Iran: the new boogeyman

    U.S.-Iran relations have been in the news for a couple of years now. After the U.S. invaded Iraq, the liberal stereotypes in this country drew an N over the Q on their “Attack Iraq? NO!” buttons and bumper stickers to get credit for having been the first to protest the new war. But although President Bush, like President Clinton and every other president, has no trouble convincing himself that invading or taking over other countries with abundant natural resources is best for all concerned, there has been no Iran war.

    Although the U.S. would like to take over Iran, the failure to properly pacify Iraq has made war with Iran impossible. This despite the fact that, at least a couple times per month, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says something about something – Israel, the U.S., nuclear technology – that becomes national news. Ahmadinejad is crazy, you see, and can’t be trusted with a nuclear weapon. Whether genuinely outrageous, taken out of context to seem outrageous, or entirely sensible, the U.S. media uses Ahmadinejad’s comments to justify “tougher” policies on Iran.

    But as every U.S. policy-maker knows, the Iranian president, whomever he happens to be, does not determine Iran’s foreign policy, and is not the real head of the government. And even if the Iranians had a nuclear weapon, they would only use it in self-defense. To do otherwise would be national suicide.

    According to International Atomic Energy Association Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, “Iran in the worst-case scenario is still a few years away” from developing a nuclear weapon.

    ElBaradei says that there are two myths about non-nuclear states’ intentions in trying to acquire nuclear weapons. The first myth is that rogue leaders want nuclear weapons to empower themselves and conquer the world. The real reason countries try to develop nuclear weapons “is not really leader-specific. It is country-specific,” ElBaradei says. Non-nuclear states cannot accept on faith the nuclear states’ promises that they won’t attack. And the only defense against a nuclear attack is to possess a nuclear deterrent.

    ElBaradei says, “The second myth is that nuclear weapons are OK in the hands of ‘the good guys’ and not OK in the hands of ‘the bad guys.'” When it comes to international monitoring of nuclear capabilities, “good” and “bad” are useless subjective terms. The technology is available to every country, whether we label them good or bad, and as long as the technology is available and one country has it, every country will want it.

    Officially, the U.S. has a number of problems with Iran. In addition to its nuclear program and nuclear weapons that don’t exist, according to the 2006 United States National Security Strategy, the Iranian “regime” also “sponsors terrorism; threatens Israel; seeks to thwart Middle East peace; disrupts democracy in Iraq; and denies the aspirations of its people for freedom.” This means that even if the Iranian government suspended all nuclear activities, U.S. policy toward Iran wouldn’t get any “softer.” Instead, U.S. policy would get tougher, as an Iran without even the possibility of developing nuclear weapons would be defenseless, and the U.S. would have a better chance of replacing the defiant Iranian government with a pliant one. The ultimate goal for the U.S., according to the National Security Strategy, is freedom for all of Iran’s people, although the freedom of the U.S. to control Iranian policies to benefit U.S. companies is surely another goal.

    To reach these goals, columnist Max Boot, in a Los Angeles Times op-ed on Wednesday, wrote that war with Iran is “out of the question.” But the U.S. still has plenty of options in Iran. President Bush says Iran, an officially designated state sponsor of terrorism, and its leaders “cynically support rival groups” in Iraq to create violence, chaos and instability. Boot says the U.S. should do the same in Iran. Because only a slight majority of the country is Persian, the U.S. should exploit ethnic tensions and encourage Arab, Kurd and Baluchi separatist groups to commit terrorist bombings. The U.S. can even “set loose” the members of the “leftist political cult” Mujahedin Khalq who are detained in Iraq to have them “make trouble across the border” in Iran.

    So speaks the right wing in the left-wing media. When the Iranian president makes such statements, he’s a demagogue. When an American does, he’s probably a syndicated columnist.