American Power, Iran, and the New York Review of Books

   For what is perhaps the single most cost-free public
   gesture that Western "intellectual" – types can take
   at the present moment (though perhaps tied-for-first-
   place with public lamentations over the "genocide" in
   Darfur and the Western "failure" to stop the Arabs in
                         Khartoum from perpetrating it), check out:

 "Release Haleh Esfandiari," New York Review of Books,
  June 28, 2007  

Reading high-profile proclamations such as this, I can’t help but wonder what percentage of this exact same list of 139 signatories would have signed-onto the exact same petition, had the Washington regime not spent the last 48 months – plus demonizing successive governments in Tehran over its alleged nuclear-weapons program?  (See GOV/2003/40, June 6, 2003.)

Better yet: What percentage of the current crop of 139 do you suppose would be willing to sign their names to a petition denouncing the U.S. Government for the threat to international peace and security that it poses over the issue of Iran?  Or denouncing the U.S. Government’s actual — and monumental — violations of international peace and security in theaters such as Afghanistan and Iraq (etc.)?  

Or how about in cases in which it is the U.S. Government and/or the American university system that does the caning?  

How many of these leading lights of the moral firmament would sign their names to a comparable open letter protesting (A) the underlying refusal among the Western powers to respect Iran’s rights under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to research and development its nuclear program for peaceful purposes?  (B) The sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States and the UN Security Council over its refusal to surrender precisely these rights?  (C) The threat to international peace and security posed by the United States with respect to Iran?  And, in general, (D) the relentless and indeed recidivist campaigns by these same Western powers against the most basic principles of human rights — and not only in Iran?

Between zero and 139 of the current crop, how many?

You tell me. 

"The View from Tehran," Akbar Ganji, Boston Review, May/June, 2007
Right Wing Itches to Strike Iran," John Tirman, AlterNet, May 26, 2007

David Peterson
Chicago, USA


Update (June 14): After a three-week-and-one-day-long delay, the International Atomic Energy Agency has finally derestricted access to its most recent report on Iran’s nuclear program:

Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolutions[1] in the Islamic Republic of Iran (GOV/2007/22), IAEA, May 23, 2007

Statement on "Non-proliferation" by the President of the Security Council  (S/PRST/2006/15), March 29, 2006
UN Security Council Res. 1696 (
S/RES/1696), July 31, 2006
UN Security Council Res. 1737 (
S/RES/1737), December 23, 2006
UN Security Council Res. 1747 (
S/RES/1747), March 24, 2007 

It’s very short: Only four pages long. —  Still.  To save you some trouble: 

1. "Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities" (20).  Since the spring of 2003 (at least), this has been the primary U.S. demand — now hyperinflated into the demand of the major Western powers (U.K., France, Germany), the IAEA’s Board of Governors, and no less than the UN Security Council.

2. In the field of enrichment, "Iran has declared that it has reached enrichment levels up to 4.8% U-235 at [the Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz]" (5).

3. "Since early 2006, the Agency has not received the type of information that Iran had previously been providing…" (6).  "Iran has not agreed to any of the required transparency measures which are essential for the clarification of certain aspects of the scope and nature of its nuclear program" (17).

4. In Section G, "Summary," the IAEA reports:

18. Although the Agency is able to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran, the Agency remains unable to make further progress in its efforts to verify certain aspects relevant to the scope and nature of Iran’s nuclear programme….
19. As previously stated, unless Iran addresses the long outstanding verification issues, and implements the Additional Protocol and the required transparency measures, the Agency will not be able to fully reconstruct the history of Iran’s nuclear programme and provide assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran or about the exclusively peaceful nature of that programme. It should be noted that because the Agency has not been receiving for over a year information that Iran used to provide, including under the Additional Protocol, the Agency’s level of knowledge of certain aspects of Iran’s nuclear related activities has deteriorated.

One question that needs to be answered is: Whose interests are better advanced by the fact that, "because the Agency has not been receiving for over a year information that Iran used to provide, including under the Additional Protocol, the Agency’s level of knowledge of certain aspects of Iran’s nuclear related activities has deteriorated" (19)?

Among the devious Iranians’?  Or among those of their tormentors inWashington and the related uncivilized tribes? 

