Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Female Entrepreneurs in Middle East and North Africa Defy Expectations

[This is a recent study of female entrepreneurs in Middle East North Africa. It is interesting to see how perceptions could be common beliefs. ]
December 18, 2007— A new World Bank study debunks the impression that women's entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa consists of micro or small scale, low-tech efforts.
"The commonly held perception is that women-owned businesses are small and informal, that they're less sophisticated, and that they're huddled in certain sectors," says Nadereh Chamlou, lead author of The Environment for Women's Entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa. "What we are finding defies the perceptions."
Read More.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Introducing Middle East Youth Initiative

From the website: The Middle East Youth Initiative (MEYI) was launched by the Wolfensohn Center for Development at the Brookings Institution and the Dubai School of Government in July 2006. Our objective is to accelerate the international community's ability to better understand and respond to the changing needs of young people in the Middle East. By creating an international alliance of academics, policymakers, youth leaders and leading thinkers from the private sector and civil society, we aim to develop and promote a progressive agenda of youth inclusion…visit: http://shababinclusion.org/
Among MEYI experts there is Professor Djavad Salehi , Professor of Economics at Virginia Tech and one of the experts on Iran’s labor markets and population growth. He writes his own weblog: On the Right Track? Iran Edges Toward Education Reform. Please comment on the entries this is a very unique way of having a conversation about matters that concern all Middle-Easterns.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A New Book on Iran-US Relations

Publishing market has witnessed a surge in the number of books focusing on Iran, however rarely there has been a better informed author and a more comprehensive text than that of Barbara Salvin’s recent book: “Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the U.S., and the Twisted Path to Confrontation.”
I just start to read this book and this is only an introduction. Ms. Salvin covers many recent aspects of Iran-US complex relationships and interviews a wide range of politicians, analysts and officials, including 2 former Iranian presidents. The publisher’s review praises her for portraying Iran “as a country that both adores and fears America and has a deeply rooted sense of its own historical and regional importance.”
Her style in representing different aspects of Iranian society and the history of the troubled relationship between Iran and USA is remarkable. Any reader would enjoy reading this book.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

More Links about the report

LA Times: Prayer rugs, Persian cats and the L.A. Times (Very Good Article)
What did we have to say back at the beginning of the United States' very complicated modern relationship with Iran?
The L.A. Times is expressing relief today that Iran's nuclear weapons program appears to be on the back burner, the mood wasn't always so sanguine. From the British invasion during World War II to the overthrow of the democratically elected Mohammad Mossadegh, the editorial board opined on Iran with confidence in budding American global leadership, suspicion of the Soviets (though interestingly not when the Soviets actually invaded the country), funny spelling and blissful ignorance of the CIA's involvement in the Iranian coup. Here's a selection of Persian editorials past…. Read More.

Washington Post: Time to Talk to Iran
By Robert Kagan
Regardless of what one thinks about the National Intelligence Estimate's conclusion that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003 -- and there is much to question in the report -- its practical effects are indisputable. The Bush administration cannot take military action against Iran during its remaining time in office, or credibly threaten to do so, unless it is in response to an extremely provocative Iranian action. A military strike against suspected Iranian nuclear facilities was always fraught with risk. For the Bush administration, that option is gone. … Read More.

TIME: Was Bush Behind the Iran Report?
Bombing Iran, it seems, is now off the table. There's no other reasonable take on the latest National Intelligence Estimate that concludes Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.
But there is also no doubt that the Bush White House was behind this NIE. While the 16 intelligence agencies that make up the "intelligence community" contribute to each National Intelligence Estimate, you can bet that an explosive, 180-degree turn on Iran like this one was greenlighted by the President….
Read More.

New York Times: Intercepting Iran’s Take on America by Thomas Friedman
LA Times: Iran's nonexistent nuclear program

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

More Links on the Recent Report

The Washington Post: On Campaign Trail, No Longer On Guard Against Iran?
At campaign headquarters across the nation, one can only imagine foreign policy advisers yesterday were busily ripping out the chapter on Iran from their candidate playbooks. The surprise intelligence community turnabout on Tehran's supposed nuclear threat upended one of the fundamental assumptions about the 2008 presidential election on both sides of the aisle -- namely the belief that Iran perhaps even more than Iraq would be the dominant foreign policy issue of the year…. Read More.

Swiss Info: Swiss react to latest Iran report
Switzerland has acknowledged a new United States intelligence report that plays down the Iran nuclear threat, commenting that it favours a diplomatic solution.The US report said with "high confidence" that it believed Iran had halted its nuclear weapons programme in 2003, but that the country was continuing to enrich uranium and was keeping its atomic options open.

New York Times: Iran Hails U.S. Report That It Ended Bid for Nuclear Arms

International Herald Tribune: Europeans struggle to maintain push for sanctions on Iran despite US report
PARIS: With the American case for tougher sanctions against Iran looking weaker than ever, European diplomats are in a bind.
Analysts say the Europeans may now have a hard time maintaining support for a swift new U.N. resolution that would further restrict their countries' trade with Iran
… Read More.

The American Spectator: Has Bush Been Vindicated On Iran?

Guardian: World's Reaction

Guardian Unlimited
A report by US intelligence agencies has contradicted Washington's claims that Iran is actively pursuing a nuclear weapons programme, concluding instead that such work stopped four years ago.
Reaction to the surprise findings has been varied:
Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki:
"It's natural that we welcome it when those countries who in the past have questions and ambiguities about this case ... now amend their views realistically."
The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini
"Remarks by Bush and other US administration officials, who have continuously talked about the danger of Iran's nuclear programme, are baseless and unreliable."
Israel's defence minister, Ehud Barak
"It's apparently true that in 2003 Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear programme for a time. But in our opinion, since then it has apparently continued that programme."
Gordon Brown's official spokesman
"In overall terms, the government believes that the report confirms we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons. It also shows that the sanctions programme and international pressure has had some effect. It also shows the intent is there and the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a very serious issue."
Harry Reid, the Democrat Senate majority leader
"I hope this administration reads this report carefully and appropriately adjusts its rhetoric and policy vis-a-vis Iran."
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin (speaking to Iran's chief nuclear negotiator)
"We expect that your programmes in the nuclear sphere will be open, transparent and be conducted under control of the authoritative international organisation."
The French foreign ministry's spokesman
"It appears that Iran is not respecting its international obligations. We must keep up the pressure on Iran ... we will continue to work on the introduction of restrictive measures in the framework of the United Nations."

