Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"The view from Tehran"

Reza Aslan, writing in Slate, tells us what life is like for the average Iranian living under the threat of an American attack:

When Bush comes. It is a popular joke in Tehran, akin to saying, "when pigs fly." Of course, behind every joke lurks a genuine sentiment. Sure, Kamran laughs when he says it. But then he grips the wheel and, for a brief moment, glances up at the sky, as though expecting an American fighter jet to zoom overhead.

I can't blame him. There is a palpable sense among many Iranians that the United States might start dropping bombs on them at any moment. After all, Iran is literally surrounded by American troops: The U.S. maintains military bases in Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. A fleet of heavily armed American warships is conducting military exercises in the Persian Gulf. The CIA just received a presidential directive to launch black-ops meant to destabilize the Iranian government. The Bush administration might well be believed to be considering launching its own nuclear weapons (so-called bunker busters like the B61-11) against Iran's suspected nuclear sites.

It is in this context that the Michael Ledeen's of the world believe that the Iranian people will rise up against their leadership. How are we furthering that end?

...almost everything the Iranian regime does—from accelerating its nuclear program to arming Shiite militias in Iraq to crushing opposition movements at home—must be viewed from the prism of the overpowering fear of a coming military attack.

But the Iranian government's actions cannot be isolated from the announcement made by the CIA in May that the United States is actively recruiting Iranian-Americans who, in the words of one intelligence officer, "have links with their families at home," and who could be "a good two-way source of information." Kamran shakes his head when I tell him this. "How did you think the mullahs were going to react to that?" he asks.

It's true that President Bush has made a concerted effort to temper his administration's saber rattling with direct appeals to the Iranian people.

...Bush's comments only exacerbate the paranoia of the Iranian government, resulting in further suppression of dissent, greater international isolation, and less opportunity for Iranians like Kamran to achieve their "full economic potential."

That explains why Iran's most prominent advocates of democracy have repeatedly asked the president to stop reaching out to them.

Our saber rattling presses even moderate and democratically-inclined Iranians to support their government against us. Our appeals to "regime change" lead the Iranian regime to crack down even further on free expression and dissidence. A more incoherent approach towards dealing with the "problem" of Iran could not be crafted.

War with Iran will only harm both our nations. It will kill Iranians and weaken democratic movements in the country. It will not undo our mess in Iraq, but it will further weaken our credibility, strain our military forces, and expose our troops in Iraq and around the world to retaliation. And Iran will redouble it's efforts to acquire the bomb.

This is the plain truth, and these conclusions brook no argument.

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