Nuclear Deterrence, Nuclear Rabbis, and Nuclear Mullahs

When it comes to nuclear deterrence, there is no difference between how it is perceived among the nuclear rabbis of Israel and the nuclear mullahs of Iran.  The nuclear rabbis are the Likudniks and other right wing politicians of Israel’s official community who are committed to saving the Jewish state through the use of nuclear weapons. The nuclear mullahs are their Muslim counterparts of the Islamic republic who hold similar views about the use of nuclear weapons. The chief difference is that the perception of the nuclear rabbis is deemed sacred, valid, and legitimate in Washington and in other Western capitals, while that of the nuclear mullahs is regarded as phony.  As such, the nuclear deterrence of the mullahs is not regarded as a serious rationale for the survival of the Iranian government.  However, as a concept, nuclear deterrence is supposed to be valid, since it becomes the chief rationale forwarded by Israel and Iran to establish legitimacy of their respective nuclear weapons, while declaring that legitimacy as invalid for the other state.  The ayatollahs are fully aware of that reality.

Continue reading “Nuclear Deterrence, Nuclear Rabbis, and Nuclear Mullahs”

The Politico-Cultural Basis for the Arab Fear of Iran

Authoritarian regimes are notorious about keeping their real policies and the personal predilections of their rulers as state secrets.  Whenever they speak in public, their words are carefully chosen and they almost invariably do not reflect much about the real policies of their respective countries.  In this regard, WikiLeaks‘ disclosures about the Saudi perceptions of Iran and what measures the Saudi King wanted the United States to take against Islamic Republic are truly educational for students of current affairs, as well as for future historians.  King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was reported to have advised General David Petraeus and the then U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, that the United States should crush the head of the snake by attacking Iran.  He was referring to his fears about the potential emergence of Iran as a nuclear power.  King Abdullah, during a meeting with President Obama’s Counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, also expressed his deep apprehension of the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, by stating “I don’t trust that man.”  For those who are immersed in the strategic affairs of the Middle East, King Abdullah’s comments also reflect long-standing politico-cultural antagonisms between the Arabs and the Persians (Iranians). Continue reading “The Politico-Cultural Basis for the Arab Fear of Iran”

The Only Option Worth Pursuing: Negotiate, Negotiate, or Negotiate with Iran

I don’t like to make predictions, for predictions are mostly for soothsayers or palm-readers. But in this case, I will make an exception, based upon my reading of a number of clues. My prediction is that the first (or at least one of the major) foreign policy crisis of the Obama administration is likely to be Iran. In a style much more benign than that of his predecessor, President Barack Obama has been incessantly harping on the nuclear issue involving Iran. Such a presidential near obsession develops its own blinders that can easily make a military option much more feasible than it really is. One of his top national security advisers, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, insists that all options – including military ones – are on the table. That persistence forces one to think that there is more involved about Iran than meets the eye. Obama’s National Security Advisor, General Jones, has issued a comprehensive memo reported by the New York Times. That memo reports the use of Special Operations to destabilize Iran. This is a highly uneasy reminder of the tactics that the Bush administration used before invading Iraq in 2003.

Continue reading “The Only Option Worth Pursuing: Negotiate, Negotiate, or Negotiate with Iran”

‘Plus ça Change’ Factor of the QDR 2010

Reading the pre-final draft of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) 2010, one is reminded of the old adage, “plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose,” in the Pentagon’s handling of asymmetric war, counterterrorism, and other related issues. The ghosts of the Vietnam War, of how not to lose another war, are also very much alive. Since the QDR is usually long on the details of weapons systems–in its making, the four Services fight the bare-knuckle war of pushing their preferred weapons platforms, notwithstanding their commitment to joint warfare–and short on the discussion of strategy, it is seldom clear whether ample attention will be paid to strategy when it becomes operational.

Continue reading “‘Plus ça Change’ Factor of the QDR 2010”

China and the U.S.: Between “Low” and “High” Politics

Watching the developing spat between the PRC and the U.S. over the latter’s decision to sell $6.4 billion worth of arms to Taiwan, one is reminded of the reality that security affairs have remained part and parcel of “low politics,” if that type of politics can be redefined as politics where suspicion, the dark shadows of zero-sum-related competitiveness, and one-upmanship are still lurking and ready to poison the ties between these two important actors. Contrast that version of low politics with its counterpart, “high politics,” if that phrase can be redefined as a description of the new realities where China is catching up with the United States, and the latter is beginning to look like an old curmudgeon, getting grumpy about its declining economic power and the related effects.

Continue reading “China and the U.S.: Between “Low” and “High” Politics”

Iran’s Ominous Social Movement

    The Iranian protest as a social movement

The mounting protest against the Islamic Republic in Iran is in the process of becoming a social movement. Sidney Tarrow, a specialist on the subject, defines a social movement as collective challenges (to elites and authorities) by people with common purposes and solidarity in sustained interactions with elites, opponents, and authorities. He specifically distinguishes social movements from political parties and interest groups; and that is an important distinction. Social movements in the context of this essay are not known for bringing about incremental political changes in the existing political system. More often than not, they result in radical changes leading to regime change. If the Iranian government is facing a rising tide of social movement, then that can be the best news for the United States, which has always despised the Islamic Republic for humiliating it through the “Iranian hostage crisis” in 1979. The ties between these two countries have remained tense since then. Iran, under the Ayatollahs, has consistently and virulently opposed the U.S. hegemony of its region. It has viewed that strategic affair as threatening to its stability and, indeed, to its very survival. The most recent cause of conflict between the two antagonistic countries is Iran’s nuclear research program. A regime change brought about through a social movement might also be the best news for Israel, who wishes to maintain its own nuclear monopoly, which has remained an ignored reality. However, that reality has created an ostensibly permanent military asymmetry between the states of that region and Israel. The Arab states have remained silently resentful of it. Iran, on the contrary, has decided to challenge it by staring its own nuclear research program.

Continue reading “Iran’s Ominous Social Movement”

Can Beijing and Moscow Help with Tehran?

Published in Foreign Policy in Focus (30 Dec 09) – Click on link to read entire article

The real test of President Barack Obama’s dealing with China and Russia will be whether he can persuade them to support U.S. pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear weapons aspirations. Obama is reported to have lobbied China on that issue during his recent visit. He also broached the topic with Russia in the recent past for the same purpose, but with little success. Iran denies wanting to join the nuclear club, but Washington has no faith in those denials.

Obama’s Challenge: Building Sino-Russian Support on Denuclearizing Iran

The real test of President Barack H. Obama’s dealing with China and Russia will emerge in his success to persuade those countries to support the U.S. in pressuring Iran to give up its nuclear weapons aspirations.  Obama has reported to have lobbied China on that issue during his recent visit. He also broached Russia in the recent past for the same purpose, but with little success. Iran denies having such aspirations, but Washington has no faith in those denials.
Continue reading “Obama’s Challenge: Building Sino-Russian Support on Denuclearizing Iran”

America’s Irrational Expectations About China’s Rise

President Barack H. Obama’s recently concluded trip to East Asia has created an irrational buzz in the American media about how the declining hegemon is increasingly behaving as such, and how China seems to be exploiting that perception to further its own advantages. The second part of this buzz is not contentious, since all great and small powers operate to maximize their advantages. However, the first part of that buzz is indeed controversial. This type of analysis may not be highly conducive to Obama’s palpable desire to promote multilateralism, both regionally and globally.
Continue reading “America’s Irrational Expectations About China’s Rise”

“National” and “Global” Political Islam: A Response to Hroub’s Review of Roy’s Books

Professor Khaled Hroub’s review of Olivier Roy’s three books–The Failure of Political Islam; Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah; and The Politics of Chaos in the Middle East–published in your Journal, New Global Studies (Vol. 3, Issue 1, 2009, Article 6), is interesting but leaves the reader wanting more analysis.

Continue reading ““National” and “Global” Political Islam: A Response to Hroub’s Review of Roy’s Books”