The Case for Engagement

Everyone should read Greg Djerjian’s take on Iran policy. I think it’s quite right. To add a bit of emphasis, it’s something of a delusion to think that our problems with Iranian behavior on the nuke front, on the Iraq front, and on the Hezbollah front are somehow 100 percent an outgrowth of the problematic nature of the theocratic regime. In reality, there are plenty of reformers who are also Iranian nationalists and like to see things like a stronger Iran more capable of throwing its weight around the nation. There is nothing the Mullahs would like to see better than for the US to explicitly link the regime change issue with these other issues of Iranian behavior. Then they get to turn around and say to the population, “see — getting rid of us is part of an American plot to keep Iran weak, even the US president says so himself!”

We need to disaggragate these issues. It seems to me that Iran’s legitimate regional interests can be met in a way that does not involve in Iranian nuclear arsenal or fomenting instability in Iraq, provided these interests are discussed frankly by the parties concerned rather covertly and through back channels. At least it might be possible. Maybe if we start a dialogue on these topics it things won’t wind up getting worked out and then something bad might happen. But it’s worth a shot — the other options aren’t very appealing.