Iranian civilization dates back to the dawn of human history, but the origins
of the country of Persia, one of the greatest of ancient societies, begins with
Cyrus the Great, who in 559 B.C. founded the empire of the Achamenides. The Persians
killed a lot of Greeks, but were never able to conquer the feisty Greek city-states.
Finally, Phillip of Macedonia took control of Greece, but his son Alexander the
Great thought the peninsula was too confining. He decided to take it to the Greek
nemesis Persia, and with far fewer, but much better motivated, soldiers he beat
the pants off the Persian army and took control of the Fertile Crescent, Egypt
and Persia in 334 B.C. His successors were less skilled and yielded to Ashk in
indigenous Persians grabbed power after that and ruled for centuries until they
were defeated in 639 A.D. by one of the most incredible warrior migrations the
world has ever seen, as the followers of Mohammed swept out of Arabia. Six centuries
later, a most incredible warrior migration occurred, as Genghis Khan sent his
horsemen out of Mongolia to defeated armies in
an area of the world more extensive that ever before, from China to central Europe. One of the spots favored
by the Mongols was Persia, and in 1203, a Mogul dynasty took control and ruled
the country for about 150 years. The Tartars (one of the largest Mongolian tribes
who gave their name to the entire band of Mongolians who stayed behind in Russia
when the others returned to their homeland) were the next to take a fancy to Iran
and they in turn were thrown out by the Uzbaks. Of course, the Uzbaks were then
overthrown by Shah Ismail, who founded the House of Safavi in 1499. Under
his regime and those that followed, the Iranians went on the offensive and crushed
the Ottoman Turks in the early 17th Century. Afghanistan was at this
time a part of the Iranian Empire, but they rebelled, which in turn caused the
overthrow of the House of Safavi. As history would have it, the Safavi dynasty
was later restored by Nadir the Robber.
the Robber couldnt hold things together, and so another piece of the Empire
came unglued when Baluchistan seceded. Iran also controlled territory including
what is now the country of Georgia, but in 1802, Russia took a shine to that territory
and annexed it. Three wars followed with Russia, each a little more debilitated
than the preceding. Eventually, Iran had to sue for peace, and in the negotiated settlement, Iran
gave up Armenia to Russia. Things stayed hot for a time, as Britain also made
war on Iran during the middle of the 19th Century, with disastrous
results for the Iranians. Various treaties were signed, and in 1883, Iran established
diplomatic relations with the United States. Soon after that though, the Iranian
people, thoroughly disillusioned with the countrys corruptness, demanded
a constitution that included a bill of rights. This was adopted in 1907, but it
did not last for long.
Prince Muhammad Ali Mirza was crowned King of Iran, formally a constitutional
monarchy, but he was arrested and a number of the members of his parliament were
executed. He escaped with his life, and his son Ahmed Kajr ascended to the Throne.
All that didnt really matter, because Russia and Britain signed an agreement
to divvy up Persia between them; Russia got the north and Britain the south. An
American was appointed Treasurer General of Persia. No one seemed to like that
idea, and in 1914, the regency was abolished. Ahmed Kajr was proclaimed Shah.
During World War I, Persia became everyones stamping grounds. The Turkish Army engaged the
Russians in the North of Iran in 1915, even though they had declared themselves
neutral. The British, concerned about their energy supplies, landed at numerous
points on the Persian Gulf and set up military
installations. A lot of skirmishing ensued between Russia and Britain, two allies
in the Great War, but when the dust settled, the British had taken control, and
they stayed in charge of the country until the Armistice was signed in 1918.
CIA Strikes Again
Khan Pahlevi, the commander-in-chief of the Iranian army, became the countrys
military dictator and then in 1995, the Shah. In the meantime, Iran joined the
rest of the worlds independent nations by becoming a member of the League
of Nations in 1920. The Shah banned the use of turbans or fezzes by anyone except
religious leaders, the name of the country was officially changed to Iran in 1935,
and as World War II got closer, Iran declared its neutrality. This, however, didnt
stop the allies from using Iranian territory to provide the Russians with supplies
and reinforcements. Riza Khan Pahlevi thought he had been compromised and told
the British to get out. They reacted to his demands by carving up the country.
Shah resigned under pressure from the British, and his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi,
ascended the throne. While the young Shah was largely a pawn of the West, he also
brought enlightenment to this medieval society. But the pot continued to boil
as Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, a member of the Iranian Parliament, took on the Shah.
There was a pitched political and military battle, with Mossadegh gaining control
and the young Shah sent packing. By this time the United States had become the
worlds richest power and decided they like the spot, so with the assistance
of the American CIA, the Shah was restored to his Throne.
the next several decades, the United States and the Shahs Iran enjoyed an
exceeding good relationship. Because of increases in the price of oil (Irans
oil-oriented income increased from $5 billion to $20 billion after the 1973 Six-Day
War), a benevolent and enlightened attitude of the Shah and a strong military
presence and a regional alliance with NATO, Iran prospered and grew to be both
rich and influential. It became so wealthy that it ordered many goodies from the
West, in fact so many goodies that ships pulling into Iranian ports to unload
had to wait nearly half-a-year to unload.
Accent of the Moneyed Class
1963, an educated middle class developed as the result of a social and economic
reform program called the "White Revolution," something that had not
been seen in the Middle East in two millenniums. The massive military buildup
inaugurated by the Shah placed a strain on the countrys resources that went
beyond anything that the increased oil revenues could handle. Moreover there were
a number of unproductive program inaugurated to increase Iran self-reliance on
its own agricultural production.
farms were merged into ever-larger farms, similar to the collectives that were
also in vogue in Russia during this period. These collectives were run by committee,
and if something could go wrong when you solicit numerous opinions on the same
subject, it did in Iran. The wrong crops were raised, budget forecasts were not
even close and the farms were inefficient because the equipment that would have
made them efficient was not available. The result was that many of the people
felt that they had lost the land that had been in their families for literally
centuries; because of inflation, they were worse off than before, and they no
longer owned a piece of the sod.
Rears Its Ugly Head
1975, the Shah made his most critical mistake when he abolished all of the countrys
political parties other than his own, the Rastakhiz party. Everyone in the country
was invited to join the party, with an added incentive of deportation or worse
should they decline this generous offer. Moreover, in an even more aggressive
move, the Shah cut the subsidies of the clerics and changed the nations
calendar from a religious one to a calendar with strictly secular undertones.
These moves did not sit well with the majority of the population, but this was
the price of American assistance.
country was continually plagued with widespread corruption and inflation was soaring
at a rate that the Iranians could not keep up with. In 1977, inflation was estimated
to be 9.9 percent, in 1978 to increased to 16.6% and in 1997 to 25.1%. At the
same time, oil revenues started to decline. Finally, the Shahs selective
prosperity favored many of the countrys hard working minorities, such as
the Christian Armenians, which did not sit well with the poor of Iran, which were
overwhelmingly Islamic. The oppressed poor, as usual, turned to religion to heal
their hurts, and this religion was not necessarily one that felt that there was
any reward in turning the other cheek.
Shah was no dope and even if he was, the CIA was right there to tell him in what
direction the wind was blowing. They informed him that the wind was bearing difficult
tidings and it could carry him completely away if a strong gust came along. The
Shah really liked his job and asked his handlers what he could do about the growing
discontent. He was informed that free education for everyone would certainly be
a start and, while he was at it, why didnt he agree that all the kids could
eat for free on him. "Well," said the Shah, "thats going
to cost a lot of bread; but if I can hold onto my job, its probably worth
handler told the Shah that he hadnt finished telling him what he was going
to have to do. "Yes Sir, Mr. Pahlavi, you are going to have to lower the
peoples taxes, give everyone really low cost health insurance program and
then give 49% of all of the countrys businesses to the people." "Well,
lets do it then," said the Shah. "You probably waited too long already,"
said the handler. It seems that the Shah was the Marie Antoinette of the Middle
East and had been extremely insensitive to the peoples needs.
Man of the Poor People
it was rather late in the day, this massive social program was instituted at the
simultaneously, thousands of shopkeepers and small merchants were fined for profiteering.
Nevertheless, things were still screwed up, inflation was raging and nearly everyone
in the country was on a fixed income and in spite of everything the government
tried to do, things just got worse geometrically.
Shahs westernization program wasnt winning any kudos from the clerics
either. The ante kept increasing as the people became increasingly more dissatisfied,
so the Shah started cracking down on the unruly elements in Iranian society. Eventually,
organizations such as the International Council of Jurists and Amnesty International
started raising substantial questions about what the Shah was doing to political
prisoners and the disappearance of civil rights in the Iranian court system. Once
again, the Shah was a day late and a dollar short in addressing these additional
problems. The Shah, who at best could be described as insensitive to the peoples
needs, now released prisoners and changed government officials, which only added
to the dissension and made no one happy. Moreover, when he tried to reign in inflation,
the country went into a recession causing some rioting, looting and pillaging.
Without much hope, the people soon started visiting the mosques a little more
British Spy No Less
straw that broke the proverbial camels back was when the Iranian government
planted an article in one of the countrys principal newspapers, Ettelaat,
that not only indicated the beloved but hostile, Ayatollah Khomeini was a
British Spy, but also cast grave doubts about his religious fervor. These aspersions
against the highly revered cleric caused a riot in Qom when seminary students
took on an armed police unit. The ugly mood soon spread to the local bazaar, which
closed down in protest. In short order, the word of that riot spread to other
cities and the Shah was soon faced with more than he could handle. In spite of
army intervention, it was some time before the insurrection could be brought under
control, and there was substantial loss of life that was not going to be soon
Shah was now like a gambler down on his luck; nothing was going his way. "The
governments position deteriorated further in August 1978, when more than
400 people died in a fire at the Rex Cinema in Abadan. Although evidence
available after the Revolution suggested that the fire was deliberately started
by religiously inclined students, the opposition carefully cultivated a widespread
conviction that the fire was the work of SAVAK (the Iranian secret police) agents."
It was down hill from there, and everything the Shah or his advisors came up with
turned out to be self-defeating.
October of 1978, the Shah did the dumbest thing in his non-working bag of tricks;
he expelled the Ayatollah Khomeini to France. Khomeini had just arrived, not in
France, but into the world press. The story unraveling in Iran had been of little
interest, as there had been revolutions before. On the other hand, Iran had one
of the best equipped armies in the world, and therefore, a band of small-time
clerics were not going to be successful in taking on the head of the Peacock Throne
and the United States Government in one magical move. At least so everyone thought.
Ayatollah Gets Around
the minute Khomeini arrived in Neauphle-le-Chateau, just outside Paris, he got
his public relations department into high gear. From his new quarters in Paris
he was finally able to communicate with a host of expelled clerics and radicals
that he could not reach out to from downtown Tehran. In addition, he was able
to talk freely to the world press and give them chapter and verse about what Amnesty
International had said about the Shah. Last, but not least, he was able to meet
with National Front leader Karim Sanjabi, and at that meeting the National Front
agreed with Khomeini to call for the overthrow of the Shah and the creation of
a new and free religious government. This action, in turn created the environment
which ultimately brought the Iranian people all of the things that they had historically
cherished; the burning of the American Flag, suicide bombings, international terrorism,
the thought police, the Hezbollah, executions for non-conformance and the ever
loving Islamic Jihad. The cleric had placed an extraordinary potpourri of goodies
on the Iranian table.
not learned from his past mistakes, the Shah met more strikes with more concessions
and released more prisoners. In a move to shift public opinion to his side, he
had 132 former government officials (who had obediently done his bidding) arrested
for various trumped up charges. He didnt stop there, even jailed a former
Prime Minister, a former chief of SAVAK and some former cabinet members. Also,
among the 1,000 political prisoners that were released from jail was Ayatollah
Hosain Ali Montazeri, a good buddy of the Ayatollah Khomeini. For a time, this
quieted the people, but another call for action from Khomeini got everybody riled
up again, and this time, the country ground to a complete halt.
Shah and his handlers had tried everything that was in the book and failed miserably.
Eventually a deal was made with National Front leader Shapour Bakhtiar to form
a new government with the proviso that the Shah take off quickly for parts unknown.
Since the Shah was now in declining health, he took the advice and skulked away
in the darkness of night. The country was overwhelmed with joy, and celebrations
ruled the land. In the meantime, the Iranian Clergy were not particularly sanguine
about all of these events, as they had heard all of these promises before.
The Shah Takes A Hit
Muslim fundamentalism taking hold () in the region, the Shah found himself the
odd-man-out when military action occurred in 1978 and 1979. He was forcibly dislodged
from the throne, had to flee his country, was finally allowed into the United
States for the treatment of a serious illness and eventually died. During this
period, the highly religious and conservative Ayatollah Khomeni was summoned from
Paris to Iran to set up shop. He brought with him a brand of Muslim fundamentalism
that seriously impeded the rights of most of his citizens. The most effected group
were the women, who soon became chattels of the state.
better understand why these religious folks were so annoyed, one has to go back
to 1906, when the then-reigning Shah agreed to form a committee that included
the clerics to draw up a constitution for the country. It formulated a constitution
similar to the one created in Belgian in 1831 that called for the creation of
a parliament. The new constitution contained a few clauses that its Belgian predecessor
had missed. For example, it named Islam as the state religion, it created a committee
of clerics to check all legislation to make certain it conformed to all Islamic
requirements, it didnt allow negative inferences to Islam to be published
or vocalized and, finally, it allowed the clerics to control a court for religious
disputes and a civil court for public sector matters. There were various debates
over the years as to whether or not any form of government that was not directly
coming from God through his messengers on earth could ever be legitimate.
constitution soon became the law of the land shortly thereafter, and throughout
the ensuing years, the rulers of Iran assiduously avoided paying any attention
to it whatsoever. "Under the reign of the Pahlavi family, the ulema (clerics)
were silenced, the promised ecclesiastical committees never met, popular participation
was non-existent and the parliament was made subservient to the Shah. The intelligentsia
and the ulema, moderates and conservatives alike, had failed in their attempt
to reform the political system. These groups would have to wait until 1979 for
their next chance."
New Order In Iran
the elimination of the Shah, the Bakhtiar Government came to power. As Prime Minister,
Bakhtiar accomplished a bunch of really intelligent things very quickly, like
canceling $7 billion in United States arms that were already on order and that
would be vitally needed in their war with Iraq. He lifted martial law, set free
political prisoners and announced the holding of free election. Khomeini, still
in Paris at the time, did not like a word of what he heard. "Bah Humbug,"
he was said to have muttered when informed of Bakhtiars actions. Khomeini
had Bakhtiar thrown out of his own political party, the National Front, and expelled
him from the movement. He then declared Bakhtiars government illegal. The
conflict between the two men brought about massive strikes, which brought the
barely functioning economy to a standstill.
Khomeini called for a demonstration against Bakhtiar, nearly everyone in the country
turned out and screamed for his head. Bakhtiar advised Khomeini, who had not as
yet left Paris, to remain there until the two had resolved their differences,
but the impetuous Ayatollah would have none of it. He immediately boarded a plane
for Teheran, only to find on his arrival that Bakhtiar had closed the airport
to all traffic. Luckily for the Ayatollah, his airplane was not yet out of gas,
so he was able to return to Paris, he landed back in France only on fumes and
was enraged. Khomeini arranged for more and more of the countrys power to
flow into the hands of the people, and Bakhtiar soon found himself the head of
a country where the other guy had control of the army. Ultimately, the people
were given weapons and the army told Bakhtiar that they now had another agenda.
In due course, the Bakhtiar government collapsed and Khomeini came home in February
of 1979 to a massive celebration.
religious revolutionaries turned the government over to citizens who were ill
equipped to govern:
Bazargan became the first prime minister of the revolutionary regime in February
1979. Bazargan, however, headed a
government that controlled neither the country, nor even its own bureaucratic
apparatus. Central authority had broken down. Hundreds of semi-independent revolutionary
committees, not answerable to central authority, were performing a variety of
functions in major cities and towns across the country. Factory workers, civil
servants, white-collar employees and students were often in control, demanding
a say in running their organizations and choosing their chiefs. Governors, military
commanders and other officials appointed by the prime minister were frequently
rejected by the lower ranks or local inhabitants. A range of political groups,
from the far left to the far right, from secular to ultra-Islamic, were vying
for political power, pushing rival agendas and demanding immediate action from
the prime minister. Clerics led by Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti established the
Islamic Republican Party. The party emerged as the organ of the clerics around
Khomeini and the major political organization in the country. Not to be outdone,
followers of more moderate senior cleric Shariatmadari established the Islamic
Peoples Republic Party in 1979 with a base in Azerbaijan, Shariatmadaris
multiple centers of authority merged within the government. As the supreme leader,
Khomeini did not consider himself bound by the government. He made policy pronouncements,
named personal representatives to key government organizations, established new
institutions and announced decisions without consulting his prime minister. The
prime minister found he had to share power with the Revolutionary council, which
Khomeini had established in January of 1979 and which initially was composed of
clerics close to Khomeini, secular political leaders identified with Bazargan
and two representatives of the armed forces. With the establishment of the provisional
government, Bazargan and his colleagues left the council to form the cabinet.
They were replaced by Khomeini aides from the Paris period, such as Abolhassan
Bani Sadr and Sadeq Qotbzadeh, and by protégés of Khomeinis clerical associates.
The cabinet was to serve as the executive authority. But the Revolutionary Council
was to wield supreme decision-making and legislative authority."
Permanently Out To Lunch
was fairly clear that Bazargan was not in charge of anything and that a bunch
of children were running the store. Moreover, during the later stages of Bazargans
presidency, a war was going on that could have seen either of the two combatants
swallowed up by the other. He was concerned about the peoples freedoms being
taken away, and he was worried that Iraq and Iran were just letting blood in a
war where no one would ever be the victor. Along with most of ministers, he proposed
that the United Nations come up with a binding settlement among the combatants.
For his peace efforts, Bazargan had his offices broken into by the Hezbollahis,
who shut down the partys newspaper and made the remainder of Bazargans
term in office totally untenable. Finally, because of his acting like a traitor
in trying to make peace with Iraq, he was not allowed to run for president after his term expired.
other things that had occurred during Bazargans short reign was the total
breakdown of the Iranian Judicial system:
activities of the revolutionary courts became a focus of intense controversy.
On the one hand, left-wing political groups and populist clerics pressed hard
for "revolutionary justice" for miscreants of the former regime. On
the other hand, lawyers and human rights groups protested the arbitrary
nature of the revolutionary courts, the vagueness of charges and the absence of
defense lawyers. Bazargan, too, was critical of the courts activities. At
the prime ministers insistence, the revolutionary courts suspended their
activities on March 14, 1979. On April 5, new regulations governing the courts
were promulgated. The courts were to be established at the discretion of the Revolutionary
Council and with Khomeinis permission. They were authorized to try a variety
of broadly defined crimes, such as "sowing corruption on earth," "crimes
against the people," and "crimes against the Revolution." The courts
resumed their work on April 6. On the following day, despite international pleas
for clemency, Hoveyda, the Shahs Prime Minister for twelve years, was put
to death. Attempts by Bazargan to have the revolutionary courts placed under the
judiciary and to secure protection for potential victims through amnesties issued
by Khomeini also failed.
in August 1979, the courts tried and passed death sentences on members of ethnic
minorities involved in antigovernment movements. Some 550 persons had been executed
by the time Bazargan resigned in November of 1979. Bazargan had also attempted,
but failed to bring the revolutionary committees under his control. The committees,
whose members were armed, performed a variety of duties. They policed neighborhoods
in urban areas, guarded prisons and government buildings, made arrests and served
as the execution squads of the revolutionary tribunals. The committees often served
the interests of powerful individual clerics, revolutionary personalities and
political groups, however. They made unauthorized arrests, intervened in labor-management
disputes and seized property. Despite these abuses, members of the Revolutionary
Council wanted to bring the committees under their own control, rather than eliminate
them. With this in mind, in February 1979 they appointed Ayatollah Mohammad Reza
Mahdavi-Kani to be the head of the Tehran revolutionary committee and charged
him with supervising the committees countrywide. Mahdavi-Kani dissolved many committees,
consolidated others and sent thousands of committeemen home. But the committees,
like the revolutionary courts, endured, serving as one of the coercive arms of
the revolutionary government."
Sadr became President of Iran, and he brought with him to office a dream of consolidating
government control centrally. Part of his vision was to gradually phase out the
revolutionary courts and committees, legitimatize them and reformulate them in
a more mature version into an officially recognized part of the government. Simultaneously,
he sought to reduce the power of the clerics and transform the government into
a more nonsectarian structure. He also envisioned empowering the economy with
oil revenues, if he could just stop the fighting with Iraq. Obviously, this was
not the same agenda shared by Khomeini, and the cleric knew that Bani Sadr as
President was not something that was going to last very long. At Sadrs swearing-in
ceremony, Khomeini even gave him a vote of confidence by making him head of the
army, although we may suspect the Ayatollah had his finger crossed when he did
Bani Sadr, Much Talk, Little Action
the book was finally closed on Bani Sadr, he had not accomplished any of his aims,
since, "he failed to secure the dissolution of the Pasdaran and the revolutionary
courts and committees. He also failed to establish control over the judiciary
or the radio and television networks. Khomeini himself appointed IRP member Ayatollah
Mohammad Beheshti as Chief Justice and IRP member Ayatollah Abdol-Karim Musavi-Ardabili
as Prosecutor General. Bani Sadrs appointees to head the state broadcasting
service and the Pasdaran were forced to resign within weeks of their appointments."
was during Bani Sadrs short term of office that executions, which were previously
very rare in Iran, became commonplace. In the meantime, in McCarthy like style,
the ultra-Ayatollah determined that "royalists" were still holding big
jobs in the Iranian Government. This drove the people into a frenzy that swept
some 4,000 civil servants out office. In addition, another 4,000 military officers
were forcibly retired along side the 8,000 that had previously been purged. This
was the exact reason Iran found itself so defenseless when Iraq waged war against
them. It was a similar situation that was to be found in Russia just before Hitler
turned on his former partner, Stalin, who had believed that his agreement with
Hitler was cast in stone. Stalin had a good part of his senior military command
executed in purges in the late 1930s, most probably due to Stalins paranoia.
When Hitler declared war on Russia, the German Army was a hot knife cutting butter
until it arrived at the gates of Leningrad, Moscow and Stalingrad, where they
stalled in the frigid Russian winter. Russia was able to revitalize itself that
winter, and supplies pouring in from the West didnt hurt.
Overrun By The Revolutionary Guards
1979, the American Embassy in Tehran was seized by Iranian militants. The reason
for their particular rancor with the United States two-fold: first, it was the
Americans that had brought westernization to Iran and who had helped to destroy
their Fundamentalist Religious concepts; and second, it was also the Americans
that had prolonged the then unpopular Shahs regime by backing him with military
equipment and other resources. Because of this, when the Shah was overthrown,
the rioting crowds next attacked the American Embassy. This was a particularly
startling event, because it played itself out on television sets all over the
world. The imperialist American Flag was publicly being burned on camera, and
there wasnt a thing the strongest nation on earth could do about it. The
Iranians had their day in front of the world.
proceeded to make the Americans they captured in the embassy their hostages and
began working in teams around the clock to decipher massive numbers of top-secret
documents that were in the process of being shredded when the embassy fell. The
ever-passive Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini stirred the pot by crying "Death
to America." A standoff developed which the United States, under the weak
and internationally inexperienced government of President Jimmy Carter, was not
capable of addressing. Carter, a farmer from Georgia, was in the middle of a runaway inflation in the United
States that had caused the Federal Reserve to increase
interest rates to a level so high that the
banks and the savings and loan associations started to fail by the hundreds, driving
the country in a recession.
Americans in Bondage
sixty-five hostages seized by the Iranians cooled their heels under less than
ideal conditions for 444 days. The Carter administration had done nothing about
bringing them home after one aborted rescue attempt, and the only change in the
situation came of the eve of Ronald Reagans ascendancy to the White House.
Whether a deal was made with the Iranians by Reagan or that the Iranians were
aware of what would happen to them under a Reagan administration, the hostages
were eventually coughed up.
relations severed at that time have never been renewed, and the countries have
co-existed almost in a state of unarmed warfare ever since, with the United States
carefully monitoring whatever goes in and out of the country. This monitoring
was formalized by President Clinton on May 6, 1995, when he signed Executive Order
12959, which prohibits exporting goods or services to Iran, re-exporting certain
goods to Iran, making new investments in Iran and dealing in property owned or
controlled by the government of Iran. The importation of Iranian-origin goods
or services into the United States has been prohibited since October 19, 1987.
A Slight Difference of Opinion
one had given Bani Sadr much of a gift when he got the job, as the Kurds were
rebelling and the American hostages taken when the revolutionaries stormed the
U.S. Embassy were becoming a political nightmare. For every constructive move
that Sadr attempted to put into place, Khomeini negated out of hand. He worked
out a sweetheart deal with the Kurds, and Khomeini called him a traitor. He worked
out a deal with the United Nations on the hostages, and Khomeini nixed it, in
spite of the fact that the United States had expropriated a very large amount
of Iranian assets held in the United States.
this period, American President Carter arranged a clandestine raid on Iran to
free the hostages, but this became a military disaster, a political fiasco and
an endless embarrassment to the entire American Government. Students in Iran asserted
that the countrys military, operating under the command of Sadr, had given
the Americans assistance, since without such assistance, the Americans never
could have penetrated Iranian airspace undetected. Not only was America embarrassed
in front of the entire world, but Sadr almost lost his command of the military,
so convoluted was the nature of dissent in Iran during that period. In any even,
140 Iranian officers were summarily executed because of Americas abortive
rescue attempt. This gives us some idea of what would have happened had the United
States been successful.
everyone was become wary of this endless hostage affair, and with the aid of West
Germany, negotiations were started between Iran and the United States to solve
the problem. On January 20, 1981, the day Ronald Regan was sworn in as President
of the United States, a deal was cut that called for the United States to release
somewhere between $11 and $12 billion that they were holding of Irans much
needed hard dollar reserves. On the other hand, Iran owed the United States $5 billion in syndicated
and non-syndicated loans which was deducted from the amount being released, a
billion was left in escrow and the deal was sealed, with the Algerians acting
as intermediaries. This last matter was adjudicated by the International Court
in The Hague, finalizing the entire matter.
A Tug Of War
the meantime, Bani Sadr kept trying to wrest enough power from the Iranian clerics
to run a government. In the opinion of the Ayatollah Khomeini, this seemed a bit
pushy. Khomeini had enough of President Bani Sadr, denouncing him on May 27, 1981,
during the hottest part of the war with Iraq. This created a revolution within
a war, and afraid of assassination, Bani Sadr went into hiding. He made an excellent
choice, as the vote for impeachment was 177 to 1 against him.
1975, under the Algiers Treaty, negotiated by the then Vice President of Iraq,
Saddam Hussein, and the Shah of Iran, called for Iraq to move back their borders
with Iran in exchange for Iran withdrawing support of the Kurdish rebels, a fiercely
independent minority in Iraq that was playing havoc with Iraqs infrastructure.
Both sides further agreed that they would not meddle in each others internal
affairs. As Khomeini was anxious to undo anything that the Shah had accomplished,
he proceeded to abrogate the Algiers Treaty. The Ayatollah sent teams of Iranian
revolutionaries across the Iraqi border to stir up trouble with the both the Shiites
of southern Iraq and the Kurds of northern Iraq.
ardor for revenge was also shared by Iraqs, Hussein, who by now was Iraqs
President. Because Iranian imports had been severely restricted over the years,
he thought that Iran would make easy pickings and sent his minions into Khuzistan
to agitate the Sunni Muslim population (Irans biggest minority group) with
stories of Iranian torture, rape and murder of their co-religionists. Hussein
now had all the reasons he needed to cancel the abrogated treaty, which he did
on September 22, 1980 by way of a formal declaration.
with that announcement, the ebullient General Hussein followed it up with an armored
attack across the Shatt al-Arab boundary separating the two countries in the south.
It is also very likely that his attack was motivated by two other reasons, the
first being that Iran had been in a state of chaos since the revolution, and the
second being that Hussein believed the Iranian Army was not anywhere near a match
for his finely honed military machine.
important was Husseins love of "black gold," which has gotten
him into a lot of trouble over the years even though Iraq is richly blessed with
the stuff. In any event, the Kuzistan Province of Iran contained an overabundance
of that material, as well, and Hussein was known to become very excitable when
the opportunity to annex additional oil-rich territory presented itself.
Kuzistan had been part of Iraqs territory some time back in history so that
there were any number of logical reasons the President could be given to the public
relations people for starting the war. Lets see now, most of the people
in the territory were originally Iraqis anyhow, they had not been particularly
happy under Iranian rule and now that the clerics were enforcing their Shiite
orthodox form of the Muslim religion down their throats they were especially annoyed.
In addition, Hussein felt that the groundwork had been well laid by this time
with the Khuzistan Arabs and the Sunni Muslims to rebel against Iranian rule.
Husseins war strategies were often flawed and this instance did not break
the mold. Both groups chose to sit out the conflict rather than challenge Khomeinis
revolutionary vision (i.e., revolutionary troops).
A Man of the Cloth With A Really Long Memory
important was Khomeinis pronounced ability to hold a grudge, for one might
recall the agreement that Hussein entered into with the Shah, the Algiers Treaty,
contained a clause way at the bottom in fine print that said that Iraq would agree
to ship Khomeini, lock, stock and barrel to France which turned out to be a critical
part of the agreement (Khomeini was known to be a rebel rouser even in those days).
personas of the two despots played a huge part in this mammoth battle of super-egos.
One only had to walk down the center of any town in either country and just count
the number of portraits of their fearless leaders to know what we mean. Both countries
had the same joke, that there were more pictures of their leaders than there were
people living in the countries. The two leaders made the war a personal vendetta
and flung words at each other with the same velocity as their soldiers fired bullets:
attests to the two leaders megalomania. At various times, mutual character
assassination has also figured prominently into the fighting rhetoric on both
sides. The Ayatollah from the outset of the war has branded Hussein and atheist
and a war criminal, while Hussein denounced the Ayatollahs Persian
expansionist ambitions before the Iraqi parliament and cited the Ayatollahs
lack of good neighborly behavior as a reason for Iraqs canceling
of the Algiers Treaty. As argued cogently by one Iranian expatriate now teaching
political science in the United States, religious and nationalist sentiments
are not primary motivating forces behind the conflict; instead, they are used
by both leaders to stir up the passion and hatred needed to keep the war effort
alive. Interestingly enough, both Iran and Iraq tend to attribute the root
causes of the conflict to collusion between the United States and Israel, calling
the war a Zionist plot carried out by agents of international Zionism. This could
certainly be seen as a tool used by the two leaders in their own personal vendetta."
More Than A War of Words
Iranians were far more powerfully armed than the Iraqis, having an overabundance
of material left over as a gift from America to the Shah. On the other hand, the
Iranian officers corps had been purged when the religious right took charge,
because they were concerned about the armys loyalty. Therefore, while Iran
had a tremendous advantage in material, they lacked the ability to utilize it
proficiently enough to win the war, somewhat akin to the situation in Russia during 1942. They augmented their leadership vacuum by conscripting tens
of thousands of young boys, instilling within them an oversized dose of religious
fervor, and these kids never once lost faith. However, as the war progressed,
most of them became cannon fodder and lost their lives.
on one side we had the well-oiled, but under-strength, army of Iraq fighting against
a much larger country with far greater resources that had retrained their armys
to fight in similar fashion to the British Light Brigade in the Crimean War. Waves
upon waves of screaming children were sent by the clergy to attack impregnable
positions held by Iraq. While loses on the Iranian side far exceeded Iraqs,
it just didnt matter; Iran could always call up a few more young religious
fanatics whenever the need seemed to arise.
faced with a war that was not going anywhere and had to find another strategy.
Hussein was more than certain that if Iran had broken through his lines, the Iraqi
leader would probably spend the rest of his waking moments stretched across a
rack, or in lieu of that, something worse. Hussein turned to the only alternative
he had available under the circumstances, poison gas. This use of chemical weapons
was crucial in 1982 when the Iranian soldiers broke through the Iraqi lines and
headed toward Baghdad.
Is There Anything the Man Won't Do?
used the mustard and nerve varieties whenever the need arouse, and for that reason
Iraq was able to hang tough and eventually create an uneasy peace between the
two countries. Adding to the stalemate was the fact that Hussein, not having Irans
resources in either material or personnel, tried to fight a limited war similar
to what the United States originally attempted to do in both Korea and Vietnam.
Khomeini one the other hand believed that Allah himself had given him the divine
right to have Husseins head on a plate and pursued the conflict with unbelievable
vigor, only adding to Irans massive losses in personnel.
problem affecting the Iraqi military was the centralized command Hussein imposed
on his troops. He wanted to run the war his own way and be damned with what the
generals thought. This caused him to underutilize his air force against
military targets, much as the Germans did at Dunkirk or during the second phase
of the Battle of Britain. At Dunkirk, the British troops were saved by some strategic
mistakes at German High Command, and in the Battle of Britain, Hitler shifted
the German Air Force from its mission of destroying strategic targets (mainly
the RAF) to retaliating for the raid on Berlin by bombing the hell out of every
city in England (instead of lowering British morale, their resolve just increased).
Hussein never quite got the message that an air force cant be run from downtown,
and as a result, the Iraqi Air Force was not very effective during the entire
both countries had oil-producing areas far out of the range of the others
ability to strike them, much time was wasted by each side destroying the others
non-strategic oil installations, which only helped to inundate both parties
infrastructure. This became more a game of tit-for-tat, rather logical militarily
strategic decision making, and like angry children, Iraq and Iran lashed out at
each other, not knowing who, what or where to strike. Finally, a totally frustrated
Hussein tried to inflict as much damage on their opponent as possible started
bombing helpless Iranian cities.
Buzz Like A Bee
to be outdone, the Iranians who had recently been gifted a large number of Scuds
by the Soviet Union, started allocation in the general direction of the Iraqi
cities. (In reality both countries were clients of Russia). Interesting enough,
both countries were originally equipped with western weapons, but Iran had been
totally dependent upon them. Now both were clients of the Soviet Union. When Iran
tried to replace their armaments through western purchases, they were rebuffed
because of their horrific relationship with the United States. Eventually, the
war ended after cities were destroyed and multitudes of Iranian children were
made into cannon fodder. The war rapidly degraded into a battle of attrition with
neither side able to take command. Eventually, neither fighter had anything left
and an agreement was entered into by the antagonists to end the fighting.
settled into managing their own country and enforcing their religious beliefs
on their own citizens. The Iranian religion taught the people that women were
physically, intellectually and morally inferior to men. Women were forced to conform
to hejab, or a doctrinal dress code. Their bodies had to be completely covered
so that they would not cause men to lust after them. They had to ware a chador,
a long loose coat and trousers, and all parts of their bodies, including their
hair, had to be covered. The rules stated that only the hands and face can be
exposed to anyone outside of the home, and if the rules were violated, the offender
would be given 74 lashes.
Clerics Get The Upper Hand
if this was not bad enough, as time went on, the rules became even more strict.
In rapid succession, womens faces were banned from advertising, women were
banned from smiling in the street, and on October 18, 1995, Israeli Radio reported
that women were now prohibited from wearing bracelets, eyeglasses and watches
in public. Women could not longer enter law school, and all female judges were
dismissed. Almost every year since the Iranian Revolution, the number of women
in school has declined, and today they make up less than 9% of the work force.
Believe it or not, the clerics lowered the legal age for marriage to puberty,
which they legally defined as nine full lunar years, or eight years and nine months.
They did lighten up a bit by allowing the girls guardian to approve a marriage
contract for earlier age without her consent. Because marriages can be contracted
to cover short periods of time, prostitution has become rampant within the country.
penal code of the fundamentalist regime specifies stoning as the punishment for
women found guilty of adultery or "illicit relations." Virgin girls
who are sentenced to death are routinely raped by agents of the regime to prevent
their souls from going to heaven." In spite of the serious nature in which
prostitution is viewed under Iranian Law, its growth has become viral. There are
numerous reasons for this expansion; among which are the rampant increase in drug
use, the strange practice in Iran of what is called "temporary marriages,"
which sometimes last for a fraction of a minute, the lack of education or employment
opportunities for women, their lack of standing in divorce and the need for other
sources of income to augment low wages. In Tehran alone, it has been estimated
that there are no less than 300,000 prostitutes. Many woman in Iran have given
to assuming disguises as men to break this cycle.
increase of both drugs (sharing of needles) and prostitution in Iran has also
created an extremely fertile environment for the spread of AIDS. "The
newspaper Entekhab recently reported that two sisters, ages 16 and 17 had infected
1,100 people with HIV. Moreover, because of the now rampant spread of HIV attributed
to prostitutes, some people have taken the matter into their own hands. In the
City of Mashed, home to a major Shiite Muslim shrine, a construction worker by
the name of Saeed Hanai, was convicted and executed for having sex with and then
killing 16 prostitutes with the excuse that the murders were his religious obligation.
He was able to gain the confidence of the women by telling them that he was a
member of the "morality police" working for the "office for promotion
of virtue and prevention of vice". In putting his crime into perspective,
Mr. Hanai stated that the women he killed were "as worthless as cockroaches
to me. Toward the end, I could not sleep at night if I had not killed one of them
that day, as though I had become addicted to killing them."
a conference in Paris on March 9, 1996, Maryam Rajavi, the woman who was then
the President-Elect of the Iranian Resistance stated that: "fundamentalism
is political, social and economic ideology based on misogyny. Fundamentalists
claim womens nature is sinister and satanic and woman is the embodiment
of sin and seduction, and therefore women must be controlled for the sake of society."
None other than Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called beauty salons "dens of
corruption" in an attempt to ban them from the state.
A Sad State of Affairs
United States Department of State issued a Consular Information Sheet which give
a reasonably objective report on the state of affairs in Iran relative to women:
"Family issues: Children of Iranian citizens, under the age of 18, must have
the fathers permission to depart Iran, even if the mother has been granted
full custody by an Iranian court. Even the non-Iranian wife of an Iranian citizen
(who obtains Iranian nationality through marriage and must convert to Islam) requires
the consent of her husband to leave Iran. In case of marital problems, women in
Iran are often subject to strict family controls. Because of Islamic law, compounded
by the lack of diplomatic relationships between the United States and Iran, the
U.S. Interests Section in Tehran can provide very limited assistance if an American
woman encounters difficulty in leaving Iran."
American relationship with Iran has been strange to say the least. One of the weirdest episodes in the
history of these two countries, was the so-called "Iran-Contra Affair."
Ronald Reagan determined that it was important to give assistance to the Contras,
who were in the midst of a civil war against the ruling Sandinista government
of Nicaragua, themselves recent victors in a civil war that overthrew the local
dictator. Ronald Reagan, a Republican, was more than a trifle upset when the Congress,
controlled by the Democrats, enacted the Boland Amendments, which prohibited the
Defense Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, or any other government agency
from providing military aid to the Contras from December 1983 to September 1985.
This would seem to prevent the Reagan administration from fulfilling their promise
of support to the Contras.
setting was most unusual, as American hostages were being held in Lebanon and
negotiations of a sort were being carried on, rather unofficially, between ad
hoc delegations from both countries, when several highly placed government
officials came up the naïve idea that they could kill two birds with one stone.
First, they could circumventing the Boland Amendments by having the National Security
Council supply arms to Iran, which in turn would trans-ship some of those arms
to the Contras. This would accomplish a legal way around the Congressional prohibition,
due to the fact that the National Security Council was not named in the Boland
Amendments and it would strengthen the hand of the moderates in Iran who were
offering to help with the hostage situation in Lebanon. Even though public funds
were used to buy the weapons, the United States Government could say that they
were not directly involved in supplying arms to the Contras.
Worse Than A Leaky Faucet
newspapers somehow got wind of the negotiations and proceeded to leak the details
of the deal, and then all hell broke loose. An investigation was called for by
Congress, and Lawrence E. Walsh was named as Independent Counsel to examine who
did what to whom in the affair. The investigation showed that Robert McFarlane
and his successor at the National Security Council, John Poindexter, had raised
private and foreign funds for the Contras. It was shown that Marine Lt. Colonel
Oliver North directed the operation, and testimony also implicated William J.
Casey, the then Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Independent Counsels
report also indicated that both President Reagan and Vice President Bush had to
be aware of what was going on.
were a number of high-level convictions as a result of the investigation, with
McFarlane, North, Poindexter and Casper Weinberger (Secretary of Defense under
Reagan) all eventually receiving pardons under various provisions of the law.
These covert actions embarrassed everyone involved, including the Iran moderates
who were shown to be dealing with hated Americans. The aid pipeline to the Contras
was temporarily shut down, and investigations were started regarding oversight
of the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Enlightening The World
Iran thought that they had gotten developed a blueprint for the perfect society
and soon embarked on a hyper-kinetic program to export their brand of extremism
throughout the world. What was good enough for them would be good enough for everyone
else they contented. This required a tightening up of security at home another
notch causing severe consternation among the Iranian intelligentsia. Citizens
were threatened with death if they authored books that showed the Iranian government
in a negative way and the Clerics would be the final judge and jury to determine
what that meant. In addition, foreign guerillas who were being instructed on subversion,
bombing and commando tactics in camps within Iran as part of the Clerics highly
publicized international re-education program were given a free ticket home and
told to destabilize and overthrow their national governments while proselytize
the people. Iran, had indeed come up with the ultimate plan.
the process though, they did not make a lot of friends. The street where the Egyptian
Embassy is located was renamed, Khalid al-Islambouli Street as a tribute to one
of the terrorists that was involved in the assassination of Egypt's President,
Anwar Sadat in 1981. Some people indicated that it was a lack of the social graces
that was responsible for this gaff while others indicated that it was clearly
another Khalid al-Islambouli who the clerics were honoring when they choose the
name. However, no one has ever been able to identify another person with the name
Khalid al-Islambouli so this theory seems unable to get off the ground. whatever,
the truth, Egypt's relations with Iran have gone from inconceivably bad to even
worse under the circumstances.
a Lot of Friends
United States embargoed any shipments of useful weapons being sent to Iran. Of
all of the weapons of destruction that Iran could make use of, obviously the atomic
bomb was the most significant. Naturally, Iran made every effort to manufacture
the bomb. Their first choice of partners was China, and a secret deal was concluded
between the two governments which called for China to send Iran hundreds of tons
of the material used in enriching uranium to weapons-grade quality. In turn, Iran
would ship China all of the oil it needed to keep their industries functioning.
Clinton Administration found out about what was going on between the two conspirators,
and a secret deal was entered into between the U.S. and Chinese Government. Under
this deal, the United States would assist China in gaining admission into the
World Trade Organization, something that China desired far more than the pittance
it could get from Iran for upgrading its uranium enrichment facilities. handoff
course, if U.S. Intelligence Agencies had not discovered the covert transaction
between China and Iran, China would probably have gotten both, and Iran would
have gained the ability to produce atomic bombs that would have raised havoc in
An Agreement With China
United States later entered a formal agreement with China in which they agreed
not to export weapons of terror to anyone that asked. The U.S.-China Nuclear Energy
Agreement required Chinas statement that it, "is not assisting and
will not assist any non-nuclear-weapon state, either directly or indirectly, in
acquiring nuclear explosive devices or the material and components for such devices."
China was between a rock and a hard place in these negotiations, since they
were really not interested in seeing Iran
have the bomb that could turn around and bite them. Likewise, China was rapidly
industrializing and was short of oil. The supply routes linking the two countries
allowed oil shipments to be carried out without any major logistical problems.
this was not the major issue between the countries. China, like Russia, was ethnically
diverse in some of its more distant provinces. For example, the State of Xinjiang
on Chinas northwest frontier was a highly restive Muslim region. China was
willing to pay blackmail to Iran in an effort to stop them from exporting their
fundamentalist beliefs into China. Because of these inherent problems and in spite
of the agreement with the United States, China went through contortions to hide
weeks of analysis and internal debate, the Clinton Administration decided to confront
the Chinese government about the transaction. In the first week of February, National
Security Adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger sent a formal letter, known
as a demarche, to Liu Huaqiu, the Chinese Foreign Ministrys representative
on the ruling State Council and effectively Bergers counterpart. To drive
home the message, the State Department and National Security Councils top
counter-proliferation officials, Robert Einhorn and Gary Samore, summoned acting
Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong for a meeting.
noted that the China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation, which was negotiating
with Iran, is the state-run nuclear power company. Initially, Chinese authorities
replied that anhydrous hydrogen fluoride (AHF) appears on neither of two lists
of controlled nuclear substances maintained by international arms control authorities,
though it is restricted by many industrial countries because it is a chemical
weapons precursor to the nerve agent Sarin. But within two weeks, according to
senior administration officials, high-ranking Chinese officials in Beijing assured
Washington that the chemical sale would not proceed." ()
interesting quotes flew back and forth within the American Government describing
the true intentions of the Chinese: "The Chinese cannot be held to their
word on what was the most disturbing facility we wanted terminated. The administration
now says we talked with them and they stopped it. They should never have had to,
the Chinese knew damn well how sensitive this is." Because the United States
held a carrot up to China that they couldnt resist, membership in the World
Trade organization, it appears that this transaction has seen its conclusion,
but not before a lot of nervous moments.
Anything Is For Sale At A Price
this is of little matter for the Iranians, having had that door closed tightly,
they subsequently approached the Russians and some of their satellites regarding
the same material. Russia is an entirely different kettle of fish. The Russian nuclear agencies
are riddled by profiteering, and even if they werent, the chemicals are
easy to acquire from other former members of the USSR.
The amount of money that can be placed on the table to conclude a transaction
of this size is so substantial that we believe the Iranians will be able to acquire
their bomb from somewhere, and then, God help us all.
the other hand, there is a potentially bright side to this whole story. Iran has
several equally unfriendly neighbors, such as Iraq, Israel and Afghanistan. It
is not illogical to assume that as the Iranian nuclear threat becomes increasingly
more serious, either Iraq or Israel will be forced to take out the facility. It
was not that long ago that Israel destroyed suspicious industrial plants inside
Iraq when it appeared these facilities were getting just a tad to close to being
able to make the big bomb.
situation in Afghanistan is a different matter entirely. Afghanistan is also an
exporter of Muslim extremism, but Afghanistan has gone one better with the assistance
of both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in cultivating the export of terrorism. They
have set up massive guerilla bases within the country and are operating commando
units throughout the world. Even Iran and Afghanistan to some degree share a commonality
of interest through their religious beliefs, the people controlling Afghanistan,
the Taliban, have been show to be far more aggressive in their exports of terror.
They have even attacked Iran, sent drugs cascading through Irans porous
borders and have killed a substantial number of Iranian clerics who were involved
in a recent pilgrimage into Afghanistan.
they cultivated over a million drug addicts among the Iranian population. Iran
answered these aggressive moves and sent over 100,000 heavily armed soldiers to
their border with Afghanistan in what was an unmistakable message. As this was
going on, the United States and Russia quietly
wrestled with the serious problem of terrorist violence emanating from Afghanistan.
It has even been rumored that they may have determined that the best way to end
the Afghanistan problem is to take joint military action against that country.
Wouldnt it be interesting if the U.S. joined together to attack a former
United States client, Afghanistan, in tandem with Russia, the former "Evil
Empire," and Iran, the exporter of Muslim Fundamentalism and a country with
which the United States has no diplomatic relations. Anything is possible in this
world, where todays allies are tomorrow's enemies, and vice versa.
some commonality of interest between the United States and Iran is gradually reviving,
to the degree that we have started some minor cultural exchanges, our Department
of State is not sanguine over the way the relationship is going:
Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer travel to Iran. Iranian President
Khatami has called for a "dialogue of civilizations" and an increase
of private exchanges between Iranians and Americans; some limited exchanges have
taken place. However, he has been know to speak out of the other side of his mouth.
On February 11, 2002 he stated, The American people should ask today how much
of the awful and terrifying incidents of September 11, were due to terrorist acts,
and how much of it was due to the foreign policy adopted by American officials.
The threat to Iran originates from the fact that America, or at least some of
its officials, see themselves as masters of the world. since they have power,
they want to force the world to obey them and exert pressure on countries that
disobey. Your revolution (Iran's) threatened America's illegitimate interests
in the region so it is obvious that you are the target of its animosity."
There is, however, evidence that hostility to the United States remains in some
segments of the Iranian population and some elements of the Iranian government.
In July 1999, violent anti-government demonstrations took place in Tehran and
other cities around the country. There were accusations that the U.S. was behind
these demonstrations. Prior to and since that time, some groups of American travelers
have encountered harassment by vigilante groups.
Khatami can call for all of the dialogues he wants, he has about as much power
in Iran as a frog does in a bass pond. If ever there was a straw-person this guy
is it. The Clerics nominated this dope for President and give him the job of spouting
off meaningless hot-air designed to keep the population from having their heads.
So far this concept has worked magnificently with some people actually believing
that the Iranian President has some power. "Strictly legally speaking, Khatami
does not even have the right to invite a foreign head of state to Iran. Under
the 1979 Constitution and its amendments, the president is not the head of state,
He is the head of the executive, a kind of prime minister whose title is "president".
Legally speaking, the head of state in the Islamic Republic of Iran is Ali Khamenehi,
the mullah who bears the title of "Supreme Guide." In that position
he is the head of all three branches of government and commander-in-chief. He
has the power to dismiss the president, dissolve the parliament and even suspend
the rules of Islam if he so pleases." (Amir Taheri, New York Post, December
The George W. Bush in an effort to
put Khatami's vacillations into perspective stated that his government is "too
weak, ineffective and not serious about delivering on their promises, that the
Iranian Government has continued to enforce "uncompromising, destructive
policies" to make any serious changes in Iranian society. George, why are
you always pulling your punches and not telling us what you really think?
Egypt and the United States are not the only countries to be verbally assaulted
by the Iranian Clerics. The British Embassy opens on to a street in Tehran that
has been renamed honoring one of the most prolific of the IRA murderers in Irish
history. While the British cringed the Clerics thought that they had really come
upon a capital ideal and this concept was expanded when numerous streets in Tehran
were quickly renamed after the crazed terrorists who killed numerous French men
and women in Paris.
position of the United States Government is clear. "The U.S. Government
does not currently have diplomatic or consular relations with the Islamic Republic
of Iran and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to
American citizens in Iran. The Swiss government acting through its embassy in
Tehran, serves as protecting power for U.S. interests in Iran. The Iranian government
does not recognize dual citizenship and generally does not permit the Swiss to
provide protective services for American citizens who are also Iranian nationals.
In addition, U.S. citizens of Iranian origin who are considered by Iran to be
Iranian citizens have been detained and harassed by Iranian authorities. Former
Muslims who have converted to other religions, as well as persons who encourage
Muslims to convert, are subject to arrest and possible execution. The Iranian
government reportedly has the names of all individuals who filed claims against
Iran, and who received awards, at the Iran-U.S. claims tribunal at The Hague pursuant
to the 1981 Algerian Accords
On The Receiving End
it is sad that Irans relationships with the rest of the world has sunk so
low, with new leadership, pressure from the middle class, more liberal thinking
and some commonality of interests, things may be rebounding. In addition, Iran
is now on the receiving end of several nasty Afghanistan exports, and they may
be getting the message that it would not be a bad idea to have some friends. However,
that has not stopped them from the continual burning of the American flag in their
capital and at rallies, both flags and matches are supplied to attendees as a
message to "the big Satan." Intellectuals are continually prosecuted,
liberal newspapers closed and minority religious groups jailed on trumped up charges.
In addition, the students have begun to show resentment against the continuing
strong-armed tactics of the governing religious zealots. Demonstrations are held,
but the result is constant, the organizers are jailed or killed and the protest
rallies are summarily broken up by heavily armed police. The situation in Iran
today has not changed much of the last two decades:
"Iran has made two demands of the Great Satan: (1)
give back our frozen assets, and (2) mind your own business. Hey whats their
beef? Uncle Sam only spent $20 million trying to overthrow their Uncle Ayatollah.
Thats less than we spend on daily cruise missile-grams to their neighbor
Saddam. Americans are still obsessed with blindfolded U.S. embassy staffers being
paraded around Tehrans streets decorated with blazing Uncle Sam Piñatas.
Its nearly 20 years later and now were the ones with blindfolds. Iran
has elected a moderate (well in Iran, hes a moderate) cleric by the name
of Mohammad Khatami who actually wears a suit instead of bed sheets. The voter
turnout was the highest in Iran since the mullahs came to power in 1979. Americans
can travel freely in this country if they dont mind being shadowed like
North Korean agents at a used plutonium sale. For now, Iran is open, the gals
are loading up on the Revlon (under the chadors of course) and Baywatch via satellite
dish is slowly eroding the old Iran weve come to hate. Oh, dont forget
that hard-linger Ayatollah () Ali Khameini still tosses the lightning bolts in
this nation of very heavily clothed people. " ()
s economy is entirely dependent upon its oil income to support a
relatively large population. Luckily, for the country not only is oil discovery
and production continuing to provide endless riches to a country that is forced
to support a substantial portion of their population due to lack of industry and
the attendant unemployment. Due to the fact that the average Iranian is highly
educated at least by mid-eastern standards, it is a particularly difficult problem
to deal with this unique anomaly.
