Absent America’s acceptance of its regional responsibilities, Israel is left with the pyrrhic choice to either attack Iran herself, and face worldwide condemnation and isolation for the economic crisis to follow; or to stand by as one after another of her Arab neighbors falls into the Iranian orbit and to eventually face a united Islamic front backed by a nuclear Iran.
If the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran (NIE) provided the Bush Administration a graceful withdrawal from its public “tough guy” persona regarding the Iranian bomb, (Ahmadinejad applauded the NIE as “proof” that Iran’s nuclear intentions are peaceful!) Bush’s selection of Mike Mullen as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff provided all the backing he needed to shelve a strike entirely.
Even before his appointment Admiral Mullen was on record as opposed to attacking Iran. Although his explanations are various, such as insufficient forces for another war; avoiding the appearance of being at war with Islam, etc., his primary concern seemed always to center on his fear that Iran would retaliate against US forces deployed in the warzones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and against American military installations in the Middle East. On June 8, 2007, months before his appointment he stated before an audience of cadets at the U. S. Naval Academy, "I''m concerned about what Iran''s doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, you know, broadly providing capability to which we are losing American soldiers on the ground and Marines on the ground." And, on July 2, 2008, responding to the possibility that Israel, increasingly doubtful of US intentions, might take matters into her own hands the admiral warned, "This is a very unstable part of the world and I don''t need it to be more unstable." And more recently, in his March 9, 2009 interview with Haaretz, the admiral again reminded Israel that an Israeli strike on Iran might possibly endanger American forces in the Gulf region, “who are under the threat envelope right now.” Talk about chutzpah! Arabs and Jews live constantly under that “threat envelope.”
All of which points to the weakness, from the locals point of view, of America’s Middle East policy. American commitment, while obviously serving immediate and tactical US interests, fails to take into consideration the legitimate and strategic needs of Iran’s neighbors. Both the Carter Doctrine and the Reagan Corollary at least expressed awareness of the presence of local allies, that their needs had also to be accommodated. Since Bush II America’s regional policies have taken on the appearance and substance of serving America first, and only. As regards the US Chairman of the JCS, I suppose a military leader might be forgiven for failing to understand America''s "global interests" as part of his military mission; but recognizing a military threat and failing, or fearing [as it appears to Iran] to confront the threat? No wonder regional locals are suspicious of American motives, resolve and ability. No wonder the drift away from trusting American defense assurances.
Which raises the question of what precisely are “acceptable” consequences under this Bush-Obama-Mullen policy towards Iran? Is a Middle East nuclear arms race, often acknowledged as possible by US policy-makers and leaders including Mullen, is this an acceptable outcome? Is the potential to arm international terrorism with a state-sponsored nuclear weapons an acceptable consequence? Is a nuclear arsenal in the hands of a regime that welcomes national suicide in a nuclear war, who declares it an affirmation of faith in heralding the return of their messiah, the Twelfth Imam, the Mehdi; is a regime that welcomes Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) an acceptable consequence of this two-administration US policy of appeasing Iran?
Have American policy makers and their Middle East “expert” advisers seriously considered the consequences of their allowing Iran to go nuclear?
In reality Iran is far less than the threatening shadow it throws across the Middle East. It’s just a second world country with limited military abilities as clearly demonstrated by its battlefield failures against Iraq in the 1980’s. But thanks to American temerity on the battlefield, its naïve (or selfish) diplomacy the US, past and present, provides Iran a stage on which to project an image far larger than life.
In Part 1 of this article I referred to Turkey moving steadily away from the US and inching towards Iran. Certainly this is understandable in face of a continuing US policy of appeasing the rising threat. In today’s (27 October) media the following three stories appeared which highlight regional concerns and, more troubling, the drift of regional states away from the American alliance. From Turkey, the Turkish Forum writes, “Turkey’s top security body is set to discuss Wednesday whether to back a U.S.-led plan to build a missile-defense shield against rogue states — a move that could force Ankara to choose between its longstanding westward orientation and its recent courtship of Iran.”
From Saudi Arabia, “‘Iran is not the enemy, Israel is the enemy,’ the head of the Center for Strategic Studies in Saudi Arabia declared in an interview with Al Jazeera. This was his response to a question on whether the $60 billion arms deal between Riyadh and Washington was meant to deter Iran.” In a diplomatic slap, the interview was given while Jeffrey Feltman, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs was visiting Saudi Arabia. Feltman was in Riyadh to address concerns in Washington that the Saudis were following the Turkish example of reaching out to Iran.
Traditionally the Shiite Iranians and the Wahabi Saudis are religious as well as national enemies. But America’s failure to even deal with the provocative and destabilizing visit of Ahmadinejad to Lebanon meant that it was up to the Saudis and the Iranians to remove the threat of another Lebanese civil war by each accommodating the other. Even more pointedly, it was reported that the two traditional enemies were also discussing spheres of influence in a post-withdrawal Iraq. And Syria, the country Obama has put so much effort into trying to detach from Iran, Assad all but dismissed the United States in an interview which appeared in the United Arab Emirate''s Khaleej Times. The US, he said, "created chaos in every place it entered... Is Afghanistan stable? Is Somalia stable? Did they bring stability to Lebanon in 1983?" According to the paper the Syrian''s remarks were intended as a snub to Washington, another obvious indication of America''s diminished stature in the eyes of local leaders. After all, if the US fears to confront Iran, why risk offending the country the US fears to confront?
And then, of course, Israel. Whatever the president’s motives for doing so, and speculation ranges from building credibility with the Arabs to rank anti-Zionism, two years of the Obama Administration have left Israel feeling increasingly isolated from the superpower. No less than the Saudis and the Gulf Emirates or Turkey, Israel is faced with accommodating a tepid American response to an increasingly aggressive and self-assured Islamic Republic. But unlike Turkey or Egypt or the Saudis, where Iranian ultimate intentions are shrouded in uneasy Moslem unity in face of the Christian West, Israel is considered the bridgehead of that hated Christian West.
Absent the unlikely acceptance by Obama of America’s regional responsibilities vis the Iranians, Israel is left with the pyrrhic choice to either confront Iran by herself or, appreciating that unilateral action against Iran would earn her international ire for the likely global financial catastrophe to follow, Israel would then face yet another existential threat of international isolation. Standing by and watching one after another of her Arab neighbors fall into the Iranian orbit would, in the end, leave Israel once again facing a united “eastern front.” But this time that front would be backed by a regime not only intent on its destruction, by having the nuclear potential to turn threat into reality. And this time there would be no “special relationship” to rely on for munitions and spare parts and diplomatic cover.