After America invaded Iraq in March 2003, Iranian officials were so fearful that they could be the next target of regime change, they made every effort to make it clear to American leadership that they had changed their ways.
So reports Dexter Filkins in his much-talked about essay in The New Yorker magazine on Iranian terror mastermind Qassem Suleimani.
“Iranian officials were frantic to let the Americans know that they wanted peace,” Filkins writes. “Many of them watched the regimes topple in Afghanistan and Iraq and were convinced that they were next.”
Former CIA operative in Iraq John Maguire put it more bluntly: “They were scared shitless,” he told Filkins. “They were sending runners across the border to our élite elements saying, ‘Look, we don’t want any trouble with you.’ We had an enormous upper hand.”
As Filkins notes, “That same year, American officials determined that Iran had reconfigured its plans to develop a nuclear weapon to proceed more slowly and covertly, lest it invite a Western attack.”
Iran was not the only American enemy to capitulate — at least momentarily — after George W. Bush launched the Iraq invasion. Muammar Gaddafi acted similarly in Libya.
“I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid,” he reportedly told Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion.
As a result, Gaddafi opened up his weapons-of-mass-destruction programs to the West, revealing a nuclear program far more extensive then anyone envisioned.
Iraq ultimately went south of course, and the fear the Iranians expressed of America at the beginning soon faded as they actively hampered the American project there. But all this should be kept in mind as the Iranian regime supposedly reaches out for a deal on its nuclear program. It strikes me as unlikely that Iran saw how President Obama handled the situation in Syria and was scared into a submissive mood. It is almost assuredly the opposite.
If there is any way to induce the Iranian regime to give up its nuclear weapons program — and I’m not sure there is — American diplomacy needs to be backed up by a credible threat of force. Even sanctions will probably not be enough, painful as they may be. And after Syria, American threats of force aren’t particularly credible.
There is good reason to fear that President Obama is looking to take almost any deal to get the Iran issue behind him, but if he is serious about preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability — and he should be — he needs to go to Congress now to seek authorization for a U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities in the event diplomacy fails.
And if he wants bipartisan help, he can call Sen. Lindsey Graham.
Otherwise, the U.S. should just stop the entire Iran charade and tell tiny Israel that it is going to have to shoulder the immense responsibility of defending the Western world by itself on this one.