Thursday, November 30, 2006

Former Israeli Ambassador to Iran and current advisor at the Israeli Defense Ministry, Uri Lubrani, has fashioned a statement that rivals the "best" orientalist cliches of all time:

"The Iranians have the patience of an elephant. They're a nation of carpet weavers. And weaving a carpet takes a year."

A nation of carpet weavers?

I've been smiling at this statement all day, but even more hilarious is Mr. Lubrani's plan for regime change in Iran. In answer to the question of what methods he prescribes for the overthrow of the current government, Mr. Lubrani responds:

"With every possible method. I'm talking about propaganda, psychological warfare, financial assistance....I feel that conditions are ripe for carrying out a regime change. For example, it's possible to organize a strike in the oil industry".

How is it that Mr. Lubrani, who has been in the Iran business for decades, not know that all of these methods, including efforts to infiltrate and co-opt the efforts of labor unions, have been tirelessly employed for the last 26 years? Where exactly is the innovation in what Lubrani is suggesting?

Incidentally, I learned via this article yesterday, that according to the Algiers agreement of 1981 signed by the U.S and Iran to end the hostage crisis, the U.S. pledged "that it is and from now on will be the policy of the United States not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in IranĂ‚’s internal affairs."

Israel, of course, has not put its name to any such statements, but with or without making false promises, it is still in contravention of international law to interfere in Iran's internal affairs, either through nauseating daily propaganda or through covert operations on Iranian soil.

Mr. Lubrani may not be right about Iranians having the patience of an elephant, but we may well have the memory of one: Events as distant from each other as the shameful CIA coup d'etat of 1953, the Russian theft of Iranian territories during the Qajar era, and the invasions of the Moguls and Arabs in centuries past continue to burn in the Iranian imagination.

Anyone who suggests inteference in Iranian affairs as a tactic for winning hearts and minds has no conception of the function of historical memory in Iranian politics and culture. And this, sadly, means that the Iranians will continue to have disasterous foreign intervention to add to the historical laundry list of grievances.

Monday, November 27, 2006

1. Jahanshah has kindly posted some of the "Signs" I saw when I was in Iran, you can have a look at them here if you are interested.

2. Today a U.S. F-16 went down in Iraq and an Iranian military plane crashed in Tehran. The former was clearly shot down, but I have already heard some rumblings of foul play involved in the case of the latter as well. Two out of the thirty nine people on board the Iranian air craft survived the crash, maybe they will shed some light on the whole thing.

3. I would have never expected this from Ardeshir Zahedi, the Shah's last Ambassador to the U.S. and a hard-core Monarchist: Zahedi recognizes that sanctions against Iran would only hurt the populace and that any change must come from within Iran; perhaps most surprisingly, Zahedi defends Iran's right to nuclear technology no matter who is ruling the country. You can watch Zahedi expressing these views on Voice of America's Persian language program here, the relevant statements are made after about minute 36.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I am back from Iran, where I was lucky enough to visit nearly a dozen towns and cities in five provinces. During the end of my trip, a very close member of the family fell ill and has subsequently passed away. For this reason, I haven't really been able to or felt like sitting down and thinking through the many things I saw and experienced.

I do want to say that I have a new favorite Iranian city: Yazd. It is unlike any place I have ever lived or visited, with inhabitants who are just about the most hard-working, honest, and friendly people you could wish to meet. And my stomach is grumbling as I type, just thinking about all the sweets Yazdis are famous in making.

Anyway, that is just about all I can manage to write at the moment, I hope to be able to say more in the coming days.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Of all of the places I expected to steal a stray internet signal, my grandmother’s bedroom in Tehran was not one of them. But here I am, at Maman Joon’s Internet CafĂ©, accessing the Net from some unknown neighbor to whom I owe many thanks.

Thanks also to those who left comments, critiques, and suggestions on my last post. If I haven’t responded directly, it is just because I have been short on time and energy. I’ll try and make up for it soon.

I didn’t leave the house for the entire day yesterday, I was too exhausted from running around the country and just wanted to take it easy. I decided to catch up on emails and have a look around at the websites and blogs that I usually visit. This in itself was a curious and question-raising experience. Why is it, for example, that Sibil Tala’s blog, which extremists in the U.S. often accuse of being a site supporting the Iranian government, blocked by government censors in Iran? (Incidentally, Raed’s site is filtered as well, which totally caught me off guard). I had to use filter breakers to be able to read both of their pages.

But you know whose site is as easily accessible as can be? The website and personal blog of one Mr. Amir Abbas Fakhravar! (Yes it is true, the Fakhravar Watch project takes no breaks). This man who rubs elbows with well-connected war mongers like Michael Ledeen and Richard Perle and is regularly featured on “opposition” media such as VOA and the likes, is not exactly low-profile.

And yet his site has been accessible from every single ISP I have tried in a handful of cities all around Iran. Don’t you find this surprising?

But I guess it makes sense in the scheme of things: when he was supposedly a political prisoner, he had cell phone and media access from within the walls of Evin prison; when he claims to have had a shoot-to-kill order out on his life, he was out about town, eventually stepping on a plane and freely leaving the country; and now, when he presents himself as the foremost leader of a movement against the Iranian government, his interviews, writings, and pictures are just a click away for the average internet user in Iran.

I wont weave any theories for you, I wouldn’t even know where to start, but I sure do wonder…

Monday, November 06, 2006

I've been in Iran, which is why I have been away from my daily internet routines. I have too much to do these days, so my apologies to anyone who has been trying to reach me through the comments section or through email. I'll try to sit down and check all of that stuff soon.

i am currently in isfahan, one of Raed's ancestral cities (his maternal grandmother was an isfahani). though it has been many years since the city was dubbed isfahan, nesfe-jahan (isfahan, half of the world), the splendour of the city and its cultural products are such that i think it still deserves this grand title.

The only trouble i've had since being in iran happened in the airport upon arrival in tehran. i got in a fight with a guy who i guess is either a half-french, half-iranian and/or french raised iranian man who couldnt (or wouldn't) speak farsi without a foreign accent. he refused to apologize when he dropped something on the head of my very frail 80 year old grandfather, and when my grandfather protested, the balding thirty something man responded: "you are not the owner of this airplane! you should put aside this typical iranian por-rooyee (pushy attitude)"

i wanted to tell him that someone who cant even speak farsi in a proper way shouldnt be making grand proclamations about the iranian national character. i wanted to tell him that for someone who spent much of the plane ride holding up the flight attendants with his pretentious converstations while the rest of us waited patiently for our service, he had some nerve to accuse another passenger of acting like he owned the plane.

but instead, tired after a day of travel, i just barked a few things at him, he barked back, and then he ran away by going all the way around the end of the plane. oh well, at least he knows what is good for him!

unfortunately, this overgrown spoiled boy who seemed to think himself exceptional is actually an archetype of sorts. he typefies the diaspora iranian who fancies himself an expert on what iran and iranians are like, and yet he really has no idea what is going on around him. in the context of the iranian airport, he is just an aggravating asshole, but back in the diaspora, he has the potential to be dangerous, because he can sell his blither as authentic and true to a slew of ill-intentioned politicians and media producers.

as is always the case, i am intensly aware of the depth of the gulf between the range of iran material available to the english reader and the on-the-ground realities in this vast, diverse, and dynamic land.