Saturday, January 28, 2006

Iran: Countdown to a Showdown - Part I

The next few weeks of diplomacy on Iran’s nukes may be too fast and too furious. What we really need to avoid Armageddon.

Web-Exclusive Commentary
By Christopher Dickey
Updated: 12:16 p.m. ET Jan. 23, 2006

Jan. 23, 2006 - If Armageddon happens, those who survive will look back and see the warnings—so many of them—that were somehow lost from view in the numbing rush of 24/7 news. They will remember that Iran pushed ahead with a nuclear program it claimed was peaceful, although no one (not even some of those who defended its right to do so) really believed that was the case. People will recall the growing sense of urgency as threats were leveled against the mullahs, sometimes from unexpected quarters. Who had thought the French would be the first to say publicly they’d use limited nuclear strikes to retaliate against terror attacks and protect access to vital natural resources? Who could have mistaken Israel’s seriousness when Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told a conference in Herzliya that his country "must have the capability to defend itself, with all that that implies, and this we are preparing”?

The Iranian leadership, certainly, will be seen as having misread the signs. Great hostage-takers that they were, the mullahs figured the whole world was shackled by its dependence on relatively cheap oil. Any sanctions brought against Iran would mean skyrocketing prices, the ayatollahs’ minions smugly declared. SUVs would go the way of the dinosaur; the global economy would enter its ice age. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dared the West to take that risk. And then …

If all this sounds alarmist, well, it should. The risk of fatal errors grows every day. Add the influence of messianic fanaticism in Tehran, Jerusalem and, yes, Washington—an apparent desire for apocalypse in some quarters—and it’s hard to have confidence in common-sense solutions defusing this nuclear crisis. (Might the Vanished Imam figure in negotiations? Or the Second Coming? One shudders to think.) It seems we can’t even trust the self-consciously secular rationalists of France. When President Jacques Chirac, 73, said last week that the alternatives of “inaction or annihilation” were unsatisfactory, and a third way could be limited nuclear strikes, he may have been playing to a domestic audience. Or he may have been dreaming about his legacy. He might have been just an old man trying to prove he’s still got some juice. But Chirac is a commander-in-chief with the authority to launch some 300 warheads, and you shouldn’t wave those kinds of things around unless you’re ready to use them....

No comments: