Jalil Mortazav’s letter to Senator Tom Cotton

March 29, 2015

Jalil Mortazavi
Email: boston1390@gmail.com

The Honorable Thomas Cotton
B-33 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-0405
Dear Senator Cotton:

I am writing you in regard to your open letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian Supreme Leader, concerning nuclear talks. Copies of my letter will be sent to the other 46 senators who signed your letter.

First of all, I cannot think of any other instance in the history of the United States in which a junior senator drafted a letter to another country’s leader and 46 other senators signed it. Even though I disagree with the content of your letter, I noticed that you quoted from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he said, “No deal is better than a bad deal.” Perhaps that remark was something that helped you garner support.

Allow me to introduce myself to you, as well as to all the other senators who signed your letter.
My name is Jalil Mortazavi, and I am Iranian-American, now an American citizen. I live in Brookline, Massachusetts. I am the author of the book From Iran to America: Changes, Choices, and Challenges. I have enclosed a copy of my book for you.

Here is a bit about my background. — I came to America in 1976 for eye treatments. Although they were not successful, my subsequent life most certainly has been. That is largely because a very kind American family took me in to live with them when I was still a teenager. I had run out of money; I didn’t have any place to go and could not speak a word of English. Mr. and Mrs. Fritz, a Christian couple, were college professors who had three small children. They provided me with free room and board, plus plenty of affection. In return, I babysat for their children two days a week. They never asked me about my religion or my political persuasion, but we went to church every Sunday, where I improved my understanding of the English language. The Fritzes also sent me to a rehabilitation school in order to learn independent living. After that, they helped me through college. Today I live with my wife and five-year-old daughter in Massachusetts, and my daughter goes to the same school that the Fritzes’ children attended.

When I saw in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that many of your constituents from your home town in northwestern Arkansas disagreed with your letter, and that they were from your own party that made me feel better. It also bolstered my decision to write to you today.

Some of the people who helped you with your campaign also helped persuade President George W. Bush to attack Iraq based on false premises. I don’t have to tell you how that turned out. Now they are trying to advise you the same way about Iran. However, the vast majority of the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia, not from Iraq, and four others were from Kuwait. None of them had anything to do with Iran. In fact, after the tragedy of 9/11, the Iranian people were the only ones in the region who were on the streets at a candlelight vigil, showing their support for the American people. By contrast, the people of some of the Arab countries who were U.S. allies were celebrating the terrorist attacks in New York. Even today, ISIS and their terrorist killers are deriving their ideology from Saudi Arabia’s religious leaders.

According to Gallup polls, almost 80 percent of those countries in the region that happen to be U.S. allies are against Americans. According to these same Gallup polls, 75 percent of Iranians support U.S./Iranian relations. You can ask some of the Americans who have visited Iran recently, and I have met many. I don’t know any American who has visited Iran, as a journalist, businessman, or tourist, who doesn’t rave about Iranian hospitality, the safety of Americans during their stays in Iran, and the genuine friendships with American people.

Now, Senator, as a smart man and a graduate of Harvard University, you tell me. Is this a country we should attack?

Finally, I’d like to tell you that I have visited Iran several times in the past 10 years. The popular opinions of Iranians are as follows: They love to dine with, play with, live with, and do business with Americans. They will negotiate with Americans and will sacrifice for peace. But they will never surrender to anyone.

I hope these heartfelt remarks will help you to understand the Iranian people better. I would be more than happy to come and testify about Iran in the Senate or in any other forum, as you see fit. I am sure that both Iranians and Americans can come up with a good solution in order to reestablish relations with one another. Common interests, common goals, and common sense demand it.

Sincerely yours,
Jalil Mortazavi

Host of www.usirantv.com
Editor of www.usiranaffairs.com
Author of the book From Iran to America: Changes, Choices, and Challenges (C 2013)

Article from Washington Post Editorial Section 2015 04 08

 

Article from South Florida Sun Sentinel Opinion Section

Israel’s Netanyahu the only clear loser of the Gaza war.

