J.B. Sivanich

(Brent Schwert)

With its continued pursuit of nuclear weaponry, Iran has been in the news quite a bit lately. I would like to dispel some misconceptions about Iran, and put other things in a different perspective.
Modern-day Iran is a developing country full of paradoxes:
Iran is an Islamic theocracy run by religious clerics and led by a president who repeatedly denies the Holocaust. However, Iranian Jews and Christians are reasonably protected within Iran, whereas in pro-American Saudi Arabia, it is illegal to even build a church or synagogue.
Women make up the majority of university students in Iran and have the right to vote and hold office, but in rare cases adulterous women – and homosexuals – have been known to be stoned to death.
Iran, a predominantly Persian country, has supported and funded pro-Arab organization such as Hamas, Hezbollah and non-terrorist organizations across the Middle East, while its Arab minority – 3 percent of its population – battles with racism at home.
Iranians frequently chant “Death to America” and call America the “Great Satan,” but on Sept. 11, 2001 millions of Iranians broke out into spontaneous pro-American rallies across the country. When American troops invaded Afghanistan in 2003, Iranian troops were on the ground with them.
Iran is seen as a regional superpower trying to overextend its influence through unwarranted means, but America can reasonably be criticized for the same.
It is true that Iran continues to support terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, but America has supported terrorists too. We used money that we received from illegal arms sales to Iran in the ’80s to support the Contras movement in Nicaragua, a movement whose members attacked nearly 100 civilian communities.
We supported anti-Saddam movements in Iraq during the ’90s that bombed school buses. We have tried to overthrow rulers – our whole Cold War history, especially in Latin America, is filled with examples of American-sponsored and trained terrorists.
The school in which these terrorists were trained, the School of the Americas, is still open and operating in Georgia today. Hell, Osama Bin Laden got his start fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan with CIA funding.
There are many parallels between the leaders of the two countries, as well: Just as President Bush rallied support in 2001, speaking vehemently against the terrorist threat, Ahmadinejad rose to power by speaking out against America, which is perceived as a very real threat in Iran.
Both are hardliners, who are uninterested in inconvenient international laws and bodies and are not afraid to mix politics and religion – in a glaring irony, Iran supports stem cell research.
The state of current American-Iranian relations is not all Iran’s fault. It is true that last year Iran rejected offers to accept American aid in finding peaceful alternatives to nuclear power on the condition that Iran would halt its nuclear program.
America, on the other hand, rejected offers by Iran to crack down on Hezbollah and Hamas in return for better relations and the removal of American sanctions in 2003 – this was right when Iran was labeled as a member of the “Axis of Evil.”
In no way am I trying to justify terrorism – I personally abhor the practice. Nor am I trying to justify Ahmadinejad’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon, or his continued threats against Israel. The reason why I am writing this article is that I feel that both sides of the story are not being told, and many actions are taken out of perspective.
I have already voiced my opinion that we should wait until Iran makes it clear that they want to give up their nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions and necessary aid – like North Korea agreed to last week – and until negotiations resume.
I really hope that these U.N. sanctions undermine Ahmadinejad and that someone else, who does not derive power from threats and irrational signs of strength, wins the next presidential election.
I think that all attempts to reach out to Iran should be made for our and Israel’s security, and to help Iranians reform some of their own harsh practices. Overall, Iran is a developing country with many backward practices, not simply the one-dimensional American-hating, Israel-bashing, terrorist-funding future nuclear power that Westerners so like to portray.
Only when we can see Iran for what it is – I’ll let you draw your own conclusions – can appropriate courses of action be decided upon and taken.