Sunday, February 1, 2009

Iran and US

As part of President Obama's pledge to meet with terrorist nations like Iran in negotiations, the State De partment is working on a draft of a letter to be sent to the Iranian government that will promise that the US will not seek to overthrow it.

Instead, the Obama administration will entreat the Iranian government to change its behavior. That behavior includes support for terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iraqi Shiite militias, the latter of which was engaged in a terrorist campaign against the Iraqi government and American troops that are deployed in Iraq. Iran is also engaged in a program to develop a nuclear bomb capable of not only wiping out the state of Israel but Iran's Arab neighbors.

The proposed letter is seen as an attempt to unfreeze US-Iranian relations in advance of the Iranian Presidential elections that will pit the current, hard line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against the more moderate former President Mohammad Khatami and former Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karoubi as well as hard liner current Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. c has the backing of Iran's supreme spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran's armed forces chief General Hassan Firouz Abadi.

The United States would prefer that a more moderate Iranian politician became Iran's President, so it is possible that the proposed letter is seen as a means to influence things in that direction. Moderation, in Iranian politics, is a matter of degree. No one in public office in Iran is publicly in favor of moderating Iran's theocracy, which dictates strict Islamic law on its citizens.

The diplomatic approach being adopted by the Obama administration represents a departure from Bush administration efforts to covertly disrupt Iran's nuclear bomb program and destabilize the control of the Iranian government. Ahmadinejad has already preemptively responded to the Obama letter by suggesting that among the preconditions for face to face talks includes an official apology for "crimes against the Iranian people" and a withdraw of American forces from around the world.
The proposed letter to Iran runs to risk of becoming an attempt at appeasement of the Iranian government, much in the way Neville Chamberlain tried to appease Nazi Germany before World War II. By pledging that the United States will not try to overthrow the Iranian government, the United States would seem to throw away a means of leverage against Iran to force it to moderate its behavior. The pledge could also be seen as an abandonment of the Iranian people, including student groups and ethnic minorities, who have been resisting the theocratic rule of the Iranian government.

The letter might well have the opposite effect intended, of emboldening the Iranian government by showing weak resolve. The Obama administration has also signaled Russia that it is dialing back on efforts to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe designed to defend against Iranian nuclear tipped missiles. That in turn tends to undercut European governments which have supported the missile defense system. The Obama administration may well find itself facing a nuclear armed Iran without the means to counter it aside from making diplomatic entreties. That in turn would spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East or even a war between Israel, the primary target for Iranian nukes, and Iran.