Monday, June 15, 2009

Who's crazy now?

The second point in this brief note on Iran from Ezra Klein (via The Corner) seems to me at best incomplete and at worst backwards. After conceding that the government’s handling of the election undermines his argument that the Iranian regime is fundamentally rational and “says something very unsettling about the mental state of the regime”, Klein goes on:

The second is that it is likely to disrupt what was, to my mind, a very positive trend in the United States: the long-overdue effort to pressure Israel on the settlements. Among America's points of leverage was that Israel desperately needed our help to handle Iran. Among the trends freeing our hand was the apparent quieting of Iran's drumbeat of provocations. Now that Iran appears to be more of an independent problem and less likely to fall into a period of relative quiet, it's hard to imagine either Israel or America spending too much time worrying about their relationship with each other.

If I follow Klein’s argument, he’s saying that it’s too bad the Iranian government is crazy as a loon because that means the United States won’t actually be able to handle Iran which means we can’t use the offer of handling Iran to pressure Israel into shutting down their settlements so, rats, we’ll have to leave pressuring Israel for another better time.

I don’t think Klein has really thought this through. If the Iranian government is crazy as a loon then there’s a good chance Iran - and its clients - really do want to literally destroy Israel and thus Israel’s refusal to give one more inch unless it gets recognition of its right to exist and demilitarization of Palestinian territories is, well, perfectly rational.

In other words, the lunacy in Iran hasn’t cost us a golden opportunity to pressure Israel about the settlements. The lunacy in Iran has made it clear we shouldn’t be looking for such an opportunity in the first place.

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