Moves toward War with Iran: How to Prevent War ... Part 4

News Abroad

Mr. Polk was the member of the U.S. Policy Planning Council responsible for the Middle East from 1961 to 1965. Subsequently, he was professor of history and director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago and later president of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs. Author of many books on international affairs, world and Middle Eastern history, he recently wrote Understanding Iraq (HarperCollins, New York and London 2005 and 2006) and, together with former Senator George McGovern, Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2006).

Editor: This the fourth in a series: Part 1. Part 2.Part 3.


In previous articles I have set out why I think an America attack on Iran is likely,  how such an attack  would be carried out and what would happen as a result.  Here I will discuss how it could be avoided while preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons.

Whether in diplomacy or in business, it is always useful to find out what the other side wants and what it fears.  I think the Iranian government’s hopes and fears  come down to three things.    The first  is for Iran to have access to the top order of technology.  That is symbolized and partly contained in nuclear science.  True, Iran has a large reserve of oil, so it is not just a nuclear source of energy that it seeks; rather, it is the boost to is skills that involvement in the whole range of nuclear industry and knowledge would give it.

Second, Iran seeks parity with the major powers.  Not just this regime, but every Iranian regime including that of America’s friend and ally, the Shah, has been driven by nationalism.  It is impossible overemphasize the pride of Iranians in their culture and history. They are determined that Iran not to be a “third world” country.

Third, the Iranian regime seeks protection against threat of invasion by the United States and/or Israel.  It was shortly after Iran came out in support of America in Afghanistan that a steady drumbeat of threats to “regime change” it were taken up by the Bush administration.  Having been characterized by President Bush as one of the “Axis of Evil,”  it sees that one of the other two, Iraq, has been invaded and its government overthrown while North Korea, a truly rogue state, acquired immunity from military attack by acquiring nuclear weapons.  Iran’s leaders read that experience to mean that it should acquire weapons too.  Since the period in which a state is trying to arm itself but has not yet done so is highly dangerous, it has sensibly denied a weapons program.  Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan all did precisely the same.  But I feel certain that Iran is hurrying to acquire them.  Any other policy would be foolish.

So what to do about it?

Western governments generally proclaim that there are only two choices: either allow Iran to “join the nuclear club” or forcibly disarm it.  If these really are the only choices, I think that, however unwillingly, the European states and even the American public will support the Bush administration in its planned attack.  The further spread of nuclear weapons, particularly to another fundamentalist state and particularly one charged with supporting terrorism, is simply too frightening.  However, as I shall point out, there is a third option.  Let me put it in context of an overall policy.

My considered opinion is that the way to diminish the threat Iran is said to pose to our society and way of life is precisely the opposite of what we are now doing, threatening and building up the means to attack Iran.  Instead, first, we should renounce the doctrine of preëmptive strike that is embedded in the U.S. National Security Policy.  I quote, “when deterrence fails or efforts short of military action do not forestall gathering threats, the United States will employ military power…In all case, we will seek to seize the initiative and dictate the tempo, timing and direction of military operations…These include preventive actions.”  Such a policy is bound to force the Iranian regime to hide what it is doing and to do what it can, as quickly as it can,  to acquire the bomb.

Second, we should stop what we are doing to attempt to subvert the Iranian regime.  Allegedly, and believed by the Iranian government, we have put agents into the country to attempt to foment rebellion and are now circling it with awesome military forces in an attempt to intimidate its government.  It can either acquiesce or resist.  As far as we now know, it has chosen to resist.  So the policy is self-defeating.

Third,  we need to engage in sensible dialog with the Iranian government so that what I believe to be true can be verified.  By isolating it, we only encourage the Iranian hardliners and delay any prospects for liberalization. 

