It now looks like there is a real possibility that that talks between Iran, the United States, and the other world powers will resume next week, possibly in Turkey, over Iran’s nuclear program. That’s the good news. There’s lots and lots of bad news.
First, perhaps emboldened by the November 2 elections, various hawks, neoconservatives, and Republican hardliners are elbowing each other to demand Iranian blood. That’s odd because in the just-concluded election campaign, foreign policy was entirely absent, which means that the hawks can claim no mandate for a more belligerent approach to Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, China and other problems. But it hasn’t stopped some, including Senator Lindsay Graham, from going off the deep end.
Graham’s outburst, in particular, seemed almost deranged. At a November 6 forum in Canada, Graham openly called for the bombing of Iran not to halt its nuclear program, but to cripple it militarily and destroy its regime. War with Iran is a good idea, said Graham "not to just neutralize their nuclear program, but to sink their navy, destroy their air force and deliver a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guard, in other words neuter that regime." In so doing, Graham echoed two other members of the Senate’s Holy Trinity Against the Axis of Evil, including Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and John "Barbara Ann" McCain of Arizona. As I wrote recently, both Graham and Lieberman were sounding the war cries even before the election, too.
Along with Graham, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told Vice President Biden that only a military confrontation with Iran can work. "The only way to ensure that Iran will not go nuclear is to create a credible threat of military action against it if it doesn’t cease its race for a nuclear weapon," said Netanyahu, according to an aide to the prime minister. By "credible threat," Netanyahu means concrete military actions, such as moving aircraft carriers around, positioning bombers nearby, hardening air defenses in the Persian Gulf, and so on. Needless to say, all these measures have a momentum of their own, and they’re hardly conducive to actual negotiations.
Although Secretary of Defense Gates quickly shot back that a military showdown with Iran wasn’t necessary because economic sanctions against Iran are working, that’s the other part of the bad news. It’s well and good that neither Gates nor the US military command want war with Iran, recognizing the sheer insanity of the idea, but the problem is that the Obama administration seems to believe that because sanctions are hurting Iran it can afford to stall in the upcoming talks. Going into the talks—whether they occur in Geneva, Vienna, or Ankara—the administration hasn’t shown any sign that it has a strategy for success. By taking a hard line, by making demands that Iran isn’t likely to accept, the White House seems content with the idea of letting the onerous sanctions work their magic, squeezing Iran politically and forcing its leaders to strike a deal sooner or later. Problem is, there’s no reason to believe that sanctions will have that effect.