As Iran’s streets erupt with pro-democracy demonstrations, it is all too obvious that the only option the United States has in altering the Islamic Republic’s behavior is to support the Green Movement. ~Ray Takeyh
Takeyh must know how weak his argument is, since he feels compelled to insist on the obviousness and inevitability of the policy option he is advocating. U.S. support for the Green movement is a hard sell because it is not at all obvious that U.S. support is critical or desired by members of the movement. Unless Washington was willing to withdraw that support at a later date as an incentive to get Iran to make concessions on other issues, there is no reason to believe that U.S. support for the movement could alter the Iranian government’s behavior. This is the problem that democracy promotion advocates will keep encountering. Their democracy promotion recommendations don’t advance other U.S. policies, and instead frequently undermine them or get in the way, and so advocates have to insist all the more vehemently that their recommendations are absolutely vital. Supporting the Iranian opposition isn’t just one possible tool available–it is obviously the only option left!
Takeyh does argue that taking military action against Iran is undesirable, but his reason isn’t very convincing:
And the military option that was always unattractive has now become implausible; it would be rash to employ force against Iran’s suspected nuclear installations and radicalize the Arab populace just as forces of moderation and democracy seem ascendant.
Is Takeyh suggesting that it wouldn’t be rash to launch unnecessary military strikes if the “forces of moderation and democracy” weren’t on the rise? It is curious that Takeyh links the “forces of moderation and democracy” when the results of democratization in the region so far have been to undermine or defeat the “forces of moderation.” It’s true enough that another American war will contribute to political radicalism in the region, but that isn’t the main reason why the U.S. shouldn’t start another war.
Takeyh makes another pronouncement:
Whether motivated by idealism or a desire to advance practical security concerns, the West must recognize that the only thing standing between the mullahs and the bomb is the Green Movement.
If that were true, that would mean that there isn’t really anything standing in the way. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be true. The Green movement cannot stop the Iranian government from pursuing nuclear weapons if it decides to do this, and in the unlikely event that the Green movement’s leaders acquire some measure of power it is not guaranteed that they would oppose building these weapons. It is not too strong to say that their opposition to the Iranian government has nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear program, and if they immediately achieved the reforms they sought it would not slow down Iran’s nuclear program.
The latest Iran NIE tells us that the Iranian government is apparently divided over whether or not to pursue nuclear weapons, and it has not yet made the decision to build such weapons. It is doubtful that support for the Green movement would affect this decision either way, but there’s no reason to assume that a successful Iranian civil rights movement is going to make Iran’s nuclear policy line up with what Washington wants.