Ten things you probably didn’t know about Ahmadinejad

the other side of the story

the other side of the story

1. Foreign direct investment in Iran reached its highest level ever during Ahmadinejad‘s presidency (2005-2013). According to the latest statistics released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD; 2013 World Investment Report), Iran managed to attract $2 billion worth of foreign direct investments in 2007, $1.90 billion in 2008, $3 billion in 2009, $3.64 billion in 2010, $4.15 billion in 2011, and $4.87 billion in 2012 (see table on page 214 of the report). “During Ahmadinejad’s presidency, some $24.4 billion of investments have been attracted, while this figure for his predecessors Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-1997) was respectively $10.452 billion and $350 million.” Source

2. Ahmadinejad never called for the destruction of Israel. He called for regime change in the Apartheid State of Israel. He stated: “… the regime that occupies Jerusalem must vanish from the pages of time”. Similarly, he never denied the Holocaust, but stated that some aspects of it should be open to questioning. In particular, he questioned why it was Palestinians who were paying the price for the Holocaust rather than Germans and Austrians, who should instead have given a part of their land to their Jewish victims.

3. Ahmadinejad never participated in the siege of the American embassy in 1979. By some accounts, he was opposed to the idea of hostage taking at the embassy.

4. He comes from a working class background, and lives a simple and humble life, often refusing luxuries. He sent some of the most expensive carpets in the presidential palace to museums and had them replaced with cheaper carpets. He also refused the VIP seats on board the presidential plane.

5. After two years as Tehran mayor, Ahmadinejad was one of 65 finalists for World Mayor in 2005, selected from 550 nominees, only nine of them from Asia. He was among three strong candidates for the top-ten list, but his resignation after winning the presidential elections in 2005 made him ineligible.

6. Ahmadinejad was the first Iranian leader to manage to cut Iran’s debilitating fuel subsidies that benefited the rich more than the poor – an effort that no other politician had managed to achieve in 5 decades or so.

7. Ahmadinejad was the first Iranian president since the revolution to directly challenge the authority of the Supreme Leader, for example by resisting the Leader’s wish to interfere in the selection of Cabinet ministers. In this, Ahmadinejad was pushing for greater compliance with the Iranian Constitution by the Supreme Leader with the aim of reducing the power of the clergy, and promoting the republican side of the Islamic Republic.

8. During Ahmadinejad’s presidency, Iran’s position in the Middle East and in the nuclear negotiations has stabilised and steadily improved, with greater influence and a far stronger negotiating position while the rest of the region is embroiled in conflict and insecurity. Strong indicators for Iran’s more powerful position are a) USA and Israel have stopped publicly hallucinating about a military attack against Iran, and b) the P5+1 no longer demand a cessation of all nuclear enrichment activities in Iran as they did during Khatami’s era, and the so-called ‘red lines’ keep moving closer to the 100% enrichment levels. During Ahmadinejad’s presidency, Iran has not stepped back one single step from all her international rights. During Khatami’s presidency, Iran gave up many rights with no gain whatsoever.

9. Iran’s economic self-sufficiency has improved significantly under Ahmadinejad, and reliance on imports and even the export of crude oil has been drastically reduced. Iran is among the largest petrochemicals and steel producers in the region with far higher refining capacity today as compared with Rafsanjani and Khatami administrations. Iran’s economy is far more resilient as a direct result of the sanctions that Ahmadinejad’s administration deliberately and specifically decided to confront and defeat. This has been hard on many people, but is likely to bolster Iran’s position and economy in the long run.

10. Iran’s rate of scientific growth and achievements sky-rocketed during Ahmadinejad’s terms in office. Iran was reported as having the highest rate of scientific growth in the world in 2010. Today, the country is among global leaders in space, nuclear and military technology as well as nanotechnology and stem cell research. Iran’s indigenous military production makes the country by far the greatest conventional military power in the region. All this, while Iran spends the smallest share of its GDP on its military, as compared to the rest of the region and the West’s most warmongering nations such as USA, UK and France.

