January 17, 2006

Iran is Now Open

Getting a visa to enter Iraq is more of a bureaucratic hassle than I thought it would be. It’s the kind of pain in the ass paperwork nightmare that makes me want to break things. Just figuring out the procedure has become my new full time job. (If I lived in Washington DC it would be easier.)

If you think bureaucracy is bad in the US and the EU, come hang out here for a couple of months. Gack!

Meanwhile, Iran has decided to issue tourist visas on arrival for people from every country in the world except Israel.

So: It is now easier for an American to visit the "Axis of Evil" than a country that supposedly belongs to the “American Empire.”

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 17, 2006 05:07 AM

Mr. Totten... Your post from Cairo is one of our two featured posts in our Daily Bloggerback segment today at Candide's Notebooks (www.pierretristam.com), though just about everything you write is worth highlighting. Incidentally, I'm an ex-Lebanese (now writing columns and editorials for the Daytona Beach News-Journal), and appreciate your sweet spot for the old country.pt

Posted by: Pierre Tristam at January 17, 2006 05:53 AM

"So: It is now easier for an American to visit the "Axis of Evil" than a country that supposedly belongs to the “American Empire.”"
Visiting an Islamofascist police state does have its advantages.

Posted by: sanborn at January 17, 2006 06:48 AM

I suspect Iran still frowns on people from other states than Israel that have an Israeli stamp of course...

Posted by: Neil Levine at January 17, 2006 06:50 AM

Maybe they are preparing for an influx of human shields.

Posted by: John Davies at January 17, 2006 07:23 AM

If Bush has never claimed that Iraq now belongs to the "American Empire", putting this "quote" into his mouth doesn't seem completely fair. (You only imply this, but you do imply it.)

It's no surprise that the US gov't, which would inevitably be responsible for your safety in Iraq, doesn't really want you there. No surprise, but still a disappointment.

If you visit an "Axis of Evil" country, safety is more your own responsibility -- and police states are usually VERY jealous of their monopoly on force and violence. You're in big trouble if they're after you; but quite safe, if not.

Slovakia, like all ex-commie countries, became much less safe with "freedom." There really is a trade-off between freedom and security in every society.

Good luck in Iraq -- please be reasonably careful. And don't be quite as courageous as Steven Vincent.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Libertay Dad at January 17, 2006 07:35 AM


I didn't put any words in Bush's mouth. I never even mentioned his name. You're overanalyzing.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 17, 2006 07:56 AM

I thought it has been relatively easy to visit Iran as a tourist for a while now. Maybe not for Americans but I have Italian friends who visited back in 1998 as tourists (they loved it). Your average Iranian, especially in Teheran, is generally very pro-American. The 1979 revolution has to be seen as one of the great tragedies of the 20th century, much like the Russian Revolution. An entire generation of the Iranian nation has been wasted. I highly recommend the book "Persepolis" if anyone is interested into more insight into Iran's educated classes, it's a comic book, but a damn good one.

Posted by: Vanya at January 17, 2006 08:06 AM


Looking forward to your posts from Iran! So you've got 15 days there with your "minder" Then afterward, I hope you make your way to the Turkish border with Iraq and find a way into Kurdistan. When there's a will, there's a way-in-and-out. Good luck.

Posted by: Natasha at January 17, 2006 09:10 AM

Tom: I suspect Mr. Totten's point was that Bush's opponents have suggested such a thing. It's a bit of the sarcasm, perhaps.

At least, that's the most plausible suggestion, as I have personally heard any number of them do that very thing.

Posted by: Sigivald at January 17, 2006 09:54 AM

The bar on reporting from Iran has been set by Sean Penn.

I kid, of course, as I really believe that Sean did a pretty good job with the straight reporting. His analysis? Feh.

Posted by: Sweetie at January 17, 2006 11:08 AM

It's been my impression that Iran does not like Israel, not because it "belongs to the American empire", but rather because it's Israel...

Anyhoo, ditto what Tom said: please be as careful as you can, while still telling the rest of us squatters interesting stuff.

Posted by: Paul Brinkley at January 17, 2006 12:19 PM

Have fun with the Persians.

Posted by: Mike#3or4 at January 17, 2006 12:42 PM

I suppose this will be the real test of how long Michael can go without a glass of wine.

I think you'll do ok MJT..Good luck and be careful anyhoo..

Posted by: Ruby at January 17, 2006 02:46 PM

I don't think Mike is going to Iran!! Are you MJT?!
Awaiting your posts from Iraq.
Be safe.

Posted by: Abu Takla at January 17, 2006 04:17 PM

Iran ! Fantastic place, looking forward to spending some time there myself, as I may have to finish negotiating a deal with an affiliate agency there. Yes, even Iranians want shampoo adverts..

Posted by: graeme at January 17, 2006 05:32 PM

I use to work as a belly dancer (yes a male belly dancer...Iranians love it) at a Persian restaurant in Washington, DC and from what I've seen, Iranian's LOVE music and dancing which is quite surprising considering Iran's current position on music and entertainment (it's haram apparently).

It's unfortunate because Iran has a long and varied tradition concerning music and dance. To see an expert dancer perform Iranian court dance is like witnessing a Persian painting come to life.

Posted by: Mark Balahadia at January 17, 2006 07:29 PM

Most likely nothing is going to happen, but it might not be a good idea to be in Iran during March. Is such a timetable still operative, or was it ever anything more than a whisper in the wind? Who knows?

There will be plenty more tea-leaves to read after January 31, the State of the Union address.

Posted by: Todd Grimson at January 17, 2006 09:46 PM

I don't see anything particularly ironic about it being more difficult to enter Iraq than Iran. Iraq is struggling with an influx of foreign terrorists. Iran is not. If there was no terrorism going on in the US or Iraq or the West in general, I'm sure admission would be as simple as it was 40 years ago. But thanks to countries like Iran that export terrorism, those days are gone for now. So let's not give some kind of credit to Iran for being more reasonable or something about visas, when in fact it is because of them that getting visas must necessarily be difficult in the West.

Posted by: MarkJ at January 18, 2006 05:30 AM

I would love to go to Iran, someday, but now is not a good time. True, we do need journalists with the cojonie's (? Sp?) to take the chance of something surprising and uncomfortable happening, but, relaxed tourism is not a good prospect. Might be prospecting for your own grave.

This is not to imply that the normal Iranians would be anything but thrilled to have American Tourists around again. BUT, one needs not muck around too much with short fused people who crow in front of the UN General Assembly that they're gonna start passing out Nuclear Weapons, to find trouble in plenty.

I'm in a quandary right now, rushing around in circles with no one to talk to (til tomorrow), trying to figure out how to protect our secretary from a very personalized, hand delivered, in her face Bomb threat. Which, in Iraq, is no idle promise. I'm surprised they warned her.

However, I've warned her, "Stay out of the Red Zone"...but, that's the only place Iraqi Nationals have to shop. That's the root source of her problem, she lives by her motto: Shop, Shop, Shop...(durn women), constantly going into the Red Zone to buy things for other people, things we need, and, can't get in the Green Zone (like Hearing Aid Batteries).

Hopefully, MJT won't have these problems in the Kudish North. Course, unless he stands too close to the Guns, like I have, he probably won't need Hearing Aid Batteries for a couple of decades yet. Underwear and thing like that are easy, just don't wear any.

Gordon DeSpain

Posted by: Warsong at January 18, 2006 11:43 AM

What's the big deal? Iran had been an extremely easy place to get into and travel around in for years.*

It's not like this is a state secret - all you have to do is buy the fricken Lonely Planet guide. It's no harder to get around in than Kansas.

Which leads me once again to wonder why it is it that Americans are so ignorant and scared of the outside world? A little bit of either knowledge or courage would leave you better placed to resist the fear merchants in Washington who are currently making fools of you all.

*Obviously, easier to travel in Iran if you're a man, because you don't have to cover up. Although, apart from the inconvenience, it's much safer there for female travellers than many other better known places.

Posted by: Tourist class at January 19, 2006 03:49 AM
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