Iranian neocons go after Obama

It deeply saddens me that two women from my native country of Iran have chosen to degrade feminism. Under the misconception that their gender will shield their hatred and deception, Manda Zand-Ervin & Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi hope that even with flawed logic they can dissuade you from seeking dialogue with Iran. Sir, I reach out to you not as a woman, but as one humanitarian to another with a common goal: the imperative for peace.

I have to wonder if these hyphenated women and others like them who so loosely use the term ‘appeasement’ are sufficiently familiar with history, or is this a mindless repetition of a word ill-understood? Perhaps these two ought to seek education and reject propaganda.

More importantly, they should realize that as citizens of the United States they should remain hyphenated in name only and not in loyalty. President Wilson had much foresight when he proposed “ an “infallible test” for the hyphenated American so that in spite of maintaining affections for the old country, when voting or fighting, the heart and mind are centered around America.” These hyphenated women have the audacity not only to insult you, Mr. Senator, for they imply that you are proposing policies to win the election, but they have the impudence to suggest that even though they think these policies are what Americans want, should be changed to please Iranians and Iranians in exile.

Obviously there are several issues amiss here. They are not loyal to their adopted country, America; they believe that you should give priority to Iranians and not Americans, yet in an accusatory tone, they have used the world “appeasement”, probably unaware of history; and they misinform you about the true sentiments of Iranians.

While they like to grossly exaggerate the crimes against the Iranians by the regime, they neglect to mention that the 8-year Iran-Iraq war was provoked, and Iran was the victim. No doubt there is oppression in Iran, but given that the country is under constant threat and it is facing treachery so blatant as witnessed by the letter addressed to you by these two, is it any wonder that those who truly seek to reform the system fall victim to suspicion?

Senator Obama, I am truly amazed that these two hyphenated women insult you incessantly. My respect for your intelligence and dignity will not allow me to do likewise. I think that with the exception of a very a few Iranians who have sold their soul along with their country, given Mr. Bush’ policies, no other Iranian would think that America has much moral authority left. Far more importantly, Iranians would never concede that America “mirrors the true character of the once great Persian Empire” as these ladies falsely state.

The regime, regardless of its shortcomings, has negotiated in good faith with various American administrations. While Mrs. Albright made a half-hearted apology to the proud people of Iran for aborting their democracy in 1953 with the CIA-backed coup and installing the oppressive Shah, in return for which she allowed pistachios to be exported, Iran was making every effort to negotiate with the United State in good faith. Iran has even indirectly approached the Bush Administration to negotiate, and it has been the administration, according to recent revelations, which solely and single-handedly has squandered at least four excellent opportunities to make peace with Iran.

The first three have been well chronicled by Flynt L. Leverett (New York Times) of the Brookings Institute who was in the administration until 2003. The last one was a letter addressed to Mr. Bush by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that proposed direct negotiations with Washington on the nuclear program. As the former US secretary of state, Dr. Henry Kissinger opined (Washington Post) the Iranian letter was significant since it was “the first direct approach by an Iranian to a US. President in more than 25 years may also have intentions beyond the tactical and propagandistic.”

In addition, at no time did Iran violate its international obligations under the NPT – and it has not done so to this date. As signatory to the NPT, the Safeguard Agreements do not demand that Iran notify the IAEA of construction sites, however, 180 days prior to the introduction of uranium processing equipment, Iran is obligated to notify the IAEA of the installation of such equipment. Those who claim that Iran was pursuing nuclear technology in secret are grossly uninformed propagandists. Iran sought several bids from various countries seeking assistance with its nuclear plant.

These women would also have you believe that it was Iran that violated treaties, attempting to hide from you, a lawyer and a senator, that in spite of the 1955 Treaty of Amity signed between the United States and Iran, which due to its 2/3 majority approval was signed into the constitution, sanctions have been imposed in Iran. That the Algiers Accord, a bi-lateral treaty signed in 1981 between the United States and Iran has been violated and continues to be violated to this day by the U.S.

These two hyphenated women allege that Iran has ‘openly admitted to exporting its kind of rule’ outside its borders, giving Syria and Lebanon as examples. It is hard to imagine how theocratic Shia Iran has fashioned secular Syria with 74% Sunni Muslim after itself. Nor is it apprehensible to fathom how Lebanon, the country that America is so proud of having achieved a ‘young democracy’ can be under the influence of the regime the two women seek to destroy at the expense of the rest of the nation.

These propagandists even defy what was captured on television by claiming that those who held a candle light vigil for the victims of September 11 were punished. One must surely wonder where these women were at the time, or more pertinently, who is their informant given that although they have claim to stand for ‘Alliance for Women of Iran’, they regularly participate at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a neoconservative think-tank given to warmongering. A panel in which Mandana Zand-Ervin participated was destroying the integrity of Iran by dividing it into minority groups. [See AEI event: The Unknown Iran, Another Case for Federalism?]

Senator Obama, the hyphenated ladies propose that you “declare Iran a Gender Apartheid country”. This is most peculiar given that prior to the 1979 revolution Iranians were effectively living in a caste system; hidden from the world, and denied many opportunities they have today. While there are indeed many discriminatory laws against women, they have been changing gradually. The significant advantage is that all the accomplishments have been made as a result of feminist movement in the broader coalition of the democracy movement. This means that not only are women, shoulder to shoulder with men, full participants in the movement, but that the changes are irreversible due to them being the result of a struggle, not bestowed by the Shah.

While during the Shah’s regime the chador was a hindrance to a woman’s progress, in today’s Iran those same women enter universities. In fact, 63% of all university students are women. A full 45% of the work force is women. Moreover, the leadership board of the largest university students union, Office for Consolidation of Unity, has women members. Both the reformist and conservative political groups have women in leadership posts. Women vote and sit in parliament. They choose their own husbands and those who do not are victims of their social status, not the Islamic rule. It took decades for the women in America to earn the right to vote, yet Iran boasts of 13 members of parliament. It sent a female vice president to the world economic forum – Davos.

According to the United Nations figures, the illiteracy rate has been reduced from 52.5 per cent in 1976 to just 6.2 per cent, at the last count in 2002. Indeed, it would be odd for Iran to be declared gender apartheid, as these women wish it. They say that life is a self-reflection. How these two women hate.

Dear Senator Obama, these contrary women who are bent on propagating misinformation without the aptitude to convince are appealing to a leader by saying: “A nation is made up of people, not its leaders.” Sir, I like to believe what is said about a leader: ‘a good leader is not the person who does things right, but the person who finds the right things to do.’ Senator Obama, it is not just America that is looking to you to find the right thing to do, but the world. This is why contrary to what these hyphenated women allege, your comments have been welcomed world-over by those who have a heart and an appetite for peace. Peace can only come about if we talk and we listen.

It is my firm belief that the majority of Iranians wish to renew their relationship with the Americans and have a dialogue established between the two countries. It is only normal to seek out and heal old wounds and renew friendships – to be otherwise is not normal. I ask that you not be swayed by those who seek to betray their roots and the country which has so generously adopted them. I do not appeal to you as a woman for I know that under your leadership there will be no partiality. Partiality is generally supplemented by prejudice, and I know that has no place in leadership.

I was born in Iran and raised in many countries, but I have chosen to settle here. I believe that together we can make a difference. Yes, We Can!


Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich
Public Diplomacy Program
USC Annenberg for Communication/USC School of International Relations
Los Angeles, California

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