Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

President Trump and his new axis of evil

September 20, 2017

President Donald Trump said this to say in his address to the United Nations yesterday—

We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions or even systems of government.  But we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties: to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.

He went on to say—

Rogue regimes represented in this body not only support terrorists but threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity.

I think these would be excellent points, if only he had applied them to the United States as well as the rest of the world.

He called for an intensification of economic and diplomatic warfare against North Korea, Iran and Venezuela, his new axis of evil.

How is this in the interest of the American people?  How is this consistent with respecting national sovereignty?   Are not North Korea, Iran and Venezuela sovereign nations?

The United States has paid radical jihadist terrorists to overthrow the government of Libya and is attempting to use them to overthrow the government of Syria—two sovereign states that never have threatened the United States.   The result has been to reduce these two countries to chaos and misery, as the cost of thousands of innocent lives.

President Trump in that very speech threatened another nation with the most destructive weapons known to humanity—

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.

He accused the North Korean government of starving and torturing its own people, and various other crimes, which were real though not necessarily current.  But then he threatened an even worse atrocity.

To be fair, it is not clear whether he is threatening North Korea with attack merely if it fails to disarm or whether he is threatening retaliation in the event of an attack, which is different.

This ambiguity may be deliberate on President Trump’s part; he may think keeping others guessing is a good negotiating strategy.   Where nuclear weapons are concerned, this is dangerous.  It may lead the other person to think he has nothing to lose by launching an attack.

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ISIS vs. Iran: which side should we be on?

June 7, 2017

The ISIS attack on Iran shows the alignment of alliances in the Middle East.

On one side, there are Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates, Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and also Israel.

On the other, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.

If the U.S. aim is to crush Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, why does the U.S. side with Saudi Arabia against Iran?

If you think Iran is the problem, ask yourself:

When was the last time that Iranian-backed terrorists attacked people in Europe or North America?

When was the last time that terrorists backed by Al Qaeda or ISIS attacked people in Israel?

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Donald Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia

May 24, 2017

I came across this picture a couple of days ago and wondered what it was.

It is a ceremony conducted Monday in honor of the opening of the Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Saudi Arabia.

The participants touching the glowing orb are Egypt’s President Abdul-Fatah Al-Sisi, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and President Donald Trump.

The name of the center is ironic, because Saudi Arabia is the center for extremist ideology in the Arab world.

Saudi Arabia pays for missionaries to spread Wahabism (or Salafism), a highly intolerant version of Islam.  Wahabists believe that Shiites and other Sunnis are not true Muslims.

Hassan Rouhani

King Salman and his son, Prince Mohammad bin Salman, are  waging a bombing campaign against Shiite villagers in Yemen, is stepping up aid to rebels in Syria and is trying to organize a Sunni Arab military alliance against Iran.

Voters in Iran, meanwhile, have re-elected President Hassan Rouhani, the moderate reformer who negotiated the nuclear deal with the USA.

Rouhani is more democratic and peaceable than the hereditary Saudi rulers.  He has won honest and contested elections.  The range of choices in Iranian elections is limited because the ayatollahs vet candidates.  But you could say the same about U.S. elections, except that our candidates are vetted by big-money donors.

The Saudis seek regime change in Syria and Yemen; Rouhani seeks increased trade and investment.   In Middle East geopolitics, the Saudi monarchy is the aggressor, the Iranian clerical regime is the one on the defensive.

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Why do Trump, the GOP oppose peace with Iran?

January 12, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress say they want to cancel the agreement for controls on Iran’s nuclear program.

This would have two bad results.

Iran and its neighbors

Iran and its neighbors

It would strengthen the hard-liners in Iran who want their country to have nuclear weapons capability, and who opposed the agreement in the first-place.

It would undermine one of Trump’s announced goals, which is to form an alliance dedicated to fighting the Islamic  State (aka ISIS or ISIL), Al Qaeda and their offshoots.

Juan Cole, a historian of the Middle East, reported that many Iranians are happy about the election of Trump.  Trump is friendly with Iran’s ally, Russia, and wants to aid another Iranian ally, the Assad government in Syria, against its enemies, the Sunni extremist rebels fighting Syria.

