In a recent article in The Washington Post, Robin Wright quoted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calling Iran the state that presents “the single most important. . . strategic challenge to the United States.” Wright concluded: “After three decades of festering tensions the United States and Iran are now facing off in a full-fledged cold war.” [Emphasis added]
What an honor! One of the United States’s premier newspapers has elevated Iran to the position vacated by fallen superpower Russia. Oh well, we all know how much nature abhors a vacuum. China had its chance, but it has failed to act with sufficient belligerence to claim the prize.
Though Iran lacks China’s, or even Russia’s, economy, it’s leapfrogged ahead of them, if Ms. Wright’s assessment is correct, to attain most feared nation status in the eyes of the US. How does this work to the administration’s benefit? Should use of the term “cold war” become widespread, it would, as Kaveh Afrasiabi explains in his most recent column for Asia Times Online, allow the US to continue forging new military pacts with Eastern Europe and the Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf states. It also, he writes, allows for “Israel’s inclusion in the security calculus of the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] states considered front-line states in the new cold war.”
If the idea of Israel in bed with the Saudis sounds far-fetched, you must have missed the memo that its prime minister, Ehud Olmert, is backing the proposed US arms deal with the Saudis.
But how, aside from forcing the rest of the world to give Iran — the new gun in town — a wide berth, does being designated the US’s cold war opponent benefit that state?
Labeling our relationship with a country a cold war implies that, as with Russia, the immensity of the threat we pose to each other is too great for us to attack each other. Or, as Afrasiabi writes, “it softens the ‘military option’ openly entertained against Iran by some in the US and Israel.” The two countries, he adds, are then more susceptible to “enhanced communication that would help avoid ‘accidental war,’ given the tight corners [quarters? Ed.] of the Persian Gulf crowded with US warships.”
Thus the likelihood we’ll attack Iran may be reduced. We’ll allow Afrasiabi, in his elegant language, to sum up: “The ‘cold’ aspect of this war has, in other words, certain and unmistakable advantages, and the pertinent question is whether they trump the disadvantages.”