Sunday, May 27, 2007

What's behind the chain arrests?

Last year, at around this time, Ramin Jahanbegloo, the junior Iranian-Canadian professor of political science in University of Toronto was arrested in Tehran, on the charges of endangering the Iranian national security. After the usual human-rights complainst, and the usual profile-makings of the IRI, that serve little purpose but media buzz, he was released. His books are being published in Iran by the Ney publishing house (Nashr-e Ney) and quite a few of those were on display at Tehran's international book fair this year.

I have not read his books. My brother (who lives in Iran, and works in Iran, and whose civil and intellectual liberties are subject to the same kind of limits as others) has; and he felt they read like a "PhD dissertation" and tenure-track-aimed publications. In other words, he considers them "still" raw, and he finds Michele Foucaults' Disciplin and Punish--which is also translated and available in Iran--a far more "dangerous" book than Mr Jahanbegloo's The Forth Wave (I'm not sure what it is in English/French, but here's an English work of his Iran, Between Traditiona and Modernity ) for which he was considered a threat to the IRI, and arrested for a few months!! (Nevertheless, Jahanbegloo is a graduate of Sorbonne and a prolific writer ans thus, in the coming years, his name will be quoted in many a political philosophy text books. Good for him, and my hat off to him, and I promise to read his books as soon as I have free time during which I do not blog.)

Anyways, the point is not to discuss philosophy here.

The point is to contextualize the recent arrest of Iranian-American scholars (Haleh Esfandiari, Ali Shakeri from the center for peacebuilding, and Kian Tajbakhsh), on the eve of the long awaited Iran-US talks. Jahanbegloo came to my mind because he was arrested in this very season: mid spring with similar charges of velvet or silk revolution!

So, unless the IRI suffers spring fever, why would it be arresting American-Iranian scholars with no track record of aggression toward IRI, or no neo-conservative related controversy tied to their name?

Omid Me'marian answers, and because I agree with his points, I translate excerpts [I left out a couple of paragraphs of rhetorics]:

What is the message conveyed by the arrest of the Iranian-American scholars in the past few weeks? Who has issued this message; why and towards what objective? Within the three weeks between the arrest of Dr Haleh Esfandiari, and Drs Kian Tajbakhsh and Ali shakeri, what important event has taken place?

All three are well reputed among their colleagues.

Dr Esfandiari has had one of the most realist perspectives on the changes in Iran. Her published articles and speakers she has invited to the Woodrow Wilson Institute indicate her diversion from the hawkish Washington interests: most importantly that Iranians are sensitive to their future and try hard in making their own future, and no one else's will shall surpass theirs.

Dr Tajbakhsh, university professor, researcher and consultant of many Iranian and international organizations, is known to be one of the best specialists in the field of urban sociology. Dr Shakeri, is one of those whose anti-war, in an open democracy, is heard by many.

These individuals, although live abroad, but are considered the national pride of the Iranian diaspora. And now, they are confined under various charges laid on them by the security officials. The dug up evidences on these individuals do not reflect the journalistic genius of the "toopkhaneh" paper [ I think this refers to Keyhan?], rather the availability of the documents to the public. However, the evidence are read with paranoia and are twisted with disinformation. And this shows how empty handed the accusers, and how innocent the accused are. Because, considering the web sites of these individuals, and their publications reveal that the false accusations against them resemble inventions.

[...] such usual spreading of lies aims to both frighten the Iranian diaspora whose heart beats for Iran, and also to send a warning message to those who might aim to use such individuals towards their own [political] goals, unaware that with such "accidental" or 'false" arrests, they are shooting themselves in the foot. [here the author is pointing the finger to the hardliner papers that are putting wood in the fire.]

This is not the first time that the [right-wing] security-organizational-journalistic ring undertakes such projects. Similar instances have occurred several times in the past years and it is possible to predict the outcome. I expect that as I am writing these notes, some of the wisemen of the conservative camp are scolding their hardliners for such impulsive actions; while on the other hand the hardliners are promising the prisoners that they will be free to go if they make a little confession.

