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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Iranian opposition backs sanctions, unsure about military action

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, John Hannah expresses confidence that the Iranian opposition would agree with the imposition of harsh sanctions against the regime, but is less sure of what the reaction to a military strike would be. Israel is not mentioned as the possible party to strike Iran, and it may well be that the reaction to an Israeli strike would be different than the reaction to an American strike.
Before June 12, conventional wisdom suggested that both harsh sanctions and military action would likely strengthen the Islamic Republic by triggering a "rally around the regime" effect. Iran's rulers, so the argument went, would exploit outside pressure to stoke Persian nationalism, deflecting popular anger away from the regime's own cruelty onto the perceived foreign threat -- in effect, short-circuiting the country's incipient democratic revolution.

But the conventional wisdom has taken something of a beating post-June 12. Before the elections, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sought to blame all of Iran's travails -- a deteriorating economy, international isolation, the mounting threat of war -- on the United States and Israel. But the Iranian people were buying none of it. On the contrary, by the millions they have gone to considerable lengths over the last four months to make one thing clear: When affixing responsibility for the misery, shame and danger being visited on their once-great nation, they focus overwhelmingly on the ruling regime itself -- on its economic incompetence, its tyrannical nature, its international belligerence.

There's good reason to doubt they would react differently now were the United States and its partners to impose painful sanctions. If anything, the bloody crackdown the Iranian people have endured since the election has only fueled their hatred of the current ruling clique and their determination to be rid of it as soon as possible. Popular loathing of the regime has reached such levels that almost any negative development is likely to be seized on as ammunition to attack its gross misrule. Almost any outside action that further squeezes Iran's tyrants and calls into question their legitimacy in the eyes of the world will be welcomed, even at the risk of imposing additional hardships on the Iranian people. The last thing on their minds is defending an indefensible regime in the face of tough international sanctions.


What about military action? This is a much harder call. Iran experts are split. The majority still maintain that Iranians would quickly unite to confront any foreign attacker. While opposition representatives I heard in Europe think that's unlikely, they are deeply worried that if the regime is not crippled in any military attack, it will move ruthlessly to crush their movement for good.

But a few Iranians -- especially in private -- see other possibilities. They suggest that a bombing campaign that spared civilians while destroying Iran's nuclear installations as well as targets associated with the regime's most repressive elements -- the Revolutionary Guard and Basij militia -- might well accelerate the theocracy's final unraveling at the hands of an already boiling population.

Read the whole thing.


At 1:29 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Israel should not worry about Iranian reprisal and do whatever is necessary to protect its existence. The fallout will be far less dangerous than having to live with an Iranian nuclear bomb.


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