In 1994, fifteen years have passed since the Iranian revolution: the overthrow of the Pahlavi dynasty and the establishment of a theocratic, mulla-dominated, Islamic Republic of Iran. For most of this time the United States and Iran maintained no diplomatic relations, and their mutual relationship was one of nonrecognition mixed with an animosity which, on a number of occasions, led to brief military hostilities and selective American economic sanctions. This situation has prevailed under four consecutive U.S. administrations, those of Carter, Reagan, Bush and now Clinton. The United States has objected to a variety of policies conducted by the revolutionary Iranian regime and, in turn, Iran's Islamic Republic has consistently viewed America as an imperialist evil-doer deserving the name of "the Great Satan."
During the first year of Clinton's presidency, high-ranking spokesmen of the U.S. government issued a number of statements setting forth American attitudes and policies toward Iran. On May 18, 1993, Martin lndyk, an official in charge of the Middle East in the National Security Council, pronounced a policy of "dual containment," to apply simultaneously to Iran and Iraq. On July 27, Assistant Secretary of State John Djerejian, in his address to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, specified five areas of disagreement between Washington and Tehran, namely: (1) disturbing acquisition of weapons by Iran; (2) Iran's sponsorship of international terrorism and assassination of its political foes; (3) a hostile attitude toward the Arab-Israeli peace process; (4) subversion directed against its neighbors; (5) violations of human rights. In contrast to Indyk's declaration, Djerejian's speech was perhaps somewhat milder in its denunciation of Iran. Instead of advocating complete isolation, Djerejian left the door half open to a possible reconciliation. For example, he did not threaten a total embargo. His emphasis was on a change in Iran's behavior.
These two major pronouncements were accompanied or followed by certain moves by Secretary of State Warren Christopher. In May 1993, he exerted pressure on member states of the European community to cut their ties with Iran. Similarly, at the Tokyo meeting in December 1993, Mr. Christopher tried to persuade the Group of Seven (major industrial states) there was no point in looking for "moderates" in Iran's Islamic regime and that stricter sanctions should be applied to it. A little earlier, in November, the director of the CIA, R. James Woolsey, in congressional testimony, expressed concern that Iran was acquiring arms of mass destruction from North Korea and striving to develop chemical weaponry. Analogous warnings were also heard from Madeleine Albright, U.S. permanent delegate at the United Nations. In November 1993, in an act of defiance toward Iran, President Bill Clinton received in the White House Salman Rushdie, author of the Satanic Verses, a naturalized British subject of Indian origin, whose book, considered sacrilegious, had caused Ayatollah Khomeini to condemn him to death in absentia, a verdict kept in force even after Khomeini's death. Although this presidential move gained much applause in the liberal media, in subsequent statements the president endeavored to play down its significance, describing the visit as very brief, not leading to any profound discussion, in other words as an act of courtesy, not to be construed as carrying serious political implications. Devoting very little time to foreign affairs, the president did not mention Iran in his State of the Union speech in January 1994.
As these lines are being written (March 1994), the most recent expression of U.S. government views on Iran was provided by Anthony Lake in an article published in the Spring 1994 issue of Foreign Affairs. The initial hard line pronounced in 1993 by Martin Indyk, that of "dual containment," was maintained. Lake called for a policy to isolate Iraq and Iran as "backlash states" (also termed "rogue states" by administration spokesmen) and thus to compel them to change their objectionable behavior. Once this behavior was modified, Lake admitted the possibility of a dialogue which might lead to normalization of relations.
These statements and diplomatic steps appear to represent the Clinton administration's policy toward Iran. Although this policy has in it elements of continuity with the policies pursued by previous administrations (i.e., the basically negative attitude toward the Islamic regime of Iran), it also differs from them in some important respects. In the latter stages of the Carter administration, the U.S. government accepted the existence of the revolutionary regime in Iran in spite of Washington's previous close ties with the shah's government. National Security Adviser Brzezinski's meeting with Iran's Premier Mehdi Bazargan in 1979 in Algeria pointed to the desire of the U.S. administration to continue normal diplomatic relations with Iran despite the revolutionary change of regime in Tehran. However, due to the hostage crisis, normalization of relations was not allowed to take its full course, diplomatic relations were severed and most of the commercial or arms sales deals initiated under the shah's regime were nullified or suspended.
