Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 27, 2012

Recent Events In Afghanistan

An outline of the recent events in Afghanistan:

  • Some U.S. officer, an idiot and/or evangelical nut, ordered a truckload of Qur'ans and other religious writings to be burned
  • Some locals saw that and intervened, risking their health and their jobs to save their holy scriptures
  • The event went public and was the catalyst for wide raging protests against the occupation forces over several days all over Afghanistan
  • The outrage also triggered two green on blue events in which U.S. troops were killed by Afghan security personal
  • One of these events was by a Tajik, not a Pashtun Taliban, against two U.S. officers within a high security environment
  • This led to the shut down of all mentoring wherein western forces embed with Afghan forces to teach them how we do stuff in our, not their, culture
  • The original plan to leave from the lost war in Afghanistan was to train a fig leaf of Afghan security and administrative structure before declaring victory and leaving through the backdoor
  • The military also planned to keep forces in Afghanistan for continued U.S. control of the wider strategic area
  • Without the mentoring those plans are mute - without it there is only one option - leave immediately in an orderly, planned way
  • The U.S. election process does not allow for such an immediate retreat
  • For lack of political feasible alternative the mentoring fig leaf plan will be reinstated
  • Another trigger event like the Qur'an burning is inevitable
  • A now still possible orderly retreat may then turn into a route where every leaving truck will come under fire by this or that incensed Afghan

As Kipling versed in The Young Britush Soldier

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.

Posted by b on February 27, 2012 at 19:30 UTC | Permalink


While Afghans call for an investigation and hanging of those responsible for the burning, Santorum and Romney disagree with Obama apologizing.
Hopefully, the NATO-forces will be out before some video surface, of US troops setting a mosque on fire or something. Anyway, they can't top burning the holy book.
It's obvious they can't do any work in Afghanistan after this, the best they can hope for is locking themselves in their fortressed bases until departure time.

Posted by: Alexander | Feb 27 2012 20:09 utc | 1

actually the narrative is "US officers taking Korans from prisoners and burning them ..."

Posted by: somebody | Feb 27 2012 20:22 utc | 2

"The U.S. election process does not allow for such an immediate retreat...[an] orderly retreat may then turn into a route where every leaving truck will come under fire by this or that incensed Afghan." The Great Appeaser has certainly painted himself into a corner in Afghanistan. Appeasing the most hawkish elements replaced strategic thinking.

And in Iran, where appeasing Netanyahu became the highest priority. High oil prices helped drive Carter from office, and they will probably drive Obama out, too.

Netanyahu's goal is for Obama to attack Iran, which would drive oil prices skyward. Obama knows that would be the kiss of death.

Instead, Obama's strategy has been to appease the Lobby, buy time, and tighten sanctions over and over. That strategy has now backfired: all Iran had to do was intimate that it might push back, which roiled oil markets.

Obama's predicament is that he has 3-4 month window to get oil prices down significantly or kiss his re-election good-bye. Israel will not help. Neither will Iran. Obama has to do something else.

Obama's only alternative is to do a Nixon goes to China, announce a deal with Iran, and hope to sell it to the American people as a strategic breakthrough of such important that it overwhelms the inevitable firestorm of criticism from the hawks.

Only problem is that Obama has never shown himself capable of making the big decision. Nor has he shown the least interest in learning how to sell policies to the American people.

More likely, Obama will drive himself nuts trying to appease Netanyahu, a blackmailer who won't be impressed until his target has been destroyed.

The most likely scenario is for oil prices to remain high for at least the next six months and then start to drop as the economy tanks and Obama prepares to leave office. The Great Appeaser appeased the special interests twice too often.

Posted by: JohnH | Feb 27 2012 20:25 utc | 3

I still believe Obama is the global elites man in this next election, no matter what, but time will tell. I also believe this current Republican Presidential field is meant to herd the sheep towards Obama. We'll see.

Posted by: ben | Feb 27 2012 20:36 utc | 4

More likely, Obama will drive himself nuts trying to appease Netanyahu, a blackmailer who won't be impressed until his target has been destroyed.

Watch Louis Farrakhan video where he talks about some things rarely addressed in a public forum. Covering topics such as Obama and his failures, Obama's critics, jewish influence, the mossad, 9/11 and even fast foods.

