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Tag: Iran

New year, new repression

Wednesday, 2 January, 2019

The old year was ebbing towards its end when Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Iran, took to Twitter to wish people “from all races, religions and ethnicities — a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.” This is the height of cynicism, given that Zarif represents a regime that supports terrorism, pushes gays off buildings, forces women to wear mediaeval garb and refuses to allow the people of Iran free access to the internet.

Just as vile as the regime in Tehran is the regime in Hanoi, which has imposed a draconian new law requiring internet companies in Vietnam to remove content the communist authorities regard as “toxic” and compels them to hand over user data if asked to do so. The law also bans internet users from spreading information deemed to be “anti-state or anti-government,” as well as prohibiting use the internet to “distort history” and “post false information that could cause confusion and damage to socio-economic activities.” The law came into force a week after Vietnam’s Association of Journalists announced a new code of conduct on the use of social media, forbidding its members to post news and photos that “run counter to” the state.”


Woman of the Year 2018

Friday, 28 December, 2018

No, the Rainy Day award is not going to Camille Paglia, the essayist, author, and professor of humanities at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she has taught since 1984. She would be a worthy winner, however. “I am an equity feminist,” says Paglia. “I demand equal opportunity for women through the removal of all barriers to their advance in the professional and political realms. However, I oppose special protections for women as inherently paternalistic and regressive.”

It was Paglia who said that a society that respects neither religion nor art cannot be called a civilization, and a prime example of a society that cannot be called a civilization is Iran. The 1979 revolution that led to the establishment of an Islamic republic suffocated artistic expression in Iran, and the mullahs have used Islam to spread terror abroad and enforce totalitarianism at home. As a result, the hijab has become compulsory and Iranian women are required to wear loose-fitting clothing and a headscarf in public.

Yasaman Aryani opposes this perversion but she’s paid a high price for her defiance. Still, she’s unbowed and that’s why she’s our Woman of the Year.


Russian thuggery in the Sea of Azov

Thursday, 29 November, 2018

Austin Bay says:

“Putin’s Kremlin specializes in adding complex twists to blatant falsehoods. There is no evidence the Ukrainian ships did anything but try to avoid being intercepted. Russian territorial water? To buy that you must accept Russia’s illegal seizure of the peninsula. However, the strait is an internationally recognized waterway open to transit by commercial shipping and naval vessels. Kerch is comparable to other straits around the globe, like the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Iran routinely threatens to close Hormuz to shipping, but to do so would violate freedom of navigation and constitute an act of war.”

Excerpt from On Point: Russia’s War with Ukraine Goes to Sea.


Autocrats have a very high friend in Brussels

Wednesday, 10 January, 2018 0 Comments

“If @FedericaMog didn’t exist, the world’s autocrats would be trying to invent her.” So tweeted @EliLake yesterday. Background:

“As the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs, she is a tireless advocate for engaging rogue states. Few diplomats though have pursued this kind of engagement with such moralizing puffery. In Mogherini’s world, diplomacy with dictators should not aim to transition these countries to open societies, but rather to prevent conflicts at all costs.”

That’s from Europe’s High Representative for Appeasement, in which Lake highlights the disgraceful conduct of Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Snippet:

“Just consider her trip last week to Cuba, a plantation masquerading as a nation-state. Did Mogherini use her visit to call attention to the struggle of human rights activists or to comfort the families of political prisoners? No, Mogherini was in Cuba to reassure a regime that Europe will not go along with America’s trade embargo.”

Shabby and all as Mogherini’s behaviour in Cuba was, her position on Iran is horrifying:

“Mogherini’s ideology is a particular tragedy in the case of Iran. The West can help aid Iran’s freedom movement by linking the regime’s treatment of its people, and particularly its political prisoners, to economic and political engagement. The U.S. has some leverage here, but Europe — because so many of its businesses want a piece of Iran’s economy — has far more.

As Suzanne Maloney, an Iran expert at the Brookings Institution, told me this week: ‘This is the European moment on Iran.’ Europe’s response to the regime’s violent suppression of protests after the stolen election of 2009 was firm. The EU should send the same message today: ‘We are not going to sustain political and economic engagement with a country engaged in the suppression of peaceful protests,’ she said.

So far Mogherini and the Europeans have delivered the opposite message. On Monday, the high representative invited Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, to Brussels next week for more discussions on the Iran nuclear deal. Alireza Nader, an Iran expert at the RAND Corporation, told me this week that Mogherini’s statement on Iran was ‘saying both sides are equal, when it’s Iranian security forces that are shooting and killing people.'”

Iran, Cuba, Russia and North Korea have a friend in very high places in Brussels. That’s bad news for everyone, apart from autocrats, of course.

Federica Mogherini


A Persian Spring?

