I trust Amar Bakshi plans to set aside a good few months to explore this fragile topic in Iran. He ought to study the matter intensely! As with other first-time visitors to Iran, he will return and reinterpret much of what the English language press has said about Iran.
A first-time visitor ought to assess the Iranian Revolution and the 29 years since in light of what happened in Russia or China or India during the 20th Century, without emotional attachment to second-hand information, skewed media reports, or subjective stories of Iranian émigrés (that add up to less than 3-4% of all Iranians).
There are plenty of emotions, anger, and hostile exchanges of barbs that the Iranian and American governments have heaped upon each other. Except for the shooting of an Iranian Airbus, however, there is not a long trail of blood between the two nations to serve as a permanent fixture of anti-Americanism. Most Iranians readily tell others they simply wish to be in charge of their own destiny, free from any self-appointed moral world police or neo-colonial interference.
A visitor will soon realize that the poisoned atmosphere and the monster image of Iran are nothing but childish mind games and propaganda thrown at Iran. The Hollywood image of Iran as a police state akin to North Korea or Saddam’s Iraq will be hard to find among ordinary Iranians. Rather, hospitable Iranians cannot wait to speak their minds and share their opinions with one another, especially with a foreign visitor from America. (The recent landing of an Israeli citizen in Tehran is an under-reported myth-breaking lesson.)
One stark realization that will guide a visitor is just how baffled Iranians are by America’s contradictions. Most Iranians simply cannot reconcile how a nation of remarkable achievements in science, technology and humanities can be so helpless and fail to act more logically and even-handed in world affairs. What drives America to make bad bets and absurd assumptions, or is America about political apartheid? How can a country founded on guarantees of basic and transparent freedoms, the right to a fair public trial, and the right to impeach and cross-examine witnesses have lapsed into condoning torture, indefinite detention (even of its own citizens), secret evidence, illegal wiretaps or selective enforcement of laws? Can an educated wealthy nation ignore its own international obligations and treaties and not pay UN dues? Has revenge replaced the quest for justice? Or is justice merely a convenient political tool that can be tweaked and recalibrated for short-term gains?
An American visitor to Iran will also realize that a generation has passed since the Iranian Revolution and America has no government, academic, or business experience or exposure to Iran. As such, Americans have no first hand assessment of Iran while Iranians seem to be following America very closely and in detail. This is a massive error repeated from the Cold War era and the information void about the USSR and Eastern Europe, albeit the place and time are different and the region is a lot more brittle than the bi-polar stability of Europe some 50 years ago. Despite thousands of nuclear warheads, American and the USSR had diplomatic and limited cultural and business exchanges with embassies in each other’s capitals. Periodic summits served as an established and cordial forum to exchange grievances and discuss differences. Talks with the Chinese created a completely new atmosphere for Nixon. However, such official channels do not exist between Iran and U.S. and all is reduced to unfortunate one-liner jabs and undiplomatically skewed blurbs via the media. The result tends to be schoolyard bully talk and off-the-cuff comments taken out of context.
Above all, one will realize that America’s demands for capitulation or demands fuelled by innuendoes are simply delusional and fanciful hallucinations. Like all others, Iranians love their land and they consider it a natural and unfettered right to defend it against foreign “regime change” laws and budgets designed to limit their sovereignty or their customs and traditions. Most certainly, America is not exempt from such rules.
A first-time visitor and his assessment of the realities in Iran will probably register a truthful fact: America’s misunderstanding of the era and events of the Iranian Revolution in 1979, and not 9/11, was the biggest failure of intelligence analysis. The events of almost three decades since then are merely poor attempts to realize this fact. That too might be a fantasy, as it all necessitates a paradigm shift and salvation from within in the American political posture to reset its course.
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