When Americans think of Iran, they think of hostages. Not just any hostages — the lost backpackers, the journalists arrested as “spies,” and so on — but diplomats. American diplomats in Tehran, paraded out onto the street blindfolded, by armed, disheveled student rebels in support of Ayatollah Khomeini.
America, tempered by superpower responsibility, 20th century morality, and Jimmy Carter, didn’t run a raid through the heart of the country Genghis Khan-style, and the hostages were eventually released after much stress and a Presidential election. The hostages were freed and with the passage of time the statute of limitations on outrage seems to have expired. Although Iran became the definitive Pariah State out of the affair, the Iranians managed to escape justice to some degree.
The Iranians equate America with the Mossadeqh coup — although it was instigated by the British and Eisenhower only signed off on it after being convinced of Mossadeqh’s communist tendencies, a sort of Kim Il Sung with oil revenue — and with the typical litany of imperialism and infectious culture which threatens the purity of their revolution. Tyrannies are big on purity. People everywhere are big on doing what they want despite legally mandated purity; take the Iranians’ love of satellite television, which is illegal.
The feelings of the common Iranian on the street are difficult to read; it is easy to get footage from rallies of people chanting “Death to America,” but are these people sacrificing a Friday afternoon to express their views, or members of the Militia who are paid to be there? I’ve wondered about that ever since I saw the footage of Ceaucescu’s last speech – the Party hacks cheer as always, and then the revolt begins.
Despite everything, the President seems to be getting his way in terms of his nuclear deal with the regime in Tehran, even in the face of a massive campaign to derail the initiative.
I put it to you that Mr. Obama has effectively read the mood of the country on this issue. You can point to a number of opinion polls showing that this-or-that majority of Americans opposes the deal, but the polls don’t ask the only question that really matters: Are you sick of the Middle East?
If polled on that, the majority of Americans answering in the affirmative is likely to be enormous. This sentiment goes for Iran just as it goes for ISIS; the United States took a shot at the area and were rebuffed by the Sunni Arabs and vilified by the rest of the world. So, screw it; throw the marshal’s badge in the dirt and ride out on a wagon with Grace Kelly.
It’s all a bit of a maze. While the anti-deal faction in America and Israel cite opinion polls and opposition to the deal, they miss the fact that although Americans are against a demarche towards Iran, they are against doing something directly in the Middle East at higher rates and in more virulent measure.
Lindsey Graham made aggressive policy in the Middle East the centerpiece of his Presidential campaign, and he appears to be primed to drop out of the race at any moment. Opposition to diplomacy doesn’t translate into support for other sorts of action.
The campaign of opposition in the United States hasn’t changed this; the ad banners cluttering up my Youtube video choices are unlikely to change anything. Nor has Mr. Netanyahu’s determination to nag us into a coma altered the balance as far as I can tell.
So, cue the lamentations of America’s growing isolationism, abdication of responsibility, shrugging off allies, slumbering at the switch in the face of tyranny, loss of moral confidence, etc… Cue also the claims of American plots to use Iran to somehow tightening an imperial grasp on the Arab region, and the Iranian hardliners with their endless chatter about encroaching American culture’s corrosion of their revolution, etc…. riding out with Grace Kelly looks better and better.
The situation doesn’t contain the necessary pretexts for the nuclear deal opponents to win out. Unless the Iranians do something provocative – note I said “do,” and hostile speeches by snowy-bearded theocrats don’t really count – then President Obama is likely to get what he wants, for better or for worse. Of course, a gas leak in a certain house in Neauphle-le-Chateau in 1978 and none of this would have been a problem.