A Media Artist's Response To Failing Diplomacy

When BriAnna Olson's pacifist views were confronted by an adamant American couple, she decided to heed their challenge and head to Tehran-- the epicenter of the Axis of Evil nation.

Amongst a landscape of failed diplomacy and media smear campaigns, she and fellow artist Michael Pope found a society far more alive and hospitable than they'd ever been led to believe.

Like jesters of a modern-day Magellan, they've returned with stories and insights to a culture few American's have seen first hand.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Article | Citizen Diplomacy in Iran

Citizen diplomacy in Iran: peace group finds a culture that belies many American presumptions

Rev. Dr. Ellen Francis Poisson
National Catholic Reporter
September 22, 2006

The crisis over the development of Iran's nuclear capability is complex. Although the evidence suggests that Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapons program, the Western media subtly imply that Iran's intentions are aggressive--and nuclear. In general, the news media in the United States seem to relish painting a negative picture of Iran, when the reality is more nuanced.

It was against this background of hostility between the United States and Iran that the Fellowship of Reconciliation sent an international, interfaith delegation of 18 to Iran last December. Because I speak Farsi and had lived in Iran in the 1960s and '70s, before the Iranian Revolution, I was asked to be one of the co-leaders. I was also a co-leader of a second Fellowship of Reconciliation delegation of 23 this past May. The purpose of both delegations was to have direct dialogue with Iranians, to present a friendly and respectful American face, and to continue to learn, talk and write about Iran when we returned home. All of this reflects the mission of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. An international, interfaith peace and justice organization founded on the eve of World War I, the fellowship sponsored peace delegations to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, to Vietnam during the 1960s, and to Iraq before the present conflict. It's hard to say how much of a difference such citizen delegations make, but they are designed to change the world one person at a time.

From one trip to the other, I noticed a difference in the interactions our delegations had with Iranians. In December, Iranians were quick to engage with us, but the talk was casual and curious. In May there was a heightened urgency to the conversations, and the Iranians we met asked what we thought the United States would do, whether the U.S. government might attack Iran, why shouldn't Iran have nuclear energy, and why did we think Iran wants to develop nuclear weapons.

Our delegation in May arrived just days after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent his letter to President Bush requesting a meeting, and there was some misconception that our little citizen delegation was some sort of a response to that letter. We were quick to dispel this notion, and found it even a bit funny since our trips had been planned many months in advance and we were definitely not emissaries of the U.S. government. Nonetheless, our May delegation attracted a great deal of media attention within Iran, both positive and negative, and we had interviews with BBC, CNN, Reuters and The Associated Press, as well as a number of Iranian news agencies.

There were many surprises in store for the members of our delegations, and some misconceptions about Iran were corrected. For example:

* Iranians hate Americans.

Without exception, the Iranians we met were extremely hospitable to us. Everywhere we went, we were told, "We love Americans. Please tell all your friends to come to Iran. Only--we don't like your government." The last night that we were in Tehran, during the May delegation, we went to dinner in a large, traditional restaurant with live music. During the evening the announcer said in Farsi, "We welcome our friends from America who are here on a mission of peace." When he said this, there was loud and sustained applause.

* Iran is a Third-World country.

The members of our delegations were amazed at the evidence of a high level of development: sophisticated road systems, cell phones, safe drinking water from the taps, advanced medical care, comprehensive elementary education and a high level of literacy, higher education including doctoral studies and original scientific research, many high-rise buildings in Tehran, up-to-date and locally manufactured vehicles. After seeing all this, one delegate said right out, "This is not a Third-World country." I noticed some significant changes from the 1960s and '70s; perhaps the most noticeable was the high level of air pollution in Teheran.

* Women are oppressed and forced to wear black covering.

Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, it's true that women in Iran have been required, by law, to wear the hijab or modest covering in public, This means that women (including non-Muslim Iranians and foreigners) must cover arms and legs, wear modest, long tops, and also cover at least part of their hair. In most cities of Iran, however, women wear light scarves that cover some of their hair, but they also wear light or even bright colors and not only black, and some wear clothing that is quite tight-fitting. As one Iranian woman said, "We are very romantic," and Iranian women find ways to make the veil alluring and lovely.

Many Iranian women would prefer to choose whether or not to wear the veil. I was helping one of our delegates with her scarf on the street one day, and some women passing by exclaimed, "Oh! You are fixing your hijab!" We chatted a while and I said, "We are not accustomed to wearing the hijab." An Iranian woman answered quietly, "No, we aren't either."

When we were in the holy city of Qom, we were advised to cover all of our hair, and we wore borrowed chadors when we went to the courtyard of the Shrine of Hadrat-e Fatima Ma'sooma, the daughter of one of the twelve Imams of Shiism. The chador is a large semicircle of cloth, worn with the center on the crown of the head and held under the chin. Getting ourselves properly covered in these chadors drew a crowd of women to help us and caused considerable amusement.

Women are involved in education and public life, and make up approximately 60 percent of college students. This number is even more impressive than it sounds because entrance to a university is extremely competitive and only about 10 percent of the applicants are accepted.

* Religious minorities are oppressed and persecuted.

We visited the Vank Armenian Cathedral in Esfahan, a Jewish synagogue in Tehran, and a Zoroastrian temple in Esfahan. We learned that these religious minorities have complete freedom of worship, and religious schools for Armenian and Jewish children are paid for by the Iranian government. The Jewish representative to the Majlis (Parliament), Mr. Morris Motamed, told us that there is, by law, no discrimination in employment. Religious minorities serve in the armed forces, and each has representation in the Majlis.

There are some difficulties for religious minorities, but we did see thriving communities and active places of worship. To the amazement of the Jews in our delegations, we saw Jewish Iranian men walking down the street in Tehran wearing yarmulkes. We saw the houses of worship clearly marked from the street as church, synagogue or temple. One of the Armenian clergy told us that during the Iranian Revolution there had been a riot in Esfahan, but when the mob came to the doors of the cathedral, someone said, "No, this is the Armenian church," and they passed by without touching anything.

There is freedom of worship, but conversion from Islam to any other religion is prohibited, and the indigenous religious minorities do not proselytize Muslims. The Baha'is are considered apostates because Baha'ism was an offshoot from Islam and Baha'is accept another prophet who came after the Prophet Muhammad.

* Iranians are all highly religious.

The members of our delegations were amazed to learn that Iran is a highly secular society, with relatively low attendance at Friday prayer services. A low percentage of Iranians follow Muslim practices such as the daily ritual prayers, fasting during Ramadan, going on the haj to Mecca. The young people in Iran are generally even less observant than their elders.

* The United States can promote reform by providing assistance to dissidents.

Many Iranians do want a loosening of social and political restraints. Approximately 70 percent of Iran's population of 70 million are under the age of 30, and many of them desire political and social reform. Some social restrictions are gradually lifting: We saw young couples walking and talking together, dating, holding hands.

However, all the Iranians we met said that they want reform to come about from within: "We do want reform, but we don't need U.S. help. We want to do it ourselves." Iranians still have a deep resentment against the United States for the CIA-led coup in 1953, in which Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh was removed from office and the shah was returned to power. External efforts to support dissidents will be counterproductive, increase distrust, and will be certain to result in increased repression within Iran. One Iranian asked me directly whether the Fellowship of Reconciliation had received any funding from the U.S. government.

* Iranians want to bomb Israel.

Iranians are quick to point out that Iran has not been a military aggressor in modern times and that Ayatollah Khomeini had declared nuclear weapons un-Islamic. In a sense, this is a stronger prohibition on developing,' owning or using nuclear weapons than signing any international treaty.

Iranians do not have animosity toward Jewish people, but rather toward aggressive Zionism and injustice to the Palestinian people. It seems to me that some of the political rhetoric against Israel and in support of the Palestinians is a reaction against the friendship with Israel of the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and also against the U.S. support of Israel at the expense of support for the Palestinians. The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has not actually said the famous words, "wipe Israel off the map." What he did say was that as the Soviet Union fell from power and as Saddam Hussein fell from power, so some day the present government of Israel may also fall from power. (See "President Ahmadinejad's words on Israel".)

Problems in Iran

I think that the Fellowship of Reconciliation-Iran delegates are not naive about the problems that exist in Iran today: There is some discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, especially Baha'is; social and political oppression does exist; there are restrictions on women; there is drug abuse, unemployment and poverty. Iran does want to conduct nuclear research, at least for peaceful purposes, as the government consistently declares, and this would give Iran the start-up technology to develop nuclear weapons. There is concern about Iran's support of Hezbollah and about the potential for future violence between Israel and neighboring countries.

