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The War Nerd / June 18, 2009


It took me a while to figure out why everybody was nagging me to do a column on the Iranian elections. Everybody seemed to think it was all mysterious and world-shaking. Finally I realized, you’re all het up because every news service in the US and England has been selling these riots like a new Star Wars episode, and people are just trying to figure out what’s going on and what it all means.

Well, I can answer that in one note: nothing much is going on, just letting off steam; and what little is happening isn’t mysterious at all. Basically, this is simple steam release, something the Mullahs have to allow now and then when the kids, and there are a lot of young adults in Iran, need to remind everybody they’re tired of being bossed around. There’s a huge, huge difference between that kind of “revolution” and the kind that has a real foundation in tribal differences or religion or city/country, the real fault lines. What’s going on in Iran now is a lot like the big fizzle in Lebanon after Hariri’s assassination in 2005. So if y’all will permit me to digress, let me take you back to the Cedar Revolution that supposedly “gripped” Lebanon. All that really happened was that some of the few Christian/Sunni elite Lebanese kids who hadn’t emigrated yet got so pissed off at the Syrians for just blowing Hariri away in broad daylight that they came out and waved the Lebanese flag–the one with the Cedar tree on it. Well, you’d have thought the Berlin Wall had fallen all over again. The same Anglo news networks that are declaring an outbreak of democracy in Iran now were screaming into microphones all over Lebanon, just so touched by these rich Christian/”Phoenician” Lebanese kids announcing that no durn Hezbollah Iranian-puppet thugs were gonna repress their craving for freedom…and discos, and wearing about a quart of perfume, and all the other accessories that go with what they call a Western orientation in the Middle East.

These are the kind of people Anglo news crews glom onto like horny refrigerator magnets: young, well-dressed, a lot of them speak English, and they talk about nice familiar stuff like “freedom” and “democracy.” They make great TV. But they can’t win a war. You win wars with poor people, numbers and toughness and discipline. Hezbollah proved it had the numbers by producing counter-demos with a million people cheering the Syrians and asking Allah to zap the West and Democracy and that Cedar Tree. If democracy means “we got more people with us than you do,” that should’ve proved Hezbollah beat the Cedar All-Stars, but that story never came out much. Hezbollah’s demonstrators weren’t the kind of people the BBC or CNN really felt comfortable around. It’s hard for a Western news crew to relax with a huge crowd of agitated lower-class Shia. Their way of making a point is by getting bloody, showing off wounds and cuts and shaving nicks, whatever they’ve got. Nobody at CNN wants that to be the future; nobody wants to go to commercial with a bunch of shrieking Shia mothers like hysterical Hefty Bags proudly saying they hope their 14 or so sons become martyrs, and the sooner the better. No, what you want for an upbeat TV story is a bunch of taller, skinnier, paler, English-speaking rich kids.

Which brings us to Iran. Iranians aren’t Arab, but they are Shia, and excitable. Keep that in mind. Different countries explode at different temperatures. There are places where yelling is a declaration of war. If a Norwegian raises his voice, Hell is about to break loose. If a Canadian yells at you, get a restraining order. But Iranians will scream at each other over how to cook an egg, and be all chummy and laughing the next minute. They used to keep that hysterical side in control with opium–the whole country was on the pipe until the sixties–but it’s harder to get now, so they just keep yelling.

So when Iran has a national election, it’s going to be loud. People are going to yell in the streets, people are going to shoot guns off, sometimes in the general direction of the opposition, and anybody who gets hit is going to tweet his bloodstains, youtube his bulletholes, and send it all over the world.

And if the people doing the demonstrating are mostly that same Cedar-Rev demographic: rich young city kids–then duh, they’re also the ones who are going to be web-savvy tweet freaks. In fact, Iran has probably the biggest dissident blog network in the world. I don’t read Farsi–I wish I did–but I read this pretty decent book, I Am Iran, about the anti-mullah blog scene there. Check it out if you want a better idea of who the opposition is, the people flooding the streets in Tehran. They’re sick of it, which is easy to understand; living in the Islamic Republic of Iran must be a lot like going to a Catholic school where you never, ever graduate, where kissing is a felony and not wearing the uniform is a crime against God. Hell yes, they’re sick of it, and they have every right to be.

