September 10, 2012

Obama's Handling of Iran - A Slo-Mo Train Wreck of Epic Proportions and So Painful to Watch!

Where to start with commentary about Iran, the threat it poses to Middle East stability, to the security of Israel, and to the reputation (and thereby the global influence) of the U.S.?

According to the 2012 Democratic National Platform, the President:
- has placed 'unprecedented sanctions' against Iran,
- is 'committed to using all instruments of national power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons',
- 'expose[d] Iranian intransigence' (re its continued violation of NPT protocols) by making an offer to engage which the Iranians--surprise!--rebuffed, and
- has 'rall[ied] the international community as never before' supposed in unified opposition to Iran's effort to acquire a nuclear weapon.

According to the President's team, it would seem things are well in hand. But a look at the facts on the ground paints a different and very disturbing picture. Without doubt a covert war is ongoing between Iran and the US and Israel but this has been the case for some time, certainly preceding the current Administration (just 'google' 'covert war us israel iran' for a deluge of reporting, but here and here are a couple to make the point). What is most worrisome is that the Administration seems not to understand how severe the danger posed by Iran truly is and that continued foot-dragging to explore 'all diplomatic options' will most probably result in either a nuclear-armed Iran or an Israeli attack to keep it from happening. Both outcomes will upend the Middle East and impact US interests not just regionally, but globally.

Consider this, Iran has relentlessly pursued development of a nuclear capability for decades in spite of sanctions, diplomatic pressures, security council resolutions, IAEA inspections, domestic discord, or speeches by American Presidents in Cairo. All the while it has protested that its effort are peaceful and exclusively focused on civilian power generation. As detailed by multiple reports, however (see here, here, and here for examples), civilian nuclear power requires uranium fuel enriched to 3-5%; Iran is producing enriched uranium at 20% purity. (According to 'the experts', the 20% threshold takes Iran ninety percent of the way to full weapons grade highly enriched uranium (HEU). As in almost any pursuit, there are thresholds and rapid advances... i.e. it takes a while to master a skill at a given level but once that skill is achieved one makes rapid progress to the next skill/capability threshold). Also it is quickly gathering momentum in both enrichment capacity and speed as well as the technical know-how to configure a warhead and deliver it to a target.

If you were Israel, would this worry you? It certainly would me. But not to worry, says our President; things are well-in-hand. He may truly believe this but the Israelis have a much different perspective, one not so nearly complacent. See this and this for starters. So while they legitimately worry about national survival, we have a hard time deciding where their capitol (and here) is or whether we need to reduce the level of ambiguity about where we stand relative to Iran's drive for a nuclear weapons capability.

This Administration just doesn't seem to understand how and why cultures in that region behave nor the age-old lesson that influence is significantly dependent on physical presence. When armies are on the march, one cannot simply 'phone in' objections. For example, while the President and his party tout withdrawal from Iraq as a victory for American diplomacy under his watch, they fail to realize that US absence from that region enables our enemies to pursue actions that cause a much greater harm, such as Iranian use of Iraqi airspace as a corridor to resupply Assad so he can continue slaughtering civilians in his effort to retain power.

It's a sad day when Canada understands the threat posed by Iran better than we do and takes action accordingly. In our country, I'd just like to see the President take a real interest in our security given the stakes involved. Perhaps then our policies, actions, and interests would align in a way that advanced our interests, protected our friends, and neutralized our enemies. Wouldn't that be nice?

[Update: New story from AP - New Intelligence on Iran Nuke Work - underscore the concerns discussed above.]
[Update 2: Obama Snubs Netanyahu. Supposedly the 'U.S. has Israel's back' while tensions continue to rise regarding Iran's nuclear program but our President can't find time to meet with Israel's Prime Minister?]

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