Obama’s Iran Policy: Why Diplomacy Remains the Likely Course

The Israelis may be trying to make military action seem more palatable to the Administration, but diplomacy and sanctions will likely remain Washington's focus well into next year

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Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens as President Barack Obama speaks during their meeting, March, 5, 2012, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.

Have some members of the Obama Administration been quaffing a ten-year-old jug of Kool Aid left in a White House basement fridge by Bush Administration officials? That’s certainly an impression conveyed by one unnamed source briefing Foreign Policy magazine’s David Rothkopf  on talks between the Administration and the Israeli government. According to Rothkopf’s source, Washington is now considering plans for a limited U.S.-Israeli raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities, a strike so “surgical” that it could be over in a matter of hours. This ostensible military cakewalk would, according to “one advocate” cited by Rothkopf have a “transformative outcome: saving Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, reanimating the peace process, securing the Gulf, sending an unequivocal message to Russia and China, and assuring American ascendancy in the region for a decade to come.”

Both the language and the thinking in that quote are reminiscent of the giddiest fantasies of the Bush Administration’s Iraq-war zealots. It appears that for some, at least, the failure of the Iraq invasion to transform the Middle East and assure “American ascendancy” simply requires a shock-and-awe do-over.

Rothkopf’s piece on the ostensible emergence of a war-lite option on Iran begins from the premise that President Obama is vulnerable to political attacks from Mitt Romney over his handling of Iran, and might benefit from letting it be known that he’s considering a “surgical strike” on Iran — a scenario ostensibly more believable because it supposedly requires less of a military commitment. “It may be that the easiest way for the Obama team to defuse Romney’s critique on Iran is simply to communicate better what options they are in fact considering,” Rothkopf writes. “It’s not the size of the threatened attack, but the likelihood that it will actually be made, that makes a military threat a useful diplomatic tool. And perhaps a political one, too.”

(MORE: How Many Civilians Would Be Killed in an Attack on Iran’s Nuclear Sites?)

But that assumes Obama faces a major political problem on Iran — an assumption unlikely to be shared by the president’s reelection team at this stage: In most mainstream campaign analyses, being branded “soft on Iran” doesn’t rank particularly prominently among the many reasons why Obama might lose his reelection bid, even if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had once hoped to leverage campaign concerns to press Obama towards Israel’s positions on Iran.

Instead, however, Netanyahu had to accept defeat, having isolated himself not only internationally, but also domestically, by his threat to take unilateral military action against Iran before November’s U.S. presidential election. The Israeli leader’s U.N. speech last month effectively took the “October Surprise” option off the table, by making clear that Israel’s own “red line” — Iran having a sufficient stockpile of medium enriched uranium to reprocess into one bomb’s worth of weapons-grade materiel — wouldn’t be reached before next spring or summer. The Israelis have lately dialed down their skepticism of the impact of sanctions on Iran, and on Tuesday Haaretz reported that the Israeli military concurs with the IAEA’s finding that Iran has converted much of its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium into fuel plates for a medical-research reactor that would be of no use in a dash to create weapons-grade materiel.

Netanyahu on Tuesday called new elections, to be held next January or February, making prospects for a military strike on Iran before that even more remote. But President Obama had declined to offer even the consolation prize of a publicly stated U.S. red line that would limit his freedom of maneuver. Still, Netanyahu made clear his government would continue to coordinate its positions and actions with Washington — which is presumably the purpose of the U.S.-Israeli discussions referred to by Rothkopf’s source. In those discussions, the Israelis no doubt would like to cajole the U.S. into articulating a military threat, and to package it in ways more politically palatable in Washington, which appears to be the logic outlined by Rothkopf’s source:

Were it clearer that the primary Iran option being discussed is this very limited surgical strike, then a U.S. threat of force would be that much more credible. And if it were more credible — because it seemed like the kind of risk the president is more willing to undertake — then it would have the added benefit of providing precisely the kind of added leverage that might make diplomacy more successful. In other words, the public contemplation of a more limited, doable mission provides more leverage than the threat of even more robust action that is less likely to happen.

(MORE: Red Lines, Deadlines and End Games: Netanyahu Turns Up Iran Heat on Obama)

While such an argument is clearly being made, it’s harder to detect signs that it’s been accepted. For one thing, no U.S. “red lines” have been stated, without which a military threat can’t be made. And the logic of the argument for a “lite” strike will certainly be questioned by powerful players in Washington. It’s hard to see how or why Iran would respond differently to a brief “surgical” strike than it would to a sustained air campaign, or how such a scenario would avert the negative consequences that have restrained the U.S. from considering military action at this stage. The idea that an unprovoked act of war against Iran could be contained, a cakewalk over within hours that would set the world to rights, will likely be seen as a flight of fancy by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who have strongly counseled against what they deem a highly risky and unnecessary military action that’s more likely to result in Iran building nuclear weapons than the neutering of that threat.

