Ayatollah Khamenei is not Mr.Gorbachev

This post was written by Dr. Art Pitz on July 1, 2009
Posted Under: International Relations, Middle East

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A critic of President Obama recently stated that he wishes that Obama would stand up to Ayatollah Khamenei as President Reagan did when he made the famous statement: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”.  One can certainly understand this person’s wish, especially as it is a very American trait to tell someone off.  We are not known as a patient people.

However, we had diplomatic relations with the U.S.S.R., and Reagan knew his audience.  He had built up a good relationship with Gorbachev and could say what he did while knowing that Gorbachev would not take offense.   And, Gorbachev did allow the wall to be torn down.  Further, Gorbachev had made it a policy to open up discussion and debate in the Soviet Union.  It had to be heady times in that nation as a result.

We do not have diplomatic relations with Iran and Obama has not had any opportunity to build up a relationship with Ayatollah Khamenei and his entourage–even assuming such a thing is possible.  Further, Iran has many real and some imagined issues with the U.S. dating back to at least when our CIA helped orchestrate the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Iran–arguably the last real democratically elected government they have had.  Iran is known for not trusting the U.S., and not just because of George W. Bush.  Iran does have a penchant for believing in bogus conspiracy theories.  And, Khamenei has certainly not indulged in anything like perestroika.

So, unfortunately, as good as it may feel to beat our chests and say our piece to Iran, it is likely to have exactly the opposite effect of what we might wish.  We do, as Obama has done, want to condemn the violence and the undemocratic tendencies of this regime.  But, we’d be wise to not strongly take the side of the protestors publicly.  The Iranian government would use that as a club over the heads of the demonstrators–as if they needed any excuse.  There is precious little that we can do to effect events in Iran.

Having said that, I have serious doubts that “engagement” is in any way going to get this regime to moderate, let alone give up any nuclear weapons resolve it may have.  Our options are indeed limited.  The best that can be said about engagement in my view is that we might try it as a way to justify using harder measures in the event that engagement fails.  The problem here is do we have the time to let this play out before they get nukes?

Sanctions are also not likely to work well since there are other nations that are not likely to make those sanctions stick.  If sanctions could work, this would be a good strategy as Iran’s economy is indeed vulnerable.  They may have great oil reserves but they lack refineries and the regime has seriously mismanaged their economy.

I am not a military expert, but a military attack is problematic.  Why?  Apparently, Iran has scattered and hidden underground its nuclear facilities.  Further, Iran is capable of working through its terrorist proxies Hamas and Hezbollah to do serious damage especially to our ally Israel.  And, we don’t have adequate forces available for any large attack on land since we are tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This all argues in favor of a containment policy.  Try engagement, but be ready if it doesn’t work. What do you think?

Dr. Art Pitz
The Professor’s House
Know the History–Understand the Choices

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Reader Comments

I believe at this time USA should stand by the people of Iran. Any attacks or negotiation with the current illegal government of Iran will hurt the people’s movement.
If USA had not help Saddam during the Iran/iraq war, Iranians would have gotten rid of the khomeini’s regime back then. People had the knowledge of what they wanted, they knew what freedom should look like and they knew well that Khomeini’s regime was not a democratic and free government. However, ppl had to support the regime to prevent invasion of our country by Saddam.
Ahamadinejad and the regime always used the ENEMIES of Iran as an excuse to keep ppl from revolting. If USA attacks Iran, this will be an attack on Iranian PEOPLE and Iran the country, not the current regime. The attack on the current regime will be: NOT RECOGNIZING THE REGIME since it has proved openly in public that it is not for the ppl of Iran once they ordered to “deal with the protestors mercilessly so it will be a lesson to all others”. As we say in Iran: Once a leader orders the police and armed forces to kill and attack their own people, his government and regime is automatically voided. We believe government is set in place to protect ppl, the country, and provide security and unity. If they are the source of terror and separation, the government is voided.
I believe Obama and all other governments have only one sensible choice, and that is to side with people of Iran. I prefer to call them the people of Iran and not the PROTESTORS. These are the ppl of Iran trying to get their country, their cities, their sidewalk, their streets their homes and their childrens back from a terrorist regime.
Any attacks on Iran will be a mistake, any negotiation or validation of the current regime will be a mistake and an attack on the ppl of Iran.
I appreciate your blog. Unfortunately, in Iran we never had a good history book in school. We have to learn about our history little by little from others.

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Dear Mojdeh,

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