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.