The Obama Administration has repeatedly signaled that it will take military action if necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but there’s a large gap between that implied “red line” and Netanyahu’s one. A comprehensive study published Monday by the respected technical specialists at the Washington-based Institute for Science in International Security (ISIS) notes that should Iran seek to “dash” for the bomb once it had sufficient medium enriched uranium for reprocessing into a single bomb’s worth of highly-enriched materiel — itself an unlikely “dash” point since a single bomb does not a nuclear deterrent make — it would take Iran between two and four months to reprocess into weapons-grade materiel, and “many additional months” to fabricate and miniaturize it into a working missile warhead. Iran therefore remains unlikely to cross U.S. red lines any time next year, which makes the discussion with the Israelis about just how the U.S. would strike should it deem military action necessary a somewhat academic exercise at this stage.

Even the proposition that the Iranians are more likely to surrender on the nuclear issue if facing a threat of war, while popular among Washington hawks, is viewed with skepticism by many Iranian analysts.

But while the Administration and the Israelis continue to discuss their respective red lines and the hypotheticals of what form of military action the U.S. would take if it deemed such action necessary, the focus of the Iran nuclear issue is more likely to shift, after the U.S. election, to a resumption of the stalled negotiations with Iran. Recent reports of Iran having offered a nine-step plan to cap their uranium enrichment at low levels in exchange for the removal of sanctions was dismissed by the U.S. as insufficient, but it signals nonetheless that the Iranians are in the market for a compromise, even if they’re nowhere near capitulating to the full menu of Western demands. Needless to say, also, any discussion over compromises is one in which the Israelis would do whatever they could to have a casting vote.

That diplomatic conversation is likely to continue into next year, framed by November’s U.S. presidential election, Israel’s parliamentary election next January or February, and Iran’s poll to elect a replacement to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad next June. Don’t bet on seeing any military action, lite or heavy, before then — or even after.

MORE: After November: 5 Middle East Headaches That Await the U.S.

60 comments
Plumbline
Plumbline

Time is running out........

.......

Acts 11:17...If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”............

Acts 16:31...So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.............

Traidenis
Traidenis

Before we bomb and invade Iran, we should find out if the Chinese will lend us the money.

arvay
arvay

This whole thing has the bad odor of yet another attempt to scare the Iranians -- which it won't. Another odor is the attempt to pander to nutball American supporters of Israel. 

Yet again, we have the spectacle of the world's most extravagantly equipped nuclear power -- talking about starting a war for political reasons. 

allenwoll
allenwoll

IRAN is IR-relevant !

What COULD they DO with a nuke -- Other than to commit National Suicide  ? ? ?

All of the Islamic Flake-Nations are likewise IR-relevant for precisely the same reason.

IT IS HIGH TIME TO COMPLETELY IGNORE THEM A-L-L  ! ! !

Joe Boyum
Joe Boyum

The more the israelis drone on about the threat from iran, the more paranoid the iranians get, and the more likely they will become convinced that the only way to avoid being attacked is to actually develop nukes.

Self fullfilling prophecies are a recurring theme with Jewish people.

Elaine Mays
Elaine Mays

We have to remember that Bushes attack on Iraq only strengthened Iran's position in the world, bringing the former Sunni country turned Shi'a into alliance with Iran as never before. But then the US has been messing with these countries for years now, selling them arms and then attacking or bringing down their leaders. 

Peninnah Marksz
Peninnah Marksz

srr1658,10102012. muggie xhosa pheonix^eenenm%arizona plaagraad yumaamp;ulorin@ kormanyi israeli?3034rq1.umvs!alz459dgz

cm6096
cm6096

Of course, obama could attack Iran before the Nov elections... wag the dog...  generate support for himself by playing the commander in chief fun role of being 'buttkicker'n chief'... the common people love a good smackdown being delivered to our nations detractors.

Mike P
Mike P

"If it be now,'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come..."

WW3, whether tomorrow or 50 years from now seems envitable. It will mark the end of our species because we are the most intelligent idiots, with our precious war machines.

Life on this planet has evolved, not of benevolence, but because life preyed on itself from the very beginning.

Humans are no exception.

Sometime in the future, the last human will draw their last breath and the Universes experiment with homo-sapiens will be over.

Edited to add: "All the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius are destined to extinction..." and not by the Sun running low on fuel but because of tribalism.

