Winds of war are not yet blowing in the Persian Gulf. The sounds of war are not yet heard. But 'stunts' of war can be seen, and they carry deep significance since almost every U.S. political debate this election year revolves around the Iranian nuclear program.
The disagreement between U.S. President Barack Obama and each one of the Republican candidates is not on who is for or against U.S. involvement in curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions, but rather who is for it, and who is doubly for it. This serves to bolster Israel's position that Iran is lying to the world and that the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, cooperated with the Iranians. Perhaps it is the exposure of his misconduct as the head of the U.N. atomic watchdog that prompted him to withdraw from the Egyptian presidential race on Saturday.
Some invisible force is waging a successful war against Iranian nuclear scientists. The ayatollah regime has issued threats of harsh retaliation against the entire world, with Israel as the bull's-eye. But for now, according to reports, more and more scientists are asking to leave Iran's nuclear program and go back to university research.
The sanctions are beginning to work. It is a pity that the U.S. took so long to target Iran's central bank, fearing that Iran would cut off oil supplies, causing prices to skyrocket. It is after all an election year. But perhaps other oil suppliers would be willing to freeze the price of oil for an agreed upon period of time, at least until November.
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Iran's threat to close the Strait of Hormuz should be viewed not as a flexing of muscles but rather as the exact opposite – a demonstration of nervousness in the face of more effective sanctions and the devaluation of the local currency, the rial. The threat is a demonstration of weakness, and it failed to achieve its goal as the U.S. did not heed the warning and sent another naval strike force toward the Gulf. As we know, there is nothing worse for a sovereign nation, especially a centralized dictatorship like Iran, than to have its threats completely ignored.
The big winner in all this is Obama, for three reasons: because he was able to conduct a leisurely conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to show his Jewish constituents that he was coordinating with Israel; because his determination could cement his status as a leader in his country; and mainly because after a long period of disappointment at his feebleness, this determination gives the Arab world hope that he does, after all, possess leadership qualities. And no one is more eager to see the U.S. stop Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than the Arab world, including Turkey.
Judgment day is still far off. Many disappointments await us along the way. A publication that reported, at this sensitive timing, that Israeli Mossad agents had posed as CIA agents to solicit attacks against Iranian targets, may have weakened the necessary Israel-U.S. cooperation. But the general direction is clear: the diplomatic earthquake meter has risen by a few notches, and the volcanic-nuclear epicenter has been located in Iran.
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