Fourth, and this is the essence of a move toward regional peace, we should urgently, intelligently and energetically push for a truly different Middle Eastern political and strategic order.  This order has two components:  the most dramatic and urgent is to work toward regional nuclear disarmament.   Europe and America have much experience in this field and were making substantial progress until a decade ago.  We need to go back and start again.  That is in everyone’s interest: nuclear weapons anywhere are a danger to people everywhere.  In its own interest, Israel should agree; so  should America; and so, in the context of a move toward peace, should Iran. But again, what Israel, Europe and America are doing is precisely opposed to their interests.    England, France and America – in violation of the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty – are increasing and upgrading their arsenals while Israel’s huge arsenal will provoke other Middle Eastern states, as it already has provoked Iran, to acquire them too.  Probably sooner rather than later Saudi Arabia and Egypt will move to acquire them.  Thus, instead of being a source of security, Israel’s policy on nuclear weapons will severely undermine Israeli security.

Fifth, related to the conflict between Iran and America is the policy of Israel toward the Palestinian problem.  Unless or until the Palestinians are at least allowed to form a state, there is no hope for overall security in the area.  The fear and hatred that radiate from the Palestine problem poisons all moves toward peace.  

Instead of dealing forthrightly with these five issues, reliance on threat and force can only result in protracted warfare and the further spread of terrorism throughout the world.  Resolving them is our best means to move toward the peace and security we all want and need.


©  William R. Polk, October 11, 2006.

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omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Mr Clarke
Your statement:

"although your use of the term "Zionist" as a pejorative marks you as biased rather than reasonable,"

amazes me for being a Zionist ,for a Zionist, is a source of pride that many on this and other forums and media avow unresevedly .

Zionist is truly pegorative, by rational ,objective, progressive and humane/humanitarian standards for being in essence an intrinsically aggressive and racist doctrine.

But they, the Zionists, carry it shamelessly with pride and apply daily its injunctions of aggression, usurpation and racial discrimination (the Israeli Law of Return; inter alia) and denial of basic human rights.

I use the

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Mr Clarke
Your statement:

"although your use of the term "Zionist" as a pejorative marks you as biased rather than reasonable,"

amazes me for being a Zionist ,for a Zionist, is a source of pride that many on this and other forums and media avow unresevedly .

Zionist is truly pegorative, by rational ,objective, progressive and humane/humanitarian standards for being in essence an intrinsically aggressive and racist doctrine.

But they, the Zionists, carry it shamelessly with pride and apply daily its injunctions of aggression, usurpation and racial discrimination (the Israeli Law of Return; inter alia) and denial of basic human rights.

I use the term the way we use the term "communist" and "neocon" being descriptive of an allegiance and an affiliation to a certain political dogma .

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

That was an answer to a question!

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Mr Clarke
Once again I have to restate the patently obvious: Zionism , the aggressive, racist and expansionist political doctrine, is alive and killing daily; very recently in Gaza and lately in Lebanon.
Its aggressive expansionist designs, via official, de jure, annexation of the occupied Syrian Golan Hights have been lately the subject of daily discourse in Israeli ruling circles.

All Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a practical implementation of Zionism ; so is the recent and ongoing land grab under the pretext of the Security Wall; which is less than four years ago!

"Israel Baituna," which recently joined Olmert's government, is on the record for the ethnic cleansing, from their homeland, of Palestinian Arabs; a policy euphemistically known as Transfer!(A Labour minister refused to be part of such a "racist" government resigned.)

Zionist organizations, under that name: "Zionist", in Israel and all over the world are alive , collecting money ,recruiting and exerting undue influence all over.

Fugiyama, not sure about the spelling, deemed Zionism, under that very appellation, as a major force behind and within neoconservatism.

Look up "Zionist" in any search engine and you will get a notion about the multiplicity and diversity of organizations that go under that name!

Some, however, prefer not to be officially known as such.
What is AIPAC if not a Zionist setup?

To contend that Zionism is obsolete or dormant is self deluding and fallacious.
It is very much alive; ruling over Israel, partaking in the rule over the USA and exerting huge influence all over the West via Rupert Murdoch, Saban et all.
Zionism is much more alive and effective on the world scene than communism; Red China, N Korea, VietNam notwithstanding.

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Can any "democracy" be trusted that it will not change its policies from A to Z or to F, M or W;
from,say, "containment" to all out "war" and "invasion"?
Can the electorate in any "democracy" be TRUSTED not to elect the party whose political platform runs contrary to the platform of the party in office?
Can, could Israel, be TRUSTED not to replace in power the Labour of Rabbin with the Likud of Begin and Sharon?