Maybe we deserve extinction.

buctrain
buctrain

The solution is so simple.  The US should go to Iran, tell the to dismantle their nuclear program and if they choose not to, we let Iran know that we will no longer stand in the way of Israel.  And since you said "Death to Israel", they may want to kill you first.

WordsEar
WordsEar

  A well written article. Flawed only in that its conclusions are wrong.

The last line would suggest that military action by the United States or

Israel is impossible before the elections in Israel next year. It

cautions us to "take no bets" on military action before that time. I,

for one, will gladly take that bet. 

Assumptively, the article

falls into the old habit that conflicts involving the US are

1) started by the US, and 2) finish when the US decides they are over.

For the last 30 years or so, this has been true. Be it Vietnam, Grenada,

Panama, the 1st Gulf War, and the 2nd Gulf War, American wars have

commenced when the US decided and end when the US gets ready to end

them. It hasn't always been like that. This centric view of military

commencement always originating with activities of the United States is a

flawed and myopic premise on which to base projections about future

Middle East conflicts. More recent events in the Middle East would

suggest that the United States is reacting to events--often

hamhandedly--or singularly failing to react, but most definitively not

proactively dealing with issues. Unless one would care to argue that the

United States foresaw the Arab Spring and its reverberations. No? I thought not.

Pretending

for a moment that Syria, Turkey, Iran and Russia give a damn about US

or Israeli elections and the outcomes thereof offers a narrow window by

which to focus solely on Iran and the US, or more correctly US/Israel,

potential conflicts. Taking the articles implied premise that only the

US, Israel, and Iran exist in the Middle East, then the closing

summation might have merit. If the Iranian economic situation could be

ignored of course. Adding other countries into the mix changes this

equation very quickly however.

Interests and alliances in force

within the Middle East would suggest that a more wholistic examination

of the region is necessitated to better predict the future. Failure to

take these already existing alliances into account invalidates the

premise of Middle East peace almost immediately given the current

"events on the ground".

First alliance.

Turkey and NATO.

Turkey has reacted over the last week to Syria shelling of it's

territory--from whoever fired them--by going to NATO to get the official

"okie dokie" to invade Syria. Cynically, the assumption is that Turkey,

worried about Kurdish boogymen arising to form a Kurdistanian homeland,

will focus its primary invasion efforts against the eastern sections of

Syria and not against the regime of Assad, even if he stands accused of

launching the mortars that fell on Turkish territory. NATO has turned

its highly jaundiced eye toward Syria and seen exactly what Turkey

wished it to see--naked aggression from the hand of evil incarnate,

Bashar al-Assad. Comparatively, in light of the number of people killed

by PKK terrorists in Turkey over the years, you could argue that the

Turkish response to the death of 5 of its citizens is a bit excessive.

Not hypocritical though. Turkey showed a similar reaction to Israel's

attack on Gaza boat blockade runners and the death of Turkish citizens

during that affair, so at least Turkey can be said to be an equal

opportunity reactor on assaults against it's sovereignty. None of this

changes the fact that if Syria has aggressed against Turkey, it could

potentially draw the US and western Europe into a war in the Middle

East.

Second alliance.

Syria and Russia. Calling it an

alliance might be a bit much. Nevertheless, Russia has made no bones

about its support for Syria. The quiet warning grumbles from the

2-decades long weakened "Russian bear" fall mostly on deaf ears in

Western capitals. Grumbles that are noted, then discounted, in almost

the same breath. Noteworthy about this "common interest" attitude toward

Syria is Russia's lengthy commitment to that country and it's naval

port facilities maintained there. In short, Syria is important to

Russia.

Third alliance.

Syria and Iran. One of Iran's senior

people made clear 2 months ago that continuing defensive agreements

between Syria and Iran have not weakened, in spite of rebellion sweeping

the Syrian regime. Signed years ago, these defensive pacts, rather than

being conveniently forgotten in these troubled times,

have--effectively-- been "doubled down" on by Iran.

Scenario Time.

With

these alliances now placed on the table of Middle Eastern politics for

our consideration, let's begin the "what if" game. What if shelling of

Turkey by forces within Syria--nevermind who they are or what their game

is, it isn't important--continues until more Turkish citizens are

killed? Turkey's stated position is that if shelling continues they are

going to begin an incursion into Syria. Their parliament has already

authorized this, and the President of Turkey has already stated he won't

sit ideally by while Turkey is attacked, so as a straight line "take

them at face value" proposition, the prospect of Turkish incursion seems

a logical conclusion. 

