Monthly Archives: June 2007

Gasoline Riots in Tehran: Regime Change Imminent?



[It’s Gettin’ Hot in Here…]

Less than a week ago, The New York Times reported widespread crackdowns on Iranian youth. On Wednesday, the Iranian government was the one feeling the heat.

Iranians are upset over government mandated gas rationing and are taking their frustrations out on local gas stations, banks and public buildings. Associated Press reporter Nasser Karimi reports that between twelve and seventeen stations have been damaged as well as car windows and other buildings, including banks.

The Iranian government clearly knew public reaction would be bad, but not this bad. They even delayed implementing the plan a number of times in trepidation. Most of the papers are reporting the government did not expect this level of widespread outrage. But the crackdown on youths may have been in anticipation of these popular outbursts. After all, young people in the age range of those rounded up are the prime demographic to commit reckless and violent acts in these sorts of unstable situations. Who better to target in a preemptive strike?

When rationing was officially announced, people scrambled to their local gas stations to get a final fill-up resulting in long lines, frustrations, and eventually riots.

Iran, while one of biggest oil producers in the world, lacks enough refineries. Foreign investment is required to increase production capacity but sanctions make that extremely unlikely. Kenneth R. Timmerman, Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran acknowledges that:

The Bush administration has won agreement from bankers in Dubai to stop clearing Iranian government financial transactions [and] the British government agreed to a U.S. request to put pressure on the HSBC bank to stop clearing Iranian government financial transactions as well. Since HSBC handles approximately 50% of Tehran’s remaining international business, this is an additional heavy blow.

Estimates vary and are difficult to verify but most experts agree that Iran imports more than 50 percent of its gasoline. This is a potential source of pressure for those anxious to see regime change but wary of using force. 

For example, the Hoover Institution’s Peter Schweizer suggests that the Bush administration cut off Iranian access to gasoline. Blocking imports arriving by tanker “would have a devastating and immediate effect on Iran’s economy, which is already plagued by high unemployment.” This may be the direction the U.S. is heading. Timmerman claims:

A British government proposal, being discussed as a draft United Nations Security Council Resolution, would ban Iranian government-owned ships and aircraft from international travel. According to Lloyd’s List of London, the proposed UNSC resolution, as currently drafted by Britain, would prohibit Iranian ships not only from landing at foreign ports but from transiting international waters. That is an extremely far-reaching sanction that would cut off an estimated 40% of Iran’s daily oil exports, at least in the short run.The British measure “would effectively strip Iran of the right of innocent passage, enshrined in the United Nationals Law of the Sea Convention,” Lloyd’s List wrote on June 27. 

A second option is undermining the Iranian economy with counterfeit currency. Schweizer notes, “This is not a weapon that should be used lightly, but in this case it is simply a tit-for-tat: Iran and its ally, Hezbollah, have been fingered for counterfeiting $100 bills. Counterfeiting Iranian currency would also provide a stern warning to other countries fond of counterfeiting U.S. currency.”

Numerus Clausus Redux?


Higher education quotas—known as Numerus Clausus—date back to 19th century Russia, if not earlier. These quotas took a variety of forms and could be institutional or informal, state-wide or confined to particular areas. They were implemented across Eastern and Western Europe and the main purpose was restricting the influence of ethnic and religious Jews in the broader (Christian) society.

Some Americans are not aware that similar restrictions, while not officially legislated, existed in United States universities from the time of the Russian Revolution until the beginning of the Cold War (1917- early 1950s). This was particularly the case in Ivy League schools. American universities in western states have recently been investigated for following similar policies to restrict the number of Asian student admissions.

This week a story about an Indian girl denied access to an academically competitive NYC public school has received attention at a number of Desi blogs: 

[props to Turbanhead] 

All White Ain’t Right 

A Brooklyn mother and father got the shock of their lives when school officials informed them their brilliant 11-year-old girl denied admission to an elite public school – solely because she’s of Indian descent. 

