Category Archives: Iran

Make Iran Great Again!

Only one post for tonight. This one should be enough…
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WSJ 1/4/2018

Iran erupted last Thursday. By Friday, the protests against the government, which began in Mashhad near the Afghan border, had spread to dozens of cities. So when we traveled on Saturday to a movie theater on Manhattan’s Lower East Side to see “Darkest Hour,” Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Winston Churchill, imagine the jarring dislocation when the theater’s previews included a trailer for an admiring documentary of Barack Obama’s foreign-policy making, “The Final Year.”

The preview screen filled with expressions of earnest intent from Mr. Obama, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes and the Iran nuclear deal’s handmaiden, John Kerry. About 100 minutes later, we were watching Churchill shout at his war cabinet that you cannot do deals with dictators. That would have been about the time this weekend that protesters in Iran were shouting “Death to Khamenei!” It’s nice to see the Iranian people have a sense of humor.

Producing the past week’s protests against the Iranian regime was not the goal of the six-party Iran nuclear deal. Back then, the Khamenei-Rouhani regime was represented as America’s partner in a good cause. Now the governments of the U.S., U.K., France and Germany (Russia is a Khamenei ally, and China only supports crackdowns) have to decide whether their Iranian partner is the people in the streets or the government that is shooting them.

In the preview of “The Final Year,” the Obama team members convey confidence in the rightness of everything they did. But as we learned in November 2016, there was one big thing the Obama people never understood: how a real economy works. By real economy, I mean the private economy, not the economy of public spending.

A central element of the nuclear deal was that it would “help” the Iranian people by lifting sanctions and injecting $100 billion of unfrozen assets into Iran’s economy. This was much the same economic theory behind the Obama administration’s 2009 injection of $832 billion into the U.S. economy. Both flopped because both made the real economy essentially a bystander to state guidance.

The Obama $832 billion went up the government’s fireplace flue. The Iranian $100 billion went into ballistic missile production and for Iran’s proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

The moment has arrived for invidious comparisons.

Donald Trump is president because the Obama-Clinton Democrats forgot about hardpressed voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. The Khamenei-Rouhani regime is under assault because working- class Iranians began this week’s revolt in cities beyond the capital.

Come to think of it, isn’t that disconnect between the people running governments and the people trying to make a living in the real economy the core reason behind the worldwide burst of populism?

It’s the reason France’s working-class voters and young, underemployed college graduates sent Emmanuel Macron and a heretofore nonexistent party into the French presidency. It’s the reason workingclass Brits lunged for Brexit. This new global reality—perform or get shoved aside—is the reason Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman imposed reforms. The Iranians shouting, “Leave Syria, think of us!” are the West Virginia coal miners shouting, “Make America Great Again.” That’s not yahooism. It is anxiety directed at incumbent elites who tell the public that reduced levels of economic growth are the new normal. The world’s populations will not accept that.

Iran—like North Korea— has taken its best and brightest and stuck them inside a mountain to build atomic bombs, leaving the economy in the hands of Brussels-grade technocrats.

Besides calling for higher taxes in its recent budget, even as prices have spiked for basic foodstuff, Hassan Rouhani’s government has pursued import- substitution policies by imposing high tariffs on many imported goods. Needless to say, Iranians can’t get the clothing, appliances and electronics they want.

To combat a massive cellphone- smuggling operation, Iran recently slapped a 5% duty on them atop the 9% valueadded tax and required registration with Iran’s telecom user database. Now, millions of smuggled phones will make it harder for the ayatollahs to kill texting among protesters. The bazaar may prove stronger than the theocracy.

A theme now emerging in Western media is that if Europe’s leaders support President Trump’s “aggressive” posture toward Tehran, that will undermine both the sanctified Obama nuclear deal and support for “liberals” in the Rouhani government. This is where we came in, watching Winston Churchill convince a timid British establishment that an outward– moving dictatorship won’t stop at anyone’s border.

The moment has arrived to admit that Iran’s missiles, nuclear technology and armies won’t stay inside its borders until the people getting shot in the streets are recognized and supported by a too-timid world.

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Help Iranians!!

