FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Cocked & Loaded: Iranians are Not Our Enemies

“We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night,” Donald Trump tweeted about Iran on June 21, showing us just how close we are to yet another war.

In light of the shooting down of a U.S spy drone, the tanker incidents just a few days prior, and a trajectory of other escalatory moves, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton aren’t waging a maximum pressure campaign to change the behavior of their enemy, but are paving a path toward war.

Regardless of the clear facts about the incidents, one thing is clear — military escalation must not be the response.

The consequences would be disastrous in terms of casualties on all sides, further destabilization of the Middle East, the increased risk of nuclear proliferation and war, and the waste of trillions of dollars. Now more than ever, diplomatic efforts need to be pursued at all costs.

In addition to the tangible checklist for preventing war, I suggest that it is overdue to change the narrative around Iran and its people.

First, however, the context in which these events are occurring needs to be understood.

The recently escalated tensions all take place within the context of the U.S. unilaterally withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. This needs to sink in: the U.S. pulled out of a working agreement between Iran, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the European Union, added sanctions, issued threats, and thereby created the current crisis.

The broader historical context is Iran’s insistence not caving to U.S. interests in the region. I heard this point of view directly from Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, whom I met in Tehran as part of a citizen peace delegation earlier this year. “Iran’s biggest crime against the U.S.”, he told us “was the desire to be independent.”

In Iran, I learned that the Iranian people expected to see improvements in their lives from the nuclear deal. They are aware of their own government’s problematic behavior, but the last thing they want is the “help” of the United States. Outside pressure strengthens hardliners in Iran and leads to Iranians to rally around the flag. Without external pressure, Iranians can work toward social change on their own time and on their own terms.

To de-escalate the current tension and prevent war, a few components are clear. Congress needs to make stopping war with Iran a priority and exercise its authority to oppose a war of choice with Iran. Citizens can flood the congressional phone lines to encourage that. The U.S. should also re-enter the Iran nuclear deal as quickly as possible. Until that happens, the other signatories need to take on a leadership role, defy U.S. pressure, and work tirelessly and creatively to uphold the commitments of the agreement.

The destructive sanctions also need to end, and genuine diplomacy needs to be supported. Given that there is little chance and incentive for high level dialog, backchannel negotiations like the ones that paved the path for the Iran nuclear deal need to be pursued.

I want to suggest another component, one that goes beyond immediate legislate and diplomatic issues. It is time to change the narrative around Iran.

There are many staunch advocates for diplomacy, in Congress and beyond, who are still caught in the good “us” vs. bad “them” narrative. We need to look beyond that and think about how a country of 80 million people is constantly vilified as the root of all evil in the Middle East. That is simply wrong. The problematic behavior of the Iranian government must not be an obstacle to rethinking how we can create better understanding between the people of the U.S. and Iran. In fact, all Iranians I talked to liked Americans, but for obvious reasons were not so keen about our president and the policies.

When we are talking about the possibility of war with Iran, we must refuse to think about the faceless enemy that is so often being dehumanized in our political system and in the media.

I think about the people I met. Sama and her husband Ali, who came to pick her up after a long day of working as our tour guide; Shahram, who sends me WhatsApp messages about classic rock bands that we both like; Ebrahim, who would love to take Americans on trekking tours in Iran; Farimah, who asked me to speak English with about 10 of her young students; Roozbeh, the young waiter who insisted that I not leave without desert.

They deserve to live a life without sanctions and without the threat of war. When foreign policy as we know it is not working, creative citizen diplomacy can step in. We have our responsibilities to make that happen by recognizing that Iranians are not our enemies.

This article first appeared on Foreign Policy in Focus.

More articles by:

Patrick. T. Hiller, Ph.D., syndicated by PeaceVoiceis a Conflict Transformation scholar, professor, on the Governing Council of the International Peace Research Association, member of the Peace and Security Funders Group, and Director of the War Prevention Initiative of the Jubitz Family Foundation.Patrick. T. Hiller, Ph.D., syndicated by PeaceVoiceis a Conflict Transformation scholar, professor, on the Governing Council of the International Peace Research Association, member of the Peace and Security Funders Group, and Director of the War Prevention Initiative of the Jubitz Family Foundation.

July 02, 2020
Stan Cox
It’s Not Just Meat: All Farm and Food Workers Are in Peril
Marshall Auerback
We Won’t Have a Truly Global Economy Until People Start Taxing It That Way
John O'Kane
Progressive Pulses Among the Ruins of Riot
John Feffer
Time to Rethink the US-ROK Alliance
Binoy Kampmark
The Kafkaesque Imperium: Julian Assange and the Second Superseding Indictment
Kim C. Domenico
Disbelief, Belief and the Perils of Pandemic Re-opening
George Ochenski
Trump’s Contagion Road Show Heads West
Haydar Khan
The Great Wall of Wokeness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Biden Compared Indicted War Criminal to “George Washington”
Howard Lisnoff
Try to Get Published; Try to Be Heard
Rebecca Gordon
Fear of Falling: Can Making Black Lives Matter Rescue a Failing State?
Gary Leupp
Traditional Russophobia in an Unusual Election Year
John Kendall Hawkins
Biopic? Shirley, You Jest
Gary Macfarlane – Mike Garrity
Conservation Groups Sue Trump Administration to Halt Massive Logging in Steelhead Critical Habitat
Quincy Saul
Who Made the Plague?
July 01, 2020
Melvin Goodman
De-Militarizing the United States
Kenneth Surin
UK’s Labour Leader Sacks the Most Left-Wing Member of His Shadow Cabinet
Ruth Fowler
Then as Farce: the Commodification of Black Lives Matter
Kent Paterson
Crisis After Crisis on the Border
Rick Baum
The Pandemic and Wealth Inequality
Michael Welton
“Into the World of Bad Spirits”: Slavery and Plantation Culture
James W. Carden
The Return of the Anti-Antiwar Left
Dan Wakefield
Charles Webb Enters Heaven
Julian Vigo
A Call for Radical Humanism: the Left Needs to Return to Class Analyses of Power
Binoy Kampmark
A Trendy Rage: Boycotting Facebook and the Stop Hate for Profit Campaign
Michael D. Knox – Linda Pentz Gunter
As Monuments to War Generals Come Down, Let’s Replace Them with Monuments to Peace
Cesar Chelala
Attorney General William Barr’s Insomnia
Raphael Tsavkko Garcia
Is Bolsonaro Plotting a Self-Coup?
Mandy Smithberger
COVID-19 Means Good Times for the Pentagon
Joe Emersberger
On Pablo Celi, Ecuador’s super shady “Auditor General”
June 30, 2020
James Bovard
Bill Clinton’s Serbian War Atrocities Exposed in New Indictment
Bianca Sierra Wolff – Lisa Knox
ICE is Leaving Immigrants to Die in Detention, and Retaliating When They Speak Out
Don Fitz
Should NYC’s Wall Street Be Renamed “Eric Garner St.?”
Chris Hedges
My Student Comes Home
Richard C. Gross
Obamacare Vulnerable
John Feffer
The Hatchet Man’s Tale: Why Bolton Matters
Thomas Knapp
Afghanistan Bounties: Pot, Meet Kettle (and Turn Off the Stove!)
Charles Reitz
Anti-Racist Engagement in the Kansas Free State Struggle, 1854-64: Horace Greeley, German 48-ers, and the Civil War Journalism of Karl Marx, 1861-62
Howard Lisnoff
A Student Murdered in Cold Blood and a Kids’ Bike Ride Through Queens, New York
David Swanson
Hey Congress, Move the Money
Aparna Karthikeyan
Memories of Pox, Plague, and Pandemics in Tamil Nadu
John Kendall Hawkins
Democracy Chasers in a Badly Injured Nation
Binoy Kampmark
Wasteful, Secret and Vicious: the Absurd Prosecution of Witness K and Bernard Collaery
Norman Solomon
Ro Khanna and Barbara Lee Could Defy “the Madness of Militarism” as Co-Chairs of the Democratic Convention’s Biggest Delegation
Jon Hochschartner
Imagining a Vegan Superman
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail