During my time in Jakarta, Indonesia, I became good friends with several refugees from troubled areas. I decided to message an Iranian refugee friend of mine and ask what he thought about US policy with Iran. (You know, just curious.) A few minutes later, we’re talking on the phone. Technology is amazing.
“Give President Trump a big hug for me!” he laughed. “Trump, what he is doing is a good thing!”
Wait, what?? Reinstating sanctions on Iran is a good thing? Breaking our part of the nuclear deal (after so many man hours and years of work), which would stop Iran’s further development of nuclear weapons, is a good thing? Unrest in that region… a good thing??
I had so many questions…
I started at a point that I knew affected him personally. Trump’s immigration policies now prevent him from immigrating to the USA. Having already been in Jakarta going on six years, waiting for an opportunity for a new life, I could imagine he wouldn’t be so happy about that. “Yes,” he consented, “that is not so good, but,” there’s a bigger picture to consider.
The main problem with Iran, in his opinion, is the government. Among other things, they export more than they import and leave the country depleted of its resources. Wealth goes to a small group (yeah, that’s nothing new) and the general population don’t see very much of it. That in and of itself isn’t enough to get people upset, because the government finds ways to keep people moderately happy. According to my friend, Iran is full of naturally happy, social people.
But, he explained, in order for people to work together, they have to be upset enough to act – to do something to change their situation. If things are only mildly irritating or life is only a little bit harder, people are not moved enough to change. Our tolerance may vary, but generally, things have to get pretty bad before “power in numbers” can really have an impact.
President Trump’s sanctions on Iran, according to my friend, would make life harder for his people. “That’s good,” he said. Previous administrations have softened the blow by loosening policy and allowing life to go on as usual. Except, things are not really getting better in his opinion.
His hope is that eventually things get bad enough that the people are willing to join together and make dramatic changes. His people are capable, he said.
But wouldn’t it be better if we kept the somewhat positive relationship so we could step in and help if needed? Wouldn’t a lot of people suffer as a result?
Perhaps. His main concern was thinking about how to get people to act. He mentioned the Iranian government’s efforts to turn Iranians against Americans via propaganda, but that could only go so far. Iranians have more access to information now and have a generally positive opinion of America. I guess he’s an example since he hopes to immigrate to America someday.
I had to ask him about the Iranian nuclear weapons deal, which includes Russia in the conversation with Iran, and whether Trump’s decision to pull out could have a negative impact on global safety. In his opinion, no country really wants to start a war. Weapons are often a simple show of power (or potential power) to create fear, or create legitimacy, but rarely is the threat real.
More importantly, he said, Iran needs to feel pain of their bad government and rise to create something better. Softening things won’t help. Keeping up the pretense and working with the government won’t help. Trump has got it right.
I’m still digesting his perspective.
And, this is obviously an incomplete discussion.