Iran and the USA: Poll and People

Iran had a presidential election last week. The voter turnout was nearly 73%. That is, more than 36 million of nearly 50 million of eligible voters had cast their votes. The results are out. More than half the voters opted for the 64-year-old Hasan Rowhani - the only cleric to run in this presidential election. He, thus, narrowly cleared the margin that would have forced a two-candidate runoff. Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf and nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili came in distant second and third, respectively. 

Two weeks ago no one gave any chance to Rowhani. But with the endorsements coming from former presidents Hashem Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, others joined in to rally behind him. In the closing days, Rowhani was drawing huge crowds and the race was suddenly transformed to give him the victory. Only in a true democracy such an outcome is possible! The election results once again proved the fairness of the election system in Iran. There was no vote-rigging - neither this time nor in 2009 when the incumbent president Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won his reelection against the Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and opposition figure Mahdi Karroubi. 

The jubilant supporters chanted, "Long live Rowhani." Rowhani is not new to Iranian politics - having served in governments and in the highly sensitive role of nuclear negotiator. Between 2003 and 2005, he was actually the head of Iran's nuclear program. He has been critical of the combative international policies of outgoing President Dr. Ahmadinejad and others.

In his first statement after the results were announced, Rowhani said that "a new opportunity has been created ... for those who truly respect democracy, interaction and free dialogue." "I've never been an extremist," he said, "I support moderation." "I thank God that once again rationality and moderation has shined on Iran," he continued. "This is the victory of wisdom, a victory of moderation and a victory of commitment over extremism." 

Rowhani's victory could sharply lower the political temperature between Iran and the West. The White House congratulated Iranian voters for "their courage in making their voices heard." Washington urged Tehran's leadership to "heed the will of the Iranian people and make responsible choices," while noting the U.S. remained open for direct dialogue with Iran. 

By 'responsible' choices, what the White House, really means is stopping the nuclear program - something that no Iranian leader would do. The Iranian officials, including Rowhani and others who have been in opposition in the past eight years, insist that the country's nuclear efforts are only for peaceful energy and medical purposes. It is also the 'courageous voices' of the Iranian people. There is absolute national consensus on this vital nuclear issue. And the White House should have known better! It would be, thus, irresponsible of the White House to insist on something that no Iranian leader could deliver. That would be simply undemocratic - going against the will of the Iranian people!

As I have pointed out elsewhere the USA cannot go on committing diplomatic blunders and war crimes, surrogating for the rogue state of Israel. When the null hypothesis was there was no Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) in Iraq, something that was repeatedly verified by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the U.S. and her allies under the leadership of Bush and Blair invaded Iraq, committing Type 1 error. For years, Israel's Amen Corner inside the Capitol Hill has been making the case for invasion of Iraq, and with their men solidly implanted inside the Bush administration, forgotten were the alpha risks and the associated cost of being wrong in the decision making or committing blunder - trillions of dollars, let alone the casualties of the war. 

One would have hoped that the White House has become wiser and won't repeat the blunders of 2003. Sadly, one dumb, intellectually challenged, mass murderer has been replaced by a sly mass murderer with a forked tongue. The same powerful Amen Corner still exists inside the Capitol Hill who with dual - no, scrap it - rather sole, unquestioning and robotic allegiance to the rogue state still pushes the country to fight her dirty war. So, all these Washington talks about 'direct dialogue' with Tehran are disingenuous and are aimed at relaying the third party's utterly aggressive and insupportable demands. 

If the USA is serious about peace and nuclear security in that part of the world, let it neuter its rogue ally first. After all, Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and possesses hundreds of nuclear bombs. It has been at war with all its neighbors and has attacked those countries without any provocation. She is the paramount threat to peace and security in that part of the world. She is a repeat offender violating international laws and her leaders are guilty of war crimes. If Obama administration does not have the guts - and let's not kid around since it will never have - to rein upon Netanyahu government, let it not exhibit its moral bankruptcy by attacking others who don't deserve war. 

Rather than lecturing Iranian leaders as to how they should mend their fences, President Obama may like to listen, at least once in a while, to the voices of the courageous people within the USA who are critical of his administration's policies - at home and abroad. Rather than prosecuting the courageous people like Bradley Manning and Eric Snowden, he should recognize them for their moral fortitude, which his administration surely lacks. As men with higher moral compasses, these two individuals simply refused to keep quiet on matters that affect the lives of so many. Much in contrast to the claims made by those Washington politicians - Democrats and Republicans -- none of these brave and noble souls has betrayed America and its people. They are no traitors, but are true patriots. I wish American people could say the same for their politicians. According to Gallup's "confidence in institutions" poll, trust in nation's institutions is at an historic low, with Congress clocking in at a 13 percent approval rating in 2012. Yes, this is the same Congress that has "oversight" of the government spying programs. Truly, more people in America have a favorable opinion of Snowden and Manning than the Congress. 

