Posts by JuanCole:

    All the terrible things Trump plans to do to Women (besides that one)

    January 23rd, 2017
    By Juan Cole.


    About 1 million women and their supporters demonstrated in Washington, D. C. on Saturday, but many millions more rallied in cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta and in small towns like Ann Arbor, Michigan, as well as in cities around the world. The target of their ire? Predator-in-chief Donald J. Trump.

    Women are right to be extremely worried about what the new administration intends to do to them (quite apart from what the president says he does to them all the time). The Hill reports that the Trump budget may well slash Federal funding for the 25 programs that grew out of the Violence against Women Act.

    Claire Landsbaum, writing in New York Magazine, pointed out that in the decade after the act was passed in the early 1990s, the rate of domestic violence in the US plummeted by 64 percent. So Trump may in essence be arranging to allow thousands of women to be beaten with impunity every year.

    While it has been widely noted that on his first day in office Trump signed an executive order that could stop enforcement of the health insurance mandate (which fines healthy young people if they don’t buy insurance, since if they don’t, it becomes crushingly expensive for the middle-aged and elderly).

    But what is not often noted is that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has provisions that eliminated differences in premiums between what was charged to women (more) and to men (less) in “the individual and small-group insurance markets.” It also “required coverage of recommended preventive services and maternity care.” It mandated that employers pay for birth control for women, a provision that evangelical and Catholic employers strongly resented, and which would be repealed along with the rest of the law. That is, repealing the ACA could injure the health of millions of women in an unfair way, hurting them more than the repeal hurts men. Not to mention that millions of women will lose their health care insurance entirely.

    Although, as Bridgette Dunlap writing in The Rolling Stone correctly points out, it is a little unlikely that Trump through his Supreme Court picks could overturn Roe v. Wade entirely, he could so water it down as to make it almost impossible to get an abortion in some states. Texas attempted to place undue burdens on abortion clinics, an attempt that was struck down. But if Trump gets three or so nominations to the court, the justices could decide instead to allow what Texas did. Texas was down to a handful of clinics in the whole state that perform the procedure, and most working class women couldn’t afford to travel to a clinic. For them, Roe v. Wade was de facto overturned, and they faced a choice of bearing a child they did not want (some 17,000 cases of pregnancy by rape are reported annually in the US) or of having a coat hanger illegal abortion that threatened their lives. A SCOTUS dominated by Trump-Pence nominees could reverse itself and let Texas and other states violate women’s 5th and 14th amendment rights.

    Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, indicated in his testimony before the Senate that he would not let the Federal government get involved in prosecuting hate crimes against women or gays, where these crimes were already being prosecuted in local jurisdictions. Sessions actually said, “I am not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination. I just don’t see it.”

    These administrative and legal changes proposed by Trump or his cabinet nominees will inflict harm on millions of American women. But Trump’s own behavior toward women demeans them, and a president has enormous powers to influence people. The status of American women has fallen just because Trump was elected.

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    Merkel: Migrants did not bring Radical Terrorism to Germany

    August 19th, 2016

    By Juan Cole.



    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a campaign event on Wednesday evening, that there is no relationship between the influx of some one million migrants and refugees into Germany in the past year and the incidents of radical Muslim violence in the country.

    She pointed out that Muslim radicalism as a phenomenon pre-existed the rise of Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) and that even Daesh was there before the refugee crisis. She said that German authorities have been worried about Daesh for some years.

    To some extent she blamed social media rather the the influx of refugees.

    She said that the right way to deal with domestic terrorism is more state powers and better trained police.

    Reuters reports that Merkel said that forms of Islam compatible with the constitution are welcome in Germany:


    “”We have said clearly that an Islam that works and lives on the basis of the constitution … belongs to Germany . . .”


    About half of Germans agree with her. And what is remarkable is that you have the head of state talking in this clear-eyed and generous way about people who have lost everything and sought a better life. It is hard to imagine a US politician of Merkel’s level openly speaking out this way. Of course her party may suffer for it at the polls– we have yet to see. But Merkel is not backing down.

    Merkel has long insisted that Islam belongs to Germany. I pointed out 18 months ago that this assertion is historically true.

    If Germans did not want Islam to belong to Germany, they shouldn’t have gone out and subjugated e.g. Tanzania in the 19th century (although a mixed society it has a strong Muslim community). There was also German colonialism in West Africa, where there were also Muslims. If you go out an incorporate people into your empire, they belong to you whether they or you like it or not.

    I wrote:


    “Some 57% of Germans say in polls that they feel threatened by Islam. A country of 80 million, Germany has 4 million Muslims, 2/3s of them Turks. About half of these Turks of Muslim heritage, however, hail from the Alevi Shiite minority in Turkey, and many Alevi families became secular leftists in the 1960s and 1970s. So most Turkish Muslims are not interested in Sunni fundamentalism. Moreover, only about half of resident Muslims are citizens, so they are not in a position to ‘Islamize’ anything, even if they wanted to– which most do not. In polling, Germans give unrealistically high estimates of how many Muslims they think there are in the country.
    Germans have very small family size and the country is projected to fall from 80 million to only 60 million by 2050, thus falling behind France, which is growing through immigration. Merkel’s government appears to favor emulating the French policy, encouraging immigration, to avoid Germany losing its economic and demographic leadership role in Europe”.


    Besides, there was radical terrorism of leftist and rightist varieties in Germany in the twentieth century and it was far more deadly than the Daesh attacks of today (as horrific and inexcusable as those are). To start the clock on social violence with last year’s arrival of so many immigrants and refugees and then to blame everything on them is ahistorical thinking.



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    President Hillary Clinton’s Middle East Policy: Interventions, Wars, More of Same

    April 15th, 2015

    By Juan Cole.


    Hillary Clinton announced her bid for the presidency Sunday, prompting another of these attempts at IC to do a quick overview of what we can expect from the candidates with regard to Middle East policy.

    Clinton supported Israel’s attack on defenseless Gaza last summer, which left about 2000 Palestinians dead and wiped entire civilian neighborhoods off the map. She blamed Hamas entirely for the conflict.

    On the other hand, Sec. Clinton does see the Palestinians as occupied, writing in “Hard Choices”: ““When we left the city and visited Jericho, in the West Bank, I got my first glimpse of life under occupation for Palestinians, who were denied the dignity and self-determination that Americans take for granted.”

