Friday, January 01, 2010

Andrew Sullivan on Iran

The eminent blogger of our time, Andrew Sullivan, writes about what political choices President Obama can undertake with regards to Iran. Andrew has been undertaking 'in depth' blogging about past and ongoing resistance movement in Iran against their current rulers. Very few blogging sites or Media outlets have undertaken such a vigorous coverage of happenings in Iran. His credibility and track record in this area is unmatched and for that reason no one can argue lightly against his views.

Precisely because Andrew has been the leading light on 'thinking about Iran' it is important to address his contentions and prescriptions. There are two points he makes in his long and in depth blog post:
- it is not about 'us' (meaning Americans or those in West who back political freedom and resistance movement to attain such freedom) and
- America and West will inevitably have to accept Iran with Nuclear weapons.

His first contention is obvious and straight forward to agree with. His indirect and at times direct aim over there is to refute the line 'march of freedom will solve the problem of hostile regimes' kind of argument of Bush Government (Cheney and Rice propounded that line further). No one is under any NeoCon impressions that such 'march of freedom' will bring peace to West. Realism in classic American tradition has triumphed, we do not have Bush Administration any longer, American Foreign Policy is no more beholden by NeoCons and President Obama has firmly planted the Realism in American Foreign Policy.

It is his second contention where there any many problems. Andrew rules out any military action because he thinks that it will ignite kind of Islamic Terrorism which West will not be able to withstand and effectively Western societies will burn away in that reaction (or another oil shock can debilitate global economies). And then there are no other options available like workable sanctions as he rightly diagnoses that in the end Russia and more over China will not come around such sanctions. As a result, there is no choice apart from accepting the nuclear Iran; that is his argument.

The basic flaw in this argument is Andrew, effectively in kind of irresponsible way, completely ignores what will be the consequences of Nuclear Iran. As many have pointed, straight forward consequences of this developments will be:
- Sunni Arab states like Saudi Arabia, Syria and Egypt will necessarily go after Nuclear weapons and
- Iran will embolden Hezhbolla and Hamas to strike against Israel (one reason why Hamas may prefer to lie low now - wait until internal Iran turmoil subsides and Iran acquires nukes).

Nuclear Iran will for sure ignite the ultimate race among all these Middle East Nations to don the mantle of Islamic Leadership. Those who fail to point out this or attempt to put forward some erudite argument saying why this will not happen; are essentially playing with fire. Such arguments are wrong and rest of the world will be then needed to concede the 'space' to Iranian Islamic way of life. Iran has been trying to get hold in Arab-Israel conflict as a way to establish credentials to establish Islamic Leadership (so as Iranian strength is not just limited for Shi'ite brethren but extends to Sunni brotherhood too). With nukes, there will not be any end to violence which will be unleashed by Hamas.

So the real question is what is the cost of undertaking any military or surgical attacks in Iran; especially feared backlash. What Andrew implies that such a backlash will be across the board in Middle East, kind of Islamic backlash; that is not convincing. Why would Sunni Arabs, Saudi and Egypt would participate in any such anti-Western violence? They will not. If the argument is we have remnants of Sunni Al-Qeda joined by new groups of Shi'ite militants; is it any worse than when Nuclear Iran is igniting violence for Hamas? How do we know that nuclear Iran will be only content with Arab-Israel conflict? What permutations with China and Russia would complicate the whole way of life for Western Countries and rest of the world?

The reason risks of nuclear Iran must be fully understood and challenges of stopping Iranian nukes must be met is, it is pretty clear that regardless of who governs Iran; pursuit of nuclear weapons will be unchanged. Exactly since Iran's internal resistance is 'not about us' and it is about them. This means by now American Realism has fully understood that any regime change in Iran has no relation with the constant danger of Iran in pursuit of nuclear weapons. That danger has be to met and nullified. Iran signed NPT and in clear volition of that and many other UN resolutions is pursuing nuclear weapons. The end goal of nuclear disarmament, which President Obama wants to pursue so earnestly as he articulated in his UN speech and Noble Peace Prize Acceptance speech; will not be achieved when nuclear Iran ignites the nuclear arms race in Middle East. We just have to look at South Asia to understand how deep animosities entrenched over multiple cartography changing wars is a recipe for nuclear arms race when one nation acquires nukes. Further, though nuclear Pakistan never came close to any kind of Islamic Leadership, failed Pakistani state is equally a danger considering all the proliferation which goes on.

As commentators like Andrew Sullivan (the whole bunch mentioned Marc Lynch here) do not want to evaluate the 'cost and consequences side of the ledger' when Iran attains nuclear weapons; they conveniently reject the option of military action in the fear of starting global reactions. Obama Presidency may have started in a darker period, but it can never be darker than when Leader of the Free World looses any gumption to stop descend of the Middle East into a nuclear era which eventually will result in:
- annihilation of Jewish State and
- end of Western way of life as we know.

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