Argument: Attacking Iran would legitimize regime, undermine democracy

Issue Report: Is a nuclear Iran intolerable?


Muhammad Sahimi. “Iran Is No Threat, Unless Bush Makes It One”. Anti War. May 26, 2008 – military attacks on Iran will only consolidate the hardliners’ grip on Iran, just when economic problems and political repression are shaking the foundations of their power. President Ahmadinejad is in deep trouble at home, even among his own base. The vast majority of Iran’s urban population, and in particular its university students, despise him for his failed economic policies, political repression, and the danger that his hollow rhetoric has created for Iran’s national security. In the March elections for the Iranian parliament, he was attacked fiercely not only by the reformists, but also by pragmatic conservatives and former allies. But as Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian human rights advocate and the 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate, said recently in a speech at Barnard College,

“Foreign attacks and threats on the Iranian government will only harm human rights efforts, since the government would act under the guise of ‘national security’ to suppress those who are seeking more freedom in the country.”

In April 2005, when the reformist Mohammad Khatami was still president, Iran made a comprehensive proposal to the U.S., offering to enter serious negotiations and putting all the important issues on the table. The offer was never taken seriously. What is not understood in the U.S. is that, given the deep unpopularity of the hardliners, the absence of an external threat to Iran’s national security would make it much easier for democratic groups to push for reforms. Therefore, détente, not war, with the U.S. will make fundamental changes in Iran possible.