David Barsamian examination of Iranian politics gives a few other sides to the story
Iran is home to an intricate society informed by a history of intense political turmoil, from the U.S.-backed 1979 revolution against the Shah of Iran to the present-day war of words between the current U.S. administration and Iran’s Islamic government.
Targeting Iran, a recently published book by journalist and author David Barsamian, offers critical insight into Iranian society and the geo-political battles being fought over the country’s growing military power.
As the host of the widely broadcast program Alternative Radio, David Barsamian has conducted some fascinating interviews on Iran, collected in this book, including with professor Noam Chomsky, Iranian historian Ervand Abrahamian and Nahid Mozaffari, editor of the internationally known PEN Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature.
Presenting reflections by these three important minds in interview form, Targeting Iran covers a wide spectrum of Iran’s political history, from the 1953 U.S.-backed coup d’état against the democratically elected progressive Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq to the rise of the current Islamic state. Interestingly, they also consider the role of poetry and literature within contemporary Iranian society.
Barsamian provides historical insight often removed from the mainstream media coverage surrounding Iran and historical perspectives that provide for a deeper understanding toward contemporary Iran.
After being elected in 1951, Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq, a nationalist and a politician highly opposed to outside intervention in Iran, moved to nationalize Iran’s oil assets under the National Iranian Oil Company. As outlined in Targeting Iran, this critical decision created political protest in Britain and within the U.S., as previously the majority of Iran’s petroleum had been under the control of the British based Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), today known as British Petroleum (BP).
The resulting 1953 U.S.-backed coup d’état isn’t widely highlighted within mainstream media coverage on Iran today, but it’s contextualized within Targeting Iran as a critical historical moment that built toward the 1979 revolution, which then led to the contemporary Islamic government.
Iran’s revolution in 1979 is addressed in a uniquely fair way within the book, with political tones similar to Persepolis, the now internationally famed graphic novel-tuned-animated feature film by Iranian comic artist Marjane Satrapi.
The revolution is examined through literature in the interview with Mozaffari, who explains that the events surrounding the 1979 revolution and the post-revolution power struggle between communist and Islamic forces led to an explosion of contemporary Iranian literature both within Iran and throughout the international Iranian diaspora.
As a strict interpretation of Islamic rule was imposed on Iran, with as a backdrop the bloody Iran-Iraq war that dominated the 1980s, Iranian authors turned to poetic symbolism to critique the government or talk of love, all in an effort to circumvent post-revolution censorship laws. Through poetic verses, Iranian authors continue to play a critical role in formulating a new ground for contemporary dissent.
Targeting Iran is a fascinating read because it addresses contemporary politics in Iran with the subtle complexities that aren’t found in mainstream political discourse. The book is perhaps a call for a meaningful exchange with contemporary Iranian society and culture.