Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Happy New Year Toast

Kash Kheirkhah

There is definitely no better way for me to express my new year's wishes to all of you than sharing an excerpt from the lyrics to one of the most favorite songs of mine "My Wish" by the country music band, Rascal Flatts. Thanks very much for reading the newsroom in 2006 and all the best to you and your loved ones in the year ahead:

I hope the days come easy and the moments pass slow,
And each road leads you where you want to go,

And if you're faced with a choice, and you have to choose,
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you,

And if one door opens to another door closed, I hope you keep on walkin' till you find the window,

If it's cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile,

But more than anything, more than anything,

My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you're out there getting where you're getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,

Yeah, this, is my wish.

A Very Happy And Prosperous New Year!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Iran's oil revenue could run out in less than a decade

WASHINGTON (AP) — Iran is suffering a staggering decline in revenue from its oil exports, and if the trend continues income could virtually disappear by 2015, according to an analysis published Monday in a journal of the National Academy of Sciences.

Iran's economic woes could make the country unstable and vulnerable, with its oil industry crippled, Roger Stern, an economic geographer at Johns Hopkins University, said in the report and in an interview.

Iran earns about $50 billion a year in oil exports. The decline is estimated at 10% to 12% annually. In less than five years exports could be halved and then disappear by 2015, Stern predicted.He said oil production is declining and both gas and oil are being sold domestically at highly subsidized rates. At the same time, Iran is neglecting to reinvest in its oil production.
Iran produces about 3.7 million barrels a day, about 300,000 barrels below the quota set for Iran by the oil cartel, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

The shortfall represents a loss of about $5.5 billion a year, Stern said. In 2004, Iran's oil profits were 65% of the government's revenues."If we look at that shortfall, and failure to rectify leaks in their refineries, that adds up to a loss of about $10 billion to $11 billion a year," he said. "That is a picture of an industry in collapse."

...If the United States can "hold its breath" for a few years it may find Iran a much more conciliatory country, he said. And that, Stern said, is good reason to belay any instinct to take on Iran militarily.

"What they are doing to themselves is much worse than anything we could do," he said.

"The one thing that would unite the country right now is to bomb them," Stern said. "Here is one problem that might solve itself."


Tell me why...

The Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks of the victims of Hurricane Katrina whereas in Iran, three years after the catastrophic earthquake in Bam, many survivors are still living in tents, thanks to his regime, funneling millions of petro-dollars to Hezbollah, Hamas and Shiite militias in Iraq...

Can you see that shaft of sunlight
Can you see it in my eyes
I can feel the fire thats burning
Anger and hope so deep
So deep within my heart but before my eyes
For some its too late
Cos it seems theres no-one listening

People sleeping in the streets
No roof above, no food to eat, tell me why, oh tell me why
See the questions in their eyes
Listen to their childrens cries,
Tell me why, please tell me why...

From the song "Tell Me Why" by Genesis, 1991.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Satirical jokes raise a stink in Tehran

December 24, 2006
Sunday Telegraph
Colin Freeman

"Osama bin Laden is sent to Hell and sees President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran dancing with Jennifer Lopez. " 'Is this your punishment?' asks Osama. 'No,' the Iranian leader replies, 'it's Jennifer Lopez's punishment.' "

It might not be the most sophisticated example of political satire, but for millions of Iranians, such jokes are proving to be the perfect way to let off steam about their hardline leader. With opponents unable to criticise him too fiercely in the state-censored media, gags about his policies, piety – and, cruelly, his personal grooming – have proliferated instead via text messages and emails.

...Fond of denouncing all things American, and rarely dressing in anything more statesmanlike than a beige anorak, he is portrayed as an ignorant, bigoted bumpkin in jokes swapped among Teheran's educated middle-class.

Some jibes are cutting, such as the tale of how the president finds lice when combing his hair one day. "OK, male lice to the left and females to the right," he says – a reference to his reported attempt to introduce segregated corridors in the city hall during his previous job as mayor of Teheran.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

It's the eye of the tiger, the cream of the fight...

Kash Kheirkhah

Just a few months ago, Andre Agassi's exit from the world of tennis took me back to my younger years in Iran, when even watching one of his grandslam finals was a dream for me. Now you might find this stupid, or funny or whatever you might wanna call it but in a couple of hours, another sports hero of my childhood years, one who also brings back a lot of bittersweet memories, will make his graceful exit: Rocky Balboa.

Of course, I know the difference between Hollywood and real life now but back in the early eighties, Rocky was the sovereign in the world of movies for us school kids in Iran. At the time, there was no cinema in Iran showing Hollywood blockbusters (there still isn't), no satellite TV, Internet, DVD, VCD or even VHS cassettes. All we could find were Betamax video players and even those where not found easily in most households. They were expensive but more importantly, they were banned by the Islamic regime and those who did carry them, ran the risk of being arrested and even lashed.

That's why most people secretly rented Betamax video players from the black market on weekends and what was the very first foreign movie they wanted to rent along? a Rocky movie!

And now Rocky is back, in a world that bears almost no resemblance to the one in which I grew up. I know in 2 weeks, Iranian school kids will watch the "Rocky Balboa" on their VCD or DVD players, enjoying the blessings of the new YouTube world but for me, Rocky is a bittersweet reminder of both the dark days we lived through as kids, under the Islamic Regime in Iran in the eighties, and the only glimmer of the outside world that brightened those dark days a tad-- on an exciting Thursday night or a gloomy Friday afternoon.

Rocky is back and I'll be in theater this time, savoring his passion for glory and will to survive the eye of the tiger for the very last time...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Iranian students hide in fear for lives after venting fury at Ahmadinejad

December 18, 2006
The Guardian
Robert Tait in Tehran

Iranian student activists who staged an angry protest against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week have gone into hiding in fear for their lives after his supporters threatened them with revenge. One student fled after being photographed holding a banner reading, "Fascist president, the polytechnic is not for you", during Mr Ahmadinejad's visit to Tehran's Amir Kabir university. At least three others have gone underground after being seen burning his picture.

Vigilantes from the militant Ansar-e Hezbollah group have been searching for them.

In a startling contrast to the acclaim Mr Ahmadinejad has received in numerous recent appearances around Iran, he faced chants of "Death to the dictator" as he addressed a gathering in the university's sports hall last week. Several hundred students forced their way in to voice anger over a clampdown on universities since he became president last year. While his aides played down the incident, the Guardian has learned details of the violent and chaotic events.

Last Monday's university demonstration triggered violent clashes between student activists and crowds of Basij militia, who were there to support the president. A shoe was thrown at Mr Ahmadinejad while a student had his nose broken by an aide to a cabinet minister. Protesters later surrounded the president's car, prompting a security guard to fire a stun grenade to warn them off. Four cars in the presidential convoy collided in their haste to leave.

"He threatened us directly, saying that what we were doing was against the wishes of the nation," said Babak Zamanian, a spokesman for Amir Kabir university's Islamic students' committee. "After that, the students protested even more sharply, calling him a lying religious dictator and shouting, 'Forget America and start thinking about us!' "We were chanting, 'Get lost Ahmadinejad!' and 'Ahmadinejad - element of discrimination and corruption.' You could see from his face that he was really shocked. He wasn't flashing his usual smile, and at one stage I thought he was going to cry. He told his supporters to respond with a religious chant hailing Ahmadinejad, but he was so shaken he was actually chanting it himself." Another student said: "He was trying to keep control of himself, but you could see he was angry and upset."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Holocaust conference is a disgrace to us Iranians and an insult to the world community

Kash Kheirkhah

In the past few days, I have been practically battling with a flood of questions and condemnations I've received from my fellow-Canadians, regarding the disgraceful Holocaust conference in Iran. Of course, I fully understand their feelings as I personally share with them the anger and revulsion that this shameful campaign of distortion and denial by the Iranian regime of one of the most horrendous crimes against humanity has invoked in them.

This shameful circus is not--as Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran's Foreign Minister, ridiculously argues-- "an opportunity for thinkers who cannot express their views freely in Europe about the Holocaust", (otherwise, they wouldn't have denied a visa to a Palestinian intellectual who believes that denials of the “monstrous horror” harms the Palestinian cause) but part of a pathetic plan by a degenerate regime which stops at nothing--not even inviting the likes of KKK leader, David Duke -- to spread its evil ideology across the Middle East.

In case you didn't know, Ahmadinejad and his masters couldn't care less about the issue of Holocaust or the Palestinian cause.It is tapping into the anti-Israeli sentiments of the Arab masses of the Middle East and flying in the face of the international community they are after and in so doing, they have dragged Iran down to the lowest moral standards in its entire history.

The holocaust conference in Iran has indeed added another black page to an already humiliating history of my country under the Islamic Regime. As a freedom-loving Iranian-Canadian, I condemn this conference in the strongest terms and offer my deepest sympathies to the survivors of this horrible war crime. I hope that someday, a free and democratic Iran-- in a Middle East, free of any extreme ideological forces or beliefs-- will play the most prominent role in a peace process which will eventually lead to secure and peaceful states of Israel and Palestine.

Also read: Tony Karon, TIME-Why Holocaust Denial Hurts the Palestinian Cause

Other victims of Holocaust denial

Mahmoud Al-Safadi is a former Palestinian militant who was recently freed from an Israeli jail after 18 years for throwing Molotov cocktails during a 1988 uprising. In an Open letter to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he questions the Iranian President's stance on Holocaust and calls it a "great disservice to popular struggles the world over." Another Palestinian, Khaled Mahamid, a lawyer who has opened the first Arab Holocaust museum in his office in Nazareth, believing it is essential for the Arab world to acknowledge and understand the Holocaust if it is ever to make peace with Israel, was denied visa by Iranian embassy in Jordan to attend the conference because as he himself professed, he intended to face the Holocaust deniers and prove to them that they should recognize the Holocaust.

So much for Iranian freedom of speech.

Here are some excerpts from Al-Safadi's letter, published on December 6:

...I am furious about your insistence on claiming that the Holocaust never took place and about your doubts about the number of Jews who were murdered in the extermination and concentration camps, organized massacres, and gas chambers, consequently denying the universal historical significance of the Nazi period.

Allow me to say, Mr. President, with all due respect to you, that you made these statements without really knowing the Nazi industry of death. To have read the works of some deniers seems to be enough for you -- a little like a man who shouts above a well and hears only the echo of his own voice. I believe that a man in your position should not make such an enormous error, because it could be turned against him and, worse still, his people.

...Whatever the number of victims -- Jewish and non-Jewish -- the crime is monumental. Any attempt to deny it deprives the denier of his own humanity and sends him immediately to the side of torturers. Whoever denies the fact that this human disaster really took place should not be astonished that others deny the sufferings and persecutions inflicted on his own people by tyrannical leaders or foreign occupiers.

...Perhaps you think that the act of denying the Holocaust places you at the vanguard of the Muslim world and that this refusal constitutes a useful tool in the combat against American imperialism and Western hegemony. By doing so, you actually do great disservice to popular struggles the world over...At worst, you discourage and weaken the political, social, and intellectual forces who, in Europe and in the United States, reject the policy of confrontation and war carried out by George Bush, but are forced to conclude that you, too, jeopardize the world by your declarations denying the genocide and by your nuclear program.


Monday, December 11, 2006

“Dictator, get lost” students tell Ahmadinejad

Iran Press Service-Tehran, 11 Dec. (IPS) Hundreds of pro-reforms students burned pictures of hard line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad, booed him with chants of “Ahmadi Nezhad, symbol of discrimination and dictatorship” and threw firecrackers in an effort to disrupt his speech at a university on Monday, according to eyewitnesses and reports from several Iranian independent news agencies.

Despite severe security measures, the protesting students apparently avoided security guards who tried to prevent them from attending the speech at Amir Kabir University, according to the student news Web site, “AdwarNews”.

“As Ahmadi Nezhad approached the podium to speech, the members of the Islamic Students Association began booing and chanting, while some even burned pictures of the Iranian president”, Adwar confirmed.

“As students chanted “Liar, Get Out”, Ahmadi Nezhad got so angry that he accused the students of being agents of the United States and being on the American’s payroll. He then threatened to punish them harshly”, one student told Iran Press Service, adding that officials from the University had filled the auditorium with basij volunteers and women clad in black chadors, posing as students.


Quote of the day

"It is simply tragic that millennia of proud Persian history have culminated in a government that today cannot be counted among the world's most civilized nations."

2008 presidential hopeful, Republican Sen. John McCain.

Ahmadinejad booed during speech at university

Students shout "death to dictator", burn Ahmadinejad's pictures

December 11, 2006 Reuters MSNBC:

TEHRAN -- Dozens of Iranian students burned pictures of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and threw firecrackers in an effort to disrupt his speech at a university on Monday, a presidential office spokesman said. It was the first time the president, elected in a landslide in June 2005, had faced such open hostility at a public event. But the spokesman said Ahmadinejad was not deterred and completed his address at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University.

“While he was speaking today they tried to interrupt but they couldn’t and they even burned his pictures while he was speaking and they threw firecrackers but Ahmadinejad continued his speech,” the spokesman said. He said 50 to 60 students were involved and confirmed local news agency reports they had chanted “Death to the dictator” and that scuffles had broken out between pro- and anti-Ahmadinejad students at the event.

Strong reactions from both sides The ISNA students’ news agency said Ahmadinejad had responded to the burning of his pictures by saying: “Everyone should know that Ahmadinejad is prepared to be burned in the path of true freedom, independence and justice.” The semi-official Fars news agency said supporters of the president had prevented the protesters from approaching the podium where the president was speaking and chanted: “Ahmadi, Ahmadi, we support you.” Ahmadinejad told the students: “The minority group which says there is no freedom of speech are not allowing the majority to hear my remarks,” Fars said.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

War in Iraq: America should set a date and buy some leverage

The "always insightful" Tom Friedman makes an excellent point in his latest column in NY Times:

The only hope of moving the factions inside Iraq, not to mention Syria and Iran, toward reconciliation is if we have leverage over them, which we now lack. The currency of Middle East politics is pain. And right now, all the pain is being inflicted on us and on Iraqi civilians. Only if we tell all the players that we are leaving might we create a different balance of pain and therefore some hope for a diplomatic deal. Trying to do diplomacy without the threat of pain is like trying to play baseball without a bat.

As for the neighbors, well, right now Iran, Syria and some other Arab states look at Iraq and clearly believe that the controlled chaos there is their friend. For Arab autocrats, chaos is their friend because a burning Iraq on Al Jazeera sends a message to their own people: "This is what happens to those who try democracy." And for Iran and Syria, anything that frustrates the U.S. in Iraq and keeps America bleeding weakens its ability to confront Tehran.

The minute we leave, chaos in Iraq is not their friend anymore. First of all, if there is a full-fledged civil war, Syria, a largely Sunni country, will have to support the Iraqi Sunnis. Shiite Iran will have to support the Iraqi Shiites. That would mean Iran and Syria, now allies, will be on opposite sides of the Iraqi civil war. That will leave them with the choice of either indirectly fighting each other or working to settle the war.

Moreover, right now we are "Mr. Big" in Iraq, soaking up all the popular anger. But the minute we're gone, Iran becomes "Mr. Big" and the age-old tensions between Iraqi Arab Shiites and Iranian Persian Shiites will surface. Iran and Moktada al-Sadr will be at each other's throats.

Also, as long as our troops are in Iraq, we are pinned down and an easy target for Iran to hit, should we ever want to strike its nuclear facilities. Once we are out, we will have much more room to maneuver. I'm not saying we should attack Iran, but I am saying Iran will be much more worried that we will.


Weekend Funnies

From the most hillarious news source in America, "The Onion":

Iraq War Recommendations
December 6, 2006

The Baker Study Group released their report on new Iraq strategies. Here are the some of the other options for Iraq currently on the table:
  • Implement phased withdrawal of all media access

  • Rapidly train Iraqi security forces in use of butterfly knives

  • Try to meet insurgents halfway by burning own effigies of Bush

  • Promote Smithfield Ham–sponsored "Hey, America, What's Your Exit Strategy?" contest

  • Spend a weekend researching the customs and history of the Iraqi people

  • Stop half-assing USO shows

  • Teach Iraqis about ultimate futility of sectarian violence by pointing out that, Shiite or Sunni, they all look alike anyway

  • Move operations over to another country that will embrace democracy more readily
From the Onion's news archive:

Sean Penn Demands To Know What Asshole Took SeanPenn@
January 17, 2006-LOS ANGELES—In an impassioned 1,900-word open letter published in Monday's Washington Post, actor-director Sean Penn urged the unknown person who registered the e-mail address to "come forward immediately, rather than wallowing in the shame and ignominy of fraud."...Penn recounted in the letter how he had waited for an invitation to Google's e-mail service for a year and a half before receiving one earlier this month. According to Penn, when he tried to establish an account, he received a message indicating that his desired user name, SeanPenn, had already been registered. "Sir or madam, if only you could have seen the anger and revulsion that washed over my face as I found that,,,, and had all been taken," Penn's letter read.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ahmadinejad’s Hypocrisy

Kash Kheirkhah

As an Iranian, the first thought that crosses my mind when I read Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s letter to the American people is "what a hypocrit". In his five-page letter, the Iranian President, whose government’s blatant violations of human rights, from brutally oppressing freedom of speech to denying equal rights to woman and religious minorities to name a few, is no secret to anyone, preaches Americans about human values, dignity, respect and integrity as if they didn’t know his regime’s history and couldn’t see his intent.

In the letter, Mr. Ahmadinejad argues that “millions of Palestinians have been driven out of their homes in the past 60 years. Many of them have died in the Diaspora and that many of their children are aging while still in the hope of returning to homeland.” Unfortunately, The same argument can be made about millions of the inhabitants of Iran who have been driven out of Iran in the past 28 years by the Islamic Regime, either aging while still in the hope of returning to their homeland or dying in Diaspora. These are the same Iranians Mr.Ahmadinejad refers to in his letter as his “compatriots”, otherwise labeled as “treacherous anti-revolutionaries” by his regime, who have been humiliated, intimidated and eventually forced to exile for the fear of their lives.

Mr. Ahmadinejad then questions the Bush administration handling of Iraq hurricane Katrina: “ a substantial number of American soldiers have been killed or wounded… I consider it extremely unlikely that you, the American people, consent to the billions of dollars of annual expenditure from your treasury for this military misadventure…would it not be more beneficial… to spend the astronomical US military expenditures in Iraq for the welfare and prosperity of the American people? As you know very well, many victims of Katrina continue to suffer, and countless Americans continue to live in poverty and homelessness. "

Of course, the American public also knows that many American soldiers have been killed in Iraq , by the weapons and roadside bombs that US commanders in Iraq believe to be manufactured and shipped to Iraq by the Iranian regime. ABC News reported just a few days ago on coalition forces, seizing Iranian-made weapons, going directly from Iranian factories to Shia militia. The American people will also consider it extremely unlikely that the Iranian people, suffering from a wide array of backbreaking economic problems, have ever consented their government funneling billions of dollars of Iran 's annual expenditure from Iran 's treasury to Iraqi shia militias or the likes of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. Shedding crocodile tears for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Ahmadinejad forgets to tell the American people how in his own country, the survivors of catastrophic 2003 Bam earthquake are still living in tents, under the most appalling conditions. Would it not be more beneficial to spend Iran ’s astronomical expenditures in Iraq , Lebanon and the Palestinian territories for the welfare and prosperity of the Iranian people?

Continuing with his long list of Bush administration’s crimes and misdemeanors, Mr. Ahmadinejad speaks of Guantanamo and Abu-Ghraib prisons and refers to the result of the midterm elections in the US as “a message the administration should heed.” Of course, with his holier-than-thou attitude, he doesn’t see it necessary to explain why he doesn’t open “his” prisons to the world media to prove the freedom, human dignity and integrity he speaks of and how the Iranian people can show “their” discontent with their government in a country in which “free elections” are more myth than reality.

Finally he goes back to the Palestinian issue, claiming that “the right of Palestinians to live in their own homeland should be recognized and the future of all of Palestine and its form of government be determined in a referendum."

I believe upon hearing this, a lot of Americans would be tempted enough to ask the Iranian president, " Sir, why don’t you practice what you preach for once? As the Iranian President, why don’t you demand that, the right of the Iranians to live in their own homeland be recognized so that millions of Iranians can return to their homeland and the future of all of Iran and its form of government be determined in a referendum? As for the Palestinians, on what grounds do you take it upon yourself to speak on their behalf when they have leaders who can speak for them?"

If nothing else, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s letter--the latest in a series of his hypocritical, populist publicity stunts—may gain him fans among the oppressed, impoverished masses of the Middle East, but won’t certainly be able to fool a nation who judges politicians by their deeds rather than words and--in the words of Abraham Lincoln-- is conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.