The latest silly article on Iran…

Aside

Possibly one of the most ridiculous articles I’ve read in a while: Why Iran’s Top Leaders Believe That The End Of Days Has Come | Fox News.

Yeah, I know. “Fox News”, right? But one of the reasons Iran is so mysterious is because US and other western leaders don’t know what the regime’s leadership is thinking, much less that they’re obsessed with the “end times.”

Iranian Hegemony: What’s Not to Like?

This week’s kerfuffle over Iranian President Ahmadinjad’s speech to Columbia University and his request to go to Ground Zero indicates that we, as a country, have indeed bought tickets to absurdistan. I was in New York City for the dustup, rousting editors from their desks and pitching stories, so I got to see the crazy headlines and massive mediagasm.

“The Evil Has Landed” screamed the New York Daily News. “NYers In Rage over ‘Tehran’ting Lunatic” exclaimed the New York Post. (Why not “‘Iran’ting Lunatic”?) Overall, it was a week of ugly intolerance for even the idea of discussion. Apparently some things are out of bounds even to talk about, and allowing the Iranian president to present his views was well beyond the pale.

Which is a shame, considering how necessary Iran is to the United States’ plans in the Middle East. Iran is a major power that has its own interests which could be brought in line — a little, at least — with America’s. So, just to be a little bit naughtier than the New York tabloids, let’s talk about an idea that’s probably beyond discussion. Given the charges that Iran is on the march across the Middle East, is looking to “take it over” and drive the United States back into its own hemisphere what’s so bad about Iranian hegemony?

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Latest IraqSlogger: Chalabi’s back

My latest for IraqSlogger is up, and there’s a howler of an op-ed in today’s _Wall Street Journal_. As I wrote for the Slogger:

Melik Kaylan writes a fawning piece on Ahmad Chalabi for the _Wall Street Journal_’s op-ed page, calling him the “nearest thing Iraqis currently possess to a genuine walk-and-talk democratic politician.” For many Americans, that may be hard to stomach, as the guy has been roundly criticized for peddling false WMD information to eager listeners at the Pentagon. (He once said, “As far as we’re concerned we’ve been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important. … We are heroes in error.”) In Chalabi’s views, everything would have been hunky-dory in Baghdad if the Americans had just let the Iraqis run the show, presumably with him in charge. (Which was pretty much the plan until those meddlin’ State Department kids showed up.) Furthermore, without once mentioning that Chalabi is Shi’ite himself, Kaylan says Chalabi recognizes the realities of Iraq and its ethnic makeup, admitting that Shi’ites will be dominant. Well, other than Sunni insurgents, does anyone really dispute that? Kaylan seems to have been snookered by Chalabi, who thrills Iraqis by wandering amongst the people. Admirable yes, but Chalabi has almost zero support in Iraq and perhaps the reason he’s able to walk and talk relatively safely in public is because no one takes him seriously anymore.

The quote from Chalabi that I reference can be found here, way back from February 2004.

There’s Competence and Then There’s “Competence”

I’m coming a bit late to this because of server problems, but it’s something that’s been bugging me about the whole Reid-Pace “competence” imbroglio.
The question nagging at me is not who called whom incompetent or whether Reid was wrong or right to do so. I mean, Pace had just been fired, so Reid’s not that far off calling the former chair of the joint chief’s abilities into question.
No, what I wonder is why Reid’s comments didn’t get picked up by the bloggers in the conference call.
Why did the almost all of the liberal bloggers deny he said that Pace was incompetent when from the “transcript posted on Talking Points Memo”:http://electioncentral.tpmcafe.com/blog/electioncentral/2007/jun/14/obtained_a_tape_of_reids_conference_call_with_bloggers_reid_did_blast_pace, he did, and it appears pretty clear he’s talking about Pace? Did they screw up or are they trying to cover Reid’s ass, since he’s “on their team,” so to speak?
Now, I say this as a blogger with both indy cred — you’re reading it — and strong ties to the so-called MSM. But if bloggers are supposed to be an alternative/side dish or even an antidote to the excesses and failings of the mainstream press, why did they miss this? It’s a genuinely Big Deal, so was it a miss or a willful omission?
If it was a willful omission, it’s a horrible one. And it would prove that most liberal blogs — or conservative ones — shouldn’t be considered credible alternatives to anything if they can’t step up to their responsibility and report on newsworthy items even if it might get “their guy” in hot water. The right-wing blogosphere has had this problem for years now. Has it infected the left side as well?
On the other hand, if it’s a mistake, it’s a doozy. Any reporter who missed that would be tarred and feathered by editors. (And it’s significant that mainstream reporters in were the ones who broke this story, even though bloggers had every opportunity to break it.) So, why are the bloggers given a free pass on this lapse?
Indeed, it was Talking Points Memo itself that in 2002 was instrumental in bringing down another Senate majority leader. The mainstream press was heckled and criticized for missing Lott’s noxious comments. (And rightly so, in my opinion.)
But shouldn’t bloggers — in a friggin’ conference call with the current Senate majority Leader, for crissakes — need to be held to the same standards of accountability and, dare I say it, competence, that they hold the MSM to? Why the double standard?

