.

  84. James Canning says:

    kooshy,

    Yes, any resolution of the Israel/Palestine problem would need to be approved by the Palestinians. Hamas says this. Do you personally think the Saudi peace plan is the wrong way forward?

  85. James Canning says:

    Rehmat,

    The Palestinians will accept the entire West Bank and the Gaza Strip. These would not be “Bantustans”. Iran has made it fairly clear that if Hamas accepts the Saudi peace plan, Iran will not object.

    Are you promoting endless war in the Middle East?

  86. Unknown Unknowns says:

    BTW (on the topic of Ashura), I live in a very small village, and as usual, pretty much the whole of the male population was out on the street for two days and three nights, from the elderly who beat their chests with their palms, to the young and middle-aged who beat their shoulders with a pair of heavy chains in a row whose tail petered out in order of descending height to kids as young as four and possibly three even. The women-folk were in attendance on the sidelines or within doorways, peaking out of their chadors or giving out delicious *nazri* food and hot drinks to the participants and observers. I would be very surprised if this village scene was not typical of the tens of thousands of villages of Iran.

    Our Sunnite Afgan brethren were out in numbers beating their chest for the tragic massacre of the beloved grandson of the Prophet.

    May Turkey and Egypt continue to grow closer to their Islamic roots, abandon the shackles of their imperial owners, and forge lasting relations with the great sin qua non Moslem nation of Iran. Ameen.

  87. Rehmat says:

    fyi – How many mosques and churches have been demolished in Israel by the invading Jews?

  88. Rehmat says:

    M.Ali – Which Wahhabi madrasa have you studie?

    Sunni Shia divide did not come in the open until Imam Abu Hanifa supported Imam Sadiq’s son against the Muwwyya ruler. Both Hanifi and Maliki accept Shia Imam Sadiq as ‘Sunni Imam’.

    Arab elites are playing Zionists’ card to keep Muslim divided – as the earlier western colonialists did.

    Iran under Islamic-regime has helped the oppressed Sunnis more in Bosnia, Palestine and Afghanistan than 56 other Sunni regimes have done in the past. These poodles are curling-up in Zionist lap to destroy the Islamic Revolution since 1980s.

    Even if some Shias curse the first three Caliphs of Islam – there are over two billion Atheists who curse Allah – Why don’t the so-called lovers of those three Caliphs go and fight those Atheists?

    Shias worship as much as Sunnis worship the stone in the Kaaba – as the Zionist media claims.

    In fact – 85% of Sunni population is divided in 35 sub-sects – while 15% Shia population is divided in 37 sub-sects.

    Arab puppets and the ‘Shia Crescent’
    http://rehmat2.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/arab-puppets-and-the-%E2%80%98shia-crescent%E2%80%99/

  89. Unknown Unknowns says:

    Arnold and Ali: I guess I have been used to using the words in their usual *religious studies* strictus sensus usage, and posting on a foreign policy blog, have managed to conflate that usage with its political and sociological ones. So apologies for that. Both your points are well taken. But my comment still stands granted the narrower religious usage.

  90. fyi says:

    M.Ali says: December 18, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    How many Sunni Mosques are in Tehran?

  91. Reza Esfandiari says:

    Scott,

    Markazi is a province in Iran. Which city/town were you referring to? I ask this because my father comes from the Tafresh/Delijan area (containing the most fragrant pomegranate orchards in Iran). I like to think the area best represents the nation.

    Reza

  92. M.Ali says:

    And one small comment I had regarding posts about Sunni/Shias. To understand Sunni/Shias, don’t try to get into the detail of which school of thought people follow, etc. It doesn’t matter, the rift does not come due to actual ideological differences between people, the difference comes because thats the way we have been brought up. Shias and Sunnis have been brought up to distrust shias and sunnis, at least in the middle east. The random layman has NO IDEA about the other sect, or to be honest, about his own.

    Working in Tehran, I’m one of the few Sunnis, and its always astonishing the misconceptions I hear about us. Shias think we Sunnis dislike Ali and Hussein. And I have even heard groups of people talk about how Sunnis (they didnt know I was Sunni) have private parties in Ashura and give out brochures inviting Shias to come to it, and celebrate the death of Hussein with dancing and whatever.

    And of course, from the Sunni side, they are uncomfortable with the Shias because they believe they PRAY TO Ali.

    Thats the difference between Sunnis and Shias. The minute details don’t matter because a significant percentage of Muslims in the Middle East (where you like to hear this or not) don’t even follow the basic pillars of Islam. I mean, I’ve had passionate, sincere, debates between Sunnis and Shias about the pros and cons of each side…over drinks.

  93. M.Ali says:

    That all sounds fine, Bibijon, but I’m less interested in what you or I think, but what the general populace thinks. People need leaders at the moment. As a child, they see it in their parents, as they grow up, they see it in various institutions, school, college, peers, politics, the scene they are part of, and so forth. And of course, religion.

    Maybe there will come a Golden Era where Man does not need leaders anymore, but until that day, people still grave for them. For example, Mousavi might try to win a few modesty points by claiming the Green Movement has no leaders, but thats what of the downfalls of the movement, and people’s desperate need to still want a leader (ya hossein mir hossein). And any religion you look at, you have a certain person to follow, even if you do not follow any specific person, then you give leadership attributes to your omnipotent entity.

    And nations are just an extension of individuals, and nations have so far not proved to us they prefer a leaderless world. And just imagine a place like Africa that has been struggling for, well, ever. Now, imagine an African leader, for whatever reason, pops up like a fusion of Jesus and Ghandi, with shades of Mohammad, and some black magic sprinkled on that, and he’s capturing the hearts of minds of his land and suddenly he tries to speak for all Africans, and they’re all loving it, the people, the government, hand in hand, differences are put aside, and suddenly we have African nations on the high road to progress.

  94. Fiorangela says:

    The conversation on RFI is more informative re Islam, Iran, and ME topics, than any other single source I am aware of.
    Thanks to all, hosts and commenters alike.

  95. Unknown Unknowns says:

    Better than decent blog on Iran-related military issues for the uninitiated. Drawback is that it is not updated very frequently, but the archive is a rich vein. I particularly liked the analysis of the use of multiple warhead missiles against aircraft carriers. Happy hunting.

    http://thearkenstone.blogspot.com/

  96. BiBiJon says:

    “If Turkey becomes the undisputed leader of the Middle East and the leader of the Islamic World, what place does that give Iran?”

    Strongly disagree with such formulations. I see the whole idea of craving for a LEADER as no different to exaggerating the existential threats posed by the ENEMY.

    All this is rooted in disheveled, hollow discourse that tries to find a way of abdicating responsibility for one’s own destiny. I.e. if only there was a LEADER, and/or if only I didn’t have such an implacable ENEMY, then I would behave humanely. Nonsense.

    Whoever is getting buttered up to take up the mantle of LEADER or ENEMY should ignore such calls.

  97. fyi says:

    kooshy says: December 17, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    You are correct.

    The continuation of the religious war in Palestine and its continued contribution to the inflmation of the Muslim sensibilities all over the world is in the strategic interest of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

    There is no other way.

  98. Arnold Evans says:

    Unknown unknowns:

    let’s refer to the apostates who have been occupying the Haramayn with the help of Uncle Sam’s petrodollars (and the pound sterling before that), as Wahhabis or neo-kharijites, or whatever, but not Sunnis.

    I agree, except that the Shah was Shiite and got along fine with his fellow colonial subordinates in Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and UAE. Egypt’s Mubarak and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood nominally follow, as far as I know, the same religious school of thought. Abbas, Erekat, Dahlan, etc share the same nominal religious teachings as Hamas.

    Let’s just call political groups in the Middle East who support Israel in exchange for US support pro-American or pro-Zionist.

    In many cases they are puppet dictatorships, and we can call them that. But I think pro-American is descriptive enough. Pro-American/Zionism is probably worth the extra term because it captures the central tension in the Middle East of the US-led colonial structure there and starts toward explaining why the colonial stooge governments of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, are inherently unpopular and fundamentally illegitimate.

    But which exact religious teaching they are betraying, if any, isn’t the important issue. There have been atheist colonial stooges and stooges of every religion.

  99. Unknown Unknowns says:

    On a point of order: I cringe whenever the Saudi apostates are referred to as Sunni or Ultra-Orthodox Sunni by the ignoramuses of the MSM. Let us not repeat this mistake here. It does a grave injustice to our Sunni brethren.

    Sunnis are those traditional Moslems (increasingly rare in today’s world) who subscribe to one of four schools of fiqh in therms of their shariah (Maliki, hanafi, shafi’i and hanbali), one of two or three schools in terms of their ‘aqida (Asha’ari, Maturidi, and the now defunct or no longer extant Zaheri school), and, if they are so inclined as to proceed on “the narrow path” (tariqa) towards God, subscribe to one of the many tariqas, such as the Naqshbandi, Shadhili, etc. All four schools of fiqh have held for a millenium that the Door of Ijtihad has been closed (after Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s ijtihad perfected the fourth and final permutation that was afforded by the Qur’an and hadith given qiyas, ‘ijma’, etc.) All four Sunni schools accepted adn accept the fifth school of fiqh, the Ja’fari or Shi’i school, as a legitimate form of orthopraxis (the question of doxa being postponed to the hereafter, it being held that it is a private matter between each soul and his Maker; hence, and in contradistinction to Christian tradition, there is no “orthodoxy” in Islam, only orthopraxis. Each has its pitfalls, Islam’s being felt particularly accutely after the occultation of the Imam of the Age whose abscence has been increasingly felt and exacerbated by the asymptotic rise in novelty since the advent of the industrial revolution.

    Anyway, sorry to go on, but please, let’s refer to modern forms of Islam that have branched out of the Sunni tradition in a radical direction (such as the salafis, who do not believe in a madhhab, preferring untutored ijtihad and untutored tafsir of ahadith and Qur’an, etc.), let’s refer to them as salafis, and let’s refer to the apostates who have been occupying the Haramayn with the help of Uncle Sam’s petrodollars (and the pound sterling before that), as Wahhabis or neo-kharijites, or whatever, but not Sunnis.

    Thank you in advance, and apologies for being a stickler.

  100. Empty says:

    masoud, I’m afraid I may have done a poor job of translating as it was misunderstood. It did, however, allow me to appreciate the nuances involved in translating speeches. [kar_e har boz nist kharman kooftan!]

  101. masoud says:

    Empty,

    Thanks for taking the time for translating that Azghadi excerpt.

  102. Empty says:

    RE: “If Turkey becomes the undisputed leader of the Middle East and the leader of the Islamic World, what place does that give Iran?”

    The only “ONE” undisputed leader anywhere in the world. The rest come and go and better question to ask is, ‘while they were in power, how well did they serve the humanity?”

  103. masoud says:

    “If Turkey becomes the undisputed leader of the Middle East and the leader of the Islamic World, what place does that give Iran?”

    What does that even mean? It’s a big world, that no one person is going, to lead, but that different parties will have influence over. It’s not a zero sum game.

    Iran has nothing to fear from Turkey for quite a while. Turkey’s come quite a long way, but they are still stuck in a ‘splitting the difference’ policy mode to mediate between east and west. This strategy is just as good a fit to Turkey’s identity politics as it is to it’s structural power. But it does limit Turkey in that splitting the difference means that you can’t really take the initiative on any given issue. They will always be late to the party, and will be vulnerable to being outflanked on any given issue of import to Muslims at large.

  104. Empty says:

    RE: “to me is a paradigm of sisterhood/brotherhood in service of justice”

    A good paradigm to emphasize and promote. It increases signal to noise ratio of struggles for justice, dignity, sisterhood/brotherhood over deceptive chorus of nationalism, ethnicity, and other fabricated divisions.

  105. Humanist says:

    On my commentary on 12:06 am I did some research using Wikipedia and Google files. I found items that challenges my assertion on History of Turkey-Iran relations or the Foreign Policy of Turkey.

    I always say I am an amateur observer. I’ll appreciate any convincing criticism of what I write

    So be warned !

  106. M.Ali says:

    But BiB, international relationships are based on self-interest. Rivalries are never eternal, and neither are friendships.

    If Turkey becomes the undisputed leader of the Middle East and the leader of the Islamic World, what place does that give Iran? Iran’s only main claim to fame is the determined, free Islamic country that is standing tall against western imperialism. But if Turkey does that, while at the same time being powerful, an Islamic leader (and Sunni), and have strong links with the rest of the world, it doesn’t leave much for Iran…

  107. BiBiJon says:

    Bussed-in Basiji says:
    December 18, 2010 at 10:31 am

    The subject is too big for me to address. It is easier to say what it is not.

    Frank Rettenberg says:
    December 18, 2010 at 2:00 am

    Politics are local, and Erdogan was courting Alawi votes for upcoming elections. He was also talking about who’s soft power is on the rise, Turkey or Iran?

    It is of course possible that Erdogan is oblivious to three of his neighboring countries, Iran & Iraq, & Syria (who happen to be Turkish source for hyrocarbons, and happen to be lucrative markets for Turkish goods and services, and could be a monumental security challenge should war break out) and was simply courting votes. But, it does not explain Mr. Velayati’s presenence.

    I also disagree with the notion of soft power competition, and/or alliances that exclude anyone, Saudi Arabia, or even US. What comes across to me is a paradigm of sisterhood/brotherhood in sedrvice of justice, and obvious economic interests, and clear disinterest in war, and strife. The forum is not at anyone’s expense, nor is there any internal comptetion. Prsident Assad of Syria is on record for saying: “Turkish friendly relations with Russia, Iran and anyone else is not only not bad for us, it is good for Syria.” I think Assad is talking for everyone.

  108. Bussed-in Basiji says:

    I bet the ass-licking drones and their intestinal parasites didn’t see that one coming…(like they didn’t the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Indian nuke tests, the Islamic revolution, the consquences of the Iraq war, the Afghan invansion, etc….)

    This is what happens when you subcontract your countries policy-making to Israelis and Arab “friends”.

  109. Bussed-in Basiji says:

    Turkey being the leader of the Sunnis is not only in the interest of the Islamic Republic- it is the goal of the Islamic Republic. Hence the appearance of Dr. Velayati as the official representative of the Supreme Leader. The old Turkish-Iranian rivalries are finished and this is the cause of great distress for the enemies of Islam.

    As I said the traditional centers of Islamic civilization are coalescing and that will leave the Saudi-Wahabis as the odd man out.

  110. M.Ali says:

    There has been a gap for some sort of Islamic leadership for a long time. The Saudis have the advantage of having the keys to Mecca and being rich with oil money, but they have done almost no leading.

    That means that Iran could take the lead, but it is disadvantaged as being the minority Shia and playing up on its Shiaism rather than its Muslimness. If Iran hopes to be the leader of the Islamic world, it needs to concentrate on factors that unite Muslims rather than separate them. I think it has been making the right choices in last couple of years, like banning certain rituals of Ashura that were more violent, Khameinei’s speech of uniting the Shias and Sunnis, Ahmadenijad’s overtures to the Arab countries, and even his attempts at increasing the Eid Al Fitr holidays. The rift between Sunnies and Shias needs to be resolved and its Iran that needs to be proactive in doing so. As the minority sect, Shias should be more proactive in establishing ties and building trust.

    If Iran does not move faster, Turkey could tke fill the gap. If the current trend continues, in a decades time, Turkey will be the Islamic leader, and in the long run, Iran might be the loser.

  111. Bussed-in Basiji says:

    Leveretts,
    Thanks for noticing this very important event and posting this article.

  112. Bussed-in Basiji says:

    Folks,
    What about the subject of this thread, any thoughts?

    Someone said it’s not evidence of Iranian soft power but Turkish. I think it’s both, meaning that the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran reawakened the Shia narrative in the Muslim world and this has allowed Shias throughout the Muslim world to eneter the public sphere- and for instance force Turkish PMs to woo them as potential supporters (if we assume purely political motives for Erdogan’s appearance- I believe he participated also for genuine religious motives).

    Furthermore, Iran is striving to replace the Saudi-Wahabis with Turkey as the “caliph” of the Sunnis. It also appears that pretty soon the regime will change in Egypt and they will enter the “northern tier” group. In fact if we look at it historically, the traditional centers of Islamic civilization (Iran, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and possible soon Egypt) are coalescing. This will leave the Saudis as odd man. Subhanallah.

  113. Liz says:

    It’s interesting to see the sort of narratives Scott Lucas chooses. He not only chooses the ones that fit his needs (like all those who do propaganda), but he doesn’t even know who the person is or where he or she lives. He doesn’t know anything about any of us, but h will use a quote if needed! lol

  114. Empty says:

    Rehmat,
    He describes the “narratives” to mock the Western claims about respect for all religions, ideas, etc. so long as it doesn’t interfere with their arrogance, exploitation, colonialism, etc. Please review the piece again. If this message is not conveyed from my post, then it is my shortcoming in correctly translating the piece.

  115. Liz says:

    I didn’t see any police officers anywhere, but in any case Tehran is a city of 10 million. Footage of police officers could have been taken at any time or on any occassion. Also, there is no need for PressTV to speak of such crowds, it happens every year.

  116. Empty says:

    RE: “Which Zionist Handbook you read that crap? The only British Queen visited India was 150 year after the occupation. Queen Elizbeth has never taken-off her shoes except in a Brunie mosque – not for respect but to keep the oil-rich Sultan on her side instead of slipping him to Iran as Turkey has done. Several Hindutva-loving Israeli leaders and generals have visited, but none of them paid respect to Holy Cow or visited a temple.”

    A careful re-reading and reflection of Azghadi’s speech and the “narratives” within it to which this statement is responding will show that they both convey the same exact meaning and same message. It is summed up well in this part: “Queen Elizbeth has never taken-off her shoes except in a Brunie mosque – not for respect but to keep the oil-rich Sultan on her side instead of slipping him to Iran as Turkey has done.”

  117. Rehmat says:

    Empty – Which Zionist Handbook you read that crap? The only British Queen visited India was 150 year after the occupation. Queen Elizbeth has never taken-off her shoes except in a Brunie mosque – not for respect but to keep the oil-rich Sultan on her side instead of slipping him to Iran as Turkey has done. Several Hindutva-loving Israeli leaders and generals have visited, but none of them paid respect to Holy Cow or visited a temple.

    Ben Obama, fearing wrath of Jewish Lobby, refused to visit Sikhism’ Wailing Wall (Golden Temple in Amritsar) during his recent visit – fearing while wearing Sikh turban for respect – he might remind Bibi his ‘muslim’ father.

    http://rehmat1.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/obama-and-minority-rights-in-india/

  118. Rehmat says:

    M. Ali – Your description of Ashura and Green protests match with the GAY Prarades in New York, Tel Aviv and Toronto – and the recent anti-G20 protests in Toronto. The first ones are policalized while the later-on – no one published the stories of Canadian Neda Agha-Soltans.

