Nasr and Takeyh claim that while Iran presents serious problems for the U.S. (quest for nuclear capability, interventions in Iraq, opposition to Israeli-Palestinian peace) the bigger issue is the Bush administration’s conviction that Iran cannot be an integral component of a stable Middle East.
“ Not unlike Russia and China, Iran is a growing power seeking to become a pivotal state in its region.”
Senator Joseph R. Biden of Delaware, said that any sanctions on Iran that included an embargo on purchases of its oil "would have a dramatic, dramatic negative impact." (NYT February 15, 2006)
Iraqi military (dismantled in 2003) was primary instrument in containing Iran.
United States would have to commit large numbers of troops to the region indefinitely.
Given the already wide anti-American sentiment in the Gulf, redeployment of troops would be unacceptable to states in the region.
Only alternative would be for the U.S. to rely on weaker regional actors- but even major arms sales cannot shift the balance of power away from Iran as the largest state in the Persian Gulf (size, population, economy).
Arab people do not share the anti-Iranian sentiment of their governments, and continue to see Israel as a greater threat than Iran. Ahmadinejad’s denunciations of Israel and support for Hamas and Hezbollah have won him the support of the Arab masses.
Tehran enjoys significant soft power in the Middle East. Does America enjoy soft power in the Middle East? Does Israel?
Growing Iranian influence expanding in power vacuum of failing states.
Center of gravity has shifted from the Levant to the Persian Gulf. It is now more likely that peace and stability in the Persian Gulf would bring peace to the Levant (rather than the other way around).
Also, in the 1980s when America drummed up Arab support to contain Iran it resulted in radicalized Sunni extremism and al Qaeda. Containing Iran by the same means today would mean promoting Sunni extremism all over again.
Iran’s recent (April, 2006) announcement that it enriched uranium was politically motivated (not a breakthrough toward the imminent production of a weapon)
Iran is at least three years from having the fissile materials needed for a crude nuclear bomb, and 5-10 years from making one (still time for diplomacy).
Military strikes against Iran are extremely unlikely any time soon.
Military strikes could kill 10,000 Iranians, permanently alienate Iran from the U.S., invoke retaliation, and devastate oil markets- driving oil prices to $100/barrel- been there done that..
Karim Sadjadpour The next U.S. president should : Associate Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Focus initially on areas where the United States and Iran share common interests, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than issues with little or no common interest, like the nuclear issue or the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.
Fareed Zakaria sees no reason not to use sanctions and embargoes against states such as Iran, But he suggests that we also need to “allow a viable way out.” That is to say, we need to negotiate and not merely mandate.
Cliff Kupchan acknowledges that President Bush has definitely strained the relationship between Washington and Tehran, he points out that Iran “did agree to suspend enrichment for two years.” Kupchan suggests that there may be more than one way of dealing with Iran. Cliff Kupchan is Director, Europe and Eurasia, at the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy.
Joel Rosenthal suggests that Ahmadinejad is using the Bush administration’s threats to “rally nationalist sentiment” and take the Iranian people’s focus off domestic problems such as corruption and unemployment. Rosenthal suggests that it’s time the United States allows democracy to change the Iranian regime from the inside. He reminds us that for all of Iran’s meddling in Iraq, it was Bush that handed Iran an entrance into Iraq in the first place.
Joel H. Rosenthal is president of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.
While we faced a much bigger threat from Mao Zedong in the 1970s, who claimed that China could withstand the loss of hundreds of millions in a nuclear confrontation and still come out standing due to its large population, Betts points out that we’ve “yet to hear anything that chilling from Ahmadinejad.” Betts claims that anyone “who beats the drum for war against Iran fits the classic definition of a fanatic.”
Furthermore, Betts assures us that in addition to causing even greater alienation from the Muslim world, a US attack on Iran would most likely only delay Iran’s nuclear capabilities for a few years. This is because the US has “given Tehran ample warning to hide important elements of the necessary infrastructure.” Betts also reminds us that nuclear weapons technology is sixty years old. “The crusade to keep all second-rate powers from acquiring a nuclear weapon...is ultimately a rear-guard action.”
Richard Betts: Adjunct Senior Fellow for National Security Studies
Author and founder of the Eurasia Group Ian Bremmer reports that he heard Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, speak at the Arab Strategy Forum in Dubai, where Larijani “invited other Middle Eastern states to join Iran in a regional security organization that excludes the United States and called on Arab governments to develop nuclear programs to facilitate a nuclear OPEC.” Bremmer agrees with Rosenthal that Ahmadinejad is attempting to win “support at home by taking a harder-line position on the nuclear program.” Bremmer also points out that “Iran isn’t a totalitarian state like North Korea. There’s real opposition in the country to other elements of Ahmadinejad’s political agenda.” Bremmer rejects the Bush administration’s military approach to Iran, suggesting that President Bush needs to “develop a more nuanced and moderate approach, one that stops feeding Ahmadinejad new opportunities to play the defiant champion to the United States” (Gramercy Round, 2007:72-77).
David C. Hendrickson and Robert W. Tucker (2006:50-1) maintain that “the confident assertions that Iran has decided to acquire nuclear weapons and will bend every effort to do so is simply worst-case speculation dressed up as fact.”
They insist that there is no evidence to assume that Iran wants anything more than nuclear energy for civilian uses.
The United States needs to be very aware of Iran’s growing political influence in the international community as well. In a sermon commencing the month of Ramadan 2007, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the Bush administration of war crimes in Iraq, and of attempting to undermine Islam in the Middle East.
Amidst chants from worshipers: “Death to America,” Khamenei stated that he has “a firm belief that one day this current US president and the American officials will be tried in a fair international court for the atrocities committed in Iraq.”
Iran’s conventional military potential aside, US Intelligence assesses that Iran will likely have nuclear weapons capability within the decade (Select Committee on Intelligence, 2006).
James R. Schlesinger Professor of Strategic Studies at Georgetown University and former chairman of the United States Institute of Peace (1992-2004). Chester Crocker suggests that President Bush has “squandered” America’s opportunity to secure Iran’s cooperation. In a previous era, America could have obtained a “ truly global consensus” and presented it to the Iranians. “ But the diplomacy of the global war on terror has mortgaged America’s capacity to line up such support.”