FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Fueling Mistrust Between Iran and the US

Imagine your reaction if, during last November’s presidential contest, the mullahs of Iran had suddenly launched a tirade of criticism against the American system of democracy and beamed their message onto our television sets and radios for all of us to hear: democracy in the United States, the mullahs might perhaps have claimed, is a corrupt process that is determined largely by the influence of the wealthiest donors, and a process that wholly fails to address the religious needs of a secular, materialist culture.

Most ordinary Americans, it can be fairly said, would be outraged by the sanctimonious tone and intrusive nature of those who know nothing first-hand of what they condemn. They would probably deeply resent such comments as unwarranted and deeply unfair, and view the Iranian regime with even more mistrust, and perhaps loathing, than ever before.

Now listen to some of the comments ventured by administration spokesmen about Iran’s pending presidential elections, which are due to be held on Friday, June 17 th. The election, as State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 19, “will represent another setback for democracy because the political process and the media are controlled and manipulated by an unselected few.” Such control and manipulation, he continued, inevitably frustrated President Bush’s declared aim of sponsoring democratic reforms “from Damascus to Tehran” that would make the wider world a better and safer place.

The strong criticisms of Iran’s domestic politics that have been expressed by the President and his spokesmen are also being beamed into Iran more vigorously than ever before: since late last year the administration has granted millions of dollars to fund satellite television and radio stations that, from their studios in the United States, transmit often radical messages straight into the homes of ordinary Iranians. What’s more, Washington is now actively funding political groups that, from their exiles, support the cause of democracy inside Iran.

The real criticism of this highly sanctimonious tone is not that such comments are in any way unfounded. Iran’s elections will be, as administration spokesmen claim, not far from a sham. The clerical regime has already barred more than 1,000 hopefuls from standing in the race in the same way that, in February last year, thousands of potential candidates in the parliamentary elections were similarly barred by hardliners who feared the reforms they championed. This week there is only one presidential candidate who is standing with an openly “reformist” agenda; Mustafa Moin, and his supporters have been subjected to a vicious campaign of harassment and intimidation by the regime’s vigilantes-or thugs-who carry out its dirty work.

The trouble with voicing such strong, brazen criticisms of another country’s domestic politics is not that they are without foundation but that they fuel mutual mistrust and suspicion. Amongst ordinary Iranians they are more likely to irk, stirring resentment at foreign interference, in the same way as the mullah’s imaginary tirade against our own ways. Amongst the leadership, however, they can only heighten fears that Washington is committed to regime change in Iran, perhaps with the same insidiousness that was once deployed against Mohammed Mossadeq, the Iranian prime minister who was toppled by the CIA in 1953.

If Tehran’s fears of American aggression are heightened even more, the prospect of some diplomatic rapprochement between the two countries, more than 25 years since they were broken off, inevitably becomes even more illusory. Not only that, the Iranians could start to take preventive measures against a possible U.S. assault, covert or otherwise, that would create a dangerous Catch-22 situation by convincing Washington that Tehran is determined to undermine American strategic interests in the Middle East.

Imagine this scenario. Deeply alarmed by the sharp tone and heightened pitch of American criticism, Tehran secretly deploys more Revolutionary Guards into Iraq, hoping to build up close contact and cooperation amongst the Shia peoples who could take Iran’s side in the event of an American assault. Detecting this deployment, however, Washington becomes even more certain that Iran lies at the heart of the Iraqi insurgency against the post-Saddam government, and orders a punitive raid against suspected militant hideouts right along the border with Iran.

This is hardly a recipe for peace in the Middle East. It is more like the darkest days of the Cold War, when both East and West remained convinced of each others’ bad intent only to find that the mistrust between them was creating, rather than just manifesting, the “threat” each other posed.

How, then, can American politicians reconcile their interest in promoting democracy and freedom across the world with the need to defuse, not fuel, the dangerous state of mistrust between Iran and the United States? Instead of making more precise references to “democracy,” “the barring of candidates,” and “harassment,” perhaps it would be less intrusive simply to implore the mullahs not to frustrate the will of the Iranian people. If we return to the imagined scenario with which we began, it would be hard to protest at the Iranian mullahs if they merely expressed a comparable wish to see a new president be fairly elected in the United States. Let the American people freely decide what’s good for them, this message might more succinctly be saying, and leave Iranian politics to the Iranians.

ROGER HOWARD is a freelance journalist covering security and international affairs and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus. He is the author of Iran in Crisis (Zed Books, 2004).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail