The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Shock and Awe, Iranian edition

Former Cheney aide John Hannah, now at WINEP, cares so much about Iran it hurts. He wonders how to go about imposing sanctions:

That was certainly the message I heard at a recent gathering of Iranian activists in Europe, including figures closely linked to the green movement's leadership. Sanctions must be imposed, and in strong doses, the group urged. A weak dose, or gradual approach, only allows the regime to adjust, they said. To be effective, sanctions must act like a shock, not a vaccine.

Similarly, prominent Iran expert Karim Sadjadpour told a Washington conference last month: "Whereas in the past [the leaders of Iran's opposition] were ... unequivocally opposed to any type of punitive measures by the United States ... that's not the case anymore."

While it remains too risky for the opposition's leadership to call publicly for sanctions, Sadjadpour claimed that privately they are eager to discuss what measures would be most effective and to synchronize their activities with U.S. actions against the regime.

But why stop there:

What about military action? This is a much harder call. Iran experts are split. The majority still maintain that Iranians would quickly unite to confront any foreign attacker. While opposition representatives I heard in Europe think that's unlikely, they are deeply worried that if the regime is not crippled in any military attack, it will move ruthlessly to crush their movement for good.

But a few Iranians -- especially in private -- see other possibilities. They suggest that a bombing campaign that spared civilians while destroying Iran's nuclear installations as well as targets associated with the regime's most repressive elements -- the Revolutionary Guard and Basij militia -- might well accelerate the theocracy's final unraveling at the hands of an already boiling population.

Considering the wonders that sanctions and bombing campaigns did in Iraq, one wonders how Iran analysts can still be "split."