Robert Dreyfuss

Robert Dreyfuss


Sydney G. Gaertner (Facebook) :
Do you believe that a military strike by either the United States or Israel would deal a big enough blow to the Iranian nuclear program to stop it. Why or why not?

There are so many unknowns involved in a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program that most analysts argue that it’s a terrible idea, and I agree. From a practical standpoint, it’s not clear that even a sustained bombing campaign over several weeks, which is what U.S. planners envisage, could be certain to knock out all of Iran’s facilities. (In contrast, an Israeli strike would be far more modest and do considerably less damage.) By any measure, an American attack would delay or set back Iran’s program, by months or even years. At the same time, it would probably drive Iran’s program underground, into fortified bunkers and mountainous redoubts, and it would reinforce Iran’s hawks who would like to acquire nuclear weapons.

Politically, an attack on Iran would fatally undermine Iran’s doves and the opposition movement, and it would provide hardliners with a powerful argument against any accommodation with the United States and others.

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And, of course, it would be an act of war whose consequences can’t be predicted with reliability. Iran would be certain to strike back at the United States, Israel, and possibly other countries in the Persian Gulf. Once begun, a U.S.-Iran war could expand disastrously, and at the very least oil prices would rise sharply, especially if Iran threatens shipping through the Straits of Hormuz or takes action against oil fields in Iraq, Kuwait or Saudi Arabia.

Joanna Kingston (LinkedIn):
How will the regional security dynamic change in the Middle East if Iran created a nuclear weapon?

Truth be told, in Washington there’s a growing realization that neither economic sanctions nor international isolation will convince Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment program, and that a military strike would cause more problems than it would solve. As a result, if Iran does in fact intend to militarize its nuclear program, it’s very likely that sometime in the next several years, perhaps by 2015, it could assemble a small number of bombs and develop a method for delivering them. For that reason, a lot of thought is going into the idea of containing Iran if and when it has the bomb.

The fact is, Iranian leaders aren’t suicidal, and they realize that using a nuclear weapon in war would mean the utter destruction of their country and their regime. (In 2008, in the presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton rather inelegantly spoke of “obliterating” Iran if it used a nuclear bomb.)

But a nuclear Iran would face North Korea-like political and economic sanctions, and it would alienate its friends and allies in Moscow, Beijing and elsewhere. Its economy, already faltering, would plunge into disarray, and it would lose much of its oil markets overseas. For that reason, it’s far more likely that Iran will tiptoe up to the edge of a military nuclear capability – the proverbial “screwdriver away” from a bomb – and no more. How Iran’s neighbors might react is anyone’s guess: some might seek a closer alliance, and more military support, from the United States. At the same time, rather than see the spread of nuclear weapons in the region, the United States and other world powers might decide to seek to negotiate a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, including both Iran and Israel.

David Drawbridge (LinkedIn): In regards to Iran’s capture of a U.S. drone, do you believe it has such a drone, or is it making up this situation to gain political points back home?

Certainly Iran did not fabricate the downing of the stealth drone, although the model that it exhibited may not have been the real one and it may have exaggerated or lied about the claim that it brought the drone down through countermeasures. Had the story been faked by Iran, President Obama wouldn’t have asked for it back! There’s no question that Tehran scored political points, at home and abroad, because of this story. But its significance has been overblown. It’s no secret that the United States spies on Iran, especially on its nuclear program, using drones, satellites, electronic intelligence, and old-fashioned espionage. But the U.S. drone program, which operates out of numerous bases around the world, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Djibouti, and elsewhere, has been plagued with crashes and malfunctions.

Marcus Hills (LinkedIn):
In your view, do you believe Afghanistan will disintegrate into chaos once U.S. forces begin to draw down? Can Afghanistan’s government survive after U.S. and coalition forces leave?

Afghanistan’s government in its present from can’t survive. If the United States and its allies want to avoid a resumption of the civil war that plagued Afghanistan in the early 1990s, the government in Kabul must be reorganized and rebalanced, reducing the domination of the old Northern Alliance and the non-Pashtun minority groups, giving more weight to the Pashtuns, eliminating much of the power of the warlords, and bringing the Taliban into the package. That, in turn, will require that Pakistan, India and Iran reach an accommodation on Afghanistan’s future, and that they agree to rein in and disarm their various allies. Then, the new government that emerges will have a weak central government and devolve more power to provincial authorities. Not an easy task, and it’s very possible that, as in Iraq, severe internal instability will cripple Afghanistan for years to come.

In addition, Afghanistan will be an economic basket case for at least the next few decades as it struggles to recover from its own Thirty Years War. It will be on economic life support over that time.

Tina Carrs (LinkedIn):
Will the U.S. move to make the Pacific nations a priority take away from its focus on the “War on Terror”?

Since 2008, when he was running for office, Barack Obama has disdained the so-called War on Terror, and he and his advisers believed even then that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were an enormous distraction from America’s real interests in China and the Pacific. (In parallel, many Chinese officials were happy enough that the United States was bogged down in the Middle East, since it meant that China could develop its own Asia and Pacific strategy with less interference from Washington.)

In the United States, Pentagon planners, the White House and Congressional appropriators are all pushing to reorganize the U.S. military away from land wars, counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. The size of the army and the Marines will be reduced, and the navy and air force will expand. Like turning an aircraft carrier at sea, this will be an extraordinarily slow and deliberate process. But in Washington terrorism will be less and less high-profile as a military issue, relegated more to law enforcement, intelligence and the use of drones and Special Forces.

The War on Terror, including the misguided (and illegal) invasion of Iraq, was the result of a kind of national trauma suffered in the United States because of 9/11. Unfortunately, President Bush sought to capitalize on and exploit that trauma politically, rather than to moderate it or contain it. Ten years later, the emotion and shock of 9/11 has receded, and terrorism is no longer seen as an existential threat. For many Americans, the death of Osama bin Laden placed an exclamation point at the end of that era.

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