Refugees a sign of unraveling world order


As the known and secret parts of the Iran nuke deal spin into place like the uncertain number of Iranian centrifuges, President Barack Obama has succeeded in winning one-third-plus votes in the U.S. Senate to defeat attempts to overturn what he deems his legacy foreign policy achievement. Soon, the shouting will be over. Optimists will hope for the best. Pessimists during this Holy Season will pray to G-d that the worst does not happen.

So now would be an appropriate time to look at the P5+1 Iran deal from “ground zero”: the greater Middle East situation—from Afghanistan to North Africa’s Maghreb and the East African Horn—as well as the spillover of the current refugee crisis besetting Europe.

Who among our friends and foes is stable — and who is unstable?

The perennial linchpin of U.S. Mideast policy — Aircraft Carrier Israel — remains securely afloat despite tensions with Washington, and increasing threats at her borders, from Iranian proxies in Lebanon and adjacent to the Golan in the North and Hamastan and the Sinai in the South. For now, a King Abdullah-led Jordan remains afloat thanks to massive help from the US and quiet security help from Israel. Egypt, despite soured relations with the U.S., has for now thwarted the Muslim Brotherhood. The promise of Tahrir Square is but a distant memory as the largest Arab nation is now led by a president whose goal is economic growth and stable security. Otherwise, the region is a total mess.

There is:

– The virtual collapse of the “post-Petraeus” Surge, precarious Iraqi State, concomitant with the rise of ISIS. Will a unified Iraq survive? Not if the Kurds are given a say. As for Christians, they no longer have a say, as the world stood by as historic Christian communities were ethnically cleansed.

– The unraveling of our alliance with Afghanistan’s Karzai regime.

– The emboldening of Iran-backed terrorists along a “Shiite arc” stretching from Iraq to Yemen.

– The panic of the Gulf States, directly adjacent to Iran with weakening U.S. support, and the rise of the Houthi insurgency on Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen, the very country the Obama Administration once touted as an anti-terrorist success story.

– The collapse of Libya into chaos following the U.S. “leading from behind” anti-Qaddafi coup. That move was largely engineered by Europeans who, ironically, sought to prevent the refugee exodus that they ultimately made much worse.

– A feckless U.S. policy in the Horn of Africa that has brought no peace to Ethiopia-Eritrea or Somalia, with terrorist atrocities spilling over into Kenya and Nigeria.

And now, Europe finds itself confronting a tsunami of refugees that evokes memories of the millions of displaced persons at the end of World War II.  The crisis in Europe is caused, not only by people seeking a better economic future as on our southern border, but by masses fleeing failed states, internecine violence, civil war and terrorism; people so desperate that parents are literally casting their children onto the waters with the protection of little more than bulrushes.

Refugees from Afghanistan flowing into Pakistan and Iraq, refugees from Syria (some 2 million) flowing into Turkey, Jordan and beyond, refugees from Lebanon fleeing Beirut’s fetid streets, refugees from Libya becoming Mediterranean “boat people,” refugees from Somalia and Eritrea adding to the outflow. You can read their faces and body language: these are people who see no future nor hope of change.

If they survive the stormy crossing, their reception is barbed wire or trains to nowhere in Hungary or Slovakia where neo-fascist politicians promise to give refuge only to “Christians.” Germany is their new promised land, with Chancellor Merkel desperately trying to piece together a continent-wide response.

This is a seminal moment for the European Union. It needs to show real leadership, vision and cohesiveness—but don’t hold your breath.

Not so long ago, any crisis of such proportions would spur a robust American response. But now the world isn’t sure where we stand. Washington failed to knock out ISIS/ISIL when it really was still “a jayvee team,” and failed to enforce our announced anti-Assad “red lines.” The resulting mass murder and mayhem has literally bled over into the Mediterranean refugee maelstrom.

It is into this chaos that the P5+1 — led by the US — has handed a virtual blank check (between $150-600 billion) to the Iranian regime. Tehran has its gameplan of regional hegemony-but what’s ours?