Due to the fact that petroleum oriented income is
so vitally important to all facets of the Iranian economy, only those students
that are the very finest are plucked from the very best schools and placed within
the oil ministry in the hopes that intellectual competence and continued income
increases from oil production can be regularly harnessed in spite of the vagaries
of that market. While most of Iran s
oil is owned by the State itself, however, here and there are a sprinkling of
privatized oil corporations, which appear not unlike a weed sprouting from a carefully
manicured lawn of creeping bent. Such an organization was Petro Pars, a private
oil company in the midst of sea of government owned enterprises. The company had
the sponsorship of the oil minister himself, none other than the highly regarded,
Bijans credentials were of the highest order
from an intellectual, educational, religious and political point of view. This
is almost an oxymoron from the aspect that some of these characteristics were
diametrically opposed to each other, but this is Iran and
in this country, anomalies are a way of life. The fact that Bijan could walk the
fine line required by both the public and private sectors along with the balancing
act required to move craftily between secular and religious authorities was only
to his credit. Bijan was Iran s Superman; that is until various information
started to trickle down.
One of the most unusual aspects of Mr. Zanganehs
career was the fact that while being oil minister in on one side, he was intimately
involved with the affairs of Petro Pars on the other. This was strange even for
Iran , as Petro Pars was a British Virgin Islands Corporation,
an unusual turn of events to say the least. Moreover, it seems that the company
itself was owned by foreign nationals and its primary customer was ENI, a private
Italian Company and Enterprise Oil, a United Kingdom common
stock company. Petro Pars (the name comes from the Pars region in Iran
) had been awarded a mammoth project to drill and
pump increasing amounts of gas from this prodigious field, which was the pride
of the country.
We are not all that sure about what happened next
but apparently, someone was not watching the Pars store and Mr. Zanganeh
was said to have dipped his hand into the till for substantial sums of money.
The construction project that Pars was involved in alone was handed almost $10
billion in addition to the continuing cash flow from the field. If these facts
turn out to be true, Mr. Zanganeh will probably never be seen again. In the meantime,
the corporation has been taken apart with 60 percent being donated by the state
to the oil ministrys pension fund and 40 percent to the IDRO Pension Fund.
From the solution arrived at by the Government, one could almost determine that
Mr. Zanganeh was also dipping his wick into the pension funds as well and the
Government of Iran wanted to put it under their control. However, the way things
look in this country and the way things are may be two totally different events.
Moreover, it now turns out that the drilling project is substantially behind schedule,
which will cause a substantial amount of belt tightening in Tehran , and projected income will not materialize.
The moral of the story, is simply the fact that
the more educated and political savvy that people are and the more immune they
are from reporting to anyone because of the higher power of their position, the
more liable they are of stashing a buck or two in the British Virgin Islands
for their old age. While Iran is a country of poverty in spite of enormous oil
riches, Mr. Zanganeh has created a rather bleak picture for the countrys
near future by acting as a one man wrecking crew. However, religious authorities
seem to know how to deal with this type of situation. Iranian newspapers
are indicating that he took close to $1 billion and no one seems to be able to
trace a penny of it. However, there is still the outside chance that Mr.
Zanganeh didnt make nice, nice to the right people and someone very high
up took substantial offense. The rules in Iran, which are shared by most of the
rest of Middle East, are simple if you want to stay out of trouble, always be
careful of the toes that you may be stepping on and always look behind you.
Laws are made to be changed and arrests are made to stick.
Because of the stifling regulations imposed by the
clerics on the population and parallel desire in the country for free elections,
Iran became a most confused place. A few years ago in
a free election, people elected by the people who had an extremely liberally bent
took office. They started to tell things the way they really were and the media
started repeating their statements. This seemed to force religious leaders in
Iran to admit that in spite of their protestations to
the contrary, there was a world that existed outside of their own domain. While
the unenlightened conservatives continued to control religious matters as well
as many other facets of peoples lives, those that you might call liberals
if you were in an expansive mood, controlled chunks of the government. In order
to be elected, government officials had to offer the people increasing freedoms
that were increasingly more expansive. However, no matter what the governmental
officials would offer, the religious leaders were somehow still left in charge
of because it was only they that were in charge of interpreting the Koran, which
was the final word on everything. Thus, the clerics were able to maintain a high
degree of the status quo with their continuingly bizarre interpretations of what
A Man Of The People
When Mohammad Khatami was re-elected in June of
2001 by an amazing 77.8% of the popular vote, the crowds took the streets in a
celebration that literally threatened the countrys very religious fabric.
The swarming young people were excited for several reasons. The first and foremost
was the fact that he had shown a liberal orientation during his first term and
the people believed that in his second term he would be able to force increasingly
tolerant policies. His margin of victory was so substantial that it was assumed
the clerics would clearly receive the reflection of the peoples will and
react to it. In a landside, Khatami had beaten out nine other candidates with
the runner-up, a religious hack of little importance, garnering only a tad over
15% of the vote. This astronomical victory fought in an election in which
poll closings had to be delayed for hours in order to give everyone the right
to vote, should have substantially improved his bargaining power with the ever-powerful
Council of Guardians. As yet, this does not seem to be the case.
spite of the fact that with older Iranians and the Clerics, where the United States is viewed as the
devil incarnate, two-thirds of the population of Iran, 25-years old and younger
(70 percent of all Iranians are under 30) call the United States "Fortune
Land," where opportunities and riches abound. As much as the older generation
bears an almost perpetual grudge going back to the time that the Shah was being
supported by the CIA while he repressed the Iranian people and allowed foreign
oil companies to siphon the life's-blood out of the country's economic system.
Moreover, the shooting down of a peaceful Iranian airliner in 1988 killing all
aboard did not tend diminish the problem. It would appear that as the younger
generation gradually ages, the rift will slowly subside.
In Iran is these interpreters of the Koran that are the religious folks that are
keeping Iran firmly locked into the dark ages. Because of the
post-election histrionics, the Council became concerned that a revolution could
occur right on the spot and called in their troops of darkness to assert control
on cheering mob. Armed members of the Hezbollah magically poured onto Tehran
s streets as if by some form of witchcraft
and began shouting the name of Ayatollah Ali Khameini over and over again. Whatever
the purpose of this chanting was, it seemed to work the Hezbollah troops into
an uncontrollable frenzy as both sides marched towards each other without so much
as flinching. As the two groups drew ever closer together, Iran stood
on the threshold of both revolution and anarchy. At least, this is what
appeared to be happening from a perch safely away from the clutches of the ever
watchful and violent religious police. What appears to be an
evolutionary process ending in some sort of Democratic Government could well be
the most gigantic Red Herring ever decaying in the Western Press.
As the United States ground
down the Iranians hated foes, the Taliban, the country seemed to be intent on
retiring the State Departments most active state sponsor of terrorism
award. An as William Safire of the New York Times reported in an article
entitled, Enemy of My Enemy written on November 29, 2001, Evidence
is mounting that Tehran sponsored the killing of Americans at Khobar Towers in
Saudi Arabia. Even today, Iran s air cargo planes fly arms and explosives
to Damascus for trucking to terrorist headquarters
of Hezbollah in Lebanon , for use by suicide
bombers against Israeli civilians. Safire goes on with some additional goodies
about what has happened in Iran since the
re-election of Khamenehi for a second term: Suppressed Iranians have not
known that front-man Khatamis election led to a false spring. Fifty newspapers
have since been closed; the vigilantes of Hezbollah, the Party of God,
are urged by clerics to beat up students with democratic yearnings; savage public
executions are on the rise.
Can it be that Khatami is only a sophisticated invention
of the religious right in Iran to placate
the young and preserve their ruling base? We will have to let you decide but it
appears that in either event, peace with Iran will
not come easily. After all, is it not true that the Guardians Council has the
constitutional power to screen and reject political candidates, which they do
with aplomb? Why, with all of his following within Iran along
with his substantial charm and grace was Khatami allowed to run for office again.
The rules here say that the religious leaders could have taken his name off the
ballot with an eraser and there would have been nothing that anyone could have
done about it. Moreover, the Council itself is a mere rubber stamp
of the countrys religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directly appoints
half of their number and dominates the other half, which come from the judiciary.
In other words, in theory, the Ayatollah could
block Khatami and anything that he may want to do just by waving his hands and
raising the name of the Koran in his defense. Moreover, this is becoming critically
visible to the rest of the world as well. The students at university rallies shout
him down for being to conservative, more than 60 of his fellow liberal members
of Iran's parliament have been summoned to appear before conservative judges on
political charges in recent months and the United States is beginning to see him
as a figment of their imagination. Guess what? The forty-year old Iran Freedom
Movement, part of the bloc that had back Khatami was dissolved by the Revolutionary
Council. While they were about it, they jailed the 60 because they had contributed
to student unrest with 21 of them getting prison terms of up to 10-years and banning
them from political activism. In spite of the real reason behind the arrests they
were charged with crimes such -as attempting to topple the Islamic Government,
having associations with foreigners, spreading rumors and lies while giving lectures.
certainly has become a kinder and gentler place.
Appears To Be Much Ado About Nothing
Another minor constitutional right that the Council
has is their ability to summarily reject laws passed by the parliament. Many are
saying, Why have an elected parliament if the laws they pass are meaningless?
You say that, this is most ridiculous system that you ever heard of. There
is no system within the country of inherent checks and balances. If you
said that, you would be both right and wrong at the same time. It seems that under
Iranian law, whenever there is a standoff or a dispute between legislation approved
by the parliament but disapproved by the clerics or the council, the Expediency
Council goes into action. This group of lightweights is virtually appointed by
the Guardians Council and you know where they are going to stand on the issues.
Some philosopher once said, Dont give a sucker and even break.
This is a stacked deck with every card marked. Thus, there are layers of
councils that the religious party can fall back on if all else has failed.
With so many people out of work, the religious party
can also throw the blame for the economic disaster unto the political folks that
in reality run little or nothing but are excellent fodder as whipping boys for
every disaster that occurs within the country. However, this is an old strategy
and the younger generation is getting wise to all of the shenanigans that are
being pulled off by the clerics. No matter who is to blame, conditions are what
they are and the young are crying for change. The left and the right are only
going to be able to keep their magic act glued together for a little while longer
and then the glue that is holding the politics of Iran together will be shown for the cheap stunt that
it is. Those in the streets say that they cannot point to any single action taken
by either the government or the clerics that benefited the country as a whole.
As isolationism became more paranoid, the people lost more and more of their freedoms
and became poorer. Those that are entrenched in power should start to worry because
there is not much further down that these people can go.
When the President of Iran was re-elected by a wide
majority, the young people took to the streets to celebrate but the clerics in
a move very similar to that which had formerly practices by their cousins in Afghanistan
did not want any spontaneous reactions to anything and called in their honor guard
to quell the innocent celebrating. The clerics told the Hezbollah that the cheering
must stop and these killers started marching toward the students. No body appeared
will to be willing to give an inch and when the two opposing parties were almost
in each others laps, the Iranian police stepped into the breach to avoid
what could have become a revolution.
Kids Take To The Streets
Should the Hezbollah have been defeated by the young
liberals in a pitched street battle, the religious party that was holding back
all progress within the country would certainly have been ousted, and this was
not a gamble that their leaders were willing to take. Realizing that this was
a no-win situation for the Council, at the very last minute, the police were called
in to separate the two groups by riot squads dressed in full insurrection gear.
It was crystal clear that the clerics were not going to abide a confrontation
at that particular time. The same scene recurred throughout Iran
simultaneously as the victors poured into the streets overjoyed with their
political victory. Moreover, the vote was so unbelievably one sided that the charges
levied by the losers that vote fraud had occurred became a dreadful joke and a
true symbol of the philosophical corruption of Iranian politics.
The clerics were forced to quickly re-establish
control over the country and used the pathetic situation of a woman adulteress
as an example to display their power. Basically, Iran is
governed by Islamic Sharia law, which has its roots somewhere before the dark
ages commenced in earnest. One of the laws holds that if a woman commits adultery,
she should be ritually washed, wrapped in a white shroud, carried to the place
where she is to be executed on a stretcher and buried with only her neck and head
above ground. Further, the Sharia law states that she should then be stoned to
death. Moreover, no stone should be too small not to hurt or large enough to kill.
In other words, she must be tortured for a substantial period of time in exchange
for cheating on her husband. The fact that her husband had been beating her regularly
and on one occasion had almost killed her was not of consequence in this decision.
The women of Iran had only a tad more rights
under the law than the women of Afghanistan.
Sad State of Sexual Affairs
In this case, Maryam Ayoubi had been convicted of
adultery, sentenced and executed within a matter of days of her incarceration,
which occurred early in July of 2001. This verdict was granted only weeks after
Mohammad Khatamis landslide re-election. Worse yet, several more executions
by stoning have been planned to rein in sexually active women in the near future
no matter what the reason. These stone throwing contests are occurring in spite
of the request of the liberal administration, pleas by Amnesty International,
and attempted intervention from western governments. However, religious conservatives
point to a strange set of statistics which they say indicates that what they identify
as immorality and vices have risen by 600 per cent in the last year,
along with increased suicides, incest and sexual perversions among the young.
However, there is no indication of where these statistics come from or even who
created them. Many liberals say that this is just another figment of the Councils
imagination. However, by using the Koran to interpret events in whatever manner
they desire, the Council can literally do whatever they please.
Whenever the conservative Muslims in Iran
feel threatened, they flex their muscles and proceed
to make an example out of some pathetic soul and use this as a graphic demonstration
of the fate that awaits those who cross the interpreters of the Koran. However,
the real world was closing in. Iran s
borders harbored a potpourri of really unusual and belligerent neighbors that
could just not be explained away by convoluted interpretations derived from their
historically extremely paranoid thinking. The likes of Russia , Iraq , Azerbaijan ,
Afghanistan and Pakistan were among those in close propinquity to the Iranian
borders and globalization was bringing this barbarian hoard ever closer to the
The Tinder Box Called
The Caspian Sea
Azerbaijan and Iran get along like cats and
dogs. Iran also shares acreage on the Caspian Sea , which contains a hell of a lot of oil, maybe 200
billion barrels or more and a whole lot of gas with a group that you would not
want to invite for dinner. When you are talking about that much oil there will
certainly be some disagreements over its ownership. The countries that compete
for this treasure trove of the future are Azerbaijan ,
Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan and you
guessed it, Iran.
A substantial number of years ago, Azerbaijan
was part of greater Iran ,
and it appears that Iranian interests continue to think of it as their appendage.
Taking this thinking to another level, the Iranians are convinced that what belongs
to Azerbaijan really is something that
has been forcibly taken from Iran , and
for that reason they are entitled to it. When Russia was
the undisputed boss of the neighborhood, this was not always the case. For countless
years there were no problems, the Russians simply controlled all of the bordering
states, and with the exception of Iran , they set the rules and you differed with them
only at your own peril. In the past whole countries had been known to disappear
when the Russian Bear became irritated with something that had happened in the
neighborhood. When the Russian Union came undone, it was the Russians though that
did the mandating and they announced that they would be keeping 88% of the spoils
located on the Caspian Sea for themselves, and later carved them up with their
Having carved the riches up among their former satellites,
Russia washed their hands of the entire
situation that is until massive amounts of offshore oil was found offshore. This
caused everything to heat up a bit and everyone ran to the agreements of dissolution
that the parties had signed. However, in those days the agreement only concerned
fishing and water rights because it was felt by some that if indeed there were
oil located under the water, no one would ever be able to get it out because it
would be too deep.
What they were left with was a treaty, which was,
signed that set up the rules as it related to the above ground egress to the Sea
but there is not much question that nothing of consequence was said about oil.
In spite of that fact the most of the parties to the agreement seem to think that
it was a given that everything would be divided according to the treaty there
was a notable exception. Iran disagrees violently.
It seems that Azerbaijan was
strongly convinced that there would be no problem over what they saw as their
own interests within the Caspian Sea and
proceeded to grant British Petroleum exploration rights to the area. They even
leased an unarmed vessel named the Geofizik-3 to the oil company for that purpose.
However, in spite of the fact that there had been no further discussions on the
matter, no sooner had the good ship Geofizik arrived into the waters supposedly
containing oil and gas and located within the land deeded to Azerbaijan as its
treaty territory, they were summarily met by a combination of fully armed jet
fighters and warships which had been dispatched by Tehran. Not only did Iran
want the oil for itself but also it was becoming
very concerned about the quantity of oil that would soon be pouring out of this
general area. Oil prices, which had been held in check by OPEC, could come crashing
down and Iran would be left with nothing.
The shocked British Petroleum crew was told by the
Iranian military in no uncertain terms that if they took one drop of oil out of
what they claimed was Iranian territory, the ship and its crew would be summarily
blown out of the water. BP management was not in the mood to take on Iran
s military all by themselves without even
a revolver onboard and in a politically expedient action suggested that the adversaries
work things out among themselves and then give them a call when everything was
taken care of.
This sudden turn did not cause any great joy in
Azerbaijan , the United States or
literally anywhere else in the world for that matter. Turkey became so upset that they sent a squadron of jets
to reinforce Baku , the capital of Azerbaijan . However, they were not the only ones that could
strut like a peacock and put on their own aerial show; Iran soon
had their jet over-flying Azerbaijan so
regularly that they looked like the local commercial airline service. This brought
the countries to the edge of war as Iran s
overt actions also deeply embarrassed the Azerbaijanis. In addition this type
of activity could also endanger the delicate balance that existed in the region,
which was always at the boiling point.
Although the Iranians had been extremely surreptitious
about their plans, it now turned out that Iran had
quietly built and paid for 1,400 mosques and more amazingly, paid the people in
the region to attend them as well. Furthermore, it turned out that the Iranian
secret police was in the process of spreading money around in the Muslim community
like warm butter on a piece of freshly toasted rye bread, to influence their co-religionists
that Iran was easily the best friend money could buy. Iran explained
in detail to their freshly bought friends that god had meant the Iranians to have
at least 20% of the land under the Caspians waters. The hard part came when
they had to explain that the extra 8% percent would have to come from their newfound
brothers, the Azerbaijanis. The Azerbaijanis, even those who had been converted,
could not seem to understand why this action would be good for them, in spite
of the fact that the command supposedly had come from much higher up.
