Iran: big talk, little threat

A recent letter failed to deliver on its pretense of accuracy in reporting on religion and foreign policy.

by Nick Pouladian

As a member of the Committee for the Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, I would hope that the author of âÄúAn impossible partnerâÄù in the Oct. 14 issue of The Minnesota Daily would at least have a simple understanding of Islam in the Middle East. While there are differences between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, the main difference is not in radical ideology or encouragement of violence against others; itâÄôs about who is or who should be the legitimate head figure in Islam. Sunnis believe caliphs elected by groups should be the head of Islam, while Shiites believe that only direct descendents of the prophet Mohammad are legitimate. To lump all Shiites together as being âÄúfanaticalâÄù is as misleading and inflammatory as saying âÄúall Catholics are fanaticalâÄù because of the actions of a few participating in violence towards abortion centers. To say that Iran will threaten to annihilate any state that fails to adhere to its âÄúfanatic Shiite beliefâÄù is incorrect and inappropriate. Many terrorists are Sunni and many are Shiite, and no branch in theory preaches more violence than the other. As for concern with the threat to Israel, actions speak louder than words, and Iran has mostly been talking. The Six-Day War in 1967 involved Israel and Arab Nations including Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Lebanon contributed funds, troops and arms to the Arab forces as well. Which major Middle Eastern player is missing? Iran. The predominant religious status of the nations involved in the war? Sunni. Most of the Sept. 11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia or the UAE, which would make them Sunni, and as they were members of al-Qaida, it is even more likely that they were Sunni as al-Qaida is a predominantly Sunni organization. As for IranâÄôs funding of terrorism, it is known that various other Arab states in the region (including Saudi Arabia, to whom we give a lot of money and with whom we are very friendly) have been known to fund terrorism and harbor terrorists. While it may be less than reassuring to see Iran acquire nuclear weapons, look at it from a realistâÄôs perspective; Iran is a rational Middle Eastern state concerned with its survival, its standing within the world and its efforts to achieve security. Nuclear capability is a power boost, as well as a deterrent to the influence and hostility of other nations. At the same time, Iranian officials are aware that use of nuclear weapons would result in catastrophic responses and jeopardize IranâÄôs own national security. Even if Iran did want to use nuclear weapons, it would first need to develop nuclear warheads. According to CIA intelligence that the CIA still backs today, Iran halted its nuclear warhead production in 2003 and has not restarted it since. Russia and China are two major obstacles preventing Iran from obtaining or building nuclear weapons. China buys much of its oil and natural gas from Iran and Russia sells Iran the very technology it uses to enrich uranium. With neither Russia nor China willing to stop trade with and take part in sanctions against Iran, the United States is on its own as Arab nations pressure and pass the buck to the United States. The United States would do well to remain open to diplomatic measures with Iran. Despite persistent negative publicity, Iran cooperated with the United States by offering its proactive assistance in Afghanistan and Iraq, and refrained from trying to further exert its influence in the volatile region. Iran has a mean bark, but for the most part its bite has been equivalent to that of an annoying, yappy small dog. Looking at previous actions, Iran is the last country in the region to run around willy-nilly dropping bombs everywhere. In fact, in recent history Iran has only been on the defensive. I do not condone Iran having nuclear weapons, but I am disappointed at the basis of such an argument from someone that claims to support accuracy in Middle East reporting in America. Nick Pouladian University undergraduate student Please send comments to [email protected]