For months now, average Iranians have endured economic hardships, political repression and international isolation as the nation’s top officials remained defiant over Iran’s nuclear program. But in a country whose leaders see national security, government stability and Islamic values as inextricably entwined, problems that usually would constitute threats to the leadership are instead viewed as an opportunity to secure its rule.
Paradoxically, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s economic missteps and the animosity generated in the West by his aggressive posture on the nuclear issue have helped Iran’s leaders hold back what they see as corrupting foreign influences, by increasing the country’s economic and political isolation, said economists, diplomats, political analysts, businessmen and clerics interviewed over the past two weeks.
Pressure from the West, including biting economic sanctions, over Iran’s nuclear program and its role in Iraq have also empowered those pushing the harder line.
Advocates of war with Iran claim repeatedly that a military campaign will demonstrate to the Iranian people the ineffectiveness of their leadership, and that it will encourage them to rise up and replace their leaders. Such a result is a rare phenomenon in human history, as the danger of an outside threat is a handy tool for political leaders who wish to energize fear among their populace and retain their grip on power. Hawks in this country are also the ones who in 2004 said things like you don't "change horses mid-stream", so it is especially strange that they do not realize that Iran's leaders would utilize the same maxim.
The only truly effective way to encourage internal regime change is to demonstrate to the Iranians that their leaders are keeping from them the benefits of improved relations with other powerful countries. Threatening to attack only encourages the Iranians to rally around their leadership, as ineffective and repressive as it may be, in the face of an outside danger.
Unfortunately, such an approach doesn't comport with the effort to strike at Iran's growing nuclear capabilities. A PR campaign to prepare the American people for such an attack appears to be underway, according to Barnett Rubin:
Today I received a message from a friend who has excellent connections in Washington and whose information has often been prescient. According to this report, as in 2002, the rollout will start after Labor Day, with a big kickoff on September 11.
They [the source's institution] have "instructions" (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don't think they'll ever get majority support for this--they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is "plenty."
In a follow up post, Rubin sifts through the tea leaves for signs of a preparation for strikes:
On the morning of Thursday, August 30, someone who is a professional in handling information called me to recount a conversation from the previous Thursday or Friday (August 23 or 24). In this conversation, someone whose proximity to knowledge of such things is so great that I cannot identify him in any other way, told my interlocutor that President Bush would be inclined to accept suggestions for withdrawing some troops from Iraq and moving as many as possible into more secure bases, as a safeguard against reprisals in the event of a U.S. attack on Iran.
Rubin is not alone in his reporting. Ken Silverstein at Harper's has a contact as well who says all signs point to an imminent strike:
Earlier this year, I asked a former CIA official, who was stationed in the Persian Gulf during the first Gulf War and served in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, if he though the administration was planning a military strike. “I don’t think the administration is about to carry out military action,” he told me. “The military does not want to do this. We will lose planes if there is a massive air strike over Iran. We’ll have pilots killed and captured.”
Yesterday, I called the official—who speaks with me only off the record—and he now believes a military strike is likely.
Silverstein then goes on to quote this official, who cites not only to the Bush administration's increasingly hostile rhetoric on Iran but to definitive preparations taking place at U.S. Naval facilities. I'm no expert, but I trust the man knows what he's talking about.
I've been writing about the eminent threat of a strike against Iran since 2004, shortly after this blog began. At first I thought the odds were good that in our arrogance and strength we would attack Iran. As our positioned has gradually weakened in the Middle East, I thought the odds of an attack grew longer. Now I greatly fear that we will launch such an attack out of weakness, and out of a desire to reverse the loss of credibility and authority that has resulted from our misadventure in Iraq. At one time I thought even the hawks in the Bush administration could not be so insane, but I no longer have any faith in at least a minimum amount of rationality from them.
I don't honestly know what can be done to prevent a such attack, but I have ideas. Getting the word out, in opposition to the propaganda organs at such places as the AEI or the Weekly Standard, is a start. Seizing the direction of the war in Iraq from President Bush-a much more difficult proposition-is another. Threatening impeachment of Bush if he orders a strike on Iran? I'd like to see it, but I'm not counting on it. I'm not sure if the Democrats in Congress understand or appreciate the threat of war with Iran. It's time to make sure they do.