Tremors from Iran's Earthquake

Earthquakes do more than just level buildings. Often they level mountains of differences between peoples.

The quake in Iran's ancient city of Bam on Friday was so massive - killing tens of thousands - that it created an outpouring of compassion that temporarily leveled a diplomatic palisade between the US and Iran.

The US military, whose last big venture into Iran was a mangled attempt to rescue American hostages in 1980, quickly flew in 150,000 pounds of food and medical supplies to aid survivors. The Americans were warmly greeted by Iranian military workers as they worked together to unload cargo.

Just weeks ago, Iran had been caught with a secret program making bomb-grade nuclear material and the US was eager to have economic sanctions slapped on a country President Bush saw as part of an "axis of evil."

Such issues won't go away, but the goodwill seen in the earthquake aid does open the door wider to create a level of trust.

The quake also helped level the unequal relations between Iranians and the ruling Islamic clerics.

Using Iran's limited democracy, many people openly criticized the government for not heeding warnings to prepare for such earthquakes, both in enforcing construction codes and in readiness to deal with such a disaster.

"It seems our experiences are only useful to other countries - they are the ones who learn from our mistakes," stated one newspaper. The regime's lack of democratic accountability is now laid bare in Bam's ruin.

The quake's huge death toll, as well as the loss of Bam's medieval citadel, are regrettable. But the political after-tremors are worth noting and building upon.

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