Storified by Brian Empric· Sat, Mar 02 2013 19:56:39
RichardL. Russell, Professor of National Security Affairs at the Near East South Asia Center for StrategicStudies, warns us not to be too sure that there will not be another war involvingthe U.S. in the Middle East.
“[I]f it's conventional wisdom that the UnitedStates will not, or should not, intervene militarily in the Middle East orSouth Asia after it draws down forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's also likelydead wrong…”
“Perhaps the most significantfactor that portends against further intervention in the Middle East and SouthAsia is increased political resistance -- and outright opposition -- from thecountries in the region. That resistance is likely to come from the new regimesemerging from the Arab uprisings, as well as a number of Gulf monarchies.”
“Old authoritarian regimes seemto be passing the way of the dodo bird, but the new regimes taking shape areheavily influenced by militant Islamic ideology that will make them less likelyto engage in security or military cooperation with the United States.
“Democracy optimists argue thatthese ideological regimes, once entrenched in power, will have to moderatetheir zeal in order to govern. Pragmatism will ultimately trump ideology. Thatline of reasoning, however, is based on the assumption that the policy decisionsof such regimes can be explained by rational choice economic theory.”
“Already, several Gulf stateshave begun to translate their displeasure into policy independence fromWashington. In 2011, for example, a coalition of Gulf states led by SaudiArabia intervened in Bahrain to quell domestic unrest in the island country… Bahraintoday is for all intents and purposes a province of Saudi Arabia, even if it isnot polite to say so in diplomatic circles. Since the Iranian revolution,Bahrain -- like the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar -- haspursued close ties with the United States, in significant measure tocounterbalance Iran and Saudi Arabia…”
“In the future, the UnitedStates will not be able to take for granted unchallenged surges of naval, air,and ground forces into regional theaters via logistics hubs. These hubs -- likethe American naval presence in Bahrain -- are large, readily identifiable, andwill be increasingly vulnerable to future targeting by nuclear weaponry.”
“Although American policymakersand military commanders might feel confident that they could surge forces intothe Gulf despite Iranian nuclear threats because of the American nucleardeterrent, Gulf security partners might be more nervous and less willing tocooperate. As a result, they might not grant access to U.S. air, naval, andground forces out of fear of angering Iran.”
“Even without nuclear weapons,Gulf states have seen, in their view, a long history of American reluctance tothreaten or use force against Iran…”
“One of the great strategiclessons drawn from the long history of conflict in the Middle East is this: Donot go to war without nuclear weapons, as Saddam Hussein did when he invadedKuwait. The corollary is: Do not allow the United States to methodically buildup forces in the Gulf prior to invading, as Saddam did both in the run-up tothe 1991 re-conquest of Kuwait and in 2003, before the drive to topple theregime in Baghdad.
“Drawing upon these lessons,Iran will likely do everything in its power to deny the United States theability to surge conventional forces into the region -- and that might includethreatening to target U.S. forces with nuclear weapons…”
“Meanwhile, the Gulf states, ledby Saudi Arabia, are likely to look for their own nuclear deterrents… SaudiArabia and the smaller Gulf states will worry that the United States would bedeterred from coming to their defense in future regional crises by Iran'snuclear weapons.”
“North Korea’s third and latest nuclear test is certainly a threat to Asian security, but the dangers go way beyond Asia. For decades, North Korea has been one of the world’s most enterprising and unscrupulous suppliers of weapons to the Middle East. Among North Korea’s chief and most enduring clients is the world’s leading terrorist-sponsoring, nuclear-aspiring state, Iran.”
“For years, North Korean weapons tests have effectively doubled as marketing displays, rolling out the latest round of North Korea’s lethal wares. ‘North Korea will sell anything to anybody,’ says Bruce Bechtol, a political scientist and former senior defense intelligence analyst specializing in North Korea. Bechtol adds that Iranian officials have been present at every major North Korean missile test, as well as both previous nuclear tests.”
“North Korea has created a niche for itself as a full service back shop for rogue states, offering an unblinking willingness to violate any and all international norms in exchange for cash, oil and yet more weapons technology. Not only does North Korea’s regime supply its clients with weapons; it also has a history of providing weapons experts, military training, procurement and smuggling services, money-laundering facilities and in some cases, help with weapons production.”
