There are several persistent misconceptions about Iran and Iranian policy, due variously to panic, overdramatization or wishful thinking. They result in nonsensical assertions and debates about Iran.
The Iran threat is mostly not about Israel
- It should be clear to everyone, but it is not, that the Iranian threat is not primarily directed at Israel
, but rather at the United States and its client regimes in the Persian Gulf. The long term, declared purpose of Iranian policy is to displace "American Hegemony" or, as they write on their missiles, "Death to America." They intend to achieve their goal by controlling the oil supply that is dependent on the Gulf states and on passage through the straits of Hormuz. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel rhetoric is in part a device to ensure that neighboring Arab states cannot openly oppose the Iranian regime, since that could be characterized as supporting Israel. But the Iranians have threatened to close the straits of Hormuz. Kuwaitis suspect that there are numerous Iranian fifth columnists in Kuwait, who came in the guise of expatriate workers but are actually IRGC (Iranian Republican Guard Corps) cadres. Iran opened "administrative" offices on the island of abu Musa
in the Straits of Hormuz. This island, and the adjacent Greater and Lesser Tunb, are claimed by the UAE. The opening of the offices elicited an ineffective GCC protest. Iran is not about to Nuke Israel
- Israel has a substantial Muslim population as well as being the site of the Al-Aqsa mosque and the dome of the rock. Additionally, Iran understands that a nuclear attack, as opposed to conventional rocket attacks, terror and harassment, would bring retaliation in kind. Ahmadinejad is a mascot, not the problem
- Iran's hostility to the great Satan (US) and the lesser Satan (Israel) was born with the Iranian revolution. Iran had instituted its clandestine centrifuge program at Natanz and its clandestine nuclear reactor at Arak before Ahmadinejad came to power, during the reign of the reformist Khatami. Khatami, who is considering running for president again
, claims that Ahmadinejad's theatrics against Israel are harmful to the regime. A Khatami presidency would look less alarming, but its policies would probably be the same. 'Engagement' of Iran without threat of force will be fruitless
- It says so right on the label. Iranian officials have stated dozens of times that Iran will not stop enriching uranium no matter what. The latest statement
followed a canard circulated by Reuters news service quoting an official who intimated that Iran would be willing to stop enrichment if its fuel supply could be guaranteed. Israel cannot take on Iran without help
- A strike on Iran's nuclear facilities might not be 100% effective. It is risky and might backfire. However, if all else fails, such a strike might be the only means to attempt to deter Iran from building a bomb. If it is the only game in town, it might be worth doing. But Israel has no means of bombing the targets effectively over that distance, and it has been denied the means by the US. The US however, has denied vital permission to overfly Iraqi airspace, and has refused to sell Israel refueling aircraft. Nuclear weapons are a big problem, but not the only one
- The weapons are a means to an end, not the end itself. With a nuclear umbrella, Iran will be able to dictate terms to its Gulf neighbors as well as Israel enforcing its demands by threats to block the Straits of Hormuz. They could make good on their threats, gambling that the US and other countries would not stop them because of the danger of nuclear war. If it is denied nuclear weapons, the Iranian regime will seek other means of achieving controlling the Gulf states and the oil supply.
that both Tzipi Livni
and Ehud Olmert
are now signifying that they are "prepared to live" with a nuclear Iran. They might be prepared to live with a nuclear Iran, but the United States cannot survive very well without Gulf oil. Control of the flow of oil can be used to blackmail both the US and European into forcing fatal concessions from Israel. It has other uses as well. There have been some half-hearted plans to find alternative shipping routes for some of the threatened oil supplies, such as a pipeline and contemplated grandiose canal scheme, but there is no alternative route in place, and there will not be one for years. There is little doubt Iran is developing nuclear weapons
- Until recently, wishful thinkers could hide behind the recent incompetent US Intelligence Estimate on Iran and the equivocation of the IAEA. But there is now little doubt that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, or doing its darndest to make everyone else believe that they are, as even the IAEA admits.
