United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Robin Wright's Blog

“Madam Secretary” and the Real Iran Deal

 
In a new article for The New Yorker, Robin Wright reports that officials involved in nuclear talks say that diplomacy is further along than was indicated by the so-called blueprint for a deal, which was announced in Lausanne on April 2. “What is more striking, after eighteen months of negotiations, is the changing climate, whether in popular culture, public opinion, or diplomacy,” according to Wright. “In the case of ‘Madam Secretary,’ an American TV drama dared to build a whole season around rapprochement with Iran.”
 

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The Test in Tikrit

Robin Wright (for The New Yorker)

“Victory [in Tikrit] will not be decided on the battlefield. More important to the ultimate success of the campaign will be how Baghdad proceeds politically in Saddam’s home town—both in creating a climate where the Sunnis will not feel defeated and in using Tikrit as a model for more inclusive and tolerant rule of Iraq’s diverse communities.”
 
Click here to read the full article in The New Yorker.
 

Iran's Dinner Diplomacy

Robin Wright (for The New Yorker)

           Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, did not shake hands with Barack Obama at the United Nations this week, a year after their celebrated cell-phone chat. The two men didn’t even pass each other in the hallway. But Rouhani did give a quiet dinner at his hotel on Tuesday for twenty former American officials—including a secretary of state, three national-security advisers, and a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—from all six Administrations since the 1979 revolution.

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Iran's Dissidents, Released But Not Freed

Robin Wright
(Excerpt from The New Yorker)

            Rouhani’s victory, an upset, spawned great expectations of change. A pragmatic centrist, he campaigned on the promise of “hope and prudence.” After the election, in a series of speeches and tweets, he pledged new freedoms and challenged past practices, including censorship. His quasi-official account tweeted, “Web filtering unable to produce results. Which important piece of news has #filtering been able to black out in recent years.” Rouhani was particularly tough on the country’s state-controlled television, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (I.R.I.B.):

            Over the past year, though, Rouhani has conspicuously failed to uphold his promise.

Click here for the full article in The New Yorker.

 

Singing Amy Winehouse in Tehran

Robin Wright (for The New Yorker)

      For decades, both before and after his 1979 revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini railed against “Westoxication”—the poisoning of Iran’s Islamic society by Western culture. The new theocracy banned everything from music and dancing to modern art. Tehran’s National Museum of Contemporary Art crated away Picassos, Pollocks, Warhols, and Mirós worth billions. Even chess, a game with local roots, was banned. The Islamic Republic has been consumed ever since with its own clash of cultures.

            But female singers still face the toughest taboos. “Women’s voices should not be heard by men other than members of their own families,” Khomeini decreed. But when I was in Tehran, the fat woman literally sang in Iran—and Western pop songs, no less. To cheers and whistles in Tehran’s elegant opera house, Ghazal Shakeri belted out “Back to Black,” a provocative Amy Winehouse song. The lyrics had to be modified, but only a bit. Instead of “kept his dick with,” Shakeri sang “kept his lips with.” The performance was one of a dozen Western numbers incorporated into “The Last Days of Esfand,” an Iranian musical about a female psychiatrist treating a troubled young criminal. The two leads, Shakeri and a man named Ashkan Khatibi, sang several duets, including Abba’s rousing “The Winner Takes It All,” a poignant version of “Autumn Leaves,” and a spirited “Those Were the Days, My Friend,” which includes lines about raising “a glass or two” and singing and dancing forever. They were accompanied by three female backup singers (left).

Click here for the full article in The New Yorker.
 

Photo credit: Robin Wright

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