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first_imgOn Iranian television and radio, on Web sites and blogs, at coffee shops and around dinner tables, Iranian-Americans are debating the escalating tensions between the land of their birth and their adopted home. And while Los Angeles’ Iranian-American community of 600,000 is united in concern over the safety of family and friends back home, opinions diverge over Iran’s role in the Iraq war and whether the U.S. should take action and try to create a democracy. “Like any other community, we’re not solidly behind any political argument. We even have the section that’s eagerly awaiting to bomb Iran,” said Pedram Moallemian, editor of Amrikaee Magazine. “For the large part, the community as a whole is far from there. We in no way are in support of (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad or anyone else in charge.” But Iranian-American leaders concede they would find themselves in a quandary should the U.S. take military action against Iran. And they expect Iranian President Ahmadinejad and his supporters would take advantage of divided loyalties by playing to a sense of nationalism. “It will help the Iranian government by making it a national issue, and people who are indifferent or against the government, will now have a foreign enemy,” said Sassan Kamali, who hosts a news show on Tapesh TV, an Iranian satellite TV station that is based in Calabasas and has an international audience. Benjamin Kahlil, 61, of Los Angeles, said he’d support any action taken by the Bush administration against a regime he despises. “It feels bad because I’m Iranian, but I have no choice. I feel bad for the people there, but I just don’t like this regime,” he said. “They feel no responsibility for human life, they’ll kill anybody for any reason and they support terrorists.” Iranian-Americans generally believe Ahmadinejad is trying to provoke a reaction by his stubborn resistance to ending his country’s budding nuclear program and his challenge to U.S. claims that he is arming Shiite militants in the Iraq War. They are watching anxiously as debate rages in this country. “For so many years Iranians here and even in Iran were screaming, `Why doesn’t the U.S. do something about Iran and a regime change?’ And now they’re confused if the U.S. will actually do something,” said Kamali, who lives in West Hills. In the meantime, Iran’s citizens are seeking information from friends and relatives in the United States, seeking to confirm whether the news they’re hearing is in fact true or nationalist propaganda. “They ask, `Is it true, or is the government feeding us this?’ And when they hear it’s true, their sentiments are no different from mine – leave us alone,” said Moallemian, the Amrikaee Magazine editor. “Every time you’ve interfered, you’ve made it worse. That’s the message coming from Iran.” Iranian-Americans also have been forced to deal with stereotypes that have re-emerged with Iran taking a prominent role in the news. Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani said when he asks audience members the first word that comes to mind when they hear Iran, the answers are hostages, oil and terrorism. It is that perception that conflicts with the reality of Jobrani’s life, where the Iranians he knows are good people, successful in American society with jobs not much more mysterious than doctors, lawyers and accountants. He hopes to shatter stereotypes through his act and a comedy special that will be shown on Comedy Central in March called the “Axis of Evil Comedy Tour.” “I think it’s an opportunity for me to put a positive face on Middle Easterners. I try to drive that point home on stage, that we are not what you think we are,” said Jobrani, part of the ensemble cast of NBC’s “Knights of Prosperity.” “When you do stand-up and they laugh with you, you can interject a couple of serious points and it’s a great way to educate people about who we are and what we are.” Moallemian is a board member of the Levantine Cultural Center (www.levantinecenter.org) who put recently sponsored Middle East Comic Relief at the University of Southern California. The goal of their program was to promote dialogue among various Middle East cultures through laughter and the arts. They also wanted to make clear that just because they’re Iranian, it doesn’t mean the government in the country of their birth represents them. “I don’t think Americans would be happy hearing that (Karl) Rove represents the conscience of a country. I don’t think Americans want to be bombed because (Dick) Cheney is extreme in his views,” Moallemian said. Jobrani likens each country’s moves to a heated talk outside a bar between guys who want to start a fight, but sadly everyone will lose if they don’t use diplomacy, he said. “They’re creating a zero-sum game.” [email protected] (818) 713-3722 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img