Tuesday, August 15, 2006

To War or Not to War?

As Iran considers a proposal from the EU3 + 3 (Britain, France and Germany + China, Russia and the United States), it is important to consider what Iran needs to get in return for giving up its uranium enrichment program. One of Iran’s most serious concerns is the possibility of attack by the United States and/or Israel, but the EU3+3 proposal includes no such security assurances. Meanwhile, recent reports in the media suggest that Iran does indeed have something to be worried about.

In the August 21, 2006 issue of the New Yorker, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh writes that Israeli officials visited the White House earlier this summer to get a “green light” for an attack on Lebanon. According to Hersh, the Bush administration approved, the war in part to remove Hezbollah as a deterrent to a potential US bombing of Iran. Hersh further writes, “President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel’s security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preemptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is also openly arguing for regime change, “I think there should be a very aggressive track of trying to undermine and replace the dictatorship. I mean, I have zero hope that we will diplomatically get anywhere with the Iranians.” Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) has said the US should not rule out military options with Iran.

But is invading Iran the answer? National Public Radio (NPR) reported in its August 12, 2006 Weekend Edition that the Pentagon held a secret war game this spring and looked at the ripple effects of attacking Iran's nuclear facilities. According to NPR, “the Pentagon found that the effects of attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities would be more Iranian-sponsored terrorism, a disruption in the world's oil market, direct attacks on US troops and supply lines in the Middle East. One participant said the consensus was that diplomacy, however difficult, remains the answer.”

As Paul Starr wrote in a May 2006 editorial in the American Prospect, “The logic of an attack on Iran has such palpable flaws that many observers cannot believe that Bush would undertake it. Even if successful in hitting the major weapons-related sites, an airstrike would set back Iran's nuclear program only for a time while reinforcing the regime's resolve to carry it out. Our use of nuclear weapons would seemingly legitimate their use against us someday. And instead of undermining the regime, an attack would likely help consolidate its power by inflaming Iranian nationalism.”

In a July 31 Op-Ed in the Washington Post, Henry Kissinger argued that “America has an obligation to explore every honorable alternative.” Although the nuclear issue is pressing and important, Kissinger also urged for negotiations to go beyond just talks about Iran’s nuclear program and adress broader issues that would include inviting Iran to return to the broader world.

For its part, the US realistically can’t afford another war with its already overstretched military in Iraq. It would indeed be most beneficial to the US to take a leadership role in working to resolve Iran’s nuclear program diplomatically. Any meaningful proposal to begin successful negotiations must include assurances that the US will not attack Iran.

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