Back in 2009, Israel was festooned with election campaign banners that read, “A Strong Leader for a Strong Nation. They were Benjamin Netanyahu’s banners, which, even if he had them in stock today, he would not dare use. . We have reached the Morning After, and this is an unhappy, dissatisfied, wounded and worried country. Israel is not feeling strong. And Israelis know that in this neighborhood, if you are not strong or do not appear strong, you simply cannot survive. Makor Rishon, a center-right daily, ran a front page article this morning quoting Iranian officials as saying that these are Israel’s final years. The political right smells blood. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who coupled his Yisrael Beitinu (“Israel is our Home”) party to Netanyahu’s Likud for the January 2013 elections but has since insisted he would not do so again, has demanded that the Israeli Defense Forces retake the Gaza strip. Few Israelis wanted to do that — the losses would have been extremely high (some estimates projected 500 to 1,000 soldiers killed), and it wasn’t clear how Israel would eventually extricate itself or bear the international condemnation. Still, in the Morning After, some Israelis who thought that Lieberman was behaving like a thug are now muttering: “Maybe he was right. No new polls have been taken since the cease-fire went into effect Tuesday night (there have already been 11 cease-fires broken or rejected in this conflict, it should be noted, so there are no guarantees that the war is really over), but it would be shocking if Lieberman’s popularity has not risen. The other likely winner on the right is Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, whose Habayit Hayehudi (“The Jewish Home”) party was a surprisingly strong player in recent elections. There has always been bad blood between Netanyahu and Bennett (some attribute it to Netanyahu’s wife detesting Bennett), and Bennett, like Lieberman, had also urged the use of much greater force. Bibi not only ignored him, but publicly smacked him down for creating a wartime rift in the Cabinet. It’s virtually inconceivable that Bennett will not try a little jujitsu after that humiliation; he, too, is almost guaranteed to climb in the polls. With Hamas celebrating in the streets, and Israelis who live near Gaza still insisting they’re too afraid of rockets and tunnels to go home, the potential for Bennett and Lieberman to challenge Bibi has never looked better. Ironically, Hamas may have just ushered in a much more hard-line Israeli government. But the political left is equally unhappy. Israel bombed Gaza into smithereens for seven weeks, killed thousands of people — many of them terrorists, but many of them civilians, women and children (as was inevitable, given that Hamas stationed itself in neighborhoods, mosques and hospitals). To do all of that without having achieved victory, the left insists, is a moral and political catastrophe. Haaretz, Israel’s left-leaning paper of record, led Wednesday morning with an opinion piece noting that after Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, Netanyahu castigated then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, saying that Hamas should have been toppled and security restored to Israel. Bibi insisted that only he could do it, which was when that “A Strong Leader for a Strong Nation” mantra re-appeared. “Reality is a bit more complicated, isn’t it? Haaretz derisively castigated him Wednesday morning. In the center, YNet wrote that this may have been a tie, while David Horovitz warned in this morning’s Times of Israel that “if, under a long-term deal, Hamas is able to replicate Hezbollah’s strategy in Lebanon — to retain full or significant control of Gaza, to re-arm, to build a still more potent killing mechanism — then its claims of victory, appallingly, will be justified. No one here is happy, and no one feels secure. True, it remains to be seen whether the cease-fire holds, and yes, Israel could still carve out a slightly better deal in the negotiations with Hamas that will begin in a month. When Israelis feel this way, they usually “take out the trash. Golda Meir was forced to resign after the 1973 Yom Kippur War debacle, even though Israel ultimately emerged triumphant. Menachem Begin resigned after the Sabra and Shatilla Massacre, for which he wasn’t personally responsible, in part because Israel was mired in the costly Lebanon War he had unleashed. After the 2009 Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, which was shorter and much less costly than Operation Protective Edge, Olmert was forced out of office and Netanyahu picked up the spoils. It’s Morning After in Israel, and a country that is usually politically divided is suddenly in agreement: “This did not go well, at all. Wednesday morning, with the guns silenced, Bibi Netanyahu’s problem is no longer Hamas. Today, he is worried about the Israelis. Daniel Gordis is senior vice president and Koret distinguished fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem. He is the author of “Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul” and “The Promise of Israel. CAPTION:Photo(s). Photo: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pauses as he delivers a speech during a news conference Wednesday at the prime minister office in Jerusalem.

Article from Toronto Globe and Mail Comment Section

POLITICS Battling it out on the nation’s bookshelves LAWRENCE MARTIN lmartin@globeandmail.com Prime Minister Stephen Harper might want to steer clear of bookstores in the coming months.
Not only is his arch rival, Justin Trudeau, bringing out a book, one designed to portray the Liberal Leader as a consensus-builder as opposed to a polarizer, but there are other upcoming volumes that will hardly serve to burnish the PM’s legacy. There’s one from journalist Michael Harris who, with a twist on Shakespeare, has described Mr. Harper as the “Merchant of Venom. His book is entitled Party of One . The theme, as described in the book’s promo literature, is that Mr. Harper is “a profoundly anti-democratic figure” who has “made war on every independent source of information in Canada. This will be followed by an offering from Mark Bourrie, another member of Mr. Harper’s beloved Ottawa Press Gallery. It’s called Kill the Messengers: Stephen Harper’s Assault on Your Right to Know . Mr. Bourrie provides chapter and verse on how the Harper machine has tried to shut down the free flow of information through intimidation and smear campaigns. He examines the range of anti-democratic measures taken to override the checks and balances in the system. If Mr. Harper wins again, writes Mr. Bourrie, “he’ll have created a new undemocratic way of ruling Canada. No doubt the books will have the Harper communications boys in overdrive in an attempt to discredit their contents. They’ve already started taking whacks at the Trudeau autobiography, as have others. The critics are rightly asking, isn’t it a little early for this guy to be writing a book about himself? How can there be more than one chapter? The book is called Common Ground . That’s not a bad title, but the subtitle – My Past, Our Present, Canada’s Future – has a sanctimonious tone. Mr. Trudeau needs to be careful of appearing that way. It’s how he sounds in his current TV spot, the one where he grandiosely concludes by beseeching Canadians to give him their time and their hard work. It is cringe-inducing. The PM’s publicists have been quick to make the point that their guy has written a book as well. But rather than an egotistical exercise, it was a book about hockey. They have frequently accused Mr. Trudeau of having a wafer-thin resume that makes him unfit to be prime minister. In response, Mr. Trudeau’s defenders suggest Mr. Harper should cast a glance at his own resume when he was running for the top office. You want wafer-thin, they say. Try that one. Alleged lack of substance was a major reason for Mr. Trudeau writing his book. If the volume serves to lessen the criticism, it will be worthwhile. Thus far the attacks haven’t had much sting. The latest poll published on the weekend by Ekos puts the Trudeau Liberals at 38 per cent, the Conservatives 25, the NDP 23. But Liberals worry that the “he’s lighter than souffle” image will eventually register and thus are pleased to see him lay out his story. It’s not like there aren’t some interesting twists in his life. He was raised in the household of one of Canada’s most famous men. He saw his parents’ marriage crumble. He had a close brother, Michel, killed in a snow avalanche. His presence has raised the Liberal Party from the depths. Another good reason for his doing the book is that if Mr. Trudeau has any embarrassments in his history, it gives him a chance to get them out on his own terms as opposed to those of his opponents. With their fortunes declining, the Tories could well get desperate. They did so earlier this month, going so low as to accuse Mr. Trudeau of cavorting with al-Qaeda supporters because he had once visited a Montreal mosque. U.S. intelligence agencies suspected the mosque had ties to extremists, but they hadn’t yet made those suspicions known by the time of the Trudeau visit. The attempted smear backfired. It had the look of being straight from a merchants of venom playbook. Better for Mr. Trudeau to have his own book, even if premature or hastily written, define him than one of those.

Article from New York Times Editorial Desk Section

Where’s the Justice at Justice?.

Article from Huffington Post Politics Section

Evangelical Leaders Will Visit Israel To Show Support, Ask God To ‘Protect Her From Her Enemies’. Religion News Service | By Sarah Pulliam Bailey .

