February 27, 2007


Iran: Détente, Not Regime Change (Ray Takeyh, 2/27/07, Foreign Affairs)

In order to develop a smarter Iran policy, U.S. leaders must first accept certain distasteful facts -- such as Iran's ascendance as a regional power and the endurance of its regime -- and then ask how these can be accommodated. Despite its incendiary rhetoric and flamboyant claims, the Islamic Republic is not Nazi Germany. It is an opportunistic power seeking to assert predominance in its immediate neighborhood without recourse to war. Acknowledging that Iran is a rising power, the United States should open talks with a view to creating a framework to regulate Iran's influence, displaying a willingness to coexist with Iran while limiting its excesses. In other words, Washington should embrace a policy of détente.

Maintaining Perspective (Fouad Ajami, 2/25/07, US News)
Iran is a radical player in the world of states, to be sure, but we should not overstate its power. We should not fall for the Persian bluff. It is important that we do all we can to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions and to checkmate it in arenas that count, but we should always remember that this is a society swimming against the tide of history and confronting the limits of its capabilities. There is an Iranian role in Iraq, but it should not be exaggerated. It is not true that the Iraqi political class marches to the Iranian drummer. It is well known that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spent his years of exile in Syria and kept his distance from the Iranians. "Iraq is a cemetery of dreams," a thoughtful Iraqi observed to me of his country. "Iranian dreams, no less than American dreams perhaps." Iraqis are a tough breed, and the notion that they are eager to take their country into a Persian dominion is unconvincing. The Iranians dwell virtually alone in the House of Islam, separated by language and culture, marked by their Shiism.

Then there are the troubles that count-the disabilities at home. Iran's deranged president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, came into power promising to put Iran's oil wealth "on the dinner table." But the Iranian economy is on the ropes. Hyperinflation, the drying up of international credit lines, and the astounding growth in energy consumption in Iran are bringing the country to the edge of crisis. The price of bread and meat and basic commodities has risen by as much as 25 percent. To tranquilize the realm, gasoline is subsidized well below its cost, and domestic consumption now accounts for a stunning 40 percent of Iran's oil production. Dire predictions now hold that the country will be unable to export much oil a decade from now.

The true believers will proclaim that revolutionary purity trumps all, but worldly needs and affairs ultimately prevail. A society that spends $20 billion a year to subsidize the price of energy, electricity, and gasoline will in the end have to contend with the wrath and disappointment of its people. There is swagger in Iran, and there is menace, for its rulers are without scruples. Terrorism, for them, is always an option. But theirs is a vulnerable and brittle society. There is no need to "engage" them and bail them out as they stumble. The regime should be harassed, contained, and held to account. We may not have to wait two centuries to pronounce on the fate of this revolution. The swagger abroad and the rot at home: It is a trajectory we are all too familiar with by now.

...that the folks who think Nazism, Communism, Islamicism, [fill in the blank-ism], are mighty and permanent rivals of ours are considered the Realists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 27, 2007 4:36 PM

30 years of a regime is "endurance?"

Posted by: Sandy P at February 27, 2007 6:28 PM

A rival doesn't have to be mighty or permanent to be able to kill you.

Posted by: PapayaSF at February 28, 2007 1:05 AM

Yes, they do.

Posted by: oj at February 28, 2007 7:52 AM