Refugees, Xenophobia, and Islamist Politics: Two Letters

Mina Ahadi is an Iranian exile, living in Germany. She opposed the Shah as well as Khomeini. In 1990 she fled to the West. An adamant secularist, critical of all religion and therefore an opponent of Islamist politics, she does not appear to distinguish between “Islamic” and “Islamist” in her prose. She identifies herself as a communist, she is a leader in the “Central Committee of Former Muslims,” and she is a principled defender of human rights. In two recent open letters, she stakes out positions that not only provide insight into contemporary German political discussions but that are directly relevant to U.S. debates as well.

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Matthias Küntzel on Germany, Iran, and Antisemitism

Writing at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs website, Joseph S. Spoerl reviews Matthias Küntzel’s Germany and Iran: From the Aryan Axis to the Nuclear Threshold, published by Telos Press Publishing. “Küntzel’s book,” writes Spoerl, “demonstrates a deeply disturbing truth, namely, that if Iran should acquire nuclear weapons and use them to commit a second Holocaust against the six million Jews of Israel, then Germany—the nation that committed the first Holocaust—will have played a central role in paving the way for the Iranian perpetrators.”

Save 20% on your purchase of Germany and Iran, as well as other Telos Press books, by using the coupon code BOOKS20 in our online store.

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Sklar: Islamic Imperialism

This is the fourth in a series of posts that introduce the thought of historian Martin J. Sklar, as a prelude to a print symposium on his life and work in a future issue of Telos. Earlier excerpts of Sklar’s writing appear in the first, second, and third posts. For a fuller introduction, refer to the head note to the first TELOSscope post. As a researcher, Sklar was a historian of the United States, including its role in the world, particularly (from the late nineteenth century) as a promoter and guarantor (on balance) of a global system of expanding economic and political freedom. As a reader and informed commentator on international affairs, he was also deeply interested in broader issues in world history, particularly insofar as they shaped contemporary global conflicts. (Among the several dozen of Sklar’s books that I inherited are heavily marked and annotated copies of the following: John Yoo, War by Other Means: An Insider’s Account of the War on Terror; Philip Bobbitt, Terror and Consent; Bernard Lewis, The Middle East: A Brief History of 2,000 Years; and Niall Ferguson, Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire.) The following excerpts from a letter to John Yoo reflect Sklar’s evolving understanding of what he understood as an ongoing U.S. (and Western) war against Islamic imperialism. Of particular interest is his conceptualization of various sectarian, and even nominally secular, movements as sometimes-competing branches of an expansive, totalitarian movement.

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Rouhani and Attacks on the Iranian Left: O Brother Where Art Thou?

“I believe we have committed heinous and horrific crimes. We were involved with espionage, treason, and disobedience. Our crimes are too grave, so much so that the Islamic Republic of Iran should mete out the severest and heaviest punishment upon us who are responsible for all these transgressions.” This quote is taken from the televised confession of Dr. Noureddin Kianouri in 1981. Kianouri was the General Secretary of the Toudeh party, Iran’s communist party, from 1979 to 1984. While he appeared ragged, fragile, devastated, and impatient, and could hardly compose complete sentences in Farsi, clearly due to tough and cruel torture, he was displayed on national television in order to tarnish his record and the image of the Toudeh party at large. The once prominent politician was shattered by this forced interview in which he, next to other leaders of Toudeh, was forced into reciting and restating whatever their interrogators and torturers put in front of them.

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After the Deal: Resistance in Iran

“What appears to be a new Iran”: the ABC News host takes us inside Iran with these words, while the ABC News reporter in Iran is ready to match him with the following: “We needed a permit, but once we got it, the city opens up to all kinds of surprises.”[1] Meanwhile, the reporter spills the end of her report reassuring us that changes are on their way but not overnight, and a new Iran is embracing pop music, iPhones, Steven Jobs, and most importantly, nose jobs so that Iranians can look more Western. This overtly Orientalist narrative presents Iran as a new and young country, in contrast to an ancient, old, mystic, and mysterious Iran that has captured and mesmerized the Western unconscious for centuries. The reporter finishes her report by conditioning these changes on the nuclear deal that will facilitate all these sweeping shifts and alterations.

Not everybody shares this Orientalist narrative, but the promising economic market in the near future of Iran is what focuses many analysts’ ample attention. Richard Javad Heidarian, a specialist in geopolitical and political affairs, unveils another aspect of this ubiquitous hope: “And similar to the case of China, an Iran–West rapprochement holds the promise of unlocking one of the world’s most promising markets, with broad implications for the global economy.” Regardless of all these cost-benefit driven analyses, the deal generated two opposing queues of political observations, rotating around a simple “yes” or” no” response to the deal. John Bell, the director of the Middle East program at the Toledo International Peace Centre in Madrid, provides us with a snapshot of all the debates over the deal: “The debate over the Iran nuclear agreement has been vibrant and will continue all the way up to the American Congressional vote. Progressives have lined up with the deal, as has most of the world. However, there are many voices in the U.S., Israel, and the region lined up against it.”

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An Open Letter from Heshmat Tabarzadi to Western Governments

The following is an open letter from Heshmat Tabarzadi, Iran’s leading pro-democracy activist, to leaders of Western governments. The original Persian version is available at the Iran Democratic Front website. Translated by Banafsheh Zand.

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