Does the US have a military option beyond Iranian Negotiations to Nowhere?

For all its “well-intended” assistance to “the people,” the US has spawned not a “democratic” Arab Spring but an anti-American and fundamentalist Islamic Spring.

Introduction: An article appearing in the current Foreign Affairs, Botching the Bomb, suggests that neither force nor sanctions are necessary in confronting the Iranian nuclear program. Its author Jaques Hymans reminds that, “The Iranians had to work for 25 years just to start accumulating uranium enriched to 20%…” which, “strongly suggests that Iran could still need a very long time to actually build a bomb…” Of course Dr. Hymans teaches at the University of Southern California, some 11,000 miles away from the consequences of any “unlikely” miscalculation on his part. And while his expanded argument deserves consideration, how get beyond his own hesitation, “that Iran could still need a very long time to actually build a bomb?” On the other hand it appears, from the history of confrontingIran over the past decade, that this may in fact reflect the thinking behind America’s approach to the problem. Or, more simply, the US may just be weary of wars without end in the region. But how defend America’s regional interests without the wherewithal to protect them?


Why is the US in the Middle East? Why should America feel obligated to stopIran’s pursuit of the bomb? Ignoring for the moment President Obama’s own declared policy of limiting nuclear proliferation (and that the Iran Problem was, after all, inherited from George Bush) America’s regional interests are first, Arab oil; then the Suez Canal; and finally the geopolitical importance of the region. All this, and more, is threatened by a US failure to protect the oil producers and its traditional allies,Egypt, Jordan and Israel against the Iranian threat.

A quick glance at the products of US policy under President’s Bush and Obama certainly appears inconsistent with these interests. Bush invaded Sunni Iraq over insistent warnings of its three most reliable regional intelligence sources, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. All three countries were alarmed that decapitating the Iraqi regime would destabilize the region, remove Iran’s only credible barrier to a land assault by Iran on the Arabian Peninsula. But Bush went a step beyond that warning by replacing Iraq’s Sunni regime with one controlled by Iraqi Shiites, co-religionists to neighboring Iran!

President Mubarak of Egypt: As if to carry the momentum of regional destabilization further Obama in his turn and apparently taken by the bright shining light of the Tunisian “revolution” supported Cairo street protests regarding America’s long-time ally and defender of its regional interests, Hosni Mubarak. And like his predecessor Obama took the message of the street, merely wanting reform, and transformed it into regime change. Once again defying strong protests by Saudi Arabia and Israel, Obama unceremoniously demanded Mubarak leave office. Who in the White House could have anticipated that which every one else took for granted, that “democracy” in Egypt would result in the only organized Egyptian political party, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, democratically replacing the secular Mubarak?

Colonel Qaddafi of Libya: With Tunis and Cairo now experiencing the fresh air of the Arab Spring, President Obama, Britain and France received UNSC authorization to engage in a humanitarian intervention on behalf of the rebels of Benghazi. Expected to be an easy victory the war dragged on for eight months, and ended with the grizzly murder of Muammar Qaddafi at the hands of his captors.

The government that replaced Qaddafi is fragmented and dedicated to installing Sharia law for the state. Its military, similarly fragmented, is led by or under the influence of the local al-Quaeda affiliate. While in Syria, where the “humanitarian” need is clearly far greater than anything ever experienced in Libya; in Syria the US is frozen in indecision, remains on the sidelines. So much for humanism and the hallowed principle of “reform.”

For all its “well-intended” assistance to “the people,” the US has spawned not a “democratic” Arab Spring but an anti-American and fundamentalist Islamic Spring.


Enter the Russian bear: If American policy appears confused and weak, not so Russian policy. The US finally defeated the decades-long Russian regional challenge when Sadat travelled to Jerusalem. Having lost Egypt Russia’s sole remaining outpost was a far less significant Syria. The collapse of the Soviet Union should have spelled a complete victory over Russia. But in 1996 Russia contracted with Iran to complete the Bushehr Nuclear reactor. And Russia was back in regional play.

Over the years too much credit may have been given Iranian audacity in confronting the American superpower. How much of that bravado-turned-courage due to US indecision and hesitation was thanks to Russian “backing?” But the fact is that Iran has been able to stare down Bush threats and Obama conciliation while continuing to move relentlessly towards its goal and, almost unnoticed, even built a ballistic missile capable of carrying its made-in-Iran nuclear warhead.

And in Syria, Russia has successfully deflected any American effort, even were the administration seeking such UN authorization, aimed at military intervention. And today, buttressed by Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, despite losing an old Mig 21 today, the most favorable outcome for the US is a de facto partition of the country between the US and Russia in which Assad remains president of the most important part, at least for Russia, the section bordering Jordan, Lebanon and Israel. Or the US could create a “no-fly zone” ala Libya. But now that the Russian navy and elite military assault units are on and off-shore…? Well, we are back to the opening question: is the US willing to use military force to protect its interests?

To date the answer appears a resounding, NO. No to Iran, no to Syria… And if the US fails to respond decisively against those two threats to its regional interests, what impact will that failure have on those regional, perhaps global allies it is sworn by national interest and formal treaty to defend? What deterrent value those thousands of US troops stationed around the Gulf if they forever remain in their barracks?

About the Author
David made aliya in 1960 and has been active in Jewish issues since. He was a regional director for JNF in New York, created JUDAC, Jews United to Defend the Auschwitz Cemetery during that controversy; at the request of Jonathan Pollard created and led Justice for the Pollards in 1989.