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ISSUE 120 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/29/2006

Iran requires delicacy

By Maura De Chant
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 29, 2006

In the daily maelstrom of bad news streaming from the Middle East, the issue of Iran has been getting more and more attention. Covert Iranian involvement with this summer's Israel-Hezbollah war, coupled with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s refusal to end Iran’s nuclear program has led many to speculate on the possibility of war with Iran. While all signs point to a war with Iran being a complete disaster, two question remain: how did it get this far, and what can be done to defuse the situation?

The central problem lies with the two men causing most of this ruckus – President George W. Bush and President Ahmadinejad. Unlike previous Iranian leaders, Ahmadinejad is calling Bush’s bluff. He knows America cannot afford to open up another front in the war on terror, and that his influence in the region could severely destabilize the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Without any credible threat of retaliation from the United States, Iran is free to develop its nuclear program. Nor is Bush doing himself any favors, since his response is still far too tainted by his “cowboy diplomacy” to generate any real enthusiasm in Iran or the rest of the world. Bush insists that the world divides into black and white, good guys and bad guys, and that anyone who says otherwise is weakening America.

This narrow-minded outlook has hurt us, and it will only continue to place the United States in vulnerable positions unless President Bush realizes that the world may be slightly more complicated than good versus evil. He first must understand that the Middle East is not a monolithic entity; there are conflicts there which have very little to do with America or with the Western hemisphere. The key to the Middle East is to approach situations with a sense of nuance, not “shoot from the hip”-style negotiations.

Yet another problem is constant underestimation of our enemies. There is a tendency within the administration – and among the American public – to see adversaries like Ahmadinejad as unhinged megalomaniacs ungoverned by reason. This mindset is extraordinarily dangerous, as it exemplifies American arrogance while at the same time failing to see the true danger in a situation.

One cannot become president of a country like Iran without possessing true intellect and cunning. Ahmadinejad is no fool, and his actions are neither random nor those of a lunatic. It is no accident that there was widespread suspicion of Iranian involvement in the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, nor that he has begun to ally himself with other American favorites like President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Ahmadinejad is also calculating when it comes to leading his own country. Although many Iranians have grumbled about the lack of economic recovery and his increasing enforcement of Islamic laws, he has managed to frame the nuclear development debate as a national right. He repeatedly denies that his aim is developing a bomb, most recently at the United Nations last week. Whatever his purposes, it is clear that he has managed to win the support of his people. Moreover, there is a fear in the region that President Bush’s imperialist agenda will not end with Iraq. A nuclear weapon is seen as an insurance policy against a United States invasion.

I am in no way saying that Iran has a right to a nuclear bomb. However, we must acknowledge the hypocrisy of one nation telling another they simply aren’t mature enough to handle nuclear power. The paternalistic attitude of the United States has never won us many supporters, and it is time for a change. Rather than treating other nations as irresponsible children, we must take this threat seriously and respond in kind.

The negotiations President Bush has started are a good first step, but the problems lie much deeper. There must be a fundamental change in attitude and policy, beginning with the president himself. Otherwise, America will continue to find itself reviled the world over, facing a growing number of threats from Iran and elsewhere.

Staff writer Maura De Chant is a senior from West Bend, Wis. She majors in history and in English.

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