Friday, March 02, 2007

Rumors of War: Bush and Yazid?

As March approaches, I cannot stop being worried about the rumor of a US war on Iran. Even though my good friend Cyrus, who I believe is the most accurate commentator on Iranian politics, told me that these threats are all rhetoric and nothing will happened, there are Seymour Hirsh’s most recent piece in the New Yorker and that article in the London Telegraph which can cause one to loose sleep. Unfortunately, we do not live in an open society (not in Karl Popper’s free-market sense, but in Bill Moyer's sense). We live in a new Dark Age; the light is the media, which is switched off. If you do not believe this, look at the front pages of the newspapers which keep a running tally of the men who claim to be the father to that Anna Nicole Smith’s child. And television? I got a glimpse of it on Sunday night before the Oscars, and I was so glad we don’t own one.

Turning to the Iranian online newspapers, I was amazed at all the comments on Shahram Jazayeri Arab’s escape from prison. He had been arrested on a monetary fraud charge during the last administration and his trial was a record-breaking television show in Iran during the Khatami’s presidency. According to those articles I read, since the present government did not have any use for his anti-reformist show, he was allowed to escape. The government was so anxious for him to get out of the country that it immediately announced that he and all his family are beyond the Iranian border so that people should not expect any follow-up.

The second big news was regarding the obscene questions about the life of the Prophet asked by the Ministry of Education in one of the teacher’s college entrance exams. (It is such a relief that the offender was not a foreigner and or a non-Muslim. Thank God he was not reformist either, but a full-fledged fundamentalist, one of their own.)

I turn to the blogs. There are few that I read every night. Sayyed Mohammad Abtahi’s nightly article is my number one barometer of calamities. His being a cleric and close to Khatami, his amicable personality, his extreme popularity which keeps every door open to him, his connection to a vast array of classes of Iranians, and his sharpness and courage, makes him uniquely capable of saying things that others are not able to. If he feels safe, I’m safe, and everybody is safe.

Abtahi’s last ten articles do not indicate even a remote possibility of war. He has written about the Jazayeri’s Great Escape and Batebi’s Humble Shirt (coming to a theater near you!), he wrote about writings memoirs, stereotyping, Khatemi-bashing, film festivals and Dehnamaki’s movie Emigrants, the above-mentioned obscene questions posed by the Ministry of Education, Ahmadinejad’s latest gaffe (a sixteen years old girl who built some nuclear something). But there was nothing about the war.

Massoud Behnoud is in England. Although this is a safe haven, he is not the kind of person to sit and watch the events passively. He has to say something. His last ten articles were about the Tehran University poetry reading to protest Batebi’s situation, about Espahbodan’s untimely death, about Iran’s movie industry and its founders, and about Ghaffary’s death. He has also written a few article about the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear energy program and the price Iran has to pay for being isolated due to it. But nothing regarding any war.

Another site which I use as my barometer is Ahmad Shirzad. He was the Isfahan representative in the reformist Majlis. He is very outspoken, extremely knowledgeable in nuclear physics, and a tireless activist. He would not sit idle if America were ready to drop the bomb. He knows for sure what would be the consequence. In his latest article, he invited Ahmadinejad to a television debate over his claim that “even if we stop all the government’s programs for ten years and spend it all on nuclear energy, it would still be in our interest to do so since Iran would move fifty years ahead.” It is very significant that Shirzad would even bother to respond to Ahmadinejad if we were even remotely close to the war. Knowing him, I think he would raise a hell over it. He knows well enough that there won’t be any television crew to broadcast the debate and that no one would be interested in seeing the President is defeated, if the bomb is dropped on Iran.

There are other sites I read on and off: Emad od-Din Baghi, Mara‛ashi, Tajzadeh, Arghandehpoor, Mazroo‛i, Ebadi, and Rafsanjani. None of these sites indicate the war we hear about here. In above blogs and sites, there are several articles regarding the various interview or the results of talks or sanctions and their effects, but none about the possibility of war, a real war in which places get destroyed and people die.

I realize that I am just arriving at a conclusion by a process of elimination, or by some sort of reasoning. We have tried those methods before the Iraq war, and were all disappointed. Reason has nothing to do with politics. However, what I’m trying to say is slightly different. The web sites I read are not government-connected sites. They belong to individuals and activists. They are writing with different motives. That is why I think they are reliable and that is why I choose them as my barometer.

