Iran

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Part I: The Failure of the Military Option

Syria Peace Sign ImageIt may seem odd to speak of nonviolence in the same sentence as Syria, one of the bloodiest and most tragic destructions of a state and a culture in contemporary history. But the fact is that we are inching closer to a mainstream and politically realist understanding of nonviolence as a legitimate course of political change. This is very significant, because if in fact the major powers are beginning to acknowledge the futility of armed conflict, at least in places of a geopolitical standoff, such as Syria, then we can expect more Western support may to nonviolent resisters in the future. This in turn may inch the globe a bit closer to a nonviolent system of social change.

Why has the military option become increasingly futile in the Syrian case? Because Russia and Iran will not back down in their support …

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I was about to publish the piece below one day ago. It was based on a press conference of the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Sunday, July 21, 2013. But just two days later, the same Foreign Ministry spokesperson contradicted his own statement that America had been invited to the inauguration. This is a highly unusual development that I will analyze below, and the story may still be unfolding. But first read this piece:

 

Return the Gesture: Invite President Rowhani of Iran to the White House 

Hasan RowhaniThe Foreign Ministry of Iran has invited the European Union and the United States
to attend the inauguration of President Rowhani on August 4. The evidence of history suggests that the smart thing for the United States to do is seize the moment and quickly return the friendly gesture. The White House should invite President Rowhani to the White House on September 21, …

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I think it is interesting that in just a few days we heard from the daughter of Emir of Qatar that MENA radical intervention into Syria was turning into a ruination of a legitimate struggle because of the violence and barbarism of the religious extremists. Then we heard from the daughter of Khomeini, father of the Iranian Revolution, that the current leaders may be ruining the revolution and replacing it with a dictatorship. What’s up with the new daughters of MENA? These women are not radicalized hippie eighteen year old children of farmers from the countryside. They are from the top elite of each country’s leadership. What gives with these women’s preference for nonviolence? Could this be a kindler, gentler effect of the Arab Spring? Or perhaps the culmination of longer processes at work? 

The answer is that the slow and steady increase of women’s voices …

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Washington (CNN) – An ancient Persian symbol of freedom, tolerance and coexistence has joined documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Emancipation Proclamation in Washington.

The Cyrus Cylinder represents the spirit and ideals of Cyrus, the leader of the Achaemenid Empire in the sixth century B.C. After peacefully conquering Babylon in 539 B.C.and declaring his principles on the cylinder, Cyrus freed the Jewish population of Babylon from long bondage and rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Cyrus Cylinder inspired many throughout history — in particular 18th century Enlightenment philosophers, historians and politicians in Europe and America — as a source of their thinking on human rights, settling conflicts and leadership.

Thomas Jefferson reportedly owned two copies of the Cyropaedia, Xenophon’s biography of Cyrus, and carried it for inspiration and guidance.

Today — far from ancient Persia and the Enlightenment, in a different, far more

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Folks please see my essay on Iran, Israel, U.S. and a very different view of nuclear standoff and future possibilities, finally published in Huffiington Post here and reproduced below. Please feel free to comment, critique, pass on to others.  

There is a pervasive fear that is being spread by American, Israeli and Sunni Gulf leaders that the most dangerous development in modern history will be the capacity of Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. The fear of nuclear weapons is a natural one, and it is well deserved, because a nuclear weapon is far and away the worst technological innovation of murder ever developed in human history, probably the worst that ever will be developed. 

It is especially understandable that Israel, composed mostly of Jews, many of whom are from Holocaust families, would be especially vulnerable to the fear of sudden and mass extermination by inveterate enemies. By some estimates, …

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There is a pervasive fear that is being spread by American, Israeli and Sunni Gulf leaders that the most dangerous development in modern history will be the capacity of Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. The fear of nuclear weapons is a natural one, and it is well deserved, because a nuclear weapon is far and away the worst technological innovation of murder ever developed in human history, probably the worst that ever will be developed.

It is especially understandable that Israel, composed mostly of Jews many of whom are from Holocaust families, would be especially vulnerable to the fear of sudden and mass extermination by inveterate enemies. Israel has almost 400 advanced nuclear weapons and delivery systems, and yet there seems to be no limits to the fears that leaders can generate at even the possibility that Iran could acquire nuclear weapons.

Nuclear terror almost brought the world to

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We are facing the beginnings of a Cuban Missile Crisis moment in the Straits of Hormuz, and without the proper communications system to avoid a catastrophe, as David Ignatius has noted. Secret communications between President Obama and Khameini are an excellent idea right now, with the right back channels, but they should not be just about communicating red lines and threats directly and personally. They should also be about opportunities, and those opportunities must be kept the most secret of all, because of those who are breathing down Obama’s political neck, itching for war.

 

There is an ancient idea that if you want your enemy to make a move other than one that is suicidal that you must not surround him on all four sides, you must offer him a way out. If there is no way out, then the threats and aggressive maneuvers just escalate. There must …

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Just a few days ago was the longest night of the year. Another way of looking at is that this was night in which the tide of darkness began to turn back in favor of light. Bunched around this time are so many ancient holidays of lights and candles, of which Hanukah and Christmas are but two. Ancient rabbinic tradition suggests that the purpose of the small light at night is to teach that it takes only the light of one individual candle to illuminate the darkness of an entire room—or the world.

Peering at small lights at night, meditating on them, also has another interesting impact. It makes the blinding light of the morning sun feel almost miraculous. Indeed, many of the pre-monotheistic nighttime celebrations of light at this time of year are actually celebrations of the birth of light, and particularly sunlight. There is an inescapable reality to …

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Ineffective tightening of sanctions on Iran

by mgopin on December 12, 2011 · 0 comments

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This article originally appeared on the Al Jazeeera English website on Dec. 12, 2011.  You can view it by clicking here .

Washington, DC - There is a long record of the grim effects of sanctions in international struggles against those states deemed as “rogue”. Sanctions are seen as righteous instruments, a non-violent way to pressure problematic regimes to change. But when you really don’t care about a country or its people, then your true attitudes emerge in the way in which you use the sanctions instrument of policy.

Let’s take Iraq. Based on estimates of the massive increase in child mortality rates through the years of the sanctions in the 1990s, anywhere from 300,000 to a million people lost their lives. But no one in Saddam’s inner circle, none of the wealthy, and none of the killers, died from those sanctions. Such sanctions were touted as an enlightened and …

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Get on the Right Side of History

by mgopin on September 24, 2011 · 0 comments

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(A version of this essay was recently published in The Jerusalem Report.)

Across the world in the last 40 years politically organized religious forces have played an increasingly important role in national politics. From India to Indonesia, from Lebanon to Israel, from the United States to Russia, organized religion has increased its impact on politics.

We are also aware of the frightening rise of very violent religion, expressed through terror groups. For this reason, it is easy to misunderstand the relationship between religion on the one hand and between states and ethnic groups and their very secular interests, on the other hand.

Precisely because so many millions of people care about religion, religion has become an essential tool of secular state and ethnic interests. Indeed, what may seem to be a religious issue often turns out to be very secular state interests. Missing this relationship, it becomes easy

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