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Monday, September 28, 2009

A Broken Clock Is Right Twice a Day? Not When Roger Cohen Opines on Iran

In the latest in a series of New York Times op-eds concerning Iran, Roger Cohen offers us today "The U.S.-Iranian Triangle". My response, which was censored by The New York Times:

"I’ve said this before: Sanctions won’t work."

Well, Roger, you've said a lot of things before, including "Iran is not totalitarian", all of which were proven wrong. Are you are now trying to demonstrate that even a broken clock is correct twice a day? Not in this instance.

You continue to rely on your guru, Tayekh, who "worked on Iran with Dennis Ross at the State Department before losing his job last month" and who called for economic, security and diplomatic concessions to Iran, i.e. appeasement.

The bottom line:

- Iran persecutes its largest non-Muslim minority, the Baha'is, in much the same way the Nazis persecuted the Jews, i.e. murder, imprisonment without charges, desecration of religious sites, destruction of cemeteries, restrictions involving higher education, and the list continues. It should come as no surprise that Cohen has never given the Baha'is more than a sentence in his entire series of op-eds about Iran.
- Iran publicly hangs homosexuals.
- Iran actively supports genocide in Darfur.
- Iran discriminates against women.
- Iran violently discriminates against its Sunni Muslim minority.
- Iran violently discriminates against its Kurdish minority.
- Iran persecutes and sometimes hangs members of its tiny Jewish minority.
- Iran stones to death persons accused of being adulterers while their children watch.
- Iran during its war with Iraq sent tens of thousands of children, holding plastic keys guaranteeing entry into heaven, to their deaths in suicidal waves against the Iraqi lines.
- Iran has called for the obliteration of Israel from the face of the map.
- Iran questions the sovereignty of Bahrain.
- Iran murders political dissidents, as witnessed and already forgotten by Cohen himself.

Permit Ahmadinejad to develop nukes? If so, let's just hand them out wholesale to all the world's bullies and lunatics and see what's left in another month.

Today, as in the past, Cohen could not possibly write an op-ed without dragging Israel into the story: "Israel, which introduced nuclear ambiguity in the region . . . ." Along these same lines, Cohen, in his prior op-ed concerning Germany, "The Miracles of Dullness", wrote in his penultimate paragraph:

"The demon of instability, German-prodded, moved to the Middle East, where another modern nation state, Israel, in turn upended the order of things."

The New York Times published this notwithstanding its irrelevance vis-à-vis Germany and the resulting enmity and anti-Semitism which in no way contribute to understanding or peace. But more to the point, Cohen today continues to foist the preposterous claim that the Iranian drive for nukes is tied to Israel. Consider, however, why Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are demonstrably troubled by Iranian development of nukes, but ignore Israeli possession of these weapons. All three of these countries have announced their intention to develop nuclear weapons if Iran is not stopped.

After this latest in a series of farcical series of op-eds on Iran which have gone unchecked by The New York Times, we can only wonder about the demons floating around Cohen's head.

Query: When does The New York Times put an end to this folly?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Roger Cohen Again Demonizes Israel: No Slip of the Pen

A few thoughts about Roger Cohen's latest New York Times op-ed re Germany, "The Miracles of Dullness". His penultimate paragraph:

"The demon [italics added] of instability, German-prodded, moved to the Middle East, where another modern nation state, Israel, in turn upended the order of things. Perhaps after 74 years (1871-1945), we will see glimmerings of a new, more peaceful regional order there. Hope is almost as stubborn as facts."

