Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Echo of Sabers

I've had so many thoughts swirling in my head lately about Iran that it's been a source of stress that I can't compose something of substance on the matter at this point. But I do have a couple of thoughts that I will have to let out in brief, cursory and link-rich form (and, naturally, I reserve the right to return to these themes to apply flesh to bone at a later date).

At the risk of sounding like the naive babe in the woods, I want to reiterate my belief that there will be no invasion of Iran or military strike against that country in the immediate future (barring some overtly provocative act on Iran's part). For one, I don't think Iran is as close to obtaining a nuclear weapon as some of the recent "months away" chatter would have it (more like several years away as the reality-based folks are saying). In addition, as I wrote in my prior post on the subject, I think our options are limited severely by current logistical and strategic concerns. Whatever our viable strategies were when I wrote that post last year, they have not gotten any better through the passage of time and additional strain on our military capacity. Nor has our predicament in Iraq created any more latitude for action. Last January, I wrote this:

...can it really be expected that the Iraqi Shiite population, especially that portion of it under the influence of firebrands like Moqtada al-Sadr, would react apathetically to a US strike on Shiite Iran? That is dangerous thinking.
Since then, speculation has been supported by empirical evidence (via prak):

Radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr said on a visit to Iran Sunday that his Mehdi Army militia would "support" any neighbouring country if they were attacked, the ISNA news agency reported.

"If neighbouring Muslim countries are attacked, the Mehdi Army will support them," he was quoted as saying after meeting with Iran's top national security official Ali Larijani.

"The Mehdi Army was created to defend Islam and will support the interests of the Iraqi people and the Islamic countries," said the firebrand cleric, a key opponent of the presence of US troops in Iraq.
Pardon the unoriginal use of the adjective "firebrand" but if the moniker fits. I also don't see armed confrontation as strategically inevitable, necessarily, as was described quite articulately by Brad Plumer here. But what is necessary is the perception that we do possess the ability and willingness to use force. This "tool" in the tool kit is what will give any diplomatic proposals the teeth needed to succeed. So, it is my estimation, that what we are hearing is the amplified rattle of sabers designed to create a threatening posture sufficient to compel Iran to make concessions (While many, undoubtedly, in the neo-con commentariat would prefer to see those sabers unsheathed, I don't think they enjoy the same level of influence and/or ability to act - again, possibly wishful thinking on my part).

Nevertheless, accounts such as this one from Steve Clemons are enough to make me nervous and doubt my sanguine appraisal of this high stakes game of chicken being played out between nations, politicians and pundits. And if Iran doesn't give an inch, then there might be some type of muscular approach - but I still see that as much farther down the line.

With that in mind, I recommend one post above all others. If you only read one thing on Iran today, you should make it this subsequent post from Mssr. Clemons. It is as rich in information as it is in general advice on the matter from more than one vantage point. An invaluable read.

[UPDATE: I have a slightly more detailed account of some Steve Clemons posts on Iran and related issues, including the one cited above, at American Footprints.]

[Off Topic: On a completely separate matter, I wanted to draw attention to one of the smartest and most comprehensive posts on the state of abortion rights and related issues that I've seen in a long time. I'd probably comment on this in greater detail if I had the time as well. Then again, I don't know what I could really add to Jill's observations. But do you really expect any less from a fellow NYU grad? I think not.]

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