The U.S. and Iran: Democracy,
Terrorism, and Nuclear Weapons
by Stephen Zunes
Foreign Policy in Focus
ZNet, August 31, 2005
The election of the hard-line Teheran
mayor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, over former President Ayatollah Hashemi
Rafsanjani as the new head of Iran is undeniably a setback for
those hoping to advance greater social and political freedom in
that country. It should not necessarily be seen as a turn to the
right by the Iranian electorate, however. The 70-year old Rafsanjani-a
cleric and penultimate wheeler-dealer from the political establishment-was
portrayed as the more moderate conservative. The fact that he
had become a millionaire while in government was apparently seen
as less important than his modest reform agenda. By contrast,
the young Teheran mayor focused on the plight of the poor and
cleaning up corruption.
In Iran, real political power rests with
unelected military, economic, and right-wing ideologues, and in
the June 25 runoff election, Iranian voters were forced to choose
between two flawed candidates. The relatively liberal contender
came across as an out-of-touch elitist, and his ultraconservative
opponent was able to assemble a coalition of rural, less-educated,
and fundamentalist voters to conduct a pseudopopulist campaign
based on promoting morality and value-centered leadership. Such
a political climate should not be unfamiliar to American voters.
Of course, Washington did not provide
the Iranians with much incentive to elect another relative progressive
to lead their country. Since the 1997 election of the outgoing
reformist President Mohammed Khatami, the United States has strengthened
its economic sanctions against Iran and has even threatened military
attack. Although most Iranians would like improved relations with
the United States, they apparently got the message that U.S. hostility
toward their country would continue whomever they chose as president.
Washington's primary criticisms of Teheran
focus on the Iranian government's suppression of political freedom,
its support for terrorism and subversion, and its nuclear program.
Though all three of these are legitimate areas of concern for
the international community, the double standards exhibited by
both the Bush administration and the bipartisan congressional
leadership in pressing these issues have done little to promote
individual liberty, counterterrorism, and nonproliferation in
Iran or the region as a whole.
U.S. Criticism of the Electoral Process
The Bush administration has attempted
to use the flawed election process in the Islamic Republic of
Iran to further isolate that country and discredit its government.
Yet, despite a call by some U.S.-based exiles for a boycott, more
than two-thirds of Iran's eligible voters went to the polls during
the first round, a higher percentage than in recent U.S. presidential
Many, though not all, reform-minded candidates
were prevented from running, and since President Khatami was unable
to significantly liberalize the political system, unelected ultraconservative
clerics are still capable of dominating Iran. Despite these very
real limitations, however, the election campaign was utilized
by the growing pro-democracy movement to encourage greater political
discourse and to deepen popular involvement in the civic process.
For the first time since Iran became a
republic a quarter century ago, a presidential election was forced
into a second round. The disappointment with the choices offered
led to a much lower voter turnout during the runoff, but the majority
of Iranians apparently considered the outcome significant enough
to warrant their involvement in the electoral process. Most Iranians
felt they had at least some stake in the system.
Still, President Bush insisted that the
Iranian vote failed to meet "the basic requirements of democracy"
and that the "oppressive record" of the country's rulers
made the election illegitimate. Such comments appear to have actually
catalyzed Iranian voters from across the political spectrum, many
of whom recall how the United States engineered the overthrow
of their country's last genuinely democratic government in 1953
and backed the repressive regime of the unelected shah until his
ouster in a popular revolution in 1979.
Efforts by the Bush administration to
portray the political situation in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan
as superior to Iran's similarly failed to convince Iranian voters.
Although those countries recently experienced relatively fair
electoral processes, both are suffering from bloody insurgency
campaigns led by Islamic extremists and even bloodier counterinsurgency
campaigns orchestrated by the United States. Moreover, Baghdad
and Kabul exercise little direct control over much of their respective
countries, and neither of these elected governments has thus far
been able to demonstrate any real independence from U.S. military
and economic domination.
A look at most other U.S. allies in the
region does not offer much inspiration for those desiring greater
freedom and democracy, either. There are no competitive elections
for president, for prime minister, or for any kind of legislature
that can initiate and pass meaningful laws and make real policy
in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar,
United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, or Azerbaijan, even
though these autocratic governments are bolstered by U.S. military
and economic aid. Indeed, the majority of U.S.-allied governments
in the region are even less democratic than Iran.
