Ten days that shook Tehran

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Pat Buchanan

Given its mo­nop­oly of guns, bet on the Ira­nian regime. But, in the long run, the ay­a­tol­lahs have to see the hand­writ­ing on the wall.

Let us as­sume what they in­sist upon — that Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad won the June 12 elec­tion; that, even if fraud occurred, it did not de­cide the out­come. As Ay­a­tol­lah Khamenei said to loud laugh­ter in his Fri­day ser­mon declar­ing the elec­tion valid, “Per­haps 100,000, or 500,000, but how can any­one tam­per with 11 mil­lion votes?”

Still, the ay­a­tol­lah and Mr. Ah­madine­jad must hear the roar of the rapids ahead. Mil­lions of Ira­ni­ans, per­haps a ma­jor­ity of the pro­fes­sional class and ed­u­cated young, who shouted, “Death to the Dic­ta­tor­ship,” op­pose or de­test them. How can the regime main­tain its present do­mes­tic course or for­eign pol­icy with its peo­ple so vis­i­bly di­vided?

Where do the ay­a­tol­lah and Mr. Ah­madine­jad go from here?

If they adopt a harder line, defy Barack Obama and refuse to ne­go­ti­ate their nu­clear pro­gram, they can con­tinue to en­rich ura­nium, as harsher sanc­tions are im­posed. But to what end adding 1,000 more kilo­grams?

If they do not in­tend to build a bomb, why en­rich more? And if they do in­tend to build a bomb, what ex­actly would that achieve?

For an Ira­nian bomb would trig­ger a re­gional arms race with Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Ara­bia seek­ing nu­clear weapons. Is­rael would put its nu­clear arse­nal on a hair trig­ger. Amer­ica would re­tar­get mis­siles on Tehran. And if a ter­ror­ist any­where det­o­nated a nu­clear bomb, Iran would risk an­ni­hi­la­tion, for every­one would as­sume Tehran was be­hind it.

Rather than make Iran more se­cure, an Ira­nian bomb would seem to per­ma­nently iso­late her and pos­si­bly sub­ject her to pre-emp­tive at­tack.

And how can the Ira­ni­ans sur­vive con­tin­ued iso­la­tion?

Ac­cord­ing to U.S. sources, Iran pro­duced 6 mil­lion bar­rels of crude a day in 1974 un­der the shah. She has not been able to match that since the revo­lu­tion. War, lim­ited in­vest­ment, sanc­tions and a high rate of nat­u­ral de­cline of ma­ture oil fields, es­ti­mated at 8 per­cent on­shore and 11 per­cent off­shore, are the causes. A 2007 Na­tional Academy of Sciences study re­ported that if the de­cline rates con­tinue, Iran’s ex­ports, which in 2007 av­er­aged 2.4 mil­lion bar­rels per day, could de­crease to zero by 2015.

You can­not make up for oil and gas ex­ports with car­pets and pis­ta­chio nuts.

If Tehran can­not ef­fect a lift­ing of sanc­tions and new in­vest­ments in oil and gas pro­duc­tion, she is headed for an eco­nomic cri­sis that will cause an ex­o­dus of her bright­est young and qua­dren­nial re­runs of the 2009 elec­tion.

And there are not only deep di­vi­sions in Iran be­tween mod­ernists and re­li­gious tra­di­tional- ists, the af­flu­ent and the poor, but among eth­nic groups. Half of Iran’s pop­u­la­tion is Arab, Kurd, Az­eri or Baluchi. In the Kur­dish north­west and Baluchi south, se­ces­sion­ists have launched at­tacks the ay­a­tol­lah blames on the United States and Is­rael.

As they look about the re­gion, how can the ay­a­tol­lahs be op­ti­mistic?

Syria, their ma­jor ally, wants to deal with the Amer­i­cans to re­trieve the Golan. Saudi Ara­bia and Egypt are hos­tile, with the lat­ter hav­ing un­cov­ered a Hezbol­lah plot against Pres­i­dent Hosni Mubarak.

Ha­mas is laser-fo­cused on Gaza, the West Bank and a Pales­tinian state, and show­ing in­ter­est in work­ing with the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Where is the Is­lamic revo­lu­tion go­ing? Where is the state in the Mus­lim world that has em­braced Is­lamism and cre­ated a suc­cess­ful na­tion?

Su­dan? Tal­iban Afghanistan? So­ma­lia is now in fi­nal pas­sage from war­lordism to Is­lamism. Does any­one be­lieve the AlSha­hab will cre­ate a suc­cess­ful na­tion?

As for the ay­a­tol­lahs, af­ter 30 years, they are deep in cri­sis — and what have they pro­duced that the world ad­mires?

Even if the “green revo­lu­tion” in Iran trig­gers re­volts in the Gulf states, Saudi Ara­bia or Egypt, can Iran be­lieve Sunni rev­o­lu­tion­ary regimes will fol­low the lead of a Shia Is­lamic state? How long did it take Mao’s China to re­nounce its elder brother in the faith, Khrushchev’s Rus­sia?

When one looks at the Asian tigers — South Korea, Hong Kong, Tai­wan, Sin­ga­pore, Malaysia — or at the China or In­dia of re­cent decades, one sees na­tions that im­press the world with their progress.

Iran un­der the mul­lahs has gone side­ways or back­ward. Now, with this sus­pect elec­tion and mil­lions hav­ing shown their re­vul­sion of the regime, the le­git­i­macy and in­tegrity of the ay­a­tol­lahs have been called into ques­tion.

Mr. Obama of­fers the regime a way out.

They may ex­er­cise their right to peace­ful nu­clear power, have sanc­tions lifted and re­ceive se­cu­rity guar­an­tees, if they can prove they have no nu­clear weapons pro­gram and will cease sub­vert­ing through their Hezbol­lahHa­mas prox­ies the peace process Mr. Obama is pur­su­ing be­tween Is­rael and Pales­tine.

If Iran re­fuses Mr. Obama’s of­fer, she will start down a road at the end of which are se­vere sanc­tions, es­ca­la­tion and a war that Mr. Obama does not want and Iran can­not want — for the win­ner will not be Iran.

Pat Buchanan is a na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

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