Right now the entire Iran situation is scaring the crap out of me. Right now, Iran, a nation that has been on America's "hit-list" for about a decade now ever since President Bush listed it in his Axis of Evil speech, is currently on route to a war with Israel over its nuclear program. This could result in the first war between nuclear powers in history, with Israel and Iran trading blasts across the Middle East, and the inevitable involvement of the United States. President Obama has already positioned ourselves in an anti-Iran posture, hoping to choke the Iranian regime to submission with an oil blockade. We have committed ourselves to stopping Iran from building a nuclear bomb, which would be fine, but our ally, Israel, wants to smash Iran's potential to build a nuke, which means that we bomb the crap out Iran's nuclear sites and go to war with them immediately. Israel might just want to move unilaterally, which might drag the US into a full-scale regional war, and after that, nobody knows what will happen.
Luckily for the world right now, President Bush is not in office, instead we have the far more cautious Obama. If anybody recalls "the Bush Doctrine", those rules of military intervention meant that the United States could invade any country it wanted entirely on its own to defeat a threat to American security. In the Iraq invasion of 2003, that was based entirely on the false assumption that Saddam Hussein was building Weapons of Mass Destruction, which lead to a nearly-decade long quagmire of police-keeping in the destroyed nation and absorbed Bush's entire presidency. According to the rules of the Bush Doctrine, Iran is building WMDs and we probably should have invaded them already.
Obviously we don't want a war with Iran. Do I need to explain what the downsides would be? Even if its a limited war simply to bomb Iran into abandoning its nuclear program, it would be a disaster for Iran, and a mistake for American use of force. If we went for an all-out regime change invasion, it would probably be at least as troublesome as the Iraq War, only in a much bigger nation with a more powerful and stable regime being torn down. Right now, I'd say Obama is actually walking the right path with Iran.
First of all, there are quite a few things we don't know about the Iran situation, things we won't know for years after this crisis is over. For example, the stability of the President Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei regime is something worth questioning. The President's term is set to end in 2013, so regardless of stolen elections he could be on his way out. Harking back to those stolen elections, how much control over the nation does Ahmadinejad even have? Khamenei might even end the entire office of the Presidency if the election does not go his way, proving once and for all who the real power in Iran really is. What is the political logic behind this nuclear program? Ahmadinejad's anti-Israeli rhetoric isn't based on any serious foreign policy, he must know that it would be impossible to ever dislodge Israel from the Middle East. And he's flirting boldly with a disaster primarily for his country with this nuclear move. The other big question is how far along the Iranians even are with a nuclear bomb, and how many nukes they could ever construct in the first place.
Obviously Iran is no direct threat to the United States security. But it does have quite a fleet of missiles that could potentially launch across Mesopotamia and bring nukes to Tel Aviv (I seriously doubt that any devout Muslim nation would destroy Jerusalem). Iran could use the nuclear threat to dominate Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf, ultimately in a goal to control Middle Eastern oil, but that's such a deranged mission that it could never accomplish it in the modern world. America and the global community would intervene. Iran isn't going to scare the US out of that part of the world any time soon. So really, the only effective accomplishment that a nuclear bomb gives to a nation in the 21st century is freedom from invasion.
Right now Obama has no plan to invade Iran. If he's not willing to intervene in Syria, he's not going to jump into a war that would be the largest scale American military operation in decades. In Syria, Obama has actively avoided using force to take down Assad, even though he could potentially repeat the successful Libyan intervention from last year*. In North Korea Obama agreed to giving humanitarian aid to potentially phony promises of ending the nuclear program. I mean, I'm not going to criticize a move that will probably offset another disastrous famine, but I really don't think that's going to solve the nuclear issue there.
For now, Obama is handling the Iran situation as well as he could. Israel's bellicose plans of an air war to destroy Iranian nuclear enrichment sites are doubtful to work and would only erupt in a huge war. The oil sanctions seem to be nicely crippling Iran's economy, so that means we have the stick to bringing Iran to the table. But Obama needs to make it clear that he's not out for Khamenei's head. Iran can be allowed to continue as it is in the world system. However, if Iran thinks that it needs nuclear bombs to survive, we're going straight to war.
I've been to Israel, its a lovely country. I'd rather not see it destroyed by over-aggressive leaders. Both Israel and Iran seem to think their backs are against the wall here, and that's a truly frightening prospect. We're very close to a shooting war here, and that's one thing above all that Obama cannot allow to happen.
However, if it comes to Iran reaching nuclear capacity, the United States really has no play other than to fight along side Israel. We've put a red line in the sand over a nuclear Iran, we can't allow that situation to occur. If Israel decides to jump into the conflict on its own, the US could potentially sit the battle out, giving only tacit support to Israel. The best option is for Iran to be brought to negotiation and give up its nuclear program peacefully.
* I was pretty negative about Obama's handling of Libya back then, but it seems to have worked brilliantly so far. Gaddafi went down for relatively limited American cost and without any foreign troops needing to drop on the ground. Unfortunately, Obama doesn't want to repeat that in Syria, meaning that the rebels might just be crushed leaving Assad in a shaky but secure position. Obama seems to be playing a proxy proxy war by having Saudi Arabia supply the rebels, trying to keep his hands as free as possible from the entire thing. Remember, Syria is one of Iran's only allies, so threatening to destroy Assad might just be another negotiating chip. Still, I'd rather Assad go down quickly.