Analysts: Rare Demonstration in Iran Hints at Momentum for Change
27 Sep 2004, 20:17 UTC
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A rare pro-democracy demonstration took place in Tehran on Sunday, sparked by foreign TV channels and the promise of a Zoroastrian mystic to return to Iran on October 1st and solve the country's problems.
According to press reports, about two thousand people milled around streets in downtown Tehran, many of them driving cars up and down major avenues, honking their horns and flashing victory signs. Hundreds of volunteer militiamen arrived on the scene, but there were no violent clashes.
Demonstrations are rare in Iran, although Iranian students have taken to the streets several times to call for change from the country's conservative clerical leadership. In 1999, the closure of a reformist newspaper led to student protests and six days of rioting. In 2003, thousands of students held nightly marches in Tehran calling for democratic reform.
The demonstration on Sunday appears to have been catalyzed by the statements of a Zoroastrian mystic, Ahura Pirouz Khalegi Yazdi. Dr. Ahura, as he's known, has been appearing regularly for the last three months on a Los Angeles-based Iranian expatriate TV channel, saying he has the spiritual power to heal Iran's problems. He promised to return to Iran on October 1, along with thousands of other expatriates, if Iranians in the country showed their support for him.
Ali Nouri Zadeh is a member of the Arab Iranian Studies Center in London and has a program on the popular expatriate Iranian radio and TV show Yaran. He said Iranians are so desperate for change nowadays that they are willing to believe anything. He added that many who don't put faith in Dr. Ahura's claims still went into the streets out of a desire to see something happen.
"The majority of people who participated in the demonstration came out either out of curiosity or they came out expecting something big is going to happen," he said. "I mean, I was talking to a university professor and he was telling me: I know all this is a shamble, it's crooks, and all of that, but I came out with my wife and my children just to see what's going to happen."
In 2000, reformists aligned with President Mohamed Khatami were voted into power on an agenda for change. But in the last four years, the Council of Guardians, a highly-conservative, 12-man appointed watchdog body which supervises both legislation and elections, has blocked most proposed reforms. Before the country's last parliamentary elections, the Council struck hundreds of reformist candidates from the rolls, ensuring that conservatives returned to control the parliament.
Tensions in Iran have been further aggravated recently as the country's nuclear program has come under international scrutiny. On September 19, the International Atomic Energy Agency told Iran to freeze all operations connected with uranium enrichment or face possible retaliation. But Iranian officials declined to do so, saying that Iran is developing atomic power for peaceful purposes and describing U.S. claims that it is developing nuclear weapons as "lies."
According to Mohamed El-Saiid Abdel Moamen, Professor of Iranian Studies at Ein Shams University, the demonstration points to the broader tension over access to information in Iran. The reformers in government, led by President Khatami, are in favor of greater openness towards the outside world, says Mr. Moamen. The hardliners who surround Iran's supreme spiritual guide Ayatollah Ali Khameni, on the other hand, view foreign media as a threat to their power, and try to curtail access to it.
There's a ban on satellite dishes in Iran, says Mr. Moamen, and the installation of dishes takes place in secret. This is an attempt on the part of the regime to stop foreign cultural infiltration. The regime controls and monitors the foreign channels and penalizes those who are caught watching them.
But according to Mr. Moamen, it is increasingly impossible for the government to control access to TV, radio and the Internet. Expatriate Iranian communities, particularly in the United States, operate several radio and TV channels that oppose the government, says Mr. Moamen, and that have vast audiences.
FEBRUARY 2004 MARKED THE TWENTY-FIFTH ANNIVERSARY of the Iranian Revolution. From September 1978 to February 1979, in the course of a massive urban revolution with millions of participants, the Iranian people toppled the regime of Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (1941-1979), which had pursued a highly authoritarian program of economic and cultural modernization. By late 1978, the Islamist faction led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had come to dominate the antiregime uprising, in which secular nationalists, democrats, and leftists also participated. The Islamists controlled the slogans and the organization of the protests, which meant that many secular women protesters were pressured into donning the veil (chador) as an expression of solidarity with the more traditional Iranian Muslims. By February 1979, the shah had left the country and Khomeini returned from exile to take power. The next month, he sponsored a national referendum that declared Iran an Islamic republic by an overwhelming majority. Soon after, as Khomeini began to assume nearly absolute power, a reign of terror ensued.
Progressive and leftist intellectuals around the world were initially very divided in their assessments of the Iranian Revolution. While they supported the overthrow of the shah, they were usually less enthusiastic about the notion of an Islamic republic. Foucault visited and wrote on Iran during this period, a period when he was at the height of his intellectual powers. He had recently published Discipline and Punish (1975) and Vol. I of History of Sexuality (1976) and was working on material for Vol. II and III of the latter. Since their publication, the reputation of these writings has grown rather than diminished and they have helped us to conceptualize gender, sexuality, knowledge, power, and culture in new and important ways. Paradoxically, however, his extensive writings and interviews on the Iranian Revolution have experienced a different fate, ignored or dismissed even by thinkers closely identified with Foucault's perspectives.
Attempts to bracket out Foucault's writings on Iran as "miscalculations," or even "not Foucauldian," remind one of what Foucault himself had criticized in his well-known 1969 essay, "What Is an Author?" When we include certain works in an author's career and exclude others that were written in "a different style," or were "inferior," we create a stylistic unity and a theoretical coherence, he wrote. We do so, he added, by privileging certain writings as authentic and excluding others that do not fit our view of what the author ought to be: "The author is therefore the ideological figure by which one marks the manner in which we fear the proliferation of meaning" (Rabinow 1984).
Throughout his life, Foucault's concept of authenticity meant looking at situations where people lived dangerously and flirted with death, a site where creativity originated. In the tradition of Friedrich Nietzsche and Georges Bataille, Foucault embraced the artist who pushed the limits of rationality and he wrote with great passion in defense of irrationalities that broke new boundaries. In 1978, Foucault found such morbid transgressive powers in the revolutionary figure of Ayatollah Khomeini and the millions who risked death as they followed him in the course of the revolution. He knew that such "limit" experiences could lead to new forms of creativity and he passionately threw in his support. This was Foucault's only first-hand experience of revolution and it led to his most extensive set of writings on a non-Western society.
FOUCAULT FIRST VISITED IRAN in September 1978 and then met with Khomeini at his exile residence outside Paris in October. He traveled to Iran for a second visit in November, when the revolutionary movement against the shah was reaching its zenith. During these two trips, Foucault was commissioned as a special correspondent of the leading Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, with his articles appearing on page one of that paper. He published other parts of his writings on Iran in French newspapers and journals, such as the daily Le Monde and the widely circulated leftist weekly Nouvel Observateur. Student activists translated at least one of his essays into Persian and posted it on the walls of Tehran University in the fall of 1978.
Foucault staked out a series of distinctive political and theoretical positions on the Iranian Revolution. In part because only three of his fifteen articles and interviews on Iran have appeared in English, they have generated little discussion in the English-speaking world. Many scholars of Foucault view these writings as aberrant or the product of a political mistake. We believe that Foucault's writings on Iran were in fact closely related to his general theoretical writings on the discourses of power and the hazards of modernity.
Long before most other commentators, Foucault understood, and this to his credit, that Iran was witnessing a singular kind of revolution. Early on, he predicted that this revolution would not follow the model of other modern revolutions. He wrote that it was organized around a sharply different concept, which he called "spiritual politics." Foucault recognized the enormous power of the new discourse of militant Islam, not just for Iran, but globally. He showed that the new Islamist movement aimed at a fundamental cultural, social, as well as political break with the modern Western order, as well as with the Soviet Union and China.
The Iranian experience also raises some serious questions about Foucault's thought. First, it is often assumed that Foucault's suspicion of utopianism, his hostility to grand narratives and universals, and his stress on difference and singularity rather than totality, would make him less likely than his predecessors on the left to romanticize an authoritarian politics that promised radically to refashion from above the lives and thought of a people, for their ostensible benefit. However, his Iran writings showed that Foucault was not immune to the type of illusions that so many Western leftists had held toward the Soviet Union and later, China. Foucault did not anticipate the birth of yet another modern state where old religious technologies of domination could be refashioned and institutionalized; this was a state that combined a traditionalist ideology (Islam) with the anti- imperialist discourse of the left, but also equipped itself with modern technologies of organization, surveillance, warfare, and propaganda.
Second, Foucault's highly problematic relationship to feminism becomes more than an intellectual lacuna in the case of Iran. On a few occasions, Foucault reproduced statements he had heard from religious figures on gender relations in a possible future Islamic republic, but he never questioned the "separate but equal" message of the Islamists. Foucault also dismissed feminist premonitions that the revolution was headed in a dangerous direction. He seemed to regard such warnings as little more than Orientalist attacks on Islam, thereby depriving himself of a more balanced perspective toward the events in Iran. At a more general level, Foucault remained insensitive toward the diverse ways in which power affected women, as against men. He ignored the fact that those most traumatized by premodern disciplinary practices were often woman and children.
Third, an examination of Foucault's writings provides more support for the frequently-articulated criticism that his one-sided critique of modernity needs to be seriously reconsidered, especially from the vantage point of many non-Western societies. A number of Middle Eastern intellectuals have been grappling with their own versions of the Enlightenment project over the past century. The questions in the Middle East are quite concrete. Should such societies, which are often dominated by secular or religious despotic orders, ignore the juridico-legal legacies of the West? Or can they combine aspects of Foucault's theory of power and critiques of modernity with a modern secular state? This is an issue that is hotly debated in many Middle Eastern countries today, especially in Iran and within Iranian exilic communities. Indeed, there are some indications that Foucault himself was moving in such a direction at the end of his life. In his 1984 "What Is Enlightenment?" essay (Rabinow 1984), he put forth a position on the Enlightenment that was more nuanced than before.
IN FRANCE, THE CONTROVERSY over Foucault's writings on Iran is well known. For example, during the debate that followed the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, a prominent French commentator referred polemically and without apparent need for any further explanation to "Michel Foucault, advocate of Khomeinism in Iran and therefore in theory of its exactions," this in a front-page op-ed article in Le Monde (Minc 2001). Even French commentators more sympathetic to Foucault have acknowledged the extremely problematic nature of his stance on Iran. Biographer Didier Eribon (1991), himself an editor at Nouvel Observateur and a friend of Foucault, wrote: "The criticism and sarcasm that greeted Foucault's mistake' concerning Iran added further to his despondency after what he saw as the qualified critical reception" of Volume I of the History of Sexuality. Eribon added: "For a long time thereafter Foucault rarely commented on politics or journalism." Eribon has furnished us with what is to date the most detailed and balanced discussion of Foucault and Iran. Another French biographer, Jeannette Colombel (1994), who was also a friend of Foucault, concludes that the controversy "wounded him."
The English-speaking world has seen less discussion of Foucault's Iran writings. One exception is the intellectual biography by the political philosopher James Miller (1993), who characterized Foucault's Iran episode as one of "folly." Miller was the only biographer to suggest that Foucault's fascination with death played a part in his enthusiasm for the Iranian Islamists, with their emphasis on mass martyrdom. David Macey, the author of the most comprehensive biography of Foucault to date, was more equivocal. Macey (1993) regarded the French attacks on Foucault over Iran as exaggerated and mean-spirited, but he nonetheless acknowledged that Foucault was so "impressed" by what he saw in Iran in 1978 that he misread "the probable future developments he was witnessing." Elsewhere in the English-speaking world, where Foucault's writings on Iran have been only selectively translated and the contemporary French responses to him not translated at all, his Iran writings have been treated more kindly. His last two articles on Iran, where he rather belatedly made a few criticisms of the Islamic regime in the face of the attacks on him by other French intellectuals, have been the most widely circulated ones among those that have appeared in English up to now. They are the only examples of his Iran writings to be found in the three-volume collection, The Essential Writings of Michel Foucault, issued recently by the New Press (Foucault 2000).
Foucault's problematic treatment of Iranian Islamism was partly due to the fact that he ignored the warnings of Iranian and Western feminists as well as secular leftists, who, early on, had developed a more balanced and critical attitude toward the revolution. This undercut what were in other respects some valuable analyses of the nature of the shah's regime and its Islamist opposition.
Foucault carried out a probing analysis of the shah's regime in his October 1978 article for Corriere della Sera, "The Shah Is One Hundred Years Behind the Times."1 He wrote that in Iran, "modernization" took the form of the shah's authoritarian policies. Situating himself in a postmodern position, he argued that the shah's plan for "secularization and modernization," handed down by his father Reza Shah, a brutal dictator known for "his famous gaze," was itself retrograde and archaic. Here one can discern echoes of his Discipline and Punish, published three years earlier. The Pahlavi shahs were the guardians of a modernizing disciplinary state that subjected all of the people of Iran to the intense gaze of their overlords. Most notably, Foucault was criticizing the surveillance methods and disciplinary practices adopted by the regime of Muhammad Reza Shah and his notorious secret police, the SAVAK, whose methods and practices remained brutal and retrograde.
Later, in February 1979, just after Khomeini had assumed power, Foucault made an astute prediction in his article, "A Powder Keg Called Islam," also in Corriere della sera. He mocked the hopes of French and Iranian Marxists, who had believed that Khomeini would now be pushed aside by the Marxist Left: "Religion played its role of opening the curtain; the Mullahs will now disperse themselves, taking off in a big group of black and white robes. The decor is changing. The first act is going to begin: that of the struggle of the classes, of the armed vanguards, and of the party that organizes the masses, etc."
In ridiculing the notion that the secular nationalist or Marxist left would now take center stage and displace the clerics, Foucault made a keen assessment of the balance of forces. Indeed, he exhibited quite a remarkable perspicacity, especially given the fact that he was not a specialist on either Iran or Islam. Even more importantly, he noted, a new type of revolutionary movement had emerged, one that would have an impact far beyond Iran's borders and would also have major effect on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: "But perhaps its historic importance will not hinge on its conformity to a recognized revolutionary' model. Rather, it will owe its importance to the potential that it will have to overturn the existing political situation in the Middle East and thus the global strategic equilibrium. Its singularity, which has constituted up until this point its force, consequently threatens to create its power of expansion. Indeed, it is correct to say that, as an Islamic' movement, it can set the entire region afire, overturn the most unstable regimes, and disturb the most solid. Islam -- which is not simply a religion, but an entire way of life, an adherence to a history and a civilization -- has a good chance to become a gigantic powder keg, at the level of hundreds of millions of men."
While Foucault's insight into Islamism's global reach was surely prescient, this was undercut by Foucault's uncritical stance toward Islamism as a political movement. In October 1978, during the period when the first nationwide strike was taking place in Iran, he decided to publish his views on Iran in French for the first time in an article entitled "Of What Are the Iranians Dreaming?" for Nouvel Observateur. Foucault described the current struggle in mythic terms: "The situation in Iran seems to depend on a great joust under traditional emblems, those of the king and the saint, the armed sovereign and the destitute exile, the despot faced with the man who stands up bare-handed and is acclaimed by a people."
As to the saintlike Khomeini's advocacy of "an Islamic government," Foucault was reassuring. He noted that "there is an absence of hierarchy in the clergy" and "a dependence (even a financial one) on those who listen to them." The clerics were not only democratic; they also possessed a creative political vision: "One thing must be clear. By Islamic government,' nobody in Iran means a political regime in which the clergy would have a role of supervision or control. . . . It is something very old and also very far into the future, a notion of coming back to what Islam was at the time of the Prophet, but also of advancing toward a luminous and distant point where it would be possible to renew fidelity rather than maintain obedience. In pursuit of this ideal, the distrust of legalism seemed to me to be essential, along with a faith in the creativity of Islam."
Foucault also attempted to reassure his French readers concerning the rights of women and religious/ethnic minorities. His sources, who were close to the Islamists, assured him: "With respect to liberties, they will be respected to the extent that their usage will not harm others; minorities will be protected and free to live as they please on the condition that they do not injure the majority; between men and women there will not be inequality with respect to rights, but difference, since there is a natural difference." He concluded the article by referring to the crucial place of "political spirituality" in Iran and the loss of such spirituality in early modern Europe. This was something, he wrote, "whose possibility we have forgotten ever since the Renaissance and the great crises of Christianity." Already poised for the sharp responses he knew such views would receive in the highly charged world of Parisian intellectual debate, he said that he knew that his French readers would "laugh" at such a formulation. But, he retorted, "I know that they are wrong."
Islam as a Political Force
FOUCAULT'S SUGGESTION THAT HIS Nouvel Observateur article would stir up controversy turned out to be correct, perhaps more so than he had anticipated. Nouvel Observateur published, in its November 6 issue, excerpts of a letter from the pseudonymous "Atoussa H.," a leftist Iranian woman living in exile in France, who took strong exception to Foucault's uncritical stance toward the Islamists. She declared: "I am very distressed by the matter of fact commentaries usually made by the French left with respect to the prospect of an Islamic' government replacing the bloody tyranny of the shah."2 Foucault, she wrote, seemed "deeply moved by Muslim spirituality,' which, according to him, would be an improvement over the ferocious capitalist dictatorship, which is today beginning to fall apart." Why, she continued, alluding to the 1953 overthrow of the democratic and leftist Mossadeq government, must the Iranian people, "after twenty-five years of silence and oppression" be forced to choose between "the SAVAK and religious fanaticism?" Unveiled women were already being insulted on the streets and Khomeini supporters had made clear that "in the regime they want to create, women will have to adhere" to Islamic law. With respect to statements that ethnic and religious minorities would have their rights "so long as they do not harm the majority," Atoussa H. asked pointedly: "Since when have the minorities begun to harm'" the majority?
