For one of the most bizarre political analyses you’ll ever read, check out Hossein Askari’s piece on Iran in today’s Herald Tribune. Askari starts off reasonably enough, citing Iran’s near-thirty-year economic deterioration as a source of widespread unpopularity among Iranians. But then surreality hits — hard:
What can the mullahs in Tehran do to survive? After all, it is only their survival that matters to them. They care little for ideology. They have no commitment to spreading the revolution. Theirs is no religious mission. They barely think about justice for the Palestinians. Their goal is not nuclear enrichment or nuclear weapons. It is survival, pure and simple.
If “Theirs is no religious mission,” then Hitler was indifferent on the Jewish question, and Karl Marx wasn’t one for ideology. But this counterfactual assertion is a mere set-up for Askari’s prescription:
The mullahs have shown that they cannot embrace comprehensive economic reforms. Some commentators naïvely state that better relations with the United States would salvage the regime.
It is hard to see how the lifting of U.S. sanctions, which have not been effective over a period of nearly 30 years, would address Iran’s fundamental economic decay. It is even more difficult to imagine that the United States would not secretly try to undermine the regime in Tehran even after restoring relations.
There is a more radical and better option for the mullahs to maintain their hold on power. Embrace Israel.
Askari goes on to give several reasons why this is a good idea. But whether or not the reasons are valid, they are beside the point. The mullahs are on a religious mission. Fundamental to that mission is the destruction of Israel. The realist mullahs of Askari’s imagination would certainly make things a lot easier. They could come clean on enrichment and missile construction, and give up all their proscribed materiel. With Barack Obama coming into office, they wouldn’t even have to make a pledge to democratize or clean up their human rights act to get the U.S. to leave them alone. As an equal member of the “community of nations,” America wouldn’t dream of dictating conditions to our new Persian partner, etc., etc. But even the hope-infused world of Barack Obama is too reality-based to indulge this fantasy.