White House criticizes Democrats, gives GOP a pass

BEIRUT — U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi came under fierce criticism from the White House for her proposed trip to Syria tomorrow, but, oddly, a Republican congressional delegation yesterday to Syria was given a free pass by the same White House.
As Dana Perino, White House spokeswoman, “said”:http://newsblaze.com/story/20070331153944tsop.nb/newsblaze/TOPSTORY/Top-Stories.html:

I do think that, as a general rule – and this would go for Speaker of the House Pelosi and this apparent trip that she is going to be taking – that we don’t think it’s a good idea. We think that someone should take a step back and think about the message that it sends, and the message that it sends to our allies. I’m not sure what the hopes are to – what she’s hoping to accomplish there. I know that Assad probably really wants people to come and have a photo opportunity and have tea with him, and have discussions about where they’re coming from, but we do think that’s a really bad idea.

Fair enough. But Reps. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Joe Pitts, R-Penn., “met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday.”:http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/n/a/2007/04/02/international/i083853D66.DTL&type=printable
The Republicans released a statement that said, “We came because we believe there is an opportunity for dialogue … We are following in the lead of Ronald Reagan, who reached out to the Soviets during the Cold War.”
_Quelle horreur!_ Dialogue? Crickets were the only response from the White House.
Again in fairness, I spoke with a source at a Western embassy in Beirut about this, and the source said the Republicans had been discouraged from going, just as Pelosi and her delegation had been. But, the source said, if a Congressional delegation is determined to go to Damascus, the U.S. embassy in Beirut would help them out. (He asked for anonymity because he’s not authorized to talk to the press — he also committed the unpardonable sin of calling Congress a “co-equal branch of government.”)
Pelosi is the highest U.S. official to visit Syria since President Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s.

John Bolton at it again

Former U.N. envoy John Bolton is making the rounds of the talk shows — including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart — making deeply dishonest statements that include the whopper that President Bush never made the case that Iraq was an imminent threat. He’s also out charging that regime change is necessary in Iran and boasting that the U.S. delayed the cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah last year because it hoped the Jewish state would defeat the Shi’ite militant group.
Who let this guy out of his cave?
He must have a book to sell, because I thought he had slunk off into ignoble obscurity after his term at the U.N. expired and it was made clear to Bush that his re-appointment would not be approved. Apparently not.
His first statement, today, on Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, was the one that Bush never made the case that Iraq was an “imminent threat.” This is an old one, and one easily disproved, for while Bush may not have uttered the words, “imminent,” “threat” and “Iraq” in the same sentence, the “first result”:http://www.ph.ucla.edu/EPI/bioter/iraqimminent.html on “Google”:http://news.google.com/news?q=bush%20iraq%20imminent%20threat&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&um=1&sa=N&tab=wn reveals a _Los Angeles Times” story after his 2003 State of the Union Address headlined, “Bush Calls Iraq Imminent Threat.”
The Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank, has assembled a “collection of quotes”:http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/kfiles/b24970.html from administration officials who affirmed that Iraq was, indeed, an “imminent threat.”
For example:

“The world is also uniting to answer the *unique and urgent threat* posed by Iraq whose dictator has already used weapons of mass destruction to kill thousands.”

– President Bush, 11/23/02

“The Iraqi regime is a *serious and growing threat* to peace.”