First, is this right or wrong? Answer: This is absurd. There have been innumerable wars and insurrections since the establishment of the State of Israel involving the various Arab countries and Iran that did not involve Israel in any way whatsoever. Moreover, these wars resulted in an exponentially larger number of civilian and non-civilian casualties than all of the Arab/Israeli wars combined:

1. The Syrian invasion of Jordan in 1970 in support of the Palestinian attempt to overthrow the Jordanian government.
2. Black September. The PLO sought to overthrow the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which constitutes 77% of the original Palestine mandate.
3. The Lebanese Civil War from 1975 to 1990, which resulted from ethnic tensions and changing demographics favoring Lebanon's Shiites.
4. Iraq-Kuwait clashes in 1973, 1976 and 1990. Iraq claimed Kuwait as part of Iraq.
5. The Iran-Iraq War, which lasted for eight years and resulted in the deaths of at least half a million combatants and non-combatants.
6. The Dhofar Rebellion, 1962-1975.
7. The 1963 Sand War between Morocco and Algeria.
8. The 1973 Libya-Chad War.
9. The 1977 Libya-Egypt War.
10. The Western Sahara conflict involving Morocco and Algeria in the 1970s.
11. The ongoing Somali Civil War.
12. The First and Second Sudanese Civil Wars.
13. The genocide in Darfur.
14. The North Yemen Civil War.
15. The 1994 Civil War in Yemen.
16. The 2004-2007 Sa'dah Conflict.

And let's not forget the Kurdish uprisings against Iraq and Iran, the barbarities perpetrated against Iran's Baha'is, and the Syrian army's 1982 bombardment of Hama to quell a revolt by the Muslim Brotherhood, which resulted in the deaths of up to 40,000 people.

Of course, Cohen is free to write whatever he pleases, correct or incorrect, and much of what he wrote about Iran has been widely discredited. In this vein, I would only add that although I was promised by the Public Editor's office of The New York Times that I would receive an answer whether Cohen's "What Iran's Jews Say" was in keeping with New York Times' standards of journalistic ethics, they have since refused to honor their commitment. Jill Abramson also has refused to touch this issue.

Far more serious is Cohen's latest link between Israel and Nazi Germany, albeit indirect, in an op-ed having nothing to do with Israel. This is much in keeping with the anti-Semitic connotations involving the title of Cohen's earlier op-ed, "Obama in Netanyahu's Web".

The New York Times wishes to publish this? It's The Times' prerogative, but I think The Times need also consider the resulting enmity and anti-Semitism, which in no way contribute to understanding or peace.

Cohen would have us believe that Israel is also a "demon of instability". After his farcical series of op-eds on Iran which went unchecked by The Times, we can only wonder about the demons floating around Cohen's head.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Richard Goldstone Sets the Gold Standard of Hypocrisy

Sure, everyone read Goldstone's smug, self-congratulatory September 17 op-ed in The New York Times, "Justice in Gaza", which begins:

"I ACCEPTED with hesitation my United Nations mandate to investigate alleged violations of the laws of war and international human rights during Israel’s three-week war in Gaza last winter. The issue is deeply charged and politically loaded. I accepted because the mandate of the mission was to look at all parties: Israel; Hamas, which controls Gaza; and other armed Palestinian groups. I accepted because my fellow commissioners are professionals committed to an objective, fact-based investigation."

But as known to most, the mandate was not "to look at all parties" (there was a reason that even Mary Robinson wouldn't touch this investigation), and his fellow commissioners were far from committed to an "objective" investigation (Christine Chinkin declared Israel guilty prior to seeing any evidence).

But more to the point, how many people commenting on Goldstone actually read the Goldstone "Fact Finding" Mission report? I couldn't help but notice the following language:

paragraph 9: "The Mission has enjoyed the support and cooperation of the Palestinian Authority and of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations. . . ."

paragraph 150: "Finally, the Mission wishes to thank the people of Gaza for their warm welcome, their humanity and their hospitality in spite of such difficult and painful circumstances."

paragraph 438: "In its efforts to gain more direct information on the subject, during its investigations in Gaza and in interviews with victims and witnesses of incidents and other informed individuals, the Mission raised questions regarding the conduct of armed Palestinian groups during the hostilities in Gaza. The Mission notes that those interviewed in Gaza appeared reluctant to speak about the presence of or conduct of hostilities by the armed Palestinian groups. Whatever the reasons for their reluctance, the Mission does not discount that the interviewees' reluctance may have stemmed from a fear of reprisals."

paragraph 439: "The Mission also addressed questions regarding the tactics used by Palestinian armed groups to the Gaza authorities. They responded that they had nothing to do, directly or indirectly, with al-Qassam brigades or other armed groups and had no knowledge of their tactics. To gather first-hand information on the matter, the Mission requested a meeting with representatives of armed groups. However, the armed groups were not agreeable to such a meeting. The Mission, consequently, had little option but to rely upon indirect sources to a greater extent than for other parts of its investigation."

paragraph 496: "The Mission asked the Gaza authorities to provide information on the sites from where the Palestinian armed groups had launched attacks against Israel and against the Israeli armed forces in Gaza. The Mission similarly asked whether, to their knowledge, civilian buildings and mosques had been used to store weapons. In their response, the Gaza authorities stated that they had no information on the activities of the Palestinian armed groups or about the storage of weapons in mosques and civilian buildings. The Mission does not find this response to be entirely plausible."

In short, after observing the warmth and cooperation received from the Palestinians as opposed to the Israelis (Goldstone reportedly fell asleep while being screened a film showing Sderot children fleeing from rocket fire), Goldstone observes that in fact cooperation was not received from the Gaza authorities concerning what is most critical in his report, i.e. the locations, amid the Gazan civilian population, where and from which the Palestinians stored and fired rockets and Grad missiles. Given the lies of the Gaza authorities, Goldstone happily relied upon "indirect sources", i.e. conjecture, to pillory Israel, as mandated by the UNHRC.

Although unwilling to identify the civilian structures where Hamas stored its missiles, from which it fired its missiles, and which it booby-trapped, Goldstone nevertheless blithely condemns Israel for harming civilian targets.


Acknowledging that Gaza authorities were not "entirely plausible" in their explanations and dubious of Hamas claims concerning the casualties they inflicted upon the Israeli army (paragraph 362, note 233), Goldstone nevertheless prefers their civilian casualty figures to those of the Israeli Defense Forces when it serves his purposes. Above, Abdullah Talal Ibrahim Aal-Sane, an example of a "civilian" casualty.

Like Qaddafi, Goldstone was provided a pulpit by The New York Times to feed his narcissism and spew outright falsehoods. I complained to a senior editor of The Times, with whom I occasionally correspond, that he had not provided adequate or appropriate space for opinion contrary to that of Goldstone, and that the Goldstone report did nothing to advance the cause of peace, but was met with stony silence.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Will Israel Evacuate the West Bank?

I received yesterday an excellent comment from "Anonymous" in response to "The New York Times Would 'Prod' Israel", and I would like to answer by way of a blog entry.

Anonymous wrote:

I believe "prod" as in "stimulate or persuade". I agree that acceptance is a pre-requisite, but look at the map of Israel's settlements 20 years ago and today. It makes it hard to argue against the idea that Israel's intention is to take over all of Palestine.

Thank you again, Anonymous. My response:

"Prod" as in "stimulate" or "persuade"? Perhaps. The Times could also have used "urge" or "encourage", but they didn't. Equally informative was the online publication yesterday of op-eds by Cohen and Goldstone, both known for their hostility toward Israel, without contrary opinion. I should note that I was subsequently informed by someone very senior at The Times that this occurred only online and that Cohen was not published in the print version (he only appeared in the International Herald Tribune).

More to the point, however, concerning an Israeli "takeover" of "all of Palestine":

- A majority of Israelis favor the evacuation of the settlements. The Jewish Quarter of the Old City, from which Jews were expelled in 1948, where centuries old synagogues were leveled to the ground in 1948, and home to the Wailing Wall which was off limits to Jews until 1967, is not going to be evacuated. Also, to evacuate the entranceway to Jerusalem is to create a sniper's alley that would isolate the city.

- All of Sinai, including all Israeli settlements, was evacuated by Prime Minister Begin of the Likud in exchange for peace with Egypt.

- Prime Minister Barak offered to evacuate all of Gaza and most of the West Bank (Arafat was offered Israeli land for "settlements" not part of the package) in exchange for peace. Arafat rejected the offer.

- Prime Minister Sharon of the Likud unilaterally evacuated Gaza and all its settlements. "In exchange", thousands of missiles, rockets and mortars were fired at civilian targets in Israel. This resulted in the closure of Israel to Gazan workers.

- Olmert again offered Abbas the West Bank in exchange for peace. Abbas refused.

Is Israel still ready to evacuate the West Bank in exchange for peace? I believe that Netanyahu is prepared to do this. I would note that Mike Oren, Israel's ambassador to the U.S., whom I know, is no right-winger and favors compromise; it is no accident that he was selected as ambassador. But first there must be acceptance by Fatah of Israel's right to exist.

One further word concerning "Palestine": In 1921, 77% of the Palestinian Mandate was given by Churchill to Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who became emir of Transjordan (today Jordan). I am not alluding to this fact in order to justify continued settlement of Jews in the West Bank; I strongly favor evacuation of the West Bank, including exchange of territories as necessary, provided the other side is willing to accept Israel's right to exist. I am saying that a majority of Jordan's population consists of Palestinians, and ultimately this problem will resurface. I still remember "Black September".

But let me take this a step further: I would allow the Arab villages in Israel, which border the Palestinian Authority, to hold referendums and decide whether they prefer to be annexed by the Palestinian Authority. Would they be willing to give up their civil liberties, political parties, prosperity, medical care, social security? I often have coffee with persons living in these villages and can conclusively predict the outcome of the vote.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The New York Times Would "Prod" Israel

In an editorial of today's date entitled "Squandering the Moment", The New York Times takes the position that if the Middle East’s major players continue to refuse to do what is needed to move the peace process forward, the White House may have to place its own deal on the table. A thinly veiled threat from the Obama administration to you-know-who via a courier? My response:

"President Obama needs to prod Mr. Netanyahu toward bolder action by making a direct — and better — case to a skeptical Israeli public on why a settlements freeze and reviving peace talks is in its interest."

The New York Times' editorial staff wears its ignorance on its sleeve: In recent years two Israeli prime ministers, Barak and Olmert, have offered to evacuate the West Bank in exchange for peace, but both offers were refused. There is good reason for Israeli skepticism.

"Prod" Netanyahu? As one might "prod" cattle? This is indeed the obtuse posture of the Obama administration that has rallied Israeli centrists behind Netanyahu and eliminated public support for the Israeli left.

Recently, following a Washington Post editorial criticizing Obama for "getting tough" only with Israel, The New York Times the next day rallied to the support of Obama with its own idolizing editorial, and not long afterwards was rewarded with an op-ed written by Obama or someone on his behalf.

It can only be hoped that the blatant warning found in today's editorial, in furtherance of a bankrupt policy of undermining the only true friend of the U.S. in the Middle East, is not a conveniently disguised message from a hostile West Wing.

Peculiar how it never occurs to certain people that negotiations cannot proceed without acceptance - not "greater acceptance" as stipulated by this editorial - of Israel's right to exist. Given the foolhardy optimism exhibited by the Obama administration vis-a-vis negotiations with Iran, this should come as no surprise.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Jill Abramson Answers Questions from New York Times Readers

The New York Times ceremoniously announced that "Jill Abramson, managing editor of The Times, is answering questions from readers Sept. 8-11, 2009" and that questions may be e-mailed to her. Apparently she was bombarded with inquiries concerning the lack of New York Times coverage of the Van Jones affair. Her response:

"One reason was that our Washington bureau was somewhat short-staffed during the height of the pre-Labor Day vacation period. . . . Another is that despite being a so-called 'czar,' Mr. Jones was not a high-ranking official."

Yeah, right. This also explains why The Times' op-ed writers have studiously avoided the Van Jones matter and President Obama's announcement of the resignation in the middle of the night on a holiday weekend.

Given that Jill Abramson was "answering questions", I, too, sent her an e-mail:

Dear Ms. Abramson,

As you can see from the correspondence below, I was promised an answer by the office of The New York Times' Public Editor whether Roger Cohen's op-ed, "What Iran's Jews Say", was in keeping with New York Times journalistic standards of ethics.