Posted by: hans | Feb 27 2012 20:51 utc | 5

I agree with ben re: the elections. If TPTB wanted us to vote, they would have given us candidates. We'll see if more than half of the eligible 'mericans show up to vote on Dieblod erection day.

Posted by: no6ody | Feb 27 2012 21:26 utc | 6

i think the issue is much deeper than burning a few korans. this is an army that dumps their own soldiers' remains into landfills. 50 years ago, they would've built a monument. not now, nothing is sacred anymore. what is the end result of an army that has no loyalty for its own brethren? i fear we are headed for a tragic fall.

Posted by: Proton Soup | Feb 27 2012 22:11 utc | 7

Yeah, it does look like the US might withdraw in a panic. In order to be out before they attack Iran. I couldn't imagine a worse disaster. It would ruin the US reputation for a generation.

If they don't attack Iran, it wouldn't be a problem.

Posted by: alexno | Feb 27 2012 23:13 utc | 8

I also agree with ben @4; plus, there's the OBL execution which will resurface with appropriate spots at the right time

Posted by: claudio | Feb 27 2012 23:41 utc | 9

The Republicans have washed their hands this time around. They can't beat Obama and they know it, so they put up these lunkheads. Higher priced oil isn't going to change this. Mebbe fewer will vote, but BO is a shoe-in.

Posted by: ruralito | Feb 28 2012 0:18 utc | 10

Added into this is the fact that now Winter is over the annual fighting season begins (usually starts when the snow melts between mid-March and early-April and runs until end of Aug - start of September). From observing my daily news feed it seems to have been an exceptionally quiet Winter for Taliban attacks. There was alot of political developments like the Pakistani Taliban truce and the peace talks in Dubai.

Things I would look out for:

- The TTP declared a truce with the Pakistani military and frontier core in order to focus on Afghanistan. It's been shaky with some continuing Frontier Core deaths but will they maintain it and focus all their efforts on expelling the US (Taliban Surge). Or will the Pastun belt go back to fighting Pakistans government on one side and the US on the other, dividing their forces.

- The last fighting season ended with a month or so of several high profile assaults on targets in Kabul. Will the new season be focused on battling in Kabul or will the American "clear, hold, build" plan keep the provinces of Kandahar and Helmand as the main focus point.

- Aug 6th last year, also towards the end of fighting season had the 22 Navy Seal deaths from a helicopter attack and statements by the Taliban that they had new advanced rockets. Have they stocked up over the Winter? Will we see this continuing?

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Feb 28 2012 0:27 utc | 11

hans @ 5: Thanks for the LF video, interesting.

Posted by: ben | Feb 28 2012 1:14 utc | 12

According to a report in the German site Expatica :

Describing the sequence of events that led to the interior ministry shootings, the source said the US advisors were "scolding the protesters and calling them bad names", as they watched videos of protests in Kabul.

"They called the Koran a bad book in the presence of (an Afghan colleague). After all this the guy had verbal arguments with the advisors and was threatened by them. He gets angry and shoots them. Eight rounds were fired at them," the source added, requesting anonymity.

"He then sneaks out and disappears. No one knew about the incident for more than an hour because the room is soundproofed," he said, adding that CCTV cameras had been viewed in the investigation of the shooting.

For a rare sensible view of the US predicament in Afghanistan, see this report.

Posted by: FB Ali | Feb 28 2012 1:50 utc | 13

Since the Koran burning, the "bullshit you can believe in" Yankees have reached such a dire state of panic that some of them are resorting to sanity and logic to navigate their way through the SNAFU their brainless (neocon) policies have wrought.

"somebody" @ #13 in the Joby Warrick thread posted a link to a Mail Online story about the 'desecration' rampage at a British WWII cemetery in Libya as blowback from the AfPak Koran burning. At the end of the story is this little gem...

"The protests come as the FBI announced it has removed hundreds of pages of training documents that painted inaccurate or stereotypical views of Islam.

The counter-terrorism training materials referred to the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, as a cult leader and included graphs that implied devout Muslims got more violent throughout history, while Jews and Christians became less violent."

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Feb 28 2012 1:53 utc | 14

Why has nobody even mentioned the latest Wikileaks release...?

The Global Intelligence Files...

Posted by: CTuttle | Feb 28 2012 2:06 utc | 15

@ 15: Good old WL, confirming some of our paranoia about those in power.

Posted by: ben | Feb 28 2012 3:22 utc | 16

ben, Our well-founded paranoia...! Consider whom Stratfor caters to, and even the 'sources' for their reports...! 8-(

Posted by: CTuttle | Feb 28 2012 5:27 utc | 17

alexno @#8 stated: "If they don't attack Iran, it wouldn't be a problem."

It might not be entirely up to the US if recent chatter is to be believed.

Posted by: Monolycus | Feb 28 2012 6:07 utc | 18

@CTuttle - Stratfor was always a fraud, selling public available information and "analysis" by college freshmen as high priced "intelligence". They seem to have found some idiots who even paid for that. I unsubscribed from their cost free newsletter years ago.

I don't really see why Wikileaks thinks it needs to make such a wave about that.

Posted by: b | Feb 28 2012 9:34 utc | 19

I can imagine Wikileaks is in a dire financial situation since Paypal/Visa/Mastercard have blocked their account, so they have too "sell" the stuff they can put their hands on as if it was each time revolutionary groundbreaking exclusive top secret blabla news , similar way Nasa has to find water/plants/martians/whatever on Mars every year to get new funds approvals from congress :)

Posted by: rototo | Feb 28 2012 10:03 utc | 20

Scene from a ISAF meeting with villagers in Afghanistan:

US soldier: "How can I help you? I'll do my best to protect your village."

Afghan civilian: "When can you leave?"

US soldier: "No, we will stay here and protect you for as long as it takes, your problems are our problems. So what can we do to improve your situation?"

Afghan civilian: "When you are here, the Taliban attack. When can we bring back our children to the village?"

US soldier: "We will make every effort to keep you safe from the Taliban. Is there anything we can do for you?"

Afghan civilian: "When are you going to leave then?"

US soldier: "We will be here for a long time. What is your fate is our fate. Is there anything we can help you with?" (Frustratedly thinking "Why won't he cooperate?? I'm offering my assistance and civility here!")

Afghan civilian: "I see." (Thinking to himself "these persistent occupant bastards won't leave. Better brace for more US-Taliban battles")

Posted by: Alexander | Feb 28 2012 11:53 utc | 21

How's this for some related juxtaposition with this story. I'd love to hear the choir at MOA justify the judge's decision. Can anyone say ironic?

Pennsylvania Judge Dismisses Case Against Muslim Accused Of Attacking Atheist Dressed As 'Zombie Muhammad'

“Having had the benefit of having spent over 2 and a half years in predominantly Muslim countries I think I know a little bit about the faith of Islam,” Martin said. “In fact I have a copy of the Koran here and I challenge you sir to show me where it says in the Koran that Mohammad arose and walked among the dead. I think you misinterpreted things. Before you start mocking someone else’s religion you may want to find out a little bit more about it. It makes you look like a doofus… In many Arabic speaking countries something like this is definitely against the law there. In their society in fact it can be punishable by death and it frequently is in their society.”

This one takes the cake. I have often claimed that we have reached the Singularity by virtue of the fact that Satire and Reality have merged. There's no longer any need for satire as a derivative of reality. All you need to do is report the events as they unfold. That's sad for the former satirists....and sad for all of us. It's a Mad, Mad World.

Couple this with b's endorsement of Ron Paul and you see my point.

Posted by: Morocco Bama | Feb 28 2012 12:16 utc | 22

@ MB
I'd throw out that case too if I was the judge. A muslim ripping his "I am the zombie prophet Muhammed" sign off is nothing more than he should expect, in any country. Nothing to get upset about.

Posted by: Alexander | Feb 28 2012 13:01 utc | 23

don't feed the troll

Posted by: lizard | Feb 28 2012 13:37 utc | 24

A shoe in;is that where everybody throws shoes at Obomba?Ala the Shrub?He is deserving,and that Dr.Farrakhan video,he can't see that preemptive war is Hitlerish?Maybe that's why some link Hitler and Obomba?And I doubt that the Zionists disapprove of that,as it's part of the Zionist war of terror.Their take and disapproval is based on him not doing more of it,especially the Iran part.

Posted by: dahoit | Feb 28 2012 14:25 utc | 25

Nothing to get upset about.

