Part of Ledeen's note excerpted:
On Iran, it is not fair to suggest that I am inciting the students. I am trying to incite my government to support the students and others who have often demonstrated their contempt for the mullahs. And while you are, God knows, quite right to say I have been compulsive/obsessive about Iran of late, this is the view I have always held toward people living under tyranny who wish to be free. We should help them.
My issue is, given that we simply are not marching into Teheran anytime soon (for a variety of reasons), I'd be curious to hear specifically how we can apply pressure to Iran to democratize in a fashion that will not imperil the lives and futures of the students (and also, it bears mentioning, without Iran more actively sabotaging us in Iraq).
Also, of course, there is the 800 pound gorilla of the nuclear question looming in all of this too.
So let's maybe put the question a bit differently.
What is more important to the American national interest right now?
A democratic Iran?
Or a nuclear-weapons free Iran?
We might, God forbid, not be able to have both (or either!) just now--indeed achieving just one might prove very, very hard.
I'd suggest we should be concentrating, very intently, on Iran's nuclear capability right now (less so on their support for Hezbollah, their domestic policies, the latest clerical rabble-rousing pronunciamentos).
Laura Rozen is right--this issue (barring NoKo testing a nuke or total melt-down in Iraq) will likely be the issue of '05 (particularly given Iran's attendant trouble-making capabilities in Iraq).
Are policymakers ready? Er, not by a long shot.
P.S. Someone over at the FT recently opined we need a Bosnia style "contact group" to address Iraq (by way of making Chirac step up to his obligations and provide a specialized high profile multilateral fora to handle matters Iraq).
Question: might we need one, more urgently, for Iran instead?
UPDATE: Don't miss Ardeshir Zahedi's (no link available) Iran op-ed in today's WSJ-Europe. Zahedi, a former pre-revolutionary Iranian Foreign Minister, makes some pretty succinct points. He structures the op-ed by trying to answer the question "what is to be done" by first addressing what can't.
In this latter category: 1) Iran "cannot be forced to unlearn knowledge accumulated since the 1950s" (nuclear physics etc); 2) Iran must have the right to develop nuclear energy (with Iran's economy growing at 8%/annum all of Iran's oil production might be needed for domestic consumption by 2010); 3) we cannot force Iran to separate its nuclear technology into two halves (civilian/military) as all nations "with a civilian nuclear base are capable, if they so decide, of moving into the military sphere of nuclear technology as well."
Zahedi than basically goes on to say that the Soviets and Americans had been pretty sanguine about letting the Shah potentially develop a "surge capacity" (know-how, infrastructure and personnel to develop a nuclear weapon in a very short time frame without actually doing so) as, per Zahedi, Iran under the Shah was viewed as a pretty well behaved nation-state (no land war since encroachments on Herat in the 1850s!).
So, much like Michael Ledeen, Zahedi then poses the question thus:
Anyone with any knowledge of Iranian politics would know that the present regime in Teheran is strategically committed to developing a nuclear "surge capacity" if not a full arsenal of nuclear weapons. The real question, therefore, is whether the region, and the rest of the world, feel comfortable with the idea of a revoluntionary regime, claiming a messianic mission on behalf of Islam, arming itself with nuclear weapons.
Per Zahedi, a 'peaceful' Iran with nukes would be as inoffensive as England with nukes. This is Zahedi's way of saying--this isn't about Iran's nuclear capabilities writ large--it's about those brutish Mullahs.
So, in the evolving, what the f%&*k to do about Iran debate--look to see the Ledeen-Perle-Zahedi wing argue that, at the end of the day--it's all about regime change, stupid.
Le plus ca change.....
P.S. This begs the question, do we hint to the great Iranian public that we would accept a nuclear Iran, were it not for the presence of those dastardly Mullahs?Posted by Gregory Djerejian at June 30, 2004 01:25 PM