So if the United States is an ally of Iran’s allies, and an enemy of its enemies, the U.S. should be an ally of Iran.  Isn’t that logical?

And, in any case, resuming sanctions against Iran would not produce a better deal.

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A Muslim veteran against Islamophobia

November 11, 2016

Nate Terani is a Muslim, the grandson of Iranian immigrants and a U.S. Navy veteran.  He also is a member of a new organization called Veterans Challenge Islamophobia.

He grew up in central New Jersey, but, in 1985, the eight-year-old Terani was taken on a visit with his family to his ancestral homeland.  While there, he was enrolled in a special bilingual school for children who had grown up in Western countries.

One day soldiers, in green and black uniforms, broke into the classroom, dragged the children into a courtyard and ordered them to watch the flags of their home countries being set on fire.

Nate Terani in his Navy days

Nate Terani in his Navy days

The children were ordered at gunpoint to trample on the burning flags and shout, “Death to America.”

Instead Terani snatched a burning American flag off the ground and darted through the legs of the watching crowd before the soldiers could catch him.

His experience reinforced his love of country and gave him a new understanding of the evil of religious hatred.

In 1996, at age 19, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy.   He must have been an outstanding recruit.  He reported that he was the first Muslim-American member of the Navy Presidential Honor Guard.

In 1998, he became special assistant to the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, and, in 1999, he was recruited to serve in the Defense Intelligence Agency.   He transferred to the Navy Reserve in 2000 and completed his military service in 2006.

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Saudi be-headings and Iranian hangings

January 13, 2016

The fundamental fallacy which is committed by almost everyone is this: “A and B hate each other, therefore one is good and the other is bad.”         ==Bertrand Russell, in 1956

Execution in Saudi Arabia

Execution in Saudi Arabia

One thing to remember about the escalating Saudi-Iran conflict is that the two sides are more alike than they are different.   Both are countries in which you can be executed for expressing forbidden political or religious opinions.

The Iranian government has denounced Saudi Arabia for its execution of the dissident Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, along with 46 other opponents of the regime.  But the Iranian government in fact executes more people in any given year than the Saudi government.

Execution in Iran

Execution in Iran

The world death penalty leader is China, followed by Iran as No. 2 and Saudi Arabia as No. 3.

The Saudi government executes people by be-headings, which is gruesome but, if done by a skilled headsman, is relatively quick, even compared to U.S. electrocutions and chemical injections.

The main Iranian method of execution is by slow strangulation, which can take as long as 20 minutes.

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The recklessness of declining powers.

January 8, 2016

Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, wrote the following for Al Jazeera America.

The escalating tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran is the story of a declining state desperately seeking to reverse the balance of power shifting in favor of its rising rival.

160104_saudi_iran-map_0History teaches us that it is not rising states that tend to be reckless, but declining powers.  Rising states have time on their side.  They can afford to be patient: They know that they will be stronger tomorrow and, as a result, will be better off postponing any potential confrontation with rivals.

Declining states suffer from the opposite condition: Growing weaker over time, they know that time is not on their side; their power and influence is slipping out of their hands. 

So they have a double interest in an early crisis: First, their prospects of success in any confrontation will diminish the longer they wait, and second, because of the illusion that a crisis may be their last chance to change the trajectory of their regional influence and their prospects vis-à-vis rivals.

When their rivals — who have the opposite relationship with time — seek to deescalate and avoid any confrontation, declining states feel they are left with no choice but to instigate a crisis.

Saudi Arabia is exhibiting the psychology of a state that risks losing its dominant position and whose losing hand is growing weaker and weaker. … …

Source: Al Jazeera America

The observations I quoted would be just as true if Parsi had substituted “the USA” for Saudi Arabia and “China” for Iran.  Since the Vietnam era, American political leaders have entered into conflicts just to prove that we Americans were strong and willing to fight, while the Chinese leaders have quietly made their country stronger.

I don’t know what the future holds for Iran or China, but I have no doubt that we Americans need to change direction or we will lose what power we have.

Saudi leaders heat up Sunni-Shiite conflict.

January 7, 2016

Saudi Arabia is heating up the Sunni-Shiite conflict in the Middle East.  I think the U.S. government should think long and hard about letting the Saudis draw Americans further into it.

