Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Post-Sobering

In the Australian, Greg Sheridan says what John McCain could not say during Friday’s debate: Iran is “a threat bigger than Wall Street.” Sheridan previews a soon-to-be released bipartisan report on Iran written mostly by Middle East expert Michael Rubin. The term “sobering” is really no longer up to the task of describing the predicament we’re in with the mullahs. From the report:

A nuclear ready or nuclear-armed Islamic Republic ruled by the clerical regime could threaten the Persian Gulf region and its vast energy resources, spark nuclear proliferation throughout the Middle East, inject additional volatility into global energy markets, embolden extremists in the region and destabilise states such as Saudi Arabia and others in the region, provide nuclear technology to other radical regimes and terrorists (although Iran might hesitate to share traceable nuclear technology), and seek to make good on its threats to eradicate Israel.

The threat posed by the Islamic Republic is not only direct Iranian action but also aggression committed by proxy. Iran remains the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism, proving its reach from Buenos Aires to Baghdad.

Good luck finding “common ground” for discussions with that lot. As Sheridan points out, we’ve been fooling ourselves about the effectiveness of diplomacy and sanctions. The upcoming report

states quite plainly that no approach can work on Iran that is not much, much tougher on the economic sanctions front, so that the cost to Iran of continuing to pursue nuclear weapons becomes too great, while the incentives of normalisation would become correspondingly more attractive to Tehran. But the report makes it clear that tougher sanctions cannot possibly work without the full co-operation and enthusiastic implementation by not only the US but the European Union, Russia, China and the other Persian Gulf states.

This is simply not happening. As is, Europe finds itself unable to stick to the sanctions they’ve signed on for. Germany can’t resist doing oil business with Tehran and exports from all over the EU to Iran have gone up since sanctions were “imposed.” Russia is thrilled about the prospect of a U.S. attack on Iran. As Sheridan notes, the condemnation of the global community will prevent the U.S. from lecturing Moscow about human rights violations and regional hegemony, and energy prices will sky-rocket making Russia’s energy oligarchy that much richer. Of course, as Sheridan writes, “And even if that international unity is achieved and the strategy implemented, Iran’s rulers may decide to go ahead with their nuclear weapons ambitions anyway.” Given the regime’s history and its messianic mission, the smart money is on changing that “may” to a “will.”