Friday, March 2, 2018

Iran vs. KSA: More than Just Optics

The debate about whether or not KSA's women's rights record clean up is merely cosmetic virtue signaling or not, to me, is easily resolveable by an answer to the following question:

Is even a single woman benefiting from the change in policies? If so, it's a step forward.

When you hear news of 35 women arrested at a soccer match in Iran, and then you hear news that women are finally being allowed to attend sports events in KSA, it's pretty obvious that

1. Every step matters, no matter how small.
2. One country is going forward, while the other is going forward.

How do you move backwards or forward? One step at a time.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Saudi Arabia and the Holocaust

On the subject of Saudi Arabia: I have NOT been a big fan of the vast human rights violations that took place inside the country, nor their past policy of funding Wahhabist around the world, anti-Israel rhetoric, positions inside the UN, and much else. Nor of vast hypocrisy of forcing women into the guardianship system and burqas while going to strip clubs in Europe and the US. Nor of the horrendous treatment of their servants. I can go on and on, but you get the picture.

You can see where I stand on human rights in Saudi Arabia from the cover of my wall. My foray into human rights advocacy has started in Saudi Arabia, with Raif Badawi's situation. You can be assured, that I have no plan of backing away from that position until such time as Raif, his brother-in-law Walid Abulkhair, and other such prisoners of conscience are set free, and conditions inside the country are such that innocent people are no longer persecuted for their views. I hope that the Saudi government acts quickly to shift from decades of terrible policies on all level.

That said, it should be obvious to anyone with a bit of common sense, that real social changes do not happen overnight even when the government aggressively moves in the right direction - and particularly when the government is still struggling to finds its place. I am glad, however, that they have started moving away from funding Wahhabist education, moving towards modernizing religion (whatever the heck it ends up meaning in the end, but 100% freedom of conscience is at the center of true religious practice), and that they are trying to act positively in other ways, such as a statement on Holocaust. It may be imperfect, and did not specifically mention Jews, but it was a start, and no one forced them to say anything. You think Israel would stop its cooperation with Saudi Arabia if they hadn't issued that statement? Do you think the US government would stop selling them arms if they hadn't done that? To me, the fact that they are taking steps no one had asked them to take is evidence of good faith.

And when someone who can be swayed towards positive or negative, chooses, thanks to good counsel to act constructively, despite bad habits, decades of bad policies, and natural suspicion from the international community, the right thing to do, in my opinion, is to acknowledge that they are doing the right thing, offer support in the face of internal frictions that may be pushing in the other direction, and politely encourage them to continue in that right direction and take future next steps that will be even better. Bashing them, calling them evil, and saying that their leader is a corrupt loser who will never get anything right just because he was born Saudi and the country's been bad, will not accomplish anything positive, in my estimation. That doesn't mean letting them off the hook if they start backsliding or offering excuses for truly unacceptable things, or end up lying and backstabbing us. But it does mean consistently praising good actions and building a relationship, in the course of which the advisers pushing for a movement in better direction are more likely to prevail.

But what do I know about these things? *shrugs*

Thursday, January 11, 2018

On Shitholes and Shitty Little Countries

To Trump supporters, who are defending Trump's comments about "shithole" countries and the immigrants who come from them:
Remember the time when the French Ambassador called Israel a "shitty little country"?
Such comments from a public official are as unacceptable now as they were then.
And if you don't get why, don't be surprised or apoplectic when the US is called all sorts of degrading names by our adversaries.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Obama Stands with Ayatollahs

Trita Parsi & co. don't have much time left and don't have much to say; and neither does the regime, except mildly blaming it on the usuals. Things are looking increasingly worse for the regime.
Most importantly, however, how will the regime survive the public humiliation of knowing that people don't want the Islamic Republic, people don't want the ayatollahs, that despite all the spin and lies, Rouhani is a dictator and not a moderate, and that the West has been sold on pro-regime propaganda for years thanks to the Obama administration but now the world's eyes are finally open to the reality? Europe is quiet because of the deal. Obama and his apologists will never admit it, but they were actively supporting the dictatorship that the people actually did not want. They actively supported an international security threat so their crony companies could make money off the investments. The region is covered in blood and Israel is now at risk, and Iranian people have continued to be slaughtered with impunity, because Obama wanted his legacy and his cronies wanted their investments.

