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With all this talk about Israel needing to attack Iran before Iran’s genocidal anti-Semitism inevitably makes it nuke Israel, I got to wondering about the attitudes of Persian Jews in Beverly Hills. They must quake with horror at the very mention of the name “Persia,” right? 
Yet, as far as I can tell, Persian Jews kind of like the place. In casual conversations with Americans, they call themselves “Persians” rather than “Jews.” They make jokes about the extravagance of “Persian weddings” rather than of “Jewish weddings.” 
I mean, they definitely prefer living in Beverly Hills to living in Tehran, but they go back and forth to visit their relatives in Iran a lot. Here’s a bit from an opinionator named Ari Bussel who naively can’t understand why Iranian-American Jews who regularly visit Iran aren’t as terrified of Iran as he is terrified of Iran from reading about Iran in the American press:
According to different estimates, there are 25,000 – 30,000 Jews in Iran today. I, for one, do not understand why they are still there. Clearly they are not being held hostage, for everyone else is able to go in and out. A friend was employing a young, religious Jew from Iran who went back from the States to Iran last year to marry. Being true to my natural curiosity and what I consider journalistic obligation and integrity, I would have taken a flight to Tehran to personally inspect, witness, investigate and report. In the case of Iran, though, I am afraid.

If I were to do that, I likely would be taken prisoner, either as an American spy or a Zionist agent-conspirator. My devotion to the profession is noble, but my obligations to myself and my family are greater than risking being used as a parade icon by the Iranian regime. Thus, I am left wondering about the fate of the Iranian Jews…

• Tags: Iran 
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I haven’t been paying much attention to Iran, so don’t take my word for it, but it seems to be playing out a lot like the disputed election in Mexico in 2006: the party in power says they won the election, the party out of power says they cheated and that they’re going to demonstrate until they turn blue, and eventually they turn blue and give up and go home, and the party in power stays in power.

At least, the Washington Post headlines suggest such a scenario:

Hope Fades for Iranian Protesters
Numbers dwindle after government crackdown against demonstrators, but their anger remains.
- Thomas Erdbrink

Keep in mind that I haven’t actually read these articles and probably won’t get around to reading them, so I don’t know what I’m talking about, but it all sounds a lot like the PRD’s months of mass demonstrations in Mexico City’s Zocalo from early July 2006 into September, along with mass acts of civil disobedience, before they eventually gave up.

The question that interests me is why almost nobody who is anybody in America cared about Mexico in 2006, but everybody was supposed to care about Iran in 2009.

Indeed, how many elections in that general part of the world, centered around the old Byzantine Empire, have we Americans been told to get excited about in this decade? There was the Ukraine Orange thing, and the purple finger whoop-tee-doo in Iraq, and the whiskey sexy election in Lebanon, and the Rose Revolution in Georgia, and the mob violence in Serbia where the nonviolent democrats burnt down the Parliament building and seized power. And now Iran.

• Tags: Iran, Mexico 
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Time reports:

Hekmati’s experience is typical of young Iranians, who are finding themselves increasingly priced out of the marriage market. During the tenure of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, real estate prices have soared across the country, but especially in Tehran, where they have risen as much as 150%. Economists have blamed the spike on Ahmadinejad’s disastrous economic policies. The President flooded the economy with capital through a loan scheme, cut interest rates 2% and embarked on huge state construction projects that drove up the price of building materials. Those changes prompted many investors to move out of the stock market and the banking system and into real estate, which was considered a safer bet. Apartment prices in the capital more than doubled between 2006 and 2008. (See pictures of health care in Iran.)

The real estate boom was a disaster for middle-income Iranians, particularly young men seeking marriage partners. And many of those who have married and moved in with in-laws are finding that inflation is eating away at their savings, meaning it will take years, rather than months, to get their own place. The resulting strains are breaking up existing marriages – this past winter, local media reported that a leading cause of Iran’s high divorce rate is the husband’s inability to establish an independent household. Many others are concluding that marriage is best avoided altogether. (See the Top 10 Ahmadinejad-isms.)

Ahmadinejad’s government response to the crisis included a plan, unveiled in November 2008 by the National Youth Organization, called “semi-independent marriage.” It proposed that young people who cannot afford to marry and move into their own place legally marry but continue living apart in their parents’ homes. The announcement prompted swift outrage. Online news sites ran stories in which women angrily denounced the scheme, arguing that it afforded men a legal and pious route to easy sex while offering women nothing by way of security or social respect. The government hastily dropped the plan.

