Where are we Going with Iran?
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses the U.N. General Assembly today in New York – amid protests from street-level Jewish/human-rights groups, Western governments, media pundits, the east-side traffic displaced, and a Nobel laureate. There is a lot of bluster around Ahmadinejad.
Some of it is dangerous. Some of it is without direction.
But it is somewhat helpful to understand that whatever he says today at the United Nations, the course that Ahmadinejad and his many adversaries have set in motion will not change. If he says that he renounces Radical Islam and the ability of his nation to split atoms, it is certain that he will not be believed. If he goes off on a riff against the U.S. and Israel; demands seats on the IAEA’s 35-member governing board for Iran and Syria; threatens again to “cut the hand that pulls the trigger” or something along those lines – the West and a considerably unnerved Israel will have their “aha” moment.
So, the question really is: where does the world want to go with Iran?
It seems that there are two options. The West could go to war with Iran, or the West could accept – and embrace – a nuclear-armed Iran. These appear to be the directions moving forward.
A war with Iran would be costly and messy. However, it is the more likely of the two options. Israeli former general and army chief, Moshe Ya’alon, called war with Iran “inevitable,” and France, Britain, Germany, and the U.S. are seeking tougher sanctions on Iran – over the protests of Russia and China.
Both U.S. Presidential candidates are talking hardball on Iran, with Barack Obama pointedly keeping the military option in his vernacular and the McCain camp pushing for harder-hitting sanctions.
“I think that a nuclear-armed Iran is not just a threat to us, it’s a threat to Israel,” said Obama on CBS’ 60 Minutes.
According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the speech that Governor Palin had intended to give at the Stop Iran rally (before she was disinvited in the fallout from an embarrassing scheduling snafu with Senator Clinton) had strong verbiage: “We must rally the world to press for truly tough sanctions at the U.N. or with our allies if Iran’s allies continue to block action in the U.N. We must start with restrictions on Iran’s refined petroleum imports. We must reduce our dependency on foreign oil to weaken Iran’s economic influence. We must target the regime’s assets abroad: bank accounts, investments, and trading partners.”
But Ahmadinejad is not demonstrating an interest in abandoning his nuclear pursuit. In fact, he is making a point of referencing the West’s ineffectiveness with regard to hampering Iranian nuclear progress.
“Those who want to impose sanctions are demonstrating their helplessness,” Ahmadinejad said on Iranian television.
He may have a point. Maybe the West should welcome a strong Iran; a dominant Iran in the Middle East and good relations with Iran could be a kind of macro-Darwinism that could yield long-term benefits for worldwide economic expansion and for peace.
According to Iranian Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari, Iran earned $70 billion from crude oil exports from March 2007 to March 2008. The country holds the world’s third largest known oil reserves and is OPEC’s second largest revenue generator. Additionally, Iran is arguably the most influential nation in the Middle East – and boasts close relations with Syria, Russia, China, and Venezuela.
It might be a wiser option for the U.S. and the West to integrate a nuclear-armed Iran into the broader world.
This is the argument of former CIA spy Robert Baer in his new book. Mr. Baer says that the U.S. should not “stand in the way of Iran’s quest to dominate Islam.” He believes that Israel’s nuclear arms should fall under U.N. supervision, effectively leveling the playing field with Iran and demonstrating the United States’ empathy for Iran’s long-term security concerns.
Iran has strategic value for the U.S. – perhaps more strategic value than Israel. In an indirect way, this may be Ahmadinejad’s argument. “I am ready to have a televised debate over global issues with U.S. Presidential nominees at the United Nations,” he said recently on Iranian television.
Neither nominee has risen to the challenge.
So, where do we want to go with Iran? Recent estimates have put their nuclear bomb acquisition at some moment in 2009. Time ticks to the tick of that bomb.
Tags: Iran , Bomb , UN , Ahmadinejad , McCain , Obama , War , Israel , Oil , Islam
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