Another option for Iran

Feb 152012
Authors: Jesse Benn

With Iran-ophobia reaching a fever pitch in the U.S., the question over what should be done about the country’s nuclear program is heating up.

On one side of the argument you have those pushing, or at least posturing, for further military intervention in Iran –– either by the U.S. or Israel. And on the other side there are those arguing to work toward a diplomatic solution.

In practice, both tactics are being implemented, and neither to much effect.

On the military front, there have been repeated assassinations of Iranian scientists and others involved in their nuclear program –– likely carried out by the Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad –– as well as less traditional actions, like the launching of computer viruses. Regardless of how effective these tactics are though, they only delay the inevitable.

On the diplomatic end, there have been years of tough talk and sanctions, both doing more damage to the Iranian people than its regime.

Direct negotiations, however, have been absent from the diplomatic process. There are plenty of good reasons for this; front-and-center is the fact that dealing with someone like President Ahmadinejad is far from good policy. Another compelling reason keeping the U.S. from direct negotiations with Iran is that the country is really under the religious rule of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

So, if military strikes are only delaying things, diplomatic tactics are failing and direct negotiations are impossible, what options are left? One that isn’t often discussed is accepting that Iran will continue pursuing whatever its leaders deem in its best interest, and then working around that –– even if it means they eventually acquire nukes.

Most importantly, this option removes any false time-tables that urge the U.S. and its allies into a full-scale war. It also leaves most options, short of all-out war, on the table. The computer viruses, assassinations, tightened sanctions and other efforts to slow Iran’s progress toward nuclear weapon capabilities remain.

The less traditional option that I’m suggesting is dealing with the reality that Iran might become a nuclear power, and going to war to prevent that possibility isn’t in our best interest.
However, for Israel, this possible reality is far more unpalatable.

And rightly so, Iran’s foreign policy toward Israel amounts to one that prefers to “wipe Israel off the map.” Considering the distance between Iran and Israel is less than the distance between Colorado and New York, this is a type of threat that is nearly impossible for those of us isolated by the world’s largest two bodies of water to understand.

And while it’s up to Israel to make Israel’s foreign policy, and Netanyahu seems to give Obama about as much respect as House Republicans and is unlikely to listen to him, Israel’s proximity to Iran only increases the importance of finding a reasonable way for the countries to deal with each other.

Since Iran’s leadership is far from reasonable, particularly its stance on Israel –– reasonably dealing with them could well be impossible. So, the U.S. and its allies should do everything they can to get on the side of, and accelerate the creation of, Iran’s next government.

With the passage of the 33rd anniversary of the 1979 Iranian Revolution last week, the U.S. should both be reminded of the backlash brought about by its past foreign policy blunders in Iran, as well as the strong secular movement in the country that has sought democracy since 1979.

In a precursor to the Arab Spring, Iranians rose up in 2009 in what was dubbed the “Green Revolution.” Sadly, in classic authoritarian style, the Iranian regime put the protests down through a massive show of force, killing upwards of 70 civilians by the protests’ end.

Many of these protesters and resistance groups have been in Iran long before its “Green Revolution,” and many remain after. And this is where the U.S. and its allies should be focusing –– providing assistance to these resistance groups –– intelligence, financial and technological support and perhaps, someday, even military support.

And as we have watched populations around Iran demand basic human rights and governments by, of and for the People, we should realize that Iran won’t be far behind.

Instead of waiting until the last minute to jump to the right side of history, as the U.S. has throughout the region from Mubarak to Assad, the U.S. should get in front of this one –– because the stakes are that much higher.

The more the U.S. can strengthen the Iranian opposition, the better. And as history turns its page on rulers like Ahmadinejad and other despots, the less the world will have to concern itself with a nuclear Iran.

Jesse Benn is a senior political science major who is planning a trip to Nepal this summer. His column runs Thursdays in the Collegian. Send letters and feedback to

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