Monday, January 05, 2009


Remember the reverse domino effect? We were going to generate it in Iraq: Our overthrow of Saddam would impress everyone in the Middle East so much that they'd instantly stop being all cranky and stuff and decide at once to be our bestest friends, as well as Israel's; the cascade of free elections in which pro-Western, pro-Israeli governments would be elected was going to be make everyone's head spin.

In today's New York Times William Kristol tells us he thinks he sees the pony in Gaza::

But a defeat of Hamas in Gaza -- following on the heels of our success in Iraq -- would be a real setback for Iran.... It might positively affect the Iranian elections in June.

Is he nuts? From the news section (not the op-ed page) of The Wall Street Journal:

Public Outrage Gives Iran's Hard-Liners a Political Boost

... Mr. Ahmadinejad's history of criticizing Israel, and his recent condemnation of the Gaza assault, has helped to garner a measure of popular respect across the region. That comes as more moderate Arab states, especially Egypt, draw rebuke for failing to act forcefully enough to stop the violence.

Condemnation of the Israeli offensive has become a rallying cry for thousands of Iranians. If the ground invasion drags on, anti-Israel outpourings in Tehran could become a convenient distraction for Mr. Ahmadinejad, who faces criticism over his economic policies ahead of presidential elections this year....

A point echoed by The National, an Emirates-based paper:

Domestically, hardliners hope the crisis will help them to galvanise support before June's presidential elections. For Mr Ahmadinejad, the Gaza debacle is of particularly fortuitous timing, analysts say.

"He has just submitted a controversial bill to the Majlis [parliament] to cut state subsidies. This will make him even more unpopular. The Gaza affair is a gift to him, which he will use to distract the Iranian people from the economic pain that is about to hit them," wrote Meir Javedanfar, a Jerusalem-based Iran analyst, on one of his blogs.

...At the same time, analysts caution against seeing Iran's stance on the Gaza crisis as one merely of political opportunism. "One should not underestimate the feelings of anger and resentment the tragedy in Gaza is generating among the Iranian leadership and a significant sector of the Iranian people," said Farideh Farhi, an Iran analyst at the University of Hawaii.

"It is these feelings, shared by many throughout the region, that Iranian leaders of all ilks -- Hashemi Rafsanjani and [Mohammad] Khatami included -- are expressing and some are trying to capitalise on," Ms Farhi said in an interview. Mr Rafsanjani and Mr Khatami are moderate former presidents.

Despite joining in condemnation against Israel’s actions, some Iranian moderate and reformist figures have come under attack from hardline opponents attempting to make political capital out of the Gaza conflict.

Kargozaran, a daily newspaper close to Mr Rafsanjani, was closed by Mr Ahmadinejad’s government last week for publishing an article the authorities claimed had "sanitised the Zionist regime’s crimes in Gaza". The article, by a leading student organisation, was critical of Hamas, but also condemned Israel’s blitz of Gaza.

There was also a brief but noisy protest outside the home of Shirin Ebadi, Iran's Nobel peace laureate, whose offices have been raided twice recently by the authorities who are upset by her fearless human rights work.

The protesters chanted "America and Israel commit crimes, Ebadi supports them", said Ms Ebadi, a lawyer and human rights activist. She described the incident as an "attack", but said: "It has nothing to do with what is happening in Gaza because we published two days ago a statement condemning what is going on and supporting the Palestinians."

In other words, this is a golden opportunity for the hard-liners to undermine political opponents in a way that rallies crowds -- using the Gaza situation as a catch-all excuse.

We don't shut down opposition newspapers in this country, but you'd think right-wingers such as Kristol would recognize when they see it a nastier version of the Rove strategy of linking bellicose foreign Antichrists with one's domestic political opponents. Oh well, guess not.

No comments: