A reader writes:
I take issue with your idea that given the differences between the Iranian people and their government, America's best approach is to "try to use the one against the other." American interference in Iran's domestic politics gives ammunition to nationalist forces within Iran and de-legitimizes those who would be fighting for democracy with or without America's "help". That is to say, most American efforts to put a wedge between Iran's government and its people only drive them closer together.
If, indeed, Iran's people and its government are as divergent as we believe, that only strengthens the case for letting Iran's internal political struggles run their own course. As a liberal internationalist myself, I am horrified by the human rights abuses of the Iranian regime, and I sympathize with the notion that America ought to use its power and global standing to press for change. The problem is that we don't have the power or standing to intervene effectively on behalf of democratic forces in Iran.
There's no need to continue the ignorant posturing of the Bush years, when people like Condoleezza Rice would idiotically announce--publicly!--our intention to provide material support for political dissidents. (If there's a better way to embarrass or endanger political dissidents in Iran than that, I sure can't think of one.) What influence we do retain, we should focus squarely on constraining the development of Iran's nuclear program. The less we prattle on about regime change, the more willing Iran's government will likely be to cooperate with us on key issues of international concern.
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