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Carl Becker on November 8, 2006 at 11:37 AM:
"I agree that the Iranian regime should not be trusted. "

A question to Mr Becker:

Is any American or Israeli regime to br trusted ??

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

To contend that:
"This has everything to do with the treaty, ..."(Simon #101070) and NOT with the balance of power in the Middle East which will determine who is the regional super power ,Iran or Israel, calls for an exceptional ability and willingness to underestimate the intelligence of the general reader that is verging on pure, unmitigated insolence!
Amazing where fanaticism and ensuing blindness lead !

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

A quick review of the Zionist herd's posts here make the question:"what is it that they want, favour, endorse etc" inevitable!
One way or another they are all unanimmous in their explicit, implicit, understated, vociferous(here and in other threads)desire for the USA to go to war against Iran!

And why should they not be?

Another war paid for solely by the USA, in blood and treasure, to maintain Israel's sole ownership of a military nuclear capability , and regional super power status ,is the ultimate service to Israel!

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Mr Clark
Kindly reread my statement:"One way or another they are all unanimmous in their explicit, implicit, understated, vociferous(here and in other threads)desire for the USA to go to war against Iran!"
and note:
"(here { ie at HNN/my recent addition}and in other threads)"

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

You are right, Mr. B., about a pro militarist Israeli "herd" mentality pervading other HNN pages, although your use of the term "Zionist" as a pejorative marks you as biased rather than reasonable, just as the too often regurgitated propaganda term "Islamofascist" primarily shows the phobias, prejudices and non-historical agendas of those who hurl it. But there is no herd activity here on this page, so why try to provoke it?

What we have on this page are (1) Simon, in what could a historic first original comment, followed by his customary interjections, saying, in essence, we should try for a stricter Non-Proliferation policy and cannot trust the lying Iranian autocrats, and I cannot fault the logic or historical validity of what are both (surprisingly) relevant points, (2) Friedman, lapsing into one of his occasional "we're all doomed" moods -but with considerable justification, I might add, and Amitz, who unlike the others IS actually Israeli by origin, but may as well be from Mars for all the sense his often (including here) laughably warped posts display.

Nobody except you is talking about America invading Iran on Israel's behalf.

By the way, the diversity of views on this page is similar, if not exceeded, by the range of sentiments in Israel (which is NOT the topic here) and Iran (which is).

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. Friedman won't like the source, but here yet another possible reason why Iran is likely to continue to receive little more than rhetorical wrist slaps as it goes nuke at maximum speed.

"Help rein in renegade Shiite militias in Iraq and you can have the bomb with our blessing," might be one possible deal struck by the wing-clipped Cheney-Bushes with the Iranian mullahs. Not quite the one-sided deal which India got, but a shrewd Iranian regime would likely take full advantage of such typically flip-flopping weakness from the current White House.

This is of course, only my crude speculation based on secondhand rumor, but it is surely not as far-fetched as Polk's arm-chair fantasizing.


"Blair to Address Iraq Study Group
British Premier Plans Video Conference With Baker-Hamilton Panel

By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, November 11, 2006; 4:08 PM

LONDON, Nov. 11 -- Prime Minister Tony Blair will speak via video link with officials from the Iraq Study Group on Tuesday to discuss "U.K. ideas on Iraq and the Middle East," a Blair spokeswoman said Saturday...

The Guardian newspaper on Saturday reported that Blair would urge the panel to push the Bush administration to begin talks with Syria and Iran to persuade those two countries to become more involved in finding a solution to the situation in Iraq."

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

We have been over this before. You are using the wrong vocabulary, Baker. No one ever submitted a comment to HNN to proclaim himself a "Zionist."

Zionism was a variant of 19th century European ethnic-based nationalism with all the contradictions and evils that implies, but there is nothing in it which inherently requires the incessant kneejerk use of modern American technology to bulldoze Arab-owned olive groves and or blow up houses of Arab children, six decades after the establishment of Israel.