Who's upset? I'm laughing my ass off. I think this is a very positive outcome for people of all faiths. It shows that there is one thing all of them have in common and they can unite around it, rather than murder each other over the small differences. Bound together in a swaddling of Authoritarian Solidarity. What's not to like when brothers and sisters of all faiths unite to smote the evil non-believing infidels?

Posted by: Morocco Bama | Feb 28 2012 14:37 utc | 26

b, this is off topic, but worthy of a post. In our arguments/discussions over oil speculation I've cited Ed Wallace. He has two items that are noteworthy. The first is an article he wrote for the Star Telegram in Ft Worth TX.

The second is commodities speculation PDF he just released. This is vast and should have all the data to support his argument.

Ed has a radio show where he directs callers toward dealers he knows and who advertise with him. Through the course of his 5 hour show he covers history, energy, international trade and the politics therein, manufacturing specifically cars, and economics generally. I think he's earnest, he's accessible, doesn't vote and claims to be objective. Is, from years of listening, an equal opportunity critic. His fine aggregator website is and focuses on the topics listed as well as Texas, specifically North Texas news.

Posted by: scottindallas | Feb 28 2012 15:18 utc | 27


Shows how petty and whiny some Americans are. Maybe the brat should have gone into Harlem or Baltimore dressed as a slaveowner with a sign telling blacks to "get back onto the plantation" I suspect he would have received worse than a little push and the sign ripped off him. The funniest part is when the Muslim guy takes his sign and calmly walks away the brat yells "we have freedom of speech in this country". Shows how bitter he is that he followed the Muslim guy 3 blocks to press assault charges against him for pushing him and taking his sign.

Everyone has freedom of speech and you can use it to offend if you want. You just got to live with the consequences of offending people. You can use freedom of speech to call someone a racist term but don't whine about your freedom of speech getting violated if they turn around and punch you in the nose.

Was cases in Ireland where people were kneecapped by the IRA for wearing the Orange Order sash or hanging a Union Jack flag out their window. Shooting out both your knee-joints with a .22 now THAT is assault. Taking away this bigoted fuckers sign because he is acting like a doofus is the height of restraint.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Feb 28 2012 15:34 utc | 28

@28, I agree. I can't wait until people start ripping off Muslim women's know the ones, driving around in their Mercedes and yet still donning a veil. It's time to take that hypocritical thing off, and if they don't, others will, and based on this precedence should, rip it off for them. It's insulting to all women who fought for the right to walk in public nine tenths naked if they feel like it.

Posted by: Morocco Bama | Feb 28 2012 15:50 utc | 29

That certainly a jump MB, from railing against "Authoritarian Solidarity" to calling for a Fashion Police to tell people how to dress all in the space of an hour.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Feb 28 2012 16:55 utc | 30

I remember when briefly it was illegal to wear a hooded sweater and own a skateboard in Norway. Making such ridicules laws in order to harass a new or alien subculture is just plain wrong.

Posted by: Alexander | Feb 28 2012 16:56 utc | 31

slothrop has the majority of you all pegged. You are not truly Progressive in any sense of the word/concept. You are militant leftist, which on a circular spectrum is highly authoritarian and very close to, just a short jump away from, your equally authoritarian militant rightist counterparts.

Posted by: Morocco Bama | Feb 28 2012 17:03 utc | 32

MB.....may I take this opportunity, once again, to tell you to go fuck yourself?

Thank you very much.

Posted by: PissedOffAmerican | Feb 28 2012 17:35 utc | 33

Aye slothrop is a wise sage :P

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Feb 28 2012 17:37 utc | 34

@b, I love ring-a-ding-ding, tintinnabulating Kipling much as the next man, but what does it have to do with the subject of your piece. Oh, and it's moot, not mute.

Posted by: yes_but | Feb 28 2012 18:29 utc | 35

"Couple this with b's endorsement of Ron Paul and you see my point"

Actually, you insipid little piece of shit, what b "endorsed" was the dialogue that Paul's candidacy has opened up. So your "b's endorsement of Ron Paul" assertion is just plain bullshit.

Isn't it about time you offered another irritating "I'm outta here" dingleberry??? Just don't have enough self-control to hold yourself to such a promise, do you, MB??? Just can't exercise the self discipline it takes to resist littering this site with your spore? Poor guy. You post in your bathrobe, don't you?