But military intervention is not a viable or acceptable answer, and even sanctions may be ineffective or counterproductive. As talks between Iran and the Western powers continue, I pray that every avenue for a peaceful resolution will be pursued with patience and mutual respect. I feel this particularly strongly because I have family in Iran, whom I was blessed to visit on these two trips. Though my Iranian husband and I divorced in the late 1970s, his family and I had been close and it was wonderful to have the opportunity to see them again after so many years.

On both trips to Iran, we visited Esfahan and the village of Natanz, both of which are close to nuclear facilities. In the beautiful, historic city of Esfahan, we realized that we were at what could someday be another "Ground Zero." The families we saw walking together, the laughing children, the historic sites and breathtaking mosques would all be destroyed if the United States attacked Iran's nuclear plants. I was reminded of a photo of a demonstration in California, in which an Iranian-American child held up a sign saying, "Don't bomb my grandma."

The Fellowship of Reconciliation delegations also traveled to Shiraz. There we visited the tomb of the Persian poet Saadi, whose words grace the entrance to the United Nations:

Human beings are all members
of one body.
They are created from the same
When one member is in pain,
The others cannot rest.
If you do not care about the pain
of others,
You do not deserve to be called a
human being.

President Ahmadinejad's words on Israel

"Nobody believed that we would one day witness the collapse of the Eastern Imperialism [i.e. the U.S.S.R.], and said that it was an iron regime. But in our short lifetime we have witnessed how this regime collapsed in such a way that we must look for it in libraries....

"Imam [Khomeini] said that Saddam [Hussein] must go, and that he would be eliminated in a way that was unprecedented. And what do you see today? ...

"Imam [Khomeini] said, 'This regime that is occupying [Jerusalem] must be eliminated from the pages of history.' ...

"The issue of Palestine is by no means over, and will end only when all of Palestine will have a government belonging to the Palestinian people. The refugees must return to their homes, and there must be a government that has come to power by the will of the [Palestinian] people."

[Translation of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech provided by MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) and dated Oct. 28, 2005.]

[The Rev. Dr. Ellen Francis Poisson is a priest and a nun in the Episcopal church. She lives in a convent of the Order of St. Helena in New York City. She can be reached at sisters@osh.org.]

COPYRIGHT 2006 National Catholic Reporter
COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group 

....click here for full article/permalink.

Monday, March 26, 2007

briBlog | UN Vote

Yesterday I created my first real video blog. I felt sort of silly, but maybe I'll get the hang of it. Talking to a machine? Silly. But alas, I think it will be good for me.

So, quite a bit happening on the Iran front. I went to the UN on Saturday while the UN Security Council was voting on new sanctions for Iran for refusing to suspend its enrichment program. The vote for another round of sanctions passed unanimously.

The five primary members of the council are: The United States, The United Kingdom, Russia, France and China. [These members all own Nuclear Weapons- precisely what they don't want Iran to have- but only the United States has used one in an act of aggression.]

CNN reported Dumisani Kumalo, the South African ambassador to the United Nations and current president of the Security Council, said he felt steamrollered into a Saturday vote on a resolution on sanctions against Iran.

Friday was quite a day for US/Iran relations.

For starters, the date and time for the UNSC vote was set to be held within 24 hours.

Also, the 78 visas that the Iranian Mission to the UN had been trying to get for their President and his entourage since Thursday March 15, finally arrived in Berne, Switzerland. Only they came in batches and the second set didn't arrive until 5:45p, which gave them less than 24 hours to get to New York City. It takes 5 hours to fly from Berne to Tehran and 12 hours to fly from Tehran to New York City. Ahmadinejad cancelled. I probably wouldn't have cancelled, but maybe I would have made a scene when I arrived late.

According to Mohammad Mohammadi, Russia and China were trying to postpone the meeting until Monday in order for President Ahmadinejad to address the Security Council. That didn't happen.

The Iranian ambassador, Dr. Javad Zarif, was quoted as saying "There was no time for the visas to be sent to Tehran in time for the president to be able to fly to New York." and the US spokeman Bob Grenell countered "Too late for what? The meeting hasn't even been scheduled yet. How can they say they are too late to come if the Security Council has not given a date and time for the event?"

The 3pm vote on Saturday. Duh, Mr. Grenell. Maybe Zarif is psychic or maybe Grenell is kept in the dark. Or, more likely, he's paid to act like that.

The other news is that 15 British soldiers were on patrol in the Persian Gulf and finishing the inspection of a cargo ship when they were arrested by the Revolutionary Guard for trespassing. Iran insists that the soldiers were on Iranian territory.

It is highly unlikely that Iran will comply with the new resolution.

Then what you ask? If I were to guess... more chest puffing, more media sensation, more opinions.

I must say that the visa thing really annoyed me. That could have been really easy to figure out, if the United States really wanted to be diplomatic about it. 

....click here for full article/permalink.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Article | U.S. Covert War inside Iran

Subverting Iran
Washington's Covert War inside Iran

By Greg Elich

Global Research, March 23, 2007

Much attention has been given to the Bush Administration’s preparations for possible war against Iran as well as its drive to impose sanctions. Meanwhile, a less noticed policy has been unfolding, one that may in time prove to have grave consequences for the region. There is a covert war underway in Iran, still in its infancy, but with disturbing signs of impending escalation. In the shadowy world of guerrilla operations, the full extent of involvement by the Bush Administration has yet to be revealed, but enough is known to paint a disturbing picture.

The provision of aid to anti-government forces offers certain advantages to the Bush Administration. No effort needs to be expended in winning support for the policy. Operations can be conducted away from the public eye during a time of growing domestic opposition to the war in Iraq, and international opinion is simply irrelevant where the facts are not well known. In terms of expenditures, covert operations are a cost-effective means for destabilizing a nation, relative to waging war.

There is nothing new in the technique, and it has proven an effective means for toppling foreign governments in the past, as was the case with socialist Afghanistan and Nicaragua. In Yugoslavia, U.S. and British military training and arms shipments helped to build up the secessionist Kosovo Liberation Army from a small force of 300 soldiers into a sizable guerrilla army that made the province of Kosovo ungovernable. The very chaos that the West did so much to create was then used as the pretext for bombing Yugoslavia.

According to a former CIA official, funding for armed separatist groups operating in Iran is paid from the CIA’s classified budget. The aim, claims Fred Burton, an ex-State Department counter-terrorism agent, is “to supply and train” these groups “to destabilize the Iranian regime.” (1)

The largest and most well known of the anti-government organizations is Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), operating out of Iraq. For years MEQ had launched cross-border attacks and terrorist acts against Iran with the support of Saddam Hussein. Officially designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department in 1997, and disarmed of heavy weaponry by the U.S. military six years later, Washington has since come to view MEK in a different light. Three years ago, U.S. intelligence officials suggested looking the other way as the MEK rearmed and to use the organization to destabilize Iran, a recommendation that clearly has been accepted. (2)

Accusing MEK of past involvement in repressive measures by former president Saddam Hussein, the current Iraqi government wants to close down Camp Ashraf, located well outside of Baghdad, where many of the MEK fighters are stationed. But the camp operates under the protection of the U.S. military, and American soldiers chauffeur MEK leaders. The Iraqi government is unlikely to get its way, as the MEK claims to be the primary U.S. source for intelligence on Iran. (3)

U.S. officials “made MEK members swear an oath to democracy and resign from the MEK,” reveals an intelligence source, “and then our guys incorporated them into their unit and trained them.” Reliance on the MEK began under Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with the direction of Vice President Dick Cheney, and soon MEK soldiers were being used in special operations missions in Iran. “They are doing whatever they want, no oversight at all,” said one intelligence official of the MEK’s American handlers. (4)

The Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), is another organization that conducts cross-border raids into Iran. Israel provides the group with “equipment and training,” claims a consultant to the U.S. Defense Department, while the U.S. gave it “a list of targets inside Iran of interest to the U.S.” Aid to guerrilla groups, the consultant reports, is “part of an effort to explore alternative means of applying pressure on Iran.” (5) It has been noted that PJAK has recently shown an impressive gain in capability during its operations, both in terms of size and armament, a fact that can surely be attributed to Western support. (6)

Jundallah (God’s Brigade) is an extremist Sunni organization operating in Sistan-Balochistan province that has been launching armed attacks, planting explosives, setting off car bombs, and kidnapping. Based in Pakistan, it is unclear if this group is connected with the Pakistani organization of the same name, which has ties with Al-Qaeda. (7) Jundallah denies that it has any links to either Al-Qaeda or to the U.S. But Iranian officials claim that a recently arrested Jundallah guerrilla has confessed that he was trained by U.S. and British intelligence officers. There is no way to verify that such a confession has actually taken place, nor its reliability as it may have come as a result of coercion, but the claim would not be inconsistent with U.S. policy elsewhere in Iran. (8)

It is probable that in the coming months the Bush Administration will expand support for anti-government forces in order to more effectively destabilize Iran and gather intelligence. Already U.S. Special Forces are operating in Iran collecting data, planting nuclear sensors, and electronically marking targets. Separatist forces have cooperated in those efforts. “This looks to be turning into a pretty large-scale covert operation,” comments a former CIA official. U.S. and Israeli officials are establishing front companies to help finance that covert war. (9) To fully capitalize on ethnic discontent along Iran’s periphery, the U.S. Marine Corps has commissioned a study from defense contractor Hicks and Associates on Iran and Iraq’s ethnic groups and their grievances. (10)

That these separatist organizations clearly engage in terrorism hasn’t deterred the Bush Administration from backing them. The potential for baneful consequences is considerable. CIA support for the anti-Soviet and anti-socialist Mujahedin in Afghanistan spawned a worldwide movement of Islamic extremism. Western support for ethnic secessionists shattered Yugoslavia and the invasion of Iraq fired the flames of ethnic discord and made a shared life impossible. It remains to be seen if the Bush Administration can succeed in achieving its goal of effecting regime change in Iran. That process could have devastating consequences for the people of Iran. Those officials in the Bush Administration who advocated and implemented covert operations “think in Iran you can just go in and hit the facilities and destabilize the government,” explains a former CIA official. “They believe they can get rid of a few crazy mullahs and bring in the young guys who like Gap jeans, [and] all the world’s problems are solved. I think it’s delusional.” (11)

Gregory Elich is the author of Strange Liberators: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit.



1 William Lowther and Colin Freeman, “US Funds Terror Groups to Sow Chaos in Iran,” Sunday Telegraph (London), February 25, 2007.
2 “Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK or MKO), Global Security.org
Syed Saleem Shahzad, “Sleeping Forces Stir in Iran,” Asia Times, June 26, 2003.
Gian Marco Chiocci and Alessia Marani, “Iranian Mujaheddin Gather Funds in Italy,” Il Giornale (Milan), October 2, 2006.
3 Ernesto Londono and Saad al-Izzi, “Iraq Intensifies Efforts to Expel Iranian Group,” Washington Post, March 14, 2007.
4 Larisa Alexandrovna, “On Cheney, Rumsfeld Order, US Outsourcing Special Ops, Intelligence to Iraq Terror Group, Intelligence Officials Say,” The Raw Story, April 13, 2006.
5 Seymour Hersh, “The Next Act,” New Yorker, November 27, 2006.
6 James Brandon, “PJAK Claims Fresh Attacks in Iran,” Global Terrorism Analysis, March 6, 2007.
7 Ali Akbar Dareini, “Explosion Kills 11 Members of Iran’s Elite Revolutionary Guards,” Associated Press, February 14, 2007.
8 Broadcast, Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (Teheran), February 17, 2007.
9 Richard Sale, “Cat and Mouse Game Over Iran,” UPI, January 26, 2005.
10 Guy Dinmore, “US Marines Probe Tensions Among Iran’s Minorities,” Financial Times (London), February 23, 2006.
11 Julian Borger and Ian Traynor, “Now US Ponders Attack on Iran,” The Guardian (London), January 18, 2005. 

....click here for full article/permalink.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

National Post | Leader says Iran would retaliate if attacked

From the National Post:

Leader says Iran would retaliate if attacked

By Fredrik Dahl

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned on Wednesday Iran would hit back if attacked over its nuclear program, which the United States believes is aimed at making atom bombs.

Khamenei, who has previously threatened U.S. regional interests if attacked, was addressing a big crowd of pilgrims at Iran's holiest shrine in the northeastern city of Mashhad to mark the Iranian new year, which falls on March 21.

"If they want to threaten us and use force and violence against us, they should not doubt that Iranian officials will use all they have in their power to deal a blow to those who assault them," he said in the speech aired on television.

