The James Bond of the past may have been fighting somewhere in Siberia among Russian spies, but Pierce Brosnan may find the setting of his next espionage tale a bit closer to the movie studios.
The Los Angeles Times reported that, in an attempt to keep their eye on the activities of Iran, the CIA has reassigned a number of its spies to the heavily Iranian-populated city of Los Angeles. Their goal is to recruit Persians who have family back in Iran and try to get them to find out about Iranian terrorist activity. Why is it that our government wants a Persian, like myself, to call my grandmother and ask her about the nuclear weapons program? Simple: the CIA can’t do it themselves.
The CIA claims that Iran is an intelligence black hole and that spying is very difficult there. In other words, the world’s richest and most powerful country can’t sneak a few people into a country where anything can be accomplished with a little bribery.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate this pathetic attempt by our nation’s intelligence (I use the term loosely) to use ethnic discrimination to accomplish what they can’t – as they unfortunately proved on Sept. 11.
Granted, L.A. has more Persians than any other city outside of Iran and, in fact, we Southern Californian Persians often lovingly refer to the city as “Tehrangeles.” West L.A., including Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and Westwood, is full of Persians, but the majority of them left Iran before the revolution, and started their families here. The CIA is looking for people that go back to Iran on a regular basis and may have family or business contacts there, but this does not mean they are at all informed of the secret operations of the Iranian government or have any interest in them whatsoever.
Let me be stereotypical about my culture for a second. L.A. Persians are a specific breed of Iranians. They are known for being rich or, if not, faking it. Iranians have often been called the wealthiest cultural minority in America and this fact is exemplified by the L.A. Persians. They love America for all the Gucci and Mercedes Benz that it has given them, as well as for the freedom to grow up and be doctors just like their parents wanted. We’ve lived in this country for decades and have become an integral part of this society.
Now the CIA wants to focus the eyes of Los Angeleans and Americans alike on the activity of proud Iranian-Americans. In essence, what the CIA hopes to accomplish doesn’t seem all that bad. They just want to hire some people who actually speak Farsi to do a little intelligence work for them. But the problem lies when the U.S., with its inherently racist assumptions, says, “Hey! You live in L.A. and you’re Persian. Where’s Osama?”
If America wants to try and restore peace and order in the Middle East for the bazillionth time, go ahead. Don’t tell tales of spies in L.A. to an already-frenzied public, and entice more racism and increase the ethnic divide. This is McCarthyism at its worst, and at its best, just plain dumb.
Ladan Moeenziai is a Daily Nexus assistant county editor.