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Bombing Iran or Ignoring Ahmadinejad?

"The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favour of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months," writes The Guardian.
This story is taken seriously by
Dan Drezner, associate professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a small-l libertarian Republican. He wrote an open letter to President Bush "begging" him to "just stop worrying about Iran. Worry about other things instead," like Pakistan's tribal areas, resurgent Al Qaeda and Iraq.

Perhaps ignoring Iran is the right way to promote regime change. After all, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s star is fading fast, writes Monica Maggioni in Foreign Policy:
Mocking the president has become a pastime not only for rebellious university students, but also members of the establishment and the government itself. (...) The jokes—and who is delivering them—tell the story of a man whose power is on the decline as Iran’s economy collapses around him. Prices for basic goods are skyrocketing, and the government is unable to cope with increasing poverty. Just last month, over 50 Iranian economists sent an open letter excoriating the president’s mismanagement of the economy. (...)
But even if Ahmadinejad makes it through next spring, many analysts in the country are ready to bet that he won’t be reelected in 2009; the opposition is just too strong, and the economy will likely be in worse straits by that time. In fact, the only thing that could save him now is the United States.
In another post, Dan Drezner agrees with this analysis, but worries that Ahmadinejad now
has an incentive to pursue policies that antagonize the United States as much as possible -- in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the Persian Gulf, towards Israel, etc. The U.S. response, according of every Iran-watcher I've heard from regardless of party affiliation -- should be low-key.  Here's my problem -- doesn't this approach essentially give Ahmadinejad carte blanche to do whatever he wants in the region?
Personal opinon: The US is not a hyperpower that can grant and withdraw a carte blanche. It took European powers some time after the loss of the colonies to realize their limited power. Now the US has to learn that the unipolar moment and the hyperpower feeling are definitely over.
The US diplomacy and military only has limited powers. The Bush administration cannot control or stop Iran.
Tough rhetoric and empty threats will not force Iran to give up its nuclear program, but will actually save Achmadinejad from internal political pressure, as Monica Maggioni argued in the Foreign Policy article.

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steve on :

President Achminijad is merely the transitory symbol of the Islamic Revolution. The theocrats have been attempting to build nuclear devices since the 80s and the missile technology to deliever them. President Achminijad may very well be deposed, but that still leaves an entrenched theocratic oligarchy with foreign policy goals antithetical to ours and unnegotiable. We have been in a low grade conflict with Iranians for 28 years. They are currently supplying Shia insurgents in Iraq with munitions and Revolutionary Guards to train them. That is an act of war and a casus belli that would carry the Senate if need be. I dont believe we will attack Iran in the near future due to war fatigue. However, Ms. Maggioni does not help either by belitting the Iranians and concentrating the threat to west on Achminijad. The President in Iran is a figurehead and a puppet of the mullahs on the Islamic Council. Members of their Parliament are vetted by the IC. This has been the case for years and is even know to the ill-bred, poorly-read and nuke Ayatollah-assholla crowd. Achminijad will go when the theocrats so decide. It is simply a middle school argument that foreign policy wonks trot out in Foreign Affairs. Sure, it can happen and has. Salazar and Franco's government fell to societal pressure and reformed. It only took what 30 or 40 years? The USSR disintegrated peacefully only because Gorby, God bless em, did not give the green light for a continent-wide slaughter. South American and East Asian dictatorships and military juntas dissolve peacefully, but they are reactionary movements against real or imagined leftists or national threats and not, as the Islamic Republic is, the embodiment of a new State and a citizenry annealed by religious fervor (okay some of it). The citizens dont rebel because they would get massacred by crazied Shia extremists.

SC on :

JW, one can hear many things these days. But, frustration by Bush or Cheney with course and pace of diplomacy regarding Iran is not news; nor is the desire to "deal" with Iranian nuclear ambitions before their term in office expires. But its quite a leap to conclude that policy has or even is about to change fundamentally regarding Iran based on a reported expression of exasperation with the State Department's assessment that, from their perspective, things will be pretty much as they are right now regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions - 2 years from now.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

I agree that it is quite a leap. That's why I am surprised that Dan Drezner makes this leap. I thought he was a pretty conservative -- sorry: libertarian -- guy, and he calls himself a Republican. I am not surprised that the Guardian makes this leap.

Don S on :

Within his subculture Drezner (the subgenre of tenured professors in the US) is a positively paleolithic right-winger. In terms of the society outside of that small group he might qualify as a leftish GOPer or an independent. He's not the most convincing libertarian either. I like him becuase he's one of the few academics one can discuss real issues with. The filters placed upon getting the PhD and gaining tenure ensure that the vast majority of his colleagues wind off completely off the page of rational public discourse.

SC on :

Don S, I'm chuckling at your characterization of Drezner and the US professoriat. As a fully fledged member, there is something to what you say. But I'm left scratching my head, wondering how some of my colleagues would then be classified: those who would regard Drezner's claim to libertarian conservatism with far greater skepticism than you've expressed. JW, Drezner and the Guardian are not without reason in expressing their views or concerns. The naval build up in the Gulf that has been taking place for the better part of this past year has not been justified as required for the support of the mission in Iraq. I don't think the Administration hides their intent that this is a warning to one and all not to dismiss a military option. The expectation of effectiveness for this may well be premised on a view that a great many people are vested in certain perceptions of Bush and Cheney. As Don has suggested, the intended audience may not be Iran alone or even primarily. I would modify Don's point about Europe to suggest that the primary audience may be even closer than Europe; namely, the State Department itself. I'm sure that the Administration is well aware of the weaknesses described in Maggioni's article. The message to the State Department and all others might be this: This is not a lame duck administration regardless of our time remaining in office. Iran has weaknesses that can be exploited. The status quo or incremental change is not acceptable; so, work and think harder, and above all else, act. Having suffered a major policy defeat recently in Congress does not mean that this Administration is now prepared to accept a diminution of its relevance.

Don S on :

"wondering how some of my colleagues would then be classified: those who would regard Drezner's claim to libertarian conservatism with far greater skepticism than you've expressed." I'm not sure. One problem with many academics is that they insist in interacting with me in derridaian terms (i.e: He made me an offer I couldn't understand). Those whom I might nominally understand sometimes lie (see Ward Churchill), though more frequently it's simply the obvious case that conclusion precedes research and analysis (that is that they lie to themselves before they lie to me). Then there are the ones who begin with Argumentum ad Insultum: (you voted for Bush twice - obviously you lack a brain). Sometimes at such length that I'm asleep before the preamble is complete. This kind of behavior is by no means limited to academics in the humanities or social 'sciences': I recall sitting next to an Italian computer sciences professor (a database specialist) who betrayed no obvious knowledge of databases. He was unfortunate - I am a software engineer with a passing acquaintence with the subject.

SC on :

Nothing Derridian intended, Don. I was simply bemused at the thought of how someone who would think Drezner a "paleolithic rightwinger" (and I do know some who might) might classify a few of my colleagues: true Goldwater Republicans (some old enough to be so) who are likely to think Drezner a very pallid member of their tribe.

Don S on :

"Nothing Derridian intended, Don." Clearly. You write english recognizable by the non-cognosceti. ;) I was simply bemused at the thought of how someone who would think Drezner a "paleolithic rightwinger" (and I do know some who might) might classify a few of my colleagues: true Goldwater Republicans (some old enough to be so) who are likely to think Drezner a very pallid member of their tribe. Subhuman perhaps? I'm well to the right of Drezner and have gainded the strongest impression that significant numbers of academics seem to view the likes of me as beyond the pale. Some attitudes I've seen recall an anecdote I read about a Rothschild living in Vienna. When he sent a letter to a neighbor of ancient noble lineage the answer was 'I'll have no truck with Jews'. well, right. Seeems to me some people could profit from a free copy of the Dale Carnegie classic 'How to Win Friends and Influence People', but then what do I know?

SC on :

"Subhuman perhaps?" Well, maybe not so far beyond the pale. Perhaps, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, or better still Homo sapiens heidelbergensis. ;)

Don S on :

So these gentlepeople presumably earned the high status of "Homo sapiens heidelbergensis" because they earned the PhD at some point? ;) I wonder what that makes those of us who have not achieved this distinction (I'm being polite here - there are some clubs no decent person wishes to belong to - like the KKK). Perhaps some form of arachnid? Hmmmm something extinct I should say. How about a trilobite? A cephalopod? I was an avid fossil-hunter in my youth and my prize specimen was a beautiful chunk of a cephalopod - museum quality.

Don S on :

Sorry, comnparing the professoriate with the KK was unkind. Rather, let's say that it is not utterly necessary to be a pluperfect prating fool in order to be a successful academic (as you seem to prove). But it helps.

SC on :

No offense taken. When considering academics, one thing to keep in mind that I realized long ago is that they are, first and foremost, ordinary human beings; and I stress ordinary; possessing all the foibles a flaws that you would find more-or-less in the first person you might meet on the street. Is there political bias across the general population of US academics? In my experience, yes. But the loud mouths, the preening and prating fools that justifiably annoy you, as they do me, I've found to be more the exception than the rule in my travels.

Don S on :

"This is not a lame duck administration regardless of our time remaining in office. Iran has weaknesses that can be exploited. The status quo or incremental change is not acceptable; so, work and think harder, and above all else, act." There is a tendency for some to wishfully assume that the problem will be preserved in situ somehow for the next 30 months while the US elections complete and the new administration gets it feet on the ground. could be the administration is remionding people that won't happen. The problem is not limited to the state Department OR to Europe OR to the UN - it's all of them. "The naval build up in the Gulf has not been justified as required for the support of the mission in Iraq. I don't think the Administration hides their intent that this is a warning to one and all not to dismiss a military option." Of COURSE it's not just for Iraq! Which group has been most active in the Gulf? It's not Al Qaeda or the al-Sadr brigades, is it? No it's the nice folks who grabbed the British sailors not long ago! Take off the heat and it won't be long before the EUI starts talking about an aid budget for Iran - without ending the atomic effort of course. So the heat has to stay on - indefinately.

Don S on :

Don't forget that Drezner spends most of his time in two subcultures where overheated rhetoric is ubiquitous. He's either at Tufts wwithin the genre of the US university (where the devilish nature of the Bush administration is universally assmued) or at various international development congresses attended by floating relatively low-level international group of policy wonks, where the concensus that Bush & co are limbs of Satan is only slightly less universal). Despite Dan's normal common sense this cannot help but take a toll on his judgement. Let's remember the track record of these people: they have successfully predicted 100 of the last 0 US invasions of Iran. Or of Venezuela for that matter. Upon what basis can we assume that their information is good this time, Joerg?

Don S on :

I personally think the target audience for the Bush administration rhetoric about Iran is a lot closer. It is aimed at Europe, not Iran. Look at Europe's track record regarding nuclear proliferation. Selling the means of proliferation to unstable countries is a major industry in a number of European countries, notabley Germany. Bush and Cheney wish to give Iran every chance to back down or have an economic meltdown BEFORE they get the bomb. If they cool the rhetoric the Germans will conclude it's business as usual and resume shipments to Iran and other valued customers. Meanwhile the Germans wish the rhetoric to cool so they can do more business of the kind they did with Pakistan. The consequences of such trade fall on others - so it's an easy decision as Zyme could tell you.

Zyme on :

It is always a pleasure to see an american who does not ride on the idealistic wave. Could it be that you lived here too long for such an approach? :)

Greg on :

Those who say the US should attack Iran seem a little crazy to me. Everyone admits Iran's nuclear program cannot be destroyed without a ground invasion. On the other hand, those who say we should "stop worrying about Iran" are defintely completely nuts. A bunch of racist fanatics with the ultimate weapon is an utter nightmare. Plus, as has been mentioned, they are apparently primarily responsible for the unrest in Iraq right now. And they are trying to destabilize the dollar. Etc., etc. Ignoring the threat from Iran is about as stupid as it gets. Instead, we need to take action against the threat, but not through military means until absolutely necessary. We have yet to impose harsh economic sanctions on Iran. I think they would go a long way towards getting them to abandon nukes. The military option is always in the back pocket, and those recent naval manuevers were intended to remind the mullahs and their spokesman Ahmadinejad of that fact. But let's get serious on Iran and show them we mean business....by not doing business with them. They can't even refine their own oil. They need to import food. They would be in big trouble if we could convince our European friends of the importance of stopping Iran.

pen Nmae on :

