Shaul Bakhash, Clarence Robinson Professor of History, George Mason University, Brookings Institution senior fellow and husband of U.S. Middle East analyst Haleh Esfandiari, will be online Thursday, May 24, at 12:15 p.m. ET to discuss his wife's detainment by Iranian intelligence for "crimes against national security" and personal and worldwide reaction to the situation.
I would also like to point out that the WaPo reporter Robin Wright has been doing an amazing job keeping this scholar's plight in the news. She just reported that Kian Tajbakhsh - another Iranian-American scholar - has been detained in Tehran.
Thanks for keeping this topic alive at your site and providing links to updates and related cases. As I've looked around at commentary and responses appearing at other sites, a couple of things struck me. One commentary concluded that it is foolish for American citizens to travel to countries where they have been officially warned not to go, and then rely on government action and public outcries to bail them out when they're trapped like Dr. Esfandiari. As Shaul Bakhash pointed out in his interview, they did not perceive this possible threat or she would not have gone. Well, they were mistaken, but I hope it isn't foolish to count on our officials and the public to apply whatever means are at their disposal to work for her release, or of any other person where the case is so clearcut. Which brings me to another observation, which is that inevitably some will raise the issue of all the other cases of illegally incarcerated people all over the world, chastising us for caring only about this one individual belonging to a special group (in this case an academic). In fact it is a reasonable issue to bring up, but the implication that everyone interested in Haleh Esfandiari must by default care ONLY about her is, I am confident, a grievous overgeneralization. One has only to go to a site like Amnesty International (or to any number of blog-sites like this one) to get a broader perspective on the detained and the disappeared, to say the least. I think the right attitude is to be neither complacent nor cowed by guilt when taking any step in the right direction. With best wishes
About Robin Wright's article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/22/AR2007052201406.html?nav=emailpage I think this is true: Analysts suggested that the new tensions may be related to talks Monday in Baghdad between U.S. and Iranian diplomats on Iraq's future. "There is a clique of powerful officials who have entrenched financial and political interests in Iran's status quo isolation and don't want to see any improvement in the U.S.-Iran relationship," said Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. But that is deeply counterproductive and plays right into the hands of those factions in the government that want to block dialogue between the US and Iran: Meanwhile, the House introduced a bipartisan resolution yesterday demanding that Iran free Esfandiari. It was co-sponsored by Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D), Elijah E. Cummings (D) and Wayne T. Gilchrest (R), all of Maryland, along with Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and Gary L. Ackerman (D-N.Y.). And Zalman, I agree that groups like Amnesty International care about more than Haleh Esfandiari, but given that she has a relationship with Washington, don't you think it's interesting that Congress has passed a resolution about her? Who else have they done that for? Anyone being held in countries that are political allies of the US government. I don't think it's right that's she's been arrested and the spate of arrests is worrying in general. But I think we need to keep in mind the general context of up coming talks (and the power struggles in the US government), as well as the generally hostile policy of the US towards Iran. Witness the show of force in the Gulf and the continuous attempts to undermine Iranian sovereignty across all its borders. Any action taken for Haleh and other scholars must be taken with this in mind so as to not aid the designs of reactionary forces in Iran and the US.
Maggot: I agree with you on every point. We should always have in mind the overall political context whenever we look at these cases. On the other hand, I always hope the wider implications won't prevent us from doing the right thing for the individuals involved. In any case, we obviously have to do a lot more than sign petitions; certainly as citizens we have to act wherever we can to move our politicians from both sides toward active dialog and viable political solutions.