Confrontation with Iran?

Posted by Cutler on May 24, 2007
Great Power Rivalry, Iran

The news is awash in stories about rising tensions between the US and Iran.  Reuters reports on US naval maneuvers in the Gulf and accompanying jitters in the oil market.

So, maybe the US is heading for a military confrontation with Iran.

I doubt it.  Here is Israeli Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu on the subject in an interview with the Financial Times:

[Y]ou can reserve the military option, preferably by the US, which has the means to do so. But that should be a last resort, because it is far too complicated.

Maybe the US is leading the way toward a “velvet revolution” in Iran.

I doubt it.  Those who most wish it were so discount the possibility.  Here is Right Zionist Michael Ledeen on recent reports that the White House authorized the CIA to undertake covert operations to undermine the Iranian regime:

[I]t’s a typical CIA product: the opposite of a serious program. You don’t need a secret disinformation operation; instead, we need an effective, public, information effort, including a VOA Farsi Service that entertains criticis of the mullahs more than their apologists, and administration spokesthings who talk about the grisly repression of the Iranian people carried out by the regime. Above all, four little words “we support regime change” would be a great way to start. And those words should come from the White House or Foggy Bottom. So far, we’ve got the secretary of state saying she doesn’t want regime change, just “better behavior” from the mullahs….

[T]his sort of leak invariably comes from people trying to kill the program. My guess is that CIA doesn’t want to do ANYTHING mean to the mullahs, and so they are trying to sabotage their own silly program.

The nuclear issue is in the news, but the nuke story is only a proxy for a larger geo-political story.  As hawks on both sides recognize, nobody really cares about the nukes, as such.

Not surprisingly, an Iranian official recently asserted as much:

Deputy Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) for International Affairs Javad Vaeedi [said], “Iran’s access to nuclear technology is not the problem of the US or the West. Iran’s attaining a geostrategic position is their problem.”

More surprising, at least on the surface, is that Right Zionists like Michael Rubin over at the American Enterprise Institute tend to agree that the real issue is the current geostrategic orientation of the regime.  A nuclear Iran allied with Israel and the United States might continue to be a concern for Arab regimes (as the Iranian nuclear program was under the Shah).  But it would be far less threatening for a figure like Rubin:

A democratic Iran might not abandon its nuclear program, but neither would it sponsor anti-American terrorism, undercut the Middle East peace process or deny Israel’s right to exist. Democratization, therefore, can take the edge off the Iranian threat.

All of which goes to saying that the real question on the table right now is whether the US can “flip” Iran and change its geostrategic orientation.

All through the 1980s, Right Zionists like Michael Ledeen thought this was urgent work.

During the 1990s, Cheney clearly favored an opening with Iran, in part to enhance US leverage in its Great Power rivalry with Russia.

Are we seeing a return to that older Cheney?

If so, will his Right Zionist allies follow his lead?  Or will they accuse him of “selling out Israel” by cutting a deal with an “unreconstructed” anti-Zionist regime in Iran?

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