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Friday, May 16, 2008

Isolating Iran: The Foolish Counterproductivity of Direct Talks

Iran's economic and geopolitical system is so flawed that it is a country at all times on the brink of total collapse. At the heart of the matter is the government's insistence on bribing the population with cheap gasoline. In Iran, gas prices have certain ceilings. The government subsidized gas prices and thus you will never see Iranians pay the sort of prices we pay here. This sort of artificial ceiling only creates a disconnect between supply and demand. Thus, Iran which sits on one of the world's larges oil reserves actually imports much of the oil it uses for domestic gas consumption. The reason this happens is because the government needs to bribe its citizenry with cheap gas so that much of their civil rights violations are overlooked.

Of course, this bribing has only marginal effect on the population. While it is difficult to get accurate information about the views of the typical Iranians, many solid sources have said that much of the youth in Iran is quite pro West. By creating such a flawed economic system in order to appease its population, Iran puts itself on the brink of collapse at all times.

The only policy that the U.S. should take toward Iran is that of regime change. As long as the current regime is in place, it will be a state sponsor of terror, an enemy in the GWOT, and a threat to Israel. Nothing will change that while the mullahs and Ahmadinejad rule.

The group Divest Terror has been a leader in developing and executing a multi pronged strategy that will isolate Iran and turn the population against the government. For instance, it has identified a list of companies that invest in Iran and is now putting pressure on each of the fifty states to divest their pensions from any of these companies. Divest Terror is trying to get companies to choose between investment in Iran and investment from the U.S. (any easy choice in my opinion) So far New York, Texas, and California have been the mavericks in this pledge. Each of those states have divested from each company on this list. The more states divest the less companies decide to do business in Iran.

Part two of the multi pronged strategy is diplomatic isolation. This is where sanctions come in as well as removing diplomats and pressuring others to do the same. Sanctions along with all other forms of diplomatic isolation put further isolation on Iran. What this does is put the people of Iran into a position of feeling as though they are isolated in every which way from the rest of the world. The only way for their country to join the world community is for them to remove the regime.

This is why direct talks between the U.S. President and the Iranian president is so foolish. The isolation lead by Divest Terror is working. It takes time and it is never clear just how close we are to pushing the regime over the edge. The key is isolation not engagement. Iran must feel as though it is alone against the rest of the world. If Barack Obama, or any President, met with the President of Iran that simple meeting would crush the years of efforts that this strategy has accomplished. The strategy to isolate Iran is modeled based on a similar strategy for the apartheid government of South Africa. That strategy took decades to work. This may be the same case for Iran. Of course, it will never work if the President of the United States is sitting down with the President of Iran. The mere photo op of the two of them shaking hands would counter act years of economic and diplomatic isolation.

In fact, that very photo op can then be used to demand lifting sanctions, barriers to free trade, and isolation from many of the companies that refuse to the business there. The companies that states like California currently don't invest in because they do business with Iran will demand a retraction when that sort of a picture finds its way into mainstream media circles.

How can states like California on the one hand shun any company that does business with Iran, while our President sits down with their President? How can we continue to maintain sanctions if we are willing to hold unconditional meetings at the highest levels? These are the questions that Barack Obama and any proponent of foolishly believing that sitting down with Iran is positive doesn't seem to understand. That is why such a meeting would not only be counter productive but frankly disastrous.


Anonymous said...

Actually, the US heavily, heavily subsidizes the price of gas as well. In most parts of the world, they pay far more than we do here in the states.

Regime change has to come from WITHIN Iran- if we try to topple the leadership- either the Ayatollah or Ahmadinejad, it would be a disaster on an even greater level than Iraq.

You are right about Iran being on the brink of collapse- but the US should have nothing to do with it. Let the Iranians (the majority of which are young and want a much more progressive country) do it themselves, otherwise we just add more terrorists.

mike volpe said...

We aren't going to have anything to do with the internal dynamics of the regime change. We don't subsidize gas the way Iran does. You are comparing apples and oranges. It is one thing to provide subsidies to providers,and quite another to simply set ceilings on how much a gallon of gas costs in a country regardless of how much it costs in the market. They do this to bribe their population.

Their whole societal model is flawed and ripe to fail, and what the U.S. needs to do is put as much pressure on them through isolation. Meeting with their President is the exact opposite of that.