However, as they say in the Arab world, the butter
knife is known to cut two ways. A large segment of the Iranian population is made
up of ethnic Azerbaijanis, and no less than 25 million of them make up the largest
single ethnic segment in the country by a substantial margin. This overwhelming
minority makes Iran a tad nervous and there is little question that those in power in Baku
have regularly stirred the Iranian pot whenever
it was a slow news day. Moreover, they really stuck it to the Iranians when they
announced that the pipeline that was supposed to go from Baku to Iran would
instead terminate in the hated country of Turkey at their Port of Ceyhan . It was after this that Iran made its fiercest threat of all. Baku must start to act more responsibly so the
Iranian people do not call for the return of Azerbaijan to the motherland. This was a really heavy statement. Making Azerbaijan
s life even a smidgen more tenuous is the
fact that Turkmenistan is not overjoyed
with its share of the Caspian and is firmly convinced that they, too, should get
more from Azerbaijan . If both countries got what they demanded, there
would not be enough of their coastline left for two Azerbaijanis to go bathing
in the Caspians waters at the same time. Nevertheless, this seemed to disturb
no one but the Azerbaijanis.
Many people throughout the region feel that there
is no practical solution to the problem and that both sides could engage each
at the drop of a hat. Iran may be playing
their cards rather loosely if they are counting on the massive number of Azerbaijanis
living in Iran to allow the government to skewer their countrymen
without doing something about it. Iran has
made a series of misjudgments over the years that has sent their country sliding
from the top of the pile to the bottom. It would appear that they are just about
to do their lemming act all over again.
Not Everyone is Either All Good or For That Matter All Bad
The highly disseminated, now discarded theory that
all Muslims were decent people and that the United States was
an all-purpose Satan soon came under criticism of those within the country that
knew better. Iraq had shown the Iranians years before that they were willing and able to
attack anyone for any reason, and substantial blood was spilled by Iranians in
a pitched battle that lasted for years and went nowhere. Iraq next
invaded defenseless Kuwait and were about to take over Saudi Arabia
when the Satin from the West stepped in. While no
one in Iran said anything about it at the
time, you can be certain that the clerics in Tehran breathed
a collective sigh of release at Iraq s
The neighborhood has been a perennial powder keg,
and if it was not Iran or Iraq making trouble, a new group out of Afghanistan
created by Pakistan called
the Taliban seemed to totally lose control and got off to a really bad start by
killing some friendly visiting Iranian Clerics who happened to be innocently visiting
in the neighborhood. Not satisfied with what they had already accomplished, they
followed this insane action up by using the Iranian territory bordering their
own as highway to deliver their homegrown heroine and opium production to the
rest of the world. By bribing custom agents and border guards it became a relatively
easy task to move in and out of Iran at
Moreover, using Iran as
a distribution vehicle caused over a million Iranians to get hooked on drugs and
created an armed camp on the border between the drug runners trying to get in
and the border patrols trying to keep them out. However, this was not much of
a battle because the disillusioned Iranian young people had no jobs and no future
and whiled away their days doing absolutely nothing. They were an easy mark for
drugs and literally nothing that the government could do changed the regimen.
Moreover, due to the fact that no matter how many guards that Iran used to protect
their territory, the Taliban using what had become their standard highly mobile
vehicles were almost always able to circumvent roadblocks and continued their
efforts almost unabated. The Iranian Government was close to doing something very
serious about this problem when Satan once again stepped in and solved the predicament
This however only resulted in a temporary victory;
the Taliban had cultivated and stored drugs, as they were needed for foreign exchange
and purchases of weapons. One year the entire country was engaged in heroine production
and the next year, United Nations inspectors found not a field under cultivation.
It later turned out that Afghanistan had
produced enough heroin in a short time to take care of world demand for years
to come. If they had produced more, it only would have tended to drop the drugs
price, not gaining them anything. Thus, they stored the finished heroine in factories
strategically located on their borders with Pakistan and
Iran only waiting for demand to catch up once more with
supply. The destruction of the Taliban who at least were orderly about the distribution
of this drug, has caused dirt farmers to once again take up an occupation that
they had been forced to give up. The members of the Northern Alliance either taken
together or separately do not make up the same type of disciplined group as did
the Taliban whose orders literally came from only two people.
Until controls can be put in place to eradicate
this problem within Afghanistan , production
can well top what had been produced previously when that country was the world-leading
exporter by a wide margin. Iran is currently
facing the liquidation of warehouse stocks of heroine to pay for the retirement
of Taliban forces to other locations and the exponential grown of poppy farms
all over Afghanistan . We will have to wait and see what happens next
but the price of heroine has dropped to a point where anyone on the street can
purchase a reasonable amount of it with their welfare checks.
In The Closet
We are not trying to make a case that the Iranian
Government wasnt faced with some significant problems, many of which were
rather severe. There seemed to be little question that Iran had
very unstable neighbors that were not about to let them quietly continue their
policy of self imposed global isolation. Moreover, even worse yet, each time a
major crisis occurred in the region, it was the United States that seemed to lead
the charge against Irans natural enemies. One would have thought that this
would have ingratiated the United States to
the clerics but that would have been a very wrong conclusion to draw.
Furthermore, in spite of every attempt by Iran to
keep its people in the dark about what was really going on outside their borders,
military planners determined that the country needed to upgrade its technology
to be able to cope with its own neighboring omnipresent crazies. This clearly
meant sending Iranian students overseas to get up to speed in chemical and atomic
warfare. However, this experiment did not succeed in the manner that the Iranians
had hoped. A high percentage of the students that were sent offshore to study
became enamored with the freedom offered in other countries and never came back,
creating an enormous brain-drain. Illegal television and overseas radio stations
beaming their messages into Iran also gave
the people got some hint of what was going on elsewhere, and they became increasingly
restless. Iranians young people soon began demanding to be able to see for themselves
what was going on outside their borders.
To make matters even worse for the clerics, free
access for the people to television satellite dishes along with unlimited radio
became one of the principal platforms on which the incumbent government ran for
re-election. When the promises bogged down in secular bickering, for the first
time since the Shahs government fell, the people began openly demonstrating
against their government. Until that point not only had the government failed
to provide unlimited access to television, but had also actually seized thousands
of the dishes and promised to confiscate tens of thousands more if the people
did not toe the mark. However, the seizure of the sets did not occur in a vacuum.
It seems that the government had been taking a position of allowing the status
quo to continue unabated. In other words, we did it this way yesterday and nothing
bad happened so that is the way we are going to do it tomorrow. The Iranian government
had become particularly adept at this type of thinking. Making each tomorrow strongly
resemble today and yesterday as well. This seemed to keep things on an even keel
in a dramatically changing world.
The mistake in their logic was obvious to no one.
At an earlier point in time government officials had allowed those who could afford
satellite television to install it. Bureaucrats and clerics at the time believed
that this could only include a handful of people because of the high cost of the
dishes and the fact that most of those illegally would be people would be involved
in the government, after all how much money could the people have? As it turns
out, a lot. Officials totally misjudged how much money an Iranian citizen can
fit into a small mattress. Beyond that, the people had a blazing desire to find
out what was really going on. During this earlier period almost 200,000 of these
dishes went up, albeit very discreetly. For the most part, they were secreted
as well as possible allowing them to blend into the environment and as long as
they didnt cause any problems the government was willing to let well enough
alone. However, when they realized how many people were aware of what was really
happening in the outside world they had second thoughts and banned further construction.
This was the way things stood as of late October 2001.
All In The Game
Things in this area didnt come to a head until
Iran made the mistake of losing a very
important soccer game. The loss created a barrage of anger and the agitation soon
began being spewed over the television so that the news of what was happening
in Tehran became shortly known throughout the country. Iran
was simultaneously berated by overseas anti-government
instigators supposedly led by Reza Pahlavi the son of the late Shah who now was
residing in the United States stirring
the agitation pot. Mixing a potion of vitriol against the clerics and chastising
the country for being such a wimp at soccer had the desired results. Apparently,
he had only been awaiting the proper time to start beaming his messages. He was
easily able to emit his message into Iran through
the Farsi Television Network that initiates some of its live programming from
the area surrounding Los Angeles , California where
an influential and extremely wealthy number of Iranian expatriates resides. It
has been estimated that almost 100,000 people of Iranian extraction live in just
this area and they are primarily concentrated in Beverly Hill and Westwood.
Far Away Suburb of Sorts
As a matter of fact, this community could be literally
labeled, little Tehran because it contains
television networks, radio stations, clubs and entertainers that broadcast their
miscellany for the exclusive benefit of both the indigenous community and that
of Iran proper. This community members share a number
of things in common. Their desire of toppling the existing Iranian Government
would probably be the primary incentive of the community followed by a craving
to see the country return to a more democratic form of government. In addition,
most of the elders of the community would probably want to return to Iran
if the conditions could be made more palatable
and thus the incentive to sponsor broadcasts, which give the people of that country
the initiative to change their leadership, one way or the other.
However, both the woman and the younger people probably
do not feel that way as many of the children were born after the Shahs overthrow
in 1979 and are no familiar with the old ways. Women are familiar with the ways
of Iran and are not particular enthusiastic relative to
either the old or the new rulers. They have established themselves in various
professions throughout the United States and
would be diametrically opposed to moving back. While Reza Pahlavi has been
educated in the United States and has certainly developed western mannerisms and
speaks the democratic game, only the Royalists living in the Los Angeles region
are really convinced that he has the motivation for change.
While the United States was
known in Iran as the Great Satan, the American resident, Iranian Presidential
wannabe, Pahlavi was nicknamed by the clerics as bankrupt elements.
Iranian officials believed that such insults would mitigate the messages that
an ever increasingly important few were receiving on their television sets.
It was hardly that simple to gloss things over;
the television broadcasts hit the government where it hurt them the most. The
youngsters indicated that Iran was fast
becoming a third rate soccer power because of governmental bungling. Moreover
events simply asked the question, where were the promised satellite televisions
that had become such an integral part of the debate in the previous presidential
campaign. The reelected president had literally run on a campaign for more openness
in the country and international television reception for the masses had been
at the top of his list. Furthermore, the clandestine broadcasts suggested that
an excellent vehicle for the people to make these points would be for them to
get out onto the streets and start a riot. Moreover, it was a slow day anyway
and the people were looking for something to do, so they poured onto the streets
in most of Iran s major towns and took their anti-government
It took some time for Iranian officials to realize
that they had been attacked by a very insidious form of psychological warfare.
The people were getting their political news pre-digested through sporting events,
which the government was not in a position to block. The bankrupt elements
had indeed struck a solid blow against Iran as
the country continued to withhold civil rights and even attempted to up the ante.
A limited, but far from insubstantial portion of the population had access to
the Internet, and this media was also used to stir the anti-religious pot. The
people were making a really important point: the President had been re-elected
by an overwhelming majority over the opposition, which consisted of a ticket comprised
primarily of religious fanatics. It was overwhelmingly clear where the clerics
stood on the subject of modern communications. If it didnt exist during
Saladins time, they had no interest in it.
Of The Press There Is Not
Furthermore, the young people made it abundantly
clear that they would no longer tolerate the jailing of elected officials who
were loudly speaking out for the civil rights that the people had been promised.
Moreover, they were also clearly sick and tired over the fact that every newspaper
that had taken the side of additional civil rights for the Iranian people in their
editorials had been closed by religious fanatics and the proprietors jailed, usually
for insurrection and worse. Another factor working decidedly against the
aging clerics is the fact that this country has an unnatural balance of the young
over the old. Unbelievably, over two-thirds of the population is under 30 years
old and yet in spite of the fact that they have managed to get a more liberal
president elected, they have not been able to do the things that young people
like to do.
Boys and girls or for that matter men and women
are not allowed to publicly socialize with each other. Schooling is a luxury but
yet the only way to get ahead in this strange country. Less than one student in
seven is admitted to institutions of higher learning in this country and many
of the remained spend their days either doing drugs or looking for a job. The
reality of the situation is even somewhat worse, because certain of these higher
education wanabees are either the children of political or religious leaders,
orphans or offspring killed or injured during the Iran-Iraq war or those that
come from a virtual mountain of other categories. For these chosen few, entrance
exams and ability take a back seat to their position in the pecking order.
Drugs are plentiful thanks to the propinquity of
low cost Afghanistan heroine, while decent
jobs dont even exist, not even with unlimited schooling. These conflicting
elements have created an enormous brain drain with the best of Iran s students leaving the country in their pursuit of a higher education
and in most cases not coming back. There is little incentive for these young people
to come back to this country when they have completed their studies with its unemployment
rate hovering around 40 percent, a religious faction that dictates every facet
of their daily lives and a police system run by the religious authorities that
can be horribly brutal when they find someone that they believe has broken their
strict religious code.
Those that carry the scars inflicted by the clerics
are felt to be less likely to cause trouble. It has indeed come to the point
where many of the college students literally shout for the American Army to free
Tehran when they heard that Kabul had fallen. This is a country that is close to the
breaking point and yet no one gives one inch. The young have been disillusioned
by their government, by their religion as well as by their parents who placidly
go along with the continuing insanity not wanting to wind up in an Iranian jail.
They are also extremely unhappy with expatriates who ferment trouble from afar
and yet do little to aid their cause. Yet the religious leaders are preventing
any progress in getting these people working again. Foreign investors consider
the climate in Iran to be so negative that literally no money is imported
into the country from any source. Money creates industry and jobs and the dearth
of either one of these elements is a direct offshoot of the governments
restrictive policies as they apply to foreign investment.
One of the additional problems that foreigners believe
they are facing in Iran is the fact that the religious extremists have a tendency of grabbing the
properties of people that they dont like. It is easy to envision some executive
of a manufacturing company unknowingly committing some obscure religious offense
and the multinational owner of the property finding out the next day that it had
been escheated to the State. A simple bill that would have protected foreign investors
from seizure of their properties and given them some rights in Iran Courts was
treated as an attack by the seven-year locusts. The religious authorities
were concerned that because the overall Iranian economy was so microscopic, by
giving foreign investors a toe into the door, they could virtually be selling
out the future of banking in the entire country. However, a strong banking industry
is what is necessary to get their economy into gear, and without it, Iran
will be consigned to the hell of forever being
a third rate country controlled by religious fanatics. The odds remain against
successful foreign investment in the near future for all of the reasons given
above but the lack of international political risk insurance is probably an even
more daunting problem. Erecting a factory in Tehran only to lose it over some minor religious squabble
and not being able to have insurance against something of that nature would be
considered akin to corporate management suicide.
Furthermore, the Guardian Council was mortally concerned
that spies and other unsavory foreign elements would use this discarded loophole
to gain cache into the Iranian Society and by so doing would find a way to undermine
religious authority. One Member of Parliaments Economic Commission, Hussein
Anvari, who had presented what they thought was a pre-approved compromise bill
in frustration said: If we were to include all of the Guardian Councils
concerns in the bill, it would not resemble a foreign investment law. The
Islamic Republic News Agency reprinted his statements and many in the region are
no concerned for Husseins health.
In order to palliate the crowds that were now getting
out of control, several unprecedented concessions were made almost at gunpoint.
The Council of Guardians, the religious group headed by Ayatollah Ali Khameini
agreed that some reforms would be made. Among these, academics, artists, industrialists
and journalists would be allowed access to the hated television and another conference
would be called for March of 2002 when additional concessions could be made. However,
in spite of the fact that it appeared that some progress was being made, Khatami,
the Iranian President seemed to be growing more aware that time was running out
both for his reform movement and strangely for the religious movement as well.
It was not long after these concessions had been
made that Mohammad Salamati, deputy minister for labor and secretary-general of
the Islamic Revolution Mojahdein Organization (IRMO) was summarily handed a 26-month
jail sentence for literally no reason whatsoever. Moreover, the country's silly
laws relative to unreasonably limiting foreign investment were upheld and Asr-e
Ma, (Our Era) the weekly of Khatami's pro-reform movement was banned sending modern
Iran one step deeper into the Stone Age. This was not exactly what you would call
a thrilling start for the Iranian President's second term in office. While the
clerics were in the process of trying to send the country completely back into
the Dark Ages, these fanatics also advised Khatami that he would be better off
resorting to a policy of "active deterrence" instead of what they called
"active calm." This seems to be a message meaning, "get control
of those that would rise up or it will be your head hanging from the nearest tree."
Obviously free speech has gone the way of all flesh here and every day the country
becomes more likely to go up in flames.
Shortage of Cell Space
In short order, Hossein Loqmanian, a member of parliament
was convicted and sent to jail by the cleric-controlled judiciary for a crime
called "insulting the court" He got 13-months in the slammer for having
the nerve to indicate that the Iranian judicial system was biased in favor of
religious zealots. This brought the battle between reformers and clerics to the
boiling point with Behzad Nabavi, a member of indicating that, "reformers
will become twice more persistent in their efforts to materialize people's demands
for democracy and will deploy all legal instruments such as calling a referendum."
Mohammad Reza Khatami, the brother of Iran's reformist president and the deputy
speaker of Parliament also joined the battle by saying: "What else can members
of Parliament do except for speaking and revealing such frustrations to their
constituents? All we can do is to warn that there is a public opinion to judge.
But even then, the price for caring for the system and expressing such concerns
lawyers in Tehran while defending clients stated that the accused were tortured
by their guards in order to wring out confessions. Both were sent to jail for
a substantial period. The lawyer for a dissident political group was given four
months in jail just for defending them and another lawyer was given five months
in the pokey just for reading a politically oriented poem on "hypocrisy."
Nasser Zarafshan, another Tehran Attorney got a combination of 50 lashes and five
years in jail for trying to get to the facts in the killing of three political
This is not a country where anyone would want to
wax poetic without being concerned of landing in jail. Even member of Parliament
were not exempt when the Clerics felt that they were stepping out of line.
