It is possible to find many aspects of the Tehran regime repugnant (I do), find their rhetoric repellent (I do), want nothing more than a democratic revolution in Persia ... and yet see an opportunity for opening to a civil society far more stable and advanced than Iraq's. Those exploring an opening will have to run a gamut of the usual - accusations of naivete, and the constant refrain of anti-Semitism for anyone daring to think outside the AIPAC box. And avoiding wishful thinking is important. But thinking is still necessary in such a fluid regional situation. Which makes Roger Cohen's first-hand account from Iran all the more worth considering:

If you’re thinking trains-on-time Fascist efficiency, think again. Tehran’s new telecommunications tower took 20 years to build. I was told its restaurant would open “soon.” So, it is said, will the Bushehr nuclear power plant, a project in the works for a mere 30 years. A Persian Chernobyl is more likely than some Middle Eastern nuclear Armageddon, if that’s any comfort.

For all the morality police inspecting whether women are wearing boots outside their pants (the latest no-no on the dress front) and the regime zealots of the Basiji militia, the air you breathe in Iran is not suffocating. Its streets at dusk hum with life not a monochrome male-only form of it, or one inhabited by fear but the vibrancy of a changing, highly educated society. This is the Iran of subtle shades that the country’s Jews inhabit.

Life is more difficult for them than for Muslims, but to suggest they inhabit a totalitarian hell is self-serving nonsense.

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