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Persian Dogs

One of the dubious accomplishments of the Islamic Republic of Iran is how much it's succeeded at making criminality utterly banal. The government has made so many prosaic things illegal - from certain hairstyles, to satellite transmissions -- that consistent enforcement is impossible, and hypocrisy is endemic. Rule-breaking is so ubiquitous that Iranians often don't even feel compelled to hide their flouting of the law; better off just doing what you want and hoping you just won't get nabbed for it. So you go into the supermarket, and next to the cashier you'll see a stand holding Hollywood new releases that wouldn't make it past the censors.

Or, as this Tehran Bureau post reminded me, you'll drive on the highway past people selling contraband puppies off of truck beds. (Though the photo suggests a back alley arrangement.) Dogs are technically illegal in Iran, but in a tacit acknowledgement of the popularity of the puppy black market, the government hasn't barred the sale of dog food.

One can only imagine what sort of strained small talk this leads to at the cash register. Perhaps the Iranian government should consider legislating some sort of animal amnesty. A canine version of Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

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Cameron goes overboard in Turkey

Earlier today in Ankara, David Cameron was eager to display a facility with the Turkish language: Tabii ki Tuerkiye ­- "of course, it's Turkey," in English - was the refrain of a speech advocating Turkey's admittance to the EU. Judging from his argument though, Cameron would have benefitted from a better acquaintance with the Latin phrase non sequitur, or the colloquial Americanism straw man.

There are many good reasons that Turkey should be an EU member state. This is not one of them:

When I think about what Turkey has done to defend Europe as a NATO ally and what Turkey is doing today in Afghanistan alongside our European allies it makes me angry that your progress towards EU Membership can be frustrated in the way it has been. My view is clear. I believe it's just wrong to say Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit inside the tent."

Whatever this excerpt says about Cameron's personal integrity, it doesn't have much purchase as a political argument. NATO and the EU are two entirely separate entities, with different histories, different mandates and overlapping, but different, membership rolls.  Participation in the one doesn't require, nor imply, participation in the other; membership in NATO is supposed to be its own reward. Or is Cameron suggesting that the United States line up alongside Turkey for EU accession, followed shortly thereafter by Albania?

Then there's Cameron's tidy summary of the case against Turkey. There are apparently three groups of European Turkey-skeptics: the protectionist (who see Turkey as "an economic threat"), the polarized (who are in thrall to a vision of a "clash of civilizations"), and the prejudiced (who "willfully misunderstand Islam"). Cameron proceeds to show just how mistaken those troglodytes are.

But does Cameron really think the reasons of the EU states holding up Turkish accession fall under his categories? France's Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany's Angela Merkel are both on the record resisting Turkish entry. Which are they: the polarized? Or is it the prejudiced? Or, perchance, might they be motivated by national interest? (Wait: Might the U.K. itself be motivated by national interest?)

There's no doubt that including Turkey would mean changes for the EU. Those changes may be for the better - from increased soft power, to a more dynamic internal market - but it's only prudent for each country to evaluate those changes on its own. France is right to wonder whether accepting Turkey into the club would put an end to its dream of a deepened EU foreign policy, much less its annual bounty of EU agriculture subsidies. Demographic trends being what they are, Germans should be forgiven for clinging to the EU voting rights commensurate with their status as Europe's most populous country. They'd also be deluded not to consider the impact of potential Turkish migration to German cities with large numbers of Turkish immigrants.

Name-calling accomplishes little in such a fraught enterprise. And making it all seem obvious and uncomplicated is only condescending.

The Turkish surely know this. Perhaps Cameron was calculating that earning good graces in Ankara was worth risking scorn in Berlin and Paris. But I wonder whether all he's done is lose credibility all around.

Or, most frightening of all, maybe he actually believes this argument accurately describes European institutions and European concerns. Even if Cameron skipped his rhetoric classes at Eton and Oxford, here's hoping he didn't sleep through all the rest.

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