Tuesday, February 05, 2002

In defence of Iran

Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom.

~ President George Bush, State of the Union Address

So Iran is to be part of the “axis of evil”. With our shoulder to shoulder stance with America, this could mean that we could find ourselves in a war – much as we led America in to a war over Iran in 1953. So let’s have a critical look at the case for the prosecution.

They help the Taliban and Al Qaeda

Iran, for its own geopolitical and religious reasons supported the Northern Alliance from the start. This was not the case with America, to take an example totally at random. The present allegation that they airlifted a number of Al Qaeda people to Iran is worrying, but so is Pakistan’s similar effort (with co-operation from a certain super power). Similarly the harbouring of Islamic exremists in Britain and Germany should come under the same stern gaze. To single out Iran for this is disingenous.

They aren’t a democracy

Well that’s not entirely true. Their head of state is elected unlike, say, Kuwait (constitutional monarchies like the UK don’t count here, OK). They have a lively, powerful and democratically elected legislature – unlike Jordan or Pakistan. In the crucial test, is it better than twenty years ago, the answer would be positive in almost every respect. They may have problems with religious leaders pulling rank and the security services trying to “steer” the democracy, but then so does Israel.

For the record, let me say that the internal composition of a country does not materially alter whether or not it is in ours (or America’s interests) to help it.

They’re an Islamic regime

There’s Islamic and then there’s Islamic. Like being a democracy, it doesn’t matter internally – although its external Islamism may well matter. The Iranians are Shia Muslims and that is the fundamental thing to understand. In Afghanistan they supported the Northern Alliance through the Hazara militias, because the Hazaras where Shia Muslims. In Lebanon they support the Hezbullah faction who are, you guessed it, Shiite. In their fellow Axist, Iraq, they are the failed protectors of Saddam? No, its those Shi-ites again. And for all those Al Qaeda fighters is Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, do they like the Shia minorities in their countries? You bet they don’t. You see Iran’s foreign policy agenda is to protect the Shiite minority rather than promoting Islam per se. This may be a pain in the neck to all those Sunni regimes, but is that our problem.

Two bits of commentary on the state of the union. This serious one from Chronicles, and not so seriously from Satire Wire. Being British I will not offer my own commentary.


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