Home

Nine Windows on Iran

  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/theme.inc on line 166.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to usernode_link() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/module.inc on line 203.

January 24, 2007

Will the US attack Iran?

The question is obscene. But when the U.S. government is so bellicose and when its target sits on one of the world’s larger oil reserves, we need to prepare ourselves for the unthinkable. One way to do that is to be much better informed.

Bush, Inc. may know its weapon systems. But it seems oblivious to the history, culture and people of Iran (formerly Persia). It’s oblivious to the human factors that will likely upset its grandiose schemes.

Aware of my own vast ignorance, I’ve been reading up on Iran. In the following I want to mention some books that other Voices folks might also find fascinating. Each provides a unique window on Iran.

Historical Background

To put US/Iran relations in context, I began by reading Stephen Kinzer’s All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. Here in the US few recall the 1954 CIA coup against Iran’s populist and democratically-elected leader, Mohammad Mossadegh. Trouble is, Iranian memories aren’t so short or so convenient.

Nor can Iranians forget the U.S.-owned regime that succeeded Mossadegh. Ryszard Kapuscinski’s Shah of Shahs tells of the rise and fall of Reza Pahlavi — his imperial ambition; his squandering; his attempts to militarize, industrialize and secularize Iran; his brutal secret police, the SAVAK; his isolation from his people; his exile.

The Shah displaced Mossadegh; in turn, Ayatollah Khomeini and his mullahs displaced the Shah. Robin Wright has written widely on Iran. Her In the Name of God: the Khomeini Decade, for example, interprets that tumultuous era and the charismatic figure who inspired his people and made the western world tremble — at least with rage. Probably no US journalist knows more firsthand about Iran and its people than the intrepid Ms. Wright.

So far I’ve mentioned only western authors. But we need to hear Iranian voices. One such voice — a singular one — is that of Massoumeh Ebtekar. Dr. Ektekar is an immunologist, partly raised in the States. Her Takeover in Tehran: The Inside Story of the 1979 U.S. Embassy Capture, published in Canada, provides a perspective seldom heard in the US. Dr. Ebtekar, then an undergrad, was the on-site English-language media contact for those students who (more or less nonviolently) took over the Embassy and held its large staff captive for 444 days.

Thanks to the foregoing titles I could more critically read Kenneth M. Pollack’s The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America. Although Pollack has never been to Iran and can’t read Farsi, for seven years he was a CIA Persian Gulf military analyst. One of his earlier books made the case for invading Iraq. Nonetheless The Persian Puzzle, is a challenging, scholarly tome — valuable for seeing how some US military strategists think.

Iran’s majority: women

In the early eighties, egged on by the US, Saddam Hussein invaded Iran. The long war led to hundreds of thousands of dead soldiers. Today most Iranians (and most Iraqis) are women. Many have lived hardscrabble lives in isolated rural enclaves.

In Women of Deh Koh: Lives in an Iranian Village, anthropologist Erika Friedl provides 12 interconnecting narratives. The narratives are intimate but unsentimental. The harsh realities aren’t sugarcoated.

The women of Deh Koh probably can’t even imagine the affluent, westernized women of Tehran’s northern suburbs. Two such urban women have produced extraordinary literature, extraordinary mirrors of their privilege and of their secularized sensibilities.

Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books was a New York Times bestseller. It tells of Nafisi’s clandestine group of university women studying the forbidden novels of James, Austen, Nabokov, and Fitzgerald.

I devoured Reading Lolita, an engaging and literary page-turner…but it angered me. Nafisi portrays women of a particular sliver of society evading the ayatollahs’ patriarchal repression. But she glosses over the Shah’s regime — a regime whose patronage helped generate that sliver and whose arrogance provoked the Islamicist backlash.

Marjane Satrapi is also of the elite. But her eye is ironic, self-penetrating, and class conscious. Satrapi’s wry and elegant memoirs have been translated from Farsi into English. She conveys her edgy life in black and white comic book drawings accompanied by sparse text.

Satrapi’s Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and Persepolis 2 derive their titles from the ancient capital of Persia. They portray the artist as a young woman, a woman with a social conscience. She comes of age under oppression and within a family and society torn between east and west, between tradition and modernity.

Like Iraqis, Iranians are more complex, diverse and cultured than George W. ever dreamed of. Like Iraqis, Iranians will surely be formidable foes if the US attacks. Before we let our tax money be used to maim and kill these proud people, we might make their acquaintance.

Ed was in Baghdad with the Iraq Peace Team in March and April of 2003. In late February he’ll be joining the Fellowship of Reconciliation citizen diplomacy delegation to Iran. Reach him at edkinane@verizon.net


Book notes:

(in the order mentioned; all are in paperback)

Kinzer, All the Shah’s Men, Wiley, 2003, 258 pp.

Kapuscinski, Shah of Shahs, Vintage 1985 (orig. in Polish, 1982), 152 pp.

Wright, In the Name of God, Simon & Schuster, 1989, 286 pp.

Ebtekar, Takeover in Tehran, Talonbooks, 2000, 256 pp.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, Random House, 2004, 540 pp.

Friedl, Women of Deh Koh, Penguin, 1989, 237 pp.

Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran, Random House, 2003, 257 pp.

Satrapi, Persepolis, Pantheon, 2003, 154 pp.

Persepolis 2, Pantheon, 2004, 188 pp.