In Episode #12, we discuss Iran with World Trade Center Utah’s President & CEO, Miles Hansen. We cover:
- How Utah, a modestly populated landlocked state, punches above its weight in international business activity.
- Significant developments in Iran’s recent history.
- How Iran is perceived by the Saudis and its other neighbors in the Middle East and Asia.
- Iran’s interactions with China and other state actors that affect global business and security.
- What the West should know about the Iranian people as compared to the Iranian government.
- Reading, listening, and watching recommendations from:
This podcast audio has been transcribed by an automatic transcriber.
Fred Rocafort 0:08
Global law and global business go hand in hand, but never seem to keep pace with each other, developing and developed nations wax and wane their importance in the global stage. While consumption and interconnectedness both increase, laws and regulations change incessantly, requiring businesses to stay nimble. How do we make sense of it all? Welcome to global law and business, hosted by Harris Bricken International Business attorneys. I’m Fred Rocafort.
Jonathan Bench 0:34
And I’m Jonathan Bench. Every Thursday, we take a bite sized look at legal and economic developments and locales around the world as we try to decipher global trends in law and business with the help of our international guests. We cover continents, countries, regimes, governance, finance, legal developments, and whatever is trending on Twitter. We cover the important the seemingly unimportant, the relatively simple and the complex.
Fred Rocafort 0:59
We hope you enjoy today’s podcast. Please connect with us via email and social media to comment and suggest future topics and guests.
Jonathan Bench 1:18
Iran sits in the Middle East, a powder keg mixture of sun, sand, oil, gas and religion with a fuse perpetually burning low. Iran has a population of approximately 83 million roughly equivalent to Turkey, double the population of Iraq and almost three times the population of its rivals Saudi Arabia. Iran’s labor force is approximately 20 million. It has a median population age of 32 years and has a literacy rate of over 93%. Iran’s history as the seat of the Persian Empire stretches back over 2000 years. But in recent history, Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution ended centuries of ruled by monarchy and created a revolutionary theocracy that endures today, to say that Iran security and economic relationship with the US has been and continues to be complicated is a bit of an understatement. Today we’re joined by Miles Hanson, the President and CEO of world trade center Utah, an organization dedicated to promoting prosperity across the state by attracting investment and increasing exports. Before joining World Trade Center, Utah Hansen was the director for Gulf affairs at the National Security Council in the White House. Before that, he served as a staff aide to the State Department’s Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs. He also served diplomatic tours at the US consulate in Iran, Saudi Arabia, at the US Embassy in Yerevan, Armenia, and in the Iran regional presence office at the US Consulate General of Dubai. Before joining the State Department as a Thomas R. Pickering fellow Hansen started his career in Utah as a special assistant in the office of the Lieutenant Governor. He speaks Arabic, Persian and Russian. Miles, Thank you for being with us today.
Miles Hansen 2:53
Thank you, Jonathan. It’s great to be on with you today.
Fred Rocafort 2:56
Miles, welcome to the podcast. Let’s get things started by asking you how you chose your particular career path in international public service.
Miles Hansen 3:07
You know, that’s a great question, Fred. It’s funny how life kind of unfolds in an unexpected way sometime. You know, I always was interested in international affairs international things, but I wanted to focus on business. But when I was in college, I signed up to do an internship in Europe, and I thought it’d be a business focused internship went through the the local or the college, internship office to arrange it. And one day I was walking home from campus, I got a phone call. And so you know, we’re having a hard time finding a good fit in Europe. But we’ve got this job in Kyrgyzstan, would you be interested? And I thought for a second I said, Yeah, that Kyrgyzstan. That sounds interesting. So I agreed to do it. And as soon as I got home, I pulled out a map to try to figure out where in the heck Kyrgyzstan was on the map, but I ended up going to Kyrgyzstan. Previously, I lived in Russia for a couple years so spoke Russian. had a really fascinating experience in Kyrgyzstan, hitchhiking The cross Tajikistan, which is just south of there. And that was my first real experience in a Muslim country as a couple years after 911. And what I experienced was very different than what I expected to experience. And so I came back to campus, I decided to study Farsi. And as Jonathan alluded to, there aren’t too many international business opportunities in Iran as an American, but lots of opportunities and national security in foreign policy. And so that was a pretty significant pivot point for me. I started focusing on on Farsi and studying learning more about Iran. And that led me into a career in public service
Jonathan Bench 4:35
Miles Utah is a modestly populated landlocked state. I know because I live here just like you do. How does it compare to other states in terms of international business activity?
