Secretary of Defense Gates spoke with CNN’s John King yesterday about the internal situation in Iran and whether the resentment and popular unrest following last year’s election is still continuing.
I think Secretary Gates is correct in saying that, despite things being calm on the surface, there is a reservoir of popular dissatisfaction among the Iranian people. That doesn’t mean that the regime will be overthrown tomorrow, nor does it even mean that there is going to be a huge protest on the anniversary of the June 12 election.
What it means is there is a whole political faction lying in wait.
Before last year’s election, progressives in Iran were largely Khatami-style reformists. Now, the progressive movement in Iran is made up of the Mousavi/Karroubi school of reform — in addition to the more radical viewpoints among a portion of the population, which supports abolishing the Islamic government altogether.
As for the matter of sanctions — Gates says they have “had an impact,” and that more sanctions will have “more of an impact.” But by defining the goal of sanctions (the “principal value,” as he says it) as political isolation for Iran, Secretary Gates shows a much more nuanced understanding of the sanctions issue than most sanctions proponents in Congress and among outside organizations.
To hear these people talk about it, sanctions are a magic bullet that can tear down Iran’s economy and bankrupt Tehran’s treasury.
Fortunately, Gates realizes that isn’t going to happen. So — we hope — the administration has a plan for what to do next, after the sanctions are put in place and before we realize that they haven’t made all of our wildest dreams come true…
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Video: Gates on Iranian politics