Iran is Going to Get a Bomb–Deal With It
Richard Grenell takes to the e-pages of HuffingtonPost to say the following:
One year later Obama has single-handedly allowed the Iranians more than a year of unfettered progress toward a nuclear weapon with less pressure and inquiry from the international community. Even the slow-moving, state-the-obvious International Atomic Energy Agency announced this week that it fears Iran is working toward a nuclear warhead to go along with its undisclosed uranium enrichment activities. While Obama experimented with his classroom thesis of talking dictators out of their nuclear pursuits, many in the international community celebrated the fact that they weren’t being confronted by the United States with the lingering Iran problem. From Cairo to Berlin, the world celebrated Obama’s perceived world peace and even gave him the Nobel Prize. The Iranians, meanwhile, continued to build a nuclear weapon. While Obama did his world-wide victory lap, the Iranian Government celebrated their freedom. And although the United States has been negotiating with Iran for more than 30 years, Obama has been acting like this nation has never tried diplomacy. It is dangerous for a President to believe that his personality is so different from previous leaders’ that people will change their course of action just because of who is asking.
Since this sounds awfully John McCain-esque…
My friends, the Iranians are going to get a nuclear weapon. Either that or they will reach a state like Canada and Japan where they have acquired de facto nuclear deterrence without actually building the bomb. They just have to turn on the ol’ uranium coffee pot one morning and hit brew.
It doesn’t matter if Hillary Clinton or John McCain had won and pushed for tougher sanctions or whether “Professor” Obama talks with them. The world is not a genie which submits to every wish the US makes. I would call this reminder the foreign policy equivalent of The Secret.
My guess is that the Iranian regime has already reached a de facto state of ‘soft’ deterrence in the region. If the Israelis or US do indeed strike, it may well knock back their progress (which still appears to be quite far off from a bomb, but who knows?) towards a nuclear weapon, but it won’t stop it. And if we do strike, the Iranians have multiple and very deadly ways of retaliating: e.g. cutting off the Straits of Hormuz; oil price spikes; asymmetric attacks on US forces in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan; proxy attacks on Israel via Hezbollah and/or Hamas; potentially even terror attacks on Saudi Arabia via proxies in Yemen or through disaffected Shia elements in Saudi Arabia itself. Not to mention the Chinese and Russian reactions in the event of a US/Israeli strike. Both countries could respond by making life very difficult for the US/NATO in Afghanistan.
The only chance (and I mean chance, not guarantee) the US ever had of derailing Iranian proliferation came early in the Bush administration. At the tail-end of President Khatami’s regime, the Reformer camp was apparently given the green light from Khamenei to make an offer for full negotiations: collaboration on terrorism, mutual recognition, nuclear disarmament, support for the invasion and aftermath of Iraq, etc. The Bush administration completely ignored these overtures. Opinions will vary as to whether this was a good faith offer or not and whether the US was right to ignore it, but either way the course of events after the Iranian offer was rejected seems basically inevitable: at that point, the Iranian regime had to acquire nuclear deterrence for the sake of self-preservation.
After which point, the Reformers were sidelined by Khamenei, forcing him (after some initial colddness) into the camp of Ahmadinejad and his allies.
If you want a much more knowledgeable and articulate piece on this topic, read this one from Robert Baer.
On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finally got around to acknowledging what a lot of people have known since Iran’s contested election last June — there’s been a military takeover in that country, with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) grabbing every important lever of power. As Clinton put it during a televised town-hall meeting, “The Supreme Leader, the President [and] the parliament is being supplanted, and Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship.”
So instead of focusing, as too much US foreign policy coverage does (like Grenell’s schlock above), on what the president’s rhetoric is, we should examine the actual state of play in the other country. In this case I agree substantially with Baer that what occurred since the botched (illegitimate) re-election of Ahmadinejad is that Khamenei and other clerics in the old guard have basically been forced to acquiesce to a soft military coup. The Praetorian Revolutionary Guards are now the real power in Iran.
And either the sanctions or the strike option is very ill-suited to a Revolutionary Guard regime as they thrive on being targeted and under attack, particularly from the West. The military option will only destroy whatever is left of the Iranian opposition movement.
Hence Baer’s conclusion:
The Obama Administration is talking about putting more sanctions on the IRGC, with hopes that a reluctant China might be willing to sign on to a more targeted effort. But this is a silly and hollow gesture — the IRGC is the best sanctions buster in the world. What Washington should be thinking about, now that crazy mullahs have been replaced by cunning generals, is how you negotiate with a military dictatorship. Unlike faith-based regimes, military ones have objectives, ones they are willing to negotiate and compromise on. We’ve certainly been through it before. The question is whether this Administration understands that punitive strikes don’t intimidate beasts like the IRGC.
I think the distinction between a faith-based regime and a military one is unhelpful here. In many ways, you could argue that the Revolutionary Guards crew is the last vestige of “faithful” Islamic revolutionaries from the 1970s. Though once revolutionaries take power (like, say, the Iranian clerics), they tend to become conservatives immediately, if only for the sake of self-preservation. But otherwise, this analysis is spot-on.
The sickening and inevitable US “blame game” of self-laceration, finger-pointing and all the rest will occur, but at some point, someone (and I hope it’s President Obama) will have to do the actual work of crafting a response to the existing state of affairs in the region and the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran.