- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 15, 2005


TEHRAN — He has the standard accoutrements of many a Middle Eastern crooner: black leather jacket, slicked-back hair and a maudlin line in balladeering. Now the Iranian singer Nima Mashiha has switched his attentions from the power of love to the power of the atom with a brand-new song in praise of his country’s nuclear ambitions.

Yet his “Fruit of Science,” a strings-driven ode to fission, is not guaranteed the No. 1 place in the Tehran hit parade, despite its patriotic tone. The reason is the heavy competition from similar ditties: “Nuclear Know-How,” for example, by Reza Shirazi, “Sun of Glory” by Amir Tajik and “Oriental Sun, Nuclear Science” by Ali Tafreshi, with its rousing military-style marching music.

The clutch of songs, which extol the “great and powerful Iran” and denounce “arrogant foreign oppressors,” are part of a media blitz backed by the country’s all-powerful mullahs to drum up support for their increasingly acrimonious confrontation with the West over Iran’s atomic program.

Five-minute advertisements extolling the work of nuclear scientists are broadcast on national television, while on the streets of Tehran, demonstrations have been organized to denounce foreign calls to abandon the program.

Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned Iran that it would be referred to the U.N. Security Council unless it stopped research into nuclear technology that could have military applications.

On Friday, Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said Tehran was ready to resume talks on the issue, but insisted that sensitive aspects of the research would continue.

The television advertisements also are designed to counter the growing unease among ordinary Iranians that the country’s increasingly confrontational stance is courting economic meltdown. Tehran’s stock market fell sharply in June after the election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and has fallen by a third since the IAEA resolution last month because of the nervousness of outside investors.

The country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also has stoked up support for the program by drawing parallels with the bitter battles Iran fought for control of its oil revenues against British and American interests in the 1950s.

When Iran’s nationalist prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, attempted to nationalize the foreign-owned Anglo-Iranian oil company in 1954, his action precipitated the CIA- and MI6-backed coup that replaced him with the pro-Western Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.

Ayatollah Khamenei — whose predecessor, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, deposed the shah in 1979 — has emphasized repeatedly that foreign “imperialists” should no longer interfere with Iran’s energy policy.

Whatever the efforts of Iran’s patriotic-minded musicians, however, there is unlikely to be much demand for a “greatest hits” album of pro-nuclear songs, said Ali Reza, a part-time musician. “Most of them are absolute dirges.”

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