As Iranians head to the polls on Friday, Ahmadinejad faces the prospect that the very same broad discontent with the economy that propelled him to victory in 2005 could now help unseat him. Samira, a 27-year-old who works in advertising, recently became engaged and is among the millions of young Iranians who are eyeing the candidates through the lens of their own marital concerns. “Ahmadinejad promised he would bring housing prices down, but that didn’t happen at all,” she says. If left to their own salaries, she explains, she and her fiancÉ will never be able to afford their own place. That’s a key reason they’re voting for Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the leading reformist candidate, who has made the economy the center of his platform. Like many young Iranians, they hope a new President will make marriage a possibility once more.

It’s striking how obvious the logic of what I call Affordable Family Formation is to Iranians, while the vast majority of social analysts in the U.S. remain oblivious to the obvious.

Different social norms mask the situation somewhat in the U.S. Here, high housing prices tend to discourage child-bearing merely among the prudent but not among the imprudent (as satirized in the opening scene of “Idiocracy.”) As I reported in “From 2005 to 2007, the number of babies born in the United States to married women declined 0.3 percent. In contrast, the number born to unmarried women grew 12.3 percent.”

Still, you’d have to say (at least from this one example) that political discourse in America compared to Iran, whether due to our country’s well-padded safety margins or due to greater indoctrination by the media, is less in touch with the basic logic of human existence.

P.S. Obviousl

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How much of the current $140 per barrel price of oil is due to Iranian vs. USA / Israel tensions, the fear that the Persian Gulf will get blown up?

Let’s just say, for the sake of ease of calculation, that the price of oil would be $100 per barrel in a stress-free environment. So, under that assumption, Iran, which exports 2.5 million barrels per day, makes $100 million dollars per day off squabbling with the U.S. and Israel.

• Tags: Iran, Political Economy 
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Some analysts are arguing that Friday’s $10.75 rise in oil prices was caused by Israeli saber-rattling against Iran. For example, The Hindu of India stated:

The Israeli Transport Minister’s threat that a military attack on Iran could become inevitable has pushed oil prices to record levels.

Oil prices breached the $139 a barrel mark after Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Friday an attack on Iran was “unavoidable” as sanctions had failed to prevent Tehran from developing its nuclear capability.

Leaving aside the question of whether that’s an accurate explanation of Friday’s events, I’m wondering about the more general theoretical question. Could a government or a politician make money in the financial markets by threatening war in the Gulf?

If you knew that, say, a deputy prime minister of a regional power would make militarily threatening statements on Friday, but then lower the heat later, could you make a near guaranteed profit on oil futures? If so, how much could you make? How often could you get away with it before enough people would figure it out that you couldn’t do it anymore?

• Tags: Iran, Political Economy 
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The headline in the New York Times, based on a National Intelligence Estimate, says:

U.S. Says Iran Ended Atomic Arms Work

On the other hand, Greg Cochran, who made the correct call back in 2002 that Iraq had no active nuclear weapon program, thinks that might be over-confident, saying that the line between civilian and military uranium-enrichment is fuzzy. He figures that the grown-ups in Washington, such as the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, don’t want a war with Iran and just want to run out the clock on the 13.5 months left in the Bush Administration without anything too stupid happening. So they might be spinning this report to calm the war fever.

Back in 1994, when Bill Clinton wanted to invade Haiti as a sop to the Congressional Black Caucus, an operation the Joint Chiefs thought was pointless, the brass hats misled the militarily-ignorant President for several months about how tough the job would be. Perhaps something similar is happening here?

• Tags: Iran 
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American politicians and federal officials are still trying to get straight in their heads that confusing Shia vs. Sunni thingie, but it turns out that the Middle East has a whole bunch of living religions that aren’t exactly part of Islam, Christianity, or Judaism.

Sure, we’ve all heard of the Samaritans in Israel, the mysterious and pugnacious Druze of Lebanon, the heretical Alawites who rule Syria, the Lucifer-worshipping Yezidis of Kurdistan, the millions of angel-worshipping Alevi of Turkey, and the Donme, the crypto-Jewish followers of the False Messiah who wield much influence in modern Istanbul.

But according to this NYT oped “Save the Gnostics,” in 2003 there were also 50,000 Gnostics, known as Mandaeans, who lived in Southern Iraq. They revere Adam, Noah and John the Baptist, and reject Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Wikipedia informs us, “While they agree with other gnostic sects that the world is a prison governed by the planetary archons, they do not view it as a cruel and inhospitable one.” So, they’ve got that going for them, which is nice…

Wait a minute, did that just say “planetary archons?”

