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January 30, 2007
Damning Us For Our Success

Ali Ansari has a strange column in today's Guardian regarding Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and US hawks. He wants to argue that Ahmadinejad's presidency is failing and that the economic pressures on the Iranian economy have accelerated his decline. However, he then claims that American hawks may yet save Ahmadinejad and scold us for not propping him up:

Ahmadinejad was elected on a platform of anti-corruption and financial transparency, and few appreciated how rapidly he was intoxicated with the prerogatives of his office. He very soon forgot the real help he had received in ensuring his election, basking in the belief that God and the people had put him in power. Ahmadinejad soon had a view for all seasons: uranium enrichment. Of course Iran would pursue this, and what's more, sell it on the open market at knockdown rates. As for interest rates, they were far too high for the ordinary borrower, so cut them immediately. And then there was the Holocaust.

None of this might matter so much, if the president had based his rhetorical flourishes on solid policies. ... [N]ot only has Ahmadinejad singularly failed to consolidate and extend his political base, the recent municipal elections saw his faction defeated throughout the country. Traditional conservatives and reformists reorganised and hit back, ingeniously using technology to work round the various obstacles placed in front of them. Now, over the past weeks, with biting weather, shortages of heating fuel are further raising the political temperature, while his political opponents point to the burgeoning international crisis for which the globetrotting president seems to have no constructive answer. Talk has turned to impeachment.

Ironically, it is this very international crisis that may serve to save Ahmadinejad's presidency, a reality that the president undoubtedly understood all too well. As domestic difficulties mount, the emerging international crisis could at best serve as a rallying point, or at worst persuade Iran's elite that a change of guard would convey weakness to the outside world.

There can be little doubt that US hawks will interpret recent events as proof that pressure works, and that any more pressure will encourage the hawks further. Yet the reality is that while Ahmadinejad has been his own worst enemy, the US hawks are his best friends. Ahmadinejad's demise, if it comes, will have less to do with the international environment and more with his own political incompetence. There is little doubt that it will take more than a cosmetic change to get Washington to listen to Iran. But the real question mark, as the Baker-Hamilton commission found to its cost, is whether Washington is inclined to listen at all.

Exactly what should the US do? Ansari seems to share our distaste for the Iranian "populist" who has busied himself with destroying his nation's economy and lighting diplomatic fires all over the world. One would think that Ansari would hew to the dictum that warns about rescuing one's enemies from their own folly. Instead, he complains that America has not engaged Ahmadinejad and kept him afloat, along with his millenial obsession and his virulent anti-Semitism.

Ansari apparently wants us to hand Ahmadinejad a diplomatic victory, which somehow will result, in Ansari's imagination, in a rejection of Ahmadinejad by the mullahcracy and the Iranian electorate. That makes no sense at all. All of the economic pressure exerted on Iran has come from the tenacity of the Bush administration. As slow as Washington has reacted, the international community would never have backed sanctions on Iran without the US pushing it through the UN Security Council. As it is, the sanctions got weakened anyway by the UNSC, thanks to Russia, or we could have accelerated the economic downturn that Ansari cites as a primary reason for Ahmadinejad's incipient collapse.

Instead, Ansari wants the US to follow the ISG's recommendations to reach accommodation with Iran. How exactly would that hasten Ahmadinejad's exit from power? The lifting of sanctions would allow the Iranian economy to rebound, and Ahmadinejad would use his oil revenues to continue his populist policies. The wealthy would return their money to Iran, and Ahmadinejad would get credit for having faced down the Great Satan. That hardly sounds like a recipe for regime change; it sounds more like a prescription for years of the Iranian Hitler strutting through the Middle East.

Ansari notes that one major source of Iranian dissatisfaction with its current president comes from the isolation of Iran over its belligerence on nuclear weapons and Israel, as well as its support of terrorism. Ansari should look again to find out which nation has pushed hardest for that isolation, and try then to explain how alleviating it would make Ahmadinejad look like a failure. This column certainly doesn't even bother with the attempt.

UPDATE: Jules Crittenden takes a look at the "large pistachio nuts" of Iranian foreign policy.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 30, 2007 4:46 AM

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» The Pressure Is Working from Blue Crab Boulevard
So Don't apply pressure. I think this is the logic Ali Ansari Is getting at in an odd op-ed in the Guardian. He spends the vast majority of his piece explaining why US pressure on Iran is working, then says we should not keep it up. The h... [Read More]

Tracked on January 30, 2007 5:45 AM

» Guardian (of the Islamic Revolution) from The Right Nation
Secondo Ali Ansari, sul Guardian, la "luna di miele" tra il popolo iraniano e Ahmadinejad sarebbe ormai agli sgoccioli. Ma l'insistenza dei falchi americani potrebbe aiutare Mad Mahmoud a restare in sella nonostante tutto. Una tesi bizzarra, di cui C... [Read More]

Tracked on January 30, 2007 8:52 AM

» Damning Us For Our Success from Bill's Bites
Damning Us For Our Success Ed Morrissey Ali Ansari has a strange column in today's Guardian regarding Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and US hawks. He wants to argue that Ahmadinejad's presidency is failing and that the economic pressures on the Iranian [Read More]

Tracked on January 30, 2007 2:25 PM

» Bill's Nibbles -- 2007.01.30 from Old War Dogs
Some Bill's Bites posts, some things I excerpted and linked but I'm sending you to the original post. I may rearrange the order of the links within this post as I add new things that I think belong above the [Read More]

Tracked on January 30, 2007 2:25 PM


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