Monday, September 29, 2008
Farnaz Fassihi of the Wall Street Journal wrote an interesting article this weekend on her experience at an invitation-only dinner with the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in New York.
The organizers of the dinner, presumably the Islamic Republic of Iran, invited dozens of Iranian-Americans from the New York and D.C. areas to attend. Fassihi describes the event, some of its participants, and the conspicuous trappings of Iranian identity that held the evening together. Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, Fassihi does not mention a single moment of controversy. Some readers may be alarmed at how a group of Iranian-Americans, most of whom left their homeland to escape its current regime, could enjoy a quite evening with the "folksy" Ahmadinejad without raising--at least to other participants--objections to the various policies he champions.
However, I think Fassihi does a good job at emphasizing the sheer novelty of the experience for most participants. She also approaches the apparent contradiction between the warm reception given to Ahmadinejad by the attendees by discussing the central role that Iranian national pride played in the event. Regardless of how most Iranian expats feel for the current theocratic regime, most retain a deep love for their homeland and fondness for their national culture. This event appeared to play to those sentiments, big time. Does this mean that some Iranian-American's were willing to overlook Ahmadinejad's unsavory rhetoric for a posh evening and a free dinner in Manhattan? Apparently so. Does this make those Iranian-American's crypto-Ahmadinejad supporters? Probably not.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
The Payvand article specifically addresses the art of poster design and its decline as one of Iran's most important, if overlooked, contributions to modern aesthetics. While poster making may not sound like much, Iranian graphic designers have perfected the craft. This is partially due to the advent of the Islamic Republic and its marginalizing (or outright banning) of many forms of art. Poster design, however, proved useful to revolutionary and later war-time propaganda in the 1980s. (See for instance Chelkowski and Dabashi's Staging a Revolution and this pictoral essay from the Iranian.) The official office of propaganda encouraged poster production in all sectors of government throughout the war which in turn led to the development of graphic design programs in Iran's universities. Even the Revolutionary Guards poured money and resources into poster production as part of their "cultural activities" during this period.
While many poster makers in the 1980s got their start producing war-time propaganda, after the war many continued with the medium, but took it into a more independent direction. This laid the groundwork for Iran's contemporary poster genre, which continues to incorporate revolutionary-cum-political themes, but also allows for more secular (or at least less political) expression.
Here are a few examples from the Iran Independent Designers Society website:
Friday, September 12, 2008
This first excerpt I include because the interviewer asks Nasrallah if he knows anything about hand psychology. The question through me off a little, but it also reminded me of a post I wrote earlier in the summer on the popularity of pop psychology titles in Iranian bookstores.
(Presenter) I was looking at your hands as you were speaking. Do you know anything about hand gesture psychology?
(Nasrallah) I am not a psychologist to analyze behaviors. This is the job of psychologists. I move my hands naturally when talking and do not pose with my head or hand. In any case, looking into these things is the job of psychologists and I do not interfere in their business.
(Presenter) But I think you must know a lot about psychology. Haaretz was carrying a report saying that a 15-strong Israeli team, including Islamologists, psychologists and sociologists, are now working on every move you make in order to maybe predict your next step. On the other hand, I see that every time you have surprised them. You have done very interesting things at certain junctures. For example you replied to the letters of soldiers or you sent your cloak to Rima, a Lebanese girl. Why did you do all these things?
(Nasrallah) The Israelis talk about Hizballah's psychological war against them and say I am waging psychological warfare. I even read somewhere that they claim that I have been trained in psychological warfare and that I, along with some other Hizballah brothers, have received training from great instructors. This is not true. What we do is natural and normal. But if they consider my behavior and reactions as part of a psychological war, then I am very thankful to God for granting us psychological techniques.
When I received the letters of fellow combatant brothers, I found them full of love and kindness. Replying those letters was something ethical and emotional. I spoke to them, and the people, about their kindness, fairness and resistance. Although the correspondences played a psychological, media, social, political and educational role among the combatants and the pro-resistance people, my letters to the combatants was a natural response to their braveries.
As for the Lebanese lady, she had an interview with Al-Manar TV in the heat of war and expressed her opinion from a very beautiful angle. Her only wish was to have my cloak. So the only thing I did was to make a wish come true. I sent her the cloak and later there were reports on the social and psychological effects of the move.
Now my aim was not to reach those psychological effects. My response to the wish of that lady was natural. My brothers and I are trying to do things through which we might get closer to God. And this, sometimes, leaves positive effects. This is in harmony with our culture and ideology. If what you do is for God, He will not spare His blessings and that would have positive effects. Such things make our friends happy and our enemies upset. Such things undermine the morale of the enemy. Of course, there is no doubt that we use certain words in our speeches intentionally and those words do fall into the category of psychological warfare. Yes, we sometimes intentionally reveal some realities or hide some secrets. However, many things that we do naturally at first; are taken as part of psychological warfare later.
I am telling you that the 15 people, that you said are analyzing me psychologically, will not be able to make a correct analysis. They are unable to analyze and understand many issues. Let me give you an example. When you are speaking in a news conference, you have to speak slowly. When you are in a televised or press interview, you have to be calm and that is natural. However, when you are addressing a big crowd of people, you have to speak passionately. They (Israelis) take my passion as being defensive or sometimes describe it as instability and anger.
Clerics and ulema have a habit of speaking firmly and loudly among the people. This is because they influence the people and are influenced by the people. The Israelis analyze our speeches wrongly. In any case, this is a complicated issue and therefore even if they get a collection of all of the experts in the world they will not be able to make an accurate analysis of my behavior.
[On the prospects for war]
(Presenter) Do you think there will be another war?[On Ayatollah Morteza Motahhari]
(Nasrallah) I should say that as long as Israel, with its aggressive and barbaric attitude, is present in the region and covets our lands, it will not spare any effort (to carry out its plans). Of course the idea of Greater Israel, from Nile to Euphrates has failed. However, this plan is being implemented in a different shape in the region. This new shape will lead to the domination of a powerful Israel over the entire region. Israel, in order to reach its dreams, will not retreat and it will use aggression, power and war as a means to reach those dreams. I would like to give you an ideological answer here.
As long as Israel exists, the region lives in some kind of war and tension. We do not know when Israel will start a war against the nations and governments of the region. To speak politically, I cannot tell you whether it would take Israel a short time or a long time to attack Lebanon. The next war will depend on international and regional developments. One of those developments is Iran's nuclear case and another one is the indirect talks between Syria and Israel. On the other hand there is the situation in Palestine and the Gaza Strip. There are regional issues and international developments and even issues such as Georgia and Russia which can leave consequences and outcomes behind (which must be considered).
All in all, the region is pregnant with new developments. Any moment, a new event may break out. Therefore, the area is not tranquil and peaceful and there are various possibilities that may occur. But I have to say this that if Israel wants to wage a war against Iran or Syria or even the Gaza Strip or Lebanon, it will open a thousand accounts for itself (Presumably meaning that it will open up many new sources of problem for itself). The outcomes of these accounts will not be certain for it. Even if it wants to initiate another war in the besieged area of Gaza - given the bitter results of the 33-Day War - it will certainly open many new accounts.
In the recent war, Israel is bereft of a competent political and military command. The commanders of this regime lost any effectiveness that they may have had on the battlefield. The remaining commanders are those who want to gain some experience. The morale of the Zionist army and military personnel is on the decline. I dare say that the Zionists have no courage or capability for any military action.
The motivation that they used to have no longer exists. Of course, this does not mean that they have no motive to wage another war. Lack of motivation will prohibit the perpetration of another foolish act. Israel is itself an instrument in the hands of George Bush and the erstwhile leaders of America. It is unleashed onto the scene and it throws its lot in with very little calculation.
(Anchor) So much for Israel!!! What is the situation vis-a-vis your military supplies.
(Nasrallah) Praise be to God, it is in the best of states. From the point of view of military supplies - with recourse to God and his divine assistance - we are in an excellent situation. We have a greater battle-readiness and as the Koranic verse says: "Fight them with all thy might", we have readiness both from a logistical point of view and from a point of view of planning and personnel battle-readiness.
The situation is good from the point of view of material supplies, the morale of troops, organization etc. All necessary initiatives have been considered and night and day we are endeavoring to do our task. We have the experience of having just such an enemy, we would never underestimate it. Given its financial resources and the support that it receives from the West, we have to constantly be in a state of progress, development, growth and readiness. We thank God that we are in the best of forms.
(Presenter) Tell us about Martyr Motahhari?
(Nasrallah) I have not personally met Martyr Motahhari. That is because I had never been to Iran before the victory of the Islamic Revolution.
I studied in Najaf and Lebanon. Motahhari was martyred very soon after the revolution and I went to Iran well after the martyrdom of Motahhari and Chamran. We, as Lebanese Muslims, know Motahhari via his books and what he has written. Most of Motahhari's books have been translated to Arabic and we know him through his works.
However, when I learnt Farsi, I read his books again. This is because there was a certain spirit in his vernacular works. Translators can translate word by word and give an idiomatic translation of piece of work. However, when you read a book in its original language, you can feel a special sweetness in it. Educated Lebanese got to know Motahhari through the translated works but many of my brothers and I turned to Motahhari's books because Imam Khomeyeni insisted and recommended reading his books.
(Presenter) Are you referring to your meeting with Imam Khomeyni in 1982?
(Nasrallah) No, we heard Imam Khomeyni's recommendations to read Motahhari's books, in his public speeches not during the personal meeting with him.
I can probably say that two persons who affected me and the world of Shiism the most were two great researchers, i.e. Martyr Mohammad Baqer Sadr and Martyr Morteza Motahhari. These two scholars created an ideological and belief basis and portrayed a true religious and dynamic combatant Muslim for the faithful.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Over the weekend, Mohsen Hakim, the SICI representative in
"Apart from their criminal leadership, many members of this little group are repentant and regretful. In the past couple of years we have witnessed a number of them repatriated and returned to their families. What they explained is a picture of dejection and suffering. Many have endured hardship and they would have taken any opportunity to remove themselves from this grouplet earlier had it been available. Currently, many of them those who were duped and are repentant, would like to return to
and we would have to review this matter. " (FBIS, 6 September 2008). Iran
[Image: MKO members in Camp Ashraf]
Monday, September 1, 2008
Mughniya, who was widely considered Hizballah's chief strategist and director of extraterritorial operations (i.e. terrorism), was killed on 12 February when his SUV exploded in front of his safe-house in a Damascus neighborhood also home to many Syrian intelligence officials.
Both Hizballah and Iran immediately blamed Israel for the killing, with Hizballah vowing retaliation. Iran promised a joint investigation with Syria, but the latter quickly denied such an effort. Instead, Syria promised a full investigation and a report by April (which has come and gone). While many believe that Israel was indeed behind the attack, Israeli officials have neither confirmed nor denied responsibility. This has cast speculation on the provenance of the assassination, including by Zamin in June.
Although much has been written about the event, this LAT article is a solid investigation into the many murky areas surrounding Mughniya's assassination.
[Image: Imad Mughniya from Iran's Press TV]