Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it “ George Santayana
Those who overlook the lessons of history are likely to repeat the mistakes of the past. President Barack Obama seems to be treading the same path on Iran that former President Jimmy Carter was on. That path led to the disastrous circumstances that are still being felt in today’s political sphere. Carter’s misstep was to turn on a key ally in the region the guise of promoting human rights, thereby assisting in the establishment of the current dictatorship.
Carter urged that Shah’s regime take up the cause of human rights, in effect accusing the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, of blatant human rights violations. This was in the midst of Pahlavi’s democratic and economic reforms. Carter fuelled the discontent of the Iranian people against the government in the context of promoting human rights, which in the end deposed the Shah. This betrayal is still remembered as one of the most damaging foreign policy blunders of the American government.
Now, President Obama is projecting the same approach in calling for talks with the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He even states that the talks will occur at the right time. But Obama is not correct in his approach as the President is only titular, the real power elonging to the unelected Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini, Iran’s preeminent religious figure. The dilemma here is that the intended beneficiaries of the reforms are the true parties in conflict not the minority government in the country wielding little support.
The U.S. support of the British-sponsored overthrow of the democratically elected secular Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeqh in 1953 demonstrates this misplaced sense of value. The coup was planned by Great Britain, disappointed at the nationalization of the oil industry. The British propounded the idea to depose Mossadeqh and falsely project him as a communist. The Iranian people, reeling from decades of war with Iraq, must be given the opportunity the deal with their own issues, but want and deserve moral support. The Bush administration consistently reached out to the people of Iran and the fabrication behind the Axis of Evil speech was ill conceived.
Former Senator and present Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pilloried the Bush Administration for foot dragging on Iran and called for swift military action. In commenting on the action of Bush instating that he left the job to the Europeans. Clinton has just been true to her war stances since her days in the Senate. The enemies are not the people of Iran, but the theocratic hard-liners in control who in the guise of leading their respective countries are actually conducting widespread abuse of the people. President Obama’s mistake of perception is that he underestimates the intellectual capacity of the reigning hard-liners. Thus, negotiations with the people of Iran must be the tack pursued rather than negotiating with the theoretical dictators.
If the Obama administration were to pursue direct negotiations with the hard-liners, it will only seem that the United States is affording them some sense of recognition, and to a degree, recognition of their regimes and acts that they commit. If there is any party the government must pursue, it is the Iranian people, not the unelected leaders. If the administration were to heed a lesson from history, in light of the influence the United States in world affairs, akin to the Shah affair, it could lead to the unification of the parties in Iran to chart their own road to change simply by providing moral support. War with Iran would be an atrocity and direct negotiations a resignation let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past and turn our back to one of the most pro-American populace in the world. Democracy needs the United States and resignation is not the answer.
Slater Bakhtavar is president and founder of Republican Youth of America, a frequent commentator and respected analyst on foreign policy issues, an attorney with a post-doctoral degree in International law and General Counsel of a national corporation.