I do not think any of the above-mentioned bloggers and activist would write what they write if they remotely anticipated the possibility of war. I do not think that Abtahi would have gone to a film festival and laugh and write about it if he thought that the Americans were in the Persian Gulf ready to attack Iran. I do not think that Shirzad would have invited Ahmadinejad for a debate on television if he knew that all those fabulous monuments in Isfahan would (God forbid) be destroyed in the near future. I do not think that Baghi would have written about the people in Ahwaz who had been executed. I do not think that Tajzadeh would have worried about the government ignoring the laws that much, and of course Mazroo‛i is smart enough to know that economic plans are of no use if we are getting involved in a war with the US.

What do we conclude from all this? Are we all involved in playing a role in a fiction? Is there no war and our beloved governments are working willy-nilly together, as Christian Amanpour reported? Or there is another strategy? Or bunch of fools putting on an act in an abyss with the people following them?

We all know what will happen when we rely on each others’ weaknesses, when we bluff, when we think the other side thinks as we do, when we think we are all like each other. We think they all are like “me,” and when our calculations fail, we will cry “Va Mossibatta” (“What a calamity!”) if we survive.

Sitting down in front of my computer and reading online newspapers, and going to bed with a false reassurance that there will be no war, I feel guilty of the same error that has been repeated many times in history. I do not think the Japanese even remotely expected the shameless bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I have no doubt that Dr. Mossadegh would not believe that America would have acted as she did in 1953; he thought that America’s idea of democracy was the same as his impeccable idea of it, and that the Americans were just as committed to it. I have no doubt that that Shah never thought that Jimmy Carter would have betrayed him in broad daylight as the whole world looked on. None of us thought that America would do what it did in Afghanistan or attack Iraq. We all thought the rule of reason, justice, fairness, shame, etc. were credible enough to prevent catastrophe. Experience has shown us otherwise.

I argue that all these clerics in leadership position won’t sit with their hands folded and wait for America drop a bomb on us. They would do something; that is what they are there for; that is why we have the Vali Faghih, isn’t it? He is there to intervene in critical situations. He can ask this incompetent Ahmadinejad to step down. We have a big office of Maslehat Nezam with Rafsanjani in charge; are they not supposed to oversee the welfare of the country or system? Are not they supposed to take action if the country is in danger and the government is mishandling the crisis? I reason that if they are not taking any action, things are safe and secure. But what if he makes the same mistake I do? Of course the Islamic Republic does not follow my line of reasoning, but it could follow the Imams’. Could it be Imam Hussein’s for example? It may.

Imam Hussein went to war with the Caliph Yazid with only seventy-two people, many of whom were his families, including women and children, who were not skilled warriors. Did he not know the consequence? Did he not know he would get defeated? Or did he know and did it anyhow? I think very likely he thought the same as we are all thinking and many others before us. More likely he did not think Yazid capable of such sacrilegious brutality. He relied on something that he was not sure of, a vestigial sense of decency, righteousness, fairness or even shame in Yazid, who had none. Are we not all following the same footsteps again? What if we are all wrong? Then is there always the option of playing the martyr? Is that what we are heading for?

Let’s see. I’m safe as long as Abtahi and Shirzad’s are not worried. They are not worried probably since Rafsanjani and Khamanei are not worried. All those ruling clerics are not worried because they think America won’t do anything so stupid. Am I right? Is this what they are learning from the epic tragedy of Imam Hussein? Is that what is going on? Why not? We all are assuming at this point and hoping that all decision-makers think like us and wish as well as we do. They may not.

We the people in the world, with all our intelligence and cleverness when it comes to certain things, are not acting intelligently. I cannot believe we have left the world to George Bush, who probably models himself after John Wayne, and Ahmadinejad, though he does not need any model, being a model by himself, who models himself after George Bush. They are bluffing and mishandling and doing meaningless things and together walking into the abyss and taking us with them. Would anyone survive to cry “Va Mossibata”?

PS: I notice that some American military have come out against any American adventure in Iran. Visit their website at

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