June 15, 2004

How Iran Learned Its Lesson

Could Matt Yglesias have been right when he proposed earlier this month that GWB might be an Iranian mole? Possibly ;) But it's also possible that their body politic has capabilities that ours could only dream of under the Bush administration. Most notably, the capacity to respond appropriately to changing circumstances, build alliances under trying conditions, and learn as a group. These are astonishing capacities, but then any technology sufficiently advanced can seem like magic to backwards onlookers.

Consider that Iran was named in the Axis of Evil. They know what happened to Iraq, and they know that we're now in the middle of resuming a touchy diplomacy with the refreshed nuclear-armed militants in North Korea. Yesterday, the Seattle Times ran an AP story laying out Iran's response to criticism of its nuclear program:

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran won't accept any new internationally imposed obligations regarding its nuclear program and the world must recognize Iran as a nuclear-capable nation, its foreign minister said yesterday. ...

Their foreign minister is quoted as rejecting any new obligations on its nuclear technology development, though they continue to insist that they're developing nuclear technology for the purposes of civilian energy production. This last isn't as entirely ridiculous a claim as it seems on the surface, due to U.S. embargo it's rather difficult for the country to acquire modern refinery technology, making their fuel resources more directly useful to other nations with better refineries. Still, they're making a point, and we're picking it up loud and clear.

In spite of the controversy, Russia will continue to cooperate on the reactor at Bushehr. Turkey continues to trade with Iran, and that trade will double over the course of this year. They're developing closer ties with Vietnam over tourism. These are only their recent diplomatic successes, as a perusal of news concerning Iran's trade deals over just about any recent period of time will attest.

The problem of the U.S. is this: many of their neighbors like them better than us. Considering that our president essentially lost a popularity contest with Saddam Hussein, as Bill Maher pointed out, it shouldn't surprise us that he's lost one with the mullahs of Iran. Though that unfairly puts a little too much blame on Bush. Iran has been more popular than us in that region for some time, which was one reason why the CIA went to so much trouble to bring it under control in the 1950s.

Finally, the Iranian public is beginning to think about adopting the strategies of successful opponents of the U.S. Iran has long been a state sponsor of terrorism, but this behavior of their government has been regarded as wasteful by the public. The country has long considered Al Qaida an enemy, and polls show that the Iranian public is among the most pro-Western of any country in the Middle East. Fifteen thousand volunteers have signed up to declare their willingness to participate in suicide attacks against the U.S. It's cold comfort that the new group has no money or weapons, or that its leader says nothing would be done without government approval. It's the thought that counts.

If anyone in our government still remembers the vigil held for the 9/11 victims, they should be kicking themselves right now. (Images courtesy of Best Iran Travel):

Tehran Candlelight Vigil - students

Tehran Candlelight Vigil - crowd pan

Posted by natasha at June 15, 2004 12:23 AM | War on Terrorism | Technorati links |

The country has long considered Al Qaida an enemy, and polls show that the Iranian public is among the most pro-Western of any country in the Middle East.

Think back to before the axis speech (2002 SOTU?) that autumn. There were was a stir among the Iranian people. If I remember correctly, Khatami still had a little sway, students were doing stuff, and the whole mindset was different, almost hopeful, like there was a smell of change.

Then along comes the Bush speechwriters with a hard line. Goddam, what is it, 70 percent of Iranians are under 30 years old? It's not like they have a vested interest in the theocracy, there was a genuine tide of reform in the air.

It was wasted.

(my impression as an outsider, anyway)

Posted by: forgetting at June 15, 2004 06:34 AM

as an iranian who has lived in irannad visited there and unlike a lot of commentater who does not know the dce between arabs and persians i have to say
iran's economy is much better,while the western media say the economy is shamble but their jurnalism is shamble.thet is truth and a lot of bloger may become pised off.
second all iranain want have nuke bomb ,if pakis have it why not us .
third what is pro -western if you mean money, cars and house ye but if you think we care about your liberalism and feminism well dream on .we do noy like homos like you sorry.

Posted by: babak at June 15, 2004 08:15 AM

babak - I get much of my information about Iran from Persian friends who regularly speak with relatives and friends of theirs who still live there, and some from the odd C-SPAN show on someone from over there or who has visited. It doesn't make me an authority, but it isn't a perspective I've gotten mainly from the US media.

I didn't say anything at all about the Iranian economy, though the last thing I heard about it was that their stock market is doing great.

Regarding the rest, enjoying material goods isn't what qualifies a country as pro-western in my eyes, I was speaking about a survey on favorable attitudes towards the U.S. Additionally, the public there seems to be moving more towards social liberalization all the time. I hear that there are areas where the police don't even bother enforcing headcovering restrictions, or bans on gatherings in homes. Also, the country has a high rate of female participants in government and business, and if that isn't feminism, it's pretty close. As far as I know, Iranians can already get cars, houses, and money, there being no law against it. It stands to reason that they're agitating in order to get something else.

I don't really care whether or not Iran ends up with a system exactly like the one we have here, not my decision. But it does seem like a shame that the opinion of about 10% of the public has such an overwhelming say in government. (As opposed to the U.S., where a whopping 25% of the public picked which extremists would govern.)

Posted by: natasha at June 15, 2004 09:17 PM

Also, where did I say that the public didn't want nukes? The point of the post was that the country now seems bent on it, and for reasons which are strategically sound, even if not in my own best interests.

Posted by: natasha at June 15, 2004 09:19 PM