Karim Sadjadpour

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How Iran and Israel Are Unnatural Adversaries

“History is littered”, the British writer and politician Enoch Powell said, “with the wars which everybody knew would never happen”.

A full-blown conflict between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Israel once seemed implausible. But last month, the long-running shadow war between the two nations burst into the open in a series of unprecedented drone and missile strikes, raising the specter of a fight that would contain enough advanced technology, paramilitary forces and mutual acrimony to incinerate large parts of the Middle East, collapse the global economy and entangle the United States and other major powers.

Now the two sides appear to have hit pause, but for how long?…  Seguir leyendo »

La pregunta ya no es si los iraníes derrocarán al ayatolá

Las protestas en Irán, que ya van por su tercer mes, son una batalla histórica en la que se enfrentan dos poderosas fuerzas irreconciliables: una población mayoritariamente joven y moderna, orgullosa de su civilización de 2500 años y desesperada por el cambio frente a un régimen envejecido y aislado, decidido a mantener su poder y con 43 años de barbarie a sus espaldas.

El líder supremo de Irán, el ayatolá Alí Jamenei, el único que han conocido muchos de los manifestantes, parece estar enfrentándose a una versión del dilema del dictador: si no le ofrece a su población perspectivas de cambio, las protestas continuarán; pero, si lo hace, se arriesga a parecer débil y envalentonar a los manifestantes.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Question Is No Longer Whether Iranians Will Topple the Ayatollah

The protests in Iran now in their third month are a historic battle pitting two powerful and irreconcilable forces: a predominantly young and modern population, proud of their 2,500-year-old civilization and desperate for change, versus an aging and isolated theocratic regime, committed to preserving its power and steeped in 43 years of brutality.

Iran’s supreme leader,  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the only ruler many protesters have known, seems to be facing a version of the dictator’s dilemma: If he doesn’t offer his people the prospect for change the protests will continue, but if he does, he risks appearing weak and emboldening protesters.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Iranian regime’s brutal killing of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini — who was reportedly brutally beaten after she was detained for showing too much hair — has triggered nationwide protests, led by the nation’s granddaughters against the grandfathers who have ruled their country for over four decades.

It’s premature to assess whether these protests will meaningfully change Iran’s politics, or whether they are simply another crack in the edifice of a rotting regime whose lone source of diversity is whether the beards and turbans of its ruling men are black or white. Yet one conclusion can already be drawn: Amini’s killing, and Iranian society’s response to it, should permanently alter how the outside world interacts with Iranian officials.…  Seguir leyendo »

What the U.S. Gets Wrong About Iran

Ibn Khaldun, the 14th-century North African scholar, wrote that empires tended not to last beyond three generations. The founders of the first-generation are rough men united by hardship, grit and group solidarity, a concept he called asabiyyah. The next generation preserve the achievements of their forebears. By the third or fourth generation, however, the comforts of wealth and status erode ambition and unity, leaving them vulnerable to a new generation of power seekers with fire in their bellies.

In the 1979 Iranian revolution, religious fundamentalists with fire in their bellies transformed the country into an anti-American Islamist theocracy. Today Iran is still led by one of its first-generation revolutionaries — 83-year-old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ruled since 1989.…  Seguir leyendo »

For months, Israel has threatened to strike Iran’s nuclear sites. The United States has urged restraint. If such an operation were launched, how might Washington react?

President Obama is enjoying a quiet dinner with Michelle, Sasha and Malia at the White House residence on a Thursday evening in October when he gets the call.

Two dozen Israeli fighter jets have just entered Jordanian airspace, apparently en route to Iran, chief of staff Jack Lew tells him. They will enter Iranian airspace, via Iraq, in approximately 85 minutes.

“Damn it,” Obama says under his breath. “Bibi told me he was going to hold off.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has never been a gambling man. Since becoming “supreme leader” of Iran in 1989, he’s sought to preserve the status quo by eschewing transformative decisions. But as unprecedented political and economic pressures — including sanctions against Iran’s central bank and the European Union oil embargo — increasingly push his back against the wall, Khamenei seemingly has two paths to deliverance: a nuclear compromise or a nuclear weapon. Each could be perilous for him; both would be transformative for Iran.

Khamenei’s aversion to compromise is well-established. He has long said that Washington’s underlying goal in Tehran is not behavior change but regime change.…  Seguir leyendo »

The media circus generated by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s annual visit to the U.N. General Assembly in New York is a source of great frustration for many Iranians, who wish Western journalists would ask tougher questions about Ahmadinejad’s domestic practices. The following questions are culled from Iranian democracy and human rights activists who don’t have a chance to query the president directly:

Your boss, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was selected by a few dozen clerics more than 20 years ago. Do you believe that he — as his office has asserted — is the prophet’s representative on Earth?

Khamenei hasn’t left Iran since 1989.…  Seguir leyendo »

In “Garden of the Brave in War,” his classic memoir of life on a pomegranate farm in 1960s Iran, the American writer Terence O’Donnell recounts how his illiterate house servant, Mamdali, would wake him every morning with a loud knock on the door and a simple question: “Are you an Arab or an Iranian?”

“If I was naked,” O’Donnell explained, “I would answer that I’m an Arab and he would wait outside the door, whereas if I was clothed I would reply that I was an Iranian and he would come in with the coffee.” This joke went hand in hand, O’Donnell wrote, with an age-old chauvinism that depicted the Persians’ Arab neighbors as “uncivilized people who went about unclothed and ate lizards.”…  Seguir leyendo »

The Bush administration, following its own pronouncements as well as House and Senate legislation, is expected to decide soon whether to classify Iran's most formidable military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as a terrorist organization. This would be a serious mistake. By labeling all 125,000 Revolutionary Guards untouchable "terrorists," Washington would forgo the possibility of exploiting the organization's internal divisions and further decrease the likelihood of diplomatic progress with Tehran.

Instead of making a disastrous military option more likely, the United States should seek to tip the balance within the guard in favor of pragmatists, rather than hard-liners who thrive in a state of isolation and confrontation.…  Seguir leyendo »