Thursday, July 30, 2009

Oh, Great. Just Great.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Racial Profiling, Done Properly.

And what a lark they've had of it, these two paddies turning an entire nation in knots with their mad scheme for a pint with the King of Americay himself and at the White House too if you don't mind. Actually three of them, so.

The Gardai came from the town of Ballyroche for to catch that goat with his sticks and switches; The goat gave the captain a kick up his arse, and his horns made rags of his brand new breeches. Alliliú! Tá an poc ar buile!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Against The European Union, With The Swilers: "The seal ban is an abomination."

All Inuit from Russia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland are standing in solidarity against the European Union ban on products from the seal hunt, says Violet Ford, vice-president of international affairs at the Inuit Circumpolar Council.

I'll be on about this on CKNW later this afternoon. My take is here and here.

Says Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami: “The seal ban is an abomination because it directly attacks cultures, communities, and livelihoods that represent a basic means of living for many here in Canada, using groundless accusations influenced by animal rights propaganda campaigns.

“And today we are witnessing the EU’s willingly ignore its own trade rules and relations to please certain myopic self-interests while trying to claim some moral high ground—it doesn’t add up. We are deeply disappointed that EU Ministers did not show more insight and courage than the EU Parliament in confronting the misinformation campaigns targeting Europe in recent years. This is a very cynical and unjustified decision by the EU Ministers and it flies in the face of the EU’s own conservation, veterinary and legal advice.”

Monday, July 27, 2009

"I'm not surprised that Canadians are uncertain and conflicted. . ."

David Aaronovitch: "And if we were to pull out now (and forget here the question of relationships with our allies, and imagine that they do the same), what then? Happy, peaceful Taleban, alone to do what they will with their statues and women, free to find their own way to God and content to allow everyone else to do the same? Happy fundamentalists of Swat, uninflamed by trans-border bombings, taking their part in a peaceful Pakistan?"

Jawed Ludin: "Great progress has been made and Canada has been a key contributor. But we haven't got there. So I think I will expect Canada to remain significantly engaged."

Ron Hoffman: The goal is to put Afghanistan on the road to self-sufficiency and there has been unprecedented change. "I'm confident that Afghans will prevail. They're people who are resilient and determined and talented. . . it's difficult for Canadians to understand a country as complex as Afghanistan is, and so far from Canada. . .I'm not surprised that Canadians are uncertain and conflicted over whether we are making progress."

I'm not surprised, either.

James Clark of the Toronto Coalition to Stop The War (taking time off from celebrating the Khomeinist tyranny in Tehran with Iranian diplomats and swapping notes with Hamas and Hezbollah in Cairo), lays the ground for an "outreach" campaign: "Whether or not this translates into bigger numbers on demonstrations remains to be seen, but the key task now is education and outreach. If the movement can expand on these fronts, it will be better poised to mobilize when the tide comes back in again."

I'm all for mobilization, too. You can sign up here. The struggle continues.

(Update: Norm Geras puts his finger on the root cause of suicide bombing.)

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Demonstrations in solidarity with the Iranian uprising blossomed in more than 100 cities around the world today. Keep an eye on Revolutionary Road for reports from Iran and everywhere else. United For Iran is an excellent resource, too.

In Tehran, "Marg Bar Dictator!":

Saturday night, heading out cheery. ¡No Pasarán!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Marg Bar Fascism, Marg Bar Irtija, Marg Bar Dictator."

Where is the Iranian uprising headed, and what can we do to help it along?

Homa Arjomand is heading up an international campaign to close down Iranian embassies, freeze the bank accounts of the Tehran regime's leaders, expel the Islamic Republic from all international agencies, and prosecute the regime's leaders for their crimes against humanity.

The campaign is based on several propositions: The regime is directly responsible for terrorizing people in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Algeria, Palestine, and "even in the heart of Europe and North America." It not only imposes reactionary laws on the Iranian people, but carries out assassinations of Iranian dissidents abroad, It furthers its foreign policy by sustaining terrorism and maintaining national, ethnic and religious splits and tensions throughout the Middle East, through beheadings, mutilations, and planting bombs in buses, cafés and discotheques.

Bringing down the regime in Tehran "is a prerequisite for demolishing political Islam as a movement," says Arjomand. "Without the Islamic Republic of Iran, political Islam will become a trivial and insignificant opposition in the Middle East."