Saturday, 30 December, 2017 0 Comments

“The protests started Thursday in Mashhad, Iran’s second-most populous city, ostensibly as a revolt against rising prices, corruption and unemployment. The demonstrations soon spread across the country and have grown into a broader display of discontent with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani’s repressive regime. Twitter has been a venue for videos of the protests in various cities, with demonstrators shouting slogans like ‘Death to the dictator!'”

That’s from The Wall Street Journal and the story is titled, “New Protests in Iran: Demonstrations spread against the regime and its imperial adventures“. Our sincere hope now for 2018 is a Persian Spring.

The image below is from 1979. That was the year liberals and leftists and feminists in the West failed to support the women of Iran in their struggle against religious oppression in the name of cultural tolerance and moral relativism. Let’s not let it happen again.

Women in Iran protest against Islamic oppression


Storytelling the year 2035

Wednesday, 25 January, 2017 0 Comments

Did anyone ask the “experts” 10 or 20 years ago to predict who’d be inaugurated as US President in 2017? We know what the pollsters said on 8 November and we know how that turned out. Still, there’s an insatiable demand for a glimpse of the future, no matter how far-fetched, and there’s a tidy industry devoted to churning out the visions. Consider two new studies: the National Intelligence Council’s “Global Trends: Paradox of Progress” and the Atlantic Council’s “Global Risks 2035: The Search for the New Normal.” Both look at the year 2035.

Each of them offers a somewhat similar views of a world in which the United States is more insular, while China, Russia and Iran have become more aggressive regional powers. Technology continues to innovate but economic growth is uneven. In 2035, people are flooding from the land into megacities of 10 million or more, growing the number of such metropolises from 30 now to 41 in 2030.

For its scenarios, the Atlantic Council presents a variety of fictional situations written in part by August Cole, author of Ghost Fleet, a near-future military thriller published last year about an America-China conflict in the Pacific. Cole drew upon the Atlantic Council’s The Art of the Future Project, which uses fictional depictions of the future “to inform official perspectives on emerging international security issues.” Example: “Fingers on the Scale,” a short story by Mike Matson about an app that allows parents to boost their children’s academic achievements, and which is on the homescreen of all rulers of despotic nations. To prevent nasty countries from developing the intellectual calibre of their elites, however, the CIA steps in to limit the abilities of the despots’ offspring. Langley saves the West again!

The future is always just around the corner, which means lots of people in Washington and Brussels can now make a nice living creating infographics about what might come after the present. August Cole is saying, though, that storytelling can be just as useful as trend-line graphs for forecasting. And, if those don’t satisfy, there are the stars. In the 1980s, the Reagan White House turned to Joan Quigley for astrological advice.

Ghost Fleet


Who will buy the New York Times?

Friday, 6 May, 2016 0 Comments

“We have tried everything we could but sadly we just haven’t reached the sales figures we needed to make it work financially,” New Day editor, Alison Phillips, on Facebook yesterday. Birthed on 22 February, the newspaper was buried on 5 May.

How can the world’s remaining newspapers avoid the grim fate of New Day? Well, the New York Times is getting into the food delivery business, Bloomberg reports: “This summer, the New York Times will begin selling ingredients for recipes from its NYT Cooking website as the newspaper publisher seeks new revenue sources to offset declines in print. The Times is partnering with meal-delivery startup Chef’d, which will send the ingredients to readers within 48 hours.”

The NYT is also placing a bet on travel. “Times Journeys” charges readers thousands for tours of theocracies and autocracies like Iran and Cuba. “Chernobyl: Nuclear Tourism” is packaged as “A journey focused on science & nature,” while “An Exploration of Southeast Asia” is undertaken “Aboard the 264-passenger L’Austral, designed to serve both the chic and the casual.” The vessel is “sleek and intimate” and “you’ll feel as if you were on your own private yacht.” With the “Owner’s Suite” priced from $18,390, one would hope so.

Earlier this year, the Financial Times, in a “Big Read” piece by Henry Mance titled “UK newspapers: Rewriting the story,” pronounced the newspaper business dead on delivery. There is no viable economic model for a written news product, Mance concluded. There is, of course, the FT’s solution to the problem. It sold itself to Japan’s Nikkei last summer for $1.3 billion. So, who will buy the New York Times?


Putin, perfidy and pastry

Saturday, 23 April, 2016 2 Comments

There are many compelling reasons to read Palace of Treason by Jason Matthews. Perfidy is one. The villainy of Russia under Putin is well documented by non-Russian media, but it acquires a new pungency in a fiction that mirrors fact. Snippet:

“What fuelled the Kremlin kleptocracy, what motivated it, was not to bring back the Soviet Union, nor to reinstall the worldwide dread generated by the Red Army, nor to formulate a foreign policy based on national security requirements. In Russia today, everything happened to maintain the nadzirateli, the overseers, to protect their power, to continue looting the country’s patrimony.”