Mohammad Dadfar, a prominent member of parliament who received seven-months in
jail for daring to question the legitimacy of the Iranian hanging courts. When
he had been dispensed with the clerics who obviously felt that they were on a
role did in Abdollah Ramazanzadeh, a member of the President's cabinet and a former
Governor of Kurdistan was given six-months in the Iranian hoosegow for having
the unmitigated gall in questioning the right of the Council of Guardians to annul
the legally held elections in that state. Worse yet, the teachers in Tehran decided
that they were not making enough money to live on and that their working conditions
were horrendous and determined to strike. This was handled with the simple announcement
that "Any form of gathering in Tehran on Saturday will be considered illegal
and will be dealt with severely," This ended the strike because it appears
that the strikers knew what severely meant in Iranian.
While the war between the religious bigots and freely
elected officials continues to escalate, the only thing that anyone can be sure
of in this Alice In Wonderland country of religious hypocrites is the fact that
there will continue to be chaos until someone comes to their senses.
almost simultaneously with the purge of elected officials by the cleric
run Iranian court system in which the judge is strangely also the chief prosecutor,
the feast of Yalda was widely celebrated in Iran. It was like an oasis in the
middle of the desert. Yalda is celebrated on the longest night of the year and
it is a throwback to Zoroastrianism, one of the world's first monotheistic religions
dating it origins far before the birth of Christ. . In spite of the fact that
there are literally no people in Iran that practice the Zorastrian faith (Iran
is almost 100% Muslim) the people were really feeling down in the dumps over the
hazing that was being given to the reformers and celebrated the night before Christmas
Eve, 2001 with rebellious abandon. It was a night of drinking, eating and story
telling, primarily about how things used to be for a people that no longer had
much to look forward to.
Form Of Reform
it was the writers and intellectuals that made up the hardest core of the reform
movement and as such posed a prickly thorn in the side of the clerics. They felt
that it was this group was that had made the reform movement a force to be reckoned
with. They felt that if they could deal with these super-liberals as they were
called, the clerics would once again control the high ground. On January 8, 2002,
the Revolutionary Court began trials of 15 dissidents (writers and intellectuals)
charging them with an attempt to overthrow the system, a crime punishable by death
in this country. What makes their trial even more frightening is the fact that
although the country's constitution requires all trials to be open to the public,
that has not been the case as it relates to these so-called evil-doers.
the lawyers for the defendants were requested to sign an agreement that they would
not discuss the cases with anyone including their clients. . The lawyers refused
to go along with this obviously unconstitutional request. The judge in this kangaroo
court took the non-compliance as a signal to further punish the prisoners and
told the lawyers that because of their actions, they would not be permitted to
either read the indictments or meet with their clients. These dramatic abuses
of human rights caused substantial consternation among members of Human rights
Watch and other civil liberties groups throughout the world. However, the fact
that there was consternation among international watchdogs did little to change
the direction of the court. Chalk up one more victory in Iran for the bad guys
in the white robes.
if they had not done enough, the Clerics next attacked a dance instructor, Mohammad
Khordadian, an Iranian expatriate living in Los Angeles of "encouraging youth
to perform immoral acts. It seems that when men and women dance together,
the hardliners consider this activity both sinful and corrupt. The penalty for
promoting it can be up to 10-years at hard labor. Moreover, Mr. Khordadian was
never accused of working his craft in Iran, the charge was only that some of his
videotapes were used by people wanting to learn how to dance. As if dancing weren't
bad enough, security patrols in Tehran are now given to arresting people playing
music in their cars.
Little is changing for the better in a country that
is quickly but grudgingly becoming enlightened. These people will not live under
these oppressive conditions much longer. They feel that in spite of the promises
and the undeniable courage of Khatami, they have had little to show for his efforts.
They regard the Council of Guardians almost in a similar fashion as the Afghan
people regarded the Taliban. Iran is now
ripe for revolution but they may have been given a last minute reprieve by the
the meantime, Iran which was badly trounced by Iraq in a war some years ago is
strongly attempting to regain a military parity. They have embarked on a
missile construction campaign receiving substantial aid from both Russian scientists
and the North Korean Government. High level intelligence people indicate that
Iran may well have an intercontinental ballistic missile within the next five
or ten years. Furthermore, in spite of the assistance the Iran has procured from both rouge states and
rouge scientists, they seem to want to go it alone in achieving technological
advances in setting up their own cottage munitions industry. but have not as yet
made any particularly great strides. While they remain a threat, the Iranians
have no technical ability to produce anything requiring highly scientific knowledge
and even if they could, raw materials are not indigenously available. These is
one of the world's truly low-tech countries. However, with the ability of buying
Shahab-3 missiles from North Korea and constructing rudimentary Scuds, the
surrounding countries can not be resting too easily especially when you consider
whose hands remain on the weapon's triggers.
Iran s clerical leadership is beginning to understand that the United
States and Iran have
some enemies in common. Furthermore, because of their natural enemies, Iraq
and the Taliban, Iran is
finding ways to tacitly assist the United States in
its global mission against terrorists. However, Iran seems to have a terrorist menu in which column
A is acceptable, while column B is intolerable. Their leaders
are going to be forced to get their act together so that the people can see where
the government stands without having to use a scorecard. They have a wonderful
opportunity to eat just a little crow while joining the rest of the civilized
world in an effort to right the ship. Their alternative is to be pilloried by
their own people in the same way that they have condemned others. While this doesnt
seem like difficult choice to make, the Talibans universally observed, lemming
like jump off the nearest cliff graphically illustrates the fact that in this
strange region of the world, you should never bet the house on even the surest
Necessarily The Facts
However, Iran is
more often than not; slow to get the message from both its own people and the
world at large. Their papers are forced to play to the powerful religious factions
if they want to continue to publish, and while articles that are published for
public consumption generally contain some factual material, the conclusions are
more often than not hopelessly skewed and misleading. On October 7, 2001
, the fabulously powerful Iranian newspaper Siyasat-e
ruz published an editorial that probably was directly planted by the Council of
Guardians. It starts by accurately describing the current American policy regarding
terrorists. It further describes the fact that United States clearly has indicated that if you harbor terrorists, then effectively you
are a terrorist and that the world has been divided into two distinct parts, The
friends of America and its enemies. This seems to be an
accurate enough description of the facts but from that point, things go quickly
downhill. The article divides its rage into six parts, and its half-truths and
lies illustrate the underdevelopment of the Third Estate in Iran.
When the terrorist attacks inside America
created news of those developments it ran into strict
censorship from the Iranian Government and that censorship is still continuing.
No news was divulged on the fate of the five crashed airplanes. The severely distorted
statistics demonstrate that news and image reports did not provide proper coverage
of the bombings inside the American Congress, State Department, and even the White
House. For this reason, following the incidents even people in the Western world
view the subsequent FBI reports with skepticism.
The issue was hastily set forth as a war between
Islam and the West and in the form of the doctrine of the clash of civilizations.
This policy was effective in preventing serious cooperation by Islamic countries
with the subsequent policies of America and
demonstrated that the West has prepared favorable grounds for a clash of civilizations
and comments by George Bush and Silvio Berlusconi will not be its last examples.
Oppressed Afghanistan became
a center of crisis, for the oppressed voice of this nation is not heard by anyone
and if there is lamentation, its repetition does not attract any attention. This
policy has entailed fear by Afghanistan s
neighbors of America s long-term
policy and America has still not been able
to resolve the contradiction inherent in the concurrent presence of India
and Pakistan , Pakistan and the Northern Afghanistan Alliance, and Tajikistan
and Uzbekistan .
Washington has endeavored, with a blend of muscle flexing and playing the innocent,
to transform a crisis specific to it into a world crisis and/or at least into
a crisis for current world powers, but other countries do not have much reason
to take revenge on America s presumed enemies.
Call To Arms
America s futile ultimatum yielded an ignominious result for this power.
But America issued its ultimatum not to the Taliban, rather to its other rival
countries and when this group read what was behind the veil of American policy,
the deadline did not bear fruit, neither in bin Ladens case, nor in regard
to countries with whom accounts were supposed to be settled. Therefore, gradually
the tone of American officials became more conciliatory, but it seems that the
other side of the coin of the usual policy of stick and carrot has been bared
for the regional players.
Conclusion: If American statesmen and media lose
more time, more facts will become clear behind the fake agitation. For this reason
world public opinion is in great need of the silence of the mentioned circles.
However, ever since the collapse of the World Trade
White House buildings, the Americans are horrified by silence.
While there is little question that Italy
s Silvio Berlusconi deserves to have his tongue
ripped out for his numerous ill conceived remarks, we hardly see what it has to
do with its philosophical concoction that would have the Iranian people believe
among other things that the Federal Bureau of Investigation runs the United States
Government and not the other way around. Furthermore, they insult the intelligence
of their people when they would have them believe that this agency (the FBI) is
or can withhold material facts from both the President and the American Congress.
Siyasat-e Ruz fans the flames by indicating that this is a war between the West
and Islam (clash of civilizations) something that America has
tried desperately hard to refute. They further point out that no other Muslim
Country could join the United States in
what they literally consider to be a war of genocide against Muslims without
giving their people the facts. However they do not point out the fact that literally
every Muslim Country has indeed joined the fight with kind words emanating from
even empires such as Libya and Syria .
Moreover, in the unkindest cut of all indicated that the White House had been
blown up during the terrorist attack; clearly a blow below far below the belt.
The Home Team
In spite of the fact that stories like this one
only tend to accelerate the Iranians disgust with their own government,
the countrys journalistic fifth column continues to publish blatantly false
stories to prove the unwinable points. With world opinion so strongly aligned
on this particular issue, the Iranian religious orders may finally have overstepped
their extremely shaky mandate. However, the fact that if the Americans had
not attacked the Taliban, the Iranians would have had to eventually do it themselves
seemed to be totally lost on them. Their leaders continued unrelentingly with
hopelessly tainted propaganda that they spoon-feed their population.
They fervently wanted to believe that the Americans
would eventually have their heads handed to them in Afghanistan and that the United States was blacking out any negative publicity about the
war. Unbelievably this was done while the Iranian Government knew full well that
if the Americans did not finish off the Taliban, Iran would
either have to fight the battle themselves or be turned into a nation of heroine
addicts. In spite of realizing that they were biting their noses to spite their
faces, they continued to think up new scenarios that were either untrue or could
not play out the way the Iranians had scripted them. Eventually they had to face
the piper and this day came sooner than they expected.
Moreover, on October 19, 2001 , Iranian Television ran the most ridiculed program
in the history of the current government. Not only did the people not believe
what they heard but they strongly voiced the opinion that they were being fed
inconceivably inaccurate propaganda in ever-increasing doses. We paraphrase in
part the discussion between two announcers on a pre-scripted television talk show:
The other issue is that if the American
encounter any problems in Afghanistan or
if, for example, Afghan forces inflict causalities on them, they want to ensure
that news of such events would not be given full coverage throughout the world.
Moreover, we have seen that American politicians are making a huge effort to impose
a kind of respectable censorship on various media organizations in the world.
In fact, they want to prevent them from providing the necessary information to
people around the world. At present, at least 85 per cent of the media organizations
inside America and more than 65 per cent
of European media organizations are seriously under the influence of the Zionist
lobby. Thus we can see that, as far as the events in Afghanistan are concerned, the Zionists and the Americans are
pursuing a common policy.
The rest of the discussion amazingly goes on to
indicate that all media coverage in Afghanistan should
be handled by Iran as they are the true
bearers of the faith. Naturally, the Islamic Republic (of Iran )
should play the main role in that important undertaking. In this way, such operations
carried out by America can be limited and
revealed. Above all, they can report on the reality of the situation in the areas,
which America has attacked. The people
must know about those atrocities and the poverty and miserable existence of the
Just as Iranian media had snuck in the attack on
Italy s motor mouth, they used the confused situation
to level a few hackneyed attacks on Zionists. What the Zionists had to do with
Afghanistan , where there probably has not been a Jew in several
millennia, we fail to comprehend.
. They further failed to tell the people of Iran
that there is no shortage of foreign correspondents
in Afghanistan and that all legitimate
news agencies were granted press credentials by the Northern Alliance , which is represented within the United Nations
as the rightful government of that country. Moreover, additional press credentials
were also granted by the Taliban but more selectively with the United States
having little or nothing to with the program.
Furthermore, they seem to indicate that members
of the Northern Alliance are not Afghan
citizens. Somehow, the people of Afghanistan have
been demonized and only the Taliban and those that they have subjected are considered
card-carrying residents of the country. Iranian television furthermore has
failed to beam stories of women taking off their veils and female doctors operating
on injured soldiers of both sides in the war, liberated people being fed with
American grain and fathers and their sons flying kites for the first time in years
while having a splendid time free from the oppressive Taliban. If there is not
enough news being beamed to the Iranians, it is because they are only covering
what they want their people to see, not the facts. The problem as the Iranian
clerics see it is the fact that the newly freed people of Afghanistan may soon have more freedom than the people of their
own country and everyone in the world is going to know it.
Museum of the Third Kind
In the midst of this tacky anti-American campaign,
in November of 2001, Iranian religious leaders unveiled with much fanfare what
they called the Den of Spies. This was what these religious fanatics
had conceived of in order to imprint permanently on their western oriented youth,
the true facts. In reality this was the U. S. embassy
that was seized more than two decades ago by what were then called the Revolutionary
Guards. A sightseeing tour provides a look at a ponderous contraption that Iranian
officials indicated was an American telephone-taping device that they say could
listen to over 10,000 conversations simultaneously when it was operative.
Other points of interest in this former embassy
turned museum are rooms committed to each of America s
recent wars. Naturally there is a room dedicated to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a
Korean room along with accounts of incursions on the people by U.S. Troops into
a peace loving North, a Vietnam Room which includes the necessary accolades to
Ho Chi Minh and goes into carefully detail in depicting the fact that in 1979,
the year in question, the United States had 350,000 troops in that country. The
fact that the war had ended at that point and the only Americans left in
the country were in jails or prison camps was totally lost on the guide. He fumbled
and mumbled when asked about this blatant error.
If you didnt think that the display was anti-American
enough you only had to walk through the hall behind the embassy-proper. The walkway
is designed so that you are forced to either step on the American Flag or the
Israeli Flag. There is no possible way to avoid one or the other. Once inside
you can attend a lecture on both the Freemason and Zionist symbols that are contained
on the American one-dollar bill. When it was pointed out that Zionism had not
even been conceived of when the bill was designed and put into circulation the
guide could only stare quizzically as if to say, that wasnt they way he
had heard the story. In any event, he seemed certain that the Zionists owned and
ran the United States.
Last but not least a room dedicated to Americas
incursion into Afghanistan that is still wet from fresh paint. Visitors were
taken on an inspection tour of the American passport and license plate forgery
room, eavesdropping headquarters, the code room and the now historic document
shredding room. When this part of the tour had ended the mostly correspondent
based opening day crowd were shown a likeness of the Statue of Liberty centered
next to an waxen figure of an embassy marine with his hands up in the act of surrendering.
The statue contains a caged dove in its stomach sending what the Iranians believe
to be a substantive message.
The ancient American helicopters that crashed into
the desert while trying to save the 52 diplomats that they Iranians held for 444
days have been brought back and are laid to rest on the former site of the American
tennis courts. Nor have the Iranians forgotten the Iranian commercial jet
that was accidentally shot down by American forces during the Iran
Iraq war. The religious right in their
burning desire to make certain that bad memories linger as long as possible, included
a speech by Mohammad Shoa, the keeper of what is being called the Great
Exhibition of November 4th: or more commonly, The Smashing of the
Glassy Palace. This designated because of the unusual amount of openness
and the transparency used in the embassys construction. The
new generation is not aware of the crimes America has committed against our nation, we are trying
to explain what has happened in the past that led to the revolution. We blame
America for all the miseries our country is suffering today.
We really have to blame Shoa for beating around the bush the way he does, why
cant he say it the way it is?
One of the more interesting displays to be seen
in this tour is the fabled Iraqi torture chamber, which graphically shows the
horrors that Iran s neighbor inflected upon them during their
conflict. While this would not seem to be particularly anti-American, the message
was not lost on those at the exhibition. The United States had
backed Iraq during that war because of
what Iran had done at the American Embassy
and its even more hapless relations thereafter. This exhibit was meant to show
that the Americans were somehow behind the torturing of the captured Iranians
held in the Iraqi jails. The fact that this was a pretty long stretch did not
seem to bother the tour director. However, there is much truth to Iran
s position in this instance, which goes to show you what happens
to alliances in this region. Far from the that they say todays friends are
tomorrows friends, they should be saying, todays friends are tomorrows
As one meanders further through this classic example
of propaganda gone bad, you can see a plastic likeness of the then American Ambassador
to Iran, William Sullivan; there are encouraging messages from Jimmy Carter and
an arts competition offering a free trip to Syria to the entrant best depicting
Americas most hateful cruelty. The clerics have twisted a carnival like
atmosphere and naturally there is the usual accoutrement of games we all played
when we were growing up. For example remember the ball that you would shoot out
of an air-cannon at a target and if you hit it dead center you got a silly prize
that was of no known use. Well, in the Iranian version, you shoot the ball right
into the mouth of Uncle Sam who is wearing a high hat with a clearly Jewish six-pointed
star atop of it. In addition, who looks like he just came in from a fortified-port
drinking contest on the Bowery. Another attraction is a takeoff of the old ring
the bell by pounding a stationary target with a mallet. In this case though
you are pounding a face that is made up in the likeness of a squalid American
Flag. These folks just dont know how to have plain old fun do they?
Nazila Fathi of the New York Times put the museum
into perspective. The surprising decision to open the embassy to the public,
and to allow a handful of journalists in at an early hour, comes amid tentative
signs of growing cooperation and contact between American and Iranian officials
as the United States seeks allies in it s war against the neighboring Taliban
government, who are also rivals of Iran. However, the exhibit seems mandatory
and school buses from around the region are constantly pulling up to teach the
younger generation, hate Iranian style. For them, the visit seems mandatory but
the rank and file Iranians seem to know better than be further proselytizing by
religious leaders and are staying away in droves.
All In The Game
Moreover, instead of seizing the moment during the
Afghan crisis, the doddering old leaders of the Council of Guardians sank deeper
into the mud by actually stepping up their proselytizing. Unexpectedly for them,
the opening of their farcical museum occurred simultaneously with Iran
reversing its earlier defeat in the World Cup
Soccer Matches causing the people great joy. Picture the scene, thousands of Iranian
teenagers dancing on cars to the beat of western rock music in celebration of
a critical victory. Both the prominent Mohseni Square and Mirdamad Boulevard were
alive with something that had not been seen in these parts for decades, happy,
fearless and celebrating youngsters. The girls have thrown off their hated headscarves,
something almost unimaginable when the embassy originally fell into Iranian hands.
This was unquestionably sacrilege said the clerics
and 800 of the non-violent tea drinking demonstrators (liquor is still verboten)
were taken away to jail. Interestingly enough, for the most part, those carted
away were arrested by the Basiff, or literally the religious police. The regular
officers of the law, seemed not to care about what was going on one way or the
other. For what reason, no one seemed to know other same religious leaders who
described the dancing as anti-Islamic. Sounds a little as if the hated Taliban
have been transported from the Afghanistan caves into downtown Tehran and are now proscribing governmental principals.
However, as time goes on, the propaganda of the
religious right that is keeping Iran only
a tad beyond the Stone Age is being drowned out by the ever more western leaning
Iranian youth. The religious leaders said that something had to be done and it
had to be done quickly. The head of the Iranian judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi
Shahroudi stated in unequivocal fashion that Our national interests lie
with antagonizing the Great Satan. We condemn any cowardly stance towards America
and any word on compromise with the Great Satan.
The Financial Times Guy Dinsmore poured cold water on that statement as
well. Conspicuous by their absence from the embassy exhibitions inauguration
ceremony were the very student leaders who stormed the embassy on November 4,
1979 . Now middle-aged, they form the core
of the most committed reformists who have since held meetings of reconciliation
with some of the former hostages. It appears that the clerics will take a little
more time to get the message. One of their own and a leader of the attack by the
Revolutionary Guards on the American Embassy put things into simple order:
None of us would participate in such events.
We are not in contact with the political faction that set up the event and they
would ever invite us. There is no need to remind what happened 22 years ago, it
is history now and we should judge about it as an event that occurred in the past.
This is almost like saying, hey you religious
guys, we were a bunch of dumb kids and did something that we were goaded into
by those old goats that were in control of the country when we didnt know
any better. Well guys, we have grown up and have learned a thing or two in spite
of your efforts to repress our very thoughts. When that happened, things were
a lot different than they are today. Lets all grow up and deal with life
as it exists now and get our country moving again.
While Iran had not been much assistance to the United States in
getting rid of their hated enemies, the Taliban were quick to attempt to fill
the void once the Americans and the Northern Alliance had
dispensed with the problem. They, like the Russians, although more observers than
participants in the events next-door unquestionably have there own interests in
the region to protect. Moreover, while you can say what you want about the vultures
coming down to pick-over the spoils once the lion has downed it pray, in essence
they were both rather smart. Let the Americans do their job for them, when it
is over, they will not have a serious ongoing interest in that reason and we can
fill the void. Iran , before the dust had cleared had reopened their
consulate in Heart.
However, it was not that the Iranian's had no concerns. They were not a bit happy
with the American's next door to them in Afghanistan and about to pounce on Iraq.
While one would have thought that to at least some degree, Iran would have thought
that what was going on was constructive, that was hardly their position. Iran
furnished a safe haven to the oppressed of the world, the Hezbollah, the Taliban,
and the al-Qaeda among others. They furnished weapons to enemies of America's
friends in the region and attempted to even disrupt the political process in Egypt.
They continue to sponsor the Ansar-e-Hizbollah, Iran's answer to Hitler's Fifth
Column. A group of socio-paths that killing the American Devils is good sport.
called upon this friendly group to enlist volunteers when the United States apparently
had moved too close to Iran's borders. These friendlies even put up a "martyrdom
which asked for volunteers who would rise up and kill themselves as suicide bombers
anywhere in the world that they were sent. Volunteers mobbed in a frenzied attempt
to be the first on the net to enlist. The site soon went down due to over exuberance
on the part of so many wishing to immolate themselves in a cloud of C4.
However, all is not that bad in Iran . Underneath the steady stream of vitriolic statements
coming from the minions of Ayatollah Ali Khamenehi, Iran s
supreme leader and religious chief, the now twice elected government of Iranian
President Mohammed Khatami is leaving the door open. In spite of pressure to the
contrary by the religious hardliners, a government spokesman publicly declared
In order to safeguard national security, Iran must
talk to all parties involved in the Afghan crisis, including the United States
. The statement obviously was only lukewarm
but the reform-oriented officials are forced to tiptoe very carefully through
the minefield planted by their compatriots who do not share their views. The religious
hardliners almost immediately threw cold water on the whole subject by having
a spokesman state, We have reached the conclusion that any negotiation with
America is against the nations interests. However,
Iran is a government of the few dictating
the lives of the many, and if they dont change their tune in a hurry, the
young people may just rise up and get rid of them.
It would seem that the hardliners are being squeezed
from two directions, the kids that are now just finding out what is really going
on in the world. They are learning that their government in spite of protestations
to the contrary that they get from their teachers. In the meantime, the United
States did have a close relationship with Iran several decades ago and many people that now make
up the higher end of the secular population in Iran ,
formerly did profitable business with United States .
Moreover, many of these people were educated in American schools and no what the
real story really is. No matter what their feelings though, economically not doing
business with the United States can be
fatal to the economy and adjustments will have to be made in an ever more global
economic world order. In addition, there are countless ethnic Iranians who have
become American citizens but still have family in the old country. Along with
sending money and gifts to their middle-eastern relatives, they probably dont
do a lot of complaining about how they are being treated in the United States
. A recent article by Michael Goldfarb of MSNBC suggested, It is
possible to hear greater expressions of sympathy in America and
understanding for U.S. action in Afghanistan
than in a place like Cairo , for example. Interesting --?
In spite of the all of the rhetoric, in todays
world, economics dictates the action of governments whether they like it or not.
Out of work college graduates with advanced degrees sitting in coffee houses with
nothing else to do can be very troublesome to religious leaders who only represent
their own interests. While controlling jobs can be one way of enforcing their
policies, in the long run that sort of strategy is bound to fail and the religious
police can only defend these folks for so long. However, if everyone were middle
class they would not put up with these kinds of goings on either. The clerics
are damned if they do and damned it they dont. In any event, they are better
off, at least temporarily if they at least give a good accounting for themselves
and make a show of trying to help, at least to some degree.
In reality there is an ever more subtle shift taking
place in Iran with Afghanistan being used as the excuse to reopen the dialogues
broken off with the United States in 1980.
However, the United States to some degree
is acting the part of the reluctant bride due to the fact that the Iranian Government
still supports both the Hamas and Hezbollah while working diligently to create
atomic weapons with the help of the Russians. Iran regularly
makes the United States State Department list of countries that support terrorism.
This type of American reality has prompted the Iranian statement: On that
day when the United States of America will
praise us, we should mourn. This is more because of the fact that
the Iran clerics based their entire battle
cry on The Great Satan and to cozy up to that devil would effectively
be admitting that an error was made in the first place. Iran, however does
make the point that in spite of the fact that while Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and
the United Arab Emirates also support terrorism, that hasnt stopped the
United States from having diplomatic relations with those countries.
Another behind the scenes scuffle that quietly goes
on is the fact that those American hostages that spent time in Iranian jails after
they were captured by Iranian forces in Lebanon have
been allowed to file lawsuits against the Iranian Government. As if in an
ever escalating tit for tat situation, the Iranian Government has arranged for
some of its citizens to file lawsuits against the United States on
charges that they were damaged by the United States back
coup in 1953 that allowed the Shah to ascend the throne. Interestingly enough,
some saw that real democracy in Iran would spread through the region like a hot knife cutting butter and in
every single country in the region, the people could literally have the same beef
that Iran had with the United States ; the support of a repressive regime that gave their
people few rights. In other words, some people are saying that the United States
in spite of its rhetoric is unwilling to gamble
on this type of backlash.
Moreover, how indeed do you get rid of the hard
feelings created by the American destruction of an Iranian civilian aircraft with
290 people aboard in 1988. Can the slogans and history books be wiped out in one
sweep of the pen. However, in spite of the difficulty in doing that, it happened
in Iran during the Iraq war
when almost immediately after Ayatollah Khomeini stated that Iran would fight to the death, a truce was declared.
Even the narrow minded Ayatollah could tell that the people had enough bloodshed
and saw his position jeopardized if he did not abide by their will. However, while
some aid from Iran did exist and a slightly more flexible position
seemed to make itself known, the United States turned
a deaf ear to Iran s plea that the
much heralded Caspian Sea Oil pipeline should pass through that country.
The Wall Street Journal on December 10, 2001
carried in interesting story, which described
current U.S. thinking relative to this
matter: The U.S. has long blocked
construction of an oil pipeline to Iran based
on opposition to the Tehran government
and its support for militant groups such as Lebanon s
Hezbollah. The U.S. instead has promoted
building a pipeline from the city of Baku in
Azerbaijan to Ceyhan along the Turkish
coast, and the Bush administration recently applauded the opening of a pipelines
u\built by a U.S. led consortium connecting Kazakhstan to the
Russian Black Sea port of Anapa
. The U.S. for
the past decade has sought to control oil exports form the Caspian, largely maneuvering
to keep pipelines out of Iran and, to a
lesser extent, Russia . As Kazakhstan emerges
as the most oil-rich of the Caspian states, its cooperation in pipeline construction
This stirred the pot again because as the Iranians
correctly pointed out, Pakistan who literally
created the Taliban are going to reap substantial rewards from the over situation
in Afghanistan and that Iran who aided in the intelligence effort and blockaded
the escaping Taliban terrorists received a slap in the face. However, the Iranians
fail to take into account that the Taliban were using their country as a dumping
grounds and supply route for drugs, had murdered a substantial number of their
clerics and had sent over 2 million Afghan refugees streaming across the
Iranian borders, an action that they could neither absorb nor afford. The United
States was convinced that Iran acted with
its own self-interests in mind and not that of any one outside the country.
New Putt Putt
As if to take peoples minds off of their troubles
with their neighbors, the Iranian Government announced that they will be manufacturing
a home made automobile. This historic moment that this national car
announcement was made was accompanied by a somber reading of the Koran along with
a piece of cake and a small cup of fruit-juice distributed at no cost to the visiting
dignitaries invited by the public relations people. Those present at the unveiling
said that the X-7 is a bulbous Audi crossed with a Vauxhall Vectra.
It was tested in England , has a 1.8 liter engine produced under a license
from Peugeot and will be manufactured in Iran by a company called Iran Khodro.
In spite being the United Nations of vehicle production,
Iran has been producing parts for manufacturers
in Europe for years and their automotive business accounts for over 20 percent of
the countrys industrial output. However, the car seems to be doomed to economic
failure as it was pointed out by none other than Eshaq Jahangiri, the minister
of industries and mines for Iran , who
called it a sub-standard car sold at an inflated price and one that could not
survive without continuing massive subsidies. In addition, the country has literally
no pollution control laws and already has 3 million four-wheeled pollution machines
on their ill-paved highways with an average age of over 20-years.
In a public relations statement, the producer Iran
Khodro countered with a solid punch that its next generation X-7 will actually
come with pollution control devices installed on it. However, he followed it up
by saying that this may take several years to accomplish if it can be done at
all. The only other Iranian manufactured car is the British modeled early 1960s
model Hillman Hunter, a car that was voted the most ill fit for British highways
by Car and Engine Magazine over four-decades ago. However, that should not be
construed as saying that it would be ill fit for the infinitely worse Iranian
roads. It may be that this economic disaster is caused by the fact that all of
Iran s industries are protected and
competition is not relished. Because of this fact, only a small fraction of the
pent up demand has been supplied and when the production lines really are cranked
up turning out these gas guzzling environmentally and mechanically unsound vehicles
by the thousands, it has been estimated that Tehran will
make Mexico City s pollution problems
look like a walk in the park.
spite of the air in Tehran becoming more un-breathable by the day, another innovation
is expected by authorities to take Tehran by storm. This new one is idea is a
car called Anna after something or other but who really knows what. This sharp
little model is a fire breathing convertible built for two with a price tag on
it of somewhat on the northern side of $25,000. However, last time we heard about
things here the average annual income hereabouts was a tad under $2000. If that
wasn't bad enough news, if your really want one of these magnificent contraptions
you will have to put 100% of the money down on it now and then probably have more
than a two-year wait. The last time I heard something this bad was when I wanted
to buy tickets to the Broadway show, Producers in Manhattan.
in spite of the obstacles Many single guys with some bucks in Iran are looking
forward to the car with relish as they know that if they can get it started, the
car will make a most interesting way of meeting girls. However, they are
not counting on the morals police who consider a car, public space however the
jury is still out on this issue, President Khatami says they are going to be private,
but we are certain that isn't going to mean a lot. In spite of the cars snappy
looks and the endless sexual opportunities that it offers , orders are not coming
in to buy the car and it looks like it is going to be another dismal Iranian experiment
gone bad. However, we can always revert back to the standard Iranian jokes about
their cars when the axe falls again. How do you get a Paykan (the local car) from
zero to 60 in 15 seconds? Push it off a cliff. Or better yet, Why do Paykans come
with heated rear windows? To keep your hands warm while pushing. (Our thanks to
the New York Times article by Neil MacFarquhar in his March 17th, 2002, On Iran's
Roads, a Break from Boxy and Clunky)
next industry that would logically follow the production of a "national car"
would be that of a "national plane" to replace the country's aging fleet,
but in aircraft more than anything else, the American embargo has had a chilling
effect on the industry. Planes by made by Boeing were those of choice during the
Shah's reign and when a new government took over, and the American embargo started
to squeeze, there became no replacement parts for the aircraft. Worse yet, as
these planes were taken out of service due to age, they were replaced by Russian
models that were a little south of the Wright Brothers experimental model.
the brand spanking new Russian planes going down like flies after being hit with
RAID, the Iranian aircraft industry had to take another look at their alternatives.
Sharp eyed Iranian purchasing agents thought that the way around the problem was
to buy Airbus. Something that would have worked well, if the Rolls Royce engines
weren't made in the United States. Flying anywhere on Iranian planes has become
a game of chance with doors flying opening in mid-flight, a lack of spare tires
and burning aircraft ventilating systems to name a few.
However, Iran does have burgeoning stock market which has been doing pretty well
in spite of the international events which are taking center stage. As the people
start to take advantage of this opportunity, the exchange will become an opportunity
for wealth building and exit strategies so necessary for foreign investment. Moreover,
the Iranian currency, the "rial" has been among the strongest of the
world's currencies against the dollar. This has created a double hedge, by buying
Iranian securities recently you can get a double bang for your buck. With three-million
Iranian shareholders and a market up over 100-percent in the last several years,
Iran is poised at the gates of greatness and when the Clerics eventual fall, it
will become a capitalistic bastion of immense power and vitality.
An Island In The Sun
say that Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the deposed and deceased ex King of Iran was supported
by the United States Government and its alter-ego, the Central Intelligence Agency.
At that time, he represented sort of an island in the turbulent sea of the Middle
East. While fundamentally a timid man, he was reinforced by the CIA in the same
why that alcoholics are reinforced by booze. He was not an Arab but he was a Muslim
and one of the more benevolent variety, it least when it came to capitalism. Moreover,
there are a great number of zillionaires located around the world that are grateful
for the relaxed attitude that he permeated when it came to the accumulation of
wealth. Iran was awash in a great sea of Middle Eastern Oil and the benevolent
king was one to share with his friends of which he had many, whether they liked
him or not.
as time went on, the people of Iran led by a group of hateful clerics determined
that this man was not good for the countrys health and worst yet was an
American puppet, which may well have been the case, and he was violently overthrown
in a massive religiously delineated revolution. Literally, everything that Pahlavi
or the American Devil ever stood for was considered to be evil and little that
was created by the man is still standing.
did have some interesting ideas though and one of his more revolutionary was the
structuring of a tax free zone on an island laying about 50 miles offshore of
Iran in the Persian Gulf. Best yet, he owned
the fifty-five mile long property and could do anything he wished there anyway
because he was the law. He built a number of hotels there and while he was at
he constructed a casino where the wealthy Arabs of the surrounding countries could
lose their money with panache while having a drink or too or finding someone of
the opposite sex to while away some time.
55-square mile island of Kish was not only reserved for those of considerable
wealth from overseas but at that time it was also considered paradise to those
Iranians wealthy enough to afford the price. It was not too long before this island
became their vacation place of choice. It had was constructed with the thought
in mind that it would have a dearth of police and Iranians that wanted to relax
knew that they could gamble or sun themselves to their hearts content without
being bothered by regulatory restrictions. However, strange as it may seem, today,
the island now has numerous amenities that previously existed there and even more.
For example, because this is a free-trade-zone, Iranians can purchase necessities
on Kish at a fraction of what the same goods would cost on their mainland. In
spite of some restrictions relative to limits relative to how much can be purchased,
local export pirates will see, for a price that whatever is bought will be safely
delivered directly to your front door no matter where you may live on the face
of the earth.
today the atmosphere on Kish is one of abundance and wealth where even the majority
of the taxicabs are recent vintage Mercedes Benz air-conditioned automobiles instead
of the aged British Paykan cars whose exhausts permeate and cloud the Iranian
countryside with pollutants. Stores like Gucci line the main arties of Kish and
the airlines have conveniently scheduled thirty-flights in and out of the island
paradise in order to accommodate the separation of high-rollers from their money.
