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Post Justifying the Soleimani Assassination
Created by John Eipper on 01/07/20 3:54 AM

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Justifying the Soleimani Assassination (David Duggan, USA, 01/07/20 3:54 am)

My thoughts on this:

WAISers (and peace-loving people worldwide) ought shed not one tear over the death of Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Quds unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard. He was not in any conventional sense, a military leader but the mullah-appointed head of a paramilitary organization designed to export Iran's revolutionary ideology to the nearby Sunni-dominated populations in the Middle East. As such, he was not entitled to any protections afforded by the normal limitations on rules of engagement in warfare.

First, Iran's Revolutionary Guard exists separate and apart from its military force. It was created after Ayatollah Khomeini took control of Iran's government in 1979. As distinct from regular military designed to protect the nation's borders, the Revolutionary Guard was tasked with perpetuating the Iranian revolution among the civilian population, by terror, imprisonment without trial and summary execution. The Quds unit, established a year later, maintained ties with Shiite paramilitary outfits outside Iran's borders, be they in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Yemen or elsewhere. Virtually every IED that killed or maimed American military personnel (or their civilian contractors) in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria had Quds' fingerprints on it.

Since the Quds unit exists to foment revolution outside Iran's boundaries and is not acting pursuant to the 1949 Geneva Conventions regarding armed conflict or declared war, the idea that Soleimani was "off-limits" to a targeted killing is fatuous. The Quds unit specializes in asymmetrical warfare: suicide bombing, killing of civilians, killing prisoners of war. Soleimani was on Iraqi soil and if anyone should be complaining about a violation of international law it should be the Iraqi government. Somehow I haven't received that memo.

Iran has said that in retaliation it will repudiate the July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action which it has blithely disregarded since Trump's election (in 2016 it had received $1.7 billion in cash-and non-US currency as a "reward" for adopting the JCPoA and wasn't expecting any more). If Iran chooses to escalate, I'll rely on my Second Amendment rights when eating at one of my neighborhood's Persian restaurants.

JE comments:  David, I trust your final point is rhetorical, but it raises a question:  what is the Persian émigré community in the US saying about the assassination?  I hope our Iranian WAISers will comment.  A. J. Cave?  Massoud Malek?

Are you perhaps likening the Revolutionary Guard to Hitler's SS?  (Meaning--a military group loyal not to a nation, but to a regime.)  Iran certainly wouldn't see the logic of this distinction, or the argument that Soleimani may have been fair game because he was on Iraqi soil.

Another WAISer David (Westbrook), discusses the failure of International Law to address the geopolitical realities of the post-9/11 era.  Read on.

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  • Soleimani's Reputation in Iran (Massoud Malek, USA 01/08/20 1:36 PM)
    On January 7, 2020, David Duggan wrote: "If Iran chooses to escalate, I'll rely on my Second Amendment rights when eating at one of my neighborhood's Persian restaurants."

    The Ninth Amendment to the United States Constitution states:

    "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

    The Ninth Amendment has rarely played any role in US constitutional law, and until the 1980s was often considered "forgotten" or "irrelevant" by many legal academics. Isn't the time to make the Second Amendment irrelevant and not relying on it when eating in a Persian restaurant?

    Last Monday, everything in Tehran was closed for Soleimani's funeral, but the metro in Tehran sold three million tickets. Soleimani was considered a hero in Iran for protecting Iranian borders from the Daesh. Should we assume that the American Congress and George W. Bush were responsible for the deaths of over 4500 American soldiers and countless Iraqi people? According to the BBC Persian, last night, Iran's military decided to retaliate against the US, but made sure not to kill a single American. Iranians and Iranian Americans were detained at the US-Canada border asking them their political views on the latest escalation between the United States and Iran.


    John E asked about the proper pronunciation of Soleimani. Here's the best transliteration: Ghassem Soleymani.  Happy New Year!

    JE comments:  Nice to hear from you, Massoud, and best wishes for 2020!  It's difficult to get a clear picture of what happened with the Iranian missile strikes on the US bases, but the consensus is the Iranians wanted to "send a message" without escalating...too much.  I'm puzzled about the following:  how can you target a base without deliberately targeting the personnel at that base?

    I'm also puzzled (still) about what David Duggan meant by exercising his Second Amendment rights at the Persian restaurant.  Wouldn't a US Persian restaurant be one of the safest places to dine during these tumultuous times?

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  • Soleimani Assassination: The Day Will Live in Infamy (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 01/09/20 4:12 AM)
    I have fallen out of the habit of reading all WAIS posts since remarkable people such as Alain de Benoist left. But if a post catches my eye, I read on. The terror and assassination against the Iranian general was one such post. The response to it by David Duggan (January 7th) shocked me. JE's posting it surprised me.

    David wrote: "If Iran chooses to escalate, I'll rely on my Second Amendment rights when eating at one of my neighborhood's Persian restaurants."

    I hope that John Eipper will allow me to exercise my First Amendment Right and respond without censorship.

    It would be most helpful if people understood Iran, and they understood the definition of terrorism before using the word. I know there are over 200 such definitions, but surely it is no excuse to be ignorant of all 200 or so. I know that the mainstream media, CNN, Fox, etc. do a good job of "informing" us, but processing information without logically processing it is a problem that our country suffers from. It is what has led to our collective "Dunning-Kruger effect" syndrome. It is not a surprise therefore that we have Trump as president. And it is not surprising that his actions are being justified. As he correctly said in the run-up to being elected: "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters."

    Well, he did not shoot in the middle of 5th Avenue. He has carried out an act of terror on foreign soil, assassinating a foreign general, ending the world as we know it. Tragically, his supporters are ready to pick up guns and go to Persian restaurants. Sad day for America. Frightening days for Americans who are not white. But then, America was never white--only the occupiers of this land were. Those that committed terror and genocide of the natives.

    But the most important part of the assassination of Soleimani has been left out. While Trump and Esper claim that there was imminent threat and he was planning attacks, the reality is that he was in Iraq to meet with a messenger from Saudi Arabia to talk de-escalation and peace (even warmongering mainstream media is now picking up on this truth, including the one that usually beats the war drums, the New York Times). But as David says, he has not "received that memo."  Perhaps you need to look harder, David. And yes, de-escalation would have been an imminent threat to the weapons manufacturers. Let's not forget the Esper-Raytheon links. America droned a messenger of peace. The day will live in infamy.

    We have discussed terrorism in this Forum before, and clearly the term continues to be misused, but suffice it to say that Nelson Mandela was dubbed a terrorist. In fact, he was on the list until 2008 and was not permitted to enter America. Soleimani, a formidable soldier, is dubbed a terrorist to justify Trump's actions of unleashing hell. He is a dubbed a terrorist for fighting DAESH or ISIL--the very group the United States helped create. We now know this from a declassified 2012 military report that had warned Obama's efforts to undermine Assad led to the rise of ISIL (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/03/us-isis-syria-iraq ).

    David wrote: "Virtually every IED that killed or maimed American military personnel (or their civilian contractors) in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria had Quds' fingerprints on it." If indeed David has this information first hand and not from our media, and can verify it convincingly, then I ask him and others to refer to the definition of terrorism. Soldiers are not greeted with flowers in a war theater. That was the Fox news lies that started our misadventure, our war crimes in Iraq in 2003. What does he call our actions in Iraq? Fighting an imminent threat against Saddam's weapons of mass destruction? Is that what we did in Abu-Gharib?

    What pray is America doing in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria, surrounding Iran, undermining these governments? There are 45 US bases surrounding Iran. These countries are Iran's neighbors and Iran is there at the invitation of those governments. Has David ever asked himself what the US Corps of Engineers is doing all around the world as well as in the US? How would he feel if they called them terrorists?

    David further wrote: "Iran has said that in retaliation it will repudiate the July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action which it has blithely disregarded since Trump's election (in 2016 it had received $1.7 billion in cash-and non-US currency as a 'reward' for adopting the JCPoA and wasn't expecting any more)."  I am sure (at least I am hopeful) there are others who are willing to chime in on this one!

    JE commented: "what is the Persian émigré community in the US saying about the assassination? I hope our Iranian WAISers will comment. A. J. Cave? Massoud Malek?" While I am sure that A.J. and Massoud are more informed and more articulate, I will comment on this since I write and publish articles and do interviews. I have thousands of followers--I am not sure if I am more loved or hated, but I get feedback.

    Before I comment on the assassination, I would like to say something about the expats here (though certainly not all) which may or may not apply to expats from all over the world. For over 40 years, Iranians have witnessed hate and loathing towards the government in Iran. This hatred has rubbed on the people themselves--even here (as evident from David's post). They have witnessed how the West speaks of Iran and Iranians. In order to distinguish themselves from those "horrible Iranians," be accepted and not hated, they have gotten into the habit of bad-mouthing Iran and the IRI. Some have not even been back since they left! How do I know this? I was one among the very many. I would not even own up to my nationality. I am as ashamed of those days today as I am proud of being an Iranian native. This is why I am both hated and loved by many expats in the US.

    So the reactions are mixed based on the person you ask. With a camera stuck in their faces (I saw this on the local news), Iranians were applauding the assassination. Some must do. There are many Iranians in America who are exiles. They hate the IRI for taking away the Iran they knew without ever giving themselves the chance to love the land that gave them a home. They are simply looking to America as a vehicle to return to them the Iran of 40+ years ago. This is one the biggest downfalls of US foreign policy. Anyone who leaves home (Cuban, Russian, Iranian, etc.) wants to use America to take revenge on their native land. I have no idea how one can expect loyalty from a person who betrays their country of origin.

    For my part, I mourned. I mourned harder than I did for my father.  Soleimani's assassination put an end to any hope of peace--and I believe it will put an end to the American empire. Even America's friends and allies in the region, Israel, Saudi etc. abandoned Trump. Soleimani was a man of honor, humble and decent. Trump made him immortal.

    More to the question, Iranians living in America, be they citizens or permanent residents, are being harassed by homeland security. For example, untold number of Iranians went to Canada for a concert and were held and interrogated for hours:  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-51011029

    And JE asked David: "Are you perhaps likening the Revolutionary Guard to Hitler's SS? "! As I mentioned above, one should think of them as an elite unit, such as the Army Corps of Engineers.

    The Nazi syndrome though comes from America--long before Hitler. I am not talking about the killing of natives and the occupation of their land by force, I am talking about the likes of Teddy Roosevelt who said of America: "Democracy has justified itself by keeping for the white race the best portions of the earth's surface." Or Senator Beveridge (1901) : "God has not been preparing the English-speaking and Teutonic peoples for a thousand years for nothing but vain and idle self-admiration. No, he has made us the master organizers of the world...that we may administer government among savages and senile peoples...the Philippines are ours forever...and just beyond the Philippines lie China's illimitable markets...We will not renounce our part in the mission of our race, trustee under God, of the civilization of the world...China is our natural customer. The Philippines give us a base at the door of the East...it has been charged that our conduct of the war has been cruel. Senators, it has been the reverse. Senators, remember that we are not dealing with Americans or Europeans. We are dealing with Orientals."

    Let's not blame everything on the Nazis--or the other. We were the first "Nazis." And there seems to be a resurgence here in America.

    If we love America, we have to improve on it, not justify its horrors.

    JE comments:  A warm New Year's greeting to Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich.  It's been a long time since we've heard her passionate voice on WAIS.  I have published her essay as received, verbatim.

    Soraya, could you tell us more about Soleimani's mission in Iraq?  What do we know about a summit with a Saudi envoy?  Two additional questions:  how have the Saudis reacted to the assassination?  And second, what is the Iranian "word on the street" about the crash of the Ukraine International Airlines flight from Tehran to Kiev?

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    • Soleimani Assassination: Connecting the Dots (A. J. Cave, USA 01/10/20 2:01 PM)
      Happy New Year.

      I don't have any insight into the Soleimani assassination other than the public sources. There are still too few knowns and too many unknowns to say anything other than rambling. But I do unpack and connect the dots differently than most, so I'll give it a go.


      A few days ago, someone told me that my views of the Islamic Republic were redactive. I didn't know what that meant and had to look it up. It reminded me of a few good lines from the movie A Few Good Men (Columbia Pictures, 1992), when Jack Nicholson, the Base Commander, tells Tom Cruise, the JAG lawyer, "You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls... I have neither the time, or the inclination, to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner, in which I provide it. I'd rather you just say 'thank you' and go on your way..."