The episode of "Irangate" during the Reagan administration (i.e., sales of American arms to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages captured with Iranian connivance in Lebanon) testified to Washington's willingness to engage in a dialogue with the Islamic regime in Iran and also to the belief that such transactions might lead to the discovery (and strengthening) of "moderates" in Iran's political spectrum. Ali Akbar Rafsanjani's assumption of presidential office seemed, for a while, to confirm such optimistic expectations inasmuch as Rafsanjani, in spite of his radical pro-Khomeini past, seemed inclined to follow a more pragmatic policy of opening up to the West in search of badly needed Western investments, loans and technology. Nevertheless, after some initial political successes inside Iran, he experienced much obstruction from the fanatically-inclined religious "hardliners" and saw himself obliged to tone down his "open-door" policy toward the industrial world. Although under his aegis Iran did attract some investments from Japan and certain European states, the verdict of death against Salman Rushdie was maintained and Iranian Shia militants repeatedly resorted to violent subversive activity during the pilgrimage seasons in Saudi Arabia.
Although the broad outlines of Clinton's policy toward Iran have been articulated, a number of questions remain to be clarified. First of all, are Iran and Iraq, both subject to dual containment, to be treated on an equal basis, or are there some significant differences between the two insofar as U.S. policy is concerned? And, with such power and means as Washington has at its disposal, can it afford to engage simultaneously in a policy of containment toward both states? Linked with it is the problem of the balance of power in the area. During the lengthy Iraq-Iran War, the United States tilted toward Iraq (even though technically Iraq was the aggressor state), gave it some intelligence assistance and did not object to massive financial aid to that country extended by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states-all in the name of keeping the balance of power, i.e., preventing Iran from achieving victory and emerging as the most powerful state in the area. Have these balance of power considerations been discarded by the Clinton administration in the wake of the Gulf War of the early 1990s?
The most important question is whether the present U.S. policy is an expression of independently conceived national interests or whether it reflects some external influences. Let us remember that during the "Irangate" episode of the 1980s, the initiative for an arms-for-hostages swap had come from Israel, which at that time viewed Iraq as the main threat to its survival and was inclined to parley with the Islamic regime of Iran, showing a generous proclivity to supply it with Tow missiles. Today, after Iraq's defeat in the Gulf War, it is Iran that has become the bete noire in Israel's eyes, partly because Iran supports the strongly anti-Israeli Hezbollah party in Lebanon and partly because on the question of Jerusalem and related issues it is more adamantly opposed to Israel than even some Arab states. Israel's negative attitude toward Iran is currently echoed by Israel's friends in the American media. The world has also recently witnessed a trip that an American Jewish delegation made to Bonn to dissuade the Germans from arming and engaging in commercial deals with Iran.
Apart from Israel, Egypt is also interested in encouraging an American policy inimical to Iran. Egypt's official line in this respect is that by its support of Islamic fundamentalist extremists in Egypt and the adjoining countries, Iran is guilty of fomenting unrest and violence in the Egyptian territory, expressed by terrorist acts against the Egyptian authorities and repeated attacks on foreign tourists. Although there exist some doubts whether Cairo can supply fool-proof evidence of Iranian involvement in these disturbing activities, Egypt has an obvious interest in continuing to receive substantial American aid, and, as some observers have pointed out, it finds it convenient to make Iran a "scapegoat" for its domestic troubles.
Discussion of foreign attitudes and influences on U.S. policy brings us inevitably to inquire whether this policy encounters any opposition from foreign quarters. As mentioned earlier, Secretary Christopher's attempts to line up the European Community and the Group of Seven did not elicit a positive response. A number of countries not only opposed the American policy aiming at isolation of Iran but actually broadened and intensified their links with Tehran by increased trade, transfers of technology and participation in joint projects. Foremost among these states have been Germany and Japan, with some role played by France and certain other countries. Of the European states the most intransigently anti-Iranian has been Britain, and much of its negative attitude could be ascribed to the Salman Rushdie affair. It is a moot question whether this British hostility toward the Islamic regime of Iran was mainly due to the liberal reaction against Iran's violation of human rights in sentencing a man for what he had written or to the indignation that it was a British subject who became a target of Iran's murderous fanaticism (it was under Margaret Thatcher's conservative government that the initial strong reaction took place).
