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Reza Aslan at Carmel Authors & Ideas Festival

After a weekend of mostly sitting indoors to enjoy Jim & Cindy McGillen’s 3rd Annual Carmel Authors & Ideas Festival, I’m ready for a long bicycle ride.  But first, some highlights from Reza Aslan’s talk in Carmel today.

Aslan was the final speaker.  There were, of course, many other valuable presentations by a diverse group of authors.  You may wish to check Twitter posts for snippets on those; use hashtag #ca09 (or search for “carmel authors”).

Aslan had planned to focus on his most recent book, How to Win a Cosmic War:  Why We’re Losing the War on Terror.  But with the US and Iran meeting at the diplomatic table for the first time in thirty years, Iranian-born Aslan instead shared his ideas on what is happening right now.

At the outset, he stated that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a politically savvy leader who successfully diverted a lot of media attention from critical issues to instead ruminating about Ahmadinejad’s questioning the holocaust.  (He also mentioned, regarding popular media, that CNN’s Larry King—whose program is now in its 24th year—states that he never prepares for an interview.)

Aslan asked the audience in Carmel to consider the truly critical issues not from an American point of view, but from an Iranian perspective. For  instance, to consider that Iran is encircled by US troops at present, that Israeli nukes are pointed at Tehran, and that threats have been made to use those weapons against Iran preemptively.

For the eight years of the last US administration, there was no willingness to talk with Iran unless Iran gave in to US demands about its uranium enrichment projects.  Aslan pronounced the result of that:  eight years of Iranian progress with uranium enrichment projects.

He explained that President Barack Obama has indicated all options are on the table, and yet, Aslan states, neither military action nor placing economic sanctions against Iran is an effective option.  However, he added, there is something on the horizon that might work—the new opportunity for Iranian-US communication.

Aslan further pointed out that there are three US priorities for which relations with Iran matter very much, aside from Iran’s nuclear program.  These are the US goal for withdrawing troops from Iraq, the US intention to send more troops into Afghanistan, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Aslan also emphasized Iran’s youthful population, with 70% under age 30 and  50% under age 25.  Check out Aslan’s Boom Gen Studios.

During the past two weeks, I’d been researching Iran’s nuclear program as  part of a Middle East project I was working on, so I found Aslan’s talk of special interest.  Even if that had not been the case, Reza Aslan’s timely address was very much in keeping with a cutting-edge presentation of ideas that I associate with this festival (see post below regarding last year).

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