Babak Yektafar is the Editor-in-Chief of Washingtonprism.org. He is a graduate of Farleigh Dickinson University with a B.A. in Communications. From 1999 to 2005, Babak was a producer with C-SPAN network’s national live morning program, Washington Journal.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: In a fascinating piece in The Tehran Times, Iranian Major General Safavi says that Iran has become an extra-regional power. He says Iran wants peace, and says Iran does not expect an American attack, but they can fight back if they have to. Safavi says, quoting, U.S. officials once thought they could surround Iran by occupying Afghanistan and Iraq; now, the Americans should realize 200,000 troops they have employed in Iraq and Afghanistan are in Iran’s firing range. Joining us to analyze the general’s comments is Babak Yektafar, editor in chief of Washington Prism magazine, and a former producer with C-SPAN’s Washington Journal. The title of this article in The Tehran Times is “Iran Has Become an Extra-regional Power.” I’m not entirely sure why the general wants to brag about that. It seems to me that’s precisely why the Americans want regime change. Why do you want to go claiming how extra-regionally powerful you are? It’s almost a deliberate provocation.
BABAK YEKTAFAR, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, WASHINGTONPRISM.ORG: Given the fact that tensions are extremely high right now between Iran and the United States, and some of the movements that we have seen recently—prior to President Ahmadinejad’s trip to New York, for example, they had a military parade again. This was because of marking the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war. And they had just unveiled a domestically made fighter pilot, which Iran is very extremely proud of, and it got huge coverage in the Iranian media, it’s important for them to try to project some sort of a military might, given the fact that the Islamic Republic Guardian corps is actually in the news lately. They’re being sanctioned or at least they’re being threatened to be sanctioned by the United States, and it seemed to be the focus of the third resolution that they’re trying to push through the security council at the United Nations. So it’s a good play, I would think, for General Safavi to do this kind of grandstanding.
JAY: Do you get a sense whether the Iranian military is expecting a war or not? Here’s another quote from the general. He says, “I think that the rational people in the U.S. Congress and the Democratic Party will not allow the current U.S. administration to declare a new war.” Is he just being overly optimistic?
YEKTAFAR: I think in public dialogue you will see a lot of that. They do follow U.S. media, and they do read and hear all the discussion that goes on here about how the United States military is bogged down in Iraq, for example, and some of the difficulties that they’re having funding this war, and such issues. So they want to make sure that the United States is aware that they know what’s going on, and they use that in saying it’s absolute madness for the United States to do that.
JAY: But do you get any sense of what they believe to be? Are they really expecting something?
YEKTAFAR: They expect something. And, in fact, as what you see, what you hear and you read from some of these officials in the media is that they are considering certain activities that are going on among the tribes in Iran, among some ethnic groups, the Balochis in the southeast, the Arabs in Khuzestan, the oil-producing Khuzestan region down south, which is by the Gulf, Azoris in the northwest. There has been some troubles, there has been some ethnic problems going on. And they sincerely believe that this is backed by the United States by special ops. And as you may know, of course, recently there have been bombings, some areas in the Kurdish region in the northern part of Iraq, basically saying that the United States is backing Kurdish, what they label as terrorists, the PJAK group, of infiltrating into Iran through Iranian borders and going through some bombing campaigns and some disruptive Iranian soil.
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