America has done some evil things over the course of its history, but nobody ever said that the MyLai massacre in Vietnam was carried out as a policy of Manifest Destiny or perpetrated by followers of the Sons of Liberty. We called the Germans a lot of names during the two World Wars, but Teutonic Knights or Charlemagnists were not among them. Maggie Thatcher's most severe critics never dubbed her a Norman.

Communist and neo-con are totally different. Lots of people DID call themselves communists long after the Bolshevik revolution. Some still do. Who today anywhere, still calls himself a Zionist? Were Jewish "settlers" in Gaza Zionist? Well they believed in making a livelihood off stolen Arab land, but what does that then make Ariel Sharon, who kicked them off that land? An ANTI-Zionist?

Many of the first self-styled "neoconservatives" of the 1960s and 1970s are still around today. And the term is au courant Herzl died a century ago. Israel last annexed land four decades ago.

Give it up, Baker. You use "Zionist" like our Israeli-American fellowposter here uses a multiplicity of ahistorical insult-labels. Less weirdly, and less rudely, to be sure, but not much less recklessly. It is a form of intellectual laziness tossed out in order to let off steam by calling names. You are capable of better.

And Friedman, this time, is right. It, and this whole discussion here is irrelevant to the risks of Iran going nuclear while a C student in History sits in the White House.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

The point was that if we have to ask Iran for a favor on Iraq, it will be even LESS, not more, amenable to also doing us a favor on its nuke plans.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. Barker, We are about out of time, here on this tangent, but I will try reason once more.

You are, at the very least, using an unconventional defition of "Zionism" and contorting historical facts to try to fit that weird definition. Look up "Zionism" on Wikipedia for the conventional definition used by most supporters AND most critics of Israeli polices. See, for example:


The 1967 war does not even APPEAR on that timeline, just as the Vietnam War would NOT appear on a timeline of "How the West Was Won" in American frontier history.

The West Bank and Golan Heights have been occupied by Israel for 39.5 years!
There has been NO further expansion of Israeli-controlled terrority since then, and it is disingenous of you to pretend otherwise.

Look, there is plenty to criticize about Israeli policies, especially recent ones. And if you want to condemn the rigid occupation of the West Bank, the building of hideously-ugly fortress "settlements" there, the brutal oppression of Arabs living there, and the hypocritical refusal to countenance a Palestinian state, you have world public opinion and sympathy on your side. If you want to claim that occupation, oppression, brutality, and hypocrisy are not occupation, oppression, brutality, and hypocrisy but instead "Zionism" then you have crackpot Islamic extremists and anti-Semites on your side. I fail utterly to see what good it does any of your arguments to constantly harp on "Zionism," or indeed why you waste your time here making them using such non-historical imflammatory vocabulary. All you do is to bring the Ecksteins of the world down upon you producing great cyclones of rage and insult, and enlightening nobody, except perhaps to reiterate a thousand times how wretched, hated, suicidal Palestinians and paranoid cowardly trigger-happy Israelis deserve each other.

I respectfully suggest you try instead focusing on real history (not made up fables about some supposed great new Israeli annexation of terriorities it has actually held for nearly two generations) and using proper historical terminology, not Hamas-like propaganda spins. You might actually be persuasive for a change.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Lying and cheating about nukes has been the hallmark of Iranian policy for years. There is nothing in Polk's prescription here that would avert more of that. His is a recipe for letting the Iranian regime get away with going nuclear, a move that does not benefit the Iranian people. Thanks to the wolf-crying, deceit-laden, shame-covered, and blunder-ridden U.S. invasion of Iraq having shredded America's "big stick," there is no way Pelosi and Gates are now going to attack Iran (not that Polk had a leg to stand on in predicting such an attack under Rummy in the first place).

Israel went nuclear and was ignored. Pakistan and India did too and were rewarded. North Korea's tyrants have gone to the brink of genocide on their own people in order to develop the Big One, and have had their international knuckles lightly rapped.

Welcome to the nuclear Mideast, folks.
Enjoy your guzzling SUVs while there is still gasoline to fill them.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. S., The non-proliferation treaty, if some real teeth were put it, would be the best avenue for stopping Iran (or might have been at an earlier stage) and such countries, BUT it clearly does mean next to nothing, to the likes of GWB (and means little more to most other politicians as well). And how many American voters have even ever heard of it?

