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Tough talk unites moderates and hard-liners against U.S.

By       Message sameh abdelaziz     Permalink
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The loud critics demanding that the American administration insert itself in the Iranian populist revolt against Ahmadinejad's government fail to understand the uprising roots, Middle Eastern politics, and even the basic principles of nationalism. 

How many more times do we need to listen to the name Aflac or Geico to think of the talking duck, or envision the little lizard? 

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Similarly, the American brand of freedom and democracy is established and well. We must question the added value of injecting ourselves in the election dispute, against the potential harm to the brave men and women battling government militias in Tehran's streets. 

It is easy to issue a cowboy-style statement to demand that the Iranian government nullify the election. It is possible to stand tall declaring all future negotiation dead unless Mir Hossein Mousavi becomes the president of Iran. Such actions will satisfy many of the critics, but will hurt the cause of freedom and the long-term American interests in the region. 

It is naive to think that the people putting their lives on the line demanding change in Iran are angry only over the election results. The election is the straw that broke the camel's back. It is also wrong to explain their rage and frustration through the simple prisms of sudden yearning for freedom and democracy, because they weren't born yesterday and they had the same system of government for the last 30 years. 

The people shouting "Allah Akbar" - God is great - from rooftops in the middle of the nights are Iranian moderates. They always believed in democracy and freedom of speech, but were silenced for years by their government under the false premise of a united Iran in the face of the perceived American threat. 

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We know too well how nations react under a threat. After 9/11 we united like never before, we put flags on cars and in our offices and yards. Our young volunteered in droves to serve in the armed forces. All of us read the paper and participated in community functions. 

We didn't object to calling some segments of our society names. We accepted the government spying on our calls and restricting some of our constitutional rights. No dissidents stood up and questioned any of these actions because of the national threat we faced. A similar environment thrived in Iran for the last 30 years, and crushed all forms of rebellion. 

In fact, Iran is only one of many governments and organizations in the Middle East that use our occasional irresponsible statements, and the raw force we project at times, to oppress moderate voices and to brand them as traitors in the face of a national threat.

Middle Eastern culture also magnifies the political implications of these perceived national threats. 

There is a proverb common in most Arab and Muslim countries that explains the difficulty America has experienced for years in its attempt to win hearts and minds. The saying translates to, "My brother and I will stand up to our cousin; my cousin and I will unite against a stranger." America has played for years the role of the stranger; in the process, it united the brothers and the cousins. 

The new American foreign policy based on mutual respect and shared interests changed with a stroke of brilliance the Middle East we know. It eliminated the national-threat lie, gave the moderates voice and exposed the split within the political elite. 

The fight over political Islam has just begun in the streets of Iran, and it will expand to neighboring lands. It will be long and hard but will be won by the moderates as long as the world has the patience and the vision. 

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The Obama administration made the right decision by refraining from any direct interference in Iran's affairs. It should continue on the path of reconciliation, and extend friendship to the people of the region. 

But for all the talking heads, my advice is to keep quiet and give freedom a chance. Any other course of action will put the genie back in the bottle.

 

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I am an Egyptian American born in Alexandria. I immigrated to the US in the late eighties, during this time lived in many places in US and Europe. I work as an IT manager and love it. I love to travel, it makes me feel young, and it awakes in me (more...)
 

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