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Monthly Archive: June 2004
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June 26, 2004

This is my fate they are talking about
Hossein Derakhshan  [info|posts]

quiet zoneIn his latest report, Seymor Hersh of the New Yorker suggests the strong possibility of either an American or Israeli attack to Iran's nuclear facilities. Both CIA and Israeli intelligence officials, Hersh writes, have little doubt that Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, there has only been one voice coming out of Iran and it only belongs to those who have already decided to develop nukes. But the key question that can really affect what the world would take into account in respect to its approach to this issue is missing: What does Iranian public think of achieving nuclear weaponry?

Depending on how you ask this question, Iranians inside or outside Iran may answer in different ways. True that Shah of Iran had the same ambitious plans and people have been generally supporting the idea of a strong and technologically advanced military ? it may embody the old spirit of the Great Persian Empire, as Joe Katzman once suggested, however, the answer to a yes-or-no question on having nuclear weapons, can not represent the real attitude of Iranians towards it.

The right question, which has rarely been asked, is that whether Iranian people would like nuclear weapons in the hands of hard-line Revolutionary Guards who have recently shown their great appetite to control every aspect of the political power in Iran. (Last month they aggressively shut down the International Airport on the same day it was opened, and they captured the British sailors and paraded them blindfolded in front of their TV station, Al-Alam, last week.)

Whereas the National Security Council has effectively prevented Iranian media from any form of debate, Iranian expatriates all around the world have failed to discuss the issue, themselves. Thus the world would not be wrong to take this silence as a sign of the nation's satisfaction with the direction the Iranian regime is going ? or in fact, rushing.

The entire world is participating in the debate about the fate of Iranian nukes and the only voice missing is in fact the most important one: What Iranian people think about it. This is where we, as Iranian expatriates, should quickly and aggressively take action.

June 22, 2004

Britney Combo --- 5.49$
Kaveh Khodjasteh  [info|posts]

grill.jpg
A few weeks ago, I and a friend of mine were listening first to some nice songs by the Swedish folk-rock band Garmarna and then to "Voice of Compassion" music arrangement [I am not sure what it is, a concerto, or simpy uncategorized] by H. Alizadeh, an Iranian Musician. The similarities between the texture of the melodies and in fact some melodies themselves were very interesting to observe.

Garmarna uses folk music from Scandinavia reclothed in rock and electronic music to create a dark and menacing world of distrust, violence and "natural" misanthropies. The overall effect can sometimes be spellbinding. The "Voice of Love" piece, which accompanies the famous "Ney-Nava" [a mystical composition for the Ney, the Iranian reed Flute, and the classical orchestra, also by Alizadeh] is a classical composition narrating the story of the tragic Earthquake in North of Iran a few years ago.

We listened to some of these pieces over and over and were forced to admit that the similarities were profound and of possibly a very ancient origin, maybe back to the time when the Iranian culture was still a part of the Indo-European tribes still undecided were to settle down.

Then there came the moment of truth, that the real similarity is that most of the folk and regional cultures share the same fate: they will soon be eliminated by the global Hamburger culture, the lowest form of what many think of as American culture. Don't get me wrong, I believe that the true American culture, has been the first victim of the Hamburger culture.

I sometimes like to amuse myself with the fact that Iranians, along with few other nations, are among the luckiest, as they have salvaged a considerable amount of their ancient culture after various occupations [from Helenization that followed the Conquest of Persia by Alexander the Macedonian, Invasion of Arabs, and the Mongolian invasion as the major ones]. My amusement is transformed as soon as I remember that the Persian-Shi'ite culture that dominates the Iranian plateau, has already eliminated many other Iranic cultures such as Median and Parthian and even the dialects and languages associated with these groups have vanished.

I do not want to haste into conclusions or recommendations, as it would be simply out of place for me, but let me ask you what you think about this "Cultural Natural Selection"? Do you also feel it? Or maybe the globalization of culture does not necessary mean the Hamburger culture? Have your say!

June 15, 2004

The Eleventh Commandment
Reza Rad  [info|posts]

red-door.jpg
Mehmooni: the time honored Iranian tradition of gathering with family and friends for good food, good music and good times — a staple of Iranian life. If you happen to be studying philosophy at university, like myself, the festivities may also involve you being skewered like a piece of kobideh as a punitive measure for your decision to pursue the penniless enterprise of falsafa.

