Thursday, July 24, 2008

Axis of Evil

Axis of Evil
By Jerome Grossman
President Bush has decided to abandon his long-standing position that his administration would not meet face-to-face with Iran until Tehran suspended its uranium enrichment program. A senior American official recently participated in talks with Iranian officials, the first such meeting since the seizure of the US Embassy by Iranian militants in Tehran in 1979.

This policy shift followed President Bush's announcement in late June that the United States would remove North Korea from the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism. This was in response to progress in the effort with Asian nations to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice then met with the North Korean Foreign Minister.

In late July, Prime Minister Nuri al-Malakai insisted that the United States agree to a timetable for withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. President Bush and General Petraeus agree with him in principle although not on a precise date.

These dramatic changes in administration policies have astonished the world and infuriated hard-liners -- many of whom once worked for Bush. The harsh rhetoric, the name calling, the military threats made against these nations have diminished. The "Axis of Evil" used by Bush in his 2002 State of the Union address is no longer part of his vocabulary.

The invasion of Iraq is now almost universally regarded as a mistake. The diplomatic maneuvers with North Korea and Iran are clearly the better road to solutions of long-standing differences, solutions with low cost in lives and treasure.

As Winston Churchill remarked at a White House luncheon in 1954 at the height of the Cold War, "It is better to jaw - jaw than to war - war."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The U.S. and Israel on Iran

The U.S. and Israel on Iran
By Jerome Grossman

The United States of America and the State of Israel are the closest of allies, sharing intelligence, weapons, military research, among many other joint ventures. They support each other's policies at the United Nations and other international venues with only rare exceptions.

Policy on Iran may be one of those rare exceptions. Responsible Israeli officials have made their positions clear: Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons and Iranian protestations that their development of nuclear power is only for civilian electricity is not to be believed. Furthermore, that Iranian President Ahmedinejad's threat "to wipe Israel off the map" represents Iranian policy.

Some Israeli leaders want to launch a preemptive attack. Israeli official Shaul Mofaz said recently, "If Iran continues its program to develop nuclear weapons, we will attack it."

In a New York Times op-ed, July 18, 2008, Benny Morris, an influential moderate and former Israeli official warned, "Israel will almost surely attack Iran's nuclear sites in the next four to seven months."

Recently, the Israeli Air Force conducted a massive war game over the Mediterranean that was interpreted as a demonstration of Israeli ability to mount a serious and effective attack on Iranian installations.

However, US policy now seems to be headed in another direction. In the past, American policy placed Iran in the Axis of Evil, condemned it as a terrorist regime, passed a resolution in the U.S. Senate demanding regime change, appropriated money for Iranian dissidents, and refused to establish any diplomatic contact with the Iranian government.

Now, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates says, “We are not planning for a war with Iran,” Admiral Mike Mullen Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff supports him. Accusations of Iranian interference in Iraq have diminished. Most importantly, the Bush administration is planning to establish an American diplomatic presence in Iran for the first time since Iranian extremists seized American hostages and occupied the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979.

Is the US sending a message to Israel not to attack Iran? Is the US sending a message to Middle East nations disassociating itself from an Israeli attack? Has US intelligence decided that the Israelis are serious in their threats?

The effects of an Israeli - Iran war would be world wide. The Muslim world would explode and attack western interests everywhere they could. Rulers of Muslim nations friendly to the west and clients of the US might be overthrown. The price of oil would probably reach $400 per barrel assuming that any oil at all would be shipped to the west. Worldwide energy shortages and commercial disruption would likely cause a financial collapse.

The stakes could not be higher, considering that Barack Obama told the US Israeli lobby AIPAC on June 4, "My goal will be to eliminate the threat (to Israel) posed by Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. (Pause) Everything. The pause is scary.


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