As Barack Obama extends an olive branch to Iran, I have a sinking feeling this might go all to hell.
My concern does not stem from the potential for appeasement of the arch-conservative Shia regime of the Ayatollah. Mere days before his Nowruz message President Obama extended US sanctions on Iran for another six months, saying the country presented an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to the well-being of the United States and its allies. The Nowruz message itself, careful not to lay blame on the average citizens for the repeated incendiary statements and actions originating in Iran, did remind all parties that greatness as a nation does not extend from the ability to sow destruction. The implication, I feel, is fairly clear. Continued support of terrorism and power by force is not something the major powers of the world will tolerate for long.
I think the real tragedy here may be born out of the naïve, albeit well-intentioned, wish to do business with a state that has no intetion to be an active part of a global and democratic community. Despite often-cited elections, Iran is no democracy. It is run by an Ayatollah. Period. A closed circle of power, brought about by a complex election system, all but guarantees power is vested in this one man. The Ayatollah is supposedly appointed and regulated by a directly elected body, the Council of Experts, but all meetings are kept secret and this Council has never flexed any of the supposed muscle it has. This might be because all directly elected candidates must first be vetted by the Guardian Council. This Council is half appointed by the Ayatollah and half elected by the judiciary, though all candidates are offered up by the head of the judiciary who is (you guessed it!) appointed by the Ayatollah. Check out this page to further explore the vagaries of Iranian democracy.
So what’s my point? I want to explicitly illustrate that the United States is not dealing with a democracy, replete with elected leaders that reflect the feelings of the populace. We are dealing with a despotic state posing as a democracy.
And here’s where the irony comes in. The sad thing is we’ve dealt directly with Iranian despots before, and the results were seriously lacking.
Remember the Shah? The United States was best buddies with Iran under his rule. This relationship is one of the biggest reasons we have a problem with the current government of Iran. When we cut a deal to work with the despotic leader of Iran we alienated the Islamic government that overthrew it. Are we going to make this same mistake again?
The majority of Iran’s population is comprised of young men and women. There is overwhelming evidence that they are unhappy with the current state of their country. Hopefully they can affect some positive change in the years to come, and wouldn’t it be great if we can say that the United States was never allied with the dictatorial theocracy that ran their country? We have a chance to prove that we are primarily interested in freedom and self-expression, and want all people around the world to have a say in government.
In the next 20 years Iran might be going through another revolution, and I hope we’re not caught on the wrong side of freedom yet again simply because the Obama administration wants to score some points in the land of international politics.