Editor’s Note: This piece is part of a new dueling columns feature. In this feature, Michael Johns ’20 and Giancarlo Valdetaro ’21 debate, “Forty years after the Iranian Revolution, what posture should the U.S. take on the Islamic Republic?” Read the counterpart column here. A nation of over 80 million people, Iran has been a belligerent boogeyman for U.S. politicians to rail against ever since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and ensuing Iran Hostage Crisis. In the four decades since, the response to this initial attack on U.S. citizens and its continuing rhetorical accompaniments has ranged from aiding Iraq in a war against their Farsi-speaking neighbors to sending humanitarian aid to those same neighbors in the wake of a December 2003 earthquake. Today, as President Trump meets in Vietnam for a summit with the totalitarian leader of North Korea, another oppressive regime posing a nuclear threat to the U.S. and its allies across the globe, he and the U.S. foreign policy establishment should recognize that protecting Americans and liberating Iranians are not mutually exclusive aims. In fact, by rejoining the Iran deal, the U.S. can not only reduce the threat of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, but can drastically improve the chances of Iran’s population achieving the democracy they have so long deserved.
Editor’s Note: This piece is part of a new dueling columns feature. In this feature, Michael Johns ’20 and Giancarlo Valdetaro ’21 debate, “Forty years after the Iranian Revolution, what posture should the U.S. take on the Islamic Republic?” Read the counterpart column here. An unidentified man was publicly hanged in the Iranian city of Kazeroon last month, one of thousands of Iranians executed on charges of homosexuality in the country since its 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran’s despotic legal system and practice of secret executions make it easy to underestimate the magnitude of Iran’s human rights abuses, which also have targeted political opponents and religious minorities. Yet, while numbers are hard to come by, human rights experts are nearly unanimous in placing Iran among the world’s worst human rights violators.
I only recently turned around and noticed the contrast between myself and the Iran I was thrown against. Somehow, when I was younger my legs were longer, or the middle space between the two circles of the venn diagram was smaller, and I managed to barely stretch across the pervasive gap. Now, I struggle to engage intellectually and socially with Iran — the actual one, not my own construction — because I’m left grasping at language and culture from which I’ve fallen behind.
Maybe it’s because Michael Jackson has died—it’s a sad and unnerving feeling to think that he’s gone—but today has had a very peculiar quality to it. Even for Iran, today was rather strange.
Let’s look at what’s happened.
Seems like Iran is in a state of flux, alternating between days of horrific violence and tense calm. Today is the major exam day of Iran, during which the Konkoor—Iran’s college entrance exam—is administered. It’s of a different mode than the SATs.
Much to my dismay, it looks like I’d spoken too soon about things appearing relatively calm in Iran. Today was chaotic.
The major point of incidence in Iran was at Baharestan in Tehran. Baharestan is where the Iranian Parliament (Majlis) meets. Protesters amassed there today (the 24th) in an effort to again show their rejection of the election results that had President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad overwhelming reelected to the presidency. As is now frequently the case in Iran, where there are protesters there are Basij paramilitary forces. And where there are Basiji there is sure to be violence.
If you’ve kept abreast of what has been going on in Iran, then you’ll have noticed perhaps that things seem somewhat calmer in Iran. That’s all relative of course; compared to Saturday, anything even slightly tamer is bound to appear calm. Beyond that, however, the government has increased its efforts to curtail communication between the protesters and the rest of the world.
To a point, they’ve succeeded. But, information is still seeping out via twitter and other routes of internet communication.
Unless you’re apathetic about news and/or foreign policy (if you are, why are you reading this blog?) then you’ll have heard by now about the protests in Iran.
I won’t rehash the whole events of the past week,–they can be seen here –but it is important to note just how monumental the events of the past week have been in Iran.
For the past 30 years, the Islamic Republic of Iran has not been much in the way of democratic towards its people. Every time it has taken one tentative step towards political reforms, as it did during the presidency of Mohammed Khatami from 1997-2005, mild protests have ensued. It would be as if after having a taste of water, you’d suddenly become thirsty for more.
Dozens of Cornell students had the opportunity to speak directly with Iranian citizens via long-distance phone calls yesterday afternoon. The students of Prof. John Weiss’s seminar, History 2161: Iran and the World, together with the assistance of volunteer translators (an assortment of Cornell students and professors fluent in Farsi), worked to bring the “Enough Fear” campaign’s phone event to Ho Plaza, where Cornellians waited in line for the opportunity to speak with volunteers in Iran over the single landline connected outside of Willard Straight.
On Friday President Obama released a video message aimed directly at the Iranian government and people on the occasion of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. In the message, Obama offers Iran a new beginning, and a new opportunity for dialogue. Such a message puts Iran’s hardliners in an awkward position. In the past, they could blame the US and the Bush administration for preventing a rapprochement, while now they look like the obstructionists if they do not show a willingness to engage.
Much has been made of Iran’s nuclear program and the perceived threat it poses, but the general public is only slowly beginning to understand that danger posed by already nuclear-armed and occasional US ally, Pakistan. The danger is not posed by the Pakistani government, but instead originates in the prospect of state collapse. The prospect of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of terrorists is enough to send chills up any policymaker’s spine.