News from Tehran is, in the American press, skimpy, at best. Lacking mass demonstrations or other TV- attracting elements, word from Iran is summarized in little supposedly dull reports:
According to the “experts” this is a uranium enrichment plant, dug into the mountains near the religious city of Qum, and on a basiji base. It suggests that the Iranian authorities are endeavoring to place their facility in a hardened, “safe” setting, which in turn suggests their intentions are less than benign. Of course another reading is that they are being prudently paranoid, given the behavior of their antagonists, both the USA and Israel, each of which have shown themselves capable of aggressive and damaging actions, sometimes based on less than real or honest information:
Alleged Iraqi Chemical Warfare plant
Powell’s alleged Iraqi chemical factory
Alleged Syrian nuclear bomb building facility, before and after Israeli attack
Given the sources of these recent revelations, one should be reasonably skeptical. Self-interest is a rather strong distorting lens, and the Israeli’s have shown themselves, along with the US, to have rather curious concepts of “self-interest.” America’s apparently lies anywhere that there’s money to be made, assets to seize, or anything like that which can be dressed up as “in the national interest.” Or, Why Are We In Afghanistan? Why, because it’s in our national interest, you silly child.
Back in Iran, most recently have come reports that three demonstrators, arrested in the upheaval of some months ago, have been tried and sentenced to death. They were said to be royalists, in support of the return of the/a Shah. Several hundred others have been imprisoned, apparently beaten, raped, and a few killed, including the son of a high up authority within the clergy. Homosexuals are also said to be sentenced to death for this supposed crime.
Demonstrators, Sept 28 2009
Imprisoned and raped (and leaving Iran)
[Note: Apparently when same-sex rape is done by a basij, it is justice and not the supposed crime of homosexuality.]
All told, this is thin gruel for making much speculation, but there is a bit. It seems the basiji – originally a kind of university vigilante militia organized to support the Islamic revolution but now composed of mostly working-class toughs – has morphed steadily into an altogether different institution. It now runs many major components within the Iranian economy, and is more a combination of quasi-military force and corporate entity of considerable wealth and power. It apparently is considering professionalizing its militia forces, perhaps better to enforce its economic diktats. Depending on one’s point of view it might be considered a kind of mafia. It seems it is supposedly under the control of the clergy, though this begins to look a bit less clear. In any event, within the major power players of Iranian culture, it seems unlikely the military would take kindly to an intrusion on its turf of this kind. Similarly some major economic power-players apparently are chaffing at its fiscal clout. To say there are internal stresses within the fundamental power blocks which for the most part run Iran. The addition of the electoral fraud, and the clear unhappiness on the part of a large segment of Iranian society would suggest the future is likely to be grim, at least for the moment. The heavy-handed behavior of the government suggests not confidence and power, but fear. As usual with dictatorships on their way out, there is a self-delusion involved which usually finds recourse to brute force: they’ll love us if we hit them hard enough. Of course the usual consequence is bloodshed, more violence, repression and, finally, collapse. Those who do it always seem to think they will be history’s exception. So while I now imagine my previous six-month guess on when the current Iranian regime will crumble was a bit optimistic, it is clear that whatever the clock, the train is headed over a cliff.
Back in the US(S)of A, one could weave a similar story, albeit it is a bit different. Here the US military and its “civilian” service industry, of which Republican President Eisenhower severely cautioned us in 1960, has indeed done something like the basiji: it’s morphed from being a citizen army into a private conglomerate largely dictating just what the national economy may and may not do (afford). A look at the old facts and figures shows the military-industrial complex is indeed running most of the show: America spends more money on military things than all the rest of the world combined. It litters the globe with 700+ bases. It infiltrates both US culture, and that of other nations – with propaganda, with bribes, with all the usual stuff of a vast bloated and corrupt entity. Like the basiji.
US Basij equivalents
As with the Iranian Basij, the US military is increasingly taking on domestic policing, has its own economic interests (golf courses, “socialized” medical care, retirement pensions, revolving door arrangements with military contractors, etc.) and of course a deep self-interest in expanding its range of influence and assuring its continuation in power.
A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.
Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Speech
This report is a consequence of the fact that Tehran remains a constant high in hits to this site. I think that indicates something – don’t want to bet on just what but….
For more on Iranian circumstances of the moment see these: