Windows on Iran - Parts 36 to 38

Iranian Unit to Be Labeled ‘Terrorist’

U.S. Moving Against Revolutionary Guard.  The United States is considering to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country’s 125,000-strong elite military branch, as a “specially designated global terrorist,” according to U.S. officials, a move that allows Washington to target the group’s business operations and finances.

Resolution Opposing Military Action Against Iran

The Democratic Party of the most populous state in the nation has passed a strong resolution calling on US Congress to “oppose unprovoked military action against Iran” and to “support direct talks between the Untied States and Iran without preconditions.” This is wonderful news! Read for yourself the full text of the resolution that was authored by the Bay Area Iranian American Democrats (BAIAD):

Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran speak of Collaboration

A week after President Karzi embarrassed the current U.S. administration by calling Iran a support and solution rather than a problem, President Ahmadinejad visited Afghanistan and the two leaders spoke of collaboration to improve the Afghan economy and help the country out of its current crisis. The trip is intended to put the seal on a range of Iranian-led reconstruction projects as well as consolidate areas of cooperation such as combating drug traffickers. Iranian aid - worth £125m - has been provided for three projects: a water research center, a dental college and equipping Kabul’s medical university. While local papers highlighted these projects, the western media defined the trip in terms of another confrontation between Iran and the U.S.  Guardian titled its report:

US feels heat as Iranian leader visits Afghanistan,,2148964,00.html
About a week earlier, President Bush had to warn Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of Iraq after seeing pictures of cordial meetings between Maliki and top Iranian leaders in Tehran hoping that - despite the pictures -  the prime minister was delivering a tough message. “If the signal is that Iran is constructive, I will have to have a heart-to-heart with my friend, the prime minister,” said President Bush. Here is the full article:  I am not a Mid-East politics expert to give you full commentary on these recent moves. However, as the U.S. led war is viewed more and more as weakening the region, and the U.S. money arms the hard-liner Sunni groups, looking eastward for cooperation and support seems to have been an outcome. In the meantime, China and Russia are looming larger on the horizon with ideas for regional cooperation (economic and otherwise). These may explain, at least in part, the Iraqi and Afghan leaders confidence in acknowledging the positive role of Iran in the region.

Major Iran/IAEA Agreement on Additional Measures on the Nuclear Issue

The following news should be hailed as a significant diplomatic success, a step toward cooling things down. <>On Tuesday Iran and the UN Atomic Energy Agency agreed on a timetable for Tehran to clarify outstanding concerns about its contested nuclear program, amid Western threats of further UN sanctions. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) deputy director general Olli Heinonen and top Iranian national security official Javad Vaeedi announced the agreement after two days of talks in Tehran. "We have now in front of us an agreed working plan, how to implement it and we have a timeline for the implementation. We talked about the details and the steps to be taken," said Heinonen. Here is the rest of the article if you like to read (thanks Paul Appell for sharing this)
The current U.S. administration, however, has so far acted as if it never happened. The same week that Iran and IAEA signed the above agreement, former CIA Director James Woolsey appeared on CNN with Lou Dobbs to say an attack on Iran is a bad idea but allowing Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon is worse. And in today’s New York Times (August 29), Elaine Sciolino quoted unnamed officials from “Western governments” describing the plan as a “new and dangerous strategy by Iran to drag out the process.” Further down the article explains that “Details of the timetable will be included in a report” that will be released later. It is not clear how a plan that is not yet released, that includes a clear timetable, and that has been described by the IAEA officials as a “breakthrough” is faulted and branded as a dangerous plan even before it is released.

Tell the Networks Not to Follow Fox

Why does the American news media not scrutinize significant news items concerning Iran? Why, concerned friends such as Nadir Sadeqi and Matt Miller ask in their e-mail messages, while the FOX news works on the American public to convince them that war with Iran is the only option, do the other networks not respond? All they need to do is following the tradition of sound reporting. Christine Amanpour,  is quoted to have said - concerning bad reporting on Iraq - that her network was silenced and intimidated by FOX. On behalf of Nadir and Matt, I share the following information with those of you who are interested in telling the networks not to follow FOX down the road to war
Is the War on Iran Still a Strong Possibility?

Some argue that a war on Iran is not an option for practical reasons. A fantastic piece on this is an interview that David Barsamian has done with the renowned historian of contemporary Iran Ervand Abrahamian (City University, New York). The interview is short, very perceptive, and readable. It has a very interesting title too: “The Mullahs Face Off: Washington Versus Tehran.” (San Francisco, City Light Books, 2007).

