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Iran frees British sailors, demonstrating that the spirit of Norooz is still alive and well

April 4, 2007

Once upon a time there were three wise Iranians that followed the stars to celebrate a birth and the fulfilment of an ancient prophecy. They brought gifts of gold , frankincense, and myrrh.

Sadly we live in much more materialistic times and as a result the giving of gifts has become ever more elaborate and expensive. Gold isn't worth what it used to be and frankincense and myrrh can't compete with Estée Lauder's huge advertising budget.

It seems as if Norooz is almost as commercialised as Christmas. Iranian parents have lost many of their traditional values and Iranian children are no longer content with a small or simple Eidi.

Two of the most important Iranian principles have always been pride and hospitality. It was an Iranian sense of hospitality that drove the Revolutionary Guard's to invite the 15 British sailors and marines to share their sabzi polo baa maahi while showing off the guns that they had received as Eidi. However it was also motivated by an Iranian sense of pride, they didn't want to be outdone by the British, Americans or the Iraqi's who have been so prolific in their hospitality towards Iranian government officials.

Fortunately these recent events have demonstrated that the spirit of Norooz is still alive and well.

It is clear that contrary to what the media has been reporting that far from being strained, relations between Iran and Britain have never been more cordial. It was just after Norooz that Tony Blair on behalf of Britain presented Iran with a boat and some state of the art GPS equipment as an Eidi. In response to this new found sense of friendship and not wishing to be out done, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today announced on behalf of Iran that he would give Tony Blair and Britain fifteen naval personnel as an Eidi.

Of course there is a danger, as is so often the case with Ahmadinejad, that his well intentioned actions may be misinterpreted by the West. Britain may feel that they are now obligated to offer an even more lavish gift to ensure that Iran does not start talking behind their back, complaining to the other countries about how with all its wealth Britain only gave one small boat and some GPS equipment to Iran as an Eidi. Britain may feel pressured to borrow some missiles from the Americans or enriched uranium from the Russians so that they do not appear too cheap.

There is a risk that the pressure to provide the most extravagant Eidi could escalate tensions between Iran and the West, but for now it seems that more pragmatic voices have prevailed and that the risk of military action over Eidi is unlikely.

Number 10 seems to have responded positively to the Eidi, though speculation remains that because of Ali Larijani's statement, Iran will not give the fifteen sailors and marines, chocolat to take home for straying into Iranian waters, which could be seen as an insult to Britain. However it is rumoured that in addition to the left over sabzi polo ba mahi the fifteen naval personnel will also be given shirini to take home.

Of course it is always possible that the fifteen naval personnel have spent too long in Iran and as a result will be unable to leave the plane once it lands in Britain, either because they have put on too much weight from all the chelo kebab they have been eating or because of an elaborate demonstration of ta'arof, which could then be misinterpreted as another "hostage" crisis! If that does happen h opefully the shirini will defuse the situation and this altruistic exchange will serve as an example to those who have forgotten the true meaning of Norooz... Comment

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Payam Ghamsari



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