The structure of the question implies a situation in which the United States has more or less complete freedom of action in which to pick and choose among options. That is not the case. As Paul Krugman has pointed out, America stands on the brink of disaster economically. The shape and condition of our social contract a year from now is debatable if the economic crisis can not be mitigated. In that context it is doubtful if we can afford the two wars we are now fighting much less the costs that would inevitably derive from yet a further war against Iran. This overriding economic restraint makes a mockery of loose talk of an American war with Iran. In purely military terms, are there serious people who can not see how much the position of our forces in Iraq would be damaged by regional reactions to an American attack on Iranian nuclear facilities or the mere perception of American complicity in an analogous Israeli attack? What has happened in the Khyber Pass recently speaks volumes of the kinds of additional dangers that a rash use of military force would bring on.
David Ignatius wrote last week of his belief that elder statesmen of truly global stature should be delegated to negotiate with the Iranians. I heartily concur. Such negotiations should begin very soon and should be conducted without preconditions. The United States should seek an understanding with Iran in which the Iranians insure that the IAEA has such complete access to its nuclear facilities that there can be no credible claims that they are building nuclear weapons. The Iranians should also give up their support for violent groups that are not willing to transform themselves into democratic political parties. In return the Iranians must be accepted as a major power in the Islamic World. This implies a major change in US policy from regime change to engagement in a wide variety of fields. The Obama Administration has already signaled its serious intent with regard to the Palestine issue. There must be a great deal of “follow through” on early promise. The United States must advance a workable plan of its own for solution of the Muslim-Israeli issue.
Changes of this kind would revolutionize the situation in the greater Middle East. Such changes would be beneficial to Iran as well as the United States. The products of the genius of the Iranian peoples could be a great benefit to the United States and to the world if the barrier of hostility and fear between the two countries could be lowered. A failure to reach such an understanding will inevitably lead to a further deterioration of relations tending towards war, a war that the United States would surely win, but, at what cost?
Vice President Biden said during the late campaign that some foreign power or event would test President Obama severely in the first months of his term. I doubt if he expected the test to come from Israel, but, that is likely. Next week’s Israeli election will probably produce a government of the nationalist and religious Right. The Israeli press is full of the expectation that the new government will visit Mr. Obama in Washington to demand quick and decisive action against Iran. Israel fears Iran’s putative nuclear weapons program and dislikes the thought of an Islamic state that would be a serious rival for power in the Middle East. The expectation is strong in Israel that President Obama will be told to “fish or cut bait.” He will be told that if the United States does not deal with Iran to Israel’s satisfaction, then Israel will deal with the problem. Iraq under American occupation is situated geographically between Israel and Iran. The United States is responsible for the integrity of Iraq’s airspace. The entire world knows that. Certainly all the Islamic World knows that.
One wonders what Joe Biden’s advice would be in this situation.
Irancove @ February 9, 2009