Omid Memarian

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Assassination Remark and Hillary's "Moral Authority" Problem

How can Sen. Clinton expect to restore America's "moral authority", which has been damaged by a series of actions during President Bush's administration, by using negative campaign tactics and suggesting that something might happen to her rival Barack Obama as one of the reasons of staying in race?

What the new president will do during the next four years is not separate from the values he or she presents in the primary elections. During the endless primary race, Clinton has repeatedly used negative tactics against her opponent. It's fair to say her main campaign strategy has been the continuous use of "the ends justify the means." This is the same strategy the Bush administration has used to justify many of its actions during the past eight years, from waging an unjustifiable war in Iraq, to using torture in Guantanamo and Abu-Ghraib, to supporting anti-Iran terrorist groups in Northern Iraq, to taking side with dictators like General Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan and King Fahd in Saudi Arabia.

Consequently, this administration's irresponsible and immoral leadership, seemingly inconsistent with American values, has people from the streets of Baghdad, Cairo and Beirut to Paris, Madrid and Rome believing that the United States is incapable of leading the world.
This makes respecting America's core values that are promised in the constitution an eminent priority for the next president, and many voters, use the primary campaign as an indication of the future president's actions during the next four years.

Clinton's comments did not do much to enhance her credibility as a president who could restore the United States' "moral authority". In the past eight years, the United States government has practiced unilateralism and violated basic human rights and international laws while simultaneously expecting people to believe its rhetoric of democracy and freedom. U.S. Leaders will not be able to solve problems in the world today by continuing this policy. If there is one thing that can disarm dictators in their fight with the United States and bring about negotiations between the two parties it is the level of "moral authority" the U.S. leaders present not just the use of force itself.

Also, millions of people beyond the U.S. borders will follow this year's presidential elections. Senator Clinton's use of negative tactics is at odds with her message of bringing an "end the George W. Bush course". How can people trust someone who basis her continuance in the primary race on a suggestion that something might happen to her rival similar to what happened to Bobby Kennedy in June 1968?

In the last few months Sen. Clinton has done everything to damage the image of Sen. Obama. She was among the rare presidential candidates who praised the candidate of the other party at the expense of her rival in the Democratic Party. But, Obama's reaction to the "assassination gaffe" indicates a shift away from the old politics of the Bush administration and Clinton campaign. Rather than attacking Clinton, Obama gave her the benefit of the doubt and brushed aside the comment. His reaction is notably different than Clinton's reaction to the "bitter" comment before the Pennsylvania primary.

Now the main question is if Clinton cannot use moral tactics to gain the nomination, how can she expect to gain the trust of millions of people as a moral president?

Clinton's poor reference to a tragic incident may be just a terrible mistake, but, nevertheless, it does not reflect values that would enhance the United States "moral authority" should she go to the White House.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Why Republicans Might Attack Iran Before General Elections?
(First appeared on HUffingtonPost)

“Do you think that the Bush administration will attack Iran before the general elections in November?” I asked Congressman Henry A. Waxman(D-Calif.) in his office in Washington. He said this is impossible, and explained that Congress will not support the administration due to the current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He also mentioned that since the release of the National Intelligence Estimate, which clarified that the hardliner government in Tehran had halted Iran’s nuclear weapon program in 2003, the possibility of going to war with Iran has decreased dramatically.

But I received differing and worrisome answers on the question from the other side of the political spectrum, indicating that the mood of majority democrats in congress is not the dominant mood in Washington.

For example, one of the strongest scenarios among neo-conservatives is based on the hypothesis that in the case of any military attack against Iran — even a limited air strike — the greatest beneficiary among the three presidential candidates would be John McCain. The reason for this is that the American people’s first priority would become national security instead of the economy, and since there might be a “perception” that McCain would deal with foreign policy issues better than economic ones, he would have a stronger chance of winning in November.

In addition to bolstering McCain, they believe that a strike would also bring the Islamic Republic of Iran to its knees for its defiance over the nuclear program, its alleged involvement in Iraq and meddling in the Middle East process by supporting groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.

If an attack occurs, democratic nominees will be framed as weaker potential commanders-in-chief — Senator Obama is talking about engaging in dialogue with U.S. adversaries while the perception of having Sen. Clinton in the White House during wartime, seems unfavorable.

The Republicans have already paved the way for action against Iran by passing the Kyle/Lieberman bill, which labels Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization for its involvement in supplying and arming the insurgents in Iraq (and consequently killing American troops). This bill, which Senator Clinton and Senator McCain have endorsed, is the first in recent history to label a faction of a sovereign government as a “terrorist organization.”

Patrick Clawson, a senior scholar in a hawkish institute in Washington told me that the arrest of four Iranian diplomats in northern Iraq in January 2007 has been effective in deterring Iranians and that it is in the interest of the United States to pursue this path. He also argued that the UN Security Council’s sanctions against Iran have been somewhat effective. However, he claimed there are still members of Al-Qaeda in Iran that hardliners in Tehran have refused to hand over to the Americans, hence making Iran an easy target.

No wonder President Bush called Iran the most dangerous threat against the United States along with Al-Qaeda earlier last month. The implication of his statement is clear: in the so-called war on terror, the United States is not only fighting with Al-Qaeda, a radical Sunni group, but also with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which is basically a part of Iran’s official army.

In fact the stage is set for an attack, more likely an air strike, on Iran. President Bush suffers from the lowest approval rate and some of his closest allies have left the White House. Additionally, military officials continuously complain about the role of Iran in Iraq as well as Tehran’s defiance in stalling its nuclear program. President Bush can save the day for Republicans by ordering a military attack against Iran.

Only last month Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the nation's top military officer, said that “the Pentagon is planning for potential military courses of action” against Iran.
Surprisingly, this is not something that terrifies hardliners in Tehran. Many believe that any kind of military attack by the United States will enhance Iran’s position in the Muslim World, and that Iranians will rally behind the flag in support of the government.

Unlike the Republicans’ perception that in case of an attack people will come to the streets and celebrate, as in Baghdad in 2003, radicals in Iran do not see a military attack on Iran as detrimental. Simply because such an attack will only mobilize patriotic Iranian people behind their government, even though many of them hate the government, and in the long term will only strengthen the hardliner’s position in power.

Given this scenario, come November, there will be a Republican president in the White House, a continuing hardliner government in Iran, and a decimated region with no hopes for peace, human rights or democracy.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Is this what America is all about?

More than 20 percent of voters in West Virginia have acknowledged that race has been a main factor not to vote for Sen Obama. Meaning what? In practice, the number of people who believe so, is probably more that this number. 30 percent? 40? or more? It is not clear....

For Many people who have lived out of the United States, and or Americans who have lived abroad, this seems so embarrassing, although that's true. Americans can be proud of many things, but what has happened in W.V, and many other cities, is not one of them.

Sen. Clinton has highlighted one the deepest social divides in this country. More than the other times, the term "black" and "white" are heard in the media and public domain. It's not only West Virginia, even at Berkeley, where I live, race is a factor in different ways. Many people might think that Berkeley is one of the coolest cities in the world. To a large extent I agree. But, to be honest, even at UC Berkeley that I study, there have been occasions that I have felt the same thing that Barack Obama is experiencing in the other cities about the "race factor". The cool thing about living here is that people are more considerate and politically correct. But at the end of the day, you feel it deeply. I think it is not very important that Barack Obama gets the nomination or not, what matters is the issues that come to the surface of the society. Race, religion, superstitions and the fact that somebody like George W. Bush could be elected, not once but twice, in such a country.

John Stewart make fun of the W.V's primary but it's not truly funny. It's just sad. I told a friend of mine who was mucking Americans race-religion issues in the primary that it is not all America is about. It is, of course, a part of that but it is much bigger than that...However, this sentence was not finished that I asked myself. "do I really mean it?". Yes, I do, really mean it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Olbermann To Bush: "This War Is Not About You...Shut The Hell Up!"

