Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


Busting myths about terrorism

Foreign Policy has published an interesting article today, wherein the two authors debunk some of the myths about the socio-economic background of terrorists. They deconstruct the image of a young, disenfranchised, madrassa-educated muslim man from a poor third-world country and instead point to "prislam" - the extremist islamic recruitment in western prisons.


Media Diplomacy vs. Secret Diplomacy

In the three major news-programmes tonight on Danish television channels the Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller and Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen both stressed that the media couldn't be informed about the coming day's diplomatic manouvers, as it was going to be conducted as "secret diplomacy". The Foreign Minister even had a gleeful smile when he fended off a journalist saying "I won't tell you anything".

This is quite an interesting move. "Secret" diplomacy is far the most established and practiced form of diplomacy - especially in Denmark, where the public diplomacy has only recently been instituted formally. So why do so much to signal that "we are switching into secret-mode - so you can't get anything unless we give it to you". Is it to pacify the media and galvanize the population by hinting that great machinations are going on behind the scenes that we mortals should place our trust and faith in? Is it because there are real contacts to the Saudis or Egyptians (the hard-hitters here) and the government want's to signal that it is loyal in the negotiations?

The government has shown before that it is willing to utilize the media in a foreign-policy mode - remember the documentary from the EU summary in Copenhagen that created quite a stir (well, maybe that was actually meant for domestic consumption now I come to think about it)? The clearly coordinated message that the government has gone into secret diplomacy is certainly going to be the expression of a calculated policy. But why?

Scenarios for the future Oil Crisis

Fortune Magazine has this interesting little blurp about how the Heremitage Fund has made a number of scenarios on the development of oil-prices. Plugged in: Ready for $262/barrel oil? - Jan. 27, 2006

Scenario-making like that is more interpretation than it is a science. But interesting indeed. It mentions how Jimmy Carter wearing a cartigan reduced the American oil consumption.

Denmark enters "the League of Nations Whose Flags can be Burned as an Anti-Western-Imperialist Symbol"

The row over the Muhammed-satire continues in many installments. Arla, the big Danish-Swedish dairy company is being boycott and harassed, Palestinian gunmen attacks an EU office to warn of Scandos from territories and a Danish flag was burned - an honor that usually befalls countries such as the US and Israel.

I don't really see any way out of this for the Danish government other than to wait it out. Just like the fad about boycotting France in the 1990s for its Nuclear tests in the Pacific which blew over after a while (and now everybody drinks French wine again), so will this blow over.

However, the real danger, as I have pointed out here before, is that the presence given to Denmark as such, might prompt terrorist-attacks. Denmark has been conferred some security due to its obscurity so far, but as the case gets attention, this "missile-defence-of-smallness" will wear down.

Photo: AP - leached from


Hello Hamas

One of the week's most interesting developments are the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections. Now they are faced with the responsibilities of power.

I'll be watching interestedly how they suddenly handle having the power. Will they carry the militancy into government? Will the political and the paramilitary branches face off? Will they be domesticated by the logics of power? (For the Danes: compare with Dansk Folkeparti that suddenly has had to tone down some of their populist right wing lingo as power and influence became a real opportunity?) Or will they move the entire palestinian political circuit more to the violent side than already?


Saudis might make Denmark terror target

And talking about preparing the rhetorical scene for things to come: Last wednesday the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh called for the Danish Government to punish paper. This was followed by Saudi Arabia withdrawing its ambassador from Denmark for "consultation" as well as a sort of boycott of Danish products in Saudi Arabia.

However much a storm in a tea cup this might be, it has some grim implications.

Al Qaeda: Bin Laden was no friend of Al Sheikh's predecessor and certainly not of the Saudi government. This might be a chance to mark how the organisation puts words into action and do some violence. The rhetorical device at work here is presence - the sheer fact that Denmark has become the issue in the Middle East might elevate it from a low-status target to a self-explainatory one. And when you blow up a bomb it is very important that people will not go "Wha? Why did they do that? Who did it anyways? And what could they possibly want from blowing up the Togolese stock-exchange?" - rather, with a charged situation given presence by other actors all you need is blow stuff up, then the explanations will come by themselves: "Uuh, that's what happens when you..."

Other jihadists: However, as I have discussed before it will probably not be Al Qaeda proper that would be able to do such things. Other groups, lower in the pyramid would probably get into action. And with less control and finesse. What is against this hypothesis is that it takes a long time to prepare an attack, so everything might have blown over in a month or two when they are ready.

Local groups: this might be the most likely actor. With a relatively little effort - any kind of political violence - you are sure to create headlines. Especially if you are media savvy and knows how to frame it. A bit of car-burning might do the trick.

Hopefully all the dents that are beaten here will be some tonnes of cheese that will go sour in warehouses. But the Saudi (over)reaction is fertilising the ground for worse.

Ho Chi Laden

The good people at Stratfor pulls another interesting analysis. But this time it is especially interesting because it is essentially rhetorical. By analysing Bin Laden's latest speech and comparing it with the strategy of the North Vietnamese they show how Bin Laden is building up a rhetorical deposit that can be cashed in the future. By offering truce he provides a rationale for the anti-war movement in the US (both left and right) to aim for negotiations if (when) the situation gets unbearable in the future. Thus he establishes rhetorical structures that can be activated in the future. Very much what i suggested in my essay on Bin Laden, may I add.

Bin Laden then pulls a maneuver right out of Ho Chi Minh's playbook, saying:

"We don't mind offering you a long-term truce on fair conditions that we adhere to. We are a nation that God has forbidden to lie and cheat. So both sides can enjoy security and stability under this truce so we can build Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been destroyed in this war. There is no shame in this solution, which prevents the wasting of billions of dollars that have gone to those with influence and merchants of war in America who have supported Bush's election campaign with billions of dollars -- which lets us understand the insistence by Bush and his gang to carry on with war. If you are sincere in your desire for peace and security, we have answered you."

If there is a massive anti-war movement in the United States and if the Army is weary of war, then the next logical move is to offer negotiations toward a cease-fire. Bin Laden completely understands that Bush would reject that offer. His hope is that the offer of a truce would further split the United States -- undermining Bush's political power even more and giving ammunition to those who want an end to the war. "If you are sincere in your desire for peace and security," he says, "we have answered you."

During the Vietnam war, the North Vietnamese introduced the idea of a negotiated settlement in large part because they wanted to provide a rational basis for the anti-war movement. They understood that there would be only a tiny pro-Hanoi movement in the United States. They also understood that as the war dragged on and victory became less visible, support would grow for a negotiated settlement as the only reasonable outcome. The view of the pro-war faction -- that the offers of peace talks did not provide any basis for a real settlement but were a cover for a North Vietnamese victory -- was opposed by those who argued that settlement and withdrawal were the only rational actions for the United States in an unwinnable war.

I think that Stratfor is a bit unrealistic about the real possibility for the anti-war movement to call for negotiations. Since it simply isn't a state-actor it would be a bit odd to even suggest it. However they have agood eye for the strategic implications.

What is most clever in this move is that it doesn't require actual negotiations. If Bush starts to draw down forces in Iraq, bin Laden can declare a truce and imply in the Muslim world that he compelled the United States to capitulate. He is trying to trap Bush in two ways. If there isn't a drawdown, Bush would face an anti-war movement calling for truce with al Qaeda. And if there is a drawdown, Bush would face assertions that he is implicitly or secretly agreeing to the truce that bin Laden proposed.


Wanted: a quote on democracy and rhetoric

I have heard and read it time and time again. "Rhetoric only flourished when there was a democracy". And I shrugged it off me.

But now I need it for a quote - and I CAN'T FIND IT.

Have you got a reference to someone who says it?

(På dansk: Mit bedste bud er Fafner og Lindhardt)


Spy and the Telephone Stone

Today the Guardian reports how a Russian television programme has reported that a British spy-ring operated in Moscow, supposedly using an electronical device built into a stone in a Moscow park. The stone should be able to transfer data onto someones PDA. A new take on the time honoured spy feature the dead drop or mailbox?


The Analogy Police

A wonderful cartoon today for rhetoricians and likeminded over at Watch out for those false analogies or the police might come and get you. Here go-see


Hamas playing the PR game

The Guardian reports that New-look Hamas spends £100k on an image makeover. This is a very understandable move, as the Palestinians have had a rather bad name in the Western world since the decline of the European left-wing. And Hamas, Fatah and other militants have certainly not helped that image out, reinforcing the preconception of trembling sub-urban housewives and cabinet ministers of an unruly, murderous mob without any real political direction or leadership.

But it is going to be a hard task to reconcile the Palestinian struggle for a sustainable state (and possibly the destruction of the state of Israel) with how the PR game is played in the West. Liberation movements are just not very chic at the moment, everything being labeled "Terrorism" and thus activiating an innummerable host of myths and communicative reflexes.

And judging from the Guardian's article, I am not convinced that they are going to succeed. Their new "spin doctor" Nashat Aqtash gave hints like these to Hamas:

· Say you are not against Israelis as Jews
· Don't talk about destroying Israel
· Do talk about Palestinian suffering
· Don't celebrate killing people
· Change beard colour (if red)

1 and 4 are going to be hard if it is actually the case. 2 just so as well - but if I remember correctly Hamas just stroke that part of their programme where it aims for the destruction of Israel.

It seems as if Hamas' new spinner is doing the elemental error of PR and hopes that form will overshadow matter. Without a PR strategy that combines the nature of Hamas (including its humanitarian work) with a story that is digestable in Western media, it will only be so many words and money out the window.

Bin Laden's speech

After Al-Jazeera broadcasted a tape from Bin Laden, the BBC now provides a full - and sketchy - translation of the speech. I have added it to the Bin Laden Speech Archive.

I have just bought a collection of Bin Laden's speeches in new translations and it is quite a boon to have so much of his text in one volume to compare. The introduction by Bruce Lawrence is also useful and points out the bizarre fact that the words of this most wanted person are almost never seen in their entirety in the Western media.

Lawrence, Bruce (Ed.), Messages to the World. The Statements of Osama Bin Laden, (London: Verso, 2005)


Skovl så sne!

Som vicevært i disse snetider skærer det mig i hjertet hver eneste gang jeg ser et dårligt skovlet fortov, strøet med brækkede proteser og rollator-hjulkapsler.

Andre har taget kampen op og har nu oprettet en hjemmeside med det imperative navn (Tak Laura)


Queen: a journal of rhetoric and power

Queen is a journal on rhetoric, with contributions from the like of Foss and Foss. "Queen" is probably an allusion to Queen Rhetorica and reveals its interest in feminism, the body and like phenomena.

Just out: New audio recordings from Bin Laden

The Danish daily Politiken reports that a new audiotape from Bin Laden has been played by Al Jazeera.

Ahmedinejad IV: Islamic diplomacy

I have written a number of entries on the foreign policy behaviour of the Iranian president Ahmedinejad. See What is President Ahmedinejad doing? A sketch for analysis, Doomsday Scenario and Loco, the Kim Jong-Il way.

Now the good people at Stratfor finally speak out on the issue and they outline four possibilities for Ahmedinejads antics:

1. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, is insane and wants to be attacked because of a bad childhood.
2. The Iranians are engaged in a complex diplomatic maneuver, and this is part of it.
3. The Iranians think they can get nuclear weapons -- and a deterrent to Israel -- before the Israelis attack.
4. The Iranians, actually and rationally, would welcome an Israeli -- or for that matter, American -- air strike.

They dismiss the first one right away. But writes with insight:

"In foreign policy, it is sometimes useful to appear to be insane, as it is in poker: The less predictable you are, the more power you have -- and insanity is a great tool of unpredictability. Some leaders cultivate an aura of insanity."

They go on to stress one of their pet-observations, how the US has utilized the Sunni-Shia split to their advantage in Iraq. Furthermore they observe how the once banner-holder of islamic revolution has compromised in order to survive and how sees itself flanked by Al-Qaeda, which is Sunni and thus not trusted by Iran.

Ahmedinejad's statements on anti-zionism serves two purposes:

"First, he established himself as intellectually both anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish, taking the far flank among Islamic leaders; and second, he signaled a massive breach with Khatami's approach."

Khatami tried to divide the West by splitting US and Europe, making the problem of Iran one between those two. But this dealing with mainly the Europeans lost them edge in the islamic world. Ahmedinejad put an end to that with his statements, Germany and France pulled the plug and Iranian popularity on the Arabic street rose.

The nuclear issues was the next step. It had several symbolic meanings:

1. Iran's policy of accommodation with the West was over.
2. Iran intended to get a nuclear weapon in order to become the only real challenge to Israel and, not incidentally, a regional power that Sunni states would have to deal with.
3. Iran was prepared to take risks that no other Muslim actor was prepared to take. Al Qaeda was a piker.

However the real chances of getting a nuclear weapons system are slim. Thus the approach is in essence very much a move to get more leverage in the islamic world, especially with sunnis as well.

Now, the question that still stands with me is: how about Ahmedinejad's stance on the West then? Are they completely disregarding the west or are they moving in position for increased influence? The last one is the most likely in my view and in the years to come it will be interesting to see if not Ahmedinejad uses his new position to make an unprecedented breakthrough, Ariel Sharon-style.

Finding Karadzic and Mladic: A media stunt

Yesterday I watched my local TV News just to see Bosnian Serb policeforces in black and balaclavas do a futile search for the two war-criminals Karadzic and Mladic.

But it strikes me as odd that you would publish such a grand - and failed - attempt if you wouldn't have some kind of purpose. It was stressed in all media outlets that the search was futile, right there in the first paragraph. An example is Reuters that writes:

Hundreds of Bosnian Serb police officers supported by helicopters on Wednesday launched a hunt for a top war crimes suspect -- either Radovan Karadzic or Ratko Mladic -- but the operation failed.

Considering the massive interest in those two and the year-long hunt for them, including a lot of prior attempts to catch them, this smells very much like a stunt to provide the media with good pictures (and oh! they were - mystery! Weapons! Mountains! Helicopters!) and thus send an international signal.

But what does it mean? With my limited knowledge of the current situation I gather so much:

1) Serbs signalling the international society (and especially the EU) that they really DO try, even though they haven't succeeded so far. This was by the way their first go at Mladic - if he was the target, that is.

2) A signal to Russia (where Karadzic is alleged to hide) that the situation is getting problematic.

3) Or It might just be a genuine attempt that had far too much coverage considering the outcome.


Funny hat and all that


Mac helps me think

Mac OS X lets you mark files with colour and write comments for them.

Now working on my second 60+ references dissertation I have realised how satisfying it is to mark the files you have read with your grading of their quality (green=good, red=rubbish) - and less inspiring to see all that blue which means "To be read ASAP"

DF II. Den retoriske vinkel: Vaj højt, vaj stolt...

I dag skal Folketinget behandle et forslag om at den 29. august skal være ny officiel flagdag, da man denne dag i 1943 brød med samarbejdspolitikken, skriver Berlingske Tidende. Forslaget er stillet af Dansk Folkeparti.

Her er det på sin plads at overveje hvad historie er. For ud over hændelser der beviseligt er sket, så er historien om noget et retorisk argument, der fungerer blandt andet som en analogi. Ved at opstille en bestemt fortolkning af historien (og moderne, post-moderne historikere ville måske sige at der ikke findes andet end fortolkninger) så får vi argumentatorisk skyts til nutiden. Denne fortolkning af historien er kun til dels historikernes opgave, da det er en politisk handling at drage nytte af den. Derfor bliver historien også brugt flittigt i læserbreve og til dels i politiske taler.

Den evigt overskudsagtige Kenneth Burke har i sin bog A Grammar of Motives opstillet en "pentadisk" analysemodel, hvor act, agency, agent, scene og purpose udgør et "pentagram" hvor hver instans er forbundet med hinanden i par. Her er det specielt Scene-act der er vigtig, da enhver handling og enhver handlende må have en scene.

Hvis vi kigger på flagdagen så er det en bevægelse indenfor scene-act medianen. Før i tiden har man lagt vægt på start og slutningen af besættelsen - "De fem forbandede år" - og vi forstår dermed at det var en uafværlig situation der dikterede handlingerne. Eller som Burke skriver "terrain determines tactics" (12). Med en ny flagdag vil fokus i højere grad være på handlingen eller sekundært på den handlende. Det vil tillade en ny fortolkning af hvordan Danmarks historie blev til.

Og hvordan kan denne nyfortolkning så forstås politisk? Ja, den større vægt på handling og den handlende er i fin tråd med den udenrigs og sikkerhedspolitik der er blevet ført siden 1989. Den appellerer også til en liberal tanke om individets evne til at bestemme sin egen lykke (hvor den socialistiske ideologi i højere grad lægger vægt på en dialektisk materialisme, scenen er sat og det er samfundets skyld). Til sidst tegner nyfortolkningen et billede af et handlekraftigt og egenrådigt folk - en fortolkning der forstærker David-og-Goliath motivet i Dansk Folkepartis forhold til specielt EU.

For min skyld er det helt ok at hylde handlingen og den handlende frem for historiens uafvendelige fremmarch. Vi kan vel lige så godt fejre ophøret af samarbejdspolitikken som vi kan fejre at vi blev befriet af englænderne. Så længe vi husker på at det er et politisk valg, der vil blive brugt og misbrugt som alle andre politiske valg.

