Commentary From the Mile High City

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Joshua Sharf

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June 19, 2009

The Youth In Iran

My friend, Ana Sami, wrote a piece for Al Arabiyah prior to the Iranian elections, discussing the role of the youth there.  Given that university students have been both the focus of government attacks, and the main, on-the-street, Twitter-assisted organizers of the stree protests, I thought it was worth highlighting this paragraph:

A noteworthy implication of Iran's youthful population includes timing. Currently, Iran's population while now old enough to understand and participate in politics, cannot be held accountable or claim loyalty to a government they never chose. While their parents' generation cannot be held fully responsible for what was to become of the revolution, they can at a minimum claim political participation and activism to change a way of life they knew and rebelled against.

The bold reactions and content of criticism surrounding the candidates from within Iran's youthful population is striking considering previous protests and the consequences that followed.

Read the whole thing here.

May 4, 2009

Iran, Playing Us For Suckers

The Wall Street Journal today carried two important pieces about our approach to Iran. 
One was a report that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is in the region trying to console, reassure our Arab clients allies, that we won't suck up to reach out to Iran at their expense.

Given Iran's desiderata, it's a zero-sum game, possibly a negative-sum game.  Helping Iran take a role in regional affairs necessarily entails limiting our own role, allowing the mullahs to help shape events to their liking.  These regimes are not to their liking, but can probably be bypassed for the moment at Iran targets Lebanon, Egypt, and other potential and current US allies of actual significance.
Gates also said that the emirs had nothing to worry about since, in all likelihood, the administration's overtures would be met by a "closed fist." 
It's not the closed fist I'm worried about, it's the joy buzzer.  Iran is easily savvy enough ato use negotiations and the appearance of openness to jolly us along until, one morning, look at that, a bomb!  Wow, what a coincidence; we were just talking about that.  Where did that come from?  And where did all those Europeans allies go to?  In fact, Amir Taheri makes an excellent case that this is exactly what they have been doing.
More transparently, it puts the initiative in Iran's hands, or fists, relying on them not to be smart enough to make their best play when indeed they already are. 
When your best response is, "don't worry, they won't be smart enough to discern our good intentions," you can bet that 1) they already have, and 2) it's not particularly reassuring to your allies.

It ought to be even less reassuring to us.

April 24, 2009

Clinton Strikes Back at Israel

Israel's new government has adopted the position that it will not seriously engage the Palestinians until serious progress has been made on curbing the Mad Mullahs' nuclear ambitions. It's been pointed out that this makes a great deal of sense for Israel. The Palestinians are clearly a lower-order threat, lacking the means to immediately eradicate slightly less than half of the world's Jewish population. The Israeli populace realizes this, and it may well make it possible for Netanyahu to successfully confront this increasingly hostile administration, where his previous encounter with a Clinton failed.

Secretary of State Clinton has responded by taking a harder line, and invoking the need to get the other Arab states on board before confronting Iran:

Clinton noted that every Arab official she has met with "wants very much to support the strongest possible policy toward Iran." But, she said, "they believe that Israel's willingness to reenter into discussions with the Palestinian Authority strengthens them in being able to deal with Iran."

She said the Obama administration was seeking to coordinate the Arab and Israeli positions so the unusual dynamic of unity on Iran could be exploited.

She must realize this is nonsense on stilts. The only thing more frightening is if she doesn't. Seriously curbing Iran would have the effect of undermining its support for Hamas and Hezbollah, easing any progress there is to be had between Israel and the Palestinians.

Acutal unity on the dynamic of Iran would come from the Arab governments' realizing that a nuclear Iran poses a serious existential threat to them, not independent of the effect it would have on Israel. The Arab regimes - far from actually wanted a resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli issue - have repeated used it to avoid progress on all sorts of issues. That they should do so now shouldn't come as a surprise with anyone who's not suffering from extremely serious memory loss. It certainly shouldn't come as a surprise to a Secretary of State who tried to use her alleged foreign policy experience to sell her Presidential campaign.

What's going on here is serious doubt that the US has staying power in the region, something that Obama's prostrations - both figurative and literal - have only served to promote. He has clearly shown he has no appetite for confronting Iran over either its repression or its aggression, even as Iran continues to build up its ability to deter us from doing so.

