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Iran: continuing analysis UPDATE

Those who continue to follow events in Iran will find this analysis of Iranian voting patterns and possibilities of interest: NYTimes which offered this summary:The authors cite these highlights of their analysis:

1) At a provincial level, there is no correlation between the increased turnout, and the swing to Ahmadinejad. This challenges the notion that his victory was due to the massive participation of a previously silent conservative majority.2) In a third of all provinces, the official results would require that Ahmadinejad took not only all former conservative voters, and all former centrist voters, and all new voters, but also up to 44% of former reformist voters, despite a decade of conflict between these two groups.3) In 2005, as in 2001 and 1997, conservative candidates, and Ahmadinejad in particular, were markedly unpopular in rural areas. That the countryside always votes conservative is a myth. The claim that this year Ahmadinejad swept the board in more rural provinces flies in the face of these trends. Nunz references this in his comment.President Obama:

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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I think that a striking image portrays more than a thousand words(or scolding, or tears from the Ayatollah.)Womwen holding the banner, "I am Neda" will transfix many, permanently in Iran!

The picture is iconic.

Meanwhile the President is all over it: He had ice cream with his family. I guess Neda isn't that important.

Bob: it's about time for you to take a few breathes and grow up.

Jimmy Mac:Thanks for the advice. What that advice has to do with Obama's inaction as regards the Ayatollah's thugs who gunned down Neda, and the transparently farcical election, i don't know.

And what Obama's having ice cream with his daughters on FATHER'S DAY had to do with his reaction to any aspect of what has been going on in Iran is beyond me.But I guess you'd prefer that he would just decide to bomb, bomb Iran and take the high testosterone road to this problem.Question: have you heard ANY responsible Iranians ask for US intervention in any way, shape or form?

Disgusting. How anyone can look at those images of a beautiful young woman gunned down and bicker is beyond me. It is times like this that the civilized world needs to stand together in solidarity with the force of progress and compassion.My prayers are with Neda, all the dead and injured, police, Revolutionary guard and people of Iran, regardless of politics.

And it is time for the President of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama, to stand up like a man and publicly state in no uncertain terms that we as a nation stand behind the Iranian people, that we condemn the murder of Neda, and stand ready to assist in any way we can, their struggle. This should be done in the United Nations as a special assembly called by the President.Otherwise, all Obama's soaring rhetoric about freedom and self-determination are nothing but the flatulent emissions of a boy, a boy way out of his league.

