Monday, October 29, 2007

War, no war... part two

Part two.

He is on a scholarship trip in the Netherlands for a couple of months. I did not know he was here until a common friend asked me if I had seen Namver (not his real name). I call him right after I talked to our common friend.

We are both doing some research on two different projects. We agree to meet another friend of his who is a long-time university professor and researcher at a well-known institute in Amsterdam.

“You just have to agree with whatever he says; otherwise we will be here for couple of days.” Namver tells me. I agree and walk to meet his friend in that institute. Not even two minutes pass after we meet and start our conversation that I start scratching my head.

“There are a lot of power struggles in the Iranian government at this moment,” he says.

I think dinggggggggggggggggggggggg, you don’t have to be rocket scientist to know that. It is so simplistic to come up with this again.

Yes we do have a power struggles in Iran, and we have had them for a long time, since the first days of our recorded history. What is new about this? I think to myself.

Are any of those involved with this power struggle worthy of trust? Are they really so diffirent from each other? Or do they just want the same thing but have different ways of getting it?

“Maybe this power struggle will end up in war,” the professor continues.

Bush is getting ready for war I am thinking...

They are counting minutes


When I talk to my friends most of them, like I am, are against war (At least in public).

Not only because they think war is devastating, but also so that they can tell everybody later that “I told you so” when things go wrong. And you know, things always do go wrong.

Power struggle or no power struggle, Iran should get ready for a nasty war, I think by myself quietly. There will be war. I have been saying this for almost two years, but I don’t want to tell anybody, “I told you so.”

“Americans are seeing that the option of diplomacy is not getting them anywhere. You can see that clearly. There are still some people in the Iranian government who believe we should be more willing to work things out with the European negotiators, but those people are not inside the power lines,” the professor tells us. “Look at history, and you can get your answer. Those mullahs don’t make deals until things get really bad.”

I don’t think this any more. This time I don’t believe they will compromise. Ahmadinejad said, “We don’t need experts; we need believers.”

Believers in what?

We all agree that if Iran is attacked and there is the possibility of regime change that we would see months of horrific bloodshed in the streets of every big city in Iran. Mobs will go wild and tear apart Teheran. The regime must know this. Just look at these pictures Kamangir found.

We talk about what might happen: pardons, arrests, riots, etc.

“What about 125,000 revolution guards forces?”

“Will they target us?” my friend adds. “What will happen to the MEK? Can you imagine if they get power?”

We all decide not to think about it.

I don’t personally know any Iranians outside Iran who would openly say that he wants the US to attack Iran. I am sure there are many in US who are just jumping up and down waiting until the day the US bombers attack Iran. Most of those are not people who care about the lives of Iranians that may be lost in case of war as long as this regime gets the lesson they deserve. Those people are just waiting to take power for themselves and steal more of our resources and money.

In Iran I met many people who could not wait to be (freed) by America. In the last two years I heard many Iranians say that they cannot take it anymore and that living cannot be worse than what they have even if there is attack.

I hate to admit that most of those people who I spoke to felt I had a direct line to the white house and wanted me to tell Mr. Bush “please just don’t hit my house.” One guy said that he wanted to paint an American flag on the roof of his house. “America. Friends,” he said he would write under the flag.

I don’t think it is a question of if there will be an attack but more of when. One friend says, “If it’s war or the regime, maybe war is not so bad.” Then my wife says, “What if it is war and the regime?” We both look at each other, and we are just shocked.

The sanctions and the talk of war are pushing Iran closer to Russia and China, some may think, but most Iranian don’t believe that Russia is there to help us. Russia is like poker player who is holding his cards close so that he has more options. Later they can say, “we were the only friend you had in those hard days when you were under attack from all over the world.” Or they can say to the US, when we realizes the danger of Iran with the N weapon, we took the right side. (Listen to this interesting interview with Steve LeVine on Fresh Air)

A couple of months ago when I met a friend here in Amsterdam who just married a nice Iranian girl, I was shocked to hear a different story. He told me that there are a couple of other possibilities. “Imagine Khameneie would get really sick from whatever he has and die in the next couple of months and there is a fight for his replacement and a lot of people are putting Rafsanjani forward since most of the people believe Ahmadinejad is not able to deliver what he promised two years go. He would be in power, and he would make a deal with US. End of story,” he told us with a small smile but self-confident face.


I told him, “Imagine Rafsanjani would die long before Khameneie.” When I told him this scenario, he was not happy. He told me, “You Iranians are always unpredictable.” I shook my head and told him that is the problem with the west, you only see things in black and white.

He was clearly frustrated with me. Yes there are a lot of options out there, but none as effective as a military attack.

His boss, a professor at a university in Amsterdam, told me a couple of months ago during a dinner, that there is 3rd option: the West could find a way to live with a nuclear Iran.

“Like they live with Pakistan?” I asked. “What about if things change in Pakistan, and you don’t have a president like Mosharaf who changes his polices in one night from not worried about terrorists at all to commando in chef of the war on terror in the region?” The professor had to leave after my question, so I never heard his answer.


“Dadash jan Khoobi?” I asked my brother when I called him yesterday.
I can’t wait to ask him how he and his family is doing, but I asked him first, “Are the people getting ready for war?”

“Which war” he asked.

“Here in the west everybody thinks there will be a war or better put: an attack.”

“Na dasash jan (No my dear brother ) don’t worry, there would be no attack. Nothing will happen,” he is confident. Why? I don’t know. “Na dadash jan, nothing would happen,” he changed the subject. I don’t know if he does it because he is worried he is being recorded or he just wants to make feel better.

“Iran said that they would fire 11,000 rockets in the first few minutes if they are attacked.”

“How many?”


“What would they do when those are finished?”

“Fire 11,000 more?

“How is your wife?”

“I miss you too.” This time there is no way I can change the subject

I hung up the phone, stretched, flexed my muscles like a bodybuilder would, looked out the window happy to have heard his voice but worried very much about whether he and his family would be okay when and if an attack starts.

I would never forgive anyone who would attack and harm my family and friends. That is why I hate and can never forgive the Iranian government for killing and imprisoning and torturing of a lot of my dear friends. They killed the dreams of millions.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

To war or not to war

I was walking in the park with an Iranian friend who prefers to remain anonymous, so let’s call him Reza. Reza just returned from several years in Iran. We argued about the benefits of war. “Things are just getting worse. People have all the hope sucked right out of them. You just cannot believe the corruption and the government – what government? – can you really call it a government? – they are just a bunch of criminals. Sometimes I think the only thing to do is bomb them.”

Reza is serious. We have argued this point so many times. Reza wants the US to attack Iran. I think it is a mistake. Reza has family in Iran. He loves them. But he is just so fed up with what he sees as the destruction of Iranian culture and society. Reza thinks it’s worse and getting worse. “It’s not that I think that Iran will actually use a bomb,” he tells me. “I think they’ll just use it as blackmail.” He goes on to tell me that anyone who thinks that the current government of Iran is not pursuing a bomb is living in a dream world.

We argue a bit. I tell him that while Iranians may not greet war as an attack on Islam the rest of the world will. I argue that it will lead to increased radicalization and terror. “Maybe,” he admits. Then he goes on:

“What if you had a husband who beat you? You try to reason with him. For a while he stops. You think things are better. You have children. He beats you again. You try to do things his way, get him to stop. Then he beats your children too. Now this is too far, so you go to his family and friends to get them to help you, but they do not want to hear this about your husband. They don’t want to believe it. You take him to court. The court tells him to leave you alone, but he follows you. He threatens you. He threatens your children. What would you do?”

“Kill him.”

“Write that in your blog,” Reza says.

“Iran is different.”

“How? These guys now, if they get anymore power, they are like Stalin.” Reza speculates that the opposition in Iran will get completely shut down. “They are even arresting mullahs,” he says. The reformists are going to find themselves harassed, arrested, dead: that’s how little opposition the hardliners will tolerate. Reza tells me.

It’s hard not to believe him. It’s hard not to despair.

For more on war and propaganda read:

Zakaria in Newsweek:

In a speech last week, Rudy Giuliani said that while the Soviet Union and China could be deterred during the cold war, Iran can't be. The Soviet and Chinese regimes had a "residual rationality," he explained. Hmm. Stalin and Mao—who casually ordered the deaths of millions of their own people, fomented insurgencies and revolutions, and starved whole regions that opposed them—were rational folk. But not Ahmadinejad, who has done what that compares? One of the bizarre twists of the current Iran hysteria is that conservatives have become surprisingly charitable about two of history's greatest mass murderers.

Jahanshah Rashidianon the roots of the current problems on campuses all over Iran:

Under the IRI, nobody is allowed to claim that students’ rights should override any religious and ideological considerations. Actually, the issue of whether Iranian students have the right to have modern and secular universities stands against the Islamic philosophy of IRI’s constitution.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Talk of war: Part 1

He just got back from a month wonderful vacation in Iran. I never thought he would ever step a foot in Iran as long as the IRI was in power.

“Oh man it was so fun,” he says.

“One day we went for lunch at the well-known Alborz restaurant in Tehran, and we had to wait for more than an hour to be seated. Can you imagine that?” he continues.

“When we got our food, the length of the kebab we ordered was longer than my arm.”. He straightens his arm in our direction and he says, “So big. I don’t understand why Iranians complain! They have such great kebab!”

He is tall and has a long arm.

The rest of us in that small room during the birthday party for my friend’s son were sitting like school kids, following his lovely story about his first trip to Iran after 20 years.

“I am very glad you finally went to Iran,” I tell him. “Now you know how it is.”

“Iran has changed so much. It is much more modern than when I left, even considering the fact that they have not spent too much money on development of my home town Ahwaz. It was still very nice to see how beautiful Ahwaz is.”

Somebody says, imagine if all of that oil money was really spent in Ahwaz and the surrounding area instead of going into the mullahs’ pockets… Everybody shakes their heads.

“In the first days, when you are in Iran, everything is wonderful. You get to see people who you have not seen for a long time, eat good food, take a two-hour nap after every lunch, and at night drink from a bottle of whiskey that is finished in two minutes.” He puts his hand on his big stomach and says, “I am still the same size.” We all look at each other and smile. “But after couple of days you start seeing things different,” he tells us. Everybody was telling him, do not compare Iran to your lovely city in Holland. After 20 years he could not understand why he could not compare Ahwaz with his small city in Holland. He became mad like every other expat Iranian who spends more than a week in Iran.

What he saw after a week of visiting and eating was enough to make him angry. He was so shocked to see how Iran really was: all those corruption stories, tales of bad management in every aspect of life in Iran, lack of work for young people, the pressure the Arab Iranians face in the south, and the danger of new war.

“There will be no war. I am sure of it,” he says with confidence. “Iranians don’t believe US and UK would ever attack them.”

“This is all to make Iran scared so they would accept whatever the US wants,” another person says.

“The US is not in a position to attack Iran. They don’t have resources and the American people do not have stomach for it. They have lost too much in this war with Iraq and Afghanistan.”

I think: where have I heard this before?

“THEY CANNOT ATTACK IRANIANS because this government was put in power by the US AND UK.” I look around and give a dirty look to the nice guy who said that and respond with, “Oh please don’t give me that bullshit!” He starts laughing and telling us that he was just kidding.

“But don’t you think America had an even worse situation during the Vietnam war, yet they still attacked Cambodia?” I ask.

There is a silence in the room. The funny guy who speaks with a south-Iran accent yells from the back of the room, “Let us say, if they do attack, what would be the worst?” He walks to the front of the room where we are sitting and continues:

“Don’t you guys see who is running our country? Don’t you see that they are making every aspect of daily life miserable for everybody? What can be worse than this humiliation we are living with? Iran is a rich country with a lot of resources, full of smart and educated people who are very successful in the rest of the world when they get out, but we don’t have even the basics of human rights. I am not talking about human rights like we have here. I am not saying we have a government like the Taliban in Afghanistan, but if we cannot compare Iran to a modern industrial western government, we should also not say, oh we have it much better than a lot of other countries.” His face gets red.

The hostess says, “Take it easy. Eat some cookies.” She hands him an open beer. “Here, you drink this.” She looks at me and said, “I am sure you started all this.”

I shake my head, not sure if I disagree with him or her.

The discussion is getting hot. I really want to know what these Iranians think of war. It seems that a lot of my friends don’t dare to say what they really feel.

“We want a different government that’s for sure,” one says.

“Even if that means we will have to be attacked by the US arm forces?” somebody asks.

I say, “Iranians always want everything at the same time. But they don’t want to pay for it.”

“Oh yeah,” another says.

Ham khar mikhad ham gorma. (You want a donkey and dates at the same time.)

Everybody thinks that is funny.

I go out to smoke a cigarette. Most of the guys come out with me.

One goes to sit by the women’s table. Tori wants to be a part of our conversation and looks at me with a questioning expression of what is going on?

