Thursday, December 27, 2007

Experiment in Real Time

Opponents of the mullah regime in Tehran who also vehemently oppose a military strike on Iran out of fear that such an attack will rally the people to Ahmadinejad now have, as a result of the NIE that has defused any efforts to strike Iran's nuclear facilities, an experiment in progress on their theory:

Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005 on a populist agenda promising to bring oil revenues to every family, eradicate poverty, improve living standards and tackle unemployment. Now he is being challenged for his failure to meet those promises.

Reformists and even some fellow conservatives say Ahmadinejad has concentrated too much on fiery, anti-U.S. speeches and not enough on the economy — and they have become more aggressive in calling him to account.

In a rare gesture, Ahmadinejad admitted last week that inflation existed but blamed it on his predecessors, the conservative-dominated parliament, state-run media and bank managers who misused their power and printed too many bank notes.

"Inflation has its roots in the past," Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech.

His comments were denounced from all sides, with economists and some fellow conservatives saying it is his policies that have led to higher prices.

Ahmadinejad's critics point out that more than 80 percent of Iran's government revenues come from crude exports and that inflation has risen under him despite sharp increases in oil prices to near $100 per barrel currently.

The growing discontent comes less than three months ahead of crucial parliamentary elections slated for March 14.

So we shall see if domestic opposition will oppose Ahmadinejad in the absence of a credible US threat to attack Iran.

I hope the experiment works. I've always preferred a regime-change solution in Iran but doubted either the Iranian opposition or our CIA could pull it off. Striking Iran to put off their day of going nuclear has always been my secondary position in case my preference cannot be implemented. Letting Iran go nuclear, I believe, should be ruled out even if it means we must strike Iran.

I doubt domestic opposition will lead to a mullah-free and nuclear-free Iran. But I'd like to be wrong.

UPDATE: Strategypage reports that US sanctions are biting in Iran and restricting the import of consumer goods to Iran. The people are angry with the mullahs about this:

This sort of thing may be the ultimate cause of a violent revolution, more so than the loss of other freedoms (press, expression and fair elections.)

I hope so. But after we captured Baghdad in April 2003, I hoped that the momentum would have led to regime change in Iran. It did not happen and since then I've been far less hopeful that the people can overcome the mullahs and their bully boys in the Basij.