Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Understanding Iran

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's story ( "Lawmakers try to understand Iran, American policy"; Please see below) reflected the general lack of understanding (By our officials and reporters) of the essential nature of Iran. It is NOT a nation-state of the democratic or totalitarian or other varieties with which diplomats have been dealing for the last 200-years. It is (Like Saudi Arabia, but more so) a theocracy operating under the very, very, different premises and assumptions of such governments, especially those committed to Islamic principles of law and society, of death and sacrifice and of goals and strategies.

Until such time as all understand the nature of Koran based government, its commitment to perpetual war with "unbelievers", the lack of respect for treaties as exampled by Mohammed and the other differences between sane (Even totalitarian) governments and such theocracies, there can be no understanding of Iran.

What Americans (Especially those of the left) fail to understand (Perhaps as a byproduct of efforts to remove religion from public notice and debate in the USA) is that religion does matter and that is especially true for Muslims and even more true in a nation run by Mullahs.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Story

Lawmakers try to understand Iran, American policy
House panel examines relations, perceptions of nation, its people
Posted: Oct. 30, 2007
Washington - With respect to Iran, should the United States use carrots or sticks - or airstrikes?
That was a key question Tuesday when a House panel examined policy toward Iran and its consequences.
House Democrat John F. Tierney of Massachusetts opened the hearing by saying the Bush administration's rhetoric on Iran was becoming "more strident and inflammatory."
"And at the same time - as was the case with the build-up to the Iraq war - much of its decision-making is being made in the utmost of secrecy," Tierney said.
Saying few in Washington understand Iran and many oversimplify a complex society, Tierney said: "Iran is a black hole to us - just as Iraq had become in 2003."
He chairs the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, part of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. It plans more hearings on Iran.
The subcommittee's top Republican, Christopher Shays of Connecticut, did not mince words about Iran. He called it a country that promotes terrorism, wants to become a nuclear power, has threatened other nations with annihilation and could influence control over the energy-rich Middle East given its location.
"Aside from Cuba, Iran is the only country in the world with which the United States has no sustained direct contact," Shays said.
He said the United States has designated Iran a state sponsor of terrorism and has had "no significant connection" with the Iranian government since the 1979 hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
Although Iran is a rogue state, it is time for the United States to "start talking with Iran - diplomat to diplomat, politician to politician and person to person," Shays said.
Painting a portrait
The hearing focused on Iranian people and their attitudes.
The portrait that emerged is of a little-known, oil-rich nation of about 70 million people with nuclear ambitions that is struggling with inflation, unemployment, underemployment and deep discontent.
A nation where most people are disengaged from politics.
A nation where two-thirds of the people are 33 years old or younger.
A nation where a deep desire for economic, political and social reform is tempered by an aversion to unrest and insecurity.
A nation where few romanticize the idea of conflict or militarization after an eight-year war with Iraq that left an estimated 500,000 Iranian casualties. A nation where the government's enmity toward the U.S. and Israel doesn't resonate on the street, yet the U.S. has lost political capital because many Iranians view the U.S.-led Iraq war as "less about democracy and more as a botched attempt to expropriate the country's oil resources."
The last point was made by Karim Sadjadpour, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
He put the present chances of the U.S. using military force against Iran at 20% and said it's in the realm of possibilities not because of Iran's ambition to build nuclear weapons but because of Iran's "alleged support" for militias killing U.S. troops in Iraq.
Direct communication urged
Kenneth Ballen, a former federal prosecutor, said economic sanctions and terrorist designations are likely to fail unless the U.S. begins speaking directly to the Iranian people.
Ballen, the president of a nonpartisan group, Terror Free Tomorrow: The Center for Public Opinion, pointed to 1,000 survey interviews conducted in June, the first uncensored nationwide survey in Iran since 2002, when Iranian pollsters were jailed.
Some highlights:
• 79% surveyed want free elections and normal relations with the outside world and 68% favor normal relations and trade with the U.S.
• 29% consider developing nuclear weapons an important priority for the government compared with 88% who cited improving the economy.
• Two-thirds support financial aid to Palestinian opposition groups, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and to Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi Shia militias. But one-third consider this very important contrasted with nearly half who think seeking trade and political relations with the West is very important.
Ballen said hostility would result if the U.S. persisted in saber-rattling without articulating a vision for a future Iran that is secure, able to trade and respected by the community of nations.
He observed that this country's most effective outreach to the Muslim world came from tsunami relief efforts led by former Presidents Clinton and Bush. He said they could be excellent emissaries to Iran to make a positive case for U.S. policy.

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