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Persepolis, for instance?

Monday, January 6th, 2020

[ by Charles Cameron — which cultural heritage sites did you have in mind, Mr Trump? ]
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Persepolis, for instance?

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So?

The Golestan Palace, in the heart of Tehran? The Masjed-e Shah in Isfahan? The Hyrcanian Forests, or Lut Desert? I suppose Trump could bomb the Lut Desert without harming civilians, and wind would soon bring the dunes back into their miraculous order..

Iran has 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites all told.

Let’s just say that it took ISIS to destroy the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, and the Taliban to demolish the Bamiyan Buddha..

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Of possible legal relevance:

After an al-Qaeda affiliated group destroyed ancient religious monuments in Timbuktu, Mali, in 2012, the International Criminal Court took on a unique criminal case: prosecuting cultural destruction.

Though it generally focuses on human rights violations, the ICC charged the leader of the jihadist group, Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, with a war crime for destroying cultural artifacts in Timbuktu.

The case was the first criminal charge of its kind. It “breaks new ground for the protection of humanity’s shared cultural heritage and values,” UNESCO Secretary-General Irina Bokova said at the time. Al-Mahdi eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Okay, a precedent of sorts has been set.

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BTW, Mike Knights suggests the “best way to make sure Trump does do something you oppose – say bomb cultural sites – is to engage him in a twitter war about it. The way insiders get him to forget about a course of action is to stop mentioning it.”

He did his PhD on “target selection and vetting,” and tells us:

It’s a very laborious, mechanical process for fixed sites, & there is a huge constantly-refined no-strike list. Judge Advocate Generals are involved in all target lists.

Sometimes POTUS crosses red lines and erases norms, sometimes not.

The Ping-Pong Possibility

Monday, January 6th, 2020

[ by Charles Cameron — Soleimani’s death prospects — does my title sound like the title of a Ludlum novel? Good! ]
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I’ll do this all, or mostly, in tweets — things are happening fast enough that just watching my twitter stream is keeping me pretty busy.

Okay: there’s a whole lot of mirroring going on. Commenting on the assassination of IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani, President Trump tweeted:

Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have…..

….targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!

To which a senior IRGC officer just responded:

“If [US President Donald] Trump retaliates to Iran’s revenge, we will strike Haifa, Tel Aviv and wipe out Israel,” said Mohsen Rezaei.

About Mohsen Rezaee.

In both cases, we have threats, which we might say fall half-way between words and deeds, and which may also be pure bluster. It’s a thriller, to be sure, given President Trump‘s propensity to exaggerate in both speech and action.

More mirroring, as commentator Wajahat Ali tweets:

Trump promises to blast 52 Iranian sites for the 52 American hostages held over 40 years ago. Does Iran respond by threatening 53 US sites for the US backed coup of Iran’s democratically elected leader Mossadegh in 1953?

On the other hand, as Evan Kohlmann teeeted, there are more reasoned voices on the Iranian side

Iranian military official Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan: “We will not enter into an all-out war with America under any circumstances and we will respond appropriately to the U.S. strike. Iran’s response will be based on wisdom and reason and will be deterrent and influential.”

No mirroring there — no ping-pong, no tit-for-tat, just restraint — an “appropriate” and “restrained” response.

And breaking symmetry completely

Former Ambassador John Limbert, one of the 52 Americans taken hostage by Iran in 1979, says “I for one want no part of the president’s posturing about Iran.”

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As Jenan Moussa tweeted:

:Expelling American troops from Iraq was a main objective for #Soleimani.

Cynically what Soleimani couldn’t achieve in life, he might well achieve it by his death.

Iraqi lawmakers have indeed voted for US troops to be expelled from Iraq.

But look, there’s more going on there — there’s death mirroring life. And if you’ll take a moment to break from national security concerns, death mirroring life is precisely what Jean Cocteau shows us in his great film Orphée:

Cocteau’s porophetic. There’s more death mirroring life in this quote from Soleimani himself, as reported in this tweet from the FARS news agency, August 2015:

“Soleimani has taught us that death is the beginning of life, not the end of life,” one militia commander said.

And that may be the wisest mirroring comment of all.. though Soleimani surely intended it in the context of that other quote I cited yesterday:

The war-front is mankind’s lost paradise. One type of paradise that is portrayed for mankind is streams, beautiful nymphs and greeneries. But there is another kind of paradise. … The war-front was the lost paradise of the human beings, indeed.

Mirrorings found, but paradise lost, I fear — not Soleimani‘s war-front, but its mirror-image, the paradise of hoped for Middle Eastern peace. That’s a mirror undone, when you consider the letter from Soleimani to the Iraqi PM that Brasco Aad tweets about:

raqi PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi: “Hadj Soleimani was in Baghdad at my invitation. He was scheduled to visit me and carried a letter with him from the Iranian leadership on how to de-escalate tensions with Saudi Arabia.”

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Okay, further reading:

  • New Yorker, Where Will U.S.-Iran Tensions Play Out? An Interview with Iraq’s President
  • Dart Boards and Hatred, a DoubleTake

    Sunday, December 29th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — featuring a comparison between Osama bin Laden and Adam Schiff ]
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    From my private collection, now in storage, an image of counter-terrorist hatred:

    and a second image:

    ‘Nothing Less Than a Civil War’: These White Voters on the Far Right See Doom Without Trump

    forming together with the first what I call a DoubleTake, in this case featuring a parallelism that’s suggestive.

    What do you think?

    Funniest DoubleQuote in a while

    Saturday, December 21st, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — simple fun, with a more serious footnote ]
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    I just very much enjoy my friend Aaron Zelin‘s response [lower frame, below] to President Trump’s tweet [upper frame]:

    To be honest, I think Aaron has a mildly warped sense of humor — a warp which I certainly share.

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    Here’s the Christianity Today editorial to which Trump obliquely refers:

  • Mark Galli, Trump Should Be Removed from Office
  • ICYMI Natasha Bertrand and Laura Walker

    Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — this story of the “Nunes acolyte” is too timely to miss, too singular to loom large in the so-called greater picture ]
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    I’ll let Laura Walker have the first word of the White House worm called Kashyap Patel:

    Nunes acolyte misrepresented himself to Trump as Ukraine expert

    Natasha Bertrand, brilliant Politico writer, gets the next bite, writing the original story that Laura opened with:

    Nunes acolyte misrepresented himself to Trump as Ukraine expert

    And I’ll close with Laura‘s closing link, backgrounding Patel:

    Trump admirer Kashyap ‘Kash’ Patel lands important White House position

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    Follow Laura. Follow Natasha

    That’s it for today.


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