Don’t be like Obama…
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WSJ 1/2/2018

Iran has a peculiar habit of surprising Americans. It has done so again with the protests engulfing its major cities. The demonstrations began over economic grievances and quickly transformed into a rejection of theocracy.

The slogans must have unsettled the mullahs: “Death to Khamenei!” “Death to Rouhani!” “We will die to get our Iran back!” Imperialism has not revived the regime’s legitimacy, as the protesting Persians pointedly reject expending their meager resources on Arab wars: “Death to Hezbollah!” “No to Gaza, not Lebanon! Our life only for Iran!” However the events on the streets unfold, their most immediate casualty will be the presidency of Hassan Rouhani and its false claim of pragmatic governance. In the aftermath of the Green Revolution of 2009, which rocked the foundations of the Islamic Republic, a sinister argument gradually pervaded Western salons and chancelleries. The convulsions of that summer, the claim went, were over no more than electoral irregularity. With the election of the so-called moderate Mr. Rouhani in 2013, the system rebalanced itself. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his allies supposedly learned some hard lessons on the need to yield to popular mandates. Iranians want gradual change, we have been told, and believe that the system’s own constitutional provisions and plebiscites can be used to nudge it toward moderation.

Then, last week, Iranians took to the streets.

Every decade of the Islamist regime’s rule has seen one of its political factions lose its legitimacy through national uprisings. In the 1980s, the Islamic Republic waged a determined civil war against liberals and secularists who sought to redeem the revolution’s pledge of a democratic order. The student riots of 1999 ended the reformist interlude and Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, which had promised that the expansion of civil society and elections would harmonize faith and freedom. The reformists lingered as discredited enablers of a repressive regime, but no one believed in their promises of change from within. The hard-liners offered their own national compact, one that privileged economic justice over political emancipation. But the tumultuous presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad produced only corruption and bellicosity.

Then came Mr. Rouhani and his centrist disciples with their pledge to revive the economy, primarily through foreign investment. Mr. Rouhani needed a nuclear agreement to lift debilitating sanctions and stimulate commerce. The Obama administration was happy to deliver, and Iran received tens of billions of dollars in financial dividends, including $1.7 billion in paper currency.

Instead of channeling that wealth into productive uses, Ayatollah Khamenei, the clerical establishment and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps consumed much of it on foreign adventurism and corruption. Mr. Rouhani made a crucial mistake: overpromising and underdelivering on both economic and political reforms. His modest experiment in centrist rule has come crashing down, taking with it his injunction that all must trust the system. The regime is at an impasse. It has no more political actors— no establishment saviors—to offer its restless constituents.

As with the Soviet Union in its last days, the Islamic Republic can no longer appeal to its ideals; it relies only on its security services for survival. That is deadly for a theocracy, by definition an ideological construct. Ideological authoritarian states need a vision of the future by which their enforcers can condone their own violence. The theocracy’s vast patronage system will not cure this crisis of legitimacy. In many ways, Mr. Rouhani was the ruling clergy’s last gasp, a beguiling mullah who could enchant Westerners while offering Iranians some hope. That hope has vanished.

In the coming weeks, many in the commentariat will advise the Trump administration to remain silent and stay on the sidelines, as the Obama administration did in 2009. They will recommend that it is best to let the Iranian drama play itself out. If American officials weigh in, the argument goes, the regime would brand its detractors as agents of a foreign power.

Such stale prescriptions miss the point that Iranians are looking toward America to support their struggle. Democratic dissidents always do so. In that regard, Iranians are no different from non-Muslim dissidents from the former Soviet Union to communist China, who have struggled against tyranny and ardently welcomed American and European support. Barack Obama has been rightly castigated for his silence during the Green Revolution. President Trump is right not to follow his predecessor’s discredited path. The White House should continue issuing condemnations daily, including through Persian-language media outlets, and follow up with sanctions targeting corruption and human-rights abuses. Congress should rediscover its once bipartisan determination to hold the regime accountable for its crimes and push America’s European allies to overcome their mercantile greed and support Iranians striving to be free from theocracy.

The Islamic Republic is a relic of a century that yielded multiple ideological regimes claiming to have mastered the forces of history. By now most of them are history. Mr. Trump entered office with an understanding of the Islamic Republic’s profound threat to American security. The most consequential legacy of his presidency may be a Middle East free of its most powerful unsavory regime.

