The Iranian People; Between a Rock and a Hard Place

You can tell when a war starts,
but when does the prewar start?
If there are rules about that, we should pass them on.
Hand them down inscribed in clay, in stone.
What would they say?
Among other things they would say:
Do not let your own people deceive you.

(From Cassandra; A Novel by Christa Wolf)

The arrest of visiting dual nationals, local activists, lawyers and writers is on the rise in Iran. Dual nationals  and others are being handed down long sentences.

The decades long sentence handed down to Nasrin Sotoudeh earlier in the year, set a new tone for judicial repression in Iran, just as her release along ten other prisoners in 2013 had indicated that Tehran was ready to negotiate over its uranium enrichment programme with the West.

The economy is in shatters; with the local currency losing its value and prices going up. Increasingly medicine is hard for find, among others insulin.

The lower and middle classes are being crushed. However a portion of the population has become very wealthy over the past decades and life for them goes on as before.

Although it was estimated that even under the new sanctions Iran would be able to sell up to one million barrels of oil a day, with new  pressures that  figure can be far lower still.

Amid all this, the Iranian people are more and more afraid of war. A war which also worries many of us, as it  is assessed that such a war may set the whole of Middle East ablaze.

We have not just thought about peace, but worked actively to ensure it.

We set up groups – concentrating on expertise and the pursuit of national interests. Our economic articles left a real mark at a time when many had been silenced about the ongoing corruption and destructive policies.

We concentrated on our two key areas of International Relations and economics. With time, it became clear that we were being heard in the heart of Iran and our central figure, was gaining respect. We worked to enable the JCPOA and following this stressed and worked on Iran’s cooperation with Western companies. Following the JCPOA we did all to facilitate this cooperation and indeed delegations from many companies went to Iran and sought to sign pivotal agreements. Unfortunately, corruption in Iran had become too great and so small groups hindered the finalization of these agreements. The great hope that a new emerging economy in Iran would benefit its people and many others who would work with it, became a bitter disappointment.

With the election of Mr. Trump, it was fast evident that a new policy would be pursued. Under the influence of Iran’s regional adversary, Mr. Trump’s administration withdrew from the Iran Deal and  sought to weaken Iran  with hard-hitting new sanctions. The new US administration pushed the Islamic Republic towards the wall, giving it the impression that it had no choice. The Islamic Republic is hitting back by greater repressions at home and the use of its proxies in the region.

This is a very dangerous situation that some of us have worked for decades to avoid. The EU can do no more than state its unwillingness to go to war. Russia and China have been able to show their greater influence on the world stage.

To reduce tensions president Trump has noted that he does not want a war and twitted: “With all of the Fake and Made Up News out there, Iran can have no idea what is actually going on”!

But we suggest the US too may have false intelligence and it certainly has received false information from various opposition groups about their potential to bring about change.

The old game of stare each other in the eye and see who blinks first becomes very dangerous when each side is not united in its own intentions and also where there are elements in between who will provoke to bring about a confrontation.

We are very concerned. And in the last days, we have sought to have all not beat on the drums of war and especially for Iranian citizens to not get involved in the war rhetoric.

We are very concerned and remind all sides, that they must rethink their policies and stop making threats which can lead to a war no major side to this face-off wants.

A personal note by Shiva Kambari: for many decades I have believed that the Islamic Republic has taken the Iranian people hostage and that if we care for them, we must intelligently free them. Sabre rattling, animosity, threats and violence cannot free  a people from this intricate internal entanglement; something which the very limited success of a very vocal opposition through decades must surely have shown us.


A medley of some related news.

UK advises dual nationals against all travel to Iran

Foreign Office tightens advice after jailing of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Aras Amiri


Iran Blasted For ‘Decades-Long’ Sentence Handed To Rights Lawyer Sotoudeh

Members of the Basij, Iran’s volunteer paramilitary force, have stormed the University of Tehran and attacked a student rally.

“For a few days now we have been constantly receiving warnings about our dress style and hijab,”a student who was at the rally told IranWire. “They came with the express intention of beating the students.”

#hijab #genderdiscrimination #protests #freedomtoprotest

Might Iran think that it can play off Mr Bolton against his boss; raising tensions enough for the national security adviser’s perceived designs to be revealed perhaps precipitating his downfall?

If that is Tehran’s assessment, then it is a high-risk strategy.

And one thing should be clear. There is no “drift” towards war. That suggests an involuntary process that people can do little about.

If there is a conflict then it will be down to conscious decision-making, to the calculations and miscalculations of the Iranians and the Americans themselves.


Intelligence collected by the U.S. government shows Iran’s leaders believe the U.S. planned to attack them, prompting preparation by Tehran for possible counterstrikes, according to one interpretation of the information, people familiar with the matter said.



Israel is now trying to downplay its support for the stance of US national security adviser John Bolton, who advocates for direct conflict with the Iranians and is therefore considered the most hawkish in the administration. According to someone who has worked with Netanyahu on military matters for years who spoke on condition of anonymity, “It should be obvious that behind closed doors, Netanyahu is praying that Bolton succeeds in convincing the president to launch a military attack on Iran, but this cannot be too obvious. [Netanyahu] cannot be identified with this approach, particularly after he has already come under fire for being the person who pressured the US to invade Iraq.” Jerusalem is watching the conflict between President Donald Trump’s current conciliatory tone, which leads him to avoid unnecessary American military adventurism, and Bolton’s more belligerent approach.


Mounting tensions between Washington and Tehran have recently reached a boiling point, leading many observers to wonder if key factions in each government are quietly hoping for a military confrontation, or if miscalculation, misperception, and miscommunication could lead to the unintentional ignition of a conflict that no one wants.


Inside the Bush administration, we thought we were ready to remake Iraq for the better—but we were not. We were ignorant, arrogant, and unprepared, and we unleashed human suffering that did no good for anyone: not for Americans, not for Iraqis, not for the region. Almost two decades later, the damage to America’s standing in the world from the Iraq War has still not been repaired, let alone that war’s economic and human costs to the United States and the Middle East.

The idea of repeating such a war, only on a much bigger scale, without allies, without justification, and without any plan at all for what comes next staggers and terrifies the imagination.