Last Night, Keith Olbermann reacted to President Bush "golf remark" harshest than eve at the "Special Comment" section of his daily show....It was 12 minutes nonstop and it...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Obama on Zionism and Hamas
(Jeffrey Goldberg’s Exclusive Interview With Barack Obama)

I found Sen. Obama's interview with the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg very insightful on what the presumptive democratic nominee thinks about the Middle East crisis, Israel and Hamas...This interview goes beyond the media's myth toward Obama's stance toward Israel and the way he look at U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East:

"The Hamas leader Ahmed Yousef did Barack Obama no favor recently when he said: “We like Mr. Obama and we hope that he will win the election.” John McCain jumped on this statement, calling it a “legitimate point of discussion,” and tied it to Obama’s putative softness on Iran, whose ever-charming president last week called Israel a “stinking corpse” and predicted its “annihilation.”

The Hamas episode won’t help Obama’s attempts to win over Jewish voters, particularly those in such places as –- to pull an example from the air –- Palm Beach County, Florida, whose Jewish residents tend to appreciate robust American support for Israel, and worry about whether presidential candidates feel the importance of Israel in their kishkes, or guts....

JG: Do you think that justice is still on Israel’s side?

BO: I think that the idea of a secure Jewish state is a fundamentally just idea, and a necessary idea, given not only world history but the active existence of anti-Semitism, the potential vulnerability that the Jewish people could still experience. I know that that there are those who would argue that in some ways America has become a safe refuge for the Jewish people, but if you’ve gone through the Holocaust, then that does not offer the same sense of confidence and security as the idea that the Jewish people can take care of themselves no matter what happens. That makes it a fundamentally just idea.

That does not mean that I would agree with every action of the state of Israel, because it’s a government and it has politicians, and as a politician myself I am deeply mindful that we are imperfect creatures and don’t always act with justice uppermost on our minds. But the fundamental premise of Israel and the need to preserve a Jewish state that is secure is, I think, a just idea and one that should be supported here in the United States and around the world.

JG: Go to the kishke question, the gut question: the idea that if Jews know that you love them, then you can say whatever you want about Israel, but if we don’t know you –- Jim Baker, Zbigniew Brzezinski –- then everything is suspect. There seems to be in some quarters, in Florida and other places, a sense that you don’t feel Jewish worry the way a senator from New York would feel it.

BO: I find that really interesting. I think the idea of Israel and the reality of Israel is one that I find important to me personally. Because it speaks to my history of being uprooted, it speaks to the African-American story of exodus, it describes the history of overcoming great odds and a courage and a commitment to carving out a democracy and prosperity in the midst of hardscrabble land. One of the things I loved about Israel when I went there is that the land itself is a metaphor for rebirth, for what’s been accomplished. What I also love about Israel is the fact that people argue about these issues, and that they’re asking themselves moral questions.

Sometimes I’m attacked in the press for maybe being too deliberative. My staff teases me sometimes about anguishing over moral questions. I think I learned that partly from Jewish thought, that your actions have consequences and that they matter and that we have moral imperatives. The point is, if you look at my writings and my history, my commitment to Israel and the Jewish people is more than skin-deep and it’s more than political expediency. When it comes to the gut issue, I have such ardent defenders among my Jewish friends in Chicago. I don’t think people have noticed how fiercely they defend me, and how central they are to my success, because they’ve interacted with me long enough to know that I've got it in my gut. During the Wright episode, they didn’t flinch for a minute, because they know me and trust me, and they’ve seen me operate in difficult political situations." (Read the rest of interview here)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

2003 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Slams Clinton's "Obliteration" Remark: She is exception to the norm
(First appeared at Huffington Post)

"Occasionally we run across women who are worse warmongers than men," Ms. Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, told me in an interview. I had asked her opinion about Sen. Clinton's latest remark on the "obliteration" of Iran if it were to launch a nuke attack against Israel. Ms. Ebadi, who is one of the most outspoken human rights activists in the world today, continued:
"Women usually stand at the forefront of peace activism, because they suffer the most during a war. They lose husbands and sons and are sometimes raped during a war. That's why most women seek peace. Of course there are always exceptions to the norm.

