Πέμπτη, 09 Δεκεμβρίου 2010 20:42

Autopsy in Tehran : Part 1/3

Iran almost monopolizes western fire and criticism with accusations that it develops nuclear weapons, as well as because of state and social behaviors which originate from the Islamic law and concern women, punishment of criminal offences and human rights in general. Israel on the other hand has been internationally criticized for its behavior towards the Palestinians, but in a more limited degree for its nuclear programme.

These two states, however, are today the axis around which almost all international and binational initiatives and events about global security rotate and develop. News on Iran reaching us, are almost completely pass through the filters of American, British and some other European Mass Media. Our experience in Greece on the reliability of these Media is definitely negative, if we remember the way they covered and continue to cover issues of Greek interest.

We visited Tehran for the Conference on Multiculturalism and Global Community, which was organized by the Institute for Humanitarian and Cultural Studies, the Sharif University, the Iranian National Commission of UNESCO and the Museum of Global Religions. The Greek Embassy in Tehran offered significant help during the stay. The Conference was an opportunity for briefing directly “from the source”, as well as from western participants and (to some extent) revealed a somewhat different situation compared to the western version. At the same time, it offered an opportunity to receive various alternative and very interesting scenarios to interpret the situation in Iran, as well as the future developments. The most valuable element, of course, is that all these are evidence, interpretations and evaluations from within Iran, from the source, and not products from western Media filters.

The entry, exit and stay in Tehran was without problems and delays from controls, although I had an entry stamp to Israel on my passport. The same was the case for several foreigners, who got a visa for Iran and had no problems in the airport, although they had visited Israel as well. There were, however, some westerners, who had a visa only for four or five days, just in the limit for the Conference, although this was considered to be due to “overzealous” officers in some Consulates. What was a real and not pleasant surprise, however, was the density of antennas in Tehran, which is truly remarkable. We are not talking about TV antennas, or cell telephony or satellite TV dishes. The city is full of dipole antennas in high masts reaching the height of a 20 story building, as well as other antenna masts hosting both dipole antennas with other types of directional ones. In a building block, with no exaggeration, you could see even 15 antenna masts. The ideas about the use of this antenna forest were that it might be used for “electromagnetic spectrum control”, as we can politely call jamming in communications, as well as foreign satellite channels (especially in periods of unrest to make difficult the coordination of opponents), but also for possible interception of communications, since the antennas can be used both for reception and transmission. A similar approach for control also exists in all western countries, where jamming is used to prevent the use of remote control equipment, as well as against terrorist communication before, during and after a terrorist attack or an attempt. In Tehran, however, the antenna density was unprecedented.

Islamic ethics and changes

What the Koran dictates about women is expressed in a series of obligations for them and institutionalized state practices which are unacceptable for our society. They reach to the point to regard the testimony of a woman as having half legal value compared to a man’s. Sentencing women to stoning is seen as criminal act in our society. The foundations, supporting all previous, is religious within the Koran. We witnessed incidents, demonstrating that government activities are not subject to theocratic control, as the impression given by western sources. On the contrary, there was clear optimism among mainly foreign participants that there is mobility of changes, which could be expressed in a series of gradual “interpretations” of the Koran to stop these unacceptable practices. Cases like stoning and those which result to loss of life or body integrity could, based on this approach, be moved away from jurisdiction of local religious leaders and be judged in a unique national court, in the holy city of Qom for example. The criminally biased attitude against women, especially outside of large cities, could be avoided and at the same time preserve the application of healthy legal procedures. In the majority of cases, in today’s situation, the woman simply becomes a scapegoat victim to satisfy local complexes of “justice”, without the incident getting known beyond the boundaries of the local society.

The scarf on the women’s heads, chador, etc is an issue, but the situation is not exactly as described by western sources. Although all women have their head covered, there is no “blackness” as it is the common belief, with women wearing the black chador even burga. There are some with chador, but we have seen very few wearing the burga covering the entire body, as many as we have seen in the Dubai airport, coming from various destinations. There was a great variety in colors and scarf design as well as clothes, even trousers with a shirt, while the colors were having a great variety, even with the distinctive red color. Dr. William Beeman, professor of Anthropology in the University of Minnesota, pointed out that it will be impossible for somebody to see, what we were seeing in the summer of 2010, some years ago.

