Friday, January 20, 2006

The Australian: Diplomacy has failed and the choice is clear

Kash - I don't agree with Michael Costello's assessment that military action is the only choice now for the West (US and Israel, in fact) to stop Iran's nuclear program, though just like him, I do believe that imposing universally-respected sanctions on Iran will be an uphill battle for the US and its true allies. On that much, I can agree.

Michael Costello - THE world will either have to accept an Iran with nuclear weapons or it will have to use force to destroy its capability.

Diplomacy has not worked and will not work. Sanctions will not do the trick. Hopes of fomenting internal strife and supporting democratic elements that could topple the fundamentalist regime are hopes that were held for Iraq and elsewhere and which evaporated amid cries of treachery and bad faith.

The heart of the problem is that to be successful, diplomatic pressure on Iran has to be universal, and it isn't. The Russians, after all, are making billions out of Iran by supplying nuclear technology and arms. The Chinese are doing big commercial deals and need Iran's oil for their own economic expansion.

Both are very happy to see the US undermined - in the case of the declining Russians, for reasons of historical resentment, and in the case of the ever-ascending Chinese, as part of their long-term strategy of chipping away at US pre-eminence, global standing and legitimacy.

What about military force? Make no mistake. The US alone, or with others, could destroy Iran's nuclear facilities with conventional weapons. It is exactly that capability for sudden surprise action using bombers and cruise missiles and elaborate target identification that the US has developed since September 11 under the global strike doctrine.

So, does it not make sense to accept a nuclear Iran just as we accepted and contained the Soviet Union and China, and as we have accepted a nuclear India and Pakistan?

The problem is this. Iran is run by Islamic fundamentalist extremists. The President of Iran has excited much interest by declaring the Holocaust to be a myth and calling for wiping Israel from the face of the earth. He is not big-noting himself. He is accurately reflecting the views of those who run the country.

Iran finances and intimately works with a multitude of terrorist groups throughout the Middle East and globally. A nuclear Iran could quickly be a nuclear Hezbollah and a nuclear Hamas. The doctrine of containment assumes that the leadership of the country to be contained has an interest in their personal survival, not a glorification of death, including suicide, and puts national preservation before ideology or religion. None of this applies to Iran.

So there it is. The threat may be a few years away or it may be a few months away. The choice is hard on the world, and above all on Israel. Acceptance or force: either way dreadful. But inaction, pretending diplomacy is another option, is in practice a choice for acceptance. So let's not fool ourselves. Choose.