Monday, February 26, 2007

Maestro, it was 26 years overdue...

It shamefully took 26 years, six directing nominations and two screenplay nominations, for the legendary auteur of such masterpieces as Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, have his moment.

Congratulations Marty and thanks for sharing with us the blessing of your genius.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Diplomacy, not war, with Iran

Bill Richardson, Washington Post-Diplomacy is more than just talking to people. It requires speaking credibly from a position of strength. As the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as energy secretary, as a member of Congress and as a diplomatic envoy, I have always believed in and worked to achieve tough, credible and direct negotiations with adversaries. To be tough, you need strong alliances and a strong military. And to be credible, you need a record of meaning what you say. By alienating our allies, overextending our military, making idle threats and antagonizing just about everyone, the Bush administration has undermined our diplomatic leverage.

Seymour Hersh-The Redirection: The Pentagon is continuing intensive planning for a possible bombing attack on Iran, a process that began last year, at the direction of the President. In recent months, the former intelligence official told me, a special planning group has been established in the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged with creating a contingency bombing plan for Iran that can be implemented, upon orders from the President, within twenty-four hours. In the past month, I was told by an Air Force adviser on targeting and the Pentagon consultant on terrorism, the Iran planning group has been handed a new assignment: to identify targets in Iran that may be involved in supplying or aiding militants in Iraq. Previously, the focus had been on the destruction of Iran’s nuclear facilities and possible regime change.

The Sunday Times-US Generals 'Will Quit' if Bush Orders Iran Attack: Some of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources. Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack. “There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”

Monday, February 19, 2007

BBC: US 'Iran attack plans' revealed

US contingency plans for air strikes on Iran extend beyond nuclear sites and include most of the country's military infrastructure, the BBC has learned.

It is understood that any such attack - if ordered - would target Iranian air bases, naval bases, missile facilities and command-and-control centres.

The US insists it is not planning to attack, and is trying to persuade Tehran to stop uranium enrichment. The UN has urged Iran to stop the programme or face economic sanctions.

But diplomatic sources have told the BBC that as a fallback plan, senior officials at Central Command in Florida have already selected their target sets inside Iran. That list includes Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. Facilities at Isfahan, Arak and Bushehr are also on the target list, the sources say.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says the trigger for such an attack reportedly includes any confirmation that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon - which it denies.

Alternatively, our correspondent adds, a high-casualty attack on US forces in neighbouring Iraq could also trigger a bombing campaign if it were traced directly back to Tehran. Long range B2 stealth bombers would drop so-called "bunker-busting" bombs in an effort to penetrate the Natanz site, which is buried some 25m (27 yards) underground.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

On turning 33...

I think I'll take a moment, celebrate my age
The ending of an era and the turning of a page
Now its time to focus in on where I go from here
Lord have mercy on my next thirty years

Hey my next thirty years I'm gonna have some fun
Try to forget about all the crazy things I've done
Maybe now I've conquered all my adolescent fears
And I'll do it better in my next thirty years

My next thirty years I'm gonna settle all the scores
Cry a little less, laugh a little more
Find a world of happiness without the hate and fear

Figure out just what I'm doing here
In my next thirty years

Oh my next thirty years,
I'm gonna watch my weight
Eat a few more salads and not stay up so late
Drink a little lemonade and not so many beers (I'm not sure if I can keep my word on this one!)
Maybe I'll remember my next thirty years

My next thirty years will be the best years of my life
Raise a little family and hang out with my wife
Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear
Make up for lost time here, in my next thirty years
In my next thirty years

Written by Phil Vassar, performed by the one and only " Tim McGraw."

Monday, February 12, 2007

Another opportunity, another botched interview with Ahmadinejad

Kash Kheirkhah

Diane Sawyer of ABC News has joined the ranks of other US celebrity journalists who, despite claiming to have nailed Ahmadinejad on a wide range of issues, failed to truly take the Iranian President to task. Sawyer's interview with the Ahmadinejad, in particular, doesn't seem to have won any points with its American audience at all since it was frustratingly obvious that she hadn't done her homework on it, to the extent that even Ahmadinejad saw it fit to teach her a journalism lesson when she botched a very important question and that clearly speaks for itself:

Sawyer: Does Iran deserve the right to send Iranians in ... Americans have said they had false identities that they were trying to shave their heads, trying to flush evidence ...

