Are you serious?

Is war with Iran a serious option?


Are you serious?
by Patrick Seale

“The greatest threat that Israel faces, and frankly the greatest threat the world faces, is a nuclear Iran.” The author of this inanity is none other than Mitt Romney, the man the Republicans are likely to choose to challenge Barack Obama in this year’s presidential elections.

Can Romney really believe what he says? Is he reckless enough to push the United States into war with Iran? Or is he merely vying for Jewish votes -- and Jewish campaign funds -- by parroting the over-heated arguments of Israel’s lobbyists at AIPAC and the Washington Institute, and in much of the rightwing U.S. media?

What is Iran’s crime in the eyes of these hard-liners? It is that it has refused to submit to American military hegemony in the Gulf and, together with its allies -- Syria, H|izballah and Hamas -- has made a small dent in Israel’s military supremacy in the eastern Mediterranean. Does this make it a world-wide menace?

Are the United States and Israel really prepared to go to war over these issues? It does not appear so. All the indications are that war is not being seriously contemplated by the United States or by Israel -- or for that matter by Iran either. In all three countries, the warmongers may already have lost the argument.

Washington sources report that Obama has long since ruled out a resort to force against Iran, which he considers far too risky. Having brought America’s calamitous war in Iraq to a close, he is now hoping to wind up the Afghan conflict by means of a negotiated settlement. The opening of a Taliban office in Qatar -- as is now being proposed -- would facilitate such contacts. It is self-evident that Obama will spare no effort to save the United States from being drawn into yet another costly, open-ended military adventure in the greater Middle East.

Instead, he appears to have quietly chosen to opt for a policy of containment and deterrence. But, since he has no wish to be accused of being weak on Israel, this sensible policy has not been made public. The official U.S. line is that “all options are on the table,” but, for all practical purposes, the military option has been firmly dropped.

A hint that the hawks in the administration have been defeated may be seen in the recent resignation of Dennis Ross from his job at the National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President for the greater Middle East and South Asia. Ross has now returned to his old home at the Washington Institute -- AIPAC’s sister organisation -- which he founded with Martin Indyk in 1980, with the task of shaping America’s Middle East policy in a pro-Israeli direction, as well as placing its men in key government jobs -- both of which it has done with great success. Back at the Institute, he is continuing to push his hard-line views, declaring in a recent speech that the aim of US policy should not be containment but prevention of Iran’s nuclear programme -- if necessary by force.

Israel is not contemplating war against Iran, any more than the United States. Its noisy threats are, paradoxically, a signal that it is not planning to attack. When it bombed Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981, and Syria’s alleged nuclear facility in 2007, it did so in total secrecy and with no advance warning. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s fevered references to the ‘existential’ menace of an Iranian bomb should, I believe, be read, not as a prelude to war, but as an alternative to war. His intention is to frighten Iran and pressure the Western powers into imposing ever-tougher sanctions on it. The blackmail is working. This week Obama passed into law new unilateral sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank, the financial pivot of its oil transactions.

A lively debate has been taking place in Israel between generals and politicians. Warning of a new Holocaust, Netanyahu has likened Iran’s President Ahmadinejad to Hitler. His generals do not agree. An attack, they say, would at best set back the Iranian programme by a year or two, and might well, in fact, drive Iran to go all out for nuclear weapons. The generals understand that it would be the height of folly for Israel to make an ‘eternal’ enemy of a country vastly bigger and richer than itself, with ten times its population.

Meir Dagan, Mossad’s former chief, has said that war with Iran would be a catastrophe. His alternative way of dealing with the problem has been to assassinate Iranian scientists, infect Iran’s computers with Stuxnet and other worms, sabotage its installations, and destabilise it in every way possible. He recommends a “stealth war,” not a shooting war.

In an address last week to a gathering of Israeli ambassadors, the current Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo, was reported as saying that “The term existential threat is used too freely.” One of the envoys present was quoted in the Israeli press as saying that Pardo’s remarks clearly implied “that he doesn’t think a nuclear Iran is an existential threat to Israel.”

Even if none of the parties -- Israel, the United States and Iran -- actually want war or seriously anticipate it, there is always the possibility that war might break out by accident. Targeting Iran’s Central Bank and threatening to boycott its oil exports, as some Western nations are proposing to do, create a climate of hysterical nationalism that could trigger a clash. Iran has tried to call the West’s bluff by threatening to close the Straits of Hormuz, but a serious attempt to do so could set the whole region on fire -- which is almost certainly the last thing Iran or the United States would want. In my view, not too much should be read into Iran’s recent naval manoeuvres in the Gulf, or its testing of new missiles. It has carried out such exercises in the past.

Containment and deterrence are clearly better policies than war-mongering. But they are not without difficulty. Establishing the rules of a system of mutual deterrence can be tricky. The first months, or even years, can prove dangerous until the system is perfected and the rules fully understood by both sides. For the scheme to be safe, a “hot line” between the parties would need urgently to be established.

If Obama could summon up the political courage for a long-overdue dialogue with Iran -- interrupted 32 years ago -- the danger of war would be dispelled, to everyone’s relief.

First published by Al-Hayat (London and Beirut), in English by Gulf News (Dubai) and The Diplomat (Tokyo).

Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the Middle East. His latest book is The Struggle for Arab Independence: Riad el-Solh and the Makers of the Modern Middle East (Cambridge University Press).



Borat khan , koja boody? I missed ya!

by Hooshang Tarreh-Gol on

The sub-title for this should have been: "Could IR survive without war?" or "Could IR survive without constant crisis?"

Prof. Majnon is correct in every line of his analysis. 

Unforunately crisis is in the DNA and genes of IR. It's been there from day one. The only way they have been able to handle internal opposition and external pressure has been only through creating one crisis after another: US embassy fiasco, continuation of war with Iraq,... IR gives the term Crisis Managment a twisted new meaning!

Unfortunately this time they're chewing on a bite they won't be able to swallow. And Iranian people are going to be the ones paying for it, maybe for years to come.

It doesn't look good at all. 

My Name Is Borat

The last thing we need

by My Name Is Borat on

is war. No one WANTS war. Whenever someone asks, "do we want a war?" I want to slap them silly.

But enough is enough already. How much longer is the IR regime going to be allowed to chert o pert while building an atomic weapons arsenal?

Now, don't tell me that this is a 'peaceful' nuclear program. Even a child knows that this is pure bullshit.

The time has come (it's long overdue, really) where these animals need to be put back in their cages. Either the IR is cut off completely from the rest of the world economically, or use existing technology to surgically remove these parasites from the surface of the earth. It can be done without endangering civilians, most of whom are smart enough to not allow themselves to become 'human shields'.

Stop indulging these murderers, and stop mind-f**king yourselves into believing that a gradual, peaceful change towards reform, democracy or freedom will come about on its own.

And stop giving the time of day to limey blowhards like this Seale tosser.



War come on!

by MRX1 on

I don't know why these people always mention war as if they are talking about world war II!!! you are not dealing with vermarch and German army.

look if there is going to be any action, it will not be a full scale war, it will be series of sorties and missiles that will paralyze IRI goons and sepahi. If we are lucky enough some  of them will  venture to paradise to meet their 72 virgins.

Yes the crapy old soviet reactor will be destoyed and russians will make tons of money rebuilding another piece of junk at 100 times the cost, the Chinese will continue looting Iran and after bunch of marches on the streets of Tehran (death to America and Death to isreal) it will be buisness as usuall with money floating to Europe and U.S you can count on it. 

The real loosers in here will be Iranian people as they will get shafted majorly, but on the other hand since they are getting screwed for over thirthy some years now they are used to it.

Dr. Mohandes


by Dr. Mohandes on

Thanks for bringing in some reality into this situation!

I really don't know and can't be sure how much research Mr. Seale put into his piece/ article! But to me it looked like some Regurgitated crap i have been reading for the past oh i don't know... few year?!

I find your short synopsis of the situation more close to what is really awaiting our people...

Not gonna argue about the advantages or disadvantages though. 



Who wants war?

by divaneh on

I think in Iran we have a pro-war and an anti-war faction. AN and his gang are anti-war and would like to strike a deal with the West. Rahbar and Sepah are pro-war and believe the war would strengthen their position.

China is closer to the Rahbar faction and encourages a war between Iran and the US. Although such a war would temporarily strangles oil supplies to China, it will engages the US in a big war in the Middle East, with the US being bogged down in Iran for the next 10 years. Such involvement in Iran would deny US the ability to increase its presence in the Asia Pacific where it wishes to counter the increasing Chinese efforts. China knows that the Strait of Hormuz will not be closed for a long time in case of such a war. It will also replace Iranian oil with supplies from Russia, ME and South America.

Russia may also favour such a war as an excuse to land its forces in North Iran securing the rich Caspian Sea resources.

Finally, if Iran starts such a war, it will be forced to pay damages for the cost of the war and that not only erase all Iranian reserves in the West, it also places a long term debt on generations of Iranians. A possibility that Europeans will find attractive.

The threat of war is very serious and has only a big loser, Iran and a small user, the USA.