Others are still very worried about the possibility. In his site, blogger Philip Giraldi writes: Anyone who doubts that the war party is firmly focused on Iran need only take note of the Aug. 21 lead editorial in the Washington Post, which had the heading “Tougher on Iran: The Revolutionary Guard is at war with the United States. Why not fight back?” The Post, which regularly features neocons like Charles Krauthammer on its editorial page, was a principal cheerleader for the Iraq war. Giraldi criticizes the Post for accepting Washington claims that Iranian special forces are in Iraq training the Shiite militia. “Why is the U.S. army not been able to arrest a single one of them or provide any evidence of this” is his question. It is a very good question. I would add that this claim is not just refereeing to an unsubstantiated hypothesis but a very unlikely one. Any number of Iraqis who survived the rule of Saddam by taking refuge in Iran could have been trained sufficiently to return and train their Iraqi country men. But the point is not how logical or provable these claims are. The point is the poisoning effect they have on the American public. You can read the rest of Giraldi’s article at:

American Peace Delegation to Iran

All right, we need a little antidote to offset the alarming bells of war. Let me tell you about this delightful five person American delegation who visited Iran this past July. Organized by Phil Wilayto and sponsored by the Virginia Anti-War Network and The Richmond Defender newspaper, the five-member “People’s Peace Delegation to Iran” visited Tehran, Shiraz, Yazd, Esfahan and Qom, plus several villages and towns. The Following are interesting excerpts from Phil Wilayto’s interview with CASMII about the trip:

On our first day, in the capital city of Tehran, we attended the Friday noontime prayer service at the University of Tehran. This is the big weekly religious gathering for this metro area of some 14 million people, and around 10,000 men and women attend. We had heard that they finish the service with a rousing chant of “Death to America!” so we thought that would give us one cultural pole for the trip. Actually, we were two hours into the program when we had to leave, and still no anti-U.S. chants. So we had to settle for a lot of warm smiles and handshakes.

Also, I’d like to anticipate the question, “But you probably only saw what the government wanted you to see.” One evening in Qom – it was about 9 p.m. – I walked to an Internet cafe to send an e-mail to family members and friends back home. I stayed till 11 p.m., then got lost on the walk back to the hotel. So there I was in the holy city of Qom, lost – on the eve of a major national religious holiday, no less – wandering the streets and trying unsuccessfully to change some Iranian bills into coins so I could call our guide from a pay phone. I wound up meeting two brothers, one of them a theology student. They brought me back to the hotel in a taxi. So I was out on my own for about three hours. Two other members of the delegation walked back one evening to their hotel in Esfahan, and in 45 minutes they were stopped by three groups of Iranians who wanted to talk with them. On the streets and public places we talked with anyone we wanted. One afternoon while driving from Esfahan to Qom we stopped by the side of the highway and had tea with a family of goat herders. I learned to smoke a hookah, or “hubble-bubble,” in a 5,000-year-old town about 4,000 feet up in the mountains. We photographed anything we wanted, except military installations. I made a point of trying to speak with people from as many social classes as possible. I’m not saying we became experts on Iran, but I think we got a pretty fair look at the country and its people.

Sean Penn’s Reference to Iran

Actor/activist Sean Penn felt the same warmth visiting Iran in March. Jaine Benson, one of my many friends through these windows, has forwarded this very interesting letter which I had almost forgotten about. Thanks Jaine. The letter is long and mostly focused on Iraq, below I quote the paragraph on Iran which remains relevant today:

“You want to rattle sabers toward Iran now? Let me tell you something about Iran, because I’ve been there and you haven’t. Iran is a great country. A great country. Does it have its haters? You bet. Just like the United States has its haters. Does it have a corrupt regime? You bet. Just like the United States has a corrupt regime. Does it want a nuclear weapon? Maybe. Do we have one? You bet. But the people of Iran are great people. And if we give that corrupt leadership, (by attacking Iran militarily) the opportunity to unify that great country in hatred against us, we’ll have been giving up one of our most promising future allies in decades. If you really know anything about Iran, you know exactly what I’m referring to. Of course your administration belittles diplomatic potential there, as those options rely on a credibility and geopolitical influence that you have aggressively squandered worldwide.” If you are interested in reading the whole letter, here is the link:

Iranian American Named Dean, Harvard School of Design

Mohsen Mostafavi, an international figure in the fields of architecture and urbanism, will become the dean of the Faculty of Design beginning in January 2008, President Drew Faust announced today (Aug. 10). The news was forwarded by my cousin Abe Massoudi, and my friend Farimah Companieh, thank you both! You can read more at:

Iranian Women in Sports

Time for more fun and for seeing images from Iran which are almost impossible to see in the American media. It is rather unfortunate any negative news on Iranian women will make it to the front page here almost immediately. But images such as these are missing. Iranian Women Canoe Polo players in action:

Musical Opening

Due to constant threat of a pending military strike on Iran, the Iranian American community is in deep stress. No one knows what is going to happen if the most powerful military force on the face of the earth really decides to strike. The example of Iraq is not reassuring. Lots of poems and songs about Iran and what it means to the Iranian American community get circulated everyday. Here is a one minute and twenty second slide show. Its name tells all “Iran: the Eternal Land of the Persians.” The melody in the background is asong called “Elahe-ye naz,” a big hit in the 60s and 70s. (circulated by Daniel Pourkesali)

Haleh Esfandiari Leaves Iran

Here is a piece of important - and good - news which ought to help cooling things down. However, I have not seen it in our popular media yet. Iranian newspapers report that Haleh Esfandiari, who had been freed from jail, has left the country last night. Great to know that she will be reunited with her family soon.

The U.S. Official Reaction to Iran/IAEA Agreement

Last week, the International atomic energy agency ( IAEA) and Iran reached an agreement about answering some crucial questions concerning the Iranian nuclear program. The IAEA called it a breakthrough. This agreement is particularly important not just because it gives the IAEA access to certain documents that it has wanted to see but because a timetable is set so the negotiations are not going to last indefinitely. The U.S. government, which has used even a negative hint form IAEA about Iran to push for more sanctions, dismissed this agreement. In other words, if the agency reports anything negative, it is evidence of Iran’s non-compliance. If it makes progress, they have been fooled by Iran which is seeking time to make a bomb.

The Possible Attack on Iran

None of the recent developments have brought a sense of relief to those who follow the news of a possible attack on Iran. If anything, this weekend papers have been particularly alarming. Matt Miller has shared the UK Sunday times piece titled Pentagon “Three-Day Blitz” Plan for Iran The supposed plan would involve hitting 1200 targets inside Iran with the casualty figures (not often discussed by proponents of the idea) in the millions. Here is an article that Paul Appell has shared. I do hope that its findings do not reflect the reality of what the U.S. government is up to. However, it has been written in a spirit of activism for peace. It is in that spirit that I share it with you. After all, this is the time to say that there are better ways to deal with the Iran question that killing a couple of million Iranians and sending the whole region up in flames. Here is the reference to the article that Paul has kindly forwarded:

If you talk to individuals who have been alarmed by the “threat” that Iran is posing to the world, remember:

Iran’s cooperation with the U.S. was crucial in overthrowing the Taleban in Afghanistan

We have plenty of evidence to believe that the roadside bombs that kill American soldiers are manufactured in Iraq. Starting as early as a year and half ago, American troops have found many shops and factories that make such bombs inside Iraq. Here is a U.S. Marine Corps press release on the subject:

The only countries in the region in which al-Qa’ideh does not have freedom to operate are Iran and Turkey.

As President Karzay pointed out only a few weeks ago, Iran continues to be a help and a support to Afghanistan in its efforts to stand up to the Taliban (who are getting closer to power by the day).

President Ahmadinejad is an elected president who, as polls in Iran show, stands zero chance of re-election. He is not a life-time dictator who needs to be removed by military force.

Iran’s enrichment of uranium for its nuclear industry is not a breach of the international law. What is important is to keep it under control by IAEA. This is possible only if Iran stays in NPT (the Non Proliferation Treaty) and its facilities get inspected regularly.

What did the Young Iranian Cyclist Say to Senator Lieberman?

Leslie Angeline 50, mother of two, member of CodePink spent two weeks in Iran this summer. She loved the country which she found warm and friendly. When Leslie returned to the U.S. to advocate for diplomacy with Iran, Senator Lieberman was suggesting to bomb Iran. Leslie went on hunger strike, lost ten pounds and fainted but did not give up her goal of getting her message to the Senator. You can read about her here:
When, finally, she got 15 minutes the senator, she took Ali the young Iranian bicyclist for peace with him. I think I should let you read the rest, in Leslie’s words:

He then allowed Ali, one of the Iranian Miles for Peace bicyclists, to join us. Ali spoke from his experience as a young man in Tehran’s student movement.  He said, “There is a growing student and feminist movement in Iran.  70% of the population is under the age of thirty. Every time Bush refers to us as the Axis of Evil, or a politician such as you threatens war or sanctions, our government uses this as an excuse to clamp down. 90% of the Iranian people want a different form of government.  The Iranian people like Americans.  Lieberman responded to this by saying he’s heard that “the two countries in the Middle East that like Americans are Israel and Iran!”  Ali continued, “The U.S. has been a democracy for three hundred years and you still have problems.  Iran’s democracy is new and fragile; please give us some time and we’ll take care of our own problems.”

The Biggest Non-governmental Charity in Iran

From here in the U.S., it is hard to imagine that Iranians think about things other than politics and conflict, that they are ordinary human beings with the same problems and aspirations as anyone living anywhere in the world. I thought it’ll be nice to read about the Kahrizak Foundation which supports disabled elderly who lack financial resources: (Thanks to my friend Parinaz Massumzadeh for circulating the information).

Iranian Women Athletes

Iranian women drivers are back in the car race scene this September

In fencing, women are working to improve the training conditions so they can compete internationally
In soccer they have been training hard and have achieved success in Asia:

Fatemeh Keshavarz is Professor and Chair of the Dept. of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literatures at Washington University in St. Louis