    In the bizarro world of inside-the-Beltway American politics, this rather mild protest of a major human rights violation was treated as controversial.

    As Secretary of State, Sec. Clinton was eager to give substantial and immediate aid to the Syrian rebels in the civil war there, but Obama blocked this plan, not wanting another Middle East intervention.

    She opposes, however, the deployment of US combat troops to Iraq to fight ISIL or Daesh. She is OK with providing close air support to e.g. the Iraqi army, but doesn’t want to send in the US infantry.

    She supports President Obama’s negotiations with Iran and is critical of the 47 GOP senators who wrote a letter to Ayatollah Khamenei warning him they intended to scuttle the talks. On the other hand, she threatened in 2008 to launch a retaliatory nuclear attack on Iran if its leaders tried to nuke Israel.

    Although she initially opposed the youth revolutions in the Arab world of 2011, she quickly came around and was firmly in their support by spring of 2012. By that time, however, the youth in Egypt were mostly angry at her long friendship for the deposed president Hosni Mubarak and refused to meet with her.

    She initially deeply criticized Edward Snowden for his revelations of National Security Agency domestic spying and its violation of the fourth Amendment. More recently, she has been more critical of the NSA. She supports net neutrality for the internet.

    In short, it seems to me that Sec. Clinton’s Middle East foreign policy would be very similar to that of President Obama, but more interventionist. She differs with Israel, as all presidents have since 1967, over its occupation of the West Bank. But she is closer to the government of Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu than is Obama, as seen in this CNNN transcript. 

    She would have given more money and weapons early on to the Free Syrian Army. She would argue this step would have forestalled the take-over by Daesh/ ISIL. But it is also possible that the weapons and trained fighters would just have been scooped up by Daesh/ ISIL. She was one of those who argued for going into Libya. (NB: I also favored the UN no-fly zone over Libya). Of course, she also voted for Bush’s disastrous and illegal Iraq invasion and occupation, which, it seems to me, still says something about her political style.

    Sec. Clinton brings substantial foreign policy expertise to these thorny issues. But she is more hawkish than Obama and seems likely to get the US heavily involved in the region again. It is not clear that she would actually do anything about continued illegal Israeli squatting on Occupied Palestinian land.

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    Could Sunni-Shiite Rift make Tikrit a Pyrrhic Victory? Al-Azhar & Shiite Militias

    March 16th, 2015

    By Juan Cole.

    The foremost Sunni Muslim seat of learning, al-Azhar University in Cairo,has stirred controversy by issuing a considered legal opinion (fatwa) condemning the Shiite militias or “Popular Mobilization Forces” that are now fighting alongside the Iraq army to take Tikrit back from Daesh (ISIL or ISIS).

    To be fair, the al-Azhar has also condemned Daesh or ISIL. In fact, the Egyptian state has turned on political Islam in general and says it is fighting a Daesh branch in the Sinai Peninsula.


    But the timing of the opinion and its call for the Iraqi army to reconsider cooperating with the Shiite militias has given many Iraqis the impression that religious Sunnis in Egypt prefer Daesh to Shiites.

    Traditional Sunnism viewed Shiites as heretics (the differences between the two are about religious authority after the passing of the Prophet Muhammad and resemble in a vague way splits in Christianity such as that between Protestantism (I would argue it is more like today’s Sunni Islam) and Catholicism (perhaps today more like Shiite Islam).

    But from the 1950s, al-Azhar began a Dar al-Taqrib or office for Sunni-Shiite ecumenism. In 2005, the major Amman Statement condemned the practice of excommunicating or calling Muslim non-Muslims, whether they are Sunni or Shiite. The Saudi Wahhabi branch of Islam wasn’t as enthusiastic for this ecumenism, but even in Saudi Arabia the late King Abdallah put two Shiites on his national legislative advisory counsel, the embryo of the future Saudi parliament.

    Also to be fair, some of the Shiite militias have in fact been involved in ethnic cleansing campaigns and in atrocities against Sunnis, especially in 2006-7 but also more recently. Many Sunni Iraqis are afraid that they will commit reprisals against non-combatant Sunni populations who have cooperated with Daesh. (Sunnis who committed war crimes under the banner of Daesh should be arrested and tried; non-combatants are helpless once they have been conquered and should be left alone).

    But the fact is that there are perhaps 50,000 militiamen fighting in Takrit, a much larger number than the regular Iraqi army, and they are functioning as the US National Guards do, being local forces that can be called up for national campaigns. WSJ alleges that Iranian commander Qasim Solaimani, who is coordinating the Tikrit campaign, has been trying to moderate their behavior toward local Sunnis because he wants to improve Iran’s relations with Iraq’s north and west in the aftermath of the Daesh, fiasco, in which Iraqi Sunnis allied even with the horrible Daesh to escape Shiite rule.

    The al-Azhar ruling demonstrates the bind in which the current Iraq situation puts Sunnis in other countries. They almost universally despise Daesh/ ISIL, but it is hard for them to cheer Shiite militiamen on as they conquer a Sunni bastion like Tikrit.

    The Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) newspaper in Jordan exemplifies these anxieties, writing that the Tikrit campaign could put an end to terrorism in Iraq (most Jordanians really hate Daesh) or it could unleash a new round of it if the Shiites are not prudent and restrained (Jordanians are strong Sunnis on the whole).

    Some news outlets are alleging that the al-Azhar ruling was a favor to Saudi Arabia. Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal is said to be upset that the Tikrit campaign is spreading Iranian Shiite power into Sunni Iraq. Saudi Arabia just announced another $3 billion grant to the government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

    A more measured response from Iraqi Intellectuals takes the position that the al-Azhar clerics are not close enough to the scene to appreciate the ways in which the Shiite militias have moderated and become an arm of the regular Iraqi army. The article just cited also quotes an Egyptian jurist who argues that it isn’t right for a religious authority to give a fatwa about something when it is distant and not on the ground, but should leave that to local Muslims facing the threat.


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    A People’s History of Muslims in the United States

    April 30th, 2014

    Posted by Juan Cole.

    (By Alison Kysia)


    When I teach history related to Islam or Muslims in the United States, I begin by asking students what names they associate with these terms. The list is consistent year after year: Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, and Muhammad Ali.


    All of these individuals have affected U.S. history in significant ways. If we take a step back and look at the messages these figures communicate about Muslims in U.S. history, we see a story dominated by men and by the Nation of Islam. Although important, focusing solely on these stories leaves us with a skewed view of Muslims in U.S. history. Even these examples are a stretch. Most of my students reference 9/11 as the first time they heard of Muslims.

    Mainstream textbooks do little to correct or supplement the biases that students learn from the media. These books distort the rich and complex place of Muslims throughout U.S. history. For example, Malik El-Shabazz (consistently referred to first by the name Malcolm X rather than the name he chose for himself before his assassination) is framed as the militant, angry black man, the opposite of the Christian, nonviolent Martin Luther King Jr. Muhammad Ali is another popular representative of Muslims in U.S. history textbooks but is misrepresented through the emphasis on his boxing career rather than his anti-racist activism against the Vietnam War.


    Muslims have been part of our story from the beginning. For example, although U.S. history textbooks wouldn’t dare leave out the sanitized story of Christopher Columbus, they fail to include the Muslim-led revolt against his son, Diego, on Dec. 25, 1522. Armed with the machetes they used to cut cane, these rebels, including enslaved West African Muslims, succeeded in killing a number of colonial settlers before the insurrection was quelled; of the 15 bodies recovered, nine were Europeans. As Michael Gomez explains in Black Crescent: The Experience and Legacy of African Muslims in the Americas, Muslims were among the first to resist the colonialists. In fact, colonial authorities had long seen these “Moors” as a threat. According to Sylviane Diouf, author of Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas, colonial documents between the Crown and conquistadors describe enslaved Muslims as “arrogant, disobedient, rebellious, and incorrigible.” Diouf writes that no fewer than five decrees were issued against these rebels in the first 50 years of colonization. Records from as early as 1503 confirm a request by Nicholas de Ovando, the governor of Hispaniola, to Queen Isabella asking her to restrict further shipment of enslaved Muslims because they were “a source of scandal to the Indians, and some had fled their owners.” It’s essential that students know that resistance to colonial domination has always been a part of our history—and Muslims played a role in this resistance from the earliest days.

    Advertisements for people escaping slavery included names like Moosa or Mustapha, common names even among Muslims today. According to Gomez, in 1753 Mahamut (one of many spellings of Muhammad) and Abel Conder challenged the legality of their enslavement through a petition to the South Carolina government “in Arabick.” Similarly, in 1790 a number of formerly enslaved people originally from Morocco—referred to as free Moors—likewise petitioned South Carolina to secure equal rights with whites.

    U.S. history textbooks generally present “slaves” as a monolithic group, absent of history, culture, and scholarship. But stories of the Muslim presence in the early United States give examples of the rich multicultural diversity among enslaved Africans.


    Although most of the first Muslims in the United States were brought as slaves, some came as free men. Mohammed Ali b. Said, or Nicholas Said, fought in the Civil War. He was born around 1833 in the Islamic state of Bornu near Lake Chad. He was enslaved around 1849 and sold numerous times throughout the Middle East, Russia, and Europe. He traveled to the United States as a free man in 1860 and became a teacher in Detroit. Said joined the 55th Regiment of Massachusetts Colored Volunteers and served in the Union Army until 1865.


    Muslims are also part of the rich history of resistance to Jim Crow. In the 1920s, P. Nathaniel Johnson, who changed his name to Ahmad Din, led a multiracial integrated mosque in St. Louis. The Ahmadiyya Muslim community in the United States (followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who began an Islamic renewal movement in India in 1889) vocally opposed segregation, supported Marcus Garvey’s UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association), and included articles in their newspaper, The Moslem Sunrise, criticizing U.S. racism.

    Muslims also participated in union activism. One of them was Nagi Daifallah, a Yemeni Muslim farmworker murdered for his participation in the 1973 California grape strike. Nagi was an active member of the UFW (United Farm Workers of America). On Aug. 15, Nagi joined a weeks-long strike in Lamont, Calif., where he worked at the nearby El Rancho Farms. Fifteen strikers met early that morning at the Smokehouse Café when Kern County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Gilbert Cooper arrived to harass the workers. The deputy targeted Nagi, who tried to run away. Cooper ran after him and smashed Nagi in the head with a long five-cell metal flashlight. Nagi’s spinal cord was severed from his skull. Two sheriff’s deputies picked Nagi up by the wrists and dragged him for 60 feet, taking no care to protect his head, which repeatedly hit the pavement, and then dumped him in the gutter. Deputies arrested workers who attempted to help Nagi, and he died shortly thereafter.

    sarsour_arrested_wcaption3U.S. Muslims today continue the legacy of a people’s history. Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, is an outspoken critic of stop-and-frisk and proponent of immigration reform—she was arrested in October 2013 at the national immigration reform protest in Washington, D.C. She is also at the forefront of protests against the NYPD and CIA-sponsored secret surveillance program against Muslims that began in 2001. Not only is Sarsour’s nonprofit one of the organizations targeted by the illegal spying program, so too is her children’s soccer league. The NYPD included the league in its community outreach program until further investigation found that the NYPD’s involvement was simply a way to spy on the community. AsSarsour explains in a Democracy Now! interview, “[W]hat it does is it creates psychological warfare in our community.” Considering the fact that Muslims have been routinely disappeared by the U.S. government since 9/11, her willingness to stand up to the NYPD and CIA is even more courageous.

    Students need these stories of Muslims throughout U.S. history in order to talk back to the dominant media stereotypes of Muslims as lyingviolent,brown foreigners. If we gave students the historical examples in this article and more, they would realize that the history of Muslims in the United States is not limited to 9/11 and, in fact, spans from the late 15th century through today.

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    Propaganda Terms in the Media and What They Mean – Noam Chomsky

    November 6th, 2013

    By Juan Cole.

    This talk is from 1990 but it is astonishing how well it holds up. The terms of discourse haven’t changed.

    Propaganda Terms in the Media and What They Mean – Noam Chomsky

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    Al-Qaeda as Fringe Cult: 12 Years Later, Heretical Text of 9/11 Hijackers Still Withheld by FBI (Kurzman)

    September 29th, 2013


    By Juan Cole.

