This article by Youssef M. Ibrahim in USA Today cries out for a fisking, so I will happily oblige.
This is the wrong time for the United States to take on Iran, the dominant demographic, military and cultural force of the Persian Gulf, as its new foe.
I don’t think Iran is exactly a new foe, I would call them an old foe with which we have be holding a cold war. A cold war that Iran’s support of terrorists, the Sadrist insurgency in Iraq and desire to build a nuclear weapon is fast heating up.
Yet, that is exactly where the Bush administration is headed.
In the past few weeks, Bush administration officials, including national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, have said they will use any means to stop Iran from pursuing plans to build nuclear weapons. They leaked stories to the media about plans to bomb industrial sites in Iran, including the Bushehr nuclear reactor.
Personally I sure hope so. I don’t desire war, but I desire nuclear-armed mullahs even less. And the only hope of avoiding both is if Iran is sure that they will get war if they don’t abandon nukes.
Iran's response was swift. Gen. Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr, the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corp, said that if attacked, Iran would "retaliate everywhere."
By this, we must suppose that Iran is threatening to sponsor terror groups if they are attacks…oh wait they already are…I guess they will sponsor terror attacks more if they are attacked. At least they can’t get a terrorist group a nuclear weapon…for now.
Even the country's defense minister, Ali Shamkhani, has warned that Iran retains the option of pre-emptive strikes to prevent an attack on its nuclear facilities. Such a strike would likely target Israel — which took out Iraq's nuclear facility in 1981 — virtually ensuring a widespread war in the Middle East.
Maybe. That is a risk. But the estimations of the reaction of the Arab street have been widely off in the past. After all, invading Afghanistan was going to ignite the Arab Street and provoke general war in the region. Invading Iraq was going to ignite the Arab Street and provoke general war in the region. Regardless, if we can’t deal with this sort of threat now will it get better in the future after Iran has nukes?
Nothing would unite Iranian moderates and hard-liners more than an attack on their country and, above all, the destruction of their prized nuclear reactor. Iranians are not easily intimidated. They lost nearly a million people in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, launched by Saddam Hussein in 1980. In the end, the Iranians prevailed. Saddam backed down
How quickly we forget.
Saddam did back down, but that war wasn’t exactly a win for the Iranians either. And we do know how American military compared with that of Iraq in a head to head contest. Iran knows that too, and I bet that the mullahs ARE just a bit intimidated. Hence their funding of Sadr and their push to develop nukes. The mullahs understand that Iran and the U.S. are on a collision course. And they are hoping to delay that collision until things are a bit more favorable for them.
Najaf's powder keg
Washington's threats could not come at a worse time. The ongoing standoff in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq, between U.S. forces and the American-selected Iraqi government on one hand and the elusive Mahdi Army of rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on the other, brings us closer to a confrontation with Iran.
Yes, as has already been stated Iranian funding for the Sadrist insurgency does bring us closer to confrontation. Although I would think that more of the blame for this lies with Tehran than Washington.
For Shiites the world over, Najaf is the holiest of holy sites, the resting place of their superhero, Imam Ali. Ninety percent of Iran's 69 million people are Shiites. U.S. forces wisely have made every effort to avoid damaging the Imam Ali shrine, where al-Sadr and his militants have been holed up. Any desecration of the building would create huge popular pressure inside Iran and among Shiites the world over to support al-Sadr. The problems for the United States would then grow exponentially.
Well, the World Trade Center was one of the holiest sites for capitalists the world over. Unfortunately our enemies are less mindful about destroying things we value then we are about destroying things they value. Once again though, I think he may be overestimating the anger of the Shiites if the shrine were to be destroyed most will realize, correctly, that the blame falls on Sadr who is the one who chose to make the shrine into a battlefield and, reportedly, has wired it to explode.
So, before the United States decides to take the plunge with Iran, it is imperative to ponder what happens the day after we lock horns.
A confrontation with Iran could considerably widen the Iraqi quagmire, threaten the survival of any government in Iraq and unleash a wave of terrorism, car- and suicide-bombing attacks against all American interests in Islamic countries as far as Pakistan and as close as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Iran would make sure of that. No cakewalks here.