Monday, December 03, 2007

NY Times: U.S. Says Iran Ended Atomic Arms Work

New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 — A new assessment by American intelligence agencies concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains on hold, contradicting an assessment two years ago that Tehran was working inexorably toward building a bomb.
The conclusions of the new assessment are likely to be major factor in the tense international negotiations aimed at getting Iran to halt its nuclear energy program. Concerns about Iran were raised sharply after President Bush had suggested in October that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to “World War III,” and Vice President Dick Cheney promised “serious consequences” if the government in Tehran did not abandon its nuclear program.
The finding also come in the middle of a presidential campaign during which a possible military strike against Iran’s nuclear program has been discussed. The assessment, a National Intelligence Estimate that represents the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies, states that Tehran’s ultimate intentions about gaining a nuclear weapon remain unclear, but that Iran’s “decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.”
“Some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways might — if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible — prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program,” the estimate states.
The new report comes out just over five years after a deeply flawed N.I.E. concluded that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons programs and was determined to restart its nuclear program. The report led to congressional authorization for a military invasion of Iraq, although most of the N.I.E.’s conclusions turned out to be wrong. The estimate does say that Iran’s ultimate goal is still to develop the capability to produce a nuclear weapon.
The national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, quickly issued a statement describing the N.I.E. as containing positive news rather than reflecting intelligence mistakes. “It confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons,” Mr. Hadley said. “It tells us that we have made progress in trying to ensure that this does not happen. But the intelligence also tells us that the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a very serious problem.”
“The estimate offers grounds for hope that the problem can be solved diplomatically — without the use of force — as the administration has been trying to do,” Mr. Hadley said.
Last month, Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the international Atomic Energy Agency, had reported that Iran was operating 3,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges, capable of producing fissile material for nuclear weapons.
But his report said that I.A.E.A. inspectors in Iran had been unable to determine whether the Iranian program sought only to generate electricity or also to build weapons.
The N.I.E. concludes that if Iran were to end the freeze of its weapons program, it would still be at least two years before Tehran would have enough highly enriched uranium to produce a nuclear bomb. But it says it is still “very unlikely” Iran could produce enough of the material by then.
Instead, today’s report concludes it is more likely Iran could have a bomb by the early part to the middle of the next decade. The report states that the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research judges Iran is unlikely to achieve this goal before 2013, “because of foreseeable technical and programmatic problems.”
The new assessment upends a judgment made about Iran’s nuclear capabilities in 2005. At the time, intelligence agencies assessed with “high confidence” that Iran is determined to have nuclear weapons and concluded that Iran had a secret nuclear weapons program.
Since then, officials said they have obtained new information leading them to conclude that international pressure, including tough economic sanctions, had been successful in bringing about a halt to Iran’s secret program.
“We felt that we needed to scrub all the assessments and sources to make sure we weren’t misleading ourselves,” said one senior intelligence official during a telephone interview, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In a separate statement accompanying the N.I.E., Deputy Director of National Intelligence Donald M. Kerr said that given the new conclusions, it was important to release the report publicly “to ensure that an accurate presentation is available.”

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Panel Discussion on Iran at Loyola

Averting Another Catastrophe
The Folly Of An Attack On Iran

A panel discussion with
Mansour Farhang
Stephen Kinzer
Elahe Amani

Saturday December 8th
2:00 PM

Loyola University
Lake Shore Campus

Damen Hall, Room 144
1/2 block north of Devon & Kenmore

Stephen Kinzer, a veteran foreign correspondent for the New York Times, has reported from more than 50 countries and served as the paper's bureau chief in Turkey, Germany, and Nicaragua. He is the author of Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds, Blood of Brothers: Life and War in Nicaragua, Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala, and the forthcoming A Thousand Hills: Rwanda's Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It. A frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books, he is a columnist for Guardian America and teaches journalism and international affairs at Northwestern University .

Mansour Farhang teaches International Relations and Middle East studies at Bennington College in Vermont. He is the author of U.S. Imperialism: From the Spanish-American War to the Iranian Revolution, The U.S. Press and Iran: Foreign Policy and the Journalism of Deference , and the forthcoming A Theology in Power: Reflections on the Iranian Revolution. He was Iran 's Ambassador to the United Nations in 1979-1980, a post from which he resigned in protest over Ayatollah Khomeini's refusal to accept the UN Commission of Inquiry's recommendation to release the U.S. hostages. He is a frequent commentator on U.S.-Iran relations for the BBC Persian Service and is an advisory board member of Human Rights Watch/Middle East. His work has appeared in The Nation, openDemocracy, the Christian Science Monitor, and many other publications.

Elahe Amani has taught courses on global women's movements and women in cross-cultural perspective at the California State University (CSU), Long Beach and Fullerton . She is chair of the Coalition of Women from Asia and the Middle East (CWAME) and chair of the Women's Intercultural Network, a global organization with grassroots circles in Uganda , Japan and Afghanistan. A peacemaker and trained mediator, she works closely on issues related to gender, culture and mediation. She participated in the World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 and has published extensively in both Persian and English on issues related to global women's movements, peace, and the plight of Iranian and Afghan women.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Great Documentary on Iran's Film Industry

One of the great things about Netflix is its collection of foreign movies. You can imagine how surprised I was to find a great documentary on Iran’s film industry. “Iran: A Cinematographic Revolution” directed by Nader T. Homayoun and released in 2007 is indeed a masterpiece. The introduction page of the film reads:

Despite political turmoil and cultural isolation -- and sometimes even because of them Iran has served as fertile ground for filmmakers for more than seven decades, as witnessed by this tribute to Persian cinema from Nader Takmil Homayoun. From escapism to social realism, the new wave of the 1970s and the more poetic films of recent years, this homage traces the history of Iranian filmmaking through a fascinating array of clips and interviews.”

It is an excellent documentary! It begins its story by reviewing the beginning of cinema and film industry in Iran, then it covers some of pre-revolution controversial movies and then it moves to tell the story of a cinema in the turmoil of revolution. The movie producers have interviewed a diverse number of Iran's directors; their cast includes great and celebrated names such as Makhmalbaf, Qobadi, Panahi and Hatamikia. This movie is their story, the story of how they made films in 7 minutes intervals between missiles attacks on Tehran and how they created an Iranian genre under the eyes of a censor. If you want to learn something about Iran and its film industry you have to see this movie. It is a must see for everyone.
As an economist it was interesting for me to notice that how many directors pointed out that there is no self sufficient film industry in Iran for their genre. Since this means lack of demand, it made me think that how many consumers would like to see a movie in order to entertain, rather than to think. After all that is one of the functions of a movie.
I also wonder if Iranian movie makers are thinking of branching into other Farsi speaking countries such as Afghanistan and Tajikistan, may be the assembly of markets I n these countries and Iran could provide a large enough demand for a self sufficient movie industry.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Saffon: Iran's Pink Gold

It is the harvest season for Saffron. This delicate spice extracted from saffron flowers is one of Iran’s classic agricultural products, mainly planted in Khorasan area in north east of Iran. Iranians use saffron in their cooking, distinguishing their cuisines from their neighbors. Saffron, with pistachio, is one of Iran’s traditional agricultural products.

Saffron is extracted from the dried stigmas of the saffron crocus; it takes 75000 blossoms or 225000 hand-picked stigmas to make a single pound which explains. Thus supply is highly restricted and its price is rather high. It is mostly used in gourmets intended for guests. And households keep small amount of it.

Although many Iranians would think that Iran’s saffron is of highest quality, and the writer shares that belief, and Iran share of global market in Saffron is almost 90% but the international market is dominated by Spain in quality. As a matter of fact much of Spanish Saffron is coming from Iran. Iranian saffron is falling behind its competition because of poor marketing and low quality packaging. Although a major producer it does not seem that Iran is a Stackelberg leader in this market[1].

Saffron certainly is a labor intensive product requiring 200 man day per hectare during harvest season. It also constitutes up to 70% of household income in Khorasan saffron plantations. There is no question or doubt that Iran considers saffron a strategic product. In recent years policy makers have become interested in saffron as a weapon in fighting drugs and limiting opium plantations in Afghanistan, but there is no evidence to measure how effective that would be.

There is no doubt that demand for saffron will be increasing in coming years: increasing global preference for natural ingredients and flavors, increasing income and the absence of any discouraging factors as well as positive externalities of using saffron. This makes investing in this product a rather safe endeavor.
[1] I welcome any comment that contradicts this statement based on evidence.
2. Photo is from ISNA.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Spill Over Effect of Small Things

This is not a note on either economics or politics. It is more a story. Today I was discussing with a friend about initiative that some Iranian bloggers take and their consequences. The discussion was not unfamiliar, similar debates are common among friends and acquaintances. Do these initiatives mean anything? I believe any initiative means something and is of some consequence.

When I was a freshman student in Sharif University of Technology, Sharif, Industrial Engineering students came together and started publishing a professional, topic-oriented, student run magazine called “Sanaye” or “industries”. It was nothing political or even social. All it did was talking about industrial engineering world; designs, events, research, projects and etc.

Sharif was and is one of the finest engineering school in Iran[1] and for that purpose it was a place where fun came and comes to die! Everyone was itching to do something more and to evade the boredom of just studying. So other departments followed the example of industrial engineering department.

Electrical engineering students started their own magazine and called it “Bargh” or “electricity”. Mechanical engineering and civil engineering students all started some sort of activity. This was early 1990’s and the atmosphere was not suitable for political activities so many active and energetic students joined these magazines. These activities spilled over to organizing student conferences of the fields. Sharif hosted the first student conference of electrical engineering in Iran. IEEE chapters began to appear in most of notable schools. The magazines were published irregularly sometimes it took 6 months to put together one, but they did appear and they did leave their mark.

On another note publishing technical magazines paved the way for many to say: “why we should not have a weekly paper dedicated to students? Of course nothing political!” so in Sharif students went ahead and published “Noghteh, Sar-Khat” literally it means “End, Begin from the beginning of the line” I remember this vividly that it was in 1996 walking in Tehran International Book Exhibition that I saw a copy of a student paper circulated by the students of communications department at Allameh Tabataay’i University. Its editorial read something like this: “even engineering students have their own publications and we do not. Let’s write, after all it is what we are being trained for!”

I know the stories of a few of these people. Many joined reformist papers, many continued their studies and received their degrees and are faculty members, researchers and developers across the globe. The work they begun some 14 years ago continue to construct infrastructure and to link self motivated individuals to be better and to go forward. Iran’s academia is a better place because of them.

History may not remember them or record their names, there won’t be any “Reading Lolita in Tehran” for them, but the steps they took covered a few miles of the thousand miles ahead of Iranian people.

When someone picks up a banner and goes forward, he or she never knows how many rally behind, how far the cause would go. In the case of Iran the many small initiatives taken by many unknown individuals have contributed and continue to contribute to the development of Iran to constructing the infrastructure of a civil democratic society. Amidst what is going on it comforts me to think someone somewhere is starting something new, something rather small but of significant impact.

[1] Other finest schools are: University of Tehran Engineering College, Tehran Polytechnic (Amir Kabir University), Science and Industry University and etc your schools are good too.

A speech from Iran at Princeton

Dr. Ramin Takloo gave a talk at Princeton CY 2007. I like it for its frankness about the true conditions of a war time childhood and later.
Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Zj8jn5VmeM

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Making connections

Activist sets up telephone talks between US, Iranian citizens:

A Somerville peace activist with a knack for political theater set up a display yesterday with a simple proposition: Let anyone who passed by pick up the phone and talk to Iranian citizens, giving regular citizens in both countries a chance to do what the activist said the country's leaders have failed to do: talk to each other. Read More here: Boston Common visitors get line to Iran

more stories like this:
Groups tries to bridge U.S.-Iran gulf with common-folk phone call

Monday, November 12, 2007

Stephen Kinzer on Iran & Turkey

Stephen Kinzer at University of Chicago:
Iran and Turkey: Rising Powers in the New Middle East.
Best-selling author Stephen Kinzer (All the Shah's Men) speaks on Iran and Turkey: Rising Powers in the New Middle East.
November 15, 2007
International House, University of Chicago
1414 East 59th Street, Chicago, 60637
Phone: 773-752-2274 - Event is free and open to all.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

News Links

I was absent for awhile, reports are not good.

Reuters: Saudi king calls on Iran to avoid escalation
Foxnews: Biden Compares Pakistan to 1970s Iran
VOA: US to Release 9 Iranian Detainees in Iraq
Spiegel: You Can't Have an iPod Without a Stealth Bomber
Press TV: Iran removed from Yahoo, Hotmail list

Financial Times Deutschland: Hidden costs of Iran's wheat obsession
The government of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad brags about the Islamic Republic's self-sufficiency in wheat, holding it up as a source of security and a cause for pride. But while Iran no longer needs to rely on wheat imports, the pursuit of self-sufficiency has had hidden costs, creating shortages in other produce and raising the government's import bill…. Read More.

Council on Foreign Relations: Top of the Agenda: Market Fears Escalate
News.com.au: World Bank suspends the aid to Iran
Forbes: China in talks to buy gas from Iran LNG

Friday, November 02, 2007

Iran-Iraq border trade heavy but no weapons found

BASRA, Iraq, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Business is booming on the Iran-Iraq border.Despite a war in one country and Western sanctions against the other's nuclear programme, trucks full of everything from fresh produce to furniture and clothes to consumer electronics trundle to the 1,400 km (900 mile) frontier every day.
But British officials say along with trade in legitimate goods, which has grown in the past year, there is also a steady flow of "lethal aid" from Iran to Iraq, including rockets and explosives used to make road-side bombs.Iran denies arming Iraqi Shia Muslim militias, which have carried out scores of deadly attacks against British and American troops in Iraq.
But British officials are sure Iranian weaponry is coming through. As evidence they mention rocket shrapnel that bears Iranian markings, but at the same time say they have no concrete proof that Iran is supplying Iraq."
It's fair to say that no one has caught anyone red-handed bringing in lethal aid across the border," said Major Anthony Lamb, who oversees training of Iraqi border enforcement units."Hundreds of searches are carried out every day, but as yet, there hasn't been a direct seizure of lethal aid."
Lamb says on some days, when British forces visit the major border crossing points in southern Iraq, they can see some Iranian trucks turning back, but there's no certainty they're doing so because they're carrying illicit weapons."They could be carrying ladies' underwear and be embarrassed about that," he said.

What's likely, those who monitor the border say, is either that corruption in the form of bribes is allowing weaponry to come through, or smugglers are managing to move small amounts at a time across the vast, porous border.As well as being nearly 1,500 km long, the border is mountainous in the north and marshy in large parts of the south, making it ideal for clandestine movement. Nomadic tribes have also long made their home along large sections of the frontier."
Trade between tribes on either side has existed for centuries. The border means nothing to them," said Lamb."
For some, economic smuggling has long been a way of life. They might smuggle sheep, or other things."Since the invasion in 2003, the United States has built hundreds of "forts" along Iraq's borders, including more than 60 along a 500-km stretch along the edge with Iran in the south.Each fort is manned by 12 to 40 guards who carry out frequent patrols, although the frontier, heavily mined since the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, is not fenced. The Iranians have guards all along their side too, visible in the near distance.As well as the forts, there are two battalions of Iraqi border commandos trained to hunt down smugglers and staunch the flow of illegal goods into the country.
At the two official border crossings in the south, where as many as 300 trucks a day arrive from Iran, customs and border police have managed to crack down on the movement of drugs, illegal cars, banned perishable foods and other illicit goods.But so far, nothing approximating a rocket has been found."They're either not smuggling it through there, or we're looking in the wrong place," said a British intelligence officer wryly. "But one way or another, it's coming in

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Central Asia at CSO

Chicago Symphony Orchestra is staging a magnificent event: Spiritual Sounds of Central Asia. Musicians from 6 countries; Azerbaijan; Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kalmykia gather together for this performance. Among them celebrated Azeri musician Alim Qasimov and Badakhshan Ensemble from Tajikistan. To learn more go to:

This is a must see event.

(This part is from CSO website)
There is also an exhibtion by the Historic Cities Programme presented at Symphony Center Friday, November 9, 12:00 pm to 10:00 pm Saturday, November 10, 10:00 am to 10:00 pm Sunday, November 11, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Admission is Free. This exhibit showcases major restoration projects undertaken by The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme including Al Azhar Park in Cairo, the stone mosques in Mali and projects in Afghanistan, India and Syria. The exhibit provides insight into how the preservation of historic cultural and religious monuments serves as a catalyst for socio-economic development and how the revitalization of architecture can build bridges, not only between the past and the present in the Muslim world, but also between the Muslim world and the West.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stiglitz & Arrow on Global Warming

The Economists' Voice has two articles by Joseph Stiglitz and Kennet Arrow on global warming. Kenneth Arrow explains why something must be done to limit global warming even if the Stern Report inadequately discounted future costs. Joseph Stiglitz presents his plan for getting the United States and the Developing World to address global warming, and argues that by failing to address this problem, the United States is implicitly subsidizing energy usage and engaging in unfair trade practices. The articles could be found here:
1. Arrow, Kenneth J. (2007) "Global Climate Change: A Challenge to Policy," The Economists' Voice: Vol. 4 : Iss. 3, Article 2. Available at: http://www.bepress.com/ev/vol4/iss3/art2

2. Stiglitz, Joseph (2006) "A New Agenda for Global Warming," The Economists' Voice: Vol. 3 : Iss. 7, Article 3. Available at: http://www.bepress.com/ev/vol3/iss7/art3

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Do Iranians Believe in Maximizing Utility?

One of the fundamental assumptions in microeconomics is that any individual is maximizing his or her utility. This means that individuals seek “satisfaction” in their behavior by choosing between their available options. All options are not available due to limited resources, means or income. This constrain is usually referred to as “budget line”. There is no doubt in my mind, and any other microeconomist for that matter, that any individual indeed acts accordingly.

My question however is of a different nature. Given the cultural values in Iran do Iranians consider maximizing satisfaction a legitimate goal? By this I mean do we, Iranians, believe in each other’s right to have a fulfilled life, to act according to our desires and to maximize our satisfaction?

Growing up in Iran during a time of war your correspondent witnessed a culture of “self-sacrifice.” mother for her children, father for his family and an individual for the welfare of country and its defense should forsake their desires. Thus assuming or accepting that an individual should, could or would do something for “pleasure” and “satisfaction” was not advocated. Today I wonder if that has resulted in an illusion where any analysis based on maximizing utility could be rejected. I just wonder if my compatriots believe or accept this fundamental assumption.

Qeysar Aminpour Passed Away

He came by the migrating birds and he left for his star catching another flight of falling leaves. Qeysar Aminpour Iranian poet passed away last night in Tehran at age 48.

Born in 1959 in the city of Dezful in south west of Iran, he studied Persian literature under supervision of Dr. Shafi’i Kadkani at University of Tehran and received his doctoral degree in 1997, defending his thesis on “Tradition and Modernity in Iran’s Contemporary Poetry”.

Most known as a young adults’ poet in 1988 he became chief editor of Soroush e Nojavaanaan; Teenagers’ Soroush, a monthly young adult magazine dedicated to poetry, literature and art. For many high school students Soroush e Nojavaanaan was more than just a magazine. It was the place to read the history of Antoine de Saint ExupĂ©ry’s Little Prince, the adventures of Le Petit Nicholas, and the stories of Keschner. It was a place to read about the latest movies and animation productions, although they would not have been shown in Iran. Your correspondent had read an interview with Macaulay Culkin in Soroush e Nojavaanaan a few years before watching "Home Alone."

Soroush e Nojavaanaan left its mark on Iran's literal and intellectual history. Many of those who became the journalists of reformist era started to write as amateur teenagers in this magazine. Dr. Aminpour resigned from Soroush e Nojavaanaan in 2003. He was made a member of Persian Literature and Culture Academy in the same year.

Dr. Aminpour was widely published. Among the collection of his poetry one can mention: In the Avenue of Sunshine, The Noon of 10th day, the Morning Breath and Sudden Mirrors II. He taught in Tehran University and Azzahra University. His students will miss him greatly.
Today many paid tribute to him: children for whom he was someone who never became an adult, poets and intellectuals, the former President Khatami and members of current cabinet such as Mr. Saffar Harandi minister for Ershad.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Is Mottaki Resigning?

Rumors have it that Mottaki, Iran's foriegn affair minister is likely to resign. Who will be his successor? Mr. Hashemi Samareh or Dr. Velayati?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Le Figaru: Increasing danger of war through Incomprehension between United States and Iran

Le Figaru article is very insightful and offers a good summary:

Commentary by Renaud Girard
It must be acknowledged that in connection with the Iranian nuclear question a single line is now taking shape, and it is that of confrontation. It is as though two crazy trains were rushing headlong towards each other on the same track, without anyone being able to halt them or divert them onto a different track. The engineer on the US train is called Dick Cheney (the conservative vice president who orchestrated the disastrous attack on Iraq in 2003,) and the engineer on the Iranian train is called Mahmud Ahmadinezhad (the highly nationalistic and religious president of the Islamic Republic.) In English, this is what is known as a collision course. ... Read More: Link

Returning Home Early?

