Finding Iran

Some American registered voters, who elect our president, believe that Iran is in Oklahoma. From Morning Consult.

Teheran in the Snow

Lots more here. Via @borzou

More on This Round of Iran Protests

Further to today’s post about allegations the Iran protests are a redneck affair, @borzou tweets video of the provincials’ big city cousins showing up for the game tonight:

This Round of Iran Protests

This morning both Mary Dejevski in The Independent and Borzou Daragahi in Buzzfeed point out an apparently deep and wide cleavage between the poorer, rural Iranians leading this round of protests and the urban middle-class. Daragahi:

“The middle class in Iran are educated and experienced enough to understand who is who in this theater,” said the editor of a centrist Tehran newspaper close to the leadership,”

suggesting urban condescension for the protesting rural cadres. He writes that urbanites “derided the protesters as ‘tribal’ small-town folks; they’re burning police stations and attacking security forces, they said, not out of political considerations but to settle rural vendettas.”

Dejevsky confirms the condescension, remembering how a relative, once resident in Teheran,

“despaired of the impracticality of many of the new educated middle class, their condescension as she saw it towards their uneducated compatriots.”

Other than compiling video clips of protests, as Daraghani does on Twitter @borzou,  neither seems to have a well-developed line of communication outside the urban “fast set” in Teheran.


In the last day or so the number of demonstrations appears to have dropped, but as we learned in the 2009 protests, and indeed throughout the neighboring “Arab Spring,” we’re never far from a Friday, the holy day, a day off on which things can flare up again.

I defer to both Dejevsky and Borzou, and anybody else who has actually been to Iran. The closest I’ve ever come was on this Qatar Airways flight. All I can say from first-hand experience is that southwest Iran is very dry and not very populated.


Great Big Circle

Flying the Qatar Airways 15+ hour nonstop from Doha to ATL last week took us on a great circle route that would be fascinating to do on the surface, straight up the Caspian Sea, closer to Baku than to the Turkmenistan coast, then east of Grozny, along the edge of the Volga flood plain west of Astrakhan, beyond which it’s not far from the Kazakh border.

Further north we crossed the southwestern Russian agricultural heartland, not far east of the frozen conflict in the Donbass. Then across the Baltics, just south of St. Petersburg and Helsinki, across Norway and over the sea near Bergen, entirely north of Iceland, across the Greenland ice cap north of Tasiilaq, from Baffin Island down west of Cleveland and on in.

We passed over Esfahan and just to the west of Qom and Teheran:


Those of you who have gotten to southwest Iran before us will know this, but judging from this photo there may not be many of you: Southwest Iran looks pretty darned desolate.


Arrow of Time Points in the Wrong Direction

Two links:

Afghanistan looked very different in the 1960s, and

Iran looked very different in the 1970s.

Whistle Stop Iran

Check out a nice, quick tourist’s view of Iran’s major cities. It’s by Matthew Stevenson, here in New Geography magazine.

Caspian Summit Class Picture 2014

What’s with President Putin’s puffed up tough-guy pose in the Caspian Summit class picture? Pretty funny. And hey, THAT’s what President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov looks like (right).

Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. A name not made for Twitter.


Photo credit: Office of the President of Russia

Recommended Reading: Where the West Ends

WherethewestendscoverFun new book from Michael J. Totten. Fun, that is, if your idea of thrills is a drive from Turkey into Iraq for lunch.

Where the West Ends expands on Mr. Totten's Dispatches blog for World Affairs Journal. There are sections roughly grouped as the Middle East, the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Black Sea.

Many authors seem to believe they won't be taken seriously unless their work is laden with ponderous history. When well written, like in some of my suggestions below, that's  worthwhile. When it's not, it's the reason tons of books are returned to the shelf half-finished.

In Where the West Ends, Mr. Totten mostly allows a cursory sketch of the past to suffice. I suspect that satisfies armchair travelers. Then he gets on with the travel writing I like best, what it feels like to get up from that chair and actually go to a place, and what it's like, personally, to be there.

Should Mr. Totten's book pique your interest, here are some suggestions for deeper reading:

Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War by Thomas de Waal

Azerbaijan Diary by Thomas Goltz

Georgia Diary by Thomas Goltz

Towers of Stone: The Battle of Wills in Chechnya by Wojciech Jagielski

Bread and Ashes: A Walk Through the Mountains of Georgia by Tony Anderson

Rebel Land: Unravelling the Riddle of History in a Turkish Town by Christopher de Bellaigue

In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs: A Memoir of Iran by Christopher de Bellaigue

Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Tragic Anglo-American Coup by Christopher de Bellaigue

Black Sea by Neil Ascherson

The Black Sea: A History by Charles King


Along the Georgia Military Highway, Republic of Georgia

And here, in five installments, are excerpts from Common Sense and Whiskey, the book,  about our trip through the southern Caucasus:

1: Getting to Armenia
2: Yerevan to Tbilisi
3: Tbilisi and the Georgian Military Highway
4: The High Caucasus & the Russian Border
5: Baku

Order the entire book for $9.99 at, at, or the Kindle version (just $4.99).

See many more photos of the South Caucasus in the Armenia,
and Azerbaijan
Galleries at


Governor Romney’s 42 Allies


"We're the great nation that has allies – 42 allies and friends around the world," the Governor told us in last night's debate. Here, for the record, are the United States' 42 allies, according to Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul:

First there are the NATO allies: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom. Then there are a few more: Australia, Egypt, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Jordan, New Zealand, Argentina, Bahrain, Philippines, Thailand, Kuwait, Morocco, Pakistan, Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, we appear not to be allied with Singapore or Taiwan or Indonesia or Austria or Switzerland or Sweden or Finland or Ireland or South Africa. But we're solid with Bulgaria.

In arguing for engagement with Latin America, Governor Romney pointed out that its "economy is almost as big as the economy of China." How are we set for allies down that way? Not Chile or Uruguay or Peru or Colombia or Brazil or Panama or Costa Rica or Mexico or any island in the Carribbean. Darn it, our only ally in Latin America is Argentina.

One other thing, which relates to the previous article on geography: Governor Romney said "Syria is Iran's only ally in the Arab world. It's their route to the sea."

Activity: In your atlas, find "Persian Gulf." Note proximity to Iran.