Return from Paradise in the Left Lane

In 2006, the Iran’s nuclear dossier was referred to the UN Security Council inaugurating a new era of confrontation between the clerical rulers and the international community. To counter the diplomatic pressure on Tehran, a new advocacy and PR group namely “Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran” (CASMII) was created.
CASMII’s “Mission Statement” says, “CASMII is an independent campaign organisation with the purpose of opposing sanctions, foreign state interference and military intervention in Iran.” In effect, its pronounced purpose is to conduct public relations campaigns defending the actions of the world’s largest and most dangerous terrorist regime. 

Through CASMII, segments of the left and the anti-war movement in the United States have channeled their critique of the war and the current US administration to support the most radical elements of the Iranian regime. These American personalities and groups have clearly crossed the line and have become ardent advocates of one of the most notorious dictatorships of the modern history, with no regards for the Iranian people, the prime victims of these dictators.

CASMII, among other PR activities, regularly organizes trips for such groups in US to visit Iran.  Upon their return, CASMII arranges orchestrated PR charades of the kind we often see from totalitarian regimes. The lead figure in organizing these trips is CASMII’s president Rostam Pourzal.  He is a radical anti-American and pro-mullahs regime individual, living in the United States. In an article, Pourzal invites the Americans to visit Iran:1

“It is past midnight and the news is keeping me awake with joy. After a quarter century my country of birth, Iran, is easing (undeclared) travel restrictions this week for the citizens of my adopted home, the United States. The Iranian government has announced even a $20 incentive for any travel agent who books a tour to Iran for a U.S. citizen.  The unprecedented public welcome extended to American tourists is only the latest in a series of overtures from Tehran. Earlier this year Iranian authorities quietly upgraded America from “the Great Satan” to the friendlier “Global Arrogance” in their rhetoric.”

Several groups have been handpicked and sent to Iran. Their trip diaries are both laughable and disgraceful. They remind me of one of the cold war era visits to the Soviet Union.  The returned visitors praised Stalin and the joyful Gulags.

Recently, when the mullahs’ wave of public mass hangings was condemned by international community, Phil Wilayto, who led the latest “People’s Peace Delegation to Iran” responded to “these falacious allegations against the Iranian regime”: 2

“Yes, Iran has the death penalty, and uses it. But not nearly so often as the United States government, which also now has the largest prison population in the world, both in terms of absolute numbers and as a percentage of the population.   Neither did we see any evidence of deep, mass anger with the Iranian government. We talked with Iranians from a wide range of occupations and social classes. People grumble about their economic situation, but most seem to blame the U.S.-imposed sanctions. Not everyone is happy with the religious and social restrictions, but that discontent seems to be mainly among the middle class, a distinct minority in Iran. The vast majority of the people are lower-income, and those are the ones who have benefited the most from the Revolution. For example, unlike in the U.S., health care is free, as is education. Women must cover their hair, arms and legs, but 60 percent of university students are now women, as are 30 percent of doctors. And most women we saw chose [ emphasis is mine!] to wear the more conservative chador, the tent-like black veil, as opposed to the more secular manteau and head scarf.” 

But what do we expect from the “intellectual” traveler admiring women’s ability to choose, when the tour guide (Rostam Pourzal) professes: 3

“Equal rights for women are actually not as popular in Iran as we wish … I was stunned during a recent visit to Iran to find that President Ahmadinejad is quite popular among women from all walks of life.”

Such paradisiacal land is naturally guarded by peaceful soldiers like those in Switzerland as reported by another visitor: 4

“Both our delegation members and the (Revolutionary) Guards were visiting one of the famous wind towers in the ancient desert oasis city of Yazd. One of the guards asked us where we were from. When we said "USA," the whole crowd broke into smiles, waved their hands and began saying "Welcome!" and "friends!" … On the other hand, the administration of President George W. Bush is escalating its campaign to demonize Iran, its government and now its soldiers.”

Ardeshir Ommani, one of the CASMII’s main collaborators was so excited that he held several meetings to talk about his return from Iran. He wrote an article summarizing his experience titled “Iran today is a work in progress”: 5

“The same with electricity: the streets of all cities and the main roads are brightly lit. The light poles of the electric lines run everywhere. Traveling along the highway between Esfahan and Shiraz, we were surprised to see workers with water trucks busily cleaning the dust and soot off the road signs and light reflectors to ensure safety of the travelers. What a change from 25 years ago!

Each family in the smaller rural farming village of Saman has a refrigerator. Some have clothes washers and dryers. Almost all have televisions. The living space per person seemed greater than in some New York apartments.

Healthcare is provided to all children, pre-natal care to pregnant women and care to senior citizens, all at no cost. Teams of nurses and doctors and primary healthcare personnel regularly visit the rural clinics, ensuring that the local municipalities properly provide services.”

Returning from such a wonderful land of prosperity could be very painful. Another visitor explains her erotically agonizing goodbye: 6

“ the time of my departure back home I was in love with the culture (both public and private worlds I witnessed) that I wept on the plane. The Japanese woman sitting next to me rolled her eyes and assumed that I was leaving behind a sexily spicy hot Iranian man. Perhaps this is true. I was dragged apart from a realm so attractive, unique! Iran was hotter than Casanova for me.”

The essence of CASMII’s campaign is probably best expressed by another visitor: 7
“We were treated to the best lamb briyani dinner by the mayor of Isfahan who reminded us that public relations begins and ends with people”.