July 14, 2005

Lede of the Week...

...no, it's not Rove-related. It's this Iran related gem:

Iran will resume uranium enrichment if the European Union does not recognize its right to do so, two Iranian nuclear negotiators said in an interview published Tuesday.

Got that? It's a tad, er, circular....but jaw-jaw better, right?

Posted by Gregory at July 14, 2005 03:59 AM | TrackBack (9)
Comments

So what do you suggest we do instead?

Posted by: just me at July 14, 2005 04:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

well, not by going mike ledeen on their ass, but not by dwelling in an Alice-in-Wonderland wilderness of Euro-troika mirrors either...show carrots, but make the sticks rustle a bit more in the background i guess...i mean, what else to do? to sum up: jaw jaw with more kick; and keep the option of force on the table in credible fashion. this last, given iraq, hard to do...yeah, no great kicks as an answer? but i've already described how the leeden way can backfire mightily...gin up revolt in the streets of Teheran, see them repressed, see us powerless to do anything about it. I don't want that on my conscience, and that's how i see that scenario playing out. there are too many undercurrents of nationalism the mullahs can tap into, too many bread and butter issues too preoccupying the poor and middle classes--it's not all the Publius and Leeden and Regime Change--Iran show over there. Or a bunch of hot chicks who want to pound Cosmos and wear Revlon--but for those asshole Mullahs. the plots is a lot more complicated, I'm afraid, and so we need to tread carefully indeed. revolutions, after all, are successful when labor and the street and broad swaths of the polity join the dandy intellectuals ('democracy' 'whiskey' 'sexy'!). some might tilt in libertine directions, but the Mullahs are a smart and devious lot. they will portray, if the Americans become too interventionist, those who join the students as collabarators. and they would likely be successful in doing so--especially if talk of "free iran' safe havens starts becoming part of the beltway lexicon in more sober circles. but i suppose that makes me a statist coward for many. a (cue disgusted sigh) realist. does this mean that i don't believe many iranians don't crave and hunger for human liberty? that i don't admire and pray with them for their ultimate freedom in a post-revolutionary, modern-oriented Iran? no, it doesn't. but politics is the art of the possible. We have our hands full with Iraq now anyway. Anyone who tells you we could protect students (really support the prospective counter-revolutionaries there with real muscle and staying power and to the end) in Iran after a crackdown we encouraged there is just full of shit. It's just that simple.

Posted by: greg at July 14, 2005 05:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I guess that was my point... better "jaw-jaw" than, well, nothing.

I think history will look back at Iraq as the missed opportunity... whether you agreed with going in or not, I think it's safe to say that we've royally screwed up. Not giving money to local redevelopment, not having enough troops to protect the populace and prevent at least the magnitude of the looting, and a unfortunate diplomatic effort that all but insured we were going in alone (plus the Brits of course, but please, spare me the rest).

If we had done this right (better?) than we might have more options on the table vis-a-vis Iran. More to the point, perhaps we should've dealt with Iran first?

I'm no expert, but even back then Iran and North Korea seemed, well, more troublesome in the short term.

Posted by: just me at July 14, 2005 05:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

does it occur to anyone else that Iran will "resume" refining uranium if the EU doesn't recognize its right to do so, and if the EU does recognize its right to refine, will admit that its been doing it all along and "continue" doing so?

Posted by: p.lukasiak at July 14, 2005 05:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"gin up revolt in the streets of Teheran, see them repressed, see us powerless to do anything about "

Thats happening anyway, from time to time and do some extent, isnt it? Is it not possible it would be better to gin up a revolt that has an actual chance of succeeding? On the other hand you are right that our hands will be stronger when we are farther along in Iraq. But the new Prez in Iran may well be triggering a backlash, and this MAY be the revolutionary moment.

What Id suggest you and other bloggers could start would be a real discussion about the internal situation in Iran, and the prospects for revolution. One in between the MSM assumption that the Iranian regime is a given, and the POV found on Iranian opposition websites and seemingly endorsed by Ledeen, that revolution is always on the point of breaking out. I see too little real discussion.

After our experience in Iraq, wouldnt it be nice to start with a detailed picture of the situation inside Iran (which is not to suggest that the action contemplated for Iran resembles that in Iraq)

Posted by: liberalhawk at July 14, 2005 04:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

as for what else should 'we' do, that depends on who the "we" is. I saw gregs original post as directed more at the EU3 than at US policy makers. The EU3 should consider iminently referring this matter to the UNSC, where economic sanctions on Iran can be discussed.

Posted by: liberalhawk at July 14, 2005 04:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

as for what else should 'we' do, that depends on who the "we" is. I saw gregs original post as directed more at the EU3 than at US policy makers. The EU3 should consider iminently referring this matter to the UNSC, where economic sanctions on Iran can be discussed.

Posted by: liberalhawk at July 14, 2005 04:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I would think that a useful discussion of this would need to balance the risks of any policy that is advocated. That means not only discussing the downsides of military intervention, but an honest flushing out of the implications standing aside while Iran continues with their nuclear program and successfully building a nuclear weapon.