The paralyzed UN security council reacted to this estimate by doing absolutely nothing. Passing the Buck
Israel has joined in the game of passing the buck about Iran. Israeli officials understand the danger of Iran very well, but they also know that canards about Israel being ready to strike Iran have been used by cynical politicians and financiers and the journalists who are their tools to drive up the price of oil and to demonize Israel. The latest such claim came from the Independent, which insisted that the US had quashed a concrete Israeli plan to strike Iran. They didn't say how we were going to get the bombs to Iran - perhaps by camel. It was only the latest in a series of such articles going back many years - none of which had any factual basis, and all of which proved false. Other journals have not been remiss in running the rumor mill. So Israeli officials are in effect, passing the buck. Likewise, the much quoted or misquoted statement by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, that Israel will hit (not "eat") Iran before it attains nuclear weapons, was a subtle way of passing the buck. Kouchner knows that Israel cannot and should not undertake to stop Iran unilaterally. What he is really announcing is "we won't do it, we expect that Israel will." NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer found a different way of doing the same thing. He said "I doubt world will prevent Iran from building nukes."
. Mr. de Hoop, that's like a fireman watching a blazing building with a hose in his hand saying "too bad nobody wants to put out the fire." NATO has bowed out.
Essentially, that means that stopping Iran is up to the United States, since, as de Hoop pointed out and as everyone knows, the UN is paralyzed by Russian and Chinese refusal to do anything whatever. It is unlikely that the UN will take any effective action. As the Wall Street Journal notes:
According to the IAEA report, Iran had built up a stockpile of 1,058 pounds of "low-enriched" uranium hexafloride by the end of August. At this rate, as Gary Milhollin of Iran Watch pointed out in the New York Times, Iran will have the low-enriched uranium necessary to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a bomb by mid-January. Iran has recently tested long-range missiles and tried to retrofit them to carry a nuclear warhead.
The five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany, are on record saying a nuclear Iran would be unacceptable. Surely the U.N., meeting in General Assembly last week days after the IAEA report came out, would respond with urgency. Sure enough, the Europeans and the U.S. suggested another round of sanctions, a position backed by China. And sure enough, Russia scotched those plans.
In its place, the Security Council adopted a resolution calling on Iran to abide by the previous three resolutions to suspend its enrichment program. Translation: "Stop -- or we'll do nothing." Condoleezza Rice called it "a very positive step." Her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, a foreign minister in the Andrei Gromyko mold, was more honest: "This is a reiteration of the status quo."
The Wall Street Journal article reflects the misconception that the nuclear weapons issue is the real problem. However, it is correct in understanding that the nuclear issue is one of Iran's fronts for "pushing the envelope," side by side with its efforts to subvert Lebanon, which nobody is opposing either, and its fairly new efforts to subvert the Palestinian territories by inaugurating a branch of the Hezbollah in the West Bank
But the US is in the midst of a presidential election campaign overshadowed by a catastrophic economic crisis. A peculiar and dangerous idea has overtaken U.S. foreign policy. It has become conventional wisdom. The idea is that if only the US will talk nice to other countries, and cooperate with them in their pet projects, those countries will be happy to oblige the US. Thus, it is argued that if the US will cooperate in implementing the Kyoto protocols, for example, Russia or China or France might be more cooperative about Iran and other issues. Even a child should understand by now that geopolitics doesn't work like that. Geopolitical policy is based on geopolitical considerations, and these are always selfish and cynical. Russia and China don't care much about global warming. Siberia won't suffer from global warming very much. They care about oil supplies and oil prices and markets in Iran, as does Europe. As for the Iranians, unless they feel they are forced to do so, they will not give up either their plans for a bomb or their plans to wipe out the greater Satan and the lesser Satan.
Iran is run by master strategists, who have succeeded in outmaneuvering the US and its allies despite the objective weakness of their country. The two candidates for the US presidency and their followers seem, respectively, to be inclined either to basing foreign policy on wishful thinking or to bombastic and heroic policy stands that don't match reality. Neither approach is going to make the Iran problem go away. Perhaps US leaders should be sent to study in a Madrassa, to learn how it is done.
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Replies: 1 Comment
Perhaps it is time for Israel to open up it's nuclear stockpiles (if they really exist*) to inspection. It would provide a good opportunity to make clear that should Iran or any other country believe that they can win a nuclear war that it will result in mutually assured destruction.
Once we all know just how easy it would for us to destroy each other and the pointlessness of war, then perhaps we can get on with living rather than dying.
* In the spirit of conspiracy theories I have mulled over why Israel doesn't make it absolutely clear that it can destroy the Middle East via inspections. Could it be that Israel doesn't have any nuclear weapons at all and that the entire Israel atomic weapons programme is merely a fantastic propoganda coup?
Rod Davies, Wednesday, October 8th
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