But, to get coldblooded about it, so what? They’re not going to overthrow the state. I don’t usually like that word, “the state,” but I’m using it here because it works better than “Ahmedinajad.” He’s the official bad guy here, the classic bigmouth runt who wants Israel turned into a gravel pit and America turned into a colony of Venezuela. Hell, he’s all kinds of obnoxious, down to the ratty beard and beady eyes and the way he dresses like a hungover Soviet janitor.

But he’s not the Islamic Republic of Iran.

He’s only the president. The way the Iranian government is put together, the Prez is more like a noisemaker, official annoyer-of-the-Anglos, than a decider. Way, way above him is the “Supreme Leader,” sort of an Ayatollah version of the Pope, Khomeini’s official successors. Right now the Supreme Leader is Ali Khamenei. He doesn’t talk to the press, or make official trips to hug Chavez. He just sits there in his big black turban and says “No” every time somebody asks for a little relaxation of all this pious crap. He’s seen’em come and go, these reformer types; he crushed Rafsanjani, Khatami, anybody who even suggested that the way Khomeini laid it down in 1979 might not be good enough for all eternity.

See, that’s the pattern I’m talking about: the people who matter in Iran won’t talk to foreign news crews, and the people who will, the ones in the streets right now…well, they may be brave, noble people, but they don’t have a chance in Hell.

That’s because the IRI government is a bunch of rival militias, intelligence agencies, and religious committees. There’s even a legislature, although nobody takes that seriously. If you remember the way the Iranian side was organized in the Iran/Iraq war, you might have a better idea how the people at the top like things to run: always with rival forces competing for power. That’s because Khomeini was thinking coups in 1979. So alongside the regular Army he set up the Revolutionary Guards, hardcore jihadis loyal to the Supreme Leader, not the Army Brass. To make sure the Revolutionary Guards weren’t vulnerable to a sudden decapitation by the army or anyone else, their cadres were placed with every agency, like Islamist commissars, and they set up militias in every city in Iran.

You get the same thing in any new militarized state, even tiny Hellholes like Duvalier’s Haiti, with the Ton=ton Macoutes balancing the army, bypassing the official channels so they could kill at Duvalier’s command.

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Add your own

  • 1. Frank McG  |  June 23rd, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    What I love is more of the phony Republican outrage designed to desperately smear Obama.

    Like Aimes pointed out with the whole Teabag protests, the whole FOX news and talk radio circuit are very, very good at manufacturing fake controversy. Was it REALLY anyone’s first reaction to all of this “Obama is too soft on this.” Too soft on what? What is it they expect him to do? Is anyone stupid enough to believe that the US getting overtly involved would make everything worse (though it’d be kind of funny going reverse psychology and announcing support for the regime)?

    What really gets me though is all of them saying we need to support these lovers of freedom yearning to be free. Bull fucking shit. These are the same people they’ve been slobbering to bomb for the past 30 years. You don’t give a flying fuck about any of them. Way to hide behind phony compassion just to smear the other party and try to goad us into more idiotic foreign policy that you’ve ruined us with for the past 8 years.

  • 2. haze  |  June 24th, 2009 at 12:15 am

    Seems quite convincing to me.

    Got a question apart from that article: Is there a reason to read the old War Nerd Articles form about 2003 to 2006? Is there any archive website? Exiledonline archive doesn’t have that many columns. In fact I even own the book, but I want to check out some other articles. Thanks in advance.

  • 3. Alan  |  June 24th, 2009 at 12:35 am

    What I find most laughable about this whole episode is that the supposed “anti-democratic” Iranian religious leaders calling for an enquiry into the allegations of fraud. More than what the US got in 2000, eh?

