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What are Iran's intentions?

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In previous posts, we looked at the recent press-driven run-up to war with Iran; and looked at Israel's likely strategy (here and especially here).

Now let's look at Iran's side. Based on my reading and observation, I think Noam Chomsky gets it exactly right in this recent piece, "What are Iran's intentions?"

As usual with Chomsky, there's more in the article than just the answer to the headline. I therefore suggest you read it through (it's not long, and very accessible).

This is the Iran part.

Chomsky first notes the work of Israeli strategist Zeev Maoz, who says “the balance sheet of Israel’s nuclear policy is decidedly negative” and who calls for a WMD-free zone (WMDFZ) in the Middle East (which was also called for by a 1974 U.N. General Assembly resolution, by the way). That WMD-free zone would include Israel, Iran, India and Pakistan.

Then he takes a look at Iran's historical strategic posture (my emphasis and some reparagraphing):

There is little credible discussion of just what constitutes the Iranian threat, though we do have an authoritative answer, provided by U.S. military and intelligence. Their presentations to Congress make it clear that Iran doesn’t pose a military threat.

Iran has very limited capacity to deploy force, and its strategic doctrine is defensive, designed to deter invasion long enough for diplomacy to take effect. If Iran is developing nuclear weapons (which is still undetermined), that would be part of its deterrent strategy.

The understanding of serious Israeli and U.S. analysts is expressed clearly by 30-year CIA veteran Bruce Riedel, who said in January, “If I was an Iranian national security planner, I would want nuclear weapons” as a deterrent.
Chomsky adds that Iran's support for "neighboring countries attacked and occupied by the U.S. and Britain" and "resistance to the U.S.-backed Israeli aggression" in Lebanon and Palestine are said to "intolerable threats to 'global order.'"

But the best way to defuse that any threat to "global order" in the region, bar none, is the aforementioned WMD-free zone, including Israel.

Will the U.S. support that solution? Chomsky:
Global opinion agrees with Maoz. Support is overwhelming for a WMDFZ in the Middle East; this zone would include Iran, Israel and preferably the other two nuclear powers ... India and Pakistan, who, along with Israel, developed their programs with U.S. aid.

Support for this policy at the NPT Review Conference in May 2010 was so strong that Washington was forced to agree formally, but with conditions:

■ The zone could not take effect until a comprehensive peace settlement between Israel and its Arab neighbors was in place;

■ Israel’s nuclear weapons programs must be exempted from international inspection;

■ and no country (meaning the U.S.) must be obliged to provide information about “Israeli nuclear facilities and activities, including information pertaining to previous nuclear transfers to Israel.”
A death knell for any serious attempt.

My take-aways:

(1) Iran's posture is generally defensive. Again, this isn't me or Chomsky talking. It's from U.S. military and intelligence officials in presentations to Congress.

(2) If they do develop WMDs to counter Israel, it would be within that defensive paradigm.

(3) Therefore, the best way to kill off that threat would obviously be to support the WMD-free zone in the Middle East that includes all important (and currently nuclear parties).

What could be simpler? No nukes for anyone. And what could be more difficult?

Further reading: Steve Clemons has an interesting piece in The Atlantic on the Obama-Netanyahu negotiation here.


(To follow on Twitter: @Gaius_Publius)

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