The Saudi Arabian government recently executed 47 opponents of the regime, including radical Sunni jihadists and the Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

I think this means that the Saudi government feels threatened by the radical Sunni jihadist movements, and wants to redirect their rage outward by stepping up the conflict with Iran and with Shiites generally.

Either Sunni jihadists are killed fighting in Syria and other places, or Saudi Arabia’s enemies—Iran and its ally Syria—are weakened.

Green indicates Shia predominance

Dark green indicates Shia predominance

The Sunni-Shiite conflict in the Middle East involved families who’ve lived side-by-side in peace for decades.  Why are they at each others’ throats now?

I thinks that it is because the Sunnis and Shiites are used as proxies in a struggle for political power among Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates, Iran, Turkey and Israel.

And this is overlaid by an economic struggle for control of oil and gas resources and pipeline routes.   It so happens that Shiites, although a minority in the Muslim world as a whole, are a majority in the oil and gas regions.

And all this has been made worse by the murderous and ineffective intervention of my own country, the United States.

But the tragic conflict also is kept going by the need of the Saudi royal family to appease Wahhabi jihadist clerics.

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Why I trust the ayatollahs on nuclear weapons

January 7, 2016
Ayatollah Khameini

Ayatollah Khameini

The Ayatollah Seyyid Hosseini Khameini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, said that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons because this is contrary to Islamic teachings.

I believe him.  The reason that I believe him is that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq used chemical weapons, including mustard gas and nerve gas, in his 1980-1988 war against Iran, and Iran never developed or used poison gas of its own.

The then Ayatollah Ruhbollah Khomeini ruled that use of chemical weapons, and also nuclear weapons were contrary to Islamic law.  Instead Iran defended itself against the invaders by sacrificing its young men in human wave attacks.

When I consider the history of how the United States developed and used atomic weapons, and our “balance of terror” strategy during the cold war, I cannot imagine my government behaving with such restraint under such circumstances.  In fact, if I were an Iranian leader today, threatened with attack by war hawks in the USA and Israel, I would want nuclear weapons as a deterrent.

I think Iran’s ayatollahs have earned the right to be believed on this issue.

Who will fight for the U.S. against ISIS?

December 15, 2015

The Syrian situation reminds me of a remark by Adam Smith in (I think) The Wealth of Nations — about how masterminds who think of themselves as master chess players, using other people like pieces on a chessboard, will find the people they think they are manipulating are actually playing their own game.

image-931841-panoV9free-whwk-931841The aims of the U.S. government in the Middle East are, in no particular order, to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, to counter the growing power of Iran and to destroy the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh).

The bitter experience of the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions means that the American people will not tolerate a large-scale intervention with ground troops, so American leaders, including the principal Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, look for pawns to carry out U.S. purposes.

Here is a rundown on these pawns and the games they are playing.

  • Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirate governments, all predominantly Sunni Arab nations, fear the rise of Shiite Iran and Shiite power in Iraq much more than they do Sunni Arab ISIS or al Qaeda.   To the extent they fear ISIS and al Qaeda, it is more as an internal threat, and they are happy to see their local rebels go off to fight and maybe die for ISIS.   The Saudi government doesn’t crack down on individuals who contribute to ISIS because they reflect the beliefs of Wahabism (aks Salafism), the harsh version of Sunni Islam that rules Saudi Arabia.
  • The Kurds in northern Syria and Iraq are fighting ISIS effectively, but they are fighting to defend themselves and their goal of an independent Kurdistan, to be carved out of the existing territory of Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran, not as part of any overall “war on terror”.  They aren’t going to give up that goal just because it is inconvenient to the USA.
  • The Turkish government desires the overthrow of the Assad government in Syria and the suppression of Kurdish nationalism more than suppression of ISIS.  Oil from ISIS-controlled territory enters Turkey, and money and arms go from Turkey to ISIS.  Turkish politicians talk of the glories of the Ottoman Empire and of the unity of ethnic Turks across Asia.
  • The Iraqi government desires to prevent breakaway movements, whether ISIS, other Sunni Arab fighters or Kurds.
  • CQfwkI2WwAALwwnThe Sunni Arab militias and tribal leaders in Iraq blame the United States for overthrowing Saddam Hussein and setting up an Iraqi government dominated by Shiite Arabs, so they’re not willing to be U.S. proxies in a campaign against ISIS.
  • The Shiite Arab militias in Iraq hate ISIS, but their leaders distrust the United States and won’t work with Americans.
  • The “moderate Arab” rebels in Syria primarily desire to get rid of Bashar al-Assad and talk about fighting ISIS primarily to obtain U.S. weapons – many of which wind up in the hands of ISIS, al-Nusra and like groups.
  • The Iranian government desires to support Shiite Muslims against all enemies, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey or ISIS, and to defend Syria and also Hezbollah, which represents the Shiite Muslims in Lebanon.
  • The Syrian government is an enemy of ISIS because ISIS is an existential threat to its existence.  But the Assad regime regards the other Syrian rebels and the Kurdish separatists as equally threatening