(RNS) Several high-profile evangelical leaders will travel to Israel next week as a part of the “Christians in Solidarity with Israel” trip put together by the National Religious Broadcasters in response to the most recent conflict in Gaza. The Aug. 17-22 trip will include Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham and president of AnGeL Ministries; Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; and Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, N.C. “My prayer is that God’s people in this country and around the world would intercede for heaven’s involvement in Israel, that God would defend and protect her from her enemies,” said Lotz. The NRB is a large umbrella group for Christian communicators involved mostly in radio and television. Its annual conference attracts thousands, and it bills itself as the “world’s largest annual gathering of Christian media professionals. The trip will emphasize American Christians’ steadfast support for Israel, said Perkins of the Family Research Council. “For a large number of Christians, there are two primary reasons to support Israel. We have the Jewish people to thank for our faith and we are instructed in Scripture not only to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, but are told that those who bless Israel will be blessed,” Perkins said in a statement. “Secondly, it is in the national security interest of the United States to support Israel. To abridge our commitment to the state of Israel would be an act of hostility not just to the Jewish state but would do damage to our own vital interests. While Richard Land, formerly head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, will join the trip, his successor, Russell Moore, is not listed as a participant. The trip will include popular Bible teacher Kay Arthur, Richard Bott of Bott Radio Network and Chelsen Vicari from the Institute on Religion & Democracy. It will be led by NRB President and CEO Jerry A. Johnson. Evangelicals aren’t the only ones rising to Israel’s defense after the much-criticized Gaza incursion. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and some Democratic members of the state Legislature are headed to Israel on Tuesday (Aug. 12). But there’s no question that Israel holds a special place for older evangelicals in ways that go beyond politics. Earlier this summer, megachurch pastor John Hagee held a summit using theology to support Israel. Still, some are worried over how younger evangelicals might be shifting on Israel. Earlier this year, David Brog from Hagee’s Christians United for Israel warned that young evangelicals were turning against Israel. Others say evangelicals are not turning against Israel but may be more sympathetic than in the past to a Palestinian perspective. Younger evangelicals in particular may not view Israel the way their parents did, wrote Dale Hanson Bourke, author of “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. “Most evangelicals older than 50 grew up in churches that taught some form of dispensationalism, a theology that views Jews as God’s chosen people, Israel as the land promised to them, and the second coming of Christ tied to Jews returning to Israel,” Bourke wrote. “Dispensationalism has fallen out of fashion in many evangelical circles and is no longer taught in many seminaries or from pulpits. It’s difficult to measure long-term support for Israel among evangelicals. Findings from the Pew Research Center, though, suggest that it has remained relatively stable in the past five years. When asked “In the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, who do you sympathize with more? evangelicals were far more likely to say Israel – 72 percent to 4 percent in 2013, about the same as in 2009 – according to the Pew poll. The NRB grew in the 1940s out of radio regulations disputes between mainline Protestant denominations and evangelicals, who were rapidly growing in numbers. Israel has also been a pressing issue among some in mainline churches as the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted earlier this summer to divest from companies that profit from the oppression of Palestinians within Israel’s oc’cup’ied territories. “Countering rising anti-Semitism in the international press and on the streets, this friendship visit will communicate to Israel and to the Palestinians who stand in opposition to Hamas that we, leaders who represent the Christian community, stand with them,” said Johnson, the NRB president, in a statement. “It will also show the world that Christians in general support the Jewish people and their right to security. Lotz said her famous father has been a consistent supporter of Israel. “He would also express his love for the Arabs and Palestinians,” she said. Her brother, Franklin Graham, spoke at the Israeli Embassy earlier this year on why evangelicals love Israel. During a recent trip to the beach, Lotz said, her daughter’s phone beeped from an app that tracked every missile strike against Israel. Lotz said it beeped so much she asked her daughter to turn it off. “I think there’s a lot of information and spin going on about what’s taking place there,” Lotz said. “We need to support the Palestinian people. I think Hamas is using them for their evil agenda. I don’t support Israel giving up their land.

