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Obama’s War of Choice

Obama’s war of choice, coming in 2011?

    “Iran is definitely in Obama’s sights. He has ceased courting it, and is girding for the confrontation. But not yet. … Last year was the year of public relations; 2010 is the year of pressure. The crushing blow that comes after the pressure will not be dealt before next year.”

“The year of public relations” — that’s what worries me. Did Obama “court” Iran not because he wanted a deal — whether a narrow deal on uranium enrichment, or a broader deal leading to warmer relations — but as a gesture designed to fail? Did he set out merely to show the world that he was being reasonable, that he offered his hand and Iran refused? If that is the case, the failure will now be used to isolate Iran even further, softening world public opinion for military action down the road — once punitive sanctions, too, have been tried and failed.

The Ha’aretz writer I cited above thinks he can read Obama’s mind. He believes that Obama has given up on negotiations and will attack Iran, but is waiting until after the November elections for political reasons. I’m not so sure, but I do worry. Washington has limited its outreach to Tehran to a single issue — an all-or-nothing uranium swap — and now keeps repeating how unimpressed they are with Tehran’s attempts to meet them halfway. (Iran is willing to do a swap, but not all at once, rather in stages over several months.) Negotiations are at a stalemate, and the U.S. is busy rallying the global powers to punish Iran through sanctions. Meanwhile, Congress has passed its own sanctions bill by an overwhelming vote. Unless the game changes suddenly due to an Iranian popular revolution in the next few months — which won’t happen — it increasingly looks like the stage is being set, and consciously so, for a military showdown in 2011 as Ha’aretz claims.

What has Iran done to deserve this? Its leaders have said repeatedly they don’t want a nuclear weapon. Western intelligence has found no evidence that they are pursuing a weapon. Stories were planted in Western newspapers claiming that the Iranians are testing some sort of nuclear detonator, but these stories have been shown to be false. Iran’s uranium enrichment program is well within its rights under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and they are cooperating with IAEA inspectors. I don’t understand the justification — moral, strategic, or otherwise — for a showdown with Iran.

If it’s true that Obama has already made up his mind to attack Iran, that would prove him to be even more duplicitous than I already know him to be. The condescension of pretending to want peace, while preparing for war — I’ve perceived it in him since his Nobel Peace Prize speech. But if he goes so far as to attack Iran, a country that has done nothing to the U.S., after pledging to reach out — may he be condemned by history, may he be buried in shame.

Of course, I may be jumping the gun. Perhaps the Ha’aretz columnist is projecting his own fantasies onto Obama. My own fears, too, could be wrong — I certainly hope so. If Obama decides to negotiate sincerely, without preconditions as he promised during his campaign, far-ranging breakthroughs are possible, instead of this senseless division. Or maybe Russia and China will make the price of military action too high. Or maybe the U.S. will blunder into the bloody chaos of its third Middle East war. I guess we’ll know soon enough — in another year or two.

— • —

Here’s Iranian rapper Salome calling for the Iranian people to remain united regardless of “family” differences — since there are those trying to exploit those differences “who don’t care about us.” This addresses itself to those in Washington who hope a “Green Revolution” will play to its advantage, as well as to opportunists in Iran hoping to use the divisions to gain power. (Thanks to Lenin’s Tomb for the link.)