This leaves Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  Putin justifiably fears the influence of ISIS and other jihadist terrorists on the large Muslim population in the Caucasus and other regions of the Russian Federation.  He also wants to defend Russia’s Syrian ally and keep Russia’s naval station in Syria.  But for him, the war against ISIS is a war of self-defense, not merely a means of extending Russian influence.

If fighting ISIS is the top U.S. priority, then the U.S. government should find a way to cooperate with Russia against ISIS.  If the U.S. government is unwilling to cooperate with Russia against ISIS, then fighting ISIS is not the top U.S. priority.

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Weekend reading: Links & comments 10/30/2015

October 30, 2015

The Midwife to Chaos and Her Perjury by Andrew Napolitano for The Unz Review.

Republican attacks on President Obama and the Clintons generally amount to straining at gnats while swallowing camels.  The House Benghazi Committee’s questioning of Hillary Clinton fits this pattern.

She was questioned for 10 hours, nearly continuously, for her alleged neglect of security leading to the murder of an American diplomat in Benghazi, Libya.  But nobody asked her about why she instigated a war against a country that did not threaten the United States, throwing innocent people leading normal lives into bloody anarchy.

And incidentally providing a new recruiting ground for terrorists..

The 6 Reasons China and Russia Are Catching Up to the U.S. Military on Washington’s Blog.

China Sea Blues: A Thing Not to Do by Fred Reed for Fred on Everything.

Just because the United States has the world’s largest and most expensive military doesn’t mean we have the world’s best military.  We Americans are complacent because of our wealth, and because we have not faced a serious threat to our existence in 70 years.

Our leaders think we can afford to waste money on high-tech weapons that don’t work, and military interventions that aren’t vital to American security.  Other nations, which have less margin of safety and would be fighting near their own borders, may be a match for us.

FBI Accused of Torturing U.S. Citizen Abroad Can’t Be Sued by Christian Farias for The Huffington Post.

Nowadays the Constitution stops where national security and foreign policy begin.

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Will Russia take sides in Shiite-Sunni conflict?

October 22, 2015
Click to enlarge.

Double click to enlarge.

The Sunni-Shiite war is a tragedy, but it would burn itself out if Saudi Arabia and Iran were not using the two Islamic factions are proxies in their struggle for power in the Middle East.

The lineup is Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and the Shiite militias on one side, and Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates, Turkey and the Sunni militias on the other.

The U.S. government has inflamed the conflict further by taking the side of Saudi Arabia.  This has undermined our “war on terror,” because Al Qaeda and ISIS are among the Saudi-backed Sunni militias warring against Syria.

Now Russia is befriending Iran and giving military assistance to Syria, and the Shiite-dominated government of Iraq is thinking of calling in Russian help.  All this is in the name of fighting ISIS, which is a good thing, not a bad thing.  But if Russia is lining up permanently with Iran’s proxies against the U.S.-backed Saudi proxies, this is quite another thing.

A U.S.-Russian proxy conflict would increase human suffering in the Middle East, and be of no benefit to the American or Russian peoples  It would be dangerous for the world..  Washington should open negotiations with Moscow to keep the conflict from escalating further.

LINKS

Isis in Iraq: Shia leaders want Russian air strikes against militant threat by Patrick Cockburn for The Independent (via the Unz Review)

The Return of the Syrian Army by Robert Fisk for The Independent (via Counterpunch)

Putin Forces Obama to Capitulate on Syria by Mike Whitney for Counterpunch.

Turkish Whistleblowers Corroborate Seymour Hersh Report of False Flag Syrian Gas Attack by Peter Lee for China Matters.

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Glimpses of Asia – September 19, 2015

September 19, 2015

I received the following links from my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack and his friend Marty.

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The Kabul college turning street children into musicians, a photo story in The Guardian.

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This Vietnamese University Is Turning Its Campus Into a Forest by Shaunacy Ferro for Mental Floss.

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bathroomhed

This Simple Toilet Can Improve Health and Safety by Kirstin Fawcett for Mental Floss.

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How the hijab has made sexual harassment worse in Iran by a Tehran Bureau correspondent for The Guardian.

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Why doesn’t the U.S. help Iran fight ISIS?

September 14, 2015

iran4

The European refugee crisis is due mainly to the Islamic State’s reign of terror in parts of Syria.

Bashar al-Assad is a ruthless dictator who will do whatever it takes to stay in power.  But his regime doesn’t mutilate and kill people because of their religion or lifestyle.   People of different religions and ethnicities have co-existed peacefully under his government.

This is not true of the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh).  Under their rule, you are not safe unless you are willing to live under their extreme and wrong ideas of what Islam was like in the days of Mohammad.

Since the surge of millions of refugees into Europe directly affects U.S. allies, and since ISIS is the direct cause of this crisis, why does the United States hesitate to join forces with the Iranian government, which is the main enemy of ISIS?

Gareth Porter, writing for Middle East Eye, has a good idea of the reasons:

US policy toward the Middle East has long been defined primarily not by threats originating in the region but by much more potent domestic political interests, both electoral and bureaucratic.

The power of the Israel lobby in Washington, primarily but not exclusively over Congress, is well known, and that has imposed a rigid political and legal framework of hostility toward Iran on the US government for two decades, beginning with a complete trade embargo that remains in place and creates major obstacles to any shift in policy.

What is seldom acknowledged, however, is that the interests of the Pentagon, the CIA and the NSA have become tightly intertwined with those of the anti-Iran coalition in the Middle East.

A set of mutually reinforcing bureaucratic interests now binds US policy to an alliance structure and military and intelligence programmes in the Middle East that have come to replace objective analysis of regional realities in determining US policy.

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Why the United States needs Saudi Arabia

September 8, 2015

CN-7y-4VEAMfSQ7

This chart, which I found on Ukraine’s Euromaiden Press web site, indicates how much Russia is suffering from the world decline in oil prices.

But why are oil prices falling?  It is because Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, is committed to pumping oil in large volume instead of shutting back in order to prop up the price.

What gives the Saudis so much leverage is that their production costs are low, and they can make a profit at a lower price than can Russians, Venezuelans or others.

That’s why the U.S. supports Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy, and why President Obama recently reassured King Salman that the U.S. will continue its cold war against Iran despite the agreement with Iran over sanctions and nuclear facilities inspections.

My question is whether it is in the U.S. interest to wage cold war against either Iran or Russia.  There is no moral issue here.  The Iranian and Russian regimes are bad enough, but everything bad you can truthfully say about them goes double or triple or maybe 10 times for Saudi Arabia.

Will Russia intervene militarily in the Mideast?

September 3, 2015

I read a couple of interesting posts during the past couple of days about Russia increasing its political and maybe its military presence in the Middle East.

I don’t know what to make of them, and I have no way of knowing what is on President Vladimir Putin’s mind.

Bashar_and_Asmaa_al-Assad_in_Moscow

Syria’s al Assad and wife in Moscow

I do know that, if I were in Putin’s place, with the USA and its NATO allies stirring up trouble in nations bordering mine, I would look for ways to stir up trouble for the USA and NATO.

If I were Putin, I would see ISIS as a threat, and look join forces with Syria, Iran and other anti-ISIS forces.

A pro-Russian, pro-Putin blogger who calls himself the Saker says that Putin has neither the desire nor the power to project Russian power any great distance from what the Russians call their “near abroad.”

The Saker pointed to the Russian Federation’s military oath, which is to defend the Fatherland.  It says nothing about invading foreign countries.