Opposition to, or at least doubts and reservations about, American policy have come from other quarters as well. Except for Kuwait, which had experienced clashes with Iran during the Iraq-Iran War, the Arab states of the Persian Gulf have expressed varying shades of fear of Iranian expansionism mixed with hope for cooperation and profitable commercial deals. Of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) group, only Saudi Arabia has experienced major subversion from Iran, and the Saudis' current heavy armament program (exceeding $30 billion) may be seen as directed both against a renewal of Iraqi aggression and as a shield against a feared Iranian domination in the Gulf. Iran's aggressive actions over Abu Musa and the Tunb islands (the ruling mullas in Tehran seem to have inherited the late shah's ambitions in this respect) have caused some tension between Iran and the GCC, but not sufficiently strong to stop such states as Dubai, Oman and, to some extent, Qatar from pursuing a policy of normalization and intensified trade with their big northern neighbor.
Then we have to consider the attitudes of Iran's other neighbors, to the west and to the east. Because of the difficulties inherent in the complex Kurdish problem and certain other matters, it is not easy to give a simple definition of Turkey's attitude toward the Islamic regime in Iran. On the one hand, Turkey is interested in economic cooperation with Tehran, and Turkish firms are seeking and obtaining various profitable deals in Iran. On the other, the Kemalist secular philosophy, which in spite of many setbacks and difficulties still guides the Turkish state, ipso facto puts Turkey on an ideological collision course with the theocratic regime in Iran. This finds its reflection also in the rivalry between Turkey and Iran in the newly emancipated states of Central Asia, where, in addition to religious or secular orientation, ethnic and linguistic factors also play a certain role (of the five ex-Soviet Central Asian republics, four being Turkic-speaking). Finally, Iran's eastern neighbor, Pakistan, does not share with America a feeling of hostility toward Iran and, as the recent mutual visits of high-level leaders of both countries testify, actually seeks closer ties with Iran.
To round up our review of the neighbors' attitudes, a word should be said about Russia. To call it simply hostile or friendly would be an oversimplification. The word "enigmatic" would appear the most appropriate. Iran, regardless of its regime, cannot forget the long and painful history of Russian (czarist or communist) southern expansionism. However, Soviet official atheism, which clearly contradicted the mullas' devotion to Islam, has today abated, thus seemingly lessening the ideological cleavage. On the other hand, a recent pact between Moscow and Turkmenistan permitting Russian troops to be stationed on the southern Turkmen frontier, i.e. in closer proximity to Iran, gives the Tehran government good cause for reviving fears of traditional Russian imperialism.
Finally, as regards the broad attitude of the Islamic world toward Iran, it cannot be described as uniformly negative. The issue that specifically agitates the West-the death sentence on Salman Rushdie-does not cause a similar revulsion in the world of Islam. In fact, many Muslims believe Rushdie to be guilty of sacrilege and refuse to wax indignant over the death sentence pronounced against a blasphemer. The issue of his foreign (i.e., British) citizenship is not a relevant factor in their minds. On the higher theoretical level, the concept of Dar al Islam (the Abode of Islam) does not attach importance to territorial boundaries or secular "citizenship."
THE NEGATIVE ATTITUDES
American policy toward Iran has been the subject not only of interagency discussions in the U.S. government but also has supplied either the main theme or an important topic of a number of nongovernmental meetings and conferences such as those held at one time or another in 1993-94 by the Rand Corporation, Rutgers University, the Middle East Institute, the Middle East Studies Association, the congressional staff-members symposium, and more recently the Center for Strategic and International Studies in February 1994. Participants have included academics, news commentators and ex-government officials such as Edwin Meese and David Newsom. In addition, a variety of columns, articles and political advertisements have focused on Iran. At the risk of some oversimplification, we may divide these voices into two broad categories: those that advocate punishment and isolation and those that favor resumption of normal relations even though they recognize serious violations of the norms of civilized behavior by the Islamic regime.
Although a number of objections to Iran's behavior and policies have already been noted when discussing U.S. government statements, it may be useful at this point to provide a more comprehensive list of those points that are fairly regularly and emphatically raised by the critics of Iran. These points pertain to both domestic and foreign policies pursued by Iran's Islamic authorities.
