a rupture of sorts

the other side of the story

with the predominantly foreign fantasy regarding a ‘green’ revolution basically over, it is easier to focus attention on divisions within iran’s dominant political factions. a rupture appears to be manifesting itself more and more between the followers of ahmadinejad and khamenei.

while ahmadinejad has the disadvantage of being a temporary, elected office holder, he nevertheless appears to be holding his ground with determination. he acts like he enjoys a stronger support base than one would have expected. most commentators see the revolutionary guards as his main base of support. but this would normally not be quite enough unless there was a plan for establishing military rule. so far there is little sign of the military rising to challenge the clerics led by khamenei.

in fact, khamenei is officially the supreme leader of all the armed forces, and appoints the top leaders within the latter as well as the judiciary. so far, there is little indication that the military is about to throw the baby out with the water.

regardless, ahmadinejad’s trump card may be none other than demographics. he appears to enjoy the support of a rising younger generation of non-clerical, future leaders organizing on the sidelines in order to grab power at the expense of the older generation of clerical revolutionaries.

signs of this power struggle are evident in iran’s media, especially with the most recent debates surrounding the president’s chief of staff, esfandiar rahim mashaei, documented by i.com’s ‘no fear’ in both english and farsi.

ahmadinejad has come under much fire recently for his rhetoric and street talk. khamenei himself gave indirect warnings over the president’s use of language. but the real divisions can be seen in a couple of foreign policy announcement of late.

in an interview with al jazeera on 22 august, ahmadinejad made a direct offer of friendship to the us though with a typically taunting style that spoke from a position of strength.

however, press tv reports that khamenei is opposed to talks with the us:

“Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei is opposed to talks with the US because they want to push any negotiation to the way they want and they halt it unilaterally if it is not favorable to them, deputy head of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of Iran’s Parliament (Majlis) Hossein Ebrahimi said on Monday.”

concurrently, the head of iran ’s judiciary, sadeq larijani, launched a direct attack against those lobbying for rapprochement with usa : “Resuming diplomatic ties with the U.S. is not something that anybody in different branches of government could decide about,” he noted.

meanwhile, “In a decree issued on Sunday President Ahmadinejad appointed Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei as his special envoy for the Middle East affairs…The move came despite widespread criticism against Mashaei for his controversial remarks about the Iranian and Islamic ideology.

but leave it to one of the most divisive figures to call for unity: “Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has said it is essential to maintain unity in the face of outside threats… Now, the people and authorities are facing difficult tests, thus they should show patience and make efforts to pass these tests, Rafsanjani told a gathering of clerics in Tehran on Sunday.”

and khamenei made another appeal to the younger generation:

Students should analyze and adopt a clear stance on issues that are linked to the country’s destiny, such as the Tehran declaration, the UN Security Council resolution, and the unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union,” the Leader said at a meeting with thousands of university students in Tehran on Sunday… Commenting on the 2009 Tehran University dormitory incident, the Leader said the issue has not been pursued seriously enough… Ayatollah Khamenei stated that lack of motivation in certain relevant organizations has hindered efforts to follow up the matter and added that the issue should be investigated more thoroughly.

and so a power struggle for hearts and minds continues while a distinct fissure is evident in who exactly determines foreign policy.

what will become of the islamic republic without an imminent foreign threat?

how the us lost iraq to iran

the withdrawal of american combat troops from iraq was scheduled to begin in earnest after iraq’s parliamentary elections of march 7. by the end of august, 50,000 or so ‘advisory’ and ‘support’ troops were to remain behind, releasing the rest of america’s invading forces for other invasions or combat missions elsewhere.

with only a few weeks to go before the stated aim to ‘withdraw’ from iraq, the us administration is in a bit of a mess. the fog of war and propaganda have together obscured events in iraq. but in effect, the costly war has resulted in the americans handing iraq over to iran on a silver platter. what follows is a description of how this has come about, and how this is linked to the sanctions.

in 2003 the americans concocted a series of lies in order to justify an illegal invasion – a war crime according to the geneva convention – of iraq in order to achieve three main goals:

1. destruction of the iraqi army

2. destruction of the baathist regime

3. establishment of a client state in iraq

the failure of the illegal invasion has been with the third goal: the iraqi ‘government’ is still not in place, let alone its intended ‘pro-american’ character.

the invasion in 2003 ushered in a jihadist campaign that targeted both the americans and the shia. similarly, the sunnis targeted both groups (and also the kurds on occasion), and were aligned with the jihadists (al qaeda) in a shared range of enemies.

the jihadists were simply continuing their old campaigns started elsewhere with no respect for national boundaries. but the sunnis had gone from ‘masters’ of iraq to becoming the smallest and least powerful of the major groups in the country. from a certain perspective, they had nothing left to lose.

the kurds and the shia were largely elevated by the invasion, and were generally ready to allow the americans to leave without having to force them to. but they had to confront the sunni and jihadist onslaught.

except for the shia-kurdish alliance, everybody was fighting everybody. the americans had created chaos and were desperate for a way out of the mess by 2007.

a first step was to bring in troop reinforcements, which is a typical tactic when losing a war. this they referred to as the ‘surge’. the reinforcement was not a massive one, but it was helped by other, more clever tactics.

the most important of these was to split the sunni-jihadist alliance. they exploited al qaeda’s challenge to the authority of older sunni sheikhs by providing the sheikhs with financial support (bribes) and security guarantees on the one hand and threats on the other. in effect, the americans stopped fighting the sunnis and started paying them instead.

this effort was also aided by iran’s stabilising influence among the shia. for iran, intra-shia conflict would have reduced both shia and iranian influence. furthermore, iran already had won with the removal of saddam and looked forward to majority rule by the shia and kurds.

so a confluence of interests resulted in some degree of stabilisation in the conflict due to the isolation of the jihadists and america’s need to reduce casualties and to bring some order into their own chaos.

however, america’s political aims had largely failed: there was no stable government, no capable military nor a strong police force. if anything, the iraqi government was and is strongly pro-iranian. and the key to a stronger state in iraq rests with iran.

as such, the success of everything that the americans have done in iraq since 2003 hinges on iran unless the usa is prepared to maintain a large number of combat troops on the ground in iraq indefinitely. the latter option is simply not feasible, especially under obama’s administration and given america’s current economic weaknesses.

this american dependence on iran and the latter’s enormously strengthened influence in the region is the main reason behind the sanctions drive. the balance of power has shifted toward iran in an unexpected – from an american perspective – way.

american withdrawal from the region will be quickly followed by greater iranian control over the persian gulf. this has nothing to do with nuclear weapons, as iran has by far the most powerful and sophisticated conventional forces in the region.

the nuclear issue is misdirection. the real issue for america is how to extricate itself from yet another disastrous military campaign without looking like losers. for this, it has to negotiate a deal with iran, but it has to try and reduce iran’s gains in any such negotiated settlement. hence, the targeting of iran’s economy.

will iran be able to outmanoeuvre usa in this area too? quite likely, especially as the americans insist on digging an even deeper hole for themselves in afghanistan.

oil, bodybuilding, trade and tennis!

reading the news on iran these days is like watching a tennis match: two completely opposing sides giving those sitting in the middle of the stands a pain in the neck! the only thing that is clear in this game is that nothing is clear.

the toyota company suddenly announced that it had stopped sales of cars to iran back in june in order to comply with sanctions.

[score: iran love: warmongers 15]

apparently, toyota cars can be used to develop nuclear weapons. either that or toyota is begging for forgiveness from american consumers. regardless, toyota shares fell by around 2%.

perhaps this is further impetus for iran to expand domestic car production? will iran retaliate by banning the sale of toyotas in iran? new slogan: boycott israel and toyota!

the financial time reports iran’s petrol imports were halved last month as a result of new sanctions. “As a result Iran has been forced to pay a 25 per cent premium to market prices for its petrol deliveries as many companies shy away from supplying the country, the western countries’ oil watchdog [International Energy Agency] said yesterday.

