Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

If I could write a memo to President Obama…

<. President:

Our diplomatic challenges with Iran are extensive. Whereas the stakes are very high, I would strongly caution against the imposition of new economic sanctions. We must take into account the strong ideational factors that are particularly present in Iran’s foreign policy actions and attitudes, like its proud Persian identity, national unity behind its nuclear program, and the growth of the current opposition movement. These factors lead me to believe that staying the course of patient engagement would be wise.

Currently, there are fissures in the clerical regime that we have not seen before. The rise of the opposition, “Green,” movement and its refusal to back down is an extraordinary development and has put the theocracy on edge. We must be patient, however, and cannot support the protestors too much. You have shown that you understand that real reform can only happen if the movement creates it itself; there can be no evidence of outside involvement. Even with our current hands-off approach, interrogators and other Iranian officials still wave the banner of Western intervention.

Just as American involvement in the political protests would weaken those seeking more freedom and rights, sanctions may hurt their cause too. Sanctions would very likely unify the Iranian people behind the current regime. Our best long-term chance for a true democratic state in Iran is for the current movement to strengthen.

I believe diplomacy can and will work. If you can rally the political support and will to stay the course, maintaining your patient approach will pay off. The Iranian people are a prideful people, rooted in their deep identification with the once great Persian Empire. Your diplomacy has not worked yet because it is such a new approach after years of a more aggressive and realist American stance in the region. Proud and frightened people are wary of those who promise new approaches; the only way to enact change, therefore, is to stay consistent even in the face of heavy doubt.

Your outreach has made the Iranian regime nervous because it seems genuine. They know that continued engagement makes their hold on power vulnerable because it indirectly gives hope to the burgeoning movement. Pulling back your outreached hand would therefore do more harm than good, emboldening the regime and hurting the movement’s chances for reform.

-David Heifetz

P.S. Your decision this week in the way you sanctioned Iran was very interesting and should not hurt Iran’s opposition movement like others might. It was interesting, however, because the sanctions were not of the economically crippling variety but rather were aimed at crippling the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Freezing the assets of four companies that the Corps use as a front for their funds is a great way to hurt the military, the body that maintains a hold on the country. In addition, these are sanctions that should not hurt the country as a whole but target the tyranny itself.

-David Heifetz is a Carletonian columnist

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *