Thawing of diplomatic ice may lead to nuclear agreement in Iran
(New Castle News / New Castle, Pa.)
So what are we to make of Iran’s most recent overtures to the United States?
Well, it would appear that economic sanctions imposed on that country — in response to its advancing nuclear program — are inflicting pain. The new Iranian president, Hasan Rouhani, indicates he is hoping to open a dialogue with the West in an effort to ease those sanctions.
Iran’s economy is struggling under sanctions. And Rouhani is a moderate (at least in Iranian terms) who is interested in finding solutions to his nation’s economic hardships. Hence the professed willingness to discuss nuclear matters.
But talking and doing are two different things. And where Iran is concerned, no one should lose sight of the fact that no matter how agreeable the president may seem to be, it’s the fundamentalist clerics and the Revolutionary Guard who call the shots in that country.
Still, the current effort is newsworthy, because it has been 35 years since the United States and Iran held high-level talks. Not surprisingly, this shift — even if it is little more than symbolic — is drawing interest and criticism.
As you might suspect, concerns are being raised in some quarters that talks might lead to an easing of pressure on Iran to make its nuclear program more transparent and to ensure it is not developing atomic weapons.
Obviously, any agreements need to be verified in a manner that opens the door on Iran’s nuclear activities. Empty promises are worthless.
Despite the potential for failure or other problems, we support talks with Iran. We believe it is in America’s long-term interests to explore options for achieving this nation’s goals in the Middle East short of armed intervention. And that’s precisely what has been considered as an option for thwarting Iranian nuclear ambitions.
It may be that Rouhani has concluded his country’s nuclear program is a dead end, and not worth the risks associated with it. If so, that’s a positive development to foster. The challenge would be to advance negotiations along those lines without sparking a reaction from Iranian hard-liners who are likely to see benefit in the possession of nuclear arms.
Rouhani is displaying diplomatic skills that were decisively lacking in his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As a result of this shift, it is essential that the international community recognize that charm and reasonable words are not substitutes for meaningful agreements.
Any talks between the United States and Iran should be seen as preliminary and likely to be part of a long process in order to achieve results. Diplomacy can be slow and frustrating. But handled properly, it is far better than conflict.
Ban a book, see lots of action
(The Mankato Free Press / Mankato, Minn.)
Free speech advocates can’t help but get excited this time of year. Banned Books Week is here. It’s like an extra holiday. Part of its observance is to look at the list of books that others think you shouldn’t read and pick out new items for your reading list.
The books challenged during the year as reported in the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom are as varied as usual. From an easy-to-read version of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” to Stephen King’s “Different Seasons,” the works include a wide variety of reading material.
The summary of the complaints are typical of those seen every year, most relating to attempts to remove books from schools. Objectionable language, graphic sexual content, inclusion of gay lifestyles, and references to suicide are among reasons listed.
But among this year’s case summaries, a particular gem stands out. In a Chicago school, authorities removed the book “Persepolis,” a graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, because of concerns about “graphic illustrations and language.” Students were to study the novel about the author’s experience growing up in Iran during the revolution.
When students found out the district banned the book, a wonderful thing happened. They got mad and they got busy. They initiated public discussion on social media, checked out all the library copies of the books, wrote blogs, sent emails, wrote articles for the school paper, contacted the author, staged protests and appeared on local media.
And they won their battle. The book was allowed back into the classroom.
This sort of action sends good shivers up the spine, knowing that today’s youth still recognize the importance of First Amendment rights, including the freedom to choose reading materials. When young people fight for their freedom to choose what they want to read, they are also learning tolerance and respect for opposing points of view.
A college librarian who was disappointed about the unenthusiastic response to Banned Books Week activities last year decided to adopt his staff’s recommendation to ban a book. (During one of the sparsely attended banned book events, a local author had jokingly volunteered his new book for banning.) The experiment was a success. As soon as you tell someone they can’t have access to something, they, of course, want access.
The librarian and his staff got people’s attention, and students voiced their protest over the ban in multiple ways (and the author probably sold more books than ever). But more importantly, they delivered the message that any book at any time could be under attack.
Access to thoughts, ideas and other people’s words is a right that should be fought for.