President Obama has announced a strategy for fighting ISIS that, in many respects, is at odds with the interests of the allies in the Middle East whose support he is seeking. Trying to keep his allies happy and in line with the new ISIS battle has trapped the U.S. in a policy full of contradictions.
Pundits who attribute the current war between Israel and the Palestinians to a changing Middle East landscape caused by Iran and its 1979 Revolution ignore the most important factors contributing to the present horrible situation, namely, the changed political landscape in Israel, and Israel's immunity from international laws.
Rouhani is angry because Khamenei and his supporters have blocked him from implementing his program and opening up the political system, giving more freedom to the people. On August 13, Rouhani said, "I am aware that some people are done opposing me in their think tanks and are now opposing me in practice."
We do not need to become an "ally" of Iran, but we should recognize that we will need to provide military support to the Iraqi government in the time ahead and, indeed, our special forces are already on the ground there. Iran will do the same. We will therefore have U.S. security activities alongside those of Iran in the Iraqi national battlespace. We should at least discuss the situation, and at a minimum, de-conflict our activities, from special forces advisors to airstrikes.
Diplomacy in war and peace negotiations requires strategy and patience, not an illusory quick fix. Diplomacy is messy, often involving difficult compromises with unseemly governments. But it is also how the vast majority of international crises are actually resolved -- through negotiation rather than through the barrel of a gun. Those are worthy lessons to remember after the Iraq and Afghan wars.
One year ago, President Hassan Rouhani was elected to pick up the pieces of the country, a tremendous challenge that both the nuclear deal and the future of the sanctions weigh upon. In this kind of emergency, democracy is the least of people's worries, though some attempts have been made -- like when the president said that the Internet shouldn't be censored. But the truth is that it isn't Rouhani who gets to decide. It's the state powers, such as the judiciary, that seem to have but one goal: limit the government's actions. Vultures, conservatives and the Revolutionary Guards watch the new president's every move, in silence, ready to raise their voices in case of signs of failure.
June 12 is the fifth anniversary of the birth of Iran's democratic Green Movement. Though the open resistance of this popular movement has been suppressed, it has been morally vindicated in the intervening years and remains as a constituency imbedded in Iran's body politic, ready to emerge once again when the opportunity arises. And the opportunity will surely arise. The Islamic Republic of Iran is not your usual authoritarian state. As a hybrid of religious dictatorship and competitive elections, the regime generates its own opposition, see-sawing back and forth between conservatives and reformists. One day, the balance of power will shift decisively toward democracy and against the Ayatollahs. It is precisely because democratic elections within a religious dictatorship are so meaningful that the election five years ago in 2009 was so passionately contested.
Ayatollah Khomeini and Abollhassan Bani-Sadr. Unlike 35 years ago when Iran had only a minority of democratic elites, today we have a large and educated middle class to support and defend separation of religion and state, a constituency large and robust enough to fill the kind of vacuum we had in 1979 that enabled the clergy to take over.