Iran is, of course, not comparable to Libya or Afghanistan, but everyone in Tehran's bazaar knows that any flare-up of tension between Iran and the West has an immediate adverse impact on the Rial, the country's currency, particularly against the U.S. dollar. The slightest Western pressure and Tehran's stock market nose-dives.
Why won't the U.S. take advantage of this? Why not impose smart sanctions on Iran instead of smart bombs, and apply strong international pressure for the formation of independent and secular political parties? Currently, the only parties allowed are Islamic ones approved and subsidized by the authoritarian, theocratic regime. We desperately need a push from America and the West to separate church from state in Iran.
If I were an American, I would probably be content with the well-being of myself and my own family, and would be inclined to oppose my country's involvement in Middle East politics -- but I am not an American. I am an Iranian. I am a subject, not a citizen, of a Middle Eastern country with a long history of despotism. My country will not change without help from the West. I wish the only superpower in the 21st century would realize its full potential in diplomacy, economic leverage and, as a last resort, military action -- not just to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions, but to speed up democratization in the region.
I am impatient for it. We have those like Shirin Ebadi, Iran's Nobel Peace Prize winner and prominent reformer, who call for allowing democracy to evolve. But Ms. Ebadi is a rich woman, a member of the country's small elite that has never had to struggle to make a living. Maybe she and those patient ones like her can afford to wait another century for democracy to materialize out of the blue.
Not me. I need help. If America could accept its power and potential, it could begin forcing change right now.
What obligations, if any, do we, as the sole superpower, one representative of Freedom?
In shifting away from a foreign policy based on realpolitik, that of power leverage and counterbalance to one that espouses freedom and democracy. Unstated, is the replacement of "power" as a central theme by that of morality. After all, even considering the self driven motivation for the perceived greater security associated with freedom and democracy over oppression and despotism. there is inescapably the introduction of the "should we be our brother's keeper" questioned with "if not us than who" and "if it is good for us then why not others." I think this is a right move.
And with Iran? Considering that we have troops and bases along Iran's border (Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention our partner in the region in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia across the Persian Gulf), should a ground war become necessary we are better positioned. At the same time, a ground war maybe less likely with practical and applicable long stretches of Iran's border for infiltration. As is often the case, the more practical a ground war become, the more options there are for alternatives. Thus the possibility for regime change in Iran grows, albeit with the temporal pressure of Iran producing a working nuclear weapon.
Also interesting to note this piece from Strategy Page:
The Baluchis are rising. No, it isn’t a recipe for some new puff pastry, but yet another ethnic group that, like the Kurds, would like a homeland of their own. In this case, the homeland would be carved out of southwestern Pakistan, southeastern Iran and southern Afghanistan. None of these countries is eager to give up any of their territory to help form a new state of Baluchistan. But that hasn’t stopped the Baluchis from trying. And they appear to be trying.
On December 15th, there was an attempt to assassinate Iranian president Muhammad Ahmadinejad. The Iranian government has said little about the incident, which resulted in the deaths of several of Ahmadinejad’s security team. This has led to considerable speculation about the attack. Some conspiracy-mavens have been asserting that it was a deliberately staged incident, like Hitler’s “Reichstag Fire,” which would result in the accrual of even greater power to Ahmadinejad and the religious extremists who run Iran. Others have pointed to Israel’s Mossad, the CIA, or perhaps even Iranian liberal dissidents. Then the real story began to come out.
Near the end of December, Notani, one of the leaders of the Baloch (Baluchi) Liberation Army (BLA), announced that the BLA had been behind the attempt on Ahmadinejad’s life. First heard of around the end of 2003, the BLA (sometimes known as the Baloch Liberation Movement, BLM), has been primarily active in Pakistan, where it has been linked to about two dozen bombings. It is one of several groups fighting for an independent Baluchistan.
There is a Baluchi minority in Iran, about two percent of the population, and Notani did not cite Baluchi independence as the justification for the attack. Instead, he said the attempt on Ahmadinejad’s life was in revenge for the death of his brother at the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) some time back. The legitimacy of Notani’s claim cannot as yet be established, but it is worth noting that on January 9th, the Commander of the IRGC and several other senior IRGC officers were killed in the crash of a military transport, which may – or may not – be connected. Most of the ten million Baluchis in the region live in Pakistan.
Could there be grounds for mutual cooperation as with the Kurds in Iraq? Remember too that there are Kurds in Turkey, a tentative regionally ally that too previously "had" to put down a Kurds uprising. Interesting similarities.