I hope Mrs. Clinton made those statements in search of the votes of extremists in her country, not as her personal belief. She has said that if Israel is threatened in any way, she will obliterate Iran.
It saddens me to see a woman abandon her position of peace and construction and think about war and destruction. I would say it is not possible to obliterate a country with a 3,000-year old history. Perhaps, as Mrs. Clinton suggests, military bombers can "obliterate" a few places in Iran, but you cannot obliterate 3,000 years of history.

My reply to people such as Mrs. Clinton, who use their fear of Israel's destruction as an excuse to attack Iran, is to remind them that Iran has been a refuge for Jewish people since the era of Cyrus The Great. Jews have lived peacefully in Iran for centuries. One of their oldest and most famous settlements is in Iran. Iran must be judged by its 3,000-year history, not by its performance over the past 30 years after the Islamic Revolution, or the past two years, since Ahmadinejad [came into office in 2005].

The Iranian government has never declared any plans to attack Israel. Certain current rhetoric has created excuses for an attack on Iran, the likes of which Mrs. Clinton suggests."

"Bush in Israel: Standing With One Side"

A few days ago, Israelis celebrated the 60th anniversary of the establishment of their state. President Bush was the exclusive quest. Sandy Tolan, the author of The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East, who used to be my professor at UC Berkeley's graduate school of journalism has talked about the other side of the story, a story that must be told:
"Yet when President Bush steps off his plane to help Israel mark its 60th birthday, he will stride firmly into the past of one side. Officials of the Jewish state will sweep the president into their own powerful and compelling narrative: The birth of Israel from the ashes of the Holocaust on May 14, 1948; the invasion of the state, a day later, from Arab armies marching from the north, south, and east; and the loss of fully one percent of the Jewish state's population, in a fierce defense that evokes Israel's unofficial motto: Never again.

What the president won't hear is the Palestinian story. He won't be told that one side's "War of Independence" is the other side's "Nakba," or Catastrophe. And no one is likely to mention that Israel's heroic survival was, to the Arabs, a dispossession in which 750,000 Palestinians fled or were driven out of their homes." (Read the rest of the story here)

Monday, May 12, 2008

"Saturday Night Live's" Message From Hillary Clinton: "I Have No Ethical Standards" (VIDEO)

Just hilarious! ُTwo months ago Sen. Clinton relied on the Saturday Nights Life's comment about the media's softness toward Sen. Obama in the MSNBC debate which I do not think was not very smart. Now, here is the other side of the coin:

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A plea to quiet drums on Iran, and try talk (Chicago Tribune)
"The ominous sound of war drums is once again echoing from Washington. Hardly a day goes by without new and more vivid threats against America's newest supposed enemy, Iran. It seems almost unbelievable that the United States, so bloodied and weakened by its adventure in Iraq, would contemplate an attack on another Middle Eastern country. Yet some American leaders seem bent on it.

Just a few months ago, the prospect of an American attack on Iran appeared to recede after U.S. intelligence agencies released an "estimate" asserting that Iran is not seeking to build nuclear weapons. In recent weeks, though, the Bush administration has come up with a new argument. The U.S. must consider attacking Iran, it now says, because Iran is stirring up trouble in Iraq." (Read the rest of the story here.)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Blogging in Iran
(TIME magazine's interview with me about how Iranians look at the U.S. presidential elections...)
The Internet is wildly popular in Iran, and blogging has become a vital source of information and analysis due to the systematic rollbacks of press freedoms (such as they were) during the last few years. Censorship and self-censorship takes its toll, as does intimidation and imprisonment of bloggers. But how-to-blog sites are among the most visited by Iranians, I reckon an indication that huge numbers of Iranians feel they have something to say and are doing their best to say it.