    “The scamble to lock up the Jewish votes in Canada meant selling out our widely admired and long-established reputation of fairness and justice,” Robert Fowler, retired Canadian diplomat, speaking at Liberal Party conference on Canadian Foreign.

    http://rehmat1.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/ottawa-pride-toronto-and-israel/

  119. Voice of Tehran says:

    @SL

    M.Ali wrote : “” Good weather, good smokes, and good beats. Loved it, but I certainly wasn’t your target audience.”"

    May be you can join M.Ali and his friends next year for the Ashura festivities or any of your ‘professional’ staff in Tehran ,as they certainly need some EFFECTIVE ‘ eye-openers ‘ regarding the realities here.
    In any case SL , you need to come to final conclusions , as you cannot leave the work to your children and grand-children >> Once upon a time , far far back , there was a GM in Iran……

  120. Empty says:

    “They tell a story that after the British had occupied India, the British queen was in a car when it was stopped by a crowd paying respect to a cow crossing the road. The driver began honking the horns to disperse the crowd in order to get the queen’s car passed. The queen ordered the driver to wait and tolerate the crowd till they are done with their rituals. Meanwhile, she got off the car herself and showed a gesture of respect to the cow. She then entered a nearby temple, took off her shoes, and performed the proper rituals. She explained, ‘we respect all religions and all cultures. We respect freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of ideas and thoughts.’ That is as long as those practices don’t interfere with who has occupied India, who is appointing Indian rulers. I was telling some friends, these Americans and British who have now returned and re- occupied Iraq….you see, they were in the region some decades ago trying to establish their own order….[W.E.] Gladstone had just arrived and heard Azan (call for prayer) and turned to his companion and asked, “What is this? What are they babbling about?” His companion said, ‘it’s Azan …Muslim call for prayer talking about unity [Toheed], etc.’ He asked, ‘is this going to interfere with what we’re trying to do?’ His companion said, ‘No, don’t worry. It won’t.’ Gladstone said, ‘Then, never mind…so long as it doesn’t create an obstacle in our way and what we’re doing, they can continue as long as they want to…’ ….nowadays, too, if America and Britain see that on Ashura people come for pilgrimage to the shrines and just busy themselves with the ritual prayers, ritual mourning, and then go back to their homes, I promise you that next year and every year thereafter this time, all these expenses of the charity food, and the charity rituals of Ashura and Tasua will be fully paid by the British and Americans themselves. In fact, they would say, ‘we ourselves will cook these Nazri for you every year.’ You see, they have no problem with this sort of religion. They would call it spiritual religion, individual religion. The sort of religion that is compatible to secularism ideas. The religion that is soft and snuggly. And indeed it would be a soft and snuggly religion. But of course the type of religion that has made it tough for them to sit comfortably in occupied lands and do whatever they want to, that type of religion is not soft and snuggly. They have problem with that Islam. It is a violent Islam, according to their interpretation.”

    –By Rahimpour Azghadi, in Clash of Two Ideologies speech

  121. Scott Lucas says:

    M. Ali,

    Entry corrected.

    S.

  122. Scott Lucas says:

    M. Ali, thanks….

    All: “Crowds in the hundreds of thousands” — I am genuinely curious why there was no reference on the websites of Press TV, IRNA, and Fars to crowds of this size in Tehran or any footage of any crowd of any size in Tehran on Press TV. That is not to say that the large processions did not occur, of course.

    “There were no policemen on the streets” — So several discreetly-shot videos of a significant security presence in central Tehran were faked?

    Thanks,

    S.

  123. M.Ali says:

    Although Scott, I read your site, and you prefaced my comments with “A reader writes to EA:”. Its not a big enough deal to change it in this entry, but for the future, I prefer that unless I specifically writer FOR EA, I think it is slightly unfair to preface it like that. I did not write to EA. I don’t mind you picking up on it, nothing I write here is private or specific to this site, but if another site picks it up, I’d rather they do not claim that its written to that particular avenue. Thanks.

  124. M.Ali says:

    Dear Scott, I don’t mind you including my name or just reader, both are okay with me.

    However, I would like to make a point to Bussed-in-Basij and Iranian@Iran:

    What think I have realized about my countrymen is that whether they are at Ashura religious events or green protests says less about their beliefs in that particular event and more about the fact that Iranians just like going out.

    Which is one of the reasons I was always skeptic about the force of the protests. Iranians like crowds, they like special occasions, they like having ANY opportunity to mingle with their friends.

    As I watched the events in the area I went to for Tasua, it was easy to see that the reasons for coming out were different for everyone. Some were obviously extremely religious, some where there just to see their friends because it was the day everyone gathered, some came to watch the events, and some of the younger boys and girls were there, fashioned up, to give each other the eye and maybe exchange a few numbers.

    I don’t think the Green Protests were all political and the Tasua events are not all religious. Look at my case. I’m an almost athiest/agnostic/confused, but with a Sunni background. I just went to the Tasua event because I didn’t want to stay home. Plus, I met my friend’s friend who offered me some grass to smoke, which we did, sitting on a bench, surrounded by the sounds of drums. Good weather, good smokes, and good beats. Loved it, but I certainly wasn’t your target audience.

  125. Iranian@Iran says:

    Scott Lucas,

    Everyone in Iran knows that Tasu’a and Ashura is the single most important event that takes place in Iran throughout the year and all the streets and mosques are packed with people. In Tehran there are a number of simultaneous ceremonies that each have crowds in the hundreds of thousands and there are thousands of smaller ones too. There were no policemen on the streets and the mood of all the ceremonies that I know of were pro-Islamic Republic and hostile to the US. There was no sign of any “green people” anywhere. Even if you don’t want to accept the facts, they remain facts anyhow.

  126. Bussed-in Basiji says:

    Take the liberty to post this…

  127. Bussed-in Basiji says:

    News Update from the Real World:
    My family and I went to Imamzadeh Saleh in Tajrish (north Tehran) for Ashura programs and it was packed. All social types were there and all where crying for Imam Hossein(as) and all of them were crying and praying at the grave of Dr. Shahriari and cursing the US and Israel for assasinating him.