The Arab states realize that Iran's possession of a bomb would be used to chase the US from the region, forcing a most unpleasant - and surely temporary - accomodation with a regime that has proved canny in pursuit of its religious agenda. Their linking their support for a hard line against Iran with the Palestinians is a semi-polite way of not putting themselves on what they believe will be the losing side.

July 10, 2008

Thoughts on Iran Imminentizing the Eschaton

There was a reason by 8th grade English teacher introduced us to this man's humor - the lyrics. Rhyming "sturgeons" with "detergeons" ("Pollution") is simply brilliant.

June 22, 2008

A Local Champion for Muslim Freedom

Today, before I start walking the district, I want to introduce you to a friend of mine. She's a local Muslim woman, and a tireless and articulate exile and a budding champion for her people, who are living under tyranny imposed by religious differences. She's been active in reaching out to secular, Christian, and Jewish Americans, building alliances and seeking help for her people's stymied attempts to throw off their oppression. She speaks at local universities. And her op-eds have been published in local newspapers.

Her name is Ana Sami, and she's the American daughter of Iranian exiles. (Oh, please, you didn't really think I meant...I mean, come on.)

Miss Sami first contacted me when she saw my postings about local Shiite Imam-without-portfolio Ibrahim Kazerooni. We've had a coffee a few times, chatting about Iran's troubles under Ahmedine-nut-job, as she calls him, and the Iranian peoples' efforts to do something about him and his murderous regime.

And for the record, for those of you who think that being a Muslim means hostility to Israel think again. Look, it's not her top priority, naturally, but people like the former Mufti of Jerusalem are not, as she puts it, her best friends. I've detected nothing but sympathy for Israel, an attitude reflective of most of the Iranian people, as far as I've ever been able to detect. I suspect that she also understands that a strong Israel and a strong Iran will be better-positioned to confront common enemies, of which they have many.

Ana's recently graduated from the Colorado School of Mines, where she had a letter to the editor published, deriding Columbia University for giving the Mad Mullahs' sock puppet a platform, and detailing Ahmedinejad's personal achievements before rising to power:

Alireza Jafarzadeh, author of "The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) stated evidence that Ahmadinejad is known in Iran as "the man of a thousand bullets" because he was the one to fire the last blow, or 'tir-khalas,' to political prisoners who were executed by way of a firing squad. Former political prisoners such as 58-year-old Laya Roshan gave a press conference in Paris on September 26th of this year in which she testified that she met Ahmadinejad in 1982 while in the torture chamber of Iran's notorious Evin prison. Roshan was a dentist who was arrested and taken to Evin prison under the charges of assisting opponents of the regime. As she painfully recalls the vivid memories she has of Ahmadinejad, she also revealed an experience in which she witnessed his torture of a female prisoner when he "held her arm and dragged her on the ground and took her to the torture chamber. The prisoner was returned two hours later with broken teeth, torn lips and blue face." Roshan plans to press charges against Ahmadinejad.

Ana's also been the featured commentator at DU on Epitaph, a documentary on the ruinous effects on women of Iran's regime. The regime seems hell-bent on pushing the country into penury, and more and more women are turning to prostitution to support themselves. We've seen the sort of thing in the aftermath of wars, and in chronically poverty-stricken countries. But Iran was a westernized, cosmopolitan country when these butchers took over.

And she wrote for the Denver Post about the courage of a man put to death by the regime in a public execution:

The price these victims pay for their bravery is the same, and all hangings are equally as disturbing and unjustified. However, the smile that gleamed over Majid's face as he strained to wave goodbye while handcuffed was indeed victorious, and the message was clear: "I defeated you, I am not frightened, and I am honored to die; hanging me will no longer repel resistance."

While Majid's courage is remarkable in the face of such torment and brutality, we can be sure that there will be other fearless Iranian youths ready to give their lives, until that proud smile gives way to the much awaited dawn of change.

On a personal note, when I told Ana about my race, she was very happy I was running, and to tell the truth, she's been very helpful in explaining both the Iranian situation, and some of the dynamics of the local Muslim community.

