Khamenei vs. Weber

A reader sent me the link to this RFE/RL story on the possibility of an Iranian “cultural revolution” designed to purge the universities of the Western social sciences: Khamenei, in a meeting with professors and Basijstudents on August 30, said that “many of the human sciences are basedon philosophies whose foundations are materialism and disbelief ingodly and Islamic teachings.” Now, the thing is, I don’t think Khamenei’s necessarily wrong on the merits. Maybe “disbelief” is too strong a word, since it’s possible to study human social relations scientifically while still embracing religion-based moral and ethical outcomes as a goal of […]

The Fog of Diplomacy

The news that the State Department has decided to terminate aid to Honduras — aid that had only been suspended previously — essentially translates into formally defining the removal of former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya as a coup. As Elizabeth Dickinson notes at the FP Passport blog, there are interests on both sides of this debate, and I find the argument of not being odd man out in Latin America right now compelling. One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is that in tacitly deprioritizing the problematic question of amending constitutions to extend term limits, the Obama administration weakens any efforts […]

R. Nicholas Burns, the former under secretary of state for political affairs, says it is unlikely that Iran will make a serious effort to work with the United States in curbing its nuclear program, but that President Barack Obama’s push for diplomatic talks is a necessary step in building international support for harsher sanctions and, in a worst-case scenario, military force. Now a professor of diplomacy and international politics at the Harvard Kennedy School, Burns told World Politics Review, “My guess is the Iranian government will try to resist serious negotiations.” He suggested that Iran will put forward a proposal […]

The recent Iranian election fiasco has been a blessing in disguise for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His reelection was confirmed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the vote count was ratified by the Council of Guardians, and the presidential oath of office was taken in front of a majority of parliamentarians. Consequently, while those officials may object to his actions, their ability to counter them is limited. If Ahmadinejad fails, so, too, will they for having sanctioned his authority. But in order to hold any public position in the future — and he can be elected to a third, nonconsecutive, presidential term […]

Last week saw the fourth round of Iran’s Stalinesque show trials, with the broadcast of yet another prominent reformist’s coerced “confession.” As with previous reformists paraded into court proceedings that are widely viewed as illegitimate, Saeed Hajjarian, one of the students involved in the 1979 U.S. Embassy takeover, was charged with stirring up unrest at the bidding of Western powers. The charge of “Western interference” has long been the centerpiece of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s propaganda machine, even before the disputed June presidential elections. In addition to the more than 100 reformists who have been put on trial for crimes […]

World Citizen: Mideast Countries Shoot Down Washington’s Iran ‘Trial Balloon’

Concerns in the Middle East about what exactly the United States has in mind for Iran have grown in recent months, partly because of statements from top administration officials about a possible new approach for dealing with Iran’s nuclear aspirations. If the administration intended word of the plan to act as a trial balloon in the Middle East, it is clear that regional players have popped the balloon and sent it hissing to the ground. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heightened the worries during a recent visit to Thailand, when she again spoke of a concept she had raised […]

Less than a month after making progress on the Nabucco pipeline deal, which has now secured half of the gas needed to fill it, Turkey signed another natural gas agreement in early August that will allow access into Turkish territorial waters to the South Stream pipeline. South Stream, a Russian-Italian venture, is designed to bring Russian gas to Bulgaria while bypassing troublesome transit countries on the route between the Russian Federation and the European Union. A few days later, Turkey also held discussions with the emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, on pipeline and liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects, […]

Has Iran ‘Frozen’ Enrichment?

As Richard Weitz mentioned in his WPR column on the IAEA’s Iran report yesterday, although Iran has increased the number of centrifuges in its enrichment facility, the number of centrifuges actually enriching uranium has decreased. So far, the speculative explanations have ranged from scheduled maintenance to technical difficulties to a political decision. This Le Monde article on Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili’s announcement that Iran has prepared a new proposal on its nuclear program and is willing to retsart negotiations with the P5+1, is the first time I’ve seen it suggested that the ambiguous slowdown could in principle be characterized […]

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently completed its most comprehensive assessment in months of Iran’s nuclear program and Tehran’s degree of cooperation with the agency and U.N. Security Council resolutions. Although the Aug. 28 report (.pdf) notes some new developments, its basic message is that Iran has not appreciably changed its main nuclear policies despite years of negotiations, U.N. sanctions, and its recent presidential elections. As a result, as in the past, both advocates and opponents of harsher sanctions on Tehran can cite some of the agency’s findings to support their positions. The report, which was promptly leaked to […]

On June 20, 2009, as she watched demonstrators at an Iranian reformist protest gather on Tehran’s Kargar Avenue, Neda Agha-Soltan, 27, was suddenly shot in the chest and killed, ostensibly by a nearby Basij militiaman. Had this tragic incident taken place just a few years earlier, it might have been lost to history. As it happened, however, two separate amateur videos of Neda’s shooting and subsequent death were quickly posted online, where they spread virally around the Internet. If bearded ayatollahs were the iconic image of Iran’s 1979 revolution, the tragic killing of this young Iranian woman has become the […]

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