Alex Massie

Obama’s Alliance with the Iranian Regime? Really?

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Remember how in the months before the Iraq war, anyone who doubted the wisdom of military intervention was accused of being "objectively" on Saddam Hussein's side. I do, not least because I was quite happy to so label folk. Sad times. Anyway, I see Robert Kagan has returned to that theme in his column today. It's just like the good old days...

It would be surprising if Obama departed from this realist strategy now, and he hasn't. His extremely guarded response to the outburst of popular anger at the regime has been widely misinterpreted as reflecting concern that too overt an American embrace of the opposition will hurt it, or that he wants to avoid American "moralizing." (Obama himself claimed yesterday that he didn't want the United States to appear to be "meddling.")

But Obama's calculations are quite different. Whatever his personal sympathies may be, if he is intent on sticking to his original strategy, then he can have no interest in helping the opposition. His strategy toward Iran places him objectively on the side of the government's efforts to return to normalcy as quickly as possible, not in league with the opposition's efforts to prolong the crisis.

Well, maybe. It's true that the nature of the election and the subsequent behaviour of the government has, in some senses, complicated matters for the west. But, more than anything else, it seems to me that the best course of action, generally speaking, is to keep quiet and see what happens. That would certainly seem preferable to committing oneself to a given course, or speaking as though such a course were inevitable, before we know what is actually going to happen in Iran.

In any case, since there's nothing the United States can do (and no evidence that Iranian reformers would welcome american intervention anyway) doing very little and hoping for the best seems the wisest course. It may well be that the administration's Persian agenda will have to change but there's no sense speculating on how you're going to play your hand before the cards have even been dealt. Heck, at the moment they're still being shuffled...

Meanwhile, I can't help but feel that elements of Kagan's case are undermined by the fact that Jonah Goldberg seems to agree with it. Kagan's argument is at least semi-sophisiticated which is more than can be said for Goldberg's juvenile posturing. 

In the end, regime change in Iran would be a splendid thing. Probably. But one ought not to assume that it would solve all the west's problems with Iran. And, most importantly, it's something that can only be achieved by the Iranians themselves. None of this seems tricky to understand...

UPDATE: Daniel Larison has more.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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