Iran: Cradle of Civilization, Ground Zero for Annihilation?

The Islamic republic has the whole world sabre rattling.
Are Iran and Israel posturing? Or is military conflict inevitable? (Photo: Getty Images)
Feb 23, 2012· 1 MIN READ
Originally from Baltimore, Oliver lives and writes on a quiet, tree-lined street in Brooklyn.

In case you haven't already started shopping for a bunker, tensions between Iran and the rest of the world, particularly Israel, might make you want to start looking. Like two crusty, Soviet-era cold warriors, the Middle East powers appear to be staring one another onto a military collision course, each side unwilling—or incapable—of blinking.

Iran presumes Israel's Mossad is behind the suspicious deaths and outright assassinations of Tehran's brightest nuclear scientists. Israel points the finger at Iran for a spate of recent bomb attacks on Israeli diplomats in India, Georgia and Bangkok.

After being cautioned by Russia and the U.S. not to instigate an attack in the region, Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman bristled in an interview Wednesday, saying it "is not their business.... The security of the citizens of Israel, the future of the state of Israel, this is the Israeli government's responsibility."

No one's banging the war drum louder than Republican presidential hopefuls. Ignoring the obvious parallels to the Iraq conflict, every GOP candidate except Ron Paul has been jockeying to outdo each other to put the brakes on Iran. The Daily Beast's Andrew Sullivan, while live-blogging Wednesday night's GOP debate, wrote: "We're hearing the kind of language we heard after 9/11. Exactly the same language; exactly the same arguments; exactly the same paranoia."

The voices for escalated hostilities are not just Republican. Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of senators warned President Obama in a letter that new talks with the Islamic republic could prove a “dangerous distraction,” giving Iran precious time to develop a nuclear weapon. MJ Rosenberg at Huffington Post noted that war rhetoric is a dangerous game: "Imagine if President Kennedy had been told by the Congress back in 1962 that if the Soviet Union placed missiles in Cuba, he would have no choice but to go to war. If it had, I wouldn't be here writing this column today and you wouldn't be reading it."

According to The Nation's Robert Dreyfuss, the whole confrontation is overblown. Israel, he feels, faces daunting logistical challenges in taking military action, and doing so wouldn't help achieve its long-term objectives in the region. Delegates from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are currently in Tehran to negotiate with Iranian officials, who—in Dreyfuss's view—will come to the table willing to compromise: "To be sure, for talks to succeed the United States will have to offer some concessions to Iran, including once and for all recognizing Iran’s right to enrich uranium."

With a little luck, and a measure of mature statesmanship, violence may be averted and the end of civilization put off until the next nuclear contretemps. However, until the countdown of atomic arsenals arrives at zero, the end of the world will always be within grasp. As Graham Allison, a leading expert on nuclear strategy at Harvard University, said to The New York Times: “As a student of history, I’m certainly conscious that when you have heated politics and incomplete control of events, it’s possible to stumble into a war. . . you can see the parties, slowly but almost inexorably, moving to a collision.”