“I feel bad because I would have gotten in if I was white,” Nikita Rau lamented over her failed bid to attend the Mark Twain School, IS 239, in Coney Island, a magnet school for gifted students.

It turns out Mark Twain – unlike all but one other city public school – admits students according to racial quotas established in 1974 by a federal judge who ordered the school’s desegregation.Under those quotas – which originally were intended to boost minority enrollment – 60 percent of Mark Twain’s student body is set aside for white students, while 40 percent is set aside for minorities.

“This country believes in racial equality, and we should not face this in America,” said Nikita’s dad, Dr. Anjan Rau, a Bay Ridge resident who emigrated from India in 1982.

“I think it’s morally wrong!

[continue reading]

I’m not trying to be alarmist. This is not a replay of the Numerus Clausus. But the end result is a child of Indian ancestry denied access to an academically rigorous public school because of her national origin.Write polite letters to Carol Moore, the principal of the school, and Chancellor Klein at the Department of Education and express your opinion:

Carol Moore, Principal
Mark Twain Intermediate School #239 for the Gifted & Talented
2401 Neptune Avenue — Brooklyn, NY 11224
Ph. 718-266-0814 — Fax. 718-266-0814

Defeating Terrorists: An Historical Overview


I recently had an opportunity to see Christopher C. Harmon, Kim T. Anderson Chair of Insurgency and Terrorism at the Marine Corps University, on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” program. Professor Harmon was discussing “The Myth of the Invincible Terrorist,” an encouragng article he wrote for the April/May issue of Policy Review. Harmon believes that we are not only making significant progess against terrorist organizations but “we are winning this global war against terrorists.” He backs up this assertion with historical and contemporary examples of defeated terrorist organizations. He also moves the discussion away from an exclusive emphasis on Islamist terrorism to discuss anarchist, Marxist and nationalist groups that advocate(d) terrorist acts.

I found much to agree with in Harmon’s article besides his tangential comment that “anarchists do not want to organize!” This was not the case historically nor is it the case today. That aside, it was excellent. Especially his emphasis on changing “hearts and minds,” encouraging defectors and reminding non-Muslims that radical Islamic ideology:

[L]eaves out most Muslims. Our world is home to more than a billion Muslims, but only 100,000 to 200,000 may really believe that the murder, maiming, and menacing of the innocent to inspire fear and create a new political force will actually strengthen Islam. Still fewer count on a new caliphate. The willpower and current enthusiasm of the minuscule minority seem important to us, and they are; but they can wane, as surely as Baader-Meinhof/Red Army faction pretensions to popularity gave way over time to the sober views and desires of tens of millions of Germans. Isolating the terrorists may take years, but it can and must be done.

Ron Paul and the Paulistas: Populism and the Paranoid Style in American Politics


Populist Broadsheets from 1880s-1890s

The Paulistas are out there and they’re angry. They’re mad about “corporatist” governance, the Federal Reserve and the war in Iraq. More than a few are truthers and they are quick to spring into action when Paul is mentioned in a a negative light. A few bloggers have experimented by posting entries with titles like “Ron Paul, Ron Paul, Ron Paul, Ron Paul” to see what would happen and, sure enough, the Paulistas come out of the woodwork. 

Paul’s policy proposals and certainly his style, are paranoid populist rather than libertarian. After all, what’s libertarian about restricting women’s reproductive rights and not allowing GLBT folks to serve openly? What’s libertarian about militarizing the border? Paul’s voting record on trade is not incredibly libertarian either.

In fact, when you strip away the libertarian polish, Paul emerges as an economic and political isolationist. Likewise, most of Paul’s supporters—the people who will actually vote for him—are right-wing populists 

Populism has held a few common theses for the past century or so. First, the emphasis of government action should be the “common man.” Second, government is out of touch with the common man (today, this sentiment often goes hand-in-hand with the notion that government is too large). Third, government is controlled by big business and either a specific special interest or cultural group (Jews, Catholics, etc.) or a coalition of special interests. Fourth, populists hold an idealized and nostalgic perception of the past. In essence, the Paulistas think government is run by a group of shadowy and unaccountable elites who place their pecuniary interests above what is best for the United States.

This is nothing new. Paul is simply the latest exponent of what Richard Hofstadter termed “The Paranoid Style in American Politics (1964)”. Writing over four decades ago, Hofstadter observed:

Perhaps the central situation conducive to the diffusion of the paranoid tendency is a confrontation of opposed interests which are (or are felt to be) totally irreconcilable, and thus by nature not susceptible to the normal political processes of bargain and compromise. The situation becomes worse when the representatives of a particular social interest—perhaps because of the very unrealistic and unrealizable nature of its demands—are shut out of the political process. Having no access to political bargaining or the making of decisions, they find their original conception that the world of power is sinister and malicious fully confirmed. They see only the consequences of power—and this through distorting lenses—and have no chance to observe its actual machinery.  

A distinguished historian has said that one of the most valuable things about history is that it teaches us how things do not happen. It is precisely this kind of awareness that the paranoid fails to develop. He has a special resistance of his own, of course, to developing such awareness, but circumstances often deprive him of exposure to events that might enlighten him—and in any case he resists enlightenment. 

In the United States, populism has a long track record of nativism, xenophobia, anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism. Today, this sort of explicit anti-Semitism is unacceptable in mainstream political discourse. But, as many readers of this blog recognize, anti-Semitism tends to be displayed in anti-Zionist or anti-Israel rhetoric. So, rather than saying “Jews have dual loyalties,” populists claim American supporters of Israel or so-called “Likudniks” put the interests of Israel ahead of the United States. 

During the New Hampshire Republican debates, Paul blamed U.S. foreign policy for the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. While this clearly distanced him from the hardcore truthers (who variously believe that Bush, Zionists, or both were repsonsible for the attacks) these comments definitely endeared Paul to anti-Zionists. But as historian Efraim Karsh has pointed out, the radical Islamists seek to drive the United States out of the region for their own imperial aspirations: 

To intellectuals, foreign-policy experts, and politicians alike, ’empire’ and ‘imperialism’ are categories that apply exclusively to European powers and, more recently, to the United States. In this view of things, Muslims, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere, are merely objects—the long-suffering victims of the aggressive encroachments of others …This perspective dominated the widespread explanation of the 9/11 attacks as only a response to America’s (allegedly) arrogant and self-serving foreign policy, particularly with respect to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

While Paul is certainly not as crazy as Lyndon La Rouche, his followers remind me of the La Rouchies in their zealousness and ability to make themselves seem more numerous than they actually are. The La Rouchies accomplish this by publishing a lot of magazines and newspapers. The Paulistas utilize the Internet. For example, while Paul was polling between zero and two percent, he was overwhelmingly winning web-based assessments of the recent Republican debates. 

Thankfully Paul’s minions are a very small, if vocal, minority in the Republican Party. Paul has no chance of winning the Republican primary let alone the general election. So maybe we should cut the Paulistas some slack. As Hofstadter wrote, “We are all sufferers from history, but the paranoid is a double sufferer, since he is afflicted not only by the real world, with the rest of us, but by his fantasies as well.” 


Commentary Volume 123 • Number 6 (June 2007)



This month’s Commentary contains some interesting and provocative material:

The Case for Bombing Iran

Norman Podhoretz
If the ayatollahs acquire nuclear weapons, it will be too late—and too costly—to act.

How China and Russia Threaten the World

Gordon G. Chang
While professing to oppose nuclear proliferation, the two powers are its prime perpetrators.

If Israel Ceased to Exist

Hillel Halkin
The Jewish state, the Jewish Diaspora, and the Jewish future—a meditation.

My Saudi Sojourn

Joshua Muravchik
Islam’s most traditional society can embrace an American neoconservative; but can it embrace modernity?

The article that has received the most attention is Norman Podhoretz’ “The Case for Bombing Iran.” Predictably, the far left end of the political spectrum is in a fit. Podhoretz also received some flack from the paleo-conservatives.

