Saturday, August 1, 2015
We Must Deal With Iran
Remember Iran was elevated to this level when President George W. Bush used the term "Axis Of Evil" in his State of the Union Address in 2002, not only did he include Iran as being a member, but he often repeated it throughout his presidency. A big issue with me is that Washington and the politicians who reside there have lied and misled us so often it is difficult to believe them when it comes to such an important matter as this. The icing on the cake is my total lack of confidence in the President who I feel has not only lied to us but failed in so many ways to keep the promises he made to the people who have put him in office. This is exacerbated by the fact I'm dubious of anything coming out of the White House, or congress because the government is very attuned and highly geared to serve the agendas of special interest that place lining their pockets above the common good.
The current agreement on the table supposedly squares off against the unsavory option of taking military action to halt Iran from developing a bomb. History shows war to be a pathetic option to bring about positive change, it may change things, but to what degree and for how long. In truth few Americans know much about Iran or its 78 million inhabitants or have ever visited the country. Many people would have difficulty pinpointing its location on an unmarked map and the chief source of what knowledge they do have is usually from the evening news. The official name of the country is the Islamic Republic of Iran and it is an area that history called Persia with Persian being the official language and the rial is its currency. Iran's unique political system based on its 1979 constitution combines elements of a parliamentary democracy with a theocracy governed by the country's clergy. The country is made up of several ethnic and linguistic groups but most inhabitants are officially Shia.
A little research shows that in regard to Iran's attitude towards America anyone saying that Iran has good reason not to trust the American government is making an understatement. America through its foreign policy has reeked havoc upon many countries, but few societies have been affected or suffered from our meddling as much as Iran. A neutral source without an agenda, in this case, would be Wikipedia, and a quick read of the history of Iran post-World War II shows America has constantly interfered in their internal politics. In 1953 the British M16 and the American CIA organized a military coup 'étadt to oust the nationalist and democratically elected Prime Minister and form a government that allowed the country to be firmly ruled by Mohammad-Reza Shah Pahlavi, the man we all know as the Shah of Iran, in Persian Shah means king.
The Shah maintained a close relationship with America and shared our views towards the Soviet Union its northern neighbor. Iran was a strong ally in efforts to keep the Russians contained during the cold war. While the Shah Westernized and modernized Iran he also ruled with a heavy hand. Arbitrary arrests and torture by the Shah's secret police were used to crush all forms of political opposition. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini an active critic of the Shah publicly denounced the government and was arrested and imprisoned for 18 months. After his release when Khomeini publicly criticized the United States government he was sent into exile. When oil prices spiked in 1973 due to an oil embargo declared by OPEC and several other countries a flood of foreign currency into Iran caused double-digit inflation, waste, and corruption that was followed by a recession and social unrest. Protest and strikes spread until they reached a point where the Shah fled the country and Ayatollah Khomeini returned in 1979.
In the spring of 1979 a new government was formed and over the next several years uprisings were subdued in a violent manner as the new government went about purging itself of the non-Islamist political opposition that had joined with them to overthrow the Shah, tens of thousands were eventually executed by the Islamic regime. A part of history that lingers strongly in the minds of many Americans is that in November 1979 a group of Iranian students seized the U.S. embassy taking 52 U.S. citizens and embassy personnel hostage after the U.S. refused to return the former Shah to Iran to face trial and execution. The hostages were finally set free on Jimmy Carter's final day in office, but many Americans continue to view this as a slap in the face.
A serious bone of contention among Iranians might be what happened next. On September 22, 1980, the Iraqi army invaded Iranian Khuzestan this signaled the start of the Iran–Iraq War. Although Saddam Hussein's forces made several early advances, by mid-1982 the Iranian forces successfully managed to drive the Iraqi army back into Iraq and Iran made the decision to invade Iraq in a bid to conquer Iraqi territory. The war continued until 1988 when the Iraqi army defeated the Iranian forces inside Iraq and pushed the remaining Iranian troops back across the border. It is clear the United States, alongside regional and international powers, supported Iraq and Saddam Hussein with loans, military equipment, and satellite imagery during Iraqi attacks against Iranian targets. Subsequently, Khomeini accepted a truce mediated by the UN, but the war cost Iran many lives and huge economic damage, half a million Iraqi and Iranian soldiers, with an equivalent number of civilians, are believed to have died, with many more injured. It must be noted that during the conflict America and the international community remained silent as Iraq used chemical weapons of mass destruction against Iran as well as the Kurds in northern Iraq.
Following the war, Iran concentrated on a pragmatic pro-business policy of rebuilding and strengthening the economy without making any dramatic break with the ideology of the revolution. Tensions with the United States dramatically increased after the 2005 presidential election brought the conservative populist candidate, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to power. His over the top rhetoric galvanized the feeling Iran had no intention to take a peaceful place in the world community. In 2009 protest erupted in Iran after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reported to have won nearly 60 percent of the vote despite voting irregularities. Despite the relatively peaceful nature of the protests, the police and the Basij (a paramilitary group) crushed the people by using batons, pepper spray, sticks and, in some cases, firearms. Images of Neda Agha-Soltan, who was shot and died were uploaded to mass media and broadcast around the world.
It was reported that thousands were arrested and tortured in prisons around the country, with former inmates alleging mass rape of men, women, and children by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Relatives of those killed are forced to sign documents claiming they had died of heart attack or meningitis. The world watched and did nothing. On June 15, 2013, the electoral victory of new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took place and since then Iran has improved relations with other countries. This recall of history is necessary to understand the real nature of the American-Iranian relationship and how we arrived at today. It should be noted that many Iranians have no malice towards America and are far more moderate than the political apparatus with its strong links to the country's clergy. A few years ago Rick Steves produced a documentary that explored Iran in a one-hour, ground-breaking travel special. This is a good place to meet the people of this nation whose government so exasperates our own.
Kerry stressed that if Iran fails to meet the requirements of the current deal, all options remain on the table. I am not a warmonger and feel that armed conflict tends to be a Pandora's box rather than an easy answer to our woes. We must defend ourselves, but the fact is mothers value their children just as the peasant in a rice patty field values his ox, neither want to see them killed in a war. If we look at every war ever fought we will find that most of the people affected by the violence only wanted to be left alone. It seems the first casualty of war is truth and governments often go to enormous lengths to persuade people to go to war using the tools of patriotic seduction, propaganda, and coercion. Governments convince and mobilize the people by painting a picture of an evil enemy that must be stopped. This means a lack of knowledge does not bode well for society when it comes to our ability to foster intelligent government. The term "need to know" should be revisited and changed to "we all need to know as much as possible".
With this in mind please do not give Obama too much credit for bringing us a great or even good agreement, sadly what is put before us with flowery phrases about his legacy should be questioned. Remember that in six years he has been in office, foreign policy has been in shambles and he has flip flopped ignoring the red lines he boldly drew in the sand. When Kerry talks about offsetting the boatload of money Iran will receive when sanctions are lifted by "upping our game in the area" questions arise as to the cost and how Washington intends to pay for this next gambit. Even a part of the one hundred and fifty billion dollars Iran is slated to get will go a long way to fund the many proxy wars being fought in the area. While officials say this international agreement will halt much of Iran’s nuclear program and ratchet back other elements of it several U.S. senators, both Democrat and Republican, have voiced displeasure with the parameters of the agreement, arguing that the U.S. and its partners are offering too much for something short of a full freeze on uranium enrichment.
Those who are skeptical and view this as a weak agreement say Obama has again backed down again. The President has noted the qualms of Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf allies of the United States and that they are skeptical of Iran’s intentions. An interesting thought to consider is Iran holds more cards than you might think because of ISIS. In many ways, Iran holds the fate of Baghdad in their hands. If the Shia militias from Iran that are currently defending Baghdad waver both the Iraqi capital and the American Green Zone could come under fire from ISIS, this would be very embarrassing for Obama and our government. For the world, the bottom-line remains that if Iran does not halt and reverse its course any agreement means nothing. Iran can always ramp up its plans to develop a nuclear bomb at off-site locations. The fact is if current trends continue in the future Iran looks to face a defanged and economically weakened America with less power in the region. Regardless it appears one way or the other we must deal with Iran and war is not a great option.