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Iran's saber-rattling to U.S. gunboat diplomacy

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Warning the U.S. and Israel about a “decisive battle” in response to the latest gunboat diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear program, Iranian Republican Guard Chief of Staff Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi put the White House on notice that Iran is prepared for any contingency. “We are ready for the decisive battle with America and the Zionist regime [Israel],” Fars quoted Firouzabadi. Iraq’s late dictator Saddam Hussein once warned the U.S. about the “mother of all battles,” before the U.S. invaded Iraq March 20, 2003. It took only three weeks to topple Saddam April 10, 2003, driving him into exile. That was the same military that fought Iran to loggerheads during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War. Battling Saddam cost Iran, by some estimates, over 800,000 soldiers, with the total war dead put a 1.2 million. Talking about a “decisive battle” with the U.S. and Israel sounds like hyperbole.

Even the Taliban’s hardened mujahedeen fighters, after years of battling the Russians in Afghanistan, found out what happens when you take on the U.S. Kabul fell Nov. 12, 2001, after the Taliban battled the U.S. for only five short weeks. Firouzabadi knows that threatening the U.S. doesn’t help his country’s current dilemma proving to the world that they’re not feverishly pursuing an A-bomb. Despite Iran’s denials over seeking atomic weapons, Western powers believe Iran’s secret enrichment sites aim to produce weapons-grade fuel for an eventual nuclear bomb. President Barack Obama endorsed the P5+1, including Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany, attempting in Geneva to negotiate a peaceful solution to the current nuclear standoff. Obama has signaled that all options are on the table, hinting at possible military strikes should diplomacy fail.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu practically threw a fit when the P5+1 signed a preliminary peace deal with Iran Nov. 24, 2013. Netanyahu believes Iran is only buying for more time, while its secret bomb-making program moves ahead a warp speed. Iran’s military chief reacted to comments by Secretary of State John F. Kerry that “the military option of the United States is ready and prepared to do what it would have to do,” prompting Firouzabadi’s recent threat. “Over the past decades, they brought their forces but came to the conclusion that they can’t attack us and left,” said Firouzabadi, calling the U.S. bluff. Since fulfilling his campaign promise to end the Iraq War Dec. 15, 2011, Obama doesn’t want to get the U.S. into another foreign war. Iran’s military underestimates the seriousness of its nuclear program to U.S. and Israel, prompting Kerry’s warnings.

Since 65-year-old former Iranian nuclear negotiator Hassan Rouhani came to power Aug. 3, 2013, U.S. officials was hopeful that Iran would come back to the peace table. Together with his 52-year-old U.S.-educated Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the U.S. and its Security Council allies had high hopes that Iran would come to its senses. Despite Israeli skepticism, the P5+1 have taken Iran at its word about its intent to compromise on its nuclear program. Kerry’s public remarks about all options didn’t go over well with Rouhani. “I say explicitly, if some have delusions of having any threats against Iran on their tables, they need to wear new glasses. There is no military option on any table in the world,” said Rouhani. Rouhani’s remarks mirror those of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who believes Iran has a right to enrich uranium under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty for peaceful purposes.

Judging by Obama’s recent decision to end the Afghan War by year’s end, Rouhani’s probably right that there are no real military option considered. Obama and Kerry walk a fine line representing the P5+1, while, at the same time, making good on the promise to keep Iran from building an A-bomb. U.N’s Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency has been denied access to Iran’s Parchin military site, where bomb-making has been suspected. Israel continues to put heat on the P5+1, precisely because the IAEA is locked out of all relevant facilities. With talks resuming in Vienna Monday, Feb. 17, the P5+1 hope to sign a comprehensive disarmament and inspection plan. Kerry’s remarks about military options rankled Iranian officials hoping to get sanctions relief without giving up any of its important nuclear activities, something Netanyahu finds unacceptable.

Obama finds himself in an unenviable situation with Iran: Hoping for the best but knowing Iran must do more than pay lip-service with its nuclear program. Caught between U.S. and Israeli conservatives, the White House can only play along for so long before the criticism mounts. Gone are the days when the U.S. could pressure Israel into making unilateral concessions to placate Palestinians. While Iran’s disarmament and the Palestinian question aren’t exactly linked, both relate to Israeli national security. With Iran not likely to give in to any real inspections of sensitive nuclear sites, like Parchin or its heavy water reactor at Arak, Obama will be forced into more gunboat diplomacy. Khamenei wants Rouhani and Zarif to buy him more time while he decides what to do with Iran’s secret nuclear programs. While there’s no proof of Iran working on a bomb, there’s way too much secrecy.

About the Author

John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.

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