Posted by: PissedOffAmerican | Feb 28 2012 18:45 utc | 36

@b #19

They [Stratfor] seem to have found some idiots who even paid for that

ok, my outing: I am one of those you call "idiots"; I subscribed to their site after the contested Iranian elections in 2009, because I really appreciated George Friedman's assessment of those events, then opted out after a year, because of a too high noise-to-signal ratio

most of Stratfor's news/feeds/analysis are quite useless (probably something more useful is reserved for special clients with particular exigencies), but Friedman is another matter; I liked his analysis of Pakistan, Turkey, Russia, and the so-called "Arab spring"

one outstanding aspect of his analysis, quite rare within the Us establishment, is that he always tries to present the "other's" point of view, well outside of the dominating narratives

I think most of his commentaries weren't in the free newsletter

Posted by: claudio | Feb 28 2012 20:52 utc | 37

Claudio, it sure seems Stratfor fails to understand the "other's" point of view. They've been so wrong for so long. If you wanted good intel on Iran, you simply needed to be here. b, repeated the BBC poll results that showed Ahmedinijhad winning two weeks before the election and on the eve of the election. Stratfor seems more interested either in justifying administration views, or is reliant on the administration for their intel. (I don't mean any particular administration, but rather the enduring bureaucracy. In fact, all that information is widely disseminated. I simply find that b often has cleared the arguments with Occam's Razor. Lobelog is another fine source, as Glenn Greenwald, and Eric Margolis bring what they have to the table. Stratfor, and those I know that lean on that firm are way off base, and hopelessly entrenched in their own perspective on matters. Again, read Glenn Greenwald for a better understanding of what the other thinks.

Posted by: scottindallas | Feb 28 2012 21:38 utc | 38

scottindallas, I don't know what articles you are referring to.

Of course it's a long time my first source is MoA! But Friedman also wasn't on the "stolen election" bandwagon; rather, he gave detailed and interesting descriptions of the dialectics within the Iranian elite ans society, and their viewpoints; I'll give you links or excerpts ASAP

Posted by: claudio | Feb 28 2012 22:09 utc | 39

scottindallas and whoever may be interested, I found an article by Friedman on Iran, June 2009, which I still find insightful, but it's too long to post here, I think; or may I?

Posted by: claudio | Feb 29 2012 0:12 utc | 40

Here are a couple of lines that Kipling wrote about India in 1892:

And the end of the fight is tombstone white with the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph drear: 'A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the East.'

Posted by: Watson | Feb 29 2012 5:31 utc | 41

claudio: that will probably be fine on this thread. Scauld me if not.

Posted by: Alexander | Feb 29 2012 7:10 utc | 42

@b 19 Why the sneer at wikileaks?

Learning something new always gives pleasure. Perhaps that's what the bible means when it conflates knowing with fornication. The importance of wikileaks(to me, at any rate) is the frisson of understanding that settled over me as I grasped more completely the symbiotic relationship between terror, war, famine etc and the proverbial bottom line. The Stratfor revelations represent the apotheosis(chew on that one sloppy) of venture capitalism: investing in disaster, a burgeoning marketplace as all can see. Oh, there's a famine in Sudan? That's horrible. Lets see if we can win the contract to supply water bottles. The poor dears are going to need water. Think of the children!

Posted by: ruralito | Feb 29 2012 18:02 utc | 43

Alexander @ 42 -- "Scauld me if not."

No, I absolutely refuse to pour boiling water over you, or to let anyone else here do so. Scold, okay.

English homonyms expand marvelously if proununciations from other languages are used for certain letter combinations.

Posted by: jawbone | Feb 29 2012 18:45 utc | 44

b, you can always delete this post if you decide it's too long - but please take into account your post #19 and my answer #37

so that anyone can judge for himself if Stratfor fed useless info to its readers, or if at least some analysis were worthwhile reading, here's an article by George Friedman, Jun2 29, 2009, on the Iranian elections

and just remember how at the time the MSM worldwide was intent in demonizing the "dictator" Ahmadinejad, just as these days it's doing with Assad



By George Friedman

Speaking of the situation in Iran, U.S. President Barack Obama said June 26, "We don't yet
know how any potential dialogue will have been affected until we see what has happened
inside of Iran." On the surface that is a strange statement, since we know that with minor
exceptions, the demonstrations in Tehran lost steam after Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei called for them to end and security forces asserted themselves. By the
conventional wisdom, events in Iran represent an oppressive regime crushing a popular
rising. If so, it is odd that the U.S. president would raise the question of what has
happened in Iran.

In reality, Obama's point is well taken. This is because the real struggle in Iran has not
yet been settled, nor was it ever about the liberalization of the regime. Rather, it has
been about the role of the clergy -- particularly the old-guard clergy -- in Iranian life,
and the future of particular personalities among this clergy.

Ahmadinejad Against the Clerical Elite

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ran his re-election campaign against the old
clerical elite, charging them with corruption, luxurious living and running the state for
their own benefit rather than that of the people. He particularly targeted Ali Akbar
Hashemi Rafsanjani, an extremely senior leader, and his family. Indeed, during the
demonstrations, Rafsanjani's daughter and four other relatives were arrested, held and
then released a day later.

Rafsanjani represents the class of clergy that came to power in 1979. He served as
president from 1989-1997, but Ahmadinejad defeated him in 2005. Rafsanjani carries
enormous clout within the system as head of the regime's two most powerful institutions --
the Expediency Council, which arbitrates between the Guardian Council and parliament, and
the Assembly of Experts, whose powers include oversight of the supreme leader. Forbes has
called him one of the wealthiest men in the world. Rafsanjani, in other words, remains at
the heart of the post-1979 Iranian establishment.

Ahmadinejad expressly ran his recent presidential campaign against Rafsanjani, using the
latter's family's vast wealth to discredit Rafsanjani along with many of the senior
clerics who dominate the Iranian political scene. It was not the regime as such that he
opposed, but the individuals who currently dominate it. Ahmadinejad wants to retain the
regime, but he wants to repopulate the leadership councils with clerics who share his
populist values and want to revive the ascetic foundations of the regime. The Iranian
president constantly contrasts his own modest lifestyle with the opulence of the current
religious leadership.

Recognizing the threat Ahmadinejad represented to him personally and to the clerical class
he belongs to, Rafsanjani fired back at Ahmadinejad, accusing him of having wrecked the
economy. At his side were other powerful members of the regime, including Majlis Speaker
Ali Larijani, who has made no secret of his antipathy toward Ahmadinejad and whose family
links to the Shiite holy city of Qom give him substantial leverage. The underlying issue
was about the kind of people who ought to be leading the clerical establishment. The
battlefield was economic: Ahmadinejad's charges of financial corruption versus charges of
economic mismanagement leveled by Rafsanjani and others.

When Ahmadinejad defeated Mir Hossein Mousavi on the night of the election, the clerical
elite saw themselves in serious danger. The margin of victory Ahmadinejad claimed might
have given him the political clout to challenge their position. Mousavi immediately
claimed fraud, and Rafsanjani backed him up. Whatever the motives of those in the streets,
the real action was a knife fight between Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani. By the end of the
week, Khamenei decided to end the situation. In essence, he tried to hold things together
by ordering the demonstrations to halt while throwing a bone to Rafsanjani and Mousavi by
extending a probe into the election irregularities and postponing a partial recount by
five days.

The Struggle Within the Regime

The key to understanding the situation in Iran is realizing that the past weeks have seen
not an uprising against the regime, but a struggle within the regime. Ahmadinejad is not
part of the establishment, but rather has been struggling against it, accusing it of
having betrayed the principles of the Islamic Revolution. The post-election unrest in Iran
therefore was not a matter of a repressive regime suppressing liberals (as in Prague in
1989), but a struggle between two Islamist factions that are each committed to the regime,
but opposed to each other.

The demonstrators certainly included Western-style liberalizing elements, but they also
included adherents of senior clerics who wanted to block Ahmadinejad's re-election. And
while Ahmadinejad undoubtedly committed electoral fraud to bulk up his numbers, his
ability to commit unlimited fraud was blocked, because very powerful people looking for a
chance to bring him down were arrayed against him.

The situation is even more complex because it is not simply a fight between Ahmadinejad
and the clerics, but also a fight among the clerical elite regarding perks and privileges
-- and Ahmadinejad is himself being used within this infighting. The Iranian president's
populism suits the interests of clerics who oppose Rafsanjani; Ahmadinejad is their
battering ram. But as Ahmadinejad increases his power, he could turn on his patrons very
quickly. In short, the political situation in Iran is extremely volatile, just not for the
reason that the media portrayed.

Rafsanjani is an extraordinarily powerful figure in the establishment who clearly sees
Ahmadinejad and his faction as a mortal threat. Ahmadinejad's ability to survive the
unified opposition of the clergy, election or not, is not at all certain. But the problem
is that there is no unified clergy. The supreme leader is clearly trying to find a new
political balance while making it clear that public unrest will not be tolerated. Removing
"public unrest" (i.e., demonstrations) from the tool kits of both sides may take away one
of Rafsanjani's more effective tools. But ultimately, it actually could benefit him.
Should the internal politics move against the Iranian president, it would be Ahmadinejad
-- who has a substantial public following -- who would not be able to have his supporters
take to the streets.

The View From the West

The question for the rest of the world is simple: Does it matter who wins this fight? We
would argue that the policy differences between Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani are minimal and
probably would not affect Iran's foreign relations. This fight simply isn't about foreign

Rafsanjani has frequently been held up in the West as a pragmatist who opposes
Ahmadinejad's radicalism. Rafsanjani certainly opposes Ahmadinejad and is happy to portray
the Iranian president as harmful to Iran, but it is hard to imagine significant shifts in
foreign policy if Rafsanjani's faction came out on top. Khamenei has approved Iran's
foreign policy under Ahmadinejad, and Khamenei works to maintain broad consensus on
policies. Ahmadinejad's policies were vetted by Khamenei and the system that Rafsanjani is
part of. It is possible that Rafsanjani secretly harbors different views, but if he does,
anyone predicting what these might be is guessing.

Rafsanjani is a pragmatist in the sense that he systematically has accumulated power and
wealth. He seems concerned about the Iranian economy, which is reasonable because he owns
a lot of it. Ahmadinejad's entire charge against him is that Rafsanjani is only interested
in his own economic well-being. These political charges notwithstanding, Rafsanjani was
part of the 1979 revolution, as were Ahmadinejad and the rest of the political and
clerical elite. It would be a massive mistake to think that any leadership elements have
abandoned those principles.

When the West looks at Iran, two concerns are expressed. The first relates to the Iranian
nuclear program, and the second relates to Iran's support for terrorists, particularly
Hezbollah. Neither Iranian faction is liable to abandon either, because both make
geopolitical sense for Iran and give it regional leverage.

Tehran's primary concern is regime survival, and this has two elements. The first is
deterring an attack on Iran, while the second is extending Iran's reach so that such an
attack could be countered. There are U.S. troops on both sides of the Islamic Republic,
and the United States has expressed hostility to the regime. The Iranians are envisioning
a worst-case scenario, assuming the worst possible U.S. intentions, and this will remain
true no matter who runs the government.

We do not believe that Iran is close to obtaining a nuclear weapon, a point we have made
frequently. Iran understands that the actual acquisition of a nuclear weapon would lead to
immediate U.S. or Israeli attacks. Accordingly, Iran's ideal position is to be seen as
developing nuclear weapons, but not close to having them. This gives Tehran a platform for
bargaining without triggering Iran's destruction, a task at which it has proved

In addition, Iran has maintained capabilities in Iraq and Lebanon. Should the United
States or Israel attack, Iran would thus be able to counter by doing everything possible
destabilize Iraq -- bogging down U.S. forces there -- while simultaneously using
Hezbollah's global reach to carry out terror attacks. After all, Hezbollah is today's al
Qaeda on steroids. The radical Shiite group's ability, coupled with that of Iranian
intelligence, is substantial.

We see no likelihood that any Iranian government would abandon this two-pronged strategy
without substantial guarantees and concessions from the West. Those would have to include
guarantees of noninterference in Iranian affairs. Obama, of course, has been aware of this
bedrock condition, which is why he went out of his way before the election to assure
Khamenei in a letter that the United States had no intention of interfering.

