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Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Dangerous Hostility Game With Iran

That is the titel of a piece by liberal pundit Joe Conason. Conason, like many Iranian pacifists, makes two faulty assumptions. The first is that war with Iran is the worst case scenario. It isn't. If Iran were to get a nuclear weapon, that would be the worst case scenario. Second, he sees this confrontation as all America's fault. It isn't and in fact, Iran has been looking for a confrontation since they took our embassy employees hostage. Since then, they have committed numerous acts of war. Whether it was their proxy Hezbollah blowing up our marine barricks in Beirut, or supplying insurgents with bombs in Iraq, or taking British troops hostages, the Iranians have been committing confrontational acts of war with impugnity for decades. To me this is very important because I am of the opinion that the only response to an act of war is all out war. Al Qaeda was committing acts of war against the U.S. and its interests throughout the nineties with no response until they committed one we couldn't ignore. Conason, on the other hand, is significantly more dubious of our motives than of Iran's.

If Washington and Jerusalem are moving toward a military confrontation with Tehran, as many media reports have suggested in recent days, the question is why now. Delving beneath the alarming editorials and headlines about the alleged threat from Iran, parroted by politicians in both parties, it is plain that the actual threat is shrinking slightly, while the opportunity for negotiation is improving.

Of course, the reason that Israel is deadly serious about attacking Iran is because they are NOT in a position to wait for diplomacy because they can't wait for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Conason is totally oblivious to the threat that a nuclear weapon is in the hands of Iran is to Israel. Instead, Conason sees some sort of complicated machiavellian reason for it.

Consider, for instance, the supposedly startling news that the Iraqis want the United States to agree to a timetable for withdrawal of American troops as the price of any continuing agreement between the two governments. As anyone who has paid attention to Iraqi public opinion understands, it is utterly unsurprising that an elected government would eventually reflect what has been the overwhelming sentiment in that country for years.

Why would Iraqi government officials be sufficiently confident to express their people's wish for true sovereignty now? Official sources and mainstream American media emphasize the growing competence of the Iraqi armed forces, although American generals always stress that such progress is fragile and tentative -- and that to sustain those gains, the U.S. will be required to maintain a substantial military presence for years to come.

In fact the most plausible explanation for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's sudden outspokenness, which was echoed by his national security advisor and other Iraqi officials, much to the embarrassment of the White House, is not his army's strength but his government's relationship with Iran. Clearly the Iranians have been using their influence on events inside Iraq to encourage calm. The flow of weapons over the border (or at least their use against U.S. troops) has virtually halted, and the level of fighting among Shiite factions has likewise diminished. Neither of those trends could have taken hold without Iranian assent.

Of course, this is total nonsense. Iraq isn't "demanding" a timetable because they are looking to get into bed with Iran. This is, in my opinion, nothing more than saber rattling from Maliki to show his independence from the coalition, as Max Boot points out.

What's more, while Conason painstakingly enumerates all the potential pitfalls of attacking Iran.

Yet the menace of war remains ominously real.

Obviously the war lobby within the Republican Party and the Bush White House has lost neither influence nor determination, no matter how wrong its predictions nor how disastrous its policies have proved to be. When John McCain jokes that exporting cigarettes to Iran might be a "way of killing them," he isn't really kidding.
Like his warbling of "Bomb bomb Iran" last year, that moronic remark represented a profound judgment that war is the only way to achieve American objectives in the Gulf region.

The problem faced by McCain, Vice President Dick Cheney and their fellow hawks in Washington and Jerusalem is that their reign of error may well be coming to an end -- and that Barack Obama as president may be far more inclined to talk than bomb. The final months of the Bush administration are counting down, while its preferred successor McCain is achieving little electoral traction as his campaign founders. Meanwhile in Israel, the government of Ehud Olmert is sinking under charges of political corruption and military incompetence.

What Conason doesn't provide is any tangible solution outside of war. Conason sees war with Iran as some sort of sinister plot by the so called neo cons to advance some sort of an empirialistic plan. Of course, that is also nonsense. No one wants war, and we all hope to avoid it, however if we do go to war it won't be because our country wants to but because we have no other choice.

Iran has been looking to egg on a war for nearly thirty years. Make no mistake that the Iranians want to rule the entire Middle East. If they ever achieve that goal, they will look to conquer the rest of the world. The only question is how much of their goals they will achieve before they are finally confronted. The world allowed Hitler to annex Czechoslovakia before he was confronted. Let's hope it doesn't get that far with Iran.

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