An Ira­nian bomb threat­ens more than just Is­rael

Obama’s pivot to Tehran ig­nores the im­pli­ca­tions of en­abling Iran to be­come a re­gional nu­clear power

The Washington Times Daily - - From Page One - By Al­lan Ger­son

Yet in­stead of ask­ing that ques­tion forthrightly and de­bat­ing it se­ri­ously, it is be­ing evaded, thus pro­vid­ing time for Iran to per­fect its nu­clear break-out ca­pa­bil­ity. This eva­sion takes many forms, some­times cloaked in diplo­matic niceties. What is not nice at all are the re­peated swipes aimed at de­mo­niz­ing U.S. con­gress­men, France and Saudi Ara­bia, but pre­dom­i­nantly Is­rael, for dar­ing to chal­lenge the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s as­sump­tions about Iran’s ul­ti­mate in­ten­tions.

Re­flec­tive of this thrust to dis­par­age and in­deed de­mo­nize the op­po­si­tion are the lat­est col­umns of Tom Fried­man, for­eign-af­fairs colum­nist for The New York Times. Read­ing them, one would think that the devil in­car­nate had taken con­trol of Congress, poi­son­ing its mem­bers’ com­mit­ment to U.S. na­tional in­ter­ests in fa­vor of be­ing pre­pared “to do what­ever the Is­rael lobby asks them to do in or­der to gar­ner Jewish votes and cam­paign do­na­tions.”

If the mem­bers of Congress were not pub­lic fig­ures in the le­gal sense of the word, where al­most any­thing can be said against them with­out fear of a li­bel suit (ab­sent a show­ing of mal­ice), it would not be sur­pris­ing if Mr. Frei­d­man found him­self the sub­ject of mul­ti­ple li­bel ac­tions by mem­bers dis­tressed over the pot­shots at their in­tegrity. For surely he knows that many of th­ese con­gress­men come from states where Jewish votes are of lit­tle con­se­quence, and in oth­ers, hardly suf­fi­cient to sway votes on re­lax­ing tens of bil­lions of dol­lars in eco­nomic sanc­tions against Iran in ex­change for a tem­po­rary freeze of its nu­clear de­vel­op­ment pro­grams. For Mr. Fried­man to con­tend that the de­bate in Congress is about be­ing “will­ing to take Is­rael’s side against their own pres­i­dent’s” is to mis­char­ac­ter­ize the real na­ture of the de­bate: whether Amer­ica is to honor com­mit­ments made by this and prior ad­min­is­tra­tions to pre­vent Iran from de­vel­op­ing nu­clear weapon ca­pa­bil­ity.

Yet, in rais­ing th­ese smoke­screens, Mr. Fried­man and other ad­vo­cates of un­ques­tion­ing ac­cep­tance of al­most any deal prof­fered by the Obama White House would have us side­step the cen­tral ques­tion of whether Iran is com­mit­ted to the de­vel­op­ment of a nu­clear weapon, leav­ing ra­tional con­sid­er­a­tions aside. Why else would it press so hard for its claimed in­alien­able right to en­rich ura­nium? If it is ul­ti­mately in­tended for peace­ful pur­poses — elec­tric power and the like — there are eas­ier, un­provoca­tive ways to get there. As Sen. John McCain said the other day, “If [Iran] wants to have a nu­clear power plant, we’ll build one for them.”

The dilemma for those asked to ap­prove the freeze-re­lax­ation of sanc­tions deal is rem­i­nis­cent of the prob­lem faced by the Al­lies’ strate­gic plan­ners in World War II. As Richard Evans, an es­teemed his­to­rian of the Third Re­ich, points out in a Dec. 5 ar­ti­cle in the New York Re­view of Books, they came to re­al­ize that ra­tional cost-fac­tor anal­y­sis had lit­tle ef­fect on the tac­tics of the Nazis be­cause, ul­ti­mately, the aim of the war was in­her­ently ir­ra­tional as “in the de­ranged vi­sion of the Nazis, Ger­many’s war was be­ing waged above all to de­stroy a world­wide con­spir­acy against the ‘Aryan’ race or­ches­trated by in­ter­na­tional Jewry, of whom Churchill, Roo­sevelt, and Stalin were the will­ing tools.” Of course, that de­ranged vi­sion ex­tended to global hege­monic am­bi­tions, ex­cept for a zone carved out for Ja­pan.

To­day, the es­sen­tial ques­tion is whether the ay­a­tol­lahs who con­trol pol­icy in Iran are fix­ated on re­gional hege­mony and the de­struc­tion of Is­rael, much the same way that Hitler was fix­ated on the de­struc­tion of world­wide Jewry. If that is the case, re­duc­ing sanc­tions against Iran in the hope of spurring a new phase of moder­a­tion has lit­tle to rec­om­mend it. If a nu­clear arse­nal is Iran’s lodestar, its lead­ers can­not be ap­peased. The wrong de­ci­sion by Cham­ber­lain led to World War II; the wrong de­ci­sion to­day can lead to an en­tirely new Mid­dle East, em­broiled in a nu­clear arms race with dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences far be­yond the re­gion.

Surely, we sweep the is­sue of ul­ti­mate in­ten­tions aside, let­ting hope tri­umph over ex­pe­ri­ence and de­mo­niza­tion over rea­soned de­bate, at our na­tional peril. Yet in truth, suc­ces­sive Amer­i­can ad­min­is­tra­tions have done pre­cisely that, fear­ing to con­front Iran se­ri­ously be­cause it may be too big a prob­lem to han­dle.

Now it is up to the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to de­cide whether a prob­lem that should have been, but was not, nipped in the bud will reach its cul­mi­na­tion in Iran’s achieve­ment of its long-pur­sued goal: nu­cle­ar­weapon break­out ca­pa­bil­ity. Are we go­ing to fi­nally ad­dress di­rectly by se­ri­ous de­bate how to stay true to our word to blunt Iran’s os­ten­si­ble nu­clear am­bi­tions, or are we, as Mr. Fried­man and oth­ers sug­gest, to give a blank check to the pres­i­dent? The world’s fu­ture hangs on the an­swer.

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