The official position for the scarf and for covering the women’s body is that it is seen as modesty selection from the side of the woman. This certainly is not convincing, because since there is enforcement and imposition of this “selection” we cannot actually speak about selection from the side of the woman, especially if this is applied on foreign citizens who visit Iran for touristic, business or other reasons.

Ayatollah Dr. Mahdi Hadavi Tehrani, from the Porch of Wisdom Cultural Institute in Qom and the islamquest.net site, is professor of Islamic Law and Philosophy and practically verified that it is not completely true the arguments of theocracy in every form of governance in Iran. We asked him how it is possible in the difficult situation Iran is facing due to the international sanctions and western criticism and accusations, its four main supporters to be countries for which the Islamic way of life (according to the Iranian practices) is light years away from them. More specifically, it is the communist China which is an atheistic state, Russia with Orthodox Christian population and leadership which seems to be in complete alignment with the Orthodox Church, Brazil which could be designated as Roman catholic to some extend but with a reputation on ethics which is very far beyond from the one Iran is supporting and finally Turkey which is typically Muslim, although we can say it adopts a more … “protestant” version of Islam. He answered that the common point of all four countries is that they want to control US and Israeli domination, although they also cooperate. He pointed out that Iran’s relations with other countries, as in this case, is not religiously or ideologically related but is clearly a political matter. This, by itself, is an important element, because in a theocratic country, where all government actions and selections both towards the citizens and foreign relations, are directly shaped by the religious criteria and commands from the Koran. However, for the above mentioned countries, especially for the communist and atheistic China (which is Iran’s main and most valuable supporter) it would have been impossible to have even a thought of cooperation with them if there was the theocracy existing in Iran according to western sources.

The above are enforced by the fact, as mentioned by Iranians as well as western sources, that the joint Turkish and Brazilian proposal to enrich Iranian uranium, essentially started as an idea for proposal from the west and received green light to be proposed to Tehran especially when Moscow evaluated that the Iranian government would probably not accept to deliver abroad its already (low) enriched uranium. Although the conditions are not completely clear, essentially, the non-islamic Russia gave Tehran a very good tool for international public relations, considering Iran accepted the offer, in order to get rid to some extent the “uncompromising” label. The fact that we can see tension in the Tehran-Moscow relations is due to the fact that the Ahmadinetzad government considers that Moscow is not helping Tehran in the desired level to control the United States and Israel dominance. However, the intense reaction from Moscow in the additional sanctions from the European Union and the United States was considered that might be a starting point to improve the Russian-Iranian relations, culminating in the activation of the sale of S-300 missiles to Iran. This, however, depends on many factors.

The support from Brazil and Turkey is not free from motives, for the two countries, which have nothing to do with the overall issue of Iran. Turkey wishes to be leader of the Islamic world and Brazil to be a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, without the United States being very enthusiastic with this idea. The Brazilian defense spending program, which includes transport helicopters, fighter aircraft and especially French nuclear powered submarines, moves in the redirection to raise Brazil into a significant power and enforces its dynamics to be a member of the United Nations Security Council. At the same time it also has the aspect of covering a true defense need in case the US-Iran conflict escalates and needs to face a kind of a naval blockade from the United States because of the close relations with Iran.

Iranian Society and the nuclear program

The practical living issues are the direct and basic considerations of people in Iran. Unquestionably, there would be several people who see the limitations of freedom and expression as a serious program, but all of these are issues to deal with in another level, because the sanctions against Iran would make their living conditions harder. In spite of sanctions, Iran maintains a close relationship with Dubai as intermediary trade partner, however, it was mentioned that western countries have partly targeted Dubai for this cooperation and to some extent the 2009 economic crisis in Dubai was a message to stop its intermediary role.

