Greetings and best wishes for a restful weekend! St. Louis has been rainy for the past few days its magnificent trees bursting into a beautiful summery green. I am in awe of the trees around me after 25 years of living here (exactly as long as I lived in my hometown Shiraz in south west of Iran). Did I say Shiraz? Okay, let me give a few visual samples. Let’s start with seasonal change. In Shiraz, you can see the arrival of the spring in a matter of days:
While we are on short tour of Shiraz, you should definitely see another 19th century building, Nasir al-Molk school and mosque:
Nasir al-Molk’s stain glass windows are quite famous though perhaps not quite as well known as the blue tiles used in the Safavid mosques of Isfahan. May be we’ll look at buildings in Isfahan in another window.
The inner halls of mosques are cool and serene. Sometimes people just sit there to pray or meditate.
The name of this school is for me associated with the stories my father told us about his youth. He lived in the vicinity of the school and passed through this courtyard often.
The city of Shiraz now has a population of over two million, many sprawling urban areas, as well as pockets of old historical neighborhoods. Every time a new highrise goes up, I pray that it is not at the cost of a beautiful old building. Fortunately, Shiraz municipality has been good at preserving historic sites.
Politics: Nuclear Negotiations
There is every indication that this round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 (representatives of six countries – the United States, Russia, China, Germany, France and Britain) will be very different. The headlines I was reading in the Iranian newspapers last week sounded clear conciliatory notes, an indication that the public opinion in Iran is being prepared for compromises on the nuclear front. The same readiness to overcome differences can be sensed in the comments made by the 5+1 team (though Western politicians continue to use a threatening language). Even the appearances and facial expressions look different on all sides. Sa’id Jalili, the Iranian chief negotiator arrived in Istanbul empowered as the special envoy of the Supreme Leader relaxed and smiling:
To read more on what has happened in the very first round of the negotiations, read this Guardian article. For a real in-depth analysis of the political conflict between Iran and the United States, see this piece by Professor Juan Cole of Michigan University here. The Huffington Post also has good piece on the Istanbul nuclear negotiations, here. Okay, let me now give you an overview of my observations about what is going on. What is different about this round of negotiations? First, the American side. I believe that President Obama is very willing to go the extra mile to make the negotiations work this time because allowing for the oil embargo to come into full effect means another serious hike in the price of oil and a kind of gas price that no president would like to deal with during an election year. On the Iranian side, the sanctions have begun to hurt in a deeper way. Shortage of many things – including drugs – are being felt by a large segment of the population. Nonetheless, in my opinion, the Iranian change of approach to these negotiations is more the result of the new internal political dynamics which have consolidated the power of the Supreme Leader, Mr. Ali Khamenei, and left Mr. Ahmadinejad fairly week after the parliamentary elections in early March. There is every indication that Mr. Khamenei would like to solve – or at least reduce – the political tension between the two countries whereby revealing his superior diplomatic wisdom to that of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s uncompromising ways. With most reformist figures languishing in jail, and Ahmadinejad’s camp in disarray, the credit for any success in finding a diplomatic solution to the Iran/US conflict will clearly go to the Supreme Leader. This explains why Mr. Sa’id Jalili has been given the added title of the Supreme Leader’s special envoy.
Seymour Hersh’s Recent Report on Iran
Journalist Seymour Hersh has come forth again with recent revelations concerning American military secretly training an Iranian opposition group, which is on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorists, to carry out acts of sabotage inside Iran. Hersh reports the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command trained operatives from Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MEK, at a secret site in Nevada beginning in 2005. Watch his interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy now, here.
An Auspicious Life Saving Coincidence
I have not seen this reported in the American media yet but Iranian media is reporting that an airplane belonging to an unspecified airline flying to the Arab Emirate had to make an emergency landing in Tehran airport because one of the passengers, an unnamed 52 year old American, going through a major heart condition needed immediate attention. According to the report, the passenger’s life was saved by the Iranian medics who rushed to the plane. He is currently under care in a Tehran cardiac hospital. Is this a lucky coincidence? Or, what?
The Third Issue of Zannegar is out!
Not so long ago I told you of the publication of Zannegar whose first issue focused on the intersection between gender and sexuality with science and technology, and the second examined the women’s movement in its global context. The third issue published on April 7 focuses on Art and Culture from a feminist perspective. Do check out the latest issue of Zannegar here and share the news with interested friends, colleagues, students…
I’d like to leave you with a beautiful duet sang by two of the greatest living masters of classical Persian music, the vocalist Parisa and Master Hossein Omoumi, the composer, nay player and professor of music at UCI
Have a wonderful weekend,