the imaginative conservative logo

A nuclear-armed Iran is something that the world community should strive to prevent, but in the long run our pushing Iran into a corner will be detrimental to both the United States and Israel…

1. Iran is the Leading State Sponsor of Terrorism

The State Department has been regurgitating this mindless drivel for decades and now President Trump is echoing it. Mr. Trump was more lucid and forthright before becoming President when he bluntly wrote that Saudi Arabia is the “biggest funder” of terrorism. But now that Israel and Saudi Arabia have formed a temporary alliance of convenience against Iran, President Trump is willing to ignore his better instinct about our ally Saudi Arabia. Iran has never attacked the American homeland and was among the first countries to condemn the attacks of September 11. Without exception, every Islamic terrorist attack in the United States has been perpetrated by Sunni extremists who have been indoctrinated by the intolerant, anti-Western Wahhabi sect funded by the Saudi regime. From well before 9/11 and up to the present day, Saudi-taught and Saudi-inspired terrorists have remained the greatest threat to the United States.

As with any myth, there is always a kernel of truth and it is undeniable that Iran has sponsored attacks on U.S. interests overseas—but only when it perceived them as legitimate responses to military aggression. The most obvious example of this was the 1983 suicide bombing of our Marine barracks in Lebanon in which 241 of our Marines lost their lives. While that attack was deplorable, what is usually left out of the narrative about that attack was that the United States was initially viewed by all sides as neutral, but eventually the White House chose sides in the ongoing civil war in Lebanon—never a good idea in any civil war—and started shelling Shi’a villages. Moreover, if we consider which state sponsor of terrorism is responsible for the most American deaths overseas, again Iran falls short. That label is more appropriately awarded to our other longtime ally Pakistan, which has funded and protected the Taliban and the Haqqani network who have killed or wounded thousands of Americans in Afghanistan.

2. Iran Would Pose the Greatest Nuclear Threat to the World

Wrong again. That characterization is once again more accurately associated with Pakistan. A nuclear-armed Iran is something that the world community should strive to prevent, but it is laughable to insist that a nuclear Iran could ever pose as great a threat to the world as does Pakistan. Iran, for all its flaws, is not riven with deep religious and tribal divisions, nor is it infested with a large variety of powerful and independent terrorist groups. The prospect of Pakistan imploding and the central government losing control of its nuclear arsenal is a real possibility and if those weapons were to fall into the wrong hands the world would be far less secure than it would be with a nuclearized Iran.

But we do not worry so much about Pakistan for two reasons. First, it already has nuclear weapons, and getting any country to relinquish its nuclear program is difficult. And second, all of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are targeting India. To be painfully honest, American concern about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal would be far greater if Israel were located along the Indus rather than along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean.

3. We Want a Better Deal

The plethora of commentaries condemning President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal is bewildering. Not bewildering in that they criticize him for needlessly increasing international tensions nor in causing yet more stress in our relationship with our European allies. Rather, pundit after pundit keeps warning that walking away from the agreement may cause Iran to accelerate its development of nuclear weapons and then we would be stuck with a nuclear-armed Iran, as is now the case with North Korea. Are all these otherwise brilliant analysts really this clueless? The whole point of President Trump’s walking away from the agreement is to maneuver Iran into a more belligerent stance in order to justify a military attack by the United States. Is the current Iran deal flawed? Yes. Can it be improved? Yes. Would Benjamin Netanyahu—and by extension President Trump—accept fixes to the agreement? No. What is clear is that regardless of what flexibility Iran might show, it would never be enough to satisfy them. Even if it were to close down all its nuclear reactors, it would be insufficient. This military attack will not be like the blundering 2003 invasion of Iraq; it will be solely done with aircraft and missiles, but it will be enough to kill hundreds of Iranian civilians, though few if any Americans. That the Saudis would be willing to side with Israel and America against another Islamic state may seem incomprehensible at first, but any cursory understanding of religion makes this understandable: Apostates and heretics are always more despised than members of other faiths.

4. America First

What ever became of America First? Our policy isn’t even Israel First. Our policy has evolved—devolved—into Likud First. How is Mr. Trump’s approach toward Iran any different from George W. Bush’s approach to Iraq, which Mr. Trump repeatedly and convincingly criticized? Frustratingly, President Trump’s policy to avoid foreign entanglements has been hijacked by those very same individuals—particularly Mr. Netanyahu and John Bolton—who convinced President Bush fifteen years ago that he needed to attack Iraq.