(She could have told Ahmadinejad about the identification card found on an Iranian revolutionary guard agent arrested last month in Erbil. The card was presented yesterday along with other evidence of Iran's involvement in Iraq by the US military.)

Ahmadinejad: I don't think that in the legal system in the U.S. you have this postulation that if you arrest someone you have automatically accused someone, only people who have committed something wrong can be taken to court. I think it was childish for the U.S. government to do something like that to arrest defenseless people, not allowing them to talk to anyone and to publish information in a biased way. I think that this is not a solution to the problem in Iraq; the solution is somewhere else...

Our diplomats are now in Iraq... (Sawyer could have quoted Iranian ambassador in Iraq who admitted those arrested in Erbil were not diplomats. She could have also quoted Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zibari who also said those arrested there were not diplomats.)

Sawyer: Are you here to solve the problem of the American government in Iraq?

Ahmadinejad: These are some points that must be discussed at the diplomatic level. You are just a journalist. And of course we think that the Iraqi government has asked the U.S. administration to hand in security to the Iraqi government. And we think that it will help us in solving the problem.

(Sawyer could have followed up on that question by quoting the Iraqi President from his interview with CNN in which he said he was sure Iranians were behind attacks on Americans and asked both sides to settle their scores outside Iraq.)

But here is when Sawyer really drops the ball:

Sawyer: You said you have 52,000 suicide bombers. Where would you deploy them?

Ahmadinejad: Did I say that?

Sawyer: One of the Iraqi officials said that ...

Ahmadinejad: Who was that?

Sawyer: Mr. Sharafi.

Ahmadinejad: Well I don't know him, he has quoted me you mean? But what I said is quite clear who has he quoted ...

Sawyer: He is speaking from his own information, we supposed, we assumed ...

Sawyer: Ahmadinejad was right to challenge me, it was not a statement by an official, but a so-called unofficial organization dedicated to suicide bombing. So we asked, is it not true?

Ahmadinejad: ... [Laughs] Well I think that you should check your source because people say different things. One of the interior ministry officials from Iran said that all of these terrors are done by American forces, and that was an official. He had an official position in Iraq.

(This mix-up, in particular, deals a huge blow to Sawyer's credibility. First of all, the suicide bombers claim was made by Mohammad-Ali Samadi, spokesman for the government-backed "Headquarters to Commemorate the Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement" who claimed that 52,000 volunteers for martyrdom-seeking operations have been registered by his organisation, which also calls itself “Estesh’hadioun”, or martyrdom-seekers. This was an IRANIAN spokesperson which had the backing of the Iranian regime not an IRAQI official as Sawyer said. Second, Jalal Sharafi was the second secretary at the Iranian embassy in Baghdad who was snatched by unidentified gunmen and has nothing to do with this question. Sawyer sounded like she had no idea what she was talking about, prompting Ahamdinejad to not only mock her--embarrasing her enough to try to add a little explanation later to the interview--but dodge the issue completely.)

All I can say is that it is really frustrating to watch these interviews done by some of the most reputable journalists in America. In all honesty, I really like ABC News and Diane Sawyer. I believe with the US military presentation yesterday, Sawyer should have gone for the kill and cornered Ahmadinejad with some solid questions backed up by the fresh evidence at hand.

That, unfortuantely, never happened.

Wasn't there anyone from ABC News with Diane Sawyer to tell her who Sharafi was?

Wasn't there anyone in the ABC News team to do a 40-second google search about the suicide bombers question so that Sawyer wouldn't botch that very important question?

Are these poor interviews indicative of all US journalism has got to offer when it comes to the world coverage and dealing with rogues such as Ahmadinejad?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Western media and mullahs

Kash Kheirkhah

Shahbanou (Empress) Farah Pahlavi, former queen of Iran, sat down with VOA Persian service yesterday on the eve of the 28th anniversary of the revolution that led to the downfall of her husband, the late Shah of Iran, and brought an Islamic fundamentalist regime to power.

At one point during the interview, Shahbanou criticized the Western media for being unfairly harsh on her husband while uncharacteristically kind to the mullahs, saying "our government was like a clean sheet on which the tiniest black spot was magnified beyond all proportion whereas mullahs' has been like a black sheet on which even the tiniest white spot is considered as positive."

Although most Western media have been harshly critical of the mullahs' regime in Iran, the empress does have a point. Look at the following excerpts from Newsweek's cover story on Iran published today and also my explanations in parentheses to find out why:

Newsweek-Rumors of War

by Michael Hirsh and Maziar Bahari

February 12, 2007

-Jalal Sharafi was carrying a videogame, a gift for his daughter, when he found himself surrounded. On that chilly Sunday morning, the second secretary at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad had driven himself to the commercial district of Arasat Hindi to checkout the site for a new Iranian bank...

