Jun 17, 2009

Will History be Kind to Bush on Iran? [LINK]

Prepare yourself for the unsettling possibility that history may be kind to the Bush administration's efforts to forment democracy in Iran. As one data point, note this three-year-old editorial from the Irish Independent. It appeared during a period of intense speculation that the Bush Administration was preparing a military strike against Iran:

Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, told Congress that "we may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran". Drawing inspiration from the Cold War, America is putting in place a strategy to undermine the Iranian regime from within, not least by pumping money into radio and television broadcasts aimed at Iran—particularly young Iranians deemed to be hostile to the regime and friendly to the West....

The trouble is that there is no guarantee of when this policy will succeed, if ever.

Here's a similar Los Angeles Times op-ed from the same period by a pair of analysts from the Council on Foreign Relations. Its title, "The wrong way to fix Iran," may well prove ill-chosen.

The Bush administration quietly orchestrated a major shift in U.S. policy toward Iran this month, requesting $85 million from Congress to help bring about regime change in Tehran. Washington is now seeking not just to contain Tehran's nuclear ambitions but also to topple the Iranian government.

The war in Iraq has made all too clear the high cost of using military force to attain regime change. Accordingly, the administration is taking a page from Eastern Europe, where the United States used radio broadcasts and direct assistance to opposition groups to help undermine authoritarian governments and promote democracy. Administration officials explicitly cited Poland's Solidarity movement as a model.

Although democratizing Iran is a worthy objective, the administration is making a mistake in embracing a strategy for regime change based on the European experience. Conditions in Iran bear little resemblance to those that accompanied the downfall of dictatorial regimes in Europe....

Here's a similar one from The Guardian called "Drumbeat sounds familiar," which notes the Bush administration's effort to bolster democratic agitation on the part of Iran's ethnic minorites:
[Iranian officials] cite a US decision to spend $75m on funding potential Iranian opposition forces, including NGOs, trade unions and human rights groups, and local language propaganda broadcasts—tactics pioneered in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine. Iran accuses the US of stirring discontent among its Kurdish, Baluch and Azeri minorities, suspicions fed by a US marine corps investigation to gauge the strength of opposition to the central government among non-Persian groups....
Certainly, there's little way yet to gauge the degree to which today's democratic agitation may have been influenced by Bush administration policy, but it's worth a try.

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