IF Syria is invaded by Turkey, what

would be Syria's reaction? With the conflicting loyalties at work in

Syria at the moment, and if we broadly separate factions into 1)FSA,  2)

Assad's forces and 3) Kurdish forces, the logical assumption is that 2

of these factions will fight Turkish incursions. The Kurds most

definitively will fight. Their survival as a political entity, if not as

a minority group of peoples, may be at stake. Assad will fight for the

same reasons. The only wild card are the groups currently making up the

FSA. Some of them will continue to oppose Assad. Some might rejoin

Assad's forces if faced with an outside force. Patriotism swelling in

the heart of the Syrian Rambos against the evil outsider, one might say.

If Assad feel pressed, his government has already stated

recently that it will use chemical weapons. Or rather, it stated it

would use "all weapons at it's disposal", but since the conversation at

the time was related to how safe Syria chemical weapons might be with

FSA rebels swarming the countryside, the assumption is that Syria was

referring to these.

IF Iran and Syria did not already feel the

presence of Turkish troops on Syrian soil to be cause enough to invoke

the Syrian-Iranian defensive pact and bring Iran into the conflict

against Turkey, then the use of chemical weapons by Syria against Turkey

would almost guarantee a US response. The US has indicated that

chemical weapons use is a "red line". Likewise Israel has also stated

that the movement of chemical weapons is "cause for action" on their

part.

IF we have US or Israeli involvement in attacks on Syria

against chemical weapons facilities, the Syrians will certainly be

asking for help from Iran, China, and Russia....and even from Mars, if

they thought Mars would send help...when the full extent of the forces

arranged against Syria became evident. If Iran honors its commitment to

Syria, which is a very very huge IF, then the region sees the

possibility of Iran becoming involved in a war against potentially the

United States and Israel. Iran has stated recently thru one of its

commanding generals that a preemptive attack against the US or Israeli

assets is not "off the table" for Iran, especially if Iran sees that an

attack against Iran is imminent.

Iran, by this point, might

welcome an opportunity to kick off a war with the US. The economic

situation in Iran is not good. Currency fluctuations are, and should be,

a concern for Iranian government officials. Oil revenues are down. The

economy of Iran is being stifled, if not destroyed. Much like the

situation between Japan and the United States before the attack on Pearl

Harbor, when Japanese oil was embargoed by the US, Iran is facing the

prospect of continuing slow suffocation. Would it be remarkable to

assume that similar circumstances would not breed similar solutions?

A

news story today has come out about US troops stationed in the nation

of Jordan to aid in any necessary activities against chemical weapons

held in Syria. The level of involvement can already be seen as elevated

with the US. Can the addition of Russian troops into Syria to protect

Russian interests be discounted? As seemingly unlikely a prospect as

this is, it's import on the situation if it were to occur is such that

consideration of it would seem warranted if for no other reason than to

prepare.

Taken collectively, and not myopically, the situation in

the Middle East is at such a fevered pitch as has never before been

seen in our lifetimes. All the previous wars of the last century have

not threatened the supply of oil to the western world, nor would have

been as impactful by their loss, as the situation which now faces us.

The article above is nothing but an exercise in wish fulfillment.

WordsEar
WordsEar

 A well written article. Flawed only in that its conclusions are wrong. The last line would suggest that military action by the United States or Israel is impossible before the elections in Israel next year. It cautions us to "take no bets" on military action before that time. I, for one, will gladly take that bet. 

Assumptively, the article falls into the old habit of assuming that conflicts involving the US are 1) started by the US, and 2) finish when the US decides they are over. For the last 30 years or so, this has been true. Be it Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, the 1st Gulf War, and the 2nd Gulf War, American wars have commenced when the US decided and end when the US gets ready to end them. It hasn't always been like that. This centric view of military commencement always originating with activities of the United States is a flawed and myopic premise on which to base projections about future Middle East conflicts. More recent events in the Middle East would suggest that the United States is reacting to events--often hamhandedly--or singularly failing to react, but most definitively not proactively dealing with issues. Unless one would care to argue that the United States foresaw the Arab Spring and its reverberations. No? I thought not.

Pretending for a moment that Syria, Turkey, Iran and Russia give a damn about US or Israeli elections and the outcomes thereof offers a narrow window by which to focus solely on Iran and the US, or more correctly US/Israel, potential conflicts. Taking the articles implied premise that only the US, Israel, and Iran exist in the Middle East, then the closing summation might have merit. If the Iranian economic situation could be ignored of course. Adding other countries into the mix changes this equation very quickly however.

Interests and alliances in force within the Middle East would suggest that a more wholistic examination of the region is necessitated to better predict the future. Failure to take these already existing alliances into account invalidates the premise of Middle East peace almost immediately given the current "events on the ground".

First alliance.

