Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dealing with Iran

By Douglas Kohn

Fareed Zakaria this week made a very prescient call for patience with Iran. Iran is in every manner a threat to the United States and our allies in the region, but it is a manageable threat.

Iran’s behavior calls for increasing international isolation. The prescription for containing Iran should be as follows.

Sanctions should be in place as firmly as possible. The number one sanction that would do the most to destabilize the Ayatollahs would be to lobby Iran’s suppliers of refined gasoline to cut off supplies. Iran, although one of the world’s largest oil producers, lacks the capability to refine its oil supplies into gasoline. There is some debate in policy circles whether sanctions will turn the Iranian population against the regime or that their anger will be toward the West and outside powers in general for making their lives more difficult. Personally I think that the 10 days of protests that took place over the summer illustrate who the people of Iran blame for their problems.

Further security guarantees should be made by the United States to any nation attacked by Iran, or Iran associated affiliates. The United States should use the war in Afghanistan as a way to bolster our presence in the region, while drawing down in Iraq and staging war games that will send a message to the Ayatollahs.

Next, restarting negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians is necessary to delegitimize Hamas and Hezbollah to take away Iran’s stellar reputation in the Arab street that it is the defender of the Palestinians (easier said than done, but it is only one part of the formula).

There is also another significant parallel to the end of World War II that should be realized. Nazi Germany, before it became a greater threat to the world in and of itself, was the main check on the expansion of Soviet Communism. The fact that Hitler eventually became stronger than the Soviets and embarked on a conquest of the world changed the circumstances and forced America to help remove him. Once the Nazi regime was gone, the Soviets had nearly unchecked power to force their no less barbaric ideology on the world.

Now America has removed Saddam Hussein from power, unleashing Iran’s revolutionary zeal on the Middle East. We traded the practice of dual containment on two small powers to now having to fill the gap left by one of the regimes (Hussein).

The final point is that we have been here before. In the 1940s there were calls to use America’s nuclear monopoly to rollback Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and uphold the Kuomintang’s war against Mao’s Communists. But it turned out that these extreme measures were unnecessary. As we have done in the past, we can wait out the Ayatollahs.

It is here, in Fortress America, that we will outlast them.


Anonymous said...

I think one of the most overlooked ramifications of the invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein was the rise of Iran. Try to remember, Iran was never in the news so much and seemed so troubling before the invasion as it did after.

DSKohn said...

Yes it was a disaster. Also, Iran cooperated with US in toppling the Taliban and was sending signals of detente with the West. The rise in oil prices renewed Iran's ability to create tensions in the Middle East. But no matter how it is viewed, the Ayatollahs were terrified of Saddam Hussein.

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