Sunday, December 21, 2014

The uselessness of the commissars

by Paul Iddon

Main entrance to Tehran University / Karlmontague
It's very telling of the repressive nature of a system when it is the simplest of criticisms made about a certain policy, or set of policies, is highly noteworthy. I'm sure you've heard by now of the criticisms made in Tehran University the other day about the costs of the nuclear program to the Iranian nation.

Some of the most notable statements were made by former member of parliament Ahmad Shirzad and Professor Sadegh Zibakalam, the latter who claimed that the cost to the country of the nuclear program has been more the deadly Iran Iraq War which raged throughout the 1980's. Underlying all these men's points one gets a brief insight into how crippling authoritarianism has to a country with such vast intelligence and potential.

Shirzad said that just like the signing of UN Resolution 598 which ended the Iran Iraq War, “A small group of people sitting behind closed doors who think they have all the wisdom” made a decision for the whole nation, without, I might add, consulting them since in such systems they don't count. The Iran Iraq War is also a very good case study of how authoritarianism has cost Iran a great deal of lives for next to nothing. In that war after all the Ayatollah Khomeini accepted, in Resolution 598, pretty much the same proposal that was offered to him in June 1982, when he unwisely decided to extent that war with no proper strategy and against the wisdom of many people in the military who actually knew a thing or two about strategy.

And in regard to the nuclear issue whose decision was it to start a nuclear program anyway? The last Shah of Iran of course. With no parliamentary or democratic oversight, no public debate about its merits and/or demerits. None, nada about such a major decision with numerous economic and geopolitical considerations to take into account (the “father of Iran's nuclear program” himself Akbar Etemad has said that the Shah didn't want nuclear weapons but certainly wanted the capability to build them in case Iran's conventional forces wouldn't be capable of defending the country, I suspect the present regime is after a similar set-up and quite frankly wouldn't blame any regime or government in Iran for wanting such a thing given the nature of the region).

The same was the case with how the present regime restarted it and the manner in which they have gone about it, which has been fantastically costly to the nation. The few criticisms these men had in Tehran University the other day were quite tepid. But the men willing to criticize the system obviously care about where their country is going and the kind of reckless course the few men in control have taken it, which could very well cost its inhabitants dearly. And with a massive brain drain, lack of economic diversification which is largely due to a continued dependence of oil which is only bound to get worse due to the recent decline in prices which, as the Supreme Leader Khamenei himself has said, weakens Iran in the face of the world powers, even someone with a lot of faith in this regime would be raising an eyebrow at this stage.

And as for those who will cite the fact that this meeting which took place in Tehran today shows that criticisms of the system are allowed should remember that mild discourse is permitted in the most closed of systems. Furthermore the fact these men were given permission to talk shows that they needed it to begin with and wouldn't have been “allowed” to convene without it (Zibakalam don't forget is facing a suspended sentence for some previous public criticisms of the program). Zibakalam also spoke of the atmosphere of bullying which pervaded in Iran for over a decade whereby those who didn't bother to keep in check the health of the nation, not to mention the affects on it of their actions, and simply lauded the so-called wisdom of the few that steered the ship of state, loudly branded themselves the “patriots” while anyone willing to even question where they were taking the whole nation were slandered as “traitors” or worse.

That's very telling language. But it isn't surprising, nor new. It's just a reminder of the kind of people who have been in charge in Iran and have taken that great nation down a dangerous and costly road with next to nothing to show for it. All the while proclaiming themselves to be the patriots while reality shows them to be the commissars, the furthest one could be from a patriot to ones country bar an actual traitor. It is the patriot after all who looks at his or her nation and doesn't sweep its problems under the rug, but would rather go through those problems recognizing that such a process will benefit their nation and the people in it in the long term. There are many such people in Iran today and you can be assured that they aren't the ones bellowing about how anyone who has any reservations about the way a few men are determining the destiny of a great nation are “traitors”.


Anonymous said...

Over the course of modern Iranian history not only military personnel but also numerous civilians have been victims of terrorism. A quick look around the world one can see that terrorism is causing lots of waring conflicts, and those countries that do have nuclear weapons those weapons make absolutely no difference to those conflicts. Instead of nuclear weapons maybe Iran should focus on producing yet more and better conventional weapons so Iran does not need to purchase anything from other countries.

Anonymous said...

So what exactly are you trying to say Paul?,that iran shouldnt have nuclear power?,that iran should have left saddam to build up his conventional forces and wmd rather than trying to defeat him and remove the threat to iran?,or perhaps you think iran should just turn the clock back to the pahlavi era and be a good vassal state of the west like egypt or saudi

Paul Iddon said...

With all due respect can you read or did you just presume to know what I wrote without reading my piece? Is there even a sentence in it that would even remotely suggest I would be in favour of any of those things?

Mark Pyruz said...

I had the same problem reading this post. I can't figure if Paul is somehow advocating as an Iranian on the nuclear issue, and if that's the case if he is advocating against the pursuit of nuclear power as an energy source due to the coercive results rendered on the country as a result of this indigenous, technological pursuit. If this is the case, then Paul's opinion would be considered a minority viewpoint among ordinary Iranians, based on public opinion polls published with scientifically generated methodologies.

Brig. Gen. Basrawi (IQAF.ret) said...

It's a good piece! I fully agree on the part about the Iran-Iraq war!

Anonymous said...

The decision to have a nuclear program in the first was at the behest of JFK's administration in the 60s. JFKs reasoning was correct too. Iran is a semi-Arid country with one navigable river (the karun) with only a very limited number of hydro-electric plants that can be built to provide electricty. Burning fossil fuels was the other way Iran produced electricty, but it runs out one day. Therefore nuclear power was proposed as a necessity if Iran was to survive or go back to sitting in the dark 2-3 decades later.
Burning fossils fuels cant be done forever, and we have seen what it has done to air pollution in the country's cities. Therfore Iran has no choice but to produce nuclear Energy. In the 1980s I remember long power outages everyday for 3-4 hours because the country used more than it produced.

So Paul you dont think France is an "Authoritarian regime" even though its program was started behind closed doors without much public debate, but Iran is for doing so. Further when the Messmer plan came out it was already decided for the nation behind closed doors. In France (as well as west Germany) the executive brance of Government made all the decisions to start nuclear programs, Parliament had no control over this decision making process on nuclear policies. While the anti-nuclear movement of the 70s in France gained momentum they had no access to the executive branch of government, just parliament who as I mentioned had no say over nuclear issues. in 1975 and 1977 anti-nuclear protest in France were quelled by police and all the major political parties were very pro nuclear power. Therefore the people had no voice nor was there a public discussion.

So while Irans nuclear program is "fantastically costly", its only so costly because half a dozen outside players are making it costly by trying to starve Iran into submission by ruining its economy. But Iran has no choice no nuclear power means no electricity.
Likewise Iranians are tired of being lectured by a bunch of colonial powers who themselves didnt have a public discourse on their own nuclear policies, who themselves rely on nuclear power for most of their energy, who themselves suppressed internal dissent toward such policies and labelled their own citizens as unpatriotic if they disagreed.

Anonymous said...

Exactly Paul, in reading your article I couldnt help but think I was reading about post 911 America under George Bush. Bush and his cronies decided to go to war not with Afghanistan but with Iraq behind closed doors before it even attacked Afghanistan as NATO commander General Wesley Clark revealed to the world

“A small group of people sitting behind closed doors who think they have all the wisdom” namely Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld made that decision, and when there was any discussion leading up to the war questioning Iraq war 2.0 questioning it, they were labelled as communists, Neville Chamberlains, Appeasers.

Any time any American talks about fracking Fox news and the GOP labels them as communist who are trying to destroy America
Anytime any American talks about global warming Fox News and the GOP (to quote you once again):
"loudly branded themselves the “patriots” while anyone willing to even question where they were taking the whole nation were slandered as “traitors” or worse."

This reality in America is seen when you watch shows like the Daily show with Jon Stuart, Stephen Colbert or John Oliver on how anytime you question war mongering or corporate control over congress you are quickly labelled an Un-American hippie, communist neville chamberlain who hates America. In fact anytime you question the status quo "youre told you hate America"

Anonymous said...

I think the events of the last 20 years and Saddam's behavior after the Iran-Iraq war had ended, have shown us what would have happened had Iran accepted Saddam's Ceasefire offer in 1982. It should be noted Saddam only wanted a ceasefire when the tide of the war changed by 1982 and suddenly Iran was no longer on the defensive but was now on the offensive. Saddam fearing that his war to gain Iranian territory, might now end up with Iran taking Iraqi territory would have been too humiliating for him. Remember that Iraqi currency under Saddam's regime contained a scene from the battle of Qadissiah in which Arab armies invaded and captured Iran. Saddam even publically touted the Iran Iraq war as his Qadisiyah
The likley scenario would have been that Saddam asked for a ceasefire in 1982, because 2 years of fighting with huge backing from the international community was not working, he needed a break from fighting to recouperate, build up his army, restrategize and come up with a new battle plan and invade again in a couple years probably in 1984 or 1985 thus starting the "Iran Iran war part 2". Chances are that with a couple years to rebuild up his army again (and Iran not being able to), he would have succeeded in annexing Iranian territory the second time around.

The kuwait invasion is a testament to this. As soon as the war with Iran ended, this was exactly what Saddam did. He beefed up his military once again and within just a couple years of recouperation time, he invaded and conquered all of Kuwait withing a couple of hours. He believed this would redeem him of the embarrassing failure of leaving empty handed in the Iran Iraq war and turned his sights to an easier and smaller target. (The fact that US embassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, basically encouraged him to invade Kuwait is a discussion for another time)

Of course had Iran accepted the end to the war in 1982, only to be likley invaded again by a Saddam in 1984, people nowadays would be cursing Irans leadership for doing so saying "the stupid Mullah's were so naive and inept that they fell for Saddam's ploy. They would argue that khomeini was so stupid to end the war while Iran was so close winning and annexing Iraq"