Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Zakaria Iran Theory

Fareed Zakaria writes a good column in Newsweek about options for West in addressing Iran's quest for nuclear weapons. He rightly explains why Iranian President Ahmanijedad continues his vitriolic against Israel - in order to avoid any coming together of Arabs and Israel which otherwise will heighten the fear about a Shi'ite State acquiring nukes among Sunni Arabs. In such a scenario Sunni Arabs will forcefully align themselves with American efforts in thwarting Iranian nuke ambition. That is a good insight Zakaria is offering here. However, in the end this Zakaria article gives a feeling of 'do nothingness' in case of Iran. Many on Conservative side think Soviet style containment is euphemism for such 'do nothingness' and simply acceptance of Iranian nukes in the end.

George Kenan's containment was more in reference of the world wide quest of Soviet Union to increase its geopolitical sphere of influence and embedding certain ideology in far away places. Iranian state, though equally ideological in certain sense, is not talking any world wide quest of increasing the geopolitical sphere. Not only it is not in the league of Soviet Union when it comes to resources, it does not have the equivalent glow of sacrifice as like what was there with Soviet Union. Let us face it - Americans very well think that in the end they defeated Hitler, but in reality it was the Soviet Union with unimaginable scale of sacrifice who defeated the Nazis. Americans get the credit but the price was paid by Soviet Union largely, not to undermine what Americans contributed in the European theater; crucially the leadership on Western front. Compared to that the only Iranian regime's sacrifice was at the hands of Saddam Haussain in 8 years of Iran-Iraq war. With Saddam gone and new democratic Iraq on rise; all of that Iranian 'well' of sacrifice - what have you done lately - is depleted. While containment as a strategy against Soviets in Cold War era was imperative due to all of these reasons of then political history, heft of Soviets along with their nukes & Sputniks and overall receptive image of Soviets all over world immediately after WWII; to stretch that anology to Iran does not fly. Add to that it was rare to hear any language of 'wiping out nations and people from map' as well sponsorship of Terrorism from Soviets. No, I do not intend to sing paeans for Soviets nor do I wish it to come back. Soviets are good where they are - graveyard of History. But the point is in the end current Iranian Regime also belongs there but the Kenan containment strategy against Soviets is not applicable here.

In case of India and Pakistan, containment applies in shades because there is this balance of mutually assured destructiveness on both Indian and Pakistan side. Besides there is a whip of again MAD between India and China too, at least to a some lesser degree. But in case of Middle East, to ingite that race will be too destabilizing for the world peace. Israeli nukes are more along the lines of Japanese and S. Korea - ready for assembly in quick time. For Israel to survive in the sea of enemies all around, it needs nuclear weapon readiness.

Coming back to the Zakeria article, he denounces any military attacks on Iran because that will immediately force the Iranian Opposition to back the discredited regime of Ayatollah. Response there is - so what? To sustain and nurture democratic Iranian Opposition is not whole responsibility of the rest of world. Rest of the world can encourage democratic opposition to Aytollahs, but in order to maintain any such political space, the world cannot simply accept nuclear shenanigans of a nation which actually has signed NPT (India, Pakistan and Israel have not). If the entire Iranian nation, including democratic opposition of Ayatollahs, wants to continue the quest of nukes; all of them will have to be made to learn how unacceptable such a quest is. Political demonstrations and martyrdom in hands of Ayatollahs while fighting for freedom and liberty is no license to make nuke bombs. Iranian democratic opposition is doing what they are doing for the benefit of their own people, beyond a point that cannot be a political debt which rest of the world has to pay back.

Sec. of Defense Gates has said, more in the vein of discouragement, that any military attack will only delay the Iranian nukes. But that is really the only outcome feasible until and unless Iranian people as a whole accept that such a quest of nukes is ultimately of no benefit to them. Such delay in nuke building is what rest of the world can rationally expect, accept and with if push comes to shove. Arguments like what Zakeria offers simply do not stand there.

America and Obama Presidency will be well advised to not take any military option off the table and should even execute it as and when needed if diplomacy fails.

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