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"I am often asked to name those countries I think pose the greatest threat to the security of our country and the world. My answer every time is Iran, Iran, Iran. Given its myopic obsession with the destruction of Israel and its implacable, duplicitous march toward a nuclear weapons capability, in my view no other country comes close."
(More objective observers might say, "Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan," an unstable Islamic nation that actually acquired nuclear weapons with the acquiescence of the Reagan administration in the 1980s and is today the home for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, including the trainers of alleged Time Square bomber Faisal Shahzad. Shahzad's father, Bahar Ul Haq, was a former Pakistani air vice marshal reportedly with some responsibility over the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.)
But Harman is focused on Iran, which is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has renounced any intention of having nukes, and is considered years away from building one even if it wanted to.
To punish Iran for its speculative interest in nuclear weapons, Harman called for sanctions to "cripple Iran's ability to import refined petroleum products." (As a Harvard-educated lawyer, she should be aware that, under international law, such a blockade would be an act of war. It also would inflict widespread hardship on the Iranian people.)
But Israel's right-wing Likud government and America's neocons have identified Iran as the new enemy. So, in line with that assessment, Harman ended her oration thusly:
"Iran with nuclear weapons not only poses an existential threat to Israel; it poses an existential threat to us [vocal emphasis hers] and to countries everywhere which espouse democratic values."
Not even hawkish Secretary of State Hillary Clinton goes that far. At a formal press conference in Qatar, she said, "Iran doesn't directly threaten the United States," though she added that Iran was a threat to U.S. friends in the region. Clinton's momentary deviation from the more alarmist rhetoric that official Washington favors when discussing Iran came while answering a question at a formal press conference in Doha, Qatar on Feb. 14. (Check it out; last time I looked, it was still on the State Department's Web site.) Clinton said:
"Part of the goal we were pursuing was to try to influence the Iranian decision regarding whether or not to pursue a nuclear weapon. And, as I said in my speech, the evidence is accumulating that that [pursuing a nuclear weapon] is exactly what they are trying to do, which is deeply concerning, because it doesn't directly threaten the United States, but it directly threatens a lot of our friends, allies, and partners here in this region and beyond."When his turn came, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Al-Thani did not join in the fear mongering, even when asked directly about "the danger that the Secretary just alluded to " if Iran gets the bomb." In answer, he implied, diplomatically but clearly, that he was at least as much afraid of what Israel and the U.S. might do, as what Iran might do. [For more, see "Is Iran Really a Threat?" See here. Unspoken Friend
The chief unspoken "friend" that Secretary Clinton claims is "directly threatened" by Iran is, of course, Israel, a nation which already has 200-300 nuclear weapons, has refused to sign the NPT and won't even acknowledge its own nuclear arsenal in defiance of U.S. policy favoring adherence to the NPT and greater transparency on nuclear weapons.
The Israeli arsenal could easily incinerate Iran if Iran does manage to build one or two nukes and is eager to commit suicide by threatening Israel. But let's just assume, for argument's sake, that the Israeli leaders really do consider Iran an "existential threat" to Israel. Should American lawmakers and opinion leaders hype a theoretical threat to Israel as a threat to the United States?
On one level, Clinton's candor that Iran is not threatening the United States was refreshing. She seemed to be following the example of the Director of National Intelligence and his subordinates, who are carefully hewing to the judgments of the most recent formal National Intelligence Estimate, "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities," approved unanimously by all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies in November 2007.
That Estimate began with these words:
"We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.