Mr. Dubowitz is chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democ-racies. Mr. Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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The Islamic Hatred of Modernity

I give credit to Mauldin Economics, to which I encourage you to subscribe.
The liberal Left hates what Dr. Brock states, but that does not make it less true.  I highly recommend this article.

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The Islamic Hatred of Modernity

Dr. Woody Brock
Strategic Economic Decisions, Inc.
April 26, 2016

“Not free thought for those that agree with us, but freedom for the thought that we hate”
– US Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., 1929

Terrorism is here to stay, and it is now beginning to impact the economic performance of many nations – in particular the performance of the service sector. In this brief Memo, we set forth a few thoughts about what underlies this phenomenon, and what to do about it.

ISIS versus Modernity and the West

Relative Power of ISIS versus Europe: The usual determinants of relative power (e.g. wealth or the size of an army) are not very relevant to assessing the struggle between ISIS and the West. [By ISIS we refer not only to ISIS proper, but to any of its affiliated groups as well.] For the conflict is less a militaristic one than it is a war of nerves between Jihadists who carry out scattered sting operations, and Europeans and Americans lacking both the will and the coordination to properly respond. An additional source of Jihadist power stems from their status as True Believers, making them a very dangerous kind of opponent. Their moral certainty immunizes them against normal threats such as being killed. The number who do not fear death is sufficient to spell trouble for decades ahead.

What is it that makes these extremists so morally superior, and so hateful of the West? In part, their superiority stems from their absolute faith in the truth of the teachings of the Koran. But this is only the tip of an iceberg of hatred. For their religious convictions are amplified by their detestation of the cultural, economic, ethical, and political values of Westerners. At a deep level, their terrorism stems from their hatred of modernity itself. We in the West are seen as weak and morally dissolute. For not only do we possess no religious fervor, but we lack moral resolve of any kind due to the anesthetizing effects of our materialistic, welfare-based social system. Such ethical values as we have stem not from fear of any God, but rather from an attachment to mushy concepts of “fairness” ranging from the “right” to nine weeks of vacation, to t he right to never be drafted to fight a war. In the US, citizens’ erstwhile chant of “give me liberty or give me death” has morphed into “give me liberty or give me latte.” All in all, ISIS’ conviction of holding the moral high ground is a major source of their power over the West.

Reinforcing this power of fundamentalists is their strategy of implementing fragmented hit-or- miss strikes. They specialize in ongoing, unnerving terrorist attacks in public places. The West’s superiority in the number of security personnel and in intelligence-gathering does little to prevent these random attacks which can occur in hundreds of different emporia. In this regard, it is sobering that more than 5,000 EU-based fighters have already been to Syria for training in terrorist tactics, according to the US-based consultancy Soufan. This number will grow given the poor economic conditions in Europe where the unemployment rate of males under 30 exceeds 25% in many nations.

Finally, today’s ongoing Jihadist attacks are concurrent with the new European immigration crisis. Given the implications of soaring immigration for tighter border controls, the increasing threat of Brexit, and problems endemic to the Euro, it is likely that the EU as we have known it will cease to exist. There will then be no semblance of any “unified” EU stance against ISIS. Instead, we will observe fragmented and ineffectual responses as well as the suspension of many civil liberties now taken for granted.

This brief analysis suggests that the power of ISIS against Europe is much greater than might appear to be the case, despite Europe’s greatly superior power as traditionally measured.

A War against Modernity: The importance of the culture war underlying the Jihadists’ hatred of Westerners cannot be understated. In their eyes, we are modernist devil worshippers. Women should be kept at home, devoid of any rights. They should be virgins when they marry. Adultery is a sin punishable by death, as is homosexuality. The fact that many citizens of Muslim nations do not share these views does not seem to matter. Consider Iran: the majority of the people value democracy, and even look favorably on the US. But so what? The Mullahs and the Red Guard rule with an iron fist, as we have seen during the recent elections when the candidates favored by most voters were stricken from ballot list. Moreover, Iran’s autocratic leaders are out in front in an effort to fund terrorist groups, in one form or another.