Thus, in the first place, Iran's manipulation is seen behind violence-prone Islamic fundamentalist movements in Egypt, Sudan and Algeria. If we add to it Iran's support to such Palestinian militant organizations as Hezbollah (mostly in Lebanon) and Hamas (in Israel and the occupied territories), we perceive a broadly designed movement, ranging over a wide territory, aiming at the seizure of power and the installation of governments that would be extremist in their Islamic orientation, essentially anti-Western, and subject to Tehran's orders or predominant influence. If we add to it repeated cases of resort to violence and subversive propaganda by Iranian pilgrims coming to Mecca, we obtain a picture of a wide-ranging and ambitious conspiracy threatening the very survival of the existing governments and states in the Middle East and North Africa and repudiating their friendly or at least neutral attitudes toward the West.
To this may be added Iran's Islamic regime's assertive behavior in the Persian Gulf: its high-handed action in Abu Musa, its attacks against neutral shipping in the Gulf during the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s and its threats to tiny Kuwait (which led to the so-called "reflagging" of Kuwait's ships to give them American protection). The recent purchase of three submarines by Iran from Russia and the growing acquisition of arms of mass destruction from North Korea, China and a variety of other sources, as well as the pursuit of a nuclear and chemical manufacturing capacity (ostensibly for peaceful uses) are frequently cited as evidence of Iran's warlike designs and ambition to emerge as a dominant power in the Gulf.
Iran is seen as spreading its tentacles beyond its boundaries in other, sinister, ways as well. Exiled or self-exiled opponents of the mullas' regime became victims of assassination. For example, the last premier of the shah's government, Shapur Bakhtiar (in Paris), the shah's nephew (son of the shah's twin sister, Princess Ashraf), naval commander Chafiq (also in Paris) and several others have been killed in cold blood by Tehran's emissaries abroad. In fact, certain observers have noticed an increase in the frequency of this type of murder in recent times. To this may be added another weapon in Iran's revolutionary arsenal: hostage-taking. The seizure of American hostages soon after the revolution of 1979, the bestial treatment to which they were subjected for 444 days, the shocking violation of time-honored international law by invading and rifling the U.S. embassy in Tehran (even Genghis Khan had respected the immunity of foreign envoys), together with the capture of hostages by the Iranian-influenced Islamic militants in Lebanon are advanced by Iran's critics as another proof of Iran's consistent disregard of the norms of civilized behavior.
On the domestic front, Iran is frequently depicted as engaging in massive violations of human rights, be it by imprisonment, torture and executions of the regime's political opponents (the infamous Evin prison being an Iranian version of the KGB's Lubianka), attacks on privacy, harassment of women accused of violating the Islamic regime's dress code (e.g., by showing their hair), or harsh and inhuman treatment of the religious or ethnic minorities (Christians, Kurds, Baluchis, Arabs). An especially brutal persecution meted out to the Bahai religious minority (reminiscent of the "ethnic cleansing" by the Serbs in Bosnia) has led to strong condemnation by various groups abroad. Thus an advertisement chastising Iran's regime, which was published on November 22, 1993, in The New York Times, was signed by 49 prominent Americans. The list included the names Alexander Haig, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Michael Novak, George P. Shultz, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lawrence Eagleburger, Morton Kondracke, Richard Murphy, Richard Pipes, Elie Wiesel and a number of others. It is not certain whether these signatories all in corpore favored isolation and punishment of Iran as a matter of general U.S. policy or just singled out the Bahai case as deserving America's special attention. However, there is no doubt that certain columnists and writers have made the Islamic Republic of Iran a special target of their hostility. Among them could be mentioned such well-known commentators as William Satire, who has raised his voice against German sales of arms and technology (with Czech connivance) to Iran;1 Arnold Beichman, who, viewing Iran as the strongest military power in the Persian Gulf, has accused it of fundamentalist imperialism;2 Anthony Lewis, who has claimed that, with German and Czech assistance, Iran may be transformed into "a nuclear terrorist power." 3 A Jess-recognized writer, Abdul Abdi, has proposed harsher isolation measures to be applied to Iran than the selective American sanctions now in force, these measures to include a total embargo on Iranian oil exports and on delivery of Western goods to Iran.4 In the academic sector, Ann Lesch of Villanova University pronounced Iran guilty of "Islamic aggression". It is interesting to note that in their censure of Iran, the media have ranged from the liberal New York Times to Washington's conservative standard-bearer, Insight.
VOICES ADVOCATING NORMALIZATION
The negative voices on Iran have encountered a response from a number of analysts mostly in the academic world but occasionally from political or press circles. Among the specialized periodicals, U.S.-Iran Review, a monthly which began appearing in April 1993, an organ of the Forum on American- Iranian Relations (FAIR Foundation), has emerged as the most articulate and consistent advocate of resuming a regular American-Iranian relationship. U.S.-Iran Review has been stressing in its articles the political and economic necessity of normalization of relations between Washington and Tehran while generally playing down those negative features of Iran's policies to which U.S. government spokesmen have been attaching much importance.
In the academic sector there has been no unanimity in the ideas of how U.S. policy toward Iran should be conducted but, broadly, those participating in various conferences and debates have favored initiation of some sort of dialogue between the two countries and the renewal or intensification of contacts at various levels. Views of this type have been expressed at one time or another by James Bill, a scholar known for his criticism of the Pahlavi regime and, at least initially, looking with some benevolence on Iran's revolutionary change [see Middle East Policy, 1993, vol. II, no. 3]; by Eric Hoog]und of The Middle East Journal; by Ruhollah K. Ramazani and Shahram Chubin, both scholars favoring the engagement in some sort of dialogue with lran.6
The arguments used by those favoring a rapprochement with Iran might broadly be divided into the rebuttals of the negative voices and the inducements that are bound to bring mutual benefits to the United States and Iran. In the sphere of rebuttals, advocates of normalization claim that the sense of grievance should not be viewed one-sidedly, that Islamic Iran has justified grievances against the United States (such as shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane over the Gulf by the U.S. Navy). The critics' frequent accusation that Iran is engaged in a disturbing policy of arms acquisition is being rebutted by pointing out that a country the size of Iran, situated in a none-too-friendly neighborhood, is perfectly justified in ensuring that its arms are commensurate with its defense needs, especially after the depletion of many weapons during the Iraq-Iran War. These apologists for Iran's arms policy point to Iraq, which, despite the losses sustained during the Gulf War, is still militarily powerful and to Saudi Arabia, which, with its much smaller population, is currently spending enormous amounts on technologically superior weapons systems. Moreover, they stress that, in contrast to Iraq which has not been overly cooperative with the U.N. inspection teams, Iran has fully cooperated with and allowed unimpeded access to the inspection missions sent by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The apologists also claim that, with its geographical location and a population exceeding in numbers the aggregate of all other riparian states, Iran has a legitimate interest in the security of the Persian Gulf. Iran, moreover, they point out, has not committed aggression against any of its neighbors: On the contrary, it has been a victim of aggression. Its behavior on such minor issues as control of the islands of Abu Musa or the Tunbs should not be regarded as contradicting its basically peaceful policy in the Gulf.
Those who rebut the critics' complaints have also argued that the arms-twisting of the Group of Seven (G7) by Washington is costly and counterproductive. These major industrial countries are in no mood to conform to U.S. wishes and tend to resent what they believe to be excessive American pressures. Moreover, the Rushdie affair does not elicit uniformly the same degree of indignation as it does in the intellectual strata of America or Britain, while even certain American commentators express somewhat mixed feelings about it. Thus, for example, R. Emmett Tyrell, Jr., while critical of President Clinton's "gelatinous" and "backpedaling" behavior in first receiving Rushdie and soon afterwards minimizing the visit, says that "Rushdie is a repellent fraud," that he is "a minor literary talent... steeped in all politically correct values" according to which "it is clever... to make ribald jokes about religion" and that his book "is offensive." 7 The gist of this argument is that Muslim-world reactions should not be ignored.
