Former UN weapons inspector Ritter, outspoken critic of the Bush WMD strategy in the run-up to Iraq, warns that it’s about to be déjà-vu-all-over again next door.
Iran, of course, is one leg of the axis-of-evil tripod, bent on developing nuclear weapons to use against us. That is the administration’s contention, as yet without proof. No matter; its ongoing battle with Iran is driven, Ritter asserts, by “the hyperbole and speculative rhetoric of those whose true agenda lies more in changing the regime in Tehran than it does with genuine non-proliferation and disarmament”—specifically neoconservatives such as John Bolton, the UN-hating ambassador to the UN, who have yearned for payback since the fall of the Shah. Ritter’s argument gets a little disjointed as it whiplashes through time and place, but it centers on this point: Israel’s interests are not necessarily those of the U.S., yet the matter of Iran is “a conflict born in Israel,” based on the conviction that the government of Iran is out to destroy it; Washington has followed Tel Aviv’s lead uncritically, steered by those very neocons and their project to force a confrontation with the mullahs. Ritter maintains that Iran has generally conformed to international rules regarding the development of its nuclear-energy program and has approached the Bush administration to engage in one-on-one talks; yet the U.S. government has worked diligently to persuade the European Union and other bodies that as an important exporter of oil, Iran has “no justifiable economic explanation for its nuclear program.” The argument has not yet swayed the International Atomic Energy Agency or the UN, and so the administration may once again go it alone—and indeed, the latest National Security Strategy has “singled out Iran as representing the greatest threat” to the U.S., a clear signal. That way, Ritter notes gloomily, lies disaster.
Less useful than Ray Takeyh’s broader-ranging Hidden Iran (2006), but an important contribution to a debate that is still shaping up.