OPPOSING VIEW: DON'T BLINK, DON'T BACK DOWN
The U.S.A. Should Maintain Pressure on Iran, but Avoid Engagement
By Dr. Michael Rubin
What should Washington do? It should not engage. Diplomacy, absent Iranian sincerity, is dangerous. Between 2000 and 2005, the height of Iran's reformist period, European Union trade with Tehran tripled. Rather than reform, the regime invested the hard currency into its ballistic missile and covert nuclear program. Today, Iran uses engagement to spin its centrifuges and run the clock.
The United States wants Tehran to stop its nuclear program. Iranians want democracy, not theocracy. Here, interests converge. Although military action can delay Tehran's nuclear program, it cannot stop it. The real danger isn't Iran's bomb, however, but the regime that would wield it.
While Europe embraces the China model of trade and dialogue, the Supreme Leader looks to Tiananmen Square. So should Washington. Rather than fund outside groups, Washington should invest in a template for change. No one knew ahead of time the Chinese student who stopped a line of tanks; the important thing was he had the space to emerge. U.S. policy should create such space. Independent labor would make the Iranian regime more accountable to its people. Unions could force the regime to invest in schools, not centrifuges. Independent media and communications could let a real civil society emerge. This takes money. Those denouncing U.S. funding are not the imprisoned student and labor activists, but reformists loyal to theocracy, and gullible pundits. Tehran's crackdown on dissent predates U.S. support for civil society. And the Iranian overreaction shows both its vulnerability and the efficacy of U.S. pressure.
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Dr. Michael Rubin, a Ph.D. in History (Yale University) and a specialist in Middle Eastern politics, Islamic culture and Islamist ideology, is Editor of the Middle East Quarterly and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Dr Rubin is author of Into the Shadows: Radical Vigilantes in Khatami's Iran (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2001) and is co-author, with Dr. Patrick Clawson, of Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). Dr. Rubin served as political advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad (2003-2004); staff advisor on Iran and Iraq in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense (2002-2004); visiting lecturer in the Departments of History and International Relations at Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2001-2002); visiting lecturer at the Universities of Sulaymani, Salahuddin, and Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan (2000-2001); Soref Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (1999-2000); and visiting lecturer in the Department of History at Yale University (1999-2000). He has been a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Leonard Davis Institute at Hebrew University, and the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs.
The foregoing article by Dr. Rubin was originally published in USA Today, July 2, 2007, and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum, a think tank which seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East, defining U.S. interests to include fighting radical Islam, working for Palestinian Arab acceptance of the State of Israel, improving the management of U.S. efforts to promote constitutional democracy in the Middle East, reducing America's energy dependence on the Middle East, more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia, and countering the Iranian threat.
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