June 28, 2005

APPEAL TO THE STREET:

On the streets of Tehran, 'we like America' (Michael Slackman, JUNE 28, 2005, The New York Times)

Outside the mosque where Iran's president-elect, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, went to vote Friday, a parade of cars, trucks and scooters rumbles by, day in and day out, right over a picture of an American flag painted on the blacktop road.

The message is unmistakable, that America is still the Great Satan, the enemy of the people of Iran, the nation vilified by the grandfather of this country's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and to this day chided by today's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But Hamid Reza Solimaai is embarrassed by that flag on the ground. So are Sayed Reza Mirsani, Manochek Janshidi and Mohsen Malek Mohammadi. All work in shops on Samanegan Street, the road in East Tehran where the flag is painted, and all said they see that flag in the road as a relic of an era that has passed.

"The government has imposed this on people's minds, painting flags on the road," said Solimaai, who was working Monday in a closet-sized storefront repairing tires. "Almost all the people hate this."

Mirsani labored over a blast furnace of an oven, baking bread.

"I can recall the good old days, before the revolution, when we had good relations with the United States," he said. "We all lived better. Now we live worse."

In the realm of international relations, the United States and Iran are enemies. American officials attacked Iran's presidential elections as undemocratic, while Khamenei said that the 60 percent turnout "humiliated" the United States. But on the streets of Tehran, from the gritty neighborhoods in the south, to retail areas in the center of town, to the posh northern neighborhoods, America is spoken of more like an estranged cousin, maybe an annoying cousin, but nevertheless one with whom people would like to reconcile.

Having unwittingly abetted it, the President needs to just ignore the election and go over the heads of Ahmadinejad and the mullahs to talk directly to Iranians the way Reagan did to Eastern Europeans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 28, 2005 12:00 AM
Comments

If they all love America so much, who voted these goobers back in? This article reads like all those claims in postwar Germany that the towns had no Nazis. "Nobody here turned in the Jews."

What they do love is American money and that's all this is about.

Posted by: bart at June 28, 2005 8:00 AM

Lovcing America and being a religious conservative have never been exclusive of one another.

Posted by: oj at June 28, 2005 8:07 AM

They voted for a guy who was the devotee of an ayotollah that even Khomeni thought was too much of a hardliner.

I'm not optimistic.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at June 28, 2005 8:20 AM

I have no idea why you guys think that the reported results of a rigged election actually convey important information about Iranian opinion.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 28, 2005 8:34 AM

If it was rigged, wouldn't there be a revolution already?

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at June 28, 2005 8:35 AM

Ali: I'm not saying that it conveys negative information, either.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 28, 2005 9:22 AM

"Outside the mosque where Iran's president-elect, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, went to vote Friday, a parade of cars, trucks and scooters rumbles by, day in and day out, right over a picture of an American flag painted on the blacktop road."

Funny way of showing your love.

Posted by: bart at June 28, 2005 9:34 AM

Ali:

There hasn't been one here.

Posted by: oj at June 28, 2005 9:47 AM

And we've had a rigged national election since 1876?

Posted by: bart at June 28, 2005 10:16 AM

As OJ is a lefty, he believes all the things that lefties believe, including that the 2000 (and probably 2004) elections were stolen.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 28, 2005 10:48 AM

If the Guardian Council still runs Iran when Bush leaves office, his Presidency will be a historical failure, because by then they'll have nukes and things will be very, very bad...

Posted by: b at June 28, 2005 11:21 AM

Amir Taheri has a good column saying that Iran is moving from Mullahcracy to Terrorist Dictatorship, rather like Russia from Communism to Putinism, as power transitions from the mullahs to the military/secret police complex. The new President was a military official and head of the secret police, much as Putin headed the KGB. The mullahs pretended to be on the side of God and people; the new leaders will openly rule by violence and repression.

b - We have to suppose - and I'm sure the Bush administration does suppose - that the Iranians already have nukes, because North Korea/China will have given them nukes, in addition to showing them how to build more. Our allied enemies don't want Iran to be threatened by the US, so in addition to tying us down with terror in Iraq they've created a nuclear deterrent.

Posted by: pj at June 28, 2005 12:11 PM

"If it was rigged, wouldn't there be a revolution already?"

Beleiving the government to be illegitimate is a necessary condition for a revolution, but it is not sufficent. The regime must loose control of the represive forces it uses.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at June 28, 2005 12:15 PM

They don't yet have the courage to take a stand against the mullahs. Their fear is greater than their desire for democracy and liberty.

Posted by: Patrick H at June 28, 2005 12:18 PM

I seem to recall a recent poll that found pro-US sentiment quite high in Iran. Highest in the ME, much higher than in France.

Posted by: ghostcat at June 28, 2005 12:55 PM

Patrick;

That's been true in every state in the West with a similarly repressive government.

Posted by: oj at June 28, 2005 12:59 PM

b:

They'll have nukes regardless of the mullahs.

Posted by: oj at June 28, 2005 1:03 PM

David:

You think Karl Rove didn't engineer the butterfly ballot?

Posted by: oj at June 28, 2005 1:04 PM

It is very easy to underestimate the amount of fear and repression a state can hold against its citizens. I've known people who've lived in police states. If you don't go out and chant death to America and burn the flag (or whatever) when the regime tells you too, you get visited by the secret police the next day.

What determines when rebellions occur has less to do with the courage of the oppressed people increasing and more to do when the regime loses the will to keep repressing them. Gorbachev lost that will in the USSR and the regular armed forces did not want to kill their own people. Chinese Communists did not fall because they still had the will, probably because their earlier economic reform made China successful enough they still enjoyed the self-confidence of the PLA. Likewise, Syria lost the will to intervene in Lebanon because they judged the international situation had changed enough that an armed suppression in Lebanon would not be ignored internationally, but still has the will to crush any stirrings within Syria.

On the basis of what I've seen in the news, it appears that a small minority of the ruling class has decided the revolution is a failure and backs the reformers. Most of the ruling class does not, and because they are still the same generation that seized power, they don't want to lose it.

There is a small possibility that the reformers could be galvanized and force the regime to either disband or to decide they need to be crushed as in China '89. The only thing that may prevent the second is whether the regime thinks the US could use it as an opportunity to intervene, perhaps because the Europeans are so outraged at the slaughter that they agree to a US armed strike against the nuclear program.

OJ's appeal idea could work, but I don't feel we have much time if our intention is to prevent Iran's mullahs from having nukes.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at June 28, 2005 1:28 PM

Bush did what he should have done by calling the elections a sham beforehand. The mullahs did exactly what Bush said they'd do, and now the Iranian people are showing that they're fine with the status quo. I'm not blaming them--if I were an Iranian I'd keep my head down too, most likely, since I'd prefer not to lose it. But I'm an American, and the mullahs with nukes is unacceptable.

pj: Some people thought that Saddam must have weaponized smallpox or some other horror weapon, or else why was Bush dithering around for so long with the UN? Turns out he just was, for various reasons, but fear of Saddam wasn't one of them. I don't think the mullahs have nukes yet, because their behavior seems more in the time-buying mode than the aggressive posture we would see if they did.

Posted by: b at June 28, 2005 1:38 PM

b:

They had a pretty reasonable set of alternatives to choose from. It was a mistake to help hold Reformist turnout down.

Posted by: oj at June 28, 2005 1:44 PM

I don't recall Bush telling the Iranians not to vote...

I'm a bit surprised you don't welcome this development--putting a hardliner in charge is sure to alienate the population even more. Not that it makes any difference, of course...

Posted by: b at June 28, 2005 1:58 PM

Bush had no effect on the vote. It was always rigged, and the reformers were staying home without him. I doubt Bush's statement even got significantly reported in Iran. He denounced the rigging in advance because if he'd waited till after, it would've looked like sour grapes from a loser.

b - Clearly we weren't too concerned about Iraqi WMD, it didn't deter the invasion. Iraq had no allies, and sanctions had limited their ability to build up an arsenal. Undoubtedly they did have biological and chemical weapons up until shortly before the war, but we were prepared for those. (I suspect we knew the WMD was being moved out of the country before the war, and delayed the start of war until that was completed.)

