Iran's New Hostages
How do you feel about the American hostages in Iran?Now, I'm pretty plugged in most of the time and am rarely caught hearing news I haven't at least whiffed before. I have heard of Haleh Esfandiari, one of the hostages Steyn mentioned, but not "an American peace activist from Irvine, Ali Shakeri."
No, not the guys back in the Seventies, the ones being held right now.
What? You haven't heard about them?
Irvine is about 30 feet from my office window in Laguna Hills. Many of my clients are headquartered in Irvine. I read the OC Register and LA Times pretty regularly, although not daily any more, so I'm pretty aware of stuff relevant to Irvine.
Yet I had never heard of Ali Shakeri.
President Bush has, and has called for his release, along with the more famous Esfandiari, but the language is muted and respectful, as seen in this quote from National Security Advisor Steven Hadley:
"It does not help the environment, it does not really advance the interests of the Iranian people, and it underscores the character of this regime, and it underscores the problem we have for those people who say, 'Well, why don't you talk to Iran?' It is a good reminder at how difficult this regime is, and of the kinds of policies it's pursuing."That's hardly "return our citizens or face our wrath" stuff, and because we, like the Brits when Iran held their sailors, are not making a big deal of this latest round of Iranian thuggery, Nexis, which spans the global media, came up with just 383 hits on Shakiri. That's a very modest amount for a story of this scope, especially because Nexis always has duplicative hits and lots of near hits that are off-topic.
Nonetheless, thanks to Nexis I've got a pretty clear picture of what's going on here. First, from a June 1, 2007 OCR report:
Irvine businessman Ali Shakeri is being held at the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, State Department officials said Thursday, and likely will become the fourth Iranian-American charged with espionage.A peaceful man who believes in diplomacy, just visiting his sick mom. Contrast that with what Iran is saying about this, which I found on BBC International Monitoring via Nexis. (I can't link to it because Nexis is by subscription, and I can't find it on-line, so you'll just have to go with my pulled quotes.)
U.S. officials denied that Shakeri is a spy or is employed by the U.S. government.
"As with the other cases this is simply ridiculous," Casey said. "He has no standing with the U.S. government, he is not a U.S. government official, he is not operating or acting on behalf of the U.S. government. He is a private citizen."
Shakeri, a founding board member at UC Irvine's Center for Citizen Peacebuilding, flew to his mother's deathbed, according to family. He was supposed to leave Iran and fly to Europe on May 13 but never arrived at his destination. ...
Paula Garb, co-director of the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding, said ... Shakeri was steadfast in advocating a hands-off approach to Iran, and it's "ludicrous" to imagine he did anything to justify his detainment.
"This is a law-abiding human being who goes by the rules," Garb said. "He believes that no military or coercive actions will help U.S.-Iranian relations, but only dialogue and positive interaction. He always advocates peaceful approaches."
BBC International Monitoring is lifting here from an Iranian house organ, the student newspaper Keyhan from May 30 -- before the Shakeri story really broke in the states. This is stuff right from the mouth of the Iranian government, since Keyhan parrots the radical rhetoric of the state:
While the American media have stepped up their propaganda campaign to save the velvet agents of the soft subversion project from legal prosecution in Iran, unofficial reports indicate that another CIA agent under the name of a member of the Union of Republicans [Ettehad-e Jomhurikhahan] has been arrested in Iran as well.Wow. That contrasts rather significantly with the picture we see of Shakeri in the OCR. Given the ineptness of CIA subversion in Iran, it's safe to say Keyhan is not only over-stating the case against Shakeri, but is setting up the story to cover the torture that has no doubt already occurred.
Despite the direct confrontation of two major American newspapers (Washington Post and New York Times) with Keyhan daily's well-reasoned revelations and their claims about the scientific and research activities of Haleh Esfandiyari and Kiyan Tajbakhsh in American universities, the third person arrested in connection with this case in Iran not only has never worked as a lecturer or researcher at any university so far, but also in his interviews with the media affiliated with opposition groups has officially supported the efforts to topple the Islamic Republic system and bring a [secular] system to power in Iran.
Ali Shakeri ... used to serve as an intelligence source for SAVAK [the state intelligence and security organization under the shah's regime] in the Confederacy of Students Abroad, and he would send his reports back to SAVAK through a person named Hasan Masali. Following the victory of the Islamic Revolution, this affiliate of the shah regime's intelligence and security organization came back to Iran from the United States and joined the Marxist terrorist groups. But later on, following the successive defeats that these organizations suffered in the political arena [What political areana? The Imprisoned and Tortured Party?] and also because they had absolutely no popular support base in the country, they urged Ali Shakeri, as well as many of the self-proclaimed leaders of opposition groups, to flee the country again.
In the United States of America, Shakeri aligned himself with the conceptual camp attributed to Ahmad Madani and from there he got into the first circle of subversive elements affiliated with America's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Admiral General Madani, who was the minister of defense in Bazargan's interim government, after fleeing the country got millions of dollars from the CIA spy organization in order to establish and organize subversive opposition groups to overthrow the Islamic Republic government in Iran.
Jamshid Hashemi, a prominent CIA spy, in an interview in the mid 1370's [mid 1990's] with the anti-revolutionary weekly Nimruz Dar Landan [Midday in London] disclosed a small part of the sums that Madani had received for this purpose. Of course, the history of Madani's affiliation with the CIA, according to the documents discovered from the spy den [former US embassy in Tehran], goes back to the time before the Islamic Revolution's victory, and a biography of Ahmad Madani has also been published in the second volume of the book Hidden Half [Nime-ye Penhan] (Keyhan Publications, Shahrivar 1378) [August-September 1999].
Ali Shakeri's economic and security affiliation with the team of CIA spies was such that after the death of Ahmad Madani in Esfand 1384 [February or March 2006] he was put in charge of Madani's memorial services (!) in different states of America and he made many speeches praising this American spy and his struggles for freedom!
Shakeri's signature is seen at the bottom of many of the statements that the Zionist camp has released over the past 25 years against the Islamic Republic system of Iran.
Iran is not a nation that can handle criticism. Shakeri, by the very act of leaving Iran after the fall of the Shah, has made his criticism of the mullah regime evident, so his return to the country was a high-risk proposition. Still, he's an American aligned with the American side against Iran, and he deserves a vigorous, high visibility and global effort to secure his release.