Hopefully, like all of us fighting this battle, it'll be over soon for her, and she move on to other pursuits.

March 12, 2008

Mark Udall, Natural Gas, Iran, and You

Mark Udall - a good, patriotic American - is a threat to national security.

OK, not all by himself, and not any one of his positions, but as part of a Democratic Senate majority, and as a combination of his policy views.


  1. He has repeatedly opposed expanded gas production on the western slope
  2. He has voted against an additional 700 miles of fencing along our border with Mexico

Why is this a threat to national security? Because Iran is almost certainly plotting to disrupt our supply of natural gas from Mexico, And because they may well be trying to insert operatives directly into the United States.

Todd Bensman of the San Antonio Express-News, wrote the series, "Breaching America," and appeared as a guest on Backbone Radio with John Andrews and me. Well, he's back, with a story about Iran establishing a presence in Nicaragua, now run by Venezuela-friendly and decidedly US-unfriendly Danny Ortega.

Make no mistake, this is no humanitarian mission. This is exactly from the Soviet playbook - promise aid to establish a reason for being there. In this case, the aid amounts to a ridiculously ambitious project with little-to-no economic reason for being. Send a high-level delegation, with ministers of electricity, or whatever, providing cover for intelligence operatives. (Note that one of the delegation members is the Iranian Ambassador to Venezuela, also a likely intelligence agent.)

With completely ineffective border security, the Iranians will soon be in terrific position to start slipping agents across borders. And there aren't a whole lot of borders between Managua and El Paso.

More immediately, they may already have tried to blow up the main Mexican pipeline. Or, they may have gotten the idea from that attempt, and want to do it right this time.

If it were an oil pipeline, it might matter less. Oil is easily shipped all over the world, so there's a world market for it. Natural gas is difficult and expensive to ship across oceans, and the US has also resisted building LNG terminals. This means that there is, at best, a continental market for natural gas. And it also means that the best defense against any disruption in supply is...a good, reliable, local supply.

Mark Udall's policies leave us both more vulnerable to an attack, and more vulnerable to the effects of that attack.

September 25, 2007

Men On Horseback

Over at the Washington Post's Post Global, journalist Daoud Kuttab continues to exhibit the Palestinians' debilitating tradition of hitching their wagons to increasingly toxic foreign leaders, hoping to rescue them from themselves:

Columbia University was correct to invite the Iranian president, and those opposing the invitation include individuals who do not tolerate any viewpoint other than their own, whether domestic or international. Iran is a major player in a region of strategic importance to the U.S.. American diplomats are willing to meet with their Iranian counterparts to talk about Iraq; certainly American academics and students (and hopefully the public at large, via CSPAN's television coverage) will get to hear the Iranian president’s opinions from his own mouth, rather than through the filters and spin doctors of the U.S.’s pro-Israel lobby.

Ahmadinejad is no saint; plenty of what he says reflects intolerance and can be considered hate speech. Iran’s role in the Iraq conflict can be debated, but compared to what President Bush and his administration and army have done in Iraq, Guantanamo, and in other parts of the world, I think that the Iranian president doesn't look so bad. I, for one, plan to hear what he has to say.

Assad, Nasser, Sadat, Arafat (what, you thought he was Palestinian?), Saddam, and now Ahmedinejad. Kuttab understands all too well that the real target of yesterday's propaganda wasn't the US, but the Middle East. So much for the unbridgeable Shia--Sunni divide.

July 3, 2007

Michael Hirsh, Hearing Impaired

From the people who brought you detente, Glasnost, and the two-state solution, we now get, Iran Has a Message, Are We Listening? Iran has a message all right, but it's not the one Hirsh thinks he's hearing.

Hirsh was invited to receive an unofficial message from Iran's government, supposedly eager to reach a modus vivendi with the United States. The "message" is thoroughly unconvincing to the critical ear, both on its own terms and in light of the regime's complete history.

