My colleague Jim Walsh of MIT, who is also a CNN contributor, has written a concise summary of Ahmadinejad’s weakened position — both domestically and in foreign policy. The item at the link makes a nice complement to my brief comments to NPR a couple of days ago (and posted below).
When Iranian President Ahmadinejad spoke to audiences in New York, one of his standard talking points was the claim that Iran is the freest country in the world. Below is an open letter written by the wife of Mehdi Karroubi, one of the candidates for president in the contested 2009 election and perhaps the most courageous and outspoken critic of the regime subsequently.
Fatemeh and Mehdi Karroubi have been under the most stringent house arrest, constantly surrounded by security thugs and denied even the most basic human rights, for the past eight months. They have never been charged with a crime and have never appeared in any court. They were tried, convicted and sentenced at the whim of senior leaders of the Islamic Revolution for reasons of their own.
The Karroubis are not exceptions. Thousands of Iranians have been arrested and held on a variety of charges that all boil down to the fact that they dared to be critical of the existing leadership of Iran’s government. There are no shortage of stories and testimony from those who have been persecuted for political reasons, but the letter at the link is particularly brave and touching and revealing.
It is surprising how few policy makers and policy analysts seem to grasp that the use of cyberweapons by the US and/or others runs the risk of very harmful retaliation. The article at the link should be required reading for everyone. In short:
Stuxnet, the cyberweapon that attacked and damaged an Iranian nuclear facility, has opened a Pandora’s box of cyberwar…
Michelle Keleman had a short piece on NPR this afternoon looking at the changed circumstances that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faces at his annual appearance at the United Nations. She and I had talked earlier, and there are some excerpts at the link: "Arab Spring Changes Ahmadinejad’s Position at U.N.”
Ahmadinejad and Columbia University - The Inside Story
There is something about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s appearance in NY that seems to foster really shoddy journalism.
Several days ago, the Columbia Spectator (student paper) reported that an international relations group at Columbia had received an invitation over the summer to meet with president AN at his midtown hotel during his visit. They were excited at the prospect, though apparently no confirmation had been made on either side.
This was then transmuted into a report by Fox News that AN would visit the CU campus and attend a dinner with President Bollinger (who, it may be recalled, greeted AN in 2007 by publicly calling him a “petty dictator” and then walked out.)
Various other versions circulated on the web. Finally, after some reports clarified that (1) any meeting would not be on campus; (2) Bollinger would not be involved; and (3) the University itself had nothing to do with any of this, an Israeli paper this morning actually declared victory that AN would not be coming to the campus. Totally forgotten was the (accurate and not particularly sensational) report in the student paper.
When Ahmadinejad visits NY he routinely meets with groups of students, Iran specialists, members of the Iranian-American community, interfaith groups, and journalists, apart from his many interviews. Each year, revelations of these meetings are treated as amazing (which perhaps they are, since no other head of state takes the trouble to arrange such off-the-record meetings with private citizens) and the rumor mill on the part of supposedly professional journalists is just as active as it would be in the Tehran bazaar. This is now the seventh year of this circus, and each year it is treated as if the wheel had just been invented.
I decided two years ago that I would no longer attend these meetings — and of course I have not been invited since. But I don’t think they are evil, and they may in fact expose students and others to his particular style — for better or worse.
I am just astonished at the reactions of supposedly seasoned journalists chasing a story and willing to jump on (or invent) any rumor necessary to bump up the sensationalism.
At the link you will find an mp3 file (audio) of the keynote address I gave to a conference at the London School of Economics. I address a wide range of issues involving security in the Persian Gulf, the growth of sectarianism in Arab-Iran relations, the Arab Spring, U.S. presence and influence, and Iranian domestic politics, among other things. I regret that the questions in the Q&A period are often hard to hear, but my answers generally make quite clear what the subject was.
Here is a peek behind the veil in Iran. This is what citizens of Iran, who are frustrated and disappointed at the initial failure of their own “awakening” think about their present condition. They admire what is happening to Arab dictators and wonder why they can’t do the same. Maybe they can. Here are the words of one Tehrani:
"Do not think that just because you can’t find people demonstrating in the streets, that nothing is happening," insisted Sohrab, a retired engineer and former political prisoner in his 60s, when I told him I thought the opposition was clearly on its back foot. "Iran is going through a period of fermentation now. Ideas and values are evolving rapidly, and the regime is rotting. We can see it all around us.”
This may be just wishful thinking, but my Iranian friends all insist that the level of anger in Iran, just below the surface, is palpable and not dissipating.
For those entranced with the idea of still another war in the Middle East — this time against Iran — here is a sobering analysis from someone who has had to think about it in more than cartoon concepts.
Bottom line: Don’t do it! Iraq was characterized as a cakewalk; well, compared to Iran that is just what it would be.