Yes. Iran supports terrorists. It will continue to support terrorist if we don’t attack it. It will try to support terrorists if we do attack it. It will stop supporting terrorists when the mullahs are removed from power and a more enlightened government takes over.
Just as ominous, it is not possible to conduct two wars in the single region of the world where two-thirds of the global oil and natural gas reserves reside without pushing oil prices even higher than their current record levels of nearly $50 a barrel. Such a conflict would wreak havoc on the U.S. and world economies.
True, a major attack on Iran would cause a rise in gas prices that could cause serious economic trouble to the world. A nuclear weapon going off in New York could also cause a bit of an economic stir. It might be better, economically, to get it over quickly rather than having another war in the gulf region in five years. Also, consider that if we don’t stop Iran from getting nukes, Israel will, even if they have to nuke Iran themselves. That isn’t exactly a rosy economic picture either.
In a long conversation with me recently, a senior American diplomat in the region who is the top expert on Iran shrugged off Iran as a "paper tiger." That is a serious error, more so if this is the kind of advice flowing back to leaders in Washington.
Compared to the full force and power of the United States, Iran is a paper tiger. Bringing that full force to bear on the problem is difficult, but not impossible. Mostly it requires leadership and a population which understands the severity of the threat.
Iran's vast influence
Iran's tentacles reach far and wide. They were amply demonstrated in the 1980s and 1990s in Lebanon, where Hezbollah, the Iran-sponsored militia, forced both the United States and Israel to unilaterally withdraw their troops.
Yes, thanks for reminding us again. Iran is a major sponser of terror.
Just as a reminder, a few weeks ago, the Iranians stirred a little trouble in Bahrain when threats were made against Americans. The words came from some of the 475,000 Shiites who constitute a majority of the population of Bahrain, where the United States maintains its largest naval base in the Persian Gulf. The Bush administration panicked and ordered all U.S. dependents to leave immediately.
What? Iran sponsors terror you say? And they make threats against Americans?
If a confrontation with Iran erupted, we would be taking on more than a single country. Iran and Syria have maintained a 25-year strategic alliance. Both have been targeted by neoconservatives for "regime change."
Yep, that is because both of these countries … sponsor terrorists.
Together, they share the longest open borders with Iraq. They have built and retained armed militias inside Iraq for years, and those forces have been considerably reinforced in the past 14 months.
Yes, Iran and Syria are using proxy forces to battle the United States in Iraq and prevent a free society from emerging there. I think you are getting off the point of why we should NOT attack Iran. Oh, and those borders go both ways…one reason invading Iraq was in our strategic interest.
More arms, men and logistical support would flow through these borders to attack overtaxed, demoralized U.S. troops already locked in a war of attrition. Both countries would also press into action various dormant terrorist cells, which would attack, among other things, oil facilities in the region.
Leaving aside the characterization of our troops as overtaxed and demoralized, isn’t the removing the source best way to stop this ‘flow of arms, men, and logistical support’?
Iran rejects the charge that it is making nuclear weapons. It has accepted international inspection of its nuclear facilities, but has defiantly declared that it will continue its uranium-enrichment program for scientific purposes. Russia, which is cooperating with Iran's nuclear efforts, supports that position.
Iran rejects the charge one day, and asserts its right to make such weapons on another day. And it has not accepted unlimited international inspections. The fact that Russia is getting paid to help Iran develop nukes is not a comfort.
There is room here for more talks and compromise. Translation: There is no need to lunge, again, into war, now or a year from now.
Strictly speaking this is true. We can wait until Iran has nuclear weapons. We can even wait until Iran gives a nuke to a terrorist group and we lose Washington, New York, or Tel Aviv. After that, we won’t be able to wait any more.
Neocons, be they Republicans or Democrats, ought to ponder the consequences of taunting Iran and opt instead for a dialogue.
Germany, France, and Great Britain are talking like a storm, and we all know that France in particular is far more talented than the U.S. at nuance and diplomacy. If they succeed in getting Iran to abandon it’s nuclear ambitions I will cheer for them. I am not holding my breath however.