    Charles Kurzman writes at IslamiCommentary

    click to enlarge


    What sort of Muslims carried out the largest mass murder in American history, 12 years today? The FBI refuses to release a document that might show just how unusual their brand of Islam was, and further reduce what little sympathy they enjoy among the world’s billion Muslims.

    This document, a handwritten note by 9/11 organizer Muhammad Atta, opened with a heretical-sounding invocation — “In the name of God, and of myself, and of my family” — in addition to the standard invocation, “In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful.” We know this from a government translation that was leaked to the Washington Post (left) in late September 2001.

    The FBI released four other pages of Atta’s notes on its website within weeks of 9/11, but not the Arabic original of the fifth page, on which this invocation appears. I have filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for the document six times, but the FBI refuses to make it public, even in a redacted form, on the grounds that it might “interfere with enforcement proceedings.” (See image below right)

    click to enlarge

    The FBI did not indicate what enforcement proceedings would be affected, 12 years after the event, or how the document might interfere with them. (“The role of FOIA is not to answer questions, it is to provide documents,” the FBI’s public liaison officer told me when I asked for further information. In this instance, he clarified, the FBI would not provide either answers or documents.)

    In the court of public opinion, however, the document deserves close inspection. To associate oneself and one’s family with God, as Atta’s invocation (“In the name of God, and of myself, and of my family”) seems to do, is considered impious by virtually all Muslims — a breach of the monotheism that is central to their faith. “Whoever associates others with God has committed a terrible sin,” the Qur’an declares.

    The invocation could be seen as especially heretical by puritanical Islamic groups that are intolerant of practices they consider polytheistic, such as prayers for the intercession of saints. And, in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, these radicals have destroyed entire Muslim cemeteries in order to prevent prayers at family tombs. These groups identify themselves as Muwahhidun, or Unitarians, a sign of the importance they accord to the principle of the unity of God. Outsiders often call them “Wahhabis.”

    If the leaked translation of Atta’s invocation is correct, and the document is genuine, then the release of the missing page might help accentuate the sharp theological divide between puritanical Wahhabis and al-Qa’ida militants.

    Likewise, Atta’s odd invocation could provide further grounds for Muslim religious scholars of all stripes to distance themselves from the terrorists. Almost every major Muslim leader in the world denounced the attacks of 9/11, publicly and forcefully. Even Islamic militants — 46 leaders of radical movements in Pakistan, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, and elsewhere — released a joint proclamation on September 12, 2001, expressing sorrow for the “innocent lives” lost on the previous day: “We condemn, in the strongest terms, the incidents, which are against all human and Islamic norms.” They quoted a verse of the Qur’an on the inviolability of innocents: “No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another.” (This and dozens of other Islamic statements against terrorism are available onmy website.

    Of course, ordinary Muslims too were horrified by the violence perpetrated in their name. While television cameras zoomed in on small crowds cheering the news, far greater numbers gathered in sympathy with the victims of September 11, carrying candles and flowers. Rumors blaming the U.S. or Israeli government spread among Muslims who were so appalled by the event that they did not want to believe fellow Muslims could be responsible. Many of these people will not be swayed by the release of a document that they may not consider genuine.

    But for the small cohort of Muslim revolutionaries who embraced the “raid” on America, as they called it, the missing page of the hijacker’s letter could well be cause for consternation — further calling into question the theological purity of the attack and of al-Qa’ida itself.

    Charles Kurzman is a Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists (Oxford University Press, 2011). He is also co-director of UNC Chapel Hill’s Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations.

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    Gulf Arab Press divided on Syria Strike (OSC)

    September 8th, 2013


    By Juan Cole.


    On 30 August, websites of Gulf newspapers were observed to carry mixed reactions to a potential US attack on Syria. Some supported a US attack on Syria, saying that it is the sole option left to put an end to the Syrian conflict and punish President Al-Asad for the alleged use of chemical weapons and for the crimes committed against his people. Others condemned such attack, saying that it would lead to “unfavorable” repercussions in the region, and that it would not end the calamities of the Syrian people. Following is a roundup of reports, editorials, and commentaries as posted by newspapers and news websites.

    [Qatar] Doha Al-Sharq Online in Arabic — Website of leading, large-circulation independent daily with close ties to the ruling family; focuses on domestic affairs; URL:

    – on 30 August carries a commentary by Dawud al-Basri criticizing Nuri al-Maliki’s response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, saying that Al-Maliki and Iran pretend not to know the perpetrators of such “sordid” act in Syria and earlier in Iraq. Al-Basri says that “all signs indicate that the Iranian retaliation against an international strike on the Syrian regime will be in Iraq.” He adds that the escalation of violence in Iraq represents a starting point of the Iranian intelligence plan to conduct even bigger pre-arranged explosions. Al-Basri adds that Al-Maliki and his government’s “dread of the outcome of a potential international attack on the Syrian regime exposes his connections to the Syrian-Iranian alliance.” Al-Basri continues to say that the “regional game” is coming to an end, and that “the Syrian people are the ones to decide the fate of Syria and punish the perpetrators of this crime (the use of chemical weapons).”

    [Qatar] Doha Al-Sharq Online in Arabic

    on 30 August carries a commentary by Tal’at Rumayh saying that the delayed decision to conduct an international attack on the Syrian regime is not related to the credibility of the regime’s last “criminal act,” as the regime’s “crimes” have already killed far more people than the ones killed by the alleged chemical weapon attack.; the delay is rather related to “the circumstances of taking the decision in light of a complicated regional and international situation that hinders or delays a military attack.” Rumayh adds that Russia’s announcement that it will not participate in a military attack against Al-Asad’s regime comes as a manipulation of the US-European decision to “spare the Syrian regime and limit the strike to a mere punishment, fearing the increase of Al-Qa’ida’s advantages if the regime is toppled.” Rumayh adds that the attack on the Al-Asad regime will generate “a real and long-term change” in Syria and in the entire Middle East.

    [UAE] Dubai Al-Bayan Online in Arabic — Website of leading independent, pro-government daily; URL

    – on 30 August carries a commentary saying that as part of the UN and international community’s effort to protect civilians in Syria, the “duty of intervening is vital and necessary, and should happen as soon as possible as any delay will result in more victims and more refugees.” The commentary questions whether the Syrian civilians’ calamity will come to an end in the midst of “an unacceptable and outrageous international incapability towards such a human, rather than political, disaster.”

    [UAE] Dubai Al-Bayan Online in Arabic

    on 30 August carries a commentary saying that the regime left the Syrians with the only option of “supporting a foreign attack” after comitting various “criminal acts.” The commentary expresses concern that the West “might find it enough to merely send ‘shy’ messages through a few missiles here and there, which would not help to topple the regime or influence the balance of power,” adding that this would lead to “counter-results” and “encourage Al-Asad to commit similar crimes.” The commentary says that “the foreign aid will eventually help free Syria from its internal occupation, and the people will then punish those who betrayed them and committed crimes against them.”

    [UAE] Sharjah Al-Khalij Online in Arabic — Website of conservative, independent, pro-government daily; URL

    – on 30 August carries a commentary by Amjad Arar condemning a potential US attack on Syria, adding that “had the Arabs been a ‘true national organization,’ they would have been able to put an end to the Syrian crisis before it had escalated to this phase, and before the Syrian borders had become open to thousands of gunmen from all over the world.” Amjad calls on the Arabs to say “no” in the face of Western intervention, and refuse a “Western invasion” under the pretext of “granting people their freedom.”

    Kuwait Al-Ra’y Online in Arabic — Website of independent, liberal, pro-government daily; URL: –

    on 30 August carries a report citing sources close to Syrian President Bashar al-Asad as saying that the “West is reconsidering a military attack on Syria” as Israel’s security is in jeopardy due to threats made by Syria and its allies to attack Israel in case “the West decides to topple Al-Asad’s regime and replace it with the rule of takfiris (Muslims deeming others infidel).” According to the report, the sources said that the West is reconsidering its position also due to the stances of Iran and Hizballah on the attack, and to Russia’s readiness to protect its “agents” in Syria. The sources further said that the Syrian Army has realized what is being designed for Syria and has taken measures to prevent any force from invading the capital, adding that it will work on gaining full control of Damascus countryside “regardless of the outcome.”

    Kuwait Al-Anba Online in Arabic — Website of large-circulation, independent, pro-government daily; URL:

    – on 30 August carries a commentary by Ahmad Abdallah highlighting the perspectives of prominent Syrian affairs experts saying that the attack on Al-Asad regime “will not change the balance of power,” adding that they do not expect the regime to attack back as “it cannot afford opening new fronts.” The experts rule out the probability of Iranian or Hizballah-led intervention, adding that the conflict in Syria “will go on for a considerable period of time.” The experts add that the “the attack will increase US aid to the Syrian opposition.”

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    Syria as a Prisoner of Western History

    June 5th, 2013



    By Juan Cole.

    Gregory Harms writes in a guest op-ed for Informed Comment

    The influential Egyptian Islamist cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi recently issued a fatwa, or religious proclamation, with regard to Syria. The sheik called for Sunni Muslims throughout the Middle East to join the rebels in their fight against the regime in Damascus. Formerly an advocate of improved relations between the Sunni and Shiite sects, including the Lebanese Shiite guerrilla organization Hizballah, Qaradawi’s decree further points to sectarian relations moving in the opposite direction. A week earlier, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah openly declared involvement in the civil war on the side of Damascus and promised victory. Sectarian lines – within Syria and across the greater region – are growing sharper by the minute.

    At the geopolitical level, Russia announced its intentions to ship its S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Syria in an effort to bolster the government’s defenses and preserve a balance of power. Included in Moscow’s calculus is the potential military involvement of the United States and NATO.

    In trying to follow the news coverage, one is presented with an ever increasing number of narrative strands having less and less to do with Syria. The question is raised, Is there historical ground where the different threads meet?

    Currently on display in Syria is just about every major issue the modern Middle East has come to know and be known for. Within the ongoing civil war now raging up and down the country, one can find how the region was created, how it has been ruled locally, how it has been managed externally, and the different byproducts of these realities. This conflict is not simply a dark chapter in the Arab Spring, or just another episode of Middle Eastern violence, but the consequence of policies and phenomena that have their origins in the twentieth century.

    Syria, like its fellow Arab neighbors, was born of Western European scheming. After World War I, the Great Powers of Britain and France divided up the Middle East into modern nation-states, Syria being among these new and future countries. Designed by the French, Syria was to exist in the service of its creator, similar to other French colonial holdings at the time. Simply put, it was to provide a source of cheap food and materials as well as a place to unload French exports.

    Because Syria was conceived as a vassal state, it was kept politically compliant and feeble. Local landowning political elites essentially governed Syria on France’s behalf. One of the principal concerns was to ensure calm against an increasingly indignant and restless population. This was achieved with a measure of anti-imperial rhetoric – purely propaganda – while dutifully tending to French needs; the political relationship with Paris was called “honorable cooperation.” At the end of the day, the unsurprising goal of the Syrian notables was to protect their own wealth and power. This situation, according to Middle East historian William Cleveland, created an “aura of unreality.”

    This period spanned the two world wars to Syria’s independence in 1946. What followed was a series of military coups, producing leaders such as Colonel Abid Shishkali and others seeking a grip on the country’s future. Yet, these juntas were factionally unstable and produced repeated internal overthrows. What endured from this era, however, was the military’s new role in Syrian political life.

    Out of the tumultuous post-independence years also emerged a nationalist-socialist party called the Baath (meaning Resurrection or Renaissance). The Baath Party championed Arab nationalism and sought to unify the Arab world under a singular system. In 1957, the Baath Party achieved power in Syria, briefly formed a union (as a junior partner) with Egypt, and then lost power. After the union with Egypt dissolved (1961), a group of military officers sought to reestablish Baath rule. (The party was originally a civilian, populist movement, but had been co-opted by the military.) Also volatile and prone to overthrows, this cabal became mired in infighting. After a sequence of coups and power plays, one member of the military committee running the country rose to stable power in 1970: Hafez al-Assad. His autocratic regime would last until the year 2000, when he would be replaced by his son, Bashar al-Assad. Like his father, Assad the younger has operated a regime marked by one-party rule, secret police, and total authority.

