Dear Iran: A Project to Understand

Jes Richardson is one very wonderful peace soldier. For years we’ve seen him with his enormous Gandhi puppet at rallies and marches all over the Bay Area. But that is only a start. His latest project — and not alone by any means– is “Dear Iran.”  Here is a little video they’ve put together,and a start to a new on-line page.  Below  is a link to the website — Bridge of Hearts.

Bridge of Hearts dot org


Second US Carrier to Persian Gulf

“The US Navy said it has deployed a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf amid rising tensions with Iran over its nuclear program. The Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said the deployment of the USS Enterprise along the Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group marks only the fourth time in the past decade that the Navy has had two aircraft carriers operating at the same time in the region’

Today’s Zaman

 

Iran has 20 some fast, silent submarines in the Gulf, along with high-speed surface craft which, armed with explosives and attacking in swarms could seriously damage the carriers.  One false step, one mis-read radar signal and there is major trouble.  Not to mention the scene being set for a Gulf of Tonkin false report with Congressional excitement following and all the pistols in the house being handed over to the Presidnet.


Gunter Grass at 84 Stirs a War of Words

Germany has sold to Israel over some years, and with partial funding from its own treasury, 6 Dolphin Class submarines.

The Dolphins are quiet diesel-electric attack submarines that evolved from Germany’s famous and ubiquitous U209 Class. They can fire torpedoes and missiles from their 533mm torpedo tubes, perform underwater surveillance, and even launch combat swimmers via a wet and dry compartment.

The contract for the 6th was reported signed in February, 2012.  Not only can they fire torpedoes but, slightly refitted, missiles can be launched, including, sad-to-say

It is also rumored that Israel has tested a nuclear-capable version of its medium-range “Popeye Turbo” cruise missile design for deployability from the 650mm torpedo tubes in its Dolphin Class submarines. The 2002 Popeye Turbo launch test location off Sri Lanka suggested that the tests may have been performed in cooperation with India.

Defense Industry Daily

On Wednesday, April 4, Gunter Grass, the most famous living German writer, best known for his 1959 Tin-Drum and the 1990 Nobel Prize for Literature, published a 66 line poem entitled “What   Must Be Said.”

Why have I kept silent, held back so long,

on something openly practiced in

war games, at the end of which those of us

who survive will at best be footnotes? [more...]

 

Sparked, he says, by the sale of that submarine, he upside-downs the fear that has gripped the EuroMericans for the last year, that Iran will develop and then drop an atomic bomb and destroy millions.  In Grass’ imagination, it is the Israelis whose bombs  should be feared;  deny it or not, they almost certainly have atomic weapons, and not just a few.

The poem — which is certainly kludgy in an English translation by the very good translator, Breon Mitchell — might have been better as an essay, or opinion piece.  So it’s interesting that a mere poem has whipped the furies in Israel and among its supporters.  Not a literary judgment of course, but a political response to one more toe over the line which declares no criticism of Israel is to be tolerated, even if from friends — much less from someone who has already showed his skepticism towards Israeli behavior.

In an interview with Spiegel Online in 2001, he described the “appropriation” of Palestinian territory by Israeli settlers as a “criminal activity”, adding: “That not only needs to be stopped – it also needs to be reversed.”

Good commentary on the poem and Grass in The Guardian, UK, 

When the shouting dies away to whispers it will still be known by many who did not know before that Israel has 6 submarines, nuclear weapons, and the delivery system to make them lethal.  Iran’s submarine force of some 20, including 3 fast, quiet Kilo class diesels from Russia capable of firing torpedoes and missiles, is based in the Persian Gulf, without so far as is known, nuclear bombs, or missiles configured to use one — which isn’t to say they are not lethal.  Iranian submarines and US Carriers in the same small waters are accidents waiting to happen.

It seems to me big people with big mouths ought to practice walking away from fights rather than using a poem to start one, especially since the most worrisome thing to Israel ought to be that the poem is a clear indicator of shifting perceptions around the world.  No more favored nation in the hearts and minds of many, but another war-dog we should all keep a wary eye on.

 


Attack Iran? There Is No Debate

Nick Kristof does us a great service with his Sunday column:

I WONDER if we in the news media aren’t inadvertently leaving the impression that there is a genuine debate among experts about whether an Israeli military strike on Iran makes sense this year.

There really isn’t such a debate. Or rather, it’s the same kind of debate as the one about climate change — credible experts are overwhelmingly on one side.

Here’s what a few of them told me:

“I don’t know any security expert who is recommending a military strike on Iran at this point,”

Kristoff


Israel: Hawks Pressing their Case

The NY Times runs down the players in the increasingly loud ratchet up to a third US war in the Middle East:

With Israeli leaders warning of an existential threat from Iran and openly discussing the possibility of attacking its nuclear facilities, pro-Israel groups on all sides have mobilized to make their views known to the Obama administration and to Congress. But it is the most hawkish voices, like the Emergency Committee’s, that have dominated the debate, and, in the view of some critics, pushed the United States closer to taking military action against Iran and another war in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, US Generals, following on a classified war game, are not happy about the loose talk:

A classified war simulation exercise held this month to assess the American military’s capabilities to respond to an Israeli attack on Iran forecast that the strike would lead to a wider regional war, which could draw in the United States and leave hundreds of Americans dead, according to American officials.

When the exercise had concluded earlier this month, according to the officials, General Mattis [who commands all American forces in the Middle East, Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia, ] told aides that an Israeli first-strike would likely have dire consequences across the region and for United States forces there.

Peter Beinhart, in an Opinion piece headlines To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements argues that to preserve a two-state solution, which Israel is in the process of making a mockery of, and which he claims  a new Palestine initiative called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S.) could could also destroy:

…we should call the West Bank “nondemocratic Israel.” The phrase suggests that there are today two Israels: a flawed but genuine democracy within the green line and an ethnically-based nondemocracy beyond it. It counters efforts by Israel’s leaders to use the legitimacy of democratic Israel to legitimize the occupation and by Israel’s adversaries to use the illegitimacy of the occupation to delegitimize democratic Israel.


Terror Attack against Israelis in India Work of Iran? Not So Fast

Juan Cole bring his informed opinion to bear on today’ headline story about car-bomb attacks against Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia.  The morning news showed Benjamin Netanyahu stating with certainty the hand of Iran was responsible, and that vengeance would be forthcoming.

Cole says:

Indian Investigators do not Suspect Iran in Israel Embassy Blast

there is no evidence for this cynical allegation, which makes no sense. India is Iran’s economic lifeline, and Tehran would not likely risk such an operation at this time.

India gets 12% of its oil from Iran and sees an $8 billion annual export opportunity in filling the trade vacuum left by unilateral US and European boycotts of Iran. Contrary to a bad Reuters article, Indian officials denied Tuesday that the bombing would affect trade ties. (Logical because no evidence points to Iran.)

Indian investigators are first rate. Based on the modus operandi, their initial thesis is that the attack was the work of the “Indian Mujahidin” group. It had used a similar remote controlled sticky bomb, placed by a motorcyclist, in an attack on Taiwanese tourists outside the Jama Masjid cathedral mosque in 2010. IM is a Sunni group, not connected to Iran, and doesn’t like Shiite Muslims (Iranians are Shiites). IM like other Sunni radicals support the Palestinians and they are unhappy with increasingly close ties between India and Israel.

American media that just parrot notorious thug, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in this unlikely allegation are allowing themselves to be used for propaganda. Why not interview Indian authorities on this matter? They are on the ground and have excellent forensic (“CSI”) abilities. Stop being so lazy and blinkered; that isn’t journalism.


The Day I Became a Woman – A Film from Iran

What an unexpected, unusual and brain shaping movie. The Day I Became a Woman is Marzieh Makhmalbaf‘s first film in her native Iran,  as a director  though she also has screen writing and assistant director credits.  Her husband is Mohsen Makhmalbaf and a first rate director himself.

The outline of the film is simple.  Three parts, each with the name of the female protagonist and corresponding to three stages of an Iranian woman’s life: the transition from childhood to womanhood; the new requirement of marriage; old age, with its possibilities and transitions.  What is so marvelous is the way in which certain actions or objects take on  symbolic weight, plunging the stories much deeper into the lives of all Iranian women, probably all women of any partially modernizing middle eastern culture, and likely of all woman everywhere.  The economy of means with which Makhmalbaf does this is phenomenal.

“Hava” is the first, and title story:  it is the day when Hava, on her 9th birthday, ‘becomes a woman.’ She is, of course, 9 and wants to play with her play friend of years, Hassan, a young neighborhood (orphan) boy.  Her grandmother and mother will hear nothing of it.  She is becoming a woman.  They measure her for her chador and shoo Hassan away.  Finally Hava, hearing her mother say she was born at noon, shows her grandmother by the family clock that it is only 11 o’clock.  She has one more hour.  She is given a thin stick and shown how its shadow, when stuck into the sand,  will shorten as noon comes.  When the shadow disappears her time is up and she must “become a woman.”  She runs off with a large scarf held around her head.

The sweet, child conversations as the two plead with each other to play sets the innocent undertone.  Hava’s large eyes, and childish vigor, unafraid of arguing with her mother, unafraid of adventure give us an immediate impression.  Her careful monitoring of the shadow and repeating that her “time is almost up,”  is a powerful and simple image for her life, and what is about to happen.  When Hassan can’t play – he is locked in until his homework is finished– she takes his allowance and gets some tamarind and  candy.

“Let’s share it before I have to say goodbye.”

She passes a round lollypop between them, both grimacing at the sour taste. She goes to the shore and trades her scarf for a colorful floating duck.  The two boys who trade have made a rustic raft out of oil drums and a platform, onto which they attach the sail.  The image of the boys’ freedom setting out to sea (in a boyish way) set against the shortening shadow of her own happiness is enormously powerful.   We don’t know it yet, but the “boat” will reappear in the third section.  At noon, Hava returns to her house and we see her being taken away by her proud progentiors.

“Hide your hair, hide your hair, don’t sin!”

The second part is a long bicycle ride/race — all women, all young, all in black.  The wind billows into their chadors and impedes their progress but they pedal with determination.  The camera focuses on one woman in particular,  ’Hoora,’ with full and repeated studies of her face, a mirror of her unwillingness to stop.  We imagine at first that it’s a race and  she wants to come in a the winner.  It soon becomes apparant there is much more going on.

Long, multiple tracking shots follow a dashing young prince on a galloping horse.  Once the beauty of it is established we see the rider is her husband who is very angry that she is riding a bicycle.  He calls to her, rides alongside her, begs her and threatens her to get off the bicycle.  She keeps riding.  He returns with an elderly imam and they both ride along side of her, threatening her with divorce.  She keeps riding.  They divorce her, still on horseback and then the village (male) elders arrive, all on horseback, gesturing and shouting.  She keeps riding.  It is one of the strangest sequences you are likely ever to see in a movie. And so effective sequence, portraying with minimal emotion her unyielding determination.  You will feel the oppression of her village/clan and want to scream, to get in the way of the horses, to throw sand at the riders.  Your own legs will tense as she keeps riding, riding.  Finally her two brothers are sent.  The force her off the bike.  As the camera pulls away, keeping up with young competitor of  Hoora’s, it is unclear what is happening.  Are they beating her?  Are they carrying her away?  Is she standing her ground?

The third sequence, perhaps the most fanciful, centers on an elderly woman who has come into a sizable inheritance.  She has bound colored ribbons on every finger to remind her of the things she want to buy.  She has a local boy push her in a wheel chair into a major shopping mall and begins to buy a refrigerator, a bed, chairs, a sofa, each in turn being pushed by another young boy on a loading cart.  Finally she takes them in a grand parade to the beach and has all the goods set up on the sand, as though it were her house.  There are other comings and goings that are both amusing and sad.  In the end she tells the boys to get all their little boats and load the goods onto them and take them out to the big ships standing off the shore.

The little boats she is talking about are variations on the oil drum boats of the first scene.  One is just big enough to put a refrigerator on, tied erect; it bobs  in the soft waves with the ships in the background.  They boys put “nene” on a big raft, sitting in a chair with an umbrella and her big double bed behind her.  The camera pulls back to a surrealistic vision of her finally acquired worldly good, bobbing precariously on the waves, apparently to go back to the ships on which they first came.

I swear to you, you will not forget this scene for a long time — nor the bicycle race or Hava pleading for Hassan to play.

Hava, of the first section, appears in her chador with her mother, looking at the old woman, seeing, we believe, the probable end of her own days.

This is quite an extraordinary movie, about women, in 2000 in Iran, but really about women everywhere, the clash of tradition against individual expression, about hope for something different, in its bare beginnings.


Brits Back: Mystery Remains

Friday morning cable news was saturated with scenes of the British sailors and marines, their embrace-filled return, a uniformed press conference, long and fact filled interviews — “How does it feel being back!?” The interviewers, to a person, larded their rising and falling tones with indicators of “bad Iranians,” “good Brits.” It was really quite a show.

Alongside it, especially in the British tabloids, and here, but on certain chauvinistically pumped US cable shows, and bloggers, snarling innuendo’s were raised about the capitulation of the British troops to the Revolutionary Guard, the too-quick apologies for being in Iranian waters. There was pooh-poohing about the “stress” of being blindfolded and hearing guns being cocked. There were claims that Americans would never have been captured without a fight.

Few of the commentators I have heard brought up the obvious: how did this happen? How were these youngsters left so alone?

Where was the captain of the HMS Cornwall, Jeremy Woods, or the Coalition task force commander Commodore Nick Lambert during the capture? Where was the Cornwall itself? Why didn’t its radar pick up the 6 Revolutionary Guard speed boats approaching from nearby land? Why didn’t the helicopter hovering overhead with the conveniently displayed GPS device see the boats approaching? Why was the whole boarding party searching the vessel with no one scanning the area for possible change of situation? Was no one left in the boats themselves, highly mobile and heavily armed, while the boarders were searching?

It would seem odd in almost any case, but this one, Iraqi waters or not, was highly charged. Three or four enormous aircraft carriers were in the area. A shooting war is going on not too far away. The closest land mass belongs to a country with a recent history of contention with the country to which the HMS Cornwall belongs. And a boarding part of 15 youngsters is sent over without a plan, without backup, without lookouts?

Watch for a Board of Investigation. Or, if not, suspect a plot the deviousness of which we can only begin to guess.

We can be glad that cooler heads prevailed (it seems,) and that no further escalation occurred. But if the narrative is as it has been presented, the British Navy has a lot of questions to answer.

Those in charge of the over-all strategy –e.g. the Americans– ought to be asking themselves a few questions as well.

For a purely military analysis of the board and capture see David Eshel at Defense Update.

Sara Lyall in the NY Times, syndicated widely, has an early summary of the questions raised about the captives’ behavior.


Iran: Brits To Go Home

Iran president says to free British sailors [More at NY Times]

Iran’s official news agency said British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s adviser Nigel Sheinwald had spoken directly to Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, on Tuesday night, breaking high-level diplomatic ice.

Larijani is one of those characterized as a “pragmatist” in the Iranian ruling elite, which has been contesting for power with President Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guard. This theme of a fault zone, noted yesterday in a Debka article was carried forward by Michael Slackman in the NY Times.

There was of course a whole lot going on behind the scenes, some of it calculated, some opportunistically siezed.

Daoud Kattub
, a Palestinian journalist, thinks it was a many-for-one swap of Brits for an Iranian diplomat released yesterday in Iraq. Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari says there was no exchange, no relation. From published statements it is not clear at all who kidnapped Jalal Sharafi, Second Secretary of Iran’s mission in Baghdad, though Iraq’s Intelligence Service, affiliated with the US CIA, is among the suspects. The other five Iranians picked up by US forces in Iraq several weeks ago appear still to be in custody though it wouldn’t be surprising to see them released in a matter of days.

It will be interesting to see what the Brits say when they return home, and/or what the Government has them say. If the push-pull being reported in Iran is true we ought to see more manifestations of it in the aftermath of this mini crisis: which side will be thought to have gained, which lost, in stature and leadership. Not least it will be interesting to see how the rules of engagement in the Persian Gulf, and particularly in the contested waters of the Straits of Hormuz get tightened or slackened, how far or how close Western naval vessels come to the area. More directly than in diplomatic circles the navies can take on alpha dog behavior when uncertainty rules – showing their fearlessness, stating their positions, not yielding to the “other.” There are scary games of “chicken” possible, ships maneuvering to get the nautical right-of-way and forcing the other to back down. With three carrier task forces in the area there is plenty of opportunity for manly display….

Meanwhile we can be glad the media contest between Iran and the UK did not escalate into more.


Venezuela Ama A Iran

Oh gnashing of teeth in D.C. over this little romance…

CIUDAD BOLIVAR, VENEZUELA — The VenIran tractor factory in remote eastern Venezuela is one of the signs of Iran’s growing presence in Venezuela, which is being monitored by a U.S. government on alert for any evidence that Iran might be exporting terrorism

STLtoday – News – World