Not for nothing did Theodore Roosevelt say, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Unfortunately, if you look at some of our politicians, they seem to only remember the big stick biz.
At a time when Iran’s leaders are sending messages that indicate they’re ready to negotiate on their nuclear enrichment program, Americans are reacting as if we were Cleopatra being offered a basket of figs. What about “new leader, different mindset” do we not understand?
Rouhani is not Ahmadinejad. I said once before that Rouhani got the nickname “the diplomat sheikh.” He is on good terms with Iranian Jews and he does not deny the holocaust. He is not a loose cannon. Iran recently released a number of political prisoners, some of whom had been in the clink since the election before last. And Rouhani has been ready to talk since he was the chief nuclear negotiator in 2003, when America snubbed Iran because we were feeling like the boss of the world, what with the invasion of Iraq.
Best of all, Rouhani has the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, on his side. When Khamanei said Iran should be “flexible,” that means, in Iranian between-the-lines speak, he’s ready to cooperate in talks.
There have been guarded but friendly-ish letters between Presidents Obama and Rouhani. (Unlike President Bush in 2003, the president actually answered the Iranians’ letter.) Mr. Rouhani is due to come to New York for UN talks. Everyone expects that there will be numerous meetings of medium-level Iranian and American staff, which will probably result in higher-level meetings, which will eventually bring about some sort of mutual accord.
So why is Israel now saying, “There’s no time left for negotiations?” According to Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, Iran will have “bomb capability” in six months. He added that Israeli leaders understand that if the world can stand by while 100,000 Syrians are killed, that means no one will help Israel if Israel loses the ability to defend themselves.
Should we panic? Not. In the first place, “bomb capability” is not a bomb. Even if Iran had the enriched uranium (they’d have to go from today’s 20% to around 90-95%, which is an awfully steep hill to climb), there is SO much more to making a bomb, and a bomb-delivery system, that Iran actually having a bomb in the near future is about as feasible as me getting my novel published by next weekend.
In the second place, Israel said almost the same thing four years ago. In that time, Iran has enriched more uranium to 20% but they have NOT enriched it any further – or got any closer to having an actual, real, assembled-and-tested b.o.m.b.
In the third place, Israel has something like 200 nukes, AND missile systems that can deliver them, AND American support which is not going to go away. The idea of them being defenseless is as believable as Iron Man being taken out by a Chihuahua.
Netanyahu added that, ”One must not be fooled by the Iranian president’s fraudulent words.” Coming from Netanyahu, who’s lied to the Palestinians, lied to the world and lied to us, that’s rich.
As if the Israeli itch to attack Iran isn’t enough by itself, they’re recruiting American congress critters to derail the negotiations. Senator Lindsey Graham, who has been frothing at the mouth over Iran for years and years, and Rep. Trent Franks, who is the chair of the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus, have introduced a bill to authorize war with Iran. Considering that Graham used to be fond of saying that Iran is the “most dangerous challenge to the USA in the world today,” you’d think he’d welcome negotiations to reduce their nuclear capability. But AIPAC, the American-Israeli lobby, has deep pockets.
As a side point, Trent Franks is a big fan of the Mujahiddin-al-Khalq (MEK), a fanatical Islamist cult that wants us to conquer Iran for them so they can install themselves as rulers. The MEK seems to have a fair amount of money too; they’ve got a lot of congress-critters on their side.
The fact is, Israel wants to be allowed to attack Iran, and they’re frantic to prevent any real diplomacy now that it looks as if Iran might come to the negotiating table of their own accord.
Threatening war when we have the chance to talk peace is stupidly short-sighted. It derails what we actually want, which is to make America more secure by a) getting Iran’s enrichment program under control, and b) improving relations with one of the more influential countries in the Middle East. Now is when we need to speak softly, but if Israel and the Israeli lobby get their way, we’ll be left with only the big stick.