Turkey and NATO. Turkey has reacted over the last week to Syria shelling of it's territory--from whoever fired them--by going to NATO to get the official "okie dokie" to invade Syria. Cynically, the assumption is that Turkey, worried about Kurdish boogymen arising to form a Kurdistanian homeland, will focus its primary invasion efforts against the eastern sections of Syria and not against the regime of Assad, even if he stands accused of launching the mortars that fell on Turkish territory. NATO has turned its highly jaundiced eye toward Syria and seen exactly what Turkey wished it to see--naked aggression from the hand of evil incarnate, Bashar al-Assad. Comparatively, in light of the number of people killed by PKK terrorists in Turkey over the years, you could argue that the Turkish response to the death of 5 of its citizens is a bit excessive. Not hypocritical though. Turkey showed a similar reaction to Israel's attack on Gaza boat blockade runners and the death of Turkish citizens during that affair, so at least Turkey can be said to be an equal opportunity reactor on assaults against it's sovereignty. None of this changes the fact that if Syria has aggressed against Turkey, it could potentially draw the US and western Europe into a war in the Middle East.

Second alliance.

Syria and Russia. Calling it an alliance might be a bit much. Nevertheless, Russia has made no bones about its support for Syria. The quiet warning grumbles from the 2-decades long weakened "Russian bear" fall mostly on deaf ears in Western capitals. Grumbles that are noted, then discounted, in almost the same breath. Noteworthy about this "common interest" attitude toward Syria is Russia's lengthy commitment to that country and it's naval port facilities maintained there. In short, Syria is important to Russia.

Third alliance.

Syria and Iran. One of Iran's senior people made clear 2 months ago that continuing defensive agreements between Syria and Iran have not weakened, in spite of rebellion sweeping the Syrian regime. Signed years ago, these defensive pacts, rather than being conveniently forgotten in these troubled times, have--effectively-- been "doubled down" on by Iran.

Scenario Time.

With these alliances now placed on the table of Middle Eastern politics for our consideration, let's begin the "what if" game. What if shelling of Turkey by forces within Syria--nevermind who they are or what their game is, it isn't important--continues until more Turkish citizens are killed? Turkey's stated position is that if shelling continues they are going to begin an incursion into Syria. Their parliament has already authorized this, and the President of Turkey has already stated he won't sit ideally by while Turkey is attacked, so as a straight line "take them at face value" proposition, the prospect of Turkish incursion seems a logical conclusion. 

IF Syria is invaded by Turkey, what would be Syria's reaction? With the conflicting loyalties at work in Syria at the moment, and if we broadly separate factions into 1)FSA,  2) Assad's forces and 3) Kurdish forces, the logical assumption is that 2 of these factions will fight Turkish incursions. The Kurds most definitively will fight. Their survival as a political entity, if not as a minority group of peoples, may be at stake. Assad will fight for the same reasons. The only wild card are the groups currently making up the FSA. Some of them will continue to oppose Assad. Some might rejoin Assad's forces if faced with an outside force. Patriotism swelling in the heart of the Syrian Rambos against the evil outsider, one might say.

If Assad feel pressed, his government has already stated recently that it will use chemical weapons. Or rather, it stated it would use "all weapons at it's disposal", but since the conversation at the time was related to how safe Syria chemical weapons might be with FSA rebels swarming the countryside, the assumption is that Syria was referring to these.

IF Iran and Syria did not already feel the presence of Turkish troops on Syrian soil to be cause enough to invoke the Syrian-Iranian defensive pact and bring Iran into the conflict against Turkey, then the use of chemical weapons by Syria against Turkey would almost guarantee a US response. The US has indicated that chemical weapons use is a "red line". Likewise Israel has also stated that the movement of chemical weapons is "cause for action" on their part.

IF we have US or Israeli involvement in attacks on Syria against chemical weapons facilities, the Syrians will certainly be asking for help from Iran, China, and Russia....and even from Mars, if they thought Mars would send help...when the full extent of the forces arranged against Syria became evident. If Iran honors its commitment to Syria, which is a very very huge IF, then the region sees the possibility of Iran becoming involved in a war against potentially the United States and Israel. Iran has stated recently thru one of its commanding generals that a preemptive attack against the US or Israeli assets is not "off the table" for Iran, especially if Iran sees that an attack against Iran is imminent.

Iran, by this point, might welcome an opportunity to kick off a war with the US. The economic situation in Iran is not good. Currency fluctuations are, and should be, a concern for Iranian government officials. Oil revenues are down. The economy of Iran is being stifled, if not destroyed. Much like the situation between Japan and the United States before the attack on Pearl Harbor, when Japanese oil was embargoed by the US, Iran is facing the prospect of continuing slow suffocation. Would it be remarkable to assume that similar circumstances would not breed similar solutions?

A news story today has come out about US troops stationed in the nation of Jordan to aid in any necessary activities against chemical weapons held in Syria. The level of involvement can already be seen as elevated with the US. Can the addition of Russian troops into Syria to protect Russian interests be discounted? As seemingly unlikely a prospect as this is, it's import on the situation if it were to occur is such that consideration of it would seem warranted if for no other reason than to prepare.

Taken collectively, and not myopically, the situation in the Middle East is at such a fevered pitch as has never before been seen in our lifetimes. All the previous wars of the last century have not threatened the supply of oil to the western world, nor would have been as impactful by their loss, as the situation which now faces us.

The article above is nothing but an exercise in wish fulfillment.

dn32844
dn32844

Isarael want blood and somebody has to supply it.

Laura Peterson
Laura Peterson

I see two scenarios scenarios come November.

If Romney gets elected into office, the US goes to full-scale war with Iran on January 1st. Republican hawks salivate at the propsect, as do the various manufacturers of the military-industrial complex equipment to sell their toys. The magnitude and scope of such a war would put Bush's 'War on Terror' to shame. Its highly likely this would lead to World War III, since both Russia and China have warned they will not tolerate such action and would most certainly retaliate against Israel.

Conversely, If Obama gets re-elected in November, Netanyahu is given the snub, put in his place and diplomacy resumes in the region, with sanctions resuming, which have actually been quite effective and will predictably topple Ahmadinejad come election time, since Iranians are hurting economically.. which is after all the purpose and point of sanctions. Iran gives up its nuclear program and peace resumes in the region, and war is averted.

Those are the two most likely outcomes here.

Albin
Albin

USA has been "weighing" an invasion since the Cheney/Bush regime.  Every news report is that Iran is now experiencing Weimar like hyperinflation due to the Obama regime economic sanctions that took effect last summer.  US is also patrolling the Hormuz and Iran won't try anything there. Netanyahu was playing US politics until his recent smackdown and repentance at the UN, and he is still looking stupider, more manipulative and more unscrupulous every day that goes by.  Netanyahu should focus on giving the world more reasons to prefer radical Likkud nuke-loaded Israel to the radical Islamist nukeless-wannabe Iran that Israel can obliterate any time it wants to.

La-Dee-Dah
La-Dee-Dah

A better question might be, WHY is Time Magazine broadcasting such information? Whatever happened to "Loose Lips Sink Ships?"  Do they not care about national security, and they are willing to compromise it...just for a headline???  As a former Marine, I find this attitude disturbing.

Jacob Blues
Jacob Blues

Time is 'broadcasting it' because it's 2012, and in this day and age, if you don't have anything to say yourself, you grab someone else's comments and pontificate on it. 

Realize that Tony's entire op-ed is based on no more than another op-ed published by the magazine Foreign Policy.

What you are reading now is an echo-chamber effect that says "OMG!!!" Obama's gonna attack Iran. 

Which of course after the talking heads spent the past month spinning their wheels about why the comments comming from Israel's Prime Minister were so war mongering that he needed to get smacked down by the Obama administration.

Lo and behold - on the stage of the United Nation's General Assembly, Netanyahu walked himself back from the threat of a unilateral attack.  Talking head banners wave in the air and the Obama team is given political kudos by its fan base. 

Problem solved?NO,

Why? 

Because now the talking heads don't have anything to write about.  Israel is quiet, the political leaders have left NY, and it's four weeks until the election. 

So now, after hearing from political leaders, intelligence leaders, and military leaders, decrying why Israel dare not attack Iran, we get the new parlour game that Obama's gonna attack Iran. 

And of course, once that hits, you get the anti-Israel brigade jumping up in the saddle screaming about $300 a barrel oil and other golden-shovel conspiracy theories. 

Forget the fact that Iran's currency is flowing into the toilet and its own people are getting ticked off at their own government.  NOW, is when it's going down. 

bookman10108
bookman10108

Amazing. We calmly contemplate an illegal assault on a sovereign nation as though we were perusing box scores. A fascinating little culture we have here. 

Rumionemore
Rumionemore

Is this what Obama would do to win the election, or lose it?

owl905
owl905

Of course there would be a discussion on a variety of intervention responses.  Those options disappear the same day Iran conducts its first 'medicinal' nuclear test.  It's the purpose of those discussions that's lost in this presentation - the purpose is to walk through best case and worst case consequences - and to have the answer ready now on why no strike was considered ... because it was considered and it was rejected.  Give the political leadership more credit than parallels to Yosemite George.

