Friday, January 26, 2007

Iran, Iraq, Shiites, Sunnis ...

Here is an interesting article from the Pew Forum on Religion, about Iran, Shiites, Sunnis, Iraq, the middle east, etc. The first half is transcript of a speech, and the second half is a transcript of questions and answers.

The speech is kind of dense. A couple of things I found interesting:
- Iran, and Shiite's generally, were supportive of the US invasion, because they wanted a democratic, one-man-one-vote election, because they knew it would bring the Shiites to power in Iraq.
- removal of the Taliban in Afghanistan also was good for Iran - Afghanistan and Iraq were Sunni walls around Shiite Iran.
- Al Qaeda really comes from radical Sunni groups - Wahabis supported in Saudi Arabia, for example. So Iran could have been our natural ally against Al Qaeda.
- On the other hand, the Shiites, particularly when Ahmadinejad became President of Iran, decided to broaden their appeal to Arab citizens by attacking Israel's right to exist, etc.
- Here's something from his answer to the second question:

"The Iranians do not want to talk about single issues. They want a broader structure of agreement that commits the two countries to normalization of relations, kind of like Kissinger going to China. For Iranians, normalization would mean that regime change is off the table and Iran’s interests are recognized. I am not saying this is something that the U.S. necessarily can or should do, but I’m saying that’s what they want."

Iran figures if they concede on nukes at the start, they are losing one of the best bargaining chips. He doesn't say whether they would be willing to recognize Israel as part of a larger package.

I wonder if anyone in our govt understood Sunnis and Shiites before we invaded Iraq?


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