Further correspondence with reader Mohammad, in Iran:

Fifteen years ago, there was much more goodwill towards the Americans in Iran’s general public, despite the enmity between the governments and the sanctions. Notwithstanding the rhetoric coming from the government, most people thought that the friendship with the USA was what was needed. Iranians were, and still are, very suspicious of the British, and the conspiracy theories in Iran often includes the British as the ever present conspirators. However, the general attitude of public towards the USA was quite positive, despite the revolutionary zeal of the first years of a revolution which was every bit inspired by the leftist ideologies. there were even quite a few Iranians who, in the first days after Iraq invasion, thought that an invasion of Iran would be a marvelous idea and would rid them of Mullahs, the same way the Iraq invasion rid Iraqis of Saddam. Foolish are some people, for sure!

That good will slowly and gradually evaporated. First, the Iraq adventure went so badly that the people realized the folly of American adventurism and democracy-building. Furthermore, what happened in Syria baffled many as why the Americans are doing all this. At the beginning of the Syrian uprising, many Iranian secular or liberal intellectuals thought of it as a good thing, especially because they thought of Assad as an ally of the Iranian regime. I remember the hot discussions I had with these people, as I was  very skeptical, indeed cynically so, of ANY revolution (be it French, Russian, Iranian, Arab…). However, as the rebels proved themselves to be some religious fanatics, the opinion of these intellectuals started to sour on them. What they did not understand was the adamant refusal of the American political class to understand that, in this Assad is more preferable, indeed very much so, to ANY realistic alternative.

The other day I was with some older university professors, all of whom were very much liberal in their outlook. They usually have a disdain for the Iranian regime. However, they were saying that one thing that they think the Supreme Leader of Iran had understood much better than they was the fact that the Americans are totally unworthy of trust! The issue they were discussing was the recent legislation of the US Congress, which imposed sanctions on Europeans traveling to Iran. The legislation, which basically punishes everybody who travels to Iran, was a response to what happened in Paris and San Bernardino. This legislation does not penalize Europeans or anyone else who travels to Saudi Arabia (not that I regard this a good policy, but…). Consider the fact that just recently Iranians made a lot of concessions with regard to their nuclear program in exchange of the lifting of sanctions, the fact that the Iranians did not have anything whatsoever to do with those shootings, the fact that Saudi Arabia and Turkey got only a small nagging in all this, and you can figure out why the Iranians are so much pissed off by this.

All this might sound quite abstract to you, but consider this: my sister who has studied tourism and has not had a job for quite a while, was planning  for an opportunity that the influx of the European tourists was promising to bring. Now all that hope has been destroyed, all because of something which is neither Iranian people’s nor even the Iranian regime’s fault. Can my sister be blamed if she becomes completely suspicious of the Americans? In fact, throughout the last 10 years or so, the people most hurt by the sanctions were the middle class people in Iran, who are the friendliest towards the west in the whole region. I understand the political administration in the USA is traditionally fragmented, which causes that those with strong lobby impose their will on the whole system, but this fact is rather so abstract for an Iranian, or even for an ordinary American, to grasp.

We live in a crazy world!

All this I wrote in the hope that there could be more understanding between us: your people and mine. May God grant us peace.

Here is a NYT story on the recent Congressional action Mohammad’s talking about:

Tensions mounted between Iran and the United States on Wednesday over a new American law that limits visa-free travel, which the Iranians regard as a sanction and a violation of the recently completed nuclear accord.

The Iranian foreign minister and Republican critics of Iran traded warnings about the visa law, which is barely a week old.

The law applies to foreigners who would otherwise be eligible to travel to the United States without a visa. It denies that privilege to anyone who has visited Iran in the past five years or who holds Iranian citizenship. The same restriction applies to citizens of or visitors to Syria, Iraq or Sudan.

The law is part of an American antiterrorism response to the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., and is primarily directed at suspected members and supporters of the Islamic State, the extremist Sunni group that controls parts of Iraq and Syria. Sudan and Iran were included partly because they have been on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism for many years.

Iran, however, is a Shiite-majority country that opposes Sunni fundamentalist groups and is helping to fight them.

Iranian officials say that it is nonsensical to include Iran in the new visa law, and that the provision seems intended to sabotage the nuclear accord. The accord calls for Western nations to lift many economic sanctions against Iran and to not impose new ones, in exchange for verifiable guarantees that Iran’s nuclear work is peaceful.

Note well that this measure originated with Republican members of Congress, though Obama signed it. Why, exactly, are we punishing the Iranians (and Europeans who travel there) over something that Sunni terrorists did? Is it the same knee-jerk reflex that causes us to see Putin’s Russia as our enemy in the Middle East?

By the way, please read Daniel Larison’s latest asking why the US continues to indulge the Saudis. They started this whole round of new tensions by chopping the head off of an imprisoned Shiite religious leader.