Monday, July 14, 2008

In this month's Foreign Policy magazine, one of the resident Iran "experts" in Washington DC, has an interview in which he says about the prospects of war or reconciliation with Iran:

"That said, a U.S. military attack would be more carrot than stick for Ahmadinejad. There are two things that would really rehabilitate his presidency: One is a U.S. attack on Iran, and the second is a major U.S. diplomatic overture to Iran. I think the United States should not offer him either."

Mr. Sadjadpour is not the first policy buff to make the former argument. Even some self-described peace activists go around town telling lawmakers "don't bomb Iran, it will make the hardliners stronger."

A few months ago, a delegation of Iranian victims of chemical weapons from the Iran-Iraq war and the physicians caring for them were in the US for a mini-tour during which they also had a chance to meet with Mr. Sadjadpour. It did not go well. "why," they asked him, "do you frame your opposition to war in terms of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and not on the humanitarian grounds that war would devastate the people of Iran?"

For these folks who are still paying the price for a war that ended nearly twenty years ago, Sadjadpour's argument against war was both disturbing and incomprehensible.

And now, Mr. Sadjadpour goes even further to argue against any diplomatic overtures to Iran. Why? Because it might make Ahmadinejad and his faction stronger.

Can you imagine, a guy working with a well-known think tank in the heart of washington, dc, giving an interview to an influential foreign policy magazine at a moment when tensions between the US and Iran are explosive, and he is provided the chance to make a forceful argument against war (between his adopted and native countries, no less) and to diffuse the situation with an offer of a solution, and the best he comes up is this: don't start a war, but don't try to fix things either, because it may benefit one man!

If not war or diplomacy, then what? More sanctions, like the punishing set that is coming up before congress soon?

I hate to pick on Sadjadpour, when there are the likes of Mehdi Khalaji and his bosses at the the Washington Institute for Near East Policy running around selling sanctions as diplomacy and working to bring the fate of Iraq to Iran. But really how different is Sadjadpour's position from Khalaji, given that the latter has argued: "Negotiations between the United States and Iran under current circumstances run the risk of negatively affecting the U.S. image in Iran."

Doesn't it just come down to this small distinction: that Sadjadpour argues against diplomacy because it might make Ahmadinejad look good, whereas Khalaji argues against diplomacy because it might make the US look bad. Neither of their arguments are tenable, by the way, but that is a discussion for another time.

When the biggest difference between the Iran guy at Carnegie and the Iran guy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy comes down to the fact that one has a full head of fluffy hair and the other looks like a hairless ape, you know that it is time for some diversity in Washington's thinking on Iran.