Sunday, August 13, 2006

Iranian Concerns Outside Iran

Today the 3 million Iranians living abroad who have access to unfiltered information have one common concern, regardless of their affiliations, leanings and ideology: the possibility of a military attack on Iran. They fear an outcome for Iran that is similar to what has happened to Iraq and Afghanistan. Every interview with an official, every report from Lebanon, every news about a terror or killing in Iraq, especially as Iran dominates headlines, brings concern. This is especially true as this slow-digestive fodder is spiced with threats and speculations over the nuclear issue.

This concern among ex-patriots is not as common among the lucky residents of Iran. Those living in Iran are free from the harsh news and decisions regarding Iran and are woken up only sometimes to hear about the threats of war. They are kept aloof so as to maintain the internal cohesion and appearance of unity.

So it is only sometimes that they hear about the dangers around them. And this is what happened two days ago when an exercise was held for an emergency hypothetical situation when the nation’s telecommunications system was disabled. Or, when they hear about unidentified aircraft not just passing over border towns far from large cities, but penetrate deep into the heartland of their homeland, even though they are attributed to be UFOs. Or, when they hear that every personality around the world threatens their country, contrary to official propaganda. This is when they get a taste of the danger that looms over the mountains, and appears greater than the threat that actually exists.

But this drive to keep the public in the dark and busy with slogans and poems is gradually losing its effect. It is now displaying its damage. This was well demonstrated a few hours before the UN Security Council vote on Iran when the country’s national radio and television network and the official media portrayed a picture as if Iran had succeeded in dividing the members of the Security Council and that there was absolutely no one in favor of attacking Iran, and that people are standing by to overthrow the regimes opposing Iran, while the most stable countries were those that were friendly with Iran and its allies, such as Chavez and BasharAssad. One can understand that those who still believe in the news of the domestic media were unprepared to hear of UN Security Council resolution no 1696 and the unfaithfulness of Russia and China. This is what they were told throughout the year.

While Iran’s nuclear dossier moved in the direction contrary to the wishes of the government and people of Iran, official media published selected and modified reports to portray the image that everything in this regard was moving in the right direction for them, and that the America had not succeeded in creating any motion against Iran. These are the same media that have repeatedly announced the big victory of the country and the defeat of the enemy. Of course the Iranian nation would like things to take such a direction. And so they believed in the propaganda and accepted that the American paper tiger which was already in a quagmire in Iraq, had suffered another defeat at the hands of Iran.

But the UN Resolution was a wake up call, while the local official press continued to add to American and Israeli failures by claiming defeats in Lebanon. The more damage that is inflicted in Lebanon, the more epic becomes the words and reports of newspapers such as Keyhan that claims the victory of Hezbollah. Interestingly, they portray an image as if the whole world is calling for the victory of Hezbollah and that the world champion today is no other than Lebanon’s seyed Hassan Nasrollah. So far from reality.

For the first time in the history of mankind, peace loving and anti-war people around the globe are now against even the death of professional soldiers. The photograph of every soldier that is killed in Afghanistan or Iraq is printed in the pages of European and American newspapers, along with those of the victim’s children and spouse. This is a transformation on how wars are viewed. And contrary to the claims of Keyhan, these people are not clapping for Hezbollah or abhorring Israeli missiles. For the majority of people around the world who have no position on the conflict in the Middle East, and are unaware of the sufferings of Palestinians inflicted by Israel, this new round of fighting began when Hezbollah missiles fell on defenseless Israelis. It is inaccurate, but the reality is that from the perspective of most Europeans and the West, seyed Hassan Nasrollah is another Bin Laden.

Hijacking the anti-war people of the world and presenting them as if they wish to bestow flowers on Nasrollah and reward Iran for arming Hezbollah is among those dreams that has not place in reality.

What makes news around the Islamic regime these days, is that it is Iran which is striving to demonstrate its power, which incidentally is in line with the wishes of Keyhan. There is no talk of the rights and sufferings of Palestinians to correct this perspective. The analysis in the West is that this war is neither Palestinian nor Arab. It is between Iran and Israel, as Iran’s president had proclaimed that Israel had to be wiped off the map of the world. It has already started to. This is precisely what former Israeli prime minister Netanyahu told the BBC. “We have no problems or war with Lebanon. They are the underdog who have been subjugated by Iran which has transferred missiles to South Lebanon. The world must deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran.” While Israel does not control the world or the United States, these statements and view are powerful and have listeners in Washington and Europe.

Iranians living outside Iran are constantly on the phone with their relatives inside the country, enquiring about their well being and are in shock about their ignorance. They see that their neighbors, while being anti war and negative towards Israel but only because the innocent are hurt in Lebanon, also have a serious question: why is your government providing missiles to Hezbollah and why is it war-mongering. Hezbollah has no popularity or sympathy in the West. This is why the demonstrations in European capitals of last week did not gain the support of even one tenth of those that participated in anti war rallies for Iraq. At the same time, over the past week, Syria is mentioned less and less over this conflict. And there is no news about the Arabs in general. So this war that Keyhan claims has provided the opportunity for the world to view Iran’s might and which expressly prides Hezbollah with starting it, has now turned against Iran. And for those who live outside Iran is disconcerting.

With the intensification of international threats and attacks on Iran, its domestic media have begun to reduce their propaganda. It is good that the representative of the Islamic Republic in New York has been reported to have held talks with American officials. In a sense, this war was in fact an ambush for the hardliners of the Islamic regime. But it has two edges and it appears that its timing was a calculated mistake. Hopefully, this episode can be concluded honorably. Otherwise, the concern of Iranians shall continue, and with cause.

The closing of all the channels for listening and seeing reality, and the ban on presenting a slightly different view even on portraying the sufferings of Palestinians and defending the honor of Hezbollah, or the anger at former German foreign minister’s candid talk with Iranian officials, all deserve a thoughtful consideration. But this also demonstrates that the ignorant were inimical even with those who wished to open their eyes to reality.

Recently, Mohammad al Sahhaf, the famed Iraqi minister of propaganda whose hair is now completely gray, had an interview with a Spanish magazine. In it he reminds the readers of the last days of Saddam’s regime when he continued to deny that Americans were at the doors of Baghdad even though when they could see US soldiers through their binoculars, and says something interesting. I did not wish to deceive myself with what I was saying. I honestly believed in what I said, as did thousands of others. The reporter asks about Saddam, to which Sahhaf said that it was difficult to categorize people under such conditions. Everybody was both deceived and a deceiver at the same time.

Iranians hope that they will be woken up from this dream without the heavy price that Iraqis have been subjected to. People commonly say that it is not disconcerting what the fate of these propagandists who have dreams of world domination will be or about people believing in their propaganda. Everybody is responsible for their own destiny. But if the people of Iran are expected to pay the price of blunders, propaganda, killings of people in this country, the region and the world, as they did during the 8-year war with Iraq, then that is not acceptable. The people of Iran do not deserve to be once again the victims of his group and to lose great opportunities to develop and free their country.

The concern that expatriates feel today did not exist 8 years ago. On the contrary, then there was a reformist government in power which promoted a relaxation of tension in its foreign policy and the war mongering Zionists and Americans could not do anything in that atmosphere. The war mongers in Iran dreamed that their comrades – fundamentalist hardliners – would do exactly what they eventually did.

In those days Iranians living abroad enjoyed a respect which they used to demonstrate their freedom loving and peaceful nature, which was in contrast to their Iraqi and Afghan neighbors, to the world, so that all could sleep in comfort and feel safe that the world will continue to spin around its axle. But this is not how things are today.