Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Foreign Policy Centre Meeting in the Parliament

I was debating with myself whether I should go to a Chaharshanbeh-Suri party, the Iranian fireworks night leading to the Iranian New Year, or to this meeting in the Parliament organised by the Foreign Policy Centre and Progressive. At the end I decided there will be plenty of Iranians at the party, but I should attend the meeting.

The title of the meeting was 'The Left and Iran: A progressive approach'. The panel consisted of Baroness Shirley Williams, Nazenin Ansari - Diplomatic Editor of Kayhan -, Professor Malcolm Chalmers, Professorial Fellow, RUSI and former Special Adviser to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Mark Fitzpatrick, Senior Fellow for Non-proliferation, International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Chair was former MP, Stephen Twigg.

I missed Nazenin Ansari's part and got there towards the end of Mark Fitzpatrick's speech. Somehow I was hoping that the Left are beginning to see the light and have become more realistic about the Islamic Republic of Iran, but Baroness Shirley Williams's talk soon dashed my hopes. She ranted on painting this image of the Islamic Republic of Iran having felt constantly threatened which justified her desire to obtain nuclear weapons. Although she also said this is not to say executing gays and other human rights abuses should be condoned.
She also made a strange comment that she has three Iranian friends and each give her a different picture making it difficult for her to make a judgement on Iran.

I thought Shirley Williams clearly displayed the kind of naivety we have seen in the British administration in the past years regarding Islamic extremism, the kind of naivety that granted Omar Bakri political asylum in Britain, to sow the seeds of terror in British universities, colleges and mosques that led to the 7/7 bombings of the London transport.

All I remember from Professor Malcolm Chalmers, former advisor to Jack Straw, was that in typical fashion in these meetings, he brought up the 1953 coup again as if the Ayatollahs were the victims of what happened in 1953. This 1953 event seems to be a must to mention amongst British academics, I think they then feel like they know about Iran.

Another speaker who said he had contacts with the British-Iranian businessmen, complained that by restricting business with Iran, Britain was reducing its source of information from Iran and all it meant was that the Chinese were moving in instead. He thought it was important to maintain contacts with the Islamic Republic, and gave example of how in meetings with the Iranian ambassador he had told him executing gays in Iran is not good. Although he doubted himself if that did any good.

There was so much to ask about what was said, but as the central theme was that the Islamic Republic feels under threat, I thought I concentrate on Shirley Williams. I refuted her suggestion that the Islamic Republic has been under threat for the last 28 years from America and Israel and co. I started with the Carter administration, and the grand overtures that the administration made to the Ayatollahs. I gave examples of figures in the Carter administration referring to ayatollah Khomeini as a saint and as Iran's Gandhi, the Irangate affair when Iran obtained weapons from the US and Israel, President Clinton calling the Islamic Republic a democracy, and Madeline Albright apologizing to the Ayatollahs for the 1953 coup against Mossadiq!! and so forth, and I carried on saying 'yet the chants of death to America has never stopped during the Friday Prayers, in the last 28 years, except once just after 9/11, when the Ayatollahs were really scared." I finished my question by asking "has anyone in the panel actually read the Islamic Republic constitution or Ayatollah Khomeini's books to see what the Islamic Republic is really about?"

Shirley Williams wasn't really answering my question and I reminded her again what my question was, amidst Stephen Twigg's objection, but I am sorry, I asked a question and I wanted my question answered not her going on about another topic. Shirley Williams then reiterated that the Islamic Republic has justifiably felt under threat, and gave the example of Iran-Iraq war. I interrupted her again saying 'but the Islamic Republic was in a position to end the war and demand substantial concessions very early on during the war but continued to choose war with zero gains at the end costing hundreds of thousands of more lives'. Again Stephen Twigg told me to let Shirley Williams answer. My question as to whether any of the panel had actually read Ayatollah Khomeini's books or the constitution of the Islamic Republic was left unanswered.

An English guy sitting next to me in a pinstripe suit also said in his question that the Islamic Republic felt under threat. He said 'If I was the Iranian president, I would get nuclear weapons too' and he listed just about every other country in the region who were aspiring to obtain nuclear weapons which justified the Ayatollahs also to obtain nuclear weapons.

I noticed he had scribbled Coca-Cola on his notepad in Arabic letters. I was curious to know who he was and how he knew to write in Arabic.