Bob S:Rant and rave all you want about Barack "Hussein" Obama. (Do/did you refer to his opponent during the recent election as John Sidney McCain? Why not?)Ill ask again the question that you seem to be reluctant to answer: have you heard ANY responsible Iranians ask for US intervention in any way, shape or form?How about Reza Aslan, the author of No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam? (Start at about 1:33 cf)How about Trita Parsi, President, National Iranian American Council (June 17th):PARSI: A couple years ago, the Bush administration put together a fund they called the Iran Democracy Fund. Critics called it the regime change/fund. And what they were doing is that they were saying they were going to give money to NGOs in Iran and then implicitly saying that it was for them to do regime change.They never really asked the NGOs in Iran if they thought that that was something that they wanted. And the end result was that the Iranian government started to view all NGOs in Iran as potential targets and potential enemies, and there was significant clamp down on them.And major Iranian NGO leaders, as well as human rights defenders, such as Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, came out and said, "Please, stop this. This is not what we need." Yet, Senator Lieberman ensured that it was re-appropriated. It doesn't seem as if we're even listening to the people as to whether this is really what they want.PARSI: ---- polls have shown consistently that the Iranian-American community overall is very negative towards the government in Iran. But at the same time, they are strongly against war. They very heavily favor diplomacy between the two countries in order to be able to resolve the differences in a peaceful manner.And whenever the United States is saying that it will be pursuing regime change, it strikes a negative cord with most Iranian-Americans because of the very same history that President Obama referred to today. Mindful of the 1953 coup that the CIA orchestrated against the democratically-elected prime minister in Iran, Mohammad Mosaddeq, mindful for the support of the Shah and the perception that existed that the United States was ensuring that the Shah would stay in power.To go forward now, at this very critical stage, with no sensitivity to the history, with no sensitivity that we have not actually heard from the Iranian people if this is something that they want, I think, really, is reckless. about Reza Shah Pahlavi, the son of the former Shah: Pahlavi praised the statements and tone of President Obama, saying that any outside attempt to interfere in Iran's internal affairs will give the tyrants the excuse they need to paper over their own differences and target every man struggling for freedom as a foreign agent. Pahlavi does say that there was a difference between interfering in a country's sovereign affairs and standing for principles of human rights and democracy. Obama has expressed more than once his belief in and support for exactly these principles. The truth is that the impressive thing has been how well Obama has handled the crisis. Again and again, Obama was pounded for his lack of experience during the 2008 election campaign. But imagine if John McCain were president. The mullahs would not be in the predicament they are. Instead, they could point to the demonstrators as American stooges. The uprising would have been quashed before it ever began. Fortunately, Obama's basic approach has been to follow the foreign policy equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath: "First, do no harm." Imagine the obloquy that would greet Obama if he were to champion the demonstrators and help to create a bloodbath, as Radio Free Europe did during the 1956 Hungarian revolution, when it encouraged Hungarians to revolt by assuring them that they had backing of the West, which they didn't. So far, Obama has shrewdly hewed to a middle course that allows him some flexibility in dealing with Iran. ultimate problem that Pahlavi identified in the citation above will be if there is an Iranian version of Tiananmen Square, what is the rest of the world (not just the US maybe a little European backbone for a change?) prepared to do? What is the US prepared to do? Are folks ready to send their already overstretched military to yet another place of conflagration? Are they willing to reinstitute the draft in order to have a large enough military?Its very easy to insist that Obama does something. What do you propose that he does (and that means the rest of us ultimately) if and/or when? I honestly do not have an answer and distrust any easy ones that roll off the tongue without prior serious vetting by the intelligence or those who have access to information that you and I dont have. If that justification was OK for Dubyas approach to world situations, then maybe his supporters will allow the same courtesy to Obama and his advisors

intelligence OF (not or) -----

"Do/did you refer to his opponent during the recent election as John Sidney McCain? Why not?"I hope he didn't; he has rested in Section 3 of Arlington since the 40's.

Then I guess his ghost was the Republican candidate for POTUS in 2008:

"Then I guess his ghost was the Republican candidate for POTUS in 2008."No. That was his grandson, John Sidney McCain III.

That was his grandson, John Sidney McCain III.Which, then, takes me back to my original question re: the use of "Hussein" by those who are not exactly in his corner of the ring.And speaking of those not in Obama's ring:Some unexpected support for Obamas dealing with the Iran situation: Will (a well-known Obama fan) on ABC ---- GEORGE WILL, ABC NEWS: It will never be the same there. And the legitimacy of the regime, such as it was, is much diminished. Whether or not that's a good thing is another matter. The president is being roundly criticized for insufficient rhetorical support for what's going on over there. It seems to me foolish criticism. The people on the streets know full well what the American attitude toward that regime is, and they don't need that reinforced. Furthermore, there's an American memory of encouraging things like the Hungarian revolution in 1956, with rhetoric about rolling back communism. We had balloons flown in and dropped medals with the Statue of Liberty on it and leaflets. Came to crunch, there was nothing we could do about it. Senator Richard Lugar on CNN--LARRY KING: If President Ahmadinejad or the supreme leader, Mr. Khamenei, came back now and said, we want to sit down with the United States at a high level, Secretary Clinton perhaps to the foreign minister, or president to president, should the United States say yes or would you be rewarding the unjust, to use the president's word, behavior he sees on the streets of Iran right now? LUGAR: We would sit down because our objective is to eliminate the nuclear program that is in Iran. This is...(CROSSTALK) KING: Even though -- even though they are shooting people in the streets and beating people in the streets and arresting political opponents, if they called tomorrow, you would sit down with them? LUGAR: Yes, it's totally improbable. And the reason is that this regime now is under fire. This is not a stable regime in which two people suddenly sit down with the United States. They may not be able to impose their will. This is what -- this is all about in the streets. But in direct answer to your question, of course, we really have to get into the nuclear weapons. We have to get in the terrorism of Iran in other areas in the Middle East. Now we have a new opportunity in which we might very well say we want communication with Iran. We want openness of the press. We don't want to have use Tweeter (ph). We want to have to press on the ground. But in order to have any kind of relationship, we need to be able to talk to people, hear from people, argue with people. This is not imposing our will, but it's fundamental to our democracy and to the development of democracy and or better governments in Iran at this point.Then there is Henry Kissinger, not exactly another Obama flag waver) --- Fox News last night (June 17), former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, noting that he was a McCain supporter, said that he thinks the president has handled this well:KISSINGER: Well, you know, I was a McCain supporter and but I think the president has handled this well. Anything that the United States says that puts us totally behind one of the contenders, behind Mousavi, would be a handicap for that person. And I think its the proper position to take that the people of Iran have to make that decision.Of course, we have to state our fundamental convictions of freedom of speech, free elections, and I dont see how President Obama could say less than he has, and even that is considered intolerable meddling. He has, after all, carefully stayed away from saying things that seem to support one side or the other. And I think it was the right thing to do because public support for the opposition would only be used by by Ahmadinejad against Mousavi.The June 22 Lou Dobbs show on CNN:I cant find the transcript online, but Fouad Ajami, a frequent Lebanese-born contributor on Middle Eastern issues and contemporary international history to The New York Times Book Review, Foreign Affairs, The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal, and others, and who has appeared on Dobbs show many times, tonight criticized Obama for not doing enough. Three times Dobbs asked Ajami what he would have Obama do, and three times Ajami did not answer but simply set off reiterating his prior position.

