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January 21, 2006

Random Iran Thoughts

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

While the rest of us throw around half-assed ideas about what Democrats should say about Iran, Brad Plumer has been working out what a good Iran policy would look like.  A couple things he says:

-Ahmadinejad's belligerent anti-Israel comments might be explained by a desire to make a nuclear Iran acceptable to its Sunni neighbors, who would otherwise fear that Iranian nukes are pointed at them. 

-It's not really clear whether Ahmadinejad has any real power.  His predecessor, Khatami, didn't. 

-Why does Iran want nuclear weapons?  One reason is the massive American presence in the region -- "Understandably, the mullahs feel a bit cagey about the nearby presence of a belligerent nation that frequently invades sovereign nations for no good reason."

Brad is interested in a more engagement-oriented policy, and he cites an Iranian human rights activist who is requesting exactly that.  It seems to me that the only way to bring the Iran problem to a complete resolution is to move the country towards being a stable regime that respects human rights and doesn't feel like hurting anybody.  At that point, it's not too bad for them to have nuclear weapons -- though if things go really well, they may not even feel the need for nukes anymore.  Constructive engagement with Iran is the only way to get there. 

In other Iran-related material, this dispatch from Kevin Sites, a journalist who Yahoo is sending to all sorts of crazy places in the world, was pretty neat.  I liked the part about the Iranians playing basketball out on the street, one of whom was wearing a Celtics jersey and one of whom had Kobe Bryant's #8.  Another dude was selling western records at a flea market, and had a bunch of beloved Pink Floyd and Eric Clapton records in his personal collection.  I'd be willing to bet that this classic rock fan won't want to nuke America.  Don't believe the right-wing bullshit -- the liberal entertainment media is on our side.

January 21, 2006 in Iran | Permalink

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Comments

"Why does Iran want nuclear weapons? One reason is the massive American presence in the region -- "Understandably, the mullahs feel a bit cagey about the nearby presence of a belligerent nation that frequently invades sovereign nations for no good reason."

It's America's fault!

And you guys wonder why people think you are anti-American. Because your first instinct is to blame America for the worlds ills.

You know who else blames America for all the worlds ills, don't you?

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jan 21, 2006 4:53:26 PM

I liked the Kevin Sikes article. I remember being very struck reading the Economist during the Iranian presidential election about how incredibly western the campaigns were. The establishment candidate (whose name I'm too lazy to look up right now; the other guy in the run-off) used roller-girls to hand out leaflets in Tehran traffic. Even Ahmadinejad talked enthusiastically about the internet and how his wife used it to study.

Obviously, politicians feel they have to pander to that attraction to or curiosity about the west. That sentiment, which seemed to endure even the Iraq War, seems an awfully important thing to throw away, but hard-core sanctions or preemptive air attacks would certainly do it.

Posted by: Laura | Jan 21, 2006 6:40:05 PM

Brad's been cookin'.
Saw the Sites article and enjoyed it.
Blue Girl, Red State has a post a few days old that has a good comment thread "Considering Iran...."
Article : "Roza Aslan on Islam" gives some religious overview : posted at www.eurotrib.com/ (links to Booman)

Posted by: opit | Jan 21, 2006 11:16:21 PM

I'm puzzled by the pervasive desire to explain away Ahmadinejad's repeated anti-Semitic ( Holocaust denial is not just anti-Israel) statements as something other than what they are. The guy is probably just a bigot.

There are plenty of them out there and this assumption that he must be an enlightened person using clownish bigotry for tactical reasons is too clever by half.

When Trent Lott praised Strom Thurmond's segregationist past, was he just shoring up support in Virginia?

It seems to me that the only way to bring the Iran problem to a complete resolution is to move the country towards being a stable regime that respects human rights and doesn't feel like hurting anybody

Well, wouldn't that be nice.

Posted by: quietstorm | Jan 22, 2006 1:24:51 PM

quietstorm, I have no love for Ahmadinejad. The important thing, though, is to make sure that we don't launch military action out of a misunderstanding of a foreign leader's motives. (To some extent, this is what happened with Saddam -- we thought he was being shady about his WMD situation out of a desire to conceal his weapons from us. As the Duelfer Report pointed out, he was actually being shady so that Iran would think he had weapons and be afraid of attacking him.) The possibilities raised by Plumer are relevant to this issue.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Jan 22, 2006 2:07:21 PM

So sorry, but we have no reason in the world to believe that Ahmadinejad is kidding. Ever since the Revolution, Iran has used terror groups to attack not only Israel, but Jews around the world (such as in Argentina) without any provocation. Indeed, Israel was a strong ally of Iran under the Shah, and has every desire to be a strong ally again. Only the mullahs' hatred stands in the way.

Ahmadinejad is much more powerful than Khatami ever was, because of his control over the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Remember too that he was one of the leaders of the Revolution, not some Johnny-come-lately like Khatami.

Plus, Ahmadinejad has crossed a dangerous red line that no other Arab leader has ever dared to do, in casting his "mission" in directly messianic terms. This man is not just posturing, he's preparing for a showdown.

Posted by: Mastiff | Jan 22, 2006 3:17:42 PM

Err, "Muslim" for "Arab." Iranians are mostly Farsi.

Posted by: Mastiff | Jan 22, 2006 3:19:00 PM

Werewolf, I didn't say anything about launching a military strike against Iran. I certainly don't think we should bomb every anti-semitic bigoted leader on the planet. Frankly, we might not have enough bombs.

You're making excuses for the inexcusable however. If Hastert or Cheney or Ted Kennedy for example, made repeated references to "shipping the blacks back to Africa" you and I and everyone else would drum the guy out of public life. I don't see how this is any different. This is not a guy to be engaged with. Iran the country, sure, but not not him.

Posted by: QuietStorm | Jan 22, 2006 4:57:35 PM

I'm making no excuses for anyone, quietstorm -- I'm just trying to figure out what a certain (bad) dude really wants, since it's important to our well-being. I'd be overjoyed to see Ahmadinejad drummed out of public life for those remarks, but that's not at issue here. What's at issue is understanding how best to defend American interests, given that Ahmadinejad is part of an environment where lots of our interests are at stake.

If you refuse on principle to develop and examine theories about your enemies' motives, you are going to lose.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Jan 22, 2006 5:27:28 PM

Why are you trying to "figure out" what this guy "really" wants when he's said so over and over and over? If you've found something lacking or inconsistent with the obvious explanation, then maybe it's worthwhile to look at some others but that's not the case. You are the one who is refusing to examine his motives.

Posted by: QuietStorm | Jan 22, 2006 5:41:50 PM

Do you always take what politicians say at face value? It's not like he's writing this in his diary. He happens to be involved in a high-stakes political game in which all the Middle Eastern nations and great powers are players, and you have to understand his words in relation to that.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Jan 22, 2006 6:29:15 PM

There is certainly no reason to reject face value in this case . This isn't a debate about politicians as a species or America's enemies all over the globe, we're talking about Ahmedinijad specifically.

Try this from a preelection piece in the Arab News:

A natural shape-shifter, Rafsanjani is a man for all seasons: He can be hard-liner, soft-liner, or no-liner according to circumstances. Ahamdinezhad, however, is a radical Khomeinist who means what he says even if that is impolite or impolitic.

and

Rafsanjani says men and women are equal but does not believe it. Ahmadinezhad says they are unequal and believes what he says. Rafsanjani promises democracy but is remembered for eight years of despotism when he was last president. Ahmadinezhad, however, states publicly that there can be no democracy in Islam and that the “pure Islamic rule” he promises to establish would bear no relationship to the globally adopted Western pluralist model.

from

http://www.arabnews.com/?page=7&section=0&article=65891&d=25&m=6&y=2005

Posted by: QuietStorm | Jan 22, 2006 7:49:18 PM

Regarding an Iran policy, someone else posted this a few weeks ago and I think it deserves a repost:

http://www.brookings.edu/views/testimony/pollack/20050929.pdf

Theres not much I disagree with there.

Posted by: Adrock | Jan 23, 2006 3:47:19 PM

Neil, I don't think we lose anything by saying that he truly hates Jewish people and would destroy them if he could. Certainly the degree to which his electorate responds to those words, signifies that he functionally has motive to hate Jewish people, and so would any replacement.

The degree to which some people can't accept that a head of state (and the dozens of millions of people he represents) feels something evil, but will still be kept in check by the normal international politics that keep all racist bigotted heads of state in check, is rather frustrating however.

Lastly, anyone who thinks Ahmadinejad would be in power right not if we hadn't invaded Iraq, is just burying their head in the sand.

Posted by: Tony Vila | Jan 24, 2006 5:29:48 PM

I'm all for the Democrat approach... send them free Hustlers. If we litter the country with porn, the Iranian men will be too busy jacking off to fight if we send in the Marines.... You think I jest, but it is true. The Iranians just need a good dose of American Porn to wake them up in the Tehran mornings.

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