Sunday, January 08, 2012

State of the Iran War agitation

LobeLog Foreign Policy has started a weekly Iran Hawk Watch, of which Jasmin Ramsey's 01/06/2012 installment is here. That blog is a good source of reality-based news on US-Iran conflicts.

Suzanne Maloney in Obama's Counterproductive New Iran Sanctions: How Washington Is Sliding Toward Regime Change Foreign Affairs Online 01/05/2012 describes both the risk:

The Obama administration has argued that "pressure works," pointing to past reversals by the Islamic Republic, including the grudging and belated acceptance of a cease-fire to end its eight-year war with Iraq. Yet this formula disregards two critical points: first, Tehran has been under tremendous pressure to change its security policy throughout its entire post-revolutionary history, yet that policy has proved remarkably durable. Second, Iran's major concessions have come not simply as a product of pressure but because of the declining utility of the original objective. In this instance, however, the tables are turned. The more Washington corners Tehran, the higher the value of a nuclear deterrent becomes in the eyes of the leadership.
And the hope:

Although this suggests more friction ahead, it does not mean that a military clash is absolutely on the horizon. Neither side wants war: not Washington, which has worked assiduously to meet the president's timetable for winding down the two other military engagements in the broader Middle East, and not Tehran, which prefers the more familiar (and lower-risk) options availed through proxies and terrorist activities. A prolonged low-intensity struggle -- with plenty of blustery rhetoric and diplomatic hardball -- is now the new normal.
But she qualifies this by pointing out that US policy seems more than ever direct toward regime change, which virtually insures that the US diplomacy toward Iran will be focused on threatening war.

Vali Nasr in Hard-line U.S. Policy Tips Iran Toward Belligerence Bloomberg 01/04/2012 argues that the Iranian leadership is moving toward a more active response to US and European pressure. The financial blockade the Congress authorized Obama to impose, though leaving him discretion on whether to implement it or not, is a particular concern:

In recent months, Iranian protesters have brazenly attacked the U.K. Embassy in Tehran. Iran has claimed to have downed a U.S. drone, put on 10-day war games simulating attacks on U.S. ships, and threatened to push oil prices to $250 a barrel and to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which about 20 percent of all oil trade passes.

This defiance marks a change. Until recently, Iran had absorbed economic pressure from abroad. It had remained silent in the face of covert operations aimed at slowing the progress of its nuclear program, brushing off the destructive Stuxnet computer worm, apparently a joint U.S.-Israeli project. But the government has been embarrassed and unnerved by multiple assassinations of its scientists and by suspicious explosions at its military facilities. One blast killed the general charged with developing Iran’s missile program. The attacks have shaken the country’s security forces.

The ruling clerics are also worried about the impact of economic sanctions, which have greatly reduced Iran’s access to global financial markets, created shortages of imported items, and increased inflation and unemployment. The rial has fallen to its lowest point against the dollar, and capital is fleeing the country at an alarming rate. The government has been forced to scrap numerous infrastructure projects, especially in the oil- and-gas sector.

These hardships have caused popular discontent. The next set of sanctions may bring street protests. Iran’s rulers fear a repeat of the demonstrations of 2009. They now see the U.S. policy on Iran -- of toughening sanctions and also, at the United Nations, addressing Iran's human-rights record and support for terrorism -- as one aimed at regime change. [my emphasis]
A war with Iran would be a really, really bad idea.

We in the United States need to get back to the idea that war is a failure of foreign policy, not a goal to be sought, much less make war and the threat of war the predominant tool of foreign policy in the Middle East.

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