When making the dizzying rounds of warm embraces and greetings, which usually involve lipstick stamps on both cheeks and the oh-so predictable "my, you've gotten bigger", I try with utmost effort to skirt the inevitable question: "So, what are you studying in university?" In fact, it's usually something more along the lines of "So, what kind of engineering are you studying in university?"

According to many Iranians, after God formed the earth and proclaimed "Let there be light," the Lord, in his unerring wisdom, made another universal and immutable proclamation: "Let all male Iranians who are deserving of respect become engineers." This decree was subsequently amended with "... or doctors." A decision on the proposed inclusion of "lawyers" is still pending.

With tongue firmly in cheek, I usually answer "conceptual engineering." Depending on the age and educational background of the respective relative, my mischievous remark, albeit completely sincere since philosophical reasoning is analogous to the basic principles of structural engineering, is hailed with a wink, nudge and light-hearted laugh or, to my amusement, with an oblivious "good for you", sealed with an approving pat on the back. Typically, a half-serious inquiry into my love life ensues, "Be honest, how many girlfriends do you have?"

Recently though, Iíve decided to shelve the sarcasm and answer openly and courageously.

- "Philosophy???"

- "Baleh"

This is where brows furrow, estekans full of fragrant tea are placed back on their saucers and the trepidation of greying relatives is tempered with a calm poise, ready to edify and enlighten.

"Joohn-eh-delam, have you thought about what youíre going to do after?"

At this point, most of the guests who are sitting or standing in the living room cease their gossiping and taraoofing momentarily, perk their ears, tune into my interrogation and await my response.

The tension is as palpable as the waft of gohrmeh-sabzi and kabab emanating from the kitchen, tinged with the miasma of cologne and perfume hanging in the air, thanks to immoderate uncles and aunts.

"I'm not sure. Have profound thoughts about unemployment?"

My humor is lost on them. Faces etched with concern stare back, mercilessly. Some don't seem too worried but that's because I can't make out their features under the layers of makeup.

"But dear, you have to think about the future and your finances. Your future wife and children" pleads an anonymous voice in the crowd.

Iranian etiquette dictates that I give ear to the advice and wisdom of my elders, ever ready to ponder their worldly truisms. That's fine. But letís get one thing straight: I canít even keep a girlfriend for longer than a month so letís not get ahead of ourselves and entertain any talk about my "future wife and children." Obviously, I don't dare voice the sentiment.

"Pesaram," interjects a heavily accented voice from the dinning room around the corner "keep the philosophy for after work. Do your serious work nine to five and then your philosophy."

"I say donít even bother with such silly things" advises the dutiful hostess while refilling the empty estekans scattered around a mountain of fruit teetering in a bowl festooned with flowery foliage.

Silly?

Therein lies the problem: a status-driven mentality that ridicules any vocation or pursuit that doesn't generate abundant wealth. In no way do I want to denigrate engineering and medicine. They are challenging and noble disciplines that play an incredibly vital role in any civilized society. However, there are other branches on the tree of knowledge.

While in the hot seat, I want to dig at their hypocrisy, how they always go off about Iranís great poets and philosophers when they're trying to convince their non-Iranian friends that Iran isn't a Third-World nation or how all of Islam's great thinkers have been Persian. I want to explain to them that philosophy isn't trivial, light-hearted conjecture about the meaning of life or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin; rather, it is a serious enterprise that undergirds all scholarly and practical investigations; it is not so much a body of knowledge as a systematic and disciplined investigation of the most general and vital questions that concern all thoughtful human beings at one time or another as well as a focused, rational analysis of the foundations and methodologies of the empirical sciences. It is the trunk of the tree of knowledge. Its tools are logic and reasoned examination, not whimsical speculation and grand pronouncements. And yes, I wonít be able to land a lucrative job right after graduation but so what. My main aim in life is to do something I enjoy, not to live in Orange County. And if you claim that philosophy is useless, well, you're inescapably engaging in philosophy.

Instead of articulating my grievances, I pacify them with the next best thing.

- "Well, Iíll probably go to law school"

The tension dissipates and everyone breathes a collective sigh of relief.

