Last night I appeared on WCAX TV in Burlington, Vermont to discuss the uprising in Egypt and its possible repercussions around the region.
Gordon's column from Wednesday's Gulf News.
What was most surprising about Hillary Clinton's Iran comments was the lack of reaction they elicited here at home.
Those of us who are not professional historians (and a few who are) tend to view the past through the wrong end of a telescope. We mark America’s independence on July 4, 1776, conveniently ignoring the fact that it took seven years of war and of peace negotiations before the declaration of Philadelphia became a reality. The French Revolution and overthrow of the monarchy are popularly associated with the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. But on July 15 Louis the XVI was still very much king. It would be another three and a half years before he was guillotined.
When questions about engaging with Iran come up at my talks and lectures I try to remind the audience that engagement is a two-way thing. Even before the present crisis I had seen little evidence the Iranian government was eager to engage with us. This does not mean we shouldn’t try – even now, we absolutely should – it does mean we need a back-up plan in case negotiations never get started in the first place.
At the risk of being labeled a wet blanket at a potentially great and paradigm-shifting juncture of history, it needs to be said that American television news coverage of Iran ought to come with a warning label.
Gordon Robison's column from Wednesday's edition of Gulf News (Dubai):
Right now Iran looks like the worst sort of crisis: the kind where everyone agrees that the US needs to do something despite the fact that, realistically, there is not much it can do.
Watching the unfolding events in Iran it is becoming increasingly difficult to believe that Friday’s presidential election was not rigged. This is not to say that President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad lacks a significant base of popular support. But the widespread unrest in the capital, reports of significant clashes between security forces and supporters of Ahmedinejad’s rival, Mir Hussein Mousavi, in a number of provincial cities, the crackdown on opposition politicians that appears to be taking place and, perhaps most importantly, the clampdown on communications technology and media coverage all make the president’s official 2-to-1 margin of victory seem far from credible.
Let us begin by acknowledging that Iran is a complex society with an unusually opaque political system. Few outsiders genuinely understand the place. That makes understanding the country’s presidential campaign – and interpreting the events of the last 24 hours – particularly tricky.
Gordon Robison has more than 25 years of experience living in and writing about the Middle East.