Washington Times national security editor Barbara Slavin has an article on Iranian filmmaker and dissident Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who has become a spokesperson for Iran’s Green Movement in the wake of the June 12 elections. Makhmalbaf called upon President Obama to more explicitly support Iran’s opposition movement and more strongly condemn Iranian human rights abuses. He also had some interesting things to say about the prospect of further sanctions:
“Inevitably, you are going to put [new] sanctions on Iran,” Mr. Makhmalbaf told a small group of Iran specialists and journalists in Washington. He said the U.S. should “let the Iranian people know why you are going to sanction and what the targets are so they can support you.”
He rejected proposed U.S. legislation that would target gasoline imports to Iran, saying that would hurt average people. He said it was better to focus on the Revolutionary Guards, who have been at the forefront of repressing demonstrations and who have taken control of considerable elements of the Iranian economy.
You know who also opposes U.S. legislation targeting gasoline imports to Iran? The Iranian regime. For some, this shared interest is quite enough to tar Makhmalbaf as a regime apologist. Those who are genuinely interested in supporting Iran’s opposition — and not just in smoothing the road toward a U.S.-Iran war — understand that this is silly, of course. The Iranian opposition — and its supporters outside the country — include a number of different factions and trends with various end goals and methods of reaching them.
Speaking of smoothing the road toward a U.S.-Iran war, the very same Washington Times also runs an editorial today telling Americans to Get Ready To Bomb Iran:
Force need not be used to be effective, but the threat of force must be credible to have any chance of influencing Iranian behavior. Right now, there is no credible threat emanating from the United States. The Obama administration unambiguously opposes military action against Iran, particularly by Israel. But it would help to have a little ambiguity on this issue. So long as Tehran thinks the United States will work actively to prevent Israel from taking action, it has one less reason to worry. It would be most helpful if the United States began to send signals to Tehran that the United States will assist Israel in its preparations for military action and maybe even participate when the attack ultimately is launched.
If the regime in Tehran is not made to fear serious consequences for its continued intransigence, it has no reason to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
Leaving aside that anyone who talks seriously about bombing Iran has revealed themselves to be no friend of Iran’s opposition — Abbas Milani represents the overwhelming consensus when he writes that “the forces now controlling Iran would be immeasurably strengthened by an American or (especially) Israeli attack” — this shows a pretty serious misapprehension of the situation in Iran right now.
It’s not at all clear that Iran’s ruling hardliners, who are currently weathering the most serious crisis of legitimacy in the Islamic Republic’s history, wouldn’t actually welcome a military strike by either Israel or the U.S. Such a strike, in addition to extinguishing the Green Movement, would effectively end the ongoing debate within the regime over whether to obtain a nuclear weapon in favor of those who have been arguing “yes,” in very much the same way that the preventive U.S. invasion of Iraq convinced Iran’s hardliners that they needed to keep open the option of having a strategic deterrent.
It’s pretty broadly understood across the U.S. defense establishment that a strike on Iran — either by Israel or the U.S. — would very likely result in a number of disastrous consequences, consequences Iran knows that the U.S. would rather avoid. There’s really no credibility to be generated by pretending otherwise.