  128. Scott Lucas says:

    M. Ali,

    Thank you — I am taking the liberty of posting this (from “a reader”, but I will add your name later if that is acceptable to you) on EA.

    S.

  129. M.Ali says:

    Scott & anyone else who is interested:

    I went out on Wednesday for Tasua. My friend picked me up and we went to Normak area in Tehran. You could hear the sound of drums and the speakers from all around you. You could sit in any spot for a few minutes, and you’d see a march passing you by, young men hitting their backs with chains (symbollically, not hard) to the beat of the drums while a pickup truck moved behind them with huge speakers blaring out the “song” of the a man with a microphone.

    In the 42nd (I think, can’t remember the number) meydun of Normak, the spectators was fairly large. A strange mixture of crowd, from beared men to young spikey haired teenagers (mixture of both genres), almost all wearing black (or sombre) colors.

    I did not spot ONE security force NOR even a police officer. The event was monitored by young men whom I was told where from the same area and every year they work together to arrange something for Tasua/Ashura. They collect money from the residents of that area for expenses of the event, including the food.

    At 1:30, the event started to finish and they started giving out food. It was the best ghormeh sabzi I have ever had.

    Commentators on Iran usually seem to forget how huge Iran is. Tehran is, I would like to remind people, a city that has more than 14 million people. Unfortunately, analysists know a few people in Tehran who gather in the same circle and bring back news that are related to a tiny segment of that place.

    For example, I live in Vanak, an area where I could not even hear one drum beat all day. There were almost no posters. I heard Jordan (the area in Tehra, not the country) is the same. But in Tehran Pars and Normak, I could see such a change. Everywhere you had men offering hot tea (for free) to passbys and drivers. Symbols everywhere. Small sections where you could light a candle. And so on.

    I didn’t go out on Ashura, so I have no comments on that day.

  130. SMM says:

    Scott Lucas,

    Watch Iranian TV and you will see that there were huge gatherings throughout the country, including Tehran. All in support of the Islamic Revolution.

  131. Basiji says:

    ‘Ashura was politicized last year, of course, and Scott Peterson asserts that it “has come to symbolize resistance against tyranny and oppression.” But the conduct of Iranians this year suggests that Mr. Peterson was incorrect to have spotted a trend after just one year. Masoud appears to be correct: the Iranian people treated Ashura as a religious holiday.’

    Ashura is not important, it is only a holiday like many others, a ceremony like many others, it has no world changing importance or potential. People get bored so these days are a good change! I don’t even know why Zionists study it too much, they shouldn’t fear it, it’s nothing really!

    I mean have you ever seen it change anything in the world? Of course not, so why even talk about it!? Why bother? I mean its true that the biggest human gathering to this date, over 3 million came to Karbala for Ashura even bigger than Haj, but it only means people are just too bored.

    I mean seriously can anyone really think that solution to the Zionists grip in the world is only in the hands of Shiites?!

    Such superstitions! OK true, they told Imam Khomeini that in this age and time it is impossible to form a religious government, he said we do it and when we have done you change your formulas and equations; and he did it! But that was just about it!

    I mean how can Hijab be the solution? It oppress women! How can a non-white bad looking guy be a better man!? How can democracy and human rights be riddled with holes?

    So we all get the picture, lets talk about something else. Forget Ashura.

  132. Castellio says:

    The headline reads: Iranian General’s Wife Accuses Turkish Intelligence of Collaborating With Mossad in 2007 Kidnapping

    http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2010/12/17/kidnapped-iranian-generals-wife-demands-turkey-pressure-israel-to-account-for-him/

  133. Scott Lucas

    Masoud wrote to you:

    “Ashura isn’t generally considered an occasion to prance about in front of camera’s for the benefit of foreign audiences. It’s a solemn commemoration, observed in local houses of worships followed by processions in neighborhood streets.”

    Ashura was politicized last year, of course, and Scott Peterson asserts that it “has come to symbolize resistance against tyranny and oppression.” But the conduct of Iranians this year suggests that Mr. Peterson was incorrect to have spotted a trend after just one year. Masoud appears to be correct: the Iranian people treated Ashura as a religious holiday.

    That may be why you don’t see many videos, Scott.

  134. Scott Lucas says:

    Masoud,

    Thanks.

    S.

  135. masoud says:

    btw, that picture you published of Ahmadinejad ‘greeting’ fellow worshipers, is actually a still of a sine zani ceremony. No one’s waving to anyone, they are beating their chests to the rhythm of the story teller’s chants.

  136. Scott Lucas says:

    Masoud,

    Thanks. I had noticed big public gatherings in Bam and in Qom and some coverage of gatherings in Yazd and Marzaki, but no video footage — in contrast to the attention given to Istanbual and Beirut — from Tehran.

    S.

  137. masoud says:

    Scott,

    Ashura isn’t generally considered an occasion to prance about in front of camera’s for the benefit of foreign audiences. It’s a solemn commemoration, observed in local houses of worships followed by processions in neighborhood streets. In bigger population center’s some of these processions may converge and march together, but not with the aim of maximizing the people/sq foot.

  138. Scott Lucas says:

    All,

    Were there any significant gatherings on the streets of Tehran on Ashura?

    S.

  139. Basiji says:

    Dear brother Rehmat,

    You have said it was Turks that brought Shia to Iran, that is not true but first allow me to trash nationalism and race before I get to the question who brought Shia to Iran.

    Judging by the fact that your name is Rehmat and not Rahmat you must be a Turk. When you see the title of the article implying that Iran has soft power in turkey, you get irritated. See my friend Iranians who think they are Persian get irritated when leader of Hezbollah says that Iran’s supreme leader is an Arab descendant with direct blood ties and that Iran has an Islamic civilization not a Persian one, just as Arab secular nationalists get irritated when they hear leader of Hezbollah speaks fluent Farsi or when in Arabic language he praises Iran’s supreme leader and says he is his leader! They say this Nassrullah is an Iranian agent in Arab disguise, while Iranian seculars say Iranian supreme leader is an Arab in Persian disguise. Some people also say he is a Turk. Don’t you see!? The truth is bigger than race and nationalism, and at the end of the day there should be a lot of reasons for a hypocrite to fall, how else can God test!?

