Try digitalPLUS for 10 days for only $0.99

Op-Eds

News Opinion Op-Eds

Iran's election a major setback for conservatives -- in America

The election of Hasan Rowhani as president of Iran is good news for Americans, except for the neoconservative hawks who brought us the war in Iraq and have been especially eager for another military adventure in Iran.

In Iranian terms, Mr. Rowhani is a moderate. In the Iranian media, he is called the "diplomat sheikh" and the "sheikh of hope." In his initial press conference after the election, Mr. Rowhani said he would work to build trust between Iran and the United States, Great Britain and other Western powers with the goal of getting the international sanctions lifted that have crippled Iran's economy.

Those sanctions exist, of course, because, under Mr. Rowhani's predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran has been surreptitiously moving toward building nuclear weapons. For the neocons, Mr. Ahmadinejad was a perfect foil. His histrionics and rabid anti-Israel rhetoric showed that he was a man not to be trusted with nukes and a man upon whom sanctions and diplomacy would have little influence. In the neocon analysis, military action was the only viable option.

Neoconservative think tanks such as Project for the New American Century and thinkers such as Bill Kristol have been agitating for at least a pre-emptive air strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. They will now argue that not much has really changed because the Iranian president's powers are sharply limited by the hardcore Islamist mullahs who are the ultimate power in Teheran.

They are right about who is ultimately in charge, but even the mullahs must take public opinion into account. Mr. Rowhani won an outright majority against five conservative candidates, and that gives him significant leverage. There is a war for the soul of Iran going on, and the dark side lost this one particularly significant battle.

The U.S. needs to give Mr. Rowhani and the more progressive side of the Iranian populace a chance to reform their system and tame the radicals. The last thing Mr. Rowhani needs is an American military intrusion that would cause Iranians to rally around the old guard. Instead, the Obama administration needs to mount an all-out diplomatic offensive to see if this small bit of good news can lead to something even better.

The neocons, meanwhile, will have to back down, retire to their think tanks and hope for the worst before they start rattling their sabers again.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go to latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/ to see more of his work.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Iran's dangerous game

    Iran's dangerous game

    With less than a month to go before negotiators for the U.S and its partners are supposed to reach a deal limiting Iran's nuclear program, the talks appear to have stalled over Tehran's resistance to allowing inspectors to visit Iranian military bases and other sites to verify compliance with any...

  • Iran is not at fault for stalled nuclear talks — Israel is

    Iran is not at fault for stalled nuclear talks — Israel is

    Unfortunately, the skilled Iranian negotiators have already won the game against a concession-minded P5-1 array of nations headed by the United States ("Iran's dangerous game," June 5). With funds now flowing into Iran and even more lucrative trade agreements being discussed with that nation, Iran...

  • U.S. negotiations with Iran are a dangerous farce

    U.S. negotiations with Iran are a dangerous farce

    Having missed a July deadline for reaching an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, the six world powers party to the talks -- the United States, Russia, China, France, United Kingdom and Germany -- have set November 24 as their new deadline. Iran says there will be no extension if a deal...

  • The Mideast's new reality

    The Mideast's new reality

    The multiple wars roiling the Middle East have rarely made for stranger bedfellows than the U.S. and Iran, which unexpectedly now find themselves backing opposite sides in some conflicts while simultaneously working hand-in-hand against mutual foes in others. Not surprisingly, neither country is...

  • Iran talks peace while it builds its bomb

    Iran talks peace while it builds its bomb

    Unfortunately, the U.S. and Iran's decision to extend their nuclear talks with a new deadline of June, 2015, will only give Iran the opportunity to further its nuclear and ballistic missile programs unhindered ("Keep talking with Iran," Nov. 24).

  • Keep talking with Iran

    Keep talking with Iran

    The announcement today that the U.S. and Iran have agreed to extend talks over Tehran's disputed nuclear program is far short of what we might have hoped for. But the extension can't be counted as a failure either. If the goal is to keep up the pressure on Iran's leaders to reach a deal, keeping...

Comments
Loading

72°