Friday, November 4, 2011

Would Obama Attack Iran?

Interesting analysis from David Rothkopf at Foreign Policy, whose relatively fair-minded appraisal of Obama's achievements in re foreign policy stands in stark (and welcome) contrast to the palpable hatred that drips from the (metaphorical) pen of Charles Krauthammer.  (Krauthammer has shown himself to be viscerally anti-Obama, in the most execrable sense of that term.  That the Washington Post gives him space to rant as he does only highlights the growing quality gap between its team of commentators and that at the NY Times.)

Rothkopf's major point is that it would be unwise to count out (as so many have) the possibility that Obama will launch a US strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, although he seems convinced that if Obama were to do so, domestic politics would not influence his calculations, much less constitute his chief motive.  Rather, Obama would do so out of a conviction that Iran must not be "allowed" to develop nuclear weapons - the underlying assumption being that Iran's leadership is so unpredictable (read: irrational Muslim fanatics) that the risks would simply be too great, and that Iran's acquisition of such weapons would spur a nuclear-arms race across the region.

Seems to me that Rothkopf is (a) buying into the "mad mullah" stereotype that neocons love to spotlight, and (b) is way too far out ahead of any realistic pace for Iran's progress toward such a goal  - assuming that that is indeed their goal.  The current wisdom seems to be that the about-to-appear report from the IAEA will bring some pretty damning evidence to bear on that score (here's the CSM's take).  Whatever may be the reality of all that, Rothkopf writes as if there's a real chance that a US military strike won't produce any unmanageable consequences; that the diplomatic and other blowback can be contained:

While an attack on Iran's nuclear weapons facilities almost certainly would produce a spike in oil prices, those prices would stabilize if the attacks were successful and did not produce a protracted war. Further, with the world economy in a slump, prices are feeling less upward pressure anyway these days. However, if Iran gained nuclear weapons, it might trigger a kind of uncertainty that would be protracted and would have a longer-term effect on oil prices.


But doesn't this fly in the face of the fact that Iran is depending on developing its oil industry and exporting its oil in order to build its economy and infrastructure?  Moreover, China is hugely invested in Iran's oil.  If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, doesn't it stand to reason that it would want to reassure the world that its purpose in doing so is not (as Netanyahu and his Christian Zionist allies insist) to "wipe out" Israel or hold global oil supply hostage, but rather to deter the kind of aggression that Saddam launched against it in 1980 (and that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iranians), and that Bush-era neocons like Richard Perle so blatantly threatened it with only a few years ago?  Since 2003, Iran has found itself ringed by the military of a nuclear-armed United States (as well as a nuclear-armed Pakistan and India - and, for that matter, Russia, a country that was Iran's nemesis going back to the days of the Qajar shahs of the 18th-20th centuries) and threatened with attack by another, very aggressive regional power - Israel - that has its own powerful nuclear force.  That the West cannot bring itself to grasp the fact that Iranians have been living for so long with the threat of attack, and might want their own nuclear deterrent for the simple reason of security, speaks more to rampant Islamophobia than to an honest attempt to engage with Iranian insecurities.

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