President Ahmadinejad left Armenia one day ahead of his schedule and returned home. The photo shows him speaking to Dr. Velyati, a close advisor of Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenie and a former foreign affairs minister. Photo is from Fars News Agency. For more photos see: http://www.farsnews.net/plarg.php?nn=M271609.jpg

Links about Dr. Larijani

The cartoon is from Etemad Melli a reformist daily in Tehran, its citation says: " Another chair is available, Mr. Elham..." Mr. Elham is a close advisor to the President and government spokeperson who has been taking over more responsiblities as time goes by. The cartoon highlights that.

The Economist: My Way

The Economist has a very interesting article on the recent resignation of Dr. Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran’s High Council of National Security.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tightens his grip on Iran
The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has further strengthened his position within Iran's multipolar political system by effecting the removal of Ali Larijani, one of his most potent rivals, from the position as head of the Supreme National Security Council, which includes leading the team negotiating on matters relating to Iran's nuclear programme. In a similar fashion to the recent dismissals of the oil minister and the governor of Bank Markazi (the central bank), Mr Ahmadinejad has replaced relatively independent figures with his own men—in this case Saeed Jalili, a deputy foreign minister known to be a close associate of the president. The increased input of Mr Ahmadinejad appears likely to increase the risk of confrontation over the nuclear issue, as it will further restrict the space available for negotiation…. Read More.
Russian whispers
Mr Larijani has been at odds with the Iranian president for some time, and is reported to have submitted his resignation on several previous occasions, complaining that Mr Ahmadinejad's uncompromising and adversarial stance towards the West has left Iran with precious little room to manoeuvre in its negotiations on the nuclear issue. Hitherto, Mr Larijani has been able to count on the support of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to secure his position.
However, on this occasion it seems that he had left himself open to a claim from Mr Ahmadinejad that he had misrepresented the position of the supreme leader on the nuclear question. Mr Larijani said that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, had made fresh proposals on resolving the nuclear dispute during a meeting in Tehran with Ayatollah Khamenei—Mr Putin was in Iran in mid-October for a summit conference of Caspian littoral states. This prompted speculation that Mr Putin may have suggested a suspension of sanctions on Iran in return for Iran agreeing to suspend uranium enrichment, thereby creating a positive atmosphere for fresh negotiations about the future of the programme. However, Mr Ahmadinejad immediately poured cold water over this, stating that the supreme leader had made clear to the Russian president that Iran's nuclear programme—which he emphasised was devoted entirely to civilian ends—was irrevocable, and that no new proposals had been discussed. Barring a statement from Ayatollah Khamenei contradicting Mr Ahmadinejad, which would have risked igniting a constitutional crisis, Mr Larijani's position appeared to be untenable.
No soft touch
Mr Larijani, who was appointed to the Naitonal Security Council post after Mr Ahmadinejad was elected president in 2005, had initially been dismissive of the approach of his predecessor, Hassan Rawhani, who had agreed to a two-year suspension of the nuclear programme during negotiations with a team of three UE member states about how to create effective guarantees against the development of nuclear weapons in Iran. Mr Larijani maintained that Iran had offered major concessions and had received nothing in return. Mr Larijani has nevertheless succeeded in keeping negotiations alive, and has come to be viewed as a valuable interlocutor by both Mohammed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and by Javier Solana, the EU foreign affairs commissioner, both of whom have made clear that they would regard a breakdown in negotiations and a slide towards military conflict as a catastrophic outcome. After the UN Security Council passed two resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran, Mr Larijani, succeeded in winning more time for Iran by agreeing with the IAEA to enact a work plan to clear up unresolved questions has, in effect, put the process of building up diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran on hold. Much will now depend on what answers the IAEA will be able to extract.

The IAEA has pledged to Iran that the questions that it is posing as part of the work plan cover all areas of concern, implying that if it receives satisfactory answers it will be able to declare that adequate safeguards are in place to guarantee the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme. The IAEA has, moreover, stated that it has been able to verify that no declared nuclear materials have been diverted at the enrichment plant, and that it has concluded that this facility remains in peaceful use. However, the IAEA has also emphasised that, even if it obtains satisfactory answers to all its questions about the history and the current nature of Iran's nuclear programme in a timely and comprehensive manner, it will still seek assurances "regarding the absence of undeclared activities"—in other words to establish that there is no covert parallel programme underway. This can only be achieved through the kind of inspections that would be authorised under the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Iran has yet to ratify this protocol.
If the IAEA comes out with a broadly positive assessment of the work plan, Iran is not necessarily in the clear, given its failure to adhere to the Security Council's demand that it suspend enrichment and owing to the continued concerns of the Vienna-based agency about the possibility of undeclared nuclear activities. That suggests that a further tightening of sanctions is in prospect. France, in particular, has pressed the case for ramping up the pressure on Iran, in part so as to persuade the US of the potential of economic and diplomatic pressure to extract concessions, and thereby warding off the resort to military means.
Bad timing
The departure of Mr Larijani at this critical moment in the IAEA discussions, and just days ahead of a scheduled meeting between him and Mr Solana does not bode well for the chances of a compromise. Mr Jalili has not previously served on the National Security Council, and he has not taken part in the negotiations with the IAEA or with the EU commissioner. The manner of his appointment suggests that his role is to follow the instructions of Mr Ahmadinejad to the letter, and the Iranian president has thus far not shown any sign of flexibility on the nuclear question.
As for Mr Larijani, he can be expected to bide his time until the next presidential election, in the hope that he can perform better against Mr Ahmadinejad than he did as a candidate in 2005.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Iranian Chemically Wounded Veterans Gathering

According to Fars News Agency 300 Iranian veterans, who are suffering from lung wounds caused by chemical weapons used by Saddam during Iran-Iraq war, gathered in Isfahan with their families for a series of medical seminars. Iran’s foundation for Veterans and the Wounded believes that there are 50’000 individuals in the country who are suffering from chemical wounds. 350 of them have severe lung damage.

It has been a policy of Iran’s governments to send veterans abroad to seek treatment. That policy is changing now in favor of inviting international experts and physicians to Iran. According to the officials 7 medical expert visited Iran during last year and 5 did so in 2007. Official goal is to have an attending physician for every 20 chemically wounded combatants.

Isfahan seminars include seminars on tests and procedures for lungs that could be done in households with the help of family members. The goal of these gatherings is to improve the health standards and to decrease the response time to the emergencies that these veterans are facing.

International community and the USA never condemned Saddam’s use of chemical weapons during Iran-Iraq war. It was only after invasion of Kuwait that global community remembered and condemned Saddam’s extensive use of chemical weapons in the strongest terms. Still few foreign official ever expressed sympathy for the plight of Iranian wounded and their families.

