How the U.S. Can Help Iranians Win Their Freedom

Dec. 11 2019

Born to upper-middle-class Marxist parents in the Islamic Republic, Shay Khatiri learned at school that America was the Great Satan and at home that it was “just as much a dictatorship as Iran,” and that both regimes were equally repressive. But Israel was a country toward which he had no negative feelings:

I never minded Israel. What I didn’t like was the Palestinians’ receiving aid from Iran while Iranians were starving. I had never met a Jewish person, but the regime hated Jews, so I grew to love them out of spite for the regime.

As for America, Khatiri’s attitudes diverged from his parents’ after the September 11 attacks, when he heard George W. Bush speak of bringing greater freedom to the Middle East. If the U.S. wanted democracy in the Muslim world, and the ayatollahs opposed it, Khatiri knew he sided with Washington. He eventually emigrated to Hungary—where he befriended a number of Israelis—and then to America. After explaining his political evolution, he suggests what his adopted country might to encourage the anti-regime sentiments in his homeland:

Democratization must come from within, . . . but it can’t always happen without foreign help. After several attempts by the Iranian people, it is now clear that the regime is too powerful for the people [to overthrow on their own]. We can begin with supporting labor unions and dissidents who are trying to make change happen from the inside.

In their correspondence, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson called the United States an “empire of liberty.” . . . Thomas Paine [likewise] said that the cause of America is, in a great measure, the cause of all mankind. America possesses many powers, but its power as a cause is the cheapest to spend and yet the most valuable, and has the greatest impact. This is something many of my friends and fellow students [in the U.S.] find bewildering. If only they could visit Iran.

Read more at American Interest

More about: Democracy, George W. Bush, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount