Recent developing speculation about US military intervention in, or sanction against Iran has created a heated debate worldwide. One community that finds itself caught in a unique dilemma is the estimated one million Americans of Iranian descent. While this community feels strong allegiance to the US, and whereas they have contributed substantially to the advancement of the economic and social infrastructures of the US, they, nonetheless, feel strongly connected to their ancestor's land where many still have extended family and cultural ties.
Iran's predicament has been further exacerbated by events post-September 11, 2001 when the US administration opted for unilaterally and “preemptively” taking the battle to the “Middle East”, first by military intervention in Afghanistan, and then with an all-out occupation of Iraq. The nationals responsible for the 9/11 attacks were said to be Saudi Arabian, Pakistani and Egyptian, but none were Iranians. Despite the repressive nature of the Iranian regime inside the country and its intermittent irrational behavior in the international community, there has never been any evidence of Iran-sponsored terrorist activities inside US soil.
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have turned into costly propositions for the Americans, firstly in terms of the loss of American soldiers and civilians, approaching 2,500, and secondly, in terms of economic loss approaching one trillion dollars incurred by the US alone. The US administration finds itself agitated by the baseless rhetoric of Iran's new President Ahmadinejad on Israel, and the alleged ulterior motives of his administration to seek nuclear technology with possible dual applications. This has increasingly led the US to turn to Iran, presumably as a way to expand “democratization” outside Iraq and Afghanistan, the slogan used by the U.S. administration.
Upon close examination of Middle Eastern countries, Iran, notwithstanding its dismal record in human rights, lack of transparency in socio-economic policies and fundamental internal problems, nonetheless, seems to be the only country that has not yet submitted to becoming “democratized”. One can hardly identify another country in the region where American military presence and, strong economic influence is not already pronounced.
The people of the region can only yearn for a true, independent democratic Iraq, Afghanistan and/or Iran that would actually take the prime interest of the local populations into consideration and hopefully be emulated by other countries in the region. However, every indication shows regressive trends when external aggression is imposed. In the case of Iraq, an incipient civil war is only intensifying, with the possibility of the country disintegrating into at least three smaller countries: Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish.
The one million Iranian-Americans find themselves in a quandary. On the one hand, they have left their homeland for the US due to lack of socio-political and economic reforms in Iran. On the other, due to their pledge of allegiance to their adopted land, they cannot see the U.S. going down a pathway of destruction that would be detrimental to both their adopted, and their ancestor's, lands. They vividly remember 1953 when Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, the only true democratic elected prime minister of Iran, who nationalized the oil and gas in the country and was successful in achieving a favorable verdict on this matter in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, was overthrown, in part by the covert operations of the U.S. administration.
In fact, the Clinton administration confessed numerously, that the U.S. involvement in Iran in 1953 undermined democracy, not only in Iran, but also in the entire Middle East. The Iranian-Americans recognize the danger of U.S. intervention, which may go far beyond covert propaganda operations, into any magnitude of military interventions. However, as publicly stated by many politicians and scholars, other more viable options exist; they, in order of priority, are: direct, multilateral and transparent negotiation; diplomatic isolation of Iran; restriction of travel for its government officials and freezing of its government's assets.
The use of conventional or even worse, nuclear military confrontations, is philosophically immoral and unethical, and plausibly illegal according to international laws as it always yields reprehensible human tragedy. The Iranian-American Community's majority opinion is to oppose any level of military actions, including the so-called tactical bombing, and emphatically against any nuclear strikes, which would send the wrong message that the U.S. is not really that interested in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Iranian-American community expects the independent democratic transformation of the Iranian society and any solution to the problem of Iran must have at its core the plights of the Iranian people.
Taking advantage of “democracy” as the slogan now used by the U.S. to galvanize the Middle Eastern countries is in the right direction so long as the institution of democracy occurs from within these respective countries. When the theological establishment in Iran is impelled through non-confrontational means to allow the seed of democracy, as planted over a hundred years ago when the 1906 Constitution was enacted, to take root and grow, it will yield a much better ambiance that is conducive to mutually beneficial exchanges of goods and services and socio-economic development between the U.S. and the west on the one hand, and the Middle Eastern countries as typified by Iran, on the other.
Lastly, such foreign policy anchored on mutual trust and respect, and through non-confrontational means would strengthen the U.S. stature as the responsible, compassionate superpower worldwide.
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David Rahni, a naturalized Iranian American, is professor of chemistry and adjunct professor of dermatology in New York. Having prolifically written across a wide spectrum of disciplines, he has also served as adjunct professor of environmental law.