"Now thatís a good plan," they compliment.

Moments later, the guests are invited to the dining room to witness the kingly feast, so beautiful in its display that one feels guilty for eating such a work of art. Among the many dishes of rice, stews and fresh herbs sits half-a-dozen skewers of kobideh. Forgetful of proper dinner decorum, I dash for the kobideh to sate my hunger for all things grilled. I never thought I would empathize with a piece of food but as the steamy kobideh rolls down the skewers itís not much of a stretch for me to feel for its ordeal.

This article was published in a recent edition of Ghasedak, an e-zine of the Iranian students at University of Toronto, republished here by the author.

June 10, 2004

Activism And the Issue of Power
Babak Seradjeh  [info|posts]
rally-small.jpg

A scene from the anti-war demonstration in front of the U.S. consulate in Vancouver, March 2003. ©MMIII Babak Seradjeh.

I had first called this piece "Punish, Forgive or Thank America?" That title was inspired by Arash Bateni's "Forgive, Ignore, or Punish America?!" Later, however, I drifted toward more general thoughts on activism and hence the new title.

Not more than 15 months ago, I was marching in the streets with many others to oppose a looming war to be waged on Iraq. I was even shown on TV screens in the news, expressing my support "for the cause of peace" and answering with a determined "no!" when asked "is this in support of Saddam?" It was of course not. "As an Iranian, I have suffered Saddam's war myself, and cannot perceive of acting in his support," I said. Over a year later, I'm not so sure any more. This new skepticism was partly addressed in a recent article by Yaser Kerachian. Motivated by the case of Iraq war, I will be concerned here with a more basic plan of action regarding such issues as international policies.

The United States of America bears the title of the only superpower of the world. She has the military might to invade a country (almost) unilaterally, or two for that matter, in about a year and set up new governments in them, although with understandable difficulties. She can exert a significant pressure, economic, diplomatic and otherwise to any country she deems trouble-making, based on her inhibiting power. All in all, she can considerably change the course of events in any part of the world. This magnificent power naturally gives rise to a variety of responses, on the two extremes of which sit "total rejection" and "complete acceptance." In the clash between these two the better part of our lives are shaped—but isn't there a more logical way, a more rational way in which to respond to the issues surrounding this, or any other form of "power?"

"Power" is at the core of most human interactions. Even more generally one could, as Nietzche did, put "power" at the center of a behavioural theory of life: a living being is constantly trying to overpower its surroundings, including its environment and other living beings. This is a grand-scale view of the living world; it treats life as a whole and assigns power to life as an essential factor. I am not after justifying such a power-centric point of view; however, I take it as the background of my discussion here. Taking this view as a starting point, and adopting a moral stance in which life is not evil, one is left with no other choice than accepting that "power" is not in its essence "evil" either. This is, in my view, a very important point. It means whatever approach one takes towards the issue of power, whether in politics or in everyday relationships, one must not dismiss it as morally bad. This is one of guidelines in this note.

On the stage of international politics, the U.S. is not the only player. International politics is a highly entangled web of power, with many minor and major players. On an absolute scale, the U.S. is the most powerful, but she is far from being the one who runs the show. As individuals, ordinary citizens of this power-ridden world each have a lowly role. But as a few instances in the past, from the Vietnam War to the most recent Iraq War, have shown, these voices when together can make themselves clearly heard and even make a visible, and important impact. So, as the role of this direct activism is enhanced it becomes increasingly important to (re)consider our own individual responses to power in such a grand scale. Putting together the fact that activism could play a role on this stage only when it is concerted and massive, and the scale of its impact in such cases, such contemplations gain even more significance.

From a power-based point of view, activism itself is yet another player in the game of power, another source of power. But, it has two essentially distinctive characters compared to other conventional players of the game: first, it has a temporary, highly changing existence and second, its tool in exercising power is merely displaying of its will. Most agents of power are more or less constant, and their sources of power range from, and commonly combine, military might to winning over a large following.

My central thesis is the following:

(a) Activism is by nature an alternative force in the game of politics. As a first and general rule, an activist must not take side with the conventional agents of power, i.e. governments.

