The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Friday, March 16, 2007


Via Q&O, we see some evidence of internal unhappiness with the Iranian regime:

An Iranian MP who supports summoning Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a discussion on his administration’s economic and foreign policy has told the conservative Iranian news agency Aftab that eight more MP signatures are needed.

He said that despite pressure by Ahmadinejad’s supporters, he and his colleagues have succeeded in obtaining signatures from 64 MPs.

This is promising, and Mr. McQuain conjectures that continuing American sanctions will further strengthen these dissidents.

Some few readers may recall that last year I argued in favor of immediate military action against the Iranian regime. This did not occur, and the world has not yet ended; thus I suppose I was in error.

Now consider the possibility that sanctions have, as some suggest, served to keep the Cuban and North Korean regimes in power -- just as Japan's isolation before 1850 preserved the ancient Shogunate. I have discussed before how open trade can be used by oppressive regimes to bribe potential rivals. Is there a middle ground, of trade which is open to Iranians but not completely controlled by their regime, which would permit us to open up the country?

Naturally Iran's rulers will seek to avoid exactly this outcome. In addition, we still wish to reward cooperation rather than intransigence. Thus I propose the following:

Continue the program of sanctions until some sign of progress, however specious, is achieved. Offer to "reward" the Iranians for this, not be completely relaxing sanctions, but by opening up a new "managed trading presence" which would putatively ensure that trading was in some broad spectrum of "approved" goods. In fact, the approved list would be a sham: the point is to create a managed trading presence in such a way that the profits from trade cannot be steered by the regime to its supporters. (It is not at all necessary that America or its allies capture these profits.) This offer would be made in a highly public manner to make it difficult for Iran's rulers to refuse; we would hope then to maintain and increase a presence in this enemy territory.

Perhaps kindness can kill. It's worth a try, though I confess I am happier with carrier groups waiting in the wings.