ZenPundit
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
 
CALLING FOR A POLICY OF SMART REGIME CHANGE

Former Reagan administration Secretary of State George Schultz eyes Iran for a kinder, gentler regime change. A call for restoring diplomatic relations with Teheran and a "Ukraine strategy".

The full report can be found here(PDF). I will have comments after I finish reading it.
 
Comments:
I just read the PDF, and I couldn't agree more with the idea that our policy should be move from isolation to engagement. I don't think every proposal in the paper will be effective, but I could think of nothing else that would undermine the power of Khamenei more than removing the US as a source of strength for the regime. Making some sort of connection with the people would be an essentia step in engagementl, maybe in the form of a high profile speech by President Bush. For many reasons, Iran has historically been revolution prone and the current regime has done a good job at using international affiars to maintain and grow its hold on power. With their eyes off the US the regime will become a bigger target for the people and will either be forced to change or leave power.
 
I haven't read the link yet but...what makes you think that "Iran" wants any kind of relation with the U.S. It is a flaw (and virtue?) in the U.S. psyche that says that people actually want to get along or at least respect each other. Yes the mullahs need the U.S. as the great satan in order to help maintain control. This is all the more reason why Iran will not have any sort of formal relation with the U.S.
You sound like Chamberlain talking about Hitler.
Didn't Reagan already try this policy. If I remember they (the mullahs)were laughing their heads off behind our backs during those back channel negotiations.

Barnabus
 
Barnabus,

I'll have comments up later today but George Schultz is hardly a stand-in for Neville Chaimberlain - he's a lot more hawkish than say, Colin Powell. Probably was the most conservative Secretary of State since John Foster Dulles.
 
On Iran
I haven't read the link yet but...what makes you think that "Iran" wants any kind of relation with the U.S. It is a flaw (and virtue?) in the U.S. psyche that says that people actually want to get along or at least respect each other. Yes the mullahs need the U.S. as the great satan in order to help maintain control. This is all the more reason why Iran will not have any sort of formal relation with the U.S.
You sound like Chamberlain talking about Hitler.
Didn't Reagan already try this policy. If I remember they (the mullahs)were laughing their heads off behind our backs during those back channel negotiations.
While I am not by any means a Iran speicalist, this is too simple by half.

First, "the Mullahs" are not a united entity (except under pressure), there are a goodly strain of Iranian ulema (or Mullahs if you will) who never or have come to dislike the Vilayet-e-Faqih -rule by the 'clerics' (actually more precisely by those trained in religious law: faqih)- concept that Khomieni created whole cloth and one previously alien to Islam.

A good portion of the ulema have come to see that they (the ulema) are getting all dirty by participating in direct rule, that the ancient attitude of being apart from the sordid secular rule had very, very good reasons.

The issue is not dealing then with "a Hitler" but "divide and conquer": one of the grosser errors of the Right during the Cold War was not understanding that Left did not mean hive mind; that one could if one was clever, divide and conquer. And that some portions of the Left are not all that bad. The Iranian situ is not one of a clear dictatorship a la Hitler c. 1939, but an incompetent if repressive oligarchy with multiple factions and no clear single authority (as existed in Khomieni). Very different situ.

In re the ulema in Iran, engagement in a cold realist light (not simple minded "let's all get along") could be rather more useful than empty belligerence - Iran like the US tends to have a rally-round-the-flag effect.

While not as simply satisfying, capital R realism suggests clear-headed engagement is potentially much more useful given current realities.


Collounsbury
 
I am well aware of the resistence that Khamenei have to engagement with the US. That said, I think there are still candidates within the regime and others who have beeen marginalized after the elections there who ould be very receptive to overtures from the US. There are certain incentives that the US could present in the forms of trade and security, that would most likely be rejected, but would still help engage the regime's opposition. As Collounsbury pointed out, there is a growing segment of clerics who are dissatisfied with Khamenei, not to mention the reformers and students who feel they have been frozen out of government by the oppressives polices of Khamenei. Right now the US is basically a common foe to everyone in Iran. But if we can successfully engage the elements who seek change and let them know we are on their side Khamenei would be placed in a very difficult position where he would eventually have to make political concessions or clamp down even harder. To make the comparison between Chamberlian and the current argument to engage Iran is completely wrong. Forgetting all the other differences, engagement does not equate to appeasement. I think those who do advocate for engagement understand the nature of the Iranian regime and are under no illusions about what the US' objectives should to be. With any policy we adopt regarding Iran, the ultimate goal ought to be a change in government.
 
Damn it ! I am itching to start blogging on this, in light of these comments but my boss has dropped something on my desk that I absolutely have to handle today.

I'll have something solid up tonight......
 
Wouldn't it be nice if the current regime in Iran were replaced with a peace-loving, liberal democratic regime that was friendly (or at least indifferent) to the United States? Unfortunately, I suspect that the likelihood of this is essentially nil (at least without major violent upheaval in Iran).

I've been looking at the “velvet revolutions” of the last twenty or so years. Can anyone come up with an instance of such a revolution that removed an autocrat (or oligarchy)? Every instance I can come up with removes a bureaucrat not an autocrat. It's amazing how durable even the most despised autocracy or oligarchy that's willing to use force to suppress dissent can be.

I'll read the report but I suspect that they're ignoring the degree to which the United States has been demonized in Iran. Only the most covert of support to dissidents would do anything but discredit them.
 
in response to a few of the points raised above: 1) "the mullahs are not united." I understand that but the differences between them is relatively small compared to their differences (political, religious, cultural)with us. You can be a reformist cleric who wants to reduce nepotism and corruption but that doesn't make you a liberal-minded western democrat. In addition while it does appear as if younger people do want a more representative, less repressive government they are not in a position to do anything and it is not clear how "pro-western" they really are. 2) "divide and conquer." The Iranian leadership is not stupid. I would characterize them as being quite savvy. They understand why we would want to formalize relations and that is the main reason that they would never agree to it. The drive to develop nuclear weapons seems to have broad support amongst the population which, as you say, tends to rally around the flag. This goal of acquiring nuclear weapons unifies the country much like the moon shot did in the U.S. What does the Iranian leadership gain from formalizing relations with the U.S.? A security guarantee? Their security comes from HAVING nuclear weapons (just look at North Korea...it works for them). Our armed forces appear to be having difficulty keeping 150,000 men in combat (what happened to being able to fight two theater wars at the same time?), the Iranian leadership is not worried about a U.S. expeditionary force appearing in Tehran. As for air strikes, that's what they want. From their perspective, the only thing better than actual U.S. airstrikes is the threat of U.S. airstrikes.
I agree with Dave. There are no easy options available especially since they seem to be so close to having a weapon.

Barnabus
 
in response to a few of the points raised above: 1) "the mullahs are not united." I understand that but the differences between them is relatively small compared to their differences (political, religious, cultural)with us. You can be a reformist cleric who wants to reduce nepotism and corruption but that doesn't make you a liberal-minded western democrat. In addition while it does appear as if younger people do want a more representative, less repressive government they are not in a position to do anything and it is not clear how "pro-western" they really are. 2) "divide and conquer." The Iranian leadership is not stupid. I would characterize them as being quite savvy. They understand why we would want to formalize relations and that is the main reason that they would never agree to it. The drive to develop nuclear weapons seems to have broad support amongst the population which, as you say, tends to rally around the flag. This goal of acquiring nuclear weapons unifies the country much like the moon shot did in the U.S. What does the Iranian leadership gain from formalizing relations with the U.S.? A security guarantee? Their security comes from HAVING nuclear weapons (just look at North Korea...it works for them). Our armed forces appear to be having difficulty keeping 150,000 men in combat (what happened to being able to fight two theater wars at the same time?), the Iranian leadership is not worried about a U.S. expeditionary force appearing in Tehran. As for air strikes, that's what they want. From their perspective, the only thing better than actual U.S. airstrikes is the threat of U.S. airstrikes.
I agree with Dave. There are no easy options available especially since they seem to be so close to having a weapon.

Barnabus
 
If I may then, respond encore:

in response to a few of the points raised above: 1) "the mullahs are not united." I understand that but the differences between them is relatively small compared to their differences (political, religious, cultural)with us.Who's this "us" you speak of?

Regardless, the difference between any political group in the Middle East and say, Middle Americans, could be so characterized. That's irrelevant to the calculation.

You can be a reformist cleric who wants to reduce nepotism and corruption but that doesn't make you a liberal-minded western democrat.So what? Liberal minded western democrats are virtually non-existant out here, and those that do exist largely have no audience.

Fantasies about western liberal democracy aside, one has to work with reality out here, and that reality is not liberal and not western, although sometimes vaguely democratic.

In addition while it does appear as if younger people do want a more representative, less repressive government they are not in a position to do anything and it is not clear how "pro-western" they really are.They're not necessarily pro Western in the sense of being pro American, but if aspiring to fabricate that is the basis of your policy, you have no policy.


2) "divide and conquer." The Iranian leadership is not stupid. I would characterize them as being quite savvy. They understand why we would want to formalize relations and that is the main reason that they would never agree to it. Of course they are clever, all the better. The US as a useful tool....


The drive to develop nuclear weapons seems to have broad support amongst the population which, as you say, tends to rally around the flag. This goal of acquiring nuclear weapons unifies the country much like the moon shot did in the U.S. What does the Iranian leadership gain from formalizing relations with the U.S.? A security guarantee? Their security comes from HAVING nuclear weapons (just look at North Korea...it works for them). Our armed forces appear to be having difficulty keeping 150,000 men in combat (what happened to being able to fight two theater wars at the same time?), the Iranian leadership is not worried about a U.S. expeditionary force appearing in Tehran. As for air strikes, that's what they want. From their perspective, the only thing better than actual U.S. airstrikes is the threat of U.S. airstrikes.Fair enough, blockading Iran doesn't particularly help either. Building a relationship opens paths that simple nay saying does not.
 
Thanks for the discussion. For the most part, we agree...well except for the conclusion...lol. I don't have any answers or useful suggestions; and yes I understand that it is easy to take shots at a proposal. However, there is one point that I wish you would address. How would we actually open an embassy in Iran? The U.S. would propose formalizing relations? At best that would result in very lengthy negotiations (mainly centered on what concessions we would be willing to make to Iran). This delay is exactly what the Iranians need to go nuclear. Personally I really wouldn't care, heck they live in a dangerous part of the planet, except for the fact that they parade their missiles with "Death to America" written on them...25 years after the revolution! I mean, who am I to tell them they can't have nukes, except for the fact that Mr. Rafsanjani was quoted from a speech where he was publicly discussing surviving a nuclear retaliatory strike. What do they gain from actually taking the U.S. proposal? I see nothing that the current Iranian leadership wants from the U.S. (esp. that they can't get from Europe). In fact, as we discussed, they probably want us to be even more bellicose.

Barnabus
 
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