It’s always an honor and a privilege, for me, to visit Iran. This time, I was part of a small group of foreign journalists/analysts graciously invited by the Majlis for the 6th International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada.
In his opening speech, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei correctly stressed, “the existing crises in every part of the region and the Islamic ummah deserve attention”, while tasked reinforcing the key political drama for the Muslim world is the non-resolution of the Palestinian tragedy.
The Wahhabi House of Saud was nowhere to be seen in Tehran. For quite a while, informed Arab observers have pointed out that Iran, gradually, has evolved into an enlightened – albeit far from perfect – Dar-al-Hikma (house of wisdom) whereas the Wahhabi House of Saud and its satellites remain trapped in a centuries-old quagmire of Ahl-al-Jahiliyya (community of the ignorant).
The Supreme Leader’s call to foster Muslim unity was more than necessary. Few in the West know that during the 1940s and 50s, as decolonization proceeded apace, Islam was not trespassed by vicious Sunni-Shi’ite hatred – later fomented, from Northern Africa to Central Asia, by the Wahhabi/Salafi-jihadi axis.
In Tehran, I was part of hefty discussions revolving on the efficacy of multilateral talking when compared to the harsh, advancing facts on the ground – ranging from the building of new settlements in the West Bank to the now all but dead and buried Oslo two-state myth.
Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker Nabi Berri has offered a gloomy but extremely realistic assessment of the three solutions currently available for Palestine; suicide; giving in; or running away from what’s left of Palestinian land. It’s also fair to assess that Palestinians will always resist any of these options.
And yet, facts on the ground realistically point to the absolute impossibility of a two-state solution. What’s left, in the case of a one-state solution, would be a de facto apartheid state which could not possibly be accepted even by that geopolitical fiction, the “international community”.
Being back in Tehran is always extremely engaging – in terms of serious intellectual discussion. Tehran is in fact unrivalled all across Asia as a privileged theater to debate where we go next, or what models are available, as we probe ways to escape the crisis of Western Enlightenment.
As I’ve written elsewhere, I could not but be constantly reminded of Jalal Al-e Ahmad, the son of a mullah born in poor south Tehran who later translated Sartre and Camus and wrote the seminal Westoxification (1962).
Al-e Ahmad pivoted to Shi’ism only by the end of his life. But it was his analysis that paved the way for sociologist Ali Shariati to cross-pollinate anti-colonialism with the Shi’ite concept of resistance against injustice into a revolutionary ideology capable of politicizing the Iranian middle classes, leading to the Islamic Revolution.
So once again, in Tehran, provoked by the meeting of minds around the conference – the absolute opposite of “clash of civilizations” – it was possible to discuss how Iran (resistance against injustice), China (remixed Confucianism) and Russia (Eurasianism) are offering post-Enlightenment alternatives that transcend Western liberal democracy – a concept that has been completely co-opted and shattered by the hegemony of neoliberalism.
And once again this ongoing discussion revolves around the great geopolitical project of the 21s century; Eurasia integration, of which the complex China-Russia-Iran partnership is the crux.
May we live in interesting – and also culturally, intellectually integrated – times.
*Pepe Escobar is a geopolitical analyst. He’s an editor-at-large at Asia Times/Hong Kong and a columnist for Sputnik/Moscow. His latest book is “2030” (Nimble Books).