Sakset/Fra hofta

Saken med de 15 britene var en viktig prøve på hvem som har det siste ord i Iran. Det er ikke Ahmadinejad og Revolusjonsgarden, for mot deres ønske ble britene sluppet fri uten unnskyldning og rettssak. Kan vi få Iran til å velge samme pragmatiske løsning i atomsaken, spør Dennis Ross.

Pragmatisme er ikke det samme som moderat. Pragmatisk vil si realitetsorientert: at man er i stand til å sette nasjonens interesser over ideologi feks. Hvis prisen for britenes fangenskap ble høy nok, ville en pragmatisk leder velge løslatelse. En ideologisk ville blåse opp saken og motsetningene, krisemaksimere, mobilisere folket og kjøre rettssaker, helt uten tanke på hva det ville koste Iran realpolitisk. Realpolitisk vil si forhold til andre land, normale relasjoner, handel og dialog.

Den øverste leder Ali Khamenei valgte pragmatismen. Eneste innrømmelse til Ahmadinejad var at han fikk stå for løslatelsesseremonien og kunne regissere den som han ville, med utmerkelser til Revolusjonsgardistene osv.

Kan Iran bli overtalt til å legge bort atomprogrammet på samme måte? spør Ross. Det krever kløkt, men også troverdige trusler om militærmakt. Iran må se klare fordeler ved å legge bort atomplanene.

En kan få følelsen av at Ahmadinejad forskutterer fremgang i atomprogrammet for å låse regimet til denne kursen. Han vet at mange i ledelsen har betenkeligheter. USA burde prøve å få disse til å gripe inn.

But the more interesting puzzle was whether the IRGC had the clout among the Iranian elite to determine how Iran’s leaders would deal with the crisis. In my mind, if it could be overruled after triggering a crisis, we would learn a great deal about its real political weight and discover whether the major decision-makers are governed more by pragmatism than rigid ideology.
None of this, of course, meant that our problems with Iran–on the nuclear issue, its support for terrorism, or its opposition to Arab-Israeli peace–would disappear. The Iranian leadership as a whole wants nuclear weapons and sees its interests in the Middle East largely as opposed to ours. But the non-IRGC segments (the mullahs, their merchant-class backers, and the liberalizers associated with former Presidents Ali Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammed Khatami) are mindful of the costs of isolation, and they don’t seek nuclear arms at any price. That is the meaning of pragmatism–recognizing Iran’s interests and not pursuing a path that ultimately costs Iran more than it gains. Our challenge on the nuclear issue has been to develop a strategy–on our own and with others–that convinces the Iranians their interests will be harmed more than helped by acquiring nuclear arms.

Since, with any act of statecraft, it is essential to understand reality as it is, knowing whether the IRGC and its standard bearer, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, hold the upper hand in Iran will tell us a lot about whether we can dissuade the Iranians from going nuclear–and if so, how best to do it. While some observers like John Bolton declared that, in the crisis, Ahmadinejad «scored a political victory, both in Iran and internationally,» the facts suggest just the opposite.

First, note that the Iranian press did not even mention the crisis for several days after the British sailors were seized: This was hardly a case in which the regime was trying to whip the public into a frenzy. On the contrary, it seemed to downplay the issue. Second, after the release of the sailors, Ahmadinejad was roundly criticized in many Iranian newspapers, with several articles making the point that the crisis cost Iran greatly without any corresponding benefit. Third, Admadinejad himself acknowledged that the British made no concessions when he said that they weren’t big enough to admit mistake; and an article in the Iranian newspaper Aftab e Yazd even suggested that the Iranians were coerced into letting the sailors go: «If we wanted, as the president says, to pardon them while we had the authority to try them, why did we not release them before Blair’s ultimatum or three days after it?»

It is hard to escape the conclusion that Ahmadinejad was a loser in the crisis, and that other Iranian leaders decided they needed to cut their losses. Interestingly, I know from speaking to British officials that they were surprised when Ahmadinejad announced the release of the sailors in his press conference. They had expected that there were going to be more quiet talks with the Iranians, in part to work out the details of the release and in part to discuss, without any British apology, how to minimize the possibility of avoiding future such problems. This was how they expected the Iranians to climb down.

And, yet, the Iranians ended the crisis unilaterally. Bear in mind that, early in the crisis, unnamed Iranians were quoted insisting that there must be a British apology and that the British sailors would be tried. They proved to be wrong. Ali Larijani, secretary of the Supreme Council on National Security, later told a British interviewer that there would be no trial and that the issue needed to be resolved peacefully; he proved to be right.

Statecraft
Balance of Power
by Dennis Ross
Only at TNR Online | Post date 04.23.07
the new republic, sub only