Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Will Iran be President Obama's Iraq?

The Leveretts & Seyyed Marandi, in Politico, here

"....They are fading because further demonstrations would no longer be about alleged election irregularities but, rather, would be a challenge to the Islamic Republic itselfsomething only a small minority of the initial protesters support.
While the protests are subsiding, days of round-the-clock, ill-informed commentary in the United States have helped to “sell” several dangerously misleading myths about Iranian politics. Left unchallenged, these myths will inexorably drive America’s Iran policy toward “regime change”just as unchallenged myths about Saddam Hussein’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and ties to Al Qaeda paved the way for America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Myth 1: “Ahmadinejad stole the election.”
The proposition that incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could not possibly have defeated his principal challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has become a sacred cow for virtually all mainstream commentary about Iran in the United States. But to this day, there is no hard evidence of electoral fraud — which even some Mousavi campaign aides privately acknowledge........

Myth 2: “The Islamic Republic is internally vulnerable and, indeed, ready to implode.”
The proposition that the Islamic Republic’s constituent institutions — including the position of supreme leader — are on the verge of collapse reflects nothing more than wishful thinking by some analysts in the United States. While many Americans and expatriate Iranians do not like the Iranian government, Supreme Leader Khamenei’s referral of fraud allegations to the Guardian Council and the council’s offer to conduct a random recount of 10 percent of the ballots were reasonable legal responses to those allegations within the Islamic Republic’s constitutional order. .....
The supreme leader’s authority has not been diminished; indeed, the opposite has occurred. All factions in the controversy turned to the leader for a resolution that would have legitimacy within the system’s parameters. ....
At this point, Mousavi may be dependent on public support from former President Rafsanjani to maintain his campaign to overturn the election results, but it is unlikely that Ayatollah Rafsanjani is really prepared to confront his close friend Ayatollah Khamenei and the Islamic Republic as a whole, notwithstanding his immense dislike for Ahmadinejad.
In the end, there is no evidence that those protesting the results represent a majority of Iranians. .......
Certainly, comparisons between the Islamic Republic today and Eastern Europe in 1989, on the eve of communism’s collapse, are misplaced. The majority of Iranians continue to believe in the Islamic Republic’s legitimacy. ...

Myth 3: “The Islamic Republic has been delegitimized, and therefore, the United States cannot and should not negotiate with it.”
It has long been fashionable in the United States to dismiss the prospects for serious negotiations with Tehran by arguing that the Iranian government is too divided to deliver or that the Islamic Republic is an immature, ideologically driven state that cannot think about its foreign policy in terms of national interest.
But these characterizations have no grounding in reality. Now, an argument is emerging in the United States that the Islamic Republic is simply too depraved to be a diplomatic partner — like Saddam’s Iraq or perhaps even worse.
Left unchallenged, the consensus forming around the aforementioned myths about Iranian politics will lead inexorably to ever greater pressure on President Obama to drop his stated interest in engaging Tehran diplomatically. We can already see this unfolding.
Last week, Congress adopted a resolution condemning the Islamic Republic for its handling of the presidential election and subsequent protests. The Senate passed it unanimously; only one member of the House, Ron Paul (R-Texas), was prepared to vote no. Congress is likely to become even more determined to legislate additional sanctions against Tehran and expand both covert and overt programs aimed at destabilizing the Iranian government. Already, the neoconservative right is clamoring that “regime change” must become the explicit goal of U.S. policy toward the Islamic Republic. ......
As a presidential candidate, Obama promised not only to end America’s Iraq war but to end “the mind-set that got us into that war.” The risk now is that, in the interest of political expediency, Obama will decide to appease those with this mind-set by going along with congressional efforts to isolate and “punish” the Islamic Republic.
If Obama does this, his Iran policy will, at a minimum, suffer from dysfunctional incoherence. More ominously, lack of strategic clarity could put the United States on the road toward confrontation — perhaps even military conflict — with a more powerful Iran.
As the Islamic Republic becomes “delegitimized” in American public opinion, it will be impossible for Obama to engage Tehran, and, in the eyes of many Americans, he will have no basis to continue telling Israel that it should not launch military strikes against Iranian nuclear targets.
As realism about Iran evaporates in Washington, American officials are losing sight of the fact that policies of isolation or punishment would be disastrous for strategic
stability in the broader Middle East. "

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