Could there be an Arab Spring against those dictators that began in 2010 without Manning's WikiLeaks? Because of Manning, Americans came to know that their government was repeating the crimes of My Lai in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that those unarmed civilians were killed deliberately by trigger-happy soldiers and bombers. His leaked materials showed how inhumanly the detainees were treated. Only because of Snowden do Americans know today that their intimate conversations were recorded by the National Security Agency (NSA). Both these gentlemen have done a public service by informing their fellow citizens what is going wrong under their name and security. 

How could America's treatment of the detainees be right? How could America's bombing or shooting of unarmed civilians be right? How could NSA's spying program be right? Are American citizens supposed to respect institutions so much so that they are not entitled to information about how their government treats others, how they are being spied on, even when it involves their private communications, by government institutions? How is the U.S. government different than Stalin's Soviet Union in this respect? 

It is no surprise that the same Obama administration that is bitter about the Guardian leaks on spying opted not to prosecute its workers who destroyed CIA interrogation records with Muslim detainees that might have implicated the government in law breaking. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper blatantly lied to Congress about the activity of the NSA, and there seems to be no ramifications. Why? Where is America heading when her law-breakers are exonerated and whistle-blowers are prosecuted for performing their moral duties? 

As hinted above, the Obama administration is setting a new low standard for America in many facets of American lives. The former Vice President Al Gore chided the Obama Administration last Friday for the NSA's blanket collection of US citizens' phone records. He said that it was "not really the American way", declaring that he believed the practice to be unlawful. He was unsparing in his criticism of the surveillance apparatus, telling the Guardian security considerations should never overwhelm the basic rights of American citizens. He also urged Barack Obama and Congress to review and amend the laws under which the NSA operated.

"This in my view violates the constitution. The fourth amendment and the first amendment - and the fourth amendment language is crystal clear," Gore said. "It is not acceptable to have a secret interpretation of a law that goes far beyond any reasonable reading of either the law or the constitution and then classify as top secret what the actual law is." Gore added: "This is not right." He rejected outright calls by the Republican chair of the house homeland security committee, Peter King, for prosecution of journalists who cover security leaks, such as the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald.

"I quite understand the viewpoint that many have expressed that they are fine with it and they just want to be safe but that is not really the American way," Gore said in a telephone interview. "Benjamin Franklin famously wrote that those who would give up essential liberty to try to gain some temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

If Peter King, the congressman from New York, was wise he should have known the wisdom behind Ben Franklin's well-known statement. But to obsessed and paranoid guys like him such words of wisdom don't mean anything these days. Thus, when letters containing deadly chemical ricin were sent to President Obama, New York City Mayor Bloomberg and the head of the Washington D.C. lobbying group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, none of these demented lawmakers, including Peter King, and mayors is referring to these acts as terrorism in spite of the fact that civilians and non-military officials were targeted. Even the press is silent. 

Clearly, to them when white Jewish/Christian guys and gals send murderous mails and commit horrendous crimes terrorizing civilian population they are merely acting irrationally and doing something wrong, but they are not terrorists since that epithet only belongs to Muslims who present a singular threat to our 'civilized' society! They tell us that the American obsession with privacy, civil rights and basic freedoms are archaic and stale when compared to the ominous threat posed by hypothetical barbarian hordes of 'Islamists' who want to impose shariah. 

So the neo-fascist lawmakers of our time are rewriting the laws to prioritize safety over liberty, paranoia and obsession over trust and common sense. One by one, slowly but steadily newer laws granting wire-tapping, eaves-dropping, e-mail tracking, etc. are introduced. Since 9/11, its first casualty inside the USA has been the Muslim Americans, and now it is everyone. Thanks to Snowden for letting us know of this secret information which the US government wanted to hide. 

Mr. Obama needs to heed to the will of the American people and make responsible choices by stopping this paranoia now. To most Americans today, he is increasingly viewed as someone acting and behaving like Josef Stalin and neither like the founding fathers of this nation who gave us the American constitution nor its protector. And this unsugar-coated view should be a sufficient wake-up call for him to change the course. But will he? 


Dr Habib Siddiqui has authored 10 books. His latest book - Devotional Stories - is now available from A.S. Noordeen, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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