I too think that Obama has handled the evolving events judiciously enough. Had it been GW Bush, he'd probably condemn the regime's crackdown, but that would be consistent with his previous condemnations. It may give immediate moral uplift to Americans, but not necessarily helpful to Iranian protesters.The fact that many conservatives in media & blogosphere have vocally criticized Obama for not condemning the Iranian government strikes me that Republicans have lost the upper hand in international issues in addition to domestic ones. BTW one of the most interesting things about the international affairs in the Obama administration is Hillary Clinton. Her works in the State Department is reminiscent of her "policy wonk" style she adopted in her first years as Senator. I am happy that State seems to have brought the best out of her. Had she won the Democratic nomination & the election, I'm not sure if the White House bring the best out of her due to Bill's presence (among other things).

For the moment (Tuesday), things seem to have moved behind closed doors in Iran. A good deal of maneuvering and bargaining may be going on. The role of the Revoluntionary Guard was highlighted in the NYT this morning; they seem formidable not only militarily but economically--a state mafia. story highlights how little intelligence the U.S. has about events and probably personalities; imho another reason for the U.S. and Obama to maintain a careful rhetorical distance.

I'm sure that if i used the offensive language of Mr. Schwartz, Grant would have deleted my post.I see the latest news tidbit is the wife of the deceased Shah, who says she's followed events there closely from exile for 30 years, describes the Obama response as diplomatic and wise.Of cousrse, ideologues know better.On the ground, I do think matters have shifted behind closed doors to a divided clericalist circle.The "principalist" thugs in the street can beat folks down, but the issue of the role of religion in politics there is deeply in play -among the clergy themselves.

Mr. Nunz: not to disappoint, but I think Grant is off-line at the moment.Clericalists: how much does their power rest on the Revolutionary Guard and how much the RVs on the clericalists. The RV according to this morning's story appears to be a relatively small force (120,000).

The Chicago Tribune published an editorial this morning praising the President's measured response. I find it persuasive.

From the Council on Foreign Relations:"Summing up, what should we look for in the coming weeks?"No one is making the argument that Mr. Khamenei or Mr. Ahmadinejad do not have support among the population. They do. It's not the majority, but they do have support. They also have the resources of the state--both financial and military. So that makes them quite robust. On the other side you have other leaders that have come together, and they are a powerful bunch--Mr. Rafsanjani, Mr. Khatami, Mr. Karroubi [presidential candidate], Mr. Mousavi--these are stellar revolutionaries that also have the support of a large part of the population. So we have these robust contenders--titans in some way--in a confrontation. To assume that this will lead ultimately to a victory of one over the other is unrealistic as well as dangerous because it may come at the cost of tremendous violence. My hope is that the path is opened to some sort of a compromise that allows, for example, a backing down on the part of Mr. Khamenei, perhaps some sort of a truth commission or a reelection, while at the same time he can maintain power, perhaps reduced power. [In this situation,] no side [would be] purged from the political system in such a way that they ultimately decide to engage in violence, or extreme violence, and the compromise would be the only way they can assure their survival."Whole interview with Farideh Farhi, Affiliate Graduate Faculty, Department of Political Science, University of Hawaii here:

