A very enlightening discussion from Publius Pundit who reports an interview he conducted with one Mojtaba Agha, who was monitoring a polling station for Iranians in Tucson. Agha has taught at California State University in Hayward and the University of Phoenix, and is now a visiting scholar at the University of Arizona.
According to Mojtaba, there are approximately 2500-3000 Iranian expatriates in Tucson, 1500 of which are of voting age. At the time I arrived at 4pm, with an hour gone by and three left to vote, only 15 people had voted. Mojtaba was hoping for at least 60, but when I left around 5:30, only 25 had done so. The favorite among the Iranian-Americans was Moin by a landslide, but needless to say, it was a slow day…
Mojtaba also made several jokes about the informality of the procedure, saying that just like in the U.S., the voters coming in are all stupid and have no idea what they are doing.
Politics: This is the most interesting part, where Mojtaba offered some bizarre explanations for the state of Iran and that of the United States.
He said that he expected turnout in Iran to be extremely high, “even more than predicted,” and that certain groups were trying to “sabotage the Republic through boycotting” The reason he gave for this was that President Bush’s words the day before the election had inflamed people who would otherwise not vote to do so. He said that he was not going to vote because of the barring of female candidate, but he said that President Bush’s words and foreign policy “undermine Iran” so much that he felt compelled. His step second cousin, as well, voted only in the last hour because of this. Of course, it cannot be confirmed and is inconsistent with incoming reports out of Iran.
I asked him who he voted for, and he said Moin. The reason he gave was that he did not want to undermine the reform movement, though he admitted, “What Iran probably needs is a wiley candidate like Rafsanjani. And believe me, Rafsanjani is wiley!”
I pressed him on the issue of the barring of female candidates, along with the other some 1000 people who registered. He said that it can be justified, as the “decision reflects the reality of society.” As for the many hundreds of male candidates that registered, he denounced some as jokers and the others as mentally ill.
I asked him then how a society could be democratic when the Guardian Council can veto anything that the elected president does, and he responded that the existence of the Guardian Council also reflects the state of society. He said that a president without the full powers of one represents a transition period in democracy. He also said that the only reason the revolution against the despotic Shah took an Islamic face is because the only venue that the Shah did not repress was the mosque.
On that note, I asked him about his thoughts on the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran (SMCCDI). He called it a one-man show based out of Texas, that man being a narcissist at that. He also said that those who support the SMCCDI are supporters of the Shah and want to see his son return to the monarchy. He said that this is why he supports the Republic, because all of the “fake talk” about a referendum is just to have the monarchy reinstalled. To do this, they coordinate with the administration and the Pentagon in particular.
I then asked him about the accusations by the SMCCDI that the polling stations across the U.S. are illegal based on the fact that an Iranian government agent must supervise each polling station, and such agents are not allowed outside a certain radius of D.C. or the UN. He insisted that each person present was a local volunteer, though he did not elaborate on their connections to the Iranian government. In this case, they are either breaking Iranian law, or they are breaking U.S. law. Most likely, it is the latter, given that they have access to a “special” phone line directly to the Iranian Interior Ministry.
Right? Got that? Right.
Now comes his views of U.S. foreign policy, which can only be termed as dillusional at best. He began by telling me to read 1984, and called American policy “Orwellian” since World War II. He said that President Bush uses religion to keep people stupid, and that the U.S. government must essentially do what the government in 1984 did “” that is, find external enemies to justify their own power. He said that our government must keep us stupid and afraid so that we could have an eventual police state.
He said that now that the Cold War is over, and since we aren’t fighting the “Ohhhh evil commies! Scary!” anymore, we had to find a new enemy, that being Muslims and “terrorists.” He believes that the recent bombings in Khuzestan and Tehran were covert operations by U.S. forces. He said that our foreign policy was specifically designed so that it would only create more terrorists, so that we would have a perpetual reason to be at war and invade other countries.
On this note, we talked about the nuclear issue. He insisted that Iran is solely trying to develop nuclear power for its own use, and that the United States is trying to make Iran dependent on foreign sources for energy. He says that Iran does not want to develop a nuclear bomb, and insisted that Khamenei issued a fatwa last year declaring their development a sin. According to him, the fact that Iran’s Islamic government can declare nuclear bombs a sin and Southern Baptists cannot is “telling.”
At one point he seemed to make fun of the fact that I called myself a journalist because of my youth. He said that the media is the fourth pillar that props up and acts as the propaganda mouthpiece of the Bush admininstration, and that I”m a part of it. He also said that it is essentially our foreign policy that causes things like September 11 to happen.
That’s right, it is essentially our fault for September 11.
Apparently, the United States also orchestrated the coup that put Saddam Hussein into power specifically so he could attack Iran. Oh, and both he and Osama bin Laden are CIA agents. I”m not joking. He said that.
Conclusion: The interview lasted for an hour and a half, and it was one of the most bizarre conversations I have ever had. Mojtaba took me on first look as a very naive person, and since I just nodded to everything he said, he simply rambled on. He used the word “democracy” a lot to describe the developing situation in Iran, though every single accusation he made against American government establishing a police state seemed to, in reality, reflect that of Iran. This is very typical of a propagandist.
Perhaps one of the most important things we have to remember here is that this man is part of our higher education infrastructure. He has taught in American universities for several years, and is a visiting scholar here locally at the University of Arizona. This man has the ability to influence dozens, hundreds of young minds, something he himself tried to do to me. Instead, he has been revealed just for what he is. There is an old saying for those who visit the former Soviet Union, “Believe nothing of what you hear, and only half of what you see.” This was, by far, the most useful advice I was able to apply to this interview.