Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Yawn! Iran may be able to build a missile capable of striking the US by 2015

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By Barry Rubin

Iran may be able to build a missile capable of striking the United States by 2015, according to a new U.S. Department of Defense report.

I was wondering how to follow up that sentence in this article but by accident, in cutting and pasting the text of the Reuters story, the "Related News" items accidentally came with it. These are other recent Reuters stories on this issue. So what is more telling than just to list them:

U.S. open to Iran nuclear fuel deal despite doubts
Mon, Apr 19 2010
Turkish minister in Iran to discuss nuclear row
Mon, Apr 19 2010
U.S. considers options to curb Iran's nuclear program
Sun, Apr 18 2010
Pentagon's Mullen: diplomacy first in options on Iran
Sun, Apr 18 2010

In other words, the four most recent articles are all about how the Obama Administration policy is still trying to engage Iran and make a deal or how America's former ally, Turkey's government, has gone over to the other side.

How about this one:

"The United States said on Monday it was still willing to discuss a nuclear fuel swap deal with Iran, but only if Tehran takes clear steps to address international concerns about its nuclear program....[Turkey's Foreign Minister] Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters he had discerned a change in the Iranian stance over the past several months during which he said he visited Tehran about a half-dozen times."

Oh, right! Let's spend a few months going back to the nuclear fuel swap deal which Iran raised last September in order to sabotage the sanctions' train so successfully.

Or this story:

"China's foreign ministry said on Tuesday there was still room for a negotiated solution to Iran's disputed nuclear program, despite talks among major powers of fresh sanctions against Tehran."
No problem. What could possibly by a reason to hurry in putting pressure on Iran?

The Pentagon's report put its finger on the central issue, but what this means must be explained clearly. "Iran's nuclear program and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy," the report said.

Please note what Iran's deterrent strategy means in practice. Iran's radical Islamist regime will be able to foment terrorism and revolution against Arab governments, try to take over Lebanon, promote Hamas in fighting Israel and seeking to overturn the Palestinian Authority, and target American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other things.

But if the United States or others try to do something about it, Iran will use its possession of nuclear weapons to deter them. At the same time, it will use possession of nuclear weapons to foment appeasement among regional and Western states while simultaneously persuading millions of Muslims that revolutionary Islamism is invincible and they should join a movement headed for inevitable victory.

In addition, the report spoke of how Iran backs revolutionary Islamists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon (Hizballah, which Iran gives $200 million a year), and among the Palestinians (Hamas). What does the Pentagon report mean when it says that Iran views Hizballah “as an essential partner for advancing its regional policy objectives.” Tehran is conducting a campaign to seize hegemony in the Middle East and destroy U.S. influence there. How are you going to engage and negotiate away that problem?

While Iran may never give nuclear weapons to terrorist groups, it is not an encouraging precedent to note that it gives them all manner of non-nuclear weapons. In the report's words,

"Iran, through its long-standing relationship with Lebanese [Hezballah], maintains a capability to strike Israel directly and threatens Israeli and U.S. interests worldwide," it said.

Instead of a decisive U.S. response, here's how a veteran Defense Department official described what's been happening in an interview with the Times of London, April 20:

"Fifteen months into his administration, Iran has faced no significant consequences for continuing with its uranium-enrichment programme, despite two deadlines set by Obama, which came and went without anything happening. Now it may be too late to stop Iran from becoming nuclear-capable.

“First, there was talk of crippling sanctions, then they [spoke of biting sanctions], and now we don’t know how tough they’re going to be. It depends on the level of support given by Russia and China—but neither is expected to back measures against Iran’s energy sector.”

Once again, the Washington Post comprehends the dangers:

"A year-long attempt at engagement failed; now the push for sanctions is proceeding at a snail's pace. Though administration officials say they have made progress in overcoming resistance from Russia and China, it appears a new UN sanctions resolution might require months more of dickering. Even then it might only be a shell intended to pave the way for ad hoc actions by the United States and European Union, which would require further diplomacy.

"And what would sanctions accomplish? Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Financial Times last week that `Maybe...[they] would lead to the kind of good-faith negotiations that President Obama called for 15 months ago.' Yet the notion that the hard-line Iranian clique now in power would ever negotiate in good faith is far-fetched.

It's almost May 2010, the Obama administration is almost 40 percent through its term in office, and Clinton is still talking about "good-faith negotiations"!

If the United States wants to prevent a future war with Iran, the best way to do so is through tough sanctions now--not only to discourage Iran's nuclear program but to weaken its overall military might and confidence--and a comprehensive strategic campaign of its own to counter the "regional policy objectives" of Iran and Syria.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; and The Muslim Brotherhood. To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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