I am constantly impressed by the fact that an overwhelming majority of academics and other intellectuals of Iranian origin currently residing outside of Iran are in agreement that the Bush administration’s actions and policies in dealing with Iran are tragically misguided and potentially disastrous.
This is extremely important, I believe, because it suggests that the academic and intellectual cousins and colleagues of these expatriots — i.e., those still residing inside Iran and still active professionally — must be overwhelmingly in agreement with them.
I think it is safe to say, in other words, that the best-educated and most enlightened leaders of Iranian society today, both inside and outside of Iran, are altogether dismayed, discouraged, disillusioned and disgusted at the ignorant and clumsy way in which America is managing its relationship with their country.
This intellectual and cultural leadership class in Iran is the element of society most naturally disposed toward political and intellectual freedom and responsible world citizenship. It is also the group that includes the most influential opinion-makers among the large numbers of Iran’s similarly-inclined youth — America’s most valuable potential allies in confrontation with xenophobic extremism. Significantly, and unfortunately, this is also the group within Iranian society most susceptible to persecution and even harsh repression by a nervous and threatened dictatorship.
Historical note: One of the most compelling criticisms of President Bush’s persistent and provocative emphasis on keeping all options on the table, particularly including regime change, is the certainty that his crude and clumsy threats are absolutely intolerable to the most sophisticated and enlightened cultural leaders of Iranian society. They, along with millions of their less-educated fellow citizens, are acutely aware of the ugly history of the CIA’s Operation TPAJAX in 1953. So in trying to win, and then retain, the respect and cooperation of these potential allies, we have a serious disadvantage to overcome right from the start. That we have any friends at all among them is in fact quite amazing, considering that the term regime change still has a particularly ominous resonance among Iranians of all generations and degrees of political awareness. In addition to its extraordinary insensitivity to other cultures, this administration of ours seemingly lacks any institutional memory of our own country’s past history in that part of the world.
So Bush’s provocative actions and belligerent rhetoric are antagonizing, alienating (and indeed endangering) America’s many natural and potential friends in Iran — a large and richly endowed nation whose friendship and cooperation would be a priceless asset to us in the dangerous and unstable environment that we share with them.
I can only imagine the encouragement and pride that we would all be feeling today if George W. Bush, standing there at the White House podium yesterday, had displayed the wisdom and the moral courage to invite expanded civil discourse with the Iranian people and their leaders instead of slamming the door in their faces like an insolent teenager.