In the summer of 2015, the most cheerful news was that the United States and its major allies, after several years of intense negotiations, had finally reached a nuclear agreement with Iran. If the Iranians disable their ability to make nuclear bombs, economic sanctions against them would be lifted and their frozen assets would be returned. The Iranians got busy and met the demands in a few months.
Unfortunately, a little later the United States began to have doubts and began to raise issues not included in the agreement, such as the lack of human rights in Iran, its development of ballistic missiles, compensation for Americans killed by Iranian terrorists (never proven) and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s support of terrorists in the Middle East.
The problem is that none of these issues was part of the nuclear accord. Furthermore, the establishment of human rights is an objective of President Hassan Rouhani and his allies, the moderate reformers. To accomplish this, Mr. Rouhani needs to strengthen his political standing by showing that he has improved the economy — by having the sanctions removed and by bringing home the frozen Iranian assets.
Regrettably, the United States has greatly reduced its compliance with the agreement. As a result, the Iranian people do not see improvements in the economy. Worse, they constantly hear from U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump that he stands against Islamic countries, including Iran. These and other hostile reactions are turning Iranians against Mr. Rouhani and his nuclear accord.
This is unfortunate, because the accord is necessary to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. In early July, The New York Times pleaded in an editorial, “Don’t Let Iran’s Progress on the Nuclear Deal Go to Waste.”
A similar thing happened over a decade ago when Mohammad Khatami became president of Iran. He was a moderate and called for the opening of a civil dialogue between the United States and Iran to resolve several decades of animosity between the two countries. Then, unexpectedly, President George W. Bush, in his 2002 State of the Union speech, labeled Iran as part of the “axis of evil,” along with Iraq and North Korea. This killed Mr. Khatami’s initiative.
Americans also need to understand that Iran needs the missile program to defend itself if, once again, it were attacked by an Arab country, such as Saudi Arabia, which is threatening the country. Iranians for more than 300 years have not attacked any country, but in 1980, for no reason at all it was invaded by Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq. He used weapons of mass destruction and the war he launched caused a half million Iranians to die.
Also, when it comes to Iran’s involvement in Middle East conflicts, keep in mind that Iran is a Shiite country while most of the Arab countries are Sunni. There are far more Sunnis than Shiites, and they have been enemies for centuries. The supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a devout Shiite, has ordered the Revolutionary Guard to help Arab Shiites survive by giving them money, ammunition and instruction.
The United States, with its invasion of Iraq, set off a colossal religious war in the Middle East, and Iran is the only country that can help the United States get out of it. Like us, the Iranians hate the so-called Islamic State and its killing of innocent people. As Mr. Rouhani has stated, the solution will not be achieved by bombing, but might be achieved by negotiation.
Moderate Iranians have tried two bloody revolutions to achieve democracy: one against the shah and one against their Islamist rulers. In both cases, they got slaughtered. Now they think gradual reform is the way to build a free society.