Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Warning signs: Iran and Iraq invasion parallels

FP Passport has a great post about the similarity between American rhetoric preceding the invasion of Iraq, and the current stance increasingly being taken by Bush administration heavyweights.

For at least a year and a half, a dangerous conventional wisdom has been percolating within the foreign-policy community and it is this: America ain't gonna attack Iran. Whether ignoring familiar warning signs or waving them away, most mainstream analysts are towing this line, too. ... Too bogged down in Iraq. Just talking tough to Tehran. The generals won't let it happen. These are all convenient forms of denial, and the foreign-policy establishment and media appear to have bought into them big time.

Nukes plus state support of terrorism, where have we heard that argument for invasion before?

No nuke strikes
Even if we're all a bit naive about the chances of it happening, a heavy military attack on Iran would ultimately be neither politically nor strategically feasible for the United States. I wouldn't be suprised if some clandestine work was already under way, though. As common sense has reasoned and studies have backed up, attacking Iran because of its nuclear desires could easily be counter-productive. That would be all the support President Ahmadinejad, whose popularity is falling more every week, would need to continue his weapons program and it would 'support' his claims of American evil. In addition, the blowback from such an attack would be immense, and not just from Islamic terrorists.

Ruined chances, four years back
Washington had a chance to settle at least part of the Iran-US dispute back in 2003, a year after the country's nuclear programs were unearthed. Iran put forward a proposal that included making its nuclear program more open and no longer backing extremist groups like Hezbollah; in return the US would have to help fight some anti-Iran terrorist groups.

Newsnight found this out this a little while ago:
Iran offered the US a package of concessions in 2003, but it was rejected, a senior former US official has told the BBC's Newsnight programme.

Tehran proposed ending support for Lebanese and Palestinian militant groups and helping to stabilise Iraq following the US-led invasion.

Offers, including making its nuclear programme more transparent, were conditional on the US ending hostility.

But Vice-President Dick Cheney's office rejected the plan, the official said.

The offers came in a letter, seen by Newsnight, which was unsigned but which the US state department apparently believed to have been approved by the highest authorities.

In return for its concessions, Tehran asked Washington to end its hostility, to end sanctions, and to disband the Iranian rebel group the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq and repatriate its members.

Back to today
Meanwhile, the situation with Iran's nuclear program seems to be getting worse. How far can diplomacy goes until everyone gets frustrated? Germany and the EU are increasingly stubborn about sanctions — a tactic which I myself question — and the hawks and neocons on Capitol Hill, Republican and Democrat alike, are painting Iran as the Reich of the Mideast, with Ahmadinejad as Hitler (fitting, considering the intense anti-semitism); Barack Obama even proposed possible strikes on the country! Iran-bashing has also grown popular with those seeking someone to blame for the failure in Iraq (i.e. the White House); the blame should be targeted more thwards Washington then Tehran.

Keep in mind, however, that Ahmadinejad is not the top man in Iran's minutely-democratic theocracy — Ayatollah Khamenei has the final say. Radical as he may be, I doubt he'd lead his country into complete war. Plus, he hates nukes.

As if things were not complicated enough, there's also the matter of oil...

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