Silver Lining

Food for thought

A view from Tehran… countdown to apocalypse NOW?

(Patient, Iran-file photo)

by Franklin Lamb, Al Manar

Tehran

Truth told, it’s a bit intense these days in Tehran as in most other countries in this region, and this observer, may fairly soon be on what just might be the last Tehran-Damascus flight for some time, given calculations and speculations of what is likely to occur in the coming days. Not that one is in any hurry to leave the Islamic Republic. I love Iran and its people who are in their basic values and outlook on life about as American as apple pie. Iranians think a lot like me and my friends back home and Americans think a lot like them despite the extremist politically motivated portrayals designed by both governments for their people.

Iran, USAttending the Habilian Association (families of Iranian terror victims) Congress on terrorism and terror victims in Tehran, while continuing an undertaking with students from Tehran University, surveying the effects of the US-led economic sanctions that target a civilian population presented an excellent opportunity to listen to Iranian views on a number of current events. The students are examining the subject of US-led sanctions that target their families and countrymen for the political purpose of achieving regime change. Part of their work employs the definition of “economic terrorism” used by the Pentagon if done by someone other than the US government or its allies. The students are amazing in their clarity of thinking while exhibiting truly inspiring optimism and humanity especially during these ominous times.

One of the topics at the Iranian Congress on Terrorism was “Economic Terrorism” and the American delegation decided to focus solely on that subject during its presentation, which was months in preparation. As part of its work, it presented a Draft International Convention outlawing the use of Economic Sanctions targeting civilians for political purposes, including regime change. The US delegation elaborated on the history of “economic terrorism” and urged the Tehran based Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to use its new found international political power to lead the campaign for global ratification of the new Draft Convention outlawing civilian targeting economic sanctions and to present it to the United Nations during next month’s opening session of the General Assembly. NAM leaders promised to study the draft and arrange a consultative follow-up meeting (s).

The American delegation also argued to the Iranian Congress that when a government, including their own, which continues to be the main global sanctioning entity with a deep history of targeting peoples with economic sanctions, (Cuba, Vietnam, China, Korea, Iran, Nicaragua among others come to mind) targets a civilian population for the political purpose of forcing regime change as is its objective in Syria and Iran, it commits terrorism as defined by several US government agencies.

FeltmanFor accuracy sake, it should be said that, unexpectedly, due to last minute visa problems, the whole US delegation at the Congress ended up being comprised of a total number of— well, one international lawyer. A last minute effort was indeed made to coax Jeffrey Feltman, who never has visa problems to this observer’s knowledge, and who was staying at the same hotel, to attend the Terrorism Congress hence doubling the size, weight, and authority of the US delegation. Mr. Feltman was even offered the chairmanship of the American delegation as an incentive. But, regretfully, the gentleman declined citing other commitments.

Americans getting visas to visit Iran and especially Syria these days, is no easy feat given ‘pay-back’ or reciprocal changes in policy at both countries Ministries of Foreign Affairs and last years revised guidelines both governments sent out to their embassies on how to process visa requests submitted by Americans. Americans who want to travel to certain countries these days pay a stiff price for their government’s actions that target civilian populations.

Talking with average Iranians and shop keepers, and especially students, one gets a fairly good idea of just how engaged public opinion is in Iran on current events. Being a very different a picture than is presented by western media, beholden as it is, to its corporate paymasters. But that is true of much of the non-western media as well.

Nuclear technology: yesOne finds pride in Tehran at how this country has resisted US-led political economic sanctions while the average citizen has doubtless suffered given the ever rising cost of living and near rampant inflation. A common view expressed at the Congress as well as in informal discussions is the belief that while there are many states in the international community who practice terrorism of one kind or another, including economic terrorism, the United States is unusual in that its modern history of foreign relations argues strongly that it is officially committed to international economic terrorism, and on a scale that far exceeds other actors on the world stage.

One professor summarized for this observer his analysis of the effect of US-led politically motivated economic sanctions which he claims amount to ‘economic terrorism.’ He noted the severe impact on Iranian consumers at the grocery store, dramatically shrinking real income, government efforts to maintain some subsidies to lessen their impact, innovative ways both the government and private sectors have been able to lessen the impact of some of the sanctions while completely skirting others. As well as how the US-led sanctions have spread a sort of ‘circle the wagons’ public spirit and in an unexpected ways, have led to more public organized neighborhood initiatives designed help one neighbors with economic problems.

One finds among Iranian a still deep smoldering anger over the current chemical weapons ‘red line’ issue in Syria that may well lead to regional war. The American campaign to bomb Syria is viewed here as utmost American government hypocrisy. More than one interlocutor expressed their country’s disdain regarding the Reagan administration’s actions during the late 1980s when not only did the White House take no action when Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against Iranian forces and his own people but the United States also aided the attacks by providing intelligence and firing coordinates on where to find Iranians to kill and providing gas to murder them with.

The Tehran Times wrote yesterday: “U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Saddam Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.” The effects of these US facilitated gas attacks are seen everywhere in Iran in the skin scars and poor health of its hundreds of thousands of victims.

“How can the American people accept this double standard where it’s ok and your government will help to gas Iranians and your enemies’ population?” is a common question put to this observer.

There is visible excitement and even a sort of joy this morning that the UK Parliament, to its great credit, just voted to reject the Cameron government’s motion authorizing British forces to boom Syria. A taxi driver expressed his hope that “Your Congress will follow the lead of the British Parliament.? Iranian appears to view the Parliamentary vote as a victory for themselves because few, if any here, fail to believe the US attack on Syria is aimed at them, given the Islamic Republic’s role as a key pillar of resistance to the Zionist occupation of Palestine and to US-Israel regional hegemonic goals.

Public expressions in Iran regarding the grave prospects that are looming as the war drums become nearly deafening in curtain capitols appear to this observer less knee-jerk rhetoric than in recent years. No doubt there are many reasons for this including the results of the recent elections in Iran which is viewed here as an encouraging sign of stability and democracy in the region. Tehran made clear to Jeffrey Feltman this week that it is ready for serious cooperation in order to peacefully resolve the crisis in Syria.

As Hossein Mousavian, a researcher at Princeton University has pointed out this week, the cooperation of the US and Iran in 2001 regarding Afghanistan, resulting in the fall of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, (at least for a while) is a blueprint for a new collaboration. Writes Mousavian: “This collaboration should not be limited to Syria. The Middle East requires management for the time, and therefore, crisis management (of this and other crises) would be a useful path for this collaboration.” This observer believes much of the Iranian and American public agrees and that there are hopeful signs during this feared apocalyptic period.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and Lebanon and is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s