Returning to the problematic notion of an Islamic government, Atoussa H. pointed to the brutal forms of justice in Saudi Arabia: "Heads and hands are cut off, for thieves and lovers." She concluded: "Many Iranians are, like me, distressed and desperate about the thought of an Islamic' government. . . . The Western liberal left needs to know that Islamic law can become a dead weight on societies hungering for change. They should not let themselves be seduced by a cure that is perhaps worse than the disease." Foucault, in a short rejoinder published the following week in Nouvel Observateur, wrote that what was "intolerable" about Atoussa H.'s letter, was her "merging together" of all forms of Islam into one and then "scorning" Islam as "fanatical." It was certainly discerning on Foucault's part to note in his response that Islam "as a political force is an essential problem for our epoch and for the years to come." But this prediction was seriously undercut by his utter refusal to share any of her critique of political Islam. Instead, he concluded his rejoinder by lecturing Atoussa H.: "The first condition for approaching it [Islam] with a minimum of intelligence is not to begin by bringing in hatred." In March and April 1979, once the Khomeini regime's atrocities against women and homosexuals began, this exchange would come back to haunt Foucault.
While many prominent French intellectuals had become caught up in the enthusiasm of the Iranian upheaval in late 1978, none to our knowledge followed Foucault in siding so explicitly with the Islamists against the secular Marxist or nationalist left. Others with more background in Middle Eastern history were less sanguine altogether, notably the leading French specialist on Islam, Maxime Rodinson. An historian who had worked since the 1950s in the Marxian tradition and the author of the classic biography Muhammad (1961) and of Islam and Capitalism (1966), his leftist credentials were very strong. Rodinson's prescient three-part article entitled "The Awakening of Islamic Fundamentalism?" appeared on the front page of Le Monde in December 1978.3
As he publicly revealed some years later, in this article Rodinson was responding to Foucault's earlier evocation of a "political spirituality." However, in a time-honored tradition of Parisian intellectual debate, Rodinson chose not to name Foucault. For those in France who had followed Foucault's writings on Iran, however, Rodinson's references in this December 1978 article were clear enough, as they undoubtedly were to Foucault himself. Rodinson poured cold water on the hopes of many on the left for an emancipatory outcome in Iran. He pointed to specific ways in which the ideology of an Islamic state carried with it many reactionary features: "Even a minimalist Islamic fundamentalism would require, according to the Koran, that the hands of thieves be cut off and that a woman's share of the inheritance be cut in half. If there is a return to tradition, as the men of religion want, then it will be necessary to whip the wine drinker and whip or stone the adulterer Nothing will be easier or more dangerous than this time-honored accusation: my adversary is an enemy of God'." Bringing to bear the perspectives of historical materialism, he wrote: "It is astonishing, after centuries of common experience, that it is still necessary to recall one of the best attested laws of history. Good moral intentions, whether or not endorsed by the deity, are a weak basis for determining the practical policies of states." What lay in store for Iran, he worried, was not a liberation but "a semi-archaic fascism."
By spring 1979, these controversies came to a boil. At the March 8, 1979 International Women's Day demonstration, the repressive character of Iran's new Islamist regime suddenly became quite apparent to many of the Iranian Revolution's international supporters. On that day, Iranian women activists and their male supporters demonstrated in Tehran against an order for women to re-veil themselves in the chador worn in more traditional sectors of society. The demonstrations continued for five days. At their height, they grew to fifty thousand in Tehran, women as well as men. Some leftist men formed a cordon around the women, fighting off armed attackers from a newly formed group, the Hezbollah or "Party of God." The demonstrators chanted "No to the Chador," "Down with the Dictatorship," and even the occasional "Down with Khomeini." One banner read, "We made the Revolution for Freedom, But Got Unfreedom," while others proclaimed "At the Dawn of Freedom, There Is No Freedom." For their part, the Hezbollah chanted "You will cover yourselves or be beaten," but their response was mainly nonverbal: stones, knives, and even bullets. After support demonstrations also took place in Paris, Simone de Beauvoir issued a statement of solidarity on March 19: "We have created the International Committee for Women's Rights (CIDF) in response to calls from a large number of Iranian women, whose situation and whose revolt have greatly moved us We have appreciated the depth of the utter humiliation into which others wanted to make them fall and we have therefore resolved to struggle for them."
On March 24, a highly polemical article directed against Foucault appeared in Le Matin, a leftist daily that had editorialized forcefully against what it called Khomeini's "road toward counter-revolution and moral regulation." Entitled "Of What Are the Philosophers Dreaming?"4 and written by the feminist journalists Claudie and Jacques Broyelle, it derided Foucault's enthusiastic praise of the Islamist movement: "Returning from Iran a few months ago, Michel Foucault stated that he was impressed' by the attempt to open a spiritual dimension in politics' that he discerned in project on an Islamic government. Today there are little girls all in black, veiled from head to toe; women stabbed precisely because they do not want to wear the veil; summary executions for homosexuality; the creation of a Ministry of Guidance According to the Precepts of the Koran;' thieves and adulterous women flagellated." Alluding to his Discipline and Punish, they referred ironically to "this spirituality that disciplines and punishes." The Broyelles mocked Foucault's notions of "political spirituality" and asked if this was connected to the "spiritual meaning" of the summary executions of homosexuals then taking place in Iran. They also called upon Foucault to admit that his thinking on Iran had been "in error." Foucault's response, published two days later, was in fact a non-response. He would not respond, he wrote, "because throughout my life' I have never taken part in polemics. I have no intention of beginning now." He wrote further, "I am summoned to acknowledge my errors'." He hinted that it was the Broyelles who were engaging in thought control by the manner in which they had called him to account.
AT THIS POINT THE CONTROVERSY was fueled by the appearance of Claire Brière and Pierre Blanchet's book Iran: la Révolution au nom de Dieu, published at the end of March. It included a lengthy interview with Foucault by the two authors that discussed the events in Iran. The interview, which appears to have been conducted before Khomeini assumed power in February, was entitled "Iran: The Spirit of a Spiritless World." Unfortunately for Foucault's reputation, this enthusiastic discussion of Iran's Islamist movement was mentioned frequently in reviews of the book, which appeared in the immediate aftermath of the March women's demonstrations and amid the growing reports of atrocities against gay men, Baha'is, and Kurds. The book achieved a certain notoriety because of its timeliness and months later, it was still the most prominently displayed title on the Iranian Revolution in Paris bookstores.
In the interview, Foucault began his analysis of Iran by complaining that "the Iranian affair and the way in which it has unfolded have not aroused the same type of unproblematic sympathy as Portugal, for example, or Nicaragua." He deplored the Western left's "unease when confronted by a phenomenon that is, for our political mentality, very curious." In Iran, he added, religion offered something deeper than ideology: "It really has been the vocabulary, the ceremonial, the timeless drama into which one could fit the historical drama of a people that pitted its very existence against that of its sovereign." Because Shi'ism had been part of the Iranian culture for centuries, and because the revolutionary drama was played out through this religious discourse, Foucault believed that Shi'ism, "a religion of combat and sacrifice," would not play the role of a modern ideology, one that would "mask contradictions." What Foucault perceived as Iran's unified historico-cultural discourse system seemed to override those "contradictions" with which, he acknowledged in passing, "Iranian society" was "shot through."
What's more, when Blanchet warned of uncritical euphoria with respect to the events in Iran, referring to his and Brière's experience in China during the Cultural Revolution, Foucault refused the implications of a more questioning, critical stance. Disagreeing directly with Blanchet, Foucault insisted on the uniqueness of the events in Iran vis-á-vis China: "All the same, the Cultural Revolution was certainly presented as a struggle between certain elements of the population and certain others, certain elements in the party and certain others, or between the population and the party, etc. Now what struck me in Iran is that there is no struggle between different elements. What gives it such beauty, and at the same time such gravity, is that there is only one confrontation: between the entire people and the state power threatening them with its weapons and police." Here, Foucault's denial of any social or political differentiation among the Iranian "people" was absolutely breathtaking.
Finally, about nine-tenths of the way through the interview, after more prodding by both Blanchet and Brière, Foucault acknowledged a single contradiction within the Iranian Revolution, that of xenophobic nationalism and anti-Semitism. We can quote these statements in full, since they are so brief. First, he noted: "There were demonstrations, verbal at least, of virulent anti- Semitism. There were demonstrations of xenophobia, and not only against the Americans, but also against foreign workers [including many Afghans] who had come to work in Iran." Then, somewhat later, he added: "What has given the Iranian movement its intensity has been a double register. On the one hand, a collective will that has been very strongly expressed politically and, on the other hand, the desire for a radical change in ordinary life. But this double affirmation can only be based on traditions, institutions that carry a charge of chauvinism, nationalism, exclusiveness, that have a very powerful attraction for individuals."
Here, for the first time in his discussions of Iran, Foucault acknowledged that the religious and nationalist myths through which the Islamists had mobilized the masses were full of "chauvinism, nationalism, exclusiveness." At the same time, however, and what continued to override the possibility of a more critical perspective, was the fact that he was so enamored by the ability of the Islamists to galvanize tens of millions of people through such traditions that he ignored the dangers. Strikingly, in the entire interview, Foucault never addressed the dangers facing Iranian women, even after Brière recounted, albeit with a big apologia for the Islamists, an incident in which she had been physically threatened for trying to join a group of male journalists during a 1978 demonstration.
At the end of March, soon after Iran: la Révolution au nom de Dieu appeared, a review in Le Monde emphasized the interview, calling Foucault's position "questionable." Days later, another critique of Foucault appeared in a review in Nouvel Observateur by Jean Lacouture, the veteran journalist and biographer. Lacouture argued that the book "poses important issues with a rather abrupt simplicity that becomes most apparent in the concluding conversation between the two authors and Michel Foucault." The biggest problem with the book and with Foucault's contribution, Lacouture added, was the way in which "the unanimous character of the movement" was emphasized in a one-sided fashion. Something similar to this so- called "unanimity" for Islam was also observed, erroneously it turned out, during China's Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, he concluded. Still another attack on Foucault soon appeared in L'Express, a mass-circulation centrist weekly, in which the prominent journalist Bernard Ullmann wrote that Foucault's interview "did not have the same prudence" as the rest of the book in assessing the possible dangers of an Islamist regime in Iran.
Foucault never responded directly to these various attacks on him in the reviews of Iran: la Révolution au nom de Dieu. Unlike some of the previous attacks on his writings, for example those by Sartre and de Beauvoir on his The Order of Things (1966), hardly anyone defended Foucault's Iran writings. One exception was the post-structuralist feminist Catherine Clément, who wrote in Le Matin that Foucault had simply "tried to discern what has escaped our intellectual expectations" and that "no schema, including that of Human Rights' within our tradition, can be applied directly to this country, which makes it revolution from its own culture." Foucault published two more articles on Iran in April and May 1979, one of them for Le Monde, in which he made a few very mild criticisms of the revolution. Then he lapsed into silence over Iran.
The Significance of Gender
IN THE TWO AND A HALF DECADES since 1979, the tremors set off by the Iranian Revolution helped in no small way to spark an international series of Islamist movements. Radical Islamists have taken power or staged destructive civil wars in a number of countries, from Algeria to Egypt and from Sudan to Afghanistan, in the latter case with U.S. support. These regimes and movements have been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and for numerous setbacks to women's rights throughout the Muslim world. Islamism gained such power and influence during a period when equally retrogressionist Christian, Hindu, and Jewish religious fundamentalist movements were also on the rise, all of them inimical to women's rights. The September 11 attacks were a dramatic and horrific example of the dangers of such religious fanaticism.
Two questions for today emerge from Foucault's Iran writings. First, were these writings aberrations, largely the product of his ignorance of Iranian history and culture? This is what Maxime Rodinson suggested in his critiques of Foucault. We think not. We note that de Beauvoir and other French feminists took a markedly different stance, one that holds up better today, although they had little specialist knowledge of Iran. We suggest that Foucault's Iran writings reveal, albeit in exaggerated form, some problems in his overall perspective, especially its one-sided critique of modernity. In this sense, the Iran writings contribute something important to our understanding of this major social philosopher.
A second issue for today concerns the whole issue of religious fundamentalism, more important than ever to debates over the crisis of modernity since September 11, 2001. The international left's failure to chart an adequate response to religious fundamentalism is not Michel Foucault's problem alone. It is ours today as well. And this is no easy task, just as in past decades it was not easy to chart a leftist perspective independent of Stalinism and Maoism. As Maxime Rodinson later wrote, with a measure of Gallic humanism: "Those who, like the author of these lines, refused for so long to believe the reports about the crimes committed in the name of the triumphant socialism in the former Tsarist Empire, in the terrible human dramas resulting from the Soviet Revolution, would exhibit bad grace if they became indignant at the incredulity of the Muslim masses before all the spots that one asks them to view on the radiant sun of their hope. Michel Foucault is not contemptible for not having wanted to create despair in the Muslim world's shantytowns and starving countryside, for not having wanted to lose hope, or for that matter, to lose hope in the worldwide importance of their hopes." And, as we have seen above, hope needs to be tempered by a critical spirit cognizant above all of the significance of gender in an era of religious fundamentalism.
Afary, Janet and Kevin B. Anderson. Forthcoming. Foucault, Gender, and the Iranian Revolution: The Seductions of Islamism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Colombel, Jeannette. 1994. Michel Foucault: La clarté de la mort. Paris: éditions Odile Jacob.
Eribon, Didier.  1991. Michel Foucault. Trans. by Betsy Wing. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Foucault, Michel. 2000. Power. Volume III of The Essential Works of Michel Foucault, 1954-1984. Edited by James Faubion. Translated by Robert Hurley et al. New York: New Press.
Macey, David. 1993. The Lives of Michel Foucault. New York: Vintage.
Miller, James. 1993. The Passion of Michel Foucault. New York: Doubleday.
Minc, Alain. 2001. "Le terrorisme de l'esprit." Le Monde (Nov. 7), pp. 1. 15
Rabinow, Paul, ed. 1984. Foucault Reader. New York: Pantheon.
- These and other quotations from Foucault's Iran writings are from the appendix to Afary and Anderson, where they are all translated, in most cases for the first time. return
- This letter is translated in the appendix to Afary and Anderson. return
- Rodinson's critiques of Foucault are translated, some of them for the first time, in the appendix to Afary and Anderson. return
- Beauvoir's statement, and Broyelle and Broyelle's article, are translated in the appendix to Afary and Anderson. return
JANET AFARY and KEVIN B. ANDERSON are the co-authors of Foucault, Gender, and the Iranian Revolution: The Seductions of Islamism (forthcoming). Janet Afary teaches history and women's studies at Purdue University and is the author of The Iranian Constitutional Revolution, 1906-11: Grassroots Democracy, Social Democracy and the Origins of Feminism (1996). Kevin Anderson teaches political science and sociology at Purdue and is the author of Lenin, Hegel, and Western Marxism: A Critical Study (1995) and the co-editor of the Rosa Luxemburg Reader (2004).
I honestly believe that our President is well aware of the problem there and that we have forces on both borders of Iran for a reason, I believe he sees the big picture and that Iran will be free along with Afghanistan and Iraq. I do not believe that it is coincidence that we have surrounded Iran nor do I think that it is a coincindence that the insurgency has increased. THE TERROSIST ARE AFRAID as they should be, they are more intelligent than some of our elected officials. They know that this President has their number and is coming for them.
WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS
Iran's new missile supports nukes
Redesigned Shihab-3 can carry WMD warhead
Iran's newly redesigned Shihab-3 intermediate-range missile is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, U.S. intelligence sources tell WND.
Over the weekend Iran said it had successfully test-fired a long-range "strategic missile" and delivered it to its armed forces, saying it is now prepared to deal with any regional threats and even the "big powers."
Iran's new missiles can reach London, Paris, Berlin and southern Russia, according to weapons and intelligence analysts.
"This strategic missile was successfully test-fired during (the recent) military exercises by the Revolutionary Guards and delivered to the armed forces," Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani was quoted by the state-run radio as saying.
The missile is believed by intelligence analysts to be an updated version of the Shihab-3, improved with the help of the North Koreans.
The news comes shortly after Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards staged military maneuvers near the border with Iraq, seen as a signal to Washington Tehran is prepared to fight back against any attempts to prevent the development of a nuclear reactor that could be used to make weapons-grade plutonium.
The radio said Shamkhani refused to give details about the missile for "security reasons," but said Iran was "ready to confront all regional and extra-regional threats."
Shamkhani last month said Iran was working on improvements to the range and accuracy of the Shihab-3 in response to Israel's moves to boost its anti-missile capability.
Today's announcement came days after Israel said it was buying from the United States about 5,000 smart bombs, including 500 one-ton bunker-busters that can destroy 6-feet-thick concrete walls.
Analysts say such bombs could be used to destroy Iran's nuclear reactor before it goes online. In 1981, Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor before it went "hot." Iran may be only weeks or months away from activating the reactor.
The 2,000-pound "bunker-buster" bombs are part of one of the largest weapons deals between Israel and the U.S. in years. The bombs include airborne versions, guidance units, training bombs and detonators. They are guided by an existing Israeli satellite used by the military.