During the War of Sacred Defense, hundreds of thousands of us were forced to flee Tehran and other Iranian cities because of Iraq's rocket attacks on us. We accepted the cease-fire because of the arms embargo against us prevented us from destroying Saddam's regime. [, and to a lesser extent UK, were instrumental in saving Hussein.] And we feared gas attacks on our major population centers courtesy of EU. Never again - regardless of who rules in Tehran! You taught us a bitter lesson and we have learnt it well. [During the 2003-2006 Nuclear Negogiations you - in EU - had a chance to turn a new leaf in our mutual history. You decided to follow US.] We expect a US attack on us to take several weeks to prepare. So we would know when it will be coming. Your war-monger commentator, Bruno Tertrais, has already advised US not only to attack the nuclear sites but all the sites that make Iran a working country: power-plants, factories, rail-roads, etc. Yugoslavia Redux. Thus, we expect 15,000 dead and wounded Iranian and 200 Billion in damages. And of course, we will retaliate with all our might. US can escalate and so can we. As I have stated in this forum before - the impact of this war on oil production and distribution is not predictable. I would also like to pint out that at the grass-root level, Muslim people support us - more than a billion. I realize that they are powerless individually but they do matter to what you can and cannot do. Moreover, any US attack on Iran will cause a mass exodus out of NPT by Muslim states [23] - what are you going to do next? Go to war with the other Muslim states as well? And the Muslim exodus will be followed by many states among the NAM. The war however is not likely. US policy, since the election of Mr. Ahmadinejad, has been to put in place the elements of containment and deterrence - similar to the Cold War. That will fail. It will fail because Iran is not an ideological state - it is a Shia State, for and by the Shia. It will fail because Iran's allies, the Shia populations of Iraq, Lebanon, and the Alawaite state genuinely need Iran - they have no place else to go. These allies are not equivalents of the Eastern European Communist states whose strings were pulled from Moscow. It will fail because, contrary to Western Europe during the Cold War, US is despised in the Middle East. The population is against US, even in the nominally US friendly states such as Saudi Arabia or UAE [where there were celebrations in their major cities after the 9/11 attacks on US]. It will fail because, again contrary to Europe, US is perceived to be against Islam. US cannot overcome this stigma any time soon. This is a crucial point - the information war was a significant component of the Cold War. US has lost the information war not just in Iran but among ALL Muslims. It will fail because the US, in trying to deter and contain Iran, will invoke the Shia Specter - thus fanning the Shia-Sunni flames that have been dormant for 200 years. This is a great threat to the Sunni Arab states that US is trying to "protect". It will fail because as the supporter of the Israel in the Judaism-Islam War in Palestine, she is perceived as a co-belligerent against Islam while we, in Iran, are perceived as champions of Islam and the Palestinian peoples. I fully agree with Joerg Wolf's Personal opinion. However, I fear that George Bush, the stubborn man that he is, will cause US to learn through war with Iran that she is not omnipotent. I regret that my country, in order to safeguard her security and political independence, has to pay this price. But there may be no other way. We cannot trust our security to worthless words written on sheets of paper called International Instruments of Disarmament.] Until George Bush leaves office there is a danger of US attack on Iran. pen Name

pen Name on :

Correction: [France, and to a lesser extent UK, were instrumental in saving Hussein.]

Anonymous on :

Now that's just silly: Thus, we expect 15,000 dead and wounded Iranian and 200 Billion in damages. And of course, we will retaliate with all our might. Most experts put Iranian GDP around the 200 billion mark, check the Economist for one. So the Iranians have clustered every available service and manufacturing plant around three or four remote nuclear facilities? Maybe the commute is the cause for the petrol prices in Tehran. It would explain the "15,000 Iranian", who will ostensibly be killed in the event of a few localized air strikes...

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Isn't it highly dangerous to assume that a war with Iran would be limited to airstrikes? Isn't this the same kind of wishful thinking like with the "cakewalk" in Iraq? We take out Saddam, install Chalabi and then Iraqis are free and happy and love the US and they turn their country into a modern, pro-Western democracy... I find it quite troubling, that many of those Americans in favor of military action against Iran apparently believe that a few airstrikes against nuclear facilities will be it. What makes you think that Iran will not retaliate? I think Iran will retaliate. Then the whole situation in the Middle East escalates within six months. Then eventually the US will (have to) invade Iran with tens of thousands or more ground troops.

SC on :

JW, To characterize as dangerous the assumption that a war with Iran could be limited to airstrikes is an understatement! ;) I believe we can find recent Iranian government statements asserting that airstrikes would trigger at least a regional response directly by Iran and by implication through its regional proxies. That this could escalate into a regional conflict appears to me well-recognized in Washington and throughout the region. This thread began by citing articles and blog entries, and continues to build upon, what seems to be a fundamental uncertainty regarding the possible use of military force directly against the Iranian homeland by the Bush Administration. Maintaining uncertainty regarding your ultimate intension has its dangers - perhaps, an understatement too, though it remains to be seen - but is also of strategic value. Do you think the inherent dangers outweigh the potential value?

Don S on :

I agree. And while the US military is tied down by Al Qaeda in Iraq it would be dangerous to assume that the Persians might not respond with a land invasion of Iraq - qhich would be hard on the poor Brits in the way. The calculation may change if the US physically pulls out of Iraq, because then a Persian invasion would be percieved as an assault on the Shia-led government of Iraq. The Us would be free to respond via flexible means (primarily air and naval) while the Persians stick them deeply into the tar baby of Iraq. I doubt they are that stupid. At the same time I cannot agree with those who assert that the US ought to pull military options entirely off the table vis Iran. Just because they may be unworkable today does not mean that state will remain true in the future. Otherwise why do it? So the very people who sold Iran the hardware will praise us? That seems pretty specious to me. They may not even do that much, and in any case the praise of such people is not worth much. No, I can see only two reasons to take the military option off the table; significant concessions by the Iranians - or real, savage, enforced sanctions agreed to by all parties - notably Europe and in particular the former supplier nations. No backdowns and no quarter until the objective is achieved.

SC on :

Well, it has occurred to me that sanctions may be what this is all about. It would be interesting to know the context and details of the conversation that sparked Bush and Cheney's apparent ire in that meeting. My understanding was that the process was grinding slowly but inexorably in the direction of stronger sanctions. The view attributed to the State Department official concerning the status of negotiations two years hence seems a bit inconsistent with progress toward strengthened sanctions.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

@ SC "Maintaining uncertainty regarding your ultimate intension has its dangers - perhaps, an understatement too, though it remains to be seen - but is also of strategic value. Do you think the inherent dangers outweigh the potential value?" It depends of course. Let me explain: Bush is often asked whether he would ultimately bomb Iran. He usually responds: "All options are on the table." I think a better way respond to such question is to say: [quote="George W Bush should say"] Iran has severe economic problems. x % unemployment, old infrastructure, airplane accidents due to lack of tools etc etc. Building nuclear weapons is a waste of precious resources. I want good relations with Iran. The Iranian people are wonderful, bla bla. US-Iranian cooperation would lead to more employment, fixing airplanes, etc etc. The US is ready to normalize diplomatic relations, end the sanctions and invest billions of dollars in Iran. Tons of FDI. Together the US and Iran can build a pipeline for the oil and gas from the Caspian Sea region and Central Asia through Iran to the Gulf. This means lots of tarrifs for Iran and also increasing regional importance. These are wonderful opportunities for Iran. Iran could be as rich and powerful as a proud, educated nation with a long civilisational history deserves to be. To make all these things come true, the Tehran regime just has to give up the nuclear weapons program, cooperate fully with IAEA, stop Hizbullah and Hamas and put pressure on the Shiite militias in Iraq and stop talking about wiping Israel of the map. I am ready to meet Ayatollah Khomeini at any time and in any neutral place. [/quote] Something like that would be bold. This would help gain him some sympathy among Iranians and it would do harm to the Tehran regime, which constantly tells everybody that the US is "demonizing" Iran. What would you do? If Bush says something like this everytime he is asked whether he considers bombing Iran, then he would still have all options on the table. He would maintaining uncertainty regarding his ultimate response, while at the same time avoid helping Ahmadinejad with tough war rhetoric. As Monica Maggioni in the Foreign Policy article quoted in this post said: "In fact, the only thing that could save him [Ahmadinejad] now is the United States." Thus Bush should not talk about bombing and should not talk about "All options on the table." Rather he should extend an olive branch every day. Sure, Ahmadinejad and Khomeini will probably not take it, but that 's not the point because Bush is talking to the Iranian people. Let the Iranian people do their own regime change.

SC on :

In other words, don that velvet glove? I've thought about such statements too. I take your point, in particular that of speaking to the Iranian people over the heads of the government. The potential problem that keep coming to my mind is this: I suspect Bush would be charged with insincerity by Iranian officials and many inside Iran and out would be quick to agree: "Preconditions to normalization? You've no business dictating to us who we maintain as allies; particularly Hezbollah, an organization dedicated to the poor and oppressed in Lebanon and to fighting the good fight against the Zionist oppressors. But, to show you, and the world, we're patient and capable of forgiving your impertinence, we'll consider your offer once you've removed all your military forces from the Gulf region and forswear your continued support for the Zionist entity." I've exaggerated, of course, but you have to admit there would be many who would think the Iranians had the better of the exchange. Never-the-less, I take your point and am not alone in thinking that this Administration could be doing a much better job of public diplomacy than it has been doing to advance its agenda.

Joerg W - Atlantic Review on :

Thanks. And I take your point. Re the Iranian response "we'll consider your offer once you've removed all your military forces from the Gulf region and forswear your continued support for the Zionist entity." I would counter: [quote=" "]Hey, we have already removed our forces from Saudi Arabia and we will remove the other forces when you become our friend. We will reduce our military aid to Israel if you reduce your aid to Hezbollah at the same time. Everything is quid pro quo. Besides please give us credit for eliminating two of your enemies: Saddam and the Taliban. ;-) We will recognize you as the major regional power and reduce up our support for Saudi Arabia, if you become our friend and send us cheap oil and gas from your northern neighbors and help us in Iraq and Afghanistan. [/quote] I admit, that Bush is not capable of making all this sound sincere, but the next US president could do that. Bush can't do it, because he put Iran (rather than Saudi Arabia) in the axis of evil. The point of the above speech would be confidence building measures and treating Iran with respect. Respect is the main thing in dealing with non-Westerners. If Iran feels respected rather than demonized, they will play a much more constructive role. Of course, respect does not mean sucking up. Thus, Iran has to be told that support for terrorism is unacceptable. Iran has to decide whether it wants better US relations or isolation and possibly war. The US should stress even more than it already does that Iran can make this choice. It is a real choice. Thus the offer as to be sincere. The next US president should offer to meet with every senior guy in the Tehran regime. Unconditional talks rather than lecturing and demonization and telling Iran to meet ten preconditions before talks. This bold move of offering direct talks should have a shocking effect on Iranian society.