Miles Hansen 4:46
You know, Jonathan, one of the one of the biggest surprises for a lot of people who don’t live in Utah or haven’t spent a lot of time in Utah is how international Utah is. First, from an economic perspective. You know, Utah has led the nation in terms of Our export growth over the past couple of years, we punch way above our weight in terms of the percentage GDP that is derived through trade. Nearly one in four jobs in the state is tied to international trade. And a is interesting I had a conversation with, with HSBC, they open it up an office in Denver, but they find that they spend more time here in Utah. Of course, HSBC, one of the largest international financial institutions, international transactions really is their bread and butter. And what they commented to me is that what they found is new top. Businesses are thinking about growing internationally far earlier than any other state within the Intermountain West, which is where the Denver office focuses on that gets. That is a result of a couple different factors. One in Utah, we have the highest rate of young people who have international experiences, and it’s derived originally from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints headquarters. in Salt Lake City, Utah has a very robust missionary program. That’s how I ended up as an 18 year old going and living in Russia for two years and learning Russian. And so you have a lot of young people who are doing these international experiences these missions early on. But as Utah has grown, that has created a culture of of people going and engaging with the world, and now as you find his people graduate high school and jump into college, what you find is whether or not they’re doing a mission, or Peace Corps, or some sort of other service opportunity, you see young people going out and having international experience early on in their life, which obviously is very formative on them on their career path develops language capabilities, and as they come back no matter what they do, and in this case in business, they tend to be more focused on growing their businesses internationally. couple quick stats Utah speaks more languages per capita than anywhere else in the country. We speak 130 languages and Every day here in the state of Utah, and focusing on a thing at one Mandarin, you know, here in Utah we speak to or we teach 20% of the Mandarin immersion, that is taught anywhere in the country is taught here in a state with less than 1% of the population. So we’re a highly international culture society, you see that in the economy and business. And that really is our competitive advantage, the thing that makes us different from every state around us.
Jonathan Bench 7:27
And my four oldest children missed the boat. But my youngest who is four turning five doesn’t know this yet, but he’s going into a mandarin immersion program as long as I can grease the right palms to get them in. And that’s a big draw, you know, those of us who have international experiences and we have an opportunity to bring that to bear on our children earlier. And I don’t know any person who speaks a foreign language who doesn’t feel that that has made them a more well rounded person and a better global citizen.
Miles Hansen 7:57
Yep, that’s exactly right. me know your four year old I will be one of 14,000 students here, you know, K through 12 that are going to school full time in Mandarin. And there are similar programs in Spanish. I think they’re working on Arabic to get that set up. And I’ve heard Russian as well on a smaller scale.
Fred Rocafort 8:18
Miles turning to Iran. This is a country that has certainly been making front page news for for quite some time. I mean, I can I can hark back to my childhood. And I still remember listening, hearing on the news about the, the Iranian airliner that was shut down over the golf, and just in general, it’s just been a constant presence. At the same time, you know, within when you have this, this forest, so to speak up of developments. It’s sometimes easy to to lose sight of the of the trees and and what’s actually happening and and understanding what’s happening there in a more more structured way. So for for for the interest of those of us who who don’t follow Iranian or Middle Eastern Affairs that closely, could you perhaps give us a general timeline of significant developments in Iran over let’s say the last decade?
