While arguments that the US must strike Iran to eliminate its nuclear program have lost traction, recent rhetoric from the Bush administration has switched to suggest a new justification for attacking Iran. After weeks of US accusations that Iranian weapons are killing US soldiers in Iraq, the Los Angeles Times reports Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner made no mention of Iran during a new briefing in Baghdad:
A plan to show some alleged Iranian-supplied explosives to journalists last week in Karbala and then destroy them was canceled after the United States realized none of them was from Iran. A U.S. military spokesman attributed the confusion to a misunderstanding that emerged after an Iraqi Army general in Karbala erroneously reported the items were of Iranian origin.
When U.S. explosives experts went to investigate, they discovered they were not Iranian after all.
How embarrassing. Even if a smoking gun were to be found, Stephen Kinzer’s article in the Chicago Tribune gives compelling reasons why a military attack against Iran would backfire and actually increase any threats currently posed by Iran.
It is easy to foresee some of the results that might follow an American bombing campaign against Iran. They include a wave of revenge attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan; a surge of terrorism against Western targets; a retaliatory Iranian attack on Israel; a closing of the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 percent of the world’s oil passes; and rage in neighboring Pakistan, a frighteningly unstable country that has both nuclear weapons and powerful political factions sympathetic to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
An American attack on Iran also would greatly strengthen President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is now so unpopular among Iranian voters that he may not even seek re-election next year. People everywhere rally behind their leaders when their country is attacked. It is contrary to U.S. interests to take steps that would strengthen the Ahmadinejad faction, which makes no secret of its contempt for reason and the rule of law.
In the face of an imminent threat from Iran, and in the absence of alternatives, the U.S. might be justified in risking even these awful consequences. But there is an alternative, one the U.S. has never tried: direct, bilateral, comprehensive and unconditional negotiations.
With the consequences of a military attack so high, doesn’t it make sense to exhaust diplomatic options? Yet Congress has continued to push for punitive sanctions rather than a more comprehensive approach that includes direct negotiations without preconditions. Kinzer makes an excellent point that there are many ways that Iranian and American interests overlap, and opportunities to provide incentives for Iran’s cooperation.
Iran can help stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran is Al Qaeda’s bitter enemy. Iran is terrified of instability in Pakistan. Iran wants to limit Russian influence in the Middle East. Iran’s oil infrastructure is in a state of collapse and needs billions of dollars in investment, something the U.S. is well-positioned to provide.
Currently, there is legislation in the House calling for direct talks between the US and Iran. You can help promote diplomacy between our countries by clicking here to ask your representative to support the Iran Diplomatic Accountability Act of 2008.