Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The President's Iran Policy

In principle it's hard to argue against the President's Iranian policy which grows out of his desire to make war a last resort. He wants Israel to postpone an attack on Iran until diplomacy and sanctions have had a chance to work. The problem is that it seems a case of too little too late. The severest sanctions don't kick in until June.

Meanwhile, the Iranians have invested billions of dollars, enormous prestige, and fifteen years in developing a nuclear weapon. They see themselves as just a few months away from achieving their goal. For them to say at this point that, okay, we'll stop building a bomb that will enable us to destroy Israel and intimidate the world would be like a marathon runner far ahead of the field in the Olympics deciding to quit ten yards short of the finish line. It's hard to believe that they're now going to back off just because the infidels impose a few inconveniences, especially when they can turn to the Russians and the Chinese for enough assistance to push them across the line.

The problem with the president's policy, other than it allows the Iranians to buy more time to make destroying their nuclear facilities both harder and costlier, is that it may have generated two unfortunate consequences.

First, some commentators have suggested that a deal has been struck with Iran to stay out of Syria. The Iranians have made it a precondition for negotiations, this theory goes, that we not interfere with Bashar Assad's systematic slaughter of his people. If so, it would explain our willingness to sit by and watch the citizens of Hom get blown to pieces by Syrian tanks even though we launched attacks against Libya with far, far less provocation.

Secondly, our dilatory approach toward Iran has, according to some sources, deeply angered the Saudis who loathe the Iranian regime and want us to end it. The Saudis, these sources say, are allowing oil prices to rise as a means of pressuring Mr. Obama who sees high fuel costs to be one of the gravest threats to his reelection. Attack Iran, the Saudis seem to be saying, or face $6.00 per gallon gas by November and almost certain defeat at the polls.

I'm not saying that either of these are true, but they do have a certain logic and the first seems to be an open secret in Western capitals.

At any rate, I think that, given what little we know, the president is so far probably doing the right thing in making sure that war comes only after all other options have been exhausted. At least I think he should be given the benefit of the doubt. I'm not at all optimistic, however, that sanctions will deter the Iranians, and as Tehran grows closer to developing a nuclear weapon, or to making their development facilities impregnable to attack, Mr. Obama is going to have to switch to other options or acquiesce in a nuclearized Iran and all the danger that entails.

If he does that he'll be seen as the Neville Chamberlain of our time.