Attacking Iran is the Least Good Option Dr. Kroenig!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sanaz Tabeafshar

Writing for Foreign Affairs, Matthew Kroenig, has a rather bizarre piece calling for the U.S. attacking Iran. His article has already been dissected by Stephen Walt. Although he has offered an arrestingly sharp critique of Kroenig's article, describing as simple and time-honored formula for making the case for preventive war, Walt has failed to dissect it on strategic grounds. For starter, Walt has mentioned two steps, writing that "in step 1, you adopt a relentlessly gloomy view of the consequence of inaction; in step 2 you switch to bullet proof optimism how the war will play out." In this regard, Walt has dissected it methodologically as he had previously done to Kenneth Pollack and Ray Takeyh's article on attacking Iran. This reductionist approach has taken him away far from what he calls "A realist in an ideological age"!

In this regard, Kayhan Bazegar's rebuttal to Kroenig's article is worth taking into consideration. In his article entitled, "Military Option is the Worst Possible Scenario", not only has Barzegar dissected Kroenig's piece methodologically, but also by showing the legal acceptance of Iran's nuclear program, he has avoided the reductionism which has degraded Walt's work. In other words, by suggesting Kroenig to put away his quixotic effort to attack Iran, Barzegar has manifested an article goes far, beyond the methodology.

As Barzegar points out, "Kroenig 's article is rife with internal contradictions."As such it provides a text book illustration of the stale thinking that has shaped U.S. policy for a couple of decades. These are the main phrases of Kroenig's article and Barzegar's critique on which I have elaborated more:

First, in his article Kroenig has admitted the covert war that has been started since the Obama's administration which has always been rejected by the Americans. This covert war includes the Stuxnet computer worm and the latest IAEA report on Iran's nuclear program. He, then points out, "A nuclear-armed Iran would immediately limits U.S. freedom of action in the Middle East".

After the withdrawal of the American troops from Iraq, strategic deal between the U.S. and Afghan government, the Arab spring and isolation of Turkey in the Middle East, the territorial swath controlled by Iran has extended from the western Afghanistan up to the Mediterranean Sea. Needless to say, with or without any so called nuclear bomb, Iran's direct or indirect way of pursuing its foreign policy has, according to Greg Bruno of the Council of Foreign Relations, made it "a veto holding power on the Middle Eastern peace." That's why Barzegar is trying to point out the "regionalism" as the best solution for the crisis.

Second, Kroenig argues that Iran and Israel lack nearly all the safeguards that that helped the U.S. and the Soviet Union avoid a nuclear exchange. Then he admits, "U.S. intelligence agencies have provided timely warning of Tehran's nuclear activities in the past and if Tehran again attempts to build clandestine facilities, Washington has a very good chance of catching it before they go online."The CHUTZPAH here is impressive: although he high lights the lack of intelligence between Iran and its opponents and as a pretext to attack Iran, Kroenig is trying to convince us that the U.S. intelligence agencies are capable enough, of detecting Iran's nuclear sites in Qom, Natanz, etc., and targeting them!

Third, Kroenig has asked for a preventive war. Every preventive war needs the mandate of the UN, but this unilateral attack is considered as a preemptive rather than a preventive war which lacks the international legality. Maybe he is seeking for an anticipatory self-defense, yet has not been accepted by the international law and would make the situation worse.

Fourth, he claims, "the U.S. could reduce the collateral damage even further by striking at night." Undoubtedly, the U.S. struggle for the reduction of collateral damage is doomed to be failed in its counter terrorism attacks on some states of the Middle East. According to the latest statistics, approximately 1out of 147 victims was a high value terrorist and the rest were non-militant civilians. This has increased the motive of retaliation, and consequently has been led to the creation of "accidental guerilla syndrome." If the U.S. new adventure fails again, it is going to have unintended consequences, says Barzegar.

Fifth, he points out that closing the Strait of Hormoz or lunching missiles at the southern Europe are the worst forms of Iran's retaliation. But they would be the best consequences compared to the uprising of Shias through the religious decree of jihad which would be extended out of the region and will come off with proxy attacks against the U.S. military installations.

Sixth, Kroenig says, "the U.S. would need to clearly articulate some red lines to Tehran during and after the attack to ensure that the massage was not lost in battle and to absorb the Iranian response." If the U.S. were able to articulate anything to Iran, it would have articulated its hegemony and dominance in the region. Then, there would be no need for the IAEA report, Kroenig’s article, calling for war.

Seventh, in another phrase, Kroenig is talking about the induction of Iran by using banker busters. While the U.S. has not been able to induce Iran by its military bases, located in the neighboring countries with their advanced weaponry which are being updated by the multinational corporations of the Federal Reserve, how is it possible for the U.S. to induce it with the so-called new bunker-busters of which their competence and operational time are being discussed? It is worth noting that not only Tehran is appreciating its proximity to the Strait of Hormoz, but also its asymmetrical military options related to it, which were absolutely ignored by Mr. Kroenig.

Eighth, "To de-escalate the situation quickly and prevent a wider regional war, the U.S. could also secure the agreement of its allies to avoid responding to an Iran attack. Israel should prove willing to accept it as it did during the Gulf war", Kroenig points out. But George H. W. Bush 's administration went to great lengths to prevent Israel from responding to Scud attacks during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The logic was pretty compelling: Iraq was in defiance of the international community and U.N. Security Council resolutions, and a 34 country international coalition had formed to enforce global good. Israel is facing with an existential threat. The U.S. cannot head it off its operations against Iran. The last thing needed for Iran is to turn the U.S invasion into an Islam- Israel confrontation. An Israeli attack might be quietly welcomed by the Arab rulers of some Persian Gulf states, but it would be viewed on the Arab street as another example of Israeli aggression and U.S. double standards. The Arabs would love to see the Iranians taken down a notch or two, but Israel's inevitable involvement is going to complicate the post environment and almost certainly undermine any U.S. effort to clean up the mess that will be left behind. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia, the U.S. ally is challenging with its domestic unrest and is reluctant to cooperate with the U.S. in its new adventure against another Muslim country.

Ninth, Kroenig suggests to open Strategic Petroleum Reserve to blunt the economic consequences of the strike. Opening SPT, not only the price of oil would spike exponentially, further undermining and sabotaging world market, but also it would damage the fragile economic recovery in the U.S.

And finally, according to Barzegar, having shown considerable commitment to its obligations under NPT, Iran, and now deserves legally to pursue its peaceful nuclear program. Iran's hardened sites, redundancy of facilities, and the locations present significant obstacles to a successful surgical attack. Even in the best case scenario an strike that, say, set back the Iranian peaceful nuclear program by 2 or 3 years, the Iranians would reseed it with much legitimacy and urgency that only come from having been attacked by an outside power. There is no better way to unify the hard liners with the ruling elites than a foreign attack.

*Sanaz Tabeafshar is a Ph.D. candidate at the Science and Research Branch of the Islamic Azad University in Tehran.

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