Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Confused by Trump, Gulf States Push for Iran-Saudi Rapprochement

Kimberly Rogers-Brown, beastwatchnews.com

“Shahab Hosseini is more dangerous than the Revolutionary Guards,” wrote the Saudi newspaper Mecca last August. “Iran has captured the entire world with its professional film industry,” warned the daily, unwittingly complimenting Iranian cinema.
Hosseini is the protagonist in the film “The Salesman,” for which Iranian director Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar in the category of Best Foreign Language Film on Sunday night (following “A Separation” in 2012).
A representative of Farhadi, Iranian-American businesswoman Anousheh Ansari, read a short declaration in his name, in which he outlined his reasons for not attending the ceremony: the executive order issued by U.S. President Donald Trump forbidding entry into the United States by citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Iran – and their implications and significance.
Thousands of words have been written on the executive order, including the interesting question as to why Saudi Arabia of all places – the country from which 15 of the 19 terrorists in the 9/11 attacks originated – was not included.
But that’s no consolation for the kingdom, which continues to be troubled by Iran’s cinematic success. The extensive coverage of the battle between the two regional powers doesn’t skip the channels of public diplomacy, in which cinema plays an important part.
In the face of Farhadi’s success, Saudi Arabia is presenting a film of its own. Not a feature film, since there is almost no movie industry in Saudi Arabia. Instead, it is a documentary produced by Margin Scope – the film company owned by Saudi-U.S. businessman and lobbyist Salman al-Ansari.

Firouz Naderi and Anousheh Ansari posing with the Oscar they accepted on behalf of director Asghar Farhadi, who won the Best Foreign Language Film for "The Salesman."
Firouz Naderi, left, and Anousheh Ansari with the Oscar they accepted on behalf of Asghar Farhadi, who won the Best Foreign Language Film for “The Salesman,” February 26, 2017. LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS

As might be expected, the film – called “Menace in Disguise” – labels Iran a terrorist state that aspires to undermine stability in the region.
Interviewees include senior American officials, including Dr. Michael Ledeen – a close friend of Michael Flynn, who was Trump’s national security adviser for 15 minutes.
The neoconservative Ledeen devotes most of his academic and political work to the Iranian threat. In the 1980s he was involved in Irangate, which was designed to bring about an internal revolution in Iran, but ended with the sale of Iranian weapons to the rebels in Nicaragua, in a circuitous deal that included Israel.

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