Though Iran did not hesitate to lash out at CNN's coverage of the protests, the Iranians
know that the U.S. government doesn't control CNN's coverage. But Tehran takes a slightly
different view of the BBC. The Iranians saw the depiction of the demonstrations as a
democratic uprising against a repressive regime as a deliberate attempt by British
state-run media to inflame the situation. This allowed the Iranians to vigorously blame
some foreigner for the unrest without making the United States the primary villain.

But these minor atmospherics aside, we would make three points. First, there was no
democratic uprising of any significance in Iran. Second, there is a major political crisis
within the Iranian political elite, the outcome of which probably tilts toward Ahmadinejad
but remains uncertain. Third, there will be no change in the substance of Iran's foreign
policy, regardless of the outcome of this fight. The fantasy of a democratic revolution
overthrowing the Islamic Republic -- and thus solving everyone's foreign policy problems a
la the 1991 Soviet collapse -- has passed.

That means that Obama, as the primary player in Iranian foreign affairs, must now define
an Iran policy -- particularly given Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak's meeting in
Washington with U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell this Monday. Obama has said that
nothing that has happened in Iran makes dialogue impossible, but opening dialogue is
easier said than done. The Republicans consistently have opposed an opening to Iran; now
they are joined by Democrats, who oppose dialogue with nations they regard as human rights
violators. Obama still has room for maneuver, but it is not clear where he thinks he is
maneuvering. The Iranians have consistently rejected dialogue if it involves any
preconditions. But given the events of the past weeks, and the perceptions about them that
have now been locked into the public mind, Obama isn't going to be able to make many

It would appear to us that in this, as in many other things, Obama will be following the
Bush strategy -- namely, criticizing Iran without actually doing anything about it. And so
he goes to Moscow more aware than ever that Russia could cause the United States a great
deal of pain if it proceeded with weapons transfers to Iran, a country locked in a
political crisis and unlikely to emerge from it in a pleasant state of mind.

This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution to

Posted by: claudio | Feb 29 2012 19:34 utc | 45

a37 Claudio -- Oh yes, Friedman is very painstaking and meticulous. He lays it all out for the nervous investor, doesn't he? Will Raytheon rise or fall, he may wonder.

Posted by: ruralito | Feb 29 2012 20:17 utc | 46

ruralito, Friedman has a commercial activity of which I don't know nothing of, and I couldn't care less about; all I wanted to say is that he is one the best analysts around, not a war monger, and consistently countering the official narratives, on the "Ahmadinejad dictatorship", Russia, the "Arab spring", the "untrustworthy Pakistani", etc; and this because I was "provoked" by b's post #19

Posted by: claudio | Feb 29 2012 20:45 utc | 47

Claudio, why u no care? Friedman is a war monger by default. It's the only game in town, baby!

Posted by: ruralito | Feb 29 2012 21:19 utc | 48

@ jawbone
eheheh, that's nice of you ;-)

Posted by: Alexander | Feb 29 2012 21:23 utc | 49

ruralito, sorry, no, he's not; that precisely what hit me the first time I read him;

Posted by: claudio | Feb 29 2012 21:40 utc | 50

Claudio, I've read Friedman @ RealClearWorld and he makes excellent sense, I get that. No doubt subscribers to his service depend on this perspicacity when they take their money out of schools, hospitals and libraries and put it in semtex, prisons and private armies.

Posted by: ruralito | Feb 29 2012 23:27 utc | 51

the Us trapped in Afghanistan???

The US military's top transport commander says overland cargo routes through Pakistan must be reopened to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for the United States to complete its pullout from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.


US General William Fraser told the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 28 that the so-called Northern Distribution Network, which passes through Central Asia, was unable to handle the large number of shipments or all of the types of cargo that need to be moved out of Afghanistan to keep the withdrawal on schedule.

Posted by: claudio | Mar 3 2012 2:08 utc | 52

the Us trapped in Afghanistan ...

The US military's top transport commander says overland cargo routes through Pakistan must be reopened to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for the United States to complete its pullout from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.


US General William Fraser told the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 28 that the so-called Northern Distribution Network, which passes through Central Asia, was unable to handle the large number of shipments or all of the types of cargo that need to be moved out of Afghanistan to keep the withdrawal on schedule.

Posted by: claudio | Mar 3 2012 2:11 utc | 53

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