But in doing so, an activist is faced with the constant challenge of having a position, as positions are normally for or against one or another player. How can an activist, who is an ordinary yet politics-aware citizen, not a professional politician, have an alternative position of any impact if it is not in support of at least one of the traditional agents of power? I call this the "alignment paradox."

(b) I believe, the alignment paradox could be resolved in only one way consistent with remaining an activist, in the sense outlined in (a): choose a rational basis for your stance.

All other ways of resolving this alignment paradox boil down at the end of the day to stopping being an activist, and becoming either just a passive occasionally voting citizen, or a full-time professional politician. I put an emphasis on rationality of the the activist's basis as opposed to, say, an emotional basis, in light of the on-going debate on the ethics of the Iraq war II. What follows is a sketchy draft of what I mean by this choice of words.

Emotions are valuable, but the era of romanticism is long over. The world is too complicated to be approached by a lump of raw emotions. Many a time, actions based on such emotions, though driven by a high standard of morality, result in taking an uncritical side with one of the agents of power, thus undermining the very spirit of activism.

Take the irresistibly charming punch line of most activists' rhetoric, "give peace a chance." This high ideal of "peace" and a collective better world for all, of course, remains an aspiration for many, including me. However, making "peace" when one's existence is threatened and under attack is nothing but making a sure deal for becoming extinct. The rational mind would see that "peace" is a luxury that comes after survival, and that most of humanity today is still struggling for survival. Taking action to oppose the Iraq war, for instance, based solely on the ideal of peace was/is irrational and the people who opposed/oppose the war this way (including me at some point), the so-called pacifists, acted/act irrationally.

For another example, take the more intellectual stance against "imperialism," "globalisation" and "(new) colonisation." This is a stance historically stemming from the left movement, in itself a product of the romantic era stretched beyond its historic bed. There are many emotions at play here: emotions that reject domination (another radical reappearance of the idea of power); emotions that prefer rural settings, small but diverse communities; and emotions that find foreign presence disturbing. These are all understandable emotions, and in fact, as I wrote above, I regard them as valuable. They could serve as ideals very well. Yet when taken as the basis of a stance, they are irrational. In the case of Iraq war, most people who argued against it along these lines seemed to be merely opposing the U.S. for the sake of opposing the U.S.

In both these examples, the opponents of the U.S.-led war became utterly uncritical of the other side of the fight, that is Saddam's regime. I do not recall a single demonstration organised by the activists, or any other party of people opposing the war, protesting Saddam's brutalities. This effectively reduced the whole activist movement to taking sides with Saddam in the on-going conflict and the looming war. In my opinion, this ultimate irrationality undermined the movement, its impact and its otherwise noble causes. The same seems to hold true in the U.S.-led and internationally better supported war against terrorism.

What I think should happen regularly is a constant critique by the activist movement of all the agents of power on the stage of international politics. If instead of opposing the U.S. so vehemently, there was a little bit of rational critique of especially the stance of the European powers in the U.N., I believe the situation in Iraq would have been far better than what it is now. Activists should stop being driven by (raw) emotions and demanding an immediate restoration of heavenly order on Earth and instead aspire to the valuable ideals set by these emotions: instead of hating the U.S. for being so powerful without a simple understanding of the dynamics of power, better try to use her power to move towards a better world. They should stop trying to prevent fixes of pending problems and instead act as a rational anti-thesis of all conventional agents of power: instead of opposing a war against a brutal and murderous dictator, better criticise the systematic sufferings brought upon the people, be it by Saddam, Islamic Republic or the U.S. Only via this course of action can we hope to get closer to a world less turbulent in the face of terrorism, better connected in the face of dominating global companies, less suffering-ridden in the face of eager egocentric powers, more considerate of all people's well-being in the face of dictators, and more peaceful in the face of wars.

June 09, 2004

I Liked Her...
Mehrad Vaezinejad  [info|posts]

Once upon a time there was her, and I liked her.
You know why I hate you, God? Really wanna know?
Cause she was the only one, and I just liked her.
Night after night I wrote you: she ain't my love.
Cause lovin' is bullshit, said I just liked her.
Begged you for your mercy, "no way," you said,
She had to be the next one, who cares if I liked her?
Now that she's gone, you're the one to blame...
You celestial bastard! You knew I just liked her.
Her words are now memories, memories, her smile ;)
Wessie often kicked ass, and I liked her.

