Friday, May 19, 2006

Reach Out and Touch Someone ...

BushIranianLtr.jpg

Courtesy of The Economist

Given all else that's going on lately this is sort of old news, but maybe not ...

This week's US News & World Report ran the following articles: The United States and Iran are locked in a test of wills over Tehran's nuclear ambitions. Is there a way out short of war? , The man in Tehran in his own words, Much rests on whether Iran's leader is a shrewd nationalist or an end-times nut, and Fouad Ajami: Son of the ayatollah, all of which will give you more than you're likely to find about Iran in nearly any other American publication (unlike say, The Economist, a British publication, where you can find regular articles on the country, starting with Search Results) and more than I'd guess many Americans would care to read about the country - but then that's the way of it with us Americans, understanding why a country is the way it is isn't so much the issue as whether or not it's doing what we expect or want it to. Anyway ...

I'm very interested in the country, for a number of different reasons, and in turn tend to follow the news about it quite closely. Ahmadinejad, the current president, is legitimately a bit scary, a man with an apocalyptic perspective apparently. U.S. News focused on his being a populist president, having beaten out the "reformist" Rafsanjani in the run off election - which just goes to show how we tend to oversimplify things here in the media. Rafsanjani is old news in Iran, associated with endemic corruption at least indirectly if not directly, and had been president for eight years nearly ten years ago, and the Iranian people on the whole didn't seem to think he'd be much better on a second go around - go figure. So it's not as simple as Ahmadinejad beating out the reformist he was up against, instead he was really for many people the only palatable option, especially after the ineffectual presidency of the honest-to-God reformist Khatami, who had been president for the 8 previous years.

I read that the administration is looking to take a new tack in how it's negotiating with North Korea (U.S. Said to Weigh a New Approach on North Korea). Well if we're looking to take a new tack with North Korea I can only hope it's something that we're starting to consider with Iran. I don't think Iran should be treated with kid gloves or in anyway coddled, but then at the same time I think that the level of animosity in the relations between our two countries have been out of line with any reasonable rationalization for why things should be that way and fundamentally detrimental to a long list of considerations for both countries. Maybe by taking a new tack we can also help to more subtly undermine an Iranian president who, frankly, comes across as a whack job. There are many Iranians, even conservatives, who can see the virtue in trying to better relations between our two countries, and maybe a reasonable effort on the part of both countries to move towards some level of reconciliation would cause a lot of bad behavior to go away, making things better for all concerned.

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