Generally, in the case Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, the Iranian people (it might surprise us) will probably not be against with this capability, The acquisition of nuclear power would probably be met with a positive attitude from them. As Dr. William Beeman mentioned, every family in Iran tries to have a “footprint” in various groups and power levels, as security for whatever happens in the future. The first element Dr. Beeman verified was that if you want to achieve something in Iran, you must use many channels and sources, believing that one of them will be properly reaching the power centers. The society in Iran is hierarchical and one expression of it, is the great number of government organizations and companies where there are many hierarchical in charge – “many people are in charge”. It is traditional for the families to convey their children (or make marriages) in the direction and perspective to have the maximum number of family members inside the maximum number of power sources. He network of family members has a great responsibility to help convey members to the power areas of the government and state. This networking attempted by the families, however, has also another effect. Any government sector that would receive strike, will result into consequences for a large percentage of Iranian society, because large families will certainly have some members in this sector. The result is the absence of a unique, concrete power center in Iran, while political collisions to some extent are family type collisions and/or rivalries. The government is composed by many individual interconnected “government structures” and practically there in no center so that an external factor could target it and cause anarchy or government change.

From the beginning of our decade the NSA tried to map the government social networks in Iran, through communications interception (who communicates with whom, when, how much) because the complexity of Iranian society was making difficult the use of other means and the use of secret agents (HUMINT) would be suicidal. In a way, these individual government structures operate as sealed compartments which make difficult the task of toppling the government. Therefore, if the United States has a plan to support an individual for the leadership, they will be moving to a utopic direction because, by itself, the structure of power in Iran does not have an interface to accept control by one person.

The dissidents’ movement, as well, appears to have demands which puzzle the third observer because they mention issues, which could not be priorities, not even closely, to enforce democracy and human rights in Iran. On the contrary, the Greek experience has shown that they are basic tools to undermine society. One example is advocating the freedom to sexual differentiation. How high priority and impact could this possibly have for the Iranian society? Is it necessary to advocate this individually and exclusively? Who set it as an item in the dissidents’ agenda? The experience we have in Greece shows that such “arguments”, which reach up to (fascist-type) blackmail to accept up to homosexual marriages, do not have any popular support from the citizens, on the contrary, they are externally imposed products. It makes someone worry the fact of looking at the dissidents’ movement and seeing it significantly influenced, at least in its demands, from such external influences. It undermines its own existence and orientation purity.

Examining the history of the Iranian society under the nuclear programme prism, Dr. Beeman, who started his professional occupation with Iran from the decade of 60s, summarized the basic elements of this course mentioning that it was the US who mobilized Iran to start a nuclear programme 40 years ago. Although the Shah could not see the reason for the country to adopt nuclear energy, he changed his attitude because of the powerful US pressures and the argument that Iran must be based on nuclear energy, in order to be a modern country. The United States wanted to sell nuclear reactors to Iran. Dr. Beeman mentioned that he himself was present in a 1971 exhibition about technology transfer, which included a large mock-up of a nuclear plant in an American stand and the nuclear power plant was destined for sale in Iran. A plan for 14 nuclear power plants was started, therefore it is just not true the US argument they did not know anything about Iran’s nuclear activities. The US even provided scholarships to Iranian students to study Engineering of nuclear power plants.

Dr Beeman characterized 2003 as reference point after which we see the launch of accusations against Iran (that it develops nuclear weapons) as part of US neoconservative plans for leadership change in all Middle East countries to enforce Israeli security. He mentions as key event, after Saddam Hussein’s fall, the visit to Washington by Mojahedin Khalgh, the group which opposes the Tehran government, bringing what they characterized as crucial news about Iranian effort to produce nuclear weapons. This was considered as the golden opportunity for the Bush administration to persuade public opinion for the necessity of an attack against Iran. The Bush administration presented as reality (and continued to do so) Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, essentially without having an undisputable proof about the nuclear military ambitions attributed to Tehran.

They mention “serious indications” and evaluations mainly from western persons and states, as well as the behavior of the Iranian leadership, which (perhaps for internal consumption) overstates Iranian capabilities and provides arguments to critics. Dr. Beeman evaluated that Washington could not persuade Beijing and Moscow to support a tough statement on sanctions, because it could not prove the actual existence of a military nuclear programme. This is the reason the US moved to a much softer sanctions statement, which was accepted by China and Russia. The additional sanctions from the United States and European Union faced fierce reaction from Moscow.

We were exposed to the scenario of how to face the possibility Iran developing nuclear weapons and at the same time settle the problems Israel faces both with Muslim states as well as the international community. Iran has signed the non proliferation treaty about nuclear weapons, but Israel has not. If Israel signs the NPT, it will allow international control in its nuclear installations. Israel signing the Treaty would seem to be one of the strongest Iranian cards in the future and it is not accidental the fact that this issue was raised in June 2010 in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It was especially supported by Russia, which pointed out its belief that this will contribute to the enforcement of non proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East and to the creation of a free zone from weapons of mass destruction. Israel replied that it opposes any action that would damage its national security and that the countries that do not recognize its right to exist as a state, are behind such initiatives.

This is exactly the crucial point because Israel obviously has the right to exist as state entity. The scenario in question sees that Israel would probably link the signing of the non proliferation treaty to its recognition from Iran and other Islamic countries which do not recognize the right to exist as a state. The most possible answer, at least from many of them, seems to be willingness to move forward for the recognition (after signing the NPT) but under the conditions the state of Israel was formed in 1947 with the support of the international community through the United Nations. Especially under the corpus separatum provisions. The 1947 UN Plan for Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel, used the term corpus separatum for the territory under international administration and included Jerusalem and the territories around it like Bethlehem, which are linked to three world religions. The international law essentially would prevail in this territory and not the Israeli or Palestinian law. The conflicts acted in a way to freeze the application of corpus separatum, however, the international community until today remains firm on this initial position and the most tangible example is the selection to keep embassies in Tel Aviv rather than Jerusalem. When the Israeli government characterized Jerusalem as capital of Israel in 1980, the United Nations condemned this action with the 478 Resolution. Therefore, the return to the source of legal provisions for the creation of Israel as state, in combination with its recognition from Islamic states and the signing of the non proliferation treaty for nuclear weapons (from Israel), could become the golden point of agreement for the overall solution of important security issues in the region.

The nuclear aspect related to Iran and Israel, needs to be also dealt with through the prism of nuclear arms reduction between Russia and the US. There is also a possibility in the near future if the US and Russia have less than 1000 deployed nuclear warheads, the START Treaty to include other nuclear-capable countries in the future negotiations. Such a development would put in the negotiating table all countries with nuclear weapons. Until that time, both for Iran and Israel, it would have to be proved if they will be obliged to sit in that table.

Greek Community of Tehran

The Greek Orthodox Church of Evangelismos tis Yperagias Theotokou is located in the same place with the cultural center in Tehran center, on the other side of the former American Embassy, a few meters away from the Metro Station. The Greek Community in Tehran blossomed even before the Shah era and relations remained at a good level even after the Revolution. However, in the past few years the difficult conditions contributed to a significant reduction. We learned that there were cases (non official though) to take the place out of Greek ownership. The Iranian government should stop these efforts from radical elements, because they create a climate that they have support from parts of the Iranian leadership.


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Photo Gallery


Various external and internal views from the Greek Orthodox Church and the Cultural Center.




Night and day view of the Mosque in Felestin street.


Views from the National Library and Records buildings where the Conference was held.




The Milad tower in Tehran, the highest point in the city and views of Tehran from the tower’s observation platform, 291 m high.



Parts from a study presented in June 2001 during the 69th Military Operations Research Society (MORS) Symposium in the Annapolis Military Academy. It presents a mapping of the Iranian leadership based on evidence from communications interception by NSA (who communicates with whom, how and when). The peculiarity of the Iranian society was evident and was making necessary to use technological tools in order to reveal the social networks within the leadership.



Characteristic paintings on the walls of Tehran buildings.



Protest in the center of Tehran. We were told that they were veterans from the Iran-Iraq war protesting for delays of receiving financial benefits they were entitled to have.





The 1947 Corpus Separatum areas for the creation of Israel as state.


The walls of the former American Embassy in Tehran, where you can see even the sign with the eagle, being scratched by the rebels to erase it.




The Tehran bazzar


The Mosque in Felestin street.



Views from the Conference start with the speaker Ayatollah Dr. Mahdi Hadavi, at the right end Dr. Seyyed Hassan Hosseini from the Philosophy of Science Department of the Sharif Technological University and between them Dr. Hamidreza Ayatollahy, Chancellor of the Institute for Humanitarian and Cultural Studies.



Views from the Conference start with the speaker Ayatollah Dr. Mahdi Hadavi, at the right end Dr. Seyyed Hassan Hosseini from the Philosophy of Science Department of the Sharif Technological University and between them Dr. Hamidreza Ayatollahy, Chancellor of the Institute for Humanitarian and Cultural Studies.


A Tehran square with intense police presence.

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