    Now let’s get to the Shia school of thought and where it originates from, for the start see where the Shia holy places and shrines are located, and where Shia Imams have been. Secondly see where the greatest Shia intellectuals lived and learned the creed; it is obvious that Qom and Najaf are the main two cities. One in Iran and the other in Iraq. One can even argue that from the time Iranians became Muslim and saw the justice of Ali(ع) in ruling one of the greatest empires of all time, they became Shia!

    As for who made Shia an official religion in Iran. It was a cleric from Lebanon who came to Iran and for the first time ordered building minarets and train Mu’azens who gave the Shia Azan!

    You can either see the Shia as various separated dots or see it as a united entity with a plan. How was it that Shia from an underground movement turn out to grow stronger up to this time? Was it pure chance or mistakes of US? That’s what the enemy likes to say.

    Free yourself from arrogance, blindness and jealousy that come with nationalism. Everyone knows that it was religion that saved Iran from Saddam’s invasion not Iranian nationalism. In fact it is ridiculous that humans should die for land. Humans should only die for truth and justice, God and his way. Human is more valuable than land, myth of the past kings, race and language.

    One last question, if Shia was good and Turks brought it to Iran, why didn’t they keep it for themselves? If you can take the sting of that question, you can get rid of your nationalistic beliefs. I myself have totally trashed Persian identity in myself.

    It’s easy really, if enemy likes something in you, something is wrong with you! Because the enemy can not like Islam. They only like American Islam.

    Wasalam

  140. Frank Rettenberg says:

    The interpretation in this essay seems a bit forced. An election is coming up in Turkey next year. Traditionally, Turkish Alevis have by and large voted for the Republican People’s Party, now in opposition. Erdogan wants his AKP to make inroads into this bloc and his Ashura appearance should be largely interpreted in this light. There are, of course, concrete steps the Alevis are waiting the regime to implement before they are likely to transfer their affections in any great number,generally speaking, equal government support and recognition of Alevis as compared yo orthodox Sunni. But the Ashura appearance is an important gesture.

    Also, while they are certainly not Sunni, it is incorrect to describe Alevis as Shia, and they wouldn’t like it. i quote from David Shankland’s “The Alevis in Turkey.”

    “…Outiders (sometimes) suspect them of Shiism, a charge that the Alevis with whom I lived always denied, linking Shi’ism with ‘those fanatics from Iran…’”

    The Alevis gnerally have a progressive political and spiritual outlook which bears no relation to Twelver Shiism as practiced in Iran, despite overlaps in the two religious doctrines.

    Furthermore, whatever the esteemed Alastair Crooke might say, Turkey does not see itself exactly as part of a tier of states, but rather, as Foreign Minister Davutoglu has stated, the central (merkez) country in its area. It deals with Iran, like so many of the states in its region and indeed further abroad, e.g., Russia, Kazakhstan, Dubai, because that’s where the money is. But its leaders are strongly opposed to Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon capability and remain anxious for productive ties to the west, despite Turkey’s stagnant relations with the EU. Witness the continuing presence of 1800-odd Turkish troops in the ISAF.

    Lastly, I don’t undersand the emphasis on Iran’s “soft power.” It’s Turkey which hass the soft power in this equation.

  141. Humanist says:

    I am fascinated by how Darwin’s Natural Selection theory can conclusively explain the history of any living organism on earth especially that of our own. Under the light of that theory I see the potential of Erdogan’s participation in Ashura observance as becoming a truly HISTORICAL event similar to the process that created the European Unionn.

    French and Germans fought perpetually during long centuries for the bordering area of Alsace-Lorraine. After the WWII they discovered the folly of any moronic WAR and the unarguable wisdom of a any lasting UNION.

    Eventually the opposing sides got together and took humanity one giant step away from its habitual animality.

    As an amateur I dare to say that the greatest event of 20th century was not the might of British empire, rise of Hitler, WWII etc, but the formation of EU. (Long ago Russian 1917 Revolution was on top of my list).

    In the simplistic terms Darwin’s theory shows how species evolve to avoid ‘Destruction’ (extinction). WWII showed how intensely ‘Destructive’ the human being can become. Darwin’s theory also clearly shows how and why our brains evolved to solve complex survival problems. This ‘evolved brain’ of ours makes us capable of ‘Constructing’ anything imaginable such as airplanes, satellites, computers but also if utilized in primitive ways can ‘Destroy’ us all .

    We came close to that point in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Doomsday Clock (The clock of Nuclear War) is still set (by experts) on alarming area of five minutes to Midnight.

    The history of Turkey and Iran, (similar but not identical to France and Germany) has had its ups and downs.

    Couple of centuries ago Turks (who had guns) badly defeated Persians (who had swords and arrows) but then soon the inhabitant of occupied Tabriz via an effective Gorilla warfare forced the Turks out of Iran. Both countries gradually through glorious victories and bitter defeats have matured to realize Wars are foolish acts and they can instead achieve their objectives through dialogue and negotiation (in Darwinian terms, they have evolved).

    I said “I see the POTENTIAL of Erdogon’s participation in Ashura observance as becoming a truly HISTORICAL event”. Potentially because I have no doubt, Israel, US and UK independently or in coalition, are using an army of brilliant experts in any imaginable discipline to, among other things, derail that Union.

    Time will tell which side prevails. My bets are, since Iran and Turkey, if not in the present course, but eventually will succeed since Darwin’s Evolution Theory is not just a theory anymore….it is an indisputable Fact.

  142. kooshy says:

    Rahmat

    “Shia Islam was brought into Persia by Turk Shia Sufis, who later established the Safvid Dynasty.”

    Rhmat- That is not correct the first Shieh Muslim ruler of Iran was the Mongol Oljaitu (Sultan Muhamad Khodabandeh) who converted to Shieh some 2oo years before the Safavids and about the same time that Marco Polo traveled through Iran.

  143. kooshy says:

    James Caning
    “Velayati is quite right that all Muslims should support the Palestinians. In practice, this should mean supporting the Saudi peace plan (Arab peace initiative).’

    James you know that is not what Dr. Velayati said or meant, even if a Jewish state in occupied and illegally transferred Muslim land could have had some broad strategic benefit to Iran, Iran should not and would not set to exploit the benefits without a confirmative vote of approval by the Palestinians in a general referendum. If you pay close attention that was and is the official position that Iran has undertaken with regard to Palestine, which in that case it is an strategically approved outcome for Iran’s regional interest.