Obama stands with the ayatollahs.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Satellite coverage of Iran protests

I'm glad that President Trump is ordering the army to use satellite to cover the protests in Iran. Everyone should be aware of the people's fight for freedom, even former Secretary of State John Kerry, who apparently lives under a rock, and has been affected by the regime's cutting off Internet services.

Happy New Year! - a reflection on 2017

I never make New Year's Resolutions, and this year won't be an exception.
But I would like to take a moment to reflect on 2017, a year that was tumultuous, eventful, extremely challenging personally and professionally, but at the same time rewarding, filled with delightful surprises, and ultimately leading me in a much more focused and better direction despite all the struggles.
The three themes for this year (completely unplanned) turned out to be travel, writing, and meeting amazing people. I did not expect to travel at all, and yet traveled more than on the average any given year previously. I thought I had nothing to say or write, but ended up returning to blogging and writing, and publishing more than ever before, increasing my reach and audience, and ended up going places I never imagined (and that's with some amazing surprises that are in story for the early 2018, but which were conceived this year). And of all the things I thought I had planned for 2017, none of them included many of the wonderful meetings and friendships that have formed over the course of the year, and that's besides building on the existing ones and taking what I have been working on previously to the next level.
Some of the best and most interesting things that happened to me were not planned, from ending up in the King's palace in Morocco with all the ministers, to meeting President Sisi on a spur-of-the-moment sojourn, to getting in touch with AndrĂ©s Roemer, and ending up at La Ciudad de las Ideas, and from then on at a Christmas & Chanukkah party with Robbie George in Princeton... to getting stuck on top of a mountain in Iceland, swimming in the Blue Lagoon during hurricane-like conditions, riding horses, touring haunted Scottish places, and spending more time in DC than I ever thought possible. The year also brought in health and personal challenges, including the loss of our two dearly loved family members (Julie & Jelli), as well as the many obstacles to the goals I did set out to accomplish.
But it also brought growth and determination, a renewed commitment to personal priorities, lots of laughter, learning, and surprising conversations, support from the most unexpected places, and eye-opening and paradigm-shifting experiences. I have come to do and write and accomplish things that I did not think I would ever end up doing or even wanted to do, and yet, when the time was right, they came naturally. I hope much, much more of the same for 2018 - enriching, unusual, experiences and surprises that will take me out of my comfort zone and force me to grow and improve and create impact in defiance of my own fears, insecurities, and boundaries. I hope to become a better person, a better listener, a more courageous advocated for things that matter to me, and a more effective professionals who can be much more helpful in a variety ways. I would love to travel more, to discover at least one new country, to write more and better and to bring in novelty and insight to the table in new places, and I yearn for more surprising meetings that I have no reason on earth to expect at the moment.
And for my family, friends, connections, and audience, I would love to see a very healthy, joyous, and life affirming year, during the course of which you will break your own limitations, find what you are looking for, and discover things you had absolutely no plans for but which will change your life in the best possible way.
Here's to another year of happy warriors, of keeping up the good fight and succeeding, of triumph of good ideas over terrible ones, of human connection over strife and polarization, of adventure over stagnation, and of human spirit over adversity.
Here's to much more of the best 2017 has brought, and here's to surprises that will defy our expectations.
Here's to breaking free of stereotypes, negativity, and pessimism, and to taking first steps for living the kind of life we secretly dream about.
Here's to savouring every moment, and to seeing far beyond horizons.
Here's to the light that we can all give and to the smiles we can all share.
And to life, splendid, unpredictable, crazy, surreal life in all its manifestations and glory.
2018 will be one hell of a ride!
Happy New Year!

Iranian protests and Obama

The ayatollahs bringing Iran to ruin are the enemies of the Iranian people just as much as they are our enemies. And the Iranians demonstrating in the streets, with no protection of the 2nd Amendment, nor support from Europe, which is heavily financially invested in the murderous, expansionist regime, deserve the same freedom that we have learned to take for granted. Time to debunk the myths that the Iranian nuclear deal or the previous administration cared about security or freedom for anybody. If they did, they would have denounced the bellicose regime, instead of supporting it.