It’s really amazing at times to see how the media greet the War on Terrorism with the same detente-loving impulses they used during the Cold War. (They never seem to contemplate whether detente would have ever won the Cold War, or just prolonged it ad infinitum.) In the Los Angeles Times, reporter Jeffrey Fleishman reported on "Iran watching U.S. campaigns with hope for detente." Fleishman’s breath was intoxicated with the old-time brew of moral equivalence, as Iranian theocrats and American conservatives are oddly alike:
Some analysts wonder whether the Islamic Republic, led by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wants a significant improvement in relations with the U.S. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, when militants in Tehran seized 52 American hostages and held them for 444 days, the weekly chants of "Death to America" have become a defining mantra, much in the same way Bush's "axis of evil" resonates with American conservatives.
But American conservatives aren’t chanting "Death to Iran," the murder of an entire citizenry. They’re a tiny bit more nuanced, objecting to a ruthless terrorist-supporting government, and not the Iranian people. Aren’t reporters supposed to be able to handle nuances like that? Fleishman began the story with similar bluster:
If an Iranian woke up in America and glimpsed the front page of a newspaper, he'd be reminded of home: a teetering economy, a restless populace, a tough-talking leader.
Are George Bush and Ahmadinejad tremendously alike? Do both hate Jews and deny the Holocaust? Actually, Fleishman underlines, the difference is that Mahmoud is a popular figure in the Middle East, a man who "has become widely admired for his harsh line against the Bush administration." A hard line can be a winner – if you want to crush Israel and kill Jews.
As usual, liberal reporters and foreign diplomats expect America to go soft first, and them maybe, just maybe, the enemy will soften:
"For an ideological regime like Iran's you need an enemy, and the U.S. is a good enemy because of all the notorious things it's done in the region," said cleric Mohammad Ali Abtahi, head of the Institute for Interreligious Dialogue in Tehran. "If you have a big enemy, it makes you big too."
But, like the U.S., Iran is feeling the squeeze of an economy in turmoil and an uneasy population. Unemployment and inflation are high, even as Iran is benefiting from soaring oil prices. Recent parliamentary elections highlighted the split among conservatives between those who support the populist Ahmadinejad and detractors who blame him for mismanaging the economy. These concerns and the weight of economic sanctions could lead to a less aggressive foreign policy.
Fleishman signals wildly that Iranians would prefer Democrats. Is that supposed to help Democrats? Clearly, liberal newspapers think that Democrats are experts at reducing "tensions" through their fervent desire to talk and talk, just as Jimmy Carter talked and talked and the communists took ten countries over while he kept talking -- not to mention how the radical Islamists took over Iran on his watch. But it's the Republicans that cause worry:
Iranians have been startled by some of McCain's comments. In March, the senator accused Iran of sheltering and training Al Qaeda militants; he quickly retracted the statement. When campaigning in South Carolina in 2007, McCain joked about bombing Iran to the tune of a Beach Boys song.
If Mr. Obama won the election, it would be good," said Hooshang Tale, a former member of parliament. "He's a newcomer without the old ties, and we can hope that American policy would undergo a deep change. I think Mrs. Clinton still represents old Washington, the past regimes. The U.S. must take the first step. If a small country like Iran takes the first step it can lose face, but the big power doesn't lose his face."
A geophysics student at Tehran University, who gave his name only as Behrang for fear of retribution, said: "I'm a fan of Hillary Clinton. If she is elected it will help, but, really, it's a question of whether Iran will change, not so much who changes in the White House."
Fleishman concluded that Americans can hardly expect a thaw with the Iranians unless we elect a candidate that can act warm and fuzzy toward Iran, unlike that loathsome President Bush and his saber-rattling:
"All senior officials support rapprochement if there's a significant shift in American attitudes toward Iran," said Mohammed Marandi, director of the North American Studies Department at Tehran University. "If the Iranians feel less threatened by America, they'll be more open. When you have 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, three American aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf, and a president and vice president who keep talking about military options, it's hard to think about Iranians being open."
He added: "Obama or Clinton would be preferred over McCain, but anybody besides Bush would be an improvement."
(Hat tip: John Sexton at Verum Serum)