February 04, 2005

More on Conflating Iran's "Government" with its "People"

Posted by Alireza

In the last post, Niki pointed out that it was both disingenuous and dangerous to radically de-couple "the people" from "the government" in the current climate of threats being made against Iran: "We may be able to tell the difference," between government and people, she said, but "bombs cannot."

I would like to add a point to this argument: Even "we," the observers of the current standoff on the Iranian nuclear program, no matter where we stand politically on this issue, need to be very careful about being able to make the distinction between government and people correctly. This is important, I believe, because at least on the surface of things, these two entities seem to view the nuclear issue somewhat differently, and it is important to carefully consider this difference.

The Iranian government has always adamantly insisted that its nuclear program is strictly for energy purposes, that it cannot rely on oil alone to satisfy its growing energy needs (Iran actually imports billions of liters of gasoline each year), and that mastering the technology for nuclear energy production is a key objective in ensuring national "self-sufficiency." To allay concerns that the energy program might be a front for a nuclear weapons program, the Iranian government recently signed on to the additional protocol of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which has been signed by less than half of NPT member-states so far, and which allows for snap inspections of nuclear facilities by experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The U.S. and Israel claim that none of this is satisfactory, and that they still believe Iran is secretly developing a nuclear weapons capability. Of course, there is really no way to determine the truth of this accusation. Recent experience tells us however, that the U.S. is usually not to be trusted when making statements about the WMD programs of other countries. And Israel is not qualified the least bit to make such accusations, as it has consistently refused to even sign on to the "basic" NPT treaty, much less renounce its large and ambitious nuclear weapons program and its massive stockpile of nuclear warheads.

But even if no one may be able to objectively determine the "true" nuclear intentions of the Iranian government, the nuclear intentions of the "people" seem to be relatively clear and consistent: Most Iranians support not only a nuclear energy program, but indeed, a full-fledged nuclear weapons program (also see here and here). In this sense, the people may be more radical than the government. The question that just begs to be asked here is this: when Bush condemns Iran for its nuclear program but says "America" stands by the "Iranian people," is he willing to acknowledge that one of the very few issues that can perhaps unite "the people" against America is support for the "government's" nuclear program, and perhaps even a program more radical than what the government itself is pursuing?

February 4, 2005 08:18 PM
Comments

I've put a comment on this issue on my blog at
http://prawnblog.blogspot.com/2005/02/my-view-on-iranian-people-vs-their.html
I have a bit of experience with Arab countries as I was stationed in Italy for two years (1997-1998) and we went all over the area. I visited Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt as well as Turkey and Israel. I don't claim a deep knowledge, but I know more than most Americans do.

Posted by: Rich at February 9, 2005 06:09 PM

It is not unreasonable to exercise the right of self defense. Bear in mind weaponizing inside one's borders does not promote emotional security for those outside of the border. If this is the will of the people, expect more rhetoric and fear from the west.

The leap from energy producer to antagonist is a small one under the dual use goods label. I think the task before all iranians is to make their views heard but at the same time keep the government as stable as possible.

To be frank, the americans want military bases in your lands. They are building them in iraq right now. By destabilizing the government the americans will then intercede on your behalf whether you want them to or not. Don't let this happen.

For all the mullah's faults, I would be loathe to replace one set of guys/crooks with another.

Posted by: Screech at February 9, 2005 01:22 AM

hi,

it's nice that people like you and niki (and others who are part of "we") think thoughts like that, but the people who order bombings (from their safe homes) don't have them as part of their consideration. the only obstacle that deters them from giving the order is the fear of retaliation. that's why that weirdo in north korea is safe, while afghanistan and iraq were bombed.

Posted by: ikri at February 7, 2005 11:11 AM

Manouchehr: You are absolutely right. But in this particular case, I think there is so much essentialization in the opposite direction that a little bit of essentialization on the other side might help at least burst a couple bubbles! The point about the non-uniformity of the Iranian government (and any other government for that matter) is an important point that needs to be argued at length. Hopefully, one of us will be able to do that soon.

Posted by: Alireza at February 7, 2005 01:02 AM

We do not want to "essentialize" the "Iranian people." I do not think that they have a uniform view on this subject (like so many other subjects), and we may say the same thing about the "Iranian government" (with its "factions").

Posted by: manouchehr at February 6, 2005 05:51 PM

Hi.

I'm totally against the US engaging in a war in Iran.

I just want to help explain why certain right wing retards conflate Iran with its people. They "figger" that everyone should overthrow their leaders unless they are Christian Corporatists, like their Dear Bush.

On the plus side, a large portion of the front line troops of the US armed forces are currently occupied (being occupiers). American doesn't really have the spare manpower to invade Iran until most of them come home.

But there are, definitely, forces pushing for a war in Iran. It's pretty much the same groups that were for the Iraq war.

Posted by: Josh Narins at February 5, 2005 03:29 PM