When you can't deal with the devil By Spengler

Asia Times ~ Oct 30, 2007

When you can't deal with the devil
By Spengler

A year later than I expected, the drumroll has begun towards a
Western attack on Iran's nuclear capability. Despite the best
efforts of Western diplomacy, the "moderate" option in Iranian
politics expired last week with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's
triumphal consolidation of power.

A combination of economic distress and external threats, Western
capitals hoped, would strengthen the position of the loser in Iran's
2006 presidential elections, Hashemi Rafsanjani, and external
pressure would undo the decision of the Iranian electorate. At best
that would have been a deal with the devil; unfortunately, the devil
was not returning phone calls last week.

It never was to be. Iran has only two options: a sickening slide
into economic decay and internal weakness as its oil-exporting
capacity attenuates, or a regional adventure against the Sunni
oligarchs of the Gulf oil-producing states. For the Iranian street,
Ahmadinejad's constituency in the slums of Tehran and the Persian
hinterland, this is the Shi'ite moment, the once-in-a-millennium
opportunity to undo centuries of perceived oppression.

European diplomats woefully concede that Rafsanjani, who maintained
close ties to Germany in particular, no longer offers a viable
alternative. Arab commentators are watching with alarm developments
in Iran, beginning with the dismissal of Iran's nuclear negotiator,
Ali Larijani.

Elias Harfouche wrote in the Lebanese daily Dal al-Hayat on October
28, "The unease that accompanied the replacement of Ali Larijani
with Saeed Jalili as the head of the negotiating nuclear team was
exceptional. Its importance was further reinforced by the comment
made by Ali Akbar Wilayati, the former foreign minister and
counselor to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and the statement of
Mohamed Hashemi, the brother of Hashemi Rafsanjani on 'narrowing the
decision-making circle' in the executive authority as a result of
Ahmadinejad's decisions."

As usual, the American media are slow to grasp how profoundly the
landscape has shifted during the past week. Writing in the October
27 Washington Post, for example, David Ignatius argued, quite
incorrectly, that Ahmadinejad "faces growing resistance, starting
with former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Sources tell me
that Rafsanjani's allies have been advising officials in Europe and
the Middle East that Ahmadinejad is weak and vulnerable." I do not
know what Rafsanjani's allies have been saying of late, but I am
certain that their credibility is exhausted.

Ignatius worries that if the United States or Israel were to strike
Iran's nuclear facilities, Iran would retaliate through such proxies
as Hezbollah and various terrorist operations under its control.

These fears are well-founded. In February 2006, I argued that a few
sorties by American aircraft could put the Iranian problem to rest,
but that the window for a clean military operation would not last

The longer Washington dallies, the more resources Tehran can put in
place, including:

# Upgrading Hezbollah's offensive-weapon capabilities in Lebanon.

# Integrating Hamas into its sphere of influence and military

# Putting in place terrorist capability against the West.

# Preparing its Shi'ite auxiliaries in Iraq for insurrection.[1]

One might add to this complications on the Turkish-Iraqi border, as
Iran and its ally Syria have taken the Turkish side against Kurdish
rebels, which Iran claims have the covert assistance of the United

In early 2006, I predicted "war with Iran on the worst terms", and
that is what the West is likely to get. I warned at the time, "if
Washington waits another year to deliver an ultimatum to Iran, the
results will be civil war to the death in Iraq, the direct
engagement of Israel in a regional war through Hezbollah and Hamas,
and extensive terrorist action throughout the West, with extensive
loss of American life. There are no good outcomes, only less
terrible ones. The West will attack Iran, but only when such an
attack will do the least good and the most harm."

Rafsanjani's dialogue with Berlin was the last, best hope of the
anti-war faction in the West. One winces at the chagrin of the
German partner in this relationship, given that Rafsanjani likes the
Germans because he admires what Adolf Hitler did to the Jews of
Europe. On October 5, Rafsanjani told Iranian television in a clip
posted by MEMRI:

"Europe resolved a great problem, the problem of the Zionist
danger. The Zionists constituted a strong political party in Europe
and caused a lot of disorder there. Since they had a lot of property
and controlled an empire of propaganda, they made the European
governments helpless. What Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jews of
Europe at that time was partly due to these circumstances with the
Jews. They wanted to expel the Zionists from Europe because they
were always a pain in the neck for governments there ... Their first
goal was to save Europe from the evil of Zionism, and in this they
have been relatively successful."

The leading Iranian "moderate", in short, is just as much the
Islamo-Nazi as the Holocaust denier Ahmadinejad. Rather than deny
the Holocaust, Rafsanjani applauds it. Reportedly, Rafsanjani
believes that the threat of military confrontation of the West makes
a bad gamble of Iran's nuclear development program, unlike
Ahmadinejad, who is happy to take the risk.

Deals with the devil simply do not work, even in the ethically
challenged world of foreign policy. The devil will act according to
his nature, whatever bargain one attempts to make with him.

My proposed mantra for President George W Bush, is, "There are no
good options." To be precise, there are options that are
considerably worse for others than for the United States. The use of
force against Iran without doubt will make the Iraqi mess completely
unmanageable. It will have spillover effects in Turkey, where the
electoral majority that supported the Islamists in this year's
elections will rise in outrage against the United States and Israel.
It may reignite the war between Israel and Hezbollah. Nor should we
have any illusions about Iran's terrorist capacities. Western
civilians well may pay a heavy price for the excision of Iran's
nuclear program in the form of terror attacks. The price may be
steep, but it's worth it.

The West has no choice but to attack Iran, because Iran believes
that it has no choice but to develop nuclear weapons. Make no
mistake: this attack will destabilize the entire region, past the
capacity of the king's horses and king's men to reassemble it. The
agenda will shift from how best to promote stability, to how best to
turn instability to advantage.

1. War with Iran on the worst terms Asia Times Online, February 14, 2006.

2. Hitler wanted to expel Jews Memri TV, October 5, 2007.

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