Thursday, November 26, 2009

Exactly how it this supposed to work?

Here are three paragraphs from a worthwhile but flawed essay from Maziar Bahari, a journalist who was held prisoner by Iran:
In Iran's triangle of power – the Guards, Ayatollah Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – the Guards are becoming stronger than the President and the Supreme Leader. Some are devoted to the ayatollah for religious reasons, but many of them use his status as a religious leader to legitimize their own actions. They also use Mr. Ahmadinejad, a former Guard, to increase their political power.

The Guards have arms and money. They are the country's biggest industrial contractors. They have front companies all over the region and in the West and are involved in smuggling goods into and out of Iran. They answer only to Ayatollah Khamenei.

So can the West, especially the United States, have a dialogue with these people? Yes. Because there is no other choice. The West has to negotiate with Iran on the nuclear program and the stability of Iraq and Afghanistan. Not talking to Tehran doesn't work: The hostile rhetoric and actions of the Bush administration against even the reformist government of former president Mohammad Khatami helped the hard-liners consolidate power. Only by engaging, even with a more radical regime, can the West force Tehran to measure the costs and benefits of dealing with the outside world.
That's a very funny usage of the word "force." Elsewhere Bahari argues that "a nuclear Iran should not be tolerated." And the mechanism for that intolerance?
The U.S. government should use all its resources, including President Barack Obama's charm, to persuade allies, especially China and Russia, to put in place smart sanctions that target Iran's nuclear program and do not affect ordinary Iranians.
Ah, I see, "charm" China and the regime which has already been paid to provide Iran with advanced anti-aircraft missiles into "smart sanctions"! The policy recommendations in this sort of piece never flow from the analysis. Rather, the analysis is intended to build up the writer's supply of credibility as a realistic thinker. He then, of course, proceeds to squander that credibility on glib but wishful thinking. It's a familiar pattern.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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