Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran?

Under the headline “No Quiet on the Third Front,” today’s Washington Post reminds us all that geopolitical lunacy is alive and well in Washington. Take a deep breath of Potomac air, and you may smell the summer of 2002, with just a waft of Iraq. Today’s aroma, of course, is Eau d’Iran.

The war drums have been beating for awhile because of Iranian nuclear activities. The accusation, for which there is insufficient public evidence to reach any reasoned conclusion, is that Iran is committed to producing nuclear weapons and that it will be capable of fabricating a nuclear bomb soon. Given missile technology available to them, such a weapon could be mounted for ballistic delivery anywhere in the region (notably Israel), and eventually could menace the United States as well. Doomsayers add the prophetic warning that Iran would have few scruples about using such a weapon if they had one.

All of this, of course, is based upon intelligence from Washington and Jerusalem, which is suspect. Any American intelligence in this regard has probably been cherry picked and sanitized to provide a worst case analysis, and the Israelis (at least the Likudniks who have so much sway in Israeli security policy), have wanted to “do something” about Iran for awhile. Just last week, they completed an airpower exercise over the Mediterranean said to be a practice run for bombing Iranian nuclear facilities.

The Iranians, not surprisingly, do not take such suggestions well. They deny they are trying to make bombs, and nobody has issued a convincing refutation of that assertion. Moreover, they quite rightly assert that an air raid intended to take out their nuclear facilities would be a hostile act of war, to which they would have no choice but respond. They suggest closing the Persian Gulf would be an appropriate response.

Enter the United States. Questioned about the Iranian threat (or counterthreat, depending on how one views the sequenc), America’s top naval commander in the Gulf region, Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, opined that blocking access into and out of the Gulf would be “an act of war.” Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff agrees that Cosgriff’s interpretation is an “accurate statement.” When asked if the United States was threatening war with Iran or would support an Israeli attack, President Bush ducked the question, saying America’s “first option” for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program was the use of diplomacy. He did not specify further options. There is a growing opinion that Israel may act before the end of the year.

Wait a minute! Does this not sound a great deal like the way the American public was propagandized to the idea that a war against Iraq was necessary in 2002 and early 2003? In retrospect, the propaganda campaign leading to Iraq was clearly a pack of lies. Why should the American public believe those making parallel arguments today? 

Attacking Iraq turns out to have been one of the most monumentally stupid acts in the history of American foreign policy, but it pales in comparison with the idea of getting into a conflict with Iran. Go to the CIA Factbook or some similar source and compare Iraq and Iran. If we have had trouble subduing Iraq, imagine what it would be like trying to beat the world’s second oldest country. Does anybody think anyone but the Israelis would support such an action? The Israelis, of course, are concerned that Iran could become their counterbully in the region. The United States is already seen in the region as Israel’s poodle, and supporting an Israeli action would only reinforce this perception. One can go on and on making invidious comparisons.

One is tempted to say this whole scenario is too crazy to be taken seriously, but some of us said that in 2002. With one of the major party candidates on video record paraphrasing his favorite rock group, the Beach Boys, singing “Bomb. bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran”, is there anything too bizarre to fit into the current geopolitical “silly season?”

Source: Dana Milbank, “No Quiet on the Third Front.” Washington Post, July 6, 2008, A03.  



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