Hirsh claims that "Iran has grown weary of its economic and political isolation..." But later, we are told:

Stores are well stocked, the streets are thronged with shoppers, and flower stores and luxury goods abound, indicating that people in this oil-rich economy still have plenty of disposable income. The U.N. sanctions and the quiet pressure on international banks to cut off business with Iran inflict some pain, but they are generally nuisances and not deal-breakers. And the sanctions are shot full of holes: European businesses do vibrant trade with Iranian counterparts, and Iranians have just shifted their business dealings from dollars to Euros.

Iran doesn't sound either weary or economically isolated.

The Iranians ostensibly want to make this about the nuclear program, but then bring up the rest of their catspaws in the region:

My conversations with hard-liners and reformers inside Tehran also suggested something deeper: that under the right circumstances, Iran may still be willing to stop short of building a bomb. "Iran would like to have the technology, and that is enough for deterrence," says S.M.H. Adeli, Iran's moderate, urbane former ambassador to London.

... even as the administration continues to accuse Iran of delivering sophisticated makeshift bombs to Iraqi militants. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government "is of strategic importance to us," Rezai said. "We want this government to stay in power. Rival Sunni countries oppose Maliki. We haven't." It also stands to reason that in Afghanistan, Lebanon and the new "Hamastan" in Gaza -- all places where Tehran wields enormous influence -- an Iran that is encouraged to play a broader regional security role could become more cooperative.

Hirsh's "delivering sophisticated makeshift bombs" barely scratches the surface of Iran's involvement in Iraq. Hezbollah now appears to be taking part in the attacks directly. Iran trained the groups that ambushed and killed 5 US soldiers in January. In the south, Iranian-trained and supported death squads have been preparing the ground for the eventual British withdrawal. When Mookie Al-Sadr fled Iraq in advance of the Surge, he fled to Iran.

Hirsh claims that, "...several Iranian officials hinted that Ahmadinejad crossed a red line in Iranian politics when he pushed his rhetoric beyond the official hope that Israel would one day disappear to suggest that Tehran might help that process along. A new Iranian president would rebalance that position, they indicated." Rebalance it to what? Hirsh's host may well be the man responsible for the 1994 bombing of the JCC in Buenos Aires. The men who actually carried out the bombing live under the protection of the Venzuelan government. It's good to know that Iran will retreat from Armaggeddon back to the routine murder of Jews around the world.

Yes, Iran aided the new government in Afghanistan - because the US victory was so overwhelmingly decisive that aid was the only way for Iran to stay in the game.

Only someone as blinkered as Hirsh could possibly interpret this as a peace overture. Iran believes that the United States is so hobbled by internal divisions that the administraion will seek any face-saving measure it can come up with. This "peace overture" consists entirely of forebearance on the part of Iran - for now. Iran will neither disband nor disown Hezbollah, ensuring that Tehran's domination of southern Lebanon. It will neither disband nor disown Hamas. It hopes to eat out the government of Iraq from within. It will stop just short of actually building a bomb, refraining from crossing the line while reaping all the benefits of having done so.

The real message here is, "Just give us what we want, and nobody gets hurt. For now. Until the next time." Only Hirsh is too deaf to hear it.

May 7, 2007

Memorandum of Understanding

Word has it that the Iranian delegates have asked those assembled at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation conference to continue enjoying the food and free parking for a while longer, as it consults with its government on the best way to torpedo the event. Reportedly, the delegates are trying to reach language that would allow blah, blah, blah.

So, at the risk of violating the Logan Act, here's some suggested language that might help break the impasse:

We hereby demand that the government of Iran cease all efforts with regard to its nuclear program by noon tomorrow. Or we will stop them for you.

The beauty of this language is that it allows the words, "nuclear program" to be replaced with virtually any objectionable activity. Try, "support for Hezbollah," or, "arming and funding of Hamas," or even "hastening the return of the Hidden imam." Noon where? Heh.

An optional follow-on paragraph:

After which, we will pursue unremitting warfare by military and all other means against your government, until it ceases to function as the government of Iran, and its leaders are either in Guantanamo Bay or otherwise appropriately disposed of.

Some would argue that this is the equivalent of waving a loaded pistol under our enemies' noses. Other might say that, with Carl Levin in charge of Defense, it's the equivalent of waving an empty pistol under our enemies' noses.

