Is Iran the next U.S. war in the Middle East?
Obama says the U.S. “will do everything we can” to stop Iran from getting
nuclear weapons, and consequently would not rule out military action. However he said “[o]ur goal is to resolve this
issue diplomatically, that would be preferable.” The President is right to favor the plowshare
over the sword, but should be wary of sparks that could lead to the next
conflagration in the Middle East.
U.S. cannot afford another war. The American
public is just coming to terms with the devastating cost, in lives and dollars,
of two ill-considered wars. We will not
casually accept another. There is little international support for a war. Europe is preoccupied with economic crisis,
and global heavyweights Russia and China, who so far have agreed to economic
sanctions against Iran, just vetoed UN actions against Syria to prevent
military intervention there. While Arab
states also want to keep Iran from getting the bomb, hearts and minds in the
Middle East would not favor another U.S. war in the region, especially with the
“Arab Spring” showing that democratic reforms are possible from within.
even if diplomatic pressure grows, and Iran can “feel the pinch” of economic
sanctions, there’s a risk a spark could ignite a war despite Washington’s
preference for diplomacy. One spark
might be Israel. Israel might act more
precipitously than the U.S. to keep Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.
Israel took unilateral strikes against Iraq
in 1981 and Syria in 2007 to knock out their nuclear facilities. Israel may not wait for United Nations’ nuclear
inspectors currently on the ground before deciding to handle the matter itself.
even a limited Israeli airstrike risks enflaming the region. Not only would Iran retaliate, but its ally
Hezb’allah could launch an attack from Lebanon. Syria’s regime, currently divided against its
people, may regain support if it joins the fight. The U.S. would not stand by if Israel is
attacked. Consequently, to avoid being drawn into a much wider conflict, the
U.S. should do everything possible to restrain Israel from attacking.
careless move by Iran could also ignite the region. Though not committed to confrontation itself,
Iran has threatened actions that might provoke an armed response. Iran has boasted it might disrupt the flow of
oil through the Strait of Hormuz. This
waterway facilitates up to a quarter of the world’s oil, and a blockade would
have a severe global impact. The U.S.
and its allies would promptly force open the Strait, but the price of oil could
double. A spike in fuel prices would be
politically costly in this election year and a big hit on businesses in this
much Obama wants to avoid war, the situation is highly volatile. Any spark could inadvertently enflame the
region and entangle the U.S. in another war that would cost lives, dollars
desperately needed at home, and America’s political capital around the world.
However, if the U.S. is committed to vigorous and creative diplomacy with Iran,
and successfully constrains Tehran’s nuclear ambitions through negotiation,
then Washington will gain much-needed support for addressing more urgent
situations in the region and around the world. Most importantly, though, President Obama will
have avoided the “next” war in the Middle East just as the previous ones draw
to an end.
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