April 2, 2007
May Cool Heads Prevail
As Iran Provokes the West
The recent tension between Iran and Great Britain over captured sailors
has caused concern all over the world. The passive aggressive behavior
on Iran’s part is especially troubliing given the intensity of brutality
taking place in other sections of the geographic region.
The increasingly more frequent provocations are surely a reason for
worry. Yet at the same time, it is hard not to question the underlying
reasons for this behavior. While I am sure there is a sound political
science explanation that could fill books, and somehow I think that it
will, at first glance there is reason to suppose there may be a simpler
looks like Iran is jealous. The conflict in Iraq, its neighbor, is
getting all the attention. Rightfully so, but Iran appears to disagree.
In a sick way, there is a one-sided rivalry between the two countries.
is as if the legitimacy of a conflict with the West rests on a clearly
defined, proactive agenda. Take the questionable nuclear threat Iraq
supposedly posed four years ago. Iran, conscious of the urgency of the
issue to the West, has badgered the international community with the
development of a nuclear enrichment program over the course of the past
few years. Earlier this month, the UN Security Council, which includes a
representative of the U.S., agreed to support tougher sanctions against
This proverbial punishment did not temper Iran’s bold defiance. If
anything, it seems to have fueled the development of a new confidence in
its own significance. The capture of 15 British soldiers because of an
alleged trespass is yet another instance of what is likely to become a
recurrent act of aggravation.
Iran wants to be the one that stands up to the West. While other Muslim
countries have threatened or opposed the U.S. before, Iran wants to
emerge as the leader. Yet its brash actions may prove to be a
The growing resentment is not going to be limited to the West. Other
Muslim countries, however disdainful of the Western paradigm, are
unwilling to risk the consequences and mirror its conduct after Iran. If
multiple transgressions on the part of Iran lead to a reactive
intensification of the resistance to Islam overall, all predominantly
Muslim countries are bound to be affected.
Iran’s determination and capability should not be underestimated. To be
fair, however, looking at the bigger picture may put the situation in
perspective. Iran’s antics are not especially treacherous per se.
Rather, it is the conclusions we have drawn from previous experience
that cause the greatest alarm.
The key to long-term relations with Iran is the understanding of the
underlying political motivation, not just its ramifications. Ideally,
those whom Iran picks as its adversaries will be able to realize that
trying to inflict change on the thought system is counterproductive.
Rather, a careful, non-reactionary strategy is most likely to finally
make it clear to Iran that further provocation will have serious
While it is necessary to question the appropriate immediate responses to
possible problems Iran’s political attitude may create, the best
strategy is to learn from the events of the past four years and not
pursue intransigent policies.
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