The nocturnal fare called Late Night with David Letterman often features a shtick called “Is this anything?” The curtain rises and a person or two perform an act or display something and then the curtain descends a few moments later. The host, Mr. Letterman, and his musical director, Paul Shafer, then engage in light banter in order to decide if what they just witnessed in actuality was “anything.” The choice is either “something” or “nothing.” The parody that the sketch embodies is typical of the theatre of the absurd and that is why I think the question that it poses is the most apt form of a query regarding the recent mis en scene in London, where the cast of La Comedie americaine mounted yet another farcical performance of the piece entitled The Iranian Follies.
After days in rehearsal, the various cast members of this cage aux folles-like “international community” appeared from the backstage to announce that they had agreed on a package of carrot and sticks in order to dissuade the Iranian government from enriching uranium and reprocessing activity. The virtuoso personification of the stick in this production, Ms. Condoleezza Rice, supported a very fashionable two-piece red suit and a grin that made her pearly teeth sparkle all the more in the midst of her tanned face.
If rang-kardan (deceit) had a face this will be it. She stood by silently and let Ms. Margaret Beckett do most of the talking.
Ms. Beckett, the newcomer of the troupe, who played the ingénue role of the carrot-wielding British Foreign Secretary on very short notice, spoke eloquently. Her lousy reddish-blonde-strawberry hair-dye was in character, however. Ms. Beckett is an impressionable lass and this was obvious in her confused diction when referring to Iran and Iranians. When pronouncing Iran, she uttered it as it should be pronounced Iran (E-run), but when saying Iranian she echoed her American counterpart’s incorrect utterance Eye-rainians. They both may require a diction coach when it comes to sitting across the table “negotiating” with the Iranian strongman Khamenei and the president Mahmoud “the Mighty Mouse” Ahmadinejad. I am personally disappointed in Ms. Beckett playing second fiddle to Ms. Rice, though. In the immortal words of Jean Anouilh, I must ask “ou est l’honneur de Becket[t]?”
A cast of male performers crowded the back part of the stage, standing behind the Anglo-American lady duet. While they appeared as supporting actors, let there be not doubt that they are the presenteurs of the bunch, without whose muscle and testosterone-driven machismo nothing will get done. The Chinese, Russian and French players are essential to the production of The Iranian Follies. The role of the German foreign secretary however is an add-on that the audiences around the world consider a curiosity – a hanger-on with no real membership in the UN’s exclusive Actors’ Guild. The Iranian name for this character, a parasitical and uninvited guest, is tofaili. Another name for it might be khourous-e bemahal (out of place rooster, false note) or, better yet, nokhodi (a player who does not count really), or nokhod har ash, an officious intermeddler of sort.
The play lacks literary value and has very little appeal outside of the theatre districts in a few countries. The message is unconvincing and belabored. The international community (read: US and anyone else bought, coaxed or coerced by the US) wants Iran to stop uranium enrichment and reprocessing activity. This part of the script departs from the original requirement that Iran cease enrichment. How did the line about “reprocessing” enter the play? Are these players confusing Iran with North Korea, which has reprocessing capability? Iran has not even spent the first nuclear fuel rod and it is already a candidate for ban on “reprocessing!” Unless these folk mean something completely different, reprocessing is what one does to the spent fuel rod from a nuclear power plant in order to seek more fuel from it, a by product of which is plutonium. If Iran does not intend to develop breeder reactors or plutonium bombs, then Iran may want to let the Russians or others in the international community do the reprocessing and bury the highly radioactive waste in their own backyard.
Even to get to the talking – however — the international community wants Iran to suspend enrichment and reprocessing activities and, in return, the international community will suspend the Iran file at the United Nations Security Council. What a deal! The problem is that there are too many suspensions and not enough suspenders for Iran – without which Iran’s bottom would be overly exposed amid a bunch of people running around armed with carrots and sticks. If the parties want dialogue then there can be no precondition, including that there be no precondition, because to ask for no precondition is itself a precondition! This spins the head faster than any centrifuge, which cannot be suspended or stopped too many times without incurring structural damage.
Once they get talking and agree — the international community is supposed to help Iran develop peaceful nuclear energy for electricity production, but Iran must forgo producing its own fuel. Instead the international community will offer Iran participation in a Russian fuel cycle center and establish a fuel bank to hold up to five years of fuel for Iran under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Administration. I am not sure of the appropriate sound effect here in response to this expression of magnanimity — is it zeki or a piercing shishaki? I am sure that the visual is one big fat Persian bilakh, of which I will speak shortly.
Of all people, the Iranians are supposed to trust the Russian bitch-bear, who would eat its own cub. This is the country that ripped off Iran’s caviar and fisheries from 1927 until the early 1950’s and then some. This is a country that has repeatedly invaded Iran. This is a country that cut the export of gas to Ukraine and other former Soviet republics because they were cozying up to the United States. This is a country that betrayed Iran over the division of the Caspian Sea. By all means, I say, Iran should definitely trust the reliable Russians with the fuel supply for a key-sector as vital as its national electricity!
Nor should Iran go along with the promise that the international community will establish a fuel bank to hold up to five years of fuel for Iran under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Administration. The IAEA is a US-lackey and its director general cannot do squat without some approval from Washington. Secondly, fuel bank accounts can be frozen just like regular bank accounts, warehoused materiel and credits that the US froze over a decade ago in the US and Europe, and just like the ones it will freeze if the Iranians do not go along with this package of “incentives.”
If it values independence, Iran should not trust the international community, especially the United States. Point I, paragraph 1 of the General Principles of the Declaration of the Government of the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria (Algiers Accords that ended the US-Iran Hostage Crisis in 1980) stated: “Non-Intervention in Iranian Affairs – The United States pledges that it is and from now on will be the policy of the United States not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran’s internal affairs.” The US policy in more than a decade has been to foster and fund regime change in Iran. Equally, it threatens Iran with military action by not removing use of force from the table as an option. It openly invites Iranians to rebel against their government with a veiled but empty promise to help them succeed. It openly wishes to force Iran to abandon pursuit of self-reliant nuclear fuel technology, to which Iran is entitled under the Nonproliferation Treaty. No aware Iranian would put two bits on the American promise to guarantee Iran’s fuel cycle, security and support for membership in the World Trade Organization. This last-named incentive is a non-incentive. As long as Iran refuses to undertake structural changes to its economic system, the prospects of Iran qualifying for WTO membership is nonexistent.
What is emerging from this farce is that a band of bullies have decided to make an offer to Iran to give up something they do not like. Then if Iran rejects the offer, they wish to make the rejection a criminal act and subject to punishment. Of course none of them is worried of such a precedent visit it because they are all nuclear powers. If anything, this charade points to the requirement that Iran must develop nuclear weapons in order to stave off blackmail, intimidation and bullying by the not-so-super powers.
Was this production in London anything? Not really. If this was anything, it would have not taken days to come up with a common proposal against a country whose lack of transparency about the same activity has been rather open and known for more than three years! If this was anything, the Chinese or the Russian actor would have announced the agreement, even though protocol required that the host-country actor announce the monumental (!) breakthrough.
The Texan in the White House is fond of saying, “Don’t mess with Texas,” and the snake portrayed on the older US Navy flag warned, “Don’t tread on me.” It is time for the Iranian government to declare to the US and her lackey neo-colonialist friends, “Don’t fuck with me!”
From the viewpoint of an Iranian — I would say – “neither carrot, nor stick.” Iran should offer the international community a big fat bilakh (outstretched thumb) of its own. No deal. The government should replace the emblem on the middle stripe of the national tricolor with a nice rendition of a rounded headed bilakh, just like the ones that the weekly Towfiq used to depict back in the day! A true blue may consider substituting the sword of the lion in the Lion-and-Sun Iranian flag with a bilakh of his own. Regardless, in order to make sure that the subtle change does not go unnoticed, it is recommended that an inscription on the flag proclaim a hearty befarma, an invitation for the international community to sit on it.
Now, that would be something!
Guive Mirfendereski is a professorial lecturer in international relations and law and is the principal artisan at trapworks.com. Born in Tehran in 1952, he is a graduate of Georgetown University's College of Arts and Sciences (BA), Tufts University's Fletcher School (PhD, MALD, MA) and Boston College Law School (JD). He is the author of A Diplomatic History of the Caspian Sea >>> Features in iranian.com