Rational, calm and measured

Following Roger Cohen’s sensible calls for restraint towards Iran in the New York Times a few days ago, the paper publishes a collection of reasonable letters in response. Not one crazed Zionist here:

To the Editor:

Those who got Iraq so wrong should read “Israel Cries Wolf,” Roger Cohen’s April 9 online column about Iran, so they do not repeat their mistake.

Mr. Cohen dismisses the “messianic apocalyptic cult” view of Iran held by Israeli leaders. There may be similarities between rulers of Iran now and in the 1980s, when martyrdom was elevated to defend the country against Iraqi aggression, but the ruled are not the same.

Many who fought and died in that war were the children of mothers with little education who were raising eight or more children. The average rural mom today is much better educated and spends her time educating two children.

The standard of living has more than doubled since then, and the poverty rate has come down from 45 percent to less than 10 percent.

Mothers focused on the future of two children are rarely apocalyptic, let alone willing to lose one to martyrdom. If Israeli leaders believe otherwise, Iranian leaders do not.

Djavad Salehi-Isfahani
Blacksburg, Va., April 9, 2009

The writer is a professor of economics at Virginia Tech.


To the Editor:

I share Roger Cohen’s perception that dialogue with Iran is needed. I am even willing to accept Iran’s claim of pacific purpose of its nuclear program, if only its leaders would lift the seal of secrecy surrounding that program.

But I question the “crying wolf” label attached to Israel’s obsession with Iran, unless it is confirmed that the incident in January involving the destruction of a military convoy carrying what appear to be Iranian-sponsored missiles from Sudan to Gaza never took place.

“Crying wolf” applies to false alarms. There are sufficient instances of real alarms that were tackled as needed to justify Israeli paranoia.

Peter Kessler
Granite Bay, Calif., April 9, 2009


To the Editor:

Roger Cohen continues his useful series of columns on the Middle East. His most haunting comment, both for what it says and for the older history it calls to mind, is: “A semblance of power balance is often the precondition for peace. Iran was left out of the Madrid and Oslo processes, with disastrous results. But that’s a discussion for another day.”

I would add that Germany was left out of the healing that followed World War I, with disastrous results.

Israelis and those who wish them (and the rest of humanity) well would do well to remember Versailles as well as the too-short tables at Madrid and Oslo.

E. Daniel Larkin
Merion Station, Pa., April 9, 2009


To the Editor:

Roger Cohen raises the legitimate question of when, if ever, Iran will be able to produce nuclear weapons. He also reasonably suggests that the United States should engage in negotiations with Iran on this issue, despite the fact that the Europeans have made no progress in such negotiations for several years.

But one might question why Mr. Cohen could not make these points without severely criticizing Israel and making the inflammatory suggestion that its leaders are attempting to manipulate American policy.

Michael Gewirtz
New York, April 9, 2009

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