There are many different ways to look at the developments in Iran. One perspective that seems to have been ignored is what I regard as the cardinal role of the Revolutionary Guards.
Over the 20 years that Ayatollah Khamenei has been the rahbar, or leader, he has allied himself ever more closely with the Revolutionary Guards—to such an extent that it is no longer apparent to me who is leading and who is following. The Revolutionary Guards have been granted extraordinary influence over all functions of the Islamic republic—military, political, economic, and even Islamic. Technically, they take their orders from the leader, but has he ever dared to contradict them? On the contrary, he seems always to court them by granting them ever-greater influence and responsibilities. [continued...]
The 125,000-strong Guards Corps was created by Iran’s clerical rulers after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Its influence has grown under Ahmadinejad, himself a guards veteran, said Michael Eisenstadt, a senior analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Eight of the 21 posts in the president’s cabinet are held by former members, according to Ali Alfoneh, an analyst at Washington’s American Enterprise Institute. Among them are Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli, whose agency ran the election, and Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar.
Another five places are occupied by past Basij commanders. The state broadcasting arm is headed by Ezzatollah Zarghami, a former guard. At least one-third of Iran’s parliament members are former guards, according to Nader.
Under Ahmadinejad’s predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, 65, only three ministers had belonged to the guards or Basij. [continued...]
Between 1979, the year of the Islamic revolution, and 1999, Iran’s population doubled to 65 million, two-thirds of them under 25 years of age. Those young Iranians had no direct experience or memory of the pre-Islamic regime of the Shah — its inequities and injustices, and its subservient relationship with Washington. Therefore, their commitment to the Islamic regime was less than total. Moreover, the post-revolutionary educational system had proven inadequate when it came to socializing them the way the republic’s religious leaders wanted.
During those two decades, Iran’s student body increased almost threefold, to 19 million. The overall literacy rate jumped from 58% to 82%, with the figure for females — 28% in 1979 — tripling. There was a remarkable upsurge in the enrollment of women in universities. Nationally, their share of university student bodies shot up to 60%. At prestigious Tehran University, they were a majority in all faculties, including science and law.
The total of university graduates, which stood at 430,000 in 1979, grew nine-fold in those years. As elsewhere in the world, university students and graduates would become a vital engine for change. [continued...]
With the distressing news of so many democracy activists being rounded up by the Iranian regime, the specter of torture for false confessions emerges. The confessions “prove” that the demonstrations were entirely a function of a foreign plot. And, more to the point, the torture techniques include those adopted and championed by the neocon right in the US. Among the Cheney techniques that are used by the Khemenai regime are sleep deprivation, forced nudity, beatings, solitary confinement, and stress positions. [continued...]
Iran has now forced its way back to the top of the White House agenda, as a result of Tehran’s violent crackdown on its own citizens protesting claims of election fraud. The domestic political pressure on the Administration to take a tougher stand against Iran’s regime may actually help Netanyahu resist pressure for a settlement freeze. After all, the President may find it difficult, in Washington, to muster pressure on Israel over settlements at a moment when he’s being berated for speaking too softly on Tehran’s crackdown. Members of Congress are now proposing new sanctions legislation and even demanding hearings on U.S. policy toward Tehran. And that’s exactly the conversation that Netanyahu wants dominating the nation’s capital. [continued...]
Israel would be open to a complete freeze of settlement building in the West Bank for three to six months as part of a broad Middle East peace endeavor that included a Palestinian agreement to negotiate an end to the conflict and confidence-building steps by major Arab nations, senior Israeli officials said Sunday.[...]
The officials who spoke of the prospect of a temporary freeze said the issue was explosive in Israel, so they were not prepared to have their names publicly associated with the idea at this stage. But they spoke with clear authority. They calculated that about 2,000 buildings were going up in West Bank settlements now and said that they would be completed under their proposal, but nothing new would start. They also said that if broader peace efforts came to naught, the building would start up again. [continued...]
Editor’s Comment — There comes a point where clear language has been so thoroughly and persistently abused and avoided that the only means left for communication are non-verbal. If Barak is actually on his way to Washington with this as his offer, then the White House should turn the humiliation dial up a few more more notches from the recently canceled meeting between Netanyahu and Mitchell in Paris. At that point the Israelis were told there was no point sending Mitchell until Netanyahu had “finished his homework” on halting settlements. This time around perhaps Barak’s meeting should be canceled while he’s midway across the Atlantic.
[Rahm] Emanuel’s view is that settlements are not a security issue for Israel but a domestic political problem. According to a senior White House official, Emanuel has argued that if the Israelis insist on expanding settlements, “You’re doing it on your own dime. We don’t want our credibility to be compromised as you work out your domestic politics. We’re not going to pay for that one.”
What has surprised the Israelis, says the White House official, is that “for umpteen years, they’ve been trained to hear one thing from America on settlements but see us do another. It takes some adjustment.”
The White House believes that if it comes to a showdown, Netanyahu will compromise. His coalition government, the administration reasons, is too weak to sustain an open break with its key ally, the United States. If Netanyahu defies the United States, his coalition will splinter. The administration is already talking with Ehud Barak, the Labor Party leader and defense minister, who might form a new government if Netanyahu falls.
It’s a hardheaded strategy, but it has one big flaw: The Obama team is assuming that if it can pressure Israel into a real settlements freeze, the Arabs will respond with meaningful moves toward normalization of relations — which will give Israel some tangible benefits for its concessions. But that hope appears to be misplaced. [continued...]
What is a world where you cannot go for a walk, cannot assemble to read and discuss literature in public, cannot be certain of visiting your grandmother in a neighboring city? What is a world where you cannot lose your temper, cannot laugh in the wrong place? (Imagine, if you will, living your entire life in the security line at the airport, on a bad day.) For us, the French and British consulates opened their doors; but they can’t always do so for the Palestinians. [continued...]
The International Committee of the Red Cross has described the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza as people “trapped in despair”.
In a report, it said that a main cause was the continuing Israeli blockade.
The report comes six months after the end of Israel’s military offensive in Gaza in which at least 1,100 Palestinians died. [continued...]