Thursday, November 29, 2007
Made In Iran
This week, Iran announced that it had built a new homegrown missile with a range of 1250 miles. Then yesterday it followed that up by announcing the launch of a first-in-its-class domestically produced submarine. Now my understanding based on what I've read in the military press is that it pays to take these sorts of announcements from Tehran with a grain of salt, as the technological expertise usually leaves something to be desired. On the other hand, what is significant here is that, a) Iran feels the need to publicize what amounts to second-strike capabilities; and b) that it is emphasizing its domestic production. (Iran already has three Russian-built subs patrolling the Persian Gulf.)
The first demonstrates that, for all the apparent ratcheting down of rhetoric recently, Tehran still feels very acutely under threat of an attack. We already saw the counterintuitive ways such a mindset can play out in Saddam Hussein's decision-making process before the Iraq War. So it's important to take that into account as we dial in our policy from here on out.
The second gets to the heart of what's at stake, I think, for Tehran in its standoff with the Bush administration. Psychologically speaking, this is a regime that desperately wants to be taken seriously. I think it also offers the possibility of an effective political line of approach: If you want to be taken seriously, you must integrate into the global order responsibly.
What we neglect by adopting an overly hostile worldview is that the emergence of new poles of power presents enormous opportunities as well as various risks. Influence and legitimacy bring with them obligations of responsibility. You can already begin to see the impact of China's emerging influence on its role in the global order. The same is true of India.
It's time we started taking advantage of this principle with regards to Iran as well.