A New Strategy for Iran
Jonathan Rauch has an essay recommending a different strategy for containing Iran that ignores the rather foolish dichotomy of “all-out war or all-out surrender” that seems to be being pushed by Iran hawks. Here’s a tidbit:
Today, the United States enjoys overwhelming conventional superiority over Iran, a fact that Iran knows well and respects. But American strategists need to assume that even a limited conventional strike on Iran would bring an Iranian response, leading to escalation that might destabilize the region, break apart the Western alliance, and strengthen the mullahs’ prestige and power. Iran knows that, too.
Saddam was foolish enough to contest U.S. conventional power. Iran is shrewder. Pursuing a classic asymmetrical strategy, it has organized a regional network of allies that can strike at will against American interests and threaten to destabilize the region — but always at a deniable distance from Tehran. In a genuine strategic innovation, the mullahs are seeking regional domination by projecting unconventional power alone.
Against Iran, developing flexible-response capability implies recognizing three facts. First, Iran has positioned itself as a regional power and must be dealt with as such. That will mean talking to Iran instead of at it, negotiating rather than demanding. Second, U.S. conventional superiority does not and will not sufficiently deter Iran, whether or not Iran is nuclear.
Third, the United States urgently needs instruments that can hurt Tehran short of launching a major war. Those include propaganda and aid campaigns, support for the mullahs’ domestic political opponents, and economic pressure. All are easier said than done, but the cumulative effect even of flawed efforts can be significant, as the Soviets learned.
Read the whole thing. I’m more skeptical than Rauch is about how much direction Hezbollah and others are actually getting from Tehran, but there’s no denying that Iran definitely has influence among those groups. Rauch has outlined a rational, non-“appeasing” strategy for dealing with the Iranian threat to U.S. interests. It’s well worth the read.
QUICK UPDATE: Corrected the first paragraph to refer to containing Iran, rather than Iraq. Really, one of these countries should consider changing their names, because it’s really easy to slip on that last letter.