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Making Sense of Iran.

Summary: This Eid, one was treated to this rather engaging movie on IranAEs late Shah and his glamorous wife Soraya on Dubai One TV.

The movie is supposed to be a tribute to the Sad Princess, as Soraya was known. However, the French- German-Italian production actually chronicles a whole age, capturing an enchantingly intriguing country and one of the most eventful periods in the Middle EastAEs recent history. Aa <p>In fact, the movie titled Soraya is less about the queen who failed to provide a male heir to the Pahlavi throne, and more about Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and ordinary people of Iran and their struggle to survive in a fast changing world after the Great War. Aa

Soraya is played rather convincingly by gorgeous Italian actress Anna Valle. Aa And German actor Erol Sander comes incredibly close to his subject in his portrayal of the Shah. Everyone who wants to understand why Iran at times behaves the way it does in its engagement with the West must watch this movie. The biopic offers a rare insight into the transition of the Shah from a benevolent monarch to a corrupt tyrant and puppet in the hands of big powers. Aa

The way Iran and its leaders are manipulated and exploited by greedy colonial powers and this amazing country with a 5,000-year old past is literally looted, is all too familiar yet hard to believe. Those claiming to champion democracy, freedom and human rights today joined hands then to topple the Middle EastAEs first democratically elected Prime Minister, Dr Mosaddeq, when he tried to stop the rape and pillage of his countryAEs precious resources.

A visionary born ahead of his times, Mosaddeq refused to accept the peanuts offered by European powers in return for IranAEs most precious asset, oil. Aa He outraged Western powers by nationalising oil companies and ending British-Western monopoly over the oil industry but won the eternal gratitude of his people. AaAaAaAaAa How CIA and other Western agencies brought hired thugs out on the streets of Tehran (sounds familiar?) to drive Mosaddeq from power and how the disgraced Shah was reinstated by Western diplomats is part of the regionAEs tragic history. Aa

Not surprisingly, these historical facts are seldom reported in Western narratives about IranAEs oexpansionist ambitionso and the oclear and present dangero its mythical nukes pose. Aa

As the Western media once again goes into an overdrive on Iran, I canAEt help imagine IranAEs ayatollahs chuckle as they fire off more missiles in the general direction of Israel. But for all their rhetoric and stop-and-go nuclear shenanigans, I donAEt think Iranians are after nuclear weapons. At the same time, I wouldnAEt be surprised if they were indeed seeking a couple of nukes of their own. Aa Given the long history of Western interventions in the regionuespecially after Afghanistan and Iraquand Israeli machinations, would you be surprised if Iran indeed goes after those elusive nukes? DonAEt forget there are nearly 200,000 US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, two countries that share borders with Iran. Aa

So if Iran fires off those rudimentary missiles and rockets from time to time and Ahmadinejad launches into those rambling soliloquies about IsraelAEs existence, thereAEs a simple explanation for it: It just demands and deserves attention and respect from the West. AaAaAaAa

Frankly, Tehran has got the West in a nice fix. Aa The US is damned if it moves against Iran u or allows Israel to u and damned if it doesnAEt. Having spread itself perilously thin in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, it is not in a position to punish Iran. Aa Nor can the US allow Israel to go it alone for fear of wreaking havoc across the strategic Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. On the other hand, the political, economic and military sanctions against Iran havenAEt worked either. Aa Having lived with them for the past three decades as Iran has, itAEs not terribly concerned about some more. Aa

Besides, Russia and China, the other big guns of the UN Security Council, have so far resisted the US and European push for more aecrippling sanctions,AE as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton loves to put it. Aa

While Russia has close economic and strategic ties with the Iranians, China is a big buyer of Iran oil and has lined up a series of huge investment projects in the country. Even in Europe thereAEs growing opposition to action against Iran from countries like Germany. Aa So all this talk of punitive sanctions against Iran is nothing but pie in the sky. Aa

When he took over, President Obama had talked of turning a new page with Iran after decades of failed US policies, just as heAEd promised a aenew way forwardAE with the rest of the Muslim world. He became the first US president in decades to greet the Iranians on Navroz. AaAaAaAa

Unfortunately, this initial burst of goodwill and enthusiasm has given way to the same old, cynical policies and patronising rhetoric about the Islamic republic. ObamaAEs speech at the United Nations last week was a refreshing change from the Bushspeak in many ways. Aa However, in his stern warnings to Iran in New York and later at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, Obama sounded ominously like his predecessor.

WhereAEs the man who promised us the Change We Can? I hate to say this but he seems to have either given up on his agenda for a new world or has been forced into a corner by the same forces that have turned the whole world into a war zone. Aa

The selfsame cynics who pitted the US against the Muslim world in the name of protecting Israel appear to be setting and dictating ObamaAEs agenda too. Hillary Clinton, who during her run for the White House promised to take out Iran if it so much as looked at Israel, still talks the same language. Aa Good men like Defence Secretary Robert Gates and others, picked by Obama for their aeintegrity,AE have hijacked his agenda and are now calling the shots.

They had never cared for all this balderdash about the Middle East peace and the necessity of beginning a new chapter with the Muslim world.

While, on the one hand, IsraelAEs powerful friends in the US establishment have virtually derailed ObamaAEs push for a Palestinian state, they are driving the administration into a dangerous confrontation with Iran, just as they did during the Bush years.

The question is, will Obama cave in to the forces that have taken the world to the brink or fight back to reclaim C his agenda?

If this President wants a fresh start in the Middle East, he will have to break new ground and offer bold, new opportunities for peace and engagement.

The same old policies with some new faces will lead to nowhere and accomplish nothing. More important, justice and fair play are as crucial in international engagements as they are in individual affairs. Aa You canAEt confront IranAEs nuclear ambitions if you choose to ignore the nukes Israel has been piling up for nearly half-a-century. Aa Nuclear weapons are a threat to the Middle East and the worlduwhether they belong to Israel or Iran.

Aijaz Zaka Syed is Opinion Editor of Khaleej Times and can be reached at . Views are his own

Copyright 2009 Khaleej Times. All Rights Reserved.

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Publication:Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:Oct 3, 2009
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