Consider the words of the eminent Simon Schama in a recent March 26 Financial Times Op-Ed piece:

We are not talking fine points of Shia-Sunni theological controversy here. By every means possible Isis is at pains to let us know they will kill as many of us as it takes to sow such mayhem in the heartland of the kaffir world that it will be impossible to resist mobilising the “Crusader” army for the promised apocalyptic showdown out of which the Caliphate will emerge forever victorious.

Also consider the comments of Professor R. Vaidanathan of the IIMB in Bangalore:

Radical Islam is not fighting Christianity – which anyhow is dead in Europe – but it is fighting modernity. Islam is frightened of modernity destroying their religion and culture, however unacceptable this culture may be to European liberals…..

Europe thought – à la Merkel – that they can buy peace with radical Islam by “requesting” them to integrate. But integrate with what? Integrate with “immoral Europe” where women are exhibited as “open meat”[(in the words of the Australian Imam] who are “poisonous.” [https://rvaidya2000.com/2016/03/23/idea-of-europe-is-dead/]

Contrast ISIS’ moral resolve with the pusillanimous attitude of Westerners. Most assert their disapproval of fundamentalism, of course. But their live-and-let-live attitude sees it as a “right” for people to “express their views” and espouse any religion they wish – including the Religion of Hate. The problem with this view is that the Religion of Hate is unlike any other religion in espousing the murder of all non-believers. Excessive tolerance further undermines the will of the West to fight back against Jihadism in a resolute way.

How the West Can Best Deal with Fundamentalism – Insights from Game Theory

In game theory, there is a fundamental distinction between positive-sum bargaining games, and zero-sum games. In bargaining games, it is assumed that both sides can be better off by agreeing on a way to “divide the pie” instead of playing their optimal threat strategies and ending up with no pie – or worse. All such games are positive-sum in nature. In a zero-sum game, however, there is no pie to divide, and no bargaining compromise is possible.

Most of the analyses of how the West should confront fundamentalism fail to make this all-important distinction. Analysts implicitly assume that negotiation strategies exist, strategies that will somehow end up with an acceptable compromise. President Obama’s stance towards Iran, Russia and China offer examples of this approach. In all three cases, he turned the other cheek, and attempted to “reset” relations with these nations expecting they would reciprocate. All would end up better off. But his antagonists ended up taking full advantage of his weakness, reneged on many agreements, and made Obama look as incompetent at bargaining as he has proven to be.

Professor Schama is right in his comments above. He is stating that, in effect, we are playing a zero-sum game. ISIS wants nothing from us in exchange for something. They simply want to destroy us. Analogously, Iran has no intention of settling with Israel. Its stated goal is the elimination of Israel. In such cases, the optimal strategy (for the West) is to identify the enemy’s vulnerabilities, and having done so, to sow as much grief and pain as possible. The fact that the enemy are scattered and that some of their recruits are happy to blow themselves up does not relieve us of the responsibility to hit where it hurts: recruits that do not wish to die (the vast majority), all training camps (we know where some thirty of these are located), family members, etc. We must pursue such targets both on their home ground, as well as within the EU and the US. There is also the question of how to extract intelligence from terrorist murderers who are captured. Just as an intelligent economist does not believe in free trade for a nation unless other nations follow suit, likewise enemies should be treated in accord with the Geneva Conventions only if they themselves adhere to them, adherence enforced by, say, an effective United Nations if one ever exists. Saying this is, of course, politically incorrect in the extreme. But reality beckons.

The currently fashionable suggestion that what is needed is “for Europe to better ‘integrate’ immigrants” is as vacuous as the citations above assert. Most immigrants want to and are able to integrate over time. They end up great assets of the nations they immigrate to. But as a matter of faith, the bad guys will never integrate into that world of sinners they hate. The West needs a coherent, broad-based, long campaign dedicated to destroying every aspect of terrorist operations. This need not imply a decade with large numbers of troops on the ground. But there will be phases requiring such a presence. Just consider what Russia achieved in its recent and relatively mild strategy against the opposition to the Assad regime. They hit hard, it worked, and they have now pulled back – for the moment. Their effectiveness yet again renders the indecision of President Obama a national embarrassment.

Within Europe, security must of course be tightened, but not at the expense of the crippling day to day economic life of people – precisely the outcome ISIS seeks. Leaders should encourage a much more stiff-upper-lip response by citizens than they have.