But "imperial initiatives of American policy/diplomacy can do all things at all times" is not an idea remotely connected to anything I've ever said or believed. Quite close to 180 degrees off, though.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I have no idea what you are fishing for now, Simon, but suffice it to say that "the US is impotent to influence" and "the imperial initiatives of American policy/diplomacy can do all things at all times, all over the world" do not, even together, cover as much as a minute fraction of the set of possible geopolitical scenarios, and needless to say, I am nowhere near being a fan of either viewpoint.

My position on nuclear proliferation, if that is what you are beating around the bush (pun unintended) trying to pin down, is ultimately rather simple. I agree with Friedman about the difficulty of putting the genie back into the bottle, especially when the putting is being "managed" by a juvenile deliquent.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. Baker, I regret to observe that your emotions appear again to be running ahead of the facts. Except for Keuter -in a different thread- no one here is advocating a US attack on Iran. One poster hardly amounts to a "herd." I am not saying such an attack could never happen, but you can't expect to deflate a bogeyman argument by inflating another. Iran bears little resemblence to Hitler's Germany. Neither the Israeli government's nukes, nor its blind support from George W., nor its slaughter of Lebanese civilians enabled it to get back its two border soldiers captured last July or do anything to meaningfully reduce the power and popularity of Hezbollah. The possession or non-possession of nuclear weapons by either Israel or Iran is not going to change the unsustainable nature of population growth in both countries, the political oppression of Iranian people, or the pigheaded refusal of too many Israelis and too many Palestinians to recognize each other's basic rights to self-determination.

N. Friedman - 11/12/2006


I see you agree with my assessment.

N. Friedman - 11/12/2006


On that point, I certainly agree.

N. Friedman - 11/12/2006


I see nothing wrong with talking with Syria or Iran. On the other hand, it is difficult to imagine that anyone really expects either of them really will do anything to help us.

More likely, there will be a variation on the Pakistani method of helping. Which is to say, no real help will be forthcoming no matter what promises are made by any or all of them.

As for The Guardian, my problem with the paper is that it puts its editorial biases before any fidelity to facts. So, I do not trust that paper's reporting. And, I do not think highly of its editorial biases. I think the paper is rather retrograde and full of hubris.

But, The Guardian may well know what the British government will advocate to the US. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

N. Friedman - 11/11/2006


Who's next!!!

N. Friedman - 11/11/2006


What does your post have to do with Iran? Nothing.

And, as for what you said, asserting that Israel is racist while supporting, as you do, Hezbollah, is laughable.

N. Friedman - 11/11/2006


You write: "The non-proliferation treaty, if some real teeth were put it ..."

I wish that you were correct about this. I think that a NPT could work very well in the environment of a reasonably stable world order where there were not an overwhelming number of world conflicts to damp down and where the world's powers actually saw their interests regarding nuclear weapons more or less the same way. At present, there is a lack of stability and the trend does not appear, thus far, to be turning toward a more stable world order.

And it is not at all clear that the world's powers see the spread of nuclear weapons the same way, in any event. Taken individually, the world's countries do not appear really to want to clamp down on NPT, at least not if it means lost profits or influence. So, the US builds up its friends. The French supply France's friends. The Russians supply Russia's friends, etc.,etc. So, the world can have a treaty but if countries able to do so see their interests conflicting with the general interest to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, they will likely pursue their own interests.

Further, what teeth could keep a country from obtaining nuclear weapons if such are perceived to be a fundamental objective? Such would drive everything underground ala the AQ Khan network. And, who knows how many more such networks there are that have not been discovered.

Now, I would support a good treaty. Do not get me wrong. I just do not see it as a panacea.

N. Friedman - 11/11/2006


Certainly NPT has something to do with nuclear weapons. Iran, after all, is part of the treaty. And Iran could bow out of the NPT. So, obviously, the NPT is a factor to be considered, even for Iran.

I do not think that the issue is whether Iran or Israel will be the "regional super power." Israel, even if it wanted to be a "regional super power" has too small a population to do so. And, at this point, the country is also restrained by Palestinian Arabs. So, your theory is merely a product of the view that Israel is anywhere and everywhere.

A real issue for Iran is that Iraq is no longer in a position to restrain Iran. So, Iran is, relatively and in absolute terms, much more powerful than it previously was. And, arguably, its leadership has an ambitious agenda although there is disagreement whether it is the agenda of its religious fanatic of a president or whether the agenda is merely regional - i.e. concerning Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc..

E. Simon - 11/10/2006

So you think that weapons that can be made, will be made. Nice. So do I. I just think that the "law be damned" attitude about that is a stupid stance, pun intended.

The bush you will never not beat around is that unless the U.S. pushes anything, few strictures of this nature will have any teeth of enforcement. But I digress. It seems such is not your concern.

E. Simon - 11/10/2006

Umm, and that development has to be one that you would say is one that potentially affects U.S. interests.

E. Simon - 11/10/2006

Ok, name one development in the world outside of the U.S. in the last - I'll be generous - say, 16 years, that you would state that the U.S. was, regardless of who was in power then or previously, impotent to influence, for better or worse - and not illegitimately so or without your consternation.

It's nice to know the esteem within which you hold the NPT. The relevence with which you place voters' knowledge of it - or lack thereof - is also a tad schmaltzy, but I'm glad to know you're willing to appropriate American democratic sentiments or conversely, disregard American laws due to voter disinterest - at least when doing so selectively suits your purposes. Just thought the application of that benchmark to legally-binding treaties was an obscure enough standard to not surprise me - at least coming from you, Peter.

E. Simon - 11/10/2006

It leads to a rational morality and an international order that goes beyond mere appearances, King Philip "Omar" of Macedon.

E. Simon - 11/10/2006

So you do agree with me then. This has everything to do with the treaty, and not to do with whether military technologies (i.e. "genies") stay secret - (they don't), or whether countries need to one-up another on those technologies - (they usually, or at least often, do). Peter's only point is to push his POV that the imperial initiatives of American policy/diplomacy can do all things at all times, all over the world, with regards to the geopolitical realities that underpin the how those considerations develop. He has a point; it can do much. It however, can't, and - moreover - won't and legitimately doesn't want to be in charge of the scenarios around the world that affect these countries' decisions to the extent necessary to prevent every potentially negative military development abroad. I view the resulting dichotomy as one where we can recognize that and deal with a wider but more selective margin of bad behavior from rogue regimes, or one where our inevitable inability to micromanage every hard power aspect of Pax Americana lulls us into thinking that the culture of appearances and diplomatic niceties are more important than the hard realities of those nations' interests that just don't always happen to conform to ours.

I think there's something to be said for letting other countries occasionally f-up their own decisions every now and then, as a learning curve with which to subsequently recalibrate their overall designs to those eventually more befitting of the international order. I think the NPT, however, should be an exception to this grey-area sense of leeway - and where broached, should be met with the strongest rebuke possible.

N. Friedman - 11/10/2006

Mr. Simon,

I am afraid I have to agree with Peter if (and to the extent) he is arguing that it is likely too late to put the nuclear genie back into the bottle.

I might add that given the military potential of nuclear weapons, the probability, notwithstanding the history, of ever having kept the genie in the bottle never was so great anyway. Military secrets do not tend to stay secret very long, especially when their potential has been demonstrated.

As history has played out, the fact that one group of countries has them is an additional reason for other countries to want them. What is good for the goose ...

But, the main reason is that such weapons provide an advantage. So, if the world all scrapped such weapons, countries interested in increasing their power would almost certainly pursue such programs anyway and, in such circumstances, rather secretly.

On the other hand, I am afraid you are correct if you are pointing out that Israel, Pakistan and India are not party to the NPT so that the issue with, for example, Iran is that it is not a member.

