Archive for October, 2009

News and Analysis (10/30/09)

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Virtually assuring the election results will be contested with fraud charges, Afghani government will open more polling stations than UN recommended:

Hosting Mustafa Barghouti and Anna Baltzer, John Stewart encounters strong pressure from the Israeli lobby:

As Clinton squares off against Pakistani criticism of US policy…

… Pakistani troops find documents that, if authentic, could fuel calls for Western military intervention in the tribal regions:

Highlighting the high costs of foreign interventionism and bloated military contracts:

With diplomats “publicly mum,” it remains unclear whether further negotiations or sanctions will result from Iran’s proposed deal changes:

News and Analysis (10/29/09)

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

“While the new law addresses some of the defects of the military commissions, it fails to bring the tribunals in line with the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions” – Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project:

Iranian amendments to the agreement include the gradual transfer of low-enriched uranium rather than a single shipment and a “simultaneous exchange” of fuel for a research reactor in Tehran in return for sending low-enriched uranium abroad…

… Meanwhile, Congress prepares to give the Obama administration an arsenal of sanctions despite the administration’s claims that they prefer sanctions in a “multilateral fashion”:

Analysts believe that  even if the report gets to the Security Council, there is little chance concrete action will be taken because of the veto power of the US:

In supplying the Pakistani army , the US is also fueling anti-government rhetoric from the Taliban:

Although iut claims Abbas has overstayed his term, Hamas calls January elections illegal because “Palestinian factions including Hamas and Fatah had agreed during unity talks that a new body should be formed“:

News and Analysis (10/28/09)

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

“They will only rise against the Taliban when they are convinced the government means business… But they have never been convinced.”- said Saifullah Mehsud, director of the FATA Research Center in Islamabad:

As Palestinian’s claim discrimination makes getting building permits “virtually impossible”, more homes are destroyed with legal backing from the municipality:

Amid accusations it is stalling, Iran says it will respond to an altered deal …

… Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad gains an important ally in Erdogan:

“If we are going to conduct a population-centric strategy in Afghanistan, and we are perceived as backing thugs, then we are just undermining ourselves,” said Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn,

Iraq has requested repeals on Saddam-era  nuclear technology bans:

News and Analysis (10/27/09)

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Disenchanted by US policy, Foreign Service Officer Matthew Hoh resigned citing failure to understand the purpose of the Afghan War:

“Israel is denying Palestinians adequate access to clean, safe water while allowing almost unlimited supplies to Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank” – Amnesty International

Officials believing the deal is an attempt to sabotage Iran’s atomic progress also must realize that such a move would justify future any Iranian Nuclear development:

Despite  near universal literacy and a low infant mortality  by regional standards, Gaza’s economy is in miserable shape with the number of plants down by 90%:

Arrested under false pretenses and believed to be as young as twelve,

The lawyer for al-Yami’s counterpart in the interview, Abdul-Jawad,  “urged the information minister to intercede with the king to include all those involved in the case“:

News and Analysis (10/26/09)

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Denied by US officials, the alleged incident highlights a “a strong undercurrent of anti-American sentiment” across Afghanistan:

As US forces evaluate the effect of troop increases in Afghanistan…

… Abdullah contemplates boycotting the runoff election unless his conditions to prevent wide spread fraud again are met:

Support for Al-Maliki dwindles under fears of rising violence:

Israel supplements it existing refusal to recognize marriages  “between its Jewish and Arab citizens … unless they are performed abroad” with an $800,000 media “scare” campaign “urging Israelis to inform on Jewish friends and relatives abroad who may be in danger of marrying non-Jews”:

“[W]ith many more Muslims than Egypt, Syria, Jordan and all the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf combined. What kind of Islam prevails here is critical to U.S. interests across the wider Muslim world”:

News and Analysis (10/24-25/09)

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

At least 10 people were injured and another 15 detained as Israeli forces shut down protesters and interrupted prayers:

Although the missed deadline is likely an attempt to negotiate better terms…

… Parliamentary leader Larijani believes the proposed deal is a disguised attempt to steal Iran’s nuclear stockpile:

‘In our view there is no alternative to a second round. This is the only constitutional way to establish a new government’ and ‘put an end to the current crisis'” – Karzai’s campaign spokesman:

Largely ignored by Western press, as many as 150,000 people are now homeless and many more remain trapped in Saada, where aid groups have no access at all:

The journalist denies the charges, but says she is “too frustrated and upset to appeal the sentence”:

Illustrating the difficultly in establishing and enforcing any peace deals negotiated with Israel:

News and Analysis (10/23/09)

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

As some expected, Iran is asking for changes:

Government threats and intimidation have not silenced Mehdi Karroubi, emerging as the “most defiant opponent of the country’s leadership”:

Michael Gerson opines that the goal of the Grand Mufti of Egypt” is not to liberalize Islam but to rescue orthodoxy from extremism”:

The missed deadline “caught Obama administration diplomats off guard”:

While Pakistani military officials willingly accept US intelligence and surveillance videos for their fight in South Waziristan…

… US officials act under the fear a deep divide between the civilian government and Pakistani Army may lead to another coup:

“The Afghan opium trade now kills many more people in NATO countries in a year than the number of NATO soldiers who have died on the battlefield in Afghanistan since 2001”:

News and Analysis (10/22/09)

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

ElBaradei says “the big picture [is] that this agreement could pave the way for a complete normalization of relations between Iran and the international community”:

As Goldstone challenges the US to investigate the “flaws” in his investigation, believing most critics of the report have not even read it…

… Rice challenges all parties to focus on the objective at hand, “ a comprehensive peace, including two states living side by side in peace and security”:

Interior minister says it may take ten years to “cleanse the security forces and armed forces from extremists and criminals” to the desired level of professionalism:

The biggest challenge to Afghanistan is preventing a repeat of the enormous levels of fraud in the run-off elections:

Testimony completed, Ziaulhaq still may not return home to his sick wife  and six children until mid-November:

Syria is gaining allies rapidly and wants America to be among them:

Economic Reforms for Iran

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

[I was recently interviewed by John Arvidsson and of the Swedish newspaper Nyheter24 about Iran’s economic situation. Here are my answers to his questions.]

