Morning Report: January 9, 2006

Iran: Revolutionary Guards commander, 12 lieutenants killed in air crash; Zionist conspiracy suspected. Debka reports: 'Head of Iranian Revolutionary Guards ground forces Gen. Ahmad Kazemi and 12 deputies killed in plane crash in NW Iran. Iran claims to have caught an Israeli spy. The small Falcon executive jet came down near Oroumieh, 900 km north of Tehran, according to an announcement from Iran’s state news agency. DEBKAfile’s Tehran sources note the high importance of the dead commander who was appointed only three months ago. Another of the victims was head of the RG intelligence branch. Kazemi, for six years chief of the RG air force, was one of the fathers of Iran’s aggressive military doctrine. Our Iran experts’ first premise is that the crash was engineered by opposition factions to president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad within the regime in an effort to stem the increasing encroachments of state institutions by his backers, the radical Revolutionary Guards. There is no information on the “Israeli spy’s” identity. DEBKAfile’s Tehran sources suggest the purported capture may have been timed to coincide with the plane crash by the same group which sabotaged the plane to shift responsibility to Israel.' Jerusalem Post has this: 'It was the second time in two months that a military plane has crashed in Iran. On both occasions, the planes were carrying passengers and attempting to make an emergency landing. In Monday's crash, the plane, a Falcon of the Revolutionary Guards, was trying to make an emergency landing at Oroumieh, 900 kilometers (560 miles) northwest of the capital, Tehran, state television reported. The plane crashed because its landing gear jammed, preventing the wheels from being fully deployed, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.' Lots more reporting and comment at Free Iran. ShrinkWrapped offers the following analysis: 'The Arab world thrives on conspiracy theories and have not only demonized Israel and the United States, but in the process have created the image of Americans and Jews as giants and supermen. In keeping with such "thinking", I would suggest we start the rumor that the Mossad and the CIA were behind this.' Morning Report endorses the conspiracy theory. (various)

Old Cairo. Michael Totten has a fascinating and unforgettable post on his tour of Old Cairo by night. Michael - whose philosophy is "a bomb only explodes once" - meets up with Big Pharaoh and visits old mosques, the marked at Khan al-Khalili (exotic, even to Michael), Al-Azhar University (where a certain blind sheik once taught), and an old mansion. Don't miss this post, with great writing and amazing photographs. (MJT)

Like a ship out of a fog. The Belmont Club posts a roundup of recent developments, and wonders 'whether larger political upheavals are in the offing in the Middle East. The three collateral unknowns are Syria, Iran and Israel.' Wretchard concludes: 'The relative clarity of vision with which the US entered 2002 is gone, it's place taken by a political class which has demoralized itself in despite of historically unprecedented success. Of the pillars that held up the political world in 2003 only a few remain standing. Arafat dead; Sharon in a coma; Schoeder a factotum of Vladimir Putin; Chirac a shadow of himself; the European Union moribund, the UN a standing joke; Blair badly weakned and America obsessed with cookies left on browsers on government websites. And 2006 just beginning. Interesting times indeed.' (Belmont Club)