2002 November 25 Monday
On the Bush Administration, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea

Glenn Reynolds and Vinod are both discussing the latest column by Michael Ledeen on growing internal opposition in Iran to the Mullahs' regime. Glenn wonders why the Bush Administration and the press have so little so say about the domestic opposition to the Iranian regime. I think there are several reasons for this but that the chief reason is very simple: The US government does not want the Iranian regime to actively oppose the presence of a large US naval force in the Persian Gulf.

Think about it. As part of the attack on Iraq Bush is going to be ordering up to 5 or even 7 aircraft carriers up into the Persian Gulf. Iran has a long stretch of coastline and if the Iranian regime became convinced that the US was going to follow up an attack on Iraq with an attack on Iran then the Iranian regime would have a strong motive to make common cause with the Iraqi regime.

So why borrow trouble? The US military and US diplomats have enough on their plates as it is. Saudi Arabia may not allow the US to use Saudi bases and the US is going to be stretched to bring enough air power to bear on Iraq without those bases. At the same time Turkey is skittish and the Gulf emirates do not want to take the risk that the Saudis or the Iranians will try to create problems in the emirates in order to make US uses of them more difficult.

Too many warbloggers make demands on US policy makers (speak out more loudly on the Iranian regime, put the screws to Saudi Arabia, etc) without considering the necessitiies that compel many of the decisions of the Bush Administration. Now, once the US is in firm control of Iraq and once the US has converted Iraqi air bases to use by the USAF many constraints on US action will be lifted. At that point Bush may very well decide it is time to lean on Iran or Syria or Saudi Arabia (even then better one at a time so that they do not seek to ally with each other). In control of a strategic location with lots of military supplies in Iraqi bases controlled by American troops the US will be in a far stronger position from which to make demands. It will have fewer vulnerabilities and more assets whose use does not depend on the acquiesence of other governments. At that point if the US fails to either lean on the Saudis or to put pressure on the Iranian regime then it will be appropriate to complain and to complain loudly.

But let the Bushies deal with Saddam first. There are limits to how how much can prudently be attempted at the same time. The challenge of taking out the Iraqi regime is not trivial. It must be done in a way that A) prevents WMD attacks by Saddam's regime against neighbors, B) minimizes Iraqi civilian casualties, C) minimizes damage to Iraqi infrastructure (both by US weapons and by sabotage by Saddam's regime) and D) minimizes US casualties. Under the circumstances, this is a tall order. The Bushies are right to try to placate the Saudi and Iranian rulers while they try to organize and carry out this attack.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 November 25 07:31 PM  Politics Grand Strategy


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