A Closer Look At Iran.

To gain more insight into the conflict with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, Democratic Perspective once again turned to Dr. Paul Lenze of Northern Arizona University.
We began by asking Dr. Lenze to distinguish between Iran and Arabs, “This is a centuries old conflict that goes back to the death of the prophet Muhammed. The Shia people of Iran believe that any descendant of Muhammed is the rightful leader of Islam. This created a huge division in Islam between the Shias and the Sunnis.”

Fast forwarding to modern times, we asked Dr. Lenze to describe Iran, “Modern Iran is made up of people who are predominately Persian,” he said. “There are minorities in the country, but they all share Islam as their faith and they speak Persian. Iran is modern…the largest part of the population is 18-35, and this large youth population and middle class have actually created a lot of problems for the regime and the economy. There have not been enough jobs for young people which have created a lot of protests. Just like those of us in the West, Iranians want shelter, they want to be able to feed their families, they want to be able to send them to school, they want them to be able to find a job when they get out of school, and they want to live a normal life. Politics have gotten in the way of that.”

When asked what’s driving this Islamic regime, Lenze replied, “The main reason Iran is trying to exert its influence in the Middle East is that it wants to be…a regional power. This stems back to 1979 and 1980 when the Islamic Republic came into power. And you have the Iran-Iraq War which lasted 8 years in trying to battle it out for supremacy, and you have the International community supporting Iraq and Saddam Hussein. It caused the late Ayatollah Khomeini to call the United States “the Great Satan” and directly state that Israel is the sworn enemy of Iran. It has caused Iran to try to influence US policy in the Middle East by providing assistance to the PLO and, later on, Hamas.”

“Iran is a very nationalistic country,” Lenze continued. “The clerical regime today is concerned about three things: Prestige, security and to use nuclear energy to appeal to Iranian nationalism. It does not have global ambitions.”

Turning to the brutality in Syrian, Dr. Lenze said, “The situation in Syria is a vexing one for the international community. China and Russia do not want to see the US involved further into the domestic politics of one of their allies.”

As for the Arab Spring, Lenze said, “Facebook and Twitter represent a force in the region. From 2003 up into 2011, social media became a way for civil society, the middle class, to participate. They organized Facebook groups. They were able to show the world what was happening.”

As for how we can avoid war with Iran, Dr. Lenze said, “We continue to talk with Israel and persuade them to continue the sanctions. We want to continue to promote the sanctions against Iran because they’ve actually been working. The Revolutionary Guard which is the elite force in Iran, they have hit them pretty hard. They have also hit the international market, specifically Iran can no longer sell oil to the international market, and the states in Europe as well as the United States have cut off trading with Iran. This has hurt not just the Iranian government; the sanctions are being felt in Iranian society.”

“An attack against Iran would be a way for this regime to cause people to rally around Iran,” Lenze explained. “There are fractures within Iran, but an attack would only serve to legitimize the Iranian government’s desire for nuclear weapons development. We need to remove the motivation for Iran to want to apply its nuclear ambitions.”

“Using smart sanctions; using sanctions to prevent Iran from continuing in secrecy is the best option,” said Lenze. “As long as it remains a member of the non-proliferation treaty, then it still has to open itself up for inspections. And if it does that then maybe the United States can get rid of some of the sanctions and engage Iran in politics of the region.”

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