Don't Panic! June 05 2003

Your war questions answered

Is Iran the next target of attack in the War on Terror?(TM)

I'm only 29, but all this "who's next" talk makes me pine for the good ol' days. When Robin Williams was funny. When Michael Jackson was black. When Saddam Hussein was our ally.

It wasn't all Jelly Bellies and cross-national handholding — our little girls kept falling into wells. One problem we didn't have, though, was finding the enemy. We had one — the pinko, Commie bastard Soviets. More dangerous and threatening than any of our current foes, we still tried, when possible, to conduct our relations with those Godless pigdogs via hotline talks and high-level summits (aka Pablo, I mean aka diplomacy). War was the last resort.

Fast forward to 2003. Our foreign policy is no longer conducted by the State Department like it used to be. Now it consists of showboaty, threat-filled Pentagon press conferences. A man with a hammer sees every problem as a nail, so it's no wonder, then, that a foreign policy steered by the military always boils down to "Who we gonna fight now?"

The villain in the latest episode of Rumsfeld's Real World (every night at 8, on Fox) is Iran. Conveniently located within spitting distance of a couple hundred thousand U.S. soldiers (not that an American solider would ever spit!), Iran is guilty of just about all the things that we said Iraq was guilty of before we invaded them. Iran, we're told, backs terrorists throughout the Middle East. Even though Iran is Shi'ite and strongly opposed the Taliban in Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence thinks that Iran is sheltering al-Qaeda, including ones we think might be responsible for the recent bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Of course, U.S. intelligence also thought that Iraq had a dangerously large stockpile of WMDs, but that's for another column.)

On top of that — or, more precisely, in a hardened bunker several feet below that — Iran is thought to be developing nuclear weapons to complement its biological and chemical weapons. "My my, Mr. Sarin gas, you look very handsome." No, silly, that's compliment.

Iran claims that its nuclear program is for peaceful, energy-producing purposes — a claim that would make more sense if Iran didn't have massive quantities of oil and natural gas.

Anyway, all this talk about pursuing "regime change" in Iran is, in the short-term, nothing but hot, sandy, camel-scented air. We're not gonna invade Iran. We lack all of the quasi-legal pretexts we used to justify invading Iraq. Besides, it'd be way more difficult and expensive than invading Iraq. Iran is bigger, more heavily and densely populated, and its government (cruel, incompetent and unpopular as it is) isn't the one-man show that Iraq was. Iran would unite to fight us tooth and nail.

The only forseeable military option for the U.S. right now is to try to destroy Iran's nuclear program via bombing. We're currently pushing the International Atomic Energy Agency, who have visited Iran's nuclear facilities, to hurry up and issue their report saying whether their facilities can make nuclear weapons.

Even if we don't so much as throw a pebble at them, all this talk about invading Iran comes at a price. Iranians want to be rid of the radical theocratic rulers who've spent the last quarter century squashing Iranian liberties, trashing its economy, and making it an international pariah (ridiculous but true example — circa age 7, I received a Star Wars toy gun as a gift from an Iran-born older cousin with a note instructing me to kill Ayatollah Khomeini). Threats of invasion strengthen Iran's ruling religious, militaristic conservatives by allowing them to paint their critics as weak and unpatriotic. Say, that sounds awfully familiar.

We've forgotten, but Iranians have not — 2003 is the 50th anniversary of the CIA-led overthrow of Iran's last democratically elected leader, Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh.

Ah, the good ol' days.


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