  • 4. hyperbolus  |  June 24th, 2009 at 12:43 am

    Was Khomeini as grotesque as Ronald Reagan? Not a chance. And the former was a true revolutionary, the latter a total fake (make-up and all). Anyway, the analysis is too ethnic-oriented (and too demotic). I say it’s a case of the revolting/corrupt/decadent offspring of the Iranian (or rather Tehranian) bourgeoisie, manipulated by foreigners and especially the sinister Rafsanjani and his cronies (including Mousavi–my definition of “reformer”: someone eager to grab state assets, the public trust, the common-wealth, for himself and his “friends”), trying (and failing) in trademarked/generic color-revolutionary (i.e. pseudo- or counter-revolutionary) fashion to overthrow the Revolutionary vanguard supported by the majority of the population (who really voted for Ahmadinejad). Ahmadinejad has truly revived the Iranian/Shia/Islamic Revolution, and I hope the revolutionary vanguard takes this opportunity at least to liquidate Rafsanjani and all his crooked fellow “reformers”, as far as possible. The real Iranian revolutionaries, alongside Hezbollah (and Hamas) and the Sadrists (in Iraq), are the world’s best hope (against capitalism, imperialism, and Zionism) in the Middle East.

  • 5. Mark Nuckols  |  June 25th, 2009 at 1:17 am

    Well, Gary, I am disappointed. I expect childish and unoriginal antics from Ames, such as rewriting my comments, but I had a higher expectations of you. Not that I particularly care. But I’ll credit you with being somewhat informed, and occasionally insightful.

    But like the mass media, you miss a trick here. Nobody seems to be discussing the fact that much of the economy is controlled by the mullahs. That’s the angle I would explore, if I were you. Oh, but you’re not.

  • 6. Allen  |  June 25th, 2009 at 11:31 am

    The spectacle grows more and more amusing. The other day I saw the Shah’s son T.V. tearfully relating that his heart goes out to the Iranian people struggling for “freedom”. History repeats itself again, eh? But, to quote one of history’s best polemicists, the second time as comedy.

    I’ve been reading up on the election a little bit; it seems there are some interesting technical reasons to why the opposition feels the election was rigged (Ahmadinejad carried every demographic: youth, city dwellers, and even ethnic Azerbaijani Turks: Mousavi’s own people). But I still don’t see the angle; what’s so important about Ahmadinejad or his adversaries to rig en election? I’m reasonably sure the Mullahs could live with most of the candidates …

    I’ve heard it may have something to do with the struggle for succession with regard to the “supreme” leader/Mullah office, but that’s a little nebulous.

  • 7. Molly  |  June 25th, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    jeez give it up war nerd. you jumped the shark long ago and now your crap is just self parody.

  • 8. vladimir  |  June 26th, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    I wonder why during the weeks preceding the IRI election protests, there was not a similiar amount of shrieking, hair-pulling and chest-pounding support poured out on behalf of the daily protests that were taking place in Georgia, against the madman continuing as their president only thanks to a brutal police and military gathered around him. HHmmm ???

  • 9. d.hunter  |  June 27th, 2009 at 10:07 am

    What gets me is this weatern support for mousavi when Mousavi is extremely anti American and obne of the leaders of the Islamic Revolution that ousted the Shah and put the Mullahs into power.

  • 10. Stephen  |  June 27th, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Eskandar says
    “You claim that “people doing the demonstrating are mostly that same Cedar-Rev demographic: rich young city kids,” which is not backed up by any facts and is far from reality. It does not explain the large presence of adults and even the elderly at the protests, nor the explosion of protest activity in the slums of South Tehran, the working-class neighborhoods of Esfahan, the talk of a provincial strike in rural Kurdistan province, the fact that teachers, auto workers, and bus workers have gone on strike in support of the protest, and on and on…”

    I have seen little in the way of protest in the South of Tehran. Unless, like the NYTimes and BBC, you actually think Imam Khomenei Square is South Tehran. (Of course it is south of the luxury hotels the reporters are probably staying at in North Tehran.) I have seen news of huge rallies in Isfahan, but nothing about the “working-class neighborhoods of Isfahan”. Once again, unless one thinks the Naghsh-e Jahan Square is “working class”. Is Bel Air working class? And strikes in Kurdistan? Since when do Kurds support Amadinejad anyway?

  • 11. Russel  |  June 28th, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    US / Uk media:
    Fact is i wouldnt like to live in a ” cathlic school or in present Iran.

    Fact is also certain western medias & govts
    expect that this could be their oppertunity
    to bring ” peace & DE MOK CRAZY ” to Iran in
    exchange for ” cheap oil ” from a more western oriented Iran.