“I am against all wars, I feel really bad for the Iraqis. Iraq is not far from where I come from and when I see on TV how many people are killed everyday I get really upset and don’t want Iranians to be killed. But then when I am alone at home and think of the situation in Iran I am not sure if getting rid of this government is such a bad idea.”

“Americans would not kill Iranians even if they attack,” one guy says.

We are looking at him and thinking which f**king planet are you from? He also leaves the back yard and goes back to the room where the food is ready for us. “Come. Come the food is ready,” the hostess calls.

My friend who just came back from Iran let everybody to go first and tells me, the situation is really bad and I am afraid that the people in Iran are not ready for it.

They may have months of food stocked in freezers and kilos and kilos of rice stored in closets, but they still cannot imagine that war is at the doorstep.

A lot of people I talked to think Iran would agree with the international demands at the last moment, but I am not sure of it. I think an attack is imminent.

With Larijani’s resignation, I am now sure that there is no compromise. They see compromise as the end of their government.


Larijani's resignation

Forum on Iran, Target Iran with lots of different opinions from people who rarely get to visit Iran

"The United States is in serious trouble, its economy is in trouble, the army is badly damaged, the morale of its soldiers is not exceptionally good."

A North American Affairs professor in Tehran quoted from Chris Gelken's blog and repeating the commonly held view that American cannot attack Iran.

Adm Michael Mullen, who took over as chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff three weeks ago, said diplomacy remained the priority in dealing with Iran's suspected plans to develop a nuclear weapon and its support for anti-US insurgents in Iraq.

But at a press conference he said: "there is more than enough reserve to respond (militarily) if that, in fact, is what the national leadership wanted to do".

The official US viewpoint quoted from the Telegraph.

About the problems of Ahwazi Arabs

Links to articles about war from us

Radio Open Source discussion of war with Iran.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Entertainment is the new propaganda...

...and the old propaganda...

Slightly Off Religious Path, Iranian TV Finds Viewers

They say the government appears to have realized that political programs, such as those showing confessions extracted from democracy advocates in prison, have not achieved its goal of building domestic unity at a time when the country is under intense international pressure for its nuclear program.

“They have learned that if they want their programs to be effective, they should send the message indirectly,” said Abol-Hassan Mokhtabad, a journalist and news media expert. He added that “it is very natural” that the government would “pursue its political goals through them, too.”

One popular mini-series, called “Zero Degree Turn,” depicts the Iranian Embassy in Paris during World War II, when employees forged Iranian passports for European Jews to flee to Iran. The series is built around a love story between an Iranian-Palestinian man and a Jewish Frenchwoman he helps escape to Iran.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Doris Lessing on political correctness

Doris Lessing on political correctness from an article she wrote in 1992 for the NY Times:

There is obviously something very attractive about telling other people what to do: I am putting it in this nursery way rather than in more intellectual language because I see it as nursery behavior. Art — the arts generally — are always unpredictable, maverick, and tend to be, at their best, uncomfortable. Literature, in particular, has always inspired the House committees, the Zhdanovs, the fits of moralizing, but, at worst, persecution. It troubles me that political correctness does not seem to know what its exemplars and predecessors are; it troubles me more that it may know and does not care.

Does political correctness have a good side? Yes, it does, for it makes us re-examine attitudes, and that is always useful. The trouble is that, with all popular movements, the lunatic fringe so quickly ceases to be a fringe; the tail begins to wag the dog. For every woman or man who is quietly and sensibly using the idea to examine our assumptions, there are 20 rabble-rousers whose real motive is desire for power over others, no less rabble-rousers because they see themselves as anti-racists or feminists or whatever.

A professor friend describes how when students kept walking out of classes on genetics and boycotting visiting lecturers whose points of view did not coincide with their ideology, he invited them to his study for discussion and for viewing a video of the actual facts. Half a dozen youngsters in their uniform of jeans and T-shirts filed in, sat down, kept silent while he reasoned with them, kept their eyes down while he ran the video and then, as one person, marched out. A demonstration — they might very well have been shocked to hear — which was a mirror of Communist behavior, an acting out, a visual representation of the closed minds of young Communist activists.

Again and again in Britain we see in town councils or in school counselors or headmistresses or headmasters or teachers being hounded by groups and cabals of witch hunters, using the most dirty and often cruel tactics. They claim their victims are racist or in some way reactionary. Again and again an appeal to higher authorities has proved the campaign was unfair.

I am sure that millions of people, the rug of Communism pulled out from under them, are searching frantically, and perhaps not even knowing it, for another dogma.

Read the whole thing

Friday, October 12, 2007

Washington Prism: ایران از دید یک وبلاگ نویس خارجی

س: مهمترین مشکلی که در ایران با آن روبرو بودید، چه بوده است؟

کامران: اگر بخواهم به سادگی توضیح دهم، انسان در ایران احساس می کند که تک و تنها در یک کشتی بزرگ، و در اقیانوسی عظیم سرگردان است. به طوری که هیچ کنترلی بر مسیر کشتی ندارد


Thursday, October 11, 2007

What I learned in Iran...

...What you think you know, you don't. Everything is much more layered than it appears: not just Iran.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Censorware...Just say no

Long-term readers may know how I feel about internet filtering companies that sell to oppressive governments. For those of you who do not know, you can read a post about it here. For others hoping to reach people behind the filtered curtain, here's some advice here.

From: When US-made 'censorware' ends up in iron fists

The filtering software, in fact, may have given the Burmese regime enough of a false sense of security to allow Internet access in the first place, some suggest.

"Without [Internet filtering tools], there wouldn't have been access to begin with because [citizens] wouldn't have been trusted with it," says Bill Woodcock, also with the Packet Clearing House. Nor does pressure for censorship always come from the top, he adds. "In much of the world, the Internet is seen as this horrible sewer that is bringing things in that the government [feels popular pressure] to stop."

Internet-censorship tools can be defeated with the use of proxy servers. But many people living under repressive government are not going to hear about, or dare to try, methods to get around Internet fire walls, say experts.

"Some people say [censorware] is ineffective because dissidents can get around it," says Seth Finkelstein, a programmer and anticensorship activist. "I say political control doesn't have to be 100 percent to be effective. Controlling the ability of the vast majority of the population to see outside information is still very effective for the goals of the totalitarian regime."

Monday, October 08, 2007

My life in the Panopticon

Translated into Persian

پانوپتیکن نام زندانی است متعلق به قرن ۱۹ که دارای معماری ویژه‌ای است. همه سلول‌های این زندان رو به سوی برج نگهبانی آن طراحی شده بود. نگهبانان در برج می‌نشستند و از آن جا همه سلول‌ها را کاملاً تحت نظر داشتند؛ اما زندانیان نمی‌توانستند نگهبانان را ببینند. آن‌ها حتی نمی‌دانستند که آیا نگهبانی در برج هست یا نه؟ آن‌ها چه دیده می‌شدند یا نه، این احساس را داشتند که مراقبان آنان را می‌پایند. این عقیده در ذهن زندانیان نقش بسته بود که همیشه و در همه حال دیده می‌شوند و به این ترتیب خود زندان‌بان خود شده بودند.

Original at Reconstruction.

If I react, the stories will stop

It's hard to believe that there are still horrifying stories from the Holocaust left untold. But there are. Here is the story of a priest traveling through the Ukraine collecting the stories of the murder of approx. 1.5 million Jews there.

"People talk as if these things happened yesterday, as if 60 years didn’t exist,” Father Desbois said. “Some ask, ‘Why are you coming so late? We have been waiting for you.’”

Read it first at normblog.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Question 12: What do you miss most about Iran?

This answer changes all the time, so I plan to answer it regularly. Today's answer:

Talking to Strangers.

Tell me, where can I go to talk to strangers again?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Refuge in Iran

Thanks to members of a discussion group I belong to, I tracked down a fascinating account of one Polish woman's experiences during World War 2. Helena Woloch Antolak worked in forced labor camps in the Soviet Union before making her way across the world and settling, finally, in Scotland. On the way, she and thousands of others spent time in Iran:

After a month, we were sent to the first transit camp in Tehran. There were 107 of us cadets and six instructors. The Persian population received us lovingly. We were given a large hall carpeted with Persian rugs, on which we slept all together as a group with our teaching staff. We were so happy to have left the Soviet Union that we seemed to be breathing in the whole of Persia with every breath we took.

If you, dear readers, know of any other refugees who travelled through Iran during the second world war, please contact me! responses (AT) or leave a comment here.

Very cool paintings

from Iranian artist, R.D. Tolouee up at Mideast Youth.

Here's a taste: