Omid Memarian

Friday, August 24, 2007

Time: Prelude to an Attack on Iran

I think Time Magazine’s piece about the administration’s decision to attack Iran, using the Revolutionary Guard’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as an excuse, explains the neo conservatives' ultimate plan. The possibility of war has never been this real:

"Strengthening the Administration's case for a strike on Iran, there's a belief among neo-cons that the IRGC is the one obstacle to a democratic and friendly Iran. They believe that if we were to get rid of the IRGC, the clerics would fall, and our thirty-years war with Iran over. It's another neo-con delusion, but still it informs White House thinking. And what do we do if just the opposite happens — a strike on Iran unifies Iranians behind the regime? An Administration official told me it's not even a consideration. "IRGC IED's are a casus belli for this Administration. There will be an attack on Iran.” (Read the rest of this piece here)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Media Gone Wild--Again

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Haleh Esfandiari Released From Prison on Bail

Dr. Haleh Esfandiari released from prison on bail yesterday. On late Monday night I talked to Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Haleh’s Lawyer in Tehran. She didn’t know anything about preparation for her release. In a phone interview from Tehran, Ebadi told me :

“I am continually in touch with Ms. Esfandiari’s mother. Ms. Esfandiari is allowed to talk to her mother once or twice per week. The conversations are by telephone and for one minute. Ms. Esfandiari’s mother is Austrian and speaks German; mother and daughter have always conversed together in German. However, since Ms. Esfandiari has been detained she has been told not to speak German when she calls her home; that she should speak Farsi so that prison authorities can monitor [her calls]. This upsets my client because her 93-year old mother is not fluent in Farsi. They can only talk for one
minute which is spent on greetings and very simple conversation.”

Monday, August 20, 2007

Is US Preparing to Attack Iran?

The US administration's announcement that it is preparing to "declare Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization" (Per
New York Times) is in essence a indirect declaration of war against the Iranian government. This decision is bound to give the influential neo-conservatives in the administration ammunition to encourage military aggression against Iran.
The bottom line is that the US has not been successful in gathering the international community's support against Iran to halt its nuclear program; they have shifted gears to label it a terrorist state and justify any actions against Iran. By labeling a faction within a government as a 'terrorist organization,' the US is technically placing the government in the same category, and, therefore preparing their public and the international stage for a serious confrontation with Iran.
Sources who shared this announcement with the Washington Post and New York Times have asked to remain anonymous; they realize the
provocative nature of their message. Other than providing carte blanche for military action, it not only annuls negotiations with Iranians over Iraq's security, but also undermines Iranian moderates who favor discussions with the international community.

This decision although designed to apply fi
nancial pressure on the Islamic Republic to halt its nuclear program, is unlikely to have any such effect. This organization has been traditionally accused of involvement in terrorist activities and has hence prepared itself for any such charges; they have kept themselves independent of financial ties to any western entity in light of potential sanctions. Therefore, financially they are quite protected.

The Revolutionary Guard is a vast organization that operates on many levels in Iran from the military to cultural organizations; it has a covert and complex network of financial investments, making it virtually impossible to trace. Many of Iran's ruling elite such as Members of Parliament, ambassadors and government officials, are former members of the Revolutionary Guard. The only real effect of such an announcement is that this group will have great difficulty in traveling, investing, educating their children, or engaging in economic transactions in western countries.

The major blow will come to the Iranian society; the government will place the country on 'war alert', making security its first priority and using it to apply even more pressure on civil society, democratic movements and media. At a time when Ahmadinejad's government is
facing domestic and international crisis, such a move will be a god sent for them -- an excuse to exonerate them from keeping all their promises they made to the Iranian people prior to election.

Needless to say, labeling a part of Iran's army 'terrorist organization', will translate to even greater instability in the Middle East.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Persian Gulf To Become Hell for Iran's Enemies

A few days ago the
New York Times's reported on the preparation of US todeclare Iran's Revolutionary Guard (RG) as a terrorist organization. In response, a commandor of the RG has made a declaration--Americanstyle*: (Also Read this)
[* A few weeks ago, an American friend said, "We Americans are like cowboys: we talk in a clear and direct manner--straight to the point. But you Iranians talk in code, indirectly, ambiguously, in a roundabout manner." True or not, the RC commander has chosen to communicate American style!]

"TEHRAN (Reuters) - The Gulf would become a "hell" for Iran's enemies if they were to attack the Islamic Republic, a commander of the country's elite Revolutionary Guards was quoted as saying on Sunday. It was the latest in a series of defiant statements from senior Guards figures after U.S. officials on Wednesday said the United States may soon name the force a terrorist group, a move that would enable Washington to target its finances. "With the power the Guards have obtained now, if the enemies want to ... start a military confrontation, the Persian Gulf will become a hell for them," Ali Razmjoo, a naval commander of the Revolutionary Guards, told the Fars News Agency. "By using modern systems, no activities and threats by the enemies in the Persian
Gulf would be hidden from us," he said." (

Saturday, August 18, 2007

It Will All Fall Down – A conversation with Seymour Hersh.

My friend Deborah Campbell, associate editor of Adbusters magazine has interviewed Symore Hersh about different topics from his meeting with Hasan Nasrollah to the possibility of war with Iran. That's a very interesting interview. Deborah has traveled to the Middle East for a few times and is quit familiar with the situation. Unfortunately it is not online and only subscribers have access to the interview...

A few months ago Christpher Lydon interviewed Sy Hersh. Interesting listening:
Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

"U.S. Weighing Terrorist Label for Iran Guards "

Declaring Iran ’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, by the US officials, is designed to apply financial pressure on the Islamic Republic to halt its nuclear program, but it is unlikely that it will have any such effect. This organization has been traditionally accused of involvement in terrorist activities and has hence prepared itself for any charges; they have kept themselves independent of financial ties to any western entity in light of potential sanctions. Therefore, financially they are quite protected.

Additionally, this organization has created a covert and complex network for its financial investments, making it virtually impossible to trace. However, politically they are far more susceptible since many of the Iranian officials from members of parliament to ministers have been members of this organization in the past. The major result on this group is that they will have great difficulty in traveling, investing, educating their children, or engaging in economic transactions in western countries. S

ince the US has not been very successful in gathering the international communities support against Iran to halt its nuclear program, they have shifted gears to label it a terrorist state and justify any actions against Iran . By labeling a faction within a government as a ‘terrorist organization’, the US is technically placing the government in the same category, and, therefore preparing their public and the stage for a serious confrontation with Iran .”

Grand Bargain, Rafsanjani Style

Despite rocky negotiations between US and Iran held in Baghdad last week on security issues in Iraq, Iran seems to be sending conciliatory messages towards the US based on comments by Hashemi Rafsanjani, Head of Iran's Expediency Council:
"Iran is ready to negotiate on every level. Unacceptable and demeaning conditions will have to be taken back, and we can sit down to unconditional negotiations...Regional issues, nuclear issues and any other issues, and we can help them or they can help us, and we will show them the way, we can include it in the negotiations."

These comments were made by the Former President of Iran, a man who considers himself a pillar of the regime. He mimicked the same proposal given by top Iranian officials in 2003 in a letter sent to Americans entitled 'the Grand Bargain.'

In this letter which was dispatched[pdf] via the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, not only did Iran talk about an agreement over nuclear issues, but it also referred to issues such as Iran's support of Palestinian groups, and Hezbollah, as topics of negotiations. This was an indication that any topic was game, from nuclear issues to re-alignment of their strategic relations with ideological partners in the region.

Rafasanjani's call to negotiations shares several characteristics with the 'Grand Bargain': At the time of the offer, Afghanistan and Iraq were both under US occupation, and there was great speculation about the possibility of Iran being next. (One top US official was quoted as saying: "Anyone can go to Baghdad; real men go to Tehran.")

An unfortunate set of events ensued: After the initial meetings of Iranian and American diplomats, Javad Zarif was dispatched to Switzerland for negotiations on behalf of Iran, but the American diplomats did not show up. US declined the offer from Iran, and Iran decided to adopt a more aggressive tone towards the US. Hence, Iran escalated its nuclear activities and additionally, Ahmadinejad decided to verbalize more critical statements about Israel and holocaust.

It is important to note that key foreign policies in Iran are determined by the Supreme Leader, and this change in tone seems to have been decided by him as well, just as the 'Grand Bargain' was, (despite beliefs that it was the brainchild of Mohammad Khatami's reformist cabinet). Hashemi Rafsanjani's speech at last Friday's Prayer in Tehran, merely reflects various threats felt at all sectors of the government; the hope is that while negotiations are pending, military aggression will be stalled.

The root of these concerns stem in US's widespread diplomatic efforts to create an agreement with the international community for isolating Iran in political and economic arenas, which have resulted in two economic sanctions against Iran, with a third one pending. These concerns are intensified with the presence of military bases in neighboring countries, navy ships in the Persian Gulf, speculations of multi-billion dollar sales of arms to Saudi Arabia, and threats on Iran's nuclear installations.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is hardly an appropriate representative for the Iranian Government, given his defiant image. To counteract his disruptive tone, 'moderates' such as Hashemi are brought to the forefront; if the invitation to negotiate is accepted, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's aggressive stance and his poor international image will be weakened.

