Friday, June 08, 2007

Iran: A Naive? Rational Look

Well-respected author Reza Aslan has an op-ed in the LA Times that would give Dick Cheney heartburn. It's entitled "Making Iran our friend: Abandoning our stated goal of regime change could bring about the reforms in Tehran the U.S. has always wanted."

She rightly makes the point (another inconvenient truth) that the administration's faux-tough policies and rhetoric toward Iran-- not to mention the invasion and occupation of Iraq-- have actually had the reverse effect intended... they have made Iran more powerful and dangerous than they were before.

It should be noted that, in the immediate 9/11 aftermath, the Iranians were very sympathetic to us, even offering assistance in our war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, which we accepted. Then the neocons wanted to play war games, so Iran became part of the "axis of evil", they got angry/scared, elected hardliners like Ahmadinejad, and put more effort into undermining our interests in the region. A self-fulfilling prophecy.

Did we blow our chance at peace? Ms. Aslan ponders that question-
FINALLY, AFTER three decades of mutual animosity, outright threats and puerile name-calling, the United States and Iran this week engaged in a constructive dialogue about their common concerns in the Middle East. Already the optimism that followed those talks has given way to the usual tit-for-tat accusations. Still, one can't help but wonder: After all these years, could the U.S. and Iran slowly be moving toward a more diplomatic relationship or even — dare I say it — rapprochement?

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. For that to happen, Iran will have to meet certain conditions. It must stop sending arms to Hezbollah. It must cease meddling in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And it must pursue a more constructive role in stabilizing Iraq.

But the U.S. has conditions of its own to meet before it too can be considered a reliable negotiating partner. Most important, it must once and for all abandon its policy of actively pursuing regime change in Iran...

...The great irony, of course, is that abandoning regime change in Iran is the surest way to ensure the regime's collapse. This is because, contrary to widespread perception, Iran is already a democracy. It's just not a very successful one.

Unlike most other countries in the Middle East, Iran has a long and deeply embedded democratic tradition that goes back more than a century. The country boasts what is arguably the most robust political culture in the Muslim world. Since 1980, Iran has held more than 20 elections — all of them freer and fairer than those of any of America's Arab allies — that have drawn 60% to 80% of the electorate to the polls. Despite harsh restrictions on who may run for office, Iran's elections offer lively political campaigns and raucous debates between contrasting candidates who do not shy away from any topic of concern...

...The lesson to be learned from America's misadventure in Iraq is that democracy cannot be promoted from the top down; it must be reared from within...

...Taking regime change off the table also would allow the U.S. to deal more effectively with Iran's nuclear program. It is likely that Iran's leaders do not want nuclear weapons, because of their prohibitive cost and significant security risk. But they would like to have the option of developing them fairly quickly if necessary. And why not? Iran has learned a valuable lesson from its fellow "axis of evil" nations: one did not have nukes and it was obliterated by the U.S. military; the other has nukes and it is being plied with money to relinquish them...

...The days in which Iran could be viewed as a rogue state teetering on the verge of collapse are over. Thanks to U.S. actions in the region, Iran is the new power in the Middle East. It's well past time the United States started treating it as such.

Amen.

A shame that one of the most calm, intelligent, and accurate takes on this situation that I have across is from an op-ed in one paper and not in the mainstream media dialogue about Iran, which still mostly works off the White House rhetoric. I agree that there is hope for positive change here, and I believe we would've had it after 9/11 with a better President. Let's hope the next President has time to fix this, and let's hope the current President doesn't fuck this up before then any more than he has.

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