Understanding the Iranians

President Barack Obama proudly informed us that he had a phone call with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani yesterday. It seems as if the two are becoming friendly. An earlier attempt of quoting Iranian poet Sa’adi (d. 1291 or 1292) in a Nowruz address in 2010 in order to win hearts and minds of the Iranian people (“The Children of Adam”) has more or less failed. Iranians have read the President of Words’ real face earlier than most of us. Relentless sanctions have destroyed Iran’s economy, and it seems so as if they ultimately bring them back to the negotiation table. (In that regard it is revealing to have another look at Obama’s Nowruz address of 2012 when he castigates the Iranian government’s monitoring and filtering of the internet. Knowing about the NSA surveillance scandal in 2013, Obama’s concerns and self-righteousness have got a stale aftertaste.)

The telephone call between Obama and Rouhani is considered historical by many after 34 years of cold war between the two countries. Reportedly, Rouhani concluded the call by telling Obama, “have a nice day.”

I am afraid Obama needs to attend a crash course in understanding the Iranians. I had immediately American-Iranian Hooman Majd in mind who explained the Iranian soul a couple of years ago in his bestseller “The Ayatollah Begs to Differ”. What is most pertinent is ta’arouf, haqq, and taqiyeh.

Amiableness is usually exaggerated. It’s ta’arouf. It must not be regarded personally nor honest.

Haqq is the Iranian’s obsession with their “rights”. Of course, they have the right to enrich uranium, even for whatsoever. Deep in any Iranian soul is hidden that they have always been treated unjust and deprived of their fundamental rights. But that they will prevail anyway. It originates, of course, from the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson and third Shi’a Imam Husayn in Kerbala in 680 CE. And not least in the long history of a country which never conquered but had been conquered so often, beginning with Alexander, the Arabs, the Seljuqs, the Mongolians, Timur’s hordes, and, lately, humiliated by the British and the Great Satan, the Americans (did I forget someone?). But fortunately, due to the righteousness of the Iranian people, all had eventually been or will be Persianized.

In order not to be unlawfully killed (remember, all but one of the twelve Imams had been assassinated), Shi’ite Iranians had adopted taqiyeh, or dissimulating their faith to ultimately assure survival, as a religious duty.

So, Obama should expect the new negotiation team which world powers P5+1 will encounter in Geneva in mid-October will practice taqiyeh at its best. Talks about the Iranian nuclear program will be lengthy and full of ta’arouf while the Iranian delegation will thump their haqq.

As it was before.

28 September 2013 @ 3:40 pm.

Last modified September 28, 2013.

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