Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

On Iran, the Neocons Are No Ronald Reagan | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on August 14, 2018


In their pursuit of a policy of maximum pressure on Iran, America’s neoconservatives have pushed a nostalgic narrative: the Trump administration can bring down Iran’s theocracy the way that the Reagan administration helped defeat and dissolve the Soviet Union.

This comparison has been advanced by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), which promotes draconian sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Its arguments figured prominently in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent speechat the Reagan library in which he asserted that Iran is still a revolutionary regime “committed to spreading the revolution to other countries, by force if necessary.”…

While neoconservatives have portrayed the Islamic Republic of Iran as a global bogeyman on the order of the USSR and argued that it should be President Trump’s “pre-eminent challenge,” it remains a mid-level power in a region that most Americans, including Trump, would like to quit.

Iran has never successfully exported its unique theocratic-led system, even to neighboring Iraq, with its Shiite majority, or Lebanon, where Shiites are a plurality and Iran has a potent ally in Hezbollah. The Soviet Union, by contrast, dominated Eastern Europe for four decades and supported communist parties throughout the world, including in Iran when it was under the Shah. It invaded other countries at will, crushing the Prague spring of 1968 and entering Afghanistan in 1979 to shore up a friendly regime.

The Soviet Union was also a nuclear peer competitor of the United States, possessing a massive atomic arsenal. Iran has never developed nuclear weapons and could be constrained for more than a decade from building them if the United States returned to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or if a rump JCPOA somehow survives the U.S. unilateral withdrawal…

In his speech, Pompeo asserted that the U.S. would somehow bolster Iranians who have taken to the streets—in a very un-Soviet set of popular protests—since late last year. “In light of these protests and 40 years of regime tyranny, I have a message for the people of Iran,” Pompeo said. “The United States hears you; the United States supports you; the United States is with you.”

That support, however, does not extend to allowing actual Iranians to come to America—unlike Reagan’s embrace of Soviet exiles and others fleeing persecution. Thanks to the travel ban, which was recently upheld by the Supreme Court, most Iranian citizens are barred from even visiting the U.S. And while academic exchanges are technically still allowed, the “extreme vetting” required for Iranians—and their fear that they may not be able to return to the U.S. if they have to leave for any reason—has severely undercut this key feature of old-style public diplomacy…

Unfortunately, few Americans know the reality of today’s Iran and are thus easily manipulated by propagandists who cast the country in relentlessly negative terms.

If despite all these differences, the Trump administration really embraced a Reaganesque approach to Iran, it would not only rescind the travel ban but would sincerely pursue new negotiations that build on the JCPOA.

Instead, the administration is punishing Iran for non-compliance and demanding that it capitulate and reverse all its other foreign and domestic policies. This approach almost certainly guarantees that Iran will not produce an “Ayatollah Gorbachev” willing and able to resolve the long U.S.-Iran divide and further liberalize Iranian society. The main victims will be the Iranian people but American interests will also suffer.

Be seeing you





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