Well. — On the Iraq front, which provided more help to the Washington regime’s war-effort: Having the weapons inspectors of UNSCOM (1991 through mid-December 1998) and UNMOVIC (November 27, 2002 through mid-March 2003) on the ground in Iraq?  Or not?

Well. — If weapons inspectors could at last positively verify that the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran really does mean that there are no undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, whose interests do you think this would advance?

The Western warmongers’?  Or Iran’s?

David Peterson
Chicago, USA


Update (June 21): According to the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace, earlier today, in a U.S. Federal Court in Alexandria, Virginia, Judge Gerald Bruce Lee of the Eastern District of Virginia ordered that the former University of South Florida Computer Science Prof. Sami Al-Arian must be

held until at least October, which will mark nine months since he was held in contempt, half way through the 18-month maximum of the citation….[Judge Lee]…made a finding that further confinement may coerce his testimony.  Dr. Al-Arian was acquitted of terrorism charges in December 2005 but remains behind bars due to his refusal to testify in a politically motivated grand jury investigation designed to punish him. While Judge Lee rejected the government’s argument that Dr. Sami must spend 18 months in jail, the maximum under the civil contempt statute, he found that family considerations may still induce him to break his silence. Specifically, the judge pointed to the hundreds of letters and postcards he received from Dr. Al-Arian’s supporters urging his release, and said these letters indicate that Dr. Al-Arian’s strong bond with his family might convince him to testify in order to be reunited with them. In fact, Dr. Al-Arian’s desire to rejoin his family is exactly the reason he will not testify, because he believes doing so is a road to entrapment, future prosecutions, and many more years of unjust incarceration.

The U.S. Department of Justice has strung-along the Al-Arian case now for something like four-and-one-half years.  (For some background — though I caution you to be careful about what you’ll find reported in establishment sources — see the webpage that the Tampa Tribune devotes to the Al-Arian Case.) 

Now. I do not know how many Sami Al-Arian-type cases of monumental injustice at present there are locked-up behind bars in the American gulag.  That is to say, people prosecuted on political grounds.  People whose fates exemplify the relentless campaign by the leaders of the U.S. Government and the vast prosecutorial complex at their command to violate the most basic principles of human and constitutional rights — and get away with it, because in this very screwed-up and dangerous country, no one can stop them.  

But sticking to the theme of the current blog (i.e., one of the services rendered on behalf of American Power by the New York Review of Books), I just ran a search of the New York Review of Books‘ website for mentions of the name ‘Sami Al-Arian’ in any document electronically archived therein. — The results?  A grand total of one match: David Cole’s "Are We Safer?" (March 9, 2006 – a review of Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon’s The Next Attack: The Failure of the War on Terror and a Strategy for Getting It Right (Times Books, 2005)).

Cole, whose work is outstanding, wrote this about the Sami Al-Arian case some 15 months ago:

  Several of the government’s most prominent "terrorist" cases have disintegrated under close scrutiny. John Ashcroft repeatedly claimed that the prosecution of Sami al-Arian, a computer science professor at the University of South Florida, showed why the Patriot Act was essential. Yet after the prosecution presented eighty witnesses and hundreds of hours of taped surveillance over six months of trial, and after al-Arian’s lawyers rested their case without calling a single witness, a jury in Tampa found al-Arian not guilty of the most serious charges against him, including conspiracy to murder and to aid a terrorist organization. The jury was deadlocked 10–2 in favor of acquittal on all the rest, including a charge of "material support" and an immigration violation. Time magazine quoted a former FBI official who stated that in late 2002 the FBI was pressured to make a case against al-Arian despite weak evidence: "’We were in shock, but those were our marching orders,’ [said] the supervisor, who felt that the Justice Department was rushing to indict before it had really appraised the evidence."[9] 
  [9] Tim Padgett and Wendy Malloy, "When Terror Charges Just Won’t Stick," Time, December 19, 2005.

But this single paragraph comprises the extent of mentions of Sami Al-Arian’s case on the pages of the New York Review of Books.

So: The "intellectuals" at the New York Review of Books have no trouble getting-it-up over the Islamic Republic of Iran’s clearly unjust detention and confinement of the Iranian-American academic Haleh Esfandiari.  (See "Release Haleh Esfandiari," New York Review of Books, June 28, 2007.)  

And these same "intellectuals" can even summon the courage from deep within their hearts to "call upon the international organizations, academic and professional associations, and other groups and individuals devoted to the promotion and defense of human rights to strongly protest and condemn the arbitrary detention of Dr. Esfandiari, to call for her immediate and unconditional release, and to urge the officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran to respect, guarantee, and implement the provisions and principles of human rights as specified in international conventions and treaties to which Iran has long been a signatory."

But for all intents and purposes, they’ve never before heard the name Sami Al-Arian. 

Or, in the very least, wouldn’t dare permit their esteemed publication to decry such injustices — tinged, as they invariably are in this often-no-bigger-than-a-navel-sized political culture, with its invidious anti-Arab and anti-Islamic rhetoric, and conspiratorial worldviews.

"The prime-time smearing of Sami Al-Arian," Eric Boehlert, Salon.com, January 19, 2002 

David Peterson
Chicago, USA

Update (June 27): Has any of you by any chance ever run across a phony clash-of-civilizations-category performer named Irshad Manji?  I just caught maybe 15 minutes of her highly polished shtick on CSPAN – 2.  (See "Irshad Manji on the Reformation of Islam," CSPAN – 2, June 25, 2007.  It’s a video of her performance before the 2007 conference of the American Library Association in Los Angeles this past week.)

Irshad Manji is also the author of the book, The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith (St. Martin’s Press, 2004). –

   Get a load of the image that the publisher chose for the cover of this one: A close-up of Manji’s face, gazing skyward!

   I’ve also seen a few minutes of her shtick on "Islam" over PBS – TV in the past.

   The way she looks to me, she’s a performance artist playing the role of a "critic of Islam" whose observations are crafted to reinforce the worst fears of The West towards "Islam" and some of the United States’ pet targets in the predominantly Islamic countries — Iran, say. 

   Also check out her website: Muslim Refusenik (Homepage). — Every element of it oozes a publicity campaign: Promote the Irshad Manji brand because of its negative campaign against targets of The West.

   There must be some money behind all of this.

Can anybody tell me something about this performer?


David Peterson
Chicago, USA

Another Update (June 27): The insights of the performance-artist known currently known as Irshad Manji – part Ann Coulter, part Sacha Baron Cohen — and 100 percent flatterer of Western power and superiority — include the following ("Muslim Myopia," New York Times, August 16, 2006):

But violent jihadists have rarely needed foreign policy grievances to justify their hot heads. There was no equivalent to the Iraq debacle in 1993, when Islamists first tried to blow up the World Trade Center, or in 2000, when they attacked the American destroyer Cole. Indeed, that assault took place after United States-led military intervention saved thousands of Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo.  

David Peterson
Chicago, USA


Update (July 9): Another one that deeply interests me, as I find traces of this everywhere these days (and it’s only gotten worse with the advent of the Internet):

"Native informers and the making of the American empire," Hamid Dabashi, Al-Ahram Weekly,  June 1-7, 2006


Damned powerful stuff herein.  Keep Dabashi’s critical famework in mind with respect to efforts to destabilize Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria in particular — though also think of Venezuela, Cuba, and even the fate of democracy in the States.

David Peterson
Chicago, USA

Update (August 22, 2007): Presumably AFP’s list of "U.S.-Iranians held in Iran" is complete (see below) — though I honestly don’t know for certain.  But it doesn’t begin to reflect the number of arbitrary and unjust detentions of single-citizenship Iranians by their regime.

However, one lovely bit, if only on the side.

While Haleh Esfandiari was detained by the Iranian authorities at Tehran’s Evin Prison complex (May 8 – August 21), the percentage of reports about her detention that have used modifiers such as ‘notorious’ and ‘infamous’ and ‘nefarious’ when mentioning the name of this prison was huge.  At times, it even appeared that everybody who commented on where the Iranian authorities had detained Esfandiari also repeated the "Tehran‘s notorious Evin prison" line.

It is therefore amusing to hear Esfandiari herself describe the conditions of her detention over the BBC International as less than torturous — or even ominous.  "They treated me very well in the section," she said. "I had a room. It was very big, it had a window. I could have air whenever I wanted. The food was very good."

"Iran frees U.S. academic," BBC International, August 21, 2007
"Iran frees U.S.-Iranian academic on bail," Hossein Jaseb, Reuters, August 21, 2007 
"Lawyer: Iranian-American scholar still faces charges in Iran despite release from prison," Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press, August 22, 2007 
"Iran frees US ‘spy’ on bail after three months," Robert Tait, The Guardian, August 22, 2007 
"US-Iranian academic freed after making TV ‘confession’," Anne Penketh, The Independent, August 22, 2007 
"Iran frees U.S.scholar on bail," Ramin Mostaghim and Borzou Daragahi,  Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2007
"Jailed Iranian-American Academic Is Released on Bail," Nazila Fathi and Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, August 22, 2007 
"Iran Frees U.S. Scholar From Prison," Robin Wright, Washington Post, August 22, 2007 

"Native informers and the making of the American empire," Hamid Dabashi, Al-Ahram Weekly,  June 1-7, 2006
"Right Wing Itches to Strike Iran," John Tirman, AlterNet, May 26, 2007
"Countdown to War on Iran," Alain Gresh, Le Monde diplomatique, June, 2007 (as posted to CounterPunch)


Agence France Presse
August 21, 2007
The US-Iranians held by Iran

The release on bail of US-Iranian academic Haleh Esfandiari Tuesday is the latest episode in a long-running case that had cranked up tensions with arch-foe the United States. Her release leaves another two US-Iranians still believed to be held in jail in Tehran and a US-Iranian journalist unable to leave the country after her passport was confiscated. All but one of the accused are based abroad and returned to Iran to visit sick mothers. Iran does not recognize dual nationality and has told the United States the case is none of its business. Here are short profiles of the four accused:

– Haleh EsfandiariEsfandiari, 67, a prominent academic who heads the Middle East program at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, was freed Tuesday after more than three months in jail. She was accused by prosecutors of harming national security and links to an alleged US drive to topple Iran‘s clerical authorities. While detained, she was interviewed in a controversial Iranian state television documentary — "In the Name of Democracy." Esfandiari appeared to recognize she had been involved in work to make a network between scholars in Iran and the United States, but Washington expressed concern she was coerced into appearing. Esfandiari had returned to Iran last year to visit her sick 93-year-old mother. According to the Wilson Center, she was traveling in a taxi on December 30 to the airport for the flight homewards when three masked men armed with knives stopped the car and took her purse and passports. When she applied for replacement documents she ended up being interviewed by Iran‘s intelligence in interrogations that lasted six weeks. She was then arrested and taken to Tehran’s Evin prison on May 7. The future of her case is unclear after the release.

– Kian Tajbakhsh Tajbakhsh is an academic expert in urban planning who has taught in the United States and Iran. He has also worked for the World Bank and the Open Society Institute of US billionaire George Soros. Like Esfandiari, he has been accused of harming national security by harboring links to the US drive for a "soft revolution" in Iran. He also appeared in the controversial Iranian television documentary, saying the Soros Open Society Institute "wanted to create a gap between the government and the people" in Iran. According to Open Society Institute, he has been a "consultant" for the body in Iran for the past three years, focussing on public health issues. Unlike the other detainees, Tajbakhsh was based in Iran at the time of his arrest. He was taken from his home in Tehran on May 11, 2007, according to relatives.

– Parnaz Azima Azima is a broadcaster with Radio Free Europe’s Prague-based Persian language arm Radio Farda. According to Tehran prosecutors, Azima is accused of "collaboration with Radio Farda, a counter-revolutionary radio." Unlike the other accused Azima has not been jailed, but her passport has been confiscated. Her bail was set at an unusually high 550,000 dollars although the court is said to have accepted an appraisal for her mother’s house. According to Radio Free Europe, Azima arrived in Tehran from Prague on January 25 to visit her terminally ill 90-year-old mother and her passport was confiscated on arrival at the airport. When she asked for it back she was referred to the security office of the revolutionary court.

– Ali Shakeri Shakeri, 59, is a California-based businessman who is also a board member of a private conflict-resolution group called the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding based at the University of California in Irvine. Iran‘s foreign ministry on June 10 confirmed that he has been detained, but officials have yet to outline the charges against him. Tehran‘s deputy prosecutor Hassan Hadad has said his case was not linked to the other detainees. US media reports have said Shakeri was likely detained at Tehran airport on May 13 when he was scheduled to fly to Europe. Like two more of the accused, he had returned to Iran to visit his sick mother, who is reported to have died just days after his arrival.





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