A Side Benefit to the Nuclear Agreement: A Vacation in the Islamic Republic of Iran

August 3, 2015

A negotiated nuclear agreement between Iran and the 5 +1 in Vienna has been approved by the United Nations.  The US Congress has 60 days to decide if it is a worthy agreement.  If they do not, President Barak Obama threatens a veto.   He and Secretary of State John Kerry declare “It is this deal or war”. 

The stability of Iran’s political situation, a relationship with the rest of the world, and a desire to become a major tourist destination were goals announced by President Hassan Rouhani after the agreement was signed.  He omitted Iran’s huge role in state sponsored terrorism, its promise to destroy Israel, four American hostages, and involvement in Syria’s civil war.

Anticipating a tsunami of foreign tourists, Vice President Masoud Soltanifar is easing visa requirements.  He believes that increased tourism will attract 20 million tourists by 2025 with an annual income of $30 billion. 

Prior to the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when pro western monarch Reza Shah Pahlavi was overthrown, Iran was a popular tourist destination.  The Shah was pro American, embraced western ideas, called for the reduction of religious estates, equal rights for women, and other reforms.     

The Shahs westernization enraged Ruhollah Mostafavi Khomeini who called for his overthrow.  Khomeini was imprisoned and then expelled. Hatred of the west grew as he fomented revolution.  Lower and middle class followers joined radical students.   They led massive riots and mutiny.  The Shah asked President Jimmy Carter for help. It never came.  In January 1979 the Shah and his family fled. Reza died the following year. Khomeini was proclaimed Leader of the Iranian Revolution when he returned, and the transformation of Iran into an Islamic Religious State began.   Fifty two Americans were taken hostage and held 444 days.  They were freed on the day President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.

A key player in the Revolution was Sayyid Ali Khamenei who was President of Iran from 1981 to 1989.  On the death of Khomeini, Sayyid became Supreme Leader.  He is the most powerful authority in Iran today.   He approves of the President, controls Iranian press, and was listed by the Committee to Protect Journalists as one of the top ten enemies of the press. According to Reuters , the organization under his control Setad (Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam) is a conglomerate worth an estimated $95 billion.

The Supreme Leader’s power seems limitless.  Iran’s foreign policy cannot be conducted without his direct involvement and approval.  Khamenei has the right to inject himself into any process to correct a flawed policy or decision.  He gives no press conferences or interviews, speaks only at special gatherings, and meets almost exclusively with Muslim dignitaries, including the terrorist leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah.   He does not meet with Western powers, and does not travel overseas. He led “Death to America.  Death to Israel.” chants on the day of the Iran Nuclear deal.   At a mosque in Tehran, on July 19th Khamenei told his supporters that the policies of the United States were 180 degrees opposed to Iran’s political and religious movement.

Lamenting that Zionist leaders are called human, Khamenei said “Israel is a cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut. From now onward, we will support and help any nations, any groups fighting against the Zionist regime across the world, and we are not afraid of declaring this."  Iran is the largest supporter of terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa.

Travelers willing to risk political uncertainties for the thrill of exploration will find this country irresistible.  The glories of Persia, (now Iran) brim with archaeological treats, ancient temples, medieval architecture, imposing fortresses, breathtaking mosques, and layers of history.   The US State Department has a travel warning for Iran; however Americans are allowed to visit.

At the Imam Khomeini International Airport, VP Soltanifar said:  “A tsunami of foreign tourists is anticipated.  Iran has significant tourist potential.  It boasts countless ancient archeology sites, the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage and Historic Sites, and a diverse landscape offering recreational skiing or hiking in the mountains to beach holidays on the Persian Gulf or the Caspian Sea.“

Catering to the expected the spike in tourism, two hundred new hotels are planned.  Saudi Arabia’s Rotana Group plans to open five star hotels in Tehran and Mashhad.   Iran will also institute Halal tourism for Muslim families, with non alcoholic policies and separate facilities for men and women. The Iranian Rial is weak compared to other currencies making Iran a travel bargain.

Travel expert Rick Steve observed that Iran has propaganda murals encouraging young men to martyrdom, there are no credit cards, no ATMs, nor alcohol, nor urinals.  The Islamic Government regulates women’s dress (including tourists) and behavior.    

Bing Crosby and Bob Hope were Morocco bound.  If you are heading for Iran,  don’t bring a tie and remember to pack a headscarf. 

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The internationally published writer is a former English teacher, stockbroker, and owner/president of a small corporation.  She is active with Republican Women Federated, The Coachella Valley Lincoln Club, The California Republican Party, and Armed Services YMCA- 29 Palms Marine Base.  She can be reached at  darlenecasella@msn.com