August 21, 2004

Preemption Bites Back

Last week, State Department Undersecretary John Bolton really let Iran have it over their ongoing nuclear materials research. So far, that research is within bounds, and mainly what the country has asked for is above board access to peaceful technology. By which they mean that they don't want to pay ten times as much on the black market, and who wants to do that? Bolton concluded his remarks as follows:

...We are employing a number of tools to thwart WMD and missile programs, including sanctions, interdiction, and credible export controls. Most aspiring proliferators are still dependent on outside suppliers and technology. Thus, we can slow down and even stop their weapons development plans by disrupting their procurement efforts.


Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons capability is moving it further and further down the path toward international isolation. We cannot let Iran, a leading sponsor of international terrorism, acquire nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them to Europe, most of central Asia and the Middle East, or beyond. Without serious, concerted, immediate intervention by the international community, Iran will be well on the road to doing so.

First, let's stop a moment and consider the issue of dependency on outside suppliers. Iran is a country with in-house talent busily working on a solution to said dependency, natural deposits of raw nuclear material, and boatloads of money. Fifty dollar a barrel oil can't be hurting them. Think about that, and tell me how long a country that's managed to keep an astonishing number of its F-14 Tomcats in the air for thirty years under sanction is going to put up with being locked out of finishing its nuclear energy program. Now moving on...

Before Bolton blessed us with his wisdom, Israel had already been working to step up the pressure. During the Shah's reign, the Israel and Iran were very close. But the willingness of the Iranian government to maintain ties with groups like Hezbollah, a move which doesn't necessarily have much popular support, has driven a wedge between them. They've been snarling at each other for years now, and recently:

...[On July 21], Maj. Gen. Aharon (Farkash) Ze’evi, head of Israeli military intelligence, briefed the Cabinet, delivering an assessment — immediately made public — that unless Iran was stopped, it would go nuclear by 2007 or 2008.

Hawkish legislators Ephraim Sneh of the Labor Party and Ehud Yatom of Likud took their cue.

"If the international community continues to show ineffectiveness, Israel will have to consider its next steps — and fast," Sneh said.

Yatom was more explicit, saying, "Israel must destroy the Iranian nuclear facility just as we did the Iraqi reactor in 1981."

Earlier, there had been what appeared to be a calculated leak to the press. On July 18, the London-based Sunday Times reported that the Israeli air force had completed military preparations for a preemptive strike at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear facility and would attack if Russia supplied Iran with fuel rods for enriching uranium. ...

In response to Bolton and the ongoing rumblings from Israel, Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani recently had this to say [emphasis mine]:

...“We will not sit (with our arms folded) to wait for what others will do to us," Shamkhani said in an interview aired on the Arabic news channel al-Jazeera on Wednesday.

“Some military commanders in Iran are convinced that preventive operations which the Americans talk about are not their monopoly,” he added.

“America is not the only one present in the region. We are also present, from Khost to Kandahar in Afghanistan; we are present in the Gulf and we can be present in Iraq,” Shamkhani said, following earlier comments by Revolutionary Guards commanders.

“The entire Zionist territory including its nuclear establishments and atomic munitions are now within the range of Iran’s advanced missiles,” Islamic Revolutionary Commander Yadollah Javani said last Sunday, after the Revolutionary Guards announced a successful firing of the improved Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile. ...

In other words, they called the bluff. Not that it was a bluff, or anything, 'cause we could take 'em anytime. Right! Right? Or, um, maybe not.

The United States said Thursday Iran should see the American military presence in Iraq as a stabilizing, rather than threatening presence. The comments followed remarks by Iran's Defense Minister that some Iranian generals favor striking U.S. forces pre-emptively if they sensed a threat.

The Bush administration is clearly trying to avoid a war of words with Iran after comments by that country's defense minister hinting of the possibility of pre-emptive Iranian action against U.S. or Israeli forces in the region. ...

The Bush crowd talks tough, but only when they think they can't be touched. Unless maybe they're just backing down for now, just until they don't have to explain why we started a third land war in Asia without finishing the first two. I leave you with this closing statement from a Haaretz article, which I will not attempt to parse [but will add emphasis to]:

...Israeli sources said yesterday that The New York Times report on the failure of diplomatic efforts was an attempt to pressure both the Bush administration and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry to back stronger diplomatic pressure on Iran. Israel's impression is that Kerry would seek dialogue with Iran if elected, while Bush does not want to open another Middle Eastern front until he knows whether he will win reelection.

It's times like these when I'm reminded of Bill Maher's comments on why Christopher Columbus decided to try to find another route to the Far East which didn't go through the Middle East. According to Maher, Columbus' rationalization was "I would rather sail off the edge of the f***ing world than deal with those people one more day." If only we were as wise.

Posted by natasha at August 21, 2004 12:57 AM | International | Technorati links |