At least the ruling Iranian government
does not massacre demonstrators by the hundreds or boil dissidents
to death, as does the U.S-backed Karimov regime in Uzbekistan.
Nor do current Iranian leaders usurp most of the nation's riches
and restrict political power to a single extended family, like
the U.S.-backed family dictatorships in Saudi Arabia and the other
sheikdoms of the Arabian Peninsula. And Iranian voters were spared
election day brutalities like those in Egypt under the U.S.-backed
Mubarak dictatorship, where police recently escorted pro-government
thugs to attack a group of women who dared to hold a nonviolent
protest in support of greater political freedom.
Yet only Iran, not these U.S.-backed dictatorships,
endures President Bush's complaints that power is in the hands
of "an unelected few." Echoing his selective criticism,
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice challenges the legitimacy
of the Iranian elections, because female candidates were barred
from the presidential race, but she praises the far more restrictive
local council elections in Saudi Arabia, where women, unlike in
Iran, were not even allowed to vote.
Such double standards in no way justify
the repression, the lack of real choices in the election process,
and the many other failures by Iranian leaders to conform to international
standards of human rights and representative government. They
do, however, indicate that Washington's bipartisan emphasis on
the lack of democracy and human rights in Iran stems not out of
a desire to enhance these ideals but rather from an urge to punish,
isolate, and militarily threaten an oil-rich country that refuses
to sufficiently cooperate with U.S. economic and strategic designs
in the Middle East.
Subversion and Terrorism
U.S. hostility toward Iran often follows
accusations of subversion and terrorism beyond its borders. For
example, Washington tried to blame Teheran for the popular anti-government
resistance movement in the Arab island state of Bahrain in the
Persian Gulf, where the Shiite Muslim majority began to resist
the autocratic rule of a Sunni Muslim monarchy during the 1980s.
The United States also sought to link Iran with acts of terrorism-both
through its own agents and through local groups-and accused Teheran
of military threats and acts of subversion against Arab monarchies
in the region. Even Arab states suspicious of Iran's intentions,
however, have expressed concerned about the U.S. tendency to define
"Iranian-backed terrorist groups" so broadly as to include,
for example, Lebanese guerrillas fighting Israeli occupation forces
prior to Israel's withdrawal in May 2000.
Although Iranian agents have trained,
financed, and funneled arms to a number of extremist Islamic groups,
U.S. charges of direct Iranian responsibility for specific terrorist
acts against Israeli or American targets remain dubious. For example,
Washington exerted enormous pressure on the Saudi government to
implicate Iran in the 1996 terrorist bombing of the Khobar Towers
in Dharan, which killed 19 U.S. soldiers, even though Saudi investigators
found no such link. Iran has challenged the United States to present
evidence in an international judicial forum to prove its allegations,
but Washington has refused. Many now believe this terrorist attack
may have been one of the first strikes by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida
U.S. State Department investigations reveal
that Iranian support for terrorism emanates almost exclusively
from the Revolutionary Guards and the Intelligence services, both
of which are beyond the control of Iran's president and legislature.
Furthermore, most acts of international terrorism clearly linked
to Teheran have been directed at exiled Iranian dissidents, not
against the United States. Iran's immediate post-revolutionary
zeal to export its ideology was short-lived, as internal problems
and outside threats deflected the attention of its leadership.
In addition, Iranians are culturally and religiously distinct
from the Sunni Arabs who dominate most of the Middle East. The
hierarchical structure of the Shiite Islam practiced in Iran limits
the revolution's appeal as a model for other Middle Eastern states.
There is little evidence to support Washington's
warnings of aggressive Iranian designs in the Persian Gulf, either.
Iran has not threatened-nor does it have any reason for provoking-a
confrontation over sea lanes, as several U.S. analysts have feared.
Iran is at least as reliant as its Arab neighbors on unrestricted
navigation, so if it closed the Straits of Hormuz, Iran would
be primarily hurting itself. With few pipelines servicing its
southern oil fields, Iran is far more dependent on tanker shipping
than any other country on the Persian Gulf coast.
Iran has dramatically reduced its military
spending due to chronic economic problems. Indeed, in constant
dollars, Iranian military spending is barely one-third what it
was during the 1980s, when Washington was clandestinely sending
arms to the Islamic Republic. Mirroring increased Iranian procurement
of sophisticated missiles, the Arab sheikdoms along the Persian
Gulf have similar missile capabilities, serving (along with the
U.S. Navy) as an effective deterrent force.
The United States has also cited Iran's
occupation of three small islands claimed by the United Arab Emirates
as evidence of aggressive Iranian designs in the Persian Gulf.
However, Iran originally seized the islands-Abu Musa, Greater
Tunbs, and Lesser Tunbs-in 1971 under the shah and with U.S. and
One litmus test of a country's aggressive
designs on its neighbors is military procurement. As a country
amasses arms, bolsters troops, and acquires training, the chance
that it may initiate war escalates, because the probability of
success rises. On this front, Iran also seems less of a threat.
Iran's military procurement relative to the Gulf States is far
less than it was during the 1970s under the shah, when the United
States was actually promoting arms sales to Iran. In addition,
much of Iran's naval capability was destroyed by the United States
in the 1987-88 tanker war, and Iran lost much of its ground weaponry
during Iraq's 1988 offensive. As much as half of Iran's inventory
of major land-force weapons were destroyed in the course of the
war with Iraq. Although Iran's defensive capabilities have improved
somewhat, there is little to suggest that Teheran poses any kind
of realistic offensive threat to the region. Indeed, Iranian tanks
and planes actually number less than in 1980.10
Regarding potential conflicts on the country's
eastern border, Iran came close to declaring war against Afghanistan's
Taliban government in 1998 in response to repression against the
country's Shiite minority and the killings of nine Iranian diplomats
in the Northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Iran accepted nearly two
million Afghan refugees during more than 20 years of war in Afghanistan,
a country with which the Iranians have close ethnic ties. Iran
also provided military support for the Northern Alliance in its
fight against the Taliban. Despite all this, the Bush administration
has warned Iran not to interfere in Afghanistan's internal affairs,
an ironic admonition coming as it did after months of U.S. interference
in Afghanistan that included heavy bombing, ground combat, the
ouster of one government, and the installation of another.
The Bush administration has also claimed
that Teheran allowed al-Qaida members to seek sanctuary in Iran,
though it has been unable to present much in the way of evidence
to that effect. In reality, Iran has strongly opposed al-Qaida
and welcomed their ouster from Afghanistan. Likewise, al-Qaida
has been antagonistic toward Iran, in part due to its Shia Islam,
which Osama bin Laden and his Sunni followers view as heretical.
U.S. claims of Iranian support for the
Iraqi insurgency are particularly ludicrous, given the close ties
with the Iraqi president, prime minister, and leaders of the majority
Shiite coalition in the national assembly. Iran has absolutely
no interest in supporting the Sunni-led insurgency, though-like
most Iraqis-it would like the United States to withdraw its forces
as soon as possible and allow the elected Iraqi government greater
Nor, despite claims by the Bush administration
and congressional leaders of both parties, is Iran a serious threat
to Israel. Israel is separated from Iran by over 600 miles, and
the Israeli air force is more than capable of shooting down any
Iranian aircraft long before it could reach Israel's borders.
Israel also possesses a strong defense system against medium-range
missiles. It is highly unlikely that Israel would have clandestinely
armed the Ayatollah Khomeini's government throughout the 1980s
if the Islamic Republic was considered a threat, particularly
since hard-line anti-Israel elements were more prominent in the
Iranian government during that period than they are now.
Iran's Nuclear Program
Having already successfully fooled most
of Congress and the American public into believing that Saddam
Hussein's Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program, the Bush
administration and congressional leaders of both parties are now
claiming that it is Iran that has an active nuclear weapons program.
As with Iraq, the administration does not look too kindly on those
who question its assumptions. The International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) is the United Nations body legally responsible for
monitoring compliance with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty
(NPT), to which Iran, the United States, and all but a handful
of countries are members. When the IAEA published a detailed report
in November 2004 concluding that its extensive inspections had
revealed no evidence of Iran pursuing a nuclear weapons program,
the Bush administration responded by attempting to oust the IAEA
For the time being, the Iranians have
been able to avert a crisis through negotiations with representatives
of the European Union (EU). Iran agreed to suspend its uranium
enrichment and processing programs until a permanent deal is reached,
which the Iranians hope will also include political and economic
concessions from the Europeans.