Those favoring normalization of relations with Iran also come forth with a number of inducements. Their main political argument is that a country of Iran's size and importance cannot be ignored by the United States and that, if Washington gets involved in any security arrangements in the Persian Gulf, it would be poor policy to keep Iran excluded. Added to it is the argument that Iran constitutes (as it historically always did) a natural barrier to a possible revival of Russian expansionism southward and, as such, it should be strengthened rather than weakened. Even the fact that it is attached to religion (provided the latter's manifestations are non-aggressive) should be taken as a positive phenomenon, especially if one remembers the recent Soviet militant atheism. Advocates of normalization also point out that the majority of Iran's neighbors (Pakistan, Turkey, most of the Gulf states) desire better relations with Iran. Diplomatic and economic engagement works better, they claim, than isolation. According to this thesis, Iran presents very alluring business opportunities and, as in China, expanded business paves the way to closer political relations. Even though Iran's record on human rights is not perfect, that circumstance should not impede development of trade relations. In fact, more contacts between Iran and the West, through trade and other exchanges, might be the most efficient and unobtrusive way of improving Iran's human-rights performance. Once this process is underway, a friendlier mental climate may be created in which moderate elements reemerge and play a more influential role. Moreover, one should not disregard the fact that, in contrast to Iraq, Iran has not been subjected to U.N. sanctions or embargoes. According to the earlier-mentioned Professor Hooglund, Iran strives for peace and stability in the region because it wants economic development.8
WEIGHING THE PROS AND CONS
The arguments advanced by both Iran's critics and its apologists appear to have much validity. One may be tempted to add to the adversaries' criticisms a few points rarely if ever mentioned in the current debate. Iran owes the preservation of its sovereignty to a determined U.S. stand in defense of its independence when it was threatened in the mid-l940s by Soviet aggressiveness over Azerbaijan, Kurdistan and oil issues. Yet instead of being grateful, Iran under Khomeini and his successors chose to castigate America as imperialist exploiter. Furthermore, even though human memories tend to be short, there is in the United States a residue of resentment over Iran's barbarous treatment of American hostages in 1979--80 and a residue of pro-Pahlavi sentiment, not because Americans are particularly enamored of monarchy but because the Pahlavis had been faithful allies, modernizers and trusted proxies in the guardianship of the Persian Gulf. Iran's record on observance of human rights in its various dimensions-ethnic, religious, feminist-certainly adds to the complications, especially in the last decades of the twentieth century, when Washington has made human rights a seemingly decisive factor in shaping its policies in the wide-scattered areas ranging from South Africa, through Cuba and Haiti to China. Moreover, certain previous violators of human rights underwent a process of "conversion." Thus West Germany, in acknowledging Nazi guilt, launched a process of denazification and payment to Israel of reparations for the persecution of Jews; South Africa under Premier de Klerk, repudiated its old apartheid policy; and Russia's President Boris Yeltsin made a personal pilgrimage to Warsaw to present documents confirming Soviet murder of 15,000 Polish offers in the Katyn Forest in 1940. But no similar expression of regret or repentance has ever come from the Islamic rulers of Iran.
In sum, Iran's human-rights record is not only deplorable but, because of the hostage taking, has distinctly anti-American accents. Even so, the question remains whether violation of human rights should constitute the basic guiding principle for the conduct of American foreign policy. There are good reasons to express serious doubts on that issue. First, there is not sufficient evidence that punishing or isolating a country for its human-rights violations has invariably compelled it to reform and change its behavior. Second, America's policy in this respect has not been impeccably consistent. Among the major violators of human rights the former Soviet Union, communist China and North Vietnam stand out as glaring examples. And, in spite of their frightening record in this sector of human activity, the United States gave diplomatic recognition to Moscow under Franklin D. Roosevelt, to communist China under Richard Nixon, and more recently, to communist Vietnam. If deviation from proper human-rights policy should dictate severance of relations with Washington, then only a handful of Western countries (and postwar Japan) should be recognized by the United States, inasmuch as virtually every country with a non-democratic structure is guilty of disregarding such human rights as the West considers essential to truly civilized life. As we know, well over 80 percent of the states in the world have one or another type of authoritarian government.
The Rushdie affair poses a most perplexing dilemma, and emphasis on it is understandable if we consider the prevalent attitudes on the freedom of speech in the Western world. On the other hand, the question may be asked whether Salman Rushdie has not exceeded the bounds of decency and wisdom in grievously offending the world of Islam. Should the relationship between the West and the Muslim community of nations be allowed to deteriorate beyond the point of no return because of the foolish utterances of one writer? A somewhat analogous example comes to mind: In the 1940s, during World War II, two Jewish leaders from Poland, Victor Alter and Henryk Erlich, had been captured by the NKVD (Soviet secret police, predecessors of the KGB), accused of Nazi collaboration, sentenced to death and executed. The charges were of course trumped up; the two Jewish leaders, as socialists (members of the Bund) were "liquidated" because they were inconvenient to the Soviet system.9 Although protests were mounted in the West against this travesty of justice, neither Washington nor London broke its ties of wartime alliance with Moscow. In other words, the fate of two individuals, who were not guilty of any provocation (in contrast to Rushdie) was not allowed to affect the "grand design" of alliance with the Soviet Union. Is it impertinent to ask whether the fate of a single individual (thus far alive under Western police protection) should have a decisive influence on the relations between Iran (and beyond it, the broader Islamic masses) and the West?
