Monday, July 27, 2009

What’s futile: Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons or U.S. policy to stop it?

By Barry Rubin

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated on July 26 to Iran that if it’s seeking nuclear weapons, “Your pursuit is futile.” She continued:

“What we want to do is to send a message to whoever is making these decisions that if you’re pursuing nuclear weapons for the purpose of intimidating, of projecting your power we’re not going to let that happen.”

Now this no doubt sounds good at a Washington cocktail party but please just try to imagine how that sounds in Tehran:

What? When we have nuclear weapons that won’t be an improvement in our strategic situation?
And then they burst out laughing. This kind of statement is counterproductive.


--Iran won’t profit mightily from upward zooming oil prices, based both on fear of regional stability and increased leverage for Tehran in demanding higher prices?

--Millions of Muslims won’t shout, “Allahu Akbar!” and believe that Iran is now their leader because it can obliterate the Zionist entity and frighten the West?

--European states are going to be more eager to confront Iran and oppose its subversive and aggressive policies?

--Iranians won’t be inspired in large numbers through nationalist pride at the greatness of their state and regime, despite the many who hate that government?

--Saudi Arabia and other Arab states are going to be more willing to defy Iran by being pro-American or making peace with Israel or opposing Iran’s demands?

--The Islamist regime in Tehran is going to believe that an American government afraid to stand up to them now is going to be more willing to do so after they have nuclear weapons and long-range missiles? At the behest of a secretary of state who didn’t mention the use of force or of material power in her main foreign policy speech?

--The Syrians aren’t going to feel completely secure that no matter what they do, including assassinating Lebanese leaders in terrorist attacks, no one can touch them because they are under Iran’s nuclear umbrella?

I could go on. But the gap between the thinking and rhetoric of the administration compared to the way people think and act in the Middle East has grown to record proportions.

Like us, Iranian leaders understand that Clinton’s statements aren’t warnings of future action but substitutes for any real action.

“We’re not going to let,” Clinton says, Iran extend its power.

What are you going to do: counter the spread of Iranian influence to Lebanon by destroying Hizballah and to the Palestinians by forcing Hamas out of the Gaza Strip?

Maintain a large U.S. force in Iraq?

Strike back at Iran’s regime because of its sponsorship of terrorism?

Here’s Clinton’s plan: promise the Saudis, other Arabs, and presumably Israel that if they are attacked by Iran with nuclear weapons the United States will…what? Attack Iran with nuclear weapons after these countries are flattened?

Of course, that means that Iran’s regime is going to extend its power by flourishing the weapons, not firing them.

Concepts like this one are turning the United States from superpower to super-pitiful.

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