From Philip Carl Salzman
“It is time for the Iranian government to decide whether it wants to focus on the past, or whether it will make the choices that will open the door to greater opportunity, prosperity, and justice for its people.”
—President Barack Obama, statement on the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, November 4, 2009
The assumption represented by the fresh statement by President Obama on Iran is that all people and peoples are the same: at heart, all people and peoples basically want the same things, basically understand the world in the same way, basically are prepared to come to terms in the same way as everyone else. This is particularly clear in the assertion that what the people of Iran seek is “universal rights.” Such a culture-free world as envisioned in this statement would make communication and agreement a lot easier. The reality, however, is that cultures do differ, and that people and peoples do not see life and existence the same way, and may disagree on goals. Iranian regime goals of Islamic and Shia domination are not secret; these are the explicit raison d’etre of the regime, not to be negotiated away to build “confidence” and a “more prosperous and productive relationship with the international community.”
Similarly this statement appears to assume that there are not real conflicts of interest between countries, or between the regimes running those countries. In this view, disagreements are basically misunderstandings, which, with good will and open communication, can be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. But power, control, and honor are gained and held only at the expense of other parties. There are winners and losers. Regimes wishing to improve their positions cannot do so by compromising with other parties. Furthermore, it is notoriously necessary in Middle Eastern despotic regimes to control the populace through confrontations with external enemies, real, imagined, or manufactured. Improving relationships with identified “enemies” is not in their interests and not on their agendas.
Finally, what good does it do to acknowledge the “powerful calls for justice” of the Iranian people when you are about to throw them under the bus by trying to make deals with the regime that is shooting them down in the street, torturing them in prisons, and executing them?
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