A Time For Solidarity

David Ignatius has an excellent column on why the revolution in Iran is so important, and why President Obama should stand up and show solidarity with the Iranian people:

President Obama was right to speak carefully about the events in Iran during the first week of protest. But it’s time for him to express his solidarity with the Iranians who are so bravely taking to the streets each day. He can do that without seeming to meddle if he chooses his words wisely.

Obama should invoke the Iranian yearning for justice — which was a powerful theme of the revolution. He should cite Iran’s own rich history of political reform, going back to Cyrus the Great, whose declaration of human rights was chiseled in the Cyrus Cylinder in 539 B.C. He should cite the Iranian constitution of 1906, which established elections and basic freedoms. Democracy is not an American imposition but an Iranian tradition.

“We clearly have to be on the right side of history here,” says Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment and an informal adviser to the White House. But he cautions that “if we try to insert ourselves into the momentous internal Iranian drama that’s unfolding, we may unwittingly undermine those whom we’re trying to strengthen.”

President Obama’s unwillingness to make a statement of solidarity is puzzling. Direct intervention would be a very bad idea, but the myth that any act of official support would harm the pro-democracy movement seem wrong. For one, the idea that the Iranian people actually still care about the overthrow of Mossadegh seems unlikely: Iran is a country where most the population was born after the 1979 revolution: Mossadegh is ancient history. Secondly, Obama has already “meddled” by requesting the Twitter delay maintenance to allow Iranian dissidents to communicate—a move that undoubtedly helped the Iranian resistance.

This is a time for solidarity. The free people of the world cannot turn a blind eye to the oppression that is harming the Iranian people—especially as the Khameini/Ahmadinejad regime tries to crack down on the protesters.

The people of Iran are risking their lives for the cause of freedom. As human beings, we cannot ignore their pleas. The very least the American government can do is put its moral authority into pressuring the Iranian government to avoid bloodshed. President Obama has, undoubtedly, a massive amount of political capital on the world stage. He should use it and he should make it clear that while the United States will not intervene unless asked, that we are with those who seek individual rights and human dignity anywhere they may be.

History Repeating Itself As Tragedy

Will Collier notes that Obama is acting like Jimmy Carter in 1979:

Rather than offering any crumbs of support to the Iranians who are literally putting their lives on the line for their own freedom, Barack Obama could only manage “deep concerns.” In Obamaland, it’s not as important to offer even moral support to people trying to shake off the yoke of a barbaric dictatorship as it is to not appear to be “meddling.”

This all sounds quite familiar, and everyone over 30 has seen it before. Did somebody replace the “community activist” with a self-righteous peanut farmer while we weren’t looking?

The fantasy that “moderates” within the mullah regime can be coaxed into a “grand bargain” has taken in better men than Barack Obama, but Obama doesn’t even have the excuse of not being aware of that prior history. The level of self-loathing an American has to possess to believe that the Khomeinists are a brutal, terror-supporting regime entirely because the US hasn’t been nice enough to them is pretty staggering.

President Obama is laboring under the entirely mistaken premise that because the U.S. overthrew the Mossadegh regime 30 years before most Iranians were even born, that someone we have no legitimacy in the region. That assumption is pure garbagemdash;Obama unquestionably has great power to at the very least show solidarity to the Iranian people. Even French President Nicolas Sarkozy felt free to uncategorically condemn Iranian brutality.

When the French are showing far more spine than you are, it’s a sure sign you’re on the wrong side of the issue.

President Obama is wasting his capital in the Middle East by sitting on the sidelines. The idea that a U.S. show of support would hurt the Green Revolutionaries in Iran is a myth. President Bush openly showed support for the March 14th protesters in Lebanon seeking to end the Syrian occupation of their country. Despite President Bush’s low standing in the region, that call did not hurt the Lebanese people’s cause. Why in the world does Obama think that joining the chorus of world leaders will hurt?

Collier seems correctmdash;Obama shares in the worldview of placing blame on the United States. He is unwilling to use America’s capital because he doesn’t believe in it. He quite literally blames America for the situation rather than seeing the United States as a force that could put its weight behind the crucial cause of freedom in Iran.

