I wish to inform the fellow Iranians that I have decided to run in the next Presidential elections in Iran as an independent candidate. As a political scientist with a life-time commitment to Iran” national interests, I believe that my decision is timely and in tune with the needs of our generation. This is, in fact, the third time that I am participating in the presidential elections. In the last two elections, I made a rather feeble entry through the newspapers and the internet, and plan to campaign more energetically this time, mainly in order to spread an important message about change in Iran that, if implemented, will undoubtedly transform the physical, social and political face of Iran.
That message is a simple yet profound idea, that is, the creation of a water channel between the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. This idea has been floating around for several decades and at the moment has been all but forgotten, as our politicians and leaders and social commentators appear to be somewhat unanimous on viewing this idea as an unworkable fantasy that should be ignored or for years to come be placed on the shelf in the light of more pressing issues of survival and “tangible” economic development.
Yet, after spending a considerable time in studying this issue and its numerous dimensions and implications and pros and cons, I have concluded that the time to give this idea serious attention and priority has come, for the sake of Iran in the new century, and that I must utilize the opportunity of the upcoming elections in order to raise consciousness about this idea and, hopefully, convince the government leaders to devote the necessary resources for a serious and scientific “feasibility” study.
Our proud history is, in fact, the primary motive force behind my decision. It is a history that constantly reminds us of the power of will and imagination, of leaders overcoming the odds, of our people standing up to tall challenges and with patience, resilience, and creativity meeting those challenges.
I consider myself a member of the revolutionary generation, that for the past couple of decades has sought to chart the path to a new Iran, Iran-e Jadid, unshackled from the heavy tonnage of past traditions that keep the country stationary. The new Iran is a process-in-making that requires long-term solutions to fundamental historical and social and political obstacles to progress and change.
Throughout the centuries, quite a number of historians and observers of this semi-arid ancient land have connected the physiological feature of Iran, above all its aridity and vast deserts, to the so-called Oriental despotism, the lack of democracy. I am not a geographical determinist and always avoid reducing complex social phenomena to any one variable. This does not mean, however, that we cannot or should not give priority to one set of variables such as the climate, relative lack of rain fall, and social lack of integration due to the large areas we call deserts.
But, can we make the deserts disappear, at least a good chunk of them? Is it possible to create lakes out of the deserts and transform the physical and natural attributes of the country?
When I was first exposed to this question more than a decade ago, my initial reaction was entirely negative and, yet, the more I have probed the answers to these questions, the more optimistic I have become that may be there is a way out of this natural limitation. I confess that I have been impressed by a number of examples, above all the construction super projects such as China’s dam projects. A glance at those projects and it is immediately clear that what China is hoping to accomplish is nothing short of a new China.
A new Iran based on a new water way connecting the Caspian to the Persian Gulf, with new lakes, dams, bridges, and urban enclaves and towns and villages, that is my dream, which I like to share with my fellow Iranians, a dream which has been hatched by others, which counts as its pioneers men such as Hooman Farzad, who has been rightly called the father of Iran’s water projects. Having had the honor and pleasure of learning from Ostad Farzad, I am convinced that the torch must now be alighted at the presidential playing field, in order to bring back to national attention the idea that has more than once been discredited before ever getting the chance of a full debate.
I am not deluding myself into thinking that I have a realistic chance of winning the elections or even getting past the candidate selection process and the thick filtering system. Still, the reason I am not deterred by the near certain exclusion is that my professional training and years of experience as a political scientist has convinced me of the importance of the space for deliberation and national dialogue afforded by the elections and, as I said, the equal importance of no longer turning a blind eye to an idea that can quite realistically become the foundation for a whole new Iran, Iran-e Jadid.
So, if you ask me who is an Iran-e Jadidi, my answer is this: it is someone who is a firm believer in the need to alter the natural characteristic of Iran, as more important than changing the political system or the laws of the country, who knows that what this generation and the generations to come need is not the recycling of average or mediocre ideas or plans, but a grand new plan, too grand for the imagination of those who are perpetual nay sayers, who always underestimate our nation’s ability to cause major and drastic changes, who prefer to downgrade our creative abilities to destroying things rather than setting up and creating new things.
