In the hopes of winning reelection, President Barack Obama will bomb Iran.
That’s my prediction for the second half of 2012.
I say this for three reasons:
- Economic sanctions and diplomacy are not slowing Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
- Netanyahu is determined to attack Iran after sanctions and diplomacy have run their (failed) course.
- President Obama will be pummeled by Republicans as weak and hapless if Israel attacks Iran independent of American knowledge or support, dooming his reelection bid.
President Obama, in other words, is boxed-in. Given how an attack on Iran will tank the global economy, it’s his only hope of reelection—to get out ahead of the inevitable and become “Barack Rambo, leader of the free world.” Screw his Nobel Peace Prize from 2009. This president is going to go down in history as the man before whom the following choice was presented:
- preemptively strike Iran; or
- surrender the presidency to a hawkish Republican.
A distressing existential moment is building for this otherwise cautious and peace-loving president. My bet is that, when push comes to shove, he’s going to hit Iran before (or in association with) Netanyahu and Israel. President Obama is not going to sit by and let history overrun him.
You watch. It’s going to happen.
This lead sentence in a Gaurdian story from yesterday gives the inescapable state-of-play:
Officials in key parts of the Obama administration are increasingly convinced that sanctions will not deter Tehran from pursuing its nuclear programme, and believe that the US will be left with no option but to launch an attack on Iran or watch Israel do so.
No option. And here’s Dennis Kucinich being quoted in the same article:
Congressman Dennis Kucinich said this week he fears sanctions are less about changing Tehran’s policy than laying the ground for military action. He warned that “the latest drum beat of additional sanctions and war against Iran sounds too much like the lead-up to the Iraq war”.
It is a lead-up to a new war. And President Barack Obama will be the one orchestrating it.
I hope you are wrong.
Best thing would be to do it with Israel and hopefully other nations too. With any luck it will cause an uprising and be the end of Ahmajenidad. At any rate, with a maniac like him getting his own nukes, war is the only option.
That rosy “with any luck” scenario is unlikely, but it certainly would be the best outcome. It’s the one neoconservatives will spread as an epidural meme to make the birth of this war seem okay.
Watch the Occupy Wall Street movement drop into irrelevance the moment the dynamics of this takes shape. Like with 9/11, this is going to upend progressive domestic politics. Recall that, prior to 9/11, there was a big progressive protest in Seattle against the WTO. That whole scene abated for a decade. The same will happen this year (again, in my humble opinion).
Why do you hope he’s wrong? You’d prefer a nuclear arms build-up in the Middle East?
The other option—the one President Obama would certainly prefer if Israel was led by a liberal politician and the Republicans were not so bat-shit crazy—is containment: living as best we can with Iran in the nuclear club (as we do with Pakistan and North Korea).
But President Obama is literally being held hostage to conservative dynamics right now: conservative mullahs in Iran, conservatives in Israel, conservatives in the United States.
Right-wing authoritarian posturing is being passed around like a global joint, and even liberals are getting intoxicated by the second-hand smoke. Just yesterday, Joseph Lieberman tried to box Obama in further by getting a sense of the Senate resolution—supported by a number of Democrats, not just Republicans—that a nuclear Iran is intolerable.
So here’s what the second half of 2012 is likely to look like: after Facebook’s (inflated) initial public offering and highs are achieved in the stock market that haven’t been seen in years, everyone will wake up to nervy news: Israel or President Obama has hit Iran with massive military force, and the Iranians have, in retaliation, managed to disrupt tanker traffic through the Straits of Hormuz.
In a matter of days the price of oil will double (200 dollars a barrel), which means 8 dollar gas (which means bye-bye rickety global economy and the crack-up of the European Union with Greece landing in bankruptcy.
President Obama, meanwhile, will put the war on the U.S. credit card, meaning that the deficit is going to have a hole blown through it even worse than it is now. Keynesians will treat the deficit spending as “good for the economy” and call Obama another Roosevelt. Republican politicians will fret and try to hold the budget hostage—no war dollars without dramatic cuts to the national domestic budget.
The whole dynamics of contemporary politics is moving to the very far right. The peaceful hopes the 21st century began with may go the way of the 20th century. Recall that WWI began with an act of terrorism (an assassination) accompanied by nations imagining they could efficiently manage a quick and limited war.
Okay, I’ll bite. How about a gentleman’s bet? I say that Obama will not pull the military trigger on Iran in 2012. If you’re right, I will donate $100 to the tax deductable charity of your choice. If I’m right you donate $100 to a tax deductable charity of my choice. What say you? 🙂
Although disappointed about Obama committing most of the religion-state constitutional sins of his predecessor, I still don’t think he’s become lackey to the hawks and neocons. Although Bush violated it, there is a long-standing US policy against attacking nations that have not first attacked us. I don’t think Obama wants to follow Bush’s lead on that count. Obama is still a member of the Democratic Party which eventually heavily opposed the Iraq occupation. Prominent in memory is the debacle around bogus WMD intelligence leading up to the invasion of Iraq. It’s not a script that anyone wants to see repeated.
Finally, Obama can’t possibly believe the liberals will stay in his back pocket no matter what he does. They can just as well opt for a third party or independent candidate when Election Day comes even though it would likely only amount to a protest vote. On the other hand, the right wingers are not going throw any votes his way even if he does start another war. They want one of their own in the White House no matter what happens.
I hope you’re right, but let’s not bet. All my donation money this year is going for Barack Obama’s reelection.
And I do hope, like you, that there is a scenario in which Obama avoids having to get out front in a confrontation with Iran. Feel free to tell me what that scenario is, exactly.
But it appears we’re in a virtual syllogism here: if Israel cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran, and a nuclear Iran is almost here, then Israel is going to attack Iran. And once that happens, how does Obama not go full-in with Israel? And how do the Iranians (and Muslims generally) not keep fighting until their humiliation is given vengeance in some dramatic fashion (a nuclear suitcase bomb on an Israeli or American city, for example)?
It’s going to be a long and hard-to-contain war, I fear. And there’s no telling what the Russians, Pakistan, or North Korea might do on Iran’s behalf. Sneak Iran a weapon? This is a very dangerous historical moment. I’m surprised the markets aren’t reflecting it more fully. They will soon.
The only way out of your scenario is that Israel stands pat. Iran learned important lessons from Israel’s preemptive strike against Iraq’s nuclear facilities. Iran has their core facilities buried deep. A preemptive strike with conventional munitions would probably not do enough damage to be worth the effort. A US strike would be up against the same problem
Although Iran is almost certainly moving toward a strategic nuclear capability, it’s no immediate threat to Israel on that count, or to the US. Whatever else might be true of the Ayatollah and Ahmadinejad, they aren’t complete idiots, nor do I think suicidal. Any nuclear strike against Israel could very well result in Iran being turned into a nuclear sheet of glass by a retaliatory nuclear strike by Israel and or the US. Political theater notwithstanding, the Iranian government’s essential goal is nuclear parity with Israel and the geopolitical status of being a regional nuclear power like Israel, India, Pakistan, and Korea.
All that is likely to happen is the establishment of yet another regional nuclear standoff. If Israel strikes Iran or some other Muslim nation with nukes, then Iran will be equipped to respond in kind. Sure, risks abound, like a radical fundamentalist organization sneaking a nuclear device (of Iranian origin) into Israel in the back of a pickup truck or through a tunnel or something. With weapons grade plutonian already cubbyholed in multiple scary places around the world, risks already exist in abundance. Further, no matter how a preemptive raid might turn out, it would unleash a shit storm that stands to be economically and politically costly to the interests of both Israel and the US. No doubt Israel would like to snuff Iran’s growing nuclear capability, but all other things being equal, I think they will stay their hand, as will Washington.
Oh well on the bet. It looked like a sure thing for my church-state watchdogs. 🙂
You’re no doubt correct that the nuclear milk is already out of the bottle. From the Soviet era, I’ve read that there are some suitcase weapons not accounted for. And the Pakistani nuclear arsenal is probably not secure.
As for turning Iran into glass, it should be remembered that the ecological consequences of dozens of nuclear weapons going off at the same time is unknown. That’s a lot of crap to spew into the atmosphere. It would be nice to think Israeli submarine commanders would not launch on Iran in a nuclear terrorist incident.
The Jews should have taken Madagascar when it was offered to them (back, I believe, at the turn of the century). The “holy” land is simply too toxic for contemporary nation-building. Jerusalem, for example, should have been made an international city owned by all of humanity under the auspices of the United Nations. The whole scene is now just vastly fucked up and as more Muslim nations start to join the nuclear club Israel looks to be in peril.
Then again, maybe the Israelis can get used to the idea of having a nuclear Iran and muddle along somehow without getting the dreaded terrorist nuclear device smuggled into Tel Aviv.
I’ve got to believe, however, that 50-50 is about the odds that a nuclear terrorist incident will happen somewhere over the next decade. If it’s in Israel, it will be especially nightmarish due to the almost certain retaliation.
Yes, it’s a terribly intractable situation and not much hope for a lasting peaceful solution in the near future. There is not much solace in the observation that the Muslim nations are probably just as vulnerable to a terrorist nuclear attack from some radical faction as is Israel and its allies.
I didn’t know about the Madagascar plan prior to your note. Although evidently not an original idea of the Nazis, they seriously considered it as a solution to the “Jewish problem”, but abandoned planning by 1940. The Zionist movement never gave it serious consideration. And the original United Nation’s land division back in 1947 or 1948 when Israel first became a nation, specified that Jerusalem was to be an international city and thus not the exclusive property of either Israel or Palestine. All that mostly fell apart as a consequence of the Six Day War.
