The Public & Politics: Clarifying Confusion
As a land-grant institution, the founding mission of the University of Minnesota is to provide and promote access to higher education so we may distribute knowledge that benefits everyone. Professor William Beeman takes this goal to heart by sharing what he has learned and experienced beyond the confines of the classroom and by bringing lessons into the Minneapolis community.
International political issues can be complicated to relay because they are often tied up in multiple groups’ culture and history. Professor Beeman has used anthropology to contextualize many topics over the years, but most recently he has been able to draw from his knowledge of US-Iran relations to explain the real issues behind the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, otherwise known as “The Iran Deal.”
“It’s important that we understand that this is not just a deal between the US and Iran,” Beeman says. The Iran Deal is a joint agreement between five nations: Great Britain, France, Russia, China, and the US to remove UN sanctions on Iran so they may resume their right to peaceful nuclear development.
The way in which the Iran Deal was presented to American citizens was rather warped and inconsistent, because some thought the deal was a treaty between only the US and Iran. Furthermore, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) wanted Iran’s entire nuclear program dismantled, and thus opposed President Obama signing the agreement.
However, a separate treaty, signed into law in 1970, provides that non nuclear weapons nations, like Iran, will have the inalienable right to peaceful nuclear development. The treaty requires that nuclear weapons nations, like the US, protect that right. “Congress calling for complete elimination of Iran’s program is not possible,” Beeman says.
Since Professor Beeman has studied Iranian culture for over forty years and traveled in Iran just this past summer, he was able to not only provide historical and political context for the situation, but also offer the perspective of a culture that isn’t of our own.
Throughout the entire semester, many groups have invited Beeman to speak publicly on the Iranian situation to delve into the issues. He has been invited to speak with KFAI Radio, Almanac (Twin Cities Public Television), Amnesty International, and the Foreign Service Association of Minnesota.
Beeman says that events concerning the Middle East change quickly, so he will sometimes expand his lectures to include the most recent development. For example, he was recently invited to speak about the Iran Deal, but he also spoke about the Paris attacks.
“It is the duty of scholars to share information with the general public,” he says.