The Sunken Synagogue
pa vezer o vageal e kreiz e klever a-wechoù un trouz iskis:
kleier ur sinagogenn a zo o seniñ dindan ar mor...

Thursday, October 19, 2006
Much Ado In Iran

Iran, like Israel, is never a dull place (להבדיל). In our survey of the latest news to hit the Persian Republic, we begin with:

The Return Of Prophecy

Though we Jews have been eagerly awaiting prophecy's return ever since Malachi uttered his last thousands of years ago, "surprise" rather than "joy" is probably the word that best characterizes my initial emotions upon hearing that the first of our age to be graced with a divine transmission is a mean Iranian despot. But if that's what Ahmadinejad says....

YNet News reports:

While the West is preparing to impose sanctions on Iran, due to the country's failure to suspend its nuclear activities, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is still optimistic. "We shall win," he was quoted in the Iranian media as saying Monday, and added: "One day I will be asked whether I have been in touch with someone who told me we would win, and I will respond: 'Yes, I have been in touch with God'."

Do reflect on the extraordinary self-composure and modesty that must have been necessary to reveal such a circumstance in such an off-handed way! Perhaps all the op-eds have been wrong. What can one do now, but admire this man who, by his good deeds and saintly disposition, has clearly earned the favor of the Almighty?

In unrelated news:

Iranian President Ahmadinejad Found Under Desk Sniffing Glue

Oh ... whoops. That one has not been reported just yet.

But more importantly, while Mr. A.'s relationship with the Divine may be deepening, the rest of his citizenry is on another course:

Persia Reemergent

According to (again!) YNet:

In Israel and the west Iran is seen as a religious extremist country controlled by Ayatollahs but it seems reality is different.
Many young Iranians lead secular lives. A young Tehran-based computer technician and DJ told Ynet of parties he organizes in the capital, where young Iranians are drawn to the tunes of western music, drugs and alcohol.


The head of Iranian Studies at the Tel Aviv University Prof. David Menashri sketched the changing trends in Iran: "There is life behind the veil. The Iranian youth is more secular than any Muslim country in the Middle East. The regime of the religious led to a rebellion in the direction of secularity and distance from religion. Young people dance at parties, leave for trips outside the capital and climb mountains at the weekend – they ski."

"Teenagers have a very critical attitude. This young generation was born after the Islamic Revolution of 1979 which expected them to be the most observant, but the education imposed by the regime doesn't necessarily yield loyalty. There is a process whereby people who grew up under an oppressive regime learned to live with it and the more the regime oppresses, the will to look on the other side is stronger. I believe that the Iranian people will start asking questions and the public will be the one to do things itself," he adds.

Iranian blogger Mar Bahi, a 28-year-old computer expert from Tehran, wrote about his president: "I am going crazy over what he is doing, from his blog where he wrote only once, passing by denying the Holocaust, his offer to hold a televised debate with Bush, claims that unseen forces are protecting him, to the lies he tells people about the inflation rate, freedom of speech and the people's rights. He is an outcast who likes to show off without thinking whether it is for the better or worse, he doesn't car. How small can people be?"
A poll conducted by the state-run broadcasting authority in Iran showed that 65 percent of Iranians are dissatisfied with their president. A similar poll conducted last year showed that 60 percent of correspondents were satisfied with their president's economic and social policies.
Another blogger, an Iranian youth on exile in Canada, says Ahmadinejad's nickname among Iranian youths is 'I am mad negad'.
Prof. Menashri explains: "Among Iranian teenagers, Ahmadinejad is not very popular. He and Hizbullah are more popular among teenagers in other Middle Eastern countries."
Menashri says Ahmadinejad's rising unpopularity at home is due to his anti-western stance. "He rode a wave of anti-western and anti-Israel attitude, building his career. A populist from the land of the populists. Two years ago no one knew him. For regime leaders he delivers the goods. He turned Iran's nukes into an Iranian national issue."

The moderate stance of much of Iran's population, as opposed to that of its leaders, is not really news. But it does need to be pointed out from time to time, because many people are unaware of it.

Reporter/author Robert D. Kaplan devotes several chapters to Iran in his book The Ends Of the Earth. As he attempts to reconcile the sterility and coldness of the Iranian holy city of Qom with the colorful, sensuous silk carpets woven there for export, he muses, "An austere Islamic exterior concealed a pleasure-loving Persian core—consistent with Islam as an Arab import from the hot deserts of southern Arabia...." These words could apply to the country as a whole. Or, as a young Iranian man explains to him, "Deep down we are a nation of flowers, nightingales, fire, butterflies, and wine—that is the pure essence of Persia."

That instead of merely returning to their native idyllic weltanschauung, the populace has shuttled past it and begun to adopt the most abhorrent of Western vices, including drugs, gold chains, sports jerseys, and even skiing, is cause for concern. In Iran we see how easily one extreme can lead to the other, and I hope the situation can stabilize before things get any worse.

When Kaplan published his book in 1996, he predicted that the Persia's ill-fitting Iranian exterior would soon come undone. Ten years later, it still hasn't, but in a recent interview he affirms that it's only a matter of time. The problem, he says, is that fighting the Iranian power structure is "like fighting a pillow," because it is so extensive, and diffuse, with multiple power centers. The desire exists, but not the means.

The regime can feel the ants in its pants, though, and it's scratching away:

Iran's Internet Slowdown

From CNet News:

Iran's Internet service providers have started reducing the speed of Internet access to homes and cafes based on new government-imposed limits, a move critics said appeared to be part of a clampdown on the media.

An official said last week that ISPs were now "forbidden" by the Telecommunications Ministry from providing Internet connections faster than 128 kilobytes per second (KBps), the Islamic Republic New Agency, Iran's official news outlet, reported. No reason was given for the restriction.

Internet technicians say speeds of 256KBps, 512KBps or higher are increasingly common internationally. Iranian surfers will now find it takes much longer to download music or anything else from the Web. Businesses have not been affected by the move.

Critics said the restriction would hinder the work of students and researchers but said it appeared in line with what they see as a squeeze on the media by the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who rails against the West.

"Once more, one of the most important tools for providing information is faced with new government red lines and restrictions," the reform-minded daily Etemad-e Melli declared in an article on the new speed limitation....

Hijinks like this can only anger people more, but the regime is really damned either way. Which is why the rest of the world should worry. Oppressive regimes like Iran and North Korea know that time is against them, and any big offensive plans they might harbor cannot be put on hold indefinitely.

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Name: Sabzi Aash
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