In the twilight of his tenure at #10 Downing Street, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has stated publicly--for the first time--that it would be wrong to take military action against Iran. In an interview with the BBC, Mr. Blair indicated that he still prefers diplomacy for curtailing Tehran's nuclear ambitions:
“I can’t think that it would be right to take military action against Iran . . . What is important is to pursue the political, diplomatic channel. I think it is the only way that we are going to get a sensible solution to the Iranian issue.”
While Americans should applaud Mr. Blair's long-standing support for the War in Iraq, they should also understand that the Prime Minister is--to use a Thatcherism--going a bit wobbly on Iran. Three years of on-again/off-again talks between Iran and the EU-3 (Great Britian, France and Germany) have produced increased defiance from Tehran, and an accelerated nuclear program. We can only wonder what a few more rounds of "talks" might produce; relocation of North Korea's nuclear program to Iran; rapid development and testing of the mullah's first atomic weapons, and eventually, a mushroom cloud over Tel Aviv. Yeah, that's the road to lasting peace.
Mr. Blair is correct in noting that a military operation against Iran would be difficult, with consequences that would extend far beyond the Middle East. But removing the military option from the table--as many in Europe have suggested--would do nothing but encourage Iran, and likely hasten Tehran's acquisition of nuclear weapons. What then? Mr. Blair hasn't said, and other European leaders are equally evasive. In fact, some politicians on the continent have suggested that we "learn to live" with an Iranian bomb, never mind the fact that those weapons will be aimed at Europe, and the technology gladly shared with terrorist groups.
The Blair approach might work if we had some assurance that short-term regime change was possible in Iran, and a new government seemed prepared to step back from the abyss. But, as we've noted in the past, the Iranian opposition is relatively weak, despite widespread opposition to the current government. Making matters worse, the U.S. has missed opportunities to support opposition groups in the past, allowing the theocrats to further suppress internal dissent. Short and medium-term prospects for regime change in Tehran are virtually nil. Even if Ahmadinejad is somehow forced out by the mullahs, his replacement won't be a Social Democrat. We'll be dealing with some sort of hardline government for years to come.
Which brings us back to the military option and Iran. While the current troop surge in Iraq poses no direct threat to Tehran, it certainly caught Iran's attention, particularly when we began rounding up members of the Quds Force that are training and supporting the terrorists. Iran's Supreme Leader reportedly said that "the cobra is standing on its tail," and his favorite proxy in Iraq, "Mookie" al-Sadr, suddenly found it necessary to take an extended vacation in Tehran. By comparison, three years of ignoring Iranian meddling in Iraq did nothing but embolden the regime in Tehran, and allow their operatives to kill more of our troops.
No one wants a war with Iran. But if the west is genuinely serious about halting Tehran's nuclear program, then all options must be on the table. As for the Europeans, let's just say we've been here before. Back in 1938, a certain madman in Germany was considered a "manageable" problem, and diplomacy remained the preferred option of the day. That approach lasted until the German panzers rolled into Poland, and members of the striped-pants set (and a certain Prime Minister) realized that they had been duped.