The Episcopal Bishop of Washington, John Chane, apparently thinking there will soon be a top-level opening at the State Department, decides to try to get himself on the short list:

Politicians in both Iran and the United States have been divisive, disrespectful, and inflammatory in their condemnations of each other, in effect increasing the likelihood of a military confrontation. As the Episcopal Bishop of the Dioceses of Washington, DC, who has travelled twice to Iran and found friendship and shared values with Iranian clerics, I think it’s time for religious leaders in both countries to take the initiative to find ways to seek peaceful solutions to the complex problems that have plagued US-Iranian relations for years.

Clerics on both sides believe that reconciliation must come from respectful communication. But such dialogue cannot occur in a vacuum, or in environments where people are demonising [sic]  each other. The stakes are high in the Middle East, and the shrill and negative discourse of both countries’ political administrations will not ease the increasing tensions between our countries. We must embrace tolerance and sincere dialogue to reverse this trend.

Gotta wonder–do suppose it ever occurred to Chane that Iran is currently being run by clerics? That unlike mainliners in the U.S., the religious establishment is not irrelevant, but actually calls the shots on domestic and foreign policy alike? Considering he later decries American ignorance of Islam and Iranian culture, I’d say this was the sort of thing he really ought to know.

I have been to Iran twice, the first time in 2006 at the invitation of former President Khatami. More recently, I spent five days meeting with academic and religious leaders in Iran who are very concerned about the possibility of a US military incursion against their homeland. While in Tehran and Qom, one of the holiest cities in Iran, we spent a great deal of time discussing the common religious values and themes shared by both Christianity and Islam. Our commonalities centred [sic] on issues of peace as well as the moral prohibition of developing and using weapons of mass destruction.

In addition to agreeing that politicians have been behaving childishly, my Iranian colleagues and I also think that the level of ignorance by Christians and Muslims about each other’s religions has been extremely unhelpful in extending positive dialogue between these two great monotheistic religions and our two nations.

So the commonalities between Christianity and Islam–a religion spread initially by the military conquest of the entire Middle East, North Africa, and Iberia–center around “issue of peace” and rejection of weapons of mass destruction (the latter being found in previously unknown books of the Bible and Koran, no doubt). These are the commonalities that Chane was able to find between two religions? What about, you know…God? Or did He just not come up in their conversations? And he’s complaining about “levels of ignorance,” when he apparently went all the way to Qom to talk politics?

Iran uses the development of nuclear energy and the implied fear of future nuclear weapons as a wedge issue in its relationship with the United States. In its defence [sic], Iran says it is the only Persian, Farsi-speaking country in a region of Arab nations. Once a great power thousands of years ago and now an emerging player in the Middle East in the 21st century, Iran says its future is threatened by nuclear programmes [sic] and weapons in the region.

Wait a minute–now we’re supposed to believe that Iran is developing nuclear weapons to ward off the depredations of Bahrain? While there have been rumors of intentions on the part of Egypt and Saudi Arabia to develop nuclear weapons, the only Arab state that has actually made a serious effort to do so is Syria, Iran’s good buddy. Did this tool really swallow this line?

Iran can also look to the history of unwelcome involvement by the United States in its internal affairs. The covert overthrow of popular Prime Minister Mosaddeq in 1953, the propping up and support of the unpopular Shah, the US government’s military support of Sadaam Hussein in Iraq’s war with Iran, and the failure of the Clinton Administration to embrace the emerging moderate leadership of President Khatami (eventually leading to Khatami’s isolation by hardliners in his government) are all painful failures of US foreign policy.

At the same time, the United States has every right to be deeply concerned about statements made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about the Holocaust and the eradication of the State of Israel, as well as the verification of anti-personnel weapons manufactured in Iran and their use by Iraqi Shi’a militants against American troops. And the hostage crisis of 1979, when militant Iranian students took over the US Embassy, still exists as an open wound in the American psyche.

The first paragraph (except for the line about Khatami, whose alleged moderation was only minimally different from his fellow mullahs) rehearses some sorry episodes in American-Iranian relations, though given what followed the Shah, I’m not sure that we weren’t exactly right to support him against the alternative of Khomeini. As for the second, it’s all true, though incomplete, to the extent that it ignores Iran’s world-wide support for terrorism, its alignment with some of the world’s worst regimes, and its sending of actual elements of the Revolutionary Guards into Iraq to fight on behalf of the Shiite militias.

Much of Iran’s anti-Israel rhetoric can be attributed to deflected anger at the United States for violating known agreements about the parameters of establishing the State of Israel under the Roosevelt and Truman administrations and Israel’s development of nuclear weapons without the permission of the United States. The perceived bias of the United States in favour [sic--what's with all the Britishisms in this article? Is Chane campaigning to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury?] of Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has only exacerbated anti-Israeli feelings. (It must also be noted, however, that the largest concentration of Jews in the Middle East outside of Israel can be found living peacefully in Iran.)

Right. I’m sure that’s it. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is really mad at Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. It’s the two of them that he really wants to see obliterated, but since they are already dead, he’ll have to settle for Israel. Makes sense to me–at least as much as anything else in this article.

(Via Stand Firm.)