- - Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Nov. 24 loomed as a strategic date in the history of the globe. Since the P5 plus 1 nations decided a deal with Iran could not be reached, though, history has been delayed seven months. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, among others, has said “no deal is better than a bad deal,” but it appears as if the Obama administration and the P5 plus 1 group are seeking any deal rather than no deal.

There is no surprise at the rising confidence of the Iranian government. Without the slightest fanfare or notice by the international press, Shiite rebels supported by Iran captured the capital city of Sanaa in Yemen. This extraordinary geostrategic move gives Iran entrance to the Red Sea. Along with its command of the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, Iran will be in a position to control the sea lanes surrounding the Arab world.

With Beirut, Baghdad, Damascus and Sanaa under Iranian control and influence, the dream of a Shiite crescent appears as a reality. Moreover, with Yemen on the doorstep of Saudi Arabia, Iran has an ideal staging area for attacks against its main Sunni rival.

Through virtual silence, the U.S. government is complicit in these actions. Since President Obama will not deploy U.S. forces in the war against the Islamic State, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is considered a surrogate army, even though no one in the State Department will acknowledge it. Iran’s role as a putative “stabilizer” in the roiling Middle East offers it enormous latitude at the Vienna negotiating table where a decision will be made about Iran’s nuclear capability. Despite a bipartisan congressional declaration opposing any deal that permits Iran to have nuclear weapons or develop nuclear weapons, it appears as if the negotiating team representing the United States and most of the Europeans is willing “to split the difference.” In other words, there is a growing consensus that if Iran agrees not to weaponize its missiles in Parchin, it would be allowed to retain enough enriched uranium to build a bomb. It is what I have described as the “Japanese solution,” i.e., Article 9 in the Japanese Constitution prohibits the development of nuclear weapons, but it does not prohibit the storage of fissile material that could be used for nuclear weapons.

I doubt Israel or France will be enthused by this agreement, but the Obama team seems intent on muscling this through, even ignoring the need for Senate approval. All through the talks the word “treaty” has been replaced by “agreement” or “accord.” Presumably, this would be President Obama’s legacy. He will contend that through skillful negotiation rather than saber-rattling or direct confrontation, he has reached an accord with our primary enemy in the Middle East. Many will appropriately call this agreement a Chamberlain-like arrangement that brings the Middle East closer to the boiling point. One thing is for sure: This will bring Iran one step closer to its goal of Middle East domination.

Surely, the Sunni states won’t sit by idly. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Jordan already have announced joint military operations to oppose Shiite imperial goals. It would not be a surprise if Israel, operating under the radar, agrees to be an active, albeit unregistered, member of this emerging defense coalition.

Although the U.S. government will contend its intention is to mitigate Middle East tensions, those tensions will rise as a hesitant and willful policy tilting to the Shiite is put into place by the Obama administration and European governments eager for “resolution” — any resolution.

Unfortunately, the clock is ticking and the options are limited. A sanctions regimen offers some leverage, but probably less than has been advertised because sanctions already in place have not deterred the Iranian government from proceeding with its enrichment program. It is also obvious that even if the United States goes through another round of sanctions, assuming a deal isn’t consummated, the Chinese, Russians and Turks are not likely to comply.

So we are spiraling down a dangerous hole that makes military action more rather than less likely, an option that no one wants to embrace. Unfortunately, the forces of history proceed without an ethical compass.

Herbert London is president of the London Center for Policy Research.

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