Advertisements

An illegitimate romance: a CIA-MOSSAD-Al Qaeda threesome

An interesting point about Salafi jihadists — such as Al Qaeda — is that at the same time as they have declared Israel, USA and the Shia sect of Islam as “enemies of Islam’, their actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria have been consistently in service of US, Israeli and Saudi ‘interests’.

iran-next

In September 2001, ‘Al Qaeda attacks’ against the US mainland (9/11) provided the US with the ‘Pearl Harbour’ moment that Cheney and Rumsfeld had pined for back in September 2000 when they published “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century“.

In a chapter entitled ‘Creating Tomorrow’s Dominant Force’, the publication states:

“Moreover, the Pentagon, constrained by limited budgets and pressing current missions, has seen funding for experimentation and transformation crowded out in recent years. Spending on military research and development has been reduced dramatically over the past decade…Further, the process of [technological] transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.“ (pp 50-51)

The document was produced by a ‘Think Tank’ (more like a ‘Think WMD’) established in 1997 with the name: Project for the New American Century or PNAC. It would be no exaggeration to say that PNAC’s vision for the 21st Century was fully reflected in its name.  

Members of this “Think Tank’ included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and John Bolton, all of whom were noisily pushing for regime change in Iraq during the Bill Clinton presidency in the 1990s, and all of whom were members of the Bush Administration.

Not only did the US bomb Taleban-led Afghanistan deeper into the stone age eagerly and remorselessly in 2001 and at the same time established a ‘strong’ military presence in the country, it went ahead and demolished Iraq starting in 2003 on the pretext of destroying weapons that Iraq did not possess.  

Al Qaeda and the Taleban consequently strengthened their own support base in Afghanistan, and on top that spread their influence deeper into Pakistan. Al Qaeda then established a stronghold in Iraq in tandem with the 2003 US invasion of the country. Similarly, Al Qaeda moved into Libya, riding on the back of a NATO bombing campaign in 2011.

Al Qaeda had no presence or any meaningful influence in either Iraq or Libya before the US and NATO wars there. 

Today, Al Qaeda, under the name of “Jabhat ul-Nusra‘, has got itself a firm foothold in Syria, while devouring its infrastructure and destroying its wealth and resources. Their cultural fascism is winning in Syria, and, as an example, Homs has already been ethnically cleansed of its Christians, at a 90% rate.

The violent destruction of non-subservient regimes in Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003) and Libya (2011) was certainly no loss to US, Israeli and Saudi ‘interests’, or at least it seemed so before the outcomes were known, especially in Iraq, where Iran emerged as a clear winner of the war without firing a single shot. 

After the loss of Iraq and an unclear outcome in Libya, the Saudis, Israelis and Americans would certainly love to see Iran (and Russia) lose a strong ally in Syria. At this juncture, Al Qaeda certainly helps their short-term geopolitical ’cause’.

While it is not suggested that there is any evidence for direct collusion between these parties, it is quite likely that Al Qaeda, including Al Nusra mercenaries in Syria, is infiltrated by CIA and MOSSAD agents, and manipulated into the required direction with full Saudi intelligence support. This has been standard operating procedure for both the CIA (for example in infiltrating Hezbollah) and MOSSAD (for example in the recent case of Prisoner X). And Saudi Arabia, is the original home of Al Qaeda, and the birthplace of Salafism.

And it is precisely the Saudi Salafi Jihadists who represent the most potent internal challenge to the Saudi regime, as Salafi ideology can only accept an Islamic state led by a supreme religious as well as political leader known as a ‘Caliph’ ruling over all Muslim lands. What better way for the Saudi monarchs to deal with such an internal threat than to pay them to fight for years to overthrow various foreign foes such as Qaddafi or Assad? This strategy has the added ‘advantage’ of getting many of the same Salafi Jihadists killed in the process: two birds killed with one stone, and never mind the cart full of ‘collateral damage’ in a foreign land.  

And all the while, US hegemony is ‘maintained’ as the ‘true religion’ of this unholy alignment of ‘interests’ raining death on the region. 

Rather ironically, this rain of death is precisely the reason why this ‘axis of convenience’ is gradually but surely losing influence in the region, including for the US’ traditional allies, as the events of the past few years clearly show: 

– Iran continues to grow in influence and stature, resisting all sanctions and other machinations;

– Saudi citizens are increasingly demanding reforms and uneasy about their country’s subservient and destructive role in the region;

– Israel has lost all control of events in its neighbourhood, and is laden with a bomb-cartoonist Prime Minister who was publicly forced to apologize to Turkey by the US recently (unprecedented in Israel’s short history);

– Yemen has been plunged into long-term chaos;

– Bahrain’s oppressive regime has been exposed to the world;

– Jordan’s monarch has become a source of embarrassment to all of his own allies and paymasters, and looks increasingly weaker against Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood;

– Egypt has drifted toward a more independent role with a Muslim Brotherhood government that is clearly at odds with the Persian Gulf’s Arab monarchies as well as Salafi Jihadists;

– Tunisia and Morocco too have moved toward greater independence;

– Turkey has lost a great deal of its credibility on the Arab Street through its warmongering actions against Libya and Syria; and

– Libya has plunged into chaos following the 2011 NATO bombing campaign that ousted Qaddafi. 

The fall in US credibility and influence is clearly tangible at a time of economic troubles for the not-so-super power today, as shown in the latest Arab public opinion polls.

 In the longer-term, the US and its allies will have to contend with a growing band of Salafi Jihadists looking for more wars against their stated enemies, namely USA and Israel, as well as the Shia. By the time they finish with Syria, they will be even more battle-hardened and perhaps even emboldened. And their numbers may grow larger, as repeated cycles of war, economic stagnation and growing poverty in the region will provide them with yet more fodder.

As far as the Salafi Jihadists are concerned, the longer-term interests of Iran, Israel, Syria and USA are currently aligned. It is surprising that there is no apparent cooperation in this area. The only real obstacle that seems to be in the way, is the American and Israeli determination to act like regional hegemons in Iran’s backyard. This is simply unacceptable to Iran.

Iran: Pakistani, Saudi and American terrorism

On December 15th Iran was the victim of yet another terrorist attack by the US-backed “Jundallah” terror group (or “Soldiers of God”), which is also thought to receive support from Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI).

The role of US, Saudi and Pakistani cooperation in nurturing terrorist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan is ‘legendary’ by now. But their cooperation against Iran is less well known.

According to Brezinski: “it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

It is more than a little twisted, but ISI and CIA have the distinction of having raised the Islamists in their own bosoms. The Saudis too have acted as nursing maids, ensuring that Wahhabi extremism is alive and kicking. Real hard too.

The latest civilian victims of US-backed terror were 39 Iranian worshippers blown to high heavens courtesy of Jundallah’s targeting of the Imam Hussain mosque in Chabahar. The same US-backed terrorist group had attacked another Iranian mosque on July 15th this year with two deadly blasts in Zahedan killing 27 civilians who were celebrating the birthday of Imam Hussain . Around a year earlier, on 28 May, the same group had killed around 20 people at a mosque in Zahedan just days before the vote in the contentious Presidential elections last year. Iran’s security forces found and defused another bomb near the blast site.

But the US-backed terror group’s biggest hit was in October 2009 when at least 42 were killed in a mosque in Pisheen, including 7 commanders of the Revolutionary Guards. That attack led to the arrest, trial and execution of Jundallah’s leaders, the Rigi brothers. Interestingly, Iran was able to arrest the Rigi brothers without any known bloodshed in a show of cunning and strategy that put the American intelligence services to shame. Regardless, the terrorist group’s leader was quickly replaced, and their terror attacks against Iranian civilians resumed.

The Sistan and Baluchistan province bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan is the least developed region of Iran with a long and violent history of drug smuggling and human trafficking. This is also a major source of funding support for the Taleban and other Wahhabi terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda. This close political and military connection between the Saudis, regional Wahhabi terrorists, Pakistan’s ISI and the CIA was initiated by USA’s president Carter back in the 1970s, but it was properly consummated by Reagan. The difficult marriage of convenience among such international terrorists continues to date with much marital conflict and numerous extra-marital affairs….

