Saleri, the taxi-driver with a stubby beard, drove me on the long length of Imam Khomeini Boulevard to the Indian Consulate in Bandar Abbas. The section of the road outside the army cantonment displayed paintings of Iranian soldiers hailing from the region and martyred in the Iran-Iraq War fought between 1980-88.
“Are Iran and Iraq still dushman, enemies?” I asked Saleri.
“No. Dushmani finished.” Enmity is over.
“Was Saddam Hussein dushman or dost, friend,” I inquired.
“Saddam dushman,” he replied, with an air of certainty.
On the issue of Saddam, US and Iran seemed to be on the same side.
Saddam Was First Prodded, Later Destroyed By US
Later that evening I made this observation to a professor from Hormozgan University who had studied at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
“Ha! US and Saddam were hand-in-glove. It was the US that asked Saddam to needle us after the people, under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini, booted out the American puppet, the Shah of Iran. The new government, the people’s government, nationalised American oil companies that had been sucking our blood. So, America ganged up with Saddam and prodded him to attack Iran.”
He continued, “They armed Iraq, supplied them with chemical and biological weapons. The weapons of mass destruction that Bush was talking about were the very same chemical weapons supplied to Saddam by US factories in Detroit. One million Iranian youth perished in the Imposed War. Again, it was America that provoked Saddam to attack Kuwait”.
He was not willing to give up, “It was a set up. Saddam was framed. America used the Iraqi invasion as a pretext for gaining a military presence in the Gulf. First, they made the Gulf countries pay for the US war effort. Then, they established military bases in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait to ‘protect’ these countries from future attacks by Saddam, the big bad wolf.”
‘Naughty Sites on My Computer Are There Because of America’
On another evening, a geology professor at Isfahan University invited me to his house for dinner. While he discussed faults and earthquakes with my associates, I retired to his study to check my mail on his computer. The professor walked in to help me log on. As the server was slow, it took a long time to connect. When it finally did connect, a big red and white ad filled the screen, saying: “ARE YOU LOOKING FOR SEX?”
The professor, panic-stricken, lunged for the mouse and cleared the screen. “It... it…it... is the um... um... Umericans…” he stuttered. “They have bugged my computer. They are doing this all the time.” The breadth of the professor’s front against Americans was remarkable. “They have tapped my computer. My reports, my original research papers that I have written on this machine have been stolen by them and published in America before I could publish them here”. The abashed professor’s temper was now spiraling out of control and he vigorously denied ever visiting such naughty sites. “I never go to such sites. They have done this to embarrass me. To damage my reputation.” His son, hearing his father so rattled, walked into the room.
Upon hearing what the Americans had done, the supportive son grumbled that this was the “latest development in America’s crusade against Iran”. Pointing at me, the professor told his son: “Tell him! Tell him how the CIA made my hard disc crash – thrice!”
“Yes! Thrice!” echoed the son.
Anxious to check my mail before the connection snapped again, I sympathized with his protestations and outrage and reassured him that all his allegations were perfectly credible.
‘US is Terrorist No 1’
On my way to Tabriz, in northern Iran, I drove through the notorious Valley of Assassins, the operational base of a medieval cloak-and-dagger religious sect that specialised in political murder between the 11th and 13th centuries. The Iran-based Hashshashins, the Assassins of Alamut, was probably the first terrorist organisation. Their pockets lined by the long-term looting, the Hashshashin leaders reformed themselves, by and by, and took to serving mankind.
The sect continues till this day in the form of Ismailiyas or Boras, with about 20 million followers. Their headman is the celebrated Aga Khan, God's viceregent on Earth. The pivotal work undertaken by the Hashshashins in the field of political murder led to the formation of other lethal organisations that have followed their tradition not only in the Middle East but also in other parts of the world.
Hitler’s SS, America’s CIA, Russia’s KGB, Palestine’s Fatah and Hamas, Israel’s Mossad and Iran’s Savak showed great zeal in fomenting terror and terminating prickly leaders in the 20th century. Al-Qaeda and IS were the rising stars of the 21st century. However, these days, Iranians consider Uncle Sam as Terrorist No.1.
‘America is Going to Invade Us’
The US-educated Dean of Sciences at the Tabriz University was a worried man. His office had been bombed during the war in an Iraqi air attack barely ten minutes after he had left the room. He was having sleepless nights again. “America is using Iran’s nuclear ambitions as a pretext to conquer Iran. After Iraq, they are now after our oil. The American government doesn’t care about anybody but its own interests. Their people also don’t care what their government is doing outside their country as long as they get their paychecks, material comfort and cheap gas.”
He also displayed a great deal of enthusiasm elaborating on America’s strategic planning. “Now the American forces have us surrounded. Their navy is in the Persian Gulf. They have a base in Bahrain and units in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Turkey. In Central Asia they have several bases. And hundreds of thousands of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pakistan is their puppet state. They will surely invade us. It is only a matter of time,” he said.
Before the professor’s fears could be realised, I left Tabriz. Crossing into Turkey from the Bazargun border, I entered Southeastern Anatolia - the world of rebellious Kurds.
(Akhil Bakshi is the author of Arctic to Antarctic: A Journey Across the Americas. This is This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)