Beheading the Blacksmith of Balkh: Iranian Americans scapegoated again


The US Congress is looking to punish Iranian Americans for terrorist acts they have no part in

A radicalised, American-born Pakistani went to Saudi Arabia and marriage another Pakistani indoctrinated with an extremist version of Wahhabism that is the Saudi state religion. The couple came to the US and shot up a Christmas office party killing 14 people.

Guess who is being been selected for penalty for this despicable crime? Iranian Americans, who have never shared that extremist ideology and who, as far as we know, have never had anything to do with this or any other acts of terrorism anywhere in the world.

The passage by the United States House of Representative of the Visa Waiver Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act, or HR 158, brings to intellect a Persian tale about a ruler who heard a blacksmith had committed a crime in the city of Balkh , now in northern Afghanistan. In his desire to appear swift in meting out justice he ordered the arrest and beheading of the culprit.

But, as Balkh was too far away, the ruler decree that beheading any blacksmith would do. And yet his henchmen were unable to find such an artisan in nearby townships. All they found was a coppersmith in the city of Shushtar in western Iran. So, our zealous ruler called for the execution of the poor coppersmith of Shushtar lest the offences of the blacksmith of Balkh ran unpunished.

The US House of Representatives only reenacted that tale. If backed by the Senate and chairman, then the new law will bar Iranian-Americans from a 38 -nation visa waiver programme that allows visits to signatory countries for up to 90 days without a visa.

Even if we award that prudence in the cause of security justifies collective penalty, HR 158 does not punish either Pakistani or Saudis dual nationals. Instead Iranian Americans are to be punished along with dual nationals from Iraq, Sudan and Syria, as well as anyone who has been to any of these four countries in the past five years.

Why? Two reasons. One: someone had to be nailed. Two: nobody ever pays a political price for targeting Iranian Americans. This is despite the fact no Iranian national, let alone an Iranian American, has ever been proved to be involved in terrorism in the US or Europe this should not be confused with the state- sponsored assassinations of protesters by agents of the Islamic Republic that ended in the late 1990 s.

So, why do Saudis receive a get-out-of-jail card every time they land on the terrorism square, as they often do? Because they have been the favourites of the American political elites and its ersatz gentry including the Bush and Trump dynasties.

Everyone knows that the never-never desert kingdom ruled by the house of Saud was heavily implicated in 9/11. Everyone knows the Saudis have for decades spread the virulent, hardcore ideology of Wahhabism that is now carried by the Taliban, al-Qaida, Isis, Boko Haram, and a dozen other terrorist franchises from Chechnya and Baluchistan to Chad. And yet, the Saudis appear untouchable.

The kabuki of passing HR 158 was an elaborate show that made the House of Representative seem busy without having the slightest consequence on the security of US citizens. The legislation would restrict the travel of people who have nothing to do with terrorism but let the most likely suspects continue their motion without restrictions.

The HR 158 would affect people who have travelled immediately between the US and Syria, missing the glaring fact that virtually nobody actually does this: Isis recruits usually go back and forth via Turkey. Why not introduce traveling limiteds for people who go there? Because Turkey is a member of Nato and confronting them would be costly.

This is an old story. Iranians had nothing to do with 9/11 while the Saudis rendered 15 out of 19 hijackers of that bloody Tuesday.

But it was not the student visas of Saudi nationals but those of Iranians that were restricted after those attacks. It appears that we are perfect scapegoats again. Unable to find the blacksmith of Balkh, the House wants to chop off the head of the coppersmith of Shushtar.

The Tehran Bureau is an independent media organisation, hosted by the Guardian. Contact us @tehranbureau

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