An Iran-e Jadidi is someone who knows that the problems of our generation, such as unemployment and development and wealth distribution, cannot be met without taking on bold new ideas, so bold that at first thought seem impossible and unrealistic, but only at first thought, for it is the challenge and duty of an Iran-e Jadidi to think beyond the ordinary, to grasp the scope and extent of our needs and necessities, and to formulate solutions that transcend this generation and, instead, lay the foundation for the welfare and well-being the future generations.
So it happens that our generation in my humble opinion has been readying itself for a major new challenge, one that will be probably shared between two generations, and will have significant implication on every facet of life in Iran for the foreseeable future.
What would Egypt be without the Suez Channel, or Panama without the Panama Channel? The answer is certainly something different. And so will be the Iran of the future with a water channel spanning hundreds of kilometers, connecting numerous parts of Iran together and, simultaneously, providing a new outlet for the land locked neighbors of ours in Central Asia.
How long will it take to build such a channel, the estimated cost, and so on, as of this moment no one can answer any of these questions with any degree of certainty.
In my conversations with the experts, including some individuals who have worked for the Planning Organization both now and in the past, I have received vastly different estimates. Thus, while some people estimate that this will cost around fifty billion dollars others put the figure much higher, and, on the other hand, while some make the educated guess that it will take ten to twelve years to build, there are others, such as Mr. Farzad, who estimate that it will be no less than twenty year.
A twenty year project costing billions upon billions of dollars? I have been on a number of Iranian television programs recently and more than once laughed at by people who think that this is pure hallucination. An Iran-e Jadidi, however, has the job cut out for him or her, that is, must weather the storm of negativity and brace himself or herself to be ridiculed and dismissed out of hand. A new Iran cannot be built on sand castles or, for that matter, on the ruinous old ideas that lack the will to action. It requires steal faith in the mission.
I am not interested in any objective other than pushing forward this new mission, nor am I going to be distracted by whatever criticism that, perhaps, I think one dimensionally and that it takes a lot more issues to be a presidential candidate. Those who think this are simply ignorant of the depth and scope of the new Iran I am advocating through the water way. And neither am I a political novice to be oblivious to the potential charges that my candidacy will one way or another serve certain vested interests in Iran, particularly those who are against regime change and want to see incremental change.
Again, I have absolutely no fear of such points of views, for I am convinced of the importance of undertaking massive new projects that would create on-going employment, that would potentially invite foreign capital, that would introduce serious socio-economic development for our Iran. Sure there can be a whole spectrum of development projects at any given time calling for the allocation of precious resources. But let the Iran-e Jadidis make the argument: there is nothing more significant, more pressing, more meaningful, (geo) economically and otherwise, than erecting a water channel between our bodies of water South and North, which is bound to entail a powerful political and technocratic alliance as its precondition.
The coalition of the converts to this noble yet forgotten idea must be prepared to fight many a political and budgetary battles, to convince an entire army of skeptics, including those from the ranks of political geographers and morphologists and geologists and economists and planners, who question the wisdom of this idea. It will not be easy and the final result of the debate will be far from certain. It is, in other words, quite possible that just like in the past, when the skeptics managed to nip in the bud this idea whenever it showed itself, its fire will be put out before it ignites a wholesale attention in the public realm. The number one challenge of Iran-e Jadidis is to make sure that this does not happen, that their commitment to this magnificent idea will remain solid, like a strong willow tree with firm roots much as its leaves and branches may shiver in a storm.
Who has the courage, the will and determination to join me in this mission, this crusade to help our generation and the generations to come? Who among you will heed the call that is not born by any individual badge, that is not associated with any leader, that is not a tissue of a political ego, that is not a figment of a stale imagination? Who among you is an Iran-e Jadidi?
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