Iranian Help on Afghanistan?
In an interesting column in the Washington Post, David Ignatius reports on the possibilities for engaging with Iran to gain its assistance in dealing with Afghanistan, and the arguments for and against such an approach within the Obama administration.
Ignatius quotes President Obama’s statement, in an August 4 meeting with journalists, that he was in favor of establishing a “second track” (in addition to that on nuclear issues) for talking about Iran’s potential role in helping to stabilize Afghanistan, where the U.S. and Iran have a “mutual interest” in battling both the drug trade and the Taliban.
The question for the Obama administration is whether to take up these feelers (from Iran). Advocates argue that stabilizing Afghanistan is a strategic priority and that the United States should seek help wherever it can. They also argue that rather than undermining talks on the nuclear issue, contacts on Afghanistan could be an important confidence-building measure.
Skeptics contend the Afghan gambit would dilute the main focus of Iran policy, which is stopping Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. That same logic led the Bush administration to pull back in March 2006 from its proposal for talks in Baghdad with Iran, after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had appointed a key adviser, Ali Larijani, as his representative.
–David Ignatius, “The U.S. should test Iran’s resolve to stabilize Afghanistan,” Washington Post, September 17, 2010.
Attacks on Home of Karroubi and Offices of Moussavi
Meanwhile, in Iran paramilitary militia and/or government security officials on September 2 reportedly attacked the home of opposition leader and 2009 presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi.
Pro-government crowds swarmed outside the battered home of a key Iranian opposition leader Friday after militiamen attacked with firebombs and beat a bodyguard unconscious in a brazen message of intimidation and pinpoint pressure on dissent.
Mobs of hard-line militiamen — known as Basij — began breaking down the front door of Karroubi’s residence before being driven back by warning shots from guards, according to the Sahamnews website, which supports Iran’s pro-reform movement.
Karroubi was at home at the time, but was not injured, his son Hossein told The Associated Press.
Media restrictions imposed by Iranian authorities blocked journalists from reaching the site and independently verifying the accounts. A video posted on the Internet by a group backing the opposition showed smashed windows and graffiti on the walls and door panel of the house, located on a tree-lined street in north Tehran.
Hossein Karroubi said dozens of hard-liners — some on motorbikes — continued to damage the opposition leader’s home on Friday and that police were not responding to the scene. Some security cameras outside the building were torn down, he said.
–Brian Murphy and Nasser Karimi, “Mobs attack home of Iranian opposition leader,” AP, published on Iran on MSNBC, September 3, 2010.
On Wednesday night, September 15, Iranian government security forces and/or paramilitary militia reportedly attacked the offices of Mir Hossein Moussavi, the leading opposition candidate in the June, 2009 presidential elections.
–Associated Press, “Forces raid office of Iran’s opposition leader,” September 17, 2010.
–See also Ramin Mostaghim and Meris Lutz, “Iran opposition leader’s offices raided,” Los Angleles Times, September 17, 2010.
AP also reported that
Adding to the pressure on the opposition, Tehran chief prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi issued a new warning that the movement’s leaders could be brought to trial, Iranian newspapers reported Thursday.
Ladane Nasseri, “Iran Pledges to Bring to Trial Opposition Leaders Who Challenged President,” Bloomberg, September 16, 2010
These attacks follow the surfacing of an alleged official letter to Iranian newspapers and media outlets banning any reporting on the activities of Karroubi, Moussavi, or former president Mohammad Khatami.
–See William Yong and Robert F. Worth, “Iran Clamps Down on Reporting on Protest Leaders,” New York Times, August 25, 2010.
Khamenei’s January call for opposition members to be dealt with strictly in accordance with the law
In January, two days after groups believed to be linked to the Revolutionary Guards allegedly open fire on the car of opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for such groups to abide by the law, stating
“Relevant bodies should fully respect the law in dealing with the riots and the ongoing events,” he told clerics and seminary students bused to Tehran from the shrine city of Qom for an annual political commemoration.
“Those without any legal duty and obligations should not meddle with these affairs,” he said. “Everyone should hold back from arbitrary acts and everything should go within the framework of the law.”
Borzou Daragahi, “Iran’s Supreme Leader Tells Militias not to Meddle,” Los Angeles Times, January 10, 2010
See The Trenchant Observer, “NEWS TO NOTE: In Iran, Khamenei calls for non-interference by militias and for officials “to fully respect the law,” January 14, 2010
The contradiction between Khamenei’s call for the authorities and paramilitary groups to act within the law and these recent attacks raises basic questions as to whether Kamenei has lost or is losing influence over the Revolutionary Guards and paramilitary groups such as the Basiji.
The Trenchant Observer
Comments are invited.