Not for the first time, a journalist proves an adept reporter but lousy analyst. Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times today recounts in “Hugs from Iran” some of his experiences during a recent road trip in Iran. Excerpts:
- My 1,700-mile road trip across Iran began with a giddy paean to America, reinforcing my view that at the grass-roots level, this may be the most pro-American nation in the Middle East.
- “We love America!” gushed a former military commando, now a clothing seller, my first evening in the spiritual center of Mashhad. He was so carried away that I thought he might hug me, and although he acknowledged that his business was suffering greatly from Western sanctions, he said he blamed his own leaders. “I can’t blame America,” he said. “I love America too much.”
- while Iranians are far from monolithic, one feature was ubiquitous: the warmth of Iranians when they discovered I was American.
- our trip was slowed by hospitality, for Iranians kept giving us presents or inviting us into their homes.
- Compared with my last visit, in 2004, people seem more discontented — mainly because of economic difficulties caused in part by Western sanctions. Those sanctions are causing bitter pain, yet a surprising number of Iranians seem to largely blame their own leaders for the woes.
- I think that the expressions of love for America reflect, in part, the intuitive embrace by many Iranians of whatever the state media condemn.
After providing this information – which tallies with what other travelers to Iran have recounted – Kristof reaches an inexplicable and illogical conclusion: “My guess is that the demise of the system is a matter of time — unless there’s a war between Iran and the West, perhaps ignited by Israeli strikes on Iranian nuclear sites. That, I sense, would provoke a nationalist backlash and rescue the ayatollahs.”
Comment: Whence this “sense”? If the Iranian population blames the mullahs for its economic woes today, why not assume it will also blame war on them too?