In addition to the conservative luminaries listed by Jimmy Mac who are preaching restraint by the U.S. when it comes to responding to the events in Iran, there is also conservative WSJ columnist Peggy Noonan (of kinder, gentler nation and thousand points of light Republican speech writing notoriety): America so often gets Iran wrong. We didn't know when the shah was going to fall, didn't foresee the massive wave that would topple him, didn't know the 1979 revolution would move violently against American citizens, didn't know how to handle the hostage-taking. Last week we didn't know a mass rebellion was coming, and this week we don't know who will emerge the full or partial victor. So modesty and humility seem appropriate stances from which to observe and comment.

If even Peggy Noonan gets it right! Obama must be okay.

This may be the best assessment for the time being; from Gary Sick of Columbia University and long-time Iran expert:"Now that it has arrived at this point, both protagonists are faced with decisions of unprecedented gravity. There has been nothing like this in the thirty year history of the Islamic Republic, and today there is no Khomeini father figure to moderate and mediate among the warring factions. They must improvise in conditions of severe uncertainty. If anyone tells you that they know how this will turn out, treat their words with the same regard you would have for any fortune teller peering into a crystal ball....."For the United States, the watchword should be Do No Harm. The situation in Iran is being exploited for short term domestic political purposes by those who have been looking for an opening to attack the Obama administration. Wouldnt it feel good to give full throated expression to American opposition to the existing power structure in Iran? Perhaps so but it could also be a fatal blow to the demonstrators risking their lives on the streets of Tehran, and it could scotch any chance of eventual negotiations with whatever government emerges from this trial by fire."Can President Obama play chess as well as he plays basketball?"Whole thing here:

Peggy (BTW, why do people call you "Peggy"?): Why is Grant off line? Actually (this for Bob Nunz's benefit) I am surprised that my "offensive" remark was not censored by Grant. For anyone wondering about it, Grant has been unwaveringly fair with me, and I can assure you Bob (Nunz) that he has censored more than a few of my rants. I am lucky to be able to post on this blog because I am aware of how annoying I can be. It is my nature to be abrasive and obnoxious, but what the hell, my wife loves me :]]

The wife must be a great and compassionate woman!

Peggy:She is indeed. People put up with me because they love her so much. But enough of that: I just heard President Obama's remarks about the Iran situation, and, because I'm a "half full" (Bob Nunz restrain thyself) rather than "half empty" type of person, I am very pleased at what he said, herewith giving him full credit for being a standup guy on this. Bravo and well said Mr. President!

One more to the growing number of links in this thread. Anne Applebaum: Not Obama, not Bush, not Twitter. It's women who are shaking the regime.

President Obama:"First, I'd like to say a few words about the situation in Iran. The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings and imprisonments of the last few days. "I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost. "I've made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran and is not interfering with Iran's affairs. "But we must also bear witness to the courage and the dignity of the Iranian people and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore the violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place." More here:

As more voices rise across the world, the notion that there will not be "one day of peace in the next four years" presumably piut forth by the Mousavi camp has some resonance,. Irani Nobel peace prize winner Shiriri has called on EU not to negotiate with the cureent Irani leadership.Across Europe, the sense of "appall" is clearly in the air.A major problem though, not mentioned here, are the Russians who undoubtedly will side with the entrenched regime and will further complicate lots of issues.

From today's Der Spiegel:DIFFICULT DIPLOMACYThe West Struggles to Find Correct Tone with IranBy Yassin Musharbash and Philipp Wittrock,1518,632005,00.html#ref=nlint

--- what a Catholic News Service reporter found was that Catholics who live among Muslims are giving President Obama high marks for his Cairo speech and his outreach to the Muslim world.

For those who care, here is the link to yesterday's Lou Dobbs show that I mentioned above:

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