The situation in the border region between Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan has deteriorated through a combination of neglect by Tehran and the provincial authorities; similar neglect by Islamabad; terrorist funding and training by CIA and ISI as well as the Saudis. Tens if not hundreds of Iranian security personnel are murdered or maimed by heavily armed traffickers and terrorists every year. Security is poor and lawlessness abounds. Women are regularly kidnapped and taken across the border, and few people dare venture out after dark even by car. On September 16th this year, a bank employee and five soldiers were kidnapped by the group. They were taken from a bus headed to Zahedan from Chabahar.

But the US-backed terrorists’ reach goes further than the border region alone. In October this year, the group apparently kidnapped Amir Hussein Sherani Bin Mohammad Sherani whom they described as a senior nuclear official. But Iran’s authorities said he was a private contractor.

Jundallah is thought to have been formed around year 2003. Balochis certainly have many legitimate grievances against central government in Iran. However, along with a portion of Iran’s Arabs and Kurds as well as the Mujahedin (MEK), Jundallah constitutes a useful pawn in the American game of regional dominance. Rigi’s confidence grew so much over the years of terrorist activities that on April Fool’s day in 2007 he gave a live interview to that quintessential mouthpiece of American propaganda, Voice of America. VoA’s misinformation sank to the level of introducing Rigi as “Leader of the Iranian people’s resistance movement” during the said interview. April Fool’s day certainly has a mysterious effect on some.

Just a couple of days later, ABC News reported the following on Rigi:

“He used to fight with the Taliban. He’s part drug smuggler, part Taliban, part Sunni activist,” said Alexis Debat, a senior fellow on counterterrorism at the Nixon Center and an ABC News consultant who recently met with Pakistani officials and tribal members.

“Regi is essentially commanding a force of several hundred guerrilla fighters that stage attacks across the border into Iran on Iranian military officers, Iranian intelligence officers, kidnapping them, executing them on camera,” Debat said.

Interestingly, USA recently placed Jundallah on its terror list, and even condemned the latest terrorist attacks by the same group that they have nurtured. This was seen by some as a gesture of goodwill toward Iran in the lead up to the current nuclear negotiations.

However, this change in American posturing is more likely to be connected to deals made over the Maleki government in Iraq after a long period of dispute. It is also indicative of America’s need for Iranian support in Afghanistan.

Having basically lost Iraq to Iran, USA is now more focussed on maximising its gains (or minimising its losses) in Afghanistan. For this purpose, USA appears to be signalling a willingness to ‘sacrifice’ Jundallah as a pawn.

Iran’s unusually stern warning to Pakistan in reaction to the latest Judallah terror attacks can also be interpreted in this light. Iran’s bargaining position against USA, Israel and Saudi Arabia has been strengthened in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. And Iran has successfully brought Turkey into nuclear negotiations. This gives the President added confidence in demanding concrete action from the Pakistanis against Jundallah terrorists operating on her soil.

Postscript: a couple of days after writing this piece, news of arrest of the Jundallah leader was (rather quietly) published:

“Jundullah terror group leader Abdul Rauf Rigi, wanted by Iranian authorities, has been arrested by Pakistan’s army intelligence, according to a media report.”

Iran: Why the petrol subsidies had to go

Iran announced a four-fold increase in the price of petrol as of 20 December . Many hope that this finally will bring the end of the Islamic regime. The timing of this announcement is certainly peculiar. The ongoing sanctions against Iran have been the worst since the era of Mossadegh when Iran’s oil exports were effectively blockaded by British forces and her allies.

Today, just as yesterday, Western media spare no effort to demonize Iran or her President, Ahmadinejad. The Israelis tirelessly dance to their own constant war tune, and Wikileaks has revealed that Iran has some work to do with some of her Arab neighbours too, though this latter claim is rather exaggerated by the way the leaks were reported – see point about Western media above.

Economically too, Iran’s growth has decidedly slowed down since last year, and inflation has only just been brought under control. So why risk inflation with such a huge increase in fuel costs? All in all, one would have thought that Ahmadinejad would be treading lightly for now.

Not so! What is behind the move to remove subsidies? No doubt, several factors are involved. However, it is the economic imperative that has nearly everyone convinced. This includes both domestic and foreign friends and foes alike. Here’s a list of the reasons involved:

– Iran’s main source of foreign currency is oil. Selling it at prices way below the market price is not sensible. The price before the cuts was around 9 cents a litre. In Europe, petrol sells for around $1.70 a litre. When oil was much cheaper, it did not matter that so much of it was given away at production level prices. But when the price rose from $20 a barrel for the longest time to peak at $150 by 2008, it became clear that the situation with the subsidies was untenable.

– add to the above price hike, the reality of a population hike too (from 30 million in the 1970s to 75 million today), and the burden on the treasury is apparent.

– This kind of burden has its most negative impact on investment opportunities that are lost due to recurrent (consumption) costs. In order to safeguard the wealth of the nation, a greater portion of oil income should be spent on productive investments with profitable returns rather than on petrol consumption alone. High subsidies compromise a nation’s future development.

– ‘Until recently, a household of four in Iran gets on average about $4,000 a year in various subsidies on oil and natural gas alone’. It should be remembered that this is merely a calculation based on gross figures. In reality, the bulk of this subsidy would go to rich families that consume far more energy than the average family. Blanket subsidies benefit the rich more than the poor. And they foster a culture of dependence.

– Iran has one of the highest per capita consumptions of fuel in the world, and constitutes the tenth largest polluter among all countries. This results in excessive waste and pollution, and renders the country’s industrial production inefficient, expensive and uncompetitive. Moreover, Iran’s ecology suffers from this pollution, and the health of its citizens is at serious risk from the emissions. “The air pollution in Irans’s capital, Tehran, is said to be so dangerous that one Iranian official described it as a ‘collective suicide‘.”

So the case is clear, and has been for the longest time. But why is this being done now?

After all, Iran is in the midst of grappling with the toughest set of UN sanctions against her, and she does not need any more economic or political trouble. Inflation is barely under control, and many are feeling the pinch of sanctions.

The last time petrol prices rose there was rioting. The BBC reported that ‘At least 12 petrol stations have been torched’. ‘“[President] Ahmadinejad should be killed,” chanted angry youths, throwing stones at police.’

So how is it that in the midst of all this theatre, Ahmadinejad has risked this move? Here are some suggestions for the reasons behind this surprising move:

– Ahmadinejad has the confidence and enough backing to attempt such a steep rise in prices. Although it is early days yet, it appears that a long period of public debate since the announcement of the intention to remove the subsidies some years ago has increased public support for the measure.

–  The abuse of power by the West in imposing sanctions on Iran through the UN route has created a political scapegoat for Iran’s leaders. A worsening economic situation is easily blamed on the sanctions.

– Similarly, the sanctions have cut Iran’s imports, and reduced her investments abroad. This in turn has helped improve Iran’s balance of payments. At $100 billion, Iran’s reserve of foreign currencies is said to be at its highest level ever.

– As part of compensating ordinary citizens for the expected price hikes, Ahmadinejad has promised cash transfers to the tune of $20 to $100 a month. This is likely to be translated into political support in return.

Ahmadinejad’s calculation seems to be risky, but at the same time quite clever. If he manages to pull through this first stage of economic restructuring intact, he will be in a much stronger position to confront both his internal and external opposition more strongly.

Unless the economic situation in Iran leads to an implosion, the most likely future scenario is for recent trends to continue in tandem with a change in the global economic order, namely: further weakening of the West and a strengthening of Ian’s bargaining position.

Ivory Tower Negotiations

There is an interesting twist to the international nuclear road show involving Iran and another six powers this week. President Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying that the West should climb down from “ivory towers”; and “We have said several times that the Iranians will not negotiate with anyone over their basic rights“.

Last year, the group of 6 powers* offered to engage in a nuclear fuel swap deal with Iran. This was rejected mainly due to the fact that there were inadequate guarantees in place to secure Iran’s side of the bargain.

Later, Iran came up with her own proposal involving not just the 6, but also two emerging powers in the shape of Brazil and Turkey. The proposal would have left Iran’s low-enriched uranium in the hands of Turkey as an honest broker with additional safeguards to ensure that Iran could not be cheated.

This latter proposal was rejected by the other parties involved, and instead the US pushed through a new round of Security Council sanctions earlier this year. It was assumed that greater isolation would lead to greater incentives for Iran to yield to foreign pressure.

After much back and forth and a few local and national elections here and there, the group of 6 and Iran appear ready to sit around the table again this month. The former is likely to assume a position of strength after relative yet unconvincing success with the sanctions push.

Iran on the other hand appears to be moving into an unexpected position that assumes even more power than the period before the latest round of sanctions: it appears that Iran is happy to meet with the group of 6, but is refusing to discuss her nuclear enrichment activities or a nuclear swap deal.

It has to be reiterated that Iran has no nuclear weapons, and that the group of 6 and the UN’s IAEA have no proof of any weapons programme in Iran either. Their concocted ‘case’ is ostensibly built around the fuzzy concept of ‘trust’ or the lack of it. Iraq II?

Not for the first time in Iran’s modern history a group of foreign powers are scheming to choke her power. The country is surrounded by foreign invaders across the region and their weapons of mass destruction, and Israel poses an existential threat with her illegal nuclear arsenal – something that the UN’s IAEA barely talks about, let alone address.

So Iran is making it plain that she wants to discuss her security concerns, while the group of 6 have prepared their own items for the agenda. This may actually work because Iran is not willing to discuss other countries’ concerns if her own are not met.

The stage may be set for Iran to make a deal by exchanging her fuel for security guarantees and recognition of her role, particularly in the region. She would at the same time redirect the interrogator’s light back onto those who are actually guilty of causing nuclear proliferation, namely Israel, Pakistan, India and the group of 6 with the possible exception of Germany – assuming that one can ‘trust’ Germany to tell the truth on such issues.

Such a deal would be a good outcome for the non-proliferation agenda, and Iran might after all prove to be a positive influence on global scurity if her strategy works.

Question is, would the actual nuclear proliferators actually let this happen though?

* The group of 6 (5+1) is a nuclear-armed gang of 5 that aims to monopolise world power as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the United States, Russia, France, Britain and China – plus Germany.

Photo: Karkas Mountains, Abyaneh, Iran.

The end of poverty?

This week marks the tenth anniversary of the UN Millennium Summit of September 2000, and a consequent, decade-long focus on the Millennium Development Goals, chief among them being the goal to halve global poverty by the year 2015.

The occasion provides an apt opportunity – if not an obligation – to search for lessons and solutions (see below) with renewed vigour*. The UN development agencies’ approach represented by the likes of Mr. Jeffrey Sachs is well outlined and focused on ‘poverty’. Their results however are quite questionable.

In terms of its message, the kind of remedial action that Mr. Sachs espouses (e.g. debt relief, fighting malaria and doing good) is essential but it largely ignores the imperative for wealth creation. The kind of wealth that is needed to pay for national malaria programmes, or better still to establish a national health care system, would have to come from the local economy or else it would be unsustainable.

Similarly, the tired old World Bank and UNDP insistence on ‘good governance’ has received untimely support from the American president who took the UN General Assembly podium a few days ago to claim it rather unconvincingly as ‘a new approach to development that unleashes transformational change, and allows more people to take control of their own destiny’; whatever that pretty sounding statement means.

His approach includes ‘changing how we view development’, but it still hinges on handouts for welfare. In addition, he will ’seek partners who want to build their own capacity’ and end ‘dependency’**. But he means falling back on old, market-opening mechanisms like the Millennium Challenge Corporation; an approach that boils down to externally imposed ‘good governance’. Oh yes, and ‘economic growth’ is also thrown in as a ‘third pillar’ of USA’s ‘new’ approach to development assistance. How this latter point, or even the first two points have suddenly become ‘new’ to the development debate is something that is best left to Mr. Obama to explain.

