Now, with Hezbollah having lost elections in Lebanon and with Iraq establishing the institutions of a young democracy, the fall of the Islamist dictatorship in Iran would have an electric and contagious effect. The exception — Iraq and Lebanon — becomes the rule. Democracy becomes the wave. Syria becomes isolated; Hezbollah and Hamas, patronless. The entire trajectory of the region is reversed.
All hangs in the balance. The Khamenei regime is deciding whether to do a Tiananmen. And what side is the Obama administration taking? None. Except for the desire that this “vigorous debate” (press secretary Robert Gibbs’s disgraceful euphemism) over election “irregularities” not stand in the way of U.S.-Iranian engagement on nuclear weapons.
Even from the narrow perspective of the nuclear issue, the administration’s geopolitical calculus is absurd. There is zero chance that any such talks will denuclearize Iran. On Monday, President Ahmadinejad declared yet again that the nuclear “file is shut, forever.” The only hope for a resolution of the nuclear question is regime change, which (if the successor regime were as moderate as pre-Khomeini Iran) might either stop the program, or make it manageable and nonthreatening.