    As of the 1950s, the United States had taken over for Britain and France and established a long-distance supremacy over the prized Middle East. Among Washington’s first client states in the area were oil-rich Saudi Arabia and militant Israel – referred to as the “twin pillars” – and remain so today. Jordan, Iran in 1953, and eventually the leaderships of Egypt, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf states all became aligned with US interests – in fact, almost the whole of the region.

    Up until 1989, American policy in the Middle East was formulated in the context of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. While a much overemphasized issue, Moscow did have regional interests of its own, and included in them was US meddling in an area located in the Kremlin’s backyard. Nevertheless, Russian intrigue and influence in the Middle East has generally been limited. Among the places the Soviets were able to create a bit of leverage – leverage that still exists today – was through Damascus.

    Unlike most of the Arab states, Syria under Hafez al-Assad steered a course in opposition to the United States and its regional sentry Israel. Throughout the decades following its independence in 1948, Tel Aviv had made it abundantly clear that it had no intention of living in harmony with its Arab neighbors. Moreover, in 1967, Israel occupied the Golan Heights located in the southwest corner of Syria, an occupation that continues into the present. The Assad regime, having Moscow as a sponsor and source of weaponry, spent the next decade vastly expanding its military. Common to Arab leaders throughout the modern period, Assad too sought the mantle of leader of the Arab world, and used enmity toward Israel to establish credibility.

    That said, Hafez nor Bashar managed to regain the Golan Heights. And for all its military expenditures, Syria remains a second-rate power on the Middle Eastern stage, the rhetoric always more dramatic than genuine. Furthermore, besides remaining unable or unwilling to address the Golan issue one way or another, the antagonism Damascus did instigate was usually in the direction of other Arab states and entities such as Lebanon, the PLO, Iraq, and others. Beyond seeking increased prestige in the Arab world, the regimes of both Assads have been focused more on domestic threats and protection of their own internal security.

    In addition to the creation, leadership, and foreign influence of Syria over the years, three intra-regional factors in the current state of affairs, also echoes of the twentieth century, should be mentioned.

    First, Iran supports and supplies Damascus. This is one of the first issues one reads about in the American press. Tehran’s actions in this regard oppose the US-Israeli dynamic. This friction has its origins in the 1979 Iranian revolution, which saw the replacement of the Shah, a US-installed puppet, with the Islamist leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini. The current leadership in Tehran is merely a successor of his rule and an outcome of Anglo-American intervention in Iran. For the last thirty years, US-Iranian relations have been kept tense by the United States.

    Second, Hizballah supports Bashar al-Assad, is assisting on the ground, and is itself supported and supplied by the Iranians. The militia, regardless of what one thinks of it, would never have emerged had Israel not occupied southern Lebanon for almost twenty years (until 2000) after its devastating assault on that country in 1982. Hizballah is a consequence of Israeli belligerence.

    Third, the issue of Islamic extremism has also entered the frame in Syria. The armed resistance called the Free Syrian Army, far from being a unified front, is a patchwork. Radical Islamic groups within the FSA such as Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaida affiliated organization, and Ahrar al-Sham are the heirs of two main ideologies. The first is Islamism, which has its roots in the 1920s and was a political response to Western domination. The goal here was revolution and overthrow of local regimes. The second ideology is a more violent, reactionary approach to Islamism that developed in the second half of the twentieth century, ultimately personified by Osama bin Laden. The idea here is that overthrowing local regimes fails to address the issue of Western imperialism. These ideologies have never gained popular appeal in the Middle East; but be that as it may, the different Islamist and jihadist groups – ranging from moderate to terrorist – taken in aggregate constitute an expression of resentment. In other words, this phenomenon is a response to Western European and US policy.

    Moreover, these three issues are typically considered not in relationship to their importance for Syria, but rather their salience for Western security and power. The radical Sunnis form a small part of the uprising against the Baath government, but reporting on them has recently crowded out other and more representative narratives.

    The elements making up the current civil war in Syria were created throughout the last hundred years. The leadership in Damascus today is a direct result of the country’s political history. In a sense, Bashar al-Assad is a corollary of the French policies put in place over forty years before he was born. The resistance to his leadership – part of the wider Arab Spring uprisings beginning in 2011 – is a rejection of both his regime and European-American hegemony, present and past. These are the core realities of the current violence.

    Where does the United States stand given its historical role? Washington is obviously somewhat concerned about Syria and would like to see a pro-American result. If Bashar al-Assad falls, which is a distinct possibility, then the White House will use its influence to tip the outcome in its favor. (This is not always possible, especially in the new Middle East.) If Assad remains, the United States can deal with him. He is a known quantity, has cooperated with the White House in the past, and poses little threat the rest of the time. And Syria’s general nonalignment with US policy and its alliance with Iran, Hizballah, and Russia – all overstated foreign policy concerns – helps feed the rationale for constantly weaponizing the Middle East, an enormous gift to the US defense contractors.

    As mentioned, Syria is located in the region’s second tier, which means it is less than a crucial issue for American planners. Syria has a GDP of $59 billion, economically placing it between Sri Lanka and the Dominican Republic and making it 127 out of 190 countries for per capita gross national product. Syria does have a little oil, but not enough to gain it much attention. Its proven oil reserves measure in at 2.5 billion barrels, putting it on a par with Great Britain. In contrast, Saudi Arabia has reserves of 262 billion barrels, Iraq 115 billion, and Kuwait 104 billion.

    What does concern planners in Washington is overall regional stability, which the Syrian civil war could threaten. Lebanon and Iraq have already been affected. Low grade tensions are tolerable – even encouraged – but the temperature in Syria might be high enough to warrant top-level diplomacy from the White House and the office of Russian president Vladimir Putin. (This is currently being explored but remains to be seen.) Without external diplomatic assistance, regardless of the dubious records of those involved, the war could possibly grind on for years to come.

    In the meantime, it is common to hear facile or racist conclusions drawn because of the bloodshed and disorder in areas like the Middle East, where patterns of repression and resistance seem to play out endlessly. Yet, when the different countries became “independent,” it would take decades for the results of the manner in which they were created to fully unfold, to say nothing of the foreign influence along the way. At this very moment, we are seeing the effects of the twentieth century. The policies now relegated to history books are, in some ways, on the news every day in grim detail. The common dismissal of the historical record contained in the assertion “that was then” could not be more inaccurate.

    It is in the present where one can find the historical record: amidst the sectarian strife, the fatwas, declarations, guerrilla warfare, terrorism, refugee camps, arms embargoes, weapons shipments, and a list of actors – state and non-state alike – vying for position and influence. As is common, geostrategic maneuvering tends to converge in smaller, weaker countries, and produce a range of dire repercussions. At the moment, Syria encapsulates the history of the modern Middle East.

    Gregory Harms is an independent scholar focusing on the Middle East

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    New Light on the CIA Coup in Iran on its 60th Anniversary: Why “Argo” Needs a Prequel (Sternfeld)

    March 10th, 2013

    Posted  by Juan Cole.

    Lior Sternfeld writes in a guest column for Informed Comment

    2013 marks the sixtieth anniversary to the most atrocious intervention of the US in the Middle East. On August 19, 1953 the CIA conspired with the British MI6 to overthrow the popular and democratically elected Prime Minister, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq, and to impose instead a brutal dictatorship led by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. In the past decade this story received great scholarly attention. Myriad of books and articles were published depicting and analyzing almost any possible aspect of the story (yet, there is much more to do in that subject); from internal political rivalries in Iran to global Cold War considerations, from personal relationships of the protagonists to relations between the rapidly sinking empire to the emerging one.

    Recently, two new books dealing with Mosaddeq’s crisis came out and returned to the very foundations of the story, instead of focusing on yet another narrow angle deliberately zoomed out to see and show the greater picture. Their contribution to the understanding and perception of the going-ons in 1953 in Iran is invaluable. The first book is the newest biography of Mosaddeq: “Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Tragic Anglo-American Coup,” by Christopher De Bellaigue, and the second is: “The Coup: 1953, The CIA, and the roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations,” by Ervnad Abrahamian.

    “Patriot of Persia” provides a comprehensive account of Mosaddeq, not only as the statesman that came to prominence in the late 1940s, but also his family background, his personal desires, tragedies, and how the national and private were so intertwined. It could not have been otherwise. He was born to a royal family; his mother was the shah’s cousin, and his father a high-ranking bureaucrat in the nineteenth century Iran. He got married into the royal family, thus strengthening the already firm connection to the country’s leadership. The contribution of this book to the scholarship of 1953 comes in the excellent presentation of Mosaddeq’s staunch belief that the West, namely the US, would not desert Iran. That he viewed Britain as a model for Constitutional Monarchy, and that he was dismayed by communism. Why is it important? Because previous scholarship, that was written not necessarily from a criticizing point of view was drawn to problematic reading of the events, based on existing, yet tricky, sources. Reading the reports in the British National Archive, one may think that at some point the Britons started believing the lies they told: that Mosaddeq was secretly communist waiting to dissolve the monarchy and establish a socialist republic. Christopher De Belllaigue eloquently shows that Mosaddeq would have approved none of the abovementioned ideas. He was loyal monarchist. He believed in the role of the monarchy in the Iranian culture. At the same time he rebuked communism, as vehemently as possible. He had, of course, relations with the Communist Tudeh Party, and joined them to his coalition, but so he did with the right-wing nationalist, Ayatollah Kashani.

    Abrahamian’s “The Coup” challenges the common perception of the role the US had in this crisis. While it was widely believed that the US tried to stay out, or at least serve as an honest broker, Abrahamian shows that even during Truman’s administration the American oil companies, the popular media, and policy makers adamantly opposed the nationalization act, albeit agreed to pay lip service for a while. So far, Truman was viewed as the good fellow in the West. The one that stopped the evil British Empire from exercising its old-school imperialism, and only after Eisenhower administration was in place, did Britain succeed in dragging the US to this venture.

    How is it all related to Ben Affleck? Well, although “Argo” was highly problematic for many reasons, it still had a ray of light. In the very first scenes of the movie the story of Operation AJAX is being told briefly. It may not be much, but it is more that I can recall any movie before attempted to do. It leads one to think that Affleck tried to provide a better-nuanced narrative, at least in the beginning of it.

    But the big historical correction awaits another movie, about the 1953 coup itself. That film will be dark, and, in the classical sense, a tragedy. It won’t be able to present the West in a positive light without a profound historical distortion. It may also provide the American people, and people in the Western hemisphere in general, some important information on the role their countries had in the shaping of modern Iran, and by extension, the modern Middle East.

    Lior Sternfeld is pursuing a Ph.D. in History at the University of Texas, Austin.

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    UN to look into US Drone Program, but the Biggest Victim is Democracy

    January 25th, 2013

    By Juan Cole.

    The US use of armed drones in northern Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen is now being investigated by the United Nations as a human rights abuse or even a war crime.

    If drones produce significant civilian casualties, their use may be a war crime. If their use constitutes a disproportionate response, it could be a war crime. If, as The Bureau of Investigative Journalism claimed, the US sometimes hits a target, waits for sympathetic locals to rush to the aid of the wounded, and then abruptly strikes again, that would definitely be a war crime. Some Pakistani observers, however, are arguing that the Pakistani government’s own aerial bombardment by helicopter gunship or warplane of the tribal belt actually produces significantly more casualties than drone strikes.

    Whether or not drone strikes are being conducted in such a manner as to rise to the level of war crimes is an important issue.

    The other set of important questions around armed drones are constitutional in nature. The people being targeted by the drones are not an enemy army of a state on which the US has declared war. They are suspected criminals or terrorists. But they haven’t been put on trial.

    The permission by Washington and London for drones to kill people
    involves a clear depriving of those individuals of their right to due process.

    The US Department of Justice insists that it has the capability of trying them and determining that they are in the process of attacking the United States, thus permitting them to be killed as a form of self=defense. But that review process occurs entirely within the executive branch, violating the principle of the separation of powers. The executive is the judge, jury and executioner.

    The drone program in the United States is hugely anti-democratic because the whole thing is classified. Therefore, it cannot be publicly discussed or debated with the officials behind it, who can neither confirm nor deny its very existence.

    In short, the biggest innocent victim of the drones, after the noncombatant adults and children who are killed in the strike, is the United States Constitution.

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    Iran Bazaar Strikes signal Misery, not Sanctions ‘Victory’

    October 4th, 2012

    By Juan Cole.

    On Wednesday the Tehran covered bazaar was closed, and the traditional market in some other cities such as Mashhad also went on strike with demonstrators protesting the collapse of the Iranian currency, the rial. Until last November the rial was about 10,000 to the dollar. Then it fell to 12,000. Last summer it hit 16,000. Some merchants were offering 35,000 to the dollar on Wednesday and expected the rial to decline further.

    Although the U.S., the EU and Israel’s government will gloat that ‘sanctions are working,’ it is unclear that any such thing is true.

    True, Western sanctions on Iran have gone beyond mere boycotts to a kind of financial blockade, in which obstacles are being placed in the way of Iran selling its petroleum to third parties, especially in Asia.

    Iran had been producing 3.5 million barrels a day of oil, and selling 2.5 million abroad. It is now apparently only producing 3 million barrels a day and selling 2 (especially to China, India and some other Asian states). Iran is shipping to China in its own tankers and insuring them itself, which is producing some delays in delivery, but nothing the Chinese are worried about. The loss of 500,000 barrels a day in exports, and the extra costs of doing business (15%?), however, cannot possibly be causing the collapse of the value of the rial.

    The West can blockade Iranian petroleum in this way because Saudi Arabia agreed to ‘flood the market,’ pumping as much as two million barrels a day more than normal. Iraqi output is also up about a million barrels a day over 2010 levels. But the addition of a couple of million barrels a day wouldn’t have been enough to allow this policy. In addition, the world economic slowdown has reduced the rate at which the demand for oil is expanding in Asia. At any point where Asian demand returns strong, Iran will likely be better able to evade sanctions.

    Thus, although Iran’s petroleum sales have fallen, it is not clear that they have will have fallen dramatically when new trade arrangements with China, India, South Korea and so forth are implemented, getting around the U.S. financial blockade. Europe stopped buying Iranian oil on July 1, and sales were hurt that month. But Iranian officials say that they are back up to normal sales volume this fall. Likely Europe will buy oil from other producers, denying it to previous customers in the global south, some of whom will turn to Iran. Iran’s government should be flush with billions of dollars of reserves, and should have the expectation of more, and there is no obvious reason for the rial to plummet this way.

    In short, it is not entirely clear that these severe sanctions or the reduced oil exports are the only things responsible for the rial’s rapid decline against the dollar.

    Hyperinflation is caused by printing too much money. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has for some time pumped extra money into the economy in the form of subsidies, which has caused the money supply to grow unhealthily in Iran. The rial has probably for a long time been over-valued, partly because of the support for it of an oil state. So it may be that years of easy money are now coming home to roost, in part because the severe sanctions have (irrationally) weakened the confidence of traders in the hardness of the rial, a confidence that itself had earlier been irrational.

    Money traders in the neighboring United Arab Emirates are said to have been unable to quote a price for converting rials to dollars on Wednesday, because the rial was going over a waterfall in a barrel, falling by the second.

    The money changers and merchants in Tehran and Mashhad were angered in part by an inability to price their goods (especially imported goods). Many of them had counted on keeping some of their assets in dollars, but suddenly dollars have disappeared from the Iranian currency markets, probably because they are being massively hoarded. There are rumors in the bazaar, say some close observers, that ‘mafias’ and cliques are doing the hoarding.

    But reading these events as a ‘victory’ for sanctions goes too far. First, the demonstration in the bazaar may have had a narrow social base.

    Here is a video of the closed-up bazaar in Tehran on Wednesday:

    There is video showing a larger crowd, apparently middle class, some of whom demanded that the regime stop throwing money away in Syria and spend it in Iran instead. This theme is reminiscent of the chanting of the Greens in September of 2009 that Iranians should stop obsessing about Palestine and put the emphasis on Iran’s welfare instead. The remnants of the Green Movement press hailed the demonstrations and reported on them in detail.

    Second, the demonstration may have been aimed at unseating President Ahmadinejad, whom the Iranian right and business classes have long loathed because of what they see as his populist and irresponsible mismanagement of the economy. (His subsidies for the working classes and the poor, and easy money policies grated on them). Ahmadinejad has been in bad odor with conservatives since his tiff last spring with the Supreme Leader over key government appointments, including in intelligence. The Supreme Leader won, as might be suggested by his title, and Ahmadinejad is a lame duck.

    Although Ahmadinejad is hated in the West, Wikileaks revealed that he has often been the official most inclined to compromise with and negotiate with the West, being blocked by the Revolutionary Guards Corps and other hard liners to his right. For the Iranian far right to unseat Ahmadinejad is anything but a victory for the West.

    Ahmadinejad himself blamed the currency collapse on ‘psychological warfare’ waged by enemies ‘abroad and within.’

    Finally, for sanctions to ‘work,’ they would have to have the effect of deterring the Iranian state from pursuing its nuclear enrichment program. There is no such evidence, and the likelihood is that regime officials will be cushioned from the sanctions because they control the state-owned oil company and can siphon off money to protect themselves.

    Severe sanctions almost never work in producing regime change or even in altering major policies of regimes. In Iraq, the severe sanctions of the 1990s actually destroyed the middle classes and eviscerated civil and political society, leaving Iraqis more at the mercy of the authoritarian Baath Party of Saddam Hussein than ever before. The high Baath officials squirreled away $30 billion during the oil for food program, cushioning themselves. But the sanctions that denied Iraqis chlorine imports disabled the water purification plants, giving the whole country constant diarrhea, a condition that easily kills infants and toddlers. Some 500,000 Iraqi children are estimated to have been killed this way.

    Usama Bin Laden cited this death toll of Iraqi children as one of the reasons for his 9/11 attacks on the U.S. If the sanctions end up killing Iranian children, the U.S. could be borrowing a lot more trouble for the future.

    Moreover, the difficulty of maintaining the sanctions on Iraq was given as a reason by then deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz as a reason for going to war with Iraq. Severe sanctions often do not deflect wars but rather lead to them.

    The collapse of the rial, then, may be a signal that the Iranian public is in for great suffering and that the savings of the middle class are about to be wiped out. But that would mean they would lack the money to pay for an insurrection. Moreover, while they are blaming Ahmadinejad now, they know that the U.S., the EU and Israel are behind their deepening misery, and they are likely to come to hate their torturers.

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