Omid Memarian

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Mirage of Economic Improvement

Slowly, the Iranian leaders are shaking of their apparent confidence and warn the public of hard days ahead. The last one came by Hashemi Rafsanjani, the veteran politician and current head of the powerful State Expediency Council that monitors the life of all three branches of government in Iran. “Iran is vulnerable to foreign pressure because of domestic conditions, and national unity is the only way we can sail through future crises,” he warns.

Just a few months after president Ahmadinejad had promised during his elections campaigns that he would take oil money directly to the people’s house and table, his aides at the president’s office have gradually retracted those hopeful wishes of improving economic conditions for the masses. In fact, they never even dreamed that “improvement” would actually lead to economic curtailments and conservation.

Ahmadinejad of course never believed that he would need the elite, the educated, the middle class, the investors, and in general the cream of society as his supporters. So he focused on the lower groups and made all kinds of promises to them with the goal of touching their hearts. Today, he is very far from what he had promised them and through which he won their votes.
A quick glance at the events since last June, clearly shows how Ahmadinejad altered his focus from the improvement of the economic daily life of the man in the street, to Iran’s principal foreign policy issue, to the point of creating international crises over it. In the words of a reporter from UK’s Sunday Times, Iran’s president appears like a peasant who has come to town in a gray shirt. Western states had never portrayed an Iranian president through these words.

The president’s confrontational attitude has brought Iran to the point where no day passes in which some sort of threat or warning – war or sanctions - is not issued to Iran. With these preoccupations and atmosphere, any hope of an improvement in the economic conditions in Iran is drifting rapidly into oblivion. No foreign investments are taking place, and no domestic investors are willing to risk their capital. No serious production activities are forthcoming and no economic booms are in sight. Iran’s isolation and the hue and cry about a referral to the UN are not conducive to bright economic adventures.

But on the other hand, even winning the support of the millions in the nuclear issue does not seem to be the driving goal of the decision-makers. The idea of turning the nuclear issue into a national cause and calling it even more important than daily bread, has not succeeded in making people view things this way. The publicity and propaganda machinery are the only ones pursing this goal. All that has happened is that people have been driven around nuclear installations to act as human shields “in case”, or onto streets to condemn some foreign country. Still, one wonders whether any of those that have ridden on these busses have had their economic lot changed with the new administration in Tehran.

So the news about hard days ahead and the necessity of being prepared for them by a government that does not listen to its own citizens is interesting. During the recent months, any public word that is not in line with the government’s nuclear policies has been equated with supporting foreigners. So any real debate is impossible. Under these circumstances, there can be independent analysis of the issue for those that need it either. But what is clear is that people’s vote or views are irrelevant. Not over decisions that determine the future of their country, and not even when international adventurism replaces government promises of bringing oil money to their table.

It is in this light that Rafsanjani’s message demonstrates the uni-directional aspect of the people-government relations. The question that comes to mind then is: what is the government’s role in creating this national unity that he mentions? Can unity be brought about by threatening and suppressing the potentials of social groups and people and then hope that mere propaganda will create that unity? Or must such a goal be tested through the will of people and their ability and desire to pay the price? Is the nuclear goal even worth paying whatever price is in stake? And what are the benefits of all of this for the country? Is this simply following the wishes and interests of a powerful group, or true national interest? Does a government that calls for and needs the-mentioned national unity lay the groundwork for this to take place? These are only a few questions people who have been called in to stay united and support their government ask.
But even when they are allowed to engage in such a dialogue, it is still they who must make the decisions over such important national issues.

(PUblished at Roozonlinedaily)

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Iran and Russia are engaged in negotiations concerning Iran's plans for nuclear development. Iran insists on enriching uranium inside the country, at least in part. Iranian officials are aware that if they reject the Russian proposal altogether, they will face sanctions from the Security Council. This puts the new conservative government in a delicate position. Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president, uses strong rhetoric when discussing Iran's nuclear energy policy, but practically it is not up to him to make the final decision. In the Iranian political system, there are a number of high clerics, such as the Supreme Leader and the head of the Expediency Council, Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani, who are in complete control of Iran's foreign relations. In the event that the ultra conservative president acts impulsively, they are quick to impose their policies and make him return to a more prudent course of action. I think Iranians will be forced to compromise with Russia in the coming days.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Need for change; Hamas in Power as a Reality

Now, Hams has captured the political power. This is the time for the western countries to
change their wording with leading group in Palestine. It is very soon talking about disarming of Hamas. Actually there is no reason for disarming. It’s a mutual process. Israel’s patience and respect would be a step a head but calling the popular group in Palestine just duplicates difficulties of peace process. Hamas really has the legitimacy for entering into peace process. The hasty reaction of President Bush about victory of Hamas is ignorance of reality in Palestine. It doesn’t lead the region to peace at all. Hamas would be a good chance for peace. Disarming is not very important at this time. It just stops the negotiations. The peace process circumstances can lead Palestine and Israel to serious steps towards stability. Some analysts mention that Hamas is under the influence of Iran. That’s true. But, they are not going to loose their chance by doing blind actions against their national interests.

I read something at Juan Cole's blog, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, which is interesting too:
In order to try to rescue the very sensitive Palestinian component of overall U.S. Middle East policy that it managed to steer into dire straits, the Bush administration will very likely consider three possibilities. One would be a major shift in the policies of Hamas, bought by and mediated by the Saudis; this is, however, unlikely for the reason stated above and would be long and uncertain. Another would be fomenting tension and political opposition to Hamas in order to provoke new elections in the near future, taking advantage of the vast presidential powers that Arafat had granted himself and that Mahmud Abbas inherited, or just by having the latter resign, thus forcing a presidential election.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Gunmen in Power; Can Hamas Respond the People’s Confidence?

Victory of Hamas in Palestine election, has shocked the international community, however it doesn’t seem strange at all. But how gunmen grabbed people’s votes to gain the political power? Why people selected one of the radical Islamism group after years of conflict? Just look at the Arab countries and the widespread bad governance between Arab leaders, which has made people upset about their future. That’s why they keep themselves away from groups which have not a proved commitment to the people’s requests. Hamas and Fath, in general, except just a few moments in their history, have proved their commitment, However as militia.
But now it’s time to change their cloths and respect politic as a major tool to cope with Palestinian crisis. They have announced they are not going to put their guns down and disarm. It will make the Palestine’s future ambiguous. But if they do, and the process toward stability in the region enhance, Appearance of militia as a political force appear as a wonderful transition for the experienced men in these groups. People in Palestine, are tired of conflict. Hamas in power, potentially, is mixed with
fear and hope. But direct involvement n the political power let them to be realistic about the future and at the same time practical. Idealism for politician is walking on the death road. If they have decided to appear as a political power, they must use its language too. Has the age of militia in Palestine ended? Or Palestine is going through complicated processes which start with gunmen governors?
It seems I am an optimist about coming Hamas to the power. It is true. But we need optimism.

I like the cover page of the latest Economist weekly.

Can the Gunmen Now Govern?- Los Angeles Times, CA
New era in Mideast - Baltimore Sun, United States
Bush Says US Won't Deal With Hamas – Forbes
The future: A harder line on Israel, or a more moderate path? -, PA
Hamas victory fuels uncertainty - Boston Globe, United States
Bush: Hamas must talk peace – Al-jazeeraHamas - Hezbollah: "A Constructive Ambiguity" – Al-Hayat

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Unclear Energy is our obvious Rights?

This is one of the pages of Financial Times today. Imagine that, people who support the Iranian conservative government on nuclear ambitions and protest around the nuclear plants just to pretend there is no cleavage between government and people. But does is reflect the truth inside?
I am not sure. Ahmadinejad, new Iranian president is not supported by social middle class, intellectuals, journalists, academic, students and private sector. Most of his followers are seeking just better economic life. But the way that president has chosen has marginalized Iran more than the past, declined the economical opportunities and also has diminished the reputation of Iranians. Do these attitudes bring a better life?

Apparently, many of people who support the government on following the nuclear programs in organized protests are mobilized by governmental institutions which use a strong network of people around the country and mostly are connected to the social base of the Islamic regime. They just repeat what they have asked to say. So you can see what they publish as people’s declaration on supporting the nuclear programs are just official's outlooks. that's why you can see at the left side of the above photo, it says" Unclear Energy is our obvious Rights". I think that's a nice idea. I am not sure the photo is artificial or real, but at least it shows a part of reality for the western readers. That’s the way it is in Iran. Do not pay attention to the mass protests. It doesn't mean anything…

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Iraq: Results of a Contraversial Election

(This news review is written by my classmate Naira and me. So thanks Naira.)
Fraud in the elections, opposition to the constitution, lack of independence in the justice system, sectarian tension, marginalization of Sunnis by Shiites and corruption are just some of the problems plaguing Iraq these days. Although all the articles reviewed mention corruption and instability, the tone of the article from Al-Jazeera is decidedly more fatalistic. Both the articles from Al Hayat and AlSharq al Awsat criticize the conditions in Iraq today but also recognize the significance of the democratic improvements made there.

Elections in Iraq are the main event determining the future of the country.
Al Hayat reports “annulment of 227 ballot boxes and considering that the cancelled votes do not fundamentally affect the results;” although “security situation and the tense atmosphere contributed to overlook the possibility of repeating the elections in the districts where fraud was reported”.

The media have closely followed the election results since last week but the announced results on Monday did not come as a surprise. “The "Shiite coalition", despite topping the list in the number of votes and seats, did not win the absolute majority (130 seats, with a 138-seat majority, Kurdish coalition- 53 seats and Reconciliation front (Sunnis)- 44 seats). This “situation undoubtedly gives the coalition a secure leading position to form the new government.”
But, there are some strong concerns as well.
Al-Jazeera has pointed out that if the Shiites do not agree to review the constitution, they will boycott participating in the government which could mean a huge political crisis in Iraq. The current constitution makes it easy for Shiites to have a dominant role in government. “Sectarian tension is increasing as the deliberations regarding the formation of the government are going on.” "It is very important that the coming prime minister is acceptable to most Iraqi factions. This will bridge the gaps and re-establish trust among all parties.”

Meanwhile “Al-Hakim continued to reject a number of Sunni demands during his visit to Iraq's Kurdistan earlier this month. “No to repeating the elections and no to amending the constitution," he said”. He is also insisting on adopting federalism in Iraq and has previously called for a self-ruled Shia region in southern Iraq. Another important concern is about the major non-Shia group which “accepted a last-minute agreement in December and participated in the elections after guarantees that the constitution would be reviewed in parliament.

So the constitution is a potential time bomb threatening the integrity of Iraq,
Al-Jazeera writes, creating a future without hope. The trial of Saddam Hussein has highlighted the lack of independence in the justice system in Iraq, according to an article by Alsharq Alawsat. At the same time American prominent daily New York Times reports a big scandal on the high level of corruption in the reconstruction process by American forces in Iraq, which reflects the lack of good governance in the Iraqi political and ecumenical system. But there are some bright points as well which are mentioned by Al Hayat on Tuesday.
While the media in the West and the Middle East focus primarily on bad news,
Al Hayat points out some positive outcomes of the latest election and power struggle in Iraq: “The Iraqi experience once more indicates that everyone has to accept the "democratic process" with its advantages and disadvantages. “Undoubtedly, the possibilities of improvement are open and available provided each side abandon the dreams of total hegemony, nostalgia for the past and the ambitions of division. These results are not sufficient alone to impose a government of national unity; however, the will of the three main parties could be materialized in a government including all the components of the Iraqi people without any exception or marginalization.” Although the Al Hayat and Al Sharq al Awsat articles discuss very serious issues like election fraud, flaws in the judicial system and disunity, the writers are optimistic about Iraq’s prospects. The authors are able to think positively because they are placing the current situation in Iraq in the greater context of Iraqi history in which trials of former political leaders and parliamentary elections were unthinkable.

Democracy is a long process. Iraqis are practicing this process. The present state is not completely desirable but given the situation in many other Arab countries it is not unusual. After decades of Saddam’s tyranny, these are their first steps towards attaining democracy.

