April 13, 2006
Picking Ahmadinejad’s Brains
Mmm…Forbidden Nookular Weapons….
There was a very interesting artcle by NYT writers Eric Sanger and David Schmidt in today’s International Herald Tribune, “Iran Has Bush’s Aids Scratching their Heads.”
Ashton Carter, a security expert from Harvard, was interviewed by the writers and said:
“In Tehran, the threat of military action is double-edged. It may scare leadership, but it could also cause people to rally around the leadership.”
Interesting quote–although many Iranians didn't support Ahmadinejad's bid for presidency, I wonder how much support he can garner if citizen's feel their country is being badgered by the West–or if there is a believable threat for sanctions?
It would be a challenge to get international support for economic sanctions, especially since it doesn't seem Russia or China are too pressed over the U.S.'s objectives in Iran. Even if the U.S. could convince Russia and China not to veto resolutions against Iran in the Security Council, how will sanctions change policy? Look at the effect of sanctions in Cuba, North Korea and Iraq. How would an oil embargo or ban of investments in Iran affect its civilians? These are some of the things the S.C. have to consider–they don't want a looming humanitarian crises in Iran–with a much larger population than Iraq.
Perhaps it is to Bush’s advantage that Ahmadinejad continue to antagonize the U.S. and Europe and ignore the recommendations of the International Atomic Energy Agency? What better poster boy for regime change in Iran than someone threatening to wipe a nieghboring Middle Eastern country off the map–and claims to have waves of martyrs ready to do his bidding? After all, Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric only serves to make any future dialogue between Iran and the West look like conciliation.
Instead of isolating Iran or planning military action to undermine the regime from the outside, the Bush administration should engage Iranian people and try to bring about a natural process of political reform from within. I know this sounds a bit Pollyana-ish, but it is possible, a large percentage of the Iranian population is under 25–with no memory of the Iranian revolution and unahppy with how the clerics maintain absolute control.
Ahmadinejad is great at wrapping himself around a cloak of nationalism. Coercive diplomacy on the nuclear proliferation issue may undermine efforts to drain Ahmadinejad's support from Iran’s clerical leaders.
The majority of people who voted for Ahmadinejad were veterans of the Iran-Iraq war, who felt neglected under the former presidency. The election was boycotted by many Iranian opposition leaders who believed the elections were not going to be fair but co-opted by the clerical regime.
Can the West appeal to the young people? Nurturing a new generation of reformers to embrace decentralization, accountability and transparency may help the U.S., Europe and the U.N. become prospective partners with Iran in the future. It's worth a try to see what's going on and what people are saying in unversities, bookstores, forums and cafes.
Take a look at Blogs by Iranians to see what people are writing.