The U.S., Iran, and Sports

It goes without saying that Iran constitutes one of the U.S.’s thorniest foreign-policy challenges. Nuclear ambitions, a leader prone to eschatological daydreaming, a stated hostility to Israel, complicity in the ongoing upheaval in Iraq–Iran, like any good Islamic theocracy, is a troubling and dangerous presence in the world today.

The good news, at least from the American perspective, is that we seem to be toning down the brinkmanship. Perhaps because the Bush Administration has been able to bring North Korea to heel without using or even seriously threatening force, they’re now taking a similar tack with Iran. That’s a good thing.

There’s a strong indigenous desire for democracy in Iran, but taking military action would only drive Iranian citizens back into the captive embrace of Ahmadinejad and the mullahs. Better to encourage those restive elements from afar. Do that, and Iran’s “Prague Spring” will come soon enough.

Topically enough, sports will be a part of our charm offensive. This from Undersecretary of State William J. Burns’ recent testimony before Congress:

Partnering with the U.S. Olympic Committee, we invited 15 members of the Iranian table tennis national team to the States last week. This group included the first female Iranian athletes who have ever been to the U.S. on this program. In cooperation with the NBA, we will bring 25 members of the Iranian Olympic Basketball Team here next week for the NBA Summer League. We also hope to bring the Iranian soccer team to the U.S. later this year. Over the long-term, we hope to build connections among our people through educational, cultural, and other exchanges which can overcome 30 years of estrangement that has severed links between our societies.

Unless you’re one of those who’s spoiling for an unnecessary fight, these are encouraging developments. Welcome the athletes, expose them to our way of life, and let the games we play galvanize us. Given our present military entanglements, that’s the only tenable way to undermine the menaces in power in Iran.

(HT: Passport)



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7 responses to “The U.S., Iran, and Sports

  1. “…Iran, like any good Islamic theocracy, is a troubling and dangerous presence in the world today.”

    Troubling, yes, due to policies toward women and other “backwards” social/political practices repressive of liberty and equality. But dangerous? As in, “Axis of Evil” dangerous? Iraq-before-the-invasion dangerous? Your generalization may or may not be legitimate (I haven’t looked at a list of every Islamic theocracy lately) but it sounds like troubling Neocon drumbeat to me. Though to be sure our recent national policy has helped your sentiment become self-fulfilling prophecy, especially with regard to Iran.

    Did you see the latest Hersh article?

    Bush has secretly requested and received $400 million to increase the scope and tempo of special operations activities in Iran. The Democratic congressional leadership approved it. The intent appears to be to provoke Iranian security forces into a shooting incident which can be used as a pretext for further escalation (ie, a bombing campaign) by us. One of the many money quotes:

    “But a lesson was learned in the incident [Iranian speedboats’ provocative charging of US naval vessels in January ‘08]: The public had supported the idea of retaliation, and was even asking why the U.S. didn’t do more. The former official said that, a few weeks later, a meeting took place in the Vice-President’s office. “The subject was how to create a casus belli between Tehran and Washington,” he said.”

    I’m all for ping-pong diplomacy, but I don’t believe this administration’s heart is in it. When Bush says the military option would be an absolute last resort (but is still on the table), I’m afraid he (“he” meaning Cheney and the Neocons) considers his leaving office as the closing of the “last resort” window of opportunity (assuming Obama maintains a lead over McCain and/or wins in November). I’m afraid there’s a real danger that the next several months could get very dicey. I hope I’m wrong.

  2. daynperry

    Howdy, Brian-

    Sent you an email earlier today. Anyhow, I’d call them dangerous in terms of being able to further destabilize the region. As for what Sy Hersh reports, I’m all for funneling support to the reform groups he mentions, but, well, if we’re trying to cook up some kind of “Gulf of Tonkin”-type rationale, then that’s troubling for sure. One hopes that Bush realizes the national will simply isn’t there.

  3. Bryan

    Sorry, my umbrage was ineptly conveyed. The scraps of what I was getting at (“list of every Islamic theocracy”) didn’t rise to the level of clarity. The generalization that needled me was your, “… like any good Islamic theocracy,” – being a “troubling and dangerous presence in the world.” Every one of them? Is this not painting with a brush both stereotypically overbroad and dripping with anti-Islamism typical of Neocon propaganda? Aren’t there some Islamic theocracies (broadly speaking, I’m trying to hone in on a technical definition of relative power between the politicians and the religious leaders which are intertwined in most “Islamic” states) that get along fine in the world without being “dangerous” and are only marginally “troubling” to a western-oriented value system?

    So I’m trying to figure out what you meant by injecting that bit, which might have been omitted without affecting your point about Iran. To my ear, it’s as if you’d said, “A wolf, like any good predator, is a troubling and dangerous presence on the cattle ranch.” But that statements is unfair to hawks, who, while predators, are no threat to cattle. Could your turn of phrase be taken as Islamophobic, or am I being too spolitically correct? Are all Islamic theocracies, Islamic states, sports teams and Islam in general substantively and objectively inferior to their western counterparts?

    Then there’s the point you were trying to make, that Iran (an Islamic theocracy) is a dangerous and troubling presence. You follow up in the comments that they’re “dangerous in terms of being able to further destabilize the region.” But isn’t that a classic case of the pot (the US) calling the kettle (Iran) black? I mean, Bush destabilized the hell out of the region with his propaganda-pumped (dangerous and troubling!?) war of aggression in Iraq, demolishing the decades-long check that Sunni-ruled Iraq had represented against Shiite Iranian regional ambitions. Been paying heavy expense in lives, limbs, treasure and compromised American ideals trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again since then amidst the crossfire of inter- and intra- sectarian civil war we unleashed. And now Iran is going to destabilize the region?

    They want nukes to keep a belligerent US off their soil. They don’t want to be another Iraq. If they exploded a nuke in Israel it would mean the end of Iran, and I don’t believe they’d do it. They’re too calculating, too good at staying in power. But if we, or Israel, strike them, all bets are off for the future. Get some serious diplomacy going, some security guarantees by us for all parties, and everyone will start to remember it’s more beneficial to be surrounded by friends than by enemies. Got to solve the Palestinian problem at the heart of it all. That’s a tough nut, but redirect the effort and money that we squandered in the Iraq war, and get the world behind us again, and isn’t there a chance?

    Then we can all play soccer together.

  4. Bryan

    Sorry, omitted an important ‘NOT’.

    “…(broadly speaking, I’m — NOT — trying to hone in on a technical definition of relative power between the politicians and the religious leaders which are intertwined in most “Islamic” states)…”

    Didn’t see a way to edit that or delete and repost.



  5. daynperry

    First, let me clarify something–I don’t consider all Muslim-controlled countries to be troubling and dangerous (Turkey and Malaysia, for instance), but I do consider Muslim theocracies–those that practice Sharia as a mechanism of the state–to be troubling for reasons with which you seem to agree and dangerous because they breed fanatical hatred for the West.

    As far as the pot-kettle analogy, in this instance, I’m the pot. Since I didn’t support the invasion of Iraq and still consider it to be the worst foreign-policy decision of my lifetime, there’s no hypocrisy. Besides, that genie can’t be returned to the bottle. So I’m worried about what makes things worse going forward. Hence, I’m worried about Iran.

    I agree that Iran’s desire for self-preservation will likely prevent it from doing something stupid like launching a strike against Israel, and the whole point of my original post was that, as things currently stand, I’m against the military option with regard to Iran. We need to see to the care and feeding of the subversive elements already on the ground in Iran, and that needs to be the extent of it, barring further developments.

  6. Pingback: Bookmarks about Iran

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