The U.N. Security Council is this week considering new sanctions against Iran over its refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment program, whose product can be used to make fuel for power generation or, when more highly enriched, nuclear weapons.

But Khamenei's speech, and a defiant New Year address by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier on Wednesday, showed no intention by Iran of bowing to foreign pressure.

The world's fourth-largest oil exporter insists the program is peaceful and aimed only at generating electricity.

Khamenei said Iran's nuclear work followed international rules, but if major powers via the Security Council took "illegal actions" and ignored Iran's rights, "we can also carry out illegal actions and we will do that."

Washington has said it would prefer a diplomatic solution to the stand-off, but has not ruled out military options, though Britain's Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said world powers were not preparing for a strike against Tehran.

"No one is preparing for military action," she told reporters in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi after talks with officials of the Gulf Arab ally.

"The purpose of sanctions, the purpose of pushing further pressure on Iran is to get them to negotiations," Beckett said. "We all very much hope that they will."

The UAE and fellow U.S.-allied Gulf Arab neighbors of Iran have expressed concern over its nuclear program and raised fears of a regional nuclear race they announced plans to acquire nuclear energy capability in December.

Khamenei said Iran is ready to sign a joint defense treaty with Gulf countries, state television said, without elaborating.


In his address earlier on Wednesday, Ahmadinejad accused some big powers of waging psychological warfare against Iran.

"By psychological warfare, propaganda and misuse of the organizations they have themselves created ... they are trying to prevent our nation's development," Ahmadinejad said.

He has previously accused the United States and Britain of using the Security Council as a tool against Iran.

The proposed U.N. resolution would embargo Iranian arms exports and freeze financial assets abroad of 28 individuals, groups and companies.

It is a follow-up to a previous resolution adopted by the Council in December and was expected to be voted on this week after Germany and permanent council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States agreed on the text.

But South Africa, the council's current chair, has called for all the main proposed sanctions to be dropped. The council could probably adopt the measure without South African backing, but the major powers had wanted it passed unanimously.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said amendments proposed by South Africa and Indonesia deserved "attentive consideration."

He also said Russia, which has commercial and political ties to Tehran, would not back "excessive sanctions" against Iran.

Russian officials say they share Western concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran but argue a policy of constructive engagement can prevent this more effectively than one that corners Tehran.

Earlier this week Russia denied a newspaper report that it had threatened to halt work on building Iran's Bushehr nuclear power station unless Tehran stopped uranium enrichment.

At U.N. headquarters in New York, negotiators said Qatar had also submitted amendments to the draft, but that they and those proposed by Indonesia were general and could be accommodated.

"More challenging for the permanent five is the South African amendments, much more challenging," China's deputy U.N. ambassador Liu Zhenmin told reporters.

He said negotiators were aiming at a vote this week "but it seems that this week is not possible."

(Additional reporting by Christian Lowe in Moscow, Stanley Cavalho in Abu Dhabi, Louis Charbonneau in Berlin and Evelyn Leopold at U.N. headquarters) 

....click here for full article/permalink.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Satire | Bush announces Iraq Exit Strategy

Because we all need to lighten up:

WASHINGTON, DC—Almost a year after the cessation of major combat and a month after the nation's first free democratic elections, President Bush unveiled the coalition forces' strategy for exiting Iraq.

Bush announces the pullout of Iraq through Iran.

"I'm pleased to announce that the Department of Defense and I have formulated a plan for a speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq," Bush announced Monday morning. "We'll just go through Iran."

Bush said the U.S. Army, which deposed Iran's longtime enemy Saddam Hussein, should be welcomed with open arms by the Islamic-fundamentalist state.

"And Iran's so nearby," Bush said. "It's only a hop, skip, and a jump to the east."

According to White House officials, coalition air units will leave forward air bases in Iraq and transport munitions to undisclosed locations in Iran. After 72 to 96 hours of aerial-bomb retreats, armored-cavalry units will retreat across the Zagros mountains in tanks, armored personnel carriers, and strike helicopters. The balance of the 120,000 troops will exit into the oil-rich borderlands around the Shatt-al-Arab region within 30 days.

Pentagon sources said U.S. Central Command has been formulating the exit plan under guidelines set by Bush.

"The fact is, we've accomplished our goals in Iraq," said General George Casey, the commander of coalition forces in the Iraqi theater. "Now, it's time to bring our men and women home—via Iran."

