June 19, 2003

More Cautionary Notes Re: Iran

More Cautionary Notes Re: Iran

Check out this piece.

Key graf: "But easily the most outspoken and optimistic proponent of the theory is the American Enterprise Institute's Michael Ledeen. Writing from the United States, Ledeen has claimed that "something like half a million" Iranians attended an anti-government protest in Tehran in November. But claims like these have proven wildly overblown. More reliable sources--for example, Christopher de Bellaigue, an Economist correspondent who witnessed the protest--put the number at around five thousand. While observers like De Bellaigue don't deny that popular resentment toward the regime is strong and growing, they disagree that the regime is ready to crumble. Iranian-born journalist Amir Taheri, writing in National Review Online, has noted that the regime is capable of remarkable pragmatism when its survival is threatened--as when it cooperated with the United States in Afghanistan after September 11 to ensure that Iran itself did not become a target." [my emphasis]

I'm not trying to dampen the considerable excitment underway given potentially counter-revoluntionary going-ons in Iran. And dispatches such as this one from a student make us want to be more helpful. But this is an area that we are going to need to handle with extreme caution given potential nationalist resentment if we overplay our hand coupled with the fact that we can't really protect the students at this juncture (if there were a more violent crackdown) short of boots on the ground--an option not seriously on the table anywhere in the Beltway at this juncture.

Given that, like Greene, I'm a bit concerned that moving funds into the country to anti-government forces (per some Hill boosters like Sam Brownback) could help the mullahs make a case that the students are foreign agents thus facilitating the conditions for a large-scale crackdown. One that the U.S., in all likelihood, would be powerless to stop.

Posted by Gregory at June 19, 2003 11:33 AM
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