Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Hitchhiker's Adventure in Iran by Jamie Maslin

When we sped past an army barracks, everyone, including myself, yelled drunken abuse at it out of the window. And the lads had good reason to do so as they'll all soon become much better acquainted with the army when they finished their studies and started compulsory military service. The irony is that if Iran is ever invaded then Pedram, Ali, Behzad, and all my other friends will all be called up to defend their country, and if they die they'll be written off in the West as expendable "legitimate military targets", not civilian deaths. With the way Iran is constantly demonized in the media, I fear this may become the case. For just like the American and British lies over Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction, much the same is now happening to Iran over its alleged "nuclear ambitions", despite the fact that inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have found zero evidence that Iran is trying to obtain a nuclear weapon.

Under the terms of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran has every right to enrich uranium for peaceful civilian purposes, and according to the IAEA, there is no evidence that Iran has ever deviated from this. This organization's head, Dr. ELBaradei, has reiterated this fact repeatedly and stated that his inspectors have for the most part been allowed to "go anywhere and see anything". Pakistan, India and Israel all developed their nuclear arsenals clandestinely and refuse to sign the NPT, but since their governments are buddies with the U.S. and Britain, no one makes such a fuss. Such double standards are not lost on the Iranian people.

What the U.S. and Israel craftily demand of Iran is to somehow prove it is not in any way violating nuclear agreements, which is of course impossible. And since you can't prove a negative the IAEA inspectors are obviously incapable of giving a 100 percent assurance that somehow, somewhere in Iran there isn't the fainest possibility that a nuclear weapons program exists. But this is no more evidence for one existing than to say that because I can't categorically prove Bertrand Russell's famous ironic suggestion that there is a celestial teapot orbiting the earth to be false, then, in fact, there must be one up there doing just that.

Even the CIA itself had admitted that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, by noting that Iran is ten years away from developing nuclear weapons. The importance of this time frame cannot be overstated, for it means Iran has no such program whatsoever, or, as former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter put it in a recent speech, "Ten years, ladies and gentlemen, in this modern day and age, means Iran is not doing anything! Any nation in the world today is ten years from developing nuclear weapons!" In 2007, much the same was concluded when America's collective intelligence agencies produced an authoritative National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the current state of Iran's "nuclear intentions and capabilities". This report rubbished claims that Iran is trying to obtain a nuclear weapon and concluded with "high confidence" that as of 2005 Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program and had not restarted it.

Another oft repeated distortion to demonize Iran is that the country's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has stated that he wants to "wipe Israel off the map." My personal opinion of President Ahmadinejad is that he's an odious little twat, but when translated correctly, his alleged remark, which took place in a controversial speech in 2005, actually says something quite different. According to American professor of modern Middle Eastern history, Juan Cole, as well as other Farsi language analysts, the correct literal translation of the remark is, "The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the pages of time." No reference to "Israel" or to a "map". And a regime is very different to the landmass of a country and its people.

Ahmadinejad had actually been quoting from a speech given by the late Ayatollah Khomeini back in the early 1980s which expressed a hope that one day the Israeli regime mistreating Palestinians would be replaced by a fairer, more equitable one. Also generally unknown is that Ahmadinejad compared the downfall of the regime occupying Jerusalem to the demise of the Shah of Iran. Jonathan Steele makes the following observation in an article for one of Britain's leading newspapers, the Guardian:

"The fact that he compared his desired option- the elimination of the regime occupying Jerusalem" with the fall of the Shah's regime in Iran makes it crystal clear that he is talking about regime change, not the end of Israel. As a schoolboy opponent of the Shah in the 1970s, he surely did not favor Iran's removal from the pages of time. He just wanted the Shah out."


  1. It was a bit of a walk to the famed U.S. Den of Espionage, which was a huge sprawling complex currently occupied by the Iranian military. It was surrounded by high walls, some of which were decorated with the murals mentioned in my guidebook. One depicted the Statue of Liberty with a skull for a face and another had written on it, WHEN THE US PRAISES US WE SHOULD MOURN. But apart from these, I wasn't particularly impressed and had seen far more colorful and artistic propaganda murals elsewhere in the city.

    My guidebook referred to a mural depicting the shooting down of the Iranian civilian aircraft Flight 655 by the U.S. naval vessel USS Vincennes and the resulting death of 290 civilian passengers, including sixty-six children. I had a look for it but couldn't find the mural, which had presumably been painted over. All the crew of the Vincennes were commended and awarded combat action ribbons. The air-warfare coordinator, Lieutenant Commander Lustig, was awarded the Commendation Medal for, incredibly, "heroic achievement", and the vessel's Captain was bestowed the prestigious Legion of Merit medal.

    The United States claimed that the aircraft was outside the commercial jet flight corridor, flying at only 7,000 feet, and on a descent toward the navy vessel but a month later had to admit that the airbus had been within a recognized commercial flight path, flying at 12,000 feet and not descending. At the time this information was confirmed Vice President George Bush famously stated "I will never apologize for the United States of America, ever. I don't care what it has done. I don't care what the facts are."

    But, of course, there is far more bad blood between America and Iran than this incident alone, and a lot of it can be traced backed to the building I stood in front of now. It was from a bunker beneath the U.S. Embassy that CIA agents orchestrated the 1953 coup that ousted popular democratic Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and installed the Shah as dictator. It was also largely from the U.S. Embassy that the next quarter of a century's support and influence over the Shah was orchestrated. In 1976,Amnesty International noted that Iran, under the U.S. backed and installed Shah, had the 'highest rate of death penalties in the world, no valid system of civilian courts and a history of torture which is beyond belief. No country in the world has a worse record in human rights than Iran."

    During the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) Western powers backed Saddam, although America sold weapons to both sides. The U.S.also provided satellite images to Saddam so he could gas the Iranians on the al-Fao Peninsula, and U.S. Warships assisted by destroying Iranian oil platforms in the Persian Gulf. During the war - which Saddam could in no way have conducted without the assistance of the U.S. and its allies in the region- nearly three thousand Iranian villages and eighty-seven cities were bombed, causing roughly 5 million Iranians to lose their homes and livelihoods and forcing 1.2 million to flee eastward. Half a million people died on each side and the war is estimated to have cost a staggering 1 trillion U.S. dollars. The war officially ended in 1990, just before Iraq was again devastated in the first Gulf War. In this they lost a further 250,0000 men, women and children as a direct result of the war. A further half million Iraqi children died as the result of U.S. and British led sanctions ( a policy described by the UN's humanitarian coordinator as 'genocidal:) and 1.8 million people were made homeless. The latest figures (as of 2009) for the second Iraq war, Operation Iraqi Freedom, are 1.3 million dead Iraqis and 4 million refugees.

    As I looked at the photographs adorning the graves at the Rose Garden of Martyrs in Esfahan, I thought of former British Defense Minister Alan Clark's well-publicized comment that, "The interests of the West were best served by Iran and Iraq fighting each other, and the longer the better".

  2. As I looked at the photographs adorning the graves at the Rose Garden of Martyrs in Esfahan, I thought of former British Defense Minister Alan Clark's well-publicized comment that, "The interests of the West were best served by Iran and Iraq fighting each other, and the longer the better". It wasn't better for all the youngsters in front of me now that had their lives and bodies obliterated., Mr. Clark. Looking into the faces of all the dead made it impossible not to think of the current chaos just across the border in Iraq, where these photos were repeating themselves thanks to the cowardly actions of Bush and B-Liar. But it was all too easy for me to get annoyed at politicians.

  3. "Iranian Rappers and Persian Porn; A Hitchikers's Adventures in the New Iran" by Jamie Maslin; Skyhorse Publishing, 2009

    Jamie really didn't meet up with any Iranian Rappers but did hang out on a couple of occasions with some whiskey drinking upper-middle class Iranian college-age kids who had access to clandestine porn DVD's for which they risked a possible three year jail sentence.Their favorite music seemed to be the German disco-group Modern Thinking and the officially acceptable Irish crooner Chris de Burgh. Most of the people he met on the road expressed dislike for the government of the Mullahs and a desire for more personal freedoms.

    The hospitality he received from perfect strangers was extraordinary. All he had to do was to walk down the street with a perplexed look on his face and someone would approach and offer him assistance.They often gave him free lodging, paid for meals and taxis. His whole trip- during which he often took buses, trains and even flew between cities on two occasions cost him $450.