(Humanizing an Iranian Ministry of Information agent who has trained and worked in Lebanon before being sent to Iraq and could even have a hand in attacks against US troops in Iraq.)

NW-The Iranians have reason to feel paranoid. In recent weeks senior American officers have condemned Tehran for providing training and deadly explosives to insurgents...

(First of all, what reason do Iranian military and information agents have to be in Iraq in the first place?)

NW-The secret history of the Bush administration's dealings with Iran is one of arrogance, mistrust and failure...

(Meaning nothing has ever been wrong on the side of Tehran's regime. It's all Bush's fault.)

NW-Mohammad Hossein Adeli was one of only two deputies on duty at the Foreign Ministry when the attacks took place, late on a sweltering summer afternoon. He immediately began contacting top officials, insisting that Iran respond quickly. "We wanted to truly condemn the attacks but we also wished to offer an olive branch to the United States, showing we were interested in peace," says Adeli. To his relief, Iran's top official, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, quickly agreed. "The Supreme Leader was deeply suspicious of the American government," says a Khameini aide whose position does not allow him to be named. "But [he] was repulsed by these terrorist acts and was truly sad about the loss of the civilian lives in America." For two weeks worshipers at Friday prayers even stopped chanting "Death to America."

(This is absolutely wrong and a pathetic effort by the Iranian officials as always to exploit the naive foreign media. The Iranian leadership was scared to death after 9/11. That's why they didn't chant death to America and wasted no time to condemn the attacks. But when the young Iranians tried to stage a candle light vigil for the victims of the 9/11 attack, the Iranian police used force to disperse them. Khamenei represents an ideology that labels Westerners as "infidels" and considers the Western culture as the greatest menace to fundamentalist Islam. Khamenei doesn't have the slightest human feelings left in him to feel sad for the loss of life, not just on American soil, but even in his own country. Just look at all the anger and hate in his face when he makes speeches.)

NW-The Iranian team's leader, Javad Zarif, was a good-humored University of Denver alumnus with a deep, measured voice, who would later become U.N. ambassador. Jim Dobbins, Bush's first envoy to the Afghans, recalls sharing coffee with Zarif in one of the sitting rooms, poring over a draft of the agreement laying out the new Afghan government. "Zarif asked me, 'Have you looked at it?' I said, 'Yes, I read it over once'," Dobbins recalls. "Then he said, with a certain twinkle in his eye: 'I don't think there's anything in it that mentions democracy. Don't you think there could be some commitment to democratization?' This was before the Bush administration had discovered democracy as a panacea for the Middle East. I said that's a good idea."...

(So the idea of the democratization of the Middle East belongs to Mr Zarif not Mr Bush! How interesting! Islamic Republic officials interested in a commitment to democratization! That's news to me as an Iranian!)

Ladies and Gentelmen of the Western media, this kind of reporting is an insult to our intelligence. It will score no points for you with the Iranian regime. The mullah regime will use these very same reports in its own media to legitimize itself in the eyes of its public. This is not true journalism. This is appeasing an illegitimate, inhumane regime and by so doing, you are only doing them a favor not the Iranian people.

How is that you grill your own officials but then cozy up to mullahs? Isn't it disgusting that after all the Islamic regime has done to you in the past 28 years, one of your politicians bend over back wards in Davos to score a photo-op with the former Iranian president who in 2000, out of the fear of being reprimanded by Khamenei, hid in the washroom in order to avoid shaking hands with President Clinton in the UN?

Just like you I'm against the US invading Iran but you, as journalists in the free world, and I, as an Iranian dissident, don't have to deviate from our moral principles and cozy up to mullahs to make a case against the war.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Come to your senses, Emir of Kuwait begs Iran

The Times-The Emir of Kuwait has implored Iran’s leadership to “come to its senses” and avoid plunging the region into a new conflict over its controversial nuclear programme. Ahead of his first official visit to Britain as Kuwait’s head of state today, Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah raised fears that the Gulf could be dragged into a new confrontation unless Iran satisfied the world that it was not seeking to build an atomic bomb.

