Saturday, May 17, 2003

US claims al-Qaeda operations chief in Iran and that Riyadh attacks ordered from there. Jeddah, Nairobi, Kuala Lumpur, or London, where will the next suicide attack be?

I saw a film last night Deserted Station at Asr-e Jadid cinema. (You can buy tickets on the net there, though I didn't for this). It was a terrible film and at the end I wondered what it was about. It must have been one of those "festival" films.

Iran steps up gas and oil ties with India (note remarks about Gujarat below). Jews of Morocco link. The Register writes about how Lawrence Lessig says the Internet is dying...

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Jeff Jarvis gave me a link (Hooman told me about it), so maybe I'll get some visitors. A few days ago I wrote about an article by William Beeman studying the influence of Michael Ledeen. I posted some comments, which I'll repost here, because the article has gone stale now.

My problem with Dr Ledeen is the inaccuracy of some of his reports on National Review Online. Here are two examples:

1. He has written many times that Montazeri issued a fatwa against suicide bombing in April 2002 (Jewish World Review and National Review Online) and was quoted by David Warren, former CIA director James Woolsey,, Glenn Frazier, Andrew Sullivan and many others.

Whereas Bill Samii of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported the same statement as:
"Montazeri backs suicide bombers"
and Christopher de Bellaigue, the Economist correspondent for Iran, in the New York Review of Books simply
saw the statement as endorsing a two-state solution.

If you can read Persian, you can find the original statement here. There is no condemnation of suicide bombing. He is just saying the two peoples should move towards peace.

2. Along with SMCCDI, he's always writing about huge demonstrations which aren't happening! (The-regime-is-about-to-fall type writing.) Apathy characterises the situation here best. In one article he wrote about a demonstration where women burned their headscarves in public (after SMCCDI). Lots of Iranians reading the blog had never heard about it.

I've always found "The Economist" to be the most objective English publication about the size of the demonstrations. The correspondent (who actually lives in Iran, unlike Ledeen) wrote in the New York Review of Books about the hype:

In the November 25 on-line edition of National Review, Michael Ledeen claimed that "something like half a million" Iranians had taken to the streets on November 22, "to demonstrate their disgust with the regime of the Islamic Republic." On December 6, in the same publication, he misrepresented events as follows: "The revolution is being led by students, workers, intellectuals, and military officers and soldiers."

So far as I know, Ledeen hasn't visited Iran since the days of Iran-contra —in which, acting as a consultant to Ronald Reagan's administration, he played a small and inglorious part.[*] His distorted analysis of events in Iran—which conflicts diametrically with my own experience—has unaccountably been given a platform by The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times. It would be interesting to know the sources of the information he and other conservative American commentators have been circulating about Iran.

(The de Bellaigue article's criticism of Ledeen has previously been noted at Blog Left and Cobban. But it's supposed to be copyright, so hasn't been noticed much in the blogosphere.)
For someone who has such massive influence, these kinds of mistakes are disturbing. Apart from the language barrier and the closed nature of Iran increasing the likelihood of such mistakes, these errors are the kind of things Westerners would LIKE to believe, so they get propagated extensively in English language media.

It could be just that he is getting wrong information from his sources, of course, but the kind of incidents reported in the NY Review of Books article above really make it clear that on-the-ground sources have much higher credibility. However such sources don't always have the wide distribution that Ledeen does.

Unfortunately I don't get many visitors to this blog, so I told William Beeman about the above and I'll see what happens. (Once in some comments on I believe that I took Ledeen's word on the fatwa, but there's no evidence for it except for Ledeen himself.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

US State Department launches new Persian web site. So, if you're Iranian and you can't GO to the US, at least you can read about it...
Q & A on the Saudi terror attacks. "[The terrorists] want foreigners to leave and to eventually bring down the Saudi government and replace it with a government which adhers much more strictly to the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam." If they succeed, there goes the foreign direct investment, they can all watch as their society goes down the toilet! I wonder how they will make Arabia more "Islamic"? Isn't it already like the Taliban was in many ways? That's the problem with mixing religion and state, you can never have too much religion for some people.

(Muse to self: The Chechen bombing killed more people (>=54 versus >=29), but this gets more attention in the world media. In Chechnya, an order of magnitude more Muslims are dying than in Palestine, but this gets little attention in all media. The Iranian media pays no attention because they don't want to antagonise Russia (nuclear technology), because their state Khomeinist ideology focuses on Israel, and because the whole Israel/Palestine issue is such a wonderful distraction strategy from domestic problems in both the Arab world and Iran. The book "The Tragedy of the Middle East" explains the last point. Similar arguments apply for the 2000 Muslims killed in Gujarat, India in February and March 2002. And for the Arab world's silence on Hama.) Naturally, as I've said before, 5000 Kurds being gassed by Saddam in 1988 also gets less attention than 3000 international deaths on 9/11.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Last night I went to McMashallah. I had a "Double Cheeseburger" for 1800T. A "Happy Meal" was 2000T. Does this sound familiar to anybody?
Mr MRK says MPs won't resign. Why should they, they get a Land Rover, an apartment, and the press reports everything they say. It's all a kind of "head game" with the people.
The sickness at the heart of Iranian society is manifested in the traffic.

Stop at the red light, before changing the government.

Now we DO have internet censorship in Iran.

Umm, the I believe that young women have not written about this. I wonder if it is affecting them and how they feel about it? Mr Steppenwolf is pretty angry about it.

As for me, it is not affecting me at all. Reza Pahlavi, Emrooz, WomenInIran, Golshan, Molla Hassani. Yes, I can see them all. I'll let you know if this changes.

But Mr Steppenwolf, there is no need to get angry. There is something Iranians can learn from Arabs (!), because they have had to deal with this problem much longer than Iranians. Wayne's proxy avoidance will help, Peekabooty is simpler still. If you can't get it to work email me and I'll see if I can help.

Hopes for reform in Iran fading. Mr. MRK is about three years behind the general population... but this is not a democracy.