The Kayhan diplomatic editor had the final say, and I must say she did a fantastic job which earned her much applause from the audience. She said its not that negotiations with the Islamic Republic have not taken place in the last 28 years, they have. Time and time again Islamic Republic has been given assurances and incentives but has refused to accept them. When Hassan Rowhani, the Islamic Republic representative at the nuclear negotiations was close to a deal, he was removed from his job, and similarly when Larijani was close to reach a deal, he too was removed. May be not directly by Ahmadi-nejad but by those who really run the Islamic Republic.

She added 'and lets not forget the students and the women and the gays are not the only victims of the Islamic Republic', She mentioned the Sufi sect, the traditional Iranian clergy like Ayatollah Boroujerdi who is only asking for a separation of state and religion are also victims of this regime and finished amidst much approval from the audience and the panel, by saying
'Would it not be better for the Archbishop of Canterbury, instead of asking for Sharia to be implemented in the UK to express concern for Ayatollah Boroujerdi, who has been in solitary confinement since his arrest two years ago and make a humanitarian plea for Boroujerdi's release so that he can be amongst his family for the Iranian New Year?'

It was time I find out who the guy sitting next to me was. I asked him how was the Islamic Republic under threat in the first year of the revolution and yet they were already intending to export the revolution?

'The Shah was a puppet government propped up by the US' he replied.
I failed to see how that had anything to do with what I said, and realising the futility of arguing with him, I asked him what his profession was, but he asked me why I wanted to know?
"Because your arguments are so warped that I think you have a vested interest in the things you say" I told him.
He left while visibly shaking. I think I had made him quite angry.

Outside the committee room, I bumped into Shirley Williams. I shook hands with her but I had one more question to ask her. 'You know you said you had three Iranian friends who each said a different thing which made your judgement on Iran difficult, did you expect all Iranians to say the same thing? Should you not make your judgement based on for example reading the Islamic Republic constitution rather than on what your three Iranian friends say?"

She looked annoyed, "Well I didn't mean just three friends, I have lots of Iranian friends, excuse me I have to go to the wash room" and left without much enthusiasm for a good bye.

It was too late to go to the fireworks party, I missed the traditional jumping over the fire and all the singing and dancing and instead ended up upsetting a few "progressives".


Sohrab said...

I worry so much about Europe, and especially the UK, giving in to Islamism.

Potkin, how does the average Briton really discuss these issues?

Winston said...

Left has never cared and will never care for the oppressed people of the world. Left is the main oppressor of the people of this world.

Anonymous said...

Well done Potkin,
Same as usual nothing could put you off being where your present could make different in debates about Iran.
Mistakes Brits makes now been made by Iranian people long time ago, I believe if Iranian would have read khomeini’s book or have listened wisely to his speeches before so called revelation, they would have understand what they going to put themselves trough and none of these would have happened?!!!!

Azarmehr said...


The average Briton is much smarter and clued up than the British politician, university professor or archbishop, who all seem to be hell bent on pleasing the extremists.

I recommend reading the Islamist by Ed Husain, who himself had fallen into the trap of Muslim extremists, he demonstrates clearly how spineless college administrators and politicians have let the extremists get a foothold in Britain and failed to defend secular establishments

Anonymous said...

Now I have a glimpse of EU's critical dialogue with Iran.

EU Official:
"Mr. Ambassador, Killing gays is not very good"

Iranian ambassador:
"What are you going to do? tell British-Iranian businessmen not to do business with us? We will bring the Chinese instead"

EU Official:
"Oh! ok, but still killing gays is very naughty you know"

Iranain Ambassador
"Yeah sure, lets just get on with the business or we get the Chinese to come in"

lol :))) Thanks Azarmher for sharing these things with us.

Anonymous said...

Ha! And let me add another: Ha! It tickles me to see how your posters readily affirm the nonsense you propagate. I hope it makes you feel good, because that's all its worth:)

So you rumpled the feathers of a bunch of scholars and left the scene with a crescendo of testosterone after you (allegedly) rhetorically ravaged Shelley whats her face. I mean, how do you propose she respond to such aggressive close-mindedness?

And really, who cares about some western scholar who procures information about Iran from Neloufar, Asghar, and Jafar - whoever her friends are:) - she's insignificant.

I don't understand why you get upset with the views expressed at these conferences, as if they have any affect on what happens in Iran. It's a healthy academic exercise in which they are just researching the facts and calling it how they see it; as opposed to how you would like to see it.

When a British official says we need to mollify our relationship with the Islamic Republic because China is seizing British interests in the country, it's not because he particularly cares about human rights or the welfare of Iranians, its because he wants to do what's best for Britain. It's not a secret, they've been doing it for centuries - and 1953 is a great example.

The 1979 revolution was NOT Islam's response to tyranny via imperialism, it was the Iranian people's response - and a direct result of the 1953 MI6, CIA endeavor in Iran. But unfortunately, the revolution was hijacked by Islam, so to speak, and the Ayatollah emerged as the victor by guile. After which, an eight-year U.S.-Russian proxy war besieged the nation and allowed Khomeini to solidify his rule while inducing Iran into a 29 year political coma; a coma they had just awoken from with the demise of the Shah.

But the day is anew, and the morrow awaits. So what's important is that we understand what has occurred, what can occur, and how to propel or prevent such occurrences in a fashion that collectively benefits the people.

And what's even more important is that we do it while understanding, as Barack Obama says, that, "we are not as divided as our politics suggest."


Anonymous said...

No wonder they were annoyed, academics and think tanks don't like it when a layman shows them up and says their knowledge on the subject is disappointing.

Azarmehr said...


I was not annoyed, I quite enjoyed rumpling feathers as you know. I wish it was just a scholarly debate however, but as you read in the post for example, Professor Chandlers for example, was an adviser to Jack Straw and in fact Margaret Beckett. SO these people are not just scholars who should be ignored but they do influence policies.

By the way there was a reference made about your beloved barak Obama too. It was said that the revolutionary guards in Iran refer to Obama as oo-ba-ma which in Persian means "He is with us" :))

Anonymous said...

What do you expect from this think tank, just have a look at their link
the only Iranian amongst their staff is Elaheh Mohtesham?

Harry Barnes said...

Well at least I am two up on Shirley Poppins. But it is over 25 years since I read a collection of Khomeini's writings. And although I quoted from article 114 of the Iranian Constitution in a recent item I posted, I have otherwise rather depended on other people interpreting the Constitution for me. But I will now do what you recommend.

Anonymous said...

Outsatanding report. Thank you for attending this meeting and pissing off intellectually lazy pseudo-experts on Iran.

The IRI lobbyist in the US and Europe are hard at work 24/7 to muddy the waters and buy time to get to the finish line of getting the bomb.

Here are some painful truths about the IRI. If only policy makers do their homework:

That Tehran will not pay any heed to the third UN Security because quite simply, the supreme leader Ali Khamenei is hell-bent on getting the bomb; hence selecting Ahmadinejad and his IRGC base (reminiscent of Chinese Red Army owning the chinese economy) in the last presidential election and disqualifying the reformers in yesterday's Parlimantary election.

As an insecure Shiite system amidst a sea of surrounding Sunni countries, what best serves Iran's interests? By a process of exclusion one can rather easily trace around the outline of Iran's goal. No single item more capably serves the entirety of Iran's current military, political and relegious agenda than acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Increased wealth, self-sufficiency in food production, industrial modernization, none of these, repeat NONE OF THESE so categorically address Iran's current overall agenda like possessing nuclear arms. Regional hegemony, deterrence of Western intervention, countering Sunni dominance, enabling heretofore unthinkable levels of terrorism and even the incomprehensible notion of summoning forth the 12th imam all are fulfilled by this one single achievment.

How is it possible for anyone of reasonable intelligence to believe that Iran has abandoned pursuit of something which simultaneously satisfies the vast majority of its short-term and long-term goals? Iran's entire modus operendi is so comprehensively served by this one single objective that drawing any other conclusion simply defies logic.


Anonymous said...

oo-ba-ma huh... I can assume you know what I think about such ridiculousness, even though it made me pseudo-smile. Obama is the only politician that I have seen in my lifetime that is truly a leader for all. Iran, or the UK for that matter, can only dream of having a leader like Barrack.

Speaking of which, did the British press report his race and religion speech that he gave two days ago?

Aryamehr said...

Thank you Potkin-jAn.

Anonymous said...

Great work Potkin jaan... makes me so happy to read these pieces, even in the face of such opposition, incompetence, and ingnorance.

BTW, I've learned to ignore Baramkid's posts... does he too have a "vested interest"? The other posters, however, always provide for insightful comments.

Anonymous said...

By the way there was a reference made about your beloved barak Obama too. It was said that the revolutionary guards in Iran refer to Obama as oo-ba-ma which in Persian means "He is with us" :))

Wait til they find out that in his recent speech, Obama specifically condemned "a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam."

Anonymous said...

Salam agha-ye Bijan,

A smart guy somewhere once said, "if everybody is thinking alike, then somebody's not thinking."

Have a happy 1387,