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Scott Ritter (a former marine intelligence officer) and Negar Azimi, (Senior editor of Bidou, NY.) have a slant on Iran quite different from that on Pennsylvania Avenue. Supreme Ayatollah Khamenei "...has been navigating a path of moderation." (Ritter) There is no evidence he is in fact moving toward nuclear weaponry. "...Congress appropriated $66 million dollars to bolster prospects for democracy in Iran..." "seemingly harmless enough, the initiative has in fact made life even harder for some members of Iran's embattled civil society." (Azimi)

Ritter goes on: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president [with limited power], is characterized in the West as a fundamentalist and there is evidence that fundamentalism is resurging in Iran. In fact, his victory resulted from an electorate tired of the nepotism and corruption associated with Rafsanjani. The economy was also a factor. Unemployment is high, and more than two-thirds of the population (those under 30) have no recollection of the pre-theocratic Iran. Iran has a capitalist economy that the typical Iranian is disillusioned with.

For all its oil and wealth, Iran has a serious energy shortage that will not ease any time soon. So the supreme leader's [Ayatollah Khamenei] claim that nuclear weapons are not his goal therefore has a lot of credibility. But even peaceful generation of power is still some time off.

Until now, Ayatollah Khamenei has steered a moderate course for a head of a theocratic state. If we keep rattling sabres, these winds could be stifled.

Ritter continues: Iranis have never attacked the US. They fear Sunni-Wahhabism as much as the West does. They might accept our help in the fight against terror, if we engaged with them instead of rattling sabers.

Ritter sees winds of freedom blowing in Iran:

  • Many people, including some Revolutionary Guards, get their news from BBC or CNN via satellite TV.
  • Shirin Ebadi is allowed to travel abroad and criticize the government.
  • Iran now has a system of checks and balances. Decisions of the Guardian Council can be overturned by the Expediency Council if challenged by the Iranian parliament.
  • Access to the Internet is limited, but ingenious Iranians find ways around the blocks and use the system heavily.

Scott Ritter is author of two recent and important books on Iraq and Iran.

Ritter is not alone in his observations on Iran. Negar Azimi, discussing State Department policy toward Iran chimes in with a few nuggets. That policy:

  • Expanded satellite broadcasts,
  • Aids political dissidents,
  • Aids Iranian organizations inside and outside Iran.

Azimi points our some of the downsides of US policy:

  • A university student: "It will be our blood that spills red the second we are linked to the Americans."
  • "Almost across the board Iranians resist the prospect of being helped by American money."
  • "Frustrated by the failure of the reformists, the rise of a president bent on turning back the clock, the left has a distinct appeal."

"As Iran and the US trade insults, and the press engages in a sort of nuclear fetishism,
Iran's civil society may pay the greatest cost."
Negar Azimi

If these observations are even half right, our present policy can only make things worse by radicalizing a government to do what we fear they will do with their newly-found nuclear muscle. [Some would call this a self-fulfilling prophecy.] Whatever that situation, these observations make a strong case in favor of engagement rather than saber rattling.

This page draws heavily from "View From Iran", The Nation, November 20, 2006.


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