John Podhoretz makes the controversial, but compelling argument that Obama’s interests are best served by an Ahmadinejad win. Given that Obama has been taking steps towards deacute;tente with the Iranians and the subtle legitimization of the Ahmadinejad/Khameini regime, having that regime suddenly lose all legitimacy undercuts all of that work and makes Obama look like a fool. Obama’s interests are in a swift return to “normalcy” rather than a messy revolution and a nascent Iranian democracymdash;that reeks too much of George W. Bush for the Obama foreign policy team to take.

A show of solidarity is not “meddling”, especially when the rest of the world has made their position clear. Obama is showing no leadership on that issue, as the Iranian people are inspiring with their bravery. If ever there was a time when “hope” and “change” were needed by a people, the Iranians need it now. Too bad that on this issue Barack Obama is one again voting “present”.

Iran In The Flames Of Revolution

Right now, the people of Iran are engaged in a struggle against tyranny. The Ahmadinejad regime, flagrantly stealing an election, is now on the razor’s edge as hundreds of thousands take the streets to protest the regime and call for democratic reform.

Michael J. Totten, already a veteran observer of Middle Eastern affairs has some trenchant commentary on the brewing revolution in Iran. He calls the Iranian regime “an enemy of the entire world.” That’s no hyperbole: the regime in Tehran is illegitimate and oppressive. The Iranian people deserve better. They deserve to have a government that exists for the betterment of the people, not a government that keeps them impoverished and isolated from the rest of the world.

This revolution is being carried live on Twitter, as that seems to be the most reliable communications method for the Iranian people right now. What is amazing about this revolution is that it is the first Web 2.0 revolution. Social networking sites like Twitter, YouTube, and others are serving as avenues for communication and coordination, and brave Iranian dissidents are breaking through the regime’s efforts to stifle their voices.

This is a fight for the future of Iran. The Ahmadinejad/Khameini regime can only survive by force, they have lost the Iranian people. This will end in one of two ways: in a new Iran, or in blood.

I pray that this ends with a new and free Iran. I wish the Iranian people strength in these coming days, and I stand in solidarity with the people of Iran.

The Ahmadinejad regime must go. As the cry goes out in Tehran—Allahu akbar! Death to dictators!.

Iranian Protesters in Azadi Square

Biden’s Servile Foreign Policy

Sen. Joe Biden (in an response to Sen. Lieberman’s must-read piece on Democrats and the war) writes on his critique of America’s post-9/11 foreign policy. His arguments are reasonable, but the problem is that the world he describes has little to do with the world in which we all actually live. For example:

At the heart of this failure is an obsession with the “war on terrorism” that ignores larger forces shaping the world: the emergence of China, India, Russia and Europe; the spread of lethal weapons and dangerous diseases; uncertain supplies of energy, food and water; the persistence of poverty; ethnic animosities and state failures; a rapidly warming planet; the challenge to nation states from above and below.

Instead, Mr. Bush has turned a small number of radical groups that hate America into a 10-foot tall existential monster that dictates every move we make.

The problem with Biden’s analysis is that all those problems are being dealt with: the Bush Administration has been the most progressive administration in this century in terms of Africa policy. We were the first on the scene for the Indonesian tsunami. We’ve been in the lead on trying to get aid into Burma. The list could go on.

What Biden is trying to do is downplay the reality that terrorism is the central problem we face. Terrorism is one of the factors making our energy supply uncertain, it perpetuates poverty in places like Iraq, and it feeds of failed states. That doesn’t mean that terrorism is the sole problem, but it is the most significant, and a focus on terrorism is by necessity a focus on doing things like preventing failed states.

Al-Qaeda wasn’t turned into a monster by President Bush. They launched the first significant attack on continental America since 1812. They massively destabilized our economy and our way of life. And they would just love to do so again. The confluence of terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction is the greatest foreign policy threat we face—not the phantom menace of “a rapidly warming planet.”

And what would Sen. Biden do? The same policies that failed the Carter Administration:

Last week, John McCain was very clear. He ruled out talking to Iran. He said that Barack Obama was “naïve and inexperienced” for advocating engagement; “What is it he wants to talk about?” he asked.