The President of Iran visited me here. We had a very frank talk. We told him that if nuclear energy will be used for peaceful purposes we will be first to welcome it,” Sheikh Sabah told The Times at Bayan Palace in Kuwait City. “But if it is the intention of his leadership to use this energy for military purposes, then we will be very unhappy. I hope they use their heads, that they will be reasonable, that wisdom will prevail. They must avoid this very dangerous stage which at present they are in and avoid the dangerous situation that might befall them,” the 77-year-old ruler said.


Arab Times: US military strike on Iran seen by April ’07; Sea-launched attack to hit oil, N-sites

KUWAIT CITY: Washington will launch a military strike on Iran before April 2007, say sources. The attack will be launched from the sea and Patriot missiles will guard all oil-producing countries in the region, they add... reliable source said President Bush recently held a meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Dr Condoleezza Rice and other assistants in the White House where they discussed the plan to attack Iran in minute detail.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

US still 'not sure' over new Iran strategy

Kash Kheirkhah

Inspite of all the brouhahah that President Bush's new aggressive tone on Iran has created, it's quite obvious that neither he nor any other official in his administration has a clear idea how to confront Iran.

The Sunday Telegraph reports today that a rift has been growing among America's military chiefs and the country's diplomats over "confronting Iranian agents in Iraq over their role in lethal attacks on US forces."

"Angered by the mounting toll of troops killed by ever-more sophisticated devices, US commanders insisted last month that the White House give them authority to target and kill Iranian operatives in Iraq as part of the new 21,500-troop "surge" strategy ordered by Mr Bush...But the State Department, headed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and the CIA had argued against openly targeting Iranian agents, most of whom claim to be diplomats based at Teheran's network of consulates, liaison offices and cultural offices in Iraq. They contended that this approach could escalate into direct armed conflict with Iran...The military and the State Department and CIA are coming at this from very different approaches. State and the CIA believe we should respect the supposed diplomatic immunity of these Iranians. But the military has had enough and they say 'to hell with their fake diplomatic immunity'."

This past week, The Bush administration decided, twice, not to release evidence on Iran's activities in Iraq, contradicted a previous statement made by the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad who, in a briefing with reporters last week, had said that the United States will provide details on its case against Iran soon. Stephen Hadley, President Bush's national security adviser, said on Friday, "The truth is, quite frankly, we thought the briefing overstated, and we sent it back to get it narrowed and focused on the facts," meaning the US can't prove Iran's role in Iraq--not at least for now. Defense Secretary Robert Gates also admitted Friday that U.S. officials can't say for sure whether the Iranian government is involved in assisting the attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq. "I don't know that we know the answer to that question," Gates said. As for Iran's role in the abduction and killings of five U.S. servicemen in Karbala last month, Gates refused to say whether the US had any evidence linking Iran to the incident, "I would just tell you flatly that the investigation is still going on, and the information that I've seen is ambiguous. It's not clear yet."

Iran's role in Iraq is the world's worst-kept secret. The Iranian agants arrested in Erbil by US forces are still in custody and allegedly speaking like a canary. U.S. military leaders in Iraq have time and again said they have evidence that Iran is behind the supply network of explosives. In an interview last week with the USA Today, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno said that the US forces have weapons--such as RPG-29 and Katyusha rockets-- that through serial numbers trace back to Iran."

So why do Hadly and Gates play possum here? because conceding Iran's role in Iraq in general and in specificdeadly attacks against US targets in particular--like the recent Karbala incident which is considered as a possible eye-for-an-eye act of revenge by Iran (five US soldiers in return for five Iranian agants in US custody)--would mean that the US will have to confront Iran militarily in Iraq and that, the US diplomats contend, can lead to full-blown confrontation of unknown consequences with Iran. On the other hand if the US doesn't react, Tehran could get even more emboldened, feeling it has been able to call the US bluff.

So how will the Bush administration be able to put an end to this dilemma? The answer could lie with the Iranian regime.

Memri reports that according to the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, in his just-published memoir, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy tellsabout a meeting between three European foreign ministers and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Iran'snuclear program, in New York on September 15, 2005. Douste-Blazy wrote that, after a prolonged fruitless discussion, Ahmadinejad suddenly changed the course of the discussion by telling the ministers: "Do you know why we should wish for chaos at any price? Because after the chaos, we can see the greatness of Allah."

Also earlier today, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani--falsely reputed as "moderate" former president-- said, "the Iranian nation will emerge successful from this psychological warfare too and will defend their rights," later adding "To us, martyrdom is the shortest way to come closer to Almighty God."