Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Yet another reason NOT to drop bombs on Iran

Take a few minutes to read this piece in FT and get a feel for whether or not you think US military actions in Iran are advisable. Those whose minds are already made up can go on to something else. For you, this article is a Rorschach blot that will affirm pre-judgements. But for those of us looking for peaceful conflict resolutions this article is a ray of sunshine.

The combination of surging liquidity and political unpredictability has led to a near-doubling in housing prices in parts of the country, as money seeks refuge in real estate. While some Iranians are getting richer, the disadvantaged who were promised a better life by Mr Ahmadi-Nejad are the ones suffering most from spiralling inflation, which economists say is above 20 per cent.

It is rare to meet an Iranian these days who will not complain about rising prices. Curiously, some of the harshest criticism can be heard in the middle-class neighbourhood of Narmak in eastern Tehran, where Mr Ahmadi-Nejad lived for decades.

In a store that sells fresh herbs, the 45-year-old owner laments that she has to work on Fridays, the Muslim weekend, and still cannot afford to own a house. “All my customers are cursing Ahmadi-Nejad,” she says, laughing at the president’s recent statement that Iranians were happy, joyous people. “Look at people’s faces and you’ll see how depressed they are.”

Opposition groups are hoping to capitalise on this disappointment in next March’s elections to the majlis, or parliament. Once bitter opponents, the reformists led by Mr Khatami and the centrists allied to Mr Rafsanjani (the so-called conservative pragmatists) have joined hands and plan to field common candidates in the poll. Reformist officials say that even a strong minority in the next majlis would greatly increase the chances of unseating Mr Ahmadi-Nejad in the 2009 presidential elections.

But the reformists acknowledge that they have two big hurdles to overcome: the first is to limit the disqualifications by the Guardian Council, the unelected body that vets candidates for their “Islamic credentials” and is often used to undermine reformists. The second is to ensure that the interior ministry, also controlled by fundamentalists, allows a fair poll.

Yet international tensions could, paradoxically, work against those advocating a less aggressive approach. Mr Ahmadi-Nejad is skilfully using outside threats to rally support and shift attention away from his government’s economic mismanagement.

“Imagine if the nuclear file wasn’t there, what the government would face on the issue of human rights, on the economy,” says Mohammad-Ali Abtahi, the reformist former vice-president. “But no one can mobilise people against the nuclear issue.”

Outside pressures and suspicions that the US is looking to instigate a “velvet revolution” in Iran have, moreover, provoked a security clampdown that has put the opposition on notice, has undermined non-governmental organisations and led to the temporary detention of several Iranian-Americans with ties to US think-tanks.

“The more international pressure there is, the more repression there is in the name of security,” says Shadi Sadr, a young lawyer who spent 17 days in jail in March after her NGO, which advises women, took part in a protest against the trial of activists. “The main allegation against me was that I wanted to overthrow the regime and that my NGO, which receives funds from a Dutch organisation, was a disguise for my activities.”

Greg Djerejian points to this piece and comments...

...try to chronicle in your own mind all the errors our Washington grandees are making in executing a coherent Iran policy...this seemingly endless parade of group-think and amateurism--not to mention the attendant costs to the U.S. national interest--now well rival Warren Christopher's gross inattentions to the horrors of Bosnia...

He's right, you know. If future historians say anything positive about US foreign policy over the last decade or two...both Democrat and Republican...they will have to credit any success to accident rather than design. Throwing stuff on the wall to see what sticks is hardly a rational approach to dealing with other countries.

No comments: