Friday, June 02, 2006

Iran: Brilliant US moves

Originally posted in my diary

This morning will dawn a little differently for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He will find the world has shifted in a way he probably didn't expect. He has before him today a united UN Security Council and a US offer of dialog. His attempt to drive a wedge between the US and Europe on the question of how to respond to Iran's unmonitored uranium enrichment has apparently failed as the US, Europe, and China have come together. They stand united in an agreement to offer Iran a path out of the corner they have painted themselves into.

One has to wonder if Ahmadinejad will feel betrayed by China and Russia for siding with the other permanent members of the Security Council. In any case, the ball is now on his side of the net and the world is watching his reaction. On a parallel track, Ahmadinejad's calls for dialog with the US in order to drive another wedge between the US President and the world opinion was also met in the affirmative, provided Iran meet its obligations to halt unmonitored enrichment. How could Bush appear unreasonable for asking only that Iran meet the obligations it had already agreed to in the past?

On one side we have a united security council and a calm Secretary of State. On the other side we have a president of Iran that has vowed several times that Iran will never stop their enrichment program. He has two balls in his court and, so far, appears to be facing an opposition that is calm, cool, collected, and not under fire in the court of public opinion. He now seems to have us right where we want him.

President Bush could not have hoped for a better outcome. The leverage at this point is clearly on our side. If Iran remains stubborn, it will appear that they, not us, are the ones being unreasonable in this situation. Already cracks are begining to form as comments trickle out from other Iranian politicians.

Internally, Iran is having economic problems and there is evidence of growing ethnic stife as the stresses of economic stagnation begin to heighten the sensativity of those lower on the economic ladder. At the same time, crackdowns by the government to force the population into an even more conservative proper "islamic" posture by imposing standards of dress even more restrictive than in the past are chafing an already irritated populace. Further irritations such as filtering outside internet access, monitoring SMS messages, and outlawing foreign travel are adding to the toll of misery faced by the people.

The one distraction that Ahmadinejad could rely on to turn people's attention away from the internal troubles has been the confrontation with the US. Attention on this issue is now focused on Iran and Ahmadinejad and not the US. We have shown restraint, we have worked with our allies, we have listened to their concerns and we have worked with them to create a unified front in the face of Iranian theatrics and the time has come for Iran to act and the world, including all of Iran, is watching.

Will he back down? Will he defy the UN? Either way it seems he is in a lose/lose situation and the fact that he even finds himself in this position to begin with must be costing him political capital at home. The Iranian people are more interested in better wages, more jobs, more import/export trade and making a better life for their children. They are not interested in testing the political will of foreign leaders for little gain and much potential loss. Will uranium enrichment clothe their kids, feed their family, give their father a job? To what extent does unmonitored uranium enrichment have the potential to improve their lives and to what extent does it have the potential to make things worse? These are the questions the Iranians themselves have been asking.

This morning might dawn on an Ahmadinejad who is realizing that he is quite possibly in serious foreign and domestic political trouble.

Very nice play, Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice!


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