Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Argo, The American Version

    Argo is a movie recently released in the US.  Directed by Ben Affleck, the film concerns the escape of 6 Americans from Iran. As the movies' orientation indicates, Hollywood had embraced the political ambitions of Washington since long ago. The production and recent screening of this movie signals to the world that the infamous American film industry collaborated with the CIA (Tony Mendez) then in 1980 and now to produce their version of the 1979 story. Argo reveals an untouched aspect of the takeover of the American embassy in Tehran  without  providing sufficient resources  to the real reasons behind the event. A short picture animation   of the history of US intervention in the internal affairs of Iran and the coup d'etat of 1953  at the beginning of the film is not enough  to convince the viewers that this will be a balanced and non politicized account of the story.
In an  interview with reporters Affleck confirms this direction  "It was really inspiring to meet Tony. He was steeped in this movie. It was Tony's story, Tony's point of view," 
Tony Mendez is the  CIA  operative who used Hollywood to forward his agency's agenda once in 1980 and now once again,  for the purpose of creating hostility against Iranians on the silver screen, at a time when sanctions and threats against the Iranian nation have escalated.
In that interview, the director also claims that his film is based on historical accuracy. That probably means the kind of accuracy that sees only fragments of history preferable to certain politicians . Those fragments are depicted  such  that  the humane and innocent demeanor of the Americans and the wild and hostile actions of the Iranian students would be set in clear contrast. The people who occupied the embassy are never identified in the movie as college students, whereas this is a very clear historical fact. The education and academic identity of many of those involved is now known and some of them have served sentences or are still imprisoned for their reformist views and political activities.

In addition to historical flaws and mishaps, the film lacks many of the basic qualities of a documentary or reworking of a historical event. It seems that the producers went on a hasty mission to produce a movie commissioned by certain agencies to enhance public American morale against Iranians in such difficult times. Personally speaking I expected much more.

There had been many events during the 444 days that could have been covered by the movie industry and this is a criticism also directed to Iranian directors and producers. During the early months of the crisis, many women and Afro- Americans were freed following the orders of Imam, 50 American activists, journalists and academicians were invited by the students, the first gathering of freedom seeking movements in Tehran was convened and many more events which indicate that the students were endeavoring to connect and establish dialogue to convey the concerns of the Iranian nation and the excesses of the American government. (book

The real question naturally goes to the producers ,directors and the script writer . Why does this production touch so lightly on  the  historical realities of the years before the embassy takeover and the hostility  created by the foreign policy of the US government.  Americans had staged a coup d'etat in Iran in 1953, overthrowing a popular Prime minster and installing a monarch that would impose his tyrannical rule for 25 years on a nation. In addition, they refused to recognize the democratic aspirations of the people in the 1978 Revolution and continued to destablize the newly established Islamic Republic by all means.
 Did  Ben Affleck and George Clooney realize that the  American government had caused Iranians 25 years of brutal dictatorship, during every dark moment of which it had supported the suppression, torture and devastation the Shah had brought about for millions of Iranians.  It seems  that they underestimated the affliction that their government had brought about for this nation or perhaps they  need not to think about humanity, but about the interests of their government whose support is essential for the  top box records of their movie.
Did they for a moment consider the movie industry as a means to promote dialogue and understanding among nations to counter the hostility created by governments and to enhance global peace?
Nevertheless,  Argo is still an opportunity to revisit the turbulent history of relations between Iran and the US.

 If  we could classify the film industry  in terms of public diplomacy, unfortunately this film gives the impression  that Americans are in no position for reasonable and mutual understanding and dialogue.  They are still insisting on the supremacy they aspire in the world and see no one equal in the global equation.

Friday, October 26, 2012

American Elections Influenced by Iran Politics

There are many reasons to believe that Iranian politics affect American elections and political processes. Iran had been traditionally regarded as the “gendarme of the region before the Islamic Revolution.It seems that  American politicians have never been able to come to terms with the Revolution in 1979 and even more, the after  shock of the Takeover of the American embassy  8 months later.
Although the Clinton administration took certain steps to alleviate tensions and acknowledged the illegal and unjustified actions of the US government in Iran, including the staging of a coup d'etat in 1953, many believe that they did not do enough to change the equations governing bilateral relations. To the item that Madeline Albright apologized for we must now add,  installing and supporting a brutal dictatorship for 25 years  and confronting a popular revolution and nation  by sanctions and threats for 32 years.
Now, again in 2012, the major recurring theme in the Presidential debates  is how to deal with Iran.The final debacle of Obama and Romney was focused on Iran and the Middle East. This, accompanied with an orchestrated campaign to rally public opinion against Iran in American mainstream media, has led to a major debate on the reasons for a continued antagonistic and hegemonistic approach against Iran.The nuclear weapon "myth" is meant only to serve as a pretext for more pressure and sanctions against a nation that has not bowed in submission. Irregardless of  the very difficult lessons that should have been learned in Iraq , Afghanistan,   Libya and Egypt, American politicians still seek supremacy and control over Iran.
Conflicting news reports on direct talks between Iran and the US have also surfaced bringing both hope and concerns over the eventual out come of this trend. While some observers in Iran are hopeful that this effort will break the stalemate in relations, others express uncertainty due to the covert nature of these developments.
The hope is that Americans have recognized the leverage that Iran holds in the Islamic and non-aligned world . The hope is that world politicians have realized that another Western backed war in the region is not going to resolve the current challenges. The hope is that the Israelis and the zionist lobby in the Congress will not be the game changers in foreign policy. The hope is that politicians realize that Iranians want change and reform not rebellion, internal strife and civil war.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

True Message of the Prophet

There is a debate among scholars and intellectuals on the essence of  what we understand of God. Is the God that we worship a stern, omnipotent and merciless power or is God the omnipotent, merciful and compassionate Being ? Was the Prophet of God , Muhammad, a messenger of peace and love or hatred and war?   While the Holy Quran clearly indicates that God's compassion exceeds his wrath and that his forgiveness overrides his punishment, but evidently a certain radical interpretation has surfaced occasionally ; mostly in response to attacks from the outer, implying a more radical and violent impression of Islam. A deliberate and well orchestrated effort to display a negative image of Islam by Western media has also been underway for long.
While the insulting films posted recently on YouTube and the offensive caricatures attempting to mock the beloved Prophet of Islam were indicative of a new wave of Islamo-phobia, Muslims worldwide responded in varying tones and forms.  Where American embassies were available, thousands poured into the streets to protest and this led to violence and bloodshed. Among them the most  evident cases were in Libya , Pakistan and Egypt while peaceful marches in other cities still continue.
In an attempt to respond to the accusations and offensive efforts to smear the image of Islam and Muslims, many have resorted to intercultural and intellectual debates. In a recent interview I referred to the Dialogue Among Civilizations as a resort and resolution in face of the current attacks and threats against Muslims worldwide. Some radical sites responded harshly to my comments by claiming that the idea is "shipwrecked" and finished now. The idea which was put forward by President Khatami during his term and welcomed by the UN has stark enemies among radical anti reformist groups in power today in Iran.

In addition many Muslims throughout the world , particularly those living as minorities in Western societies started diverse initiatives to influence public opinion and to counter the offensive efforts in a polite and meaningful manner. In addition to internet and social net campaigns ( one called the True Message of the Prophet has started in Facebook) many groups in the UK and Scandinavian cities set off in the streets to demonstrate the baseless claims of the anti Islam propaganda campaigns.  They talked with people in the streets and gave them flowers along with words from the Quran or from the Prophet.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sanctions Hit Hard on the Environment

Tehran is a city of 8.5 million residents, with more than 14 million inhabitants residing in its greater metropolitan area. In the Tehran City Council we have endeavored to enhance environmental standards for the city by proper legislation, consensus building processes and regulation. We have visited the 22 districts in Tehran and  have seen recycling projects throughout the city.
On Thursday, the Environment Committee visited for the 5th time the Waste Management Organization of the Tehran Municipality. We visited the various projects and discussed time frames, budgetary issues and planning concepts.
The Council had adopted a comprehensive waste management plan in 2008 which is currently underway. Among the major projects involved is a large anerobic digester in Abe Ali in the eastern suburbs of Tehran. This complex will generate 2-4 megawatt/hr of electricity with 300 tons of waste every day. The power generator will go online in a few weeks.
We also visited the first fully standard and high tech incinerator which will also produce electricity when burning the waste. In all cases environmental standards for air pollution are implemented.
We saw the final stages of the large and complex sewerage purification system which will transform a BOD of over 60 thousand to just below 200.
We also visited the mega complexes for waste composting . After 4 years of tireless efforts now 6800 tons of waste are composted in Tehran and the complex will shortly harbor the capacity to accept waste from suburban metropolitan areas.

Capture of methane gas from 30 year brown-fields is also underway. 300 hectares of tree plantations are also created in the  in the 900 hectare waste management complex. This means we will have a small forest in the waste management center of Tehran.
The project directors were present and each reported on the status of the projects. I felt proud to see so many successful efforts underway in the Municipality of Tehran. Progress in each project has been satisfactory except for the adverse effect of sanctions in dealing with the projects related to international cooperation and dealings with abroad. Sanctions have hit hard on the environmental projects of the complex and they are now suffering setbacks and delays which are all detrimental for our fragile environment. Sanctions are hitting Iran's sustainable development and responsible actions for the protection of the global environment.