I double checked my memory concerning a potential African settlement area for Jews. According to Wikipedia, the idea was kicked about long before the Nazis, in 1905 at the 7th Zionist Congress. The idea proved controversial (needless to say), and was given up on.
Too bad. It will probably prove to be one of the great and tragic blunders of history, plopping a contemporary Jewish state in the midst of huge numbers of medieval revivalist Muslims. Ironically, it was the Holocaust that provided the impetus for the Brits to give the surviving Jews the land of Israel after WWII. And now the whole scene appears to be setting Jews up for a second Holocaust: Holocaust 2.0. Hitler must be laughing in hell (at his ability to continue to haunt the global scene). European antisemitism has simply shifted its center of gravity to the Middle East.
I don’t know how, in a world of nuclear weapons and fanatic antisemitic terrorists yearning for suicidal martyrdom, the globe is not plunged into a horrendously toxic nuclear exchange over the next decade or two.
Netanyahu is understandably alarmed. A reckoning of some sort is coming to a head in this Iranian effort to get a nuclear weapon, the real beginnings of the clash of civilizations.
This is why I don’t think Obama is going to be able to just muddle through, trying to split the difference. Whoever is president over the next four years is going to be confronted with a very stark existential choice: let Iran get a nuclear weapon or stop them by force. You aren’t going to talk the Iranians out of going there. And events are bound to overtake any president who chooses the first option, for Israel almost certainly will not stand quietly by, like a potted plant.
The war mongers in Washington and Europe do seem bent on selling the unacceptability of a nuclear Iran so to justify an invasion. Iran has its nuclear development facilities scattered around in multiple locations. Their nuclear program cannot be effectively neutralized by a quick in-and-out airstrike. Israel, in my estimation, doesn’t have the capability for anything more, other than the unthinkable nuclear option. Even the most hard-line types in Israel can’t be seriously considering that. There is no equitable military move Israel can make. Even an airstrike by the US and NATO using current intelligence data would be uncertain of success. The only decisive way to keep Iran out of the nuclear club is invasion and regime change.
With all its existing financial woes the last thing the US needs is another indulgence in military adventurism. The Iraq debacle cost something like a trillion dollars in direct costs alone not to mention all the indirect costs, including covering expenses for a host of American service people who sustained life changing injuries in the conflict. The Afghanistan money meter is still running full tilt. An Iran invasion would be a tragically costly distraction from the pressing domestic problems currently faced by the nation. I can almost feel the US teetering toward the path of bankruptcy. In spite of pressure from the war mongers, Washington and Obama have good historical reason to keep their fingers well off the trigger.
Iran must know they couldn’t prevail in an all out gunfight with NATO and the US. They are currently letting United Nations weapons inspectors in the door to look around. Moreover, just a week ago, Leon Panetta (US Defense Secretary) stated in congressional testimony that the current “red line” would be Iran’s decision to make nuclear weapons. However, he further said that currently there is no intelligence that Iran has made that decision. The international sanctions thus far levied against Iran are economically devastating enough for Iran to likely welcome negotiation behind closed doors regardless of what they say publically.
That said, I think the most dangerous aspect of the current situation is Iran’s threat to close the Strait of Hormuz should they be attacked. Although the scenario is currently not in play both Iranian and western naval muscle has significantly increased in the area. With lots of US and NATO warships cruising around the strait, it’s easy to imagine some jihad Iranian gunboat captain unilaterally deciding to do something stupid and escalate things out of control. If that happens, some seriously cool heads will be needed to contain the resulting political nightmare. I nevertheless remain optimistic that war will be averted.
You may be correct in your evaluation. It is rational what you’re saying. If we are dealing with rational actors in the U.S., Israel, and Iran, a war will not happen. But that was true for WWI and WWII.
I think the U.S. is a rational actor, but I’m less certain about Iran—I do think it possible the leadership could be seeking martyrdom. They spent many, many grotesque years throwing their sons into the jaws of Sadaam Hussein in a “holy war” against the Sunni leadership there. And the Israelis have a neoconservative narrative going in their head that Netanyahu is Churchill facing off with Hitler.
It only takes one of these three actors to make a wrong move for a lot of unwanted dominoes to fall. That’s the problem. Really, it comes down to whether Netanyahu is prepared to act alone. Once that happens, the Iranians will go into Islamic honor mode and Obama will be stuck having to back the Israelis full tilt under domestic political pressure from the Republicans.
It’s a crazy, scary situation for sure. I misspoke on the UN weapons inspectors. Iran did let them in the door, but only to talk about inspections. Yesterday they were sent home with no inspections accomplished, as was the outcome of their previous attempt to gain access.