Seymour Hersh talking about bombing Iran is nothing new. Here is a clip of him on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart which according to this took place in late 2004. To be fair, Hersh did imply that we’d attack Iran that summer. With that in mind, Hersh is not completely discredited because obviously Iran continues to be talked about, but the time-lines he presents tend to be accelerated.
Predicting anything is difficult, especially the future. The only hope one has is to try to capture the zeitgeist of the age and try to predict where the winds will carry us. I can’t know Bush will attack Iran. Only Bush knows, and even he may not know it yet. However, there is a lot of time between now and when he leaves office. But, he is clearly, publicly, mulling it over. Based on past evidence, it is clear that Bush sometimes makes up his mind before announcing so, and is frequently not open to other options on the table. Based on recent congressional performance, it is tough to believe that the current Congress would effectively oppose military action on Iran. In fact, they might even be supportive of military actions in Iran. For example, Joe Lieberman seems to be openly advocating the policy.
It is doubtful that any action Iran would take could do much to dissuade the Lieberman’s of this world not to attack. Iran will not stop its nuclear enrichment program. It will not stop giving material aid to Shia militias. It still has vast reserves of oil underneath its territory.
Iran’s nuclear enrichment program is a strategic end. It changes the terms of the political equation and how the U.S. must deal with the country significantly. The lesson from Iraq and North Korea is stark. Non-nuclear powers get the stick, nuclear powers get the carrot. Even though America doesn’t openly state the policy, I don’t think there is any doubt which side (carrot or stick) countries want to be on. Iran is acutely aware of American interference in their country even if most Americans are ignorant. The only real option for their government to protect itself from American interference for now and in the future is develop nuclear technology. It is very likely that they are taking a longer term view of the situation. Yes, halting enrichment might solve immediate stand-off for now, but might there are no guarantees when the next neo-conservative arrives in office, or even the current one. The only rational self-interested thing to do is build the infrastructure for developing nuclear weapons under peaceful guises (with the possibility of dirty bombs), and when threats do come, be able to rapidly weaponize that infrastructure. From an Iranian perspective, long-term security is not guaranteed until Iran can prove it has the means to build a nuclear weapon in a short time-frame.
Iran is unlikely to stop providing material aid to Shi’ite militias either. Those weapons will be used to kill U.S. soldiers. The International Crises Group provides an explanation in Hersh’s article.
A June, 2007, report by the International Crisis Group found, however, that Basra’s renewed instability was mainly the result of “the systematic abuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal mafias.” The report added that leading Iraqi politicians and officials “routinely invoke the threat of outside interference”—from bordering Iran—“to justify their behavior or evade responsibility for their failures.”
In spite of blame, it is unlikely Iranians will stop supporting Shi’ite militias. The pacts that the U.S. has drawn up to Sunni tribal leaders leave Shi’ites in a bind. Hitchens is right when he argues that Shi’ites and Sunnis do not form cohesive blocks. So, in one sense, it is incorrect to view the country solely across those lines. But, it is a legitimate concern that radicalized Sunni elements will have power and weapons in a post-U.S. Iraq. It is unlikely Iran would leave the Shi’ite militias undefended. However, after those weapons are given away, it is impossible to control how they are actually used. As with any occupation, there are legitimate reasons for resentment and people with weapons at their disposal will use them against us. However, even if Iran were to stop aid today, it is unlikely to appease the hawks in America calling for war.
The final aspect is oil, and that geo-political reality is constant. Iran has oil, the U.S. needs oil. Economic realities tend be to strong undercurrents in conflicts. There is no doubt that Bush would see it in U.S. interest to have a situation that they are trying to establish in Iraq: privatized oil production run by U.S. corporations.
I don’t know if people actually believe that simply bombing Iran will topple the regime. Hersh quotes a European official in his article:
The European official continued, “A major air strike against Iran could well lead to a rallying around the flag there, but a very careful targeting of terrorist training camps might not.” His view, he said, was that “once the Iranians get a bloody nose they rethink things.” For example, Ali Akbar Rafsanjani and Ali Larijani, two of Iran’s most influential political figures, “might go to the Supreme Leader and say, ‘The hard-line policies have got us into this mess. We must change our approach for the sake of the regime.’ ”
The European official is wrong. He loses credibility in almost every utterance, if anyone likens military action to a “bloody nose” it is clear they a distorted view of war and military action. If one looks at the events of Pearl Harbor would he say that increased or decreased U.S. willingness to go to war, a war that was known to be incredibly bloody. What makes him think Iran would react any differently? There is little doubt in my mind that Iran will rally behind its government much like the United States would if we were attacked. Even if it happened again, under a very unpopular Bush administration. Nationalism is not something America has a monopoly on.
My one hope is that there seems to be some internal resistance to striking Iran. However, knowing the power structure, I don’t have faith that it will be sufficient to stop a strike.
The war fever definitely seems to be on the rise.