Well, for a start, Iran’s nuclear program, its support for Shiite militias in Iraq, and its patronage of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

And exactly what leverage to we have to get Iran to change, Senator? Exactly what would talking achieve. Does anyone believe that Ahmadinejad or Khameini is going to agree to a deal in which Iran stops developing nuclear weapons? Are they going to stop spreading their influence because we ask nice?

That is the central, failed conceit of current Democratic foreign policy: it is hopelessly naïve. The Iranians cannot be negotiated out of supporting Hamas and Hizb’Allah. Why should they stop, unless we have a credible threat of force to back us up. Should a President Obama go to Tehran, does anyone really think that the mullahs would give a damn about what he said? They would have no reason to—they know damned well that he would never use force against them, so why would they bother to hold themselves to their own promises?

We tried this approach with North Korea. It didn’t work there, it’s still not working, and it won’t work with Tehran. At best, talking delays the inevitable. Teddy Roosevelt said we should talk softly and carry a big stick. The Democrats want us to go into Tehran, but they also want us to put away the stick.

Beyond bluster, how would Mr. McCain actually deal with these dangers? You either talk, you maintain the status quo, or you go to war. If Mr. McCain has ruled out talking, we’re stuck with an ineffectual policy or military strikes that could quickly spiral out of control.

Except talking doesn’t work. We may not have any choice but to go to war, but we’re not at that point yet. Sen. Biden misses another option: making the costs involved in challenging us too high to countenance.

We need a Machiavellian foreign policy, and the Democrats want us to act like Barney the Dinosaur and pretend that we’re all friends. You want to make Tehran not develop nuclear weapons? You make sure that the costs of doing so are high. We defeated the Soviet Union not through talks, but by making it very clear to the Soviets that if talking failed, we were perfectly willing to wipe them off the face of the globe.

Biden’s arguments on Iran don’t get any better:

It also requires a much more sophisticated understanding than Mr. Bush or Mr. McCain seem to possess that by publicly engaging Iran – including through direct talks – we can exploit cracks within the ruling elite, and between Iran’s rulers and its people, who are struggling economically and stifled politically.

Iran’s people need to know that their government, not the U.S., is choosing confrontation over cooperation. Our allies and partners need to know that the U.S. will go the extra diplomatic mile – if we do, they are much more likely to stand with us if diplomacy fails and force proves necessary.

The Bush-McCain saber rattling is the most self-defeating policy imaginable. It achieves nothing. But it forces Iranians who despise the regime to rally behind their leaders. And it spurs instability in the Middle East, which adds to the price of oil, with the proceeds going right from American wallets into Tehran’s pockets.

What is the alternative? It’s clear that talking is not going to help. The world community is not going to turn against Iran. Russia will not. China will not. Even Europe would balk.

A foreign policy based on meaningless words back with no credible threat of force is a foreign policy damned to fail—just as it did when Jimmy Carter did it. Under his watch, the Iranian regime was founded. We cannot afford such a disaster again.

We have to deal with Iran, but pretending that talk will solve anything is futile. Iran, like the rest of the Middle East, respects strength and laughs at the weak. The Democrats continue to advocate for a foreign policy of weakness in which a servile United States goes to our enemies and begs them to play nice.

Americans don’t beg, we lead from strength. That is how Reagan led this country to the end of the Cold War and how a President McCain will help lead this country to an end to the War on Islamic Terrorism.

Iran’s War Against The United States

TigerHawk takes a detailed look at Iran’s proxy war against the United States. It’s become indisputable that Iranian agents are arming Iraqi insurgent groups — even NATO is confirming it. Now evidence is being uncovered which indicates that the Iranians are arming the Taliban in Afghanistan as well.

We can’t keep pretending that Iran and the United States are not in a de facto state of war. No amount of fruitless negotiation is going to change Tehran’s dream of establishing regional hegemony. We need to be taking a much harder line towards Tehran, which may mean the use of military force.

We cannot simply let the Ahmadinejad regime continue to develop nuclear weapons and provide arms to terrorist groups across the region. The nightmare scenario is that both come together and the Iranians give a working nuclear device to a terrorist group — if that happens, a major allied city will be attacked and the death toll will be catastrophic. To put one’s trust in a messianic madman like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and assume that the Iranian government would not do such a thing is not a safe bet.

