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Right Intention: Iranian Street

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Iranian Street

Some more thoughts on Iran at the Weekly Standard:

DURING HIS RECENT TRIP TO Europe, President Bush sent mixed signals about U.S. policy with regard to Iran's development of nuclear weapons. At one point he dismissed the prospect of military action as ridiculous; immediately after, he emphasized all options were on the table; then at another point he suggested there might be "convergence" between U.S. and European views on how to address the problem. If the president seemed to be all over the lot, that may be because the policy choices with respect to Iran are complex, and none is without its drawbacks.

The author then goes on to describe four options on how to deal with Iran, the last of which is a military strike. The author believes this is the best option since the other three choices as he sees them deals with the Europeans to some extent and will likely fail mostly because of European involvement. But the military strike option has a big drawback.

A military strike could also alienate a great swath of moderate, and especially younger, Iranians who are inclined to be friendly toward the United States and in whom we repose hope for the creation one day of a more decent, secular regime in Iran. Moderate Iranians may oppose clerical rule, but they do not necessarily oppose an Iran with nuclear capabilities. Losing the natural affection of these people would be a genuine setback.

This is the prevailing wisdom. Pro American Iranians will become our enemies if we try to take out their nuclear capability via military strike. It's mentioned by almost everyone who writes about the Iranian situation.

But is this true? I'm no expert, but hearing this line repeatedly is starting to sound a whole lot like the vaunted "Arab Street" that was supposed to rise up against us at every step during the terror war. As we now know, the only uprising we've seen, and are likely to see, is the one demanding democracy from their governments, mostly due to our actions in Iraq.

But let's say for a moment that the conventional wisdom is correct. So what? Maybe they will hate us. But does that mean the population will like the mullahs more than they did before? I doubt it. After all, they are still executing 16 year old girls for having sex. I wouldn't be surprised if this society is so sick that it won't be cured by the temporary solidarity of acquiring nukes. My guess is that they may or may not hate the US, but they will definitely hate the mullahs, and still want out from under their collective boots.

Bottom line, I think the downside risk of a military strike is less than the conventional wisdom suggests. Maybe I'm wrong, but I have a feeling we'll find out soon enough.

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