It is hard to imagine that President Obama, in homestretch of his two-term tenure is going to change course in Middle East. From his Cairo Speech to the Iran Nukes deal, he has bet the house that moderate Islamists would emerge from direct engagement. It never happened in Egypt. As for Iran? In 2009, the freedom-starved Iranian people went to the streets of Tehran chanting President Obama’s name. He never answered their plea for help in overturning tyranny,  instead, as with Assad’s Syria, he cut a deal that could keep the Mullahs in power indefinitely.

So it appears that the Europeans will have to solve this latest crisis on their own. But at the least, the American people should demand a robust debate in the media and among presidential candidates of both parties about how the U.S. can again “lead from the front” and prevent the post-WWII global order, including the EU and NATO, from unraveling.


Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Dr. Harold Brackman, a hisotrian is a consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

After Geneva, Iran’s nuclear deal remains a conundrum


Last month’s nuclear deal with Iran has set off a cacophony of pro and con acrimony pitting public officials, academic experts and pundits against one another.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the interim accord a “historic mistake.” The Wall Street Journal headlined columnist Bret Stephens’ commentary that Geneva was “Worse Than Munich.”  Proponents took quite a different view.  Speaking to the country the evening of the deal, President Barack Obama declared “diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure — a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.” Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the accord “realistic” and “practical.”

The divide is no sanctimonious dust-up, but a genuine difference of opinion over the best strategy to halt Iran’s suspect nuclear program. The president’s stance — the hope that good-faith negotiation, however difficult, coupled with the continued application of the most onerous sanctions can resolve the issue — butts against the argument that negotiations and minimal sanctions relief simply oxygenates a regime on its last legs and riddled by economic and political dysfunction. In this latter view, now is not the time to sit with the Iranians. As famed human rights activist Natan Sharansky put it in the Wall Street Journal, now is the time to be firm and resolute. Both attributes, he argues, brought down the Soviet Union and can bring down Iran as well. 

However, history finds that both positions don’t quite compute. The fact remains, all courses of action mark a bet. Contrary to Sharansky’s portrait, Washington’s effort to bring down the Soviet Union marked a mixture of engagement and isolation. Even as Moscow’s union began to crack, the United States kept the lines of communication open. In the end, talking did not prevent collapse.    

But then there remains the other talk history. Here is where North Korea becomes the Iran-like poster child Netanyahu repeatedly reminds the international community about. And, indeed, the story is unsettling. In 1994, Washington and Pyongyang entered into an understanding known as the Agreed Framework. Under the accord, North Korea consented to freeze nuclear operations and eventually dismantle the suspect Yongbyong nuclear reactor. In return, the United States assisted in the provision of heating oil for North Korea, while assembling an international consortium to build two nuclear power plants. Then, in 2005, Pyongyang agreed to go further and abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons. A year later, it exploded its first nuclear device.    

This rather poor precedent for diplomatic success has multiple antecedents. Israel proved to be the first. During years of construction, the Israeli government represented to Washington that it intended the Dimona reactor to be a civil nuclear research enterprise. President John Kennedy didn’t buy it and committed himself to stop it. Correspondence between the young president and the wily David Ben-Gurion became testy, only to fall away with the assassination of the American leader.    

In South Asia, the United States went beyond talk to stop two nuclear programs by applying economic and military sanctions against both India and Pakistan, only to find that it had to shelve the effort against Islamabad as a greater priority — Pakistan’s importance in getting the Soviets out of Afghanistan — took precedence. For India, U.S. sanctions proved more a nuisance and were entirely lifted during the George W. Bush administration. 

Cases where diplomacy proved more effective — Taiwan and South Korea toyed with the nuclear weapons option — reflected the heavy reliance each placed on the American security blanket. Washington’s clear message: Alliances will be in jeopardy if allies proliferate.

Clearly, Iran is no South Korea or Taiwan, but neither is it North Korea. As Wendy Sherman, Washington’s lead Iran negotiator, put it, Iran is “a different time, different culture, a different system.” The result: Where North Korea sees isolation necessary for regime survival, Iran sees trouble. Evidently the goods of the good life attract many Iranians, and the leadership sees them as necessary for regime survival. But the good life is not sustainable if oil exports, accounting for three-quarters of the country’s total, shrink under the pressure of sanctions from 2.3 million barrels a day to 1 million barrels. Nor is there a good life for many with inflation running at 50 percent and unemployment at 25 percent.  While international sanctions are not the sole cause of Iran’s economic malaise, they evidently have been onerous enough to bring Iran to the bargaining table to sign on to the Geneva Accord.

It is worth noting what a change this is. Although the recent bargaining has drawn much attention, it was not a de novo but the culmination of a decade-long effort that commenced in earnest in 2003, when European negotiators attempted to talk Iran out of enrichment. While there remains debate about possible missed opportunities in these and later talks, the dragging of time the negotiations allowed permitted Iran — like North Korea — to expand its nuclear venture dramatically. The question today is whether the costs of this effort have now come home to roost to force Iran to curtail its nuclear activities.

Implementation of the interim agreement will be the first test. True, it does not eliminate Iran’s weapons breakout capacity, but it does curtail the known enterprise. Significant is the rollback of Tehran’s 20 percent enriched uranium stockpile, something the international community has been striving to achieve for years. Iran also will cap its low-enrichment stocks and limit operation of its 19,000 centrifuges to the 10,000 operating today. While not ideal — ideal would be the cessation of all enrichment mandated by the Security Council — it is better than the alternative, continued unabated operations.

Arguably less impressive is Iran’s commitment not to commission the Arak reactor during the next six months, an objective it was not likely to fulfill in any event, although the agreement to halt production, testing or transfer of fuel or installation of reactor components will slow the plant’s completion.

Finally, the interim agreement expands the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) verification, allowing daily visits to enrichment sites. But here the news looks better on paper than it actually is. The IAEA already monitors Fordow and Natanz with cameras and periodic visits. However, “managed access” to centrifuge production and storage sites mark a first, giving international inspectors a far better overview of Iran’s future centrifuge capacity. Other concessions granted IAEA in separate negotiations — allowance to visit a uranium mine, heavy water production plant, access to information on all research reactors, plans for additional enrichment plants and laser enrichment — still do not get to the core of the nuclear watchdog’s effort to unravel what Iran is up to.

So what does Iran get out of this? The benefits seem rather modest — a waiver in trade of petro chemical, gold and precious metal, automobile and civil airline parts in addition to the repatriation of some $7 billion held abroad that Tehran may attempt to leverage, still a relatively small sum considering the country’s economic needs.  

As we look forward, Iran’s compliance with the spirit and letter of Geneva’s interim accord will be a test. If Tehran fails the test, the more ambitious permanent agreement will never advance to signature. But even fidelity offers no guarantee, as U.S. and allied demands in the next round of talks reportedly will be much tougher: Closure of the heavily bunkered Fordow enrichment plant and dramatic reductions of operations at Natanz, allowing it just to produce enough low-enriched uranium to meet the country’s minimal civil nuclear needs. Dismantlement or conversion of the Arak nuclear plant to a far less threatening light water reactor. Granting the IAEA unfettered access to the totality of Iran’s nuclear activities.

Should these talks fail, waiting in the wings will be the Sharansky template to isolate Iran further. But it, too, promises no certainties of anything. Still, it may force the mullahs to make a difficult choice: One, accept the costs of economic sanctions, believing the country will adapt if it believes that maintaining a nuclear weapons breakout capability best assures national survival. The other, bend as little as necessary to P5+1 demands, hoping that tension relaxation will be sufficient to support the regime’s tottering economic foundation without undermining the hostility to the West and Israel the regime needs to justify its rule.

In the interim, the next round of negotiations will have to play out.  

Stay tuned.


Bennett Ramberg served as a foreign policy analyst in the Department of State, Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs in the George H.W. Bush administration. His academic appointments included positions at Princeton and UCLA. The author of three books on international politics and editor of three others, Ramberg is best known for what many believe is the classic treatment of the consequences of military strikes on nuclear installations, “Nuclear Power Plants as Weapons for the Enemy” (University of California Press).

Iran looks to the north


In the United States, our focus is on Iran’s activities to its west and east. Tehran supports Bashar Assad in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, menaces oil exports in the Gulf and threatens Israel with annihilation. On its other flank, it seeks influence in Afghanistan as U.S. and NATO forces prepare to withdraw. However, we tend to ignore Iran’s actions to its north, even as this — the greater Caspian region — emerges as a particularly active theater for Iran’s ambitions of regional power.

We do so to our detriment. With Washington’s focus elsewhere during the past few months, Iran has steadily pushed the envelope with its northern neighbors, in the disputed Caspian Sea and along its land borders with Armenia and Azerbaijan. While Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, is considered more moderate than his predecessor, since his election, Iran seems to be continuing its northward pivot.

In late June, Iranian warships sailed across the Caspian Sea to the Russian port of Astrakhan. Their mission was to coordinate plans for a major joint naval exercise in the fall. This is noteworthy because not only is the Caspian a center of oil production that is exported to Western markets, but also a key transit hub for the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces and equipment from Afghanistan. Vessels with U.S. military hardware routinely sail from Kazakhstan’s port of Aktau on the eastern shore to Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, in the west. Joint Iranian-Russian naval exercises could disrupt both the energy and transit activities on the sea.

It would not be the first time. Iranian warships have, in the past, threatened to attack Azerbaijani oil fields that were at the time being explored by BP vessels. The issue of how the Caspian’s energy-rich waters are divided among the littoral states remains unresolved. While most of the countries on its shores have come to bilateral understandings, Iran refuses to cooperate with any of its neighbors — except when it teams with Russia to threaten the rest.

Iran is also injecting itself into the region’s most protracted conflict: the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan. While Iran supported pro-Russian Armenia in the 1990s against secular, pro-Western Azerbaijan, Iranian clerics are now painting the conflict as a war against Islam. They recently met with ethnic Azeris seeking to liberate Karabakh. 

On the other hand, Tehran has cultivated pro-Iranian groups and extremist clerics in Azerbaijan to undermine the government in Baku. It has mobilized hacker attacks under the banner of the Iranian Cyber Army. These activities are intensifying as the October presidential election in Azerbaijan approaches.

Earlier this year, Iranian lawmakers on the Security and Foreign Policy Committee in Parliament released a number of statements demanding the annexation of 17 of Azerbaijan’s cities, including the capital Baku. They prepared a bill that would revise the 1828 treaty demarcating Iran’s northern border to pave the way for a greater Iran that could incorporate territory from across the Caspian region, from Turkey to Central Asia. It seems that Israel is not the only country that Tehran has considered wiping off the map.

These sorts of actions have actually pushed Azerbaijan and Israel closer together. The two have a joint venture on the production of drone aircraft, as well as a wider defense technology relationship wherein Azerbaijan has sought anti-aircraft systems from Israel to guard against potential Iranian attack. Such threats are all too specific for Azerbaijan, as Iran’s leadership has consistently mentioned Azerbaijan’s major oil pipeline from the Caspian to the Mediterranean as a primary target in the event of conflict with the West.

Were such a clash to occur, it would behoove U.S. policymakers to be more cognizant of the northern angle in Iran’s aggressive regional policy. Even without the prospect of a major conflict, U.S. Iran policy should reflect Tehran’s threats to our interests in the Caspian and to regional partners such as Azerbaijan. For all Iran watchers, its activities to its north will serve as a key test of Mr. Rouhani’s supposed moderation.

Reprinted with permission from The Washington Times.


Alexandros Petersen is the author of “The World Island: Eurasian Geopolitics and the Fate of the West” (Praeger, 2011).

Soccer tourney brings Arabs, Jews together


Despite the summer heat radiating off of the soccer field, dozens of former professional soccer players from all over the world — and of varying faiths — gathered to play a friendly “Soccer Peace Tournament” on June 2 at Calabasas High School.

As athletes sprinted and fans cheered, one voice could be heard above all else. It was the biting commentary of Zouheir Bahloul, who good-naturedly teased each player during the four matches of the day.

One of the most recognizable stars of the Israeli soccer community, Bahloul is a former player who now is famous for his colorful commentary and sports journalism. As an Israeli Palestinian, he is passionate about using soccer to promote peace and coexistence between Arabs, Israelis and Americans — a triumvirate that’s had its fair share of conflict throughout the years.

So he was thrilled to be part of an event that matched up former members of the Israeli national soccer team with teams made up of local players — a U.S. team as well as teams made up of American Afghanis and American Iranians (winners of the tournament). All of the participants once played professionally.