      As I have said before, my only claim to fame is being born Iranian.


      Before I forget, I ought to explain couple of terms. I have already written about the distinction between Persia and Iran. Iran, for all practical purposes, doesn't exist anymore. The monarchy was overthrown in 1979 and replaced by a theocracy. Even though the current country designation is: the Islamic Republic of Iran, the country is not a Republic where the power is vested in the people. The power is held brutally and fiercely by the ruling clerics and their military counterparts. I usually refer to the country collectively as IRI.

      What's in a name:

      The name Qasem Soleimani is an Arabic name. Qasem (various spellings) means distributor in Arabic. Soleimani is a compound name, Soleiman (various spellings) + i. Soleiman is the Arabic name of the Biblical Solomon son of David, with added superpowers in Qur'an. Soleimani means, like Soleiman, or related to Soleiman. I normally write it: Suleimani, but I am not dogmatic about it. Soleimani would do, since it is more widely used. Qasem, according to Islamic tradition, was the name of the firstborn son of the Prophet, Qasim ibn Muhammad, who died when a toddler. So, the name signals the ultra religious bent of Soleimani's parents--primarily his father who named him. For anyone who is interested, the Wikipedia article on him is fairly detailed.

      Who, what, why:

      First, it's important to know 2 things: 1) IRI military ranks don't correspond to equivalent US military ones. Young Soleimani joined the Islamic Republic's army early on during the revolution and worked his way up without any traditional military training. His job was to keep the mullahs in power by any and all means. That meant keeping the natives in line while funding and supporting terrorism in the region, particularly against Israel and Saudis. He can be credited with keeping the brutal Syrian Bashar al-Assad in power. And, 2) the large crowds who showed up for his funeral (and some were trampled and died) don't necessarily mean he was loved to death by all. These types of over-the-top demonstrations in the Islamic Republic are usually highly orchestrated and after 40+ years of practice, people know they're required to show up and cry their eyes out.

      Unpacking the package:

      Yes, we took out Soleimani and a bunch of his cohorts with a reaper, but how did we know where and when? It's not like we can look into a crystal ball and conjure a drone with a wand out of thin air, like Harry Potter. It was credible and actionable intelligence.

      Context (back story):

      Before getting into philosophical waxing over legality or morality of the assassination, we ought to think about the context.

      This is how I see the events unfolding:

      President Trump's sanctions against IRI have been effective. Ordinary Iranians had been buckling under economic hardship and demonstrating against the regime for months, so Soleimani risked leaving IRI for Iraq to continue diverting internal attention from mullahs and instead leading Iraqis against US (US troops based in Iraq) in person, after the IRI signature attack(s) on US embassy (s). IRI's account that he had gone to Iraq to smooth things out with the Saudis is not credible. Even with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, Saudis have not lost the support of US president, and they have no reason to negotiate with IRI, nor are they best friends with Iraq's Shiite government to use them as go-between. Not to mention that would make the Saudi Crown Prince look weak at home and lose face in front of allies. If this was indeed the case, then Saudis had lured Soleimani to Iraq under the pretense of peace talks to have him assassinated by the US. I can't think of anyone who would be that stupid to fall into that sort of fairytale trap.

      IRI could have simply claimed a more plausible cover for Soleimani's visit to Iraq, like visiting for religious reasons to pray at some Shi'a shrine, or something along those line. But they probably decided that peace negotiations were more American public and media friendly than some obscure Islamic religious rite.

      On the US side, the Democrats have been in a feeding frenzy to impeach the president (yes, my own party). Soleimani's presence in Iraq, created a perfect storm for the Trump administration--a known terrorist, doing what he had been doing, for, let's say at least 20 years or so, an imminent danger to Americans, out in the open within striking range of a reaper drone. Check, check, check and check.

      If the President hadn't authorized the attack and US forces had died in Iraq as a result of whatever Soleimani was planning, his own party would have started the next impeachment bonfire.

      After all the tough talk and saber rattling, IRI shot some old missiles into empty American bases in Iraq, declared superiority and called it the day.

      At first, financial markets panicked, fearing outbreak of war between US and IRI, and after the tempest in the teapot response, they shrugged off war worries and pushed the markets to new highs.