    Fact is ” Mullas” in the head office runs the show no matter what BBC, CNN “reports”.
    Twitter & U Tube is good fun bur 4 the moment wouldnt be able 2 send the MULLAS on Vac.

    Fact is also what has brought the ” De MOK RAZY” ,the western way of living to say: 2 eastern europe; example Ukrain or Hungary.
    Lot of freedom ! but nothing to eat.
    In good old commie days 95% had 2 eat & no freedom!!!

    Now lots of freedom ;95% starving but 5% has plenty.

    And of course nato can expand eastwards selling their Armour while ppl have nothing 2 live from.

    Its the same old story in any conflict.
    Diff. groups with diff. interests.
    Each trying to vaccume suck max posssible
    doesnt matter which idiology they have.
    All they want is good life while others swet
    like the Garry in a hot Fresno summer

  • 12. Copeland  |  June 29th, 2009 at 1:30 am

    Reading The Exiled is sometimes like taking bitter herbs; but I compliment you Gary, on this very unique take on these Iranian events. It has been easy to get lost in the squabble of whether or not there was fraud in the election. Many of the folks I’ve been discussing this with, are into the broad brush conspiracy angle, where the minions of the CIA are alleged to have been playing this uprising like a cheap fiddle.

    I’m not inclined to the conspiracy angle; but I’ve probably been biased because theocracy and its moralizing control over the private part of life really chaps my ass. It’s been very easy to identify with the Dionysian burst of rebellion and Iranian culture clashes, maybe because the American experience has some parallel in the suffocating morality of our own silent majority and its unforgiving redneck ways. Every society has its demons to overcome.

    Joan Baez has said in that you have to transcend protest as a kind of self-affirming statement, and be able to do something more difficult, which is to talk without rancor to those who are culturally/politically on the other side of the fence. Engaging with them is also one of the fundamental processes that makes change happen.

  • 13. james  |  June 30th, 2009 at 6:33 pm


    Good point probably because the government is filled with US, British and Israeli assets and some citizens to oversea the BTC pipeline or no “coloured revolutions” or the monarchist elected presidency of Azerbajin or the vassel states in the Mid East.

    Didn’t the UAE leaders brother torture and kill an Afghani migrant worker for fun videotaping it.

    They didn’t mind Irans help when they set up a terrorist state and haven with numerous links to 9/11.

    Clinton-Approved Iranian Arms Transfers Help Turn Bosnia into Militant Islamic Base

    I commented on Seans Russia blog where he suggests the idea that the CIA, Soros, etc is not help coordinate and forment unrest is a crazy conspiracy theory.

  • 14. Joe  |  June 30th, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    War nerd was right. I was wrong.

  • 15. captain america  |  July 1st, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    the wife sent me to the local middle-eastern market to grab some tiramisu tonight, and i spied some of that iranian ice cream. trying it right now. i gotta say…not bad.

  • 16. aleke  |  July 4th, 2009 at 3:43 pm


    That’s true, but look at Sweden (and other Scandinavian countries). They have it all, plenty to eat, AND freedom. Not the stupid, irrational economic freedom to be oppressed and taken advantage of, but the good happy kind. Makes them among the happiest nations in the world, according to many recently-compiled statistics. There’s other ways.

    Or take a look at Emilia Romagna, they have economic democracy there. They’re very egalitarian, have became one of the top five most prosperous regions in all of Europe, and vote very leftwing while still maintaining plenty of freedoms (economic and political). To quote:

    “A region of four million people with 90,000 manufacturing enterprises (compare that with New York with only 26,000 manufacturers). A region of four million people and some 325,000 enterprises one business for every twelve citizens!”

    There’s really alot of great alternatives, that don’t give us social darwinist Serfdom (capitalism) and don’t give us heavy political repression (Soviet socialism). We just need to have a rational revolution; Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith would both be proud. And dead. and white

  • 17. Amir J  |  July 9th, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Protests, peaceful and violent, are breaking out again. Looks a bit more than letting off steam. Once again, the war douche will be wrong like he’s been wrong on so many occasions. The regime will fall, and Brecher will write a cynically driven article about how he misunderstood Iranian society. He’ll make a few wisecracks, make a comparison with arabs and crawl back into his military chair pretending to have a grasp of the the Asian psyche.

