So who in the Middle East does like us?
Would you believe Iran? The following is excerpted from "The paradox of anti-Americanism in Iran"
by Nicholas Schmidle (printed in a Lebanese
English language newspaper), a graduate student at American University in Washington who spent the summer of 2004 in Tehran,
Iranians' fondness for America is nearer to that of a secret admirer than what exists between lifelong chums. By distancing itself from the United States, the Islamic regime has allowed many of its citizens to create "America" in their own minds. For the older generations, "America" recalls an era of economic affluence that the mullahs have been unable to reinstate since overthrowing the shah. For the younger ones, "America" evokes a fantasy of liberal social attitudes. Many young Iranians now openly defy the regime's prohibition of alcohol and coed activities.
This is not an isolated report by a single grad student. The French daily "Le Monde" which is far from noted for being pro-American reported last year that Iranian leaders feared growing pro-Americanism in the population (re-printed here on the Free Republic website). What they fear most is "a change of the regime with the help of the American marines."
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy published a paper from the Middle East Review of International Affairs ( Vol. 8, No. 1 March, 2004) titled "The Paradox of Anti-Americanism in Iran". One of the key reasons given in the paper for growing sentiment towards the U.S in Iran is the recognition that President Bush has given to the nature of the Iranian government. They quote the President:
"The people of Iran want the same freedoms, human rights, and opportunities as people around the world. Their government should listen to their hopes. In the last two Iranian presidential elections and in nearly a dozen parliamentary and local elections, the vast majority of the Iranian people voted for political and economic reform. Yet their voices are not being listened to by the unelected people who are the real rulers of Iran."
The Daily Times of Pakistan features an article that points out "Iran has likely benefited more than any other country from US-led regime changes in Afghanistan and Iraq, as both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein were the country’s sworn enemies" and in which an Iranian recalls his father's WWII experiences with Americans:
“Whenever we heard the train coming”, my father once told me, “all the young boys in the village would run as fast as we could through the apple orchard to greet the passing Americans. They would smile and wave and throw us whatever gifts they happened to have — playing cards, chewing gum, lifesaver candies... For us they were like heroes from another world.”
As the mullocracy in Iran drags their nation, the U.S. and the world closer to the point of no return over nuclear capability it is important that we recall these halcyon days. We can never forget the violation of our Embassy in Tehran, or the 444 days our hostages spent in captivity. Nor should we lose sight of the fact that even today in Iran some people celebrate the murder of our Marines in Lebanon. What we need to remember, however, is that these individulas do not represent the will of the people. The aid we provided to the people of Iran after the December 1993 earthquake is a perfect example of how we can use foreign aid to achieve what should be our number one policy goal: defeating anti-Americanism by winning hearts and minds. We have done so in the past in Iran, and the current regime there has in many ways enhanced the memories people have of America.
We should exhaust every possible method of befriending the people of Iran- and yes I mean supporting those who would overthrow the mullahs if it comes to that, as well as Voice of America and any other tools. Mr. Schmidle closes his article with a quote from a young Iranian that sums up our (the United States) position in Iran perfectly:
"If one U.S. soldier comes to Iran, all this [positive sentiment toward America] will change. It is like we are in the 90th minute of a soccer match. Anything can happen."