Imperfect as Iran is, we must engage with diplomacy, not war

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The drumbeats for war with Iran are being sounded with a servile mainstream media playing mouthpiece for the West, enabling the case for another illegal war. If you believe most in the mainstream media and the discredited US security apparatus you might think that Iran has done something as heinous as dropping a Nuclear bomb!

Iran

The facts

The fact is that the US has withdrawn from a multilateral international agreement the JCPOA ( Iran Nuclear deal ) and is behaving like an outlaw in the Wild West. The US has violated international law by imposing crippling sanctions on Iran and its people and is bullying other nations to violate the Nuclear agreement too. The reaction from the rest of the world to these coercive acts has been some murmurs of protest from US allies. The mainstream media have been complicit in misleading people. Public intellectuals have been feckless with none of the outrage or intellectual skepticism for such a serious act as sanctioning a nation and making the case for an illegal war.

From the foreign policy behaviour of the regime in the USA spearheaded by John Bolton whose a known warmonger, and Mike Pompeo an evangelical zealot it would seem they want regime change at the least. However, my guess is that Trump does not want a war because for him that is bad economics and would make him unpopular with his base. Meanwhile, the establishment in the US has steadily been making the case for an attack on Iran after what seems like a false flag or rogue operations in the Middle East.

The case for diplomatically engaging Iran

With a population of approximately 80 million people, a land mass three times the size of France and greater freedoms than most middle eastern nations, Iran must at least by these standards be considered a serious regional player and treated like one.

Iran has a non-aggressive foreign policy that is demonstrated by the fact it has not invaded a foreign country for the past 200 years. Secondly, the revolutions it supports are grassroots people’s revolutions and not wars. We in the liberal democracies need to support people’s revolutions in countries with despotic regimes. Evidence shows that Iran has displayed strategic patience and political maturity in dealing with crises in its region and internationally. For example, its adversaries like Saudi Arabia have been reactionary and continuously made the wrong choices like supporting ISIS and Saddam Hussein.

On the scientific and intellectual fronts, Iran has shown phenomenal progress. As of 2018, it is at number 22 in worldwide rankings for the number of scientific papers produced according to the reputed Scientific Journal Rankings (SJR). It is ahead of even countries like Singapore and Israel.

Not only does Iran have a vibrant scientific community, but it is also an inheritor of a rich literary tradition that had poets like Hafez and Rumi. Rumi is the best selling poet even in the USA.

What about accusations of repression?

According to ‘freedom house’ rankings, Saudi Arabia has a freedom score of 7/100, China has a freedom score of 11/100 while Iran has a freedom score of 18/100. Saudi Arabia and China both have a worse freedom score and one is a close ally and the other a major trading partner while Iran is punished with its economy strangled and threatened by war. Using the argument that Iran is a repressive regime and so we must isolate it is at best weak and at worst hypocritical.

Iran – a malign actor and a destabilising influence

Well, this is an argument which smacks of double standards. Iran is a serious player which seeks to gain influence and not hegemony in its part of the world. So like any normal nation, it makes non-belligerent alliances and supports legitimate movements against oppression. It has engaged in peacemaking in Syria and Afghanistan. Iran was at the forefront of fighting the scourge of ISIS that has wreaked havoc in the Middle East and the world.

ISIS was initially supported and funded by Saudi Arabia however, Saudi Arabia is supposedly the thickest ally of the US in the Middle East after Israel. This kind of irrational behaviour displayed by the Anglosphere countries and Western countries that lay claim to a rational tradition of thought is incomprehensible.

As for a destabilising influence to any objective observer it would be clear that when it comes to Iran – US relations the greatest destabilizing influence has been the US starting with its actions of overthrowing a democratically Iranian government in 1953 to unilaterally pulling out of the JCPOA and imposing unilateral sanctions even though Iran was complying with the agreement.

Iran and the development of ballistic missiles

Iran is a nation that receives minimal support from the international community to defend itself and again it helps to look at the facts. Iran’s adversaries like Saudi Arabia, UAE and Israel have a defence budget of around 70 billion, 18 billion and 22 billion dollars respectively with advanced weaponry like missiles and attack aircraft in their arsenal while Iran has a defence budget of 19 billion dollars.

Any sovereign nation is entitled to develop means of self defence against technologically advanced belligerents in its region. Add to that the fact that none of Iran’s weaponry has been used to attack any nation preemptively. Iran only used its precision-guided missiles successfully against ISIS in operation ‘Laylat Al Qadr’ as retaliation for the terrorist attacks in Tehran in 2017.

Any sovereign nation is entitled to develop means of self defence against technologically advanced belligerents in its region. Add to that the fact that none of Iran’s weaponry has been used to attack any nation preemptively. Iran only used its precision-guided missiles successfully against ISIS in operation ‘Laylat Al Qadr’ as retaliation for the terrorist attacks in Tehran in 2017.

Iran, an unreliable regime?

This accusation is laughable when it was meeting its commitments as certified by the very credible IAEA ( International atomic energy agency) under a historic multilateral agreement like the Iran nuclear deal.

It was the US that unilaterally pulled out of the agreement and imposed unilateral sanctions and threatened other nations to withdraw from the agreement. If anything its the US that has shown itself to be an unreliable state actor. In fact, the Supreme Leader of Iran had clearly stated that the US was not reliable and his words have proven true.

As evidence and facts on the ground display, Iran is a real nation that on many levels of political, scientific, literary, diplomatic, peacemaking, etc has stood head and shoulders above regional players in the Middle East. Of course, Iran falls short of the standards we set in the West. However, if Saudi Arabia can be the US’ closest ally then Iran should not only stop getting the step-motherly treatment but should be engaged with diplomatically. The West has a lot to gain from a future friendship with Iran.

(The author is an Australian-Indian social commentator based in Melbourne. Views expressed here are the author’s own.)

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