A planetary archon, it appears, is a demiurge, in-between humans and God, who created and rules the world, and does a pretty bad job of it. (It’s basically the same idea as John Tierney’s recent NYT article hypothesizing that our universe is just a simulation game, like World of Warcraft, being played by some superintelligent computer geek somewhere.) The point of the Gnosis or secret knowledge is to get around the layers of bureaucracy in the middle and talk directly to God.

But now thanks to America spreading democracy to Iraq, the Gnostics are being persecuted by the Shia Muslims and are fleeing to Syria. Whether they blame their fate on America or on a planetary archon is not specified. (Better not mention this term to Bill Kristol or he’ll make it the basis of his whole political platform and worldview. The Weekly Standard will run cover stories on “America’s Destiny: Apocalypse or Planetary Archonship? We Must Choose Now!”)

Meanwhile, at GNXP, Razib chips in with “Obscure Middle Eastern religious cults – part n,” in which he unveils the million or so people in Iran who are called various names: Yarsan/Yaresan, Kakeyi, Ahl-e Haqq or Ahl-i Haqq. They believe in reincarnation.

In the comments on GNXP, tommy asks about the Shabak near Mosul, who appear to be sort of like the Yazidis, but also like kind of Muslims, except they drink alcohol and have their own sacred book, written in Turkoman. The Sunnis are beheading them in large numbers.

Are we totally sure we knew what we were getting into over there?

• Tags: Byzantine, Donme, Iran, Iraq, Israel 
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I know I’m late to the story about Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia, and the personal insults Columbia President Lee Bollinger made in his introductory speech, but my question is about Persian culture (or cultures — it’s a big, very old, very complicated place). I don’t know much about Persia, but a lot of it is desert, and don’t West Asian desert cultures put a very strong emphasis on hospitality?

Winston Churchill wrote about the Pathans who live to the east of Iran:

“Every family cultivates its vendetta; every clan, its feud… For the purposes of social life … a most elaborate code of honour has been established and is on the whole faithfully observed. A man who knew it and observed it faultlessly might pass unarmed from one end of the frontier to another. The slightest technical slip would, however, be fatal. The life of the Pathan is thus full of interest…”

Did Bollinger come across as an ill-bred barbarian to people from that part of the world for accepting the role of host but then failing so badly in his duty to be a polite one?

Bollinger got his Ivy League sinecure because he defended “diversity” (i.e., quotas) so vociferously at the U. of Michigan, but an enthusiasm for multiculturalism often goes along with ignorance about other cultures.

• Tags: Iran 
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Remind Bush not to accept an invitation to go dove hunting with Cheney: Steve Clemons claims that President Bush is now listening more to sane people like Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about not starting a war with Iran, and the insane people in Dick Cheney’s office aren’t happy about it:

The thinking on Cheney’s team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff between Iran‘s nuclear activities and international frustration over this to mount a small-scale conventional strike against Natanz using cruise missiles (i.e., not ballistic missiles).

This strategy would sidestep controversies over bomber aircraft and overflight rights over other Middle East nations and could be expected to trigger a sufficient Iranian counter-strike against US forces in the Gulf — which just became significantly larger — as to compel Bush to forgo the diplomatic track that the administration realists are advocating and engage in another war.

There are many other components of the complex game plan that this Cheney official has been kicking around Washington. The official has offered this commentary to senior staff at AEI and in lunch and dinner gatherings which were to be considered strictly off-the-record, but there can be little doubt that the official actually hopes that hawkish conservatives and neoconservatives share this information and then rally to this point of view. This official is beating the brush and doing what Joshua Muravchik has previously suggested — which is to help establish the policy and political pathway to bombing Iran.

The zinger of this information is the admission by this Cheney aide that Cheney himself is frustrated with President Bush and believes, much like Richard Perle, that Bush is making a disastrous mistake by aligning himself with the policy course that Condoleezza Rice, Bob Gates, Michael Hayden and McConnell have sculpted.

According to this official, Cheney believes that Bush can not be counted on to make the “right decision” when it comes to dealing with Iran and thus Cheney believes that he must tie the President’s hands.

On Tuesday evening, i spoke with a former top national intelligence official in this Bush administration who told me that what I was investigating and planned to report on regarding Cheney and the commentary of his aide was “potentially criminal insubordination” against the President.

The standard reason other Presidents haven’t given their Vice Presidents the kind of power that Cheney has is because you can’t fire the Vice President when they do things like this.

• Tags: Bush, Iran 
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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