As predicted on this site a week earlier, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's allies appear to be losing in both local elections and the more rigged Assembly of Experts--Barnett calls the Assembly Iran's version of the College of Cardinals which is a good analogy meaning the Supreme Leader of Iran is their Pope.
Story here. Amazing stat: turnout was 60% for local elections. Unusually high for that type of election. Sounds like a 2006 midterm election--a way to send a message to the President through other means.
Iran's president, however, is constrained by the fact that he is not the most powerful man in the country. My president unfortunately is under no such constraints and has only made the most cosmetic of changes--replacing Rumsfield with Bob Gates and being in "listening" mode this week--and is goinig to miss the chance to mark his legacy which he has always been so keen to do. With one move to Iran, he could like Nixon to Beijing, be the man people look back on 30 years from now as, whatever the numerous faults and constitutional issues/over-reached executive, brought a former enemy into the orbit.
Iran would become a mini-China pushing marketization and becoming involved in security appartus for the region.
As I said before, what Bush did do--whether he realized it or not--is anticipate the coming wave of revolution that will be sweeping the Middle East. The Middle East is going through the biggest youth bulge in its history.
Major Revolutionary periods, e.g. French Revolution, are always timed with a young restless population. Another would be the 60s Boomer Generation and the Social/Sexual Revolutions they unleashed.
The Revolutions of one sort or another are coming to that region. It could go the way of the Red and White Terrors and ME become an aboslute hell-hole and become the next sub-Saharan Africa. Expect way more armed, angry, fueled by a religio-political ideology, and better trained.
But it doesn't have to. It isn't going to become The Velvet Revolutions of 1989 overnight. There are no Lech Walseas or Vaclev Havel's on the other side of this "curtain". There are no statesmen of that caliber to be found. It would be more like Deng's China, Putin's Russia, 1970-80s India, etc. But they will not be countries we would send in the troops.
Here is Bush's chance to pull the wildcard. Do we really think Syria and Iran would stay exactly as they are for the next 30 years once they become fully invested in foreign capital and the global system? Really? Iran can always use oil to rig the economy. Doesn't apply to Syria.
With such a deal (Bush goes to Tehran), the US becomes (with Syria?) the only ones to broker the real peace that has to happen: Saudia Arabia and Iran.
The US would have to protect the Saudis/Egyptians with our nuclear umbrella so the nuclearization doesn't spread (which honestly it might anyway, although I hope it could be avoided).
The Sunnis learn to live with the future--a Shia Iraq and independent or some sort of other Kurdistan. The Turks and the Russians already are.
The Shia, i.e. Iran, give up their revolutionary Shia rhetoric. And learn that now that they have power the quickest and surest way to lose it is to fund lunatics on suicide missions. I mean that both literally and figuratively.
Iran has since at least President Khatami, stopped support for Shia Revolutionaries in Saudi Arabia. That could change if Washington and Riyadh handle this transition incorrectly.
The Shia Revolution has spread to Southern Iraq although it is strongly pushed back by Moqtada al Sadr and Hezbollah. Hezbollah is now entrenched in Lebanon no matter how much Bush can't admit that has happened.
By cutting the deal now he stops the further spread. The Iraqi Shia, no matter how close to Iran, are not going to be sending out missionaries the worldover to convert or wreck havoc. The Shia ideology of Khomenism is as dead an ideology as 1970s Brehznev Sovietism.
Just watch for Iran's Gorbachev to emerge in the next decade. IF, IF, IF, IF, we practice containment (i.e. they get a nuke) as we did with the Soviets way back when.
Remember how many shots we fired on the Soviets directly? Zero.
In US proxy wars with Iran--Hezbollah v. Israel and Iraq--the death tolls are nothing compared to Vietnam, Congo, Angola, and the other proxy wars during the Cold War.
How long will it take to learn the lesson of Iraq? Going around smashing bad guys does not bring security.