Saturday, July 5, 2008
You begin to wonder what he might have thought were he alive these days...
The Shah of Iran is buried in a small mausoleum in the corner of a mosque in Meydan Salah-id Deen here in Cairo... The area was locked off while i was there, but telling the guard I had come from iran to see this (+5 pounds) allowed me access to the tombs..
It was vaguely emotional standing there and seeing the ornate tomb (far above what egyptian king farouk had received in the next room) with freshly laid flowers, the peacock crown adorning it.. To imagine, the man who did so much, who inspired so much anger and so much emotion and captivated millions, today sat useless beneath the marble. it was kind of like seeing the mummies of Egyptian pharoahs at the Egyptian Museum the other day- they all just look useless, frail, defenseless- you can't imagine them ruling over great empires. At the shah's grave I felt the same.
If anything, it's the personal tragedy of the matter that captivates me (for at the end of the day we're all just little stories caught up in the waves of politics, right?). I try to imagine what he would think, 30 years later- if he ever thought he would be buried in relative obscurity in a far off country with no visitors and no family.. i can't imagine it would have crossed his mind how his life would change in it's last 2 years, to become a refugee after decades of greatness, of ruling over an empire with 2500 years behind it. And now, looking at his family- spread across the world, one daughter having committed suicide, one son still a delusional "prince (of what? Connecticut these days?) and iran on the brink of a war with the world that's hard even for myself to justify (despite being the great ahmedinejadist i've become)- it's very sad, on some level of national tragedy.
but who in iran has time to think about the personal tragedy of some delusional, dead monarch?
I recently realized that the arabic word for Farsi also means "domain of the knight".
I feel ridiculous, cliche, and overly emotional saying this, but i have to- and where is our knight now?
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Some more reliable reporting from the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/29/world/middleeast/29mideast.html?_r=1&oref=slogin&ref=world&pagewanted=print):
A Palestinian mother and her four young children were killed in northern Gaza on Monday during an Israeli operation against militants there, and a dispute quickly arose over exactly how they had died.
Mind you, the mother and 4 children were killed “during a raid”, but not by anyone or anything in particular. They just happened to be killed, and passively at that. Who killed them? Apparently, it is disputed who was shooting missiles into
Language is incredibly powerful, and Western & Israeli media’s avoidance of terms that seem to fault
Defense Minister Ehud Barak blamed Hamas. “We see Hamas as responsible for everything that happens there, for all injuries,” he said while on a tour of an Israeli weapons factory, Israeli radio reported.
They’re just responsible, it doesn’t even matter for what, they did it, too. Then this: “Militants have tried to infiltrate the border crossing into
This, only a few weeks after the Deputy Defence Minister of Israel told the entire Palestinian nation (for this is what “Palestinians” means, right?) that they risked inviting a Holocaust upon themselves if they not stop the rocket attacks. It is shocking how an Israeli official could make a reference to the Holocaust when discussing the Palestinians, when they Israelis can barely fathom the idea that they might actually by “killing” people, much less “murdering” them. (I understand that he used the word “Shoah”, which means a disaster or calamity, but from every source I’ve found, “shoah”, and particularly “ha-shoah”, is a reference almost exclusively to the Holocaust in the Hebrew language.)
The intensification in the last few months of the fighting in
“A commenter called Noga of the Contentious Centrist blog explains the many many ways in which the word "shoah" is used in
Thank goodness Noga has cleared that one up.
I see little hope for the future: for
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
First: I was in professor Lamy’s office the other day discussing research that I would like to do over summer while in Egypt & Iran, and at some point, after some (half-) kidding remark I made regarding Iran’s political situation, he remarked, “ah, so you’re a Persian nationalist, aren’t you?”
Second: A friend of mine called me because she was writing a paper for a discussion she was having in an international relations course that centered on contemporary Western relations with
This was, sadly, the truth of the matter. I read As’ad Abu Khalil’s Angry Arab blog on a daily basis, and am always reminded of the follies of nationalism (except for the Palestinians, as he always qualifies). I myself think nationalism is a base appeal to emotion that stirs people up illogically, but at the same time it is hard for me not to feel nationalistic when I see the world around me, and how
I found once a blog called Ibn Bint Jbeil (http://ibnbintjbeil.blogspot.com/) and at some point there is a post where the writer explains that while he was actually born in Beirut, his father’s attachment to his natal village Bint Jbeil was so strong that he could not bear to have his children registered as being born in Beirut, and thus registered them officially as having been born in Bint Jbeil. The father had gone to work in
Another article I read a bit ago in foreign policy also explored the positive side of nationalism (“Is Nationalism Good For You?” March/April 2008 http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4170&page=2), discussing how people who are more nationalistic tend to be less corrupt and contribute more to their society at large (which makes sense). If this is the type of nationalism
A tangent, but
Freshman year I wrote a paper for my PPD minor (International Urban Development) on
The other day I was sitting with a friend who had recently been in
“Where are you from?”
“Right now, no where.”
“I don’t know, it depends on uncultured folk.”
Monday, April 7, 2008
I do research at the Center for Public Diplomacy, and I have just started a project on Hizballah’s public diplomacy strategy. The first thing that struck me was- why is this organization called “Hizballah” in English? For that matter, why is Al-Qaeda “al-Qaeda”? It bothers me that the English translation is used for some organizations (like the IDF) but not for others. A recent article in the LATimes by Rabih Alameddine captured my frustration, as he lamented that by calling God “Allah” when speaking about Islam it is inferred that Muslims pray to some special, separate deity unrelated to the “God” of English Christianity or Judaism. By referring to Hizballah as such (and not as the “Party of God”), what does the Western media accomplish, I wonder? After a bombing in
Besides that initial misgiving about the project’s name, the word on Hizballah has been informative, especially my research about Hizballah’s videogame diplomacy, involving the production of slick, Western-style computer games about the historic resistance against
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev responded by saying: ''It should come as a surprise to no one that Hezbollah teaches children that hatred and violence are positive attributes.'' (http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/08/16/hezbollah.game.reut/index.html)
Where is the Israeli anger when Activision releases a videogame involving American soldiers shooting up Arab villages (like I had the chance to play when I was younger), or the 2005 “Assault on
Saturday, March 15, 2008
I work for the campus UNICEF chapter (UNICEF@USC), and while I have doubts about the amount of good UNICEF can achieve in the long haul (it acts as a stopgap measure most of the time, reacting to crises in ways that rarely touch upon deeper issues) I take seriously our chapter’s mission of educating students and spreading awareness of global issues on campus seriously. Recently I gave a talk on the humanitarian crisis in
The crisis in
It is very hard for people in this country to understand the roots of terror, or to understand that just because they forget something, the rest of the world will not. Over and over, Americans repeat the same mistakes- in 1979, instead of looking to the CIA-backed coup of the popular leader Mossadeq or
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
I cannot help but be shocked everyday that goes by as the Arabs remain silent about the massacres going on in
Last semester for a class on Peace & Conflict Studies I wrote a research paper on Arab pop music and how it had interacted (i.e. reacted or been influenced by) with the Arab political situation. My research spanned from the 1950’s onward, and the last few pages had to do with how contemporary Arab pop has become completely alienated from the audience it addresses. It is hard for me to imagine what the average Palestinian or even Egyptian family, sitting on a rotten couch in an overcrowded refugee camp or anonymous slum thinks when they watch TV and see Haifa Wehbe singing about a naughty child she is babysitting (a child who wears Burberry outfits in her video “Wawa”) or Maria switching off between Geisha costumes and a Louis Vuitton-themed car in “Stop Ta3ala Bas”. This is probably the most disturbing aspect of Arab culture today- the complete chasm between the high culture of the Gulf and the elites of other countries and the low culture (read: the reality) of everyone else, from the Palestinians on up. (I should note, though, that even Arab pop music can claim a higher moral position than the governments of the Gulf, stemming from the recent 25-minute music video “al Dameer al 3arabi”, which probably tops by far anything the Gulf has ever done [or even thought of doing] in the way of Arab “consciousness”…)
For many Arab intellectuals today, it seems that the inertia and resulting hopelessness that was sown in the wake of the Setback of 1967 has never faded, and understandably so- their governments have been lulled to sleep by Western cash, and the people are too busy trying to scrape out a living (or, after work, too busy watching Haifa) to care about their brothers and sisters in Palestine. It is telling that the biggest demonstration in the wake of the recent massacres occurred in Nouakchott, Mauritania, a city I doubt many Arabs have even heard of before, much less could locate on a map.