Friday Links

Reuters: Afghanistan says no proof Iran gov’t arming TalibanAFP: Israel PM upbeat after Iran talks in Russia
Washington Post: Bush's War Rhetoric Reveals the Anxiety That Iran Commands
Herald Sun: Terry McCrann: Oil price poser for low yuan
Times Online: AA warns of more misery as diesel hits £1 a litre
American Chronicle: Iraq and Iran, Oil, Politics and Religion

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Midwest Econometric Group Meeting 2007

This last weekend Midwest Econometric Group members gathered for their annual meeting at the John Cook School of Business at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri. Midwest Econometric Group is one of the few regional groups dedicated to theory and methods of econometrics in the USA and unlike Econometric Society gatherings its annual meetings are not too crowded, so one actually meets and chats with other fellow researchers and econometricians.
The sessions were organized in a way that micro or macro sessions did not have any conflict. There were a number of sessions on Time Series and Panel data with one session dedicated to finance. The papers were very high quality and the authors emphasized that paper is 70% or 60% complete. Despite this fact most of the papers were motivated by some original ideas. I noticed that there are a growing number of econometricians who dedicate their research agenda to the study of non-parametric models in econometrics. Those researchers who work on Bayesian applications and methodology in econometrics are seeking economic interpretations for different Bayesian concepts and methods. Overall MEG 2007 leaned toward theory more than application. It was a true educational experience.

Peter C. B. Phillips from Yale University was keynote speaker. Many, your correspondent included, enjoyed his talk immensely. He said: “Economic trends are like Hamlet, you do not know what they will do next.” He added:

“We never know what is coming next. Terms such as “if the current trend continues” or “long term trends” do not have any factual meaning. They just mean: if there is some continuation of current points.”

He highlighted how far practitioners have come in their econometrics works. Using Picasso’s famous quote on art he said: “Econometric models are lies that seek to reveal the meaning within data.” I made sure that I wrote down that sentence.

MEG 2008 is going to be in Kansas University. This is truly a great conference to attend.

Thursday Links

New York Times: Putin Is Said to Offer Idea on Standoff Over Iran
Tehran Times: Iran studying Putin’s nuclear proposal: Larijani
AFP: Larijani, Solana to hold talks on Iran's nuclear programme
AP: Olmert to Discuss Iran With Putin
Baltimore Sun: Bush only 'making a point' with 'World War III'
AFP: Iran brushes off Bush 'World War III' warning
The Hindu: Lanka lends support to Iran's right to nuclear technology

Bloomberg: Iran, Venezuela Form Oil Venture to Rival Shell, Eni (Update1)
The Moscow Times: Gazprom Goes to Iran for Talks

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Putin in Tehran

Australia, Herald Sun: Putin to visit embattled Iran
Russia, Pravda: Suicide terrorists prepared to assassinate Putin during his visit to Iran
UK, Guardian: Iran death threat fails to discourage Putin
International Herald Tribune: In Iran, Putin warns against military action
Russia, Interfax: Putin hails decision to allow only coastal countries' vessels into Caspian Sea

Council of Foreign Relations: Top of the Agenda: Putin in Iran
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin arrived in Iran today, the first visit to the country by a Kremlin leader since Josef Stalin in 1943. Putin will attend a summit of nations bordering the Caspian Sea, the focus of which seems likely to be Iran’s nuclear program (BBC). Thus far, the meetings have been overshadowed (RFE/RL) by an apparent plot to assassinate Putin while he is in Iran.

Still, analysts remain hopeful that progress can be made on the nuclear question, particularly given Russia’s strong regional influence in energy markets. Bloomberg reports that initial energy talks between Putin and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad focused on how to divvy Caspian energy resources among the countries that border the sea. Russian press report that Ahmadinejad told Putin that he hopes the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program will be resolved in the near future (RIA Novosti).

Reuters: Putin gives no guarantees on Iran atom plant fuel: TEHRAN (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin declined to give any guarantees on when Russia might start delivering fuel to Iran's first nuclear power plant on Tuesday, saying it would happen after differences over the contract were solved… Read more.

Photo is From ISNA

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Immortality of an Ordinary Life

I finished a conversation and then looked around my small apartment to do some errands, the housekeeping ones: categorizing papers, cleaning and dusting. Then phone rang, the number was a long distance one, the one my family use to call me. I answered; surprised since the time was almost 2:00 AM in the morning Tehran time. It was my sister.

My sister said hi. And I said hi. She asked how I was doing and I asked how she was doing.
-“I am fine”
-“I am good a bit tired though.”
A bit of small talk followed and then she said:
-“Mom and dad are visiting Uncle Mohammad, he is not feeling well.”
- Why? what happened?
- He is not good, he is not feeling well.
- What happened?
- He had a heart attack, he is in hospital
- How is he feeling?
- Not good. (her voice trembled)
- He is not feeling good or…?
- He is…

It is over. The forgotten reality of life strikes. He is with my dear grandmother now, chatting in their Farsi with Shahroudi accent.

My uncle was what seemed to be an ordinary man. He did not go to college. He had a high school diploma, served his mandatory obligation as a private before revolution and then went back to his hometown. A provincial city south of Eastern Alborz Mountains, called Shahroud. There he worked in a pharmacy and then in a small agricultural firm started by a cousin. He was quiet and kept to himself most of the time; a calm looking man who wore a thick black moustache and dark rim glasses with thinning hair which became silver in the later years. It was impossible to guess what he was thinking about.

That was not all. He played as an amateur actor in plays produced by the city theatrical groups, formed by enthusiastic fans like him. His passion was his library and his music. He had a collection of Iran’s traditional and folklore music that was coveted by everyone in the family. He never missed an issue of Film magazine, Iran’s prominent monthly publication on movie and art industry. He loved movies and followed the industry very closely or as much as he could.

He did not have any child of his own, so he spoiled his nieces and nephews. He never showed up empty handed. He always had books, something remarkable and thought provoking. My small library as a teenager owed him and his generosity a great debt of gratitude. He brought me books by Jules Verne, Turgeniev, Jalal Al Ahmad, Simin Daneshvar and other renowned authors. He never seized to encourage us, the noise making bunch of wild rebels. He took pride in our achievements, in my cousin admission to medical school, in my sisters’ and my cousins’ academic and professional achievements and in my graduate studies. Last time we talked he addressed me as “Shoma”; the formal way of saying “You” in Farsi. I was embarrassed. I dreamed of the day I gave a seminar in Shahroud that he could come to, I wanted him to see me as an economist.

Was he a religious man? Yes he was in a very old fashion way. He went to Mecca and served as a Khadem[1] in a local Tekeyeh[2]. He also kept an open mind; I never heard a word of judgment about anyone from him. His rule was simple: “be good”. My uncle certainly knew the difference of good and evil. His politics was simple like millions of Iranians: hoping for better days and believing that hope is a good thing.