The characters in Palace of Treason ping-pong around the world — from Paris to Moscow to Athens to Vienna to Washington — as they attempt to steal secrets and outdo each other in a deadly game of influence zones, encompassing Europe and the Middle East. All of this activity demands feeding and Jason Matthews has come up with a novel touch: each chapter ends with a short recipe for one of the delicacies consumed by the protagonists. When an Iranian nuclear scientist is caught in a honey trip, he’s served shirini keshmeshi: Persian pastries dotted with raisins. “Jamshedi goggled at the cakes. Here he was, sitting with a blackmailing Russian intelligence officer, spilling his country’s secrets, and this prostitute was serving him the confection of this childhood.”

Palace of Treason recipe for shirini keshmeshi: “Thoroughly mix flour, sugar, melted butter, vegetable oil and eggs. Add saffron diluted in warm water, small raisins, and vanilla extract. Blend well. Put dollops of dough on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan and bake in a medium oven until golden brown.”

Palace of Treason


Obama, Carter, Iran and the endless apology

Wednesday, 13 January, 2016 2 Comments

“As we speak, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program, shipped out its uranium stockpile, and the world has avoided another war.” So declared President Obama last night in his 2016 State of the Union Address. Hot on the heels of that bold statement came the news that Iran had detained two US navy boats for “violating” Gulf waters. The BBC reported (gleefully?): “US apologises for Iran naval incursion — Revolutionary Guards.” Back in November, Reuters headlined a story thus: “Rouhani says U.S.-Iran ties could be restored but U.S. must apologize.”

Since the days of Jimmy Carter, the Washington-Tehran relationship seems to trapped in the aspic of permanent disunion, with one side claiming constant improvement and the other wallowing in abiding victimization. As Gaddis Smith put it: “President Carter inherited an impossible situation — and he and his advisers made the worst of it.” And it’s not much better today. With that in mind, the next occupant of the White House might consider reading some P.G. Wodehouse: “It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.” The Man Upstairs and Other Stories.


Pot luck at the Iranian souk in Abu Dhabi

Tuesday, 5 January, 2016 0 Comments

The coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) stretches for more than 650 km along the southern shore of the Persian Gulf. It’s a tough neighbourhood, as current headlines prove, but despite their Sunni/Shi’a differences, the UAE and Iran have a working relationship because of their economic ties across the Strait of Hormuz.

One can see this cross-border trade in action in the “Iranian souk” at Mina Port in Abu Dhabi. Here, the bargain hunter will find carpets (frequently from Pakistan), pottery, plastic stuff (mostly from China) and kitchen utensils, especially pots. Some of these could hold a sheep, comfortably, and they evoke visions of meals for families where “extended” takes on a completely new meaning. Two rules: Shoppers are expected to haggle before buying and women should not visit on their own.

The Iranian souk in Abu Dhabi


Shia and Sunni and the Thirty Years scenario

Monday, 27 January, 2014 0 Comments

“This is a conflict which is not only bigger than al-Qa’eda and similar groups, but far bigger than any of us. It is one which will re-align not only the Middle East, but the religion of Islam.” So writes Douglas Murray in the current issue of The Spectator in a piece titled “Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the Middle East’s 30 year war.” Murray contends that the slaughter in Syria is, in reality, a proxy war between Saudi and Iran, between the Shia and Sunni factions of Islam. “There are those who think that the region as a whole may be starting to go through something similar to what Europe went through in the early 17th century during the Thirty Years’ War, when Protestant and Catholic states battled it out,” he says, warning that the current savagery will be exceeded in barbarity when the “gloves come off.”

The former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is sounding a similar alarm. “Religious difference, not ideology, will fuel this century’s epic battles” he claimed in yesterday’s Observer. Citing a “ghastly roll call of terror attacks” in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia, Burma, Thailand and the Philippines, he declares that these “are perpetrated by people motivated by an abuse of religion. It is a perversion of faith. But there is no doubt that those who commit the violence often do so by reference to their faith and the sectarian nature of the conflict is a sectarianism based on religion.”

If there is to be peace, we need to study faith and globalisation and agree on the place of religion in modern society. With this in mind, in collaboration with Harvard Divinity School, Tony Blair’s Faith Foundation, will launch a website later this year that will provide “up-to-date analysis of what is happening in the field of religion and conflict; in-depth analysis of religion and its impact on countries where this is a major challenge; and basic facts about the religious make-up and trends in every country worldwide.” It’s not a solution, but it is a sign and it’s a necessary sign because the latest Pew report on global religious Hostilities doesn’t make for pretty reading. “The sharpest increase was in the Middle East and North Africa, which still is feeling the effects of the 2010-11 political uprisings known as the Arab Spring.”

Meanwhile, a glance at the devastating history of the original Thirty Years’ War should encourage everyone to work to prevent a modern-day re-enactment.

War