But there remains a fundamental difference in attitude even if the result is the same. Mr. Bush always believed America should be a force for good in the world, and so he embraced with evangelical zeal the interventionist mantle of all the post-World War II presidents that preceded him. A decent, earnest man who wanted to prove himself decisive, Mr. Bush was easily convinced that he would be making the world a better place by ridding it of Saddam Hussein. How President Trump developed into Likud’s Lackey is diametrically different from how former President Bush became the same. President Trump, unlike all his post-World War II predecessors, seeks to embrace a more isolationist foreign policy in which we do not needlessly meddle in other people’s affairs. Thus, Mr. Trump’s early and harsh criticism of Mr. Bush for his Iraq debacle. But even populist isolationists can become interventionists if they can be convinced that another country poses a serious security threat to the United States. To do good is appealing, but to avoid evil is even more seductive and the result is the same: an ultimately counterproductive intervention in a conflict that could be avoided.

5. We Will be Safer

In the long run our pushing Iran into a corner will be detrimental to both the United States and Israel, but the negative consequences are years off, and initially, President Trump’s willingness to walk away from the nuke agreement and attack Iran will be seen as successes, much like the invasion of Iraq appeared to be a success for the first few years afterwards. If the attack is timed just right, as was President Bush’s invasion of Iraq, the majority of Americans will rally around President Trump, and he might even get re-elected. The negative consequences from attacking would not be seen immediately, perhaps even for several years—again, as in Iraq. As mentioned above, Iran has never sponsored an attack on the American homeland and rarely has supported attacks against U.S. interests overseas. All of this will change when we attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. The Iranian response will not be immediate, but it will change the dynamics both in the Middle East and here at home for a long time.

The Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Please consider donating now.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
"All comments are subject to moderation. We welcome the comments of those who disagree, but not those who are disagreeable."
15 replies to this post
  1. The Bush comparison brings up another comparison that I hadn’t thought about before.

    Our first invasion of Iraq was mainly done for Saudi, but it was also serving the interests of Persia, which had just finished defending itself from a pointless 8-year war started by Saddam. We were driven and guided by Ahmed Chalabi, who was Persian intel.

    When Bush The Son invaded again in 2003, he was no longer working even incidentally for Persia, and he listed Persia as part of the “axis of evil.”

    What happened between the father’s invasion and the son’s invasion?

    • Actually, in both instances we unwittingly served Iran’s (Persia”s) interests. As you rightly point out, the first war was to protect the Gulf States, especially Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Bush Sr. did not want to help Iran, but that was an inevitable consequence. During that long, horrific war between Iran and Iraq in the Eighties we quietly sided with Iraq and did not even object too much when Saddam used poisonous gas against the Iranians–and his own people. Again, in the 2003 war, Bush Jr. did not intend to help the Iranians either, but that was again the inevitable consequence of his actions. He was warned that removing Saddam would strengthen Iran, but he ignored that counsel. The quandary for Bush Jr. was that Israel also wanted Saddam removed and at that time they were willing to risk strengthening Iran in the process.

  2. I understand (from newspaper reports here in Britain) that the Iranian regime encourages chanting ‘Death to America’ and even more tasteless epithets towards Israel. I don’t want their leaders anywhere near a nuclear weapon.

    • Completely agree that we should not allow Iran to ever get nuclear weapons, but you should consider two things about those chants against Israel and America. Having lived a good deal of my adult life in Islamic countries, I see only one real difference between Iran’s attitude toward America and Israel and that of our Arab allies. The one difference is that the Iranians are more open and honest about their hatred for both the US and Israel, while our allies feign support and affection. There would be jubilation in every street from Rabat to Islamabad if Israel was obliterated; the Iranians are just more candid about it. That said, the second thing to consider is that after 9/11 there were celebrations in the streets of Gaza and Saudi businessmen were dancing on their desks celebrating the slaughter, while in Iran tens of thousands held a minute of silence before one of their soccer matches in honor of those who died.

  3. For several years now I have tried as much as a non-expert with limited time can to get some clarity about the Iran deal. It has always seemed like a very flawed deal that was even more flawed in the negotiation, promotion, and execution; yet, I have tried to remain open and flexible, willing to be convinced.

    This article doesn’t do it…. I yearn for some Middle East foreign policy expert on the Left or Right to explain in plain English using clear data and examples why the Iran Deal is good and how it will promote long-term stability in the region.

    On the Left the support of it seems to be tied to Obama is Good. On the Right support of it always seems to boil down to Israel is Bad. The defense of it, from both the Left and Right (and of course I mean the non-NeoCon Right), all make me light-headed from the rhetorical fluff, supposition, mind-reading, conjecture, prophesying, spin, and posturing.

    No one ever argues why and in what ways the Deal is a positive good.

  4. Sorry, Bo, my article was not an effort to defend the Iran agreement. As I mention in the article, the agreement is flawed and should be improved. The fundamental problem with the deal as I understand it–I am no expert–is that it does not prevent Iran from eventually getting a nuclear weapon. The Agreement does make it much harder to do so. As someone put it: the path to a nuke is now both much longer and much steeper. But the path remains and so the agreement is flawed. But the point of my article is that the agreement per se is not really the issue. Even if the flaws in the agreement were fixed, Israel would be disappointed. Iran, even without nuclear weapons, has become too much of a problem for Israel so Israel–with American assistance–will squeeze Iran until Iran reacts so violently that it will justify a large missile and aircraft attack on Iran.

  5. “…while in Iran tens of thousands held a minute of silence before one of their soccer matches in honor of those who died.”

    I think this is an indicator of the difference between the people and the leaders whom they yearn to replace.

    • Perhaps, but the regime immediately condemned the September 11attacks and, in the early stages of our attack on Afghanistan, provided us useful intel and other support. We did not take advantage (in a good way) of this gesture.

  6. Joe: I have to disagree here, most especially about the President’s motivations.

    I believe this is Trump being Trump, doing what he loves best – re-negotiating a deal mid-stream.

    I would dearly love to have been present when the President was told about the “intrusive” inspection regime – one which allowed for a MINIMUM of 24 days’ advance notice before an indpection could be carried out, and which made it simple for the Iranians to push that time span out to nearly three months.

    I guarantee you, that briefing was the moment when President Trump decided to ditch the JCPOA…

    • Ted, I can think of few things that would make me happier than to be wrong about Trump and Iran. I had also initially thought it was just a good negotiating tactic, but I don’t think that is what Netanyahu has in mind. The list of his demands–ceasing all support for Shi’a organizations in the Levant, formally recognizing Israel’s right to exist, etc.–go way beyond the nuclear issue and are designed to prevent any compromise. But I might be completely mistaken. In any event, I’m glad we finally disagree on something!

  7. Three points I might add. The truck bomb that killed the 360 Marines in Lebanon was done by an Iranian surrogate. Don’t forget the hostage crisis and other hostages taken since then. During the Iraq war, we were fighting Against Iranian irregulars in that theater. My Son did three tours there as an infantryman and he found Iranian papers on many taken prisoner and dead on the battlefield.
    Using surrogate armies and terrorists does not let the funding country off the hook.

    • Thank you for your comments. You are very correct that Iran was behind the attack on our Marines in Lebanon that killed 241 of our men. But as I mention in my essay, the Marines were targeted only after our government foolishly picked sides in the civil war and our ships started shelling Shi’a villages. You are also correct that Iran was/is deeply involved in the Iraq conflict and fought against us and caused and continues to cause serious problems for us in Iraq. But that fact does not conflict with the additional fact that Iran initially tried to. cooperate with us against the Taliban in Afghanistan, but we were not particularly interested in their support.

  8. 1. Greatest exporter of terrorism antipathetic to the West would have to be Saudi Arabia, with its funding of Madrassas throughout the World. Never brought to the dock for 9/11 they are embolden to wreck havoc in Yemen.
    2. President Trump withdrawal from the Nuclear Deal is setting a pattern for the rest of the World. First Paris now Iran. The isolatist approach has its downsides as the rest of the World learns to live without America.
    3. Whilst the State of Israel may be at its zenith, the Crusader Kingdom only lasted 87 years.
    The Palestinian people’s patience is exhausted and two powerful neighbours are unpredictable. Turkey and Egypt.

  9. Don’t get into bed with a Snake.
    USS Liberty should never be forgotten, however convenient for some to do so..

Leave a Reply