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.

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.

Our Budget-Busting Foreign Policy Disconnect

Robert Baer. Photo by Getty Images.

Robert Baer speaks at the 'Spies Like Them' panel discussion at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. Photo by Getty Images.

A recent Gallup poll shows that 81 percent of Americans want the President to be focused on domestic issues, while 9 percent say they want him to focus on foreign policy issues. Not too surprising ... until you consider that the fastest growing domestic priority is the deficit (69 percent).

The lopsided number between the importance of the deficit and the importance of foreign policy is the first clue that, for most Americans, there’s a disconnect between domestic policy and foreign policy.

Clue number two is a bit more alarming.

The same poll indicates that 54 percent favor a “strong” stance — read: military attack — against Iran versus 39 percent who say that it’s more important to avoid a military conflict with Iran. Put these facts together and a disturbing picture emerges: the less Americans care about foreign policy, the more willing they are to go to war, and the less they’re able to see that war = skyrocketing deficits. 

The disconnect couldn’t come at a worse time.

Afternoon News Bytes: Jan. 31, 2012

The End Of 'Compassionate Conservatism'?; Tunisia Faces A Balancing Act Of Democracy And Religion; Occupy D.C. Protest Stays Peaceful As No-Camping Deadline Passes; The Republicans' Hispanic Problem; What Does The Future Hold For Iran?; The End Of Health Insurance Companies (OPINION); Syria Unrest: Clinton And Hague Back Arab League Plan At UN; Inequality, The Middle Class, And Growth; Number Of Asset-Poor Americans Rising.

2012 State of the Union Address: The Complete Text

President Obama Addresses The Nation During State Of The Union Address via Getty

President Obama Addresses The Nation During State Of The Union Address via Getty Images

From President Obama's 2012 State of the Union Address:

The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. (Applause.) What’s at stake aren’t Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. And we have to reclaim them.

Let’s remember how we got here. Long before the recession, jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores. Technology made businesses more efficient, but also made some jobs obsolete. Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never before, but most hardworking Americans struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren’t, and personal debt that kept piling up.

Read the full text of the SOTU Address inside the blog...

Iran: Ask Questions First

In the fall of 2002 and winter of 2003, a steady drumbeat of rhetoric and accusations from the Bush administration were leading the United States into war against Iraq.

Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction he was planning to use against us. Hussein had worked with al Qaeda to carry out the 9/11 attacks. We could replace a brutal dictatorship with a democracy that would become a model for the Middle East. And so on. 

After the invasion and 8½ years of war, all were proven false. Iraq did not have any WMDs, there was no connection with al Qaeda, and Iraq continues to be wracked with sectarian violence.

Is Iran the New Iraq?

Iraq/Iran. Image via Wylio

Iraq/Iran. Image via Wylio

It’s hard to remember the warm-up to the Iraq war now almost 10 years old. Following the devastating experience of 9/11 (Sept. 11, 2001), the United States experienced enormous national feelings of anger and sought a means to identify and punish those who were guilty of this horrendous act of terror. We now know that within days, the White House (in particular, the vice president’s office) was pointing a finger at Iraq and within 12 months, any observer could tell that we were on our way to war.

On March 19, 2003, when the invasion began I remember telling a class of students that they ought to remember this day well. It might be a war the U.S. would regret and it might lead to an involvement in the Middle East we don’t know how to end. Now ten years later we’re still mired over there.

What were the reasons for the war? Let’s make a list:


Afternoon News Bytes: Jan. 13, 2012

Evangelical Leaders Struggle To Crown A Candidate; George W. Bush Cancels Visit To Swiss Charity Gala Over Fears He Could Be Arrested On Torture Charges;Class Conflict Awareness Rose Significantly From 2009 To 2011: Report; Evangelicals Taking Second Look At Romney; In The Fight Against Poverty, It’s Time for A Revolution (OPINION); Iranian Government Delays Pastor's Death Sentence For Apostasy One Year Hoping Media Will Forget; Tavis Smiley, Of Poverty Tour, Hosts “Reawakening America” With Panelists Cornel West, Suze Orman, Michael Moore; A Pro Snowboarder's Guide To Climate Change; Okay Progressives, What's Your Alternative To Ron Paul?; Congressional Chaplains Minister To A Sharply Divided Flock.

We Must Continue to Stand with Pastor Nadarkhani

yusuf-300x225The news cycle often moves so quickly that very often big news stories are forgotten within a day, sometimes even more quickly.

I prayerfully hope that this is not and will not be the case with the story of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, the Iranian Christian leader who has been sentenced to death for refusing to recant his religious beliefs and convert to Islam.

Arrested in 2009 on a charge of apostasy, he has spent two years in jail, with his wife also being jailed on similar charges last year.

The world's media was watching then.