It is on these days that I am tremendously proud to be an Iranian citizen. The Iranian government has emerged as one of the few major voices in the world to actively challenge Israeli and US actions, despite the little benefit
When I look at
Sunday, March 2, 2008
It is amazing how the Israeli leadership blatantly lies to the world! After reports that militants had launched Soviet-made missiles towards
Also, I enjoy how the Western media goes out of its way to make American viewers feel comfortable by giving the view of middle-class Israeli people when discussing the war the Israelis are waging against Gaza, and not the view of the actual people being affected or hurt by it. When people are dying on one side of the security fence, how is it even ethical for the BBC to ask the residents of Sderot, who moved there from somewhere else, how hard it is for them for homemade rockets that rarely hit their target to land in the desert in the general region of their city? Poor people (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7270650.stm).
This article by former Ma’ariv correspondent, Yonatan Mendel, rails against this ridiculous treatment of the Palestinians by the press: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v30/n05/mend01_.html. For example, when a militant Palestinian group takes an Israeli hostage across the security fence (in this case a soldier) it is “kidnapping”, but when Israel does the same across the security fense (in this case, a parliamentarian) it is “arrest”. Similarly, the IDF never “murders” anyone; it merely “hits” them. How can these writers even take themselves or their reporting seriously?
This passage in particular sticks out, because it very accurately describes the type of reporting depressingly common when the situation in
‘A Qassam fell next to a residential house, three Israelis had slight injuries, and ten others suffered from shock.’ One should not make light of these injuries: a missile hitting a house in the middle of the night could indeed cause great shock. However, one should also remember that shock is for Jews only. Palestinians are apparently a very tough people.
During the July War I was at home watching CNN when some reporters interviewed a family in the north of
Never mind that the woman in
Monday, February 25, 2008
I began thinking about Iran's role, and the notion that Iran's current power grabs were justified, over dinner on the West Side with Agha Shams and his wife. Sitting in a Persian restaurant where any trace of Arab heritage had been erased (the signs were, bizarrely, in ancient Persian script, not Arabo-Farsi script), we were talking about the US occupation of Iraq, and how it did not make sense for the US to leave at any point in the foreseeable future (nor would its allies to the South allow it). I then began to argue that Iran was a tremendous source of stability at this time, and that its role in Iraq's South and in Lebanon would, over the long-term ensure a more stable Iran and eventually a more stable region. Agha Shams was baffled, and so I tried to explain.
Iran is a nation of people extremely suspicious of foreigners and foreign influence (kharej/fesad-e gharb/etc), and for good reason- any look at Iran's history will bring to light multiple attempts by Britain, Russia, USA, etc to sabotage Iran's sovereignty and to take advantage of it. In 1980, after the US puppet regime had been overthrown, Saddam Hussein decided to get in on the act, and invaded Khuzestan province with the support of the entire world (minus Syria & Libya, among others). After hundreds of thousands of Iranians had been massacred on the field and gassed to death by chemical weapons (the 2nd and last time in history they have been used), a ceasefire was finally signed in 1988. The damage, physical and mental, was done. Iranians understood that after this point there was no one in the world they could rely on- neither the Arabs, nor the West, nor the East- to prevent them from atrocities and aggression. However, Iran at this time was weak, and focus moved back to the economy.