Article from Boston Globe Editorial Opinion

Editorial Iran deal shows promise;
Congress shouldn’t derail it January 22, 2014 The world got a little bit safer on Monday, when the International Atomic Energy Agency certified that Iran had begun to comply with a six-month interim agreement to freeze – and, in some cases, roll back – critical elements of its nuclear program. The UN nuclear watchdog was able to verify that Iran has halted its production of highly enriched uranium, and began converting its stockpile into oxide, a substance that is not suitable for manufacturing nuclear bombs. These are small, reversible steps. But they matter. Prior to this deal, some experts estimated that it would take Iran a little over a month to produce a nuclear weapon. After Iran implements this agreement, that so-called “breakout” time will increase to two or three months. When it comes to detecting – and responding to – such a military threat, the extra time is significant. Contrary to the complaints of critics, the Obama administration didn’t give away the store to get this deal. Iran will be given access, in phases, to about $4 billion of the roughly $100 billion in assets that have been frozen in bank accounts abroad. Sanctions on auto parts will be lifted, along with certain trade in gold. And the government will be allowed to pay tuition for Iranian students studying abroad. This sanctions relief shows good faith, but it is a far cry from the tens of billions of dollars that Iran needs to restore its crippled economy. For that reason, Iran still has plenty of incentive to hammer out a final agreement. That will be the hardest part. The interim deal was full of low-hanging fruit that both sides easily agreed on. A long-term deal, meant to sketch out the contours of Iran’s nuclear program into the future, is fraught with contentious issues. US and Iranian officials even disagree about what “long term” means. Americans envision curbs on Iran’s program for three decades; Iranians envision a deal that lasts only 10 years. These are small, reversible steps. But they matter. Any comprehensive agreement to dismantle the architecture of sanctions on Iran must be in place for at least 20 years. Indeed, some curbs – such as the production of 20 percent enriched uranium – should be in place forever, as the Institute for Science and International Security argued in a recent paper. If Iran wants to assure the world its program is peaceful, then it should allow for a “breakout” time of six months or more. And it should allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to install cameras in its nuclear facilities. Iran might not agree to these conditions. But one thing is clear: A bill in the Senate that threatens new sanctions on Iran isn’t helping . It contains a number of poison pills could seriously complicate negotiations, including a mandate that Obama certify every 30 days that Iran hasn’t been involved in terrorism. Iranian negotiators have threatened to walk out of talks if new sanctions are passed, and hard-liners in Iran’s parliament drafted tit-for-tat legislation mandating that uranium be enriched to 60 percent . They may be bluffing. But why take the risk? If talks collapse because of a bill passed by Congress, US allies around the world are likely to drop their own Iran sanctions. But as unhelpful as some members of Congress may have been, Obama should resist the urge to shut them out. If talks are successful, Obama will need Congress to give the agreement its blessing and remove sanctions. If talks fail, he will need lawmakers to help think through military options. Either way, Congress has a role to play and must be brought into the process.