In a nutshell, Mr. Cohen failed to inform The Times' readership that his interviews with Iranian Jews were conducted with the assistance of an Iranian translator, hired from an Iranian government "agency", who, as acknowledged by Mr. Cohen, was reporting on these meetings back to the "agency". Moreover, it is unclear whether the said "agency" arranged these specific meetings in advance.

Notwithstanding the promise I received from the Public Editor's office and Mr. Hoyt's personal awareness of and involvement in this issue, I have never received an answer.

Perhaps you would care to reply.

Best regards,
Jeffrey Grossman

Will she reply? Given her Van Jones response, you can count on it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Roger Cohen Lectures on Journalism

In his New York Times op-ed of today's date, "New Tweets, Old Needs", Roger Cohen lectures us on the meaning of journalism. My response:

"[Journalism] is a choice of material, whether in words or image, made in pursuit of presenting the truest and fairest, most vivid and complete representation of a situation."

Oh, really? Don't you think, Roger, that you should have told your New York Times readership over the course of your series of Iran op-eds:

- You don't speak Farsi.
- As admitted by you at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles this past March, you were accompanied in Iran by a translator hired, as required by Iran, from a government "agency".
- The translator, who accompanied you to your meetings with several Jews from Esfahan, acknowledged that he was reporting back to the "agency" concerning these meetings.
- The persons being interviewed could well have been intimidated by the presence of this translator.

You didn't tell us whether these meetings were prearranged by the Iranian government "agency". At a minimum, you should have informed your readership in your op-ed, "What Iran's Jews Say", of the presence of the translator and his "affiliation".

Perhaps "What Iran's Jews Say" was "vivid", but was it "true", "fair" and a "complete representation of a situation"?

Worth noting that although I was promised an answer from the office of the Public Editor of The New York Times concerning whether Cohen's "What Iran's Jews Say" was in keeping with The Times' ethical guidelines (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/06/was-roger-cohens-what-irans-jews-say-in_17.html), I have yet to hear back, after six months, from Clark Hoyt.

Are things always so slow in your department, Clark, or is it just something you prefer not to touch?

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Would-Be Book-Burner's Candidacy for Director General of Unesco

In Roger Cohen's September 7 op-ed, "An Egyptian for Unesco", Cohen writes from Paris:

"France is aflutter with rumors that its beautiful first lady, Carla Bruni, will star in Woody Allen’s next movie. . . . I’d love to see her in an Allen film. All that European refinement is a Brooklyn Jewish kid’s fantasy."

Although born in Brooklyn, I despise Allen's depictions of Jews as self-effacing bunglers, and I don't fantasize over "European refinement", whatever that might be. My face is wrinkled by the desert sun, my knees hurt from standing watch countless hours, and I wouldn't have it otherwise.

Cohen proceeds to inform us of the debate raging in France over the possible appointment of Farouk Hosny, Egyptian minister of culture, as director general of Unesco. Questioned about Israeli books in the Alexandria Library, Hosny recently replied:

"Let’s burn these books. If there are any, I will burn them myself before you.”

Cohen does not oppose Hosny's appointment to the top spot at Unesco. My response to Cohen's op-ed:

Ever myopic, Roger Cohen has a propensity for distortion, but to his credit appears to communicate, as does Hosny, "without intention or premeditation".

Over the better part of a year, Cohen sought to indoctrinate us with the belief that Iran is "not totalitarian" and regaled us with tales of Persian "civility", all of which went up in the cigarette smoke that he blew into the eyes of a tear-gassed demonstrator on the blood soaked streets of Tehran. Now, Cohen would have us believe that given a second chance, Hosny could change: "He brooks debate, at least."

Cohen argues that "with the big U.S. contribution to the Unesco budget as leverage, let’s press [Hosny] relentlessly to fight the anti-Semitic bigotry poisoning young Arab psyches". Cohen cheerleading the fight against anti-Semitism? This is the same Roger Cohen, who, in his op-ed "Baker's Ghost in Cairo", commended the former secretary of state's denunciation of "Greater Israel" (Israel is only 9 miles wide at its waist), but forgot to mention Baker's other infamous remark, "F#%@ the Jews". Perhaps we need to pardon Baker, Hosny and Cohen.

