Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Libyan Solution for Iran?

Reuters reports that John Bolton suggested that the ruling class and clerical gerontocrats of Iran could choose from two alternatives: regime change or a Libyan solution:
John Bolton, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said on Monday that Iran's leaders could stay in power and improve their ties with Washington if they ended their pursuit of nuclear arms.

He later insisted, however, that he had not meant to threaten Tehran with regime change if its leaders failed to do so.

Bolton, addressing a meeting of B'nai B'rith International, a Jewish humanitarian organization, cited Washington's movelast week to normalize relations with Libya after that country gave up its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and said Iran's leaders faced a similar "clear choice". ("Iran Regime Can Stay If Does a Libya: Bolton," The Times of India, 23 May 2006)
Yes, the Libyan solution would be possible if Washington made a
serious offer -- Rafsanjani would be overjoyed, Khamenei would take that offer, too, and the President of Iran would not be in a position to reject it.

But is the offer serious? For, if that's all that Washington wanted, it could have made the same offer in the Khatami years.

Take a look at this BusinessWeek article: "Iran: The Mideast's Model Economy?" (Stanley Reed, with Babak Pirouz, 24 May 2004). The BusinessWeek writer all but kissed the hands of the clerical rulers of Iran.

Tehran was liberalizing Iran's economy:
The country has racked up growth in the 5% range for four years running, thanks to high oil revenues, abundant rainfall, and a gradual easing of the choking economic restrictions ushered in by the 1979 revolution. Not long ago, Iran was a bona fide basket case struggling to pay its debts. Now its external accounts are under control, with the trade balance in surplus and substantial hard currency reserves of $35 billion. The government is also raising money internally by privatizing shipping, auto, and other assets. (Reed, 24 May 2004)
And it was seeking to assist Washinton in Afghanistan and Iraq:
Despite the nuclear tensions, the optimists point out that the U.S. and Iran share plenty of regional interests. Iran despised both the Taliban in Afghanistan and Iraq's strongman, Saddam Hussein, and applauded the toppling of both. Since then, the Iranian government has encouraged local businesses to supply both countries with goods that range from fuel to cement. While some Iranian factions may be contributing to the turmoil in Iraq, the mainstream wants calm to return to its neighbor in order to hasten the departure of U.S. troops. The Iranians reckon that once the Americans go, a Shiite-led government friendly to the Islamic Republic will come to power. In an interview with BusinessWeek, Iranian Vice-President Mohamed Ali Abtahi poured scorn on the rebel Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Sadr's troublemaking "is providing the Americans with a reason to stay" in Iraq, the vice-president said (Reed, 24 May 2004)
Really, what's not to like?

Besides, if Washington had made a serious offer back then, it could have conceivably prevented the rise of Ahmadinejad -- notwithstanding the simmering discontent of workers and slum dwellers that the BusinessWeek article completely ignored -- for that would have given neoliberal "reformists" a tangible result to boast of and lifted the morale of educated urban professionals and small producers who love America and want to study in it and do business with it.

I suspect that the reason it didn't make that offer when it made perfect sense to make it was Washington wanted a full neo-con prize: the total restructuring of Iran at Washington's, not the clerical gerontocrats', pace, and an overtly (not covertly) pro-Tel-Aviv government.

Has Washington given up on the full neo-con prize, in view of the rise of resource populism in Iran?

Not bloody likely, according to the Hindustan Times:
US President George W Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have agreed on a timetable for American intervention to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capability.

Bush told Olmert that the plans for US intervention are congruent with the timetable put up by the later during their discussion, a media report said on Thursday.

He assured the Israeli premier that Washington would not allow Iran to acquire nuclear capability, Ynetnews reported.

According to Israeli intelligence assessment, Iran will acquire the necessary nuclear technology to build a nuclear weapon within a year, Olmert said during the talks.

The prime minister also expressed concern over diplomatic foot-dragging at the United Nations, where the United States has faced Russian and Chinese opposition to push for tough sanctions against Iran.

Despite the US assurance, officials in Washington have cast doubt over its ability to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear technology, the news portal said.

"I am very, very, very satisfied," Olmert told Israeli reporters after talks with Bush.

The US will ask the Security Council to impose economic and military sanctions on Iran if it refuses to halt uranium enrichment activities, it said.

If Russia uses its veto to block a US-backed resolution for imposing sanctions on Iran, Washington will circumvent the Security Council by luring allied countries to impose an economic and military embargo on Tehran, it said. (Press Trust of India, "Bush, Olmert Agree on Iran Deadline," 25 May 2006)

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