Therefore, the stories of arrets, charges of espionage, leaking the interrogations in the headlines of the hardline papers, censorship of the news, refusal to allow access to legal counsel, perpetual lying, fear mongering in sectors of the society and throwing in names that are the objective of the future "intelligence-project", forced confessions and then release without court appearance [remember the British soldiers?] but with a hefty bail, is an old and repeated story, without any intelligence or humanitarian outcome.

Any Iranian citizen likes the intelligence officers to be among the elite. Both qualified and smart, and capable of providing safety and security with minimal expense and maximum cooperation of the citizens, which will lead to trust and satisfaction. But in the most optimistic assessments, the intelligence officers have raised so many false flags that one wonders why they are occupying such posts [makes me think of the CIA and the FBI and Saddam's WMD!]. The picture that these people project of Iran resembles the anti-human right picture that the American war-mongers portray of Iran.
Remembering what happened to Hossein Moosavian [the Iranian nuclear negotiator charges with espionage!!!!] and the heavy accusations made by the hardliners of the government, and his release after one week, practically shows that such "profile making" doesn't go beyond intelligence errors that are mixed with the political agenda of certain factions within the government. These agendas are not in line with the interests of the Iranian people, Iran, and not even the IR regime. In a state of crisis, that the regime needs to dedicate all its resources to repel the increasing threats against Iran, these arrests resemble suicide out of fear of death."

My conclusion:
In addition to being a fear-mongering device, this is a smoke-screen because Monday is a sensitive day. Some in Iran, like many in Washington, do not want Iran to sit at a table with the US! Thus, it is important for the government to appear tough on America's possible intervention in internal affairs of Iran. Of course, the Americans are not making it easy for these people, by publicly calling for "destabilizing action inside Iran".
Nonetheless, everyone will be freed unharmed!


Anonymous said...

You will not get your anti-Iran platform here.

You do it again you buy from me and sale it in your blog, you keep block my post!!

How nice that Naj?

Now I can call you as "anti-Iran platform here" isn't it?

I was posting same subject about the charges against this marvelous Iranians woman, BTW not like you

Naj said...

Anonymous, I have no clue what you are trying to say; but perhaps something irrelevant.

Next time, you may wait for the topic to come up on my blog before starting to push and bully. alternatively, you can make your own blog.

It's fairly simple; instructions are all on line.

Once you do so, if your blog is interesting, I will blogroll you, and will point to your writings if they are of interest to me.

Is this clear?

Naj said...

by the way, anonymous, you were "catastrophizing" about that "marvelous" woman!

I hope my post help your panic attack by providing a bit of context.

Anonymous said...


The situation inside Iran is very security-conscious.

And you are right about the message that is being sent.

Also, Sorros, a Jew, is considered very much a suspect in the coup's that West engineered in Ukraine, Georgia, etc.

Having said all that, the accused should have been given legal protection, we are not even obying our own laws.

pen Name

Naj said...

Pen name,

I do not have a problem with increased security in the time of war. I prefer a bit of paranoia about America's "stated" objectives of meddling in Iran's internal affair. The history of the world has shown that NOTHING good has EVER come out of America's covert operation.

Re American-Iranians on the Washington payroll ... well, I do have an issue with any grants given out towards any "democracy building project" in Iran, by the USA or UK!

Americans have blocked ~10m$ of the OXFAM-funds raised for assitance in Bam, calling it "fear of terrorism", so if they really care about Iran, they should show their good will elsewhere! I understand that scholars need to have a career and that "selling Iran" is a lucrative business presently. However, I think people who want to bring democracy to Iran, need to go to Iran and join the likes Shirin Ebadi in fight for human rights INSIDE Iran!

What I fear about these arrests and these new thug-oriented crackdowns, is that they are provoked by people who do not CARE about Iran; and they are staged and set more in line with America's policy than with IRI's.

That Ahmadi-Nejad should put his money where his mouth is and LASH OUT at such practices; if for no other reason than to give an appearance that he "means" the business of national unity!

Again the history has shown the CIA finger prints in most radicalist movements of the world. I just pray someone in the IRI will wake up and will care. and I also wish the (so called) reformists are not going to sell Iran cheap to such bargaining chips with the Iranians!

Anyways, I am anxiously watching.

David said...

Naj, at the moment I am just quickly passing through. I promise to return later to give your post more attention. However, I read this related post at Editor, Myself a bit earlier and thought it might add to the discussion:


bijan said...

Dear Naj,
Nice to have you back and hearing everything went fine in Iran, I guess (sorry, I need a few day or more to read all your posts, as I'm a very slow reader, but don't mind me and don't let that phase you at all and let the KNOWLEDGE flow as they may. As for me, I seem to have gone through a similar experience myself (almost like an open heart surgery.) I think I've fallen or am falling in LOVE again. That giddy experince and the loss of bearings has hit me hard, as I'm walking is daze for hours many times during the day, happy, sad, confused, and with a BIG grin/smile from nose to nose and I think I'm about to have another sever facial muscle spasm any minute now. Thank GOD HMO's only charge me $10.00 a visit only, since I have made many repeated unscheduled vists to the ER, Urgent care or just my regular primary care physician (Dr. Chung, a very nice and shy GP.) Any how, this new found love is very strange at my age and have everyone around me worried. Any how, nice to have you back and for more on my well being, please visit my blog and share some of that ever flowing wisdom. Any comments, comming from you, is very welcomed! :):):) (bijan khan)
PS, back to my non-stop smile 24/7, I think it has a direct influence on my heart rate too, everytime I think of my Beloved!!! Boy, what a feeling? You can't live with without them, and you can't stop them from constant talking for a monet either. Love is in the air here :)

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Naj, love the pics from the Teheran Metro - cool!

Naj said...


Yup, I am not surprised. In fact I have all along suspected that HAshemi himself is behind these arrests, in order to generate panic in the Iranian neo-liberal like ... how can one forget his shameless election campain in the upper Tehran?!

That man is capable of ANYTHING ... to hold power!

I detest Hashemi more than the rest of them!

Glad to know you are well.

I think pictures are worth a thousand words.

Funny I was looking at Iran on google-earth; and the safire blue colors made me think of your blog and its pictorial relationship to the universe ...

David said...

Naj, I hope you are right that everyone will be released unharmed. It is a very good thing that the U.S. and Iran are finally doing some official talking to each other. If the representatives can make some agreements regarding Iraq, perhaps the Iranian prisoners in U.S. custody will be released. This may facilitate the release of the Iranian/American prisoners in Iran. The U.S. and Iran need to take some small steps to build confidence and trust. I hope these steps will be apparent soon!

Regarding Rafsanjani, your knowledge of him is undoubtedly far greater than mine. I know he is a former President and is also one of the richest men in Iran. I presume that his wealth was amassed by some serious corruption on his part. After his failed bid to return to the Presidency, I could not help but wonder at his motives in gaining a seat on the Guardian Council. It seems possible to me that he is attempting to position himself to replace Khamanei as Supreme Leader.

Amre El-Abyad said...

the persian dirt are having talks with americans about their masters i iraq! Iran's roash head must be crushed

Sophia said...

Okham's razor tells me two things:
That recent arrests might be both a sign of internal dissent inside the regime and of the great nervosity now in Tehran.
That these arrests targeted actually the only people who feel safe enough to travel to Iran and not he few conspirators. What a pity.

On another subject because jealousy is something you spoke about often, look at this link:

And they did not target Foucualt because he was a mollah supporter. French intellectuals always get it wrong.

By the way Starapi won at Cannes and I saw previews from her movie. Exhilarating.

I will be disappearing from the blogosphere until June 24th.

Naj said...

You know David,

People call Rafsanjani Akbar-Shah!
He is the godfather!

His greatest battle with Ahmadinejad, right now, is over the "privatization" of state-run institutions!

You extrapolate--and don't shy away from a marxist interpretation!

Rafsanjani is a mixed blessing for Iranians right now: "because" he is the "holder" of the capital, he is vested in protecting it! And American sanctions or bombs will not be in his capitalist interest.

On the other hand, because he is interested in his capital, he is in a fierce battle with the Ahmadinejad camp, who count on the anti-capitalist vote!

If you listen to their rhetoric, it is quite funny actually. As soon as Ahmadinejad starts sounding conciliatory towards Americans, Rafsanjani starts huffing and uffing that we are going to destroy our enemies! As soon as Rafsanjani starts cozying up to Americans, Ahmadinejad huffs and puffs about wiping enemies.

People in Iran are weary of them both and no one takes none of these really seriously. People are just trying to live, and to make a decent future for their children, by fishing from the muddy waters created by the power-cravers!

And this is precisely where my hope for Iran's future democracy rests.

Naj said...

Thanks Sophia

I hyperlink your comment:> Arab Regimes Act towards the US like a jealous boyfriend


For example, Saudi media today has been fretting about the Iranian-US meeting in Iraq: and they make a point to mention the US naval maneuvers in the Gulf, perhaps to reassure themselves. In fact, the only reason why America's clients in the region are in conflict is due to the competition between them for US affection and attention. Like Saudi conflict with Jordan, Jordan conflict with Qatar, Egypt conflict Saudi Arabia, etc.

Should I read the comments to get the Foucault part?

Naj said...

the angry arab link!

sorry about that.

nunya said...

I can't make heads or tails of the reports on the meeting.The spin (title) on the same AP or Reuters articles appear to have different meanings. The spinmeisters are busy. I'm glad the meeting happened after 27 years, though.

Anonymous said...

Statement on the Arrest in Tehran of Haleh Esfandiari, Director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program

"Dr. Esfandiari, 67, was born and raised in Iran, but has spent much of her professional life in the United States, now as the much-respected director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a leading think tank in Washington, D.C. At the end of a visit to her ailing mother in Tehran last winter, she was detained, and recently was arrested and now is in prison awaiting trial. A citizen of both America and Iran, she has been charged with trying to foment a "velvet revolution" in Iran -- soft, non-violent regime change. She and everyone associated with her deny the charges."

Juan Cole, professor of history at the University of Michigan and a specialist on the region, wrote in his highly regarded blog, Informed Comment, "I had been planning to go to a conference in Iran in July, hosted by some French scholars, but I have cancelled in protest against this detention of my friend. I don't see how normal intellectual life can go on when a scholar at the Wilson Center can't safely visit Iran."

Noam Chomsky, possibly the most influential intellectual in the world, also weighed in with a sharp rebuke, as have several others.

Looks like it's back to the days of Iran Contra - except that the US Congress of today is cooperating with Bush by providing funds for war, meaning the covert Bush team probably don't have to engage in traffiking Afghani heroin to provide funds for the Islamic Sunni fundamentalists - maybe. In the case of the Contras, they raised money by shipping cocaine into the US with the active knowledge of the CIA, Oliver North, and GHW Bush.

Speaking of Iran

by Harry Browne

George Bush likes to remind us over and over that an Iranian nuclear bomb would be a violation of the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran signed that treaty and agreed not to develop nuclear weapons.

However, the treaty also calls for the five countries who had nuclear weapons in 1970 - the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, and China - to begin reducing their stockpiles and eventually eliminate them entirely. To the best of my knowledge, not one of the five countries has intentionally destroyed a single nuclear weapon. So are we going to have to attack Britain, France, Russia, China, and the United States as well?

Neither Pakistan, India, nor Israel signed the pact, and each of them developed nuclear weapons. But the U.S. government is only harassing Iran who, by the terms of the treaty, has allowed international inspectors into its country to see what it's doing. And so far, the inspectors have found nothing.

Since the United States is not only dishonoring the treaty by not reducing its weapons, but in fact has been developing new nuclear weapons, non-nuclear nations are condemning the U.S. for violating the treaty while trying to impose it upon other nations.

Anonymous said...

Evidence has built up that Iran's theocracy has tried to keep the Iraqi pot boiling for the US by supporting insurgents. But in recent days, Iran's main ally in Iraq, the rebel Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, has resurfaced after reportedly hiding for months in Iran. There are signs he is ready to work with the Iraqi government for stability. His Mehdi Army militias have recently lain low while the US conducts a military surge.

In Iran itself, an internal power struggle may account for a new approach toward Iraq. Just two weeks ago, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei asked the question: How is it possible to hold talks with an "arrogant, bullying, expansionist" US? But now Iran has done just that.