How these invitations will be received by the US remain to be seen: Will they be ignored by the conservative forces in both countries, or will they become viable items on the diplomatic agenda?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

U.S. Weighing Terrorist Label for Iran Guards

"WASHINGTON, Aug. 14 — The Bush administration is preparing to declare that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps is a foreign terrorist organization, senior administration officials said Tuesday." (New York Times) (

IRG is a part of Iran's military forces. It means that the US is going to declare Iran as a terrorist state which has cleat consequences...These actions do not force the Iranian government to compromise on it nuclear program.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A few Changes

School start's next week for me: I'll be dualing [no pun intended :-] a dual masters program in Peace and Conflict Studies & Journalism. During the past few months, my blog has been a safehouse for news pieces and materials published elsewhere.

Now, after some housecleaning, the new season will bring new changes: I've updated the sidebar, and added a 'Daily News Feed' section for media updates from selected sites. Also, I will be including daily personal experiences--which I have been hesitant to do until now. [ In my Persian(Farsi) blog, I keep news pieces and personal updates separate, but am technically unable to do so on this blog]. ..and more changes to follow!

Although school has not started, I have recieved tens of emails everyday about the courses, registration and so on--unlike Iran where nothing starts before the first day of school. Despite having been a visiting scholar in 2005 at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley, I'm still very excited about officially joining the program as a student...even though I've heard that the first semester is the toughest.

I am a bit anxious about being able to balance work, school, sports and the other extracurricular activities....

Monday, August 13, 2007

Why don't we attack Iraq?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Statements by Deputy District Attorney Regarding Iranian-American Cases:
Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh will have some writing to do!

In a recent
interview, Hassan Haddad, Security Deputy District Attorney of Tehran stated that investigations about Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh cases has completed. He added that these two will have some writing to do upon completion of which further decisions will be made about them. (For NYTimes story on this click here)

Haddad did not elaborate on the meaning of “some writing” in a case where investigations are complete, and has provided no further comments or information. Review of some similar cases and reports by former political prisoners, intellectuals and writers named in previous security cases, however, clearly demonstrate that such “writings” are nothing new. Over the past several years, the District Attorney Office and security authorities have demanded prisoners of similar cases, authors, journalists, intellectuals, or researchers to write articles or a book including confessions they had submitted during their months of solitary confinement and imprisonment, as a condition for their release.

In some cases, prisoners were made to sign book publication releases on confessions made under physical and psychological pressures inside their solitary cells and without access to their attorneys. In one case a prisoner was forced to sign such a release in prison, and a few days after his release he was contacted by someone from a morning newspaper in Tehran, informing him that his confessions will be published in the paper the next day! He objected to the decision and threatened the newspaper that if his confessions were published, he would have to “tell all” to foreign press and newspapers. This is how he stopped publication of his confessions in the newspapers and in book format. Other prisoners have faced similar suggestions over the past years and have resisted them. Sections of confessions made inside Iranian prisons have in the past found their way to newspapers close to security forces.

Another practice has been to ask prisoners who are scholar upon completion of their investigations period to write their accounts of other individuals about whom interrogators or security forces are interested. These accounts must encompass any details the prisoner knows of the other individual’s personal and professional life. This is one of the most destructive forms of psychological pressure on prisoners. These written accounts are included in the “writing” demanded of an individual to perform, in return for which political prisoners are usually promised their freedom.

Dr. Haleh Esfandiar and Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh who have been in prison over four months now have been denied access to a lawyer. The sixty-seven year old Esfandiari is not in good health and Tajbakhsh has been under immense psychological pressure in prison, fearing the health of his pregnant wife. Security forces had asked Tajbakhsh’s wife and mother to strictly refrain from talking about his case with anyone.

Haddad’s statement comes several weeks after a television broadcast of statements made by these two Iranian-American researchers about their activities. The program entitled “Towards Democracy” was broadcast on two consecutive nights, and raised criticism and objection both inside and abroad. The film attempted to demonstrate how academic and cultural activities of the two have aimed to facilitate a “velvet revolution” in Iran.
Evin Prison, North of Tehran, By Fariba Amini)
The two researchers are now kept in Evin Prison’s Ward 209. Over the past several weeks concerns have been raised over the two prisoners’ health, as no one has been able to meet them since their detention. In his interview with IRNA, Haddad talked about the prisoners’ conditions in Ward 209 of Evin Prisoner. “Ward 209 in Evin is one of the best prisons of the world. Some prisoners request to be transferred to this Ward. Ward 209 is not at all comparable with other prisons. This Ward is maintained in a modern state. Of course a security prison must be clearly identified and prisoner conditions must also be defined, but there is no reason for these prisoners not to have visitors or to be deprived from fresh air breaks. These are a prisoner’s rights and we abide by them. Regarding solitary confinement, as I mentioned before, it’s not like that. In certain cases the Judge might order security prisoners to be detained in equipped [modern] suites for limited intervals. We claim to have the best security prisons of the whole world, and all authorities who have visited these prisons confirm that [claim].”

Haddad’s statement regarding the security prison in Ward 209 of Evin Prison are made on the heel of former prisoners of the ward claiming that their citizens’ rights were repeatedly violated when while imprisoned in 209, they did not have access to lawyers, were kept up at night to attend long interrogation sessions, were threatened and coerced, their personal lives had been topics of interrogation, and multitudes of psychological and mental pressure were exerted upon them.

Regarding the other Iranian-American prisoner, Ali Shakeri, Haddad has stated that he has no new information: “Ali Shakeri’s situation has nothing to do with these two and we are not yet ready to provide full information about this individual’s situation.”

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Why Obama's Statement Was Irresponsible?

The emphasis of my last post is the rhetoric used by Obama. It is my interpretation of his statement. Interestingly, a day after this post, the US government requested permission to use force against terrorists in Pakistan or its borders and Musharraf strongly rejected this request. . They have clarified that they will not allow other countries, even their allies, to launch an attack on their land. Apparently even Pakistan’s government heard and disagreed with Obama’s statement, calling it irresponsible... The first bullet that gets shot in Pakistan by Americans will result in a huge mess. Anyone who has basic knowledge of the Eastern provinces in Pakistan, understands how vulnerable the central government is, especially considering they only have control over main roads.

The concept of ’war on terror’ should fought using various methods, not just using military force. All the US efforts since the notorious 9/11 attack, terrorism has intensified enormously: The Taliban are gaining power, Iraq is on the edge of a micro-tribal civil war, Palestine is experiencing new round of instability, and Hezbollah is enjoying their victory from their last struggle with Israel. Throw in the reorganization of Al-Qaeda, the rise of fundamentalism in Europe, and so on. Why? Because fighting against terrorism is not just about chasing and killing a few ‘token’ terrorists, showing off their dead bodies, and then claiming a victory in this war. Terrorism, when representing an ideology, mixed with frustration, hopelessness and hatred, is far more complicated to deal with than what Obama simplified in his speech Obviously what Obama says doesn’t imply using diplomacy or other peaceful methods.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Bombing Pakistan?

Obama's comment on Pakistan reminds me of some populist leaders in the Middle East, including Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: these leaders love attention, want to appear revolutionary, and more importantly, pretend that they have the answer to all their country's shortcomings and crises.

They do not talk about the means and consequences, but prey on people's frustrations to magnify their promises; the more desperate and frustrated the people are, the easier it is to convince them of reckless ideas and comments ... And this bring us to Obama's comment about attacking Pakistan: "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President [Pervez] Musharraf won't act, we will."

Although what is happening in Pakistan in terms of the growth of fundamentalist groups is significant, and the US must seriously revisit its relationship with Dictator Mosharraf, bombing Pakistan is hardly the answer. Obama's ideology, tone and logic appear to be quite similar to Bush's, intended to justify unilateralism and military assault.

In fact, the man who constantly criticizes Congress for authorizing the invasion of Iraq, is now following the same path. On one hand, he claims to be wise enough not to have voted for the invasion of Iraq, while on the other hand, he calls for military intervention in Pakistan -- much like Rudy Giuliani who suggested the use of nuclear weapons against Iran in his CNN debate.
The emphasis on
'actionable intelligence' to legitimize war, does not reflect a determination to fight against terror but rather utter naiveté and lack on understanding and confusion about one of the most important issues in US foreign policy. Neither party seems to have any respect for gaining international consensus or multi-lateralism. It is no wonder that the image of Americans abroad has greatly diminished.

Apparently, in order to bring about change and appear tough, Obama's dangerous solution is to enter yet another war, rather than get out of the one we are in. Ironically, Obama's comments only emphasize the need for a completely NEW discourse and paradigm in regards to US foreign policy.