July 15, 2019
WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST
Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation,
ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.
THE ON-GOING STRUGGLE IN THE EAST
Iran continues to enrich uranium and America increases the sanctions. Where’s it all going?
Of course, predictions about what’s happening inside Iran are difficult. Their society certainly doesn’t invite American newsmen to drop by for a story. However, some aspects are discernible.
Some years ago, I was in Damascus, Syria (where Western tourists did not go!) and sitting in a hotel eating breakfast. A group of tourists came filing in. One glance said they didn’t look like Arabs or the usual racial groups one sees on the streets in Damascus. I guessed they looked like Iranians. Everybody in the restaurant had already given me a second once over. My attire, haircut, countenance, screamed American and there usually wasn’t anyone around who looked like me.
In the center of the café (as well as the taxis, rest rooms, lobbies, you name it) were pictures of Hafez al-Assad and his son Bashar, the current despot. The impression was clear; the Assads are WATCHING YOU! Not exactly, the most comfortable place for an American to be.
I noticed one couple kept looking at me. I smiled; they smiled back. After a few minutes, they got up and came over to my table. I quickly learned they thought I was a Canadian. They confided that they were trying to get out of Iran and escape to Canada. They were sure I could help them.
Because I had once worked in Canada, I could answer many of their questions. Finally, I asked why they wanted out. The wife said firmly, “The leaders of our government are crazy. The country is ruled by religious lunatics.”
Her response revealed a sharp division in Iran that exists to this day. Groups like the Revolutionary Guard are fanatical extremists while many, many of the average citizens strongly disagree with them. Periodically, there is an explosion between the extremists and the ordinary citizens with revolting in the streets.
In the current situation with sanctions crippling Iran, this division continues to deepen. The average citizen knows that to oppose the government and the Supreme Ruler will bring imprisonment and probably death. On the other hand, the government realizes that a huge percent of the population does not agree with their race to build a nuclear weapon and start a war.
While no one is saying so, probably insiders in the American government are hoping that a revolution will follow before the Islamic extremist government yields.
Keep your eyes open. Who knows what’s coming next!