Ambassador Dan Simpson offered three responses to the question that he posed in his June 27 column ("Why Can't We Just Get Along With the Iranians?"). In order of presentation these are: the Iranian diaspora in the United States, the stance taken by Israel and the presence of the Sunni states in the Persian Gulf.
In an essay of 160 lines, Mr. Simpson devoted 21 lines to reviewing the Iranian diaspora, 15 lines to the Sunni-Shiite conflict and 59 lines to Israel as an obstacle to better U.S.-Iranian relations. With his disproportionate coverage of these three factors, Mr. Simpson led readers to conclude that, more than anything else, Israel stands in the way of our having better relations with the Iranian government.
Consequently, the structure of Mr. Simpson's essay not only perpetuated a dated and, in my view, erroneous allegation -- that U.S. Middle Eastern policy is shaped in Jerusalem rather than in Washington -- it also reduced the value of his argument by not taking seriously the two other factors he suggested as answers to his own rhetorical question.
For instance, Mr. Simpson made no effort to inform readers of the very important position taken by Saudi Arabia on Iran. In fact, Israeli and Saudi politicians agree to a considerable degree on the threat that Shiite Iran poses to both countries, and Mr. Simpson should have offered readers some insight into the Saudis' religious, economic and geopolitical concerns about Iran as well as their efforts to convey those fears to Washington. That he chose not to do so means, sadly, that Mr. Simpson offered readers personal views rather than a balanced and analytical response to the very serious question that he posed for discussion.
The writer is an emeritus faculty member of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.