Neocons Are Clueless About Iran


The democracy movement in Iran has thrown Republican ideologues into such a tizzy of circular logic that they're stepping on their own dicta.

Neocons and hardliners may be as eager as ever to bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb bomb Iran, but are restrained this time out by the feeling that they must support Iran's courageous protesters. After all, the Twittering Green Revolutionaries, as the rightwing brain sees it, are marching in the name of George W. Bush's own vision of a "democratic Middle East," the same vision that led him to occupy Iran's next-door neighbor. ("That's not meddling at all," says conservative conventional wisdom poobah Fred Barnes. "That's supporting the people who see America as a model that they like to emulate.") Yet at the same time, the GOP worries about the meaning of an eventual Mousavi victory in the streets -- neocons in particular have openly hoped for Ahmadinejad's survival, for fear that a more reasonable face on the Islamic Revolution might preclude future opportunities for either us or Israel to bomb Iran back to the 7th Century (where Ahmadinejad would like to take his country anyway).

And worst of all, if the demonstrations bring about a regime change in Tehran, the world might well ascribe it, as they have the election of moderates in Lebanon, to the Obama Effect and his Cairo speech. That would be a neocon catastrophe, quite possibly sweeping us toward a moderate, compromised resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well (before Netanyahu and crew have settled all the land they want). So folks like California congressman Dana Rohrabacher are now calling Obama a "cream puff" -- since, after all, he won't sing along with "bomb-bomb-bomb..."

Never mind that taking sides in the Iranian conflict would give the Ahmadinejad supporters a plausible excuse to blame America for what is so clearly a domestic dispute and grant them the perfect excuse to use overwhelming violence. But any victory without the use of force simply has no flavor for the GOP. And besides, there's a special Tehranian tic buried deep in the Republican party.

It was, after all, the 1979 hostage crisis that paved the way for Ronald Reagan's presidency, and it was his decision to sell arms to the ayatollahs in order to raise a slush fund to fight the Sandinistas that shattered faith in his honesty. Persia tasks the GOP like a black whale (it has ever since the West lost control of those oil fields), and there is almost no law of man or nature they won't try to overthrow to get it back.

It's this imperative that has led Republican talking heads into such conniptions of pretzel logic. Days before the election, Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum at the conservative Hoover Institute, said he'd vote for Ahmadinejad because "I would prefer to have an enemy who's forthright, blatant, and obvious." Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute added that a Moussavi win would make it "easier for Obama to believe that Iran really was figuratively unclenching a fist when, in fact, it had its other hand hidden under its cloak, grasping a dagger."

No, no, say some slightly less extreme wingers: Rooting for Ahmadinejad is a "cynical calculation," says Indiana Congressman Mike Pence. And yet, because he feels the need to press Obama wherever possible, he goes on to complain that "in the cause of freedom America cannot be neutral, cannot be in the business of making careful, short-term calculations." Friday, the House passed a toned-down version of Pence's resolution (co-sponsored by Dem Howard Berman of California) condemning Tehran's crackdown on dissidents. Some of the more virulent Iraq-war pushers have even blamed Obama for the stolen election itself. "These people are thugs and they have been emboldened by our weakness," says neocon nabob Frank Gaffney.

See how it works? Obama is weak because he won't scream denunciations at Ahmadinejad; if only he would, then Ahmadinejad would have a more secure hold on power -- which (to complete the circle) is what the neocons not-so-secretly wanted in the first place.

Bush first nibbled at the pretzel of U.S.-Iranian relations right after he came to power. President Mohammad Khatemi had been elected in 1997 on a promise of reform, leading many in the West to suggest the possibility of a rapprochement with Tehran back then. But once the U.S. Supreme Court put Bush into office, he immediately began squashing any such cream-puffery, and once 9/11 happened and he fixated on invading Iraq, all hope was lost. The 2003 invasion provoked Ahmadinejad's election in 2005 and hardened his determination to pursue nuclear power, thus laying the groundwork for Iranian intransigence and a nice, long-lasting conflict that hardliners on both sides feed on.

But the odd truth is that people get tired of all the shouting and sick of fighting wars. So the calm and cautious Barack Obama was elected over the truculent and reckless John McCain (old "Bomb-bomb" is now knocking Obama for being "tepid"), and now we have the season of Republicans tying themselves into knots. Last week, after eight years of denouncing Democrats for "betraying the troops" if they so much as discussed voting against funding for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the House GOP voted almost to a man against the military appropriations bill because of a few minor Democratic attachments (they weren't "betraying the troops," they were standing for fiscal sanity).

One thing about being lost in the wilderness, you lose your sense of direction.


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