Graham Allison, a Harvard professor who is one of America’s leading security strategists, likes to speak of the U.S.-Iranian nuclear confrontation as “the Cuban missile crisis in slow motion.” Well, on Friday morning, that slow-mo process started moving a little faster, as President Obama issued a stark warning about a secret Iranian project that poses a “direct challenge” to the international order.
World leaders used language this morning that described a dangerous ladder of escalation ahead. Obama said Iran will be “held accountable” for its actions. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that unless Iran changes its nuclear stance by December, harsher sanctions will be imposed. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, normally no Churchill, said there was “no choice today but to draw a line in the sand.”
Allison’s Cuban analogy may strike some people as alarmist, but it seems more and more apt to me. The United States and its allies have caught Iran cheating, again, on International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards — this time by building a second undeclared enrichment facility in a mountain near Qom. It was an Iranian effort to gain leverage, reminiscent of Moscow’s moves in Cuba in 1962 as described by Allison in his classic book, “Essence of Decision.”
But the Iranians–rightly I think–are banking that Barack Obama is, like Lloyd Bentsen described Dan Quayle, no Jack Kennedy.
It’s hard to imagine a protégé of William Ayers doing anything but making speeches, having meetings and getting his international cronies to pass resolutions while the engineers in Iran keep building nuclear weapons and the methods to deliver them. It’s equally hard to imagine that the existence of these facilities were unknown in the top secret briefings which our intelligence community (or what’s left of it) regales presidents with for some time. Until last January, the chief objective of most of those who own and operate this place was to keep George Bush from doing something about it, and that effort was successful.
There are only three groups of people who have the will to solve this problem.
The first, and obvious choice, are the Israelis. Their biggest obstacle is the Obama Administration’s animus towards the State of Israel, who would doubtless take Zbignew Brezhinski’s advice and shoot down Israeli planes flying over Iraq towards their destination. (But then there’s always Plan B…)
The second are the Russians. I’ve always hoped against hope that their government will wake up to the fact that an Islamic state with major military capabilities is against a millennium of Russian experience, and that they’re going to have to choose between quick cash and long-term survival. The Russians have proven they’ll forcefully deal with people like the Chechens; will they repeat the feat?
The third are the Arabs. They in reality have the most at stake here; a nuclear Iran could put a lot of heat on those across the Persian Gulf (and, with nuclear weapons, it would be the Persian Gulf.) I am confident that the cash-rich Saudis are diverting a little of their mosque-building budget to acquire nuclear capabilities of their own. Those in the Middle East know a weakling when they see one; the Saudi’s can’t depend on the U.S. for their security indefinitely.
And the Chinese? They have ring side seats to this. They are the only long-term beneficiaries of this mess, assuming there’s a long term to be had.
P.S. After posting this, I saw Susan G’s piece on the Daily Kos. What a bunch of pap! But that’s the trouble with too many liberal outlets; talk critical thinking, do propaganda.