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Friday, December 3, 2021

Column: Parenting Iran

Iran is in a serious time-out, having just been sent to the proverbial oil sanction corner on Monday by Daddy and Mommy European Union. Iran’s punishment comes after growing threats that the country is increasing funding for an already sizable nuclear program.

The language used in describing this world news story is really that of a parent disciplining a naughty child. While following the reporting, I almost felt like the goody-goody sister eavesdropping from the stair banister, secretly reveling in my sibling’s sharp vicissitude. It felt uncomfortably self-righteous.

Within two paragraphs, I’ve already grown fond of this familial metaphor so I’m going to make it an extended one. Entertain us both and you’ll see that my analogy does a fine job of mashing up the mystery that is international relations by serving it into neat portions of easily digestible, child-proof information.

In our family, there are the strict parents who offer non-negotiable consequences: “Today’s sanction against Bank Tejarat will deepen Iran’s financial isolation, make its access to hard currency even more tenuous and further impair Iran’s ability to finance its illicit nuclear program,” said David S. Cohen, U.S. Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

His tone matches the oh-so-familiar “I’m taking away your allowance” defense. “So what?” or “Pish posh!” we rebelliously retort. There are other ways to stay financially solvent, ways that need not require the assistance of a guardian.

The EU accounts for a mere 18 percent (2.2 million barrels a day) of Iran’s oil export share. Iran could easily call up its Eastern friends in India and China, who run a combined 35 percent tab on the country’s exports, and negotiate a 10-15 percent discount to sell off the EU’s leftovers.

While we may not be dependent on the ultimatum-giving parents, how do we understand the new-age, Abercrombie-wearing, alcohol-supplying ones who coolly accept the truths of our ever-corrupt society?

Meant as a warning against Iran’s potential reactions to the imposed oil sanctions, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “For now, Iran continues to produce nuclear weapons without disturbance.”

This sort of relaxed attitude would be reminiscent of Regina George’s mom in Mean Girls walking in on her daughter and her boyfriend about to, ahem, consummate their love. Mrs. George talks over the smacking of lips, “Can I get you guys anything? Some snacks? A condom? Let me know! Oh God, love ya.”

The parents who decry, “Kids will be kids!” and are almost too scared, or in awe, of their children to fathom disciplining them will receive morsels of respect from their offspring. If they allow oil or nuclear copulation to occur under their roof, America and the EU will become these pushover types to Iran.

Lastly, there is the pleasantly stern parent team that sits decorously at the dining table, fingers crossed and smiles half cracked. While the adults speak in a calm, monotone voice, the child floods with hot tears to produce a reaction.

“Today’s action demonstrates the EU’s growing concern about Iran’s nuclear programme and our determination to increase peaceful, legitimate pressure on Iran to return to negotiations,” said British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

The European Union and U.S. seem to favor this clenched-jaw approach to taming international disputes. As momentarily aggravating as it is to be the object of another’s discerning gaze, I can’t help but concede from experience that such scrutiny is in fact the best technique.

Without the perspective of others — be it parents or fellow countries — we wouldn’t have a way of knowing precisely where we fall on the human bell curve. As Iran wades through these deep petroleum waters, I can only surmise that America and the EU will wish for Iran to end up on the sweet side of the function.

If you too have a knack for syllogisms, contact CHELSEA MEHRA at cmehra@ucdavis.edu for deductive reasoning worksheets.

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