Whereas the mainstream media appears to have taken as read largely unsubstantiated claims about Iran’s nuclear program representing an existential threat to Israel and others, and similarly unsubstantiated claims about Iran’s role in Iraq (which has lately become the Bush Administration’s fallacy d’jour in explaining its failures there), more sober heads begin the discussion by asking whether Iran’s nuclear program actually represent a threat, and if so, is it a threat of sufficient magnitude to justify the risk of potentially catastrophic consequences that military action would carry. And if not, are there options besides war and sanctions for responding to Iran’s undoubted growth as a regional power in the wake of — and as a result of — the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, has acknowledged behind closed doors that even if Iran had nuclear weapons, they would not, repeat NOT, pose an existential threat to Israel. Other top Israeli security officials have said the same thing. Yet Bush and the neocons are left unchallenged when they spin this line.
In an outstanding column in Newsweek two weeks ago, Zakaria did what few mainstream media figures are prepared to do when the President glibly tells Americans that the sky will fall unless they do his bidding — eschewing the deference that so often characterizes the media corps’ approach to the Bush Administration, Zakaria leaves his readers in no doubt that he thinks the President of the United States is a bullshitter, and a dangerous one at that. [complete article]
While the White House dwells on Iran’s nuclear program, senior U.S. diplomats and military officers fear that an incident on the ground in Iraq is a more likely trigger for a possible confrontation with the Islamic Republic.
In one sign of their concern, U.S. military policymakers are weighing whether to release some of the Iranian personnel they have taken into custody in Iraq. Doing so could reduce the risk that radical Iranian elements might seize U.S. military or diplomatic personnel to retaliate, thus raising the danger of an escalation, a senior Defense official said.
The Bush administration has charged that Iran is funding anti-American fighters in Iraq and sending in sophisticated explosives to bleed the U.S. mission, although some of the administration’s charges are disputed by Iraqis as well as the Iranians. Still, the diplomatic and military officials say they fear that the overreaching of a confident Iran, combined with growing U.S. frustrations, could set off a dangerous collision. [complete article]
The resignation of Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran’s national-security council and top nuclear negotiator, on 20 October has provoked been much discussion about what it might reveal of Tehran’s complex intra-regime politics. What has been less remarked is that this was the second key personnel change among Iran’s governing elite in the past two months. This sequence of events, reflecting the key arguments and calculations of Iran’s top leaders, signifies the emergence of a revised political strategy designed to cope with with the heightened threat of United States military action. [complete article]
See also, U.S. spy planes violate Iran’s territorial integrity (Mehr News Agency) and Millions of Iranians ready for martyrdom – Ahmadinejad (Reuters).
Vice President Dick Cheney and his neo-conservative allies in the George W Bush administration only began agitating for the use of military force against Iran once they had finally given up the illusion that regime change in Iran would happen without it.
And they did not give up the illusion until late 2005, according to a former high-level Foreign Service officer who participated in United States discussions with Iran from 2001 until late 2005.
Hillary Mann, who was the director for Persian Gulf and Afghanistan Affairs on the National Security Council (NSC) staff in 2003 and later on the State Department’s Policy Planning staff, observes that the key to neo-conservative policy views on Iran until 2006 was the firm belief that one of the consequences of a successful display of US military force in Iraq would be to shake the foundations of the Iranian regime. [complete article]
Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert, who has lived in Tehran for the International Crisis Group, says that the sanctions imposed by the United States on Iranian banks and on the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and Quds Force, are unlikely to have much of a financial impact on Tehran. “With world demand for oil mounting and oil prices so high it’s very difficult to isolate Iran financially these days,” he says, adding that the sanctions will have more impact in Moscow, Beijing, and European capitals. He adds that “China and Russia are more concerned about the prospect of the U.S. bombing Iran than of Iran getting a nuclear bomb.” [complete article]