Omid Memarian

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Kerry Rips MSNBC On Wright: 'You People Need To Let Go Of This'

Kerry's criticism over fueling the Wright issue in the mainstream media is a legitimate argument. Even in the countries that are called "backward" or "third world" here in the United States, people do not punish politicians for their associations to their Imams. It is surprising for me the way CNN, MSNBC and FOX try to continue this controversy. I have never heard that any Presidential candidates in the Middle East and particularly in Iran be accused of being a member of a mosque and listening to a particular Imam who might be controversial. There is a famous saying in Farsi, which comes from Islamic tradition, people's current situation and beliefs is the crucial point to judge them not their past...

More than anybody else, Pat Buchanan, has been a leading figure to manipulate the reality of what's going on in this country. What is the criteria to be on air as a pundit? It's sometimes so hard to take what he says because the level of hate in his opinions toward Barck Obama. You might hate Obame Pat, but what you are doing is bad for America and Americans. You draw a miserable picture of the political culture and media in the United States, which I do not think reflect the beauty and authenticity of this country. If there is an issue to deal with that is how to deal with crisis like the war with Iran which is taking the lives of thousands of American and Iraqi troops. A war which is illegitimate, costly and disastrous. A war that has affected people's economic situation. What's Pat's opinion about it? Staying for 100 years in Iraq and probably attacking Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria?
WITT: Okay. He said it. A 20-year relationship. Reverend wright married him. He is the one who baptized a god parent. How personally painful is this for him?

KERRY: Can I say something to you? Obviously it is painful and he said it. You folks need to let go of this. Television needs to stop dwelling on something that is in the past. I thought Barack Obama yesterday gave America his second big presidential moment of this campaign. The first when he spoke out about the issue of race. The second yesterday, when he made it clear, every one of the statements of the minister are just unacceptable. They're not the person that he knew before. Now let's move on to how we'll put people to work. How are you going to give people health care? How are you going to create jobs in america? What Barack Obama is offering in this gas price issue is real leadership. I mean, do we want people who sort of put their fingers in the wind and throw out an idea for the short term that is sort of politically pleasing, or do you want a here who stands up and says, no, what we need is to really lower gas prices by having a real energy policy, an intelligent policy that puts in place the incentives for renewable fuels and alternative fuels. That's what Barack Obama is doing. And it is you guys have to focus on the thing that really matter to the American electorate. The other thing is just worn out, old history now. This guy had his narcissistic moment and it is finished.

WITT: Okay. Point well taken. Did I say to begin, can I just say, sir, I knew you weren't going to like that question. On the record.

KERRY: Let's move on to the thing that really matter to people. I think people in America are tired of this stuff.

WITT: Okay.

Have You Left No Sense Of Decency?

Among the pieces I read yesterday about Barack Obama's press conference and his harsh remarks on his pastor, I like this one by Bob Cezca:
"If the corporate media had been as diligent about watchdogging President
Bush as they have been about watchdogging Reverend Wright, it's very likely we wouldn't have invaded Iraq. If the corporate media had spent as much time
exposing the obvious flaws and grotesque inequalities of Reaganomics throughout
the last 30 years as they've spent on Wright, we wouldn't necessarily be staring
into the maw of another depression."(Read the rest of the story here)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

New U.S. carrier in Gulf a "reminder" to Iran: Gates

This is my theory: it can be much more serious than we even think of that. Why? Becasue any kind of attack will have an enormous impact on the U.S. Presidential elections. Who gets the most benefit? NO doubt: John McCain. Do Republicans risk to do so? I can imagine that. For a President who has the least approval in the recent history of the United States, it would be a sacrifice that might send the weak republican candidate to the White House. What will happen to the future of the Middle East and so-called "war on terror? Are you kidding me?

"MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The U.S. Navy has temporarily added a second aircraft carrier in the Gulf as a "reminder" to Iran, but this was not an escalation of American forces in the region, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters during a trip to Mexico, Gates flatly denied a suggestion that the presence of two U.S. carriers in the Gulf could be a precursor to military action against Tehran."This deployment has been planned for a long time," Gates said. "I don't think we'll have two carriers there for a protracted period of time. So I don't see it as an escalation. I think it could be seen, though, as a reminder." (Read the rest of the story here)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Syria, Nuclear Facility and the role of Photoshop in Bombing a Country

That's a fiasco...I have been following the issue, from both side, and I can imagine what some people are saying about the images that are shown to members of congress. The coverage of this incident has been horrible. The mainstream basically swallow what the administration promote and nobody go beyond the surface....The Los Angeles Times has reviewed the story:

Professor William Beeman at the University of Minnesota passed along a note today from "a colleague with a U.S. security clearance" about the mysterious Syrian site targeted in a Sept. 6 Israeli airstrike. The note raises more questions about the evidence shown last week by U.S. intelligence officials to lawmakers in the House and Senate. The author of the note pinpoints irregularities about the photographs. Beeman's source alleges that the CIA "enhanced" some of the images. For example he cites this image:
(Read the rest of the story here)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Why Iranians are following the U.S. presidential elections seriously?