Miles Hansen 9:31
Yeah, for that’s that’s a great question and happy to do that. You know, Iran has been a thorn in the side of the United States since 1979. Going on more than 40 years, Iran is a country that here in the United States, that is a has become this this perception is the perpetual enemy, the adversary, the country that is fomenting unrest across the Middle East repressing its own people constantly. You know, spring protests within the country are marches denouncing the United States of the great Satan. Marg bar Āmrikā, which means Death to America is another favorite slogan. And so this has been imprinted in the minds of I think every American. And that’s what they view Iran, as I think it’s important to take a step back and remember that before 1979, Iran was a very close ally of the United States. It was much more open than it is today. The economy was developing. It had its challenges, no questions about that. But it wasn’t this bastion of anti American sentiment that we’ve seen over the past four decades. Iran is a rich, very rich country endowed with great natural resources, but probably more importantly, great human capital, human resources. Iranians are, by and large, a high value hard work industry. They’re very innovative. Smart, they’re witty, they’re funny. They have a culture and a society of civilization that literally goes back thousands of years. Iran is not launched a war of, of territorial conquest for four centuries. And so it’s been this, it’s got its long history in this culture, and its heritage is very rich, they’ve added so much to humanity. throughout the centuries, a lot of what we know about the ancient Greeks was preserved, thanks to through a bit of a chain of events through the Iranians and Iranian scholars. They’ve made a great contribution on humanity for centuries. And yet that contrasts significantly with what we’ve seen over the past four decades. I think it’s important to note, you know, why did things turn this direction, the Shah of Iran throughout the 1960s, and 1970s was increasingly repressive. He had a vision for the future of the country. And if you didn’t agree with that vision, then you would find yourself in in pretty tough circumstances. They had a very repressive secret police arrest, torture, suppressing political dissent was something that was commonplace and in contributed to a growing sentiment within Iran to the Shah is not looking after the interests of the Iranian people, but he’s looking at for his own interests as he lived a very luxurious life with a with capturing in an ordinate amount of the wealth that was being created from at that point, primarily Iran’s oil exports. That led to a strong public backlash, a popular uprising against the Shah, there was, you know, every segment of society was participating in both Liberal Democrats, communists and also religious leaders who are stoking in Islamic fundamentalism. They ultimately, over the course of two or three years of revolution, they are the ones that were able to take control to purge out the Liberal Democrats, the communists Other parts of society. And that really is a their their identity was tied into AI pushing back against foreign influence on voyage. There was a lot in the 1960s and 70s coming from the United States. And that was really the birth of this anti American sentiment in Iran. But I I call I think it’s important to highlight this because A, it was a relatively recent development, if you look back across all of Iranian history, so let’s fast forward to the past decade, Iran has seen this revolutionary fervor sustain itself in ways that a lot of people find surprising. In the late 1990s. There began to be some openings from reforms, students began began agitating for more freedoms, more ability to live, they want the way they want to live, and not necessarily have to follow all the dictates of both from a political perspective, but also religious perspective that was coming from the Iranian regime. Those protests were suppressed. And the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps IRGC is the the action arm of the Iranian regime, and they were effective in suppressing that fast forward 10 years. 2009 is a presidential election, which they do have elections in Iran that are contested. They do have debates.
And again, a you know, there was a blatant stealing of the election. The fact that the people were upset about that and being a protest a underscores how these elections are viewed as being legitimate up to this point. The regime stole the election and made sure that Mahmoud identified the current president one, and there were very large spread protests against the protesting the results of the election. Again, the IRGC, the Revolutionary Guard Corps, they suppress those lock up the leaders they’re still under house. Rest now 11 years later, and we’re getting very effective at suppressing this strong popular sentiment towards more freedom, more openness, more engagement with the rest of the world. And now we’ve seen over the past couple of years, increasing political dissent within the country. And it’s interesting, just last fall, we had widespread protests, where they were for the first time very, the protests were getting fairly violent, and taking extreme action against the government. They burned. Over 100 banks in the country destroyed other public buildings. But again, the IRGC, the Iranian regime was very effective at shutting down the internet across the country and beating the people back into the street. It has no way of knowing how many people were killed, some estimates but a well over 1000. And so you see this regime that is very effective at maintaining hold on power, while the same time is consistent desire from the Iranian people. To have a change to moderate, they don’t want to have a revolution that now has been ongoing for 40 years. They want a thermador is that the term that they use in France for the French Revolution, French revolutions where they had successive revolutions. And that was a term that denote it when the revolution ended in life got back to normal. And that’s what the Iranian people want. But unfortunately, the Iranian regime in place is very effective at controlling all the elements of political, economic, and military power, and they will those those tools very effectively.
