Hearing that bombing was now a 50/50 possibility before President Bush leaves the White House, Riaz Mohammad Khan, the Pakistani foreign secretary, covered his face with both hands in mock horror. It was too horrendous a prospect to contemplate. Pakistan enjoys close relations with Iran, and its status as a major non-NATO ally would then evaporate in nationwide recriminations. Pervez Musharraf would join history’s oubliette.
Yet there is a growing realization that for Israel, a nuclear Iran is an existential crisis. Hence, French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s pledge he will never compromise when it comes to the security of Israel. His foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, addressing the American Jewish Committee in New York Sept. 26, said, “We all know the government of Iran has been playing for time. … The Iranian nuclear program poses a serious threat to the region, to Europeans, to the credibility of the non-proliferation regime, and to the credibility of the U.N. Security Council.”
Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the Iraqi national security adviser, speaking at several Washington think tank meetings, said he thought Israel, not the United States, would bomb Iran and that Iran would then look around at where it could cause the most damage. And since Israeli targets are not within range, U.S. forces in Iraq would then bear the retaliatory brunt of Iranian reprisals. But he did not believe Bush would order hostilities against Iran. And if he did, everything the United States has accomplished in Iraq would be consigned to oblivion.
Rubaie said there is already “enormous meddling in our internal affairs by all our neighbors -- Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia. More than 90 percent of all violence originates from our neighbors. So regional reconciliation is a prerequisite for Iraqi national reconciliation.”
Rubaie began his tenure as NSC adviser under former U.S. proconsul L. Paul Bremer and has served three Iraqi prime ministers since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. In Washington, he pleaded for time to promote national reconciliation. “It took Gerry Adams 30 years,” Rubaie explained. In 1972, at 24, Adams was already important enough to be released from jail to join the Irish Republican Army delegation that met with the British government.
“We need to break the (insurgency’s) will to fight,” Rubaie said, “as there is no way they can stop liberal democracy, but it will still take several more years.” Some 300 IRA guerrillas/terrorists kept half the British army pinned down in Ulster for more than 40 years.
The United States, Rubaie reminded his U.S. audiences, “is our strategic ally. And we must coordinate more closely with the U.S. to deter outsiders from interfering. Most of our combat forces will be deployed by the end of the year. That means some 500,000 soldiers and police. But we still must cope with a shattered economy and infrastructure. Saddam Hussein implanted a virus in the body politic called neo-Baathism. For 1,000 years this part of the world has not known democracy, only authoritarian rule. We need strategic patience, not the impatience we encounter in Washington. Look at how long it’s taken for you to deal with a new immigration bill, and it still hasn’t been approved. Short term, the threat is al-Qaida. Defeated it will be, but this needs time. We’re as determined as you are to speed things up. Prime Minister (Nouri) al-Maliki’s reconciliation program is beginning to bite.”
The Iranians, on the other hand, are everywhere, one questioner said.
“On your borders. In your culture, funding militias and supplying arms that have moved up the scale from Kalashnikovs to RPGs and from 120 mm rockets to 140 mm. Doesn’t this mean your engagement with Iran was not taken seriously in Tehran?”
Rubaie thought Iran should be “tackled and recognized as a regional superpower with the role of a major player. Do we have the capability to deter all threats from Iran? No way without the U.S. We must convince the U.S. to really engage Iran diplomatically.”
Rubaie vehemently rejected the notion of any partition, “which could only be written in blood. So it’s out of the question. Federalism, yes. Most of the power is already in local hands. Al-Qaida was successful in creating real cracks between our three communities. To overcome this, we have a huge workload ahead of us. We need a new national contract, and both Shia and Sunni need a new social compact.”
The Senate resolution introduced by Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., that declared Iran’s Revolutionary Guards “an international terrorist organization” was widely interpreted as a response to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plea last spring “not to tie the president’s hands on Iran.” It would presumably allow Bush to order strikes against Iran sans congressional approval. But Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., co-sponsored new legislation with Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., that prohibits the use of funds for military operations against Iran without explicit congressional approval.
Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander, gave weight to the Lieberman-Kyl resolution when he disclosed over the weekend that Tehran’s ambassador to Baghdad was a member of the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds force, and that the RGs are “responsible for providing the weapons, training, funding and in some cases the direction for operations that have indeed killed U.S. soldiers.”
Google “Iran War” or “War on Iran” and some 90,000 references pop up in less than a second. The new commander of the Revolutionary Guards in Tehran, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jaafari, told local TV he was ready for all contingencies and mentioned the missiles that have “greatly increased our capabilities.” But, he added, “I do not believe the enemy will take such a step. We expect the enemy to act sensibly. It might not, of course. … We have fully studied the enemy’s weaknesses and we can take action by exploiting them. … It won’t be classical warfare. … We can completely neutralize the enemy’s capabilities in all spheres, including air superiority. … This is especially true with regard to the experience gained during the 33-day Israeli-Lebanese war.”