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Observations in Iran

Iran is not a typical tourist destination for most North Americans. It is a mainly Muslim country, and to hear United States President Donald Trump and the various talking heads surrounding him describe Islam, all Muslims are terrorists.

I am not much influenced by the rantings of Mr. Trump and his ignorant, paranoid minions. So when invited to speak at the conference, ‘United States, Human Rights and Discourse of Domination’, sponsored by the  University of Tehran, in cooperation with Iranian World Studies Association, to be held in Tehran, I readily agreed.

I was able to spend four days in Iran. It seems from my observations there in Tehran over a period of two days that that city may not be exactly what the corporate-owned media proclaims it to be. It is a modern city: the downtown area is crowded, noisy and exciting, like most major cities. Yes, all women must wear headscarves, but they don’t need to cover their hair; many women have hair showing in front of their head. Additionally, all imaginable styles were worn by the women: blue jeans, slacks, dresses; high heeled shoes, sandals and sneakers.

During my two days there, I saw women driving, sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied by other women, and sometimes accompanied by men. Several women with Ph.Ds spoke at the conference; some attired in black with only their faces showing, and some wearing ‘Western’-style clothing, accompanied by a headscarf.

U.S. government officials are forever foaming at the mouth about the sorry state of affairs of women in Iran, yet they are silent about conditions for women in Saudi Arabia. If one were to visit that country, one would not see women driving, or wearing the array of clothing that this writer saw in Iran. Any conference in that country will not have educated women presenting; obtaining higher education  for women is next to impossible. And should that be achieved, women finding work in their field of expertise is almost unheard of.

Following the conference in Tehran, I flew to the city of Mashhad in the northern part of the country, for a second conference. Mashhad is Iran’s second largest city, and has far more religious significance than Tehran. I saw more Imams, not unusual considering the sacred significance of the city to Muslims. But in the two days I spent there, I saw no difference in the dress and treatment of women: some women dressed in black, with only their faces showing, and others with a variety of fashions.

Security in both cities was evident from a tourist perspective; this is hardly unusual, considering that Tehran experienced its first terrorist attack in years just weeks earlier. My luggage was scanned when entering my hotel in Tehran, and prior to entering the conference center in Mashhad, my briefcase was put through the scanner. I saw a single armed solider on two occasions, both times in the airport in Mashhad. I saw two other soldiers awaiting a flight at the airport,

One interpersonal experience is worth noting. I had guides with me, associated with the University of Tehran, in both that city, and Mashhad. When leaving Mashhad for the return trip to Tehran, my guide said something to several people standing in line to get on the plane. What he apparently asked was for someone to assist me in finding my contact once I arrived back in Tehran.

Certainly, I could have found my contact in Tehran, but there is something a bit intimidating about looking at the arrivals and departures boards, and understanding nothing; everything is written in Farsi. But I certainly appreciated the gesture. And since my guide in Mashhad had given his contact information to the gentleman who volunteered to assist me, that gentleman was able to call my guide in Mashhad, when I discovered on arrival in Tehran that I had left my wallet and cell phone at airport security in Mashhad. My guide was then able to retrieve those items, and is sending them to my home.

Another thing worthy of note is the traffic. Driving in downtown Tehran or Mashhad takes nerves of steel, quick reflexes and a working horn; each of my drivers’ was well-equipped in those areas. On major thoroughfares, with multiple lanes and speeding traffic, the white lines painted on the road are apparently there only for decoration. As such, they appear to serve the same purpose as the speed-limit signs.

So what does all of this mean? Perhaps, just perhaps, U.S. government officials are lying in implying that Iranians are so ‘different’, and we all know that in the parlance of U.S. Doublespeak, ‘different’ means inferior and probably violent. But perhaps women in Iran aren’t oppressed, the nation isn’t ‘backward’, and the people aren’t hostile to the U.S. ‘because of its freedoms’.

As a disclaimer, I want to state that I recognize that Iranian society isn’t a Utopian one. Much social media is not available there, homosexual activity can be a capital offense, and it’s likely that not all women, even if Muslim, are so devout as to want to wear a headscarf at all times. But unlike Saudi Arabia, with which the U.S. has full diplomatic relations, women can drive, obtain higher education and work in their chosen fields. And it certainly appears that there is sufficient freedom of ideas and speech in Iran for people who want to work effectively for change to do so.

I never expected to visit Iran, but am very glad to have had the opportunity. If more U.S. citizens could have a similar opportunity, continued U.S. hostility toward Iran could not be sustained. And that would be a great benefit for the entire world.

Originally published by Warisacrime.org.

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Qatar and Saudi Arabia: Trump Adds Fuel to the Fire     

As if there weren’t enough crises in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emeritus have broken diplomatic and economic relations with Qatar. This, they claim, is because of Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Iran. This action has been endorsed by United States President Donald Trump, who signaled his support in typical fashion, by  ‘Tweet’.

Perhaps we can look at the objections that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the U.S. have against Qatar.

  • Alleged support for the Muslim Brotherhood. This organization dates back to 1928. “Founded by Hassan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood – or al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun in Arabic – has influenced Islamist movements around the world with its model of political activism combined with Islamic charity work.” It supports moving away from secularism, and following the teachings of the Quran. In recent years, the brotherhood has taken a far more activist role in politics, and, although denouncing violence, some offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood have been linked to various attacks.

One would not condemn Christianity, because some so-called Christian groups bomb abortion clinics.  The entire Jewish population should not be condemned because of Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians. Yet is seems acceptable to condemn the Muslim Brotherhood for the actions of some violent wing of that organization.

  • Support for Hamas. The U.S. and several other countries have decreed Hamas to be a ‘terrorist’ organization. How the U.S. can so designate anyone, when its long history of terrorism is certainly the worst in world history, is a mystery to this writer. Hamas is the democratically-elected government of Palestine’s Gaza Strip. It is no wonder the people of Gaza elected Hamas over Fatah, the U.S. and Israel-supported puppet government of the West Bank. Hamas promised jobs, and real aid, promises it delivered on until blocked by Fatah ‘leader’ Mamoud Abbas. Saudi Arabia and the UAE claim that Qatar support for Hamas is one of the reasons for its current actions against Qatar. Apparently, supporting an organization that is duly elected, and seeks to genuinely work for the people who elected it, cannot be countenanced.
  • And last, but not least, we get to Qatar’s alleged support for Iran. In February, U.S. Secretary of Defense, one James Mattis, made this most puzzling statement: “As far as Iran goes, this is the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.” He said this, with a straight face, even as the country he represents was bombing six countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen). Iran, of course, is not bombing anyone. Is not dropping bombs on innocent people the greatest form of terrorism there is?

Well, let’s put that aside for a minute. The U.S. funds and trains terrorist groups in Syria, including the White Helmets. Is this not ‘state sponsored’ terrorism?

And we could look along the terrorism spectrum, with the U.S. being at the extreme end, with its constant bombing of countries, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children, and Iran being at the other end, basically attempting to serve its people and prepare to protect them from foreign invasion. What other nations may fall somewhere along that continuum? Well, Israel comes to mind as a nation close to the U.S. It brutally occupies Palestine, killing and terrorizing innocent Palestinian men, women and children with complete impunity. Its IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) soldiers (read: terrorists) are just as brutal when confronting Israelis who support Palestinian human rights. And every few years, Israel decides to ‘mow the lawn’, carpet-bombing the Gaza Strip, often referred to as the world’s largest open-air prison.

And where might Saudi Arabia fall on this continuum? It will be grouped with the U.S. and Israel, due at least to its bombing of Yemen.

And why is Iran at the other end of this spectrum? The last time Iran attacked a country was in 1798. Yes, that is not a typographical error; it was 219 years ago.

We will now take a moment to view Mr. Trump’s 140 character analysis of this situation. In his elegant, erudite manner, he wrote this: “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!” Well, there you are. Yet Mr. Trump is funding terrorist groups attempting to overthrow the government of Syria. Perhaps those ‘leaders’ should have been pointing to Mr. Trump.

And what is the source of all this? It was a speech that the Qatari ruler was said to have made that indicated support for Iran. U.S. news outlets now state that the report was false, and was planted by Russian intelligence.

During the Cold War, there was a Russian Communist believed to be hiding under every bed in the United States. Today, it seems, any diplomatic crisis can be tracked, at least by the U.S., to Russia. It isn’t surprising that U.S. intelligence would perceive this, since that is the way it operates, supporting rebel groups, planting false stories, and undermining governments, democratically-elected or not, which don’t meet some capitalist standard that the U.S. demands. And in the Middle East, any nation that opposes the sacred cow of Israel, as Iran does, must be thwarted.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Waleed al-Modallal, head of political science at the Islamic Unviersity of Gaza, commented on the currently controversy. “The pressure on Qatar is not to do with Hamas, but it’s the fact that it is a successful state that tries to engage in dialogue and it has been very successful in solving issues in the region.” Further, he said: “Qatar is a small country playing a big role in the region. That is what seems to have angered the bigger countries nearby.”

Yes, it seems that only the U.S. and Israel, aided and abetted by Saudi Arabia, can call the shots in the Middle East. Any other country trying to usurp that authority must pay a price.

What will come of this? Will a peaceful outcome be assured, due to the cool heads that prevail in the international arena today? Hardly! Although Israel isn’t directly, or at least publicly, involved, one can be sure that its Prime Murderer, Benjamin Netanyahu, is anxiously awaiting the raining down of U.S. bombs on Iran. And Mr. Trump is such a wild card, that what he’ll do next is anyone’s guess.

All this has little or nothing to do with anything Qatar’s leaders may or may not have said. As indicated by Mr. al-Modallal, It’s all jockeying for position in a roiling Middle East, where Iran remains a powerhouse, but Israel, aligned with Saudi Arabia, has nuclear weapons. With Zionists in control in the U.S., Iran must be ‘neutralized’, so Israel can remain supreme.

It is as obvious that Donald Trump is playing with matches while sitting on a powder keg, as it is that he is oblivious to that perilous fact. While no one can predict with accuracy what may occur, the outcome is sure to bring more suffering to millions of innocent people. For the U.S., that is business as usual.

Originally printed by the American Herald Tribune.

 

 

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