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Why the US can't bully Iran

Why the US can't bully Iran
By Shahir Shahidsaless

For better or worse, Iranians are a proud people. This characteristic has roots in Iran's long history, its long-lasting geopolitical influence, and - for a good part of history - its dominance in the region, which could even be considered extreme.

At the same time, Iranian culture is very hospitable towards Westerners, American included. As long as they feel they are not being ridiculed, humiliated or looked down on, Iranians extend royal treatment to foreigners.

The above cultural nuances may seem simple or obvious, yet they



are widely ignored by policymakers and their advisers in the US when dealing with Iran.

Strategic policies towards Iran cannot be developed in an office in Washington, relying on biased defectors, opposition groups or out-of-touch academics as advisers.

Assurances given by advisers like Bernard Lewis, Fouad Ajami and Ahmed Chalabi regarding the reaction of Iraqis to the US invasion undoubtedly encouraged the George W Bush administration to take advantage of the "unresolved conflict with Iraq", as stated by vice president Dick Cheney's Project for the New American Century group, and attack Iraq in 2003.

Those experts, Iraqi opposition groups and individuals all saw the celebrations coming after the fall of Saddam Hussein. What they didn't see (or didn't want the administration to know) was that celebrations would by short-lived and once the party was over, anti-American forces and sentiments would take over.

After 30 years of hostility between Iran and the United States, a tall wall of mistrust separates the two governments. But, the biggest obstacle today in engaging Iran is the US government's persistence on a failed policy of carrot and stick.

The reason why this policy will never work with Iran is twofold. One lies in the mentality of Iranians, which was touched on earlier. The outcome of bullying and showing muscle to Iranians is astonishingly contrary to what Western policymakers think.

By threatening Iranians, seeds of hatred, resistance and determination are planted. In a speech delivered last month, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said,

The biggest mistake made by Mr Bush was the way he and his companions were looking at human society. They were after dominance and superiority over people. When they wanted to talk to people, they were speaking from a position of strength, and they were looking down on others. If this policy is going to change, then the US government should talk in a respectful manner to nations. The real change is to change your tone when talking to other nations. You should talk with respect and humbleness. Otherwise, just using new words but talking with the same tone indicates that no change has occurred.

The other reason why the carrot-and-stick policy is futile is that the Iranian regime believes that sanctions cannot and will not go so far as to threaten their existence.

Yes, the regime is concerned about its survival. However, those in power don't believe that by having the "stick" in their faces, including tougher sanctions, their power will be challenged. And who can bring them down anyway? Currently, there is not a single thinkable alternative for the people of Iran, either inside or outside the country. None.

The editor of Keyhan newspaper, Hossein Shariatmadari, a man very close to the center of power in Iran, including the Sepah-e-Pasdaran (Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps), security forces, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, once wrote: " ... if we are made subject to sanctions [obviously serious ones], then, naturally, we can use some leverage, such as closing the Strait of Hormuz ... Of course, there are numerous other leverages that will be discussed later."

Whether Tehran is militarily capable of doing this or not is not the issue. The issue is that, in the minds of Iranians, the West is aware that once Iran is severely threatened it has the potential and capacity to disrupt oil production in the region by attacking oil tankers, pipelines, refineries and production facilities, including those in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman. This would, of course, pose a real threat to the survival of Western economies. With this perspective in mind, the language of threat is not an effective weapon as Iranians believe that it can only go so far.

The message sent by US President Barack Obama for the Iranian new year, Nowrouz, was palpably different in tone from what the Iranians are used to. That was encouraging. Yet, in the same speech, relying on the same old policy, he urges Iranians to avoid supporting "terror" and attempting to build "arms".

Ayatollah Khamenei wasted no time in making a reference to Obama's message: "It is not understandable that Obama congratulates the Iranian new year, but, at the same time, accuses Iran of supporting terrorism and efforts to gain access to nuclear weapons."

If there is any hope for a breakthrough in Iranian-American relations, American policymakers need to get this message at some point: with the Iranians, the policy and language of bullying and threat does not and will not work.

Shahir Shahidsaless is a Canadian-Iranian political analyst writing mainly in Farsi. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering, and has devoted the past 10 years predominantly to researching and writing about the Middle East and international affairs for Farsi-speaking magazines, papers and news websites both inside and outside the country. He has authored a book, which has been published in Iran and Germany.


Click to view image: 'f055a9ca1e9c-iran.gif'

Added: Mar-24-2009 Occurred On: Mar-24-2009
By: xyxyxy
In:
Iraq, Iran, News
Tags: Iran, USA, Obamam bully, culture, bush
Views: 13095 | Comments: 19 | Votes: 0 | Favorites: 1 | Shared: 0 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 1
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  • Bully 'em? Nah, just bomb 'em.

    Posted Mar-24-2009 By 

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  • Comment of user 'LIL-LOUIE' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • While I understand the sentiment;
    No one is going to kiss Theran's back side while they arm Hezbollah and don't come verifiably clean on their nuclear program.

    Posted Mar-24-2009 By 

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  • but we can nuke them
    please someone nuke them

    Posted Mar-24-2009 By 

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  • Obama is an appeaser. America's enemies know that.

    Posted Mar-24-2009 By 

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  • trust me America could wipe out iran no problem what so ever !!! it maybe a a pretty hard mission but with the weapons and allies you would not stand a chance!! at the moment AMERICA and other countries are trying to hand you some respect but ur fist wont unclinch dont push your luck becuase they will be consequences and trust me it wont be pretty...thats not a threat thats just facts !!

    Posted Mar-24-2009 By 

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  • Well if Shahir Shahidsaless says it, it must be true, right? hahahahahahahah

    Posted Mar-25-2009 By 

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  • Iran will collapse on its own very soon 100% sure

    Posted Mar-30-2009 By 

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  • Comment of user 'foofoofoo' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
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  • apart from their history iran is a shiate state and its religious roots are far more stronger than the world can imagine

    Posted Mar-24-2009 By 

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  • america is going down guys, in the search for the new world order usa will be infact the first state who will loose its freedom. than the rest of the world is planned. but that wont be possible, inshallah and allah ho akbar.....lolzz

    Posted Mar-24-2009 By 

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    • I lived in America all my life and in various country sides, all this talk about America's financial depression and woes, but I have not seen any of that, in fact it really hasn't made a dent, My Gas tank is always full, I still eat three meals a day, I still have my freedom of rights, I still have my guns to protect my family against other guns, I still have two cars and I have my own house. most of the crap you hear on live leak is just that, crap. most countries are so filled with religious s More..

      Posted Mar-25-2009 By 

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  • we can't bully or bomb them. China and Russia would see to that.

    Posted Mar-24-2009 By 

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  • bullshit bullshit bullshit, True in one sense that right now we have a nutless president that won't do shit to stop Iran from building a nuke. Lets all hope to hell they don't, Maybe their bluffing like Saddam said he did but i don't think so.

    Posted Mar-24-2009 By 

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  • Yes, but israel wants war and by God we will do their fighting for them once again.

    Posted Apr-24-2010 By 

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