“I think there is a lot of value within this [Israeli] team and this tournament,” Bahloul said. “Our team is a mix of Arabs and Jews playing together, coexisting together, cooperating together and living together. I think this is a very noble example of how we can solve our problems with sports, because sports are very pure.” 

The peace tournament was organized by Ben Drillings, a chiropractor who lives in Chatsworth, and sponsored by the Israeli American Council (IAC), formerly the Israeli Leadership Council.

“I was a soccer player on the Israeli national team and played with Rifaat Tourk, the first Arab and Muslim to play on the Israeli national team. … We became friends but haven’t seen each other in 31 years,” Drillings said. “But we got in touch, and we thought this tournament would be the beginning of another peace effort here.”

Tourk, who lives in Jaffa and coached the Israeli team in the tournament, has spent his entire post-soccer career working on building relations between Arabs and Jews in Israel. 

“I have a foundation for kids that has Arab kids working besides Jewish kids in order to make mixed life possible,” Tourk said. “I try my best to move these kids forward, socially, to make them share life — each beside the other.”

Dikla Kadosh, director of community events and volunteering for the IAC, said that is exactly the goal the group set out to accomplish.

“There’s not much at stake, but we wanted to create an environment of peace by playing against local Iranian teams and Afghani teams,” Kadosh said. “And the reason we wanted to be involved is because it’s something different. The whole mission of the IAC is to create programming that connects people to one another, and to the culture in Israel, and soccer is part of the culture.”

Qadir Latifi, one of the veteran Afghani players who participated in the tournament, was excited to take part in something with so many nationalities represented. 

“Our team has played in tournaments before, but it was mostly just Afghans. We’ve never played in a tournament that’s more international,” Latifi said, “so I’m proud to know that we’re going to be able to play for our country, and everyone else is playing for their countries.”

Although the Israeli team was the only one in the tournament that had to travel — the other three teams are based in Los Angeles and play together in adult community leagues — it still meant a lot to everyone involved for these communities to be playing together under the banner of peace. 

“I think it will help build better relationships within the communities out here,” said Shaul Maimon, captain of the Israeli team. “Football [soccer] brings everyone together. Anyone can play, so it makes for good relationships between people, and maybe, I hope, for the countries.”

This tournament also helped to break gender barriers. Diana Redman, the first female member of the Israeli national team, made an appearance as well. 

“I saw something for the event in a magazine and e-mailed Ben [Drillings] and said, ‘What’s going on?’ And he said, ‘Come on and join us!’ ” Redman said.

“It was really wonderful to be playing here as part of the event today,” she continued. “It’s the kind of thing I like to be involved in. I’ve been playing soccer my whole life, and I hope people are reminded that we have a women’s team, and there are a lot of people out there who want to do these kinds of events.”

Bahloul believes the stakes are high — much higher than a single soccer game.

“We are here,” he said, “to prove to ourselves and others that we can make it together and set a good example for the new generation.”

A beautiful day in the neighborhood


Jihad follows twisted path from Afghanistan to Israel


The path of jihad begins in a cave on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. From there, it takes a dizzying spin through Iran, wends its way through the Middle East and then settles, inevitably, in Israel.

 

Ancient Texts Could Unlock Persian Past


It took Iranian Jews in the United States nearly three decades in exile from the land their ancestors called home for 2,700 years to appreciate the rich history and culture preserved in their literature.

Considered one of the oldest but least- studied Jewish writings in the world, Judeo-Persian writings consist of the Persian language written in Hebrew characters by Jews living in what today are Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and some parts of India during the last 1,000 years.

“In Iran the Jewish community was not aware of the value of Judeo-Persian writings, but now that they are away from their home they feel more attached to their heritage and want to preserve it,” said Nahid Pirnazar, founder and director of the nonprofit Los Angeles-based House of Judeo-Persian Manuscripts foundation.

Pirnazar, who obtained her doctorate from UCLA in Iranian studies with an emphasis in Judeo-Persian writing, said she formed the House of Judeo-Persian Manuscripts in 2000 after a significant number of Iranian Jews in Southern California expressed their interest in learning more about these ancient texts.

