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AMERICAN POLICY OPTIONS TOWARDS IRAN

 March 1997

"There is no such thing as a fixed policy, because policy like all organic entities is always in the making. "

Robcrt A. Salisbury (British Statesman 1830-1903)

THEIR BENEFITS, COSTS, & RISKS

"There is no such thing as a fixed policy, because policy like all organic entities is always in the making. " - Robcrt A. Salisbury (British Statesman 1830-1903)

THEIR BENEFITS, COSTS, & RISKS

In the January 1997 issue of Focus on Iran in "an open letter to President Clinton" the Azadegan Foundation pointed out that any military action, or "surgical strike" against Iran would be counter productive. It would serve only to strengthen the political control of Mullahs inside Iran. Moreover, it is highly likely that such action would also induce a retaliatory action aimed at Iran's neighbors for perceived complicity in the U.S. military action. Finally, it was pointed out that American action would very likely enable clerical leadership to manipulate the feeling and spirit of Iranian nationalism for its own dubious and questionable aims. The question now before us is what solutions other than a military option will yield the greatest benefits for both Iran and indeed the United States, with minimal cost and risk to them. It should d be noted at the outset, that there may likely be instances where the national security interests of the United States will not necessarily coincide with "what is best" for the Iranian people. When this occurs it will be noted in this presentation. There are those who strongly urge the United States to seek accommodation and rapprochement with the Tehran regime believing this would be best for the United States with minimum cost and risk. This is especially appetizing to those who have vested interest in trade and finance especially the petroleum market. From their perspective "what is good for business is good for America". What is obvious in this train of thought is the lack of concern for "what is good for the Iranian people". The benefit which can be derived from rapprochement generated from "dialogue" would be minimal since it is unlikely that the ruling clerics have the inclination to engage in a quid pro quo which sincere and faithful bargaining and diplomatic negotiations require. The fact is that the ruling clerics in Tehran have never sought to abide by the norms of international relations and in essence, terrorism constitutes the cornerstone of the Islamic Republic's domestic and foreign policy. The Mullahs will indeed follow the policy that was initiated by Ayatollah Khomeim and can not deviate from it.

Minimal Requirement For U.S.-Iran Dialogue

As mentioned in the open letter to President Clinton, the Azadegan Foundation believes no dialogue or rapprochement with the current Tehran regime can take place, at any level, until that regime agrees to the following five stipulations to be made by the United States government. These include:

1- Urge the Tehran regime to subscribe to all treaties and conventions guaranteeing and recognizing human rights and basic freedoms for its own people in Iran, and elsewhere in the international community .This should be especially so for those migrs opposing the regime.

2- Demand that the so-called Islamic Republic immediately cease , or at a minimum renounce all acts of state-sponsored terrorism, along with ending any interference in the affairs of other governments, causing further instability in the region.

3- Exert intense international pressure on the Tehran government to sign multilateral agreements to renounce acquisition and use of weapons of mass destruction and civilian incapacitation.

4- Encourage Iran (along with other Persian Gulf states) to pledge non-interference in innocent commercial traffic in the Persian Gulf.

5- Send an unambiguous message to the clerical leadership that the United States will not tolerate subversion or "harassment" of American political and economic interests in the international arena. Furthermore the United States must emphasize that the continuation of such actions by the Islamic Republic constitute an extremely unfriendly if not
provocative act which may result in an American retaliatory response.

From the perspective of optimal gain and benefit to the United States, the Iranian people and the international community in general, the above mentioned stipulations, if agreed to by Tehran, would indeed be a great step forward towards solving the "Iranian dilemma" for the United States. Moreover, it should be apparent that the risks are minimal for the United States and the Iranian people. For the Tehran leadership, it obviously means loss of domestic power and the threat of losing hold on those clients worldwide which it maintains through international & material support.

There are six types of options that U.S. government could adopt in response to intransigence and provocative acts of the Tehran regime. These options are listed here from the most benign response to the most aggressive.

1-The Option Of Economic Sanction

It is quite likely that the clerical regime would not accept the above conditions put forward by the U.S. government, simply because the former, in theory and practice, is anti-democratic, anti-U.S. and anti-Israel, and thus, can not change its political behavior and transform itself. What remaining options are then, available to the United States? The most obvious are greater and more comprehensive economic and political sanctions. The reality of economic sanctions is that for the most part, they are not effective. This non-effectiveness is largely due to the fact that many nations in the international community, for trade and other financial resources, refuse to adhere to the sanction protocol. In essence, they are looking out for their own economic & financial interests rather than the more abstract issues related to the sanctions. The targets of these ongoing sanctions and boycotts, which incidentally have been less than effective, include Cuba, Iraq and of course, the most recent embargo on Iran. Even the Arab boycott of Israel of the last three decades can be considered a failure despite the threat of the Arab community to retaliate. In the case of Iran, it is highly unlikely that the United States can bring the international community, namely the world's leading economic powers to cooperate in further extension of the present U.S.-imposed boycott. Again, "doing business with the Islamic Republic" is in everyone's best interest despite the illegal/immoral activities of the Tehran regime in the international community and against Iranian nationals in Germany and France.

The root problem for the United States is that it has no leverage to apply, or incentive/reward to offer, those nations which comply with the boycott/sanction. As long as Iran can provide the user community with sufficient and moderately priced oil it will be in position to off set any U.S. sponsored boycott/sanctions. The loss for the united States would be one of prestige, credibility, and perhaps even humiliation at the hand of its hated adversary, the Mullahs of Tehran.

