The drumbeat in some Washington foreign policy
circles for "regime change" in Iran has striking similarities to the
run-up to the Iraq invasion, and is being led by some of the usual suspects
like the American Enterprise Institute's Michael Ledeen.
Though not well-known outside of Washington, Ledeen's "views virtually
define the stark departure from American foreign policy philosophy that existed
before the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001," Pacific News Service's William Beeman
commented in May 2003. "He basically believes that violence in the service
of the spread of democracy is America's manifest destiny. Consequently, he has
become the philosophical legitimator of the American occupation of Iraq."
Regardless of what Ledeen thinks of conflict in the Middle East, Iran has been
in the George W. Bush administration's sights for quite some time. Administration
officials, and some members of the European Union, have warned that conflict
with Iran over its nuclear program may be inevitable, particularly in light
of the announcement last week that Iran had managed to perfect the uranium enrichment
In its recent National Security Strategy, the White House placed Iran
squarely in its crosshairs. How U.S. policy toward Tehran will play itself out
remains to be seen, but economic sanctions and/or the use of military force
appear to be very much on the table.
If the unfolding scenario visa via Iran seems familiar, that's because, well
it is familiar.
While the run-up to a possible military strike against Iran doesn't directly
mirror the run-up to the war on Iraq, there are a number of similarities.
Like Iraq, right-wing think tanks and administration-connected neoconservatives
are pushing for regime change. As during the run-up to the war on Iraq, administration
officials are claiming that an Iranian-developed nuclear program could threaten
Competing Iranian exile groups and leaders are vying for the attention and
financial support of the administration. Information from some of these groups
like much of what was provided by Iraq's Pentagon-designated exile-in-chief,
Ahmed Chalabi has been less than stellar. There have been policy disagreements
within the administration as to how to proceed. And now, there's "show
and tell" at the UN Security Council.
The Nobel Prize-winning head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),
Mohamed ElBaradei, remembers very well those politically and emotionally charged
days at the United Nations before the war in Iraq.
At a recent forum in Doha, the capital of Qatar, ElBaradei told the audience
that the international community should "steer away from threats of sanctions
against Iran," saying the country's nuclear program was not "an imminent
threat" and the time had come to "lower the pitch" of debate.
ElBaradei's conciliatory remarks in Qatar followed on the heels of a late-March
agreement by the UN Security Council to give Iran a month to comply with requests
by the IAEA, the UN's nuclear watchdog, that it halt uranium enrichment.
"There is no military solution to this situation," said ElBaradei.
"It's inconceivable. The only durable solution is a negotiated solution."
Three years after the invasion of Iraq, many of the most prominent neoconservative
hawks that promoted the ill-conceived war have moved away from the spotlight.
Not Michael Ledeen, who, for a huge chunk of his professional life, has been
out to remake the world. Ledeen, who used to work at the Pentagon, the State
Department, and the National Security Council, was deeply involved in the transfer
of arms to Iran during the Iran-Contra affair.
A resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute,
a Washington-based conservative think tank, Ledeen recently told Raw Story's
Larisa Alexandrovna that the invasion of Iraq was the "Wrong war, wrong
time, wrong way, wrong place."
Ledeen's interest, as it has been for a number of years, is "regime change"
In a conversation with The New Yorker's Connie Bruck, Ledeen indicated
that back in 2001 and 2002, "when he pressed the case for Iran with friends
in the administration, he had support from some officials in the Pentagon and
in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney."
According to Ledeen, however, administration officials felt that "the
road to Tehran lies through Baghdad."
The New Yorker notes that, "Ledeen has been predicting for many
years that Iran is on the verge of popular revolution, which only requires some
outside help to become a reality."
A few years ago, he was brash enough to tell a group of Iranian expatriates
in Los Angeles, where some 600,000 exiles live: "I have contacts in Iran,
fighting the regime. They need funds. Give me 20 million, and you'll have your
In a National Review online (NRO) post dated March 28, Ledeen stepped
up his criticism of the Bush administration, charging it with being asleep at
the wheel with regards to the Iranian threat.
Ledeen claimed that the administration had "done nothing to make the mullahs'
lives more difficult, even though there is abundant evidence for Iranian involvement
in Iraq, most including their relentless efforts to kill American soldiers."
If the White House was serious about spreading democracy, "We would be
actively supporting democratic revolution in Iran," Ledeen wrote. While
it's true that Secretary Rice "went to Congress to ask for an extra 75
million dollars to 'support democracy' in Iran
the small print shows
that the first 50 million dollars will go to the toothless tigers at the Voice
of America and other official American broadcasters, which is to say to State
Department employees," he added.
Ledeen recommended that the U.S. "take action against Iran and its half-brother
Syria, for the carnage they have unleashed against us and the Iraqis. We know
in detail the location of terrorist training camps run by the Iranian and Syrian
terror masters; we should strike at them, and at the bases run by Hezbollah
and the Revolutionary Guards as staging points for terrorist sorties into Iraq."
"We could even expand the agenda from Iraqi matters to the real issue:
we could negotiate their departure, and then turn to the organization of national
referenda on the form of free governments, and elections to empower the former
victims of a murderous and fanatical tyranny that has deluded itself into believing
that it is invincible."
ElBaradei's assessment of the current situation with Iran is based less on
ideology and more on his work in the field. After UN inspectors didn't find
any signs of a nuclear arms program in Iraq, that finding was ignored by the
The intervening years, however, proved that the IAEA got it right when it determined
that Saddam Hussein did not possess any of the alleged weaponry, or any programs
to create it.
"I work on facts," ElBaradei said in remarks reported by Reuters.
"We fortunately were proven right in Iraq, we were the only ones that said
at the time that Iraq did not have nuclear weapons, and I hope this time people
will listen to us."