E. Simon - 11/10/2006

I love how the invisible wall in the middle of all of Bakr's preposterous false equivalences, is the one that prevents his consideration of whether a Palestinian regime can be trusted, you know, the one that would rather starve its own people than chart a course that doesn't include eliminationism of its neighbors and civilian-directed violence as a point of pride. Which of these four "regimes" can even be trusted to be responsive to the needs of its own people is an elementary and principle consideration in that sort of an analysis - one of trust, and one that Bakr's mind is obviously too primitive to grasp. Fortunately, at least the Iranian people are more advanced, even if their system of government isn't, and as for the U.S. or Israeli electorates and systems of government, Bakr doesn't even have a clue of what could possibly motivate them, so it is pointless to even take the question he asks seriously when it comes from him.

Becker is right. The Iranian regime should not be trusted.

E. Simon - 11/10/2006

"Israel went nuclear and was ignored. Pakistan and India did too and were rewarded. North Korea's tyrants have gone to the brink of genocide on their own people in order to develop the Big One, and have had their international knuckles lightly rapped.

Welcome to the nuclear Mideast, folks."

Not if the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty means anything, Peter.

Yehudi Amitz - 11/9/2006

After 1967 USA didn't sell Israeli soldiers lives to the Arabs anymore, as in USS Liberty incident. USA doesn't share information with Israel, after all Pollard got the same sentence as Hanson and Ames for a much lesser crime, but, I guess, the Israeli satellite engineers got some rocket science training in the USA.
Between Mearsheimer and Walt "new protocols of the elders of Zion" and the peanuts Israel receives for being a scapegoat for SUV oil probably the Israeli nukes are the reason for the friendship between Israel ans USA.

Carl Becker - 11/8/2006

I agree that the Iranian regime should not be trusted. I agree that there are hints out there to back this up. Not to watch your back would be foolish. Still, out of what US and other-world media and think-tank machines do some of these hints come from and why? They are not to be trusted either. To equate France's reaction to Hitler's aggressions is not reason enough to justify a pre-emptive attack on Iran.
My memory of European history is hardly perfect but I think that general historical consensus is that Hitler’s Germany arose from the humiliating conditions they were forced to accept upon their surrender at the end of WWI. The winning side at Versailles didn’t seem to have much concern what Germany’s fears were, before or after, on the European stage at that time; if they’d had a wider vision, they could have been more lenient and the WWII we know might have been averted, and maybe the German psyche would have had no use for a Hitler, etc. In the Iran case, finding out what the other side wants and fears is a pretty sane idea. The Bush gang didn’t act too interested in any historical understanding of Iraq before they decided to unseated a secular ruler and unleash a fundamentalist terrorist training ground. Iran “seeks parity with the major powers”. The major powers today, like at Versailles, seem to be running into the same vision problem, seeing only war as a solution. Iranian rulers and u.s. presidents say things that sound extremely antisemtic and stupid, such as in wiping Israel off the map, or having a mission from God to crusade the world for democracy. These nuts come and go between elections so there’s no reason for a whole nation to start a war that our children’s children will have to pay for with their blood. If there’s no way Bush wants Iran to join the nuclear club, how are they going to forcibly disarm Iran? Iraq was easier, how are they going to deal with Iran?

Jason Blake Keuter - 11/8/2006

Iran is as depply antisemitic as Nazi Germany, if not more so. The author doesn't know his history. When acquiring power, psychotics behave within the parameters of reality. Once they have that power, they behave psychotically. Along the way, they give plenty of hints about what they'll do. Fools fail to heed those hints.

The psychotics have already seized power within Iran; hence the antisemitic children's cartoons, the school sponsored antisemitic rallies and festivals and fairs - it is profoundly sick.

I encourage people to read Ian Kershaw's The Hitler Myth, which details meticuously how concerned Hitler and the Nazis were with public opinion and perception as long as countervailing institutions existed within Germany. Arguably, Hitler was a supremely rational politician before he had total power, at which point he became a supremely murderous politician. He was diseased the whole time.

As for relying on threat and force - Hitler's biggest gamble was that France wouldn't react militarily to his seizing the Rhine and the rest of Czechoslovakia. The military believed France would and was therefore prepared to overthrow Hitler should he pull Germany towards a disastrous repeat of World War I. When France did nothing, the opposition was humiliated and Hitler's standing magnified to near invicible status. Thus, the failure of America to act militarilty emboldens evil in Iran and weakens the forces within Iran that are rational and humane.