The Bush administration has not been supportive
of the European negotiating efforts, however. John Bolton, the
former undersecretary of state for arms control and international
security and currently the UN ambassador-designate, declared that
the EU's strategy of negotiating with Iran was "doomed to
fail." Washington has instead advocated a more confrontational
approach of UN sanctions in response to Iran's apparent earlier
violations of IAEA agreements. Bolton has argued for "robust"
military action by the United States, if the UN Security Council
fails to impose the sanctions that Washington demands.
The Bush administration's efforts have
not received much support, however, in part because of U.S. double
standards. The United States has blocked enforcement of a previous
UN Security Council resolution calling on Israel to place its
nuclear facilities under IAEA trusteeship. Washington has also
quashed resolutions calling on Pakistan and India to eliminate
their nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
Despite accusations from U.S. officials
that "there is no doubt that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons
production program," no one has been able to cite any evidence
supporting such a charge. As with the lead-up to the 2003 invasion
of Iraq, however, Democratic congressional leaders have contributed
to the Bush administration's alarmist rhetoric about a supposed
nuclear threat from Iran and have defended White House double
standards that focus on the alleged nuclear weapons program of
an adversary while ignoring the obvious and proven nuclear weapons
arsenals of U.S. allies like Israel, Pakistan, and India. Senator
Hillary Rodham Clinton, widely seen as the front-runner for the
2008 Democratic presidential nomination, declared that the prospect
of Iran also developing nuclear weapons "must be unacceptable
to the entire world," since it would "shake the foundation
of global security to its very core." Similarly, House Democratic
leader Nancy Pelosi called for the establishment of "an international
coalition against proliferation" modeled on the multilateral
effort to combat terrorism. She suggested that instead of organizing
against nuclear proliferation in general, such a coalition should
focus on Iran, despite the Islamic Republic's apparent current
cooperation with its NPT obligations. As with the run-up to the
U.S. invasion of Iraq, congressional Democratic leaders appear
willing to blindly support the Bush administration in its exaggerated
and highly selective accusations of an imminent threat from a
distant country that just happens to sit on a lot of oil.
It is important to recognize that even
if Iran's nuclear program is entirely peaceful, the enormous expense
and environmental risks from nuclear power production make it
a poor choice for developing countries, especially those with
generous energy resources. And the risk of it being used as a
cover for a secret nuclear weapons program is certainly real.
However, the United States is still obligated
under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty to allow signatory
states in good standing to have access to peaceful nuclear technology.
Ironically, this provision promoting the use of nuclear energy
was originally included in the NPT in large part because of Washington's
desire to promote the nuclear power industry. In any case, whatever
the extent of Iran's nuclear ambitions and whatever the outcome
of the ongoing EU talks, the United States is in a poor position
to assume much leadership in the cause of nonproliferation.
Lost in Bush's current obsession with
Iran's nuclear intentions is the fact that the United States-from
the Eisenhower administration through the Carter years-played
a major role in the development of Iran's nuclear program. In
1957, Washington and Teheran signed their first civil nuclear
cooperation agreement. Over the next two decades, the United States
provided Iran not only with technical assistance but with its
first experimental nuclear reactor, complete with enriched uranium
and plutonium with fissile isotopes. Despite the refusal of the
shah to rule out the possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons,
the Ford administration approved the sale to Iran of up to eight
nuclear reactors (with fuel) and later cleared the sale of lasers
believed to be capable of enriching uranium. Surpassing any danger
from the mullahs now in power, the shah's megalomania led arms
control advocates to fear a diversion of the technology for military
The Washington Post reported that an initially
hesitant President Ford was assured by his advisers that Iran
was only interested in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy despite
the country's enormous reserves of oil and natural gas. Ironically,
Ford's secretary of defense was Donald Rumsfeld, his chief of
staff was Dick Cheney, and his head of nonproliferation efforts
at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency was Paul Wolfowitz,
all of whom-as officials in the current administration-have insisted
that Iran's nuclear program must be assumed to have military applications.
