Thursday, February 22, 2007

Middle East Brinkmanship

You'd have to live in a deep hole high in the mountains to have missed the pushing and shoving between the US and Iran. The rhetoric is hot and heavy, leading many to believe that an armed conflict is just around to corner. It is the usual suspects with the usual lines of attack. What has everybody squirrelly is of course the idea that one war isn't enough for BushCo and that the Iranians are loons. Well, actually that everybody involved is a loon.

The loon part of it is most easily dismissed, the strategic and tactical realities of a war between the US & Iran are very obvious to all the players. The US is currently short of ground troops which Iran has lots of, the US would own the skies. Iran has some fairly modern weaponry and the US has piles and piles of state-of-the-art equipment and a real and large Navy. Finally when it comes to actual punching power the US is not developing nukes, it has lots of them - not just lots - but also a demonstrated track record with them. We've used them, two times, on lots of civilians.

The US cannot take and hold ground in Iran, we can blow things up and then rearrange the debris in case we weren't noticed. Iran cannot do more than tweak the US in Iraq, the Arabs are not going to be dominated by the Persians, Shia or no. Iran is somewhere around five years out developing nukes, a game that is costing them badly - now. The US has its hands full with Iraq and Afghanistan (and an exorbinent debt) and Iran's economy isn't just swimming along.

So why all the over-heated rhetoric from both sides?

Has anybody noticed the fear level rising, here and there? Who has anything to benefit from increased tensions? Weak political leaders certainly have something to gain. There is no question BushCo is suffering from bad ratings and opposition in government, and apparently so is the Iranian President Ahmadinejad. There is a sort of cement in fear, something to glue together a show that's falling apart. Iran has for years stoked the internal fears of the US, but in a virtually ritualistic manner, this is something newer. BushCo can harken back to the Axis of Evil fear mongering - equally ritualistic. The idea then was, "look, there are bad guys out there," now it's "these people are going to kill you." They both have problems selling the new story, the Iranians in general have no real problem with the US, not that they really like the US government, but it's a sort of disdain; Americans still bear a grudge for the Hostage takings but it has been an equally lower level sort of disdain. Yes, there is an American affection for Israel, but other than in narrow centers it is a mild affair and stoking up warlike enthusiasms over Israel is a tough sale. 9/11 isn't last month, or last year, the smoke has cleared and most of the bodies have been buried, it's a tougher reach now to crank up the fear and anger quotient.

We've watched the fear game for over five years, it's hard to keep emotions strung up that high, and doubts and rejections have multiplied here. In Iran watching the Americans struggle in Iraq is considerably more appealing than having their bombs on your head. These guys aren't going to be able to sell war, now what we can hope is that neither miscalculates in their propaganda games.


Fred said...

What gets me about this Iran thing is it seemed to have started in regards to the Iranians claiming a need to process nuclear material so they could start some nuclear power plants. They want to use nuke power instead of their oil, which they can sell.

That they claim to want nuclear power simply for POWER seems to always get little mention in any discussion of the issue. If so many other countries have nuclear power, why can't Iran?

Chuck Butcher said...

I think that the probably valid argument that nuke reactors are good sense for a country that sells oil seems contradictory to people with smaller domestic supplies. The idea that there are varieties of uranium that aren't really bomb satisfactory doesn't sell well either.

Essentially BushCo needs enemies.

KISS said...

I think Iran is in the business of building an arsenal of nukes, Plutonium, as I understand, is for making bombs, not power. Iran can make a lot of money selling nuke missiles to Al queda and like. North Korea is in the same business but now may be in the extortion biz. I would not be surprised if Israel would target Iran and we back their play. This way we are the " Good Guys".

Chuck Butcher said...

The US needs to make it clear to Iran that nukes are not in their security interests, that's not possible when Iran is looking at the US as a probable aggressor. Quite seriously, I see this whole mess as propaganda serving the interests of both and it will stay this way as long as it serves those interests.

Chuck Butcher said...

It is important to distinguish between Al-Qaeda and others. Iran doesn't have the least use for AQ, in fact would find them frightening with any power. The reason Iran backed the US play in Afghanistan was AQ.

There are "groups" who might find nukes a grand toy, governments with established population centers and infrastructure don't find them amusing or toy like. for instance, an Iranian supplied Hezbollah nuke attack would result in the glassification of the supplier. Not far up anyone's list of pastimes.

Unlike N Korea, Iran has a very safe revenue source, that can double as an economic weapon against developed countries. Sales of nukes is a hugely risky enterprise.