But the American military oath is to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution.  It also says nothing about invading foreign countries, and this hasn’t proved a limitation.  As the Saker remarked, U.S. foreign policy resembles the old Soviet “international duty” to intervene globally wherever necessary to defend supporters and defeat enemies.

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The passing scene – August 21, 2015

August 21, 2015

Our infant mortality rate is a national embarrassment by Christopher Ingraham for the Washington Post.  Hat tip to the Mahablog.

The phony unprincipled war on Planned Parenthood by Mary Sanchez of the Kansas City Star (via the Baltimore Sun)

The American infant mortality rate is the highest among developed nations.  The infants of rich Americans have as good a chance of survival as children anywhere in the world, but in the United States, like in countries such as Austria and Finland, the survival rate of children of poor, uneducated parents is much less.

Also, the United States has the same maternal mortality rate as Hungary and Iran.  People who are pro-life and pro-choice ought to agree that something should be done about this.

President Jimmy Carter’s amazing last wish by Sarah Kliff and Dylan Matthews for Vice news.

The Carter Center has nearly eradicated a horrible disease called Guinea worm, which was prevalent in Africa, by promoting common-sense public health measures.  President Carter’s last wish, expressed in his press conference on his brain cancer, is to follow through to eradicate the Guinea worm entirely.

Finland considers basic income to reform welfare system by Maija Unkuri for BBC News.

Finland is experimenting with a pilot project to guarantee everyone a basic minimum income regardless of whether they are employed or not.  It will be very interesting to see how this works out.

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The passing scene – August 19, 2015

August 19, 2015

On the elementary structure of domination: The Bully’s Pulpit by David Graeber for The Baffler.

Schoolyard bullies typically believe they have a right and duty to punish and humiliate those who manifest vulnerability, fear or deviance, and they retroactively justify their actions by the inappropriate ways in which their victims resist, Graeber wrote; this reflects the structure of domination in the larger society.

Algorithms can be a digital star chamber by Frank Pasquale for Aeon.

An algorithm fed into a computer can determine whether you get a job, get credit or get insurance, or what kind.  Probably you don’t know about it.  Probably you can’t appeal the result because arbitrary assumptions processed through a computer are considered “objective.”

Climate Change Threatens Economic Development, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim Says by Julia Glum for International Business Times.   (Hat tip to Hal Bauer)

We’ll see whether he puts the World Bank’s money where his mouth is.

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A good movie’s window into Iranian life

August 17, 2015

The 2011 Iranian movie “A Separation” is one of the best movies I ever saw.   It is good in itself, and a good window into life in Iran.

There are at least two kinds of separation depicted in the movie.  One is between husbands and wives.  Another is between the educated middle class and the uneducated lower class.

It begins with a conflict between a educated woman, who wants to leave Iran, and a husband, who is unwilling to leave his sick father.  The wife separates from the husband, and he hires an uneducated woman to look after his father while he is away at work.

The husband comes home one day and finds his father alone and unattended.  The woman comes back, he flies into a rage, something happens outside camera range and she falls and has a miscarriage.  It then is revealed that the woman got a job without the knowledge of her strict Muslim husband, who disapproves of women working outside the home.

Iran is a right-to-life country and an unborn life has the same value as anyone else’s.  The educated woman’s husband is charged with murder.   Two mysteries then need to be cleared up – what really happened off-camera to cause the miscarriage, and why the educated woman left her place of work.

One of the bonuses of watching the movie was the glimpse I had into everyday life in a country I never expect to visit.

In one scene, the elderly father falls in the bathtub, and his caregiver fears it would be a sin for her to see the naked body of a man not her husband.   She picks up a phone and calls a hot line for advice.  An expert on Muslim law tells her that her duty is to help the old man.

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The passing scene – August 4, 2015

August 4, 2015

These are links to interesting articles I came across yesterday and today.  I may add links during the day.   The comment thread is available for general and off-topic comments.

If This Is Munich, We Must Be Germany by Doug Muder for The Weekly Sift.

In the Iran nuclear negotiations, it has been the United States that has done all the demanding and Iran that has done all the appeasing.

A Company Copes With Backlash Against the Raise that Roared by Patricia Cohen for the New York Times.

239 Years Ago, Adam Smith Predicted Fury of Seattle Business at CEO Who Pays Workers Well by Jon Schwartz for The Intercept.

