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A purely analytical perception...


Updated 12-29-03

Its History

The 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 246 B.C.

The 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 Isma’il, 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's Time

Nadir the Robber couldn’t 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 country’s corruptness, demanded a constitution that included a bill of rights. This was adopted in 1907, but it did not last for long.

Crown 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 didn’t 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 everyone’s 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.

The CIA Strikes Again

Riza Khan Pahlevi, the commander-in-chief of the Iranian army, became the country’s military dictator and then in 1995, the Shah. In the meantime, Iran joined the rest of the world’s 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, didn’t 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.

The 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 world’s richest power and decided they like the spot, so with the assistance of the American CIA, the Shah was restored to his Throne.

During the next several decades, the United States and the Shah’s Iran enjoyed an exceeding good relationship. Because of increases in the price of oil (Iran’s 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.

The Accent of the Moneyed Class

By 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 country’s 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.

Small 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.

Politics Rears Its Ugly Head

In 1975, the Shah made his most critical mistake when he abolished all of the country’s 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 nation’s 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.

The 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 Shah’s selective prosperity favored many of the country’s 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.

The 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 didn’t he agree that all the kids could eat for free on him. "Well," said the Shah, "that’s going to cost a lot of bread; but if I can hold onto my job, it’s probably worth it."

His handler told the Shah that he hadn’t finished telling him what he was going to have to do. "Yes Sir, Mr. Pahlavi, you are going to have to lower the people’s taxes, give everyone really low cost health insurance program and then give 49% of all of the country’s 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 people’s needs.

A Man of the Poor People

Although 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.

The Shah’s westernization program wasn’t 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 people’s 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 frequently.

A British Spy No Less

The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was when the Iranian government planted an article in one of the country’s 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 forgotten.

The Shah was now like a gambler down on his luck; nothing was going his way. "The government’s 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.

In 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.

The Ayatollah Gets Around

However, 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.

Having 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 didn’t 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.

The 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

With 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.

Too 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 didn’t 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.

The 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."

A New Order In Iran

With 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 Bakhtiar’s actions. Khomeini had Bakhtiar thrown out of his own political party, the National Front, and expelled him from the movement. He then declared Bakhtiar’s government illegal. The conflict between the two men brought about massive strikes, which brought the barely functioning economy to a standstill.

When 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 country’s 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.

The religious revolutionaries turned the government over to citizens who were ill equipped to govern:

"Mehdi 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 People’s Republic Party in 1979 with a base in Azerbaijan, Shariatmadari’s home province."

"Moreover, 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 Khomeini’s 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

It 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 Bazargan’s 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 people’s 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 party’s newspaper and made the remainder of Bazargan’s 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.

Among other things that had occurred during Bazargan’s short reign was the total breakdown of the Iranian Judicial system:

"The 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 minister’s 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 Khomeini’s 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 Shah’s 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.

Beginning 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."

Bani 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 Sadr’s 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 that.

Bani Sadr, Much Talk, Little Action

When 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 Sadr’s appointees to head the state broadcasting service and the Pasdaran were forced to resign within weeks of their appointments."

It was during Bani Sadr’s 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 Stalin’s 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 didn’t hurt.

Overrun By The Revolutionary Guards

In 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 Shah’s 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 wasn’t a thing the strongest nation on earth could do about it. The Iranians had their day in front of the world.

They 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

The 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 Reagan’s 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.

Diplomatic 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

No 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.

During 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 country’s military, operating under the command of Sadr, had given the American’s 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 America’s abortive rescue attempt. This gives us some idea of what would have happened had the United States been successful.

Ultimately, 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 Iran’s 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

In 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.

In 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 Iraq’s infrastructure. Both sides further agreed that they would not meddle in each other’s 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 Shi’ite’s of southern Iraq and the Kurds of northern Iraq.

Vengeful Folks

Khomeini’s ardor for revenge was also shared by Iraq’s, Hussein, who by now was Iraq’s 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 (Iran’s 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.

Simultaneously 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.

Equally important was Hussein’s 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.