Here is something in Guardian about delivering a fatwa on oral sex and so on. Actually some of the facts culturally do not reflect the realities in the Islamic countries and how the moderate clerics are more tolerate with some similar issues. Another article by Al-Jazeera about breaking taboos by Lebanese is amazing. I heard one -or more- one the Egyptian ministers are gay, however, they can not show up but it seems everybody knows about it. Is it right? When I heard it I was surprised.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I received about 10 emails which were sent by some Iranians around Iran who use mailing lists as a new media to confront the censorship during the last days. Apparently it is impossible to talk about the president’s strange and odd allegations. But, Can you imagine what that was about? It was about the Iran’s President Plan to hold a conference about Holocaust. “What a shame”, “When the president don’t give a shit to the national interests” and some other messages were written by Iranians who mostly are young. As they are enthusiastic to get rid of marginalization by the international community the president just talks about matters which is totally far from the people’s interests. Just tell me how many of the president’s fans and followers gave their votes to him to deny the Holocaust or some other things like that? I am sure none of them. I am sure many of them –even now, do not what is holocaust or when it happened and what is it about in general.

Now after bombing in Khuzestan Provinces it is better for him just to focus on the internal crisis which are enhancing dramatically.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Satirist's Guide To the Iranian Nuclear Crisis

Here is a very amazing piece of Ebrahim Nabavi and Iranian prominent satirist on Iranian government nuclear programs.

"It's hard for many Westerners to understand what's going on in my fellow Iranians' heads, what with our saying we're going to wipe certain countries off of the map one moment and we're going to go nuclear or bust the next.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Multimedia and New Age of Journalism

Multimedia- First Session, Jan 17, 2006 Tuesday -(This comment is something just to get the idea of Multimedia which I have gotten at the Multimedia class today.)

I have taken Multimedia class and attended at the first session today. During the last years we have heard a lot that the age of journalism has finished. But nowadays, it seems by using multimedia capabilities such as photo, voice, video further than the text, the news organizations can survive. Multimedia makes news and stories much more compelling and interesting. Audiences explore the affairs, some entertainment, and increase their choices. But still the core of the story is the strong narrative.Multimedia gives more option to the audiences.

Just go to some websites which are filled just by texts. Just go to the Whyfiles, science behind the news, or Telegraph or many other news website. It is hard for me to even take a look. During the last years, most print media use padcast and blog but that’s not all the web can doNews organizations seem to combine the online staff and print staff to enhance their capabilities. Then you have multimedia journalism.

Although the core still is the one reporter one story. One story one reporter we needs a multi media journalists. News organizations can survive by that. NY times, still has not had the journalist have their own story, as the result the graphic design and….

Just look at the successful samples and see how this medium is very powerful and how your choice of media really affects the story. It is not just change the journalist but change the whole part of the news organizations. In multimedia the form really reflects the story.

Here just look at some examples:
Official Site if the National Football League (They capture your mind)
The nature ConservancyNational Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Herald SunI
nteractive Narratives
NY Times- Iraq Coverage
University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Holocaust Denial in Chronicle

Here is a story published at San Francisco Chronicle a few days ago about the Holocaust denial of President Ahmadinejad. The author has tried to prove that the Holocaust denial has a long history in Iran. Just take a look and read it. In my opinion the author has mixed some facts and created a distorted story. Because linking the Reza shah policies before and during the Second World War with the Ahmadinejad’s allegations is not correct. It has different roots.

The roots of supporting German State during the world war are based on the power paradigm, while the Islamic regime rhetoric tune is based on an ideological and political paradigm about this matter now. Ahmadinejad absolutely is not following the Rezashah method of governing. Moreover, before the revolution the Shah’s regime was one of the Israel’s supporters in the region. There is no evidence that Iranians follow German’s policies against Jews and accepting the mufti of Jerusalem does not reflect that Iranians was pursued holocaust.

So, I think we can not answer an unexplainable allegation with an unexplainable comment. Denial the historical truth is not the way to prove something of avoid from something too. What the writer of San Francisco Chronicle is saying shows the angriness of some people the Iranian president, but it is not something indicative and analytic. It is really disappointing piece. There are many criticizing points in Ahmadinejad’s allegations, but what I read at Chronicle was just oversimplifying the matter.

