Nick Meleby Nicke Mele
Pax Christi Pacific Northwest

For the last few days, the news and commentary has featured a good deal of back and forth about the utility and viability of the recently-announced short-term agreement with Iran on its nuclear development program. Several key factors do not get discussed by either critics or defenders.

First of all, there is very little historical or geopolitical context mentioned. One reason Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries are critical of the agreement is that most of these Islamic nations are ruled by a Sunni majority or plurality; the population of Iran is Farsi and overwhelmingly Shi’a. It is not necessary to know the historic and theological roots of the split in Islam but it is germane to Arab reactions to the prospect of a nuclear-capable Iran to know that in many of the most powerful Arab nations, Sunni majorities have treated their Shi’ite as second-class Muslims. Fear of an ascendant , non-Arab Shi’a nation influences attitudes toward Iran.

In the West, the history is not as long but Iran was a place where Britain and Russia (and later Germany) sought access and influence at first because of its geographic location and later its petroleum reserves. Iran fell well within the Czarist Russian sphere of influence throughout most of the nineteenth century, a fact which does much to explain Russia’s contemporary role there and in Syria. The history of Iran relayed via our media is superficial but not trivial, focused more on the last 30 or so years but not on the U.S.-engineered 1953 coup that installed the Pahlavi family as monarchs or the dark side of the Shah’s rule, which led directly to the Islamic Revolution in Iran…

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