The Iran debate is heating up for at least three reasons: 1) Iran’s nuclear program, as reported by IAEA, has picked up steam in recent months; 2) The 2012 U.S. presidential election is only eight months away; and 3) Iran is increasingly internationally isolated.
Accordingly, a number of experts at this week’s AIPAC Policy Conference informally bet me that if the current course isn’t altered, Israel will strike Iran’s nuclear sites before the year is out. I’ll make the same bet.
Iran’s nuclear program is now a serious threat. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently listed its Iranian nuclear concerns in a 15-page document that included: the computer modeling of a nuclear warhead; the enrichment of 240 pounds of uranium at 20 percent; the addition of hundreds of new centrifuges to a mountain facility; and the sudden disappearance of 45 pounds of uranium metal, previously at a research lab. IAEA can hardly be accused of being an agent of American and Israeli suspicions, so these claims cannot be dismissed by even the most skeptical. The Israelis will strike before Iran gets a nuclear weapon, and that time looks increasingly near.
Concerning the U.S. presidential election, President Obama’s attitude toward Israel is a heavily debated matter. I’ll refer you to this 30-minute documentary by the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) titled “Daylight: The Story of Obama and Israel” for a bit of evidence that the relationship is weak. And I’ll simply add my two cents by paraphrasing Hamlet: “Methinks the President doth protest too much.” If President Obama is really such a good friend of Israel, then why does he always need to explain and defend himself? It’s not just that he’s a Democrat; President Clinton didn’t get this treatment.
If we accept that President Obama is less-than-super-fond of Israel, then we have another reason for an eminent Iranian climax. The Israelis must strike Iran while President Obama can still be held electorally accountable by the American people and the Republican Party. If Israel strikes during Obama’s second term, then he is free to chastise Israel, as I suspect he would, and abandon Israel as an ally.
A third, and my final, explanation for the “heating up” of the Iranian debate is the civil strife in Syria. If Syria falls on its sword, Iran will have no steadfast allies. Knowing this, Iran is increasingly anxious to equip itself to exist as an international pariah (along the lines of North Korea), and the Western world is similarly anxious to enact outside measures that might weaken the regime and encourage Iranian citizens to extend the Arab spring to Persia.
All told, it’s no surprise that the word “Iran” came up once every 30 seconds at this year's AIPAC Policy Conference. Given the conflux of the above three points, Iran is likely to erupt in the coming months, and it will undoubtedly be the most important topic in international affairs in 2012.
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