“There are probably hundreds and hundreds of Judeo-Persian manuscripts in the possession of Iranian Jews,” Pirnazar said. “Not knowing what they are, they think they’re copies of Torahs.”

Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution sparked a mass exodus of Jews; today approximately 30,000 to 35,000 Jews from Iran live in Southern California.

For the last five years, Pirnazar has spent her own money in addition to small donations from local Iranian Jews to acquire copies and even originals of Judeo-Persian manuscript collections owned by museums, libraries and individuals in the United States, Europe, Israel and Iran. Her ultimate objective is for the House of Judeo-Persian Manuscripts to amass the largest collection of Judeo-Persian works in the world.

“Our first goal is to collect and transliterate these manuscripts into the Persian script before the generation that can read them easily is gone,” Pirnazar said. “The next step is to eventually publish and translate some into English and other languages.”

According to “Padyavand,” a series of books about Judeo-Iranian studies by professor Amnon Netzer of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Judeo-Persian literature consists not only of Jewish biblical translations and commentaries but also secular poems, dictionaries, medical texts, scientific treatises, legends, calendars and translations of works by non-Jewish masters of classical Iranian literature.

The oldest Judeo-Persian manuscript — which is also the oldest extant example of Persian writing — is a 37-line merchant’s letter dating to the year 750 C.E. It was discovered in the early 20th century by archaeologists in eastern Afghanistan, according to Padyavand.

Judeo-Persian came into being following the Arab Islamic conquest of Persia in the seventh century, when the Jews of Persia, who then spoke what is known as Middle Persian, refused to write the Persian language in Arabic letters but instead wrote Persian with the Hebrew letters they were familiar with, Pirnazar said.

Aside from its linguistic value, Judeo-Persian literature has been a unique window into the previously unknown and painful history of Iranian Jews, who lived under oppressive kings for centuries. According to Vera Basch Mooren’s book, “Iranian Jewry’s Hour of Peril and Heroism,” the Iranian Jewish writer Babai Ibn Lutf chronicles in Judeo-Persian a seven-year time span in the early 17th century when the Jews in the Iranian city of Isfahan were forced to convert to Islam or face execution.

In 1629, Isfahan’s Jews ultimately were permitted to return to Judaism after two of their leaders interceded on the community’s behalf with Safi I of the Safavid dynasty.

Pirnazar also said Iranian Jews continued writing and reading Judeo-Persian up until the beginning of the 20th century but gradually drifted away from it as they secularized and Iranian society opened to them.

Bijan Khallili, an Iranian Jewish publisher and owner of the Los Angeles-based Ketab Corporation, has been publishing Iranian Jewish-related books in Persian and English for more than 20 years.

In 1999, his company published 3,000 Persian-transliterated copies of a Judeo-Persian Torah commentary originally written by the 12th-century Iranian Jewish writer Shahin. He also hopes to publish a Persian translation of a Judeo-Persian text written by the 15th-century Iranian Jewish writer Emrani.

“Sales of the Shahin Torah were OK. Mostly only older Iranian Jews can read the book since it is in Persian,” Khallili said. “The main problem is that younger people can’t read Persian writing, and they are the ones usually buying these books because they want to learn about their history, so we are looking to publish more of them in English.”

Nearly five years ago, interest in Judeo-Persian was rekindled in the Southern Californian community after the Habib Levy Foundation in Los Angeles began providing endowments for a class on Judeo-Persian that was initially taught by Netzer and now is taught by Pirnazar at UCLA.

“A lot of Iranian Jews still do not know that Judeo-Persian studies exists,” said Tannaz Talasazan, 21, an Iranian Jewish student at UCLA. “I think this course on Judeo-Persian is a great opportunity for young Jewish people, especially Iranian Jews who grew up here in America, to learn more about who they are and where they came from.”

The UCLA course not only has received tremendous praise from young Iranian Jews but also has sparked the curiosity of some Iranian Muslim students wanting to learn more about an aspect of Persian literature and poetry they hadn’t known.

“Being able to read Judeo-Persian script was certainly a feeling that I will never forget,” said Reza Khodadai, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War who now is a biochemistry major at UCLA. “It was at the final exam, when I answered the whole transliteration section, I was reading a script that had always been unknown to me and I was seeing that it was actually in my own language of Persian.”