The Common Good

Is Iran Really a Threat?

It seems like every day we hear from another politician saying that “we are ready to attack Iran if necessary," or from another pundit full of hot air telling us why we should invade Iran right now.

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The presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, has said that he would support “something of a surgical-strike nature, to something of a ‘decapitate the regime’ nature to eliminate the military threat of Iran altogether.” President Obama has said:   “Every option is on the table.” All of these conversations typically go along the lines of emphasizing how Iran poses a serious and immediate threat to the United States.

As was the case in the conversations leading up to the 2003 Iraq war, there is much heat, and not a whole lot of light. If you care about facts, I urge you to read Glenn Greenwald’s ironically titled “The growing Iranian military behemoth.”   

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (yup, the Iranians have their idiots just like we do), just announced that he wants to increase Iran’s military budget by 127%.   That does sounds scary to more than double their budget.   Well, even if Iran doubles their military budget (not very likely, given Iran’s economic troubles), that would put the Iranian military budget at less than 4% of the military budget of the United States of America.    

Here is a graph to help make that point. 

Iranian politicans talk tough, but they have actually proven themselves to be masterful negotiators behind the scenes.     Would you want to enter war against a country if you had 4% of the military budget of your opponent?   And if the last two countries your enemy had attacked had ended up as devastated as Iraq and Afghanistan?  

  • We have heard massively contradictory statements about nuclear energy, nuclear ambitions and nuclear bombs in Iran. We have heard that Iran may be moving towards nuclear bombs in a few years (3-5 years).   

Let us pause and recall that it is the United States that is the largest producer of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons on the face of the planet. And recall that the United States is the only country — so far, and God-willing, ever — to have dropped not one but two nuclear weapons on another population. And that our “democratic ally in the region” Israel, which is doing more warmongering than anyone else to drive this mad slide towards a war on Iran, is already in possession of over 200 nuclear warheads.   

Let us reiterate: Israel is not suspected of developing nuclear bombs in 3-5 years. The worst kept secret in the Middle East is that Israel is already in possession of such means of apocalyptic destruction, with the means of deploying them.

   

  • Lastly, take a good long look at the map of the Middle East. If you were Iran, how would the Middle East look to you? Iran is surrounded by nations that have large United States bases.

Iraq has American bases.

Turkey has American bases.   

Pakistan has American bases.  

Afghanistan has American bases.   

Saudi Arabia has American bases.  

Kuwait has American military bases.   

Qatar has American military bases.   

Uzbekistan has American military bases.   

And as for Israel, well, let’s just say that this is the one item that Republicans and Democrats agree on: that the United States stands “lockstep” with supposedly our closest ally. 

With allies like this that are leading the world community to grow in resentment towards us day by day, who needs an enemy?

In short, Iran is surrounded by a sea of American military bases.

Iran faces an American military force that dwarfs its own. Lastly, the United States possesses a whole series of military resources that no other country on the planet has access to.     

And why exactly are we sliding to a war with Iran? Why are we so hell-bent on persuading ourselves that it is Iran that poses a threat to us?    

Our economy is broke, our political system is gridlocked, we have tens of millions of people without adequate healthcare, our housing system is in shambles, our educational institutions are bankrupt, and we want to start another costly pointless war to kill our youths for yet another unnecessary “war of choice.”

Next time someone tells you that Iran poses a threat to us, tell them to check their facts. Hot air is good for balloons, not so good for sound policy.

And not so good for living in a peaceful world.

Omid Safi is a Professor of Islamic Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, specializing in contemporary Islamic thought and classical Islam. An award-winning teacher and speaker, his most recent book, Memories of Muhammad, looks at the biography and legacy of the Prophet Muhammad. Omid's posts appear via RNS.

 
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