He was not rich. His means were limited and his life utterly simple. But he was generous with his friends and family. He never claimed to be an “intellectual”. But he was always learning or reading. His library kept growing and growing. “Dayee[3] Mohammad” managed to live above and beyond the society, without any claim to grandeur or any pretense of talent. His share of history is not larger or smaller than that of other Iranians, yet as remarkable. In a turbulent time he did what he could to keep life memorable and to bring a little sunshine to this world. There rests the secret to immortality of his life..... I sure miss you a lot Dayee Joon.

[1] Literally it means “server” but in Iran it is used for people who work in Mosques, holy shrines and Tekyehs.
[2] A place of gathering in Ashura and other holy occasions for people who mourn the martyrdom of Shiite Imams, particularly Imam Hussien, the mourners are usually served by food and tea, donated by members of Tekeyeh.
[3] Dayee: Mom’s Brother, Uncle

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Satureday News

Tehran Times: Swiss proposalon Iran's nuclear program worth study: Majlis speaker
AP: Iraqi Shiite Leader Seeks US-Iran Talks
New York Times: At New York Film Festival: Upheaval in Iran, Fiasco in Westchester
AFP: Expo in Ahmadinejad's Iran showcases avant-garde art
The Hindu: Indian women to take on Iran

The headlines do not update properly so i thought to add this here.

Eid Mobarak!

Happy Eid :) It seems even in the USA there was not a global agreement as to when is the first day of Shavval, when Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan. Some mosques celebrated yesterday and some today. Today, Satureday, also is the Eid day in Iran. So Happy Eid to everyone :) .... sometimes one wonders how significant a scientific observation could be :))

Eid Mobarak!

Photo is from Canada Post.

Ali Farahbakhsh is Free

Ali Farahbakhsh an Iranian journalist and economist who has been arrested last year on his return from an international gathering in Bangkok, Thailand, was released Tuesday after 318 days of imprisonment.

Ali Farahbakhsh collaborated as an economist columnist with several reformist daily papers during his career as a journalist, among them: Sobh-e Emrouz, Shargh and Yaas-e No, where he was the editor for economic affairs desk. He was charged by “espionage” and “receiving funds from foreign institutions”. Last February a court found him guilty and condemned him to 3 years of imprisonment. He and his family paid equivalent of three times of the fund he had received to attend a conference in Bangkok as penalty. He still denies the charges brought against him in the court.

His freedom is a blessed news. The photo is from Kosoof.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Birthplace of Literature Nobel Laureate

One of those little tricks of fate or history that makes it interesting and intriguing. Dorris Lessing the winner of Nobel Prize in literature was born in October 22, 1919 in Kermanshah, Iran, whose international name at the time was Persia.
Her citation reads:
"that epicist of the female experience, who with skepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilization to scrutiny."

There are some interesting link about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doris_Lessing

International Herald Tribune: Excerpts from the Citation for the 2007 Nobel Prize in literature

For Photos of Kermanshah see here: http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Middle_East/Iran/West/Kermanshah/

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

18th Annual Festival of Films from Iran

The Gene Siskel Film Center welcomes you to the 18th Annual Festival of Films from Iran, October 6 through November 5. This year's festival represents an exceptionally diverse selection of films, from new work by major directors to popular comedies rarely seen outside of Iran. All fourteen films are Chicago premieres; eight of them are U.S. premieres.

The enjoyable omnibus film PERSIAN CARPET provides a survey of the artistic range of Iranian cinema in miniature through fifteen shorts, all around the theme of the carpet, by directors including Abbas Kiarostami, Bahman Farmanara, Jafar Panahi, Majid Majidi, Dariush Mehrjui, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, and many more. Films distinguished by awards and critical accolades at major film festivals worldwide include: HALF MOON, RAAMI, UNFINISHED STORIES, THOSE THREE, and A FEW DAYS LATER. For those who think of Iranian cinema as essentially somber and serious, check out RULE OF THE GAME and DEPORTEES. Unique and personal variations on the documentary include THE RED CARD and 10 + 4.

This year we initiate a series of mini-discussions following selected Saturday evening screenings, moderated by well-known authorities on Iranian cinema. Director Amir Hamz appears in person with his film SOUNDS OF SILENCE on October 27 and 28. Meet the director following the show on October 27, at a free reception sponsored by Pasfarda Arts & Cultural Exchange.
The Gene Siskel Film Center thanks the many individuals, companies, and agencies in Iran and in the U.S. whose invaluable efforts, good will and support have made this year's festival possible. .... See more here: http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/

and some events community organized: www.ChicagoPersians.com

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Iran Oil Industy's 25 Untouchables

According to Tehran Times, Iran Ministry of Petroleum announced that 25 firms are off privatization list. These are National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company (NIORDC), Pars Special Economic Energy Zone Co., National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC), National Petrochemical Company (NPC), National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company (NIOPDC), National Iranian Gas Export Company (NIGEC), National Iranian Oil Engineering and Construction Company (NIOEC), Iranian Fuel Conservation Organization (IFCO), Iranian Gas Engineering and Development Company (IGEDC), National Iranian Oil Pipeline and Telecommunication Company (NIOPTC), Petrochemical Terminal and Tank Farm Company (PTTC), and South Pars Gas Complex (SPGC) are among the companies.

These companies are major operators in Iran’s oil industry and include firms in all aspects and levels of operation; manufacturing, expansion, distribution and development. It must be emphasized that Iran Oil Ministry other companies are tapped for privatization. This announcement also means that privatization will go ahead in oil industry, at least for some companies. Given the vital significance of this industry for Iran’s domestic economy, many politicians oppose a complete privatization of this sector. In the presence of such formidable opposition a partial privatization still is a victory for privatization process in Iran.
For more information see: http://www.nioc.org/index.asp

Chicago Marathon

In an unbelievable heat Chicago runners started their annual Marathon. It started like this:

And ended after runners made to 20 Miles -33K point, only 6 miles left. Many were disappointed and angry. The heat was predicted, the question is why it was not canceled earlier and why it canceled when many were only an hour away from the finish line:

Photos are taken by the author.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Boston Globe: US, Iran play with fire

Ramesh Thakur has written this piece for Boston Globe; It is very interesting and I quote this part:
"There is a long history of Western interventions in Iran. Tehran received neither understanding, sympathy, nor support from the West as the victim of Iraqi aggression, including the use of chemical weapons."

Ramesh Thakur, a former UN assistant secretary general, is a fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and professor of political science at the University of Waterloo, Canada

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Iran Economy and Market Overview – August 2007

The inflation rate for the 12 months to August stood at around 15.4%. Although this figure has dropped in comparison to the previous month, it is 3% higher than the inflation rate recorded for the previous Iranian calendar year (which ended on 20 March). The main reasons behind the rise in the inflation rate since the start of the year are:
1. the government’s budget deficit,
2. excessive withdrawals from the country’s Oil Stabilization Fund,
3. excessive obligatory loans provided by the banks and
4. the interest rate cut that was imposed on the state-owned as well as the privately-owned banks by the government.

