Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Scary Talk

Too many people mistake Iran's scary talk and make-believe wonder weapons as signs of real power.

The Iranian regime is a challenge in many ways, but let's not get carried away in thinking they are stronger than us. Fouad Ajami asks us to simply look and analyze:

Iran is a radical player in the world of states, to be sure, but we should not overstate its power. We should not fall for the Persian bluff. It is important that we do all we can to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions and to checkmate it in arenas that count, but we should always remember that this is a society swimming against the tide of history and confronting the limits of its capabilities. There is an Iranian role in Iraq, but it should not be exaggerated. It is not true that the Iraqi political class marches to the Iranian drummer.

Through eight years of fighting in the 1980s, the Iraqis showed few signs of wanting Iran to win and control them. Let's not get carried away in thinking that the Iranians must win their plots inside Iraq.

The Iranians want us to think they can't be stopped--in Iraq, Lebanon, Iran itself, or in their nuclear ambitions. Don't fall for it. Remember:

Man cannot tell but Allah knows
How much the other side is hurt.
Iran just doesn't want you to know how much they hurt. Keep hurting them.

UPDATE: Victor Hanson wants to keep hurting our enemies:

Like Syria, Iran wants to end the democratic experiment in Iraq. Iranian money, weapons and expertise are used by terrorists in kill Americans in Iraq, and through Hamas to disrupt Palestinian peace efforts. Hezbollah, a group also backed by Iran and Syria, seeks to destabilize Lebanese democracy and restart a border war with Israel.

Such aggression is not symptomatic, as is often asserted, of confident regimes on the rise. Iranian oil production is declining. Billions in food and fuel subsidies are proving unsustainable, and scarce funds are siphoned off to foreign terrorists and nuclear proliferation. Beset by unsound economies and rising domestic unpopularity, the Iranian theocracy and Syrian dictatorship have become pariahs at odds with European diplomats, other Arab states and the United Nations.

Only the continued American policy of ostracizing Iran and Syria, galvanizing the international community to enforce U.N. compliance, supporting Iranian and Syrian reformers, and keeping a high-profile military presence in the area offers any hope that either nation will cease their subversion.

We need to keep the pressure up — without bombing, without bombast and without talking directly with these rogue and increasingly desperate states that have caused themselves and the world so much trouble.

I'm certainly in favor of keeping pressure on Syria. No war with them is necessary, though some direct force may be necessary given their support that kills Americans and Iraqis.

And I'd certainly like regime change in Iran rather than a war to stop their odious regime from getting nuclear weapons. What I don't know is if we have the time to spare to get regime change before they get nukes. I am not comforted by vague estimates of 5-10 years--an estimate that never seems to change. Given the pressure they face from a hostile Congress, media, and world that does not want to confront Iran, does anybody seriously think that President Bush is eager for war with Iran?

So if we strike Iran, I'll regret that we couldn't wait for regime change. But with the stakes as high as they are, I'll certainly support the judgment of an administration that could face the question of why we lost Charleston in a nuclear blast if we guess wrong.