Saturday, January 2, 2010

Support Iran's Dissidents

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Pensacola News Journal (PNJ)

We're pleased to see President Obama taking a stronger line on the Iranian crackdown on internal protests. We need to hear more. This week Obama "condemned" the crackdown against protesters, which is about the strongest diplomatic language heads of state use. The Iranians definitely heard him. "The United States joins with the international community in strongly condemning the violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens," Obama said. "We call for the immediate release of all who have been unjustly detained within Iran." By now it should be clear to Obama that there is nothing to be gained from trying to engage Iran in mutually beneficial negotiations. We appreciate his efforts, but Iran is simply using negotiations to buy time. Does that mean we endorse calls for an attack on Iran's nuclear infrastructure? No. That is another dead-end road; the last thing we need is another war in that region. We are militarily and economically exhausted. And the oil-price shock following a fight with Iran could pitch the world into another deep recession. Attack Iran, and it becomes a shootout in the Persian Gulf, with potentially disastrous consequences. If Israel wants to attack Iran's nukes, we probably can't stop it; the Israelis will find a way. But the best course for the United States is to accept the fact that Iran could eventually become a nuclear power, and count on the same pressure that has kept nuclear weapons from being used by others: self-preservation. Nuclear weapons were used by the United States when we were the only nation to have them. Since then, any nation that has obtained them has understood that using them against a nuclear-armed foe is tantamount to suicide. Iran's leadership knows that, too. To make sure, we should send a diplomat — Swiss, if necessary — to deliver the message that if they use a nuclear weapon we will incinerate Iran, requiring only a small fraction of our arsenal to do so. Meanwhile, Obama should stop worrying about seducing Iran's leadership and offer full-throated support for human and political rights in Iran. He should rally other world leaders to do the same, and to impose the heaviest economic and diplomatic sanctions available. There is a growing belief that revolution is brewing in Iran, one strong enough to unseat the Islamic dictatorship. That would be the best outcome for U.S. interests.