Staring down Iran
Washington and Teheran are embroiled in a strong-jawed staring match and each is determined never to blink. The standoff is in the UN Security Council but it signals another war where the US bombs Iran to set back Iranian nuclear ambitions for some decades.
Whenever that happens, it may be more a war of religions than a pragmatic tussle to halt nuclear proliferation. Ideology, clashing worldviews and irrational beliefs seem to be driving this confrontation. Nothing good can come of going further down such a path of willful incomprehension and absence of dialogue.
Iran has a religion that says submission to Shiite commands rooted in the Holy Koran and commentaries should govern life at the levels of the individual, society and nation. The regimeâ€™s leaders, politicians, courts and laws enforce these beliefs within Iran.
Iranâ€™s leaders want more power in their region to secure this way of life against foreign interference. Perhaps, they also want to evangelize their Shiite beliefs abroad but that is not yet clear.
America has a set of beliefs, not called a religion, which express submission to a revered core of works, called the American Constitution, its commentaries and corollaries. This revered core is said to lay down democracy, capitalism and human rights as universal precepts for the life of individuals, society and the nation. The US government, politicians, courts and laws enforce these beliefs, just like Iran.
The White House is trying to extend these precepts actively to the entire world. The United Nations is under severe pressure to spread them to other nations saying they are â€œuniversal human valuesâ€?. The US punishes UN agencies and governments that are slow to cooperate by withholding financial and other aid. Currently, war is also being used as a means of persuasion.
Iranâ€™s leaders disdain these American precepts, which go back a few centuries while their own ways go back over a millennium. It is hard to change, through force and punishment, what people believe generation after generation.
That was easier in the old days when military power sufficed to force colonized people to change their ways of life. Now, for reasons yet to be fully understood, force does not seem to work. Iraq and Afghanistan are current examples.
Yet, Washington is bent upon changing how Iranians live. The White House has branded as â€œevilâ€? the government of a 3,500-year-old people. Congress has earmarked millions of dollars to help Iranians turn against their rulers to install some form of democracy patterned on American ideas.
To prevent American military intervention to dislodge them, Iranâ€™s rulers wants to acquire the ultimate nuclear deterrent complete with missiles. America has used these deterrents for decades and US military doctrine still prefers to refine rather than renounce nuclear weapons.
Through its refusal to talk to Teheran, Washington is paying no heed to the fear caused by the mighty US military machine eye-balling Iran from nearby Iraq and the Persian Gulf. At the same time, China, Russia and nuclear-armed Sunni Pakistan, a close American ally, inhabit Iranâ€™s other borders.
Nor does Washington heed the fear aroused among Iranian theologians by its repeated references in the same breath to God, the US Constitution, democracy and capitalism. Who is this God? Is there a new universal God of Americaâ€™s Constitution who supersedes the God of Islam?
Or is He the God of Jesus Christ? That would make these American policies a proxy for a worldview that has been Islamâ€™s enemy for more than 1,300 years. If so, America and Iran are stumbling to an awful war of religions disguised as something else.