Monday, November 29, 2004

Iran, The Next Big Crisis

Despite the apparent agreement struck with Iran over uranium enrichment, I am skeptical of Iran’s real commitment to end their nuclear weapons research. The conservatives in Iran have consolidated their power and basically quashed the burgeoning movements for democracy and liberalization. The Iranian government at the very least is endorsing the recruitment of suicide bombers to attack US troops in Iraq. And don’t forget the estimated $100 million a year they give annually to Hezbollah. But what can be done? In a recent column David Ignatius suggests following David Kay’s suggestions:

Inspections by themselves are never a solution," Kay says. There will always be "inspection ambiguity," as there was in Iraq. And Kay thinks it would be a mistake to take the threat of military action off the table, as British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw seemed to do in a recent statement.

Kay argues that recent diplomatic efforts by Britain, France and Germany -- which won a pledge by Iran to temporarily stop enriching uranium -- should be seen as a "temporary bridge" for a serious negotiation that must include the United States. The European diplomacy is important, he says, not as an end in itself but because "it opens a window to start a strategic discussion with Iran about its future."

Considering Iran’s commitment to repressive government, Islamic fundamentalism, and terrorism, I am not convinced that even this aggressive diplomatic approach will be enough. Michael Ledeen at the National Review, not surprisingly, also thinks this. He suggests:

[R]egime change is the best way to deal with the nuclear threat and the best way to advance our cause in the war against the terror masters. We have a real chance to remove the terror regime in Tehran without any military action, but rather through political means, by supporting the Iranian democratic opposition. According to the regime itself, upwards of 70 percent of Iranians oppose the regime, want freedom, and look to us for political support. I believe they, like the Yugoslavs who opposed Milosevic and like the Ukrainians now demonstrating for freedom, are entitled to the support of the free world.

I am all for this option, nebulous as it is. But how exactly do we go about supporting Iranian democratic opposition? And how long will it take? Will we be able to ensure that the Iranians get the freedom they deserve before some Iranian supported terrorist group gets the ultimate weapon?


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