No solution short of regime change

Recently there’s been talk about a lame-duck Bush administration bombing Iran. And yesterday Shaul Mofaz threatened that Israel would do so (my local newspaper headlined the AP story “Israeli threatens to bomb Iran”, which caused me to do a double take when I read it as “Israel threatens…”).

But the real danger may not be only from actual bombs in Iranian hands. In “The real danger from Iran“, Ami Isseroff argued,

The prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons is frightening because of what the Iranian government – the Islamic Republic of Iran – stands for, and because of the goals that it announces day and night, and its apparent readiness to achieve them by all means possible: a world without Zionism and America, an international Islamic caliphate, a Middle East dominated by Iranian radical Shi’ism.

…Iran is not just, or primarily, dangerous because it might develop nuclear weapons. Iran is dangerous because it is trying to undermine the United States and the west, and allies of the United States, including but not limited to Israel. The nature of the Iranian program was dramatically illustrated only a few weeks ago in the Hezbollah takeover of Lebanon, quietly blessed by the Doha agreement. While most of the Arab world and the west looked on with benign unconcern, some Arab clerics voiced their deep concerns. Iran’s supreme leader has again insisted that Iran is not seeking to make nuclear weapons, and that just might well be true. So what? [The late] Imad Moughnieh and Hassan Nassrallah and their activities represent the real danger from Iran…

…what if Iran “only” attains the nuclear fuel cycle and renounces nuclear weapons? What if they strike a deal with the west – no nuclear weapons, in return for economic support? Will Iran become a benign country? Picture Iran with no nuclear weapons, but as rich as Germany or France, and still committed to overthrowing the influence of moderate Islam, the west and Israel. Picture a world in which Iran controls the price of oil and decides who gets it, and installs radical Shi’a regimes in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other countries. Yet they haven’t dropped a single atom bomb on anybody and they do not [yet] have any bombs. That scenario is far more realistic and probable than a nuclear attack on Israel, and it represents a devastating threat. Iran already controls Syria and Lebanon, and they bid fair to control the Palestinian authority. Who is next? [my emphasis]

Isseroff does not suggest a solution. He concludes,

The first step in solving the problem is to understand the real danger. By offering to “trade” other concessions for a pledge not to develop nuclear weapons, and by focusing only on this issue, the west is playing into the hands of Iran.

The conclusion that we must draw from his analysis is that there is no solution to the problem of Iran short of regime change. Yes, it is necessary to prevent Iran from getting the bomb, but this won’t be sufficient to prevent her from reaching her goals as proclaimed by Ahmadinejad.

And this is why Barack Obama’s announced policy of “aggressive, principled diplomacy” is unlikely to work. Obama said,

We will pursue this diplomacy with no illusions about the Iranian regime. Instead, we will present a clear choice. If you abandon your dangerous nuclear program, support for terror, and threats to Israel, there will be meaningful incentives – including the lifting of sanctions, and political and economic integration with the international community. If you refuse, we will ratchet up the pressure.

The only part of this that is concrete and (maybe) verifiable is stopping the nuclear program. Do we really think Ahmadinejad would stop supporting Hezbollah? Do we really think that the West would insist on the rest if he would agree to put his nuclear ambition on hold? Do we really think that he would give up what has been the primary goal of Iranian policy since 1979, the replacement of US and Saudi influence with a Shiite hegemony in the Middle East?

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