John Keegan is a very well-known military writer, author of The Face of Battle, The Price of Admiralty, The Iraq War, among other works, and he draws our otherwise divided attention to the real problem:
We should be very worried about Iran
By John Keegan
I supported the Iraq war as, with reservations, I still do. Its opponents have a great deal of self-justification to do, all the more as the details of Saddam Hussein's iniquities unfold in the Baghdad courtroom where he is being tried.
A true Machiavellian would use the trial to argue, however, that the West's mistake was to make an enemy of Saddam when he could have been a useful ally. Indeed, during the 1980s, when he was fighting a war almost to the death against Iran, he was a useful ally. How useful, at this time when Iran has blatantly announced its resumption of its nuclear weapons programme, is becoming apparent.
Saddam merely pretended to have weapons of mass destruction, largely to feed his own fantasies of power. Iran is actually turning itself into a nuclear weapons state, a fact disputed by none of the players on the international scene. Iran, moreover, does not seek such weapons for psychological reasons. It wants them for practical purposes, including, according to a statement by its new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a former revolutionary guard, to "wipe Israel from the map". Islamic extremists are, of course, given to blood-curdling rhetoric. Nevertheless, Iran's record must cause not only the West but all Iran's neighbours to take the threat seriously.
Fortunately, Iran's opponents still have a little time in hand. It has not yet developed a nuclear weapon. At present, it is proceeding with the necessary preliminaries, particularly the enrichment of nuclear fuels to weapons grade. Nevertheless, informed opinion is that, within three years, Iran will have acquired a nuclear capability, a prospect undesirable and terrifying in the extreme. How can Teheran be stopped?
The current policy of the United States, and the EU3 group, Britain, France and Germany, is to report Iran to the Security Council, through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN agency responsible for enforcing the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Yet neither the IAEA nor the Security Council has the power to enforce the NPT. That depends on the will and capability of UN member states. It demonstrates the weakness of the Security Council that the failure so far to report Iran is due to an international reluctance to offend Russia, which is Iran's most important international supporter. It is necessary to abandon such hesitation very promptly. Diplomatic sensitivity is a minor consideration when the aggressive tendencies of Iran's ayatollahs are driving its nuclear policies.
The pressing question is, indeed, what is to be done when a report to the Security Council fails to bring Iran to desist from nuclear enrichment? Economic and other sanctions are widely cited as a means to restrain Iran; and it is certainly true that the interruption of trade and the supply of technical equipment would cause its government serious inconvenience.
It is much more doubtful whether sanctions would make Iran change its policy. The ayatollahs do not suppose they are popular abroad, nor do they much care. Sanctions would interfere with the Western lifestyle of Iran's educated young people. The ayatollahs, however, have little interest in supporting that lifestyle, indeed, rather the opposite, while Iran's educated youth have given heavy proofs that their national pride weighs heavier than their access to Western luxuries.
America and the EU3 must therefore consider other, harsher methods to restrain Iran. The fact that the United States at present deploys a large army in Iraq is a factor that must give the ayatollahs pause. To stage a second war in the Middle East would not be a desirable initiative at present for America and would certainly be highly unpopular at home and among its allies. Moreover, Iran, as the possessor of the second largest oil reserves in the world and occupier of a strategic position athwart the sea routes delivering oil to most of the consuming world, has its own means of retaliation ready to hand.
Which brings us, as always in the geopolitics of the Middle East, to Israel. Israel makes no attempt to conceal that it has considered and undoubtedly is now considering its ability to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities by military action. However, what it did easily against Iraq in 1981 is much more difficult against Iran. For one thing, its current domestic politics may rob it of the necessary power of decision. For another, Iran's nuclear installations are much farther away than Iraq's were when Israel destroyed the Osirak reactor.
Nevertheless, the West cannot simply let things drift. Military action by whatever agency cannot be written out, but will be a last resort. In the meantime, all means short of military action, including economic and political ostracism and economic sanctions, must be tried, together with the building of alternative oil pipelines to bypass the current routes of oil supply down the Gulf. And, of course, the intensification of anti-terrorist measures.
For if the West is considering military action, so are the ayatollahs. They are the sponsors of much of the insurgency in Iraq and suppliers of the insurgents' weapons. They also have intimate links with most of the world's worst terrorist organisations, including al-Qa'eda and Hezbollah. Iranians may well be the missing link for which MI5 is searching behind the July 7 bombings in London.
Moreover, while Iran has its own armoury of medium-range missiles suitable for nuclear delivery, the ayatollahs are also known to favour the placing of nuclear warheads in target cities by terrorists travelling by car or public transport. This is a bad and worrying time in world affairs.
Has anybody heard any more about the MOAB's that the US sold to Israel toward the end of 2004? They have kind of gone off the radar screen. Could make for some interesting possibilities though, especially if we return controll of Iraq's air space over to the new government. Israel could cross Iraq and hit Iran while we turn our head since the air is controlled by the new Iraqi air force, consisting of two hang gliders and one hot air balloon. All the while we protest very loudly about Israel violating the air space of iraq.