We’re in the midst of a war that’s larger than Iraq and Afghanistan, and our enemies know that our cowardly political culture is constraining our actions. We have to recover the initiative, otherwise the results of our weakness will be a Middle East that is controlled by Iran and another Cold War — against an enemy for whom the traditional concepts of deterrence will not apply.

ABC: Iran Could Go Nuclear By 2009

ABC is reporting that Iran’s nuclear program may be able to enrich enough uranium by 2009 to begin constructing warheads — which isn’t a particular surprise, but shocking nonetheless. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had bragged that he could have 3,000 uranium-refining centrifuges up by May, and he may well not have been merely boasting.

The reality is that the world must soon take action to ensure than Iran does not go nuclear — but once again the forces of fecklessness have primacy over international affairs. A nuclear-armed Iran would be an unmitigated disaster for the rest of the world and could easily lead to a situation in which terrorist gain hold of nuclear weapons.

Of course, the usual suspects are arguing that all of this is just another example of how BUSH LIED!™ — which is exactly why the overheated and ignorant rhetoric of this last war is so dangerous to international security. In a climate where the analysis of our intelligence agencies is instantly discounted and policymakers are pressured not to take their warnings seriously, disaster is far more likely. While there’s no question that the intelligence community screwed up over intelligence on Iraq WMDs (and that goes for the global intelligence community, not just the CIA), that doesn’t mean that they’re wrong now.

There’s no room for doubt that Iran has an active nuclear program and is doing whatever it gain to gain nuclear capability as soon as it can. It is not acceptable for that to happen, and the rest of the world is going to have to do something to ensure that a nuclear arms race in the Middle East doesn’t start. However, given the absolute weakness of Europe and the political situation at home, it’s doubtful that anything will happen.

Instead, we will likely see a nuclear Iran within the next 5 years, and we will see a nuclear arms race in the Middle East shortly after. The only way in which Iran’s nuclear ambitions will be stopped is if the Ahmadinejad regime collapses (which seems, sadly, to be only a very distant possibility) or a preemptive strike is launched to destroy Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. No one seems to be willing to do that, and the rest of the world seems more interested in playing pissant politics than dealing with the most serious threat to world peace out there now.

Because of the weakness of the democratic world, the self-serving politicization of national security here in the US, and the meglomania of the Iranian regime, the chances of seeing a full nuclear war within our lifetimes has shot up dramatically. We are at a point in which nuclear war is more likely now than it ever was during the Cold War when our nuclear-armed adversary was rational and constrained by the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction. We now face a situation in which our potential nuclear adversaries are prone to making dramatic and dangerous miscalculations and there is a great degree of strategic ambiguity as to whether we really would meet a nuclear attack with proportional force.

This is a dangerous time, and unfortunately very few policymakers seem to have any real interest in confronting these dangers, preferring instead to posture for the cameras. The price we may yet pay for our lack of diligence will cost us dearly if we don’t start accepting the reality of our predicament now.

The Iranian Gambit

Austin Bay has an excellent piece that offers much of the context and background for the taking of 15 British sailors as hostages by Iran. The Iranians are clearly trying to rattle the saber, but Bay persuasively argues that it isn’t a true show of strength:

Late spring 2007 finds the Iranian “revolutionary government” facing an extraordinary range of internal and external problems.

There’s a war inside Iran — several wars, actually. Minority Baluchis, Azeris, Kurds and Arabs are restive.

The mullah’s core problem is the Iranian people. Under-30 Iranians have had it with the mullahs’ failed revolution.

A recent visitor to Iran described a twenty-fold increase in “the standard bribe” Tehran bureaucrats demand for a building permit. Call it indicative rumor, supporting the assertion that Iranians now believe their current government is more corrupt than the Shah’s. Moreover, Iranians are aware of Iraq’s political progress. There’s a war in Iraq, yes, but also an emerging Arab democracy — and that irritates Iranians who regard themselves as being more sophisticated than Arabs. The latest U.N. sanctions resolution increases political and economic pressure. It also freezes the economic assets of 28 people and organizations — so the sanctions are tailored to hit specific Iranian actors (bad actors). The resolution passed unanimously, meaning the mullahs cannot count on China and Russia.

Confronting these problems, Iran’s Islamist hardliners take Western hostages.

Isolation may be enough to get the regime in Tehran to back off or end up provoking regime change within Iran. If that were all that were involved, that would be the right strategy. The problem is that Iran is pursuing and may be perilously close to obtaining a working nuclear weapon. Should they do that, can the West trust Ahmadinejad not to take an action that would lead to a nuclear confrontation? Given the messianic streak in his rhetoric and his past history as an Islamist radical and hostage-taker in 1979, that’s not a bet that any leader should be comfortable taking.

In other words, we’re under a time crunch that is not of our devising. If Ahmadinejad gets ahold of a nuclear weapon, it will be too late. Even if his regime collapses, he could very easily allow that weapon to fall into terrorist hands. Worse, even if a “better” government comes on in Iran, the Iranian possession of a nuclear weapon would undoubtedly set of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East at large. A world in which Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, or even “allied” countries like the UAE have nuclear weapons is not a safe one — it would be too easy for one or more weapons to fall into radical hands and end up being used in a terrorist attack.

Isolation and containment may be the best course of action over the short term, but if Iran obtains nuclear weapons it won’t be enough. Any sanctions regime must be absolutely effective in containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, or the use of military force (such as Clinton’s bombing of Iraq in 1998) should still be on the table.

The Iranian government may be shaky, but we’ve all heard rumors of impending revolution coming from Iran for years now, and it still hasn’t happened. It would be nice of the situation organically defused itself, and perhaps it will. However, the job of policymakers isn’t to look at the world through rose colored glasses, it’s to predict what the worst-case scenario is and prepare accordingly. If we’re not ready to see a nuclear-armed Iran allow a nuclear weapon to fall into the hands of a terrorist organization, we had better have a strong plan on the table to prevent that happening — because such an event is very possible and may be much closer than we’d like to hope.

The Asgari Deception

The West has scored an intelligence coup with the defection of key Iranian intelligence official Ali Rez Asgari:

Former Mossad director Danny Yatom, who is now a member of Israel’s parliament, said he believes Asgari defected to the West. “He is very high-caliber,” Yatom said. “He held a very, very senior position for many long years in Lebanon. He was in effect commander of the Revolutionary Guards” there.

Ram Igra, a former Mossad officer, said Asgari spent much of the 1980s and 1990s overseeing Iran’s efforts to support, finance, arm and train Hezbollah. The State Department lists the Shiite Lebanese group as a terrorist organization.

“He lived in Lebanon and, in effect, was the man who built, promoted and founded Hezbollah in those years,” Igra told Israeli state radio. “If he has something to give the West, it is in this context of terrorism and Hezbollah’s network in Lebanon.”

The Iranians are blaming the Mossad for Asgari’s defection, while the Mossad is saying the US was behind it, and the US is saying nothing. In reality, it was probably a joint operation. Mr. Asgeri is a partisan of the more reform-minded elements in the Iranian regime such as the former President Mohammad Khatami. It is quite likely that he had reason to fear the Ahmadinejad regime might turn on him, so he decided that his best bet was to defect. However, his actual reasoning may not be known for some time.

Whatever his motivations, Asgari’s defection is a major blow to the Iranians and a major victory for the US, Israel, and Lebanon. He has critical information on Iranian involvement with Hizballah, and was likely involved at a high level in Iran’s attempts to spread their interest across the globe. No doubt the information that Mr. Asgari has will be of some use to Western intelligence agencies who are probing how Iran supplies Hizballah fighters and Iraqi insurgents with the latest military hardware.

While Mr. Asgari was not involved in the Iranian nuclear program, his defection has got to be causing headaches all over Tehran. Ahmadinejad is politically compromised by his domestic opponents, and now he has to wonder how many others in the Iranian government may be secretly working to undermine him. That kind of paranoia can quickly have ripple effects throughout the corridors of power in Tehran.

Mr. Asgari made a brave move by choosing to assist the West in undermining Iran’s support of terrorism across the region. It is clear that there is a significant wellspring of domestic opposition to the Ahmadinejad regime, and the West should be reaching out to reformist elements as much as possible in order to undercut Ahmadinejad and the other radicals. Even if we can’t get a government in Iran that’s openly friendly to the West, a government that is not a state sponsor of terrorism and is not interested in provoking genocide would be a crucial step towards defusing the situation threatening to explode the Middle East in region-wide war.

Laying The Cards On The Table

John Hinderaker has some rather interesting advice for President Bush as to how to handle the current war in the Middle East.

So here is what you, President Bush, should do: take as a model the Cuban Missile Crisis. First John Kennedy, then Adlai Stevenson, laid before the world the evidence, in the form of aerial photographs, that the Soviet Union was installing nuclear arms in Cuba. The proof was taken as conclusive, and, consequently, the Kennedy administration’s actions enjoyed universal support at home, and widespread support abroad.

Do something similar here. Commandeer a half hour in prime time to tell the American people, and the world, that we have clear evidence of Iran’s involvement in killing American servicemen. Show the captured munitions. Explain exactly how they have contributed to American casualties. Display aerial photos of the training camps. No doubt there is much more evidence that can be presented or described.

You should say that Iran’s supplying of weapons in order to kill Americans is an act of war. In the dramatic finale of your speech, announce that thirty minutes earlier, American airplanes stationed in the Middle East took off, their destination, one of the munitions plants or training camps of which you have shown pictures. That training camp, you say, no longer exists. You say that if Iran does not immediately cease all support for, and fomenting of, violence in Iraq, we will continue to strike military targets inside Iran.

That would certainly get the attention of the mullahs in Iran. Those of us who pay attention to the situation in the Middle East have seen that what is going on is more than just violence in Iraq. Iraq is the battlefield for what amounts to a regional civil war that has been brewing within the heart of Islam for centuries. The old rivalry between Sunni and Shi’ite is exploding once more, and Iran is trying to claim influence for itself. The Saudis are already warning the United States that if the US leaves Iraq, they’ll be forced to defend Iraqi Sunnis. Meanwhile, Iranian-backed militants are massacring Iraqis by the dozens and trying to tear that country apart.

We are facing a regional crisis, and we need a regional solution. On that account, the Iraqi Survey Group was entirely correct: the problem is that neither Iran nor Syria have any interest in negotiating an equitable settlement. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has become so dangerous that the true rulers of Iran, the Guardian Council and Grand Ayatollah Ali Khameini are trying to sideline him. With the upcoming Iranian elections key to deciding who replaces the ailing Khameini, Ahmadinejad has the opportunity to completely control all elements of the Iranian state. Should Ahmedinejad’s forces do well in this election, it’s likely that his rule will become even more absolute. While there is growing opposition in Tehran, Ahmadinejad is a shrewd politician and is quite popular among the poor in Iran. His political power should not be underestimated.

Ahmadinejad wants Iran to be a nuclear power, and once that happens, he will ignite a nuclear war in the Middle East. He is not the sort of leader who can be deterred. It is simply too risky having someone who may very well believe that the destruction of Israel will usher in the coming of the Imam Mahdi and the rise of a global Islamic caliphate to have the means to commence that apocalyptic vision.

By the time that Iran gains nuclear weapons, it will already have been too late. President Bush must act soon to prevent the Iranians from reaching nuclear capability. The left, which has done everything they can to undermine the President, has left America significantly weaker than before. By attacking the credibility of evidence that was the consensus of every major intelligence service on the globe, including those opposed to the invasion of Iraq, it has weakened our ability to go after future threats. Bush could make this his Cuban Missile Crisis moment, and there is no room for doubt that Iran is acting to destabilize Iraq, but it’s questionable whether Bush has the political capital here or abroad to do anything about it.

I agree with Hinderaker that something must be done. Where my doubts lie is whether this Administration has the political will or the political capital to do it. Not only have we been far too timid in Iraq, which has put a strain on our ability to fight elsewhere, but Bush has lost the support of the American people beyond just the radical left. Boldness does pay off, but it should have happened a long time ago when Bush had a chance to show initiative.

Sooner or later, we’ll have to deal with Tehran. Sadly, I don’t see it happening before things spiral to a point where we’ve absolutely no choice but to react. It’s a sad state of affairs, but it is the result of a lack of leadership from the Administration and the constant politicization of this war.

Then again, I’d love to be proven wrong on this, which is why if nothing else, Hinderaker’s advice should be taken quite seriously.

UPDATE: Military historian Arthur Herman has an interesting piece in Commentary on a realistic military option for dealing with Iran that involves taking control of the key Straights of Hormuz. 40% of the world’s oil (soon to be a majority) passes through that key region, and the Iranians have plans on the table to use it as an economic weapon against the world. The US has already engaged in active hostilities with Iran over the Straights in 1987-1989. We may need to use US naval and air power to keep them open again.

Herman argues that such a campaign would be quite effective in taking down the Iranian regime:

In fact, there is little Iran could do in the face of relentless military pressure at its most vulnerable point. Today, not only are key elements of the Iranian military in worse shape than in the 1980’s, but even the oil weapon is less formidable than imagined. Currently Iran exports an estimated 2.5 million barrels of oil a day. Yet according to a recent report in Forbes, quoting the oil-industry analyst Michael Lynch, new sources of oil around the world will have boosted total production by 2 million barrels a day in this year alone, and next year by three million barrels a day. In short, other producers (including Iranian platforms in American hands) can take up some if not all of the slack. The real loser would be Iran itself. Pumping crude oil is its only industry, making up 85 percent of its exports and providing 65 percent of the state budget. With its wells held hostage, the country’s economy could enter free fall.

A limited war that involves control over the Straights of Hormuz may be our best option for containing Iran at some point – although the Iranians could cause quite a bit of trouble for us by ratcheting up the violence in Iraq and using their Hizballah puppets in Lebanon to cause trouble along the Israeli border. In dealing with this looming crisis we don’t have good options, just options that are less bad than others.

UPDATE: The Washington Note says that Saudi Prince Bandar is pushing for military confrontation with Iran. That isn’t surprising, the Iranians could cripple the Saudi economy by closing the Straights of Hormuz. The rapid departure of Ambassador Turki from Washington suggests that there are deep divisions within the House of Saud as to how to proceed against this threat. Ultimately, if Iran does decide to act, the Saudis would feel the heat more than nearly anyone else, which is why they are quite worried about what Iran may do next.

Is An Iran Attack In The Cards?

Powerline has an interesting post on whether President Bush would use military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Some are speculating that the President’s recent statements have indicated that he has every intention of ensuring that Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons, and he is willing to use military force in order to prevent that from happening.

I don’t think he will. For one, we do not currently have the technology to destroy all of Iran’s nuclear facilities. The worse we can do is set the Iranians back by a number of years — and it’s not entirely certain exactly how far we’d be able set them back. In the meantime, such a strike would likely embolden the Ahmadinejad regime and unite the Iranian people against America. A military strike would be an action of very last resort, only if all other options failed.

Instead, the US needs to work to undermine the Ahmadinejad regime from within. The US should make it a policy to support any anti-regime group that wants our help and isn’t allied with any of our enemies. This help would have to be covert, but it would likely be the best way of toppling the regime. The US should also engage in a full-blast psychological campaign targeting the Iranian people. They should know how the Iranian regime is spending billions for weapons while they starve. If we’re going to drop something over Iran, it should be thousands of concealable radios that could spread a pro-democracy message broadcast in Farsi to everyone in the country who wants to hear it. The Ahmadinejad regime has been trying to isolate the Iranian people from the world — the US should offer them a view of what they’d have without that regime.

The Iranian government has only barely been able to contain the dissent which has been brewing under the surface of Iranian society for years now. A military strike against Iran, unless absolutely necessary, would set back a potential overthrow of the Iranian government, possibly fatally. Even Michael Ledeen has been warning against military action against Iran on that basis. Our best option is for the Iranian people to organically overthrow the tyrannical regime that controls them and tries to cut off their access to the outside world. The more we can undermine the totalitarian underpinnings of that regime, the more unstable it will become. The dream of a more democratic and tolerant Middle East isn’t yet dead, and ultimately that remains our last, best hope.