“In the case of Iran, North Korea’s dealings go back to the early years of the Islamic Republic, in the 1980s. At that stage, North Korea had reverse-engineered Soviet Scud B short-range ballistic missiles, which North Korea supplied along with submarines and guns to Iran during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War… In 2003, a high-ranking North Korean defector, a missile scientist, testified to Congress about an official trip he made to Iran in 1989. The mission was to fire a North Korean missile for the Iranians, and then come home to make more.”
“In the 1990s, North Korea joined Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network, swapping missiles for nuclear technology. Through this network, North Korea then found customers for some of its other wares.”
“In 2003-2004, under U.S. pressure, Pakistan rolled up A.Q. Khan’s operations. But that hardly put Pyongyang out of the nuclear proliferation racket. By then, North Korea was collaborating with Syria to build a covert nuclear reactor on the Euphrates River. According to a 2008 CIA report, not only was this a copy of North Korea’s Yongbyon reactor, not only were North Korean officials present in Syria to assist, but after the Israelis destroyed the reactor in a 2007 air strike, North Koreans returned to the site to help the Syrians cover up the wreckage.”
“With North Korea’s two long-range missile tests last year — a fizzle in April, a success in December — and now a nuclear test, young Kim’s regime has effectively announced to the world that North Korea will stick to its old ways...”
AmbassadorJohn R. Bolton, former U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations,writes that China dreads seeing North Korea with nuclear arms, and that it istime for Beijing to support peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula.
“Predictably, those who urgedfor years that Pyongyang could be negotiated out of its nuclear objective nowargue that the world must accept reality and rely on deterrence andcontainment. Just as they claimed sanctions would prevent the North fromcrossing the nuclear threshold, they now say that sanctions will prevent itfrom selling these arms and technologies world-wide.”
“Military force isn't an optionas long as Seoul remains resolutely opposed, understandably fearing that SouthKoreans would be targets for Pyongyang's retaliation through nuclear, chemicalor biological weapons. The South might change its view because ofever-more-belligerent conduct by the North. But for now South Koreanpoliticians are again demanding that the South develop nuclear weapons. Similararguments are being made sotto voce inJapan.
“It is simply not in America'sinterest to see nuclear weapons proliferate, even into seemingly safe hands.But if President Obama pursues his dream of a ‘nuclear zero’ world, Japan,South Korea and other countries long sheltered under America's atomic umbrellawill have urgent second thoughts. Mr. Obama has never seemed to comprehend thatunilateral U.S. strategic-weapons reductions are as likely to encourage nuclearproliferation as reduce it.”
“If China continues insisting onmaintaining North Korea as a buffer state, Kim Jong Eun's dictatorship willsurvive. But if, as is increasingly true for younger Chinese leaders, Beijingcomes to see the North as the albatross it is, the possibilities for changebecome palpable.”
“Beijing condemns Pyongyang'snuclear program but doesn't exercise its extraordinary leverage, notablysupplying 90%-plus of the North's energy and substantial amounts of food andhumanitarian aid…”
@HerbKeinonreports that Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu calls the findings fromlast week’s confidential International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report “verygrave” and the report proves that Iran is moving swiftly toward the red line heset out five months ago. Iran now has65%-70% of the enriched uranium it needs for a nuclear weapon.
“Iran has begun installingadvanced centrifuges at its main uranium enrichment plant, a UN nuclear reportsaid on Thursday. In response, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that Iranis closer today than ever before to obtaining the necessary enriched uraniumfor a nuclear bomb. The White House said that the window remains open fordiplomacy with Iran but will not stay open indefinitely.”
“The Prime Minister's Office saidthat preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons will be the first issue onthe agenda when US President Barack Obama comes to visit in less than a month'stime.”
MarkDubowitz, executivedirector of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Dr.Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at FDD, write that the EuropeanCentral Bank’s Target2 payment system has become critical to the Iranian regimeever since the United States financial sanctions curtailed its dollar business.
“The United States has blockedIran from easily accessing greenbacks as a means to slow down the IslamicRepublic's nuclear program. But those financial sanctions only go so far. WithIranian nuclear physics still outpacing Western economic pressure, Washingtonis looking to prevent the mullahs from accessing their second favoritecurrency: the euro.”
“If you've ever conducted a transactionin euros, you've probably used Target2—unless, of course, you're doing cashdeals out of the back of your car. The system facilitates untold numbers oflegitimate euro transactions each year. But it also can be used unwittingly toaid Iranian sanctions-busting schemes…”
“Tehran has transferred billionsof dollars in foreign exchange reserves into euros, the world's second largestand most liquid currency reserve holding. The regime also has denominated asubstantial portion of Iranian international trade contracts in euros.”
“The ECB's own guidelines baraccess to Target2 by those engaged in ‘money laundering and the financing ofterrorism, proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities and the development ofnuclear weapons delivery systems.’ This describes the Iranian regime to theletter.”
“[I]n light of new evidence thatIran is accessing euros via Target2's payment system, some ECB officials haveindicated that they are prepared to bar Iran from the system for violating theexplicit prohibitions in the central bank's guidelines.”“A recent report by the Project on U.S.-Middle East Nonproliferation Strategyestimates that mid-2014 is when Tehran could reach the ‘critical capability’ toproduce enough weapons-grade uranium—or sufficient separated plutonium—for abomb before such production could ‘reasonably be expected to be detected by theInternational Atomic Energy Agency or Western intelligence services.’ Irancould reach this undetectable breakout earlier if it succeeds in operating theadvanced centrifuges that it is adding to its existing enrichment facilities.”
CliffordD. May, president of the Foundation for Defense ofDemocracies, writes that waging serious economic warfare with Iran isabsolutely essential – even though it will almost certainly fail to stop themfrom developing nuclear weapons.
“The alternative to sanctionswould be doing business as usual — while representatives of Iranian commercialenterprises trot around the globe buying, selling, and trading even as Iran’ssupreme leader and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps sponsor terrorism,threaten genocide, plot terrorism, and brutally persecute domestic dissidents,Christians, Baha’is and gays…”
“The ongoing debate oversanctions usefully focuses public attention on the fact that Iran is ruled by auniquely dangerous and oppressive regime…”
“Sanctions are debilitatingIran’s economy — causing hyperinflation, unemployment, steep currencydevaluations, and capital flight…”
“As my colleagues Reuel MarcGerecht and Mark Dubowitz recently wrote,sanctions are ‘the only nonmilitary means of coercing a regime in Tehran thatwill break any agreement and evade all kinds of inspections.’”
“The U.S. Congress is nowconsidering ratcheting up the economic pressure — perhaps enough to cause theIranian rial to collapse within 18 months. That would be the point at whichIran’s rulers would have to decide whether their nuclear ambitions are morelikely to increase their power or jeopardize it…”
“Sanctions may be most usefulafter a strike against Iran’s nuclear-weapons facilities. At that point,American and other Western diplomats will need all the leverage they can get.Their job will be to insist that Iran’s rulers verifiably end thenuclear-weapons program, halt terrorism sponsorship, and ease domestic oppression.In return: no further damage and the sanctions lifted…”
Dr.Emanuele Ottolenghi, seniorfellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, writes thatIran has a serious drug problem, with “almost 400,000 heroin users and morethan 500,000 opium users according to official statistics,” and they areplaying both sides of the drug war between the west and the cartels.
“For years, Iran has marketeditself as a frontline state in the war against the drug lords. Recently the NewYork Times even described the regime in Tehran as the ‘West’sstalwart ally in the War on Drugs.’ The problem is that while the Iranianregime is fighting drug lords on its eastern borders, much of the drugs itseizes are being sold by the Revolutionary Guards to the same people they areasking for additional funding to fight the drug trade—the Europeans.”
“According to a 2012 HumanRights Watch report, from 2000 to 2009, the UK gave Iran more than $4.7 millionas part of its anti-drug assistance programs. From 2007 and 2011, ‘Belgium,France, Ireland, Japan, and the United Kingdom provided $3.4 million throughUNODC [United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime] to establish border liaisonoffices as well as for body scanners and sniffer dogs to be used atcheckpoints, major airports, and the Iran-Afghanistan border.’ But, supplied tofight drugs, the equipment was diverted to kill Israelis. The Europeansprovided night-vision equipment, which Israeli troops later found in abandonedHezbollah bunkers during their July 2006 war with the Shiite militia.”