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Contemplating the inevitable showdown in the Middle East

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted August 1, 2008

Presidential elections are certainly at the forefront of the news, but Americans haven't forgotten that the Iran is a tinderbox ready to ignite the Middle East.  That being said, I'm not surprised that the recent USA Today/Gallup poll found that John McCain is leading Barack Obama among likely voters by a 49 percent to 44 percent margin.

Barack Obama
Barack Obama meets with Anbar Province Governor Maamoun Sami Rashid al-Alwani

Despite all the mainstream media hype accorded Senator Obama's whirlwind nine day, eight nation tour of Western Europe and the Middle East, his "bounce" in the polls has been negligible. The primary reason is obvious: Americans are well aware that we live in a very precarious world, which requires an experienced leader in the Oval Office. Obama is not that leader. He would be a risky pick for the presidency.

Obama is a rookie who's only been a US senator since 2005. It's laughable how he and his surrogates, especially those in the mainstream media, are attempting to parlay his recent "photo-op tour" into the illusion of foreign policy expertise. For Senator Obama and his team of handlers, it's about stagecraft, not statecraft. Moreover, Obama is an unabashed shape-shifter who's constantly "recalibrating" his positions on issues for political expediency.  Perhaps Obama has been taking lessons from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who has made doubletalk something of an artform.  

In stark comparison, John McCain has been on the national scene, first in the House, then in the Senate, for over 25 years, focusing on foreign policy and national security issues. He's been unwavering in his loyalty to our troops, and is a solid supporter of Israel. People know and trust John McCain to handle the inevitable conflagration that's looming in the Middle East. Other than the Left-leaning crowd, it's doubtful that many Americans would have confidence in Obama tackling the military and diplomatic complexities of a Middle East mega-crisis.    

Israel rightfully considers Iran an existential danger since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahocracy are hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weaponry, as they continue their threats to wipe Israel off the map. Previously, intensive diplomatic efforts by "The Big Three" European powers [France Germany and the UK] and a few rounds of sanctions had failed to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.  The latest collection of nations to "dialog" with Iran have been dubbed the "Iran Six" [the five permanent members of the UN Security Council & Germany], which offered up a comprehensive package of political and economic incentives that are still on the table. Secretary of State Condi Rice has urged Iran to take the deal.

According to media reports, the Israelis believe that the Iranians are about 6-8 months away from developing a nuclear bomb. The "Iran Six" talks appear to be a last ditch diplomatic effort to ameliorate the impasse. Given Iran's intransigence, the "Iran Six" endeavor is almost certainly doomed to failure. There's a growing sense of inevitability. Israel appears poised to take military action against Iran within months, probably before the end of the Bush presidency. Ahmadinejad claims that Iran possesses 6,000 centrifuges for uranium enrichment, which may be a bit of bluster since the UN's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, reported 3,500 Iranian centrifuges in May.

According to the Los Angeles Times, "Bush administration officials reassured Israel's defense minister this week that the United States has not abandoned all possibility of a military attack on Iran, despite widespread Israeli concern that Washington has begun softening its position toward Tehran."   

Although it's difficult to read the tea leaves, the conventional wisdom floating about is that Israel will spearhead the military operation against Iran, with the US providing assistance. But, as we all well know, conventional wisdom is generally wrong. It's very possible that the US will take the lead.  The US, and the entire West for that matter, cannot countenance a nuclear Iran. Without question, we would be subjected to blackmail, coercion, and nuclear terrorism.

However, you can bet your bottom dollar that military action won't be limited to "surgical strikes" on nuclear sites, many of which are squirreled away in fortified underground bunkers. Massive attacks upon military and political sites will also take place, with a view toward regime change.  Moreover, since Israel and the US know that there will be significant retaliation by the usual suspects [Iran's terror surrogates that are members of Hezbollah and Hamas] I wouldn't be surprised if Israel pulls a "Michael Corleone" and disposes of some top thugs, too. As "Godfather" character, Michael Corleone, stated: "Today, I settle all family business."            

While Barack Obama is out promoting his 16 month timetable of troop withdrawals from Iraq, he fails to grasp that much can happen during that timeframe. For example, if the mullahocracy is toppled or substantially crippled, an influx of Iranian refugees could conceivably make their way over the Iraqi border.

In that case, it might be prudent for our troops to remain longer in Iraq to continue the stabilization process and help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe. Senator Obama is committed to the rigid notion of a timetable while President Bush, Senator McCain and General Petraeus are wise enough to realize that the drawdown must be linked to "conditions on the ground", in order for our troops to leave with success and honor.  "Retreat and defeat" is an abysmal way to run a military operation. ESR

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.


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