Monday, September 16, 2013

Building Bridges

This past weekend a fire ravaged and destroyed the Islamic Center in the small town of Winona, Minnesota. The fire was tragic event to be sure, but the real story came after the fire died out...

The Central Lutheran Church in Winona, Minnesota, offered worship space for the center's displaced members. While interfaith dialogue is a great concept, thus far it has been mainly just that. There has only been limited engagement worldwide between the Muslim and Christian communities in the way of actively working together. Let these acts of brotherhood be a guide to a new way forward.

Acts such as these are the true work between communities that needs to be highlighted. Rather than simply talking about working together, religious bodies need to become active in uniting for social causes with shared values. Hopefully, out of tragedy we can begin to build new bridges of cross cultural action and unity.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Let the games begin!

Talks on the disputed Iranian nuclear program are to take place on Saturday. These talks will be a decisive point where things can really go in any direction based on the stances that are presented at the talks. Most experts seem to think these talks could be the basis for future negotiations, basically laying the groundwork for the subsequent negotiations. There is no history of goodwill or trust to draw on as strength in the process so negotiating from a position of mutual respect is crucial if either side hopes to lessen the tensions in the region. The crucial question mark in all of this is determining the endgame for Iranian Supreme leader Khamenei. As the leader he has the final say on all matters in Iranian affairs, although there has been speculation as to whether he would have the ability to fully enforce his wishes if leaders of the IRG's wishes are not taken into consideration on nuclear matters. Things are not transparent in Iranian politics and the US doesn't have a complete understanding of the inner workings of the Iranian circles of power.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Slow and steady

There has been little movement in the past few weeks. Negotiations have been set between Iran and the P5+1 to begin on April 13th. The US has made it clear there is an opportunity for a peaceful resolution, but as Hilary Clinton has said, the "window of opportunity... will not remain open forever." The Iranian position is that talks with "mutual respect" will cover a range of topics. This obtuseness on the part of Iran and the converse acuteness of the topics open for discussion by the P5+1 may result in little progress. Without a well defined agenda of topics that are on the table to be discussed and agreed to by both sides, it may prove difficult to find common ground and resolution. I would not expect any developments of note from this negotiation, with the main focus being the setting of an agenda for future negotiations.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Missed Opportunities... and Second Chances?

Could a "Grand Bargain" such as what was put on the table in 2003 by the Iranian reformers and never responded to possibly come to fruition? Preserving the Islamic Republic seems paramount to forwarding the theocracies interests. My analysis is that the "right intention" of Obama sits well within the Iranian regime. Let's not forget that although the prolonged insurgency and reconstruction in Iraq was a difficult process, one which the Iranians know the Americans loathe to repeat, regime change was not. The knowledge of this fact is sure to be ever present in the power circles of Tehran. With Obama having recently sent a secret letter to Khamenei, I believe it is clear to Iranian leaders where Obama stands and at what point he will take military action. When negotiating with the Iranians, coming to the table as an equal with a mutual respect, such as what Obama seemingly portrays, may just be the intangible that changes the equation with all aforementioned factors at play. Only time will tell if this could be a second chance. Be assured that this week we have seen gestures from both Obama, and Khamenei. It could be nothing, or it could be the humble beginnings of something momentous.