That brings me to Omid Memarian, one of Iran's most courageous bloggers. A reformist journalist, he took up blogging in 2002 and has paid a heavy price, including arrest, imprisonment and torture. Lately he's been in the U.S. as a fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and I phoned him from Tehran last week to ask him about his blogging from there. He's been writing a lot about America and the U.S. presidential election campaign in both Farsi ( and English. Here's a bit from our exchange...


Monday, May 05, 2008

Iran-US talks await new leadership era
By Omid Memarian
"BERKLEY, California - A week after Democrat Senator Hillary Clinton's harsh remarks that if hardliners in Tehran were to attack Israel, it would result in the "total obliteration" of Iran, a Republican member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Peter Hoekstra, suggested on CNN that "engaging in a full-court diplomatic press with Iran is a good thing to begin the process" of reaching out to Tehran.

The hawkish tone of Clinton and the more moderate view of Hoekstra about dealing with Iran's so-called threat leaves a major question unanswered: What can and should the United States do about Iran's alleged influence in Iraq and its nuclear program?

A day after General David Petraeus' briefing to Congress this month, President George W Bush called Iran one of the two "greatest threats to America in this century" - along with al-Qaeda. Bush also warned Iran that if it did not stop arming and training Shi'ite militia in Iraq, then "America will act to protect our interests and our troops". And Bush this week said he released intelligence about suspected North Korea-Syria nuclear collusion to put pressure on Pyongyang and send a message to Iran that it could not hide its own nuclear program." (Read the rest of the piece here- Asia Times)

Friday, May 02, 2008

What is dominating the headlines these days? And what should be...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Clinton's "Obliteration" remark is genocidal, requires apology

Buzz up!
Senator Clinton should apologize for using a genocidal term during her campaign. Her recent remark-- stating that if Iranians were to launch a nuclear attack against Israel, the United States would be able to obliterate Iran -- is out of the line, politically inappropriate, and reflects a hawkish approach toward foreign policy based on the Bush administration model.

Even neoconservative warmongers who have been saber rattling with Iran over the past 8 years have never used such a term. If the media were not distracted by Rev. Wright's controversial remarks, this comment would cause a huge backlash against Clinton.

This calls into question Clinton's ability to pick up the red phone at 3 a.m. and make a tough decision on a crucial foreign policy issue. Also, before taking that 3 a.m. call, Clinton should read the National Intelligence Estimates during the daytime. She did not read them a single time for Iraq in 2002 and consequently voted for the Iraq war.

Once again, it seems that she did not read the latest NIE on Iran's nuclear program (PDF), which is a collection of reports conducted by dozens of intelligence agencies. The report released last December emphasizes that Iranians stopped their efforts to make a nuclear bomb in 2003. This means Iran has no bomb to attack Israel with, and consequently there is no need to "obliterate" a country with 70 million people, three times larger that Iraq in size and population.

Even if Iranians were to gain a nuclear bomb, there would be no way for them to use it against Israel, simply due to the geography of the region. Palestinians and Israelis live side by side. No bomb has yet been made that can differentiate between ethnicities.

Clinton's attempt to be tough has pushed her to internalize a neoconservative tone in her foreign policy agenda that is disrespectful of international mechanisms in dealing with global crisis. This destructive approach has dramatically damaged the image of the United States since the Iraq war in 2003.

Moreover, in the literature of peace and conflict studies, "obliteration" of a country, in whatever shape or form, is genocidal, irresponsible and irrational.

While thousands of people have died in a war that could have been avoided, talking about obliteration of yet another country -- which President Bush has called "the third World War" -- does bode well for change in the White House in January 2009.

Clinton should also know that there are between 25,000 to 35,000 Jews in Iran. Jewish people have a member in the Iranian parliament. They can practice their religion freely to a large extent, and love their homeland, even though they might not like their controversial president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. She should also remember that Iranians were the first in the Middle East to show their sympathy for the victims of the 9/11 tragedy by lighting candles in their memory.

Clinton's remark is disrespecting millions of Iranians who are struggling hard for their rights, which include thousands of intellectuals, journalists and activists who have paid huge costs to change their society but still think that the west and Iran should engage in a constructive dialogue -- even with the current government -- rather than go to war.