Ideology and US-Iranian Nuclear Negotiations -The Atlantic

Below are links to two articles from The Atlantic debating whether the US should negotiate a compromise with Iran concerning its nuclear program:

On the con side, we have David Brooks, who argues that Iran continues to be an actor driven by an extremist ideology. Rhetorically, he wonders if “Iran’s leaders really believe what they say. It could be that Iranian leaders are as apocalyptically motivated, paranoid and dogmatically anti-American as their pronouncements suggest they are. It could be that Iran will be as destabilizing and hegemonically inclined as all its recent actions suggest.” Although he never uses the word “Munich” the Munich analogy is at the heart of his argument. Iran is Nazi Germany and he wonders why we have not learned from our mistakes.

On the pro side, we have Peter Beinart, who argues that Iran is essentially a realist actor, driven by careful calculations of costs and benefits. It is fighting a regional cold war much in the same way that the US fought the Soviet Union, “Through its proxies, Iran is fighting a regional cold war. And like the United States, U.S.S.R., and China when they were fighting their global cold war, it is doing so in a distinctly non-suicidal way. Iran is seeking to extend its power without doing something so aggressive that it provokes retaliation that imperils the regime’s survival. Iran isn’t doing truly reckless things like invading a Saudi ally in the Persian Gulf or launching chemical or biological weapons at Israel, either directly or through its terrorist proxies. And it never has. This is a regime, after all, that accepted a UN-sponsored ceasefire rather than fight to the death against Saddam’s Iraq and that cooperated with the United States to depose the Taliban.”

There are a couple of things to note: First, both make interesting use of historical analogies to explain the current situation. Their analogies make sense in certain ways, but neither fits the current situation exactly. Iran’s political system does not function in the same way Nazi Germany did and the Middle East is not a two-power system being contested by nuclear powers. Secondly, both tend to see ideology in black and white terms. For Brooks it is everything, for Beinart it is nothing. As noted in an earlier post regarding the Islamic State, the role of ideology is often complex and subtle. Iran is neither the fanatical state Brooks paints it as, nor is it simply a realist state hiding behind Islamic symbolism, as Beinart suggests.

My thanks to Dr. Bill Wieninger of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, who passed these articles on to me.

p.s. here is a link to an article on the former US Embassy in Tehran which has been turned into a revolutionary museum. The murals on the outside wall are maintained on a regular basis, and there is a gift shop for tourists on the corner where you can by revolutionary memorabilia (Posters, Key chains etc…). The revolution will be merchandised.