To hear George W. Bush describe Iran as part of “the axis of evil,” and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad refer to America as “the Great Satan,” you might have supposed Iranians and Americans hate each other’s guts and could never co-exist on the same planet. It’s what the warmongers want us to think. But they are wrong.
Iranians do not hate Americans. And Americans do not hate Iranians.
Andre Agassi is one of the most loved stars in tennis. American fans will tell you he is as American as apple pie and Chevrolet. The man is from Las Vegas, after all. How American is that?
Yet, before moving to the United States, Andre’s father, Emmanuel Agassian, represented Iran in the Olympic Games of 1952.
The Agassi family is far from unique. Many distinguished Americans have Iranian roots.
It is the nature of America – e pluribus unum.
Americans come from far and wide, and while they become part of their new society, they retain an attachment to their ancestral homes. The last thing in the world I would support, for example, is American hostility toward my native Jamaica.
And as students from abroad return home, they often bring an understanding – even an affection – for America with them. Iran is no exception. The new regime includes members who studied in the west
Iran’s president, Hasan Rouhani, was a student in Scotland, for example.
You might think of Iran as an alien society in which a lawless rabble shouts Islamic shiboleths and mad mullahs incite the population to homicidal frenzy against infidels. And I suppose there’s some truth in that image.
But most Iranians are like anyone else in an advanced culture. They go to school, have jobs, drive cars, live in nice houses… They want peace and prosperity for their families, not bombs raining on their homes and blood flowing in their streets.
Why do you think Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, allowed the country’s new president to negotiate with President Obama? He knows the people have had enough of his bellicose swaggering. The tragic uprising of 2009-2010 sent him a message he could not ignore.
It was time to end the fiery madness of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and seek an accord with America.
The path to peace is not a smooth one, of course. The scars of old grievances and betrayals are not yet healed. But it has been decades since the saga of the Shah or the seizure of the American embassy. With a new generation comes a new opportunity to forgive and forget.
How can anyone not applaud the Obama Administration for the patience and optimism that has produced this new pact – however fragile it may be?
The way forward is far from assured. For one thing, while American society has aspects favorable to peace with Iran, there are also Americans with deep attachment to Israel, Jews and non-Jews. These Americans have reason to fear for Israel and distrust the Iranian leadership. Who knows what is really going on behind the glowering eyes of the Ayatollah?
I personally cannot conceive of anyone seriously planning to deploy a nuclear weapon. Only a maniac would unleash such certain Armageddon. But in a dictatorship like Iran’s, madmen can seize power. Prudence demands that Iran abandon its development of a nuclear weapon (even though justice asks why not demand the same of Israel?).
This is no time for Americans to carp at their president’s peace initiative. This is no time for professed allies like Benjamin Netanyahu to rail against the small step President Obama has taken to preserve sanity in the world. It is time for sensible Americans to celebrate their President’s success and to send the hawks a message, loud and clear, no more war!
Pictured above, President Obama and President Rouhani share a smile.