Monday, February 26, 2007

Ray Takeyh on Iran

Ray Takeyh, author of Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic (2006), writes in Time for Détente With Iran Foreign Affairs Mar/Apr 2007:

The United States does need to make important changes to its approach to Iran, however, in terms of both substance and style. Given the theocratic nature of the Iranian regime and its paranoia, Washington will have to adapt its rhetoric. U.S. officials can no longer denounce Iran as an "outpost of tyranny" or the "central banker of terrorism" in one breath and propose negotiations in the next. Like all regimes born of revolution, Tehran insists that the international community not just recognize its interests but also legitimize its power. Iran's theocrats are in no way unique; remember that for decades the Soviets demanded that the United States officially acknowledge postwar demarcations of Eastern Europe. A new U.S. policy toward Iran will have to officially recognize the authority of the Islamic Republic.

In this spirit, Washington must abandon its hopeless policy of regime change, including its paltry award of $75 million to Iranian exiles and for broadcasts into Iran. For one thing, such idealism is misplaced. Unlike Eastern Europe in the 1980s, Iran simply does not have a cohesive opposition movement willing to take direction and funding from the United States. For another, calls for regime change are counterproductive. Washington's fulminations and its provision of aid to the (nonexistent) democratic opposition have convinced many Iranian hard-liners that Washington's offer to negotiate is an attempt to undermine the regime in Tehran. Thus, any effort by moderates to engage with the United States is routinely denounced as a concession to the Great Satan's subversive ploys. Iran will certainly change, but on its own terms and at its own pace. The United States has an interest in promoting a more tolerant government in Tehran, but it will not help itself by broadcasting tall tales from Iranian exiles or with Bush's appeals to an indifferent Iranian populace. Integrating Iran into the world economy and global society would do far more to accelerate its democratic transformation. (my emphasis)
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