Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Iran, the abused wife
With release of 15 British sailors is eminent followed a decision by the Iranian government to pardon them after they were captured possibly in its territorial waters nearly two weeks ago.
Iran has behaved irrationally, parading the British sailors on TV, showing them eating and in a good mood, showing them enjoying Iranian hospitality, sitting on rugs and also confessing and apologizing to the Iranian nation for their transgression.
Regardless of whether the British sailors have violated the Iranian waters or not, an incident happens all the time around the world, and it could be easily resolved.
But for Iran, the issue is more complicated. Iran is the subject of intense international sanctions over its nuclear program. It has some diplomats held captive in Iraq, It is often chided by the US and Britain over its policies and nuclear program. So this was a godsend opportunity for Iran to flex its muscles and show its western critics that it can cause them pain too.
Iran not only controls one of the world’s largest oil reserves, but it also controls the supplies routs through the strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf.
Iran also exercises a lot of power in Iraq through the Ayatollahs, the large Iranian expatriates living in Iraq, and Iraqi Shia parties who look for Tehran’s guidance and leadership. Therefore the Iranian leadership feels that it controls the levers of powers in their neighborhood, and they are right about that.
As a result of this crises Western and American consumers felt the pain of the Iranian-British crises first hand at the pump when the price of gas shot up dramatically.
But that does not explain the why Iran behaves in such immature and even adolescent way when it comes to international relations.
Modern Iran is an inheritor of a once great civilization and vast empire and feels that it ought to be treated and respected as if it is still that great empire. The problem for Iran however is that reality is harsh and painful and despite its glorious past it is now a weak, irrelevant third world country the west does not care about or recognize beyond its vast reserves of oil or whatever trouble it may makes in the neighborhood.
This lack of recognition enrages the Iranians and inflames their passions. At the beginning of the crises Iran was more concerned with a public apology from Britain and on a deeper level this would serve recognition from Britain for its past abuses of Iranians.
Although this sounds ridiculous and pathological, yet it is real in the minds of the Iranian leadership who fired up a lot of heated speeches and amusing rhetoric at the beginning of this crisis.
For Iran, the issue went from " Blatant aggression" to a pardon, and warm reception for the sailors, including a meeting with top Iranian leadership and pampering them with fine Iranian food which i am sure included squatting on fine Persian rugs. This is hardly the kind of treatment any country would accord to those who commit a “ blatant aggression” against it.
( British sailors meeting with Najad)
Iranians want the west and particularly the United States to have direct talks with them, that of course implies recognition which would put them an equal footing with the US as if it would make them feel as powerful as the super power itself if only they could sit face to face with it.
President Ahmadinajad unsolicited letter to President Bush last year was another example of Iran’s attempt to make or even force the US to hold talks with her. But president Bush did not give president Ahmadinajad the time of the day, and ignored his letter. That was painful and humiliating for the proud Iranian leadership.
Lets not forget that Iran has been abused by western powers through out its modern history and Britain in particular had basically robbed Iran of its precious oil at the beginning of the 20th century by giving the government of Iran a mere 15% of its own oil revenues.
Others wrongs by the West, especially Britain and America and their role in supporting the regime of the Shah and supporting Saddam Hussein in an 8 year devastating war are among a long laundry list of grievances that made the Iranians in general and the Islamic regime in particular hyper sensitive to any western incursion on their turf.
Iran should be treated with respect it deserves and to acquire whatever peaceful technology it needs, including nuclear, to develop its infrastructure within the framework of international law.
But Iran ought to change its behavior when it comes to international crises, which is more like the behavior of an abused wife, insecure and tormented from years of constant abuse and trauma from her former husband, but still unable to move forward after many years of divorce and with it the chance to start a new fresh chapter.