The reasons why France didn't act militarily then are quite similar to the reasons the US doesn't act now. In particular, France feared that its ally England wouldn't join the fight. The Germans feared that France alone would choose to fight and Germans would rebel and depose the government. The Nazis benefitted from war weary electorates in France and England that had fostered a mythology that World War I was simply a sordid affair run by Kings and capitalists and that German militarism and colonial ambitions on the continent were no concern. Neither government beleived they could rely on sustained domestic support for a war against Germany. They were probably right. We have learned, however, that such sustained support might not have been needed.

There is only one way to describe the present government of Iran : it is a nihilistic enemy of the US and the world. Rationalizing its behavior and encouraging tepid tap dancing around this reality will make us all shadows on the stage of one of its farcical cartoons.

E. Simon - 11/6/2006

I have heard Iran specialist after Iran specialist say over and over again that its foreign policy has historically been defined by ambiguity, subtlety, indecisiveness and playing both sides against the middle. With that kind of a legacy continuing full force - (or tipping to the less pleasant extreme w/Ahmadenijad, who knows, right?) - what do all the polemicists like Polk hope to achieve in advising a U.S. response that can in any way be competently and realistically shaped to meet the deliberately vague exigencies of Iranian policy?

Yehudi Amitz - 11/6/2006

That's the central part of the fascist neo-progressive agenda, blame Israel for the problems of the USA. Mr. Polk in his hateful fervor "forgets" that the Iranian regime took American hostages not Israelis. USA and UK organized the removal of the Iranian government in the 1950s. This irresponsible Polk is talking about an invasion (dictionary: the act of an army that invades for conquest or plunder) of Iran by Israel. How hateful can one be to imply that Israel, who has plenty of enemies at his borders would go and invade Iran. In his four badly written articles Polk lumps the big interests of USA with the Israeli interest to keep Jews alive and he does it for one reason: to please the Islamo-fascist crowd. That's the main goal of the neoprogs, the modern inheritors of the fascist anti-Jewish hatred, to blame the Jews for the problems of the world.

Nick Platte - 11/6/2006

The US Government has failed to develop a coherent Iran policy since the U.S. Embassy takeover. The Bush Administration is compounding this continued failing by substitutiong a series of unrealistic and risky "Objectives" for a real policy. While the danger of a nuclear armed Iran cannot be ignored, this President, and his National Security team, however well intentioned have proven themselves to be singularly incompetent in addressing these critical issues. America has at its disposal all the tools in its military, diplomatic and Intelligence services to effectively tackle the dangers we face. The Iraq invasion has demonsrated, however what happens when "beliefs" or "wishful thinking" are substituted for thoughtful policy analysis, not to mention the realities on the ground. A major component of this crisis of arrogance is the unwillingness of this administration to directly engage perceived opponents/enemies, preferring instead to infer, devine and demonize their intentions.

This lack of context and ground truth inevitabley leads to an over reliance on Intelligence, as in the case of Iraq. Under the best of circumstances, even very good Intelligence, and particularly HUMINT, provides merely a snapshot or a very narrow window into the plans and intentions of an adversary. As for SI (Signals Intelligence), conversations while valuable can easily be taken out of context or misinterpreted, espccially when there is a dearth of a larger body of information within which to place it. Lastly, the Bush Administration has proven itself quite willing and able to "cherry pick" from among individual HUMINT and SI Intelligence products in support its premeditated positions vice allowing the totality of available information to lead to the formation of a sound and prudent policy. This tactic also plays well into the policy of the "One Percent Doctrine", thus in effect forcing one to "prove a negative", something that is virtually impossible to do, in repudiating the threat scenarios they are espousing.

It appears the Bush White House is again applying this tactic in the increasingly ominous drumbeat it is sounding regardng the threat Iran poses to the U.S. and its Western Allies. While the danger is not insignifcant, neither is it imminent.

As a participant in and strong supporter of the "War on Terror, and a proponent, at least in principal, of removing Saddam I am bitterly disappointed by this Administration's disastrously poor handling of these nuanced and complicated national security issues.