Stop The Iran Saber Rattling And Give Diplomacy A Chance

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
USA Today
June 11, 2008
Pg. 10
Our view
Loose talk about bombing nuclear sites makes a bad situation worse.

Last year, Republican presidential candidate John McCain famously responded to a question about the Middle East by singing "bomb, bomb, bomb — bomb, bomb Iran" to the tune of the Beach Boys' Barbara Ann. McCain's joke wasn't funny at the time and, once again, the issue is turning deadly serious.
Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke in Washington of "drastic measures," and one of his Cabinet ministers warned that Israel will attack Iran if it doesn't abandon its nuclear program. On a trip to Europe on Tuesday, President Bush said that if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, "the free world is going to say, why didn't we do something about it at the time?"
The question is, what should that something be? For now, Bush is pushing "strong diplomacy" and a new focus on a package of carrots and sticks. That's the appropriate approach. Loose language about bombing or not bombing Iran is as dangerous and simplistic as the debate between McCain and Democrat Barack Obama over talking or not talking to its leaders.
Most experts believe it will be a few years before Iran can make a nuclear weapon. That leaves time for a new diplomatic push. So far, efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons have involved intermittent talks with three European Union countries and United Nations sanctions that have been watered down because of objections from Russia and China, which do business with Iran.
The latest diplomatic effort starts as early as next week with a trip to Iran by the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and diplomats from major powers. Solana is expected to offer Iran incentives such as help building the nuclear power plants that Iran says are all it wants — and threaten more sanctions, including on Iranian banks, for continued defiance of a U.N. Security Council demand to stop enriching uranium. A main purpose is to make sure ordinary Iranians know exactly what the stakes are for them.
For the rest of the world, those stakes are huge. A nuclear-armed Iran could pose a mortal threat to Israel, menace its neighbors and trigger an arms race across the notoriously unstable region.
But one major lesson of the debacle in Iraq is that pre-emptive military action against any country should be a last resort. Airstrikes against Iran, by the United States or its ally Israel, would have consequences far greater than the Israeli attacks on nuclear facilities in Iraq in 1981 and a presumed site in Syria last year. Such strikes would be unlikely to disable all of Iran's dispersed and buried nuclear facilities. The strikes would unite ordinary Iranians, many of whom like the USA, and set back hopes they might one day overthrow the repressive leadership.
Iran is among the world's leading oil producers, and attacks would likely send oil prices soaring to levels that would make $130 a barrel look cheap. Even last week's warning by the Israeli Cabinet minister helped prompt a $10-a-barrel jump in a single day. Strikes could also turn the complex U.S.-Iranian Cold War in the region into a hot war, including through Iranian proxies in Iraq, the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.
Military action shouldn't be taken off the table, but it shouldn't be at the head of it, either. If diplomacy fails, a fateful decision will have to be made over which is worse: attacking Iran or allowing it to have nuclear weapons. That point has not been reached.