‘The Imprisonment of Jafar Panahi’ by Tariq Ali for The London Review Blog, March 18, 2010
It’s one of those ironies of history: a by-product of the clerical revolution in Iran was the emergence of a new wave of Iranian cinema. Kiarostami became the most celebrated auteur in the west, but he was part of a much larger creative and critical community. They view each other’s work at rough-cut stage, they comment on scripts, they suggest actors: there is a strong sense of solidarity. The cinematic language is varied, the interior destiny of each filmmaker is different, but even the self-contained Makhmalbaf family benefits from being part of a larger group. Watching their work one can see the influences that stretch from Rossellini, Fellini and Godard to Kurosawa, Ray and Hou Hsia-hsien.
I’ve always regarded one of this group, Jafar Panahi, as the country’s most fearless filmmaker. The Circle revolved round the oppression of women and the religious police. Offside revealed the Iranian passion for football and the absurdity of denying women the right to watch it in the stadium (Panahi’s daughter is a football fanatic). Crimson Gold is a neo-realist masterpiece, where fragments of reality are combined to reveal an astonishing mosaic: the raw greed of the moneyed elite. The class structure in Iran is rarely mentioned and Panahi’s film (scripted by Kiarostami) was popular inside the country and DVDs circulate even in the villages.
Over two weeks ago, Iranian security forces raided his house and arrested him together with his wife and daughter. The latter were released after 48 hours, but Panahi is still in prison. read more
‘Withdrawal the solution to the mess’, and interview with Tariq Ali by Inter Press Service posted at Asia Times, September 18, 2007
Inter Press Service: Who, according to you, is the main beneficiary of the US-led “war on terror”?
Tariq Ali: Undoubtedly Iran. But then the Americans could not have occupied Afghanistan and Iraq and without Iran’s support. This is what no one likes talking about. Had the Iranians said, if you take Iraq we will fight you, the occupation probably would not have taken place. But the Iranians, who regarded the Taliban and Saddam Hussein as enemies, kept silent.
The Americans thought, because the Iranians supported them before they went in, things would be fine. But the Iranians were opportunists. They had their own agenda and defended their own state interests—just as the US defends its interests. These interests are now clashing, and so the US is threatening Iran.
IPS: Do you think that the US will now launch a war against Iran?
TA: I do not believe that the US can launch a new war on Iran because they haven’t the troops. Second, if they do that they will be fighting the Iranians on three fronts – Iraq, Afghanistan and in Iran itself. So I think it is very unlikely that a war against Iran will happen. read more
‘This high-octane rocket-rattling against Tehran is unlikely to succeed’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, May 3, 2006
Ringed by nuclear states, Iran’s atomic programme is scarcely unreasonable. So why has Washington manufactured this crisis?
Till now, what has prevented the crisis in Iraq from becoming a total debacle for the United States has been the open collaboration of the Iranian clerics. Iranian foreign policy—fragmentary and opportunist—has always been determined by the needs and interests of the clerical state rather than any principled anti-imperialist strategy. In the past, this has led to a de facto collaboration with Washington in Afghanistan and Iraq. During the Iran-Iraq war, the clerics had no hesitation in buying arms from the Israeli regime to fight Iraq, then backed by Britain and the US. In the wake of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq—hoping, no doubt, that clearing the path for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and Mullah Omar might have won them a respite—the regime took a tougher stance on the nuclear question.
The Bush administration appears to be psyching itself up for a safe strike against Iran either by itself or via the Israelis, whose new leaders have referred to the Iranian president as a psychopath and a new Hitler. Why has Washington manufactured this crisis? read more
‘Mid-Point in the Middle East?’ by Tariq Ali for New Left Review, Mar-Apr 2006
Looking down on the world from the imperial grandeur of the Oval Office in the fall of 2001, the Cheney–Bush team was confident of its ability to utilize the September events to remodel the world. The Pentagon’s Vice Admiral Cebrowski summed up the linkage of capitalism to war: ‘the dangers against which US forces must be arrayed derive precisely from countries and regions that are “disconnected” from the prevailing trends of globalization’. Five years later, what is the balance sheet?
On the credit side, Russia, China and India remain subdued, along with Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. Here, despite the attempts of Western political science departments to cover the instrumentalist twists of US policy with fig-leaf conceptualizations—‘limited democracies’, ‘tutelary democracies’, ‘illiberal democracies’, ‘inclusionary autocracies’, ‘illiberal autocracies’—the reality is that acceptance of Washington Consensus norms is the principal criterion for gaining imperial approval. In Western Europe, after a few flutters on Iraq, the EU is firmly back on side. Chirac now sounds more belligerent than Bush on the Middle East, and the German elite is desperate to appease Washington. On the debit side, the Caracas effect is spreading. Cuba’s long isolation has been broken, the Bolivian oligarchy defeated in La Paz and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has assumed a central role in mobilizing popular anti-neoliberal movements in virtually every Latin American country. read more