US needs clean, strong hand in dealing with Iran

Regarding Pat Holt's Jan. 6 Opinion piece "A good next step in Iran: restore diplomatic ties": If we as Americans truly wish to demonstrate that we are serious about a policy of promoting democracy, we must demand evidence of a reciprocal level of human rights before we engage diplomatically or commercially. We bent over backwards to provide China with Most Favored Nation trade status before its consideration of membership to the WTO, and the Chinese still cannot practice freedom of religion and are enduring fresh crackdowns on their journalists. Engagement produced nothing but soil upon our conscience for the expediency of cheap labor.

We are in a position to demand basic standards of human rights and judicial transparency as a prerequisite for establishing commercial, economic, and diplomatic relations with Iran. To fail to make such a demand will prove to the Iranian people that their lives, dignity, and respect are subservient to business interests.
Troy Zimmermann
Playa del Rey, Calif.

I fear that many would be offended by Pat Holt's light description of SAVAK as "the shah's no-nonsense intelligence service." SAVAK was the shah's tool for political oppression, and it needs to be made clear what this organization did to Iranians. It was responsible for the torture and execution of many innocent people. Remember that many associate SAVAK with the US and Israel, since, as was said, these countries helped organize SAVAK. It's not beneficial to the US to portray SAVAK in a positive light; instead, the US should acknowledge all of its interactions with the organization and officially retract its acceptance of that group.

All the political groups agreed with one thing: oust the Shah. That was why the Revolution was able to happen in the first place, because so many different groups with different ideologies were able to unify in their hatred for the dictatorial regime. We can call that unified hatred a form of fundamentalism, but we certainly can't call it a "Muslim fundamentalist regime," as Mr. Holt does. This is an important point, because people need to know that many Iranians who were part of the Revolution never imagined that the government they were about to build would turn out the terrible way it did. They are just as much victims as the US hostages held for 444 days.
Eiman Zolfaghari
Kirkland, Wash.

Learning from past US presidents

At the end of his Jan. 4 piece "Bush's legacy may hinge on outcome in Iraq," Godfrey Sperling asked the following question: "Why did John Quincy Adams lose a second term while George W. [Bush] won?" He chalked it up to the fact that Adams could be a moody, abrasive fellow, while Bush has an essentially likeable personality.

The common denominator in the victories of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and George W. Bush (over John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and John Kerry) was a superb political machine. In each case, the campaigns played upon the idea of a cold, aloof, elite guy from Massachusetts running against a stalwart man of the people.

Incidentally, another "man of the people," Bill Clinton, played the cold and aloof card against another one-term, New England-born president - the senior Mr. Bush. In the Adamses' case, the son didn't learn from the father's mistake. Instead, he lost, but went on to an illustrious career in the House of Representatives as the main opponent of slavery.

John Quincy Adams made the statement that no position could be beneath him, if it was in service to the people. With the Bushes, the son did learn from his father's defeat. While it might have made him a better politician, did it make him a better man?
Debra L. Wiley
Inglewood, Calif.

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