Moreover, Kuzistan had been part of Iraq’s 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. Let’s 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 Shi’ite 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. Hussein’s war strategies were often flawed and this instance did not break the mold. Both groups chose to sit out the conflict rather than challenge Khomeini’s revolutionary vision (i.e., revolutionary troops).

A Man of the Cloth With A Really Long Memory

Equally important was Khomeini’s 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).

The 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:

"This 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 Ayatollah’s ’Persian expansionist ambitions‘ before the Iraqi parliament and cited the Ayatollah’s ’lack of good neighborly behavior‘ as a reason for Iraq’s 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

The 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 officer’s corps had been purged when the religious right took charge, because they were concerned about the army’s 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.

So 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 army’s 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 Iraq’s, it just didn’t matter; Iran could always call up a few more young religious fanatics whenever the need seemed to arise.

Iraq 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?

He 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 Iran’s 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 Hussein’s head on a plate and pursued the conflict with unbelievable vigor, only adding to Iran’s massive losses in personnel.

Another 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 general’s 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 can’t be run from downtown, and as a result, the Iraqi Air Force was not very effective during the entire war.

Although both countries had oil-producing areas far out of the range of the other’s ability to strike them, much time was wasted by each side destroying the other’s 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

Not 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.

Iran 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

Moreover, if this was not bad enough, as time went on, the rules became even more strict. In rapid succession, women’s 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 girl’s 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.

"The 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. 

The 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."

In 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 women’s 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

The 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 father’s 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."

The 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.

The 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

Lebanese 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 Counsel’s report also indicated that both President Reagan and Vice President Bush had to be aware of what was going on.

There 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

Meanwhile, 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.

In 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.

Not a Lot of Friends

The 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.

The 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 the world.

An Agreement With China

The 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 China’s 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.

However, 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 China’s 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 their intent:

"After 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 Ministry’s representative on the ruling State Council and effectively Berger’s counterpart. To drive home the message, the State Department and National Security Council’s top counter-proliferation officials, Robert Einhorn and Gary Samore, summoned acting Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong for a meeting.

They 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." ()

Some 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 couldn’t 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

However, 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 weren’t, 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.

On 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.

Terrorism Personified

The 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 Iran’s porous borders and have killed a substantial number of Iranian clerics who were involved in a recent pilgrimage into Afghanistan.

Furthermore, 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. Wouldn’t 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 today’s allies are tomorrow's enemies, and vice versa.

Although 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:

"The 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.

While 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 28, 2003.

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?

However, 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. 

The U.S. Position

The 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

While it is sad that Iran’s 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 what’s their beef? Uncle Sam only spent $20 million trying to overthrow their Uncle Ayatollah. That’s 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 Tehran’s streets decorated with blazing Uncle Sam Piñatas. It’s nearly 20 years later and now we’re the ones with blindfolds. Iran has elected a moderate (well in Iran, he’s 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 don’t 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 we’ve come to hate. Oh, don’t forget that hard-linger Ayatollah () Ali Khameini still tosses the lightning bolts in this nation of very heavily clothed people. " ()

 Iran and a Changing World

Black Gold and Its Lures 

Iran ’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, Bijan Zanganeh.  

Bijan’s 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. Zanganeh’s 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 ministry’s 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 country’s 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 didn’t 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 people’s 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 it said.

Khatami, 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 country’s 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 people’s 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.  

In 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 Department’s “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 Khatami’s 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 country’s 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.

It 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, “Don’t 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 other’s laps, the Iranian police stepped into the breach to avoid what could have become a revolution.  

The 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.  

A 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 Khatami’s 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 Council’s 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 country’s borders.  

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 former satellites.   

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 Caspian’s 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 Caspian’s 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.

Drugs, 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 defeat.  

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 will.  

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 for them.

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 drug’s 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.  

Living In The Closet

We are not trying to make a case that the Iranian Government wasn’t 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 Iran’s 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 Shah’s 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 didn’t 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.  

Its All In The Game

Things in this area didn’t 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.  

A 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 Shah’s 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 demonstrations seriously.  

