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News Iran and Nationalism

  1. Dec 20, 2009 #1
    To start off, I see the opposition to US imperialism as being concentrated in two main groups: those who oppose imperialism in any form, and those who would rather be the imperialists themselves. And in this thread I'd like to talk about how the latter often recruits allies from the former in the case of Iran.

    I don't think it's a radical concept, as one needn't look further than the fact that both American revolutionaries and French nationalists found common ground to oppose the British empire. But as before, note how the former was opposed on principle whereas the latter confronted the British out of envy.

    For the sake of further clarification, I'd like to make an analogy in the realm of American sports (though I'm sure equivalent models exist abroad). Take, for instance, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, one of the biggest sports rivalries today. For the most part, Americans outside the two franchises are more sympathetic to the Red Sox than the Yankees, to the extent that the Red Sox enjoy significantly more national support when the teams face each other. Reasons for opposing the Yankees are many, and range from disdain of their large payroll to lesser-known teams' desire to bask in the glory of a World Series title.

    What many supporters don't appreciate is that the Boston fans are no less fanatic about their team than their New York counterparts, and would likely have little in common with their would-be fans if the franchise one day supplanted the Yankees as the flagship team in American baseball.

    So if you'll pardon the analogy, I'd like to apply it to the disputes between Iran and major world powers (chiefly with the US). During the Bush years, the US was like the Yankees - rich, powerful and with a long history of "taking a winning game on the road." And when the US began to butt heads with the Iranians, many in the US (and around the world) were inclined to support Tehran, at least philosophically. For example, a 2006 poll showed that most people viewed the US as a bigger threat to world peace than Iran. It therefore became easy to cast Iran as the "underdog" who was valiantly defying US imperialism on behalf of the disenfranchised masses in that region of the world.

    However, I'm inclined to believe that Iranians (at least the ruling elite) do not oppose imperialism, but that they see it as an obstacle to their own designs of empire. Further, I believe that many around the world confuse the two, and misinterpret radical rhetoric as the cry of an oppressed people. Indeed, the two kinds of discourse have similarities, but the underlying goals differ, and I have no reason to doubt that Iran would attempt to (re-)build what was once the Persian empire if allowed the latitude to do so.

    I want to clarify that I'm not accusing Bush's opponents of joining ranks with the current Iranian regime. And I think it is also appropriate to state that many viewed Iran as a threat, even though they said the US threat was greater. However, there are some things I think need to be answered for by that group which stated the US was a larger threat to world peace than Iran, namely:

    -the crackdown on demonstrations during the recent election
    -the protracted dispute over nuclear energy (Iran has stated it has a sovereign right to nuclear electricity generatation, a point on which the US and others are not at odds with Tehran)
    -detaining with spy charges hikers or sailboat crew who stray within their borders
    -seizing British sailors over alleged territory violations
    -seizing an Iraqi oil well over a territorial claim
    -many other actions that may/may not have official sanction from the Iranian government, such as the recent Twitter hacking

    All of the above indicate to me that the prevailing attitude in Iranian government is one of nationalism, and that opposition to US imperialism arises only from the obstacles it poses to Iranian imperialism.

    Clearly, these do not reflect the noble attributes that many were prepared to endow upon Iran.

    So do you think Iran's government is nationalist or strictly anti-imperialist as it pertains the the US? Do you think that some support Iran only because Tehran is at odds with US policy?
  2. jcsd
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