ProfessorPolecat
ProfessorPolecat

Our threat is not Iran. It's Russia and China's reaction we need to worry about. They warned us.

Stoprunning
Stoprunning

It's ok , Romney will get us into another war.

priestson
priestson

Purely a rhetorical question: Why is American mid-east policy so much bound   by the perceived  interests of Israel, a clandestine nuclear power,  sympathetically  supported by a minority of a minority of US citizens?  Tel Aviv could easily fire a

few small  nuclear missiles at Iranian cities to prove  a point  with little fear of contamination  given the prevailing winds in  the region. For the same reason if Iran develops nuclear weapon  capacity and a reliable delivery system  she might hesitate  to carry out a unilateral attack on the Jewish state. Think, in whose  interests would

yet  another expensive and  inconclusive  mid-east war involving a western power be best

served. I am not giving  the answer as I  presume that  most of the participants on

this  blog are  intelligent enough to  respond. Since the departure of the Shah, Iran

 has not  waged an aggressive war on any of its neighbours.  Remember  it  was

Saddam Hussein who attacked Iran in the first Gulf War. Those  who  have

nuclear  weapons are less  least likely to be suddenly attacked. Any leader

of a state surround by potentially hostile neighbours will make sure their  country is adequately  protected and this is  just as true of Iran as it is of  Israel or Iraq.

formerlyjamesm
formerlyjamesm

This whole analysis is crazy talk, over the crazy red line.  The scariest part is about sending unequivocal messages to China and Russia.  The very idea that Obama must balance Romney's foreign policy ignorance with the electorate makes no sense whatever.  War talk doesn't sit well just now on either side of the American electorate.

Certainly the defense department thinks about Iran and works on contingency plans, but I doubt seriously that this tells us anything about it.

Thingumbob
Thingumbob

Hmm. Could this be Obama's October surprise? WWIII? Hurry get the straight jacket ready.

Ignatius Ibsage
Ignatius Ibsage

what? our noble peace laureate participating in an unprovoked agressive military assault on a peaceful non-agressive third world country.  shame on the nobel committee.

JCDavis
JCDavis

They've given a fair share to warmongers and terrorists.

Thingumbob
Thingumbob

If Obama is chugging  ten year old Kool Aide  that could explain his debate performance.

Plumbline
Plumbline

The future has been fortold........

.........Ezekiel 38:3-5.........

3 and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. (modern day russia) 4 I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords. 5 Persia,(modern day Iran and Iraq) Ethiopia, and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; 8. In the latter years you will come into the land of those brought back from the sword and gathered from many people on the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate; they were brought out of the nations, and now all of them dwell safely.

ProfessorPolecat
ProfessorPolecat

It has been foretold. Dumb warmongering republicans will draw us into WWIII. Congrats religious fundamentalists. You f#$%ed up the world.

logicdog
logicdog

Blah blah blah.  Superstition is one of the primary causes of our problems on planet Earth. . .

wandmdave
wandmdave

That comment is so right it deserves more than an anonymous like.

Plumbline
Plumbline

Superstition, or could it be......

.......Matthew 15:19

For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.

logicdog
logicdog

Yes, and mostly committed by ignorant, superstitious people like YOU.

Gregory Lawrence Faith
Gregory Lawrence Faith

Israel’s own “red line” has been drawn in the sand! They'll know when to strike. Once they do, plan on cleaning up the gulf after Iran fires torpedos at a  tanker or two. Think American Gasoline is expensive now, hold on for pump shock if they ever carry out attacks on tankers leaving the gulf.

Vincent Wolf
Vincent Wolf

Iran probably already has nuclear weapons purchased from Pakistan.  Welcome to the 21st century version of War Games.

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

We are considering dropping Mitt "the Twit" Romney, John "the Beachboy" McCain, John "crazy man" Bolton, and Michelle "crazy woman" Bachmann on Tehran, on the assumption that their rhetoric will leave the mullahs laughing so hard that they will be unable to go to war with anyone. 

JCDavis
JCDavis

Those sunny fantasies could go up in smoke if the 20-year-old reports of the Revolutionary Guards buying Soviet nuclear weapons are true.

logicdog
logicdog

Those 20-year old reports are also largely fantasies.  Where Iran is concerned, fantasies run rampant, while other axes are being ground. . .

JCDavis
JCDavis

The CIA claimed they scotched the transfer, but without giving details. Then, years later, emails from inside the Revolutionary guards were obtained that indicated they had been successful in obtaining the four nuclear warheads. Two members of congress believed them, but weren't able to make any headway with the WH.

 

To quote a story:

 

The most striking allegation came on 9 April 1998, when the Jerusalem Post reported that Iranian government documents obtained by intelligence sources had revealed that Iran received several nuclear warheads from a former Soviet republic in the early 1990s and that Russian experts were maintaining them.