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 didn’t exist during Saladin’s time, they had no interest in it.   

Freedom 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 don’t 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 government’s restrictive policies as they apply to foreign investment.  

Fair Game

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 don’t 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 Parliament’s 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 Council’s 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 Hussein’s 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.

A 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 is prison."

Two 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 dissidents.

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.

Occurring 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.

A Form Of Reform

Moreover, 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.

Furthermore, 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.

As 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 “Great Satan.”   

Intensely Rearming

In 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 doesn’t seem like difficult choice to make, the Taliban’s 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 of odds.  

Not 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.

A 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 Laden’s 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 Center and 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 Muslim’s 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.  

Not The Home Team

In spite of the fact that stories like this one only tend to accelerate the Iranian’s disgust with their own government, the country’s 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 American’s 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 Afghan people.”  

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.  

A 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 American’s 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 didn’t 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 wasn’t 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 embassy’s 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 can’t 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 today’s friends are tomorrow’s friends, they should be saying, today’s friends are tomorrow’s enemies. 

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 America’s 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 don’t 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.  

Its 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 exhibition’s 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 didn’t 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. Let’s all grow up and deal with life as it exists now and get our country moving again.”  

Underneath It All

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 American’s 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.

Tehran 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 website", www.ansaronline.com 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 nation’s interests.” However, Iran is a government of the few dictating the lives of the many, and if they don’t 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 don’t 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 --?  

Talking The Talk

In spite of the all of the rhetoric, in today’s 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 don’t. 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 hasn’t 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 is crucial.”   

This stirred the pot again because as the Iranian’s 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.    

A New Putt Putt

As if to take people’s 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 country’s 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 1960’s 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. 

In 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.

However, 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)

The 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.

With 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

They 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.  

However, as time went on, the people of Iran led by a group of hateful clerics determined that this man was not good for the country’s 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.  

Pahlavi 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.  

The 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 heart’s 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.  

Moreover, 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[1] spews forth from every nook and cranny here and there are no religious police around to ruin any one’s 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.  

The 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 pretty people.  

As 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.  

While the island of Kish may be coming  the economic answer to many of Iran’s 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.     



[1] Ten years ago, music became the first entertainment banned in Iran that was permitted in Kish. In the early days, bands were not allowed to play foreign songs or jaunty music that could encourage dancing. Now people clap or move along to all sorts of songs, from Frank Sinatra to banned Persian songs from pre-revolution days. Kish Journal, A Little Leg, a Little Booze, but Hardly Gomorrah, Nazila Fathi, The New York Times, April 15, 2002.



Not 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 Khatami’s 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 day’s labors to relax while smoking their water pipes in bridge’s teahouses  and talk about the days affairs, can now only spend their day’s 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, everyone’s 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.  


Darius 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.

He 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 country’s 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 empire’s capital would fit nicely.

On the other hand, Darius’s 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 Darius’s 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 building’s 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.

Construction 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 couldn’t 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.

Darius was "great" at daydreaming, which is one of the reason’s 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:

"Delegations 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."

"A 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."

"It is late in the day. The tribute-bearers are probably in a hurry to join the king’s 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 horsemen’s 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."

"And 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."

It 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 homage.

And 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. Darius’s 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 to himself.

His was a very substantial dream, and it required a lot of support not generally available in the proposed castle’s 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.

Should 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.

The Palace’s 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 Assyrian’s. 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 Persian."

In 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 site’s 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 nation’s building’s 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.

As 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.

We 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 didn’t 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 didn’t spend their winters here, and they didn’t spend their summers here. As a matter of fact, they didn’t 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.

A 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.

Considering 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 Alexander’s legendary cavalry while Darius’s 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 again.

So, 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.

"When 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 days."

"Persepolis’s 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 Parmenio’s 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."

When 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 city’s structure was assembled with cederwood and was therefore very susceptible to burning when torched. In addition, the City’s 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 Persepolis’s 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 created.

Having 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 Chicago’s 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.

The 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:

"…Besides 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."

Nearby 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 relief’s 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. ()

"The 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."

Persepolis 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.



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