Here is Podhoretz presenting his case:


I agree that Iran is a threat and we should be ready and willing to use force. But force is the last option and not the best option at the moment. Ahmadinejad and his reactionary allies are losing ground especially among the youth. That’s why the government is cracking down so hard. Close to 50% of Iran’s population is under 15 so ensuring that the next generation maintains an ideological commitment to the Islamic revolution is a major concern of the regime. Iran has also experienced protests by workers, students, and journalists in the past few years. Iranian civil society organizations should be strengthened and supported through official and clandestine methods.


Given the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq there is also the issue of troop strength. We are stretched thin in the sense of not having troops where they are really needed. Some pundits maintain this is simply a matter of an irrational allocation of resources and that we’ve been paying for the defense of wealthy (and peaceful) countries for far too long.


Back in 2003 the DoD announced its intention to reduce troop levels in Europe and transfer those forces to contemporary theaters of operation. The next year President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated 70,000 soldiers would be transfered, two-thirds of them from Germany. So why do we still have 70,000 (over 100,000 including staff) there today?

Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich: How do you say “Israel must be wiped off the map”?


[H/t to Jewlicious]

Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich were the only members of congress to vote against a call to charge Ahmadinajad with violating the 1948 Genocide Convention.

The U.S. House of Representatives urged the U.N. Security Council to charge Iran’s president under genocide conventions.The non-binding resolution, initiated by Reps. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Steve Rothman (D-N.J.), passed Wednesday by 411-2. It cites an Oct. 27 speech in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad allegedly called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” in its call for the Security Council to charge him under its 1948 convention for the prevention of genocide.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) attempted to have read into the record alternate translations of Ahmadinejad’s remarks that suggest the Iranian leader was calling Israel to come to an end through democratic means, and not through violence.

The two Representatives who voted against the resolution were Ron Paul (R-TX) and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), both running for President who doubted the translation of Ahmadinejad’s comments. Kucinich cited faulty information leading up to the Iraq War as grounds for concern about the accuracy of Ahmadinejad’s comments. In other words, Kucinech and Paul thinks that this is all part of a new “war with Iran” propaganda.

Rep. Rothman asserted that Ahmadinejad had expressed the desire to “wipe Israel off the map” in an October 2005 speech and had made subsequent comments of a similar nature. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), expressing her support for the bill, stated: “Let us be clear, [Ahmadinejad] is calling for the genocide of Jews.” Under the 1948 Genocide Convention, “direct and public incitement to commit genocide” is illegal.

[read more at Jewlicious]

Here are a couple of choice comments posted by the Paul’s supporters:

“can’t the jews fight their own wars?”

“AIPAC has bought and paid most American politicians, and honest politicians like Ron Paul and Kucinich are gonna have to deal with smear tactics of AIPAC, who want America to deal with Iran for Israel.”

These comments by Ron Paul’s minions are emblematic of a disturbing but predictable political phenomena, the convergence of the far left and far right. Disturbing because both display elements of what historian Richard Hofstadter termed “the paranoid style in American politics” but predictable given the weakness and marginalization of the political extremes in the United States. Thankfully, neither Paul nor Kucinich has a chance of winning the election. But the candidates “no” votes–and the comments of their boosters–show that populist isolationism still has some support in the U.S.

The National Jewish Democratic Council recently named Paul one of the “the worst of the worst for the Jewish community in the 109th Congress.” This is not only due to his routine anti-Israel votes and rhetoric, saying nonsense like “Israel is not an ally of the United States.” He also contributes to anti-Semitic left rags like “Counterpunch” and is highly lauded by the fascists at the “National Vanguard.”

He does not seem to care for African-Americans either. Back in 1992 during the Los Angeles riots, his “Ron Paul Survival Report” newsletter had an article titled “Los Angeles Racial Terrorism.” In it, Paul described African-Americans as “barbarians” and called the rioters “thugs and revolutionaries who hate Euro-American civilization”.

Political Shifts: Left in Latin America, Right in Europe


Since the ascendancy of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and electoral victories by Lula in Brazil, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Ortega in Nicaragua , Bachelet in Chile, and Vazquez in Uruguay, there has been a lot of buzz regarding a general leftward lurch in Latin America. For those who see this as a positive development, the election victories of leftist candidates represents a general displeasure with the neo-liberal economic reforms that most Latin American governments have been following since the 1980s.


Some thoughtful pundits are pointing out that this leftward shift is not uniform in its leadership or ideology.


See this too.


However, concurrent with this move to the left in Latin America, Western Europe is generally moving towards the center-right. With the exception of Zapatero in Spain (who won largely on an anti-war vote, rather than economic policy), electoral victories by the center-right have swept the Continent. While France’s Nikolas Sarkozy is the most recent example, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Sweden have all shifted toward the center-right since 2000.


Now Stratfor, the private intelligence firm, has predicted that 2007 “will see the end of the Left as a leading force as a leading force on the Continent.”  


“Stratfor first forecast the decline of the European left in 2005, when Germany and Poland both elected center-right coalitions. The current agenda of the right in both countries favors participation in military alliances such as NATO and closer U.S. relations. The Polish government is an avid supporter of the missile defense shield proposed by the United States, and under Merkel, Germany is considering getting behind such a program — a policy her leftist predecessor, former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, finds inconceivable. This change is not limited to Germany; the left has faltered throughout Europe, even in places where the right has historically been the underdog. For example, in September 2006, Sweden’s Social Democrats — the country’s oldest political party — lost control of Stockholm. In March, Finland elected the Center Party to power, and the June 10 Belgian elections likely will see the ouster of Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt and his Liberal Democrat Party. The right has yet to grasp power in Europe, but it will not be long before the conservatives consolidate their hold on the Continent.”

President Carter Has Lost His Marbles


Just when you thought he couldn’t go any further off the deep end.

First the apartheid book.

Then his comments about Bush being the worst president in history of the U.S.

Given Carter’s foreign policy record, this is especially ironic.

Well, now Carter has this bit of wisdom:
Carter: Stop favoring Fatah over Hamas

The United States, Israel and the European Union must end their policy of favoring Fatah over Hamas, or they will doom the Palestinian people to deepening conflict between the rival movements, former US President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday.

Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was addressing a conference of Irish human rights officials, said the Bush administration’s refusal to accept the 2006 election victory of Hamas was “criminal.”

Carter said Hamas, besides winning a fair and democratic mandate that should have entitled it to lead the Palestinian government, had proven itself to be far more organized in its political and military showdowns with the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas fighters routed Fatah in their violent takeover of the Gaza Strip last week. The split prompted Abbas to dissolve the power-sharing government with his rivals in Hamas and set up a Fatah-led administration to govern the West Bank.

Carter said the American-Israeli-European consensus to reopen direct aid to the new government in the West Bank, but to deny the same to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, represented an “effort to divide Palestinians into two peoples.”

While seeking to boycott the Hamas leadership for of its refusal to renounce violence and recognize Israel, Europe and the US have continued to send humanitarian aid to Gaza through the United Nations and other organizations.

[continue reading]


Our refusal to recognize a political party founded on hatred of Jews and violence against Israel is “criminal”? What sort of lunacy is this? To the best of my knowledge, the governments’ of every democratic country on the planet consider Hamas a terrorist organization. It is not only the U.S. and Israel. The IDF withdrew Israeli settlers from Gaza only to have Hamas terrorists fire rockets into Israeli. Hamas is not only unable to control these elements—which was Fatah’s excuse—it supports attacks against civilians as a matter of policy.

Democratiya Number 9 (Summer 2007) is Out



From the Editor’s Page:

My anti-Americanism has become almost uncontrollable. It has possessed me, like a disease’, wailed the British novelist Margaret Drabble, in 2003. Jean Baudrillard, the late French postmodernist philosopher, writing in Le Monde, also settled on the image of possession to capture his response to 9/11. ‘How we have dreamt of this event … How all the world without exception dreamt of this event, for no one can avoid dreaming of the destruction of a power that has become hegemonic It is they (the terrorists) who acted, but we who wanted the deed.’


The political right, of course, can also be anti-American. As Timothy Garton Ash has observed, ‘To the [French] Gaullists, America is a culture so self-evidently moronic that only stump-toothed inbred Appalachian lardbutts could possibly fall for it.’ Sophistication is no barrier to the prejudice. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant thought Americans ‘had no passion, hardly speak at all, never caress one another, care about nothing, and are lazy.’


Andrei Markovits has written a landmark book about European anti-Americanism, Uncouth Nation: Why Europe Dislikes America, and we reproduce extracts with the kind permission of Princeton University Press. Thomas Cushman reviews Uncouth Nation, and explores the idea that anti-Americanism is nothing less than a totem, a symbolic emblem of the European tribe: ‘what Markovits wants us to know is that [US] actions do less to produce anti-Americanism than to mobilise a deep-seated and obdurate cultural discourse which is latent within European culture and which functions to forge the very cultural dispositions of Europeans themselves’.


Sanjukta Ghosh reviews Feminism In India, an anthology of feminist essays edited by Maitrayee Chaudhur which traces the history of feminism from colonial times to contemporary India and explores the variety of Indian feminisms and their theoretical trajectories. Ghosh warns that ‘a return to “tradition” paradoxically might also limit efforts at liberation because it re-inscribes an essentialist, absolute and fixed notion of culture and tradition’, while ‘goddess-inspired Hindu feminism … has not only marginalised and alienated women in minority communities, but has also opened by possibilities of further exploitation of these very communities by the Hindu Right and the demarcation of more restrictive and repressive cultural lines’.

And much, much, more!

Andrei Markovits

Why Europe Dislikes America

Thomas Cushman

Anti-Americanism as Totem

Sanjukta Ghosh

Feminisms in India

Peter Tatchell

Gay Pride in Moscow

David Zarnett

Edward Said and the Iranian Revolution

Irfan Khawaja

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Nick Cohen

Orwell in Tribune

Brian Brivati

Lemkin and Shaw on Genocide

Norman Geras

Deficits of International Law

Peter Ryley

Miall on Conflict Resolution

Oren Ipp

Elster on Transitional Justice

Marko Attila Hoare

Framing the Balkan Wars

Jules Townshend

Ronald Dworkin on Democracy

Dick Howard

Reading Arendt’s On Revolution

Michael Ezra

Arendt in New York

Claude Lefort

Archive: The concept of totalitarianism

Robert Fine

Three comments on Claude Lefort

Interview with Ladan Boroumand

The Fight Against the Israel Boycott



Scholars for Peace in the Middle East are encouraging academics to sign this petition:

To: Academics and Professionals Standing In Solidarity With Our Israeli Academic Colleagues Against All Boycott Proposals and Actions

Please Join Us By Signing and Circulating
The Following
Solidarity Statement With Our Israeli Academic and Professional Colleagues

We are academics, scholars, researchers and professionals of differing religious and political perspectives. We all agree that singling out Israelis for an academic boycott is wrong. To show our solidarity with our Israeli academics in this matter, we, the undersigned, hereby declare ourselves to be Israeli academics for purposes of any academic boycott. We will regard ourselves as Israeli academics and decline to participate in any activity from which Israeli academics are excluded.

[Update: 5/19/07]

More Information on the boycott from Engage:
A list of major academic institutions, other organisations and important group statements and letters opposing the UCU boycott.

It will be updated regularly – please use the comment box below to notify us of any statements we’ve missed (and not for general discussion…).

Academic institutions and university leaders that have declared themselves against the UCU boycott so far include the Russell Group, LSE, University of British Columbia, McGill University, NYU, UC Berkeley, Columbia, UC Irvine.

Educational unions, professional associations and other institutions that have rejected the boycott include the National Union of Students, American Association of University Professors, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Federation of Teachers, British Academy.

For the latest updates on the boycott, visit Engage.