Jonathan Bench 16:34
So do you see that changing at all Miles in the next decade or two?
Miles Hansen 16:38
You know, I think it’s, it’s gonna be fascinating to see. The protests that we saw in November, were far more widespread and violent and focused on the regime itself, demanding a change of of the regime than anything we’d seen previously. I think That there is no question that the Iran’s economy is in shambles. regular people are having a really hard time making a decent living. Look at COVID. And the COVID response in Iran has been really bad with a lot of people dying. And it’s just yet the latest example of both the lack of accountability that the Iranian government the Iranian people have over their government, and also the ineffectiveness of the Iranian Iranian Government to deliver a peaceful prosperous life for the people. And so that makes me think that things are nearing a tipping point. But at the same time, we’ve seen this cycle of protests and suppression a couple different times without the protests really affecting any meaningful change whatsoever. And so I think that it’s just gonna be fascinating to see how it plays out and to see if on this iteration of the protest cycle, the protesters, Iranian people are able to affect more change, or if the regime is going to be really effective at stamping it down. The one thing I’ll know, Jonathan is that the Iranian supreme leader is aging, you know, at a certain point over the next and nobody knows for sure, but it’s called a decade, he’s gonna pass away. And there’s a lot of questions about who the next supreme leader is going to be. And that then I think, will create an opportunity where you have all these different factions, even within the regime. That transition of power will be a period that will be difficult for the regime to manage. If at the same time, there is this heightened dissatisfaction among the people and a willingness among the people to take pretty extreme risks, to try to demand change.
Jonathan Bench 18:53
And I think those of us who are China watchers like Fred and I are certainly looking at what’s happening in Iran, and wonder, you know, is that where China will be in 10 or 20 years, you know, it seems like the same strong arm politicians who control all of the technology in the country, they can certainly wield a great amount of power and use that to cement their rule for four decades. So it’s very interesting. It’s sad, of course, but it’s also just an interesting academic exercise to compare revolution revolutionary fervor in one country versus another.
Miles Hansen 19:32
You know, that’s that’s a that’s a fantastic point. And it is fascinating to think through. I’m not a China expert, but I think one really interesting distinction between the two is that in Iran, when the revolution came in, Iran has got a constitution, like I mentioned, they have a parliament, those Parliament that includes representation from you know, all aspects of Iranian society, are Jewish members of the Iranian parliament. They’re Christian. Members of the Iranian parliament, Shia and Sunni as well, they are popularly elected through what are typically, you know, pretty much free and fair elections. The same is true of the President. They’ve got a judicial system. And so you have these liberal democratic institutions that are put in place in Iran. And yet, on top of that, in the revolution, they layered this, these institutions that are designed to keep those democratic institutions in check and in place, like I mentioned, they have elections and you can go and you can vote for your candidate to be in the parliament, but only but there is a a governing body that bets candidates, and so you have to be pre approved to be a candidate and in their elections in February and a significant percentage of the existence parliament. So incumbents were disqualified by this institution that’s in place to vet and make sure that only those candidates that have sufficiently appropriate revolutionary credentials are allowed to run. And just like the presidential elections, the same thing where you have candidates who you have debates, they’re on TV, and they’re debating their issues. And aside from the 2009 election, you know, they generally once a candidate was vetted and approved to be in the race, you know, people voted and and people perceive those elections to be free and fair. But of course, the government’s the one that gets to control which candidates can run. And then as was the case in 2009, if the wrong candidate wins, then they tip the scales back the other direction. So you have this the system in place where you actually wouldn’t need to make very significant changes to the Iranian constitution, to make it so was a liberal democracy. And when you can still have a supreme leader but it You could make like a constitutional monarchy. Or you could have a religious leader who plays a similar role that the Queen of England plays. And you have these this history in these institutions of democracy in the country, which I find very fascinating. And I contrast that with China, where in China you have a Jonathan Fred, you know better than I do, but a unified structure that is a controlled by the party, but you don’t have these liberal democratic institutions that are then under the nose and under the control of the party. You just have a party apparatus and a state apparatus that is very much synced up and a part of the party, that CCP and which which gives me some hope for Iran day. If there can be a change made, it wouldn’t be a wholesale throw out what they have and create something new. It would be tweaking what they have to make it so functions appropriately, and that there is true accountability, and that these democratic institutions that are in place are able to operate by They do in any country, and not with the oversight of the religious leadership and these other revolutionary institutions that are controlling and manipulating the democratic wants to their advantage.