A look at the Summit’s own Outcome Document throws light on divisions among the member states of the UN regarding what really works and what does not. Paragraph 23 outlines some ‘lessons and successful policies’, as follows:

23. We take note of the lessons learned and successful policies and approaches in the implementation and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and recognize that with increased political commitment these could be replicated and scaled up for accelerating progress, including by:
(a) Strengthening national ownership and leadership of development strategies;
(b) Adopting forward-looking, macroeconomic policies that promote sustainable development and lead to sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth, increase productive employment opportunities and promote agricultural and industrial development;
(c) Promoting national food security strategies that strengthen support or smallholder farmers and contribute to poverty eradication; etc.

Moving way down the same list to para (n) in the document we see the first mention of ‘governance’ (minus the ‘good’) in the list of ‘lessons’.

This is indicative of the relatively low recognition given to the fuzzy and ill-defined concept of ‘good governance’ among the majority of the UN’s member states as compared to the highest priority given to:

a) ‘national leadership’ (code words for ’stop telling us what to do’ from the developing countries’ perspective; and ‘want what we tell you to want’ from the donors’ perspective);

b) ‘economic growth’ (that has moved far higher on the list of priorities for all developing countries after the economic crisis of recent years); and

c) ‘food security’ (the most basic truism that was somehow not even mentioned in the Millennium Declaration, and was harmed by the IMF and World Bank’s structural adjustment policies).

Unfortunately, most UN agencies and international NGOs have little or no knowledge of how to foster either national leadership or economic growth, and they certainly have not helped with food security. They lack the empathy and approach needed for the first, and the know-how for the second and third. In fact, they usually follow practices and promote policies that negate such efforts by:

i) interfering with and skewing the process of producing national development plans at the direct expense of local actors and stakeholders, and

ii) insisting on non-productive policies and priorities at the direct expense of productive ones.

The above combination has for example been one of the main causes for several poor countries’ neglect of food production in the decades leading to the recent food crisis. The shock provided by the latter to the system has led to new policies that should see most poor countries becoming food sufficient within the next few years, and independently of any aid agencies too.

The countries that have eradicated poverty most effectively since the Millennium Declaration have been the ones that did not follow the likes of the World Bank, UNDP or even the altruistic Mr. Sachs, but acted rather
‘traditionally’ by producing their own successive development plans and actually implementing them over a sustained period regardless of the fine details or the political system in place. These countries are quite disparate, ranging from Taiwan and China to Malaysia, Brazil, Chile, Ghana, South Africa and Qatar.

The worst results have been among the most aid ‘dependent’ and ‘aid minded’ of developing countries; countries whose leaders have not had the backbone to throw out lame policies and lamer ‘development experts’. Countries whose leaders and officials have been bought and sold like Iranian journalists during the Mossadegh era. And countries whose leaders have failed to mobilise the local population and resources.

It is a little known or appreciated fact that today, there are many more foreign ‘administrators’, ‘representatives’, ‘advisers’ and ‘experts’ embedded in the administrative, political and military apparatuses of developing countries than there ever were during the heyday of colonialism. Most of these technical and humanitarian ‘tourists’ use their time in developing countries to beef up their CVs, line up their pockets, enjoy the local delights, and then pack up and leave for another unsuspecting poor country or home before anyone can ask about their achievements.

On the other hand, there is no shortage of ‘alternative solutions’ to ‘end poverty’. Here is an interesting 2-minute take on what is needed according to Mr. Philippe Diaz***:

And if you are intrigued by the taster, here is the first 10 minutes of the same interview.

What is your take on what is needed to ‘end poverty’?
—————————————————–

* Unfortunately, the Summit became more of an occasion for toying with Mr. Ahmadinejad rather than dealing with global poverty.

** As if this would be a ‘find’.

*** I do not necessarily agree with Mr. Diaz’ position on various issues.


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?