– President Bush, 10/16/02

“The Iraqi regime is a threat of *unique urgency*.”

– President Bush, 10/2/02

There are others, from such Bush administration luminaries such as Donald Rumsfeld — “Some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent … I would not be so certain” (9/18/02) — and official spokesman, Scott McClellan — “This is about imminent threat” (2/10/03).
So, once again, Bolton is just wrong: deeply, profoundly wrong. And so was I. From my perch outside the United States — I’ve been away for several years now — I had the impression that the neo-cons were diminished or on the run, that the right-wing noise machine was winding down and that American television journalism had developed a least a modicum of skepticism toward the Bush administration. (Thankfully Jon Stewart’s interview with Bolton — while gracious — was at least more hard hitting.)
Turning to Iran, he again goes on to say regime change is necessary and wanted by Iranians. “In an interview”:http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3380195,00.html with Ynetnews.com, he says:

“I think there are a lot of Iranians that are unsatisfied with the regime, I think that there is more unrest there than what people believe, I think that the government is constrained because of the fall of oil prices and there is mismanagement of the oil sector of Iran’s economy, they’ve got fewer resources to spread around to keep the populous happy.
“There’s a large Iranian diaspora that know what the situation is. So, I think that there are a lot of possibilities. It won’t necessarily be easy or quick, but that’s not to say we shouldn’t be pursuing it.
“In think it’s very close to the point where Iran will have completely indigenous mastery over the fuel sites, that is to say the point in which stopping the things from the outside will not be sufficient, so I don’t think we have much time. That’s why all these negotiations with the Europeans have played to Iran’s advantage, because time is on their side, time is not on our side.”
How can the Iranian regime be toppled?
“Well, I wish we had started four years ago, but I think through internal dissent and outside pressure, those in general terms are what we have to do.” (Emphasis added)

Are people in Washington still talking about changing the regime change in Iran? I mean, honestly? And listening to the Iranian diaspora? That worked so well with the Iraqi diaspora, as led by Ahmad Chalabi.
And finally, Bolton admits to what everyone in Lebanon already knew: That the U.S. dragged its feet in calling for a cease-fire — allowing Lebanese civilians to be slaughtered — so that Israel might have some more time to finish off Hezbollah.
As reported by the BBC, an early cease-fire, he said, would be “dangerous and misguided.”
It was only when it was obvious that the Shi’ite group would be a tougher enemy to beat that initially thought did America sign on to a cessation of hostilities.
Thank goodness his time is up.

Jumblatt shoots his mouth off

BEIRUT — Well, this is just great. Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said that reconciliation with Hezbollah was “impossible” because the Shi’ite militant group wants to replace the current pluralist state and society of Lebanon.
This is bunk. I have my criticisms of Hezbollah, but they don’t want to take over the whole country. For one, they don’t want the responsibility. They want to be a resistance movement fighting the Israelis; they don’t want to be in charge of filling potholes in Tariq el-Jdeide. They want enough power within the current system to guarantee the south remains theirs, so they can move freely in and out of it and keep their weapons, which is the real base of their power. Does anyone think Iran and Syria would continue to finance them if they weren’t such an effective tool against Israel? If Hezbollah had no weapons, then they have no money. If they have no money, they have no ability to support their social services, which are a strong draw to Lebanon’s poorer Shi’ite population. Without that loyalty, they’re nothing — and Hezbollah knows it. As Hezbollah sees it, they _have_ to protect their weapons if they want to remain politically viable.
But back to Jumblatt (or “Jumbo” as he’s affectionately know to local journalists). He’s long had a reputation as a dial-a-quote politician/warlord, but he represents one of the smallest communities in Lebanon. (Druze make up maybe 5 percent of the population.)
What’s dangerous about his comments, however, is that he’s listened to by the rank and file of March 14, and his comments can harden attitudes to any kind of compromise — which is sorely needed these days. Hezbollah ain’t going away, and it has to be integrated into the Lebanese political system somehow — fully and nonviolently. Jumblatt’s comments make that more difficult.
At any rate, his comments came in the wake of the disturbing discovery of two caches of explosives and detonation fuses scattered around Beirut and the rest of the country. Perhaps someone was just trying to dump them, but it’s set the place on edge. Careless comments from political leaders are not the best way to calm the situation.