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Why civil and political engagement in Iran should trump war rhetoric and sanctions

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When Alice went down the rabbit hole in Lewis Carroll's novel, Alice and Wonderland, she experienced all kinds of unpleasant surprises. What kind of surprises will we Americans face if our government bombs Iran?

The last time the United States went down the Iranian rabbit hole was in 1953, almost 60 years ago. In 1953 the United States and England engineered a coup that replaced a popular elected leader in Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, with a cruel tyrant, the Shah Pahlavi. The consequences of that intervention have been disastrous, not just for the citizens of the United States but for the whole world.

The Shah was so unpopular that he had to flee in 1979 from a popular revolution that ultimately brought the mullahs and Ayatollah Khomeini to power. These conservative religious leaders imposed a theocracy based upon Sharia law that has served as a model for Muslims throughout the world, like the Taliban in Afghanistan, to press for similar ultra-conservative regimes based upon strict readings of the Koran. Much of the global terrorist chaos that now confronts the world can be traced back to the first time we imposed our will upon the Iranian people.

The United States has been down many rabbit holes, like the war in Vietnam, the war in Iraq, and the ten year war in Afghanistan. These avoidable blunders have caused extreme suffering in the countries attacked and grief in this country. These expensive military excursions have wreaked havoc upon the economy in the United States and destroyed the lives of thousands of veterans. After all these failed policies haven't we learned that we cannot control what happens as a result of U.S. military involvement in other countries? The Law of Unintended Consequences is exactly why we are in a poor economic position right now. Why repeat and compound these mistakes?

President Obama has ratcheted up sanctions against Iran and U.S. and Israeli military leaders are now considering a bomb attack upon Iran's nuclear facilities. Iran says that it wants radioactive material so that it can generate nuclear power. In 2006 it cranked up its nuclear power program to produce uranium-235 that can be used in a fissionable reactor. Even though Iran has huge petroleum reserves, it does not have refining capacity and hence wants nuclear power to provide for the electricity needs of its 75 million people. Just like the United States, it seeks energy independence.

Iran has stated that it does not seek to produce uranium-238 that could be used in a nuclear weapon. It is a signatory to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Such a membership allows the IAEA to inspect a country's nuclear facilities. Inspectors from this agency have visited Iran numerous times and declared their facilities appropriate for the production of nuclear fuel that could be used in an atomic power reactor. Interestingly, other countries in the area that have nuclear weapons — Israel, India, and Pakistan have not joined the IAEA, are thus not inspected, and we are not sanctioning them.

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