Q. Taking Iran’s economic and political situation as a starting point, which reforms in a direction of a free market are urgent to implement in Iran? How would the people benefit from them?

A.  Iran’s biggest economic problems are inflation and unemployment. Last year Iran’s inflation rate was at 27% when my open letter on Iran’s inflation problem (http://blog.minaret.org/?p=787) was delivered to President Ahmadinejad. Several weeks later,  Iran announced it was converting its financial reserves to gold. This was a good first step, and the inflation rate is now reported to have declined (http://in.reuters.com/article/oilRpt/idINDAH33645820091013), although by how much could be disputed. A more complete reform of monetary policy remains ahead. It will be necessary to deal with the unemployment problem in a way that does not undermine the progress made to date in the fight against inflation. If the government would commit to eventually establish a gold-denominated currency (perhaps payable in oil, as America’s gold-backed dollar, when it had one, was payable in silver), that could guide particular interim government policies to maintain a tight control on the money supply that would keep inflation in check. Deprived of Keynesian style “quick-fixes” to the unemployment problem, the government could then focus on policies that increase the production of wealth (rather than redistribution of such wealth as exists) and increase employment opportunities.  The third major problem in the economy, disputes over the spending of the oil revenues would be best addressed by a privatization of the oil industry, but doing this in a way that does not privilege foreign investors will require a careful deliberations over the mechanisms by which title in the industry could be transferred into the hands of the public without the problems experienced by the privatization experiments in the Soviet Union or encountering the stiff resistance of the public sector as in Iraq today.

Q. Can the country learn from reforms in other countries that’s been in the same, previous, situation?  Which are they?

A. On monetary policy it could learn from the experience of the Turkey that has largely solved its inflation problems under the reforms of the AKP. On unemployment it could learn from the experience of Malaysia and Indonesia in the 1990’s, provided it avoids their monetary policy errors. On privatization, there is no positive model, so I can only suggest that they  avoid the mistakes of the Soviet Union and the evasion of the issue in Iraq.

Q. Could the international community play a part in the work towards liberal reforms? If yes, how?

A. The intense hostility of the international community towards left Iranians suspicious of their goodwill, so it is difficult to see how the international community could help. Nonetheless, Iranians are great admirers of the United States (although not its foreign policy) and I think those American  Muslim whom Iranians have come to see as their friends could get a fair hearing. I expect that foreign entrepreneurs would be welcome to partner in Iranian enterprises as long as they were willing to play by Iranian rules, and could have a positive impact in creating an environment that would favor liberalization, as long as they don’t begrudge the Iranian partners getting an impressive share of the profits. The easiest thing the international community could do would be to lift the sanctions against Iran that have kept it isolated and (belatedly) accept the offer of people-to-people exchanges that were favored by the previous president, Khatemi. Conferences in Iran on market liberalization, for example,  can only be advantageous to all parties.

Q. How is it possible that the Iranian regime and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can receive great support by the people despite economic mismanagement, double-digit unemployment and inflation?

A. The Iranian regime and President Ahmadinejad can receive great support despite the problems identified for the same reason that the Republicans and Democrats in America maintain strong support despite the recent financial crisis and the bailouts that followed. The bank bailouts was a worse example of mismanagement that any economic misstep Ahmadinejad has committed, but populist professions that it was done in the interests of “preventing a worse meltdown” convince enough people to maintain the legitimacy of the ruling elites. The right thing to do is not necessarily the popular things to do. Ahmadinejad’s emphasis on redistribution of the wealth has enough admirers among the Iranian masses for people to overlook the flaws in the approach. President Ahmadinejad is an effective politician who keeps in touch with his base. Further, his most prominent opponents are leftists whose economic policies would only make things worse. Ahmadinejad and the conservatives in the regime are relatively more responsive to the pro-market, “bazaari” elements in Iran as his willingness to change the financial reserves to gold and as the conservatives’ moves to privatize the economy demonstrate.

Q. And if you have any published articles or essays on the topics above where you develop your thoughts, links are welcomed.

A. Please see my open letter to Dr. Ahmadinejad (http://www.reuters.com/article/GCA-Oil/idUSTRE4AE1F820081115) mentioned above.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute
www.minaret.org

News and Analysis (10/21/09)

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Although previous sentences of this nature have been commuted, the decision illustrates the state of political freedom in Iran:

As Israel attempts to retroactively legalize its aggression in Gaza …

… Goldstone observes that “those who attack [his report] do so too often by making personal attacks on its authors’ motives and those who approve it rely on its authors’ reputations”:

The group carried a letter addressed to Turkish officials including calls for an end to military operations against the rebels, allowing Kurdish-language education, and ending what they called “pressure and oppression” by security forces in mainly Kurdish villages and cities:

A company founded by an anthropologist turned venture capitalist enables farmers to export olive oil helps the West Bank develop a cash economy:

Israeli soldiers have forced “scores of migrants” who have survived the risk of gunshot from Egyptian and Israeli border guards without allowing them to file claims for asylum: