Listen to what John Edwards told the Herzliya Conference:
At the top of these threats is Iran. Iran threatens the security of Israel and the entire world. Let me be clear: Under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons. For years, the US hasn’t done enough to deal with what I have seen as a threat from Iran. As my country stayed on the sidelines, these problems got worse. To a large extent, the US abdicated its responsibility to the Europeans. This was a mistake. The Iranian president’s statements such as his description of the Holocaust as a myth and his goals to wipe Israel off the map indicate that Iran is serious about its threats.
Once Iran goes nuclear, other countries in the Middle East will go nuclear, making Israel’s neighborhood much more volatile.
Iran must know that the world won’t back down. The recent UN resolution ordering Iran to halt the enrichment of uranium was not enough. We need meaningful political and economic sanctions. We have muddled along for far too long. To ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons, we need to keep ALL options on the table, Let me reiterate – ALL options must remain on the table.
In the same speech Edwards reminded everyone of the nefariousness of Syria, just like the president has been doing lately.
Later in the Q&A session, Edwards said that he supports "direct engagement with Iran," which I take to be a euphemism for direct negotiations between the U.S. and Iran regarding Iran's nuclear program. That's exactly what the U.S. should be doing, but John Edwards' saber-rattling won't help us get to that point.
The Bush administration clearly doesn't want to negotiate with Iran. The US is opening with intimidation, isolation, and punishment. Escalation, if you will. When those strategies fail, they'll proceed directly to war. Nobody really thinks that Iran will be talked out of its nuclear program because Bush put another aircraft carrier in the Gulf or pressured some institutions not to bank with Iran.
Michael Froomkin argues that Edwards hawkish rhetoric is just a negotiating tactic. If Edwards wins the Democratic primary and the general election, then he'll have to negotiate with Iran. Froomkin thinks that Edwards has to talk tough now so as not to undermine his future negotiating position. Frankly, that argument strikes me as a bit of a stretch.
Even if Michael's right, the fact remains that the Bush administration is manufacturing an immediate crisis over the Iranian nuclear program as an excuse to start another war.
Like compulsive gamblers, the president and his neocon cronies want to go double or nothing. Bush knows that he botched Iraq, and now he's thinking about his legacy. It's the twilight of the Bush presidency and his top advisors realize that the gilded age of neconservatism is coming to an end. They want one last chance to test their beloved hypotheses and they've got their beady little eyes locked on Iran.
All of a sudden, Iran is a crisis. The biggest crisis! Luckily, we've got two air craft carriers in the Gulf right now.
Remember, Iran is five to ten years away from being able to make a bomb. Furthermore, President Ahmadinejad is losing public support and trying the patience of the Iranian elites who keep him in power. Rumor has it that his job is in danger.
John Edwards is being an enabler. By insisting that Iran is literally the biggest threat in the world, he's giving Bush cover for another war. (Update: The Jerusalem Post reports that elsewhere in his speech Edwards said that stopping a nuclear Iran was 'greatest challenge of our generation'.)
If Iran is developing nukes, perhaps the world would be justified in stopping the program by force. Unfortunately, it won't be that simple. Some hawks would have you believe that we could just precision-bomb Iran, destroy its nuclear facilities, and get out. Presumably, the Iranians would just hide their facilities better next time. The result of attacking Iran would not be a safer world, it would be an angrier Iran. Remember, Iran is a big exporter of terrorism. If we attacked Iran's nuclear program, what do you think Iran would do next? Suffice it to say that attacking the Islamic Republic of Iran is not going to be a coup for counter-terrorism.
The nuclear genie is not going back into the bottle. That, in the neocon's twisted estimation, is why we have to "remake" the Middle East. "Remaking" means overthrowing governments and replacing them with pro-American regimes. Remember how well that worked in Iraq?
Regardless of his future intentions, John Edwards should not be facilitating Bush's push for war. He must not make the same mistake on Iran that he did with Iraq.