It’s getting to feel a lot like 2002. Except this time it’s Iran and not Iraq. Consider:
On November 14, The Wall Street Journal published an editorial, “If Iran Gets The Bomb” and concluded:
The question for the world, and especially for the Obama Administration, is whether those dire consequences are worse than the risks of a pre-emptive strike. We think we know what the Israelis will decide, especially if they conclude that President Obama stays on his current course.
Opponents of a pre-emptive strike say it would do no more than delay Iran’s programs by a few years. But something similar was said after Israel’s strike on Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981, without which the U.S. could never have stood up to Saddam after his invasion of Kuwait. In life as in politics, nothing is forever. But a strike that sets Iran’s nuclear programs back by several years at least offers the opportunity for Iran’s democratic forces to topple the regime without risking a wider conflagration.
No U.S. President could undertake a strike on Iran except as a last resort, and Mr. Obama can fairly say that he has given every resort short of war an honest try. At the same time, no U.S. President should leave his successor with the catastrophe that would be a nuclear Iran. A nuclear Iran on Mr. Obama’s watch would be fatal to more than his legacy.
(The Journal obviously means to suggest that Obama must take military action by January 21, 2013.)
In the Republican candidates’ foreign policy debate held on November 22, 2011, Newt Gingrich called for the U.S. to bring about regime change in Iran in the next year and sabotage Iran’s refining capacity.
In an op-ed contribution in The Wall Street Journal, Jamsheed Choksy, identified as a professor of Iranian studies at Indiana University proposes an air campaign against Iran. (On the Indiana University web site, he is identified as Professor, Central Eurasian Studies; Professor, History; Professor, Ancient Studies; Professor, India Studies; Professor, Medieval Studies; Professor, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies; Adjunct Professor, Religious Studies but not a professor of Iranian studies. But with all those professorships, he might as well be. On the other hand the expertise indicated by all his many professorships may just be an indication of how superficial his expertise really is.) He suggests that:
The real goal of air strikes should be not only to target Iran’s nuclear facilities but to cripple the ayatollahs’ ability to protect themselves from popular overthrow. . . Western air strikes should hit other military production facilities and the bases of the IRGC and Basij. A foreign takedown of those enforcers would give Iran’s population the opportunity to rise again. . . The IRGC’s claims that it can retaliate significantly are largely bluster. The Iranian Navy’s fast boats and midget submarines in the Persian Gulf could be eliminated through pinpoint strikes, as could army artillery batteries along the Strait of Hormuz. . . Through such decisive actions, the U.S. and its allies could help Iranians bring the populist uprising of 2009 to a fitting culmination.
Just a few bombing runs. You know, the old surgical strike routine. Choksy would not just ‘take out’ Iran’s nuclear enrichment program but “other production facilities” and Revolutionary Guard and Basij (The Mobilization) bases that are scattered all over the country and are especially thick in Tehran. As well as a variety of other military installations. (Choksy was kind to spare the Iranian Air Force whose 30 or so bases could be used to launch bombing campaigns against Saudi oil loading facilities…) Something tells me that the Iranian people who are bound to suffer significant casualties from such massive and geographically dispersed surgical strikes would not see this as the liberation he proposes. Instead, it would be an insult to Iranian nationalism and bound to lead to more support for the regime.
The passion and stridency that has gone into these calls from the U.S. and Israeli right wing escalated markedly with the release of the new International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran of November 8, 2011. The Summary of the Report concluded,
While the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and LOFs declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement, as Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation, including by not implementing its Additional Protocol, the Agency is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.
The Agency has serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme. After assessing carefully and critically, the extensive information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. The information also indicates that prior to the end of 2003, these activities took place under a structured programme, and that some activities may still be ongoing.” (http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/focus/iaeairan/bog112011-65.pdf.)
Sounds menacing. But a close reading of the Report makes clear that the most menacing activity occurred before 2003, when the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate concluded that Iran had ended its nuclear weapons program. (For a more detailed look at the report, see the this piece by Seymour Hersh writing a blog for The New Yorker.)
Beating The Drums
Ehud Barak, Israel’s Defense Minister, talking with Charlie Rose on November 15, 2011 said that all the evidence pointed to Iran’s developing a military nuclear capability. Charlie Rose then asked him if he were an Iranian leader whether he would want the bomb. “Probably, probably,” he answered. He then pointed out the neighbors that Iran has, many of whom with nuclear weapons, which explains why Iran would want the deterrence of nukes. What he did not mention was the additional fact that the U.S. occupies the countries to Iran’s immediate west and to Iran’s immediate east and, as well, has ships to Iran’s south in the Persian Gulf and nuclear weapons in the neighborhood.
But Barak denied any intention of allowing Iran to fulfill their wish, just as it would have been suicidal, he claimed, for the world to tolerate Syria or Qaddafi to develop nuclear weapons. (http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11995)
If it is so easy to understand Iran’s (alleged) desire to acquire nukes, it should not be too difficult to understand a way to talk to Iran to explore the ways in which it might be reassured that developing nuclear weapons would not be in its own best interest. The one guarantee that such talks would fail would be to persist in the threats and the hysteria now coming from Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak and certain presidential hopefuls in the U.S.
What the U.S. does not need anytime soon is another war against an Islamic country. Negotiations – threat free between equals — need to be tried and soon.