Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I Seem to Have Spoken Too Soon on Bush's Iran Policy

With the report that Iran had dismantled its nuclear weapons program in 2003, I figured Bush's thus-far successful Iran diplomacy would make a paradigm shift, hedging for future success. But it seems Bush is intent on reversing any progress recently made.

He's claimed that his Iran policy will stay the same, making myself (and hopefully others) grow skeptical. Bush's claim that Iran is dangerous is certainly true, but without an active nuclear weapons program, the only thing I can seem to directly fault Iran for is their meddling in Iraq. While I don't approve of such meddling in any way, it's understandable; Iran feels like the US is trying to surround it with pro-US allies and isolate it in the region, and Iran is pushing back in what ways it knows how. But Iran has neither the conventional nor nuclear capabilities to launch an offensive campaign. Iran's greatest threat lies in its ability to manipulate, from Hezbollah in Lebanon to Shiite force in Iraq.

So why the tough stance? Does "no change in policy" mean war or airstrikes are still an option? And if so, why? I can't seem to find some other imminent threat that must be stopped, so does the Bush administration simply want to take down this regime to establish US hegemony in the Middle East?

This lack of policy shift is frustrating, and is likely to frustrate the allies that Bush had successfully collected to pressure and isolate Iran. Should he frustrate them too much, he will lose their support entirely, and his outward Iran toughness may be the very force that unravels his Iran policy.

3 comments:

CML said...

I'm curious about your definition of "successful" in describing Bush's Iran policy, considering that Iran hasn't stopped enriching uranium and he's still struggling to get the international cadre of potentially influential states to apply pressure.

Also, while the NIE downgraded the threat of Iran's program, keep mind mind that much of a weapons program involves how to put a bomb on a missile. They probably have much of the know-how to make a bomb. Uranium enrichment is the hardest part of the whole process, and that's the process they continue to pursue, in defiance of the Security Council. That probably warrants a continued touch policy.

And seriously, did you think that the NIE would come out and Bush would suddenly just say "oh, my bad, let's change course"?

Erik Fogg said...

Iran does not currently have the ability to create weapons-grade uranium. Enriching to weapons-grade is orders of magnitude harder and more expensive than to fuel-grade.

On Bush, I think Bush would first switch to a softer stance on Iran because it's the politically safer thing to do--it keeps him from looking extreme or like he's nesting ulterior motives... either of these will fundamentally undermine his policy in the first place, as I said.

But second, it's actually probably a better idea to take a softer stance when you know, and it's public information that, an imminent and dangerous nuclear threat from Iran does not exist. A more long-term, negotiations-centered diplomatic process, rather than a hard-line one with threats of war, would be much lower risk, diplomatically.

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