Prague Twin

Monday, March 20, 2006

Will Iran Be Next?

The three year anneversary of the Iraq invation was marked by decidedly small protest rallies. It seems that the anit-war movement has lost a lot of steam now that the realization that nothing will change the mind of President Bush, once it has been made up, has set in. Perhaps too, the realization that pulling out now would cause more harm than good has set in as well.

Millions took to the streets before the invation in an effort to stop the war before it started. Ineffective as those protests were, at least those protests were well timed.

There is still time to avoid conflict with Iran. I doubt, however, that protests are the answer. We should try to understand Iran: its people, its history, and its cultural biases. We should also try to keep in mind the lessons learned about deterrence during the cold war.

The Cato institute ran a good article not long ago dispelling some of the basic assumptions about Iran that are currently prevalent in the current administration.

The main thing to keep in mind, I think, is that Iran is a very proud, deeply religious, defensive country. Can anyone name the last time Iran invaded another country? Exactly.

Iran has been attacked, invaded, subverted, but never completley subjugated. This is largely due to pride and religion. If nothing else, the Iranian people are proud and deeply religious. They are violently opposed to foreign influence. They will defend themselves until the last man is standing. But using history as a guide, there is little to indicate that they intend to go on the offensive.

If you would like some first-hand knowledge of Iran, and its prejudices, be sure to read Ryszard Kapuscinski's "Shah of Shahs". Kapuscinski is the Polish journalist who just happened to be present from start to finish during 27 third-world revolutions (yes 27). He was, of course, in Iran in 1979.

A great read and extremely informative, this book treats its readers to a snapshot of the Iranian (Shia) psyche. It should be required reading for anyone who gives a damn about Iran and its nuclear ambitions. Here are two particularly interesting quotes...

"The point is that Shiites not only reject the authority of the caliphs; they barely tolerate any lay authority at all. Iran constitutes the unique case of a country whose people believe only in the reign of their religious leaders, the imams, one of whom, the last, left this world (according to rational, if not to Shiite, criteria) in the ninth century. "


"I am trying to understand them, but over and over again I stumble into a dark region and lose my way. They have a different attitude to life and death. They react differently to the sight of blood. At the sight of blood they become tense, fascinated, they fall into some sort of mystical trance; I can see their animated gestures and hear their cries. The owner of a nearby restaurant pulled up in front of my hotel in his new car. It was a brand-new Pontiac, gold, strait from the dealer. There was some commotion and I could hear chickens being slaughtered in the courtyard. First the people sprinkled the chicken blood over themselves, and then they smeared it on the body of the car. In a moment the automobile was red and dripping blood. This was the baptism of the Pontiac. Wherever there is blood, they crowd around to dip their hands in it. They could not explain to me why this is necessary."

Well, perhaps us westerners will not be able to understand them. But if nothing else, we should understand this: applying our assumptions about human nature to the Iranian people will lead to frustration at best.

Worst case scenarios are too tragic to consider openly.

Will Iran be the next country to be invaded by the United States?

Let's hope not.


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