During the last few months covering the U.S. primary elections has been the major part of blog in Farsi. The reason? It’s simple. Iranians love the U.S. Surprisingly many Iranians differentiate between U.S. politics and American people or culture. People think that their government’s animosity toward America has done more harm than good.

I’ve grown up with two myths about the United States: Ayatollah Khomeini’s depiction of the U.S. as “Great Satan” on one hand, and the idea of the American dream on the other. Many Iranians prefer to choose the second option. So I try write about the myths of America and the real America.

Regarding my observation, many Iranians are obsessed with Barack Obama. If he goes to Iran, I’m sure he could fill Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, which has a capacity of 100,000. To a large extent this is because of the nature of Obama’s message about change and hope. Iranian people truly want to change their situation, get rid of decades of marginalization and restore their reputation in the world.

They feel connected to his message of change. They are tired of living under the threat of economic sanctions and military attacks. Obama’s remark about initiating a dialogue with Iran translated for many Iranians into hopes of normalizing the relationship between the countries and Iran rejoining the international community. For many Iranian women struggling for women’s rights, Hillary is incredibly inspiring. Sen. McCain, on the other hand, they see as just as a third term of President Bush, and I see no reason for them to connect to him.

(Don't miss Time online today's article as well)- "How Iran sees the U.S. primaries?"

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The one fundamental difference between Clinton and Obama

(First published in Huffington Post)
Despite many similarities between the two democratic presidential candidates on different issues, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton pursue two very distinct approaches toward solving U.S. foreign policy issues in the Middle East.

The underlying distinction between Obama and Clinton is vital. Obama recently opposed the idea of a "clash of civilizations" and has expressed his desire to have a better understanding of Islam and Muslims, as well as to engage with the region's nations to resolve U.S. problems.
In response, Clinton proposes a similar path as the Bush administration, suggesting the expansion of U.S. commitment in the region by defending not only Israel, but also all other U.S. allies, to deter Iran.

Since Iranians have not attacked their neighbors for centuries, and Iran's military doctrine is based on defense rather than attack, Clinton's arrogant tone suggests the continuation of Bush administration policies in the region by maintaining Iran's exclusion from a regional security arrangement and fueling the increasingly perilous cold war in the region.

"I think that we should be looking to create an umbrella of deterrence that goes much further than just Israel," she said. "We will let the Iranians know, that, yes, an attack on Israel would trigger massive retaliation, but so would an attack on those countries that are willing to go under the security umbrella and forswear their own nuclear ambitions."

While the international community has adopted a series of sanctions against Iran to show its determination to stop Iran's nuclear program, it is not clear why Sen. Clinton emphasizes a possible unilateral action against Tehran -- the same policy that was employed by the Bush administration to attack Iraq. However, her recent remarks match her war authorization vote in congress in response to concerns about Iraq's WMD capacity and the possibility of using that capacity against Israel, which later on proved to be a myth.

When the two democratic presidential candidates asked what they would do if Iran obtains nuclear weapons and uses them against Israel, they responded forcefully. But there was a big difference between their two answers. Clinton said, "An attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation by the United States." But Obama said the U.S. would "take appropriate action." This means that while Clinton still believes in the effectiveness of unilateral action, Obama feels hesitant to go down that path.

Obama's response is in line with what he said a few days ago during a unique "Compassion Forum" held at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa. "Islam can be a partner with the Christian and Jewish and Hindu and Buddhist faiths in trying to create a better world," he said. He tried to put the problems into larger context that the U.S. is facing in the region. He also addressed the difficulties that have put the religion at the core of various conflicts from Afghanistan to Lebanon, Israel and Palestine.

"And so I am always careful and suspicious of attempts to paint Islam with a broad brush because the overwhelming majority of the people of the Islamic faith are people of good will who are trying to raise their families and live up to their values and ideals and to try to raise their kids as best they can," he said. "That's something that I think we always have to remember as opposed to assuming a clash of civilizations."

In fact, Obama sees the solution for security concerns in the Middle East as linked to the current cultural struggle between the Western and Islamic worlds. This struggle needs to be redefined in order to start a constructive negotiation and engagement process with moderates and democrats in the Muslim world -- people who have been ignored by the administration's black-and-white approach for years.

The silly season in politics has left no room to explore some of the fundamental differences that have been raised during the past few weeks of the democratic presidential campaign. These fundamentals issues should have a more significant role in shaping voter's opinions than hearing sniper fire, calling people "bitter" and digging deep into candidates' personal lives.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Buchanan on McLaughlin: Fifty-Fifty Chance We Bomb Iran By Fall
No comment: "BUCHANAN: But I'll tell you what's coming, John. Petraeus pointed right at the special groups supported by Iran, as the main problem now. They are firing rockets into the Green Zone, they're responsible for Basra. The president said that Iran better not make the wrong choice. We're looking at 140,000 troops there by the end of the year, and very possibly airstrikes in Iran before this fall." (watch this on HuffingtonPost)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Who can you trust reporting on a closed country?
(This post first appeared here)

How can journalists responsibly report on countries to which they have very little access? How can they break beyond barriers to produce good reporting? And more importantly, to what extent can we, as readers, trust stories about such sensitive nations in the news media?
Last week, the International Center for Journalists provided an extraordinary chance for many foreign correspondents to try to answer these questions in a discussion on Iran.

They listened to a variety of Iranian scholars and journalists who spoke about ways to get their readers to understand Iran beyond Ayatollahs, veiled women, ambitious nuclear plans, the 1980 hostage crisis, and its controversial President.

In my experience with journalists who cover Iran, I have found that one of the major obstacles they face in producing accurate, fair, and comprehensive reports is procuring background information.

The information they rely on is mostly provided by Iranian exiles, think thanks (mainly in Washington), Iran scholars and, to an extent, Iranian sources who feel comfortable sharing their stories with foreign journalists — people who sometimes risk their lives to share their knowledge, insights and analysis on the ground.

Unfortunately, this method of gaining context has become problematic due to politically polarized sources who tend to filter information through different lenses and provide a version of truth that in many cases has nothing to do with what is happening in Iran. To illustrate this, I will share a few examples:

There is no doubt that since Ahmadinejad coming into office, his insufficient economic policies have caused tough times for the Iranian people, who have suffered from high inflation, unemployment and political repression. Numbers support these facts. But I was amazed by the analysis of one of the participants, an American scholar who has written a book on Iran and who had just arrived from Tehran. She said that just six months after Ahamdinejad entered office in 2005, $200 billion of capital fled Iran to other countries. Two hundred billion dollars? How is this possible? Nobody asked about the source and accuracy of the number, which I have heard floating around Iranian scholars’ discussions.

I was also surprised when another scholar completely denied a fatwa was issued by Iran’s Supreme Leader about Iran’s nuclear energy program in 2004, calling nuclear weapons unacceptable under Islam. At the time, this fatwa was on the front pages of Tehran’s newspapers and was one of the reasons behind the Iranian leader’s defiance in pursuing the controversial nuclear dossier.
I was, however, not surprised when another scholar completely denied the existence of the women’s movement in Iran, right before a scheduled talk given by a woman activist from Tehran who is closely involved in this movement. In her talk, she described how women in Iran are battling with the hardliners to change Iran’s laws. Despite what the “armchair scholars” in the U.S. may think, she explained that Iranian civil society organizations resist against extensive amounts of intimidation by the government, lobby different layers of power and try to mobilize people with their message of change.The key issue is that these days in Tehran, any kind of information highlighting the insufficiency of Ahmadinejad’s government seems believable.

On the other hand, the fear of a possible U.S. attack has led many people concerned about another fiasco in the Middle East to filter the information through certain lenses that do not reflect the truth and can be misleading if journalists take it at face value. Iran is not just Ahmadinejad and hardliners, and without understanding different sources of power it is nearly impossible to give a clear image of one of the most complex societies in the Middle East.

Journalists’ very limited access to Iran, which has been reinforced by the Islamic regime during the past few years, has not only blurred reality and produced a series of myths about a country at the core of international concerns, but also has confused many of the scholars and academics who try to understand Iran from outside its borders. The ICFJ seminar was extraordinary in illustrating the peculiar circumstances of reporting on Iran and the challenges affecting the quality of our work.
(This post first appeared here)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Iran, Centrifuges and the future of a dead-end relationship

I believe that Iran's new announcement of installing 6000 centrifuges is another step by hardliners in Tehran to show their determination and defiance against in the international community to stop enriching uranium at the time they think nothing can threaten them-- also another step forward to produce nuclear fuel.

On the other hand, they are simply trying to show their upper hand in their struggle with the United States. Iranians know that the US is not in the position to attack them or harm them seriously through pointless efforts like sanctions. So, their manouver over the nuclear program particularly is designed to show Americans that where they are standing. (read more about this story here.)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

China, Olympic and Politics behind the sports

Can Olympic highlight the situation of Human Rights and freedom of speech in China? Would it be a mean to put pressure on Chinese government to bring change to their society? I believe it does. At first place Chinese authorities probably thoughts that hosting the Olympic can give them an amazing chance to promote the government and cover up their insufficiency in dealing with massive domestic demands to change the political and social sphere. Now, it seems that the Olympic Committee has been so smart to grant this opportunity to the communist China. During the last days the Olympic torch has become a source of protest and objection against the Chinese government. This will be continued throughout the spring and summer. No doubt that the Chinese government will be stuck in a huge dilemma that seem very unlikely to scape from.

Among the book and articles which have been published about this issue, I found Minky Worden's book, China's Great Leap: The Beijing Games and Olympian Human Rights Challenges , extremely informative, comprehensive and fresh. It included a variety of articles written by people who have first hand experience and insight about China today. During the last week I read almost the entire book and I enjoyed the diversity of perspectives and the depth of approaches. Minky Worden will be in San Francisco and will talk about her book in an event. (Read more here)