Dan Price, the CEO of a small credit card processing firm called Gravity Payments, announced that he will raise the minimum  salary of his firm to $70,000 a year over a period of three years while reducing his own compensation.

Many of his peers and business customers are infuriated, illustrating what Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations in 1776:Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform, combination, not to raise the wages of labor above their actual rate.  To violate this combination is everywhere a most unpopular action …”

Coffee in crisis: The bitter end for our favorite drink? by David Robson for the BBC.

The world’s coffee crop is threatened by drought, flooding and plagues of pests, caused by climate change, and by the vulnerability of the Arabica variety of coffee to disease and to changes in climate.

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The passing scene – July 29, 2015

July 29, 2015

Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East? by Eliza Griswold for The New York Times.

26mag-26christians-t_CA2-blog427Christian communities in the Middle East, which have existed since the time of St. Paul and which survived under the rule of Iraq’s Saddam and Syria’s Assad, are threatened by ISIS and other extremist Islamist movements.

I think this is the fruit of U.S. interventions, which created the anarchy in which groups such as ISIS can flourish, and U.S. support of extremist groups to overthrow the governments of Libya and Iraq.

The Balance of Power in the Middle East Just Changed by Peter Van Buren for TomDispatch.

The real reason Israel, Saudi Arabia and neo-cons hate the Iran deal: They fear that Tehran will join the community of nations by Fred Kaplan for Salon.

The sanctions against Iran were never about fear that Iran would develop nuclear weapons.  They were about the fear that the balance of power in the Middle East would change in favor of Iran and against Saudi Arabia and Israel.  But Iran is a more reliable partner against ISIS and Al Qaeda than either of those two countries.

Jewish Americans support the Iran nuclear deal by Fred Kaplan for The Washington Post.

Interestingly, polls show that Jewish people in the United States are more supportive of the Iran deal than the general public.

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USA should join with Iran against ISIS

July 16, 2015

Israel and Saudi Arabia are not friends and do not even have diplomatic relations, but they work in parallel when it is in their national interest to do so.

Why should not the governments of the United States and Iran work together against our common enemies, the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) and Al Qaeda?

This would make more sense than trying to fight ISIS and Al Qaeda while making common cause with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates against the main enemies of ISIS and Al Qaeda.

axis.satan

Tom Jansson cartoon for The Cagle Post

Maybe this is what President Obama had in mind.  Maybe this is already U.S. policy.  If so, good!

Americans criticize the Iranian government for giving weapons and other help to armed factions in other countries, but that is no different from what the Saudis, the Gulf emirates, Israel and the United States itself does.  Iran’s current intervention in Iraq and Syria is at the invitation of the governments of those countries.

I think the violent conflicts in the Middle East, including the Sunni-Shiite conflict, would die down if Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates, the USA and other countries agreed among themselves to stop giving weapons, supplies and money to the various battling groups.

Unfortunately that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.  But I have to say the such an agreement is more likely than other nations agreeing to be neutral while the US government continues conducting bombing campaigns and arming its own proxies.

Iran and the United States are neither friends nor enemies.  They are countries with their own interests, which sometimes overlap and sometimes conflict.

LINKS

Rethinking Iran by Kevin Schwartz and Arjun Singh Sethi for Counterpunch.

Alan Dershowitz on the Iran deal

July 15, 2015

Harvard Law School professor Alan M. Dershowitz made this argument against the proposed deal with Iran.

Does the proposed deal with Iran actually prevent the Mullahs from ever developing a nuclear weapon?  Or does it merely delay them for a period of years? That is the key question that has not yet been clearly answered.

Alan M. Dershowitz

Alan M. Dershowitz

In his statement on the deal, President Obama seemed to suggest that Iran will never be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. He said that this “long-term deal with Iran… will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” … …

But is that what the deal itself does?  Or, as stated by its critics, does it actually assure that Iran will be allowed to develop a nuclear arsenal after a short delay of several years?  That is the key question that the Obama administration has refused to answer directly.  It must do so before Congress can be asked to buy a pig in a poke for the American people.

There is an enormous difference between a deal that merely delays Iran’s development of a nuclear arsenal for a period of years and a deal that prevents Iran from ever developing a nuclear arsenal.

via Gatestone Institute.

It is perfectly true that the Iran nuclear deal does not present Iran from ever developing nuclear weapons capability.   Every advanced industrial nation has the capacity to develop nuclear weapons if it so chooses.

What the deal does is to prevent Iran from secretly developing nuclear weapons capability.

So long as the terms of the deal are observed, any action to manufacture plutonium or weapons-grade uranium would be transparent and would take a long enough period of time for United States or other countries to act.

It also is the case that continuation of sanctions will not prevent Iran from ever developing nuclear weapons.  In fact, Iran is further along toward developing weapons-grade uranium (although not very far) than it will be under the agreement.

If I were an Iranian leader, and I thought that sanctions would continue no matter what, I would go ahead with the uranium enrichment program.  As the saying goes, you might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.

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The USA can’t expect to always get its way

June 26, 2015

Everybody has met self-centered people who behave as if they are the only people in the world who matter, and everybody else exists only to carry out their wishes.

If they are sufficiently rich and powerful, they can get away with this for a certain amount of time.  But in the end, they wind up isolated and friendless.

Unfortunately the United States conducts its foreign policy as if we Americans are the only people in the world who matter, and everybody else exists only to carry out Washington’s wishes.

This is bound to end badly.

Peter Van Buren, who was kicked out of the State Department for writing about the fouled-up U.S. occupation of Iraq, pointed out in an article for TomDispatch how this is playing out in current U.S. policy toward Iraq and the Islamic State (ISIS)

The fundamental problem underlying nearly every facet of U.S. policy toward Iraq is that “success,” as defined in Washington, requires all the players to act against their own wills, motivations, and goals in order to achieve U.S. aims.

is_control_over_time_624_1805The Sunnis need a protector as they struggle for a political place, if not basic survival, in some new type of Iraq.

The Shiite government in Baghdad seeks to conquer and control the Sunni regions.

Iran wants to secure Iraq as a client state and use it for easier access to Syria.

The Kurds want an independent homeland.

When Secretary of Defense Ash Carter remarked, “What apparently happened [in Ramadi] was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight,” what he really meant was that the many flavors of forces in Iraq showed no will to fight for America’s goals.

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The fruits of American foreign policy

June 18, 2015

John Michael Greer, writing on his Archdruid Report blog, described how American foreign policy has led to Russia and China joining to create a Fortress Eurasia that is beyond the reach of U.S. military power.

Just as the great rivalry of the first half of the twentieth century was fought out between Britain and Germany, the great rivalry of the century’s second half was between the United States and Russia.

If nuclear weapons hadn’t been invented, it’s probably a safe bet that at some point the rivalry would have ended in another global war.

As it was, the threat of mutual assured destruction meant that the struggle for global power had to be fought out less directly, in a flurry of proxy wars, sponsored insurgencies, economic warfare, subversion, sabotage, and bare-knuckle diplomacy.

In that war, the United States came out on top, and Soviet Russia went the way of Imperial Germany, plunging into the same sort of political and economic chaos that beset the Weimar Republic in its day.

The supreme strategic imperative of the United States in that war was finding ways to drive as deep a wedge as possible between Russia and China, in order to keep them from taking concerted action against the US.

That wasn’t all that difficult a task, since the two nations have very little in common and many conflicting interests.

gadd600spanNixon’s 1972 trip to China was arguably the defining moment in the Cold War, the point at which China’s separation from the Soviet bloc became total and Chinese integration with the American economic order began.

From that point on, for Russia, it was basically all downhill.

In the aftermath of Russia’s defeat, the same strategic imperative remained, but the conditions of the post-Cold War world made it almost absurdly easy to carry out.

All that would have been needed were American policies that gave Russia and China meaningful, concrete reasons to think that their national interests and aspirations would be easier to achieve in cooperation with a US-led global order than in opposition to it.

Granting Russia and China the same position of regional influence that the US accords to Germany and Japan as a matter of course probably would have been enough.

A little forbearance, a little foreign aid, a little adroit diplomacy, and the United States would have been in the catbird’s seat, with Russia and China glaring suspiciously at each other across their long and problematic mutual border, and bidding against each other for US support in their various disagreements.

But that’s not what happened, of course.

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