Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rick Steves Talking about his Movie

I can't get enough from Rick Steves documentary on Iran. This is a talk he gave about it. Very interesting to watch:

Losing a Game

Iran lost to Saudi 2-1 in qualifying match. Well since President AhmadiNejad was in stadium watching the game, the political sms market is exploding in Tehran. Of course the scapegoat is Mr. Dayee now, the head coach of national team. Unfortunately he had made some adversaries by refusing to bring Ali Karimi to national team and by exercising a free hand. Now the blame game is on in Iran and well in the existing frustration one must accept that some would spice it up with some politics.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Juan Cole has a point!

Tonight I went to Politics & Prose where Juan Cole from University of Michigan was discussing his new book: "Engaging the Muslim World". His latest book is a study of the current status of USA relations with the Muslim world and a collection of suggestions as how to engage it. I have not read the book but whatever Juan Cole writes is usually worthy of a close examination. However I can't agree more with one of the points he made during his speech.

He noted that there is no American studies program in the native languages in the Middle East. While Japanese, French and Russian have developed academic institutes to study American history, economy and society in their native languages there is not an equivalent institute that does so in Arabic, Persian, Turkish or other languages of Islamic world. He mentioned that there is not one single translation of Jefferson in Arabic! He makes an excellent point. Ironically he has to blame the perspective on this side of Atlantic.

There are several media outlets funded by Washington DC and other western governments. I can name a few that broadcast in Persian for Iran without any search. There is Radio Zamaneh from Netherlands, BBC Persian Radio and TV from London, Radio Farda from Prague and of course Voice of America (VOA) Radio and TV from Washington DC and French Radio, German and .... so there is no shortage of western media presence in the Muslim World, or at least in Iran for that purpose. However instead pf talking Jefferson, Lincoln, Adams, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington these outlets talk about domestic issues of these countries. They try to act as domestic media, or Iranian media in this case. They are run by journalists from opposition or anti regime groups and usually are there to advocate their points of view. Treated by suspicion by authorities they always imply that they are advocating freedom of speech and democracy in Iran. Well if hearing that from a monarchist or a former Marxist, who used to advocate totalitarian regimes themselves, is not funny, I do not know what it is!

The truth of matter is that western governments by spending their cash on venues that turn into personal fiefs and good gigs for these groups, all with a political agenda of their own in the target country, do not help principles of democracy or freedom of speech for that matter. Yes, Jefferson is not translated into Arabic, Turkish or Persian because the academicians in these countries can not antagonize the authorities and endanger their careers by doing so. Those who can do it, waste their resources by joining the local struggle for power.

This reminds me of a letter allegedly written by Mr. Dehkhoda, first Iranian to write an encyclopedia. Responding in 1950's to invitation from BBC or VOA to speak in their Persian program for their Iranian audience, he wrote: " I rather you choose an American scholar to talk to us of Washington, of Franklin, of your history and how your founding fathers establish a functioning democracy. I myself prefer to talk to your people, of our literature, great poets, our history and our struggle for the cause of liberty. It just does not make sense for me to talk to my fellow Iranians through a foreign radio."

Juan Cole has an excellent point, but the solution is here not there!

A New Day

It is the first day of spring and the first day of Iranian New Year, an occasion to celebrate the rebirth of nature that symbolizes hope. It is Nowruz. Iranian new year is going to be an eventful one.
Politics: Iran's presidential election shall decide who will be the next president. In running there are three candidates: MirHussien Mousavi (former prime minister), Karroubi (former speaker of house- self acclaimed pragmatic reformer) and incumbent President AhmadiNejad.

Economics: Dr. Nili, a prominent Iranian economist and a former head of macroeconomic planning at Management and Planning Organization, identifies five potential crisis ahead of Iran's economy: budget deficit, balance of trade, volume of money in circulation, unbalanced consumption of energy and employment. The next president won't have any honeymoon with the economy.

International: President Obama in his Nowruz greetings spoke of new beginnings, some in Iran consider this a genuine opportunity to engage USA in diplomatic talks. His diplomatic approach has already disarmed radicals and calmed down many voices in Iran and encouraged many to speak for moderation (Is W. taking notes? in one Nowruz greeting Obama accomplished more than all threats his administration inclined). However it is unrealistic to expect 30 years of building suspicions to go away by a happy Nowruz. However it is indeed a new beginning.

This new year promises many new beginnings.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Economicly Indifferent!

Really there is not much difference between Mir Hussein Mousavi and Ahmadinejad when it comes to economy! both are for redistributing wealth and both have or had followed policies that encouraged and inspired rent seeking behavior in Iran. On another hand if we believe Mr. Mousavi would continue political reforms, we must ask how he plans to make them sustainable by ignoring expanding private sector and free markets?
There is a possibility that Mr. Karroubi would advocate some sound economic strategy, however that won't be very popular at the moment. Is it possible that economy continues on this path indifferent from who is the president?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Here He Abandoned Us Again!

Former President Khatami is about to issue a statement in Tehran, in a few hours, to announce that he will not pursue his candidacy for presidency. He made this decision after a conference with Mr. MirHussein Mousavi, Iran's war time prime minister and a much revered personality among the old guards, during which Mr. MirHussein Mousavi emphasized that he would continue his bid. Mr. Khatami had formerly announced that either Mr. MirHussein Mousavi or he, himself, would represent the reform movement in the coming election, now it seems he considers it his duty as a gentleman to withdraw himself.

By doing so Mr. Khatami represents the worst aspects of an Iranian noble character! In the name of duty and morality he is escaping his responsibilities and in the name of the reform movement he is abandoning his reformist supporters. Although out of power for 4 years and out of favor with the hard liners for much longer, he was a genuinely popular politician with a sizable following among the middle class, women and students. The news is heart breaking for the members of his campaign and his supporters, many of whom begged him to stay during an emotional farewell meeting last night.

Mr. Khatami is worthy of praise for his intelligence, excellent manners and his bona fide belief in civil rights and a democratic approach to government, however history will remember him as an indecisive politician who was more concerned with his personal vanity than his political agenda. Both as a president and as a politician he was more inclined to follow requests and to answer the calls of duty than gaining initiative and devising plans to materialize his goals.

May be he believes by doing this he has been selfless, as he should be according to Islamic morality code and principles. However he forgot that in the name of altruism no one could possibly forget or forego his duties and his obligations to his fellow citizens. Unfortunately Mr. Khatami has done just that. He might have many good reasons for it, but it will take time to get over this episode.