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May 19, 2004 11:38 am


Kristof's "Nuts with Nukes"



As my L&P readers are well aware, I've been recommending Nicholas D. Kristof's interesting NY Times series on Iran. Today's installment,"Nuts With Nukes," asserts in its very first line that there is only"one force that could rescue Iran's hard-line ayatollahs from the dustbin of history: us." Kristof argues that a confrontational position on Iran could embolden the mullahs by creating"a nationalistic backlash ... that will keep hard-liners in power indefinitely. Our sanctions and isolation have kept dinosaurs in power in Cuba, North Korea and Burma, and my fear is that we'll do the same in Iran." For Kristof,"regime change in Tehran" is a worthwhile goal, but a confrontational policy will"fail to get rid of either the nuclear program or this regime." He continues:

The only alternative is engagement — the precise opposite of the sanctions and isolation that have been U.S. policy under both Presidents Clinton and Bush. Sanctions are even less effective against Iran than against, say, North Korea, because Iran oozes petroleum and is independently wealthy. Isolation by the U.S. has accomplished even less in Iran than it has in Cuba. So we should vigorously pursue a"grand bargain" in which, among other elements, Iran maintains its freeze on uranium enrichment and we establish diplomatic relations and encourage business investment, tourism and education exchanges.

Kristof argues that a"money flood" of US investment would seriously undermine the theocratic stranglehold on the country. Quoting Hooshang Amirahmadi, the president of the American Iranian Council:"In just a few years, the conservatives would be finished."

All this remains to be seen. But there is something to be said about the intimate connection between free minds and free markets; the spread of the latter both reflects and reinforces the triumph of the former.


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