Monday, February 13, 2006

The “E” Word

Around the time Ahmadinejad was being crowned as the regime’s new clown in chief, a curious phrase started appearing rather frequently in several English language articles on Iran: the Persian Empire. Now that Iran seems to be heading for a conflict with the west, the phrase reappeared in an article by a renowned scholar Dr. Edward N. Luttwak in Los Angeles Times. In this article Dr. Luttwak challenges the notion that Iran is a nation-state “but rather a multinational empire dominated by Persians, much as the Soviet Union was once dominated by Russians.”

Naïve Iranians may find it appealing to think of their land as Persian Empire, as it reminds them of a glorious past. In the stage of world politics, however, the term spells doom and gloom as it did for the Soviet Empire in the 80’s. Identifying Iran as an empire, Dr. Luttwak then goes on to challenging the assumption that Iranians will unite behind their leaders in face of military strikes: “…Only among the Persians are many likely to react to an attack as the axiom prescribes; others [ethnic minorities] might welcome the humiliation of their oppressors.” One possible implication is that such strikes may very well be the starting point for ethnic unrest or worse a civil war. In an earlier article the same Dr. Luttwak argues (unlike many other commentators) that a surgical strike could delay Iran’s nuclear program for years by targeting few key installations and that such strike can infact accomplish its goal in “a single night.”

The bottom-line is that the west can terminate or thwart the Iranian nuclear program through a variety of options ranging from economic sanctions to military strikes. While these options may be viewed as costly or unfavorable by the west, their consequences will be catastrophic for us. We should not let the clowns in power in Iran speak to our nationalist sentiments or set the political discourse. The question for us is not whether we should possess nuclear technology. This is a question that should be publicly debated and resolved in a free democratic Iran. The real question is whether we want to stay on the collision course with Ahmadinejad and other criminals of the Islamic regime leadership in the driver’s seat.

The way out of this crisis is a concerted campaign to oust the regime.