Thursday, February 5, 2009

Daily Star on Iran's Paranoia

The editorials of the Beirut Daily Star are not generally known for their Zionist sympathies, and they don't usually dare to speak out against Iran - that can be hazardous to your health in their neighborhood. Iranian behavior is of course predictable by anyone who understands what the Iranian regime is all about.
Thursday, February 05, 2009

Iran is currently celebrating its 30th birthday, with the passing of three decades since the nation's people succeeded in bringing down the monarchy of the US-backed shah and creating a government of their own. Yet despite having survived several external attempts to reverse the revolution, the Islamic Republic still behaves less like a confident, functional 30-year-old nation and more like a nervous teenage rebel fending off the authority figures in the United States and the United Nations Security Council.
Part of Iran's paranoid stance can be explained as the natural result of having been the openly declared target of a US campaign for regime change. But Iran's own delusions of persecution must also be counted among the reasons that the country has not yet assumed its rightful, respected place within the community of nations. While most Iranian leaders are typically experts in Islamic jurisprudence, few have demonstrated a solid understanding of the political workings of foreign states, and many appear to have been operating under the assumption that much of the outside world is waging a covert war against them. Most senior officials seem not to have noticed that the world around them - especially the United States - is rapidly changing course.
Many Iranians have reacted skeptically to US President Barack Hussein Obama's call to turn the page on the last three decades of sour relations between Washington and Tehran. But Obama's new stance was reinforced on Wednesday by Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany, who issued a joint statement voicing common commitment to seeking a diplomatic solution to the row over Iran's nuclear program. This softer tone marks a dramatic shift in style away from George W. Bush's "axis of evil" rhetoric, and could herald a significant change in substance as well.

The Iranians will need to adjust their own positions in order to adapt to a world with an America that is being reinvented each day that Obama is at the helm. The US president is widely popular around the world, and failing to respond to his challenges would risk allowing the Islamic Republic to be portrayed as the villain who seeks to thwart a sincere peacemaking mission. The best strategy for the Iranians would be to focus on the two arenas in which their country has most noticeably failed: public relations and diplomacy. Iran has never been able to successfully defend its controversial policies in the global arena, even though the country has arguably operated in accordance with international law. And although Iran is the most populous country in the Middle East, the country has so far been outfoxed by smaller, PR savvy nations that seek to demonize the Islamic Republic as a result of their own paranoia. The only way to change the current score is to join the PR and diplomacy game.

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