On June 14, Iranians will go to the polls to elect a president who will replace President Ahmadinejad – or, as some Iranians call him, President Idiotson (AhmaGH-inejad).
That’s the good news. The so-so news is that there isn’t an awfully diverse field running this time, unlike last time. And no moderates, who have all been disqualified or harassed into not putting their name in.
Whoever is voted in, they’ll be on the side of the Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei. This may look like bad news, but I’d like to venture the opinion that it could be a blessing and a big opportunity, in disguise.
What does America want out of Iran? We want them NOT to have something they don’t have anyway. You’d think this would give us a lot of leeway. In which case you have to ask why we’re so hysterical about it that we’re willing to inflict huge suffering on their people, destroy their economy, lie about the country, use them as a political football in our own politicking, and risk getting into another disastrous Middle-East war?
How can we get them to not have what they don’t have? One way would be to believe them when they say they don’t want nuclear bombs anyway. However, our government, our media and the Israelis go into conniptions whenever this comes up, so I don’t think we’re likely to try that one out.
Sanctions? We already sanctioning everything except the air they breathe, and it isn’t working. It’s destroying their economy, it’s killing people who can’t get medicine, it’s hurting the moderate factions we think we want to help – but it isn’t working.
Attack? Who, us or Israel? Whichever. Because, if Israel bombs Iran, the USA will get the blame anyhow, and all the experts agree we’ll be drawn into a war, whether we want it or not. Iran is bigger, stronger and more cohesive than Iraq was. Believe me, we don’t want to go there.
Hope for internal change in their government? There may be one or two people on the planet who are holding their breath hoping for that, but I’m not one of them.
Which leaves a four-letter word: talk. This is how responsible politicians are supposed to resolve disagreements. But to hear some people, it’s less feasible than conversing with aliens. “You can’t talk to them.” ”We’ve tried and it doesn’t work.” Depends on how you define “tried.” If you mean tried seriously, we haven’t tried at all. We’ve put out proposals nobody in their right mind would accept, and taken their failure as justification for not trying any more.
Which brings me to our opportunity. No matter who wins the Iranian election, we can proclaim, “New face! New voice! We can talk.” The beauty of this is that, even if it isn’t true before we say it, we can make it true by pretending it’s true.
(Iranian politicians, who have an elaborate system of saying things that are nearly true and therefore making them more nearly true, will recognize that instantly. Americans may have a little more trouble. Though our politicians should see it quicker than the general public.)
Here’s another reason it can be true: Part of the reason the current round of talks wasn’t getting anyplace was that the Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, has distanced himself from President Ahmadinejad. Since Iran’s last election, Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah have been in an internal power struggle. Things are so bad between them now that the Ayatollah didn’t even want Ahmadinejad’s protégé to run for president; the poor guy was disqualified. Besides, The Ayatollah – and quite a few other Iranians – have simply been embarrassed by Ahmadinejad and his irrepressible mouth. (Well – if he were your prez, wouldn’t you be?)
Ahmadinejad actually wanted a breakthrough on the nuclear issue, though you couldn’t always tell from his public appearances. In the past four years, there have been meetings between US and Iranian officials on a number of levels, as well as a few attempts by the Iranians to have more meaningful talks. But without the Ayatollah behind them, the attempts haven’t come to anything.
I should explain that the Supreme Leader is really the highest authority in Iran. The President is the public executive, but the Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, is over him. The Supreme Leader doesn’t take an active role in day-to-day politics, but he’s seen as “guiding” the country. If we want to achieve anything with Iran, we need to deal with the Ayatollah Khamenei, even if we aren’t actually dealing with him. (If you get my drift.)
Whoever the next president is, he’ll be closer to the Ayatollah. That means that when we talk to the next president, the Ayatollah’s ear will be behind the curtain.
Several years ago, the Ayatollah wanted to talk to us, and we snubbed him. Then there were the Ahmadinejad years. Now we have another chance. We shouldn’t blow it. And don’t believe the president, the Congress or our media if they tell us, “Nothing has changed so we can’t do anything.”