Coming Soon! Levant Report Books

COMING SOON: The Roots of American-Iranian Animosity

File:Diolafoi Haj Kazem.jpgLEVANT REPORT is pleased to announce Erick Alvarez’s new book project on Iran and the roots of conflict with the West. As LR readers know, the current Syria conflict can be understood as the attempt of external powers, especially the U.S.-Arab Gulf state alliance, to wage proxy war with Iran. It is further clear that the drumbeat for war with Iran has sounded loudly in mainstream media every few months – this a reality going back to the 1990′s and before. Mr. Alvarez hopes his book project will provide the necessary historical and cultural context needed for Americans to see through the plans of the War Party in Washington. Let’s call it “grassroots foreign policy”: you can understand the Middle East, enough to see through what Noam Chomsky calls the “necessary illusions” put in place by the hawkish Washington elites.

ERICK ALVAREZ is a native of El Salvador, but since the 80′s has made Texas his home. He is an educator that has taught at several Dallas-Fort Worth area and East Texas institutions, and has guest lectured in university classrooms on American foreign policy in Central America. Over the past decade he has lived for short periods in Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Greece, and Russia. To learn more about Erick, see him interviewed by a local Texas paper, the Jacksonville Daily Progress, on American patterns of intervention in El Salvador and the Middle East.

Expected release is Summer 2014. Read the following excerpt from CHAPTER 1:

(Copyright © 2014, Erick Alvarez. All Rights Reserved.)

Once you understand what people want, you can’t hate them anymore. You can fear them, but you can’t hate them, because you can find the same desires in your own heart.

– Andrew Wiggin in the novel Speaker for the Dead

When we Americans hear the word Iran, many of us have a sort of knee-jerk visceral reaction. The very mention of the word conjures up frightful images of be-turbaned bearded imams leading mobs of Kalashnikov-carrying Muslim men and women whose faces are grotesquely contorted by intense anger as they enthusiastically wave banners bearing squiggly lines, no doubt saying, “Death to America”. Such specters are no frightful flights of fantasy, but reflect a real time and place in Iranian history. The year was 1979 and the place was Tehran.

The Iranian people are the descendants of mighty rulers and a great people that civilized the desert of what was was known to the rest of the world as Persia, and to us in our day Iran. The ruins of Persepolis harken back several millennia to the days of the great Persian kings Cyrus, Xerxes, and Darius who in the magnificent Hall of Audience received the tributes of the various and sundry nations they conquered: the Elamites, Arachosians, Armenians, Ethiopians, Thracians, Ionians, Arabs, Assyrians, and Indians. They constituted an empire in every sense of the word, dominating some of the richest lands from Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean through Turkey in Asia Minor, northward to Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Libya and then to as far East as the Indus river, engulfing the Caucasus along the way. In so doing, they spread their knowledge of science, poetry, painting, architecture, and their Zoroastrian faith to the ends of the world. This faith ingrained in them the idea that it is the responsibility of everyone, rich and poor, young and old, to strive to attain and establish justice here in this world in much the same way that the Hebrews sought it through their Torah and the Buddhists through their Tao. The Persians were among those first great civilizations that turned men’s faces to the heavens and the stars, challenging them to find meaning and purpose in a world replete with suffering and misery and to prepare their hearts, minds, and souls for the judgment that awaited them upon departing this life. Rulers, great and powerful though they be, were not exempt from this the common lot of man and thus were expected to rule justly guided by the light of their revealed religion. When they failed to do so, their subjects had the right to rise up and overthrow them. In this they were not exceptional. The Jews were not averse to deposing their kings, nor was the Buddha, himself, ashamed or afraid to defy the laws of his monarch. This is pattern that repeated itself time and time again through the long history of the Persians.

These conceptions of justice and of the duties of rulers remained a constant in the lives of the Persians, even after Darius and his empire fell and were absorbed by Alexander the Great in his empire in 334 BC. By assimilating and reshaping the culture of their conquers to fit their Zoroastrian faith, they continued to flourish, so much so that by the third century AD they had gained enough strength to lay siege to and conquer Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria, only to be repelled by the Byzantines at the walls of Constantinople in 626 AD. The death blow, however, came not at the hands of the Byzantine Christians, but by the invading Arabs who in the name of their leader and prophet, Mohammed, devastatingly defeated the morally impoverished Sasanian rulers, thus marking the end of the pre-Islamic dynasties in Persia. Having been forcibly converted, the Persians set out to assimilate and reshape Islam, in much the same way they had done with the Greeks almost 1,000 years earlier, the result of which was a form of Islam different from the one their conquers had intended for them to accept, much to their consternation. Out of the martyrdoms of Ali and Hussein, relatives of Mohammed and rightful heirs to the caliphate, so they believed, was born Shia Islam. Thus, to their beliefs of justice and righteousness, were added the desire to cling dearly to those beliefs even to the point of death. Far from being a distinctive characteristic of the Shia Persians, the acceptance of martyrdom in the service of protecting the purity of one’s soul and faith, or of the justness of one’s cause, is found among the world’s great religions and belief systems. The Maccabean’s come to mind, as does St. John the Baptist, or the Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc who set himself on fire in protest to the persecution of Buddhists in Vietnam in the 1960s.

For the next eight centuries the Persians endured, survived, and prospered even against the backdrop of the brutal rampages of the Seljuk Turks and the savage invasions of Genghis Khan’s hordes. Throughout those years, Iranians made great strides in music, poetry, architecture, and philosophy by sending their most learned to academic centers throughout Europe where they discovered Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Archimedes, and Ptolemy. In 1501 the militant Shiite, Ismail ushered in the fruitful, albeit repressive, Safavid dynasty that lasted until 1722, when Abbas Shah, the greatest and last of the Safavid kings died. Abas Shah was a great builder of roads and cities, and an indefatigable promoter or industry and trades throughout his empire. In the chaos that followed his death, Iran experienced foreign invasions and violent internal struggles for power for the next 75 years. By the end of the century, the Qajar’s, led by Agha Muhammad Khan, wrested power away from the other competing factions and once again united the country. The Qajars were weak and greedy monarchs who were all too ready to hand over their country’s riches to the country, usually Britain or Russia, that had the deepest pockets with little regard for the well-being of their subjects. These corrupt rulers, more than any other internal factor, set the stage for the violent struggle the Iranians waged for freedom, democracy, and national sovereignty throughout the first half of the 20th century.

Nasser ud-Din Shah was one the first of the Qajar monarchs that the Russians and British intimidated, flattered, and bought. By 1872, ud-Din had virtually depleted the money he had stolen from his subjects through oppressive taxation and illegal seizures of property, so much so, that he could no longer afford his decadent and luxurious life style. To raise cash quickly, that year, Nasser ud-Din made a secret deal with the British through Baron Julius de Curzon whereby, for a paltry sum, the British were granted the exclusive right to operate and manage Iran’s vast irrigation system, mine its minerals, lay its railroads, manage its banks, and print its money. With unimaginable glee, Lord Curzon wrote that his deal with Iran was “the most complete and extraordinary surrender of the entire industrial resources of a kingdom into foreign hands that has probably ever been dreamt of, much less accomplished in history.” The concession had the predictable outcome of outraging the Iranians…

Excerpted material is copyrighted. Copyright © 2014, Erick Alvarez. All Rights Reserved.

For updates on this book project, check back to this page.

To support this project, or for inquiries, please email Erick Alvarez at the following:


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