I saw two dozen headlines about this story in my RSS reader this morning and can’t for the life of me figure out why. It’s the most banal observation in the world. Of course Iran’s turning into a military dictatorship. We’ve been linking big media reports to that effect for practically as long as Hot Air’s been in existence. Revisit this WaPo report from April 2007 about the fantastic consolidation of power that the Revolutionary Guard had already achieved inside the country, combining military assets, nuclear oversight, economic and industrial interests, and of course control over terrorist elements like the Quds Force and Hezbollah under its umbrella. Ahmadinejad has been a patronage gravy train for the Guard, to the point where I wondered last summer whether Khamenei wasn’t forced to endorse the rigged election by Guard elements loyal to Dinnerjacket. (Prominent Iranian pols actually used the word “coup.”) Whether Khamenei is in full control of the Guard or the Guard is in full control of Khamenei — or something in between — is an interesting question, but observing that they’re moving towards military rule is by now banal. So what gives with the media attention? This, I guess:
Senior White House officials described what they said would be a “systematic” effort to drive a wedge between the Iranian population and the Revolutionary Guards, which the West says is responsible for running Iran’s nuclear program and also has a record of supporting militant Islamist organizations and cracking down on antigovernment protesters.
In putting together a United Nations Security Council resolution that names specific companies and the wide web of assets owned by the Guards — assets that include even the Tehran airport — the administration is hoping to substantially increase pressure on the organization, which one senior administration official described as a new “entitled class” in Iran…
Previous resolutions have designated a handful of senior figures in the Iranian nuclear program, including the man believed to run much of the military research program for the Revolutionary Guards. But the administration’s latest push would name dozens, if not hundreds, of companies.
In other words, they want to hit Iran hard with sanctions but they’re afraid of alienating the population, so they’re going to emphasize that the trend towards militarism is some sort of newly arisen “illegitimate” Iranian usurper government. Except that it’s not, really: Iran’s elections have always been a sham, but rather than get bogged down in making that case internationally, which leads inexorably to the idea of regime change, the White House would rather be conservative and insist that the trend towards dictatorship is some recent contingency that must be dealt with. What I can’t figure out is if they’re making a neoconservative Bushian moral case against dictatorship, which realists shouldn’t care terribly about, or a more pragmatic case that while nukes in the hands of Islamic fanatic clerics might be okay, nukes in the hands of a military junta simply won’t do at all. Hmmm.