August 24, 2006


The Beginning of Iran's End (JONATHAN PARIS, August 24, 2006, NY Sun)

The Lebanon war has brought two issues into focus: Iran's war of radical ideas, and the opportunity of the West to ultimately return Iran to its people and its national self-interest. The weakest links in the Iranian arsenal against the West are the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria. One by one, their potency is being diminished. The Islamic Jihad, a wholly financed subsidiary of Iran without mass support among the Palestinians, has launched a dozen suicide bombings and hundreds of rockets against Israel since the hudna of early 2005. They have been decimated by the IDF in the two months since the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit on June 25. Implicated in that kidnapping, Hamas, which poses as the government of the Palestinian Authority, has been shunted off the headlines. Rendered impotent on the Gaza battlefield, Hamas is looking less and less like an effective resistance movement. [...]

That leaves the Iranian regime with a lot of short sticks.The best strategy of the West against Mr. Ahmadinejad is to do the unexpected: continue to break Iran's weak sticks, one by one, and then undermine Iran quietly from the inside.The Iranian regime thinks of itself as carpet weavers, patiently working for a long-term victory.The West can defeat the Iranian regime not through appeasing it and striking some grand bargain that leaves it intact to bully the region and provoke ideological wars against Arabs and Israelis alike, but through a step by step strategy of stripping the Iranian regime of its sticks and leaving it and Mr. Ahmadinejad with nowhere to go but down.

Hamas, like Ahmedinejad himself, was broken by the ballot box. The failure to deliver economic development and improving living standards is fatal in a democratic country. The exorbitant foreign aid the Iranians are shelling out for is just icing on his cake of unre-electability.

Sweating Out the Truth in Iran (MAZIAR BAHARI, 8/24/06, NY Times)

Fantasizing has become something of a national sport here. Our president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, predicted that the national soccer team would finish third or fourth in the World Cup. He also thinks we can become a nuclear powerhouse, even though we have a hard time manufacturing safety matches or making light bulbs with life expectancies of more than two weeks. By the way, the soccer team didn’t make it out of the first round. [...]

Iran helped create Hezbollah in the early 1980’s, it is Hezbollah’s most vocal supporter, and before the war it sent the group millions of dollars of cash, medicine, arms and of course posters of Ayatollahs Ruhollah Khomeini and Ali Khamenei, which accompanied every aid package and arms shipment.

Does this Iranian aid make Hezbollah Iran’s puppet? From all evidence, Hezbollah, to a great extent, makes decisions independently of Iran. Hezbollah is an indigenous Lebanese armed resistance group that owes its popularity to Israeli atrocities, biased American policies and corrupt Lebanese politicians. When the United States and Israel try to portray Hezbollah as an Iranian proxy, they are pointing the finger in the wrong direction.

But Iran definitely uses the threat of its influence over Hezbollah to further its objectives. And its prime objective is the survival of the Islamic regime at any price. The clerics and non-clerics (they are now mostly non-clerics) in power in Iran are not the old revolutionary zealots the Americans tend to imagine. They are pragmatic men who have enjoyed the fruits of power for 27 years and don’t want to lose them. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, Iranian statesmen were so scared of American retaliation that for the first time since the revolution, no one chanted “Death to America” in Iran for 10 days.

The regime’s rhetoric about the United States and Israel is a remnant of the time when seizing embassies and staging revolutions were in vogue. But now the Islamic Republic has one of the world’s younger populations. Most young Iranians I know don’t care for their fathers’ ideals. They prefer the better things in life, like plasma TV’s on which to watch Britney Spears and the exiled Iranian pop diva Googoosh on illegal satellite channels. (No, Mr. Cheney, they don’t want the United States to invade their country.) The government spends much of its $60 billion in annual oil revenue to import goods and keep its youth happy.

The paradoxes of the regime have exposed its hypocrisies. On one hand, the fiery slogans are the raison d’être of the Islamic Republic, and on the other, acting openly on those slogans would spell its demise. The most expedient thing to do has been nothing, while continuing to chant.

Up until the start of the war in Lebanon, that was just fine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 24, 2006 8:25 AM

While I know that Ahmadinejad can "immanentize the Eschaton," I'd swear not being able to do so has made the little kook blink. I mean, how else can Iran's "openness" toward backing away from the nuclear limb be seen?

Posted by: Brad S at August 24, 2006 9:31 AM


Well, it's fine to talk about negotiation; the question is whether that's real or just stalling until everyone looses interest.

Posted by: Mike Earl at August 24, 2006 2:04 PM

"immanentize the Eschaton" is this to be taken in the pejorative? (Bringing about heaven on Earth)

If so I only see Ahmadinejad being able to do this in his own mind.

Posted by: Bartman at August 24, 2006 2:30 PM

Bartman, only in the sense that he couldn't bring it off as promised.

Posted by: erp at August 24, 2006 6:17 PM

Ahmadinejad was "broken" by the ballot box? I must have missed that.

By winning the election, he came out of the shadows and became President. He was broken only in the sense that he probably can't personally torture and kill anymore (although that hasn't stopped other 'elected' leaders from doing it).

The economy is hardly a priority for the mullahocracy. Economics certainly isn't a priority for other thuggish states, either (see Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Bolivia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Syria, etc.). Even the Europeans don't really focus on economics. It's too painful.

The tipping point is whether the population has enough gumption (or enough memory) to know that things CAN be better. If they are domesticated enough, however, they will accept whatever flows downhill.

Iran is not North Korea. But it is closer to totalitarianism than someplace like China, for example. If the Chinese economy tanks, there will be major struggles and re-alignments. If the Iranian economy collapses, there will be quiet suffering and hunger and more stooped shoulders. But not much else. Allah is a big club to hold over the heads of 70 million people.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 24, 2006 11:53 PM

He hasn't been able to deliver ecnomic progress so he won't be re-elected. His politics was doomed to fail once he got a chance to try it. Islamicism doesn't work.

Posted by: oj at August 25, 2006 12:11 AM

Of course it doesn't work - that's why it doesn't tolerate free and fair elections.

There probably isn't going to be a 2009 election in Iran. Get used to it.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 25, 2006 12:26 AM

Tolerate? They're routine.

Posted by: oj at August 25, 2006 1:09 AM

Yes, routinely stage-managed.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 25, 2006 7:48 AM

The choosing of candidates is flawed, but voters get a genuine range of choices. The Ahmedinejad phenomenon was a function of Khanenei alienating Reformers more deeply than he'd realized and us egging them on to bite off their own noses.

Posted by: oj at August 25, 2006 9:13 AM