Iran is the one issue on which the president could galvanize public opinion. The Republicans have portrayed Obama as weak on combating militant Islamism. Many of the Democrats see Iran as a repressive violator of human rights, particularly after the crackdown on the Green Movement. The Arabian Peninsula, particularly Saudi Arabia, is afraid of Iran and wants the United States to do something more than provide $60 billion-worth of weapons over the next 10 years. The Israelis, obviously, are hostile. The Europeans are hostile to Iran but want to avoid escalation, unless it ends quickly and successfully and without a disruption of oil supplies. The Russians like the Iranians are a thorn in the American side, as are the Chinese, but neither would have much choice should the United States deal with Iran quickly and effectively. Moreover, the situation in Iraq would improve if Iran were to be neutralized, and the psychology in Afghanistan could also shift.
Indeed, early on I saw Iran as a potential solution to our Afghanistan (and Pakistan) problem:
Open up a supply route through Iran to Afghanistan and suddenly we don't need to be quite so reliant on our Central Asian bases or so careful with a Pakistan that will not crack down on the Taliban who hide and organize inside Pakistan. We won't have to be so shy when it comes to hunting bin Laden there, either.
Later, I speculated on other advantages:
And as I've noted, getting rid of the mullah regime in Iran really could cut the Gordian Knot and improve a lot of our problems related to Afghanistan. Add in problems like Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Gulf, and latin America--not to mention the nuclear issue--that would see improvement if the mullahs go. It starts to get confusing why getting rid of the mullahs rather than reaching out to them isn't our official policy.
Indeed, this isn't the first time Stratfor has speculated about Obama taking action, with their analysis applying the Gordian Knot analogy, too.
We shall see. The problem is there. And growing:
Iran began loading fuel into the core of its first atomic power plant on Tuesday, moving closer to the start up of a facility that leaders have touted as defying of international efforts to curtail the country's nuclear ambitions.
Even if this plant has nothing to do directly with a nuclear weapons program, it improves their understanding of the process to speed their weapons programs. And it could be diverted to military use, with the simple decision to hinder or expel foreign monitors.
The solution could be messy and highly dangerous. But it also raises hope of putting lasting change in place. Of course, we'd need to have the guts to see such a risky policy through to the end despite the difficulties and setbacks that such a policy entails.
When you strike a king, kill him, as the saying goes. Once started down this path, no half measures will work. It only truly ends when the mullah regime is destroyed or overthrown.
Who knows? I thought President Bush wouldn't leave the problem to his successor. Perhaps President Obama really will be the one.
UPDATE: We'd have more leverage to deal with Karzai, too, if we destroyed Iran's mullah regime. Of course, I also think we should push services and money down to the most local level we can in Afghanistan--whether provicincial, city, village, or tribe--to bypass the speed bump to victory that the central government (Karzai is a symptom so don't go thinking that a quick coup would solve our problems) represents.