Today’s New York Times had a long OpEd by David Brooks that argued it is naive to negotiate with Iran. Brooks warns that, “It could be that Iranian leaders are as apocalyptically motivated, paranoid and dogmatically anti-American as their pronouncements suggest they are.” At least in my reading, Brooks implies that “could” should be replaced by “is.”
There certainly are “apocalyptically motivated, paranoid and dogmatically anti-American” individuals within the Iranian power structure. But no nation is a monolith, and Iran is no exception. Even Japan in the 1930s had its hawks and its doves. Surprisingly, Adm. Yamamoto was one of the less hawkish elements, and planned the Pearl Harbor attack reluctantly, in the belief that the United States had given Japan no other option by insisting on its humiliation – something the nation would not tolerate without a fight.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty provides a welcome breath of fresh air in its own coverage of Iran today. Its “Rohani Adviser Says Rights Violations Hurting Iran” post says:
Ali Yunesi, a senior adviser to Iran’s President Hassan Rohani and a former intelligence minister, has admitted that “many cases” of human rights violations are taking place in Iran’s courts and prisons, blaming them on extremists. …
In a February 26 interview with the semi-official ISNA news agency, Yunesi said that hard-liners are creating trouble for the Islamic republic and damaging the country’s reputation through their actions.
“There are extremists who are under the control of nobody; many of them have infiltrated centers of power; they act as they wish, but of course the Islamic republic is [held responsible],” Yunesi said.
As an example, he cited the case of Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist who died in 2013 from a brain hemorrhage resulting from beatings after he was detained in front of Tehran’s Evin Prison and interrogated. …
“All documents are available about who did this,” Yunesi said, adding that some of those responsible for Kazemi’s death were punished.
“This [incident] was caused by someone’s own will and the Islamic republic continues to pay the price,” he said. …
Yunesi also said that the government remains faithful to its pledge to improve civil rights. … Yunesi indicated that Rohani’s administration will send a draft law on civil rights to the parliament, but added that he believes it unlikely that the conservative-dominated assembly will “tolerate and adopt” the government’s plan.
Because Iran is not a monolith, we need to find ways to empower its more moderate elements. But our current confrontational approach bears a dangerous resemblance to the humiliating one we tried using on Japan in the 1930s. (Another of today’s RFE/RL posts stated that, “Rohani told the clerics Iran will not accept humiliation.”) It’s time to learn from our mistakes before we suffer a modern-day Pearl Harbor, far more devastating than 1941’s. Let’s stop trying to humiliate our adversaries and, instead, find ways to empower the moderate elements within those nations.