Iranian émigré offers thoughts on homeland

By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light

Israelis aren’t the only Middle Easterners in St. Louis watching developments in the region play out with a personal dimension to the geopolitical drama.

In some ways, Dr. Bahar Bastani, an area Iranian, sounds every bit as pessimistic as his Israeli counterparts over the possibility of an attack from the Jewish State.

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“It will be a great disaster for the whole area,” said the local physician. “The whole Middle East will be in flames.”

Yet as an Iranian living here, he has a different view of the situation. He does not feel an attack by Israel or the United States on his homeland would be justified and points out that Israel has not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty itself.

“Telling another country that ‘you can’t have it while we can have it,’ doesn’t have any moral standing,” he said. “As far as nuclear weapons, I think no country in the world should have it, not Israel, the U.S, China, Pakistan, India or Iran. No country should have any possibility of using it against another country.”

Bastani is a member of the Iranian American Cultural Society of the Midwest, though he said his views reflect only his own ideas and he could not speak for the group.

He is certainly no fan of the present Iranian regime. In fact, he’s a part of the “green movement,” the pro-democracy opposition in Iran. However, he said that, should an attack from an external force take place, nearly all Iranians will fall in behind the government banner even if they have differences with its leaders.

He said an attack by the Jewish State would be a mistake.

“It will aggravate all the Muslim countries against Israel and Iranians will unite behind the leadership if there is any foreign attack with the U.S. as a proxy for Israel or by Israel directly,” he said.

He also feels Iranian dissidents will suffer should such an eventuality come to pass.

“The green movement will disappear because everyone who opposes the government will be seen as the fifth column of the enemy,” he said.

While Bastani said he doesn’t know whether to trust the Iranian government’s claims that its nuclear program is peaceful in nature, he does not believe the nation poses a danger to Israel, noting that Israel is widely believed to have a nuclear deterrent and any nuclear attack on the Jewish State would create fallout that would harm the Palestinians and surrounding Muslim nations.

“Even if they develop a nuclear weapon, it will not be a threat to Israel because Israel is such a small country surrounded by so many Arab countries,” he said.

He said that while he does not support President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he also said that he watched the Iranian leader’s controversial remarks on Israel and feels they were mistranslated. He said that the president was not threatening to destroy Israel directly but rather was quoting a prediction from someone else that a government, which pursues policies that are wrong will eventually fall like the now-defunct Soviet Union.

Bastani said he supports Israel’s right to exist in peace with its neighbors but that the nation should withdraw to the 1967 borders as part of a two-state solution.

“I strongly believe the Israeli people have right to exist the same way the Palestinians have a right to exist and the Palestinians have been unjustly dealt with by the Israeli government,” he said.