Iran: Who Is Really In Charge?

by Camille Verleuw, Introduction by Alain Bauer

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Born in a country with three official languages, and an acquaintance with Latin during high school, it was no surprise that author Camille Verleuw became interested in Indo-European linguistics, discovering the Persian language and its local Afghan or Tajik forms. Verleuw graduated from two schools of the Department of Letters, Translation & Communication of the Université Libre of Brussels (Belgium) before moving to the University of Teheran to specialize in iranistics while working as a writer for the French-language daily newspaper Le Journal de Téhéran. After the closure of the newspaper at the beginning of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Verleuw worked as a translator, a correspondent for European media, a media officer and an expert on Iranian affairs, including Shia Islam. Verleuw also spent long periods in Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

iranThe present study is aimed at explaining the realities of a country which is only presented in the media for the sensational statements of some of its leaders or its deep involvement in the Middle East affairs. The image has been mostly negative for years, especially since the takeover of the American embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979, although the Iranian clerics’ antagonism towards the United-States dates from the 1950s.

The recent signing of agreements between Iran and some Western countries carries many hopes for a restoration of better relations and a return to the international scene of a matured Iran. Many businessmen will head back to Tehran: the country is in fact extremely thirsty of procuring new technologies or materials to meet development capabilities in all areas. However, thirty-seven years of isolation has led Iran to become self-sufficient in many areas thanks to its young people who have never been forbidden to study in Western countries. The reader will be impressed by the intellectual level of the authorities as shown by the included biographies of the government members.

The land offers many opportunities, and this work highlights some of these areas. However, this study also cautions foreigners regarding their behavior and business opportunities while visiting Iran.

. The conference photography shows her as the lone woman. Secreted in the Semiramis Hotel, she and the other ‘forty thieves’ laid out policies whose failures (and Lawrence’s disillusionment) are well known.

Therein lies the tragedy of her life, perhaps more of a tragedy that than of Lawrence. Almost none of the undertakings to the Arabs to which she was an enthusiastic participant were realized. There were a number of these promises, although they were less publicized than those made in the famous McMahon letters. For example, the assurances at the 1916 durbar at Kuwait were equally dishonored: the shaikh of Kuwait received a CSI and Ibn Saud got the KCIE along with pledges that with the defeat of the Turks: “The dream of Arab unity … has been brought nearer fulfillment than dreams are wont to come, but the role of presiding genius has been recast.”

Instead of an Arabian viceregality that would justify the wonderful title of ‘Viceroys of the Gulf,’ or of a ‘final’ resolution of the region’s conflicts, British Imperial administration be- tween the world wars became a long and unsatisfactory interlude in which little was accomplished. Hobson remarks in Imperialism about the use of ‘masked worlds’ and an Imperial Genius for inconsistency: “Most of the men who have misled … have first been obliged to mislead themselves.” This was the case with Gertrude Bell, who committed suicide in 1926. After she and her friends departed the scene, the air went out if the balloon, and the ‘countervailing disadvantages’ of being misled became apparent to the Arabs. This little-known book is one key to heady days at Basra when the Middle East empire seemed likely.