Thursday, July 10, 2008

Iran: Are we approaching nut-cuttin' time?

Recent days have seen some very, very sobering news from both Iran and Israel, and a mounting sense of tension between the two countries. The US can't help but be drawn into the escalating rhetoric as well.

This is potentially very bad news. VERY bad.

The Iranians, of course, have been working on a nuclear program at some level for some time. The US and the Euros have been trying to head this off through diplomacy and some relatively mild sabre rattling, to no avail. Israel cannot, and has stated they will not, stand by and let a country who's leader has repeatedly called for its (Israel's) destruction arm itself with nuclear weapons.

The Israelis, last week, held a military exercise which was pretty clearly intended to prove out, for themselves and the world, they could, if necessary, strike Iran from the air. Sure, it's provocative. But what else can they do? The Israelis are starting to get nervous, thinking that the rest of the world isn't showing enough of a sense of urgency about the situation. Can you blame them? There's no telling what happens to US policy regarding this matter in January.

So, in response, the Iranians stage a test of medium range missiles the other day. It's lost on no one, least of all the Israelis, that these missiles can reach Tel Aviv. Whether the test was as successful as the Iranians would like for us to believe is in question, and is also completely besides the point.

The facts, from the Israeli perspective, are this:

- Iran's President has publicly and repeatedly called for Israel's destruction.
- Iran is working on a nuclear program of some sort.
- Iran has missiles which can reach Israel.
- The US military is over-extended.
- The future of US attitude regarding Iran and Israel is not certain.

The Israelis are going to look out for themselves, and they have proven time and again that they will strike first (a lesson well and truly learned in the Six-Day War and reinforced by the Yom Kippur War - don't wait for the other guy to be ready), and to hell with world opinion. When pretty much everyone in your neighborhood wants you dead, and has tried a few times to kill you, you can never be paranoid enough.

Oh boy. Oh dear. This. Is. Tense.

I don't begin to know what the answer is here. What I do know is this needs to be front and center for us all, right now. Stop whining about $4 gas - if Iran and Israel start shooting at each other, you'll look back on $4 gas as the good old days.

We do have some leverage. The Arabs are scared to death of Iran. But they're also anti-Israel and, increasingly, anti-American. And we can't piss off the Arabs because of the aforementioned $4 gas.

It keeps coming back to that, doesn't it? Take oil out of the equation, and this stuff gets a whole lot less complicated.

There's your imperative. It's a longer-term action. What's to be done in the short term?

Buckle your seatbelts. This one has DANGER written all over it.


John Maszka said...

While diplomacy with Iran may have its challenges, it should be pursued at every length. Iran has a conscription army and nearly 10 million eligible males between the ages of 18 and 32 (Posen, 2003). Iran’s conventional military potential aside, US Intelligence assesses that Iran will likely have nuclear weapons capability within the decade (Select Committee on Intelligence, 2006).

"Je vois plus que jamais qu'il ne faut juger de rien sur sa grandeur apparente." - Voltaire

We should be careful what we assume about Iran, or any country.

The United States needs to be very aware of Iran’s growing political influence in the international community as well. In a sermon commencing the month of Ramadan 2007, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the Bush administration of war crimes in Iraq, and of attempting to undermine Islam in the Middle East. Amidst chants from worshipers: “Death to America,” Khamenei stated that he has “a firm belief that one day this current US president and the American officials will be tried in a fair international court for the atrocities committed in Iraq.”

American popularity worldwide has plummeted over the 2003 invasion of Iraq and Khameinei’s word’s are falling upon a rising number of sympathetic ears. Any inclination the Bush administration has toward regime change in Iran should be given very, very careful thought. Ultimately, the situation confronting the United States regarding Iran is identical in many respects to the threat of terrorism itself:

A clash of cultures, a stubborn battle of wills, two very different ways of looking at the same reality, a global game of chicken in which neither side wants to back down. This of course is a gross oversimplification of a very complex problem, but there are some basic truths to the argument. The United States and Europe are largely divided on their views of Iran, as well as their views of how best to counter terrorism. One of the greatest challenges facing the United States in its efforts to counter terrorism, is learning to understand those who resort to its use, and developing a coherent construct within which to address terrorism.

The same can be said of Iran. And few can argue that there is no small amount of testosterone in the air, and this stubbornness can be seen on both sides of the standoff. Henry Kissinger has aptly stated that “so long as Iran views itself as a crusade rather than a nation, a common interest will not emerge from negotiations.” But this observation is equally applicable to the Bush administration as well.

Puor bien savoir les choses, il en faut savoir le detail, et comme il est presque infini, nos connaissances sont toujours superficielles et imparfaites.

Unfortunately, what we do know is that the Bush administration cannot be trusted to do what it says. Iraq taught us that lesson. Many experts have long been predicting that Bush would invade Iran before he leaves office. But of course, the Bush administration would never admit to such a thing.

On ne donne rien si liberalement que ses conseils.

But it is the man who follows his own counsel, he's the one that should lead.

PHE said...

Wow, John. Quite a post. I don't know exactly what your point is, but I enjoyed your prose. Even the French (I think) which I didn't understand a word of.

I, as you, don't trust the Bush admin to do what it says, or to do the right thing. These guys (and girls) are as subtle as a two-by-four to the head, and subtlety is what's called for here.

The part that scares me is Israel. The Israelis are going to do what they feel they need to do, and are not going to worry too much about world opinion. They are, I think, feeling very alone, very exposed, and very threatened at the moment, much moreso than usual.

It does not take a giant leap to imagine this thing going boom in a big and sudden manner.