Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Turning Points in Iranian-American Relationship?

Yesterday we awoke to news that a historic nuclear arms deal had been agreed to by Iran and a group of world powers, including the United States.  For the majority of my adult life the USA and Iran have been at odds. I was in college when the Shah fell and the present order was instituted. I remember during college the nightly reports on ABC with Ted Koppel updating us on America taken Hostage.  I remember as a recent college graduate the news that the hostages had been released even as Ronald Reagan was being inaugurated. Since then we have lived at odds with this ancient nation.

I am not naive to think that this deal will lead to peaceful easy feelings in the region or between the USA and Iran. I do have hopes however that this could be the beginning of a new engagement with Iran. I'm hopeful that this deal will strengthen the more moderate/progressive parties in the country, while weakening the hardliners (who oppose the deal).



I am not an expert in these things. Few of us are. If you watch the US TV news shows you will often see people talking in black and white, while the world is full of gray. The situation in Iran is quite complicated. One thing that we forget is that a major factor in the region is the struggle for leadership between two sectarian groups -- Sunni and Shia. Iraq was for many decades a Shia majority country ruled by the Sunni minority. When Saddam was overthrown and rudiments of democracy were instituted the Shias were able to get control of the government, bringing Iraq more closely into the circle of the leading Shi'ite power in the region -- Iran. Of course Sunni powers, especially Saudi Arabia were none too happy.  What we have going on in the region is a cold war struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia with conflicts being fought by proxies in Iraq, Yemen, and Syria. It is important to remember that ISIS sees itself as the defender of the Sunni cause.

As for me I want to remain informed. I will be praying for good things. I hope that this thaw in relations between the USA and Iran will bear fruit, for Iran is one of the more stable countries in the region (even after years of sanctions). The nuclear deal is important, even historic. President Obama and Secretary Kerry have staked a lot of political capital to pursue diplomacy over saber rattling and possible war (don't think that war with Iran will be over in a few days -- after all we have been stuck in Afghanistan and Iraq for more than a decade).

What we need is clear-headed analysis. So below you can watch a 16 minute video from the Canadian Broadcast Company, featuring among its panelists my friend Saeed Khan of Wayne State University. If nothing else this is one of the few panel discussions that you can watch that actually has Muslims involved. By the way, Saeed is a Sunni Muslim not a Shi'ite.

As a final word, let me just say this:  I am not naive about the future. I don't know where this will lead. This isn't the end, but only the beginning. But, perhaps this is a turning point!

1 comment:

Jonas MacFarquhar said...

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