Feiler Faster

America is at war with itself over Iran, or at least the Administration is. Over the weekend, I saw multiple reports about infighting in the U.S. government between the bomb-them-now hardliners under Dick Cheney and the talk-to-them-and-wait moderates under Rice. Part of this might be mere spin to make the Administration is good, but the Telegraph reports today that the hardliners are prevailing.

Pentagon planners have developed a list of up to 2,000 bombing targets in Iran, amid growing fears among serving officers that diplomatic efforts to slow Iran’s nuclear weapons programme are doomed to fail.
Pentagon and CIA officers say they believe that the White House has begun a carefully calibrated programme of escalation that could lead to a military showdown with Iran.
Now it has emerged that Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, who has been pushing for a diplomatic solution, is prepared to settle her differences with Vice-President Dick Cheney and sanction military action.
In a chilling scenario of how war might come, a senior intelligence officer warned that public denunciation of Iranian meddling in Iraq – arming and training militants – would lead to cross border raids on Iranian training camps and bomb factories.

But just as many signs that I am picking up show that the internal debate within Iran is still going strong, meaning the moderates have hardly been cowed by the heavy breating of the hardliners in the government. I got an email over the weekend from an interfaith NGO in Tehran that I frankly thought would have shuttered its doors if the crackdown was as bad as is sometimes advertised. One thing that group did was host a conference on the Holocaust in Iran a few years ago. That’s right: A conference on the Holocaust in Iran.
Sounds implausible, doesn’t it. Guess again. The newest television rage in the country is a show that’s being called “Iran’s Schindler’s List,” about an Iranian who helped smuggled Jews to safety during World War Two.

It is Iran’s version of “Schindler’s List,” a miniseries that tells the tale of an Iranian diplomat in Paris who helps Jews escape the Holocaust _ and viewers across the country are riveted.
That’s surprising enough in a country where hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has questioned whether the Holocaust even took place. What’s more surprising is that government media produced the series, and is airing it on state-run television.
The Holocaust is rarely mentioned in state media in Iran, school textbooks don’t discuss it and Iranians have little information about it.
Yet the series titled “Zero Degree Turn” is clearly sympathetic to the Jews’ plight during World War II. It shows men, women and children with yellow stars on their clothes being taken forcibly out of their homes and loaded into trucks by Nazi soldiers.
“Where are they taking them?” the horrified hero, a young Iranian diplomat who works at the Iranian Embassy in Paris, asks someone in a crowd of onlookers.
“The Fascists are taking the Jews to the concentration camps,” the man says. The hero, named Habib Parsa, then begins giving Iranian passports to Jews to allow them to flee occupied France to then-Palestine.
Though the Habib character is fictional, it is based on a true story of diplomats in the Iranian Embassy in Paris in the 1940s who gave out about 500 Iranian passports for Jews to use to escape.
The show’s appearance now may reflect an attempt by Iran’s leadership to moderate its image as anti-Semitic and to underline a distinction that Iranian officials often make _ that their conflict is with Israel, not with the Jewish people.

Please don’t look only at the hysteria coming out of the country’s newest, short-term regime. I’m not saying ignore it, but I am saying that Iran is a large, complex place, with many competing factions. And it’s also a place with keen strategic interests. One of those strategic interests — containing the Arab states — may, in the long run, compell it into a strategic alliance with Israel, an idea that was first outline to me in, yup, Tehran, perhaps in one of the several hundred sites that the United States has targeted to bomb.

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