Monday, December 28, 2009

Iran: Revolution versus Revolution

Yesterday, I was expecting to be mad at Aljazeera. I was expecting that the relations between the Qatari Emir and the Iranian government would produce lame reports that would downplay the significance of the protests in Iran. Aljazeera--yet again--pleasantly disappointed me. It is not in any way covering up what is going on in Iran, and it is even citing--in the tradition of the journalistic standards of the New York Times--opposition websites. Al-Arabiyya TV (the private station of King Fahd's brother-in-law which now is largely run by the entourage of Prince `Azzuz) is going crazy. The propaganda work of AlArabiyya is out of all bounds now: there is no attempt even of covering news anymore: not in Iran, not in Yemen, and not in Palestine. It is really naked and vulgar House of Saud propaganda all day long, 24 hours a day. Aljazeera's coverage has been straightforward although it would have liked more discussion and lengthy reports. What can I say: many Arabs like Ahmadinad because he is the opposite of their leaders in standing up for Palestinians and sounding defiant against Western governments. But people--if you believe the trends in social science--follow the analytical recipe of Rational Choice Theory. They decide their own self-interest, first and foremost on the basis of what they know, or what they think they know, and based on their estimate of their own self-interests. I am quite impressed with the courage of the Iranian people: these are people who were courageous against the Shah dictatorship, and they are now being courageous against the clerical dictatorship. In fact, I was so impressed with the courage of the Iranian people that I felt most jealous. Why can't we see those scenes in Damascus, Cairo, Riyadh, Amman, etc? Have Arabs become that numbed and that tranquilized and that domesticated by their oppressive regimes? Or is that a sign of hope, and you need a measure of hope to rebel and protest? Or is this the impact of more than 300 TV satellite stations approved by the House of Saud? But the Iranian people will not take no for an answer, and it does not matter anymore whether Ahmadinajad won or did not win the election. People are rightly fed up with the lousy Revolution itself, and with those stale slogan, and with that Guardianship of the Jurisconsult (as Hamid Enayat translated in that excellent chapter on it in James Piscatori's edited book, Islam in the Political Process) doctrine, which should be opposed, whether it appears in Iran or in Lebanon. At least in Lebanon, Hizbullah read the writings on the wall a few years ago, and the party has become largely embarrassed by the doctrine--or so it seems to me. Guardianship of the Jurisconsult is sectarianism within sectarianism. I remember as a college student being frustrated with the enthusiasm that some leftists like Adonis (yeah, he was a leftist, believe it or not back then), Anour Abdel Malik, and Michel Foucault. And of course many Arab nationalists and fake Arab liberals (like Hazim Saghiyyah) were praising the "authenticity"---don't you hate that word?--of the Islamic Revolution. If Ahmadinajad has any sense or respect for people he would resign. Hell, if there is any respect for people on the part of the leaders, the Supreme Leader would submit a Supreme Resignation. Of course there are creeps who are trying to hedge their bets and see how things turn: I really worry that corrupt Khumayniyite, like Rafsanjani or Moussavi, would seize power and betray the aspirations and dreams of the young. I saw footage of the demonstrators and they were very young, although I noted the absence of women among them. But then again: it would not surprise me if a sexist revolution is replaced by a sexist revolution. But the people may now be leading Moussavie and other lousy leaders, and not the other way round. Personally, I find it hard to not applaud the protests by the young against a corrupt and oppressive revolution, which carries the banner of religion to boot. The Iranian government now is at a crossroad: it can either cracks down more and more, and arrests and kills as Khumayni was fond of doing, or it can open it and submit concession. The latter course is the Gorbachev course would eventually lead to the dismantlement of the regime. So I am hoping for the worst for the regime, while I have no hope for next government in Iran, if the regime is overthrown. I can see the situation descending into civil wars of sorts: there are basis of support for the regime and those can get the support of the regime to go against their rivals in the streets. But I saw an interview with deputy chief of Tehran police and I was struck by his defensive and subdued tone. When the elements of the regime start to backtrack or start to change tone, it is a sign that people are scrambling for cover. And for any supporter of the Palestinians and their support for their protest against savage Israeli occupation, can't but extend sympathy to the students who simply want to remove the heavy hand of the government from their lives. Having said all that, it is just dumb at this point, as I read about Obama's new war in Yemen in the New York Times, to discount the dirty hand of US/Israel/Saudi Arabia in Iranian affairs. This does not stigmatize the protesters but it stigmatize their leaders and some members. Just read All the Shah's Men and know what I mean. Of course, Abbas Milani in his article in the New Republic--what a choice to write about revisionism of Iranian history--now absolves the US government of responsibility for the coup and blames Khumayni for the coup. For him, Roosevelt of the CIA was working for Iranian cleric. Now let us go to the coverage: now while I respect the practice of the New York Times to cover Iran from Toronto, I believe that we don't have a clear picture of what is happening. This is why I am not sure that we can announce the death of the regime. And I read in the first section of the Iran article in the paper edition of the New York Times (from Toronto of course) a reference to witnesses cited by website. So the New York Times relies in its coverage on its correspondent in Toronto who relies on Websites who rely on unnamed witnesses in Iran. That is called journalism. Can you imagine the New York Times following that formula in covering Israeli crimes against the Palestinians? And to my surprise, the New York Times added this today (not in the paper edition but in the web version): "Foreign journalists have been banned from covering the protests, and the reports could not be independently verified." It is time for that caveat, and it should be added to every article on daily basis. Now let us turn to another element of the coverage. Let us face it, the protest movement in Iran is no more peaceful. Yet, I don't see those Western liberals calling on Iranians to stick to peaceful protests the way they hector Palestinians on a daily basis. Look at this: "In some parts of Tehran, protesters pushed the police back, hurling rocks and capturing several police cars and motorcycles, which they set on fire. Videos posted to the Internet showed scenes of mayhem, with trash bins burning and groups of protesters attacking Basij militia volunteers amid a din of screams. Onevideo showed a group of protesters setting an entire police station aflame in Tehran. Another showed people carrying off the body of a protester, chanting, “I’ll kill, I’ll kill the one who killed my brother.”" I don't know about you, but that does not sound like the Gandhi style protest that Palestinians are requested to emulate. Also, can you imagine the reactions of the US government is such protests are mounted against the Saudi or Egyptian government? Just two weeks ago, Jeffrey Feltman (the fanatic and rabid Zionist who runs the Middle East at the US Department of State, and who assumes that sampling of Middle East food is all that training in Middle East studies that one needs) said in Bahrain that his government supports the ugly war by the Yemeni government against rebels in the South AND in the North because he said that a government can't stand by while a protest movements takes place within its borders. Just two weeks ago. And did you read the statement by the White House yesterday? Nauseating. Of course, no one believes that US government cares one bit about the people of Iran, except of course those who are eager to appear on CNN to see their faces while they praise Obama and hail his leadership and expect him to liberate Iran for them.

PS I apologize that I was not able to be in Toronto. As is known, Toronto offers the best view of Iran from anywhere around the world.