Wall Street Journal Opinion Piece Misrepresents Iran


The Wall Street Journal (September 25-27, 2015)

Headline Reads: A Road Map to Regime Change in Tehran

In his Wall Street Journal début, Peter Kohanloo pushes for a neoconservative, hawkish policy towards Iran. In justifying his position, he misrepresents the history of Iranian relations with the US and the political system in Iran.

Kohanloo argues that there is ‘nothing in the Islamic Republic’s 36-year history’ which suggests that Iran will ‘moderate its behaviour’. One assumes that Kohanloo is referring to the taking of Western hostages and the attack on the American embassy in 1979. However, Iran under Khamanei is, and has been, very different from the immediate post-revolutionary period.

For example, in the 1990s, then-president Khatami appeared US news channel CNN to discuss the ‘new Iran’ and invited the US into dialogue. Immediately after the September 11th attacks, Iran offered assistance to the US in Afghanistan. The US and Iran have been linked conceptually in Iranian foreign policy, and since the death of Khomenei, there have been plenty of examples of Iran ‘moderating’ its behaviour. The crude assertion that Iran is some sort of rogue state ignores this Iranian outreach.

Kohanloo then argues that the US should base its intervention in Iran on upholding women’s rights. However, we should be wary of the lures of the “feminist weapon” which was originally used to justify intervention in Afghanistan. Western feminism often takes this approach in reference to countries whose own gender equality does not match its own. Of course, this is not to say that Iranian laws which prohibit the basic needs of women are not abhorrent. However,  recognisably-Western feminism is not be the only pillar of gender equality. Women’s rights derive from on-the-ground organisations and Kohanloo’s argument seems to disregard the efforts of the Iranian and Islamic feminist movements of today.

Finally, Kohanloo argues that the US can bring ‘true democracy’ to Iran. The 2009 ‘Green Revolution’ surely showed that Iranian civil society is lively and organic. The unrest was itself framed in democratic principles – neither Ahmadinejad nor Mousavi called for coups but rather fought battles of the ballot-box. There may well be some institutional corruption (the Green Movement started due to concerns of vote-rigging in the presidential election of the same year) but Iranians are active members of civil society. Moreover, the Green Movement situated itself in a long history of civil unrest stretching back to 1891 and the Tobacco Revolt. Kohanloo’s argument that Iran needs US assistance to ‘prepare a transition to true democracy’ ignores the millions of ordinary Iranians already fighting for it.

In conclusion, this article crudely puts forward a neo-conservative, hawkish view of Iran which shows remarkably little reference to Iranian history or politics.


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