 

According to the Post, the documents were deemed authentic by US congressional experts and contain correspondence between Iranian government officials and leaders of the Revolutionary Guards that discusses Iran's successful efforts to obtain nuclear warheads from former Soviet republics.

 

"At this point, we can't say for certain whether these are genuine," a senior Israeli source quoted by the Post said, "But they look awfully real." A US government consultant said he is certain of the authenticity of the documents. "They are real and we have had them for years," he said.

Nonaffiliated
Nonaffiliated

I think that the author is off-base in suggesting that Obama would execute this strike pre-election to shore up his foreign policy creds.  If there is to be a strike (which I sincerely hope is not the case), I'd expect it during the lame duck period after the election but before inauguration.  Win or lose, Obama will be past caring what the electorate thinks at that point and will be free to do what he thinks the situation requires.

j_600
j_600

The constant drum beating about the alleged Iranian nuclear threat is really political theater that is more about political clout, regional ambitions and fear mongering-as-propaganda than an objective assessment of threat. What it does speak to is fear of Tehran's increased influence should it become a nuclear power.

The idea that Iran might get a bomb or two and then launch a pre-emptive strike on Israel is absolute nonsense, the type of paranoid fantasy pushed by Netanyahu.

The real reason the US and Israel can't abide the idea of a nuclear-capable Iran is because it would effectively thwart any future plans they might hatch that could include an invasion scenario. The last thing they want is increased Iranian deterrence.

The reason Iran would never use nukes to attack first is because they fully understand that such a move - assuming they even they wanted to go there - would lead to the vaporization of their country in an American response. 

What is most notable about the "threat" of an Iranian bomb is the amount of fabrication that has been going on in an effort to paint Iranian leadership as untrustworthy, even unhinged. I'd prefer to take my cue from former MOSSAD chief Meir Dagan who had access to intel that enabled him to intimately assess the mindset of the Iranian leadership. During a 60 Minutes interview Dagan characterized Iranian leadership as "rational" and moreover said Tehran thinks before it acts - suggesting a high level of political maturity.

I have no doubt Obama might engage in the folly of targeting Iran. He gives the nod to the kill list for the disgraceful drone program that has murdered hundreds of civilians in Pakistan along with alleged "militants." If it looks as though it might provide political leverage I'm sure an Iranian attack will be on the table - but never think for a second it is because Obama really believes Iran might strike out of the blue if they get a warhead.

Arash Irandoost
Arash Irandoost

 J-600 take off your rose colored glasses.  Iranian officials have on numerous occasions pledged to "Wipe Israel Off the Map" if you really think that is an empty threat-then you are asleep and as gullible as President Obama!

andalib
andalib

kiram dahanet vatanforush

Vinayprasad
Vinayprasad

j_600, a slight modification to your para 3. My version is as follows: The real reason the US and Israel can't abide the idea of a nuclear-capable Iran is because it would effectively thwart any future plans of getting hold on Iran's oil, permanently. Today, America is full of problems in its economy. Five years, ten years from now, America might again become very prosperous. Where is the "in house" oil to supply its citizens thirst for the next 50 years? It is IRAN. Simple.

bcfred
bcfred

The Permian Basin?  Eagle Ford Shale? Bakken? Alaska?  Continental Shelf? Piceance Basin?

We don't need to invade Iran. 

Vinayprasad
Vinayprasad

I wrote as a sarcasm. I too am absolutely against war. Please see my big posting at the end of this list of blogs. I was first to blog on this board, so it appears last.

JCDavis
JCDavis

If anyone is unhinged, it is Bibi and the US congress. Obama? Seems unlikely he would be in that group of crazies. Of course, he can only go by the stories our intelligence services tell him. And by past experience, those will be mostly lies and fantasy.

Kathy A. Yarbro
Kathy A. Yarbro

It would be easier to purge our government of it's zionist operatives than it would be to strike Iran. ..NDOQESB.Tk

Kathy A. Yarbro
Kathy A. Yarbro

@facebook-100000568457300:disqus all said : iran is a rationnal actor ! I quit working at shoprite and now I make $34h - $8Oh...how? I'm working online! My work didn't exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new… after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn't be happier. Heres what I do,..NDOQESB.Tk

Talendria
Talendria

It seems like you're ignoring the third option, which is that Iran produces enough radioactive material for suitcase bombs which "accidentally" winds up in the hands of terrorists.

Claude Boels
Claude Boels

Martin Dempsey, Benny Gantz, eprahim halevy, and the list go one

all said : iran is a rationnal actor !