No doubt Barack Obama’s stated aims in the furtherance of peace are laudable enough, but in the case of Iran I wonder if the Nobel Committee hasn’t been a little premature in its evaluation of his efforts.
The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) is a repressive regime, governing without – despite protestations of democracy – a legitimate mandate from its people. It detains without trial, tortures and puts to death its political dissidents, dismantles all attempts at free reporting, and refuses to submit to outside scrutiny.
Yet the hand of peace that Obama extends to the IRI is conditional only upon nuclear non-armament, and not upon any commitment to improve human rights in Iran. There are many who believe that to enter into dialogue with President Ahmedinejad would be to endorse an election that is still disputed, and provide legitimacy to a government that cannot claim to represent its people.
But how likely is such a dialogue? One of the regime’s key ideological platforms is its resistance to all things Western, and its characterisation of itself as the last bulwark against Satan’s imperialist march. For Ahmedinejad to shake Obama’s extended hand would threaten the very foundation upon which his power is based.
To the contrary, with the election result still disputed and protest ongoing, Ahmedinejad and the IRI must look to consolidate and reinforce their position, and what better way than by focusing on an external enemy? Those who believe that the IRI dare not oppose the mighty forces of the West forget at their peril that martyrdom lies at the heart of Iran’s religion. From the death of their beloved Shia saint Hussein to the millions of boys blasted to bits in Khomeini’s name, Iran has a history of glorifying pointless deaths. And what price defying the Great Satan, if Israel can be crushed in the process?
Far from improving the prospects of peace with Iran, Obama’s advances may even be making things worse.