This past Monday I was invited to attend “A Conversation about US-Iran Relations under the Trump Administration”. I’m not sure exactly why I keep getting these, as you will now see, I tend to cause nothing but trouble at them it seems. But still, I always go.
This event was put on by the Hand Foundation; Noosheen Hashemi’s honest effort at a sort of Social Justice/New World Order/Iranian-American Community Service non-profit. I am one of many friends Noosheen has. That’s because she’s smart, conscientious, caring, and rich. And she puts her money where her mouth is. So when she asks me to go, I go.
The event was also co-sponsored by the always puzzling (and occasionally hilarious) IranProject. Who were not in Sunnyvale this evening. An un-obvious Anti-war-with-Iran Project, that according to the website at least, doesn’t appear to have any Iranian-Americans running or working it (OK fine Karim Sadjadpour writes another one of his vague “maybe they do, maybe they don’t” papers for them now and again). Yet another one of many Washing-Ton DC “rest-home for former ambassadors”. Self-taught “Iran Experts” still scratching the imaginary Iran itch.
We must worry about these Americans. They treat Iran like a retirement hobby. Like one of those huge model train sets, complete with engineer’s hats, and conductor’s caps, to go with the wholly inaccurately depicted replicas of an Arabian-like desert diorama. We must worry, because Iran does not have any Arabian-like deserts. And Iran to us at least is not a toy.
The guest speakers in attendance at this jointly sponsored event, by Noosheen and the IranProject ghosts, were ironically, not from the Trump Administration. So understandably they too were at a loss as to what in God’s name “US-Iran Relations under the Trump Administration” means these days. One begs to ask, if Mr. Tillerson or even Sean Spicer (for God’s sake!), were ever contacted or invited to come and explain Trump’s Iran policy to Iranian-Americans in Sunnyvale. But as you will now see. Iranian-Americans don’t really count in these equations.
Jessica Tuchman Mathews played the role of explaining Iran from the American perspective. Jessica is/was a distinguished fellow at the Carnegie Endowment. Which I’m guessing means she can play the piano well. Unfortunately she brought her violin, and it turns out, has many deeply concerning and very basic and academic opinions on Iran, with no actual perceivable experience. I’m not even sure she knows what Tahdeeg is! And her continual reference to us as E-Ray-Nee-Uns, was nothing short of insulting. Right there! To our faces! If you cannot even get the name right… Not an Expert on Iran.
Next was former Ambassador Hossein Mousavian. You know he is from Iran because he brought his old title with him. He is now writing, teaching and working at Princeton University. He used to advise Rouhani on National Security, and in 2005 worked on the EU and IAEA nuclear team negotiations. In 2005. You remember 2005? Those were the good old days, a whopping 12 long years ago, when Iran’s negotiations were so good, they convinced everyone in Europe that Iran wasn’t working on a bomb at all. This in spite of having bought AQ Khan’s book “How to Build a Nuke for fun and Prophet”, and the complete set of DIY kits it came with. Not an expert on America.
And so the talk began. Noosheen had collected some of the more obvious questions, and quickly shifted to the better ones that she personally was interested in asking. The guests gave the usual rudimentary caveat-cream-filled answers. Occasionally, one of them would offer a low impact jab at Trump’s ineptitude, total lack of knowledge or information or couth on Iran. Or another easy sucker punch on how Trump uses Twitter. Or does he? All garnered polite snickers and stylish giggles from an altogether bored, but a nevertheless well coiffed audience. No, really well-coiffed. Superbly coiffed. And that’s just the men!
But sometime during all the “expertise” being offered, as I became more and more insulted by the elementary school chit chat, I suddenly felt something go “Snap!” in my inner ear. Maybe it was a small “Shataragh!” and I know for certain that my “brain” definitely “whistled”.
I’m not sure if it was when Mousavian tried to once again shift the discussion from what Trump was going to do, to the same old tried and failed one-card monty sounding explanation about Iran’s “right” to fuel the seriously outdated Bushehr nuclear power plant. This is a stupid argument that tries to convince you that it is only an innocent coincidence that Bushehr happens to produce the exact the same kind of hard water it takes to make a bomb. Meanwhile everyone else in the WORLD Iran has been begging to impress, has deactivated their nuclear programs. Completely. Most of Europe has moved far far away from nuclear energy, to far far cheaper and far far safer renewable solar and wind. But not Iran. No Sir! Mousavian wants us to now ignore all this and ironically defend the Iranian government’s “human right” to stupidity. Iran should be allowed the right to
make dangerous, difficult, and expensive nuclear energy, that can alternately be diverted to make bombs. Not that Iran, who Mousavian also reminded us has been surrounded by US allied forces on every meter of it’s borders, would ever do such a thing.
Meanwhile all of this cleverness, is supposed to make us forget that Iran has 700 years of natural gas, which happens to be the ideal cheapest safest fossil fuel for power generation.
Oh, and Iran also has wind and sunshine too. Like 366 days a year of sunshine in some parts of, pick a Kavir, any Kavir.
Oh, and the water it takes to produce steam? You know, to drive those nuclear power plant turbines that will only make “electricity”? Turns out, not so much anymore. Iran’s water policy is yet another infrastructural disaster no one wants to talk about. It’s so bad, even I’m not mentioning it.