Iran is a totally different case, closely allied to China and its satellites. Attacking Iran is like attacking China. And China has followed an obvious policy of nuclear proliferation, first to Pakistan and North Korea, then from Pakistan and North Korea to other nations like Iran, Syria, Lybia, and Cuba. We know a lot about these proliferation activities because of Pakistan's and Lybia's partial turns after 9/11. (Amazing, btw, that the NY Times actually seems to believe the absurd line that Pakistani nuclear scientist Khan was proliferating weapons on his own, without his government's knowledge and support, even though he's hardly been punished for his activities.)

Posted by: pj at June 28, 2005 3:10 PM

OJ -- Yes, that is exactly what I don't believe.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 28, 2005 3:27 PM

PJ

I would like to see a source, regarding the issue of Chinese involvement in proliferation of Nuclear weapons. At this point after almost 50 years of their having nuclear weapons, I have never heard of such activities. Also I have doubts that China would have any desire to "seriously" help Iran in a conflict with it's neighbors and certainly not with the US. Of course they want access to oil, as does everyone, but they have no problem purchasing on the world market, just like the US.

Posted by: h-man at June 28, 2005 3:58 PM

h-man - It has been extensively reported in the past, and the Pakistan government has acknowledged, that Pakistan received extensive technical assistance from China on its nuclear weapons development, that North Korea received missile technology from China, and that Pakistan and North Korea swapped nuclear technology for missile technology so that both would have nuclear weapons and missile capabilities. It is hard to conceive that swap was not endorsed by China. Then we have the Khan episode, with Pakistan spreading the same nuclear technology to Iran, Syria, and Libya. Again, it's hard to conceive Pakistan was doing that without China's consent.

So, the conclusions are speculative, but it's almost inconceivable that China would give Pakistan nukes and missiles without retaining influence over how they're used, or that Khan could spread Pakistan's nukes without government approval, or that Pakistan would do it without Chinese agreement.

To be even more speculative, and guess about motives: I think China is just strengthening its position vis a vis the US with the aim of obtaining a position from which it can, if it chooses, fight a war and hope to defeat us. I don't think they have the intention to start such a war. But I think they want to have the option. And terrorist-delivered nuclear weapons from a country in the Middle East could weaken us enough to make us defeatable, without giving us enough of a causus belli to declare war on them. I think that's the situation they want to create, one where we're vulnerable to nuclear terrorism. It starts with nuclear proliferation to terror-sponsoring states.

Or, to put it another way, I think we only half-won the Cold War, the remaining totalitarian states continue to cooperate against us, and they are seeking a strategy that might create a different outcome than the fall of the Soviet Union.

Posted by: pj at June 28, 2005 4:18 PM

First up on Google as an example of a reference for the Pakistan - North Korea relationship was:

http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/dprk/nuke-uranium.htm

[T]he current interest is centered around a uranium enrichment program based upon technology apparently received from Pakistan ... Western intelligence had "shards of evidence" of the North Korea-Pakistan nuclear relationship going back to 1997. These developed into clear suspicions by 1998, and by 1999 the North Koreans committed to this program.

North Korea secretly brought equipment needed for its nuclear weapons program into the country in June 1998 from Pakistan. The nuclear equipment, which included a sample gas centrifuge used to enrich uranium and its blueprints, were transported on a special flight from Islamabad to Pyongyang.

Posted by: pj at June 28, 2005 4:31 PM

Or the New York Times:

In North Korea and Pakistan, Deep Roots of Nuclear Barter

But several times since that new alliance was cemented, American intelligence agencies watched silently as Pakistan's air fleet conducted a deadly barter with North Korea. In transactions intelligence agencies are still unraveling, the North provided General Musharraf with missile parts he needs to build a nuclear arsenal capable of reaching every strategic site in India.

In a perfect marriage of interests, Pakistan provided the North with many of the designs for gas centrifuges and much of the machinery it needs to make highly enriched uranium for the country's latest nuclear weapons project, one intended to put at risk South Korea, Japan and 100,000 American troops in Northeast Asia.

Posted by: pj at June 28, 2005 4:34 PM

David:

dupe

Next you'll say Scalia and company would have intervened in Gore's favor if the facts were reversed...

Posted by: oj at June 28, 2005 5:41 PM

b:

Forcing contradictions is all well and good, but having Moin there and the government immobilized would have been better. all that would have taken is turnout.

Posted by: oj at June 28, 2005 5:47 PM

The most educated and prosperous Iranians chose not to turn out. They made that choice for their own informed reasons.

Posted by: ghostcat at June 28, 2005 5:56 PM

PJ

I hate it when you ask for sources and dang-it somebody gives it to you. Now I'll have to read it

1. Let's presume Iran wants a nuclear weapon.

2. Let's presume that China wants Iran to have a nuclear weapon and that China has a nuclear weapon.

3. Would it not follow that China would just give Iran, or Libya, or North Korea, a nuclear weapon.

Next what is the purpose of having a nuclear weapon, if nobody knows that you have it. Pakistan when they got one made sure everyone knew it by testing it. North Korea just talks about it. Therefore wouldn't you surmise that they don't have a nuclear weapon. They do have crude missiles and they have been selling them for years. China has better ones. None of this adds up to China encouraging proliferation of nuclear weapons. I have to go now, but I will read the material you cited.

Posted by: h-man at June 28, 2005 6:00 PM

ghost:

Yes, they recognized electing a reformer wouldn't bring immediate reform. It's still a mistake, one that W encouraged.

Posted by: oj at June 28, 2005 6:15 PM

h-man - Why do they not work openly? Because they've concluded, along with Victor Davis Hanson, that in open warfare democracies always win; but in stealth warfare the outcome may be different. We can be defeated when we lose interest, as in Vietnam, or when we never develop the anger to wage war, as Israel never developed the willingness to go to war with those nations sponsoring Palestinian terror.

How can it be in their interest to openly challenge the world's only superpower, while they remain much weaker than us? Rather, it's in their interest to lay low, hide any hostile acts as much as possible, and keep us guessing and unable to build the domestic consensus needed to take action against them.

Likewise, with your question about why they don't just announce their weapons - many answers. (a) Why hasn't Israel announced theirs? (b) Stopping proliferation is a stated national security goal of the US, why help build political support for a US strike against their nuclear capabilities or strategy of regime change? (c) They have more or less publicly announced that they are developing nuclear weapons, so it's not much of a secret. Isn't that announcement a sign of confidence?

I think we have to acknowledge that as long as we are powerful, no one is going to wage war against us openly. They'll never announce their hostility, and any war will begin with anonymous terrorist strikes as long as they can conceal their identities.

Posted by: pj at June 28, 2005 6:23 PM

I'm sure you're not claiming to know more about Iranian politics than the Iranian elites.

Posted by: ghostcat at June 28, 2005 6:24 PM

OJ: No, if the facts had been reversed, the vote would have been reversed (and the sides would have lined up much more naturally). W would still be president. I am a Bismarkian fundamentalist.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 28, 2005 6:29 PM

h-man - One point I forgot to respond to - why would China use such indirect means of proliferation? To conceal its culpability.

Posted by: pj at June 28, 2005 6:29 PM

ghost:

It has nothing to do with Iranian politics, just power politics,

Posted by: oj at June 28, 2005 6:36 PM

David:

Yes, so Scalia would have voted whichever way he had to in order for W to win. Selected! Not elected!

Posted by: oj at June 28, 2005 6:37 PM

Doesn't mean he didn't really win.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 28, 2005 7:49 PM

Heck, JFK & LBJ might have won fair and square too, didn't stop them from fixing IL and TX.

Posted by: oj at June 28, 2005 7:54 PM

I have fingered some Chinese regime elements as players in the Terror Game previously. They just have to be. The Ali Khan Pakistan -- North Korea connection is not possible without their conivance. Whoever they are have also made the decision to allow Kim Jong Il to carry on his shenanigans. I doubt very seriously that these things belong to or are completely sanctioned by the inner circle, but it is probably the work of a Security Service, who can only be partly controlled.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at June 29, 2005 12:46 AM

Robert,

Merely further evidence of why the PRC is not a serious threat to us. They are simply too divided to stand together much longer. A PLA general who hooks up with AQ Khan and the North Koreans has a short life expectancy due to the anger of other PLA generals seeing their Wal-Mart contract go up in smoke.

Posted by: bart at June 29, 2005 6:51 AM
« OUR KIND: | Main | JUST LIKE W: »