But imagine if a candidate for U.S. secretary of education had one year ago recommended burning books written by homosexuals. Would his/her candidacy be considered for even a nanosecond? Or would Cohen have us forgive and forget in the hope that this newly repentant official could bridge differences between the straight and gay communities? He/she "brooks debate, at least."

Humor Mubarak? By all means. Let him propose another candidate.

The leopard cannot change his spots. Neither can Hosny or Cohen.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Graveyard of Empires

A Rudyard Kipling poem commemorated the 1880 Battle of Maiwand in which the Afghan followers of Ayub Khan defeated a British/Indian brigade during the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The poem:

"There was thirty dead an' wounded on the ground we wouldn't keep -
No, there wasn't more than twenty when the front began to go;
But, Christ! along the line o' flight they cut us up like sheep,
An' that was all we gained by doing so.
I 'eard the knives be'ind me, but I dursn't face my man,
Nor I don't know where I went to, 'cause I didn't 'alt to see,
Till I 'eard a beggar squealin' out for quarter as 'e ran,
An' I thought I knew the voice an' - it was me!
We was 'idin' under bedsteads more than 'arf a march away;
We was lyin' up like rabbits all about the countryside;
An' the major cursed 'is Maker 'cause 'e lived to see that day'
An' the colonel broke 'is sword acrost, an' cried."

Today a NATO airstrike in northern Afghanistan killed more than 80 civilians and Taliban fighters.

Also, today, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Can the U.S. Lead Afghans?", Mark Moyar, a professor of national security affairs at the United States Marine Corps University, recommends command of Afghani units by U.S. officers. My response:

"In addition to fighting poorly, badly led troops usually alienate the population by misbehaving and they often desert or defect."

With all due respect to Mr. Moyar, he is mistaken: badly led troops will not alienate the population by misbehaving and desert or defect unless they lack an ideology shared with the population and its government and are devoid of motivation.

As such, the question is not "Can the U.S. Lead Afghans?", but rather "Can Afghans Be Led?" It is not a matter of crunching indigenous troop numbers, but rather determining whether indigenous troops have any willingness or reason to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Mr. Moyar contends that Afghan troops should be placed under American commanders and cites the example of Vietnam. However, the U.S. lost the Vietnam War precisely because a better equipped South Vietnamese Army with air support could not contend with better motivated Vietcong and North Vietnamese regulars.

How does the U.S. come out on top in Afghanistan? Bin Laden must be run to ground and al-Qaeda must be prevented from reestablishing residence in Afghanistan, but is this best achieved by way of a massive U.S. ground presence in this country?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Two Days in a Row: New York Times' Op-Eds Oppose Iran Sanctions

Remarkable how much attention Iran is receiving in the opinion section of The New York Times. Yesterday, there was an op-ed, "Buying American in Tehran", written by someone who described himself as "an analyst for a hedge fund in Tehran this summer", claiming that sanctions against Iran would be misguided. Today, Roger Cohen followed this up with another op-ed, "Iran's Flip-Flopper Supreme", which concluded:

"For the United States and its allies to threaten [Iran] — through sanctions or otherwise — would be worse than foolish. It would be pointless."

My response:

"Well, sir, which is it, flag-bearer or flouter, torch or torturer, that best describes the Islamic Republic’s relationship to human rights?"

Roger, you still don't know? Do only the victims of this tyrannical regime's most recent "election" disturb you? What about the thousands of Baha'is, Kurds, Jews, Sunni Muslims, homosexuals and political dissidents who were murdered by the Khamenei regime prior to the election?

But in case, for any reason, you remain in doubt, The New York Times today reported that with the full support of the the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, Iran's parliament:

"approved all but three of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s 21 nominees for his cabinet Thursday, handing a victory to the beleaguered president who now has close allies overseeing key ministries of oil, interior and intelligence. Iran’s new government will include as defense minister Ahmad Vahidi, wanted by Interpol on charges that he helped organize the bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Argentina in 1994. . . . For intelligence minister, the cabinet approved Haidar Moslehi, a former adviser to Mr. Ahmadinejad who had served as a representative of Ayatollah Khamenei in the paramilitary Basij organization. His appointment was likely sanctioned by the Supreme Leader, who has a hand over all security related appointments". (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/04/world/middleeast/04iran.html?hp)

Also worth noting that two of the three women nominated by Ahmadinejad were rejected by Iran's parliament.

As noted in several comments to Cohen's op-ed, the only "supreme flip-flopper" is Cohen himself. In my blog entry in response to the "summer hedge fund analyst", I stated:

"This almost makes me miss Roger Cohen . . ."

Sorry, Roger, I take it back.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"What Are You Another Sayanim?"

Nothing like a little humor to start the day. In case someone didn't notice, the second comment from "anonymous" to my prior blog entry, "Another New York Times Op-Ed Concerning Iran", reads in its entirety:

"JG? oh, yes... Mr. Grossman is it? commenting on Iran, are you!? What are you another sayanim?"

Let's review this bit by bit:

"Mr. Grossman is it?"

I think so. At least the last time I looked in the mirror. I really do need a shave.

"[C]ommenting on Iran, are you?"

Yup, if I read my prior blog entry correctly. You see, I don't think the U.S. should enable a regime which murders Baha'is, Kurds, Jews, Sunni Muslims, homosexuals and political dissidents, which stones to death adulterers, which is threatening to wipe Israel off the map, and which will soon be able to hit Europe with ballistic missiles, freely to pursue its nuclear weapons program.

"What are you another sayanim?"

This threw me for a loop, given that I didn't know the meaning of "sayanim". Was I being accused of owning a certain type of cat? Was I being informed that I suffer from an itchy skin disease? Or perhaps that I am the long lost descendant of a blue-blooded family? Curiosity piqued and able to spare a minute, I did a Google search and learned that according to Victor Ostrovsky's 1990 book, "By Way of Deception", "sayanim" (plural) are non-Israeli citizens who assist the Mossad.

Sorry to disappoint, but I'm not a "sayan" (singular), unless criticism of tyrannical theocracies places a person in this category. W.C. Fields once said:

"It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to."

I have tried to live my life by faithfully responding to the demands of ethics and morality and raising my children in like manner. Nothing more, nothing less.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Another New York Times Op-Ed Concerning Iran

Today there is yet another New York Times op-ed concerning Iran, "Buying American in Tehran", this time written by Jerry Guo (I don't know who he is), which repudiates the need for sanctions. My response:

This op-ed, written by someone who "was an analyst for a hedge fund in Tehran this summer", claims that proposed economic sanctions against Iran would be ineffective (there are ways to get around sanctions, e.g., "hawala"), counterproductive (the poor are harmed while the Revolutionary Guard benefits) and unnecessary (YouTube has already isolated the government).

Having worked with financial institutions throughout the world, I am confident that sanctions will prove effective, provided they are enforced. If the United States was to annul the banking license of any financial institution involved, directly or indirectly, in the transfer of goods or funds to Iran, no bank would take the chance of running afoul of such a mandate, i.e. the Iranian centrifuges would cease to spin.

Hawala? Sure, the system is used throughout the Middle East, but cannot handle very large sums, and ultimately there must be a nexus with the traditional banking system.

The author of this op-ed would have us believe that foreign investment firms "pour money into companies that make medicine and build roads and housing, providing jobs for the millions of young Iranians who graduate each year with limited job prospects." Let's locate these "foreign investment firms" and ask that they "pour money" into the U.S. economy, providing jobs for millions of unemployed Americans.

"Tougher sanctions would . . . help the [Revolutionary] Guards’ many businesses, which include smuggling goods through secret landing spots on the coast." Oh, yes, the "secret landing spots". Are these "secret landing spots" capable of offloading goods from supertankers, or are we talking about cartons of cigarettes and bottles of scotch?

"In any case, at this point sanctions may not be needed." With Iran only a year away from an atomic bomb, the avowal of a summer hedge fund analyst that YouTube has isolated the Iranian government is most reassuring.

This almost makes me miss Roger Cohen . . .