Thursday, September 10, 2015

Vic Rosenthal's weekly column:

Does Iran really think it can defeat the US?

How could it? The US is the greatest military power the world has ever known. Its nuclear arsenal is enough to turn any possible enemy into ionized plasma multiple times over. Its ICBMs can reach any corner of the globe. One nuclear aircraft carrier (and the US has 11 of them) can deliver enough high explosive to – you know the story.

But America is drawing back into itself. Its military has been severely weakened by budget cuts and ‘sequestration’, equipment has been used and abused in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and not replaced. Morale in the armed forces is low as the gains won at great cost in Iraq are given up as a result of the decision to withdraw regardless of consequences. Even funds for medical treatment of veterans are lacking.

Other countries like China and Pakistan have been spending large amounts of money modernizing and building up their nuclear forces. The US has basically abandoned its program, depending on weapons built decades ago. Can we even be sure they would work if needed? Apparently the theory is that with the end of the Cold War, all nuclear threats disappeared.

The opposite is true. Arguably the most serious nuclear threat of all – because it is made by America’s greatest enemy, one that has demonstrated its enmity by killing Americans almost since its inception in 1979, and which swears every day to destroy her – is from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

As I write, it has just been determined that President Obama has at least the 41 Senate votes he needs to sustain a veto if the Congress passes a resolution disapproving of the nuclear deal with Iran. There is a lot of discussion of how we got here, when it is clearly a treaty which should require 67 votes for ratification, but regardless of what the Congress does at this point, the deal is already a tremendous diplomatic defeat for the US.

It asserts that as soon as the IAEA confirms that Iran has taken certain specific actions (called “Implementation Day”), all sanctions on Iran – 6 UN Security Council resolutions going back to 2006 and others imposed by the US and the EU – will be removed. Much of the 159-page documentconsists of lists of organizations and individuals from whom sanctions will be removed. Details of how IAEA will perform its job are mostly hidden in a secret addendum to the agreement, but some disturbing ones have leaked out, for example that Iran itself will provide the IAEA with soil samples from its facility in Parchin. There are many additional serious issues with inspections, etc., which are discussed here.

The actions Iran is required to take before Implementation Day are all either easily reversible or difficult to verify. Although the deal calls for Iran to limit some nuclear activities for a period of 10 or 15 years, all sanctions will be removed on Implementation Day. Any attempt to re-impose sanctions are grounds for Iran to cancel the entire deal, and existing contracts are exempted from any new sanctions. Companies and nations are already behaving as though sanctions have been removed, sending missions of businessmen and diplomats to make trade arrangements. There can be no “snap-back.”

As soon as Implementation Day arrives (in early 2016) and sanctions vanish, Iran can simply proceed as though there were no restrictions placed on her by the deal. At that point she will have nothing to lose.

At the same time, she will get a windfall of about $150 billion in frozen funds to help pay for her worldwide subversion and terror operations, and of course her nuclear program.

Despite America’s international backing and massive military and economic superiority, the process of negotiation comprised one US capitulation after another.

The main reason seems to be that Obama never gave more than lip service to the military option. Only a credible military threat could have made Iran’s regime back down from what it sees as its most important military/political initiative since 1979, the one that will make it a regional hegemon and facilitate the establishment of a Shiite caliphate throughout the Middle East. But Obama would sooner see a nuclear armed Iran that carry out such a threat.

Two years ago Obama signaled his lack of resolve when he threatened to use force in Syria after Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against anti-regime forces, and then backed down in humiliation. At this point, the Iranians realized that they could dictate terms of surrender to the US (and at the same time Israel and the Sunni Arabs realized that they could no longer depend on America).

So what Obama has accomplished is to clear the way for America’s most resolute and implacable enemy to build nuclear weapons, while at the same time destroying the credibility of the US deterrent!
In terms well understood in the Middle East by both enemies and allies, he surrendered the honor of the United States.

Why did he do this? I think that he believes deeply that the West in general and the US in particular have historically oppressed ‘people of color’, and Muslims count as such. His sense of justice requires a sort of international ‘affirmative action’ in which formerly oppressed or colonized peoples are favored over their oppressors. The use of force or coercion is one of the main crimes of colonial oppressors and must always be avoided. He has in the past apologized for it, and now he is putting his contrition into action.

In addition, he believes that American society can’t deal with the side effects of war. They won’t accept the casualties or the cost. He believes that war in itself is always bad, even when the alternative is sub-optimal. Better to live on your knees than die on your feet.

Unfortunately, some of the ex-oppressed are not interested in justice. They are interested in being oppressors themselves, building empires and establishing caliphates. And they are not stupid. They understand the principles of ‘cognitive warfare’. The best way to defeat an opponent is to convince him not to fight you in the first place. So they appeal to Western post-colonial guilt on the one hand and to anti-war sentiment on the other.
The Iranian plan is not to face those 11 aircraft carriers – at least not for a long time. Meanwhile, step by step they will accomplish their intermediate goals, like the conquest of Iraq, the destruction of Israel, the building of a massive nuclear strike force based on ICBMs.

One day the United States will find itself on the receiving end of coercive  diplomacy from Iran. But by that time, the balance of power will have shifted to the point that it won’t pay to try to defend itself. And that is what defeat will look like.


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