Burke, Kenneth, A Grammar of Motives, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1945, 1969)

DF I. Efterretningsvinklen: Agent Provocateur?

Her til morgen har flere medier, deriblandt Jyllands-Posten, en omtale af at der har været ballade i Rosenhøjskvarteret i Århus i nat - øjensynligt på grund af Pia Kjærsgaards udtalelser om at de omrejsende medlemmer fra Islamisk Trossamfund er landsforræddere.

Umiddelbart bekræfter rudesmadring, bilafbrænding og graffiti at der findes en gruppe af kriminelle (unge) indvandrere, der bruger islam som legitimation for at være gale på samfundet.

Men der er også noget sært ved episoden. I de tidligere episoder har der været lokale folk med til at lave ballade, i alt fald til dels. Denne gang er det også en mulighed, men på den anden side er der nogle der er kørt væk i bil. Det tyder på at de kommer udefra.

Rosenhøj-kvarteret er meget ladet - det er blevet synonymt med de "franske tilstande," med ghettooprør. Derfor kan det symbol også manipuleres af alle der har en interesse i at genopvække opmærksomheden om de islamiserede ungdomskriminelle. Og en god tommelfingerregel inden for paranoid efterretningsanalyse er "Hvem har fordel af tilfældige hændelser?"

I dette tilfælde er der vel kun to muligheder: DF og højrefløjsgrupperinger (White Pride omkring AGF?) og Islamisk Trossamfund/Fundamentalister med politisk sigt. Den første gruppe for at signalere at krigen allerede raser, anden gruppe for at signalere at de kan sætte gang i den når de vil. De eneste der taber på det, er dem der faktisk bor i Rosenhøjskvarteret. Nåeh ja, og så alle os andre.



Jeg synes altid at ruiner og nedlagte bygninger har haft en sær dragende kraft. Da jeg lige var flyttet til Amager i 1999 var meget af området på det ydre Øresundsvej stadig præget af gamle industribygninger. Der var kæmpe haller i røde mursten, hvor det knaste under støvlerne af glasskår fra de store ovenlysvinduer og hvor nogle af dem var fyldt med gammelt ragelse som der blev solgt ud af hver lørdag. Det gamle Sweet Silence studie (hvor Metallica blandt andet indspillede en af deres bedste plader i 1980erne) lå en en tidligere herskabsvilla eller noget i den stil. Alle vinduerne var blevet smadret og indenfor var der flænsede sofaer og nøgenbilleder på væggene fra de seneste beboere - en evigt skiftende række af autonome, småkriminelle, nynazister og hjemløse.

I dag er det område helt domineret af de nye lejlighedsbyggerier og den nye strandpark. Sweet Silence er blevet ombygget til overskuds-andele i to plan og havemøbler i økologisk regnskovstræ. Lidt ærgerligt. Nu skal man længere syd på for at finde den grimme, charmerende gamle industri-slum.

På hjemmesiden Derelict London er der en fyr der har samlet billeder fra alskens nedslidte områder i London. Og der er nok at vælge imellem. Da jeg flyttede til Southwark var der fyldt med slum, også tæt på Themsen, men allerede efter et år kunne man se hvordan det lokale trendy Borough Market trak standarden op. Jeg skal tilbage til London i næste uge, men der bliver nok ikke noget af at sidde i en udbrændt lejlighed og drikke en lunken Carlings.


Controlling the SWARM: Rhetoric as system control?

John Robb is developing an interesting line of ideas on his blog "Global Guerrillas" on the swarm - the self-ordering multiple actors, who, forexample, attacks a target. The German U-Boots in the Atlantic during World War II is a good example. A definition goes: a primary maneuver that results in an attack from multiple directions (all points on the compass) by 5 or more (semi) autonomous units on a single target/unit.

We didn't start the fire
Recently John Robb has speculated that the fire in the refinery in London was a terror-attack following a speech by Al-Qaeda strategist Zawahiri (and Osama Bin Laden more indirectly). Read the post here. (And read this article on a similar blast in Texas City, that will stir your inner conspiracy theorist and make you wonder if a government could deny a terrorist attack, even though the terrorists took responsibility?).

Terrorist groups as audience
Now, the interesting thing here from a rhetorical viewpoint is if urging for attacks on specific types of infrastructure nodes actually result in such attacks, carried out by (semi) autonomous units? Basically it is adressing a rhetorical situation, as described by Lloyd Bitzer, adressed to an audience that can set about the desired change. This raises questions of audience and how terrorist inspirators tailor their messages to this effect - if it is at all possible. Considering how difficult it would be to attack a highly protected refinery compound, it isn't likely that you will just get up and grab your bag of explosives after hearing Zawahiri on the internet. More likely we should be looking at long term creation of persuasive patterns here.

The Arabian Che Guevaras

Today NYT writes about how American officials meet with Iraqi insurgents toto exploit the rift between them and the arabian mujahedins. This is definitively a smart move, as every conflict from Afghanistan and onwards have shown that the guests - mainly from the Saudi-Arabian peninsula - often overstay their welcome and become despised in the local population or with the political elite. Bin Laden's short stay in Sudan was a good example.

In this way they are exporters of revolution in the vein of Che Guevara, but with the added element of indiscriminate killing of civilians...

From a rhetorical viewpoint it really shows that the appeal to an international revolution is important to keep the rag-tag of forces together, but that this is at odds with the old Maoist conception of the revolution as a first and foremost national occurence.


ODS på nettet

Efter at være blevet outsourcet og tastet ind af en flok kinesiske slavearbejdere i lasten på en synkefærdig Djunke i Shanghai Havn er den ultimative bog over det (lettere bedagede) danske sprog endeligt lagt på nettet, gratis og frit tilgængelig. Hurra for det initiativ!

ODS på nettet

Media strategies for deflecting negative stories

The CBS journalist Sharyl Attkisson [sic] writes about some of the strategies that media-spinners will try to deflect a journalist's interest in the short articleThe PR Playbook.

One of the strategies is demanding all information before agreeing to an interview, then dropping the interview. Though I don't know a lot of journalists who would fall for that in Denmark, it is still a neat, dirty trick, especially if the blame isn't on you yet but that you know that it will.

Kommunikationsforum has made a Danish plagiate here.


Ellul on Blogging

The French sociologist Jacques Ellul work was on propaganda, but in observing the condition of modern man he wrote this:
The majority prefers expressing stupidities to not expressing any opinion: this gives them the feeling of participation [in society].
Ellul, Jacques, Propaganda. The Formation of Men?s Attitudes, (New York: Vintage Books, 1973)


Ahmedinejad III: Loco the Kim Jong Il way

The good people at Stratfor provides for another interpretation of Ahmedinejad's statements. Now we are back in a mainly realist interpretation, and according to Stratfor Ahmedinejad's statements are spurred by the growing US/Sunni collaboration in Iraq. In he is trying to play mad enough, flexing the possible nukes North Korean style to give himself a better bargaining position. I quote:

So, the Shia become the dominant power in Iraqi politics. The Kurdish position is protected. The Sunnis get their piece of the government, and al-Zarqawi loses his base of operations as Sunni confidence rises. There is, however one huge loser in this scenario: Iran. Iran should be going wild over what is happening in Iraq, and indeed it is. We must never forget Iran's war with Iraq and the trauma it created in Iran. Iran is obsessed with the ideal of a neutral or pro-Iranian Iraq. The U.S. maneuverings with former Baathists terrify the Iranians. They have minimal confidence in the political cleverness of Iraqi Shia, given the historical record. A coalition of Americans and Baathists is Tehran's worst nightmare. Depending on Iraqi Shia to protect their interests in the face of this coalition -- interests the Shia in Iraq don't always share -- is not something they can do.

It is therefore not an accident that, as their primary national security interests have been torn to shreds, the Iranians have tried to raise the ante. In ranting about the Jews and the Holocaust and moving Israel to Alaska, the Iranians are trying to play the North Korea game. The North Koreans maximize their leverage by appearing to be nearly a nuclear power and more than a little nuts. This brings the U.S. -- and a bunch of other nations -- to the table to negotiate with them and give them money or grain or other little gifts.

The Iranians have deliberately made it clear that they are going to get nuclear weapons and have hinted that they might already have them. Then, Iran's president started playing the role of Kim Jong Il, making it clear that he is crazy enough to use nuclear weapons.

Information operations and religion

In a country where politics and religion are interwoven it is of course interesting to engage religious leaders when conducting information operations. Today New York Times writes about how Muslim Scholars Were Paid to Aid U.S. Propaganda - that is, sunni religious figures were paid to spread positive messages in Iraq.