WASHINGTON’S IRAN DEBATE AND THE “SOFT SIDE” OF REGIME CHANGE
We have long supported a comprehensive approach to U.S.-Iranian realignment as the only way to put U.S.-Iranian relations on a more productive trajectory. But we do not understand how anyone can think that the Islamic Republic of Iran—any more than the People’s Republic of China—would negotiate its internal political transformation with the United States.
Yet this is precisely what Trita Parsi argues in his new book, A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy With Iran, blending distorted treatments of both Iranian politics and Obama’s Iran policy into a deeply misleading and agenda-driven account. In the aftermath of the Islamic Republic’s 2009 presidential election (which Parsi assured us, and continues to assure his readers, was “fraudulent”), Parsi was one of the most publicly prominent voices calling on the Obama Administration to take a “tactical pause” from diplomacy (which had not yet commenced). He advocated for such a pause because, he told large numbers of television viewers and Op Ed readers, the Islamic Republic was on the verge of collapse.
Well, here we are, almost three years later. The Islamic Republic is still here. Parsi, for his part, has returned to advocating U.S. engagement with Iran—but only if the Islamic Republic’s internal politics and “human rights situation” are a central part of the agenda. And the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), the advocacy group headed by Parsi, tells us on its website that the goal of U.S. engagement should be “a world in which the United States and a democratic Iran”—no mention of the Islamic Republic—“enjoy peaceful, cooperative relations.”
Make no mistake: this is neoconservatism without guns, effectively indistinguishable from the position of Michael Ledeen, who parts from other neoconservatives to side with Parsi and NIAC in opposing military action against Iran, but is ideologically committed to regime change there.
In a war-fevered environment, a book like Parsi’s can make a difference. Recall, in this regard, the impact just a decade ago of Ken Pollack’s The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, which helped to legitimate Democratic support for George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq—and which was dead wrong, analytically and empirically, in all of its major arguments. To be sure, Parsi’s book is not written as a case for war against Iran, something that Parsi says he does not want. But, like Pollack, Parsi advances baseless evidence and agenda-driven analysis. And, in the same way that Pollack’s work helped pave the way for invading Iraq, Parsi’s book—by reinforcing conventional wisdom about Iranian politics and Obama’s Iran policy and counseling bad policy, raises the risk of another disastrous war in the Middle East.
Because Pollack, like Parsi, is not considered a neoconservative hawk, his book did not get the critical scrutiny it should have before the U.S. went to war. Although we like Trita Parsi personally, we are compelled to say what we think is so fundamentally wrong and dangerous about his book. Therefore, we have just published an extended review of A Single Roll of the Dice in Boston Review. Our essay, entitled “The Soft Side of Regime Change: Trita Parsi’s A Single Roll of the Dice”, is available online, by clicking here. We would encourage those interested in posting comments to also do so directly on the Boston Review site; there is a place to do so at the bottom of our article.
- Iran’s Soft Power Strategy: Why Iran Does Not Want A Nuclear Weapon (disquietreservations.blogspot.com)