Rami G Khouri writes: I would love to know who is the jerk who wrote the White House’s press statement on the occasion of the inauguration last week of the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani. I say this was the work of a jerk, and of a band of war-addicted zealots in Washington, because it seemed designed to totally bury the opportunity that Rouhani represents to improve the well-being of Iranians and resolve Western-Iranian and Arab-Iranian tensions on a variety of important issues.
It is useful in today’s very turbulent Middle East to separate what can be changed quickly from issues that require a longer time frame – and to grasp the real relationship between them. So for example, is terrorism, like Islamic, Jewish or Christian religious fanaticism, a cause of insecure states, or a consequence of them? Structural issues such as terrorism, gender parity, and environmental, economic and demographic stress require many decades to improve. Political conflicts can be resolved more quickly, if political leadership capabilities are available. The two most important conflicts exacerbating many tensions in the region are the century-old Palestinian-Israeli and wider Arab-Israeli conflicts and the more recent Iranian-American and wider Iranian-Western conflict.
Progress on defusing these conflicts will help to tone down many other tensions around the region. The Iranian-American and Iranian-Western conflicts are the most recent, and are by far the easier ones to resolve. Rouhani’s inauguration provides a moment of changes in both the substance and style of Iranian policies at home and abroad. The new president’s recent statements have emphasized his focus on “confidence-building, mutual respect, common interests and equal standing,” as guiding forces for engaging with others.
So what does the Washington jerkocracy offer in reply? A new round of sanctions against Iran from Congress, with a majority of senators asking Washington to increase sanctions and maintain a credible military threat, and a White House statement that suggests that America’s highest elected officials have learned nothing in the past decade – which is my definition of how a jerk behaves. [Continue reading…]