June 02, 2004

Predicting Earthquakes: Science or Pseudo-Science
Ali Mostashari  [info|posts]

crystal-ball.jpg
As we all know, Earthquakes are the most destructive among all the natural hazards. Most of the time, they occur without any warning, which makes them most feared and unpredictable natural phenomena. Globally, on average, two earthquakes of magnitude 8 are known to occur every year. Iran is surrounded by tectonically active zones. Earthquakes are regularly felt on all sides of Iran. But the capital, Tehran, has been fortunate enough to avoid a major quake this century. Tehran was shaken in 1830 by a magnitude 7.2 quake. A recent earthquake in the northern part of Iran has raised the stakes for people who are interested to know whether or not earthquakes can be predicted. Recently, like many others, I received a message saying that Dr. Rahmi Tabar has predicted an earthquake in Tehran within the next 10 days (now 6 days).
What was interesting was not necessarily the validity or credibility of such a prediction, but the way even educated people, like those in the Sharif University of Technology narrated the messages.

Predicting Earthquakes

A comprehensive look at the literature shows little success in predicting earthquakes. The first successful prediction of a major earthquake was made in 1975. The earthquake took place in China (Haichung) on Feb. 4, 1975. The intensity of the earthquake was 7.3 on the Richter scale, and about ninety percent of the structure was destroyed in a city of 90,000 people. In this case thousands of people were saved by the massive evacuation from unsafe housings just before the earthquake. The short-term prediction was possible primarily on a series of foreshocks that began four days prior to the main shock. Unfortunately these types of short-range prediction on the basis of foreshock are not always reliable. Earthquake prediction by any geoscientist is far from success, however a detailed and systematic investigation may lift haze in its prediction. Earthquake prediction in an area may be carried out under the following heads:

a. Lithological characterization and structural setting of the region
b. Crustal deformational studies
c. Frequency of foreshock
d. Repetitive land level survey
e. Water tube tiltmeters
f. Geomagnetic observation
g. Geothermal gradient
h. Gravity survey
i. Hazard mapping

Lithological Characterization and Structural Setting of the Region

Geological mapping of an area is the first step towards the surface and subsurface investigation of a region. The accuracy of these investigations decides the prediction accuracy before an earthquake and also the post earthquake control and reduction measures. The advent of Geoinformatics has brought revolutionary change in these investigations. Nowadays, a number of geological software packages are available in the market for the geological mapping of an area. These software packages are highly useful in the speedy and accurate execution of mapping work. The arrival of GPS has the capability of recording spatial co-ordinates with an accuracy level of up to a millimeter. Remote sensing and air photogrammetry is of immense potential at the reconnaissance stage of the mapping. Now, it is possible to map the inaccessible regions through the satellites. Structural setting indicates the future earthquake by giving enough information regarding the palaeoseismology of the area. It is also helpful in the hazard mapping of the area to take preventive and control measures. Carrying out systematic lithological mapping of the terrain can very well minimize the magnitude of seismic destruction. It has been observed that the structures on a consolidated foundation, e.g. igneous and metamorphic rocks, are safer than those on unconsolidated basements, viz. Alluvial, sand and loamy soil. Different surface materials behave differentially in response to seismic shaking of various frequencies. Unconsolidated earth materials (mud, alluvium, and bedrock) vibrate more compared with hard bedrock. Therefore, an area sensitive to earthquake hazards must be mapped for it to be available to land-use decision makers. So a highly accurate geological map can be prepared with the help of recent geomatic tools and they can be analysed through GIS to use it for the prediction, or the preparation of action plan during the post earthquake rehabilitation measures. By predicting the intensity of shaking due to an earthquake before the earthquake occurs, we can help plan to prevent damage. Doing this rapidly after an earthquake can help manage the emergency response efforts. Intensity is a measure of the effects of earthquakes. Examples include damage to man-made structures, ground failure and felt shaking. Intensity is not the same as magnitude, although it is influenced by earthquake magnitude. Intensity is also influenced by distance from the fault, ground conditions, and sometimes, directivity. The most commonly used intensity scale today is the Modified Mercalli Scale. This is the scale we have used in the predictive models. These predictive intensity maps have been generated following the method described in the 1995 ABAG report "On Shaky Ground" by Jeanne Perkins and John Boatwright

Crustal Deformation Studies through GPS

Throughout the world, most of the earthquake activities are confined to plate margin associated with crustal deformation. Nowadays, crustal movement can be recorded with high degree precision using GPS. Crustal deformation through GPS is one of the fast emerging areas, and most probably, the only area where the real potential of GPS lies as far as effective earthquake predictions are concerned. GPS is now being used effectively for monitoring of crustal movement. In modern time, earthquakes are studied with more authenticity, as high quality seismic and geodetic data are available globally. Progress in this field with the establishment of broad-band digital seismograph and geodetic network. Data accumulated through the seismological, geological and geodetic observations can be of great help in the delineation of the earthquake-prone areas. This will have direct impact on the hazard assessment and public safety measures.

Frequency of Foreshock

There are cases where minor foreshocks have indicated the major coming shock. So, it is highly desirable to establish a seismological observatory for the continuous monitoring of seismic activity in an area. In modern time, earthquakes are studied with more authenticity, as high quality seismic and geodetic data are available globally. Data accumulated through the seismological, geological and geodetic observations can be of great help in the delineation of the earthquakes prone areas. This will have direct impact on the hazard assessment and public safety measures. On that basis countries can be divided into 5 zones with respect to intensity of earthquake. Of these, zone V is seismically the most active where earthquake of magnitude 8 or more could occur. Zone I is the least active region. There are various parameters, which can be analyzed collectively for the purpose of an earthquake prediction. Surface parameter include topographical changes and subsurface parameter includes subsurface geomagnetic, geothermal and gravity variation. Rates of uplift and subsidence, especially rapid or anomalous change may be significant in predicting earthquakes. For example, for more than ten years before the 1964 earthquake near Nigata, Japan, there was an anomalous uplift of the earth crust. It has also been observed that the speed of primary waves may decrease for a month, and then increase to normal just before an earthquake. With recent advancement in science and technology, a proper sensor developed to measure these variations can be put on satellite to get regional idea by periodic and continuous monitoring of these variations and their quantification may helps us in forecasting such hazardous events. Changes in the electrical resistance of an area have also been reported before earthquakes. Increase in the amount of radioactive radon gas that is dissolved in deep well water has also been reported.

Dr. Rahimi Tabar's Study and Its Impact on Society

Dr. Rahimi Tabar's study as published in the LANL pre-print archive (arXiv) is definitely an admirable effort at linking changes in surface resistivity of the granites to Earthquakes. This is an interesting proposed correlation, although the paper in the archive was not at all well-written, and would have qualified more for a detective magazine than an academic publication, but I can understand that they wanted their paper to be out there so their idea would be preserved. Perhaps that correlation can be used for linking the two phenomena, perhaps it can't; time will show, but one observational experiment in itself would not be sufficient to predict an Earthquake in Tehran with a resolution of 10 days, let alone determine whether the order of magnitude would be directly correlational with the extent of changes in resistivity (the earthquakes measured in the study for Yazd were 3.1 Richters or less).

Generally, publishing something this rudimentary even in the arXiv is not good practice, although other people do this too. What really upsets me (and I have had discussions on this with students in Iran who were willing to swear by Dr. Rahimi Tabar's results) is the way a very rudimentary, and at this point raw finding, which would not qualify for a conference proceeding, let alone an academic journal is used as "scientific" evidence that earthquakes can be predicted within a 10 day period (the messages didn't have probabilities, order of magnitudes, or anything like that). Whether Sharif University and Dr. Rahimi-Tabar are willing to do this is their issue, but when educated people cannot distinguish between a suspected qualitiative correlation (with no numbers whatsoever) and clairvoyance, it is saddening.

There are two consequences that I can see from this set of actions:
1) People are on guard for earthquakes (which is always good).
2) People start believing whatever an "authority" tells them is right, which is really lousy.

I think it's a given that anyone with a scientific mindset should look at such results with interest, but at the same time with caution and critical awareness. If Dr. Rahimi Tabar's correlation makes it through the scientific "prodding" process, nobody would be happier than me, but the way we treat science and its application in everyday lives and public policy is really important.

June 01, 2004

Bush or Saddam, Choose one!
Yaser Kerachian  [info|posts]

Saddam Bush.jpgIn the last few weeks, my email-box was flooded with emails regarding the war on Iraq. I received many emails denouncing the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers. The common message of all those emails was that US failed in its promises about Iraq. But is it really true?

In order to analyze the war, one should first set her perspective, whether it is based on the situation in Iraq and the countries in the region such as Iran, or the whole world. I would like to argue that at least in many aspects the war has been positive.

We can first look at the war as an Iranian whose main issue is the national interest of his home. People may be skeptical about the future of Iraq saying that everything has got worse since the invasion. However, in my opinion, the trouble that the coalition forces are now facing with is temporary. Iraq, because of its oil resources and strategic position, has a significant importance for US and therefore US will not leave Iraq unless some kind of stability returns to the country. So far, US has successfully removed Saddam, the lifetime enemy of Iran. Though Iraqi insurgents may explode a bomb once in a while, their infrastructure has been fully dismantled without any hope of a return to power. Sooner or later, a more or less democratic government will bring stability to the country which will also be of the interest of Iran and its people. Most political parties which are now in the Iraq governing council do not have a bad history with Iran and therefore it is likely that the two countries will build a strong friendship with each other. Becoming neighbor with a democratic country has also the advantage that it forces Iran to move in a similar direction. On the other hand, the return of Najaf to the attention of Shi'a clerics would weaken the religious fundamentalism in Iran. Not to mention how much economy of Iran has benefited from the increase in the price of crude oil which was mostly due to the war.

Those who are against the war usually bring up the arguments that US invasion can not be justified. They say that no weapon of mass destruction has been found and there is still no strong evidence of any link between Saddam and Al-Qaeda, rejecting the two primary reasons claimed by US government for the war. They also say that US cannot justify the war by claiming that they are bringing peace and democracy to Iraq since it is none of their business.

In my opinion, the flaw of the above argument lies on its emphasize on what caused the war. In reality, the factors that caused the war are far less important than its consequences. In the international perspective, every country acts based on its national interest and not in accordance to morality, though they may overlap many times. US indeed started the war on Iraq not in order to help Iraqis, but to get access to Iraq's oil resources or conquering a country in the Middle East. Similarly France, Germany and Russia did not join the coalition forces not because they were worried about the human loss of the war, but because of the financial issues. Russia and France needed Saddam to be in power in order for him to pay off his debt to them. Saying that the war is not justified is totally different from whether the war was good or bad.

We can also look at the war from an Iraqi's perspective. People usually argue that no country can bring democracy to the other by invading it since democracy has to be implemented by the people and take root in the country. Basically, it is claimed that democracy can not be imported. In my opinion, this statement is only partially true. There are some prerequisites for the people of a country to implement democracy. It is idealistic to say that all the time people can get to democracy themselves. In the case of Iraq, Saddam was a key obstacle to democracy and there was no hope that anything gets better under his ruling. If he would have died naturally, one of his sons would have taken over and nothing would have changed. US, by removing Saddam, provided the opportunity for the Iraqis to implement democracy themselves, the opportunity which would have never been achieved under the ruling of Saddam. Whether US really intended to do this or not is not that important.

The situation in Iraq may be a bit sketchy now and we should wait a bit longer in order to get a better idea of the future. Despite all the current chaos in Iraq, polls indicate that Iraqis are happier now compared to before the war. More importantly they are hopeful about the future. For this purpose, the situation in Afghanistan which is somehow similar to Iraq can also be studied. There are clear signs that the life conditions in Afghanistan have improved significantly. It is true that the central government may not have full control over the country but no one should wish the superficial security which was at the time of Taliban. Those who say that things are not going well in Afghanistan have not had the chance to see it before the war. Those who care about the war casualties never had a chance to see the mass graves of Shiites and Kurds killed by Saddam. It is sad to say that the choices are limited, dictatorship of Saddam or so called US imperialism. I am sure that the latter is the better. Those who seek the third way probably live in their dreams.

Note : This article has been also published in Ghasedak, online magazine of Iranian students in Toronto universities.