Not too long ago, I looked at a map and had an epiphany.
Of course Iran’s leaders are raising such a ruckus – wouldn’t you? Let’s take a look at the world from the Iranian point of view.
According to Stephen Kinzer, author of All the Shah’s Men, before 1953 the average Iranian held America in high regard. At a speech at USF in February, Kinzer said Americans in Iran provided services such as schools and hospitals and were admired for their generous nature.
That admiration faded when President Dwight D. Eisenhower, at British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s request, toppled Iran’s parliamentary government and replaced it with a shah – a monarch. After years of oppressive rule supported by the West, the Iranian people demonstrated their resentment by overthrowing the shah and taking U.S. Embassy workers hostage in 1979.
Needless to say, this turn of events has hindered the relationship between the modern state of Iran and the United States.
Fast forward to the current era and you can see that Iran still feels threatened – possibly more so today than ever before.
On Iran’s western border is Iraq, occupied by U.S. military forces. On its eastern border are Pakistan, a staunch military ally of the United States, and Afghanistan, another country occupied by U.S. forces.
In short, Iran is surrounded by troops from a country hostile to their existence – a country that employs a policy of pre-emptive military strikes.
In reaction to these circumstances, the people of Iran elected a fighter as president: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Every time Ahmadinejad stands up to the United States or one of its allies, the Iranian people must feel the thrill of the little guy fighting off the big oppressor. They probably feel confident that this government won’t be deposed and that no shah will take power and return them to a life of misery. They may feel secure and protected.
One of Ahmadinejad’s demands is the right to possess nuclear power technology, and he claims that Iran does not wish to produce nuclear weapons.
When a superpower, such as America, refuses a sovereign state the right to technology that superpower possesses, it becomes an embodiment of hypocrisy. Irresponsible statements made by Ahmadinejad give the United States its only strong argument for prohibiting Iran’s acquisition of nuclear technology.
Many of the problems between Iran and America stem from the casual use of force. The Iranians train and assist “guerilla forces” in attacks against American interests and civilian targets. The United States invaded a sovereign country to accomplish regime change, hoping to establish a friendly government while destabilizing Iran. I disagree with the use of hostile action or terrorism to make a point or to spur change, be it by Iranians or Americans.
The invasion of Afghanistan, on the other hand, was supported by the Taliban’s proven backing of Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Interestingly, Iranians agree. They fought the Taliban for years before America entered that conflict. When the United States supported the Northern Coalition of Afghanistan in its efforts to beat back Taliban incursion, it did so shoulder to shoulder with Iran.
After this cooperation, however, a hostile superpower, armed to the teeth with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, all but surrounds Iran, and diplomatic channels to avert disaster are of questionable use. How would you feel and act? What kind of person would you vote into office?
No one likes to have his or her back against the wall. I would want someone in office who could worry my enemies. I wouldn’t want someone crazy enough to start a conflict. I would want someone brash enough to resist the bully and never give up. This seems to be the mentality behind the election of Ahmadinejad.
The conflict between Ahmadinejad and the United States, however, is causing walls to go up in a world that desperately needs more bridges. These two countries will not solve their problems by screaming at each other and acting in a defensive and reactionary way, but by listening in earnest to each other’s needs and concerns and finding common ground.
Jason Olivero has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Florida and is working toward a degree in electrical engineering.