Article from Toronto Globe and Mail Comment

FOREIGN POLICY Canada and the Middle East: a reality check DEREK BURNEY and FEN OSLER HAMPSON It is time to set the record straight on Canada’s policies toward the Middle East as we anticipate Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s official visit to Israel, which begins Jan. 20.
Critics have unfairly lambasted the government for a one-dimensional, Israel-centred policy. But as Benjamin Disraeli said of his own partisan detractors, “How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct. Mr. Harper’s government has worked hard to strengthen its relations with the Arab world as a complement to its strong and principled position on unilateral Palestinian statehood and unabashed support for Israel, the region’s only genuine democracy. (Our previous United Nations record on issues affecting Israel had been one of persistent abstention.) We are activists in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, not sitting on our hands, as some allege. Canada supports the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to build the institutions and infrastructure for a viable Palestinian state. We have opened our wallets with a $5-million contribution to support economic growth and job creation in the West Bank and Gaza and another $25-million for humanitarian assistance, security reform and assistance to the Office of the Quartet Representative. We favour a settlement that confers both legitimate statehood for Palestinians and recognition of Israel’s right to exist in peace. Foreign Minister John Baird has developed strong relationships with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the West Bank. Canada has launched a strategic dialogue with the Persian Gulf’s key regional body, the Gulf Co-operation Council, which includes co-operation on counterterrorism and other initiatives to counter extremism. Although the government supports the P5+1 talks with Iran, we have expressed understandable caution about its prospects, as have others, including many Americans. We hew to the old Russian proverb embraced by former U.S. president Ronald Reagan – “trust but verify. Canada supports a verifiable deal that gives UN inspectors unfettered access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities and under which Iran ratifies the Additional Protocol to its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and signs and ratifies the Convention on Nuclear Safety. Canada does not oppose the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in the region. In fact, we recently signed a nuclear co-operation agreement with the UAE that is fully compliant with international safeguards. Canada has not shut out Iran by closing our embassy there. We launched a continuing dialogue with the people of Iran via the Internet by offering a much-needed platform for Iranian dissidents and human-rights advocates. We have been champions of the Iran human-rights resolution at the UN in New York. This approach is as innovative as it is principled. It is preferable to bland, passive recognition of terrorist-spawning regimes. With the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, our guarded approach was one that liberal-minded Egyptians applauded. Unlike other Western countries, Canada did not recognize Syria’s freedom fighters as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. We had concerns about terrorist elements in their midst, the lack of representation of women and whether the opposition was religiously and ethnically reflective of the Syrian people. Such concerns are now widely shared. Just two weeks ago, the United States ended military support to the Syrian opposition. However, Canada has provided $317-million in direct humanitarian support for Syria and an additional $110-million for development projects in Jordan and Lebanon. When it comes to human rights more generally, Canada, and Mr. Baird in particular, are front and centre in denouncing forced marriages of underaged girls. Canada is not in a position to guarantee security to anyone in the Middle East. We have focused instead on smart diplomacy with humanitarian assistance and a consistent defence of values we cherish. That is the reality of our diplomacy in the region. Derek H. Burney is senior strategic adviser for Norton Rose Fulbright and was Canadian ambassador to the United States from 1989 to 1993. Fen Osler Hampson is distinguished fellow and director of global security at the Centre for International Governance Innovation. He is also Chancellor’s Professor at Carleton University.

Article from Guardian Comment Is Free

Former US defense secretary Robert Gates’ memoir is shocking, but not about Obama Gates’ real message is that both sides of the US political aisle want to pull the trigger first and ask the hard questions later. Michael Williams .
Former US defense secretary Robert Gates’ harsh critique of the Obama White House in his forthcoming memoir, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War , has Washington aflutter (it’s set for release on 14 January). But Gates’ central critique of the Obama administration, however, does not reveal any new truths. Presidential candidates said what voters wanted to hear? Shocking! The White House tried to control and dictate policy? The horror! But unprecedented? Hardly. History is full of cases where soldiers and statesmen disagreed about policy. If President Kennedy had listened to the joint chiefs of staff during the Cuban Missile Crisis, he would have launched a full-on military invasion of Cuba as his generals unanimously advised him to do. The president was skeptical of that advice and he rightly selected another course of action. But civilians also get it horribly wrong. In 2003 when Army chief of staff general Eric Shinseki testified on Capitol Hill that “several hundred thousand” troops were required for the invasion and stabilization of Iraq, then defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, attacked Shinseki calling his assessment ” wildly off the mark “. We all know now, that in the end, it was the civilian leaders that were wildly off the mark. And sometimes everyone gets it wrong. Vietnam was a war dreamt up by civilian leaders and wrongly executed by the military. No one wanted to pull the plug, but somebody should have. All presidents struggle to find a balance in civil-military relations. The military are the “experts” they are the professionals that plan and fight wars. They understand the logistics that are necessary to make policy happen. But in liberal democracies, such as the US and the UK, the military serve, and are subordinate to, elected civilian leaders. It is inevitable that friction between civilians and the military occurs in the making of policy. And it is only natural that policy is ultimately driven by politics. Research studies tell us that variations in American domestic party politics and international power determine national strategy. Politicians respond to the pressure of voters. Liberal candidates such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama naturally opposed the surge in Iraq as their political bases, and most Americans at that point, opposed the war. Secretary Gates and other defence professionals may disagree with the president, and the voters who elected him, but in the end, that is the way a democratic system works. Perhaps this is why Winston Churchill supposedly said democracy was the worst form of government except for all the other ones. On balance, I am sure that Secretary Gates, a man with a distinguished record severing eight presidents knows this truth, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating when you are trying to get a job done. And it is quite possible that President Obama put more faith in his political appointees than he should have only time will tell. Gates’ fundamental critique, however, is one that crosses the political aisle. The use of military force is far too enchanting within American political circles. As Gates put it in a book excerpt published in the Wall Street Journal: Today, too many ideologues call for US force as the first option rather than a last resort This is particularly worth remembering as technology changes the face of war. A button is pushed in Nevada, and seconds later a pickup truck explodes in Mosul. A bomb destroys the targeted house on the right and leaves the one on the left intact. For too many people including defense “experts,” members of Congress, executive branch officials and ordinary citizens war has become a kind of videogame or action movie: bloodless, painless and odorless. But my years at the Pentagon left me even more skeptical of systems analysis, computer models, game theories or doctrines that suggest that war is anything other than tragic, inefficient and uncertain. This is Secretary Gates’ most prescient observation. Whether it is “hawks” on the right, or “humanitarian interventionists” on the left, both sides of the American political aisle want to pull the trigger first and ask the hard questions later. Sadly, however, Washington, a city where most people don’t see past the next election, will most likely overlook this general critique of American society. The focus instead will be on political point scoring and on how Gates’ criticisms might be used to political advantage in the 2016 presidential election (or even the 2014 mid-term elections). In the end Gates’ memoir will do little to affect the course of the next election, but his warnings about American militarism could have a positive impact on American foreign policy if only policy-makers could see the woods for the trees.

Article from Economist Middle East And Africa

Rural decline in Iran Nothing idyllic .
The rural poor want a nuclear deal just as much as city-dwellers do IN A village orchard on the fringe of the Lut desert in south-eastern Iran, Shah Banu Esma Ilani (literally, the Queen of Esma Ilan) plucks pistachios from a huge tree and puts them in a pouch in her tunic. A qanat , a trench that occasionally brings water from aquifers beneath mountains hundreds of miles away, cuts across her land but is bone-dry. Her little village is nearly empty of people. In the past two decades, three-quarters of them have left for work hundreds of kilometres away in Tehran, the capital, or Isfahan, a bit closer. These are heart-wrenching times, says Shah Banu. We don’t have enough water for our people to stay here. They leave because the government has forgotten about us. The more people leave, the more the government forgets about us. It is a tale that can be told in many villages in Iran’s vast semi-arid swathes. Poor administration and global warming have imperilled many of them. The qanat network, created three millennia ago to irrigate ancient Persia, has long been neglected. Ground and river water is often diverted to industrial farms from the qanats , which local government have less incentive to maintain as urbanisation spreads apace. Shah Banu says that broken qanats have cut her harvest by 70% in 20 years. President Hassan Rohani has submitted a draft austerity budget that aims to lop a third off infrastructure spending and to squeeze inflation, now running at 36% a year by an official count. Some MPs in rural constituencies have resigned in protest. But they have been denounced in the hardline bits of the press for inciting mob democracy to please the enemies of the revolution. The new government has appealed to them to return to parliament to hammer out a final budget. Some of these rural MPs note grimly that the draft budget, whose final version will come into effect in March, proposes to allocate more to the Revolutionary Guard, the police and the intelligence ministry, despite Mr Rohani’s campaign promises to tackle the suffocating security atmosphere that has pervaded the country. Most ordinary Iranians, in big cities and remote villages alike, look to Mr Rohani’s government to clinch a deal with the West over Iran’s disputed nuclear programme which has led to the economic sanctions now biting so hard, especially against the poor. We should have nuclear power, says Shah Banu. But we also want to live as we did before. From the print edition: Middle East and Africa