Questions have been raised about the unprecedented size of the withdrawal budget.

"I'm asking Congress to approve a $187-billion budget to enable us to exit as smoothly as possible," said Casey, whose budget request includes several hundred additional M1A1 Abrams battle tanks, 72 new C-130 cargo planes, and two brigades of artillery. "We're concerned about the safety of our troops, so we need to have the capacity to deal with insurgent forces all the way from the Iraqi border through to Tehran."

Casey has requested a budget increase for the Pentagon, so that the government can reward recruits who serve in the U.S. mission to exit Iraq.

Some of the Iranian citizens U.S. troops will meet as they pass through Iran.

"The plan also includes a minor stopover for refueling and provisional replenishment in Syria," Casey said. "But I don't expect we'll need more than 50,000 additional troops for that stretch of the Iraq pullout."

Bush's plan has met with widespread support.

"The people who said Iraq was a quagmire and that the president would never get our troops out are now eating crow," said Sean Hannity on his popular radio show Tuesday. "Of course, I don't expect anyone will have the honor to come forward and actually admit that they were wrong to question our commander-in-chief."

Sioux Falls, SD's Dianne Haverbuck, who has two sons in the military, said she was pleased to hear of the impending exit.

"Don and Kenneth have already been in Iraq an extra four months, so it's so good to hear that they'll finally be leaving that dangerous place," Haverbuck said. "I can't tell you how happy I was when the president said—what was it? I wrote it down. 'Getting our troops out of the Middle East and back home to their families is a viable long-term goal.'"

"I can't wait to see the boys," Haverbuck added.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-Khamenei welcomed the exit plan.

"Let the Allied armies come to Iran," Khamenei said. "I believe I can assure you that, if they do withdraw here, their brothers-in-arms in the Islamic Republican Army, the Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Quds special forces units, and the Basij Popular Mobilization Army will no doubt do everything they can to make the troops' trip back home memorable." 

....click here for full article/permalink.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Meeting with the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations

Today was officially my first day as an Ambassador (of Love).

I met with the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations' Press Secretary (try saying that 10x fast) Mohammad Mohammadi in New York City. We discussed the history of Iran and my upcoming trip. He was extremely humble, and very much loved Iran. I could tell it was very disappointing, albeit routine, for him to see his country demonized by another and on the brink of (question mark, question mark, question mark).

Today, Dr. Javad Zarif (their UN Representative) was in the process of trying to arrange for visas for President Ahmadinejad (and company) to address the UN Security Council, and it seemed that the U.S. was giving them the run-around.

I found an article HERE.
Regarding the last line, it was the US Representative to the UN, John Bolton, that claimed there was "no such thing as the United Nations".

Did You know that anyone traveling to the United Nations must be given a United States visa??

I did not. That sounds less like the United Nations and more like "The United States Presents: The United Nations" Maybe that's what John Bolton meant.

P.S. As an American I'm very used to being able to travel anywhere I want (except Cuba, where half of my bloodline is). And it is actually hard to imagine not being able to go somewhere (save not having enough money, another unneccesary barricade).

All in all a great meeting.

Dr. Zarif on Charlie Rose HERE
Dr. Zarif on NPR HERE

I find the media fascinating. It's amazing how an interviewer's personal perception of the world (or what s/he has been taught about it) shapes the entire piece. 

....click here for full article/permalink.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Editorial | "Ahmadinejad's confrontational style plays into Cheney's hands"

Ahmadinejad's confrontational style plays into Cheney's hands
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
The Daily Star

US Vice President Dick Cheney is once again leading his country down the path of unnecessary war. On Tuesday, Cheney delivered a speech to a pro-Israel lobby group in Washington, outlining his view of the "war on terror" by arguing that "the only option for our security and survival is to go on the offensive, facing the threat directly, patiently and systematically until the enemy is destroyed."

Cheney's words ought to serve as a warning, both to Americans and to the people of this region, that the despite all the failures in Iraq, the neoconservative logic of "preventive war" is not dead. On the contrary, a number of powerful American politicians and their highly influential supporters are now clamoring for a military attack on Iran.

Attacking Iran would obviously be a bad idea. America has manifestly bitten off more than it can chew in Iraq, and the Islamic Republic is a much more formidable foe. But if the Americans ultimately prove foolish enough to tread down this path again, the Iranians, particularly their outspoken president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will share the blame.

