Amir Taheri was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. He has worked at or written for innumerable publications, published eleven books, and has been a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat since 1987
Of all European powers, Germany, from its beginning in 1871 as a nation-state, has been alone in enjoying warm feelings among Iranians. That was partly due to the fact that Iran and the newly created Germany shared common enemies, notably Russia and England.
As President Donald Trump puts his long-promised “new policy on Iran” in high gear by appointing a special task force, the leadership in Tehran is pondering its response to whatever Washington administration might throw at them.
It was an almost surrealistic scene the other day when the European Union’s foreign relations spokeswoman Federica Mogherini traveled half the way round the world to New Zealand to lobby for “continued trade with the Islamic Republic of Iran” in defiance of sanctions re-imposed by US President Donald Trump.
“To resist or not to resist?” In Tehran’s political circles these days that is the question. The prospect of fresh sanctions to be imposed by the United States and its allies has helped intensify the debate which has marked Iranian politics since the mullahs seized power in 1979.
“The past is a different country; there they do things differently!” This is how English writer L. P. Hartley, in his novel “The Go Between”, comments on the ambiguity of our relations with a past that fascinates and confuses us. I was reminded of Hartley’s enigmatic phrase last week as I skimmed through a series of news stories indicating the discovery by the Khomeinist establishment in Tehran of Iran’s past.
The other day in Tehran, the arrival at the International Airport of a US-registered passenger plane triggered an avalanche of rumors that, for a brief moment, buried the anxieties that grip Iranians with regard to the looming confrontation with the Trump administration in Washington. The wildest, and most popular, rumor was that the "American plane" had brought a special emissary from Washington to invite the "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenei to a summit with President Donald Trump with a view to "doing a North Korea".
In the late 1960s when the concept of “development” and” economic take-off” was all the rage in academic and media circles, many experts insisted that the so-called “developing nations” needed to show-case at least part of their territory as a model for progress and an inspiration for modernization.
As the clock ticks towards 8th of August, the deadline fixed by US President Donald Trump to unveil the next stage of his policy towards Iran, a choir of Western politicians, academics and businessmen is formed to urge him to stick to the policies of his predecessors since 1979. That, in turn, has encouraged elements in the Tehran leadership to argue against any change of policy and/or behavior by the Islamic Republic on a range of issues, as spelled out in US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's 12-point statement, including the attempt to "export" revolution to Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen among others.
Last week, Tehran's Grand Bazaar was shut, with its example imitated in the capital's other business districts such as Maqsud-Shah, Qaysarieh, Khayyam, Sayyed Vali and Pachenar, among others. At the same time, bazaars in several other cities, notably Isfahan, Mash'had, Bandar Abbas, Kerman and Tabriz also organized token strikes in sympathy with Tehrani merchants.