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Harper Cares About Photo-Ops, Not Iranian Issues

09/26/2012 12:15 EDT | Updated 11/25/2012 05:12 EST

Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a couple other conservative ministers thought it prudent to invite a group of Iranian-Canadians to Ottawa as a way of proving how cozy and cordial relations actually are between Iranian-Canadians and the federal government.

The meeting, which happened soon after the forced closure of the Iranian embassy in the Canadian capital, was also an attempt to showcase how Iranian-Canadians were overwhelmingly in support of the draconian move. For Harper, the meeting could not have gone more smoothly.

Activist Nazanin Afshin-Jam, one of the Iranian-Canadians present, gave the PM precisely what he wanted: "Within our different circles we had come to the conclusion that the vast majority of Iranian-Canadians were very pleased with this decision."

Of course, when you have someone who uses one of the most elementary forms of logic (there are more logical sequences to choose from in a two-storey building elevator -- at least there is an emergency button!) to say things such as the following: "I am pleased that the government consistently differentiates regime officials in power versus freedom-loving Iranians," one cannot ask of much more from these "circles" or their representatives. However, this tendency to insult (through omission and neglect) complexity and nuance is what registers most effectively with the public.

In an attempt to bypass the notion that they are completely beholden to Conservative opinion, one of the delegates, York University professor Farrokh Zandi, stated that the invited guests -- which we, as Iranian-Canadians, personally hoisted onto our shoulders as examples of the most erudite and discerning members of our community, those who should be fed our praises like grapes from the vine -- brought up the difficulties faced by some members of the community as of late, such as disrupted consular services and TD Bank's recent decision to close the bank accounts of several Iranian-Canadians.

What is truly heartbreaking is that even though both parties walked away with more than minimal degrees of contentedness, there was something still wanting. It is said that "although the meeting did not yield any definite answers" for the delegates, Zandi was satisfied with how the discussion unfolded. The truth of the matter is that these types of personalities (those who harbour ill-will towards any semblance of what must be called infinite thought) will never get their definite answers from Harper, so let me dish it out straight away. Harper's invitation was spurred by the realist demand for a photo-op, which in turn was to quell any notion that the PM could care less about the repercussions of the state's draconian measures on Iranian-Canadian opinion.

Either misguided due to their lack of thinking or truly due to their sycophancy, the delegates, along with their ideological cohorts, reflect, in their conduct and rhetoric, those who were so very close to turning Iran into a British mandate in the early 1900s -- the opportunistic anglophiles that were reviled by so many Iranians.

In 1907, Russia and Britain devised a convention that carved Iran into three zones. The north was occupied by Tsarist forces, the south by the British and the markaz (or middle zone that included the capital) was considered neutral territory. Like a trash compactor, these spheres pressed against the royal palace of Ahmad Shah (1898-1930) -- the last monarch of the much tormented (mostly self-induced) Qajar dynasty (1785-1925) -- to such a great extent that he had to request a formal pardon for scratching his nose.

When one of the major things that kept Iran from becoming a colony was the antagonism between the two competing powers (and not the so-called determination of the Iranian nation), one must ask oneself "how could anyone sugar coat this instance of near unadulterated domination? What Iranian in their right mind would subject themselves to such beguilement?" Apparently, quite a few.

In the preface to the 1907 Convention, it is stated that "The Shah's government will be convinced that the Agreement ... can not fail to promote prosperity, security and interior development of Persia [Iran] in the most efficacious manner." How is this in any way structurally different from the press release (of the meeting) that Afshin-Jam so proudly displays on her web page: "The Prime Minister expressed his deep concern with the actions of the Iranian regime and stated that he stands with the Iranian people, who seek democracy."

Of course Harper is going to say such a thing and try to fit the embassy closure into this normative pretext. Was it not Lord Edward Grey (1862-1933) who, in 1912, said in the British House of Commons that Iran was now "more independent because of the [1907] Convention?" Unfortunately, if you talk of history with the delegates, they might playfully trip over cuneiform engravings in their attempts to recount matters.

After the October Revolution of 1917 and the withdrawal of Tsarist forces from northern Iran, Britain -- in the form of Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon (1859-1925) -- sought to tighten its grip over the country by routing Bolshevik sympathizers and insurgents from the north and turning the country into a virtual mandate under the Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919.

Although it resembled its 1907 predecessor in terms of the number of subterfuges used to direct focus away from its oppressive basis, the 1919 Agreement went a step further by heavily utilizing trustworthy Iranian anglophiles to implement it. Either through self-deception or lies, Iranian statesmen such as Vosouq al-Dowleh (1868-1951), Akbar Mas'oud (1885-1975) and Firouz Firouz (1889-1938) (especially Vosouq) pushed forward the extra-parliamentary acceptance of the Agreement under the pretext that they were acting for the sake of the nation. However, circumstantial evidence points us in the direction of treachery.

When Afshin-Jam and the other delegates who met with the PM state that they are toiling for the sake of Iranian freedom, they seldom want observers to remember historical parallels. It is time for these activists to be exposed for who they are -- expendable sycophants waiting for definite answers from someone who will never be willing to provide them.