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Wake Up, America: Iran is Not What You Think

Sunday, October 7, 2007

ALI ETTEFAGH 

Winston Churchill said, “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war,” and one ought to frame Columbia University’s debate in such a context. But the invitation proved to be a cheap and failed ruse, put on by aggressive and skewed observers who once supported cakewalk actions and are now suffering from intellectual bankruptcy.

The opening comments of Lee Bollinger, the president of the University, fell far short of objective debate. The professor tried to hide behind an academic façade to deliver a rehashed version of retail and junk news, in all likelihood courtesy of Google. He allowed himself to comment about capital punishment in Iran, as if the U.S. has no such thing, and went as far as calling the Iranian President a “petty, cruel dictator”. Perhaps Lee Bollinger is still stuck in the Iran of 30 years ago and he confused Ahmedinejad with the Shah, America’s man in Tehran. It was exemplary of how Americans, and American foreign policy, are stuck in the past, and how Americans are resistant to acknowledge just how thick the self-isolation bubble that surrounds them has become.

It was also amazing to see the American Rainman repeat the same questions over and over again. A reporter from CBS’ 60 Minutes asked tough questions in an interview in Tehran, which was broadcast on Sunday and subsequently reported in newspapers and more than 2000 websites. The very next day, the National Press Club members repeated the same questions, and later that day, an academic put the same questions to President Ahmedinejad a third time. Somehow, the CBS reporter, the National Press Club and the professor did not recall that it is their treasure and blood that funds Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and the death and destruction of Iraq. (They are probably too busy congratulating themselves on their massive foreign aid of US$20 per Palestinian!).

These self-elected thinkers and news producers are stuck in a box of rehashed propaganda and have no mind for an objective debate. When was the last time that you read a report that compares Iran, and Iranians, with regional countries in the same league? Has anyone asked whether Iranian women are better off than their Saudi neighbours? Or how many elections were held in Iran prior to the Revolution? Has anyone taken the time to observe that the Iran of today has made tangible progress when compared with the Iran of 30 years ago – when it imported more than half of its food and all of its cars, pharmaceuticals and military hardware? And why is it that the United States can prosecute its own citizens as “enemy combatants” but Iran should not confront agitators that are funded by foreigners?

Americans must realize that it is time to accept Iran as it is today, and not as they daydream it to be, as some sort of a retro-1950s creampuff headed by a brutal puppet. Such realization must also extend to universal application of international law, and to the naked truth that isolation methods have failed. Americans must also take note that their foreign policy extends beyond the interests of a small country in the Middle East that has less than half the population of Tehran.
Is it finally time to engage in a proper, cool-headed and objective debate? Have isolationist daydream policies worked in Cuba? What was achieved, or lost, by not talking to Fidel Castro? Have militarist endeavours in Iraq produced a western-style, liberal and open democracy anywhere else in the Middle East, or are they still run by “petty, cruel” regimes?
This atmosphere, and the amateurish psychological pressure of foreign lobbies piled on the American bubble lead me to Churchill’s description of the USSR: this situation appears to be a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, concealed in an enigma. That is probably the best description of the mindset of contemporary America in this global village.

Dr. Ali Ettefagh serves as a director of Highmore Global Corporation, an investment company in emerging markets of Eastern Europe, CIS, and the Middle East.

Source: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/postglobal/ali_ettefagh/2007/09/wake_up_america_iran_is_not_wh.html

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