  • 18. zeev  |  July 11th, 2009 at 3:51 am

    We really have no idea what the opinions of the leaders and members of the Iranian regime are. Their presence is an unknown factor.
    The regime could fall tomorrow or in a decade we would be none the wiser until its last day. There simply is insufficient information about Iranian society and government to assess what’s going to happen to it in the future. Partly this is because no one in power or in government wants to talk, as the War Nerd points out; partly it’s because people that talk get killed. I mean, who is to say if Mousavi is a reformer or a hardliner, or if the regime could survive Ahmadenijad’s fall? This is pure speculation.
    Comic books and articles penned by expatriates or statistical analyses simply won’t help.

  • 19. Neuth  |  July 26th, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Don’t get upset with Gary Brecher, his writings should be seen as entertainment primarily. Which doesn’t mean he can’t be right about something, and devastatingly wrong about something else.

    The West and the people of the West are different things. The West, as it is represented in media, is merely the US and Great Britain. It is not even the peoples of these two coutries, but a very small chattering elite in each country.

    And the majority of that elite are Jews and non-Jewish useful idiot type Zionists. Like former prez Bush, his Black Witch Condi Rice and most of the rest of his former cabinet.

    Obama is just as Bush, only with darker skin and a more evolved manner of expressing himself. His closest man is Rahm Emanuel, a Jew, zionist and former member of Israel’s armed forces. His daddy was a jewish terrorist btw.

    In England, the Rotschilds (jewish mega-rich banksters) manage the queen’s money, a Jew is a major head of the BBC (Alan Yentob), there are supposed “Lord” this and “Lord” that, but by coincidence these supposed noble men just happen to be Jews. The leader of the conservative party has an English sounding name, but guess what, he’s a Jew too. He’s not even English, just like France’s Sarkozy isn’t French, not a drop of french blood in him. And so on.

    The ‘elites’ of these countries really look after what’s good for the Jews and not what’s good for their respective host nations.

    Saddam Hussein got it for the SCUDs he sent off to Tel Aviv, nothing else. Remember the talk about Iraqi missiles reaching the US in 40 minutes? Extremely idiotic of course. But if you replace USA with Israel, the notion suddenly makes sense. Somebody has obviously been playing with the ‘Search and replace’ function in Microsoft Word when submitting that report.

    Iran is gonna get it because Israel is pissed off at them, not because Iran in any way is a threat to the American or British peoples.

    This is really all you need to know about the ‘West’. It can be likened to a beautiful race horse. Long legs, strong muscles, beautiful mane, good breeding, but alas, with one little deficiency. Without anyone noticing it, the horse had gotten a parasite that is eating on its brain. The parasite isn’t interested in what is good for the host organism, the horse, but what is good for itself. Thus it eats away at the horse’s brain making the poor creature more and more confused. Until the poor horse dies from mere stupidity. The parasite then moves to another host.

    Ooops, seems I just compressed the history of the Jews in a couple of sentences. Moving from one country to another. Destroying, sabotaging and betraying the nations that were naive enough to host them. They even brag about it in the Bible, how they screwed up the Egyptians.

    I hear they’re keen on taking on China now.

  • 20. Antonio Garcia  |  October 1st, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Is that you guys from EXILE D getting beat up in the picture above

  • 21. Frank  |  January 23rd, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    Will you marry me? Not in a gay way or anything, but if you want to do it in a gay way that’d be cool too. I just want to go off and have ruthlessly realist babies with you and live a blissful life of nihilistic cynicism and heavy drinking until someone developes a really good war bug and turns us all into slobbering mutant cannibals.

  • 22. GILMORE  |  December 1st, 2010 at 7:47 pm


    Frank | January 23rd, 2010 at 11:08 pm


    Except for the slobbering mutant cannibals part.

    Man, I feel badly for the people who don’t get you.

    But maybe there’s some value in watching them shake in fits of indignation, demanding you fit your analysis into their comfortable narratives. Even the guy who believes “Jews are the Horse-syphilis of the West”, above, has his place, I suppose. At least in the sense that *someone* has to Blame Everything On The Joos at some point. No discussion of foreign affairs is complete without it…

    In retrospect, btw, Gary was pretty much 100% spot on regarding the Iranian protests. For good or ill.

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