how the world sees america

September 2007 Archives

September 3, 2007 10:00 PM

A Scientist, a Father and the B-2 Bomber

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For decades Najmedin Meshkati proudly designed advanced technologies for America, including support for the B-2 stealth bomber. Now he has nightmares of this aircraft attacking his homeland, Iran. Worse still, he fears his young American son won't know or care when the aerial strike begins.

If you were casting an epic tragedy in Hollywood, you probably wouldn't pick Meshkati, a bald, soft-spoken Iranian American engineer to play the lead. But this is Irvine, not Hollywood. And Meshkati insists that if war erupts between the two nations, his life would become a "tragedy of Homeric proportions…one fit for all the ages.”

In 1976, Meshkati left Tehran for Los Angeles to pursue advanced studies. He quickly climbed departmental ranks, detailing the human capacities required to operate advanced machinery. His work contributed to civilian and military technologies -- from nuclear power plants to flight control towers to war crafts, the most notable of which was the stealth bomber.

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September 6, 2007 11:38 AM

Bush & Fakhravar: Fates Entwined

Fakhravar and Bush.

George Bush isn't talking to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But he is speaking to Iranian student dissident Amir Abbas Fakhravar. And Fakhravar's dead set on keeping it that way.

The thirty-two-year-old looks the part of a revolutionary. To embrace cliche, he has the fierce green eyes of a panther, and an eerie confidence that makes you wonder if he sees something you can't. Dressed in mesh shorts and a T-shirt, he ushers me into his bare D.C. apartment late one night. There's a desk flooded with papers in one corner. On the wall hang a pre-revolutionary Iranian flag and a cowboy hat.

The flag is for Iran's past and future, he says, and the cowboy hat is for his greatest hero: George Bush. "Bush and I were both born on July 6, within the same hour" he says. And because of this cosmic occurrence, "[we] are both hard line, passionate people" who want to rapidly, unabashedly change the world. But far more than a birthday and a cowboy ethos bonds the two men.

His favorite hat.

Last year Bush's neo-conservative confidant, Richard Perle, former head of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee who advocated invading Iraq, helped Fakhravar flee Iran's jails for the U.S. Once in D.C., Fakhravar found more allies in the White House who supported an aggressive stance toward Iran. He made the rounds, speaking out at senate hearings, democracy conferences and conservative think tanks. This led some Iranians, including student dissidents like Kouroush Sahati, to ask: is this really fate or just opportunism?

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September 11, 2007 12:00 PM

7-Eleven on 9/11

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Ali Khan grew up watching America from behind a 7-Eleven counter. Though his family is from Pakistan, Ali never questioned his “American-ness,” until 9/11.

Drinking Gatorade and listening to Tupac, we zip down the Hempstead Turnpike in Long Island, New York toward his 7-Eleven.

As a teenager, Ali felt at home here, slushing slurpies while listening to customers’ stories. There was the corpulent banker hooked on beer, the rebel hooligans with nerdy aspirations, and the two married men who met at 2 a.m. on Wednesday nights for surreptitious sex. Ali kept their secrets safe.

Outside work, Ali worked out, raced cars and chased girls. He saved up to supe up an old Mustang, which he took out on the drag circuit. Italian American racers affectionately dubbed him “Guido Ali”. At night “Guido Ali” found lust, dating a “smoking” Puerto Rican waitress who worked at the local “Hooters .” She dubbed him her “Amor Ali.”

Then one morning the New York skyline sparked and filled with black smoke. A day of numbness followed before “fear, sadness and anger” settled in: Fear of more; sadness for friends who lost loves; and “anger that someone had done this" and his life might change because of it.

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September 17, 2007 12:30 PM

U.S. Engage or Isolate Iran?

No Thank You, Say Iranian Americans

Flying home from Los Angeles, I work to fit together the pieces of my visit with Iranian Americans there. It's more complicated than I expected. There are some constants: Everyone I spoke to wanted the current theocracy in Iran to loosen up on its own people and open up to the world, including America. At the same time, they opposed war vehemently, saying it'd be catastrophic for both nations.

The agreement ends there and a passionate debate begins over how to change (or reform) the Iranian regime short of war. Put simply, should America isolate or engage Iran? Different viewpoints split demographics, and even families. "Put three Iranians in a room and get five political parties in an hour," quips PostGlobal panelist Ali Ettefagh. Here's my glimpse in the parlor room.

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September 21, 2007 11:58 AM

Part II Plans, and DC Drinks

It’s time.

Hamidiye Souk in Damascus

We're moving again. First to Syria. That much I know. Then, perhaps: From Damascus north by car (past a burning nuclear site?), to talk to Kurdish communities. Then onward by road to Istanbul, Turkey.

Next, board a plane headed to Jakarta, Indonesia. Island hop, and then move to the Philippines. Venture south for separatists.

After that, take the long flight to Colombia. Travel past FARC-infested forests to Medellin and then move swiftly up to Mexico. Up, up again to the border with good ol' Texas. Linger there, then cut across it, and drive back to D.C., returning home soon after New Year's. 100 more days.

That’s the preliminary plan. It'll unfold organically, as they say.

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PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send your comments, questions and suggestions for PostGlobal to Lauren Keane, its editor and producer.