Then there is a question of aggression, subversion and the export of Islamic fundamentalism. Those who point out that, except for a minor transgression on a Persian Gulf island, Iran has not committed an act of territorial aggression against any of its neighbors, are undoubtedly right. The story of subversion via Islamic extremists is different. Here we possess incontrovertible proof of attempts at Iranian subversion in Saudi Arabia. It is somewhat harder to secure convincing evidence that Iran is definitely responsible for the violent outbursts of Islamic fundamentalism in Egypt, Sudan or Algeria. The issue here seems to be whether these extremist manifestations are not to a large degree due to the impoverished status of the masses, to social injustice, corruption of officials and the glaring contrasts between the conspicuous consumption of those enjoying power and privilege and the downtrodden urban and rural proletariat in those countries. One also should bear in mind that religious fundamentalism per se is not a crime. There are varieties of fundamentalism, the benign and the aggressive. Perhaps the Iranian variety belongs to the latter category, but to state that it is solely responsible for violence and unrest in the countries just mentioned would be stretching the truth.
Iran's opposition to the Middle East (i.e., Arab-Israeli) peace process obviously does not help ensure its smooth progression. However, why should we deny Iran its own views on the fate of such a hallowed Islamic place as Jerusalem? A single incident, such as the massacre in Hebron, may perhaps have greater impact on the peace process than the attitude of the Iranian government.
Iran's record on human rights is dismal. The mullas' government is guilty of arbitrary practices at home and responsible for terrorist actions and assassinations of its political foes. It caused the exodus of the cream of its intelligentsia and large numbers of its managerial class. Socially and economically, it has set the country back perhaps a century or more. Its people are terrorized by such paramilitary formations as the Revolutionary Guards and the youth gangs called Basij. The lslamization of its educational system has dealt a severe blow to its cultural development. The inept conduct and unnecessary prolongation of its war with Iraq (use of massive "human waves" of poorly trained young soldiers) has caused enormous losses. Many members of its Islamic nomenklatura have proved to be cruel, greedy and corrupt. Women's social status has deteriorated.
Yet there is some logic in the argument that to keep Iran isolated is counterproductive, and one may legitimately wonder whether further sanctions and embargoes will produce the desired change in behavior or rather intensify the regime's resistance to any change deemed desirable from the Western point of view. Fifteen years of isolation since the revolution of 1979 is a long time. For sixteen years America kept the Soviet Union at arm's length, but in 1933 diplomatic recognition was granted by Washington even though this was the year of harsh Stalinist excesses in Russia. A glaring difference in the system of government does not necessarily exclude the desirability of some sort of communication. Hence proponents of a "dialogue" with Iran are perhaps not completely mistaken. The difficulty of pursuing such a policy is that a dialogue implies the will of both sides to talk to each other. Even if Washington comes to the conclusion that some communication is desirable, the question remains whether the Islamic "hardliners" in Iran will want to enter into any relationship with America. We should bear in mind that their political legitimacy is based on a total rejection of American values. A dialogue with Washington might be repudiated as a dangerous compromise likely to undermine their raison d'etre. Thus even though the more pragmatic leaders like President Rafsanjani might desire to open the door to the influx of Western capital and technology, his fundamentalist opponents (apparently gaining in strength and frustrating some of his initiatives) might block any move that looks to them like surrender to ''the Great Satan."
1 The New York Times, December 27, 1993.
2 Insight , January 17, 1994.
3 The New York Times, January 21, 1994.
4 Insight , January 3, 1994.
'U.S.-Iran Review, October 1993.
6 For a good summary of academic attitudes, see U.S.-Iran Review, October 1993.
7 Insight, January 3, 1994, p. 29.
8 U.S.-Iran Review, October 1993.
9 See Jan Ciechanowski, Defeat in Victory (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1947), p. 120.