Sunday, August 22, 2004

Belgravia Dispatch Weighs In on Iran

Gregory Djerejian adds his opinion to the growing number of bloggers discussing the Iranian situation. His post is quite good, but I feel I need to comment on parts of it.
So, with the U.S. less likely to take any preemptive action, might Israel (whom Teheran suspects has perhaps received a green light from Washington to do so--an erroneous analysis, in my view) instead?
The question of whether Israel would actually strike the Iranian nuclear sites at Bushehr and Natanz hasn't had much discussion in either the blogosphere or the media. I think by now many see it as a foregone conclusion that Israel will hit Iran and that it's only a matter of when (not if). I, too, have held that view for some time, but recently its shifted. For reasons Gregory nicely lays out in his post, an Israeli strike would do much more harm than good.
...An Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, apart from increasing the prospects of a regional conflagration (including in the Levant, it should be noted), would actually serve to increase our difficulties in Iraq.

Shi'a radicalization will increase dramatically if Sharon strikes Iran and Sadr (or the memory of a martyred Sadr) will benefit with legions of new volunteers entering the fray and picking up arms against coalition forces.

Nor do I think that Bush would want Sharon to attack pre-election, as Creveld speculates. The risks of a major regional escalation (and of a more active and naked Iranian scuttling role in Iraq) would likely prove a net negative for Bush in the election. Put differently, when the cup looks to really runneth over--some fence-sitters or distraught voters will look to vote Kerry calculating he will be the guy to pull our troops out of the entire (increasingly chaotic) 'region' more expeditiously.

No, my best guess is that the U.S. is going to try to drag this entire Iran mess into the UNSC in the coming half year or so--with the Brits, French and Germans continuing to be active participants in a soi disant 'muscular' multilateral approach that aims to at least make the going somewhat tougher for Iran to go nuclear. The danger with this strategy, of course, is NoKo policy paralysis on the Iran question too.
Unfortunately, I think that the Iranian's have called our bluff. The United States is not, as Gregory points out above, going to engage in any aggressive action (or give Jerusalem a green light) before the election. The election will come down to a few thousand votes most likely and an attack on Iran could flip them in favor of John Kerry. Most Republicans and Democrats in Washington realize this fact also. That's the reason why Bush has opted to go completely multilateral in regards to Iran and is also keeping rhetoric surprisingly non-imflammatory. What happens if Kerry wins the Presidency? I highly doubt that even if he felt that the Iranian issue needed to be dealt with militarily right away that he would have the political will to do it. Actually, the same goes for Bush although to a lesser degree.
But revolutions come and go; governments come and go. No one is hyper-sanguine that Pakistan has nuclear weapons merely because cuddly Pervez is running the store in Islamabad. A 'friendly' future government in Iran could become decidely unfriendly later. And, of course, if Iran goes nuclear (whatever the government in power); Saudi Arabia will increasingly feel she needs a nuclear capacity as well....
You know, I've heard the argument that a nuclear Iran will spur the creation of a nuclear Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but I'm not sure how much of it I buy. After all, Saddam was about a year away from a nuke in 1991 after the Gulf War, yet the Saudi's never made a push for nuclear weapons. And it's not as if they are foreign to wanting the bomb for they pushed billions of dollars of funding into Pakistan so the Pakistani's could have an "Islamic Bomb." Relations between the Saudi's and Iranian's are good and most of Tehran's venom is directed at Israel and not other Islamic States.