Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Six Lessons from Iran’s Revolution

    Tuesday, February 11, 2014   No comments

by Henry Precht

Thirty-five years since the Iranian revolution should be adequate time for aspiring Iran hands to turn a deaf ear to the “Death to America” chants from Tehran and the more polite “They can’t be trusted “ pundit wisdom from Washington. Perhaps, modestly and cautiously, we can draw a few lessons from those bad days for the present moment of hope.

First, what we didn’t know back then was a lot and it did hurt us. Our ignorance was profound. We didn’t know the Shah was condemned by cancer. Had we known, we might have treated him more as we did Marcos and less like, say, our toleration of the Greek colonels. Today’s question relates to President Hassan Rouhani’s political health, his physical health seemingly OK. Should we be nervous, i.e., should we act as if he were politically vulnerable? Or should we consider him in adequate shape to engage with our demands? If he faces trouble, can he be saved by respectful attention? Or should we write him off as a foredoomed aberration? The signs from Tehran incline me to believe that he is worthy of considerable political risk on our part.

We knew nothing about dealing with such a massive movement of millions of people in support of the revolution — a phenomenon rarely if even seen before on the globe. Nor did we have a clue about an Islamic government — another development never before achieved on earth. Today, Iran remains a dark zone. We can’t accurately assess the strength of the reform or conservative movements in Iran. How strong is Rouhani and how wide can he maneuver? I expect the White House is better at evaluating its American support for an agreement with Iran. But can it match Rouhani’s willingness to confront critics? We can only hope that authentic, balanced expertise on Iran is available and listened to in the White House.


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