Arjomand's campaign goes farther than former federal justice minister Irwin Cotler's proposal - he's been arguing for it for some while - in today's National Post. Cotler has been hoping for some traction in his call to have the Ahmedinejad regime called to account for violating the United Nations' prohibition against incitement to genocide. In today's Post, Cotler is calling for an Iran Accountability Act to focus Canadian and international attention "not only on Iran's nuclear program, but also on its domestic repression and genocidal incitement." Such a law would mean a bar on business with certain Iranian industries. It could cut off Iran from imported gasoline, for instance.

Tarek Fatah argues for a serious reappraisal of the way the regime is comprehended in the west, here. As is obvious from my observations here, I'm of the view that taking our obligations seriously in the matter of the Iranian uprising is going to be an uphill battle in Canada. Nazanin Afshin-jam agrees it's time to get serious: "Freedom-loving nations should press for an emergency UN Human Rights Council session and international commission of inquiry to investigate Iran's grave human rights abuses, and demand the immediate release of all political prisoners. Nations with strong trade relations should refrain from appeasing Iran for short-term economic gain. Travel bans and asset freezes should be imposed upon Iranian officials."

Meanwhile, Fred Halliday presents a helpful analysis on the meaning of the Iranian uprising:

"In the same way that Lenin and the Bolsheviks pushed aside not only their Czarist opponents, but also Russian liberals, social-revolutionaries and Mensheviks, so Khomeini and his associates set out to monopolise the post-revolutionary state and extinguish both their political rivals and the very memory of their contribution to a history that belongs to all Iranians. It is the great contribution of the brave citizens of Iran who took to the streets in June 2009, and affirmed their rights in peaceful and dignified fashion, to have reclaimed this truth.

"Their demonstrations thus have opened a door to Iran's past as well as the future. Another slogan of the epic popular tide of 1978-79 - marg bar fascism, marg bar irtija (death to fascism, death to reaction) - may yet combine with the marg bar dictator of the marches of 2009 in a way that heralds the end of the demagogic clique that now rules Iran. The people of Iran, and their friends and admirers the world over, can only hope that this day comes sooner rather than later."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Free Press, Free Speech, And a Free Mind.

Michael Petrou at Macleans' magazine has a post up, properly titled Iran's Press TV's Useful Western Idiots, which points to Dominic Lawson's excellent Iran's British Stooges Are Staring Right At You, which reminds me of my own little run-in with Press TV recently, mentioned here.

It's helpful to remember that George Galloway, hero of Canada's so-called "anti-war" movement( and lauded by the Toronto Star's Linda McQuaig as part Noam Chomsky and part Mick Jagger, and praised by the CBC's Heather Mallick as bold, relentless and Shakespearean) has been for some time one of Press TV's most prominent scab celebrities. No mention of this from his fans McQuaig or Mallick, of course.

Good for Engage. Give 'em hell.

The photograph to the right was taken by Majid Saeedi, of Getty Images. He is one of at least 31 journalists the Tehran regime has arrested and imprisoned since the phoney election of June 12. Meanwhile, Potkin Azarmehr has posted photographs of two recent martyrs to the cause of Iranian freedom, Massoud Hashemzadeh and Mohammad Kamrani. These two young men are reasons, among hundreds of thousands, for refusing to have anything to do with Press TV. You might mention those names as you are urging the Press TV correspondent to take a long walk off a short pier, in such phrasing as best suits your temperament.

A free mind, no longer among us: Leszek Kolakowski. Nick Cohen remembers him here, and the other day, Christopher Hitchens eulogized him here. From the great Yank heartland, Stuart posts an essay from Kolakowski's Modernity on Endless Trial, here (UPDATE: Dave Osler presents a thoughtful dissenting view: "Surely Marxists should have learned not to defend the ruling classes of out-and-out repressive theocracies like Iran, even if they do constitute ‘regional bulwarks against imperialism’. Nor does the US embargo excuse Cuba’s lack of multiparty democracy and trade union rights. But these errors flow from the stupidity and reductionism of the leaderships of such far left currents as embrace these positions, rather than being in any way intrinsic to Marxism per se.").

Following upon my recent mischief (also here) meanwhile, my friend Jonathon Narvey has some thoughts, here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Azzam "Long Live The Taliban" Tamimi Is Coming To Canada. Why?

It's all for the sake of our edification, and for the sake of some elucidation of fascinating revivals and reform movements down through Islamic history, says the Al-Fauz Institute for Islamic Thought, about which I report today in the National Post. So, for the sake of fairness, and for the sake of argument, let's begin by giving the Al-Fauz institute the benefit of the doubt (see also here).

Let's say the institute's patrons and principals are actually quite serious about embarking upon a nation-wide campaign to raise up a new, outward-looking generation of Muslims in Canada. Let's say they're not kidding when they say their plan is to train Canada's young Muslims in the application of Islamic ideas to Canada’s "pluralistic" society, and that when they say their aim is to “prepare young minds that will take up the mantle of the Muslim community” in this country, they mean it. Let's also say they're dead serious about presenting Canadians with "a balanced and comprehensive vision of Islam."

First some questions, then some necessary background, and then a modest suggestion of my own.

Of all the choices they could have made for a showcase "academic" to begin such an ambitious undertaking, in a cultural minefield, in a realm of contentious debate that is so fraught with misunderstanding, stereotype and prejudice, why on earth did the Al-Fauz institute pick the notorious Azzam Tamimi? Why did they choose to launch what is essentially a proselytizing and public relations campaign in Canada with a shouting Hamas demagogue and unabashed suicide-bombing enthusiast who declared, only three months ago in Dublin: "With regard to their attitudes to liberation I say, Long live the Taliban”?

Not a few Canadians (and perhaps most Muslim-Canadians) are justifiably inclined to deep misgivings about the influence of certain "Islamic scholars" upon the already marginalized and often disaffected young Muslims of this country. Moreover, we are persistently admonished by certain Islamic "leaders" in Canada that Islam is really a religion of peace, love and understanding, and that suicide-bomb fetishists, Islamic Jihad partisans and Koran-thumping lunatics are really just Islamophobic caricatures.

So why has the Al-Fauz Institute for Islamic Thought been busy building a Canadian platform for Azzam Tamimi, a self-parody of the hoarse-throated, west-loathing, Israel-hating crank that they tell us is so untypical and unrepresentative of the Muslim leadership? Are the people behind the Al-Fauz institute really unaware that there are tens of thousands of Afghan-Canadian Muslims and relatives of Canadian soldiers who have lost loved ones to the savagery of the Taliban?

What the hell were they thinking?

These are the sorts of questions I put to the Al-Fauz Institute for Islamic Thought. I spoke with the institute's senior patron, Iqbal Masood Nadvi. I spoke with Hamid Slimi, the chairman of the Canadian Council of Imams and the best known of the five Canadian clerics the institute lists along with Tamimi as its faculty. I spoke with Junaid Mirza, the institute's coordinator. I report their answers in today's National Post, but I'll provide some deeper background here.

For all the disturbing inferences one might draw - and there are quite a few - a conclusion one might still reasonably reach is that there is a single, straightforward answer to each of the questions I've raised. A charitable way of putting it would be that for an outfit that calls itself the Al-Fauz Institute for Islamic Thought, there was surprisingly little thought that went into any of it. I admit that this is the answer I would prefer. I confess that there is a problem with it.

If it's all just about misunderstandings, mistakes, and matters of poor judgment, there remains this awkward business of presenting Tamimi as if he were merely a tweedy British academic whose only eccentricity is perhaps a predisposition to intense bookishness. The problem is that this leaves us with even more disturbing questions. For starters: Who do they think they're kidding? Why are they even trying?

There is a way to explain this, too, and it goes something like this: Once you take the green pill, you won't even notice the blue pill's effects. Lurid theology unavoidably bleeds into toxic ideology. As Tarek Fatah suggests, perhaps we should not expect perfectly candid answers from the institute's principals in the first place because there's more going on here than we're meant to know.

But what is it that's so unmentionable about the currents that Fatah and others have rather exhausively shown to be ubiquitous in certain Canadian mosques? Why no public scrutiny, no political debates about the Canadian iterations of Islam's clerical-fascist wellspring, the Muslim Brotherhood, or about its subsidiaries, not least of which are Hamas and Jamaat-e-Islami? Fatah: “The racist right will talk about these things to frighten people about immigrants. The liberal-left has abandoned its responsibility to fight medievalism. And nobody wants to talk about what is really happening here.”

By way of some more background, Hamid Slimi has built a reputation for himself over the years as a paragon of inter-faith dialogue, moderation, and Muslim integration. He has denounced jihadist terrorism as a heresy against Islam, which he calls the religion of "justice, peace and love." Slimi's immediate response to my questions about the Al-Fauz institute and Tamimi was that he knew nothing about it. Then, after some quick back-and-forth by telephone between Slimi and Iqbal Nadvi, the Al-Fauz institute’s senior patron, Slimi told me he was probably just behind in checking his emails, although he still insisted he wasn't even sure he knew who Azzam Tamimi is.

When I spoke with Nadvi, he said Slimi's apparent surprise in being associated with the institute was due to a simple misunderstanding. There had been a full discussion about the institute and Tamimi's engagement among and between the institute's imams, but the institute wasn’t supposed to be formally announced until later this month.

Nadvi says he knows nothing about Tamimi's unseemly politics or his frequent, bloodcurdling pronouncements, but Nadvi is no naive, backcountry cleric. He's said to be one of the few Muslim scholars in Canada with the authority to issue a fatwa - an Islamic legal ruling. He's the director of the Al-Falah Islamic School in the Toronto suburb of Oakville. He's reported to have memorized the entire Koran. He's a senior member of Canada's Islamic Finance Advisory Board, which promotes "sharia-compliant" banking in Canada. Which brings us to the Al-Fauz institute's coordinator, Junaid Mirza.

A junior associate at the Islamic Finance Advisory Board, Mirza is a chartered accountant and former spokesman for Young Muslims Canada. Mirza, 26, told me that it was more or less his idea to engage Tamimi with the institute, but everyone else was nonetheless fully on board. Mirza's a big fan of Tamimi. But is he also in agreement with, say, Tamimi’s public praise for the bloodthirsty Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization, which has murdered more than 100 Israeli civilians over the past 20 years?

“Azzam Tamimi is a Palestinian," said Mirza, "but he isn’t saying that Muslims in the west all have an obligation of jihad. He doesn’t say that Muslims here should go and pick up the gun.”

Let's set aside the fact that this explanation isn't in itself particularly reassuring and move on. How does Tamimi's "Long Live The Taliban" huzzah fit within Canada's "pluralistic" society, exactly? “His defence of the Taliban is a complicated one,” Mirza explained. “It’s not a blanket defence. . . . It’s whether it’s justified, whether a former government of a nation has the right to fight back after an invasion.” When asked, Mirza said he personally does not believe that the Taliban is right to slaughter Afghan civilians or kill Canadian soldiers.

It was good to have that cleared up, but I won't be told that I'm insinuating anything or "smearing" anyone by noticing that Mirza has taken courses from Tamimi, and is therefore unencumbered by any sort of unworldliness about who Tamimi is and what Tamimi is all about. Nadvi, meanwhile, spent several years teaching sharia law and jurisprudence at King Saud University in Riyadh. Is it so unreasonable to suppose that Nadvi and Mirza might have been at least vaguely aware that the celebrity "academic person" they'd just brought aboard the institute they'd just set up is widely known, and not for nothing, as perhaps the shrewdest Hamas propagandist in the English-speaking world?

As for Slimi, perhaps he should check his emails more often, and maybe he did have some trouble placing Tamimi's name. But Slimi will certainly not be unfamiliar with the name Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Qaradawi is a senior Muslim Brotherhood fatwa-maker. He once issued a fatwa against the game "Pokemon" on the grounds that it's a Zionist plot that uses subliminal Masonic messages to teach evolution. He first chastised and then congratulated the Taliban for blowing up the grand and ancient Buddha statutes at Bamiyan. He has eulogized Saddam Hussein. He counsels suicide-bombings that target Israeli civilians, and his idea of inter-faith dialogue is to summon the wrath of Allah upon the Jews, to "kill them, down to the very last one."

Slimi studied under Qaradawi back in the 1980s. But that was then, you could say. Fine. This is now: Qaradawi serves as a member of the board of advisors with Tamimi's own London-based Institute of Islamic Political Thought. Another of Tamimi's IIPT advisors is Khurshid Ahmad, a Jamaat-e-Islami bigshot. On Tamimi's "supervisory board" is Basheer Nafi, a founder of Islamic Jihad.

If the Al-Fauz Institute for Islamic Thought wants to be associated with this kind of clerical-fascist depravity, then fine, it's a free country. As usual, Canada's young Muslims will just have to sort it all out more or less by themselves. But if the Al-Fauz institute and its Canadian faculty members are honestly opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood's derangements, then they can clear up any unresolved questions quite easily. If, for example, Al-Fauz faculty member Ayub Hamid’s Muslim-focussed Canadian Institute of Policy Studies is really and truly all about “fostering goodness, shunning evil and ensuring justice, equality and peace,” as it claims, the solution is a simple one. It's readily available, and it is the only suggestion I feel saucy enough to offer.

Ditch Tamimi. Make a full accounting of how the hell it came to pass that Azzam Tamimi found such a comfortable sinecure for himself, in such august company, on the Al-Fauz faculty. But ditch him.

This is not like the case of Iran's Press TV scab George Galloway, who encountered legal difficulties in his planned engagements in Canada after falling afoul of Section 34(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Galloway failed to secure the red carpet he'd wanted on account of having admitted to being a bagman for Hamas (and not "just because he brought aid to bombed-out Gaza", the propaganda fiction you will still find in circulation in some of Canada's otherwise reputable newspapers). The law in Tamimi's case might not be so clear, so any effort to keep Canada's doors closed to him might be in vain at the get-go and counter-productive in the bargain. This is just as well. The upside is that this gives the Al-Fauz institute an opportunity to come clean all on its own.

Unless it disowns Tamimi and everything he stands for, the Al-Fauz institute will be carrying his bad smell around wherever it goes. It will pervade everyone associated with the enterprise, and no amount of subject-changing complaints about "Islamophobia," hadith-splitting about the Taliban or any other such theological backchat will make it go away.

Meanwhile, more about Tamimi, at that always helpful and saucy archive, here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Message to the International 'Left': "Stop Supporting Iran's Islamic Regime."

From The Iran-Left Coalition Canada:

"We are asking the Iranian regime’s defenders in the international left to show us any documents or articles by any major Iranian leftist organization or entity after 1986 that is in line with their current position of defending the reactionary, anti-worker regime in Iran as anti-imperialist and deserving support.

"We ask these comrades again, shall you not refer to the Iranian left’s literature and analysis for a true understanding of the Iranian regime? The experience has taught us that any regime which murders the communists, and the worker, union and human rights activists, can not be anti-imperialist.

"The anti-imperialist struggle can not be waged without the fight for democratic freedoms. Please support us in our cause by endorsing this appeal."

With some minor caveats, I happily endorse this appeal (which follows usefully from Saeed Rahnema's analysis), which should come as no surprise (as in here, and here, and in the context of Afghanistan). I am very happy to see the stupefaction exposed and challenged by the Iran-Left Coalition, because it's long been my view that the corrosive effects of the reactionary 'left' should be exposed at every opportunity.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Not 'Death To Israel,' Not 'Death to the USA,' But 'Down With Russia'.

. . . In reference to Ahmadinejad's friend, Vladimir Putin, and what a refreshing change of slogan it is. The protests in Iran continue:

Tipped by the good Potkin Azarmehr.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Emperor Visits Neptune

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Saeed Rahnema: For Progressive Solidarity, Against The "Reactionary Left."

For a properly rigorous assessment of the pathetically reactionary currents that have caused such stupefaction across the western liberal-left spectrum in recent years, with particular reference to solidarity with the Iranian uprising, here's Saeed Rahnema.

The upshot: "The left has historically been rooted in solidarity with progressive movements, women's rights and rights for unions and its voice has been first and foremost a call for freedom. The voices that we hear today from part of the Left are tragically reactionary. Siding with religious fundamentalists with the wrong assumptions that they are anti-imperialists and anti-capitalists, is aligning with the most reactionary forces of history. This is a reactionary left, different from the progressive left which has always been on the side of the forces of progress."

It's like I've been saying. Here, and here, and here.

Rahnema is of a tragically rare species. He's an unapologetically left-wing sort of intellectual who conducts his work in the rigorous academic tradition that demands evidence of analysis and eschews fashionably transgressive revisionism. Even when he wades into unfamiliar territory and gets his history skewed, as he does in this debate with former NATO ambassador Gordon Smith, Rahnema's conclusions are dead right:

"One policy which is lurking around these days is the search for ‘good’ Islamist fundamentalists. The policy of rapprochement with ‘good’ Taliban, which points to the miserable failures of the American, Canadian and other NATO allies in Afghanistan, is misguided. It involves major concessions and compromises to these backward elements, and has serious implications for human rights – among them the rights of women. In terms of zealotry and ruthlessness, there are few differences between Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and indeed among the Taliban themselves."

The upshot: "Empowering secular, progressive forces is the only solution to this ordeal."

On the ongoing agony in Israel and Palestine: "The only solution to this conflict is a negotiated settlement. But history has so far shown that peace is not possible as long as hawkish Israeli governments come into power and have the unconditional support of the United States and the Israeli lobby. Likewise, no peace is possible as long as radical Palestinians - in particular, religious zealots and their supporters inside and outside the Palestinian territories - are not ready to recognize the reality of the existence of the state of Israel within the pre-1967 borders."

That is rather better than demonizing Israel, pandering to the delicate, bourgeois sensibilities of the liberal-left elites and laying the blame for the world's ills solely at the feet of shadowy Zionists, no?

Friday, July 10, 2009

"For Remarks He Didn't Make"

Why does this sort of thing keep happening? If the idea is to rubbish Michael Ignatieff, surely there must be something he has actually said or done, in the real world, that would be sufficient to the task.

For the most peculiar sorts of reasons, lies follow him around. Very odd indeed.

Why not just slag him off for his choice of cravats?


Thursday, July 09, 2009

“Tell the world what is happening here. This is our revolution. We will not give up.”

The New York Times reports that the atmosphere in the streets of Tehran is "almost festive." One witness gave this account: “The crowds are too huge to contain. Riot police running up and down Fatemi Street, beating people, barely got out of the way. The crowds just get out of their way and come back.”

Meanwhile, Mohammed Asif Mohseni, Tehran's ayatollah in Afghanistan, has other pressing matters to contend with at the moment, like answering questions on his own website about the kind of sex a man can force upon his wife (in case any visitors to this web lodge find themselves of a mind to give Mosehni some advice, here's how to reach him in Kabul: 0093797415912).

Today, around the world, millions of people are remembering the brave rising of 1999: "This — this bouncing of thoughts and ideas, this constant production of words and stories and our constant struggle — may perhaps have taught us that power lies not only in the images of burnt flags and broken windows. It will be our words, thoughts and ideas that will prove, in the long run, the most powerful."

Today, the collapse of the rule of the ayatollahs is within reach. To all our Iranian friends: Don't lose heart. Freedom will come. The people do not forget:

Monday, July 06, 2009

Summertime, and the living's easy. Or so it would seem. . .

Why does the custom of making linseed oil usually involve a dash of onion, and why must white wine go with fish, not meat? Could the answers help explain why the lovely little bird known as a red-eyed vireo almost always steals a piece of the nest of a paper wasp in order to decorate its own?

For answers to these and other pressing questions of public policy, see my review of Bernd Heinrich's latest, Summer World: A Season of Bounty, in the Globe and Mail.

Meanwhile, here's my lad Conall and myself a couple of weeks back, after a morning's fishing off Sheringham Point, on the occasion of his 15th birthday (the boy's a giant, the picture of Cuchullain himself):

And here's a wee imp from the Afghan community picnic at my old stomping grounds, on the Fraser River in Burnaby:

Summer is upon us. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Freedom Will Come.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Uprising Changes Everything Part III: Exposing Iranian Treachery In Afghanistan

"The Iranian government has finally exposed itself as a theocratic, totalitarian regime," says Afghan student leader Mohammed Faqiri, at Herat University. That's fast becoming the mainstream view among young Afghans, says Faqiri, 23. "Iranian leaders are trying to hang onto power by killing people and destroying their free media." In Kabul, meanwhile, Tehran's malignancy has been coming under increasing fire in mainstream Afghan society, owing to the operations of the sinister cleric in the photograph, Mohammed Asif Mosehni, Tehran's ayatollah in Kabul.