[score: love:30]

this is the same iea that did not see the oil crisis coming in 2007-8. oil watchdog or oil propaganda? you decide!

the same ft report continues:”But the US and Europe have not succeeded in completely cutting off Iran as the gap left by western companies has being filled by Chinese state-owned companies and local Middle East oil traders. Last month US diplomats warned Beijing not to fill the void left by European and US companies.”

but china did the opposite!

[score: 15:30]

“Meanwhile, Tehran has already moved to undercut the effect of sanctions by hording supplies, rationing consumption and announcing the intention to boost its own production of petrol by cutting output of other petrochemicals if need be. Iran has said it could replace almost 75 per cent of its imported petrol.”

hands up all those who appreciate iran’s petrochemical capabilities!

We can stop production of petrochemicals at any moment we decide and produce petrol [instead],” according to Mir-Kazemi, iran’s oil minister.

[score 30:30]

‘so why haven’t they done it already?’ is the question arising from the quivering lips of the anti-iran gang! ‘because iran makes more profit from selling petrochemicals and importing petrol’ responds the patient lotus!’ look up ‘value addition’ she suggests.

but will such remedial action be necessary? reuters reportsTurkey will support petrol sales by Turkish companies to Iran, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told Reuters on Wednesday, despite U.S. sanctions that aim to squeeze the Islamic Republic’s fuel imports.

an official from the Turkish refining company, Turpas said “For us, Iran is more important than America, because we get crude oil from them. We don’t get anything from America.

[iran serves a thundering ace at a crucial moment in the game! score: 40:30]

Yildiz also said that the two countries would go ahead with the joint construction of power plants producing 6,000 megawatts of energy to fed their own markets as well as other countries in the region. in addition, a natural gas pipeline from iran would be constructed to supply turkey and europe.

reuters also reportsRussian oil giant LUKOIL (LKOH.MM) has resumed gasoline sales into Iran in partnership with China’s state-run firm Zhuhai Zhenrong, even as the United States urges the international community to be tough with Tehran.

[game iran!]

no shortages of oil in iran as the picture of ehsan khajavi clearly demonstrates.

khajavi won the gold medal in bodybuilding for men’s 55kgs category in the 44th asian men’s bodybuilding competition in tehran on august 06, 2010.

iran, iraq and ghormeh sabzi

it is widely recognized that when the americans were preparing their own quagmire in iraq, they had little notion of just how much they would elevate iran’s power in the region. it still baffles us to think that they actually invaded without an exit strategy. a little like sleepwalking into a war. presumably because it’s just what they do…

that the iranian-iraqi cultural, political and economic relations go back some millennia is common knowledge to most observers [1]. our shared heritage extends beyond being the only two countries in the world with a shia majority, but also includes ghorme sabzi!

i learned about this through an iraqi friend in manchester in the mid-1980s, in the middle of the iran-iraq war. i remember being quite puzzled by her on that day. she worked in some down and out fish & chips take away stall in the main square. covered by the stench and fumes of hot oil that seeped into our clothes, hair, skin and lungs, she started by praising the iranians for not attacking civilian areas [2], and went on to tell me about all the things we shared. like ghormeh sabzi.

i think that was the first moment when i realised that i – as a ‘west-residing groupie of’ western propaganda – was missing one side of the story in that war: the iranian side.

propaganda is powerful. it actually makes you believe that Not listening to one side of the story is the ‘objective’ or ‘clever’ thing to do. all you had to do was say ‘mullah’ and some anger hormone would be released straight into my brain.

but here was an iraqi shia exile at a nauseating mancunian fish and chip shop telling an iranian exile that the mullahs were righteous in the war between two countries.

of course there is no real analysis in this. but the analysis only matters in relation to how we view each other.

her warmth and friendly approach had taken me by surprise. i walked away stinking of over-heated cooking oil, but felt quite refreshed by the warmth of a gracious ‘enemy’ who had opened my eyes to something quite important about my own country and my own mindset.

of course i never really admitted all that to her. i was too ‘proud’ for that. easier to do it 25 years later, anonymously!

peace

1. except for diehard anti-semites among us intent on denying any links between ‘aryans’ and ‘arabs’.

2. compare this with saddam’s regular use of missiles targeted at civilians and use of chemical weapons, including on iraqi civilians.