Then, in 2001, The Taleban was removed from power in Afghanistan, and in 2003 Saddam from Iraq. Suddenly, Iran's two major immediate enemies were removed, and, with the US about to choke them, Iran began to bite. As the US faltered in Iraq, Iran began supporting militias in the South opposed to US and opposed to the chaos of the post-invasion years. These militias managed to gain popular support and eventually created more stability than the US or UK had ever created. Today, Iraq's South is less violent than most of the country, and Iran enjoys a buffer zone against both US & possible KSA aggression (so, basically against the US). This buffer zone is a great mental support for Iran, because finally, the country that has managed to make Iran suffer so much has been neutralized, and Iran is busy building a friendly island of stability in the country's South. The uneducated talk of Iranian "interference" in Iraq- it is not interference to create peace where your enemies cannot, especially when the lack fo peace threatens your own stability directly. This is called helping a neighbor.
Meanwhile, during the Leb Civil War it became clear that Lebanon's large Shia population could not stand up against Israeli and US aggression, and so Hezbollah was created (and would receive much Iranian support). This organization was, technically, sectarian- but what wasn't in 1980's Lebanon? After the war, while maintaining a sectarian base, Hezbollah moved towards the center, compromising goals of an "Islamic state" for a pluralist democracy. Hezbollah became a major social services provider in lieu of the absent and neglectful Lebanese state, and it remained armed in recognition that Lebanese armed forces were frightfully weak in the face of Syria and as a result of failed promises on the part of the West in the Taif Accords. So Iran supported Hezbollah, as did many Lebs, especially during the July War. In the July War, hezbollah, and Iran, proved that they could stand up to Israeli aggression, and that they were a legitimate force for the defense of the oppressed of the Middle East. Hezbollah has said that it would not have gone to war if it had known the consequences, and most people agree that it should not have- but this point is irrelevant to our purposes (except to prove that Israel's use of force is generally way out of proportion to the threats posed- ie niether hezbollah nor iran demand annhilation of israel, which they have made clear repeatedly). Iran in Lebanon proved to the Arabs that it could fight as a stalwart of the Arabs, as a regional power they could depend on- but despite the sacrifice, much suspicion remains.
Iran, after years of being battered and double crossed by the Arabs and the West, has a legitimate excuse to demand buffer zones in Iraq and to extend its influence in other parts of the Middle East where it is welcomed popularly (South of Lebanon). Just as the USSR after WWII demanded a buffer against German aggression, Iran does the same. However, Iran must not make the mistakes the USSR did.
After years of aggressive US pressure, the US has finally backed off on Iran's nuclear program (I suspect in exchange for Iran's demand that the militias in Iraq lessen their fight, concurrently with the exchange of captured diplomats- it all happened in the same week), and there is less need for Iran to continue its highly defensive policies in Iraq. Iran finally has time to shift focus to its economy, and domestic elections over the next year NEED to yield a result that focuses less on external wars than with domestic economic progress, most Iranian's current concerns. Iran must stop being belligerent (as the USSR was) and instead work on internal economic development, with the hope that this development will spread benefits over time into the South of Iraq and later more of the Arab region. The Arabs, for their part, must welcome this investment.
Between 10-30% of Dubai is currently owned by Iranian nationals, and its current success would be substantially less without their capital inflows. If Dubai had closed itself to Iran, initially, it would not look like it does today. Iran has launched a charm offensive in the rest of the Gulf to capture hearts and eventually lead to greater economic exchange- if the Arabs in general follow suit, a larger economic flourishing is not far off.
What Iraq desperately needs right now is jobs, and if Iran is flowering economically, its sphere of influence in Iraq will do so too. Once young people in iraq have jobs, and since they are (in the south) controlled by a government they, for the time, generally agree with, greater stability will ensue. Iran can provide this stability.
Iran can provide a light for the region, but the Arabs must be receptive to it, and the Iranian people must make certain decisions at the ballot box. Arab suspicion of Iran, however, is useless and counter productive. Finally, the Arabs have a neighbor that is strong and is trying to help them, but if they continue to squander the opportunity ot move forward this will become just another defeat in a long list of Arab disappointments.