In addition to the 500 one-ton bunker-busters, the purchase includes 2,500 other one-ton bombs, 1,000 half-ton bombs and 500 quarter-ton bombs. Funding will come from U.S. military aid to Israel.
On Tuesday, Iran defied the International Atomic Energy Agency by announcing it is producing uranium hexafluoride, the material for centrifuge enrichment.
Kurtis Cooper, a U.S. State Department spokesman, declared: "Although Iran has repeatedly asserted that its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes and its pursuit of uranium enrichment technologies are to fuel a planned civilian power program, Iran will have no peaceful use for enriched uranium for many, many years. ... The rush to convert 37 tons of yellowcake into feed-stock for centrifuge enrichment has no peaceful justification. ... Thirty-seven tons of yellowcake is not a test. It is a production run."
September 27, 2004, 9:23 a.m.
Accustomed as we are to believing that everything in the world has to do with us, we've misunderstood what the recent beheadings are all about. The terrorists are not trying to make us cower. They are not using the beheadings as a technique to drive us out. Insofar as the slaughter of Westerners affects the policies of Coalition members, the same effect could be accomplished by other forms of murder; a government that is prepared to be routed from Iraq will turn tail when its public demands it, regardless of how its citizens have been killed.
This is not about us it is about them. The beheading films are recruitment tools. They've been around for a long time, part and parcel of the first generation of "jihad" home movies, circulated mostly in North Africa to excite homicidal fanatics and lure them into the Islamist bands. The main difference between then and now is that their marketing and distribution have improved, thanks to their comrades at al Jazeera and al Arabiya, and the Internet.
We should have no trouble understanding this and drawing the proper conclusions. A movement that draws its foot soldiers from people who dream of beheading one of us is clearly a barbarous phenomenon, one that puts the lie to the notion that our enemies in this terror war are human beings driven to desperation by misery and injustice. Not at all: The recruiting films are aimed at subhuman homicidal maniacs who revel in bloody brutality. Given the human capacity to rationalize most any ghastly behavior, some of the killers' supporters even in the Western intelligentsia include misguided souls who are so confused they can accept and even justify barbarism in the name of the cause of the moment. There is nothing new in invoking ends to justify dreadful means. But in this case, the means the beheadings define our enemies and their followers.
It follows that there is no policy that will successfully end their jihad against us short of total surrender and mass conversion to their brand of Islam. They see us, quite explicitly, as animals who deserve slaughter. The terrorists' recent response to Tony Blair's statement that he would not negotiate with them was eloquent: We are not interested in negotiations, they said. Either the British withdraw or we will slaughter the hostage.
Do not think for a moment that the beheadings are a unique form of viciousness aimed only against Americans or American allies. Beheading has been a common form of execution of Islamic (and Christian, and Bahai, and Zoroastrian) enemies, and I have no doubt the jihadists have beheaded more of "their own" than of ours. It is not about us, it's about them.
Our debate, however, is not about them; it's about us. Should we permit the horrible videos to be broadcast? Does it not risk either dulling our sensitivities or truly terrifying our own people? The very nature of this debate shows how far we have strayed from the understanding we gained on September 11, 2001. That day we saw scenes every bit as horrible as the beheadings, and we recognized that we were facing a war that would have to be fought to the finish. The people who were burned or crushed in New York and Washington, those who jumped to certain death from the Twin Towers they provided the clearest possible documentation of what awaited us all if we did not win.
The opponents of our campaign against the terror masters immediately recognized that it was crucial to cancel that message, to dilute it with nuance and deception, and the first step in their campaign was to stop broadcasting the images of 9/11. They justified it by saying they did not want to shock the American people, that the pictures were too horrible, that we needed to move on. In like manner, they now say that the beheadings should not be shown, because they too are too shocking, too upsetting to our sensitivities. Others say they should not be shown because in showing them we risk becoming indifferent to such acts, losing our sense of shock and our will to resist.
This is all nonsense. We cannot wage an effective war unless we understand the nature of our enemy. If we do not grasp that the terrorists' ranks are full of people who are there precisely because they are thrilled by the prospect of beheading human beings, we will fail to see the war through to its necessary conclusion. The beheadings are about them, not us. They show us very important things we need to know: What they are, what they want, what they will do if we do not stop them.
Two factoids from recent days should enhance our understanding. The first is a story about a man recently released from Guantanamo who showed up back in Afghanistan, working to kill Coalition soldiers. A fine triumph of legal nicety! The second has not yet been published, so far as I know, but it helps us understand a bit more about the terror network. It turns out that many of the hostages in Iraq are taken by "common criminals," who then sell the hostages to the terrorists so that they can behead them. I suspect, for example, that the Italian women held by terrorists in Iraq fell victim to such a gang.
It is folly to think of the terrorists and their masters in the various capitals of the region as people merely trying to avenge injustice or settle old grievances. The only way sensible people can come to believe that is to censor the evidence by taking the scenes of 9/11 and the beheading videos off the air, by filtering the utter barbarity of these people through the use of uncharged words that lose their emotional impact.
Don't worry about our sensitivities. Show us we need to see so that we bring our full political and military might to bear and end this thing as quickly as possible.
Faster, confound it.
Kerry on Iran
© 2004 WorldNetDaily.com
In recent weeks, John Kerry has crossed the line from the traditional American position of "loyal opposition" in his fierce and self-contradictory criticism of President Bush's policies in Iraq.
He crossed that sometimes blurry line in a free society to the point where he is endangering Americans' lives and giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
The man who urged pre-emptive military action in 1997 and who voted to authorize the invasion now says a policy of regime change was all wrong simply to position himself as a viable political alternative to the president.
But Kerry is sending even more potentially dangerous and deadly signals to another enemy one the United States must decide how to confront in the coming weeks and months.
That enemy is the soon-to-be nuclear-armed, fanatical mullah regime in Iran.
Over the weekend, there were reports Iran has developed the range and targeting capability of missiles and is now capable of hitting London, Berlin, Paris and, of course, all of Israel.
Iran is on the verge of becoming a nuclear power, and, despite the regime's claims of only wanting to build a reactor for peaceful energy uses, it is also moving rapidly to begin reprocessing weapons-grade plutonium.
In addition, there were new reports that Iran has been talking to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad about the possibility of providing safe haven for former Iraqi nuclear weapons scientists.
Despite these ominous developments, Kerry's campaign rhetoric is making it more difficult for the United States to address the imminent threat posed by Iran.
For instance, listen to what Teresa Heinz Kerry told an audience in Colorado over the weekend:
The way we live in peace in a family, in a marriage, in the world, is not by threatening people, is not by showing off your muscles. It's by listening, by giving a hand sometimes, by being intelligent, by being open and by setting high standards.
In case anyone wasn't certain which nation she was talking about, Heinz Kerry elaborated even mentioning Iran by name and denouncing the administration's warnings to Tehran: "There are about 50 countries in the world that have the capability to build nuclear weapons. Are we going to attack them all?" she said.
It should be of grave concern to every American that among Kerry's top fund-raisers are three Iranian-Americans who have been pushing for dramatic changes in U.S. policy toward Iran.
I'm talking about Hassan Nemazee, 54, an investment banker based in New York, who has raised more than $100,000. Why is he betting on Kerry? Read Teresa's lips.
I'm talking about Faraj Aalaei, who has raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for the Kerry campaign. Why is he betting on Kerry? Read Teresa's lips.
I'm talking about his wife, Susan Akbarpour, whom the Kerry campaign also lists as having raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for the campaign. Why is she betting on Kerry? Read Teresa's lips.
And the Iranians may not have to read Teresa's lips. There may be more direct communication at work between Kerry and the terrorist-supporting mullah regime.
Last February, WorldNetDaily reported that Iran's official Mehr News Agency had received an e-mail from Kerry's campaign pitching the candidate as one who will "repair the damage done" to international relations by Bush.
Yes, once again, Kerry is doing what he always does what he has done ever since he came to the attention of the American people in 1971 and, in fact, what first brought him to the attention of the American people.
He is giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
But, this time, the enemy is not a group of communists in black pajamas with conventional weapons. This time, the enemy is a soon-to-be nuclear-armed jihadist nation with one goal in mind destroying the "Great Satan," otherwise known as the United States of America.
Some of the Islamic regime's notorious apologists are intending to open their way of influence to the "US House's Select Committee on Intelligence". In this line a "fundraising" has been planned for the Honorable "Anna Eshoo" (D-14th/CA) who's a prominent US lawmaker and member of a very sensible legislative body.
The House Representative member seems to be totally unaware of her supporters background and their ultimate goals.
The main organizers and members of the Host Committee are "Susan Akbarpoor", founder of "Silicon Iran" and "Iran Today", and her husband, "Faraj-Alaei" head of the "Centillium Corp." and co-founder of the so-called "Iranian American Political Action Committee" (IAPAC). The couple and some of their related organizations are notorious for having tried, for several years, to legitimize the tyrannical and terrorist Islamic republic regime in the US.