I like NIki's Cartoons. He is really smart and innovator. He says "Oil is the reason Iranian misery. Just take a look at his website. It's amazing

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Another Jolt for the Nuclear Talks

Iran’s announcement of the resumption of its nuclear research activities brought about a strong response from European countries. This is the topic of my stroy about what is going on at the Iran's nuclear case. Look at the story on my website or Roozonline daily:

When the Majlis (Iran’s Parliament) speaker’s speech at the Russian Duma was cancelled and a meeting with Putin was put off because of Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric against Israel, conservatives in Iran called policy makers to distance themselves from Russia and review their nuclear policy strategy vis-à-vis the northern neighbor. Then came the announcement of a large weapon’s contract between Iran and Russia, bringing back hopes that the Russians would support Iran in its nuclear drive. But the recent statements are reminiscent of what happened with India late last year, which despite Iran’s large business deals, ended in India’s non-support for Iran at the IAEA meeting which found Iran at fault and warned of possible UN Security Council referral. China, the other country towards whom there have been calls in Iran to strengthen ties for support on the nuclear issue, has shown in the past that it would not jeopardize its sensitive relations with the US over Iran.

Friday, January 06, 2006

I met some interesting people at an anti war meeting in SF who are going to campiegn on any kind of intervention and sanction against Iran. I met an Iraqi blogger there whom I talked for a while too. We talked about some issues like the situation of Khalilzad, the US Ambassador in Iraq. Here is his blog. Jarrar is anice guy and i hope to hang out and chat with him soon somewhere....Keep up the good work man...!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

They Accept Neither the Leader nor the Constitution

Here is my report on "Experts Assembly for Leadership" upcoming election and how it is going to be a critical playground for key players in Islamic Republic. This piece is a summary of my article in Farsi...

"As the elections for the Majlese Khobregan-e Rahbari (State Experts Assembly for Leadership) approach, groups are intensifying their efforts to win over prominent political figures. Reformers who have been driven out of power over the recent years, report serious efforts by the conservatists nd religious ideologues to take over this assembly and thus complete their take over all the key political institutions in the country."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Two Different Pictures and Guardian Report

Here is a Cilp produced by ABC about the two different pictures whithin Iran. It displays how the generation gap has been accured in Iran and has made the youth generation careless about the way that has been pushed by clerics.

And here is a Guardian Report on Iranian nuclear program which is prepared by intelligence service of some European Countries. I think it is a kind of doubtful. Just remember the reports about the Iraq capability before US attack two years ago. There were no mass destruction but at the same time hundreds of report were published everywhere and many of the papers insisted that their proofs are reliable. Actually Iran Insist on nuclear program because of many reasons but some stories are ridiculous, for me who is very familiar with the country and the officials, reading this article was a kind of boring. Normally Iranians are following improving the missile systems and nuclear power, but everybody knows technically there is a long time to any serious achievement.

Heal the Broken Democracy

“50 Ways to Love your Country.” That’s the title of a book I found at the Peace and Conflict Department yesterday and asked one of the faculty members to borrow me for a few days. First I just took a look and then I tried to memorize some important titles. I was really impressed by illustrating the importance of every citizen’s vote at all chapters. It tells the people how they can be heard and be involved in the society more. It has written for American citizen to heal the broken democracy as tendency to political participation seems to be diminished since last decade in United States. I think that’s a very interesting model of promoting literature for people by their own voice to show how it is important to be acquainted about their destiny. That’s what I was following at one the NGOs in Tehran since 1999 and I think the way toward democracy goes through empowering people in different level to feel social responsibility and endeavor to play a defined role in the political destiny. When people look at the ways they can do it, they believe and then take action. Perhaps that’s along process but there is no other way to keep alive democracy or democratic processes. Now, there are many NGOs and organizations in Iran that believe in this way and strongly follow it as their main platform.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year and My wish....

I was here alone for the first time at New Year. Just with some friends. I wish a peaceful year for everybody. A year with more tolerance and less violence, less crazy presidents from Us to Iran, more hope and less sadness, which makes the life different. It is not a big wish. It could be happen. Just depends on.....I tried to understand the New Year at the middle of winter. In Iran the new year, is exactly at the beginning of the spring so everybody can observe the changes in nature and it is very meaningful with many wonderful customs such as KHANEH TEKANI and 4SHANBEH SOORI which has a wonderful philosophy in behind,....Just to say I missed it, how ever it is coming on March....