The January/February issue of Foreign Affairs featured the article "Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike Is the Least Bad Option," by Matthew Kroenig, along with commentary about other ways to contain the Iranian threat.The media resound with warnings about a likely Israeli attack on Iran while the U.S. hesitates, keeping open the option of aggression -- thus again routinely violating the U.N. Charter, the foundation of international law.
As tensions escalate, eerie echoes of the run-up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are in the air. Feverish U.S. primary campaign rhetoric adds to the drumbeat.
Concerns about "the imminent threat" of Iran are often attributed to the "international community" -- code language for U.S. allies. The people of the world, however, tend to see matters rather differently.
The nonaligned countries, a movement with 120 member nations, has vigorously supported Iran's right to enrich uranium -- an opinion shared by the majority of Americans (as surveyed by WorldPublicOpinion.org) before the massive propaganda onslaught of the past two years.
China and Russia oppose U.S. policy on Iran, as does India, which announced that it would disregard U.S. sanctions and increase trade with Iran. Turkey has followed a similar course.
Europeans regard Israel as the greatest threat to world peace. In the Arab world, Iran is disliked but seen as a threat only by a very small minority. Rather, Israel and the U.S. are regarded as the pre-eminent threat. A majority think that the region would be more secure if Iran had nuclear weapons: In Egypt on the eve of the Arab Spring, 90 percent held this opinion, according to Brookings Institution/Zogby International polls.
Western commentary has made much of how the Arab dictators allegedly support the U.S. position on Iran, while ignoring the fact that the vast majority of the population opposes it -- a stance too revealing to require comment.
Concerns about Israel's nuclear arsenal have long been expressed by some observers in the United States as well. Gen. Lee Butler, former head of the U.S. Strategic Command, described Israel's nuclear weapons as "dangerous in the extreme." In a U.S. Army journal, Lt. Col. Warner Farr wrote that one "purpose of Israeli nuclear weapons, not often stated, but obvious, is their 'use' on the United States" -- presumably to ensure consistent U.S. support for Israeli policies.
A prime concern right now is that Israel will seek to provoke some Iranian action that will incite a U.S. attack.
One of Israel's leading strategic analysts, Zeev Maoz, in "Defending the Holy Land," his comprehensive analysis of Israeli security and foreign policy, concludes that "the balance sheet of Israel's nuclear policy is decidedly negative" -- harmful to the state's security. He urges instead that Israel should seek a regional agreement to ban weapons of mass destruction: a WMD-free zone, called for by a 1974 U.N. General Assembly resolution.
Meanwhile, the West's sanctions on Iran are having their usual effect, causing shortages of basic food supplies -- not for the ruling clerics but for the population. Small wonder that the sanctions are condemned by Iran's courageous opposition.
The sanctions against Iran may have the same effect as their predecessors against Iraq, which were condemned as "genocidal" by the respected U.N. diplomats who administered them before finally resigning in protest.
The Iraq sanctions devastated the population and strengthened Saddam Hussein, probably saving him from the fate of a rogues' gallery of other tyrants supported by the U.S.-U.K. -- tyrants who prospered virtually to the day when various internal revolts overthrew them.
There is little credible discussion of just what constitutes the Iranian threat, though we do have an authoritative answer, provided by U.S. military and intelligence. Their presentations to Congress make it clear that Iran doesn't pose a military threat.
Iran has very limited capacity to deploy force, and its strategic doctrine is defensive, designed to deter invasion long enough for diplomacy to take effect. If Iran is developing nuclear weapons (which is still undetermined), that would be part of its deterrent strategy.