One of the problems with modern culture is that most problems we see, those on TV or in the movies, tend to get solves within a short amount of time. The biggest political or romantic dramas get solved in the movie theatre within 2 hours while on television even the most convoluted plot gets dealt with after 1 season. The idea of waiting years, maybe even decades for a strategy to work, makes sense on paper but for a society with the attention span of a caffeine-addled chipmunk, it seems to take far too long.
This seems to be the situation with Iran. Here's what conventional wisdom generally understands about that country:
1) Most Iranians hate their government for being corrupt, religiously over-zealous and incompetent in running national affairs.
2) Most Iranians are proud of their culture and history and would see any outside attempt at regime change as an assault on their independence. Given the choice of supporting their own corrupt leaders or foreign liberators, they would choose to side with their own.
As a result, most outsiders have traditionally been very cautious when it comes to discussing attempts at ousting the current government in Tehran. Certainly there are those who have long advocated the "guns blazing" stategy that worked so well in Iraq (well, at least initially). However, one of the most strident criticisms of the Obama administation has been its insistence on rapproachment and discussions with the Mad Mullahs and Ahmewhatshisname. Indeed, people have shouted over and over that sanctions are useless since the Chinese, North Koreans and Russians ignore them and that demanding new talks with Iran simply shows American weakness.
And yet one wonders if there is not some wisdom to this strategy. Years ago I was visiting a cousin of mine in Israel and mentioned that I was a big fan of Bibi Netanyahu (during his first stint as PM). "You can have him if you like him so much," my cousin snorted. Then he explained that while foreigners loved Netanyahu because of his style of defending Israel, they usually didn't realize he was a terrible leader who couldn't delegate, surrounded himself with weak yes-men and was doing a terrible job handling the country's economy and social needs. Peace with the Arabs might be the only issue Israel has to deal with in the eyes of the world but the country also has to function on a daily basis, just like every other country in the world. An Israeli leader who gets that elusive peace treaty with the Arabs but creates an economy with 15% unemployment is a lousy leader who won't get re-elected.
This is something we often forget about Iran. All we see on television is a very minute part of life there. We see the riots, the whackjobs and the soldiers but there is an entire population that, like us, wants to work for a living, have a peaceful family life and good food on the table. The Mad Mullahs can make all the rousing anti-Jewish and anti-American speeches they want but when the proletariat go home to an empty fridge and bank account the impact seems to wear off. There's only so long you can go on blaming someone else for your country's problems and at some point you figure out that it's actually the leaders that are the problem.
As this article notes, that day of realization is coming in Iran:
Iran's opposition leaders said Wednesday that a "dark future" awaits the economy because the government didn't listen to economists when it slashed energy and food subsidies in a country already struggling under biting UN sanctions.
Former presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi support the government's effort to rein in subsidies but said in a rare statement posted on their websites that it is being implemented badly.
The opposition leaders, who believe President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stole the June 2009 election through massive vote fraud, said the way the government is slashing subsidies only brings more hardship to the country.
Fuel prices have at least quadrupled and bread prices have more than doubled in the past week since the government started dramatically reducing subsidies.
Yes, I am aware that there is a race to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons from the uranium that it is currently enriching but even that issue has a complicating factor. Iran has allies with nuclear weapons, like North Korea, Russia or China. Iran has access to terrorist groups which might be able to acquire nuclear weapons. A regime struggling economically would find it far cheaper to buy or steal such a weapon than spend the money needed to build its own. And don't believe for a second that the Russians or Chinese, if it was in their interest, wouldn't quietly sell one to them. If Iran has to independently develop the bomb, then the pace of that development will be tied to the country's economic well-being. It was one thing for Hitler, y"sh, to throw the last of his country's resources into a last-ditch fight against the Allies. It's quite another for a country officially not at war with anyone to justify starving its population to build the bomb. The Iranians are a strong-minded people. They will not sit quietly for such things; no population ultimately does.
There might be some wisdom in the American stategy to slowly pressure Iran and let its own government's idiocy bring it down. One hopes that before that government falls it won't do something that will make the hawks retroactively right about their insistence on immediate war.