What should we do in Iran?

Some people have practically accused me of being a neo-con imperialist because I advocate U.S. support for the Iranian protesters.

Let me be clear. Sending in the Marines would be stupid. But so is  ‘tough shit, let the protest movement sink or swim on its own.’

So what can the U.S. do? We can provide communications facilities so the protesters can get their message out to the world, and more important, get their message out within Iran. We can offer refuge to dissidents when the police hunt them down. We can tighten economic sanctions, because the regime isn’t going to survive without oil money. Most of all, we can make clear that while the regime can impose repression, there will be a cost. That may not sway the diehards, but maybe – just maybe – it will sway a few bureaucrats and generals who fear losing what power they have. Nothing we do will be decisive for the reform movement. The Iranian people will have to free themselves. But our support might provide the tipping point.

We don’t have to “impose” this assistance. We can offer it. They can refuse it, but perhaps they won’t. Because maybe – just maybe – being shot down in the streets or  hunted by the police will make the demonstrators a little more amenable to help from the Great Satan. Politics makes strange bedfellows. So does a prison cell.

In case I haven’t made this clear, I don’t believe that this protest movement will survive on its own, because the mullahs have created an internal security system that’s not going to fall apart. And in case anyone hasn’t noticed, there are a quite a few regimes – think China or Myanmar – that have proven quite adept and quite ruthless at surviving popular protest.

I believe it’s in the U.S. national interest to support the protesters, because Ahmadinajad and his Revolutionary Guards with nukes will result in a very bad outcome for Iran and everyone else. I believe it’s in the Iranian people’s interest if we can help, because life in a theocracy-under-threat won’t be pleasant. The two are not mutually exclusive. The U.S. and the Iranian people can both benefit. Maybe our relationship needs to get out of the “I win, you lose” mode that has poisoned our relations for 50 years.

Which brings us to the final question. Do the Iranian people want our help? This protester did.

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12 Responses to What should we do in Iran?

  1. Brian In NYC says:

    Well we have provided communications assistance to them by asking twitter not to shut down for maintenance. Michael here is what I don’t get, why is it so difficult to accept that doing nothing here but offering moral support? I agree that the world community will have to do something in the nature of sanctions, ect at some point in the not too distant future, but America shouldn’t be the driving force behind such a move.

    • Michael Peck says:

      Green Twitters aren’t going to accomplish anything except carpal tunnel syndrome. And if you believe that sanctions against Iran will be necessary at some point, then why not do it now, before the regime has a chance to regain its balance?

      America has to lead the effort to support the protesters. Europe and Japan are impotent and divided.

      • Brian In NYC says:

        Well how exactly do you suggest we help them? Should we air drop in millions of jam proof satellite linked cell phones? You make a lot of noise Michael, I’ve yet to see you offer one concrete idea of anything that’s actually workable. As another poster has pointed out to you we already have sanctions in place against Iran. Their economy is already in shambles, has that caused the regime to loosen it’s grip? No.

        You’re real good at producing lots of noise and furry Michael, how about one actual workable idea?

        And for the record I didn’t practically accuse of being a neo-con, I point blank called you one. You know, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck….

  2. libtree09 says:

    First of all I believe you are sincere about your support of the protesters and I’m with you.

    It should also be noted that the student who did the pleading on CNN did not say they were part of a revolution. This is important because I’m been hearing a great deal of talk on cable about overthrowing the mullahs. That talk is not only not going to help it will hurt the cause. This is a political protest and we have no idea what will happen with a new president, was the student speaking for the opposing leaders? I think not.

    We already have economic sanctions against Iran imposed by congress and presidential decree. Bush condemned them as evil, remember. Only the earthquake disaster opened a small hole for humanitarian trade. The sanctions were imposed for their state sponsorship of terror, for their support for opposition of Middle East peace process and its human rights record and finally because it will not abide by the UN accords on uranium development. I suppose we could add beating up on protesters to the list. I believe we have billions of dollars of their money frozen since Reagan. US banks are forbidden from doing business with Iran. Last year we imported $86 million and exported over $200 million in cigarettes and medicine. We don’t buy any Iranian oil and if we do it is placed on the world market and unidentified. Do you trust oil traders to sort it out for us?

    So in effect if we cut off Iran’s supply of cigs and meds, we lose money and they have to make due with Gaulloises and Chinese meds. Well that may hurt but the guys in the street like their Marlboros. However the leaders might miss Viagra.

    Now I suppose we could offer refuse for the protesters, I clearly remember the Czechs climbing the walls of the US Embassy but we don’t have an embassy there and the Brits have been expelled. I suppose if the dissidents can get over the border to Iraq or Afganistan we could off sanctuary and I’m sure we would.

    I don’t know about the computer stuff, there must be something to do in that arena but there must be something.

    My point is that we have cut ourselves from Iran so completely there is little we can do but offer some moral support. I guess the case for not talking to our enemies has bitten us in the ass here. One thing we should do is shut up the right’s babble about the mullahs.

    Who can make a difference? Well China and Japan have been listed as big buyers and surprisingly Israel. They might help.

    • Michael Peck says:

      Thanks for a thoughtful post. I agree with many of your points. I think Russia and China would continue to support Iran even if the West tightened sanctions. We cannot totally isolate them no matter how repressive they become. Anything we could do would indeed be symbolic, but symbols count, or rather perceptions. Even in a theocracy, there are people and institutions (like the regular army) that are more pragmatic than fanatic. I don’t expect to scare the Revolutionary Guards into giving up power. I’m more interested in the bureaucrat who thinks, hey, the protesters are getting world support. How do I keep my job if the government changes?

      I also appreciate your point about this being a reform rather than a revolutionary movement, but I suspect the distinction will become meaningless. Now that there’s been violence, will the protesters settle for a kinder, gentler theocracy? What about a Revolutionary Guards shadow government that’s certainly feeling threatened? Remember that the American Revolution started off as a reform movement about taxes and such, and morphed into an independence movement.

  3. Rick Ungar says:

    Michael, now that you have explained what you have in mind, it seems like you’ve made quite a fuss over a issue you have created but is nowhere in the neighborhood of reality.
    We have all read, viewed and listened to hours of discussion about Iran. Not once have I ever heard anyone say, “..tough sit, let the protest movement sink or swim on its own.” Not once…ever…until your blog today.
    While there is, no doubt, someone in the United States who might feel that way, you would have a hell of a time finding that someone.

    The legitimate argument has been whether or not Obama should have taken a strong, vocal position in support. Some argue he should, on behalf of our democracy, taken a strong point of view. Others suggest that it would be more harmful to the protestors were America to open its mouth. Nobody who agrees with the Obama approach has ever said they don’t give a shit. What they’ve said is what Brian says above. The silence is intended to protect the protestors, not abandon them.
    You can argue which approach is right – but you’ve made one up that is completely disingenuous.
    Not for nothing, if you’ve read the reports of how the Iranian government controlled newspapers are interpreting what Obama has said, they are doing false translations to make it look like he is inciting the protestors to riot. Want to tell me how that helps?
    I know you got a lot of readers with your last article. I would have felt better if you had said that you did want the Marines to invade. I would have disagreed but everyone is entitled to a point of view and it would make for a viable argument. But all you’ve done is pretend that some legitimate portion of the public has taken a “we don’t give a shit” point of view as an excuse to write a controversial article when no such population exists at all.
    Not cool.

    • Michael Peck says:

      Actually, Rick, I think you’re the one who has a problem grasping reality.

      In a comment to my previous post, you wrote that “while most of us certainly hope for the best for those with the courage to protest against a rigged election, nobody has asked the USA to stick its nose in.” Now maybe in your universe, that sounds like doing something. To me, “hope for the best” sounds like doing nothing. Or to put it more bluntly, “tough shit, Iranian protesters. We’re not going to help.” But I’m sure when the protesters are crushed, you’ll have a nicer way of putting it.

      And if you believe that the only options for the U.S. are to do nothing or to send in the Marines, then that reflects a poverty in your own thinking. There are many options between inactivity and invasion. Let’s hope that someone has in the White House has more imagination than that.

      American silence protects the protesters? Judging by the body count, it hasn’t done too great a job.

      Oh, and Rick? The Iranian regime is going to plant false stories about America regardless of what America does. They’re going to accuse dissenters of being spies regardless of what America does. If you want to base U.S. policy on what Iranian propagandists say, that’s your business.

      In the meantime, I look forward to hearing your plan for Iran. You’ve indicated that you’re not going to leave the Iranian protesters to fend for themselves, so I’m curious to hear how you’re going to help them without America “stealing the glory.” I suspect some of the people getting beaten and shot in Tehran wouldn’t mind sharing some of their glory.

  4. Rick Ungar says:

    P.S. Sorry for all the typos. I was writing in a hurry.

  5. Rick Ungar says:

    One more update on the subject and then I’ll quit being a pain in the ass. I phoned a buddy of mine who is Iranian and had him take a look at your pieces to get his point of view.
    He just phoned me back and said, “I’m sure Michael is a very nice man but I’m glad he isn’t the president.” His parents live in Tehran.

  6. russellhodin says:

    What’s wrong with stopping the sanctions and getting out of the region? Make some space for the Iranians to create their own context for change. Why does “change” always have to have some reference to the west, especially to America? What’s so great about our model? We’ve pissed on our model democracy, and look where it’s gotten us.

    Support Iranians? You’re delusional. Leave them alone.

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