News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Stop Isolating Iran

Friday, November 04, 2005

Stop Isolating Iran

As the following NYTimes Op-Ed piece suggests, there is a growing middle-class inside Iran. These people aspire to liberal views coincident with the overall apiration of gaining admittance to the contemporary world. They see their current leader in negative terms but also fear that his extremist views will alienate other nations from supporting Iran.

These calls to isolate and punish Iran relate to theiralleged plan to build nuclear weapons. Contributing to the animosity towards Iran, obviously, are the current leader's extremist statements about Israel. (These statements must be kept in persepctive, though. Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's gave a speech at the U.N.-sponsored Conference of Dialogue Among Civilizations in New York on 5 September, 2000, that indicates that inside the ruling elite there is some diversity of opinion.)

Done diplomatically, such public moves would give hope to the liberalized middle class, thereby undermining this extermist's internal support. Therefore, instead of isolating Iran, Washington should take greater steps in rapprochement with Iran--probably by back-channels, although some form of public relationships should also be pursued.

All of this should be done contrary to recent hard-line statements by Washington that raise the spectre of another war. I would also counter efforts by Israel to get Washington to support some form of regime change in Iran.
Excerpt from Afshin Molavi's op-ed piece in New York Times today:

Iran's modern middle class, which is increasingly urbanized, wired and globally connected, provides particularly fertile soil for these aspirations. The Stanford University scholar Abbas Milani has described Iran's middle class as a "Trojan horse within the Islamic republic, supporting liberal values, democratic tolerance and civic responsibility." And so long as that class grows, so too will the pressure for democratic change.

If Mr. Ahmadinejad's foreign policy results in further global economic isolation or military intervention, however, the situation for Iran's democracy-minded middle class could deteriorate. Foreign hostility will furnish additional pretexts for the regime to frighten its people and crack down on dissent. Particularly if the European Union decides to participate in a tougher sanctions regime, liberal-minded Iranians will lose contact with the foreign investors, educators, tourists and businessmen who link them to the outside world.

Now more than ever, middle-class and other democracy-minded Iranians need to preserve and expand their network of institutions independent from the government -- institutions in which they can take refuge from the rapacious hardliners who seek to control all aspects of Iranian life. That network should include a strong private sector; a rich array of nongovernmental organizations dealing with issues like poverty, women's rights and youth unemployment; and social, intellectual and cultural associations that communicate with counterparts abroad.

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