Read more here: http://www.payvand.com/news/07/oct/1027.html

A 17.5% Increase of Non-Oil Exports from Iran to Iraq

IRNA: Iraq is considered Iran's second trade partner thanks to a 17.5 percent increase of non-oil export in the first four months this year compared to the same period last year, deputy Commerce Minister said on Tuesday.

Mehdi Ghazanfari said that the volume of Iran-Iraq trade stood at dlrs 1.216 billion last year which included only dlrs 16 million import from Iraq. Last year's export to Iraq included 7.5 percent of the total non-oil export from Iran, he noted. Ghazanfari, who is also director general of the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran (TPOI), added that Iran supplies 56 percent of requirements of Iraqi markets including aquatic products, vegetables, fruits, carpet, shoes, ceramics and glass vessels.

Dispatching trade delegations, holding solo exhibitions and taking part in international fairs will pave the ground for more presence of Iranian businessmen in Iraq, he noted. Pointing to potentials in exporting technical and engineering services to Iraqi markets as TPOI future programs, he said that according to the current situation in Iraq, Tehran prefers to export technical and engineering services through bolstering Iranian active companies. Ghazanfari further noted that the organization is to make active Arvand Free Trade Zone and invest in its infrastructures aimed at expanding trade ties with Iraq.

According to the official, Khorramshahr, Khuzestan province, enjoys the best geographical potential to turn into an actual free trade zone. The TPOI head also underlined the need for boosting links between banks of the two countries as well as permanent exhibitions of export commodities in Iraq particularly in Kurdistan province. Turning to the existing needs of Iraqi people to different types of commodities as well as technical and engineering services, he noted that Iran gives priority to expansion of economic and trade ties with Iraq more than any other regional country.

Wednesday Links... Economy

Reuters: UPDATE 3-Turkey to fund $3.5 bln Iran gas deal alone-sources
Reuters: Iran gets over 85 pct oil income in non-US currencies
Economic Times (India): India, Iran review ties
Press TV: Iran, India in petrochemical deal

Wednesday Links... Politics

MSNBC: Is the U.S. planning to strike Iran?
Daily Camera: 'Limited' strike on Iran?
BBC: Iran college asks Bush to speak
International Herald Tribune: EU's Solana warns Iran it needs to progress in negotiations with UN, EU over nuclear program
International Herald Tribune: Prodi: agreement between Iran and UN nuclear agency is window of opportunity
Christian Science Monitor: Are U.S. and Iran headed for war?
Arab News (Saudi): Is the ‘Bomb, Bomb Iran’ Brigade Winning?
Eureka Street (Australia): Australia needs distance from US Iran attack planning

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

FILM PREMIERE: Iran: Seven Faces of a Civilization

University of Chicago Oriental Institute Presents:

Iran: Seven Faces of a Civilization,
A Membership and Public Event
Date: 10/7/2007
Time: 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Location: Oriental Institute, Breasted HallContact
Phone: 773-702-9507
Email: oi-education@uchicago.edu
Join us for the United States premiere of a major new documentary that uses the latest technology to showcase the celebrated art and architecture of Iran over 7,000 years of history. Produced by the makers of Persepolis Recreated, this film features spectacular graphic reconstructions superimposed on images of actual architectural remains. Don’t miss this cinematic adventure that brilliantly recaptures the ancient treasures of Iran in ways never possible before. Farzin Rezaeian, the fllm’s director, will be with us to discussion the production and its companion book, which will be available for purchase at the event. This film premiere is co-sponsored by the Oriental Institute Membership Office and the Museum Education office.
Reception to follow film screening.
Free Admission. No registration required.
This film is shown in conjunction with Chicago Science in the City 2007, a citywide initiative sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Special Events. Persons with disabilities who need an accommodation in order to participate in this event should contact the event sponsor for assistance.
Related Sites: Oriental Institute Membership

Dr. Naficy at University of Maryland

If you are in DC area this will be an interesting lecture to attend:
University of Maryland, School of Languages, Litratures, and Cultures,
The Center for Persian Studies Presents:

The Poetics and Politics of
the Desired and the Dreaded:
Women's Presence in Iranian Cinema

A Public Lecture By
Professor Hamid Naficy
John Evans Professor of Communication
Northwestern University
Time: 7 PM Saturday October 6, 2007
Place: Tyser Auditorium, Van Munching Hall, UMCP

Hamid Naficy is John Evans Professor of Communication, teaching film and media studies
courses in the Department of Radio, Television, and Film at Northwestern University. His areas of research and teaching include documentary and ethnographic films; cultural theories and studies of diaspora, exile, and postcolonial cinemas and media; and Iranian and Middle Eastern cinemas. He has published extensively on these and allied topics. His English language books are: An Accented Cinema: Exilic and Diasporic Filmmaking (Princeton University Press), Home, Exile, Homeland: Film, Media, and the Politics of Place (edited, Routledge), The Making of Exile Cultures: Iranian Television in Los Angeles (University of Minnesota Press), Otherness and the Media: the Ethnography of the Imagined and the Imaged (co-edited, Harwood Academic), and Iran Media Index (Greenwood Press). His forthcoming book is Cinema, Modernity, and National Identity: A Social History of a Century of Iranian Cinema (Duke University Press). He has also published extensively in Persian, including a two-volume book on the documentary cinema theory and history, Film-e Mostanad (Daneshgah-e Azad-e Iran Press). He has lectured widely internationally and his works have been cited and reprinted extensively and translated into many languages, including French, German, Turkish, Italian, and Persian.

The rationale of Richard Bulliet

Although he didn't get in the news much, the man who orchestrated the Ahmadinejad visit was none other than domestic animal and ancient wheel expert (and Iranian history specialist) Richard W. Bulliet. Bwog sat down in his posh office in the Middle East Institute to ask him about his reactions to the speech and his reactions to the reactions to the speech. He had a lot to say in between writing an op-ed for The Washington Post and getting ready for a Ramadan iftar with the president of Turkey and Hillary Clinton. Bulliet being Bulliet, his comments used up our tape. Here's what he said-- in the first hour, anyways. Read More here: http://www.bwog.net/articles/bulliet_again

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Gary Sick: Iranian Leader Sees Trip to New York as ‘Successful’

Gary Sick: Iranian Leader Sees Trip to New York as ‘Successful’
Gary G. Sick, executive director of the Gulf/2000 Project, Columbia University
Gary G. Sick, a longtime Iranian expert who served on the Ford, Carter, and Reagan National Security Councils, says that he believes President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regards his visit to the United Nations and New York City as "successful" because it allowed him to get his views out to a wide audience, and particularly to "people in the Islamic world and the Middle East, especially Arabs." Sick says an opportunity for a dialogue between Iran and the United States may have to wait until 2009 when there will be a new U.S. president, and possibly a new Iranian president. He does not think the United States will attack Iran militarily.... Read More Here: http://www.cfr.org/publication/14309/