Iran

Stifling the Persian Spring

WE IRANIANS ARE a cynical, paranoid lot. Conspiracies are something of a sport for us. Whether it is the price of wheat or the threat of war, Iranians know nothing is exactly as it seems.

You can’t blame us; we’ve had our share of foreign meddling. Iran’s first attempt at democracy, which started in 1905, ended after troops commanded by Russian officers shelled the building in which the parliament was sitting; a second attempt, in 1953, was crushed by a CIA coup that reinstalled the country’s dictator, Muhammad Reza Shah. Iran’s third attempt at democracy, in 1979, was hijacked by the country’s own religious establishment, but only after Saddam Hussein launched a surprise attack a few months after the Shah was ousted.

But ask most Iranians who was responsible for thwarting the revolution of 1979 and they will point the finger not at Saddam Hussein or Ayatollah Khomeini, but at the United States. They have a point. After all, the U.S. encouraged Saddam to attack Iran, giving him satellite imagery and military intelligence. (Remember the famous photo of a smiling Saddam greeting Reagan administration special envoy Donald Rumsfeld?)

The U.S. government’s intention then was to curb the spread of Iran’s revolution, but it had the more disastrous effect of curbing its evolution. As happens in wartime, all the vibrant discussions in post-revolutionary Iran about how to build a new country came to an abrupt end the moment Saddam invaded. In the name of national security, power became centralized in the hands of the religious establishment. By the time that war came to an end eight years later, the dream that had spurred the revolution had given way to the reality of an authoritarian state plagued by gross ineptitude.

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Pastor Nadarkhani Remains on Death Row in Iran

An undated photo of Pastor Nadarkhani in prison.
An undated photo of Pastor Nadarkhani in prison.

Last fall on God's Politics, we ran a few posts on the plight of Youcef Nadarkhani, a Muslim convert to Christianity who was arrested, charged with apostasy, tried, convicted and sentenced to death in Iran in 2010. We asked for continued prayer for the pastor and his family, and for people of conscience to speak out on his behalf.

Fast-forward five months...

As I was browsing through Facebook last night, I noticed a post on my news feed with the photo of a blindfolded man standing next to the executioner's noose and a headline that read, "Youcef Nadarkhani Executed."

My heart stopped for a moment. Please, no, I thought. And the guilt began to flood in: How could I have dropped the ball? If we had continued to sound the alarm on his behalf, would he have been hanged? Could we have helped save him if we'd done more?

I quickly went to Google to look for news reports of Nadarkhani's execution, reportedly on March 3. But I couldn't find any. Nothing on CNN, BBC, Al-Jazeera, NPR.

After searching for a while, I found a post by the American Center for Law and Justice that confirmed what had become my hope: Reports of Nadarkhani's execution were false.

Wars and Rumors of War

 Photo by Przemek Tokar/Shutterstock.com.
Special forces troops patrol in the smoke. Photo by Przemek Tokar/Shutterstock.com.

While compiling the morning “Daily Digest,” I often recall  the advice of Karl Barth, who is said to have told young theologians “to take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.”

There are many mornings that Jesus’ advice comes to mind after reading the news. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come (Mark 13:7). While I am not an end times apocalyptic, there are days that Jesus’ prophecy seems all too real.

President Obama's AIPAC Speech and Reaction

http://youtu.be/A0rFbP6KvxY

In a speech to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, President Obama urged Israeli leaders to refrain from "loose talk of war" related to escalating tensions with Iran. Quoting his predecessor President Theodore Roosevelt, Obama said when it comes to the Iran situation, both the United States and Israel would do well to, "Speak softly... and carry a big stick."

Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu today at the White House.  Netanyahu, who is scheduled to speak to the AIPAC conference this evening, issued a short statement repsonding to Obama's speech Sunday, saying in part, "I appreciated the fact that he said that Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat."

Afternoon News Bytes: Feb. 9, 2012

Color The 1 Percent 99 Percent Conflicted; Congress Looks To Ethics Bill To Boost Public Image; Rick Santorum: The 'Church' Candidate; States Negotiate $26 Billion Deal For Homeowners; Religious Right Bashes Green Evangelicals For Supporting EPA Rules; Obama, Explained; Four Ways The U.S. Could End Up At War With Iran Before The Election; Employment Rate For Young Adults Lowest In 60 Years, Study Says; Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline: The Facts Deserve Repeating (OPINION); Study: GOP Votes Drive Public Opinion On Climate Change.

Is Iran Really a Threat?

It seems like every day we hear from another politician saying that “we are ready to attack Iran if necessary," or from another pundit full of hot air telling us why we should invade Iran right now.

The presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, has said that he would support “something of a surgical-strike nature, to something of a ‘decapitate the regime’ nature to eliminate the military threat of Iran altogether.” President Obama has said:   “Every option is on the table.” All of these conversations typically go along the lines of emphasizing how Iran poses a serious and immediate threat to the United States.

As was the case in the conversations leading up to the 2003 Iraq war, there is much heat, and not a whole lot of light.

Our Budget-Busting Foreign Policy Disconnect

Robert Baer. Photo by Getty Images.
Robert Baer speaks at the 'Spies Like Them' panel discussion at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. Photo by Getty Images.

A recent Gallup poll shows that 81 percent of Americans want the President to be focused on domestic issues, while 9 percent say they want him to focus on foreign policy issues. Not too surprising ... until you consider that the fastest growing domestic priority is the deficit (69 percent).

The lopsided number between the importance of the deficit and the importance of foreign policy is the first clue that, for most Americans, there’s a disconnect between domestic policy and foreign policy.

Clue number two is a bit more alarming.

The same poll indicates that 54 percent favor a “strong” stance — read: military attack — against Iran versus 39 percent who say that it’s more important to avoid a military conflict with Iran. Put these facts together and a disturbing picture emerges: the less Americans care about foreign policy, the more willing they are to go to war, and the less they’re able to see that war = skyrocketing deficits. 

The disconnect couldn’t come at a worse time.

Afternoon News Bytes: Jan. 31, 2012

The End Of 'Compassionate Conservatism'?; Tunisia Faces A Balancing Act Of Democracy And Religion; Occupy D.C. Protest Stays Peaceful As No-Camping Deadline Passes; The Republicans' Hispanic Problem; What Does The Future Hold For Iran?; The End Of Health Insurance Companies (OPINION); Syria Unrest: Clinton And Hague Back Arab League Plan At UN; Inequality, The Middle Class, And Growth; Number Of Asset-Poor Americans Rising.

2012 State of the Union Address: The Complete Text

President Obama Addresses The Nation During State Of The Union Address via Getty
President Obama Addresses The Nation During State Of The Union Address via Getty Images

From President Obama's 2012 State of the Union Address:

The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. (Applause.) What’s at stake aren’t Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. And we have to reclaim them.

Let’s remember how we got here. Long before the recession, jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores. Technology made businesses more efficient, but also made some jobs obsolete. Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never before, but most hardworking Americans struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren’t, and personal debt that kept piling up.

Read the full text of the SOTU Address inside the blog...

Iran: Ask Questions First

In the fall of 2002 and winter of 2003, a steady drumbeat of rhetoric and accusations from the Bush administration were leading the United States into war against Iraq.

Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction he was planning to use against us. Hussein had worked with al Qaeda to carry out the 9/11 attacks. We could replace a brutal dictatorship with a democracy that would become a model for the Middle East. And so on. 

After the invasion and 8½ years of war, all were proven false. Iraq did not have any WMDs, there was no connection with al Qaeda, and Iraq continues to be wracked with sectarian violence.

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