Steve C on :

Hmmmmm ... an interesting statement that would have very interesting consequences to be sure. I might be willing to pay the price of admission just to see what would happen! ;) The premise that the Iranians want respect and recognition as a regional power is certainly true but as you suggested in your opening, the US may have less influence in this regard than we might suppose. Other than Hamas, Hezbollah, and at present, Syria, I suspect that few in the region would welcome this at present. Moreover, many in the US foreign policy establishment would probably have great difficulty with the policy realignment you suggest: Our Middle East specialists in the State Department are usually referred to as "Arabists" for a reason and any discomfort would transcend administrations. The US-Saudi and US-Israeli relationships have been the twin poles of US Middle East policy going back to the late 1940's. Whether that should change, could be the basis for a book, but I'm willing to bet that it's not likely to change anytime soon. You might respond by reminding me that our Arabists in State apparently could live with our close ties with Iran in the era of the Shah. True, but the Shah, as I recall, didn't concern the Saudis and others in the region as the current Iranian regime apparently does. But, there is also a more recent moment to remember as well: Apparently, there was significant cooperation between Iran and the US during the overthrow of the Taliban; which as your proposed statement suggests, shows that recognition of mutual interests and even cooperation is more than theoretically possible.

SC on :

. . . or not. :)

pen Name on :

We have surmised that our relationship with the United States cannot be normalized in the immediate term (~ 1 year) ot meidum term (~ 5 years) or long term (~ 10 years). We have, as you say, irreconcilable interests in the Levant, in Palestine, in Persian Gulf. On numerous occasions US has indicated that she is only interested in discussing Iran's terms of surrender - that will not happen. What we are doing is to minimize the costs of our confrontations with US. That's all. We do not care to be liked or respected by US or EU. The role that we play in the region or the power that we project is not military - you can go to CSIS (www.csis.org) and read what Dr. Cordesman has to say about our military strength. Our power is softpower, it is a moral power. At any rate, that power, its existence, or its exercise is not contingent on US or EU permission. We want to be left alone to puruse our own history and our own interests. India, China, Russia accept us teh way we are. If you cannot, then leave us alone. As for isolating us, you cannot. NAM is supportive of us and not isolating us. US & EU are not the World. pen Name

Joerg W - Atlantic Review on :

"irreconcilable interests" You lack vision. Look at history. So many times, enemies became partners. Sorry, but I don't think you can rule out a normalization of US-Iran relations in the next ten years. Unless you have a crystall ball. "We do not care to be liked or respected by US or EU." Tough talk. Iranian officials say something else between the lines. "Our power is softpower, it is a moral power." Please elaborate. "India, China, Russia accept us teh way we are." Earlier on, you said you did not need respect and don't want to be liked, but this sentence indicates some missing love. You want to be accepted the way you are. You feel discriminated because of who you are. For you this is not about politics or the nuclear program, but you think you are disliked because of who you are. Can't get into details, but yeah, I repeat: It is about respect. Of course, proud people cannot admit that they want to be respected and they care about how others view them. Being called "axis of evil" has had quiet an impact. Besides, China and Russia have supported the UN sanctions so far. Try to explain that! Why are the Russians and China putting sanctions on and isolate you further. They are not the evil West. "As for isolating us, you cannot. NAM is supportive of us and not isolating us." It is my understanding that India and others in the non-alligned movement are keeping quiet, but that does not mean real support. What support do you perceive? As Pat said in another comment: The US can squeze the Iranian economy even further by pressuring banks. Iran is more and more isolated. Tehran could change all that. Anyway, would do you make of the "speech" that I wrote for Bush/next US president? See above comments.

pen Name on :

