The real story

"The Iran Agenda": U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis.


The real story
by Ari Siletz

The Iran Agenda
By Reese Erlich
2007 PoliPointPress

Journalist Reese Erlich grew up in Los Angeles just south of UCLA. As a child he used to walk up Westwood Boulevard toward Westwood village, past a stockbroker's office and the Crest movie theater. At the time there was no Tehrangeles. The Westwood legal offices I visited last year to fix my Iranian passport mess used to house the ultra-right-wing John Birch Society.

As an aborigine of sorts, Erlich has no grievances against the Iranians who have colonized the Westwood of his childhood. On the contrary, he seems to delight in the cultural upgrade. His latest book, The Iran Agenda: the real story of U.S. policy and the Middle East crisis, should however give the American reader a nostalgic lump in the throat. Not because of old memories of a neighborhood now transformed; but because this seasoned journalist writes in a tradition now mostly abandoned by the US media. Trustworthiness.

Erlich identifies his sources by name, and gives references which independently corroborate his statements. By contrast the average American's perception of Iran has been largely defined by "unidentified sources." The Iran Agenda begins in the real Tehran bazaar where Erlich--along with actor Sean Penn and columnist Norman Solomon--had put their journalistic "boots on the ground" to report on the Iran situation. Erlich mentions other American reporters in Iran, but he observes, "Most American reporters I met saw Iran as an evil society and a danger to the United States.

While many expressed disagreement with President Bush's policies, they believed Iran was developing nuclear weapons that threatened America. In short, their views tracked the political consensus emanating from Washington. Rather than proceeding from reality, they filtered their reporting through a Washington lens. When a Washington official makes a statement, even a false one, the major media dutifully report it with few opposing sources."

Of course this is not news to we Iranians. The value of The Iran Agenda is its usefulness as a tool of argument in discussions with curious Americans who ask us to be their tour guides on the Iran subject. Most educated Iranians carry an overall knowledge of the Iran-US quarrel, from Mossadegh's overthow, to the hostage crisis, to the US Navy's shooting down an Iran Air passenger jet. The Iran-Iraq war, NPT, human rights violations, student protests, worker's union discontent, Ganji, Ebadi, Ossanlou, are all swimming somewhere in our data base. But it takes a professional like Erlich to organize these floating facts into an engaging story with a strong moral. To undo years of skilful propaganda, equal skill is needed. And Erlich is certainly a talented story teller.

While he informs us that the Kurdish PJAK guerrillas are supplied by the US and Israel, Erlich simultaneously evokes a feeling of action and travel reminiscent of the colorful adventures of Tintin:

"The PJAK camps are located in inhospitable terrain. During winter months, the snowy roads are accessible only on foot or by tractor. Luckily the snow hadn't yet blanketed the area, and we drove up easily -- if slowly -- over winding dirt roads. Suddenly, young women in green pants in the distinctive Kurdish head scarf were walking along the road. They were female guerrillas. PJAK claims its troops are almost 50 percent women."

Erlich's very brief history of the Kurds updated me on some interesting statistics. For example, I was under the impression that Kurds were mostly Sunnis. This is true in general, but in Iran 50% of this minority is Shiite. This figure makes a difference in my thinking on the Kurdish issue.

Erlich goes on to remind his readers of other ethnic minorities, the Azeri, Baluchi and Arab Iranians, who could destabilize the Iranian regime. Little of this is intelligently discussed in the US media. For obvious reasons even the Iranian media tend to keep the lid on news of ethnic unrest.

Not all of Erlich's criticism targets mainstream media. He has harsh words of advice for Iran's exile media in his native Westwood backyard. He mentions Amir Taheri's infamous false report about a Majils law requiring Iranian Jews to wear a yellow stripe on their clothing. "With each phony or exaggerated story," Erlich warns, "the LA newscasters and commentators [who continued to play the story long after it was falsified] think they are helping the popular struggle against the Iranian government. But repeated over time, the distortions discredit the exile media and, by extension, all exile opposition." Erlich describes another, bitterly funny incident -- the Hakha affair -- as being "something right out of the Keystone Kops." I can't find a web link that explains this fiasco nearly as well as Erlich's narrative.

Clarifying his own agenda in writing The Iran Agenda, Erlich says, " ... I personally don't trust mainstream politicians, lobbyists, and think tank gurus to resolve anything soon. Nor do I trust the clerics in Tehran to stop their belligerence. A pro-peace, pro-democracy movement exists within Iran. I think people in the United States need to build one as well." It seems Westwood had earthy, smart people long before Iranians arrived."



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Iran history between 1988 & 2005

by Terentia (not verified) on

Thanks for bringing this book to our attention.
As an undereducated American who's gradually awakened to the reality that zionists have infiltrated my country, half of my energy is spent on inarticulate rage at the evil of it all. Then I manage to get calm and get to work: reading, reading, reading; putting together the pieces of the puzzle.
I listened to CA congressman Ed Royce describe with glee how HR 1400 would bankrupt Iran, provoking, he hoped, riots. Then I started reading Naomi Klein's book, "The Shock Doctrine," and realized that the zionist conservatives are genuinely pissed that Iran has refused to have some disaster that the neocons can come and remake in their own image. Thus, the neocons plan to create the crisis that they will then use to insinuate themselves into Iranian society in order to zionize it. Tragedy awaits.

The information Americans get is completely untrustworthy -- witness the spectacle of Peter Rodman, a charter signatory of PNAC, explaining to Judy Woodruff on PBS/Lehrer News Hour the case for American aggression against Iran, with Ray Takeyh doing only a middling job debunking the neocon. Some Hannitized Americans suck up Rodman-spun information as if it were fact; the rest of know it is NOT fact but do not know what IS true.

In particular, I would like to know what Iran was doing between 1988, when Iran-Iraq war ended, and 2005, when Ahmadinejad appeared on the scene. Within that time frame, what was Iran's posture during the US war of aggression on Iraq in 1991?

One final, disjointed comment: The neocons are outdoing themselves to claim that in 2003 they told Bush that Iran, not Iraq, was the problem. But the major beef they now proclaim to have with Iran involves Ahmadinejad, who "wants to wipe Israel off the map, denies the Holocaust," --you know the script. But Yossi Melman writes in "Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran" that neither Mossad nor CIA nor MI6 had Ahmadinejad on their radar before 2005!