American Scholar In Iran.

Posted on January 30, 2015

by Jerry Alatalo

aaa-29Alphabet Executive Director of the MIT Center for International Studies John Tirman appeared on Iranian network Press TV’s “Face to Face” recently to talk about the Middle East. In answer to the woman interviewer’s questions about ISIS and where it gets its funding, he responded that it came from a variety of sources.

Starting around three years ago, according to Mr. Tirman, the Middle East’s Gulf monarchies including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and perhaps others directed financial support to ISIS and other terrorist groups to topple the nation of Syria under Bashar al-Assad. He describes ISIS as “well-funded and well-organized”, whose other sources of funding includes a sophisticated online presence for both raising money and recruiting.

Tirman believes that ISIS was able to overrun large areas and cities in Iraq in the summer of 2014 because the regions they operated in were weak in both law enforcement/military and absent strong government institutions. On the topic of what drives young men to consider then join ISIS, he points to a number of factors.

Motivation from religious beliefs that most Islamic scholars would reject at once

Seeking some form of “adventure”

An option for receiving a paycheck after living in regions of high unemployment and economic downturn

Tirman apologized, then said unfortunately some ISIS recruits join for the violence carried out by the terrorist group

John Tirman told the interviewer that he “is not optimistic” that peace will come to the Middle East any time soon, given the horrendous conditions in Libya, the ongoing 4 year-old war and violence occurring in Syria, and the “continuing standoff” between Israel and the Palestinians. He finds it very difficult to find any positive near term solution for the wars occurring in the Middle East, however Mr. Tirman does find reason for hope if the current US – Iran – P5+1 nuclear negotiations are successful.

There is a possibility that ISIS could fall rapidly if they lost control of the Iraqi city of Mosul, recruitment efforts became prevented or stopped, and/or if somehow an alternative to joining ISIS became developed giving young people a reason not to join the terrorist groups.

Mr. Tirman sees that perceptions by many around the world about Iran have evolved to the point where the Iranians are increasingly being seen/recognized as a force for positive potential developments in the region, and he further stresses through repeating how important he feels about reaching a successful agreement on the P5+1 nuclear talks.

Finally John Tirman conveys his belief that the United States should withdraw militarily from the Middle East; that there is a strong argument for “rethinking” on US military intervention. He sees the current situation as one where there is a need to create new relations with nations of the Middle East by America – “rather than projecting military power”. As a first step in that new direction, according to Tirman, the US must end its insistence to “push the consequences of the Iraq War aside”.

Perhaps it’s time for American media programs to bring Iranians in the same scholarly league as John Tirman on the air for interviews. Maybe those same American media organizations would end up with far fewer reports on war and violence in the Middle East as a result.

That would be widely appreciated as some really good news. 


(Thank you to PressTV News Videos at YouTube)

Sarah Palin In Iowa: Compassion.

by Jerry Alatalo

Header10Alphabet After considering Sarah Palin’s speech in Iowa at a meeting of 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls over the weekend, it’s hard to determine just how to analyze it. One could come from a place of humor and ridicule, and generate a few laughs through witty remarks about the very real possibility, if in 2008 John McCain and Ms. Palin had won the presidential election, and that, if McCain had become incapable of continuing, she could have become the President of the United States.

Ms. Palin’s speech leaves one afterward in a state of mixed emotions, but perhaps the best description for how most people reacted was with feelings of not knowing exactly whether to laugh or cry. Being a person who refrains from ever kicking another person when they are down, the best emotion in response to Ms. Palin’s embarrassing oratory performance is probably compassion.

She may have consumed some alcohol before going on stage to speak, innocently loosening up with her friends whom she hadn’t seen in a while, but unfortunately placed too much faith in the problem-free operation of her teleprompter. As a person who has a history of alcohol abuse, it would be difficult to judge Sarah Palin harshly if that were the case.

There could be other explanations for her unusual reasoning during the talk, perhaps something to do with taking prescription medication, with incoherency being one of the side effects like those many at the end of every TV advertisement. Now, if Sarah Palin was actually stone-cold sober during this talk, then, well, this was a very, very sad moment for the United States of America.

For whatever reason, after watching Ms. Palin’s Iowa talk, the image of U.S. Attorney General nominee to replace Eric Holder – Loretta Lynch – came to mind after watching a good portion of her senate confirmation hearing today. Both Ms. Lynch’s opening statement and her answers to senators’ tough legal questions struck one as highly impressive, surely the result of law school and many years of experience as an attorney and prosecutor in New York.

What became crystal clear and felt absolutely astonishing was to become aware of the profound distance between these two women regarding their ability to “think on one’s feet”, as the cliché goes. Now, once again, in order not to kick another while they’re down, law school training is one of the most challenging of all academic disciplines, and it’s abundantly apparent that Sarah Palin’s extent of legal studies and experience amount to a small percentage of  Loretta Lynch’s.

There is an important lesson to become learned from making a comparison between Sarah Palin in Iowa and Loretta Lynch during the Senate confirmation hearing. With a feeling of sadness for those young people in America who will watch Ms. Palin’s Iowa talk and end up confused because they’ll know she could have become both Vice President and President of the United States, as well as great compassion for a fellow human being/soul who will unfortunately experience kicks while she’s down, putting a finger on exactly what that lesson is leaves one almost as confused as the young ones.

It’s a bizarre lesson. Perhaps the lesson learned has to do with disallowing teleprompters for politicians altogether, guaranteeing elimination of any possibility in the future of less-than-ideal candidates’ winning elections. Or the lesson may relate to instances where human beings become so overwhelmed by what they perceive as problems in the world they are powerless to solve that the result is separation from that dark reality. And for that reason great compassion is the only response.

Whatever the lesson is, and there are many possible teachings, one thing is certain.

The lesson is greater than we know.


(The Young Turks – YouTube)