US wants to maintain being the hegemonic power in the Persian Gulf and in Palestine. She will go to extraordinary lengths to do so. That, in my judgement, will not change over the next 10 years. And we oppose that power because we consider, for good reasons, US power to be more harmful than helpful. NAM is staying quiet letting us carry the burden of affirming their nuclear rights under NPT. They buy from us and sell to us. They are not trying to isolate us and have resisted calls by US to do so. My statement regarding accepting us the way we are is only based on pragmatism: I do not condone organ-selling, execution of economic criminals, one-child policy, etc. in China. But I accpet them they way they are and engage wih them in a mutually satisfying relationship - as they do likewise. I have observed your (US & EU) personal attitude towards us - you really consider us some how lower. Which astonishes me. I noticed that in your 2005 nuclear offer -haughty with a tonality as though Iran were a defeated country. This is not primarily an issue of respect - it is more like this: we are not defeated yet. If you want to make a defeated-country type of offer to us, you should try to defeat us first. I think this has to do with the attitude that I have observed among the EU citizens; they think that they are superior, even to their own ancestors. Humility is not a strong aspect if EU polity at the moment. "Axis of Evil" is irrelevant - we call US "The Great Satan" and UK " The Lesser Satan". This is not about respect - it is about Power and the Iranian Power in particular. As for your speech: it is 6 years too late. US is not interested in living with an Islamic Iran; she want to destroy Islamic Iran. She attempted that on teh cheap during Clinton years by trying to bankrupt us and she was planning to attack us after Iraq - that is why she ignored our 2003 Comprehensive Dialogue offer. It is only due to the situation in Iraq that US has not attacked us. US President does not have to make speeches: there are many sanctions that US could remove since they were imposed by presidential decree. There are assets that are frozen that US President could release without congressional approval. George Bush specifically could have made a reply to Mr. Ahmadinejad's letter; defending US, and thus starting a public dialogue. That is what Ahmadinejad wanted. As I said, US is not interested in a settlement that does not entail Iranian surrender. Her arrogance knows no bounds. About our soft-power: it is based on religiosity, on persuasion, on money, on common culture, and on our track record. pen Name

Pat Patterson on :

If the US can sign trade deals with a Catholic Latin America(NAFTA), an atheist China, a Buddhist Japan, and a Hindu India then what indications are there that the US cannot abide a Muslim Iran? Unless of course they sponsor terrorist organizations that kill other Muslims and treat women as cattle? Nobody in the West really cares a fig as to which schismatic sect rules in the Middle East unless they manage to only acquire the ability to kill each other and not fix the potholes.

pen Name on :

It is you, who during the 1980s, supported those who treated women like chattel in Afghanistan. It is you, sir, who are supporting Sunni Muslims to come to Iran to kill and maime Iranians. Our sin, as Khomeini said, is that we oppose your fantasies in the Levant & the Persian Gulf. pen Name

Pat Patterson on :

I think pen Names timeline is off slightly. The US and Europe did indeed support anti-Soviet forces but only with arms till the Russian withdrawal, in 1991, they formally supported the moderate Islamic Jihad Council. Much of the deserved criticism of the US and Europe is that they simply walked away from the Afghans who then proceeded to act out mass scenes from Lord of the Flies. Oddly enough those godless Soviets treated women and religious minorites better than those acting in the name of their god did. The Taliban, those notorious free thinkers, didn't really exist before 1992. As to the second charge I could have sworn that just a few months ago pen Name claimed that no such anti-mullah forces existed in Iran, as the people spoke as one, of course except for the Bahai, the Christians and the increasingly isolated and shrunken Jewish community. Plus I would love to see any evidence that the US or Europe are supporting any kind of insurgency other than the kind outlined by Orwell.

Pat Patterson on :

During the 80's we supported the side that simply seemed the most competent to thwart Societ ambitions. These warlords eventually revealed themselves to be incompetent butchers vs. the Taliban who were obviously well-intentioned religiously motivated butchers.

pen Name on :

Your ignorance of what your intelligence services were doing in Afghanistan does not surprise me. You recruited the dreges of society, the lowest of the low. The Communist Government of Afghanistan - specially the last one was the best hope for the Afghan people. Even today, that pedophile rapist in the South is your friend while Ismail Khan - since he is friendly with Iran - is your enemy. Your depravity in the pursuit of your power politics sees no bounds.

Anonymous on :

Joerg: I can't imagine that anyone is in favour of airstrikes or any military action against Iran presently. Yet should it occur, the American administration does expect non-symetrical repraisals, which would demand a full mobilization--that's arguably 10 to 15 million angry troops. The option is whether one waits for the Mullahs to threaten Israel, as they have promised, with real nuclear annihilation and draw the entire ME into a Jew vs Islam holocaust or pick off the Aryan Shia and cut a deal with the Arab Sunni. The Iranians have been pretty consistent for the last 28 years. We know what officially they say they would like to accomplish and their actions largely seem consistent with their professed objectives; Israel does not appear on those maps. President Clinton/Obama/Giuliani will have to make some hard decisions, but if Iran continues on its present course: war seems more likely than not. The troll above is shocking. He has obviously cut-and-pasted a prepared text from somewhere and attempted to stradle the lacunae with his capitalized prose. Perhaps, it is just me but I found it a little creepy.

Fuchur on :

How exactly is Iran going to retaliate? The point is: People argue that we shouldn't worry too much about Iranian nuclear weapons, because Iran is a rational state and therefore won't use them. However: If Iran really acts rational - why would they go berserk after an airstrike and try to hurt themselves and everybody else in their neighbourhood as much as possible, just in order to get back at the Americans? No rational person would think about bringing chaos to the Middle East and destroying the oil faculties. It simply doesn't make sense to burn your own house in order to get back at somebody else. And the other way around: If you really think that Iran would be capable of such madness - doesn't the prospect of these madmen having nuclear weapons downright terrify you? Obviously, these people are blinded by their ideology and their hatred. Obviously, they don't think about the consequences of their actions. Who guarantees us that they won't nuke Israel just for the heck of it, if they have the chance?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

So you are saying it would not be rational for Iran to retaliate after US airstrikes? Do you expect Iranians to do nothing in response to US airstrikes? Well, a) being attacked makes people want to hit back. After 9/11 Americans wanted to hit back. Its not just rational, but also emotional. Iranians will react emotional to being bombed as well. There might be some crazy guys who want to nuke Israel anyway, even if it means suicide for Iran, but I bet that thousand times more Iranians will be crazy after being bombed by the US. Without 9/11, the Bush admin would not have succeeded in convincing Americans to invade Iraq. Now, we can guess, how successful the iranian regime will be in convincing the iranian people to support even more stupid things... b) I think retaliation in case of US airstrikes is more "rational" (and much more likely) than an unprovoked nuking of Israel. If I understand you right, you don't differentiate between the two and consider both irrational. Are you saying that if Iran is crazy enough to retaliate after US airstrikes, than they are also crazy enough to nuke Israel without any provocation? I think one is not evidence for the other. I will answer your question about how Iran will retaliate later. Or perhaps pen Name will write down a list.

MS on :

Yes, Iran will strike back in the only way it can: it will collapse into helpless oblivion. Iran's options are incredibly limited. The days of the mullah-kings are numbered regardless. It is Europe that will pay the highest price of Iran's fall. Next is Syria. Then Lebanon will surge and Palestinian rationals will arise to banish Hamas and the irrationals.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Sounds like the optimistic talk about Iraq from 2002. It will be a cakewalk. Democracy will blossom in no time... Everybody will name their babies George Bush.

ADMIN on :

Please note that by default the comments in this blog are threaded rather than linear, i.e. some of the latest responses to comments are not at the bottom, but in the middle of the thread right behind the comment they respond to. At the top of the comments section you have the option to change the view from threaded to linear (=chronological), which enables you to see the latest comments at the end of the thread.

Pat Patterson on :

One of the things I find interesting is that even though the Administration has said repeatedly that all options are under consideration the main thrust of countering Iran remains multi-party negotiations and increasing the economic pain on Pres. Ahmadinejad. We, the US, can say we will do whatever it takes but have actually no intention of doing so. Has anybody even considered the possibility that Pres. Bush by dangling the possibility of strikes is merely forcing the Iranian government to engage in any number of policies that isolate the country further, wreck its economy, terrorize the populace and make the current president almost certainly one term. The US, sorry to contradict you Joerg, can indeed destroy Iran's economy simply because of the incompetency of the theocrats and the very gracelessness and inefficiencies of its system of monopolies via the mechanism of freezes and the threat of denial of access to capital markets in the US and Europe. Witness the freezing of the Bank Sepah in January and the just announced sanctions aimed at financial institutions that are operated or used by the Quds Force. The US may not be recognized as a hyperpower in Europe but there is probably a bond or commodity trader in Manhattan that can do just as much damage as a cruise missile. Eventually it could be hoped for the benefit of the Iranian people, that like the Soviet Union, Iran's theocracy will simply implode due to the lack of any ability to do more than forment tiny actions within its claimed sphere of influence. But I fear that the theocrats will allow Iran to begin feeding on its own rather than give up power.

Pat Patterson on :

Joerg-My reading skills must have suddenly vanished as I thought that you had maintained that the US could not act to damage or limit Iran's economy. It appears that we might actually agree. So obviously no contradiction and apologies offered.

pen Name on :

During the War of Sacred Defense, it so happened that at one time we had only enough wheat for 1 month in Iran. Nevertheless, we continued with the War against Iraq. In 1990s, Mr. Clinton did his best to bankrupt the Government of Iran. He failed even when the oil prices were low. Now that no longer obtains. US cannot wreck our economy - that power does not exist. It is, however, true that mismanagement has been a bane of the Iranian economy for decades. In fact, if Iranians can stop shooting themselves in the foot foreign capital will flow into the Oil & Gas sector - Iranian laws and regulatiions are the major obstacle to this not US. Again, I caution all who read these lines no to mistake Iran with Soviet Union. Iran is a religious country not an ideological country. Mullahs, Ayatullahs. Theocrats etc. are part and parcel of the Iranian society. We are not a secular people like you and do not wish to be so. pen Name

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