Sunday, April 17, 2005

Bush's Iranian Dilemma

Howie Slugh, The Commetator:
Which headline does not belong on the following list?
  1. The Bush Administration demands Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon.
  2. Egypt announces its intent to hold fair, multiparty elections.
  3. Eight million Iraqis vote in Iraq's first free election in decades.
  4. Afghanistan holds successful elections.
  5. The Ukrainian Orange Revolution succeeds in forcing democratic reforms.
  6. Momar Quadafi voluntarily turns over his nuclear weapons program.
  7. Bush, Lawmakers Consider Carrots for Autocratic and Repressive Iran.
The answer is quite obvious. READ MORE

In the day of the "democratic domino effect," it is nonsensical for the Bush Administration to even consider propping up the Mullahs.

The Bush doctrine has been so successful, that countries which seemed to be solidly in the autocratic camp have been jarred loose and appear to be on the verge of rejoining the free world. The only thing that can stand in the way of this world wide revolution would be the anathema of ignoring past successes and returning to a strategy of pure realpolitik.

Iran is ripe for democratic reform, and these conditions continue to increase on a daily basis. According to the regime's own public opinion polls, more than 70 percent of the country is dissatisfied with the Mullahs. Numerous Iranian leaders, including victims of torture and extended jail time, have proposed a national referendum. The list of supporters includes one unexpected name: Mohsen Sazgara, the founder of the dreaded Revolutionary Guards and a member of the Ayatollah Khomeini's original team. It also includes pro-democracy activists and some of the country's leading theological figures. At last count, more than 18,000 Iranians of different political loyalties have endorsed the referendum. The time is right to offer positive inducements towards forces supporting democracy, not to members of the Axis of Evil.

In the past, the President has seemed averse to rewarding Iranian bad behavior. Unfortunately rumors abound that the President may join in with the European Union, to offer the Mullahs inducements (in the form of aid) in return for a promise to never develop nuclear weapons. This would be a disastrous mistake. The Iranians still refuse to even admit that they are trying to create nuclear weapons, so what would their promise not to develop such weapons be worth?

Those who argue in favor of positive inducements (most notably the Europeans), argue that we need to offer the inducements because of the gravity of the nuclear weapons issue. Certainly they would not want to offer rewards for bad behavior, which in most cases would be nothing short of appeasement, which history has dramatically repudiated. Not even the Europeans could legitimately want to repeat the mistake of Chamberlain's Munich. It must be then, that the Europeans are arguing that this case is unique because of the presence of nuclear weapons.

Even if this argument seems less repugnant than simple appeasement, it too has had negative results in the past. In 1994, North Korea quickly moved toward developing nuclear weapons. Through the Agreed Framework treaty, America tried to appeal to Kim Ill Sung and his son Kim Jung Ill through positive inducements. The North Koreans proceeded to take American aid, while at the same time continuing to develop nuclear weapons. Today, North Korea is still a brutal oppressive regime, but it is protected by nuclear weapons. Is that our goal with Iran? The Mullahs are lined up very nicely to be the next domino to fall in the Democratic Domino theory; do we really want to be responsible for preventing that domino from falling? If we make the mistake of allowing Iran to attain nuclear weapons, ten years from now we will have to deal with a nuclear armed rouge state in the heart of the newly democratized Middle East.

The only tenable way to offer positive inducements towards an evil regime, is to follow the Jackson-Vannik model. Under such a model, we would use any positive inducements toward the protection of human rights and liberties inside Iran. It is not enough for us to link "carrots" with Iranian promises, towards limiting progress on weapons of mass destruction. The Iranians will lie. The United Nations (UN) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors have failed on numerous occasions to verify the true nature of the regime's nuclear program. It is not necessarily that the UN or IAEA are inept, but rather the fact that the job of thoroughly verifying the actions of a closed, autocratic state is nearly impossible. There are far too many ways for the rulers to cheat, and the inspectors cannot possibly have enough power to mandate an adequate response. According to United States ambassador Jackie Sanders, under the current conditions the Mullah's can easily deny "the transparency and cooperation the [Inspectors] need to perform their duties" and "cynically" manipulate "the nuclear nonproliferation regime in the pursuit of nuclear weapons." Regimes like that of the Mullahs, can never be trusted to hold up their ends of treaties. The Kellogg-Briand Pact, which outlawed war, has done nothing to avoid war. The Non-Proliferation Treaty did not do a thing to prevent Iran and North Korea from pursuing nuclear weapons. It would be far more effective and productive to link any "carrots" given to Iran with true and verifiable democratic reform. Such reforms would make it far easier to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Even if it is inevitable that Iran will obtain those weapons, the world would be far safer with a democratic Iran.