Earlier today, President Barack Obama announced a historic deal that, in theory, will limit Iranian nuclear ambitions for at least ten years.
While the American media is focusing on reactions from across the American (and in some cases Israeli) political spectrum, Glenn Greenwald feels important perspectives are being ignored: specifically, those of the Iranians themselves.
“American journalists, who pride themselves on ‘neutrality’ and 'balance,’ should spend some time considering how much of a platform they give to Israelis and how little they give to Iranians,” Greenwald, along with Murtaza Hussain, wrote in a recent column. “Whatever one’s views, hearing from Iranians themselves about their own country — rather than relying on Israeli and American critics — is a prerequisite to journalistic fairness.”
According to Greenwald, the majority of Iranians have a positive view of the deal not because of the nuclear ramifications, but rather because it lifts economic sanctions.
However, even among those who are optimistic about the deal, there are many concerns. For example, the Iranian government has always used sanctions as a scapegoat for any economic problems the country was facing. Now, if the economy fails to improve, the sanctions excuse won’t be credible, which could lead to political unrest.
“They no longer have [the sanctions] pretext, which means they have to deliver,” Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor, told Greenwald.
Hadi Ghaemi, a critic of the Iranian government, agrees, and feels the lifting of sanctions could lead to short-term unrest.
“There may be short-term backlash in the form of domestic repression or the flaring of minor conflicts with the U.S.,” Ghaemi said. “The state has built its entire identity and official ideology on the idea of countering American imperialism.”
However, while Ghaemi thinks friendly relations between the U.S. and Iran are a long way off, a more normalized relationship similar to that of the U.S. and China is on the table.
“The center of gravity is moving towards being pragmatic and engaging once again.”
While the majority of Iranians feel the deal is positive, there is still some opposition from fundamental Islamists. While Iranian hardliners are normally opposed to anything involving the U.S., not all of their claims can be ignored. As Greenwald, with help from Amirahmadi, explains:
For one, Iran (unlike Israel) is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and as such has the absolute right to enrich uranium at any levels; “there’d be no reason to join the NPT except to get that right, so the fact that this deal ‘lets’ Iran do what they already had the right to do, at lesser levels, is not really a ground for celebration,” he said. He also pointed out that “the money that will flow to Iran under this deal is not a gift: this is Iran’s money that has been frozen and otherwise blocked.” As a result, he said, the hard-liners have a valid objection to viewing these provisions as real concessions.
Regardless of how you feel about the nuclear deal, Greenwald makes a valid point. Without taking into account the various perspectives of the Iranians themselves, it’s easy to view the country as a monolithic block rather than a nuanced society with various competing interests and opinions.
As Greenwald puts it, “The general exclusion of Iranian voices from establishment U.S. media coverage, whether by intent or otherwise, has had a very distortive effect on how Iran is perceived.”