Where will that leave us? One could argue that Iran will become an order of magnitude more brazen about sponsoring and exporting terrorism into Iraq and Afghanistan while we are stymied doing the diplomatic dance for years about whether or not to have unilateral or multi-national negotiations (e.g. North Korea). In effect Iran becomes a much more secure sanctuary.

A military strike taking out nuclear facilities would have serious political downsides but it could have a Falkland Islands affect, basically discrediting the leaders in charge and setting the stage for their political downfall. A long shot, I admit, but something that needs to be factored in. If that were an option on the table, the EU would want to be encouraged not to go along with Iran's proposal.


Posted by: bob at July 14, 2005 05:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Liberalhawk and Bob,

I don't believe the UN Security Council has the unanimity to impose economic sanctions on Iran, and it will be difficult for the United States to impose economic sanctions unilaterally. Iran could build pipelines to the rest of Eurasia if Russia and the Central Asian republics agree.

Should Iran get nuclear weapons, an American strategy of preventive war would be impossible to sustain, and US influence in southwest Asia would probably diminish. But the real danger of a nuclear Iran is the near-certainty that Saudi Arabia and the larger Arab countries of North Africa would acquire nuclear weapons next. This would be no less a complication for Iran as it would be for us.

The military options for preventing a nuclear Iran are unclear to me. While regime change (if it occurs) would be desirable for other reasons, it will not prevent the country from getting nuclear weapons, because democratic Iranians want them no less than the theocracy. If regime change isn't immediate, a US military strike would provoke Iran to retaliate in Iraq, and we could end up with a much bigger insurgency.

American policy has been so focused on Iraq that it has taken for granted the larger context of a nuclear-free Persian Gulf. If Iran goes nuclear, circumstances may force a change in American strategy after 2008.


Posted by: David Billington at July 15, 2005 07:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The UN Security Council does not appear to have the unanimity to impose economic sanctions on Iran, and it will be difficult for the United States to impose them unilaterally. Iran could build pipelines to the rest of Eurasia if Russia and the Central Asian republics agree.

Should Iran get nuclear weapons, an American strategy of preventive war would be impossible to sustain, and US influence in southwest Asia would probably diminish. But the real danger of a nuclear Iran is the near-certainty that Saudi Arabia and the larger Arab countries of North Africa would acquire nuclear weapons next. This would be no less a complication for Iran as it would be for us.

The military options for preventing a nuclear Iran are unclear to me. While regime change (if it occurs) would be desirable for other reasons, it will not prevent the country from getting nuclear weapons, because democratic Iranians want them no less than the theocracy. If regime change isn't immediate, a US military strike would provoke Iran to retaliate in Iraq, and we could end up fighting a much larger insurgency.

American policy has been so focused on Iraq that it has taken for granted the larger context of a nuclear-free Persian Gulf. If Iran goes nuclear, circumstances may force a change in American strategy after 2008.


Posted by: David Billington at July 15, 2005 08:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

1. Its possible Russia and China would veto sanctions on Iran, even in the face of blatant Iranian violations, and EU3-US unity. Well, then, lets put them on the spot, and make them play their cards. That would at least clarify things for all concerned

2. If the US and EU were to jointly impose sanctions that would be a big deal. The issue is not a market for oil exports - oil is a commodity, you can always find a market for it. The real issue is investments in Iran, esp the oil and gas sector, but other sectors as well. They need to grow their economy to create jobs for their restless young. I dont know that Russia and China can provide that.

Posted by: liberalhawk at July 15, 2005 05:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Liberalhawk: "2. If the US and EU were to jointly impose sanctions that would be a big deal. The issue is not a market for oil exports - oil is a commodity, you can always find a market for it. The real issue is investments in Iran, esp the oil and gas sector, but other sectors as well. They need to grow their economy to create jobs for their restless young. I dont know that Russia and China can provide that."

As far as I know, the US has minimal economic ties to Iran, and I don't think Europe is heavily invested either, so the risk of sanctions is really the opportunity cost they might entail. Certainly Iran needs to employ its younger population but the country has had high oil revenues for years and the problem has been mismanagement, not lack of funds. There is also a huge amount of featherbedding in Iran (in the bonyads). The country probably could benefit from FDI but as in China modernization could make the employment situation worse in the short run.

Iran needs to modernize its civil air fleet and some other technologies but in a larger sense they don't lack engineering and business skills to produce for their domestic market, nor do they lack capital. They needed outside help with nuclear technology, which Russia supplied, and with missiles, which they got from North Korea. Iran may now be self-sufficient in these technologies.

Iran is a nation of seventy million people that will become an industrial power of 120-140 million eventually (ie. comparable to Russia). Its people will not accept a nuclear status inferior to that of Pakistan. We may have to think of Iran not as a small rogue state but as a hostile great power with whom we must hope that deterrence works, and in which we must hope a more democratic society will evolve.

Posted by: David Billington at July 15, 2005 06:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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