When It Comes to Iran, U.S. Should Make History, Not Bombs

Washington must prevent, rather than join, a war over Iranian nuclear capabilities.

Joel Bleifuss

President Barack Obama consults with Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak before the 71st General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism in December 2011. (Pete Souza/Getty Images)

Bad decisions have consequences – some of them long-term. 

Unlike 10 years ago with Iraq, many in the establishment--both here and in Israel--are lined up against an Iranian attack.

In 1953, Great Britain and the United States decided to thwart the will of the Iranian people by overthrowing the elected government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh – all in the service of corporate oil interests. 

Following this putsch, the Anglo-American alliance installed the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The brutality of his reign resulted in the Revolution of 1979 and, ultimately, the rise of a clerical regime whose anti-American stance led the Reagan-Bush administration to secretly arm our ally, Saddam Hussein, in his war with Tehran. And the story goes on from there.

Is there a lesson in this sorry history? Apparently not.

In The New York Times Magazine, Ronen Bergman, a national defense reporter for Israel’s largest daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, reports that a war with Iran is inevitable: After speaking with many senior Israeli leaders and chiefs of the military and the intelligence agencies, I have come to believe that Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012.”

According to Matthew Kroenig, an assistant political science professor at Georgetown, that’s a job for the United States. In 2005, Kroenig worked for Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith. (Feith, as you may recall, along with neocons Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, helped cook the evidence for a war with Iraq.)

Bergman quotes Kroenig as saying: Nobody wants to go in the direction of a military strike, but unfortunately this is the most likely scenario. The most interesting question is not whether it happens but how.”

For the past two months, Kroenig has been flogging a war – most prominently with a cover story in Foreign Affairs.

GOP hopeful Mitt Romney has joined Kroenig in beating the drums. During a debate in South Carolina, he said: The president should have … made it very clear that the United States of America is willing … to take military action to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon. … If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. … He’s not willing to do those things necessary to get Iran to be dissuaded from their [sic] nuclear folly. I will take a different course.”

Unlike 10 years ago with Iraq, many in the establishment – both here and in Israel – are lined up against an Iranian attack. Will that matter?

Romney is banking that it will not. And past experience shows he may be right.

In a January 17 talk to the Israel-friendly Washington Institute, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg admitted: Close to a majority of Americans that we have polled on this question for the Israel Project … support targeted military action against Iran to keep them from acquiring nuclear weapons. The public is fairly permissive on this question because Iran is seen as the number one national security threat facing the country. So I don’t think [Romney] loses on that side of it. … I don’t think he pays a political price for the position he puts himself in.” His assessment is backed up by a January 15 Washington Post-ABC News Poll that 48 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Obama is handling the possibility of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.”

Given this environment, the voices of the warmongering think-tankers will carry far. Add the bellicose posturing of the GOP, and a feckless news media, and, well, it’s a road we’ve been down before…

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Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.

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