July 17, 2009

A Microcosm of World Politics

Iranians like to shout "death" at countries and governments they oppose. "Death to America" and "death to Israel" have been staples of the bombast belted out by hard-line ruling authorities for three decades. "Death to the dictator" is a recent addition to Iran's political discourse.

Even more recently, enemies and opponents of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and Ali Khamenei began chanting "death to Russia" and "death to China" to counter the regime's incessant bleatings of "death to America," and to highlight the Islamic Republic's alliance with Beijing and Moscow.

Iran's internal divisions look more like a microcosm of world politics than they have for some time. Each side is declared a proxy of powerful foreigners. Natrually, each side's "patrons" oppose each other geopolitically. Whether the White House likes it or not, and whether it's a good thing or not, the reformist and revolutionary side in that fight will continue to be associated with the United States and the West.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 17, 2009 4:39 PM

Isn't this so TV? The way people used to "perform" for the news outlets. By hoping they appear on the nightly news. While current events depicts TWITTER a much better way to get a feel for the activities going on, even in Tehran.

It's just a "clash of civilizations" out there.

Oddly enough, once there was such a hue and cry of protesters taking to the streets. And, it became obvious (at least to me), that Ahmadinijad came in 3rd! It seems it's only going to be a matter of time before something collapses in the "power structure." In 1979, there was respect for the mullahs. Dictatorships, however, just weaken. And, so it has in China. And, in Iran.

Reagan would say there are revolutions that can happen without shots even being fired.

While just forcing people to believe? When has that ever worked for any church? While in terms of the TV, it doesn't work the way it used to work. I just hope the mullahs quest for nukes don't deliver terrible havoc to innocents. People are just not responsible for what governments do. Even their own governments.

Posted by: Carol_Herman Author Profile Page at July 17, 2009 6:16 PM

The waving around of foreign models as stand-ins and examples has always been the way with contested and profoundly contrasting views of how a society should be. One can see in it in Thucydides' history of the Peloponnesian Wars, during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation in Europe, during the 1989-91 Revolutions in the Soviet bloc and since.

We possibly put too much importance on the rhetoric of specific leaders: possibly countries have enduring images which are more powerful in this situation.

Posted by: Lorenzo Author Profile Page at July 17, 2009 8:43 PM

While top US envoys call for patience on North Korea this is going to be a problem to Netanyahu, Obama and Panetta:

"DEBKAfile's military sources reveal that Iran is in the last stages of construction of a nuclear test site in the Kavir Lut desert between Tehran and its eastern border with Afghanistan. The work is managed by the Iranian experts invited to attend North Korea's nuclear test this year. (DEBKAfile reported June 27 that Iran has opened the way for a nuclear test.)

Two of the diplomats attached to the UN nuclear watchdog agency in Vienna confirmed to the Associated Press Saturday July 18 that Iran now has the means to test a weapon within six months. One said more specifically: "Iran has the capacity, if not the intention, to set off a test explosion in six months."

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the two diplomats emphasized there were no indications of plans for a nuclear test and in their opinion Iran is unlikely to risk heightened confrontation with the West and chances of an Israeli attack with such a course.

For the last six months, DEBKAfile's intelligence sources have all stressed that this supposition is wishful thinking having confirmed that Iran is squarely on the fast track for an N-test. Once preparations are complete, its leaders will not hesitate to conduct one, following the North Korean model.

And indeed the two diplomats in Vienna admitted the Iranians were blocking UN nuclear agency attempts to upgrade monitoring resources.

As recently as July 9, DEBKAfile's military sources reported: "The US, Europe - and even the Binyamin Netanyahu government - appear to have adopted the same strategy for North Korea and Iran. It is a combination of harsh oral rebukes coupled with a refusal to address North Korea's violations and Iran's race for a nuclear bomb in any practical way, even though sanctions are clearly of no effect at all.

A blind eye is equally turned to the close collaboration between Pyongyang and Tehran on their missile and nuclear development programs. The two rogue states are also clearly in tune on their nuclear diplomacy and timetables.

According to DEBKAfile's intelligence sources, North Korea shared the results of its latest missile launches with Iran, exactly as it did after its nuclear and ballistic tests. But neither Washington nor Jerusalem has raised a hand. Both nuclear transgressors are getting away with the gross, ongoing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and making a mockery of international law and UN resolutions."

Therefore, the diplomat's estimate Saturday that the Iranians will not risk confrontation with the West or chance an Israeli attack is completely unfounded, as are the theories that the Iranian leadership is in too shaky a position at home to go forward with a nuclear test. As soon as the test site is ready, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will not be deterred from taking the nuclear plunge by the unrest at home, any more than grave illness has stopped Kim Jong-II flouting international prohibitions.

Still, the US and Europe will not fall out of their chairs because they have given the ayatollahs all the time they needed to attain a nuclear weapon."

I wonder if those protesting in Iran would understand a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Does the political situation on the ground actually give the Mullahs some breathing room on chasing the bomb? Or must we do everything we can now to "meddle" before Ahmadinejad gives the green light?

Posted by: maxtrue Author Profile Page at July 18, 2009 7:43 AM

They were going to go ahead regardless. What this OUGHT to do is prove what many knew -- they can't be dealt with in any rational manner. It is more likely they will rush ahead faster because one thing that would pull the political rifts together short run is a more concrete external threat.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at July 18, 2009 9:43 AM

Exactly AZZenny, which is why there are a few options to consider quickly. First, Germany and Italy are Iran's biggest trading partners. Suspending their trade except for essential materials like medical supplies would be a good start. Merkel talks the talk, but won't walk the walk. No one seems to be willing to call her on it. Second, the Iranian oil workers brought down the Shah. Meddling here is tricky, but an option as well as restricting gasoline imports. Third is the following:

"A new way to pressure Iran
By Olivier Guitta

After the much dubious Iranian presidential elections and the popular revolt that ensued, the European Union took the lead in supporting the people of Iran. Most vocal were France and the UK compared to the tepid U.S. reaction. The Iranian regime did not wait long to blame the West and tension has escalated since local personnel from the British embassy in Tehran were detained by Iranian authorities. The EU is envisioning withdrawing all 27 ambassadors to Iran to protest. And it might be onto something…

Former French president Jacques Chirac told The New York Times in Jan. 2007 regarding sanctions, “The question is how can we impose sufficiently strong constraints on Iran. This is a difficult issue. One has to know what Iran can withstand or not. Iran has a regime that is still a bit fragile, a bit fragile. The last elections proved in particular that the President did not have all the authority one could have expected. This somewhat fragile regime is afraid. Afraid of what? Afraid of being contested.
What does it want? It wants to maintain the regime of the mullahs. To maintain the regime of the mullahs, it needs to not be contested or threatened by the international community”.
Iran is now being hit by this double whammy: domestic revolt and international isolation. But in order to increase pressure the EU and other Western nations should break off diplomatic relations with Tehran following the example of what France did in 1987-1988." Counterterrorism.org

This nuclear issue is certainly a huge butterfly in the making. The non-linear effect of this will likely increase geometrically. It is rather disheartening that the American Press is not covering the fallout of this situation with much regard for the consequences. Instead, AP reports US envoys at the UN explain that the West must show more patience in dealing with North Korea. The interesting thing is that as Israel successfully tests Iron Dome today, Netanyahu appears to be in relative sync with the US administration, leaving the issue of settlements aside.

MAD of course worked because the Kremlin was rational. They did not consider giving WMD materials to terrorist groups. Most Americans are under the impression that our WMD forensics will be able to ascertain the origin of WMD material if they are used against us by proxies. Not true unfortunately. Although Iran has a ways to go before they can deliver any nukes, the materials and deliver systems already manufactured with great care to erasing any manufacturing finger prints is a cause of great concern for anyone paying attention. And the formation and expertise they are learning now is already a barrier broken worth considering.

Posted by: maxtrue Author Profile Page at July 18, 2009 10:05 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Read my blog on Kindle


Recommended Reading