      On the whole, both Ayatollah Khamenei and President Trump got something out of the ordeal. Khamenei got to switch the domestic woes for foreign devils, and Trump got to change the narrative from impeachment to preventing a sworn enemy from becoming nuclear. The same old tried and true formula: make peace over here and make war over there.

      Done and done?

      Well, not exactly.


      A couple of hours after the dismal missiles smoke and mirrors show, a Ukrainian 737-800 passenger plane crashed after leaving Tehran airport. More than likely, it was shot down by IRI. Probably someone panicked and pulled the trigger, killing all the 176 people on board. IRI was so careful not to kill any Americans with missiles, but ended up killing a plane full of unsuspecting Ukrainians in the process.

      Now what?

      Well, couple of things. Both IRI and US have extensive cyber warfare capabilities. But, so far, no one is willing to do anything newsworthy to show their hands publicly.

      IRI is good at the sort of sneaky asymmetrical guerilla warfare that Soleimani specialized in. But, they're not a match for the US military juggernaut, getting bigger and stronger (and more appreciated) under President Trump.  In our current playbook, we don't want wars, but if we are dragged into one, we intend to win. Period.

      The takeaway on the IRI side should be that Trump is not Obama and will not hesitate to deploy boots on the ground and reapers in the air, if they don't play by the rules of engagement. President Trump will have his way one way or another--by keep piling new and newer sanctions.

      The takeaway on the US side is more nuanced. Trump supporters have more goodness to support while the Democrats would continue to beat the impeachment war drum. The big media will continue to bash or praise the President, as they have been doing all along. That won't change much either and would be business as usual.

      Threatening strikes on ancient Persian heritage sites by the President that was quickly reversed, was not just illegal, it was unnecessary and unpresidential. Instead, President Trump and his administration could seize the opportunity to hammer out a decent Middle East policy in the next 4 years, that has eluded the former presidents. Alas, they won't.

      JE comments:  A deep and nuanced analysis, A. J.  My takeaway is that Trump truly did get the upper hand in this showdown with Iran--morality, international law, and the hapless Ukrainian 737 be damned.  A curiosity:  No military can organize itself on the irreplaceability of a single person.  Let us suppose Soleimani had a nasty surprise in store for the US forces in Iraq.  Wouldn't any operation go ahead as planned, even after his death?
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      • Is Soleimani Irreplaceable for the IRI? (A. J. Cave, USA 01/12/20 3:26 AM)
        In response to John E's question, Soleimani is certainly not irreplaceable. Even though both he and his Iraqi counterpart were killed in the drone attack, their plan can certainly be carried out by others and it still might.

        I suspect that probably the US intelligence and national security boys didn't expect the president to greenlight the mission to begin with. He did. Then, they probably didn't want him to open his kimono and quickly claim responsibility for it publicly. He did. This an election year and this is too big a PR opportunity to look presidential to pass up. It might not come again anytime soon.

        However, now IRI operatives know that not only US knows what they're up to, they would not hesitate to take decisive action.  (There's a new sheriff in town.)

        As I mentioned, IRI is good at being secretive, since they can spin the outcome any which way that suits them publicly. Now that everyone expects IRI to do something, it's no longer possible to control the fallout from secret activities, especially if and when they fail. The element of surprise is gone.

        We just have to wait and see how the Chinese and Russians would react. I can't say about the Russians, but the Chinese won't like to be connected to any "terrorist" activities by their allies. They're not that desperate for cheap oil. They're already distancing themselves from IRI. They have their hands full with more pressing issues and won't put terrorism on their plates.

        JE comments:  We awoke this morning to reports of massive protests in Iran, in response to the Iranian military's admission that it accidentally shot down the Ukrainian commercial flight.  A. J., what type of response do you expect from the authorities in Tehran?

        Who's the luckiest man alive at present?  That would be none other than Donald J. Trump.  At least we were spared the images when he opened his kimono...

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        • Two Ukrainegates (A. J. Cave, USA 01/13/20 4:04 AM)
          It must be the hand of fate that both President Trump and IRI officials are having their Ukrainegates.

          It's interesting to see how the events are unfolding as more information is coming online. Reportedly even the British ambassador to the Islamic Republic was detained for "participating" in anti-government demonstrations along with Iranian protesters around the country, including students who have refused to walk on US and Israel flags painted on the street in defiance of the regime.

          It has been reported that on board the fateful Ukrainian plane, there were also Iranians, Canadians, British and Swedish passengers among others, all of whom were sadly killed.

          Both Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have demanded accountability from Iran.

          IRI initially denied any wrongdoing, but as international pressure mounted and evidence to the contrary started to come to light, they had to take responsibility and own up to "accidentally" shooting down the Ukrainian plane. That plane had just left Tehran airport and was leaving Iranian airspace. There's no rational way to justify mistaking its call sign for an incoming threat.

          We just have to wait and see as the events continue to unfold and how IRI's ruling mullahs and military would respond to protesters internally while trying to do damage control internationally. They have finally met their match in President Trump, and they are running out of options.

          JE comments: After the world lost interest in the Crimea crisis, nobody predicted that Ukraine would become the epicenter of geopolitics in 2019-'20. A. J., what have you heard about the reports that Trump sent a back-channel communication through the Swiss, asking the Iranians not to retaliate too severely to the Soleimani assassination? An invitation, as it were, to "take a swing at me, but not too hard?"

          Anyone ever play the game of "who can hit the softest" with a childhood friend or sibling?

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          • Trump-IRI Communication through Swiss Intermediaries (A. J. Cave, USA 01/14/20 4:57 AM)
            John E asked about Trump's back-channel communication through the Swiss with the IRI.

            There was a fairly detailed piece on January 12th about the recent parlay in the online Wall Street Journal:

            Here is the link for those who have a subscription:


            There are lots of other online sources as well, with similar information.

            Channels of communication:

            Using the Swiss as the go-between US and IRI is nothing new. It has been in effect since 1980 when US and IRI broke diplomatic relations, under what is called "protective power mandate." Historically it has been used as a handy confidential channel of "direct" communication between the two countries.


            After the Soleimani assassination, the Swiss envoy in Tehran relayed the US message: "Don't escalate!" In response, IRI officials complained about Twitter threats against Iranian sites and called US a bully. After the missile attack on US bases in Iraq, IRI communicated to the US via the Swiss envoy that they were done.

            Downing of the Ukrainian plane must have confused all the parties and the IRI's knee-jerk reaction was to deny, deny, deny, until they finally decided to throw some guy (a fictional lone and isolated missile operator) under the bus (or the plane).


            The significance of the admission is probably lost on the folks not familiar with the history of hostilities between the two countries. In 1988, US Navy shot down an Iran Air passenger flight to Dubai over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 people. It was another case of human error. IRI sued, and in 1996, US agreed to pay over $130 million in damages without admitting any wrongdoing. Over the years, IRI has maintained that the tragic accident was intentional. Now, the shoe is on the other foot.

            The "lie" by the regime triggered the demonstrations in the streets, just as the demonstrations in Hong Kong were initially triggered by the proposed extradition bill. They signal a host of underlying causes and grievances, and could quickly burn out of control like wildfires.

            JE comments:  With today's instantaneous communication, the need for two quarreling nations to communicate through a neutral intermediary is a throwback to the 19th century--or earlier.  If the stakes weren't so high, it would be quaint that diplomacy maintains these venerable traditions.

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            • A Lesson on Usage: Parlay and Parley, Lakes and Seas (David Duggan, USA 01/14/20 8:28 AM)
              Parlay (see A. J. Cave, January 14th) didn't look right and I looked it up. Parley is the conversation. Parlay is a betting maneuver (typically on horse races with win-place-show options).

              I surmise John E didn't like what I had to say about "international waters" in lakes between two sovereigns? (Four of the Great Lakes, lakes along the mid-African ridge [Tanganyika], Geneva.)

              Literally those lakes are "between two nations."

              JE comments: A few days back David Duggan responded to my remark on whether the Caspian is a sea or a lake. I had originally written, "there is no international jurisdiction over a lake." David replied:

              No international jurisdiction over Lakes Superior, Erie, Ontario or Huron? Or the lakes along the borders of the nations on the mid-African ridge?

              Sorry, David!  I had been meaning to reply, but procrastinated.  I wanted to reference the late Bob Gibbs's presentation at WAIS '13, Adrian.  In his analysis of oil politics and pipelines, Bob discussed the real-world implications of whether the Caspian is a sea or a lake.  If the former, then it falls under the jurisdiction of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.  If the latter, even if shared by two or more countries, the entirety of the lake can be divided into bordered-off national waters.  As the article below explains, lake or sea is not just a question of sea-mantics:


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            • Par-ley and Par-lay... and Bamboozle (A. J. Cave, USA 01/15/20 4:00 PM)
              A response to David Duggan (January 14th) on my English:

              Admittedly it is awful and gets worse when I write quickly. And there's also that tug of war between various helpful spellchecks offered by Microsoft, Google, Grammerly, and the rest. So, I am always grateful for any corrections or comments. Thanks.


              In this particular context, I meant parlay, not parley. It wasn't one of those "in the eye of the beholder" cases.

              Let's unpack:

              Both parlay and parley can be used as nouns or verbs.

              As I understand it with my limited English, parley is a conversation (noun) or negotiating or discussing terms (verb) between opposing parties or enemies, in order to reach an agreement. The end game is chattering until you hammer out an agreement, or die trying.

              Whereas parlay is a betting or a gambling (Wall Street) term. It means a series of cumulative winning bets (noun), or using the winnings from a bet to make another bet (verb). The end game is winning over and over. There's nothing to negotiate.

              So, the key question (context) is whether US and IRI were/are engaging in a negotiation to reach some sort of an agreement via the Swiss intermediaries, or are they just posturing and blowing hot air and gambling on their abilities to intimidate or trick each other (called bam'boo'zel in Persian) into a "win"?

              What do you think?

              Since the messages are secretive (encrypted), it's impossible to tell without an encryption key.


              I was going to call it "parlor games" initially (referencing Hunger Games), but I thought if you haven't read the popular teen (or young adults) fiction, or seen the movies, it would be lost in translation.

              JE comments:  Is bamboozle a Persian word, or are you bamboozling us, A. J?  I confess here to my bamboozlement.  The online etymological dictionaries don't give us much information.  Tom Sawyer, through the pen of Mark Twain, was a virtuoso in the art of bamboozling.  Prof. Hilton was also fond of the sonorous trisyllable, as evidenced by this post from way back in 2001:


              A. J., can you help us trace the etymology?  It would be a fascinating journey.  Oh, and by the way, let me disagree with your self-appraisal on English.  Your prose is outstanding.

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              • Fake News, or the Art of Bamboozling (A. J. Cave, USA 01/16/20 4:05 AM)
                I can't think of any writer worth her salt who doesn't love word play.

                To answer JE's question, "bamboozle" is indeed not a Persian word. It's a hook. In principle, this is how "fake news" is written. It has to be mostly true or factual to be believable, with some minor fake twist. Contrary to the current brouhaha over "fake news," it's not the invention of some Macedonian kids on Facebook during the last presidential elections. It goes all the way back to Herodotus and his disruptive Persian "history." Most of what he wrote was close enough to the actual events to be believable, so the parts that he invented are now indistinguishable from the rest.

                (As a side note, Bamboozled was a Spike Lee movie [Line Cinema, 2000] about race relations in US.)

                A lighthearted bluff or fib for fun is called: chaakhan kardan in Persian. The annual WAIS April Fool's day posts fall into this bucket.

                Serious deceiving or fooling (or bamboozling) someone is called: kolaah sar gozaashdan--meaning, put a hat on someone, sort of equivalent of pulling the wool over someone's eyes. It is used to indicate taking advantage of others (even ruining them) for personal gains.

                Lying in Persian is called: dorough goftan--lie telling (telling lies). The root of Persian dorough goes back to druj, an ancient Mazdaen/Zoroastrian word, meaning false or deceit. This duality of right vs wrong, good vs evil, asha (or artha) vs druj, is at the heart of all the Iranian religions. It's embedded in the Iranian psyche. Historically, once the Iranians decide that a king or a regime or a ruling class is a liar (evil), the fate of the regime is sealed. It's the old biblical "writing on the wall."

                JE comments:  You really had us there, A. J!  I fully believed that to our extensive list of Persian inventions--trousers, beer, horseback riding, the concept of human rights--we could add bamboozling.

                Here's an example of WAIS Word Power® (WWP) in action:  "Francine parlayed her gift for bamboozling into a lucrative political career."

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              • Fun with Etymologies (Timothy Ashby, -Spain 01/16/20 10:03 AM)
                Ain't etymology a hoot!

                In my research delving deeply into the Tudor era, I have been amused to discover many words that I had assumed were modern but were actually in use nearly half a millennium ago. As an example, in January 1555, Bishop Gardiner ("Bloody" Mary's Lord Chancellor) wrote to the "Mayor and his Brethren of Leicester" admonishing them for abolishing "ancient and laudable" Catholic customs and for "being rather desirous of newfanglenes." I had assumed that "newfangled" dated from the late 19th or early 20th centuries.

                To shift subjects--while religious and political dissenters were horribly executed throughout the Tudor century, Queen Mary was truly "Bloody" (or more accurately, deeply charred). She ordered hundreds burned at the stake, including John Leaf, an "apprentice tallow chandler"; Richard Hook, "a lame man"; Ann Snoth, "A poor widow"; and John Apprice and Tom Drowy, "a blind man and a blind boy," both of whom were immolated on May 15, 1556, in the marketplace in the town of Gloucester.

                JE comments:  Yikes!  Let us honor the memory of Leaf, Hook and Snoth, and applaud the newfangled custom in (most) civilized countries of proscribing the death penalty.

                In my younger years, I always confused etymology with entomology--as well as proscribe vs prescribe.  And don't get us started on euthanasia.  I never understood why youth in Asia were so controversial.

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                • Gallows Eloquence: "We Shall This Day Light a Candle" (David Duggan, USA 01/18/20 4:38 AM)

                  Be of good comfort and play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.

                  --Hugh Latimer, Anglican Bishop of Worcester to Nicholas Ridley, Anglican Bishop of London on the pyre as they were both to be immolated by order of Mary, whose claim to the throne was dependent not on her immediate predecessor Edward VI, Henry VIII's only surviving son, but on Henry's Third Act of Succession which put his "bastard" daughters Mary and Elizabeth in line for the throne after Edward.

                  Although the Church of England has erred and strayed from God's ways over the last 485 years, it remains the Mother Church for all who believe in the primacy of scripture, the merit of reason, and the value of the traditions of the church over 1990 years.

                  JE comments:  Wow.  Gallows (or here, pyre) speeches are the ultimate test of poise and character.  Hope I'll never have to deliver one.  If you choke up, you don't get a "re-do."

                  David, I am a bit taken aback by the "all" of your second paragraph.  WAIS strives to be an ecumenical space that welcomes all religions, as well as the freedom to practice none.  Does Anglican theology teach that no other denomination embraces scriptural primacy, reason and tradition?

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  • Realpolitik and the Soleimani Assassination; from George Aucoin (John Eipper, USA 01/09/20 4:48 AM)
    I received this note from George Aucoin, who writes:

    My former European History Professor at The American University of Paris, Dr. David Pike, introduced me to WAIS a year ago.

    I am a career US Marine Officer (Ground Colonel) with combat service in Iraq and a Federal trial attorney. Those two careers were mutually exclusive.

    I'm now retired and live, mostly, in Europe.

    I really like the academic articles and the variety of subject areas WAIS deftly manages. But, the left-leaning bias of so many of the contributors squeezes out so much rational empirical analysis that a student and practitioner of Realpolitik is left shaking his head! The world isn't the way we'd like it to be; instead it's the way it is, as shaped by evolution.

    David Duggan (January 6th) seemed to capture that spirit for a rare moment on WAIS and left this reader, for once, nodding in assent.

    JE comments: So good to hear from you, George!  David Duggan's latest post has certainly inspired some strong responses, both pro and contra.

    Regardless of one's position on the Soleimani killing, I'd like to address the Realpolitik relationship to the attack. Wouldn't a "realist" approach to the Middle East be total disengagement, or given the facts on the ground, some sort of accommodation with the Iranian regime?

    For this discussion, we'll need to establish some definitions of Realpolitik. Might a good starting point be to abandon idealist notions, such as the pursuit of regime change, in favor of satisfying a nation's practical interests?  Realpolitik means the acceptance of adversaries you don't like, such as Kissinger/Nixon vis-à-vis China.

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