Mohseni (in this profile, he is revealed as a cunning manipulator of Afghanistan's already divided Shia community and is said to have once murdered a man who objected to him marrying a 14-year-old girl) was the driving force behind the Afghan "rape law" that attracted headlines around the world a few weeks ago. The controversy allowed "anti-war" groups to lay the law at the feet of the so-called "occupation" forces in Afghanistan. As noted in my Tyee column Monday (see also Part I) the law was in fact written in Tehran and drew directly from the "Law Supporting the Family," which stalled in the Iranian parliament in 2008 following an open revolt led by Iranian women.

The news media in "the west" only occasionally bothers to notice Tehran's efforts at subverting Afghanistan's democratic progress and has paid little attention to Mosehni's dirty work on behalf of the Tehran regime. An exception is this important France 24 exposé, which revealed something of the goings-on at Mohseni's opulent Khatam-al-Nabyeen centre in Kabul. It's a huge mosque and a university-sized madrassa, and its radio station and a television station are run by Afghan "journalists" who are reportedly trained in Tehran, where they are hosted by Iran's Revolutionary Guards. An especially revealing aspect of the France 24 exposé is the way the western media persists in giving the impression that the Khomeinist-inspired "rape law" enjoys the support of Afghanistan's Shia minority (here's especially embarassing example, via Reuters, from just last week).

Iranian Afghanistan expert Niamatullah Ibrahimi says Mohseni's media operations present "a nearly exclusively Iranian political outlook.” In Mohseni's pro-Tehran propaganda, opponents of the Iran-sponsored "rape law" are branded as agents of a "Jewish-Christian conspiracy.” In this way, as Iranian Afghanistan-watcher Muhammad Tamir sets out in this excellent overview, the Tehran regime's propaganda line on Afghanistan is indistinguishable from what you'll hear from the so-called "anti-war" movement in the west: "The Afghan people do not see any improvement in their lives and welfare as it was promised to them. Moreover, they are forced to bow to the presence of foreigners on their land and suffer the shame of occupation. Now the Afghan people know that America's goal in attacking Afghanistan and occupying it was part of the global plan America pursues for domination of the Middle East."

Afghan foreign minister Ragin Spanta has long warned about Tehran's duplicitous interference in Afghan affairs, with "a vast and solid network of influence" in Afghanistan. "No one knows what harvest Tehran hopes to reap from what it has sown," he says.

It may be that Iran's political and propaganda efforts to undermine Afghan progress have gone largely unnoticed in the "west" because of a preoccupation with sketchy reports and rumours that Tehran is directly funding and arming jihadists groups, including both the Taliban and the Hezb-e-Islami armed wing run by Tehran's former warlord-of-choice from the civil war days, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. But recent events may be helping to clarify matters.

Last year, a Taliban commander reported that Iran is supplying the Taliban with landmines, which may or may not mean the landmines are coming directly from the Tehran regime. But last May, Richard Boucher, the U.S. assistant secretary of state, said the evidence for Iran's political skulduggery is overwhelming, "Iranian interference politically, Iranian interference in terms of the money that they channel into the political process, Iranian interference in terms of playing off local officials against central government, trying to undermine the state in that way."

Earlier this year, the Pentagon was claiming that Iran was making efforts "to supply weapons and training" to Afghan armed groups, and the Spanish news media obtained a military-intelligence report which contained an account of Hekmatyar meeting with senior government officials in Tehran as recently as 2005. Only last month, Afghan border police said interceptions of mortars and landmines had become a regular occurrence on the Iran-Afghanistan frontier, and U.S. military officials claim to have killed a Taliban commander directly backed by Iran's Qods Force, a branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

Whether or not that proves true, it's no secret that lately, Tehran has also been enthusiastically courting Afghan president Hamid Karzai, whose government is fast becoming a corruption-laden pariah in western capitals, and needs all the friends he can get.

But while everybody's chasing down ludicrous "it's all about oil" conspiracies, all the real plotting and sedition goes largely unreported.

In Kabul, Mohseni's operations have been in full view for years, but they barely rate a mention in the "west." In Herat, which is seething with Tehran's agents and spies, the corruption and bankruptcy of the Iranian regime is now exposed in particularly stark relief. "This is the start of an important revolution in Iran," says Afghan constitutional law professor Mohammad Rafek Shahir in Herat. "We are impressed with the Iranians and their struggle for change, but with what has happened in the past weeks, Iran's influence here has been devastated."

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Parce que nous sommes tous libre.

It's Canada Day, like.

Off to the Cowichan River with the missus and the boy. To float down from the lake in inner tubes.