Thursday 27 September 2007

How to put the escalating tensions with Iran into broader perspective?

I ate lunch at the hospital yesterday with one of my more evangelical-charismatic-oriented chaplain volunteers. Since I had not had a chance to watch the news the evening before, due to some intense things going on at the hospital, he provided his "take" on what was going on Monday at Columbia University.

After a rather interesting conversation, noting my friend J___'s sources of news and "truth" about what is really going on between Iran and the United States governments, I spent some time late in the day "digesting" the following enlightening transcript of an interview from within DemocracyNow's Tuesday, Sept. 25 broadcast archives:

The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States:

(Reader, please take time to click on that link and peruse the transcript now, if you got this far, otherwise the rest won't make as much sense.)

...after absorbing all that I felt moved to compose the following response which I sent J___ last evening:

Dear J_____,

I have no doubt that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from Iran has his politics and foreign policy influenced by his own sectarian theological interpretations -- by, as you said, invoking the return of the return of the Mahdi (the 12th Imam) yesterday during his speech. And things are really stirring in other directions as well, e.g. Cal Thomas makes a strong appeal for balance in speakers at places like Columbia University in his column I read in the Goshen News today (Tuesday.)

But I offer the following to you as a deeper dig into some important political realities and history behind the rhetoric and posturing that both President Bollinger of Columbia University and the President of Iran engaged (blustered) in yesterday. Obviously, President Ahmadinejad, by the way he responded blew an important opportunity to tone down the fractiousness that is fueling the tensions between our two countries.

I read this piece after our brief noon hour discussion on this subject. Had I come across this earlier I would have been much better equipped to put into a much broader context what you were picking up from commentator Glen Beck last evening.

Why is it they miss so much of the solid historical perspective on popular news shows today, but instead get busy fanning the flames? I seriously doubt that either Cal Thomas or Glenn Beck will bring very much of the following to the light of day!

Clair Hochstetler

Then came J___'s response by email today. I anticipated something like this, based on several previous discussions on topics in which his theological and political views are entwined. I suppose mine could be, too, but I'm usually swinging from a different vine in such discussions:

Hi Clair,

Thanks for the article. I have just completed reading an excellent book, "Saddam's Secrets" by Georges Sada.

You may have heard of General Sada. He is an Iraqi Assyrian Christian who actually become Vice Air Marshall under Saddam Hussein and survived. He is working to rebuild Iraq. His take on the American intervention to overthrow Saddam is a lot different from what you hear from liberal institutions. Now, this is true inside information.

This article is written from the perspective that the trouble is from the US policy under the Bush administration. This position has not quite come to grips with reality. It's not Sada's position either.

In this article:

..."Bollinger's speech was like a drumbeat for war" ...Clair, Bollinger simply stated the facts about Ahmadinejad and Iran. I am surprised that such a liberal institution such as Columbia would bring out the facts. Some people so hate Bush that they cannot see reality.

..."most of the questions from the audience missed the opportunity" Clair, all of the questions were straightforward and pertinent. Ahmadinejad did not answer one of them. Not only that, he lied. This is what Koran teaches-lie to your enemies for advantage.

Yes, Israel may have had "secret" exchanges with Iran in the past, but it is a new day. This article overlooks the driving motivation behind Ahmadinejad. When he says that soon Israel will be no more he means it. Clair, have you heard any of his speeches that he has delivered in Iran?

In those speeches, his position on Israel and the United States are very clear. He lays it out. His support for Hezbollah is very clear. They deny the right of Israel to exist. Where was that issed opportunity for peace?

I have heard it over and over, if we could just get rid of the Bush foreign policy and just sit down down talk and understand each other, then we would have peace. Clair, this is ignorance.

The only way to have peace with someone like Ahmadinejad is to destroy Israel and submit to Sharia law. There is no other compromise.

Anyway, thanks for the article.

So over noon hour today I responded with:

Thanks for your response, my friend. Don't get me wrong, I think the President of Iran promotes very bad policy from his end, as well, and I am no supporter of his, either. He is obviously quite ill-equipped as a diplomat!

One of the strengths about the article though, which I appreciated, is the way it explains how Ahmadinejad does not represent the majority views of the people in Iran, nor does he have the only power base in Iran as some people think. There are other power centers/personalities there and this article illustrates who and why, so I think there is hope!

Apparently many are estimating that Ahmadinejad only has about the same amount of popular support as President Bush within their respective countries (core base being only 25% or so among the general population.) And by Ahmadinejad's performance in New York there is going to be further erosion of both his standing in the Muslim world and his internal support in Iran -- unless we attack Iran -- and that would for sure be a way to instantly unite the various factions in Iran against us. A foolish thing for us to do, indeed!

Wouldn't you agree that parties on all sides ought to do whatever we can to avoid the peril of more war and violence, and to work at negotiated political solutions to defuse the tensions?


An hour later J___ replied:

Hi Clair,

It is always great to hear from you. It is true that according to the reports that I have read that 70% of Iran is actually pro-US. The problem is that Ahmadinejad and the clerics control the military and support terror, especially in Iraq and against Israel.

I am certainly not promoting an attack against Iran. However, I have become convinced that once Ahmadinejad gets nuclear weapons that he will not hesitate to use them against Israel and the US. Why? The Madhi theology. How can he hit the US? Either through container ships or smuggled over the Southern border. They can fire a missle off of a container ship.

Ahmadinejad stated in his address to the UN that the case concerning his nuclear program "is now closed." I do not think that the USA and especially Israel would tolerate an Iran having the "bomb."

In Ezekiel 38 - 39 it talks about a Russian - Iranian coalition coming down to Israel. It would seem to me that if Iran could simply shoot a missile with a nuclear warhead then there would be no need for such a massive land invasion.

To not see Iran, under such leadership, as a threat would be a big miss. What to actually do about it is beyond the scope of my understanding.

I will get you the book by Georges Sada. I will warn you-it is hard to put down.

Thanks for your thoughts.



Now, I have a question for you, dear reader:

How would you have responded to my friend, or to me, if you were a third party in this dialogue? (Feel free to comment below)

(By the way, after composing this, I found parallel perspectives and comments here at this blog -- God's Politics )

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