Women are subject to numerous restrictions in Saudi Arabia, including a strict dress code, a prohibition against driving and the need for a man’s permission to travel or have surgery. Women are also not allowed to testify in court unless it is about a private matter that was not observed by a man, and they are not allowed to vote.
In Iran, women do have to appear in public veiled, although that is hardly an encumbrance. They have the franchise, have representatives in the Iranian Parliament, and even argue vigorously for a feminist interpretation of the Holy Q'uran, borrowing hermeneutic tools from Christian feminists. In Saudi Arabia, such crimes would probably deliver the perpetrator to the chopping block.
It is true that once upon a time, the Iranians stormed the US embassy there and held our diplomats hostage for over year. It is also true that the violent anti-American sentiment was rooted in a history of violence perpetrated against the Iranian people by a regime that was, in essence, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the United States. The SAVAK got their training in the United States, after all.
Of the two countries, however, Iran is, for all intents and purposes, a far more enlightened, cosmopolitan place than the medieval nightmare on the sands. While the reasons (oil) for preferences (oil) should (oil) be obvious (oil), it just astounds me that people carry on as if Saudi Arabia had a society (oil) worth protecting (did I mention oil?). It may be in our interest to deal with the Saudis; it is most definitely in our longer term interests to set aside our neurotic fear, based mostly on lies, of Iran, and deal with them as well. After all they have (oil) certain qualities (oil) that would attract (oil) much attention (oil) from the US (oil), including influence over Hezbollah in Lebanon (oil), and would be a good ally in the struggle against the Sunni Al Qaeda (oil). Since the Saudis practically fund them, we might be working against our own interests (oil) by continuing to support the Merovingian House of (Oil) Saud.
I am quite sure someone will say, "But . . . But . . . Ahmedinejad is a Holocaust denier! He wants to wipe Israel off the map!" As to the first, well, yeah. As to the second, I don't live in Israel, and while that is a horrible statement, it is hardly realistic and so is just so much rhetorical fluff. Besides which, Ahmedinejad isn't Iran (as we're constantly told), but the Mullahs in the Clerical Council run the show (only in areas where sharia might apply), and while Grand Ayatollah Khamenei may still hold an animus against the US, I think he might be persuaded (dollars for oil) to see reasons (dollars for oil) in a realistic diplomatic strategy that appealed to the Iranian sense of national self-interest (dollars for oil; oh, and releasing Iranian assets frozen since 1979).
That's my modest proposal for this Saturday. We switch our allegiance from an insane monarchy, a nation which provides material support to enemies of the United States, as well as several nationals who flew planes in to buildings here, to one that, despite a convoluted history and much bad feeling and enmity on both sides, shares many more things with us, including a desire to keep Sunni militancy from undermining the relative tranquility of Islam.