Expert speaks on Middle East

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By MIKE MORRIS

Harvard Law School scholars have nothing on the students of Bret Harte Union High School.

So says Amin Tarzi, an expert on Middle Eastern politics who supplies the United States Congress with daily reports on the happenings in Afghanistan and Iraq.

At any time of the day, Tarzi can dial a four-digit code and talk to hundreds of contacts in Afghanistan and Iraq. He takes that information, analyzes it and informs Congress of his findings.

Tarzi lectured on Afghan law to Harvard students during a two-day visit at the Massachusetts university three weeks ago. But yesterday, Tarzi made a surprise visit to Bret Harte High, where he spoke to an honors American studies class.

"You're putting me to work more than the Harvard kids," he told the Bret Harte class during a question-and-answer session.

"I worked harder here," said Tarzi, whose girlfriend is a Bret Harte graduate and prevailed on him to appear in class. "I was honestly impressed by the quality of questions. They were deep, informed questions."

Those questions ranged from how many languages Tarzi speaks (five) to his take on the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

"It was basically raping me as a human being," Tarzi said of 9/11.

Born in Prague, the 39-year-old Tarzi was raised in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In 1979, the then-Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and several of his relatives were murdered. A year later, at the age of 14, he fled to New York City.

Tarzi went to high school in New York, joined the U.S. Marines and, after discharge, earned his doctorate from New York University.

From 1998 to 2002, Tarzi was a senior research associate for the Middle East at the Center of Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute, in Monterey. It was there he met Kim McCloud, a 1990 graduate and former student body president of Bret Harte High.

This connection brought him to Jan Schulz's classroom yesterday.

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