    It is easier for Saudi King, or other client Muslim Arab leaders to table a two state solution since their power doesn’t rest on Arab street support their power lies on western support, but for Iran Muslim street support is currently a deterrent internally and regionally that Iran can’t afford to easily give out on the count of US and Israel, as a matter of fact Iran has been successfully increasing its regional street support by cleverly exploiting this western weakness, in such a way that has tilted the balance of power in the region, do you see how complicated it gets.

  144. Rd. says:

    The Islamic Republic’s marginalization in the region vs IRI soft power at work??

    Reza Esfandiari says: “Iran’s Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has recently made himself popular in Islamabad with his pro-Sunni fatwa on the prophet’s wives and his call to help the people of Jamnu and Kashmir.”

    A number of senior al-Qaeda members whom were recently released from detention in Iran published an elec book. In this book they urge the self-acclaimed global Muslim resistance against Western hegemony to open itself to the Muslim intelligentsia for advice and to harmonize its strategy with mainstream Islamic movements.

    Your arsenal is supposed to be used against combatants only, not against innocent people,.. You mishandled operations and oppressed common men, while our role is supposed to be that of liberators against zulm [oppression].

    Erdogan; “tragedy at Karbala 1,330 years ago affects all Muslims and should serve as a source of unity between Sunni and Shi’a.”

    There appears to be a theme developing here. IF in fact IRI soft power is at play, specially regards to Taliban/AQ/sunni groups, its implications can be tremendous.
    The impact on Iran’s security concerns vis-à-vis eastern front, in Afghanistan’s future, as well Pakistan where US policies are continually destabilizing that country. (The afghan issue/importance should be viewed in the prism of the 98 confrontation with the Taliban).

    The impact on the muslim communities in western China, southern Eurasia, as well as Chechnia..

    IF this soft power is in fact in play, it gives credence to the IRI strategist playing chess vs their US counter parts playing with their nintendo games!!!! And it gives rise to the ol’ cry “Yankee (meaning US military FP) go home!”.

  145. Rehmat says:

    James Canning – Islamic Republic, the only Muslim nation-state which supports the Palestinian resistance against the Zionist-regime, in public – doesn’t believe in the “Saudi Sellout 2002″ – which is not much different than the American idea of Palestinian “Bantustan” aka “two-stae” solution. Tehran wants the entire Palestine returned to its native Muslims, Christians and Jews and let them deal with the foreign Zionist Jews. The great majority of Muslim Ummah wants the same – so does the Torah Jews and Jewish writers such as Gilad Atzmon, Robert Tucker, Simon Jones, etc.

    http://rehmat1.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/palestine-the-third-option/

  146. Rehmat says:

    Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan became the first Turkish Sunni head of government to attend ASHURA ceremony organized to commemorate the tragedy at Karbala about 1,370 years ago.

    Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said he sees the problems faced by members of all religious groups in Turkey as his own, as he appealed to thousands of Jafaris in İstanbul who mourned the murder of Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and the son of Imam Ali, and 72 of his companions in 680 in Karbala, part of modern-day Iraq.

    “We have been feeling the pain of Karbala for 1,370 years. We have to feel that pain in our hearts. We remember Hussain whenever an innocent person is killed,” the prime minister said as he began his speech.

    “This country is ours, these lands are all ours, this history, this civilization is ours. Nobody can claim superiority to any other. We are equal to each other and we are all brothers in these lands. We are all first-class citizens of this country. The problems of all religious groups in my country are mine. That’s why we are struggling to address century-old problems through consensus. Aren’t there those who oppose us? Of course, there are. But we will overcome this with patience,” the prime minister said.

    In addition to the prime minister, State Minister Faruk Çelik, Republican People’s Party (CHP) Secretary-General Süheyl Batum, İstanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu and ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) İstanbul Provincial Chairman Aziz Pabuşçu were in attendance.

    The leader of Turkey’s Jafaris community, Selahattin Özgündüz, said the prime minister’s participation in the Karbala commemoration ceremony had disappointed those who hoped to cause conflict among different sects in Muslim society

    Shias make 20% of Turkey’s 75 million population (99.7% Muslim) – largest after Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan. Shias in Turkey, commemorate the event by donating blood to Turkish Red Crescent instead of inflicting self-wound as is the normal practice in other parts of the world.

    Shia Islam was brought into Persia by Turk Shia Sufis, who later established the Safvid Dynasty.

    http://rehmat2.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/erdogan-strives-for-muslim-unity/

  147. James Canning says:

    Velayati is quite right that all Muslims should support the Palestinians. In practice, this should mean supporting the Saudi peace plan (Arab peace initiative).

  148. James Canning says:

    Rob Hughes,

    Did you happen to see the special section in the Financial Times this week on Egypt? In particular, it was interesting for me to read the adverse influence on Islamic practice in Egypt that is prompted by Egyptians working in SA and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf, then returning home. (Adverse as in more extreme)

  149. James Canning says:

    kooshy,

    I agree with you Iran does well not to put too much emphasis on the Shia element of Iranian culture so that a needlessly threatening image is created that works against Iran’s best interests.

  150. James Canning says:

    Bravo! Turkey does the US a signal service by showing how an intelligent foreign policy toward the Middle East is compiled and executed. Warmongering neocon idiots in the US Congress need to pay attention.

  151. kooshy says:

    Strategically speaking after some five centuries, this respectful undertaking by Turkey and Iran two of the most advanced , influential and respected leaders of the Muslims in the region and across the globe was a major events of this past year, one that tremendously will burden the US’s Arab client states and the US herself.

    As I have previously emphasized, since the demise of the USSR, Iran’s security no longer is dependent on the western powers, otherwise Iran no longer can become insecure in a directly interference by an outside the region power, including the US, but on the other hand it easily could become insecure in her own region, that if Iran falls in trap of a Sunni , Shieh religious fight or if Iran plays an ultra nationalistic Persian card, against Arabs and Turks nationalism, something that Pahlavi regime foolishly did when Iran was fully protected by the west against the USSR, but we saw how the west used the effect of it against the Arabs in Iran Iraq war, that is lesson we Iranians should take to heart. This is why our emphases should be on Iranian and not Persian and Muslim not only Shieh, at the same time be consistent to protect our territory, culture and rights.

