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Majd on American Misconceptions About Iran

Hooman Majd addressed the five greatest misconceptions about Iran in a Politico op-ed earlier this week. Here he addresses the Iranian reaction to any attack:

War is neither a joke nor an option. It’s astonishing that politicians and presidential candidates talk about it cavalierly. If the U.S., unilaterally or with allies, attacks Iran, it will be reviled by almost all Iranians — and many others. It doesn’t matter if the attack is “surgical” — designed to minimize collateral damage. Any attack will most likely be viewed by Iranians as an attack on their sovereignty.

They will surely respond — and the response will likely be ugly. Tehran could put nuclear weapons development on a faster track while whatever opposition exists could be extinguished. Any idea of reform will disappear.

Needless to say, if Iranian media were as saturated with talk of starting an unprovoked war against a weaker country as ours have been for the last five years, we would never hear the end of how it proves that the Iranian regime is run by aggressive maniacs. Here in the U.S. we tend to treat an objectively crazy position, namely starting a war with Iran, as if it were one reasonable policy choice among others. This policy would have numerous adverse consequences for Iran, the U.S., regional stability, and the global economy, but strict opposition to it, such as that offered by Ron Paul, is not really considered a “mainstream” position, while constant agitation for unnecessary war is treated as the expression of a legitimate policy view. Majd has a far better understanding of how Iranians will react to foreign attack than Fly and Schmitt do. Then again, it shouldn’t take extensive familiarity with the country to see why a nation would not side with its attackers. A basic grasp of human psychology and common sense ought to be enough.

Majd also comments on the assumption that all that is required to change Iran’s government is to spark an uprising that the U.S. can then support:

But the spark cannot be a foreign one.

Iranians have never, in their more than 2,500-year history, taken the side of a foreign invader.

Once again, this is why all of the Republican laments over administration passivity in 2009 completely miss the point. Even if the protests in 2009 had been aimed at regime change (which they weren’t), U.S. support would have been disastrous for them. It may be hard to grasp, but most Iranians aren’t interested in U.S. support to achieve domestic political change. As Majd wrote:

Most Iranians don’t believe that Washington “cares” about them or “stands with them.” After Washington’s long friendship with the shah, they’re not naive.

They are right to be skeptical. Iranians should notice how rapidly attention in the U.S. moved away from sympathy with the Green movement once it became clear that the movement was no longer seen as a useful tool for regime change. They should be aware of how many alleged friends of Iranian democracy in the U.S. cannot wait to impose ever more punitive sanctions to make economic conditions inside Iran worse. It would be hard to miss that some supposed pro-democracy Iran hawks, such as Santorum, look back on pre-revolutionary Iran as an era of freedom, and others, such as Bachmann and Bolton, seek to promote a murderous terrorist group as a legitimate Iranian opposition group. This is the sort of concern and solidarity that no nation would want to have.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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