Sunday, September 09, 2007

1. Guess who else has extensive spying operations inside Iran? Norway. Yes, Norway. Who would have guessed? And it case you think this is some kind of Iranian paranoid conspiracy theory, I'll have you know that the Chief of the Norwegian Intelligence Service, Torgeir Hagen, has confirmed it to be true.

2. As anyone who has taken a history 101 of Iran probably knows, the common wisdom about Iran officially adopting Shi'ism on a national scale in the 16th century under the rule of the Safavids is that it provided Iran with a built-in defense against the Ottomans. But Iran under the Safavids also had to contend with European colonialism, specifically the Portuguese presence in the Persian Gulf. All history books I have read about the Safavids have emphasized the development and establishment of Twelver Shi'ism under the Safavids and the role it played in promoting and preserving a national unity against the encroaching Ottomans. The Portuguese presence was only noted largely in passing. It turns out that there is an entire conference devoted to the topic, and I think I may have missed it. If anyone has further information on the topic or has a list of suggested readings, please leave me a note.

3. People with arrogant and dictatorial personalities, especially leaders ruling with an iron fist, are loathe to appear mortal. That's why men like Saddam (while still in power) and Egypt's Hosni Mobarak (who is dead according to persistent rumors/jokes) always kept their hair jet black. Salafist fundamentalists, on the other hand, are not known to engage in such open displays of vanity. However, some graying fundamentalists do make use of red henna since the prophet Mohammad was said to dye his hair and beard with it. Thus, if Osama Bin Laden had appeared in his latest video looking like this guy on the right, it would have made a lot of sense. But Osama looking like he could have just stepped out from a Just for Men commercial is not so believable. And that's not all that is fishy about the latest Bin Laden video, and I think that this latest tape, as well as the Qaeda phenomenon as a whole, should be closely re-examined.