"Iran: Turn on, tune in, speak out"

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Connor Mendenhall
columnist

On the eve of the Iraq War, almost two-thirds of undergraduates supported U.S. military action. Today, four years and thousands of American deaths later, there's no doubt that many of them regret that support.

Ashamed by your initial support of a disastrous war in the Middle East? Fortunately, you've got another chance to oppose one. There is a clear, growing, and disturbing casus belli for war with Iran. If you're opposed to such a war, it's time to learn from the mistakes of opposition to war in Iraq. Be heard now, before the decision to invade is made and your voice becomes irrelevant. Time is running out to oppose military action in Iran - and the time for apathetic complacency is over.

Unfortunately, it may already be too late.

U.S.-Iranian relations have grown more and more tense over opposition to Iran's nuclear program over the past year. This time, however, the U.S. has built a stronger case in the U.N. and imposed international sanctions against the Iranians. We have blamed Iran for inciting violence in Iraq, ordered the Pentagon to draw up a list of bombing targets and built up naval forces in the Persian Gulf. And, most frightening of all, we have waged a rhetorical war against the Iranians since 2002, when President Bush declared Iran a member of the ""axis of evil."" In the latest saber-rattling development, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a ""terrorist organization"" - and the Iranian parliament responded in kind, labeling the CIA and U.S. military ""terrorists"" as well.

But for all our military preparations, the decision to make war on Iran may be out of our hands. Here's the scenario:

The U.S. isn't happy with the consequences of a nuclear Iran, but nuclear weapons in Iran pose no immediate physical threat to most Americans. For the Israelis, however, an Iranian bomb is an existential crisis. One nuclear bomb in Iran - and one irrational decision on the part of their government - could obliterate the tiny nation. Nuclear Iran is a risk Israel will not tolerate, and the Israelis believe the Iranian weapons program will be complete by early 2008.

Further, the Israelis have a huge incentive to strike Iran - or at least to encourage the U.S. to invade - before the sun sets on the friendly Bush administration. Their window of opportunity is short, and they proved their readiness last week with a mysterious strike on a military facility within Syria suspected to contain nuclear material smuggled in on a North Korean freighter. The action may have been in Syria, but the move was a signal to the world that the same sort of strike could take place in Iran.

The U.S. has even considered giving the Israelis a go-ahead to strike inside Iran. Newsweek magazine reported recently that months ago, Dick Cheney considered asking Israel to strike the Iranian nuclear reactor at Natanz to provoke a military response from the Iranians. Iranian retaliation would be sufficient pretext to get American troops involved.

And as insane as picking a fight to embroil the U.S. may be, war on Iran is a perversely rational decision for some. President Bush has an incentive to support any Israeli action: he's executed the last two wars so incompetently that he has little presidential legacy left to lose - and plenty to gain if war in Iran is successful.

Even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - the Iranian president so often ridiculed as a millenarian Holocaust-denying wacko - has motivation for war. He faces low support at home, and likely won't be re-elected unless he keeps poking sticks in the eye of the Great Satan. His outrageous rhetorical diatribes are less the work of a crazy dictator, and more the careful calculations of a clever politician.

With strong incentives for war on all sides, and a rapidly closing time frame, the case for peace looks bleak. And although a movement against war with Iran has been in the works since last year, many students remain unaware of looming conflict. If you truly oppose another military misadventure in the Middle East, now is the time to state your objection - not months from now, when the bombs begin to fall. You have another chance: learn from Iraq, and speak out now.

Connor Mendenhall is a sophomore majoring in
economics and international studies. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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