Things worth fearing
23 May 2009 18:54
By JASON REZAIAN in Tehran
Over the weekend six more American friends questioned my sanity about going to Iran. "You know there's no dessert in prison, don't you," they'd tease me. That was before Iranian American journalist, Roxana Saberi, was released from prison , which was pretty clear would happen and has now been confirmed.
It seems as though I need something to be afraid of to travel to Iran, otherwise my fellow Americans will just think I'm nuts. So I've racked my brain and come up with two scenarios that have me legitimately concerned, and let me be clear: neither is the fault alone of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and sadly, the US is equally responsible on both counts.
First, when traveling to Iran one needs to carry cold hard cash. There are no local credit cards, as money lending is considered un-Islamic. Complicating matters is that American and Iranian banks have no relationships, and the American government has gone a step further and blocked many banks, which had served as a conduit for getting money to Iranian accounts. The point is, your credit, debit and ATM cards, along with your American express travelers checks are no good in Iran.
So, I'm worried about carrying a big wad of cash with me. The concern isn't that it will be stolen. Sharia law has plenty of laws that serve as a good deterrent for crimes like theft. It's more that I have my own track record of losing important stuff in Iran.
Money can be replaced, but lives can't. The thing that concerns me most is the state of the Iranian air fleet. The planes in Iran are a hodgepodge of Russian made "sky fallers" as they are known in Iran, Shah era Boeings, and a handful of Airbus and Fokkers from Europe.
The United States has a ban on the sale of new planes, as well as used aircraft parts to Iran. It's not as though Iran doesn't want to buy Boeings or don't have the money. They do. The US just doesn't let them. The rationale is that they might be used for military purposes.
Now I'm no expert in aeronautics. Seriously, I'm not. I can't sleep on planes, for the simple reason that I sit there awake contemplating how it is that I'm in a large and heavy box that's been thrust high above the ground and stays there long enough to get me where I need to be, (usually.) Still, even I know enough to understand that the parts on a Boeing 777 differ slightly enough that they aren't going to be compatible with an F-16. It doesn't take a scientist to figure that out, but an understanding of business helps a little.
These are the things I'm worried about, but not nearly enough to stop me from going.
This entry first appeared on Jason's blog on the SF Chronile Web site.