June 30, 2004

We Get Comments

In fairness to Michael Ledeen, whose Iran policy prescriptions I've been critical of of late, I should point out he's commented at my original post here:

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 at June 30, 2004 01:25 PM

I believe we must attack Iran - pre-emptively; a massive pre-emptive strike that would destroy all their nuke sites and their military.

This could neutralize their nuke program and lead to a democratic revolution - as it has in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Even if this attack only achieved the first objective, and failed in achieving the latter, I believe that an Iran in utter disarray - as a result of a massive pre-emtive strike - would be better than a tyrannical Iran that oppresses its own citizens, and which aids and abets Jihadist terror world-wide - while attempting to attain nukes which would make this pre-emptive attack more dangerous, or which could be handed over to Jihadist terrorists to deploy non-conventionally (in suitcases, not on missiles).

We could follow this up with an similar attack on North Korea.

Or we could attack North Korea first.

Further diplomatic efforts at this point only aid the enemy; time is on their side, not ours.

Diplomacy is therefore, at this late date, merely appeasement.

And appeasement never freed a sinlge human soul or prevented a single war.

It would be foolish and bad and wrong for us to waste our precious military advantage over these two pariah states while we still have that advantage.
By failing to act, we'd be erasing our advantage. Effectively handing them a victory.

It would be silly for us to not do what must be done because of fear of either the "arab street" or the UN or France. These foes have NO MORAL STANDING. Zilch. Zero. Bupkus.

Doing the right thing - defending liberty, opposing tryanny in all its forms, and preventing tyrants from gaining the power to blackmail us by getting nukes - is EVERYTHING.

We could give each tyranny an ultimatum first:
"Come clean like Qadafi, or we will wipe you out."

The choice then is theirs.

Posted by: dan at June 30, 2004 03:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Always enjoy your provocative comments.

I am at a loss to figure how a country persuades Iran to de-nuke when they are doing the rope-a-dope with the "soft powers" (France, Germany and the U.K.). Diplomacy, as with in North Korea, appear to be of little benefit to a country bent on becoming a nuclear power, and that (again, like North Korea) baldly threatens other countries with them.

So, I don't see a separation between regime change and de-nuking Iran. And I don't see a separation between Iranian nuclear weaponry and the will, motivation and competence to develop and deploy them.

Posted by: Capt America at June 30, 2004 09:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

so we either a) negotiate with the mullahs so they don't go nuclear (and run the risk of failing), b) overthow the current govt (almost impossible to imagine doing now) or c) try to rouse internal dissent but, should a crackdown occur, likely screw the Shi'a there as badly as we screwed the Shi'a in '91 Iraq?

Better options?

Posted by: jjacob at June 30, 2004 11:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The mullahs derive their power from the economic production of Iran. Without that production, the mullahs are no more powerful than religious or tribal leaders in Equatorial Guinea.

The mullahs have crossed the line in supporting terrorists in Iraq. They must pay the ultimate price for these actions.

Western nations dependent on Iran for oil will need to find other suppliers. Soon.

Posted by: Dar at July 3, 2004 12:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg. First time visitor here, great blog.

Are you posing the question honestly looking for an answer, or simply setting up a softie for someone to hit out of the park?

If so, here's my swing: Seems obvious to me. Let the Israelis know we would be very happy if they could do it again.

Posted by: Skeej at July 8, 2004 05:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This comment is on a stale post, but...

That 8% growth rate sounds suspicious. Have you found it cited in any non-Iranian source? The regime obviously has an interest in convincing its citizens that jobs and lower inflation are on the way, and it fits the Chinese playbook from which the mullahs have learned so much: "In order to prosper, we'll allow some social and economic freedom, but don't expect us to give up a bit of control over the government or the income we get from our lucrative monopolies."

For what it's worth, the Economist says the following:
"Real GDP growth is forecast at 4.2% in 2004, easing to 3.9% in 2005 as oil prices fall. The average rate of inflation is forecast to fall slightly to 15.5% in 2005 and 14.1% in 2005."

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