April 15, 2007


In Iran, Feeling the Heat (Jim Hoagland, April 15, 2007, Washington Post)

Dying from cancer a quarter-century ago, the deposed shah of Iran pressed on me a fundamental point about his nation that has become even more vivid over the past two weeks. What the shah said, and almost said, then sheds light on the current confrontation between Iran and the world's great powers.

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi died weeks after our 1980 conversation in Cairo. It has taken the ayatollahs and other Islamic radicals who followed him to reveal how far backward, and forward, stretched the deeper meanings of the words he spoke, which had to be condensed into a conventional news story on that May day.

Iran is after all a place where reality usually comes not in words but in meaningful details that underlie -- and often belie -- the words. Fooling foreigners and adversaries is an ancient Persian art form. Saying exactly what you mean is a crude and dangerous way to talk, or to negotiate.

Such a telling detail lay beneath the shah's descriptions to me of how, in his opinion, the British and American governments deliberately helped Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini bring down his regime in 1979. His bitter Anglophobia came to mind again the other day as I watched film of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blustering his way through the histrionic release of 15 British military captives and then, in the days that followed, defying the world anew over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The detail was that the shah blamed London much more than he blamed Washington for his fate. The Americans had been children playing at complicated games of power and espionage, while imperial Britain purposely mounted the plot to win favor with the ayatollahs.

Unlike Western anti-Semitism, Iranian Anglophobia is at least based on actual meddling by powerful external forces.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 15, 2007 12:00 AM
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