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The War Nerd / June 18, 2009
By Gary Brecher


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. Jeff  |  June 18th, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Bookmarked this article in hope that you eat your words along with all the other “experts” who are having a good time naysaying 5 days of growing protests.

  • 2. CB  |  June 18th, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Good article, Gary. Thanks for crushing my hope under they unyielding boot heel of realistic perspective.

  • 3. pompus jerk  |  June 18th, 2009 at 11:55 am

    I don’t really know anything about Iran, but I see a fundamental difference between this and Lebanon–in Iran, there are living opposition leaders who themselves have plenty of clout. I don’t see a revolution happening either, but I don’t think there needs to be a revolution for a revote or recount–a fair part of the establishment favors candidates other than Ahmedinajad.

    Of course since all evidence points to this being blatant voter fraud, the entire democratic wing of their state is, incidentally, at stake. That wing might be pretty ineffectual now… but you could have said the same thing about the English parliament a few hundred years ago. If Ahmedinajad gets away with this, the Iranians will never again have the option to peacefully move towards democracy.

  • 4. FSB Agent 008  |  June 18th, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Something doesn’t compute here. Either mullahs’ brutality is greatly exagerrated, or protesters will soon rue the abundance of footage available all over the internet. Either ayatollahs will take out the agitators out of commission one by one in coming weeks and months, or they are just bunch of pussies, whose “repression” is simply a figment of Israeli and American imagination.

  • 5. az  |  June 18th, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Now it just sounds like you read Zinn’s “People’s History” chapter about the Vietnam War and watched “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” Gary. On the upside, it explains the situation better than the outlets or Hitchens’ Slate article ever will, and in terms familiar to us Americans.

  • 6. Azr@el  |  June 18th, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Thaksin in Bangkok, Chavez in Caracas, Ahmadinejad in Teheran even that pedophile Berlusconi in Italy; increasingly people seem to have an alternate definition of Democracy that precludes “Majority Rule”. Populist who don’t go over well on CNN or twitter seem to be setting off these backlashes amongst pro-western segments of their respective societies. These “activist” tend to be the annoying crowd who think themselves incredibly cool or self-important because they consume a high diet of western media. They tend to be the ones who identify with being citizens of a global world community and dream of visiting/migrating to the core states of the west. Unfortunately/fortunately they do not constitute the majority, that majority being more tied to their respective homelands and thus being more inclined to fight for it are more moved by mundane topics exploited by populist.

    Ahmadinejad won his election, which the polls said he would by 2:1, because he promised potatoes and more redistribution of wealth while the other guys promised an end to subsidies that, while being beneficial to the upper middle class, would force the poorer segments of Iranian society, i.e. the majority, to send their daughters off to the parks of northern Teheran as prostitutes to avoid starvation. This was a no-brainer for the majority dwelling in rural areas and the slums of Iran’s over-crowded capital. Free food, subsidized necessities and oh yeah the religious piety thingamajiggy; this seems to be recipe for carrying an Iranian election.

    I’m truly ashamed at the charade of Western media for reporting tweeted rumours as facts; journalism is dead in the west.

  • 7. Chema Pino Suarez  |  June 18th, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Odds are the War Nerd will be right; and once gain the Exile(d) will trump the highly paid media shills.

  • 8. Jeb  |  June 18th, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    I don’t understand this columnist. Where are the stupid lies? Where are the undertones of political morality tale that columnists universally employ? I couldn’t locate one distortion of reality to serve a fundamentally pious worldview anywhere in the piece, whether liberal or conservative. Unacceptable.

    And I mean is this guy even an expert on Iran? What, did he just read some books?

  • 9. Nestor  |  June 18th, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Nicely put. But if Ahmadinejad was a shoo-in why did they have to ruin it by messing with the election results in the ethnic Azeri areas? Way I hear it those guys always vote for their own and Moussavi was one of them.

  • 10. Alok  |  June 18th, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    What this election has also shown us that when it comes to their own people also, the IRI can badly miscalculate.

    Ahmedinejad probably won the election, and the mullahs could have just let the counting go on properly (20 times if the opposition wanted it) and declared the winner and shut them up.

    Of course the losers will cry fraud. They do in every single third world election. no one really buys it any more.

    Still, the mullahs panicked and declared the results too early making it too obvious who they wanted to win.

    They’ve sort of realized they made a mistake, and have called for a recount to cool things down for a bit.

    Don’t expect the result to change though.

    Fake-democracy or faux-revolutions are the least of Iran’s problems. They need oil to go back up to $100 a barrel quickly just to balance their budget.

  • 11. AIG  |  June 18th, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Toppling the government? Haha. Read Operation Ramadan

    The Islamic Republic will be around for a long time.

  • 12. mechagodzilla  |  June 18th, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    man, I hope you at least got paid to say tweet that many times.

  • 13. Linoleum Blownaparte  |  June 18th, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    I always trust your judgement, so this reading kinda bummed me out. But now that I think about it, this could still be a godsend.

    It always baffled me how nobody in the US even tried to exploit the Shia/Sunni rift. Bin Laden was silent when the Taliban massacred the Afghan Shia, and describing Afghanistan as the first Islamic nation since the Caliphate leaves a Iran-sized hole in his history books.

    Assuming this shakes out with Ahmadinejad taking a dive with the shot-callers unchanged; an ascendant Iran with a conciliatory “reformist” like Mousavi would present a nice face to the world, gain credibility and be in a prime position to seriously threaten the dreary Saudis as a religious/oil power.

    Iran would be a world power!

    And still awesomely crazy!!


  • 14. Slaney Black  |  June 18th, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Khamenei reminds me of this chick I knew in college. Always starting a fight in bars because to see her boyfriend’s face get stomped made her all hot.

    Seems to me it’d be a good idea to let the kids have their fun a few more days and then dump Ahmadi for – I don’t fucking know, Larijani or some shit. But then I’m not the guy been holding onto the black turban for two decades, so there you go.

  • 15. Joe  |  June 18th, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    You’ve missed this one a bit, the Islamic Republic will survice but the more moderate wing (or less extreme wing) will have the upper hand. Khamenei doesn’t have the army or the revoluionary guard. If the Basji go too far, the regular police will act against them.

  • 16. ben g  |  June 18th, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    This article has it wrong. The protests in the streets right now will have long term effects, regardless of whether they succeed directly. They’ve caused the regime to show weakness.

    Whether or not the protests create enough institutional momentum at the top to cause a change in leaders, the fact remains that the Iranian leadership flinched.

    We’ll see what happens, though..

  • 17. Winston  |  June 18th, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    The standard boilerplate is that the youth of Iran are clamoring for western-style reforms, but I wonder how widespread those beliefs truly are. Just because you want a coke and an iPod doesn’t mean you want a liberal secular democracy to go with it.

  • 18. Allen  |  June 18th, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    Pretty much a bang on analysis by the War Nerd.

    A bunch of Tehran-based University students are not starting a revolution and toppling the Islamic republic. They don’t at all have the right demographics. Who among them will will take on the military? No one. In 1979 75% of the entire population turned out — a massive coalition of nationalists, socialists, Islamists, old school commies, democrats, and people whose ideology is too weird to get into. That was simply too great a representation of the population of Iran for the army to be firing on — without hitting friends and relatives. So they didn’t. Presto: goodbye Shaw.

    That’s not going to happen again, because believe it or not, Ahmadinejad is very popular in Iran … just not with Westernized Tehranis.

    Also, I cannot figure out what’s so threatening about Mousawi that they would rig an entire election to keep him out of power. 1) The supreme council can screen candidates they don’t like anyway — and they didn’t screen him. 2)Pretty much any piece of legislation can be vetoed by the supreme council to “safeguard” the revolution — and they’ve done it before.

    3)Mousawi is a “moderate” at best. He’s for the nuclear program and certainly has the revolutionary credentials when it comes to his past as Prime Minister (now a defunct position) during the Iran-Iraq war … including dealing with pesky enemies of the revolution and religious minorities in a very coldly 1980’s Iran fashion.

    So what’s the threat? That he kind of vaguely talks about warmer ties with the West on Iran’s own terms? (Which the Mullahs want anyway). Or is it his promise to give more rights to women? (See the veto clause above).

    So really, why rig an election to thwart this guy’s political ambitions?

  • 19. Plamen Petkov  |  June 18th, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    commenting on Ahmedinajad’s looks was a very cheap shot Gary. Remember what monkey Shrub jr looks like?
    Also, Ahmedinajad NEVER said he wants Israel destroyed. EVER. He has said he wants a regime change in Israel.
    I stand in awe of your analysis.

  • 20. Sharif DelMonte  |  June 18th, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    Good times! Its always amusing to watch good looking teenagers have themselves a street riot, and its easy for cracker ass westerners with Spanish Civil War fantasies to automatically take the side of the “opposition” to whatever “boogeyman” is being protested against.

    If anything, allowing the protests to continue is a stroke of genius on the part of the clerics–its going to be hard justifying a bombing campaign against Tehran now that the West knows how many sexy teenagers we’d be killing. And look, they all like us!

  • 21. Rob  |  June 19th, 2009 at 12:13 am

    Yeah, I thought the same thing when I saw the picture on the boston globe – bunches of guys in fitted pastel coloured shirts hiding behind gates while small crews with batons broke in, and picture of students helping injured riot police.

    Here’s a few tips for the “rebels”:

    When they come at you with batons you take up a baton.

    When your enemy is down you finish him off.

    The media war is the war you fight when you can’t win by force.

    Most importantly, if the above ideas seem like a bad idea (or are repugnant to you for some well thought out ideological reason) then that’s probably your subconscious telling you what you can’t bear the thought of consciously: that you are in no position to have this fight and need to retreat and organise until that nagging doubt leaves you.

  • 22. Rob  |  June 19th, 2009 at 12:19 am

    And I’ll state this again for the slow learners further up the comments:

    The media war is the war you fight when you can’t win by force.

    This has been a great viral advertisement for twitter but media don’t make a difference anymore. You’ve all read all about it but what are you gonna do? Pressure your government to step in? Get on a plane and fight for the powers of goodness? Or just make the right tut-tutting noises in the appropriate cafes until the next media outrage comes along?

    I’ll bet my riot police squads against your ADHD twitter feed every day of the weeks.

    And I’ll win.

  • 23. Tam  |  June 19th, 2009 at 12:35 am

    Excellent article, spot on about the Iranian psyche and and nice little smackdown at that deeply irritating and insidious Persepolis book. I’ve lost count of the number of people who keep insisting it’s not a political book when it clearly does have an agenda…

    Don’t be so dismissive of comic books though. I think you’d enjoy Harvey Kurtzman’s brilliant war books from the 50s or, more recently, Special Forces, which is a brilliant and nasty satire of the Iraq War in almost the same league as catch 22. It’s just been collected so anyone interested really should check out this link:

  • 24. Viking  |  June 19th, 2009 at 1:17 am

    Spot on. Despite all the dreamy fantasies we westerners migt have trhat the students are going to rise up, boot out the clerics and adopt a western style democracy the reality is that the best case scenario is a change in a position that has about as much power as the student body president in the local HS.

  • 25. Nestor  |  June 19th, 2009 at 4:47 am

    Nestor, “Nicely put. But if Ahmadinejad was a shoo-in why did they have to ruin it by messing with the election results in the ethnic Azeri areas? Way I hear it those guys always vote for their own and Moussavi was one of them.”

    Buddy, you really struck the nail on the head of stupidity. The head Ayatollah Khamenei is friggin Azeri. Also, Ahmadinejad has done considerable work with the Azeri community as well and had a sizable lead in Azeri areas before the election. For 8 years he had served as a popular official in two majority-Azeri provinces.

    Leave your idle speculations at the door.

  • 26. khad  |  June 19th, 2009 at 4:49 am

    ^The previous post is me. I must have mistakenly entered Nestor’s name thinking that there was a title line.

  • 27. Geoduck  |  June 19th, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Ditto Tam’s comment about the gratuitous swipe against comic books. It’s a -medium- like any other, and produces both really bad and really good stuff. This “comics are for teh kiddies” mentality that Americans have is really idiotic.

    And I agree the Iranian leadership isn’t going anywhere, but I suspect these protests are gonna have long-term consequences.

  • 28. Caligula  |  June 19th, 2009 at 10:45 am

    One thing that I never see commentators suggest is Ahmadinejad may have gotten more votes than Mousavi but didn’t have enough to win in the first round. So they might have rigged it to avoid a run-off.

    Also while the protestors themselves won’t accomplish a revolution, there are machiavellian politicians like Rafsanjani behind the scenes.

  • 29. threerings  |  June 19th, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Nice analysis you’ve got there. But for a politically-correct moron like me, being right isn’t necessarily right.

  • 30. RanDomino  |  June 19th, 2009 at 11:06 am

    ah, wikipedia, you never fail to take me on an adventure. What did we find this time? How about a 1981 quote by then-Secretary of State Alexander Haig?

    “It was also interesting to confirm that President Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war against Iran through Prince Fahd” of Jordan.”

    Goddamn Jimmy Carter sucks balls. How many millions of people has he killed via greenlighting wars of aggression by despotic regimes?

  • 31. gary  |  June 22nd, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    this is all very interesting but whoever rules in iran it is none of our damn business look at yourself amerika before pointing any fingers

  • 32. Epicman  |  June 22nd, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Sharif DelMonte – good analysis! I agree with you.

    Also, all the Supreme Council has to do is say that “Burqa is now a choice, not a requirement”. Instantly you’ll have pro-Burqa and anti-Burqa factions, and everyone will forget about the elections.

  • 33. Joe  |  June 22nd, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    There’s been reports of IRG commanders arrested for refusing to use more force. There are splits in the government, but not enough yet. So long as Khameni, et al are doing the arresting instead of vice versa, it doesn’t help. This still has a while to play out though, at least until the 40 day anniversary of Saturday’s killings.

  • 34. Tomasz Wegrzanowski  |  June 22nd, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Dear War Nerd,

    You hate and don’t understand middle class protests because they’re mostly non-violent and don’t even have a credible threat of turning into armed revolution. But power of governments is mostly soft – once you lose implicit support from the people it’s fucking difficult to govern.

    The same kind of middle class protests destroyed the entire Communist system. To some extent even China – which pretty much abandoned Communism and now is ruled by money.

    With Saddam dead and Obama fairly non-threatening there’s no external enemy to rally people against (well, Israel could do something epicly stupid…). So the only thing Iran could do to win its middle class would be very significant economic progress (not necessarily as big as China) – which for all kinds of reasons is very unlikely. And without support of the middle class it’s only matter of time before mullahs give up.

  • 35. Eskandar  |  June 22nd, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Your whole comparison between the current protests and the Cedar Revolution is fundamentally flawed, and as inaccurate as it is Orientalist.

    You say “So when Iran has a national election, it’s going to be loud,” explaining away the large, sustained, organized protests that have clearly articulated political motivations and goals as a bunch of hot-headed natives ululating without reason. This is racist and wrong on many levels, but the most obvious is: if that were true, then why didn’t we see see similar protests in any of the previous elections during the past 30 years?

    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…

    You fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the “reformists” when you characterizes them as “anybody who even suggested that the way Khomeini laid it down in 1979 might not be good enough for all eternity.” Mousavi, for instance, constantly invokes Khomeini in his statements; he is calling for a return to Khomeini’s ideals, which he believes Khamenei and others have strayed from.

    “The people who back Ahmedinajad are mostly Persian, and so are the protestors who want him gone.”

    Both Mousavi (who is Azeri) and Karroubi (who is a Lor) campaigned on a platform of greater rights for ethnic minorities, and Iranian minorities have played a very large role both in their campaign. Azeris alone make up around 24% of the population in Iran, and some of the largest and most militant protests since the election have been in Tabriz, in the heart of Iranian Azerbaijan.

    “Then there’s the Nowruz traditions, jumping over a crypto-Zoroastrian fire, also very cool and very frowned-on by the Islamic hicks.”

    Yet another thing you get wrong. Nowruz ceased to be a religious celebration centuries ago, long before the Islamic Republic. It is a cultural holiday celebrated enthusiastically by all Iranians, even the most pious Muslims. The government runs Nowruz-themed programming on TV during the whole month. And I won’t get into your

    There are so many other things I could touch on, like your continuous racist, essentialist characterization of Iranians as a bunch of tribalistic, hot-blooded Shi’a Muslims hell-bent on martyrdom. Your entire analysis seems to be based on your reading of a comic book about Iran and a book about Iranian blogs. I think you are the kind of person who has no problem offending others or being called a racist; your comments on the Shah are practically begging for rebuke, like “hey, I thought Hitler was pretty cool, with his whole trying to revive the glory days of German culture before the Jews came and ruined everything.” I’m not being hyperbolic on that, Reza Shah was greatly influenced by Nazism. Anyway, I can deal with you making a bunch of racist comments about Iranians and comparing our ice cream to cologne; I live in the U.S. but I’m not real fond of white people in general and their food for the most part makes me gag. But don’t talk out of your ass about Iran when you have no idea what you’re talking about and haven’t even borrowed to check whether the assumptions you’ve made line up with any kind of reality.

  • 36. SweetLeftFoot  |  June 23rd, 2009 at 1:06 am

    One thing – I don’t buy the whole ‘All the women dressed in black shrouds’ line.

    The North Tehrani babes basically wear Western clothes with the smallest veil they can get away with and they put more time and effort in than the vast majority of Western women do too.

    And I’ve heard stories from mates about some pretty kicking parties that go on behind closed doors.

  • 37. Robert Hodge  |  June 23rd, 2009 at 3:28 am

    For all those saying the election results came back to quick. I present this article by Maarten Doude van Troostwijk. He has observed elections in the former Soviet Bloc.

  • 38. Mark Nuckols  |  June 23rd, 2009 at 5:22 am

    Unusually well done. And in sharp contrast to the usually hysterical and ill-informed commentary that I post.

    Query: any lessons from Turkey’s recent political developments i.e. Ozal, Erdogan, Justice and Development Party?

  • 39. john doe  |  June 23rd, 2009 at 5:44 am

    I would have thought there’d be more idiots here commenting about “Zionists” and the like. Nice to see that the healthy discussion.

  • 40. Frankenblank  |  June 23rd, 2009 at 6:58 am

    What is really disappointing–and clinching proof of ultimate human stupidity–is the way anti-US *leftists* have fallen hook, line and sinker for this ‘Iranian vote fraud’ crap, and are all creaming their pants at some sort of ‘people power’. I mean, these are the first people who would scoff at ‘color revolutions’ in the fSU, but they lap all this up like … well, morons.

    There’s no convincing evidence the election was stolen. The sole reliable Western poll conducted beforehand had the guy winning by a two-to-one margin anyway … less than his declared victory.

    It’s all shit. Apart from the atrocious media coverage, I am even more appalled by apparently intelligent people falling for a bunch of faith-based crap put out by an incompetent Western media (I speak not of exiled readers, of course). This is the same media that stuck the boot into the ‘dictator’ Chavez straight after the US-orchestrated coup, only to see him reinstated hours later. You can still find the relevant Newsweek article around in the archives.

    Now I’m gonna re-read Dolan’s ‘In Praise of Nuclear Winter’. Cos that’s what the stupid cunts that inhabit this planet deserve.

  • 41. Jack Boot  |  June 23rd, 2009 at 7:19 am

    Thought-provoking article, as usual.

    I agree that the current unrest will be suppressed ere long, but would argue that the status quo ante is kaput. After all, the Council of Guardians have committed the Unpardonable Sin – they have shown weakness. That will surely not go unpunished; they might well end their days starring in a YouTube snuff video…

    Whatever succeeds them will almost certainly not be a liberal democracy.
    Perhaps Ahmedinejad will do a Pinocchio and emerge as the Fuhrer – with nukes.

    I for one am relieved not to live in a major US city, let alone in Tel Aviv…

  • 42. charlie  |  June 23rd, 2009 at 7:25 am

    Yeah, the article makes sense. It seemed pretty obvious from the get-go that the US News Media folks were stoking this one. I don’t really see anything changing, save for the creation of Tiananmen square-type folk heroes. And even then only a fringe of Iranian society is going to hold them in any esteem, anyways.

    Way to fight the power, boys. I just hope those police beatings don’t hurt as bad as they look.

  • 43. Simon  |  June 23rd, 2009 at 7:45 am

    I suspect the BBC will be officially Islamic before Iran is officially Secular.

  • 44. yabadabadoo  |  June 23rd, 2009 at 10:44 am

    “hysterical Hefty bags” … LOL

    This sums it all up.

  • 45. Alok  |  June 23rd, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    China had a fine middle class protest a couple of decades back… google tiananmen for how that turned out.

    Middle class protests work when the country is largely middle class or slipping into.. not when the middle class a sizeable chunk, smaller than the peasants or the urban poor. Also such protests need serious international support or else they go kaput quickly.

    Iran is in that middle stage where the middle class is big, but not big enough to totally dictate terms to the regime. At least not when the regime can call upon three different kinds of violence to bear on the militia depending on who hates the protestors most.

    khameini’s not going to be fleeing anywhere anytime soon, nor is Mousavi going to become the Iranian Gorbachev.

  • 46. jonny.m  |  June 23rd, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    I’m looking forward to seeing Brecher’s follow-up to this piece, now that we’re five days in & things have really heated up. Will he write something else soon, or wait ’til it all shakes out first?

  • 47. Carpenter  |  June 23rd, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    For all those saying the election results came back to quick. I present this article by Maarten Doude van Troostwijk. He has observed elections in the former Soviet Bloc.

    Exactly. Listen to an actual expert at elections in corrupted states: the real issue is when the votes are counted too late. That means deals and intimidations are taking place behind the curtains. “Too quick?” Nice try, CNN. With thousands of vote counters, it is not too quick. But people are dumb and will believe anything.

  • 48. Carpenter  |  June 23rd, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    War Nerd, you are wrong about Ahmadinejad wanting Israel gone; that “wipe Israel off the map” line is a lie propagated by mostly American media bosses. What he really said in Farsi was that the regime in Tel Aviv, like the one in the Soviet Union, would pass from the pages of time. Direct translation can be found in Google.

    As for Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, he has actually often gone easy on the Islamic in Islamic Revolution. Which is why he has been more than willing to give more influence to ex-Revolutionary Gardists, at the expense of mullahs. He was criticized as too light on religion by many other mullahs when he was announced as the next leader, more than twenty years ago. (During which he has never threatened any other Middle Eastern country with invasion, as opposed to the U.S. which arranged for their strongman Saddam Hussein to invade Iran, with two million people dead as a result.)

  • 49. Carpenter  |  June 23rd, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Canadian Steve Margolis is one of the most well-informed Western journalists when it comes to the Middle East. As opposed to the talking heads parroting propaganda lines about anything from Israel to Tibet, he has actually travelled around Asia and talked to leaders there first hand. Here he provides the truth once again.

    [QUOTE] The US has laid economic siege to Iran for 30 years, blocking desperately needed foreign investment, preventing technology transfers, and disrupting Iranian trade. In recent years, the US Congress voted $120 million for anti-regime media broadcasts into Iran, and $60-75 million funding opposition parties, violent underground Marxists like the Mujahidin-i-Khalq, and restive ethnic groups like Azeris, Kurds, and Arabs under the so-called “Iran Democracy Program.”

    The arm of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, remains withered from a bomb planted by the US-backed Mujahidin-i-Khalq, who were once on the US terrorist list.

    Pakistani intelligence sources put CIA’s recent spending on “black operations” to subvert Iran’s government at $400 million.

    According to an ABC News investigation, President George Bush signed a “finding” that authorized an accelerated campaign of subversion against the Islamic Republic. Washington’s goal was “regime change” in Tehran and installation of a pro-US regime of former Iranian royalist exiles.

    While the majority of protests we see in Tehran are genuine and spontaneous, Western intelligence agencies and media are playing a key role in sustaining the uprising and providing communications, including the newest electronic method, via Twitter. These are covert techniques developed by the US during recent revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia that brought pro-US governments to power.
    -Strangling the economy to make the people abandon the leaders
    -Massive funding to political parties, easily dwarfing the spending of all other political parties combined
    -Funding a Marxist terrorist group
    -Funding ethnic minorities in the hope of starting a civil war
    -Broadcasting anti-government propaganda across the border
    -CIA “black operations”
    -A “campaign of subversion” aiming to overthrow the Iranian government, signed by an American president
    -Aiding in organizing the current anti-government demonstrations

    Yes, something is wrong with the election in Iran. Massive American manipulation is the name of the problem.

    American attacks on Iran never end. Remember, the CIA in its “Operation Ajax” helped overthrow Iran’s elected leader, the wildly popular Mohammed Mossadegh, and installed the shah in his place. This because Mossadegh wanted to nationalize the country’s oil, taking it from the British oil companies – and because the shah was loyal to Israel. 25 years of tyranny followed. When the people finally overthrew the shah, the Washington regime tried to strangle Iran financially. They then gave funding and supplies to their strongman in the Middle East, the brutally secular Saddam Hussein, who acted as a proxy and invaded Iran. Two million people died as a result.

    When Washington planned to invade Afghanistan, Iran offered to help through its extensive network in western Afghanistan. Iran also offered to negotiate on every point that Washington had brought up against Iran earlier, including weapons programs and support to the Hezbollah. Washington refused, and instead included Iran in an “axis of evil,” a phrase invented by Zionist speech writer David Frum. Since then Washington has continually lied about Iran’s nuclear program, and even presidential candidates have threatened to kill millions of Iranians with nuclear weapons. At all times, Israel has two or three illegal nuclear submarines (paid for by American taxpayers) outside the Iranian coast, ready to murder millions at an hour’s notice.

    Haven’t Americans done enough harm to Iran already? Enforced “regime change” should be done not in Teheran but in Washington, for the role in funding Iraq’s invasion of Iran. Get the war criminals, and the media bosses they ally with.

  • 50. Antonio B.  |  June 23rd, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    I think you have the American public mixed up with our rulers. We have done nothing to Iran. Our only sin is standing by and letting the elite do whatever they want behind closed doors. It makes me sick when people like you lump us together with that kind of rhetoric. It is not We Americans, it is They Americans. There is a difference. I am sure your counterpart in Holt Misssouri is spouting off about how the Iranian public is a bunch of islamofascists screaming “Death To America!!” and there should be a Regime Change there. Your line about “Paid for by Tax Payers Money” is ridiculous. Why would you say that? Like I just sent my Income tax form in with a little note saying to allocate the money to fixing pot holes and erecting jungle jims, oh yeah and subersively overthrowing the Islamic Republic of Iran. I dont know who I am more mad at, you, for talking all this shit, or my self, for standing up for my government. Standing up for any kind of centralization of power puts a bad taste in my mouth so Damn You!!

  • 51. 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.

  • 52. 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.

  • 53. 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?

  • 54. 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.

  • 55. 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.

  • 56. 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.

  • 57. 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.

  • 58. 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 ???

  • 59. 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.

  • 60. 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?

  • 61. 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

  • 62. 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.

  • 63. 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.

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

    War nerd was right. I was wrong.

  • 65. 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.

  • 66. 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

  • 67. 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.

  • 68. 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.

  • 69. 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.

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

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

  • 71. 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.

  • 72. 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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