The following are excerpts from a US Marines manual on Iran titled "Cultural Intelligence for Military Operations: Iran." The section excerpted deals specifically with Iran's Persian ethnicity.
1. This product is designed to help U.S. military forces understand the mindset of foreign cultures. Emphasis is placed on cultural factors with the greatest impact on military operations...The Cultural Intelligence Studies are in-depth comprehensive reports written for every significant ethnic group within a country.
2. Persians are the largest and most prosperous ethnic group in Iran, making up 53 percent of the population, or approximately 35 million people[this says that the report was written circa 2002]...The ethnic Persian identity is not the same as the national Iranian identity, but the two are closely aligned...Many ethnic groups in Iran are not Persian by descent, but closely identity themselves with Iranian identity through the commonality of their culture, particularly in speaking Persian or its sister languages or practicing Shi'ite Islam.
3. Persians are members of an Aryan ethnic group who have ruled and dominated the Iranian state for much of the past 2,500 years. Persians are ethnically distinct from Arab and Turkic groups of the Middle East and Central Asia...Persians continue to think of themselves as a special people situated at the center of the universe.
4. Since Persians have been the dominant ethnic group in Iran for several millennia, many Persians do not consider themselves to have an identity distinct from their affiliation with Iran.
5.Maintaining their authenticity and independence from foreign influence is a central theme of Persian culture.
6. Contemporary Persians accept Islam as an essential part of their identity, but they do not equate Islam with Arab culture. Persians consider Arab culture distinctly inferior to their own.
7. Justice, the just ruler, and a just society are fundamental concepts in Persian culture. The Persian meaning of justice is the preservation of balance and order in society [report clarifies the Iranian concept of justice with the Iranian proverb "Opression applied equally is justice." Zolm e belsavi adl ast"].
8. Persians tend to look to those of higher authority and status for direction, control, and protection.
9.Persians view poets as sources of wisdom and often use poetry, mystical tales, and proverbs, rather than political and social theories, to orient themselves to social and political events and change in society.
10. Persians more than any other ethnic group, gain the most from the wealthiest sector of Iran’s economy, the oil industry.
11. Persians tend to have dark, almond-shaped eyes, black, wavy hair, and oval faces with a pale olive complexion. Persians tend to be lighter skinned than Arabs, and they often have long narrow faces and noses.
12. The Persian historical memory embraces two diverse points of origin and reference...The first starting point extends back 2,500 years to the beginning of the ancient Iranian Empire; the second originates in the introduction of Islam to Iranian territory in the 7th century.
13, Though Islam had a profound and lasting impact on Persian identity, the world of Islam did not trump or supersede Persian identity.
14. The ancient Iranian Empire (550 to 331 B.C.) is remembered as a period in which Persian cultural achievements, military might, and cultural values of tolerance and just rule under law first came to world prominence.
15. Several enduring themes of Persian culture were forged in the ancient Iranian Empire. The first theme is that a powerful and charismatic king rules in the name of justice [note that the report was written more than 20 years after the revolution]. This king maintains peace and loyalty through tolerance of the diverse peoples living within the empire. The second theme is the continuity of a distinct and distinguished culture in which the monarchy plays an important role. The third theme is a sense of nationhood rooted in the continuity of a distinct cultural identity gained by unifying the peoples of Iran.
16. Persians consider the second Iranian empire of the 3rd to 7th centuries (224 to 641 AD), ruled by the Sassanid dynasty, as a period in which Persian culture flourished after centuries of foreign rule.
17. While contemporary Persians accept the conversion to Islam as an essential part of their identity, they harbor anger toward Arabs for having conquered them. Persians do not equate Islam with Arab culture, and they hold Arabs responsible for replacing a superior Persian culture in this period with a less civilized one.
18. They believe that without the Persian gifts of political organization and high culture, the Arabs alone would never have been able to sustain an Islamic civilization.
19. Contemporary Persians regard the third Iranian empire [Safavids] (1501 to 1736 A.D.) as the beginning of the modern era in Iran.
20. The [Persian] conversion to Shi’ism[during the Safavids] in Iran was [partly] motivated by its use as a symbolic assertion of Iranian identity and resistance to foreign domination. Shi’ism was in many ways consistent with older Iranian notions, deriving many of its customs and doctrines from ancient Zoroastrianism.
21. Shah Abbas I (1588 to 1629)... is beloved by Persians for restoring national pride and making the country strong and prosperous again.
22. Persians think of their interactions with the West as characterized by exploitation and humiliation.
23. Persians...became aware of the populist power of Shi’ite religious scholars, known as the ulama, in the 19th century. In this period [Qajars], the ulama positioned itself as standing up for the interests of the people against the monarchy’s corruption and greed.
24. In the eyes of Persians, the ruling dynasty lost its Persian farr (mystical right to rule) by profiting from the self-destructive sale of Iranian assets to foreign powers [referring to the Qajar].
25. Persians regard modernity with caution and skepticism because they associate it with unpopular dictatorships propped up by Western powers.
26. Brought to power by the British, Reza Pahlavi was a dictator who maintained an iron grip on Iranian political and cultural life. Many Persians believe that in forcibly secularizing and modernizing society, Reza Pahlavi diminished Iran’s proud Islamic and pre-Islamic traditions.
27. Mossadeq’s movement was supported by much of the population, including a large, popular base and a coalition of groups that held the common goal of nationalizing the oil industry, long dominated by the British. Iran’s clerics, however, saw Mossadeq as an ally of atheistic communists inthe Tudeh Party.
28. Iranians' attitudes to the Mossadeq era are deeply split...To nationalists, Mossadeq was the victim of an American and British coup...To more traditional and religious Iranians, however, Mossadeq was a communist stooge...The current regime prefers to focus on the role of Ayatollah Taleqani, an ally of Mossadeq, as the true hero of the nationalization movement.
29. Though viewed as progressive outside Iran, [Mohammad Reza] Shah put severe limits on political parties and public religious expression. As a result, many Persians view his reign as an oppressive dictatorship.
30. In an effort toward political centralization, the Shah introduced cultural changes that legally and socially elevated Persian culture and language. These changes discriminated against non-Persian ethnic communities...
31. The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini... remains one of the figures most beloved by Persians...Persians still respect Khomeini as the leader of the Revolution based on his reputation for incorruptibility and the resistance he demonstrated to foreign intervention...More than a decade after his death, Khomeini remains a beloved figure to most Persians, regardless of their views of the current regime.
32. Widespread corruption had increased socioeconomic disparities among ethnic groups and between urban and rural populations. A broad popular movement arose to express resentment of the small elite that benefited from its ties to the Shah.
33. Persians, like most Iranians, feel that the Iran-Iraq War was imposed on them by Saddam Hussein’s decision to invade Iran. They believe that Western powers gave Hussein a green light for the invasion in order to smother the 1979 Revolution in its infancy.
34. The scars of the Iran-Iraq War run deeply in Persian society. Persians believe they were abandoned by the world in an unjust war.
35. Ayatollah Khomeini seized the opportunity [the war] to consolidate his power by eliminating challenge and opposition from secular and leftist leaders of the Revolution.
36. Most Persians disapproved of the Shah’s close ties with the United States. They were put off by his Westernized appearance and manner, and by his perceived submission to foreign imperialism.
37. Persians are often nostalgic about the relative prosperity and personal freedom they had during the Shah’s reign, yet they simultaneously revere Ayatollah Khomeini and cherish Shi’i religious values.
38. Persians try to achieve an outer life that is modern, but retain their internal characteristics as authentically Persian. They perceive a danger that modernization...will lead to Westernization...
39. Persians strive to match technological progress with a spiritual sensibility. They try to differentiate between what is truly modern and beneficial from what is merely Western.
40. ...the fall of a regime or a leader comes as no surprise to a Persian.
41. Since Persians believe unfavorable conditions will inevitably change, this worldview undermines the motivation to attempt to change existing conditions. While this perception of historical experience does not establish confidence in a fixed order, Shi’ite religious teachings provide an alternative worldview for Persians by promising the existence of fundamental truths and an ultimate metaphysical reality.
42. The Islamic concept of [history] was brought during the Arab conquest and is still adhered to by strict Muslim clerics in Iran. It holds that the period in history before the arrival of Islam is jahilliya (age of ignorance), and as such it is of no value or importance. Persian culture reinterpreted this concept and gave it a distinctly Persian twist. Thus many Persians believe that Islam only became a great religion when it encountered Persian culture in the 7th century. Before that meeting of cultures, Islam was only the ignorance and Arab Bedouin superstitions.
43. Living in the heart of a cultural crossroads and open to foreign cultures, Persians consider themselves cosmopolitan. Persians find it painful and diminishing to be cut off from foreign influences and cultural exchanges that have traditionally revitalized their own culture. Persians, therefore, resent the isolation and restrictions on exposure to foreign culture imposed by clerical leaders in the Islamic Republic. They have substantially undermined and circumvented these restrictions through black market sales of music and satellite television. Likewise, Persians resent sanctions imposed by the West that have a similar, constraining effect.
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