As debate escalates over whether to intervene militarily to help Libyan rebels oust Muammar Ghadafi, the specter lurking in the background—both for those who want to intervene and those wary of doing so—is Iran.
The Iranian factor is little discussed but omnipresent. Understanding how it forms the backdrop is crucial to understanding the argument unfolding this week, in Washington, in Europe and at the United Nations, about whether to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.
Those pushing for intervention worry that the lesson Iran will take away if Mr. Gadhafi survives is that leaders who give ground to democracy protesters (see Hosni Mubarak) are swept away. Meanwhile, those who brutally crush protesters (Libya's strongman) are the ones who hang on. For Iranian leaders already disposed to crushing their own pro-democracy dissidents, the message will be clear.
Those wary of intervening, including many in the Obama administration, worry that Western intervention will play directly into the narrative Tehran's leaders have been spinning to justify cracking down on their own dissidents: that the U.S. and its Zionist allies are waiting to take advantage of any Mideast unrest to seize control of the region and its oil assets.
This Iranian narrative holds that the protesters in Tehran's streets are either active or unwitting agents of this insidious American conspiracy. Because any military intervention in Libya inevitably would be led by American forces... >>>
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