Is It Time to Bury the Hatchet with IRAN
Nathan, James A., Griffiths, Eldon, USA TODAY
An eyewitness team finds most Iranians eager to resume ties with the United States.
FROM EVERY CORNER of Iran, a country that is three-and-a-half times larger than California, they came. It was a sweltering day in June, 1998. The devotees arrived in buses, trains, and private cars, but most, all men, were part of endless lines of footsore, heat-oppressed faithful. Many had tramped hundreds, even thousands of miles from all over Central Asia. The occasion was the ninth anniversary of the death of the Islamic Republic of Iran's founding father, Ayatollah Mohammed Khomeini. The day-long observance had the sobriety and reverence of a hajj (religious pilgrimage) to Mecca. The ritual also combined the histrionics--and media madness--of Princess Diana's funeral in London with the logistical sophistication (and impressive lack of litter) of the 1995 Million Man March on Washington.
It was a once-in-a lifetime experience for our three-man delegation of the World Affairs Council (the authors and Jerry Leach, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer, whose last assignment was with the National Security Council), whom we believe to be the only Westerners ever to be present at the annual commemoration of a man who Iranians honor as a patriot saint. To get there, we hitched a ride on a bus marked "foreign V.I.P.s." At the mosque, we got through security by hanging onto the coattails of a turbaned Turkmenistani mullah who spoke no English. Once inside, we removed our shoes and were directed to squat, cross-legged for three hours, on an acre-sized V.I.P. section of Persian carpet. The sweltering, cramped posture was more than something of a trick for Sir Eldon's arthritic knees and Jim Nathan's prosthetic hip.
All around, the faithful wailed for the departed Ayatollah. Surrounded by monumental photos and images of the departed Imam, they beat their breasts. Lamentations were interrupted by chants led by what might be described as clerical cheerleaders. The crowd responded with clenched fists thrust straight up. Chanting of "Death to Zionists" was interspersed with the episodic imprecation, "Down with America." One of the Revolutionary Guards, whom Nathan at first thought was a boy scout, turned and asked him where he came from. When Nathan answered, "Alabama," the …
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Publication information: Article title: Is It Time to Bury the Hatchet with IRAN. Contributors: Nathan, James A. - Author, Griffiths, Eldon - Author. Magazine title: USA TODAY. Volume: 127. Issue: 2644 Publication date: January 1999. Page number: 22. © 2009 Society for the Advancement of Education. COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group.
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