The controversial fundraising is to take place in a Bay area home, located at 27011 DeZahara Way in Los Altos Hills - CA 94022, on October 10th from 05:00 PM. This home seems to be belonging to "Gita Kashani" who's a former head of the "Society of Iranian Professionals" (SIP) of N. California. Involved in the organization of some very controversial activities, Kashani was one of the main planners of "Technological trips to Iran", by non scrupulous US researchers, scholars and businessmen, and a well known organizer of official exchange seminars in cities, such as, Esfahan. It's to note that such actions are known to be needing the collaboration of the highest levels of the Islamic regime's Intelligence and Government in order to take place. She has since joined IAPAC and has increased her activities in a different way and which are more adapted to the current sensible circumstances.
Akbarpoor is a close friend to Hashemi Rafsanjani's daughter and a firm advocator of Kamal Kharrazi the Islamic regime's FM. Her organizations are intending to bring US Technology firms to lobby the US Administration for a recognition of the Mullahcracy and the cancellation of sanctions. She seems to have been able to attract, so far, the support of some mercantilist individuals, such as the wife of one of AT & T's main heads, to her goals.
In addition, "Hassan Nemazee", IAPAC's main co-founder who has tried to silence the Movement by initiating a costly juridical litigation, is expected to be present during Ms. Eshoo's questionable fundraising along with his long date colleague, Akbar Ghahary, the current front man of the Kerry Campaign for Iranian-Americans.
It's to note that IAPAC's initial founders, Nemazee, Alaei and Ghahary, were also Board members of the infamous and self-called "American Iranian Council" (AIC). Nemazee used of his position, as AIC Board Member, for publicly calling for the recognition of the Islamic regime, on June 1, 2002, in presence of Senator J. Kerry.
AIC, which is headed by the infamous "Hooshang Amir-Ahmadi", is still publicly trying to lobby for the recognition of the Islamic regime. It has to its dark credit the formal apology offered to Iran (meaning the Mullahs) by "Madeleine Albright", the then Secretary of State; Joe Biden's fundraising at the IMAN Islamist Center of Los Angeles headed by Sadegh Nemazikhah who's a AIC Board member; And various meetings organized between members of the Mullahs' regime, such as Mehdi Karoubi, and several US lawmakers and members of Clinton Administration. Biden is well known for having tried to use of his influence within the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee to push for resumption of ties with the illegitimate Mullahcracy.
The IAPAC's trio founders are also among John Kerry's main fundraisers. They're hoping that the election of the Democratic Candidate, as a future US President, will help to avoid Islamic regime's total collapse by boosting it via commercial and nuclear deals with Uncle Sam. Huge amounts of money are getting disbursed, at this time, by this group's members and their affiliated creations or partners, such as the self called "National Iranian American Council" (NIAC), in order to use some of non scrupulous Iranian Satellite TV and Radio networks, such as Tamasha, Channel One or 670 AM, in order to promote Candidate Kerry among the Iranian-American community.
NIAC's front man President is Titra Parsi. He was also a AIC Board member and a well known Khatami advocator. In addition to some questionable Iranian financial sources, the group is receiving financial contributions from groups affiliated to Theresa Heinz Kerry , such as Tides Foundation, and George Soros' Open Society Institute. Playing the nationalistic feelings of young Iranians, NIAC claims to be bi-partisan while in reality its heads are targeting a Democrat victory in the next US Presidential elections.
The Honorable Anna Eshoo's contact references are:
Phone: (202) 225-8104; (650) 323-2984; (408) 245-2339
Fax: (202) 225-8890 ; (650) 323-3498
Tel Aviv - Iran has enhanced the range of its Shahab 3 medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) and a recent Shahab test appears to be of an early version of the expected Shahab 4, according to Uzi Rubin, the former director of Israel's Ballistic Missile Defence Organisation (BMDO).
Following analysis of footage of an 11 August Shahab test in Iran, Rubin claims the new Shahab design bears a significant resemblance to the Soviet-era SS-9 inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM), now withdrawn from Russian service.
According to Rubin, the Shahab re-entry vehicle of conical design has been replaced by a smaller vehicle shaped like a 'baby bottle' neck. Also, the cable raceway that ran along the propellant storage sections in previously presented Shahabs has been elongated and is now emerging from the rear 'skirt' of the front section in what could be termed an 'over-the-shoulder' layout.
"This kind of layout used to be a hallmark of Soviet ballistic missiles of the 1960s, such as the liquid fuel, silo-launched SS-9 ICBM," said Rubin. "Engineers have a tendency to copy their own previously successful designs. The resemblance between the new Shahab and old Soviet missiles seems to be more than a coincidence."
Rubin said that in previous Shahab variants the instrument section was separated from the re-entry vehicle and located in the missile's cylindrical section, whereas the new Shahab features an instrument section located in the 'skirt' of the re-entry vehicle. "If indeed these are the thumbprints of Russian designers, then the new Shahab's instrument section, like that of the SS-9, will travel with the re-entry vehicle, rather than be discarded. This is a useful arrangement for precise altitude fusing of nuclear warheads," he said.
"The new Shahab is longer by 1m than its predecessors," said Rubin. Combined with the space freed by relocating the instrument section, the new Shahab carries about 15% more propellant, enabling a range of 1,450km.
Thirty-five years ago, when in a jurisprudence course in Najaf, Ayatollah Khomeini boasted that Khoms (a religious tax equivalent to one-fifth on property or income) from Baghdad's Bazaar was adequate to run the affairs of the Islamic world, he wanted to affirm that assuming power on his part cost very little but benefited the public at large.
However, no one, not even me, attending his course as a student at the time, had any idea that some day Khomeini's covetous design on Baghdad, not to mention Tehran, would emerge as the principle foreign policy objective of the theocracy that he erected a few years later.
Several years after, as Khomeini's despotic views became more evident, I chose to disassociate myself from him. That meant I had become an infidel and Khomeini sentenced me to death in absentia.
My classmates in Najaf then and the power brokers in Tehran now are trying their utmost to exploit the crisis in Iraq to realize Khomeini's dream not only to give the regime in Tehran some permanence, but also to impose their fundamentalist reign on Iraq.
That prospect would represent a catastrophe for the civilized world and Muslims across the globe. The Iranian experience is a case in point. Since the onset of Khomeini's rule, the face-off between two Islams came to the forefront of Iranian political landscape. The mullahs were challenged by tolerant and democrat Muslims who rejected fanaticism.
Khomeini realized that the tolerant Islam was the antithesis to his brand of Islam, prompting him to shun the democrat Muslims, namely the People's Mujahideen, the main Iranian opposition movement. The vast majority of the 120,000 people executed in Iran in the past quarter century were members and sympathizers of this group.
From day one, the fundamentalists in Iran found the export of crisis and expansion as the only way to counteract their popular illegitimacy. Article 11 of Iran's Constitution stipulates, "All Muslims are one nation and the Islamic Republic of Iran is duty bound to rest its general policy on the unity of Islamic nations and undertake efforts to realize the political, economic and cultural unity of the Islamic world."
Owing to many historical factors, including a majority Shiite population, Iraq was the most strategic target. Despite an eight-year war, Khomeini failed to make his dream of "liberating Jerusalem via Karbala" come true. He died in 1989, but his disciples have followed suit.
Subsequent to the Iraq war, the clerics saw a window of opportunity. Months before the fall of Saddam Hussein, the clerics devised a two-pronged strategy under the guidance of SupremeLeaderAli Khamenei. One was to expand seemingly benign charities, clinics and health-care centers. The other was to spread clandestine armed cells in order to deliver military blows to the coalition forces and be in position to fill the vacuum of power quickly in case the United States left Iraq.
Four agencies the Revolutionary Guards, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, the state radio and television, and the clergy network have been coordinating their meddling in Iraq.
The West has mistakenly tried to minimize the scope of Iran's meddling. The reality on the ground depicts an entirely different story. Thousands of Iranian operatives have already crossed into Iraq. The mullahs have also sent tens of thousands of weapons and millions of dollars to that country.
"Iranian intrusion has been vast and unprecedented since the establishment of the new Iraqi state. The Iranians have penetrated the country's sensitive centers and set up many intelligence and security centers in Iraq," warned Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan in an interview with the Arabic language daily Asharq Al-Awsat on July 20.
If the mullahs were to succeed, not only the people of Iraq, but also other regional states would fall victim to religious fascism.
The policy of appeasing Tehran by ignoring its egregious human-rights abuses, drive to procure nuclear weapons and sponsorship of terror has been a dismal failure. The West even kowtowed to Tehran's biggest demand: blacklisting the People's Mujahideen. This policy has only strengthened the most anti-Western and extremist faction of the ruling theocracy, while disarming of the People's Mujahideen has been the biggest help to the mullahs in advancing their goals in Iraq.
It is now time for decisiveness against Tehran. The fate of Iran and Iraq are intertwined as never before. The vision of a stable, tranquil Iraq without a halt in Tehran's meddling is naive and a recipe for disaster, since it would hand the entire region over to the fundamentalists on a silver platter.
Conversely, the mullahs' defeat in export of fundamentalism to Iraq would deprive it from a strategic lever and profoundly impact the developments in Iran and beyond. Everyone, including the Iranian and Iraq people as well as tolerant Muslims would be the main beneficiaries.
Ayatollah Jalal Ganje'i, a prominent dissident ayatollah based in Paris, is chairman of the Committee on Religious Freedom in the National Council of Resistance of Iran. Several members of his family, including his son, have been executed by the clerical regime.
|Posted on Mon, Sep. 27, 2004|
Israel May Not Be Able to Destroy Nukes
JERUSALEM - Israel would not be able to destroy Iran's nuclear installations with a single air strike as it did in Iraq in 1981 because they are scattered or hidden and intelligence is weak, Israeli and foreign analysts say.
Israeli leaders have implied they might use force against Iran if international diplomatic efforts or the threat of sanctions fail to stop Iran from producing nuclear weapons.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said this month Israel is "taking measures to defend itself" - a comment that raised concern Israel is considering a pre-emptive strike along the lines of its 1981 bombing of an unfinished Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak near Baghdad.
Speculation has also been fueled by recent Israeli weapons acquisitions, including bunker-buster bombs and long-range fighter-bombers.
Israel's national security adviser, Giora Eiland, was quoted Monday by the Maariv daily as saying Iran will reach the "point of no return" in its nuclear weapons program by November rather than next year as Israeli military officials said earlier.
Concern about Tehran's nuclear development intensified last week when Iran's Vice President Reza Aghazadeh said Iran has started converting raw uranium into the gas needed for enrichment, an important step in making a nuclear bomb.
The declaration came in defiance of a resolution passed three days earlier by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, demanding Iran freeze all uranium enrichment - including conversion. The group's 35-nation board of governors warned that Iran risked being taken before the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions.
Iran denies it is developing nuclear weapons, saying its nuclear development program is aimed at generating electricity. Israel and other countries, including the United States, doubt that.
Recent Israeli weapons purchases could be crucial in a possible strike.
In February, Israel received the first of 102 American-built F-16I warplanes, the largest weapons deal in its history. Military sources say the planes were specially designed with extra fuel tanks to allow them to reach Iran.
In June, it signed a $319 million deal to acquire nearly 5,000 U.S.-made smart bombs, including 500 "bunker busters" that can destroy six-foot concrete walls, such as those that might be found in Iranian nuclear facilities.
Military and strategic analysts in Israel and abroad say even with the new weaponry, Israel lacks the ability to carry out a successful strike against Iran's nuclear installations.
"You have to have solid intelligence, you have to know what to hit ... The intelligence on Iran is very weak," said Alex Vatanka, an expert on Iranian security issues at Jane's Sentinel Security Assessments in London.
Israeli strategic analyst Reuven Pedatzur pointed to a claim last year by Iranian opposition figures that foreign intelligence services have been unaware of two of the Iranian nuclear facilities.
"There is no good intelligence on Iran, and this is the proof," he said. "Any Israeli attack on Iran would cause huge political damage, and in the end, the program would proceed."
After Israel attacked the Osirak reactor, it came in for worldwide criticism. Arab opposition to an Israeli strike against Iran - particularly if it appeared to be unprovoked - would likely be widespread and intense. It could lead to attacks against Israeli and Jewish institutions abroad and condemnations from the United Nations.
Other difficulties in attacking Iran's nuclear facilities include their dispersal throughout the country, their sophisticated defense systems and the likelihood that some of the installations have been replicated, said Cliff Kupchan, vice president of the Nixon Center in Washington, a former Clinton administration Iranian expert who met with Iranian officials during a visit there last year.
Kupchan said IAEA threats to impose sanctions on Iraq are unrealistic, because U.N members, including those with fledging nuclear programs, such as Brazil, would be reluctant to back them.
Sanctions against Iranian oil production are also unlikely when world demand is about 80 million barrels per day, prices are sky-high, and the only surplus capacity - about 2 million barrels per day from Saudi Arabia - is heavy oil the market usually shuns. Iran exports about 2.6 million barrels per day.
Kupchan said if diplomacy fails, there may be no choice but for the United States to lead a concerted military campaign against Iran. "If the U.S. moves aggressively, it won't be sanctions, it will be a coalition of the willing," he said.
Speaking at the United Nations last week, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom appeared to back him up.
"The time has come to move the Iranian case to the Security Council in order to put an end to this nightmare," Shalom said.
British companies look forward to Iran visit
Sep 27, 2004, 12:40
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Tuesday, September 28, 2004 at 10:33 JST
WASHINGTON U.S. President George W Bush said in a television interview aired Monday that he will continue to seek a diplomatic solution to Iran's suspected nuclear arms program.
"My hope is that we can solve this diplomatically," Bush said on Fox News channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" program. "All options are on the table, of course, in any solution. But diplomacy is the first option. We are working our hearts out so that they don't develop a nuclear weapon, and the best way to do so is to continue to keep international pressure on them."
Posted Tuesday, September 28, 2004
PARIS, 28 Sept. (IPS) The demonstrations that took place in Tehran and some other major Iranian cities on Sunday 26 September 2004 on the call by a maverick, if not lunatic, Iranian opponent reverberated by the Los Angeles-based Iranian radio and television stations shows above all the degree of the hate the Iranians have for the ruling ayatollahs and the vulnerability of the Islamic Republic, according to political analysts and experts.
On the invitation of a certain Ahoura Pirouz Khaleqi Yazdi, an unknown illustrious who, since two months ago, promises the liberation of Iran from the grip of the ayatollahs on first of October, hundreds of people and cars poured into the streets, blaring horns, congratulating each other and distributing sweets and patisseries to passer byes.
Addressing Iranians inside the country on the Rangarang (multicolour) television, Mr. Ahoura who has predicted the disappearing of the mullahs, the restoration of a secular and democratic regime, had urged Iranians to come out on Sunday 26 September for peaceful demonstrations.
According to press reports, about two thousand people milled around streets in downtown Tehran, many of them driving cars up and down major avenues, honking their horns and flashing victory signs. Hundreds of volunteer militiamen arrived on the scene, but there were no violent clashes.
Although demonstrations for democracy are rather rare in Iran, but it is not unusual neither, for, in the past, Iranian students have taken to the streets several times to call for change from the country's conservative clerical leadership.
In 1999, the closure of a reformist newspaper led to student protests and six days of rioting. In 2003, thousands of students held nightly marches in Tehran, backed by ordinary people, on the incitation of foreign-based radio and televisions, most of them pro-Monarchy.
That so many people come out on the invitation of a man who was the centre of jokes and laughter for the last two-three months tells you about the depth of the hate the Iranians for the ruling ayatollahs. It also shows that the society, frustrated, humiliated, oppressed and insulted by the clerics, has reached the explosion point. It is also dangerous, for it shows that any group, or a hostile nation with proper planning and program, might bring down the Islamic Republic, one Iranian journalist told the Persian service of Radio France International.
Those who have heard Dr. Ahoura say he seems to be a bit illiterate, his Farsi is weak and he lack charisma.
So, how to explain the presence of so many people in the streets, not only in the capital, but also major cities and even some smaller ones?
As soon as Iranians hear something, as soon some one invites them to come out into the streets and demonstrate against the regime, there are plenty, mostly young ones, to heed, a analyst in Tehran explained to Iran Press Service, adding that the last Sunday after noon demonstrations was not that strange.
People are so desperate that they are ready to throw themselves into the fire. They came out, greeted each other, saying haxa, haxacode name of Dr Ahoura -- mobarak, tabrik (felicitation, congratulation) without ever thinking what that haxa means or that Mr. Ahoura speaks as he is another Gods Messenger?, he pointed out.
Mr. Alireza Nourizadeh, an independent journalist in London says Iranians are so desperate for change nowadays that they are willing to believe anything. He added that many who don't put faith in Dr. Ahoura's claims still went into the streets out of a desire to see something happen.
"The majority of people who participated in the demonstration came out either out of curiosity or they came out expecting something big is going to happen," he said. "I mean, I was talking to a university professor and he was telling me: I know all this is a shamble, it's crooks, and all of that, but I came out with my wife and my children just to see what's going to happen", the Voice of America quoted Mr. Nourizadeh as having explained.
The Iranian Labour News Agency ILNA described the protesters as monarchists, loyal to the monarchy regime that was toppled in the 1979 by Grand Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic revolution and founder of the present Islamic Republic.
"These people are obviously under the influence of the Iranian opposition based abroad", the report said, confirming also that some clashes had occurred and several demonstrators arrested by Law Enforcement Forces and plain clothes agents.
A group of volunteer militiamen arrived on motorbikes as scores of people had been chanting "freedom," clapping and handing out pastries but there was no sign of any fighting.
In the view of Mr. Sadeq Saba, a senior analyst of Iranian affairs for the BBC, the fact that no major clashes had been reported shows that the regime is not afraid of such calls and demonstrations.
The leniency some says unusual -- the Police showed towards the demonstrators prompted other analysts asking if the new liberator is not a product of the regime itself?
However, other analysts, more adept of theories of conspiracy, a national sport of Iranians in general asked if the whole affair is not a rehearsal of some scenarios, some foreign nations are preparing for Iran?
"We were responding to his call to avoid a war," the French news agency AFP quoted one person who said he had taken part in the gathering.
"Ahura Pirouz Khaleghi was saying that Israel intends to attack Iran and that he had asked (Israeli Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon to give him the time to return home and sort out the problem", the person told AFP.
The invisible hand that pushes Haxa, is that of the United States and Israel, busy taking polls and preparing plans, wrote the leftist Peyknet website on the event, predicting that the time bomb generated by the hate of the regime would explode, maybe not on first of October, the date of liberation and freedom promised by Mr. Ahoura, but at another time.
ENDS IRAN DEMOS 28904
September 28, 2004, 8:42 a.m.
The Heart of Darkness
There is no word to describe the horror.
Another man has just been decapitated in Iraq and a video showing the horror posted online. In Tehran, the French ambassador recently met the head of the national-security and foreign-affairs committee of the Islamic Majlis (parliament), and the president of the Iranian-French Parliamentary Commission to discuss "the expansion of ties...." Did this meeting have anything to do with what took place in Paris last week? A meeting of the International Moral Court was held in the French capital September 23-25 to expose the crimes of the theocracy in Tehran. Having lived under religious fascism, I prepared myself psychologically for three days of horrific stories and images.
At the hotel where the event took place, I met Ali, a 23-year-old man in a family of nine. Ali came here eight months ago, fleeing persecution. "I have a high-school bachelor's degree and I used to work as a mechanic in Islam-Shahr (Islam City)." Islam-Shahr a poverty-ridden suburb that saw, back in the mid-1990s, the first popular anti-regime demonstrations is located on the outskirt of Tehran, a world away from those chic quarters north of the city from which western reporters regularly speak of the bright horizons of reformism. Islam-Shahr is where Ali was born and lived until he left the country out of fear.
"When did it all start for you?" I asked my young compatriot, by then at ease in the conversation after a cup of coffee. "It started with the first student uprising [in 1999]. The whole city was turned upside down. Even in our neighborhood, far away from the main Tehran University campus, bassij [the Islamist militia] quarters were taken over by the people, their vehicles burned, their walls covered with anti-regime graffiti...I was identified by the denouncers and later summoned to Islamic court."
The "denouncers," as Ali calls them, are the shadowy figures behind the more visible agents of the bassij. While the latter are "known to all, in every neighborhood, the former are more pernicious, more difficult for us to keep an eye on."
Ali continued, reciting his ordeal for the "umpteenth time," as he sadly said. Later "my case became even thicker," he related. "Why?" I enquired. "The local mullah [a Shia cleric], having seen my wife God knows where, started having a malicious eye on her. He wanted her and she was mine. So, he went after me, found out about my recent security troubles and managed to put his hands on my file. He then made it thicker than it already was. And that was the end of it. What followed was yet another summoning to Islamic courts, and, in absentia, I was notified of my charges: 'Insult to His Sacred Leadership's dress,' 'Insult to the System's sanctities,' and 'Conspiracy against national security.'"
"What do you mean 'His dress'?" I asked. "They all wear the same f***ing dress," he replied, before adding, "Insulting one is insulting them all, and above them all, His Sacred Leadership."
As we talked, the court went on. Following the administrative procedures a film was shown; smuggled out of Iran, it pictured scenes of despicable horror. We all watched the unwatchable: a man lay on a stretcher while another, bearded and looking like an official, read what seemed to be a court sentence. Then a man dressed in white comes in presumably a physician bends over the lying man and applies the sentence.
There is only one word to describe the horror of what I saw: horror. There is other word for the act of tearing out a living man's eyes; there is no adjective to describe it. The whole assembly was plunged into a macabre silence. In the next scene, another man, lying alive and awake on a stretcher, watched his physician-torturer cut his fingers with a hand-mower. Next, a third man, or woman there is no way of distinguishing the gender of someone wrapped up like a mummy is buried, alive and awake, up to his chest, before being stoned to death. It barely takes a minute or two before the chest and head of the living mummy start circling around in a dance of death. What magnifies to near-infinite the evil of these scenes of barbarity is the unbearable accompanying cry, "Allah Akbar!" "God is Great!"
"The situation becomes so explosive, every now and then, that they bring in their Lebanese commandos," Ali told me, turning his head away from that sickening screen. "Lebanese?" I asked. "Yah, Lebanese. They run out of local hands to repress, so they rely on their network. These guys are physically huge and mentally sick. Speaking not a word of Persian, they just beat. A friend of mine got caught the other day by one of these patrols. The guy was so colossal that he sucked my friend in through the car's window with just one hand. They laid him on the car's floor and started beating him. I never saw him again. Seventeen of us disappeared like this in our hood alone. Eleven never came back. Those who did return, including one of my own childhood friends, were so profoundly disrupted psychologically that no one would ever talk of his ordeal."
The projection is followed by testimonies of those who survived the heart of darkness. Coming back from death, a woman goes to the microphone, and, as she speaks, the room sinks into silence once again. A Kurdish sympathizer of an armed opposition group, she was arrested in her native Kurdistan in 1982. Hanged naked upside down to "tear apart the self that is in every one of us," she says she was then raped, over and over again. Gang rape, rape with a bottle...
"We will never forgive our parents for having done this to us with their revolution," says Ali, staring at nowhere. "My father said once that they did it because they thought they would get free oil at their door step. Can you believe that? Now, people won't take to the streets anymore. I mean, what for? Every one saw what they did to Zahra Kazemi [a Canadian journalist killed while in the custody of the government in Tehran]. Did the Canadians do anything in outrage? Did the Canadian government take any significant retaliatory step? Every one knows that the mullahs have huge personal savings and investments in Canada. So why should we sacrifice ourselves by defying Lebanese mercenaries in our own neighborhoods? Is the world going to recognize that we exist? Has anyone among the Iranian expatriates supported us? Has any Iranian even come to the refugee camps to see in what miserable conditions we live? We hate the mullahs so much that we could hang every single one of them on every single tree in Tehran, but, so long as we, the Iranians, are only "I" and never "Us" so long as the West is behind the mullahs no one will take the matters to the streets any more."
I leave the courtroom, sick of myself, sick of bearing my being. I retire to an adjacent room to write and forget. "Did Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times ever talk to Ali when he toured Iran a few months ago? He has never lived under fascism, has he? Mr. Kristoff doesn't have to face the Lebanese Hezbollah in the streets of New York, does he? So why does he advocate reforming the theocracy and flooding it with American dollars? The "reform" movement is dead, Mr. Kristoff. The aspiration for liberty and a life without fear, for a life with dignity, is not."
"We are 70 percent of the people," said Ali before I left him. They are the most redoubtable weapon of mass destruction against the mullahs, I keep telling myself. They are the end of the tunnel, if only we could recognize that there is tunnel out there and not a dead-end if only we decided to lend them our voice.
Ramin Parham, editor of Iran Institute for Democracy, is an independent commentator based in Paris.
Iraq arrests spy working for Iran: paper
|www.chinaview.cn 2004-09-28 17:52:46|
BAGHDAD, Sept. 28 (Xinhuanet) -- Iraqi security forces have arrested a spy working for Iranian intelligence, local newspaper AlFurat reported Tuesday.
The arrested Nashaat Abd Ali Al Husseiny is accused of spying for Iran, said a top Iraqi intelligence official who declined to give his name.
Al Husseiny confessed serious things that would incriminate the Iranian intelligence and its interference in Iraq's internal affairs, said the source.
The source added that an Iranian intelligence officer called Mohamed Qarbani, titled Abu Mohamed, who is working under diplomatic cover in the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, has recruited Al Husseiny.
Al Husseiny revealed in the interrogation that the Iranian embassy in Baghdad is the headquarters of making sabotage and spying in Iraq, said the source.
Iraqi government has been accusing Iran of interfering in its internal affairs and had sent an official delegation recently to inform Iran about such affairs, it was reported.
Iraqi Defense Minister Hazim Al Shaalan also criticized Iran of standing behind the bombings and acts of sabotage in Iraq. Enditem