Moscow, (Pyotr Romanov, RIA Novosti)-The United States and Iran seem to have firmly set on a path that leads to the hell of war. There are hopes for the best - and I myself would be happy to be erring on the pessimistic side - but the way things look here and now, hopes are increasingly overshadowed by grim reality.
Assertive statements on the American side and Gulf wargames on the Iranian side equally scream of muscle-flexing. Either side, while portraying the other as a new evil empire, is in fact perfectly aware of the danger the opponent poses to its core ideological and political values. Though neither risks thumbing its nose on third-party peacemakers, neither actually listens to whatever they say.
There are objective propositions suggesting that the Middle East is in for yet another big fight. To fit in well with a changing world, both parties are equally desperate for a qualitative leap ahead. Regrettably, both seem to think that such success comes easier through a military, rather than an intellectual or moral, breakthrough.
Why Go to War: U.S.
In Afghanistan, Washington claimed a technical victory. Though the carefully tended democracy flowerbed there seems to be overrun by medieval tribal weeds as the nation is in fact run by Shariah judges and international drug cartels, Afghanistan still looks better than Iraq where any kind of victory is still out of question. Both have done extremely bad PR for America's superpower status.
A tarnished image on the international stage would be something Washington could live with, were it not for Vietnam-style protests at home. Wisconsin has sent a loud though nonbinding message to D.C. as 61% voted for immediate pullout from Iraq in local referendums last Tuesday.
Not that there are few pretexts for a small critic-gagging victorious war, the Administration might think. Three years ago, WMD evidence, slippery as it looked and false as it proved later, had become the case for war on Iraq. With Iran, a
trigger-happy White House is likely to think a mere WMD suspicion will do. Iran's own notorious wipe-off-Israel rhetoric also helps, of course.
The last but not least, fighting the sinister gang of terrorist-sponsoring ayatollahs fits in marvelously with President George W. Bush's declared strategy to eradicate tyranny around the globe. To keep your word is important. What Iranian people think about the sinister gang of ayatollahs that runs their own country is apparently of little consequence.
Why Go to War: Iran
Iran has no fewer reasons to have a go. Neither U.S. domination nor a nuclear-free future is seen as an option for a nation asserting itself as a possible regional leader.
While a peaceful nuclear project could well become a solid engine of new Iranian modernization, Tehran's ambition runs higher: an Iranian-made nuclear bomb is seen as a key to many doors in the Middle East that are shut so far. Apart from making Iran a frontrunner for regional leadership, it could also fuel a new rise of the Shi'ite culture in the Muslim world and put the country in the lead of rising Islam globally. Or so Tehran hopes. None of its aspirations will possibly come true as long as Washington stands in the way.
What to Expect
There is little need to go through a long list of other pro-war considerations. What has been said is probably enough to realize that, whoever tries to bring peace between America and Iran, be it the United Nations, Western Europe, the International Atomic Energy Agency, or Russia, will have their pledges fall on deaf ears.
While Russia and others continue to warn against a new American war gamble - most recently, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated in Berlin that Russia did not think "positive results could come through threats and pressure" - there is little hope his voice will be heard on the Potomac. Maybe we should better brace up for the worst-case scenario, for what will begin as a noble duel could well end up as a classic bar brawl in which the watchers will get as many bruises as the fighters.
So now it is not a question of "if" any more. It is a question of "when." Rough calculation points at the end of this year.
Action will not begin later than that because plunging into war with record-low approval ratings and only one year left until the next election is clearly not what a U.S. party would ever allow its president to do. Personally, George W. Bush also hardly wants to go down in history as "a man who lost all his wars." What the Grand Old Party needs before 2008 to veil the Iraqi quagmire is an overwhelming - even if equally devastating - military success. In the case of Iran, military success will surely take time.
Action will not begin sooner because of many political as well as military factors. Not being an expert in the military domain, I would just state the obvious: any war requires preparation and a secure rear area. In this case it should mean the U.S. will be enrolling as many allies as possible - even at the price of getting numbers instead of battlefield value - in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Washington is going to need allies on the political front as well, trying not to expose itself to the kind of global chastisement it has received for invading Iraq without a UN stamp of approval. The list of possible pressure targets includes Western Europeans and of course Moscow and Beijing who have a veto power in the UN Security Council, while the list of pressure issues could begin with sanctions. With the White House clearly expecting little material effect of economic action, any sanctions whatsoever, if imposed by an international consensus, might be mistaken for a go-ahead signal.
No sooner will the U.S. dare act in contempt of international law than it becomes clear allies are not queuing in. Military action will still remain a possibility because God-witness-we-tried-hard-but-we-are-running-out-of-patience politics is something the U.S. is, sadly, not foreign to.
To try really hard, however, will again take time. Looks like we still have a few peaceful months to enjoy, then.