Jonathan Bench 23:13
Interesting. I think that’s a fair characterization of the way China’s government is run at this time. So let’s switch gears then. I’d like to learn more about how Iran and its relationship with Saudi Arabia how that perpetual blood feud affects the Middle Eastern dynamics and then just also how, how is Iran perceived by by its other neighbors in the Middle East and and neighboring countries in Asia as well?
Miles Hansen 23:38
That’s a great question. Iran, a one thing for people who aren’t as familiar with Middle East or Iran, I always tell people that Iran is like the Germany of the Middle East. And think of Germany through the Franco Prussian wars, World War One in World War Two, Germany had the ability to unilaterally destabilize lives the continent, right and wreak death and destruction in a really significant way throughout Europe, and yet, Germany in it since the 1990s, is played such a strong, positive stabilizing force throughout Europe in Germany is is from an economic perspective, from a political perspective, from a social perspective is is playing its very strong unifying role across Europe, which then feeds into success and prosperity across the continent. And I think Iran is is very similar. Iran, a clearly for the past 40 years has been playing a very destabilizing role in the region, as it works to try to expand its influence and and be the predominant power within the region. And that has long, far reaching consequences in Syria and Lebanon, and Israel and Palestine in Gaza and the West Bank in Saudi Arabia. Elsewhere in the goal in Yemen, certainly the the terrible civil war that’s been raging, there would not be the the humanitarian catastrophe that it is, without Iran very actively fomenting and destabilizing that country. And using that as a base of operations to attack Saudi Arabia, and to a lesser extent, extent the United Arab Emirates. So Iran right now is playing that destabilizing role. So I think that the heart of your question is why, after the revolution before the revolution, you know, Iran and Saudi Arabia enjoyed good relationships. There are videos online of the current King of Saudi Arabia, doing a celebratory dance, kind of a traditional dance in Iran on a visit there when I lived in the eastern part of Saudi Arabian work there. You know, I’d be with these very senior Saudi business leaders, and they would talk about in the 60s and 70s. When they would take road trips to Iran, they drive up through Kuwait and go into Iran and some of them have family relationships there. And so you have these strong relationships. And it hasn’t always been the case because it’s been, by and large, you’ve seen good strong relationships between Iran and its neighbors, including Saudi Arabia. After the revolution and during the revolution for Iraq, Iran’s neighbor to the west, Saddam Hussein was in charge. He saw an opportunity to seize oil fields and natural resources and territory from Iran. He launched the war into Iran, just 18 months or so into the revolution or into the the revolution where you have a new government on the part of Iran that he hoped to take his ethnically Arab. That is where the oil industry is focused in Iran. And so he saw that as an opportunity and took advantage of it. He initially made some significant gains the Iranian people rallied. They pushed a rock out of Iran, and then ended up going in invading Iraq to try to take territory and inflict punishment on Iraq for for invading Iraq. And it was a disastrous war eight years along terrible death and destruction on both sides. Really horrendous things happening missiles writing down on Iranian cities with chemical weapons. And in that period of time Iran was was looking to export this revolution. And they viewed it as an Islamic awakening. They hope that in believe that they’re the shia sect of Islam that they practice predominantly in Iran, that the leaders were there in Iran, they that if they invaded, they had opportunity to to push back in in foeman, and a similar Islamic Revolution in Iraq and Syria, in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the region, which of course, all the other countries of the region, they weren’t happy about that. And so they all were supporting Saddam Hussein in Iraq, as iraq inflicted significant damage and death and destruction on Iran. And so that’s the rivalry that we’ve seen since then, really stems from the 1980s and during this period of time, I’ve since then, They view the Saudi government is not being legitimate overseers of the heart of Islam, Mecca and Medina. And so they are constantly working to undermine and D legitimize the Saudi government. Of course, the Saudi government doesn’t like that. And so they have sought ways and opportunities to push back on Iranian influence elsewhere in the region. And over the past year, year and a half or so we’ve seen these tensions increase significantly. I mentioned Yemen. I there are civil war in Yemen. And the Yemeni rebels will call them the Houthis are a are aligned with Iran and Iran has been sending in ballistic missiles, other weapons that the Houthis are using to to fire on civilian and military targets in Saudi Arabia. We all saw on the news last year where Iran launched cruise missiles and in a very aggressive manner attack the Saudi oil infrastructure. See, as long as Iran remains this revolutionary, religiously controlled government, part of their, their their core ideology is that the other governments of the region are not legitimate, that they should be working to expand and export the revolution. And therefore, they can’t have peaceful normal relationships with them because they are actively working to destabilize and in so doing expand their influence in the region.
Fred Rocafort 29:30
To turn now to China. Why is Iran’s interaction with China significant? And what are some of the manifestations of that close working relationship between Iran and China that should be of concern to other countries? I, last month, I remember reading about how China was to some degree or another Helping Iran supply Venezuela with with with oil for perhaps you could talk about that specific episode and or more broadly, how the cooperation between these two repressive regimes could have broader consequences on on moral security.
Miles Hansen 30:24
So, Fred, fascinating question. What we’ve seen over the past few months and really the past several years, is as there is a united front tried to put pressure economic pressure on Iran to limit its ability to foment these, this unrest across the Middle East, and also to put pressure on a first nuclear program. I you see Europe hesitatingly sometimes but more often on going along with United States, Canada and now there is on putting economic pressure on Iran. Russia has been playing both sides. As as China, and what we’ve seen over the past few years, is as the United States has increased economic sanctions on Iran and reduced its ability to export its oil, thereby deriving revenue that it can use to internally, China has been made continue to be a willing buyer of Iranian oil. And so that China is able to one get the oil and to help make sure that Iran is not completely starved of the ability to generate revenue. China, clearly is, is in a period of increased tension with the United States is the old adage that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. I think there’s some of that going on here where China recognizes from a nuclear perspective that that’s a new nuclear power, Iran with nuclear weapons may not be a good thing. It’s probably not the worst thing for China either. If you look at what Iran is doing in Iraq and Syria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen and elsewhere. There’s a lot of human cost to that a lot of tragedy. China’s not as concerned about that. And they’re also not directly threatened in any way by that. And so they don’t have too much to lose by, by allowing Iran to continue to have an outlet an opportunity to sell us oil. And at the same time, the extent to which containing Iran takes up time and energy and resources and attention from the United States and others. That then is time and energy and resources that aren’t going towards addressing some of the concerning behavior that the United States has seen from China recently. And so you see China wanting a likely wanting to see more focus on Iran, at the same time not experiencing the costs of doing so. And then they’re able to get oil at a very significant discount over market rates because they’re buying it in some ways under the table from Iran. In terms of Venezuela specifically, this is another area where you have a government that is under a lot of pressure from the United States and our partners and allies, a lot of concerns with the Venezuelan government, Venezuela and Iran, and also China have been friends for a long time. And so we’ve seen Iran sending oil and food and other resources to Venezuela, with some participation from China as well as they work to try to help prop up the Maduro government in Venezuela.
Jonathan Bench 33:31
Miles, you talked earlier about the Iranian people, and I’m a people person. I like to know the backstory behind the headlines. And we’d love to hear a little bit about maybe some of the Iranians who you have met to even interact with who you’ve read about to give everyone a feel because I think you’re completely accurate, even those of us who consider ourselves very international in the United States. You know, I’m not quite 40 years old yet and so this has been my reality. For my whole life, knowing Iran as the as the boogeyman of the Middle East, so perhaps you can you can help us heal a little bit of that intellectual and emotional disconnect.