The Iranian people know that they are justified - both morally and legally - in having a peaceful nuclear program. But they have not had a leader who has made their case plain to the international community. They have not made sufficient effort to explain previous lapses of transparency, or the secrecy under which they have conducted their nuclear activities. Instead of seeking consistently to calm the fears of the international community about Iran's real intentions, too many of the country's leaders have maintained a posture of belligerence. The Iranian people also realize that their president's mercurial style does not play well abroad. On Monday, several editorials in the Iranian press urged the president to call off his plans for a "costly trip to New York" - where he hopes to address the United Nations Security Council about Iran's nuclear program - no doubt fearing that he will create an even bigger mess.

Directly or indirectly, everyone from Iran's hard-line supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to reformist former President Mohammad Khatami has urged Ahmadinejad to change course. But they have not done enough to rein him in. If Cheney succeeds in starting a new and even more disastrous war, many Iranians will know who else is to blame. 

....click here for full article/permalink.

AIPAC | U.S. relationship with Israel

This week, American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), self-described "America's Pro-Israel Lobby", had it's annual policy conference in Washington D.C.

From the Washington Post:

The groups fact sheet announced that this is the "largest ever" conference, with its 5,000 participants attending "the largest annual seated dinner in Washington" joined by "more members of Congress than almost any other event, except for a joint session of Congress or a State of the Union address." The group added that its membership "has nearly doubled" over four years to 100,000 and that the National Journal calls it "one of the top four most effective lobbying organizations."

Informal administration foreign policy adviser Richard N. Perle provoked cheers from the crowd when he favored a military raid on Iran, saying that "if Iran is on the verge of a nuclear weapon, I think we will have no choice but to take decisive action." When Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) said the "best short-term option" is the U.N. Security Council, the crowd reacted with boos.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the event was attended by half the Senate and a third of the House of Representatives.

Vice President Dick Cheney Spoke

From the Jewish Journal:

"Friends owe it to friends to be as candid as possible," he said. "My friends, it is simply not consistent for anyone to demand aggressive action against the menace that is posed by the Iranian regime while at the same time acquiescing in a retreat from Iraq that would leave Israel's best friend, the United States, dangerously weakened." and later: [From The Jewish Daily Forward] “Israel has never had a better friend in the White House than George Bush.”

He outlined his view of the "war on terror" by arguing that "the only option for our security and survival is to go on the offensive, facing the threat directly, patiently and systematically until the enemy is destroyed." [From Zawya]

Congressman Lieberman Spoke

From the Jewish Journal:

"There is something profoundly wrong when, in the face of attacks by radical Islam, we think we can find safety and stability by pulling back, by talking to and accommodating our enemies, and abandoning our friends and allies," Lieberman said to a group that he likes to call "family."

His remarks were closed to the press, but Lieberman's office distributed the remarks Tuesday, and within minutes they were forwarded to Jewish leaders by the White House liaison to the Jewish community with a note labeling them as "important."

According to the aforementioned Washington Post article, the event included "a fleet of police cars, sirens wailing, blocked intersections and formed a motorcade to escort buses". And also dissenting voices as protesters gathered outside according to Media Monitors Network: From Mark Braverman: “As an American Jew, I’m here to protest AIPAC’s control of Congress. It is a very self-destructive course for America to be supporting Israel unconditionally.” To Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of the Neturei Karta International, “Jews United Against Zionism.” He said: “AIPAC stands for a rebellion against God...What they are doing is against the Torah...AIPAC should be stopped...And the state of Israel should be...peacefully dismantled.”

Israel receives the largest percentage of US foreign aid (primarily for its military). Over $7.7 million/per day according to this chart by The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. 

....click here for full article/permalink.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Personal Note

Hello there,

Allow myself to introduce myself.

I am an American twentysomething raised in a small town in the Midwest (Population 700!). I now reside on the East Coast.

As you are well aware, this planet is changing quickly and we are all being moved to facilitate (or resist) those changes. As opinions polarize, I have planted my feet firmly in Love. Not so much the daft way, but in the lets-look-for-(re)solutions and recognize-what-we-have-in-common sort of way.

Hello Iran.
I would like to meet you.


P.S. If you really want to get to know me you should email me: bri (at) lovevolution (dot) org 

....click here for full article/permalink.