August 18, 2010

Bolton Sounds GOP Alarm on Iran

Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant

John Bolton has raised one hell of an alarm. George Bush’s former UN ambassador (and opponent) let out the loudest hawk cry in recent memory when weighing into Russia and Iran’s uranium deal.

"Israel's got a problem, because once the fuel rods are inserted into the reactor, an attack would almost certainly release the radiation into the atmosphere," Bolton told Fox Business... "So if Israel is going to do anything against Bushehr, it has to move in the next eight days."

Then he threw in another neo-con punching bag: "Iran is on the verge of achieving something that Saddam Hussein was not able to achieve, and that's getting a second route to nuclear weapons."

“This is a very, very big victory for Iran,” Bolton warned The Jerusalem Post. “This is a huge threshold.”

Bolton’s popularity among non-Republicans makes him an easy target for disbelief - and the next eight days will pass without Israel bombing any part of Iranian territory. Even Iran’s Foreign Ministry's spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, responded that he "doubts" Israel would "make such a dangerous move." Bolton once predicted a strike after the 2008 elections, but there is one reason not to tune him out.

Who he speaks for.

Beyond membership with the disbanded Project for a New American Century (PNAC) and his current gig with Fox News, Bolton associates with every major conservative group and think-tank in Washington. The scale ranges from prominent Jewish lobbying groups like Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and American Enterprise Institute (AEI), to the discreet Council for National Policy (CNP). These organizations have incubated multiple Republican administrations and when combined represent an enormous sum of power.

Visible and non-visible conservative powers, American and Israeli alike, were agitated by Russia’s decision to fuel Iran's only reactor - and deployed their spokesman to sound the alarm to the conservative media.

Of the two metaphorical roads to Iran, one towards war and the other peace, the world is stumbling towards the latter. That sanctions will ultimately fail to halt Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons has been accepted by Western policy-makers, academics, and media figures, further driving a collision by acclimating the US people. But, problematically, the repercussions of such a war frighten US and Israeli generals themselves. Some of them anyway.

Any competent US general recognizes that a military strike on Iran within two years would trigger immediate escalation in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with Lebanon and Palestine. And though none will admit it after David Petraeus had his tongue cut off, a US-Israeli campaign would do irreparable harm to America’s image in Muslim countries. Non-Muslim too. Defending Israel from Iran’s direct retaliation is a completely separate task, and likely easier.

But while Israel won’t be dropping any bombs in eight days, the world is left with the unavoidable position that, unless Israel and potential allies launch a strike within the next five years, Iran will likely develop a nuclear weapons program. It may seem as though war could be averted if Tehran’s intentions are truly peaceful, but the complexity of geopolitics and its often brutish nature don’t allow Iran or Israel to trust each other’s word - or back down.

And Israel’s continued opposition to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), along with America’s protection, reinforces Western injustice. Those who have less inherently see war differently than those who have more.

Many options present themselves going forward, all of them exceptionally thorny. President Barack Obama could succumb to political pressure and approve of a strike himself, in which case he must choose whether to act before or after the 2012 Presidential election; before Congressional elections in November is implausible. Preemption and waiting both come with drawbacks too. While Obama could boost his overall approval with a successful strike and campaign on it, he also risks a fiasco and one term.

Waiting until after 2012 not only gives Iran time to complete its project, but requires lying during the election. Obama won’t campaign on attacking Iran if he's going to wait, and his voters may not appreciate that in the aftermath.

As Bolton indicates, a GOP return to power spikes the odds of cooperation with Israel and represents the surest guarantee of war. The GOP must retake Congress and, with the help of lobbying groups, turn the screws on those inside Obama’s White House and Pentagon that oppose a strike. Otherwise they must steal the White House back in 2012, which, given their pool of candidates, is a steeper mountain. 2016 appears ripe for a comeback, but Iran may have gone nuclear by then.

The situation is complex by nature and cannot be made simple. Whatever the means, peace appears to be receding into the darkness. Bolton’s alarm, inane as it sounds now, may still go off in the future.

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