Miles Hansen 34:10
Yeah, the Iranian people are absolutely phenomenal. I’ve spent a lot of time working with Iranians, working on Iran issues have a lot of very, very close friends that are Iranian. And I’ve traveled all over the country. And I’ll tell you, Jonathan, I traveled there. When I was still a student studying Farsi, my wife and I were able to get visas and able to go and arrange a tour. And I have never in the 80 or so countries I’ve been in I’ve never been somewhere where I felt more at home more welcome, and just surrounded by people who are, who seemed desperate to make sure that we didn’t leave in any interaction without knowing that we were deeply valued and respected. Not just as as Americans, but as innovative. And people you know you one quick story is we were in the city of where we were in Yazd, Iran, and this was in January of 2009. So we actually watched Barack Obama’s inauguration from Tehran in our our hotel. And at the same time, there was a war going on in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinians. In sum, I think 1000 Palestinians or so had been killed in eight or nine or 10 Israelis were killed. And so there was really heightened passions in Iran in a lot of concerned about this, and so there were there were a lot of protests. And remember, we’re having lunch one day, and you could hear kind of echoing down this little alley, Marg bar Āmrikā, like the Death to America. chance and my wife said, we go check this out. And I don’t know if that’s a great idea, but she wanted to go check it out. So I followed her lead, and we went out there in a street full of people, you know, hundreds of people. And at first you, you stand there and you hear all these people talking about, you know, Death to America and calling us the great Satan and holding up these signs with the Statue of Liberty with a skull for a face. And as an American, you know that that is grating, to say the least. And at first I felt a little bit agitated. So I’m already standing on a corner, I don’t blend in at all my wife blends in perfectly so she can walk around and nobody notices that she’s not from Iran. I’m pretty obvious not from Iran. So I stood there on the corner and I kind of staring people down as they walked by. And after a couple minutes, I realized there was no passion in the protest. And every time I locked eyes on somebody, their eyes would drop, they look away. And they’re the sense of embarrassment on their faces. And so I loosened up after a few minutes and kind of walking around. There was a group of kids or teenagers on the margins of it. And so I walked up to and we started talking and I said, Hey, you know, some kind of funny What is it? I’m from America. And they instantly got the irony that here they are talking to an American in the middle of a Death to America protest. And they laughed and said, Don’t pay attention to any of this. They said in America, you guys play sports here in Iran, we protest. And then they went on to explain that, you know, on Fridays, if you have a job that’s tied to the government, you have to go to mosque, and you have to go to prayers. And on the way home from prayers, you have to join in the protest. And so the vast majority of people there, just as I experienced, were doing it not out of a deep hatred to Americans or the United States. But they’re doing it because that’s what they have to do to keep their heads down and to maintain a job that’s anything tied to the government and most things there are tied to the government. And so by and large, we had a phenomenal experience. You know, waiting in lines in return over from America instantly escorted the front of the line. People at wanting to talk to us even Revolutionary Guards security guys in the airport. wanted to talk about To us, and everybody wanted to make sure that we knew that they didn’t hate us because we were Americans, and that we shouldn’t buy into the propaganda and what we see on the surface. That’s not to say that there aren’t true believers is not to say that there aren’t a lot of Iranians that are fully embedded in the government that they are benefiting from it socially, economically, politically. And it that’s not a worldview that they maintain. But that’s a my experience was that was a pretty significant minority. And the people there were overwhelmingly just wonderful to be with. And so that’s, that makes it it makes the situation more of a tragedy in my mind, the such wonderful people, great human capital and so much to contribute, and yet they’re caught in this system. That is not only bad for other countries in the region and bad for the United States. For the people who suffer the most of the the wonderful running people that have to live in that society and under a system that is so repressive and is so poorly delivered. And outcomes for the people.
Fred Rocafort 39:02
Miles This is the part where we ask you, what have you been reading or listening to or watching? That would be of interest to to our audience? Feel free to be creative?
Miles Hansen 39:15
Yeah, that’s a that’s a great question. And one of my goals recently is to read more and to watch more to do more than just learn about the things I need to learn about for work. But the this is not creative at all. But for anybody who’s not checking in with The Economist, either subscribing and reading the print edition online, are you seeing you know, going to the website and reading the free articles online, because in my mind, is the best ability to maintain general knowledge about what’s happening in the world with a bent Of course towards business in the economy.
Fred Rocafort 39:53
I was actually a junior in college studying abroad when my then room mate introduced me to the to The Economist and it was a an inflection point and there’s there’s really nothing like it. I think you’re you’re absolutely right. You know, after all these years I still I completely agree if you if you want to have that that overview of what is happening around the world, there’s there’s just nothing, nothing like it. Jonathan, what about you? What do you have for us this week?
Jonathan Bench 40:26
A while ago, I stumbled upon Foreign Policy’s, I Spy podcast, and I listen and read to read a lot of things. So I haven’t been able to delve into as deeply as I would have liked to. But the episode I listened to was fascinating. It’s they take ex spies, and they have them walk through a scenario or some situation they ran on what it’s like to really be the spy in the room. And so it was a little bit of, you know, a little bit of current events, a little bit of history, a little bit of thriller, all mixed in and so I highly recommend that I I plan on tuning in more Fred, what about you? Along with the economists, I also have to echo the economist. It’s fun, I say I enjoy the political cartoons the most on both sides of the political spectrum. And so certainly endorsed that, Fred, what about you? What do you have to recommend for us today?
Fred Rocafort 41:17
Well, I have two recommendations. Both a little different, than what I usually recommend. The first it just came to mind, but I realized it’s actually a very useful resource for me, and it might be to others. So I just like to put this out there. If you’re ever curious about a particular country’s diplomatic network, and the kind of presence it has overseas, or vice versa, if you want to have a better idea of the the level of diplomatic representation In a particular country, Wikipedia has really done a good job or the contributors to Wikipedia, I should say, have done a really good job of keeping track of this. And they they organize it in a in a very clear way you can you can usually look at it by by city. And this, I think is particularly useful. I mean, the US has so many diplomatic missions where it’s it’s rare that a country does not have a mission, but a US mission, but other countries have to be much more judicious with their budgets. Right. So it’s really interesting to to see, you know, what the priorities are, and how they use those more limited resources. I mean, obviously, countries like like China, again, have have very extensive networks but really interesting to look at what some of the smaller countries are doing and also to see where some other strange places where countries decide to To put up a consulate so basically if you if you go on Wikipedia you can do either a list of diplomatic missions in and then the name of the country or list of diplomatic missions off. The the second recommendation, this is a Netflix movie that I saw recently it’s called the wasp network and bits has to do with the, with the insects, not the not the acronym. And it’s based on a true story. The wasp network was a Cuban espionage ring based in South Florida that had the the objective of keeping track of the activities of anti Castro groups in in South Florida. I do follow Cuban affairs a little bit so I was aware of the existence of the network, and there’s Certainly things that have been written about it I mean this was for for many years the the release of the captured spies was a it was a bit of a of a battle cry for for the Cuban government but this movie it’s really well done so if you want to to to learn about this particular episode in a more entertaining way you know a Cuban propaganda or some obscure account of what happened this is really the way to do it or at least to to sort of get the the basic idea really good acting just just really really well done movie so and very entertaining. So the wasp network available on Netflix and and those are my recommendations. Miles, thank you, once again for being on the podcast really enjoyed it really interesting. I’m sure I’m sure that this is going to be an episode that will be well received by our audience because it really it’s it’s really what we what we aim for when we had this idea to set up this podcast right to really go in depth and start looking at different things and from slightly different angles and then benefiting from the expertise of people like yourself. So thank you once again, for being on the podcast.
Miles Hansen 45:28
Happy to do and thanks for doing that. I think it’s easy for all of us to get very superficial in our in our knowledge and understanding and the ability to go a little bit deeper is a really good service to all of us who are listening. So thank you for giving me the opportunity.
Jonathan Bench 45:43
We hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. We look forward to connecting with you on social media to continue to discuss developments in global law and business. and tune in next week for another episode. We’ll see you then.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai