Foreign Policy: Iran, Islam and Isotopic Uranium

19 09 2010

First, I’d like to lay out a simple outline of my understanding of Iran’s climate, how it ought to affect our policies toward it, how it differs from its neighbors and bothers in Islam and the raw potential it possesses as well as the potential impact it could have on the world.

The ancient land of Persia - now, Iran

The ancient land of Persia - now, Iran

  • Iran hails from a rich liberal Persian (not Arab) culture heritage and was founded in the principles of benign(ish) Zoastroanism
  • Iran has been occupied by Islamic rule brought in by Arab invasion since the 7th century
  • Iran is a huge Middle Eastern country and represents a considerable population, influence and raw force.
  • In 1953 Iranians decided to take back control over oil rights that had been sold cheaply by their corrupt previous Shah (Muzaffar ed-Din in 1901) to the British. In response, Britain put pressure on the current Shah (Mohammed Reza) to suppress the movement, led by cleric Mossadeq. Mossadeq was finally disposed of and the Shah reinstated because of strong U.S. interference under Eisenhower (operation Ajax). The Shah (Muhammed Reza) ruled in the same unjust manner as his father and all the leaders before had; Reza, however, was supported by the U.S., causing widespread resentment towards the U.S. for his misconduct.
  • In 1979 the Shah was overthrown by popular revolution, the Ayatollah declared Supreme Leader and Iranian students held 52 hostages at the U.S. Embassy, demanding that the Shah be returned for prosecution, among other things.
  • Ayatollah Khomeini was instated ruler by popular demand, promising to care for the forgotten people who had been for so long left to poverty and offering hope to the masses. However, he was a hard-line Islamic radical and sought to enforce Shariah law via the government. Anyone who even wanted to run for elected office was vetted by the powerful clerics along with any proposed laws; any legislation must conform to Shariah law. Elected officials could do exactly nothing without Ayatollah concession. All semblances of democratic representation were usurped and a brutal suppression of any public dissent employed.
  • The Iranian people had NOT voted the Ayatollah in because they sought a dictatorial Shariah theocracy, they had been united in common cause with him rebelling against the unjust and self-indulgent rule of the Shah, which was instated without their approval and friendly to foreign interests over those of his own people. The popular movement was not duly concerned with what he would do, preoccupied as they were with what he promised to undo.
  • The Iranian people are not as hard-line as their leaders – proven through the popular vote (the overwhelming win of president Khatami over his radical clerical opponent and the relatively liberal landslide in the Wajlis (elected ruling officials) in the 2000 and 2004 elections) replacing radical clerics with liberal reformers willing to work with the west and lift oppressive legislation. However, the people became disillusioned when they realized that hard-line Islamic clerics would never allow a loosening of Shariah rule and all the liberal elected officials in the world could do not a thing that the clerics ultimately disapproved of in the Ayatollah’s government.
  • Ahmadinejad is merely the product of disengaged voters allowing radicals to bring in the worst of the worst as their titular head, in ideological concert with the real powers they have no control over (namely the Ayatollah and the council of twelve clerics assigned to do the vetting of laws and potential elected officials) because they can get no real representation from the purportedly “democratic” part of their government.
  • The Iranian people are deeply unhappy with their leadership and history implies they will not long suffer its oppressive and heavy hand.

I suppose I must first address the fact that Iranians largely distrust the U.S. because of our previous involvement in their affairs (circa 1953) and our support of a western-friendly Shah at the expense of the Iranian people. Even though popular support in Iran is not behind their totalitarian leadership, I fear a strong strike by the U.S. against their regime or their nuclear capabilities will only serve to unite them again behind this crooked and ill-serving leadership as comrades against a common enemy; this is why Khamenei has control now and an attack on Iran as a nation will only reinforce his ability to wield it.

That being said, Iran simply cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapon capability in light of the regime in control and what it might be expected to do with that kind of power. The radical rhetoric that any American can see video proof of on YouTube at the click of a button plainly shows that these clerical despots see their religious ideology as a higher priority than the very lives of their people, and profess openly their desire to spread Islam by force to the whole world, kill every last Jew and enforce Shariah law to the corners of the globe. This leadership will surely be ousted by the Iranian people sooner or later given their historical trends and proclivities, but until it is entirely removed from power the entire civilized world must not allow insane xenophobic dictatorships like Iran (and North Korea, for that matter) to attain nuclear capability.

So, what then should our policy be? Firstly, a massive media campaign of solidarity with the embittered Iranian people would be a good first step; one we’re engaged somewhat in now and could ramp up. This campaign must not ignore 1953, which is so vitally central to the Iranian-western conflict, and should emphasize 1) our desire to facilitate only what the Iranian people want in regards to their state and governance and 2) why we must and will act to ensure the safety of the world from their insane, oppressive, despotic handlers. The Iranian people are young, educated and eager; they need only direction, support and a realistic hope of success to overthrow their oppressors. How radical can we get with this campaign? How creative can we be about making the message ring in the ears of the Iranian people? How engaged and on board can we convince other world powers to be? Very, I hope.

And what kind of useful engagement can we expect with Ahmadinejad? Khamenei? None.

The former has no real power to negotiate anyway and is only good for a good laugh or cry given the ridiculous caricature he makes of himself every time he opens his mouth; and the latter, who holds the reins, is just a radical cleric who sees a kamikaze mission for the cause of Allah as preferable to a healthy sustainable economy, a well-served and free populace and/or a working relationship with the rest of the world (which, to him, is hopelessly apostate and deserves only the wrath of the believers sword – watch some if his speeches and the speeches of various clerical leaders in Iran my friend, I do the exact opposite of “exaggerate”).

Can you imagine if that lunatic running the Westwood Baptist Church was president of the U.S. AND had dictatorial control over our policy? THAT is Iran right now and we must come to terms with what that means.

However, the U.S. as a mature (ostensibly) and reasonable force in the world must keep extending a principled diplomacy that does NOT offer bribes to behave (or pretend to behave) but makes reasonable demands for reasonable concessions – not because we are the ‘world’s police’ but because we have the right to assess and address real and imminent dangers to our lives and the lives of our allies – and we must not budge a moral inch when Iran (predictably) equivocates. The people of Iran, if not the leadership, CAN be reasoned with and although these diplomatic gestures may be fruitless in regards to the radical cleric puppet-masters running the show, it can win hearts and minds of a people who will not long tolerate their own oppression.

Strong efforts should be made to unite the other countries with a concern in this area (every country within missile’s reach of Iran ought to feel some concern) and draw them into participation. While I by NO means necessitate it as a prerequisite to action, the involvement of other countries would change the entire dynamic of an offensive strike on Iranian nuclear capability (which may end up being unavoidable) because of the particular resentment they have concerning the U.S. and British; we do well to take this seriously and consider the implications of the Iranian people freeing themselves as they wish or re-entrenching in the crooked and warped leadership that at least unites them in their proud patriotism and against a perceived attack by what they see as an old, greedy and persistent enemy.

The Iranian people have a potential, perhaps more than most of the other countries in the region, to be a close and dear ally of the American cause given enough time and positive interaction. There is a rich tradition of common values in Persia/Iran that is not at all restrictive and compulsory, that demands a role of a people in their own governance and that has been evolving on the democratic scene rather encouragingly up until the 1979 radical Islamic tide that was embraced as a ‘savior’ from what Iranians saw as western exploitation of their national reserves; it would serve the world well if we were to make serious and strenuous effort to work towards letting the Iranian country emerge as what it has long sought to be; autonomous, at peace with its neighbors and a boon to its people.

Radical Islam will not disappear with the freeing of Iran, it will not stop seeking to kill the Jews and Americans when and if Iraq ever stabilizes,, it will not stop breeding hate if all of Africa is lifted from economic darkness; but its hold will be loosened in the world and it’s factions relegated to insignificance if we can stay a steady course.

Please let me be clear; the Iranian leadership as it stands is despotic, crazed and palpably dangerous to everyone in the region and, if they had their druthers, the world. I’m only saying that there is a strong distinction between the immediate potential of the Iranian populace in stark contrast to that of their Arab neighbors who do not share social trends and complex history that make them friendly to a peaceful existence in the world and a benign governance of their peoples. Iran’s possible emergence as a functioning free society in the region would go a distance unachievable by any western machination to start the wheels of freedom turning, even in the hearts and minds of the most entrenched theocratic dictatorships in the Middle East and in the world.

In the end, no matter what we are or are not able to achieve through appeal to the people, through diplomacy and through world unity in our cause, we must defend the lives of our citizens and allies with vigor and unapologetically. If it comes down to it, I advocate a strike if a strike is what is necessary.

I’d also like to add this; the U.S. must get more adept at acting in a way that is contrary to our nation’s economic good if it contradicts our cherished principled good. It’s easy for angry mobs to issue this condemning language to politicians and coin idiotic phrases like “no blood/war for oil;” but the American people set the tone for officials by their willingness or unwillingness to bear economic burdens like a steep cost for oil and gas at the pump. I don’t believe for one moment that American businessmen or politicians ever sat down and said “let’s fabricate intelligence and make this war happen in Iraq because we’ll make money even though innocent soldiers and civilians will die in droves” – that is just an oversimplified shrill charge of the radically prejudiced fringe whittled down for political expediency because it can be written on a sign and brandished with the appropriate passionate derision of specific targets. It may help fan the fires of protest and give people something to do on their afternoon off, but it serves no one well and is symptomatic of the auto-immune disease in our country bred in an era of plenty, taken egregiously for granted.

What really happens is that a war based on apparently just causes (yes, I happen to think you can still, in light of what we know right now, make a valid case for the war in Iraq) was launched and yes, our consumption of oil played a national role in our attention to the matter, our present and historical relationships in the region and perhaps most relevantly, our behavior in its (the war’s) implementation. That is not always as evil as one might wish to make it sound; it’s fair to address economic realities and factor them into our behavior unless and until it conflicts in a way that causes us to act unjustly. I think we did just that when we interfered in 1953 and I don’t think it makes us look weak to admit it and move forward; and it certainly helps our position with the Iranian people.

As a nation, we ought to be exploiting every national reserve we ourselves have (see Anwar), making the necessary moves to adopt renewable energy wherever possible and investing money into R&D and incentives to make a large-scale energy shift economic and viable. This is the future and both sides of the aisle want to see it come to fruition; if we invested a fraction of the money we waste on failing social programs and foreign aid into technology that makes hydrothermal energy, nano-solar technology, nano-spring battery storage and other renewable options economically viable we’d be making more of those great leaps for mankind that we used to get so nationally excited about.

Next time I have a moment, I’ll sit down and write out my thoughts on this same topic (nuclear capability and U.S. foreign relations) regarding North Korea.

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