Sunday, May 25, 2003

According to Reuters, the Bush administration is leaning toward plans to begin attempting to destabilize the government of Iran. In my judgement, this is a serious mistake. I have discussed what I see as Iran's current role in the region here. I have also discussed why I don't find the administration's claims against the Iranian government convincing and what I think of the specific details that are now circulating.

Destabilizing the Iranian regime could easily create the conditions that would allow a radical hard-line government dominated by the IRG to seize power. It would disrupt the native Iranian debate over the nature of Islamic government and force conservatives throughout the region to choose between hard-line and American models. Furthermore, because my reading of Iranian blogs and media suggests that reformists and conservatives are closing ranks on foreign policy matters, it could easily undo any help the American reputation in the region might eventually get if we properly rebuild Iraq. With regard to the "War on Terror" It would remove the major contributor to rebuilding Afghanistan, weakening the government of that country to allow an al-Qaeda return, while possibly creating even more safe havens in a destabilized Iran.

For years I have been a hawk on Iraq, to the annoyance of my liberal friends. I am, however, completely dovish on Iran. The way to handle Iran - the most democratic Muslim country in the Middle East save Turkey, despite propaganda - is through engaging any aspect of the Iranian government we can while undercutting the conservatives by acting to solve the region's major problems. Iran is a country in continuous evolution, and the U.S. and the region will get more long-term benefit from a native Iranian development than if we let the CIA start mucking around like they did when we restored the Shah. Iran is not Iraq - almost everyone in the region sees their role as fundamentally benevolent. An Iranian Cabinet minister, for example, was recently in Lebanon opening a new hospital in a poor southern region there. That is the image they will put up against our situation in Iraq if Bush goes through with pushing a hard-line conservative agenda under the guise of the "War on Terror."


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