Archive for November, 2011

Dear All,

I hope this window opens on a happy day for you. News of a possible war and new draconian sanctions on Iran clutter our screens once more. Kind friends ask if I have any relatives in Iran, I say “Yes, 70 million!” But actually, a military campaign of any sort on Iran would mean a major world crisis much larger than what we have seen with Iraq and Afghanistan. It would mean disaster for a larger body of our relatives across the globe, nearly seven billion.

And broader sanctions will tear the fabric of life. Take a look at this short slide show called “life in Tehran.” This is what will suffer not the governmental officials. The slide show has been produced by Iran Review which  describes itself as the leading independent, non-governmental and non-partisan website – organization representing scientific and professional approaches towards Iran’s political, economic, social, religious, and cultural affairs, its foreign policy, and regional and international issues within the framework of analysis and articles, enjoy!

The Story of Simorgh Put to Music for Homayoun Shajarian

Before we get deeper into politics, I would love to share a work of art with you fresh from Iran, a new composition. This is the story of Zal, father of Rostam the Hero of the Persian epic The Shahnameh “Book of Kings.” According to the myths preserved in the Shahnameh, Zal was brought up by the legendary bird Simorgh. What makes this composition more special is that Hamid Motabassem, the composer wrote it specially for Homayoun Shajarian, son of the celebrated Iranian vocalist Mohammad Reza Shajarian.  Homayoun who was first a curiosity because of his father is quickly establishing himself as master vocalist and Tomback player. Here is a short you-tube clip which sets about seven minutes of the piece on a slide show:

  For the full performance on the stage in the Netherlands watch the video click on this link.

Sorry, but we have to return to the New Sanctions Now!

Yesterday, the Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) offered an amendment that would impose draconian sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank, effectively making it illegal for any country or company to do any business with Iran.  Senator Kirk has stated that his goal is to “collapse the Iranian economy,” turning Iran into Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Kirk says that his plan is to cause so much suffering among ordinary Iranians that they will be forced to rise up against the regime.  And if that doesn’t work, then we will go to war with Iran.  I wonder if these two Senator’s definition of ordinary Iranians includes the old, the sick, and the children. This is the policy we applied to Iraq. And a decade of suffocating sanctions failed to displace the dictator leading us ultimately to a devastating war.

Please investigate this topic for yourself, through any sources you trust most and use your voice to stop another global disaster.  This amendment will be voted on within the next 10 days. There is still time to tell your elected officials you oppose these indiscriminate sanctions and oppose war with Iran.

Iran is Taking the War Threat Seriously

The headlines in the Iranian public media quoting various authorities, including the Supreme Leader, suggest that the possibility of military threat from the west is being taken seriously. Mr. Khamenei declared any action against Iran will unite all fronts against the aggressors. Mr. Ali Larijani, Speaker of the parliament,  also  suggested to the U.S. and Israel to “lower their voice,” tone down their rhetoric against Iran and watch their actions or they will regret their them. In particular, he emphasized that a “hit-and-run” strategy is not going to work because, Iran will pursue the aggressors. Sardar Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Iranian Air force added his voice to those of many others reminding the U.S. authorities that their high ranking officers, and other army members and citizens are very close by in Iraq and Afghanistan and therefore accessible to the Iranian military. For the fuller range of headlines in Persian please click here.

In the Meantime, a major explosion shook one of the Revolutionary Guard’s military bases outside Tehran in which seventeen of the official personnel of the Guard were killed and an almost equal number injured. Among the dead was the founder of the Iranian Missile program, Commander Hassan Moghaddam. Iran has so far not accused anyone and explained the explosion as an accident, here. Days after the accident, the Iranian central computer systems seeme to have been attacked by a deadly virus. Read about it here in Persian.

Free Mousavi and Karrubi from House Arrest!

Mr. Mousavi and Mr. Karrubi are in the 170th day of their house arrest with has not followed any trial or explanation

Mr. Mousavi and Karrubi, the two candidates who disputed the 2009 election continue to be in a form of house arrest which in fact – according to members of their campaigns – resembles full incarceration. That is to say, all furniture has been removed, the doors and windows blocked, and their contact with the outside world – except for sporadic short phone calls –  completely cut off. Last Saturday, three reformist authorities, Ayatollahs Dastghayb  and Sane’i and Sayyed Mohammad Khatami, Iranian ex-president repeated their pleas to the government once more to free them. Read here.

Mohammad Khatami the Reformist ex-president, together with two grand Ayatollah's demanded the freedom of Mousavi and Karrubi

Baroon, a Song from Lorestan

Iran houses a rainbow of different ethnic groups with languages, art forms, and traditions of their own. One such ethnic group is that of the Lors who leave in the historic Lorestan Province in Western Iran. I’d like to close this window with a lively song from Lorestan by a group of young Iranian musicians, called Rastak, which has built itself a reputation for excellence in folk music. From the group Rastak, below, listen to the Lorie song Baroon “rain.” 

Have a great weekend and Happy Thanksgiving!


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Greetings Everyone,

Hope you are all doing well and cold weather has not arrived in your neighborhood yet. Lots are happening inside and outside Iran. Certainly, we (US and Iran) are back in the headlines. So, without much delay, let us start with latest and the hottest.

The Latest IAEA Report, is Iran Building a Bomb?

No one can guarantee that some time in the future Iran would not reach a point to be able to build a bomb. That cannot be guaranteed about any country. So, I won’t take a position on that. In what follows I’ll give you a summary of what is told to us by the media about the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), how substantial it is,  the measures likely to be taken by the US and other western powers, the Iranian response, and the general outcome of the crisis for Iranians in particular.

The Media Spin

Before the report was published, the US media flooded the news with references to yet another proof that the Iranian government appears to be determined to build a nuclear device and that it remains defiant in the face of the anxiety felt by the “world community.”  Four days ago, Reuters reported based on Washington Post quoting David Albright, a former IAEA official who reviewed the agency’s findings, as saying that based on intelligence the U.N. agency has concluded that Iran “has sufficient information to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device” using highly enriched uranium as its fissile core.” I draw your attention to the fact that piece, written prior to the release of the IAEA report, was still based on the old argument of Iranian “know-how” rather than action, the full article here.

The same day, CASMII (Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran), which is very critical of the way information regarding this matter reaches the American people, posted a joint statement by CASMII and The Virginia Defender called Tightening the Noose: the IAEA Report on Iran’s Nuclear Program. In this statement, you can read a complete counter perspective to the mainstream US media here. Since the release of the report others have gotten busy finding holes in its claims. The American historian and investigative journalist Gareth Porter wrote in an article for antiwar.com that “the Soviet nuclear scientist” which the report suggests helped Iran with its nuclear program is not in fact a nuclear scientist, full article here.  Justin Raimondo, author and editorial director of antiwar.com himself published a piece critical of the report suggesting that “may,” “might,” and “could” qualify practically every claim made in the report. The piece is called Five minutes to Zero Hour here.

Iran’s Response

Iran’s response is so far as predictable as the IAEA report itself: these are western conspiracies against us. On Wednesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran “won’t retreat one iota” from its nuclear program, and he insisted again that Iran has no plans for weaponization, here. The Iranian official media took full advantage of yet another God-given opportunity to reveal the United States’ real face as the enemy of Iran. No doubt, the upcoming support the U.S. will express for harsher sanctions against the Iranian people will also find widespread publicity in the Iranian mass media. Today, in the daily Keyhan, Hussein Shari’atmadari, the most official voice of the Iranian Leader, Mr. Ali Khamenei, analized the IAEA report and thanked the agency for releasing such a flimsy and unsubstantiated report. Here, if you read Persian.

The new IAEA report, a God's gift to the Iranian leader?

This is a God’s gift for the Leader in another sense too. While the attention of the world is focused on the vague suspicion of building a bomb, Mr. Ali Khamenei is steering the Iranian Judiciary system, slowly but surely, toward changes that are aimed at curbing the smallest possibilities of democratic change. He has gone as far as saying that it is not out of the question to do away with the position of the President in the Iranian political system. Right now, he is testing the waters by having officials making announcements about such possible changes and then refuting them, an old tactic used by the IR before. Last week, a senior parliamentary figure spoke about amendments to the constitution that may lead to eliminating the presidency altogether. A day later, he announced that was his personal understanding, not an official announcement by the leader’s office. Here, again in Persian.

Where To Go From Here?

By now, you have an idea of my personal stance on the IAEA Report: despite the widespread publicity it received, the report appears to add very little of substance to what we know about the situation. And probably, like me, you are thinking, okay where do we go from here? Two kinds of outcomes seem to be on the horizon when one looks at the reactions in the popular media. Carrying an opinion piece by Jasmin Ramsey, Aljazeera views the events surrounding the report as part of a Washington attempt to isolate Iran further and pave the way for a new conflict in the Middle East, here. I personally do not think a military option, particularly on a large scale, to be a possibility. Given the fact that even targeted attacks could lead to uncontrollable escalation, I believe much of the support for military action is often aimed toward making broader sanctions look like a soft, even merciful act.

The Possibility of Broader Sanctions

Many fear the possibility of broader sanctions against Iran. I share this anxiety as I believe such sanctions do not effect the ruling government but the common masses, particularly at the low end of the scale.  I know, through family and friends in Iran, that the ordinary people are those who get penalized by not having access to proper medication, nutrition or other necessary means to live a normal life. Small businesses also break down as they do not have access to official channels to bypass the sanctions.  How Iraqi children suffered and perished as a result of medicine and food shortages because of sanctions is still a recent memory. As such, I personally consider sanctions that effect main populations to be “weapons of mass destruction.” Here is a piece posted  by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) called Don’t punish the Iranian People: Say no to Broad Sanctions, here.

And so we are back with the main question. Where to go from hereTrita Parsi , the award winning author and president and founder of the NIAC, addresses this very issue in a piece called A glimpse inside the Iranian Nukes, here. I find Trita to be a very insightful commentator and a voice of wisdom. I certainly recommend his (Yale University Press) award winning book Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States to all interested in the region. Take a look here.

Time to Cheer up!

And take a glimpse of some of the people who will actually get effected by broader sanctions against Iran. Watch this lively folk group which recently performed music from the south of the country. You would be interested to know that this folk performance includes a classical component as the main vocalist is singing quatrains of one of the Iranian 11th century master poets and mathematicians Omar Khayyam.

My Recent Piece on Rumi

I recently wrote a piece for the Huffington Post about the medieval poet and mystic Jalal al-Din Rumi in whose work joy is primary. I’d love to share that with you, here.

Visual Delight!

And as you know, we cannot close these windows without a visual delight from Iran. Will give you two paintings of a young artist Mahnaz Sorooshnasab born in 1973.  I leave you with these splashes of color and wish you a great weekend.

Best, Fatemeh

Mahnaz Sorooshnasab has a B.A. from Alzahra University

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