  152. masoud says:

    On Majd,

    His first book ‘The Ayatollah begs to differ’ was very well written and very fair, even if he did exaggerate the Reformists’ popularity in general, and President Khatami’s(who happens to be a cousin of his) in particular.

    His second book ‘The Ayatollah’s democracy’ is something of a disaster. He peppers the first half with all manner of what he admits are likely fictional anecdotes about Mousavi and co. For the most part he never makes an explicit claim that the election was rigged, referring to it the results as ‘the election results which many felt were tainted’ or some similar formulation. Halfway through the book he describes attending an open meeting in NY with some activists who were arguing that AN legitimately won, dismisses, the idea as some kind of far-left affliction(if only that were true…) and actually stops qualifying his descriptions of the election a fraudulent. It’s almost as if he sat down to write a chapter to put to bed claims that the election was indeed legitimate, couldn’t do it, so resolved on dismissing it as a some kind of dementia and continued on his merry way as if he had. Maybe he left it as the last piece of the book he would complete and got stuck. And there is definitely no objective analysis of the behavior of Khatami, Mousavi, or Karroubi. He presents them as if their intentions were pure as virgin snow and pays no attention to their constantly changing claims and narratives. Whereas his treatments of AN and the conservatives like Larijani are quite a bit more ‘real’. He also seems completely enthralled with Rafsanjani. Rarely have I seen anyone lionize the man like he does. Grievances aside, he does a good job of conveying the dynamism of Iranian politics to beginners. It’s not a good book by any measure, but not exactly horrible either.

  153. BiBiJon says:

    With reference to my earlier remark:
    http://www.raceforiran.com/hillary-mann-leverett-in-the-concept-of-%e2%80%9clearning-curve%e2%80%9d-and-%e2%80%9ctaking-sides%e2%80%9d-on-iranian-politics#comment-30446

    I applaud the Leverettes for once again daring to look at what must be uncomfortable to ‘western’ analysts / thinkers because the subject matter is one that is challenging the “empire’s east” by refuting western self-ordained authority on core subjects of freedom, democracy, human rights, etc. Leverettes’ fact-based method, and their keen intellect is tagging the dead-end branches of inquiry for a future pruning — a true service to western liberal thought.

    What is merely uncomfortable for serious scholars is downright incomprehensible for Mr Peterson. Unfortunately, the world is not waiting for Scott to grasp the “realities”.

  154. Pirouz says:

    Majd is an interesting fellow. The two of us actually have many things in common. We both come from prominent Iranian families with ties to the diplomatic corps. However where his extended ancestry is part of the religious hierarchy, my personal paternal lineage is directly related to governmental ministers, governors, a writer of the 1906 Constitution and a president of the University of Tehran. Also, Majd and I attended grade school in the same part of the US during the early 1960s. He’s something of a non-conformist and so am I. But I freely admit he is more Persian than I (my mother is American).

  155. Reza Esfandiari says:

    Pirouz,

    Although Hooman Majd was supporting Mousavi and the GM, he backed off when he realized that neither had majority support. Nowadays, he is wisely speaking out sanctions and how they squeeze Iran’s middle class and the growth of civic society.

    Btw, the Leveretts are right that Ashura 2009 marked the turning point. It was seen as as the “final push” against the government by the GM, but the hooliganism of the occasion was seen as a desecration of religion. It brought large, peaceful counter-demonstrations into the streets and signaled the end of Mousavi’s rebellion.

  156. Rob Hughes says:

    Thank you the Leverettes for this superb reporting and analysis. Edogan’s courageous overture to Shi’ism is historic not only because it comes at a time of overt hostility towards Iran by Sunni Saudi Arabia and UAE and increasing Sunni terrorist attacks in southeast Iran (the latest of which killed dozens of Shi’i worshippers this week).
    Erdogan’s gesture is also monumental because the adoption of Shi’ism as state religion in Iran and mass conversion of Iranians to Shi’ism in the 16th Century resulted directly from and sharpened the bitter and violent rivalry between Iran and Turkey’s Sunni Ottoman Empire. For perspective, try to imagine the heads of state of Ireland or Italy campaigning to unify Catholics and Protestants.

  157. Pirouz says:

    Don’t waste your time, Reza.

    There are a number of individuals that will respond, such as Parsi, Nasr, Majd, etc. And then are those such as Peterson who presumably think they’re smarter than the rest of us.

    Hey, at least our own Scott Lucas comes here and hashes things out, once in a while. We should give him credit for that even though we disagree with him.

  158. Reza Esfandiari says:

    SCOTT PETERSON has betrayed any sense of journalistic standards and integrity after the election. Like our friend, Roger Cohen, he has become a partisan cheerleader for the Green movement and proponent of the “stolen election” scenario.

    He refuses to respond to any of my emails. Maybe someone else would like to try and get through to him:

    petersons@csmonitor.com

  159. Fiorangela says:

    powerful essay; thanks for shining the spotlight in the right direction.

    re this statement about the Green movement: “But, as we predicted in the immediate aftermath of Ashura last year, see here, in the real world, nothing of the sort was going to happen; February 11, 2010 turned out to be a huge bust for the Green Movement, see here. What transpired on Ashura last year was, in reality, both a clear indicator of the Green Movement’s political decline and a catalyst that accelerated this decline. Peterson’s recounting of these events provides confirmation (inadvertent, we are sure) for the extensive collaboration between Western reporters and Green Movement activists that so thoroughly distorted Western coverage of Iran’s domestic politics in the wake of the 2009 presidential election. ”

    Congratulations for taking such a strong position — no weasel-words here.

    I prefer Stephen Kinzer’s assessment. In his stump speech on his book tour for Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future, Kinzer gradually built up for his audience’s consideration an appreciation of the length and depth of Iran’s culture and efforts toward self-government. Emphasizing to his audience that Iranians have a very long history, which creates a different sense of time and patience than Americans are accustomed to, Kinzer said that Iranians he had spoken with in his very recent trip to Iran told him that Iranians had made the calculation that Green Movement tactics were not likely to be cost-effective, and some other approach would emerge, in time, and that they had plenty of time.

    There was no expression of surrender, nor the notion that “Green movement had gone underground,” merely that Green Movement resulted in many people getting hurt and lives disrupted; there are smarter ways of bringing about reform; Iranians are smart enough and patient enough to discover those ways, and so they will.

    In that context, US and Israeli meddling can only harm Iran’s attempts at reform.