31 July 2015

Reflections on Iran

A lot of people have of course been offering their views on the Iran nuclear deal, both before and after it was finalised. In the USA in particular, most of these opinions are un- or mis-informed, and are largely the manifestation of a deep-seated bias against Iran, which in turn arises from Iran's successful resistence against British and American imperialism. Americans, in particular, are deeply resentful of any country (e.g., Cuba, Venezuela and Vietnam) that successfully challenges their perceived entitlement to their self-appointed role as global hegemon.

With respect to the nuclear agreement, I personally support any and all efforts to limit or eliminate nuclear weapons, and so to the extent that this deal supports that broader objective I am supportive of it. But of course addressing the specific concerns arising from the Iranian nuclear programme whilst ignoring the far bigger threats posed by Israel and most of all, the USA, is obviously akin to a doctor being concerned with a foot blister on a cancer patient. Countries like the USA and Israel, who continue to harass, intimidate and imprison opponents of their respective nuclear programmes have no moral authority to judge Iran on its programme. I am particularly offended by the fact that whilst the American effort to limit Iran's capabilities is based on Iran's international committments as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the USA declines to publicly express concern for the fact that Israel is one of only four countries globally (the others being North Korea, India and Pakistan) that has refused to accede to this accord. Moreover, the Obama Administration has based its concerns in part on the "fact" that as Iran is sitting on immense fossil-fuel reserves, it has no "legitimate" need for nuclear power. Yet in the 1970s, when Iran was under the brutal but loyal rule of Reza Pahlavi Shah, the Nixon and Ford administrations actively supported General Electric and Westinghouse in their efforts to export American nuclear technology to Iran.

But the recent history and the nuclear deal aside, I am more baffled by the British and American choice of allies in the struggle for regional political and economic dominance between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran. While the U.S. Congress continues to promote the generally unsupported view that Iran is an "exporter of terror," it is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that for decades has promoted its own violent and intolerant version of "Islam," "Wahabism." Saudi-funded "madrassas" promote intolerance and extremism in places once known for their moderate versions of Islam, such as Morocco, Bosnia, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia. ISIS, Boko Haram, and Al-Qaeda are all end-products of a decades-long, deliberate effort by the Saudis to radicalise Islam globally, with the explicit objective of making hatred and violence a core belief of this "faith." In Saudi Arabia, all faiths but Islam are banned; churches, synagogues, temples and other non-Islamic places of worship are illegal, and priests and others have been tortured by Saudi authorities for the "crime" of practicing their faith.

In Iran, in contrast, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians and others worship freely, although Iran's history of persecution of the Bah'ai is shameful. Jews fled North Africa, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other Arab countries with ancient Jewish communities decades ago, and the Christians have been following in recent years. Iran, however, remains home to a thriving and secure Jewish community, a fact even the New York Times has acknowledged.

Like most Arab countries, Saudi Arabia is largely incapable of managing or producing anything without foreign assistance. No automobiles, white goods, or consumer electronics of any consequence are produced in the Arab world. Exports such a fossil fuels, petrochemicals and aluminum are produced by plants managed by Europeans and staffed by Asians. Other than the radical Wahabist rantings noted above, there are no cultural exports equivalent to American movies, Mexican soap operas, European cuisine, or Japanese graphic novels that originate from the Arab world. Iran, in contrast, produces both its own brand of automobiles, the Paykan, and also assembles other brands, such as Peugot, under licence from the manufacturer. It has many other thriving industries, and it is a prolific source of both intellectual property and physical goods, in plants and instutions managed and staffed by Iranians.

Saudi Arabia is a strict totalitarian state, run by what amounts to an organised crime family, the House of Saud. Iran is governed by one of the most vibrant and well-functioning democracies in the world.

I am not of course arguing that Saudi Arabia has no redeeming qualities, or that Iran has no flaws. But it is baffling to compare these two competing political entities and understand why the USA, and the British before them, have consistently chosen to support the corrupt and dangerous Saudis over the responsible and capable Iranians.


31 July 2015



Kate Jones said...

Thank you for this detailed, hair-raising and frequently hilarious account. And thank you especially for the objective, accurate and fair-minded evaluation of Iran. Would that your testimonial could counteract the widespread demonizing smears against Iran that are almost universal in America. Congratulations on your skilled and fortunate coping with the entangled bureaucracies and mechanical maladies that bedeviled you at every step. Khosh amadid!

BlognDog said...

thank you for your kind words of appreciation, and apologies for not noticing them earlier!