Saturday, November 24, 2007

Is Fanaticism Eroding in Tehran?

Strategypage has never thought much of bombing Iran's nuclear infrastructure to solve the problem.

I figure that I'd rather not bomb Iran but that I'd rather buy time for other solutions rather than let Iran go nuclear and hope changes come after the bomb. The nutjobs could decide to use their nukes before rational people can take over.

For me, it has always been the regime that is the problem. But in a race against time, do we have the luxury of waiting for Iranians to rise up and throw out the fanatics?

Nor do I think that the situation in Pakistan changes the situation with Iran. Pakistan is a problem. But working on Pakistan is not an excuse to abandon efforts to solve the Iranian problem. That is the major weakness of the anti-any war side. They only say "we must deal with X first" in order to halt all action on "Y". In reality, they'd do nothing about X, Y, or any other Z you can think, of including a regime of white supremacists that bombs the Women's Studies Department at Berkeley. Besides, I suspect that the situation in Pakistan isn't even close to a nuclear crisis. I think our worries are simply highlighted by the very serious consequences should something go wrong.

So while I kept hoping that we would overthrow the mullah regime in Iran before the end of 2008 (or strike Iran as a last resort), I increasingly fear we are just getting ready to try and contain a nuclear Iran and hope for the best. We'll build missile defenses, organize neighboring Arab states, and try to squeeze the mullah regime economically.

Whether Israel will go along with this policy of hope is another question. I suspect we hope too much if this is what we expect.

Still, Strategypage gives me some hope (just a flicker) that maybe the Iranians themselves can end the reign of the Iranian fanatics while we hope for the best:

A coalition of conservatives and reformers have curbed much of what the radicals, as represented by president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have attempted to do. This includes slowing down the nuclear weapons program and withdrawing support for Shia radicals in Iraq.

And this has been encouraged by forceful but quiet American actions:

In Iraq, Ahmadinejad also had to back down in his support of radical Shia factions there. It became obvious that Iranian religions fanaticism only appealed to a small minority of Iraqis, and any attempt to push Iranian radicalism there was creating resistance. More pragmatic Iranian leaders convinced Ahmadinejad that long term relations with a Shia dominated Iraq were at risk because of his policy of supporting Shia radicalism inside Iraq. So earlier this year, it was agreed to cut a deal with the Americans and withdraw the support for Shia radicals inside Iraq. This included cutting back arms smuggling, and the use of Iranian military experts to train Iraqi Shia terrorists. In return, the British and American would stop presenting embarrassing evidence of Iranian meddling in Iran, and withdraw the commando raids that have been doing deeper and deeper into Iran, looking for arms smugglers and Iranian troops.

Add in the effectiveness of our military in Iraq, the inadequacy of Russian air defenses that the Israeli September raid highlighted, and the knowledge that Iran's ramshakle conventional military is incapable of offering serious resistance, and you have an Iranian retreat from Iraq.

Still, even this report does not make me think we've given up completely on actively doing something about the mullahs. You'd think that a revelation that British and American special forces are operating inside Iran conducting raids would justify a little more expansive treatment by Strategypage.

And back to the Israeli wild card, is this a sign that we really aren't hoping for the best in Iran?

If our guys are operating inside Iran, who else is? And what else are the special forces operators doing?

Will we see a Persian Spring built on increasing internal opposition, external pressure, and covert operations supported by our conventional forces if necessary?