alien & sedition.
Monday, February 12, 2007
  Hoover Doves

Last week Larry Diamond and Leonard Weiss published in op-ed in the LA Times arguing that "Congress must stop a war on Iran" (h/t: Undercover Blue). Now Diamond has followed up with an article in the Christian Science Monitor, writing with Abbas Milani and Michael McFaul about how "Iran's weakened hardliners crave a U.S. attack." The authors are making a similar point point to the one Ali Ansari did at the Guardian online a couple of weeks ago, when he argued that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is politically weak and isolated - and that a U.S. attack may be the only thing that can save him.

Diamond et al agree with the point about Ahmadinejad's own troubles, but their analysis goes beyond the president himself. Neocon hawks continually fail to note - whether out of ignorance or dishonesty - that the Iranian president is not by any means the most powerful figure in Iran's government. The real power belongs to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, and as the CSM article observes, "his failing health has launched a succession struggle." This struggle pits Iran's considerable reform constituency against Ahmadinejad, the Revolutionary Guards hardliners, and their thuggish supporters. As Ahmadinejad falters, he still has one major hope: that the U.S. will launch an attack.
To reverse his waning popular support, Ahmadinejad has tried to change the subject from his domestic failures to his foreign adventures. He knows there is only one thing that could bring the people back to him – a US military attack on Iran. His repulsive remarks about Israel and his nuclear bravado aim precisely to provoke such an attack, which would create the crisis conditions necessary for his faction to seize full power.

Just as Iran's reactionaries are pining for war, some of Iran's more moderate leaders have written a letter asking the Saudi government to help reduce tensions between the US and Iran. Military confrontation with US forces would silence this camp domestically.

In fact, Iran's democratic opposition warns that a US military strike would strengthen the regime hard-liners and weaken their own already limited ability to operate. If Ahmadinejad welcomes war with America and Iran's dissidents fear it, shouldn't the Bush administration think twice about the unintended consequences of military action?
Kevin Drum has called Diamond a "member in good standing of the mainstream liberal foreign policy community," by which he means that he's no Ramsey Clark. Diamond was one of those liberals whose internationalist instincts were challenged by Bush's Iraq war; he worked with the Coalition Provisional Authority for some time, though he claims to have opposed the initial invasion of Iraq.

I bring up this background on Diamond because he's also, interestingly, a senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution. One of the products of the Iraq disaster has been a revitalization of foreign-policy realism, much of it taking place from within conservative think-tanks and publications. There's a danger - which is worth discussing in another post - that liberals opposed to the Iraq war might too easily let themselves be seduced by these new realist allies. But it's worth noting that such a tactical alliance exists at all, and that parts of the conservative intellectual sphere are helping to foster it.

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