Farsi or Farse?

Posted by Cutler on May 26, 2006
Iran, Iraq

Today is clearly Iran day at the Washington Post. Witness the two competing columns on today’s editorial page: Charles Krauthammer’s “Say No to Tehran’s Gambit” and David Ignatius’s “Its Time to Engage With Iran.”

Bad Cop/Good Cop. Krauthammer makes the case for tough love and Ignatius proposes more honey, less vinegar.

Truth is, if you drill down a little in the Krauthammer column, he isn’t entirely willing to “Just Say No.”

Entering negotiations… is an obvious trap. We should resolutely say no.

Except on one condition. If the [European] allies, rather than shift responsibility for this entire process back to Washington, will reassert their responsibility by pledging support for U.S. and/or coalition military action against Iran in the event that the bilateral talks fail, then we might achieve something.

You want us to talk? Fine. We will go there, but only if you arm us with the largest stick of all: your public support for military action if the talks fail. The mullahs already fear economic sanctions; they will fear European-backed U.S. military action infinitely more. Such negotiations might actually accomplish something.

At the most simple level, this is an equivalent in the case of Iran of trying to preempt the diplomatic mess of the Iraq invasion when the Bush administration agreed to support a UN resolution regarding inspections, etc. but couldn’t win European support for the ill-fated second resolution backing military action.

In a larger sense, Krauthammer’s “conditional” support for negotiations probably means that even he doesn’t actually believe there is a viable military option–let alone one feared by the mullahs.

I may have to eat these words, but I don’t think military action is the preferred option of either Ignatius (not a risky interpretation, given his writing on the subject) or Krauthammer and his allies.

Here is what seems clear about Right Zionists: Iran is–in the long term–the key indespensible ally that they cannot afford to do without if they are going to beat back Arab nationalism. What remains uncertain for Right Zionists is the best way to win Iran as an ally, rather than simply defeating it as a foe. The military option doesn’t even seem likely to defeat a foe, let alone win an ally. It is a farse. But can “official Iran” become an ally? Or only the “eternal Iran” that would presumably emerge from “populist” regime change?

Shared interest in Shiite political power in Iraq might provide the basis for an alliance of sorts between the US and “official Iran.” That is the Khalilzad/Ignatius option, a Farsi option. Beyond detente with “official Iran” is the kind of US-backed “populism” rebellion deployed in Serbia, Ukraine, and elsewhere to achieve extra-constitutional regime change without military force. What to call this option in Iran?

Farsi? Or just Farse?

4 Comments to Farsi or Farse?

  • ‘the kind of US-backed “populism” rebellion deployed in Serbia, Ukraine, and elsewhere to achieve extra-constitutional regime change without military force’ — um, excuse me? Serbia? without military force? as in, without bombing it?

  • Oh, right. Bombing. So the formula is more likely to be “bombing plus.” I had in mind US support for/sponsorship of “Otpor.”  What does the mix of military action and populist protest in Serbia teach about possible scenarios for US intervention in Iran? Was there any tension between the bombing and the populism?  Or did one feed the other?  Assuming the latter, it matters that at least some of the Serbian opposition was essentially more nationalist than Milosevic.  Is there an analogue in Iran?  US military strikes in Iran would certainly arouse Iranian nationalist hostility.  Could the US anticipate that some of that hostility would be directed at the regime as much as at the US?

    This raises the other interesting question: does this strategy pay?  Do you face a more dangerous foe in your “strange bedfellow” allies than in your target?  Have the Serbian nationalists who joined the revolt against Milosevic been sidelined?  Or are they stronger now than under Milosevic?

  • Was there any tension between the bombing and the populism? depends what you mean by populism (not a word I favour).
    “All over Serbia,” says a Socialist Party document, “DOS and OTPOR militants have demolished and robbed SPS offices and jeopardised the lives of members of the SPS leadership in Belgrade, Lajkovac, Leskovac, Smeredevo, RaÅ¡ka, Kragujevac, Pančevo, Novi Sad, Temerin, Ada, Kanjiza, Senta, Zrenjanin, Prokuplje. In some municipalities, e.g. Ub, where the SPS-JUL coalition won the majority of votes in the local elections, DOS violently took power, storming the offices of the local government and appointing a new leadership, contrary to existing legislation and election results.”
    http://www.bhhrg.org/CountryReport.asp?CountryID=20&ReportID=165

  • This bloody thing keeps losing my comments, so if this appears twice in variants that is why. On OTPOR this may interest:
    “All over Serbia,” says a Socialist Party document, “DOS and OTPOR militants have demolished and robbed SPS offices and jeopardised the lives of members of the SPS leadership in Belgrade, Lajkovac, Leskovac, Smeredevo, RaÅ¡ka, Kragujevac, Pančevo, Novi Sad, Temerin, Ada, Kanjiza, Senta, Zrenjanin, Prokuplje. In some municipalities, e.g. Ub, where the SPS-JUL coalition won the majority of votes in the local elections, DOS violently took power, storming the offices of the local government and appointing a new leadership, contrary to existing legislation and election results.”
    http://www.bhhrg.org/CountryReport.asp?CountryID=20&ReportID=165

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