Monday, May 18, 2009

Iran As A Cause


Yesterday, I listened to an interview with Amir Taheri, author of "Persian Night." He brought a perspective that Western leaders tend to overlook when examining the issue of Iran's relationship... or lack thereof... with the West, particularly the U.S.: the western, liberal leaders look at Iran as a nation which will respond to logic, reason, and incentives in a negotiation process, but they fail to recognize that there is Iran the Cause which goes beyond the dynamics of the nation.

In some respects, this mirrors... darkly... the history of the U.S. as both a nation and a cause. The concept of a republic comprised of individuals who determined their own destiny and controlled their own government for their own benefit was more than the founding principles of a nation; it was a philosophy, a gospel, to be spread among the nations of the world. Iran sees itself in a similar position today. The difference is the philosophy or cause being represented.

Last December, Mr. Taheri had another interview where he covered this concept with the New York Post:




"The Islamic Republic of Iran has three phobias," according to Iranian expatriate journalist Amir Taheri. "Women, Jews and America." Forget bombs. Maybe we should send in Barbra Streisand.

Iran is a standing challenge to Western liberal notions of "the intrinsic worth of the individual, freedom of conscience and the rule of law," not that any of that bothers the regime, Taheri says. He describes the activities of the Islamic Morality Brigades, the state-supported Holocaust denial movement, Iran's practice of executing dissidents and homosexuals - the rich tapestry of contemporary Iranian life that should make the country an international embarrassment but for the fact that the regime feels absolutely no shame.

The United States, a former Iranian ally, is viewed as the focus of evil in the world, and a hapless giant that "cannot do anything." Meanwhile, the United States' relationship with Iran has had its embarrassing moments, such as when former President Clinton said that Iran is "the only country where progressive ideas enjoy a vast constituency" or when US Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young called the Ayatollah Khomeini "a twentieth-century saint."

Mohammed Raza Pahlavi, the former Shah, who is usually dismissed by Western intellectuals as a brutal puppet, was the real progressive saint compared with his successor. Indeed, it is useful to remember that his liberal, pro-Western policies made Iran "the first Muslim nation to acknowledge women as citizens with equal rights." And the Shah's 1960s-era pro-women reforms were what drove the Ayatollah Khomeini over the edge. One of the first acts of Khomeini's revolution was to readjust the status of women in Iranian society, following the dictum of Iran's Chief Justice, "A woman's basic duty is to be a slave to her husband."

Now the hijab has become the most recognized symbol of the status of women in the new Iran, necessary because, according to Abol-Hassan Bani-Sadr, the first president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, women's hair gives off "dangerous rays that drive men crazy." The regime has raised the ideological value of the hijab to extraordinary heights; as one Iranian woman supporter of the headgear noted, "The superpowers know that the hijab is the foundation of Islamic government and that to conquer the Persian Gulf and plunder its oil resources, they must first eliminate hijab." Such comments would be laughable if they were not indicative of the sincere beliefs of a regime that is seeking nuclear weapons.

Taheri's "Persian Night" presents the true nature of the regime in Tehran, its motives, objectives and beliefs. Since the Obama administration seems to think that much can be gained from open dialogue, and Washington think tanks hum with talk of a "grand bargain" with Iran to settle the outstanding issues of the Middle East, we must appreciate the people with whom we are dealing. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, elected in June 2005 under the oddly familiar slogan "We Can!" has recently stated, "Our mission in the arena of foreign affairs is to present the idea of Pure Islam as the only path for the salvation of mankind to all nations. We have to smash the existing models in the world."

Taheri concludes that negotiation with the Iranian regime is a waste of time; it would encourage optimism in the West but leave the Khomeinist regime intact and its objectives unchanged. Real progress can only come from regime change from within. Iran is "a heaving volcano, ready to explode," from a variety of internal pressures, and the best role for the United States is to "use its immense bully pulpit" to publicize the cause of the oppressed people of Iran. Can this be effective? The Soviet Union fell, Taheri argues, "so why not Iran, and why not now?"

A nice thought, but given the effectiveness of Tehran's secret police and the general climate of fear in Iran, one wonders who can get the job done.

James S. Robbins is senior fellow for National Security Affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council.

The Persian Night

Iran Under the Khomeinist Revolution

by Amir Taheri

Encounter Books

The Western belief system insists that individual freedom, science, and reason are the natural states of mankind and that any other approach is inferior and destined to failure. Yet history has shown that is not always the case. When one considers the small fraction of the human population that live within the boundaries of nations embracing the ideals upon which the U.S. was founded, one would be foolish to belief that such conditions are either natural or inevitable.

Whether it is Iran, al Qaeda, or the Taliban, one does not reason with a hungry tiger... or those with the only truth and a true cause.


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... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
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February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)