Why This Obsession With Iran?

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“Iran is not
seeking to have the atomic bomb, possession of which is pointless,
dangerous and is a great sin from an intellectual and a religious
point of view.”

Thus did supreme
leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declare in February that Iran’s possession
of atomic weapons would be a mortal sin against Allah.

It is also
the unanimous judgment of the U.S. intelligence community, declared
in 2007 and affirmed in 2011, that Iran has abandoned any program
to build nuclear weapons.

Is the Ayatollah
lying? Is the entire U.S. intel community wrong?

Iran’s plants,
at Natanz, where uranium is enriched to 5 percent, and at Fordow,
where it is enriched to 20 percent — both below weapons grade —
are under constant U.N. monitoring. Iran has offered to surrender
its 20 percent uranium and cease enriching to that level, if the
West will provide isotopes for its nuclear medicine and lift some
of the more onerous sanctions.

No deal, says
the United States. Iran must give up enrichment entirely and indefinitely.

This is the
sticking point in the negotiations. Iran contends that as a signatory
to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, she has the right to enrich
uranium for peaceful purposes. On this, the Iranian people stand
behind their government.

Should this
deadlock be a cause for war?

Assume Iran
did divert low-grade nuclear fuel to some secret plant to enrich
it to weapons grade. The process would take months, if not years.
Iran would then have to build and test an explosive device that
the world would know about in hours. Iran would then have to weaponize
the device.

The whole process
would take longer than a year, perhaps several. We would learn about
it and have time to exercise a military option long before it came
to pass.

The Israelis,
with hundreds of nuclear weapons, would probably have learned about
it before us. And, fearing Iran more, they would not hesitate to
use what they have to prevent an atom bomb in Tehran.

Comes the retort:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a certifiable fanatic who has threatened
to wipe Israel off the map. He cannot be allowed to get anywhere
near a nuclear weapon.

Yet whatever
Ahmadinejad said years ago, and that remains in dispute, he does
not control the military, he does not decide on war, and he leaves
the presidency next July and heads back to academia.

Is America
afraid of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

Where, then,
is the mortal threat to justify the U.S. preparations for war with
Iran described in the national press this week?

The Financial
Times’ Gideon Rachman argues that our obsession with Iran is
obscuring a far greater potential threat.

Pakistan possesses
perhaps 100 nuclear bombs and is building more, and anti-Americanism
there is far more rampant than in Iran. He writes:

“Pakistan provided
nuclear technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran itself. It came
dangerously close to nuclear conflict with India in 1999. As for
terrorism, Osama bin Laden was actually living on Pakistani soil
for many years, and the tribal areas in Pakistan are still al-Qaida’s
most important base.

“Pakistan was
also the launch pad for the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008,
in which 164 people were killed. Although Pakistan’s government
condemned the attacks, there is strong evidence that the terrorists
had links to Pakistan’s intelligence. If the Mumbai attacks had
been launched from Iran, the West would be shouting about ‘state-sponsored
terrorism.’”

Seven in 10
Pakistanis regard America as an enemy. And the drone strikes ramped
up by President Obama, which have taken the lives of many innocent
Pakistanis, have increased the animosity.

Yet, U.S. planes
and warships are heading into the Persian Gulf, as 44 U.S. senators
have urged the president to break off talks with Tehran, toughen
the sanctions even further and prepare for war.

Meanwhile,
Iran is testing missiles that can hit Israel and U.S. bases, and
its large fleet of missile boats is exercising in the Gulf.

Otto von Bismarck
said that preventive war was like committing suicide out of fear
of death. Are we Americans headed for yet another unnecessary war?

In 1959, President
Eisenhower invited Nikita Khrushchev, the Butcher of Budapest, to
the United States for 10 days of touring and talks. In 1972, Richard
Nixon traveled to Beijing to toast and talk with Chairman Mao, who
was responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of Chinese and
tens of thousands of Americans in Korea. Ronald Reagan sought constantly
for an opportunity to sit down across from the rulers of the “evil
empire.”

Iran
is not remotely in that league, either in crimes attributed to the
regime or any actual or potential threat to the United States.

Have we no
statesmen who can sit down, like Reagan at Reykjavik, and negotiate
with Iran’s leaders for verifiable guarantees that she is not moving
to nuclear weapons in return for something approaching normal relations?

If we could
sit down with Stalin and Mao, why are the Ayatollah or Ahmadinejad
so far beyond the pale? Can we just not handle that?

July
6, 2012

Patrick
J. Buchanan [send
him mail
] is co-founder and editor of The
American Conservative
. He is also the author of seven books,
including Where
the Right Went Wrong
, and Churchill,
Hitler, and the Unnecessary War
. His latest book is Suicide
of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?
See his
website
.

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