Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Iran Shadow Theater

In Washington this week, lots of posturing about the ongoing negotiations with Iran over their bomb program. Plenty of people, it seems, are just not happy with the very idea of negotiating with Iran; they think Iran is lying about its aims and cheating on its prior commitments, so why bother to reach any kind of deal with them?

But when pressed about what to do instead, these critics have little to say. That is because everybody knows and has known for a long time that there really is no "military option." Bombing Iranian nuclear facilities might set them back a few years but on the other hand it would only reinforce their determination to get a bomb, plus it would probably increase the power of anti-American hardliners in the government. The only military way to stop Iran from getting the bomb would be to invade the country, depose the government, and set about trying to create another Middle Eastern democracy just like the ones we have been so successful at creating in Iraq and Afghanistan. A trillion dollars later, where would we be? At best, right back where we are now, and more likely things would be much worse.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, the government is launching a major offensive to drive the Islamic State out of Tikrit, still cleaning up the wreckage left by our last effort at regime change. And who is helping them?
The fight against the Islamic State has brought the United States and Iran into an awkward alliance in Iraq. While the United States’ effort has been most apparent in its airstrike campaign, Iran has taken the most prominent role on the ground, not just with the militias but with Iranian generals sometimes directing the fighting.

On Monday, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the Iranian spymaster who once directed the militias’ deadly campaign against American forces in Iraq, was on the ground near Tikrit, according to a prominent Iraqi militia leader and the Iranian Fars news agency.
Right now the US and Iran are allies in the fight that matters most to both of us. But I suppose the complexity of the real situation makes for poor sound bites, so we will continue to hear lots of denunciations and fulminations from people out to score political points. I only hope they never get their hands on the launch codes.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

I've always felt that Iran has pretty strong justifications for hating the US, and that if we ever want to make any sort of progress with them, we have to reach some sort of middle ground. You'd think we'd have learned our lesson about trying to run foreign countries against the wishes of their people in the 70s, but we keep meddling and it keeps blowing up in our faces.

Why do we continue this absurd dance with Iran? Why are we still strange bedfellows with the Israelis? Why do we maintain postures that may have made some amount of sense during the insanity of the Cold War, but that today are well and truly pointless and destructive? Is this just a case of old habits dying hard? Is it some grand chessgame where we secretly want to keep tensions and hostilities high? Or is it just plain incompetance and overconfidence plaguing our unaccountable and overly powerful governmental organizations?