Tuesday, July 22, 2003

# Posted 7:16 AM by Patrick Belton  

MILANI, DIAMOND, AND MCFAUL ON US IRAN POLICY: The three Hoover fellows have an interesting piece in the LA Times criticizing both poles of the current debate within the US over how to accelerate democratic reform in Iran (this via Priorities & Frivolities's Robert Tagorda, by email).

The summary bit:
Neither of these plans serves the long-term interests of the United States or the cause of Iranian democracy.

The first, confronting Iran, is an empty threat, since the U.S. does not have the military means and the American people do not have the will to invade Iran. The threat of American military intervention, therefore, only helps the conservative mullahs to rally people around the Iranian flag.

The second plan, engagement, might enhance U.S. security objectives in Iraq in the short run, but it would exacerbate an even greater threat to American security — an Islamic regime bent on obtaining nuclear weapons.

What are they asking for, then? Mainly, a major presidential speech on Iran, outlining a U.S. strategy "to provide moral and political assistance to the internal movement for democracy in Iran, not to anoint a future leader." Secondarily, that the US make clear it will only deal with a democratically elected regime, and (somewhat nebulously) that we accelerate the flow of accurate information and democratic ideas through broadcasting, confront the regime on its nuclear weapons program and violations of human rights, and support Iranian reformers "intellectually and practically." (Incidentally, on the broadcasting point, see this article on Cuba jamming the new daily Persian-language broadcasts of VOA and a private Iranian exile group in L.A..)

Sounds fine, but I'm not (yet) convinced that this isn't, in spite of itself, a call for extending the status quo of US policy, albeit perhaps with more administration attention. Which may be fine, but is markedly less ambitious than the wholesale new policy the authors promise at the outset.

UPDATE: Sounds, in fact, like they wanted something like this. (Statement by the President, July 12, 2002). Looks like Milani et al. get all their wishes, even before asking for them. Lucky them!
We have seen throughout history the power of one simple idea: when given a choice, people will choose freedom. As we have witnessed over the past few days, the people of Iran want the same freedoms, human rights, and opportunities as people around the world. Their government should listen to their hopes.

In the last two Iranian presidential elections and in nearly a dozen parliamentary and local elections, the vast majority of the Iranian people voted for political and economic reform. Yet their voices are not being listened to by the unelected people who are the real rulers of Iran. Uncompromising, destructive policies have persisted, and far too little has changed in the daily lives of the Iranian people. Iranian students, journalists and Parliamentarians are still arrested, intimidated, and abused for advocating reform or criticizing the ruling regime. Independent publications are suppressed. And talented students and professionals, faced with the dual specter of too few jobs and too many restrictions on their freedom, continue to seek opportunities abroad rather than help build Iran's future at home. Meanwhile, members of the ruling regime and their families continue to obstruct reform while reaping unfair benefits.

Iran is an ancient land, home to a proud culture with a rich heritage of learning and progress. The future of Iran will be decided by the people of Iran. Right now, the Iranian people are struggling with difficult questions about how to build a modern 21st century society that is at once Muslim, prosperous, and free. There is a long history of friendship between the American people and the people of Iran. As Iran's people move towards a future defined by greater freedom, greater tolerance, they will have no better friend than the United States of America.

(Courtesy of Mike Daley and Brothers Judd)
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