Day By Day

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Walking the fine line in the middle east

Late in 1978 a curious thing happened; every Iranian undergoing training at NAS Miramar disappeared overnight. At the time I was an aircrewman assigned to a squadron between deployments, home based out of Miramar. There were Iranian aircrew and maintenance personnel undergoing training for the F-14 there, my squadron shared a hangar with the Tomcat training squadron and I saw them daily. When the revolution began they were pulled from training and sent home. I had about 1/2 a year left on my enlistment contract and I was fairly certain that I was going to leave the USN and move back to New England. The Iranian revolution held me in it's grip for the remainder of my enlistment; the drama of the US hostages in Iran, my frustrations with Carter's lack of a strong response, coupled with my belief that eventually the US would go to war with Iran if the hostages were not released all kept me on edge. We now know how that story played out; much to my surprise in mid 1979 I was discharged from the Navy instead of sailing off to war.

Since then various US administrations have struggled with how to deal with Iran. Iran has a long and rich history and it's people are justifiably proud. However since the fall of the Shaw Iran has been in the grips of militant and radical Shia theocrats who found it convenient to keep the Great Satan high on their enemies list. The US response to this has been to contain Iran and hope that the regime collapses from within; the hope being that whatever government takes the helm afterward would be more reasonable and less of a threat. So far those hopes remain unrealized. Instead Iran, represented by President Ahmadinejad has ratcheted up the rhetoric and become ever more bellicose. 

In 2007 the NIE assured us that the Bush administration was wrong and that Iran had ceased efforts to develop nuclear weapons. It is now a certainty that the authors of that NIE knew that Iran was concealing an enrichment facility that was clearly intended to produce weapons grade materials. In short they politicized the report not in favor of the Bush administration's agenda, but against it to the detriment of the nation. The specter of a nuclear arms race in the middle east isn't something any rational person should desire, regardless of how much they oppose a particular President. 

Over at Slate Lee Smith lays out some chilling observations of how the US has failed and what we can likely expect in the future.
If Iran gets the bomb, other regional powers will pursue nuclear programs—if they are not already doing so. Inevitably in a region as volatile as this, there will be a few small-scale nuclear catastrophes, probably rulers targeting their own people. Saddam gassed the Kurds and slaughtered the Shiites, Hafez Assad massacred the Sunnis of Hama, and mass graves throughout the region testify to the willingness of Arab rulers to kill their own people—in their hands, a nuclear weapon is merely an upgrade in repressive technology. Still, it's extremely unlikely the regimes will use these weapons against their regional rivals. Remember, the main reason these states support nonstate terror groups is to deter one another and thus avoid all-out war.
You can read the rest here.

It is my earnest hope that Barack and Hillary both read it, several times and take heed; our current direction trades short term feel good diplomacy for long term danger.

that's not a tequila sunrise

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