The Bush-Sarkozy Agenda for Iran?

In 1776, Benjamin Franklin went to Paris as America’s first ambassador to gain support for American independence. Franklin convinced Paris to recognize U.S. independence and concluded an alliance. Scholar Leo Lemay wrote: “There is no doubt that America would not have won the Revolutionary War without France’s financial and military aid and that Franklin was almost entirely responsible for obtaining that aid.”

Now Washington again needs Paris during the maiden voyage of Nicolas Sarkozy to America as president. Sarkozy’s visit can advance the cause of American-French relations as the sojourn of Benjamin Franklin.

On the Bush-Sarkozy agenda is policy on Iran. But Washington cannot solve a growing crisis with Iran on its own and needs assistance from Paris to fashion a transatlantic policy. The European Union (EU) maintains leverage over Iran in trade, credits, and investment. EU member states constitute Iran’s main trading partner, with a 35% total market share; the EU supplies 44% of Iran’s total imports.

Both presidents agree that with the bomb, an Iranian regime driven by aggressive Islamist ideology would create an unprecedented international crisis. So far, however, Iran’s nuclear clock ticks faster than stalled Western diplomacy.

Consistent with the Sarkozy position that, "Iran represents the most important problem on the international scene," on October 25, Washington blacklisted the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and its affiliates because of its tasks: save the clerical regime from its opposition, export terrorism and radical Islamism, suppress the Iranian people, and produce nuclear weapons.

Absent a third UN Security Council resolution, France suggested EU members willing to implement sanctions should not wait for others. If the EU, led by Paris, would impose Washington-like sanctions on Tehran, it would make the regime feel pressure of a unified West.

And to reinforce the diplomatic front, Paris and Washington should look to the Iranian street. Major anti-government demonstrations in protest of gasoline rationing in June indicate that Iran is rife with disenchantment and ripe for coercive diplomacy.

Given growing Iranian instability, consider three options: multilateral diplomacy, unilateral military action, and empowerment of the Iranian people. Empowerment would reinforce diplomacy and make military action unnecessary.

Because Tehran has failed to respond to the diplomatic option, EU emphasis on diplomacy is likely to lead to a nuclear-armed Iran, something the United States will not allow. The more Europe stresses a failing diplomatic option, the more Washington moves toward the military option, which Europe correctly wants to avoid.

On August 27, President Sarkozy said that increasing sanctions while holding out the possibility of dialogue with Iran was the only policy “that can enable us to escape an alternative that I say is catastrophic: the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran.”

For Sarkozy’s coercive diplomacy to work requires the West gain leverage over Tehran by empowering the Iranian people. Empowerment requires an organized resistance movement in the lead not Western-styled regime change, as in the 1953 UK-USA overthrow of the elected government of Iran. The role the Iranian opposition can play is crucial in an Iranian solution to the dilemma of an Iranian bomb or bombing Iran.

The Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) and National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) are Iranian opposition groups that threaten survival of the extremist regime in Tehran. A study of regime statements by the Iran Policy Committee finds that Tehran pays attention to the MEK 350% more than all other groups combined.

A 16-month review by the United States in July 2004 found no basis to charge members of the MEK in Iraq with violations of American laws, though the group is listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department. Interviews by officials from State and FBI did not produce any basis to indict MEK members. In July 2004, General Geoffrey Miller, then deputy commander in Iraq, announced MEK members as protected persons by the United States, under the Fourth Geneva Convention, providing them new rights.

So, President Bush and President Sarkozy: TAKE THE MEK OFF THE USA AND EU TERRORIST LISTS!

And because the NCRI is not on the EU list, Paris should convince Washington to remove that group from its list. Washington is considering whether to remove these groups from its terrorist lists; hence, Sarkozy has an opportunity to help Bush move in the direction the White House is already moving. Now is the time to reinforce unilateral American sanctions against Tehran with a common western approach, led by Paris and Washington, to empower the Iranian people via their opposition groups.

Ambassador Benjamin Franklin would be proud to see President Sarkozy advancing the cause of American-French relations, reinforcing diplomacy, and preventing war by empowering the Iranian people to oppose the unelected clerical regime. Such a move would be consistent with the Benjamin Franklin dictum, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”