Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:14 am (KSA) 21:14 pm (GMT)

What they can do to Iran

Muzaffar Iqbal

"I cannot see American soldiers walking down that road over there," said Professor Mahdi, pointing to the busy street below his office. "Iran is not Afghanistan."

"I cannot either, and Americans know that. What is possible, however, is something far more devastating: one week of carpet bombing which will destroy all that Iran has built over the last thirty years."

"Not even one week," he said, "it may take three days to destroy the work of a generation."

I looked into his face and saw no fear, no concern, just the same familiar smile with which he has always welcomed me in his office.

"The script against Iran was written in 1979," he said with a certain degree of analytical detachment, "and it has not changed since then. Not only that, it is not going to change no matter what we do."

"Even with a change in regime?"

"It is not the regime, it is the hijab that they cannot stand," he made no effort to hide the sarcasm, rather enhanced it by adding, "this little piece of cloth may even be more powerful than the atomic bomb which we do not have."

Outside the window and far below the sixth floor of the building, Tehran's traffic jam had already turned the six-lane divided highway into a parking lot. Fumes were not visible, but hundreds of cars on the jam-packed Vali Asr Street, which runs north to south from the ultra-modern northern Tehran to older parts of the city in the south, but exhaust from the cars was polluting the air as usual and suspended a brown cloud above the horizon. Every fifth Iranian lives in Tehran. The city has a modern subway, which is often crowded, an efficient bus system, but still, there is no escape from traffic jams.

"They know they cannot occupy Iran," Professor Mahdi said, "but they also know that they cannot leave us alone. The wound they received in 1979 is deep, but it is not just what happened in 1979 that keeps them busy against Iran, it is the future of the region. Don't you see how united they are in their strategic plan against Iran? Britain, Canada, France, the United States, and now Russia as well. They are united against Iran not because of our very unsophisticated and low-level nuclear research, but because the Iranian revolution changed the course of Iran's domestic and regional policies in a direction that is not acceptable to them. They cannot stand a country so close to Israel that is not under their control. That is one reason."

"The other reason might be their hatred of Islam."

"That is very true. You know their ideological commitments, their worldview, their concerns about Sharia, a broad set of laws that is not derived from the human mind but from divine commandments. None of this is acceptable to them."

"So, no matter what conditions Iran accepts, no matter how far Iran yields to their demands, the situation will remain the same."

"Indeed, there will always be one more demand."

"So, what can Iran do?"

"Play," he said smiling, "play the chess game that we have been playing for so long."

"What about the sanctions?"

"We view them as one views moves on a chess board. The other side moves and we move accordingly. Of course, there are immediate as well as long-term implications, but the game is complex; it is not dependant on one move. So, unless you are locked in a checkmate situation, there is always a trade off. There is always a counter-move to every move."

"Don't you think, there is a danger of chocking Iran?"

"No. There will be increasing level of difficulty in certain areas, but, ultimately, these sanctions cannot cripple Iran. We grow enough food to be self-sufficient, we have enough know-how to produce sufficient materials to run the country. Sanctions can slow down certain areas of development but they cannot cripple Iran."

"What do you see as the possible resolution?"

"Nothing, there is no resolution to this conflict. It is a conflict of worldviews. A titanic confrontation between a small country which has committed itself to a certain model based on its own historic past and religious commitments and a combined force of the Western powers bent upon unleashing an unending torrent of abuse and aggression against us. No matter what happens in certain areas of our relationship with the West, the Western world is never going to accept Iran unless we give up everything that we have achieved through the Islamic revolution."

"The Western media is full of hatred against Iran. One day it presents the so-called democratic forces which are pitted against an autocratic regime, the other day it is the depiction of so-called oppressed women, the next time it is something else. Don't you think Iran should do something about it?"

"No, there is nothing to be done. It will be a total waste of time and money, because no matter how many times we try to portray a positive image, the overwhelming abundance of reports and fabrications of the other side will make our efforts pointless. The interesting thing in this equation is the fact that they wrote the script, but they cannot stage it. The stage remains in the hands of both sides, so that there is an unending march of new events and new characters in the foreground while hidden behind the curtain is yet another dimension of the same game."

"What do you see as emerging in the near future through these sanctions?"

"More tensions, more rhetoric, more pressure. But ultimately, the final result these sanctions can produce is already known. It may even be beneficial to us, as it will force us to develop certain sectors of our economy which we will otherwise not develop. This includes both military and civil projects."

*Published in the Pakistan's THE NEWS on July 30, 2010.

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