2-7he Option of UN. Condenwadon

Another option for the United States, more benign in nature, is to bring about at the United Nations, the official condemnation of that world body. Here again it is likely that at least one of the five major powers of the Security Council (most likely China or France) would exercise its veto right. Assuming no veto, and a voted condemnation, the victory for the United States would be a shallow one. It would be irrelevant for Tehran since they have been flaunting world public opinion since coming to power in 1979. For the United States the gain or benefit would be minimal if not ephemeral a "feel good" sentiment which would be fleeting.

3-The Option Of Blockade Of Iranian Ports And .Shipping

Could the United States, in a more aggressive show of force, initiate its own blockade of shopping (all commodities excluding humanitarian) to and from
Iranian ports? The act of blockade would run counter to the international law and could result in world-wide condemnation of the United States. The risk of the United States losing its legal and perhaps moral standing in the international community is too great a price to pay for such an action which in reality, would yield at best, marginal results. More importantly, to carry out a successful blockade, U.S. warships would have to forcibly stop and search all ships under threat of lethal fire; an act of war in international law. Can one imagine firing on an oil tanker of a friendly power, e.g. France or Japan

4-The Option Of Regional And-Mullahs alliance and coalition

Another option available to the United States is to form an "anti Mullahs" alliance of all the Persian Gulf states and perhaps even including the remote possibility of including Pakistan. If this scenario should succeed (hardly likely), it most likely would result in some retaliatory act against at least one of the weakest of the hypothetical alliance. The risk of military action on the part of Iran and indeed, the United States is great. In such an event, the oil fields of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait would be transformed into an indefensible, highly vulnerable targets. The burden of potential military intervention of the United States and physical damage to participatory states is too great. The cost and risks far exceed any imaginable gain to be derived by the United States and much less on the part of participating members of putative alliance.

5-The Option Of "Surgical .Strike"

The ultimate aggressive military option for the United States against the Tehran regime is the "surgical Strike" against selected military and economic targets. These targets may range from identified facilities for production of weapons of mass destruction to important lines of transportation/communications, oil production and distribution facilities, and others deemed critical to the nation's well being and survival. Although for many hard-liners in the United States security establishment this would seem to be the appropriate response to Tehran's intransigence and defiance of American national interests, its repercussion may very well exceed whatever benefits could be hoped for. At best, the benefit gained is likely to be ephemeral- not lasting too long. It would be in the nature of a psychological uplift for those people with long-time frustrations over ruling clergymen's in Tehran. The hoped-for benefit of teaching the Ayatollahs a lesson is most certainly not going to resonate to change the behavior of the clerics--in fact, just the opposite. Now the regime would have the propaganda vehicle it needs to rally the people against the United States' violation and injury to the Iranian nation.

More importantly however, in "surgical strike", as accurate as state-of the-art technology can make the weapons, collateral non-intentional damage and human casualties will occur; this was clearly evident in the air attacks against Iraq in the Persian Gulf War. It would be indeed ironic if innocent Iranian citizen were forced to pay a heavy price for a regime which they despise for its cruelty, harsh repression and gross violation of human rights.

The cost to the United States could likely range from UN condemnation (not too critical for the U.S.), to alienation of the friends and clients of the region. More critical to the regional interests of the United States is the potential of Iran forming an anti-American coalition (e.g. with Syria ,Iraq and others) which could also exacerbate political instability in those countries friendly to the United States. In the extreme event, a U.S. military attack on Iran could escalate in full-scale warfare between the two nations in spite of the original intent of a "limited strike". As is evident from history "limited" and "controlled" military actions have a way of getting out of control with unforeseen consequences.

Lastly, to be sure, the cost in American and Iranian lives makes this option only the last resort-a response to an unambiguous act of aggression against the United States, tantamount to an act of war. It seems to us, only that type action, or at least, as an act of preemption where there is unquestionable proof of an immanent attack on U.S. assets and facilities.

6-The Optimum U.S. OPTION Support

The Iranian People In Their  struggle For Freedom
The six options delineated above are by no means exhaustive; they merely serve to demonstrate the most likely types of responses nations employ to implement their will and power. Furthermore, all the above cited options have some benefits, but for the most part are seriously flawed by the likely costs and risks they would incur. Risk and cost which would far out-weigh any derived benefits. The Azadegan Foundation as stated in its Open Letter To President Clinton, categorically believes that the only option the United States should exercise against the clerical regime of Tehran, is to support the Iranian people in their quest of replacing the current despotic regime with a democratic one, attentive to the primacy of human rights and liberties. By utilizing its moral stature, its predominant position in the worldwide communications and the media, and economic leverage, all means short of military threat and actual military action should be utilized on behalf of the Iranian people's bid for freedom. If this option is effectively employed, the benefits to the United States and the Iranian nation will be great in magnitude and extensive in scope. Coupled with the derived benefits are the minimal costs in financial/buman resources, national prestige, and long term commitment. Likewise, the risks of military confrontation and act of war are at a minimum. All the actions leading to the replacement of the current despotic regime will and must be in the hands of the Iranian people.

The clerics have totally lost their national base and are ruling with brute force. Recently, persecution of minorities, repression of the people, harassment, kidnapping, torture of writers and journalists (e.g. Mr. Faraj Sarkoohi has been recently kidnapped by the government agents and nobody is aware of his whereabouts ) have been intensified. People of Iran being tired of tyrannical rule of the clerics, are ready for change. With moral and political support of the United States they will be able to bring about this change, namely, freedom to Iran and stability to the region.

 



 

 

 

 


 

 






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