Many of my friends went to the anti-war protest in Washington this past Saturday. Looking at their photos on facebook, I couldn’t help but think to myself how bitterly we’ll look back on these times if another war begins while we’re waking up to the bloody reality of this one.

I am genuinely frightened that there seems ot be a hopeless and resigned consensus among policy-makers, scholars, and journalists that war with Iran is not far off, and is a forgone conclusion. Israel will attack, or the United States will. One way or another, Iran’s nuclear facilities will be destroyed. The consequences will be catastrophic in terms of loss of civilian lives and environmental damage, but these will be viewed as acceptable prices to pay for disarming a nuclear or soon-to-be nuclear Iran.

But not everyone is ready to accept that. In an article titled "Europeans Fear US Attack on Iran as Nuclear Row Intensifies" an unnamed European diplomat describes the mood in Europe’s halls of power.

"There’s anxiety
everywhere you turn," said a diplomat familiar with the work of the
International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. "The Europeans are very
concerned the shit could hit the fan."

And with good reason.

A
US navy battle group of seven vessels was steaming towards the Gulf
yesterday from the Red Sea, part of a deployment of 50 US ships,
including two aircraft carriers, expected in the area in weeks.

Knowing this, and probably understanding how little it can do at this late stage, the EU is making crystal clear that an attack will not be met with European approval.

"No
path is envisaged by the EU other than the UN path," the EU’s foreign
policy chief, Javier Solana, told the Guardian yesterday. "The priority
for all of us is that Iran complies with UN security council
resolutions."

On the possibility of Israel taking military action by itself, two well known Israeli foreign affairs writers wrote in a recent New Republic piece:

If
Israel is forced, by default, to strike, it is likely to happen within
the next 18 months.
An attack needs to take place before the nuclear
facilities become radioactive; waiting too long could result in massive
civilian casualties.
Still, Israel will almost certainly wait until it
becomes clear that sanctions have failed and that the United States or
NATO won’t strike. The toughest decision, then, will be timing:
determining that delicate moment when it becomes clear that the
international community has failed but before the facilities turn
lethal.

Israel will alert Washington before a strike: "We won’t surprise the
Americans, given the likelihood of Iranian reprisals against American
troops in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East," says an analyst close
to the intelligence community. U.S. permission will be needed if Israel
chooses to send its planes over Iraqi air space — and the expectation
here is that permission would be granted. (Israel has two other
possible attack routes, both problematic: over Turkish air space and
along the Saudi-Iraqi border to the Persian Gulf.) Still, according to
the former air force commander, if Israel decides to act, "We will act
alone, not as emissaries of anyone else."

All of this fills me with despair. The best thing for Iran now would be for its religious leaders to remove Ahmadinejad from power and fully comply with the IAEA and the UN Security Council, but the chances of that happening are not good –despite Iran’s current internal political turmoil. So, if Iran pushes ahead, it appears war will soon follow. The pro-democracy movement in the country (its greatest hope currently) will be destroyed, and the danger of a regional war in the Middle East (and all the chain reaction problems it would create) will be more real than ever before.

I can’t shake the feeling of doom closing in. I think of the brave Iranian pro-democracy and human rights activists who have been beaten, jailed, tortured, and executed in the most gruesome ways over the past decade, and I think of how all their sacrifices and suffering could come to nothing.

I don’t see any hope in this, anywhere.

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