POSTSCRIPT

Political Correctness and the Lack of Sense of Humor in All True Believers

There is one common denominator of all True Believers, namely a lack of sense of humor. This is as true of terrorists as it is of today’s political correctness police in the US, spearheaded by those who traffic in wooly ideas about gender and class. What is happening on US campuses is outrageous, and recalls the moral absolutism espoused by Jihadists overseas. Freedom of speech is being seriously abridged, as are rights of free association. To repeal the right to free speech, all that is needed is some belief that certain comments are “inappropriate,” to use the word of the moment. “Trigger notices” warning that eight Shakespeare plays should not be taught constitute a reductio ad absurdum on the part of university heads. As for the rights of male students to a fair hearing in the case of alleged sexual harassment, hyper-risk-averse “administrative panels” now serve as prosecutor, judge, and jury. There is often no way for an accused male student to receive a proper defense. When the right to self-defense is abridged, it is time to vacate the new status quo.

What US Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in 1929 about the all-important right of freedom of thought and speech (cited at the opening of this essay) remains as true today as it was eighty-seven years ago. Silencing people who say things you do not want to hear amounts to a surrender to oppression. If the PC police resent this reality, they should perhaps recall the words of President Truman: If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

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Obama’s R-Word

If this event and subject even needs to be explained, then we have more basis problems.
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WSJ 8/19/2016

The Obama Administration’s handling of the Iran ransom-for-hostages story brings to mind the classic Chico Marx line in the movie “Duck Soup”: “Who are you going to believe— me or your own eyes?”

After everyone in the Administration from President Obama on down denied that a $400 million cash payment to Iran had anything to do with the same-day release of four American hostages, the State Department on Thursday said your own eyes had it right the first time.

While still not using the R-word, State Department spokesman John Kirby said of the two events: “We of course wanted to seek maximum leverage in this case as these two things came together at the same time.”

Credit here goes to Wall Street Journal reporters Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee, who on Aug. 3 broke the story of the $400 million payment to Iran coincident with the hostage release in January. Despite Mr. Obama himself trying to knock down the Journal’s story by asserting, “we do not pay ransom for hostages,” the reporters this week established the linkage.

U.S. officials acknowledged to the Journal that they wouldn’t allow a plane from Iran Air, loaded with pallets of cash, to take off from a runway in Geneva until the hostages’ plane in Tehran was “wheels up.” State’s Mr. Kirby was finally obliged to admit this publicly.

One may reasonably ask: Why did the Obama Administration persist with such an obviously preposterous cover story? Mr. Obama offered one honest answer amid his original denial. We didn’t pay a ransom, the President said, “precisely because if we did we’d start encouraging Americans to be targeted.”

There’s another reason. Mr. Obama didn’t want to sully what he obviously considers the crowning foreign-policy achievement of his Presidency with an admission that a grubby payoff to Iran’s mullahs is what got it done. Coming clearer by the day is the reality that Mr. Obama in fact ransomed his second term’s entire foreign policy to getting the nuclear deal, which along with lifting sanctions was supposed to be the incentive for Iran to help stabilize the Middle East. Iran had its own ideas about that.

On Tuesday the Russian foreign ministry ostentatiously announced that four of its Tu-22M3 bombers had flown from an Iranian airfield to hit anti-Assad forces in three Syrian provinces. The long-range bombers then returned to Russia.

Russia doesn’t need the Iranian air base to bomb Syria. Russia and Iran were making a political point about their budding alliance in the Middle East. They did this, moreover, after persuading Secretary of State John Kerry to persuade Mr. Obama to share with Russia U.S. intelligence on bombing targets in Syria. Mr. Obama sided with Mr. Kerry despite Pentagon objections. Oh, and Vladimir Putin is now sending tens of thousands of Russian soldiers to newly built installations near the border with Ukraine. Perhaps this is the Russian’s way of thanking Mr. Kerry for the intel.

Mr. Obama, meanwhile, spent August denying that a ransom was a ransom. Since the January “leverage” moment, Iran has taken three more Americans as hostage and is now demanding the return of $2 billion in funds that U.S. courts have ordered held for the victims of Iranian- sponsored terrorism. The eyes of the world can simply stare.

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