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By Kam Zarrabi, Intellectual Discourse


These days saying or writing anything in anyway positive about the Islamic Republic of Iran is an invitation to all sorts of criticism, ridicule and even slander. It is, therefore, no surprise that high profile writers and academics or those folks who seek publicity and recognition in the mass media cater to the prevailing mindset, simply because it is all about "them" and their ambitions. They are not ready or willing to risk their tenure or position for the sake of journalistic honesty or the truth; no surprises there!


Rising in defense of anything Iranian marks one at best as an apologist, or at worst as a paid agent of the Islamic Republic. This is particularly true, even exclusively so, if the "offender" is an Iranian or an Iranian American. As a result, we see only the American or British academics whose views we see reflecting a different perspective from the conventional wisdom about Iran. Even these observers, the likes of the nuclear physicist Gordon Prather who writes about Iran's nuclear operations, or Professor Juan Cole with impeccable credentials and qualifications in the fields of history and geopolitics, offer their countercurrent views to seldom publicized dissent oriented web sites or on their personal web pages.


They are also subject of criticism by their detractors, not being accused of sedition as agents of the "enemy", but as ignoramuses who simply do not understand or are in denial of the so-called "facts". We Iranians or Iranian Americans, on the other hand, are not as kindly received when we express views that do not accommodate mass perceptions about Iran.


Needless to say, not all is well in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Not all is well anywhere else in the world or right here in America, either. I cannot think of any place on this earth where all is well and where criticism does not apply. In fact, I believe there is lot more wrong in Iran today than the regime or the administration of the country would ever admit. However, it doesn't necessarily follow that all is wrong in Iran, or that everything the Iranian leaders say or do should be criticized.


Kam Zarrabi is the author of
In Zarathushtra's Shadow

This brings me to three subjects of current interest regarding Iran and its relations with the West, particularly the United States.


First issue that has been highly publicized lately is the detention and conviction of the Iranian American reporter, Roxana Saberi, on charges of espionage. The United States and practically all the Western allies have unanimously condemned Ms. Saberi's arrest and conviction, as have all the media sources, which include Iranian American organizations and the related web sites.


What strikes me more than anything else is that they all claim they somehow know that the charges against the young and attractive Ms. Saberi are bogus and trumped up for ulterior motives by the Iranian government.


Naturally, we cannot expect our Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to say anything other than what she has said repeatedly about Roxana Saberi's innocence. The question is whether she could have said anything different if Ms. Saberi was, in fact, truly guilty of the charges against her: of course not. Neither would we expect Ms. Saberi's long-time companion and fiancÚ in Iran, whose publicized letter about his friend's character and innocence was so emotionally charged, to be dispassionately objective.


Roxana Saberi might well be totally innocent of the charges against her. She might have been falsely accused by the authorities in order to be used as a political pawn in the chess game of international intrigue. But how could our colleague, Dr. Trita Parsi, be so sure that the young lady reporter was wrongfully arrested and accused of trumped up charges? Is it simply a personal presumption, a case of clairvoyance, or the result of a careful, objective, hands-on analysis of the situation?


In an article in Huffington Post, Mr. Parsi enumerates a long series of possible alternative explanations as to why this young lady was arrested and charged with espionage. In the final sentence, he makes the cursory remark that, of all the possible motives for that arrest, espionage would be the least likely to have been the true reason. If we exclude that final short sentence which hints at the possibility at least, however remote in Mr. Parsi's view, that she might have been involved in some act that could have been regarded by the authorities as espionage, the text would read as though written by any mainstream newspaper editorial or op-ed writer here.


Within the text of his article, Mr. Parsi finds it apropos to refer to President Obama's "friendly" Norooz gesture toward Iran: "The Obama administration's outreach to Iran, and the President's extensive efforts to change the atmospherics between the two countries - particularly the signal that problems between the US and Iran cannot be resolved through threats and his consistent reference to the Islamic Republic - have largely deprived the Iranian government of the pretext of a perceived US threat."


Here he is implying that, without the pretext of an American threat against the Iranian regime, the hardliners were left with no choice but to resort to means such as the arrest of an innocent Ms. Saberi in order to torpedo any rapprochement with the United States.


I don't know why Trita Parsi has tried to reword and then interpret Obama's message to the Iranian regime as conciliatory on its own merit. President Obama never relented from accusing Iran of the pursuit of arms and support for terrorism in that "friendly" message. The only difference from the previous administration is, as Hillary Clinton has just expressed in her address to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, that the United States is now willing to negotiate with the Iranians before more serious measures are adopted! Naturally, who wouldn't prefer to dictate terms of a negotiation or an agreement (an oxymoron) over a friendly chat and a cup of coffee, rather than through expensive and risky escalation of hostilities or military action? Even the Israeli regime would prefer to have its way without resorting to force, if it could.


Finally, Mr.Parsi sites the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), as a source of credible and objective view about Iran, and as a reference highlighting the Iranian regime's treatment of its women, ergo the case regarding Roxana Saberi. I can only assume that Dr. Parsi is an honest advocate of "human rights", irrespective of, and disconnected from, all social or political considerations and constraints. This, of course, must include other human rights, such as freedom of expression, life without discrimination, freedom from repression and injustice, etc., no matter where or in what circumstances, which would include the national security concerns.  I suppose that same group of humanitarian Good Samaritans also have agencies dealing with the civil rights and liberties of the Palestinians, or cases such as the long-term imprisonment of people like Mordachai Vanunu , or the thousands of political prisoners in Israeli jails held without charges or trials, or the lot of Moslem minorities in many European countries. Does this "international" group also have a branch that deals solely with the violations of women's rights, say, in Saudi Arabia, a far greater violation of women's rights by many degrees of magnitude? Or is it just about women's rights only in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and solely for the women's sake and not to denigrate that particular regime?

[This, by the way, reminds me of the so-called Save Darfur international movement, whose function, thanks to their Israeli contingent, is to reduce the conflict and internecine massacre to a Moslem Arabs killing the Native Africans scenario for obvious reasons. Dr. Mamdani's book, Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror, is an eye-opening view for the interested readers.]


This brings me to the second issue at hand; the 2009 Durban II gathering in Switzerland, and the Iranian President Ahmadinejad's tirade against Israel and its supporters: Not very "helpful"; reminiscent of Mrs. Clinton's comments regarding Israel's atrocities in Gaza and the plans to expand its illegal settlements in the West Bank, where she said those actions were not "helpful!"


Only an idiot would consider Mr. Ahmadinejad as a charismatic personality or a capable diplomat. However, those who are familiar with the Islamic Republic of Iran know the limitations of the power and constitutional authority of the presidency of Iran: He is not in charge of Iran's foreign policy apparatus or Iran's military affairs. What he says in those regards are simply his personal opinions that do not carry any weight in the decision making processes. He is not the "decider" on whether or not to engage in diplomatic dialogues in the domain of international negotiations, deploy the military or to declare war against Israel, Europe or the United States.


Even right here in the United States, what percentage of the American nation did George W. Bush speak for in his misdirected foreign policy utterances, where the President does have the constitutional authority as the "decider" and is, in fact, the "Commander in Chief"?


Similarly, why all this international uproar about "Iran" wanting to "wipe Israel off the face of the map" or denying that the Holocaust ever took Place? Not only were Ahmadinejad's utterances deliberately distorted to imply what he never intended, his voice is not the voice of the nation of Iran or even that of Iran's ruling power centers who make such decisions.


True to his crude personality, Ahmadinejad said some terribly unkind words about Israel and Zionism in general. Listening to his speech at the UN conference on racism in Switzerland and reading the translated text, which he did not deliver in full, his words and characterizations were truly harsh and accusatory; but were they total falsehoods, exaggerations or right on the mark? In the translated text, he characterized Israel's treatment of the Palestinians as genocidal: He should have, perhaps, used the term, ethnic cleansing, instead. Isn't that the truth, though, no matter what you might call it?


Well, the Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize laureate, Elie Weisel, in his address at the most recent Holocaust Remembrance Day (the only atrocity, I suppose, ever committed in recent history worth remembering and memorializing!) a few days ago, wondered why Iran's president was ever invited to the UN conference on racism. Was Mr. Weisel shocked because talking about racism during a conference on racism is totally unacceptable, even outrageous; or because Ahmadinejad was, as everyone could have guessed, not willing to uphold the sanctity of the prevailing mythology regarding a certain Sacred Cow?


The final point:

Newt Gingrich, among many other FOX fans, was quite upset that President Obama shook the hand of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez when the latter approached to offer him his book (which has become a best-seller since then).


In his criticism of the President, Gingrich went on say that Obama should not have responded that way to people who "hate America", among whom the "Newt" included the Iranians, the Chinese and the Cubans!


Well Newt, for your information, they don't hate America; they despise people like you and the lobbies that support the likes of you. Just remember; we do not hate the Moslems either; only people like Ben Laden who truly want to do us harm. Isn't that true, Newt?


Does Mr. Gingrich truly believe that the Iranians or the Venezuelans "hate" America and wish to harm the Americans? This man, the former Speaker of the House and a prominent political figure here, supposedly an educated scholar (PhD in History) is blinded by hatred and bigotry so characteristic of rednecks in gray flannel suits.


The hardliners in Iran who, according to Trita Parsi, oppose any rapprochement with the United States do not have to resort to charging poor Roxana Saberi with espionage to torpedo the efforts; the likes of Newt Gingrich provide them with ample pretexts. 


Kam Zarrabi

Kam Zarrabi is the author of In Zarathushtra's Shadow and Necessary Illusion. He is available to conduct lectures and seminars on international affairs, particularly in relation to Iran, with focus on US/Iran issues, at formal and informal gatherings or academic centers anywhere in the country. To make the necessary arrangements, please contact him at More information about Mr. Zarrabi and his work is available at:


... Payvand News - 04/27/09 ... --

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