Josh Muravchik has been called “maybe the most cogent and careful of the neoconservaitve writers on foreign policy” by the Wall St. Journal. So when he writes an article “War with Iran is probably our best option” it should not be dismissed as the ravings of a lone lunatic. In his piece, he writes “only military action like Israel’s 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in Iraq… can accomplish what is required.”
Is he even right that the Iranian regime is trying to move towards building a nuclear bomb?
If so, can the deal Obama & Co. reached with that regime head them off?
If it can’t, does Muravchik represent the future of US policy?
We need to know, because a possible war with Iran would not be a simple matter; it would likely involve the use of “tactical” nuclear weapons, and would have vast economic and environmental (never mind human) consequences.
Iran a nuclear power?
With its enormous oil reserves, why would Iran invest all that money in nuclear research just for nuclear power? After all, the average nuclear plant has a working life of about 30 to 40 years and after all the costs are accounted for, it only provides a net energy surplus of about 18 years.
Clearly, Iranian capitalism is striving to become a regional power, the rival of Israel and Saudi Arabia. That’s why it is apparently supporting the Houthi rebellion in Yemen, just on Saudi Arabia’s southern border while at the same time reportedly resurrecting its support for Hamas in Gaza (despite the fact that Hamas is Sunni-based while the Iranian regime is based on the Shiite wing of Islam). It has also increased its influence in neighboring Iraq, where it is helping the Iraqi regime battle the Sunni-based Islamic State there.
And in today’s world, when even small, weak, impoverished states like Pakistan and North Korea have nuclear weapons, no capitalist power can seriously strive to become a regional power without being nuclear armed. But it is exactly this – the rise of a rival power in the region – that US capitalism is determined to prevent. The nuclear potential of the Iranian regime is simply a symptom of this larger problem.
George Bush presidency
In the last years of the George Bush presidency, when neocons like Muravchik were riding high in the saddle, it seems a military attack on Iran was being seriously considered. The well-connected reporter Seymour Hersh reported on this in the New Yorker. “There is a growing conviction among members of the United States military, and in the international community, that President Bush’s ultimate goal in the nuclear confrontaiotn with Iran is regime change,” Hersh wrote in 2006.It was thought that a military attack would lead to the downfall of the Iranian regime, but more serious heads held sway. Hersh writes that one “former defense official” had commented “I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, ‘what are they smoking?’” According to Hersh, even members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were threatening to resign in protest against these plans. These top military people always have the closest links to the tops of the US capitalist class.
Obama replaces the neo-cons
The costs and dangers of an attack on Iran terrified major wings of Corporate America. That was why they arranged to defeat the mad bomber John McCain and put Barak Obama in the White House in 2008. Obama represented the diplomacy approach to US corporate strategy. He believed and believes that US corporate interests cannot be furthered world-wide without allies, and to keep allies Corporate America cannot resort to war as the first and only option. With Obama’s victory, the top capitalists world-wide breathed a sigh of relief. They immediately bestowed on him one of their top prizes – the Nobel Prize for Peace (!), as a way of encouraging his diplomatic strategy. But as far as Iran, the goal remained the same: As Hersh reported one “high-ranking diplomat” had commented in 2006 “The real issue is who is going to control the Middle East and its oil in the next ten years.”
Until now, Obama has been able to keep the economic sanctions against Iran going fairly successfully. He and Corporate America have had success because they have been able to keep all the major capitalist powers together. One major reason has been the increased supply of oil and natural gas, due to fracking. This has meant that the oil supplies from Iran weren’t all that needed. Another reason for the success has been the extreme statements of the previous Iranian president, Ahmedinijad. Despite these economic sanctions, though, the Iranian regime seems to be holding things together and be developing its nuclear potential.
Agreement with Iran
Now a deal seems to have been reached. (See box for details.) That deal, though, is unlikely to prevent the Iranian regime from developing its nuclear potential.
Similar steps were taken with the North Korean regime. In 1994, the US and North Korean regimes signed an agreement that North Korea would not develop nuclear weapons. There followed a series of negotiations, violations of various
agreements, culminating in the North Korean regime’s announcement in 2005 that it had developed a nuclear bomb and, in 2006, the successful testing of ballistic missiles as well as of a nuclear bomb underground. Why should any agreement with the Iranian regime end up any differently?
But what are the alternatives?
An attack on Iran would almost certainly lead to the immediate closing of the Straits of Hormuz, which would disrupt global shipping, especially of oil supplies. Such an attack would immediately boost the credibility and influence of the Iranian regime throughout the Islamic world. And a single attack is not likely to succeed in destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities. That’s why even the former war hawk, former “Defense” Secretary under Bush, Robert Gates, commented “If you think the war in Iraq was hard, an attack on Iran would, in my opinion, be a catastrophe.” And Muravchik, who advocates such an attack, explained that a series of attacks over time would be necessary and would probably lead to Iranian counter-attacks throughout the region. In other words, the ongoing wars that have become the norm in parts of the region (Syria, Yemen, Libya) would spread and intensify. Not only that, but some strategists for US capitalism reckon that the use of “tactical” nuclear weapons would be necessary. This would mean massive, long term environmental damage in this oil-rich region, meaning disruption of oil supplies. Maybe more important in their calculations is that once this threshold has been crossed in these ongoing conflicts, it would be difficult to pull back. Entire regions could become uninhabitable, thus cutting into the profits and stability of the capitalists. (The human suffering doesn’t matter.)
Russia and Iran
And even the “success” of the military option is now threatened:
The Putin regime has linked with the Iranian regime to wage a war by proxy in Syria. Now, horror of horrors, they are offering to upgrade Iran’s anti-aircraft defense with the more modern S-300 surface-to-air missile defense system. As a Newsweek article explained, this “represents a fundamental shift in military power for the region. For over a decade, the United States and its allies have been able to take freedom of action in the Middle Eastern skies for granted…. This was especially true of Iran, whose air defenses have suffered greatly due to sanctions. The arrival of the S-300 changes this…. Overcoming this type of system will require a large deployment of air, sea, and land assets, including our most capable—and expensive—airplanes and missiles.” In other words, once this system arrives and becomes functional, neither the Israeli nor even the US military will be able to attack Iranian nuclear installations with impunity.
US Capitalism a waning power
The basic issue is that the power of US capitalism to control the world is waning. On the one hand, we see the increased influence of its main rivals: Russia and China. (The latter is rapidly increasing its influence in South American and Africa as well as in Asia itself, with the threat to control vital shipping lanes in the South China Sea, among other things.) Along with this is the disintegration of societies throughout the world and the rise of rogue, “extremist” forces like the Islamic State. As the Wall St. Journal has complained, the US has gone from controlling events to responding to them. The installation of the Bush regime represented a determination of US capitalism to reverse this process by crude military means (invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq). That only accelerated the process, so they moved back to “diplomacy” with the installation of the Obama presidency. At some point, they will veer back again to the military option, this time probably on an even more devastating level.
That is the future that capitalism has to offer.