06 April 2015

Beware: Persian is Not Arab

It goes against my philosophical and theological framework to speak as I am about to regarding Iran, and the proposed nuclear agreement being brokered with Western powers.
       However, I have concerns (some serious) about the political agreement with Iran. My conservative friends may say that, at last, I am waking up to the "evil forces" at work in Iran. To be clear, I am not becoming hawkish about the U.S.'s involvement in the Middle East, and specifically with Iran. I AM hoping to point out three factors or dimensions to this issue that the Obama administration appears to be avoiding or ignoring.
  1. Persians are not Arabs. Arabs are localized and tribal, meaning that throughout history Arabs have turned on Arabs based on tribal and clan affiliation. Persians (Iranians) are far more monolithic and certainly the Iranian culture is the dominant force in the Persian world. They are unified which makes them more of a political (and military) force to be reckoned with in the Middle East.
  2. Understand the Power Structures. While I am not an expert on Iranian politics, I know enough that there are elected officials, who are chosen by the Iranian people, and there are the Ayatollahs who are not. Iran is a self-declared Islamic Republic, which means the Ayatollahs (the religious clerics) have more power than the popularly elected President and his appointed ministers. The Western governments have spent months and months negotiating with the elected officials of Iran, while the Ayatollahs have remained apart. This calls into question the legitimacy of the negotiations in the first place.
  3. Iran is Expansionist via Regional Influence. In the Iran-Iraq war of 1980 to 1988 (which the Reagan Administration and many other governments did not care very much about) Iraq attacked Iran, and Iran defended itself. Modern Iran since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979 has not proven to be expansionist in the sense of invading other countries. Unlike ISIS, It does not appear to want to conquer land. However, Iran has proven to be exceedingly meddling and destabilizing in the Middle East through fellow Shiite states and movements - Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, and Hizbullah. No one can deny the Iranians' covert operations and sectarian divide they have exploited with Sunni Muslim states.
My good friends on the side of "give peace a chance" will say that the United States meddles and destabilizes in the region as much as Iran. And you are correct in saying that. However, my father taught me that "two wrongs do not make a right!" We can speak out against Iran's meddling and also call the U.S. government to account for its meddling.

The deal with Iran is bad on its own merits, not because of any direct threat to Israel (or any other state in the region). It is bad because the West has not negotiated with the true power base in Iran, and because the agreement does not address consequences to Iran meddling in the affairs of other Middle Eastern states.

I applaud the Obama Administration for wanting a nuclear deal with Iran. Sanctions are crippling to the Iranian people, and only embitters the population to the rest of the world. However, we cannot "cut corners" just to get a deal done. It's time to go back to the drawing board.

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