I have just spent a week in Mashad and Tehran Iran, speaking at an international conference on the future of Jerusalem as well as other related issues while also meeting with a broad range of Iranians, including journalists, students and government officials. The conference was organized by a non-government organization called New Horizon. It was the sixth such conference, intended to bring together speakers from a number of countries to discuss issues involving Middle Eastern security and identity issues.
To be sure, Iran, threatened as it is from all sides, has certain aspects of a security state. And as what is essentially a partial democracy run along religious lines, it has very clear limits on what constitutes acceptable behavior. But I think the representatives of the thirty or so countries who attended the congress would agree that there was no attempt made to limit free speech or guide discussions. The only attempt to censor the conference and its content has been, I would note, the blocking of sponsor New Horizon’s website on Google and presumably elsewhere in the Zionist/U.S. dominated social media and information-searching world. Indeed, the only coordinated activity that might have been noted at the conference itself was the loud hissing noise that accompanied any mention of the name John Bolton.
Indeed, there was clear criticism of the nature of the Iranian government openly expressed at the conference as well as very heated exchanges on a number of issues surrounding Jewish identity, Israel, the Palestinians, the status of Jerusalem and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Agreement (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. Privately, many Iranians we encountered were quite free in expressing their dislike of the religious leadership and their desire for dramatic change. It should be noted that such comments were not provoked by anything that any of us said. We were indeed being careful not to offend the host country or to get the organizers in trouble, perhaps more cautious than we had to be.
One might also mention that the timing of the conference and associated activities was particularly appropriate as it came on the heels of the President Donald Trump’s abandonment of the JCPOA and the slaughter of Palestinian protesters by the Israeli Army in Gaza. We watched in amazement on live television coverage as the snipers shot dead 58 unarmed Arabs and wounded two thousand more. A baby that was in an area far outside of the area where the shooting was taking place died after being suffocated by the clouds of teargas being used by the Israelis. It was ghastly and it was disgusting. Predictably the Israeli shills in both the U.S. and from Israel itself made the victim the guilty party, arguing that the child should never have been so close to the “fighting” there in Gaza in the first place.
And for those who are concerned that the Israeli Army might even run out of bullets, rest assured that all appropriate steps are being taken. Knesset member Avi Dichter reassured the audience on live television the army “has enough bullets for everyone. If every man, woman and child in Gaza gathers at the gate, in other words, there is a bullet for every one of them. They can all be killed, no problem.”
I have been invited to Iran before, but as an ex-CIA it was complicated for me to get a visa to make the journey. In this case, however, the hard work and networking of the conference sponsors prevailed, making it possible for me and some friends formerly working for the Pentagon to speak and also participate in the numerous panels. We were an instant hit among the attendees and also for the Iranian public, being featured in the local and national media and interviewed over and over again.
The biggest lesson I learned in Iran was that in spite of all the years of abuse, Iranians still like and respect Americans.
To be sure, some will say that we were little more than useful idiots, invited to disparage the United States and provide aid and comfort to its enemies, but that would assume there was any effort to enforce uniformity in the speeches and comments, which, as I have already noted, was not the case. There was, indeed, a theme of the conference, which was essentially that the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem was a new catastrophe delivered by Washington on the backs of the long suffering Palestinian people, virtually guaranteeing that a Palestinian state will never be allowed to develop. And U.S. uncritical support of Israel and its fascistic leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is, of course, the root cause of the problem, something that was discussed in some depth.
I will not make any attempt to describe the speeches and speakers at the conference as I am sure that such material will be surfacing independently through the alternative media over the next few days, but I would like to share some impressions as well as some particularly well-made points that emerged about the current and, unfortunately, burgeoning conflict in the Middle East.
Many at the conference came away convinced that the White House’s rejection of JCPOA was a watershed moment. The anger in Europe clearly being expressed in their national media last week reflects an understanding that the United States is no longer interested in cooperating with anyone to reduce the risk of war. If European nations act in support of their rhetoric there will be an increase in efforts to distance themselves from Washington. This will include mechanisms to work around American sanctions, to include buying Iranian oil with Euros instead of dollars and selling to Iran in ways that avoid U.S. banks as conduits. The eventual result, which will undoubtedly be supported by China and Russia, would mean a flight from dollars as the world reserve currency. The reduced acceptability of the dollar in turn would mean that the Federal Reserve will be unable to continue to print fiat money to support U.S. interventions, with severe repercussions for the American economy.
And the participants at the conference would likely agree that the United States government has no credibility, by which I mean NONE. It is not particularly a Trump issue but rather a Trump-Obama-Bush problem that has been festering ever since 9/11 if not before. We conference participants watched the slaying of the Palestinians and, by split screen, also witnessed how someone named Raj Shah at the White House told reporters at a press briefing that “The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas. Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response” as “a gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt.” Sure didn’t look like that, Raj.
And meanwhile over at the United Nations, the irrepressible so-called American Ambassador Nikki Haley vetoed a Russian proposal seeking an investigation into the carnage, explaining that that Hamas, aided of course by Iran, was to blame for the violence. “I ask my colleagues here in the Security Council: who among us would accept this type of activity on your border? No one would. No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.” She then walked out when Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian Permanent Representative to the United Nations began to speak.
Combining the words “Israel” and “restraint” in one sentence just might be a breakthrough moment for the hard charging Nikki, but one hopes for another breakthrough on her part in the ability to see dead Palestinian children as real human beings rather than just as targets for Israeli sharpshooters. Indeed, Haley might must consider that there are a lot of human beings floating around who are perfectly decent individuals finding themselves just a bit tired of being stamped on by the United States and its mad dog Israel.
The biggest lesson I learned in Iran was that in spite of all the years of abuse, Iranians still like and respect Americans. I heard over and over again expressions of that fact from ordinary people and sophisticates alike. They would love to have a good relationship and an American Embassy run by proper diplomats who are willing to talk and listen. The only problem is that the United States doesn’t do that anymore. For that reason, the Iranians expressing their liking for the U.S. did have one problem. They can’t stand what the U.S. government is doing all over the world. Well, neither can I and I told them so, as did the twenty or so other Americans present at the conference. I also told them that, unfortunately, the door to Washington is controlled by Israel, which has been doing an expert job at defaming Iran for the past thirty years. The door won’t open anytime soon.
And as sometimes what is expected does not take place, I have to report that I was not harassed by the U.S. authorities when I returned home. Other American conference participants who had long involvement in the peace movement had told harrowing stories of being hounded by the federal government every time they left the country and returned. In my case, I had been headlined in the Iranian and Middle Eastern media during the whole time of the conference and surely was picked up through the intensive USGOV monitoring of all things going on in Iran. I had fully expected to be approached by two thugs with badges on arrival, but they didn’t show up. Maybe next time.