Maybe the “Whistle Blown by My Brain” was when Tuchman-Mathews ignored all the evidence including a well-televised speech by another retired and seriously well-off IRGC commander bragging from no less than the Majles podium itself, that “Iran now controls 6 capitals in the region”, and soon with the Houthis help, “would control Sanaa, and then it will be the Saudis’ turn”. I have to assume that since he said it, he’s saying Saudi Arabia will fall to Iran’s God-given might once Iran controls Sanaa with the help of the Houthis. Tuchman-Mathews then doubled down on her “lack of data”, and suggested that in her opinion, when Saudi Arabia attacked Yemen, clearly in answer to Iran’s irrefutable interference, they had “overreacted to Iran’s influence in Yemen”.
So, you can hopefully now understand that when the time came to open up the discussion for audience questions, as if by Dark magic, as if by Satan himself, as if my own personal Deev made me do it, my hand shot up first. Without knowing why, or how, I went into the politest but noticeably tremor-voiced tirade. I think I went on for well on 7 minutes, possibly 9. Which was of course impolite by any standards. But very funny. And delicious.
Only now do I realize why I felt the urge to spew my frustrated lecture at the esteemed (esteamed?) dais (deus?).
You see, we are Iranian-Americans. And without sounding too arrogant (Ok maybe just a bit), I will claim that we are actually Superior to these half-the-story academics, who insist on telling us what’s not actually what. We know more about Iran than any American expert on Iran. Because we are extremely well connected to the infinite information loops coming out of Iran. And we certainly know more about America, certainly more than any 2005-era Iranian expert on America. A lot more.
By virtue of just living in the US every day, we are cursed and blessed with the task of at once defending and condemning Iran and America! Frequently in the same sentence! Our older folks are so good at it, they can take the British to task as well! As well they should!
But we are the ones who continually do our double-duty, and from the shadows of the periphery, defend the Good of Iran against the Bad of America. And then argue just as hard for the Justice in America against the Injustice in Iran. The Governments. Not the people. The people are doing just fine. Thanks for asking. Even though you didn’t. Even though you never do.
As a result of this double-jeopardy-the-home-game that we play, many people often think that Iranian-Americans are Paranoid and Schizophrenic. But that’s just because we always feel like someone is out to get us…
And what comes from this double vision however, is double the wisdom. More than anyone at any institution, college, or swanky think tank named after a concert hall, Iranian-Americans know what needs to be done to fix US-Iran relations. More importantly we know what doesn’t work.
Pay attention now: Here’s what doesn’t work. What has never worked. Is diplomatic isolation and economic sanctions. Or worst of all, covert or overt regime change. which is how we got here. Sadly, all too often, enemy politicians (the true feelings of the people are never included in any of these games) use diplomatic relations as a weapon. To beat the other side into silly submission with. Diplomatic relations is not a weapon or a game you win. It is a very effective and powerful tool that when implemented enables both sides to win! Yanking it away at the first sign of disagreement, is not just childish, it is very very stupid. So stupid, that it usually leads to war. The kind of war that innocent people always end up fighting, while the politicians sit in the dumb shade of their dumb arguments, pretending to like the sour lemonade they’ve made out of all the sour lemons. As a result, Iran and the US, the governments, the politicians, not the people, are at war. Been at it like dickheads, since 1979. Relentless dickheads.
Let me be clear, it is unforgivably moronic that after 38 years, there is still no American embassy in Tehran today. An American embassy merely by its physical presence and (might I suggest offering free tea, at the fourth of July barbecues), would shine the easiest beacon of American democracy, freedom, human rights, and the most shared common desire, the pursuit of freaking happiness, and focus it like a laser, into the coldest, darkest hearts of the inept and corrupt politicians ruining Iran now.
And, it is far worse, that there is no Iranian embassy in Washington DC. Where deeply concerned Iranian-Americans can show their seething, anger, shame, and disgust over the very worst, and ironically un-Islamic human rights violations, against the apparently unknown epidemic of innocent Iranian “drug traffickers”, freshly executed by the dozens each month. Sometimes dozens in one day. Usually in the summer. Arrested as they traffic drugs, while reading mildly controversial poetry in their homes. With their beautiful wives.
But where irony goes, cynicism follows. And still, no one listens to Iranian-Americans.
America continues to forge it’s ongoing misguided headlong path off the cliff of destiny, by allying itself with the very worst “better the devils they know”. Really obviously bad actors like Saudi Arabia and Pakestan. And whichever pocket-lining leader du jour in Iraq and Afghanistan has promised reforms while escalating the imaginary war on the imaginary ISIS. These are not America’s friends. Never been. Never will be.
Iran meanwhile, has spent 38 years cursing the Weak Son-King of the Strong Old-King of Persia, that they actually think they overthrew. But as if suffering from Halim induced amnesia, is propping up an exact copy in Syria, the Weak Son-King of the Strong Old-King. Helping “Assad-Junior” continue to murder his way into the Guinness Book of World Records. 5 times more Syrian dead than all of the people ISIS has ever killed. 50,000 of the Syrian dead, Children. Millions of starving Syrian refugees scattered across Europe.
Iranian-Americans know all this. We know more about all the ongoing horrors that seriously inept politics causes. Believe me, more than we ever wanted to know.
So maybe that’s why, when experts like these, on fun-dinner-filled cross-country road trips, come to tell us what they think they know, and it becomes clear they don’t even have half the information, when it is time to open up the audience to Q&A, we don’t have any more Q’s for them. We only have A’s.
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