I would argue that it's a good baseline standard for the next elections.

August 21, 2006


This pretty much sums up my thinking about August 22.

If the Western Way of War involves quick, decisive battles, then the way to beat it is to encourage muddled, inconclusive confrontations. Iran seems to be very good at that.

August 16, 2006

The Iranian Cartoons Unveiled

Much like the Danish cartoons, everyone's writing about them, some people are condemning them, but nobody's showing them. I put the Danish cartoons here because too many people were happy chatting away without a clue what they were talking about. And not just Democrats.

Likewise, it's all well and good to remind everyone what the mullahs are with words, but there's a reason that people still watch Triumph of the Will. The Caricature House hasn't posted the actual cartoons yet - probably worried about selling limited-edition prints, and wouldn't want to give the milk away for free - but they and some other outlets have posted photo galleries.

So let's get started, shall we? We need to be back in time for the afternoon beheadings.

You gotta admire their attention to detail. I mean really, you spend, what, thousands of dollars promoting the contest, inviting the press, buying figs and dates for kiddush for the opening, and then you screw up the poster. Half the cartoons are in English, which tells you a little something about the target audience, but also tells you that apparently their proofreaders are Reuters rejects. Someone's getting a stern reprimand over this.

Note, by the way, the theme of the contest. Take a close look at the right-hand edge of that top helmet. Others have noticed, but it bears repeating: these guys want to deny the Holocaust happened, while portraying the Israelis Jews as latter-day Nazis. The genius of good propaganda is doublethink.

Lost in thought. Probably unfamiliar territory. But look at the cartoon over the guy's shoulder. Sharon in a Nazi uniform! The caption hardly matters. There's a lot of stuff with this idea. In fact, pretty much anything with an actual Holocaust theme has this one. Ah well, dictatorship'll do that to creativity.

Bonus points if you noticed the name of the wire service on the microphone.

See what I mean? This guy, who looks kind of normal, so we can't call him, "Green Helmet Guy," or anything like that, seems to be the head of Caricature House. Maybe we'll call him "Houseboy."

Houseboy's the center of their attention, but focus on the cartoon to the right. Yes, that's Lady Liberty giving a Nazi Hezbollah salute. My guess is that Bernard Goldberg is right - you could probably find a half-dozen of these in Leftist US publications protesting the Patriot Act.

One long staircase just for the women,
And one even longer for the men.
And one more leading nowhere just for dhimmis.

Well, you know, once you're retired, you've got all this extra time. I mean, sure, you've got your 10,000-hour pin from the Men's Club down at the dungeon, but really, after a while, who needs it?

There's another one of those, "The Palestinians are the New Jews" cartoons again. The guy's in a concentration-camp uniform but he's wearing a kaffiyah, and look closely. Yes! It's a little yellow crescent. How clever! Especially given the Law of Dhimmitude, Clothing Chapter.

Like so much else, this is called, "projection," where you accuse the other guy of doing what you're a specialist at. Then you count on the moral laziness of the enemy to nod thoughtfully, sorrowfully, and ask if it's really come to that.

The one on the left looks like a little wind-up toy with a rifle going through his nose. There's red, white, and blue, and my guess is that there's a Magen David on there somewhere. Somehow, I don't think they'd get the Pinnochio reference.

On the right, it looks like a little girl asking a soldier, "Are you a Holocaust?"

No cute, little girl, I'm probably here to hand out candy and schoolbooks. Only these ones will have maps that actually show Israel, and won't refer to Jews as monkeys and pigs.

Here's Houseboy making an important point of some kind.

The last word on the cartoon over his shoulder is, "DEAD," and there's a little red-and-white swastika on top of Uncle Sam's head, although Uncle Sam, upon further reflection, looks a lot like Uncle Adolf. If anyone can make out the words in white, I'm sure that would help us all get the joke.

Here's another common theme - that Israel only exists because of the Holocaust. See, the hook-nosed Shylock uses the Holocaust to plant himself and his menorah on Palestine. Of course, Zionism began long before WWII. There would have been a state even without the Holocaust, because the Jews who founded it did the spadework necessary to create one.

Something symbolic in this picture, isn't there?

The first one doesn't have any Holocaust imagery that I can find, so really, the judges ought to be fined for misapplying the rules. The second cartoon seems to be saying that the Holocaust was a Christian activity, although the Nazis were pagans. Again, the idea is that whatever happened, the Muslims weren't involved, even though they seem to be trying to make up for lost time.

This one's unusual, in that it beats up on the British. I can't quite make out what the eggs are, though.

Here's another idea, ripped from today's Air America - the idea that little angels get baptised by fire through the flame of Israel, and are forged into Hamas-niks. Whatever you do to defend yourself, you just make more of them. Again, though, nothing to do with the Holocaust. Really, are these judges French ice dancing judges or something?

"You have to be carefully taught." Apparently, these people haven't heard that Hate Isn't a Family Value. Despite all the putridness oozing from the other cartoons and their admirers, this is probably the most chilling picture of them all. I remember when I was about fifteen, we took a family vacation to Montreal, and the site of the World's Fair. The Humour Pavilion was still there, and included a whole roomful of cartoons. L'havdil.

She's laughing! She's actually enjoys this stuff. And the kid is pointing at the cartoon in the corner (look carefully at his left arm). The only one with the decency to look the other way is the stuffed animal.

This is a case study in propaganda. The Iranians really believe that the main reason the West supports Israel is guilt over the Holocaust, so they try to 1) deny its existence, 2) tie Israel's existence to it, and 3) equate the Jews with their murderers. No, it's not intellectually coherent, but there's something there for everyone post-modern.

August 14, 2006


Downtown Denver experienced an anti-Israel rally this past Saturday - out of respect for the Jewish Sabbath, no doubt. We'll get into the more bizarre aspects of the rally - and the Post's coverage of it - in another post, but for the moment, consider this, from the Denver Post's coverage:

Religious leaders helped organize the march. Mixed messages ranging from steadfast nonviolence to support for Hezbollah "show the diversity" of a new organization called the Front Range Coalition for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, said Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni, a leader of interfaith efforts at St. John's Cathedral.

If I were capable any longer of being astonished at what gets said at these things, I'd be astonished. This is so jaw-droppingly incoherent and dishonest that one wonder just what on earth the church fathers have been smoking, that they allow this man to stay on the payroll as leader of an office dedicated to "interfaith understanding."

Diversity? Yes, the crowd ran the gamut all the way from the genocidal to the merely anti-Semitic. Evidently he's been reading the CU student handbook as a dictionary. I hadn't realized that tolerance for, indeed applause for, Ahmedinejad's willing executioners was included in the definition of "interfaith efforts."

I've thoroughly chronicled the antics of this mild-mannered mullah on this blog, and while I've been pretty hard on some pretty bad behavior, I've resisted characterizing the man's beliefs. One measures the content of one's words carefully, and I would never want to give someone an excuse to give up and go over to the dark side, or say something that I'd be embarassed by years later.

No more. There are ways of handling this sort of miscreancy. A well-organized rally would have had marshals controlling the message a little bit. The quote to the paper would have been about how his "movement" had no place for the sort of hatred that Nasrallah represents, blah blah blah. But Kazerooni couldn't even bring himself to say that.

Kazerooni knows what Hezbollah and Nasrallah are. He knows perfectly well that Nasrallh, too, has said he's looking forward to the ingathering of the Jewish exiles, all the easier to kill them. He's also a professional at PR, so he knows how to stay on message when he wants to. And in this case, the message was, "we'll take all comers, even if they're experimenting with Zyklon B in their back yards."

He's not anti-war, he's just on the other side.


Power, Faith, and Fantasy

Six Days of War

An Army of Davids

Learning to Read Midrash

Size Matters

Deals From Hell

A War Like No Other


A Civil War

Supreme Command

The (Mis)Behavior of Markets

The Wisdom of Crowds

Inventing Money

When Genius Failed

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Back in Action : An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude

How Would You Move Mt. Fuji?

Good to Great

Built to Last

Financial Fine Print

The Day the Universe Changed


The Multiple Identities of the Middle-East

The Case for Democracy

A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam

The Italians

Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory

Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures

Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud