Rutgers Professor Lectures on Iran
Increasingly tense relations between the U.S. and Iran have been heavily covered in recent news, with alleged attacks on Iranian agents in Iraq, French President Jacque Chirac retracting statements on the Islamic Republic and heavy coverage on Tehran’s experimental uranium enrichment program.
In one of the more topical academic presentations on campus, Director of the Center of Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, Hooshang Amirahmadi spoke passionately in his lecture titled, ‘The Iraqi Question in U.S.-Iran Relations’ to a packed auditorium Thursday, Feb. 1.
While students of Middle-Eastern descent were most visibly and vocally supportive of Amirahmadi, the mixed audience, filled with students, faculty and community members of all ages was very receptive of the speech.
The Rutgers professor is heavily involved with Middle Eastern and Iranian politics, as founder of the American Iranian Council, founder of the Center for Iranian Research and Analysis and a candidate for president in the ninth presidential election in Iran in June of 2006, but was disqualified because of his American citizenship and democratic platform.
Amirahmadi began with a brief history of early 20th century Iran, specifically noting the effects of U.S. and British occupation of the region after World War I. He then moved onto the state of modern Iran, specifically the contradiction between how strong political rhetoric claims the country to be and how stable it actually is.
‘Iran is a stable country. It has never invaded a nation,’ Amirahmadi said. ‘But I believe that Iran is not a rising power and could end up like North Korea. However, I would like to see it as South Korea, which is a strong state.’
Amirahmadi continued his positive assessment of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which he points out has evolved even in name from the days when the conflict was called ‘Arab-Israeli.’
‘Even Hammas is thinking along the lines of PLO, considering adopting a two-state solution,’ Amirahmadi said. ‘It is very possible that even [the conflict with Syria and Israel] will be resolved. Both sides have secretly united.’
The lecture then delved into tensions between the United States and Iran, which has deep roots in the hostile views both sides have of each other. Amirahmadi cited a specific quote from President George W. Bush’s State of the Union, which said that the most serious problem the United States faces in the Middle East is radical Sunnis and al-Qaeda.
‘Bush basically sees Iran as al-Qaeda and Mahmood Ahmadinejad as Bin Laden,’ Amirahmadi said.
Amirahmadi reinforced this sentiment by recounting a conversation he had with former Secretary of State George Schultz.
‘Shultz said, ‘We regret losing Iran, because we think they are important. But Iran has hurt us more than any other regime, more even than Vietnam. That stays with us. [The two sides] just hate each other,” Amirahmadi said.
Amirahmadi continued on to the ‘Iraqi Question,’ which he deemed as the most dangerous question posed by new conservatives. According to his explanation, Iran is trapped by the United States in two different areas: nukes and Iraq. While the nuclear problem could be defused, it would be very difficult for Iran to stay completely out of a conflict so politically and geographically close to them.
‘Iran would be crazy to help America in Iraq because when the United States is done in Iraq they are going to Tehran. That has always been the plan, even with Afghanistan,’ Amirahmadi said.
The floor was then opened up for questions from the eager audience. A community member opened this section with a question about Iran’s interest in Iraqi oil.
‘Iran has the fourth-largest oil supply. Iran doesn’t need Iraqi oil. It cannot even control its own. However, Iran is expanding, wants to do it and is doing it,’ Amirahmadi said.
Another student asked about the recent news involving Iran, specifically citing Iranian influence in Iraq and Iraqi insurgents.
‘We cannot hide the facts. We see them as terrorists and there are some. But, some are nationalists fighting against an occupier,’ Amirahmadi said.
‘I challenge anyone to name a country that has become a democratic nation without diplomatic ties with the United States. It is not automatic. It is just a necessary condition,’ Amirahmadi said. ‘The only hope for the Iranian people is the normalization of relations between the United States and Iran.’