January 18, 2012
Opinion: Why we should not bomb Iran
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But sanctions will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons capability, nor will “regime change,” considering that Iranians across the political spectrum support the Iranian nuclear program. Sanctions’ only effect is to please AIPAC, which has made confronting Iran central to its mission. AIPAC writes the sanctions bills, Congress passes them, the president signs them, and the Iranian people (not the regime) bear the brunt of the effects. (The politicians who endorse such measures, however, quite often are well rewarded.)
Yet the United States, at the urging of AIPAC and the Israeli government, has rejected any dialogue at all.
Any doubt on that score came Jan. 11, when an Iranian civilian nuclear scientist was assassinated in his car on a Tehran street. This was the fifth Iranian scientist killed in such an attack in the last two years.
The assassination attack by a motorcyclist certainly looks like an Israeli hit, especially when top Israelis themselves have warned that “unnatural” events were about to befall Iran. At this point, circumstantial evidence is all we can go on. That, and the answer to the ancient Latin question: cui bono? Who benefits?
In theory, at least, the Netanyahu government benefits. An Iranian nuclear scientist is dead (32 years old, presumably with a wife and kids). Any chance for dialogue or successful multilateral negotiations diminishes. And if Iran responds in any way, U.S. neocons (including Congress, which will recite its AIPAC talking points) will intensify calls for war.
On the other hand, actions like these against civilians in one country endanger civilians in others. Imagine how the United States or Israel would react if Iran or even Canada started bumping off nuclear scientists (or anyone else) in Washington.
Innocents in Israel, the United States, Europe or elsewhere will pay a price for this criminal act of colossal stupidity. And from a security standpoint, such clear acts of aggression can only convince the mullahs that they need to develop a nuclear deterrent.
As Goldberg also wrote, in a column subsequent to the one I cited above:
“If I were a member of the Iranian regime ... I would take this assassination program to mean that the West is entirely uninterested in any form of negotiation (not that I, the regime official, [have] ever been much interested in dialogue with the West) and that I should double-down and cross the nuclear threshold as fast as humanly possible. Once I do that, I’m North Korea, or Pakistan: An untouchable country.”
The closest we’ve come to dialogue right now is a war of words over threats from Iran to close the crucial Strait of Hormuz and reports of threats in response by President Obama that Hormuz is a “red line.”
The last thing the United States (or Israel) needs right now is another Middle East war. Nor does the world need another nuclear power. Direct and comprehensive negotiations with the Iranian regime can prevent both. As for the politics of engaging with Iran in an election year, they are or should be irrelevant. The first job of a president is to secure our national security. Besides, successful negotiations with Iran would almost surely lead to Obama’s re-election, something that certainly cannot be said about a war with Iran just as we are finally ending our horrible misadventure in Iraq.
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