Friday, May 18, 2007

Iran: What is to be done?

A recent issue (April 23) of the New Republic contained an excellent overview of Iran, its regional ambitions, and its nuclear program. Unfortunately, it's behind their subscriber firewall, so you have to find a print copy. But it is well worth it. Four authors contributed to it, but two especially - former ambassador Dennis Ross and Iranian-American author Azar Nafisi - should be listened to.*

The Iranian problem is headed towards a dénoument in the next 18 months, so it's important to understand what's happening. Condeleeza Rice has made it her final almost-impossible task in office to prevent a nuclear Middle East. Everyone should wish her success - failure (which is likely) means the end of nuclear non-proliferation and a regional military-nuclear competition. The first countries under threat are Iran's Sunni neighbors, followed by Israel. Rice is working to some extent at cross-purposes with her boss. Bush and Cheney have clearly given up trying anything more about Iran and now simply want the crisis to happen after they leave office. It's the final, rotten fruit of an administration that never had much interest in policy or much time horizon beyond the next election.

Nafisi indirectly comments on this trend:
The most important weapon in the U.S. arsenal is not its military might but its culture. Vigorously defending and promoting those values the United States was long thought to represent - freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom of conscience - will do a great deal more than any missile to neutralize Iranian radicals. And, though this wide-ranging task is probably beyond the capability of American politicians, it is not beyond the capability of America.
How did we go in twenty years from achievements like ending the Cold War, with giants like Reagan and Gorbachev, to a political landscape overrun by pygmies?
* Of the other two, Robert Kagan is a little disconnected from reality, and the New York Times' Laura Secor is an example (sadly, not unique) of reporter-turned-apologist.

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At 3:05 AM, Blogger zvi said...

I would take with a grain of salt or less than that, anything Dennis Ross has to say about the Middle East. He was the strongest supporter of the idiotic Oslo Process, which resulted in over a thousand dead Jews (so far). To add insult to injury, he goes about giving speeches for money on the subject as if he knew anything at all about it other than the foppery fed him by "moderate" Palestinians and "peace-favoring" Israelis.

At 8:31 PM, Blogger Binah said...

It's true that Ross supported the Oslo process. But after the collapse of the talks in early 2001, he was emphatic that Arafat was the problem. It's an important part of his book and his speeches and a big factual counterweight to the fantasies peddled by, say, Jimmy Carter and the Europeans.

At 1:49 AM, Blogger zvi said...

You can have the last word, since its your blog, But foresight, not hindsight, is what we should be looking for in leaders. Dennis Ross had none.

At 8:06 PM, Blogger Binah said...

No disagreements there. BTW, Ross recommends sticks, not carrots, for dealing with the Iranian regime.

I guess that does give me the last word :)


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