The restaurants located on Kish are strictly of the gourmet variety and this home
away from home for Iranians also supplies live entertainment of various sorts
while you indulge your palate. Hated American music
spews forth from every nook and cranny here and there are no religious police
around to ruin any ones day with a summons or worse. Dancing which is banned
on the mainland is also a major occupation as are all of the other things that
are banned in Tehran.
theory behind the resurgence of Kish is the fact that Iran was losing countless
millions of tourist dollars mostly going to Dubai that could easily recovered
by letting their hair down a tad. The Island of Kish was the ideal spot because it could easily be disavowed
as not really being part of the mainland. However, after the Shah had left town
in a hurry, the clerics had not kept the island up to tourist standards and were
therefore obligated to cut a deal or too before they were going to attract the
the story goes, the clerics went to Hossein Sabet, a wealthy hotelier of
Iranian extraction and offered him a deal that would allow couples to take rooms
together without showing a marriage certificate, the women working in his hotel
could wear tight fitting garments and that in a general sense, the island would
not be obligated to live by mainland hard-line regulations. In exchange he promised
build a magnificent hotel (now mostly completed) that would be modeled on the
lines of the ancient city of Persepolis. He also promised to build an amusement
park of the Disneyland variety, a huge aquarium and a Ukrainian operated dolphinarium, which
is exactly what it sound like.
the island of Kish may be coming the economic answer to many of Irans
problems, religious leaders back at home have still not totally untied the entire
umbilical cord and the country has yet to offer security to foreign investors.
Naturally, the Council of Guardians who seem to want to take all of the fun out
of life are constantly making waves about changing the islands freedom but so
far everything seems to go here. Moreover, for the moment Kish is one of the places
where there is any free exchange between Iran and the rest of civilization. Until the Council decides that the people
are having too much of a good thing, Kish
will continue to dance to a different drummer and the people that are lucky enough
to afford the place are having a ball. Maybe a short trip here by the clerics
would turn them around but in the meantime, the island looks like a western oasis.
A Rainy Day
That brings up the subject of drought and in spite
of the fact that Iran is trying to economically
expand, one of their principal problems has been a lack of rainfall, which has
through hundreds of thousands of farmers out of work. Moreover, the problem is
even a tad more complex than just the fact that they country is not as agriculturally
self-sufficient as it would like. You see, reform leader Mohammad Khatami foresaw
the need to be able to move irrigation water from one place in the country to
another in reality built the largest irrigation systems in the Middle East which
brought the precious liquid to many areas where it was badly needed but at the
same time, created a parched earth environment in areas that had previously been
extremely productive. Worse yet, many of his political opponents are now talking
about him in highly derogatory terms because of his opportunism in talking water
from the historically magnificent Zaindeh River, causing its power station to
cease functioning and throwing countless people out of work and moving it to Khatamis
home province of Yezd.
Stunning bridges, which used to span the river now
only span acres of dust. Fountains that appointed the most glorious mosques are
now shut down and they are occupied by desert flies instead of lilies and the
buildings that they aggrandized are swiftly crumbling as their foundations have
dried up. The grizzled farmers that would take time out from their back wrenching
days labors to relax while smoking their water pipes in bridges teahouses
and talk about the days affairs, can now only spend their days swatting
the gigantic flies in order to keep them of their food. In this province at least,
Khatami could not get elected dogcatcher let alone the president. The people
are looking for a villain and Khatami makes the most attractive target, however,
if the rains would only come, everyones disposition in the neighborhood
would improve dramatically and, oh-yes, if they would replace the holy
pipes that are used for irrigation with ones that could hold water that would
also be a substantial help.
the Great was the grandson of Cyrus the Great, who was the guy running things
in Iran back in 518 B.C. and a really good general, but also he really knew how
to run an Empire. His father and grandfather had created a nice little empire,
well, for the time, a really big empire, and is only stretched from India on the
east to Libya on the west, and had the Aegean and the Arabian Sea as its north-south
boundaries. Considering the amount of real estate that these folks had assembled,
Darius make a decision to build himself an appropriate palace that would graphically
illustrate what a powerful and omniscient person he was. This must be the greatest
structure ever created on earth, because anything less would not have proven his
point. In addition, he thought of it as a present to himself just for being a
great all-around great guy.
selected a very pleasant looking setting at the foot of Kuhi-Rahmat mountains
("Mountain of Mercy") in a plain approximately 400 miles south of where
Tehran is now located. The scenic conditions were superb, and they would add to
the little flourishes provided by Darius the Great and his architects. Darius
also was convinced that, with all of the entertaining he was doing and that leaders
of all those countrys occupied by Persia needed to be appreciative of his
grace, it was important that they stop by his place to pay him homage. If he would
be receiving trinkets from his admirers, it would be only fitting that they be
received in the awe that he richly deserved. A dual-purpose, magnificent ceremonial
palace that would also serve as the empires capital would fit nicely.
the other hand, Dariuss idea of a palace was more grandiose than most despots.
Once started, this little job took more than one hundred years to complete, and
with good reason. In Dariuss mind, this was going to be a monument to the
Achaemenian Empire (Persia), and he really wanted to pull out all of the stops.
As he commenced the excavation work, Darius left a statement for posterity carved
into the buildings foundation: "And Ahuramazda was of such a mind,
together with all the other gods, that this fortress should be built. So I built
it, and I built it secure and beautiful and adequate, just as I was intending
to." The large stones that made up the palace walls were carved with a precision
unknown during that period, and it was critical that they be precision honed,
because the palace was going to be constructed without an ounce of mortar.
was begun on an immense terrace, and its awesome dimensions were some 60 feet
in height, 1700 feet in length and 1000 feet wide. Once that was in place, Darius
could use it a base to build upon. He couldnt wait until he could bring
together all of the subjugated leaders of the various countries his family had
conquered to collect his homage in this place of future splendor.
was "great" at daydreaming, which is one of the reasons he was
called Darius the Great. He envisioned two immense stone human-headed, kneeling
bulls guarding the "Apadana," a great audience hall that would have
100 columns, each 70-feet tall, surrounding it. He would build the hall from cederwood,
marble and precious metals. When he saw the design, he gave the order to proceed:
"Gone today are the once brightly colored tiles, curtains of gold and immense
gold-plated wooden doors." This hall would hold thousands of people at one
time, and it would open onto three porticoes, one of which had a magnificent view
of the plain below. While he was at it, he saw the following vision:
of the tributary nations of the vast Persian empire come forward laden with gifts.
The Babylonians are about to offer the king a zebu, fine woolen scarves and beautifully
crafted vessels. The Scythians have brought a stallion, jewels and furs. Here
are Cappadocians, and there are Cilicans, leading two magnificent rams."
royal audience is taking place. The Great King is on his throne with his golden
scepter in one hand and a lotus in the other. He is receiving tribute from a figure,
apparently a Mede, who is bowing slightly and kissing his hand to the monarch.
This is Oriental proskynesis, a form of homage that provoked great indignation
among the Macedonians when Alexander demanded it from his own men. The crown prince
and two dignitaries stand behind the throne."
is late in the day. The tribute-bearers are probably in a hurry to join the kings
guests, who have already begun to gather in the gardens of the Tachara, the smaller
palace. One group can be seen passing in front of a row of Susan guards. Persians
wearing long pleated robes with broad sleeves, and Medes, with their horsemens
cloaks thrown casually over their shoulders, are talking and laughing as they
wait to be admitted. In the background a whole army of servants are at work. Their
task is to bring hundreds of chickens, goats and sheep into the place."
here is the king coming out of his audience chamber. His diminutive parasol bearer
and fly-catcher follow as close behind him as they can."
was crucial to Darius that the entrance to his castle was beyond imagination.
He wanted his subjects to be so awed by his creation that even greater gifts would
be given by his vassals. Thus, he made it so that his visitors would have to ascend
his colossal "Double, Grand Stairway" which was replete with bas-reliefs
of extraordinary variety, glazed brickwork, tapestries, precious metals and romantic
frescos glinting in the flickering torchlight as visitors rose toward its towering
magnificence. At the penultimate moment, his guests would pass through the superb
"Gate of all Nations" before they would be allowed to give Darious their
in case his guests might forget who it was that created this great palace, Darius
himself, appeared in engravings covering the walls, depicted him as a giant warrior
in the act of dispatching a serious number of humongous-sized super-monsters.
Naturally, there were other drawings of Darius as well, some showing him receiving
his well deserved tribute. In addition, there were countless images of the king
praying to Ahura Mazda, the Zoroastrian god. Dariuss daydream had become
a reality, and almost all of the leaders of the world, as they knew it at that
time, did bring him great gifts and wonderful offerings. This was only fitting
tribute to the greatest leader and warrior of them all, Darius must have muttered
was a very substantial dream, and it required a lot of support not generally available
in the proposed castles immediate vicinity. A call for workmen, artisans,
carvers, laborers and architects was initiated throughout the Persian Kingdom,
and it was not an offer that could easily by refused. If you accepted the government
contract that was being offered, you would be allowed to work seven days a week,
approximately 10 hours a day, doing hard labor or whatever other menial tasks
that the palace foreman assigned. The contract would be for an indefinite period
of time that could last up to and including a lifetime; and in this instance,
it often did.
you determine not accept the challenge, you were free to decline; and if you felt
that you would have no problem walking around headless, this was not a particularly
difficult quandary. Darius had created the kind of democracy we often dream about
today, one without a head. All you had to do was exercise your democratic right
to disagree with Darius, and you were headless.
Palaces architecture borrowed a little bit from this and a little bit from
that, it took a little slice from the Egyptians, something from the Ionians, a
tad from the Greeks and an additional amount from the Assyrians. The Persians
were more into magnitude than they were into cultivating a particularly delicate
Persian style of architecture, so Persepolis had a unique flavor, which combined
the finest styles available from many cultures. Even the name Persepolis was taken
from another culture, the Persians had named the place Parsa, but subsequently
under the influence of the Greeks it was renamed Persepolis, "The city of
the rear of the main building, Darius constructed a smaller palace he christened
the Tachara, and he used it for state banquets where he was entertaining hundreds
instead of thousands. His progeny kept up his tradition by regularly adding to
the sites luster, especially his son Xerxes and his grandson Artaxerxes.
The palace continued to become ever more grandiose. As a matter of fact, Persepolis
was perpetual motion to the nations buildings trades until Alexander
came along and put a stop to this frenetic construction project, once an for all.
The workman vastly were relieved, for many had not had a day off in 30 years.
the years rolled by, additional structures were constructed on the terrace, the
real necessities of life so to speak, a mammoth throne room with all of the accoutrements,
a treasury where the spoils of war were kept (after all, this was the richest
country in the world), and the omnipresent harem, in which the choicest damsels
in Persia resided. Behind this building and snuggled literally into the mountain
itself were the royal stables, guard rooms and living quarters.
do know that everyone was supposed to come here bearing presents. We do know that
it was an elegant looking place. But what was it? In reality, Persepolis was not
the head of an empire, nor was it the hub of any economic endeavors. It didnt
defend anything particularly valuable, and if it had ceased to exist from a strategic
point of view, not a thing in Persia would have changed one wit. The Persian Kings
didnt spend their winters here, and they didnt spend their summers
here. As a matter of fact, they didnt do much in Persepolis except to think
deep thoughts here for a week or two in spring. However, those thoughts for some
reason or other never led to anything particularly constructive. On the other
hand, they did spend New Years here, which strangely occurred in this region in
the spring during the vernal equinox.
number of highly religious events took place during this season, which was called
the Noruz. It was strictly a local event to pay homage to the guy all of these
folks, including Darius, were scared to death of, Ahura Mazda, the supreme god
of the Universe, "whose winged symbol was every where to be seen, but it
was also a great political communion to which the Darius the Great invited his
subjects." The big treat at these affairs came after the religious matters
had been dispensed with. Darius would then throw a big bash at which his quests
would not only eat everything that they wanted to eat, but also when they were
finished, they could take the silver trays they were using to eat on as a souvenir
of the experience. Kind of like buying a large coke at McDonalds and being able
take the neat plastic container that it came in home. Believe it or not, it appears
that the primary reasons for this magnificent edifice to have existed was to for
Darius to create a palace to receive homage and as a spot for him to celebrate
the religious Persian New Years.
how long the palace took to complete and how much Darius invested in it in terms
of time and effort, the place did not last very long. Alexander the Great came
along in 330 B.C. and without further adieu, Darius III surrendered the city without
a fight to Alexanders legendary cavalry while Dariuss Immortal Praetorian
Guard of ten thousand troops, cowered in fright. It seems that Darius III, the
last Achaemenid king, had met Alexander previously at the battle of Gaugamela
and had been so soundly trounced that he wanted nothing to do with the man ever
Alexander was left to his own devices. At first, as the story goes, he was content
to just pillage the palace and remove all of its valuables, but in the midst of
a drunken party he had second thoughts and had his captain of the guards torch
the entire place. He was heard to remark that the place was "to good for
the damn Persians." We know from the description by Plutarch that it took
20,000 mules and 5,000 camels to haul the entire stash away. Contained in his
stash were 40,000 silver talents and an enormous selection of jewels, vases and
carvings of ivory and jade.
most of the army joined Alexander in Persepolis, a council of war was held at
which the conqueror came out in favor of looting the city and destroying it. Parmenio,
one of his lieutenants, tried to dissuade him. Why should he destroy something
that now belonged to him and why run the risk of rekindling local resistance by
a wanton act of cruelty? Alexander deflected his arguments, but agreed to spare
the royal buildings. Thus, the residential part of the city was abandoned to the
ferocity of the Greek soldiers. The Roman historian Quintius Curius Rufus, author
of The History of Alexander, tells how the Persian leaders, dressed in
their finest robes, threw themselves from the tops of their walls or burned themselves
alive in their houses, rather than fall into the hands of their enemies. Bands
of soldiers ran in every direction, slitting the throats of their prisoners or
killing one another when they fought over the plunder. The carnage lasted several
misfortunes were not yet over, however. Back in the city after a swift expedition
against a mountain people, the Mardi, Alexander decided to march against the remnants
of the Persian army. Before sending his phalanxes onto the road to the northwest,
he offered his entourage a magnificent banquet. It was held on the very spot where
the Great Kings of Persia had entertained their guests, on the vast stone terrace
where stood the palaces and gardens that had been saved by Parmenios supplications.
Wine flowed in rivers, and it was not long before everyone was drunk. Suddenly
Thais, an Athenian courtesan famed for her beauty and quick wit, began to harangue
the crowd, urging them to burn the palace of Xerxes, who had once destroyed her
native city, and thus avenge Greece. Her words were greeted with a roar of approval,
and Alexander, swept along in the general enthusiasm, grabbed a torch and led
the crowd on its way. The revelers made their way to all the palaces of the royal
city and, to the sound of flutes and pipes, set fire to anything that would burn."
the effects of the wine had worn off, Alexander was not thrilled with what he
had done. He ordered the fires put out and saved what was left of this magnificent
city. While the fires had not destroyed everything, sadly, much of the citys
structure was assembled with cederwood and was therefore very susceptible to burning
when torched. In addition, the Citys walls were made of mud brick, and what
fire did to the cederwood, the centuries did to the walls. The magnificent walls
withered and shrunk. Within Persepoliss badly charred ruins, the body of
Darius III was found, and Alexander ordered that he be buried with honors. Thus,
Darius III, the last of his clan, was laid to rest in the city his ancestors had
been destroyed by fire, the site was forgotten about for nearly 2,000 years until
1620 A.D., when it was rediscovered. However, it was not until 1931 that the ruins
were excavated by the University of Chicagos Oriental Institute. The job was a monumental undertaking and required
substantial resources of material and labor under extremely difficult climatic
conditions. Professor Ernst Herzfeld, who at the time was Professor of Oriental
Archaeology in Berlin, took on the job
in 1931 at the behest of the University of Chicago. He in turn passed the baton to Erich F. Schmidt in 1934. During his tenure,
Schmidt had between 200 and 500 men working for him virtually around the clock.
He carried the ball until 1939, when the eruption of World War II caused everyone
to scurry for cover. The Iranian Antiquity Service took hold of the project after
the war had ended, and subsequently, they have done a workman like job in the
excavation and restoration effort.
digs by Herzfeld and Schmidt produced immediate results, and almost as soon as
they put their spades into the ground, marvelous treasures seemed to unfold:
these pottery vessels, numerous painted clay figurines of humans and animals were
discovered. Other ceramic objects consisted of scrapers, in the form of stirrups,
which were used for smoothing and decorating vessel surfaces before the vessels
were fired. These scrapers although made of clay were so strong,
and their scraping edges so sharp, that they were also used for scraping hides.
In addition to this vast amount of pottery, there were large quantities of knives,
blades and copper daggers. There were also many button seals, mostly made of green
stone, showing beautifully incised designs. Finally, some well-preserved clay
labels and seal impression were excavated."
at Naghsh-e Rustam are the colossal tombs cut into the mountain, which contain
the bodies of four Persian kings: Darius the Great, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I and
Darius II. These tombs are carved out of solid rock straight up a nearly horizontal
mountainside. Under the tombs are reliefs created at a later time by the
Sassanian kings, a dynasty of Persians who followed the Achaemenians centuries
later. They include relief's depicting the buried royalty and their gods. The
two sets of tombs and their artistic carvings seem to harmonize with each other
and create a most stirring spectacle. Not only is it hard to imagine how anybody
could have carved these massive tombs from the sheer surface of the rock, but
also just getting into position to do the work must have been a major undertaking.
It is said that these people had been able to create a rope apparatus, which allowed
them to hang from the mountaintop while carving their way into its bowels. ()
gaunt beauty of the Mountains, the immense landscape, the deep silence which pervades
the site, remote from any village, are appropriate for the sacred character of
this necropolis sheltering the tombs of the main Achaemenian Sovereigns."
was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979 and if were not for its remote
location and the fact that Iran is just not necessarily the best place in the
world to be traveling to at the moment, this site would be considered one of the
finest archeological excavations on earth. Probably more time has been spent on
this site by more highly trained professionals than any other in the world.