The Cable’s Josh Rogin reports on the passage — by overwhelming majorities — of a new Iran sanctions bill, which includes measures targeting Iran’s importation of refined petroleum. Rogin notes that “the administration has said little in public about when it expects the sanctions to show results, but time is a critical factor in the White House’s calculations”:
Iran watchers speak of three “clocks” driving U.S. policy: the speed at which Iranian nuclear technology is maturing; the time it takes for the sanctions to bite, bringing Iran to the table; and the patience of regional actors.
Yes, the patience of regional “actors.” That’s one of the most judicious uses of the letter “s” that I’ve ever seen. Interestingly, absent among the clocks mentioned by the Iran watchers Rogin spoke to is one that was, until somewhat recently, mentioned frequently: The democracy clock.
In the wake of the Green movement’s failure to turn out huge demonstrations on the anniversary of the Iranian revolution, a lot of people seem to have decided that the movement is simply no longer a factor. One of those is Fareed Zakaria, whose writing and analysis I usually a like a lot.
Responding Monday to a speech by Sen. John McCain in the New Republic — in which McCain, as usual, confuses blustery, onanistic grandstanding with having good ideas about foreign policy — Zakaria ably dismantles the latest neocon talking point that the Iranians were so close to overthrowing their regime if only President Obama had made more speeches!
I think Zakaria steps wrong, though, when attacking “The comparison of Iran’s Green Revolution to the velvet revolutions of Eastern Europe”:
In 1989 dissidents had three forces on their side: nationalism (because communism had been imposed by force by a foreign power), religion (because communism repressed the church) and democracy. The Green Movement has only one: democracy. The regime has always used the religiosity of the people to its advantage, but it has also become skilled at manipulating nationalism.
Religion and nationalism both play an enormous part in the Green movement’s rhetoric, which I saw as primarily aimed at contesting the legacy of the revolution, not overthrowing it. And, as I noted at the time, one of the most significant aspects of the movement’s protests and rhetoric was the the significant extent to which a long extant Islamic critique of velayet-e faqih (rule of the clerics) seemed to have finally found a vehicle in the Greens, who continue to be supported by a number of dissident clerics.
TNR editor Leon Wieseltier also notes these aspects in his otherwise petulant response to Zakaria, in which he accuses Zakaria of having “prettified and extenuated the Iranian regime” by offering an analysis of Iran’s power structure that is more nuanced than Wieseltier apparently feels is appropriate. But the bottom line here is that we shouldn’t count Iran’s democrats out. Political change of this sort is difficult and takes time, and Iran’s Greens know that. And Mr. Bomb Bomb Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran should know that his support is probably the last thing they need.