Thursday, July 26, 2007

Finally, a stick and Realists's unreality

Michael Rubin seems to be the only one in the whole wide world to have figured out the mullahs.

Unlike other so-called Iran experts, he is not driven by extreme ideologies on either side. The problem with many Think Tanks and those who work for them are that the people doing the thinking are rationalists. A rationalist begins with his axiom and deduces his conclusions. Proper reason begins with the facts of reality, and continually refers back to reality to make sure that the focus remains on what is. This is why the inaptly named “realists” never were. The consequences of their trumped-up reality have been deadly–literally(see: Carter and the democrat's appeasement policies for the last 27 years).

Here is what he had to say in an interveiw with Hugh Hewitt about the recent talks between Al-Amirkee and the Al-Tazis (Islamic Republic):

...HH: What is the strength of the Iranian regime, Michael Rubin, in your estimate? Can it be toppled easily? Or is that a battle to the death if it’s joined? "

" MR: It can be toppled, not easily by any means. What’s the cement that holds it together? The Revolutionary Guard. We know from a variety of means, both on quantitative and qualitative, that the Iranian regime only has about only 20% of the Iranian population really support the idea of theocracy. That doesn’t mean that 80% of the others are revolutionaries by any means. Most of them are quite apathetic.

However, the Revolutionary Guard, hand-appointed by the supreme leader, has the arms, and they’re willing to enforce the revolutionary precepts. What people often forget when they’re hoping for some muddle through reform, is that it doesn’t matter what 80% of the people think, because in Iran, sovereignty derives not from the people, but from *Ayatollah Khamenei’s conception of God, and therefore, he doesn’t care what the people think, and he has the Revolutionary Guard in place to make sure that they don’t get out of line. " .

But Stanley Weiss of IHT thinks there is still hope to kick the mullahs where it hurts their wallets. Tibits:

So even as American and Iranian officials meet again in Baghdad to address their deepening proxy war in Iraq, Tehran refuses to halt its controversial nuclear activities and Washington refuses any direct nuclear talks until it does. "There's really nothing the Iranians want from us," explained Secretary of Defense Robert Gates earlier this year. "We need some leverage, it seems to me, before we engage the Iranians." Recent months, however, reveal that the West does have an economic stick that could yet change Tehran's calculations.

Despite widespread portrayals of Iran Rising - its historic rivals the Taliban and Saddam Hussein ousted, Tehran bolstered by record oil prices and Iranian allies ascendant from Iraq to Lebanon to Gaza - today's Islamic Republic is actually Iran Slipping. Unemployment and inflation are soaring, and oil production, which generates more than 80 percent of export revenues, is steadily dropping due to decades of neglected infrastructure. Recent riots that followed gasoline rationing may be a sign of bigger troubles to come.

But while average Iranians suffer, nearly three decades of unilateral U.S. trade sanctions have ironically perpetuated the mullah's grip on power by helping prop up the business monopolies of key pillars of the regime - the conservative bazaari merchant class and the brutal Revolutionary Guards. Through bonyads, corrupt Islamic "charities," Tehran's klepto-clerics control the vast majority of the Iranian economy. Now, the U.S. may have found a way to exploit Iran's economic Achilles heel by hitting the regime where it hurts - the wallet.

Alongside recent UN resolutions freezing the assets of Iranian organizations and individuals involved in the country's nuclear and missile programs, Washington has launched a full-scale financial assault on the mullahs. Since last year, the Bush administration has blacklisted two major state-owned Iranian banks and warned foreign governments and financial institutions against doing business with Tehran. As a result, the Iranians are beginning to feel that pinch, according to Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns. Fearing a third round of UN sanctions, the regime is reportedly withdrawing millions of dollars from European banks. France, Germany, Italy and Japan have reduced export credits and lending to Tehran. Dozens of financial institutions, many in Europe and Asia, have either halted or curbed their business with Iran.

Companies like British Gas, Japan's Inpex Holdings and South Africa's Sasol have abandoned billions of dollars in energy projects. A growing movement in the U.S. aims to tighten the financial screws on Tehran even further. Modeled after the 1980s anti-apartheid divestment campaign against South Africa, the effort aims to force the $1 trillion pension-fund industry to divest from multinational corporations with business in Iran.

In particular, divestment advocates hope to deprive Tehran of the nearly $100 billion it needs to modernize its oil and gas infrastructure and keep its petrodollars flowing. Some public employee pension funds are already divesting from hundreds of foreign firms, including energy giants with Iranian operations such as Royal Dutch-Shell, France's Total, Russia's Gazprom and Malaysia's Petronas.

More than a dozen other states are likely to follow suit. It's not certain that divestment will persuade these firms to end lucrative deals with oil-rich Iran. Moreover, divestment is opposed by the Bush administration, which argues that targeting foreign firms risks undermining the fragile international coalition against Iran. Still, after years of fruitless diplomatic engagement with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear ambitions, targeted financial sanctions and divestment offer a road not yet traveled. Until now, Tehran's theocrats have thumbed their nose at the world, knowing their petrodollars have been beyond reach. Depriving the mullahs of their money could change that old assumption and maybe, just maybe, force them to rethink their nuclear calculations. Stanley A. Weiss is founding chairman of Business Executives for National Security, a nonpartisan organization based in Washington.

* See Economist's article, "Men of Principle"
h/t to Winston


Bita said...

درود بر Serendip

التازی را بسسیار نیکو میدانیم. برای اینکه این واژه براستی شایسته ایشان است.


RoxieAmerica said...

I had trouble translating bita's comment.

SERENDIP said...

Roxie: She liked the fact that I call the Islamic Republic, the Tazi. Those who collaborated with the Arabs during the Arab/Islam conquest of Iran were called Tazis. Much like quislings in France.