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.
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