The current flurry of Western diplomacy will
probably turn out to be groundwork for launching missiles at Iran.
Air attacks on targets in Iran are very likely. Yet many antiwar
Americans seem eager to believe that won't happen.
Illusion #1: With the U.S. military bogged down in Iraq, the Pentagon
is in no position to take on Iran.
But what's on the horizon is not an invasion it's a major air
assault, which the American military can easily inflict on Iranian
sites. (And if the task falls to the Israeli military, it is also
well-equipped to bomb Iran.)
Illusion #2: The Bush administration is in so much political trouble at home
for reasons including its lies about Iraqi WMD that it wouldn't
risk an uproar from an attack on Iran.
But the White House has been gradually preparing the domestic political ground
for bombing Iran. As the Wall Street Journal reported
days ago, "in recent polls a surprisingly large number of Americans
say they would support U.S. military strikes to stop Tehran from getting the
Above those words, the Journal's headline "U.S. Chooses
Diplomacy on Iran's Nuclear Program" trumpeted the Bush administration's
game plan. It's a time-honored scam: When you're moving toward aggressive military
action, emphasize diplomacy.
Donald Rumsfeld proclaimed at a conference in Munich on Saturday that
to put a stop to Iran's nuclear program the world should work for a "diplomatic
solution." Yet the next day, the German daily newspaper Handelsblatt
reports, Rumsfeld said in an interview: "All options including the military
one are on the table."
Top U.S. officials, inspired by the royal "W," aren't hesitating
speak for the world. Over the weekend, Condoleezza Rice said: "The
world will not stand by if Iran continues on the path to a nuclear
weapons capability." Meanwhile, Rumsfeld declared: "The Iranian
regime is today the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. The
world does not want, and must work together to prevent, a nuclear
Translation: First we'll be diplomatic, then we can bomb.
Illusion #3: The U.S. won't attack Iran because that would infuriate
the millions of Iran-allied Shi'ites in Iraq, greatly damaging the
U.S. war effort there.
But projecting rationality onto the Bush administration makes little
sense at this point. The people running U.S. foreign policy have
their own priorities, and avoiding carnage is not one of them.
Nonproliferation doesn't rank very high either, judging from Washington's
cozy relationships with the nuclear-weapons powers of Israel, India, and Pakistan.
Unlike Iran, none of those countries are signatories to the nuclear Nonproliferation
Treaty. Only Iran has been allowing inspections of its nuclear facilities
and it is Iran that the savants in Washington are now, in effect, threatening
With sugarplum visions of Iran's massive oil and natural-gas reserves dancing
in their heads, the Washington neocons evidently harbor some farfetched hopes
of bringing about the overthrow of the Iranian regime. But in the real world,
an attack on Iran would strengthen its most extreme factions and fortify whatever
interest it has in developing nuclear arms.
"The U.S. will not solve the nuclear problem by threatening military
strikes or by dragging Iran before the UN Security Council," Iran's
2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi wrote in the Jan. 19 edition
of the Los Angeles Times, in an op-ed piece co-authored by Muhammad Sahimi,
a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Southern California.
"Although a vast majority of Iranians despise the country's hard-liners
and wish for their downfall, they also support its nuclear program because it
has become a source of pride for an old nation with a glorious history."
The essay added: "A military attack would only inflame nationalist sentiments.
Iran is not Iraq. Given Iranians' fierce nationalism and the Shi'ites' tradition
of martyrdom, any military move would provoke a response that would engulf the
entire region, resulting in countless deaths and a ruined economy not only for
the region but for the world. Imposing UN sanctions on Iran would also be counterproductive,
prompting Tehran to leave the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and its 'additional
protocol.' Is the world ready to live with such prospects?"
While calling for international pressure against Iran's serious
violations of human rights, Ebadi and Sahimi said that "Iran is at
least six to 10 years away from a nuclear bomb, by most estimates.
The crisis is not even a crisis. There is ample time for political
reform before Iran ever develops the bomb."
Last Friday, the Iranian Student News Agency quoted Iran's former
president Muhammad Khatami, who urged the Iranian government to offer
assurances that the country's nuclear program is only for generating
electricity. "It is necessary to act wisely and with tolerance so
that our right to nuclear energy will not be abolished," he said.
Though he failed to develop much political traction for reform during
his eight years as president, Khatami was a moderating force against
human-rights abuses. His demagogic successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is
a menace to human rights and peace. But it's by no means clear that
Ahmadinejad can count on long-term support from the nation's ruling
The man he defeated in the presidential runoff last summer, former
president Hashemi Rafsanjani, wields significant power as head of the
government's Expediency Council. Though he has a well-earned
reputation as a corrupt opportunist, Rafsanjani is now a beacon of
enlightenment compared to Ahmadinejad.
In early January, a pair of Iran scholars Dariush Zahedi and Ali Ezzatyar,
based at the University of California in Berkeley wrote an LA
Times piece making this point:
"Contrary to popular belief, the traditional conservative clerical establishment
is apprehensive about the possibility of violence inside and outside Iran. It
generally opposes an aggressive foreign policy and, having some intimate ties
with Iran's dependent capitalist class, is appalled at the rapid slide of the
economy since Ahmadinejad's inauguration. The value of Tehran's stock market
has plunged $10 billion, the nation's vibrant real estate market has withered,
and capital outflows are increasing."
And the scholars added pointedly: "The history of U.S.-Iran relations
shows that the more Washington chastises Tehran for its nuclear
ambitions, the more it plays into the hands of the radicals by riling
up fear and nationalist sentiment."
Right now, the presidents of Iran and the United States are thriving
on the belligerency of the other. From all indications, a military
assault on Iran would boost Ahmadinejad's power at home. And it's a
good bet that the U.S. government will do him this enormous favor.
Unless we can prevent it.