Top Things you Think You Know about Iran that are not True


July 13, 2010 by The Mormon Worker

This is a blog post by University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole. His blog is called “Informed Comment.” This post is from 2009, but still very relevant.-MW

Top Things you Think You Know about Iran that are not True

Thursday is a fateful day for the world, as the US, other members of the United Nations Security Council, and Germany meet in Geneva with Iran in a bid to resolve outstanding issues. Although Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had earlier attempted to put the nuclear issue off the bargaining table, this rhetorical flourish was a mere opening gambit and nuclear issues will certainly dominate the talks. As Henry Kissinger pointed out, these talks are just beginning and there are highly unlikely to be any breakthroughs for a very long time. Diplomacy is a marathon, not a sprint.

But on this occasion, I thought I’d take the opportunity to list some things that people tend to think they know about Iran, but for which the evidence is shaky.

Belief: Iran is aggressive and has threatened to attack Israel, its neighbors or the US

Reality: Iran has not launched an aggressive war in modern history (unlike the US or Israel), and its leaders have a doctrine of “no first strike.” This is true of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, as well as of Revolutionary Guards commanders.

Belief: Iran is a militarized society bristling with dangerous weapons and a growing threat to world peace.

Reality: Iran’s military budget is a little over $6 billion annually. Sweden, Singapore and Greece all have larger military budgets. Moreover, Iran is a country of 70 million, so that its per capita spending on defense is tiny compared to these others, since they are much smaller countries with regard to population. Iran spends less per capita on its military than any other country in the Persian Gulf region with the exception of the United Arab Emirates.

Belief: Iran has threatened to attack Israel militarily and to “wipe it off the map.”

Reality: No Iranian leader in the executive has threatened an aggressive act of war on Israel, since this would contradict the doctrine of ‘no first strike’ to which the country has adhered. The Iranian president has explicitly said that Iran is not a threat to any country, including Israel.

The rest of the entry can be read here.

6 thoughts on “Top Things you Think You Know about Iran that are not True

  1. Do You Like Worms? says:

    awww geez guys.. look, theyre not so bad! LOL

    • Joseph says:

      I can’t believe I’m even responding to this, but oh well.

      Worms, who do you mean by “they”? That’s a pretty ambiguous term. I’ve known people from Iran, and from that as well as other observations I think it’s pretty safe to say that the Iranian people not only “aren’t that bad,” but many are in fact very good people. The Iranians I have known, with one exception, have been some of the best people I have known.

      If by “they,” you mean the Iranian leaders than I would agree, they really aren’t that bad to us or to anyone outside of their country. Their treatment of people within their country leaves something to be desired, especially those who are not Muslim (their treatment of the Baha’i religion, for instance, has been horrendous).

      But the people of Iran do not want our help (, and in this group I do include a member of the Baha’i faith I have known, who does not want U.S. military intervention.

      Ultimately the Iranian people will take care of the Iranian government, and the best thing we can do to help is to get out of the way. Our “help” just ends up hurting them.

      As for Iran having nukes, there’s much more cause for concern about Israel having them then there is for Iran. I initially was afraid of Iran having them because of their theocracy, but, while I may have issues with religious freedom in Iran, Iran’s religious leadership has not demonstrated much aggression outside of their own country. Israel and the U.S. on the other hand, have. I can’t imagine a worse case scenario than having a nut job like Netanyahu in control of nukes. Oh yeah, that’s already happened. Iran getting them is nothing compared with that.

  2. Do You Like Worms? says:

    That’s right Joe, the “they” is the Iranian govt. which is exactly who that article above was trying to say is “not so bad” and if you really believe the Iranian govt. is “not so bad” boy, you sure don’t have any room to complain about ANYTHING the U.S. govt. has done domestically, ever. Think about it, sport.

  3. Joseph says:

    Ummm…I understand my response was long, but if you’re going to comment on it, it would make sense to read it. I do in fact call the Iranian government’s actions domestically “horrendous.” My point was not to justify the Iranian government’s treatment of it’s own people, but to point out that the Iranian people who most want change also don’t want our help. In fact, it was our efforts to “fix” the Iranian government that created the current government that they have! Think about that, “sport”.

  4. Joseph says:

    I just ruined my Saturday by reading this article, so I thought I would share:

    I just thought it related to the above post since while the facts shared by Juan Cole are obviously meant to at least muffle the war drums, they might just make them louder for some people who can’t handle cognitive dissonance. Of course, I just can’t give up at least trying…

  5. Do You Like Worms? says:

    I’m satisfied with “Horrendous” that’s a little better than “leaves something to be desired”. Nice article by the way. I think it illustrates the futility of a public display of how flexible ones wrists are, like the post by this Juan fella, in changing peoples opinions. Have a great weekend sport.

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