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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Honor/shame, Iran and Obama

Iran's media is reporting that their leaders are willing to meet with the US, with preconditions:
An Iranian presidential aide has proposed two conditions Washington would be required to fulfill before holding direct talks with Tehran.

"It is the United States that needs to have relations with Iran," said Mehdi Kalhor, the media consultant to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on Saturday.

On Saturday, Kalhor said Tehran would accept 'repentance' on behalf of the US government toward the Iranian people.

"Negotiations would be rational if the US moves out of the Middle East and the US government gives up its widespread support for the Zionist regime," he said.
This is in contrast to the Democratic nominee for President:

The frontrunner for President of the United States looks as if he is begging to negotiate with Iran, and Iran appears to be considering granting that wish if only the lowly US works a little harder at its begging.

The Muslim world in general, and the Arab world in particular, is based on an honor/shame culture. People who are so convinced that a more conciliatory attitude from the US will make the Muslim world more pro-Western need to understand this dynamic.

Iran's leaders see the US presidential candidates arguing over whether and how they would engage with Iran. From an honor/shame perspective, this gives Iran immense power over the US.

Iran's leaders have already openly mocked the efforts by the West of using partial sanctions and endless negotiations over Iran's nuclear weapons program. Now they are placing themselves in a greater position of power - to other Muslim nations as well as other nations that subscribe to the honor/shame mindset. The world sees the the US bumbling over how to talk to Iran, and Iran answers from a position of strength - "if you want something from us you need to conform to our political program. We have no need to do anything you want, but you must do what we want because you need us more than we need you."

To even conceptualize that the potential next leader of the free world is already taking on this role as a subservient beggar to a terror state is beyond comprehension. Any tough words he mouths are drowned in the simple facts as they are viewed by the Muslim world.

The honor/shame culture does not reward those who act nice. It honors the winners, because there is nothing more honorable than winning and nothing more shameful than losing.

This doesn't mean that the West must play by those rules. But it does mean that the West must understand the rules and not assume that everyone thinks the way we do. And every time the West backs off in the face of real or perceived Iranian threats, it empowers and energizes Iran to up the ante the next day.