Iranian Perceptions of Defense Needs
Concerned about the proliferation of nuclear
weapons in a volatile region, Teheran has called for the establishment
of a nuclear weapons-free zone for the entire Middle East. All
nations in the region would be required to give up their nuclear
weapons and open up their programs to strict international inspections.
Iran has been joined in its proposal by Syria, by U.S. allies
Jordan and Egypt, and by other Middle Eastern states. Such nuclear
weapons-free zones have already been established for Latin America,
the South Pacific, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
The Bush administration has rejected the
proposition, however. A draft UN Security Council resolution in
December 2003 calling for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East
was withdrawn when the United States threatened to veto it. The
Bush administration, with bipartisan support on Capitol Hill,
insists that the United States has the right to decide which countries
get to have nuclear weapons and which ones do not, effectively
demanding a kind of nuclear apartheid. Not only are such double
standards unethical, they are simply unworkable: any effort to
impose a regime of haves and have nots from the outside will simply
make the have nots try even harder.
Since Iranian efforts to establish a nuclear-free
zone in the Middle East have been unsuccessful, it is certainly
possible that Iran may someday develop nuclear weapons. However,
Washington errs in assuming that the Islamic Republic would use
them for aggressive designs. Indeed, the Iranians may have good
reasons to desire a nuclear deterrent.
In early 2002, Iran was listed with Iraq
and North Korea by President Bush as part of "the axis of
evil." Iraq, which had given up its nuclear program over
a decade earlier and allowed IAEA inspectors to verify this, was
invaded and occupied by the United States. By contrast, North
Korea-which reneged on its agreement and has apparently resumed
production of nuclear weapons-has not been invaded. The Iranians
may see a lesson in that.
In addition, soon after coming to office,
President Bush decided to unfreeze America's nuclear weapons production
and launch a program to develop smaller tactical nuclear weapons
for battlefield use. It is important to remember that the only
country to actually use nuclear weapons in combat is the United
States, in the 1945 bombings of two Japanese cities, a decision
that most American political leaders still defend to this day.
Furthermore, the United States is allied
with Pakistan, which borders Iran on the east and possesses nuclear
weapons and sophisticated delivery systems. The United States
is also a strong ally of Israel, located 600 miles to the west
and capable of launching a nuclear strike against Iran with its
long-range missiles in a matter of minutes. Unlike Iran, neither
of these countries has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,
and both are in violation of UN Security Council resolutions regarding
their nuclear weapons programs. However, the Bush administration's
view is that rather than focusing on countries that actually do
have an acknowledged nuclear weapons program, actually do possess
nuclear weapons, and are in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions,
the focus should instead be on a country that does not have a
confirmed nuclear weapons program, does not yet have nuclear weapons,
and is not in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.
The only realistic means of curbing the
threat of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East is to establish
a law-based, regionwide program for disarmament encompassing all
countries regardless of their relations with the United States.
Ultimately, the only way to make the world safe from the threat
of nuclear weapons is by establishing a nuclear-free planet. And
the United States-as the largest nuclear power-must take the lead.
Polls show that a sizable majority of Americans do not believe
any country, including the United States, should possess nuclear
weapons. Neither the Bush administration nor the leaders of the
Democratic Party, however, appear willing to even broach the subject.
The Issue Is U.S. Hegemony
Iranians are convinced that U.S. hostility
toward Iran is not really about nuclear weapons, terrorism, or
anything other than opposition to the very existence of an Islamic
republic in a country once ruled by a compliant, U.S.-installed,
absolute monarch. This is why both "conservative" and
"reformist" elements in Iranian politics support their
country's right to develop a nuclear energy and research program
under IAEA supervision.
Besides Iraq, Iran is the only Middle
Eastern country with a sizable educated population, enormous oil
resources, and an adequate water supply. Among Middle Eastern
nations, only Iraq and Iran have shown the potential for pursuing
domestic and foreign policies independent of the dictates of powerful
Western governments or the international financial institutions
dominated by these governments. In order to control Iraq, the
Bush administration decided it had to take over the country by
There is little question that there were
similar plans in store for Iran, until U.S. difficulties in stabilizing
and managing Iran's once-powerful Arab neighbor made it apparent
that an additional occupation would be unwise. Pentagon troop
strength is already severely stretched, and the financial and
political costs of the ongoing war in Iraq are becoming difficult
for the Bush administration to manage.
Iran would also be far more difficult
to invade and occupy than Iraq. Iran has more than three times
Iraq's population and land mass, and the country has far more
mountains and other geographical hindrances to invasion and occupation.
Unlike Iraq in the dozen years prior to the U.S. invasion, Iran
has not been under a strictly enforced international arms embargo
and has been able to build up its military defenses.
And as problematic as Iran's political
system may be, Iranians enjoy far more political pluralism than
did Iraqis under the totalitarian regime of Saddam Hussein. As
a result, Iranians harbor more hope that change is possible from
within. Although Iran's population consists of several different
ethno-linguistic groups, there is a very strong sense of nationalism
that would likely result in far more Iranians rushing to defend
their country from foreign conquest and occupation than was the
case with the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
The legal case for military action against
Iran is even weaker than it was in regard to Iraq. Great Britain,
Poland, and other allies that supported the United States in invading
Iraq have made it clear they would not take part in a conquest
An outright invasion of Iran is therefore
unlikely, but this does not mean that military action is not forthcoming,
either directly or through Washington's client state Israel. The
most likely scenario might resemble the half decade prior to the
U.S. invasion of Iraq complete with periodic bombing raids and
missile attacks against suspected military, industrial, and government
targets. Though not as calamitous as a full-scale invasion, such
military action would nevertheless constitute a tragic blunder.
Iranians would probably find ways to retaliate
against such attacks, including a refusal to cooperate with the
IAEA and an increase in support for terrorist groups. Reaction
to such attacks would almost certainly fan anti-American and anti-Israeli
extremism in the region, even within the pro-Western and anti-Iranian
Arab sheikdoms of the Persian Gulf.
Furthermore, as Iranian human rights lawyer
and Islamic feminist Shirin Ebadi observed, "Respect for
human rights can never be imposed by foreign military might and
coercion-an approach that abounds in contradictions." The
2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, jailed by the Iranian government
for her dissident activities, went on to observe that not only
would an attack on Iran "vitiate popular support for human
rights activism, but by destroying civilian lives, institutions,
and infrastructure, war would also usher in chaos and instability.
Respect for human rights is likely to be among the first casualties."
Up to this point, U.S. pressure on Iran
has primarily been through strict unilateral economic sanction.
Unlike international sanctions against the former apartheid government
of South Africa or the current military junta in Burma, Washington's
sanctions against Iran are not predicated on significant legal
or moral imperatives. As with similar extraterritorial efforts
regarding Cuba, U.S. attempts to pressure other nations to get
tough with Iran have alienated even America's strongest allies,
who consider such measures to be in violation of World Trade Organization
Similarly, U.S. efforts to subvert the
Iranian government are contrary to international legal conventions
that recognize sovereign rights and principles of nonintervention.
They also directly counter the Algiers Declaration of 1981, under
which the United States unequivocally pledged not to intervene
politically or militarily in the internal affairs of Iran. Still,
even while acknowledging that Iran is a sovereign government,
the Bush administration insists that it has the right to attack
governments that do not "exercise their sovereignty responsibly."
What neither the Bush administration nor
Congress seems to appreciate is that even if Iranians were free
from clerical domination and the electoral process in Iran were
completely fair and open, the result would almost certainly be
a government that-though presumably not as fanatically anti-American
as the current hard-line clerics in power-would never consent
to the role of a compliant ally. In Washington's eyes, Iran's
most serious offense lies not in the area of human rights, terrorism,
nuclear ambitions, subversion, or conquest but rather in daring
to challenge U.S. hegemony in the Middle East. Iran is the most
important country in the Middle East actively opposing U.S. ambitions
for strategic, economic, and political domination over the region.
By arranging for the Iranian government to be overthrown or crippled,
American policymakers hope to acquire unprecedented leverage in
shaping the future direction of the Middle East.
And this brings us to the final irony.
Serving as an impediment to Washington's ambitions gives Teheran
a degree of credibility and legitimacy that it would not otherwise
receive from large numbers of Middle Eastern peoples resentful
of such foreign domination. This strengthens the current Iranian
government's grip at home as well as its influence throughout
the Middle East and beyond.
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