Sharp divisions over L.A.’s influence in Iran

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2But while Iranian media here jockey for the funds, Iran watchers and influential expatriates elsewhere assert that the Los Angeles community is all but irrelevant to happenings back home. If Iranians here are out of touch, it’s partly because they’ve been busy becoming successful Americans. With thousands of doctors, lawyers and prominent businessmen, Iranians comprise one of the country’s most affluent immigrant communities. That, say some in Los Angeles, is itself a powerful advertisement for democracy to Iranians back home. In Los Angeles, Iranians tend to be spread out in exclusive areas such as Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, without the kind of commercial center that many immigrants groups develop. Iranians started coming in large numbers after 1979, when an Islamic revolution toppled the U.S.-friendly shah. Today there are more than 160,000 Californians of Iranian descent statewide, according to U.S. Census data, the majority in the Los Angeles area. Many expatriates in Los Angeles believe that an opposition leader capable of toppling Iran’s entrenched government could emerge from their community. They look to the recent example of Ahmed Chalabi, a leader in the Iraqi exile community who provided intelligence to U.S. officials before the invasion – information that was later discredited. Zia Atabay says his satellite TV station is just a few megabytes away from igniting a powerful opposition to the Islamic government in Iran, the homeland he fled more than two decades ago that has since developed nuclear ambitions. So the former Iranian pop singer who wears neatly pressed suits was ecstatic when the Bush administration asked Congress for $75 million to promote Iranian democracy through broadcasting. Others who regularly lob rhetorical bombs from Los Angeles – a city with a cottage industry of TV stations focused on regime change in Tehran and enough expatriates to have earned the nickname “Tehrangeles” – also thought their break had come. Extra money would let them boost programming and buy stronger signals. “The U.S. government could just help us until Iran is free,” said Atabay, president of National Iranian Television, as he sat in his station’s plush suburban offices. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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