Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

What US policymakers don’t get about the Iranian people

Posted by M. C. on October 11, 2022

According to author Assal Rad, identity has been shaped by opposition to government — and to foreign interference and control.

American policymakers consistently fail to understand how others see the world and how people in other countries see U.S. policies, and that has led to decades of destructive and failed policies that have left both the United States and the targeted countries worse off.

Written by
Daniel Larison

U.S. Iran policy has long suffered from a deficit of understanding the history and culture of the Iranian nation. While our government professes to distinguish between the Iranian people and their rulers, it has in practice lumped them together and punished the former for the abuses of the latter.

While the latest round of protests shows how many ordinary Iranians are challenging and resisting their government at great risk to themselves, our policies have served to strengthen the same forces of repression and injustice that are cracking down on those protesters.

American policymakers have long had a poor grasp of Iranian nationalism and Iranians’ desire for independence and dignity, and they often fail to see that the same nationalism that motivates protesters against the Islamic Republic also rejects outside meddling in Iran’s affairs.

Fortunately, a new book on Iranian national identity and politics offers some much-needed insights into how the Iranian people understand their history and their country’s place in the world and how they have made use of that history to construct their modern identity as a nation.

Assal Rad’s “The State of Resistance: Politics, Identity and Culture in Modern Iran” is an outstanding investigation of how Iranian national identity has been formed, contested, and remade over the last century. Rad explores how the Pahlavi monarchy and the Islamic Republic both sought to create narrow definitions of national identity for Iranians, and she then shows how those narrow definitions have continually been met by resistance from the Iranian people as they express their devotion to their vatan (homeland) in several ways that draw on different elements of Iran’s religious and cultural heritage.

A recurring theme in the later chapters of the book is Iranians’ attachment to their country and especially to the land itself. As Rad sums up, “Forming an identity of resistance, Iranians clung to the most tangible aspect of the nation-state, land.” This is what comes through in Iran’s popular music and cinema, and it is also what Rad found in her interviews while doing fieldwork for four years.

See the rest here

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