Iran Rattles The Saber

In non-Miers, non-Fitzgerald news (which, yes, does exist), the President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for the destruction of Israel at a major Islamist convention in Tehran. While Middle Eastern leaders have always hated the existence of Israel and fanned the flames of anti-Semitism, Ahmadinejad’s comments have caused a major international firestorm – Israel has demanded Iran be expelled from the United Nations and even Kofi Annan has had to publicly disavow the Ahmadinejad’s statements.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tony Blair has directly called Iran a threat to global security. Meanwhile, Blair has also highlighted the connection between terrorist activity in Iraq and the Iranian government.

The Iranians are playing a dangerous game. Their nuclear program continues unabated, and if Iran’s increasingly hostile President gets ahold of nuclear weapons, a preemptive strike to remove that capability may become necessary. However, this saber-rattling may not be as much a sign of strength as a sign of weakness. Iran has a significant anti-government pro-democracy underground, and the “election” of Ahmadinejad in the aftermath of the more reform-oriented Mohammad Khatami has only exacerbated the tensions just underneath Iran’s society. As Ahmadinejad holds massive – and likely paid – anti-Israel demonstrations in Tehran it seems possible that he’s using the old Middle Eastern trick of inflaming anti-Semitic tensions in order to relieve pressure elsewhere.

Despite the high price of oil, the average Iranian is feeling the effects of Iran’s weak economy, which has led to high prices on consumer goods and a sense of economic malaise. The Tehran stock exchange has dropped 20% since Ahmadinejad was elected. Iranian companies are redirecting capital to the much more liberal states in the Middle East such as Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. Despite the high prices for oil on the world markets, the Iranian economy is still sputtering – and having Ahmedinejad make wild anti-Israel statements is not the sort of thing that will make foreign investors consider Iran a good bet.

Given the situation in Iran, it seems clear that Ahmadinejad is using anti-Semitism as a shield against rising discontent in Iran. However, that is a dangerous game. Push things too far and he could end up inviting an Israeli reprisal. Back off too soon and he could look weak in the eyes of his people, only furthering the level of discontent. Ahmadinejad has put himself into an untenable position with his rash words, a position that will only further Iran’s economic slide and exacerbate the tensions within the country. However, so long as Ahmadinejad doesn’t decide to suicidally follow through with his threats, Iran’s saber rattling will ultimately weaken the mullah’s hold on government as the Iranian people begin to demand the same rights and freedoms that their neighbors in the Arab Middle East enjoy. Especially as their co-religionists in Iraq find themselves gaining political power, the pro-democracy movement in Iran will only grow over time. It is not a question of if there will be a democratic groundswell in Iran, but when – and the more Ahmadinejad isolates Iran, the greater that chance becomes.

UPDATE: Syria is also feeling political pressure to reform – so much so that they’re resorting to some very nice pro-government Protest Babes™ to bolster their position. However, with Iraq now well on the path to democracy, Syrian Kurds and other groups aren’t going to let themselves be marginalized anymore. As Samuel Huntington noted, democracy travels in waves, and a wave of democratic sentiment is sweeping the Middle East – leaving leaders like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Bashar al-Assad seeking anything they can hold on to as to avoid being swept away in it.

3 thoughts on “Iran Rattles The Saber

  1. there will be no pre-emptive strike on iran. this is not iraq in 1982 where an air strike can do the job. iran has lots of sites strewn about the country and many are believed to be deeply buried and hardened. we are in no position to do what you suggest. not gonna happen.

  2. Unfortunately, we failed to engage Iran diplomatically during the years it had a more moderate leader. The opportunity to exert a positive influence in that country was there, and the internal pro-Democracy forces you mentioned were waiting for it. Instead we called Iran out as being part of the Axis of Evil, an open provocation, shunning diplomacy, and now they’ve seen what happens to the other ‘Axis of Evil’ members that have WMD (N. Korea) and those that don’t (Iraq). The lesson there is pretty clear.

    It’s not too late to pull Iran back from the brink, but threats and possible military action will be disasterous. When I was working in the Balkans during the Kosovo bombing I found that even the most vocal opponents of Milosevic rallied around him when Serbia was attacked, as many Americans rallied around Bush after 9/11. The same thing will happen in Iran should we pursue an aggressive policy, only the consequences will be much, much more severe.

    There’s a good interview of Scott Ritter by Seymour Hersh that illustrates the folly of our Iraq invasion, where Ritter also takes the Clinton administration to task for the same things this administration is doing. Something worth considering as the talk of military action against Iran and Syria swirls about. This is the website:

  3. So Reality its the US’s fault that Iran went nucler. We failed to engage diplomatically, who do you think we’re fighting in Iraq and Afganistan if not Syria and Iran ? Diplomatic engagement and a quarter gets you a $.25 cup if coffe. With regards to what Seymor Hersch is advocating, we had a brillant example of how well that works in North Korea with the “Agreed Framework”. Carter ran in there with or without Clinton’s say so, I tend to believe w/out Clintons approval, negotiated a deal in which the NK would stop their weapons development in exchange for a bunch of incentives; reactors,fuel,aide, foodstuffs, etc. etc. And in the end they took the incentives and lied about their compliance, hence we have a nucleur NK with missle technology that will put that Nuck in Japan or maybe the west coast of the US. It wasn’t a lack of engagement rather we engaged with a lie sack of poop like North Korean government. This is what happens when you negotiate with rogue regimes, they lie they are not bound by any internation agreement to do anything. International Agreements are usually only there to bind up the good guys like the western democracies and other democracies but don’t hold any salt with the dictaors,tyrants and other rogue elements in the world. They didn’t do it aginst Hitler, STalin, etc. etc.. We have a history of “peace in our time” (Chamberlin just before the out break of WW2) negotiated with despots and they won’t do anything, they are pieces of paper not anything else. Hence the League of Nations failed and the UN is currently going thru that same awakening. They (the rogue regimes)are usually at the negotiating table to gain an advantage or time in which to do what they tend to do anyway. Lets take the G-3’s attempt to deal with Iran, they have tried on multiply occasions to get them to stop their nucleur weapons program. This past week the Iranians President said that he wanted to destroy Israel, hardly the kind of regime that would negotiate away the way they are going to destroy said country because of some perfummed diplomate.
    In Seymore Hirsch’s world everthing is the US’s fault and those poor dictaors were called bad names and then started to do their bad stuff. When we are in the world Seymore says get out when we are out Seymore says to get in. He’s pretty consistant on that. As far as Scott Ritter goes, he went from being the biggest advocate for Saddam’s demise “Iraq’s job is to avoid bringing the world’s attention to the fact they’ve retained these weapons,” and then, “Iraq retains the capability to launch a chemical strike.” and then in a few months became the biggest fan of Saddam, so I don’t know what Ritter’s deal was, but now Ithink he’s writing for Al Jarzira, either way i don’t know how much creidtability he has on this topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.